Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Root Vegetable Galette

In our continuing quest to find a spinach and kale pie replacement, we tried out one of the new fall frozen entrees - the root vegetable galette ($4.99). Unfortunately, the day we had this for lunch A was feeling pretty sick and couldn't really enjoy it that much, but that wasn't the fault of the galette.

The galette consisted of butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and caramelized onions mixed with seasonings and spices on top of buttery pastry. The ingredients listed on the box aren't very specific about the seasonings, but according to Trader Joe's, they use sugar and cinnamon to help bring out the sweetness of the root vegetables, as well as Moroccan rosemary and Turkish sage. All of those flavors definitely came through.

The galette was pretty easy to make - just put it on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about half an hour. Like most Trader Joe's frozen items, you could probably bake it longer if you like it more crusty or crisp, but I was fine with it being on the softer side to go with all the soft baked root vegetables. There was a definite sweetness to it because of the vegetables in it, but the spices they added just made it taste like fall (if that's a thing). It made me think about cozy nights and snuggling under a blanket and fall spices in the air and baking, just aromas and tastes of fall.

Overall, the galette was pretty good. Not sure if it would be a suitable replacement for the spinach and kale pie, as it seems far less healthy, but it wouldn't be bad every once in a while. I think we might get this again if we're looking for that cozy comfort food feeling.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Our 2010 Europe Trip

Growing up, neither of us had been to Europe. All of our international travel had been to Asia, even though we both had longed to see the sights in Europe for a long time. Our first opportunity came almost 10 years ago on our way to Singapore where a long layover gave us a "day trip" in Germany. We absolutely loved it and once our wedding (and other wedding trips) had passed, it was finally time to start our European adventures.

Amsterdam canals

The first real trip to Europe we took was in 2010, when we visited the Netherlands and Belgium. (If we had had more time, maybe we could have made it to Luxembourg and I could just tag this the Benelux trip, but unfortunately that didn't happen.) We flew into Amsterdam and out of Brussels, stopping for a couple of nights in Brugge along the way. It was a wonderful low-key introduction to Europe, and we absolutely loved it.


We did a lot of exploring in Amsterdam. We logged lots of steps wandering the city and the canals (especially on the first day when we got a little lost and then chased a beer bike). We visited 12 different museums thanks to our Museumkaart. We loved riding around on the tram. We took a day trip to Den Haag and marveled at the Peace Palace. We managed to try just about every type of food that we wanted to get in the Netherlands and even some that we didn't even know we wanted before we got there. We fit a lot of stuff into our time in the Netherlands, which was only about 5 days.

More Amsterdam canals

We got frites, lots of them. We started at the airport with Vlaamse Frites, but also got some at Pietersma Snacks, Manneken Pis, and Vleminckx. Our favorite fries themselves were from Vleminckx, but our favorite toppings were from the airport, with that delicious combination of curry ketchup, mayo, and onions. We made 3 visits to breweries - the Heineken Experience and then 2 visits to Brouwerij 't IJ, which we loved for its beer, its bar snacks like ossenworst, and its atmosphere. We got rijsttafel at 2 different spots, the more traditional Tempo Doeloe and the modern Blauw. We went to Frens Haringhandel twice for herring sandwiches. We went to try Dutch pancakes at Pancakes Amsterdam and liked them so much we made a special trip to get some more before leaving for our next destination. We also got the small Dutch pancakes, poffertjes, at the Albert Cuyp Markt. We wandered around on our first night and ended up getting a traditional Dutch meal at De Rozenboom, a meal we had no idea we wanted but turned out to be the perfect introduction to the city.


In addition to all the stuff we planned to get (fries, beer, rijsttafel, pancakes and herring), we also ate a bunch of random stuff: burgers and sandwiches from B&B Lunchroom, giant burgers from Burgermeester, Thai food at Bird Thai Snackbar, Nepali food at Sherpa, stroopwafels and other random drinks and snacks, and 2 stops at FEBO automats. And of course, our visit wouldn't have been complete without trips to the nearby grocery store, Albert Heijn.


Antwerp's Grote Markt

We hadn't focused much on Antwerp when we planned our trip, but it was the place where we had to stop to switch trains on our way from Amsterdam to Brugge. Since we were already in Antwerp, we figured we might as well do some sightseeing, since the one thing we knew was that they had a castle/fortress (Het Steen). We saw that, as well as the Grote Markt and other shopping areas, during a pouring rainstorm. We were only there for a few hours and didn't get to explore too much of the city, but did grab some fast food at Quick Burger.


Brugge was one of our favorite places on this trip. Since we spent most of our time in the older area of the city, it just felt like being transported back in time, strolling the canals and taking in all of the architecture. It was quaint and cute when it wasn't overrun by tourists, but even the touristy things to do, like a canal cruise and a visit to the De Halve Maan brewery, were fun.

Brugge canal cruises are fun

On our first real stop in Belgium, we got 3 of the things Belgium is famous for - chocolate (from Dumon), beer (Brugse Zot), and wafels (from Laurenzino). We also had a wonderful dinner at Cambrinus, full of beer and soup and pasta, followed the next night by a traditional Flemish meal at De Vlaamsche Pot, where we indulged in carbonades, waterzooi, and more Flemish classics. We also got lunch twice at L'Estaminet, some croque monsieur and croque shoarma the first time and lots of spaghetti bolognese the second time. And, as usual, we stopped at the grocery store, and got some other snacks.

Window shopping in Brugge

We were sad to leave Brugge (and our amazing, giant hotel room). It was the type of place where we really felt like we were out of the city and in a place so different from home. Leaving for our last stop also meant our trip was almost over.


Coming from Brugge, with its narrow, winding streets and tree-lined canals, we exited into Brussels and felt like we were back in New York's concrete jungle, complete with all the dirt, grit, and smells of a city. It was a tough adjustment back to the city, and while we wanted to make the most of our time in Brussels, we found ourselves mostly missing Brugge. Dealing with a patronizing waiter at La Rose Blanche and missing out on a bunch of attractions because of bad timing, all on our first day there, certainly didn't help matters. We also felt a little disconnected because we don't really speak French (and every time I tried, the words came out in Spanish), which we also noticed when we visited the Comic Strip Center after a pasta lunch at Brasserie Horta.

Grand Place

That said, there were some nice things about Brussels. We got to see an outdoor festival that we hadn't expected to see. We were at the Grand Place during a spectacular blue hour, and all the buildings were incredibly photogenic. The Musical Instruments Museum was fun. We had one of the best wafels we've ever eaten from one of the yellow vans, and we had a tasty all-you-can-eat mussels night to close out our trip. We were introduced to kriek and got hooked on it. It wasn't all bad.


We flew out to Amsterdam on KLM, having both dinner and breakfast, after already having dinner at JFK (where we just made our flight thanks to an amazing car service guy to whom we will be eternally grateful, since these were the pre-Uber days). The service on KLM was great, the in-flight entertainment was fun, and the food was pretty good for airline food. We were impressed. Our return flight was on Delta, which we didn't like as much as KLM, but it was still good. Lunch was better than we expected, and the snack was more of a meal than we ever imagined it would be (pizza and gelato!). (For other random airport links, here's some grocery store exploration at AMS and our "breakfast" at BRU.)

KLM planes from the panorama terrace in Amsterdam

In addition to our flight, we took a bunch of train trips during our vacation, although we didn't eat much during them. We ended up eating at Amsterdam Centraal at Burger King, and got a sandwich and some candy in Antwerp, but that was it. The Antwerp train station was the only place on that entire trip that we ever saw the Haribo Smurfs which became one of our favorite gummy candies. Mostly we were impressed by the train systems in the Netherlands and Belgium, and lamented why we couldn't have such good infrastructure back home. Traveling from city to city was fairly inexpensive and so convenient compared to the way things are here, and that's something Europe will probably always do better than the US.

