Sunday, May 1, 2016

You can take the girl out of the mountains...

I've written before about who I am.  The age old question.  The one I started contemplating around 6th or 7th grade.  Who am I?  But more importantly, what makes me me?  That question.  After spending a couple of days with my family last week, I've given more thought to where I am from.  I am from the Appalachian Mountains.  Western North Carolina.  The Blue Ridge Mountains.  I was born there and I spent my first 22 years living there.  I love the city I live in now, but I will always be a mountain girl at heart.

I was born in Spruce Pine Community Hospital.  The hospital was built some time between 1950 and 1958.  I know this because Roy Williams, the men's basketball coach at UNC-Chapel Hill, is from Spruce Pine, too, but he was born in Marion because Spruce Pine didn't have a hospital in 1950. It was built by the time I came along in July 1958.  Roy only spent 6 months in Spruce Pine, though, before moving on to Asheville. (I know this because when he was up for the Carolina job the first time, the sportscasters said he was from Spruce Pine.  I did not know that, so I called his secretary at Kansas and asked. Coach Williams was at the NCAA tournament she politely told me, but she would get back to me. And she did.) I lived there for 18 years, before moving on to Boone and then to Durham.  (Roy and I are practically neighbors, but we haven't run into each other at the grocery store or post office yet.)


I digress.  As usual.

I forget how much I miss the mountains until I go back to visit.  There is just something soothing about the views.  

After exiting Interstate 40 and driving around Marion, this is the stretch of mountain that you have to climb to get to Spruce Pine.  I don't really like this road.  Trucks can lose their brakes.  One of my cousins and her husband died that way about 30 years ago.  

The view at the top is pretty spectacular, though.  And worth the drive.

On the way out of town, before heading down the mountain, I took a little detour to visit with Miss Vicky at Big Lynn Lodge in Little Switzerland.  

In less than two months, my graduating class from Harris High School will hold our 40th Reunion at Big Lynn.  One of my classmates, PW, who lives in Texas and I are frantically trying to find the other 88 names on the back of the program from our Commencement Exercises held on May 28, 1976. 

We know that we have already lost at least six of our classmates, including my cousin, Kathy.  It is past time for a get-together.  It was nice to meet Miss Vicky and put a face to a name.

I was in the mountains to take my baby sister Moo to the hospital in Boone for sinus surgery.  I would post the photo she asked me to take post-surgery, but I think she would stop speaking to me.  And I do not want that to happen.  I am the only one of my siblings to leave Spruce Pine.  As a matter of fact, Mama Mildred, Sister Cindy, and Moo all live on the same street, Bell Street, named for my Papa.  On the way home from the hospital the day after the surgery, I couldn't resist pulling off in Linville for a couple of photos.  Moo was still pretty drugged, so she didn't object.  I spent three summers working in Linville at Eseeola Lodge as a waitress.

It is much fancier now, featuring a spa and an updated pool, as well as the golf course.  It also stays open longer, not just Memorial Day through Labor Day the way it did back in the '70's.  It was a great place to work and live.

One of my Lodge buddies, The Honorable JR, has a family home next to the Lodge.  I had to take a photo.

And my old friend, The Grandfather, is still lying there watching the clouds roll by and allowing hikers to climb all over him.

Although I have no photos to prove it, I don't think I've ever seen so many shades of green. The trees covering the mountains are leafing out.  Spring has hit the Appalachians.  Spring and fall put on magnificent shows of color up there.

I physically left 36 years ago, but my heart is and always will be there.  I hope that I appreciated the beauty that surrounded me for those 22 years, even while I dreamed of taking airplanes to faraway places.  I knew that I wanted a different life than I could have there. Marrying The Mailman (who, by the way, just happened to be bringing mail to my mom as I was leaving... bit unsettling to run into him after all these years) would not have been a good idea.  I needed a bigger world, a world where I could teach middle school French and make my own way.  Daddy didn't understand, but I think that he was proud of me.  Mama Mildred has always encouraged me to follow my dreams, even if that meant leaving the mountains.  I've never regretted the decision to leave, but I sure miss the views and my family.

While sitting around the table at Mama Mildred's house, I remembered to look through her tattered cookbook- the one she and Sister Cindy fight over- and find her favorite pound cake recipe.  I wrote it out in that cookbook for her, copying it from Southern Living magazine, she says.  I do not remember where she found it.  So, my kitchen smells like chocolate cake.  It just came out of the oven...

 (I took a croissant-making class yesterday at Sur La Table and was told that my goodies will bake better if they are not just placed on the wire rack in the oven, but on a "platform."  Thus the pizza stone. That is supposed to make them bake more evenly.  We shall see.)

The Ex-Ex will be eating chocolate cake for breakfast this week.

