Friday, October 29, 2010

Weekly Menu - Week 14

These days, I get too many "moi, je n'aime pas ça" from my daughter and "moi, va pas aimer" from my son. Of course, if one starts saying that he/she does not like what I bring to the table, the other one is very likely to jump and say the same. And obviously,  I don't like it when they say something like that. While I totally accept that their tastes might be different from mine and that tastes evolve over time, I just don't accept them making a statement BEFORE even taking one bite. It's part of our table etiquette and I really mean it (like using a napkin, not putting one's elbows on the table, etc...)
When I cook dinner (they bring their lunch to school during the week), I naturellement try to serve something they'll like. I am not in for a fight over food. However, I am also trying to introduce them to new dishes, so, of course, I am going to serve them things they have not been exposed to before or have been but in a different way. They might not like it the first time. They might not like it the second time. Even the third time.... but no matter what, they have to try it first before they affirm "je n'aime pas ça". Because, truth be told, most of the time, they'll like it.
Planning the meal for the week is a way for me to balance the easy-no-fight dishes (like socca) with the a-little-bit-more-difficult ones (like gratin de choux-fleur). It enables me to choose the evenings to serve one dish rather than another. It's easier to have them eat something they really like on a school night (when they are tired and we are on a schedule to put them to bed early) and keep the more challenging dishes for Friday evening or the week-end (that way, I tell them that they won't have it in their lunchbox the next day! And if we are having our weekly apéritif, I can always bribe them (yeah, I do that too!!). Bonne Cuisine!


DaySuggested Menu

MondayStuffed Tomatoes with Quinoa
Plain Yogurt with Chestnut Spread
Fresh Fruits

TuesdaySocca With Caramelized Onions with Green Salad
Crème Renversée au Caramel a l'Orange

WednesdayZucchini - Fennel Soup with Polenta Croutons
Homemade Plain Yogurt with honey
Fresh Fruits

ThursdayTuna Curry with Yellow Squash Over Rice
Pommes au Four (Baked Apples)

FridayGratin of Baked Fall Vegetables
Homemade Plain Yogurt with dark brown sugar
Fresh Fruits

Game Plan:
Sunday Evening:
  • Make the Tomates Farcies (Stuffed Tomatoes) on Sunday evening. It will save you a lot of time for Monday
  • If you are making your own yogurt, make your weekly batch on Sunday evening. 
Monday Evening:
  • You only have to re-heat the Tomates Farcies and cook some quinoa (15mn)
  • Make Crème Renversée on Monday. The longer the crèmes rest in the fridge, the better. If you re-heat the Tomates Farcies in the oven, then you don't have to re-heat your oven for the Tomates Farcies.
Tuesday Evening:
  • You have to make the Socca. If you are serving it with caramelized onions, then make the Socca batter and then while it rests, cook the onions. It takes a while for them to caramelize.
Wednesday Evening:
  • You have to make the Zucchini - Fennel soup and the Polenta Croutons
  • Start with making the Polenta. The Croutons need to rest a little bit in the fridge before you bake them in the oven. While they are in the fridge, make the soup
Thursday Evening:
  • You have to make the Tuna Curry, cook the rice and bake the apples in the oven.
  • Start with the apples. One they are in the oven, make the curry
  • While the curry is on the stove, you can make the rice.
Friday Evening:
  • It's Friday! Enjoy! 
  • You only have to make the Gratin. It requires a little bit of work to peel all the vegetables but worth it! 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Asparagus, Shallots and Goat Cheese Tarte Salée (Savory Tarte)

Eating asparagus in France (fresh white asparagus, that is), has always been synonymous with a little bit of luxury: a nice appetizer for a dinner party or a family Sunday lunch. My dad was (and still is) the one in charge of both purchasing and preparing the asperges blanches (I should ask my mother how many times she actually prepared them herself!), a task he really enjoyed for we all fought for more enjoyed white asparagus.

