Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A different green salad, & our weekly menu

Yes, I know, it is a season for warm soups, and this one, or this one, sound very appetizing on this cold rainy day in Southern California.

Yet I come to you with the easiest and loveliest of salads, another wonderful recipe from The Forest Feast cookbook (where last week's Gorgonzola Grapes were from). It contains numerous salads that are so original, flavorful and festive. This one is fresh, crunchy and mostly seasonal. A crisp way to start a meal!

Scroll down to check out our weekly menu too, below the recipe :-)

Another kind of green salad

Adapted from The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson

Serves 3-4 (appetizer portion)

Prep time: 15-20 minutes

Age for babies: 12 months up depending on baby's teeth and familiarity with the ingredients. This is a crunchy salad (watch out for the nuts). but certainly pieces of cucumber and avocado can be given from a younger age.

2 scallions
1 small cucumber
1 green apple (the book uses pear)
2 stalks of celery
1/2 avocado (ripe but firm)
1/4 cup pistachios
7-8 leaves of fresh basil
1 cup shelled edamame (I use shelled frozen edamame. Frozen peas could be used also, place in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and rinse in cold water)
1 lime
3 tbsp olive oil

Wash and chop bite-size the scallions, cucumber, apple, celery and avocado, pistachios and basil (keep a few smaller leaves whole for esthetics :-))

Toss together in a bowl with the edamame. Squeeze the juice of the lime over it and drizzle with olive oil. Salt to taste.

Onto the week's menu!

A few changes to the menu format.

First, as our schedule is always shifting, Pablo eats lunch at school most days now, his preschool prepares a hot organic lunch as well as a seasonal fruit and nuts snack mid-afternoon (no processed foods :-)), which all the children sit down and take their time to eat together. Needless to say I love that!

So we now eat breakfast and dinner together as a family, and lunches on off days, which I'll post here.

However, I have been making a regular habit of cooking Monday nights once Pablo is sleeping, and I will share here what I'm making, in case it sparks some ideas for your meal-planning and cooking plans.

Cheeses of the week: Following French tradition, I always offer a little bit of cheese at the end of every meal, between the main course and dessert. Rotation this week: Truffle Brie, Petit Basque (sheep's milk), Gorgonzola.

FruitAt dinner, I offer a piece of seasonal fresh fruit (sometimes with yogurt). For younger children or those especially sensitive to sugar, at night, I recommend sticking to plain yogurt (regular homemade* whole milk, sheep’s milk, goat's milk and Greek yogurt for extra protein) to avoid too much sugar before bedtime. (Otherwise, Pablo usually eats berries at breakfast, and has a fruit snack at school in the afternoon.)

Fruits we're choosing from this weekApples, pears, kiwis, tangerines, grapes

Sweet treats: Since Pablo turned 3, I do offer sweet treats here and there (cake, chocolate, cookie, ice cream) in small quantity (homemade or artisan made whenever possible) at snack time (mid-afternoon) only, rarely as part of a main meal unless it's a special occasion.


Goûter (4pm snack) – Apple (from our tree!)

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Endive, Gorgonzola, blue cheese salad
Main course: Chicken mushroom and potato bake*

LATE NIGHT COOKING ahead (about 2/2.5 hours)
- Steaming green beans, potatoes and a whole cauliflower for easy salads
- Preparing these braised collard greens for next day dinner
- I have leftover pumpkin puree, trying this pumpkin bread (good for breakfast and snack).


Goûter - Pumpkin chocolate chip bread

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cauliflower, green beans, potato, parsley salad
Main course:  Pork tenderloin with mustard sauce, braised collard greens


Goûter – Pick of Farmer's Market (Seasonal fruit samples, or a lovely brittle cookie from Morning Glory Confections! Pablo approved!)

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Crab, vegetable, corn salad
Main course:  Scrambled farm eggs with sheep's cheese


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cucumber in creamy tarragon dressing
Main course:  Pan-fried Dover sole fillets with coconut rice


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Salami, leftover crab vegetable salad
Main course: Sardine avocado tartines

Goûter - Tangerine

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Baby bok choy, avocado, cashew salad from Café Sucré Farine
Main course: Braised coconut milk oxtails in slow cooker, quinoa


Goûter - Kiwi

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Apple, celery, cucumber salad
Main course: Pan-fried lambchops with these cumin and honey roasted carrots over ricotta from Bojon Gourmet


Goûter - A treat of Pablo's choice :-)

Appetizer / Finger Foods:  Creamy romaine salad with lots of herbs
Main course: Skirt steak and sweet potatoes

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Presence, gratitude and Gorgonzola grapes

I started a gratitude jar with Pablo recently. A few minutes here and there, where we both think about the things we're grateful for that day. (I know, gratitude isn't exactly an original topic this week, with Thanksgiving upon us.) The thought of that jar and my contribution to it, has made me pay attention to small things throughout the day. The color of that tree. Two people in a coffee shop, connecting. Pablo's green eyes, his dimpled smile, an intonation, a question, a memory. A right here. A right now.

