28 February 2009

Healthy Ambrosia

Isn't this gorgeous?  I've been trying to create quick and healthy desserts for lazy Sunday lunches.  This one was so healthy that the leftovers doubled as a delicious breakfast the next morning!

Healthy Ambrosia by Joie de vivre

Yeilds at least 8 1/2 cup servings


1 15 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1 15 oz. can red grapefruit sections, drained
1 pear, cored and chopped
1 apple, cored and chopped
1 red banana, peeled and chopped
2 Tbls. lemon juice
1/4 c. sweetened coconut


1.  Add everything to a bowl and stir together.
2.  Serve in small dessert bowls to up the fanciness factor!

27 February 2009

February French Friday #4

 Bonjour to you lovely French people!  This is our last Friday in February so today we will be finishing the book French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano.  It is always a little wistfully that we say goodbye to something, but take heart, there is always something new around the corner.  I noticed while walking to our little sidewalk cafe this morning that the tulips are starting to push through the ground, yes, spring is coming.  Along with spring, we will also be reading a new book Fridays in March titled, Mindless Eating:  Why we Eat More than we Think by Brian Wansink.  Tangled Noodle will be joining me in these discussions which are sure to give us lots of tips on how to eat more mindfully.  Please join in for the discussion at our little sidewalk cafe.

Now, are we ready to discuss the book?  Mireille is so expressive in her writing that I will be a little less so today as there is not much to add.  However, I feel that adds to my French mystique right?  Bon, let's dive in.

Chapter 6:  Wine is Food

Where do I even begin as this chapter is massive!  Mireille gives us tips on buying, storing, tasting, and enjoying wine.  She also gives us some guidelines on food/wine pairings but of course, her personal preference is that champagne goes with practically everything!  What I love about this chapter is she makes buying wine so un-intimidating.  Just buy a bottle, make a great dinner, drink the wine with food and see how you like it!  That, in my opinion, is a great place to start.  One can delve into wine however deeply they want to and she gives you the tools to start, but at the very beginning, just drink some and see how you like it.  How simple does that get?

Chapter 7:  Recevoir:  Entertaining a la Francaise

Mireille gives us great and simple recipes in this chapter that are "company worthy".  She also gives great ideas for hosting different types of get-togethers.  Entertaining need not be a stressful or budget straining thing, it is merely a time to get together with friends and enjoy each others company.

A Bientot:  A Little French Lesson

Very concisely, Mireille sums up her philosophies of French living by translating a few choice French phrases.    This chapter is great when you need a little reminder of how to pursue you joie de vivre.

I have so enjoyed our time today in our little sidewalk cafe.  As I said before, it is always a little sad when we finish a book, but I am looking forward to our March French Friday discussions!  Don't forget to pick up a copy of Mindless Eating, and I will see you here next Friday when we will discuss the Introduction and Chapters 1-3.  Until then my lovely French friends, a bientot!

26 February 2009

Red Bananas

I love finding new produce to try.  When my 3 year old and I were out doing our weekly grocery shopping, we happened across these red bananas, the likes of which I had never seen before.  They were the same price as the yellow bananas, and my three year old was willing, so I decided to give them a try.  They were creamy and sweet with a slightly pink fruit.  They are firm enough to pack in lunches also.  These were marketed by Dole.  Give them a try if you find them, they were worth it!

Here is Dole's link about red bananas.

25 February 2009

Sourdough Rye Bread

After all of my Sourdough recipes this week, some of you are probably wondering whether or not this is turning into a bread blog!  No, however, I love making good food, that includes bread, and I've been having so much fun with my new sourdough starter that I thought I'd share.  If you are interested in making your own sourdough starter to try this bread, here is one of my past posts where I give directions on how to make it.  This bread was VERY dense.  It made me wonder if I didn't give it enough time to rise.  However it was still very rustic, hearty and satisfying.  Again, I'm sending this one over to Susan at WildYeast for her weekly YeastSpotting event.

Sourdough Rye Bread adapted from Rich B's recipe by Joie de vivre


4 c. Rye Flour
2 c. Whole wheat flour
2 c. all purpose flour
6 Tbls. wheat gluten
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbls. vegetable oil
1 c. sourdough starter
3 c. warm water

In a very large bowl or a heavy duty mixer, mix together the flours, wheat gluten and salt.  Add to this the oil, sourdough starter and water.  If hand kneading, turn dough out onto the counter and knead for about 10 minutes.  Do the same if you are letting the mixer knead.  Place the dough ball in a large greased bowl, cover with Saran Wrap, and set in a warm place to rise for about 4 hours.

After 4 hours, gently deflate the dough, divide it in two and again set these two balls of dough in separate greased bowls, cover and let rise another 2-3 hours.  Gently shape loaves and place on a cornmeal covered pizza peel or the back of a cookie tray.  Slash the loaves on top with a sharp knife.  This will help them rise in the oven prettier.

Pre-heat your oven with a baking stone in it to as hot as it will get (mine was about 530 degrees F)

Slide your loaves onto the baking stone in your preheated oven.  Spritz the sides of your oven with water from a spray bottle to make steam and quickly shut the door.  After 1 minute, quickly spritz the inside of the oven again to make steam and again shut the door.  Repeat this procedure every minute for the first 10 minutes of baking.  This will help the crust to get crisp.  When your 10 minutes of spritzing is finished, set the oven timer to bake the bread for an additional 35-45 minutes.  The bread will sound a little hollow when you thunk it on the bottom.  Remove to cooling racks and let cool before cutting.

24 February 2009

Nipples of Venus

For Valentine's Day, hubby and I decided to stay in and eat something a little naughty!  It was all inspired by NoRecipes' Dinner and a Movie Event.  This month's movie was Chocolat.  Hubby and I hadn't seen this movie since it first came out and I had forgotten just how good it was.  Juliette Binoche plays Vianne, a woman who moves to a small French town in 1959 to open up a chocolaterie at the beginning of Lent.  She befriends the townspeople, some of who struggle pitting their Lenten willpower, against their desires of the flesh through their temptation by chocolate.  In the movie, Vianne makes Nipples of Venus and tries to tempt the very stoic and well restrained Comte de Reynaud with them.  

I have had the cookbook My French Kitchen written by Joanne Harris (the author of Chocolat) for over a year now and had yet to make Nipples of Venus.  What better reason to make them for a viewing of Chocolat? (and a little naughty fun!).  I do not confess to be a chocolatier and my Nipples of Venus did not turn out as firm as they are supposed to (okay, so maybe they are aged Nipples of Venus?) but they were still extremely rich and wonderful and decadent (Venus aged well) and a fun dessert.  Give them a try!

Nipples of Venus adapted from My French Kitchen by Joanne Harris


8 oz. bittersweet (above 70 % cacao) chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
3 1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate (above 70% cacao) chocolate, chopped
2 oz. white chocolate, chopped


1.  Melt the 8 oz. of chopped bittersweet chocolate in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water.   
2.  Heat the heavy cream in a separate saucepan until nearly boiling (but not).  Add the heavy cream to the melted chocolate and mix until evenly blended.  Leave to cool for 2 hours.
3.  When cooled, use an electric mixer to beat the mixture until it becomes stiff and holds it's shape.
4.  Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper or use non-stick cookie sheets.  Put the chocolate mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain tip.  Pipe nipple shapes (about Hershey kiss size) onto the parchment paper or non-stick cookie sheet.  Refrigerate to chill and set (at least 20 minutes)
5.  Melt the 3 1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water.  Drizzle chocolate over the nipples.
6.  Melt the 2 oz. white chocolate in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water.  Drizzle the white chocolate over the nipples.

(The official way to make this dish, which I couldn't quite do because my Nipples of Venus were too soft, is to take the Nipples, dip them in the chocolate, let that set up, then dip just the very tip in the white chocolate to look like nipples.  My way was still tasty, if not quite as naughty!)

23 February 2009


I am racking up quite the number of stamps in my culinary passport this week!  Just coming from Greece yesterday with my Pastitsio, I wasn't fully prepared for a jet set trip to Ethiopia today, but I did want to join Joan and her Foodalogue travel mates for a quick drink in Ethiopia before heading back to France tomorrow.  After all, Joan is traveling virtually through food of different countries to raise awareness for Bloggeraid and the World Food Programme, which are both great organizations looking to raise awareness of hunger issues throughout the world.  It is worth a little jet lag when it benefits a worthy cause!

This recipe comes from a cookbook called Exotic Ethiopian Cooking by D.J. Mesfin.  He explains that this is a popular drink in Ethiopian Muslim households as it has no alcohol in it and is what he describes as "very healthy".  I was unsure WHY it needed to be left on the counter for two days.  My first thought was that perhaps it would ferment (but then it wouldn't be popular with those abstaining from alcohol).  It did not ferment, but was very refreshing and sweet.  It tasted exactly like...honey and water!  Imagine that!

Birz (Honey Mixed with Water) from Exotic Ethiopian Cooking by D.J. Mesfin


1/2 c. pure honey
6 c. soda water or plain water


1.  Put 1/2 c. honey in a jug.  Add the 6 c. of water and stir to dissolve the honey completely.  Leave for two days at room temperature.  Refrigerate or add ice to the jug before serving.  Keep refrigerated.

Weight Loss Weekly

Weight loss weekly is a weekly collaboration between me and three other bloggers trying to lose weight.  Join us as we discuss our strategies, successes and pitfalls on our weight loss journeys.

Giyen from Bacon is my enemy asks:  "What is the most ridiculous thing you've tried in the name of weight loss?"

I am fortunate that I have never been lured by anything risky.  I've never done the low carb, high carb, grapefruit, apple cider vinegar diets or anything like that.  To me, those always seemed too confusing.  Once, my neighbor gave me a book about eating something like 40% of your calories in carbohydrates, 30 % protein and 30% fat (something like that) but after reading two or three pages, I had to put the book down.  It was just WAY too confusing for me.  For me, eating should not be confusing.

The craziest thing I have ever done is to assume that eating the same way time and time again would not give me the same results.  I was slowly gaining weight year after year, but assuming that I wouldn't keep doing that even though I was changing nothing about the way I ate or moved.  Now that is either craziness, or complete ignorance!

I suppose when I looked at my own craziness, it somehow seemed insignificant to the craziness one must possess to believe that drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before every meal would help burn more calories.  Perhaps I should have been more crazy, it might have helped me make the connection earlier that what I put in my mouth affects my weight.  Hmmm....

What is the craziest thing you have ever done in the name of weight loss?  (I promise I won't judge!)

My three collaborators in Weight Loss Weekly are:  (check out what they have to say on the topic!)

"I guess the craziest thing I've done for weight loss was the Atkins Diet. Since when is it ok to eat large amounts of bacon, hot dogs, and steak, but fruit... no you can't eat any fruit... that will make you gain weight!!" keep reading at That Extra 20 Pounds

"I should have known better than to trust anything that is called "Suddenly Slimmer" ... keep reading more at Bacon Is My Enemy.

" The craziest things I have done – which maybe are not really that crazy? – involve clothes. How shallow is that?!" read more at 1 family. friendly. food.

If you are interested in my other Weight Loss Weekly posts, click here!

22 February 2009

Pastitsio (it's all Greek to me!)

I was very excited this week to receive another stamp on my culinary passport by making a Greek dish called Pastitsio.  Greek food and I seem to have a love/hate relationship.  It is not Greek food's fault, it's mine.  First, there was the incident sixteen years ago where I happened to get the flu a few hours after eating Greek food.  I'm sure it was totally coincidental, but it was so strongly linked in my mind for so long, that I have only been able to stomach the THOUGHT of Greek food for the past six years or so.  Then, there was moussaka incident...

Six years ago, when I was a relatively new cook and a brand-new stay-at-home mom (a few weeks before my first was born), I decided to be a very domestic wife and make my husband moussaka.  The recipe I had called for ground lamb and, being new to the area and a new cook, I didn't know if ground lamb was even something that one could purchase.  I bought 3 lbs. of lamb chops from my local supermarket and proceeded for the next two hours to feed them through an ancient, hand cranked, meat grinder that had once belonged to my husband's grandmother.  The moussaka was fabulous, but it took me about 5 hours to make from start to finish, another bad experience associated with Greek food.

Imagine my delight (and what can only be described as frustration?) last week, when I noticed that my local butcher carries ground lamb in his freezer section!  I had to pick up a few pounds as a tribute to my past-self grinding that meat by hand so many years ago.  Kalofagas had made a delicious looking Pastitsio a few weeks ago, and I had to try my hand at it, especially since he is judging, Tony Tahhan's Taste of the Mediterranean: Greek Pastitsio event.  Now Peter, I know you may be reading this and shaking your head at my interpretation of this recipe, but you have converted me to the beauty of Greek cuisine single-handedly, and for that, I thank you.

All of the recipes for Pastitsio I was finding used ground beef, but I really wanted to incorporate the ground lamb that I found.  What I ended up creating was elegant and delicious and yet so homey and filling.  I served it with a crisp white wine.  I did indeed enjoy my evening in Greece.

