My friend, The Geezer

I read this book several years ago and fell in love with it. When I pitched my own (still unfinished) book to Algonquin, I was asked if I had read French Dirt. Oui. A couple of times. Little did I know that a few years later I would be introduced to Richard Goodman through a mutual friend, Jo Maeder, albeit by email. Richard is a seriously talented writer. A recent post on his blog has proven his way with words once again. He is a poet. Paris on a rainy day. My dream at the moment. And when you are finished reading this, open a bottle of red. Start a fire. Curl up under a soft blanket. And fire up Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. You deserve a trip to Paris. We all do.

Merci, Richard.  Bon appétit!

Paris in bad weather

“Then there was the bad weather,” begins Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of living in Paris in the twenties, A Moveable Feast. “It would come in one day when the fall was over. We would have to shut the windows in the night against the rain and the cold wind would strip the leaves from the trees in the Place Contrescarpe. The leaves lay sodden in the rain and the wind drove the rain against the big green autobus in the terminal….”

I’m not dumb.  Start with Hemingway.

Hemingway knew exactly what he was doing when he began his poem to Paris with a cold, rainy, windswept day. He knew that bad weather brings out the lyrical in Paris and in the visitor, too. It summons up feelings of regret, loss, sadness—and in the case of the first pangs of winter—intimations of mortality. The stuff of poetry. And of keen memories. The soul aches in a kind of unappeasable ecstasy of melancholy. Anyone who has not passed a chill, rainy day in Paris will have an incomplete vision of the city, and of him- or herself in it.

Great photographers like André Kertész understood how splendid Paris looks awash in gray and painted with rain. His book, J’aime Paris, shot entirely in black and white over the course of forty years, draws heavily on foul weather. I don’t know of anyone, with the possible exceptions of Atget and Cartier-Bresson, who has come closer to capturing the soul of Paris with a camera. The viewer will remember many of these photographs—even if he or she can’t name the photographer—because they have become part of the Parisian landscape in our minds’ eyes. That solitary man, his coat windblown as he walks toward wet cobblestones; the statue of Henry IV on horseback reflected in a puddle fringed by—yes—those sodden leaves. Kertész’s Paris sends a nostalgic chill through our bodies.

On one memorable trip to Paris, it rained. When it didn’t rain, it threatened to. This was in October, so leaves were starting to fall from trees, and that added a sense of forlornness to my visit. Each morning, I stepped out from my hotel on the Left Bank just off the Boulevard St. Germain into a dull gray morning. The sky hung low, the color of graphite, and it seemed just as heavy. The air was cool and dense.

But I wasn’t disappointed. After a shot of bitter espresso, I was ready to go. That week in October I set myself the goal of following the flow of the Seine, walking from one end of Paris to the other. I had bad weather as my companion, and a good one it was, too. I walked along the quays and over the bridges in a soft drizzle. The colossal bronze figures that hang off the side of the Pont Mirabeau were wet and streaming. The Eiffel Tower lost its summit in the fog. The cars and autobuses made hissing noises as they flowed by on wet pavement. The Seine was flecked with pellets of rain. The dark, varnished houseboats, so long a fixture on the river, had their lights shining invitingly out of pilothouses. The facade of Notre Dame in the gloom sent a medieval shudder through me. None of this I would have seen in the sunlight.

 

Then there is the matter of food.

There may be no Parisian experience as gratifying as walking out of the rain or cold into a welcoming, warm bistro. There is the taking off of the heavy wet coat and hat and then the sitting down to one of the meals the French seemed to have created expressly for days such as this: pot-au-feu or cassoulet or choucroute.

I remember one rainy day on this trip in particular. I walked in out of the wet, sat down and ordered the house specialty, pot-au-feu. For those unfamiliar with this poem, do not seek enlightenment in the dictionary. It will tell you that pot-au-feu is “a dish of boiled meat and vegetables, the broth of which is usually served separately.” This sounds like British cooking, not French, and the dictionary should be sued for libel. My spirits rose as the large smoking bowl was brought to my table along with bread and wine. I let the broth rise up to my face, the concentrated beauty of France. Then I took that first large spoonful into my mouth. The savory meat and vegetables and intense broth traveled to my belly. I was restored.

I sat and ate in the bistro and watched the people hurry by outside bent against the weather. I heard the tat, tat, tat of the rain as it beat against the bistro glass. The trees on the street were skeletal and looked defenseless. Where had I seen this before? In what book of photographs about Paris? I looked around inside and saw others like myself being braced by a meal such as mine and by the warmth of the room. The sounds of conversation and of crockery softly rattling filled the air. Efficient waiters flowed by, distinguished men with long white aprons, working elegantly. Delicious food was being brought out of the kitchen, and I watched as it was put in front of expectant diners. Every so often the front door would open, and a new refugee would enter, shuddering, with umbrella and dripping coat, a dramatic reminder that outside was no cinema.

I finished my meal slowly. I had left almost all vestiges of cold behind. My waiter took the plates away. Then he brought me a small, potent espresso. I lingered over it, savoring each drop. I looked outside. It would be good to stay here a bit longer.

I got up to go. Paris—gloomy, darkly beautiful Paris—was waiting.

What’s your favorite recipe?

Thanksgiving card

(Carlton Cards)

I found this card to send to my turkeys in SP since I will not be with them for Thanksgiving. Too funny. I miss those turkeys. I will visit them soon. I promise.

Today’s question of the day… “What’s your favorite recipe, madame?” Asked by one of my 6th graders after she told me that she had read some of my blog entries over the weekend. She is new to my school and a sweetheart. My favorite food/recipe/dish depends totally on the day/hour/minute that I am asked. If I had to decide on my last meal on earth at this very second, it would change by tomorrow morning. However, I did my best to answer LZ. Since it is (almost) Thanksgiving, I would have to vote for Dorie Greenspan’s Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good. I plan to make it for my small crew in just a couple of days. Of course, I might change my mind…

stuffed pumpkincheese thyme nutmeg

It really is delicious.

It was fun to reread the post with the recipe. From November 2010. Can it really be seven years since that post? And funny thing is… I am waiting for the BFF to stop by tonight, too. Her mother-in-law is in hospice and I wanted to make something for her husband to eat whenever he gets to come home from being with his mama. Nothing fancy. Just chicken-pasta-vegetable soup. I hope it helps his aching heart. We are never ready to lose a loved one.

