In a different post, I told you all about how the French truly enjoy having butter in all their recipes. Now, I am turning towards another thing that is never amiss from their daily lives, which is wine. The French are famous worldwide for their wines, and I must say that I am eager to become a connoisseur, now that I live in the country making the best wine in the world. So far, I have improved my knowledge on food and wine pairings, and this is what today’s post will be all about.

 

One of the best-known wines served at the table is Pinot Noir. I seriously doubt there is anyone who had never tasted this type of wine unless they do not like wine altogether. Pinot Noir is an excellent choice when you are having meals rich in earthy flavors, such as mushrooms or truffles. Experts all agree that this is an exceptional choice for any meal of the kind.

You most probably know that white wine goes best with fish, but which white wine is the best with shrimps or steamed fatty fish? From what I have learned so far, Chardonnay is one of the best choices to go for. The smooth, silky texture of this white wine makes digesting fish easier, and it makes for a light meal that will leave you satiated without over-eating.

Since I am talking about wine, and I am currently residing in France, I cannot write a blog post about wine, without mentioning the famous Champagne. If you are looking to pair Champagne with food, I highly suggest going for salty things, since the slight tinge of sweetness in this wine will counterbalance the saltiness just fine.

You might have noticed how I said nothing so far about steaks. Who doesn’t love a juicy piece of steak? The French do, just like the rest of the world, so you may be wondering how they manage to stay so slim. The secret may be the way they pair their favorite foods with wine. In this case, juicy steaks, especially lamb chops, work great with Cabernet Sauvignon.

For those who have a weakness for tangy foods but they do not like them to be extremely tangy when they hit their taste buds, what I can clearly recommend is a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Think something along the lines of a plate of scallops, accompanied by onion salad. You will see how they work together like a pair made in heaven.

Zinfandel is a type of wine that I was taught just recently that works like a charm with terrines and mousse like recipes. Rich and rustic, this wine will make the somewhat heavy foods to get digested more easily, not to mention the fact that your taste buds will be on cloud number nine.

 

 

 

 

There are several reasons why it might be a good idea for you to start learning how to design a website. If you own a company having a strong online presence is often crucial for the success of your business. I needed to learn some of the basics to keep my blog up and running. It also ensured that I knew how to give it the professional appearance you’ve come to know. Web design is also a profitable business that is only growing, and if a career in this industry interests you then there are a few things that you’ll need to know.

 

While I don’t pretend to be an expert when it comes to web design, I am pretty knowledgeable when it comes to research. After trying out several online sites and quickly learning that many of them are pretty useless, I did find three resources that gave me the basic skills I needed for my website. While I probably won’t be writing major code anytime soon or building a website from scratch, I did manage to learn enough to design what I needed. Here are the three online resources that I found particularly helpful when I wanted to learn web design.

 

Tuts+

One of the best aspects about this online resource is that it is free. There are well over 20,000 tutorials for you to take advantage of, including some that go beyond the basics of coding. If you have the time and patience to work your way through all of the tutorials by the time you are finished you might have learned enough to become a “webmaster”. Most of the basic information that I picked up came from browsing through this impressive resource. They also offer learning plans for a fee, but I haven’t had any experience with these.

 

Codecademy

While there is a small fee associated with this online resource, I found that the information I received was well worth the small price. It covers every aspect of coding from the basic up to advanced, and with over 25 million online users worldwide I think that this site does live up to its stellar reputation.

 

Dev.Opera

This site is also free for users, and it is filled with great articles and tutorials. It is a great resource if you are just getting started in web design or are looking to expand your existing skills and knowledge. It covers almost every topic that you can think of, including a few that you might not even know that you need. I still visit it whenever I run into a problem.

 

You can also find your online resources just by entering the keywords “learn web design” into your favorite search engine. If you find any that are especially useful, I hope that you will feel free to share it with me in the comment section below.

 

 

 

 

Since my move to Provence, France I have started trying to cook some of the local dishes, with varying degrees of success. While I’ve had plenty of interesting failures and a few that were just scary, one dish that I have managed to perfect is Ratatouille.

 

The best way to describe this dish is as a “comfort food”. It is warm, filling and reminds most native Frenchmen of home. What chicken soup and macaroni and cheese is to Americans, ratatouille is to the French. In the time that I have live here I’ve found several recipes, but the one that is my favorite is also one of the easiest. If you want to learn how to cook perfect ratatouille I suggest you follow this simple recipe.

 

 

Here are the ingredients that you’ll need, and it is important to use all of them or the overall flavor of the dish will be off.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups small diced yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups medium diced eggplant with the skin on
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup diced green bell peppers
  • 1 cup diced red bell peppers
  • 1 cup diced zucchini squash
  • 1 cup diced yellow squash
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

After you assembled the ingredients you will also need a large 12” saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When it is hot stir in the onions and garlic. Once they are lightly caramelized it is time to add the eggplant and thyme. After letting the eggplant soften and cook for 5 minutes, the peppers, squash and zucchini should go in the pan. Once another 5 minutes has passed toss in the tomatoes, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. This should be allow to cook for an additional 5 minutes, and then serve the ratatouille hot to your guests.

This recipe only takes about 25 minutes to cook and requires even less prep time. Not only is it easy to make, you’ll also have enough ratatouille for up to 6 generous servings. Who knew that cooking perfect ratatouille could be so easy. This might be one of the reasons why the French consider this simple and delicious dish one of their favorite comfort foods. I’ve also learned that the ingredients can change slightly, depending on the region. If you have a favorite ratatouille recipe that you would like to share, I would love to read it. I’m always looking for new dishes to cook in the kitchen.

