Short But Sweet

I’m late in posting this week. It’s been a whirlwind. We’re heading out on a little vacation this week before school starts and there’s always so much to do before leaving the house. This is especially the case when we come back to a school year in full swing. So this trip required a little more organization, so that once we get home we’re ready for the end of summer. So, much like summer, this recipe is short, but sweet. vegan cafe

I had another volunteer day recently. This time it was at the Thanks Jordan Foundation’s Raw Vegan Cafe. The restaurant, as the name suggests, serves all raw vegan cuisine. It’s also run by volunteers. Well, not entirely, there’s an owner, a chef, a teacher, and a few servers, but the rest of the kitchen help is all volunteer-based. The cafe is a non-profit with proceeds going toward cancer research. While I don’t think we’ll be going vegan or raw anytime soon, it was an absolute pleasure to work in the restaurant and I have to admit the food was amazing. I brought several items home and Mike and the kids agreed. They do a fabulous job – particularly with dessert. soaking almonds

And talk about an incredible volunteer opportunity – I got to work in a restaurant! How fun is that?! Not only did I get to help the community, I got to live out a little dream of mine. Even doing dishes was fun – too bad that doesn’t carry over to home. ;) While at the cafe, I had the opportunity to make the raw vegan taco “meat.” I did my best to replicate the recipe at home because after one bite, I was sold. Not only is it healthy and full of protein, but it has an incredible smoky flavor. It starts with almonds which are soaked for a bit. The almonds are then processed until they are crumb-like. chopped almonds

Next up are the carrots – peeled and chopped. carrots

They are then processed until crumb-like as well. chopped carrots

And then the carrots and almonds are mixed together – this creates the texture of the “meat.” carrots and almonds

Next it’s onto the sauce that will give the “meat” its smoky flavor. Again we turn to the food processor (gotta love a one pot meal) where we blend the remaining ingredients – garlic, agave, Tamari (gluten free soy sauce), cumin, fresh oregano, cayenne, chili powder and sun dried tomatoes. sun dried tomatoes and tamari

While processing the sauce, a bit of water is added and blended until smooth, or at least until there are no big chunks hiding in the sauce. taco sauce

The sauce is mixed together with the almond-carrot mixture and voila – you have your taco “meat.” vegan taco meat

We decided to serve some fresh sweet corn with our tacos. Mike took the kids outside for a lesson in shucking (Good thing they learned to shuck before heading to Miss C’s farm to feed the animals!). shucking corn

We seasoned our sweet corn with a mixture of olive oil, shallots and sage before tossing it on the grill. sweet corn

The sage and sweet corn combo is absolutely delicious. I never would have guessed it, but it’s really a good marriage of sweet and savory. shucking the sweet corn

But enough about that, back to the vegan tacos. So you might be wondering how these went over with my carnivorous husband and children. We served the taco meat on organic (albeit not raw) tortillas and topped them with fresh chopped avocado. vegan tacos

Believe it or not, the vegan tacos were a big hit. I’ve already admitted to being a fan of the smoky flavor, so these were 3-1/2 spoons for me. Much to my surprise, they were also 3-1/2 spoons for Mike. So you can be sure these don’t taste like what most meat lovers think of as vegan or raw. This stuff is tasty enough to have Mike ring in a near top mark! raw vegan tacos

The key to this meal (and the others I sampled) is the generous use of various herbs and seasonings. There’s nothing bland about this meal. Even Mr. N was impressed. He came in with 3-1/2 spoons as well. He couldn’t believe that it wasn’t meat. gluten free tacos

Unfortunately Miss A was not as impressed. This meal was a bit too spicy for her. She would have much preferred the raw vegan brownie (which both kids swore tasted just like a homemade brownie). She did enjoy her corn though as well as the fried sage, courtesy of Greg and Katherine over at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide. vegan taco night

Overall, this meal was a success and made for some great lunches the rest of the week. I think we’ll be making it again (with something on the side for Miss A). I never would have expected this much flavor out of raw food, but I guess when it’s done right, just like anything, it can be flavorful and satisfying.