This has been yet another way for me to be more present. I have been on a ruthless mission to fight and eliminate multitasking and divided attention, and to give my full presence to each thing I do.

This is hard. I struggle with it daily. But it has become a continual awareness.

I am always grateful for moments of true presence (whether it is a pleasant or not so pleasant moment). And thinking of gratitude helps me be more present.

With the holidays coming up, amidst the rushing, planning, obligations, engagements, and multitudes of busy, I wish for all of us many moments of full presence with our loved ones, gems of life, instants of complete acceptance of who we are exactly as we are in the present moment.

Now, how about a present moment dipping fingers in cheese?

I wanted to come to you with a quick and easy, last minute appetizer we just love. Perhaps an added fun touch to your holiday celebration.

I discovered it in the lovely book by Erin Gleeson called The Forest Feast, a wonderful resource of easy to complete, vegetarian recipes that are so festive!

I made these Gorgonzola pecan grapes when I cooked for the wedding of dear friends in July, and they were a big hit.  They are also PERFECT for making with a child or toddler. Smearing cheese, rolling grapes in nuts, and lots of finger licking = much fun in the kitchen for all ages :-)

Wishing you and yours a lovely, joyful, and flavorful Thanksgiving.

Gorgonzola Pecan Grapes

From The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson

Prep time: 20 minutes

For 12 grapes

Age for babies: 12 months and up, cut up, supervised to see how the pecans are handled.

1/2 cup of creamy gorgonzola (make sure it's not too aged, nice and soft)
12 grapes (seedless probably better)
1/2 cup of pecan nuts

12 toothpicks

First place the pecan nuts in a food processor, and grind into tiny pieces. Place in a deep plate (makes it easier to roll the grapes in, and to keep the pecans in the plate too). Wash the grapes.

Take a tablespoon or so of gorgonzola, and smear it on a each grape so it's more or less covered.
Fingers are handy to complete this messy (yet so fun) task (Expect lots of finger licking here!!!).

Then roll the grape in the plate of pecan nuts until it's covered, and place on a plate.

Repeat with as many grapes as you need.

Once fingers are properly licked and washed :-) stick toothpicks in each grape, and serve!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A day of presence, connection & French madeleines

I have known Chloe for eleven years, since the day she was born. She is someone for whom I feel such love and affection, a lovely bond that brightens my thoughts, and my days when she’s in them.
Such a fun and lovely day we had a few months ago, when we had a long overdue cooking day together.

We had a definite plan to make homemade butter (super easy by the way, see here how. I make mine with raw cream, but you can use regular heavy cream too. Something children can make to contribute to a Thanksgiving dinner, for example!), a perfect opportunity for her to show me her dance moves.

For Chloe has a bold, dancing spirit.

When deciding what else we would make that would be delicious and new, we put our minds together. Being French-American, Chloe loves Madeleines, those puffy, spongy little French cakes so scrumptious when dipped in milk or tea. And since it was the season, we made them strawberry Madeleines.

So we mixed, and shook, and baked. We watched cream turn solid. We scraped and smelled vanilla beans. We watched dough puff up, turn golden, and even a little too dark.  We drained, and rinsed, and squeezed the butter. And then we styled and photographed the Madeleines. Chloe was inspired, she observed, rearranged, and made beautiful images (the styling of the top picture is her creation!) For Chloe has a creative, studious spirit.

And then of course, Madeleines were eaten, savored in fact. Shared.

A "Madeleine de Proust" moment in the making...

I wanted to share this day here, because I got to work in the kitchen with someone I really admire. I am inspired by Chloe’s courage, willingness and trust in the face of fear, and her motivation and her joyous spark in the face of life.  She is someone beautiful inside and out, whom I profoundly believe in; someone I look forward to watching grow and flourish, as I have already for the past eleven years.

In those busy, 21st century lives we lead, of divided attention and too much rushing, I realize more than ever the need to be more present, to model a mindful life for my son, and to always take the time to nurture connection (I loved this video on the topic, by the way)

There are many things we can do together with those we love, our children, our parents, our friends, as a way of experiencing that bond, of being engaged and present together. Whether it’s gardening, traveling, eating, walking, painting, foraging, or in this case, cooking together. If you have a chance to seek and find ways to connect and be present with your children in this way, no matter how young, you will not regret it. It is infinitely worthwhile.

