Les Restes


Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Les restes. Doesn’t that sound yummy? It evokes meals on white plates enjoyed at tables draped in checkered cloths while Edith Piaf plays in the background. What kind of obscure French delicacy is that? Which wine would the sommelier choose for you?

You likely have the ingredients for it in the fridge.  Les restes is the charming name given to the food that didn’t get eaten at one meal and now provides the raw material for another.

As in leftovers. The humble leftovers from last night’s dinner await transformation into today’s lunch or dinner. How?

  • If you have a relative who lived through the Great Depression, ask them how they or whomever was the cook in their house used up leftovers for inspiration. If you don’t, check YouTube for interviews with survivors.
  • Soup. You don’t need no stinkin’ recipe for a good pot of soup. Just aromatics (onion, celery, carrot), broth (in a carton is fine, if you can make your own from veg scraps and bones, the better), and then add whatever is lurking in the fridge.
  • Casseroles. Noodles, pasta, rice. Bits of this and that. Bind it all together with béchamel sauce (1 T. flour, 1T. butter–melt, sprinkle in flour, cook for a couple of minutes to get rid of the raw taste, then gradually add 1C. milk as you keep stirring. Add salt and pepper. You may also add nutmeg and/or the cheese of your choice). If you just can’t, canned cream of______  soup will bind it as well. And I won’t judge you. 
  • You can make salads. Either cut into bite-sized pieces and add to a tossed salad or you can cut them a little finer, mix with mayo, mustard, some herbs, celery and maybe some onion, and create sandwiches or enjoy on crackers. Or eat off the spoon. Again, no judgement. 
  • Oh, and another note about béchamel: if you feel like fussing with making crepes (there are about a million recipes for them out there) use some to bind leftover chicken or seafood, wrap it in a crepe, pour the rest of the sauce over the top, and bake for 20 minutes or so to be sure it’s all warmed up. 


Just because consumer have to exercise more care than ever with groceries due to COVID-19 complications (interruptions in the food supply chain; prices going up something like 20%) it doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun while we adapt to current reality.

And if you can create something original out of your restes, so much the better.







Cookbooks I Have Known and Loved

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

I read cookbooks the way others read novels. In fact, I can’t remember the last novel that I read. That’s how long it’s been.

But give me a good cookbook and I will be happily amused for hours. And if I find a recipe that aligns with what I have on hand, you will, too. Here’s a glimpse of the ones that live on my bookshelf in no particular order:

French Country Cooking and A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorrison. The recipes are easy to follow, even if they run on the complex side (the blanquette recipe is a bit complicated, but she did a great job of breaking it down into smaller steps, for example).  Both books are visually stunning thanks to her husband’s photography. Plus, the back story of the house where they live and run a pop-up restaurant in the former is about as French as you can get.

More with Less, written by Doris Janzen Longacre, is a collection of recipes submitted by members of the Mennonite Church. The recipes are basic but delicious and include suggestions to avoid wasting food.

Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier contains the recipe for my go-to completely bombproof yogurt cake. It’s the first cake kids learn how to make and can be tweaked with berries or citrus or used as the base for a Victoria sponge. Also check out her recipe for mustard chicken stew.

Indian Every Day by Anjum Anand provides lighter spins on Indian food. Her spinach and chicken will give you new reasons to get up in the morning.

The New Nordic Diet by Trina Hahnnaman put the emphasis on seafood and grains and lower fat ingredients. The cod and shrimp stew and apple crumble will make you forget how healthy you are eating. And try the shower buns. Yum.

Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells contains my go-to recipes for pesto and pie crust. I love the illustrations in here as well: a combination of lovely line drawings and vintage photos from Parisian bistros.

And my all time favorite for sentimental reasons:

A just past WWII edition of The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer. My parents received it as a wedding present in 1946. It’s falling apart and has to be stored in a plastic bag to keep it together. No matter. I still use her sugar cookie recipe when called upon to make something. Both my parents made notes in the margins and tucked recipes clipped from print publications or handwritten by the grandmas between its covers.

What are yours, Gentle Readers?


So Quiche Me and Smile for Me…

crust food homemade pie
Photo by Amanda Reed on Pexels.com


To: John Denver and Mary Travers

From: Fran

Forgive me for the pun. In no way was it intended to detract from or demean one of the great songs of the 1960s. I couldn’t help myself.

Thank you.





Now that the ear worm du jour has been activated, let us discuss quiche.

Let’s start with the crust. If it doesn’t have a crust, it is a baked omelet. It is a frittata. It is not a quiche, I’m afraid. Those have their charms, but I find that I really need a crust when I want quiche. You may use a frozen one for convenience if needs must. Otherwise, I recommend Patricia Well’s recipe for pate brisse from her book Bistro Cooking: 7 tablespoons butter, 1 to 1-1/4 cups all purpose flour (don’t use unbleached–for some reason it just doesn’t work as well), dash salt, and 3 tablespoons of ice water. I have the best results with cutting the butter into the flour and salt with a food processor. If you don’t have one, cut in the butter with a couple of knives. When it looks like sand, add the water gradually. Use just enough to make the butter and flour clump up, but not enough to make it turn into a ball. Place it on a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper (preferably the latter), pat it into a disc, and let it chill for an hour or so. Roll it out and line a pie plate or loose-bottomed tart pan with it.

For the filling, I use two or three eggs beaten with a cup of milk. If you want to go full frontal French, use cream. Or whole milk. I use 2% or skim depending on what’s in the house. For cheese, I’ve used cheddar, I’ve used Gruyere, I’ve used plain ol’ supermarket Swiss supercharged with parmesan. Grate the cheese and line the bottom of the shell with it.

Now, you can just pour in the eggs and milk and have a satisfactory product, or you can put cooked broccoli, cooked and drained spinach, sautéed onions or leeks, sautéed mushrooms, leftover bits of bacon or ham or other cooked meats. Scatter those over the cheese and pour on the eggs and milk.

I bake quiche at 350 for at least 45 minutes, or until it’s a lovely shade of brown and the filling doesn’t jiggle. Oh, and for the sake of your sanity, place the filled pie plate on a baking sheet before you put it in the oven, especially if you’re using a loose-bottomed pan. If the crust leaks, or the filling decides to climb over the sides,  it will create a mess. Cleaning a baking sheet is easier than cleaning your oven. Trust me.

Let the quiche cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing into it. It can be served warm or at room temperature. I would do a small green salad or a fruit salad with it. And probably a rose that erred on the crisp side if you’re doing this for lunch or dinner. Even in winter. (I really don’t like white wine, so if you’d rather have that I’d encourage you to obey your tastebuds for a pairing.)

Quiche began, as have many recipes that rose from humble beginnings as a way to use up dairy products, small amounts of vegetables, and bits of meat that may not have constituted a meal on their own to a dish of some glamour and prestige. It can be served in any season and for breakfast,  brunch, lunch, or dinner and be as posh or basic as needed. It’s one of the little black dresses of food.










Ants! Doo doo doo doo, Ants! Ants!Ants!

black ants
Photo by Syed Rajeeb on Pexels.com

The weekend’s ear worm was this. Replace “dance” with “ants” and you get the picture.

It’s not uncommon for us to see a creepy-crawly here and there. Usually I prefer to scoop them  up and toss them back outdoors where they belong. With the exception of wasps, yellow jackets, and other undesirables, that is.

However, on a Saturday evening when one opens the door to the cabinet beneath the sink to discard some bit of flotsam into the garbage can and the top of the the garbage is black and crawling with ants, it is time to take steps. As many of them as it takes to get the back out of the door and into the trash can.

After that, Hubby sat down with his tablet and googled ants. After examining several specimens and comparing them to pictures, he deduced that we had carpenter ants. They chew through wood to enlarge their colonies. In nature, it’s to be expected and encouraged to clear the way for new growth. In the 2’x6′ framing of a house’s supporting wall, however, well, that could be a big expensive problem.

Usually, Hubby, despite many, many conversations with me about chemistry not always making life better, goes for remedies of a non-organic nature. Luckily, he came across a formula of 1 cup hot water, 1/2 cup of sugar or honey, and two tablespoons borax (available in laundry aisles and hardware stores). Mix, then soak cotton balls in it, and leave in the affected areas. The ants eat some there and take the rest back to the colony for the others to consume. The borax interferes with the ants’ digestion. Eventually, the ants will meet their fate without harm to humans or pets. It might take a couple of applications, but it’s less toxic and exponentially cheaper than calling in an exterminator.

So far, the borax and sugar is doing its job. We’ve only seen a few since yesterday. Here’s hoping it does the job.

The other suggestions for ant eradication involved making sure the area is clean. Hubby did so, and the dog-proof step-on trash can that’s not unattractive and doesn’t need to be stashed beneath the sink in en route. The one we keep forgetting to buy when we’re out running errands.

It will be here Thursday. I look forward to it. And garbage that doesn’t crawl when I open the lid or door.




Grocery Shopping as a Spiritual Practice

little girl holding two fresh pineapples
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

My hair, overdue for a cut at the start of stay-at-home orders in late March,  is at the annoying point of growing out where it’s long enough to fall into my eyes at will, but too short to pull back or put up in a clip. I negotiated Oakley’s time without daycare courtesy of extra walks and many games of “find it.”  A lack of yoga classes has worked its way into my soul and festered some days.  And this year, the big one for both of us: Ren Faire.

