31 August 2009

crème de marrons de l'Ardèche

marron01last summer, with my amazing french penpal T, we went to carrefour because her mom needed some ingredients for dinner. i was in heaven – i finally went to a french grocery store with an actual french person who could finally explain all the products that i didn’t understand!

marron02one of the products was this. crème de marrons (a sweetened chestnut purée) ? T’s eyes widened. what? you don’t know what this is? it is very very famous and delicious, you have to try it!, as she grabbed a huge can. except, this was about the 15th time that we were having this conversation. there are just to many things that i didn’t know about which shocked her. i stopped her from grabbing it, la prochaine fois! (next time)! i’ll be back, i promise! i can’t buy and try everything now, i’ve already got too much, pointing to my basket full of cookies and roquefort and other goodies.

this was one of the many moments in france that led to the title of this little journal.

but if i didn’t buy it then – how did I end up a can? well, i was in a grocery store in switzerland a few days later, and saw a tiny tiny can. the size was actually something that I could reasonably stuff in my luggage. i thought of her, and then caved and bought it. how could I not? when it’s tiny, there’s no excuse!

it sat in my cupboard for many months, since I wasn’t sure exactly how one ate it. and then I found the perfect recipe for a chocolate crème de marrons cake to use it up. thank you, swirl & scramble! (apparently, this stuff spread can be enjoyed simply on a piece of toast. but i have to make things complicated, don’t i?)


2 whisked egg whites

75g melted dark chocolate

1 tsp vanilla extract

300g crème de marrons (i ignored this and used the whole can, which was just a bit over this)

1 large egg

40g all-purpose flour


marron03I recommend whisking your egg whites first until they are foamy and nice, then setting them aside.

Melt your dark chocolate, then mix it with 1 tsp of vanilla extract and the crème de marrons.

marron04 Add your one egg, and continue mixing.

marron05 Throw in your 40g of all-purpose flour and… keep mixing.

marron06And here is what everything all nicely mixed together should look like.

marron07Finally, add your whisked egg whites, and fold them in gently. Now the batter is finished! I baked them in tart pans, but anything nice and shallow will do. Bake them in a 320F oven until nice and done.

marron08Last step: eat eat eat.

ps: i just love seeing my handwriting… even if it might make all my photos ugly. it’s a way of merging the handwritten journal with the typed blog.

30 August 2009

simple is best

qwithn01last wednesday was the perfect morning. it started with a sugar loaded breakfast at a nearby patisserie/boulangerie with N. yes it’s a lot of sugar, yes i had a sugar high – but i think every now and then a breakfast like that is okay, right? right.

qwithn02pastries make me so happy, i can’t help but draw on them. they’ve all got individual personalities, i just accent it and bring it out. and then eat them.

*we had a most delicious veggie burger for lunch a few hours later. so it all balanced out.

qwithn03and then we walked. and i have to say, québec has the best grass in any place, in any city,that i’ve ever visited. there aren’t any fire ants waiting to bite me. there isn’t any dog poop waiting for me to smush. there aren’t twigs waiting to be snapped in half. there aren’t random patches of dirt. it’s nothing but softness and lushness for blistered feet. there’s also that morning dew that makes the grass refreshing. i kicked off my shoes and fell right down into a bed of bliss.

i’ve decided one of the magic formulas in life is: good food + good company + good weather = happiness.

that morning was amazing enough. and it only got better and better in the afternoon and as the sun fell. but i’m saving that story for plus tard.

29 August 2009


poutinepoutine. of course you have to eat the most famous dish of any place you go, and in québec's case, it’s poutine. french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds.

it wasn’t bad… it’s just that i don’t like gravy. and fries as a main meal? for me they are side only. cheese i always like, and these were extra fun because of the sound they made as you bit down into them. squeak! squeak!

but at least I got the obligatory dish out of the way, because I definitely enjoyed all the other things I ate!

