Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Banana Chocolate Chip Brownies

I've made these brownies several times now (with much success) but have never posted about them because...well gosh, brownies are like the hardest thing to photograph. But finally I just decided to post it anyhow.

I've been making so many banana treats lately that people must be getting sick of them but I never do! I have to hide my bananas though because people keep eating them thinking Im going to let them rot/throw them away.

3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (divided)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 small very ripe banana, mashed

1. Preheat oven to 325°F Butter a 9 inch square pan or a loaf pan (thats all I have but it makes nice thick brownies!).
2. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt; set aide.
3. In a small saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Immediately remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips until melted and smooth. Blend in vanilla. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and cool slightly. With a whisk or fork, beat one egg at a time in a small bowl then blend it into the mixture. Blend in mashed banana, then flour mixture. Fold in remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips save a few to throw on top. Spread in pan. Throw the reserved chocolate chips on top.
4. Bake about 45 minutes or until a knife stuck in the center comes out clean.
5. Cool completely in pan.

Les Bougeoirs

So recently I stumbled upon a new clothing/bric a brac shop in Limoges called J&M. The guy that owns the shop is Polish and speak great English and when Mariella and I came in and started gushing about the stuff he had he quickly struck up a conversation with us. A few days later I brought Alex and Anais back and fell upon these little candle holder and just had to have them.

The thing thats interesting is that in France there are not considered antiques. They really are just bric-a-brac and they cant be sold for much. I told the owner straight off that he should be doing business in America because he could get a lot more for this kind of stuff! I have my eye on a old fashioned French clock that you wind up with a key! Birthday present to myself?

And only 6 euros, what a steal!

Im bound to like anything in this color! I already have video ideas for when I get back of dark alleys and playing hide and seek by candle light! Cant wait to get home and film it!

This one was the second to catch my eye. I really couldnt decide between the two but since this one I felt was a little more masculine? (however masculine a candle holder can be), I decided to get this one for Ryan. That way I could buy both! I am absolutely prepared for him to tell me its not cool enough for him and then I can keep both :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Coast to Cote Week 11

Pang: For as long as I can remember, I've been drawn to the beauty of a horse. Their eyes are so expressive and there's something mysterious about them. Horses aren't my favorite animals or anything, but I just really love photographing their faces. Last Friday I chaperoned on a field trip to a farm and got a great shot (or so I think) of a horse looking right at me. The midday sun was high and the temperature was climbing. I just wanted to reach in there and swat the flies from it's eyes. Pesky little flies.

Lacey: This weekend was so nice. I stayed out late every night and slept in late every morning. I felt like a rebellious teenager letting her dishes pile up in the sink and not making her bed. On Sunday the sun was shining just right into the girls bathroom in the school. I've been wanting to take pictures in this bathroom since the first day I came to Donzelot but am only just getting to it now. To express my weekend of reckless abandon I decided to follow the lead of the little French girls and write salope all over the walls. Kidding. But its surprising how many times its already been written on the walls. Come on girls!

Monday, March 22, 2010


You may recognize this from last weeks Coast to Cote.

Last weekend I went to Paris for a quick day trip with a few friends. I had planned on doing mostly museums for the day and getting some good food (which I did. Pad Thai is not to be had in Limoges so I profited in Paris). As we were driving into the city (we entered from the south) I recognized the Catacombs. Ryan and I had tried to visit them when he was in Paris in October and were bitterly disappointed to find them temporarily closed due to vandalism. When I saw a healthy line stretched out from the door of the Catacombs I knew they were open and suggested it to the group, who immediately got on board.

Just your typical dork.

My lovely Scottish lady: Paula

My Columbian room-mate Lizandro

Alexandru: our Romanian friend. We are so multicultural here in Limoges!

Trekking to the bones.

For a long time you walk through long carved out hallways until finally you get to this sign. It reads: Stop! This is the Empire of Death.

When you finally get into the bone section its really dark and hard to take pictures. They wont let you use flash because you might scare the ghosts but most tourists seem to ignore this rule. For the first 5 minutes of walking I was pretty impressed. Then I started feeling oppressed by the sheer number of bones. Its strange how they had them stacked. All you ever see is the thigh bone and the skull. Everything else is piled behind I suppose. I had no idea just how vast this place was. I read that millions of remains have been placed in the Catacombs. Originally the space was a quarry, but when conditions at the cemetery got unhealthy the city of Paris decided to move the bones underground. Im not sure at what point they decided to make them into the carefully stacked piles so people can visit them.

Seeing the Catacombs was definately a different experience but it was different from what I thought it would be. It was pretty humbling actually to see how many people have come before you and to think of all the people that will come after you and that in the end you are just a pile of bones (ashes for me!). The air was a bit moist and stale and after a bit Lizandro and Alexandro made a beeline for the exit to get some fresh air.

Just a tip: Dont bring your children here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lentils and Leeks Lunchtime or Soup and Sammy Sunday

Both of these titles appealed to me (for obvious reasons) but as neither was descriptive enough to capture the whole sense of the meal I just put both! Deal.

Since coming to France I have been eating a lot more lentils because they use lentils in soups and salads much more often than we do at home. It seems only fitting that I make a French Green Lentil Soup at least once while in France. So I went out and bought a little sac of Puy lentils (another name for green lentils) and whipped up something simple and delish. Lentils, aside from being yummy, are a good source of protein, fiber, folate and B1. Pair is with rice and you've got yourself a complete protein.

For this soup I paired it with my staple sammy - goat cheese and cucumber.

Leek and Lentil Soup (for 2)
1 leek, washed and sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 soup spoons of olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon
4 cups veg broth
3/4 cup French green lentils
fresh mint

1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Sautee the onion, leek and garlic until the onion and leek are soft and golden (5 minutes or so). Add the lentils and veg broth and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft. While the soup is simmering you can get your sandwich ready.
2. When the lentils are tender take the soup off the burner and let it cool slightly. Add the lemon juice. Place half the soup in a food processor and puree. Split the puree between two bowls then top the puree with the unpureed lentils. Top with fresh mint and serve with the sandwich.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Quinoa Cauliflower and Carrot Bisque

Another Soup Love inspired soup. I invited Nadia and Yohan over and we had a big dinner with Xavier and I tricked them all into eating vegan soup, mwahaha.


Quinoa Cauliflower Bisque

2 cups cooked quinoa
1 large cauliflower (2 pounds) cut into florets, stem discarded
4 cups veg broth
1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 medium carrots
1 large yellow onion
3 tbs olive oil
5 cloves garlic
1 tsp herbs de Provence
2 ounces soy creme fraiche or goat cheese if you aren't vegan

1. Put the cauliflower in a soup pot with 2 cups of water and the veggie broth. Scrub the lemon and zest off a 1 inch strip of the yellow skin. Be careful not to get any of the bitter white part! Juice the lemon and then add 2 tbs of juice and the 1 inch strip to the pot and a tsp of salt. Boil. Lower the heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes. Remove the lemon zest and discard.
2. While your cauliflower is simmering, heat 2 tbs of olive oil in a skillet and sautee the carrot, onion and garlic with 1/2 a tsp of salt until the onion is soft and turning color, about 20 minutes. Add the herbs de Provence and sautee a few more minutes.
3. Add your sauteed veggies to the cauliflower and simmer for 15 more minutes or until the cauliflower and carrots are very soft. Let the soup cool slightly then puree it with an immersion blender or in a food processor. Add the quinoa. Taste and add salt or lemon juice as needed.
4. Top each bowl with a dollop of creme fraiche, olive oil, and bread crumbs. You can take soft bread and break it into pieces then toast it in olive oil in a sauce pot over medium heat until they are brown and hot.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Dune of Pyla

On day three of my stay with Pascal and Isabelle we went to the Dune of Pyla, the largest dune in Europe I'll have you know! In the morning of this day we went to a cafe overlooking the ocean in Lacanau to watch the surfers and eat some treats and discuss our project for the day. The clouds had rolled in overnight and our day threatened to be soggy, but with smiles on faces we decided (or I decided rather and my gracious hosts crossed their fingers) to drive out to the dune and hope for sun. We were rewarded! Enjoy some pictures now.

Isabelle and Pascal

Oysterbeds in the Arcachon Bay

Pascal used to work at a pool located in one of the camping sites right around the dune when he was younger. He said that the dune moves to much that that pool is now UNDER the dune.


We had a lovely walk up and a nice view from the top and we ate some snack and got sand everywhere because just as we sat down the wind whipped up and Pascal was finding sand in his pockets all the rest of the night!

Coast to Cote Week 10

Piles - our unplanned theme of the week. Enjoy!

Pang: It's really not a secret to anyone that I absolutely love piles...piles of bricks, piles of sticks, piles of old get the idea. Many of the self portraits from my 365 project are taken of me climbing them, standing next to, or on top of piles. I'd like to think that if I could take layers off, I would be able to find something magical hidden within those piles. My ultimate dream came true when I assisted Molly during one of her photo shoots over the weekend. The location of the shoot was at this junk yard right here in Shepherdstown. The owner of the yard actually calls it his "treasure yard" and he keeps various things in it, like old carriages, trunks, bicycles, ornate frames, and even a Model T Ford! I was FLOORED! This place was like heaven to me. PILES AND PILES OF STUFF! You might think I'm weird (I don't care), but my senses were overloaded. Each time I looked at something I found something else I hadn't seen at first glance. I can't wait to get back there and take some more photographs...with permission of course!

Lacey: Saturday I went on a little day trip to Paris with some friends and we decided to check out the Catacombs. The combs house more than 6 million remains dating back to the 18th century. Entering into the "empire of death" (according to the sign above the door) it is at once spectacular and overwhelming. Honestly it had a bit of a Disneyworld feel to it. Could all those bones possibly be real? Obviously others were also getting the playland vibe because an obnoxiously loud German speaking teenager behind me actually picked up a bone! As we wound through row after row of bones stacked high the feeling in the catacombs became more and more oppressive. We were happy to finally see the light at the end of the empire.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Broccoli Mac and Cheese Casserole

Mac and Cheese from a box is super hard to replicate isn't it? I've come to the conclusion that it can't be done. But, a good noodly cheesy casserole can be made that can satisfy a craving. I had just bought a package of quinoa noodles I wanted to try out and even though Im not crazy about broccoli usually, its full of good stuff for you (vitamin C, K, A and fiber) so I decided to make a little casserole.

Broccoli Mac and Cheese

1 large bunch of broccoli, cut into florets, trunk discarded
4 Tbsp butter (or vegan spread)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups soy creme fraiche (or whole milk, soy milk, soy cream)
2 cups grated Gruyere (or cheese of your choice)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

1. Heat oven to 400° F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or some other shallow 3-quart baking dish.
2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions and boil the broccoli until its tender but not mushy
3. Wipe out the past pot and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes (do not let it darken). Still stirring, slowly add the creme fraiche. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce slightly thickens, 6 to 8 minutes.
4. Add the Gruyère, cayenne, garlic and 1½ teaspoon salt and pepper and cook just until the cheeses melt. Mix in the pasta and the broccoli. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish and bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

PS I liked the quinoa pasta

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coast to Cote Week 9

Is there enough going on in the pictures this week?

Pang: I love Anthropologie. Period. But not because I love their clothes and their accessories and their lovely home decor. Ok, I do, but honestly, I can't afford them (like the pieces of furniture I've been drooling over online). What pulls at my heartstrings most are the displays. They come up with the most unique displays sometimes. While visiting the one in Georgetown on my birthday, there was a floor to ceiling shelf full of little blue bottles, all labled, and filled with dried flowers. There were more great displays, but this one caught my eye the most. I loved the fact that it seemed so simple, yet the flowers and the rows of bottles makes the photograph so busy. One day, my future home will look like this...but I might have to hire someone from their display team...hmm.

Lacey: This weekend was Carnival in Limoges! It was soooo cold and fittingly the theme was Limoges in the Wind. We watched the parade of girls in skimpy costumes and elaborately decorated floats but by far the most fun was throwing confetti around afterwards! These are my friends, the other assistants. That guy in the foreground is some stranger. Thanks for getting in my picture dude! geeze!

Vegan Spinach and Portabella Lasagna

So you might have noticed I've been trying out some vegan recipes lately. I just recently found a bio (translate organic) supermarket in my area (dont know how i missed it before really) and have discovered things I was missing like tempeh, seitan, tofu varieties, alfalfa sprouts, and new to my list is soy creme fraiche. With my newly found creme fraiche and a package of no boil spinach lasagna noodles I decided to go about this lasagna thing in a less traditional way and cut out the meat and cheese.

Now I know what you're thinking. What is that pile of slop? Food is by far one of the most important things to me but honestly Im more interested in eating it than making it look pretty. I've gotten more and more interested in food photography but when it comes to photographing my own food, I just cant spend 45 minutes making this lasagna look amazing. It'll get cold!

Vegan Lasagna
16 oz chopped spinach (if fresh blanch first, if frozen, thaw and squeeze out extra water)
several palm sized portabellas, cleaned and sliced
1 package firm tofu
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup soy creme fraiche (you can use soy milk if you want)
2 minced garlic cloves
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tbsp minced fresh basil (20 leaves or so)
1 tsp salt
4-6 cups of your favorite tomato sauce

1. Preaheat the oven to 350F
2. Cook the noodles according to the package or get smart and get the "no boil" kind. Wha? I know.
3. Place all the ingredients except for the mushrooms, tomato sauce, noodles, and spinach in a blender and blend until you have a mixture that resembles ricotta.
4. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the spinach.
5. Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Then start layering. Noodles, ricotta, mushrooms, tomato sauce. Repeat. Top it all with tomato sauce. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve it with crusty bread drizzled in olive oil, popped in the oven for 15 minutes or until the olive oil is bubbly.

Happy eating!

Bordeaux - Cheese and Beauty

Limoges! And our food.

On day 2 of my stay with Pascal and Isabelle we went to Bordeaux. They took me to a special place for lunch, only revealing the secret minutes before we got there. We went to a place called Baud et Millet in Bordeaux that specializes in cheese! Every dish is chocked full of cheese or you can even pay for the cheese buffet (a staggering 23 euros) and have a free for all in the cave (an underground room where they had all the cheeses laid out on plates and a humidifier in the room to keep the cheeses....moldy?)

If you are a cheese lover this is the place for you! The staff was super friendly and even kept us from making a grave mistake. We had planned on getting an appetizer each and then a main dish (more tasting of cheeses you see) but the waiter quickly squashed these dreams, warning us that the plates are huge. Thank goodness he said something! I ordered an eggplant gratin with mixed veggies and rice topped with Gorgonzola and a Raclette cheese. I swear to you it came out in a casserole dish almost as big as a lasagna dish.

The place was decorated with old adverts for cheese and boxes of cheese and posters of cows and goats playing in fields.

After a lunch that left the 3 of us waddling and holding our stomachs Pascal and Isabelle set me loose on the city. We set our meeting place for the Opera House (pictured below) and I set out for a few hours of wandering.

Hopefully the pictures say it all. Bordeaux is (so far) the prettiest French city I had visited and I can't wait to go back and explore it further.

I just thought this was funny...those French people, always cutting people head's off.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Vegan Black Bean and Squash Soup

Pee Pang was kind enough to send me a bag of black beans and made me promise I would post my finished products. I made this soup over Christmas break for New Years and I thought it turned out pretty good and have been craving it ever since. Despite it looking like a bowl of mud I assure you it's delicious!

This recipe comes from the book Love Soup by Anna Thomas who also wrote the Vegetarian Epicure. I got both of these books for Christmas and have been lovingly flipping through them for the last few months. The only problem I have with these books is the lack of pictures. Shouldn't I have the right to know that I'm making mud soup? Im absolutely guilty of buying recipe books based on the pictures inside.

I made some changes to her recipe but I don't deviate too far.

Vegan Black Bean Butternut Squash Soup
For about 6 people

1 1/2 cup dried black beans
5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 small butternut squash
1 Tbs olive oil
1-2 yellow onions, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1 Tbs cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 1/2 cups veggie stock or canned veg broth
2 Tbs lemon juice
For the garnish
avocado, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese or aged cheddar (if you don't care about it being vegan of course)

1. Rinse the black beans and put them in a large pot with 7 cups of water and the garlic. Bring the beans to a boil then simmer, covered for 1 hour or until they are tender. When they are tender (not mushy!) take out 1 to 1 1/2 cup of beans with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. While your beans are cooking, cut the squash in half and place the halves cut side down on a lightly oiled pan and roast them for 45 minutes to an hour or until the squash is soft. When the squash is done take it out of the oven and let it cool slightly, then scoop the insides out into a bowl, making sure not to include any of the skin.
3. While your beans and squash are cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onions, the bay leaf and some salt. Caramelize the onions at a low heat for 25 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
4. When the beans are tender add the carrot, celery, and jalapeno. Simmer 10 to 12 minutes or until the carrot is soft. Add the squash, onion, cumin and veggie broth. Let cool slightly.
5. Puree the soup in batches or with an immersion blender. Taste and correct seasoning with salt as needed. Add the lemon juice and mix well. Split the soup into bowl and top with garnishes of choice!

A note on cumin: Toasting and Grinding cumin seeds sounds kinda daunting and tiring but I assure you its easy and worth it! Here is how I do it. Put a small sauce pot on the stove on medium high heat and let it warm up. Prepare your measurement of cumin seeds. When the pan is hot, take it off the stove and pour in the cumin seeds (you are still holding the pot by the handle) and shake the pot so that the seeds receive the heat but do not burn on the bottom. The seeds will start to turn a darker shade of brown but will not get black. They will release their aroma and then you know they are ready. Do be careful though - if the seeds get overly toasted they will have a bitter flavor. Pour them into a food processor as soon as they are toasted and grind them to a choppy powder.