Chunky Pear Nut Cake
One of my first blog posts where crepes filled with goat cheese and mushrooms. I will make them for my niece you came to visit me from Germany.
Chunky Pear Nut Cake
A moist and delicious cake, easy to make and flavored with spices and juicy pears.
These days I wander around grocery stores like I used to wander around clothing stores. In Santa Cruz we are fortunate to have several grocery stores that carry a wide variety of healthy food. I have my favorite stores and several Farmer's Markets to chose from. We have some great bakeries and delicatessens. I feel spoiled when I look at all the choices I have. I like my food not enriched or altered with unnecessary chemicals and additives. I also like to know where my food is coming from. I trust some stores more than others. One of the reason I don't bake as much as I used to is that it is just so tempting to get something very tasty from my favorite places. But there are times when I need to have something homemade on my kitchen counter like this moist and easy to make pear cake.
The credit for this well loved cake goes to Gale Gand, a nationally acclaimed pastry chef from Illinois. I found her recipe in an old magazine years ago and have been making it when pears are in season. However, this cake is easily made with any other fruit and whatever nuts you have in the pantry. I roast my nuts and like using pecans instead of walnuts. The spices in the recipe add a distinct flavor and are well balanced. I also reduced the amount of sugar by one third. I use canola oil but any vegetable oil will do. The cake is flavorful, moist and tastes even better the next day.
One of my first blog posts where crepes filled with goat cheese and mushrooms. I will make them for my niece you came to visit me from Germany.
Jägerschnitzel or Breaded Pork Cutlet with Mushroom Sauce
The Schnitzel is a boneless piece of meat, thinned with a meat tenderizer, coated with flour, beaten eggs and bread crumbs, and then fried.
By adding a mushroom sauce a schnitzel becomes a Jägerschnitzel. There are many versions of the Jägerschnitzel or hunter's cutlet in Germany and Austria.
I'm back home here in my beautiful costal town in California, but my thoughts are often in Germany, my other home. As I reflect on my mother’s recent passing, memories are resurfacing from my childhood. On our farm, Sunday was always a day of rest. No one was supposed to work on Sunday, except for chores like feeding the animals. And then there was the Sunday lunch, the most special meal of the week. Lunch was the big hot meal of the day, like an American dinner. During the week, the lunches were stews and simple meals, but on Sundays things were different. There were puddings for desert, maybe a clear broth for soup to begin with, followed a main course of a meat roast, a chicken or duck, or pork chops made into schnitzels, which is my favorite.
I think the schnitzel was invented by a very clever cook to double the size of the pork chops—by pounding them and coating them in eggs and breadcrumbs. The French and Italians use the same method in their recipes. The schnitzel is similar to the French dish escalope and scallopini in Italian. To enrich the dish, sauces were invented. If the schnitzel has a mushroom sauce, it is called Jägerschnitzel (Jäger means hunter). When the sauce is made with peppers, it becomes a Zigeunerschnitzel (a gypsy schnitzel). In my recipe, I combined the mushrooms and peppers to make a flavorful sauce. I had the leftover sauce with baked spaghetti squash and it was delicious. I can imagine serving it over different grains. I just like to add vegetables whenever I can. If you don't have time to make the sauce, the breaded schnitzel is good by itself, served with a good beer, a salad and some bread.
This is a Jägerschnitzel I had in Germany prepared by a Michelin starred chef in her restaurant. She served it with fried potatoes.
If you want to stay with the German Theme try this Apple Strudel Cake . I have been baking this cake as long as I can remember.
Potato Pancakes (Kartoffelpuffer)
My blogging buddy, Cecilia, from the Kitchengarden blog has asked me to share a story from my family farm in Germany, as well as a recipe for German potato pancakes. I have to make a confession though: I have never made potato pancakes before. Oh, I have eaten them a hundred times—at my mother’s, at friends’ houses, and at those little outdoor stands in Germany that you find in every town or carnival. The problem is, I can't stop eating them once I start. These crunchy, crispy pancakes are downright addictive. My favorites are the ones that my mom used to make with her homemade applesauce. She would feed crowds with them. I would ask her for the recipe, and she would say, “Well you grate the potatoes, put onions in them if you have them, and add some flour, eggs, and salt and pepper.” "How much mom?” I would ask. “Well, until it looks right,” she would say.
My mom seldom used measurements to cook. Some of my German friends use potato starch as a thickener and some use flour. Some drain the potatoes and use the leftover potato starch at the bottom of the bowl. Like I said before, I like to eat them with applesauce but have also eaten them with sauce made from quark (a German fresh cheese made from buttermilk), lox and creme fraîche or as a side with different dishes. I use Yukon potatoes, because they remind me of potatoes that are grown in Germany.
What else is happening in my kitchen? Blood oranges are in season at our farmer's market right now and I love my homemade orange marmalade. The other day, I made a double batch and used half the sugar that my recipe calls for. The consistency of it was much softer, especially the orange peel, and it has a tart, almost bitter flavor. I like both versions and plan on making a third batch experimenting with the amount of sugar.
You probably are wondering, "Why is she posting about turkey in January?) I just couldn't wait until the next holiday to write about these great enchiladas I made after I got back from my mom's funeral in Germany. They were real comfort food that I needed badly.
On December 23, the day before I left for Germany, I roasted my organic turkey and it turned out juicy and very tasty. I put a butter herb mixture under the skin, massaged the outside of bird with more melted butter and put some herbs, a lemon, and an onion inside the cavity. I used the convection roast setting on the oven and basted the turkey with chicken broth and melted butter. I usually dry rub my turkey, but had no time to do so. My husband and I had an early Christmas dinner and I left him the next day with a lot of turkey.
After feeding friends and family, he froze the leftover meat and now we are back to my enchiladas. Most of you will have finished whatever turkey leftovers you had a while ago. Since chicken and turkey are close relatives, you can easily substitute chicken for the turkey. I had too many enchiladas for the sauce. I used a can of green chili sauce for the three extra enchiladas. If you want this to be an easy and fast dinner, use canned sauce altogether. Use a rotisserie chicken instead of the turkey. The almonds add a nice crunch to the enchiladas and the salsa and sauce add flavor and taste. These enchiladas make great leftovers.
My mom passed away on Christmas Eve, peacefully surrounded by her family in Germany (I was on my way). She had fallen the day before on December 23 and broke her hip. There was talk of operating, but a day later my mom (and her body) decided that it was time to go. She would have been 92 in January; we all miss her.
She was one of the fortunate Germans of her generation who lived in the same place all her life. Her family, especially her children, were the most important part of her life. My brother and I were raised with love, always knowing that we could return home at any time. Home was a large farm in a small village in the middle of Germany. My mom was an intelligent and strong woman with a keen sense of justice that was remarkable. She was well loved and respected by the people around her. She was an environmentalist long before it became fashionable — no water, electricity or any other resource was ever wasted. She formed an especially strong bond with my niece, who both loved each other very much. There are so many stories and anecdotes to tell and I hope to write them all down eventually. I just returned from Germany this week, and have to adjust to my new life without my daily calls and frequent visits to see her. I already miss her presence in my life very much.
I would like to thank all my blogger friends for the comforting words I received.
When I was in Germany, we watched an old film of my brother’s wedding. It was soothing to see all of us decades ago when we were younger. Part of the wedding menu was a wedding soup (Hochzeitssuppe). My German family loves it, so the next day I made the soup for them. It was nourishing and well liked, and I promise I will post the recipe. In the meantime, I needed a nourishing soup that was easy to make and healthy. My Creamy Vegetable Soup with Bay Shrimp fits the bill. The celeriac root adds so much richness that you don’t really need cream. I added some low-fat milk, but even that is not necessary. Thank you again for all your support and love you sent my way.