Concluding Thoughts

We have some pretty great memories from our first European adventure. It felt so good to be in different countries, being exposed to different cultures and ways of doing things, learning so much at the museums, and exploring so many new foods and flavors. We felt like we had gained so much in such a short period of time, and we couldn't wait to visit Europe again. Although we wouldn't choose to rush back to Brussels by itself any time soon, we would love to see Amsterdam (and the Netherlands more broadly) and Brugge again. There was so much that we didn't get to do there and we were pretty happy being there. Hopefully we'll be able to see them again someday.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Returning from Brussels

The official last day of our 2010 European adventure was spent entirely on traveling from Brussels back to New York. We had a morning flight out of Brussels so we were packed and on the bus to the airport before 7 am, watching the sunrise as we drove through the streets. It was pretty busy at the airport when we got there considering how early it was.

We got a few snacks for "breakfast" while at the airport. The lines were pretty long, so we didn't really weigh the options too much and just looked for something quick. A picked up a "tropical storm smoothie" with mango, apple, and passion fruit, as well as a meat and cheese sandwich. The line was too long where he went by the time I went to get some food, so I went somewhere else and got a cheese salad sandwich. I had a bit of sticker shock; the sandwich was almost €6 (and that was 6 years ago!) and all it consisted of was bread, a slice of cheese, some dressing, and a little bit of greens and tomatoes. A bit pricey just for that. Before boarding our flight, we also picked up a couple last bags of Haribo from the vending machine, lamenting that our vending machines at home didn't offer such good candy.

Since our flight covered the lunchtime hours (European time), Delta served us lunch on board. We weren't expecting much, since we've always found the food to be better on non-American airlines, but we were pleasantly surprised. We don't remember a ton about the lunch itself other than that it was quite decent. There was a salad that was pretty fresh and came with a little squeeze bottle of Italian dressing, some cheddar cheese and crackers, a chocolate cookie dessert, and an entree of grilled chicken with herb butter, mashed potatoes, and vegetables. We still thought our KLM meal from the way out was better, but this wasn't bad at all.

Delta also announced that there would be a snack on our flight somewhere over the ocean. We were expecting some sort of bagged snack like nuts or pretzels or chips, but what actually arrived was so much better. There was a margherita pizza with pesto and a side of gelato, which tasted like vanilla with chocolate sauce (which made sense since the container said Dame Blanche). That was a pretty great snack, and the very last thing we ate on our European adventure. Considering how long it's taken us to write about this adventure, we'll do one last post for a summary and then we'll finally be done!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Chez Leon

For our last dinner on our European trip, we planned to go out for moules frites (mussels and fries). Chez Leon was the only place we had picked out in advance for a meal during our Brussels stay (other than trying to get a waffle from the yellow vans), so we headed straight for it after dropping by the Grand Place one last time. When we got there, we were greeted by a sign on the door announcing that they had unlimited mussels every Sunday after 6. We hadn't known anything about the special, but it was a nice surprise.

We got there pretty early for dinner since we had an early flight the next day and had to get back to the hotel to pack. It wasn't very crowded, but it had filled up a lot by the time we left. It was a nice, brightly lit, friendly restaurant, and we were really excited about getting unlimited mussels. Pretty much everyone we saw that night was eating mussels. At least, we didn't notice anything else on any tables near us.

For our drinks, A got Grimbergen Brune, and I got a Mort Subite framboise. I think I wanted to mix it up a little bit since I had gotten kriek at the last 2 meals, and since I like raspberries, but I clearly hadn't realized how difficult it would be to get good, affordable kriek once we left Brussels. The framboise was fine, but I definitely regret not getting kriek one last time.

We started off with some bread as usual, and then our mussels arrived in big pots with small tins of fries on the side. Everything smelled amazing, and the mussels were piled high in the pots. This wasn't someplace where they were going to skimp on the number of mussels and try to fill you with fries because of the unlimited special, which we appreciated.

