Friday, April 30, 2010

Orange Chocolate Chips Pound Cake

Last week-end I flew to Chicago to spend two days with a very dear friend of mine and her family. It was a wonderful week-end, packed with activities (sports, music, art, birthday party), interesting discussions and laughing moments shared with her and her four daughters. Her older one (8 years of age), S. is very much into cooking. She has her own recipes that she likes to make often: she had baked a cake before I arrived; she made a chicken roast (with garlic cloves and bacon slices), mashed potatoes and peas for her sisters on Saturday evening (while my friend, another friend of hers and I went for a delicious Ladies Dinner out: a treat!); she made pancakes with red coloring and cinnamon on Sunday!

It was wonderful to see S. so involved in the kitchen. In order to help expand her cahier de recettes, she helped me make Nutella sweet crêpes; I taught her how to “dress” (read: eat more veggies) her green peas a little by adding onions, carrots, and Italians seasoning; how to use warm milk instead of cold milk into her mashed potatoes (cold milk would cool down the potatoes too much and would compel you to reheat the puree which purists would not want you to do!), etc.

As we were pealing and cutting potatoes, I asked her why she liked cooking so much. “It’s magical”, she replied. “And why is that?”, I asked in return. “Because you take ingredients and you turn them into something delicious!”…..Isn’t she so right?

It’s always a mess inspiring to cook with children. It fosters their creativity while strengthening their rigor (for that, I think that a digital scale is MUCH better than cups and spoons that are too “bulk”; besides, it helps with calculus!). It helps them build confidence. It also helps them realize that a tomato sauce (or pancakes) can also be made from scratch and that they don’t need a pre-packaged mix (read: full of salt, white refined sugar, if not high fructose corn syrup). This, I am sure, will help them develop healthier eating habits from which they can only benefit all along.

My stay was too short to spend more time in the kitchen with S. (and her younger sister who, in turns, was also very interested in participating). There was a delicious orange cake (with icing) for us to eat over the week-end. It reminded me that I had made one with my children a few weeks ago, which we all enjoyed very much. I am sure that S. would have loved to add this one to her cahier de recettes. Bon Appétit!

- 1/3 cup (75 gr or 2.6 oz) butter at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150 gr or 5.2 oz) light brown cane sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 big orange, zested and juiced
- 2 cups (250 gr or 8.8 oz) Flour
- 1 ts Baking Powder
- 1 ts Baking Soda
- 1/4 ts salt
- 2/3 cup Chocolate Chips (more if desired)
- 1 cup buttermilk (250ml or 8 Fl oz) (or plain yogurt)
  • Preheat oven to 350F
  •  In a food processor, whisk butter and sugard until light and fluffy
  •  Add eggs, one a time, whisking in between
  •  Stir in Orange zest
  •  In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.
  •  Stir in buttermilk and dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, alternatively starting with buttermilk.
  •  Stir in chocolate chips
  •  Place into a bread pan
  •  Cook in the oven for 40-45mn. A tested should come out clear.

For syrup:

  • In a saucepan, stir in the Orange juice with 1/2 cup (100 gr or 3.3 oz) of sugar.
  • Cook until syrup reduces and thickens.
  • Pour over cake to moist
My Personal Comments:
  • I am not a big fan of Syrup on pound cake so I generally leave them behind.
  • You could do without the chocolate chips but I think that they appeal to children (and adults) more.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Soupe Chinoise - Chinese Soup

Since we started taking our children out for Phõ, they have been more into big bowl of soups. Not the Velouté d’épinards or the Soupe aux Poireaux I tend to make but the big bowls of soup that are Phõ-like. Since I have not looked for a recipe for Phõ yet (any suggestions?), I have been making my own "Soupe Chinoise" as we like to call it. And since while traveling through China once, I saw French cookies that looked nothing like French cookies to me, I don’t mind calling this soup a Soupe Chinoise even if it does not come close to an authentic Chinese soup.

My children love this soup : they like the idea of playing with chopsticks, adding toppings, diving for pieces of chicken (or shrimp), being adventurous and adding a few drops of hot sauce, etc. What they like best though is to slurp their noodles. For once they are allowed to make noise while eating something! And we explain to them that it’s perfectly accepted in some Asian countries to slurp your noodles. “Ohlalala, c’est super,” exclaimed my daughter. My son could not be happier and he would make as much noise as possible while slurping his noodles, which has the immediate effect of making us all laugh. And there is nothing more pleasant than a family dinner with laughter all around. Tant pis if the kitchen table looks like a someone just got out the shower without drying themselves a little bit (it happens often in my family and not just with the younger generation !) Tant pis. Because we all enjoyed a meal together and that’s what’s the most important!
The beauty of this Soupe Chinoise is that you can make it the way you want and build it up for your children. You just need broth (chicken, beef or vegetables), proteins (chicken, shrimp, tofu, beef), Asian noodles (rice or wheat), vegetables (carrots, mushrooms, bean sprouts, Napa cabbage, bok choy, onions), extra toppings (fried onions, chive, cilantro), seasoning (sesame oil, hot sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce) and you are all set. Be creative! Let your children be creative and experiment (even with chopsticks!). Let them slurp their noodles and slurp yours too! It would make them laugh… and chances are your Soupe Chinoise (or whatever you call it) will be one of their favorite dish! Bon Appétit!
- 6 cups (750ml) of water
- 1 bouillon (chicken or vegetables)
- 2 TB (30ml) Fish Sauce
- 2 TB (30ml) Low Sodium Soy Sauce
- Carrots, pealed and sliced
- Napa Cabbage (or bok choy), cut into small pieces.
- 1 small onion, minced
- chicken breast, cut into small pieces
- Asian Noodles (I prefer wheat noodles but rice noodles would make it gluten-free)
- Chive (for topping)

  • In a saute pan, saute the onion, the carrots and onion in Soy Sauce
  • Add Chicken and cook until chicken is fully cooked
  • Bring water to a boil. Add bouillon and fish sauce
  • Add noodles and cook noodles in the stock.
  • Add vegetables and chicken.
  • Serve in large bowls topped with chive, raw onion bits and raw cabbage.
  • Serve with hot sauce/sesame oil, etc...

My Personal Comments:
  •  I like to put raw cabbage on top of the soup for crunchiness
  •  I personally like the chicken version better than the shrimp version.
  •  Don't hesitate to put more fish sauce/soy sauce if you like a stronger taste.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekly Menu - Week 8

"Qui dort dine”, we like to say in France to express the idea that if you skip dinner/lunch, you’ll be fine as long as you get a good night of sleep/nap. While I remember my parents telling us this proverbe when we were sent to our bedroom before the end of dinner because we misbehaved, my maternal instinct always tries to make sure my children go to bed with a full stomach. I think that my biggest apprehension is not so much that they would not eat enough (children don’t starve themselves and you can always balance over the course of one week) … but that they would wake up too early the next day: hence depriving them from well needed sleep and depriving me from my necessary sleep par la même occasion (!). And, like my children, I get cranky without enough sleep! 
Staying at home with my children and feeding them most of their meals have made me aware of their ability to eat or not to eat a proper meal. There are three main reasons why children would not eat a proper meal: 1) Not being hungry enough (because of all these unhealthy snacks eaten too close to mealtime). 2) The Menu Attractiveness and 3) Tiredness
When my children are tired, they don’t eat properly… so I feel that I am always walking on a fence when comes meal time: if they are hungry and not too tired yet, I know they won’t argue too much no matter what I put on their plate. If they happen to be tired, then even if I give them things they like, we might be in for trouble. It’s the same for adults you will say except that with children a few seconds can tip off the balance. Badly. That’s why planning meals, or having emergency meals options available, is necessary. That’s why leftovers are great: a few seconds on the stove or in the microwave will spare you tantrums, meltdowns and all their snowball effects.
What do I do when I know that we won’t be home on time for them to have a proper meal or if the dish I had planned to cook is taking too long? I fall back on an emergency healthy options. One of my emergency lunches is avocado, a mashed banana mixed in with plain yogurt topped with nuts or granola. This is not sophisticated but at the stage my children reached when I am putting this in front of them, I could not care less. They have enough healthy calories to go and take their nap, allowing me to have a few quite minutes for myself! One of my emergency dinners would be: beet or cucumber salad, couscous with canned chickpeas and frozen peas/edamame, yogurt and fresh fruits. And if they are too grumpy to make it to yogurt, I send them to bed, telling them that “qui dort dine”. And if I don’t make it to the end of their meal, I take a deep breath, pour myself a glass of wine and have a few nuts...instead of going nuts! Bonne Cuisine! 

