Carrots Vichy, carottes vichy

Come discover how to prepare a lovely, sweet and bright side accompaniment to any grilled meat, fish or sautéed seafood...carrots vichy...carottes vichy at www.annecuisine.com



Ta-Da! I'm now on www.annecuisine.com

you can find all my recipes, articles and regular updates at one easy address:


All visitors welcome! Come find great recipes and a good laugh.

I look forward to seeing you soon!


Magret de Canard à la Framboise -Margret de Duck with Rapsberries

Discover a lovely dish using raspberries and duck!


Warm Winter Fruit Salad -Feta Fennel Cake

Bonjour! Come find my latest recipes for Warm Winter Fruit Salad and Feta-Fennel Cake at my new blog: www.annecuisine.typepad.com


Tarte Tatin, Carmelized Apple Pie

Read my latest Entry on www.annecuisine.typepad.com all about succulent baked apples in a caramelized apple pie... tarte tatin!


Pork Roast Bonne Femme

Pork Roast Bonne Femme
rôti de porc bonne femme

Originally, I wrote: There are dozens of ways to prepare a pork roast in traditional French cooking. The expression “bonne femme” follows many classic dishes in France. The literal translation of “bonne femme” means... keep reading at www.annecuisine.typepad.com

Find all my latest entries and recipes at: www.annecuisine.typepad.com


Tuna or Salmon Cakes


Fish Cakes, Mission Accomplished

Yes, I finally got up the gumption to make these babies. And talk about easy! I mean like e*a*s*y!
Keep Reading... On my new blog: www.annecuisine.typepad.com


Celery and Potato Soup

I stumbled on this recipe and article that I wrote for the Gazette in 2001. It's a fitting article for this time of year because
1. it's almost March
2. it's still good soup season
3. I read in my supermarket magazine that it's still prime season for celery. ( I bet you didn't know that. I sure didn't).
Bon Appétit & Bon Weekend!

My new Blog is at: www.annecuisine.typepad.com


A Little Bit More About the Author

A Little Bit More About the Author
I know that up until now, you have not learnt very much about me, Anne, the author of this blog (and the Blogger blog!). I feel it's important to know more about the person 'behind the name'. so I've added to my About me page and in the category, Background ( a little history). I'll be adding to that in the future.

If you have not figured it out by now, I'm an American who grew up in WV, a wonderful and beautiful state but not the culinary Mecca of the world (unless you are looking for Ramps recipes, seriouly, I'm not kidding). I learned to cook absolutely everything after having moved to France (well, expect for chocolate chip cookies!). I learnt from the best, real French people, namely my husband (for a very short period of time) and since then from French women, namely my mother-in-law, my husband's paternal grandmother and various female (and male chef) friends and a cookbook by a famous French female cook: Françoise Bernard.


Decisions, Decisions

I made a list of meals we were to have for dinner this week and so far, I've not kept to that list at all! This is typical of me. Last night I was 'supposed' to try out a new recipe for fish or crab cakes. I saw this recipe in a fish cookbook last week and it gave me a craving for them... this was on Saturday.
I was going to make them on Monday but I opened up the recipe at 11:52 am (typical me) and saw that I had to let the mix 'set' for a couple of hours in the fridge. (Here my girlfriend and house guest, Alison, just laughed.)
I thought well, that's OK; I'll make them before going to work later in the week. (This week I work afternoons, so I have the time in the morning, right?) Wrong.

Keep Reading, click here...



I will continue to post in both over the next month!

click to see the new blog.


Leeks, a leeky subject

Yes, another previously written article back in the days of writing for the Charleston, WV Gazette... 2002.

Leeks, what would a French winter be like without them? A long and lonely one! Bon Lecture and I've added TWO recipes for your cooking enjoyment.

Leeky Subject
By – Anne Dessens for the Charleston Gazette, 2002

‘What’s a leek?’ you might ask. Good question. It was one that I asked myself many years ago when I first came to France.
But my question was worded in French. What is a poireau? Well, as you know poireau is French for leek. Now that we’ve learned our vocabulary, what is it?
A vegetable for one thing. I had never seen or heard of a leek before popping over to France where this vegetable is used regularly.
Leeks are part of the onion family. In fact, it resembles a large green onion. It’s milder than an onion and doesn’t breakdown as much when cooked as does an onion.
So, if you like onions but have never tried a leek. Then, you have some trying to do.
Once I discovered leeks, I began cooking them all the time. My enchantment with the vegetable has taken on realistic proportions. But now that it’s leek season, my love for the vegetable is back.
Yes, leeks are a fall vegetable. You can purchase them almost year round but the best ones (the ones during peak season) are slim and long. The fatter they are, the stronger and more bitter they are.
Below is a classic French recipe for leek pie (tarte aux poireaux) and leek and potato soup. These recipes are commonly seen on the French dinner table between October and March. They are wonderful French home cooking recipes that I just had to pass on to you readers.
Leeks are wonderful gently sautéed in olive oil or butter. Gently sauté them for 20-25 on medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid sticking. Salt and pepper to taste and serve along side any meat or fish.
The French refer to this as fondu de poireau (leek fondu because the leeks are cooked until they are almost melted-fondu).
You can add some sour cream at the end of the cooking time for a little sauce to go with your meat. This is as good with grilled chicken (or chicken cooked with the leeks is another option) as with salmon steaks. It’s probably the best way to try leeks for the first time.
To clean these mamas, cut off the stringy end; remove any brown or dried green leaves or tips; slice down middle and run under cold water to remove any sand or dirt. Chop and slice as desired.

Tarte aux Poireaux - Leek Pie

Leek Pie
Similar to onion pie, the leeks are gently sauté until tender and soft before cooking in the pie.

1 ready made pie crust
2 lb. leeks (5-6 medium leeks)
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, extra virgin
2 eggs or 4 egg whites
½ cup milk, any kind
¾ cup grated Swiss or other mild, white cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large skillet, sauté leeks in olive oil for 20-25 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

While leeks are cooking, combine eggs, milk cheese, salt and pepper; Whisk together until smooth. Set aside.

When leeks are ready, spread pie crust out in pie dish, add leeks, pour egg mixture overtop and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Let cool slightly before serving.

Potage Parmentier or Potato and Leek Soup

Leek and Potato Soup
A French classic! (Known to the Julia Child readers as Potage Parmentier!)

1 lb. Leeks (3 medium leeks)
4 medium potatoes (peeling optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 bouillon cube (flavor of your choice)
6 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare leeks by cutting off stingy tips; removing any dried or brown leaves; slice down middle and run under cold water to remove any dirt. Slice into rounds. Chop potatoes.

In large soup pot with lid, heat olive oil and garlic on medium, add leeks and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking; add potatoes, water, bouillon cube and salt. Bring to boil; cover; reduce heat back to medium; simmer 15-20 minutes.

Note: if leeks are a bit tough, sauté an extra 5 minutes and simmer soup another 10.
Some people run this soup through blender. You can run part of soup through blender for extra thickness, leaving in some of the chunks, or purée soup completely (you may need to strain if leeks are old and stringy) or serve as is.


Gâteau à l'orange ou au citron, Orange or lemon Cake Part II

You can have your cake and time to eat it too
By – Anne Dessens - from the Charleston Gazette 2002

You can have your cake and time to eat it too. All in about 35 minutes. Here are two easy cake recipes that I throw together when I have company drop by unexpectedly; when I need to turn something in for a bake sale or just feel like having something sweet and uncomplicated for dessert.
These two cakes, gâteau à l’orange (orange cake) and gâteau au citron (lemon cake) are the same cake with their only difference being either a juiced orange or a juiced lemon. You’ll need real juice for these cakes so get out your citrus juicer.
These cakes are noting fancy. Cream your basic flour, sugar, eggs, butter and rising agents together; add some fresh juice and bake. Add anther juiced citrus for a moist and delicious dessert.
They can be dressing up with a meringue top by simply beating egg whites stiff with a pinch of salt and some sugar. Spread the meringue mixture over top the baked cake and bake again in order for the meringue to set.
The à la mode so popular in the US but unknown in France is also an excellent serving suggestion. A good vanilla ice cream goes down smooth with the lemon version while a good dark chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce transforms the orange version.
These spongy cake gets thirsty so, if you reserve this delicate delight a second or third time, don’t forget to add the juice or anther orange or lemon before serving; otherwise, it will be kind of dry.
The five minute preparation time makes these cakes really sweet for the cook. 30 minutes in a nice warm oven does wonders to the batter. Add to a buffet, picnic or snack counter for positive results. Who doesn’t need another easy dessert recipe?

