As hard as it is to believe, November is fading fast and December is right around the corner. Now that Thanksgiving has passed, I am willing to concede that Christmas is less than a month away. Okay, friends and neighbors, go ahead and put up your trees and lights now. I just do not like to mix my holidays. Let me fully enjoy one at a time. Then I am ready to move on.
I was reminded how Thanksgiving 2008 was spent by an email from Betty of the Arles 6. She and her handsome men came to visit me in Arles. We shopped at the open air market in Arles for our meal,
tasted wine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape,
ate pieds et paquets (well, David ate that- "les chaussures n'ont pas le choix..." David tried to say something about the heat in the café but instead he told us that shoes have no choice...) and made wonderful meals together.
We drove around the countryside, spotting a field of lambs running around playing,
we saw olives being pressed in Les Baux, went to see Van Gogh paintings projected onto stone walls while listening to stirring classical music at La Cathédrale d'Images. We visited Claudine and tasted her chèvre. We went to the Carpentras truffle market where we had scrambled eggs with truffles and red Côtes du Ventoux wine.
We brought home our own truffes and made fresh pasta with a walnut sauce to have with them. We opened a bottle of Châteauneuf red to accompany this delicacy.
Betty and I also went to Provence Prestige, a huge Christmas market held in the Palais des Congrès in Arles. I had read all about it in La Provence, the local newspaper, and couldn't wait to see it for myself. We walked from the B&B, passing through town and across the bridge to the other side of Arles, near the Musée Départemental de l'Arles Antique. We roamed around tasting olive oil, chocolates, nougat (one of the 13 traditional Provence Christmas desserts) and fougasse, a Provence pastry that can be sweet or savory. We even sat down at one point for a cup of tea and a lovely slice of tarte. We looked at hundreds of santons, the manger or crêche figurines made in Provence. Silly me, I only came home with a little goat figure. Oh well. I bought a book with recipes for the thirteen desserts, a lovely tin of herbes de Provence, a keeper for my sel de Camargue or Camargue salt and a beautiful scarf from a vendor who sells traditional clothing for the lovely Arlésiennes, the legendary beautiful ladies of Arles and the gardiens, the cowboys of the Camargue. We also tasted (and bought!) an orange colored candy. My best guess is that it was orange white chocolate with almonds in it. Oh my, I would love to have some of it right now... Hmmm, wonder if one of my Provence friends would send me some for Noël? Or maybe Santa could pick some up on his way over Provence and put it under the tree for moi?
Provence Prestige is November 26-30, 2009, with 150 vendors. There are so many beautiful things for sale that I cannot even begin to list them.
Check it out at www.provenceprestige.com. The website is a feast for a Provence-lover's eyes.
These cookie bars have nothing to do with Christmas or December even, but they are popular around my house. The recipe came to me from the mom of one of my advisees from last school year. She said she found it in the 2001 Carolina Thyme cookbook published by the Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties. I made some for my boys and the BFF's boys for Thanksgiving.
Makes 2 dozen small bars
1 14oz. bag caramels, unwrapped
5 Tbsp half and half
1 c. flour
1 c. oatmeal
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) melted butter
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
Heat the caramels and the half and half in a saucepan over medium heat until the caramels are melted, stirring frequently; set aside. Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, butter, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Press half the crumb mixture into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes. Spread the caramel mixture over the hot crust. Try not to spread it to the edges of the crust- it will be really hard to remove from the pan if it touches the edges and cools. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the caramel layer and then top with the remaining crumb mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate for one hour before cutting into bars.
Note: These bars freeze well. Also note that you can use more than 1/2 of the crumb mixture for the bottom and not as much on the top. I also use less chocolate chips than the recipe calls for so that we can have more of the caramel flavor.
Bon appétit, Décembre!