Precious Moments

First a brief update – Mr. N’s show is going very well. His performances blow me away – every time. For those of you that don’t know the story of Medea, Medea is betrayed by her husband Jason (of Jason and the Argonauts fame) and she is filled with rage that culminates in the murdering of her two sons. Mr. N is one of those sons. He plays his role spectacularly and makes me wince and tense each and every time he calls out “Mother!” just before he dies.

medea 2

 

I tell you, even though I know it’s not real, it is not an easy thing to watch. It’s an incredibly well-done show that is thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and powerful. He even had his first review printed in a local stage review. The reviewer said of Mr. N and his stage brother, “…deliver performances that are wise beyond their years as Medea’s children.” He is thrilled.

medea

And today we are off to Miss A’s gymnastics performance. She is all a flutter about it. She’s been dressed and ready to go for hours, and has literally been climbing the walls! I’m not kidding. She has learned how to scale a doorway – and not by feet on either side of the frame – but rather by gripping one side of the door frame like a koala and climbing her way up to to the ceiling. It’s a good thing she has a place to go and get this energy out!

Now back to our French adventure. If you guessed that the kids’ favorite French food was crepes you would be correct! We tried a variety of foods from mussels and macaroons, to cheese and of course chocolate (well, them, not me). As you can imagine, everything was delicious and it’s hard to truly pick a favorite, but the one thing the kids kept coming back to again and again, were crepes. They were fast, available everywhere and the toppings were unlimited. So today we bring you French crepes.

Crepe ingredients

We started by blending together flour, milk, water, eggs, sugar and salt. We let the batter sit at room temperature for about an hour before pouring it a bit at a time into our greased and hot skillet.

blended batter

The crepes cooked for about two-minutes on the first side – waiting until you see the edges brown is crucial so as not to flip too early and make a mess. crepes cooking

We sprinkled a little sugar on either sides as the crepes cooked – just as we watched them do in Paris. While we didn’t have all the fancy crepe equipment the creperies do, our skillets worked just fine. browned crepe

Although smaller than the crepes in Paris, we were still able to fill these with similar ingredients. I never realized how easy these are to make and am surprised we’ve never tried them before. I can guarantee we will be making these again. crepes

We filled our crepes with our favorite ingredients from our trip. For Miss A and Mike that would be Nutella and bananas. For Mr. N and I, it was lemon, honey and cinnamon. We threw on a bit of confectioner’s sugar for good measure as well. nutella and banana

The crepes, not surprisingly were a hit. The kids gave them 3-1/2 spoons. Mike and I came in at 3 spoons. They were good, but not quite as good as in the City of Lights. I mean honestly how could they be! But while our kitchen isn’t in Paris, we are sure to be making these again. Perhaps with savory ingredients for the next go-round. lemon and honey

And as promised here are some more images from our time in Paris. Despite only having three full days and cramming quite a bit of sightseeing into the day, we did manage to find time to lounge about in parks, linger over meals, play at parks, picnic and simply be together as a family with no outside interruptions. It was a precious time.

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We’ll be back soon with highlights and recipes from our next European destination. Have a great week!

Paris in Spring

Well, tonight is the big night for Mr. N. Opening Night. He’s been rehearsing non-stop (with the exception of school) for nearly a week. They are ready. He is ready. I am a bundle of nerves and excitement!picture time

So since we haven’t had the opportunity to be in the kitchen in the past month, I thought today I would share some of our pictures from our recent adventure to the City of Lights, our first stop on our spring break vacation. It seems like only yesterday. The pictures still bring back the wonderful moments and memories of our trip. I can feel the emotions all over again. I hope that never goes away. It was a trip to remember – for each of us. father daughter

The kids did a fabulous job on the overnight flight. They managed to catch about four hours of sleep on the plane, an hour in the taxi and then stayed bright and happy for a 15-hour day of sight-seeing and walking about. Since our flight arrived early in the morning and our apartment wasn’t available until the afternoon, to help with our time change adjustment, we planned a day outdoors and moving. We must have walked four or five miles that day. (Of course, drinking cafe au lait and snacking along the way!) Paris Statues

Since this was Mike and the kids’ first trip to Paris, we planned to see a lot of the renowned tourist spots – the Louvre, the Eiffel, a canal tour (as recommended by Charles), Sacré-Coeur, the Champs-Élysées, Notre Dame, a bus tour of the Paris lights at night (which we all slept through as it was at the end of a long first day) and the Arc de Triomphe. As you can well imagine, I took more than one or two photos. So to simplify this post a bit, here’s a slideshow of our sight-seeing adventures.

