Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yesterday With My Children We Made... Spaghetti Squashotto

I discovered spaghetti squash while living in Upstate New York. I had never seen it before and I got intrigued. The first time I cooked it, I served it with a tomato sauce, just like its name suggested. It is a little bland to my taste so since then, I have come to cook it in different manners: in soup, in a hot tomato sauce, and more recently in a risotto-like preparation. Instead of using Parmesan, I used Ricotta because Ricotta brings a creamy taste to the vegetables. What I like about the spaghetti squash is that I can cook it in the microwave in less than 15 minutes... and that my children (almost) still believe it's spaghetti!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Snack or No Snack?

The other day, I was at the playground and a mother of two children (let's say a 6-months baby and a 22-months daughter) was there among all the other parents/caregivers. It was about 4 pm in the afternoon... and since it was early Fall in Philadelphia, we were all staying a little bit later at the playground, filling up on sun knowing that in a few weeks, we'll all be inside. The mother was feeding her older child snack, after snack after snack : pizza-flavored crackers, tiny bits of sausage, cereals, etc. Around 5.30pm, her husband joined them at the playground and then she said "now we are going to have pizza for dinner". I just wondered how hungry the older daughter was going to be for pizza after all these snacks!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Coconut Icecream with Raspberries and Raspberry Coulis

My husband loves ice cream; I mean he REALLY loves ice cream. A few years ago, he decided that we needed to have an ice cream maker. Not a fancy one, just a basic ice cream maker with a small motor. The pretext reason was that we could not find good sorbets in supermarkets back then... We did make a few sorbets at the beginning. However, over the last 5 years, I think we used the ice cream maker only twice (but purchased lots of ice creams and sorbets)! The ice cream maker was sitting in a closet (next to the yogurt maker).. and because of that, the minute we thought about making some ice cream, it was not possible because the bowl was not cold!

Monday, November 23, 2009

First Bites.... Carrots and Zucchini Puree

I remember when we decided to start our first child on solids. Like most French people, we decided to start with carrots, not with hot cereals. I don't have anything against hot cereals (I actually like oatmeal with warm milk (yes, yes)!!) but I think that they taste too bland to me to be introduced first, especially if the child has been/is being breastfed. The whole point of starting a child on solids is to make her discover new stronger tastes and textures early on. Offering rice or oatmeal cereals does not serve that purpose well to my opinion.

So, for my child, I made my first carrots puree and watched out as she took her first bite... It was the first time we were introducing the spoon as well, so there was some adaptation to the new utensil too. Needless to say that it was not a great success! I'm not sure how much she actually ate (maybe three full spoons?); her whole bib (and our walls) turned orange....... but at least we had started the process! And as her mom, it was also a big step for me to see her take that first bite. I was emotionally moved (sigh)!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Coleslaw with Mayonnaise or Tahini (Sesame Paste) Dressing

Coleslaw? French people don't eat much coleslaw and that's a shame! Really! We do it a lot (I mean A LOT) of shredded carrots and shredded red cabbage salads but somehow we did not come to coleslaw until fairly recently. I had it maybe twice before coming to the US and realizing that it is a favorite side dish everywhere in the country.
But why make coleslaw when you can purchase it already prepared at the deli counter in the local supermarkets? I'll give you a few reasons: 1) It's fresh. 2)You control the ingredients (less or more cabbage, what about a few radishes or parsnips, more carrots, an apple?). 3)It's very easy to make. 4)Your kids will be delighted to see how a whole carrot ends up shredded. 5)You'll have made something "from scratch" that everybody loves in your family!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Watercress Soup

This is maybe the easiest soup to make and a real favorite in my family. I was actually surprised how easily my two children ate their first bowl of watercress soup. You know, I was doing the "prep" talk (something like "we are going to have watercress soup tonight; it's really good, both papa and I love it; I was even maybe starting to tell them how I made it, just to keep them interested). I put their bowls on the table with a little bit of apprehension, waiting for their reaction. Part of me was already prepared to push for "at least a few spoons"... but no! My older child looked at me and said "c'est bon". My younger kid could not talk yet but by the speed he was gulping his soup, I could just tell that he was enjoying it! Blessed with this great success, it has become a favorite on my menu list. I also serve it over couscous; it makes a great dinner dish and it's easier (and less messy!!) to serve to younger children.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cauliflower, Sweet Potatoes, and Potatoes Au Gratin

