Wednesday, October 31, 2018

My Trip to Provence !

   Bon jour mes amies ! This summer, my daughter Ashley married my new son Terrence in Italy this past August ! Since Europe was my destination, I decided to spend two weeks before the wedding in Provence, one of my favorite places in the world !
   My trip started out with my first night in Nice, on the southeastern coast of France. As you may know, you can be pretty tired when you arrive, if you've had a long voyage to get to your destination ! I arrived at my cute boutique hotel called Villa Rivoli, and very quickly took a very welcome afternoon nap !! Afterwards I noticed a flyer on the wall that described restaurants that were recommended by the hotel. One of the restaurants was right on the beach, and an easy stroll from the hotel. Bingo, that sounded exactly what I needed to refresh my weary body and mind ! I walked down the Promenade des Anglais, arrived at Ruhl Plage Restaurant and a sweet, smiling young lady seated me at a table right on the edge of the beach with its aqua blue water! Wow, I couldn't have gotten any closer if I had tried ! I ordered lemony, buttery Sole Meuniere, wonderful garlic green beans, a fresh garden salad, and a glass of Provencal rose wine. Children were playing in the chalky blue waves, even at 9:00 ! What a Heavenly meal and view !

My next destination took me to a beautiful Bed and Breakfast in Laurent des Abres, and area outside of Avignon. It was called Domaine du Moulin. It looked like a small castle with a long body of water that went under the house and extended into the large back yard. There also was a lovely pool and a pool house that had drinks in a refrigerator guests could buy. I spent my first day laying on a chaise under a fig tree, looking out at the pool because I had a cold and still needed the rest. The weather was very warm and humid and the cicadas were chirping like they were playing maracas, the sound lasting until sundown ! 

   I stayed in the Juliette Room, which was upstairs, overlooking the long body of water. The room had belonged to the owners' daughter, with antique furniture and a beautiful 1920's double pink marble sink in the bathroom. Two terrycloth robes were provided. 

   Antoinette the proprietress, and her kind lady helpers prepared a lovely buffet of eggs, cheeses, cold-cuts, breads, pastries, fruit, yogurt, etc. in the morning in the beautiful, light filled, blue and white  breakfast room. It was wonderful to go outside, eating breakfast under a pergola with a beautiful view of lavender, butterflies flittering about, and the expanse of the yard.
   I peeked into Antoinette's kitchen and it was so lovely that I asked her if I could take some photos. There was a gorgeous      white and shiney brass La Cornue stove that I wish I could have taken home with me ! Hand-painted tiles that Antoinette purchased in Portugal were on two walls, and there was a long  15th century table that servants most likely ate and worked on.
   There was also a guest kitchen on the first level of the chateau next to some of the other guest rooms that were furnished for families. We could prepare meals there as long as we cleaned up afterwards ! I met a man from Germany as he was doing his dishes and I was heating up my chicken noodle soup. We had a very nice and friendly conversation. I spent 3 nights there and then I was off to the Luberon area to stay out in the countryside, outside the little town of Oppede.
   The Luberon area of Provence is one of my favorite places in the world, a land of sunflowers, lavender, cherries, Cavaillon melons, vineyards, red-tiled farm houses, and sunshine. I was looking through the web-site called Theluberon.com where they have so many beautiful places to rent. Alas, I found a beautiful country property called Le Moulin, that had a 400 year old former windmill on it ! The owners had  converted it into a darling two story abode, with calm, tasteful, understated  white and gray decor ! The first floor had a light-filled small living room and a petite kitchen. I was so surprised to see the biggest double-decker  wicker and metal Lazy Susan that I had ever seen in my life ! You could turn it and it held pots, pans, pretty blue and white dishes, and silverware.
   Climbing the winding staircase, holding the rope attached to the wall, led me to the bedroom and the bathroom. I really liked the white plaster walls, the white bedspread on the bed, and the two windows on either sides on the bedroom that could be opened for the breezes to pass through. As I looked out the windows to see the green grass, rocks, and Oak trees, I could see how very thick the walls were...maybe about 18 inches thick ! Even though the walls were thick, I used a fan for cooling because Provence is hot and humid in the summer !
   When I arrived on the property, after having driven through the beautiful countryside, Vita the proprietress came out to greet me. She said that since I had arrived early, my room wasn't ready, so she led me along a lavender lined path to the pool. It was so lovely, with a vine covered pergola, views of vineyards and the countryside, lots of plants, stone steps, and a stone clothing changing hut with a red tile roof. It felt soooo good to glide through that cool water on that hot day !
One of the most enjoyable things that I did in the area was to take a cooking class with a French chef named Jean-Marc Villard, in his home in the little town of Maubec, about 20-30 minutes from where I was staying. Jean-Marc did the teaching and his sweet wife Alice booked the classes and also ate lunch with us outside in their  lovely garden ! We first visited a local farmer's co-op first to buy food for our cooking. All of the products came from local farmers such as vegetables, fruit, honey, lavender products, soaps, cheeses, and assorted flowers.
   Their kitchen had a large prep table where I and a family of 4 from Brooklyn gathered around to work. Our first little aperitif was mild little green Padron  peppers that were roasted, and  yummy ! Each of the 4 courses were accompanied by delicious  French wines ! Our next course was a savory shortbread cracker with roasted bell peppers, cucumber slices, and zucchini ribbons on top. A baby greens salad tossed in olive oil surrounded the shortbread with a Johnny-jump-up flower on top.
   The third course was tornados of beef topped with a red wine reduction sauce, nestled over slowly cooked onion confit, with a potato nest on top, and some baby greens for color. The coup-de-gras for dessert was pistachio cakes with tiny fresh berries, raspberry sauce, and yogurt sorbet ! This class was one of the highlights of my trip... I was walking on clouds afterwards and I can't thank you Jean-Marc and Alice enough !!!
    Another thrill of my voyage was to go see the lavender field in front of Abbaye du Senanque, outside the village of Gordes ! Ever since I have seen photos of this beautiful setting, I have wanted to go there ! Alas, my dream came true and I drove there in the late afternoon when most of the tourists were gone. Another American family was there, I got to chat with the mother and she took my photo. Wow, it was stunning !!
    I absolutely love Provence and I thank God for creating such a gorgeous  countryside. I highly recommend that you visit if you haven't been there ! I would advise you to go in the spring or fall because it is hot and humid there in the summer...but you would  probably miss seeing the lavender in bloom.  (Hey, California has lavender farms !) But go, go, go !!!