The best part of making soup? You can add whatever you want, as much or as little as you want, throw it all in a pot and voilà. Dinner is served. With lots of leftovers.

The Sabbatical Chef’s Chicken Soup

Olive oil – about 2 Tbsp.

1 onion, diced

4 stalks celery, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

8 cups chicken broth

8 oz. pasta (elbows or whatever you want) or you could add rice instead

1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled off the bone, chopped/shredded

1 bag frozen mixed vegetables

Torn baby spinach leaves, optional

Seasonings- salt, pepper, herbes de Provence, etc.

Parmesan cheese, for garnish, if desired

In a large pot/Dutch oven, sauté the onion, celery and garlic (if using) in olive oil until soft. Add the chicken broth and water, if needed, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes less than the cooking time on the package. Add the chicken and frozen vegetables. Season to taste. Bring to a second boil. Reduce heat. Add more water or chicken broth, if needed. Add spinach leaves. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste and add more seasonings, if needed/desired. Serve with grated Parmesan, if desired. (Spinach and Parmesan added at the suggestion of my lifelong across-the-creek neighbor Ms. Mary!)

soup

Bon appétit and Happy Thanksgiving Week. Hold your loved ones near. Tell them how much you love them. Feed them good food. One of the highest forms of love, in my opinion. Keep asking questions, LZ!

 

 

Random thoughts on a chilly November night

helmet

It’s Veteran’s Day. Armistice Day in France. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. I have visited the site of the signing of the Armistice, the replica of the train car tucked away into the forest near Compiègne in northern France. The original one was burned by Hitler. Merci, Ghislaine. Thank you to all who have and continue to put their lives on the line so that I can be free to do whatever I please whenever I please with whomever I please.

1386858046

It’s hard to believe that is almost Thanksgiving. It seems that once we survive Halloween in the middle school that the year is almost over.

I am a lucky Gramma! Miss K came to visit me in my classroom one day.

K in my class

I have a sparkly Eiffel Tower that fascinates her.

The Ex-Ex and I have had the opportunity to babysit a few times recently. So much fun!

k with bow

The intensity of the love that I feel for her surprises me every time I see her.

School is keeping me busier than I ever imagined it would at this stage of my career. If Son #1 and Son #2 were still at home I am not sure they would ever get fed. Luckily, the Ex-Ex can fend for himself. Curriculum mapping brought a two-day workshop in Atlanta, though. With an amazing meal at Miller Union. Our waiter was amazing. The oysters were amazing. The field peas were amazing. And the colleagues I shared the meal with were amazing.

“Steven Satterfield’s menu shows off the best of the South’s okra, field peas, turnips and tomatoes in a style that would make Alice Waters weak in the knees. Perfect for a date night or lunch at the counter, where one can explore an innovative wine list with pours by the glass.”     – The New York Times, 2016

The farm egg baked in celery cream was amazing. After the amazing pork roast with polenta, there was no room for dessert. I know. Kind of shocking.

Last week, Arles Lucy and I had a date for Pompieri Pizza‘s Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner. I tend to choose wine over beer, but the pairings between the food prepared by Chef Joe and the beer were perfect. I enjoyed every sip. I took lots of photos and a few notes.

Beer cheese bites, scallops, duck, duck, duck, ribs with a ginger soy glaze, dark chocolate parfait… Pale Ale, Nooner, Torpedo, Porter, Narwhal.

yo and me

To quote Arles Lucy when the chocolate parfait was placed before her:

“I don’t know whether to pray over this or not.”  Eat, pray or love?

The BFF asked Tom to do her nails in Sierra Nevada’s colors for the occasion.

nails

This one is for you, too, Best Sister-in-Law, since you told me the Porter is your favorite. Next time we come to visit, we need to take a field trip to visit Sierra Nevada’s Mills River facility. Ok?

Since it seems that all I do is eat, I might as well include the recent France 2017 reunion dinner. Each year, I offer a Sabbatical Chef dinner as part of our school auction and for the past two years the same family has bought it and we’ve had a France trip reunion. Two daughters down and two to go! Here’s part of the crew–

2017

It was a great trip. I miss these kiddos. They are all off being freshman now. We laughed a lot looking at photos of the trip.

looking at photos

KR was still doing her trip duty and photographing our every move! Merci beaucoup!

We made cheese fondue and had Fanny’s Mousse au chocolat with locally made macarons for dessert. And to any Frenchies reading this… I apologize. Yes, the kiddos were actually dipping those cheese puffs into the delicious melted Gruyère and Emmental fondue. Teenagers.

a and k

My co-chaperones love their dessert. And the guy in the back, licking the mousse bowl? Master of the House caught on camera.

The Ex-Ex and I attended the Celebration of Life for a former student. Chris Rosati passed away after living for several years with ALS. And the service was indeed a celebration. He planned it himself. I’ve been listening to his playlist for the past week and reflecting on kindness and how to keep his motto alive– Be kind and worry less.  Thank you, Chris, for the lessons you taught us. And for the Cheerwine and Krispy Kreme glazed donuts.

cr

Life continues to be good. I am blessed with a wonderful family, many friends, a job I love and beautiful fall weather here in North Carolina. As Thanksgiving comes galloping towards me, I realize just how lucky I am.

Cheese Fondue

  • 1/2 pound Emmentaler, grated
  • 1/2 pound Le Gruyère, grated
  • 1 package of Emmi Fondue Original (optional, I used it on the advice of the very helpful guy at Whole Foods, Durham- he also helped me choose the wine)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 1/2 cup white wine such as a Chenin Blanc (I used The Holy Snail, a French Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 loaves bread with thick crust, cut into 1-inch cubes
Combine cheeses with flour in a medium bowl and set aside. Rub the inside of the fondue pot with garlic. Heat wine in fondue pot over medium heat until warm. Add lemon juice. Add cheese mixture gradually, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until melted and cheese-wine mixture has the consistency of a creamy sauce. Open package of Emmi Fondue and add, stirring well to mix. Add pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boil. Adjust flame of burner so fondue continues bubbling lightly. Serve with bread cubes.
**Granny Smith apples are really good as well. Pears, maybe? Boiled potatoes for a raclette-type taste. Cheese puffs?
**Can be served with slices of ham and small pickles, if you wish.
sunflowers
Bon appétit, family and friends far and wide. Happy November. Live like you were dying. And to shamelessly steal, once again, from Sean Dietrich— Life is a gift. And people are beautiful. 
playlist

 

 

Your Loving Vincent

When I first read about Loving Vincent, I was afraid that it would not come to Durham, NC. My fears were confirmed when I started seeing lists of cities where it would be playing on the film’s website and Facebook page. No Durham. The closest city listed was Fayetteville. Arles Lucy and I were ready to plan a road trip. Then, about a month ago, I saw that it would indeed come to our lovely downtown Carolina Theatre. I have now seen the movie twice, once with the Ex-Ex and once with my crew of girlfriends who have been to France with me. It is playing in Durham for an extra week so I may see it a third time. It IS that good, mes amis. If you have read my previous posts about Vincent (April 2014, May 2010, May 2010, November 2011) then you already know that I love him very much. Maybe a bit obsessively.