I grew up eating gratin de chou-fleur in France. Cauliflower is locally grown (mostly in Brittany), it's relatively cheap and a vegetable easy to find in the winter. I don't have the statistics, but my guess is that 80% of cauliflowers in France are eaten au gratin: either as a main dish for dinner or as a side dish with pork roast, pork or lamb chops. My husband ate too many gratins de choux-fleurs while growing up;  he is no big fan anymore (was he ever?)...As a result, I have tried other recipes for cauliflower because I can't resist purchasing a fresh big head of cauliflower at the Farmers' market. So, once in a while, I cook it au gratin as well. As with any gratin, we add potatoes (as a treat for those who don't like cauliflower that much!). Since living in the US, I have started to add sweet potatoes as well. They add color (and color is HUGE when it comes to feeding kids) and give us something to talk about (why are they sweet? why orange? what's the difference between yam and sweet potatoes? Anybody?)...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Roasted Pork, Pumpkin and Garlic Heads

 My husband had bought a pumpkin at the market and used half of it to make pumpkin Soup (similar to the Butternut Squash soup I made a few weeks ago except with pumpkin). The other half was sitting in the fridge and I was wondering how to cook it. I had not read David Lebovitz's Pumpkin Ice Cream recipe yet (soon to be made), but I had looked at The Pioneer Woman's recipe for roasted garlic and potatoes. We somehow had lots of garlic heads and I remembered a Superball Party back in California where my friend had made roasted garlic. This was a very "ta-da" moment where the taste you expect (garlic) is not at all what you get (this wonderful smooth caramelized taste) and you just fall for the dish. [I had another "ta-da" moment with Vegemite in Australia one day but in a different way!]

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Orange Shortbread Cookies

It was Halloween a few weeks ago and I wanted to make something for the kids that day. However, knowing they were going to come back with more-than-anyone-can-eat candies, I decided to make something "healthier" (like with real butter and real sugar, not corn syrup and fake coloring). Since Orange was the color of the moment, I came up with the idea of orange-flavored cookies instead of orange-colored cookies.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Swiss Chard and Bacon Tartelettes

Once again, we purchased Swiss chard at the market. And once again, I scratched my head to find a new way to serve it to my children (I know, I owe you the Swiss Chard Gratin Recipe!!). I came up with this idea of an individual savory tartelette, a variation from the traditional Quiche Lorraine that is ubiquitous in French families. French eat a lot of quiches. It used to be served as an appetizer. Lately, it has become more common to eat one slice of quiche with a serving of salad for lunch or dinner. This makes an easy, relatively healthy entree. Like everybody else, my children love having their own individual tartelette dish. It makes it more fun for them to eat... As a result, I have tried, when possible, to individualize their portion that way so that they would eat it all without balking. Since Swiss chard can be a little tart, I added bacon because, like my husband would say, "everything tastes better with bacon". Right. Bon Appétit!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yesterday With My Children We Made.....Basil Potatoes Croquettes

You know, I have this "Eating by Example" theory: children eat what they see others eat. How many of your children have come back from school and ask you for "a banana" or for a "whole apple, skin on" or, maybe more frequently for a "bag of chips" because they just saw their friends eat them at school? It turns out that I have other theories... For example, I strongly believe in the "If They Cook it, They'll Eat It" theory. I have implemented it at home with my two children and it has worked great so far.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What's In My Pantry?

Our kitchen is small and there is no such thing as a pantry in my apartment (that would be a dream in a way).. so I try to keep the minimum in my cupboards to have as a base for my daily cooking... And since spices go bad within 12 months, I am not the kind of  person with two or three shelves full of spices.Here is a list of things I always have in my pantry cupboards. Anything missing?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Corn Chowder

It all started because I had forgotten that my husband had bought corn ears at the market!!!  The ears were not fresh enough to eat them on the cob, so I decided to make Corn Chowder instead. French people eat a lot of soups but we are not used to eating milk-based soups. I discovered Clam Chowder while working in California for a company based out of Cambridge, Ma. On a professional trip to the East Coast, we had clam chowder and I liked it immediately despite the clams (I eat oysters but somehow don't like clams that much)...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Plain Yogurt with Chestnut Spread

Chestnuts (châtaignes in French) are to the French what cranberries are to the Americans. French people eat chestnuts as a side dish in the traditional Roasted Turkey with Chestnuts (Dinde aux marrons, which despite its name does not call for horse chestnuts (marrons in French) but for châtaignes ). Candied in sugar (marrons glacés), they become a delicacy people buy alongside chocolates for Christmas. Roasted (marrons grillés), sometimes right in the middle of the streets of Paris, they become a healthy snack... but more frequently, you'll end up eating them pureed in chestnut spread (Crème de marrons).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Socca with Caramelized Onions (Build-Up Recipe)

When you live in a foreign country, you are always prone to coming across dishes, vegetables, and fruits that you have never seen or tasted before. It's part of the experience of living abroad; it's expected; and as long as you are open to trying new food, it can be really memorable in a good (or bad) way!
I did not expect to find a new French dish that I had never heard of before coming to the US though! My friend C. cooked Socca for me the other day, assuming I knew all about Socca. I had NO idea of what she was talking about. "Oh, you know, this chickpea-flour sort of pancakes they serve in Nice".