Paris Trip – What We Ate and More

Paris us in front of love wall

Jim and I recently got to take a trip to Paris together.  It was our first time to go to Europe and the longest trip we’ve ever taken with just the two of us.  It was wonderful!

I wrote about my apprehensions about taking the trip in this post.  Like so many of the things we worry about, it all turned out fine.  More than fine, actually!  We are so grateful that we booked the trip and went, even when there were many reasons to keep us at home.

Maybe you’ve been thinking about a memory making trip or another event, but something is stopping you.  I know that there are times it just doesn’t make sense to follow through, but often we put things off for small reasons.  We hold ourselves back, making up excuses to not follow through, building up false barriers.  If that sounds familiar to you, let this post be your encouragement to follow through!  You’ll be so glad you did.

Our Tour Group

Instead of going it alone, we decided to take a Rick Steves Tour.  I never would have considered a tour, if not for this post from Amy at MomAdvice on the tour they took in Italy.  We loved being part of the tour group.  Our guide was phenomenal.  On the first day, she taught us all how to use the metro and equipped us with metro tickets just like the locals use.  We rode the metro all over the city by ourselves and never felt uncomfortable about it, thanks to her instructions.

The tour gave us plenty of time to explore the city on our own in addition to group times.  We also had local guides at the Louvre, Versailles and in the Marais district.  These guides were fantastic in helping us really understand what we were seeing.

As for our times together as a group, we really enjoyed that as well.  We met a lot of interesting people and had a great time getting to know them.  We toured together in the mornings and also had three dinners together.  The rest of the time was ours to spend in any way we liked.

Sainte Chappelle

It’s impossible to pick a favorite out of everything we saw, but Sainte Chappelle would at or near the top for me.  We toured here one morning with the group and had to leave far too soon.  Lucky for us though, there was a violin concert that night and our guide offered to arrange tickets for us.  Jim and I took her up on the offer, used the metro to get back to the oldest part of the city where Sainte Chappelle is located and paid for our tickets at the table our guide told us about.  We chose the cheap seats at the back, which was perfect because could see all the windows during the concert.  What an amazing experience to listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in that beautiful place!

The Food

Rue Cler fruit market

Food in Paris is everywhere and it’s all so good!  Fruit and vegetable stands line the streets, there are boulangeries on every corner and most restaurants have seating outside.  Often the chairs face the street at these cafes.  I guess French people take their people watching seriously.

I had put a number of things on my Paris food bucket list before we left:

A picnic style meal

We had an unintentional picnic on a bench near the Abbesses Metro Station in Montmartre.  We saw tables at the place we chose to eat and also a line to get food to go. We got in line and chose our food, then realized that since we’d gotten it to go, we couldn’t sit at the tables.  Had we sat down to begin with, we could have ordered food brought to us.  For some reason this concept threw us a couple of times.  It turned out fine though, because we found a place to sit on a nearby bench, the drizzly rain paused for a while and the warm baguette we bought was the best of the whole trip.  We also picnicked near Notre Dame with these eclairs for dessert:

Paris eclairs

  Onion Soup

This was served at our first group dinner and it was delicious!

Onion soup

 Macarons

I wanted to try macarons, because the only time I’d had them at home I wasn’t impressed.  We had macarons from a small bakery in Montmartre and again at the famous Laduree.

Laduree box

It was fun to go to Laduree on the Champs Elysees.  We chose a box of six macarons in six different flavors.

Laduree macarons

They are beautiful.  We liked them all except the Rose flavored one.  I thought that tasted like my grandma’s bathroom!  Overall though, macarons are not my thing.  There are so many, many other sweet treats to eat that are much better.  They’re very photogenic, but I’d rather feast on croissants, pain du chocolat, creme brulee, eclairs …

Fallafels in the Jewish Quarter

L'as du fallafel

I’d heard about this fallafel place and seen photos on Instagram.  I really hoped we’d get to eat here and we did!  If you look closely at the crates in the left of the photo, you can see they are full of eggplants.

This meal was fantastic.  We shared it with two people from our tour group.  It was fun to get to know them while we ate messy, delicious fallafels.

The best meal

The best meal I had was at our second group dinner at Bistro de Gaspard.  I had duck with potatoes and roasted onions.  The menu gave it a longer, more appetizing name, but I can’t remember that.  I only remember how amazing it tasted!  The picture doesn’t look like much, but trust me this was wonderful.

Paris duck dinner

The caramel dessert topped the meal perfectly.  Every spoonful carried the most intense caramel flavor without being too sweet.  Perfection!