Print this recipe: Vegan Raw Tacos

So for the next week, we’re going to head for some peace and quiet. So if we aren’t frequenting your blogs, you’ll know why. We’re heading somewhere we can cook, read, play and just be – the four of us – before the busy new school year kicks into high gear. You see, this year is going to be especially new for us…Miss A will start her first full day of school and her first full week of school. I’m not sure how I’m going to manage watching my baby get on a bus, but I know she’s ready. Mom’s just not ready. Childhood – another thing that is far too short, but sweet. Fortunately, I have a few more years of childhood with my babies…so here’s to the short and the sweet whether it’s summer, a good meal, childhood, vacations or any of those other things that we love so much. Cheers!

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!

Eggcellent Adventure

After about a year of dating Mike things were getting serious, and we decided to take a big step and spend the holidays together. So on Thanksgiving our plan was to spend the day at his parents’ house. He picked me up at my mom and dad’s and off we went. Little did Mike realize I would be crying for the entire drive. You see this was the first holiday spent away from my family, and for me that was a big deal.

Fast forward 15 years and I was crying again, but this time as we said bon voyage to Mike’s parents. They are now part of my family which is something I’m grateful for every day. Cliff and Marilyn have left their home (which was a few blocks away from ours) and headed for bluer skies and greener grass. Look out Florida – here come Nana and Papa! bye nana and papa

While we are all very excited for them to begin their “excellent adventure” that has been 30 years in the making, we are also very sad that they’ll no longer be one mile away. When we moved back to the Chicago area after our stint in Minnesota, we lived with Mike’s parents while we waited for our house in Winona to sell. Now, I’ll admit to being nervous about moving in with my “in-laws”, but in reality there was nothing to be nervous about at all. They gave us our space, made for great company on the nights Mike was teaching, provided the kids with hours of entertainment, and sent Mike and I out on regular date nights. We really all came together as a family that year, getting to know each other and making a lifetime of memories.

I could go on and on about what Nana and Papa mean to us, but they’re not the mushy sort and they know how we feel. What I will say is that what I am the most grateful for is how my kids have gotten to know their Nana and Papa. It’s truly a gift. And while there are many things the kids will miss dearly about Nana and Papa, if you ask them, tops on their list will be Papa’s breakfasts. Papa’s breakfasts were not fancy, but they were absolutely created for his grandkids – waffles topped with ice cream, chocolate syrup and sometimes a bit of fruit. Only a Papa could get away with that!

So in honor of Nana and Papa’s departure we thought we’d share an equally decadent, but a bit more grown-up breakfast treat. You may remember a few months back, Miss A and I had the opportunity to visit Miss C at the farmy – a trip Miss A is still talking about regularly. One of her favorite memories of the farm (aside from Ton and Boo) was collecting eggs with Miss C. Miss A at the Farmy

Miss C was gracious enough to send the eggs Miss A collected home with us and we knew right away how to put them to good use. With our trip to Canada and New York around the corner (the one we just returned from – is it just me or is time flying this summer!), we figured it was time for a stateside recipe. Did you know that according to one account Eggs Benedict originated in New York City at the Waldorf Hotel in 1894? And did you know that Eggs Benedict is best when made with fresh eggs? Well, we can now attest to that! farmy eggs

We made our Eggs Benedict by poaching Miss C’s farm fresh eggs. poaching an egg

We also used regular bacon since the kids aren’t all that big on Canadian bacon (yet – it will grow on them). frying bacon

Mike worked on our Hollandaise sauce made from the farmy egg yolks. Hollandaise sauce

And Miss A buttered our English muffins. buttering toast

Once assembled, we topped our Eggs Benedict with paprika, chives and a wee bit of truffle salt, because let me tell you – truffle salt and eggs equals ooh la, la to me! There is just something about that combo that brings eggs to a whole new level. Eggs and bacon

Now I had never had Eggs Benedict before and was never really a big egg eater. Aside from the occasional omelette, I rarely eat them. However, this little breakfast delight completely changed everything. Perhaps it was the farm fresh eggs – they really do make a BIG difference in flavor. bacon and eggs

Or perhaps my tastes have changed, or maybe I just know how to cook them a bit more properly now. Whatever it was, thanks to this meal, I’ve been eating poached eggs left and right (and making sure to get eggs on my trip to the farmer’s market). Needless to say this dish got a 4 spoon ranking from me – Mike too! Eggs Benedict