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We also managed to still have a lot of time for relaxation, dining and playing. I’ll share those pics in our next post along with a recipe for the kids’ favorite food from Paris. Can you guess?

As for highlights from this beautiful city, well, for Miss A it was the sidewalk games along the Seine as well as parks and gardens. I have to say, she was quite taken with this city, even exclaiming at one point, “I am made for Paris!” At the end of the trip she also noted, “I would go to Paris eight more times. I like it A LOT!” (Not nine more times…just eight.)

Mr. N loved Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel and the gardens as well. My ever-cautious boy, he was a bit concerned by all the scam artists, particularly after witnessing one woman who was aggressively grabbed by the folks that tie a bracelet to your arm. She was definitely scared and in a bit of a panic, which really concerned Mr. N. Mike too, as my ever-gallant husband, actually went to her rescue. Scammers aside (which we explained to Mr. N aren’t limited to Paris and tend to target tourist-heavy areas and how it’s nothing to worry about…just use common sense), Mr. N did enjoy Paris immensely and says he’d go back for sure.

Mike and I, well, how do you choose a highlight in Paris?! The gardens, cafes, the blooming trees (especially since we left snow!) and just about everything that makes Paris one of (if not the) greatest cities in the world, it’s impossible to choose. While we only had three full days in this beautiful city, we have no regrets. We did and saw everything we had hoped and had a glorious time doing it. We are so grateful for having had this opportunity and we won’t soon forget it. Paris at Night

Lentils du Puy and the Archbishop of Canterbury

Well, we have finally reached the end of our French cooking adventure. It’s been a nice little tour through a bit of our heritage. We started with our coq a vin, dined on some delicious leeks, sampled some lovely sables with a delicate mousse, kicked it up a notch with some ratatouille and of course quieted things down with our souffles. As for our last French recipe, we received a special treat – a tin of French Lentils du Puy from the lovely Eva at kitcheninspirations when we met up in Canada earlier this summer. Lentils du Puy

Lentils du Puy are a highly regarded lentil and hail from the Le Puy region of France. Knowing these were special lentils, we’ve been waiting for just the right recipe to inspire us. Then after finding some tart cherries at the farmer’s market, I knew where we were headed – a Lentil and Seared Scallop Salad with a Cherry-Pom Vinaigrette. The recipe starts with the vinaigrette for which we used the tart cherries, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and a special bottle of pomegranate molasses courtesy of Barb at Profiteroles and Ponytails who you may recall, we also met in Canada. vinaigrette ingredients

We pureed the cherries and a shallot. We then mixed in the vinegars, molasses and some seasonings. After a bit longer in the food processor, we pushed the mixture through a sieve. We mixed the dressing with a bit of oil and placed the vinaigrette into the refrigerator to cool. making dressing

While the vinaigrette chilled we prepared the salad. We used fresh spinach, the lentils (of course!), goat cheese, a few sliced shallots and even a bit of bacon. bacon

Next we seared our scallops using a bit of fleur de sel for that extra French touch. We then served the salad topped with a scallop and a side of the cherry-pom vinaigrette. seared scallop salad

This was a delightful and filling meal. The lentils provided a firm texture and strong flavor which was complemented well by the vinaigrette and goat cheese. Lentils du Puy

I was nervous the strong flavors would overshadow the scallop, but it too worked providing a soft texture and flavor to the meal. It was a definite hit with both Mike and I coming in at a solid 3 spoons. Lentil salad

