Christmas in Paris

I guess after almost 2 weeks I’m fully rested from my holiday with my parents, so over the next few days I’ll post about our Christmas adventures!

I met them in Paris on Christmas Eve and we went out almost right away to see the famous window displays at the original Galeries Lafayette (kind of like a Bloomingdales equivalent).  This year was the 100th anniversary of the store, and Louis Vuitton designed the displays.  We also went inside to see the Swarvoski Christmas tree, which is 70 feet tall and has over 5,000 crystal stars!

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Dancing penguins in the display window

Dancing penguins in the display window

Flamingos

Flamingos

 

A dog wearing headphones

A dog wearing headphones

LEMURS

LEMURS

We found a nice little Catholic Church called Sainte Etienne du Mont for 11pm mass on Christmas Eve.  It was small, but really pretty, and the mass was in French.

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On Christmas Day we spent the morning/early afternoon at the Eiffel Tower, walking around and taking a bunch of pictures.  We found a giant Christmas market that we walked through with delicious looking food and pastries and souvenirs and art.  Interesting fact: the Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris and was almost taken down in 1909.  It was saved by its use as a telecommunication tower.  Also, the Eiffel Tower sinks 6 inches in the winter!

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We went to Christmas lunch at Chez Clement, which I would definitely recommend.  Mom and I split the ravioli with wilted leeks for an appetizer, while Dad opted for French onion soup.  For the main course, I got the duck confit, Dad got the beef rotisserie plate, and Mom got the hanger beef.  We all got coffee and crème brulée for dessert.  It was a perfect meal, slow and leisurely, perfect portions, a nice atmosphere, and great company 🙂

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Mmm creme brulee for dessert :)

Mmm creme brulee for dessert 🙂

After lunch, we walked to Notre Dame.  This year was the 850th anniversary, so they were televising the masses and goings-on around Notre Dame.  Interesting fact: The largest bell in Notre Dame’s bell tower is named “Emmanuel.” It was cast in 1631, and weighs over 28,000 pounds!  Then we walked down the Pont de l’Archeveche and saw all the love padlocks, a “custom” in several countries by which padlocks are affixed to a fence, gate, bridge or similar public fixture by sweethearts to symbolize their everlasting love.

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Love padlocks

Love padlocks

After that, we took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe and started walking down the Champs Elysée, which was crazy busy!  But the lights were gorgeous.  We walked past another giant Christmas market with all kinds of carnival food and souvenirs.  We finally ended at the Place de la Concorde.  Interesting fact: Each corner of the octagonal square of the Place de la Concorde features a statue representing a French city, including Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille, Strasbourg, Rouen, Nantes and Brest.  In the center stands the 3,200-years-old Obelisk of Luxor, which is a pink granite column weighing 220 tons and with a height of 23 meters that comes from the Egyptian temple of Luxor.

 

Looking down the Champs Elysee towards the Arc de Triomphe

Looking down the Champs Elysee towards the Arc de Triomphe

Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde

When we got back to the hotel, we Skyped Cat, Mel, and CJ and said hi to the family at home! J  It was certainly a different Christmas than I’ve ever experienced, but it was a good one 🙂

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French word of the day:
manchot (ma-SHOW)- penguin
Il y avait des manchots qui portaient des sacs à mains dans une vitrine aux Galeries Lafayette!
There were penguins carrying handbags in a window display at the Galeries Lafayette !

 

Sunday Night Dinner: Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts are one of those vegetables that get very little love, which seems strange because they can be prepared so many ways, including boiling, steaming, stir frying, and roasting.  These tiny cabbages are also also rich in vitamin K and sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have potent anticancer properties.  I found a recipe that dresses them up a little bit to make a delicious side dish 🙂

Secret ingredient: Brussel sprouts (choux de Bruxelles)

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Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tbsp butter, divided
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tsp white sugar
300 g (about 2 cups) brussel sprouts, halved
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 c water
2-3 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and cooked until crispy
salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:
1. Melt 1 tbsp butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until soft and golden, about 10 minutes.
2. Combine the cider vinegar and sugar and add to onions.  Stir until brown and glazed, about 3 minutes. (I would eat these onions alone, they are SO good).

YUM

YUM

3. Heat the olive oil in separate large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the halved brussels sprouts and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until brown at edges, about 6 minutes.

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4. Add 1/4 cup water and 1 tbsp butter. Sauté until most of water evaporates and sprouts are tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes.
5. Mix in the cooked, crispy bacon and top with the onions.  Serve warm.

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Serves 2.  I made these brussel sprouts to go along with an easy marinated chicken: marinate 2 chicken breasts for an hour in a mixture of 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp melted butter, 3 tbsp honey, juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp paprika.  Grill or broil for 20 minutes at 400F (205C).

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French word of the day:
tricoter (tree-ko-TAY)- to knit
Je tricote un chapeau parce qu’il fait froid!  Le chapeau et mon écharpe vont bien ensemble.
I’m knitting a hat because it’s cold outside!  It matches my scarf.

My First 10K!

