For anyone who’s feeling sad to miss being able to celebrate with friends and family this Memorial Day Weekend, I would like to remind us ( because I’m among this group) that Memorial Day was established as a day to mourn for and honor the valiant soldiers who have given their lives to keep our country free for the past 150+ years!
While exploring France a few years ago, we traveled to Cricqueville-en-Bessin, Lower Normandy, France so we could visit the Musée Mémorial Bataille de Normandie . . . the museum and monuments commemorating the battles of Normandy during World War 2.
I was born just five years after the war ended in Europe, but in America, nobody was really talking about the war. People were intent on trying to forget and rebuild their lives.
I think this was actually impossible, but because the war was mostly fought on foreign soil, and our guys were mostly buried overseas, the terrible scars and unending need for rebuilding was not as obvious.
Therefore, it meant all the more to me to be able to visit the Musée Mémorial Bataille de Normandie, with its vast storehouse of information about D-Day and the war to free Normandy, France from the Nazis.
The day we visited was immensely foggy and dreary . . . it couldn’t have been more somber or fitting.
If ever you’re tempted to start a war (even with your beloved family members), please stop and do a little research into the horrible effects and unforgettable sorrows you will inflict—not only on others, but also on yourself. There are ultimately NO winners in a war.
There will be the victors and the heroes . . . we actually got to meet one the day we visited. But, I feel certain that had I asked him, he would have wished the world had been able to contain and overcome the threat of world dictatorship without the terrible personal, national, and international losses.
However, I would also guess that until God causes wars to cease, people and nations will continue being willing to sacrifice their lives to fight for the freedoms they believe to be their God-given rights. It’s the ultimately difficult job, but I am grateful for every person who serves in our military—and for every military that protects the rights of their people to live peaceable, quiet, godly lives. Thank you, soldiers, and “Hats Off!” to my son and his family (serving in the military) as well. May God bless and protect you all.
“Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:8-10). Oh Lord, we wait on you to bring an end to wars forever! “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
Crème Brûlée is one of those dishes you never forget once you’ve tasted it! What’s not to love about creamy custard with a caramelized sugar coating?
Everywhere we traveled through France, there were amazing desserts, but even though Crème Brûlée is simple, always the same, and almost a “staple,” it’s such a classic taste that it’s pretty irresistible.
So, if you’d like to create your own irresistible dessert that’s so mild everyone from your toothless great granny down to your toothless six-month old will love it, try this!
Irresistible Crème Brûlée (Serves 6)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Place 6 ramekins in a baking dish on the counter. Prepare a tea kettle full of boiling water.
Next, in a saucepan, heat: 2 cups heavy whipping cream until starting to bubble at edges (just below simmering)
While the cream is heating, in a stainless steel mixing bowl, whisk together: 6 egg yolks 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla
When the cream is hot, add it slowly to the egg mixture, blending until uniformly mixed.
Next, pour the custard evenly into the 6 ramekins.
Carefully pour the boiling water from your teapot (or whatever) into the bottom of the baking dish so that it is just about as deep as the dishes full of the cream mixture. (This will make the pan super hot, so have it on a cutting board or some other heat resistant surface, and use hot pads when you transfer it into the oven.) Place the baking dish in the hot oven on the top rack and bake for 35 minutes at 325°F or until the mixture is starting to set but is still jiggly in the middle.
Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Remove the ramekins from the water and allow them to cool completely, then place them in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly (which takes about 2 hours hours; overnight also works fine, but then cover them after they’re cold).
(This is a bit of an aside, but when I have a little extra and bake it in the oven without the benefit of its being in a bath of boiling water, it tastes almost as creamy, although there’s a bit of a drier edge—as pictured above. So, to be a true gourmet, I think you do need the baby as well as the bath water!)
Shortly before serving them (or before you serve dinner if they are to be your dessert), turn on your broiler oven to heat up, preparing a top rack that’s about 6 inches beneath the broiler unit.
Then, sprinkle the tops of the chilled creme evenly with a mixture made from: 2 tablespoons brown sugar 2 tablespoon white sugar
Place the ramekins under the broiler and let them broil for 2-4 minutes, or until all the sugar melts and starts to turn a golden brown. (This is the hardest part, so watch the sugar like a hawk. It can go from crystalized to burnt in a minute!)
Remove immediately and return them to the refrigerator so the crème brûlée cools and the sugar resolidifies and becomes brittle (which usually takes 15+ minutes if you can stand to wait that long. For this reason, I recommend completing the crème brûlées before dinner. They’ll survive an hour in the fridge and still taste perfect). If you’re really into making crème brûlée, you can buy a kitchen torch to melt the sugar, but I bought one that never worked very well, and so I’ve reverted to the broiler method, which is less precise but certainly simple! 🙂 They don’t call it “burnt” cream for nothing!!
