Little Gifts

Not long ago when Monsieur Fish was dropping Guppy off at school, he bumped into a friend from Lycée that he hadn’t seen in almost 10 years. Not only does her little girl go to the same school as Guppy, it turns out that her little girl Sofia is Guppy’s best school friend. Small world indeed. After some brief catching up, his friend invited us over for an apéro or cocktails the following Friday.

I wanted to bring something to share, but our hostess refused. So, I opted to make a little gift for 3 1/2 year-old Sofia instead :

Guppy helped me chose some felty friends to make for Sofia, and I made her a little heart-shaped pouch to keep them in. These Aranzi-Aranzo-inspired critters were really quick to whip up, which is a good thing since I started them shortly before we had to leave. This would explain the not-even-a-little-straight stitching on the heart pouch. But oh well. I don’t think the future recipiant’s attention was really drawn to the seams..

Our cocktail was lovely, and our hosts went all-out to make it a real Vegan-friendly affair : organic wines (which were super-yum!), crudités with soy cream dips, a lovely leek and potato tourte which was delicious, and cucumber and hummus mini-sandwiches. It’s so refreshing when people go the extra bit to prepare something that makes you feel special, rather than just tossing some raw veggies on a plate for you at the last minute (yes, I’ve had that happen).

In other news, I have a new niece! Baby Payten was born last Tuesday and she is doing splendidly. Guppy is rather frustrated because she “wants to go hold that baby”. It’s rather difficult to explain that we can’t just hop on the plane and fly to the U.S. to see her Auntie & Uncle and their new daughter. She felt better when I told her she could help me work on some gifts for her new cousin, though.

I’m making bibs like nobody’s business. I probably should have started them, geeze, I don’t know, before she was born? Yup. I have some other things I’m hoping to make for her…need to get on that.

Growing up, one of my very favourite things was corn bread. My father would often be the first one up and would make some yummy corn bread for us to slather with jam for breakfast. It was also one of the cursory dishes at Thanksgiving. I had never, ever made it myself, though. Mostly because I am a big cooking and baking novice and thought that I couldn’t get corn meal here in France.

Ahem. I’m a big banana pants. In my defense until a year and a half ago I’d never made a cupcake, and up until a year ago I’d never attempted bread or biscuits. I’m a newbie. As I was making polenta the other day it sort of hit me that duh, I do have the technology, even though we call corn flour polenta flour, it’s the same darn thing.

Silly Shellyfish!

Here is some yummy Autumn goodness to keep you the chill at bay : Yummy Corn bread adapted from VCON and homemade chili. Perfect for nibbling while watching the wind whip the leaves off the trees.

Délicieux!

Tea With Jam & Bread

I’ve really been into making my own bread of late. Delicious bread isn’t terribly difficult to find here in France, and I admit having a real weakness for the famed baguette, but I find that there is something so satisfying about making my own bread.

Beginning with just the most basic of ingredients : flour, salt, water and yeast, and ending with the most fragrant, golden of loaves…it’s simply magical. And how wonderful my apartment smells!

Nothing goes with fresh baked bread better than homemade jam…at least that was what I began to think about as I went on my bread baking bender. I started watching which fruits were looking in their prime at the marché and bought 2 kilos of apricots and 2 of strawberries to attempt my first jams!

My initial “practice” jam was actually an apple-cinnamon & orange marmalade (because I had nearly 2 kilos of apples at my house and they were considerably less expensive than the other fruits…good to practice on). I really had no clue what I was doing, but got it in my head that this was a project I just had to try, so off I went to purchase some jam jars. It was much easier than I expected, and it was a fun project to do with the Guppy because there were lots of steps she could help with, though I think she most enjoyed the tasting!

After doing a little math (very little) I was able to justify my little caprice because after adding in the organic fruit & sugar and the jars, it was considerably less expensive than buying my jam at the store – yeah!

Bread Baking Day

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One of the many things I admire about French culture is the richesse of the rites and rituals of life’s most simple pleasures. Shifting one’s focus from the glitz and plastic of the eventfulness and moving to better celebrate the event itself. The daily trip to the boulangerie for your baguette, the importance of choosing the right head of lettuce for your salad or taking the time to greet each individual when arriving somewhere rather than a blanket – hey. I like that. Life is, as Hemingway so aptly phrased it, A Movable Feast. Amen.

