Monday, December 27, 2010

Pâté? Bleeeh.

The one criteria that John and I have for food is... We'll Try Anything Once. It works out pretty well. Anyone can handle one bite of something, no matter how nasty, gross, slimy, or otherwise disgusting said bite might be. And if you don't like it, you never have to try it again.

In France, we have been exposed to a lot of food that we would never have tried otherwise. And, I've never had anything that I just couldn't eat.(but I have avoided certain delicacies - escargot, oysters. I have my limits for food adventures.) John, poor guy, has had some weird stuff at work- tripe sausage, a taco served with sauteed mushrooms, pureed fish and potatoes... You get the idea. It used to be a daily ritual for me to ask about John's lunch from that day. Always an adventure. 

The point of telling you all that is to tell you this. Every year for Christmas, John's company gives a gift box full of french food- foie gras,pâté, candied fruit, 2 bottles of wine, and some chocolate. Last year we tried everything in the box with little success. This year, we were interested to find out if our tastes have changed. 

and, the answer- not so much. 

Clockwise from the top- Mandarins in vodka, Pates of different.. birds.., a tuna spread and an olive spread, and... a few more pictures of pate. 

So, we toasted some bread and went to town. 

A few pictures of things as we tried them.

The good news- we didn't have to spit anything out this year. Yeh for us! :-) 

So, my advice to you- try new things. Don't be afraid to taste something that is out of your comfort zone. You never know- it might become your new favorite food. If you are in a different culture you have to be open to new things. It's part of the fun. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Getting in the Spirit

To help us all "get in the spirit" of the Holidays, here are a couple of things that have crossed my path. And, one of my favorite Christmas songs.

When four of Santa’s elves got sick, the trainee elves did not produce 
toys as fast as the regular ones, and Santa began to feel the 
pre-Christmas pressure. Then Mrs. Claus told Santa her mother was 
coming to visit, which stressed Santa even more. When he went to 
harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give 
birth and two others jumped the fence and were out, heaven knows where. 
Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the floorboards cracked, 
the toy bag fell to the ground and all the toys were scattered.

Frustrated, Santa went in the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot 
of rum. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered the elves had drunk 
all the cider and hidden the liquor. In his frustration, he 
accidentally dropped the cider jug and it broke into hundreds of little 
glass pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and 
found the mice had eaten all the straw off the end of the broom. Just 
then the door bell rang and an irritated Santa marched to the door, 
yanked it open and there stood a little angel with a great big 
Christmas tree.

The angel said very cheerfully, “Merry Christmas, Santa. Isn’t this a 
lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Where would you like me to 
stick it?”

And so began the tradition of the angel on top of the Christmas tree.
(Courtesy of Mr. Bruce Bethany) 

So, it's not so traditional. But I bet it made you laugh! And, as the season can be stressful, we all need a laugh.

Love these two dogs! I am currently trying to figure out how to teach Sadie this... 

And, lastly, one of my favorite Christmas songs from one of my favorite Christmas movies. 
May your Holidays be joyful and oh so merry. Merry Christmas! 

The Ugliest Soup That You Will Ever Love

There are some foods that just don't look so good.. but taste amazing. This is one of them. But, once you taste the delicious blend of spices combined with the nutty flavor of chick peas.... you will fall in love. 

While it simmers, the whole house fills with the smell of cinnamon, cumin, and garlic leaving you to drool until it is finished. It is the favorite soup of the season for us this year- unanimously. (Which is a feat in and of itself coming from the meat eating side of this duo- John)


Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Soup
Recipe : David Leiberman,

1/4 cup EVOO
1 medium onion, chopped
6 to 8 garlic cloves 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 heaping teaspoon Paprika 
1 (14.5 oz ) can chopped tomatoes
3 (15 oz) cans chick peas
1 quart veggie or low sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon sugar
kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until the onions begin to turn translucent; lower heat if browning starts to occur. Add spices and saute a minute or so. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, broth, and sugar. Season with a couple pinches of salt and 10 grinds fresh pepper. Stir well. Chickpeas should be just covered with liquid. If level is shy, add some water so the chickpeas are just covered.

Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to low and gently simmer for 45 minutes. Remove soup from heat. Use a potato masher to mash up some of the chickpeas right in the pot. (I used the emulsion blender and pureed the entire soup, including the spinach) Stir in the spinach and let heat through until wilted, just a couple minutes. Season again, to taste, with salt and pepper.  Serve soup, drizzled lightly with extra-virgin olive oil, if desired. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

I think in the world of blogging I could quite possibly make a name for myself as the Soup Queen. I love soup whether it is cream or broth based, vegetables only or with some meat, super smooth or a rich stew; you name it more than likely I will love it. 

One soup that everyone should probably have in their bag of cooking tricks is chicken noodle. And no, I do not believe that opening a can of Campbell's Chicken and Stars counts.

The mission I gave myself several weeks ago was to create a chicken noodle soup that was really rich, really hearty, and could cure the common cold. Mission accomplished with the soup below. (Ok.. I haven't tested it on the cold yet. I'll let you know the next time one of us is sick how it goes.) The best part- it's really simple! 

