Monday, December 5, 2011

Mango Salsa

My daughter is in First Grade and she is enjoying learning how to read and write. It's fun to see her being so happy to read a full sentence... and even more proud to be able to write new words. One of the games we have been playing these last few days is the "MENU GAME". She comes with her ardoise magique and asks me for the menu for the next meal. Then she gets down to the task of writing it down so that she can read it before we start our meal. This game is hard for a 6-year-old just discovering sounds. Why do "haricots" take a silent "h"? Why do French people spell onions : "oignons"? "Yaourts"? "Fruits"? This is tough! At least, since we eat a lot of veggies and most days, my children have yaourt and fruits for dessert, she gets to write it over and over again. It gets more difficult with the main dish as I try to diversify the menu and include international ingredients in our diet (curcuma anyone?)
Although she goes to a bilingual school, we have been playing this game in French only. English spelling is tough for French native speakers ("sprouts, eggplant, grapes, grapefruit, pineapple"?)... so we'll wait for a few months once the whole French potager is spelled correctly;)
Until then, here is a nice little exercise: easy for the adults who prep the food, relatively easy for the kids who want to spell (in English)... and very easy for everybody to eat with chips for an apéritif or as a side dish to fish. For those of you who want to be able to spell the French Potager by the end of the year, I wrote the ingredients in French as well. Bon Appétit!

- 1 mangue (1 mango)
- 1/2 oignon rouge (1/2 red onion)
- 1/2 concombre (1/2 cucumber)
- 1 bouquet de coriandre (a bunch of cilantro)
- Piment Rouge (Red pepper flakes)
- 1 citron vert (one lime)
- Sel (salt)

  • Cut the mango and cucumber in small dices
  • Slice the red onion very very thin
  • Cissor some cilantro (as much as you like)
  • Season with lime juice, salt and red pepper flakes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The French love their MacDo! Si, si, hélas!

We just came back from having Phở  (a Vietnamese soup with meat/seafood (but when seafood, then it's not called a Phở)) for lunch and as we were slurping through our rice noodles and broth, we realized that it was cheaper (and healthier !) to have a large bowl of Pho (served with bean sprouts, Thai basil, onions, chilis, etc) than having a Cheeseburger & Fries at a local MacDo. 
That reminded me about a post I read a few days ago. Although it is in French and most of you might not understand it (sorry), I thought it was worse sharing with you. The first picture (above) shows the density of MacDo in the US. The second one (right) is the same but for France. Worse to read (at least to me) is that there are actually more MacDo restaurants in France than in the US (1,77 fast-food restaurants per 1 000 km2 in France, against 1,3 in the US). Sure enough, the US being so much bigger than France (Texas alone is 1 1/4 times bigger than France), as the first picture showed, there are places in the West of the US where density is scarce. It would have therefore been more accurate to compare a part of the US that would look more like France as a whole... Anyhow, that does not explain why the Pays de la Gastronomie loves their hamburgers so much!  
And yet, a few years ago, as France was embracing a national-wide awareness campaign about bad eating habits, MacDo, that was pointed at, launched their own campaign. The basic message was that Eating at MacDo once a week was OK. I thought it was really clever because they were targeting two populations 1) The people who come often : for them they were warning them that it would be best for them not to come more than once a week 2) The people who never go to MacDo, hinting at them that they could come to MacDo once a week and be OK...   You could also understand it this way:  the food you eat at MacDo is not bad, it's your eating habits that might be!!   Sure enough the Menu is slightly healthier in a French MacDo than in an American one (they even sell Organic fruit juices or Organic yogurts!!)... and sure enough, going there once a week assuming that all other meals are healthy and that the person exercises regularly (!!!), it would not be la fin du monde.. And yes, for most people, it's an affordable lunch-or-dining option, which, on top of that, is extremely children-friendly!!
That's not enough to make me go though (our lunch experience today with two young kids was just as pleasant!)... I just wished there were more places to get a Phở instead! Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pumpkin Flan au Caramel

A few years ago, together with P., the father  of one of my daughter's classmate, we went to the French school headmistress to offer to start a real cafetaria. A cantine à  la francaise like the ones that are so highly praised in some US newspapers... and that a lot of very high-rank people refer to in the US when trying to solve the US school meal plan disaster! See, P. was an executive chef with lots of experience in  excellent multiple meals cooking, with all the network to source the best local produces and with running a kitchen from a beancounter standpoint! He had time to devote to this project and since I was also looking for something to keep myself busy while my two kids were in school, I was ready to help. We went with a full one-month menu that would have watered anybody's mouth....but long story short, this project did not go through. To the detriment of our children. To the detriment of the reputation of the school as well but there were reasons beyond our control. Tant pis. C'est la vie!
And to this day, I do know that the children were the ones really loosing out, mine included since they only get in their lunchbox what I cook!! Why? Because we have been invited to P.'s place a few times and every time, we had a great meal. Last time we had him and his family over, he brought exquisite Pumpkin Flan au caramel. To die for (and coming from me who does not crave sweets, this says a lot). I asked him for his recipe, which he gave me with proportions for 24 servings!!! ... After a few maths calculations (argh...why did I wrongly assumed that professional cooks in the US used the metric system???), came up with enough to make for my family and neighbor. Since I had only glanced through the recipe, I had wrongly assumed that the canned pumpkin had to be the "PIE" type... but nobody complained that it was too sweet (that's a foreign concept for my husband!!)....  It was, admitely, excellent and something great to serve in the Fall in the US to go beyond the traditional pumpkin pie!
I am so thankful that P. was willing to share his recipe. I can't wait to have another dinner at his place (or a potluck party at ours!!). At least, we know that we are not missing out!
Bon Appetit!