Weekly Menu - Week 8

Day Suggested Menu

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

Tuesday Tomato Soup with Gougeres
Homemade Plain Yogurt with Honey
Fresh Fruits

Wednesday Quinoa Salad with Beets and Tofu
Homemade Plain Yogurt with brown sugar
Banana Bread

Thursday Chicken Stir Fry
Pommes Au Four

Friday Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Dressing
Spinach, Mushrooms and Ricotta Filo with green salad
Fresh Fruits

Game Plan:
Monday Evening:
  • Since I am publishing this Weekly Menu Late, Monday night dinner is easy and does not require much preparation.
  • If you have not made your batch of homemade yogurts on Sunday, make it tonight.
Tuesday Evening:
  • You have to make the Tomato Soup and the Gougeres.
  • Preheat your oven and start with the Tomato Soup. While it cooks on the stove you can make the Gougeres.
  • Since your oven is already hot, make the Banana Bread for Wednesday evening (the bread tastes better reheated)
  • You should also steam/roast the beets for Wednesday evening
Wednesday Evening:
  • If you have not made Banana Bread on Tuesday evening, you have to make it together with the Salad.
  • Start by roasting/steaming the beets
  • While they are steaming/roasting, cook the Quinoa
  • While the Quinoa is cooking, make the Banana Bread; it will cook in the oven while you finish preparing the salad.
Thursday Evening:
  • You have to make the chicken stir Fry and the Pommes au Four
  • Start by pealing the apples and putting them in the oven to cook.
  • While they are cooking, make the stir Fry
Friday Evening:
  • You have to make the Filo and the Cucumber salad
  • Start by making the Filo : cook the vegetables first, and then start preparing the filo triangles.
  • While they are baking in the oven, you can make the Cucumber Salad.
  • Don't worry if you are a little bit off schedule, it's Friday!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pommes au Four -Baked Apples

There is nothing simpler to make than pommes au four.  I grew up eating pommes au four to the point where I could not stand having pommes au four anymore! My grand-mother would make some whenever she had extra apples that she needed to use because they were starting to be a little bit old (but not old enough to make it to apple sauce though).  Like for her compote, she would not even bother pealing the apples, nor taking the trognon (core) out. There was no need really since her apples were vraiment organic... but since they were sometimes the home of some little creatures, we all wished they had been peeled and cut open before!  Since some of her homegrown apples were not really nice looking,  we would not enjoy eating them much when we were children.  I remember asking my parents about purchasing Granny Smith apples at the time:  les pommes vertes (as most of us would call them) looked so beautiful compared to les pommes de Bonne-Maman. I did not care that their taste was not as sweet as my grand-mother's apples (not to speak about added fertilizers and other chemicals). I just loved the Granny Smith back then because they looked so nice. But my parents being adamant at making flavor prevail over look, we did not get Granny Smith apples a lot. Thinking about it today, I don't mind it at all. For it made us more aware of the different flavors apples can have. As a result, today, I keep trying new variety to taste new flavors. I am also happy to purchase the not-so-good-looking-but-fully-ripe apples as opposed to the waxed-look-so-shiny-but-picked-too-early  apples we sometimes find around us. I try to make my children more aware of the different tastes (vs look) of apples. BUT,  I will spare them the extra calories little creatures would bring! Yes, I will.
To make pommes au four, you have to bake them for a long time. My grand-mother would put the apples in her old wooden stove oven and forget about them. Sometimes, if the stove was running hot, some would get caramelized from the sugar or home-made confiture she had put on top. It also happened that some burnt... but that would not deter my grand-mother to eat them quand même! There was something about her apples (and food in general) that made her never waste any... And I am a little bit like that myself. If the apples we purchase don't taste that great, I make sure that we eat them cooked: in compote, au four, in a tarte aux pommes, in an apple-turnover, in a crumble, etc...  Cooked apples are a great alternative to raw apples. They are also easier to chew/digest for younger children (and adults for that matter). So don't overlook bad-looking apples because cooking them is always an option (but please overlook the shiny apples that traveled 5,000 miles to come to your closest supermarket, even if your children beg for them!) Bon Appétit!
- 1 or 2 small apples per person
- Light brown sugar
- Honey or fruit jam
- Butter (optional)

  • Peal and core the apples.
  • Place them in a baking dish and place sugar (and butter) in the middle
  • Bake them in the oven (at 375F) for 40 minutes (or more depending on the size of the apples and how you like them)
  • Add honey/fruit jam and put back in the oven for 5 minutes.
My Personal Comments:
  • I like to cook them with butter and sugar first. If I "forget" them in the oven, they tend to caramelize which I enjoy eating as well.
  • They are best eaten warm. I personally don't like them cold.
  • Of course, you could serve them with creme fraîche or Vanilla Ice cream

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cucumber Salad with Fresh Mint, Mustard and Yogurt Dressing