 

 

My goal is to start my own web design business, and when I’m not working on that you can often find me in the kitchen. I love experimenting with recipes and trying out new dishes, I also enjoy playing with the latest countertop appliances. Recently I purchased a 4 slice toaster, and breakfast hasn’t been the same. Let me tell you why I love this small kitchen appliance so you’ll understand why I’m devoting this blog post to my favorite  4 slice toaster.

 

Cuisinart from bedbathandbeyond.com

 

First of all it comes with four slots so I can easily make enough toast for a couple of people at a time. This is definitely a benefit since I frequently find myself enjoying breakfast with a couple of friends. The slots are also wide enough for me to use some of the local artisan breads, though I do have to be careful how thick I cut the slices. I went over some toaster reviews because I wanted to make sure it’s perfect for tall bread Since it comes with a convenient high-lift lever, enough smaller English muffins are easy to remove without burning my fingers.

I never thought that I would pay attention to the electrical cord, but now I do. There are only a few outlets in my kitchen, and my 4 slice toaster comes with a power cord that is long enough to easily reach. Best of all there is a compact on the bottom that stores the electric cord when it is not being used. Trust me when I say this really does make storage a breeze.

What really makes this my favorite 4 slice toaster are all of the convenient functions. All I have to do is put the bread in the slots, and the toaster does the rest. Whoever would’ve thought that there would be a “smart” toaster? There is a function for bread and bagels so everything is browned perfectly, and this model can even sense when the toast is done. This allows me to walk away from the toaster, without worrying about the bread burning. If it is done before I am ready to eat I simply press the warming button. This innovative functions heats my toast back up without it continuing to brown. Personally I think every toaster should come with a warming function.

Even cleaning up afterwards is a breeze. There is a crumb tray on the bottom so my counters stay clean. Since it slides out, emptying it is quick and easy and it simply slides back in. As you can see I really like this 4 slice toaster, and I’m sure that I’ll be writing about it again in future blog posts. As always I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions.

 

 

 

If you have ever picked up a French book recipe, and not necessarily the one written by Julia Child, you may have noticed right away that the French almost do nothing, not even the most basic recipes, without reaching for butter. For anyone who does not live in France, the amount of butter in French recipes seem to be at suicidal levels, and the biggest shock is learning that despite all this, the French are actually pretty thin, pretty slim and pretty happy. I have so far experimented firsthand how people in Provence do not even think about cooking without butter. I have just stocked on butter, too, since I am aspiring as being capable to cook just like a real French cook, even if one that is home based.

The French say, and they are right, that everything tastes better with butter. No one can really say anything else, because, well, this is an absolute truth. Nothing can replace butter for real in any French recipe. Try the same thing using oil, or some low fat replacement, and you will see that you are not getting exactly the same thing. And do not even attempt to tell a French person they should use less butter. Unless you really enjoy being scolded and given a lecture on how French people know how to enjoy life, while the rest of the world seems to be hung up on just feeling guilty all the time for whenever they get a chance to feel happy.

I was taught, like any other person living in the Western world, and not in France, that saturated fats are bad for your health. But, according to some studies, nothing can be further from the truth. Butter, which is a great source of saturated fats, is not responsible for clogging your arteries, or for causing obesity. If anything, the type of saturated fats in butter are good for you, and they help you lead a healthy, happy life. These studies show that actually eating more butter helps protecting the immune system, and its saturated fats are essential for the nervous system. Did you know that butter is a source of linoleic acid, well known for its anti-cancer properties? Apparently, the French know, or at least, their tradition of including butter in almost all their recipes is based on something that is healthy and tasty at the same time.

There is another secret to why the French are much thinner than others, while eating so much butter. For the French, snacking is not a thing; actually, if you do not care about eating full meals and you prefer to snack here and there, you can never be French. But, if you do like them, and you treat meals as an occasion to bond with others and eat small portions without ever overstuffing yourself, you will discover why having too much butter is simply impossible.

 

Photo: aspca.org

Lavender is well known as a plant used in making soaps, perfumes and other cosmetics, so it may come to you as a surprise that it can also be used in cooking. Ever since I moved to Provence, France, I have learned a lot of things about using lavender, whether for cooking or for decorating my home, so I can enjoy the beautiful smell through the entire house. I want to share with you a few ideas that I have already tried.

A new friend I made since coming here taught me about how to make wonderful tea using lavender and other herbs from the garden. Almost anyone around here seems to be growing bushes with all kinds of herbs, so making a bit of tea is never a problem. The recipe recommended to me by my new friend involves lavender flower heads and chamomile. Just make sure that the heads of the flowers are well dried, to avoid your tea smelling and tasting of soap. The thing with lavender is that this herb is rich in natural oils, and it can make your food inedible, if you are using too much of it, or if the lavender you are using is not sufficiently dried. The tea I am telling you about now has a great calming effect, so I recommend it for drinking late in the evening, before going to bed, or while you are reading a book and you wait for sleep to come.

Another great thing I learned to cook using lavender is ice cream! Come on, you surely want to hear this! You basically prepare the cream for the ice cream as you usually do, with the difference that you infuse it with dried lavender buds. After bringing the cream to simmering temperature, you just need to stop the fire and let it cool with a lid on top for about half an hour. I don’t think I have ever had an ice cream with such an interesting taste, and I also seem to be getting good at it, too. Here is something I do to make my lavender ice cream recipe even more delicious: I add honey to the cream, replacing some of the sugar, for a healthier alternative and one that even tastes better!

As far as other home uses for lavender are concerned, I learned how to make lavender scented candles. In the heated wax, I mix a bit of lavender buds and a few drops of lavender oil. I am also fond of the lavender potpourri I made; it is practically a sachet filled with dried lavender buds that smell wonderfully. You can use the sachet as a central piece on furniture, or you can place it somewhere close to your head, for beautiful dreams.

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