There were 6 types of mussels on the menu at the time. I ordered the moules spéciales (celery, onion, butter) and A ordered the moules méridionales (tomatoes, sweet peppers, garlic). We did, of course, try some of each other's preparations, but I don't think we were allowed to switch up mid-meal and order different variations for our refill pots. Both were very tasty.

All the mussels were plump, and we remember there were not very many closed shells, if any at all. We quickly polished off our first pots of mussels, and ordered refills, which also came with more fries. The fries were good, but the mussels were the stars of dinner. So much flavor, so many mussels, and all you could eat!

We really enjoyed our meal at Chez Leon. Brussels was our least favorite of the 3 cities we visited on that trip for many reasons, but the mussels were not one of them. Going out for our moules frites dinner was one of our highlights of this segment of the trip, and we still remember it fondly. Chez Leon was the perfect conclusion to our adventure.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


One of the things we knew everyone talked about before heading to Brussels were the yellow wafel trucks that could be found throughout the city slinging delicious Belgian-style wafels. There are, apparently, many colors of wafel trucks in Brussels, but it's the yellow trucks that are supposedly the best of the bunch. So it was that on our way between two of the few touristy spots we actually saw, we came across one of the fabled trucks.

What we ran into was an unassuming food truck that was parked close to the Musical Instruments Museum (the MIM), and we saw a very short line forming since it seemed like they had just parked and opened. We quickly got into line and waited the short bit before getting our wafel.

One thing of note if you've never had a Belgian-style wafel before, the "batter" that is used to make the wafels is much thicker than American-style waffles, and it's also much sweeter. It's more like a cake batter in consistency, and the added sugar helps the wafel exterior caramelize.

We opted for a simple liege wafel with chocolate sauce. Since it was fresh, the wafel itself was very warm and soft. As mentioned, the exterior of the wafel crisped up and caramelized from the sugar in the batter, and the inside was still very soft. You also got a distinct crunch every so often as you bit into and chewed on the sugar crystals in the batter that didn't melt/cook up. The wafel on its own was delicious, but the rich dark chocolate sauce added a divine decadence. High quality Belgian chocolate lent itself to an amazing and rich topping that finished the snack off. We really enjoyed our wafel, and that's definitely one thing we'd try to get again if we ever found ourselves back in Brussels.

Friday, November 25, 2016

St Nectaire

I was going through some photos from earlier this year, and I came across some of a meat and cheese board we had put together in the spring. Sausage, cheese, and some pickled cucumbers and onions (not pictured), sounded like a good spring dinner to me.

For the cheese portion of the board, we went with the St. Nectaire cheese, a "semi-soft, washed rind cheese from the Auvergne region of France," which was probably the spotlight cheese of the month. Apparently it was also a favorite of King Louis XIV. We thought this sounded different from the cheeses we usually get (more cheddar and goat cheese than anything else), and we like exploring new cheeses to see if we can find new ones we like.

The texture of this one was much softer than I was expecting, kind of creamy like brie. According to Trader Joe's, the cheese is supposed to be "aromatic of straw and mushrooms" and it was supposed to have notes of milk, nuts, and "the mineral-rich meadowlands." We've said before that we're not great at describing cheese, so we didn't really get any of that. To me, it was just really funky and kind of pungent, and I wasn't really a fan. I liked it much better with the sausage we ate it with than on its own, but even then, it was a bit heavy and strong for me. I don't think A loved it either, but he liked it more than I did.

A funny thing about this cheese was I hadn't realized it was stinking up our entire refrigerator until it was gone. A few days earlier, we had returned from grocery and Costco shopping and filled up the fridge, and it really smelled to me like something was rotting in there. It made no sense since almost all of our food was new, but I went around sniffing possible culprits and found nothing (including the cheese). The smell persisted until we ate the cheese, and then it was immediately gone. It was like a combination of rotting food and feet. It was strange how the odor got all over our fridge but I couldn't really smell it when directly sniffing the cheese package. I was kind of glad when it was gone.

