Another rainy day in Paris

Another rainy day in Paris.  How does that Billy Joel song go?
It’s a rainy night in Paris, and I’m sitting by the Seine,
It’s a pleasure to be soaking in the European rain,
Now my belly’s full of fancy food and wine,
But in the morning there’ll be hell to pay
Somewhere along the line.
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This is what Anna wanted to do after finishing her schoolwork.  I, on the other hand, just wanted to get out for some fresh air so I grabbed the raincoat and umbrella and set out to wander.  I decided to turn down every small cobble-stoned street that I could find.
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Now here’s one of the magical things about Paris.  I emerged from one on these passageways to this spectacular sight.  I’ve been to Notre Dame many times, climbed the claustrophobic circular stone staircase to stand nose to nose with the gargoyles, but I still find it thrilling to round a corner and come face to face with Our Grand Lady.
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What to do on rainy sunday in Paris

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What to do on a rainy Sunday in Paris?  Well, it’s the first weekend of the month which means that the museums are free.  That also mean that the museums are incredibly crowded….the lines at the Musee D’Orsay were hours long.  Most shops are closed and you can only sit at a cafe drinking chocolat for so long.  That is why we were pleased to encounter this crowd of people right on our very own Rue Bonaparte.  There was an air of excitement and anticipation but no signage to indicate what was going on.  Obviously we just had to stop and watch like everyone else.

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Turns out that this was the Hermes Ready to Wear Fashion Show (Fall 2012 line) and we quite enjoyed watching the models, designers, and special guests arrive.   I especially enjoyed watching the paparazzi, which, by the way, must be a very boring way to make a living 99.9 percent of the time.

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So after a little Internet sleuthing, we found the schedule for the other designers’ shows and set out once more.  This time we were looking for the Yves St Laurent show and all we knew is that it would be at the Jardin Des Plantes in the 5th arrondissement.   It was dusk when we arrived via metro and since we didn’t have an address, we just started circling the perimeter of the park in search of clues.  In case you are wondering how large this park is I have downloaded this lovely map below.

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See…that’s a big park.  We were about 3/4 of the way around, it’s was raining and cold and very dark by this point and we were considering heading back to the station when we the Mercedes and the Jaguars began to arrive.  Then came the camera flashes and the rush of the paparazzi.  We approached the crowd just in time to see Salma Hayak slip into the gates then stood for quite a while to do what Anna was there to do, which is to critique the wonderful dresses, coats, shoes and hair styles of the fashionistas.

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Just as we were about to succumb to the elements and head for home we noticed that the photographers were beginning to chatter and jostle with each other in an even more noticeable fashion.  The next car to pull up to to gate was instantly surrounded and a gentleman (a driver, I think) called Anna and me to step out into the street to watch.
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So here it is, my first and last paparazzi shot. Good thing Katy Perry has blue hair or she might not have been so recognizable from our vantage point.

In the mood for Love!

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Have you heard of the love locks of Paris?  This is how it works…the happy couple puts their initials on a padlock, clips it onto one of two bridges in Paris and throws the key into the Seine as a symbol of their undying love.  This is the Pont des Arts, a nice little pedestrian bridge that connects the 6th arrondisement to  the Palais du Louvre in the 1st.  Supposedly, this is the bridge to which you affix your love lock if you are in a committed relationship.  The other lock-festooned bridge is over by Notre Dame and is apparently designated for those lovers who may not be quite ready for the commitment bridge.  I hear that that “lovers fling” bridge has many more locks on it than this one so we’ll have to check it out.

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This lovely old lock caught my eye because the initials are those of my brother and father, neither of whom, I hope, traveled to Paris in 2009 with a certain LGB.

In the mood for a room with a view!

View to the left...Place St Germain des Pres
View to the left…Place St Germain des Pres

Greetings from Paris!  I’ve decided to hijack my own blog for the next couple of months and use it as a way to keep in touch with friend and family during our sabbatical.  First stop, Paris, where we have rented a delightful little apartment on the left bank.  As much as I love the woodsy views of our home in North Carolina, it’s such a treat to have this beautiful city right on the other side of these charming, floor to ceiling casement windows.

