Homemade ~ Mustard ~

"It's easier to make than you think"--that's the phrase that comes up most often when you 'Google' how to make homemade mustard.  It's true!  It is très simple!  The result of the minimal effort required to make your own mustard is a taste-bud exploding, intense and delicious 'condiment' that out-shines the jarred store-bought kind, hands-down.  I know I won't go back .... ever.

Recipe possibilities are endless--using it for marinades, vinaigarettes, dips....or just putting a large spoon of it on your favorite salami....or hard boiled egg for that matter.

Here it is:  For a large batch, enough to share or store ....

2 cups mustard seeds
3 cups apple cider vingar
1/2 tbs. sugar
salt to taste

Place mustard seeds in a ceramic or glass bowl and add apple cider vinegar and a dash of salt.  You can let it rest to absorb the vinegar for at least 3 days or as long as a week .... Once the seeds have softened and absorbed most of the liquid, grind the mustard in a food processor or with a stick blender.

You can make flavored mustards by adding; curry, Herbe de Provence, honey, tarragon.... etc.  I made three varieties -- Hot (with a tiny bit of red pepper), Sweet (with honey) and Spice (with  hot curry, paprika and tumeric).

 The heat of mustard mellows after it is refrigerated, so if you find it too strong at first, let it sit for a while more.  My recipe is the 'French-style' using vinegar, but you can also experiment with wine or beer....  This mustard is great in the cold months on cooked meats, makes a great dressing and in the summer it's ready for your burger or hot-dog!

Enjoy!  Bonne semaine mes amis!

Petites Pommes

After a brief absence fighting off the flu--which is apparently traveling through France (and New York and Pittsburgh based on the comments of my friends back in the US!) .....I was knockin' on death's door--okay, a bit too dramatic.... but wow--it was horrible.  You know when you feel so bad that you beg every person that passes your bedroom to please, please, please just put you out of your misery?  That bad.  But I am over it... finally.  And back to loving food and wanting to cook and wanting to share food!  So if that hasn't entirely put-you-off.....still with me?

On one of my last visits to our local 'bio' farm, Le Chateau, I filled my basket with leeks, cabbage, beets, onions and about a dozen very 'petite' pommes.  It might be hard to scale from the pictures, but these little apples are only just slightly larger than a golf-ball and I thought they were not only cute, but also perfectly snack-size or 'Petite Fille' size.  This week as I was coring one to fill with peanut-butter for my eight year old, I thought how fun it would be to make mini-stuffed baked apples with them...a bite-size desert.

Although perfectly cute, and perfectly sized, these little pommes are not at all perfect.  They are grown organically and their nibble marks and less than perfect skin attests to this....but this point also makes me most happy about buying and eating them.....imperfection is perfection!  When I was taking the images for this post I was really noticing that although they may not win any beauty contests, their flavor and 'purity' easily made up for it.

 ~ Mini-Pommes with Spiced Corn-Cake Filling.....

1/2 cup 'farine de mais' or corn flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour (I use rice flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup raw sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp. mixed spice mix of cloves, nutmeg and ginger or 'pumpkin-pie' spice mix
1 egg
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tbs. light oil
4 apples

For my recipe I used the tiny apples and filled nine of various sizes, but normally I think this batter will fill 4 regular apples--as you are only filling the cored recess.

Combine dry ingredients, then wet, then mix all.  The texture is similar to cornbread which is lovely with the softness of the baked apple, so now worries to beat or use an electric mixer, just blend by hand and fill apples.  Fill them only 3/4 up because the cake will rise out the top and spill over, but then some will also leak out the bottom a bit too.

Bake filled apples at 350F for about 25 minutes or until apples are soft when poked.

Dust with sugar or serve with cream on top....these make a yummy and rustic little desert. If you can find the tiny apples they are almost 'apple-poppers'.....

Happy Monday mes amis!  It's great to be back in the kitchen!