28 August 2009

reason #2 why you don’t want to travel with me: long bike rides

bikequebec01a continuation about my time in québec, as well as reason #2 why you don’t want to travel with me… i like long bike rides with lots of annoying stops to take photos.

and lucky me, my host m’s boyfriend lent me his bike for a day. m even printed me a map so i wouldn’t get lost.

i’m in love with cities/countries that are bike friendly. taiwan. chicago. austin (debatable). france. and now, canada! la route verte is amazing. its a 4300km bicycle path in quebec that combines paved bike routes surrounded by lush landscaping with roads that have little car traffic, as well as little lights and stop signs just for cyclists. no fear of being run over here!

bikequebec02i biked a very pleasant and flat route to montmorency falls. i thought it was funny because the guidebook i had mentioned that every Québécois will be sure to tell that montmorency falls is higher than niagara falls. and indeed, i did get told numerous times about how much taller montmorency falls was. (of course they don’t mention how niagara falls is wider.)

i parked my bike and had 2 options. pay for the cable car that would lift me up to the top… or walk up for free. what do you think I chose?

bikequebec03after the walk (beautiful and well worth it), with the money I saved from the lazy way, I decided to treat myself to a nice lunch. a nice long lunch. with a burger d'agneau au fondant de chèvre des neiges garni de purée d'avocats, tomate fraîche, oignon rouge, et pousses de luzerne.

uhm. talk about perfect blend of america and canada. a burger. with lamb. avocado… puréed. goat cheese. it was delish.

bikequebec04there is something nice about making it to the top and taking no shortcuts.

bikequebec05and i liked this: in addition to the usual junk food sold in these machines, i found some that sold cashews, almonds, and a (healthy) trail mix.

bikequebec06and right across from montmorency falls is île d’orléanswhere I found the prettiest house ever in my entire life.

and by right across i mean if you’re in a car.

if you’re on a bike, it’s a bit more than just right across.

bikequebec07it’s more like dear higher being out there please don’t let a car hit me please don’t let a car hit me and please also give me the energy to make it up this hill i’m really tired so please don’t let me get hit thank you so much have a nice day!

you have to first make it across a large bridge. with a very narrow sidewalk. and lots of fast cars. so not only can you feel the vibrations of the bridge moving up and down from all the cars on it, you are separated by mere inches from the cars whizzing past you. and when the gusts of wind come through, you also hope you aren’t blown off the sidewalk.

then you get off the bridge. and you see a giant hill. you have to make it up that hill before you can really get to the real part of the island. and even though you aren’t on a bridge, your already tiny lane is cut into thirds! and on your right is a deep valley. now you really start hoping that cars don’t hit you.

but once you’re on the main part of the island – the lane comes back and you finally have a place to swerve to on the right if something should come up. but sadly, the hills are definitely still there.

bikequebec08this island is full of goodies. like fruit farms, wineries, cheesemakers, a chocolate shop, a duck farm (for foie gras), and so much more. unfortunately i only had time (and energy) to cover a little bit.

i picked blueberries for the first time in my life. in fact, i picked fruit for the first time in my life. and it was wonderful. it felt good to sit there to fill up my basket (and my tummy) with large, ripe, juicy, and beautiful blue blueberries.

bikequebec09then the chocolaterie de l’île d’orléans. but what to pick? candied kiwis dipped in chocolate? a chocolate and syrup jam? bleuets (blueberries) dipped in chocolate?

bikequebec10a pain au chocolat? a lollipop? a flan made with sirop d’erable (maple syrup)? an actual piece of chocolate?

bikequebec11it was a hot summer day. so i settled for vanilla soft-serve dipped in dark chocolate and one pistachio macaron. except I crushed it within 3 minutes of purchasing it. this is why i don’t own a regular sized ipod or wear jewelry – i tend to destroy delicate things that are close to the body.

bikequebec12i definitely did not feel as if i were near a city here. i think i could’ve easily circled this entire island – if it were flat. but it’s really hilly. at the end, it was to the point where i rode the bike if it was downhill, and walk the bike if it was uphill. so i took the first shortcut to the bridge to leave this pretty little island.

bikequebec13and then i biked back to M’s place, where she made delicious tacos with the salsa I brought, as well as strawberries, blueberries (that I picked) with a yummy whipped cream she made.

a perfect way to end a perfect bike ride.

