Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bear's Garlic

It was only 2 or 3 years ago that I learned about the pungent spring treat, ramps.

As I was working in my sister's yard last week I noticed that the raised bed in front of her front door was abundantly full of what I had always thought was lily of the valley. When I pulled one of the plants that had escaped the bed and was growing between two stones on the walkway I got a distinct onion/garlic smell and that got me thinking these plants may be ramps. I pulled one from the bed, taking care to get the whole plant down to the roots, and brought it inside to compare it to pictures of ramps on the internet.

One of the characteristics of ramps is that they have a purplish stem and the stem of what I had was white. Even though the smell was oniony I decided not to eat them until I was sure of what it was as I had read that lily of the valley and another plant of the same family were poisonous.

My sister got home from Greece the next day and told me that what they have growing is bear's garlic, a cousin of ramps. I harvested a few more plants and made breakfast for us-

This past Sunday, Jenny, Nico, Roland, Jocelyn, Steve and I went for a hike in the gorge in the forest that is not far from the house. We hiked along trails that were surrounded by dense beds of bear's garlic. It was everywhere. You can find patches of ramps throughout the Metroparks in Cleveland but this forest was covered with massive beds of the plant. When we go back to hike again this weekend I will take pictures.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rainy Day

I was home without a car today and it was cold, grey and rainy so what else would I do but cook? I made a double batch of my favorite granola from my Mom's recipe and a double batch of chocolate chip cookies from my own recipe.

This is the granola I grew up with so I'm sure that is at least partly why I'm partial to it but it is also because it is a good mix of flavors and it's not too sweet.

Here is Mom's recipe.

Mom’s Granola

5 Cups Oats
1 Cup Each of the Following:
- Sunflower Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
- Coconut
- Wheat Germ
- Soy Flour
- Almonds
- Oil
- Honey

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Toss them around to evenly distribute.

Pour the oil then the honey into a large measuring cup. By pouring the oil in first the honey will not stick to the cup. Try to mix them together as best you can with a whisk.

Drizzle the oil and honey mixture a little at a time over the dry ingredients giving a healthy toss with each drizzle. Do not pour too much at a time or the granola with clump. Some clumps are inevitable. Once I finish pouring the oil and honey over the dry ingredients I rub the granola between my hands to work out most of the clumps.

Distribute the granola evenly on a jellyroll pan. Don’t pile it up very high or it won’t cook properly; you will need to bake a batch at a time.

Bake in a 325-degree oven for a total of 25-30 minutes or until nicely golden brown. It is important to stir the granola around on the pan after the first 15 minutes of baking. I like to use a wooden spatula to turn the granola as the side of it is good for chopping up clumps when I’m turning the granola. Keep an eye on the granola for the last few minutes as once it browns it burns quickly.

After you have baked all the granola, toss in a cup of raisins or other dried fruit. Do not bake the granola with the raisins or they will take on a bitter note.

A few notes-

I use Bob's Red Mill Organic Oats. They are the best tasting and cooking oats I've ever had.

I also use Bob's Red Mill wheat germ and soy powder.

I buy nuts and seeds from Trader Joe's. The price usually can't be beat and I can't get fresher nuts anywhere in Cleveland and I like that Trader Joe's lists the country of origin on all of their nuts and dried fruits.

For the powdered milk I use Organic Valley. Theirs is my preferred brand of organic milk to begin with based on taste and the way they operate as a company and I also like the taste of their milk powder. I've had other brands that had not so great tastes to them.


When Steve travels for business he is partial to Hilton hotels because we get great advantages from their rewards program. One of the Hilton brands, Doubletree, gives warm cookies at check-in. I am a fan of their cookies and I tried to duplicate them at home. My recipe is a blend of the good old recipe on the back of the Nestle Toll House Chips bag and the recipe I found on line for the Doubletree Hotel cookies with a few of my own tweeks.

Diane’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 Cup Softened Butter
¾ Cup Dark Brown Sugar
¾ Cup White Sugar

Lightly blend the butter and sugar. Do not over-blend. You don’t want to beat it, do it with a wooden spoon or your hands.

