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!