Ingredients (For 24 servings, you do the maths!)
- 6 cups sugar, granulated
- 4 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 3 cups whole milk
- 15 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 45 ounces pumpkin, canned solid (not pie)
- 3 tsp pure Vanilla
- 4 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp ground ginger
- 3/4 tsp nutmeg
- 3/4 tsp salt

Cook 3 cups of sugar in a dry 2-quart saucepan over moderate heat, undisturbed (!!), until it begins to melt, stirring occasionally with a fork (!!) until sugar melts into a deep golden caramel. Pour caramel into foil cups tilting to cover bottom and side

1) Bring cream and milk to a bare simmer in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, then remove from heat. Whisk together whole eggs, yolk, and remaining sugar in a large bowk until combined well, then whisk in pumpkin, vanilla, spices, and salt until combined well. Add hot cream mixture in a slow stream, whisking.
2) Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, scraping with a rubber spatula to force through, and stir to combine well. Pour custard over caramel into dish, then bake in a water bath until flan is golden brown on top and a knife inserted in center comes out clean about 1 1/4 hour.
3) Remove from the oven and place in the blast chiller until 40 degrees F. or less.

My Personal Comments

  • I did not have foil cups so I used my small ramequins. Truth is that it would be easier (and prettier) to unmold if in foil cups. If you don't have foil cups, bring a little bit of water to a boil in a large saucepan and let the ramequins sit for a few minutes to melt the caramel before unmolding.
  • No blast chiller in our house!! I just put the flans in the fridge once they were cold; if you live in a cold area, just let them cool fast outside before putting them in the fridge.
  • I used pumpkin pie canned... and it was really good too
  • I used almond milk too to lower the fat content and it turned out great too. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tuna and Salmon Ceviche

Until sushis became widely popular, it was really rare to eat raw fish in France. Except for their steak tartare or fresh oysters, French people don't really eat raw proteins. Sure, you'll always find one person who likes to gobble one fresh raw egg (aka gober un oeuf) but even if I can eat pretty much anything and I LOVE soft-boiled eggs, I can't gober un oeuf. Beurk...
The first time I ate ceviche was while traveling in South America (that's where it's originally from in case you did not know). My husband having lived in South America as a child enjoyed ceviche so we ordered shrimp ceviche one evening in Chile. Shrimp or fish is generally marinated in lime which "cook" them so you never have that feeling of eating raw shrimp/fish like you would if you had sashimi in a Japanese restaurant.
Like most recipes, every country in South America (at least the coastal ones with the exception of Argentina where fish is not mainstream at all),  has its own ceviche recipes. Back when we lived in Ithaca we were invited for dinner to our Ecuatorian friends' house (she really is from Argentina but being married to an Ecuatorian she had gotten used to eating ceviche, the Ecuatorian way that is). And for us who expected a raw-lime marinated-type of dish, we were really surprised to be served a shrimp soup  that had been cooked in a ketchup-based sauce topped with popcorns!! It was nonetheless very good but as you can expect, my husband who has very specific narrow ideas of what a ceviche should taste like, was disappointed! Not that he did not enjoy the dish (he liked it a lot) but this was not the ceviche he was expecting. And when it comes to food, expectations (especially the ones referring to one's mother's cooking) can be extremely dangerous! (My advice: never-ever dare trying to serve a dish that has been served to your spouse by his mother while growing up! No matter how good your recipe is, his expectations will kill your dish! The only solution, call it something totally different!!!)

Here is my brother's tuna-and-salmon ceviche recipe. He made is for us back in August (and yes, my husband liked it despite the fresh ginger and soy sauce ; his expecations were different since no shrimp were served!)  I made it again last weekend when we had a nice day that gave us a Summer day in October. It's definitively not a recipe I'll cook in the middle of cold weather... but something to keep in mind for next Summer, unless you live in the Southern hemisphere or in a climate where it feels like Summer everyday! Lucky you! Bon Appetit!

- 1 pound of ahi tuna
- 1 pound of fresh salmon skin off
- fresh ginger : the quantity depends on your taste: I tend to like it a lot so I use a lot ; I grate about 1 inch.
- soy sauce to taste
- green onion (2) chopped
- 1 small red bell pepper, diced
- a few capers (optional)
- one mango
- 4 limes, juiced

  • Prepare the marinade: mix the pepper, together with the mango, green onion, capers. Mix in lime juice, fresh ginger and soy sauce. 
  • Cut the salmon and tuna in tiny cubes.
  • Pour the marinade on the fish and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. The longer you'll marinate the fish, the more "cooked" it will be.
My Personal Comments
  • If you are planning on serving it to kids (or adults who can't chew on fresh ginger), dice the ginger instead of grating it and remove the ginger pieces before serving.
  • You could replace the pepper with a cucumber (if easer to digest). The idea of the pepper is to add "crunchyness" to the dish.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Scale it (up or down) but scale it, please!

My brother and his family were visiting over the Summer and one of the questions he asked us was if, after so many years in the US, there were still things that shocked/surprised us... or whether we were so used to our environment that we did not even pay attention anymore.
We got use to the big cars, gallons of milk,  having pharmacies that look more like a supermarket than a pharmacy, people eating all the time.... but here are the answers I gave him:
1) The status of the infrastructure. We live in the wealthiest country in the world... and yet when I look at the status of the bridges, when I zigzag through the Center City streets to avoid foot-deep potholes, when I see all those shredded tires on the highways, I am still shocked.
2) The ramping obesity of the population, especially among young adults and children...
3) Everybody seems to have a lawyer (and a therapist?)... to the point that part of our life is defined by what I call the "fear-of-lawsuit", which in some way limits creativity, spontaneity and research.
4) The fact that millions of Americans still lack proper access to healthcare.
5) The fact that some streets in the suburb don't have a sidewalk for people to walk on...
6) On a more funny, albeit tricky, note, the fact that it's the only country that does not use the metric system (except in scientific settings). Think about it, even the Canadians and the Australians have adopted part of it... After so many years in the US, I still can't picture out a set amount of square feet, or worse, cubic feet. The first time I sat foot on a scale in the US, I had a 1/10th of second of scare because all of a sudden I felt really heavy!!
This system is so unpractical that bypass tools were invented to simplify it: nobody knows what size a queen/king size bed is in inches and very few people know how much a cup of flour weighs... The only time Americans use (most of them without realizing it) the metric system is when they go skying. "180 skis" actually mean that the skis are 1.80m tall...