2 Eggs
1 ½ tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. Lemon Juice

Add the liquids to the butter and sugar and lightly blend.

½ Cup Oats, chopped in the food processor
2 ¼ Cup Flour
1 ½ tsp. Baking Soda
¼- ½ tsp Cinnamon, depending on your taste
1 tsp. Salt

Mix the dry ingredients into the butter, sugar, liquid mixture.

Then add:

1 ½ Cup Chopped Walnuts
1 Bag Chocolate Chips

Bake 13-16 minutes in a 350-degree oven or until your desired brownness.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What's New

I have one more post to write about our time in Paris with our friends but I have not had a chance to sit down and put it together.

Last week, I cooked, cleaned and worked in the yard with Nico.

Nico's parents, Roland and Jocelyn came for a visit last Friday and are staying until this afternoon. We had a wonderful weekend visiting with them.

Saturday, Jocelyn and I went to the market in Vevey. She bought rabbit and I bought a large rib roast. That night Steve cooked the rib roast on the grill and we also had baked potatoes and I made blue cheese dressing which we had with endive. Jocelyn made a delicious rhubarb tart with rhubarb from Jenny and Nico's garden.

Sunday, Jocelyn made rabbit with mustard sauce and green beans and salad and I made an apple pie.

I did lots of laundry and ironing over the weekend so that Steve would have clean clothes and pressed shirts for his trip back to France this week.

This morning I am copying recipes from my recipe book to put into a book that I am making for Jenny. The recipes are all family recipes. Lots of cake and cookie recipes from my Grandma Black such as oatmeal cake, gingerbread cake, kolachkies, Russian Tea Balls. Savory recipes from Nelly such as onion & turmeric chicken, bean stew and quiche. Some Italian recipes from my Grandma Holley like cannoli shells and filling, sauce and pasta. Some of my own recipes like BBQ sauce, chocolate chip cookies, pie fillings and crust and Indian dishes.

I will post more this week but I wanted to say hello, especially to my Grandma Black and Uncle Red. I love you.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Meet Harold

Did you know that there are tons of geckos and lizards in the Alps? No? Me either until my first visit after Jenny and Nico moved here.

There is a gecko that has taken up residence in a little hole in the wall where it meets the patio, right next to the door to the terrace.

He was none to happy this morning when I went out to sweep the terrace and wash the windows. I disturbed his sun bathing. He scurried back into his home and would poke his head out to scope out the situation every few moments. After about twenty or so looks he must have decided that I was of no harm to him as he made his way back out and laid in the sun while I went about my cleaning. We went through the same dance when I decided to get a picture of him. He scurried away when I got too close with the camera but after a few in and outs he chilled and had another lay-down in the sun. I figured that since we have established such a relationship I should give him a name. I have decided to call him Harold.

I miss...

Mom & Ralph, Dad & Dani, Stan & Nelly, Mark & Jacqueline, Brett & Teresa, Brad & Crystal, Grandma, Uncle Red, Justin, Hunter, Stephanie, Brandon, Taylor, Gabbie, Izzie, Jake, Uncle Don & Julie, Aunt Donna & Myron, Karen & Jim, Tom, Debra & Scott, Mark, Era & Pat, Tom, Caitlyn & David, Pattie, Mike & Sue, Nicole & John, Nancy & Bob, Rosemary & Charlie & Chuck, Lucy, Mike & Marika, Stuart & Harold, Cecelia, Nancy, Janet, Pat, The Super Club Gang, Uncle Jack, Craig & Gretchen, Jeff, Belle, Brian & Jen, Carm, Justine, Skye, Dave & Beth (especially since they are awaiting their new arrival), Deb & Jen & Casey, Carol & Jen & Julie & Leah, Jay, Lucy & Anne, Anu, Sandy, all our other friends and family, getting to see Ingrid, the lake, the Shaker market (especially seeing the farmers, bakers and honey-makers and the time spent with Karen on Saturdays), Coit Market, poker with Mike and his crew, reading to and visiting with Harold, my Viking range, my orchids, our artwork, Fire, thrift stores, NPR, Girl's Night, my washer and dryer (European ones just aren't the same), getting to see the new Greenhouse Tavern, Lolita, Huntington Park, my bike.

