Sunday, December 14, 2014

Random Sunday Update

This post is long overdue.  I should be rechecking and editing my mid-term exams.  I should be cleaning the downstairs floors.  Or folding laundry. Or emptying the dishwasher.  Or even taking a shower.  But I need to send some tender loving care to The Sabbatical Chef.  Hopefully my faithful readers haven't deserted me.

The Christmas tree is up and my downstairs smells of pine.  My favorite wintertime smell (well, right up there with sugar cookies baking in the oven...).  The crèche made up of tiny figurines given to me by La Brune is in the kitchen window.  I put it there so that I can look at it when I am washing dishes and cooking.  My kitchen sink gets a lot of use.  The figurines come baked into la galette des rois or King's Cake and La Brune has been collecting them her whole life.  They are now one of my prized possessions.

I really do not do much decorating other than the tree and a few random Santas placed around the house.  I did put lights outside on our porch and I hung a wreath that the Best Mother-in-Law gave us. I love this little tableau, too, that is on our mantle.  The Lovefest candles make it Christmas-y.  My Arles lady (me in a former life), her goat, and the lavender she loves.  Sam the Dog has been added.  The Ex-Ex bought it.  He has stopped calling Sam The Damn Dog, so early Christmas miracles do happen, Virginia.

Son #2 is home from his next to last semester of undergraduate work.  But, hey, who is counting? More home cooking is happening.  Yesterday I made beef stew.  In my beautiful blue Dutch oven that I gave myself for an early Christmas gift.  Stove top or oven ready for soups and stews.

I used the last of my Beaujolais Nouveau to make the stew.  Big sigh.

I stopped in at our newest grocery store, Fresh Market.  It just opened this past week and yesterday was my first chance to go in and wander around.  It won't be my everyday store, but I love it.  I could spend some serious money in there.  I treated myself to a couple of things yesterday.

A ridiculously expensive coffee tin-- yes, there is coffee in it.  David Lebovitz posted this past week about making treats and putting them in the tins he has collected this year.  So, I will blame him.  I, however, will not be giving mine away.

French demi-sel butter.  I will make some bread just so I can spread this butter on it and close my eyes and pretend I am back in Arles, eating the last of a baguette as I clean the table from breakfast. If only I had some of Érick's home made confiture...  He makes the best apricot jam ever.

I also bought America's Test Kitchen's Best-Ever Christmas Cookies Special Collector's Edition magazine.  I love Cook's Illustrated.  It is hands down the very best for recipes that I might be reluctant to try otherwise.  They have tested and tested and re-tested their recipes until they are fool-proof.  I look forward to adding a couple of new cookie recipes to my repertoire.  Palmiers and Pistachio-Raspberry Financiers are included this year.  One of the 8th grade girlies made blueberry financiers for her classmates this past week.

According to America's Test Kitchen:

Technically cakes, financiers are the name for the French bankers who frequented the bakery where they were invented.  They are traditionally made with almond flour and baked in small rectangular molds that resemble gold bars.

La Brune sent me my very own mold so I make them sometimes, too.  They are so good.  And the 8th Grade Girlie did an excellent baking job.

I've done a bit of shopping and found a cute Paris jar at TJ Maxx.  I filled it with Lindt chocolates as a gift for a young lady I tutor every Sunday.

In an attempt to French-ify my Sunday morning breakfast, I put my sausage on sliced sourdough bread and added some Dijon mustard.  It tasted much better eaten off my Mikasa Parisian Scenes plate, of course.

I know, I know... I am hopeless.  Does everything have to be French?  In my life, oui.

However, once in a while my true roots show.  Not my hair.  I am over that since I have returned to my natural hair color (or the absence of that natural color for half of my head).  My small town mountain roots.  The music I am listening to --  Balsam Range.  Sister Moo and I heard Buddy Melton sing at a BBQ festival in Asheville a few years back.  We were hooked.  What a voice. Bluegrass music at its finest, folks.  Moo has seen Balsam Range live several times since then around Spruce Pine and Burnsville, but she fears those days are over as they have hit the big time. They are playing at Best of Our State at the Grove Park Inn in January.

Listen in--

Go ahead and tap your toes.  Get up and dance if the spirit moves you.  Makes me want to clog.

I was reading through blogs one day last week and came across a post from Stephanie at Plain Chicken.  White Trash.  Doesn't necessarily sound very politically correct, does it?  I wouldn't want anyone to describe me or my family that way, but I can do it if I want to since it's my family.  Right?  Right.  I stopped at Harris Teeter grocery store on the way home from school and bought the necessary ingredients and whipped up a batch.  I took little plastic baggies of it to school to my buddies the next day.  And to a couple of upper schoolers whom I tutor in French 3 and 4.  Pretty yummy.  Nice combination of sweet and salty.

