Friday, April 29, 2016

Gratitude Project

Mrs E:

What happens when a student and a teacher make a lasting impact on each other?  I realize that I have only known Abby for two years, but somehow it seems much longer.  There are a lot of things I could say about Abby, but this video will tell you part of our story.  See for yourself what an amazing young woman she is.
Many thanks to SoulPancake and their video on The Science of Happiness.  We used a short excerpt from the video.  If you wish to watch it in its entirety and find out more about their project, click on the link.
Many thanks also to the amazing Mr. Fitz who shared the video with us and inspired us to do our presentation in front of the whole middle school!
And finally, I would like to thank the incredible Abby who makes me want to be a better teacher and person every single day.  I refuse to think about next school year without you and your classmates.
We'll always have Paris, Abby... and the Plaza Athénée and Dr. Lantieri --what great adventures! I hope that we will have many more!


If you watched the video, I hope you understand the reason why showing appreciation is so important. You never know how far a simple thank you, phone call, email, or just a smile could go. And you don't have an infinite amount of time with the people you love either. For me, showing my gratitude, as simply as sending a letter, led me to having one of the best relationships of my life. I've realized that life is short, and there is so little time to stay the things you mean to the people you love, so say them while you can.

Abby's Queso Dip

1 lb or 16 oz of Velveeta, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 lb ground sausage
1 can of Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, undrained

1. Cook the ground sausage in a saucepan until browned, strain all the grease out and put the sausage back into the saucepan.
2. Add the Rotel and Velveeta, cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the Velveeta is completely melted, stirring frequently.
3. Serve warm with tortilla chips, I recommend Tostitos Scoops because you can scoop up a ton of queso with those things, they're also good for making these really good mini nachos by the way.

Bon appétit, y'all.  I hope that you have someone in your life to be grateful for each and every day. Tell them.  Start your own Gratitude Project.  You will be amazed at the results.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Finding time

In the hustle and bustle of my everyday life, I fuss enormously about not having enough time.  Time to take long walks with my BFF. Time to try a new recipe.  Time to blog more often.  Time to read. Don't get me wrong.  I can burn daylight, fritter away time, pass the time, dillydally, piddle, dawdle, while away the time, lollygag, and goof off with the best of them if left to my own devices. Checking in with friends and family on Facebook. Reading Sean Dietrich every morning as I wait for the coffee to brew. Thumbing through magazines. Playing Word Welder or 7 Mots on my iPad. Watching Hallmark movies.  Googling whatever or whomever. You get the picture. I am not yet ready to count the days until the final school bell of the year rings, but I am getting close. (If any of my students are reading this-- oui, we teachers do that, too. Quelle surprise, n'est-ce pas?  Pas vraiment?

And when I am in the mood to daydream, I wonder what it would be like to live in Paris and while away the hours. Roam around the city. Visit little or lesser known museums. Sit on a bench in every park and green space. Taste the treats in the best bakeries and ask for recipes or tips. Sip wine and write at a table, inside or out, in a café, Report back to the world on what I am up to on any given day. I would walk on every street in the city eventually. Taste every flavor of macaron that Pierre Hermé offers up. Then move on to every flavor of Berthillon ice cream on the Ile Saint Louis. Find out where the best café crème and croissants are served. Stroll through every little passage couvert tucked away between the busy boulevards. Take photos in the early morning light and at dusk of every single bridge, all 37 of them, that spans the Seine. Check out the houseboats and barges docked at l'Arsenal. Rummage through the treasures found in the bouquiniste stalls. Walk through la Ville Lumière in the warm summer rain not caring if my hair gets wet. Light a candle in the memory of Mme Buchanan, my high school French teacher, in every church found within the périphérique. Get off at every métro station mentioned in Métronome and see if I too can find a scrap of forgotten history. Get to know the best vendor or two at each outdoor food market. Get lost in every arrondissement and stop to have lunch at a café in order to try the menu du jour. Stumble over the same paving stones as Napoléon and Joséphine, Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, Victor Hugo, Vincent and Théo Van Gogh, Camille Claudel, Auguste Rodin, Gustave Eiffel, Josephine Baker, Edith Piaf, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marie Curie, Charles de Gaulle, Cole Porter, Coco Chanel.  You get the picture.

Is there a book deal out there for The Sabbatical Chef?  Anyone want to listen to my pitch?  The Sabbatical Chef Does Paris. Or how about Lollygagging in Paris with The Sabbatical Chef. Maybe Burning Daylight in The City of Light. Time Well-Wasted ? Recipes, photos, and addresses included.

