I'm slowly making my way back into the kitchen. My husband and I took our first trip in two years without our French Bulldog, Bisous. We went to a part of the U.S. we love, Sonoma and Napa Valleys, where we were welcomed by temperatures in the low 70's. If you spent any time in Minnesota during this past winter, you will understand just how much we enjoyed northern California's weather...
The moment we returned home we headed straight for our veterinary clinic to pick up Bisous, where he had surgery for patella luxation the previous week. Recovery involves 8 weeks of physical therapy, meds, no stairs, no jumping on furniture, etc. My biggest fear is, when the 8 weeks are up we will find he still has a damaged knee; keeping Bisous still is not an easy feat. I never knew a Frenchie could be as physically active as Bisous. I have known many French Bulldogs through the years and not one has come close to Bisous' energy level. Right before I started noticing the limp/skip in Bisous' step, I saw him racing circles through our backyard moments before he flew over an entire raised bed in our garden. His size, weight, and activity level have not been his body's friend. In the information that was sent home with us from our vet, I read that 30 to 40 percent of dogs that have patella luxation in one knee will eventually have it in the other. The best thing I can do for Bisous is cut back on the amount of food he eats. Bisous was given to us by the breeder, at eight weeks of age, with Giardia. He was on heavy duty, hard on his system, meds for over four months. During that time we did everything possible to get him to eat, since the drugs killed his appetite. He now loves his food and sits in front of his empty bowl staring into it and crying. It's hard not to give him everything he wants.
I have not left our house since we brought Bisous home. Up until yesterday I have always been here with him. But we went next door last night for dinner (easy enough to run home occasionally and check on B). I made an appetizer (one that I need to bake again and photograph) plus, the cookies in this post. The Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread is a recipe by Alison Roman; photos of which are all over Instagram. NYT Cooking shared the recipe, and... voila! ... dessert last night along with Rudesheim Coffee. The falling snow outdoors was the perfect backdrop.
•Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies•
•recipe by Alison Roman, via NYT Cookiing
•yield: 24 cookies
• 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons salted butter, cold (room temp if you're using a handheld mixer), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup light brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 6 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet dark chocolate chopped (not too fine, you want chunks, not little shards)
• 1 large egg, beaten
• Demerara sugar, for rolling
• Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
1. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat the butter, both sugars, and vanilla on medium-high till it's super light and fluffy (3-5 minutes for a stand mixer; 6-8 for a hand mixer). Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, slowly add the flour, followed by the chocolate chunks, and mix just to blend. If necessary, knead the dough with your hands to make sure the flour is totally incorporated. At this point, the dough should be smooth with no pockets of flour.
2. Divide the dough in half, placing each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap and your hands to form the dough into a log shape. Rolling on the counter will help to smooth it out. Each half should form a 6-inch log, 2 to 2 1/4-inches in diameter (my logs ended up around 7-inches). Chill until totally firm, about two hours.
3. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Brush the outside of the logs with the beaten egg and roll them in the demerara sugar.
4. This is where I found I needed to let the logs warm up a bit. When I tried to slice the first cookie, it crumbled into pieces. I kept my dough in the refrigerator overnight and it was hard. I probably gave them about 10 minutes before I gently began slicing the dough with the serrated knife. Position your fingers on the dough where you are slicing. It's a bit awkward, but I had two fingers on the end of the log with the serrated knife between them and the rest of my hand. If any of the dough breaks off, gently press it into the cookie once on the baking sheet. These cookies are very forgiving. Place them on the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart. Sprinkle with the flaky salt. Bake until the edges are just beginning to brown, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before sitting down with a glass of cold milk and trying not to eat them all!
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I thought it was time I made an appearance, before LivingTastefully no longer recognizes me and refuses to let me post onto my blog.
I also want to let you know what I've been up to the past couple of months. You might find this hard to believe, but I haven't been spending as much time in my kitchen. I have a new granddaughter who was born in September. Monday is Liv's day with "Oma Lady"... a name not chosen by me. The other days of the week, I am usually in my studio (a.k.a. the sunroom). I started painting again last spring after stopping 45 years ago (geez, that's a long time!) when, at the last minute, I switched from painting to fiber before classes started at the Kansas City Art Institute. It scared me how consumed I was by painting and didn't think I could live like that. I'm seeing signs of it again now, but I'm so happy to be painting it doesn't matter. I feel I have so much lost time to make up. I had always painted in oils, but decided this time to plunge into watercolor. It's a struggle. I found oils easy... watercolor for me is a challenge. I like to layer...