Paris caramel dessert

The biggest surprise

At our first group meal, we were served coffee.  In France this means a shot of espresso.  I don’t care for espresso, but I decided to try it anyway.  Oh my!  Un cafe in Paris is not the same thing as an espresso in the States.  Instead, it’s an intense coffee flavor without any hint of bitterness or harshness.  I could have downed several of these a day easily.

Paris un cafe

If anyone knows how we can make coffee like this at home, please let me know.  I did try a Starbucks espresso when we got back and yuck!  Not the same at all.

What we brought home

I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in our group to bring home salt as a souvenir.

french sea salt

This type of salt is very expensive here in the States, but at the grocery store in Paris it was under three Euros a bag.  It adds a lot of flavor to recipes and it’s a fun way to remember the trip while doing an everyday task like cooking.

chocolate bars assorted

We also brought home a fantastic chocolate haul.  Visiting a chocolate shop was on my Paris bucket list, but I didn’t have a specific shop in mind.  One afternoon we asked the young lady working the desk at our hotel and she gave us the name of a great little shop on Rue Cler.

Chocolate with pistachio

This is the pistachio filled bar.  In the words of the young man who let us sample a bite in the chocolate shop, “it’s crazy”!  The color is reminiscent of guacamole, but the taste is pure pistachio.  So good!

Chocolate block stack

We also bought this stack of single origin chocolate.  We haven’t unwrapped these yet, but I’m looking forward to trying them all.

Paris was everything I imagined and more!  I’m so, so grateful Jim and I were able to go together.  To top it all off, we got bumped up to first class on the way home.  Those seats that fully recline to a bed are no joke.  That’s the way to travel!

New Motto – Take the Trip!

I hope reading about our trip has been an encouragement to you to follow through with your dreams.  Don’t let little worries get in the way of living life.  I’m not just talking about big trips to Europe.  There have been plenty of times in the past when I’ve let small worries get in the way of date nights, short get-aways, etc.

My new motto is “Take the trip!”  Whether it’s a small trip to take a walk in a new part of town or a larger opportunity, it’s worth it to stretch myself and do something new.

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A Salad for Peace and Victory

Spinach Salad with Sweet Potatoes, Peanuts and Blue Cheese

Over the last few months, I’ve intentionally not paid much attention to the news.  Or maybe I should say, I’m very deliberate about the news and the sources I seek out.  But sometimes events happen and they demand our attention.  They come in with all the pain and confusion and helplessness attached.

There’s been a lot of that this summer.

Events that feel so big, so full of hurt and hate, that it’s hard to know how we should respond.  How can we make a difference or help in the face of such anguish and pain?

sweet potato spinach peanuts

Maybe it’s with the smallest actions that we are able to bring light to the dark world.   Maybe it starts with simple things.  Teaching our kids about people in the past who made a difference with their own quiet actions.   Gathering our family and friends around the table together.  Sharing a meal and a conversation may seem too small to matter, but I don’t think it is.

Spinach Salad with Sweet Potatoes

This salad is inspired by George Washington Carver.  Carver devoted his life to doing what he knew and loved best – growing plants.  That may seem a little too simple to make a difference, but the results of his life are dramatic.

I love the way Andy Andrews weaves George Washington Carver’s story in with several others to show us how the butterfly effect works.  Go watch that video now.  I’ll wait for you and I promise that it’s worth your time.

In 1942, George W. Carver wrote a short pamphlet titled, “Nature’s Garden for Victory and Peace”.  In it he outlines all kinds of things that can be grown in a small garden that will help feed a family.  My salad is based on a few of the things he mentions, but I’ve updated it for modern tastes and to account for buying the ingredients in a grocery.  I’m a terrible gardener.

I also flipped the name from his original “Victory and Peace” to “Peace and Victory”.  In our world today it feels like peace is the victory we need.

The recipe for the salad is below.  If you make it, talk with your family about Carver and his work with peanuts, sweet potatoes and victory gardens.  Talk about how his small actions made such a huge impact in the world.  Talk about Moses Carver and his brave action to rescue and raise the infant G.W. Carver.

Talk about Susan Carver, whose friendship with Mary overcame all kinds of things in that hate-filled world they lived in and how the seeds of that friendship between women eventually led to two million people being saved.

George Washington Carver salad ingredients

Whether you make this salad or not, do whatever it is you do best.  I share recipes.  You may help people with banking or teach kids in school or take care of sick people or…

And know that whatever you do, however small it may seem, it is making a difference for good in the world.

Keep flapping your butterfly wings!  Gather your family around the table and show them that they have butterfly wings to flap too.  If we all flap our wings enough, we’ll bring good into this hard world.

