Guacamole with Tomatoes and Bell Peppers

Guacamole with Tomatoes and Bell Peppers

Guacamole for French Fridays with Dorie?  Why, yes!  Apparently it is quite common in France, especially Paris.  Who knew?  One thing I have learned through this FFWD journey is that French home cooking is just as “melting pot” as American home cooking.

Guacamole

This was a delicious guacamole recipe.  There were instructions to make it smooth or chunky.  As you can see from the pictures I opted for chunky.  The ingredient list includes lime zest and juice, chopped cilantro, chopped red onion, diced jalapeno, grape tomatoes, diced red bell pepper, and (duh!) avocados.  The only change I made was to use only half the lime juice, which I found to be more than enough.

Guacamole and Chips

We ate most of the guacamole with blue corn tortilla chips, but we saved a bit of it to top beef fajitas for our main course.

Beef Fajitas

The best part about this guacamole was that I made it on the first night of vacation!  Guacamole is always good, but it is even better on vacation.

We stayed for several nights at Lake Almanor in Northeastern California.  The lake was fun, but the highlight of our trip (besides the delicious guacamole) was a day trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  The park was beautiful and interesting – a fun time was had by all!

Lake Almanor:

Lake Almanor

Lassen Peak from the “Devastated Area”:

Lassen Peak

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WIP Wednesday: Too Busy To Write Edition

When I started my WIP Wednesday feature last month, my intention was to write an update at least every other week (as long as I had updates to share!).  Well, it’s nearly a month and a half later.  Whoops!  My excuse is not that I haven’t accomplished anything, but rather that I have been so busy with my projects that I haven’t had time to write about them.

Knitting

Larch is coming along nicely!  This has been a very enjoyable project and I love how the pattern shows off the beautiful yarn so well.  I can’t wait to finish this one!

Larch in Progress

Next month I will be starting another mystery knit-a-long!  This one will be a two color hat.  I chose the following colors of Simplicity.  I used the Pantone Fall 2014 Fashion Color Report for inspiration.

Simplicity Yarn

This is another KAL hosted by Skacel and Michelle Hunter.  For more information about the KAL see:  http://knitpurlhunter.com/kal/uncategorized/july-kal-3/.  If you are interested in participating in a mystery KAL, I highly recommend Michelle’s.  They are very well run and I always learn something new!

Home Improvement

My bedroom project is coming along slowly, but surely.  It is slow-going because this is the first time I have done any of this, and I am learning as I go.  The project also got stopped in it’s tracks due to have my mother visit to help me with a garage sale (she stayed in the room, so I had to make it liveable for her) and the school year ending.

Since I last updated you, I have ripped out the closet doors, washed the walls (a painful process because of leftover wallpaper glue), painted the ceiling, and patched the walls.  I had hoped to have a fun before/after photo of the ceiling and new light fixture for you, but we ran into a snag with the light fixture that requires some research and perhaps a consultation with an electrician.  Trust me, the picture will be more fun when the light fixture is installed!

I made a decision about the closet doors!  They have been removed and will not be replaced.  My sister-in-law, who has young children of her own, convinced me to go doorless.  Thinking about ease-of-use and accessibility for my daughter, this made the most sense.  Here is a photo of the closet right now:

Empty Closet

The white bits are where the original shelf and rod were installed.  I removed those and patched the walls.

Right now I am working on masking the rooms so I can get the walls painted.  I hope to get that done when summer school starts in a couple of weeks.  Then the project will be put on hiatus until the new school year starts in August.

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Crab-Avocado “Ravioli”

Crab-Avocado Salad

I can’t believe it’s been a month since my last post!  Where have I been?  Just busy with life.  Working on my home improvement project (making progress, but not done yet), being an advocate for my daughter’s education, hosting my parents for a visit, and planning and executing a successful garage sale.  Whew, I need a break!

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe was the perfect appetizer to make during my parent’s visit.  My Dad and I both have birthdays later this month, so we had a an early birthday party.

So, this appetizer was supposed to look like little “raviolis”, with avocado in place of the pasta.  We were to use a mandoline to thinly slice the whole avocados, pit and all.  After a few successful slices, the pit got jammed in the blade and squished the rest of the avocado.  I could tell that further attempts would just make a big mess.  So I opted to just slice the avocado the traditional way, and make constructed salads.

Crab-Avocado Salad

“Raviolis” or not, this was one delicious appetizer!  The crab meat was seasoned with salt, lime zest and juice, shallot, cilantro, and pistachio oil.  The flavors went wonderfully together.  This was a big hit with everyone!