 As I already mentioned in a previous post, French eat a lot of crudités (raw vegetables) for appetizer: shredded carrots, tomatoes, celery roots, red cabbage, radishes, and obviously cucumber. When it comes to dressing, most French families only swear by their own home-made vinaigrette. While I am sure you could find a recipe with exact proportions somewhere, I don't have one to share with you. I just make it "au pif" (by feel?)... and I have been making it "au pif" as long as I can remember! When I was younger and spending time with my paternal grand-parents in Burgundy, I was in charge of the vinaigrette for the crudités. Since we were in the kingdom of Dijon mustard, I had the right to go heavy on the mustard. My grand-parents use to grow fresh estragon (tarragon) and ciboulette (chive) in their garden and I would add a lot to the vinaigrette, ending with what I used to call "la sauce moutarde verte". It was thicker than your traditional vinaigrette, then not a mayonnaise either since I did not put any eggs in it. Just writing about my sauce moutarde verte brings back great memories and makes my mouth water... I think that I'll purchase tarragon on my next trip to the market. Better: I'll grow some on my balcony!
Because my mother wanted us to diversify our diet, once in a while, she'll make a yogurt-based dressing instead of a traditional vinaigrette. As a result, I grew up eating cucumber with yogurt-based dressing; my husband grew up with a cream-based version made by his mother! And evidemment, I have been using yogurt (not so much cream) to season some of our crudités as well. Because plain yogurt is... well plain, I always add a little something to make it more interesting to our palate : Dijon mustard with/without seeds, Tabasco, curry powder, fresh cilantro, fresh mint, fresh basil, fresh chive... and occasionally (because it's so hard to find in the US), fresh chervil (my favorite herb).  My children enjoy all options and as long as I scissor the herbs very fine, they are eating them without complaint. Who knows, soon, they'll be making their own version of my sauce moutarde verte! Bon Appetit!
- 1 cucumber, pealed, seeded and sliced
- 3 TB plain yogurt
- 2 Ts Dijon Mustard (or more to taste)
- A few sprigs of fresh mint, washed, dried and scissored
- Salt, pepper to taste
  • In a bowl, mix plain yogurt, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper
  • Scissor the herbs and reserve
  • Put everything in the fridge (in separate bowls)
  • When ready to eat, assemble and stir gently.
My Personal Comments:
  • If your children don't eat herbs, then you can serve them first and then add the herbs to the remaining dressing.
  • It's a great salad for Spring and Summer time.
  • The dressing won't keep for long, especially after you put the herbs in.
  • This dressing tastes better when cold.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yesterday With My Children We Made.... Spinach, Mushrooms and Ricotta Filo

French people eat a lot of Tartes Salées (or savory quiches). From the traditional Quiche Lorraine to any other variation (more coming to this blog soon), it's an easy dinner/lunch option that French tend to cook a lot. There are even restaurants dedicated to Tartes Salées in France and some come up with wonderful combinations. Because Tartes Salées are so ingrained in the French diet, agro-businesses have come up with already-prepared dough to make the whole process easier and faster. You can now find an incredible choice of pâtes (doughs) in a normal-size supermarket. The three main pâtes are: pâte brisée, pâte sablée and pâte feuilletée (in addition to pizza dough and now bread dough). Most Tartes Salées are made with a pâte brisée, although some cooks prefer to serve them on a pâte feuilletée; pâte sablée is mostly used for sweet fruit tartes.
Even if some families still make their own dough, they might always have a pre-made one in the fridge, au cas où. With the influence of North-Africans in France, feuilles de brick (brick dough)  is now readily available in supermarkets as well. However, Filo has not made it to the average French family refrigerator yet. I don't know why. Maybe because it's so close to pâte feuilletée? Most likely because there is not much of a Greek/Turkish influence in French cuisine.
I started cooking with Filo while in the US and have been enjoying using Filo in pastry or savory dish once in a while. And because unlike la pâte brisée, I don't make my own Filo (would not know how to in the first place!!),  I always have some Filo in the freezer! I don't use it that often because whatever you make with Filo is relatively loaded with butter time-consuming. It's not like you only open your box of pâte brisée, whisk a few ingredients for the batter and put your tarte salée in the oven in less than 5 minutes. With Filo, you have to brush the sheets with butter and depending on what you are making, it can take a while.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Weekly Menu - Week 7