Easy Lemon Cake

¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 stick butter or margarine, softened
juice from 2 lemons + juice from 1
zest from one lemon
powdered sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 325°.
Mix dry ingredients in bowl and set aside. In food processor or beater combine eggs, sugar butter, juice from 2 lemons and lemon zest. Mix well. Add dry ingredients to wet and pulse until forms smooth batter.

Pour into greased 9 inch cake or pie pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and edges start to pull away from sides. Remove from oven. Let cook slightly. Pour remaining juice from lemon over top.

Serve warm or room temperature. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving if desired.

Easy Orange Cake

¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 stick butter or margarine, softened
juice from 2 oranges
zest from one orange
powdered sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 325°.
Mix dry ingredients in bowl and set aside. In food processor or beater combine eggs, sugar butter, juice from 1 orange and orange zest. Mix well. Add dry ingredients to wet and pulse until forms smooth batter.

Pour into greased 9 inch cake or pie pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and edges start to pull away from sides. Remove from oven. Let cook slightly. Pour remaining juice from orange over top.

Serve warm or room temperature. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving if desired.

Gâteau à l'Orange -Orange cake, Part I

The first time I tasted this cake was when my then future husband made this cake for a dinner partying he was having at his house. It was our second meeting, no at all a date because there were 10 other people there, including my college friends who were studying with me in Tours back in 1993.

Actually he made both cakes, one lemon and one orange. When you see the recipe, you'll understand what a piece of cake it really is.

Several years ago, I wrote an article on it for the Charleston Gazette. That original article is what follows.

Yesterday, after serving the sourest clémentines for dessert, I decided that the best way to finish up the remaining kg of them that I had (that's 2.2 lb!) was to double up the orange cake recipe. My in-laws were coming for coffee, picking up our daughter and taking her for a few days. Remember, my girlfriend (I mean blog mentor) was here with her two children (that's a total of 4 hungry, walking stomachs) plus us adults. Wanting to be the 'hostess with the mostess' I thought, "Hey great, I serve the cake with the coffee and take care of the children's sacred goûter" -afternoon snack.

While the coffee was brewing, I juiced all the clémentines; Alison zested the remaining orange (I kind of forgot the zesting of one clémentine so she had to resort to finding the least saddest shriveled up orange in the basket!). I pulled out my robot (food processor) and asked her to hit me with the flour... uh.. Houston we've got a problem.

No flour left.

Uhg. So I chuckd the idea of doing the cake with the coffee. (Of course they arrived literally 2 minutes later so it wasn't going to be one of those "hostess with the mostess" moments!)

No problem. We'll go to the store later and get some more flour.

A few hours later we set off for the store, small grocery list in hand. You know the kind your write on a post it and stick to your cart handle. It literally had 5 items listed on it. It was missing the flour. But Alison remembered and as I walked by the butter section, I hestitated. Do I need butter? No. I am fine on butter. Got a whole tub of it in the fridge. I moved on.

We got home, I pulled out the recipe and noticed I needed 2/3 stick of butter (130 g?). I looked at my tub of butter along with Alison and we decided that yes, I had approximately that much.

"Yeah, but I've juiced enough clémentines for THREE cakes!"

Fine. I'm tired. It's been a great weekend but I no longer feel like cooking. I feel like curling up on the couch under a blanket and read my book until I fall asleep. Tomorrow I have to work. All. Day.

The cake will have to wait. Now what do I do with all that juice?


A Sixties Meal... A la UK

Wednesday night were invited round for tea at our English neighbour’s house. Here on holiday for a week long break between teaching terms, our English neighbours make plenty of trips during the year to our ‘neck of the woods’.

I digress. It’s great having English-speaking neighbours, for moi that is. It’s excellent of course of the children, practicing their English when French surrounds them. It’s a perfect opportunity for my husband to also practice his English, which he speaks very well, (thanks to marrying moi!). Usually he doesn’t speak to me in English (well…ever!)

With the English being a bonus and a little mix of, ‘we hit it right off from the beginning’ means that we try to see as much of each other while they are here. Translation: cramming several meals into one week. Since we never have a dull moment, and having known each other for 8 years, we look forward to their arrival and it inspires my creative cooking juices.

Return from digression. So, we were invited round for tea. Now this wasn’t to drink hot tea with lemon sticking our little pinkie fingers out as we sipped. No, being invited around for tea by Yorkshires means that we’ve been invited for dinner. Ah, better.

They had decided to try out a lovely recipe from Delia Smith’s Fish Cookery Book: Luxury Fish Pie with Rosti*. Hmm, sounded delicious. But upon our arrival they announced that unable to find the correct ingredients in French (they had to translate from English to French), they had to make another dish, veggie lasagne (my personal favourite by them.). You see, I am not good at lasagne so it’s always a treat to eat it chez les autres, at other people’s houses.

Their theme had been a ‘60ies meal and minus the luxury pie, that is exactly what we had: Prawn Cocktail, Veggie Lasagne with garlic bread and Banana Splits for dessert. It was a lovely meal. Without further ado, I give you the photos to enjoy them meal with thy eyes.
*Since they couldn't find the correct ingredients for the pie whilst out doing the shopping, I agreed to make the pie for them on Friday night when Alison and kids came for the weekend. Luxury Fish Pie Story to be Continued...


Yes! With my Blogging mentor, I'm moving on to a better blogging service, Typepad. While we've got the BlogRolling thing going, we haven't been able to work out (correctly) how to import all my archives from Blogger to Typepad. But it's a start.

We're still working on things like design, colors, banners and categories. (Yes, I'm finally going to be able to have food categories for easy referencing. *Yippy!*)

As soon as it's more presentable, I'll send you the link. I'll be posting in both places, so you can follow me whereever.

So, if you don't see me here, it's because I'm on my other blog!

Patience mes enfants....


Appetizer with Goat Cheese and Pear Jam Dip

Here is the post I wanted to do on Thursday but Blogger was not opening up for moi. Is it just me, or is it Blogger? I suppose since it's free, I shouldn't complain. You get what you pay for, right?

OK, enough of cyber complaining. On to the food.

This is a nice appetizer for the start of the weekend! These two recipes were born from a need to use the products I sell through my business, Esprit de France Gourmet. Check it out if you'd like. Substitute as you see fit. In any case...Bon Appetit.

Herbed Goat Cheese Apéritif
By –Anne Dessens

Again, this is another recipes that brings out the unique flavor of the fennel in our Croque au Sel “Poisson” sea salt.

4 oz. Goat cheese, semi-moist
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Croque au Sel “Poisson” sea salt
3 Tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
3 Tablespoons freshly chopped chives
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 Tablespoon Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Mash chesses together with garlic and salt. Stir in herbs and chill 10-15 minutes before rolling into bite-size balls. Place on platter. Serve chilled with Sweet and Savory Pear Dip.

Sweet and Savory Pear Dip
By –Anne Dessens

2 Tablespoons Vergers de Gascogne Pear Jam
½ teaspoon Croque au sel « Poisson » sea salt
juice from ½ a lemon

Combine ingredients together in a microwaveable dish; chill until ready to use. Microwave for 45 seconds or until jam bubbles.

Serve warm accompanied with Herbed Goat Cheese Apéritif, Feta-Fennel Cake (to be blogged) or Toast Pork Bonne Femme (to be blogged). For Pork Roast, double recipe and pour over roast 10 minutes before the end of cooking time (glazed effect).


Blogging Blues, Highs and Lows

Yesterday, I prepared a nice food entry with recipe and art. The entry was typed in Word, saved and spell checked (grammar left to the wild but an improvement for moi!). Picture located and ready for uploading... We were invited to our English neighbor's last night for a meal (you know at teatime!).

With the husband and children standing at the door, ready to go (and the dog though she wasn't going anywhere), I begged tehm for just 30 seconds to post my entry. I type in www.blogger.com and I time out. Site not responding. ... UHG!!!! No way to access my blog. *sniffle*sniffle*

Blogging is a dangerous sport. It's addicting and theraputic at the same time. A very bad combination in my book because at one end you can't help but want to blog -that need to express yourself- and at the other end you would rather pass up on a good movie or special time with friends and family to blog-- kind of anti-social. But you don't care because you'd rather be blogging.

You can't really break away from it. You can't run it like a day job because you think about it incessantly. You've always got a half-written entry (on-going) in your mind. YOu can't wait to get to the computer to post a new entry. You know you'd rather be blogging.

Then real life sets in.

