Jamie Oliver’s Vegetarian Chili

We discovered Jamie Oliver’s vegetarian chili recipe a couple months ago, and have made it nearly once a week since. It’s so yummy, and so easy to make. And it’s one of those meals you can make at the end of the week when your fridge is empty and you can’t think of anything else to make. Most of the ingredients are canned ingredients you’ll have in your pantry, or spices you’ll probably have in the cupboard. The fresh ingredients you’ll need are sweet potatoes, peppers, chillis and coriander (unless, like us, you have a stash of frozen coriander in your freezer). Give this recipe a go — I’m certain you’ll love it too!

x Courtney

Image taken from the Jamie Oliver website.

A yummy puy lentil & bulghur salad

This bulghur lentil salad has been a huge success in our house lately. It’s easy to make, easy to keep, easy to take along (picnics!), and easy to eat as well. Our kids love it! And I imagine it’s quite healthy too.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 cup Puy lentils
  • 1/3 cup bulghur
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (like parsley, basil, coriander, mint)
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • fresh ground pepper, maldon salt

Cook Dupuy lentils according to instructions (don’t overcook, it’s nice when they still have a bite to them, I cook them for about 25 minutes and rinse them with cold water immediately after), and prepare the bulghur acording to instructions as well. Leave to cool. Mix all of the ingredients well. Add more salt and pepper, olive oil, herbs and lemon juice to taste.

Bon appetite!

xxx Esther

PS I often double the recipe and keep some in the fridge for a lunch, picnic or side dish later that week.

Addicted to green smoothies!

My sister recently suggested I read Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko. She said the book had changed her life! (How’s that for a recommendation?!) Ms. Boutenko is a raw foods pioneer and natural health advocate. She writes about the immense health benefits of eating more greens — how they eliminate toxins in the body and correct nutritional deficiencies. She suggests that the easiest way to consume sufficient amount of greens is to make and drink green smoothies.

And thus began our addiction to green smoothies!! We make them every day. It’s such an easy way to eat spinach, kale, chard and other extremely healthy green vegetables. She also argues that we should be eating more of the green parts of vegetables — the green bits of strawberries (just throw the whole strawberries, stems included, into your blender!), the greens of carrots, beet greens, etc. I don’t think I’ll ever toss those green bits away again! Plus, it’s so much easier to throw it all into your blender without removing the stems.

In addition to the greens, we also add sweet fruit like bananas, mangoes, strawberries, apples, etc. So the smoothies are not only extremely healthy, they’re super yummy! My kids are as addicted as I am! Here is one of our favourite sweet green smoothie recipes from the Green for Life book:

1 cup chard
1 cup spinach
10 strawberries, stems included
1 mango, peeled
1 apple
1 banana
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups water

And another recipe we also like (a bit less sweet – more healthy tasting!) is this one which we’ve sort of created ourselves:

2 avocados
1-2 cups of spinach
1 bunch of mint, stems included
1 bunch of parsley, stems included
1 apple
2 kiwis
1 cup apple juice

Try it! It’s delicious! And please share your green smoothie recipes. We would love to have more options!

x Courtney

Happy Easter!

Is it snowing for you outside as well? If you’re stuck inside like us, here are some last minute Easter craft ideas. Happy Easter!

xxx Courtney, Emilie and Esther

Bunny Masks

Bunny Egg Warmers

Chick Sugar Cookies

PomPom Easter chicks

Easy Easter idea: Indian Chief eggs

These Indian eggs were quickly made using a black marker, some masking tape and a little feather or pipe cleaner. I put them in my kids’ lunch boxes as a surprise, but I thought it would also be fun to make them for Easter. So easy, and so cute!

xxx Esther

Chocolate Mint Patties

My sister recently discovered this recipe for homemade chocolate mint patties on Design*Sponge and we were intrigued for two reasons: the first being that they look SO tasty (and who doesn’t love mint patties?!) and the second being that you get to make the mint filling, roll it out flat, cut shapes, and then dip the shapes into chocolate. Fun!

My sister and Ivy decided to make them (again, thank goodness for my sister!) and it was a relatively easy and fun recipe to follow… and they are the most delicious mint patties I have ever eaten. SO. DARN. GOOD.

I think this recipe and the Smitten Kitchen chocolate brownie recipe are my two favourite recipe discoveries of the past year. I definitely recommend making both.

xx Courtney

p.s. Ivy started calling the them ‘mint patios’, so now mint patties are officially called ‘Mint Patios’ in our house. (I nearly wanted to title this post ‘mint patios’, but figured you all might be confused.) : )

A giant cookie!

Crystal, one of our readers, sent us this beautiful image of a giant cookie she made with her 2 children a few weeks ago. It’s a lemon poppy shortcake that was carved before baking, and the photo was used for their Christmas cards this year. What a great idea!

Crystal was so sweet to write down the recipe / method for us — so here we go. Thank you, Crystal!

Lemon-Poppy Seed Shortbread (from Claudia Fleming, The Last Course)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth, about two minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and beat well. In a bowl, combine the flour, poppy seeds, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Form the dough into a disk and, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours (and up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.) Preheat oven to 170° C. Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper to a 1/2-cm thick rectangle. Return dough to refrigerator for an additional 30 minutes.

For normal cookies: Cut the shortbread into shapes with a two-inch cookie cutter, or use a knife, and place 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. The original recipe says not to re-roll the scraps, but my kids didn’t want to stop, and it seemed like a waste of potential cookies, so we kept re-rolling and cutting until we had used everything up -to no noticeable effect on the baked cookies. Prick shortbread with a fork and bake until pale golden all over, 23 to 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

For a giant cookie: After rolling it out to the rectangular shape I wanted, I popped it onto the baking tin, covered it with cling film and popped into the freezer for around 10 minutes. I kept doing this each time during the cutting to ensure that the cookie mixture was firm enough to carve/cut. I used a toothpick to sketch out the main shapes and then used a small sharp paring knife to cut out fuller shapes out around the toothpick lines. I then used a wooden chopstick dipped in water to smooth the inside of some of the cut lines that hadn’t cut so well. The cookie definitely cut better when it had just come out of the freezer, so I kept popping it in and out quite frequently during the process. I actually did this part while my kids were taking their afternoon nap -it would have been quite boring for them to watch this part. By the time they woke up, we gathered the scraps, ruled them into a few extra creatively shaped cookies, and the whole thing was ready to go into the oven! We kept a close eye on it’s cooking, and after about 25 minutes took it out when the edges were beginning to brown. Then we had to be really patient, (ok, maybe not that patient! There were a couple of the extra cookies to nibble on) while the giant cookie cooled down. It slipped off the tray perfectly, and we were able to photograph it right away. Finally we all had fun breaking up our giant cookie to lots of small irregular sizes and packing them away for tea later!

Homemade mustard

Once every few weeks we come together with a couple of friends on a week night and we cook up something interesting. So far we’ve made anything from pickled cucumbers, spicy red onions jam, red beet chutney, to the original plum pudding (with suet!). Yesterday we made our own mustard, which was a simple project with amazing results that I had to share with you. It would make an easy and lovely gift for the holidays — by itself or paired with a nice piece of great cheese. We found the recipe in ‘Home Made’ by Yvette van Boven, which BTW would also make a lovely holiday gift!

For two smaller or one bigger jar of mustard, just combine the below ingredients in the food processor and whizz for about 5 minutes:

  • 100 g mustard seeds
  • 200 ml white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kurkuma
  • 50 g cane sugar
  • pepper and salt to taste

When you’ve reached the consistency you like, spoon the mustard in clean jars and seal. Store in the fridge until use. It is said the taste will improve after a few weeks but I’m sure ours will be gone immediately — it is that good.