A team of 125 artists spent 6 years bringing Vincent’s paintings to life in 65,000 frames. The film is completely animated, with the scenes based on his paintings in color and the flashbacks to scenes of his life in black and white. The story comes to life as Armand Roulin, son of Postman Joseph Roulin of Arles, travels from Arles to Paris to give a letter to Theo, Vincent’s brother, a year after Vincent’s death. The letter had been found when Vincent’s landlord in Arles was cleaning out Vincent’s rooms in the Yellow House. However, upon finding Père Tanguy, Armand discovers that Theo died only six months after his brother. By this time, Armand wants to learn more about the last six weeks of Vincent’s life.

Vincent was a prolific letter writer. According to Mark Roskill in The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, 670 of the letters Vincent wrote to Theo have survived to present day. The letters were gathered, transcribed and edited by Theo’s widow, Vincent’s sister-in-law, so that they could be published. The first batch of them was published only three years after Vincent’s death, in 1893. Johanna “Jo” van Gogh-Bonger spent years bringing the letters to light and was also instrumental in Vincent’s rise to fame as an artist. She inherited around 200 of his paintings upon the death of Theo and was seemingly relentless in her push to have Vincent’s talent recognized. Merci, madame.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has put together a touching tribute to Vincent and Theo. The museum’s website is very well done. Someday, I hope to visit it in person. In Noord Brabants Museum in Den Bosch (an hour from Amsterdam), there is an exhibit about Loving Vincent that will run until January 28, 2018. Paintings from the movie are on display. I believe that they will then be sold.

Without giving too much away in case you haven’t seen the film yet, let’s just say that the final scene with Roulin and his son is my favorite. Vincent was shot on July 27, my birthday. One scene in the movie revealed that July 27, 1890 was a Sunday. July 27, 1958 was also a Sunday. Perhaps my love for Vincent is fate.

image description
CBS This Morning recently paid tribute to the film.
This clip from Dr. Who pays hommage to Vincent and allows him to hear praise for his work while standing in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
It is written that Vincent did not eat well or very much. He gave away most of what he had during his stint as a missionary. One of his early paintings, The Potato Eaters, 1885, is dark and somber. He often forgot to eat, I imagine, as he painted for hours on end. According to Biography.com:
Vincent van Gogh completed more than 2,100 works, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings and sketches. Several of his paintings now rank among the most expensive in the world; “Irises” sold for a record $53.9 million, and his “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” sold for $82.5 million.
Over the course of 10 years, van Gogh created more than 43 self-portraits as both paintings and drawings. “I am looking for a deeper likeness than that obtained by a photographer,” he wrote to his sister. “People say, and I am willing to believe it, that it is hard to know yourself. But it is not easy to paint yourself, either. The portraits painted by Rembrandt are more than a view of nature, they are more like a revelation,” he later wrote to his brother. The works are now displayed in museums around the world, including in Washington, D.C., Paris, New York and Amsterdam.
vincent's eyes
Some believe that Wheatfield with Crows, July 1890, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, was Vincent’s last painting. I’ve walked through that field on the way to Vincent’s grave in Auvers-sur-Oise.
wheatfield
No story of mine about Vincent would be complete with this one, Starry Night over the Rhône, painted in Arles, September 1888, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
starry rhone
What would Vincent eat? Here is a recipe I hope that he would have liked. Potato soup was a staple in the Bell-Gillespie household when I was growing up. There is nothing fancy about it, but it is delicious.
Leek and Potato Soup
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped (or 1-2 more leeks, if you prefer)
2 garlic cloves, split, germ removed and thinly sliced
(I also add 2 stalks of celery, chopped)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper (black pepper is fine)
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, split lengthwise, washed, and thinly sliced
2 large Idaho (russet) potatoes (I doubled this- Dorie calls for only one potato), peeled and cubed
6 thyme sprigs
2 sage leaves
4 cups chicken broth (or water but the broth gives it a richer taste)
3 cups whole milk
Optional toppings:
Minced parsley, sage, tarragon or marjoram, or a combination
Snipped fresh chives
Grated Parmesan, Gruyère or cheddar cheese
Croutons
Crispy bacon, crumbled
Corn kernels
Truffle oil
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or soup pot over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and stir until they are coated with butter, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft but not colored.
Add the remaining ingredients, along with a little more salt, increase the heat, and bring to a boil. As soon as the soup bubbles, turn the heat to low, mostly cover the pot, and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Taste the soup and season generously with salt and pepper.
You can ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve as is, mash the vegetables lightly with the  back of a spoon, or puree the soup through a food mill or with a blender (regular or immersion), or a food processor. (I leave mine with the potatoes in chunks.) If desired, garnish with the toppings of your choice.
You could also chill it and turn it into Vichyssoise, a fancy name for cold potato soup, which was invented in 1917 by French chef Louis Diat who ran the kitchens at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York City, according to Dorie.
Bon appétit and thank you, BreakThru Films, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and all the artists who re-created Vincent’s paintings. Thank you as well to all of my friends and students who have been to Paris and Arles with me and who have paid tribute to Vincent with me. In Vincent’s words:
Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.
Je t’aime, Vincent.

 

July 28, 2008

The BFF asked me for “my” recipe for mussels- moules- during our Therapy Session this morning.  I have Chef Érick’s recipe. I can take no credit. Only credit for eating my weight in them!  So, down The Sabbatical Chef memory lane we go. To almost the beginning. I haven’t re-read it yet. I will. In a few minutes. After I finish the week’s lesson plans. Tonight.