Mama Mildred's Mahogany Pound Cake

1 c. butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
6 eggs, separated, at room temperature
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur's)
1/2 cup cocoa (the last of the box of Van Houten I brought home from France in January)
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan.  Set aside.
Cream butter; gradually add sugars, beating well at medium speed.
Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Sift flour and cocoa together. 
Combine sour cream and baking soda.
Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down the bowl often. Mix just until blended after each addition.
Stir in vanilla.
Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form.  Fold into the cake batter.
Spoon into the pan.
Place in cold oven, set the temperature to 325˚F and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. (I had to add 12 extra minutes.)
Cool in pan 10 minutes.
Remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

Bon appétit to all my fellow mountaineers!  Enjoy the views wherever you are.  And eat more chocolate cake.  Life is short.

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?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Re-entry 2016

It just isn't easy.  It never is.  But this year... maybe the toughest re-entry yet.  Why?  Many emotions are tied up in knots.

  • Relief. I have returned the kiddies home safe and sound.  No lost passports.  No picked pockets.  No broken bones.  Or broken hearts.  Actually, I am not at all sure about that last one...
  • Sadness.  I miss them.  I miss eating breakfast and dinner with them.  One of the girls started calling our meals "family dinners."  I miss their random hugs.  I have never been photographed so many times with individual kiddies.  I miss their excitement and eagerness to try new foods and see new sights.  And their laughter.  I miss France.  In spite of air traffic controller strikes.
  • Regret.  Did I take enough photos?  Did I show them everything I meant to?  Why did I lose my patience with one or two more than once? Did I send home emails to parents conveying how much I truly enjoyed spending 12 days with this group?
  • Joy.  I was back in France-- with my students who have endured two years of my stories about this amazing country.  I spent time with almost all of my Favorite Frenchies.  I was surrounded by this beautiful language that I have spent most of my life trying to master.  I wandered the streets of Arles once again.
  • Hunger #1.  The chance to eat my favorite foods once again... Foie gras.  Duck.  Bread. Cheese.  Pain aux raisins.  Gratin. Aïoli. Sandwich au jambon, fromage, et beurre. Pierre Hermé macarons.  
  • Hunger #2. To see more and more and more.  To really see details.  To really look at people. To be mindful and live in the moment.
  • Satisfaction. I think that the kiddies enjoyed the activities I planned.  It all fell into place almost  as if by magic.  Wreath-laying ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery.  Macaron-making at Atelier des Gâteaux.  Paris Levallois vs Monaco basketball game.  Meeting Tatiana de Rosnay in the park outside of Bon Marché and sharing poems written about Sarah's Key with her.  The most perfect weather we could hope for during the month of March.  
  • Exhaustion.  I fell into bed every night bone-tired.  We probably averaged 9 miles of walking a day.  I laugh just thinking about trying to keep my eyes open so that I could compose an email every night to parents and sound at least partially sane.
  • Gratitude.  This is my on-going project, with the help of Pretend Daughter #2.  I do not have the words to thank this group of kiddies, my co-chaperone Mr. P, our families, and my school administration.  For trusting me in the face of daily worries about terrorism and all of the what-ifs that keep some people buttoned up and locked down in their homes.  I will never be one of those people.  
There is so much to say.  So much that I will leave unsaid for now, but save for later posts.  I will look at my 1500+ photos and relive this trip for a long time to come.

Merci à toutes et à tous!

One of the girlies pointed me in the direction of an Eiffel Tower cake mold while we were roaming around in La Grande Épicerie at Bon Marché department store.  I decided to make a chocolate cake in it this morning.

I cannot believe that I forgot to add sprinkles until the very last part of the first cake.  And I completely forgot to add them to the mold on the second one.  Oh well.  Next time, n'est-ce pas?

Gâteau au Chocolat à la Tour Eiffel
recipe adapted from Taste of Home

2/3 c. butter, softened
1-2/3 c. sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. baking cocoa
1-1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1-1/3 c. buttermilk

Confectioners' sugar or your favorite frosting

In bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a separate bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt until combined.
Add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with milk, beating until smooth after each addition.
Pour batter into greased and floured pan. (The recipe calls for a 13x9-in pan.  I used my new mold, buttering and dusting with cocoa powder.  The recipe made two of these cakes. Cupcakes are always a good idea.)
Bake at 350˚F 35-40 minutes or until cake tests done (less for cupcakes).  Cool on wire rack.  When cake is cool, dust with confectioners' sugar or frost, if desired.
12-15 servings

Bon appétit to all my 8th graders!  Je vous aime!  May you always be so enthusiastic and may you travel to wonderful places during your lifetime.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

France 2016

Classroom board art in anticipation of our upcoming trip. 
We can't wait!! 
21 excited students + 2 enthusiastic chaperones + an amazing itinerary + my Favorite Parisien + ACIS' awesome arrangements = 1 unbelievable Spring Break!

Bon appétit!

I was practicing posting from the iPad again last night when I did this. 
Now I am going to do something I do not do on this blog.  Oh, nothing scintillating.  Unless, of course, you love to have your cake and eat it, too!  I am going to post this recipe that I found on Clotilde Dusoulier's website, Zucchini and Chocolate.  I do not want to lose it and I do plan to make it today.  The ingredients are on my shopping list. 