Pastitsio by Joie de vivre


1 quart of 1% milk, divided
1/2 lb. butter (2 sticks), cut into 8 pieces each
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 Tbls. tapioca starch (may be called tapioca flour, cornstarch may be substituted)
10 eggs
1/4 c. olive oil
2 lbs. ground lamb
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbls. tomato paste
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 Bay leaves
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. rosemary
1 Tbls. fresh basil, minced
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. oregano
16 oz. penne rigate noodles
1 lb. grated Romano cheese
1 Tbls. chopped parsely, to finish


1.  Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Cook pasta until al dente, drain and set aside.
3.  Meanwhile, heat 3 1/2 cups milk and the butter over medium heat until almost boiling.  Mix together the other 1/2 cup milk with the flour and tapioca starch and slowly add to the hot milk mixture.  Whisk constantly until mixture resembles thickened pudding.  It should take about 5 minutes.  Set this mixture aside to cool while you make the meat sauce.
4.  Over medium-high heat, heat a separate large pot.  Add the olive oil and saute the onions until they are starting to soften.  Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Add the ground lamb and cook, breaking up large chunks with a spoon, until browned.  Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, rosemary, basil, nutmeg, coriander, cloves, and oregano to the pan along with the tomatoes and tomato paste.  Simmer for a few minutes until the meat is cooked through.
5.  Drain the meat and remove the bay leaves.  Set the meat mixture aside.
6.  By now, your milk mixture will be slightly cooled.  In a large bowl, crack all 10 eggs and whisk to break up the yolks.  Take a ladle-full of the hot milk mixture and SLOWLY pour into the eggs WHILE whisking the eggs vigorously.  Repeat with a second and third ladle-full, whisking the eggs continuously as you SLOWLY pour in the hot milk.  Now, take the egg mixture and slowly pour the whole thing into the rest of the hot milk mixture.  This is your bechamel sauce.
7.  You are now ready to start assembling your Pastitsio!
8.  Butter a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish and place on top of a cookie pan.  Layer 1/2 of the cooked pasta on the bottom of the dish.  Cover this with 1/2 of the meat mixture.  Next, sprinkle 1/3 of the shredded Romano cheese on top.  Repeat these steps one more time by layering the rest of the noodles, the rest of the meat mixture and another 1/3 of the grated cheese.
9.  Pour 3/4 of the bechamel sauce on top of your Pastitsio.  Sprinkle with 1/2 of the remaining cheese. 
10.  Bake the Pastitsio for 5 minutes and remove from the oven.  Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.  Add the remaining bechamel sauce and the rest of the grated cheese to the top of the Pastitsio.  Place the Pastitsio in the oven and bake for an additional 45 minutes.
11.  Let the Pastitsio cool for about 5-10 minutes before slicing into squares.  Sprinkle chopped parsley over each serving.


21 February 2009

Thank Goodness for Leftovers Soup

This week, I visited my local butcher who had some fabulous looking pork ribs for sale.  The woman helping me advised 3 pork ribs for a "very hungry man".  I guess I didn't trust her so I bought 7 pork ribs for the four of us because it's so hard to tell how large they are in the case.  It turns out that one pork rib would have sufficed per person, but that also meant I had leftovers!  I used the three extra cooked pork ribs to put together this quick soup.  I'm sending this over to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her weekly Souper Sunday round-up!

Joie's Thank Goodness for Leftovers Soup or (Red Lentil, Spinach and Pork Rib Soup) by Joie de vivre


1/4 c. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 small carrots, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 quarts of chicken or beef broth (I used a combination because that's what I had!)
2 c. red lentils
3 leftover country style pork ribs (or any kind of meat), chopped into bite sized pieces
10 oz. spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste


1.  Heat a large soup pot over medium high heat.
2.  Add the olive oil.  Saute the onions and the carrots in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, until the onion starts to brown.
3.  Add the minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant.
4.  Add the chicken or beef broth and bring to a boil.
5.  Stir in the red lentils, lower the heat to create a gentle simmer, partially cover the soup pot and cook until the lentils are soft, about 25 minutes.
6.  Stir in the cooked meat and cook for 5 minutes.
7.  Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, another 5-10 minutes.
8.  Adjust the seasonings and serve!

20 February 2009

February French Friday #3

Bonjour to you lovely French people.  It is time for another installment of French Friday.  Today, we will be discussing Chapter 5 and the Entr'act from Mireille Guiliano's book, French Women for all Seasons.  Seeing as how the weather is overcast and cold today, let us move our little party inside.  It is fortunate that our little cafe has excellent indoor ambiance as well.  I am noticing many more people in our little cafe today as the weather has driven many people inside.  The jostling and indoor noise make a jovial atmosphere though to help us shed our winter blahs.  After today, we will have one more Friday in which to finish French Women for all Seasons.  Fridays in March, I will be reviewing Mindless Eating:  Why we Eat More than we Think by Brian Wansink.  While I am on the subject of March French Fridays as well, let me take a moment to introduce you to another French woman in the making, Tangled Noodle.  Tangled introduced me to the book Mindless Eating and I loved it, as it incorporates so many French principles in concrete forms.  I have asked her to collaborate with me for March French Fridays and she has so warmly agreed to do so.  Doesn't she look so elegant and French with her little doggie sitting so nicely under her chair?

Has everyone a glass of citron presse or their Perrier?  Bon, let us now dive into our discussion.

Chapter 5:  En hiver:  Winter Pleasures

After reading this chapter, I so wish I would have read it at the beginning of winter as it was an instant lift to my flagging spirits.  I have had spring fever so badly that I have somehow forgotten that French women find pleasure in each season.  Mireille talks about exercise being an instant mood lifter during winter.  Not necessarily gym exercise, although if that is your pleasure then go for it, but rather simple ways we can incorporate more movement into our day when all we want to do is snuggle up with a good book and a cup of tea.  She talks about walking and enjoying the cold and snow (I have yet to manage actually ENJOYING the cold however) and incorporating things such as stair climbing, housework, and yoga into your day.  This chapter is also chock full of recipes to enjoy the fruits of winter.  Recipes for enjoying oysters, chestnuts, celeriac, root vegetables, scallops, bananas, oranges and other citrus fruits, duck and fennel are all in a French woman's arsenal on how to derive pleasure from bleaker winter offerings.  Mireille ends this chapter with a discussion of winter flowers and how forcing bulbs indoors can bring pleasure and color to your home.

Entr'acte:  The French Eat What?

This chapter had me giggling as Mireille speaks about the French women's pleasure in eating foods such as frog's legs, rabbit and pigeon.  Although these delicacies can be a hard find in America where the idea of eating Bugs Bunny repulses some people, pleasure is very subjective and what is repulsive to some may be pleasurable to others.  Mireille gives us recipes for rabbit, pigeon and liver in this chapter.  I for one was pleasantly surprised to see rabbit for sale at my local butcher recently and can't wait to give it a try!

These chapters impressed upon me the French woman's ability to derive pleasure from her circumstances, even in the bleakest of seasons.  What brings you pleasure in winter?  For Valentines day, my mother in law bought me a bouquet of daisies with lilies.  They are still gorgeous even 6 days after I received them as I've been careful in changing the water daily.  They bring a little boost of color and spring to my home and table despite the gloomy weather outside.