I have a couple more FFWD recipes that I have made but not blogged about yet.  I hope to catch up on those soon!

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FO: Lady Mary’s Comfort Wrap

Lady Mary's Comfort Wrap

As promised, here is my recently-finished knitting project.  I finished it a couple of weeks ago, but finally got photos taken this weekend.

This was another Downton Abbey-themed mystery knit-a-long like the one I did last year.  Initially I thought I would sit this one out, but then I got caught up in the excitement.  It didn’t help that I found a yarn I fell in love with!

Hand-knit Wrap

The pattern is called a shawl by the designer, but it is shaped more like a wrap.  Luckily I chose my yarn hoping I could wear this as an evening wrap, so the end result is perfect for the use I had in mind!

Lady Mary's Comfort Wrap

It took me extra long to knit this pattern because after I knit almost three quarters of it, I decided to rip it all out and start over.  The finished dimensions were turning out to be VERY long, and I felt that a shorter wrap would be better for me.  It would have hung down to almost my knees.  I am so glad I did this because I am very happy with the finished length.

Long Wrap

I love the lacy details in this wrap.  I have discovered that I enjoy lace knitting quite a bit, though I have only tried simple lace patterns so far.  I will certainly be doing more lace knitting!

The color of this yarn has proven to be very difficult to photograph accurately.  This picture comes the closest:

Malabrigo Silky Merino

Details:

Pattern:  Lady Mary’s Comfort Wrap by Kristen Ashbaugh-Helmreich.  It is available as a free download from Jimmy Beans Wool.

Yarn:  Malabrigo Yarn Silky Merino.  I chose the “Cloudy Sky” colorway and used 510 yards.

Additional photos of my shawl and details about changes I made can be found in my Ravelry project.

 

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Leeks Vinaigrette with Mimosa

Leeks Vinaigrette with Mimosa

My husband took one look at this dish of food and asked, “Is this a French Fridays dish?”.  Definitely not standard fare at our house.  So yes, it is a French Fridays with Dorie dish called Leeks Vinaigrette with Mimosa.

So what is it?  Leeks (the thinner the better) poached until very tender, and generously drizzled with a simple vinaigrette made from walnut oil.  Not only is “mimosa” a champagne cocktail often served for brunch, it is also a garnish of chopped or grated hard-boiled egg.

This was interesting, but we liked it!  The walnut oil vinaigrette was delicious with the soft leeks.  If you have a glut of leeks from your garden or are looking for something unique, give this one a try!

The recipe for Leeks Vinaigrette with Mimosa can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

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Work-in-Progress Wednesday: First Edition

Welcome to Work-in-Progress (WIP) Wednesday!  I hope to be updating you every (well, most) Wednesday on various projects I am working on.

Knitting

I have been knitting pretty continuously the last few months.  I recently finished a project that I will be sharing with you soon.  I just need to take some pictures (hopefully on Sunday as I will be wearing the finished item for Mother’s Day).  I pretty much immediately started a new project that I am quite excited about.

Meet Larch:

Larch Shawlette

It’s a little shawlette or scarflet that I have been wanting to make for over a year.  I had just been waiting for the right yarn to find me.  The yarn and I finally crossed paths recently and I love it!

Back in January I started my first pair of socks as part of a mystery knit-a-long.  This is how far I got:

Focus Pocus

The project stalled for a couple of reasons:

1) I started a Downton Abbey KAL at the same time I started these socks.  I discovered that I am  a one-project-at-a-time girl, and this is the one that didn’t get worked on.

2) After trying on my socks, I found that the cast-on edge is quite tight around my ankle, which discouraged me.  I think I will start over soon with a looser cast-on.  I want the finished socks to be comfortable to wear!

Home Improvement

In other news, I finally started a home improvement project I have been talking about for years!  I am turning our spare bedroom into a freshly painted and revamped bedroom for my daughter.

I have ripped out molding, removed doors, pulled down shelving, and sanded down flaws.  By the end of this project, I will have learned how to paint a room (can you believe this is my first time?), install baseboards and molding around a door, install a closet organizer, and all sorts of mundane home improvement tasks.

Door in Progress

Now I would like to get some opinions about the closet.  I have already removed the original, boring shelf and bar and will replace them with some sort of closet organizing system (I haven’t designed it yet).  I am trying to decide what to do about the doors.