To go with the cheese, we tried out the natural turkey summer sausage, turkey combined with a bunch of spices and seasonings (including mustard, celery powder, and garlic powder). We thought the sausage was pretty good, a bit salty, but fine. It's been a few months so we don't remember a ton about the flavor of the sausage specifically, other than that it was fine. The cheese made much more of an impression on us.

As for our usual buy again query, summer sausage is a maybe and the cheese is a no.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Week 48 - Leftovers

Skipping over Week 47 because it's Thanksgiving, it's time to talk about the Week 48 leftovers challenge. Not only was there leftover stuffing cake that I just ate as cake for breakfast and lunch for a couple of days, but there was more stuffing that didn't make it into the cake. I saved it specifically to repurpose as leftovers for the challenge because one can never have too much stuffing.

I don't remember where I saw it anymore, maybe Chowhound, but someone suggested making stuffing cups filled with egg. That sounded brilliant and perfect for brunch, so that's what we did. First, you add the stuffing to a greased muffin tin, and then you create a well in each cup for where the egg will go. As you can see, I put too much stuffing in each cup. Then we baked the stuffing at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.

I couldn't remember whether the eggs were beaten first or not in the recipe I was inspired by, so I decided to try it both ways since we had four stuffing cups. In two of them, we added an egg unbeaten. The egg whites overflowed all over the pan since there wasn't enough room for the egg in the well of the stuffing cup. Oops. Since that didn't go as planned, we beat a third egg and split it for the other two cups, which worked better but still not perfectly.

Then the muffin pan went back in the oven for another 10 or so minutes until the eggs looked done enough to eat. The cups with the beaten eggs worked so much better, but it's possible both would have been fine if I hadn't overloaded each cup with so much stuffing.

Although the stuffing cups were pretty good, I think the stuffing cake was better. But it was a fun way to turn stuffing leftovers into brunch!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Week 46 - Underused Equipment

I've been posting about the 52 week cooking challenge in order this year, but am making an exception for the next two, given that we're in the midst of Thanksgiving. The Week 46 challenge was for underused equipment. Unfortunately we have too much underused equipment in our kitchen, and I thought I'd have to break out the stand mixer or the juicer or something else that would take up a lot of space. But after A reminded me about a particular plate that I used to prefer for serving Bundt cake, it occurred to me that I could make a savory Bundt cake. Even better, that Bundt cake could be made of stuffing. I love stuffing.

The stuffing recipe I used was pretty much the same one that I used for the Week 10 challenge last year, based on the stuffing my family makes on Thanksgiving. The only real differences were that this time I added celery and carrots, and also used the entire pound of chicken breakfast sausage. Otherwise it was pretty much the same thing.

The carrots and celery meant more prep, but I wanted to include more vegetables in the stuffing since I wasn't going to be making lots of vegetable sides like you might get on Thanksgiving. I liked the stuffing quite a bit with those additions, and will probably make it like that from now on (as long as it's not for my parents because of celery allergies).

After making the stuffing (cook vegetables, cook sausages without casing, add stuffing mix, add chicken broth and water as needed, add cilantro), we loaded it into a greased Bundt pan and then baked it at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

I probably could have baked it longer, but happily, it stayed together after we flipped it out on to my favorite cake plate. I thought the ridges of the Bundt pan would be more pronounced, but it still looked good.

We cut the stuffing into slices like it was a cake, and I even wrapped the leftover pieces in plastic wrap like slices of cake. Although it didn't taste dramatically different from the stuffing that I kept eating straight from the pot, it was fun seeing it in cake form, and it was so tasty.

I did make one vegetable side to go with the stuffing cake - glazed shallots based on a recipe I found on Bon Appetit. Basically, you take the outer layers and ends off of the shallots and put them in a large skillet. On top of the shallots, you pour in a cup of chicken broth, 2 tbsp of melted butter, 1/2 cup of white wine, a tbsp of sugar, salt, and pepper. It was a lot of liquid and I wasn't sure if I should have used less considering I was probably making less shallots than their recommended amount.