Jobs, kids, meals and husband get in the way. Do you sacrifice your job? A tête-à-tête with the love of your life or do you throw sleep to the underachievers?

I don't know.

But what I do know is that this blogger 'incident' is not my first and nor will it be my last. Take for example the fact that I've been trying to get a BlogRolling list going for two months without sucess! Blogger just won't post mine. (so if you are looking for a link on my blog to yours, and don't see it, it's not because I don't want to link to you, it's Blogger pretending to post it!)

Granted I've less talent with the computer and Internet than with a 1/2 dozen eggs and some leftovers, but still they make all that stuff 'Idiot Friendly'. I don't know.

I know I need to switch. I need to move on to something like Typepad. My blogging mentor is coming tomorrow. She'll have a lot on her plate this weekend.

Until then, I'll have to try and post early in the day.

That was the bad news. The good news (pour moi) is that my daughter running a significant fever, I don't have to work today. *Yippy* So what have I planned for the day?

Guess. Go on I dare you! You know Id'd rather be blogging.



The Ultimate Dipper

You must get past the notion that endives are only for salads and braising. This is a false misconception. They make an excellent party companion! You can replace those fattening chips, tortillas and “club” crackers (biscuits!) with crispy endive leaves.

They work well for dipping in saucy concoctions. They serve up great with some filling, little barquettes (mini flat bed boats). They make perfect “scoopers” for the ‘meaty’ dips. They can take on hot or cold accompaniments. Since they don’t wilt easily, you can prepare them well in advance, cover with plastic wrap then let them chill out.

Women will love you for serving something so low-carb and calorie friendly with drinks before dinner Men, I don’t think would really care as long as they are loaded with something hearty. *ha-ha*

Finally, they are a winter vegetable and e a welcome change to heavier dipping accessories in winter.

A few tips:
Peel off leaves outside to inside, removing the bottom with a knife.
If your endives is rather large, cut it in two through the center and serve both ends of the leaves.
Choose small endives whenever possible; the smaller, the less bitter.

Next on the Menu, a wicked 3-Cheese Dip that you can slather down the middle of these dippers, on crackers or celery.


Vivre the month of February!

I love the month of February.

Yes, for most of you it's a depressing time of the year. It's winter, it's cold, the ground hog signals 6 more weeks of winter (ugh!). At least there is Valentine's Day. Flowers, chocolate, gifts and a night en tête-à-tête! Cozy!

But Februrary in our family is birthday month, feast day's and lover's days, not metnion Crepe month. I know lots of people people who were born in February. That means that if you calculate, all these folks were conceived during the month of May when spring has sprung and renewal of life takes place. Le cercle de la vie.

While we Aquarians have flighty temperments and live the on-going emotional roller coaster, we do have our strong points: we love to color outside the lines, we hate to follow directions and we improvise quite well. Result: a new recipe every day (in my case)!

Anyway, if you are wondering where I've been the past few days it's been in Celebration City. Friday was my hubby's feast day, a lovely excuse to celebrate around a meal (très frnçais); Sunday was my Special Day (that endured the entire day) and of course today is Valentine's Day. Plus the week's not over.

Long Live February I say!


Neuf de Quatre

I done been tagged by Alison and I've been putting this off for over a month. OK. I'll share a little bit more of myself now that I see the pros are doing it.

You'll also notice I'm terrible about sticking to the directions, I used to do this at school; always giving more info than the directions asked for. And to boot, I thought I'd throw in a picture of myself, since I don't have any on my blog (anywhere!)

Four jobs you have had in your life:

*Baker for The Great American Cookie Company
(I'm not counting English Teacher or Translator in France)
*Food Writer for the Charleston, WV Gazette
*Business Enterpreneur (my own start up)
*Collaboratrice (fancy French word for saying that my day job is working in my husband's insurance agency fending off agressive callers and trying to sell them something else!)

Four movies you would watch over and over:
tough one for me. I kind of like to watch a movie then move on...

*All the Harry Potter Movies (1-4)
*When Harry Met Sally
*National Lampoon's movies with Chevy Chase (Christmas and European Vacation)
*chick movies in general

Four places you have lived:

Yikes! I grew up in one city, then got married and lived in another...

*Charlestson, WV (childhood)
*Athens, OH (college)
*La Rochelle, France (glory years)
*Rural, France (real life)

Four TV shows you love to watch:

*Desparate Housewives

Four places you have been on vacation:

*Switzerland (that's for Arnaud!)
*a trip across the USA with the whole family(5 of us!) in a 1979 green station wagon for an entire month, but we saw almost all of the USA
*Sheffield, England
*Pamploma, Spain

Four websites I visit daily :

*my bank account! and my statcounter!*lol* (no I'm not sharing the link here)
*Trapped in Trappes
*La Tartine Gourmande
*Cream Puffs in Venice

Four of my favourite foods:
How do you except a glutton like myself to limit myself to just 4?

*junk food
*French food
(was that too general?)

Ok, one from each (a.k.a. I've never met one of the following I could pass up):

*tortilla chips
*foie gras

Four places I would rather be right now:

*in bed with a good book
*in Australia to see what all the fuss is about
*in Italy living out Under the Tuscan sky but à la cuccina
*in a pub in England saying that I'm knackered

Four bloggers I am tagging:
(any bets on if they'll do it or not?)
geez, toughie, uhm...


Starting the Weekend off on the Right Foot

Throughout the entire weekend at my in-laws house, I spent most of it trying to capture the ambiance on camera. Here is a little walk through of Saturday Night. (Unfortunately, the battery died on my Sunday noon, so I caught a few images, but not all of them. They'll be in the second installment.)

Pink Bubbles. Nothing compares to pink champagne. It's delicate nez and fine bubbles is an elegant toasting companion.

Préfou. A Vendéen tradition, garlic butter and freshly cracked pepper bread. the story behind how it got it's name is that the baker would test the heat of the oven by placing this pre- four (French for oven) flat bread on the edge of the oven. When it was cooked, the oven was hot enough to start baking bread. The flat 'tester' bread was then slathered with butter and garlic and eaten by the baker and his apprentis. Today, the name is just prefou. (Not it's not bread for crazy people).

Toasted in the oven, it's a sinful appetizer. Around where I live, it's also served with the meal like we'd serve garlic bread, though the country-folk around here don't consider it an 'Italian' thing.

Foie Gras fait maison. I love homemade foie gras. It's not difficult but difficult in the way that you cannot sample or taste your foie gras after you've seasoned it. This is where the master chefs distiguish themselves from the amateurs: how salted did you make yours. I have a recipe calling for 7 gr of salt. 7! That's like two sheets of paper. I'm not very metric to begin with, but when you throw in less than measurable amounts, I'm really out of of the game. My metric scale starts at 100 g which is a pittance in the weight department. My husband usually salts our foie gras and stands there holding an enveloppe (weighs 20 g) and the salt granules in the other hand. Comical.

This is my MIL's foie gras that she made for us. Very meaty, and does melt like butt-ahr on you tongue. Little brioche toasts for the accompaniment.


Brie Quiche with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Tarragon

Quiche is to my cooking what meringues are to my mother in law. Yes, we all do a certain thing well, and do it often. Quiche is my staple recipe.

I find that it fits in easily to low-key meals. It’s fine room temperature as it is hot out of the oven. I put all kinds of things in my quiche. This one was inspired by an Ikea cookbook (go figure!) I picked up recently.

After showing it to Alison, she went home and made it herself, then ask me to please blog it! Thanks Alison, you had to wait weeks for this one, n’est-ce pas?

Use really ripe brie for the most flavor. Using a puff pastry instead of classic pie crust is an excellent change of pace to the quiche-regulars. Its light and flaky texture are delightful on the tongue (forget the hips!).

Leftover quiche can be frozen and also reserved as a starter course with salad greens or cut into bite-size pieces and served with drinks before dinner. A lovely way to unwind after a grueling week is to have a glass of crisp white wine (Bourguignon Alligote) wine chilled with bites of this quiche, warmed, a small bowl of garlic green olives, and some slices of smoked salmon with a twist of fresh lemon. Little appéro-dinatoire.

Brie and Sun Dried Tomato Quiche

250 g brie cheese
1 puff pastry pie crust
4 whole sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained
4 eggs
2 cups or ½ liter milk
¼ cup or 125 ml sour cream or crème fraîche
3 tablespoons fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon sea salt or with fennel and herbs

Preheat oven to 375°F or 210°C. Slice tomatoes lengthwise in halves. Slice cheese into 8 slices, lengthwise, set aside.