 

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View to the right…Rue Bonaparte

Anna and I left home on leap day… a fitting date to start a journey, wouldn’t you say?  We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, stiff legged and foggy brained, as are all who endure the ridiculously small seats of coach class for 8 hours.  We were met at our apartment on Rue Bonaparte by the rental agent, a lovely young american from Maryland, who gave us the keys and a couple of instructions and was off.  Too tired to search for a great lunch spot, we popped in the first cafe we saw and ended up with a somewhat forgettable meal and went straight back for a nap.

Now I hate jet lag as much as anyone and possibly more than most.  But getting my daughter up after a 2 hour snooze was near to impossible.  So, while Anna was comatose on the couch, I ran to the Monoprix to purchase our basic survival items…water, fruit, yogurt, coffee (for me) and chocolate (for her).

It was the promise of pizza that got Anna back on her feet that first evening and we found a wonderful little restaurant Pizzaria Positano (15 rue Cannettes, 6eme).  The pizzas came straight out of the wood fired oven and had that wonderful crunchy yet chewy crust that we love.

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View from bedroom windows

So we are off to a great start!  I’ll try to post a little something each day and possibly add some recipes if I ever get around to cooking again!  Please send us hellos using the comment button below.

In the mood for Banana Bars!

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Here’s a wonderfully easy and extraordinarily tasty little bar recipe that I tried this week.  I needed to use up some over-ripe bananas and was in the mood to try something different.  Since I am traveling right now and not in possession of my collection of cookbooks, I moseyed on over to Tastespotting and searched for photos with the keyword “banana”.  So… this recipe is comes courtesy of Cooking Classy and it is definitely a keeper!  Enjoy!

For the base:
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons applesauce
1 egg
1 cup over-ripe mashed bananas (about 2 large bananas)
For the frosting:
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup pecans, lightly toasted and chopped
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients for the base in a large mixing bowl.  Mix with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.  Pour mixture in to a buttered 13×9 inch baking pan and spread evenly.  Bake about 20-25 minutes…until edges are just beginning to turn golden and center is puffed and set.  Cool completely.
Mix the 5 frosting ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Whip until fluffy.  Spread evenly over cooled banana base and sprinkle with chopped pecans.
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In which I make a show stopping Holiday Dessert!

Must be the festive holiday spirit in the air that compelled me to make this special dessert from Laurent Tourondel.  I’m no pastry chef so many of the spectacular holiday cakes that I see in cookbooks and magazines intimidate me…. but I had a feeling that I could pull this one off.

This is definitely a chef’s recipe, and by that I mean it is a recipe that was written from a professional’s prospective instead of being geared to the average home cook like me.  But it is actually very doable and I am going to try and be a bit more precise as I rewrite the directions.  I will warn you that I used a lot of mixing bowls in this process.  But you can make this dessert and run the dishwasher a good 36 hours before your guests walk in the door.

It cracks me up that this is called “Mom’s Chocolate Cake”!  No wonder this guy became a chef….growing up with a mom who whips up cakes like this!

I am so happy to finally know how to make beautiful chocolate curls.  Of course I had to do a little online research to find a technique.  See what I mean about “chef’s recipes”?  They say things like, “decorate with chocolate curls” just assuming that we all know how to do that.  But now I do know how to do that so thank you Chef Tourondel for inspiring me to figure it out.

