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mise en place and shrimp-pepper jack enchiladas

shrimpench

mise en place ingredients

Mise en place (pronounced miz ahn plas) literally “putting in place” is a French phrase defined as “everything in place.” As in, set up and ready to go. I can’t imagine relaxing and enjoying cooking without using this important technique, whether with entertaining or everyday meals. For instance, with this dish, I peeled, chopped, and measured everything in the morning, then later when it’s time to make dinner, I pull it out of the refrigerator (on a plate covered with plastic wrap) and just “throw it together.”  For a large party or holiday, I prep everything and place the items in snack and sandwich size zip-lock bags a day or two ahead. If there are several dishes with many different components, just clip them together with either office clips or bag clips and label what dish the ingredients are for.

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September 12, 2009   No Comments

sheltering in place cooking

Hello friends! It’s been a while. A long while! The last time I posted here was nearly 4 months ago. Harmony Boards has been such a wonderful ride this last 18 months but I do miss blogging, posting recipes and feeling connected to you all!

On March 14th, I posted this on my personal Facebook page:

“I’ve wondered what I would do if I was literally stuck in my home for 14 days…

*I would brainstorm new ideas for my business and refresh my websites. I’d actually have time to return to my blog, LesPetitesGourmettes.com, which I have neglected for months!

*I’d clean out closets, cabinets, files, drawers, the garage, the sheds–you name it! What an opportunity to start fresh and start dreaming again!

*I’d choose to see this extra time as a gift, the gift of slowing down and taking stock.

*I’d put on not one ounce of makeup and wear facemasks, and teeth whiteners and moisturizers all day! The next big run and hoarding at the stores are going to be these such items! Why not!?

What would you do with your 14 days? #14freedays

Little did I know that that time would come as quickly as it has. I temporarily closed down Harmony Boards on March 17th and began actually cooking again the next day. (something I have not done much of for many months!) My son, Connor, came over and we made a variety of seven dishes for ourselves and to share with my (almost) 89-year-old dad and with my dear friend, Kim Howard, and her family. More on the Howard family and the events that have been unbelievably devastating to them in future posts.

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March 19, 2020   4 Comments

Chicken Panzanella Salad

Here, as promised, is the second salad I served on “Dinner and Cards” night this past Friday.

main course salads

Another super quick and easy main course salad that is perfect for summer. It is especially easy and summer-friendly if you start with a purchased rotisserie chicken.

I was too lazy (or maybe it was just too hot to make another stop while shopping) to get a rotisserie chicken – since they don’t sell them at Trader Joe’s, which was the only stop I made.

roasted chicken

So, I started from scratch and roasted a little organic free-range hen instead.

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August 5, 2014   3 Comments

weekend doings

april yard

How was your weekend?

patio blankets

I spent mine deep-cleaning my house and preparing my backyard for the harsh summer conditions. The first order of business was to bag up all the patio throws and blankets we use on chilly fall and winter nights and store them in the rolling crate-ottoman.

summer patio

While I was at it, I vacuumed the rug and dusted off all the furniture – a never-ending battle!

snailvine

One of the prettiest things blooming in the backyard is the Lavender Snail Vine (Vigna caracalla) that is completely covering…

vine covered arch

… the rusty arch at the far edge of the patio.

canna lilly

I discovered the first Canna Lily (Auguste ferrier) of the summer. It is a promise of things to come.

not soon enough

Another nearly weekly activity is the cleaning and refilling of the hummingbird feeder.

bean cleaners

I have tried all sorts of ways to clean the bottle, from bottle brushes to pipe-cleaners, but the most effect method I’ve found is this: Fill the bottle about half way with hot tap water, add a tablespoon of bleach and then a handful of dried beans. Shake and roll the bottle and the beans will clean the sides better than any bottle brush known to man.

rinse well

Next, triple-wash the bottle and then wash it again to make certain that you’ve gotten all traces of the bleach out of there before filling it with sugar syrup. I use a mix of 1 cup sugar to 4 cups water.

hungry hummer

I’m barely able to turn around from hanging it up before the hummers get back at it.

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April 14, 2014   1 Comment

Herb Crêpes Eggs Benedict Florentine

crepe eggs benedict florentine

I admit it, this recipe looks VERY intimidating. It is long. There are many components. It looks complicated. But I PROMISE it is not hard to do. In fact, it is a wonderful special occasion entertaining dish. For a crowd, no less!

How is that possible, you ask?

