Saturday, March 26, 2011

Little Pumpkin Spices Tea Cakes

Kids love routine. Pediatricians told me that many times... but somehow, I also discovered the hard way when agreeing to listen for the same CD over-and-over again on the same day... At first, I found it funny and cute but when I caught myself being able to hum the next song on that (and all the other CDs), I just realized that too much of the same thing, not matter how comforting, can't be that good. Except for two routines I really strongly believe in: bedtime and meal routines. The rest, I feel that it's actually a great idea to prepare children for change.  I have met SO many adults who can't deal with change that I want my children to be to handle change well. At their level, that is. Evidemment.

Despite my belief in mealtime routine, I decided to start making a change in the goûter routine (4pm snack), no matter hard it's going to be. You see my children love their goûter (and I love mine too!) However, I feel that, and as I already wrote, I now have a Pavlov son who has the hard time when the sac du goûter is not brought to school (either because I baked something that could not be transported, or we bought some pains au chocolat from the school to support the parents association or because my husband forgot to take the sac du goûter in the morning!! (Oops! BIG MISTAKE!!).
Since my children ride the public (not yellow) bus with their babysitter on most days, the goûter has to be easy to carry, not too messy, and let's face it, easy to prepare.  Hence, my favorite choices these days: a pouch of apple sauce with a few store-bought cookies. The weather was cold enough that chocolate-covered cookies could survive a whole day in school, so my children did get a lot of those over the past few months.  To the point that, in addition to the sac du goûter, they had come to expect chocolate-covered cookies. The minute I was sending them with something else, they came back asking me  "maman, pourquoi on n'a pas eu de gâteaux au chocolat pour le goûter?" That's when I realized that their goûter routine had to change. I'll keep the same bag (that's the easy part as long as my husband does not forget it)... but I'll change the content, especially if Spring settles in sooner than later! I'll use the weather as the perfect logical explanation (yeah, right!)... I know that they'll rebel a little bit at first but if I can find good alternative options, I'm sure I'll make their goûter more interesting. One of my trump cards (for the "starchy-sweet" part) are these kind of little tea cakes. They are so easy to make that I actually wonder why I have not baked more (well, working full time sounds enough of reason, non?).  I used Pumpkin spices because that's what I discovered in my cupboard (leftover from past Halloween), but you could really work out any kind of options. I'll add chocolate chips one day together with vanilla extract instead of the spices; that might keep my little rebellion at bay! Bon Appetit!
- 1 1/4 cup flour
- 100 gr (3.5 oz) sugar
- 1 1/2 ts Pumpkin Spices
- pinch of salt
- 1 ts baking powder
- 85 ml 2.87 Fl oz) milk
- 85 ml (2.87 Fl oz) cream
- 80 ml (2.7 Fl oz) vegetable oil
- 1 egg lightly beaten

  • Preheat ovent to 350F
  • Butter cake molds and set aside
  • In a bowl, mix in all the dry ingredients together.
  • In another bowl, combine the egg, milk, cream and vegetable oil.
  • Pour the liquids onto the dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Pour the batter onto the molds about 2/3rd full.
  • Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
My Personal Comments:
  • You could use different spices (cinnamon, cardamon), add pieces of fruits (apples, pear, etc.) or even make it gluten-free...  

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Carrots - Sweet Potatoes Soup Thai Style

"Hmm, elle est super bonne ta soupe maman" did I get as a compliment when I served this Thai-style carrots and sweet potatoes soup a few weeks ago (honnest, that's what they said!). From both my children! I was surprised because I did not expect them to like it as much (it has fresh ginger after all).. How wrong was I! It has become my daughter's favorite soup. And mine as well these days...(just had some for lunch today actually!)
The first comment my children made was that this soup tasted like their favorite mussels recipe, "tu sais la bonne recette, pas celle que j'aime pas" (meaning "the good one, not the one I don't like") and of course I knew which recipe she liked better than the other when it comes to mussels : just timing how much time it takes them to finish their plate is generally a good indication of a pass/fail test!)
All in all, what they really like is the combinaison of lemongrass and coconut I might try to cook different recipes with this combo so as to introduce new dishes to them.
This recipe from Mark Bittman is rich : so make sure you don't serve two full bowls of it before a main dish. If it's going to be an appetizer, a small bowl will be enough (well, not enough because you might enjoy it so much that everybody will want a second serving!) At home, I generally serve it "as a main dish" together with bread and a salad or I make sure that my children have a piece of fresh fruit for dessert.
Simple. Easy and "super bonne"! Coming from a 5 1/2 and a 3 year-old, it's worth giving it a try, nonBon Appetit!
- 3 stalks Lemongrass
- 10 nickel-size fresh ginger pieces (about 2cm)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- about 1 pound of carrot & sweet potatoes, cut in cubes.
- 1/4 ts Cayenne pepper (more to taste)
- 1 quart Coconut milk (about 2 cans)
- 1/4 cup fresh Cilantro (cut but keep the stems)
- Neutral Oil (grapeseed or corn) or Coconut oil salt.

  • Grate about 1/2 inch of each lemongrass stalk and cut the rest of in 1-in pieces.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the lemongrass, the ginger and garlic and cooke, stirring until the garlic is golden (about 5min)
  • Add the carrots/sweet potatoes, the Cayenne pepper. Stir to coat with oil and cook for about a minute.
  • Add the coconut milk, 2 cups of water, and the stems of Cilantro. 
  • Bring to a boil and then lower the temperature. Let is simmer for about 15 minutes or until the carrots/sweet potatoes are cooked.
  • Take the Cilantro stems out and puree the soup.
  • Adjust seasoning. 
  • Serve with  fresh cilantro and lime wedges.
My Personal Comments: 

  • I tend to keep the cilantro stems in the soup and puree them together with the rest.
  • Use good quality  coconut milk and not the non-fat version!
  • Since I bought coconut oil, I use it in this soup as well.
  • I just eat this soup with a piece of bread for lunch or dinner!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Homemade Nutella - Hazelnuts Chocolate Spread

Tuesday is Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). In France this is the day when children dress up in school, have a little parade and then eat crêpes. Since our children go to a French International school, they get to celebreate both Halloween and Mardi Gras. However, they won't dress up in their Halloween-like costumes on Tuesday. Instead, they (at least in the pre-school) have created funny hats and maracas to have a little parade within the school. The other major difference is that parents are not invited on Tuesday!! The only thing we are asked to do is to bring crêpes or/and filling for the crêpes. 
My husband and I will be making crêpes for our daughter's class ; and while we I am at it, I'll bake some for us at home as well. As I already wrote last year, one of our my husband and children' favorite toppings is Nutella. However, this year, I made my own!! ENFIN!!  I had wanted to do it for a long time.... and since one of my friends gave me hazelnuts she did not know what to do with, I took the plunge and decided to give it a try. I knew I was going to face a very hard jury in the persons of my husband and two children. I knew that they my husband was going to start with an negative-already-made-up mind (the one he has when it comes to me cooking something he likes a lot but differently!) but it did not matter to me. I wanted to be able to produce a hazelnut-chocolate spread that was close enough to Nutella so that we could stop purchasing Nutella alltogether (and therefore avoid all the palm oil /soy/other strange ingredients in it). 
The results? "hmm, c'est bon, maman" said my children ; "hmm c'est pas mal du tout", said my husband. Which, in his terms, means that I totally passed the test and can keep making our own hazelnut-chocolate spread! 
Since starting this blog, here are the few things we hardly ever purchased anymore, just because making them from scratch at home, turned out to be much much easier/healthier/cheaper than I thought: baguettes, Nutella, falafels, pizza dough, hummus, granola, polenta, lemoncurd...  
Challenge yourself and try make one dish for your family that you would otherwise purchase. You will be surprise... 
What's next on my list? Tomato sauce, Indian naans, pita chips/tortilla chips... any recipes to suggest? Bon Appetit?

(adapted from the Los Angeles Times)
- 2 cups raw hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 tablespoons hazelnut oil, more as needed

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts evenly over a cookie sheet and roast until they darken and become aromatic, about 10 minutes. Transfer the hazelnuts to a damp towel and rub to remove the skins.
  • In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts to a smooth butter.
  • Add the cocoa, sugar, vanilla, and oil to the food processor and continue to process until well blended. The finished spread should have the consistency of creamy peanut butter; if it is too dry, process in a little extra hazelnut oil until the desired consistency is achieved.
My Personal Comments:
  • Hazelnut Oil is expensive. I used Coconut oil because I could not find hazelnut oil and it worked perfectly fine as well. 
  • Splurge on the chocolate so that it has a great flavor. This is key.
  • You can find already blanched hazelnuts to avoid to have to remove the skin. However, do toast them in the oven as indicated : this liberates oil and give extra flavor.