It’s pretty much perfect ungarnished, although you can always add a few fresh berries and a touch of whipping cream to make it look especially gourmet!
To eat it, you have to crack the top with your spoon and then scoop out a little of the creme with a little of the sugar brittle topping. Also, if your ramekins are shallow with a greater surface area than the ones I use, then you might want to use 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 of white.
“To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever” (Psalm 30:12).
May 8, 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe—a national holiday in France. Last week I shared with you a little bit about Jérôme, the french catechist who loves Jesus. In corresponding about VE-Day celebrations, Jérôme reminded me that “after war comes peace.”
What a comforting reminder for each of us during this season of world-wide unrest and “war” on COVID! Someday—we don’t know when—there will be peace again.
During our trip to France, I was touched over and over again by seeing this lived out in nature. All along the Normandy Coast, wildflowers and soothing fields of green grasses and moss were softening the terrain . . . overcoming destruction with beauty.
Did you know that “peace” is mentioned 420 times in the Bible? Something about the quiet glory of wildflowers taking root in rubble and along the rugged cliff sides made me think of peace.
Peace can come to our hearts if we will open them to God’s Holy Spirit and allow him to quiet us. In this light, please let me share a few wildflowers from France and a handful of my favorite verses on peace from the Bible:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . . A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,8).
“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).
“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).
“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:11).
“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace” (Psalm 37:37).
“He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me” (Psalm 55:18).
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
“Love the truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19).
“Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10).
“And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever” (Isaiah 32:17).
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).
“In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth” (Psalm 72:7).
“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).
I was never much of a fan of mussels until Alan and I visited the Normandy Coast in France a few years ago with two of our sons.
Along the boardwalk in Étretat, mussels were obviously the top seller and most popular local dish, so we all thought we really ought to try them. Feeling a bit like Dr. Seuss’s Sam I Am testing green eggs and ham, we tried them . . . and unilaterally LOVED them!
Since then, we’ve tried them many places, although the memory of first experience with those amazing pots of steaming mussels lived on in our imaginations as something almost inimitable.
Because we live in the center of America—far from ocean beaches—it’s taken me a long time to get around to tracking down a reputable source for mussels, but they do exist, and if you’re interested, you, too, can make pots of fresh, steamy mussels that (possibly?) come close to rivaling the flavor of Normandy.
(Or else I just can’t remember how much more wonderful they really were). If you’ve tried mussels and like them, then try this sometime:
Steamed Garlic Mussels (Serves 2)
In the bottom of a large cooking pot saute: 3 tablespoons of butter 1 chopped onion 2 tablespoons fresh, crushed garlic 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper When the onions and garlic are nicely browned, add: 2 cups white grape juice, apple juice (or traditional if you’re french, which I’m not, white wine) 1 teaspoon seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s, but whatever you have is good) 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 zested lemon (or you can use a lime in a pinch) 1 teaspoon crushed, dried parsley (or 1/2 cup fresh added just before serving, if you have fresh, which is truly delectable 🙂 ) Bring to a simmer
Add 2 pounds of prepared mussels. (Yes, each person gets their own entire pound. In France, they often served them in even larger proportions!) If the mussels are really fresh, you’ll have to clean and de-beard them, and then cook them in salt water. However, if you buy mussels that have already been cooked, cleaned, and flash frozen, then prepare them according to the directions on the package. Once they are cooked, add them to the broth above and let them simmer for 2-3 minutes. If most of the shells are already open, you can add the broth and turn the heat off, allowing the flavorings to meld with the mussels. Test to make sure they’re salty enough, although they probably will be if they were cooked originally in salted water. Add more salt only if needed.
Steamed mussels are also great in pasta, served over rice, or with french fries.
However, we like them just on their own merit, with lots of bread to sop up the broth (which is delicious; consider it a “soup”).
“And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them” (Genesis 6:21). “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things” (Genesis 9:3).
Images of Étretat, France have been playing in my brain for 38 years—this image in particular! Do you recognize it? It’s from Epcot’s utterly captivating Impressions de France movie, which began playing on opening day back in 1982 (when our family was young) and now holds the Guinness World Record for the “longest running daily screening of a film in the same theater.” There was always something wistfully romantic about this elderly couple meandering along the cliffs beneath a stormy sky . . . the spire of an old stone church above them and the immortal beauty of Monet’s chalky cliffs below. It made me think of my parents, who were about that age, and conjured up images of peace and endurance . . . God, man, and nature in harmony despite the looming clouds and darkness coming on.
So, when we toured France with our two youngest sons a few years ago, Étretat made it into the list of “must sees”. . . and has remained in my heart as one of our “best sees!”
Étretat is a tiny “commune” (French, but we’d call it a village in English) of fewer than 1,300 people.
Étretat is best known for the 300-foot chalk cliffs, graceful arches, and magnificent hiking path. The area was made especially famous by Claude Monet (and other prominent french painters and authors) and retains the atmosphere of a quaint beach resort.
Étretat’s other claim to fame is as the last place in France where “The White Bird” (a 1927 biplane) was last seen. Two World War I war heroes were attempting the first ever non-stop from Paris to New York City, but the plane disappeared over the Atlantic and was never recovered—continuing as one of aviation’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
The morning we arrived was as overcast and grey as the evening scene in The Impressions of France.
The cliffs were enshrouded with low-hanging clouds of mist.
We explored the beaches and walkways above and through the cliffs.
Although we knew that the coast of Normandy had been occupied by the Nazis during World War II, I hadn’t realized that their fortifications extended to Étretat.
How many of their sons lost their lives during the raging wars?
I couldn’t help but consider that the elderly couple in The Impressions de France movie would most likely have lived through both World War I and World War II, just like my own parents.
Although our sons kindly refused to acknowledge that Alan and I have become that elderly couple in The Impressions de France, I couldn’t help but sense that in 38 years, we’ve gone from being a young couple in the midst of having children . . . to an elderly couple on the verge of retirement! We haven’t had to live through nearly as much heartache and world destruction as our parents did, but we are heading into a storm during the twilight years of our life— a world war of disease. As of this morning, there are 4,387,438 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with 298,392 deaths, and I think before the year is out, these numbers may seem insignificantly small.
Still, my hope and prayer is that our beautiful world will come through the storms intact. May the Lord have mercy on us and heal us. May we find peace to endure and harmony with God and nature as we pilgrim on. May our heavenly father cause his son’s shine to burn off the misty shrouds of death! And, for those who can’t walk along the mountain top but are forced to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, may the Lord cast long golden beams of light to brighten your way.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:1-4).
Although Crêpes Suzette were popular in France over 100 years ago (and even 60 years ago when I was a budding wanna be cheffette),
I think in the past 10-15 years crêpes have crept from the Continent (of Europe)—likely aboard luxury cruise liners—across the Atlantic
and are now on trend in American menus!
In France four years ago, we were delighted to find little storefront crêperies everywhere vending both savory and sweet crêpes as fast food options—both as meals or for snacks.
It was with great relish that our team stopped to test both types, carrying them off to a local park to savor for our picnic lunch.
However, I was more than impressed to see that there are now crêperies springing up in Michigan, not only in Lansing (our capital), but even in our tiny little hometown in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, right across from the Soo Locks!
How fun is that? Of course, we had to stop in for breakfast the next morning after we visited the Soo Locks!
We sampled everything from their “Farmer” (stuffed with egg, bacon, spinach, tomato, cheddar, and hash browns) to a traditional Nutella and strawberry crêpe . . .
and even their “Birthday Cake” which included cream cheese frosting, waffle bits, and sprinkles.
Now, just for the record, I’ve been making crêpes for years, and they’re not really very hard to make, so I think it’s time to share what I’ve learned over the years!
The hardest part is to make the batter light enough. I’ll give you two recipes. The first is the “legit” way to make them, but I’m usually running behind so usually “cheat” by using pancake mix, which seems to taste and crisp just as well. The traditional method also includes letting the batter rest for a half an hour (or two . . . or even overnight, if you’re really organized and able to run ahead of schedule). If you have time, great! If you don’t have time to let it rest (and how many of us have time even to rest ourselves at such times as we’re likely to go to the fuss of making crêpes?), then you can do what I do and just whip up the batter and spread in on your hot, well buttered pan.
Option One (Traditional)
In a mixing bowl, whisk together: 1 cup flour 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 large eggs 1 cup milk 1/3 cup water 3 tablespoons melted butter
Non-Traditional (but quick and easy) Crêpe Batter
In a mixing bowl, whisk together: 1 cup pancake mix 1.5 cups milk 2 eggs 3 tablespoons melted butter (When I make batter for savory crêpes, which is what I posted above, I often substitute 3 tablespoons of bacon drippings for the melted butter and sometimes add bacon bits)
The second hardest part is learning how to spread the batter thin enough and cook them fast enough and hot enough to make them very light and crispy without burning them. Professionals have large, smooth cooking surfaces with no edges, but most of us mortals can’t afford such a luxury. However, having a batter spreader is very crucial to success and a luxury almost any of us can afford.
“Fearless Leader” (as I affectionately dubbed our church team leader during our trip to France) went to great pains to help me find this simple tool, which was not (at least four years ago) sold commonly in kitchen stores in America but goes for 1E everywhere in France and can be bought very inexpensively from Amazon now as long as you know what search for: “crêpe batter spreader.”
If you have a flat, 9″ cast-iron skillet, that’s ideal, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Start by making sure the entire surface area of the skillet is lavished with butter (that has melted). Over medium heat, pour about 1/4 cup of mix onto the steamy surface, smoothing the batter out as much as possible, and fry the crêpe until it bubbles, which should only take about a minute. If you want your batter a bit thinner (and this one above is pushing the edge of too thick), you can add just a touch of water as needed.
Once the batter bubbles, loosen the edges with a spatula and flip the crêpe over. As you can see, I didn’t do a very professional job of flipping mine, and it didn’t end up centered properly, but in a few seconds you can usually coax it back into a more centered position. Also, make sure your pan is squarely over the heat. The far edge of this one was not equally close to the center of the fire so was underdone.
Making crêpes “hot and now” is really a full-time job, so it’s great if you can pursuade someone into being your sous chef. Thankfully, my son is an excellent cook in his own right and always willing to help, so while I pump out the crêpes, he fills and serves them. If you have to work alone, you can stack them with parchment paper in between and keep them in a warm oven, but I can’t make oodles of these fast enough for a sit-down breakfast so prefer serving them one kid/adult at a time, as they emerge from their sleepy beds. (If it’s just Alan, Joel, and I, we can make enough quickly to sit and eat together.)
Although you need to prepare your fillings first so that all the meats and veggies are fully cooked (just keep the pan covered and warm while you make your crêpes), I’m going to discuss the fillings last, because you fill the crêpe hot off the press if possible. This one has sausage, cheese, red peppers, mushrooms, onions, and potatoes, but the options are legion and depend totally on your taste and what you have on hand.
Just think ahead about what you want to use so that it’s fully cooked or else ready to be added. Any meat, veg, or cheese that you enjoy in an omelet will taste great served in a savory crêpe!
The other super popular types of crêpe are the sweet ones. On cruise ships, you can usually pick your own toppings. The morning I took this photo, I added Nutella (almost a staple in Western Europe), cherries, blueberries, and whipping cream.
I’m a huge van of all things sweet, but if you think you should have some protein, you can always add it as a side (or an under!). 🙂
Or, you can make crêpes as a “part” of a balanced breakfast, along with eggs and bacon (or whatever).
For sweet crêpes, my grandchildren’s favorite is the one above, but whatever you like on toast can work: not only Nutella but peanut butter and all sorts of jams (or fresh fruit, which will stick nicely in the Nutella or peanut butter).
If you haven’t tried making crêpes yet, I hope this inspires you to try . . .
or at least to look around for a local crêpe shop where you can stop by for a bite!
If this is new to you, start easy, but have lots of fun!
The Doxology (Written by Thomas Ken in 1674)
“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below; Praise Him above ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.” —G.K. Chesterton
“Heroism doesn’t always happen in a burst of glory.
Sometimes small triumphs and large hearts change the course of history.”—Mary
“On Memorial Day, I
don’t want to only remember the combatants. There were also those who came out
of the trenches as writers and poets, who started preaching peace, men and women
who have made this world a kinder place to live.” —Eric Burdon
not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as
well as strong.”—James Bryce
“137 years later, Memorial Day remains one of America’s most
cherished patriotic observances. The spirit of this day has not changed-it
remains a day to honor those who died defending our freedom and democracy.”
“Over all our happy country—over all our Nation spread, Is a band of noble heroes—is our Army of the Dead.” —Will Carleton
“The brave die never, though they sleep in dust, their courage nerves a thousand living men.”—Minot J. Savage
“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”—Franklin D. Roosevelt
“No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.”—General Douglas MacArthur
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that
the highest appreciation is not to utter the words, but to live by them.”
—John F. Kennedy
“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right in America.” —William J. Clinton
“Veterans are a symbol of what makes our nation great, and
we must never forget all they have done to ensure our freedom.”—Rodney
“May we never forget freedom isn’t free.”—Unknown
“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (—Jesus, in the Bible, John 15:13).
What a Friend We Have in Jesus (—Joseph M. Scriven, 1855, Public Domain)
What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer! Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged— Take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden, Cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge— Take it to the Lord in prayer. Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer! In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear; May we ever, Lord, be bringing All to Thee in earnest prayer. Soon in glory bright, unclouded, There will be no need for prayer— Rapture, praise, and endless worship Will be our sweet portion there.
(I took all the photos in May of 2016 during a trip to Normandy, France.)