Sunday, September 20, 2009

French Dinner Date! Ooh la la!

Summer is over and autumn is here (almost officially). The lazy days of summer had Kara and I feeling lazy (I was lazy...Kara was moving) with our blogging but with fall and return to the routine we are feeling a renewed excitement about getting back to it. I find when I'm consistantly blogging for IBB it usually means my family is also eating healthier and more creatively. This is motivation enough to get back to it! Hopefully we haven't lost you forever in our hiatus!

There was a two part inspiration for this dinner date.

1) The French food episode of Top Chef from a couple weeks ago...all that French food had my pregnant brain longing for some French flavors. I also realized that I haven't really cooked many truly French foods so I thought it would be fun to channel my inner Top Chef and see what I could come up with!

2) I came across this recipe in a recent copy of Women's Day magazine that came to my house. I felt it NECESSARY to recreate a version of it asap. In the end I came up with something decadant but felt like it didn't really fit the 'for toddlers' bill so I made it for Kara and I and opted for a more tot friendly treat for the girls. Win/win!

Ratatouille over Quinoa
(serves 6)

Ratatouille seemed like an obvious choice when looking through class French main courses. Its a very "fall-like" meal and any toddler who has seen the movie Ratatouille would have some frame of reference (and hopefully excitement) about the dish.

1 eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 zucchini, cubed
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tsp. Herbes de Provence (or a similar herb combo)
1 bay leaf
salt (I prefer kosher salt because I am very Top Chef) ;o)
1-1/2c. quinoa
3c. chicken stock
3/4 c. parmesan cheese flakes (shredded would work too)

1. Place a large colander over a dinner sized plate. Add the eggplant and zucchini. Toss with a few generous pinches of salt. Let sit for about 20 minutes to draw some of the moisture out of the veggies.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. Add the olive oil to a large saute pan. Heat over med-high heat.
4. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes.
5. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
6. Add the eggplant, zucchini, herbs de provence, bay leaf, balsamic vinegar and another pinch of salt. Toss everything together until well combined. Remove from heat.
7. Add the mixture to a roasting pan. I used a glass 9x13 pan. Bake in preheated oven for at least 1 hour. I did an hour at 350 and another half hour at 250 to get a good roasted veggie flavor.
8. With 15 minutes left in the ratatouille baking time, rinse the quinoa, combine with the chicken stock in a med. saucepan and bring to a boil on the stove. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
9. Serve the ratatouille (make sure you took out the bay leaf) over a scoop of the quinoa and top with Parmesan cheese. (I totally forgot to add the parm when I served the food...grrr!)

I tried to be very fancy and chef-like by scooping a little of the quinoa into a heart shaped cookie cutter and topping it with the ratatouille. It actually worked and looked very cute!

Mini French Loaves (using a bread machine)
(makes approx. 12 loaves)

1c. warm water
1-1/2 tsp. salt
3c. bread flour
3 tsp. bread machine yeast
1/2 c. cold water
1 tsp. corn starch

1. Combine the warm water, salt, bread flour and yeast in your bread machine. Set machine to dough cycle and run. (On my machine this took an hour and 45 minutes.)
2. When the dough is done, turn out onto a lightly oiled surface (I sprayed Pam on my counter top). Cover with a tea towel or saran wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
3. Tear off small balls of dough (about the size of an apricot). Flatten the ball into a flat circle.
4. Fold up the bottom half and fold down the top half.
5. Using the edge of your hand make a crease down the center...
6. Bring the edges together and pinch the seam closed.
7. Dust a cookie sheet with cornmeal.
8. Slice 3 diagonal lines across the top of each loaf using a sharp knife.
9. Arrange the loaves about 2" apart on cookie sheet. Cover with towel and let rise for 20 minutes.
10. While the loaves are rising, combine the cold water and cornstarch in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, whisking constantly. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
11. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
12. When the loaves are done rising, put them in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Open oven and brush each loaf with the cornstarch mixture. Return to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown.
13. Transfer loaves to a wire rack to cool. Serve! These were crusty on the outside and chewy (in the best way possible) on the inside. Yum!

Langues de Chat (or Langues de Gato) aka "Cat Tongue" cookies
(makes about 18 cookies)

While in search of a more child-friendly French dessert for the girls I Googled "French cookies". These came up a lot in the search and I found many variations...plain, with chocolate, orange flavored, lemon flavored, etc. I didn't have and citrus fruits on hand so while digging around in my spice cabinet I came across coconut extract. I knew I also had actual coconut so I decided to give this chocolate/coconut version a whirl. They came out great!

4 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/2 c. powdered sugar (I realized I was out of powdered sugar so I cleaned out my coffee grinder and added some granulated sugar, gave it a good grind and voila! powdered sugar!)
1/2 tsp. coconut extract
1/8 tsp. salt
2 ROOM TEMPERATURE egg whites (or, as I learned, your butter will reharden)
1/2c. flour
1c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1c. flaked coconut


1. Beat the butter, sugar, coconut extract and salt on medium high for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the egg whites one at a time.
3. FOLD in the flour.
4. Refrigerate mixture for an hour.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
7. Fill a pastry bag or (what I used) my beloved Pamperd Chef Easy Accent Decorator with the dough. I used a star tip.
8. Pipe 3" tubes of dough onto the lined cookie sheet about 2" apart (you might need 2 cookie sheets)
9. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
10. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
11. Microwave chocolate chips in small, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on high(100%) power for 1 minute; stir. Chips may retain some of their original shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10 to 15-second intervals, stirring just until morsels are melted. I got these chocolate chip melting instructions from the Nestle site. I just winged mine in the microwave and the chocolate got a pasty consistency that would have been impossible to dip anything in so I ended up spreading my chocolate on the cookies. I think dipping would be better.
12. Dip one end of each cookie in the melted chocolate. Place on a sheet of wax paper, sprinkle coconut on the chocolate part. Let cookie rest until the chocolate hardens. Serve!

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding (for the grown ups!)
Boo! Hiss! We gobbled this up so fast I forgot to take a picture!

(serves 5)

I liked the concept of the Woman's Day recipe but not the actual ingredients so I crafted my own version.

3 day old croissants (the giant ones)
1c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4c. sugar
1-1/3c. half and half
2 Tbsp. cold butter, diced
Whipped cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium casserole dish or 5 individual baking dishes, tear small pieces off 1-1/2 croissants and place in bottom of dish(es)
3. Sprinkle chocolate chips over layer of croissant. Top with the remaining croissants (also torn into small pieces).
4. In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, yolks, sugar and half and half. Pour evenly over croissant/chocolate layers.
5. Top with diced butter.
6. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes (or until the custard mixture firms up).
7. Top with whipped cream and serve!! Yum! Yum!


Easy French Food said...

Wow, are the kids ever lucky at your house! That's a lot of creative cooking. If you ever want to try out some easy French recipes, I hope you'll stop by for a visit.

Anonymous said...

Celeste -

Making Kara's cauliflower pie as we speak, but may I be nosey and ask when you are due? I am due 01/10/10.

Enjoying the recipes, as always. All the best,


Celeste said...

Kim-I will definitely look for more French inspiration from your site! I'm already eyeing the zucchini pie!

Shannon-Congrats on your growing bean! Mine is due to arrive somewhere around 2/25!

Celeste :o)