Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Anyone Can Cook!"

One of my favorite animated films of all time is without a doubt, Ratatouille. It is wonderfully made, charming, and entertaining. I love the scenery and the beauty behind the story.

While we all know that having a rat making our food would not be appetizing :) Pixar was able to create a story that is pretty hard not to love. Every time I watch the film, I feel sympathetic for all the characters. I don't see how it could not be appealing to people of all ages. 

It may sound cheesy, but I find that behind the cute storyline, there are alot of meaningful life lessons.  Ratatouille is the type of movie that kids should be watching these days. Despite all of the pressures to become someone respectable and accomplished, the moral of the story is to work at what you love- and as Gusteau so eloquently puts it, "your only limit is your soul".

Lately I have been thinking alot about my future, and what I am to do. Sometimes it can feel like the things I enjoy, like cooking, photography, art, this blog even, are not realistic passions. I really don't know if they can take me anywhere. But at the same time, after working very hard at some of the things that I just can't seem to comprehend -like, perhaps, calculus or chemistry ;)- I really cherish being able to work at what I love.

I hope that I can say it is normal at my age not to know what the future will hold or "what I want to be when I grow up". It is just strange to think that a year ago I thought I was certain of what I wanted to study when I went to college, and envisioned myself in a certain profession, but then I realized that maybe that isn't the route I want to take.

Every day I think about how lucky I am to have been given so many opportunities. I know I will find a way to incorporate a couple of my passions into whatever I end up doing with my life. I think I just have to be willing to take many different paths and see where they lead.

If there is one thing I do know, it is that you can learn a lot more than maybe you are willing to admit, from a strong- hearted rat who dreams of being a famous Parisian chef :)

one more joining the party...

Baked Tomato, Squash, and Potato Ratatouille
Serves 8

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 small tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 medium yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 small red potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat oil over medium and cook onion until tender and lightly golden, 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Arrange the onion on the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Overlap tomato, squash, and potato on top of the onion. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with thyme and parmesan, and drizzle with more oil.
3. Bake covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden, 30 minutes more. Serve drizzled with balsamic vinegar, if desired.

Recipe from Whole Living September 2011

Vanilla and Chocolate Field Mice Cookies (GF)
makes about 3 dozen

For the Vanilla Mice:
3 cups Artisan gluten free Flour Blend (see Raspberry Scone post)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup sliced natural almonds
4 30- inch black licorice laces, cut into 3 inch lengths (make sure the licorice is gluten free)
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

For the Chocolate Mice:
Reduce flour blend to 2 1/2 cups
Add 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Increase sugar to 1 cup
3 ounces white chocolate for decorating instead of semisweet chocolate

1. Whisk to combine flour blend and salt in a bowl (and the cocoa, if making chocolate mice). In a seperate bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar gradually, beating until mixture is pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in extract, then egg. Reduce speed to low, and add one third flour mixture. Gradually add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended. Halve dough and shape into disks; wrap each in plastic, and chill 2 hours or up to 1 day.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll about 1 tablespoon of chilled dough between your palms to form a  1 1/2 inch long oval shape. Slightly elongate one side to form face. Make 2 small slits for placement of ears. Place 2 slices almonds into slits. Place shapes on parchment- lined baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. 
3. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are light golden brown on bottom and around edges, and tips of ears are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer sheets to wire racks, and immediately insert a wooden skewer about 1/2 inch into mouse's rounded end. Insert curved length of licorice for tail. Let cookies cool completely on wire racks.  
4. Melt chocolate for eyes and noses. Pipe or paint the chocolate onto the faces of the mice. If you would like to glaze the mice first, see recipe below. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Recipe very slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living

White and Chocolate Glaze

Whisk together confectioner's sugar and milk. The consistency should be not too runny, but thin enough to drizzle over the mice. Once the cookies have cooled after baking, remove the almond ears and licorice tail. Place the cookie on a piece of parchment and drizzle the glaze over the entire cookie. Re- insert the almond slices and licorice length. Let the glaze on the cookies dry completely before creating eyes and noses.

For chocolate glaze, melt 1 ounce of semisweet chocolate and whisk it into the white glaze. Thin with more milk if needed.


  1. Love this post! First because you took me to see Ratatouille, but I also love seeing your passion. There are so many things to do in this world. And, from experience I love having a job that I really enjoy doing :) You are really good at this. Keep working at what you love, Lauren!

    1. Thanks Jessa! That means alot to me. I always love seeing what you are doing next! Hope Napa was fun and fruitful :)

  2. Lauren, I used to work as college career counselor, and I can assure you that these kinds of doubts and uncertainties are very much a normal part of growing up and being 18-years-old! My advice to you is to keep following your passions, and they WILL find some way of converging. Right now, your job is to stay open to experiences. Also, I wanted to let you know that I saw your great article in the most recent issue of Edible. Kudos to you! A real feather in your cap.

    1. Thank you! I especially enjoyed your article in Edible! I find the relationship between culture and food very fascinating and the way that you described your experience in an insightful and humorous manner made it a great read.