rainy day biscuits…

When you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! That’s exactly what I did today. It’s Saturday. It’s the middle of June. It’s pouring rain! So instead of fight it, we decided to have a completely lazy day, complete with fireplace, Christmas carols, tea and homemade biscuits!

Here’s my recipe for Rain Day Biscuits

Makes about 24 small biscuits

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

6 tsp baking powder

14 tbs unsalted butter

1 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in cold butter with a pastry knife. Add wet ingredients and mix lightly. Turn out on lightly floured counter mix into a ball. Don’t overwork. Pat down into 1 inch thickness. Dip biscuit cutter in flour then cut out biscuits and place on un-greased baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes until lightly browned.

if you can't be in Paris, just eat like it…

My pal, Patty, and I started a new photography course at Focal Point.Know what that means? You guessed it…more reviews of great little eateries in Vancouver!!!

We were starving by the end of the brain-draining class today (F-stop, Shmef-stop), so we headed over to the leafy Kerrisdale neighbourhood and spotted this little gem called Faubourg Paris. It’s a french boulangerie cafe, which specializes in the most exquisite petit fours and french bread baked five times daily to ensure freshness.

Of course, my eyes were bigger than my stomach (hard to imagine, really), so I ordered the Parisienne baguette AND a chocolate caramel tart. Although it was delicious, I only ate half of the baguette ’cause it was so big. Next time, I’ll come just for the dessert.

Here are the deets on the tart: One word…bliss! The tart pastry was lovely. The ganache on the top was divine. The ever-so-gooey caramel was heavenly! Wait a minute. I just realized I didn’t eat the chocolate triangle (gasp). Head for the bat-mobile…I’m going back to get it!!!!

In case your mouth isn’t watering enough yet, here’s a peak in one of their glass cases! I’m going back for one of these next time 🙂

Overall, not bad shots for an i-phone n’est-ce pas mes amis?

stuff a cookie in it…

You know how sometimes you’re giving a presentation on the joys of blogging, and you say something flippant, like…oh…I don’t know…maybe, “If you ever see me blogging about food and recipes, you’ll know I have writer’s block!!”?

And then you go home and think about it for a while, and you realize that you probably just insulted half of the attendees in the room and flipped the bird at one of the things that gives you great pleasure?

Was I drunk?

Do you want to know what the kicker is? I used to have a baking business called Sugar Drops, and I loved baking! Duh.

So, as a peace offering to all the food bloggers out there (and there are a frighteningly high number of you), here is my highly-coveted SUGARDROP’S CHARLIE BROWN COOKIES recipe. Ta Da (said in a pathetic eating-crow kinda voice). They’re Charlie Browns ’cause there are peanuts and chocolate in them…get it? I know. Brilliant, right?

Makes about 40 absolutely amazingly delicious peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies, if you like that sort of thing. They’re perfectly crunchy and chewy at the same time.

1 cup unsalted butter (if you even think about using margarine, I’m gonna come over there and smack you with my spatula) room temp

1 cup peanut butter chunky or smooth (I use KRAFT unsweetened unsalted ’cause it actually tastes like peanuts)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar (packed)

2 eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts (shelled…duh)

5 ounces or more Bernard Callebaut milk chocolate (I use Callebaut ’cause it’s AWESOME. If you love something else, use it.) chopped into 1/2-inch chunks.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper (You can use an ungreased pan if you don’t have parchment. For the love-of-Pete, go buy some parchment!).

In a mixer, cream together butter and peanut butter. Add sugars and mix well. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and mix.

Sift dry ingredients together and then add them to the butter and mix well. Fold in peanuts and chocolate by hand so they don’t get crushed.

Drop by spoonfuls onto pan about 2″ apart (they spread out), and pat down with a fork dipped in flour. Bake on the middle rack for approximately 15 minutes. Leave on the pan for a couple of minutes on top of the oven before removing to cool.

