Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Le Cordon Bleu, Paris

If you ever go to Paris, you must stop by Le Cordon Bleu.  In fact you must do some advance research and sign up for one of their courses.  You can do a week long intensive training session, a day long instruction and kitchen work, or you can do a mini demonstration. 

Way back too many years ago I studied abroad in Paris.  It was the most wonderful experience ever.  I dream about going back on a daily basis.  One of the most memorable parts of my journey was visiting Le Cordon Bleu.  I was a little late in the ball game for this experience.  The courses sell out fast. I started looking about a month and a half before my departure and many of the classes were already sold out.

I honestly cannot remember what class I ended up taking.  I was hoping for some kind of pastry class and ended up with a full dinner. Regardless it was a super exciting and fun adventure.  You arrive for breakfast of strong cafe and croissants.  Then they whisk you away to a demonstration kitchen were real instructors from the school guide you through each of the recipes for the day.  These day long classes are geared toward visitors so there is also an English translator.  I distinctly remember knowing what the chef was saying before the translation and being so proud.

You receive copies of all the recipes before the demonstrations in case you want to take notes. After everything is prepared you are off to a kitchen where you make everything yourself.  Thus my dream of going to Le Cordon Bleu was born.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cookie Fail

Cookies normally look something like this right?  Little plump circles you just cannot wait to get your hands on...

The first pan came out something like this.  They were flat little pancakes that although smelled delicious did not bring on the "must have" feelings a typical cookies stirs within me.

See the difference?  And it was all my fault. The recipe was for peanut butter but I had the genius idea to make Nutella cookies in honor of World Nutella Day February 5th.  When must people are going to be celebrating the biggest football game of the season I am going to be licking my spoonful of Nutella.

Flourless Nutella Cookies
Adapted from 5 Ingredient Fix
1 cup Nutella
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.

In a medium bowl, mix the Nutella, sugar, egg and vanilla until well combined. Fold in chocolate chips.  Spoon 1 tablespoon of mixture about 1 inch apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Flatten the mounds with the tines of a fork, making a crosshatch pattern on the cookies. Sprinkle coarse salt on top of the cookies.

Bake about 10 minutes, switching the position of the pans halfway thorough baking. Transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough.

So how did the second batch come out a bit more cookie-esque? Well, whenever I have the flat cookie effect going on I add rolled oats. In this case about 3/4 cup of rolled oats did the trick to stabilize the cookie dough.

The recipe wasn't bad.  My own actions foiled these cookies.  The other day at the store there was a big sale on medium eggs.  They were cheap and I bought some.  I ALWAYS buy large eggs. I just don't understand why you would want medium or jumbo.  What tipped my thinking this time was that eggs were something Mr. J could eat.  It didn't matter in recipes if there were a few medium eggs because there were no plans to use them like that.  Fast forward about 3 days and I wanted cookies.  The one medium egg didn't seem like enough wetness.  I added another.  Bad idea!

Lesson learned: 2 medium eggs does not equal 1 large egg.

Regardless they all tasted quite good.  Plates were cleaned and milk was finished.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend Edition: Sunday Funday

Things are finally slowing down and I feel like I can catch my breath a bit. My parents came down for the weekend and we had a great time exploring on Saturday. Have you ever been in a submarine?  If your interested check out the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Connecticut.  It is pretty cool.  We got to go in the Nautilus.
Aboard NAUTILUS, experience first-hand the thrill of being a submariner as you walk the decks that made Naval history: the world's first nuclear powered vessel, first ship to go to the North Pole, and first submarine to journey "20,000 Leagues under the sea." Explore the spaces where the crew of this amazing ship worked, ate, slept, and entertained themselves on their long voyages far beneath the ocean's waves.

Let me tell you there is not much room for maneuvering in this submarine.  The little holes to crawl through from one compartment to the next took some effort to squeeze through.  

Sunday it was time to hunker down a bit.  I came up with a bag of clothes to take to Goodwill from my closet.

I got a rid of a 20 gallon container of old bed sheets in sizes that we no longer had mattresses.  I also went to BJ's. I will never get over how much paper products costs.  You need toilet paper but I hate buying it.  We do have enough to last about 6 months but seriously $15.  Yikes!

This afternoon I had a massive cookie fail which I will tell you all about tomorrow.  Until then enjoy the last few hours of freedom before the work week starts again.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday's Five: Favorites x4

So let me tell you about this little thing called Pinterest.  It's a website that allows you to collect, sort, and save images from the Internet.  Think of a gigantic cork board of lovely photos chosen by you.  When I started this a few months ago I was drawn to collecting food photos of recipes I am someday, someday hoping to make.  Since then I have branched out with fashion, bags, home ideas, books, wedding (no I am not getting married again), and crafts.  There are so many ideas out there.  Not only can you collect your photos but you can stalk follow other peoples collection. 

Let me tell you now that time will be lost in your life.  Once you start browsing or pinning images you will lose yourself to a different world and suddenly hours will have passed. No joke...hours will be lost.

I found this bag by Fossil the other day and decided I must have it. Mr. J are you listening?  Valentine's Day is coming up.

Among other favorites this week I finished Erik Larson's new book  "In the Garden of Beast".  I explores Hitler's Germany through the eyes of the US Ambassador's family.  This is a historical book and I found it absolutely fascinating.

Another Pinteresthttp://pinterest.com/ find is this pink door.  Someday when I have a house I am thinking it needs a pink door.

My new/old love is Mrs. Meyer's soap. I used to love Method products and their unique scents.  I still do enjoy them but they have now been topped with Mrs. Meyer's basil.  I got the hand soap for a stocking stuffer but also have the dish soap.  It makes doing dishes a bit more bearable.  My hands are so dry lately and this soap just makes me feel a bit better.  Sometimes it is the little things that make the biggest difference.

Finally, Anthropologie has a new tea towel with a lobster on it.  Not sure what I would do with this one but it is a cute little thing.  It could work as my clothing protector next time I eat a lobster.  They are messy suckers.

I am so thankful it is Friday. This afternoon I am hosting a team building session of fun games.  Then there are two days when I have absolutely nothing that needs to get done.  I cannot wait to relax and have fun this weekend.  Mr. J is back up and running.  After another doctor's appointment it was decided that he had a fluke bacteria infection.  Within a month it will be like it never happened.

Wishing all of you the very best weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

10 Thoughts on Whole Living: February

1/ Nourish your mind as carefully as you nourish your body.


3/ Finding BALANCE in your RELATIONSHIP requires all your SENSES.

4/ If you feel the need to be critical, be sure the urge is coming from a place of kindness.

5/ When you break a small bad habit, you teach yourself that you can change anything.


7/ Willpower is sometimes a biological issue, not a moral one.  Don't judge yourself harshly.

8/ The best work environments foster personal connection as well as productivity.

9/  Speak your mind.  Unmet needs create resentment when they go unexpressed.

10/ THE NEW YEAR ISN'T A DO-OVER; It's an OPPORTUNITY to take your next big step.

I think it is telling that this month I am not loving these...I keep thinking of the title of Bethenny Frankel's book, "A Place of Yes".  I feel like I am very much in a place of a big N-O.  I am going to focus on 10 and keep on trucking.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Snacking Deliciousness

Way back to a few years ago, Mr. J and I took a long weekend up to Vermont.  We explored lots of little towns and saw Lake Champlain.  It was a great time.  My favorite part of the trip was our jaunt to Cabot's Factory and Store.  Cabot is the only block cheese I will just.  Seeing where it was made and the mass production line was fascinating.  We also enjoyed the store that had many varieties and products that are difficult to find else where.  There were also lots and lots of samples.

One of the samples was for the Cheddar Powder Shaker.  Powdered Cheddar Cheese in a jar.  It was amazingly fantastic when we sampled in the store on top of popcorn.  The only problem was that we didn't buy any at the time.  We later found out that it is only available at that store or online. 

I don't know how many times in the years that passed did Mr. J mention that cheddar powder.  Finally this year at Christmas he said not only did he want some but he thought it would be a great idea to include a jar in some of our Christmas gifts. 

 Although my one and only thought for the cheddar powder is popcorn you can also use it on roasted  and steamed veggies or as a soup topper.  We had some on broccoli one night and it did add extra yumminess.  My next trial will be on top of potatoes. I think it is going to be good.

But back to the popcorn.  Growing up my brother was obsessed with homemade popcorn.  I remember him asking my mom to make it at least once a week.  I never really cared too much for the snack but I was so fascinated watching it pop up. The first kernels would always scare me to death.  I never learned not to stick my face in the pot. 

I made sure that I had Mr. J in on the action and now he knows how to make homemade popcorn all on his own.  I know this is going to be a common occurrence as long as we have the cheddar powder so it was important to share the knowledge.

Volia! Homemade Smart Food only a hundred times better all thanks to Cabot.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Healthy Carrot Cake

By Sunday, things were pretty much back to running like normal.  We are still being very, very careful about what ingredients we are using and how much is being eaten at once. However, I was up for some baking.  Fat is no good right now so it was important to find something extremely healthy yet delicious for our Sunday night dessert.

I googled "Healthy Carrot Cake" and came up with quite a few recipes.  None of them were what I was thinking in terms of healthy substitutes so I decided to take a chance and just wig it.  

Mr. J was a bit more nervous when I suggested making something for dessert that was healthy.  His one request was that they would still taste like carrot cake.  Clearly he was a bit skeptical about my wigging it abilities. 

Healthy Carrot Cake

  • 2 ¼ C whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups grated carrot
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons applesauce
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, pieces
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cups powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add 2 cups grated carrot, tossing to combine.

3. Place granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and applesauce. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add flour mixture and yogurt alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in walnut pieces.

4. Spread batter into a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 28 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake completely on a wire rack.

5. To prepare frosting, place softened cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Beat with a mixer starting on low and working up to medium speed until fluffy.  Spread frosting evenly over top of cake. 

I guess I was pretty good at wigging it because they came out marvelous.These little babies were good.  Super good.  I ended up making cupcakes but the directions were exactly the same.  You would never guess all of the healthy ingredients.  I even bet you could cut out a bit more of the sugar.  Mr. J was given strict instructions that only one cupcake a day was allowed when I am gone. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chicken and Mushroom Stroganoff

I guess I owe a bit more of an explanation. Last week was a bad week for many, many reasons.  I thought it best not to blog this weekend as I had nothing but complaints and negativity to post. It was a bad week.

We don't have a true diagnosis for Mr. J. He has to go to another doctor this week. The good news is he is doing much better and is almost back to his normal self.  I think he would rather be sick again as he had it pretty good with me waiting on him 24/7.  

The problem is with stomach issues the way to get better comes with a more restrictive diet.  Remember all of those fried foods and steaks from last weekend.  No good.  We are going low fat and little spice for a while. The diet has improved a bit from white bread, rice, and chicken broth.  This was the first real test on Saturday night.  It was a winner in my book for flavor and Mr. J didn't feel bad after eating it.  Score!
Chicken and Mushroom Stroganoff

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided into 1/2 tablespoon servings
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinned chicken breasts
1 chicken broth concentrate package
3 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup low-fat sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 oz noodles, cooked without salt or fat (Bowties)

1. Cut chicken breasts into 1/2" strips

2. Spray a large skillet with the nonstick cooking spray, then add 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil.  Heat oil until hot over a medium-high heat.  Add chicken breast strips and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes, or until it is no longer pink. Remove chicken and set aside.

3. Adding the remaining 1/2 vegetable oil to the same skillet.  Saute mushrooms, onions and garlic for 3-4 minutes.

4. Add low-fat sour cream and chicken broth to the skillet. Stir and heat thoroughly.

5. Add chicken to the mushroom mixture  and serve over noodles

I was completely impressed by how good this turned out.  To be completely honest, the new dietary restrictions are similar to how I would eat anyway.  Maybe eating like this again I will lose a few pounds along the way...the ones I gained when Mr. J took over cooking weeknight dinners.

Friday, January 20, 2012

You know it's love when...

You know it's love when in the midst of a long weekend vacation in another state you would rather stay in than explore because your one and only is not feeling well.

You know it's love when you sit in the middle seat of an airplane twice always so your one and only has more room since they don't feel well.

You know it's love when you wake up early stay up all night when your one and only cannot sleep because they don't feel well.

You know it's love when at 6am you're on your way to the ER  because your one and only is in a lot of pain.

You know it's love when 8 hours later and you still don't know what is going and are completely uncomfortable but there is no place you would rather be.

You know it's love when your one and only says the the pain is only a 2 as opposed to the 8 the day before and it is the best news you could possibly hear.

Needless to say it has been quite a week.  Thinking back over the last 72 hours it is hard to believe the peaks and valleys we lived through.  There have been no recipes to post because there has been no cooking going on in this household.  Mr. J is doing much better but there are big changes are to come with upcoming recipes.  Stomach problems do not prompt spicy chicken wings, bacon flavored dishes, and buttery desserts.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mellow Mushroom

This is the last post of our Charlotte visit.  We had a great time in the South and it was good see a new city.  I was a bit disappointed in the southern accents though.  I know a couple of hours further South everyone is speaking with a twang.  I guess Charlotte is a bit more refined.  I was hoping for more accents. 

After eating so well during our other meals, we decided that we wanted a somewhat lighter fare and decided pizza was the way to go.  Plus the place was called Mellow Mushroom.  How could we not go?  Apparently many others had the same idea and we ended up waiting for a table and the food for a while.  The atmosphere was quite lively and there was a half a bus painted hippie style inside. 

Coming from New York and Connecticut we had some pretty opinionated pizza eaters.  It was good pizza but not New Haven style or New York style.  I think I am going to have problems for the rest of my life if I ever move somewhere away from the area I live now.  We have a family owned Italian restaurant every other building.  Pizza is a big thing here and super good. 

The crust here was a bit sweet and coated in Parmesan cheese.  It was almost like bread sticks wrapped around the pizza.  I got mine loaded with veggies.  With a pretzel appetizer, just cause we wanted to see what they were, and three slices of an individual pizza and I was beyond stuffed. 

Good news is these pizza joints are located across the south and into the west.  Check out if a location is near year.

Have you ever had pizza in different locations across the USA?

What was your favorite?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

BLT Charlotte

What did I learn this weekend in Charlotte?  They have lots and lots of good restaurants to check out. So many that we had trouble picking which ones we should check out with such a short time see them all. 

One of the restaurants we chose was the steakhouse BLT.  Although not unique to Charlotte this restaurant was a place we definitely wanted to check out.  The building itself was just cool to be in...it is located right in the middle of Uptown in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton. 

BLT, which stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel, has redefined steakhouse dining with its modern décor and infusion of classic French techniques. This unique Charlotte steakhouse integrates traditional elements of a cozy French Bistro with those of a stylish, urbane boîte. 

 The meal starts out with complimentary popovers. I am not too fond of popovers but these were really good.  I think the outside portion was a bit more hardier than the typical popover so it actually felt like you were biting into something.  The inside still melted in your mouth.  These are considered a signature part of the BLT experience.  

Mr. J started out with raw East Coast oysters.

The table shared Brussels sprouts and potato gratin.  The Brussels sprouts melted in your mouth and left a sweet taste from the perfect caramelized bottoms.  The potato gratin was made with shredded pieces of potatoes and combined with a blend of cheese.  That was my favorite part of the whole meal.

Each of the steaks came out in their own cast iron skillet.  I got the smaller portion of a filet.  It was so good I don't even know where to begin.  It has got to be one of the best if not the best steaks I have ever eaten.  You get to pick one of 12 sauces to go with your steak but seriously I barely used one drop.  The steak was just so good on its own.

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