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Monday, June 15, 2009

My Last Day at the Strasbourg Market

A couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law and her friend visited us in Strasbourg. One of the places I like to take visitors is the bi-weekly outdoor market near our house. Europe's markets never fail to impress friends and family since most of them live in places that don't have this luxury. That day, we ended buying a lunch of sausage, cheese, a baguette and cherries...the best kind of lunch!

The sausage was encrusted in herbes de provence, and had a very fresh sausage smell (aka pork). I wasn't so crazy about it because I'm picky about pork, but everyone else loved it.

And the cherries right now in France are almost irresistible. As the sign says, "Everyone enjoys cherries!"

I bought so many cherries that I ended up making a quick bread with them. (Stay tuned for the results of that one!)

And one of my favorite finds of the day was this strawberry nectar. Who doesn't like a little freshly pressed strawberry juice?! The man selling it suggested we try adding a little water/sparkling water to it, but I liked it as is.

As it turns out this was my last trip to the market in Strasbourg, and I'm really going to miss it, as I will a lot of things about France, but living here has really opened my eyes to cooking with fresh, in-season ingredients, and I'm hoping that I can sustain that when I return to Kentucky in three weeks.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Three Year Old's Dream: Dirt Cake

Although I made a birthday cake for my daughter a few weeks ago, her real birthday was on May 31st, and we were lucky enough to have her aunt and a friend visiting that weekend, so I had them bring some "American" supplies to make a dirt cake. My daughter is obsessed with buckets and sandboxes (since every park has beautifully clean sandboxes, and no European child is without a bucket and shovel) and has a slight addiction to gummy worms. I thought a dirt cake for her 3rd birthday would be perfect. I found this recipe at Dianasaur Dishes, and it turned out great! I cut the recipe in half since there would only be five of us, and it was the perfect amount. The final result was extremely rich, but that didn't stop us from devouring it! (Although my daughter only ended up eating all of the gummy worms off the top...)

Dirt Cake
from Dianasaur Dishes
Serves 6

1 lb. Oreo cookies (just less than 1 package)
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 Tbl powdered sugar
4 oz cream cheese (I used fromage à tartiner here in France.)
1/4 stick butter
1 small package vanilla instant pudding
1 3/4 cups milk
gummy worms

Place the Oreos in a food processor and grind until finely crumbled and looking like dirt (include the cream).

Cream together the butter and cream cheese. In another bowl whip the whipping cream and powdered sugar until thick. In a third bowl, combine vanilla pudding and milk. Mix well for two minutes. Stir the whipped cream into the pudding. Add the butter/cream cheese mixture and stir well.

Layer the cake in your bucket 2-4 hours before serving time. (I did mine the night before, and it turned out fine.) Place 1 1/2 - 2 inches of cookie crumbs in the bottom of the bucket. Then layer the same amount of pudding mixture on top. Continue layering them, leaving room for a layer of crumbs on top. Just before serving, top with crumbs and worms. Serve with a shovel.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Seeing Stars: 6.12.09

So even though I haven't been commenting on your blogs over the last couple of weeks, I wanted you to know that I've been keeping up with them. I promise I'll have more time for the food blogosphere when I get home, but in the meantime, why don't you check out the following sites?

Big Red Kitchen: Robin Sue brings back the memories with her adult-like "Edible Cocktails" (which we all know to be Jell-O shooters). Somehow, unfortunately, her Sangria Edible Cocktail didn't make it to that grad school party I last had shooters at, and they definitely didn't look this pretty!

goodLife {eats}: Now that summer is upon us, we're all in search of light refreshing meals. Check out Katie's Pasta with Green Beans, Feta and Dill for an easy weeknight summer dinner.

And now for some food-related, but not recipe sites:

Food Network Humor: Have you seen this site yet? Am I the only one who doesn't know about it? It's a hilarious blog making fun of our favorite cable channel: The Food Network.

Food & Fizz: This is a relatively new food photo site. Check it out and submit your photos!

VeggieTrader: Do you have a garden, but don't know what to do with all of that extra produce that could feed an army? Check out VeggieTrader, a site that connects people to swap produce within their geographic area.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Packing and On Vacation

As you probably know, we are moving back to the U.S. in less than a month. Before then, we have a trip to Paris, a trip to Normandy, and a trip through Germany and Austria planned. As you can imagine, we're super busy. I had grand plans to keep posting throughout this time and even pre-write some posts so that you don't miss me. ;-) I have some posts planned from previous baking/cooking adventures, but trust me, you don't want to see what we're coming up with to clean out our pantry!

We'll see how the pre-posting pans out--who knows...I might actually get some posts written before our whirlwind tour begins on Friday. But just in case I don't, I'll see y'all Stateside!

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Seeing Stars: 6.5.09

Annie's Eats: Annie has posted her lovely Chicken Gyros this week, and I am definitely running to the store to make these, just as soon as I get back to the U.S. and to my grill!

Citrus and Candy: It's Karen't 100-post anniversary, and she celebrated with her Chocolate Lime Brulee Tart. Go over to congratulate her...and be prepared to drool!