I was also a bit apprehensive about how this meal would go over with the kids. Well, as you can probably guess, we had mixed reviews. Miss A, not a big fan of salad just yet, was not too impressed. She liked the lentils and ate her scallop. She even picked out the bacon and cheese. The spinach and dressing were left behind. I suppose she prefers her salads deconstructed. It was 2 spoons for her. Lentil and Seared Scallop Salad with Cherry-Pom Vinaigrette

Mr. N on the other hand was a bit less picky. He ate his whole salad and didn’t complain. He too said it was only 2 spoons; although I suspect if I made this again he would eat it. lentils

This was a flavorful and bright way to serve the lentils, especially in the summer. We enjoyed it so much in fact, that we served it as a side salad (minus the scallop) to Friend Sue and Richard for dinner the following weekend. It went very well with the gluten free meatloaf that Friend Sue made for the evening. Perhaps she’ll let me share the recipe soon. It was a winner for sure! Until then, here’s the recipe for the salad: Lentil and Seared Scallop Salad with Cherry-Pom Vinaigrette

I should mention that if you happen to have several extra cherries lying about after making the vinaigrette, it never hurts to toss them in a crisp with some other fruits hiding in the fridge. We made this Cherry, Blueberry, Peach crisp for dessert that evening. I think you can safely assume this one was 4 spoons all around. Sadly, I don’t have a recipe as I just threw it together for a basic, but delicious crisp. cherry peach blueberry crisp

Well, that successfully concludes our French cooking summer. It’s been a delicious little adventure and it was quite a bit of fun to delve into our own family history. But it’s not all French in our blood. We have quite a bit of English as well, and Mr. N recently channeled his inner Brit to play the Archbishop of Canterbury in a student version of Excalibur. the archbishop

It was his best performance to-date and so much fun for him (and us!). He even developed – and maintained – a quite acceptable British accent. It was a smashing success. His Excellency

Perhaps we should think about revisiting English food as well, but first we have our birthday meal wrap-ups, a stateside adventure and then once school starts we’ll be selecting our new country for the next round of international cooking. I think we’ll be heading back to the Middle East. Enjoy your week everyone! Cheerio and au revoir!

All is Quiet on the Homefront

Well, at least it was for an afternoon. This past Sunday I was part of a group, through my yoga studio, that volunteered to pull weeds in a meditation garden. This wasn’t just any meditation garden either – it was a walking labyrinth. We performed the service in silence and were able to participate in a guided walking mediation following our work. While it was initially quite a daunting challenge for me to think about not speaking for hours on end, I have to admit, it was one of the most peaceful experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. the labyrinth

Now as you can imagine, our house is anything but quiet. But a few weeks ago, I found the perfect way to get the kids to slow down on a restless summer afternoon. We made soufflés. As you may recall, we had just made a delicious Eggs Benedict which required the use of egg yolks. Now since these weren’t just any egg yolks, they were farm fresh, we didn’t want the whites to go to waste; and it just so happens that soufflés fit in nicely with our French cooking adventure. egg whites

As for what kind of soufflé, well this was a no-brainer. We had a lot of fresh raspberries on hand of which we are all fanatics. Now I’m sure you’ve all seen a cartoon or TV show gag somewhere along the line that involves a deflating soufflé due to a loud noise. Well, we told the kids about this as we started to make the soufflés and they were fascinated. I’ve never seen them so quiet – truly.

We started by simply pureeing the raspberries in the blender along with some sugar and a touch of flour. raspberry puree

Next we whipped the egg whites into stiff peaks before adding a bit more sugar and a pinch of salt. stiff peaks

After the whites were whipped, we folded in the raspberry puree. souffle folding

We then filled our butter greased ramekins with the mixture. The recipe makes enough to fill 6 to 8 ramekins depending on the size. pouring souffle

Next we used the back of the spatula to create flat tops for the soufflés. souffle ramekin

And then…it was time for silence. The kids walked slowly through the house so as not to disturb the soufflé as they baked, and for a while they even sat just watching them rise through the oven door. Believe me this is a trick I’m going to remember to use again! The soufflés rose beautifully in the oven, but unfortunately deflated while I was attempting the pictures. deflated souffle