 
 


                                            

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Squash Blossom Frittata !

                                                                                                                                                                                             

Hello again ! I have been away from writing this blog for a long time...one reason being that my daughter Ashley got married to her hubby Terrence in Italy ! It took me months to plan my three week trip to France and Switzerland, and then to find my mother-of-the-bride outfit. I had a very blessed trip and the wedding festivities were beautiful !
   I found an easy recipe called Squash Blossom Frittata, by Jack Bishop, in his cookbook called "A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen". Here is Jack's recipe, with a few little additions of my own. We are now ending summer and will soon be buying fall vegetables and fruit in California. Zuchini squash are still being sold, but I'm not sure about zucchini flowers. If you can't find these flowers now, perhaps you could use another edible flower or some beautiful herbs. Use the squash blossoms the day you buy them, otherwise they get mushy ! Yuk !!


Squash Blossom Frittata

8 large eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus several small clusters of  thyme flowers (or other edible flowers) (I doubled this amount.)
1/2 teaspoon salt (I doubled this amount.)
Freshly ground black pepper
8 large squash blossoms
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil (or 2 teaspoons)
(I added goat cheese, about 1/2 cup)

1.With a fork,beat the eggs, cheese, thyme, salt, and several grindings of pepper together in a medium bowl until well combined.

2. Rince the squash blossoms and inspect them for insects, shaking the blossoms to remove the insects and excess water. Pat the blossoms dry on paper towels. Trim and discard the green stem and tough bottom portion from each blossom, including the pistil inside the blossom. Cut each blossom in half lengthwise.

3. Move an oven rack to the top position and heat the broiler. Heat the oil in a medium ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, swirl the pan to coat the oil to coat the pan bottom evenly. add the egg mixture and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook just until the bottom of the frittata starts to set, about 2 minutes. Arrange the squash blossoms in a starburst pattern on the eggs, with the frilly leaves pointing toward the edge of the pan. Overlap the blossoms to cover the entire top surface of the frittata. (I also dropped bits of goat cheese in the frittata and on top.)  Continue to cook the frittata, occasionally sliding a spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen the frittata, until the bottom of the frittata is golden brown and the eggs are runny just on top, about 8 minutes.

4. Place the pan directly under the broiler and broil until the top is golden brown and set, 1 to 2 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent the frittata from burning.

5. Remove the pan from the broiler. Cut the frittata into wedges and serve or slide it onto a large platter and take it to the table whole. The frittata can also be cooled in the pan and then served at room temperature. (I sprinkled the sage blossoms on top for beauty.)
   Enjoy this frittata alone, with your spouse, or your company. Some salsa might be good on the side too ! Bon appetite and God bless you my friends !

   

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Honey Apricot Crepes !