Bon Appetit!!!!

lentil love…

Don’t you just love your friends? I do.

One of my besties, Sarah Johnson, is a vegetarian, and she agreed to go in front of the camera to teach me one of her favourite recipes–Napolitana Lentil Stew. Truth be told, I wore her down with my whining and sniveling about the pressures of blogging, and that as a fellow blogger (Year of Austere, check it out) she should support me in my insatiable need to post.

I’m well aware of the audacity of my request, considering that she, like me, is completely photo phobic, and runs screaming at the thought of her picture being taken (I know, stupid).

Sarah was a tireless model, and the reason the next photo is blurry, is because I had a ridiculously long F-stop, and she had to hold the pose perfectly still forever–FAIL. It was just such a cute shot of her that I had to use it. Watch out sexy Nigella!!!!

Sarah, you had me at sauteeing onions!!!!

Hard to believe that this mess…

…becomes this aromatic concoction of deliciousness. Can’t you just smell the antioxidants, vitamins, proteins and fibre all co-mingling into one amazing dinner? It really didn’t take long at all either.

This is Sarah at the end of the photo shoot. Hmmmm…wonder what’s going on in that pretty little head. Knowing her–as I do–she’s about to tell me, in her most sarcastic voice, “You’re an idiot,” and then tilt her head back, close her eyes and laugh hysterically! Love her.

Napolitana Lentil Stew

from “Market Vegetarian” by Ross Dobson

½ cup green or brown lentils (Sarah used canned lentils and made sure to rinse them)

3 tbsp olive oil

1 onion chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

a small handful of fresh oregano, chopped

1 tsp dried hot pepper flakes

1 ½ tbs salted caperberries (rinsed) (Sarah doesn’t like them, so she didn’t use them)

2 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (Sarah doesn’t like them, so she didn’t use them)

1 cup passata or tomato puree (She used canned tomato puree)

2 oz. small black pitted olives

4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

crusty bread, to serve

Serves 4

(If you’re using canned lentils, you can skip this part) Put the lentils in a large saucepan, add sufficient cold water to cover and set over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes until the lentils are tender, but retain a little “bite”. Drain and set aside until needed.

Put the oil in a saucepan set over high heat. Add the onion, garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes stirring often, until the onion softens. Add the capers, tomatoes, passata, lentils, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spoon into warmed serving dishes, top with the olives and crumbled feta and serve with crusty bread on the side for dipping into the rich sauce.

lucky cool treats…

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNER: Darlene from Frisco, Texas!!!!

It’s hot and I’m giving away a Zoku Quick Pop Maker (worth $74.99). They’re all the rage (love that saying), and even Ivanka Trump named it her most memorable hostess gift in the August edition of O magazine.

This is the newsletter I am sending to all my Nicole Jane Home customers (don’t “click here” ’cause you’re already “here”).
The Details:

1. If you’re not already a Nicole Jane Home newsletter subscriber, just click on this link http://www.nicolejane.com, and sign yourself up (I promise that I DO NOT send out spam and I DO NOT share your information with anyone else).

2. If you don’t already “like” my Facebook page, then click on this link for the Nicole Jane Home Facebook page, and click on the “like” button.

3. If you’re already a newsletter subscriber and you already “like” my Facebook page, then you’re already entered.

Here’s the small print. All local and regional laws apply, and the draw is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada (except Quebec–sorry), who are 18 years or older. The draw will be held on September 9! Good luck everyone.

she's so sophie…

Knees shaking…dry throat…and the ever-present threat of two ill-behaved dogs on the verge of hysterical barking…

You guessed it! That was me dialing the phone to call my design idol–Sophie Conran–who kindly agreed to be interviewed. When I heard her cheerful, “Hello”, I was instantly at ease–she’s even more personable and interesting than I imagined.

Sophie’s accomplishments are vast in the world of design and good taste, including work as the entertaining editor for In Style, writing entertainment and recipe features for Living Etc., and writing for House Beautiful about what makes a house a home. Not to mention all of her cookbooks and designs in tableware, glassware and wallpaper.

Sophie also turned a 15th century manor into a retreat–Sophie Conran for Temple Guiting–for country weekends in the Cotswolds. It’s looks and sounds absolutely idyllic–I can just imagine how beautiful it would be for a wedding! (Mark…if you’re reading this…take it as a huge HINT for our 25th Wedding Anniversary…no point being subtle anymore!!!!!)

Sophie Conran for Temple Guiting

Sophie Conran for Temple Guiting

Before I go any further, may I offer my advice for the best way to read this interview? Make yourself a pot of tea, sit in a comfy chair, and drink out of one of Sophie’s irresistible cups. Or feel free to fill it with jelly beans and munch away, like I did during a photo shoot a few weeks ago!

photo by Janis Nicolay for Nicole Jane Home

Jennifer: Sophie, your tableware is wildly popular in Canada and the U.S. What was your inspiration for the beautiful organic shapes and colours?

Sophie: One source of inspiration came from my childhood. My family used to drive from England to our little house in France and stop off in Limoges on the way. My mom would visit the ceramic factories to buy seconds of their porcelain, which were always plain white and wobbly and each piece was individual. Another inspiration came from the Japanese, who have amazing potters. I really love the way they hand-make such delicate pieces. They have a saying that if something is perfect, then it’s not beautiful.

Jennifer: I’m most impressed by the fact that your tableware is strong and delicate at the same time. How were you able to achieve that balance?

Sophie: It has to do with the material it’s made with. It’s pure porcelain, which is fired at really high temperatures, making it incredibly hard and durable. All the pieces can go in the oven, dishwasher, and microwave. When we were making the samples, I kept on asking, “Can we make it thinner? Can we make it thinner?” because I wanted that delicacy. When you drink a cup of tea, and you have a very thin cup, somehow the tea tastes better.

Jennifer: Your cups are the ones I drink my coffee with every morning.

Sophie: That’s lovely. I’m delighted that my website has a picture of Mrs. Obama drinking out of one of my cups during a visit to England.

Jennifer: One of the best things about your tableware and glassware is that they are truly multi-purpose. I frequently reach for one of your teapots or glass jugs to hold bouquets of flowers. Do you have any suggestions for unique ways to use any of the other pieces?

Sophie: All of the pieces can be used in the oven, so I’ve made berry crumbles in little tea cups and everyone gets their own personal serving. I also use lots of tumblers filled with tea lights and flowers on my table during dinner parties.

Jennifer: You’re a member of a highly creative and accomplished family. How did your parents foster creativity and encourage you and your siblings in your creative pursuits?

(Sophie is the daughter of UK designer, Sir Terence Conran and cookbook author, Caroline Conran, and her brothers, Sebastian, Jasper and Tom are all renowned in their respective fields.)

Sophie: My parents were always showing us things, getting us involved, and asking us our opinions. The business very much revolved around our home with my dad’s design studios based there. We moved to an old school when I was little, and the old classroom blocks became the design studios and workshops. The carpenters who made all samples would come over for a drink and dinner and stay the night. It was our playground and we were all involved in the photo shoots for my father’s catalogues. It was a huge deal when a new design or new piece of furniture came in–very exciting.

Jennifer: Did you appreciate it when you were a child? That it was something very special?

Sophie: I don’t think so. I didn’t do well at school, but home was fun for me. My mom was always cooking and writing recipes for books and magazines. When we moved into the school, it was pretty derelict, so we lived in a “building site” for a pretty long time. There were old walled gardens, which had been a Christmas tree farm. They were all cleared out and we built a huge vegetable garden and remodeled all of the greenhouses. It was pretty amazing actually. There was always lots of creativity around us.

Jennifer: It sounds wonderful, but it also sounds like a lot of work.

Sophie: I really enjoy work. I’m happiest when I’m working.