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Trying to emphasize the joy in the quotidian is my aim, and I stumbled upon this wonderful blog event: Bread Baking Day which does just that. A diverse group of foodie-bloggers who commune once a month to share their daily bread. I only just baked my first loaf of bread about six months ago, but I’m hooked (jar of sourdough starter in fridge), and I am thrilled to have found an event to convene with other confirmed and wanna-be bread bakers for inspiration.

I find the ritual of baking bread to be (at the risk of sounding a little bit out there) a veritable spiritual experience. Very grounding, but spiritual at the same time. Maybe there is something in my genetic memory that feels rekindled and soothed by the kneading, the unmistakable smell of bread baking in the oven, a feeling of community-family-unity wafting from the kitchen… or maybe it’s just my stomach growling?

This month’s host Wild Yeast (who has a really beautiful blog with truly wonderful photography – food for the eyes) chose the theme “Celebration Breads” and with so many things to celebrate for so many different cultures during the month of March, it was difficult to decide.

I had been eyeing the recipe for raisin soda bread in Sarah Kramer’s La Dolce Vegan for some time now, but hadn’t gotten around to making it – and decided that Saint Patrick’s Day was my opportunity. Despite it’s dense look, this bread was not heavy, but a bit spongy (in a good way, I don’t have my baker’s jargon down) it was très moelleux, but had a nice, crunchy crust, and had just a hint of sweet. The Guppy and I enjoyed it for our “quatre heures” or tea, and it thrilled me to see her eating something with raisins in it! (She’s in that “I’m almost three and don’t need to eat anything” phase.) It was also the easiest-to-make bread I’ve ever thrown together.

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Jen’s Raisin Soda Bread from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer

*notes : the recipe states that you can use cranberries in lieu of raisins, or you can add 1 teaspoon of grated orange zest.

  • 2 1/4 cups ap flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp sugar (I only used one)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 cup raisins (I used both white & normal)
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used plain soy)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

“Pre-heat the oven to 350°F(175°C). Lightly oil a 9-inch bread pan and set aside. (**In a small bowl, add milk & cider vinegar and just let sit & curdle.) In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, caraway seeds, and raisins. Add the milk and vinegar and gently stir dough until “just mixed”. Pour evenly into loaf pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes before removing from pan. Makes 1 loaf.

**I find that mixing the vinegar & soymilk and letting them curdle makes for better leavening than just mixing them into the flour at the end.

EDITED TO SAY: Generally Bread Baking Day posts don’t go up until closer to the first of the month, but since my super-cute-mumma is coming to visit from the states I wanted to be sure to get this up on time!

Valentines for my Valentines : Late Love Is Better Than No Love, Right?

Cascade de coeurs

Here they are, the hand-made valentines I’ve been working on since early January (I started them on my birthday, actually). As mentioned in my previous post I don’t have much sewing or craft experience, so for the nimble-fingered, 13 felt and bead hearts don’t seem like a much of a feat, and I admit that doing them wasn’t difficult, but when I compare the first few hearts with the last few, the difference in the stitching is huge! When ever I had a few free minutes (my copious free-time is far from limitless, but you can always make time when you really want to do something, right?) I would add a few beads or cut out some hearts.

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My goal was to get them finished before Valentine’s Day, and I did indeed manage that- I put the final touches on the last heart the morning of the 11th, but getting them into envelopes and in the mail, well, that just happened today.

Coeur Rose

Sending them regular mail, they should get to the States before Saint Patrick’s Day…

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So here they are, and there they go. They are on their way to Michigan and to Arizona to remind the ones I love that I miss them so and that they are always in my heart. My poor belle-mère, my mother-in-law, had a heart attack two weeks before Valentine’s Day, so she got her felt heart early. She is recovering very well for her 75 years, and she had her felt heart hanging next to her bed in the CCU at the hospital. A healthy heart is what I wish for everyone this year. And lots of love, too!

Coeur Rouge & Noir