   Summer is over with its over- abundance of scrumptious fruit that I love, but that doesn't stop me from thinking about apricot crepes, especially since my good friend Sharon just got back from France, where she enjoyed eating yummy crepes ! Sharon asked me for my crepe recipe, so that is motivating me to write about crepes today !
   Since apricots are out of season now, the filling could be made with apples, or fresh or frozen berries or other fruit.
   When my daughters were little, we lived in a house that had a swimming pool and a wonderful, large apricot tree that usually was filled with juicy fruit ! We would go swimming and then grab a few apricots to snack on, the sweet sticky juice running down our hands and faces.              

My three daughters would have friends sleep over now and then, and sometimes I would make apricot crepes for their breakfast.  My daughter Ashley's good friend Allison went home and told her parents that she had  had apricot crepes at our house. Her parents said,"We want some apricot crepes too !" Ha ha, so I made some for them
, which Allison carried over for them !
   In my cooking, I like to use honey or another healthier sweetener instead of refined sugar if possible, so the apricot filling is sweetened with raw honey. These crepes also have a little whole wheat flour in the batter, so hopefully they are a little healthier than having been made with only refined white flour. If desired, crepes can be made in advance and frozen.

                                                          Honey Apricot Crepes

3/4 cup (4 oz/125 g) all purpose (plain) flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups (12 fl oz/ 475 ml) whole milk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 egg
1 teaspoon Marc de Bourgogne or other brandy or vanilla
1 teaspoon olive oil, light or virgin
1/4 teaspoon salt
butter for frying
powdered (icing) sugar for dusting
1/2 stick butter
4 cups pitted apricots, whole or cut in halves
1/4 cup raw honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon salt

   Turn your oven to 200 degrees for 5 minutes and then turn it off, so the oven is warm. Place a plate inside to hold the finished crepes, and plates you'll use for your guests.
   Put the flour in a medium sized bowl. Break the egg in the center and add the 1/4 teaspoon of salt. With a wire whisk slowly mix in the milk, the brandy or vanilla, and lastly the olive oil. It is best to let the batter rest for a few hours, covered, in a cool place. I don't do this because I want to eat my crepes as soon as possible !
   Melt about 1- 2 teaspoons of butter in an 8-inch (20-cm) skillet, letting it spread evenly over the bottom. When the skillet is hot, pour in about half of a small ladle of the batter, tilting so the mixture spreads evenly to cover the bottom. (A hot skillet will make the crepes look lacey and give them crispy edges !) Let the crepe turn golden brown and in about 40 seconds, turn it over with a spatula and cook for about 30 seconds more. Turn the crepe out and place it on the warm plate in the oven.
   Crepes made in advance, can be placed on a plate and reheated over gently boiling water.

                                                     Filling

   Wash and take the pits out of the apricots. Cut them in half or leave them whole. In a medium saucepan, on medium-low heat, place the butter, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and apricots. Cook the apricots for about 20 minutes until the apricots are soft but not mushy. Taste the filling to see if it needs more honey or spices.  Put 1-2 tablespoons of the filling inside a crepe and roll it up. Place the crepe on a warm plate seam side down, and put some of the filling on top and add some whipped cream if desired.

   Variations...In a small saucepan, dilute the jam of your choice, and add a spoonful of cold water. Bring it to a boil, then remove from the heat. Pour this sauce over the folded crepes and sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.
   Or...Roll the crepes up and put a tablespoon of fromage blanc, cream cheese, or creme fraiche in the middle. Place the crepes on a serving platter and pour a thick, smooth puree of blackcurrents or other fruit on top.
   Crepes are also good with chocolate syrup, bananas, and strawberries !
   You also could try making the crepes using half white flour and half whole wheat flour.
   So treat yourself once in awhile to these yummy crepes ! Awwww...Thank you dear Lord for apricots and all the beautiful fruit you give us !!
   This recipe was adapted from "France A Culinary Journey" produced by Weldon Owen Pty Limited.

 


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Escape Time !

Well, it was that time again....time when I needed to recharge my soul....I think some people recharge by being around people...and others like me get refueled by being alone in a quiet, serene place. Soooo, after enough busyness for a period of time, I knew that I had to get on my trusty computer and search for a place to escape to, to unruffle my feathers. After a search on VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner), I discovered a couple of photos that made me go ahhhhhh......a photo of a soft, fluffy white bed and another picture of a deep white tub with trees in the windows behind it. How bad could that be ??!

                                                                                                                               
Sold !  So I booked the home with the owner, a sweet, lovely woman who is from Eastern Europe. This home is located on a hill in Carmel Valley, California, with a view of the soft, green hills across the valley. I arrived at night, so it was a bit of a challenge to find the house, but the kind hostess guided me over the phone as I climbed the hill in my car.  She showed me all the rooms, light switches, the coffee maker, utensils, and dishes in the kitchen, etc.
   






