Thursday, May 5, 2011

Green Lentils and Potatoes

I rarely cook meat. It's not usually a conscious choice to avoid meat; it's just that pasta, sandwiches, rice, or eggs are cheaper and easier for me. I'm not becoming a vegetarian by any means (I love bacon too much for that) but I have recently realized that my carb-heavy, meat-light diet might be missing a few nutrients.

So this week, inspired by a post on From Scratch, I decided to make Lentil Burgers. And I felt it wouldn't be fair to leave you all out of this cooking adventure!

From Scratch is a "personal recipe journal" by Emma. If you like cupcakes (and who doesn't?) you should pop over to her blog; she makes cupcakes in delicious flavors (like tiramisu or peanut butter and honey) and also features plenty of other recipes and fashion. Someday soon, when I take my road-trip across America, I want to stop in Springfield, MO at Red Velvet, the vintage and cupcake shop run by Emma and her sister Elsie (Elsie's blog, A Beautiful Mess, was one of the first I ever read regularly).

To my knowledge, I've never eaten lentils before this year. But the French eat them frequently, the cafeteria at my school serves them often, and I've found them palatable. So when I ran across Emma's recipe for lentil burgers, I thought "what's the worst that could happen?" She made it look easy.
I bought myself some lentils, and set to work.

However, when a recipe says to use a food processor to mix up all your ingredients, I would recommend actually owning a food processor.  If you don't, your arm is going to be very sore before your lentils are squished up enough to be made into burgers.

My bulging (hah) biceps eventually got the lentils, breadcrumbs and spices to look like this:
Yum, right?  Yes, it does look a bit like cat puke.  At this point, I was nervous, but I had purchased barbecue sauce, just in case. I love barbecue sauce-I used to eat it plain when I was younger-so I knew it could cover a variety of flavor offenses.

I made them into patties and fried one up. They were a little green, but what do you expect from green lentils?

Due to insufficient food processing, my burger fell apart a little in the frying process, but a piece of cheese served to hold it all together.  It tasted really good, even before the barbecue sauce, and I have nine more patties in my freezer. Yum!

I know for some of you veggie burgers might be a little outside of your normal food scope, but I'd like to direct you to the words of a famous doctor, on the subject of another green food:

"You do not like them
SO you say
Try them! Try them!
And you may.
Try them and you may I say."

Your turn: Do you have any good recipes to share?  I'm much more likely to just make a sandwich or eat cereal than cook a real meal for myself, but once I start cooking I always remember just how much I love it and how it makes me feel like a grown-up!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Baskets and Bonnets...and Motorcycles? Oh My.

This Easter was the first one I've ever spent away from my family.  No egg hunts, no cinnamon rolls, no Reese's Eggs; I knew it would hardly feel like Easter.

In light of this, I decided to fill my day with things I love.

First, I got dressed up in my Easter best.

I got to skype with my family while they looked for Easter eggs and they showed me all the goodies the Easter Bunny left in my basket.  Apparently Santa and the Bunny share an address book; I was home for Christmas and I forgot to send my change of address, so my basket ended up in Michigan.  I'm not sure my candy is going to survive until the end of June...

I made my favorite French food: Tarte Flambee.  It's like delicious French pizza. The best part was making the dough.
I love to knead.

I had to make some time to decorate eggs.

Those markers were not made for egg decoration.
But they worked.

My poor little town was overrun with motorcycles and motorcycle fanatics for a motorcycle flea market. I wandered down to take advantage of the sunshine and to indulge in a faint daydream I have of hopping on the back of a bike and seeing the world fly by, of being one of the girls walking around in sundresses, casually carrying their helmets, gorgeous and hardcore.

e e cummings took me on a picnic to the park.

I mean...I took a picnic and my library books to the park.  I'll let you decide whether it's likely that I read e e cummings poems aloud, considerably weirding out some Frenchies nearby.

My Easter treats.
What did you lovelies do for Easter? Are you still sleeping off your Peeps induced sugar rush?

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Travel Outfit

Before I come home, I'm going on a few more big trips with people I love this. I've been blessed to make so many memories with old and new friends during my time here, and I can't wait to make some more.