Chicken Noodle Soup
2 medium carrots
2 or 3 celery stalks
2 or 3 shallots
1 garlic clove (2 if it's really small)
1 tbls real butter
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
pinch or two of dried basil
9 cups of water
1 chicken boullion
1 whole rotisserie chicken 
1-2 cups of uncooked noodles
2 tbls flour  

1) Start by chopping the carrots, celery and shallots. 
2) Melt butter in a large stock pot on medium heat. Add carrots, celery, shallots to pot. With a garlic press, press garlic into the vegetable mixture. Stir well and let simmer for about 5-7 minutes. 
3) Add water, bay leaf, salt, pepper, basil and boullion to the pot. Now, this might sound a little strange but it will make your soup amazing- Take the whole chicken and put it in the soup! Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. 
4)Remove chicken from the pot and remove all of the meat. Add the meat back to the pot then add the noodles. 
5) Put flour and a small amount of water in a rubbermade container with a TIGHT lid. Give it a really good shake to mix and then pour into soup pot. Stir well, replace lid and let soup simmer for 10-15 minutes. 

Enjoy! We will be having the leftovers tonight!

Ps- the cornbread is amazing too! Made with polenta due to the lack of cornmeal in France... still oh-so-good. Thank you Pioneer Woman!

Friday, December 3, 2010


 No, that is not a typo. I promise, that is the real name. Along with the names chocolate oatmeal cookies, no bake chocolate cookies, cow pie cookies.... and I know I am forgetting something... If anyone else knows  a name for these delicious little guys let me know! John gave them the name of "oookies" when he couldn't read my handwriting on the recipe and it is now the official name for them around our house.

These cookies are my wonderfully spoiled husband's favorite. (He knows he's spoiled. It's ok if I say it.) I haven't made them so often since we've lived in France just because of our lack of the key ingredient- peanut butter. I was feeling sorry for him this week though so we bought some peanut butter at the store (small jar, big price, not so great pb. BUT it works for cooking!) and I whipped these babies up. 

Now, some people have problems with these cookies, my mom being one of them. I have tweaked this recipe so much, watched it, studied it, and perfected it to the point that I think everyone will be able to succeed. And, I will admit, they taste pretty darn amazing. 

You will need:
1/2 Cup of butter
3 Cups of quick cooking Oatmeal
1/2 Cup of milk
4 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
2 Cups of White Sugar
1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Smooth Peanut Butter

First, cook the butter, milk, and sugar in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil and let boil for just 15-25 seconds.
Remove from heat and add the peanut butter, oatmeal and cocoa powder. Stir well so there are no lumps of cocoa, peanut butter is completely incorporated, and the oatmeal is coated well. 
Allow mixture to cool for 5-10 minutes. Stir again, should be slightly thick, not runny at all.
Drop by the spoonful onto wax paper or aluminum foil. Allow to cool. 
Eat. Until they are gone. Which won't be long.....

Winter Dinner

 I have wanted to share these recipes with you for several weeks now but until this week I couldn't get the rain to stop on days when I was cooking so I could take pictures. ( I think you can tell that I don't like the rain. It hinders my plans.) 

The Cheesy-Chive muffins on the right side have quickly become a go-to side item for our winter soups. They are mild in flavor and bring out the flavors in just about any soup.The original recipe is for a loaf but I didn't bring my loaf pans to France. (I also didn't bring muffin pans, pie plates, or a round cake pan. Not sure what I was thinking.. ) They taste the same, I'm sure. Also, I use a combination of cheddar and gruyere cheeses . Whatever cheese you use, make sure it has a pretty strong taste. What's the point of the cheese if you can't even taste it, right?

The Corn Chowder is really delicious too. I have tried 2 or 3 different recipes this winter and thus far, this is my favorite. The original recipe calls for roasted poblano peppers, which we don't have in France, and some jalapenos that you are also hard pressed to find here. I didn't have the poblanos but the jalapenos were amazing. Just that little bit of heat- yum. I will be trying the complete recipe in about 3 months when we had back to the states.

Since I haven't changed anything (other than a lack of peppers) about either recipe, I am just going to add the links. Enjoy guys!

Cheesy Chive Bread
Southwestern Corn Chowder
and, thanks to Susi and Rebecca for these wonderful recipes! 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Corfu, Greece

Ah! I completely forgot to write about this one! There is a really good reason for it though- we didn't like it so much. So, while I would highly recommend our cruise, the staff, and three out of the 4 ports of calls; I would NOT recommend Corfu. It's not a really pretty part of Greece. And, that's all I have to say about it. 

See? Not even a picture. 


Snow Day

John and I love snow and mountains. We are not so much the fans of rain. Which is really all it has been doing here lately. What it's doing today actually. Really makes our apartment feel about the size of a closet. Ok! Well, back to the snow! Last Sunday the three of us headed for the hills. (Sadie loves snow too. She doesn't care so much for the mountains.)  John had wanted to visit a village last winter called St. Dalmas de Selvage but we never made it. This year, we checked the snowfall amounts and it just so happened that St. Dalmas had the most. About a foot and a half. Sweet!! 

An hour and a half later, we were there! 

Beautiful. and a lot of fun. 

I squealed here. So pretty. 

Air Dog. She was happy.

2 very happy, very cold people.