Hazelnut cookies recipe

.The holiday season has got me thinking about wants and expectations.

Pablo had a wonderful Christmas, and was quite showered with gifts. It was his first “aware” Christmas, he knew about Santa Claus coming and bringing gifts. And I have been debating for some time about what I want to tell him about gifts and Santa Claus, because I would like him to enjoy thinking of and making gifts to others too. And I would like him to recognize how thoughtful others have been to him. And yet, I would like him to experience Christmas as a child, with all the magic of Santa, Rudolph, stockings and the whole bit.

I have on occasion witnessed older children wanting something in particular, and being excited about wanting it, expecting to get what they want, and being completely uninterested and underwhelmed by the many other gifts they receive, which seems like such a shame and waste. It just feels so ungrateful and entitled somehow, it makes me cringe. They know they’re going to get what they want, so they expect it. Which got me wondering: are expectations the root of ungratefulness?

Entitled people I’ve encountered in my life have never seemed grateful to me. If we expect something, feel entitled to receive it as a matter of normality, then I suppose there’s nothing to be grateful for. And if for whatever reason, we don’t get what we expect, it can go one of two ways: we blame others, or we blame ourselves.

Yet again, life isn’t that simple.

Looking in the mirror, I realized this is something I have struggled with myself. Expecting to get the things that I want in life. That has certainly been the cause of some bitter disappointments (and self-blame). And I have learned just how crucial it is to differentiate quite clearly in my mind what I want from what I expect. When it involves other people and things outside of our control (and every part of living involves things outside of our control), we have no business expecting anything really. The only things we should expect, besides stuff like gravity, are things within our control, that involve ourselves, our effort, our work. I feel it’s OK to want something, just as long as I am fully aware I may not get it, or not the way I envisioned it. And to be all the more grateful when I do get it.

Kind of like, wanting with a grain of salt.

Wanting is less closed-minded than expecting. It seems easier to let go of wants than of expectations. Wants come and go. But our expectations are ingrained in our brains, they are that picture in our head, by which we measure success or failure. If our reality of the moment matches that picture, we have succeeded. If not, we have failed. But that is such a construct of our mind, far removed from real life, right here and right now. I am starting to think that succeeding is letting go of that picture, those expectations. And failing, is to never see beyond the expectations, and missing out on the many awesome unknowns and unsuspecteds life has in store for us.

So I’m learning to maintain a clear boundary between what I want and what I expect. Some things are better wanted than expected.

I guess that’s what I want Pablo to feel when “Santa” brings gifts to him. To want them, but not expect them. I would like him to want to receive gifts, sure. But only to expect giving them.

How does one teach that? How does one learn it?

Perhaps this is one of those things children learn by osmosis, if their models clearly make the difference in their life. I’m hoping to teach him this as I go, by keeping that boundary in my awareness as an individual and as a parent.

As I have previously reflected, I found the kitchen to be one excellent place to learn, and teach this. Take these cookies for example. They were not what I expected. The thin tollhouse type chocolate chip cookies. But I guess in the end, I just wanted them to be good. And when a cookie expert friend of mine came over, and had 4 in a row in spite of his wonderful usual will power, I figured they were good.

So here they are. They are not the graceful greyhound of cookies. They are more the big paws golden retriever of cookies (for some reason, a dog analogy came to mind…) Sweet, nutty, chunky. But I find myself loving them and enjoying them for what they are, as I write these very words…  I hope you will too.

Hazelnut chocolate chip cookies

Makes about 20 cookies

Prep time: 15 mn
Cook time: 15 mn + cool off time

Age for babies: After 12 months, in very small quantity as a treat. (I didn’t give Pablo chocolate until after 16 months.)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup hazelnut butter
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven at 375°F.

Line a large cookie sheet (or two) with parchment paper.

Beat the butter, sugar and brown sugar together until creamy. Add the egg & vanilla, and beat until smooth.

Add the hazelnut butter and beat until combined.

Add flour, baking powder and salt, and stir to combine. Add chocolate chips and stir again.

Drop small spoonfuls of dough onto the parchment. Bake 12-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let rest on the sheet for 1 minute, before removing. Let cool on a rack, and keep in a tin box if possible.

Chocolate hazelnut flourless cake

It’s the day before Thanksgiving. Stateside, everyone is busy getting ready for the holiday… including myself. So I will make this one short… and sweet. Very sweet indeed.

No pumpkin, no pecans, no pie or cream. Just pure chocolate goodness.

I had bought some hazelnut butter to make chocolate hazelnut pots de crème from Cannelle & Vanille (delicious, by the way), and wanted to find other ways to use it.

This flourless cake is remarkably healthy as far as desserts go, with very little sugar, and we found it was a perfect balance of chocolate and hazelnut. Pablo, who has more of a weakness for cheese than a sweet tooth, did enjoy licking that bowl thoroughly!


Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving, and being ever so grateful for every one of you reading these words, wherever you may be.