It was French Guy's birthday..... Not to give anything away--but it was the one right before the BIG one...so at his request, it was a small celebration.  It was also on a Tuesday--non-weekend parties are hard to pull off.  So instead there was a special diner-pour-deux and he actually had to wait for cake until yesterday when I finally could make his cake, a day late.

Welcome again to my experimental kitchen.  I live in France.  Have you been to a 'patisserie' in France?  Am I crazy for actually trying to pull-off a cake made from scratch in the land of 'gateau', 'tartes' and 'tortes'? Well....oui.  But I needed something that matched up with our family's various preferences, restrictions and desires.

My desire?  (most important, non?) was C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T!  

Anything after that was inconsequential..... 

No dairy (milk products) and no gluten (wheat).....The result of the quest?  

............. Chocolate Almond Cake with Coconut-milk ganache..........
250 grams Almond Flour
200 grams raw, unrefined sugar
100 grams rice flour (or wheat all-purpose flour if gluten is not an issue)
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
5 cl. light oil
50 grams coco powder (unsweetened baking coco)
1/4 ltr coconut milk

For the ganache:
150 grams 70% dark cholate
1/8 ltr. coconut milk

(I was baking with my kitchen measures purchased here in France for a change--so if you are converting back to cups--250 grams is about 1 cup and a half....etc.  Just eye-ball it!  You'll do fine!)

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl beat eggs and oil.  Warm coconut milk and throughly mix coco powder in warm milk before adding to dry ingredients along with the eggs and oil mixture.  Pour into forms (J'adore the little silicon ones and I also use a 9" round one that is fabulous.)  Bake at 350F for about 20-25 minutes for the small forms or 35 min. for 9" round.

For the ganache; warm the coconut milk in the microwave (not to boiling point, just under). You can add a 'flavor' to the milk--Cointreau, Framboise, vanilla, espresso powder...or just stick with the bittersweet pure chocolate.

Pour heated milk over chocolate pieces.  Leave it without stirring for 5 minutes then stir melted chocolate until smooth and shiny.  You can let it sit until it is the consistency you like--from very runny to thick enough to spread.... as you like.

 ~ Chocolat Ganache ~

The consistency of the cake is moist and slightly dense--and very rich!  
The ganache is creamy and decadent. 

Joyeux Anniversaire mon coeur!  
Thanks for the reason to make and eat chocolate cake.....

....like we really needed one..... a reason to eat cake, that is.

"C" is for cookie......

I have confessed before that I am not a baker....especially cookies.  Making cookies is counter-intuitive to my closet-ADD.....(okay--well now that's out....) I enjoy the mixing up the ingredients but after the first tray is removed from the oven, I am d-o-n-e.  But there is a few dozen more cookies still to go in, and then there is the mess to clean-up.  Maybe if I could just make one cookie, or one giant cookie.  Don't think I haven't considered it.

But here is the baking out-of-necessity thing again.  There is, to my knowledge, only one type of gluten/dairy free cookie available at the grocery store in town, and I do not know any 'patisseries' that make gluten free options, aside from 'macarons'--some are 'g/f' but you have to watch out for cross-contamination from other baked goods--and then there is the sweet-addictive 'meringue'  also made 'sans gluten'...but healthy?  10 pounds of sugar + egg whites.....protein--eggs? -- Healthy in my book!  But maybe not the best 'repas' for 'les enfants' or 'bebe'--and that was my inspiration for making some cookies that I could give to the kids and 'Petite Fille' who is one, and not send them to the moon on a sugar-high--but instead give them something yummy, sweet enough.... and in a crunch could also serve as breakfast--hee, hee---if needed, bien sur!

So there you go--many reasons to subject myself to the mundane torture of making cookies when I would rather be making a cake, or sauteing something.......

