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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Beef Daube Proven├žal - a French delight for a rainy day

Ok, I admit, it was very, very tempting to keep all my "Julie and Julia" comments to myself, while watching Rich fidget in the kitchen. A couple of them might have slipped out anyway :)
But who says cooking has to be a serious and somber process! Plus I wasn't the one making dinner :)

It's been a typical wet Pacific Northwest kind of weather weekend, so this French stew-type dish was a perfect fit.

The recipe is really quite simple and economical, and the end result is phenomenal. We used this recipe as a basic guide.
Being a potato-eater, I prefer this served over some rich creamy classic mashed. Not sure how "French" this would be, but like I say, potatoes rule :). My husband, however, is a pasta lover; and since he was in charge tonight, we used wide egg noodles. Regardless, the meal was incredibly flavorful and satisfying. The beef came out tender, vegetables weren't mushy, and fresh herbs with red wine really tied it all nicely together. Try it.

In the voice of Julia Child - "Bon Appetit!"  :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

For the Love of [Hot] Chocolate

Chocolate rules our house. My daughters are constantly asking for it around here. My husband has it permanently embedded into his shopping list. We love it. We love hot chocolate, we love cold chocolate, we love ALL chocolate!

And today is a perfect day for a nice cup of rich creamy cocoa. It's a lazy, cozy kind of day.  We-don't-have-to-drive-anywhere kind of day.  It's time for some drinking chocolate! So to get the girls off my back, so-to-speak, I entice them with their share first. Extra whipped cream, and chocolate shavings, of course.

It takes them just a couple of minutes to chug it down. Kids... They just don't savor stuff! ;)

But we do! And since we don't have to drive anywhere today, I've decided to add a little "grown-up flair": a splash of Godiva liquor, and some Vanilla rum. Perfectly finished with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, naturally! :)

To make my cocoa, I use this rough formula (per cup):

  • milk - 6 oz
  • cocoa powder - 3 TBS
  • sugar to taste (about 2 TBS for us)
There are two important things to remember in order to make a perfect cup of hot chocolate: do not to let the milk boil, and mix your cocoa powder and sugar with a splash of hot water prior to adding it to the milk. This will prevent the clumps of powder, and will make the cocoa silky smooth.
For our "grown-up" hot chocolate I added about an ounce (total) of Godiva chocolate liquor and Capt. Morgan's Vanilla rum to the cup, before pouring cocoa into it. I also used lavender sugar in place of plain sugar, for an extra hint of blissfulness. Oh, and blissful it was!!! Bottoms up!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Even a Heavy Heart Can Soar. Give Thanks!

Driving out of our long gravel roadway, we looked at each other with complete and unspoken understanding of each other's thoughts for this day: this is going to be a bitter-sweet holiday season. Year 2010 is a year of great losses. Thanksgiving was going to be the first time when we would have to truly face the emptiness left by the dearest people we lost. So it was a somber drive. Recalling the smiles and the laughter of the past, and the agony of the loss, and quietly wondering what will it be like this year...

For the third year in a row now, the Guadan family Thanksgiving is graciously hosted in Seattle by my darling sister-in-law Tina and her handsome husband Justin.

It is such a delight to be here! Everyone is enjoying themselves, including the FIVE dogs freely roaming through the house. The girls are giggling, the wine is passed around, the events are discussed... And then you smell it. It's now flowing from the kitchen into the rest of the house, teasing everybody ever so gently yet with so much power! The bird is out of the oven. The aroma is so intoxicating we can hardly contain ourselves. The dinner is going to be GOOD.

And so we toast to family.  And it feels good. It feels right. It feels grateful. And at that moment I know in my heart, that those, whose seats at the family dinner table were empty this year, are smiling from above. Because it's to their family, and to their legacy.

My heart, heavy with sadness, begins to lift as I am grateful for these beautiful faces:

And for these stinky mutts:

And for this man, whose heart is bigger than a mountain (I know, he doesn't smile for pictures ;) ):

And for Tina's incredible creations laced with love:

This was indeed a day of thanksgiving. Much to be grateful for. I am truly blessed.