 

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Mom’s Chocolate Cake
 (chocolate mousse cake with creme anglaise) 

Adapted from Bistro Laurent Tourondel: New American Bistro Cooking by Laurent Tourondel and Michele Scicolone. Here is the basic idea:  you make a yummy chocolate mousse, layer it with lady fingers dipped in syrup then let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.  Then you make a vanilla creme anglaise, let it chill a couple of hours, pour it on top of the cake and chill again for a bit.  Decorate with chocolate curls and serve.  I’ve made the cake a little less boozy cause I like my liquor on the side rather than in my dessert.  In my version the liquor just heightens the flavor but it won’t come through on its own. As for the chocolate curls,  I turned to  The Pioneer Woman to get a photo demonstration to show me the way. (I used chocolate chips)  Here’s a link:  Chocolate Curls
Chocolate mousse
 
7 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoons rum
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
5 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons sugar, divided

 

1. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place it in the top half of a double boiler set over simmering water. Add the espresso powder and rum and let stand uncovered until the chocolate is softened. Stir until blended. Transfer the chocolate to a large bowl to cool.
2. In a large, chilled bowl, whip the cream on high speed for 4 minutes, or until soft peaks form.  In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of the sugar until pale, about 3 minutes. In yet another bowl, beat the whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until frothy. Gradually add the remaining 4 tablespoons of the sugar and increase the speed to high. Whip until soft peaks form.

3. Add the egg mixture to the melted chocolate and stir to combine. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the whites.

 
Cake Assembly
 
Chocolate mousse 
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons  rum
20 to 25 ladyfingers, cut in half horizontally
 
1. Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and ¾ cup water in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool completely.
2. Mix together the simple syrup (you should have ¾ cup) and the rum. Dip half of each ladyfinger in the syrup until slightly softened.
3. In a 2-quart glass serving bowl, alternate layers of 1/3 of the mousse followed by 1/3 of the ladyfingers, finishing with the mousse. Alternatively, you may make individual servings by layering the mousse and ladyfingers in large wine glasses. Cover and chill at least 8 hours or up to 2 days.
 
Creme Anglaise
 
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
Chocolate curls or shavings, if desired

 

1. Bring the milk, vanilla bean scrapings and pod, and 1/2 cup of the sugar to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and discard the vanilla bean.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks until thickened slightly and well combined. Very slowly,  add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture into the yolks and whisk until well incorporated. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture, stirring constantly.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened slightly and the mixture lightly coats the back
of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, dip a spatula in the sauce and run your finger through it. If your finger makes a trail rather than causes all of the custard to run off, the sauce is ready.
3. Remove the sauce from the heat and strain into a clean bowl. Place the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Pour the creme anglaise over the chocolate mousse cake and chill until ready to serve.  Decorate with chocolate curls just before serving.
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In the mood for a Good Night’s Sleep!

Isn’t is ironic that insomnia is so common in 40 something gals like me?   I have no exams to pull an all-nighter for, no babies to feed every 2 hours, absolutely no reason to be productive at 2 am, and yet I find myself wide awake at that ungodly hour.

I suppose I could try one of the popular sleep aids, or as The New York Times  called them last Sunday,  “mother’s little helper of the new millennium“.  But I am entirely convinced that I would be the one out of a thousand people who would fall victim to the dreaded SRED (sleep related eating disorder).  I can see it now…. my jeans start to feel tight so I hook up a web cam in the kitchen and am horrified to discover that every night I creep into the kitchen and stand at the open refrigerator in a trance, eating whole packages of cookie dough and chugging half and half from the carton.  When they invent a sleep aid that has the potential side effort of causing sleep-running on treadmills, I’ll be all over it.

 

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Let sleeping children lie….unless they might fall down the stairs.

 

 

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Running on empty…

 

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The Slumbering Superhero (note candy wrappers)

 

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The not-so-vigilant vigilante
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“You can make me go to bed but you can’t make me sleep!”

 

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

Another wonderful recipe from Glamour’s Gourmet on the Run.  It’s a collection that never fails me.  I usually end up with 11 muffins instead of 12 because I like to fill the cups at least 3/4 full.

1 cup boiling water
2/3 cup oatmeal (not instant)
4 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
 
Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line tin with cupcake papers. In small bowl, stir together boiling water, oatmeal and butter.  Set aside and let stand for 20 minutes.  In a large bowl combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Add chocolate pieces and stir.  Beat eggs and vanilla into oatmeal.  Stir oatmeal mixture into dry ingredients just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy, do not over mix)  Spoon into muffin cups.  Bake 20 minutes or until tops are golden.