Note: We used white wine vinegar with tarragon and it made a lovely mustard with an interesting twist. You can also play around with honey instead of sugar, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, cloves, chilli etc., or roast the mustard seed beforehand for a more nutty flavour.


xxx Esther

Lena Corwin’s Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

My sister is visiting us from Seattle — she arrived the day before Marlow was born, and she’s staying with us through Christmas. I can’t even begin to describe how happy this makes me! She is so much help with the kids and with the baby. I really don’t know how I will survive when she leaves.

Another bonus — she bakes! She recently made this delicious Pumpkin and Cranberry Bread for us and it is sooo yummy. It’s so perfect for this time of year. (The recipe makes two loaves — but we decided to make cupcakes for the kids because they’re easier for them to eat.) The recipe comes from Lena Corwin, as featured on Design*Sponge.

x Courtney

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

My favourite cooking website is, without a doubt, the Smitten Kitchen blog. Deb Perelman’s posts are hilarious and easy to read and she does not take herself too seriously. Just the kind of person I would love to take cooking tips from. You might have noticed that Courtney and I have started linking to Deb’s post lately (and those brownies are really the best ever).

This morning I received the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook in my mailbox and it made my day (is it a sign of the times that a cookbook can make my day?). I have to admit that I am one of those old-fashioned girls who likes to have a book rather than a computer in the kitchen. This is possibly due to the fact that I have a tendency to get flour and butter onto the computer, which is just not a good idea. I cannot wait to try out the recipes and will definitely share my favourites with you!

- Emilie

La Pâtisserie est un jeu d’enfants

How nice is it when your child can suddenly read? One day they are in diapers finding it hard to concentrate on Spot the Dog. Next thing you know, they are curling up on their bed with a book; it’s a big milestone!

Years ago we were given, as a present, a copy of “La Pâtisserie est un jeu d’enfants“.  I frankly forgot that it was flying around somewhere in the kids room, until Coco came up to me recently and announced that it was time for us to make some gateau à la banane (banana cake). Not quite the thing I had planned that day… but she had read the recipe, had checked in the cupboard if we had the ingredients and there was no stopping her.

This book is a classic over here in France. It was first published in 1964 and is full of traditional French children’s gouter cakes, for example choquets, crèpes, marble cake and, my personal favourite, Madeleines. The illustrations are charming and super simple to follow. There is also a cut-out pattern for the measuring cup, which is a fun extra activity.

It only exists in French, but it is very simple so you will be able to decipher it, even if your French is very basic.

If you enjoy this book you might also enjoy it’s precursor called “La cuisine est un jeu d’enfants” (Cooking is a child’s game).

- Emilie

Lemon Squares

I have a little bit of a cold at the moment and am a firm believe that of lots of Vitamin C is the best thing to fight it.

So I have stocked piled a huge amount of lemon and am drinking hot lemon with a generous spoonful of honey by the litre. Another way of using my stockpile of lemon is by baking lemon squares. I am not sure that the health quota in these little delights equals the one of hot lemon and honey, but they make me so happy, they must be good for me! (They are also the alternative to brownies in our house, as I am one of these weird people who don’t like chocolate!)

I use a recipe I found on the web by the Barefoot Contessa. I actually looked for an alternative recipe just to see what the difference would be, but most recipes I found, like this one on Smitten Kitchen, are variants of the Barefoot Contessa lemon bars, so I decided to stick to the original! It was worth it — the bars are crunchy at the bottom and tart and gooey on the top, absolutely delicious!

- Emilie

A simple, warming Pumpkin soup

After five years of living in France, I am still surprised how one can guess the season by the fruit and vegetables being sold at the market and the green grocers. Strawberries and asparagus announce the beginning of summer, cherries and green beans follow closely after. Plums mean that summer is nearing an end and the arrival of clementines, oranges and pumpkins can only mean one thing: winter is slowly creeping in.

We can definitely find most fruit and veggies all year round, but it is the abundance and quality of them is truly seasonal. When I was living in England, I had actually almost forgotten that fruit and vegetables are seasonal! How bad is that? So, now that there is an abundance of cheap, wonderful pumpkins around, I made a family favourite: pumpkin soup with a little bit of ginger and cumin. (I have no idea why, but my children will eat any vegetable as long as it is in form of a soup, strange but true…).