Next time I will have to be quicker! The kids were a bit disappointed that they didn’t stay fluffy, but that didn’t stop them from giving the raspberry soufflés 4 spoons. raspberry souffle ramekin

The soufflés were light and airy and delightfully sweet. Not too bad for our first attempt at this French dessert. Mike and I gave the dish 3 spoons. They were very good, but hard to beat my other favorite raspberry treat…raspberry souffle

Print this recipe: Raspberry Soufflé

Let’s just say I put the leftover raspberry puree to good use. (It helps to have a homemade pie crust on hand in the freezer!) raspberry pie

And a few extra ramekins. This certainly got 4 spoons all around! individual raspberry pie

Low and Slow with a French Twist

Hi everyone! The road warriors have returned. We had a fabulous road trip across more than 1,500 miles. We began with a “five on the clock” as Mr. N would say. Which means we were up and getting ready with a “four on the clock.” Or getting up in the middle of the night as Miss A declared. mini road warriors

The day before and the first day of road trips are my favorite. The packing, the anticipation, the waking up bright and early (the only time I like to wake up early), the excitement, the buzz around the house…it’s exhilarating. road warriors

We had a great time visiting friends (more on that to come), going to museums, amusement parks, wineries and just generally lying low and taking it slow. It was perfection. No phones, no emails (at least as they pertained to work) and no texts. How often does that get to happen?! Certainly not often enough. first dinner

It was pure family time and pure fun. The kids have gotten older since our last road trip this direction, even since our last road trip. As we know, time flies. Miss A is certainly going through a new developmental stage and Mr. N literally aged on this trip (more on that to come). family dinner

But before I get to those fun little tidbits and while I get all our vacation pictures organized, we thought we’d share another French recipe with you all. Can you tell we’re enjoying our little foray into French cuisine! Well, who wouldn’t?! So like our trip, this recipe is one that you’ll want to cook low and slow. It’s a slow cooker twist on a traditional French Provençal vegetable stew – Ratatouille. eggplant

I believe we adapted the recipe from a Better Homes and Gardens dish, but truthfully I don’t remember and I can’t find the recipe that I used. It came on vacation with us (as I had intended to post this while we were away), but it either didn’t make it home or it’s lost somewhere in a suitcase. In any case, we used traditional ratatouille veggies – eggplant, onion, tomato, pepper (we chose red) and zucchini. ratatouille veggies

Along with our veggies we used garlic, tomato sauce, salt and pepper, oregano and herbs de Provence. seasonings

Everything was simply tossed into the slow cooker and set on low to cook for 5 hours. slow cooking ratatouille

All told, the only real time you spend cooking this dish is the time it takes you to chop the veggies. Not to mention there’s only one pot to clean at the end! This is my kind of weekday meal for sure.

Now there are many ways to serve ratatouille. It can be a served as a side dish or a main course. It can be served over rice, bread or pasta. It can even be served on its own as a stew. ratatouille

The veggies will shine regardless of how you serve the dish. As for us, we wanted a little protein with the meal, so we served ours over omelets. omelets with ratatouille

It was a fresh, flavorful and rather healthy meal. Mike and I both feel omelets are a great way to load up on veggies. health dinner

I gave the slow cooker ratatouille 3 spoons. As many of you know, I’m a picky veggie eater, but I’ll gladly eat them this way and feel good about it. Mike, however, would have preferred the ratatouille over rice. He enjoyed the stew, but felt it really needed a carb to go along with it. So he only rings in at 2-1/2 spoons. ratatouille and eggs

As for the kids, well, we let them skip this one. They’ve tried enough dishes to know they don’t like eggplant, peppers or tomatoes…yet. I’m still holding out hope they’ll develop a liking for them though, but for now it’s a bit hard to hide the veggies in the ratatouille. They did enjoy watching the movie, Ratatouille, on vacation though. I suppose that counts for something. ;)

Print this recipe: Slow Cooker Ratatouille

We’ll be back next week with our vacation highlights and then onto a few more fun recipes, followed by our traditional summer celebrations. Have a great week everyone!