I had never had green asparagus until I came to California and watched my roomate S. cook his asparagus like a scientist would run his experiments: perfect preparation, optimal water temperature and cooking time! Repeat (if needed) until perfection!  I enjoyed watching him take them out of the pot as soon as they were done (and not one extra second) and having some with him! Most of the time, he would eat them with butter and shredded Parmesan cheese with black pepper to spice them up. So simple in a way! Un vrai régal!
I have been cooking green asparagus regularly since I moved back to the US. And even though I love them, I do miss asperges blanches once in a while. I do purchase white ones when I can find some at the market but I always think about it twice because most of the time they come from Peru... and that's a long way to Philadelphia for asparagus!

My children like green asparagus and I know that using S's recipe is always a safe way to have them eat them all. Interestingly enough (well I think it's really for lack of exposure because we can not grill in our apartment!!), they are not keen on grilled asparagus!  Because we tend to eat des asperges vertes every week (or at least twice a month) when I can find nice ones at the market, I have tried to cook them in different ways. This recipe is a nice tarte salée that looks very French to me : shallots (French eat more shallots per capita than any other people in the world), fresh goat cheese and green asparagus. What about white asparagus instead (to make it even more French?) Well, for once, désolée, I won't be flexible. You see, I only like my white asparagus plain with a sauce mousseline. And nothing else, not even sauce vinaigrette! And don't even think about serving me canned white asparagus. I would not eat them (well, to be polite, I would, but I would not enjoy them!). Bon Appétit!
For a 9-inch tarte dish
For the dough:
- 250 gr (8.8 oz)AP flour
- 125 gr (4.4 oz) cold butter, in small pieces
- 5 cl (1.7 Fl oz) cold water
- Salt
  • Mix in the flour and the salt
  • Add the butter and use a fork or a pastry cutter to make small pea-size pieces
  • Pour half of the water.
  • Pour the remaining of water, one tablespoon at a time
  • Use your hand to make a ball with the dough, being careful not to work the dough too much
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes
  • Butter and flour one 9-inch tart mold.
  • Roll the dough onto a floured surface to make a 10-inch circle
  • Refrigerate while you prepare the filling

For the filling:
- 4-5 small shallots, peeples, thinly sliced
- About 100 grams (3.5 oz)  fresh goat cheese (Petit Billy, Chavroux or other local/importer goat cheese)
- Green asparagus, cleaned. You want to cut a few in small pieces to go into the filling and keep a few for decoration.
- 3 eggs
- Milk or light cream.
- Shredded Swiss cheese
- A few pine nuts
- Olive oil, salt, black pepper to taste.

  • Pre-heat oven to 375F (190C)
  • In a pan, saute the shallots in olive oil. Make sure that they don't dry. Reserve.
  • Blanch the asparagus in salted boiling water (2-3 minutes)
  • In a bowl, combine, eggs, goat cheese and milk/cream, pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stirr well. You want to achieve a consistency of pancake dough.
  • Lay a Tarte mold with the dough.
  • Spread the shallots and small asparagus pieces on top of the dough, then spread the egg filling on top.
  • Decorate with the remaining asparagus
  • Cover with shredded Swiss cheese
  • Bake in the oven for 40 minutes
My Personal Comments
  • You could omit the extra Swiss cheese but my kids and husband really like their tartes salées with a nice layer of Swiss cheese on top!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pistachios Blackberries Cupcakes (Gluten-Free)

Having been on a low-iodine diet for more than 10 days now, I have had time to rethink what it means to "put oneself on a diet" and how difficult that is! I have had to cut all seafood products, all dairy products as well as a long list of other ingredients! The hardest for me to give up? Dairy products because as you must well know by now, yogurt, butter and cheese are pilars of our daily diet.   But, you know what, even though it's really hard not to eat cheese or yogurt and to have to make oatmeal with water(!!) when you are French, the most difficult has been not to be able to share the same meals as my children or friends. My children are old enough to know that I have to eat different things but because I have been cooking (almost) as usual for them, I have not been able to try their food and talk about it with them. And that's difficult! I even felt a little bit isolated (like I could not have one of the nice cupcakes!!) Vivement vendredi!
There is truly something special about sharing a crazy-messy meal with your children...  So unless there is a real medical reason to be on a diet, my conclusion is that you should really eat everything as long as it is with MO-DE-RA-TION.  Moderation is what will make it possible for you to share meals with your children, your family, your friends and co-workers and be happier in life. It's also a way for your children to develop better eating habits. Worth a try, non? So before you cut chocolate cake out of your diet, just think about the fact that having a tiny bit won't harm your body.  Just go and take a walk in the fallen leaves with your children afterwards! Bon Appétit!
Ingredients (makes about 8 cupcakes)
- 115 gr (4.05 oz) butter
- 180 gr (6.3 oz) sugar
- 2 eggs
- 80 gr (2.8 oz) buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
- 80 gr (2.8 oz )millet flour
- 70 gr (2.4 oz) pistachios meal
- 30 gr (1 oz) rice flour
- 3/4 ts baking powder
- 1/2 ts xantham gum
- 1/2 ts salt
- a few Blackberries

  • Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Cream butter and sugar together until light & smooth
  • Add the eggs, one at at time.
  • Add the buttermilk and dry ingredients one batch at a time, finishing with buttermilk.
  • Fold in blackberries, being very cautious as not to crush them.
  • Pour into molds and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  • Unmold and cool on a rack before eating
My Personal Comments
  • You could make the recipe with AP flour instead of rice & millet flour. In that case, you don't need the xantham gum.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Zucchini - Fennel soup

It's not winter yet but I already feel that I want to eat de la soupe. Halloween being around the corner, all the pumpkins and other squash are out and I only want them cooked in soups. You know, soup is my easy dinner option. A nice hearty soup served with bread and cheese, that's almost perfect dinner for me!  While I know I'll enjoy the soup, I also know that my children won't be that thrilled! And that it will take it longer to feed them that evening. Well, c'est la vie! I am not going to change my menu because they don't like soup that much! I do try to make it look more appealing to them by making polenta croutons or roasting purple potatoes on the side. We also play different games to make them eat yet another spoon of soup. One of the games we love to play is the "une cuillère pour...." where we name one person in our family each time we eat a spoon of soup. We start with my children' cousins... and, that's when I am happy to have a large family! By the time we get all the 7 cousins on my side, plus the 3 cousins on my husband's side, plus the additional second-cousins whom we see every summer, we are almost done with the bowl (because let's face it, I am not serving my children super-size bowls of soup!!) Whatever game we play, I generally manage to have my kids finish their bowl of soup. It might take a while but we get there eventually! And if I am lucky, despite the "je n'aime pas la soupe", they might even ask for a second serving!
Being French, I could make soup with pretty much any kinds of vegetables. I sometimes use chicken/vegetable stock but if, like now, I am on my low-iodine diet again and therefore staying away from processed sources of sodium, I just use additional herbs/spices to flavor the soup. One thing I want to make more in this winter are beans soups (any good recipes to share?). Until now, before Fall really sets in, here is a good end-of-summer-early-Fall recipe. Good? Oh yeah, we did not have to play any games to finish it! But we did have polenta croutonsBon Appetit!
-  1 large bulb of fresh Fennel, sliced
-  3 small zucchinis, cut into small dices
-  3 small potatoes, pealed.
-  1L (32 Fl oz) of water or vegetable/chicken stock
-  30 gr (1 oz) butter or equivalent of olive oil
-  1 sprig of Thyme (optional)
-  Salt, black pepper to taste

  • In a Dutch oven or thick-bottom pot, melt the butter (olive oil) over medium heat. 
  • Add the garlic, fennel, zuchinis and herbs. Toss them a few times so as to coat them in butter/oil.
  • Reduce heat, cover the pot with a lid and let simmer for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are really soft.
  • Add water/stock, the potatoes cubes and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer the soup for an additional 15 minutes or until the potatoes can be mashed.
  • With an immersion blender, blend the soup.
  • Add salt/black pepper to taste.
  • Serve with a dollup of crème fraiche
My Personal Comments:
  • You could add carrots if you have some that need to be cooked.
  • You could serve this soup to a child starting solid food.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Weekly Menu - Week 13