Pumpkin Soup:

  • 1 kg of Pumpkin peeled and cubed
  • 1 chopped onion and a chopped little clove of garlic
  • 500 ml of vegetable stock
  • 1 tumbnail size chunk of shredded ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • some crème fraîche

Fry up the chopped onion garlic and shredded until it is translucent and add in the pumpkin pieces. Give them a good stir for a while so that they start roasting a little bit. Add the stock and cook for about 20 minutes until soft. Just before taking the soup off the stove add the cumin and the salt and pepper to taste. Blend and serve. I like to add on a dollop of crème fraîche at the end. Enjoy!

Check out some of our other pumpkin recipes: a savoury pie, pumpkin pie, a pumpkin pasta, and of course Courtney’s Grandmother’s famous Squash Bisque.

- Emilie

Nut & raisin bread

I got this recipe from a friend from university a long time ago and I made it loads when I was a student. The beauty of the recipe is that you need nothing else but a bowl, a cup, and a (wooden) spoon — plus a bread pan and the ingredients, of course. Last week, for some strange reason,  I woke up in the middle of the night and suddenly remembered the recipe. So I tried it again, and it was super delicious, and the kids loved it! It is seriously so simple to make:

In a bowl, stir together:

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 cup of rye flour (or use plain flour instead)
  • 1 cup of muscovado sugar
  • 1 bag of baking powder (16 grams)
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of raisins (soak in hot water for a few minutes)
  • 1 cup of hazelnuts
  • 2 tbl sp of treacle (like golden syrup, or molasses)

Transfer to buttered bread pan and bake in the middle of a medium hot oven (150C / 300F) for about 45 minutes. Wonderful to eat warm with butter, or excellent cooled down as well. Great for picnics, lunch boxes, or a healthy afternoon snack! Enjoy!

xxx Esther

Homemade yoghurt

Have you ever thought about making your own yoghurt? We’ve been doing it since we visited friends in France a few years ago and they served cute little jars for dessert filled with their own homemade yoghurt. And it was the best yoghurt we ever had! We purchased a ‘yoghurt maker’ (similar to these, UK/US), and have been making our own yoghurt regularly ever since. It’s so easy — just mix milk with some left-over natural yoghurt (or use a bag of yoghurt culture), pour in jars, leave in the machine for about 10 hours (the machine makes sure the temperature is even at about 27 degrees C), and presto! Your own yoghurt. You can vary by adding vanilla, a bit of compote, etc. We love to eat our yoghurt with homemade granola for breakfast!!

xxx Esther

Cinnamon Rolls

Sometimes we have just had enough of soft and flakey croissants and buttery brioche for breakfast on weekends. Don’t get me wrong, I will never tire of the fact that I just need to walk 50 metres to pick up some of the best patisseries mankind has to offer, but it is nice to take a break. So I decided to mix it up a little this weekend, and make my very first batch of cinnamon rolls. The last time I had a cinnamon roll, I must have been 16 and in a strip mall in Wisconsin, so my memories are a bit vague. All I really remember is: a cinnamon roll tastes great!

After a bit of internet research I settled on the Cinnamon Swirl Buns from Smitten Kitchen (a fabulous blog I recently have become addicted to), with a couple of adjustments. The main one was that I just could not bring myself to use all that sugar for the filling, so I used about half the quantity. I don’t think a real American would have approved, but the non-connaisseurs here in Paris had no idea that they were being short changed, and still loved my rolls.

The other thing I did was to prepare the rolls the night before and stick the baking tray with the unbaked rolls into the fridge. That way, I just needed to chuck them into the oven the next morning and 20 minutes later I had fresh rolls. Finally, I baked some of the rolls in little ramekins as I did not have enough baking trays and I actually think they looked really sweet, hence the photo above!