I mentioned in a previous post  that I’m starting to train for a half marathon in April, and today I completed my first milestone in training.  I finished my first 10K (6.2 mile) race– the Prom Classic in Nice!  My goal was to finish in under 62 minutes, and I came in at 1:01:28, so I was pretty happy about that 🙂

I’ve been carbo-loading on bread and pasta for the last few nights, and after a short yoga session this morning, I fueled up with some toast and a banana, filled my water bottle, put on my running shoes, and made my way into the city.  It was funny to see all the runners get on the tram into the city, knowing we were all going to the same place.

The course was a loop along the Mediterranean Sea, from the beginning of the Promenade des Anglais to the Nice airport and back.  It was a beautiful morning– about 56F and sunny.  I’d never run more than 5 miles before today, so I was crossing my fingers that I’d get through that extra 1.2 miles.  The race started in 5 waves, depending on your goal time.  When I was about a mile into the race, the first runners were already coming back down the Promenade!  The first place finisher this year finished in 28:50!  I reached the 8K (about 5 miles) mark pretty painlessly, but the last 2K were a little difficult.  I guess I have a lot of work to do before April!

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Overall the race was great!  The course, the time, the weather.  My only complaint was post-race organization.  The finish-line area was too small to hold all the runners, so it took forever to get to the water table.  Plus, there were no bagels or fruit left by the time I’d finished!  Oh, well.  My post-race indulgence was waiting for me in my freezer at home: Ben and Jerry’s Caramel Chew Chew ice cream 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Obligatory sweaty post-race picture 🙂

 

Our French word for today:
courir (coo-REER)- to run (because why not?!)
J’ai couru 10 kilometres aujourd’hui et mes jambes me font mal!
I ran 10 kilometers today and my legs hurt!

New Years Eve Dinner: Leeks

My parents have been here in Nice for the holidays and we’ve been eating out A LOT and enjoying every bite 🙂 (more on that later).  But I’ll start recounting our week backwards because I decided to make my Sunday Night Dinner this week on New Years Eve.  In France, New Years Eve is called la Saint Sylvestre and they celebrate with a feast at night called le Réveillon.  The feast typically includes champagne, some type of sea food, and foie gras (duck or goose liver), so we made do with what we had.  We got a small bottle of champagne, had shrimp and garlic butter sauce as an appetizer, and of course French pastries after dinner 🙂

Made by mom :)

Made by mom 🙂

This is my life :)

This is my life 🙂

This week’s ingredient: leeks (poireaux).  I was inspired by an appetizer my mom and I had on Christmas of mini ravioli on a bed of wilted leeks that was DELICIOUS.  Chicken pot pie is a dish I associate with home and cold weather, so I decided on a chicken and leek pie with mushrooms and potatoes, adapted from here.

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Ingredients:
Pie crust (I used a boxed one since that’s what I had in the cupboard, but any standard pie crust with flour, butter, and water or even a pre-made puff pastry crust will do)
1 large potato, peeled and diced (1/4 inch – 1/2 inch cubes)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
500 g (about 1/4 pound) boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in small chunks
2 leeks (just the white parts), thinly sliced
7-8 champignons de Paris OR medium-sized white button mushrooms, sliced
350 mL (about 1.5 c) chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cold water
4 tbsp creme fraiche
1 beaten egg for glazing
salt and pepper to taste

Key ingredients: potatoes, chicken, mushrooms, and LEEKS

Key ingredients: potatoes, chicken, mushrooms, and LEEKS

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  Prepare the pie crust, cover, chill for 30 minutes.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the potato.  Boil for about 10 minutes, until you can insert a knife easily into a cube of potato (but not so long that the potato starts to become mushy).  Drain.
3. Heat a large pan with the butter and olive oil.  Fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes.  Add the leaks and mushrooms and fry for another 5 minutes, until soft.
4. Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

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5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, leeks, and mushrooms from the stock pan to a 1 to 2 liter pie or casserole dish.  Add the potatoes and stir to distribute evenly.
6. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and cold water to make a paste.  Thin with 2 tbsp stock, then add the paste to the stock pan and stir on the heat non-stop until thickened.
7. Remove from the heat, add the creme fraiche, season with salt and pepper.

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8. Pour over the leeks/potatoes/chicken mixture.

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9. Flour your counter and roll out the pastry dough until just larger than the dish.

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10. Carefully lay the pastry over the filling and push the edges of the pastry against the edges of the pie pan.  Make a small hole in the center of the pie.  Brush the pastry with beaten egg.

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9. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden.

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10. Cool slightly before cutting and serving.

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The great part about this recipe is that it’s SO versatile.  If you like more potato, add more potato; if you’re a vegetarian, take out the chicken, if you like more sauce, double the stock.  You could even add more vegetables, like carrots or corn.  Personally, I would probably use more chicken to make it more substantial, more leeks because it’s the star ingredient, and more sauce, and I’d bake it in a smaller, deeper dish to make bigger slices.  This recipe yielded about 4 servings.

So Happy New Year!  Here’s to a happy, healthy 2013, wherever you are 🙂

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French word of the day:
billet (bee-LAY)- ticket
J’ai acheté un billet de train pour aller à Paris!
I bought a train ticket to go to Paris!