I have so enjoyed our time together in our little cafe today.  Next Friday we will finish French Women for all Seasons by discussing Chapters 6 and 7 as well as the chapter titled, A Bientot.  Please join me next Friday in our little cafe for that discussion.  Also, don't forget to pick up a copy of Mindless Eating for our French Friday discussions in March!  I found my copy at my public library but I'll also include an Amazon link below.  Until next week, my lovely French friends, a bientot!

19 February 2009

Sourdough Waffles

Oh how I have been having fun with my sourdough starter!  I decided to tinker with my Sourdough Pancake recipe and came up with these yummy waffles.  They were crispy on the outside, light on the inside, and had a slight sourdough aroma, perfect!  I'm sending this one over to Susan at WildYeast for her YeastSpotting event.

Sourdough Waffles by Joie de vivre

The night before you wish to make the waffles, mix together in a large bowl to make the "sponge":

2.5 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sourdough starter (I used a thick potato flour starter for this recipe)
2 1/4 c. warm water

After mixing, cover the bowl with Saran Wrap and set aside overnight.

In the morning, add to the "sponge" the following:

2 eggs
1/4 c. milk
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 Tbls. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix well and set mixture aside to rest for at least 10 minutes.  While the batter is resting, heat your waffle iron.  When ready, spray waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray between each waffle.  Follow your waffle irons directions on baking the waffles and remove when ready.

These were fabulous plain, but if you really must, you can add your favorite toppings.

18 February 2009

Making your own Sourdough Starter

Look past the picture of the lovely loaf in the foreground to that of the humble jar in the background.  That jar is filled with millions of tiny yeast, the workhorses of so many beautiful loaves of sourdough bread, pancakes and waffles.  After yesterday's post on Sourdough pancakes, I received many wistful comments from readers who aren't as lucky as me and don't know anyone from which to receive some starter, or who once had a starter that has since died.  Don't despair, gentle readers.  It is easy to make your own!

I have had luck with whole wheat sourdough starters and rye sourdough starters.  To get started, all you need is a jug of distilled water, some flour, a scale, and a quart sized mason jar.

How-to make a Rye (or Whole-Wheat) Sourdough starter

(I will give the directions for making a rye sourdough starter, if you would like to make whole wheat starter, merely use whole wheat flour instead of the rye flour, but don't interchange the whole wheat and the rye.  You must keep them separate and have two different starters if you want to do both.)

Day 1:  Place 4 oz. rye flour and 4 oz. distilled water in your quart sized mason jar.  Stir, place lid on and screw on.  Leave on the counter for 24 hours.

Day 2:  You may notice some activity, a little bubbling, a slightly ripe smell, or you may not.  Regardless, remove half of the starter from yesterday and throw out.  Add to the jar another 4 oz. rye flour and 4 oz. distilled water.  Stir, cap, and seal.  Leave on the counter 24 hours.

Day 3:  You will probably see activity and notice a slightly ripe smell to your starter by now.  If not, don't worry!  Again, throw out half of the starter from yesterday, add to the jar another 4 oz. rye flour and 4 oz. of distilled water.  Stir, cap and seal.  Leave on the counter.

Keep feeding it this way until you can see the bubbles and activity forming about 6-8 hours after feeding.  This may take a few weeks.  Be patient!  Once the yeast are busy and bubbling about 6-8 hours after feeding, the yeast are strong enough to use in recipes.  After using the starter in a recipe, feed it again the 4 oz. rye flour and 4 oz. distilled water.  Now however, you may keep it in the refrigerator if you are not using it every day.  You will need to feed it about once a week if you are refrigerating it (and after every time you use it).  If you haven't used it, throw out half the starter and feed it 4 oz. of rye flour and 4 oz. distilled water.  If you have used it, don't throw any extra out, just feed it the 4 oz. of rye flour and 4 oz. of distilled water.

See, it is not difficult to make your own starter, it just takes a little baby-sitting.  Think of your yeast as your "pets" as my friend Rich does, and it will be easier to remember to feed them!  Below you can see my bubbly rye starter, about 12 hours after feeding, behind the jar of the show-off potato flour yeast.  Have fun, and when you try it, be sure and leave a comment letting me know!

17 February 2009

A Yeast Love Story: Sourdough Pancakes

Last Thursday evening, I was given a very precious, precious gift.  An Adam's peanut butter jar filled with a sourdough starter that Rich, one of my fellow choir members, has had going for the past 20 years.  Twenty years!  It felt so covert, he secretly passed me the jar after practice and I gasped in glee, knowing what it was.  He was trusting me with what he calls his "pets" (and sometimes he even calls them his "babies")  I knew that if he was giving me a sample of his pets, I must be a responsible baker in his esteem.

Along with the pets, came feeding instructions and a few recipes.  I decided to follow his recipe for sourdough pancakes (which turned out great by the way) which I needed to start Friday night.  I mixed up the required amount of starter and flour and liquid and set it aside, then I continued reading the directions, "Now is the time to feed the starter."  I had just bought potato flour (the preferred meal of the pets) that day from the health food store, so I was ready.  I put in 3 Tbls. of potato flour, 3/4 c. sugar and filled the rest of the jar up with water as the recipe stated.  Then I started shaking it up.  "Huh," says my faint mental alarm, "Why is it a different color?  And why is it so thick?" I was thinking, as before I fed the starter it was white and very thin.  I then re-read the ingredients, mashed potato flakes, sugar, water.  "Mashed potato flakes?  Uh-oh, did I kill the pets?  Will I never be considered a trusted baker again?"  I followed the rest of the recipe deciding to see what the pets would do before I confessed to the mistake.  The last instruction in the recipe said to crack the lid on the jar to let the pets breathe overnight.  Fortunately, I read that direction.

In the morning, I found that the pets had loved the new food so much, they were overflowing the jar and running down the counter.  (You can see the pets above, my wild yeast rye levain is watching with contempt from the jar in the background) I took the overflowing contents, put them in a quart sized Mason jar, added some more water and again let them sit a bit.  They flooded out of that container too.  After another 8 hours or so (and spooning bit by bit out) I felt they were finally settled down enough for me to put them in the refrigerator.

The next morning, I saw Rich at church.  He looked at me expectantly.  "I made sourdough pancakes on Saturday."  "Oh yeah, how were they?  Were they light and fluffy?"  "Yes, but I mis-read the recipe when I was feeding them (the concern and panic immediately showed on his face and I could tell he thought the news that I had killed his pets was coming) and fed them potato flour instead of mashed potato flakes.  They bubbled out of the container and all over my counter."  "REALLY?" he exclaimed, barely containing his glee, "They REALLY liked it!"  He was practically giggling! 

Rich is so excited.  His pets have found a home that they like, and my trustworthy baker title is saved.  I'm sending this one over to Susan at WildYeast for her Yeastspotting event.

Sourdough pancakes adapted by Joie de vivre from Rich B's recipe

The night before making the pancakes, prepare the following mixture for the "sponge" in a large bowl.  Cover with Saran Wrap and leave on counter overnight.

