So my brother-in-law recently announced that he was vegetarian bound. Not a decision he is taking lightly, but a well thought out journey arriving at destination “no meat”. His announcement really got me thinking.

Since arriving here in France,our eating habits have changed drastically.  I’ll spare you  the details of the breakfast challenge, the bread challenge, and the coffee challenge, and just state straight up, we’ve been eating LOTS of meat since we’ve been here.  I’m honestly not even sure how it happened.  Partly, I think I caved to cultural pressure.  I wanted to fit in.  Partially, I think my vegetarian habits were very California (warm climate)-centric.  Smoothies, salads, acai bowls, and soba noodles no longer held the same allure in freezing winds and pelting rain.  A big plate of Boeuf Bourguinon – – – well, that sounded appetizing!  But the thing is, ideologically I completely and 100% believe in vegetarian eating.  Back home we weren’t 100% there, but we were on the right path; headed in the right direction.  We ate meat occasionally and only as a garnish (yes, for those of you that know me well, it’s the bacon we can’t manage to abandon).

Interestingly enough also, since we’ve been here, we’ve had more “debates” (read parental coaxing / prodding / screaming & kid resisting) about food than ever before.  When I stopped to think about it, I realized those debates always happen over meat main dishes and never over veggies.  Imagine that, a kid that wants to eat her veggies and nothing more!

So here we go again.  Like salmon swimming up stream in this French land of charcuterie, we’re going to attempt to regain a more veggie-centric mode of eating – – – still allowing the occasional meat in as a garnish.

I recently renovated this little dish known as a Tartiflette to be based on carrots rather than potatoes.  It was a success.  And yes, there was a meat garnish here since I had ham left over and couldn’t bear to toss it out – I’m ideologically opposed to waste also {wink}. However, this dish can completely forego the meat and be just as tasty.

Start out by slicing up a good amount of carrots into thin rounds. I believe I used five.


Sautee up the carrots until they just start to become tender.


Add a generous amount of sage and continue to sautee for another 2 minutes.


Spread the carrots into a casserole dish that is oven-safe.  Then pour about a cup of cream over. (I just said it was mainly veggies, I never claimed it was low fat!) Sprinkle with salt and pepper.


Spread thinly sliced ham over . . . or skip this step altogether if you aren’t feeling the meat garnish.


Finally, top with raclette cheese.


Put the whole thing in the oven at about 375 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes until cheese is melted and top is golden brown.


Enjoy with some sliced baguette and a nice green salad.

Yogurt Cake

imagePut aside your measuring cups and spoons, because you simply won’t need them for this quick French cake.  It’s great as a last minute, friends are coming over for coffee, kind of deal.  Kids will also love it as an after school snack.  You can dress it up (with a little fruit coulis, like I did here) or serve it au naturel.  No mater how you slice it, (pause for pun appreciation) it’s an easy and delicious dessert.

So what’s the deal with no measuring cups or spoons?  Well, since it’s a yogurt cake, you use your little old yogurt container to measure out all the other ingredients.  Guess I should have also mentioned that clean up is a snap with this one – you toss the yogurt container and only have one mixing bowl and spoon to wash.

In exactly this order, here’s what you plop in the bowl:

  • 1 personal size container of plain unsweetened yogurt
  • 1/2 of the yogurt container full of oil
  • 2 yogurt containers full of sugar
  • 3 yogurt containers full of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. of baking powder (OK, so you will have to measure one thing.  Here in France the baking powder comes in little individual serving packets and you just need to dump in about half a packet)
  • Some lemon zest – your call on the quantity.  I like a good lemon flavor and so zested a little over half of a lemon.


After all the ingredients are in the bowl, you simply mix with a spoon until  well blended.

If you have an interesting or cute pan, it’s fun to use it here.  I searched high and low and this is the best I could come up with – a pan typically used to make a Charlotte.  I was a bit worried that the batter would be too deep and thus take too long to bake, but ultimately, it worked out OK.


I baked in the oven at 350 for about 40 minutes.  Like I said, my cake was quite deep and so it took a bit longer.  If you go with a standard depth cake pan, you can count on closer to 30 minutes.  Just keep an eye on it and watch for that just right, still moist, golden brown stage.


I flipped it out of the pan after about 10 minutes.  I let it cool completely and then just dusted with powdered sugar. I blended some frozen raspberries to make a little coulis and served it to 4 hungry mouths as an after school snack.  Silence in the room for at least 3 minutes as they all devoured it.


Pumpkin & Onion Tarte

These adorable pumpkins (potirons) are all over the market these days. Last week I bought a larger one and stuffed it with baguette, bacon, gruyère and emmenthal cheese, some crème fraiche, and sautéed onion. It was to die for.  This week I bought two little guys and set out to figure out what to do with them. Just roasting and then turning into soup was tempting, but I wanted something a little more substantial.  After nosing around a few French recipe sites, I found some inspiration and settled on a Pumpkin & Onion Tarte.