Carol Gillott of Paris Breakfasts lives a life similar to my dream life only she is an artist.  I've lived vicariously through her for a while now. She is celebrating her blog's 10th anniversary this week. I received my first Paris Maps from her on Saturday. Just opening my mailbox and seeing a Paris postmark on the envelope makes my heart beat faster. The first one features macarons and Pierre Hermé.  Carol even stuck in a cute little original macaron watercolor. A true treasure.

And speaking of macarons, while in Paris with the kiddies in March, we took a macaron-making class with Audrey at L'Atelier des Gâteaux near Bon Marché department store.  Thirteen of us had so much fun beating eggs whites, macaronner-ing (yes, there is a verb for this action!), mixing, piping, filling, sandwiching, and tasting these beautiful treats. 

(photos taken by I. Strauss using my iPhone 6) 

The chocolate one was made by moi!

The ingredients are listed in grams. The measurements are more exact this way.  I have a small scale that measures either in ounces or grams. Not expensive and very useful when baking.

Macaron Recipe

L'Atelier des Gâteaux
23 rue de l'abbé Grégoire
75006 Paris

Ingrédients for cookies:

- 125 gr almond powder
- 225 gr confectioner sugar
- 20g cocoa powder (optional- only if you want chocolate cookies) 

- 3 egg whites
- 30 gr sugar
- powdered food coloring (this works better than liquid)

Pulse confectioners' sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture 2 times.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add sugar and whisk until soft peaks form.
With a spatula add the almond powder and the confectioner sugar in 3 or 4 increments.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks. Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 15 minutes.
Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. (If macarons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macarons.)
Vous pouvez garnir les macarons avec un petit peu de ganache, de confiture ou appareil citron. Les parfums des macarons sont infinis.  
You can garnish the macarons with a little bit of ganache, jam, or lemon curd.  The flavors are limitless.

Suggested fillings

Chocolat ganache

250g chocolat 

250g heavy cream, heated but not quite boiling

Pour cream over chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Let stand for 2 minutes. Whisk mixture until smooth. Let cool, stirring often.

Mascarpone cream

200g whipping cream
100g mascarpone
30g sugar

Quelques gouttes d’arôme, de la pâte de spéculoos, de la confiture... 
Several drops of flavoring, Speculoos, jam...

In a mixer, place the cream, the mascarpone and the sugar and whisk until peaks form. Place in the refrigerator until use.

Sauce au caramel beurre salé

80 g sugar
40 g salted butter 

10 cl heavy cream

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar to a boil. Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Boil over high heat until a deep amber caramel color forms, about 6 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully whisk in the cream and butter. Let the caramel cool to room temperature. 

Bon appétit to all dreamers out there!  Dream on.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lookers, Cookers, Eaters, and ... FEEDERS!

Now, why didn't I think of this category?  Great question because it makes so much sense now that I've read what someone else wrote about it.  That someone else is Sean Dietrich, AKA Sean of the South.  I recently confessed my love for him here on The Sabbatical Chef.  Something he had written turned up on Facebook one morning and it was a coup de foudre, as the French say, a lightening strike, or love at first sight word.  I can't call it first sight because I have not actually seen Sean.  Not in real life, up close and personal.  However, as often happens here in the South (and maybe in other parts of the country and world), I feel as if I have known him for years.

A few weeks ago, Sean posted a short piece about feeders.  Mon dieu! I thought.  That goes hand in hand with one of my favorite themes:  Cookers and Eaters. Okay, the Ex-Ex thought up the cookers and eaters thing... I added Lookers. I might as well confess.  He will call me on it anyway when I get home tonight.  Give credit where credit is due, right?

My morning routine:  Get up too early.  Take thyroid meds, slug back a couple of glasses of water because I have to wait an hour to have anything else, make coffee, fire up the Mac, scroll on over to Facebook, and find his first post of the day.  Sometimes it makes me cry, sometimes me makes me laugh, sometimes it makes both laugh and cry, and most often, it just gives me something to think about.

I messaged Sean and asked him if I could use his story on my blog. He promptly responded:

Miss Teresa, you are welcome to use anything of mine.  Any time. 
Hope you had a happy Easter.

So without further ado, I give you Sean Dietrich, my guest blogger for the day.  (I just noticed that his name is spelled  Diet -- rich.  Funny, isn't it?)

Sweet Jesus, help me. I'm sick. 

I ate too much pound cake and ice cream after supper. Now, no matter how still I lay, the world won't stop spinning. I had to unbuckle my belt just to keep from passing out. 

This is all my wife, Jamie's fault. She's a feeder. And if you know "feeders," you know their God-given roles in life are to stuff you so full you need help getting your own pants off. It's in their blood.