Also always worthwhile is to express what we love about those we love. I am thankful to have done just that here. Thank you, Chloe :-)

French Madeleines

Makes 20-24 little individual cakes

Prep time: 15 minutes (+ 30 min resting time)
Cook time: 6-8 minutes per batch

Age for babies: 10-12 months, in small quantity

You do need a special Madeleine pan for this. This one is good and affordable.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter
Pinch of salt
Seeds from one vanilla bean
Zest of one lemon
8-10 strawberries (cut up), or a handful of chocolate chips

First, place the empty madeleine pan in the freezer (The key to that lovely puff of the madeleine is thermic shock, so don't skip this step!)

Melt the butter in a small pan (or in microwave).

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.

Make a well in the middle of the flour, and place the eggs, then mix.

Add the melted butter, the zest and scrape the vanilla bean seeds. Mix, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven at 450° F.

Grease the madeleine pan. Stir the strawberry pieces or chocolate chips into the dough. (Since this is two batches, place the remaining dough back in the fridge).

Fill each shell about 3/4 of the way, and place in the oven for 6-8 minutes. Watch them carefully, as they're quick to burn (as you see in my pictures, an extra minute chatting with Chloe, and the edges got a little darker than we would have wanted!) As soon as they're golden and they've puffed up, take them out and remove from the pan, let them rest on a kitchen towel or a baking sheet.

These quantities will make about two batches, so if you have one pan, don't forget to stick it back in the freezer before making the second batch.

(Note you can make the dough 1 or 2 days ahead if need be, bake them the day you want to enjoy them! Once made, they'll stay fresh 1-2 days).

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Monday, September 22, 2014

A salad of peach, shiso and mozzarella... & our week's menu

I come to you today with a simple salad and our week's menu in hope it can spark some ideas for your family.
If you have grabbed some of the last peaches of the season this weekend, perhaps to try your hand at this peach buttermilk sherbet, or perhaps this peach lavender custard I posted a couple of years ago, this salad is perfect for those few ripe peaches left over.

I was kindly sent a copy of the cookbook Frenchie, New Bistro Cooking, by Greg Marchand, full of mouth-watering French-inspired recipes for each season. I couldn't resist this salad. Marchand uses smoked mozzarella for it, which would be lovely, but I couldn't resist burrata, that super creamy cloud of heaven of a mozzarella that makes your whole body relax in one bite :-) The combination of flavors is simply wonderful. And Pablo has been particularly fond of peaches in salads this summer. (We've also made this chards salad from The Vanilla Bean Blog with peaches instead of oranges, for a lovely outcome.) He's also been eating the shiso leaves right off the plant.

Our week's menu is right after the recipe, I have been inspired by many recipes from some gorgeous food blogs...   Have a lovely, flavorful week :-)

Peach burrata shiso salad

Adapted from Frenchie, New Bistro Cooking by Greg Marchand

Serves 3-4 as appetizer

Prep time: 10 minutes

Age for babies: 8-10 months

4 fresh peaches (or nectarines)
1 pack of burrata mozzarella
8-10 leaves of shiso (or basil, or both)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
A pinch of fleur de sel

Halve the peaches, remove the pit, tear them by hand (for that rustic look!) and place the pieces in a bowl. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, the shiso or basil leaves (keep a few for garnish), and a pinch of fleur de sel.

Cut the burrata in four pieces, place in four serving bowls or small plates. Add a pinch of salt, fresh ground pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Add the peaches, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Garnish with fresh shiso leaves. Voilà :-)

I received a free copy of the cookbook from the publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Onto the menu...

Cheeses of the week: Following French tradition, I always offer a little bit of cheese at the end of every meal, between the main course and dessert. Rotation this week: Truffle gouda, Petit Basque (sheep's milk), Goat brie.

Desserts: At lunch and dinner, I offer a piece of seasonal fresh fruit (sometimes with yogurt). For younger children or those especially sensitive to sugar, at night, I recommend sticking to plain yogurt (regular homemade* whole milk, sheep’s milk, goat's milk and Greek yogurt for extra protein) to avoid too much sugar before bedtime. (Offering fruit for the first three meals of the day is plenty.)

Our schedule has changed a bit and Pablo has started a new preschool where a wonderful hot organic lunch is provided, which the children help prepare (love :-)), and eat together.  So some lunches are at school and on the go for the grown-ups. Lunchboxes are only needed once or twice a week now. 


Lunch at school / on the go

Goûter (4pm snack) – Chocolate pudding

Appetizer / Finger Foods: This watermelon almond gazpacho from Cannelle & Vanille
Main course: Curried roasted eggplant with smoked cardamom & coconut milk from Bojon Gourmet


Lunch at school / on the go

Goûter - Peach

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green beans, potato, tomato, cauliflower salad
Main course: Espresso braised short ribs*

In this busy life we lead, Wednesday has become a no cooking day for us, with a picnic lunch from Whole Foods salad and sushi bar with Grandma, and dinner at the Farmer's Market, where we also grab fresh produce for the next few days.
This week, we have a field trip with school, so we'll pack a lunchbox.

