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This blog is written by a handful of great ladies. To see a complete list (or to read one author's posts) visit our Authors Page and select the author you are interested in. You will then be given a list of their posts. Enjoy!

Our DAMN Tweets!

jodycakesRT @UnderbellyHOU: It's a whole, beautiful new day. For you to eat lunch in! See you here for a Goat Dumpling/Fireman's #4 combo benefiting HFD?
15 months ago
culturalbaggage@jodycakes Lots of people have listened to Led Zeppelin IV while baking.
15 months ago
jodycakesToday's baking soundtrack - Led Zeppelin IV - it's time to rock and roll this week...
15 months ago
jodycakesRT @FelipeRiccio: Restaurants, groups look to honor city’s firefighters http://t.co/W5ie052wzF
15 months ago
CathyWMDADear Mouse in my kitchen.. This kitchen is not big enough for the 2 of us and well I am not going anywhere.. #getoutwhileucan
15 months ago
CathyWMDAThis just keeps getting better...argh BREAKING: IRS Caught on Tape Telling Nonprofit: "Keep Your Faith to Yourself" http://t.co/jL7bfTqZNs”
15 months ago
CathyWMDAAfter 4 glorious days of #winetasting in the #WillametteValley a #detox is definitely in order ;)
15 months ago

France

Who’s in da DAMN House Wednesday? – Croque Camille

 

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Intro from our very own jodycakes:  Hello there…we all have the blogs that we read EVERY.SINGLE.DAY and our guest blogger today is one of my absolute faves, as well as being mon petite hero;-)  Why do I say this?  Well, I have a few love affairs going on…yes, Mr. G. knows about it…one is with baking (obviously) and the other is with France.  So you put two of my fave things together and Voilà, you have the perfect combination!  A blogger that is a baker IN PARIS!  Croque Camille, affectionately named after the sandwich Croque Monsieur, is smart as a whip and has a sharp, witty sense of humor .   Her posts about livng in France, have me cheering her on from afar, when she talks of her trials and tribulations of an American in Paris.  However, most of the time she has me literally DROOLING on my keyboard with her recipes and tips, along with awesome posts from around France, as she and her hubby eat & drink their way through.  Yum.  Without further adieu, let me present to you Croque Camille:

Bonjour WMDA readers!  Camille here, from Croque-Camille: Food Adventures in Paris, and I’m thrilled to be here.  As an American woman working as a pâtissière in France, I’ve had the opportunity to see the inner workings of a Parisian pastry shop, as well as experience the frustration of being a foreigner and not being taken seriously despite my experience, knowledge, and passion for the art of pastry.  But I didn’t come here to bitch.  Instead, I’m going to share one of the most bizarre, surprising things I’ve learned about cooking at home in France, and how I’ve turned a hurdle into an asset.

 One of the things that confounded me the most upon moving to France was the discovery that boxed or canned stock/broth is not sold in grocery stores.  Or anywhere for that matter.  They sell bouillon cubes, which apparently people here use.  And these people are supposed to be food lovers!  As far as I’m concerned, bouillon cube = salt.  Not the same as stock.  What is equally puzzling is that asking butchers for chicken or veal bones with which to make stock almost always returns a questioning look and a “sorry, we don’t have that.”  But that’s another post.  

Have you ever tried taking a picture of a steaming pot?  It never comes out well

Have you ever tried taking a picture of a steaming pot? It never comes out well

This one is about making that stock the right way, be it chicken, rabbit, duck, veal, fish, or vegetable.  (Yes, there is a way to make good vegetable stock!)  “Stock,” you say, “isn’t that kind of boring?” To which I reply,  “Absolutely not.”

