Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Day at the Trocadero Christmas Market, Paris

The bitter-cold temperatures, -2°C forecasted as "Feels like -8°C," did not deter people from going out this Christmas day, here in Paris. At the Trocadero marchés de noel, couples, families, and many people of all ages came to spend part of their day, here, just as we did.

Smaller in size in comparison to the markets on the avenue des Champs Elysees and at La Defense, we found this market to be charming in more ways than one.

First, there are all these delectable food stalls!
Oh, the aroma of roasted chestnuts filled the air at the entrane to the market.

Hot chocolate, hot wine, baked goodies, and these glazed fruits aroused our appetites for something warm and something sweet.

Irresistible French macarons like salted caramel, orange/chocolate...just to sample a few.

Tempting gaufres (waffles) with whipped creme and a choice of caramel or chocolate syrup

Cupcapes galore!

Nougat, sweet and assortment of different sizes and flavors

On this very cold night, onion soup sounded like a great idea, plus flammekueche!

The Christmas market is also suited for family time.

An Ice skating rink for the kids and adults

A mini version of cross-country skiing on a snow-covered hill, for a ride down the snowy banks

Oops...even adults take a tumble!

As for shopping...

Piggy banks are back! encouragement to save money in this kind of economy.

A selection of cured hams, foie gras, pâté and cheese of many types

Artisanal products: confiture (fruit jams, marmalades) and syrups

Semi-precious stones could be the answer to personalizing gift choices for dear friends.

We have just about walked through the whole market, gingerly walking over some icy patches.

As we headed home, walking, we were careful not to fall, just taking baby steps on slippery sidewalks and keeping away from black ice. We made it home safely. It's been a nice Christmas day celebration!

We are looking forward to another celebration, this time it's to welcome the new year!

Friday, 24 December 2010

In the Kitchen: BACALAO a la Italiana

What a big hit my Bacalao a la Italiana was during our Christmas-day luncheon. I learned how to make this from a high school classmate when I visited her in the suburbs of Milan, Italy, a couple of years ago. I recalled this recipe from my taste buds' memory.

RECIPE for BACALAO a la Italiana:

1 kg. of salted cod fish - soak overnight and rinse and change water three times, then cut up by half-inch increments
1/4 kg. of chick peas (garbanzos) soak overnight, then precook - boil for about 20 minutes or until it gets tender, but not mushy, drain and set aside
2 medium-size white onion - diced into half square inch chunks
3 large garlic cloves, pass through garlic press as you begin to cook or chop coarsely
3 c. of water
2 cans 140 g. of tomato paste or a large can of pureed or diced tomatoes
1/2 c. of red wine or any leftovers you may have
a dash of peperoncini or chili flakes

* Extra Virgin Olive Oil - add 1/2 c. when the bacalao is cooked and a bit cooled down


1. Prepare all ingredients - cutting up, pre-cooking
2. Preheat a deep pan on the stove top. Add a tablespoon of cooking oil. Saute onions and garlic.

3. Add the cut up fish, the tomato paste and the water, the wine, and sprinkle some peperoncini.
4. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes in medium-low heat.
5. Add pre-cooked chick peas and cook for another 10 minutes. Turn off and set aside to cool down a bit.
* Add 1/2 c. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil before serving.

Serve with toasted baguette (I use whole wheat or the ones made with whole-grains) , sliced 1/2 inch thick, for dunking in the sauce; or you can spread the bacalao over it making it like a finger food.

* A NOTE ABOUT GARBANZOS: I have made chickpeas (garbanzos) a regular part of my diet because of the health benefits we get from eating them: a good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, just like other beans; its high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising abruptly after a meal; it's a fat-free high quality protein food; an excellent source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which is responsible for detoxifying sulfites.

"Sulfites" are a type of preservative commonly added to prepared foods, including delicatessen salads and salad bars. If you are sensitive to this substance, you may experience rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation. If you have ever reacted to sulfites, it may be because you are depleted or do not have enough molybdenum stored in your body, sufficient enough to detoxify them.

You should have seen the reactions as we sat around the dinning table, when we were eating - sound effects: "Hmmmm...this is so this did you make this?'s quite easy..." Try it. Although it smelled somewhat fishy, it was not salty at all. I got rave reviews for this one!

By the way, the left overs, the following day, even tasted much better!