The Day After…


As I sit here, ready to tell you all about my birthday dinner/feast, I have not decided which photo to post. The perfect one wasn’t taken. I should have taken one of the moules or mussels before they were consumed and nothing remained except a few drops of juice and one or two little bits of onion. Taking pictures just was not on my mind at the time, I must confess. (I have since added a photo I took at the market of mussels…)
The day started the way most of them do around here- breakfast on the table by 8:30 am, laundry to get off the line, fold and put away, more laundry to hang, breakfast dishes to do, kitchen to clean, two rooms to clean and prepare for the next guests, all of this accomplished by noon with the help of Dorette (she didn’t realize she would have to wash dishes either, Martha and Monette- it’s an evil trap we have here for people who stay on the family side of the house…). Chef Érick is really good at scrubbing showers. He did the green room while I did the yellow.
Lunch consisted of leftovers from the day before when we made lunch for two Japanese women who are visiting. On of them, Minae, was Madeleine Vedel’s boss when she lived in Japan. We had a salad of yellow, green and red tomatoes, raw oysters, shrimp, couscous salad and risotto rice cooked in the shrimp broth, followed by several different local goat cheeses and chocolate from Joël Durand, chocolatier in St. Rémy. The wine was a Costière de Nîmes white wine made by Jean-Paul Cabanis. Seth and Craig at the Wine Authorities need to check him out!
After lunch, I took my shower and put on one of what I like to call my “dresses from Christian Lacroix’s Saturday Market Line.” Dorette had given me a really pretty scarf at breakfast that I wanted to wear. That was so tiring that I decided I needed a little siesta and took a quick nap, wrote a letter to my mom and sister and went back down to the kitchen in time to find Chef Érick chopping vegetables. I thought maybe he was going to prepare an aïoli. He wouldn’t say. Then he chopped onions and tomatoes and put them on to cook. When he added a couple of bay leaves and some dry white wine, I became suspicious. Moules marinières provençales? I do love mussels from the Mediterranean Sea. Dorette and I opened a bottle of Jean-Paul’s rosé and helped debeard the mussels. There seemed to be a huge quantity for only the three of us. I asked if perhaps we were feeding the Russian Army? I had no idea how that would translate for a Frenchman. My mom always used that line. He just smiled and continued stirring. He steamed the mussels and then we arranged them in the tian. I love arranging them and saving some of the shells to use as eating utensils! This is when I should’ve gotten the camera ready. However, the baked pastry for a millefeuille appeared and he set about making the pastry cream. Then the sound of the doorbell distracted me further. I went to answer and found Marie-Christine and her dog waiting. Not the Russian Army, needless to say, but a very chic French woman who runs Le Pot au Tabac in town. I ushered her into the kitchen and offered her a glass of rosé. She gave me a beautiful china dish with a hand-painted Arlesienne woman on it. When the doorbell rang again, I found Gilles, Didier and Monique waiting. A few minutes later Gilbert (aka GBear) also showed up. So, the party started! I am so glad that my 50th birthday gave us all a chance to get together again. And this time with Dorette added. Monique and Didier gave me an original drawing of an Arlesienne. Their hair ornaments and dresses give them away. The woman of Arles have been painted by Picasso and Van Gogh, just to name two famous painters.
We feasted on the mussels and couscous, with more rosé supplied by Gilles and Gilbert. The millefeuille was greatly appreciated, too. We didn’t even bother to set the dining room table. We ate at the stainless steel work table that is in the kitchen. Have you ever noticed that the kitchen is the center of people’s homes? No matter how nice your living room is or what the set up is in your house, when friends come over to eat, the kitchen becomes the favorite place to hang out. It is definitely the case here. The kitchen used to be a stable- the feeding place for lambs. That gives the room a very comforting aura.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that eating is all about who you are sharing the food with. After I left Arles last summer and returned home, I found that I really wasn’t very hungry. Cooking for just myself was more of a chore than a pleasure. It’s the act of cooking for someone and then sharing the meal that makes eating a pleasurable experience. It’s an offering of sorts, a very personal one. In France, it is the social occasion, not just the prelude to going to the movies or a sporting event. Hours are spent talking, discussing the day’s happenings, telling jokes (I still don’t always get them and need them explained, as Dorette found out), as well as eating. A very nice way of life, n’est-ce pas?
Moules marinières provençalesFor 4 persons as a main course; 6-8 as an appetizer

2 kg. (1 kg = 2.2 pounds) mussels (in Arles, we use the Bouzigues variety, from the Mediterranean Sea- these are saltier than mussels from the Atlantic or Pacific so we do not add any extra salt)
one cup water

For the sauce:
1 onion, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tomato, diced
1 cup dry white wine
4 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

1. Debeard the mussels and set them to steam in a tall, covered pot with a cup of water. This will take 10-15 minutes. Once all the shells are open, remove from the flame and set aside. Do not throw away the mussel juice in the pot.
2. In a quart/liter size saucepan, pour the olive oil and add the minced onion. Simmer on a low flame until the onions have sweated and become simply translucent. Watch carefully and be sure that the onions do not brown. Add the chopped tomato and stir a moment, add the wine, the crushed garlic, the bay leaves and the mussel juice from the steaming pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer and reduce for 20-30 minutes.
3. To serve: Take a large rimmed platter and place the opened mussels in the half-shell in one layer throughout the platter. Extra mussels can be taken from their shells and added to the shells in the platter. Leave a few whole to be used as pinchers to eat the mussels. If you are making the mussels ahead of time, put them in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve, then take them out and gently reheat the serving dish, ladle the sauce over the mussels and serve. By ladling the piping hot sauce over the mussels, you reheat them without drying them out in the oven.

*Left over mussel juice is wonderful for a seafood risotto the next day, or as a base for a seafood chowder. Use it within a day or two at the most or freeze it for later use.

Bon appétit!

Therapy

runners

The BFF and I call our morning walks therapy sessions. And believe me, they are. We talk about just about anything and everything. This summer, we walked 3 miles every day that we could, usually beginning around 6:00 am. It gets hot and humid here in the North Carolina Piedmont and schvitzing (Yiddish for sweating- it sounds better to me) is not our favorite thing. The BFF is genetically predisposed to schvitz a lot. Now that the school year is well underway, unfortunately our sessions are limited to Saturday and Sunday mornings and the occasional day off. I go to school early, usually around 7:30 am, and she works late, usually until after 7:30 pm or later. I wish that I could say that I walk in the evenings every day by myself, but I do not. I cannot tell a lie. I walk around campus as much as I can during breaks and lunch usually to chase after a kiddo or track down a colleague, but once I get home, I get lazy and find a lot of other things I’d rather (or have to) do.