Meanwhile, maybe I’ll just use these photographs of my sweet children and their amazing capacity for peaceful slumber as inspiration.  On the other hand, I think I’ll just pop into the kitchen and get the ingredients together for these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins….they will be a lovely treat to wake up to.

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In the mood for Holiday Sides!

I like turkey… but other than cooking and seasoning the bird properly, let’s face it, it’s not too exciting.
No, it’s the side dishes that make the holiday meal interesting.  When else could I put bacon in the Brussels sprouts, sour cream in the potatoes or butter-toasted nuts in the rice?
By the way, if you are looking for a new turkey recipe, here are links to two of my favorites.  Some years we fire up the outdoor turkey fryer and use this recipe from the New York Times.
Other times, we stick to the traditional oven roasting method  and use this recipe:
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Balsamic- Braised Brussels Spouts with Bacon

This recipe is adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound small Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed
1/4 pound bacon, finely diced
2 tablespoons finely diced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup lower sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes.  Swirl in the olive oil and butter and wait another minute.  Add the Brussels sprouts, and season them with 1 teaspoon salt and some pepper.  Shake the pan, rolling the Brussels sprouts around to help them brown evenly.  After a few minutes, turn the heat to medium and cook another 3-4 minutes until the sprouts soften slightly.
     Add the diced bacon to the pan and cook a minute or two, until it starts to crisp.  Stir in the shallots and garlic and cook another minute or so, until they are translucent.  Pour in the balsamic vinegar and reduce by half.  Add the chicken stock and reduce to about 1/4 cup, stirring and shaking the pan often to glaze the sprouts.  If you start to run low on liquid before the sprouts are cooked, add a little water to the pan.  You want the Brussels sprouts to be tender yet still have a bit of a crunch to them.  Overcooked Brussels sprouts are the reason that a lot of folks think that they don’t like the vegetable. Serve immediately or transfer to a baking sheet to cool.
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Wild Rice and Toasted Pecan Pilaf

Here is a special rice pilaf that just seems perfect for a holiday meal.  This is from Gourmet Magazine, April 1993.

1 cup pecan halves, chopped coarse
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large onion, halved lengthwise and sliced thin lengthwise
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
1.4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups wild rice, (about 1 pound) rinsed well in several changes of water and drained
4 1/2 cups chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a small baking pan toss the pecans with the butter, the thyme and the salt until they are coated well and roast them in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes, or until they are crisp and fragrant.

In a flameproof casserole, cook the onion and the bell pepper in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring for 5 minutes, or until they are just softened, and with a slotted spoon transfer them to a bowl.  Add the rice to the casserole and cook it, stirring constantly, for 1 minute,  Stir in the broth, heated to boiling, and salt and pepper to taste and bring the mixture to a boil.  Bake the mixture, covered in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes.  Stir in the onion mixture, bake the pilaf , covered, for 30 minutes more, or until the rice is tender and the broth has been absorbed, and stir in the pecans.  Serves 8.

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Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Nutmeg and Sour Cream



I love sweet potatoes but I don’t want them to taste like dessert,  which is why I love this recipe from Emeril Lagasse.

4 large sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons sour cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4  pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Rub the sweet potatoes with the oil and place in an ovenproof baking dish and roast potatoes until tender, about 1 hour, turning over after 30 minutes.  When potatoes are cooked, set aside to cool for 10 minutes.  Cut the potatoes in half and squeeze the potato pulp into a three quart saucepan.  Set the flame to medium low and mash gently until smooth with a potato masher.  Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, sour cream, and butter and fold together until thoroughly combined.  Remove from the heat and serve immediately, or keep warm , covered, until ready to serve.  Serves 4-6

In the mood for New Ways with Tortillas!