All of that is not to say that I am home-sick or would want to trade this time in Europe for being home but it is funny how I miss folks that I don't see regularly all the more because we are away.

Of course I miss my parents but I really miss my nieces and nephews. Shortly before Steve and I left on this trip, I had an experience with my nieces and nephews that will stay with me forever. My niece, Taylor, had a volleyball tournament on the far east side of Cleveland. Instead of my brother Brett, Teresa and the kids staying at our house (they live in Columbus)they decided to stay at a hotel that was half-way between where we live and where the tournament was. This way they didn't have as much driving back and forth to do and the kids could have the fun of the hotel pool and all. One of the nights Taylor's younger siblings: Gabbie, Izzie and Jake were going to spend the night with me and Steve at our house. I went to the hotel to pick them up. My brother Brad was there with Justin, Hunter, Stephanie and Brandon. The whole fam-damily was hanging out in the atrium of the hotel visiting and having fun. It was happy hour and the place was full of folks having a good time. When I walked in Gabbie, Izzie, Jake, Justin and Hunter all raced towards me with huge smiles and endless hugs and kisses (Taylor and Stephanie were off doing there own "older" girl things, I like to think they would have been just as happy to see me :)). They were literally jumping into my arms as fast as I could pick them up one at a time. I just about melted. After we hugged and giggled and kissed and I was able to take a seat, the woman who I sat next to said "Those kids certainly love you". I said "they sure do and it makes me one lucky Auntie". That's for sure!

Easter In Paris

I can't believe I'm saying this but, on the one hand, it was nice to have a break from hosting Easter this year. One the other hand, I greatly missed hosting Easter this year. I missed the family and friends sharing the celebration meal. I missed the pierogies from Polish Village Cafe in Detroit, I missed Stan's sausage and horseradish but most of all I missed the house full of family, nieces and nephews running around and cooking with my Mom.

We had a lovely Easter nonetheless.

I waited a little long to start looking for a restaurant in Paris for an Easter meal. By the time I started looking all of the places I thought might be good choices were booked. It couldn't have worked out better however as we had a perfect brunch at Drouant, not far from the Opera Garnier. This was the best meal in Paris on this trip for me.

From the gorgeous art deco entry to the elegant, spacious and well appointed dining room, Drouant was as much a feast for the eyes and spirit as it proved to be for the tummy. Unfortunately I didn't take pictures of the dining room but here are pics of our brunch.

The bread service was fabulous. I don't know if they make their breads in house or order in but it was the bestbread I had this trip.

The pastries were also very fine.

The meal consisted of four small plates: a poached egg with thin slices of jambon Iberico, carrot soup, fruit salad and herbed fromage blanc with smoked salmon. There were accompanying breads, pastries and fresh squeezed juices, coffees and teas.

The fruit salad was a mix of fruits with toasted hazelnuts and pistachios and a seed that was similar to flax seed though I think it was something else.

The carrot soup was scented with cumin and garnished with a crouton and chopped chives.

The smoked salmon was good but the star of this little plate was the creamy, slightly salty, herbed fromage blanc. I couldn't stop slathering it on the chewy and crusty country wheat bread that was part of our bread service.

Everything about our brunch was a treat but the best part for me was this egg. I have never had an egg cooked like this before. The white was cooked all the was through, but softer than the white of a hard boiled egg, and the yolk was warm and runny with no solid spots. This egg was heaven and then some. There was no need to salt the egg as the jambon iberico provided just the right amount of salt with each bite. We deduced that this egg must have been cooked sous vide. I have never had a protein or vegetable cooked sous vide that I cared for but if this is how one can cook and egg with the method then I am all for it.