White Trash Mix

3 cups corn Chex cereal
3 cups rice Chex cereal
3 1/2 cups Cheerios cereal
2 1/2 cups mixed nuts
1-12 oz. bag of M&M's
1 package of pretzel Goldfish crackers
3- 12 oz. packages of white chocolate chips

In a large bowl, toss together cereals, nuts, M&M's and pretzels.

Melt white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl on high for 1 minute.  Stir.  Continue heating chocolate in 30-second intervals until melted, stirring in between.

Pour melted white chocolate over cereal mixture.  Toss until fully coated.  Pour coated mixture on foil, parchment or waxed paper.  Allow chocolate to cool and set up.  Break mixture into pieces.

Bon appétit!  Happy shopping, happy baking, happy toe-tapping, happy decorating, happy getting ready for the holidays to all!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Learning by eating

My 6th graders are learning vocabulary for food and drink.  This is their first round of basic ways to answer "Tu as faim?"  and "Tu as soif?"  We end up finishing class hungry every morning, of course...  I dream of café au lait and croissants in a little Parisian café and I am brainwashing them to dream of the same.  Well, maybe chocolat chaud for them.

We made crêpes last week using Chef Érick's recipe.




makes about 15 medium-sized crêpes

Beat 3 large eggs in a medium-sized bowl with a fork.  Add about 1 c. of milk and beat.  Gradually add enough flour to make a really thick pancake batter.  As you mix it, it should pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Next, gradually add enough milk to make a thin batter.  Do not add too much milk.  If you try to rethicken it with flour, you will have lumps that are impossible to remove.  The batter is thin enough if it is easy to coat the bottom of the pan with it as you pour it into the pan.
Heat a well-seasoned non-stick pan.  The pan must be hot.  Melt butter and quickly pour in enough batter to coat the bottom.  The crêpe is ready when the edges brown and start to pull away from the sides.  You can try flipping it into the air to turn it over or you can just flip it with your fingers or a spatula.

They could smear them with jam or with Nutella.

It was certainly a lot of fun.  I gave them my camera and let them record the event for me.  I showed them the photos today.

6th graders they definitely are!

Today, one of the girlies brought in a treat that she made at home.  Éclairs.  Little delicious pastries filled with cream and covered in chocolate.

Merci, mademoiselle!!

Chocolate Éclairs

9 servings

chou pastry:
1 c. water
1/2 c. butter, cubed
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. all-purpose flour
4 eggs

2-1/2 c. cold milk
1 package (5.1 oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 oz. semisweet chocolate
2 Tbsp. butter
1-1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
2-3 Tbsp. hot water

Preheat oven to 400˚F.  In a large saucepan, bring water, butter and salt to a boil.  Add flour all at once and stir until a smooth ball forms.  Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Continue beating until mixture is smooth and shiny.
Using a tablespoon or a pastry tube with a #10 or large tip, form dough into 4 x 1-1/2-in. strips on a greased baking sheet.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until puffed and golden.  Remove to a wire rack. Immediately split éclairs open; remove tops and set aside.  Discard soft dough from inside.  Cool éclairs.
In a large bowl, beat milk and pudding mix according to package directions.  In another bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form.  Beat in sugar and vanilla; fold into pudding.  Fill éclairs.  (Chill any remaining filling for another use or enjoy it for dessert!)
For frosting, in a microwave, melt chocolate and butter; stir until smooth.  Stir in sugar and enough hot water to achieve a smooth consistency.  Cool slightly.  Frost éclairs.  Store in refrigerator.

Bon appétit to all young chefs and eaters!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Feel good music for a cold day

I don't know about you, but when the first really cold (not out of the 30's) day hits, I dream about the beach.  So, I decided to take you to the south of France to the Mediterranean Sea with a little song by my favorite French group, Moussu T e Lei Jovents.

Dans ma petite calanque...  Bon voyage!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My heroes

On Friday afternoons at school, we have a Community Meeting.  We all are in one big room together for announcements, celebrations, performances, guest speakers, and things of that nature.  This past Friday, I signed up to give a 15 minute talk.  I had hoped to have a special guest with me, but he couldn't make it.  I didn't let my mom know that I was doing this in advance.  I just didn't really think about it since I knew she couldn't be there.  I did call her Friday afternoon, though.  When I told her what I had done and that I had used a picture of her, she immediately wanted to know which one.  I hope that my sister Moo will share this with her.

What is a hero?  I’ll bet you’ve been asked to write about that in one of your classes.  When I had to write about it when I was in school, I never had any idea who to write about.  But now I can tell you that my hero is my mother, or Mama Mildred, as she is known to my 8th grade students and to my blog readers.  In my experience, heroes never believe they are a hero.  They go about their own business or their jobs and do what is expected of them. 