Spinach Salad with Sweet Potatoes and peanuts

A Salad for Peace and Victory

Serves: 4-6 servings

Spinach, sweet potato salad topped with peanuts and blue cheese
Ingredients
  • 1-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2-3 Tbs. olive oil
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 6 cups baby spinach or turnip greens
  • ¼ cup peanuts
  • ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese or goat cheese
For the dressing
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook sweet potatoes in olive oil in a skillet over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Add diced onion and garlic to the skillet. Continue cooking about 5 more minutes until sweet potatoes are tender and browned.
  3. Make the dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients in a container with a tight fitting lid. Shake well.
  4. To serve salad, top spinach with sweet potatoes, peanuts and blue cheese. Drizzle with dressing.

 

 

 

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12 Tex-Mex Slow Cooker Recipes for Summer

If you have been around my blog for long, you know how much I love Tex-Mex. I love the flavors, the spice and how many easy options there are for Mexican style food in the slow cooker. Needless to say, Tex-Mex makes a frequent appearance on our dinner table.

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One of the most popular recipes on the site is the slow cooker fajitas. The fajitas have minimal prep time, so you can get them into the slow cooker quickly. Slow cooking them makes the flavors blend. Plus, making them in the slow cooker means it’s an easy choice to make to feed a crowd! I love that both beef and chicken are freezer friendly. That means you can prep them in batches and easily grab one for the slow cooker in the morning! Speaking of freezer friendly food, shredded taco beef is a huge saver for me. I make up a big batch, and freeze the leftovers for later. Super easy, and there’s so many meals you can make with it as a base.

And tacos! My kids love tacos because they can build their own. While there are hundreds of recipes out there for delicious tex mex food in the slow cooker, these 12 are some of our go-tos and family favorites. Enjoy!

Summer Tex-Mex Slow Cooker Recipes

  1. Salsa Verde Steak
  2. Smoky Chipotle Chicken Tacos
  3. Black Bean and Salsa Chicken and Cornbread
  4. Shredded Taco Beef
  5. Creamy Jalapeno Chicken Tacos
  6. Sloppy Chicken Tacos
  7. Beef Fajitas
  8. Chicken Fajitas
  9. Pork Carnitas
  10. Beans

From other Bloggers

  1. Slow Cooker Enchiladas
  2. Tamale Casserole

Ever wonder what you can serve with Tex-Mex?

Check out this post filled with ideas for some of my favorite sides! 

 

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Big News! Revealing our latest project

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Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans now has a new member site that is easier than ever to use.  We had outgrown the old site and it was stretched beyond its limits.  I am so happy that we now have a much easier place for members to download their plans.

Here’s what it looks like for members when you first login:

member area screen shot

See that are on the left that the orange arrow is pointing to?  Now members will be able to have access to past months plans.  If someone was a member in March, those plans will always be there.  We can’t go back further than March, but as new months are added while you’re a member, you will have access to those.  No more rushing to download everything before the month ends.

member screen shot 2

Above is another screen shot.  We’ve had things organized like this for a while, but it all looks cleaner in the new member area.  You can choose a type of plan (Slow Cooker is in there too, but it wouldn’t fit on my screen with the others.)  Choose to download everything for one plan type or download by the week.

Downloading the menus gives you color-coded grocery lists, like the one below and all the recipes for each week.  This is what it looks like on my phone screen.  I usually print them out if I’m going to the store, because I prefer paper to juggling the phone with the list while trying to shop.

phone grocery list

Now is a great time to become a member, if you aren’t already!

Things get so busy in the spring of the year, with sports and end-of-school-year activities.  It can be hard to fit in dinner, but using Weekly Meal Plans is a huge help!  We have 15 minutes meals and slow cooker meals each week, so you can fit dinner into your day.

Even if this helps you avoid eating out just once a month, the plans more than pay for themselves.

Pay-Options-graphic

 

 

 

easy food for busy people

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Shopping lists aren’t just for groceries – Spring Style Challenge

We’ve all got strengths and weaknesses.  I’m good at dinner, but I’m terrible with clothes.  I don’t know what things go together or what makes a good outfit.  And I hate, hate, hate to shop.

That’s why I really love doing Alison’s Style Challenges.  I started doing them a few years ago, when she offered her first Spring Challenge.

These challenges make the shopping so easy – you get a list of pieces to buy, kind of like a grocery list but for clothes.  The pieces become the “ingredients” that get mixed into outfits.  Each piece can be used multiple ways, just like a can of diced tomatoes can be used for an Italian meal, a Mexican dish or a pot of vegetable soup.

Shopping the closet (and the store):

[Read more…]

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Today’s the last day

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Today’s the last day to get Slow Cooker Freezer Meals for a great price.