A healthy and tasty treat
I have made these chunky nut and chocolate bars for years. They are easy to make, no cooking is required, and since they make a healthy snack, they are not just for Christmas. They look great on the cookie platter and make a nice gift. This is also a fun project to do with children. Everybody loves to lick the bowl at the end. Choose whatever is your favorite nuts and dried fruit to put into these crunchy chunks. Last year, I added pistachio nuts, raisins, dried cranberries and candied orange peel. For my latest batch, I used mixed nuts, dried figs, raisins, and crystallized ginger. The sky is the limit. I always roast the nuts unless I use pistachios.
May your holidays be peaceful and filled with love and good food
Christmas is defined by traditions. Making gingerbread houses has been one of mine.
It began years ago when a friend from school gave me the instructions how to make them. These little hand-made ornaments became an instant hit with my first graders — and from then on I had to make them every year. What I liked about them is that each child had something to take home and share. What I didn't like was having to cut graham crackers to make the houses. I don't know how many late nights I was using inappropriate language while assembling them. I made the houses for my first graders and they decorated them with pieces of candy. Each child would get a bowl with small pieces of candy, some for decorating and some for snacking, Each year, it turned into a fun and joyful activity.
After I retired from teaching, I would volunteer and often do them in different schools. Wrapped in foil and put in a zip lock bag, these gingerbread houses will last for many years. They are edible, but if you give the children enough extra candy and graham crackers, they are happy to use them for decoration. I think if you make them at home with two or three children (not 20 or more like I did in the old days), you can do all the steps with the children and have fun. While assembling the houses, make sure you add the bow for the hangers. The frosting will keep covered at room temperature for several days.
For this post, I revised the size of the gingerbread houses. I made them larger, only having to cut the gable for the roof. The graham crackers are easier to assemble and cut if you leave them unwrapped for a couple of days. Divide the candy for the children into individual bowls for each child , leaving about half for snacking.
I had planned to make them with my girlfriend's grandchildren, but it didn't work out. So here I was having to decorate them myself. Oh well, you can see the results on the photos ... need I say more? I will deliver whatever is left to my girlfriend so that she can make them later with her grandchildren. Children are so much more creative, if you just provide them with the right tools, which in this case is a lot of small candy. Some of the candy I bought was too big, so the smaller the better.
Plan on buying at least two packages of graham crackers, because a lot of them will break.
Let the children have fun! These little houses makes a precious gift for grandparents, aunts and uncles, or neighbors.
If you are still looking for a cookie recipe, my Vienna Vanilla Nut Kipferl are a wonderful treat. My Hazelnut Meringue Cookies are light and easy to make. If you want to impress people with your cooking skills for the holidays (or any other time), try my French Country Paté.
A plethora of persimmons
Here in California we are blessed with persimmons this time of the year. Originally cultivated in Japan and China for centuries, this fruit now is grown in Italy and other Mediterranean countries and here in the USA. I fell in love with them when I moved to California. They are tasty, fun to eat, and an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. I can bore you with all the nutritional facts but believe me these lovely bright orange colored fruits are loaded with all sorts of good stuff like anti-oxidants, minerals, you name it, and they taste fantastic. Persimmon season runs from November to February and it is not difficult to find somebody with a tree that is willing to share the bounty. I have several friends who always share with me. There are several varieties, in this recipe I'm using the acorn-shaped Hachiya persimmons. The Hachiya needs to be eaten when they are soft as jelly, otherwise you encounter a bitter, pucker-your-mouth effect. I usually get them when they are hard and I put them on a plate to ripen. It makes me happy when I share my home with them. I use them in smoothies or just purée them with a banana and a little lemon juice and end up with a healthy and tasty treat. Once ripened the Hayicha has a short shelf life, but they are easy to freeze by peeling and blending them in a food processor or blender with lemon juice. You will loose the beautiful orange color. I also like the smaller, rounder Fuyu persimmon which can be eaten when they feel like a hard peach. I slice them and put them in salads.