After doing a couple of paintings for Liv, my daughter convinced me to start a little business with her. It will be called Winks & Inks Design. I abhor the business part of anything I do creatively. That's my daughter's job in our collaboration. But she has recently returned to her real job after having baby Liv and that has slowed down the launch of Winks & Inks. Our offerings will consist of birth certificates for framing, invitations, etc., and what I've really enjoyed... paintings with French phrases. Of course, dogs are playing a starring role in all of these. The majority of items will be archival pigment ink prints (giclée, if you like), but I will also have some originals for sale, framed in vintage frames (examples below). I have my sister to thank for that. She deals in European antiques (German and French) and concentrates heavily on frames and mirrors -- tramp art being both of our passion. Although, she deals in what I consider rare and sometimes extravagant frames, I prefer them to be very simple.
I may occasionally put framed paintings and prints that are available onto Instagram. If interested, follow me HERE. Those of you as passionate about French Bulldogs as I am, can also see the occasional photo of Bisous on my Instagram. He will be, unfortunately, having surgery this month on a Luxating Patella. Oddly enough, this hasn't slowed him down. But the constant limping/skipping made it quite obvious that something was terribly wrong. He/we will endure an 8 week recovery. Anyone who knows Bisous well, understands how difficult those 8 weeks will be. Bisous is not about sitting still.
And above... the Bacon, Green Peas, and Tarragon Tart (recipe HERE). This tart, and several other recipes, are in David Lebovitz's latest book, L'appart, where he writes about the grueling year-long purchase and renovation of his home in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. This book totally confirmed my husband's belief that buying an apartment in Paris (or France for that matter) would not be in our best interest. This week, for the second time this year, I will be making David's French Beef Stew with Olives (also in the book). My son-in-law said he could eat it everyday. I might have to agree with him. The deep-freeze has returned and this stew is perfect Minnesota winter food!
I'm back in my kitchen after a 2600 mile road trip to Texas. Anymore, I'd prefer to step on a plane and fly to my destination instead of sitting for 9 hour stretches in a car... especially when the destination is 1200 miles south of the Twin Cities. But we have a Bisous, and I am not ready to leave him behind just yet.
Our first stop was in Dallas where we stayed with a good friend , Lynn (from my days at the Kansas City Art Institute), and her husband, John. We think it has been 15+ years since we last saw each other... how can that be?? Our time together was brief, but filled with what I enjoy most -- food. I have to agree with Lynn that Dallas has the best grocery store anywhere -- HEB's Central Market. It's at least unlike anything in Minnesota. It was our first stop. The variety of oranges, apples and tomatoes is endless. The kind of place I could be left alone to explore for hours... just drop me off in the morning and pick me up at night.
JIMMY'S, a small Italian grocery, was another stop while in Dallas. Small, but packed full of the most wonderful Italian foods!
I had never seen 2-foot-long spaghetti before, or, I suppose, wild boar sausage. (I know... I need to go to Italy; a trip I'm hoping isn't too far off.)
I brought home a shopping bag full of different pastas.
I am still amazed that these foot long macaroni didn't break beneath piles of luggage.
My husband and I were joined in Dallas by our daughter and her boyfriend, who continued with us on our drive through Texas. A night was spent in Waco with relatives before our final destination of Austin. And, I've got to say, we all loved Austin! My husband had an office in Austin many years ago, but I never accompanied him there. In fact, for a while we thought we'd be making a move there for his work. I'm now thinking it might not have been a bad thing. It's a great city and food truck heaven.
One of the few actual restaurants we ate at while in Austin was Guero's Taco Bar on South Congress. It was warm enough in Austin to sit outdoors for meals and these fish tacos were possibly the best I've ever eaten. Yes, you heard me... the best.
Bisous far succeeded my expectations as a travel companion. He was so good!
Our second day in Austin, we stopped on Barton Springs Road where there was a large group of food trucks (area called The Picnic). When I saw my daughter ordering from an Italian food truck, I asked her why would she do that when there were taco trucks just steps away! My mistake... she offered me a taste, and it was the best pasta I have ever eaten... ever! I went to the truck's window and told Salvatore, the owner and chef, exactly how I felt. He said he makes all of the fresh pasta himself, daily. When we returned again the next day, just to eat more pasta, I realized I was not the only one heaping praise onto Salvatore. I heard others telling him it was the best pasta they had ever eaten. So, there you are... it's true. If you visit Austin, you must go to Cannone Cucina Italiana. You will thank me.
