Monthly Archives: August 2015

French Green Lentil Salad

August 31, 2015, posted by Michelle – One of the several ubiquitous dishes here in Lyon is lentil salad. This salad calls for the tiny green lentils de Puy (pronounce “pwee”) and is most often served with saucisson de Lyon (cured, dry sausage with pistachio) and can be served warm or cold. Another version leaves the meat out altogether and still other versions add a poached egg. But in every version the Lentils de Puy are the constant, the MUST.

This tiny green lentil comes from Puy-en-Velay, a city in the Auvergne region of France. So, what’s so special about them? First, they are teeny tiny, about half the size of a regular lentil. Second, the volcanic soil of the region gives the lentils a very particular nutty taste and the texture is firm and not at all mushy. And third, Lentils de Puy are AOC designated, meaning the French government grants the label only to specific producers in a specific region who use traditional production methods. Oh la la.
Lentil de Puy saladA friend of mine just visited Puy last weekend and brought back a tin of Sabarot brand lentils for me. You can purchase the very same lentils HERE if you care to try this recipe. I love this salad and it’s very easy to make.

French Green Lentil Salad

8 oz. lentils de Puy

1 carrot, diced in small cubes

1 small white onion, chopped

2 small shallots, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Mix together the following for the dressing:

1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

Cook the lentils according to the package directions. If they happen to be in French and you do not parlez le français, then do this: Add the lentils to a pot of cold water. The water should cover the lentils by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer and let cook 20 – 25 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain and set the cooked lentils aside in a serving bowl. Boil the diced carrots for 5 minutes and set aside. In a saute pan, saute the onions in a little olive oil, adding the garlic after about 3 minutes. Add the cooked carrots and saute another minute or two. Add the mixture to the lentils, stirring well. Add the dressing, shallots, salt and pepper to taste. I like to serve mine cold though you can serve them warm or at room temperature as well. This easily serves 6 as a side dish. Bon appétit!

Lentils de Puy


6 Essential Elements of Tablescape Design 2 comments

August 30, 2015, posted by Michelle – Want to take your so-so table setting to so-sophisticated? We’d like to share  our guidelines for decorating your table for a special gathering. These elements are naturally overlapping and if we had to use one word that all of these ultimately produce it would be *harmony*.

1. Cohesion – Based on the theme of the event (birthday, holiday, bridal luncheon, graduation, anniversary, dinner for friends, etc.) decide what the overall look of the table will be. Traditional, modern, ethnic, rustic, seasonal, retro – whatever it is, think about how all the place settings, linens, flowers, accessories, etc. will work together to present a cohesive grouping.

2. Color – Once you’ve decided on the overall look, choosing a color scheme is important. Whether you have a matching set of dinner plates or a mix of patterns, keep the colors coordinating and pleasing. Choose a principal color and mix in analogous or complementary colors. Consult the color wheel for help. Sometimes small pops of color can make a big impact, so consider colors when choosing flower arrangements, candles, chargers, etc.

Color Wheel3. Coordinate – We’re not huge proponents of matchy-matchy yet all of the pieces on your table should coordinate well together. For example, a set of traditional vintage napkins may pair well with a set of funky retro place mats. You may have several glasses that are all different shapes but are all green glass. For small arrangements spaced out on a long table we once used a dozen vintage French tin cans of the same height but each had different designs and colors. The key is finding commonality among the different pieces for a harmonious design.

Green glasses4. Creative – It goes without saying that your table setting should reflect some personal creativity but isn’t that easier said than done? A simple exercise is to take one place setting and start trying out different table linens and stemware with it. Try using certain pieces in different ways. For example, instead of placing a table runner down the center of the table, why not use three runners – place one down the middle and the other two across the width of the table. The runners are now serving double duty as placemats. The possibilities are endless; just take some time to experiment and try out a variety of combinations.

TR5. Clash (just a little) – Add a little interest to the table by using  something a little unusual that clashes with the rest of the table. This is tricky but you can pull it off in surprising ways. I recently went to a dinner party and the whole table was done in very tasteful, understated creme, beige and silver. But the centerpiece was a geometric, matte purple rhinocerous planter with the most gorgeous purple roses and purple and green hydrangeas spilling out of it. The colors on their own would not have provided a clash against the neutral colors of the table but the super modern and unexpected rhinocerous planter, well, let me just say people talked about it for a least 15 minutes. It worked!

6. Convivial – The most important element of your table is intangible; it’s warmth. Your hospitality shows through everything you’ve done to receive your guests: the tablescape, flower arrangements, the food and all your special touches exhibit your desire to make your guests feel special and comfortable.

