Monthly Archives: December 2015

Cooking Class: Calamari with Basmati Rice and Chorizo 1 comment

Squid with Basmati and Chorizo

December 18, 2015, posted by Michelle – It’s been quite a while since I’ve been to a cooking class but this week I found the time to go and a couple of friends even came along with me. The place I like to go to offers all kinds of classes but the one I like the most is the lunch time class. In the first half hour the chef explains the dish and how to prepare all the individual ingredients. We cut, chop or slice as directed and then take everything to the stove tops and ovens to cook it all. The meal is ready within 30 – 40 minutes and we eat together in a dining room just off the kitchen and talk about the dish. It’s interesting to hear everyone’s comments; how they like the meal, if they’d do something differently, if they wouldn’t change anything or if they’re likely to make the dish at home or for guests.

So, we made calamari with basmati rice and chorizo. When I first read the recipe I couldn’t imagine what those flavors would be like together. I have to say I loved it, as did my two friends, but the class was split 50/50, either people loved it or, ah, not so much. Though the three of us had eaten calamari before, none of us had ever made it at home and we were a little intimidated by it. To our surprise it’s super easy to work with and this recipe was simple to make though the flavors make it seem complex.

Calamari with Basmati Rice and Chorizo


1.5 cups basmati rice, rinsed
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3.5 oz mild chorizo, diced
1.5 lbs calamari
1 bunch of chives, finely chopped
2 tbsp butter
Olive oil, salt, pepper


In a medium size sauce pan, sauté the onion in a little olive oil until translucent then add the rice. Stir in 3.5 cups of water and then cover with a lid. Cover and let the rice cook on medium heat until the water has evaporated. Then turn off the heat and let the rice further steam another 10 minutes. Stir in the diced chorizo, butter and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Rinse the calamari and pat it dry with paper towel. Cut off the tentacles and then cut them into pieces. Cut open the body then cut it into 1/2 inch strips. Sprinkle the chives over the calamari and drizzle it with olive oil. Heat some olive oil in a sauté pan until it just starts to smoke then put the calamari in.  Sauté the calamari and chives for about one minute. Put the rice/chorizo mixture on a plate and add a little of the calamari on top. Bon appétit!

Chef’s Tips/Info:

Rinse the rice to get rid of the starch. You want this rice to be non-sticky and rinsing it will do the trick.

Pat the calamari very lightly because it has a tendency to stick to the paper towel.

When chopping an onion, keep the root intact and you won’t cry.

Video on how to clean and cut a whole squid :


Christmas Florals

December 14, 2015, posted by Gina – Earlier this month I worked on several floral arrangements for a Christmas/Engagement party held at a friend’s home.  I had a lot of fun working on these and I hope you will get some good ideas from them.
Christmas Florals Collage

The noble fir wreath was beautiful on its own but I added the red bow to coordinate with some of the red in the dining room where it hung.  The champagne bucket held a tall arrangement filled with roses, stock, snapdragons and larkspur. It was the dining room table centerpiece and was complimented by a couple of coordinating smaller arrangements.  A mercury vase held a stunning all white composition and a few other cheery arrangements were scattered about the house in McCarty vases.

McCarty Vases

Chocolate Christmas Cookies

Chocolate cookies santa hatDecember 12, 2015, posted by Gina – These cookies aren’t just for Christmas but because they are no-bake they are easy to prepare during this busy time.  These are my absolute favorite cookies and everyone else seems to loves them too! I have seen this recipe in many cookbooks but someone gave this one to me a while back.

Chocolate Cookies

2 cups sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup butter
3 cups instant oatmeal
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 tablespoons cocoa

In a small saucepan bring sugar, milk and butter to a boil then turn the heat to low.  Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.  In a large bowl, combine the oatmeal, vanilla and cocoa.  Pour the sugar mixture in the bowl and stir until well combined.  Drop by teaspoonful onto a cookie sheet.  Cookies will harden as they cool.

That’s it!!   I usually prepare these the day before I need them so that they have a chance to harden.


Noël: Decorations from the Heart* 2 comments

December 11, 2015, posted by Michelle – Bonjour! I am spreading a little cheer from across the pond and hope you like this Christmas tree collection. These trees are part of the annual *Les Décos du Cœur event in Lyon and they are sponsored by companies throughout the region. People can participate in a drawing this weekend to win various prizes and the trees will be auctioned off on Sunday. The proceeds go to a charity that helps the elderly in need. Christmas Tree Collage

A few of these trees were decorated with a distinct French flair: the red, white and blue tree, the Olympique Lyonnais soccer team tree and the tree with macarons in transparent ornaments – that one was also topped with a chef’s toque in lieu of the traditional star.

toque macaron

Balsamic Vinegar: The Secret Ingredient

December 11, 2015, posted by Gina – This week I went on a search for quick and easy weeknight recipes to make during the busy holiday season. I came across one for homemade chicken tenders and one for tortellini soup. These probably don’t sound so special but they have a secret ingredient that makes them outstanding: Balsamic Vinegar.

A while back I caught an episode of Everyday Italian and Giada De Laurentiis was making crunchy parmesan chicken tenders (click HERE for the recipe). What I really liked about them is that they are baked, not fried, and they are indeed easy to prepare. You soak them in buttermilk and cover them with a combination of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese and then you bake them. But what I wasn’t expecting was the flavor punch the balsamic vinaigrette gives to these. Word to the wise: if you have teenagers or younger children chances are they will still want to eat these with ketchup. My almost 18 year old would not even try the balsamic sauce but he did brag about how good the chicken was. Further, he has a t-shirt that says “I eat ketchup with my ketchup”, so how could I convert him?

Chicken Tenders

The next night I needed to whip up something fast, so I grabbed one of my favorite cookbooks that never disappoints, Tables of Content. I found a recipe for tortellini soup which calls for, you guessed it, balsamic vinegar. My husband absolutely loved this soup and for a recipe that takes just 15 minutes to put together it is a clear winner. I hope you enjoy these as much as we did.


4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (I used regular chicken broth)
9 ounces fresh chicken tortellini or cheese tortellini (I used cheese)
1 – 15 oz. can cannellini, drained and rinsed. (I just drained them)
1 – 15 oz. can diced Italian-style tomatoes (I used some seasoned with garlic and basil)
¼ cup chopped fresh basil (since I found the can of tomatoes seasoned with basil, I omitted this)
1 ¼ tablespoon balsamic vinegar (this is the secret ingredient and oh so good)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Bring the broth to a boil in a stockpot over medium heat and add the pasta. Cook for 4 minutes and stir in the beans and undrained tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Tortellini Soup