The whole thing is brought to a boil and then simmered until the liquid is more like a thick glaze. It took about 15 minutes, and I kept rotating the shallots to try to make sure they cooked evenly. The recipe added another tbsp of butter at the end, but I thought we had more than enough butter already, so I skipped it. That was probably a good move as the glaze was really, really buttery and quite salty. I probably should have used less of the sauce ingredients. The shallots tasted good, but it was just too much butter and salt.

Since the plan this year is Chinese food for Thanksgiving, it was nice to already have my November stuffing fix earlier in the month. It also functioned as some much needed comfort food during a difficult week for us, and we were thankful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

This Mango Walks Into a Bar

We're not sure if this is still on the shelves since we picked it up back during "mango season," but here's our review.

Product name: This Mango Walks Into a Bar

Price: $1.99 for 6 bars

M's review: I didn't like these very much. The texture was a bit crumbly, reminding me of cereal bars I used to eat in high school all the time that would get easily crushed and would fall apart. More than the texture though, I disliked the flavor. I found it a bit artificial and not like mango at all, even though it had mango puree in it. I was expecting something more like the flavor of the mango gummies or the mango taffy, but this wasn't that.
Buy again? Not for me.

A's review: Flavor-wise I liked these just fine. They weren't spectacular, but they were good enough as a snack/breakfast bar. It's odd, though, as I didn't really taste a ton of mango. It tasted like a different type of fruit had been mixed in. I get that it's pureed mango, but whatever else they added to it really overpowered all of that flavor.
Buy again? I prefer most of the other "walks into a bar" flavors, but I wouldn't be opposed to buying this one again.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Organic Ginger Zinger

A has been really sick of late, and we had both forgotten all about having bought Trader Joe's Ginger Zinger, even though we bought it previously when we both thought we were getting sick. Yesterday we finally broke this out to try in the hopes that it would provide a little boost to A's immune system.

Product Name: Organic Ginger Zinger

Price: $3.49

Quick Review: We both really loved this drink, which contained water, sugar, ginger juice, and lemon juice. It wasn't too tart as is sometimes the case with lemon-based drinks, and while you could taste and feel the snap of the ginger, it didn't overpower the overall flavor of the drink. You could definitely taste the added sugar, but it wasn't too sweet. It was just the right amount to balance out the lemon and the ginger. The drink was incredibly refreshing, and it's a drink that we would both drink even when we're both healthy. Our only gripes are that the bottle is so small and that it's only 19% juice, but if it were more, it would probably be even more expensive.

Buy Again? Definitely yes. We hope they're still carrying this the next time we get out to Trader Joe's.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Pumpkin Harvest

On a recent Trader Joe's visit, we were a little dehydrated and run down so we picked up one of the cold pressed juices to drink on our walk home. They're not cheap juices, so we haven't tried all of them yet, but maybe someday we will.

Product name: Pumpkin Harvest cold pressed juice

Price: $4.49

Quick review: According to the bottle, each juice contains 1/20 of a pumpkin, 2 carrots, 3/4 celery stalk, 1/8 sweet potato, 1/8 orange, 1 inch of ginger, and a pinch of turmeric. We were trying to decide between the pumpkin juice and the cranberry juice, but ended up deciding to go with pumpkin because it might only be around for a limited time and also because a bunch of those ingredients sounded like they could be good for healing. It was loaded with Vitamin A thanks to all the orange stuff it contained. As far as flavor, it tasted a bit earthy and muddy, basically like what was in it, lots of earthy fruits and vegetables. Not very sweet, but just kind of like the earth.

Buy again? Maybe. It wasn't bad, just different, and kind of expensive for 120 calories. We'll probably try the other cold pressed juices before coming back to this one.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Week 44 - Dehydrating

I wasn't too happy when the Week 44 challenge came up as dehydrating. We don't own a dehydrator, and I certainly wasn't going to buy one for this challenge when we haven't needed one in all the years we've been cooking. You could use dehydrated ingredients, but doing something like throwing raisins into a dish just didn't seem that exciting to me. After doing some research, I found a guide on The Kitchn for making some apple chips in the oven and figured that would work.