All that to say that I was REALLY happy to read an article about digital scales in the New York times the other day (disclosure: the picture of the scale on this post comes from the article)...
While I would not be able to comment on the different brands displayed in the article, the additional comment I will make is that I love to have my children use our cooking scale and start experimenting with weighing different things (I don't like it that much when everything they weigh end up on the floor!!)  For bigger kids (and adults!!) it's obviously great for calculus... So don't be intimidated; you'll see that, like with most things in life, you'll get used to it. "Most things".. I am not sure I'll be able to still get used to all my points above!
Scale it! If not for you, do it for your children...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Marble Poundcake - Gâteau Marbré

For my French or francophiles readers, I am sure that if I bring up the Savane Papy Brossard-an industrial version of marble cake-, fond memories (or even water in your mouth?) will come back. I don't know why this one really sticked with us (my husband, me, my sibblings and our friends).... but there is always this happy-talk about it (French people LOVE to speak about food in case you had not noticed!)
Growing up, I remember being thrilled when it was served at birthday parties (yes! at birthday parties) since my parents were not purchasing it! Sure enough, it was loaded with sugar... and an a lot of artificial je-ne-sais-quoi that made it addictive. Truth be told, I can't remember the last time I had some... but since the brand reappeared in French supermarkets recently (they use the name Cake Savane with different flavors and different packaging now; they even sell Brownies!!), I now know that I could have some next time I go. However, tasting it again would maybe kill all the memories...
Le gâteau marbre is a valeur sure of French cakes but for some reasons, I had never baked one for my children (the reason being that my husband associates gâteau marbré with Savane Papy Brossard so much that however good the gâteau marbré is, it will NEVER give him the pleasure of the Savane Papy Brossard!!)
It was therefore quite a wonderful surprise to hear him say "hmm, pas mal le gâteau" when he ate some! It was indeed really good (the kids loved it in case you wondered!)
At least, I know that, except for the chocolate (dark but industrially-made) there is nothing industrial about this cake as opposed to the ingredients listed on the Brossard website... . so if my husband can enjoy my gâteau marbré, Brossard might not make money off me for a while... I'll keep my memories intact instead! Bon Appétit!

- 100g (3.52oz) dark bittersweet chocolate
- 4 
- 220g (7.7oz) light brown cane sugar
- 120 ml (4 US Floz or about 1/4 cup) plain yogurt
- 220g (7.7 oz) flour
- 2 ts baking powder
- 120g (4.23 oz or a little over one stick) salted butter (melted and warm)
- 1 TBS vanilla extract

- 1 TBS Baileys (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 165C (330F). Put the butter in the oven as it warms up to melt the butter. Make sure not to let it burn!
  • Use a little bit of extra butter to grease a cake mold
  • Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler or in the microwave (with a little bit of water)
  • In one bowl, mix in half the flour and half baking powder together.
  • Repeat in another bowl.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with half of the sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add half of the yogurt and mix well
  • Pour half of the melted butter, the flour and vanilla extract and mix well. Reserve
  • In another large bowl, beat the last two eggs with the rest of sugar until light and fluffy
  • Add the rest of the yogurt and mix well
  • Pour the rest of the butter, the flour, chocolate and Baileys and mix well. Reserve
  • Pour about 2/3 of the Vanilla batter in the mold.
  • Pour the chocolate batter over the vanilla
  • Cover with the remaining1/3 of the vanilla
  • Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
My Personal Comments
  • You can play with the layers of vanilla-chocolate the way you want
  • You could add a few cocao nibs (or chocolate chips) to add a little bit of crunchyness to this cake.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Harvard Healthy Plate

There was once a Food Pyramid, then came My plate... together with the "you have to eat at least 5 servings of fruits or vegetable servings a day"... and all of that did not really make any sense to me (how big is a serving (I know, I know it's defined but it's really hard to remember, no?) I knew what the underlying recommendations were... but when it came to implement them on a daily basis, then I was a little bit confused. The new My Plate that the U.S Department of Agriculture came up with a few months ago was supposed to make things easier for people to understand. While I it was a little bit less confusing than the Pyramid, it did not give people a simple way to improve their diet. White buns and hot dogs and fries would qualify on My Plate while we all know that this would not qualify as as "healthy meal" by dieticians' objective eyes!!

I came across the new Harvard Healthy Plate the other day and I thought that I would share it with you because I think that it is a really good illustration of how we should all try to eat (and no I have not received it from Harvard to publish on this blog). At least, I believe that Harvard is honnest when it says that their Healthy Plate has not been influenced by lobbying groups from the food industry or agriculture policy (hmm why am I thinking about corn subventions?)...

The way I use it is to visualize how much of what I serve to my children (and to myself). My only problem is that being French, we tend to serve dishes in sequences (yes, that would be the three-or-four-course meal)... so it's not easy for me to visualize the proportion of the different types of food I serve and their relative "volume". Maybe I should go back to the cafeteria trays we used back when I was in junior high and high-school???

My advice to steadily serve meals that fit on that Harvard Healthy plate?
1) Incremental changes like, for example, increasing the amount of legumes (lentils, chickpeas, etc.) you serve along with whole grain food (bread, cereals, pasta, rice, etc.)...
2) Put this new Healthy Plate on your fridge
3) Carry a small print with you when you go grocery shopping, especially if you have not planned your meals (!)... this picture will give you ideas of what to purchase....
4) Talk about it with your children... this is a good way to get them acquire a good healthy diet! And it will give you a good excuse to limit sugar-loaded juices and to offer yet another serving of kale!!
5) Keep faith that your children will indeed enjoy Kale with wholegrain rice one day (I am still working on that one!!).
6) Enjoy your meals!
Bon Appetit!!

PS: You can read more about the Healthy Plate on the Harvard Health website.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Charlotte aux Fruits Rouges

I don't know about you, but I feel that the Summer went by very fast. Too fast in a way...
We have been busy (which I always consider a good thing up to a certain extent): moving into a new unit, taking a break in France (more on that in other upcoming posts), more unpacking, more trips to IKEA and Lowes, hosting my younger brother and his family,... and life-as-usual in between. Well sort of life-as-usual if you want since Philadelphia was hit by the East Coast earthquake AND the Irene hurricane in the last 6 days only! It was stressful for us adults but it was really stressful for the children who did not really understand what was going only to quickly realized that something abnormal was going on! We are still talking about it... and I don't expect the questions to end anytime soon. Why should they when I am the first one to ask myself whether another earthquake is happening whenever I hear my windows crack at work??? And since I sit on one of those big exercising ball (75cm) at work (yes, I know it's quite really peculiar; people do ask me if I am working "my core" as I sit on that big ball?? Truth is that I might but it also forces me to move more, ie, avoiding spending 2 hours straight looking at my computer screens), if I have been bouncing a little as the windows crack, it takes me 1 second to accept that  no earthquake happening. Just the usual windows cracking, truck-bouming and ball bouncing... Pff!
Since there is nothing like life-as-usual in our kitchen either, here is a recipe that will be worth making if you want to change from your apple-pie pie/cheesecake/brownies recipes. It does require some planning (it needs to be made the night before) but always bring light into the eyes of the lucky ones who will eat some of it....and a "can I have some more?" This is one of my husband's recipes (not that he invented it but he is the one making that dessert)... and since in our life-as-usual, I am generally the one cooking, I LOVE it when for once, il met son tablier... and actually bakes (when is he going to do laundry???) . See nothing like life-as-usual in our family! For the better I have to say (but please no more earthquake/hurricane)! Bon Appetit!

-15 ladyfingers (in French, we use the Biscuits Rose de Reims). Since ladyfingers tend to be narrower, plan to have more.
- 250g (8.8 oz) strawberries ( I use frozen)
- 150g (5.3oz) blueberries (I use frozen)
- 150g (5.3oz) raspberries (I use frozen)
- 30 cl (10.1 flOz)cold heavy cream
- 150g (5.3oz) sugar
- 1 pack of plain jello
- 1 lemon
- Additional fresh berries to put on top of the Charlotte + confectionated sugar

  • Put a bowl and the mixing instruments into the freezer
  • Prepare the jello according to instructions
  • In a bowl, put all the fruits, 2 Tbs of lemon juice and blend.
  • Pour through a sift and discard all the seeds
  • Put the sugar in a pot together with a few drops of lemon juice and 2 Tbs water. Bring to a boil and cook it for a few minutes until it becomes a light syrup. Reserve.
  • Add the Jello to the syrup and stir well so as to avoid any lumps. 
  • Mix in the fruits puree and stir
  • Take the bowl out of the freezer. Pour the cream in the cold bowl  and beat it into Creme Chantilly.
  • Incorporate the Creme Chantilly into the fruits puree
  • Pour into a mold. Cover with a plate so as to press the liquid into the mold. Put in the freezer overnight.
  • When ready to serve, unmold the Charlotte (using a knife to go around). 
  • Arrange the ladyfingers around the cream
  • Use a ribbon to keep the Charlotte together and decorate with the fresh fruits and confectionated sugar.
  • Serve immediately.
My Personal Comments
  • Most recipes will tell you to arrange the ladyfingers INSIDE the mold before pouring the cream-fruit melange into it. This is the traditional recipe. However, my experience is that the cookies are then soaked and don't hold well when you unmold the Charlotte. It's therefore best to "stick" them to the cream afterwards.
  • Don't try to cut the overnight chilling time. This is critical.
  • If you know how to use agar-agar instead of jello, please do so.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Black Olives Tapenade

I love olives.  I have always loved them and the story goes that for my two-year birthday a friend of my parents' gave me two olive jars. I was in heaven and did not bother playing with the doll I received as a gift! (hint: if you don't know what to bring to our house, good olives are always welcome!).
Being in France makes it cheaper to eat olives. Some of them grow just in your backyarkd if you live in the South of France... or just across the border in Italy or Spain or a little bit further away in Greece (but Greece is closer to Paris than San Francisco is to Philadelphia)...
Since we eat olives a lot in our family, my children have developed a good taste for them, including the spicy ones that we find at the supermarket.
My love for olives made me want to have a perfect Tapenade recipe to eat as an appetizer for our weekly aperitifs or just together with a nice salade composee for nice and relaxed Summer dinner. One that would not be loaded with salt and additives. One that would be smooth enough but with tiny bits of olives. This is not easy. I am not even sure this recipe is my favorite one. Why? Because I have not found the right olives to put into. I tried the cheap version with canned olives (yeah, canned, I know, I know) and it was tasteless. I then went the other extreme where I used cured black olives and that was way too strong (and too salty). Good thing I am in France these days, I'll be able to go and pick the ones I think would make a tapenade perfect. In the meantime, don't complain not to be in France (well, you can), but try to find the right olives near you and don't be disappointed if it does not work out great the first time. Trust me, when it comes to olives, you are on for major discoveries...I am still discovering some and can't wait to try new ones in the years to come!! Bon Appetit!