What do you think about our guidelines? How do you get your table ready for a special gathering? Do you have some fun, unusual ideas to share? We’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts. Please leave us a comment by clicking on the title of this post to open up the comment form.



Artificially Dyed Flowers, Mums & Pumpkins

August 27, 2015, posted by Gina – I visit the grocery store by my house almost daily. It is a sickness and I just can’t seem to change it. Upon these visits, I can’t wait to glide into the front doors and be greeted with all kinds of floral goodness. But alas, the other day I was assaulted by not only one but two artificially dyed flowers!

First, I saw the multicolored hydrangeas garishly sporting hues that are not naturally occurring. Then I turned the corner and saw the BRIGHT BLUE orchids. I think I audibly gasped!

dayglo hydrangea

BLUE Orchids

Now I realize this post is a slippery slope as some readers may think these are pretty or at least not a travesty and I don’t want to be a flower snob but some things should not be tampered with. I think back to a presentation I did for my Garden Club. While standing in front of the 60 women attending with a microphone in my hand, I was asked what I thought about manufactured colored flowers. I felt like a deer in the headlights but spoke my truth. I DO NOT LIKE THEM. Thankfully, this was the sentiment of the group and so I was highly favored for my remarks. Dodged a big one there. And, just so you know, I just used a ladder to come down from my perch.

In fairness, I don’t want to say that I could never find a use for such flora. We all do some crazy things for very sane reasons that make sense at the time and I freely admit to occasionally using manually colored carnations in an arrangement. They are small and how much trouble could they get into?

Moving on. It’s still August, right? I thought so. On my same trip to the grocery store, these FALL goodies snuck in:

Mums at garden center

Ceramic pumpkinsNothing says FALL more than mums and pumpkins. (This is where my “slow your roll” speech usually begins). I am a planner and love to get a jump on things but these pumpkins and mums just seem a bit out of place. I think Mother Nature may be feeling a bit rushed. It has been my experience that mums have a short life. Either the summer sun is too hot for them and they dry out or the blooms wilt if they are rained on. I usually limit my purchase of mums to only a few. I am going to let Mother Nature be my guide. In my neck of the woods we do have temperatures about 10 degrees lower than normal right now. Maybe Fall is closer than I think. One thing I have done this year is mix a few small mums into my indoor planters.

mums, fern and ivyIn this planter, I chose a lavender mum to go alongside a pretty fern and some ivy. It is just one little nod to fall.

The blue and white pots in the next photo always sit on this coffee table in my family room. I change the flowers seasonally and chose these white mums. Just a few simple changes can put a smile on your face.

mums blue and white pots

We would love to know your thoughts on the colored flowers and your use of mums. When do you begin putting your fall decorations up? Do you like to bring seasonal plantings inside as well? To leave us your thoughts just click on the title of this blog post and the comment form will expand at the end of the post.

Amazing Angelonia

August 26, 2015, posted by Gina – I can’t believe I am dedicating one whole post to one flower, but trust me it is worth it. We have been working on landscape plans for three summers now and our yard is really turning out very pretty despite the fact that we have some very tough areas. In the photo below you see the front of our house which faces west. I can’t begin to tell you how hot and sunny it is. While I love the sunshine, this is a combat zone for any potential flowers even with a sprinkler system.

Angelonia - Front DoorIn our plans, we have four beds in the front of our house that are for seasonal color. It is very difficult finding something that can withstand the heat of the summer so our landscape architect suggested Angelonia which I had never planted. So, back in May I made my way to a wonderful nursery not far from my home and found Angelonia. I purchased enough flats to cover all four beds and went on my way.

When these plants first went into the ground they were about 5 inches tall. Over the summer, as you can see, they have grown tremendously. These plants are simply amazing. They have bloomed the entire summer and needed no special attention other than water. I can’t say enough about these. If you have a sunny spot, these babies will be true workhorses for you. In addition to the deep purple you see at my home, they come in a lighter almost violet colored purple and white.

I have nicknamed them my angels in my garden and I will be sad to see them go. I am working on a plan for fall plantings that I will initiate in the next few weeks as our weather cools down just a bit.

Happy Planting!

Do you have plants and flowers that are able to withstand summer heat and full exposure to the sun? Do you like to fill in with seasonal color also? What are some of your favorites? We’d love to hear from you, so please click on the title of this post to expand the comment form and send us your thoughts.

