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There’s a stereotype about couples who have their first baby. Their house becomes a “baby zone.” Baby toys, baby food, baby medicine, baby blankets, baby paraphernalia everywhere. That hasn’t happened to our house. But it has turned into a cat zone. My desk is piled high with prescription cat food and medicine, cat toys are everywhere, two food bowls, back stocks of litter and food piled in the corner. Cats on the bed, cats on the couch, cats on the table. I found a cat in the garbage area under the sink this morning while making pizza.
Ok, so we have two cats, not twenty, but in an apartment of 45 square-meters that’s enough to turn it into a cat-zone.

Dumpling is doing well. She has an infection in her mouth and is on antibiotics, but she’s eating (very) well and seems to have gained a bit of weight.  She likes to sleep with us at night and is very curious about what we are doing, and especially what I’m cooking. She needs to learn some manners though as she has a few bad habits such as scratching on everything and climbing everywhere.
Pistou is recovering. In fact, he seems to want to play with her, but she doesn’t seem to understand the game. There’s been a lot of nose touching and sniffing and there’s still apprehension, but things are looking promising. We still aren’t sure if we will keep Dumpling once her fostering period is up, it depends a multitude of things, but at least for now she’s settling in and we’ll be able to turn her into a friendly, sweet cat that can be in a multitude of homes.

Did you hear about the Costa Concordia? Last October the husband and I took our honeymoon on that boat, cruising to Savonna, Naples, Palermo, Tunis, Palma, and Barcelona. We had a big suit and balcony and loved every second. I also saw it docked in the harbor of la Seyne every so often, when it was too windy to dock in Marseille, bringing back happy memories. So it was sad for us to see this huge ship leaning on its side, half submerged in the sea.
I felt like singing Nearer my God to Thee but then I remembered I’m not religious and this isn’t the Titanic.

Anyway, today was rather productive. I got up early and started an apple pie before going out for an eight mile run around the harbor where there were no cruise ships docked today.

My fruit bowl is overflowing again and my smoothie drinking can’t keep up with it. So pie it was. Plus I’ve never made a pie before.
That’s right! This is my first apple pie EVER.

Apples and lemons and salt and sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg draining in a bowl. Let it sit for a few hours and let strain it through a colander to get your liquid base.

Add butter and boil it.

I didn’t make my own crust. One thing at a time. This is an organic pate brisée which is less sweet than many pie crusts but oh so buttery.

Add your apples.
Add your liquid.
Bake at 225°C for about 40 minutes.
Turn your head away when you open the oven. I think I burned my face.

I sat outside on the balcony with Pistou, who needed his outdoor time. There is a cat in that photo, I swear.

I worked on the still unfinished novel for a bit, guarding the door from the outside, while Pistou roasted in the jardiniere.

Dumpling isn’t allowed outside to go play yet.
The novel was going badly for a time, but I believe that it has picked up again. I managed 2000 words in 90 minutes and got somewhere with the story. That’s progress. Redoing the outline for the end was the best idea I’ve ever had concerning writing and I always hate to outline. When it’s done, I’m having a party. BTW: Do you live in Argentina? Or did you once live in Argentina? If so I need you.
After working on the novel I needed a break so I made granola. But that’s an entry for another day.

And I promise I’ll stop talking about my cats.

Also, if you’re wondering about the lack of a top on my pie, it’s not something that is often done in France. Pies have no crusty tops. And one thing at a time. I’ll do a top next time around.


I went to bed on the 24th of December full, tipsy, warm, and thinking that after spending all day cooking and baking, I’d be completely uninterested in doing so again for a few days – at least until my vacation begins on the 28th.

So you can imagine my surprise when I woke up the next morning and my first thought was “I need to bake cupcakes.”

I mean really? I had other plans this morning. Like sleeping late, having a big cup of uninterrupted coffee. And most importantly working on the novel which is always on my mind these days. So much so that I’ve started dreaming about it at night.

All the same, there it was; the overwhelming urge to make cupcakes. I wasn’t even hungry and the thought of food was making my stomach cry out in protest or at least a nice long run first. But I’ve been wanting to try cooking a sweet with olive oil for quite some time and despite all my better intentions, I couldn’t resist.

These olive oil and cranberry cupcakes are moist, fluffy and a perfect way to get rid of that baking craving. The oil is not overwhelming but just an after taste that I am dying to try again, mixing with other flavors that will deepen the taste.

Adapted from Joy the Baker

  • 1 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • handful of dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp of lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 200°C and grease your cupcake tin with olive oil.

In a large bowl pour in the salt, baking powder and soda, and sugar. Sift in your flour and lightly whisk together. In a smaller bowl, whisk together lemon zest, egg, olive oil and milk with a wire whisk until blended. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing together all the while with a wooden spoon until just combined. Add in a handful of cranberries and stir again to make sure they get into the batter, but be sure to not over mix. Obviously, you could add the cranberries earlier to the dry ingredients, but they were a last minute addition on my part.

Pour the batter into your cupcake tins and bake about 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and lightly browned on top. Add glaze while cupcakes are still warm and let cool.

I used Joy’s glaze as well – the same recipe as her page except I used lemon extract instead of almond which I didn’t have. Simple and easy.

This recipe was to make six cupcakes, but I had some left over batter so I made two cupcake-cookies with what was left. Ideally I should have paid attention to how much batter I was spooning into the mold so my cupcakes would have come out the same size, but details details…

For the rest of the day, I plugged away at my novel. If you’re a writer, or know a writer, or even an avid reader, you’ll know that characters tend to take their lives onto themselves and seem to run away with your imagination like hijacking a vehicle. Well, my narrator has done just that. She won’t stop talking, detailing every little thing that happened to her. The closer I get to the end, the harder she hangs on, making sure that I don’t miss a beat, a moment, a second.

Do you ever have moments when you’re so enthralled in your work that you do stupid things like stick your finger in your ear or pick your nose (hey, when you have to pick, you have to pick – just not in public) or make weird beeping noises to yourself and yell at your computer-

Only to look up and see your super cute student looking at you through the classroom window?

Yeah. I had a fabulous day.

He really is that attractive. That smile with the dimples…


I should be writing. No really. I should be writing. I’m behind about 2000 words from where I want to be tonight. But I never celebrated my 50K. I never made apple pie, or pumpkin ice cream (though I don’t know how I would as I don’t have an ice cream maker) or anything savory. I didn’t have the time.

But tonight, I’m wiped, I’m out of steam, my head is a muddled mess of characters and settings and prose, etc. Sometimes I write sarcastic things into the narrative that my characters would never say. Clearly I need a break. I need to celebrate. I need to clear my head and dope myself up on sugar.

I need cookies.

And these are my most deadly cookies yet.

Dark chocolate Nutella, cocoa powder, oatmeal, cereal flour, dark chocolate chips.

They’re amazing.

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup cereal flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons Nutella
  • 1 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • dark chocolate chips
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt.

Cream butter and sugar as normal. Add egg and cocoa powder, mix well. Add 2 tablespoons of Nutella. Mix well.

Add all your dry ingredients, flours, oats, powders, salts. Mix together until its well blended. Add your last tablespoon of Nutella and your chocolate chips. Mix one last time, quickly on low speed. Just enough to combine everything but not blend the Nutella in, you want a little bit of a swirl.

Spoon onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 180°C (350°F) for 11 minutes.


When it comes to the flour, I know cereal flour is a strange choice – I mean really, who wants seeds in their cookies? But it’s good. Not only does it add a great crunch, but the cereal flour is slightly salty, added to the bitterness of the cocoa, the amazing sweetness of the Nutella and chocolate. There are so many rich, complex flavors here. I had to step away from the kitchen and lock myself in the bedroom just so I’d stop eating them and write this entry.


Melty chocolate goodness with salt and bitter cocoa, warm just out of the oven.

And in case you’re wondering I’m at 55,000 words.

Tomorrow I have a 1 hour wait at the train station in the morning and the afternoon. Not to mention the 20 minute train ride. I was going to buy a pastry, but now I have cookies – and plenty of time to write.

Also, yes that is my computer right next to the mixing bowl. I told you it was covered in flour.

It’s been seven days since my last post and we’re now twelve days into the novel. I reached 40,000 words last Thursday night, officially Friday morning. 7 days, 25,000 words. Today I hit 46K. Am I tired? Yes. For NaNoWriMo only 50,000 words are required to win. As I’m at 46K and not even one third into the story, I’m aiming for about 120k. By the end of November? Can I do it? I have no idea.

For those of you wondering what you get if you win, the answer is nothing but the satisfaction that you wrote a novel. And a certificate you can print from the website. I still have mine from 2009. It was on the fridge for a year.

For ten days the weather was rainy. Wait. Did I say rainy? I mean POURING. And WINDY. This wasn’t your typical run of the mill wind. This was wind with an attitude. This was wind that broke my super strong titanium umbrella. This was wind that blew off the roof of a building on my running route – that was a surprise one morning. This was wind that picked up fish from the sea and tossed them on the sidewalk. It was kind of gross. It’s called the Mistral. It came early this year. Had it lasted one more day I would have called in to work. I couldn’t handle it anymore.

By Wednesday, flood trucks were by the shore in case they had to suddenly evacuate. A friend told me the roads into and out of St. Tropez were closed off, the city completely shut down. I was lucky. Parts of the Var are under water. This is only disturbing when you realize that those parts are on the side of a mountain.

And yes, I ran everyday, through the wind and rain. 10K. I’m masochistic.

But it’s gone – for now – and there are sunny skies. I never realized how much noise the wind made. The silence outside when hanging laundry on my balcony is golden.

Let me update you on food. Because that’s what you’re hear for. With laying down this many words per day and trying to keep some semblance of a figure, I haven’t been cooking much. There’s a party tomorrow and Thanksgiving for the in-laws in two weeks and I will make SOMETHING when I hit 50K tomorrow, a trip to Table du Vigneron if I finish… well, I have to lay off the food. But I’m still cooking.

There was butternut squash soup at 25K.

Soup has always intimidated me, but it was super easy and so yummy, even cold. I’ve conquered my fear of homemade soups, much to my husbands dismay.

There were banana cream desserts. Creme fraiche, a teaspoon and a half of sugar, softened banana cooked over a low flame for 10 minutes and then cooled in the refrigerator for a few hours. I should have put them in the blender for a smoother finish, but can you get any easier than that? Not really.

And there were buttery, garlic wheat knots for yesterday at my 40K milestone. The husband and I going through them like they’re going out of style. I might have to make more.

The best part of each one of these delights is that they were not only easy to make, but they allowed time for me to step away from both the computer and the stove. I got to go back and forth, I got to take breaks and relax my mind, which for all intents and purposes is a little fried.

But I’m only 12 days in and there’s a whole two-thirds of a novel to finish. It’s time to go pick up the pace…

Back when I didn’t cook, I never understood my friends who told me that baking relaxes them. I do now. Baking bread is the perfect break from spending a rainy afternoon home writing.

Fridays are easy days for me. I teach at a company in the morning and then at a different company in the evening. Just for an hour and a half each. To make matters easier, both companies are a 30 minute walk from my apartment, so I don’t bother going to the English school where I spend most of my days. This friday I’m determined to write 5,000 words of my novel, which will get me over 15K. I had all afternoon, from noon to 4:30 and then the whole night. 7 o’clock on.

Ready, set, go!

 But wait, I have to think about dinner. As the huband made me a three course meal last night, filled with duck, onion tart, cheeses, and poached pears, it’s only fair that I return the favor.

So I wanted to write, I wanted to bake.

Let me take you through my day:

First I set up the workspace. All those papers are my outline and character sheets. I sometimes forget who is who.

I make strong coffee, disregarding my automatic drip and going for the cafetier instead. It’s Italian, its tasty. Like a reverse French press. And then I turn my oven to 220°C.

I had a half of squash I wanted to roast for use tonight. Spread on bread with a little bit of cream, onion, garlic – delightful.

I find my squash, emptied it of seeds, added garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and set aside. I don’t know about you, but my oven makes a little “tick” when it’s hot. So while I wait, it’s time to write. My coffee comes with me.

The oven ticks. I put my squash in, avoid checking my word count. Now I have 20 minutes to write uninterrupted. The coffee will keep me going.

Fifteen minutes into it, I check the squash. 10 minutes left. Back to the story.

When the squash is done, remove from the oven. Check the word count. 976 words so far. 11006 total. Not a bad start. And I continue.

Usually on Friday afternoons, I treat myself to a nap. No time for that today, and Pistou the cat has taken up my place on the couch for me.

A while later, my eyes hurt, the coffee is gone. It’s time for a break, and my squash has cooled. I peel and cube it, put it in a bowl and into the fridge until tonight.

Now it’s time to start the bread. I’m making flatbread today, which sounds good, but I’ve never made before. Here’s a recipe to work with: Flatbread from the Food Network I put on my apron because I’m wearing black pants and a solid blue shirt and there’s still work to do, and flour always looks out of place in an office.

Have 5 minutes while the yeast activates? Write! Write fast! How many words can I get? There’s already flour all over my keyboard from past breads anyway. I got 150 words. I think too much. But anyway, I put the bread ingredients together, follow the recipe, knead, cover, set aside. I had a good hour until the dough rises. I knew what to do. I keep the apron on, or I’ll forget when I go back to the dough later.

I wanted to make it to 3000 words for the day before I left for my class at 5. It was 3:45. Time to check on the bread. I was at 2628. I was tired and the bread was ready. 15 more minutes, I told myself. Can you make 372 words in 15 minutes?