I started by peeling my little pumpkin and then cutting it into largish sized chunks.  I put them in a pan with a bit of water and boiled until they were soft and mashable.


I chopped up a medium sized onion and grated a large potato.  I put a little olive oil in a skillet and started to sautée the onion.  After a couple minutes, I added in the grated potato.  I also threw in a few sprinkles of herbes de Provence.


When the pumpkin was soft, I drained off the remaining water and mashed it with a potato masher. I added the mashed pumpkin to the skillet of onion and potato and mixed well.

  I pulled it off the heat to let it cool. Once cool, I added in a big handful of grated gruyère, 3 beaten eggs, and a couple of heaping tablespoons of crème fraiche.

I mixed everything well. I took one of those lovely pre-made French crusts (why, oh why, do we not have these crusts back in the States?), spread it in a tarte pan, and then added the pumpkin yumminess.


After about 30 minutes in the oven, we had a golden Pumpkin & Onion Tarte. We had it as a simple dinner with soup and green salad, and homemade applesauce for dessert. Perfect dinner for a chilly fall evening.


All Before 8am – Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Somewhere back in my 30s, I think I spent idyllic mornings before heading off to work where I would sit and sip a cup of coffee in silence and maybe leaf through a book, magazine or newspaper.  Unfortunately for me, I didn’t recognize that “pre-child” era for the paradise that it actually was.  Yet every year, with the arrival of summer, I cling to some deeply repressed notion of a smooth, peaceful and easy morning since we “don’t have school or anything else to hurry off to”.  And every year, about a week into summer I realize what a hopeless romantic loser I am for even believing in “smooth”, “peaceful”  or “easy”.

In case you can’t relate to what I’m describing here, let me give you a run down of a common pre-8am landscape in our little slice of the earth.  That is correct, all of this -and more- occurs prior to 8 o’clock in the morning; approximately only 60 – 90 minutes after 8 small feet hit the floor to welcome a glorious new day.

10 – Hand soap smeared on a wooden nightstand because “I was decowating it”.  This particular day it was hand soap, but you can feel free to sub in toothpaste, Mom’s expensive moisturizer, calamine lotion, butt cream, or any other gooey substance that is supposed to stay in the bathroom.

9 – Apple core dropped in the toilet because the potty was closer than the trash. (OK – this isn’t a regular occurrence, but the fact that it even happened once kind of makes you wonder.)

8 – All out tantrum because “I wanted to po my own ceweal.”

7 – Wet pull-up left in the middle of the kitchen floor. When are they going to make them so that they can absorb the pee and dispose of themselves?

6 – Reader on page 360 of the book you just got her (that was supposed to last all week) and completely oblivious to the ensuing morning chaos.  I should never have talked to her so much as an infant; then maybe she wouldn’t have become such a voracious bookworm.

5 – Breakfast sweetly made for younger siblings (she calls it the Hot Cocoa Cafe), but the kitchen not so sweetly hiding the remnants of said breakfast (aka – crap all over my kitchen!)

4 – Question “What are we going to do today?” already uttered at least 57 times.  Answer: NOTHING.  But they still keep asking as if the question can change the course of their future.

3 – Dragon, lion, and other “animal of the week” pictures already littering the dining room table that was clean last night when I went to bed.  Darn FuntoDraw with Mei Yu videos on YouTube.  She should have named it FuntoKillTrees with the amount of paper these children plow through.

2 – Animal hospital, complete with a gazillion bandaged stuffed animals, set up and completely blocking my front door.  Here’s hoping the fire marshall won’t visit today.

1 – The words Mom, Mama, Mother, and MacoCheena (don’t ask) uttered, shouted, whined, screamed, whispered, and repeated in varying tones, pitches and cadences at least 700 times (or so it seems).

Picture painted now?  Good.  So how is your summer going so far?  And yes, it’s often on days that start like this that I retreat into my mixing bowls and measuring spoons just to take a moment.  On this particular day, I tackled Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes with some home grown sugar pumpkins from the garden.  I figured everything else is so wacky, why not bake with pumpkin in early July.

I started by roasting up one of the cute little guys.

roasted pumpkin

I then scooped out the yummy filling and mashed with a potato masher.

roasted pumpkin puree

I mixed together the dry ingredients of flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.  Then I mashed together sugar and butter until they were well combined.

pumpkin pie cupcakes

To that mixture, I added an egg white, my mashed pumpkin, some milk, and a bit of vanilla.  Then I added in the dry ingredients and mixed it all up until smooth.

pumpkin pie cupcakes

I used mini cupcake papers and a tin and filled each one.  I baked them about 12 minutes.  While they were baking, I mixed together some powdered sugar, cream cheese, and butter.  After the cupcakes cooled, I frosted them and Voila.

pumpkin pie cucpakes

Please note that no specific children were identified in this post.  There are really no behaviors in and of themselves that are horrific, atypical childlike behaviors.  It’s simply the gestalt of it all compacted into a 60 minute time period that drives this mother to her oven.