Whisk together eggs and sour cream, add milk, sea salt, pepper and herbs and continue to whisk. Unroll pie crust and arrange cheese slices in pinwheel fashion from center. Top each cheese slice with a half a dried tomato. Pour egg mixture over cheese and tomatoes and bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let cook slightly before serving.


Chocolate Cherry Chewy Brownies

If you are looking for rich, dark, sweet, chewy chocolate brownies with a sexy twist, then this recipe is for you! I’ve almost completely substituted all the sugar for jam and the effect is a chewy, moist brownie.

Reactions from the peanut gallery? Well, let’s just say that it’s a good thing I got this picture before the children and hubby came home because only crumbs are left. So much for leftovers! Well it’s a good thing because it’s tough to diet with these babies around.

For a crumbly version, bake for an extra 5 minutes. If you want to have leftovers, then wrap and freeze portions. You’re family will thank you because one bite of these brownies will make everyone feel special.

Chocolate Griotte Cherry Brownies
By – Anne Dessens

The mix of chocolate and tangy-tart cherries is an absolute ‘bring the house down’ dessert. That is, if you are lucky to make it past the famous 4 o ‘clock goûter. This makes a rather big batch. It seems that brownie recipes I come across are always for small batches. Personally, I can never keep these on hand, they go too fast, thus the larger recipe.

200 g dark baking chocolate
7.7 oz or 220 gr Vergers de Gascogne cherry jam
140 g butter, softened
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 cup or 250 g flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of fleur de sel sea salt

In a bain marie, melt chocolate in small saucepan over boiling water; add jam and set aside. Soften butter in microwave, beat together with sugar with a hand whisk until creamy smooth.

- Add eggs one by one, beating well after each egg. Sift in flour, add pinch of salt, whisk well. Stir jam and chocolate together then pour into batter. Beat well.

-In a 9 x13 or rather large baking dish, butter all sides, dust with flour. Pour brownie batter into prepared dish and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Note, if you prefer a less ‘gooey’ brownie cook an extra 5 minutes. Let cool slightly before cutting. Can be warmed for 35 seconds in microwave before serving.
Serving ideas: with a cream custard sauce (with or without brandy); with ice cream; with fig crème sauce or with a dusting of powdered sugar.


The Loving Touch

This is picture of what makes going to my mother-in-law's so wonderful. As you see there are three types of "cookies " or "buscuits" here: meringue on top; brownie to the left and shortbread to the right. (A real United Nations picture!).

They are all homemade and available after the dessert. Yes, not only does she make a homemade dessert, she then pulls out at least one of these babies and serves them with the dessert and the coffee. (Yep, everytime.) It's that loving touch: homemade sweets to finish off the meal. Just when you think that there's nothing else, the meal's over, she pulls something like this out of the cupboard. She just always has some on hand.

In reality it's not much. It doesn't take that long to whip up a batch of meringues and let them bake while you go off to do something else (like blog or shoot e-mails back and forth with your girlfriend while sipping the last dredges of your morning coffee that is stale and cold by now).

It's a little extra time that says to guests, "I care." And it always makes you, the guest, feel great. Even for my husband and his sisters, who are used to her doing these little added touches, they still look for and forward to finding these family traditional treats. (OK the brownies were introduced after my arrival in the family and I don't where the shortbread came from.)

You can imagine that my children love going to her house, too, because they'll snoop around looking for some homemade cookies hidden in a cupboard. They know they get to indulge at snacktime while we wait until after the meal. They ask her if they can take some home with them. They come back again and again for another serving.

I've learned (from her) that it's the small things, the little loving touches that make the difference. Some homemade biscuits instead of "store bought" are always a treat. Sure you could say that it would grow old after a while or that we'd get used to it. But we don't, not in a bad way. We don't expect the extra work, we simply savor it each and every time.

Now I've got to get into the kitchen and bake up some of my Chocolate Cherry Brownies for my children's snack after school! check back for this recipe and for Meringue Cookies.


20 More Fillings for Crepes Tonight

As I've repeated several times, crepes can be devoured savory or sweet. If you are looking for some more ideas about how to fill your crepes here are 10 savory and 10 sweet ideas.

Remember, crepes are like sandwiches, so anything goes! Taken from Brittany, a region northwest of Paris where crepes are a tradition, creperies have sprung up all over the country. Crepes are the only thing on the menu and arrive hot off the griddle with the fillings of your choice. Here are some common and not-so-common fillings.
1. Egg (cook an egg on top of the crepe-usually sunny side up style)
2. Egg and ham
3. Egg, ham and grated Swiss cheese
4. Three cheeses (grated Swiss, cheddar and mozzarella)
5. Roquefort cheese, shredded lettuce and walnuts
6. Sautéed onions in sour cream (add 1-2 tablespoons sour cream at the end of cooking)
7. Sautéed mushrooms in sour cream (add 1-2 tablespoons sour cream at the end of cooking)
8. Steamed potatoes in parsley sauce (steam 1 potato/person; dice; add 1 tablespoon butter or margarine + 2tablespoons fresh snipped parsley and salt to taste)
9. Diced feta cheese, diced tomatoes, minced red onion, black olives drizzled with olive oil
10. Cream cheese, fresh chives chopped, freshly cracked pepper
1. Sprinkled with granular sugar
2. Sprinkled with powdered sugar
3. Topped favorite jam: strawberry, apricot, grape, raspberry, orange marmalade…
4. Chocolate sauce (or Nutella)
5. Orange crepe, chocolate sauce, whipped cream
6. Orange Crepe, honey
7. Poached apple, honey
8. Poached pear, chocolate sauce, whipped cream
9. Ice cream of your choice
10. Apple butter


Reflection faite...

After a few moments of thought and a batch of crepes later, a few thoughts that ran errantly through my mind:

1. Always use an extremely HOT skillet! Non-stick and vegetable oil that you spread with a paper towel

2. Crepe number 1 will always be a FAILURE! Expect nothing less.

3. You think you can eat at least a dozen crepes, but with a little filling, 3-4 is a maxie

4. Make sure your batter is really liquid. If the crepes stick to the skillet, then you need a bit of vegetable oil in the batter. If you can't swirl the batter around quickly and easily, then you need a bit more milk (not water!) in the batter (1/4 cup)

5. Nutella is a must when you're preparing dessert crepes. I mean, there is no SUBSTITUTE. Pay the price, reap the rewards.

6. If you can't get cidre, then substitute beer. Or if you don't drink alcohol, use sparkling cider. Serve with the savory and sweet crepes.

7. You will burn your fingertips. You have to use your fingers to flip the crepe (unless you're a professional crepe turner or Breton!) It's one of those suffer for a purpose un mal pour un bien.

8. Want to invite people around for an hour or so but don't want to entertain entirely, then invite them for an afternoon snack of crepes. Make in advance. Serve in one go, and then see them off. Two hours max. (depends on how much coffee you make afterwards).

9. How much filling? Not much, two tablespoons of whatever is enough.

10. What to do with leftovers? ... I have no idea, we've never had any!

I luv Eggs, At Any Meal

Confession : I like Eggs.

Confession Correction : I LUV eggs!

Give them to me scrambled, sunny side up (oh, what do you Brits say for this? !!), over easy, baked, hard boiled, soft boiled, in a quiche, à plat on a hamburger, pizza or crepe (ok that is really French!) or on toast, I love to eat eggs. (And no to you Dr. Seuss readers, I do not like green eggs and ham because Sam I am… NOT!)

Eggs have taken a beating (*LOL*) over the last two decades. First, everyone ate them, several times a week or daily for breakfast. Then they got that bad rep for being the kings of cholesterol. Then they were OKed back to being edible. Then came the low-carb diets glorifying eggs once again.

Frankly, I don’t care. It's not that I don't care about my health, or that of my family's. It's just that the other reasons outweigh the health issues. (Mind you, I don't have them for every meal though the low carb diets telling you to eat only eggs and tomatoes for breakfast have a lovely appeal to myselt... We limit our egg consumption --outside baking-- to 1-2 meals a week).

They’re good, their cheap and our grandparents ate them all the time because they were ready available food. I had 2 of my 4 grandparents live past the age of 90 and the same for my husband’s side of the family. And they have no egg-issues, se what I'm getting at here?

Plus, you can't deny that they're fast! Most egg recipes cook quickly. An omlette is ready in under 10 minutes. Sunny side up eggs only take a few minutes. [Raw, sucked right out of the shell by piercing a hole at either end of the egg is even faster. but quite gross! And a practice I never employ.]

