Summer Resolutions with Lightened Up Flourless Chocolate Fondant

As summer approaches, most of us think of vacation, the sun, the beach or sitting poolsi – wait, that means I need to put on a bikini?  Crap.

If I am being honest, over the last  2 years I have slowly gained some weight since moving to France – guilty.  Nothing crazy but truth be told I have put on about 8-10 pounds.  (Don’t judge me, you try living in the food capital of the world where delicious things surround you daily and not gain a few pounds!)

The past few weeks I have been trying to get back into the habit of being conscious of what it is I am eating, working out more, and taking recipes I love and altering them to their “lighter” versions.  After all, as I said, summer is approaching.

When I was younger I was pretty chubby and then at 19 I said “enough”, mustered up the courage to work hard and lost about 25 pounds.  I was eating well and working out, and I kept it off for 4 years.  Then I moved here…. so I think it is about time to get back on track.

If there is one thing I have learned in my years of eating well, it is that “dieting” does not mean depriving or starving yourself, but making smarter choices and cooking up lighter versions of your favorite foods.  Now I am not saying you can have “lightened up” pasta or cheesecake everyday just because it is a lighter version, but I am saying that these things can be included in your meal rotation.  Oh, an by the way, I have already lost 2 1/2 pounds this week…  :)

Now, most would say the hardest thing about dieting is missing out on desserts.  So to kick off the “lightened up” posts that will be featured here for a while, I have altered one of my favorite French desserts to a lighter, low fat version:  Fondant au Chocolat - Chocolate Fondant.  (What, you were expecting a salad?  Baby steps, people, baby steps).

This version is flourless and uses low fat/fat free milk and cream, majorly cutting back the calories and fat.  However, it is so packed with delicious, chocolatey goodness that you would never guess  :)

Lightened Up Flourless Chocolate Fondant                                                  (adapted from Les Desserts Bistrot)

Ingredients:

240 grams of dark chocolate (60-70%), broken into pieces

4 fl. oz. of low fat or fat free heavy cream

4 fl. oz. of 1% or skim milk

50 g of sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

40 grams cocoa powder (optional)

Directions:

Heat cream and milk over medium heat until it just starts to simmer.

Meanwhile, beat eggs and sugar in a small bowl.  Pour cream mixture over egg mixture and stir. (Note – you don’t want to “shock” the eggs with a blast of heat as they can cook, so add a small amount of the hot liquid and slowly stir, then pour the rest in).  Pour the egg and cream mixture back into the pot and cook over low heat while stirring for at least 2+ minutes.  DO NOT let the cream mixture boil.  The mixture is ready when it starts to lightly cling to the spatula.

Place the chocolate pieces into a bowl and pour cream mixture over the top. Stir until well combined and chocolate is fully melted.  Pour the batter into a medium sized non-stick pan  or into small individual ramekins/cocottes/etc. (Tip – I prefer the small individual sized servings because pre-portioning helps the urge to eat too much!)

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Just before serving, lightly sprinkle cocoa powder over the top and serve with fat free whipped cream, if desired.  Enjoy!

Bon Ap!

Julie

First Signs of Spring & Marché Bastille

First signs of spring, Bastille, Paris 03/06/2011

Marché Bastille
11th Arrondisement
Metro: Bastille
Thursday 7am-2:30pm, Sunday 7am-3pm

Ahhh spring :)  Welcome.  Winter always seems exceedingly long, while summer feels far to short.  In Paris, winter is cold and rainy, the sun barely making its short appearances every few weeks – like I said, very long winters.  What was so great about this week, however, is that after weeks of cloudy, sunless days, on March 1st the sun made its debut and has stayed all week.  The temperature has been slowly rising into the 50s (and hopefully soon into the 60s) and the city streets have become even more lively.

