Bouchon – Lessons in Baking

Well hello there! It’s been a very long time since I have blogged. A lot has happened in the time I’ve been away. Here is an abbreviated rundown of some of those things: I joined Weight Watchers, I’ve lost 55 pounds, I’ve become a yoga instructor and I had surgery on my left shoulder which has left me somewhat incapacitated. My life is not too complicated, what a blessing.

Because of the Weight Watchers, I have had to curtail some of my baking and cooking activities and focus on eating healthier. As you might imagine, this has been a bit of a challenge. I still have an occasional baked good or sweet treat but nothing compared to my former lifestyle. Alas, it’s worth it to feel healthier and to have confidence in my appearance again.

My sweet mother-in-law was gracious enough to send me an early birthday present. For several years now I have had Thomas Keller’s bistro cookbooks on my Wish List. Knowing full well that I did not in actuality “need” them but my 50th birthday is looming and well, I wanted them.

You can purchase these yourself at: or

I like to think I know my way around a kitchen but … these recipes are written for professional chefs. The recipes are complicated with ingredients that are not always readily available at your local Kroger. Mostly, they are time consuming.  So much so that I am taking three days to make a Quiche Lorraine. It’s a true education into how professional chefs prepare food at Michelin starred restaurants; which in today’s fast paced world is nothing like how the average person cooks at home. Nevertheless, I am resolved to conquer them. Well, maybe not all of them but I’m going to give it an honest effort.

All of this to say, this weekend shall be consumed with cooking and baking for my dear, dear husband’s 50th birthday. Since my husband is more of an introvert than extrovert and prefers to hide out in our house for the entire weekend (if you could hear my voice right now you would hear some serious attitude) I shall be cooking and baking to make his day special.

What’s on the menu you ask? Quiche Lorraine, German chocolate cake, New York strip, macaroni and cheese, and beer. I began this endeavor on Friday afternoon by preparing an Onion Confit, a Bouquet Garni, and a basic pie crust. I also made mango/avocado salsa, pork chops and salt roasted fingerling potatoes because we had to eat dinner too. Needless to say, I was in the kitchen all freaking day. It was fun and EXHAUSTING!

Onion Confit? What the heck? It sounds French and fancy. It’s not. Onion confit consists of evenly sliced onions (eight cups), 1/4 cup of water, and four ounces of butter. All of which is cooked at very low temperature for two plus hours and stirred every half hour. Simple enough but a commitment. Also, it’s covered with a parchment lid. Huh? It took three tries to create this. Something I’m certain my craftier friends would have done in one attempt.

Also, Bouquet Garni? It sounds so fancy. It’s fresh herbs wrapped in leeks. Simple enough. I grow the herbs in my garden and I can get leeks. The end result is amazing. The onions are so naturally sweet and the herbs make them even more fragrant. It was so worth the effort.

That’s as far as I got. The pie dough is in the fridge and next I’ll put together the custard and cake. First, I need a springform pan. I could have sworn I had one. I guess I’ll be making a trip to the local bakery supply store aka: Bed Bath Beyond. Ugh.


Canned tuna . . . should we or shouldn’t we?

ImageI do but not without a tinge of guilt. In fact, it’s difficult to eat any fish from the sea these days without wondering if it’s safe, if some dolphin or other rare splendid creature had to die as well. Was it fished out of a trash heap? I worry about the state of our oceans knowing how much we abuse them. And yet, I continue to purchase “dolphin safe” tuna and serve it several times a month. Life get’s complicated doesn’t it?

Well, setting guilt aside for the moment let’s talk about tuna salad. I love it. Especially traditional tuna salad, you know the one with mayo, mustard, celery, eggs, etc., served with potato chips. Yuh-uuum-me! Nothing tastier or more traditional in my homestead. Except that, as usual, I get bored with that. I want something different. Something non-traditional that kicks it up a notch or too. You name it, I’ve tried it with tuna: cilantro, red bell peppers, curry, raisins, scallions, lemon, lime, dill, wasabi, yogurt, sour cream, even horseradish. Some of these combo’s have worked, some have not. 

Today I tried again to mix it up with unusual ingredients. I happened to have a Jicama which is a root vegetable native to Mexico.


 It’s like a radish or turnip. It’s mild, crisp, a touch of sweetness and wonderful in fresh salads.  I minced some up and threw that in the bowl along with Chinese mustard from the packets of left overs we had from ordering in the other night. That’s something else I feel guilty about throwing away. We always end up with way too much mustard, duck sauce and soy sauce and I always think, “surely there’s some way I can use these” invariably I have a giant stash that I throw away once a year. Now that is no longer necessary. The mustard is wonderful in tuna salad. It’s spicy and subtle (if that’s even possible) and the perfect touch for canned tuna. 


I think I’ll actually buy a bottle of it to keep on hand. I’m thinking there are other uses for this stuff too.

The other new ingredient I used was a blend of spices I got from a company called Wildtree. I used to work for them as a sales rep and since I’m awful at sales that didn’t last too long. Their products are wonderful. They’re natural, healthful and preservative free. I happened to have some of their Dill Blend spice hanging around and I thought it would be a nice combination to add with the rest and voila! Tasty goodness was right under my nose. Click on the picture and it will take you to their website. 

Image I also threw in some of the traditional stuff: onions, celery, boiled eggs, mayo … you know the drill but the addition of these three ingredients made for a wonderful change and delicious lunch. Yuh-uuum-me!