Today, I woke up to a cool, foggy, beautiful fall morning. My favorite. We walked on the American Tobacco Trail. According to Wikipedia–

The American Tobacco Trail (ATT) is a 22.6-mile (36.4 km) long Rails-to-Trails project located in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, running along an abandoned railroad bed originally built for the American Tobacco Company in the 1970s. The route crosses through the City of DurhamDurham CountyChatham County, and Wake County. The ATT is part of the East Coast Greenway and is open to pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians (in non-urban sections) and other non-motorized users.

bridge

We walk on a section that crosses over I-40 and this bridge takes us from one side to the other.  Pretty cool, huh?

Following in the tradition of the Parisian Locks of Love, a few folks have attached one here.

Probably not a great tradition to start. But there are only 4-5 of them now.

Squirrels are the most common critter we see on this trail. (Copperheads prevail on the Duke Trail…) Today there was a cardinal, our state bird, waiting for us. I have loved cardinals for as long as I can remember. I am not sure why, but that doesn’t even matter. I just know that it makes me very happy to see one.

cardinal

According to the BFF, seeing a cardinal means that someone who has passed on has come to bring you a message. I had never heard that before so I paid a visit to my friend Google for some info about bird superstitions.

From The Cardinal Experience:

small Red Birds – When you see a red bird in winter, you will prosper in spring. When you hear a Cardinal sing, your sadness will soon be lifted. When a red bird shows up, help is on the way.

According to California Psychics

Messages from Spirit can come in many forms, but the red cardinal has long been held as the most notable spiritual messenger. The male cardinals are certainly hard to ignore with their striking red feathers and melodic yet almost “pay-attention-to-me” chirps. And when they come to you almost insistently trying to gain your attention, it’s likely you’re receiving a message from Spirit.

When deceased loved ones want you to know that they’re around, one way they might do that is to send messengers from the animal kingdom: small, brightly-colored bugs, birds and butterflies are not an uncommon choice. Things with wings tend to get our attention, and if you allow yourself to get tuned in, you might even feel who has sent them to you in hopes you’ll receive their message—even if that message is a simple acknowledgement that your loved ones are always around. And if you’re pondering something and asking the Universe for guidance, seeing a cardinal or the like is telling you that you’re being heard and guidance is being offered.

I am not a particularly superstitious person. Spiritual, yes. I think that the Native Americans were way more in tune with nature than we are these days and times. I am fascinated by their beliefs. I really like the thought that this beautiful bird might be someone from my past who has come to visit me.

I’ve seen some photographs of cardinals in the snow that take my breath away. I found this one on Fan Pop, but couldn’t find out who took it.

Cardinals-image-cardinals-36122736-900-675

Or how about this pair from Dreams Time?

cardinals-snow-20034195

Maybe this winter I will even find some of my own to photograph. Who knows?

Thank you for the therapy sessions, BFF. You are indeed the best.

I am still on a pumpkin spice kick. While driving back from the grocery store yesterday, I thought “What about pumpkin spice sugar cookies?” I googled, settled on a recipe, took the butter out of the refrigerator to soften, the egg to get to room temperature and pulled Mildred the Mixer out of her hiding place.

pumpkin

unbaked

stack

cookies2

I got help from Wine and Glue. I read her heartfelt post about the loss of her son. Maybe Elliot will come back to visit her in the form of a cardinal?

I decided to name mine Snickerdoodles after a friend said they reminded him of his mom’s cookies.

Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles

makes 4 dozen (I used a small scoop to measure them out)

2-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (plus more for rolling- about 1/2 tsp)

1/2 tsp cinnamon (plus another 1/2 tsp for rolling)

1-1/4 cups granulated sugar (plus about 1/2 cup more for rolling)

14 Tbsp softened unsalted butter

 

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 egg yolk, at room temperature

3/4 cup 100% pure pumpkin puree

  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg yolk, then the vanilla, and finally the pumpkin until well combined.
  4. In two batches, add in the flour mixture. Mix on low speed, just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle/beaters.
  5. Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  7. Roll the dough into one-inch sized balls (or whatever size you want your cookies to be). Roll in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets and press down slightly with the bottom of a glass. If the dough gets sticky, dip the bottom of the glass in the sugar mixture. Space the cookies about two inches apart.
  8. Bake for 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking.
  9. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack. (Sample a warm one!)

Bon appétit! Happy Delicious Fall! Bake something yummy for those you love. Get outside for some nature therapy, with or without your BFF.

A really good day

spider donut

My morning started this way a couple of days ago. A spider donut left on my desk by an advisee.  Thank you, Girlie and Dunkin Donuts. One of my French friends commented–“Not Halloween yet.” The whole month of October is Halloween here in the good old U.S. of A, mon amie. C’est normal.

Then The Most Adorable Baby in the World got to make her Durham Academy debut and pay a visit to my classroom. Her mom needed to take a catering order to Duke, just down the road, and I volunteered to watch our little Nugget for an hour.

K and Gramma

She was a huge hit with my students, needless to say. A few colleagues stopped in to say hi as well. She is almost 8 months old. Wow. Le temps passe vite.

In my 6th grade class, one of the boys, M. New York, was caught with bulging pockets. Actually, I caught him after one of the items slipped from his pocket onto the floor. I asked him to empty those pockets and here is his stash.

williams pockets

We had adorable Kindergarteners here during our morning break, selling backed goods and treats to raise money for hurricane relief funds. I don’t know if he bought all this at the sale or if he came to school that way. The staples were a real curiosity. We all had a good laugh and he is a great kid- and he even laughed at himself. That is one of the most important personality traits to have as you navigate the often treacherous waters of middle school.

I supervise our after school study hall and during study hall the 3-D printer was whirring. I am always curious about that machine so I often watch the progress of what it is creating. Lo and behold, this is what I found behind the glass door.