2.5 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. thick potato flour sourdough starter
2 1/2 c. warm water (95 degrees F)

In the morning, add to the "sponge":

1 Egg
1/4 c. dried milk powder
2 Tbls. vegetable oil.

Stir well.  In a small bowl, mix together:

1 tsp. salt
1 Tbls. baking powder
1 Tbls. sugar

Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and gently fold into the batter.  Let the batter rest while you heat your griddle to Medium-high.  Scoop batter onto the griddle using a 1/3 c. measuring cup.  Cook on one side until bubbles burst and edges start to dry, flip over and cook until browned.  Makes about 24 6-inch pancakes.

16 February 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

Weight Loss weekly, is a weekly collaboration between me and three other bloggers.  Join us as we discuss our successes, our failures, and the challenges in losing weight.  Every Monday, we blog about the same topic regarding our weight loss.  Please join us!

My fellow Weight Loss Weekly  bloggers are Giyen, Sunny, and Nurit.  Here is what they have to say about this week's topic, "Why this time is Different":

Giyen's response:

"This time is different because I am different. I spent a good many years thinking that life would be different if I looked different ..." Read more click here.

Sunny's response

"So first, do I think this time is different? Yes! Why? Well, I think I've finally learned what works and what doesn't work for me..." read more at www.ThatExtra20Pounds.blogspot.com

Nurit's response:  

 "Dinner time. I help myself to another serving of… whatever. “What about portion control?” my husband asks. “Well…”, I say as I take another scoop, “I said it’s still a challenge…”  Keep reading at 1 family. friendly. food.

My response:

To tell the truth, I'm not sure I will ever reach my "goal" weight, but this time IS different.  This time, I am not looking for the quick fix.  I obviously didn't gain the weight in three or six months, so why should I look to lose it that fast?  Yes, I realize I may not reach my "goal" weight, or if I do it will be years from now, but perhaps my goal now is not really to reach a certain weight.  Yes, that is a perk, and I am still excited at being able to fit into new clothes and amazed at my increased energy levels.  But I suppose what makes this time different is the definition of what my goal is.  My goal is really to feel comfortable in my own skin and to enjoy life and enjoy the pleasures of life.  Yes, the pleasures of life include enjoying food, but there is so much more of life to enjoy.  That is what makes this time different.

Please join me every Monday for another installment of Weight Loss Weekly.  If you are new to reading our Weight Loss Weekly posts, click here for past installments.

15 February 2009

Love is Sweet and Sour Meatloaf

I know you're thinking, "Oh no she didn't!" and the answer would be, "Oh yes I did."

My husband's favorite dinner is meatloaf.  I hardly ever make this simple pleasure for him because I feel there are so many other worthy things to make.  For Valentines day however, I indulged him by making his favorite.  It was actually really yummy and my 5-year old loved it too.  I may have to start making it more often!  Served alongside is sauteed spinach with garlic (for which you can find a recipe here).  Enjoy!

Love is Sweet and Sour Meatloaf by Joie de vivre


1 package Lipton onion soup mix
1 c.  LaChoy rice noodles
1 c. seasoned bread crumbs
1/3 c. ketchup
2 eggs
2 1bs. ground beef
1/2 c. sweet and sour sauce


1.  Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  In a large bowl, mix together by squeezing with your hands, the onion soup mix, rice noodles, bread crumbs, ketchup, eggs, and ground beef.
3.  Spread and pat this mixture into a 9" x 13" baking pan.
4.  Pour 1/2 c. sweet and sour sauce on top and spread evenly.
5.   Place meatloaf in the oven and cook for 1 hour.
6.  If desired, use cookie cutters to cut meatloaf out in cute shapes.  (You know you want to)

14 February 2009

Ebleskivers with Whole Wheat

I can already hear your question.  Unless you are from a Scandinavian family, or marry into one, you probably haven't heard of ebleskivers.  That's alright, all you need to know is that they are basically a cross between really fluffy, light pancakes and popovers that are in the shape of a ball.  Why?  Who knows why things like this start?  Again, all you need to know is that they are good and worth making.  Unfortunately, you need a special ebleskiver pan.  The pan is circular with seven hemispherical indentations in it where the batter is poured.  To see a picture of an ebleskiver pan, here is the wikipedia entry about them.

This recipe is adapted from my mother-in-law's recipe to use a little bit of whole wheat flour to fill them out a little and to help slow my three year old's voracious appetite down a little.  They ended up being a little heavier, but they were still good.  To make my mother-in-law's version, which is the more traditional way to make them, use all-purpose flour for the entire flour amount.

Ebleskivers adapted from a recipe by Joie de vivre's mother in law


3 eggs, separated
2 Tbls. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 c. buttermilk.


1.  In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, set aside.
2.  In a large bowl combine the egg yolks, sugar, salt, flours, baking soda, baking powder and buttermilk.
3.  Gently fold the egg whites into the other ingredients.
4.  Heat an ebleskiver pan and brush each indentation with vegetable oil.
5.  Pour batter in each indentation until 2/3 full.
6.  Cook each ebleskiver until batter starts to pull away slightly from the sides and dry out.
7.  Flip the ebleskivers gently with two toothpicks.  Cook on the other side.
8.  Remove ebleskivers.  Before re-filling the indentations for the next batch, again brush with oil.
9.  Serve your ebleskivers with powdered sugar, jam, and butter (or with maple syrup which is how my boys like them)!

13 February 2009

February French Friday #2

Bonjour to you, gorgeous French people.  This week, I will be reviewing Chapters 3 and 4 from Mireille Guiliano's book French Women for all Seasons.  I will continue reviewing this book every Friday in February for my French Friday's series, followed in March by Mindless Eating:  Why we eat more than we think by Brian Wansink.  Please join me every Friday for this series.

Bien, now that we have the formalities out of the way, let us journey to our outdoor cafe in Paris.  Tie your scarves ever so nonchalantly around your necks, order your citron presse, make sure your make-up is impeccable and your dress is classic.  Are we ready?  Bon, let's begin.

Chapter 3:  En Ete:  Summertime Smiles

I actually had a difficult time reading this chapter this week as I am so ready for warmer weather I can actually taste it.  Unfortunately, seeing as how it snowed just two days ago, it seems as if winter is going to hang around here a while longer.  Reading this chapter on summer was practically torture for me.  But alas, I endured for you, gentle readers.

In this chapter, Mireille discusses the attributes of summer that help French women stay slim.  One need only embrace the bounties of summer to enjoy this season free from the fear of getting fat.  French women embrace summer produce and make it the main focus of their meals.  Their dress is light, but covered, as a nice pair of linen pants is often cooler (and a whole lot classier) than denim cutoffs.  Jewelry is simple and of course, French women always have their scarves handy in case of getting chilled in an air conditioned building, and for looking chic.  Mireille again talks about different ways to wear scarves in the summer.  The following short video clip shows Mireille demonstrating how to tie a scarf skirt.