Weekly Menus are back! I don't know if you missed them (did you?) but I did! Oui, oui!
When we were in France this past Summer, cooking for an average of 12 people per day, we had menus. We had to have menus!
When I came back to Philadelphia, I did not plan meals as much... it was the end of the Summer; still too hot to cook large meals in the kitchen: I relied on nice salads and easy cooking.
Now that Fall is here, all of a sudden, I find myself out of ideas, or with ideas but without the proper ingredients, or with the ideas, the ingredients but not enough time to make the dish when I need it!. And without enough planning, I find myself without any leftovers for lunchboxes the following day! And that's, for me, is more stressful, than not having a proper dinner ready. Yes, I know, I can always make my kids sandwiches... but 5 times a week? Impossible (well, maybe for one week?) So, yes, planning is good! It might drive some people crazy but I personally find it a stress-reliever. I know I can focus on something else during the day because the menus are set, the ingredients are in the house, and I have allocated myself enough time to cook for dinner AND lunchboxes the next day! And even if I end up improvising an emergency dinner because there was something more important to do, I am OK because I know that for the remaining days, everything is taken care of. Ou presque! Keeping life simple! That's what it's all about! Bonne Cuisine!

Weekly Menu - Week 13

Game Plan

Sunday Evening:

  • If you  make your own yogurt, prepare a batch for the week. 
  • If you are feeling zealous, you could prepare the Ratatouille for Tuesday evening. That would save you time on that day.
  • You could also prepare the Panna Cotta for Tuesday.

Monday Evening: 
  • You only have to make the salmon & pasta for Monday evening.
  • After dinner, make the Panna Cotta for Tuesday evening if you have not made them on Sunday.
Tuesday Evening:
  • You have to cook the Ratatouille if you have not prepared it on Sunday.
  • Start with the Ratatouille. If you can ask for help, do to cut all the veggies.
  • While the ratatouille is cooking, make Quinoa.
Wednesday Evening:
  • For Wednesday dinner, you only have to make the entree. Start by preparing the Pineapple. 
  • I use frozen Green beans, these days to make my life easier.
  • If you have time make the Nutella biscotti for Thursday.
Thursday Evening:
  • Today's dinner is a little time-consuming because brown rice takes long to cook.
  • If you have not made the biscotti, start with them.
  • While they are cooling in the fridge, start the brown rice and veggies.
  • Finish the biscotti.
Friday Evening:
  • Relax, it's Friday!
  • Make the Quiche Lorraine first and while it's in the oven, make the Guacamole and enjoy it with a few chips before serving the Quiche Lorraine!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tuiles aux Amandes

It poured cats and dogs over the last couple of days to the point that the Schyulkill river partly overflowed. Because we could see it from the car on our scenic route to/back from school, we started talking about the river and how it could "sortir de son lit". My younger one laughed when he heard that expression and he still talks about it when we see the river. He even makes up a story where "la rivière dort dans son lit; elle se réveille parce qu'il pleut et décide de se lever. Elle déborde et sort de son lit", which in English roughly translates into "the river is sleeping in its bed and then wakes up because of the rain, decides to get up and get outside of its bed." I love hearing my children learn new expressions and use them appropriately. Because I love proverbs and cookies expressions, I could not resist baking "tuiles aux amandes" the other day to go along a sorbet. It's hard to explain to my kids what "tuiles" are in the US since all roofs around us are made of shingel!! Fortunately, we spent enough time in rural France this past summer for them to remember les tuiles! Especially when they are falling from the roof! Telling them that the delicious cookies they just had are called tuiles aux amandes just made them laughed! They wanted to build a house... but got more motivated by eating the tuiles! No need to have a roof with real tiles to make tuiles aux amandes. But it you do have some real tiles above your head, that will give you a good excuse to teach a French word to your children! It can't hurt. These tuiles won't fall off!  Bon Appétit!
- 115 gr. (4.05 oz) sugar
- 125 gr.(4.4 oz) slivered almondes
- 125 gr.(4.4 oz) buttermilk
- 30 gr. (1.05 oz) Flour
- 30 gr1.05 oz) Almond flour

  • Pre-heat oven to 380F (190C)
  • In a pot mix in sugar, almonds and buttermilk together. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes
  • Dump flour and almond flour and stir.
  • Scoop out the dough and place each scoop on parchment paper, flattening them so that they are "thin"
  • Cook in the oven for 12 minutes or until golden brown
  • Cool on a rack.
My Personal Comments
  • If you want the tuiles to be a little bit "rounded", cool them on a round surface (dough roller, bottle, etc.)