3D ET

Oui, Mme La Tour Eiffel. I actually watched it from the bottom up. I had no idea who was printing it, but I was hoping it was one of my students and that I would be able to add it to my collection. (It was and I have!)

la tour 2

As I was walking to my car, I noticed this beautiful tree and had to stop long enough to take a photo. Fall is my favorite season. How can you not love this view?

fall leaves

Later, as I was finishing up with my date with Tom, the best manicurist in the entire world, at Posh Nails, his new salon, we noticed that the rain had stopped and the sky was an interesting color. It was pink!

sky1sky2

Then the Ex-Ex and I met at The Boot, our favorite watering hole, and shared this.

mozz

Made me think of Son #2. That boy loves mozzarella sticks. These were magnifico. (Grazie, Google) I tried making them a few times when he was growing up, but I never quite mastered it.

So, instead I will leave you with a tried and true recipe for mozzarella grilled cheese sandwiches.

Mozzarella Grilled Cheese
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence of The Food Network

Serves: 2 sandwiches
Ingredients:
4 slices thick-cut sourdough bread
1 ball (1 pound) fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 plum tomatoes, cut into thick slices
1 cup fresh basil pesto, recipe follows
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

Basil pesto:
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano
2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

To make pesto:
Toast pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Combine pesto ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined but still rough-textured.

To make sandwiches:
If you have a panini press, turn it on to warm up; otherwise, set a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Assemble sandwich by smearing insides of bread slices with pesto. Arrange a layer of sliced tomato and season with a few turns of fresh pepper. Layer the mozzarella slices over the top and then place another piece of bread on top to make the sandwich. Drizzle olive oil over skillet’s surface and place sandwiches on the hot skillet or panini press. If using a skillet, place another heavy skillet over the top to form a “press”. Turn after 2 to 3 minutes and replace weight. The sandwich is ready when golden brown and mozzarella has melted around the edges.

Copyright 2009 Television Food Network G.P., All Rights Reserved

Buon appetito!  Have a lovely weekend! Eat something delicious. Hug your loved ones. I sincerely hope you have a good day filled with simple pleasures.

 

 

Dear Google Paris

images-1

Dear Google Paris,

First, allow me to tell you how much I love you. Well, not necessarily your Paris office since I have not yet visited, but Google. As I say often, I must have been dumber than dirt before you came into my life 19 short years ago. I even made googler into a regular  -er verb in my French classes. I am pretty sure many other French teachers have followed my lead, but I was first.

googler:  to google

je google         nous googlons

tu googles       vous googlez

il google         ils googlent

elle google     elles googlent

Impératif:  Google ce mot pour trouver la définition, Avery.

Page et Isabelle, googlez les dates de Paris Fashion Week 2018, s’il vous plaît.

Googlons et trouvons une vidéo des Jeux Olympiques 2024.

Passé composé:  Hier soir, j’ai googlé des photos du bureau parisien de Google.

Futur: Et je googlerai tous les jours de ma vie.

Conditionnel: Je googlerais Justin Timberlake si mon ordinateur marchait.

And on and on and on.

Second, I have applied for a job with you in the past. I even had some of my 8th grade students write letters of recommendations for me. Oui. I have at least two former students who work for Google here in the U.S. They could put in a good word for me, as could their siblings and parents.

I really want to live in Paris. That’s on my bucket list. Hmmmm. Wonder how you say that in French?  Oui, j’ai googlé, bien sûr–

ma liste de choses à faire avant de mourir

I have visited your beautiful city many times since my first trip in 1978. I take 8th graders every March during our school spring break. If I am lucky, I go one other time  for a few days during the course of a year. That’s not the same as living there, n’est-ce pas? I lived in Arles for a total of eight months in 2007-2008. That’s been almost 10 years.  Far too long.

You are probably wondering just what job I would like to have. I have a proposal for you:  Snack Coordinator. Just hear me out, d’accord? I know that France is the pastry capital of the world. Éclairs, macarons, tartes au citron, pain au chocolat, croissants, etc. I would not even attempt those. Why on Earth would I when they can be found on every street corner? I would stock your snack room with American delicacies (dare I say Southern American?). Chocolate chip and sugar cookies. Red Velvet, vanilla, and chocolate cupcakes. Cheesecake. Brownies (I have an amazing Nutella recipe). Pumpkin spice muffins. Lavender, cherry vanilla, and blueberry scones. Banana bread. Vanilla Wafer Cake. Pound cake (easily my favorite). Apple, coconut cream, pumpkin, and pecan bourbon pie. Rice Krispie Treats. I am confident that this would make the Google Paris snack room unique in the City of Light and make your employees happy. And you know what happens when your employees are happy. They work harder and are more productive. Right? I have seen some very sad attempts at brownies and chocolate chip cookies in Paris and Arles.

And last but certainly not least… my qualifications. I have been baking for as long as I can remember. My earliest childhood memories involve sitting in my Grandma Bell’s kitchen as she made her famous coconut cake and banana fritters. My Granny Gillespie, who lived on the farm made an amazing 7-layer cake– thin layers of vanilla cake with homemade applesauce in between each layer. She and I also went blackberry picking so that she could make cobbler for us (kind of what my French friends call “crumble”). Warm from the oven, served with vanilla ice cream. Oh là là. Quelle joie. While living in France in 2007-08, on sabbatical from my teaching job, I worked with a chef in Arles, in his 5-room B&B, chambres d’hôte. He and his wife offered cooking stages, with visits to beekeepers, goat cheese makers, bakers, winemakers, chocolatiers, markets, olive oil producers, and lavender fields as well as local historical sites. We made picnics for the guests to enjoy under the shade of a tree or on the grounds of a winery. The guests, Chef Érick and I gathered in the kitchen every evening to prepare our evening meal using ingredients purchased at the market and accompanied with local wines. I also took care of reservations, cleaned rooms (I love to brag that I can clean toilets in French), washed clothes, hanging them out the upstairs window to dry (including all of those sheets and towels), and washed dishes without the benefit of a dishwasher. I was l’Assistante américaine, the translator in the kitchen. Let’s just say that I will never forget what une louche is… Chef Érick asked me for one my first night in the kitchen and I didn’t have a clue.  Oh, and I can already speak French and can even tutor in either French or English, if needed.

This blog is the result of my sabbatical. Just before the end of the school year after I was awarded my sabbatical, one of my 8th grade students help me set up the blog as a way to let my friends at home know what I was up to and to chronicle my time living in France. This young man now works for Google in San Francisco. Reference available upon request!