But it wasn’t just my diet that this recipe transformed, even the kids were won over. The same two kids that moaned and groaned whenever we served an egg dish, devoured the Eggs Benedict. Despite even asking for more, they weren’t ready to give it a full 4 spoons and were adamant that it was a 3 spoon dish for them. Well, I’ll take it! That’s certainly progress over the usual, “Ugh! Eggs? I hate eggs!” Hollandaise sauce

The Eggs Benedict was creamy, fresh and full of flavor. While it may not be as kid-friendly as ice cream and waffles, it’s just as rich! It’s definitely not a diet breakfast, but my goodness it is worth every little calorie. I can guarantee I will be making this again sometime soon. Maybe even the next time Nana and Papa come back for a visit (See we’re already trying to entice them to come back soon!) breakfast

Print this recipe: Eggs Benedict
Print this recipe: Hollandaise Sauce

We hope you all enjoyed our little stateside adventure this week. And Nana and Papa – perhaps you can keep your eyes open for some good Florida recipes we can test out. We’ll be back next week to continue our French cooking adventure. It’s becoming our summer in France (don’t I wish!). Until then, I thought I would share a series of photos from the Farmy. This time it’s from the perspective of Miss A, so a bit of a different vantage point.

The farmy through Miss A’s lens:

mommy meets boo

Mommy meets Boo. She likes dogs.

ton

This is Ton Ton. I call him Ton. He liked me.
ton and boo

Boo was silly. He kept trying to take Ton’s frisbee.

Piggies

The pigs were as big as me!

ton again

I like Ton.

chickens

These are the chickens. I got to pick their eggs with Miss C. Then we ate them.

Baker’s Dozen

For those of you new to this blog, our mission is to cook recipes from different countries around the world. We try to stick to traditional recipes or popular recipes for the most part. It’s been a great way for us to try new foods and learn about different cultures. My favorite part about our journey is that the kids are fully involved. They pick the countries, cook with us and of course provide their “spoon ratings” to the dish. It’s been a great experience for all four of us and we’ve learned so much – especially the kids, but us grown-ups too.

But, as you may have noticed, things get a little off-focus in the summer – and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We have birthdays, anniversaries and vacations all of which we celebrate to the fullest. It’s a little taste of our family’s culture and traditions if you will. So this week, I’m putting our vacation post and French recipes on hold because Mike is whisking me away for the weekend. This week we celebrated 13 wonderful years together – a full baker’s dozen. 13 years

Not to worry though, I won’t leave you without a bit of deliciousness. We were fortunate enough to find fresh morels at the farmer’s market this week. Instantly we knew what we were going to make for our anniversary dinner. morels

A morel risotto. We love our risottos and we especially love an earthy, savory risotto. This recipe did not disappoint. fresh morel risotto

It had that umami type flavor – at least for us. The morels are similar to a truffle. They are earthy, meaty, mushroom-y, but slightly sweeter than truffles. risotto

It was just the flavors we were hoping for and made for a fabulous anniversary dinner. morel and shiitake risotto

Needless to say, it was four spoons for both Mike and I. We cooked and served this one after the kids went to bed. :) So, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some fresh morels, take advantage. They certainly live up to the hype and deliver an amazing flavor. fresh morels risotto dinner

Print this recipe: Morel Risotto

But if morels and mushrooms or risottos aren’t your thing, since Mike and I are off to Michigan I thought I’d share a few delicious recipes from the Great Lakes State. Enjoy and see you next week for our regular programming (or regular summer programming anyway).

Cherry Apricot Crisp

Cherry Apricot Crisp

Peach Blueberry Crisp

Peach Blueberry Crisp

Salmon over Spinach with Cherry Sauce

Salmon over Spinach with Cherry Sauce

Cherry Cheesecake

Cherry Cheesecake

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!

Vive Le France!