The truth is, feeders are God's gift to humanity. They were sent to earth to baptize us in trans-fats and peppermill gravy. And they don't get thanked nearly enough for it.

They work their fingers raw. They'll stir a pot of collards in one hand, and knead dough in the other. They'll glaze ham, chop coleslaw, fry chicken, stir grits, and buy you a new pair of stretchy pants, all in the same day.

My wife descends from a long line of feeders. Her father was a card-carrying feeder. Whenever you wandered past his kitchen, you got pimento cheese on Bunny Bread, one slice of pound cake, Coca-Cola, and some Pepto Bismol.

He was the kind of fella who'd go to the trouble of preparing a nine-plate breakfast, just because it was Tuesday. Who'd spend eight hours on a steak supper — complete with sliced tomatoes. Who kept a can of bacon grease on the counter, and used a dollop in everything from turnip greens to Raisin Bran.

Feeders are special folks.

They deserve their own magnificent kitchens in heaven. Because Lord knows, they won't stop cooking once they get there. In fact, they wouldn't know what to do with their hands if it weren't for whisks and electric mixers.

These kind souls believe all your troubles can be treated with chicken and dumplings. And if you waltz through their door wearing a sad face, they'll start flouring up the counter without saying a word.

Their love looks like an overloaded stovetop, that's why they smile whenever you help yourself to seconds. Because they've yet to meet a soul in this world who's ever eaten "enough."

For crying out loud, say, "thank you," once in a while. Because that pound cake that just put a smile on your face, wasn't cake at all.

It was your wife.

So, since his story ended with a reference to pound cake and wives, I messaged his feeder wife, Jamie, on Facebook to ask for her famous pound cake recipe.  Now, come to find out, Jamie and I just might be soul sisters.  Long lost friends.  She sent the aforementioned recipe and some info about herself.  She is a math teacher and a chef.  A chef's work is not easy- hauling, lifting, lugging stuff around and back problems led Jamie to discover a passion for teaching.  And her sister is married to a Frenchie and lives in Montpellier, a beautiful town in the south of France.  They lived in New Orleans until Katrina hit and they lost their home.  Sister teaches English and her son works as a guide for American students visiting France.  This world may seem like a big place sometimes, but it really is actually rather small.  I have found some friends, Sean and Jamie, and I have a new pound cake recipe.  Life is delicious, n'est-ce pas?  And one last note... 
As I was reading the recipe, I saw that it calls for brandy.  Not something I have on hand.  I do have some sherry, left over from another recipe.  I really did not feel up to a stop by the ABC Store on the way home from school, so I figured I could just leave it out or add some rum, something else I have left over from another recipe or some of the Ex-Ex's bourbon.  (He will be eating this cake for breakfast tomorrow so no big deal, right?)  Lo and behold, I went to check the mail and what is in my box?  A treat from Ms. Arizona.  A huge sacrifice... a little bottle of Calvados!  Apple brandy from Normandy no less.  Mon dieu.

This is going to be a great cake.

Jamie's Pound Cake
makes 2 loaves or one bundt cake, but Jamie recommends the loaves

3 c. sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
3 sticks + 2 T. butter, room temperature
3 c. all purpose flour
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 t. each: vanilla extract
                coconut extract
                almond extract

1 cup sugar
1/2 T. each: vanilla extract
                    coconut extract
1 t. each: brandy

Prepare 2 loaf pans by generously coating them with soft butter and then coating them with sugar. 
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugar, butter and cream cheese. 
Gradually alternate adding the flour and eggs, stopping to scrap down the bowl as needed. Mix just until blended. 
Add the extracts and the wines until blended. 
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans. 
Place the pans in a cold oven and then set the oven to 300 degrees. 
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. (Sometimes mine need a little longer. However, you want this cake super moist--like a butter cake.) 
Once you remove the cakes from the oven, let them cool in the pan on a wire rack. 
In the meantime, melt one cup of sugar in half a cup of water in a pot on the stove. Once the sugar is melted, remove the pot from the heat and add the extracts and wines. 
Spoon the glaze over the top of each cake--do not remove the cakes from their pans. Continue to let the cakes cool and absorb the glaze for a couple of hours before serving. ***This can be made in a bundt pan. However, you will need to invert the cake before adding the glaze. I feel that you do not get as much glaze absorption on a bundt cake as a loaf cake.

Bon appétit, Sean, Jamie, Ms. Arizona, and all the Feeders out there.  Oh!  And all the Lookers, Cookers, and Eaters, too!  Is there anything in this world better than pound cake?