So, in closing, dear Google Paris, I hope that you will consider my offer to work for you. I do need to finish out the school year, making me available in mid-June 2018. I will be in Paris for 10 days in March with a group of students. I will gladly stop by for a face-to-face meeting/interview and can even bring some 8th graders along as references. They have all sampled my baking. I could, of course, even bake something up for you, if you wish. Perhaps you need some visual evidence of my prowess in the kitchen? Voici des photos:

Cakes:

Cookies:

Muffins:

Pies:

Cupcakes:

Scones:

I hope you enjoyed the random sampling of goodies. Mildred the Mixer and I stay busy. And covered in flour and sugar.

I even have my own chef’s coat… a gift after a Sabbatical Chef dinner at a friend’s house.

me

Today’s recipe is an old Southern favorite–

VWCake

I am sharing it with my colleagues tomorrow. It could be you, googleurs français

Mama Mildred’s Vanilla Wafer Cake

with help from Spicy Southern Kitchen

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1-1/2 cups  granulated sugar

6 eggs, room temperature

1 (11-ounce) box vanilla wafers, crushed

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon rum or rum flavoring

1 (7-ounce) package (about 2-2/3 cups) sweetened shredded coconut

1 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Butter and flour a bundt or tube pan.

 

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time.

 

 

Mix in vanilla wafer crumbs and milk, alternating but beginning and ending with the crushed cookies. Add rum and vanilla and mix.

 

 Stir in coconut and pecans.

 

Place in oven and bake for 60-70 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick.

 

Allow to cool in pan for 15-20 minutes. Turn onto a plate. If necessary, run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake before inverting it.
Thank you for your time, Google Paris.
Trois bisous,
The Sabbatical Chef
Bon appétit to all! Happy Monday and have a lovely week. Be the change you want to see in the world. Wake up grateful for what you have and make a list. Tell your family and friends that you love them. 

Cuppycakes

 

RV cupcakes

In my humble opinion, the best thing we do at my school is group kids into advisories. I am not sure how long ago we started doing this, to tell you the truth. When I arrived at DA in the fall of 1980, as a just-turned 22 year old, I faced a group of 22 seventh graders in my homeroom. They all seemed taller than me, although to tell the truth, that year is a blur. I remember what I wore to school on the first day- a light blue dress trimmed in white ribbon that Sister C had made. No idea why I remember that. I had to have conferences with the parents of each of those 22 twelve-year-olds. Wonder what advice I doled out? Heaven help us all. But I am friends with some of those “kids” and I currently teach the children of a couple of them.

1980-81 small

Anyway, back to advisories. I have 12 this year, six girls and six boys. We are together first thing in the morning for a 20-minute advisory lesson on Monday and a 7-8 minute “morning meeting” time Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday morning we assemble as an entire middle school for Community Meeting. Student-led announcements, the Pledge of Allegiance, and sports teams updates, usually followed by a faculty member or student sharing something of importance to them. Last year we started Lollipop Moments, thanks to a faculty member who found this Ted Talk:

I’ve watched this video several times. I love the way Drew tells his story, but I also need to be reminded how impactful my words can be- for better or for worse.

I eat lunch with those 12 kiddos each day.  We brownbag it- no cafeteria. I do have a mini-refrigerator (pink, no less) and a microwave in my classroom. We are together again every afternoon for a 20 minute tutorial period for kids to get some homework done, see a teacher to make up work or get some extra help. And once a 7 day cycle (no Monday-Friday for us- it’s Day 1-7, with Day 0 thrown in occasionally so that we meet all of our classes), we have a 42-minute advisory session. And our class periods are lettered A-H. We drop one class a day. Are you confused yet? I am. This crazy schedule allows our kiddos to have PE/Health and Fine Arts five out of those seven days. Each academic course (and foreign language is not an “extra” at my school, it is a requirement) meets six out of the seven days. So, I spend my days teaching French to 6th, 7th and 8th graders and being “mom” to my twelve advisees.

One of my girls just became a big sister. Pretty exciting stuff. Yesterday morning, I asked each of them if they are a cake or pie person. Important, right? The overwhelming majority said cake- no surprise there. Icing or no? Huh? Some people eat cake without icing?? What flavor? When Big Sister’s turn came, she said Red Velvet. And another girl chimed in that the icing has to be cream cheese and homemade. No kidding. I am with her 100%. None of that plastic-tasting canned stuff for my advisees. We will celebrate today with Red Velvet Cuppycakes, as I like to call them.

This recipe comes from the New York Times Cooking website, which I happen to love. It made 24 cupcakes. I didn’t go with the ermine icing although it is really good. I’ve made a version of it before. I couldn’t imagine anything except cream cheese icing.

Red Velvet Cake

This is similar to the original recipe that began the red velvet craze. It was developed by the Adams Extract company in Gonzales, Tex. The original recipe, popularized in the 1940s, called for butter flavoring and shortening and is usually iced with boiled milk, or ermine, frosting.

  • ½ cup /113 grams butter, at room temperature, plus 2 tablespoons to prepare pans
  • 3 tablespoons/22 grams cocoa powder, divided
  • 1 ½ cups/300 grams sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons/10 milliliters vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons/30 milliliters red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon/6 grams salt
  • 1 teaspoon/5 grams baking soda
  • 2 ½ cups/320 grams flour, sifted
  • 1 cup/236 milliliters whole buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon/15 milliliters vinegar (evidently, this makes the red really pop)
  •  Ermine icing, or other fluffy white icing
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 9-inch cake pans by buttering lightly and sprinkling with 1 tablespoon sifted cocoa powder, tapping pans to coat and discarding extra cocoa.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time and beat vigorously until each is incorporated. Mix in vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, make a paste of the remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa and the food coloring. Blend into butter mixture.
  4. Sift together remaining dry ingredients. Alternating in 2 batches each, add dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter mixture. In the last batch of buttermilk, mix in the vinegar before adding to the batter. Mix until blended.
  5. Divide batter among 3 pans and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a rack completely. (Can also be made in 2 cake pans.)
  6. To assemble, remove 1 cake from its pan and place flat side down on a serving platter. Drop about 1 cup of icing onto cake and, using a flat spatula, spread evenly over top. Remove the second cake from its pan. Place flat side down on top of first layer. Use remaining frosting to cover top and sides of cake.

Ermine Icing

This is an old-fashioned icing, also called boiled-milk frosting. The results are as light as whipped cream but with much more character. It was the original icing for red velvet cake.