It seems to me that every French cookbook with color art in it, has a picture of this: les oeufs à la coque avec ses mouillettes. [This is where the eggs get me every time.]

Soft boiled eggs with their [butter slathered] dippers. Every time I pass one of these pictures, my mouth starts to water and I think, “Oh, and if we had eggs tonight?”

With a smattering of fleur de sel Sea salt, fresh crusty bread that you’ve toasted and buttered then sliced into finger long dippers, and 3 minutes boiling water: le diner est servi! Husband, children and even the dog are happy diners.

If you want to round out the meal or you're looking for some kind of health-conscious addition to the meal: salad. Any kind. Mixed greens, a Garden veggie or a Greek Salad... Anything works here. Of course that is just one option. Other options are bacon (fried to crisp thank you very much) or hash browns, fried potatoes, American buscuits and gravy (here I'm starting to digress into American breakfast...).

My point is that anything goes with eggs. They are perfect when you want a satifying meal but no hassel in the kitchen. And a message to you Americans, "They aren't just for breakfast!"

Tips: use fresh, fresh eggs.
**The fresher the better. This is not a problem in rural France where your neighbour or the little lady down the road has their own chickens and they’ll sell you some eggs for deux fois rien.
**Bring water to a boil first then add eggs; use a very precise timer. 3 minutes maximum.
**Buy little egg holders or cut them out of the egg container for serving.
**Use European (salted) butter for the mouillettes.
**Use back end of spoon or pointed knife to ‘pierce’ yoke before dipping.
**Don’t forget a pinch of fleur de sel sea salt and a crack of fresh pepper.


La Chandeleur, A brief History

Today, the French will prepare their crepe batter. They'll uncork a bottle of ‘cidre’, a slightly tangy alcoholic and effervescent drink derived from the apples of Normandy and Brittany. It’s a time for friendly gatherings and warm settings in the midst of winter’s relentless grasp.
It’s the ‘Chandeleur’, a tradition that dates back to Roman times and from which our American tradition of Ground Hog’s Day most likely arose. For both cultures, this second day of February is a day that decides whether winter will kindly melt into spring or cruelly reign for another six weeks. Before unveiling the secret to making these scrumptious delicacies, let’s step back in time.

Ancient roots
In the Middle Ages, it was the bear that came out of his hibernation and upon seeing the sun (or his shadow), returned to his den for another six weeks, quite similar to our ground hog.
Yet, the festiveness and the crepes go back even farther. In ancient Roman times, the Romans were known to eat crepes at the start of February during the ‘Lupercales’ a feast celebrating fertility while welcoming the return of spring and promise of the future harvest.
Still popular among the Christians in the 5th century, the pope replaced the pagan feast with that of the Lord’s presentation at the Temple and was considered the ‘light for all nations’. From there, the Latin name ‘Chandelorum festum’ meaning ‘feast of the candles’ was bestowed upon the occasion.
Early Christians went on to light candles in church. They would form processions that would lead them back to their dwellings where the lighted candles were to provide protection to their homes.
But as superstitions will, it was the crepe tradition that lived on along with the superstitious acts that would bring prosperity.

Legendary superstitions
Legend has it that you must hold a gold (or silver) coin in your left hand while you flip the first crepe. Place the coin in the crepe and place it on top of the wardrobe for one year and it will bring you good luck. But fear unto he whose crepe when flipped, lands crumpled in the skillet or should fall to the floor, for he will not have good luck for one year, until the next Chandeleur.

Abundant Combinations
Ever so French, the food aspect of the tradition took root. Savory, hot crepes wrapped around an assortment of grated cheeses, meats and dairy products are devoured before they can cool.
Once the appetite is satisfied, on come the sweet rewards of the dessert version. Drizzle honey, chocolate sauce or spread your favorite flavored jam on a crepe and gobble it up before burning your fingers.
Try sprinkling them with powdered or granulated sugar or the granddaddy of them all, orange crepes wrapped around a slathering of Nutella, a chocolate and hazelnut spread. Divine!
Remember one thing while preparing your crepes, they aren’t pancakes (unless your British!) and shouldn’t resemble them. Crepes are thin and flat. They should be as flexible as tortillas but not as dry.
Think big when making them because these age-old hotcakes know no limits on the appetite. Three savory and three sweet crepes per person is a good average. Serve a green salad with your meal for added fiber.
The traditional recipe here can easily be doubled. With flour, milk and eggs as the main ingredients, they are budget winners. Garnish with whatever tickles your fancy.
Crepes can be made in advance and reheated when ready to use. They will also keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator enveloped in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Stuffed and wrapped individually, they can be frozen.
Rich in history and abounding in flavor, crepes are a great way to shake off those old winter blues.




Crepes for Everyone

Once again the French find a way to celebrate with and around food! This time with their most famous dish, CREPES!

I've mentioned before that crepes are one of the most versatile recipes in the French culinary books. You could literally eat crepes from [the time you rise!] the appéritif (appetizers), first course, main course, cheese course and dessert! Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, late night snack, left overs, sweet or savory, for children, for grandparents [with or without teeth], fried, baked, stuffed, plain, cold or hot... now THAT is versatile at its height! the fact that the french have found 1001 ways to use crepes means that I'm going to serving up all kinds of recipes in varying flavors and complexities.

The ultimate crowd pleaser, I haven't met a human being who says, "Crepes?.. Buek! Can't stand the suckers!" Even the most finicky children go absolutely ga-ga over them.

And finally, the most important reason to start making crepes and incorporating them into your your meal-planning is that they are CHEAP to make and soo easy! Milk, eggs, flour, sugar... can't get more basic ingredients (except making bread) than that. Substitute any type milk, flour, granulated sugar and flour as per your preferences. What's there not to like?


Haggis Dinner Part II

If you think you can stomach it, here’s a peak at the haggis dinner. You remember, the stuffed stomach a.k.a. National Scottish Dish? Here was my first peak at the beast!

I know it’s not as bad as you think, huh? I felt the same thing. Actually, it has become quite commercialized and you can buy pre-stuffed haggis nowadays in British grocery stores, ups! I mean supermarkets! Today haggis sold in supermarkets is not truly stuffed in real sheep’s stomachs. It’s more of a plastic.

Nonetheless, it was fantastic! Our haggis was made up of awful (abats in French) (organs like liver and maybe heart) and barley. The Whiskey Sauce was pure single malt whiskey (technically Scotch!) poured directly over the stuffing. It was a transformation totale.

We loved it! Pat, the ever thoughtful cook had prepared homemade bread, a true rarity in France. No one makes their own bread in France, except the bakers. She also had us started off with homemade sausage rolls (a British treasure); stuffed celery and little canapés of marinated fresh salmon and prawns (shrimp) with a little kick… horseradish sauce.

I have to mention here that it was absolutely a treat to watch the French guests (including my weathered Anglo-immersed husband) bite into the canapés, saver them, proceed to complement the chef on her chez d’oeuvre then receive the full kickback of the horseradish, an unexpected ingredient! Yes, you must understand that French cooking is anything up hot and spicy. Horseradish is uncommon if not foreign to them. While you can translate it into raifort in French, most French people do not cook with it on a regular or un-regular basis.

So what a treat it was to watch our French guests coughing and sputtering a bit when the horseradish kicked in. What an unexpected little aftertaste, n’est-ce pas?!

To round out the meal, Pat started us off with Cock-a-Leeky soup: translation chicken and leek (once real cock, now just a good boiling bird!). This is another Scottish tradition, or so we were informed. Served with a couple of dried prunes, it was an amazing combination of savory soup and sweet and tangy dried fruit. A refaire!

The haggis was served with mashed potatoes and parsnip and rutabaga purée. This lovely combination is the perfect match with the flavour of the whiskey sauce over stuffed stomach.

An array of English cheeses and crackers (cheese biscuits as the Brits called them) made their way around the table before the homemade Christmas pudding and brandy cream sauce were served. Never one to do it half way, Pat made her own puddings some time in the recent past. This particular one dates between 12 to 18 months old! A Christmas pudding takes several days to make but once steamed, it will keep for months or even years in (or not!) the freezer!

Christmas pudding must be steamed for a long time, then served a-flame, flambé Madame! Then served with a cream and brandy sauce (liquid cream, lots of sugar and whiskey!). It was a light finish to a gorgeous meal.

Tea, biscuits and brandies were our final farewell to a fabulous Scottish/British night.

And who saves British food isn’t good?!