Monet Exhibition at the Galeries Nationales, Grand Palais, Paris

One of the best exhibitions in town is the assembly of Claude Monet's retrospective work from 1860-1926, at the Galeries Nationales, Grand Palais, Paris. The exhibit takes you back to his student days when he began to paint in the tradition of realism, through his journey through-out his life to paint the the outdoor scenes, capturing the same subject matter at different times of the day, and moved on to be one of the most prolific impressionist painters. With close to 200 canvasses to view, coming from different corners of the world, one is transported to familiar or faraway places, in different seasons.

I liked the wintry scenes he painted, especially on when the Seine River froze.

On a wintry day, I took my daughter to the Grand Palais to see this exhibition with me.

The online reservations for the tickets to this show were fully sold out sometime in September, I was told. The only way to get them now was by lining up for several hours.

For the annual subscribers to the Galeries Nationales, the Sesame card holders, there is no wait, as there is a special entrance for the supporters of the museum.

Come rain or shine, wind or snow, the people persevere in coming to see the Monet exhibition.

There was a "NO PHOTO" policy for the exhibition, until we got to this point.

The bookstore was the next stop for those who enjoyed this grand exhibition...

looking for gifts, souvenirs, or coffee table items. There was a section dedicated to books on Monet, with pictures of some of the featured works.

Here are a few links about Monet and his works:

This exhibition is slated to go on for another month, as it is scheduled to close in late January, 2011. As this magnificent exhibition features works from national museums and private collections from all over the world, people are wondering about the likelihood of it being brought to, say, the Metropolitan Museum in New York or the Art Institute of Chicago. That still remains to be the question. Your best option is to come to Paris, and get in line to buy your tickets. Be sure to come all bundled up, as that would be at the height of winter.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

In the Kitchen: Preparing a Holiday Feast

Preparing a meal for my family needs to be planned, as I consider what each member of the family can eat, as each has a limitation due to allergies or physical conditions.

My noche buena (eve before Christmas) menu last year turned out to be much liked in its simple and tasty combinations, but still healthy for everyone. I have given some of the recipes, below.


1. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).
2. In a bowl, combine and mix diced tomato, chopped basil and onion, a clove of garlic that is chopped finely or squeezed with a garlic press, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. In single layer, lay out the slices of baguette and bake for about 4-5 minutes.
5. Remove bread from oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes; for each slice of bread spoon over the tomato mixture, and lay on a large serving platter.
* In Italy, there was no parmesan cheese on the bruschetta we ordered. That is your option to add.

RECIPE: PASTA VERDE (for 4 people)
1. Add several cloves of chopped garlic to melted butter and vegetable oil until lightly browned in medium-low flame.
2. Add coarsely chopped 1 cup of pecans or any nut, and cook until nutty flavor is fragrant.
3. Turn off the flame. Add chopped basil (one bunch ) and toss until wilted.
4. Add 1/3 cup Kraft parmesan cheese and continue tossing.
5. Serve on a bed of raw 'cappelini zucchini' or warm whole-wheat pasta. Apportion one medium-size zucchini per person; or half a pound of wheat pasta.
* To make the zucchini cappelini, use the melon grater (pangkayod ng melon).
6. Sprinkle grated, fresh parmesan cheese before serving.


1. Cook 2 cups of brown rice, set aside
2. Cook a lb. of ground meat: saute chopped onions in a pan, add meat, some water, salt and pepper to taste and cook slowly for about 45 minutes to an hour.
3. Cut up leftover chicken meat.
4. Roast 1/4 c. pine nuts. Slivered almonds may be used in place of pine nuts.
1. In a big skillet, saute 1 chopped, white onion.
2. Add cooked rice, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle cinnamon powder generously, and mix.
3. Mix in cooked ground meat, half of the cooked chicken chunks. Transfer to a serving dish.
4. Add the rest of the chicken meat on top and the pine nuts.

Baked Capon-Chicken


Pickled olives

Indian Potato recipe with fennel seeds, cumin, curry; tomato salad; chunky guacamole

Dessert was Vanilla ice cream with fresh berries in Cassis liquor.

For this year's Christmas' meal planning, I have to replan as there were ingredients not available at the super market. Tentative ly, here is my menu for our Christmas-day celebration.

