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The comic, inspiring and always fashionable adventures of this "mad designer" as she navigates the reality of pursuing her dream...living the artisan lifestyle of a jewelry designer.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Coconut Chicken Curry Soup


We are spending the winter in the country house in Barbizon France, which is about an hour outside of Paris. One of the benefits of this is enjoying a big kitchen. So since it has gotten cold outside I have been making a different soup every week. This week I thought I would try something different. This recipe is easy to make, doesn’t take a lot of prep or cooking time and the exotic flavors really appealed to me. Served over white basmati rice this makes a perfect winter dinner for three adults (who all had second helpings) with no leftovers (unfortunately… LOL…I guess I will have to do another soup this week).  I have adapted this recipe from another blog “Cooking for seven”.


  • vegetable or  olive oil
  • 4 chicken breasts, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 of a large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 small green bell pepper, sliced very thin and cut in bit size pieces
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and very thinly sliced (with a mandoline)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons dried crushed lemon grass (I am sure the fresh would be better but oh well)
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk, full fat
  • 2 Tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • zest from 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup* chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened chipped coconut for garnish
  • a couple sliced red chili peppers ** (can be served on the side)
  • Freshly cooked basmati rice (optional)

* I have to admit I am a cilantro lover so I chopped some extra and sprinkled it on the sliced chicken as it cooked.

** If you are not afraid of a little heat add one or two of the sliced chili pepper in with the jalapeño


1) Heat the  oil in a medium sized soup pot over medium heat. Add the sliced chicken* to the oil, season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until cooked through and golden. Remove chicken and set aside.

2) Sauté the onion and carrot rounds, adding more oil if necessary, until tender.

2) Return the chicken to the pot with the onions. Add the ginger, lemongrass and lime zest; cook for 1 minute.

3) Add chicken broth, coconut milk, curry powder, chili pepper **and jalapeno. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

4) Add bell pepper and cilantro and simmer an additional 3 minutes. Stir in lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3) Optional: Spoon rice into 3 bowls. Top with a ladle or two of soup. Garnish with additional cilantro and a sprinkling of shredded coconut. Serve with sliced red chili pepper on the side.

Makes approximately 6 servings

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Split Pea Soup



2 1/4 cups dried split peas

1 piece of Collet Fume approx. .7 kg. ( American translation: a little over a pound of fatty  smoked ham. I am not sure if this cut is available in the US but a fatty piece of smoked ham with some meat on it would do it)

1 quart (4 cups) water

1 quart (4 cups) chicken stock

2 onions, diced med. to small pieces

 3 stalks celery, chopped to roughly the same size as the onion

2 – 3 carrots, peeled and chopped same size as onion and celery

4 small red potatoes (washed but not peeled), chopped roughly the same size as veggies above

1 clove garlic, minced

1 – 2 T olive oil

4-5  stalks of fresh thyme (roughly 1 1/2 tsp. if using dried)

2 Bay leaves

1 T dried rosemary

2 – 3 T freshly chopped parsley

black pepper to taste



  1. Rinse peas several times in cold water; pick out any funky pieces that rise to the top.  Soak peas in cold water after last rinse for 1 1/2 hours then drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile…prep veggies. The onion, celery and garlic together with the carrot and potato together but separated in a separate bowl.
  3. Quickly sear the ham in large stock pot.  Stir in chopped onion, celery and garlic; add olive oil as necessary to sauté until onion softens and starts to turn translucent. Add chopped carrot , potato  and reserved peas. Stir to combine and continue to sauté for a couple of minutes; then add chicken broth, water and herbs.  Stir, cover and bring to a boil; then reduce to simmer and continue cooking for 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally to avoid hot spots but keep covered.
  4. Remove ham, pick out stems from the thyme and bay leaves. Cut ham into bit size pieces approx. the same size as the original veggies and return them to the pot.  Add pepper to taste. I did not add salt because the smoked ham I used was already very salty but add salt to taste if desired. Continue to cook uncovered for 20 or so minutes to let the soup thicken  up.

Garnish with croutons and shredded parmesan cheese.

Yields a bit over 2 quarts, serves 6-8.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hearty “Everyday” Chickpea Salad


I have gained weight and have a little belly which is unacceptable to me! Rich or poor I have always been thin DAMMIT, so why is it every time I am in a relationship I gain 10-15 pounds...Ugggg! I am attributing this to the “Freshman 15”  with a slight variation of a new relationship vs. college. Most associate the term "Freshman 15" with the phenomenon of how college students gain weight their first semester attending a college or university. College freshmen seem to be the most susceptible to gaining weight their first semester (or year) at college, mostly attributed to a severe lifestyle change. While my collage days are long behind me (we won’t go into how long, LOL). I know I have gone through a very severe lifestyle change (for the better). Before meeting S, I was a retired “club/party girl” and single for many years, living the life of a starving artist creating and designing jewelry for several years since I gave up my day job (catering sales manager) . I pretty much ate and slept when I wanted to and only when my body demanded it. I met S and moved to Vietnam to be with him and now we live in France. I LOVE food (actually we both do) and experiencing all the different foods during our travels (Vietnam, Singapore, Bangkok & Paris), not having to work, having the money to really cook  nice dinners again, being rather isolated due to language barriers and therefore marking the time of day with meals and  a more regular sleep schedule; I realized just how out of control this has gotten when S jokingly said I looked a little pregnant. So I am starting a new diet regimen of fresh veggies, whole grains and lean meats. We just walked (burn those calories!) back from the green market (beautiful fresh veggies) and a local Lebanese grocery (dried beans, bulgur and brown rice) and now I am now planning what to do with the treasures we purchased.
Our dinner tonight will be this “Everyday Chickpea Salad” recipe I got from Shutterbean, one of the blogs I am following They in turn adapted it from  Appetite for Reduction, by Isa Moskowitz.  One of the reasons this recipe appealed to me was the fact that no oil is used in the dressing. I have no issue with olive oil but using cashews as a substitute intrigued me and it turns out the oil is not even missed. The other attraction to this recipe is that this seemed like a guilt free “hearty” salad that would fill you up without the eggs, cheese or meat I would normally associate with a "dinner" salad. Diets make me grouchy (just ask S!) and I am doing this diet without any diet pills or any of my old fallback remedies. So I am happy to say that we just finished dinner and my stomach is full, my taste buds satisfied and I am content.  I made a couple of substitutions to the original recipe based on the seasonal fresh produce that I randomly picked up today at the green market and what was in my cupboard, see notes at bottom.

Hearty “Everyday” Chickpea Salad

Makes 2-3 large dinner size servings
For the dressing:
  • 1/4 cup cashew pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
  • 1/2 cup white wine or water
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon natural brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
Place the cashew pieces & shallot in a food processor and pulse until totally chopped (chunks are still visible) . Then add the rest of the ingredients. Blend for at least 5 minutes, and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula. Now blend until completely smooth.
For the salad:
  • 1 cup Fine Bulgur cooked & cooled
  • 1-2 large green onion (including green part), thinly chopped
  • 1-15oz. can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 1 pepper, sliced (I used 1/2 red and 1/2 green)
  • several cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 cups mixed mache & roquette lettuce (Mache is otherwise known as Lamb’s lettuce or Corn lettuce and Roquette is Arugula)
In a large mixing bowl, mix all but the greens together. Add the dressing (reserve a bit for the greens later) and toss to coat. Keep chilled in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 days. I tossed the greens with the reserved dressing and then added to the rest right before serving.
My Notes:
-Shutterbean's recipe calls for:
  • Couscous instead of Cracked Bulgur
  • Spinach instead of Mixed Greens
  • Shallots instead of Spring Onions
  • Water instead of White Wine.
  • Agave nectar vs. natural brown sugar ( gee, I was fresh out of Agave LOL…but really many Vegan’s use this as a sugar substitute)
  • Original recipe included cucumber and a couple fat cherry tomatoes  that were sitting in my veggie drawer was my addition.
-Shutterbean suggests other possible fixins: avocado, sprouts, sunflower seeds, walnuts, roasted bell pepper, artichoke hearts...whatever your heart desires!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A day at the Parc