Grilled Potatoes (Oven Baked) Fou

What can truly compare in flavor and texture and overall sinfulness than crusty, crunchy potatoes? Oven baked potatoes can be as tasty as French fries or even better with this no-fail recipe.

My kids love French Fries (chips for the Brits! And frites for the French!). Well, what kid doesn’t, right? So we healthy parents have to try and come up with something similar if we’re going to keep the crowd happy and our waistlines reasonably slim.

Here’s what I do when I get a ‘Crunchy Tater’ craving, I toss my potatoes with some olive oil, fresh herbs, bread crumbs, flavoured sea salt and some parmesan cheese. Bake in hot oven; toss several times. And voilà, Crunchy potatoes without using the deep fryer.

A couple of ways to serve these babies: on their own; with hamburgers or any meat you are preparing and over salad greens. Use a creamy or mayonnaise based dressing for the ultimate salad meal. If you do top your salad with these babies you’ll never think salads are just for wimps again!

Grilled Potatoes Fou

By – Anne Dessens
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Baking Time: 50 minutes

12 medium new potatoes, washed and dried
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup bread crumbs
4 tablespoons fresh herbs, finely chopped, mixed: basil, chives, tarragon
2 tablespoons flavoured sea salt, (Croque au Sel 5 cracked peppercorn ‘Fou’)
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Click here to read more about the recipe....

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Weekend Accomplished, Bienvenue!

Yes, the weekend is over. I’m at least 5 lb fatter, I’ve got some serious sleep to catch up on but I’m super motivated to get back into the kitchen.

I came back from La Rochelle with tons of ideas for food (merci Maman!), recipes and blog entries. While my father-in-law returned to his old chant, “Espionne! Espionne!”, under his breath at the dinner table, I did make it out of their house alive, with color art AND some excellent culinary secrets.

For over three years (from 1999-2003) I wrote bi-weekly for the Charleston, WV Gazette, writing about of course, food, life in France and how to cook up some really delicious French food without the fuss. I’ve been sneaking ideas out of my in-laws house for years! They are used to it. My father in law is still wary that I work the CIA, exporting sensitive French culinary information to the Ricains!

While I don’t get any income from the CIA, I do give recognition to the cooks, chefs and culinary talents who inspire me, bien sûr! Donc, un grand merci à Monique!

J’en profite pour saluer ma famille française qui risque de lire ce blog, et cette publication. Après 48 heures d’appareil numérique en main et prises de photos [de trop près, n’est-ce pas ?!] je les ai tout d’abord intrigués avec mon obsession de tout capter en numérique, puis, subitement, l’énervement, peut-être.

Je dois également reconnaître que j’ai de plus en plus de lecteurs en France et je devrais faire un peu plus d’articles en français, au moins les recettes. Enfin, je vous souhaite tous la bienvenue et j’espère vous voir régulièrement !

Grosses Bises, ~Anne

p.s. pas de commentaires sur mes fautes d’orthographe ou d’accord masculin/féminin !
**All mistakes made with American Pride !


Weekend at the In-Laws

We are headed to La Rochelle for a lovely weekend with my husband's très français family: his parents (MIL who's a fabulous cook) his two sisters and their partners. What lies ahead of us? Good food, good conversations, good wine and lots of laughter. (I am hoping that what I once read about laughing full out for 10 minutes is like running for 30 mintues. I'll need to calorie burning!)

It's snowing so the mood is festive.

With Fabulous Cook for a Mother-in-Law, I'm toting the camera and notepad. I hope to have lots of food for fodder here upon our return, that is, if we make it back. She's a true French cook, she doesn't dévoile* her secrets. I'll have to fish it out of her.

Wish me lots of bon courage**, I'll need an extra stomach and some sly tactics to get those recipes...

And that haggis story will have to wait for next week.
dévoiler - to reveal
bon courage - good luck!

Let It Snow!

"The weather outside is freightful... (Yes! Finally! Snow!)........ Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow. "

Why is it that snow brings out the kid in us? I love snow. We get so little here that it's a real event in western France to see fleuries. No snow days built in to the school system around here. Not many people have snow tires either. And forget about having any common sense when driving in the stuff. Nope, not here. Not in Western France!

But that it OK because when we do get some snow, it's a real childhood dream! Why is that? It's not like I'm going to get a day off from work if it snowed too much. I might even get stranded out in farmcountry trying to make my way home. It doesn't matter. I still love the stuff. I love the way the air smells before and during a good snow. Love it!

Coming from the West Virginia mountains, snow was always a treat because we could go sledding, outback in the neighbors yard. Great memories! I loved it. The brisk clean air, eating white snow, getting it stuck between your glove and your coat sleeve...you know that very sensitive part of your wrist that when the snow touches it, it feels like fire burning your skin?!

Snow. Snow. And More Snow.

Snow fleuries are enough either. Give me 6-8 inches! Let's build some snowmen, make snow angels, walk in the pouring snow for miles. Then come home and make homemade hot chocolate with melted marshmellows, snuggle up under wool sweaters and blankets and watch a movie.

Bear Soup

This recipe comes from my great grandmother from West Virignia. Everytime it snowed, she'd make this soup and homemande bread. A family tradition that my grandmother kept and my mother.

I always knew that on a snow day from school, after an afternoon outside in the snow with all the kids on the street, I'd come home to the smells of this soup and fresh baked bread. (That is probably why I love snow so much is the smell of these two recipes!)
I can't explain why it's name is called Bear Soup but that is what we refer to it as in our family. And since we've been doing it now for 4 generations (I'm passing it on to the 5th), I guess none of us wants to break the chain or the charm. Children of all ages love this soup, from 3 -93. (I guess after that you have to purée it because after 93 you might not have teeth to chew it with. But the potatoes are soft enough that you don't need to chew 'em!)
There is nothing that can complete with the delicious, inviting, homey, and loving smell of baking bread. The following recipe also comes from my maternal Mountaineer relatives. Whenever my mom makes this bread, we all know she's just saying, "I Love You All!" Thanks Mom. Thanks grandma Guinn.
With that I wish you un très bon weekend.


Creamy Soups

No dairy but oh, so creamy Vegetable soups
By –Anne Dessens

We all love soup. Just go to the canned soup section of any grocery store to prove it. Every type of soup can be found either condensed, powdered or in its original form. Thinking of soups brings to mind a famous little jingle that everyone knows by heart.

Hearty, soothing, healthy, cheap, nourishing. All these adjectives can be substituted for ‘soup’. That is what soup is: good food, n’est pas?

Creamy soups silkily glide over our palates to satiate our cravings for sinful ingredients. But, you don’t need to add dairy to achieve that luscious texture. All you really need is a blender.
By creaming cooked soups, the ingredients whirl together to form milky soft spoonfuls of delight. No cream, no milk and totally lactose intolerant approved. Blend everything together for complete dining comfort. Or, remove a cup or two of vegetables first, then whisk. Stir them back in for a heartier version.

Sans cream, they are very low in fat. Only a bit of olive oil is used when sautéing the onion and vegetables.

This is how simple these soups are: choose a vegetable; sauté it with an onion and olive oil; add water and bouillon cube. Cover and simmer. Mix it all together and reap the benefits of your labors all within 30 minutes.

If your waistline is on your mind, this simple method is for you. Start off your meal with a bowl of low-fat, homemade cream soup. It will take the edge off your hunger and fill you with contentment. For lunch, add a wrap. For dinner, add a main course dinner salad. You will leave the table feeling gratified, light and most of all not guilty.

Fresh herbs refine the overall flavor. Gently sautéing an onion will fill the house with a sweet, mouth-watering scent. Add a few croutons or crackers if you are craving them. If you are feeling a little bad, top with a smattering of grated cheese. But only a smattering now.
Serve them hot, warm or chilled depending on the season. Few people turn their noses up a bowl of handcrafted goodness.

Click Here to get a few easy recipes.

For the Veggie Soup Basics:
-4 cups (use a teacup as a reference that holds 250 ml, or if you have large hands, 4 heaping hanful scoops) of chopped vegetable(s) of your choice make up the main ingredient. Mix and match vegetables. For example, two cups broccoli and two cups potatoes for a rich broccoli indulgence. Cauliflower and peas are a match made in heaven. Fennel and asparagus make a elegant duo.
-Use a hand blender and blend directly in the pot or transfer to traditional blender (or food processor) to get the desired creamy result.


Basic Crepe Recipe

Basic French Crepe Becipe
For twelve crepes:

1 cup flour, (150 g)
2 eggs
2 ½ cups milk, any type (2/3 liter)
vegetable oil for skillet + paper towel
pinch of salt

In a mixing bowl combine flour and salt. Add eggs and stir with wooden spoon until you obtain and homogenous, pasty mixture; add milk slowly mixing well until you have a smooth, runny batter.