 There has been some hubbub on the internet lately about some remarks made by Michael Ruhlman and Mark Bittman (at least in food blog circles, there has) regarding the use of canned or boxed stock.  They are both pretty firmly against it.  I understand why – it’s not the same as homemade, like, at all.  Homemade stock allows the cook to control the salt levels completely, as well as giving that incomparable, rich mouthfeel so lacking in prepackaged stocks.  Both Ruhlman and Bittman also suggest using water in place of stock if your only option is the canned stuff.  I say, if you’re doing something like braising chicken or making some other long-simmered dish, go for it.  (Or better, use a little wine or beer for your liquid component.)  If you’re making a brothy soup or risotto, however, you need the flavor of a stock.  Obviously, it will be better if you use homemade, but I’ve eaten plenty of soups made with boxed chicken stock, and you know what?  They tasted fine to me. 

 Still, it’s pretty easy to make a big batch of stock and freeze it for later use.  This is what I’ve been doing since I moved to France.  I was never in the habit before, since it was so easy and cheap to buy crates of Pacific Organic chicken stock at Costco.  Now, I almost always have real, homemade stock in the house, and I’m sure my food tastes better because of it. 

Luckily, the aromatics for meat stock are photogenic.

Luckily, the aromatics for meat stock are photogenic.

Now, making meat and bone-based stock certainly takes time.  We’re talking at least 4 hours of simmering to get all the flavor and collagen out of those scraps.  The thing is, it doesn’t have to be nearly as fussy as some books or culinary school teachers would have you think.  They’ll teach you that in order to make perfect stock, you need to NEVER let it boil, skim constantly, and then strain it through increasingly fine-meshed sieves until you have a beautiful, clear, fat free, liquid.  That’s nice and all, but if you’re not planning on making consommé or aspic with your stock (as I imagine you’re probably not) you don’t have to worry about that stuff nearly as much.  If it boils a little, so what?  Yes, it will come out a little cloudy, but if it’s just going into a creamy soup or pot pie filling , that is nothing to worry about.  It will still taste good, I promise.

 Vegetable stock poses some problems, though.  How do you get that luscious texture without collagen from bones?  Here’s an idea: pectin.  The last time I made vegetable stock, I added a couple apples and an orange to the rest of the cut vegetables to see if I could give the stock body.  And it worked!  Of course, it’s not as thick as the rabbit stock I made earlier in the week (incidentally, simmering rabbit smells a lot more like turkey than chicken), but it’s better than the vegetable tea that I usually end up with.

This is how full your pot should be for vegetable stock.

This is how full your pot should be for vegetable stock.

So here, in a nutshell, is how to make stock:  Cover your ingredients with cold water in a large, tall pot.  Bring to a simmer, skim as necessary during the first 30 minutes or so, then leave it until it tastes good.  If the water level in the pot starts getting very low, add some more cold water, but it’s ok to let the stock cook down a bit to concentrate the flavors.  Pour the finished stock through a colander to remove the solids, then divide into Tupperware containers or plastic bags and freeze.  Easy, right?

 What are the ingredients, though?  Here goes:

 For vegetable stock

2 onions, 2 leeks, 4 stalks of celery (with leaves if possible), 2 cloves garlic, 3 carrots, 2 apples, 1 orange, 1 bay leaf, 5 whole peppercorns, 1 sprig thyme, 5 stems of parsley, ½ cup white wine, water to cover.

Cut all the vegetables and fruits into about 2 inch pieces.  This amount filled my 5-liter stockpot almost to the top, but the resulting stock was some of the most flavorful vegetable stock I’ve ever had.  Follow the nutshell directions above – there won’t be too much skimming involved – simmering for about an hour and a half.

 For meat/bone based stock

From the recipe above, omit the apples, oranges, and wine.  The leeks are optional.  Start the nutshell directions with the bones only.  There will be quite a bit of skimming.  After 3-4 hours of simmering, add the vegetables and herbs and simmer another 1-2 hours.  (Veal stock is best after at least six hours, but chicken can do with four.)

 So let’s hear it for France, for forcing me to hone my stock-making (not to mention chicken butchering) skills!  And for the lovely ladies of Where’s My Damn Answer, for inviting me to join in the party!

Je ne sais WHAT???

En Français, that means I don’t know WHAT???

I just think that perhaps we should all just stop and feel the Melting Pot love and discuss both sides of the language coin today.