The road trip is over, and I am (slowly easing) back in my kitchen. For several mornings after our return, I had nothing to eat alongside my cappuccino, and I really need that. But, I finally got baking and made Nancy Silverton's chocolate-walnut scones. I never question a recipe if Nancy Silverton's name is on it. Years ago whenever my husband was in the Los Angeles area on business, he'd always make the drive to LaBrea Bakery, early in the morning, before his flight home. He'd return with a bag of Nancy's bread for me. I even flew out to L.A. once (back in the days of endless airline miles), for 24 hours, just to eat at Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel's restaurant Campanile. And many years later, I went back to L.A. to eat at Osteria Mozza where she creates small plates at her mozzarella bar in the center of the restaurant (and Pizzeria Mozza next door, the following day). I just find Nancy Silverton fascinating beyond her culinary accomplishments, and have recently streamed her on Amazon Prime, with Emeril Lagasse on Emeril's EAT THE WORLD and on Netflix's, Chef's Table (season 3).
Now, back to these scones. I think they are my favorite... ever. Tender, with a lovely, flaky crumb, and not very sweet. My plan is to always have a bag full of these scones, unbaked, in my freezer, ready to pop in my oven whenever I need one.
NOTE: The original recipe calls for a 1 1/2-inch round cutter for stamping out the disks, and grouping 3 together in a clover shape before baking. I chose to use a 2-inch cutter and baked individual scones.
• 1 1/4 cups walnuts, divided
• 7 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
• 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
• Pinch of salt
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
• 1 cup (6 ounces) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
• 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whipping cream, divided
• 1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Place oven rack on middle shelf of oven and preheat to 325˚F. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Shake pan halfway through so nuts toast evenly. Remove from oven and cool completely. Increase oven temperature to 350˚F.
2. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine 1 cup of the nuts with 3 tablespoons sugar and process until the mixture is the consistency of fine meal. Add 3 more tablespoons sugar with the flour, baking powder and salt and pulse to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off until the mixture is the consistency of fine meal.
3. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the chocolate pieces. Make a large well in the center and pour in 1 cup whipping cream, the crème fraîche (or sour cream), and the vanilla. Whisk the liquids together. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. The mixture will be crumbly.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently a few times, then gather it into a ball. Roll or pat the dough into a circle 1 1/2 inches thick. Spray the inside of a 2-inch round cutter with nonstick spray and cut out circles, cutting them as close together as possible and keeping the trimmings intact.
5. Gather the scraps, press them back together, and cut out additional circles. (If the dough gets too soft to cut, refrigerate it for 15 minutes.) Place the circles parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Freeze until firm, about 1 hour.
6. Brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons cream and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Using the large hole of a box grater, grate some of the remaining one-fourth cup nuts over the top of each scone. Bake for 30 to 34 minutes, until slightly firm to the touch and lightly browned.
+ If you do not want to bake all of the scones at this time, keep in freezer for later use.
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This was an unusual Christmas for my husband and me. It's the first year neither one of our daughters was here to celebrate -- with one visiting in-laws in Milwaukee and the other with her boyfriend's family in Chicago. Christmas Eve for us was spent at our neighbor's; a tradition, now that we are no longer traveling over the holidays. We have amazing neighbors and I've made it clear to all of them that they can never move away from me...
When we finally gathered yesterday with family, our Christmas dinner was French Onion Soup and a Salad of Arugula, Roasted Peppers, and Steak. Dessert... a Lemon Meringue Tart.
To start off our midday meal, we drank small glasses of spiked eggnog. Fortunately, the rich aperitif didn't seem to kill anyone's appetite... I stirred a good sprinkling of Chinese 5 Spice into organic eggnog, then added golden rum... to taste. The top was covered in a thick coating of whipped, heavy cream, along with a generous grating of nutmeg.
Whitney with her Frenchie, Midge
As usual, Bisous waiting for anything edible to drop from above.
This will now be my go-to French Onion Soup. The best I've ever made. I made some slight changes to a recipe by Ina Garten.
When finishing the soup, you will want to top it with the best Gruyére cheese you can fiind. It really makes a difference. I could eat this soup every day...
This is one of my favorite "hearty" salads, and I make it often during the summer for our alfresco meals.
La Fin... Lemon Meringue Tart. Perfect any time of the year...
French Onion Soup
• 3 3/4 pounds yellow onions, halved, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
• 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
• 2 bay leaves
• 3/4 cup medium-dry sherry
• 3/4 cup Cognac
• 2 1/4 cups good quality dry white wine
• 3 quarts organic beef stock
• 1 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
• 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground white or black pepper
• 2 teaspoons concentrated beef base (such as Better Than Bouillon brand)
• 1-2 French baguettes, sliced 1/2-inch thick
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 4-5 cups grated Gruyére cheese
1. In a large stockpot, over medium heat, sauté the onions with the butter and bay leaves until the onions turn a rich golden brown color. Take your time with this -- approximately 45+ minutes. You want to slowly caramelize the onions and not burn them.