Heat skillet on medium-high. Add no more than a 1/8 teaspoon of oil to skillet; spread around with paper towel.

Using a soup ladle, add batter to skillet, swirl around to cover whole skillet surface immediately. Batter should form a thin layer.

Slide spatula around edges working inwards to separate crepe from skillet bottom. When edges are dry and batter changes color, it’s cooked on one side and needs to be flipped. Crepe should slide around easily in skillet.

Using your fingers, peel back edges at top end crepe then flip remaining half over and back down in skillet. Stack on plate Cover with paper towel or cloth to keep warm. Repeat procedure. Note, if you can’t handle crepe because of heat, turn heat down a notch.

Crepe Recipe and Learning Metric Measurements

Crepes are easy, quick and extremely versatile. If you have children, you should learn to make them blindfolded. They freeze well; they can be stuffed with anything: savory, sweet or eaten as a finger food. They can be stuffed, rolled and sliced into lovely pinwheels and served with champagne for elegant entertaining. Have I convinced you yet?

Now, let’s get something straight, right away. When I refer to crepes, I’m talking the French kind. You know, thin, flat, almost one-sided babies. The kind you can eat at a crêperie for an astronomical price and still leave the establishment with a I-m-no-full feeling. Mais oui, that crepe. For some of you, you might call these pancakes (namely the Brits). For you others… I don’t know.

As an American, pancakes, once known as flapjacks, is thicker, fluffier kind of crêpe. It is to be eaten with maple syrup, butter and the occasional link sausage or fried bacon. If cannot be stuffed, rolled over or served with smoked salmon and cream cheese!

This is an important point because this entry ties into yesterday’s entry about metric measurements versus American measurements.

When I came to France 13 years ago, I was pure American. I couldn’t demonstrate a centimeter or 40 g. of flour to save my life; I was all about American measurements: cups of this, a teaspoon of that… Easy, if you have the official measurements which do exist and are used religiously by many Americans.

I decided to make stuffed crepes, pinwheels, for my first “reception”. I had found the recipe in a woman’s French magazine and the photos looked luscious.

Not understanding the measurements nor what real crepes were, I kind of just mixed the milk, eggs and flour together and found myself with my Dad’s pancake batter. Feeling a bit doubtful, I heated my skillet (I just grabbed an old, scratched one) and poured out a ladleful of the batter.

It took the nice thick form of my Dad’s perfect breakfast pancakes (in diameter it was only slightly wider than a hamburger!). I started to panic. How in the world would I be able to stuff this thing with herbed cream cheese, fresh spinach leaves and smoked salmon, roll it up and slice it into 12-15 pinwheels? If I even tried to roll it, it would have cracked and broken off into two pieces.

Mind you, over a dozen people were coming for this thing and I didn’t know what to do. Thank goodness my then-to-be-future-husband was on his way back to work (it was lunchtime) and he asked what I was making. After I told him, and he looked at the batter, the pancake in the skillet and a fit of laughter that brought him to his knees, (honestly, I thought he’d never stop laughing), he looked at the recipe, added about 2 liters of liquids, tossed out the pancake, found a slick and smooth skillet and got down to work.

The batter was very, very thin. He spread it out quickly over the entire surface of the skillet and it cooked on one side within 30 seconds. He detached the sides with a spatula and flipped it over using his fingers (after having washed them bien sûre!). Within 10 minutes, he had made a dozen of these babies and was just getting started. He explained the difference between centiliters and milliliters and was well on his way to attack the whole “Using the best type of skillet” for crepes when he looked at his watch and realized he was light for work. (Whew! Saved from a lengthy discourse there!)

Long story short, this was my first real encounter with metric measurements. I’ve learned from this cooking flop. While I don’t have that original recipe, I do have a killer crepe recipe.

I’ll come back with more recipes using crepes now that January is on its way out and February is just around the corner. You see, as the Galettes des Rois leaves us (January event), the Chandeleur is on February 2. A strange French tradition that might come close to Americans observing a ground hog to see if winter is over or if we’ll have 6 more weeks of it! And the whole tradition has to revolve around food, n’est-ce pas? I mean this is France.


Mertric Measures

Metric Measurements might be very logical to those who were taught it from birth. But for an American, it’s all Greek to me! At least it was for years and years.

While the meter and the kilometre were easily enough assimilated, culinary measurements were a nightmare for me. I found the meter being close to the yard so at least I could say, “It’s 10 meters away” or, “It’s 100 meters away” (like the size of a football field?). Then there is the km which is something between 1-2 miles, (yes I know it’s 1.6 km to the mile) but when I used to run (stop pulling faces!) it was easier to count in kms. It sounded so much better to say I ran 5 km instead of saying, I ran 3.125 miles. See?

But the kitchen… Ai! Ai! Ai! Ai! What a nightmare. 120 grams? What’s that? And what the heck it a centilitre? OK, I got the millilitre, litre thing OK and how come we had to learn decilitres but no one EVER uses them over here in the land of “we invented the Metric System”!

To keep this entry short, I have gotten used to the metric system (albeit some very sad results for learning what exactly that system is!) and since I see that now my readership is international and not just American anymore, I’ve started giving my recipe measurements in American measures AND metric so that everyone can enjoy my concoctions.

I try to use common ingredients that would be easy to find in most grocery stores. But I haven’t visited half the world so I’m not sure what it’s like to shop at a German, South African or Brazilian grocery store. (I can ask about the British and Australian and perhaps Belgian or Italian but that is about it!).

I invite each of you to ask me to explain any ingredients you don’t understand. It would be my pleasure.


Oven Simmered Vegetable Stew

Easy Oven-Simmered Vegetable Stew in the Oven
By –Anne Dessens

The portions on the vegetables are loosely measured out here; follow your instincts and your cravings. Also, this dish is excellent reheated, so don’t let the portions intimidate you. Freezes nicely, too.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 bunch of celery, 6-8 stalks
6 medium carrots
2 cups frozen peas and carrots (200 grams)
2 medium zucchini
2 cups frozen green beans (200 grams)
1 large can sliced mushrooms (approx. 150 gr.), drained
2 cups water + instant gravy granules for two cups water (1/2 liter water)
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

In large Dutch oven or cast-iron dish with lid, heat over oven on medium high heat with olive oil and onions; peel and chop carrots, add to onions and continue sautéing, stirring frequently to avoid sticking for several minutes. Add peas and carrots, green beans, stir well. Coarsely chop zucchini and add to sautéing vegetables. Sauté for another 10 minutes until vegetables are bright in color. Remove from stove and stir in mushrooms.

Prepare gravy for 2 cups (1/2 liter); pour over vegetables, mix well; add herbes and salt; stir well and cover. Place in oven and bake, covered, for 1 hour; remove lid, and stir, then bake another 20 minutes uncovered.

Pepper to taste. Let cool slightly before serving.

Serve with crème fraîche (sour cream); grated cheddar or Swiss cheese; fresh baguette and freshly chopped parsley. Can also be served with grilled chicken breast or leftover roast beef.

Rounding out Sunday's Main Meal

Yesterday's white wine was crisp and dry with a hint of fruit. This lovely Touraine wine is a real gem from the châteaux country of the Loire Valley. At 4€ a bottle, it's a delightful starter to any evening meal.

It was the perfect match for the oysters, a light and refreshing way to dine after a heavy meal the night before.

I marinated my meat in Fou sea salt and herbes de Provence. Broiled (yes in the oven!) like a true char-grill, the meat was succulent and soft as butter.

To finish out the day, a vegetable stew, simmered in the oven was a light yet satisfying way to finish off a glorious Sunday.


Scottish Dinner

While I prepare my grocery list this afternoon for a restocking-the-fridge-and-pantry shopping expedition, I keep thinking of our dinner tonight. We've been invited to some English friends' house for dinner. Pat, the wife, is an aboslute wonderful cook, a woman who makes her own Christmas pudding (no small feat because it takes weeks to prepare) so you know that dinner is always homemade and very, very tasty.

Tonight they are having a ture "Scottish Meal". I don't know much about Scottish food and am very eager to sample it. I only know of one Scottish dish, Haggis. And that is what she is fixing. While I couldn't remember exactly what that consisted of, I knew it included liver and stuffed in a stomach. Of what animal, I do not know, nor am I sure I want to know.