I have mentioned in previous posts, that I was fortunate enough to begin travelling  to Europe at a young age and living in Denver, as a young un, I had the usual Foreign Language class options – French, Latin and Spanish.  I thought , in my own mind, well why not learn French?  We go to France – my parents don’t really speak it…Hey, I can translate!

Also, in my humble 13 year old opinion, I never thought that I would need Spanish…::best Valley Girl accent here:: “Mmm, yeah, like the only Mexican food I ever ate before moving to Texas was like OH MY GAWD, Taco Bell”…so you see where I’m going with this…

My first experience with the rude NON-FOREIGN LANGUAGE speaking traveler was in Paris.  My folks and I were standing on the Seine, waiting to board the Bateaux Mouches one evening and there stands a portly gentleman, not asking, but SHOUTING at the little French guy, that I will name Pierre, at the gate.
Rude Traveler – “WHAT TIIIIME DOES THE BOAT LEAVE?!?!” (in a very Southern accent – think a male version of Paula Deen)

Pierre – “Monsieur, Je ne sais pas…” (very politely)

Rude Traveler – “Soooon, what time does the BOAT leave?!?!?!” – (he continues to ask this question, but placing emphasis on the different words in the question, as if to help Pierre understand)

Pierre – “Monsieur, je ne comprends pas…” – finally becoming exasparated

Rude Traveler – looks at gawdy watch (prolly a fake Rolex) and huffs, showing MAJOR disappointment…

I was AB-SO-LUTE-LY mortified.  I felt so bad for little Pierre.  He may very well have known English, as most Europeans are pretty versed in several languages, but he chose not to use it.  Or maybe his frustration scrambled his conjugating and translating mind into scrambled oeuves (eggs for your non parlais-ing Americans).  Don’t know.

This was when I realized that in all foreign travel, that if you try to speak their lingo – TRY being operative word – especially in France, a little goes a long way.

Why shouldn’t we try?  I mean, really, who up and made Americans the end all, be all of the known Universe.  I am very patriotic…I served my country.  But every time I travelled, I chose to step out of my language comfort zone, even if it meant that I carried a Berlitz guide to German from the library, in my purse.

One of my good friends, Chris and I were having a conversation about foreign travel recently and  he spoke DIRECTLY to this point.  About just making the effort.  He also spoke about audacity.  How it’s viewed coming from our side, that is to say, if it were to happen to us.  HOW pissed off would you be if someone, nonchalantly walked up to you and started speaking in <insert language of your choice here>?

He mentioned that in his young career, he worked at a store/kiosk in the Houston Galleria.  A lady approached him and immediately and assumingly spoke to him in Spanish, EXPECTING  him to respond.   What?  I mean, without even trying…just expecting that because we’re in Texas, EVERYONE will speak/understand Spanish?  C’mon here.

I have never had this happen so this really drove the point home.  How would I feel if that happened?

It really made me think back to the Rude Traveler and how he EXPECTED Pierre to know what he was saying…maybe he didn’t, maybe he did.

Moral of the story - Take the time to learn a few cursory words just to kickstart your vocab before jumping on that aeroplane and heading out…or grab yourself some software for your IPOD or IPHONE and take it with you.

NOTE:  No Texans or Frenchmen were injured while writing this post, outside of possible ego bruising

Coming soon – It was a dark & stormy night, I was on a train in Germany…

Oui, oui Monsieur…Je me suis égaré…

Thinking of France fondly this week, thanks to Croque Camille again…

The summer that I was 12, we decided to depart from our normal chateau hopping and head to Chamonix, high in the Alps on the French-Swiss border.  What a BEAUTIFUL place it is…and if you EVER get a chance to go, please do…it is heaven on earth, I’m sure.

My mother and I had done some horseback riding through the fields and hills, just on the outskirts of the town one day and we had so much fun, that my folks agreed to let me go on my own the following day. 

(I know my mother is ROLLING HER EYES TO HIGH HEAVENS with that last statement…she was cursing me until I was 25 about riding that horse)

But alas they were probably THRILLED to get rid of the bored 12 year old anyhow, and made sure that I knew where to go…
“Yes, yes…Mom…of course I know where it is…GAWD…it’s like, only 3 or 4 blocks away…sheesh…” and off I went out the hotel lobby, saying I would be back in the afternoon.

I took a right out of the hotel and wandered down the street…looking at the scenery, taking in the wonderment called the Alps.  All the while, walking and walking…come 3 blocks, come 5 blocks…and I continue to walk, amazed at the sheer beauty of this little village.

It never occurred to me that I had gone further than I should’ve, because I was strolling so leisurely – taking it all in…

My walk became a little more difficult and my breathing changed a bit…the altitude at 3500+ feet is pretty taxing…and even more so the higher you go.

Then there seemed to be no more quaint little cottages and A frames…and I ended up on a road that seemed a bit more, shall I say, like a highway…

Now, you’re probably thinking “Why didn’t you turn around?”  And you’re probably saying in your head like you do in a bad horror movie “TAKE OFF YOUR HEELS TO RUN, YOU IDIOT…HE’S CATCHING UP…” You know, because it’s just so easy on the outside looking in…but I was bound and determined to find this stupid stable to go horseback riding…if it killed me. 
I couldn’t take another day of SHOPPING and looking at all things lavender and wine.  (Note: I would however LOVE to do that now 25 years later)

Then my asthma started to give me a problem…I began to wheeze, which in turn led me to start to panic…and now, as I look before me at a HUGE tunnel…which consequently turns out to be the Mont Blanc Tunnel…you know the one taht leads over into Italy???!!!???

I see a little shack…and there are Italian, Swiss and French flags flying all the way up to the entrance of the tunnel…so I begin to pick up the pace…in a complete and utter panic now, and find that there is a payphone in the shack.

I dig through my pockets for francs…not knowing how much…what the number to my hotel was…how to call Information…but I put as many francs as I could before I heard an automated  voice come through the phone…I hit “0″ and a woman’s voice came through…”Bonjour.  Comment peux-je vous aider?”  (How can I help you…)

Frantically, trying to get my breathe, I introduced myself and told her that I was lost and needed to find my hotel…

“Quel hotel?”

And in french, I began to cry…Le Boo Hoo Hoo…Le Boo Hoo Hoo…no, I explained to her that I was in the one that was kinda big and shaped like a triangle, seriously and the conversation continued on…with both of us playing 20 Questions en francais…until finally she says, as only a Frenchwoman can

“AHHHHHHH, oui madamoiselle…ICI, ICI…Je l’ai!!!”

And then the phone began ringing to the hotel…front desk answered and I asked for le chambre de Monsieur Flood, merci

The phone rang, rang, rang…and continued to ring…and I thought “Oh no, they’re out shopping…I’M GOING TO DIE OUT HERE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE OF AN ASTHMA ATTACK!!!”  And then my mom picked up the phone…
The minute I heard her voice, I became hysterical…had to calm down before I could share with her where I had ended up…I can’t even IMAGINE what must’ve been going through her mind.

They jumped in their car and drove to the tunnel to get me, some 10 klicks away (a little over 6 miles..)…Not sure if I got in trouble or not…I don’t remember, but my mother stated how lucky I was that she had forgotten something in the room at that very moment.
They didn’t let me out of their sight again until I was about 23 years old.

The Frenchie Fifteen

One of the pleasures that I have had while being a part of the WMDA crew has been the discovery of all things AWESOME in the blogosphere…
Croque Camille is one of my daily pleasures – she is fun to read and it makes me LONG, LONG, LONG for the days gone by that I had the fortune to spend in France – so I guess I’m kinda living vicariously through her and all her escapades.  Besides that she seems to be a pretty kick arse Chef de Patisserie which wins HUGE points in my book!

Not much of a meme person, but I thought this was cool and since I’m feeling kind FRENCH aujourd’hui, here goes:

So here’s my list of quintessential French foods, and the rules for playing along.  If you’re interested, I’ve listed some descriptions and reasoning behind my choices afterward.

But first, the rules:
- Copy/paste the list and rules into your blog, journal, or even a piece of paper.
- Put the foods you’ve had the pleasure of eating in bold. Elaborate and add stories as you see fit.
- If you’re so inclined, leave a comment on this post to let me know where to find your results.

The Frenchie Fifiteen

1. Croissant – Ohhhhhhhhh…the croissants in France…the flakiness, the butteriness, the yumminess
2. Ratatouille – good ol’ peasant food and good for pain-dunking…
3. Lait cru cheese  – I’m pretty sure I’ve had this…but couldn’t say honestly by name
4. Kir -my parents used to drink these all the time…as well as Kir Royales
5. Croque-Monsieur – best one I ever had was in a cafe across from the Opera house…
6. Crème Caramel – okay…how can you go wrong EVER with this…
7. Tartiflette
8. Pain Tradition
9. Cassoulet – another AWESOME traditional peasant food – filling and hearty
10. Macarons – Americans think they know Macarons, but they don’t – these little gems are almondy and awesome
11. Aligot – the best combo in the world, potatos, cheese and garlic…Mmmm
12. Pissaladière – love onions and love tarts…this is a great addition for your next brunch
13. Pain de Campagne
14. Choucroute Garnie
15. Tarte Tatin – rustic goodness in apples and pastry with some sugar!!!

16. Pastis
17. Roast Chicken
18. Eclair  – another one of my secret loves…shhh, don’t tell anyone ::wipes cream from mouth::
19. Lentil Salad
20. Entrecôte – sometimes served with frites – mmmmmmmmm…(similar to our ribeye)
21. Escargots – Lovely little morsels in HOT BUTTER AND GARLIC…also good for dipping your crusty bread…

How well did you do???
Let me know…want to know if there are other francophiles out there…

Damn Wine Review – Summer Goodness in this Rosé

A few weeks back, The Noble Pig did this AWESOME ode to Rosés.    Just a few days before I left Santa Clarita, I headed over to Loose Goose to pick up a few Central Coast lovelies to take with me – PRAYING TO GOD they would make it on my road trip.  (Well, what else is one supposed to drink while roughing it in the Continental Inn in Carlsbad, NM?)

The gang at the cellar of Loose Goose recommended this little gem:

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The bouquet is crisp – smells of raspberry and a waft of spice or herbs of some sort so delicate you can barely tell it’s there…until you take that first sip.

This wine is not like those blush-y wines of the past.  The wine actually rolls around the mouth like crushed velvet, wrapped around cotton candy.  Not saying that it is sweet, on the contrary, this beautiful blend of Cabernet and Syrah is the perfect mix of crisp and honey sweet.

rose.jpg

I actually failed to take a picture of the wine the 2nd night, in the glass – so you’ll just have to get a glimpse of this beautiful summer wine in the bottle, above.

Steven Asseo, owner and winemaker, has several decades artisanal winemaking experience with an education at L’Ecole Oenologique de Macon, in Burgundy, France.   According to his website ‘he “fell in love” with the unique terrior of west side Paso Robles’, after searching the world for the right home for L’Aventure Wines.

Check this out – an extremely reasonable drink for about $15 a bottle and ready to drink NOW. 

France – Brugge – Loire Valley – Eat – Drink and Enjoy

I wanted to share with you some photo’s from out latest Adventure – It was hard to narrow the field as we only took about 600 or so pictures!!!

Hubby and I spent 2 wonderful weeks traveling around France – We were mainly in Paris but spent a couple days outside the romantic city. We escaped the hustle and bustle and ventured off to Belgium (Brugge and Brussels) where we experienced “Belgium Waffles” and Chocolate at their finest. Oh and the beer – was just so amazing: Pelforth is a new hubby favorite. We spent the night in Brugge at this new hotel call the Kempinski Dukes Palace. What was interesting to discover is many people refer to Brugge as mini Venice. The canals that circled the city are so cool – The architecture and the history were amazing. This is one place that is a must visit when you are in that part of the world.