Pick up one volume for just $7.97 or grab both for $12.97.

I love having these for busy days.  I can pull a meal from the freezer, thaw it quickly in the microwave and then pop it in the slow cooker.  With just a few minutes of effort in the morning, we’ll have dinner ready that evening.

You can purchase and find out all about what’s included here.

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1 Hour Freezer Stash Plans – On Sale Now!

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If you love having a few dinners stashed away in your freezer for really busy days – this is the sale for you!

Each of these volumes has 12 plans in it with 6 meals each, grocery lists and assembly instructions included.  They’re designed so that you can put together 6 meals for the freezer in just 1 hour.

I love having my freezer stocked with slow cooker freezer meals.  It’s so easy to pull one out on a busy morning, pop it in the slow cooker and know dinner is ready.

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You can pick up one volume for just $7.97 or both for $12.97.

You can find out more and purchase by clicking here.

Slow cooker freezer meals is a feature that our Weekly Meal Plan Members get.  Each month we load a new freezer plan in the member area as part of the Slow Cooker Meal Plans.

This sale runs through Feb. 24, so don’t wait!

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3 Meal Planning Tips to Make Dinner Fit Your Busiest Days

3 Meal Planning Tips to make dinner fit your busiest days

It can be so hard to fit in cooking, let alone meal planning into busy days.  But it’s also worth the effort, because it will save you time, energy and money if you do it.  There are a few keys to keeping it realistic though.

1.  Do it fast!

That may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get sucked into a rabbit hole of searching for recipes on the internet.  That can be fun, but so time consuming.  Let’s keep this as simple and quick as possible.

2.  Match the meals to the busyness of your day.

 Do you have a couple of minutes to put food in a slow cooker in the morning, but no time to fix anything at night?  Plan slow cooker meals for these days.
Are you going to have a super busy day?  Look for a 15 minute meal that can be on the table in no time.
Whatever you do, don’t overwhelm yourself thinking you’ll make recipes that take more time than you’ve really got.  Be realistic when making your plan.
(If you’re using a plan from Eat at Home, we’ve got you covered here.  Each week of Traditional and Whole Food have at least one 15 minute meal and one slow cooker meal each week.  Just choose which days those quick meals work best for you.  If slow cooker meals work best, we’ve also got a plan dedicated to our favorite appliance!)

3.  Don’t forget to plan side dishes too.

It’s easy to get so focused on the main dish that you forget the sides.  You can find lots of simple sides here.  I really do like keeping things simple, so if I want a side dish that requires a bit more time or prep, I serve it with a main dish that requires almost nothing – think slow cooked bbq chicken or a ham steak heated in a skillet.

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Want to skip the planning and grocery list making?

We just uploaded February’s Traditional, Slow Cooker and Whole Food Plans into the member area.  Become a member today and let us do the planning for you.  Our members save an hour or two a week in planning time and their time in the kitchen gets shorter too.  Bonus, they’re saving money on groceries!  Find out more about membership here.

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New Recipe Index!

recipe index Collage

We’ve got a new recipe index on the site!  The old one functioned, sort of, but it wasn’t visually appealing at all.  I put it together myself back in 2012.  This time, I hired professionals, who are much better at these things than I am!

This new one is so fun to look through!

You’ll find the link in the navigation bar at the top of the site.  On the main recipe index page, you’ll find links to sections for:

Clicking the Main Dish button takes you to a page where you can dive deeper:

main dishes collage

So if you’re looking for a particular type of recipe, you’ll find it here.

We also fixed a pesky problem with the search bar on the site.  It feels good to have a few lingering problems taken care of!  I hope it makes finding recipes easier for you.

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Here’s the kind of to-do list I’m tackling this week

Just like you, I’ve got a ton of to-do lists.  Some are jingling around in my brain.  Some are scratched on scraps of paper, stuffed deep in the bottom of my purse.  Others are carefully thought out plans that I’m really excited about working on next year.

But this week is for the fun family to-do list.  Baking, candy making, movie watching, game playing…

All done in the company of my people.

My daughter and son-in-law made it back from four months in Bolivia on Thursday night.  That corridor is long when you’re waiting to hug someone!

airport

My parents will be coming to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with us.  We’ll be making trips to see other family too.

We won’t have any more new content on the blog before Christmas, but there are lots and lots of recipes (7 year’s worth!) to comb through if you’re looking for inspiration.  We’re sharing some favorites on the Facebook page.

And here’s a sneak peek at one thing on the horizon – we’ll be having a great sale on Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans coming up for new memberships.  Look for info during the week between Christmas and New Year.

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I pray you have a Merry Christmas!

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