We got a bit of am late start today partly due to being on holiday schedule (sleeping in) and partly due to the holiday post office schedule. I just had my first two sales since I moved to Paris and reopened my Etsy shop. Yea!!! After finding a post office that was open in the afternoon we decided to take advantage of the warmer (and dryer…no rain today) weather and go to the park.  In our haste to get out the door we forgot the camera and a picnic lunch but we were able to purchase sandwiches at a small concession stand in the park and I actually got some ok pictures using my new HTC Windows phone. (This shout out is in honor of “S”, a devoted Microsoftee)
I was amazed to see peacocks loose in the parc and they were quite friendly. The white one actually took food from my hand and sat with us for a moment.
As we walked through the park we saw other peacocks but only one like the white one who shared our picnic. As the sun was going down you could hear them calling to one another…mayo…mayo. Very cool!
This parc is also a botanical garden with beautiful gardens wild to formal.
It was getting dark by the time we got to the rose garden but it was spectacular with hundreds of varieties of roses in bloom.
As we were leaving we found this little guy…I think he was tuckered out too.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Petite Paris Kitchen: Pork Chops w/ Moroccan Spice Rub, Ratatouille & Couscous

It has been almost a month since we moved to Paris from Hanoi.  Our charming (and by that I do mean small, lol) temporary apartment is  a second floor walk up on Rue de la Tour in the 16th District.  We have been exploring our new neighborhood with S giving me direction (as I do not speak French - yet!) to and from the nearest weekly green markets, grocery stores, butchery, cheesery (love that place!) etc. I now feel comfortable enough to try a home cooked meal…now the challenging part…our kitchen. I have had many small and functionally challenged  studio apartments when I lived in  Atlanta, Ga. and this kitchen certainly brings me back to those days. This kitchen is tucked under the eves between the living room and bedroom and features: a 2 burner cook top (no oven), a microwave and a little refrigerator which sits under the counter top between the sink and the bar.  Recently I of been following a cooking blog “Big Girls, Small Kitchen” and have found a lot of inspiration there so I am putting on my “big girl pants” trying out this new kitchen.  Note: I have noticed that prep time takes a bit longer than normal since I have a hard time finding a spot to put chopped up ingredients, being organized and working in steps is how I am going to go at this.  These recipes are my own and are easy to make with seasonal produce in addition to things I found in my cupboard.

Step 1: Spice Rub on the chops

4 pork chops
Apply your favorite Spice Rub, sea salt and freshly ground pepper to both sides of meat, I used  Ras el Hanout which includes: red chili, cinnamon, grey pepper, garlic, ginger, mustard, nutmeg, cloves, paprika 
Rewrap in butchers paper and let rest in the refrigerator while you are assembling everything else.
We (that is a royal we as in I asked  S to actually cook the chops, he he) cooked the chops last after everything else was finished .
Place chops in a dry non-stick skillet on high heat to begin with to brown both sides then continue cooking on medium heat until the centers are no longer pink. Approximately 10-15 min. depending on the thickness of the chops.

Step 2: Home made salad dressing

Make my favorite “go to” summer Lemon Caper Salad Dressing …. light garlicky citrus based with some capers thrown in. I am making this second so the flavors will have time to blend before serving.

2 cloves of garlic mashed through sea salt with mortar and pestle 
Add zest and juice of one good sized lemon and olive oil to the same bowl you used to crush the garlic
Throw in a couple of teaspoons of capers
Pour into a small jar and let sit until ready to use
This dressing will keep for a week in the refrigerator.

