Is there someplace in the world you’ve always wanted to visit? For me, it would be the Provence region of France. Ever since I first read A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle, I’ve dreamed of smelling lavender fields, exploring the market in Apt on a Saturday morning, and sipping a pastis cocktail in a summer courtyard filled with vibrant flowers.
This is why I fell in love with Elizabeth Bard’s Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes. While I enjoyed her first book, Lunch in Paris, where she details her move to the City of Lights and falling in love with her French husband, this second book mirrored my own dreams of being an American adapting to life in a small Provence village. Ah, the warmth. Ah, the beautiful scenery. Ah, the luscious food!
Okay, it’s the food that attracted me the most. Especially the fresh produce and cheeses. Oh, and bread still warm from the boulangerie. And, of course, the wine!
So, what does all of this dreaming of Provence have to do with my new healthier lifestyle?
My primary reason for wanting to lose weight—80 pounds down so far!—was knowing there are so many places in the world I still want to explore, like Provence. I wouldn’t be able to do it at my heaviest weight.
The reason I chose WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) was their promise I could eat the foods I loved and still lose weight. It’s not a diet you go on for a while to drop pounds. WW has changed my lifestyle to one I can live the rest of my life! And I can enjoy any food without ballooning back to my former heavy self.
It’s all about being mindful of what you’re eating.
Bard’s book is full of recipes I will spend the next few months exploring, especially when there is an abundance of produce at the farmers market this summer. In the meanwhile, I enjoyed my French “trip” through the pages of her book while being stuck at home thanks to the pandemic currently harassing our world.
I did make her Apricot and Lavender Mini Almond Cakes for Easter dessert! My pantry had a container of culinary lavender purchased for just such an occasion, and I used canned apricots since fresh aren’t in season. (FYI: One cake came to 8 points on MyWW purple plan.)
These cakes were a lovely treat for the holiday! They were also very easy to make. A perfect south-of-France indulgence to enjoy here in northeast Kansas.
Apricot and Lavender Mini Almond Cakes
Adapted from a recipe in Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard
Makes 12 mini cakes
7 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups ground almond flour (I used King Arthur brand)
1 pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon culinary lavender grains, plus a few for garnish
12 small apricot halves (I used canned, drained and patted dry with a paper towel)
Light brown sugar, for garnish
Preheat the oven for 400 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with 12 foil cupcake liners. (Must be foil because paper will stick!) Spray each liner with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whip the butter and sugar together until combined and fluffy. (I used a hand mixer.) Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Mix in the almond and vanilla extracts.
Fold in the almond flour until combined. Mix in the salt and lavender grains.
Divide the batter evenly between the 12 cupcake liners, about 1 1/2 tablespoons per liner. Lightly press one apricot half, skin-side down, into each cup, followed by a small pinch of brown sugar. Top with 2 or 3 grains of lavender. (Be careful not to go overboard with the lavender or the cakes will taste like soap.)
Place the muffin tin into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and set on a wire rack to cool. Serve with whipped cream.