- 1 cup of black pitted olives (Kalamata would do)
- 1 clove garlic (you could put two if you like it a lot)
- 2 Tbs olive oil (a good one)
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- 2 anchovies (optional)
- 1Tb capers (I put 2 because I like them a lot too)
- Salt

  • Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until reaching desirable consistecy.
  • Add salt if needed (it will depend on the capers/anchovies).
  • Refrigerate
  • Serve with crackers, toasted bread.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Apple- Rhubarb Cake

One of the best things we did earlier this year is to join a CSA. We are luck to have a Farmers' Market just across from our building on Sundays. The place was meant for it (used to be one way way way back but only got used as a Farmers' market a few years ago). The farmers have produces that don't compete with what even Wholefoods would offer. We are talking about in-season, fresh (FRESH) produces, most of them organic. So yes, this is kind of our luxury because, let's face it as well, it's not cheap. However when it comes to purchasing veggies on Sunday to have enough to cook for the whole week (meal planning anybody????), it's worth investing in good fresh local produces.
The two guys we are supporting are called Tom and Matt. I admired their dedication to good produces. While we think we are having a hard time with the heat (who is readin this post in an AC room???), Tom and Matt are working their crop to make a living. That's just admirable. Merci Messieurs.
I'll have more to talk about Tom and Matt this Summer but one of the first produces we got in May was rhubarb. Lots of fresh rhubarb... so one day I decided to try it on a cake. It turned out to be a good cake, cholesterol-friendly to top it all. My son did declare that he did not really like rhubarb but it was just a one-night-only comment. The next day, he was happy to have another piece of cake!
I know that I should have published this recipe when rhubarb was in season. Oh well... you can always use the recipe to bake a cake with peaches these days... I can't wait to get some in my CSA box!
Bon Appetit!

- 200 g flour (a mix of flours would be OK)
- 2 ts baking powder
- 100 g sugar
- 1 ts cinnamon
- 200 g apple sauce (no sugar added)
- 100 g neutral oil (canola for instance)

  • Put all the dry ingredients in one bowl
  • In another bowl, mix in the apple sauce with the oil and mix into the dry ingredients
  • Bake in the oven at 360F for about 45 minutes

Monday, July 4, 2011


As I was driving the kids to school one day, we were behind a camion citerne (tanker) and everytime we are behind one, we play this game of trying to guess what it is inside the tank. I started that game a long time ago, trying to keep my children quiet in the car:  it was also a way to make them aware of how things move from point A to point B depending on their physical form.
Since we have played this game many times now (too many trucks on the Philadelphia highways!!), my daughter knows and start with the usual "orange juice, olive oil, water,". Picking up the game, my son started to say "apple juice, milk"... and then "beer". I started laughing! Soon enough he and his sister were saying "white wine, red wine, pisco!" We all started laughing...I felt that a stranger listening to this conversation could have thought that my husband and I are such heavy drinkers that our kids know all the names of the beverages we drink!! Yes, they tried a drop of Champagne at their christening; yes, they tried a drop of beer and wine; but no, we are not heavy drinkers! We just happen to enjoy a drink here and there (especially on our Friday aperitifs) and my kids just happen to be great observers...

Since it's hot these days, here is a cool non-alcoholic soup for you and your family. My children enjoy eating this gazpacho because they really get to chose the toppings they can eat it with! Worth the extra time to chop extra veggies to put on the table... Bon Appetit!

PS: And for those of you who had never had Pisco (a drink originally from Peru but which we discovered in Chile), here is a NY Times article I recently came across! We generally drink it with just lime, crushed ice and powdered sugar... but who knows, in a few years, my kids might add a few cocktail names to their "tanker list!"
- 2 large cans of whole peeled tomatoes (good quality)
- 2 fresh tomatoes, skin remove
- 1 cucumber
- 1 red onion
- 1 clove garlic

For garnish:
- Bell peppers
- Onion
- Croutons
- Cilantro/basil/chive
- Cucumber
- Tabasco
- Salt, black pepper

  • In a bowl, blend the canned tomatoes (including liquid), the fresh tomatoes, cucumber, 1/2 onion and garlic. 
  • Chill for a few hours
  • Serve cold.
My Personal Comments:
  • If I am able to plan ahead, I refrigerate the canned tomatoes overnight so that they are already chilled when I blend them with the other ingredients.
  • If can not plan, put the bowl in an ice-bath while refrigerating it. 
  • To peel the fresh tomatoes, drop them for 30s in simmering water.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hummus with Basil - Hummus au Basilic

It has been a while, well more than a month (yes, I know, too long), since I last posted a recipe. Part of the reason is that my husband is taking the pictures and it has been hard for the two of us to coordinate: you know the day I make something worth being published on the blog, he left his camera at work... or the day he has it at home, the salad I made for dinner is not worth a blog entry!! If only I'd follow the weekly menus I create on my way to work or while riding the bus, we could better coordinate... but that has been hard... and since my children are off school for their 11-week-long Summer, I don't need to plan and cook meals ahead of time anymore.  Part of me likes this but I also know that by not having a meal plans for the weeks to come, it won't really make my life easier. So chances are that I'll be somehow planning again soon (I can't help it, you see!!)

