December 29, 2007

Coming Soon...

As promised, when I am asked about a recipe that was not included in Mary james dishes it out, I will try to include it here or in the e-newsletter. So to quiet the roaring crowd...a Roosters on the Run favorite will be the next recipe posted in my blog....Spinach Artichoke Dip.. Currently, the recipe is food service size yielding 15 pounds. I just need to trim it down to a household version, test it, then post. This should happen within the next few days.

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and keep checking. It will be posted before the next e-newsletter.

Favorite Equipment - The Steamer

The steamer has become my best friend. Above you see three different sizes of the traditional stackable bamboo steamer (left) that works over water in the would keep one basket for meat/fish and the other for vegetables. These are inexpensive especially when purchased in the ethnic markets.

However, my favorite is the electric steamer (right). It is inexpensive also...$29.99 at Target the last time I checked. I use it almost everytime I cook....and, by the way, I don't cook every night. The Sizzling Fish Filets with Ginger and Green Onions (p. 116) are fabulously quick and easy in the steamer...And you will get RAVE reviews on this dish.... The steamer is perfect for all your vegetables.... steam potatoes for mashing or serve them just steamed with a bit of parsley, salt and pepper....or add a few turnips to the potatoes for an interesting twist....cabbage, carrots, cauliflower....asparagus, parnips, sweet potatoes....the list is endless. So healthy and they really do taste better. Dishwasher clean up or sometimes just a quick rinse will do. Bowls stack to store.


Booksignings have been great for me. Not only do I get to visit but many of you already have the book, and are trying the recipes, and are giving me such great feedback.....THANK YOU!.... I just have to share some of your comments...

-I LOVE your book.....It does not challenge my culinary skills...

-The Pan Seared Scallops were divine....and so quick to do

-I had no idea it would be this easy....all I have to know how to do is measure! I am inspired.

-I have already made the Sizzling Fish Filets with Ginger and Green Onions for my family and they loved it and it took me no time. MJ'S note: read about steamer in previous blog.

-The recipes are so easy to read and to follow.....I love the teaching notes.

So it seems that many of you have picked up on the ease of preparation of the recipes in Mary James dishes it out. It has always been my goal to make life easier and simpler in the kitchen whether it is the recipe you are preparing or the equipment you are using.

December 14, 2007

Getting Ready for the Holidays

This has been a great morning....up very early....turned on the Christmas music in the kitchen and started baking. First on the agenda was angel biscuits ....I made the dough last night and after being refrigerated overnight, the dough is perfect to roll out. Remember that it is sticky....just scoop part of it out onto a heavily floured board.....sprinkle heavily with flour and press with the palm of your hand before you finish rolling with the rolling pin. Tomorrow or the next day, they will be stuffed with country ham, wrapped in foil and put in the freezer.....Do you think 24 dozen is enough??? Maybe not. TIP: Kathy S. reminded me .. use cold water to wash a bowl with dough just rinses away!

Next project.....Raspberry 48 of Mary James dishes it out I LOVE these muffins...light...not too sweet. These are a real treat on Christmas morning. They freeze great! When I freeze them, I usually
bake them in greased and floured muffin paper liner.

The pictures are just a petite dejeuner (breakfast) set-up from these goodies that I had in my freezer at the time....

Speaking of Christmas......there are 2 favorite holiday breakfast casseroles in THE book.....pages 123 for Hash and Sausage Casserole (can do ahead and it freezes, uncooked) and the #1 requested breakfast casserole is on page 124 French Toast Casserole (can do a couple of days ahead and cook on Christmas morning, but does not freeze).

I could go on and on with suggestions but will save my quick entree ideas for a later blog...

Here is a popular recipe from one of the Gifts of Food classes....




Combine first 6 ingredients in 3-quart saucepan. Bring to rapid boil and cook stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chocolate chips. Stir until melted. Add vanilla. Stir. Pou into greased 8-inch square pan. Refrigerate until set.

November 14, 2007

PROVENCE ART in Greensboro

You get a taste of Provence these days when you walk down South Elm Street. The work Xavier's father, Bernard, is being featured at The View on Elm for the next couple of weeks. Stop by and enjoy!