   The next morning, I woke up to soft sunlight flowing through the windows of an incredibly peaceful, romantic bedroom. I loooove the dreamy white, cream, and beige colors of the bed, walls, fireplace, tile, and curtains. It just sort of felt like waking up in Heaven....



   So I went upstairs and made myself some luscious coffee, and a bowl of yogurt with Whole Foods Market Bakery Granola (which is fabulous !), blueberries and mango. I was so excited to crawl back into that fluffy white bed, and enjoy my warm, aromatic coffee and tasty
breakfast as I looked out the window at the green hills, listening to the bird songs coming through the open French doors, and feeling the gentle breezes blowing on me. The warmth of the flames in the fireplace were a sweet touch as well. Every bedroom should have a fireplace in it, right !!
   I also took some time to spend with Yeshua/Jesus, reading my Bible, and afterwards looking through a new French cookbook that I had brought. I always like to bring a new book or two and a few magazines to read when I go on my escapes !
 
   The house has a couple more bedrooms, a roomy living room, and two outdoor decks. I had my lunch on the upstairs deck that is outside one of the bedrooms. It was all very rustic, with that foothills/moutainous vibe...just a great place to get away for some soul restoration....
   And extra treat on my trip was to spend some time with my daughter Courtney ! We had a super delicious lunch at Cafe Sparrow in Aptos and then we scavenged through three of Courtney's favorite  antique/vintage stores that were across the street. She found a few lovely quilts and a big pot for her garden . It's always a fun adventure when I spend time with each of my three daughters because they take me to places I've never been ! I'm so very happy that G-d blessed me with three wonderful daughters....and now a son Jeff, as my daughter Brittany got married not long ago !
   If you're needing a little get-away....check out VRBO.com, airbnb.com,  go camping, have a stay-cation at home with all your electronics turned off, spend half a day at a park, go to the beach, get a baby-sitter,have coffee or tea at a cozy coffee house and read a good book, or just do what gives you peace and calm......find a place that tugs on your heart and run away !!! Bon voyage !


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Whole Grain Waffles that Taste like Mounds Bars !

   Hi ! Are you a waffle lover like me ?! My brothers and I grew up eating the waffles and pancakes  that our dad made for us, especially on early mornings before heading up to the mountains, an hour and a half  away, to go skiing ! These days Dad makes Swedish pancakes more often, with the perfect recipe he has found, and oh they are delectable ! But to get back to the subject of waffles, I decided that I wanted a recipe that was healthy and and enjoyable to eat ! So this recipe combines whole graines, olive oil, and honey, or raw sugar.

   One day I decided to put chocolate chips, shaved coconut, and warmed maple syrup on my waffle. Ooooh my...that was the bomb, as the young people say ! The hot off the press waffle and the warm syrup melted the chocolate chips, made them ooey and gooey. The chocolate mixed with the shaved coconut reminded me of eating a Mounds Bar, one of my favorite candy bars !
My waffle recipe has whole wheat flour, oats, and cinnamon in it. You could substitute ground flax seed for the oats, and buckwheat flour for the whole wheat flour. If you don't want to add cinnamon, you could add ground nutmeg or perhaps allspice, or just leave the spices out.
                                                            Whole Grain Waffles
 
   1 cup whole wheat flour
   1/2 cup all purpose flour (or cake flour)
   1/2 cup oats (or ground flax seed, or bran)
   2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder (without aluminum)
   1/2 teaspoon salt
   2 teaspoons cinnamon (or nutmeg, or a teaspoon of allspice)

   1 tablespoon raw sugar (or honey) (Leave the sweetener out if using the waffles with a savory recipe.)
   3 eggs
   7 tablespoons olive oil (or melted butter)
   1 1/2 cups milk (or buttermilk)
   2 teaspoons vanilla
   100 % maple syrup

                                                          Procedure

   Mix the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. In another mixing bowl, beat the eggs well and stir in the oil, the milk, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the liquid ingredients and stir altogether until blended, with a pebbled look, like a muffin batter. Don't over mix. Put about 1/3-1/2 cup of the batter into the waffle iron and cook until the waffles are done according to your waffle maker.
   Pour warmed syrup over the waffle and sprinkle on top fresh fruit or berries, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, pureed dried fruit or raisins, shredded sharp cheese, butter, or chopped nuts. (I buy Lily's Chocolate Chips sweetened with stevia, at Whole Foods Market.) Some people eat their waffles with chicken, which I have yet to do !!