Picnic Lunch: Grated carrots, Spanish tortilla with spinach, ham & olive bread, grapes.

Goûter – Chocolate French Macaron (Pablo's favorite!)

Dinner at the Farmer's Market 
(Some of Pablo's favorites: Oysters, musubi rice balls, Basil cilantro quesadillas, cherry tomatoes, grape leaves, almond gelato)


Lunch at school / on the go

Goûter - Apple

Appetizer / Finger FoodsBaby bok choy cashew avocado salad from the blog Café Sucré Farine.
Main course: Whole chicken (roasted in Dutch oven with onions)


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Authentic Greek Salad
Main course: Leftover cold chicken

Goûter - Pear

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Pear, celery, cucumber salad*
Main course: Vegetable blue corn bread inspired by Bojon Gourmet


Lunchbox for Spanish class: Quinoa crudites salad, smoked salmon, Petit Basque cheese, apple. 

Goûter - Mango

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Honeydew feta mint salad
Main course: Lamb chops with coconut rosemary carrots


Lunch out

Goûter - Nectarine

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Persimmon, pomegranate, cilantro salad*
Main course: Sausages, leek sweet potato gratin*

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Making life worthwhile... with a bowl of peach buttermilk sherbet

Is getting what we want a measure of success? I have wondered about that lately.
If so, I am widely unsuccessful, as I have wanted to do so many things, including posting here more regularly, in vain.

This idea of “success” seems to miss the mark for me. An outside judgment on our lives, one that matters for a moment, and doesn’t matter in the end.

Every time I think of what a successful life might be, I fast forward to my 99 year old self (should I be so fortunate as to get that far). What will I ask myself, then? “Have I been successful in my life?” Perhaps. But I have a hunch that what will matter most, is whether it was worthwhile.

So what is the difference? A “successful life.”  A “worthwhile life.” A “successful day.” A “worthwhile day.” It doesn’t feel the same, does it? It’s not the same life. Not the same day.

For me, a “successful” day would go something like this:

I’d probably start it with oatmeal instead of brioche. (Need I say more?)
I’d answer agents’ requests for a book deal, before writing a brilliant blog post that’s brilliant and clever at the first draft. Pablo would be in a perfectly good mood all day from all my perfect mothering (ha!). Everything would get done quickly, efficiently. I’d cook a very sophisticated dish perfectly the first time around, and it would come out just like the picture in the recipe book.  

A worthwhile day, on the other hand, would go something like this:

We already know what breakfast would be ;-) Then I rack my brain to make extra time from work and daily duties in the coming week to think about, let alone write the book about food and life that I want to write. Perhaps I do find the time to sit down and write a blog post, but I stare at the blank screen in frustration. Then I write a few random lines, and they help me make a connection, a thought perhaps worth sharing. Pablo has started a new school, has a tantrum when he comes home. I’m hungry, pressed for time, I feel impatient and frustrated, I don’t want to be tested right now. It’s hard not to snap. I do snap a couple of times, and I catch myself. I remember. I take a breath, and sit with him through his big feelings the best I can, letting all his pent up emotions come out. I talk myself through it, because it’s hard to not just want it to be over. It’s hard to be present. I catch up on Skype with my dear friend in France, sharing ordinary bits of our daily lives; time flies, disappears.
I had planned to make corn chowder for dinner, but now I can’t, I have too much work, a deadline to complete. I am grateful for my mother’s help, for her art in making the simplest ingredients shine. I still have work tonight, so many things I didn’t get done today. Yet we sit down on our terrace and eat together. We talk, listen, laugh, share, connect. We notice the days are getting shorter. For dessert, we feel the evening gently descending, over a shared bowl of buttermilk peach sherbet.

Successful speaks of objectives, results, speed, and looks good from the outside.

Worthwhile speaks of process, slow and meandering, of struggles; it feels right, real, from the inside.

In the end, life is not for show. Life is for living, learning, feeling, connecting. Not necessarily in that order. 

Summer is coming to an end, and this sherbet is one way to make it last just a touch longer... If you can grab the last peaches or nectarines of the season, then I highly recommend you try this sherbet, another foolproof recipe by the incredible Aran Goyoaga from Cannelle & Vanille. The flavor is the taste and essence of peach, so refreshing and sweet. Pure delight. A last stronghold of summer before pumpkins and apples take over our kitchens...