Chocolate Hazelnut Flourless Cake

Prep time: 20 mn

Cook time: 20 mn


Age for babies: From 12 months, as a rare treat, though I didn’t give Pablo chocolate until 15 months.

3.5 oz dark chocolate (70%)

3/4 cup unsalted, unsweetened hazelnut butter

3 tbsp milk

3 1/2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp potato starch (or corn starch)

4 eggs (4 yolks, 3 whites)

Preheat the oven at 350°F.

Mix the hazelnut butter with the milk, warming it for about a minute in the microwave.

Melt the chocolate either in a hot water bath or in the microwave with 1 tbsp of water.

Mix the hazelnut butter and chocolate together, let cool.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar, add in the potato starch. Then incorporate the egg mixture into the chocolate-hazelnut cream. Mix well.

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold them in gently with a rubber spatula in the chocolate-hazelnut mixture.

Pour the mixture in a buttered cake mold or individual molds.

Bake for about 20 minutes if in a square cake mold (7-9 minutes if in smaller individual molds).

Grandmother’s ratatouille recipe

Every time I come back to France, it strikes me how much more
I appreciate it now than I did when I lived here.  I have been an expat for 15 years now, and the
past 7 to 10 years, coming back to France has been a pilgrimage of
sorts into my past, my childhood. Perhaps expats have this little bonus: their
past is embodied in a concrete place. It somehow makes the past more real, more
We have spent the last few days in Paris, and I have really longed for the city.
Coming back to Paris
for me is like having dinner with a long lost love. I know there were many
things I hated about her in the past, but I can only remember the good times. Yesterday, I was fortunate to have my good friends looking
after Pablo for an afternoon. Bicycling through the streets, visiting and
chatting with friends, stopping at the bakery, I felt at home again. I felt
very free. I felt happy.
If the city is my old love, with all the nostalgia that comes
with it, the country is my new, exciting, exhilarating love.  I did grow up in a small town in the country,
but was so concerned with going far and away in my youth, that I never saw
what was right in front of me. Sunday, Pablo and I went with my best friend and her two
boys, to visit her parents at their little house in the countryside, in Haramont, a small village of stone houses, an hour from Paris.

Last time I was here, my best friend and I were going to school together, about 17 years ago… As soon as we drove up the driveway, I felt so thrilled to be there. My friend C’s father is an avid gardener, he has gardened all his life, and this place is his haven, his world. The children come here every weekend in the summer, they love it.

As we get out of the car, the kids run to the back, through
the vegetable patch, to feed biscottes to the chickens, goats and sheep. I follow, discovering zucchinis, spinach, salads, chamomile, parsley, tarragon, green beans, melons, chards, leeks, carrots… and those gorgeous hazelnut and apple trees. I am as excited to be here as the children… and then I remember. Quick, my camera.

Shortly after, we sit down for lunch, a platter of
charcuterie with artisan pâté en croûte, hams and dry salami (called saucisson in French).

Then Mrs. C brings out her ratatouille. To her, this is a
very simple lunch and dish, she improvised with the garden vegetables. She
serves it in an old pan with an old camping ladle.

As I marvel at everything, the food, the bowl of freshly
picked hazelnuts, and that old ladle, I sense their puzzlement. “What has happened
to Helene? She’s photographing a simple ratatouille with an old camping ladle?
What did they do to her over in America?”
All this isn’t “charming”, or “vintage” or “country rustic” to them. It is just
normal, boring stuff. Boring for one, thrilling to another.

Later in the afternoon, as I go around the yard taking
photographs, 4 year old H is intrigued. “What are you taking? Why?” I tell him
this isn’t old boring stuff at all, it’s a wonderful haven, it’s beautiful, and
I want to capture every little corner of it. He’s excited, and takes pictures
with me (he took that great picture of the sheep above!) Maybe sometimes it
takes a stranger to come into our world to make us see our world with new fresh
eyes. I wonder what I’m missing back home, what am I not seeing and
appreciating? May friendly strangers come open my eyes soon.

So, much to Mrs C’s surprise, I decided to share her very simple
ratatouille recipe here. But I made that decision half-way through the meal, that’s why my pictures here show you an almost empty pot!It’s not traditional ratatouille, it’s a homey simplified
ratatouille with just zucchinis and tomatoes, perfect for children and adults
alike. I can just picture the look on her face when my friend shows her the post
on this blog. “Ah that Helene… she’s very sweet, but just a little weird”… J
Fair enough.

Today we are off to Normandy,
hope to be sharing some yumminess from there with you very soon, so stay tuned.

Mrs Chéron’s Ratatouille

Age for babies: 6-8 months if each ingredient has been tasted before. This might be a good opportunity to introduce cooked tomato to a baby.

6-8 zucchinis, peeled, seeds removed, diced

5 large tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed, quartered

3 tbsp short grain rice

2 sprigs of fresh thyme, crumbed laurel

3 whole cloves of garlic

Salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, sauté the zucchini in some olive oil,
until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, mix and let simmer
for a few more minutes. When the tomatoes have produced a bit of water, add the
rice, herbs and garlic cloves (whole), and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste.