Archive for the 'Life' Category

The Gastronomique Tour: Part 1 Week 1- Southwestern France

How do I edit a fantastic 2 week vacation during which I snapped 670 photos?… Not easily!

To sum it up, seeing family I hadn’t visited since 2004 was so enjoyable I wish I had more time to be w/ them. I definitely won’t let so much time pass before my next visit.

My first stop was Southwestern France. I landed in Bordeaux and spent the first week exploring the region surrounding Agen, the city where my brother and his wife live. This region is filled w/ great food and beautiful countryside which encompasses many well preserved medieval villages.

This post and the ones to follow will provide a visual taste of my experiences…

P1010639 Agen’s organic farmers market




P1010661 Gavaudun

P1010683 Biron


P1010712 Monpazier

P1010732 Bonaguil

P1010739 Rocamadour


P1010839 Foie gras museum



P1010873 Josephine Baker’s old house (Chateau des Milandes)

P1010881 Beynac




P1010919 Our picnic spot (Roque – Gageac)

P1010920 Decadent picnic food


A bientot!



Can You Spot the Goldfinches?

A pair of goldfinches stop by in my yard from time to time to snack on the zinnias. They’re beautiful and fun to watch as the pull the petals off the flowers to get to the seeds. I was drinking my morning cups of coffee the other day and spotted them in action through the kitchen window. Can you spot them? The female is a bit more difficult to see in the photos but she’s there! (click the pics to enlarge for easier spotting)





Happy Birding!


Pistachio Gelato & Pistachio Brittle

This post is in memory of my dad who loved pistachio gelato. I remember being in Venice w/ him at a gelateria, and even w/ so many flavors to choose from, he of course picked pistachio! So here you go papa. With love, your son.

This recipe is based on one from Martha Stewart w/ a few variations. The main variations are: 1) I used six egg yolks, compared to Martha’s five, to give my gelato additional richness; and 2) My version leaves in the ground pistachios for a boost of flavor and a nice textural element. I’m guessing that Martha strained out the pistachios to get a smoother, more elegant finished product, much like many French sauce recipes require removing bits of shallots or mushrooms prior to serving for that very reason.

I made the pistachio brittle to use as a garnish because I think it’s fun to eat and delicious too! The brittle reminded me of a funny and true story: My childhood dentist would sometimes have a bowl of peanut brittle sitting on the table in her waiting room. I don’t know if she was just being nice to her sugar loving clients, or guaranteeing return business to fill all the cavities this created!

Pistachio Gelato (recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)


1/2 pound pistachios (unsalted and shelled)

1 quart half & half

6 egg yolks

2/3 cup sugar


1) Coarsely chop pistachios in food processor.

2) Place pistachios in a heavy pot w/ the half & half  and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover w/ lid and let mixture steep for 2 hours.

3) Strain pistachios from mixture using a fine mesh sieve, pressing down firmly on solids. Reserve pistachios.

4) Return half & half to pot and scald, then remove from heat.

5) In a metal bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until mixture becomes smooth and pale yellow.

6) Very slowly whisk half & half into egg/sugar mixture so as not to curdle the mixture.

7) Place bowl w/ mixture over a pot of simmering water, stirring continuously w/ a heat resistant spatula until mixture coats the back of a metal spoon (do not let mixture exceed 170 degrees F to prevent curdling), then quickly place bowl in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and promote rapid cooling.

8) Stir in reserved pistachios and chill in fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

9) Churn mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

10) Pour gelato into a 2 quart plastic container then place a piece of parchment paper cut to size on the surface of gelato (this will reduce air exposure and prevent ice crystals from forming on the surface of the gelato), seal container and freeze until firm.

Yield: Approx. 1 1/2 quarts


Pistachio Brittle


1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup pistachios (shelled and unsalted)

3 1/2 tablespoons water


1) Put sugar and water in a heavy bottomed pot and boil until light amber in color (333 – 335 degrees F on a candy thermometer), brushing inside of pot w/ water occasionally to prevent crystals from forming; stir in pistachios.

2) Quickly pour onto a baking sheet lined w/ parchment paper and let cool.

3) Break brittle into large pieces and store in an airtight plastic container, placing a piece of parchment paper between each layer.


Happy cooking…


Providing Unconditional Love…

That’s the feeling I get from my furry friends and good food… not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day of the year!

heart soup1


truffles and brie1 feb 5 2012




First Signs of Spring


Thank God, because I definitely need some inspiration!


Let It Snow!

Santa delivered us a beautiful snow for Christmas! These are pictures of my garden taken from my kitchen window this morning. Looking forward to greener days in the garden next year, but at the moment I’m enjoying this beautiful, relaxing and lazy day!

Christmas garden2 2010

Christmas garden1 2010

Happy Christmas and may 2011 bring you health, joy and great meals enjoyed w/ your friends and family!


Carrot Gelato w/ Roasted Hazelnuts & Rum Soaked Raisins

carrot gelato1

For LiveSTRONG Day – A tribute to all those living w/ cancer. Barbara of Winos and Foodies is once again hosting A Taste of Yellow to support LiveSTRONG Day and to raise awareness of cancer issues worldwide. She’s asking food bloggers to cook up something yellow as a way of showing support for this cause and for sharing their cancer related stories if they have one.

My contribution to A Taste of  Yellow 2009 is this carrot gelato which is orangish yellow but it’s the thought and effort that counts – For LiveSTRONG Day – A tribute to all those living w/ cancer.