Original Closet

These are the original sliding doors that were installed when the house was built.  They are in good condition and function well.  I have some fun ideas about how I can spruce them up and make them more interesting.  But, I am also considering replacing them with bi-fold type doors.  Any opinions?  Pros and cons for the different types of doors?  I would love to hear what you think!

Whew!  I have a lot going on!  What projects are you working on?

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Tuna Rillettes

Tuna Rillettes

I spent the day pulling molding off the walls in one of our bedrooms; the baseboards and the molding around the door.  Other than the rug burns on my knees, I enjoyed the process.  It felt good to pull out the old to prepare for the new.  Oh, the possibilities!

This was a good week for a simple French Fridays with Dorie selection.  We made an appetizer called Tuna Rillettes.  According to The Food Lover’s Companion, rilettes is a pâté-like spread usually made from pork or other meats, including fish.  I had a wonderful pork rillettes recently at Campo here in Reno.

Tuna Rillettes

Tuna Rillettes couldn’t be easier to make.  Chunk light tuna, sliced shallot, curry powder, a pinch of allspice, crème fraîche, and salt and pepper are placed in a small food processor and whirred until it is fully blended and becomes a nice spread.  After a rest in the refrigerator, spread on crackers and enjoy!

Tuna Rillettes

Yum, this was good!  I enjoyed it as an appetizer one day and for lunch the next.  The subtle curry flavor was delicious.  I did an experiment on my husband:  I asked him to guess the main ingredient.  He couldn’t figure it out, but did enjoy the rillettes very much.

Have a great weekend!

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Green-as-Spring Veal Beef Stew + Visitandine

Happy Friday!  I’m not feeling like the words are going to flow easily today, so we’ll see how this goes…

For French Fridays with Dorie this week I am doing yet another double post.  This week’s recipe was a green stew called Green-as-Spring Veal Stew, except I used beef.  I also made a recipe from earlier this month, a simple cake called Visitandine.

Green-as-Spring Veal Beef Stew

Green-as-Spring Veal Stew was unlike anything I had made before.  It calls for veal stew meat, but I used grass-fed beef chuck roast instead, which I cut into 2-inch cubes.  The main reason I made the substitution is that I had the chuck roast in the freezer just waiting to be used.  It sounds like several FFWD participants made substitutions for the veal – I can’t wait to see what the others used and how it turned out!

Green-as-Spring Beef Stew

So, back to the recipe…  First, the stew meat is boiled for just a minute or two, then drained and rinsed.  This rids the meat of any impurities that might cloud the sauce – very clever!  Next, the meat is simmered in broth with a variety of veggies and seasonings until it is tender.  When the meat is done, it is removed from the broth, and the veggies and seasonings are discarded.  Here’s where it gets interesting (and how it gets green):  After the broth is reduced a bit, a bunch of fresh greens and herbs are added (arugula, spinach, dill, parsley, and tarragon).  After cooking briefly the whole thing is pureed (minus the meat!).  Whisk in some creme fraiche and squeeze in a bit of lemon juice, and the sauce done!

Green-as-Spring Stew

I liked this a lot!  I was concerned that the flavor of the beef would be too bold for the sauce, but it was not at all.  The sauce was fresh-tasting and delicious!  I can imagine using it for many different meats, including chicken.  It’s also a good way to sneak spinach and arugula to wary eaters!

If you are curious what other meats were used, check out the “LYL” on the FFWD site:  LYL: green as spring veal stew.

Visitandine

I am always amazed at how many wonderful things can be made from just a few simple ingredients:  eggs, flour, sugar, and butter.  Visitandine is a perfect example.  This simple cake is easy to make and easy to eat!

Visitandine

This cake is made with whipped egg whites, and the recipe is similar to Coconut Friands and Financiers.  Because it is a simple, vanilla-flavored cake, it is very versatile and can be served many ways.

I made this for Easter dessert and served it with whipped cream and strawberries.  Kind-of like an unlayered shortcake.  While I enjoyed it served this way, I liked it even better the next day eaten out-of-hand as a snacking cake.  I loved letting the simple flavors shine on their own.

If you are looking for a last-minute dessert made with ingredients you have on hand, give this delicious cake a try!

I guess the words flowed OK…maybe too well!

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Baby Bok Choy en Papillote + Quiche Maraîchère

Veggies

It’s Friday once again, and I actually made the “assigned” French Fridays with Dorie recipe this week!  I also caught up on last week’s recipe.  I’m on a roll!  Since I’m so close to being completely caught up on every FFWD recipe (only 6 to go!), I am determined.