- Emilie

The perfect summer gazpacho

This summer, Emilie and her girls came to see us in our family house in France — such fun! While the kids were enjoying themselves endlessly, Emilie and I spent hours discussing, purchasing and preparing food — a passion we both share! One recipe we made a few times and which was a huge, huge success, was this perfect gazpacho by Felicity Cloake (Emilie reviewed her cookbook before here). Ms. Cloake spent quite some time cooking up different versions of gazpacho, and came up with one gazpacho that is, well, perfect. And we even omitted step 3, passing the soup through a sieve! There’s no better time to make this yummy soup than now — when the tomatoes are ripe and tasteful, and the weather still so agreeable. It’s super easy to prepare in the morning for a delicious, healthy and fresh lunch (or dinner). Do you love gazpacho too?

xxx Esther

The very best brownies

I recently discovered Smitten Kitchen’s famous brownie recipe… and it has literally become a family obsession. I’ve made them four times in the past couple weeks… enough that I think my daughter could probably make them on her own now. I even made them once for my husband to take to work with him, and apparently they were a huge hit in the office. The recipe is dead simple, and they are the best brownies I’ve ever tried. Rich and chocolatey, super moist and just the right consistency. Simple and perfect!

Find the recipe here… and chocolate lovers be warned of potential addiction.

xx Courtney

Blackberry foraging and Compote making

Every year we spend a few weeks in the countryside in our family house in France, and there’s always one major task at hand: blackberry picking! This year was a particularly good blackberry year, so we all got to work (kids included) and I was able to make a few batches of jam and compote. Especially the compote has proven to be a grand success — we love to eat it with thick yoghurt (quark) as a dessert or spooned over oatmeal or pancakes for breakfast. Here’s the recipe — it’s really easy!

  • 1 kg fresh blackberries
  • 300 g cane sugar
  • 1 t.sp. cinnamon or to taste
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 to 6 jars and lids, depending on size (I use old jam jars)

Make sure your jars and lids are clean (a hot program in the dishwasher will do), and keep them in the sink in hot water until you use them. Combine the blackberries and the sugar and leave to stand for 20 minutes or so until the juices start to come free. Add cinnamon and lemon juice, and put on a low fire and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil, and let boil for about 5 minutes. Put the compote in clean jars and seal. Put jars upside down for about 10 minutes. Turn right side up again and leave to cool down. Done! Makes about 4 to 5 jars, that you can keep for a long time outside the fridge (but once open keep in the fridge). Enjoy!

xxx Esther

PS If you’re wondering what Pim has on his head — it’s a helmet my dad wears to protect his eyes when he’s using his sawing machine. Pim found it in the workshop and wore it the entire vacation!

Chickpea, Kumara & Spinach Curry

As a follow up to the post about my beloved slowcooker here is my current favourite recipe. Unfortunately, my kids don’t like it but its perfect for a late Friday night dinner with a glass of wine when the kids are tucked up in bed.

  • 2Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, in 1cm squares
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp grated root ginger
  • 2-4 tsp curry powder
  • 2-3 tsp ground cumin
  • 400g golden kumara (sweet potato)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2-3 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 x 400g can tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cooking liquid from chickpeas, or water
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp salt
  • about 200g baby spinach
  • chopped fresh corianer, for garnish

Turn the slow cooker on to HIGH and coat with non-stick spray. Mix the first six ingredients together in a non-stick frypan and heat until the onion is transparent, then tip everything into the slow cooker bowl. Peel and slice small kumara or cut large ones lenthwise before slicing them.  Add to the slow cooker with the next four ingredients.

Put the lid on and cook on HIGH for about 4 hours, or on LOW for 6-8 hours, or until the kumara is soft.  At this stage, stir in the garam masala, and add enough salt to bring out the flavour, About 5 minutes before serving, stir the baby spinach leaves into the hot mixture, since they wilt and soften almost immediately.

Serve in bowls, sprinkled with chopped coriander and with crusty bread alongside or serve on brown or white rice if you want the mixture to go further.

Steph xo

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