3:59: Word count 13009. Success! Now to bread.

These is just a test before I make the bread tonight. I’ve never made flat bread before. So I just have a small piece of dough to roll out and cook.

Into the pan.

ZOMG! Warm, moist, wonderful bread. This will make an excellent pizza – I tell myself and finish the second piece, put on a plate and set aside for the husband. Cover with paper towel, because I’ve woken up some nights to find my cat licking my bread. Yeah -I know right?

Then I have to get ready for work and head out. It’s raining a little and windy, but the bus never comes on time so I have to walk.


There are plenty of fixings and a glass of Côtes du Rhone.

And then to writing. At the end of the evening my word count is 15049. So there you have it. Flatbread for 15K.

I’m trying to think of a dish that begins with T for 25K, but maybe I’ll just make myself a cup of tea when I hit that milestone. At this rate I’m going to gain 10lbs by the time November is over.

Two things tend to rule my life. Food and Art. Any type of art, and I often define art as simply the creation of something that stands on its own. I’ve always been involved in an art in someway. It’s what keeps me busy as I’m not a TV person, a cinema person, a club person and to be honest, I have no idea how other people spend their time. For most of my life I’ve spent my evenings, mornings and any time I don’t know what to do writing.

Today, it’s November 2nd. Since October I’ve been waiting to start National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo, which I’m unusually excited about. Yesterday was a national holiday in France and I had the day off from work. I could have slept in. Instead I was awake and writing at 7am.

3,000 words, one 10 km run, and a shower later, the husband and I went to buy a new TV.

But that isn’t exciting.

These cupcakes are exciting.

I’ve always wanted to make Red Velvet cupcakes and decided that yesterday, in honor of NaNo, I’d try my hand at it. I used a recipe by Joy the Baker, who has never steered me wrong.

Ok, these aren’t red. They are a chocolatey brown. I’m not sure where I went wrong here. Perhaps I didn’t add enough food coloring. But that doesn’t matter because they are still velvety.

The key to success for a light, velvet, airy cupcake is the batter. Follow Joy’s directions and mix until everything is smooth and fluffy. Some people might prefer a rich, dense cupcake, but these are so light and smooth that they melt in your mouth. The buttermilk, cocoa powder combined with the fact that there’s less sugar in these cupcakes than a cookie gives the dough a nice tang to it. It’s sweet, but not overwhelming.

The frosting is melted white chocolate combined with light cream that was simple to do. Put the cream in a bain marie to heat it up and then add the chocolate. Wait until it melts and stir until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Immediately drizzle over the cupcakes and let cool.

I could have made the cream cheese frosting but decided against it.


Because on Sunday, the husband and I had these:

They may not look like much but they were deadly, butter cream, chocolate, mousse pastries. We had three each. I couldn’t bring myself to make something else so rich.

Since my cupcakes don’t have a red color, I can’t call them Red Velvet. Instead, I’m calling them NaNo Velvet Cupcakes. In honor of NaNoWriMo.

I considered making them blue, since the NaNo website is blue, but I don’t think it would have worked out any better.

As of today, I have just over 5500 words, and I’m taking a break to tell my writing friends, my foodie friends, and anyone else who stumbles upon this page about these fabulous cupcakes. Because there are two things that you need to get you through NaNo: a desire to write and snacks.

And rewards. I’m still considering what I’ll cook or bake when I hit 25,000 or 50,000 words.

Maybe duck?

NaNoWriMo is coming up. So are two seminars to teach in October. And a deadline for a short story contest on December 16th. Not to mention the other deadline in 3 days.

I’m reeling. I’m enjoying this week of relative calm knowing that next week begins madness. And beginning my National Novel Writing Month preparation.

I won’t have as much time to cook as I’d like to. The husband and I already made a run to chez Picard surgelé so that we could have frozen meals to eat on nights and days that we just can’t bare to cook. Except for a few cooking and restaurant plans I have for October and November there won’t be many updates.

So today, I made you something that actually took time and preparation and I had to pay attention to.

The Bordelais Cannelé. (pronounced can-nel-AY)

According to this website, by a man obsessed, the cannelé has a fascinating history. The little pastry was invented in the 18th century by a convent of nuns in Bordeaux. The whites of egg were used by the monks of a neighboring monastery to make their wine, and they gave the yolk of the egg to the nuns, because they didn’t want to waste it.

But what were the nuns going to do with a bunch of egg yellows? Apparently, they came up with this recipe – which they baked and baked and baked and gave to the poor.

The cannelé has also been called “dressed up crepe batter.” Only you can decide.


