My Best Picnic Tips

My Best Picnic Tips

If you’re anything like me, you love the idea of ​​a picnic, but in practice, when someone throws the idea up in the air on a Friday night, in this beautifully spontaneous way people do, your Inner Grump awakens (“ugh, so much to organize, I have zero ideas, who’s going to do the shopping, we always end up eating the same thing, the kids will just stuff themselves with potato chips, and it is so uncomfortable sitting on the ground anyway”).

So for you, for me, for us, here are a few ideas I hold at the ready to alleviate my Inner Grump’s fears and turn the corners of his mouth upward: yes, we can have easy and colorful picnics this summer!

Of course, we all dream of lazing around in bed all Sunday morning, then get up to attend a picnic straight out of Pinterest. But the hard truth is this: without a minimum of forethought, it will just end up being soggy sandwiches, canned corn, a squashed roll of paper towels, and lukewarm soda.

No. What we want is ideas that feel fresh, cheerful, and a little bit unusual.

My Best Picnic Tips: Recipe Ideas

French picnics are all about the jambon-beurre sandwich — a split baguette spread with butter and filled with cooked ham — but for a nice change of pace, I like to make a banh mi of sorts, the Vietnamese sandwich I love so much. Get a slim baguette without too much crumb, fill it with meat or tofu (marinated and grilled), grated carrots and cucumber dressed in magic sauce, sliced chilli peppers, a little mayonnaise and a lot of coriander: it’s a close enough approximation and a delight.

And if we think that sandwiches are good, but still a lot of bread to eat, we can make rice or nori rolls by rolling up raw vegetables in rice paper wrappers or grilled nori sheets, maki-style, as for these cucumber and avocado nori rolls (which are one of my most popular recipes on Pinterest! See how nicely this gets tied back in).

Another option is to go for smørrebrød, the Danish sandwich. Instead of making sandwiches for everyone, provide sliced ​​black bread and a variety of simple ingredients: butter, cucumber slices, sliced ​​boiled eggs, thin slices of ​​gouda cheese, pickled herring, thin slices of roast beef, sliced spring ​​onions, fresh herbs… Arrange everything on the picnic table or in the middle of a tablecloth spread out in a pretty meadow, and have everyone compose their own open-face sandwich.

As for salads, which are always a bit awkward to eat on your lap, with the vinaigrette dripping from the side when the discussion becomes animated, I like to assemble them in jars (I use the glass containers from my yogurt maker as I have an extra set), in good-looking alternating layers. Cooked grains and/or legumes at the bottom, cooked vegetables, raw vegetables, something soft (tofu, cheese), something crunchy (toasted nuts, sprouted seeds), and dressing simply poured on top. Shake before eating.

My Best Picnic Tips

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Best of June

Paris Courtyard Fountain

The pretty fountain that greeted me in the coolness of a Parisian courtyard at the height of our June heatwave.

• In June, we celebrated Father’s Day with lunch at brasserie La Mascotte, one of our neighborhood favorites, where Maxence shared mussels and fried smelt with his two adoring boys.

• If you’re curious to know what I eat in a day, you can find out over at MindBodyGreen! I am starting a collaboration with this site, which I love, and they’re asking me to cover all kinds of things people want to know about French women’s approach to health, beauty, and lifestyle. If there’s a question you’ve been dying to ask, please let me know and I’ll add it to my list!

• German newspaper Die Zeit also did me the honors this month and featured a few of my recipes around the theme of French picnics. If you want to practice your German, it’s right here.

Related: My Best Picnic Recipes.

• I developed a serious restaurant crush on Pink Mamma, the new restaurant from the trailblazing Big Mamma Group, which just opened in my hood, mere steps from Place Pigalle. Like all restaurants of the group, they serve pizzas and pasta and antipasti, but the star of the show is the meat, which is French and raised by them directly.

I shared a photo of Maxence’s rib steak below, but I confess I didn’t feel like eating meat, so I got the gorgeous caprese salad instead. The place is a total knock-out, especially the top floor under the glass roof, and every detail is carefully chosen, every square inch thoughtfully decorated. Reasonable prices, and not yet as crazy-crowded as the others, so now’s a good time to go!

Pink Mamma

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Vegetarian Batch Cooking for Summer: 1-Hour Prep, 6 Meals!

Vegetarian Batch Cooking for Summer

In addition to planning my menus, I have been doing more and more batch cooking these past few months.

The idea of batch cooking is to block out time one day of the week to prep or cook a bunch of ingredients in advance, which you can draw from and combine for low-effort homemade meals the rest of the week.

It is the shortest path to feeling like a kitchen superhero, saving you brain juice and money along the way.

And today, I am offering you the vegetarian batch cooking plan for summer I’ve created and test-driven with great success: 1 hour of prep work for easy 6 meals on subsequent days.

  • Meal #1: Ratatouille and Rice Bowl — the beauty and simplicity of an in-season roasted ratatouille, served over rice to mop up the juices.
  • Meal #2: Bell Pepper and Chickpea Green Salad — a simple stir-fry of bell peppers, onions, and chickpeas over simply dressed greens drizzled with tahini sauce.
  • Meal #3: Ratatouille Wraps with Eggs and Tahini — inspired by a delicious sandwich from Miznon in Paris!
  • Meal #4: Zucchini Pasta with Olive and Almonds — super easy pasta dish ready in the time it takes to cook the zucchini.
  • Meal #5: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Olives and Almonds — the same topping brings zest to roasted sweet potatoes.
  • Meal #6: Everything Salad with Avocado and Eggs — turning bits and bobs from the previous meals into a lovely salad so the process is entirely waste-free!