This week I celebrated Spring with two dishes that are chock-full of vegetables:  Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps, and Garlic en Papillote and Quiche Maraîchère.

Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps, and Garlic en Papillote

Veggies on Parchment

This week we returned to the traditional French method of cooking in packets of parchment paper or foil.  This time it was some unexpected vegetables inside these packets:  baby bok choy, sugar snap peas, baby onions, and garlic.  The veggies were seasoned with orange zest, salt and pepper, and moistened with a bit of olive oil.

I tried an experiment.  I made two packets of veggies in parchment paper.  Then I put the rest of the vegetables in a baking dish covered in foil. Would there be a difference in taste?

Veggies in Baking Dish

It was close!  The vegetables in the baking dish took a little bit longer to cook and weren’t quite as moist.  The veggies cooked en papillote were slightly browned and a touch more flavorful.  But overall, there wasn’t a big difference.  If you are cooking this for a crowd, the baking dish method would be perfectly acceptable.

Veggies with Salmon

So, did we like it?  I liked it a lot.  The vegetables were perfectly cooked:  tender, but not mushy.  My husband liked the snap peas, but isn’t a fan of bok choy and this dish did nothing to change his mind.  My daughter gave it a baby taste and then didn’t touch it again.

Quiche Maraîchère

Quiche Maraîchère

In Dorie’s words, Quiche Maraîchère is “packed to the brim with celery, leeks, carrots, and little squares of red pepper”.  The word maraîchère means “truck farmer”, and when the word is used in a recipe name, you know that fresh vegetables are used.  In this quiche, there is only just enough custard filling to (barely) hold the vegetables together.  It is topped with Gruyere cheese part-way through cooking.

Slice of Quiche Maraîchère

This quiche was quite tasty!  I enjoyed it very much as a simple dinner with salad on the side.  My husband enjoyed it too, but wished there had been more eggs in the mix (there was only one and a half).  If you are looking for a vegetarian-friendly quiche, this one is a winner!

Both these recipes can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful book, Around My French Table.

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Two French Fridays Catch-Ups

Paris-Brest

I have been playing fast and loose with the French Fridays with Dorie schedule lately.  Between being out of town for a week and trying to catch up on all my FFWD backlogs, I skipped a couple of recipes, but have two make-ups to share with you this week.  I will catch up on the two skipped recipes later this month.

My daughter and I had a wonderful visit in Seattle last week.  It was very relaxing and I enjoyed plenty of good food.  A longer visit gave us lots of quality time with my parents, my sister, and my grandma.  I even got to have a lunch\shopping visit with my good friend who I don’t get to see nearly often enough.   My Mom is a great cook and she fed us well!

Boeuf à la Ficelle

Boeuf à la Ficelle

Boeuf à la Ficelle (literally, “beef on a string”) is a recipe the FFWD group made in February.  I waited to make it until I could collect some of the broth ingredients from my beef guy (yes, I have a beef guy!).

Boeuf à la Ficelle is an impressive recipe that is also perfect for company.  Most of the steps can be completed before your guests arrive, making for easy entertainment.

The star of this dish is the beef tenderloin roast, second only to the home made bouillon (broth).  Surprisingly, the beef is boiled for a short time in the broth.  Tied to a long string, it is easy to remove from the pot.

Beef on a String

This was good!  I served it with the recommended fleur de sel, pepper, and grainy mustard.  I found this wonderful mustard as a special purchase at Trader Joe’s.  It tasted unlike any mustard I have tasted before, and the flavor really enhanced the meat.  If you see this brand of mustard anywhere, I highly recommend it.

Delicious Mustard

If you are looking for a dish to impress, make Boeuf à la Ficelle!

Paris-Brest

Paris-Brest is another dish the Dorista’s made earlier this year.  I chose not to make it at the time because it was too big for my small family, and I wanted to share it with more people.  I made it last week for my family in Seattle!  Not only was it fun to make this dessert for them, but it was also fun to have a new place to take my photos.

Paris-Brest

Paris-Brest is kind of like a giant cream puff filled with vanilla pastry cream that has been enhanced with finely chopped caramelized almonds.  Slivered almonds adorn the top, which is also dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

This was a huge hit!  Everyone loved it.  My daughter ate hers very enthusiastically and then had seconds.  My 5 year old niece wasn’t sure she even wanted to try it, then ended up loving it so much she gave it “20 thumbs up”!  I will be making this one again for sure.

Finally, I couldn’t resist sharing my Dad’s gorgeous daffodils:

Daffodils

Have a great weekend everyone!

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