the bookshelf

I love reading–always have.  I was one of those kids who regularly read a Baby-Sitters Club (the classic 90’s series which of course began with the fabulous Kristy’s Great Idea) book in a day, and am still a person for whom a book and a blanket with some tea makes a pretty nice evening.  Along those lines, some girlfriends and I had chatted about the idea of a book club off and on for a while now.  We thought it would be a fun way to both read some new things and get together on a regular basis.

Well, we finally did it!  We’ve got nine wonderful, smart, and interesting women in our group and we all picked books to add to the collective “bookshelf” from which we’ll choose our book each month.  The hostess gets to choose the book that will be discussed at her house, and what’s even more fun about it is that we must pick one that was added by someone else.

Personally, I’m excited to read some new things.  One of the reasons I looked forward to doing this was because it would force me to choose and read books that I wouldn’t normally pick out for myself.  It’ll be nice to have the inspiration and motivation to try something new, or to persevere through something if it might not be my cup of tea.  Plus, it will be great to discuss things together, as a group of young professional women who have diverse interests and ideas.

Our first book is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  It takes place in Nazi Germany in 1939, and is about a young girl who steals books, learns to read, and shares her books with her neighbors and a Jewish man hidden in her basement during the War.  It sounds fascinating, and is supposedly great, but it’s one I may not have heard of on my own.  We’ll see how it goes!

Off to read… cheers to a fun new adventure.

chicken dumpling soup

I think Fall may have officially arrived! (See? I said I’d embrace it eventually.)  When we had that first officially brisk day, I could only think of one thing: soup. Nothing better in cool weather.  As if by magic, I caught a rerun of one my most favorite little cooking shows, and on it was this chicken dumpling soup.  As an aside, that show is Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen on BBC (Cooking Channel shows it here in the US, too)–it’s fabulous, she’s fabulous, and I think the whole thing is just charming and great.  The food is simple and yummy, and I want her cookbook quite badly.  Pretty much, I want to be her.

Anyway, girl crush aside: this soup.  It’s super basic, but what makes it really yummy are the dumplings.  I’d never made anything quite like them before.  (Actually, I don’t really think I’d ever put chicken breasts into a blender before…) But, they come together quickly and are so light and delicious.  Plus they make the soup kind of special!  And they’re easy to do ahead of time–I made the dumplings the night before so I could just put together the rest of the soup easily the next evening after work.  This is a slight variation on the original recipe–she also adds mushrooms so feel free if you’re a fan.

Step 1 IMG_2850

Starts with a mirepoix–chopped celery, carrots, and onion, sautéing in a bit of olive oil and butter

Step 2

The dumplings–they might look a bit strange at first but they’re delicious

Chicken broth and the dumplings are added to the sautéed veggies

Chicken broth and the dumplings are added to the sautéed veggies

Step 4 IMG_2866

Served with chopped parsley or cilantro

And eaten on the porch with white wine

And eaten in the cool outside air with white wine

And perhaps the evening will turn into a lovely one with candles, wine, and a long talk on the porch

And perhaps the evening will turn into a lovely one with candles, wine, and a long talk on the porch

chicken dumpling soup (boillon de poulet avec des quenelles de volailles)

dumplings (quenelles)

  • 8oz chicken breast
  • 4-5 slice of white bread, crusts removed and torn
  • 6 1/2 T heavy cream
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 t salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg

Place all the above ingredients into a food processor or blender.  Blend until they form a paste.  Shape the dumplings into a medium-sized, football-like shape using two spoons.  This video (also above) shows the easiest way to do this, but you basically just enough to fit in the spoon, and then pass the mixture back and forth between the two spoons until you have a dumpling shape that looks like the photo above.  This is the easiest way to shape these, since they are much too sticky to use your hands.

soup

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 6 c chicken stock
  • Parsley or cilantro, chopped (or another herb that sounds good to you)

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium-high heat (I used a large cast iron dutch oven).  Add the chopped carrots, celery, and onion, and sauté until the onion begins to soften (5-10min).  Pour the chicken broth into the bot, and bring to a boil.  Gently add the dumplings to the pot, and simmer until they are cooked through (3-5min).  The dumplings will float to the top when they are done, and you can also cut one in half to check it.  If all the dumplings are approximately the same size, they should cook evenly.

Serve with chopped parsley or cilantro on top. Be cozy!

“monday” musing

Didn't start cooking

Well, since it’s obviously not a Monday, the “better late than never” sentiment seemed appropriate.  I came across this ages ago, and have kept it on my desktop since then.  It’s one of those things that’s nice to keep in mind on those days when you’re still not sure what you want to be when you grow up–even if you have a fancy degree and are perhaps supposed to know that already?! While I’ve had some pretty stellar ideas, I generally like to think I’m a work in progress.

Here’s to learning a bit more each day…

etsy

Exciting news! I finally took the plunge and did something that I’ve been thinking about doing for a while. Buy a little beach house in South Carolina? Nope. Run away to pastry school in Napa? Nope. Have white wine and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s for dinner? Possibly, but not what I’m getting at.

I opened an Etsy shop! I’ve been doing photography for years, and have recently been getting back in the swing of things. So I figured, now’s the time!

The shop is also called the little éclair, and it’s here on Etsy. The shop is small for now, but I’m hoping to continue working and adding to it now that it’s officially up and running! I’ll have photographic prints for sale there, like the ones here and this one:

Canoes on Golden Beach

Canoes on Golden Beach

I’ll keep things updated on the Etsy page of this site, and let me know if there’s anything you’d be interested in seeing there!