Carrot Gelato w/ Roasted Hazelnuts & Rum Soaked Raisins


1 cup grated carrots (packed tightly)

3/4 cup roasted hazelnuts (skins removed)

1/2 cup raisins (soaked in dark rum)

1 cup sugar

1 quart half & half

6 large egg yolks


1) Puree carrots in food processor w/ a small amount of half & half

2) Place rum soaked raisins in a small pot and heat to burn off alcohol

3) In a metal bowl, whisk egg yolks and  sugar until mixture becomes smooth and pale yellow

4) Place half & half in a heavy pot and heat until scalded 

5) Very slowly add warm half & half to egg/sugar mixture so as not to curdle the mixture

6) Place bowl w/ mixture over a pot of simmering water, stirring continuously until mixture coats the back of a metal spoon (do not let mixture exceed 170 degrees F to prevent curdling), then quickly place bowl in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and promote rapid cooling

7) Stir carrot puree into cooling mixture

8) Once cool, refrigerate mixture for at least 4 hours or overnight

9) Churn mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding raisins and hazelnuts when mixture begins to thicken
10) Pour gelato into a 2 quart plastic container and quickly stir to evenly distribute the raisins and hazelnuts
11) Place a piece of parchment paper cut to size on the surface of  gelato (this will reduce air exposure and prevent ice crystals from forming on the surface of the gelato), seal container and freeze until firm
Yield: Approx. 1 1/2 quarts 



Veggie Garden Update

I now realize a lot can happen in a garden in a short amount of time. When I arrived back in town last weekend I noticed that my zucchini plant had rotted from all the rain we had while I was gone. I’m not sure how to avoid this next year. Veteran gardeners, any suggestions?

Also, my tomato plants have become so loaded down w/ fruit that the stakes I’m using this year are having trouble supporting the plants. Solution – I used twine to tie the stakes to the fence for added support. Next year I think I will use tomato cages to contain the plants more effectively. I harvested my first ripe Lemon Boy tomato and it was delicious!! The heirloom tomato plants are loaded, but no ripe ones yet.

Much to my surprise, the broccoli plants (one of my favorite vegetables) are still producing so there’s no need to buy any at the grocery store this week! My first butternut squash has grown so tremendously that I may be making a home grown butternut squash dish next week!

My orange bell pepper plant died and my other bell pepper plant has yet to start producing. The hot banana pepper plant dropped the only fruit it had on it and no new fruit is appearing. Possibly this due to their location in the garden – the plants are being crowded out and overshadowed by the gargantuan tomato plants! Lesson learned for next year – better plant placement and spacing according to potential size and height (how was I supposed to know how big or little things would get… after all, I’m a novice). Veteran gardeners please don’t hesitate to share your knowledge… I would love to hear your pearls of wisdom!

July 17th photos:

First Lemon Boy; more broccoli; baby butternut

Heirlooms; lone banana pepper; more Lemon Boys

July 27th photos:

Rigged tomatoes; yet more broccoli; rotten zucchini

Adolescent butternut; newborn butternut; thriving zinnias

Happy gardening…


My First Veggie Garden

Two years in the making, but well worth the effort…

In the summer of 2006 I put up a retaining wall to keep the ivy from taking over a corner of my yard. I then tried to kill it w/ regular Roundup but the ivy won that battle. The following spring I mixed a batch of extra strong Roundup. It took 3 or 4 applications but the ivy lost this time! Fast forward to 2008… It was an exceptionally rainy and cool spring in St. Louis so the planting of my garden was delayed by a few weeks. I had a brief window of opportunity in mid-May to get my plants in the ground, and I do mean brief! As I was getting the trenches finished for the asparagus it started raining again, but I pushed on and was able to finish. The weather remained cool and wet until early June. As a result, my plants didn’t prosper very well. The tomato plants were dropping their flowers, the squash plants remained small, the bell pepper plants were wimpy and the asparagus struggled to pop out of the dirt! I thought I was doing something wrong, but as the weather became drier and warmer things started happening – the broccoli ripened, the tomatoes started appearing, the asparagus ferned out, the squash has gone crazy (so much I’ve had to cut back the leaves so they wouldn’t block out the sun for the other plants!), and my wimpy bell pepper plants are starting to get bigger and flower. The zucchini is flowering like crazy but is not producing much fruit yet. As you can see in the photos, two of the zucchinis rotted before ripening. I don’t know why, so if any of you veteran gardeners have any answers please share them w/ me.

Below is a photographic chronology:


June 2006


June 8th, 2008


June 22, 2008


July 4, 2008


Broccoli; Lemon Boy tomato; zucchini


Hot banana peppers; butternut squash flower; herbs

Things are looking good, and the broccoli and first banana peppers were delicious!! I will keep you posted as the summer progresses.

Ciao for now…


Daring Bakers Challenge for April

Unfortunately my blog has been malfunctioning for the past couple of weeks due to some malicious hackers corrupting my template. I had a friend help me reinstall everything but it’s still not working properly. So, as a result I cannot upload any photos and when you click on the photos from previous posts they no longer enlarge. This whole situation has me very frustrated!!

I have completed the challenge for April, took photographs and have feedback from my taste testers but all this will have to wait to be posted until I can get brunosdream operational again (hopefully within the next week). I figure what’s the point to post the text without photos since my fellow Daring Bakers want to actually see the end results, not just read about them!

Please check back within the next week. Hopefully I will have this mess resolved by then and have some visuals for your viewing pleasure.

 Until then, Happy Baking!