When persimmons are in season our local papers are full of recipes from pudding cake, nutted persimmons, sweet potatoes with persimmons, to persimmon chutney. I have made most of them but I'm leaving for Germany on Wednesday. I will freeze some of my ripe persimmons and hope that the ones that are not ripe will last until I return. Back to my persimmon bread, it is loved and shared with all my friends, especially those who supply me with persimmons. The different spices give it a wonderful flavor. I baked it a couple of days ago and still enjoying it, even though I forgot to add sugar. Oops or a blessing, I don't know? All my friends and even my husband who has a distinct sweet tooth enjoyed the sugarless version. I realized my mistake when I put the bread in the in the oven and sprinkled some sugar over them. I recommend you add ½ to 1 cup of sugar even though the persimmons and raisin add a natural sweetness. I also like baking them in small cake forms because they freeze well and make nice gifts. You can bake them in a regular rectangular bread form.
An easy recipe for chocolate lovers with only three tablespoons of sugar added.
We are spending some time at our cabin in the Sierras and my sister-in-law and her family are coming to dinner. My husband is barbecuing his famous rack of lamb. Usually, I make my stuffed tomatoes with them, but as we were driving up the mountain, we bought fresh corn at a food stand. It had just been picked. So the menu changed, and we are now having corn and tiny potatoes with the rack of lamb. Everything is barbecued by the Grillmeister (master of grilling) himself. That leaves me in charge of the salad and dessert. Early this morning, the woodpecker woke me up (he thinks our cabin tastes yummy). This time of the day is the best for getting halfway decent cell phone reception, so I looked for some recipes involving raspberries. I had brought some beautiful organic ones up the mountains and even after an occasional nibble, I had some left. I came upon an old Gourmet magazine that I used as a reference. I did use their tart crust recipe, but thought it could be improved. The ganache was outstanding; I used orange chocolate and my orange marmalade. The original recipe called for Kahlua or coffee-flavored liqueur, but I used creme cassis instead. Everybody loved it and ate a lot. The mountains give you a healthy appetite.
Fast forward and I'm home again. This time, instead of using a 9-inch tart form, I made individual tarts. I also used a different crust recipe. This was simpler and less sugary. I think it complements the chocolate flavor. This is not a sweet dessert. The whole recipe has only two tablespoons of sugar in the crust, as well as the sugar that was added to the chocolate. What it does have is a strong, full chocolate flavor. It is divine! If you are a chocolate lover, this recipe Is for you. It is important that you use very good-quality chocolate. I love to cook with Lindt chocolate and I found an orange dark chocolate called theo at Whole Foods. This chocolate and my orange marmalade add a citrus taste to the chocolate ganache.
Two weeks later, and I'm still not happy with my crust. Everybody liked it, but I'm on the search for the perfect crust. It’s the German in me. The second crust recipe was very easy to make, a little bit more flaky and complemented the strong chocolate flavor. I made the second crust one more time using the food processor and cooling the dough a little more before baking. Voila! I had a winner. I ran out of orange marmalade and used plum jam instead, and for the chocolate I used cherry-flavored chocolate with tiny pieces of almonds in them—very nice with a wonderful flavor and the tart is delicious without the raspberries. I just like to have a little nibble when I have a cup of tea. You will be able to make this tart in no time, yes it is easy to make.
In the old days, when you waited for an appointment at the doctor’s office or the hairdresser, you read magazines that were nicely stacked on tables. Today, there are just a few left and you wonder about germs and almost everybody is holding their electric devices playing Words with Friends or whatever. I miss those trashy magazines and still look at them if they are available, but I also play Scrabble and Words with Friends. Years ago, I found this recipe in one of those magazines and since it was an advertisement for a Sonoma wine, I ripped out the page. Normally, I ask someone to make me a copy. I found many recipes like this that are part of my cooking repertoire. Personally, I would have never thought of this recipe and the combination of ingredients. It is delicious and has a wonderful flavor with an Asian twist to it. The water chestnuts give it a nice crunch and the ginger goes well with the pork and the shiitake mushrooms. What is there not to like?! The shiitakes act as a little bowl for the pork and is a culinary delight at any party or gathering as an appetizer. Serve it on top of salad with some crusty bread, and you have a delicious lunch or light dinner.