I first had these at a place called Pat’s. Sorry, Pat, but your cannelés suck. They were rubbery, dry and tasteless. After going to Bordeaux (see this entry) I discovered that while the cannelé was definitely supposed to have some bounce, it was anything but tasteless and dry.

Next up? The husband’s step-mother gave me a book of dessert recipes from the TV show Un Dîner Presque Parfaît and lo! the cannelé was present. All I needed now was a mold, ingredients and time. Which the husband and a student cancellation provided.

To make 12 Cannelé Bordelais:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 50 grams of butter
  • 50cl of milk, divided
  • 25cl of rum
  • 150 grams of all purpose flour
  • 250 grams of white powdered sugar
  • one vanilla pod (it’s called a gousse de vanille in French and I don’t know the translation)

Use this online conversion if you don’t have the right measuring tools.

In a small casserole, bring 2/3 of the milk and all of the butter to a boil. In the meantime put the rest of the milk and the egg yolks in a bowl. When the milk and butter are boiling add them to the cold milk and eggs and mix. Let it cool down to room temperature.

Add your rum, your vanilla grains, and sugar.

Pour the flour into a sifter and sift the flour directly into the bowl with one hand, starting to mix the dough with a fork with the other.

The batter will be a liquid, lumpy, unappetizing thing.

Once all the flour has been added switch to an electric mixer and start mixing until its as smooth as possible. Mix it on a low speed, then high, then low again. Go slowly. Love your batter. Sing to it. There will still be lumps.

That’s where care and patience comes in. Find something in your house with tiny holes. A strainer of sorts. I used my tea pot’s strainer because it’s all I have.

Pour your batter in and let the liquid pour into another bowl, while the lumps remain inside the strainer. You’ll have to mix and scrape the batter away from the strainer’s walls often. It’s gooey.

Once that’s done and there are definitely no more lumps left – seriously no lumps! – let the batter rest in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Some recommend 24 hours.

Heat up your stove to 200°C. Butter up your cannelé molds.

OK. Don’t use muffin tins. Don’t. They are too big. You need tiny muffin tins for this. In France, they sell special cannelé molds obviously, however, if you’re craving these, not in France and in a bind, find the smallest mold you can, otherwise they won’t cook properly.

Fill your molds up to about 2/3 – ¾ of the way. Put them in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.

At the end of 20 minutes rotate the mold and lower the heat to 160°C. Bake for another 30 minutes.

Cannelés really are like souped up crepes. They have a crisp outside with a spongy, bouncy center that is moist and so good right out of the oven. The rum, though it may seem like a lot in the recipe is not overpowering. The alcohol adds a bit of sauciness to the pastry, something more than your typical sugar butter vanilla combination and makes it the perfect afternoon or post dinner treat. Serve warm. Serve with coffee.

Those were some lucky poor.

Wish me luck with NaNoWriMo!

A Word To the Wise: Cannelé do not keep for very long. A day or two at most. Eat them warm! Eat them fresh!

Today was a a cat-day. If you own a cat, you know what I mean. A day when you sit around feeling pleased with yourself sitting around accomplishing nothing in particular. I ran, I shopped at the market, I watched this documentary on Mesopotamia  (warning, not worth it if you don’t speak French!)

Started a new book. Painted my nails. Had a glass of wine. Worked on a new story. I need to get the novel out of my head for a moment and come back to it fresh when I feel better about my writing skills. I listened to some of Chopin’s Nocturnes.

Pistou, our cat, spent his day on the balcony and in our jardiniere, where he shouldn’t be, but he too looked so content sitting there amongst the flowers that I let him be.


Yesterday a friend from work asked me, “Are you cooking anything good this weekend?” He likes to hear about my obsession. I said “No. I made so much bread yesterday and Sunday the husband and I are going to a really nice restaurant.” (Review to follow)

But I really shouldn’t lie. OF COURSE I cooked. Because I can’t help myself.

I made quiche.

Not just one quiche but three. Which worked out to six individual quiche in the end.

How does one make a quiche? It’s easy. Crust, eggs, cream, and whatever you feel like putting inside. Bake at 180°C until cooked through. And don’t really worry about timing it right. Quiche really can’t burn. It’ll brown, but if it does, then you know it’s done and you have a browned crispy top.

But if you REALLY need a cooking time, the husband recommends 10-15 minutes.

So my quiche(s?) were:

Roasted potato with herbs

Zucchini and leek

Roasted red pepper, garlic and tomato


So Z- even though I said I wouldn’t cook anything, because I was tired – these quiche are for you.

 Though not literally because the husband ate them all. 😉

Ice Cream is Amazing

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