For a while, I thought that I had a routine. The early morning is always the same because I need to make sure my daughter is ready to leave our apartment by 7.25 am to go to school. So that's a routine in a way.   I also have activities to get my son and I out of the house every morning.  Some are paid activity ( Music Class or Swimming) that can not be moved around; others are just free: it can just well be a stroll to a playground a little bit further away so that I get to walk more myself or a playdate with other children. However, I try not to make grocery/a trip to a store THE activity of the morning. If I go to a playground close to the supermarket, I swing by it on my way to/back from the playground. It's a better and more efficient use of our time. In the evening, we also have a routine: bath, dinner, bed time story.  However, when I was describing this past week to one of my friends, I just realized that I don't have much of a routine and I like it this way actually. A friend of mine from California was on a work assignment in Philadelphia this week. He texted me on Wednesday morning and we managed to get dinner together (while my husband was working from home). I also made myself available for a friend of mine who needed to be discharged from the hospital one morning. I also managed to have a spontaneous coffee with another friend before taking my son to Music class another morning. And even the children' bedtime routine got disrupted one evening because the weather was too nice, not to go out to the playground...  So, if some people think that SAHM have more of a routine life than WAOM, think twice. Yes, my morning, my early afternoons and bedtime are pretty much the same everyday. However, when it comes to the rest of the time, it's really not routine-like. And I honestly love it. What is the price to pay for this spontaneity or last-minute change of plans? Efficiency, and paradoxically a little bit of planning. More importantly, the ability to let go... The ability to accept not to have everything "as planned" or "as perfect" and be OK with it! It's the same with my daily cooking. I had planned to make Quiche aux Poireaux (Leeks Quiche) for my children the evening the weather was so nice out. I had made the dough in advance, I had steamed the leeks ahead of time... but it was still too late when we came home to finish the Quiche and have my children in bed early enough to avoid a whole meltdown. So, I made an emergency dinner: revisited tuna salad with fresh bread, plain yogurt and fresh fruits. Easy. Simple. Relatively healthy. Did I feel guilty? Not one second because they had such a great time at the playground. So yes, plan ahead but more importantly, enjoy life with your family! Bonne Cuisine!

Weekly Menu - Week 7

Day Suggested Menu

Monday Roasted Pork with Pumpkin and Garlic Heads
Homemade Plain Yogurt with dark brown Sugar
Fresh Fruits

Tuesday Brown Rice and Beans with Green Salad
Homemade Plain Yogurt with Chestnut Spread
Fresh Fruits

Grilled Salmon with Leeks Fondue
Apple Blackberry Crumble

Thursday Creamy Mushrooms with Polenta Croutons
Homemade Plain Yogurt with Honey
Fresh Fruits

Friday Pasta with Cauliflower
Petits Pots de Crème

Game Plan:
Sunday Evening:
  • You want to make the Pork Roast on Sunday so that you only have to heat it up on Monday evening. Because pumpkin might not be available, you can always use Butternut or Acorn Squash instead. You could also add potatoes (with skin on) to add starch to the dish.
  • If you are making your own yogurts, make a batch for the week on Sunday evening. You could boil the milk before starting the roast so that by the time your roast is in the oven, your milk is down to the perfect temperature to finish making the yogurts.
Monday Evening:
  • Can you believe that the only thing you have to make tonight is to re-heat the pork roast?
  • Because you have time, make the Brown Rice and Beans for Tuesday. It's great re-heated. If you only want to make one thing, cook the brown rice. It would save you time on Tuesday.
Tuesday Evening:
  • If you have not made the Brown rice on Monday, you have to make the brown rice and beans. The brown rice takes a while to cook. It gives you time to prep the veggies.
  • While you are at it, cook the leeks for Wednesday. It will save you time.
  • If you are feeling zealous, you could make the Apple Blackberry Crumble for Wednesday evening.
Wednesday Evening:
  • If you have not made the Apple Blackberry Crumble and/or the Leeks fondue, you have to make both.
  • Start by making the crumble dough. You can let it rest a few minutes while you prepare the leeks. 
  • Once the leeks are in the pan, pre-heat your oven.
  • Finish the crumble and bake it in the oven.
  • As soon as they are out of the oven, place the salmon on top of the leeks and in the oven to cook the salmon.
Thursday Evening:
  • You have to make the Polenta Croutons and the creamy mushrooms. Start by the Croutons. While they cool down in the fridge, you can prepare the mushrooms.
  • You want to take advantage of your heated oven and make the Pots de Creme for Friday evening. They will have plenty of time to cool in the fridge overnight.
Friday Evening:
  • You only have to cook the Cauliflower Pasta. So, take it easy. It's Friday. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My daughter's Tomato Soup