November 11, 2007

Grand Canyon of France

On this day, we headed North from Xavier's into more of the backcountry. It seems that many people think that Provence is a flat country. We explode that myth when the Grand Canyon of France pops into our view. The lake is phenomenally blue...the paddle boats are most inviting as they wind there way into the gorge. No one can believe the vividness of color. Today we are lucky and the Canadair fire planes are doing practice exercises.....flying in, swooping down and scooping water from the lake to take to distant after the other. We could make a whole album with the photos taken here.

October 21, 2007

Cashiers, Carts, and Sacks

I live in the grocery store in France as much as I do here in the States. I have made several observations....not just about the food that is there...which is obviously different...but, the basics are different too.

First, once you are parked, you go to the cart area and get a cart. To do this, you must use a 1 Euro coin or perhaps you have a token from a grocery store promotion. Insert the coin and the chain releases and you have a cart for shopping. NO, you are not paying a Euro for the use of the cart. You get your Euro back when you return the cart and reconnect the chain.. SIMPLE....No carts rolling around the parking lot....and never necessary to send someone to round up carts. So when I think about how this could be done here, I realize that we don't have a 'common' coin that has perhaps enough value to insure the return of the cart....would a quarter do one ever has a $.50 piece or a dollar coin in their pocket.

Second....Note the pic of the cashier....she is seated and has total control of all around her. Cashiers unite! You need to sit works.

Third.....Over the past 2-3 years, ALL the grocery stores...big and not give you any kind of sack or bag for your purchases. It is about 'being green' and environmentally conscious. You can purchase a plastic bag (like we have) for less than a nickel or you can bring your own bag and fill it. Heavy duty reuseable bags are always on sale for less than a Euro. I must tell you that I have never seen anyone buy the bags like we use. If they don't have a bag with them, many people keep a box or cooler in their car and just reload their cart at check-out and make the transfer when they get to the car. Obviously, it is easier to just take your reuseable bag into the store. And, you do bag your own groceries. I do that here but I think I am the exception. I like organizing them to make putting them away easier when I get home. OK ...enough of this.

Finally, I don't think there is much you and I can do about the first two items but we can certainly take our own shopping sack with us and diminish our impact on the planet. It is just a habit that we need to develop.

June 30, 2007

Exploring Provence

Free days between groups are frequently spent exploring new places. In June, we took advantage of one of these days to head up into lavender country. The lavender was just beginning to open, the poppies were finishing their season and the backroads were calling us.....the route touristique was not yet busy and one could enjoy the scenery without the hassle of traffic. This route through the gorge du Nesque is very popular with cyclists.....they definitely outnumbered cars and once at the top we see that the village is indeed full of bicycles. Hadn't been here in 7 years but nothing has changed....a favorite nougatier is still here....the artisanal butcher shop hasn't changed....there are just more cyclists.....the Gorge du Nesque is beautiful but doesn't quite match the Verdon on the other side. From here, our loop takes us to a small village above Apt where we visit a local lavender grower who produces his own lavender oil......we stock up....quarts of lavender oil....did I say 100 kilos of blossoms to produce a liter....WOW...we just bought 4 liters....

Paris Surprise

Headed to Paris the beginning of June for a friend's birthday party. Of course, days were taken up with sightseeing and visiting places I hadn't been to in years....and walking miles and miles. BUT all this walking paid off.

Xavier took the less traveled route from the Arc de Triomphe and we ended up on Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore in front of the Elysee Palace...the home of the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. He must have known we were there because the gates opened, the car pulled into the street, stopped and out jumps Sarkozy! He greeted the 10-15 of us who were lucky enough to just be passing by. Very exciting....and I can say that he has a great smile and lots of charisma. Check out the photo