A French Garden in Late August 2 comments

August 24, 2015, posted by Michelle – I went on a walk in the big park by my apartment here in Lyon and wanted to share some photos of the beautiful late summer flowers and plants. The weather is slowly changing here and I am starting to feel Fall approaching as the nights and early mornings have become cool enough to wear light sweaters. We’re getting excited by the change of seasons and you’ll soon see Fall colors and new arrangements reflected on the site. (Clicking on a photo in the gallery will enlarge it.)

Are you looking forward to Fall? What’s your favorite season? Do you bring different colors into your home (i.e. new  door arrangements, flower arrangements, accessories, etc.) with the changing seasons? Let us hear from you! Click on the title of this blog post to expand the comment form at the bottom of the post.

Ta Da Tabbouleh


August 8, 2015, posted by Gina – Many may say that preparing tabbouleh, a very delicious salad, is easy because you don’t really have to cook anything. At the core of that statement I would have to agree, though there sure is a lot of chopping involved in making this culinary treat but it’s worth it. I prepared this salad for our Saturday Supper and I am the only person who ate it. Son 2 ran off with his friends and Mr. Sparkling wanted a stick to your ribs kind of meal. Oh well, more for ME!!

Bulgur sack

2 cups bulgur wheat (I found this in the organic section of my grocery store)
2 cups boiling water
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
3 teaspoons salt
1 bunch fresh parley
1 bunch fresh mint
2 bunches scallions
2 medium tomatoes
1 hothouse cucumber. (A hothouse cucumber is different from a regular cucumber as it is long and slender, has fewer seeds and the skin is softer making it easier to eat).

Place the bulgur wheat in a temperature proof bowl. Bring water to a boil and pour over bulgur wheat. Stir in lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Cover and let stand at room temperature for one hour.

Meanwhile, chop parsley, mint, scallions, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Once bulgur wheat has soaked for one hour, make sure no extra water is in it. If you see that it is, drain all excess water out. Toss remaining ingredients in, cover and refrigerate for several hours.

Tabouleh veggies

Fresh tomatoes

I love tabbouleh but had not made it myself for years. This is a great recipe, but if I made it again, I would delete the cucumbers.

This was great for our 102 degree day served alongside some shrimp.


To print this recipe or leave comments please click on the title of this post (Ta Da Tabbouleh) and all options will appear at the end of the post.

Dining Among the Sunflowers


August 7, 2015, posted by Gina – Last weekend my husband and I had the most wonderful six course dinner with wine pairings. This special dinner was on a large private property in a lovely barn behind the host’s home. The dinner was excellent and afterwards we picked sunflowers and zinnias. The hosts sent us home with fresh tomatoes, note cards made from photos of their sunflowers and a small  painting which was a Walter Anderson print hand painted by the host.

Sunflower print

“Sunflower”, Walter Anderson


Here’s what we ate:

Appetizer – Crostini topped with ricotta cheese, prosciutto, grilled peaches and honey

Salad – Caprese salad with fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden we were sitting next to.

Soup – Watermelon gazpacho

Grilled Japanese eggplant served alongside chicken thighs that had an amazing seasoning and were grilled.

Ceviche with shrimp, scallops, white fish, avocado……so delicious

Main Course – Beef tenderloin with lady peas and baby okra grown in the garden

Dessert – Pound cake ice cream and blueberry ice cream

Among the wines were:

Barton & Guestier Côtes De Provence 2014, France

Martin Codax Albarino 2013 from Rias Baixas, Spain

Domus Vitae Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2008, Tuscany, Italy

Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec, NV, Champagne, France



BBQ Chicken

August 3, 2015, posted by Gina – For years I have made BBQ in the crockpot because it is so easy and so good. A few years ago a friend made BBQ for my family after I had surgery and everyone really loved it. I asked for the recipe and discovered that it was chicken breasts and BBQ sauce. We were all surprised as we all thought it was pork. I have made it many, many times since then.

This past week I had a meltdown trying to think of what to prepare for dinner. With it being so hot, grilling is not an option and so many comfort type foods just don’t seem appealing. I decided to make the crockpot BBQ chicken. Once in the grocery store I spied some lowly, chicken thighs. I suppose I should not say that because chicken thighs have gained popularity over the past few years. Once home, I cleaned the thighs and topped them with a sprinkle of paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, and pepper and then placed them in the crock pot. A whole bottle of spicy, sweet BBQ sauce with a little liquid smoke mixed in went on top. I cooked the chicken for about 5 hours on high, chopped it and served them on Hawaiian rolls. My family loved this and we have eaten it all weekend. If you need an easy, yummy meal give this a try.

BBQ close up

Do you have any summer time recipes you’d like to share? Click on the title of this post to expand the comment form which will appear beneath the post. Leave us your recipe or give us your feedback if you try this one.