Jean-François Piège's Childhood Cake Recipe
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Serves 8.
    For the pan:
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • For the batter:
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, softened
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 organic orange (about 200g/7oz), carefully washed
  • 120 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. First, prepare the pan. Butter the bottom and sides of a 22-to-25-cm (9-to-10-inch) round cake pan with the 2 teaspoons butter. Sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons sugar, then shake and tilt and swoosh the pan around to coat. It is fun.
  3. Next up, make the batter. Cream together the butter and sugar. Crack in the eggs one by one and mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Grate the zest from the entire orange over the bowl. Juice the orange and add 125 ml (1/2 cup) of the juice to the batter. Mix until smooth.
  5. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold the flour mixture into the batter and mix until just combined.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size pan you used, until the cake is golden brown and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.
  7. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes (no more, or the caramel on the crust will harden and stick to the pan), then flip onto a serving plate.
  8. Let cool completely before serving.

Monday, February 29, 2016

My Best Friend

Son #2 made an excruciatingly difficult, very mature decision last week.  He is a first year law student and he found that he does not have enough time to keep up with his work and take care of Sam, arguably the most adorable dog in the world.  Sam is very attached to Son #2.  They have been the very best of friends for the past 18 months.  I have shed not a few tears over this decision.  The Ex-Ex and I cannot keep Sam.  We don't have enough time for him either.  Son #1 and GF tried to keep Sam, but it didn't work out.  Sam missed his best friend too much.  Son #2 called me and we talked, tearfully, and I told him I would come for Sam and find him a good home.  Son #2 trusts me to do that.  However, after we parted ways and he went back to his apartment and Sam and I drove home, Son #2 wrote down his feelings and asked me to give it to anyone who was thinking of adopting his dog.

I will let him be the guest blogger today share his story with you.

Sam is best thing that ever happened to me. He found his way into my life when he was around 5 months old and, although I’ve spent days and weeks and months training him, I am sure he has taught me far more about life than I could have ever bestowed upon him. I got Sam in Durham, North Carolina from a rescue shelter where I was informed that he was mistreated and/or neglected by his first owner(s) and was found abandoned on the side of the road.

Sam is a great dog. Like me, it takes some time for Sam to fully trust someone he doesn’t know. Once you’ve proven to him that you’re worth his love and affection he will get very attached and will gladly help you tackle anything life throws at you. He also occasionally has some fairly severe anxiety and can become stressed very easily, especially around bedtime. Sam needs more training on correcting some of his anxiety, the occasional resource guarding, and being social around people he doesn’t know. Despite my best efforts, I was not capable of providing him with the training he needs and deserves in these areas. In the last few months I have become busier than I ever have been and I know he deserves more from a best friend. He needs someone with time, energy, and experience with dogs and training. Sam loves being trained and will happily spend a couple hours every day working on new tricks and commands. Sam is completely house trained and never has accidents inside the house anymore. When he was younger he had an issue with destructive chewing, especially when left alone, however in the last several months this has improved greatly and he is now completely fine being left alone for extended periods of time. Sam also now has a very good bite inhibition when playing and wrestling and will immediately shower you with kisses if you let him know he’s playing too rough. Sam became very bonded to me and although he is trained well with the basics, it may take some time for him to learn he has a new pack leader.

After I moved out of a big two-story house and into a small apartment, Sam’s anxiousness and behavioral problems worsened despite my efforts to improve them. I believe that having a lot of room to run around and play with other dogs will be a tremendous help in correcting some of his behavioral issues. He has always played very well with other dogs and is usually the dog at the park that initiates a big game of chase. Sam is a very smart dog and loves problem solving games and toys. For the year and a half that Sam was by my side he knew exactly how I felt at all times. When I was down, Sam would lie at my feet, lick my face, and stare into the deepest corners of my heart and soul until he saw a smile on my face.

Sam loves walks, staring at squirrels, playing fetch, eating rabbit poop while I ask him not to, and being chased. He absolutely loves being chased around. He hates baths, getting his nails clipped, and being told he can’t get on the couch. Sam can wake up at sunrise and play until the sun goes down or he can sleep in and lay around the house. Sam has never been a particularly loud or vocal dog. After being alone for longer than 3 minutes, he will greet you with a toy (or sock) in his mouth and give you an excited bark as his tail tries to fly off of his back.

I was looking forward to watching Sam grow old and to watch the hair around his snout transition from black to gray. I was looking forward to giving him a big yard to claim as his own. I was looking forward to the next life lesson that Sam would teach me. Never in a million years did I want to give Sam up, but over the past several months it has become clear to me that I can no longer give him everything he needs and deserves. As much as I would have preferred to be selfish and keep him, Sam deserves more than I can provide. I hope you give Sam the chance to win over your heart the way he won mine.

Be happy, Sammy Dog.  Run in the sunshine and the moonlight, dig in the dirt, eat sticks and pine cones, lick the faces of your new loved ones, snore as you sleep soundly, and be your best dog self. Your are loved and will always be remembered.  And missed.

Bon appétit to all furry critters and the people who love them.