It is because none of the components are difficult and all but one can be done 1 or 2 days in advance. So in reality, it comes together quickly and seamlessly at the end.

Even the final, last minute component, the Hollandaise sauce, is foolproof. I know, you may be ready to quit reading right now… Hollandaise Sauce – Absolutely Not!

But really it is foolproof! No stove is involved! All you need is a blender. You’re still skeptical? This sauce comes from Chef Tyler Florence. It works perfectly and is easy as can be, I may never make traditional Hollandaise sauce again!

too small

As I was beginning to make the crêpes in my usual crêpe-pan, I decided that they were too small, so I switched to a larger skillet. This was a personal choice, if you don’t have a medium size skillet (about 10-inches across the top) a smaller regular crêpe-pan is fine. Above you can see the two pans I’m talking about, and below the difference in the crêpe sizes.

difference

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April 3, 2013   1 Comment

clean as a whistle and shiny as a new penny!

Remember, way back when (as in April 2010), I got new carpeting? My house looked like THIS! All of the furniture and stuff that was on the carpeted portions of the house got moved onto the marble tile portions of the house. And the new carpet was installed. It was a joyous occasion! I didn’t realize how much nicer the room would look when I put in new carpets! If you have drab carpets that you’ve wanted to replace for a while then I encourage you to go for it! Check out Carpet Now – Austin Carpet Installation to see if you can get it done. It worked out brilliantly for me. Now, I just need to make sure I keep the carpet clean. I know a good friend of mine uses bissell best sellers: best upright vacuum cleaners to keep his carpets without dirt, so that may be something I look into.

Then do you remember when about a month ago, in a super-long post, I told you all about “a day in the life” of the cooking school and I said,

“The only solution is to have my marble floors stripped and polished, once classes are over at the end of the month. Now those are before-and-after photos I promise to show you!”

… remember? Well, the time has come.

Upon our return from a relaxing and rejuvenating two-week vacation at our BFF’s log cabin (which is really more like a log mansion) in Wisconsin, I moved all of the furniture and stuff that was on the marble tile portions of the house onto the carpeted portions of the house, and the next day the floor guys came and did their magic.

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July 19, 2012   5 Comments

cheap, stingy, miser

I confess, sometimes I’m a cheapskate to a fault. A perfect example of this character flaw? Mandarin oranges. Here’s how it went down; I needed an 11-ounce can of mandarin oranges back in April for a sorbet I was creating for this very blog. At the same time, I was shopping for a cooking class, which meant that I’d be going to my usual three stores to get everything needed for the class. The three stores are Safeway Grocery, Trader Joe’s, and Costco. I loaded the cooler in the car and headed out. At stop number one, Safeway, I noticed the price for a can of mandarin oranges was $1.99.  That seemed a bit high to me, so I passed them by, thinking maybe I’d find them at Trader Joe’s for a better price.  Stop number two, Trader Joe’s – no mandarin oranges. Oh well, I’d double back by Safeway after the final stop at Costco and pick up a can. Good plan… until… I spotted a case (12 cans) of mandarin oranges at Costco for….. wait for it….. $5.99! In miser terms, that is 50 cents a can! Now I had a serious dilemma on my hands. Should I pay 4-times the price for a single can of mandarin oranges at Safeway or be stuck with 11 extra cans if purchased at Costco? Let me tell you how long I pondered that question… less than 2 seconds. I loaded up the case into the cart with all the other mega-size items and figured that after I used just 3 of the cans from the case, the rest would be FREE (at least they would be free if they would have been purchased at the Safeway $1.99 price!) And FREE is my second favorite 4-letter word, next to LOVE. How sweet is that?

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July 7, 2010   4 Comments

artichoke and olive tart atop mixed greens in tucson!

I’m in Tucson today visiting Marissa and her fabulous roommates, Kaley, Petra, Kelsey and Paige.  They live in a cute 5 bedroom house with a pool! I came down to check out the decorating and make them dinner.  I’d seen it in July, before they moved in, but it was empty and stark, now it’s so cute with all their things in place.  There were 11 of us for dinner, I made a mixed green salad topped with a savory tart for the first course.  Unfortunately, in the rush of trying to get 11 plates out to the table at the same time, I forgot to take a picture, dang it!  Maybe, I’ll remake this at a later date and get a picture up, because it was pretty and tasty too. Eight of the co-eds are pictured above with their Cucumber Martinis, that I promised Marissa I’d make for her back on the August 24 post. Missing from the picture are Blake and Graven, who arrived just minutes after this was taken.  Sorry guys!
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September 24, 2009   No Comments

private class

Last night I taught a private cooking class here at my house. It was a demonstration class with an appetizer theme.