Life's Ambrosia: Des created this lovely Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade that makes me want to sit on the porch and watch the world go by...

Our Life in Food: After living in Spain several years ago, I'm always drawn to Spanish cuisine. I especially love paella, but don't particularly like seafood. Carrie's Tomato Paella with Chorizo fits the Spanish paella bill--lots of flavor and no seafood!

Panini Happy: And finally, Kathy, my Adopt-a-Blogger mentor, has been nominated for the 2009 BlogLuxe Awards for Tastiest Blog. Go over and show her your support!

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Monday Mouthful: Cassoulet

It's now Thursday, and I'm just able to get to the most recent Monday Mouthful challenge, Cassoulet. I was super excited to try this out when ChefE chose it, but the fates were conspiring against me. I had houseguests for ten days, and at first I thought it would be perfect for guests...until I realized that my sister-in-law doesn't like legumes. On Sunday night, I was in a little panic, and finally decided to make a small batch and feed her something else. But then Monday was a holiday here, which means everything is closed. Since then, I just haven't had time to make this. Until today.

I'm so glad I did! I wasn't sure how I'd make it. My husband has been really busy at work, and that means I'm the main caregiver during the day for my three-year-old daughter, which in turn means that I'm not at liberty to make anything that takes a lot of hands-on time. Couple that with the fact that we've eaten a ton of poultry in the last week and a half because the other houseguest didn't eat red meat, and so I wasn't so excited about another dish with poultry.

I consulted marmiton.org, a French recipe site, to see what it had to offer in the ways of cassoulet, and combined several recipes for what you find below. I'm claiming it as mine. I settled for two types of sausages common in France: the chipolata and the saucisson à l'ail (smoked garlic sausage). If you're not in France, both can be subsituted with your favorite smoked and unsmoked sausages. Also, feel free to throw in some duck (which is common in cassoulet) or even some chicken. Mutton is also an option.

This dish is warming and flavorful, and is easily adapted to what you have on hand. It will definitely make my winter-time repertoire!

Mindy's Cassoulet

A little less than 1/2 pound of bacon, cut into matchsticks
Olive oil
1 pound of tomatoes, or 1 14.5 oz can tomato puree
2 small leeks, cut in half and sliced
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 bouquet garni
4 chipolata sausages (or another type of uncooked sausage)
1 smoked garlic sausage (or other type of smoked sausage), sliced
Pepper to taste

In a large heavy pot, cook the bacon in a tiny bit of olive oil until crispy and remove from the pot. While the bacon is cooking, boil water in a small pot. Cut an "X" at the bottom of each tomato and place in the boiling water for one minute. Remove and plunge into cold water. When cool enough to handle, remove the skins, cut into quarters and puree in a food processor or blender. Set aside.

When the bacon is done and removed, add the vegetables and cook for a few minutes until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Add a little oil if it seems dry. Add the reserved bacon, tomato puree, beans, bouquet garni and sausages. Add enough water to almost cover the mixture. Add some pepper and mix.

Cook on low heat for two hours. If it doesn't seem thick enough for you after about 1 1/2 hours, uncover and simmer until thickened. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Lovely Yellow Saffron Chicken

What? Were you expecting a Monday Mouthful entry instead of Saffron chicken? Or maybe you had high expectations and thought you might see the Monday Mouthful entry on Monday?! I'm getting to it...a little later than planned, but in the next couple of days, I promise! In the meantime, head on over to ChefE's Duck Duck Goose Cassoulet or My Carolina Kitchen's Black-Eyed Pea and Chicken Cassoulet and prepare to drool.

I do have a yummy recipe to share while you're waiting breathlessly for my version of cassoulet, though: Saffron Chicken from Giada De Laurentiis' Giada's Kitchen. (I actually think she calls it "Chicken Scaloppine with Saffron Cream Sauce," but I've decided that the title is too long.) You can see below for the recipe, which is pretty tasty, but I think next time I would add some olives to the mix to add a little more flavor to the subtleness of the saffron and cream.

Luckily, I thought the flavors sounded a little Spanish (Saffron will always equal Spain to me), so I bought some small black olives and Quark- and herb-stuffed peppers at a German grocery store to go along with it. It was delicious! So, all in all, this was a good, solid recipe that can withstand some stronger flavors along side or even in the dish itself.

Saffron Chicken
from Giada De Laurentiis' Giada's Kitchen

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound thin chicken cutlets (or chicken breasts pounded thin)
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning meat
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning meat
2 shallots, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional)

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Season the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until golden and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a serving plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the shallots and garlic, and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine is almost evaporated. Add the chicken broth and saffron threads, bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, or until reduced by half. Add the cream, salt, and pepper to the skillet and stir to combine.

Simmer for 1 minute to blend the flavors. Pour the sauce over the chicken. (Or in my case, I slid the chicken back into the sauce to reheat and absorb some of that lovely sauce until my pasta was ready.) Sprinkle with the parsley if desired and serve immediately.
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