If you were to ask French people what (culinary-speaking that is) they associate Summer with, they'll tell you : "l'apéro" et "le barbeque". We did not need Summer to servir l'apéritif in our house (we have it every Friday!)... but Summer being here, it will mean that we'll offer l'apéritif even more often! Super! "moi, j'adore l'apéritif" says my three-year-old! But who does not enjoy munching on different things while having a drink and relaxing?
Since I try to offer something different than just chips & salsa and pistachios when we are having a drink, I have been experimenting. Hummus is something I now make a lot (as well as gougères)...and, as a consequence, never purchase anymore. Since we started growing herbs on our balcony, I had extra basil, which I added to my recette de base. You could really adapt the recipe to your liking; I also like adding roasted red bell peppers in hummus. If we have too much, I keep it in the fridge and serve it on the side of a large salade composée. The type of dinner that really does not require any planning. Ou presque! Bon Appétit!

- 1 cup chickpeas (if you use canned, keep the water)
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 Tbs lemon juice
- 2 Tbs Tahini (sesame paste)
- 2 Tbs Olive oil
- Salt
- Cayenne Pepper/Paprika/Cumin (optional)
- Fresh Basil
  • Put all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. You can add some of the water from the canned chickpeas to reach the desired consistency or more olive oil or water.
My Personal Comments
  • You could add an extra garlic clove if you like garlic a lot (I don't)
  • You can keep it in the fridge for about 2-3 days.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wild Berries Financiers

"Il est bon ton restaurant, maman" do my children say when they are in a good mood and they enjoy what I am serving them for dinner!! I enjoy hearing that but I like it even better when they claim that "on reviendra bientot!" (they'll come back soon)... Not that they really have a choice... but at least I feel that they forget the dinners they did not really enjoyed and for which I had to fight to have them finish up what's was on their plate... ( and I am the one who does not like to be forced to eat; but I guess it's different when you know that the reason why your children declared that "c'est pas bon", when they loved it a month before, is that they are tired or just in a bad mood, or just want to make you pay for not being home with them after school...).Argh....

The best was the other day when they decided to start their own cooking school and restaurant for all their plush toys. They had put on their apron, took out all their pretend-play food and kitchen ustensils and given a plate to all of them. It was really cute!
My son did explain to "Monkey" how to peel and chop an onion, making sure to let him know that "his eyes were going to cry but that it was OK"! They were making salads, pizza and even ratatouille even though it's not their favorite dish any more!

This made me more motivated to have them participate more in the kitchen. I have to say that since I am back at work, I have not had the time or the patience to have them cook with me. Just seeing that they were able to teach their plush toys how to make bread, soup or even a salad, I feel better because they did not forget or lose their interest in cooking. And that's worth a lot...
This recipe is one that they helped me bake a few days ago on a week-end day. Try it with your children! Bon Appetit!

(for about 8 financiers or a large one)
- 1.05 oz (30 gr) butter + some for the molds
- 3 egg whites
- 2.6 oz (75 gr) Almond meal/flour
- 2.6 oz (75 gr) confectioned sugar
- 1.05 oz (30 gr) all purpose flour
- 1 Tb (15ml)  Kirsh or other berry liqueur (optional)
- zest of one lemon
- Wild berries (frozen or fresh)

  • Pre-heat oven to 400 F (200 C)
  • In small pot, melt butter and let it brown (making beurre noisette). Reserve
  • In a bowl, mix in the almond flour, the sugar and the flour
  • Whisk in egg whites in the dry mixture
  • Add the liqueur and lemon zest
  • Stir in the butter 
  • Butter the molds and divide the dough into the molds
  • Add berries in each mold, pressing down to cover some with the dough.
  • Cook in the oven for 15 minutes. 
  • Cool on a rack.
My Personal Comments:
  • Financiers are easy cookies to make when you have leftover eggwhites. You can even freeze the egg whites and then work your recipe based on how much eggwhites you have.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Article: "Family Meals Help Cut Risk of Childhood Obesity"

If you are not convinced of my eating-by-example theory, here is a good article that should convince you that eating with your children is a great long-term investment.

Family Meals Help Cut Risk of Childhood Obesity

Study Shows Family Mealtimes Have a Healthy Effect on Children’s Nutrition  By Jennifer Warner

Do we do it at home? Not enough in our family since my children go to bed earlier than when my husband comes home (and I try to eat with my husband)... However, when my children are having dinner, I make sure to be sitting next to them at the table/in the kitchen and talking about their day... We have our routine questions (who was the capitaine (line leader), who counted, whom did they sit next to at lunch, what did their friends eat, what did I do during my day (hmmm, try to explain that you put together a Powerpoint presentation to find potential investors for a new molecule!!). It's part of our family sharing and it's a nice way to wind down to...
A friend of mine and I were actually talking about this this morning. He was telling me that, like most working parents, he and his wife did not spend much time with their children on weekdays. He and his wife are able to sit together for dinner most nights during the week... but they were trying to adapt their morning routine so as to make breakfast another family meal. That would be ideal! BUT I can't see how that could be feasible in our family on weekdays (just because it takes so much time to my husband to get ready!!). One thing we do and never miss though is our Friday evening aperitifs, but I am not sure it would qualify as a healthy meal spent together!!
Do you manage to eat dinner with your family most days? What are your favorite discussions?