In the grand scheme of things, in light of what others endure on a daily basis, my complaints are quite petty. Inhale, exhale with a sigh, release. But wait, there’s more:

The absolutely most challenging thing: not shopping for groceries in person, even locally. I shop for food (and books)  with the giddy abandon with which some people shop for clothes. The places where I love shopping are all near the yoga studio, but since they closed the physical doors in March, grocery runs there are a no-go since I have no other reason to run into town.* We’ve been ordering curbside from (aak) Wal-Mart or produce from the mom-and-pop place en route to Oakley’s day care.

In these times and by ordering curbside, a customer must relinquish control to an extent. I hate that. I want the sensory experience of shopping, the visuals of the fruit and veggies, the way the fruit or tomatoes feel in my hands as I slide them into the bag. And I want to know that it’s the best that I can get.

I’ve had better than expected luck with (aak) Wal-Mart.  I hated setting up yet another account. I’m not a huge fan of their corporate policies, but they are one of the bigger employers in the area, and actually make positive contributions to the community such as health fairs and hiring differently abled people.

Sometimes you just have to suck it up and surrender to the facts and the situation: no vaccine yet, too many shoppers ignoring social distancing and mask wearing, and that Hubby was squeamish about me going into stores with anything less than a hazmat suit, 95N mask, and face shield.  So I did. And was pleasantly surprised by their selection of organic products at decent prices, and the house brand chocolate.

For the most part, I’ve had good luck. I’ve only had two problems, one with oranges that had gone bad from the middle of the bag, and one from the mom and pop store with a tray of tomatoes that had turned sour and watery (my only bitch about their produce is that they prepackage everything and it’s hard to tell if something is going to go bad or not just by looking).

Whether I’m clicking and pointing, or able to shop in person, I always ask the Mystery to bless all those who brought it my way, everyone from the associate who arranged the displays or pulled what I needed for me to the trucker who brought it to the store to the farmer and workers who grew it. Since I am not adept enough with gardening to be self sufficient in the food department, I am deeply grateful to all involved, both for getting it on my table and for pulling it on my behalf in these times.

Another round of lessons in gratitude, acceptance, and surrender. These days are just a sliver of forever, and the faint glimmer on the horizon will grow into a sunrise of better days ahead.

Until then, my favorite farmer’s market opens up this weekend. I think a trip there is in order to tide me over in the mean time. With appropriate gear worn, of course.


*I make an effort to piggyback as many errands as I can into trips that way to conserve gas.





cute girl in medical mask wearing mask on teddy bear during pandemic
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com


At the end of almost every yoga class I’ve taken, we end by raising our hands into prayer position and saying “namaste.” “Namaste” means “the divine light in me salutes the divine light in you.” Or as one of my teachers translates it, “the best part of me salutes the best part of you.”

“Namaske” is a play on that. I wish I had thought of it first. Yes, I saw it on a meme getting circulated on social media. It’s a playful reminder to wear a face covering to prevent the spread of this accused plague.

Unfortunately, some people, no matter how gently an idea is presented, no matter the science and facts behind it, either do not or will not get it. Like the couple in the oversized pickup truck speeding up the road from the boat ramp at the park yesterday.

The driver looked right at me and started laughing, as did the passenger, who took it upon herself to yell, “You don’t need a mask outside!” as they sped off to their next destination.

Um, Madam, I beg to differ.

While I do take down my scarf or mask if I’m on a back trail with a reasonably low chance of running into a fellow walker, I keep it on if  I am near a parking lot, a picnic area, or a road with foot or automotive traffic. Why? I do not want to inadvertently pass it along to anyone. Other park patrons, including small children, may not be paying attention to social distancing guidelines. I don’t want to pass it to them and then risk them getting sick or passing it along to vulnerable relatives or friends.

I also really do not want to bring it home to Hubby. His age alone (in the neighborhood of 65) puts him in a risk group. Actually, between  diabetes, COPD, asthma, cardiovascular issues, and age my entire family and several close friends can place chips on the COVID-19 bingo card.

In addition, I know at least three and possibly four people who have had COVID-19. The coughs, the aches, the misery they described is not something I would wish on anyone. I also know someone who was on a ventilator (Hubby’s brother in law, the one who died of cancer anyway eighteen months ago) and that sounded like a new frontier in hell. I would never want anyone to go through that, especially since there’s only a 20% survival rate for vented patients.

Not my idea of a good time. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Period.

If I made you laugh while holding up my side of the social contract, so be it. I will rest easily knowing that I fulfilled my civic duty twice over.