Peach buttermilk sherbet

From Small Plates and Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga

Yields 1 1/2 quarts approx
Time to prep: 30 min prep + overnight refrigeration prior to churning + abt 30 mn churning

Age for babies: 6-8 months 

1 cup cane sugar
4 large peaches or nectarines (I have never tried it with canned peaches, but I suppose it would be okay, as long as they're rinsed, otherwise, the sugar amount needs to be adjusted).
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 tsp salt

In a small pan, cook the sugar and 1/2 cup of water, until the sugar is dissolved. Pour in a bowl and let cool.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut a cross on the bottom of the peaches or nectarines. 
Prepare a large bowl with ice water.
Plunge the fruit in the boiling water for a minute or so.  Immediately place them in the ice water. 
Then peel the fruit, the skin should come off easily.  Then cut the fruit and remove the pits.

In a blender, mix peaches and lemon juice. It'll turn into a puree. 

Transfer to a large bowl, whisk in buttermilk and salt.  Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. (I usually place the freezing element of my ice cream maker in the freezer at the same time the night before churning,)

Churn in your ice cream maker, until solid but creamy. Freeze for a few hours before serving. (I have kept mine in the freezer for 2-3 months with no problem).

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

A tip of the week, a weekly menu...

Many of you have found the posting of our menus very helpful, so I will work at posting them more regularly, even if it's a shorter post with just the menu (This is our menu from last week actually). 

I thought I'd start a "tip of the week" series. Something that has helped our family in the food journey. Here's this week's:

Talk about and marvel at seasonal produce with your children, the same way you would point out a beautiful flower or landscape. 

I get excited about vegetables like you wouldn't believe. Especially with summer produce, marvel at the beauty of an heirloom tomato, or peach or apricot.  This is something we do often because I photograph a lot of our food. But it also happens every time we go to the farmer's market, or receive our CSA delivery, and certainly while watching our vegetable garden grow.
It can be as simple as sitting down with a child for a couple of minutes, just looking at, touching, smelling, and eventually tasting a produce, a piece of fruit, peas in a pod, colorful chards, anything on hand. Bringing children and ourselves to direct our attention at the beauty of real food through our excitement and sense of awe and gratitude, goes a long way in engaging them. Making time for these moments is part of creating positive associations with food (real, good food). 

When I was in Seattle recently, I brought back these wild ramps which were so gorgeous and delicate and ever so flavorful. They provided our family with an opportunity for connection, fun, discovery, and pleasure of the senses.  

Onto the menu...

Cheeses of the week: Following French tradition, I always offer a little bit of cheese at the end of every meal, between the main course and dessert. Rotation this week: Goat gouda, Petit Basque (sheep's milk), Camembert.

Desserts: At lunch and dinner, I offer a piece of seasonal fresh fruit (sometimes with yogurt). For younger children or those especially sensitive to sugar, at night, I recommend sticking to plain yogurt (regular homemade* whole milk, sheep’s milk, goat's milk and Greek yogurt for extra protein) to avoid too much sugar before bedtime. (Offering fruit for the first three meals of the day is plenty.)


Pablo's Lunchbox: 
Greek salad, cold roasted duck (with mustard), green beans, Petit Basque sheep's milk cheese, tangerine

Goûter (4pm snack) – Apricot

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Herbed asparagus & potato salad
Main course: Ham wrapped endives au gratin, quinoa béchamel


Pablo's Lunchbox:
Asparagus, potato & smoked salmon salad, tofu, Goat gouda, strawberries

Goûter - Peach

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cucumber salad, yogurt tarragon dressing
Main course: Dover sole filets, coconut rice


Appetizer / Finger Foods: 1/2 avocado with vinaigrette
Main course: Smoked salmon green bean rolls

Goûter – Chocolate pudding

Dinner at the Farmer's Market 
(Last week, we had oysters to start, Japanese onigiri, Spanish paella, lavender sauerkraut, and peaches and apricots)


Appetizer / Finger FoodsAuthentic Greek salad
Main course: Sardines and lavender sauerkraut (awesome from Brassica and Brine)

Goûter - Nectarine

Appetizer / Finger FoodsRaw kale salad from Food Loves Writing
Main course: Oven roasted pork ribs, thyme potatoes


Lunch OUT

Goûter - Donut peach

Appetizer / Finger FoodsLentil shallot salad
Main courseBraised fennel tomato rice casserole from Green Kitchen Stories


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Peach burrata salad*
Main courseChards Spanish tortilla

Goûter - Chocolate pudding

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cold pea soup from TasteFood
Main course: Lentil & vegetable coconut milk dahl* + this incredible tomato cobbler by Food Loves Writing
(It's a dinner party, so making strawberry rhubarb mascarpone tarte* for dessert)


Appetizer / Finger FoodsLeek and chive flans
Main courseZucchini leek quail egg cassolette by La Tartine Gourmande

Goûter - Nectarine

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cold cooked squash in mint vinaigrette
Main courseHerbed lamb meatballs in coconut milk with quinoa

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Asparagus & lavender salad, a bad day & an anniversary

Yesterday was the blog’s 2nd anniversary, and I had a crappy day.

