31 December 2010

Crème Fraiche Verrines

I've written before about some of my language adventures at the supermarket in our town. I told you about the preservatives and the cuisses de canard. But I haven't yet told you about the incident of the crème fraiche. When we first moved here, I went to the supermarket one day looking for whipping cream. All I could find was crème fraiche. Everywhere I looked—crème fraiche. I didn't want thickened, cultured cream, I wanted whipping cream. And there was none to be seen. 

24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

of star light
and candle light
when hope lights up
all our lives, we gather to
a tree

Each ornament is a shining reminder that happiness comes one thought, one action, one day at a time.

Best wishes for happiness from our house to yours. 


20 December 2010

Snow Days

We have about 30 cm / 12 inches of snow on the ground here. It has snowed 18 of the 20 days of December so far. Last night we had another 15 cm / 6 inches of fresh snow. For me, a child of warmer climes, snow equals playing hooky. Schools closed, an unplanned free day. There's a part of me that still wakes up hoping there will be new snow.

18 December 2010

Lemon Polenta Cake

Cooking without wheat is presenting me some challenges, some of which are difficult, and some of which are very enjoyable. One of the benefits of this way of eating (I don't like to use the word 'diet', because that makes me want to break it!) is that I get to explore other grains. I find foods that I wouldn't have found otherwise.

06 December 2010

Bagna Cauda and a Winner!

Bagna Cauda means 'hot bath' in Italian. Why are we talking about hot baths? Because we have about 6 inches of snow on the ground here and a hot bath sounds pretty nice right now? Nah, it's because this specialty of Torino is the perfect thing for a cold snowy day.

If you're thinking apres-ski, you're in the right ball park. If you're like me, though, you're probably just thinking instead-of-ski. Heh, I went skiing once. It took me about 5 minutes to tear up my knee. That was my ski career. Whenever I see those amazing athletes barreling downhill, I head to the apres-ski zone toute de suite. Just watching them makes my knee hurt!

30 November 2010

Oat Shortbread Cookies and Vitamin O

Many years ago, when I was in Grad school, some friends and I began to think seriously about nutrition. Grad students on the whole aren’t known for their interest in nutrition, but we discovered a vitamin that’s not very well known: vitamin O. Vitamin O deficiencies are pretty common, and can have serious affects on your social life. Your body can’t store it, and so you need some every day. Jogging or other strenuous exercise completely strips your body of it, as do exams. Vitamin O is very important for mental health. And we WERE studying Psychology, after all!

26 November 2010

An Adoption and a Giveaway

One of the things I love about bloggers is the mutual support we give each other. We also often give this support to new bloggers. I like to find a new blogger and comment on their posts, encourage them, add them to my blogroll, and generally watch them become established. I do this to 'pay forward' the support that I received when my blog was new. This is one thing I haven't had the time to do in the past few months, and I miss it.

I love the idea of community. In the bloggy world, we make our own community—we find bloggers who have similar interests, and we simply visit them and chat a little. We get to know each other, we email, maybe we visit in real life. That's how we make community in the real world as well! 

16 November 2010

Oven Braised Pork and Winter Vegetables

The weather here has been very wintery—it's put the BRR in NovemBRR! Rain, cold, fog. Perfect weather to hunker down and stay home with something warm and hearty for dinner. Me, I also want something easy. Something that I can stick in the oven and not think about. This is the perfect thing! 

11 November 2010

Transit Problems

Indigestion. Heartburn. Nausea. Insomnia. Headaches. Stomach cramps. (I'll stop there) Welcome to my world. For the past few months I've been having a lot of problems with indigestion and with what in French we call le transit

Needless to say, I haven't been cooking a lot of new and exciting things. I've just been trying to 'deal with' some pretty bland and uninteresting food. And we've been doing a lot of tests to figure out what the problem is. Or what the problems are. 

01 November 2010

Spiced Nuts

One of the lovely customs here in Belgium is that whenever you're invited to someone's house for dinner, you take a gift. Nobody ever shows up empty-handed. This gift can be flowers, a plant, a bottle of wine, or something else that you know the host/hostess will like. Often it's chocolate.

When we go to someone's house, we normally bring chocolates. This past weekend, however, we were invited for dinner and we couldn't take chocolates--we were going to the home of our chocolatier! He certainly had enough of his own chocolates to satisfy him, and taking chocolates from a rival wouldn't have been very nice. So...what?

