Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Roasted Chickpeas

As I already mentioned in my post on Kale Chips, we try to prendre l'apéritif on Friday evenings. We also have a drink with munchies whenever we have friends over and our children are always excited. They would not miss it... and are therefore always helpful to help it set up. After Kale chips, les pois-chiches grillés are another of our new items on our aperitif menus. I have been trying to get away from the chips&salsa or peanuts... opting for healthier options, when possible!
We eat a lot of pois-chiches in our house; more now than a year ago when I did not know what Socca was (I make Socca about twice a month). It also turns out that chickpeas are considered a natural cholesterol fighter... and considering my héritage in that area, I have been adding chickpeas whenever possible: hummus, coucous, salads, etc.
As you will realize, this recipe is really easy to make and, unless you only want to eat dry chickpeas that require soaking (ie, planning), you can make it in no time. Most children (and adults) I know love them and since you can adapt the spices you are using (cumin, garlic, Cayenne pepper, curry), you would not be disappointed! Bon Appétit!
- One can of chickpeas, drained (and dry)
- 2 Tbs (30ml) Olive oil
- Spices (cumin, curry powder, garlic, salt, Cayenne pepper, etc.)

  • Preheat oven to 450F (225C)
  • Mix Olive oil and spices together in a bowl
  • Mix chickpeas in olive oil
  • Place in the oven. After 15 minutes, stir the chickpeas so that they roast all over for another 15 minutes. Watch at the end to prevent burning.
  • Let cool and eat
My Personal Comments:
  • My children like them best with cumin or Cayenne Pepper (we are not big fans of garlic).
  • You might want to try different brands of canned chickpeas as I have found that they don't taste the same and don't hold as well.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spinach Velouté

Do you play cards? I love playing cards. My husband does not, malheureusement! He therefore laughs at me when I tell him that I  am seriously considering learning how to play bridge so that I have one thing to keep my mind working and to play with other people when I grow old! (are you laughing too?)  In order to introduce cards to my children so that they can decide for themselves whether they like them or not,  I purchased a few decks of cards in France last time I was there to teach my daughter some of the games I played growing up. One very famous one is Le jeu des 7 familles which aim is to form a family by picking cards out of your partners' hands or in la pioche (the extra pile). You have thousands of versions (animals, music instruments, people, etc, etc.). It's not as dynamic as Mistigri (Old Maid) and Nain Jaune (no translation; you'd have to come and play with us).... but children love playing it. You always start by saying "dans la famille ....., je voudrais le..... (père/mère/fils/fille/grand-père/grand-mère)"... The game is so ingrained in the French culture that, even if you don't play cards (like my husband), you use some of its expressions to describe what you have in front of you. For instance, when my children are throwing a tantrum and I want to defuse the situation, I say, "dans la famille des Comédiens, je voudrais, la fille/le fils". Inevitably, they laugh and resume their tantrum immediately want to play the game again! So we create our own little world of happy families!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pasta with Cauliflower

What I find hard when planning our weekly menus is to cook with what's available (and hopefully in season) while not making the same recipes over and over again. I am therefore always looking for new ways to cook the vegetables we purchase a lot (carrots, chard, zucchinis, eggplants, etc...) Another perfect example is cauliflower. We don't purchase cauliflower every week but at least once, if not twice, a month. I have been cooking cauliflower mostly au gratin or in soup but we all got tired of the same recipes... I therefore thought about a new way to present cauliflower, hoping to reconciliate my husband with cauliflower (too many gratins de chou-fleur growing up). I came up with a pasta recipe after reading a few recipes mixing cauliflower and pasta.  The combination chou-fleur-pâtes is not common in French cuisine (I am even sure that some of my French readers though I was cooking n'importe quoi when reading the post title!) where cauliflower mostly comes either solo or with potatoes. But then again, pourquoi pas? To ensure that my husband would eat it (I was not worried about my children this time!!), I added a few slices of bacon!! The result was beyond my expectations and actually vraiment bon. We all enjoyed it! I won't cook cauliflower this way only in the future because I like to keep pasta as my emergency dinner option...and this recipe does not qualify as an emergency dinner option. Then again, pourquoi pas? It's so easy! Bon Appétit!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Weekly Menu - Week 4