27 August 2009

a simple cheese

cheesei know it looks funny. i’m making cheese. and even i’m doubting that it’ll actually work – it was too simple! all i did was put some sour cream in a pair of pantyhose.

but i’m trusting you, max mccalman and david gibbons. you guys have written a nice book so i really hope this really does turn into a tasty cheese.

in 3-4 days, i’ll know! ps the “recipe” is on page 41.

pps remember oven is still broken. a little break from ice cream churning, that’s all.

103 wedding cookies

stackedweddingcookies014 years ago, right around this exact same time, i was moving into a dorm for my first ever year at college. if not for the potluck system, i’d never have met J. and we wouldn’t have become awesome roommates. and these cookies would never have existed because they were made for her wedding this past may.

stackedweddingcookies02although I made the butterfly cookies on the same day, i’ve avoided writing about these because these are 103 in number and i had taken 807 photos and i didn’t want to sit down and sift through the beastly pile. (i know… i tend to overtake photos with many angles and whatnot to see what gives me the best picture.)

stackedweddingcookies03but it’s done! I did it! I had too many ideas of what I wanted to do, so I set some rules so they would still be cohesive at the end. and that was: same shape, same colors. I chose the square and stuck to it. I let J choose the color, added white, and stuck to that as well. Without those common things, these cookies might be pretty individually but would look like a mess together. but this way, they look good on their own and sitting next to one another.

stackedweddingcookies04i just used a bunch of elements and repeated them over and over, in different areas and in different ways.

stackedweddingcookies05 like the JB butterfly logo. little swirls.

stackedweddingcookies06 i’d change up the way i flooded the icing:

1. white outline, white filling

2. white outline, green filling

3. green outline, green filling

4. green outline, white filling

stackedweddingcookies07and when I got tired of drawing hearts and JB and other things? why, I call the bride-to-be! and ask her to name all the couples attending her wedding. so then i made them little cookies as well. after all, isn’t a wedding a celebration of marriage and love?

stackedweddingcookies08lines and dots are most versatile thing ever. they’re easy, but make everything look so good.

stackedweddingcookies09and some cookies didn’t even get stacked. that just left me a bigger palette to decorate.

stackedweddingcookies10the wedding date was may 30th. but i replaced the 0 with a <3 instead.

stackedweddingcookies11hearts can never get old. or grow old, for that matter.

stackedweddingcookies12although it doesn’t look as good… using a larger icing tip results in thicker icing but happier hands because they don’t have to squeeze as hard.

stackedweddingcookies13i also liked adding a a heart balloon to the end of names.

stackedweddingcookies14 all these cookies have been gobbled up by now!

stackedweddingcookies15i love how white is so beautiful by itself. it really does not need another color to make it look good.

stackedweddingcookies16 stackedweddingcookies17then i had fun and even piped a mini garden with a sun on this one.

stackedweddingcookies18she told me not to go crazy with the cookies. but how could i not?

stackedweddingcookies19 ah! the JB butterfly is spotted!

stackedweddingcookies20 in the middle cookie, i love how the lines help “tie” the cookies together.

stackedweddingcookies21 we’re nearing the end...

stackedweddingcookies22technicalities: i used the sugar cookie recipe from cookie craft here, and for the icing, i just eyeballed it. but you can start with 2 cups powdered sugar + 3 tbs egg whites + 1 tsp vanilla extract + 1 tbs warm water (as needed) for piping icing. then add water until you get a consistency you like for flooding. one day i’ll write a proper guide on how I do it, but not today.

stackedweddingcookies23then i decided to make hearts grow on stems.

wedding and here are some of my favorite pictures from the wedding. of course they include the cakes. and not made by me. made by other people who love them very much. i only had cookie duty. i wish J and B a happy marriage forever and ever!