Pretzel & Nut Mix: The Best Holiday Snack Ever

This is one of my ‘Greatest-Hits’ recipes, and in the spirit of holiday sharing, I thought it was time to share it with everyone.

I made it for a cocktail get-together the other night and my guests dove in so fast that I had to pull the bowl away just to get some for myself!

Although I confess, I ate my fair share before my guests arrived…but what’s a holiday party without at least one of your guests feeling guilty about doing something they might later regret?

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This is is a real “keeper”—not just because it tastes so good, but also because it’s quickly made from ingredients that most of us have on hand. So it can be made at the last-minute while you race around showering, shaving, and freshening-up anything around the house that needs freshening-up for your arriving guests.

When I moved to France, I had a bit of a time finding the small twisted pretzels that I prefer in this mix, so I’ve made it with pretzels sticks too, which are called ‘sticks d’Alsace’. But use any mix of nuts you want. Pecan halves are particularly appealing…at least to me, since those are the nuts I catch myself mostly plucking out before my guests arrive.

But whole almonds, cashews, peanuts, and hazelnuts are all very good as well in the mix.

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Tips to Keep Cookies From Spreading

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Several of you had asked about how to avoid cookies from spreading out during baking, which can be rather vexing…especially when you’ve gone through all that trouble of getting the counter all covered with flour, then rolling ‘em out, and cutting them into all those nifty shapes.

So here are some tips…

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Menu For Hope III Update: More Celebrity Chef Prizes!

Did you see?

Today, we’ve reached the $15,000 mark and the auction’s just begun! To sweeten the pot, there may be a special surprise from me I’ll be adding in the future, so keep an eye on things around here…

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In case you missed them, a few brand-new prizes were added to the European prize list:

One is a Country Lunch at the home of cookbook author Susan Loomis, at her home On Rue Tatin. The other is a special gift from pal Gale Gand, host of Sweet Dreams on the Food Network.

But wait, there’s more!…How about a full-day gastronomic tour of Barcelona, one of the hottest culinary destinations in the world?

You can find more information just after the jump. Be sure to check some other new prizes that’ve been added at other auction hosts as well.

Big thanks for all of you who’ve donated and participated in this important auction. It’s very gratifying to see such an outpouring of support for all our hard work. And speaking of hard work, I’ll shortly be writing up a report here about my No-Knead mis-adventures, for those of you following my flour-driven drama.

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Menu For Hope III

Welcome to Menu For Hope III, an online auction to raise funds for the United Nations Food Programme, which provides hunger relief to needy people worldwide. Last year we raised over $17,000 during this auction, and this year it’s bigger and even better!

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The following donations are from the European food blogging community and related sites. There’s over 30 great prizes, including food baskets, gastronomic tours, language and cooking classes, professional web design, wine tastings, cookbooks, and meals in private homes, restaurants, and culinary schools.

In each entry you’ll find links that you can follow to the individual web sites and blogs to learn more about the prizes from the donors. Should you have any questions, please ask the donor prior to bidding.
For more information and to view the other prizes from around the world, visit Chez Pim.

So How Can You Bid?

  • 1. Go to the donation page on First Giving.
  • 2. Make a donation!
    Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code—for example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 for EU02. (Please use the double-digits, not EU1, but EU01.)
  • 3. If your company matches your charity donation, please remember to check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
  • 4. Please also check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared.
  • 5. Check back at Chez Pim on January 15 when results are announced.

Le Petit Print:

Some of the prizes, such as tours, have expiration dates. Other events are based on the donor availability; contact donor well in advance if you win a tour or tasting to make sure of their availability before you confirm travel plans.

Culinary tours don’t include transit to and from the city offered, nor do they include hotels or meals, other than what is specifically mentioned.

Prizes will be shipped at the expense of the donor.

Whew!
Okay. Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, let the fun begin!…

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No-Knead (Flat) Bread

So I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon and make the No-Knead Bread.
Except French flour is different than American flour.

Dramatically.

Consequently my first batch turned into No-Knead Flatbread….

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But I’m not quitting yet…

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To be continued…

(Continued 12/11/06: Batch #2 came out like #1. You can see Batch #3 of No-Knead Bread here, made with lots of grains and seeds. It tasted great, but didn’t rise much. Will try again with stronger flour…and more of it!)

My 10 Favorite Books of 2006

Here’s a list of 10 books, in no particular order, that I’ve enjoyed this year.