Jennifer: As a mother and businesswoman, you are an inspiration to women all over the world. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in a career or building a business?

Sophie: I always put my kids first. Be patient, always be true to yourself and don’t be scared of making mistakes. And always work with great people—make sure that you interact with reputable companies, it’s very important.

Jennifer: Do you get to travel very much for your work?

Sophie: I don’t travel very often. I’m a bit of a homebody. I’m in my office right now, but it’s attached to my home.

Jennifer: Whenever I visit England, I’m always so impressed by the bold British design aesthetic—particularly the exquisite paint colours and wallpapers. In Canada and the U.S., we’re seeing a strong resurgence of wallpapers, and I’m excited to see your new collection. What inspired your designs?

Sophie Conran wallpaper collection

Sophie: I absolutely love nature. The wallpaper hanging in my office at the moment is based on a Japanese kimono book. It’s full of beautiful irises, which were inspired by the exquisite floral designs and embroidery on the kimonos.

Sophie Conran's "Fleur" wallpaper

The inspiration for another collection that I designed was from a childhood stay at a chateau in France. It was completely falling apart. Each of the rooms had incredible paintings, fabrics, and such fabulous fading wallpapers.

Sophie Conran's "Belle" wallpaper

Sophie Conran's "Juliette" wallpaper

Colour is also a really big inspiration for me. Contrasting colours always get my creative juices flowing.

Sophie's home featured in the April '08 edition of Australia Home Beautiful

Jennifer: [The interview with Sophie took place two weeks prior to the royal wedding] Will & Kate‘s wedding is just around the corner and we’re getting very excited about it in Canada. My 77-year-old mother is even planning to wake up at 1 a.m. to watch the ceremony on TV. How will you be celebrating the royal wedding?

Sophie: They’re such a sweet couple—always smiling. We’ll be attending a big party that a friend is throwing at his home in the Cotswolds. Lots of people are organizing street parties, and I think that 10 million visitors are expected to be in London for the wedding. People are baking and decorating—it’s really, really nice actually.

Jennifer: If you had a day all to yourself, what would you absolutely love to do?

Sophie: We have a home in the country, and I love to be down there with my family. I spend time gardening, and visiting the gardening centre–just doing nice stuff around the house with my kids and husband. I really enjoy cooking, and friends often come over with their children and we’ll have a big meal together.

Jennifer: Imagine that it’s Monday afternoon at 2:43 p.m., and you’ve been hard at work. Do you reach for one of your delectable Whoopie Pies and a piping hot cup of coffee?  Or is it an apple muffin and iced tea calling your name?

Sophie: I don’t really like a lot of sweet things. If I was busy, it might be a little piece of avocado on toast with a squeeze of lemon. Or it might be some humous and carrot sticks, or a smoothie.. I normally have something already prepared in the refrigerator, like lentil salad, so I might have a bit of that. Those are the kinds of snacky things I like to eat.

I’d like to thank Sophie for taking time to chat with me. She’s such a dynamic person, and I look forward to seeing many more amazing things from her in the future.

CONGRATULATIONS, Anita T: You won the Sophie Conran giveaway. You were lucky #9.

SOPHIE CONRAN GIVEAWAY!!!

I’m such a huge fan of Sophie’s products (we use her tableware every day in my home) and I want to celebrate her interview by hosting a GIVEAWAY. One lucky winner will receive one of her gorgeous white cake plates, a set of 4 white dessert plates, and a white teapot!!! Everything you need for tea time!

All you need to do is:

* Visit Nicole Jane Home and sign up for my newsletter (don’t worry, I NEVER send spam. If you’re already on my newsletter subscribers’ list, you’re automatically entered.

* Leave a comment below to let me know you signed up.

Here’s the small print: You need to be a resident of the U.S. or Canada (we’re not allowed to run contests for residents of Quebec), 18 years or older. Good luck everyone!

Draw Date: May 25, 2011

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