In this chapter, Mireille also tortures me by giving luscious sounding recipes featuring summer produce at the peak of its flavor and enjoyment.  Oh summer, why do you tease me so?

Chapter 4:  En Automne:  Fall Ahead

In Autumn, we often get back to the busier routines of our year, the new school year, seasonal holidays, plus the chill in the air all conspire against us and make us naturally want to layer on a little extra insulation.  Unlike bears, however that eat nothing all winter, therefore using their extra fat as energy, we seem to keep piling it on.  Mireille talks about indulging (of course you can), but French women are very mindful of their indulgences and compensate for them.  They also only indulge when it really counts, for example, for a luscious chocolate truffle, not a mediocre one.  Again, she also gives us yummy sounding recipes for the seasonal produce of fall:  potatoes, squash, cauliflower, pears and apples.  Also, she illustrates more ways to wear a scarf.  Inspired by this chapter, I started the day out today with a shoulder wrap scarf, but of course, being American, I failed to pull it off effortlessly.  It looked more like my arm was wrapped in a sling.  So I knotted my scarf around my neck loosely and it worked.  It's all about improvising, isn't it?

Next week, we will read Chapter 5:  En hiver:  Winter Pleasures as well as Entr'act:  The French Eat What?  Until then, you gorgeous French people, A Bientot!

12 February 2009

A Carrot Cake to celebrate my 100th post!

Dearest Readers,

To celebrate my 100th post, I thought I'd share with you a fabulous carrot cake recipe.  I made this for my husband's birthday when we first started dating and I'm pretty sure it is the reason he first fell in love with me!  (Of course he has since discovered a million other reasons to love me!).  I'm sending this over to Debbie at The Friday Friends for her Carrot Cake Showdown!

Carrot-Ginger Layer Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine, April 1999.

Ingredients for cake:

unsalted butter, for pans
3 c. all purpose flour
1 c. (3 oz.) pecan halves, toasted and chopped
1 lb. large carrots, peeled and grated finely (should yield 2 1/2 cups grated)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 c. lowfat buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 Tbls. freshly grated ginger
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 recipe for Orange Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)


1.  Butter and flour two 8 x 2 inch round cake pans.  Tap out excess and set aside.  
2.  Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F.
3.  In a large bowl, place grated carrots, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla extract, sugar, vegetable oil and ginger.  Whisk until combined.
4.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture until combined.  Fold in the chopped pecans.
5.  Divide the batter between 2 cake pans and cook until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Approx. 1 hour and 20 minutes.
6.  Remove the pans from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool, 15 minutes.  Turn cakes out onto the rack and let stand until completely cool.
7.  When completely cool, cut each cake in half crosswise to make 4 layers.  Place a layer on a cake stand and spread 3/4 c. frosting on top.  Repeat with the other layers.  On the last layer, spread the frosting on the top and sides of the cake.  Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for 3-4 hours.

Orange Cream-Cheese Frosting adapted from Martha Stewart Living, April 1999


3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 8 oz. bars of cream cheese, room temperature
3 c. confectioners sugar
1 Tbls. freshly grated orange zest
2 Tbls. freshly grated ginger
pinch of salt


1.  Beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer approximately 2-3 minutes until fluffy.  
2.  Add the orange zest, ginger and salt and continue to beat well.
3.  Turn the mixer to low and beat in the 3 c. of confectioners sugar.  Beat until fluffy, approximately 5 minutes.

Cheddar Rolls

Is there anything better than warm rolls to accompany whatever fabulous concoction you've created in the kitchen?  Rolls are so homey and making them yourself really shows your family and guests you're willing to go the extra mile for them.  Although this recipe does take quite a while (start them in the morning for dinner rolls) there is very little active time to it, mostly it is waiting while the rolls and dough rise.  I'm sending this recipe over to Susan at Wild Yeast for her weekly YeastSpotting event.  Have fun baking!

Cheddar Rolls adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

Makes 16 rolls


3/4 c. lukewarm water
2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 c. orange juice
2 Tbls. honey
1 c. grated Cheddar cheese
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/2 tsp. dried dill


1.  Mix the yeast, water, orange juice and honey together in a small bowl.  Set aside.
2.  In a large bowl mix together the Cheddar cheese, flours, salt, milk powder and dill.  Add the wet ingredients and mix and knead them together until the dough is smooth (about 10 minutes)
3.  Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with Saran Wrap.  Set in a warmish place to rise for 1-2 hours.  It may not be doubled yet.
4.  Gently deflate the dough and divide it into 16 pieces.  Gently smooth the top of each roll, tucking under the ends and pinching them together.  Place them on a non-stick baking pan and cover with Saran wrap to rise again.  Let them rise in a warmish place for another 2 1/2 hours.
5.  Near the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
6.  Uncover the rolls and place them in the preheated oven.  After 20 minutes, tent them with aluminum foil and continue baking until they are deep golden brown on top, another 8-10 minutes.
7.  Remove the rolls from the oven and immediately brush the tops with melted butter to keep them soft.

11 February 2009

Beauties of La Mer

In honor of Valentines Day, I thought I'd include a recipe for oysters.  Long considered an aphrodisiac, these little morsels are high in minerals, low in calories, and really not very expensive.  I bought 18 large Pacific oysters for $8.79 from my local fishmonger today.  If you have never prepared oysters yourself, they will take a little bit of practice, but you will find the effort well worth it.

How to Shuck Oysters

To begin, it is imperative that you obtain an oyster knife.  An oyster knife is a small blade, shaped like an arrow head, with a shield close to the handle to protect your hand (kind of like a fencer's sword) Last year, I tried shucking oysters with a flat screwdriver because I lacked an oyster knife.  Eventually, I was able to open the oysters, but it took all of my strength banging them against the counter, shell shards flying all over the kitchen, I'm really surprised I didn't slice open or puncture my hand with that screwdriver.  What was I thinking?  Tonight, I used a true oyster knife and was able to shuck twice as many oysters in half the time with hardly any shell shards outside of the towel I was using to protect my hand.

After you obtain your oyster knife and have purchased your oysters, you are ready to start shucking.  Gently clean each oyster with a scrubbing brush under cool water.  Place a folded up tea towel in your left hand and place the oyster in your left hand on top of the tea towel with the point of the oyster facing you.  In the point of the oyster, you will see a small place where the two halves of the shell are slightly separated (it is not big at all).  This is the hinge of the shell.  With the oyster knife in your right hand, place the point of the knife in this hinge.  FIRMLY press the knife into this space, wiggling back and forth, up and down until you break the hinge.  After you break the hinge, the two halves of the oyster will separate slightly, but there is still a strong muscle holding the halves together.  Take your knife and work it around the oyster until you cut through the muscle.  Once you cut through, the two halves will separate.  Now, you will only need to keep one half of the shell (the one that is most bowl like).  Separate the oyster from the shell on both halves and place them into that shell.  Pour the oyster liquor into a small saucepan and place the oyster shell onto a prepared cookie sheet that has a thick layer of salt on it to prevent the oyster shells from rolling.  Continue shucking all of the oysters, plan on 6 per person.  When you are finished shucking, here is a simple way to prepare them if you're at all squeamish about slurping them down raw.

