Friday, May 28, 2010

Creep People Party! Oh I mean Crepe....

Right before my sad/happy return to America, Remi and his family and girlfriend agreed to teach me the French art of crepe making! Turns out the recipe is pretty simple but making a beautiful crepe is not!

We tried to different variations of crepe batter - one with milk and a touch of rum and one with half milk and half beer. I think it was pretty much unanimous that the beer batter was the more flavorful and enjoyable of the two - which surprised me as Im not too crazy about beer.

So here you have it:

Simple Crepes
(makes about a dozen)

3 eggs
250 grams of flour
1/2 liter of milk (or half milk, half beer)
1 soup spoon of vegetable oil
a pinch of salt
a shot of rum (exclude if you are doing half beer)

Put all your ingredients in a blender and blend until....well blended. The tricky part is mastering the wrist motion for getting the perfect crepe. You may have noticed in the pictures that my crepes have substantial craters and holes in them. Im a beginner, obviously.

Ryan is going to be buying me a late birthday present of a brand new crepe pan (this present seems like it has some selfish motivation, but I wont say anything because im thrilled to be getting it :) so I fully intend to be an expect come next February 2nd, which is the celebration of La Chandeleur in France. As with all religious holidays in France - there is a certain food eaten in celebration. February 2nd is the crepes day to be flipped and filled and stuffed into mouths.

In preparation for this occasion Remi's mom equipped me with a gold coin and instructed me to flip a crepe up into the air and catch it in the pan, while holding the pan. If I could do this successfully my family would prosper for the rest of the year. You're welcome family - I caught it.

Remi's mom gave me a little book of crepe recipes before I left and promised that when I come back to Limoges she will give me a confiture (jam) recipe book so I can make all kinds of tasty fillings for my crepes.

Look for more crepe posts in my future - sugary and salty ones and for sure some dairy-free and vegan ones. Gluten free for my friend Johanna? Lets see what we can do here...

Coast to Cote Week 20 + pictures from the farm

Sorry this is late - I just got back from France on Monday and I have been simultaniously trying to catch up on hours, see my friends, and organize/find all the crap I packed and then shoved into closets and basements before I left.

Pang: I might have mentioned that there's a little farm at the down the street from where I work. My little buddy and I pass it everyday and we love to stop by and say hello to the owners and the farm animals (ie. ducks and chickens). The other day, Amy (the farm owner) took us to the chicken coup to visit with their latest addition, a little peep. It was super soft and cute and I couldn't resist snapping a quick photograph. I think I might have enjoyed seeing the fuzzy little thing more than my buddy did!

Lacey: While we were on vacation last week one of my favorite things we did was visit a cow farm. A cow farm for meat production (unfortch) but a cow farm all the same. I was so surprised by how curious the cows are, coming inches away from me to sniff my boots and lick my hand. These particular cows are Limousin cows (from Limoges)! Arent they pretty?

While I have your attention - I will go ahead and share the pictures from the farm I visited in Chateaubriant

The first group of cows we were introduced to were these little boy calves which I think we less than a year old. They were terribly skittish at first (reminded me of Hibou actually) but after a minute or two they would slowly creep forward for a closer look.

They were all housed in an open shelter - 6 to 7 of them per pen. Our gracious hostess showed us the feed she gives them, which is a mixture that she makes herself. She also explained a bit of how they raise the animals. These guys here stay in this pen for the first year and a half of their lives. This seemed a bit unreasonable to me but she explained that since its just her and her husband (and a few of her kids) working the farm - it would be impossible to have them out in the field because she would need to bring them back in every night. I still didn't quite get it.

This is LouLou. She's a bit special - in general and to her owner. LouLou is a fraternal twin. Sylvie explained that the Limousin breed of cow very rarely has twins. Even more rare is a Limousin cow who has fraternal twins. Lucky her you might be thinking. Well not exactly. There are two problems.

Problem number 1: the female half of fraternal twins can't ever get pregnant. Apparently during the time that they are developing in the womb - the female cow is subject to all the male hormones that the male cow needs - so much so that for whatever reason she is rendered infertile.

Problem number 2: Since Limousin cows very rarely have twins, they don't have the capacity to take care of two calves. Thus LouLou had to be bottle fed by Sylvie as a baby. Had she not taken care of LouLou herself its likely she would not have survived.

So you may be thinking - so big deal, she can't have calves. Its actually a huge huge deal for Sylvie. I didn't realize this before talking to her but female cows in France (I say in France because I have no idea how the system works in the US but I would bet its the same) are almost always pregnant. And it makes sense I suppose - baby cows means future hamburgers, so if a cow can't get pregnant she isn't producing more hamburgers to replace herself!

Technically - a cow like LouLou is a waste of time for Sylvie. She's not producing calves and she's just using up resources. But since Sylvie hand-fed her she decided to keep her and its apparent how much of a bond there is because as we walked out into the field Sylvie started yelling LouLou's name and there she was, slowly lopping her way over to be pet like a giant dog.

But the fact remains that LouLou will go to the laboratory one day - which is french for the slaughterhouse. We talked about it a little over a slice of cake and coffee later. She said it would without a doubt be a difficult thing for her to do. She had already sent a cow to slaughter before that she had a close relationship with, and that had hurt her. But in the end the cows are money - and letting LouLou die a natural death in the field is a loss of money.

When I got up close to them I was really surprised by how different they all looked. Different head shapes, different eyes, horns that twisted or turned in different directions.

After our tour of the place Sylvie invited us inside for some refreshments and we learned some things that I was completely unaware of and actually really reaffirmed my commitment to being a vegetarian.

In France 80% of female cows that go to slaughter are pregnant. This seemed crazy to me but Sylvie reminded us that they are almost constantly pregnant - and - the fetus doesn't get wasted. Alright prepare to be grossed out.

The umbilical fluid from an unborn calf is used to treat people with severe burns. Apparently its a substance full of nutrients (duh) that will help heal the burns without sticking to the skin.

More gross - the skin of an unborn calf is soft and supple and hair free. Sylvie says that the skin from her cows unborn calves goes to Paris where it is made into leather gloves for posh ladies.

Really though I did enjoy my visit to the farm. To see the animals up close and see how Sylvie works with them. She really has a lot of respect for them and told us that cows are intelligent creatures that will give you what you give them. She says her cows are patient and affectionate as long as she is patient and affectionate to them.

I was obviously already convinced of this fact - but seeing them in person and really being able to connect the hamburger at MacDo's to the curious, living, breathing animal in front of me was a really reaffirming experience for me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Coast to Cote Week 19

Pang: On Sunday, I had a photo shoot in Frederick. We took a few photographs in Baker Park and saw this adorable geese family in the water. Simone, the model I was working with, walked over to the water's edge as the whole family waddled right over to us. They got so close and right in the way. It was almost like they were saying "we're ready for our close ups now!"

Lacey: I had the most amazing weekend. Paula and I had the absolute fortune to be invited up to Northern France to stay with Xavier (who lives in the same building as me part of the week) and Catherine (his wife). This is a picture from the first day of our trip during our 6 hour drive up to Chateaubriant. Xavier catered to our every whim, pulling over several times so we could visit windmills, climb into sarcophagi, and admire the nuclear silos. This was really the perfect way to close out my time in France.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Barcelona - where do I begin? Oh right! I can begin with saying it poured. Like really poured. Prune feet after 5 minutes outside because its raining so hard that the rain has soaked through my boots and squished up through the sole. Despite that - I had an amazing time. Honestly, I have never been so impressed with a city. The pictures wont be great due to the rainyness but you will get the idea.

First night in the rain.

We took the free walking tour to visit Gaudi's houses. This one was my favorite. The guide said there are several ideas as to what this house is all about. Some people think its a house that celebrates Carnival. The colors on the front of the house represent the confetti and the balconies are the masks people wear during the festival.

Another interpretation (which I prefer) is that the house is based on the story of George and the Dragon. The roof is the dragon's back - the colorful tiles it scales. The small turret on the left is George's lance. The balconies are the skulls of the dragon's victims and the columns at the bottom are their bones.

I didn't get to go inside (its expensive!) but I have seen some pictures like this one. Pretty cool.

Sagrada Familia. This mammoth was started in 1882 and has still yet to be finished. In fact another 30 to 80 years could be required!

Is anyone else seeing the storm trooper looking guys? Fun fact - more of these guys can be found on top of the La Pedrera - and according to our tour guide, George Lucas got his inspiration for Darth Vadar after visiting these figures.

See the resemblance now?

I would highly recommend Free Walking Tour if you are in Barcelona. The tour guides work for tips - so you pay what you think is fair, but you will learn lots of stuff.

For example I learned:

1. Gaudi was a vegetarian from a young age (more for health reasons than animal but whatever)
2. In his giant cathedral, which has still yet to be completed even this long after his death, he has sculptures of Herod the baby killer. The dead babies that are around Harods feet look surprisingly lifelike. Its because they are casts of real babies. Gaudi would go to the mourge and take stillborn babies and make plaster casts of them. Pretty gross and hardcore dedicated of him.
3. Worldly possesions meant nothing to him. He built amazing mansions for rich people that almost went bankrupt because he habitually overspent their money, yet he lived in a crap appartment, made his own shoes and held his clothes together with saftey pins.
4. He died after a tram hit him crossing the street. The tram driver, thinking he was a drunk bum, moved him to the side of the street and left. Someone eventually stopped and tried to hail a taxi to take him to the hospital but the taxi drivers didnt want to get blood on their seats. Someone eventually consented to take him. He died 3 days later.

Aside from Gaudi architecture though there is plenty to see and do in Barcelona. The streets are tiny and they are filled with great restaurants and boutiques.

The second full day in Barcelona the sun came out! I spent the day walking around, looking at shops, and eating as often as possible.

I wanted to just press my face up to the glass and try to smell all the treats laid out on the table. Judging from the marks on the window I would say Im not the only one.

What impressed me most about this city though was the graffiti! Amazing! Take a look for yourself.

Food places you should go!

This is a vegan bar that serves burgers (on home-made buns) or sausages with baked beans, fries and salads. The bar is owned by Geraldine (I think she's Spanish but she speaks English and is super cool and stylish) and a guy from the UK (I didnt happen to get his name - but he gave me free chocolate vegan cake!). You wont be disappointed with the food or the sangria! I went here on my last night when I was alone in Barcelona and started talking to the guy at the table next to me and we ended up talking in French for hours (his English wasn't up to par and I dont speak Spanish).

Juicy Jones
This place was really great. The woman who served me spoke perfect English. The menu is immense and all vegan. I got a great avocado, sprout, apple smoothie and a vegan empanada and left totally satisfied but wishing I had more days to eat there.

Arco Iris
This was my least favorite of the veggie restaurants - not because it wasnt good - it just wasn't the most interesting. Good for vegans and raw foodies. 4 course meal for 9 euros.

Did I mention how cheap Barcelona is? The 4 course 9 euro meal was the most expensive meal I had. FOR REAL. I was kinda depressed when I got back to France and saw the 5 euro cheese sammies (which is all I can eat on the go in France).

Sorry for the mile long post! Hope you all get to go to Barcelona one day!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Coral Lentil and Split Pea Curry Soup

The idea for this soup came fully from Heidi over at 101 cookbook. But, as I am currently cleaning out my pantry in preparation for the big move back to America, I changed the recipe around to suit what I had and what I prefer. For sure though check out her recipe here.

So - Item # 4 and 5 for cleaning down the pantry are: coral lentils and split peas.

Lentil Split Pea Curry Soup

1 cup split peas
1 cup coral lentils
5 cups home-made veggie stock
2 cups water
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
2 tbsp ginger, peeled and sliced thin
2 tbsp curry powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup small portobello mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1/3 cup tomato paste
14 oz coconut milk
2 tsp salt
fresh cilantro

1. Rinse the lentils and peas in a fine mesh strainer. Combine them with the water and the veg stock in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the carrots and a 1/4 of the ginger. Cover, simmer 30 minutes or until the peas are tender.
2. During this time heat a dry skillet on low heat and toast your curry powder. Set the curry aside in a bowl. In the same skillet heat the oil and add the onion and ginger and mushrooms. Sautee for 2 minutes, stirring, then add the tomato paste and simmer a few more minutes.
3. Add the curry to the tomato paste mixture then and when it is well incorporated, add the whole mix to the soup pot. Add the coconut milk and the salt. Simmer uncovered 20 minutes or until the soup thickens sufficiently.

Coast to Cote Week 18

Late again - sorry!

Pang: I'm beginning to think that Spring is my favorite time of the year...not because the weather is gorgeous (cause it hasn't been at all), but because of all the pretty blossoms. Since I can't seem to grow anything, I love admiring other people's flowers. On a small farm down the street from where I work, there's always a field of poppies and peonies (peonies are just beginning to bloom) that I gravitate too this time of year. They look so gorgeous in bloom. The colors are beautiful and in I like the way the poppies sway back and forth when the wind blows, since their stems are so long. And when the leaves fall, the green grass is littered with pedals of coral, a sight to see.

Me: Spent the weekend in Barcelona. Amazing. If you ever get the chance to go here, DO IT! So Im cheating a little bit this week and using three horizontal photographs as one vertical. I just couldn't resist sharing these. In the old city of Barcelona the tiny little streets are packed full of this amazing graffiti. My time here in France is almost over. This weekend I go to Brittney. Cross your fingers I get some sunshine and a nice pictures of my travels for next week.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vegan Buttermilk Banana Cake

For those of you lucky assistants and friends that were at Adam's going away cookout, you probably got to try my non-vegan buttermilk cake. Well this is not the recipe for that and here is why - that milk and butter gives me a tummy ache! Plus I really want to learn to bake vegan - so I took the recipe I used for the non-vegan cake and made it vegan. Voila, the results!

My biggest concern in making this cake vegan was replacing the egg. Lets face it - those little guys do the job right. But! I read that you can use a banana and it will do mostly the same thing (comes out a bit denser but you will never hear me complain about a dense cake), but of course it will add the taste of banana. Well lucky me, I love bananas. I make banana bread I love bananas.

Vegan Buttermilk Banana Cake

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (its almost healthy this way!)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp unsalted vegan butter spread, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 small banana, mashed well
1/2 cup vanilla soy buttermilk (almost a half cup of vanilla soy milk plus the juice of half a lemon - let sit for a minute)
1 cup vegan chocolate chips or carob chips
raw sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Butter and flour a 9 inch round cake pan, or a loaf pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and the salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl beat the butter and sugar together (cream it - in baking terms) with an electric mixer until it's fluffy. Add the banana, mix. With the mixer on low, beat in 1/3 of the flour. Add half the buttermilk. Beat in another 1/4 of the flour. Add the rest of the milk, then the rest of the flour. Mix until just combine. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spoon.
3. Scrape it into your prepared dish of choice and smooth the top. Scatter a small handful of raw sugar on top (or some fresh strawberries! I didn't have any).
4. Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick comes out clean (25 to 30 minutes). Cool in the pan 10 minutes then put it on a wire rack.

Monday, May 10, 2010

You Will Miss Us

There were days during this experience as an assistant when I just wanted to roll over and stay in bed. There were days when I did just roll over and stay in bed (I had the flu, calm down). There were days when I dreaded teaching certain classes, and then days - sometimes the same day - when I couldn't wait to see how the kids would react to what I prepared.

My children love me in fact. Even the craphead kids. On my last week my kids presented me with all kinds of presents and hand made cards! I in turn presented them with (the demanded) cakes and treats that I love to make - banana bread and buttermilk cake.

This girl looks like a mini Natalie Portman - and she's a really great student too - never gave me any flack, even when we did kinda boring stuff like filling in a map of the US. Plus...she remembered Hibou in her drawing!

This card came from a girl who I thought was totally bored to death by me. Maybe she was bored to death so she decided to make this card instead of listen to me talk :)

Inside of the same card.

Did you know I was famous?

Obviously if my kids learned anything about me - they learned I have a cat named Hibou. Im satisfied.

This was my favorite - so cute translation wise. The reason its so adorable is because its translated the way they would say it in French. For example - when they say "You will miss us a lot," what they mean to say is "We will miss you a lot." But in French you change the positions. This is a mistake I made a lot learning French and I didn't actually learn it correctly until I came here this year. To say I miss you in French you say "tu me manque" - translated literally " you are missing to me".

Two of my little girls in the 6eme Euro (6th grade 2 hour English class) bought me this Limoges porcelain! It was so cute - as I unwrapped it they kept saying "It's fragile, It's fragile!" and then right before I took off the last of the paper one of the little gift givers leaned over and said "Do you drink tea?" Not one for surprises that one :)

Thank you children - you will miss me!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Lemony Goat Cheese Pasta with Sautéed Asparagus

Item # 3 of eating down the pantry : Pasta. I haven't been eating much pasta at all in France - Im just so obsessed with quesadillas and quiche and soup. But now it's time to finish it up. I was blog browsing and I came across a lemony goat cheese with asparagus pasta dish. Unfortunately I don't remember where I found it - sorry!

I made this dish for my birthday and invited Therese and Paula to come over and share it with me. I had been craving some asparagus ever since the last dinner in Italy when the 4 of us went to the market in Florence and made a huge going away dinner together. Plus, it's in season right now and veggies and fruits are always best in season.

So I trekked up to the market the morning of my birthday and ordered a kilo of asparagus. I had no idea how big a kilo would be - but its manageable once you cut the stems down. Plus - I was pleased to find that the asparagus that is grown here locally is a bit different than what we have at home....see below.

Does this look like an asparagus to you?

Have you ever zested with a potato peeler? Takes forever!

Lemony Goat Cheese Pasta with Sauteed Asparagus
Serves 4

1 kilo (2 and a half pounds I think) fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 large log of goat cheese
1 large lemon, zested
several cups of pasta (I always eyeball it)
1/4 cup olive oil plus 2 tbsp
1 tbsp herbs de provence
salt and pepper

1. Put a pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. When you drain the pasta reserve about a cup of the pasta water.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Add the asparagus, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until the asparagus is tender but not mushy,5-7 minutes.
3. In the pot you used for the pasta (which has now been drained and is still in the colander) combine the goat cheese, olive oil, herbs de provence and lemon zest. Mix well until the cheese has melted. Little by little add the reserved pasta water until you get the desired consistency.
4. Add the pasta back to the pot and mix well. Then fold in the asparagus and serve.

It may not be the prettiest dish you ever prepare but it's quite satisfying.

These pretty little flowers came from Therese. May Day in France is actually a national holiday, like our Labor Day - which means everything is closed and if it were not that way I guarantee you there would be strikes - but it also means that people are selling Muguet des Bois or Lily of the Valley in English! I found a really great explanation of this tradition on Paris Postcard that I really recommend you check out. She explains it so well I don't even want to bother trying!

I had a pretty lovely birthday and I closed out the day with drinks at the Bibliotheque with friends.