One of my favorite things about Paris, and France in general, really, is the open markets.  France is very pro fresh, quality foods and even more pro locally grown products.  All year round (winter included) you can find an outdoor market in each neighborhood in a variety of sizes all containing countless vegetables, fruits, cheeses, meats, fish, poultry, eggs, flowers, herbs , clothing, and the list goes on. ( http://equipement.paris.fr/?tid=289)

Last summer/fall I frequented the weekly market in my neighborhood, Bastille, for seasonal fruits and veggies, and eggs (gotta love local farm eggs!).  As the cold came in, I have only been a few times since October/November when my mom and my cousin came to visit.

Bastille Market Oct/Nov. 2010 - Photo credit my cousin, Michelle

However, today was the first market in March and the sun was out so Julien and I were excited to go this morning.

Parisian markets have two great things: quality and prices.  Today we bought a ton of stuff and only spent 30 euros.  On our list today:

YUM

Tonight for dinner I am making those amazing looking artichokes and using those plump mushrooms to make a sauce for our steak tournedos we bought yesterday.  If you’re lucky,  you might get a peek :)   …maybe  :P

Check near you for your own local markets!  Yes, they do exists in the States, you just have to search :)

As always,

Bon Ap!

Julie

A Valentine Dinner

 

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone :)

Now, those of you that know me know I am not much of an ooey-gooey, lovey-dovey over-the-top romantic… but I am, of course , a sucker for a good reason to get cozy and enjoy a great meal with the one you  love.  And since my boy is French and romance tends to be in his nature, I think it is only fair that he deserves a meal to match.

Since living in France I have learned some things about the French culinary world, and have acquired several French cook books.  This four-course meal contains an appetizer of my own creation – Warm Green Bean Salad with Poached Egg, a main dish adapted from Les Secrets de la Mère BrazierChicken à la Crème with Morel Mushrooms served over rice, a salad with cheese and bread, and a dessert adapted from a sweet little book called Les Desserts BistrotVanilla-Spéculoos.

Accompanying the appetizer we had a rosé champagne called Michel Fallet that a friend of mine gave me as a gift.  Her boyfriend’s dad produces the champagne  in the region of Picardy in the small town of Charly-sur Marne.    With the main course we drank a Côtes du Rhone, one of my many favorite kinds of red wines here in France.

In this special “cooking for two” post, you will find the recipes for the appetizer, the main course, and the dessert posted below.

Enjoy !

 

Warm Green Bean Salad with Poached Egg


Ingredients:

1/2 lb. of fresh green beans

4 strips of bacon

2 eggs

1 tblsp. vinegar

butter

salt and pepper

Directions:

Remove the ends of the green beans and discard.

Fry up bacon strips, remove from heat and and let cool.  Crumble bacon into pieces and set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and blanch green beans until thoroughly cooked.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan or a frying pan fill with about 2 inches of water + 1 tblsp. of vinegar.  Bring to a simmer.

Gently crack the eggshell and drop the egg in as close to the water as possible.  Immediately, gently fold the white over the yolk.  Repeat with the second egg.  Cook eggs for about 3-4 minutes and remove egg with a slotted spoon.  Set aside.

Drain green beans and combine with about a tablespoon of butter.  Split the green beans evenly on each plate.  Sprinkle with bacon pieces, salt and pepper to taste.  Place the poached egg on top and serve.

 

Chicken à la Crème with Morel Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds of chicken pieces (thighs, legs, breasts, etc)

2 1/4 cups crème fraîche (or heavy cream if you cannot find c.f.)

1 – 1 1/2 cups of morel mushrooms

flour

lemon juice

butter (or oil if you prefer)

salt and pepper

Directions:

Salt, pepper, and flour the chicken pieces.  In a large pot, fry the chicken in butter.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan with a generous amount of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium heat until cooked through.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Once the chicken is cooked, remove the pieces and deglaze the pot with the crème fraîche. (Delgaze is to disolve the cooking juices or solid food in a pan by adding liquid and stirring). Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.  Place the chicken back into the pot, pour in the mushrooms, and bring to a low simmer.  

Remove the chicken and plate as desired (serve over rice or pasta).  Run sauce through a strainer to separate from mushrooms.  Top chicken with mushrooms and pour sauce over everything.

Mère Brazier recommends pairing this dish with either a Beaujolais nouveau wine or a Côtes du Rhone wine.