     In the Feedback column of Bon Appetit magazine, (you know, the very last page where they profile a famous person and ask them 5 or 6 questions about their life with food) they often ask the celebrities to name three things they have in their refrigerators.
     I figure I could go a lot of different directions with that question.  If I mention that I always have unsweetened vanilla almond milk, fresh blueberries and fish oil capsules, I come across one way.  If I admit that I  have presliced individually wrapped American cheese, a tube of Pillsbury crescent rolls and a huge jar of Welsh’s grape jelly…that’s a whole different picture.  Maybe I should showcase the jar of tiny imported Nicoise olives, the small container of creme fraiche and the beautiful capers that my sister brought back from Italy.  My frig has multiple personalities.
     Here are three of the reasons that you will always find a package of flour tortillas in my refrigerator.
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Thai Chicken Tortilla Spring Rolls
 
This recipe is from the appetizer section of the California Pizza Kitchen cookbook by Larry Flax and Rick Rosenfield.  In my version, I increase the amount of chicken and serve them as dinner, with a big green salad.  Although there are several step to putting this recipe together, you can do it all ahead of time and have it ready to pop in the oven right before serving.
Grilled Teriyaki Chicken
 
4 tablespoons bottled teriyaki sauce
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Spicy Peanut Dressing
 
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons asian toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
Thai Satay Sauce
 
1/2 cup canned coconut milk (stir before measuring)
1/2 cup spicy peanut dressing (from above)
1/2 teaspoon thai red curry paste
For the Spring Rolls
 
8 8-inch flour tortillas
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
spicy peanut dressing (from above)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup thinly slivered carrots
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh parsley
To make the chicken:  Preheat a stove top grill or broiler.  Lightly pound the chicken breasts to help them cook evenly and quickly.  In a mixing bowl, stir together the teriyaki sauce, olive oil, garlic and ginger.  Turn the chicken breasts in this marinade and leave it at room temperature for ten minutes.  Grill or broil the chicken until cooked through.  Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, then ct crosswise into 1/4 inch thick strips.  Cover and refrigerate.
To make the spicy peanut dressing:  In a small saucepan, combine all the dressing ingredients.  Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and set aside.  (be careful as this burns easily)
To make the Thai satay sauce:  Combine all the sauce ingredients in a blender or a food processor and blend until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
To make the spring rolls:  
 
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Lightly spread the softened butter onto one side of each tortilla.
Turn the tortillas over and evenly distribute the following ingredients over a 1-2 inch wide strip on their unbuttered sides. just below the center of the tortilla from end to end:
a tablespoon of the spicy peanut dressing
sprinkle of mozzarella
a layer of grilled teriyaki chicken
carrot slivers
sliced scallions
bean sprouts
minced cilantro
Roll up each tortilla into a tight cigar shape and place them seam side down on a baking sheet.  Keep the rolls about one inch apart.  Sprinkle each roll lightly with parmesan cheese.
Bake in preheated oven until heated through and lightly brown, 5-7 minutes.
Slice each roll diagonally into three equal pieces.  Sprinkle with minced parsley and serve with the Thai Satay sauce.  Serves 8-12 for an appetizer and 4-6 as a meal.
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Peanut Butter Nutella and Rice Krispie Roll Ups

 
This little treat couldn’t be easier, but what a wonderful combination of flavors and textures.  I found it inSkewer It!  by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford.  They garnish theirs with chocolate chips after cutting them but I like them better without.  Nutella is a chocolate spread that has been popular in Europe for years and has become fairly easy to find here in the States.   It blends wonderfully with peanut butter.
1/2 cup peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
4 six inch flour tortillas
1/4 cup Nutella
1/3 cup Rice Krispies
Spread 2 tablespoons peanut butter on each tortilla, leaving a 1-inch border.  Spread 1 tablespoon of Nutella evenly on top of the peanut butter.  Sprinkle each one with 1-2 tablespoons Rice Krispies and roll up tightly.  Place seam side down on a cutting board.  Using a sharp knife, cut off the ends of each roll and slice into 3/4 inch thick pieces.  Secure each piece with a toothpick and serve.  Makes about 24.
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Tortilla Pizza

And now….the #1 reason that we always have flour tortillas in our refrigerator.  Tortilla pizzas have been a staple lunch item in our home for years.  I found that it was worthwhile to purchase a set of small perforated pizza baking sheets.  This helps the bottom of the pizza get crispy and I can easily fit 6 or 8 of them in the oven at one time.  The key to a good crispy tortilla pizza however, is to make sure that all of the toppings are sliced very thinly and scattered evenly over the surface.  If you go crazy piling on the topping, you will have to eat it with a knife and fork, although it will still taste great, I imagine.  We like to use thin slices of fresh tomatoes instead of tomato sauce.  This also helps keep the pizza light and crispy.  The possibilities are endless, but here is the recipe for the tortilla pizza pictured.