Dictionary.com defines it as:

hag·gis ( P ) Pronunciation Key (hgs)n.
A Scottish dish consisting of a mixture of the minced heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep or calf mixed with suet, onions, oatmeal, and seasonings and boiled in the stomach of the slaughtered animal.


OK, I should not feel squeemish, should I? Come on, I live in FRACE, you know country where they eat absolutely everything: gizzards, livers, foie gras (fattened livers), pig's snout, pig intestines (chittlings for Southern Americans), all types of fat, blood pudding, raw oysters, goat's brains... Oh sorry, I didn't mean to make you sick! I never thought that another country could out do the French in eating every part of the animal!

My point is, so what if the Scots throw in a few lungs and stomachs? Since coming to France, I have eaten all the above mentioned foods (and more!) and liked them. I feel that everything can be tried at least once. (Well, I don't think I could ever eat cockroaches, even if it were a life or death situation! Grubs would also be a toughie to swallow.) But, when in Rome, do as the Romans, n'est-ce pas?

It is true that in today's world, if we want to eat chicken breats for an entire month, we could easily do so. It is also true that today's grocery shopping is different from it was 50 or 60 years ago. Today chicken comes (dead of course!) plucked, skinned, portioned and clean all nicely wrapped in cellophane with a pretty picture of a live, sometimes smiling chicken, on the front sticker. Ditto for beef, pork, veal and the whole meat and pretty much fish and seafood families. I think that today if people had to go back to killing their own meat, there would be a lot more vegetarians out there. Perhaps it's the way we shop that has changed our outlook of what's edible and what's not.

Besides, what makes one food 'discusting' and another 'excellent'? Cultural differences. This is something I have learned over the years as an American raised in completely American ways and then coming to France and spending her adulthood in another country. What I have come to ask myself eat time I encounter a new food (and over the past 12 years in france that has been an inexhasutable thing!), 'Why is eating the muscles of an animal OK but not the organs?'

Don't Americans eat gizzards and chittlings? Well, some do. It used to be commonly eaten foods back in the days when you had to kill your own food (most likely after having raised it yourself). Waste not want not back, non? And who knew back then what they would be eating a week from now.

Since Pat is a good cook, I think it will be done right and she wouldn't fix it if it were discusting. She's not Scottish, she's English so there's no pressure to cook cultural dishes. Yet, I am hesitant to sit down at the dinnertable tonight but I will. It would have been easier to have sampled it first then asked what it was second. (That works best for me in French.)

I'll have the camera there and there will be a detailed (well, perhaps not, it just depends on the taste) entry afterwards. Besides, I've come to understand from other English people that it's the whisky gravy that makes the dish so savory! Bring on the Whisky!


I'd rather be blogging!

You know you're hooked on blogging when you move throughout your day and everything you do sprouts ideas for a blog entry. And then you spend all your free time writing on your blog, checking out other people's blogs and leaving them messages. And as you're checking out other people's blogs, comparing styles, colors and layouts, you wonder, "Should I change my accounts? Is this service better than the one I'm already using?"

Once you're sucked in, is there any escape? Do you want any? Then you wonder what people did before blogging? Tough questions for a Friday, n'est-ce pas? Well, I suppose I should say, "Merci beaucoup Alison!" She's the who got me started. I'd also like to say thank you those who come and read my blog. If I had no readers, then I'd just be having monologues in cyberspace.


I HATE Wednesdays! (Another Life in France Entry)

I never thought that I could ever hate a day like I do Wednesdays in France! I know it sounds harsh but until you live, really live it, do you understand.

I wrote this whole venting thing about Wednesdays in France and being a woman, working and trying to tote children off to birthdya parties and after school activities.

Then my husband got on the computer and erased it by accident! Yes, I typed it in blogger without saving it and he closed the window not knowing.

I guess it's good because it was a whole entry on how frustrating Wednesdays are around here. Kids have no school or just in the mornings, so if you work, you get to juggle them and the job. Sure there is afterschool child care, and that is what we use.

But yesterday my son had been invited to a birthday party. 3-6 pm. I left work early so he could attend. Of course, I thought I'd get the gift on my lunch hour, but ended up working to get stuff finished before leaving for the day.

So it was a rush back home to pick up Pete and RePete, then the gift, then drop him off...

But now it's over. Another Wednesday laid to rest. It's Thursday (for those of you who can't get the days of the week straight!). For me that means, weekend just around the corner. I can start thinking of food since the V & D epidemic missed our family (minus my son). But that only lasted 24 hours. So that was pretty cool! (I mean very little puke to clean up!)

Yesterday, my colleague showed me this Cabbage Soup Diet that she's doing for the week. I'll blog it later, but it's worth an entry! Lose up to 3-4 kg in one week! That's somewhere between 6.6-8.8 lb.! Whew!

I say no more.

For now.


A Peak at a Week at Anne's Dinner (Sometimes Lunch) Table

This is a hoge-poge of pictures of the recipes for a blog entry.

They are of dishes we have enjoyed over the past week. A few comments and preparation tips tossed in along the way.

I thought it'd make for a nice change of pace, blog-wise. (Especially now that I'm no longer feeling funcky and that Gastro thing seems to be washed away with today's dousing of eau de javel- a.k.a. bleach!) *LOL*

This is the white bean dip I made on Saturday night. Though tasty with tortilla chips (my personal favorite and weakness), I felt it was missing something: heat. So I warmed it up in the microwave and voilà! I used the leftover dip, hot and bubbly, as a dressing on our cuke, tomato and lettuce salad for lunch on Monday. Hmmm

This is a salad idea or first course idea that I got from my friend Natalie. Sometimes we'll go round to their place on Sunday evenings and have a low key, eat-in-the-living-room, kind of dinner. She loves vegetables like me and is a real pro at presenting a colorful, tasty veggie plate like this one for starters (She'sFrench it's innate!). Here I used what I had on hand: tomato, avocado, artichoke and white asparagus from a jar. Any veggies will do. Drizzle with ready-made salad dressing, a pinch of fleur de sel and a crack of fresh pepper... Salad à l'instant!

I've told you that eggs are your friends, haven't I? Well, they do cook up so nicely and make a great main course on those nights you just can't deal with a lot of cooking. Hump day, is that kind of day for me and quiche is my signature dish. Here I added some tomato (gotta make it healthy, right?) and herbed Boursin cream chesse (gotta give it flavor, don't I?) to the bottom of the ready-to-bake pie crust. Add a salad, a cup of (instant) soup, a slice of bread and butter and dinner is ready in less than 30 minutes.

Not much better for cooking inspiration, Thrusday nights. Tired and bone weary, a simple batch of béchamel sauce can top absoultely anything in French cuisine and be called dinner. It takes 12 minutes tops to make it. Add your own flavor twist: curry, nugmeg, fresh herbs, lots of cheese... It takes 1 measure butter (i.e. tablespoon) + 1 measure flour (another tablespoon) + 2 cups milk (any type). This here is the butter melted and the flour added. It's the texture you want to attain before adding the milk. on medium heat sitr with wooden spoon until thickened. Pour over: eggs, past, potatoes, endives, ham, leftovers.... add some grated cheese, broil for several minutes. Recieve standing ovation from all family members.

FRIDAY NIGHT - Pizza night... no good picture... I was too pooped, but I did assemble the meal! Not one of those frozen pizza nights. I used cream cheese instead of tomato sauce for a zippy change. It was a 3 cheeses pizza with a few grilled zucchini and peppers from a jar. Whew, are there any leftovers, I couold use some right now!

Low key night when there's no company coming or we haven't been invited anywhere. Perfect evening to play, "Who's Going to Be King" with the Galette des Rois. There are several varieties of these cakes, but this one is my favorite when the chocolate chips have been melted and served hot (That is an Anraud touch. Desert is always warmed before serving.). Kind of gives you that "Toll House Cookie" feeling... (sigh, childhood memories...). -- And no, I didn't get the fève (bean). I was neither king nor queen. But that's OK because we have got another 2 weeks to play this game. French Bakeries have become real capitalists when it comes to the season of les galettes des Rois. They've extended a one day tradition into almost a whole six weeks! That's almost as good as the Americans and their Christmas Season!

SUNDAY -- Yes, the day to simmer a 3 hour pot of meat and veggies, drool with the smells and take nap immedately following dinner.

Beef and Vegetable Stew in Red Wine Sauce. I slight twist on the Boeuf Bouguignon which only uses carrots and an onion. Prep the potatoes separately, they won't make the 3 hour simmering cut.

Follow with long nap.

That's all for tonight! Isn't it enough?

Bon Ap!