2. Deglaze the pan with the sherry and brandy and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer uncovered for an addition 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
3. Add the beef stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Stir in the concentrated beef base, starting with 1 teaspoon. Taste, and add additional base if needed. Adjust salt and pepper; remove the bay leaves.
4. Brush the baguette slices with the melted butter and place on a baking sheet. Transfer to the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake until the bread slices begin to lightly toast and turn golden. Remove from oven. Ladle soup into oven-proof bowls. Place several slices of baguette onto each bowl of soup, then generously cover with grated Gruyére. Place several bowls on a baking sheet with 1-inch sides and slide onto middle rack of oven. Broil until cheese is melted and gooey. Repeat with remaining bowls. Serve.
Lemon Meringue Tart
• 2 T. sliced almonds
• 1 cup unbleached flour
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 5 1/3 T. very cold butter, 1/2" dice
• 3 T. ice water
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/4 tsp. salt
ˆ 1 cup water
• 3 T. cornstarch
• 2 egg yolks
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 2 T. butter
• 2 tsp. grated lemon rind
• 5 egg whites
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Make pastry dough and chill for 2 hours. Line a 9-inch tart pan and bake blind at 400˚F until golden brown.
2. Dissolve sugar with salt in 3/4 cup of the water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Mix the cornstarch with the remaining 1/4 cup water and stir into the sugar-water mixture. Stir constantly until thick and clear. Remove from heat. Beat egg yolks with lemon juice until slightly thickened and stir into cornstarch mixture. Return to heat and bring back just to a boil. Take from heat and stir in the butter and grated lemon rind. Cool slightly and fill the baked tart shell.
3. To make meringue: Place egg whites, at room temperature, in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add salt and start beating with a whisk attachment. Once frothiness has been achieved, slowly start adding the granulated sugar and the cream of tartar. Continue to beat at high speed until the egg whites just begin to hold stiff peaks. Do not overbeat or the whites will become dry and start to separate. Mound the billowy, cloud-like meringue onto the tart and bake in a preheated 375˚F oven until golden.
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Those of you who follow LivingTastefully have often seen photos of my little man, Bisous. I won the jackpot for a French Bulldog with personality. I could not have gotten or imagined a puppy any sweeter, more playful, and loving than Bisous. He's pretty perfect. And naming him "kisses" in French was spot on. All you have to do is ask.
I fell in love with Jules on my first visit to Paris in 1997. He was the resident French Bulldog at the hotel we stayed at on Rue du Bac. The photo above was taken on my second visit to Paris in June 2000. My desire to return to Paris was all about Jules. I was able to visit him one more time in 2004 when he was eleven. Jules is the reason I have owned Frenchies for 16 years.
Last September, one month after I lost my 15-year-old Frenchie, Pipi, I went to Paris and met my on-line friend, Stacey Snacks. (see Stacey's website HERE). We had been corresponding for years and finally got to meet face à face at Stacey and Henry's apartment just off The Avenue des Champs-Élysées. She gave me this wonderful French make-up bag (which I cherish) with a pied Frenchie on the front, three months before I saw my first photo of Bisous at 2 or 3 weeks of age. Do you understand the eeriness to this gift? It's my Bisous. And by that I mean, in addition to both Frenchies being black and white, the similarities in their body structure. I have always said that Bisous looks more like an early European French Bulldog than most of the Frenchies I see these days on the street and in print. His legs and the length of his body are a little longer than what I'm used to. And, he's also BIG. The other day he weighed in at 27 pounds. He will be 11 months in a week and will continue to fill out until 18 months of age. I can't imagine where he'll end up on the scale! I've struggled with this, and have driven my family and friends crazy by always talking about his body... something that isn't important and I just need to get over!
Then yesterday, Bisous' friend, Charley the French Bulldog's dads, sent me these merged photos. The one on the left, of course, is Bisous, and the photo on the right is a 1907 magazine cover that hangs in our veterinarian's office. Yes... Bisous has that turn-of-the-century body. But it's o.k. And I often wonder... will he be healthier because of it?
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Recent photo of the Little Man (a.k.a. Bisous)... 10 1/2 months old (and I'm afraid to weigh him). My BIG petit homme...
Sometimes, all you need is a cookie and a French Bulldog...