We also spent a night at the Chateau d’Artigny in the Loire valley – I had never seen anything like this and it was really fun to spend the night in a place that had been in existence for a few hundred years – History was everywhere and we loved it. This area in France is filled with wonderful Chateau and Castles: they really are breathtaking. Oh and did I mention the Wine in this region – their are wineries everywhere and what they produce is Yummy!! Our one challenge during this excursion was driving in the region and those damn roundabouts. We got so lost and turned around and on more than one occasion when round and round in circles til we figured out how to get out of it and head in the right direction. Funny now – not so much then!!

We also had a very somber day on the beaches of Normandy. I was not sure what to expect that day and WOW did it really tug on my heart strings. My Hubby is a Marine so this was a very significant place for him to visit. To see where the bunkers and the craters on the ground where the bombs hit was emotional. I think what got me the most was the D-Day museum and the cemetery (saving private ryan was filmed there) it was amazing to see those crosses in the ground. I walked away with incredible gratitude for what these Men did as well a heavy and sad heart for the significant loss of life.

One of the most beautiful places we visited was Giverny – AKA Monet’s home and his amazing gardens – May is the best time to go as everything is in full bloom. It was neat to see the very location that inspired his art not to mention be able to walk around inside his home. What was very interesting about Monet is that he himself was a huge fan of Asian art most of the walls inside his home were adorned with Asian art.

Paris is just Paris – Romantic – fun – (Expensive) and Amazing food and Hubby’s beer of choice there was 1664. The people were very nice and gracious. We literally walked – Ate and Drank our way all through the streets of Paris. The architecture and history was captivating.

Viva La France – I would go back there in a minute!!

[Eiffel Tower]

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[Brugge - "Mini Venice"]

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[ Forteresse Royale De "Chinon"  in Loire Valley]

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Chateau d’ Artigny (Hotel we stayed at!)

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[Castle in Loire Valley]

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[Givererny - Monet's Garden]

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[Monets Garden]

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[Monets Garden]

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[Monets Garden]

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[The Army Museum- The End?????? haha]

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The Adventures of Jody & Johnny…

Most dreams elude us upon waking…we jump out of the bed into our daily routine, and as the a.m. wears on, our dreams wear off.That is exactly what happened to me - until the girls provoked it out of me, unknowningly, whilst driving back from our field trip yesterday…and then it hit me like an anvil hits the Coyote in all the Road Runner cartoons!Johnny Depp and I had spent a MAGICAL night with one another late Saturday p.m./early Sunday a.m.!  How could I be so foolish as to NOT tell everyone of the beautiful time that I had with Monsieur Depp?   NO, no…this was not a date with Jack Sparrow…Not a date with Edward Scissorshands…or more recently Sweeney Todd. It was truly Johnny and I, in a canoe…on a date.  Yes, I said canoe.  Strange but true.  Have no idea where we were going, but I know we were enjoying ourselves…it was just the feeling I had when I was SO RUDELY awakened by Katy the Kat.  She had to let me know that her food bowl was empty and that I was a terrible mother. Well, if called a terrible mother, a terrible mother I would be…I pushed her off me and WILLED myself to go back to sleep…pretended that I had not woken up…and PRAYED to go back into that lovely canoe with M. Depp.We’ve all done that – tried to tell our subconscious, “if I go back to sleep RIGHT now, I’ll get back to that place again…” but alas it didn’t happen.  What a pity, as I’m sure his next swift move would be to lean in and gently kiss me on the lips, placing his …OH, OKAY…I’ll stop.  (This is now a sick fantasy)The funny thing - I don’t think that I’ve ever had a “thing” for the likes of Johnny Depp outside of my 21 Jumpstreet days in the mid 80′s and even then he was a bit too pretty for me.  But nonetheless…he is quite a hottie. I digress…so instead of jumping out of bed – I lay there for a little while and thought about the dream – trying to capture it as a mental picture forever, so that it wouldn’t dissipate…then my thoughts turned to Why would I dream of Johnny Depp – I hadn’t seen a movie of his…there were no interviews in any of the food rags I normally read…I had not seen anything about France recently…They say that sometimes what you eat affects your dreams…I guess next time I wanna go down that river again, I’ll have to munch down on some more popcorn and Cholula again right before bed!!!