I felt obligated to force the gratitude out, for all the things I’ve learned, all the ways I’ve grown, all the wonderful souls and talents I’ve come across, all the joys I’ve had, thanks to this blog. And I will come to that, because that’s real and true.

I read Tina Payne Bryson’s piece on the parenting of hall of shame, and the fact that while we all sometimes lose it and have awful parenting moments, but remain silent about it, never sharing these times with other parents. Yet this happens to all of us, and bringing it out in the open is sometimes the acknowledgement we need to move on.

Yesterday, the morning plans got screwy, my mind was set on the negative switch, and thinking of this anniversary reminded me of all the things I haven’t found the time to do, the irregularity of my posting schedule as of late, all my shortcomings. Sitting at my laptop to write this post, I found myself browsing other blogs, comparing myself and feeling like everyone else was so much better than I am. A bit later, I started making a summer fruit crostata. I insulted my dough, my rolling pin and my cutting board, got frustrated with sticky dough, and felt just so incompetent and discouraged. It was one of those days. To be ok with those days.
T’is a new morning. Two years (and a day) ago, I planted a seed with this blog. It was part of an effort to reclaim my life, to listen to myself, find my voice.
There’s been sun and warmth, drizzles, downpours, fog and mud, frosts and storms, burning droughts and blizzards since then. 
That seed has sprouted, grown, at its nonlinear pace, and is now showing some buds. The prospect of writing a book, of giving consultations, of teaching workshops. The prospect of a whole new direction.

"It’s not just about creativity, it’s about the person you’re becoming while you’re creating." Charlie Peacock  (Thanks to Janet Lansbury for sharing this inspiring quote on FB)

So the blog is where it is, I do my best and will keep at it. But most importantly, I am grateful for the personal growth it has allowed, the internal doors it has opened. The practices it has encouraged me to turn into habits, foundations: taking time in, acknowledging, balancing out in order write; seeing and looking for beauty, learning from others in order to photograph; being in the moment, connected, creating opportunities for connection (to loved ones, to the natural world) and well-being, opportunities for community too, while cooking and enjoying meals of real food.
The integration of these elements have become consistent pillars of my life for the past two years. How thankful I am for that.

I am equally thankful for your loyalty and support, coming back to this space, for your comments, questions and feedback. Whenever my words resonate with you in some way, whenever this blog can be a resource, can be helpful or motivating, it is deeply gratifying and fulfilling. 

Now this salad... was the result of a strange sense-storming. I found these lovely purple asparagus in Seattle. A few days after I returned, I used a few to make an asparagus tart, which we had with a lovely lavender sauerkraut from Brassica & Brine. I guess it was a flavor and color connection... Asparagus salad, lavender dressing.  

I have grown to love the flavor of lavender, lovely in dessert (do you remember the peach lavender custard from a couple of summers ago?), but also in savory dishes. And as our herb and vegetable garden has been thriving, especially our shiso bush, I've been putting shiso in all kinds of salads. Pablo munches on it straight from the plan! The subtle but powerful aura of shiso and lavender seem to open up the senses somehow...   

Herbed asparagus, smoked salmon, new potato salad with lavender dressing

Serves 3-4 people

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes (simultaneous)

Age for babies: 8-12 months + cut up in very small pieces, you could just do asparagus and potatoes if preferred.

One bunch of purple asparagus (green asparagus will do just fine too!)
A dozen small new potatoes
3-4 small slices of smoked salmon
A few leaves of shiso 
2-3 sprigs of fresh dill

Two options for the dressing:

1. Using lavender infused olive oil (which you could purchase here)
4 tbsp lavender olive oil
2 tbsp regular olive oil (or vegetable oil)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt & pepper

2. If you don't have the oil, this dressing is delicious also. Original recipe here.
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp dried lavender blossoms
(Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor)

Place the washed potatoes in a pot of salted water, bring to a boil, and keep cooking until the potatoes are just tender (time depends on size of potatoes, mine were quite small, about 15 minutes)

Peel the stems of the asparagus of its outer strings and cut off the tough ends. (Simple tutorial here if you need it).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus gently and boil for about 20 minutes, until soft.
(We rarely have crunchy asparagus in our household.)

Meanwhile, prepare one of two dressing options above. Wash the herbs and chop them, keeping a few leaves intact for garnish.

When the potatoes are cooked, rinse in cold water and let cool for a while (This can be done a day ahead). Peel them, cut in half or quarters depending on size.

When the asparagus are done, rinse in cold water and let cool for a while. Cut them in bite size pieces.

In a bowl, place the potatoes, chopped herbs and half the dressing, and toss.