Squash soup with potatoes, sweet potato, carrots, and garnish with parsley
* OPTIONAL: Parmesan cheese sprinkled on the soup


Christmas Salad with smoked salmon, caramelized onion rings, pomegranate, capers with an apple-cider-vinegar/seeded mustard (moutarde a l'ancienne) salad dressing

Boil 1/2 lb. of green lentils for 20 minutes (or until aldente, not too soft) good for 4-6 people as a side dish. There is no need to soak overnight. Cool with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
1. Into a bowl - measure 3 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar
a. Dissolve 1 tsp of salt in vinegar
b. Sprinkle with ground pepper or use pepper mill
c. Add 1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
d. Sprinkle with Herbes des Provence ( thyme, basil, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, sage) or Italian seasoning.
2. Mix everything
3. Slowly blend in 3 tbsp of olive oil, while whisking to finish your vinaigrette
4. To the vinaigrette
a. add one chopped, echalotte (or small red onion), one clove of chopped or pressed garlic
b. add 1/4 c. or half a bunch of parsley or coriander - washed and chopped. Mix lightly with a fork .
5. Blend in cooked lentils into the bowl with the completed salad dressing.
a. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of Kraft Parmesan cheese - blend/mix with a fork (maybe served warm or cold)
* Optional: To be added right before serving: sprinkle with crispy bacon bits

Bacalao, Italian Style
Parmesan Chicken
A killer fruit-cake (calorie wise) that was given to me!

I need to get back to the kitchen now.

May you have a most enjoyable time celebrating Christmas and the new year, with the good company of your family and friends, while savoring your holiday feast.

Christmas Market'10: "Marches de Noel," La Défense, Paris, France

Of all the Christmas markets I have gone to this year in Paris, I rate the market at La Défense as the best one. Even on a cold, mid-week day, with the threat of rain and snow, we were not deterred, just like the others, to come to this Christmas market.The selection of items carried by the vendors brought a melange of interesting items for the shopper working with a Christmas list. The arrangement of the stalls was so well organized in one big square, that it was easy to go around or go back to something that had previously caught our eye.

The Christmas market is set up at the parvis of a very distinct landmark, the La Défense Building, also known as La Grande Arche. When up at the Eiffel Tower, you will see that this building is on the same axis as the Arc de Triomphe on the avenue des Champs Elysees.

La Défense is a modern style skyscraper, government office tower. Architect Paul Andreau oversaw the project which was began in 1982 and was completed in 1990. It is clad with marble, on the exterior. The square arch rises to 110 meters, with a fabric canopy and transparent tube elevator under the huge square arch.

The surrounding buildings were interesting architectural sculptures, creating a skyline reminiscent of other cities, like New York, Makati, Hong Kong. 

Having found several shopping malls around the square made us change our shopping schedule for the day. We ended up doing grocery shopping, as well.

On this side of the square, bound by this building, our eye caught a side show that was going on...

two men who were harnessed, were slowly scaling down the front part of the building as they peeled off the yellow plastic sheets that covered the glass-paneled wall.

The chandeliers hanging above the pathways added a touch of elegance to this Christmas market.

This Christmas market looked like a giant, international bazaar. Here are some of the things that we looked at.

Seeing these goods reminded me of the bazaar and markets in Istanbul.

The Tibetan vendors brought their crafts, jewelry, and fashion accessories.

These mosaic ware and decorative items were so attractive.

What an innovative design! These uneven umbrellas are designed to keep you under cover during a snow storm.

Going green this Christmas? These Christmas-themed plant arrangements are perfect for gift-giving.

The aromatic flavors if the food being prepared and served were floating in the air.

The smell of the raclette cheese melting under the light lamp caught our attention.

After an order was filled for another customer, we simply could not resist.

My daughter and I ordered one, too, and it was so yummy!!! We considered getting another one...but on second thought, no!

This Christmas tree lot brought back memories of when I used to take my kids to help me choose and haul a tree.

We took some quick stops at this gallery of stores, then we walked back to the metro station to avoid the after-office-rush-hour crowd.

Visions of the tartiflette "remained" in our palates while we were on our train-ride to go home. I decided that it was going to be our home-made was quite easy to prepare:

1. 2 medium-sized onions (or more if you like), sliced thinly and caramelized in a teaspoon of butter and a teaspoon of vegetable oil

2. Add 1 pound of peeled and sliced potatoes, and let them steam (on their own juices) on a covered pan, for a couple of minutes at medium-low heat, until the potatoes are softened.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste

4. Turn the flame to "low," add half a pound of cut-up Reblochon cheese (I removed the outer, waxy sides) and cover the pan, and wait for a couple of short minutes for the cheese to melt, stirring once or twice.
Plate the tartiflette for serving, with pieces of baguette.

OPTIONAL: Sprinkle previously cooked lardon (bacon pieces) before serving

That was so good and filling. It's another comfort food to savor on a cold wintry day!


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