"Procrastinating" is a word that does not exist in French. Not that French people don't procrastinate... but French have to use more words to express the same idea Americans do with one word only. And évidemment, because French people are obnoxious, love to play with words, there are different words to use depending on the context. You could say "tergiverser" ou "différer"... but most of the time, you would say "remettre à plus tard".  However, "remettre à plus tard" is not something you are supposed to do trop souvent.  French people love proverbs and one that comes to mind tells you indeed NOT TO procrastinate: "ne pas remettre au lendemain ce que l'on peut faire le jour même" (don't postpone until tomorrow what you can do today).
As I am writing the game plan for this weekly menu, I would like to stress out the importance of not procrastinating... I was actually talking about it with a friend of mine last night because, I have been procrastinating a few tasks in the past few weeks, thinking that I would always have the time to do it demain ou après-demain. And then reality hit me! Procrastinating does not work well with having a family with young children! Sure, everything gets done eventually but à quels coûts ? Sleepless nights, uncontrollable tantrums, piles of dirty laundry, repeated unhealthy dinners?
Being flexible is what you need, especially with a family. And to be able to have flexibility in your schedule, you need to have all the other things (the ones you have been procastinating) done. Because you never know...
You never plan not to hear your alarm clock, so having prepared the lunchboxes the night before helps out getting everybody out on time. You never plan an unannounced visit from a good friend, so it helps to have a take-out nearby prepared extra stuffed tomatoes so that you have more to share.  You never plan for your children to be sick, so it helps to have leftovers from the night before ready when it's time to feed them a healthy lunch after a two-hour stance at the pediatrician. Of course, when everything goes outright unplanned, then it helps, just to have pasta and tomato sauce ready for an emergency dinner. It happens. Don't feel guilty about it. La vie est trop courte! Bonne Cuisine!

Weekly Menu - Week 4

Day Suggested Menu

Monday Stuffed Tomatoes with Quinoa
Coconut Icecream with Fresh Raspberries

Tuesday Cauliflower, Sweet Potatoes and Potatoes Gratin with Green Salad
Homemade Plain Yogurt with honey
Fresh Fruits

Wednesday Seafood salad with Avocado, tomato and Grapefruit
Hazelnut Banana Muffins

Thursday Veal, Cilantro and Ricotta Meatballs with sauteed vegetables
Homemade Plain Yogurt with Chestnut Spread
Fresh Fruits

Friday Buckwheat Crêpes with Green salad
Homemade Plain Yogurt with dark brown sugar
Fresh Fruits

Game Plan:
Sunday Evening:
  • You want to make (or at least start) the Coconut Ice cream and make the Stuffed Tomatoes.
  • Start with the Coconut Ice cream. While the mixture cools down in the fridge, you can make the stuffed tomatoes. Make sure you make more than just one tomato per person because they make great left-over for a lunch.
  • If you have enough time to finish the ice cream, do it on Sunday. Otherwise, leave the mixture to cool overnight in the fridge; it will take even less time to make the ice cream on Monday evening. You could leave the Coulis for Monday evening.
Monday Evening:
  • If you have not finished the ice cream, you want to put it in your ice cream maker as early as possible so that it's not too soft when you serve it.
  • If you have not made the raspberries coulis, make it on Monday evening.
  • You have to cook the Quinoa (less than 15min) and re-heat the Stuffed tomatoes.
  • After dinner, make your batch of homemade yogurts. If you have a big family, you might to make another batch during the week. Otherwise, plan to make only one batch for the whole week.
  • The stuffed tomatoes make a great leftover for lunch if you can reheat them.
Tuesday Evening:
  • You have to make the Vegetables Gratin. Start by steaming/boiling the vegetables.
  • While they are steaming/boiling make the Sauce Béchamel (white sauce) so that you can lay it over the cooked vegetables while it's still hot. It will take less time to brown (broil) in the oven.
  • If you are zealous (and to save some energy) you could make the Hazelnut Banana muffins that evening. You could cook them in the oven right after you have cooked the Vegetables Gratin.
  • The Vegetables Gratin makes a great leftover for lunch the next day if you can reheat it.
Wednesday Evening:
  • If you have not made the Hazelnut and Banana muffins on Tuesday evening, you have to make them tonight. Start with the muffins.
  • While the muffins are in the oven, you can prepare the salad.
Thursday Evening:
  • You have to make the meatballs. Make sure you have everything ready to make them: it goes faster. If you are feeling zealous, you could ask your children for help; they'll love it and they will enjoy eating them afterwards.
  • While the meatballs are in the oven to cook (or in a pan), saute some vegetables in olive oil (zucchinis, carrots, French beans, broccoli) w/o garlic. You could also make a carrot puree if you had more time.
  • At the end of the evening, prepare the batter for the buckwheat crepes (galettes). It takes less than 5 minutes to make... and it will save you time on Friday.
Friday Evening:
  • If you have not made the batter for the buckwheat crêpes (galettes), make it as early as possible so that it rests for a while. 
  • It's Friday, relax! Look into your fridge and see what you could use to fill the galettes. Your easy option is egg, cheese and ham. If you have mushrooms, leeks, onions, you could prepare alternative filling. Make sure you prepare the filling (including the eggs) BEFORE you start making the galettes. It would make the whole process faster. You could also start making the galettes (plain without filling) before serving everybody. You can keep them under foil in the oven or over a simmering pot of water (under foil). That way, you only have to fill them. It's the easiest option, especially if you are serving them à la carte.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Home-made Yogurt using a home-made Marmite Norvégienne

No, no I am not going crazy, nor am I moving to the fin fond de la Norvège!

We eat yogurt everyday in our family, twice a day sometimes. Les yaourts et autres produits laitiers are a big part of the French diet. Most foreigners don't realize it (beyond the traditional crème brûlée or crème au caramel and the obvious fromages) until they enter a supermarket and get overwhelmed by the size of the dairy products aisles. It's like going to the chips section (or rather the granola/power bars these days) of an American supermarket. Except 10 times bigger! Whenever I go back to France, I love going to the dairy section of any supermarket. I love looking at the new offerings, the new packaging and generally go back home with more yogurts that I can have! It's just heaven to me!

I grew up eating plain yogurt. Homemade plain yogurt . Made without a yogurt maker. Plain yogurt made by my grand-mother in her kitchen huche or by my mother in a boite à chaussures... You see, you don't need a yogurt maker to make good yogurts. The only thing you REALLY need is a thermometer (in addition to milk and another yogurt/yogurt starter). Then, you need a shoe box and newspaper. If your place is not warm enough, a blanket or extra towels as well. And here is your Marmite norvégienne, (aka thermal cooker; I guess they use it a lot in Norway (like in Hong-Kong or Japan.))  The principle of the thermal cooker is simple: it uses heat retention to finish the cooking without additional energy : you heat your milk, you pour it into a jar, add a little bit of yogurt (or yogurt starter); you put the jar in the marmitte norvégienne and let it do the magic work overnight! Plain easy!  And no need to purchase a real thermal cooker unless you plan on going camping this Summer or making real enery savings (that said, I'd love to try to cook something in a real thermal cooker one day!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Buckwheat Crepes - Galette de Sarrasin

As I already said in my post on Sweet Crêpes, Galettes de Sarrasin, made with Buckwheat flour, are my favorite savory crêpes. I find them really easy to make and when it comes to what goes in, options are unlimited. The most common is the Galette Complète: oeuf-jambon-fromage (or sunny-side-up egg, ham and Swiss cheese)... but you could really make your own combination. Examples include : just plain with salted butter, blue-cheese and walnuts, creamy mushrooms, bacon and leeks, smoked salmon with dill and crème fraîche, etc, etc...
In France, you can find already-made galettes at the supermarket or you can even find frozen stuffed ones... but nothing beats the home-made from scratch, évidemment!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chesnut Bread with Roasted Chestnuts

Note: This chestnut sourdough bread was made to participate in a French bread challenge : Concours Votre Pain.  The French version of this post is available ici.

