PB&J Muffins

 Confession time.  I have been known to replace meals with peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.  You know those evenings when the kids and you have already had a 'real' meal and you just can't imagine cooking up another one....or one of the children is particularly picky about what's for dinner so you say "Fine. You can have a PBJ sandwich!"  It must have happened to me as a child--why else would PB&J inspire such memories of comfort and goodness?  

Nutritionally, it's not such a bad option, right?  Whole grain organic bread, protein from the PB and vitamin C from the strawberries in the jam?  I'm convinced.

So last Sunday when we all woke early, thanks to the youngest member of the family-- (a-hem....Monkey)  I decided to make muffins for breakfast for all of us, but wanted something a little different--and the littlest early riser was already making her way through her toast with PB so the jar was out.... et voilĂ  -- Inspiration!

Peanut-butter is not altogether common here in France.  We found one store that carries a brand from the UK--and I think we just might be the one single-family keeping them in business for French sales!

PB&J Muffins

2 cups almond flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 cup apple juice
strawberry jam

Thoroughly mix the dry ingredients.  In a separate smaller bowl blend peanut-butter and eggs until frothy for about 1 minute.  Then add this to the dry ingredients and blend on low-speed for another minute while slowly adding apple juice.

Fill muffin tray and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until brown and 'cracked' on top.  After they have cooled, split the muffins in half and spread with jelly or jam.  Top with jam and fresh strawberries.


A cup of coffee and a few strips of bacon and you have a proper breakfast! 
These are even better the next day.... or evening.  For dinner.

Rhubarb Chutney

I can't say enough good things about Rhubarb.  When it comes into season, I know I must be smiling when I see the gorgeous pink and green stalks at the market.  Obviously associated with spring--it also seems to herald the arrival of summer plantings that are soon to come in the 'potager'... if the Rhubarb is here--then it is all getting better from now on.

And from my 'petit potager' ... two strawberries this week.... two.  Slightly prematurely picked by the 'petite jardiniere'  but a few days on the windowsill and they were ready to eat--and as precious as they were, each split in half to make four servings....none for Petite Fille yet, but for the two garcons and the French Guy.

Rhubarb also reminds me of my Grandma--as many kitchen creations do.  She made a fierce Rhubarb pie.... and then after that Rhubarb reminds me of a post-college trip to Scotland with my best friend and staying in a 'hostel' where we had Rhubarb compote on our oatmeal every morning..... I think that is what hooked me on the smell.  That luscious aroma that comes from the rising steam of the bubbling Rhubarb --- heaven.

I am sure that I will be making compote, a cake or a tarte.... but to start with... Chutney.  I had never made chutney with Rhubarb before... and after tasting this batch, I surely will again!

~ Rhubarb Chutney ~

8 cups of chopped Rhubarb
1 shallot, diced
2 apples, cubed in small pieces
3/4 cup apple juice
Juice and zest from 2 limes
3 tbs. grated fresh ginger root
1 cup chopped dried apricots
2 tbs. whole mustard seed
2 cups raw sugar
2 tsp. salt

In a small amount of oil, lightly saute the shallot until tender.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook down until the mixture reaches a compote-like consistency.  I save a bit of the zest to add at the end for a little extra zing.

We had the chutney that evening with duck-confit and later in the week with pork chops....  it is most definitely a fabulous alternative to traditional chutney!

A bientot!

Soupe de Oseille ~ Sorrel Soup ~

 Last spring, my father-in-law gave me a few sacks of washed greens .... looking a bit like spinach.  The greens were actually 'oseille' or in English, sorrel.  The only recipe I came up with last year to use the plentiful bright green tender leaves was to make a creamed-sorrel side dish for a pork roast and although it was good -- it didn't win me over to seek out these vitamin laden, slightly bitter greens again.

Until now.  Our spring here in Normandy has been intermittently chilly, rainy and absolutely unpredictable with sudden bursts of gorgeous sunshine that lasts for mere minutes on a bad day and  about and hour or two on a good one!  So yes, soup is still very much on the menu.  But my cravings for hearty thick, stewy-soups, have given way to a desire for garden-fresh and very green vividly flavored ones.

Because oseille, has a tart and snappy bite, it is parfait!  I also have a gorgeous organic basil plant that is sitting on my kitchen table and is pinched several times a day.  Eventually, (read 'could not be soon enough!') I will be pinching these things from the 'potager' that is bravely sprouting up in the raised beds we put in a few months ago.

~ Soupe de Oseille ~

2 large leeks, rinsed well and chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 tsp salt
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup green peas
3-4 generous handfuls of sorrel, rinsed with stems pinched-off
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Sweat the leeks and garlic in 3 tbs. of olive oil until tender. Add salt and cubed potatoes and cover with stock.  Cook until potatoes are tender, reduce heat and add peas and about a minute later add sorrel.  Process with a stick blender until smooth, and basil and process until basil is fully combined.  Serve warm.

As soup goes this is an easy one.  It can be made 'vegetarian' and is also gluten and dairy free (bien sur!)  

It's a perfect fresh-green and comforting for those chilly spring days--or moments.....soup!

Happy chilly, rainy, sunny, windy, hail-y, sunny, warm, chilly.....rainy..... SPRING!

A bientot!

~ Zesty ~ Potato Salad

Strangely enough -- les enfants were 'off' school again today.  Strange because they were just back last week after having the two week 'Spring-Break'.... then off for the weekend of course, and then because today, Tuesday is a holiday--they were also off yesterday.... and my middle-guy is off again tomorrow--he never has school on Wednesdays........

Phew! Did I mention that French school children have FORTY vacation days per school year?!  The French value their 'vacances'.... and today, well... so did I!  

Even with all of the 'extra' days -- today felt like a holiday.  Maybe it was the sun shining and the almost 70 degree temps... we did very little work, aside from gardening (and that is pure j-o-y!)  and we BBQ'd sausages and I made potato salad.

Potato salad?  I know. Not very French.  But still-- it really helped us feel spring, holiday, BBQ picnic..... fabulous--vacation-day-OFF!  I made a very easy--yummy (and of course gluten free!) version... a la Francais!

~ Zesty Potato Salad ~

6-10 medium to large potatoes, boiled until tender with skin removed
1 red pepper, diced
2-3 tbs. capers
1/2 cup mayonnaise (be careful of the hidden gluten in mayo--if it is made with grain/white vinegar--make your own, or find a brand that uses wine vinegar or cider vinegar.)
1 tbs rice or cider vinegar
salt and pepper
1 tbs. fresh dill
1tbs dried chives, parsley or any herb blend you have handy.

Combine all and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Serve with chopped fresh herbs.

We had this for lunch today and then spent the rest of the day outside, pulling weeds, planting seeds, taking a walk on the beach .... a perfect plan for a bonus--day off!  Tonight I will fall into bed deliciously-exhausted!

A bientot!  See you again soon!