Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tuesdays with E

It's that time again.  And by that time I mean Tuesday French dinner night. This menu was strictly from The Bonne Femme Cookbook by Mini Moranville.

The dishes included Lemon-Saffron Rosemary Wings (I used chicken breasts) and Green Beans with White Onion Roux.

I have this amazing friend whom gave me a big bag of saffron from Iran as a gift.  (I know, she is an awesome friend.) I had been itching to try a recipe with the luscious red strands when I saw the lemon-saffron rosemary wings recipe.  I knew I could turn this appetizer into a main course.  Opening my refrigerator I saw the bag of farmer's market green beans I had purchased and consulted the index of The Bonne Femme Cookbook to see what side dish I could concoct and found the white onion with roux recipe.  If I had not found an adequate recipe I was going to have to make my Aunt Jan's Green Beans.  (Those are my favorite.)

Gathering the ingredients I marched over to my sisters place where she set the table while I was a mad scientist preparing our feast.

How was it?  Well let me tell you a little story.  As I was serving up the green beans my sister said not to give her too many as she was not starving. I assured her that if she did not eat all of the beans I would finish them for her. (I love green beans, have I mentioned that?)  Well as it turns out both of us were licking out plates and not a scant crumb was left. Another successful French dinner notched in the belt.

I feel inspired to continue the efforts and to read, cook, and experience more of that the French life has to offer.

Now go cook something and enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Capsule Wardrobe: Italy Edition

This past June I had the opportunity to travel to Italy and visit some old and new places alike with a pretty decent group of people.  I traveled with my two sisters, sister #1's husband, his brother and sister-in-law, and in one two we were joined by another sister-in-law, her friend, and daughter.  The core group were the first 6 mentioned.

One thing I suggest is to travel with like-minded people as that makes the trip easier to travel and less stressful.  One thing we all had in common was we all packed carry on only.

The trip was three weeks, one week for each city we stayed in.  Our accommodations were amazing and we made sure each one came equipment with a washer and sometimes a dryer.  We were so impressed with the places we were fortunate to stay that my sister and I made a video of the place we stayed in on Lake Como.  You can check out the video below.

So how did we pack three weeks worth of clothes in one carry on?  Simple.  I packed a capsule wardrobe.  I made sure to pack tops and bottoms that I could mix and match to create various outfits.  I chose to go with a navy blue and black theme.  Below are some sample pictures of my outfits worn.

I only packed two pair of shoes and one pair of sandals.  I will admit, I worn the sandals 85% of the time.  One thing I have come to learn is that I can walk quite a distance in sandals and my feet will not hurt.  I guess I am lucky in this regard as that is not the case for everyone. In addition to the shoes, I packed a few pieces of jewelry and two belts to act as accent pieces.  While I was there I purchased some amazingly beautiful Italian scarves for a song. The beauty of a scarf is it is multi-faceted and can be used as a ton of different accent pieces from a neck scarf to a belt to a headband and beyond. Also, scarves take up no room when packed.

Another tip for packing a capsule wardrobe is remember to pack in layers.  I was born and raised in Southern California and one thing you learn during the winter is to dress in layers.  The morning will start off frigid and by mid-day a sweater and jeans may be all that is required.  I made sure to pack for warm to cold weather by packing various shirts, sweaters, and one jacket just in case.

As it turned out, I wore every piece of clothing I packed.  Since each outfit had interrelated clothing I packed much less than I used to. Thanks to the capsule wardrobe planning I even had extra room to take home a few things should I need to.  I never once had to worry about what to wear each day as I new I could grab any two pieces of clothing, through them on and know that I liked the outfit.  The key to not looking redundant is the color accent pieces.  For instance I brought a yellow canary colored belt that broke up the outfit and made it looked more polished.

The pictures taken were the best I could do given the lighting and the full-length mirrors available.  Hopefully this inspires you to pare down on your closet and to create a capsule wardrobe that is suited for your lifestyle.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Crêpes: The Universal Meal Maker

I find that the more I read about the French the more I look at the American life differently.  As an American I have come to view the French crêpes as a breakfast meal.  Don't you? Those thin pancakes, for lack of a better description, always seem to be a sugary breakfast stuffed with whipped cream and strawberries.  Only after visiting France in the summer of 2009 did I start to view these thin disks in a different light. See pictures from my trip HERE. In France crêpes are multifaceted and in America they are a sugary breakfast that is doused in so many different toppings that you miss out on the taste of the crêpe itself.

