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

Thyme for Leeks

Happy Memorial Day to our U.S. friends. Isn’t it glorious not to have to work today! Mike, the kids and I are certainly enjoying it – even despite our dismal weather. In fact, Mike has had the smoker going since the wee hours. If that smokey aroma can’t lift your spirits I don’t know what will!

So while Mike tends to the smoker, it’s back to French recipes. Today we’re going to share with you the recipe for roasted leeks which we prepared to go with our coq au vin. Prior to making this recipe we had only used leeks in preparing soups and risottos. We had never made a dish that featured the veggie front and center, and we were eager to taste the results (Well, at least Mike and I were eager – they are veggies after all.).

First we sliced the leeks lengthwise, rinsed them down and gave them a bath. They are dirty little buggers, so don’t skip this step. leek bath

After they were good and clean, we placed them cut-side down in two small baking dishes, then tucked some fresh thyme sprigs throughout the dish. leeks and thyme

Next we whisked together some olive oil, Sauvignon Blanc and water with a touch of Fleur de Sel (sea salt). We were fortunate to have some authentic French sea salt from Anneli who lives in France and cooks some amazing French dishes over at Delicieux. The salt was our surprise gift in last year’s Secret Santa hosted by Charles at Five Euro Food (who also lives in France and has some great French recipes on his blog). fleur de sil

After whisking the wine and oil we poured it over the leeks and tossed on some minced garlic for good measure. garlic leeks

We then covered the leeks with foil and roasted them in the oven for 45 minutes at 375F. In the meantime, Mike and Miss A sliced some French baguette for us which we brushed with olive oil and toasted in the oven for about 10 minutes (with the leeks). French baguette

After the leeks finished roasting (and were tender to pierce with a fork), we tossed them in the broiler to brown for 2 to 3 minutes, watching them closely. Once done, we removed them from the oven and dusted them with Parmesan. Braised Leeks

To serve the roasted leeks we placed them on the slices of toasted baguette and drizzled a delightful dressing over the top. The dressing was a simple mixture of olive oil, Champagne vinegar, garlic, mustard, honey, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

As many of you know, I’m rather picky when it comes to vegetables. So when I say that I really enjoyed these, that’s saying something for a veggie dish. I gave them a solid 3 spoons. Mike liked them too, but being a less picky veggie eater than myself, he said he would have preferred asparagus and only gave them two spoons. leeks with garlic and parmesan

The leeks were sweet and tender, and they were absolutely delightful on the toast with the dressing. The toast brought some texture and the dressing, combined with the seasonings from the leeks made for that salty sweet combo. My feelings aside, they still tasted like vegetables, so they were not a hit with the kids. Miss A ranked them at 1 spoon and Mr. N at 0 spoons. They did eat the toasts up though. roasted leeks

As we mentioned, we served our leeks with our coq au vin for a deliciously French dinner. French dinner

Since we often feature these dishes and meals in an appetizing little set-up, today I thought you might enjoy a more authentic view this time. Our actual table is a bit less fancy than the photos (but no less delicious – most of the time). family table

And speaking of views, we’re going to join in Miss C’s backyard photo challenge. It has been so much fun to see the different backyard views from around the world. So here’s our little suburban backyard: backyard living

As much as I detest the suburbs, I do love our backyard space (and our neighbors!). This little area under our magnolia tree becomes our living room in the summer. On weekdays I often bring my work outside; and on the weekends, we play outside, read outside, get together with the neighbors for impromptu BBQ’s, and definitely eat outside. It’s by far the best part of our house. summer living room

Incidentally, Miss A and I also had the opportunity to visit Miss C’s backyard, and what a backyard it is! We had such a wonderful day and Miss A (and I) made some memories that will last a lifetime. We’ll share more on our visit to Farmy in a few weeks. Until then, we’re going to spend a few more weeks in France (well at least cooking from France) since we learned it’s such an integral part of our history. Besides, who wouldn’t want to stay in France! Yum! Cheers and enjoy the week. (Miss A certainly enjoyed playing with Ton Ton!)Miss C's backyard

Print this recipe: Roasted Leeks