 

Vanilla-Spéculoos


Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1 3/4 cups whole milk

1 vanilla bean, split open and scraped*

6 egg yols + 1 whole egg

1/2 cup sugar

24 spéculoos cookies**

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 250 F

In a small pot, warm cream, milk, and vanilla over low heat.  (Cooking slowly prevents curdling)

Meanwhile, beat eggs and sugar until fluffy and well combined.  Slowly pour and mix hot cream and milk into egg and sugar mixture until well combined.

Pour mixture into 10-12 small oven safe glasses, or 6-7 “cocottes” (see image)

Place glasses/cocottes into a baking tray.  Fill tray half way with water.  If using small glasses, bake for about 40 minutes.  If using cocottes or larger sized glasses, bake for about 1 hour and 20-30 minutes.

Let cool and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Right before serving, crush spéculoos cookies and cover cream mixture.

NOTES:

*If you don’t have or want to buy a vanilla bean, you can use 2 tsps. of vanilla extract.  Add to the sugar and egg mix instead of heating with the cream and milk.

**Spéculoos cookies are very rare in the US, so if you cannot find them you can either use any kind of hard spice cookie.  If you still cannot find spice cookies, you can use cinnamon graham crackers.

Bon Ap!

Julie

An Apology…with Black Bottom Cupcakes

Hi!

Ok, don’t be mad. I know, really, I know.  I have been gone for… a while.  I have had several people asking me why I haven’t been posting.  “I check your blog all the time, where are you??”  or “Why haven’t you been posting??”

Ok.  Guilty.

The truth is, I am busy and poor.  In addition to all the work I am doing for grad school, my job, and the general day-to-day of running around in life, I don’t make a lot of money working part time and that hinders many things.

I can promise you, however, that I have been cooking and baking regularly and have stocked up some new things to feature on my blog and my early new year’s resolution is to post at least 2-3 times a month.  I think this is a feasible goal, and may prevent going on hiatus for 4 months again.  Thank you to my loyal followers for giving me the kick in the butt I apparently needed.  So here is my apology: Black Bottom Cupcakes.  Do you accept?  :D

These have always been one of my favorite cupcakes and I realized that for as long as I have loved these, I have never actually made them!  These are in my Top Five because they combine two things I love: chocolate and cheesecake.  Mmmm…  These are best served cold because the chilled chocolate cake accompanied by the delicious cheesecake filling sends your taste buds dancing.  And what better way to extend an apology than with chocolate and cheesecake?

And so, my friends, my followers, I hereby promise to make more of an effort to post.  I will dig into my archives and pull out all the stops to please your every whim.  So, without further delay, I present the Black Bottom Cupcake.

Black Bottom Cupcakes (Makes about 12-14 large cupcakes)

Ingredients:

Cream Cheese Filling:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup granulated white sugar

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup granulated white sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

1/3 cup oil

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line your muffin pan(s) with paper liners.

Cream Cheese Filling: beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until creamy and smooth. Set aside.

Chocolate Cupcakes: In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a smaller bowl mix together the water, oil, and vanilla extract.  Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients while stirring. Combine until smooth. Evenly divide batter into the cupcake molds and liners. Then spoon a tablespoon or two of the cream cheese filling into the center of each cupcake.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cream cheese filling is slightly browned.  Stick a toothpick into the cupcake and it will come out clean if well baked.  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving (it tastes better!)

The cupcakes can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days if need be.

Bon Ap!

Julie

Snickerdoodles

Sometimes, you just need a classic.  I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again: the simplest of things are sometimes the best of things.  A classic is a classic for its universal ability to last the ages, its ability to uphold its winning qualities, and most of all its ability to bring pleasure to many, many people.  Whether an Oscar Wilde poem, Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, or even a little cookie recipe, the classics speak a special language that, plain and simple, make you feel good.

I don’t think I have ever met a person who is not a fan of the Snickerdoodle. The cookie’s special combination of cinnamon and cream of tartar give it the sweet and spciy signature flavor of the cookie.  There are many recipe variations as to how to make a Snickerdoodle, and I have tried plenty, but I think this one is perfect.  Usually Snickerdoodles do not have vanilla extract in them, but I added 1 1/2 tsp. and I think it is just the right touch.  These Snickerdoodles are wonderfully textured and full of flavor. Enjoy!

Snickerdoodles

Ingredients:

2  3/4 cups of flour

1  1/2 cups of sugar

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup of sugar + 2-3 tsp. of cinnamon, combined

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, salt, and baking soda.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and the 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  Add beaten eggs and vanilla.

Add flour mixture in batches until well combined.

Roll dough into 1 – 1 1/4 inch balls.  Roll dough in cinnamon sugar mixture and set onto the baking tray.

Bake for 8 – 9 minutes.  Let cool.

Bon Ap!

Julie

Banana Bread

Mmmm…. memories of banana bread.  My mom used to make banana bread all the time when I was a kid.  My favorite was something my mom taught me: toasting it in the toaster oven just enough to warm a slice and then spreading a light layer of cream cheese over the top.  (It is delicious, trust me and try it!)  Even as I got older, I used to love coming home and there would be a fresh, out of the oven loaf cooling on the stove, filling the kitchen with its wonderful banana smells.  When I went away to college, my mom (and sometimes my roomate Vicki’s mom) would send us back to school with loaves from our visits home.

Once I got my own apartment, I started making my own banana breads, testing and altering a selection from the countless different recipes available.  This recipe is one I finally settled on, and is it a good one I must say. It is a combination of many recipes and a special ingredient my mom always used: applesauce.

Julien had bought a large amount of bananas and near the end of the week, the few remaining became too ripe to just eat on their own.  I told Julien not to throw them away because I was going to make banana bread.  It was then that I learned banana bread is not a household baked good in France.  He looked at me funny and said “You are going to make what? What is that?”  I was stunned!  It had never even crossed my mind that he didn’t know what it was.  I mean, it makes sense, just as Brioche isn’t something widely known in the States.  So of course I told him how he was in for a treat and made this recipe for him.  It is now his favorite thing I make for him, as he purposely buys too many bananas, hoping to come home to a freshly baked loaf.  :)

Banana Bread

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/4 tsp. baking soda

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)

1/2 cup of sugar

3 over-ripe bananas

1/4 cup of applesauce

2 tsp. of vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.

In a second small bowl, smash bananas with a fork until creamy.  (Some chunks are okay, and even suggested!) Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar until well blended.  Add beaten eggs, vanilla, applesauce and bananas.  Stir until well combined.

Slowly add flour mixture in batches until fully combined.

Pour batter into a buttered bread loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.  You can check to see if the bread is finished by inserting a toothpick into the center.  The toothpick should come out clean.

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then cool fully on the rack.  Enjoy!

Bon Ap!

Julie

Baked Four Cheese Shell Macaroni

Bonjour!  I’m back!  For those of you wondering where I have been, check out my other blog here to read about my last few crazy months.

Alright, back to food.  Now don’t worry, I am not out of practice because although I have not been posting, I have still been cooking (and eating) as usual.  I recently spent 2 weeks back home in the States visiting family and friends, and of course ended up cooking for some people just like old times.  I made this homemade macaroni and cheese, and an amazing chunky peanut butter cheesecake with chocolate ganache.  Per request, I am posting this cheesy delight!

Enjoy!

Baked Four Cheese Shell Macaroni

Ingredients:

1 lb. of medium pasta shells

4 oz grated fontina cheese

4 oz. grated gruyère cheese

4 oz. shredded cheddar

4 oz. grated parmesan

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

5 tblsp. butter

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water and remove just a minute or two before al dente.

While pasta cookes, in a small bowl place butter and heavy cream.  Microwave on 50% power until warmed. (Do not cause to boil!) Remove and cover to keep warm.

When pasta is finished, strain and pour into a large bowl.  Combine with cream and butter mixture, Fontina, cheddar, and Gruyère cheeses, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine letting cheeses begin to melt.

Pour pasta into a buttered casserole dish or baking pan.  Top pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake about 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

Bon Ap!

Julie