There are categorically two types of crêpes: savory and sweet.  In France, the savory crepe is actually a dinner item as are eggs and soufflés and omelets.  Sweet crêpes, or the American breakfast mentioned above, are served as desserts.  Knowing this did not stop me from enjoying the delicious savory crepe filled with brie cheese and spinach while walking the streets of Paris. Or a nutella and banana crêpe like my sister is eating here.

With those found memories circling my subconscious, I decided to whip up a batch to use as pre-made lunches and dinners for the week.  Talk about menu planning!  I made sure to pack each one with adequate veggies and protein.  My favorite was the one packed with tuna and chives featured above.  I did all but lick my fingers when I ate it for lunch.  The breakfast crêpes I ate were filled with eggs and spinach and the occasional slice of cheese.  Pre-making the crêpes made meals a snap to prepare and having a game plan as to what types of crêpes I would make saved a ton of time.

I am not saying you need to go make crêpes right now, but you should go make crêpes right now.  Here is the recipe I used.  Hopefully it comes in handy.

Basis French Crepe Recipe (source):

Makes 12 7-inch crêpes

For the crêpes

3/4 cup 2% or whole milk
1/2 cup water
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus additional melted butter for the pan
Pinch salt

1. Place the milk, water, eggs, flour, melted butter, and salt in a blender in the order given. Pulse until blended, scraping down the sides of the blender container once. Refrigerate batter at least 1 hour and up to 48 hours. (This allows the bubbles to settle out so the crêpes are less likely to tear during cooking.)

2. If the batter has separated during refrigeration, stir it gently to blend. Because each crêpe needs to cool individually on a plate, set four plates (7 inches in diameter or larger) on a countertop, ready and waiting to receive the just-made crêpes.

3. Brush the bottom of a 6- to 7-inch nonstick skillet with butter to coat it lightly. Heat over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and pour a scant 1/4 cup batter into hot pan quickly swirling pan to coat the bottom of the pan with batter. Return to heat and cook until lightly browned on bottom and crepe flips easily, about 30 seconds. Using a thin pancake turner or heatproof spatula, flip crêpe and cook about 30 seconds more.

4. Slide crêpe out of pan and onto one of the plates. Repeat with remaining batter, buttering pan only if necessary. (Reduce heat to medium if crêpes brown too quickly.) Once you’ve made four crêpes, you can start stacking the cooled crêpes, freeing up a plate for stacking the next one hot out of the pan.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tuesdays with E

It has come to pass that my oldest sister and I have our Tuesday nights free. What is one to do with a night off of work and graduate school?  Why cook French food of course.

It started off that I had a bee in my bonnet and wanted to try cooking French meals again.  I had been noticing that my love for all things French had taken over my reading, my movies, and my food.  I was inspired by an old episode of The Gourmet Next Door I found on YouTube in which chef Amy Finely quickly whipped up a French bistro meal for her family. I thought to myself, "Hmm...I could make that." And I did.  And it was awesome.

I called up my sister and asked how would you like me to make her dinner?  I am pretty sure that is music to anyone's ears and she responded in the positive.

I walked over to the grocery store to buy one last ingredient, steak.  I rarely eat red meat and even less so buy red meat, but tonight was the exception.  I purchased some skirt steak as I found I liked that better than flank steak.  It is the cut of meat that is used to make carne asada.  I highly recommend you give it a try the next time you are shopping in the meat department.

I walked back over to my sisters home and in about 30 minutes dinner was served.

The meat, Grilled Skirt Steak with Shallot and Red Wine Sauce, was a la Amy Finely from The Gourmet Next Door and the side salad was a la my older sister.

Very easy to make and even more delicious to eat.  This was the first of many meals and many more to come.  Eating dinner with your family at home should not be too complicated and is actually helpful when trying to pinch your pennies.  I hope you go out and make a delicious meal for those you love.