What's better than something from the kitchen? Pillsbury's jingle aside, there is (for me) something special about a gift from the kitchen. No, not wooden spoons...

16 October 2010

Spicy Cheesy Lamburgers

My friend Françoise is the source of many good things for us. She's brought us friendship, good advice, English novels, the odd vocabulary lesson, and lots of good food tips. Recently, she shared with us some cheese that a friend had brought her from Turkey. We don't know the name of the cheese, but it was a hard, crumbly, salty cheese—sort of like Feta but with a more buttery flavor. At my house we just called it Turkish Cheese.

At the same time that we received this wonderful cheese, I found some lovely ground lamb. I wanted to make some lamb-burgers, and I was thinking of the wonderful spices in some of the Moroccan dishes we can find here. I wanted something a little hot, a little exotic. This buttery, salty cheese fit right in with what I had in mind.

03 October 2010

Mirabelle Crumble

One of the joys of late summer here is the fruit. I love the peaches, nectarines, raspberries and of course the blackberries. One fruit I didn't appreciate till we moved here are plums. There are so many types: Red ones, purple ones with yellow flesh, the green Reine Claudes, and the tiny yellow Mirabelles. 

I love it that fruit and vegetables here have proper names. I used to just buy plums. What kind? Uh, purple ones. Here, we call them by their names. Reine Claude in French means Queen Claude. Don't ask me why you'd name a Queen Claude, but I guess someone did. In any case, she turned out to be agreeable enough that they named a lovely little green plum after her. I like the name Mirabelle better, I think. Not so royal but veryvery pretty. Like the plums themselves, tiny bundles of sunshine. 

26 September 2010

Road Trip: York

Well, it's been an interesting summer for us. We were lucky to have had houseguests often, and that's always a blessing. Other than that, it seems like we've been on the road most of the time, and my big project is STILL sucking up all my energy. Aside from that, I'm back. I've missed you all, I've missed writing, I've missed reading your blogs. I am also missing my Safari, which seems to have died. I need to take my iMac to the hospital to have a Safari transplant, and I'm dreading that. I probably should have done it while we were traveling, but I wanted to be able to visit. You know how lonely it is in the hospital.

I was talking to someone recently about the benefits and challenges of living in a country that you didn't grow up in. One of the challenges is that most people don't get your cultural references. I mean, imagine living in a place where nobody understands what you're talking about when you say, “Gee, Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore”. Or kemosabe-- doesn't everyone know what kemosabe means? No. Heigh-ho Silver? Nope. You're batting a thousand? Nope. You're in the right ballpark? Uh-uh. It's a dirty job but somebody's got to do it? Sorry. I have to say, though, that when my students ask, “Kate, what does it mean—kemosabe?” they ask with such lovely French accents that I can forgive their not knowing.

25 August 2010

Play With Your Food!

I don't think it's a secret that I like to play with my food. When I have the time and energy, I love to take something ordinary and make it special. A little fancy. Maybe even fancy pants. Like these sandwiches.

13 August 2010

Cheese Muffins, Bag Ladies and a new Cook Book

I've done it again—that bag lady thing. I am having a hard time writing at the moment, and I think that if I write something that's less than purr----fect (like I've never done that) you'll stop reading my blog, nobody will want to have anything to do with me, Dan won't love me any more, and I'll end up living on the streets with all my possessions in a grocery cart. I'll be a bag lady.

02 August 2010


I've been MIA for the last few days, because we have a houseguest. Pam from The Gypsy Chef, is here visiting.

29 July 2010

Old Friends and a New Recipe (Lemon Cake)

Last weekend Dan and I went to the Belgian coast to spend some time with some old friends. We have known George and Jacqueline since before we moved to Belgium. In fact Dan has known George for most of his life—they were in high school together in California. Being trained by the Jesuits tends to make lifelong bonds, I think.

21 July 2010

Two Pesto Pasta

This is a re-post of a recipe that I cook often. It's one of my all time favorites. Why? Let me count the ways: it's easy, it's healthy, it's made in the time that it takes the pasta to cook, and it uses ingredients I always have on hand. I first posted it when my blog was brand new. Almost nobody saw it. I decided to re-post it so that you could all see it. You're welcome!