Hi again! We’re back with our new international cooking destination courtesy of Miss A. Usually when it’s her turn we pull the big Atlas book out and she flips around to find a page she likes – more often than not it involves the color pink. This time the big book was not consulted. She was sure of her pick – France. I asked her if that was really what she wanted, and didn’t she want to look at the big book…nope, France. peeling garlic

Talk about an intimidating choice. I mean French food. It’s among the most revered cuisines around the world, there are many, many phenomenal French cooks, but perhaps most intimidating of all, my family roots can be traced back to the Rhine River area of France and I have not once made a French dish. coatofarms

I didn’t really know about my French history until Mr. N was required to research our heritage for school. We started by consulting the extensive family tree that was fortunate to be in my Grandpa’s possession. If you trace the roots on our branch through many generations we end up at Daniel and Mary Fierre in 1685. After doing a little digging we discovered the following:

Maria Warenbauer [Marie de la Warenbau, Marie de la Warrembere, Mary Warrenbur] was born about 1650 possibly in France. She died 1716 in Pequea Valley, Lancaster (then Chester) County, Penn. Maria married Daniel Feree, a Descendent of Robert Ferree who in 1265 founded noble family at Forchamps known variously as LeFerre, Ferree, Ferrie, Fuchre, Fierre, Firre and Ferie. Daniel was a wealthy silk manufacturer who located at Landau, France, along Rhine River, where some and perhaps all of his six children were born. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 by French King Louis XIV, the family fled to Strasbourg, Alsace. Later, they moved to Steinwiel, Bittingheim. Daniel was born c.1650 in France and died early 1708 in Bittingheim. After the death of her husband, Maria and Matthias Schliermacher led a group of 54 Huguenot and German Calvinists from the Palatinate, where they were in danger from the soldiers of French King Louis XIV, to Holland and then London. Reaching London in the summer of 1708, she went to see William Penn about buying land in Pennsylvania. Penn arranged for her to have a private audience with Queen Anne, who then recommended the members of the group be given naturalization status. Mme. Ferree’s group bought 4,000 acres from Penn in the Pequea Valley in Lancaster County. Ferree family joined party of Rev. Joshua Kocherthal and set sail 10-15-1708 on “The Globe,” arriving in New York 12-31-1708. They then went up Hudson River valley to Esopus (Kingston) and nearby New Paltz, site of a Huguenot settlement where some of the group had relatives, including Maria’s son-in-law, Isaac Lefevre, two of whose uncles, Simon and Andries Lefevre, had been among the founders of New Paltz, N.Y. They stayed there until the spring of 1712 while their Pennsylvania land was being surveyed. That done, they moved to what became Lancaster County.

We even discovered a reunion website and a cemetery. At this point I’m wondering why I’ve never cooked any French food! Better late than never I guess, so we bring you Coq au Vin (Chicken in Wine). bacon

For this particular recipe, we adapted several versions of the dish we found online, all of which were based on Julia Child’s version. We started by crisping a bit of bacon which was then removed and set aside. Next we tossed in the chicken and pearl onions to brown on both sides. We also poured in a touch of Cognac. browning chicken

Once the chicken was browned, it was time to add the Burgundy, chicken stock, garlic and herbs. chicken in wine

Now if we had read Charles’ post before cooking our coq au vin, we would have tied our thyme, rosemary and bay leaves into a little bouquet (or even made a sachet) to make it easier to discard them after cooking. C’est la vie. seasonings

After the chicken cooks in the wine for a bit it is removed, along with the pearl onions and set aside. (This is also the point the herbs are discarded.) Then the mushrooms and bacon are added to the pot and brought to a high heat. After stirring in a bit of flour, the sauce is left to reduce by 3/4’s. mushrooms

Lastly a bit of butter is melted in the sauce and the chicken and onions are once again incorporated. final dish

The final dish was then served to our hungry crowd (the aromas were killing us!). Coq au Vin

Well, I have one word for you – délicieux. The chicken was tender, full of flavor and a total crowd pleaser. Even Mike, who has often said, “It’s good, but it’s just chicken,” gave this recipe the coveted 4 spoons! (So did I.) chicken burgundy

Mr. N and Miss A were both happy with the taste of the chicken and each ate two pieces. The mushrooms were a bit too much for them to get around though. While they have been eating mushrooms hidden in ravioli or other creative dishes, it’s hard to hide the mushrooms in coq au vin. Remarkably they both still came in with a 3 spoon vote. I’d say that’s some good chicken! coq au vin

I wonder if our French ancestors would be proud. We were for our first attempt at la cuisine. In fact I’m certain it won’t be our last French meal in this house! However, before we move on we’ll share the recipe for the side dish we enjoyed with our chicken (and of course the dessert!). French dinner

Until then, if you’d like to try your hand at a delicious French meal print the recipe: Coq au Vin