Even though my experience with sourdough bread making is fairly recent, I have been making bread for my family regularly. I always use Florence Makanai's 1.2.3 recipe (recipe in English is here) and have only use my glass cocotte to bake my loaves so far. With great success I have to say!  My children  love trying new bread; they are also fascinated with the whole process... and since I am only using simple ingredients, I feel that I am eating healthier bread than the ones I could purchase otherwise (I have never been a big fan of molasses in bread!!)  That's what I love about cooking from scratch...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Weekly Menu - Week 3

Here we are again! It seems like I wrote the last Weekly Menu yesterday. It has been a week already! For SAH parents, there is sometimes this feeling that days are very long (especially if the children don't take anymore naps)... but on the other
hand, weeks go by in no time!  I am sure that WAO parents feel the same way. For different reasons maybe...La relativité du temps qui passe...
With a view to helping parents deal with the daily cooking chores, here is another Weekly Menu.  Please, don't think that you can not make it because the first dish is Boeuf Bourguignon or because you might not know of some of the other dishes. Trust me. It's worth going to the supermarket this week-end to purchase  chickpeas flour, kasha grains, Swiss chard and a lot of coconut (flour, flakes and milk!!). You won't regret it! Besides, you might end up serving new easy  food that your family will love this week, making it easier on you for the future. For example, I did not know what Socca was until last year. Since then, I make it at least once a month. As usual, I built up this menu so that you could fit in emergency pasta-take-out or  processed food! Bonne Cuisine!

 Weekly Menu - Week 3

Day Suggested Menu

Monday Boeuf Bourguignon with steamed potatoes
Plain Yogurt with honey
Fresh Fruits

Tuesday Buckwheat Kasha with Mushrooms and Onions with Green Salad
Coconut Macaroons

Wednesday Swiss Chard Soup with Socca
Plain Yogurt with dark brown sugar
Fresh Fruits

Thursday Tuna Curry with Vegetables and Rice
Plain Yogurt with homemade Apple Sauce

Friday Ham and Olives Savory Cake with Green salad
Plain Yogurt with chestnut spread
Fresh Fruits

Game Plan:
Sunday Evening:

  • You want to make the Boeuf Bourguignon on Sunday evening. It's not difficult at all (go and read all the comments of some of my friends who made it). It just takes a while to cook. To speed up things, you could use regular onions instead of pearl onions. The taste might be slightly different but at least you won't spend 20 minutes weeping in the kitchen. Since it's Sunday, you could ask for help to peal and cut the veggies!
  • You could make it with steamed (boiled) potatoes or pasta (egg noodles are great). I chose not to publish the recipe with pasta so that you could have a "pasta emergency dinner" during the week if need be!
  • A serving of frozen green beans on the side would also be great.
Monday Evening:

  • You just have to prepare the side dish for the ?Boeuf Bourguignon as it heats up: egg noodle, potatoes and/or green beans. I chose not to publish the recipe with pasta so that you could have a "pasta emergency dinner" during the week if need be!
  • If you have time, you could make the apple sauce for Thursday evening. You can keep the apple sauce in the fridge for up to 5 days. The recipe calls for rhubarb and banana... but you can use whatever fruits you have (pears, strawberries, etc.) or just plain apples (with/without cinnamon).
  • The Boeuf Bourguignon makes a great leftover for lunch (if you can reheat it)
Tuesday Evening:

  • Make the Macaroons first. They are very easy to make but are even easier if you let the dough rest for 15-30 mn in the fridge before laying the macaroons on parchment paper.  If you are up for a little mess, you can ask your children for help to scoop the macaroons! Macaroons are also best eaten fresh so it's not a great idea to make them the day before.
  • While the macaroons are in the fridge (or in the oven), prepare the kasha. You want to cook the mushrooms and onions first; kasha cooks in less than 15 minutes. 
  • If your children don't eat green salad, you can always give them cucumber or avocado.
  • Just after dinner, prepare the socca batter. Italians like to let it rest overnight (I generally make it in the morning or early afternoon for dinner). It takes 5 minutes to make so don't think that you don't have the time!
  • Kasha makes a great leftover if you can reheat your lunch.
Wednesday Evening:

  • You have to make the Swiss chard soup and cook the socca. Start pre-heating your oven for the socca as you start the soup.
  • If you are opting for the Caramelized Onions socca, start with caramelizing the onions. It takes a while. If you are just serving it plain (or with green onions), just start making the Swiss Chard soup.
  • The Swiss chard soup is really easy to make and takes less than 30 minutes.
  • 15 mns before dinner, make the first batch of socca and make the 2nd/3rd batch afterwards.
  • If you are feeling zealous, and have not made the Apple Sauce on Monday evening, you can make it on Wednesday.
Thursday Evening:

  • If you have not made the Apple Sauce before, you have to make it on Thursday evening together with the Tuna Curry. 
  • If you have to make both, start with the apple sauce: while it cooks, you'll cook the curry and rice.
  • The curry takes less than 30mns to make. You could add whatever vegetables you have in place of/in addition to yellow squash. Zucchinis and snow peas are great.
  • While you start sauteing the vegetables and tuna, prepare the rice.
  • The tuna dish makes a great leftover if you can reheat your lunch.
Friday Evening:

  • It's Friday. Pressure is off.  You can take the time to make the Ham & Olives Savory pound cake. Since the batter requires beer, you can drink the rest while you finish up cooking the cake!
  • If your children don't eat green salad, you can always give them a few cucumber slices or carrots. Any raw veggies would do it.
  • The leftover cake is great to take on a pique-nique on Saturday instead of sandwiches.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kale Chips

Yesterday was Saint-Patrick's Day... and for my non-US readers, it means that people honored their existing (or non existing) Irish roots with more or less commitment: from a parade in New York City, to pub-crawling (a favorite in our area, or so it seems) or just wearing a big green outfit... Some food-bloggers baked Irish soda bread (I have yet to try it out); others decided to "green-up" their meal with more vegetables. Anyway, it's not because of Saint-Patrick's day that I am offering a plain green-leaf vegetable recipe today. Tomorrow is Friday and on Friday evening, we generally prendre l'apéritif at home. No, I am not serving a cocktail with alcohol to my children. L'apéritif, in France (aka as l'apéro in slang) is the pre-lunch/dinner time when you wait for your guests to arrive or your meal to be ready. It's a tradition and most French people would offer one to you. Especially if it's Summer. Somehow, Summer (read = vacation) and apéritif go very well together! It's a welcoming social moment where people have a drink (beer, cocktail, sweet wines, Champagne, generally not wine though) and munch on a variety of things. Peanuts and saucisson would be your cheapest not-so-healthy mais neanmoins tres bonnes options. Gougères, a more elaborated (yet simple to make. I INSIST); cherry tomatoes or French breakfast radishes (could anyone tell me why they are called breakfast radishes????) with yogurt dip, a must-have to please everybody.
I have to say that I love our Friday apéritifs. It's the end of the week. I am not in a rush to put the children to bed. I can have a drink and fully enjoy it. My kids love them too and they get very excited when we are going to have it. They want to have it outside on our tiny balcony (weather permitting) or in the salon (as opposed to dans la cuisine). They set up the coasters. They pull out their small chairs and wait for their drink (water with sirop or a little bit of Diet coke)! They know they are not allowed to start drinking/eating until we are all together and  have a toast! To life!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Apple Blackberry Crumble ( Gluten-Free)

I am a big fan of fruits crumbles. I find it a good way to use old apples and to mix them with whatever fruits I have on hand to make an easy relatively-healthy dessert. Crumbles, a British dessert, started being à la mode in France in the 1980s. All of sudden everybody was making crumbles... and true, there was a time when the only dessert I could offer to make was  un crumble! Interestingly enough, I have never made a savory crumble. It has been on my A Faire list for the last few months but somehow, I'd rather bake a quiche or a savory pound cake than a savory crumble. I'll have to find out whether I like them or not.
In my desire to diversify our diet even more, I have started to bake gluten-free a few months ago. It's a challenge and a new discovery every time I mix new flours together. It's a new taste-bud experience to bite into a new dough or crumb.... and accept the fact that it's different from the same dish made with wheat flour. But different does not mean pas bon. Au contraire! In a way, you have to stop comparing wheat-based dishes and gluten-free dishes. It comes back to my post on culinary expectations. If you expect a gluten-free dessert to taste the same as its wheat-based cousin, then you are already starting from a biased angle. Forget about the wheat-based version. Just appreciate the gluten-free dish as a new thing in town. It's hard. Je sais! So hard that I have stopped telling my husband what I used to bake/cook before he takes his first bite and tells me whether he likes it or not. Otherwise, I know that he is not going to appreciate it for what it is; he is going to compare to what he has been used to eating for the last 39 years, ie wheat-based plats et desserts. Same thing with dairy free beverages such as almond milk, rice milk or soy milk. So, I keep it quiet; if my elder child helped me prep the dish (and hence knows what's in it), I tell her to keep it as a secret. She loves it!

Monday, March 15, 2010

School lunch : France vs. US

A year ago, when my daughter started pre-school in a French private school, we asked about the "lunch option" offered in the school (the school has a contract with the company that provides lunch to the county public schools.) As some of you might know, all schools in France (public or private, big or small, rural or urban) offer a lunch option: la cantine. There is 2-hour lunch break in pre-school and elementary school (from 11.30 am until 1.30pm approximately). Some parents take their children out of school to feed them lunch at home; others opt for the cantine. I grew up eating à la cantine and since my days back in the cantine, I can tell you that the quality improved tremendously. What children eat today in French cantines would sound gourmet food for Americans. It's always a three-(if not four)-course meal that includes everything easy French cuisine can offer: boeuf bourguignon, fish fillets with ratatouille, lentilles and sausages, with fresh vegetables and fruits, the occasional desserts, etc, etc. Yes, children eat pizza and French fries... but not frequently (and way less frequently than I remember it). In short, the meals are balanced,  healthy and affordable.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sourdough Boule - Boule au levain

I believe that everybody should know how to make bread. I know, it's a strong statement, especially coming from a French woman. I grew up eating good bread. As years passed, bread went two opposite ways in France. On the one end of the spectrum, supermarkets started making cheap previously-frozen baguettes. While I can understand the financial incentives for some families, it was not something I was going to support. I'd rather eat good bread every other day than bad bread every day. On the other end of the spectrum, some professional boulangers started making really good breads beyond the traditional baguette, bâtardand pain de campagne. New delicious breads were in. At a price. But in. And because French love their breads so much, it is not unusual to walk passed the closest boulangerie to go and try the breads of the other boulangeries around. And because of that, bread machine (Machines à Pain or MAP in French) have become fairly fashionable!!! You know, there is nothing worse for French people than loose their beloved boulanger.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Weekly Menu - Week 2

Here is next week's menu. I have tried to leave you some openings for wheat pasta, other processed food or take-out, in case you needed to be able to cook an emergency dinner. Like when you come home from a nice well-deserved two-hour workout looking forward to a dinner en tête-à-tête with your spouse (who would have bathed the kids, cooked dinner for them, fed them, and put them to bed)... only to open the door to witness.... your lovely family chaos!! Just because the pizza dough was too sticky and your spouse could not remember that flour is what is generally used to roll out dough (any dough!)... and worse, your spouse did not think about opening the fridge to make an emergency dinner. Yes, I know, Tout peut arriver!
Like last week, I have laid out the game plan to make this happen as smoothly as possible. Bonne chance!

Weekly Menu - Week 2

Day Suggested Menu

Monday Salmon with Buckwheat Pasta, Edamame, Carrots and Sesame Seeds
Plain Yogurt with Chestnut Spread
Fresh Fruits

Tuesday Brown Rice and Beans with Green Salad
Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis

Wednesday Watercress Soup with Gougères
Plain Yogurt with honey
Fresh Fruits

Thursday Chicken Stir Fry and Green Salad
Nutella Cupcakes

Friday Ratatouille with Quinoa
Plain Yogurt with dark brown sugar
Fresh Fruits

Game Plan:
Sunday Evening:

  • You want to make the Panna Cotta for Tuesday evening. It does not take long to make them but since they have to be resting in the fridge for at least 4 hours, it would be best to make them in advance. Don't worry about using too many frozen raspberries. You can always use the extra coulis to flavor plain yogurt. Alternatively, you could use strawberries or blackberries instead for the Panna Cotta if you did eat raspberry coulis last week and don't want to serve it again!
Monday Evening:
  • Easy less-than-30mn dinner. The only real work is pealing the carrots!
  • Remember that the Buckwheat pasta cook really fast!
Tuesday Evening:
  • Make the brown rice and beans. The brown rice takes a while to cook. It gives you time to prep the veggies.
  • If you are feeling zealous, while the brown rice is cooking you can make the watercress soup for Wednesday. That way, you only have to make the gougères on Wednesday evening.
  • If your children don't eat salad yet, you can just cut a few pieces of cucumber, a few slices of tomatoes so that they get raw veggies.
  • The brown rice and beans would do a great lunch for Wednesday. So don't hesitate to make more.
Wednesday Evening:
  • If you have to make both the watercress soup and the gougères, make the gougères first and make the soup while the gougères are in the oven.
  • If you have to only make the gougères, well, while the gougères are in the oven, you could start making the Nutella cupcakes for Thursday. That way, you won't have to re-heat your oven on Thursday. Just make sure you keep your children AWAY from the kitchen as you make the cupcakes... because they might end up eating more Nutella than watercress soup!
  • Even though the gougères are best eaten out of the oven, I pack 3 in my child's lunch box together with veggies for her next day lunch.
Thursday Evening:
  • If you have not made the Nutella cupcakes on Wednesday evening, you have to make both the cupcakes and the chicken stir fry this evening.
  • Start with the cupcakes so that they are cooking in the oven while you prepare the chicken stir fry. Don't hesitate to make more because it's a great leftover for Friday lunch.
  • If you have already made the cupcakes and you only have to make the stirf-fry, you could make the Ratatouille that night. It would cook on your stove as you have dinner.
Friday Evening:
  • If you have not made the ratatouille on Thursday, pour yourself a drink before making the ratatouille. It does not take long but you do have to prep all the veggies. It's totally OK to pour your children a child's drink and have them cut the zucchinis, mushrooms with you. Nice to catch up about the week... and make them participate in preparing the meal.
  • As the ratatouille is cooking, prep the Quinoa. It takes about 15 minutes to cook in boiling water. 
  • The ratatouille would make a great side-dish with fish over the week-end.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pesto Breaded Fish Fillets - Pesto Panko Poisson Pané

When I ask my 4-year-old daughter what's her favorite dishes are, "fish fingers" is on her Top 5! I don't have anything against fish fingers, I love them myself! Yet, after all this cooking and baking, having "fish fingers" on her Top 5 list made me think again.... First of all, I know that what she (and her brother) like about poisson pané is that they are allowed to have ketchup with it. Second of all, I have purchased the "little-fish-shaped" fish fingers and they find them really fun to eat. (Argh... clever marketing guys and stupid me who fell for their cute small-size shapes). So, it really comes down to artificial flavor and shape, n'est-ce-pas? There is this joke in France where the only "fish" children know are square because of the square-shaped breaded fish fillets children eat at the school cafeteria or at home!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Meyer Lemons and Mint Lemonade

Des envies de soleil! That how I felt the other day when we were still under the snow, feeling like we were living in Alaska... Seeing beautiful Meyer lemons at the fruits stand (they are always in season somewhere in the US, aren't they?), I was immediately drawn to them. Since they were on sale (score!), I could not resist purchasing two full bags. I am sure I had Meyer lemons in one way (lemonade) or another (dessert) while living in San Francisco but it's not until I came to live on the East Coast that I really tasted them for what they really are: juicy, almost sweet with edible skin!
A few years ago, my dear friend P. had us over and one of her friends had mailed her Meyer lemons from Arizona. I recall thinking that P. was really lucky to have friends who grow their own Meyer lemons and who would go as far as shipping some to Pennsylvania. Actually, it is one American habit that I love : people sending food to relatives and friends across the country...Sure, my parents and relatives never come empty-ended when they cross the Atlantic ocean to visit us... but it feels different. Somehow, my cornichons, Savora or crème de marrons do not compete with home-grown Meyer lemons from Arizona!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Weekly Menu - Week 1

As I warm up to the idea of having to go back to work, my eyes open up to the challenge of women (especially women) who try to balance professional life and family life. My sister who lives and works in Asia and has an 8-month-old is struggling with that fine équilibre and I can not really give her advice beyond the quality vs. quantity time because right now, I don't work. Well, I have my hands full but it does not bring any income to our family so as a result, I fall in the SAHMs category!  The minute I jump into the WAOM/WAHMs category, I know that I will go crazy we'll all manage eventually. Maybe some better than others, some with more compromises than others but eventually, some new balance will be found!
What I was thinking about is how you also find the time to keep balancing meals when you come home at the time the kids should be having dinner, if not be in bed already. How much processed or take-out food do you introduce in the family diet for the sake of zero time-to-table necessity? That got me thinking... and I came up with my Weekly Menu. You see, something I do well is organizing things (not my closets)... but life in general. It tends to drive my husband crazy but he also finds it really easy to rely on me, especially when it comes to planning meals.

So here is the deal : not only do I bring a weekly menu but I also give you a game plan to make it happen. It's not perfect.
It's a typical weekly menu that I would cook for my family. The only thing that changes with today (when I am still a SAHM) and tomorrow (when I become a WAOM) is the game plan. Today, I would not prepare as many as the meals the night before because I can make them while my younger one takes his nap or if we need an "activity" to fill a rainy day.
It does leave you some leaway for processed/take-out food.  Sure, you might miss a few episodes of your favorite TV shows (but who needs TV when you can watch them on the internet?)... And because you CAN NOT miss your Pilates/Yoga class, you will have to
delegate to your spouse (oh yeah, I am planning on doing that!!).  It will be OK because everything is so easy to make and already planned.  Planning is good! Let's face it, even though we all love spontaneity, when it comes to feeding a family, the more planning, the better. It's like bedtime routine. It might be boring; it takes effort but it works if you do it well and are consistent. Bonne chance!

 Weekly Menu - Week 1

Day Suggested Menu

Monday Shredded Carrots
Pork Roast with Prunes, Apples and Potatoes
Plain Yogurt with Honey
Fresh Fruits

Tuesday Lentils with Mixed Vegetables
Petits Pots de Creme

Wednesday Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp and Lima Beans
Plain Yogurt with Chestnut Spread
Fresh Fruits

Thursday Leeks and Potatoes Soup with Polenta Croutons
Banana Bread

Friday Quiche Lorraine with Green salad
Plain Yogurt with Raspberry Coulis
Fresh Fruits

Game Plan:
Sunday Evening:

  • You want to cook the pork roast on Sunday evening so that it's ready by Monday evening. It tastes great re-heated. It would make a great leftover meal for Tuesday lunch as well. So, make more that what you would normally do for just your family.
  • You could make the Petits Pots de Creme for Tuesday's dinner as well if you had the time. You can keep them in the fridge for 3 days.
  • You want to make sure that you bought ripe bananas over the week-end so that they are perfect to make the Banana Bread on Wednesday evening.
Monday Evening:
  • Shredding the carrots is a 10-mn effort. Nothing to be afraid of. Make them as you reheat the roast.
  • If you have not made the Petits Pots de Creme on Sunday, make them on Monday evening. It takes less than 40mn from start to finish and you can keep them in the fridge for 3 days. If you are reheating your roast in the oven, just put the Petits Pots de Creme at the proper temperature.
Tuesday Evening:
  • Make the lentils. It takes about 45 minutes from start to finish... but you really need to be working for 10 minutes (pealing the veggies). They make a great leftover as you could put them in your children' lunch box... or keep them in the fridge for 4-5 days.
Wednesday Evening:
  • This dinner takes less than 30mn to prep. 
  • After dinner, you want to make the Banana Bread so that you have the oven available for the Polenta Croutons on Thursday. 
Thursday Evening:
  • You have to make the Potatoes and Leeks Soup and the Polenta Croutons. Start with the Polenta croutons because they have to cool before you can bake them in the oven.
  • Once you have the Polenta cooling in the fridge, you can make the soup. It takes less than 30 mn.
  • If you feel zealous, you can make the dough for the Quiche Lorraine as the croutons finish browning in the oven.  The crust will taste even better if it has cooled in the fridge overnight.
Friday Evening:
  • Make the quiche and have a drink while it cooks in the oven! It's Friday, the pressure is off! If you are in a hurry, use a frozen crust.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Yesterday With My Children We Made......Hazelnuts Banana Muffins

As I already wrote in a previous post, we all like nuts in my family. Any kind of nuts ..... and I definitively spend more money on nuts than I do on cookies. Especially since I started baking again. My husband (and children) have a sweet tooth and since I did not enjoy baking that much before, we had a deal with my husband that he was going to be the one baking while I handle the daily cooking. As a result, he is the one who got silicone molds, baking dishes and other pastry-related accessories for Christmas or his birthday. He is the one who started keeping sweet recipes from a French cooking magazine he subscribed to for a long time. He is the one who even took a pastry class! But at the end of the year, he maybe made desserts four times max. Good desserts (his galette des rois is one of his successes), sure, but once a quarter! For someone who could eat 6 sweet crêpes or 4 madeleines without even noticing it, that's not very impressive, n'est-ce-pas? Sure, he works a lot and, hence, his time off-work is limited... mais quand même! Franchement?