16 July 2010

Too Hot to Cook: Gazpacho

One of the (many) reasons we moved to Belgium was the climate. I grew up in Atlanta, where it's hot and sticky for at least 6 months of the year. Dan and I lived in DC, where it's stinkin' hot. AND humid. (Though we used to say that in Washington, it wasn't the heat that would kill you, it was the stupidity, heh.) Belgium, however, is on the same latitude as the southern tip of Hudson's bay. Yesss! Cool in the summer. We checked—not much is air conditioned here. No need! Double Yesss! We almost didn't need the enticement of languages, culture, travel opportunities, chocolate. Cool summers, yessirree. That was it for us.

08 July 2010

Rillettes of Trout and Smoked Salmon

I've written before about luck. I don't win contests, I don't find parking places, I never get in the right line. But when it comes to friends, I'm very lucky. I've written a little about them and now I'm doing it again.

We have some friends who live near us. He is a fly fisherman, and he loves to fish in the rivers around here. He catches lots and lots of trout. Sometimes he gets tired of eating them, and he cleans them and puts them in his freezer. Then he gives them to me.

29 June 2010

Blue Cheese, Cranberry and Pecan Lunch Quiches

Many years ago, when I was just starting to cook in my first tiny kitchen, I made a quiche. This was before the wave of quiche mania swept across the US in the late '70s. This wave was so ubiquitous that there was even a book called "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche". (Heh, to which a friend of mine replied that REAL men ate whatever they pleased...)

21 June 2010

Orange Chocolate Cake

Well. THAT was a rather long weekend, wasn't it? I've been AWOL, and I'm sorry. I had an enormous project that came to me and I've been absolutely swamped by it. I haven't even had time to cook!

Well, that's not precisely true. I did have time to make a cake for our neighborhood barbecue on Sunday. I had promised to bring a dessert and when I saw this recipe I knew it was going to be the one. I changed it, of course.

11 June 2010

In Praise of Summer Fruit

It's a little early for most of these, but it's not too early to start looking forward to them. The fruit of summer is one of the joys of living here. We have local fruit starting now, with the early strawberries and right through the summer with cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines, blackberries, red and black currants. Into the autumn we have apples and pears. Every month there is a new treat. I'm ready.

What's your favorite summer fruit? What do you do with it?

07 June 2010

Mojo Pizza

I have a confession to make. No, two of them. First, I'm a yeast-o-phobe. I love things made with yeast: fresh dinner rolls, good crusty bread, cinnamon buns. Pizza. And I absolutely love the smell of yeast. But I never bake with it. I buy it regularly―in my supermarket they have these pretty little cubes of fresh yeast that look so nice in my fridge until they're about 3 months past their expiration date. Sigh. I love the IDEA of baking with yeast, but I just don't do it. I'll make anything with baking powder. But yeast, that's another story.

04 June 2010

Broccoli, Leek and Goat Cheese Tart

Broccoli. Probably the most under-rated vegetable ever, with the possible exception of beets. What’s not to like? It’s full of vitamins and minerals, it’s low in calories, and it goes with almost everything. OK, not with ice cream, but with most vegetables.

Leeks. One of my all-time favorites. We always have leeks in the house. I love their gentle, garlicky, oniony flavor. They smell soooo good when they’re cooking that the neighbors are sure to stop by to see what’s on the stove.

Goat cheese, Chevre. Food of the gods, truly. Fresh, its mild flavor is a good mix with many sweet and savory dishes. Aged, it packs a punch that can stand up to any blue cheese on a cheese plate.

31 May 2010

Memorial Day

Memorial Day: the beginning of summer, barbecues, long weekend, the swimming pool finally open...

Here in Belgium, Saturday was the commemoration of the end of WWII. As every year, we were invited to the ceremonies at the American Cemetery at Henri-Chapelle, about 10 miles from our house. This is only one of the many cemeteries for Americans who died in the Allies' drive through northern Europe into Germany and in the Battle of the Bulge. There are bigger cemeteries at Liege and Bastogne, but this one is big enough—7992 Americans are buried here. 7992 sons and brothers, fathers and fiancés, comrades and friends. 7992 families not started, 7992 lives of hopes and dreams lost so that the people of Belgium could have their hopes and dreams. Here, in the Ardennes, where the battle raged, where the occupation crushed so many lives, people don't forget. Here, where people still remember seeing the GIs liberate their town or village, they don't forget. There are those still living who remember bringing the bodies to this hallowed ground. They looked at the faces of the fallen, those who had died to liberate them. They don't forget. Here, Memorial day doesn't mark the beginning of summer. It marks the end of hell.