Broiled Oysters with Lemon Zest by Joie de vivre
Serves 3


18 oysters on the half shell (6 per person)
The oyster liquor from the oysters
1/4 cup white wine
sliver of butter
lemon zest from 1 lemon


1.  Place the oyster liquor, white wine and butter in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then strain into a large measuring cup with a pouring spout.
2.  Pour a small amount of liquid into each oyster shell.
3.  Broil the oysters for 3-4 minutes.
4.  Sprinkle a little lemon zest over each oyster.
5.  Eat immediately with fresh bread.  Yum!

10 February 2009

Staying resolute

Part of my New Year's resolution was to entertain more.  Well, here it is February and I finally entertained my first guests of the New Year yesterday.  It took me a while, but I had so much fun that I'm going to be doing it more frequently.  Getting over that first hurdle is always the hardest. 

My skills were challenged yesterday as I was cooking not only for people I had never before cooked for, but for a vegetarian.  It being Sunday, my plan was to make a soup that I could put in the crock pot before church.  I knew that my Red Lentil and Carrot Soup with Coconut would impress, but as luck would have it, I could not find red lentils at any of my usual sources.  What's a girl to do who's pressed for time and who is having her first guests of the New Year over?  Improvise, of course!

I adapted the red lentil soup recipe to use something I could readily find, split peas, and the rest is soup history.  This soup was flavorful, delicious, had a wonderful texture and was warming and filling.  I'm sending this over to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her weekly Souper Sunday event.  Enjoy!

Split Pea Soup with Carrots and Coconut by Joie de vivre


2 cups dried split peas
1 Tbls. vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
5 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. tumeric
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
8 cups vegetable stock
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
1/8 tsp. chili pepper


1.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to brown.  
2. Add the minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Add the tumeric and cumin seeds and cook, stirring, for an additional 30 seconds.
3.  Add the vegetable stock and the salt and pepper.  Stir in the split peas.
4.  Transfer the entire mixture to the insert of a large (6 qt) crock pot.  Cover and cook on LOW for 8 - 10 hours or on HIGH for 4 - 5 hours.
5.  Stir in the coconut milk and chili pepper and cook on HIGH for an additional 20 - 30 minutes before serving.

09 February 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

Weight Loss Weekly is a collaboration between me and three other bloggers trying to lose weight.  Please join us for this weekly series as we discuss the challenges of losing weight, and our progress towards reaching our weight loss goals.

Our topic for this week is a discussion of the basic principles of the "diet" we are following.  Here is what the other three have to say.

Nurit's response:

“I don’t believe in diets. There’s always something new; eat this, don’t eat that, eat more of this, eat less of that. Fat-free, low-fat, sugar-free, gluten-free, no-carbs… South Beach, Atkins, Whatever… Enough already! Even the USDA can’t make up their minds about the “pyramid”…” To read more click 1 family. friendly. food.

Sunny's response:

"For our weight loss weekly bit we're discussing the main guidelines of the diet we're following which I already talked about last week. But I do have a few new things I'm going to be adding to my plan for my next 6 week challenge." Keep reading at That Extra 20 Pounds

Giyen's response:

Giyen is writing about a slightly different topic today, but you can read her blog at Bacon is My Enemy

My response:

I'm finding this a difficult question to answer because I am not following a "diet" in the sense that some diets are.  None of this 30, 20, 20 nonsense or carb restriction or all carbs, or only grapefruit on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays...yeah, I know you've heard of them.  Rather, I'm following the life approach Mireille Guiliano talks about in her book French Women Don't Get Fat.

I suppose the biggest changes I have made are to look at food and eating as an adventure in sensory awareness.  I pay attention to how foods look, how they are presented, how they smell, how the table is set, the lighting of the room, in addition to how the food tastes.  When you look at eating as more than a refueling stop and instead look at it in terms of taking care of yourself and pampering yourself, you naturally pay more attention to the quality and quantity of food you are eating and eat less.

I say this is a lifestyle approach because I have not only made dietary and meal time changes, but I've changed the way I live my life.  I dress better, I pay attention to accessories, I entertain in my home more, and I keep fresh flowers and plants in my house.  I engage people more and am trying to feel more comfortable in my own skin and with who I am.  I am so much more than how much I weigh or what I eat.

Yes, there are certain diet changes also.  I eat one to two servings of plain yogurt a day, I'm also eating more fruits and veggies, going for a daily walk, and I've also developed a love of prunes!  But it is the diet changes as well as the lifestyle changes that have changed me the most and helped me to become more comfortable in my own skin and to appreciate the little things around me.

If you would like to learn more about French Women Don't Get Fat, sign up to follow my blog as my whole blog is a testament to the changes I've made in my life since finding that book.  Also, tune in every Friday for my French Fridays series, as well as every Monday for another installment of Weight Loss Weekly.

08 February 2009

Poached Dried Fruit Compote

I've been trying to add some healthier dessert options to our lazy Sunday lunches.  This recipe for poached fruit is simple, yummy and a healthy alternative to high sugar desserts.

Poached Dried Fruit Compote

Serves 6


8oz. of mixed dried fruit (I used a combination of dried apricots, prunes, dried cherries and raisins)
1 c. low sugar apple juice
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
4  whole allspice


1.  Place the cloves and the allspice either in a tea ball, or in a muslin cloth bag.
2.  Place all of the ingredients and the spices in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil.
3.  Once boiling, turn down the heat to a simmer and cover the pot.  Simmer the fruit for 15-20 minutes until the fruit is tender.
4.  To serve, remove the cinnamon stick and spices and spoon the compote into small dessert bowls.  Serve warm with whipped cream, or chilled.

07 February 2009


That's right baby, I made these!  These are the baguettes I used for the Grilled Sardine Croutes in my Imagining Avignon post.  They were surprisingly easy and I plan on making these again this Sunday to go along with lunch.  This recipe comes from French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano.  I'm sending this recipe over to Susan at WildYeast for her YeastSpotting event.  Enjoy!

Baguettes adapted from French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

Yield:  4 baguettes 

1 tsp. active dry yeast
4 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 c. warm water
2 tsp. salt
1 egg, plus 1 tsp. cold water, beaten.