Below you will find:
– A shopping list (of which you can get a free printable) — everything is available from the organic store or supermarket (they cost around 30€ ($34) in my store; your mileage may vary),
– Your instructions for the prep work — allow for about 1 hour of active time, and 1 1/2 hour in total,
– Your instructions for each of the six meals — active time ranges from 5 to 15 minutes, time to table from 10 to 30 minutes,
– Suggestions of variations to adapt the plan to various dietary constraints.

If you’re new to batch cooking, this plan is an easy and lovely way to dip your toes in and see how deliciously freeing it is. If you’re an experienced batch-cook, I hope it provides some ideas to enrich your current practice. And please share your best tips with us!

And if you find this first plan helpful and useful, I will offer you a new one at the start of each new season; let me know how that sounds.

In passing I recommend these French-made glass containers for storing your preparations (I have two sets; they nest perfectly and take up very little room) and this dual kitchen timer to keep track of two preparations at the same time!

Without further ado, here’s your vegetarian batch cooking plan for summer!

Vegetarian Batch Cooking for Summer

This is what you’ll make during the 1-hour prep time.

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10 Tips for Picking a Paris Restaurant

Paris Restaurant

All photos in this post by Anne Elder.

Whether you live in Paris or you’re just visiting, chances are you spend a lot of time thinking, reading, talking, and fretting about restaurants.

It’s entirely natural. Paris is an international capital of good food and gastronomy (the birthplace of it, even) so you want to make every meal count, yet you know its 40,000 restaurants are not created equal.

This is fertile ground for FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and its sneaky cousin, FOPTWR (Fear Of Picking The Wrong Restaurant).

So before you make yourself crazy, let me offer you my Ten Paris Restaurant Tips.

Tip #1: Be clear on your wants and needs

This is the most basic thing, but many people skip that part.

Before you go down the rabbit hole of searching for “Best Restaurants in Paris”, take a moment to list (in your mind or on paper) the features you’re looking for. How many people are you eating with and what kind of diners are they? What style of cuisine are you into? What kind of ambiance do you want to spend the night in? What price level do you want to go for? Any food preferences or dietary constraints?

Keep all of those at the forefront of your mind during your search, so you can swiftly brush aside anything that looks kinda cool but isn’t the focus du jour. A huge time saver.

10 Romantic Things to do in Paris

Tip #2: Follow the locals

It is generally more reliable to get recommendations from people who actually live in the city, and can put a restaurant, chef, cuisine, or trend in the context of many more dining experiences. This is not to dismiss the reports of short-term visitors; I myself like to write about my forays in other cities, but I don’t claim expertise and expect my readers to double-check against local sources.

Take the time to identify a few locals (native or not) whose voice and opinions resonate with you, whose dining temperament seems to align with yours, and follow their restaurant adventures. It can be bloggers, magazine columnists, or collective websites; what matters is that there be a consistent viewpoint from one review to the next.

I like to follow friends such as Caroline Mignot, Lindsey Tramuta (author of The New Paris!), and Aaron Ayscough. I get the weekly review from Le Fooding and the My Little Paris newsletter. I use the website Paris by Mouth and keep an eye on Esterelle Payany’s reviews in Télérama and François-Régis Gaudry’s blog at L’Express (he has a TV show on Paris Première and a radio show on France Inter if you can’t get enough of him). I don’t read everything they write (hello, overwhelm!), but when I need fresh recommendations, these are my go-to’s. (For content written in French, Google Translate is your friend!)

I have no use for crowd-sourced review websites: without knowing the people writing and their background, the litany of random opinions is meaningless to me.

Planning a trip to Paris?

I am available to take you on a private walking tour to show you some of my favorite food spots. Please get in touch and I will be happy to provide more details!

Paris Restaurant

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Slow Cooker Filipino Chicken

Slow Cooker Filipino Chicken

I have been meaning to share my review of the Instant Pot for a while now, and since I’ve received several inquiries about it, today I am sharing my recipe for this Slow-Cooker Filipino Chicken Adobo, and taking the opportunity to tell you about this seven-in-one appliance I love.

I have been hearing about the Instant Pot for years through the cooking websites I read, and my interest grew and grew as I noticed the adoration some bloggers have for it. It is an appliance sold by a Canadian company, and offers seven main programmable features. It is all at once:

  • A slow-cooker, for low-temperature cooking over several hours,
  • A pressure cooker with two pressure settings, high or low,
  • A sauté pot, to brown ingredient before stewing or pressure cooking,
  • A rice cooker, to cook rice, grains, and legumes,
  • A steamer,
  • A yogurt maker,
  • A hot plate to keep dishes warm, which is very convenient for entertaining and parties.

I finally took the plunge and bought myself the 6-quart model last fall, taking advantage of a good deal on Amazon. I immediately adopted it, thereby replacing my pressure-cooker, my steamer, and my yogurt maker, which I gave away or sold. (For now we are keeping our rice cooker because we are very attached to it; I told you about it when I shared my recipe for coconut spiced rice.)

Slow Cooker Filipino Chicken

My Instant Pot, available on Amazon.

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