28 May 2010

Grilled Scallop Appetisers

Scallops. Can we ever get enough of them? We love them, with their delicate, sweet flavor. They also cook very quickly, which makes them a hit at our house!

We had some wonderful scallops in January, and still have fond memories of them and the friends who gave them to us. This time we grilled our scallops and drizzled some old balsamic vinegar over them. We ate these with rice, as a first course. They were a perfect way to start a meal.

24 May 2010

Chocolate Pound Cake

When I was growing up, there were some special desserts that my grandmother made. EVERYONE'S grandmother made them. One of them was chocolate pound cake. This is one of those recipes that is closely guarded and only given to the younger generation when they marry, as a part of their trousseau. It's an incredibly lovely cake, with a texture like silk and a deeply chocolate flavor. It was often served alone, unfrosted, with perhaps some fruit. When it wasn't served plain, it was frosted with a fudge frosting that was basically fudge spread over the cake before it hardened. It's one of my fondest memories.

20 May 2010

Olive Pesto

This month’s issue of La Cucina Italiana has an article on pesto, and recipes for lots of different kinds. When we think of pesto, we normally think of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and parmesan. Those are the ingredients for the classic pesto, Pesto alla Genovese. But pesto can be made with any number of ingredients. The name ‘pesto’ comes from the tool traditionally used to make it: a pestle (and mortar too). In Italian, the word ‘pesto’ means ‘to pound’, which is what you do with a mortar and pestle.

17 May 2010

Home again...

We're home. Tired, with our suitcases filled with dirty clothes and our heads still full of Italian. And my camera full of photos! We drove back through France, having decided that the St. Bernard pass was not for us―it was still foggy and raining up there when we left. Torino is surrounded by the Alps, and they are normally visible from all over town. We only saw them as we were leaving. But never mind, we'll be back. We still have lots of Torino to explore!

14 May 2010

Torino Road Trip: Day 13 The Shroud

Today after class we went to see La Sindone, the Shroud of Turin. It’s an ancient relic, much studied and much disputed. Some say that it’s the image of Christ, that it was wrapped around his body after he was crucified. Others say that it dates from the 12th or 13th century, and was probably from the last head of the Templars who was tortured and crucified as an example to the others. Still others say that it’s a total fake.

13 May 2010

Torino Road Trip: Day 12

When you think of Torino, or Turin, what comes to mind? The Shroud? Fiat? Mazerati? Maybe the fine wines of the Piemonte region? Truffles? All of those are here, but there’s something else amazing, that would be among the last things I would have thought of when Torino is mentioned. Torino is the home of one of the world’s finest museums of Egyptian artifacts. I know.

12 May 2010

Torino Road Trip: Day 11

Today it was drizzly while we were in class, but it stopped by the time we were finished with class. We didn’t have another class after 2 o’clock today, so we decided to take the car and explore the region a little bit. We headed south, to Alba, about an hour south of Torino.

11 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 10

If you’re ever in Torino, you absolutely positively MUST go to a place called Eataly. It’s down near the Linghotto complex, and easy to get to with public transportation. It’s a foodie paradise.

10 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Days 7-9

On Saturday we didn’t have rain. It was cloudy and a little chilly, but it wasn’t raining. So we went to the market, of course. On Saturdays in Torino, there is a market. OK, there’s a market every day in Torino. I’ve read that this is the largest open air market in Europe. It’s certainly the largest I’ve ever seen. And on Saturdays it’s even bigger. You’ve already seen the section that sells meat—indoors. Saturday we explored the rest of it. There is a section dedicated to fruit and vegetables, of course:

07 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 6

Today we finally had some sunshine! WAHOO! After school, I went for a walk while Dan did some work on the computer at school. I wanted to show you a little bit what Torino looks like. It’s really a very pretty city—it has an architectural unity that you don’t often see in cities. Paris has it, Washington DC has it, but not a lot of Italian cities have it. Here it’s because Torino, while an old city, was largely built or re-built in one era: the baroque. Many of the buildings have porticos, called portici (POR-ti-chee) in Italian. All told, Torino has 80 km of portici! You can go for a looong way without getting wet (except at the intersections). This week we're very grateful for the portici.

