Exotic Flavors

Squash Blossom Salad & Braized Endives

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” – Julia Child, My Life in France.

Our family came to the south of France this summer facing burnout, fleeing overstretched lives in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.  This summer we’re returning to legendary places, looking for the unending summer days and adventure we’d been gifted as children.  I didn’t love to cook until I was married and then I explored our mixed cultural heritage one pot at a time discovering the joy of connecting to the world through it’s food.

In France, our world slowed down deliciously. No matter how languid an afternoon, when you travel with family you eventually hear. “I’m hungry.”  I’d packed instant oatmeal, granola bars and coffee so that we could hit the ground running but the pop-up markets of Monaco beckoned me and I quickly got lost in mushrooms, mussels, and camembert  cheese. When heaping crates of squash blossoms began to flood my vision I remembered my mother’s voice across time and miles asking if I’d tasted this southern French delicacy?  When it comes to food you don’t ignore a mother’s voice, the best recipes for everything from pecan pie to ratatouille can be held in the memory of an overprotective mother.  It’s universal across cultures.

In our host families home I’d discovered gruyer cheese, ham and the recipe for Braised Endive with béchamel sauce. (Thank you google translate.) It felt fabulous to want to cook again like apart of me was waking up, renewed and revitalized. As a family we hit the Uzess market looking for onions, squash blossoms, endives and lettuce. (We had two turtles to feed in our home but that’s another story all together). Nate found a quiet corner to wait out the tide of tourists, hung back with our four year old and ordered a glass of rose. . . Sophia and I were left to explore.

What is it about open air markets and a foreign language that makes you feel invincible? Returning with our simple groceries felt like the ultimate victory. (It doesn’t hurt that your pre-teen thinks your a goddess simply by purchasing salad in a foreign tongue!)

In Nice, I’d gone on a restaurant hunt for an lovely squash blossom beignets, beautiful blossoms battered and fried but that felt far to complicated for a borrowed kitchen. Instead we made them into a salad and served it with Braised Endive.

Squash Blossom Salad Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 butter lettuce head, torn into large pieces
  • 2 cups small squash blossoms, stems removed, divided

Whisk together lemon juice, oil, mustard, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add lettuce, 1 1/2 cups blossoms, and lightly toss with dressing until coated. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup blossoms on top of salad.

For the perfect Braised Endive & Ham Jean-Georgess Vongerchten grandmother’s recipe is the best.

Looking for more inspiration? I’ve fallen into these three excellent books:
Lastly, while you’re indulging your French taste buds don’t miss this classic and delicious recipe for French Provencal Chicken. It turned out to be a crowd pleaser with our last minute guests. I was so excited to cook for people but  I’ll admit to being terrified by the three to five course dinners that are standard French evening with friends.
God in his mercy, walked me though this without too much humiliation. Our guests bought a lovely olive and ham cake for the first course which we ate standing in our kitchen. I served a simple salad, couscous and this chicken for the entree and felt like an idiot who FORGOT to serve my mother’s cucumber salad!
After dinner, I served the cheese plate (I can be taught) with my mother’s salad, turns out this is very common in France.
A salad and a cheese plate are a typical third course then finally desert and coffee.  We had a lovely watermelon and some kind to beautiful melon like a honeydew but I have no idea it’s name and my mistakes turned into an elegant meal on the patio with new and old friends.
Here’s to mistakes! If we never made them we’d never learn. Thank you, Julia!
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    Squash Blossom Salad & Braized Endives

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The child of missionary parents, writing became a natural was to process my adventures across the world.

Ndjerareou means 'he who builds the road in Ngambai, Nate's tribal language spoken in Chad, Africa.

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  • The road to a friend’s house is never long.” -Danish Proverb
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Thankfully, the same is also true for family. Road trips to visit my brother and his amazing wife in Abilene have become a sweet mini-retreat in the last couple of years. We check out their latest creative endeavor—Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure at the Abilene Community Theatre @actabilene and @kacalligraphydesign latest loveliness on display at The Well.  We get some quality time and enjoy the pace of small town life. .
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Abilene has wonderful local flavor like La Popular. @lapopulartienda Don’t take my word for it, ask anyone in the line around the building and you’ll get recommendations for the menudo, breakfast burritos and pastry. Make sure you take home a stack of home made tortillas. #worththetrip #roadtrip #abilenetx #miniretreat #texas #lapopular #abilienecommunitytheatre #familymakethebestfriends #sistersinlove #changeofpace #changeofscenery #bigskycountry #neverstopexploring #neverstopadventuring #changeyourperspective #trysomethingdifferent #eatlocal
  • “I’m outdoorsy, I like to drink wine on the patio.” -Unknown .
My husband calls it “porch therapy” we love a great spot to people watch, connect and share something tasty. Magnolia Avenue just opened an inviting new spot (formerly the barbershop.) Tapas, drinks, pizza. Look for movies playing outside, coffee and churros in the evening in the cute little out building (Saint Sofia) Great for dates & families (or family playdates;) Well done @lazonafw .
#porchtherapy #hotelmadrid #lazona #magnoliaavenue #lazonafw #fortworth #latergram #springintx #churros #coffee
  • Dreaming together is pure romance for me. Adventure is simply a hasty, impromptu or well planned dream being realized. .
My husband is an executor, I’m the dreamer. As the stakes grow high in life and misadventures mark our path, it’s easy to give up dreaming. To lick our wounds, protect what we care about and stop working our dreaming muscles. .
Recently, as I dusted off a dream that had lost it’s luster, gotten beat up and frustrating. Nate got a far away look in his eyes. It would have been easy to think he was tired of hearing my swan song of imagination. 13 years of marriage and I’ve learned to trust that look. I hold my breath in anticipation. It’s the look of a dream being realized, a partner buttressing my hope with belief and support. .
Today, I’m grateful for the courage to keep dreaming, for a man who needs my hair brained ideas to bring his life color and still jumps into the unknown with me. From our battle weary hearts to yours- keep dreaming my friends. .
#ndjerareoujourney #adventureawaits #daretodream #adventuretogether #neverstopexploring #neverstopadventuring #neverstopdreaming #twoarebetterthanone #dreamersneedexecutors #trustispriceless #sandollarbeach #bigsur #latergram #instatravel #happyvalentinesday #fromourheartstoyours
  • “In my life I need more faucets, less drains.” -  @katytullos .
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Overheard at my beloved Awakening Creativity Writers Group sponsored by @arthousedallas. Today we discussed critics, the ones in our heads and in our daily lives. This group is my secret weapon, a place I go to be filled up and find support through the minefield of self-expression. .
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Thank you @stircrazybakedgoods for hosting us. Cozy atmosphere,  good coffee and treats. Magnolia Ave is inspiring in any season.
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#writerslife #grateful #inspiration #creativityforthecommongood #innerlifeoftheartist #writersofinstagram #writersneedcommunity #andcoffee #magnoliaavenue #fortworth #arthousedallas #findyourtribe #fortworthcreatives @shannonreneeholt @stephaniesuire @sharibower @katefriederichs
  • My parents got their first TV EVER the night of the 1984 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. Is it any wonder I believe this should be a national holiday!
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We are Olympic ready in this house! Snacks-check. Opening ceremony bingo-check. Sushi-check. Psy playlist-check Korean BBQ-check. Crafts for kids-check (thank you Pinterest) This is my Super Bowl people! .
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In recognition of this event I started listening to Scott Hamilton’s new book. Finish First. (with Allison Fallon  @allyfallon well done) . .
#ivetrainedallyearforthis #mykidsthinkimbananas #openingceremony #2018winterolympics #usa #olypmics #instaolympics #scotthamilton #pyeongchang2018 #familynight #raisethemright #itsmysuperbowl
  • My heart's been poured into a lime green composition book this year. On the page my morning laments morph into simple requests giving them life with pen and ink. Their stark presence on the page invite Christ in, begs for hope, simple in its naked reality. It’s an admission of need, a request for participation, a waiting. .
Restoration begins when we admit we’re broken. This year that meant very simple confessions. Repentance followed in basic prayers of need. Lord, what do I do with this? . 
Seeking renewal one quiet morning at a time has opened my heart to a tender response that is offered in unexpected places. It moves my soul because I admit I’m seeking.  My requests focus my hearing and tune my heart for the whispered word of guidance.  In a tender gathering over coffee I weep to hear I’m not alone, a friend is made, a note is written; a wise person recommends a book, a tool or a prayer. . 
Today is about keeping my promise to myself. A simple prayer to seek His face. His response has been tender, personal and relevant. Seeking restoration means walking through the wreckage of your apathy, poor choices and tainted beliefs.
It’s living honestly, bending and serving, admitting my frailty, nourishing my body.
Seeking his leading one day at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time.
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#renewal #inspiration #ndjerareoujourney #graytonbeach #journaling #prayersforrenewal #writersofinstagram #writerslife #florida #healing #keepingmypromisetomyself
  • “No.” is a complete sentence.” Anne Lamott.  It’s a privilege to be my children’s mom. To hold their hands, listen to their fears, correct homework, find socks, turn their dreams into piano practice and robotics camp, nudge their friendships and feed their bodies, souls and spirits. As my oldest nears her teenage years I realize time is flying and these central tasks of my life will be over in a heartbeat. This year I made a list of all the needs that were on my plate and I prayed for the courage to cross off the ones that could survive without me. Honestly, only one really got a clean line through it. One idea I’ll leave for another year and another season. But this permission to be less gave me the gift of space. A little room in the schedule to seek wholeness, find renewal.
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#breathe #ndjerareoujourney #renew #restore #motherhood #thehardestjobyoulleverlove #thebestyes #longdaysshortyears
  • Breathe . . .It’s a simple word with a powerful intention.  Gone are the long lists of resolutions, gone are the goals and the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of lists and plans. There are grocery lists, to do lists, lists of things to buy, phone calls to make and bills to pay. My lists are typically much longer than my days. .
This year I refuse to be defined by these lists. These lists do not prove my worth, my importance, my contribution. All those lists have helped me discover is that the longer my list the tighter the pain in my chest. I keep lists out of necessity because there are many demands on a day, many objectives in a week. It’s an essential part of being a mother, wife, writer, friend. .
 Restoration now sits prominently on my list. This year was birthed in a deficit and it’s very clear that there needs to be room for being filled up, being fed, caring for my soul, body and heart in ways that honors God and brings life to my family. So today I choose to simply breathe. . .
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Mathew 6:25-20 .
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 #considerthelillies #breathe #seekgod #seekrenewal #ndjerareoujourney #writersofinstagram #momlife #write #restore #faith #inspire