Here’s the complete recipe for Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes.



Allez les Bleus – You’ve Been Chopped

I wish I could tell you that I haven’t posted in a while because I have been so wrapped up watching the World Cup.  If I were to say that, I would definitely earn some points in The Hub’s book.  He literally has the schedule memorized, has installed I don’t know how many new apps on his phone to track scores and standings, and cut our San Diego getaway weekend short because he had to be back home to watch France’s first game.  Never mind that the hotel had a gazillion TVs – all of which were tuned to the World Cup.  Nope, there’s something special, I guess, about watching it in a fellow Frenchman’s living room with 15+ other screaming and cheering Frogs.

The Cup Mania is so intense with him this year, that he went so far as to order cable.  The family who hasn’t had cable in over 6 years, whose children don’t really even know what cable is, now have it just so one man can watch grown adults kick a ball around.

The upside for me? Shhhhhhhhhhhhh, don’t say it too loudly, but with cable also comes the Food Network.  I literally feel like I am on a permanent vacation.  I can watch the Food Network whenever I want . . . . not just when traveling and staying in hotels.  So the small people in this house may be a bit impressed by the World Cup thing, but they are now INFECTED with the Food Network.  The Medium Little One has taken to critiquing every meal I put on the table a la Geoffrey Zakarian.  Just today the Little Little One was playing in her pretend kitchen and asked me how many minutes she had left on the clock.  And the Big Little One is trying to figure out how we could have a Chopped Party with a couple other families using only one kitchen.

There you have it, the highlight of our Summer so far: A father obsessed with soccer, a mother obsessed with food, and kids just newly exposed to cable trying to navigate the thrill of it all.

Yet, none of this should overshadow the thrill of the family’s newly acquired vegetable spiralizer.  I am a spiralizing fool!  Don’t stand in my kitchen too long or you might find an appendage starting to spontaneously ribbon off.  A recent creation with the spiralizer was this Sriracha Shrimp Over Zucchini Pasta.

I started by spiralizing about 3 medium large zucchini.  The little hands just love to help with this part.


Then I spread the spiralized zucchini out on a couple of layers of paper towels, sprinkled with salt, and let them sit for about 5 minutes.  This helps to release excess liquid so you don’t end up with a soggy mess.


While the “noodles” were basking on the paper towel, I put a pot of water on to boil and set to work on the shrimp.  I mixed my Sriracha sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar and salt and pepper in a little bowl.


I warmed some olive oil in a large skillet and sauteed up some chopped shallots.  I added in the Sriracha mixture and my shrimp.  I let it cook until the shrimp was just pink.


I tossed my zucchini noodles in my pot of boiling water for 1 minute.  Yep, only 1 minute.  Any longer and you will have mush.  I drained the noodles and reserved a bit of the cooking water.


I added some butter and a bit of the reserved cooking liquid to my shrimp and then placed the noodles on a platter and crowned them with the shrimp.


I guess some people call these lovely little zucchini noodles Zoodles.  I prefer to just call them noodles and my kiddos are none the wiser.  Luckily for me, I wasn’t chopped after serving this for dinner.  I think they kind of know that they’ll starve should they ever decide to “chop” me.

Here’s the complete recipe for Sriracha Shrimp Over Zucchini Noodles.


Another One for the Net – Grilled Salmon Kabobs

This is a quickie, folks.  Another fish recipe that you might enjoy, that didn’t make it to the table in time to be included with FishFest.  But I wanted to be sure and get it up while barbecuing season is in full swing.  It’s so simple, delish, and healthy!  Really hope you will give it a try.

Oregano Lemon Salmon Kabobs graced our table for Memorial Day and here’s how we put them together.

Start the party off with some fresh oregano, finely chopped.


Then, I mixed the oregano with some sesame seeds, ground cumin, sea salt, and red pepper flakes.


I took 2 fresh lemons and sliced them both quite thin.


I threaded one inch chunks of salmon, alternately with a folded lemon slice, onto my (soaked) bamboo skewers.  I found I had more salmon than lemon and so I threaded with kind of a bonus clump of salmon right in center skewer.  I then brushed the completed kabobs with olive oil and generously sprinkled / pressed on my spice mixture.


Onto the preheated grill they went.  The hubs took over; the man can’t cook to save his life, but he has been trained to follow explicit grilling instructions.  About 6 minutes, turning every 2 minutes or so, did the trick so that the fish was opaque throughout.


Tasty and entertaining – it’s always an added plus when you can eat and then torment your siblings with bamboo weaponry, right?  At least that’s the way things generally roll at our house.

Here’s the complete recipe for Grilled Salmon Kabobs with Lemon & Oregano.