A little dark chocolate and brandied orange slices to end the meal.

I found an English speaking Catholic church and Steve and I went to the Easter Sunday evening mass. We've been to French and Latin masses in Paris but it was nice to attend an English mass.

When we arrived the choir was practicing. The whole choir was Filipino and as it turned out, though there was a diverse group gathered for mass most of the congregants were Filipino. I was curious to know if this is a Filipino church or if perhaps the Sunday evening service attracts Catholic Filipinos living in Paris but I never asked. The choir was accompanied by two and sometimes three guitars instead of a piano or organ so it was like a folk choir. The choir was very cool and it was a nice mass and it was very good to take communion.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Paris, Our Visit With Friends Friday & Saturday

Our first dinner together in Paris was at L' Ambassade D' Auvergene. I found the restaurant on "Paris Notes", Top Twenty Paris Restaurants. This is not a list of all the finest dining in Paris but rather a guide for some noteworthy spots that are fairly budget friendly as well as a few of the finer dining places. I figured with the company L'Ambassade D'Auvergene was keeping on the list (several places I think well of) that it would be a place to try good regional/country cuisine while we were in Paris. I was not in love with my choice. The restaurant felt touristy and the food was pedestrian. I loved the idea of dishes from the Auvergene region and did some reading about the area before we went to the restaurant so I would know what to expect but the dishes did not rise to the level I was expecting. I found the plates flat, not well seasoned or robust and overall didn't enjoy the dining experience there which is why I won't post any pictures from that meal.

On Saturday we set out to make two of the requisite stops for a first visit to Paris. We first walked down to the Seine and crossed to Ile de la Cite to see Notre Dame. On our way there we poked our heads into several antique shops and art galleries in the St. Paul's Village District, an area of shops and galleries that runs from the back of St. Paul's church down to the Seine.

It being April and the height of tourist season in Paris, the line to go inside the church was long. Our guests decided that seeing the beautiful cathedral from the outside was good enough for a first visit.

Here we are the four musketeers-

From Notre Dame we went to see my favorite Paris icon, the Eiffel Tower. I am madly in love with the Eiffel Tower. Every time I see the towering construction it takes my breath away and every time I see it lit at night it brings me to tears.

This beautiful, frame-worthy, night time photo of the Eiffel Tower is, of course, one of Edsel's shots.

The blurry shot below of Steve and me was not taken with Edsel's uber-amazing camera.

Also from Edsel, Steve & Beth and Edsel & Beth on the third viewing platform of the Eiffel tower. I bailed at the second level.

Paris, The Marais

We arrived in Paris Friday afternoon and got ourselves settled into the apartment then walked around the Marais for a while.

The Marais is unique in that it is home to many sub-cultures all of whom co-exist peacefully in this quarter. There is a large gay population in The Marais, a large punk/goth population, a large artist and musician population and a large population of Jews from the secular to orthodox and everything in between. The area is also a lively spot at night for the late twenties crowd.

The district is one of the older sections of Paris outside of Ile de la Cite. It has gone through several waves of being in and out of fashion over the centuries. The Marais was established as a home for the wealthy and aristocracy of Paris in the 16th and early 17th century as is demonstrated by the grandeur of of the homes and other buildings from those years. The area gradually fell out of fashion and thus into disarray as Versailles went from hunting lodge to Royal Residence in the late 1600's and the elite of The Marias went out to settle themselves around The Chateau Versailles. The opulence of The Marais faded as mansions and small estates were broken up into small apartments and one room flats with shared cooking and washing facilities for whole buildings or even neighborhoods. The area saw some revitalization over the years but really this new wave of popularity started in the 60's when the French government set about to restore some of the significant buildings of The Marais.

Here we are leaving our apartment building (picture taken by Edsel). I include this picture because of the door behind us. Our apartment building was long ago a single family residence. The blue door was the door the horses and carriages would enter to access the courtyard in the center of the building. Paris is full of these courtyards that you don't see from the street, places that were once the carriage park are now beautiful courtyards and gardens shared by those who live in the apartments and condos of the building .