I picked up one Fuji apple at the store. I didn't think one apple would yield a ton of chips, but this was more of an experiment than a plan for a week of apple chip snacks. Using only a single apple and some cinnamon also made it a really cheap challenge.

The first thing to do was to slice the apple. We don't have a mandoline, so I did this by hand. I didn't plan it out very well either, because once I started slicing, I realized that the chips were going to be all different sizes. I also was just having one of those days where I was completely unable to make even, thin slices. I had some pieces that were so small that they didn't even seem worth dehydrating, so I got to eat some apple as a snack that afternoon.

The next step was to put the apple slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and then dust them with cinnamon. I wasn't able to do that evenly either, which is pretty obvious from the photo. I ended up with quite a few slices with no cinnamon on them and a bunch of cinnamon on the parchment paper, so it all had to be evened out before I could put them in the oven.

Once the apple slices were ready to go, I put them in a 225 degree oven for about an hour and a half. At least that was the plan, but I forgot to set the timer until a few minutes in, so I'm not sure exactly how long they were in there. It was about an hour and a half though. Since the apple slices were just dehydrating, and since they were all different sizes, I just checked to see how some of the "better looking" slices were doing to see when it was done.

The apple chips turned out pretty well in the end, even if the texture was completely uneven. The thicker slices were still on the softer side, and the really thin ones turned out crispy, with most somewhere in the middle. I liked these better than the apple slices you can get packaged which are often a little chewier and just taste more "preserved." Making them at home was also cheaper. If I ever find myself wanting apple chips (which isn't often, but it could happen) or we have apples to use up, I think I'll do it this way again.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Week 43 - French

I wanted to make something healthy for the French challenge, something without cream or tons of butter or cheese, but I didn't want to make ratatouille, because A already makes a great one and I wanted to do something new. I had a lot of trouble finding a recipe that inspired me, and searched for a long time, until I stumbled on a recipe on Marmiton for poulet basquaise, chicken made in French Basque country style.

The recipe was in French, so I first translated it and then adapted it for our ingredients/pantry. The ingredients I used were:

- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced into smaller pieces ($3)
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided ($0.40)
- 1 onion, chopped ($0.50)
- 1 large spoonful of minced garlic ($0.10)
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced ($0.89)
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced ($0.99)
- 1 can diced tomatoes ($0.75)
- salt and pepper ($0.05)
- 3/4 cup white wine ($0.50)
- 1 bay leaf ($0.05)
- dried thyme ($0.10)
- dried parsley ($0.05)

The total for the recipe was about $7.38, and we ate it on top of some pearl barley, which probably added another dollar or so to the total. Pretty good for dinner for two.

The steps for making our version of the poulet basquaise were:

- prep: slice peppers, chop onion, slice chicken (although I did that later because we didn't have enough room)
- in a large pot, heat olive oil, add peppers, onion, garlic, and cook until starting to soften
- add tomatoes, salt, and pepper
- cover and cook for 20 minutes (supposed to be over low heat but I forgot and did it over medium, and it seemed fine)
- while vegetables are cooking, heat olive oil in frying pan, add chicken, salt, and pepper
- brown chicken in pan
- add chicken to vegetable mixture along with bay leaf, thyme, parsley, and wine
- cover and cook over low heat for 35 minutes, submerging chicken in the vegetable mixture and wine as much as possible
- serve over pearl barley

We've never had poulet basquaise before, so we have no idea if what we made was close or not. It reminded me a lot of the chicken cacciatore we made in a previous challenge, but without the basil flavor. It wasn't really what people usually think of when they hear French food, but I'm going to believe the French site with recipes when they say it's French and Basque. However authentic our version was in the end, at least it achieved my goals of something French, healthy, and tasty.