1.  In a large bowl, combine the water and the yeast and let rest for 5 minutes.
2.  Add the flour and the salt to the water/yeast mixture and mix until it holds together.
3.  Turn the dough out onto your clean counter and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
4.  Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with Saran Wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 1 hour.
5.  Gently deflate dough and divide it into 4 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a baguette shape and transfer loaves (two to each pan) to non-stick baking pans or use a baguette shaped baking pan.  Cover with Saran Wrap again and let rise until nearly doubled (another hour).
6.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  In the bottom of the oven, place a baking pan or a cast iron skillet to warm.  Boil some water on the stove in a kettle.
7.  Score loaves diagonally with a sharp knife.  Brush the baguettes with the egg/water mixture.
8.  Place the loaves in the oven.  Add the boiling water (about 2 cups) to the cast iron skillet in the bottom of the oven to add steam to the oven.  Quickly close the oven door to trap the steam.
9.  Bake the loaves for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400 degrees F and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more until golden brown.
10.  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack until thoroughly cool before slicing.

06 February 2009

February French Friday #1

Bonjour to you lovely French people!  How have you been doing employing the healthy living principles we learned in French Women Don't Get Fat?  I have had a terribly American week, but I am mentally back on the plane to France as we speak!  This month for French Fridays, we are reading Mireille Guiliano's second book, French Women for All Seasons.  In it, she promises to give us little secrets and refinements to the French lifestyle that she "forgot to mention" in her previous book.  She promises us little tips on living well, dressing well and enjoying life.  This week, we will be discussing the Ouverture and Chapters 1 and 2.  Does everyone have their fashionable silk scarves tied jauntily around their necks?  Did you order your citron presse from the waiter?  Bon, then let's pull up chairs in our cozy little sidewalk bistro and start our discussion.


In this chapter, Mireille begins discussing the clash between two cultures, the American culture (really the globalized culture) and that of the time-honored French culture.  In America, we are so far removed from our food that often times we have no idea what we are putting into our bodies.  We eat mindlessly and on the run.  She gives a very sad example of an eight year old she met at the Greenwich village farmer's market who didn't know what an apple was.  This contrasts sharply with Mireille's idyllic childhood of growing up surrounded by a wonderful garden and fruit trees from which her family would get the majority of their produce in their own backyard.

She also discusses the tale of two airports, that of Chicago O'Hare and the other in Paris.  She witnessed the majority of people in the Chicago airport eating huge portions of food mindlessly at 10:00 am in front of their computers, or T.V. sets.  "Why were they eating at 10:00 am anyway?" she wondered.  Were they between flights and just needed to pass the time?  Why were they eating and watching T.V. or on their computers at the same time?  She contrasted this picture with that of an airport in Paris where the majority of people still sit down in a restaurant to eat with a fork and knife.  Occasionally she will see someone eating Pizza Hut or McDonalds, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Questions to ponder after reading this chapter:

1.  How many times a week do you eat mindlessly?
2.  How many times a week do you eat just to pass the time?
3.  How many times a week do you watch T.V. or work on the computer while you eat?
4.  How many times a week do you actually sit down to eat with a fork and a knife?

If you start eating more mindfully, with a fork and knife, slowing down, not eating while distracted and emotional, you will naturally eat less!

Chapter 1:  J'ai Oublie de vous Dire:  Something I Forgot to Mention

In this chapter, Mireille had me giggling imagining some of her French friends up in arms at her for revealing their secrets to staying slim.  Mireille would always counter, "Don't worry, j'ai oublie de leur dire..." (I forgot to tell them)....Fortunately, she is letting us in on the secrets now!

Mireille discusses one of the oldest women in the world, a 122 year old French woman, who only recently passed away.  This woman dutifully rode her bike every day into her 100's.  She had a very regional diet, ate at home three meals a day, drank wine once or twice a day and obviously was very healthy.  She attributes this woman's longevity to staying slim, staying active, never eating fast food, eating locally grown produce, and enjoying life.  A lot of diseases Americans suffer from stem from being overweight.  How much healthier would we be if we could all stay slim our whole lives like the 122 year old woman?

This chapter also contains one of Mireille's "gems":  the 50% solution to portion control.  Basically, the 50% solution employs eating mindfully to control portions.  Say you are at a restaurant and are served a dinner.  Using the 50% solution, mentally divide your dinner in half.  Once you have eaten half, stop and ask yourself, "Have I eaten enough to be satisfied?"  If so, stop eating, if not, look at the remaining portion on your plate and again mentally divide it in half.  When you have eaten that half, again stop and ask yourself, "Have I had enough to be satisfied?"  If you continue to do this, you will never eat the whole portion because you keep dividing it in smaller and smaller halves, each time stopping, reflecting, and asking yourself if you've had enough to be satisfied.  Mireille employs this principle not only with dinners, but with dessert, wine, even a banana.

Mireille also has some advice for the dreaded buffets (I could have used this in college!) to save on overindulging.  First, make a pass by the buffet without your plate and see what is offered.  Next, make a small pass (if it is a breakfast buffet, perhaps some yogurt and fruit).  If you are still hungry, make a small second pass (perhaps for an egg or for oatmeal).  Then, if you are still hungry, make a third pass.  In this way, you must ask yourself each time you get up, "Have I had enough?"  It is a stopping and reflecting point.

Questions to ponder after reading Chapter 1:

1.  How can I utilize stopping points such as the 50% solution or the "pass by" system at buffets?  Am I willing to try it?

Chapter 2:  Au Printemps:  Spring Into Life

Mireille speaks about French women being attuned to the changing of the seasons and being aware not only of culinary changes of the seasons, but changes all around them.  It is in their celebrating of the season that leads them to better enjoy l'art de vivre (the art of living).  She talks wistfully of the first spring flowers of the season and how to arrange small vases of them in our homes to enjoy their color and fragrance.  She also discusses the first bicycle ride she takes of spring and how liberating it is to pedal through the French countryside.  (It is not only liberating, but good for the figure!)

Mireille also speaks in rich detail about spring peas and asparagus, how to enjoy them, mixing them with pasta as a trick to eat less pasta, and gives us quite a few family recipes to try.  (If anyone tries one, please let me know how it is!)

With the end of winter comes the shedding of the heavy wardrobe.  Mireille gives us the fashion tips for spring using neutral colors, clean lines, classic tee's and signature accessories.  She also gives us handy scarf tying tricks to be oh so chic.  Here are three short clips that show Mireille demonstrating some of her scarf tying tricks.  Isn't she so cute?

Mireille ends this chapter with some sample menus for spring.  

Questions to ponder after reading Chapter 2:

1.  Do I take pride in the way I dress?
2.  What sort of image do I project to others?

So, are you ready for your new French week?  Do you have your silk scarf all picked out?  I want reports and reactions from your week of dressing French!

Every Friday in February I will be discussing the book French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano.  Next Friday, in my virtual Parisian bistro, I will be discussing Chapters 3 and 4.  Please join me!  

Don't forget:  If you would like to pre-order the book for my March French Fridays to read along with me, I will be discussing the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink.