I’m just crackers for the Inaugural “Alternative” Daring Bakers Challenge!

Don’t forget to leave a comment here to be entered into my little drawing for a felty-love pouch! You have until Oct. 1st!

This has been my most exciting Daring Bakers Challenge yet! Why, you ask? Because I got to be a “hostess-with-the-mostest!” (Have any of you seen Spinal Tap? Oh, wasted youth, how I miss thee…). Oh, and because we got to chose our recipe, I wasn’t confronted with subbing 27 eggs, because the recipe was VEGAN! Ha! It was also possible to do a Gluten Free variation, because darn it, we’re Alternative, and we’re worth it! :

When the gracious and talented Natalie of Gluten A Go Go asked me to co-host with her I was wonderfully surprised and terribly flattered. I’m a baby Daring Baker, and my inaugural Challenge, veganizing Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake, was my first real brush with a baking disaster (luckily my second attempt at Daringness was a success and my Tofu Cheesecake Pops rocked the casaba). It was during this second challenge that I “met” Natalie (during our Alternative Bake-Along) and started visiting her blog on a regular basis.

Working with Natalie on this project was pure joy! We were in sync from the very beginning, knowing we wanted to move away from the sticky-sweet challenges we’ve seen of late (though I love sweet, and I can’t wait for the next sugar-filled challenge!). There was also this bread vibe that passed between us, and from the beginning we moved towards baking bread or crackers, and Natalie suggested adding dips and spreads to the mix. We also knew that we wanted an easily convertible recipe so that our GF and Vegan Bakers wouldn’t have to re-invent the wheel!

Natalie mentioned Peter Reinhart, and I took advantage of my State-Side vacation to pick up his phenomenal (IMHO) book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which was, without exaggeration, life-changing for me! I couldn’t put it down, and fell deeper and deeper in love with the glossy photos of his venerable chef d’oeuvres. As a very new baker, I was reminded of my early ballet career and seeing the Bolshoi Ballet for the very first time – W-O-W! Once the two of us were armed with Apprentice, we were baking to beat the band : trying different recipes for their GF or Vegan-friendliness, trying to find the perfect fit between a clear, structured recipe, and the possibility to bake outside of the box and add one’s own creative stamp to the Challenge.

After baking many a bread, we decided on the Lavash Crackers (recipe at the end of this post), for their adaptability, their deliciousness, and their utility (everyone should make their own crackers at least once, right?). We sincerely hoped that because of the different toppings possibilities, the dough add-ins such as herbs or spices, and of course the multitude of GF and Vegan dips or spreads to accompany them with, that this challenge could truly be yours, so that it would be a pleasure to make as well as to eat!

I want to thank Natalie for allowing me this opportunity for culinary collaboration, something I’d never done before. I felt like I was in school again working on a project with a friend, and the many emails we shared over the summer months fine tuning our ideas were rich and entertaining. It’s thanks to my fellow Daring Baker that I discovered Reinhart and his fabulous book, and I’ve learned so many new things and become all the richer for it. Thanks also go out to our co-founders Lis and Yvonne, who gave us the green light for our idea, and who have made the blogosphere a much more tasty place to be! Thank you!

I’ve made these crackers five times since we decided on the recipe. I have made savory and sweet versions, once adding dried basil and rosemary to the savory dough and another time I added all spice and vanilla for a sweet version. I’ve rolled the dough thicker for a pita-like bread, and much thinner, more crackly crackers. I broke them apart to make shards, cut them into pita triangles, and used cookie cutters. I’m thrilled to have this recipe in my repertoire, and I hope you are, too!

You might be wondering why there are no pictures of my dips? Well, mostly because I just forgot to take them! I’m sorry, I was so concentrating on the cracker-aspect of the Challenge! I made hummus, homemade salsa, Thai Almond dip, Smokey Black Bean dip, and I don’t remember what else. I think because I make these things so often, they just didn’t seem very photo-worthy…?

I think what I most enjoyed (besides eating the crackers), was this Challenge (hopefully) helped dispel some of the clichés surrounding what “Vegan” means – often people have a rather reductionist vision of what we eat, and they think we dine on soy 3 times a day, and supplement with twigs and berries (ok, maybe not!), but my family doesn’t really eat much soy at all, and when we do, it’s usually in the form of tempeh (so less processed). Our diets consist of a vast variety of foods, mostly veggies, fruits, and grains…and desserts, too! So many of what are considered “comfort foods” in North America are vegan – chips & salsa, PB & J, and if you’re ever in France, stop by my place for a vegan apple pie – you’ll NEVER know the difference! There was a spirit of curiosity buzzing about the forums, and I was so proud to be a member of this Daring community where my fellow Bakers took the Challenge to heart and sincerely moved outside of their comfort zones (the way the Alternative Bakers do, too!).

Lavash Crackers from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

Here’s a simple formula for making snappy Armenian-style crackers, perfect for breadbaskets, company and kids…It is similar to the many other Middle Eastern and Northern African flatbreads known by different names, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish), and pideh (Armenian). The main difference between these breads is either how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, or the type of oven in which they are baked (or on which they are baked, as many of these breads are cooked on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface)…

The key to a crisp lavash,…is to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a description of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

or

2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

or

4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt – a little goes a long way. If you want to pre-cut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

No Raw Thursday, No Iron Cupcake and No to Palin!

Don’t forget to leave a comment here to be entered

into my little drawing for a felty-love pouch!

Visiting in-laws means no Raw Thursday for the Shellyfish…proving true to form in my normal “I have to do everything really well so my in-laws love me” way, I’ve been very busy cooking & baking up a storm, and it just wouldn’t do for me to be eating a separate, raw meal at the same table… I’m working on showing how “normal” vegan cuisine really is, and while I don’t think raw cuisine is “weird” (ok, sometimes it IS), I do think it would appear a bit strange for me to be eating my Raw Tacos while they dine on the lasagna that is in the oven! JFTR (just for the record), my brother and sister-in-law are adorable, and they would love me even if I didn’t cook up a storm…it’s that perfectionist/over-achiever curse from being a ballet dancer all those years…not them! So, see you next Thursday for some raw goodness!

The Public Broadcasting System, or PBS, is the primary public and commercial-free channel in the United States (un peu comme ARTE ou France 5 mais sans les pubs). This channel provides many incredible educational programmes for children, excellent news coverage, and fabulous documentaries. There is a very un-scientific poll up on their web site asking people if they feel Ms. Palin is qualified…http://www.pbs.org/now/polls/poll-435.html you don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to realize that McCain’s feeble attempt at harvesting the female votes that would have perhaps gone to Hillary Clinton is a catastrope in the making…she may be a woman, and it’s always exciting to see more women in power, but she has a horrible environmental record, is not a pro-women’s rights voter, and has no experience with foreign policy AT ALL. Please click the link – it’ll take 20 seconds – and let your voice be heard! Oh, and check out the uber-talented Kindara and her fab Quilted Obama T-Shirt – because everything is political, our choices, our voices, and especially our art!

I have had too much on my baking pan this month, so I’m passing on the Iron Cupcake challenge for September (much to the chagrin of M. Fish). Please go check out some of these excellent entries from some of my favorite bloggers : The amazing Amanda braved post-Ike conditions to make her Basil-infused Chocolate Mousse Cupcakes, Diann has some adorable popcorn-decorated Peach Gazpacho Cupcakes, the Michigander (I love that word!) Maggie has some beautiful Basil-Citrus Cupcakes, and Sweet Potatoe has delicious Coconut Cupcakes with Mango-Basil filling and Coconut Frosting. Today is the posting deadline, so the hills will be alive with the sounds of cupcakes!

My 100th Post & A Thank You Giveaway…

I can’t believe this is my 100th post! But here I am, still sharing bits of my vegan life à la française. Almost a year ago I began feeling rather lonely in veganland. I’d never been an avid blog-reader or anything like that, but when a dear friend asked me to prepare one of her favorite dishes for my *Fête de la Saint Kévin dinner party (also called Anti-Colonialist day or Thanksgiving) I realized I needed some input from the vegan world. After googling “vegan green bean casserole” I found Susan V’s awesome blog, and was just thrilled by not only all the amazing recipes, but by all the comments! I had this incredible Hellen Keller – Anne Sullivan moment where I suddenly understood what was happening all around me…all these other vegans out there, on the web, and only an Internet-connection away…

Like many of you kids, my blog began simply as a way to spread the word – the net is a very big and scary place wrought with corporate giants and capitalist greed. For me, opening up my own advertisement-free little piece of vegan real estate was an important way to spread the vegan gospel, and to share my vegan joy with everyone out there. However, in time I found that my blog had grown into something of its own, it became a new voice for me, and a new place where I could meet and greet other vegans, this from a small French town where it is rather difficult to reach out to other like-minded or “palletted” people.

I have grown in many different ways thanks to this blog and also thanks to your blogs! Visiting different blogs from all over the world has helped me continue to expand my perspective, test my limits – artistically and intellectually, in ways I’d never dreamed. Initially I was on the lookout for other vegan athlete & yoga types, and was thrilled to find Jen the Veg Tri-Athlete’s Fuled By Plants with so many great vegan meals to refuel with. I also began regularly reading the vegan food blogs which I now can’t live without! They were the inspiration I needed to begin baking (something I’d never really done before)…now I bake my bread for pete’s sake! I love the inspiration and support, the food p*rn and the, ahem, cookie recipes

After being inspired by blogs like Hannah’s Bittersweet, Vania’s A Crafty Vegan, and vegan knitting blogs like Vegan Knitting…and then some I started wondering why the hell I didn’t know how to knit and crochet! I’d spent my entire life (so far) dancing, writing and being involved with music (and musicians…but that is SO another story), but I’d never used my hands to create. From there I became interested in sewing, and I can’t stop! I’m also now obsessed with leaves – looking at them, drawing them (trying to), hand printing them, and more recently, embrodering them…crazy! And so, to honor this momentous occasion (really, it’s just an excuse for a little party, and I am all about parties!), I have two bobbles of love to give away…

I’m offering up to my blogpals two small lined felt coin purses. Please don’t laugh – I am in no way a professional, but it’s just my way of sending you a little hand-made vegan love (the felt is made from recycled plastic bottles! how freaking amazing is that?!?). I’m trying to make quite a few of these, because maybe someday I’ll get the skillz to open my own Etsy shoppe, but for now, these are my training crafts.

Ideally I would also send some cookies or baked-vegan-love, but since most of you cats are not in France, they would be icky or, well, illegal. :( I do hope to include a little extra love of some kind, though…

All you have to do is leave me a comment on this post before next Wednesday, October 1st. That’s all – just make sure your email address is the right one so I can contact you for your shipping address! I’ll have M. Fish draw two random numbers for a hat and that’s as scientific as we’ll get.

And the timing couldn’t be more parfait, Martha, (how amazing it must be to be internationally known just by your first name) wants to hear a little about your blog! She’ll be featuring a bouquet of fresh-picked blogs on her blog, so head over there and write yourself silly!

* When my good friend Katy was in the U.S. on a teaching exchange at my University (which is how we met), she telephoned her mother to tell her it was Thanksgiving. This holiday obviously doesn’t exist here in France, where it just so happens that St. Martin de Tours managed to catholicize all holidays, and the majority of them are called Saint Days. Her mother, upon hearing the word “Thanksgiving” tried to decipher it and replied, “Quoi, qu’est-ce que tu dis? C’est la Saint Kévin? Mais il n’y a pas de Saint Kévin!’”. (Translation : What, what did you say? It’s the feast of Saint Kevin? But there is no Saint Kevin!).

Meme shame…and redemption? Oh, and a giveaway!

You know how when you’re going to do something, and you want to do it, but then you forget to do it, and then you feel guilty about not doing it so you don’t do it some more, then you feel even more guilty..

The very cool Libby of The Allergic Kid tagged me for a meme so long ago that I don’t want to mention it. I was on vacation. Then I came back. Then I had to wash my hair…ok, really, I sort of spaced on it. I admit without shame that if I don’t write something down in my planner, well, there are high chances that it will be forgotten forever and ever.

I was going to do the meme right away, out of respect for Libby who has a really great blog where she shares recipes & information about living with her young son’s allergies. She is also a fellow Daring Baker, which I think totally ups her coolness factor!

So without further ado, here are my Six Random Things :

1) The first time I permanently colored my hair it was an accident. I was 13, and it was the long weekend before school started and I slept over at a friend’s house. She was a year older, and my parents didn’t think she was a good influence on me (she wasn’t, but she was a sweetie). We bought this horrible ersatz of a hair coloring kit that was supposed to wash out after 3 shampoos or something. I went for the red, you know, because it’s discreet. My parents flipped out & I was SO grounded for I think 3 weeks. I think that dealing with my horrible hair should have been enough punishment, really, but not my parents. (No, they didn’t offer to help me dye it back to it’s original chestnut brown.)

2) I have extra tendons and ligaments in my lower leg/ankles. I also have a little extra bone that like one in 500,000 people have. I didn’t know this until there was a problem, though. I actually snapped off said bone in the left ankle/foot, dealt with horrible ankle pain, numerous cortisone shots & PT until the fourth orthopedic surgeon I went to see noticed it on the MRI and was like, “oh yeah, no biggie, and look at your extra stuff!”. As a dancer I was rather good at leaps, jumping & turning which was thought to be thanks to the extra propelling power of the super-legs. The downer is I don’t have extra muscles, so there is a great deal of extra tension on the supplemental muscle attachments. Go figure.

3) My first crush was Walter Cronkite. I was 2. My mother evidently had to wash the television screen daily because I would cover the screen in kisses. This began my interest in older men…and journalism and the media.

4) I didn’t ever want to get married or have children. As the eldest of a large family I grew up around tons of kids, and knew first-hand just how much sacrifice, time and commitment raising children represents. I love kids, and they love me (lost children in airports, giddy kids at a wedding reception…they always seem to gravitate towards me…) I thought that maybe when I hit my 40s I would adopt because there are so many great kids who don’t have a home of their own. M. Fish says he didn’t want to have children until we met, but after we were engaged he became kid crazy and talked me into it. I am thrilled that he did, because Guppy is so kick-ass, it’s freaking unbelievable!

5) I had a horrible, awful, terrible pregnancy (you don’t even want to ask me about the delivery), was sick all the time, and had to stop working at the beginning of my 4th month after the following : I was on the train to Paris to teach at the university and had a “spell” where I passed out (I had dizzy spells all the time, but hadn’t lost consciousness) and a very kind woman held me up, kept me from falling, then lugged me to the bathroom where I threw up for about 3 minutes in front of the entire wagon because the bathroom door was propped open by two people who were there to help the woman helping me. She held my very long hair for me & helped me clean up. The train was stopped so an ambulence could come & fetch me…so thank you incredibly amazing woman, and sorry to all you 500+ people who were an hour late for work because of me.

6) I once got to “drive” a train from Paris to the Charles DeGaulle airport. About 9 years ago I was in Paris for the summer (as I often was, dancing, falling in love, plotting ways to rid the world of capatalist tyranny…) and hélas, the day arrived when I had to leave (because my visa was expiring). I managed to get all of my stuff it the train just as it was about to take off, thanks to a kind and cute stranger who turned out the be the train’s conductor! About 5 minutes into the trip he poked his head out and asked me if I wanted to come up front and of course I said yes. There was another conductor up front, and the three of us had a ball during the nearly hour-long trip. They showed me how to pilot the train, what to do in case of an emergency – I even got to do the bi-lingual announcement over the loudspeaker about the train’s final destinaton! It did help me take my mind off of the heartbreak of leaving when I really wasn’t ready to.

So there you go! Generally, your answers don’t need to be so James-esque, but I wanted to try and make good on my lax meme etiquette.

Now I am suppsed to tag 6 people, but I’ll be tagging Shellyfish Style so, you’re tagged if :

1) You have ever danced along with the Lawrence Welk Show.

2) You still don’t understand how the hell Bush got to keep that phoney election in 2000.

3) You love Ani Difranco as much as I do.

4) You wish that you would have said yes, but didn’t.

5) You have fallen in love so hard that your breath caught in your throat at the sight of the object of your affection.

and 6) You keep your fortune cookie fortunes.

Now here’s what you need to do if you want to play along…

  • Link to the person who tagged you (that would be me).
  • Post the rules on the blog.
  • Write six random things about yourself.
  • Tag six people at the end of your post.
  • Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Have fun kids, and stay tuned, because the next post is going to be very exciting & there’ll be a GIVEAWAY!!

A *Chilly* Raw Thursday

Holy climate change Batman! Generally, September – especially the first two weeks – is still considered a summer month here in France. Once upon a time it was very warm during these final days bridging the lazy days of summer and the hustle of new classes, vacations ending, and the crispness of new paper and freshly-sharpened pencils.

Not this year.

As I’ve mentioned, the mornings have been down right cold (ok, everything is relative, but I think 6c is cold!), and the past two days it hasn’t heated up past 13c. Of course last weekend it was positively beautiful, warm, sunny…I was in bed with a sinus infection, but whatevah.

So why am I crying in my collards about the weather? Well, this was my first totally Raw day in such cold conditions. I must admit, when I got up and began turning on the lights before waking the rest of the clan (because it’s dark until like 7:45am now!) I went to make myself a hot tea – arrr, wait – I said to meself, there’ll be none of that today! (I do talk like a pirate sometimes. Usually after drinking wine. Which I didn’t do today, just for the record.) I found it was a slight hinderance all this coldness, and it would probably have been worse had I gone for my usual run (which I didn’t because of the sinus thing…freaking cold humidity). I felt this nesting-type of instinct to bake bread and casseroles and things that would warm up hearth and belly…but I fought those evil thoughts off with a (carrot) stick – it’s Raw Tuesday, cold or not! (We also caved and turned the heat on…)

So, without further complaining, I give you my Raw Thursday :

Today’s edition of Raw Thursday has been vastly dedicated to using recipes from Jennifer – one tasteful picture on the cover – Cornbleet’s Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People. I’ve blogged about this book before, and it was in fact my first Raw food book. I this this is an excellent book for the following reasons : 1) I don’t think you need a dehydrator for ANY of the recipes (for one or two they are optional); 2) As per the title of the book, the recipes don’t feed the masses! While I enjoy my Raw leftovers for next-day lunches or knoshes or meals, many Raw dishes don’t keep for more than 4 or 5 days, meaning that there is sometimes waste, which is frustrating and expensive. Tossing out left-overs won’t be a problem with the recipes from this book, rest assured. I think my only complaint about Raw Food Made Easy is the lack of pictures (there are a few full-color glossy pics in the centre of the book). I like to see what the food is supposed to look like, that’s just the way I am. That is a rather minor problem, though, and I think I can say that this is my favorite Raw Foods book, and I would definitely suggest it to someone who is Raw-Curious, and not sure where to start.

I’d like to start out of order (I’m crazy like that) and share with you the most delicious Raw discovery yet. This “Apple Crisp” is the most phenomenal raw dessert I’ve ever made, so much so that I will classify it as just being a “dessert” in my mind. I’ve made the “Blackberry Crip” from this book before, but since the first apple crops have hit the marché I opted for the pomme. As I was putting it together, I couldn’t help but think that something was missing…like, it just needed a little something more. Frosting! Actually, it’s just raw almond butter and some fresh apple juice. It made all the difference in the world! It took this dessert from “oh hi, I’m a raw dessert, I bet you’re hungry and want something to eat.” to “Hey, how you doin’ sexy thing?” As per my usual Raw Dayness, I snack on the dessert I make when feeling hungry between lunch and dinner…

I just can’t convey how good this is…especially because I’m trying to hurry & shoot so I can eat! :) Here, let me try again :

Lunch was just delicious – Tomatoes stuffed with “Sunflower Herb Paté” and served with “Carrots with Moroccan Spices”. Super yum! I know I recently made a sunflower-based paté, but this one is much lighter and different enough that I didn’t feel like I was eating the same thing. M. Fish, who was home at lunch, tasted the Paté and thought it was so good he changed lunch plans and spread it all over half of a boulangerie-fresh baguette. It was lovely with the tomatoes, and the carrots were a great accompaniment. I intentionally prepared them a full hour before lunch, which gave them time to properly soak up the spices they were tossed with.

For dinner I had one last stuffed tomato, finished up the Moroccan Carrots, but added some “Mock Rice Pilaf” and a “Jerusalem Salad”. The pilaf is grated zucchini, pine nuts, raisins, and normally a bit of marinara sauce, but I just made a tahini dressing instead. The “Jerusalem Salad” was a very simple salad, similar to what you’re served in a Middle Eastern restaurant here in France – in place of the chips and salsa you get in a Mexican restaurant state-side. It’s just some cucumber, tomato, parsley, red onion, etc. Light, fresh, and delicious!

I’m so sorry about the horrible photography…now that it’s dark at 7pm, I have no light in my kitchen when we’re getting ready to eat dinner! I need to start working around that again…long live Winter Solstice when we start gaining daylight again!

Oh, and I totally forgot about breakfast! I actually had a piece of the Coconut Snow Cake from last Thursday! It made 10 servings, and according to the cookbook is ok in the fridge for 10 days… I intentionally saved a piece for my breakfast today and it was just as delicious this morning as it’s been all week!

I Need Your Help!

Hey Kids!

Here’s a little off-topic request for you – please pass it along to anyone who might be interested, please?

I’m teaching English to young children this year, and I would like to participate in a sort of 21st-Century “Blog-Pals” project with a teacher in an anglophone country. The group is from 7 to 10 years old, and it’s an extra-curricular class that doesn’t meet every day (meaning, not a huge time or planning commitment for the teacher in question).

We will be creating a class blog, and I would love to find someone who is teaching maybe 3rd, 4th, or 5th graders (who has easy access to technology in their classroom ) to allow our students to communicate via the Blog and/or email. I’ve only got about 10ish students, but their language level is very high. I’m open to any suggestions or propositions (if you have a large class we could do group letters, or each of my kids could correspond with two of yours, your students could commit to commenting on our blog 1x per week and we would do the same, etc.).

If you, or someone you love, or someone you just kind-of like, or maybe just randomly met…, is interested, please just email me directly rather than leaving a comment here. Thanks so much! See you tomorrow for Raw Thursday!

Going With The Grain

Fall – or some sort of more recent global warming type of version of it – has arrived here in France. It’s a wet and chilly 8c during my morning run, then it’ll shoot to 24c around lunch, then plummet down to 13c and begin gusting and raining for the afternoon…lovely, really, if you enjoy schizophrenic climate change. Me, not so much.

It’s actually rained, for at least 20 minutes or (much) longer, every day since September 1. Happily the one day sans pluie was Guppy’s first day of school, and that bright, welcoming sunshine did help everyone remain cheery. But that was only ONE day.

With this bizarre and dreadfully dreary weather comes the gradual change from my morning bright and bouncy green smoothies chock full of market fresh fruits and spinach, to more comforting, grounded breakfasts full of warming energy and sustenance.

One of my whole grain breakfast standards is just a multi-grain porridge. It’s like the food equivalent to soft and fuzzy flannel pajama pants – not terribly sexy, but comfortable, cosy and familiar. I soak a 1/4 cup each (or if your me, about two handfuls) of brown rice, steel cut oats, barley and wheat berries over night, then in the morning when I come in from my run I rinse it all well, cover it up with water, and bring it to a boil. Then I let it simmer for about 30 minutes while I stretch and shower, and voila : a hearty, warm breakfast. Sometimes I use amaranth. Or quinoa. Depends on what I have on hand and my mood I suppose.  Often topped with a dusting of nutmeg and cinnamon, some maple syrup, maybe some dried fruits and some almond or soy milk, this whole grain stew feels like something from my childhood, a sort of inexplicable genetic memory sort of home and hearth feeling. This does make a huge amount (if you’re the only one who eats it, which is my case) and while I know one shouldn’t dine on left-overs too terribly long, I love that this gets me three to five days of breakfasts which also helps cut down on the morning planning and stress, which is always welcome, whatever the weather.

My little multi-grain porridge isn’t very original, but it is my contribution to this month’s Weekend Breakfast Blogging hosted by the lovely Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen who choose the fabulous theme this month “Grains In My Breakfast”. Merci, Aparna! I realized I don’t have an actual picture of my porridge…I am just in love with the beauty of grains, and think they look so beautiful in their natural state – and so flannel pajamaesque when cooked…you know what it looks like anyway!

Raw Thursdays! Jeudi Tout Cru!

This has been a most excellent Raw day…hurrah for Raw Thursdays!

I started the day off with some “Purple Porridge”, a slight twist on Shazzie’s “Pink Porridge” from The Complete Book of Raw Food. According to the recipe it serves two people, but I halved the recipe, and it still made a huge amount, about 2 servings I’d say easily. It’s just frozen blackberries, soaked almonds, and some briefly soaked dried apricots all mashed up in the food processor (now, the recipe says you can use a blender, but I ended up having to use both because my blender evidently doesn’t have enough testosterone or something…). I really liked this. I am always a bit leery of the “nut-heavy” recipes because they tend to be so heavy, but I did change the proportions and added more frozen fruit and less almonds which lightened it up… either way – super yum!

For lunch I dined on “Italian Rawzania” with “Sun-Dried Marinara” and “Ricotta Cheeze” from Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen. I believe that “Rawzania” is supposed to be a cute, raw-friendly way of saying lasagna, but it just seems awkward to pronounce, frankly.

Luckily, it was not difficult to make, or eat, for that matter. This was really a delicious meal, and I am sure that I’ll make it again. I knew I was a fan of the marinara sauce, but I haven’t yet found a raw faux-cheese that I really like. I’m learning how to play with the recipes to my own tastes, which helps, but I still found the “Ricotta Cheeze” to be, well, weird – and don’t get me wrong, I like weird, but it’s just too something. Not sure what. It did really marry quite nicely with the raw veggies and the marinara, though, and all together it was great. I made this the night before to allow for the flavors to combine nicely, and am very glad I did. It was good at lunch, but it was even better at dinner! The veggies had softened even more and the flavors were really harmonious! (That’s not something I say every day!). Since I’m the only one dining Raw, I will have one piece left over for lunch tomorrow – yippee for me!

My dessert-cum-snack is also from Ani’s Raw, the “Coconut Snow Cake”. The recipe called for a cake base, then a frosting layer, and then a lovely coating of coconut (I just love the coconut!). After tasting the cake I decided that it did not need frosting because it was already über sweet, so I just gave a generous dusting of coconut and voila!

This was the first raw dessert that the Guppy actually liked. She has such a sweet tooth (I have NO IDEA where that comes from, at all…) and loves raw fruits, I thought she’d really like them, but she usually takes a tiny taste and spits it right back out. So, when she asked me for a bite I of course obliged, but was ready for the typical “No, it’s yucky!” which generally follows anything new that isn’t to her liking. She surprised me when she confiscated my fork and smiled, “This isn’t yucky, it’s yummy! I think I would like this now, ok?”, and slyly pulled my plate towards her side of the table. Go figure!

Mini-Cupcakes, Crafty Love & More!

Hola Everyone! First off, a change… Raw Tuesdays will now be…Raw Thursdays! So stay tuned tomorrow for that! My new schedule make a Thursday raw day a little easier, so there you go!

I picked up a mini-cupcake pan when I was in the U.S. and we’ve been enjoying the mini-cupcake love, let me tell you! They are the perfect size, because you feel much less guilty about eating two (or three) when they are tiny! Above are some Lemon Cupcakes with lemon royal icing and below, the Basic Chocolate Cupcake with Chocolate Ganache icing from VCTOTW.

Friday we had a bunch of friends over for the apéro or cocktails…but it was a well-fed apéro :

Homemade salsa & fresh-baked pita triangles

(I didn’t make the tortilla chips, hélas, but I’ll get that figured out eventually…)

Homemade roasted-garlic hummus

Diann posted about these Samosa Potatoes from VCON recently & I thought they would be a great finger-food – and they were! I doubled the batch, and good thing I did because they disappeared almost right away! I admit to not following the recipe and making my own curry paste… not pictured is the soy yogurt & fresh coriander sauce I made to dunk them in.

The other thing not pictured are the 45 spring rolls I made! Don’t ask me how I forgot to take a picture of them…they took me so long to prepare!

And isn’t this cute?

You already know I’m an Aranzi Aranzo fan, so no surprises here! I aquired their Cute Stuff book this summer, and this felt bag really caught me eye. I added a liner, because it just looks way better with one. I’m really playing with the basic design of this bag and am coming up with some really cute ideas, but need some time to get them together! I really love their style, and find their ideas so inspiring – a great jumping off point for me to make my own things!

Thoughtful Fridays…Bad Religion

Hate is a simple manifestation

of a deep-seated self-directed frustration

all it does is promote fear and consternation

it’s the inability

to justify the enemy

and it fills us all with trepidation

From “Them & Us”,  Process of Belief.

Let’s just say I’m feeling a bit frustrated by all the folks using their powers for propogating the evil out there today… let’s use our powers for good, what do you say?

Rock out a little, if you will…it’s the weekend after all :