Charity Logo

Charity Logo

Charity of the Month


In December I am riding for Heifer International. Founded in 1944, Heifer International works with communities around the world to end hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Its approach is more than a handout. Heifer provides animals (e.g., heifers, goats, water buffalos, chickens, rabbits, fish, and bees) and training to impoverished people in over 30 countries. The animals can give milk, meat, or eggs; provide draft power; or form the basis of a small business. Communities make their own decisions about what crops, animals, and market strategies make sense for their everyday conditions and experiences.

Heifer International is based on 12 Cornerstones, such as Sustainability; Genuine Need and Justice; and Gender and Family Focus. Perhaps the best known Cornerstone is Passing on the Gift, in which Heifer recipient families pass on the offspring of their animals to others in need. In this way, whole communities can raise their standard of living.

A donation to Heifer International also can make a wonderful alternative holiday gift. Instead of yet another sweater for Grandma that she really doesn’t need, why not donate a Heifer animal or a share of an animal in her honor? Does your child really need so many new toys? Instead of five new toys, give him/her three new toys and a Heifer flock of chicks. Heifer has honor cards to let your loved ones know of your gift on their behalf.

I have set up a Team Heifer page to support Heifer International through A Year of Centuries. My goal is to raise $500. Please make your donation through If you would like more information about Heifer’s work, please visit Whether you give to honor a loved one or make a regular donation, thank you for taking steps to transform the world for the better.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tour de France Dinner

I don’t need much of an excuse to celebrate.  Life is a celebration!  Robert and I enjoy an adult beverage just about every evening, and we always start with a toast.  We might toast something as big as a holiday or some good news.  Or we might toast something as small as the day’s bicycle ride or the first fresh peaches of the season, which really are big things when you think about it.

The Tour de France is cause for celebration at our house.  One of the three grand tours along with the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelte a España, the Tour de France is the pinnacle of cycling.  It’s mind blowing to see what these professional cyclists can do day after day for three weeks.  The non-cyclist might have some appreciation for the Tour, but any semi-serious amateur cyclist has so much more awareness of just how grueling and spectacular the Tour de France is.

We used to subscribe to the largest channel package available from our satellite TV provider just because that was the only way we could get the channel that carried the Tour de France.  We now have access to a different provider that allows us Tour coverage with a smaller channel package.  These days we also can watch the Tour on the Internet.  Either way, I know exactly where to find Robert during most of July.  If he’s not at work or on his own bicycle, he’s watching the Tour de France.  Occasionally, he works on his bicycle while watching the Tour de France:

Doesn't everyone pump up their bicycle tires in the den?

Besides cycling, something else I greatly enjoy is cooking.  About 10 years ago I was obsessed with cooking theme meals.  I did everything from garlic to the Beatles to entropy – 106 theme meals in all, which I compiled into a self-published cookbook entitled Bean’s Theme Meals and Other Convivial Vittles.  Even now, I come up with a new theme every once in a while.  So, it’s not surprising that a few years ago I decided to cook a special Tour de France dinner for Robert and me.  It was so much fun that I had to do it again the next year and the next, and now it’s a yearly tradition that I look forward to every July.  With the 100th Tour de France being this year, tonight’s Tour de France dinner was an especially special celebration!  By the way, the Tour de France is actually more than 100 years old; the first one was in 1903.  However, this is the 100th year that the Tour has been raced because it did not occur in 1915-1918 during World War I or in 1940-1946 during World War II.

I cook a particular dish for our Tour de France dinner: Poulet a la Basquaise.  The recipe came from my sister, who speaks fluent French.  It’s a rustic dish of chicken and vegetables, served over rice.  I especially love the tarragon in it, one of the few recipes I regularly make with this very French herb.  Poulet a la Basquaise was already a favorite of mine before I started making it for our Tour de France dinner.  Then I realized just how appropriate it is for this celebration.  The name of the recipe translates to “chicken in the Basque style.”  For a long time I’ve been fascinated with the Basque region, which straddles France and Spain.  It has a unique culture, separate from both countries, and it even has its own language that is unrelated to the Indo-European languages that surround it.  A famous Basque team, called Euskaltel, races in the Tour de France every year, and I always pull for their riders.  Robert even got us Euskaltel cycling kits!  So, I don my Euskaltel jersey for cooking and eating Poulet a la Basquaise at our Tour de France dinner.  Also, Robert and I have renamed the dish to Euskaltel Chicken.

In addition to Euskaltel Chicken, I serve a mixed green salad with Dijon mustard vinaigrette.  This year I even tossed in a few fresh blueberries that I picked earlier today!  (Picking blueberries at a nearby farm is another annual celebration of mine.)  We also have a hot, crusty baguette.  And it wouldn’t be a proper Tour de France dinner without some champagne.  Actually, we go with less expensive sparkling wine from California, but it’s delicious nonetheless.

Finally, there’s dessert.  In the years that others have joined us at our Tour de France dinner, I have made a simple yet outstanding recipe called Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding with Bourbon Ice Cream Sauce.  Yes, it’s as good as it sounds.  Since it was just Robert and me this year, I made a different wonderful treat, Chocolate Éclair Dessert.  Chocolate éclairs are one of the greatest things that the French have given to the world, and this is a light and easy version.  I paid tribute to this year’s centennial Tour by placing candles on top of it that were arranged in a "100":

Because this year the Tour began on Robert’s birthday, I got him a special 100th Tour de France gift.  It’s a jersey from Rapha, a company that makes very good cycling clothing and sponsors Sky, one of this year’s top teams in the Tour.  They came up with a design denoting each of the 100 years of the Tour de France.  It’s a mosaic pattern that includes symbols representing the Tour winners and their countries.  Robert wore his navy blue Rapha jersey for our dinner.

When I ordered the jersey for him, I couldn’t resist getting something for myself, too.  I got a neck scarf with the same special mosaic design.  I didn’t actually wear the scarf tonight because it clashed with my Euskaltel jersey, but I put it out for decoration:

Vive le Tour!

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