1 flour tortilla
olive oil
thinly sliced cherry tomatoes
thinly sliced Vidalia onion
shredded mozzarella cheese
sliced pepperoni, cut into slivers
grated parmesan cheese
coarse ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  Place a flour tortilla on a pizza baking sheet and brush topside lightly with olive oil.  Scatter tomatoes and onions evenly over tortilla then top with a light layer of mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle with pepperoni and parmesan and season with black pepper.  Bake until golden brown and crispy, 8-10 minutes. Serves one.

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In which I make Boeuf Bourguignon just like Julia Child….more or less.

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If you’ve never made Julia Child’s Beef Burgundy, I want to convince you to add it to your repertoire this very minute.  It is absolutely the perfect make ahead dinner party recipe.

The only way you can possibly screw up it is if you place it on the stove to reheat while you run upstairs to change and get ready for your guests and take too long deciding what to wear and scorch the pan so badly that the whole dish tastes horribly burnt through and through and you actually have to throw away not only the stew but also the pan because it is ruined beyond repair and then you have to go get take out for twelve people from the Italian place down the street.

But believe me….that will only happen once and the zillions of times that you prepare this dish, from that day forward, will all be smashing successes!

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Here is what you need:
a large, deep oven proof casserole (I use enameled cast iron Le Creuset)
a slotted spoon
4 slices thick cut bacon
3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2 inch pieces (I use a rump roast)
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups full-bodied red wine (Chianti, Cabernet… just make sure it is good enough to drink)
2-3 cups canned beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves smashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 crumbled bay leaf
24 small white onions, peeled
1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chicken broth
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Here’s what you do:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Saute the bacon over medium heat until light brown and starting to crisp.  Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.  Set casserole aside while you pat the pieces of beef dry with a paper towel.  Then reheat the casserole with the bacon grease until hot and brown the beef, a few pieces at  a time, until nicely browned on all sides, as shown above.  Set the beef aside with the bacon.
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Now brown the sliced vegetables then pour out any remaining bacon grease and return the beef and the bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper.
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Sprinkle the beef and vegetables with the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly.  Set the casserole, uncovered  in the middle position of the preheated oven for 4 minutes.  Then toss the meat and return to the oven for 4 minutes more. ( This browns the flour and covers the beef with a light crust as shown in the photo above)  Remove casserole from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Stir in the wine and enough beef broth so that the meat is barely covered.  Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs.  Cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
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While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
Saute the mushrooms in a tablespoon of butter until they start to release their juices and are lightly brown.  Set aside.
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Saute the onions in a tablespoon of butter until they start to brown then add a cup of chicken broth and simmer gently until they are tender.  Drain and set aside.
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When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.  So you’ll have the sauce in a medium saucepan, the meat and veggies in the sieve and now you can wash out the casserole to clear away any burnt bits and then return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat. (pictured below)
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Put the saucepan of sauce over low heat and simmer gently, skimming off any fat that rises to the surface.  You want to have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce, thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  If your sauce it too thin, boil it down rapidly.  If it is too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of beef broth. Taste carefully for seasonings.  Pour the now reduced and thick and wonderful sauce back over the meat and vegetables in the casserole.  *Recipe may be completed in advance up to this point.
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For immediate serving:  Cover the casserole and simmer for 2-3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.  Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.
For later serving:  When cooled, cover and refrigerate.  About 15-20 minutes before serving, bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly (see introductory paragraph) for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.
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