For the last few weeks, my four-and-a-half daughter S. talked to us about her soupe à la tomate. She started the conversation one morning as my husband was taking her to school. She said that she had this super recette and that she wanted to make it. For a few days, she kept talking about her soupe à la tomate... so when my husband went to the market with her, they bought fresh tomatoes and onions to make it. We postponed the actual cooking day because it was never convenient for me to help her make her soupe à la tomate when she was suggesting it. In order to make her accept the fact that we could not make it aujourd'hui, I prompted her about her super recette. "C'est facile (it's easy), she said. "Tu prends les oignons, tu prends les tomates et tu les cuits ensemble et tu les mixes" (you take the onions, the tomatoes and you cook them together and then blend them). "Après, tu mets du sel, du poivre, de la crème, du fromage et des croûtons"(then you add salt, pepper, cream, grated cheese and croutons). Facile, indeed! When we were finally ready to make it, she was in charge of telling me what to do. I was just asking questions to maker her improve her super recette. I made her peal and chop the onions. She was very proud because, unlike me who start crying the minute I chop onion, shallots or even leeks, she did not cry. While we were chopping the onions and garlic, my two-and-a-half son was playing with water in charge of cleaning the tomatoes (they were really clean!!). We talked about sauteing the onions in butter or olive oil (she chose olive oil). She helped cut the tomatoes and then stir them with the onions. I had to convince her that we needed to add a little bit of water to make une soupe. Otherwise, we would have une sauce tomate. From then on, we let her soupe cook on the stove and she helped me puree it with the immersion blender.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quinoa Salad with Beets, Cucumber, Tomatoes and Tofu

Since my Miso Soup post, I have been purchasing more tofu to feed my family. I would like tofu to be part of our diet because it is a new protein source that would add variety to our menus (in addition to the fact that it's also much cheaper than meat and fish.) However, my first attempts at offering more tofu were not a real success. A little bit disappointed but knowing that I have two good young eaters, I knew that I would manage, one way or another, to make them not only eat it but actually enjoy it.
I faced three challenges when feeding tofu to my family. First, it's not an ingredient I have purchased a lot in the past, hence the lack of exposure my children have had to tofu. They are not against trying something new in general, but because of this lack of exposure when they were very young, combined with the other two challenges, they were reluctant to eat it at first. The second challenge is texture: tofu is a new texture to them. There is nothing really comparable in our diet... fresh mozzarella or just crème au caramel might be the closest (or not?). My daughter loves both but my son, like many toddlers, has something against this soft-chewy-but-not-so-chewy texture. Yet again, like everybody most toddlers, when hungry, in a good mood (i.e., rested), in good company (i.e., with all of us at the table), and entertained, he is able to eat fresh mozzarella (crème au caramel is never an issue though!)... so I never gave up on feeding him tofu. The third challenge is maybe the toughest one : it's my husband's attitude towards tofu.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Salmon with Leeks Fondue

As you already know from my post on Leeks and Potatoes Soup, leeks are one of my favorite vegetables... but I always have a hard time paying $$$ for what is a staple vegetable in France. Since we managed to get a really good deal on leeks a few weeks ago, we purchased a lot, used some fresh and froze the remaining for une prochaine fois. When we have fresh leeks, I always make this recipe. Or to be more precise, I always purchase salmon and serve it with une fondue de poireaux (melt-in-your-mouth cooked leeks). BUT the end-result might not be exactly the same. Pourquoi? Because I can not make the same recipe twice. I just can't. I always want to try something new so I tweak my recipe un tout petit peu or beaucoup. This tends to drive my husband crazy because whenever he likes one dish, he tends to want exactly the same one...
I, on the other hand, think that there is always room for improvement and/or innovation in the kitchen. So, I improvise.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Weekly Menu - Week 6

As I am writing this 6th edition of Weekly Menu, I realize that I put more vegetarian dishes than in the previous weeks. Not that I am a vegetarian but I don't need meat/fish everyday to get me going. To the contrary, I feel perfectly fine with a plate full of tasteful vegetables and grains or an egg-based dish like a Quiche or Savory Pound Cake. It's just the way I plan our weekly menus. I also added lentils again! Encore des lentilles? Well, let's be honest. How many times did you have pizza in the last 5 weeks? If more than once (like 99% of us), then it's OK to have lentils again, non?
If you needed to add meat, you could well serve the vegetarian dishes as side-dish. As usual, this weekly menu leaves you openings for monthly, bi-monthly, weekly pizza or emergency pasta. Just remember that home-cooked (wholegrain) pasta with fresh grated cheese (please, don't buy already shredded cheese!), is healthier than a box of M&C or any take-out that will be loaded with hidden salts, let alone additives. Same goes with pizza. If you purchase the dough, you can well serve it with the toppings of your choice (onions, olives, anchovies, salami, mushrooms, cheese, etc.) and it will be healthier than the boxed option. But then again, if you cook most of your meals from scratch, ordering pizza from your favorite pizza shop is not la fin du monde! As long as it's not weekly! Bonne Cuisine!
Weekly Menu, Week 6