Exciting stuff 🙂 Happy (almost) weekend!

guacamole salad

I could (and have) made an entire batch of guacamole and eaten it myself as a meal. I love it, in a way that’s problematic because I never get sick of it. Anyway, my husband isn’t quite as into eating a dip or condiment for dinner, so I came up with this salad. It’s got all the goodies of guacamole–plus chicken and chickpeas for some protein and texture–but is a bit more substantial (and meal-like).

Step 1 IMG_2407

Chopped tomatoes, green onion, and cilantro

Step 3 IMG_2416

Sauteed chicken, diced

Step 4 IMG_2427

Tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, chicken, and chickpeas

Step 5 IMG_2434

Added avocado, corn, and extra cilantro

Step 6 IMG_2439

Finished with feta cheese and lime juice

Guacamole Salad

  • 2 avocados, diced into bite size cubes
  • 1 large or 2 small tomatoes, seeded, diced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • Cilantro, to taste
  • 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ear of corn, kernels cut off the cob
  • Lime juice (I used the juice from 1/2 of a lime; if you’re not afraid of a little extra tartness, use a whole lime)
  • 2 chicken breasts (seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder)
  • Feta or cotija cheese, to taste (I love cotija but don’t always have it on hand; feta is a good, easier to find substitute since it’s dry and salty, and crumbles well like cotija)

Sauté the chicken: heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. If the chicken breasts are thick, pound them to about 1/2-inch thin. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels, and season them on both sides with salt (I like to use Lawry’s Seasoned Salt sometimes, too, for extra flavor), pepper, and garlic powder. Once the the skillet is hot, place the chicken breasts in the pan, and cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. This should only take a few minutes on each side. Once the chicken looks good and golden on each side, I usually take one piece off the heat and cut into it to see if it’s done (when the juices are clear and it’s whiter, not light pink, inside). Let the chicken cool before dicing it (it’ll stay juicier that way).

While the chicken is cooling, prep and mix the remaining ingredients. I usually cut and add the avocado last, right before serving, so that it doesn’t start to get brown. Chop the tomatoes, onion, and cilantro and mix together in a large bowl. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add them to the bowl. Cut the corn kernels off the cob and add them, too. Chop the avocado into cubes (here is the perfect way to do that) and add to the bowl. Add the lime juice and toss everything together.

Once the chicken has cooled, cut it into bite size cubes and add it to the bowl. Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper. Give everything one last toss, being careful not to overmix so that the avocados don’t get all smushed.

Serve, with cheese, lime juice, and cilantro on the side for topping.

Enjoy a non-embarassing, grown-up way to eat guacamole for dinner!

monday musing

Summer, please restart

While I love fall, I’m not sure that I’m quite ready for it.  I love summer’s humidity, not worrying about a jacket, the sweating, clear blue skies, open windows, sitting on patios, and sunshine.  Soon I’ll be all about the cider and cinnamon and tailgating, but I’m not all the way there just yet…

For now, cheers to a summer week!

summer fruit, yogurt, and granola

Happy weekend!

This isn’t as much of a recipe as just a celebration of summer fruit. A yogurt parfait is the perfect way to highlight that deliciousness, particularly I think, if the yogurt is fruity, too. For these, we used peaches and strawberries–I could smell them just by walking by the farmer’s market stands and they tasted as good as they smelled.

Step 1 IMG_2441

Here in the Indy area, we have a great place to get local dairy: Traders Point Creamery. It’s a family owned, organic dairy farm and their products are sold in a lot of local markets around town. Their yogurts are particularly good–they’re the type that are quite liquidy, almost the consistency of very thick cream, which makes them great for pouring over things like fruit or cereal. (They also freeze really well into popsicles.) Traders Point describes the yogurts as European-style and drinkable–whatever they are, they’re yummy! We used raspberry for these, but my other favorite is the banana mango.

Step 2 IMG_2448

Topped with some extra crunchy granola, these make the perfect light weekend breakfast. I like the warm flavor of vanilla with fruit, so we used french vanilla almond granola from The Fresh Market for these. And I put them in my favorite glasses from Crate & Barrel (“happy” morning!).

Step 3 IMG_2454

perfection: salted caramel sauce

I have a feeling that, once in a while, I’m going to be compelled to share those “perfect things”–foods, products, restaurant meals, etc. Some things are just too good not to share!

Like this:

Sauce Jar IMG_2785

Now Trader Joe’s has so many great things, but this stuff is serious business. I generally discover things there in one of three ways: via a random find due to pretty packaging or a craving, creeping on other shoppers’ carts, or sampling. This was a sample win. The evening it was out in the store, I’m pretty sure I told every employee I saw that it was the “best sample day ever”. (It was being served WARM on top of the best vanilla ice cream ever, what was I supposed to do?) It’s that good.

Ice Cream IMG_2786

This sauce is so smooth, and has that sweet, browned butter taste with the perfect amount of salt. (And it’s salt you can actually taste, which is nice–sometimes I think the “salted” descriptor might be overused…) I like to heat it up for just a few seconds in the microwave before I pour it over the ice cream. While it’s perfect with vanilla ice cream, I’ve also had quite excellent experiences combining it with other flavors like coffee, caramel, and the always delicious Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.

You probably need this.