Mama Mildred married young, eloping at the age of 15 to marry my dad who was in the Army, stationed in Louisiana.  She grew up on a farm with no indoor water or plumbing.  Their only source of heat was a wood cookstove in the kitchen and a potbelly stove in the living room.  My mom has spent her life taking care of others.  Her parents, her four children, her mother-in-law, her husband, my dad, during his four year battle with cancer, her son, my brother, who is ill—she takes him coffee and a biscuit every single morning, her grandchildren and now her great grandchildren. She never expects anything in return.  She encouraged me, her oldest child, to go to college, even going so far as getting me a summer job in the factory that she worked in, making Wrangler blue jeans. I wasn’t sure about college.  She knew she couldn’t help me pay for it, but she figured she could motivate me enough to figure it all out.  It worked.  She has supported me in my every endeavor and adventure, although I moved away from the little town in the mountains where I was born, away from her.  Mildred is a very courageous woman.

What is courage?  I imagine all of you know that Tuesday was Veteran’s Day in the U.S.  In France, it is known as Armistice Day, the day that a treaty was signed in 1918 calling for a laying down of arms, an armistice.  It was to end the Great War, la Grande Guerre, as it is known in French.  To honor the soldiers who gave their lives in the war, an unknown soldier’s body was place under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in 1920. 

 Three years later, an eternal flame was lit. 

Every evening at 6:00 pm the flame is rekindled and a short ceremony is held.  Last year, I watched this ceremony. 

15 million people died in this war and everyone thought that it would be the last one.  However, only 31 years later, Europe found itself at war again.  WWII had begun.  Even though I was not alive during WWII, I am very interested in it.  My high school French teacher was from a town in northern France named Soissons. 

During WWII, she met an American soldier, Moil Buchanan, who had come to help free the French from the Germans who had taken over their country and were occupying all of northern France.  Christiane Roze married her soldier and moved from Soissons to the mountains of North Carolina where she taught French at Harris High School.  That takes courage!  

I fell in love with French and Mme Buchanan took me under her wing, making sure that I went to college with enough scholarship money to pay my tuition.  She wanted me to take her place when she retired, but I wanted to move to the big city and have been teaching now at DA and living in Durham for 35 years.  When I went to France for the first time, I was 20 years old. I visited Mme Buchanan’s hometown and met her family.  Every time I go to Paris, I light a candle for her in Notre Dame cathedral in her honor and now in her memory.  She died in November 2008, on the very day I was in Notre Dame lighting a candle. 

I had hoped to introduce you to a very courageous man today, a true American hero.  I met Mr. Ed Chappell last year through a French teacher friend of mine in Chapel Hill.  She and her students were raising money to take two WWII veterans to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.  Senor Glass, Mrs. Harrell, Mme Moore and my advisory groups made donations to this project.  

Last spring, I got a phone call from one of the veterans, thanking me for our donations.  The gentleman who called me, Ed Chappell, offered to come talk to my students, if I would like.  I arranged for him to come and he and I became fast friends.  He has quite a story to tell.  A story of bravery, courage and heroism.  He will tell you that he is not a hero, that he was only doing his job.  I disagree with him each time he tells me this.  He is a hero.  I talked to him in late May, just a few days before he left for France.  He was very excited and a little nervous about going back.  He didn’t want to be a burden to the students or to the family who was hosting him.  Mr. Chappell is 92 years old.  He was invited to France for the official ceremonies in Normandy on June 6.  Only veterans and their families were allowed to be there, as well as visiting dignitaries, of course.  President Obama was there.  The group visited schools and were the guests of honor everywhere they went.  Mr. Chappell stayed with a French family and he was worried that they wouldn’t be able to communicate.  When he returned, he called to talk to me about his trip and how much it meant to him. He told me that the French woman who hosted him was an excellent cook and that he ate like a king!  He couldn’t believe that every dinner was a three-course meal.  The Campbell Soup company used to have a TV commercial and the slogan was “Mmm, Mmm Good!”  Mr. Chappell said he taught his host family that expression because it was the best way he could figure out how to thank them for the great food. 

He couldn’t come today because he is having chemotherapy treatments that make him very tired.  He has promised to come visit as soon as he is feeling better.  I could tell you more of his stories, but I will let him do that when he comes.  Suffice it to say, he was overwhelmed by the gratitude that French citizens, young and old alike, expressed for his actions in 1944. 
A few years ago, he decided to write down his memories of June 6, 1944.  He told me that over the course of his life, he has forgotten quite a few details, but that he remembers that day clearly.   I will leave you with a short video clip from last spring when he visited DA.  Thank you for your attention.  Have a great weekend. 

Bon appétit to Mama Mildred, Mr. Chappell and to heroes everywhere.  Thank you.