In salad plates, place the potatoes, the asparagus, and salmon on top. Place a few leaves of shiso and dill, and drizzle the remaining dressing on top. 

This is good cold, but also delicious if the potatoes and/or asparagus are slightly warm.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

To Motherhood, and yogurt cake

I’ll start with wishing all mothers a wonderful, joyful Mother’s Day
May it be a day of connection, and ease, and sense of fulfillment from all you do, all you give.

I am returning from Seattle after a weekend of learning and connection and self-care. I will be sharing a lot of that here very soon... I apologize for the long wait, I have been working on a post for weeks now, terribly spread thin between work and family life (with some sleep thrown in here and there!).

But that post will have to be the next one up, because Mother’s Day has been on my mind. However unoriginal this post may be, what kind of a food and mom blogger would I be if I didn't have a Mother's Day post (with cake)? ;-)

Motherhood has enriched my life in ways I would never have imagined. A few days ago, I was sitting at my desk struggling through deadlines, and my son's face and smile came to mind. The pure joy of love I felt radiated throughout my whole being. I had never felt such unconditional, all-encompassing, completely secure love. Love without the shadow of a doubt, ever. A love that makes me able to accept myself as perfect in all my mistakes, wrong turns, bad choices. In all my vulnerabilities.

Self-awareness, re-parenting myself, acceptance, trust, patience... have been some of the gifts of motherhood so far.

But what I am working through at the moment, is striking this elusive balance that is our lot as humans, between self and others. Self-care and nurture. I have so very much to learn there. 

Connection defines us, it is the very heart of life, what matters in the end. Yet we must be whole in order to connect to others in a healthy way. We must know ourselves, respect and acknowledge our own needs – whether met or unmet - be solidly anchored within ourselves. The stronger the anchor, the safer the connection, no matter how tormented the seas around might be. We must be ourselves and take care of ourselves to nurture well. And we must connect (nurture and be nurtured) to be whole.

In the every day life of most moms, this balance can be a bitch (do pardon my French English ;-)) to find. Do I take my son to breakfast after a long hectic week, or do I keep that time to write, or go workout? Do I do something thoughtful for my family, or for myself?
Do I continue on the safer professional path to maintain my family’s comfort, or do I take a chance at a new path for my own personal fulfillment?

I don’t have the answers. I struggle with this all the time. Yet when I apply it to Pablo, self-care and nurture go hand in hand. Trusting him to listen to himself, to belong to himself, is paramount to me. Connection should never come at the cost of not listening to his body or mind. I do believe our barometer as children are right on in this regard, if it's not interfered with (by not forcing children to share what they care about, for example. Or not asking them to finish a plate to please us... things like that). May this balance come to him with a lot more ease than it ever did for me.

The other afternoon, as I was sitting in the late afternoon sun for a few minutes, these thoughts swirling in my mind, examining my past and childhood for clues, with the feeling of being so torn between my needs and those of the ones I love, suddenly I felt so humbled and exhilarated by this realization that I laughed out loud: 

Life is so much more complex than I ever thought it was when I was younger. 
So much more beautifully (and painfully) complex. 
I see and appreciate its complexity now
And I do, thanks to motherhood.

So perhaps providing both a moment of self-care and connection, here’s finally this very simple variation of the classic yogurt cake, a favorite for afternoon snack at our house. Pablo has been obsessed with chocolate chips as of late, so they were the perfect addition to this cake.

Pablo just turned three, and has been more and more active in the kitchen, able to help with a lot more things: mixing, washing, shaking, stirring, etc.
This is a perfect cake to make with a young child. (This is probably the very first thing I ever cooked as a child myself, in preschool in France, around Pablo’s age). Pablo buttered the cake pan with his hands, he poured the ingredients, whisked and stirred (and ate a few chocolate chips too...)

The connection of cooking together. The self-care of a moist bite of cake with a glass of milk. 
Happy Mother’s Day :-)

Chocolate Chip Yogurt Cake

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30-45 minutes

Age for babies : 12 months +, this actually makes a good simple cake for a first birthday.

(Note: Use an easy measure, like a sturdy cup, for the child to pour. It can be a measuring cup. Or a small glass.)

1 cup plain yogurt (I use organic, whole milk, European style yogurt)
1 cup of sunflower oil
2 cups of sugar
3 cups of flour (I have used white, whole wheat or spelt)
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
a handful (or two) of dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven at 400°F.

In a large bowl, pour the yogurt. Add sugar and flour. Then the oil, and eggs. 
Then add baking powder, vanilla and salt. Mix well until smooth (with a whisk).

Add in the chocolate chips, and stir gently with a wooden spoon.

Butter a cake pan, and pour the batter. Add some chocolate chips on top if you like (you can make a face with them, or a number for a birthday, you can also use a shallower round pan for this cake.)