Because I'm planning these trips,  I've been thinking about my ideal spring and summer traveling outfit.  Actually dreaming about my ideal outfit, as I'm saving all my money to pay for these trips.  But if I had some disposable income right now, this is what I would buy for drinking tea in Bath or traipsing around Rome:

  1. A stylish leather backpack, like this one from LeMode accessories, to carry all my necessaries, but keep me from looking too much like a tourist.
  2. A light summer scarf in a fun color. If you want to look more European, the easiest thing to do is throw on a scarf. (Warning: in France, you will fit in better with a more muted color. But I've worn black all winter, and I'm ready for some color.)
  3. A comfortable, cute dress that can be dressed up or down, in a suitcase-friendly material, like this one from Five Bamboo.  
  4. Some basic jewelry that I could wear with other outfits, too. I've been learning to pack lightly this year.
  5. A light spring jacket with a hood. Travel doesn't stop for a chilly evening or a sudden rainstorm.
  6. Sunglasses.  I find it's easier to people-watch when they can't tell where your eyes are looking.
  7.  Comfortable, cute sandals. I love how basic these ones are.
  8.  Okay, I know a DSLR camera is not fashion.  But it's the one accessory that I've wanted to add to almost every outfit I've worn this year.
  9. I like to carry a small fan to keep cool when I travel in the summer; my current one was purchased for one euro in Italy six years ago. It's starting to break, so I might be looking for a new one when I'm there this summer!

Anything else you think is necessary for fabulous spring and summer traveling?  I just realized I forgot to include my Nalgene water bottle, another summer travel must.

Friday, April 22, 2011

for the leaping greenly spirits of trees// and a blue true dream of sky;

{e e cummings}
A recipe for a lovely, lovely spring day starts with sunshine on my very own square.

+ My Chacos in the lush grass.

+ This view above my head.

+Painted nails.

+ My journal and my (sister's) ipod (and my new Shakespeare and Company tote)

= This Happy Face

Spring is my favorite.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I'mmm Baaaack!

Oh my poor baby blog.

I've abandoned you out in the cold, without even sticking you in a basket and leaving you on some kind person's front stoop.

I'm sorry, blog. And I'm sorry to the 3 people who actually read this blog. I'm sure you've been barely able to live without updates on my pink toilet paper and pastry addiction.

If it makes you feel better, I've been having a fabulous time…no? That doesn't make it better? What if I tell you all about it? In list form?  With numbers?

Things I've done in the past two months, instead of updating my blog:
  • 1 week on the Côte D'Azur, near Nice
  • 1 day snowshoeing in the French Alps
  • 1 day trip into Italy, including pizza and gelato
  • 3 weekends in Paris, plus other assorted days
  • 1 night out in Paris, that lasted the whole night
  • 1 restaurant fire in Paris...but just a little one
  • 2 visits to Versailles
  • 1 weekend in Belgium, supplemented by fries and mayonnaise, beer, chocolate, speculoos, and waffles.
  • 1 discovery of Audrey Hepburn's birthplace in Brussels!
  • 100s of pictures of the Eiffel Tower
  • 1 fabulous bike tour of Paris
  • 1 French car rental and drive to Mont-Saint-Michel
  • 1 sunny Monday in Giverny, exploring Monet's gardens
  • 2 good-byes to friends heading back to the States
  • 1 last day at school

If any of that sounds interesting and you want to hear more details, shout it out in the comments! I'm trying to get back to a more regular blogging routine, where I both have adventures and make time to write about them.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Nous sommes dans l'argent//We're in the money

I often wish it wasn't so important for my life. But, alas, it's necessary: money. Cash. Bucks. Loot. Moola. (Did you know the word pelf used to mean money? I like that. "I won the lottery. Now I'm rolling in the pelf!")

L'argent. Depending on your outlook, it makes the world go round or it's a necessary evil. 

And though I use my debit card for almost everything now, cash is still necessary for some occasions (like paying my electricity bill. Really? You don't have to ability to take a card? It's 2011! Hovercraft are supposed to be right around the corner).

I don't know about you, but I'm always interested in cash from around the world. I still have some bills and coins from a trip to the Bahamas when I was four.