06 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 5

Rain. It’s still raining. So, today we’re going to visit a market.

05 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 4

Today it rained all day. It didn’t just rain, it poured. All day. So I’m going to tell you a little bit about the school, since we didn’t get any photos of Torino outside.

04 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 3

This morning when we woke up, it was still cloudy. After breakfast, though, it started to break up a little and we started to get a sense of the view from our balcony. The light was splendid, and I took this photo of one of the hills to our east. I’m not sure what the church on top is yet. I’ll let you know when I find out.

03 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 2

We woke up to a light, drizzly rain. Ew. Not the best weather for crossing the alps—especially if you want to get some awesome photos! With the rain came fog. Lots of it. But when it lifted (partially) we had some splendid views. This one is in Gruyere, just south of Bern:

01 May 2010

Road Trip Torino: Day 1

8 am: We’re off! The sky is cloudy, perfect for driving. There wasn’t much traffic. As we doive south, the first hour or so was in Belgium, with familiar countryside all around us.

29 April 2010



We're off at the crack o'dawn tomorrow. Again. This time, we're going in the car, and we're taking you with us--virtually, of course!

We're off to Torino (Turin) for two weeks, where we'll spend the mornings in class improving our Italian, and the afternoons exploring Torino and the Piemonte region of Northwest Italy.

27 April 2010

DAY TRIP: Amsterdam

Sunday morning Dan and I got up bright and early and took the train to Amsterdam. Dan had a meeting there and I had free time. I had arranged to meet up with Oz, from Kitchen Butterfly and to spend the afternoon with her exploring Amsterdam.

The train ride up there was really interesting--we passed a lot of pastures with canals around them instead of fences. From some angles it looked like the animals were running free. The Dutch are experts at water management. Since a large part of the northern Netherlands is below sea level, they have to be!

We met up with Oz, and Dan went off to his meeting. Oz and I found a cup of tea and began telling our life stories...

...and continued as we walked around snapping pictures.

Amsterdam to me is all about water and darling houses.

There was a kayak race on one of the canals.

And it wouldn’t be Amsterdam without the headshops. I love this photo of the family on the bicycle in front of the head shop. New shipments of ‘hemp’ had apparently been received, and business was brisk.

We took a walk through the narrow streets, heading for the Old Church. We passed some colorful shops, one of which specialized in ...ahem....protective appliances, shall we say. In all sizes. I don't want to think about how they measure for them...

LOL, there was a couple taking photos of the merchandise in the window and their daughter, about 3, asked “Mama, what’s that?” I wanted to stick around and hear the answer, but I didn’t.

As we made our way toward the old church...

...we ducked down a very narrow passage. It was full of shops, and they all had large windows. Most of the windows were covered with curtains, but in a few the curtains were opened, and there were women inside, wearing bikinis and, um, sort of dancing. One of the windows was open, and the woman was leaning out and, um, dancing, towards some guys. I was carrying my big honking Nikon, but I was holding it by the lens and my hand was up by my shoulder to make it clear I wasn’t using it. When the woman in the open window saw my camera, she shouted, “Oh NO. NO. NO CAMERAS. GET THAT OUT OF HERE.” I held it up over my head and shouted back, “NOT using it! NOT using it!”. We kept walking. So I’m sorry to say that there are no photos of the Amsterdam dancers. Ahem. Sorry.

At the old church there is a statue commemorating the working girls of Amsterdam.

But there’s a lot more to Amsterdam than the red light district. There's the Anne Frank House. There is the Beguinage. There's the Dam. And there are macarons, of course.

There are narrow, charming streets. There are more darling houses.

And bicycles. Lots of bicycles. Everywhere.

There are interesting contrasts--here between the shop and the name of the alley...

There are tourist shops. This one was our favorite. He liked us too.

He promised low prices, although we know that the Euro didn’t exist in 1992, so that can’t be right...

We walked a lot, we saw a lot--yes, we got an eyeful! We missed a lot, too, because it was Sunday and a none of the markets were open. We didn't get to the Anne Frank House or the Beguinage. The Dam is under scaffolding right now, and there's a Ferris wheel in front of it. The amazing museums--the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum--we decided to save for another day. We had adventures enough for one day! But the best part of the day for me was meeting Oz.