demo class

Since individual appetizers can be time-consuming to assemble and to make the class a bit more fun, I did ask for assistance from the students on a couple of the recipes.

beverage station

The best of both worlds, I teach with free help!

blue cheese grapes

Setting up for a class is a lot like entertaining and many of the techniques I use for a class are the same that I suggest to people when they entertain, such as:

  • Choose do-ahead recipes
  • Mise en place is a must
  • Lay out your serving pieces and “map out” your table long before guests/students arrive
  • Make Lists and a Timeline

recipe 1

All five of these recipes can be done well ahead of time, perfect for entertaining.

Blue Cheese Grapes, Caesar Dip with Crudités, Pigs in a Warm Puffy Blanket, Hot Feta and Tomato Spread, and Smoked Salmon Quesadillas.

mise en place

For a cooking class, we set all the ingredients and utensils needed and place them on individual trays for each recipe. When entertaining (or cooking in general) pull together everything you need and prep (chop/dice) what you can ahead of time. This is known as Mise en Place, or “everything in its place.”

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September 19, 2014   4 Comments

party timeline

party bar

Throwing a party is very intimidating for some. For others it seems to come naturally.

I remember the first “adult” party I planned and held. It was a baby shower for a work friend. I was a 17-year-old junior in high school at the time and living at home with my parents. The mother-to-be was about five years older than me and we were close work friends. She had no family in town, so of course, I just had to be the one to throw the shower for her!

winnie

The guest of honor was decorating her nursery with Winnie the Pooh, so that was the party theme. Winnie the Pooh invites, napkins, paper plates and decor. I cringe now to think how tacky it was, at least by the party standards I have today. But at the time, at least as I recall, it was a fabulous, highly praised, fun and very chic affair! Maybe that is where and how I was first instilled with the “entertaining confidence” I have always had. Thanks, Pooh Bear!

winecrates

I mention my party standards, because those have changed considerably in the many decades since that first baby shower. I rarely use paper plates, unless it’s a picnic or pool party. But, when I’m invited to a party with paper plates, I honestly do not even notice. It’s just one of the standards I set for myself. Plus, I have the storage space needed for all sorts of party supplies, and I know that is a true luxury. My Dad had a stag party in Bratislava once and he said it was one of the best nights out, we’re trying to re-create that atmosphere for an amazing night at home.

tableschairs

And when I say, I know, I really do know!

Our first home was a townhouse with less than 900 square feet. We lived there for seven years and threw more parties than I can count. Wedding and baby showers for friends. New Year’s Eve dinners, Marissa’s baptism, and her first birthday party. Every holiday from Easter and 4th of July to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Plus dozens of dinner parties and even a Murder Mystery Costume Party. That was great, my friend bought Custom Koozies for the cans and it was fantastic!

mother's day cake

We were living paycheck to paycheck for the better part of those years. Actually living on credit cards and using one credit card to pay off another – during some particularly difficult times. This was before grocery stores even began accepting credit cards. Do you remember back that far?

But entertaining and being with family and friends was, and always has been, a priority for us, so we made it work.

My point is that life, and things in general, don’t have to be picture perfect to entertain.

xmastable2011

Yes, I live in a large lovely home now and I am blessed in many ways. Still, I don’t stress about making things perfect. Point in case – three years ago I fired my “every other week” cleaning person. Why? Because I honestly could not stand to have even one more thing in my house broken, chipped or cracked by someone who was careless or feeling rushed.

cornervignette

The trade-off … my house isn’t as clean as it used to be. I keep the kitchen spotless… because it’s my work space, my office, my sanctuary.

But the rest of the house… it’s much dustier and a little more cluttered then it used to be. The one time that it’s guaranteed to be dusted and “picked up” is when I’m having people over.

So, yes, entertaining helps me keep my house clean too.

bday flowers

So… do not let excuses like, “I don’t have enough room, or enough stuff, or enough money” (there’s always pot-luck and BYOB!) or enough “whatever” prevent you from entertaining your loved ones.

Just do it!

Jewel Ball o6 (56)

Here is my “One Month Before” Party Timeline. It is for very special occasions – the big party. This can be scaled down to a “one day before” timeline for when, on a Thursday afternoon, you invited your best friends over for cocktails and appetizers on Friday night.

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November 26, 2013   2 Comments