Keep on trying sharing meals with your family!! It's worth it for all of you!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Yesterday With My Children We Made - Wild Berries Cupcakes - Gluten Free

In my quest to bake easy (and somewhat healthy) petits gâteaux for my family (especially for my children 4pm goûter), I have been baking a lot lately. Nobody complained about it ... EVEN when the petits gâteaux are gluten-free! Un miracle! We are fortunate enough not to have food allergies in our family. Baking gluten-free is therefore more of a way to bake something different for me than a necessity. It keeps things different, ie interesting, for me. And that's important because since I am not keen on sweets, I could well live without baking any petits gâteaux. The reason why I do it in the evening is to avoid having my children eat the same store-bought petits gâteaux over and over again. Now, I bake one or twice a week and rely on store-bought petits gâteaux the rest of the time. It's healthier. It's also cheaper... and it gives me an opportunity to bake with up-until-now unknown ingredients (sorghum flour anyone?)
My children can't tell the difference between with gluten and gluten-free petits gâteaux yet, even when I have them bake with me and therefore exposed to different flours,... they are more interested in what's in the petits gâteaux (wild berries and chocolate chips are big hits), than what it tastes like. My husband, on the other hand, is the one who always complained about the texture of gluten-free petits gâteaux, especially if they are not sweet enough to his tastebuds. But since I tend to feel that his tastebuds have been polluted by too much sugar, I am not paying attention anymore. I just keep baking. If he is hungry for dessert or petits gâteaux, he'll eat them. I know. Same with my children who open the sac du goûter after school and can be disappointed with what they are offered. 99% of the time, they eat what's given to them because they are hungry after school. That said, I do try to make good cookies so as to have a few recipes I could just make over-and-over again, with limited adjustments in the filling for instance. This would save me time and make everybody happy. With no complaints, even if the cookies are gluten-free. That's good! Bon appetit!

- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup (250ml)  buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
- 1/2 cup (125ml) neutral oil
- 1 lemon (juice + zest)
- 1/2 cup millet flour
- 1 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- 2 ts baking powder
- pinch of salt
- frozen berries (a few per cupcakes)
  • Preheat oven to 350F (175C)
  • In a bowl, cream the egg and sugar together until light and fluffy
  • Add the buttermilk, oil, lemon zest and juice
  • In another bowl, mix dry ingredients together
  • Mix in the dry ingredients into the wet and mix a few strokes.
  • Pour into molds, add a few berries per cupcakes, and bake in the oven for 25-30 mn or until a knife comes clean.
My Personal Comments:
  • You could make them with AP flour if you did not have the gluten free flours available. 
  • I used frozen wild berries but fresh would be ideal 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

White Beans and Sausage Stew

Patrimoine génétique... I am not talking (again) about GMOs (but yes, try to avoid them as much as possible!!)... but about the inherited diseases that we might face one day for just being the children of our parents'. I never realized how important it is until we started talking about cholesterol in my family (they speak arthritis in my husband's!!). I won't go into much details but having had a blood work done recently, I had the unpleasant surprise to discover that I, too, have a cholesterol problem, albeit minor at this stage.
But I am not even 40! And I eat quite a healthy diet, exercise, don't smoke, drink a glass of red wine  (or Pisco) here and there, and I am definitively not overweight!! Quite unfair, I want to say! Fair or not fair, that's what genetics is about...and we have to accept it...
So what do I do to avoid having to take medication? The only adjustments I could make are eating less cheese (but considering the price of good cheese here, it's not like we eat triple-cream cheese every day!!), banning red meat while increasing fish such as maquerel, salmon and other omega-3-loaded fish, and reducing the amount of butter and eggs I use when I bake. Quite a challenge, especially when it comes to baking! That said, I feel that, as for anything else, I'll just make compromises: eating a very low-cholesterol diet to be able to have a nice piece of cheese once-in-a-long-while. Voila!

The other thing that I worry is how much will my children inherit: between le cholesterol de maman (dad's needs to be checked btw because he claims that he does not have any but I yet have to see the results!!) and l'arthrose de papa, I just hope that genes dilution won't make our children suffer from any of it. Time will tell...
In the short term, this is one of the few recipes I'll stop eating for a while (or at all), well at least with the sausage option.  This is nothing like a French cassoulet but since we don't have the right beans nor the right meat to make a real cassoulet in Philadelphia, this is a nice proxy. Which makes me think that I won't be eating the canned cassoulet we brought back from France last Summer. Anybody wants to come for dinner? Bon Appétit!

- Great Northern White Beans (preferably dry&soaked but canned will do to)
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- a few carrots, cut into small pieces.
- Fresh thyme
- Cumin seeds (1/4 ts, more if you like it a lot)
- Kielbasa sausage (enough to feed your family; more if you want leftovers)

  • In a thick-bottom pot (like a cast-iron), saute the onion and the garlic in olive oil.
  • Add the cumin seeds , the carrots and coat with olive oil
  • Add thyme.
  • If you are using canned beans, pour the beans into the pot, add the sausage and cook at low temperature for 15-20 minutes (you only want the carrots to be cooked)
  • If you are using pre-soaked beans, you will want to cover the beans with water, add the sausage and cook at low temperature for about 1h30 (or until the beans are tendered). 
My Personal Comments
  • You could add a few pieces of bacon or ham or even pork butt into the dish for extra cholesterol flavor!
  • Don't hesitate to make more because it makes great leftover!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Food Inc. ... What do we do now?


I recently watched Food Inc (merci Netflix!!) , the documentary made by Robert Kenner...and while I had watched other documentaties along the same lines (Supersize Me or Fast Food Nation), and while I am aware of the power of large agro-business and distributors companies in this country, I have to say that it made me think even more on how to best feed my family.
My conclusion is that it's a "quadrature du cercle" unless you are either wealthy enough (but we are talking REALLY wealthy) to be able to eat LOCAL ORGANIC food ALL YEAR ROUND... ! Since I can't, what do we do?

As I like to tell my daughter when she has a hard time making a decision as to whether she wants honey or jam on her tartine (and boy, that drives me crazy!!) , we process by elimination...
First, we eliminate processed food as much as possible, especially GMO products. In our family, the only processed food we eat these days are frozen dumplings, fresh cut ham, yogurts, apple sauce pouches, a few cookies, jam, and a few sauces (chutney, BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, etc.). I have started to use dry beans more (I buy them in bulk) instead of the canned ones. I find that once you have cooked dry beans, you can freeze them. This saves me time and enables me to have some "on hand". Besides, it's cheaper by the pound and has less sodium...
Then we try to go for organic when "affordable"; it is my experience that sometimes organic produces and products are not THAT much more expensive that conventional ones. Forget organic raspberries in the middle of winter... but for instance organic pears (on sale) this morning at Wholefoods were not more expensive than conventional ones at the Reading Terminal Market where we also shop.  And when there is a bargain on some organic products, especially the ones we eat a lot, I stock. This comparaison-shopping requires time though...
The hard question to answer is:  is it better to purchase organic pears that come from Argentina or conventional ones that come from California?  If prices are equivalent, no matter the carbon foot-print, I purchase the organic ones. Why? Because the lack of pesticides in organic products is not only better for me and the environment, it's also better for the people who work in the fields... and that's worth it!
When it comes to meat and fish, I purchase less so that we can afford the better quality products (organic or grass-fed or free-range.)  It has worked fine with us for the last few months...Even my meat-eater husband feels OK with our semi-vegetarian diet (he just does not want to say that he feels better!!)
When organic products are just not within the reach of my wallet, I try to buy "local".
And if none of the above options are available, I either go for frozen products or I make exceptions. And  I do make a lot of exceptions. I figure that if 50% of the time, I am able to purchase either organic or local foods, then it's OK for me to purchase conventional products, even if they come from the other side of the world. And I think that even if it were 10% of the time, it would still matter. No need (who can afford it in the first place) to be radical... just a few changes will do everybody good! Especially in the longer term.. and that's what matters to me... being able to raise healthy kids and leaving them with a better place...
What's for dinner tonight? A salade composée made with (conventional, from California) wild rice, organic fennel, (conventional, from Florida) cherry tomatoes, fresh organic dill, and toasted (conventional, from California) almonds.  Bon Appétit!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tarte Tatin

Voila one of the most famous French desserts : more famous than the Mousse au Chocolat but maybe tied with the Crème Brûlée, at least in the US. La Tarte Tatin happens to be one of my husband's favorite desserts... but unfortunately, as he would claim, we I don't make it often. I don't really know why because it's not that difficult. Sure, it's a little bit time-consuming and can't really baked in advance (or at least, I don't dare to do it)... but the rest is just dough + caramelized apples... so nothing fancy there. Trust me! AND please, no-store-bought crust for this dessert. You might have saved time but you would have spoilt the dessert....(don't tell me I did not warn you!).
I made this Tarte Tatin for a dinner we hosted a few weeks ago. Since there were only 3 of us eating that evening, there was Tarte Tatin left on the kitchen counter. On Sunday morning, our son came to our bedroom and one of the first things he asked was " c'est quoi ce qui est sur la table de la cuisine?"I had forgotten about the Tarte Tatin. I thought he meant his "pâte à sel" objects  (sort of playdough made of salt and flour) that needed to be baked to solidify before being painted. So I told him that he had to wait because it was not cooked. He insisted, talking about the other plate... but since it was too early and I had no idea of what he was talking about, I asked him to wait until I got ready for breakfast...  I should have known my son better (he is his dad's mignature in a way): he is very fast when it comes to spotting something sweet that can be eaten!!! 
So, Tarte Tatin for breakfast? Mais oui...I could not say no, n'est-ce-pas? And you can be sure that the Tarte Tatin did not survive past breakfast! I guess that la Tarte Tatin might now be my son's favorite desserts as well... (my daughter liked it as well to tell you the truth but she did not spend 5 minutes at 7.30am (that's early for a Sunday morning, no?) trying to make me explain "what was on the table.") Bon Appétit!

For the crust:
- 1 stick plus two tablespoons cold salted butter (5 ounces), cut into small cubes and chilled in freezer
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- A pinch of salt- 3 to 6 tablespoons iced water

For the filling:
- 7 medium apples (firm apples and flavorful). Purchase more than you would need because they tend to "shrink while cooking.
- 1 stick (4 ounces or 110gr ) salted butter
 - 1 cup sugar
  • Prepare the dough:
    • Put the flour in a bowl and make a well ; add the butter and mix in so that you reach pea-size pieces.
    • Add the water, one teaspoon at a time. 
    • Don't overwork the dough, especially with your warm hands. Wrap in plastic film and cool it in the freezer for one hour or more.
  • Prepare the filling:
    • In a pan/dish that can go in the oven, put the sugar and butter (in pieces).
    • Once melted, add the apple pieces. Make sure to add more because they will shrink. It does not matter at this stage if some pieces are on top of each other.
    • Cook over medium-heat for 20mn until the sugar turns to caramel. 
  • Pre-heat oven to 375F
  • Take the dough from the fridge and roll it (over flour-covered surface) into a disc that will be bigger than your pan/dish.
  • When you are ready to bake the tarte, lay the dough over the apples and place in the oven.
  • Cook for about 25-30ms.
  • Flip over a serving dish with caution.
  • Serve while still warm.
My Personal Comments:
  • Make sure to purchase firm apples.
  • Some people add one tablespoon of sugar in the dough; I don't because the caramel is so sweet that you don't need extra sugar.
  • You could make the dough in a food processor but you want to make sure that the blade/bowl are cold when you make it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Little Pumpkin Spices Tea Cakes

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

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

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