~Apple Date Cookies~

1 cup almond flour
1 cup gluten-free flour baking-blend or regular white flour
1 cup organic brown sugar (yes! I know--seems like a lot, but it is worth it for all of the other healthier ingredients--and REAL organic unrefined sugar is not terrible for you--as much as artificial sweeteners are.).... and besides--these are c-o-o-k-i-e-s....
3/4 cup quinoa flakes or gluten-free quick oats.
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
3 tsps vanilla
1 tbs. cinnamon
2 eggs
1 tbs. light oil
1/2 cup apple juice
1 large apple, peeled and then grated
3/4 cup chopped dates

Mix all of the dry ingredients.  Mix the vanilla, eggs, oil, apple juice and grated apple and add to dry ingredients---add dates, you can also add nuts at this stage if you like, but I leave them out so that the baby can enjoy them too.

Drop by small spoonfuls on parchment lined tray and bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

These cookies are soft and filling.....for an added treat, I drizzled some cinnamon apple 'frosting' on them made by mixing powered sugar with apple juice and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

As the official 'tester' I had to eat about six of them before serving them to the children.  Just to make sure they were good enough.......I know, I am such a good mommy.....the sacrifice I am willing to go to......no limits. 

Enjoy mes amis!

When there is ~ snow ~ outside.....

Oh! At long last there is snow!  Call me crazy but we all really wanted a bit of snow this winter.  It is stunningly gorgeous here when there is a small dusting or a few inches of snow on the ground.  We are not skiers...  (we wish we were though!) we just love to frolic in the stuff, take quiet snowy walks, or just look at it from the kitchen window..... while inside--making soup, mais bien sur!

This is one of the easiest ever soups to make.  My mom made a version of it when we were kids, when this very 'exotic' ethnic sausage called 'kielbasa' became popular in the US.  Here it is called  'saucisses fumees' and it is most commonly served German-style with kraut and boiled potatoes or lentils.

Because it tends to be salty and garlicky, it makes a great addition to a simple broth and veggie soup.  Also, as it is 'pre-cooked' the sausage is a great last minute addition. This soup is hearty but not heavy and very flavorful.

Winter 'Saucisse' Soup........

8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 diced onion
1 leek diced
4 large carrots chopped in large pieces
5 potatoes, skinned and cut into large cubes
4 sausages
1/2 head of green cabbage
olive oil, salt, pepper

Lightly saute the vegetables in olive oil. Cover with stock and cook until tender.  Add sausage pieces and diced cabbage. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until cabbage is tender.

Sit inside, watch the snow, listen to the bellowing winds.... and enjoy!

Stay warm mes amis!

Braised Leeks

I often use leeks in cooking--soups, leek tartes, in any potato dish.....but I have never used them as a 'featured' side dish before.  Many people won't touch them, or attempt to make them because they have the bad-rep of being mud or dirt ladden, onion-y, tough over-grown onions.  But quite the contrary--they are not that difficult to prepare--they just need a good rinsing between the outer layers, become sweet and tender with little effort--and a big bonus--I rarely ever am reduced to tears when cutting them or chopping them.  For the record,they are also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin B6, Iron and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate and Manganese.

I have to admit--I went off the idea of cooking and eating leeks after while reading the famous 'French Women Don't Get Fat' book by Mirielle Guilano, grande-dame of Veuve Clicquot--I attempted to follow her initiation 'diet' /cleanse that promised to help me turn into a svelte-French-lady---you drink only cooked leeks in water, slightly salted, every two hours for 4-5 days--as I recall.  Don't try it.  It put me off leeks for a few years.....

Instead, if you are keen to fall in-love with leeks--try this instead.  Simple. Yummy.  Comforting.

Braised Leeks:

5-6 medium to large leeks, dark green ends trimmed and rinsed clean of sand or dirt between layers.
Olive oil
Sea Salt
Herbs de Provence
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock

I cooked these as a bottom layer under roasted chicken.  Otherwise, if you are just doing the leeks--you lay a single layer in a casserole, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper and cook them at 350F for 30 minutes--to keep them from browning too much, add the stock half way through cooking.

Braised leeks are a classic in French Cuisine--Julia Childs was the queen of this type of classic French side-dish....I think I will stick with Julia (at least for the leeks) and stay with Mirielle for the Veuve----. 

Bon appetit!