From there, we landed at a restaurant that I can highly recommend. Alain Senderens closed Lucas Carton and reopened as Senderens...a more low key casual restaurant than his starred Lucas Carton. There are actually 2 entities here....the restaurant Senderens and the upstairs bar. ...Le Passage.....named this since access is through the alley (Passage de la Madeleine) to the side of the restaurant. Get buzzed in, proceed upstairs and enjoy the small plates that they offer. I loved the Pastilla de Pigeon, Vinaigrette Epicée et was perfect with the crisp white wine that was chosen

May 28, 2007

Flowers of Spring

The poppy fields have been extraordinary...more plentiful and brilliant than ever. There are fields of poppies...then there are poppies falling over stone walls and even a lone ranger or two in the middle of a rocky path. They grow everywhere. We were such in search of them last year but never had the vistas that there have been in '07. Am taking lots of photos for my artist friends.

So many things are blooming. Here at Xavier's, he allows the wildflowers to progress through the Spring and mows only when they are spent.....first the tiny yellow flowers that blanket the yard....then come the bluets (though not the one we have), followed by the poppies and now the wild verbena (perennial verbena at home) with a yellow daisy......Nature sure does have alot to offer.

Last week, we made the trip to Abbaye de Senanque where the monks grow lavender and lavandin.....The monks have done an amazing amount of work since my last visit in September. The fields are gorgeous and I can't wait to return there in June when the lavender blossoms will be bursting forth......a field of purple. Lavender fields are everywhere......Did you know that it takes 100 kilos of blossoms (and think how light they are) to produce 1 liter of lavender essence! Below is the picture from the entrance of Senanque. I will take the same picture with the lavender in bloom in June.

May 7, 2007


I share with you a picture of yesterday's cheese tray. I want you notice the cheese in the center and the cheese at 12 o'clock. Most Americans would have discarded these cheeses long ago. However, they are the most special cheeses on the tray. Both began as a simple fresh goat cheese about the size of the cheese in the center. The cheese in the center is about 1 month old and has a bit of fluff growing on it. You know, good cheese is alive!!! The cheese at 12 o'clock was fresh in February and has been allowed to cellar age or age in a refrigerated situation where there is air circulation. So with this cheese tray in front of you, what do you choose and in what order.

At 9 o'clock is a Brique de Ewe. This is the mildest cheese and a place for you to begin. Next, at 2 o'clock is the Petit Basque (another ewe cheese but the process is different where the milk has been warmed and then the rind is rubbed with a salted cloth..causing the rind to get thicker and thicker). Then let's move to the first aged fresh goat cheese in the center. It has a bit more flavor than the fresh goat...don't shy away from the fluffy mold. It is okay. Remember cheese is living! Then the aged fresh at 12 o'clock....Before going further, I will tell you that I love all of them but I found this cheese a bit salty. As with all aging processes, flavors are concentrated. The mold you see on the cheese was not a problem, but the salt was for me. Finally, the cheese at 6 o'clock is calling me. I know this cheese and I love it!.. It stinks to high heaven when opened, but has a flavor that goes fabulously with red wine. It is Muenster from Alsace.

None of these cheeses are cut so that I can address the issue of 'cutting off the Pope's nose'.....a bit of cheese etiquette 101. Maybe another blog

P.S. I have corrected the times listed for my postings. They have been wrong. It is 8:05PM here and from now on you will see that I am posting on my time here in France....C'est 2:05PM in NC right now....

May 6, 2007


Well, it is remarkable to me that at 8PM....seconds after the polls close, a winner is announced. How do they know so fast??? Truly, the clock was ticking down on the television and BOOM the announcement that SARKOZY WINS with 53% of the vote! Also, I am amazed at the voter turnout...85%.....they are passionate about their politics. No laisser faire ici....or voter apathy.

Xavier says they know how to count votes!


AMAZING....there is a countdown just like New Year's Eve for the 8PM announcement. Sarkozy has won with 53% of the vote.


Today, Sunday, is election day here in France. There is excitement in the air. It has been THE topic of conversation for days...whether with friends and neighbors or around the table at meal times.