France uses euros, like the rest of the European Union. For an American, Euros are colorful and shiny compared to our predominately green currency. (Although we've also been adding colors lately!)

This was a ridiculously difficult picture to take. My money+wind= risky.

Just as a reference, a euro is usually worth a little more than a dollar. Right now, you could get $1.36 for 1€ or .73€ for a dollar.

It's the coins, though, that I find most interesting. In the States, most of our coins are equivalent to less than a dollar. Dollar and two dollar coins exist, but they're rare. The euro system uses more coins: 2€, 1€, .50, .20, .10, .05, .02, and .01. My purse can get really heavy sometimes with all those coins.

That's a lot of coins to figure out. But at least they say how much they are worth in numbers, not just letters. Here's an experiment for those of you in the states: Pull out a nickel right now, pretend you can't read English, and try to determine how much that coin is worth. I didn't realize it until I brought some American coins into class to show my students, but our coins only say “Five cents” or “A quarter.” A little confusing, non?

 My biggest problem is the same problem I always have with money: it disappears too quickly. I'm used to coins being worth less than a dollar, so spending them is not a big deal. They've always felt like extra, inconsequential money. Here, if I spend coins with the same nonchalance, I could quickly spend 10€ with just 5 coins. Just another one of the surprise mental adjustments I've had to make. 

Hope you're having a great Friday!

Calling these adventures is, well, a bit of a stretch. Maybe if I lump them all together, you won't notice how, well, boring I've been lately. I've always felt rather independent, but it's really not as much fun wandering around my cold town all alone. I can't wait until you all start to visit me!

But at least I do have friends around, even if they aren't close. Soon after I got my hair cut, my friend Anna came to visit. I love having Anna here, as we always end up laughing and having a great time, even if we're just hanging out in my apartment watching movies and eating Nutella.

Anna also had her first French eclair the other weekend. These things are really good. Like, really, really good. 

We also made crepes. (You have to put the Nutella on something, and people judge when you eat it on a spoon. Not that that stops me.)

Later that week, I got the chance to really go to Dieppe. (See here for my first, not-so-exciting experience in Dieppe.)

This time my friend Amélie invited me to have lunch at her grandmother's house. She lives in the countryside near Dieppe, so after lunch Amélie and I decided to head to the coast.

I got to touch the ocean!  It was cold and windy, so we just had to stop, take advantage of les soldes, and buy new hats.

Trés chic, non? Amélie is so French in her beret!

We also had a beautiful, spring-like day on Friday the 11th. I'm talking 55 F and sunny. Sunny. I broke out my sunglasses and went for a walk down by the Seine.

Look how happy my Toms are to be out by the Seine!

I discovered a fun mural on a local building. I have no idea what this building is, but isn't the art fun? 

I also made some new friends while I took these photos. Tourists don't really come to Elbeuf, despite our fabulous museum, so taking pictures tends to get me noticed. These guys somehow automatically guessed I spoke English (I hate when that happens. How do they know?), and we had a conversation about why I was in Elbeuf, despite it being merde. 

I love random encounters.

The circus was in town again this weekend...

and my friend Charlotte had a book signing at a local bookstore. 

I got a little lost trying to get here, because when Charlotte said the book signing was at la librarie, the English speaking part of my brain pictured my local library. But librarie in French means bookstore, so I ended up confusing myself and some librarians before I figured out my mistake. Oops.

I also got the chance to introduce Anna and Kirsty to the Elbeuf Museum. It's one of the few things going on in my town, so I talk about it a lot. Plus it's free! The only thing I don't love about it is the lighting. It's dim and it creates a really nice atmosphere and really bad photos. 

See? And these are enhanced. The bad lighting is the museum's doing, but the silliness...that's all us!

We also went in search of coffee and discovered a local bar celebrating the Simpsons. French people love this show; I'm just sad that this is their window into American culture.

And to finish up this epic-ly long post, my valentine's day in France:

I went into town to shop for boots (I bought some, but they've got to go back; they're too small). Then I bought myself a fancy eclair. Yum. It was a lovely day, despite my lack of an amoureuse. 

Hope your Valentine's Day was wonderful too!  I'll be back soon with Fun French Friday.