Step 3: The Ratatouille

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 medium shallots
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • sea salt
  • 3-4 T olive oil
  • fresh basil
  • fresh Italian parsley
  • splash of white wine
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes w/ juices
  • additional salt and pepper to taste
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional topping on finished Ratatouilli)

Slice and dice eggplant sprinkle with sea salt and let sit of to the side while you prep the rest of the veggies. I read somewhere that the salt draws out any bitterness that the eggplant may have. I pat the water that is extracted from the eggplant with a paper towel before adding it to the pot.
De-seed, slice and chop red and green peppers and put aside (separate from the eggplant)

Roughly chop shallots, I do not worry about making them into perfect pieces but slice and then chop to roughly even sized pieces. Peel slice and chop the garlic in the same way. An easy way to peel garlic is to place a clove on your cutting board then using the broad side of your chopping knife smash it with the palm of your hand. The papery skin pops right off the garlic and any little bits are easily removed with your fingers. I have always had fun with this slightly brutal method for peeling garlic and find it therapeutic, lol!

Add 3-4 T olive oil to a large enough pan to hold all ingredients over medium heat. Sauté garlic and shallots until they are translucent and soft. Add your chopped peppers and continue to sauté. Using a paper towel pat any moister off the diced eggplant and add to the pot. Stir and cook over medium heat until the veggies begin to soften. Add the two cans of tomatoes with juice. Cover, turn down the heat to low and simmer stirring occasionally until the veggies have cooked down, approx. 20 min.

Chop basil and parsley and add to pot during the last few minutes of cooking along with a splash of wine (I love to have a glass of wine while I cook so I usually add a splash of whatever I happen to be drinking). Salt and pepper to taste.  Stir,  cover,  taste (just to make sure it’s really good) turn off the heat and let rest on the back burner until you are ready to serve. 

In my petite kitchen I am now washing all the dishes I used putting this together while I make the couscous.
As I mentioned before I asked S to cook the pork chops which are ready to go since I did the spice rub in Step 1 and sitting in the refrigerator.

I have a glass of wine, toss the salad and relax while he is doing this… Voila….dinner is served!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A day in Paris…week one

Behind Trocadero Plaza walking toward the Effel Tower
A good day for a beer
love the gargoyles
a gift for Charmagne, he he

outside the Louvre
love the architecture here
got caught up shopping...never made it into the Louvre but next itme
we did manage to go to this small amusement park and go an a ride...yippie!
a picture on that famous bridge that is in all the romantic movies...ahhhh
changing into flat shoes and admiring the view, lol

homeward bound

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Paris…our arrival

Eiffel Tower as seen from Trocadero Plaza

Us first night in Paris...a bit tired from the flight
Moving from the hotel to our new temp. home on Rue de la Tour
Our apartment, middle building top floor (french 2nd floor walk up)
Our neighborhood Tabac (originally a place to buy tabacco but also a bar and restaurant)
The closest cross street, Avenue Paul Doumer

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cider Braised Sausages with Sage

I am moving from Hanoi, Vietnam to Paris in 8 days and OMG am I excited!!!  That being said, I am trying to clean out my cupboard and eliminate some of the dry goods I have on hand before the movers get here to pack. This recipe caught my eye because it looked fairly simple plus I had an onion and polenta that need to be used. I am also sure that although cider may be better, I can defiantly find apple juice and  sausage here. There are many kinds of sausages available here; however, being that I cannot read Vietnamese I am going to use  klobasa sausage because it is familiar to me. This is going to change the way I prepare the sausage for this recipe by adding another step but I am willing and able. My extra step is outlined below but the recipe below was posted by Blake Royer on Serious Eats.com with my other additions/substitutions in italic.
ADDED STEP: Klobasa which has some course fat pieces in it vs. regular sausage which I want to melt rather than get hard so in a small pot I braised the links in 1 can of beef broth, 1/2 C apple juice, 2 T dried diced onion, 1 tsp ground sage. Low heat, cook covered for about 30 min. Then continue to cook uncovered until liquid is almost gone (save the remaining liquid to add to the water or chicken broth for the polenta).  This successfully melted the pieces of fat within the links making a tender (you can cut with a spoon) sausage.
serves makes 4 servings, active time 20 minutes, total time 45 minutes (it took me longer but then I did add an extra step)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, cut into 1-inch wedges (I sliced in thinner rings)
  • 1.5 pounds mild sausages, pork or turkey or chicken (Klobasa)
  • 10 fresh sage leaves (2 tsp. dried sage,1 tsp. dried thyme, 1/2 tsp. dried Rosemary)
  • 2 cups apple cider (1 1/2 apple juice)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 5 cups water (plus remaining beef broth liquid used to braise sausage in my added step)
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar

  • In a large (12-inch) skillet large enough to hold the sausages comfortably, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sausages and cook, turning once, until they are a deep golden brown. Halfway through cooking, add onions to pan and toss to coat them in the oil.
  • Add cider, sage leaves, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer quite rapidly until cider reduces into a glaze and coats the back of a spoon, about 30 minutes.
  • In the meantime, bring water to boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Whisk in polenta in a slow stream, season with salt and pepper, and return to a boil. Turn heat to low and cook until water is absorbed and polenta is very soft. I added remaining braising liquid from my added step to the 5 cups of water for polenta, also added 1 can chicken broth as I was stirring polenta to thin it down when it got too thick. Recipe doesn’t mention but constantly stir polenta for about 30 min. to prevent sticking on bottom!
  • Stir in cheddar and season to taste.
  • Divide polenta among bowls and top with sausages and onion. Spoon the pan liquid on top of the sausages and serve immediately.
Enjoy…we sure did!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Wild Rice and White Bean Salad

Planning home cooked meals here in Hanoi, Vietnam can be challenging. I have leftover wild rice from last night and am thinking of making a wild rice salad. I go to the gym in Tay Ho  which is an area with a high population of ex-patriots and many of the stores (grocery and otherwise) cater to this clientele . So today I am looking for lemons/limes, green onion, cucumber, carrots & lettuce. The availability of thing in Hanoi is kind of hit or miss, either everyone has it and is selling it at every stall and shop  or you cannot find something and have to substitute. So I am playing it kind of fast and loose on this recipe. I could not find lemons or carrots at the 1st grocery store I went to in Tay Ho and when I tried to stop at another shop in a cab with my purchases thus far, the police were on the street so the cab could not wait for me to shop. I decided to just head back home vs. loosing the cab since it was getting close to rush hour (which is a mess as normal car traffic stays at a steady 30-40 mph and rush hour brings this down to 25 mph).  I ended up finding a woman selling limes as I was walking down my street from where the cab dropped me off…yea! Then I tried to do without the carrots but ended up going back out and picking some up at the last minute as I really wanted the pop of orange and sweetness of the carrots to counteract the vinegar in the salad. So here is my recipe for Wild Rice and White Bean Salad…off the cuff! I have already sampled several bites and it is yummy! Let’s see if Stephane my other half likes it too…
Salad Ingredients:
3 cups leftover wild rice pilaf (or wild rice cooked in chicken or vegetable stock)
1 can butter beans (or any other white bean you have on hand), drained and rinsed
2 small cucumbers (or 1 large), peeled, sliced and quartered
1 good size carrot, shredded (would probably be nice julienned)
2 spring onion sliced thin (include green part)
Zest and juice of 1 lime
3 T white wine vinegar
3 T olive oil
1T dried tarragon (fresh would be great if you have it!)
1T dried parsley (again fresh if you have it)
1/2 tsp. whole grain mustard
1/4 tsp. mustard powder
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic (smashed through salt)
1/2 tsp. sea salt (more or less to taste)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Make dressing first so that the herbs sit in vinegar as long as possible. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bottle, I used a recycled jelly bottle and shake. While this is sitting prep your salad ingredients and combine in bowl. Toss salad stuff add dressing and toss again. Let sit in refrigerator for 1-2 hours and you are good to go. Enjoy!

ROCK ON! by Phoenix Design Jewelry