Since I don’t have easy access to English-language books, I chose mine carefully. Although I usually like to read books about food, I got a bit literate and discovered few books about Paris that were truly enlightening…which is really saying something for someone that hasn’t lifted the lid on a history book since high school.

In addition to the books I’ve listed below, I’ve also enjoyed La Bonne Cuisine de Madame St-Ange, the updated On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, and Rememberence of Things Paris, some of the greatest food writing from Gourmet magazine from the past sixty years that is still some of the freshest and liveliest food prose happily back in print.

And on a sad note, I’ve finally given up on La Poste and assumed the two cases of cookbooks I shipped three years ago probably aren’t going to ever show up (hope is no longer springing eternal…), so I ordered a fresh, brand-new copy of Julia Child’s classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

A few books I’m looking forward to reading in 2007 are The Sweet Life: The Desserts from Chanterelle by pastry chef Kate Zuckerman, and books from my favorite bloggers, including Shauna, Adam’s untitled masterwork, Chocolate & Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier, and Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks.

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by Bill Buford

The most talked-about food book of the year, New Yorker writer Bill Buford starts from scratch in the kitchen of Mario Batali, then learns to make pasta by hand from an Italian master, and ends up butchering in Tuscany.

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A Date For International Understanding

Although most of the comments and messages I get are friendly and kind, a few do slip through that are less-than-complimentary. A majority of them illuminate the errors of my ways by pointing out the faults in my cross-cultural observations. So I was delighted when I found Socio-Site Scan v1.01, some brand-new software which allows me to simply input all my blog entries, and tells me what percentage of my posts are which are complimentary to one culture, and what percentage isn’t.

So what did I find?

Roughly 67.8% are complimentary to the French, while only 65.3% of what I write was pro-American.
But a whopping 47% were anti-French, followed closely by 45.2% of swipes at my compatriots in the states.

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Since this is the beginning of the holiday season, one full of global good cheer (real or imagined), I decided that since our politicians have been messing it up a bit too long, at least 6 years too long (oops…gonna have to give the site a second run-through), I decided that today I’m calling a holiday truce.

Since there’s no time like the present, I’m happy to start right now promoting international understanding by sharing these divinely delicious dates from Iran, which are perhaps the best dates I’ve ever had. (Insert your own joke here.) They certainly rival the Medjool dates from California, which are excellent as well, although they’re far pricier. Hmm, perhaps I might suggest America trade dates for oil? It certainly would be a tasty trade-off that might make everyone a little less combative.

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Boulangerie 140

At last count, there are 1263 bakeries in Paris.

On just about every street, there’s at least one, if not two, or even three bakeries. Some of them are very good, a few are perhaps not so fabulous, and several are excellent. Parisians eat a lot of bread, far more than their American counterparts.

Visitors often wonder, “How come we don’t have bakeries like this is America?”

“Because people won’t eat bread in America anymore. Everyone’s afraid of it.” I respond

Tragically, most nod in agreement.

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Luckily there’s not too much of that nonsense here in Paris. From early in the morning, until the last baguette de levain is handed across the counter for dinner, you’ll find folks en queue, lined up impatiently waiting to get their daily bread.

And for some reason, I’m always in front of the most impatient one, who firmly keeps nudging me forward. My strategy against those Parisian pests is to gently innocently start backing up, which kinda freaks them out and invariably causes a chain reaction, since the person behind them is usually pressed up against them as well, nudging them forward too.

It causes a certain amount of shuffling and mild hysteria, but tant pis.
Anyone who wants to get that close to me better buy me a drink first.

Or at least a loaf of bread.

But when there’s a bakery as good as 140 in town, Parisians have good reason to get pushy about their bread. And neighborhood residents buy stop here once, or even twice daily to get theirs. And like many of them, I’m happy to stand my ground for a crisp, golden baguette de campagne that feels crisp and warm when it’s handed over the counter to me. Or for the buttery-mouthful of a flaky croissant that shatters into a gazillion crackly shards when you bite into it.

These are some of the daily rituals that go on around here, of which I’m frequently guilty of taking part.

(The pushing part I’m still getting used to.)

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Although I don’t live close enough to 140 to go two or three times a day, it’s one of the handful of bakeries here that I’ll happily scamper across the city to visit. Aside from their numeric name, which always gives me a chuckle, they bake some of the best breads in Paris. And recently, I was lucky enough to go behind the scenes of this top-notch boulangerie.

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