  • 5 tablespoons/40 grams flour
  • 1 cup/235 milliliters whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon/5 milliliters vanilla extract
  •  Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup/ 230 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
  1. Over medium heat, whisk flour and milk in a small saucepan and heat to a simmer, stirring frequently until it becomes very thick and almost puddinglike.
  2. Remove from heat, whisk in vanilla and salt. Pour into a bowl to allow it to cool completely. Put plastic wrap on the surface to keep a skin from forming.
  3. Use a mixer to cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium, add the cooled flour mixture a little bit at a time. Continue to beat until the mixture becomes light and fluffy and resembles whipped cream.
The Best Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 pound (4 cups) of Powdered Sugar
  • ½ cup Butter (We use Salted Sweet Cream Butter)
  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese
  • 3 teaspoons of Vanilla
  1. Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a mixer until blended.
  2. Add powered sugar a cup at a time and continue to mix until sugar is incorporated.

Mildred the Mixer at work:

batter

Bon appétit and Happy Friday, tout le monde. And have a lovely weekend! Here in my neck of the woods, we are looking at a high temperature of 76˚F. Perfect. My heart still goes out to the people who lost their homes due to hurricanes and earthquakes though. I cannot imagine.

More Muffins?

pumpkin muffins

Sister Moo found an incomplete place setting of Fiesta ware for me at Kohl’s. The dinner plate was missing. Who cares? I love the color. And I realized that it matches the salt and pepper shaker that she found for me at a yard sale in Spruce Pine. (Turns out that the set belonged to the grandmother of one of my high school classmates. Makes me love it even more.)

Son #1 and Fiancée invited us over for an end-of-summer cookout at the pool at their apartment complex. The Most Adorable Baby in the World (who is now 7 months old) loves water. She would have crawled right into the deep end if her mommy had let her. No fear. I am very happy about that. I want her to be fearless and think that she can do anything that she sets her mind to. I, on the other hand, have long been afraid of water that is over my head. I didn’t learn to swim until I was in the 6th grade. My uncle taught me when I visited his family in Raleigh for a couple of weeks that summer. They had a pool in their backyard. I love to waterski and ride in boats, but I don’t like the idea of deep water. I took a swimming class in college. My teacher was a very patient woman and she taught us all the strokes, made us dive off the side of the pool, and timed us while we dog-paddled. Even though it was an 8:00 am class I enjoyed it tremendously. I enrolled both boys in swim lessons early on and they loved hanging out at the pool, but neither had any desire to be on a summer swim team and I was not the kind of mom to make them do something like that. I never told them about my fear of water. I swear I didn’t. But I don’t think that’s a genetic thing.

Anyway, Son #1 loves pumpkin spice. I thought of him when I found this for MABW–

kenn pumpkin spice

Too cute. The little black leggings have a ruffle-y tutu-like thing on the back.

I like to try out new recipes on the Ex-Ex and Son #1 and I found one for muffins on Sally’s Baking Addiction a couple of days ago. I took them to him yesterday and he texted today– “Those muffins btw were excellent. They are already gone.”  That’s my boy! And I am so happy that I found Sally!

Another thing that I’ve found (at Target)–

parchment liners

These are the best. The muffins don’t stick like they do sometimes in regular cupcake liners. (That is a major baking pet peeve of mine.) Target had two boxes left on the shelf and I bought them both.

Pumpkin Crumb Cake Muffins

15 muffins

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (220g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (340g) canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) milk, at room temperature (buttermilk would probably be really good in this recipe)

Crumb Topping

    • 3/4 cup (94g) all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup (50g) packed light or dark brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    • 6 Tablespoons (86g) unsalted butter, melted

Maple Icing (optional)

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) milk2

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C). Spray a 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with cupcake liners. This recipe makes 15 muffins, so prepare a second muffin pan in the same manner. Set aside. (SC note- I didn’t read this part– and wondered why I had leftover batter. I doubled the recipe so I used the leftover batter to bake a small loaf.)
  2. Make the muffins: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt together until combined. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs and milk together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then fold everything together gently just until combined and no flour pockets remain.
  3. Spoon the batter into liners, filling them almost full.
  4. Make the crumb topping: Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice together until combined. Stir in the melted butter until crumbs form. Spoon crumbs evenly on top of the batter and gently press them down into the batter so they’re snug. (The recipe for the topping makes a lot. Don’t be afraid to use a lot on each muffin.)
  5. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 then, keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (177°C). Bake for an additional 16-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The total time these muffins take in the oven is about 21-22 minutes, give or take. Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin pan as you make the icing. *For mini muffins, bake for 11-13 minutes at 350°F (177°C) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Make the icing: Whisk all of the icing ingredients together until combined and smooth. Drizzle over muffins and serve warm. Cover tightly and store at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Make ahead tip: For longer storage, freeze muffins (with or without icing) for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature or warm up in the microwave if desired. Top with icing before serving if needed.

I didn’t make the icing. Not enough time. But I bet it would be really good with the maple syrup added.

bran banana muffins

Today I decided to use up the overripe bananas in my refrigerator when I discovered a forgotten box of Raisin Bran Crunch next to the flour in my pantry. (How on earth I could have forgotten about it I have no idea. It hadn’t been there long, only a couple of weeks, and I am constantly pulling out the flour. Who knows? Anyway, I found a recipe to use as a guide. I cut down on the amount of sugar Genius Kitchen listed and I added cinnamon to mine. See how easy that liner peels off?!

Think I will make a cup of tea and enjoy one! While I do the week’s lesson plans.

 

Banana Raisin Bran Muffins

Makes 12

Adapted from Genius Kitchen

1cups Raisin Bran cereal

cup buttermilk (I used almond milk because that’s all I had in the refrigerator)

1cup vegetable oil

egg

1cup brown sugar

1teaspoon vanilla

small bananas, mashed

cup flour

teaspoon baking soda

teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together cereal and milk; stir and let stand ten minutes while you assemble the other ingredients.

Combine vegetable oil, egg, brown sugar, vanilla and bananas, then add to milk/cereal mixture.

In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Add to first mixture and stir until just blended.

Spoon into greased or lined muffin tins.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

21765220_1350394645073480_5794372481056409144_n

En français:  L’automne est un deuxième ressort où chaque feuille est une fleur.

…Copyright © French Moments Ltd unless otherwise stated. Read more at https://frenchmoments.eu/french-quotes-and-sayings-about-autumn/ .

Bon appétit, tout le monde. I hope you are having a great Sunday afternoon wherever you are and whatever you are doing! Merci, French Moments and Albert Camus!