Bake for about 30 minutes, depending on your cake pan, it could go up to 45 minutes. Check by sticking a knife and see if it comes out clean. Top should be golden.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A guest post: Secrets to fostering good eating habits in our children

I am very excited to share a guest post I have written for Janet Lansbury's wonderful, inspirational blog.

All (or nearly ;-)) my secrets to enjoying meals with my son and fostering healthy eating habits.

Go check it out, it's here.

Back soon with a new post and recipe...

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Meals are our garden... & a Boursin, pea & ham clafoutis

I was having this conversation recently with a friend, we were talking about moods. Indeed with the unpredictability of life, the overload of “priorities”, the exhaustion, I have found it challenging to find the time and focus for the self-care required to feel level and in harmony with myself.  In short, I get moody. I feel up, I feel down, the sea inside seems to constantly be rocking the boat, and I often long for more smooth sailing.

Then I realized I do have one safe harbor, a place and time where I am (mostly) able to leave the moodiness at the door, and be at peace, for the duration of a meal: our table. 

As I was trying to describe it to my friend and to myself, it occurred to me that our meals are a kind of peaceful garden we enter two or three times a day. Away from the chaos of the world and modern lives, as we sit down together, we open a thick wooden gate and step into a haven, an oasis, a lovely garden, made only for our enjoyment of each other, of ourselves, of the senses, of the present moment.  In this sense, our meals nourish much more than our bodies.  There’s definitely something of a sacred ritual about it.

When I’m down, I must remember to feel gratitude for this garden in our lives. It sure helps to know I always come back to it, no matter what storms I’m facing elsewhere. When all is said and done, these will be the moments I value the most.

Through the blog, I encounter more and more people, and moms in particular, who do not just want their family to “eat healthy”, but are seeking something more profound than that, something they often sense or perceive in the French or European food culture. A positive association to food, a way of life even. And I think what they want is that vision of the family meal.
But for it to work, there has to be a sort of unwritten, tacit “contract” between family members, a common family vision and understanding of the meal as a special place and time.

Sometimes in families, everyone is not on the same page. Real life gets in the way, and depending on their relationship to food growing up, some might view the meal as something to get over with, an obligation of sorts, a waste of time even.

And perhaps a way to change that, is to start a family conversation, and share a vision of the meal as something different, as something more than just eating, as that – and get ready for some MAJOR corniness here and a potential spike in blood sugar ;-) -  “magical garden of togetherness” (I am laughing as I write this, it sounds so corny!! I couldn’t resist!)

But seriously, however you word it, whatever metaphor works for your family, what I’m saying is: meals are an opportunity for connection, and those can be hard to come by in our busy lives. If everyone in the family starts to think of meals as such, you may just... have yourself a garden.

I brought back from France this lovely little cookbook of "Mini-Cocottes" recipes, from which I'll be sharing a lot more very soon. This one was so easy and tasty, makes for a lovely lunch. And it's also one a toddler or child can help make, by rinsing the peas, whisking the boursin and eggs/cream/milk together, washing the endives, cutting up the ham with hands or child-safe knife.

Wishing you a wonderful, flavorful week :-)

Boursin, ham & pea clafoutis (with endive salad)

Adapted from A chacun sa petite Cocotte by José Maréchal

Yields 4-5 ramekins depending on size

Prep: 15 mn
Cook: 25-40 (varies greatly on size and thickness of ramekins)

Age for babies: 10-12 months because of the eggs.

2 1/2 oz Boursin cheese
1 egg yolk
4 eggs
1/2 cup quinoa flour
2/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
3 or 4 slices of ham
1 cup of peas (I used frozen)
1/2 tsp salt & pepper

In a medium bowl, gently whisk together the boursin with the yolk. Then add the eggs, one by one. Then add the flour, the heavy cream, and the milk, little by little. Add salt and pepper, and set aside in the fridge.

Preheat the oven at 350°F.

Cut up the ham in small pieces. Run the frozen peas under cool water for a couple of minutes. Toss together with the ham.

Place the empty ramekins in a baking dish. Fill the baking dish with hot water so the water reaches about halfway up the ramekins.

Place the ham & peas at the bottom of the ramekins. Pour the boursin/milk mixture on top, and bake for about 25 minutes. (Note that cooking time varies greatly depending on thickness and height of the ramekins. A knife should come out clean and the top should be golden when done.)

We served them with a simple endive salad: wash and cut up the endives, discarding the tough foot of it. Add whatever fresh herbs you have on hand (parsley, dill, cilantro...) A walnut vinaigrette goes great with it: 1 part red wine vinegar, 2 1/2 parts olive, 1/2 part walnut oil, a dash of mustard, salt and pepper. Blue cheese crumbs or walnuts could also complement it nicely.

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