The history and culture of Jews in France and Paris is long and fascinating. There are many pockets of Jews throughout the city of Paris but The Marais is know as the center of Jewish life in Paris. The street Rue de Rosier and the immediate surrounding areas are full of both kosher and non-kosher Jewish eateries, bakeries and other shops. There are many schuls, kloyz and besmedresh in The Marais. There are mikvehs or ritual bath houses where orthodox women go to wash after their menstrual cycle. There are many opportunities to learn of Jewish history in the area from Jewish-centric museums and bookstores as well as from reading the many wall plaques scattered throughout the area that speak of the loss of Jews from the Marais who were sent to concentration camps under Hitler's puppet Vichy government.

The Marias is a lively, vibrant district of Paris both for the diversity of its residents and visitors as well as the culture the area offers. I feel very at home in The Marais and am glad it has become my neighborhood of Paris. I can walk to Ile de la Cite, Centre Pompidou, The Picasso Museum, The European Photograhy Museum, The Louvre, Musee D'Orsay, The Latin Quarter, St. Eustache, St. Paul, Place Republique, Opera Garnier Centre Pompidou, Rue de Rosier and on and on. I enjoy being in an area where I am not bound by the metro but can walk to so much of what I like to do.

One of the bakeries in the Jewish section of The Marais on Rue de Rosier. Obviously this is not a kosher bakery as they were open Friday evening-

I started this post as "Paris, The Rest Of Our Visit With Friends" but got lost in talking about the Marais! I will have to start again with my summary of our Paris visit with our friends.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Say Hi, Maybe Introduce Yourself!

I started this blog as way for me to have a record of the travels my husband and I share, a diary if you will. I knew that I would also share it with friends as a way to keep in touch while Steve and I travel. I had no idea that folks from around the world would find my blog and read it regularly. When I started the blog I subscribed to Stat Counter, a free service that allows you to have some basic information about who is visiting your blog. I don't know who all my visitors are personally but I can see where they're from. I can not express how much it tickles me to see readers from Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Brazil, Indonesia, Poland, Canada, Spain, Norway, The UK, Romania, Austria, India, Germany, Chile, France and New Zealand as well as from all over the United States.

I am thrilled to have so many readers and fascinated to find out how you found my blog.

If you are so inclined, please register as a follower or leave a comment (you can do so anonymously, you don't even have to register) to let me know who you are, how you found the blog and why you read it.

If you prefer not to add a comment, that's O.K. too. I'm just happy to know you're there and I give you my warmest welcome.


Paris Digs

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I love finding great places to stay when Steve and I travel. When I found out that two of our friends from Cleveland were coming for a visit to Switzerland and that we would take a trip together to Paris I started looking for that *perfect*, modestly priced hotel. All the hotels that fit the bill in the area where we like to stay were either booked or a little out of our price range. I decided to look for apartments, doh, why didn't I do that to begin with?

I found a most wonderful flat for us to rent in the Marais about 4 blocks from the flat where Steve and I usually stay (too small for the four of us). It was a perfect place to stay, nice sized, two bathrooms, very sunny, fab kitchen and on a quiet street. All that and a bit of history too. We were told that the building was once home to Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan who the character, D'Artagnan, of the Three Musketeers was based on.

As much as Steve and I like to try new things we are also creatures of habit. Once we find the *perfect* this or that we stick with it as is the case with our favorite creperie that is just around the corner from the flat we usually rent.

We like this creperie because it is not just a street stand but a little restaurant that serves nicer savory and sweet crepes than you are likely to get on the street. They have a small seating area inside on the first floor, a small sunny room with a few tables on the second floor and several tables on the sidewalk. They serve very good espresso. I don't know what it it but Steve and I get more stale espresso in Paris than anywhere else so in addition to all the other things we like about this place that they have rich, non-stale, espresso makes it our go-to neighborhood spot.

It was so cool to get to share our little section of Paris with friends and also to take them to see the sites. I don't know of many things or experiences that aren't better shared!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Special Treat

Before I left Cleveland a good friend gave me a box of confections from Lilly Chocolates.

There are sacrifices I make for lent that I keep to myself but most of my friends know that I give up sweets every year. Sweets means candy, chocolate, ice cream, basically any kind of dessert. It is hard to keep a lid on that one since we eat with friends so often and it becomes obvious when I'm the only one at a table not eating dessert. My Lenten fasts and sacrifices are meaningful to me and I keep to my fasts and don't sneak in things here or there.

This is the first year that I have ever broken my fast from sweets other than a time or two where I had a bite of a sweet, momentarily forgetting it was Lent. Fortunately, I have caught myself right away when that has happened.

So, here we are on this trip and I had no intention of stopping my Lenten fast from sweets but on our first morning here, tired from the plane ride and 7 AM arrival, I slipped. Steve and I stopped at a patisserie on our way in from the airport. I ordered a cafe cream and a slice of plum tart. I was half way through the tart when I realized what I had done. In my sleepy haze I decided that for this one year I would abstain from abstaining, at least from sweets.

I did however decide that I needed to maintain some of my fast from sweets and I chose not to have any candy or chocolate until Easter.

Thus, this sweet little box sat unopened on the kitchen counter from the time we first arrived in Switzerland until last night.

Since Steve and I were in Paris with our two friends for Easter, the box sat here waiting for my return. When I returned I decided that I would wait for our friends to leave before I opened "the box". The box had now taken on a magical quality to me. I opened it last night and shared three of the lovely chocolates with Steve. We will likely share the other three tonight.

Thank you Jean. Your gift brought me much pleasure, not just last night when I shared some of the chocolates with Steve but every morning when I walked into the kitchen and saw the box on the counter.


Last Thursday two of our friends from Cleveland came to visit. I picked them up in the morning at the airport in Geneva.

We stopped on the way back to the house at a sweet little bakery that is in the general vicinity of the farms. We choose several sandwiches to share for lunch.

In the afternoon we walked along the waterfront in Montreux. I learned that there is a market on the waterfront every Thursday with produce and antique/flea market sorts of goods.

Thursday night I made a fondue, steamed artichokes and salad for dinner. It was the best fondue I've had if I do say so myself. When ever I've had fondue out I've always felt it lacking in flavor. This was my first time making my own fondue and I bought the pre-grated mix from the lovely fromagerie one town over where I buy my cheeses. I asked for the strongest of the fondue mixes and added four cloves of garlic and a healthy amount of the Swiss white wine Fondant.

Here is the garlic steeping in the wine.

And here is the cheese being melted a handful at a time.

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of the finished fondue but oh my gosh was it good! We had it with baguette and also a slightly softer-crusted bread with sesame and poppy seeds. The artichoke hearts were wonderful dipped in the fondue.

Thanks to Edsel for the pics from the day. Most of my posts from the week of the visit will be with Edsel's great pics.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

More From Last Weekend, In Paris

Here are a few more pics from our weekend in Paris with Steve's cousins.

Marie-Catherine's husband Jean-

Jean is a huge blues and classic rock fan. He treated me to a mini concert in the living room.

Jean took us to walk in the Latin Quarter, Mt. St-Geneviève area, and The Luxemburg gardens.

This area of Paris was settled the the Romans when they over took Paris in 52 BC. About 60 years ago a forum/amphitheater was uncovered during excavation for a new building. The building plans were halted and the forum was made into a park.

Steve and Jean in the forum park-

Steve's other cousin Stephan and his wife Sophie and Jean's good friend, William, came over to join us for dinner. We had a huge rib roast cooked on the grill, merguez sausages and a potato/reblochon gratin. I love French beef. It is deep and rich flavor and is farm raised.

I didn't get pictures of Marie-Catherine, Sophie, Stephan or any of the kids which means that Steve and I will have to stop back for a few days to visit before we head back to the states!