THe morning greeting this morning was "Today is the big day".......I'm thinking...big day....what is it.....what have I forgotten....where are we going???? Wrong! France is getting a NEW president! I won't pretend to know a tenth of what the average Frenchman knows but they are all animated and very excited about the change. The candidates are Segolene Royal, the Socialist illegitimate daughter of former President Mitterand...and you know the French could care less what her birth status was .....and Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative candidate who is promoting law and order and economic reform. Now that is as far as I am going with the politics....

Our day here in Les Arcs moved from the declaration of a 'big day' to going downtown where Bernard, Madeleine and Xavier voted. It was pretty much like our USA set-up but NO computers. Each of them had a voting card that was to be stamped (see pic) when they presented their identification. Then there were 2 stacks of paper for Royal and one for Sarkozy.....Most people pick up one of each and then go into booth and 'isoloir' (isolate themselves) to vote by placing the paper with their candidate into the box. Guess you could count the trashcan to see who loses!

Local jokes abound.....X received a text message from a friend yesterday ... Tomorrow, vote for Sarkozy so Royal remains only the name of a pizza!......

Today was only a presidential election.....the legislative election will be in June....never at the same time as we do.

It is 7PM here now. Most polls closed at 6PM except for the big cities which close at 8....Supposedly we will know at 8. Voter turnout is supposed to reach 85%. AMAZING!

May 4, 2007


It is always an adventure finding out upon arrival what is blooming, what trees have fruit, what is in the garden. Today was no exception. Look at these luscious artichokes...les petit violet de Provence. I have a picture from my files that shows a larger variety of an artichoke that has been allowed to go to flower...that flower is the choke that we remove before eating.

Walk into the kitchen this morning and there are two big containers of fresh strawberries...and not just any strawberries. These are the berries from Carpentras which is known for these luscious gems. These berries are about the size of the end of my ring finger and really taste and smell like strawberries. They have not been hybridized to the point of being huge with no flavor. This is what strawberries are supposed to be. Rarely, do we find them in the States. It hasn't been long since my arrival and between Xavier and myself (mostly me), the baskets are empty. I transferred some to a dish for photgraphing....maybe you can catch a whiff.....YUM..

Now, on tap for tonight's dinner are white asparagus....Having had many last Spring when I was here, I am looking forward to the evening repas (actually, I look forward to it every night if the truth be known). But, I have never liked those that I purchase in the grocery stores at home. Maybe I don't do something right but they are always tough and bitter for me. These are tender and succulent....and even more so with Xavier's vinaigrette.

I was looking forward to picking the cherries from the tree at my house in a couple of weeks....the usual time for them to be ready, but Xavier tells me that Spring came early.........and between that and a frost at an inopportune time, there are few cherries to be had....It seems to be the same scenario that was played out in North Carolina this year.


What can I say? Travel these days is not as easy as it once was and leaving from the big city of Atlanta made it even more laborious. Their sidewalk check-in was line....friendly personnel who even gave me 3 drink coupons for the flight...did I look like I needed a drink at 10AM in the morning?? Anyway, that is where the fun stops. Once inside and I was faced with the line (or should I say lines) through security. From the time that I was dropped off, it took one full hour to get through security and to my gate. Great flight to NY/JFK and then the interminable 5 hour wait for the next flight!

I think that JFK has undoubtedly the worst signage of any airport/train station/hospital/ or other place where you have no idea where you are. In my 5 hours there, I thought that perhaps I could redesign their directional signs..... heaven help the poor international traveler who doesn't speak English. Enough of that....I headed to the Sam Adams bar where there was a WiFi entertainment for the next few hours.

At the gate: Everyone is arriving.....3 people in wheel chairs.....2 people with dogs......more people than I can count with babies and children....and many different languages. Woman who arrived in a wheelchair with crutches and a dog needs to go to bathroom but can't manage dog, crutches and handbag alone. She doesn't speak English so I figure she speaks, she speaks Portuguese, Spanish and Italian. I am not much help but find an Italian lady to help her. Now this is a brave traveler.

Flight is full but again I have my good Karma and there is no one beside me....I see no other empty seats.....I guess my focusing on this for the last 3 months helped.

Enough of this...arrived on time in NIce to cool, rainy weather...a first......but, to me, the sun was shining!