Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving in Limoges

This Saturday 20 some of us assistants and friends gathered for a Thanksgiving feast. Alex, Callum and Ansleigh really pulled out all the stops and we ended up having way more food than we could even eat and it was all amazing.

They started cooking the day before - making pumpkin pies from scratch (whole pumpkins I tell you!) and getting up early to go to the market downtown.

Some of the stuff they made like these little guys were so cute. I didnt try one because of the mallow on top but I think they were clementines that were hollowed out and then filled with sweet potatoes and topped with cinnamon and marshmallows? In any case they were super cute!

This was a goat cheese app covered in tomatoes and capers. Really nice.

The cranberry sauce was amazing. Im going to beg Alex for the recipe and hopefully she wont mind if I share it with you all too!

That plate of brown stuff behind the green beans was Guillaume's home-made seitan! It was so nice to have him there - he cooked some great little veggie dishes for us to split and we talked about vegetarianism/veganism. He sure knows his stuff - he even switched to English for a bit because the vocab was out of my league in French and I was super impressed with his English vocb. Obviously very passionate about being vegan.

They made 4 little chickens which I heard turned out quite well.

I'm pretty sure Callum was on "cut things up" duty all day long.

Our cooks!

What's cool about this place (Ansleigh, Anais and Jon live here) is that its an old hospital - or the old infirmary for the school that's across the street I think. So there are all these examination rooms that are just not being used! Kinda creepy but also kinda cool - I want to buy a wide-angle lens and go to town on that place. Would love to shoot a video there.

There is still all kinds of stuff like this laying around in the rooms they don't use.

Old waiting room type furniture.

Also I got a few portraits real quick when I could get someone to sit still long enough.

Jon from England.

This is my inconnu for the week. Didn't know her before so it counts!

Anais (pronounced Anne-I-eese)

Alex was gracious enough to pause in her frantic cooking for this one :)

Turned out to be a smash success I would say. We started at 2pm and we all hung out until almost 9pm. Then we headed over to Adam's place for a house-warming party that went well into the next morning. So nice to have friends! Plenty to be thankful for here!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Curry Tofu and Mushrooms over Rice

Sometimes a girl craves curry tofu.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 (12 ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 tablespoon seasoned salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10 ounce) can coconut milk
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
as much red pepper as you like

1.Start cooking rice according to the package. Meanwhile heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu cubes, season with seasoned salt and fry until golden on all sides, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. About half way through cooking the tofu add the mushrooms. When cooking is complete remove tofu and mushrooms to paper towels, and set aside.
2.Melt butter or margarine in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook and stir until tender. Stir in coconut milk, curry powder, salt, pepper and cilantro. Return the tofu to the skillet. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour over rice and enjoy!

Simple and vegan. Everyone can enjoy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Weekend in Beajolais Country

Beaujolais is a light bodied red wine produced in the Beaujolais province. The region is located north of Lyon and is composed of miles and miles (kilometers if you prefer) of rolling hills literally covered in grape vines and tiny little town placed here and there among them.
The first people to sew the seeds of the now famous Beaujolais grapes were the Romans. From the 7th century through the Middle Ages, most of the viticulture and winemaking was done by the Benedictine monks. In the 10th century, the region got its name from the town of Beaujeu (which we drove through I think...or we just saw a lot of signs for it, it's the capital of that region), and Rhône (very close by) and was ruled by the Lords of Beaujeu till the 15th century.
The Beaujolais Nouveau - as Alex so aptly described it - is a simple table wine. There is no body - no real lasting flavor at the back of your tongue. It's just there. And's just gross. But its the only wine that can be released as young as it is - so for whatever reason they DO release it young, even though in my opinion its not ready to be tasted. There you have it though - a yearly tradition complete with wine tasting, marathons, and fireworks.

We got up around 5 am and I and walked up to Place Jordan where Alex and her room-mate Amandine (she's French and she loves "le catch" (WWF wrestling)) picked Therese and I up. Amandine drove us all the way to Lyon (a 5 or so hour drive) and dropped us off at Part Dieu (the train station in the heart of Lyon). From there we rented a car - thank goodness Alex drives stick! - and proceeded to drive up to the Beaujolais region with me as the navigator.

Therese is on the left and Alex is on the right.

We drove up to Villefranche - drove by it the first time thinking nothing was going on but a marathon - but then headed back after our pizza chef in Belleville told us that's where the action was.

There were about 5 different bands playing (think marching band) which I took videos of- but I thought this little girl was so cute!

Really cute little town - filled to the brim for nasty wine :)

We walked around for a bit sipping on our little plastic cups of wine while Alex explained to Therese and I how she describes the taste of wine and how there are so many different personal ways to do it. I like wine - but I never really got into talking about it - so I had little to add to her wealth of information.

Stumbled upon this guy - and everyone was taking pictures with him. Therese and I posed while Alex took our picture but the joke of it all went right over my head. Remi! Who is this guy and why should I think it's funny?

Really pretty church in the center of town. There were signs for a "pasta party" all over the place and when we got to the church there was a stage set up next to it with semi-drunks singing karaoke and the "pasta party" sign was pointed right at the stage. I was ever so disappointed and confused.

Several cheese stands with little chunks for tasting.

These ones you actually buy this way though.

This cheese was covered in grapes from the wine making process.

These guys were dressed as grapes - which I totally didn't get until Alex told me. I was like..what kinda weird monsters are they trying to be - although - there were a lot of people wearing wigs for no reason so I didn't think it was too strange. Grapes make sense though.

We stayed at this really cute place that was pretty much impossible to find. The "town" was called La Grange du Bois..and so was the bed and breakfast. We were told we would "fall upon it" - more on this expression in another post! dont get me started on "fall upon it" - because literally there was nothing in this town but some houses and the B&B.

view from the window

Turned out to be an amazing huge old house with an incredible view. Our hostess walked around in a floor-length poncho looking friendly and was more than willing to point us in the direction of food when we finally found the place, hungry and tired.

Breakfast in the morning was hearty bread with 3 seemingly homemade jams and butter(which Im told is much better here than at home - i dont eat butter much so I wasn't sure), grape juice, and tea.

Turned out to be a great weekend. We got lost. Therese and I got carsick. We're already making plans to go back to Lyon. There is so much more I could say about this weekend but attention spans are only so long right? Enjoy the pictures!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Inconnus - Week 3

Went to a Beaujolais festival in Villefranche this weekend. Beautiful little town and a good opportunity to take a few stranger pictures.

This guy had just run the Beaujolais marathon - we saw lots of signs for marathons...drinking and running? Anyhow - at the finish line everyone got a sparkly cape (?), a medal of sorts, a bottle of water, and a bottle of the new wine. Good job!

One of the booth-workers for the wine tasting tables.

One of the performers - there were like 5 different musical groups all playing up and down the street.

Friday, November 20, 2009

La Religieuse

Passing all the bakery and patisseries its impossible not to stop in from time to time....every day.... and try something new. I had seen this little pastry several times and wanted to give it a try.

I got a particularly lopsided one.

Similar to a chocolate eclair - this little pastry is called La Religieuse. The day I bought it and brought it home I asked every French person I knew and saw why it was called that. No one knew. So I turned to the internet. Apparently - it's called a La Religieuse because it resembles a nun. Alright.

In short this is a puff pastry filled with creme - chocolate or otherwise flavored - topped with another little puff pastry and decorated in chocolate glaze. I'm told that the best of the best of these sweets are found at Laduree. Ryan and I tried to find this one day when we were walking on Champs Elysees, but somehow we missed it. Planning on getting there during my one day in Paris before I come home for Christmas.

Im trying to stay in shape at the same time so I opted for the really tiny sized one. Staying in shape...not going so well.

This just doesn't say tasty pastry to me...

Side Note: I am going out of town this weekend to try the new Beaujolais at the heart of its production! Won't be able to post my Inconnu post until I return. Look forward to some wine talk when I get back!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bell Pepper and Pesto Goat Cheese Spread

This is the second time since getting to France that I have made this spread because really, after the first time, I have just been craving more! Super simple to make and great for a snack or as part of a meal.

I'm afraid the pictures don't do it justice.

Bell Pepper and Pesto Goat Cheese Spread

1 Bell Pepper, chopped (color of your choosing though red is quite nice)
2 garlic cloves, minced
several glugs of olive oil
several teaspoons of pesto spread (home-made or store-bought)
1 pound of goat cheese

1. Heat the olive oil in a pan over med-high heat. Add the garlic and bell pepper and cook until soft (3-5 min). Should the olive oil evaporate or be absorbed, add more, nothing is worse than burned garlic.
2. Place the goat cheese and pesto in a bowl and mix. Top the cheese with the pepper and garlic combo - still hot off the stove. Give the cheese a few seconds to melt and then mix all the ingredients together until everything is well-mixed and melty.
3. Serve with crackers, toasted bread, or use it as a sammy spread (which I will be doing tomorrow!)

As Bart and Homer once said "You don't win friends with salad." That may be so - but trust me - you will win friends with this spread.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Quinoa and Avocado Stuffed Quesadilla

Quesadillas are easy-pie to make. Perhaps it's even silly to make a post on them since it seems unlikely that they will be new news to any of you - but these quesadillas are a little bit different from your run-of-the-mill Taco Bell variety. Does Taco Bell even have quesadillas? I'm not a fan of that place.

Quinoa has made its jump into the American collective conscious just recently within the last few years I would say. Pronounced Keen-Wa, this strange looking grain is a pseduocereal and its its tiny edible seeds are in the same family as tumbleweed, beets and spinach from what I've read.

So why quinoa in my quesadilla? - well let me tell you something about quinoa! For a grain or something you might eat in the place of rice or wheat - quinoa is remarkably high in protein. Plus, unlike wheat and rice - quinoa is a complete source of protein because of its amino acid content. These reasons alone make it an awesome choice for vegetarians and vegans alike but in addition its also a good source of fiber, phosphorous, magnesium, and iron. says "Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights." There you have its so cool that space-people might be eating it in the future.

Now I will warn you...quinoa tastes healthy. Like..its not like eating a bowl of rice. Therefore its best to combine it with yummy stuff like tomatoes, peppers, cheese, what-have-you.

Quinoa Stuffed Quesadilla (for 1)

2 corn tortilla (or flour if you prefer)
Half cup of shredded cheese (I used Gruyere)
Half an Avocado
Half cup of *pre-cooked quinoa

1. Lay out your tortillas, on half of the totilla sprinkle some cheese, then quinoa, then 1/4 avocado, then a bit more cheese. On the untouched half spread your salsa. Fold the tortilla in half to create a semi-circle shape. Repeat with the other tortilla.
2. Heat a pan over medium high heat. When the pan is hot throw some butter (or olive oil) in the pan and coat the surface well.
3. Place your quesadilla in the pan and let it brown and crisp, carefully flip and let the other side cook. Repeat with the second quesadilla.

* By pre-cooked I mean you already washed the quinoa in a fine mesh, and then cooked it. To cook - place 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water in a casserole on the stove. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer. Cover. Let the quinoa cook 12-15 minutes or until it has soaked up all the water. Fluff with a fork and serve. (Makes 3 cups).

Another interesting fact - the Inca cultivated quinoa way back when and considered it a sacred crop - referring to it as the "mother of all grains."

Also! Don't feel constrained to just quinoa and avocado - try spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, minced fried potatoes, goat cheese, jalapenos!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Inconnus - Post 2

I was feeling restless one night - not ready to resign myself to just reading for the next few hours before bed - so I packed up my tripod and camera and went out into the night. It was one of the coldest nights I have spent in France yet. With their collars pulled high and their heads tucked down, eyes on the pavement, my possible portrait subjects glided by in the night before I could even work up the courage to open my mouth.

I stopped in front of Le Trianon to take a short video of the flickering neon above the door. A man came out to see his friends off into the night and spotted me, crouched next to my tripod - intently watching the dancing light on the screen of my camera. He asked what I was doing and without really explaining the video I launched into the "can I take a picture of you speech" that I had been rehearsing in my head since well before the first stranger I approached. He obliged.

Not to toot my own horn, but I'm really quite pleased with this one. The lighting was just how I like it and he gave me exactly the kind of expression I was looking for.

Yesterday was lovely - jacket weather again. I walked down by la Vienne for a few hours and asked a few more strangers for portraits.

I liked this guy because he told me I didn't sound like the normal American. Or rather..he said I didn't sound like a duck - and then proceeded to quack loudly. We must seems so charming to the French - haha.

Stay tuned for next weeks Inconnus post!

Friday, November 13, 2009

L'Amour en Cage

I came upon these little beauties while I was nosing around Remi's kitchen the other day. In French they are called l'amour en cage (love in a cage or caged love). In English we usually (those of us who have seen them before that is...not me) refer to them as groundcherries.

Their appearance is similiar to a tiny heirloom tomato but their taste is closer to a strawberry. Sweet. Not what I was expecting when I tentatively popped one into my mouth - taking care not to eat any of the "cage" with the taste morsel of "love."

It's used in the same way as tomato or fruits. Once extracted from its husk, it may be eaten raw or used in salads, desserts, as a flavoring, and in jams and jellies. They can also be dried and eaten much like figs, apricots or grapes.

They are also referred to as Japanese Lanterns, and are toxic if eaten before fully ripe!

photo from

Whilst poking around on the internet for more information on these little dudes I found this recipe from for these little chocolate treats featuring the fruit in the spotlight. Sorry guys - the recipe is in French but I can translate it if you ever get your hands on some l'amour en cage and want to make this.