Spoiler Alert: Miss A has become obsessed with farms and farm life.

Spoiler Alert: Miss A has become obsessed with farms and farm life.

Spoiler Alert: One (or two) of those celebrations might involve a birthday!

Spoiler Alert: One (or two) of those celebrations might involve a birthday!

Fake Trophies

Whew! What a week. We made it through the end of the school year insanity. Miss A has successfully finished preschool and next year will be a full-time kindergartener (I get teary just thinking about it.). And Mr. N is off to 4th grade; although rather reluctantly as he will very much miss his teacher from this year. I have a feeling she will be one of those that he will remember his whole life.

Then this weekend we had yet another performance. This time it was Miss A’s turn. star spangled

She completed another year of gymnastics (she’s been in for a few years now) and this year she got to perform in the program’s version of the “Olympics.” strong girl

She was so excited for her big day. Nana and Papa came, as did Grammie and Boom Boom (my dad as he’s referred to by the kids) and my aunt and cousin (who Miss A adores) came to see her big day. She was a regular ham for the audience as she waited her turn (apparently a flare for the dramatic runs in the family)…little ham

And then it was utter focus and determination. Running

She even made it up to the ceiling on her rope climb which ceases to amaze me. Rope climber

It was such a fun afternoon and Miss A was so happy. Although she was quite concerned that her trophy was “fake.” I think she was expecting a real gold medal. The plastic variety was rather a disappointment. Ha! trophy winner

And there’s no rest for the weary. This week we have summer activities starting and then we’re preparing for a bit of fun. Why is it that fun always requires so much preparation? Ah well, that’s why we have tasty desserts to get us through and make up for “fake” trophies. So this week we bring you a few French dessert treats – Sables (butter cookies) and Mousse au Citron (lemon mousse). We’ll leave the French chocolate delicacies to the masters – and those that like chocolate. ;) lemon curd

We borrowed our recipes from Joy of Baking and Saveur and didn’t really deviate. The only real difference was in the shape of our sables. From what we read, and if you are an authority on the matter feel free to tell us otherwise, traditional sables have a fluted edge and are circular. Ours, however, are not fluted, nor are they circular. lemon mousse making

Both recipes are very easy to follow. The biggest thing to remember is to have enough time set aside to chill your lemon curd. We made our cookies while the curd was in the fridge. sifting flour

Ah yes, and the cookie dough must have time to chill as well. Really that is the only time consuming aspect of these two desserts. lemon curd and egg whites

How do you like our shapes? You may recall the dragon fly from our adventure with Mongolian cookies. cookie shapes

We served ours together and the butter cookies went nicely with the tangy lemon mousse. They can also easily be served separately. The kids enjoyed eating the cookies throughout the week. And look who tried to sneak into the photo shoot! Another ham for the camera? Or just after some of that creamy decadence!mousse and cookies

As for how they ranked? Well, the sables were right on the mark. They are exactly as you imagine butter cookies. The kids enjoyed them more than Mike and I though. We prefer a chewier and softer cookie. Mr. N and Miss A ranked them 3 spoons and 9 spoons, respectively. Mike gave them a 3 spoon vote because he thought they were perfectly executed. I gave them 2-1/2 because while good, they just aren’t my kind of cookie. Sables

The mousse, which shouldn’t be a surprise given our obsession with lemon bars, went over much better across the board. The mousse is wonderfully tart and full of fresh lemon flavor. It is, however, a heart attack in a cup, so we didn’t eat very much. Just enough to know we loved it! Mike ranked it at 3-1/2 spoons, Mr. N and I gave it the full 4 spoon vote and Miss A, returning to our normal scale gave it 3 spoons. She liked the cookies better – and at least these weren’t fake! mousse au citron

Now don’t worry, these desserts don’t end our French cuisine adventure. We have a few more recipes in store, but we may bounce around a bit first. Until then, should you want the recipes here you are: Mousse au Citron and Sables. We’ll be back next week with a simple, but delicious treat. Have a great week everyone! Lemon Mouse and butter cookies