Day Suggested Menu

Monday Lentils with Vegetables and Green Salad
Homemade Yogurt with Apple Sauce

Tuesday  Crayfish with Potatoes Salad
 Orange and Chocolate Financiers

Cabbage Salad with Walnuts, Apples, Raisins and Cheese with Socca
Homemade Plain Yogurt with dark brown sugar
Fresh Fruits

Thursday Carrots and Fresh Mint Soup
Vegetable Casserole with Cranberry Beans
Fresh Fruits
Chouquettes (Sweet Cream Puffs)

Friday Moussaka
Homemade Plain Yogurt with honey
Fresh Fruits

Game Plan:
Sunday Evening:
  • If you make your own yogurts, you might want to make a batch for the week on Sunday evening. Boil the milk before you start cooking something else. By the time your other dish is on the stove, the milk might be at the proper temperature to finish the yogurts. I find that if I boil the milk and then go to do something else, I come back and the milk has cooled too much. 
  • You can make the lentils on Sunday evening. They taste great re-heated. If you needed to add meat to this dish, sausages or pork chops are perfect.
  • You should make the apple sauce on Sunday as well since you might have help in the kitchen! It will save you time on Monday.
Monday Evening:
  • If you have not made the lentils on Sunday, then you have to make them tonight. Same with the Apple Sauce.
  • Since you can have warm apple sauce, I would start with making the lentils. While they are on the stove, make the apple sauce. By the time you are ready to eat, the apple sauce will be ready. You could serve it straight out of the saucepan if your family likes it "chunky". 
  • If you don't like warm potato salad, cook the potatoes on Monday evening so that they are cooled for Tuesday.
Tuesday Evening:
  • You have to prepare the crayfish salad and the financiers. Start by pealing the potatoes so that they have time to cook and cool a little before pealing them.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the financiers.
  • While the financiers are cooking in the oven, you will have time to prepare the crayfish. I would not leave it up to everybody to deal with the crayfish because it would be messy and some younger people might get frustrated.
  • After dinner, take 5 minutes to prepare the Socca batter for Wednesday evening.
  • Lentils make great leftovers!
Wednesday Evening:
  • If you have not made the Socca batter, make it as soon as possible so that it has a few minutes to rest.
  • While you pre-heat your oven for the Socca and make a first batch, you can prepare the salad.
  • Making the salad just requires a good knife to chop the cabbage, the apple and the cheese.
  • If you are feeling zealous, you could make the carrot soup for Thursday evening. It would save you a lot of time for Thursday.
Thursday Evening:
  • If you have to make both the soup and the casserole, start with pealing all the carrots/onions for both dishes.
  • While some of the carrots are cooking (for the soup), finish preparing the Casserole and pre-heat your oven.
  • While the Casserole is cooking make the Chouquettes. It's really not difficult but you have to have everything ready before you start heating the water and butter together. If you feel like it, you could ask your children for help.
  • While the Chouquettes are cooking, finish the soup. Et Voila!
  • The Casserole could be used as a side-dish as a leftover!
Friday Evening:
  • It's Friday, relax! You only have to make the Moussaka. It's not difficult but requires a little bit of time...
  • Start by steaming the eggplants and pre-heating your oven.
  • Cook the meat-onion-tomato sauce
  • While the meat is cooking, make the White Sauce (Sauce Bechamel)
  • When everything is ready, assemble, add Parmesan and put in the oven.
  • While it's in the oven, go and play with your children or read the newspaper!
  • The moussaka makes great leftovers!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Yesterday with My Children We Made......Financiers Orange Chocolat

Financiers are one of my husband's favorite petits gâteaux. For the longest time, he was subscribing to a French cooking magazine, mouthwatering in front of recipes to make, hoping to learn more about wines... but dreaming really!
I get really frustrated with cooking magazines. I like reading them but inevitably the day I am looking for a recipe, I never know in which issue it was... so I waste time reading through piles of magazines and reading more recipes that I should make one day... but often failing to find the recipe I had intended to make in the first place. We tried to flag the recipes we liked but, once again, it was not a very efficient process. At some point, we decided to tear the magazines to only keep the recipes we really liked and would be making one day. We recycled old binders from my husband's old time in veterinary school to file our recipes but failed to print new labels. So, just to give you an idea: under the old label "Les mollusques : la moule, l'escargot, la seiche", we have savory tarts recipes! It works as our system but I can't imagine what people would think if they were to read the labels first!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Broadening Horizon : Steamed Mussels with Lemongrass Curry

This recipe is the perfect illustration of why you should try to cook different things from scratch for your family. Your children are wonderful little human beings who won't stop surprising you. Whatever they do, including finding a new way to destroy your furniture; whatever they say, including new bad words picked up in school, is just mind-blowing to you. All these little steps that they take as they grow is what's make being a parent fun and rewarding (OK, having to wash the sofa cover for the nth time this year is not fun).

We cook mussels a few times a year, which is definitively not enough (they are so good!)... Most of the time, I cook them in a butter-white-wine-mirepoix sauce and we eat them with French fries. The best mussels I ever ate were in Guelph, ON (Canada) at the restaurant of the hotel we were staying. The menu listed Mussels in a Curry sauce and that was really appealing to me that evening. Boy, they were good! So good, I could have had another serving. So good, I almost made us an extra night so that I could eat them again! C'est pour dire!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Weekly Menu - Week 5

I had never dyed eggs (with artificial tablets, that is) until this year. We do celebrate Easter in France: we have chocolate eggs, sugar eggs, chocolate hens and chocolate bells... but no lapins en chocolat!
My daughter dyed eggs in school with the help of one of her friend's mother who had offered to talk about Easter. My daughter was so proud of her egg that she could not stop touching it... and il arriva ce qu'il devait arriver: she let her egg dropped on the garage floor! Catastrophe! I managed to avoid a complete meltdown by offering to make some at home. We went straight to the local pharmacy to purchase a kit (Note for my French readers, an American pharmacy looks like a mix between an épicerie and a droguerie that carries a limited amount of basic food (eggs, milk orange juice, soda, nuts, cereals, pasta, coffee, tea, etc..) together with basic things for the home and body (shampoos, cleaning supplies, etc..) Yes, it does carry drugs (over-the-counter) and there is a small desk for prescriptions; I could write more about American pharmacy but that's for another post!!). 
We also purchased white eggs there and were able to dye eggs at home that same evening. Ouf! Both my children were thrilled! I did not know what to do with the dyed hard boiled eggs but my American friends told me that we could eat them! Parfait! That's why I included one recipe with hard boiled eggs for Monday evening. I also tried to avoid to have any chocolate-based dessert this week as I am sure most of you would have more than plenty! Bonne Cuisine!
Game Plan:
Sunday Evening:
  • If you are not too tired after the Holiday, you could start making the Apple Blackberry crumble for Monday night.
  • You also want to make sure you have hard boiled eggs ... but this should not be an issue!
  • If you want to use dry chickpeas for the salad, don't forget to set them to soak on Sunday.
  • If you are making your own yogurts, make a batch for the week.
Monday Evening:
  • If you have not made the Apple Crumbles on Sunday evening, you have to make the crumbles and the salad.
  • Start by making the crumble piece of the crumble so that you can set it aside for a few minutes while you peal the apples.
  • If you have no hard boiled eggs leftover from Easter, boil them as you prepare the crumble.
Tuesday Evening:
  • You have to make the chicken dish... and since it's not fresh peas season yet, it will take less than 20 minutes to cook. Don't forget that Basmati rice cooks faster than long grain white rice.
Wednesday Evening:
  • You have to prepare the breaded fish filets and cook them. They take less than 20 minutes to make. 
  • While the fish filets are baking in the oven, prepare the coleslaw.
  • If you are feeling zealous, you could either make the Spinach Veloute or/and the Orange salad for Thursday evening. If you have to choose one, make the orange salad. If you want to make an easier version of the Orange salad, just use honey instead of the star anise syrup.
Thursday Evening:
  • You have to make the Spinach veloute and the orange salad. Start with the Spinach veloute. 
  • As the veloute cooks on the stove, prepare the salad. 
  • If you want to make an easier version of the Orange salad, just use honey instead of the star anise syrup.
Friday Evening:
  • It's Friday, relax! Don't be afraid of the souffle, it's relatively easy to make.
  • Start by making the Kale chips : it will pre-heat your oven for the souffle and it will give you something healthy to munch on while the souffle is in the oven.