Christmas and the New Year are just around the corner. Since we can’t have our usual Christmas activities with friends and family maybe this is the time and the year to enjoy some peace and quiet, to be reflective, to light a candle and find things that make us happy.
I am trying!
I am decorating the house for myself (my husband and son could care less) by putting up a few things that weren’t stored in the attic. I bought some new things at a local store just to support them. Several nights ago, I watched the sunset with my German girlfriend who lives next door. We shared some Glühwein (mulled hot wine) and we had fun sitting in her garden. I am trying out some new cookie recipes and was pleased with these apricot chocolate biscotti. It is a real treat to dip one of them into my morning coffee or afternoon tea. The biscotti are chewy with the fruity flavor of apricots and orange flavored semisweet chocolate. I am happy to add them to my baking arsenal and make them again.
These little gingerbread house ornaments make a great project for children. A warning though, cutting the graham crackers for the tiny house ornaments can test your patience.
I am contemplating making my French country pâté, giving a little to my friends and freezing some. Instead of taking it to a party I can have it for lunch.
If you are looking for cookie recipes, here some suggestions: gluten free hazelnut meringue cookies, or Basler Brünsli, made with chocolate, almonds and some Christmas spices.
My mini muffins with blueberries are a little labor intensive but oh so good. They are my son’s favorite.
For this recipe I used unsulfured dried apricots that were soft. I love orange flavored chocolate but any other semi-sweet chocolate would be fine. Both, the butter and the eggs should be at room temperature.The biscotti are easy to make but it takes some time to bake them twice. Make sure you don’t burn them. If you want more chocolate, dip one half of the biscotti into melted chocolate. I didn't do that. They will keep in a tin for several weeks.
Its been a while since I posted and I do apologize. After breaking my ankle in Budapest, my spunk and motivation left me. During my recovery, I was entertained by your blogs and reading them helped me a great deal. Speaking of recovery, I am walking again and I am thankful for every tiny step I take. The last part of my recovery seems to be the hardest, as I am impatient by nature and eager to move on. But I can’t. I have to take it easy, because if I don’t, I am back in bed with my foot elevated, watching Netflix or YouTube. I also had some emotional issues to deal with, like a post-dramatic depression, upon realizing the danger I had been in and its possible consequences.
But it is a new year, a new decade, and with it comes new beginnings. I am ready to move on. I am starting to cook again and I am enjoying it. I had planned to make a goose for the holidays, but instead my dear friend and neighbor, Susanne, invited me for Christmas dinner. She made her famous Rouladen (stuffed rolled beef), a German tradition for the holidays. I was in culinary heaven.
I have wanted to make homemade potato dumplings for years, but have always opted for the pre-made packaged ones. The one time I tried, when I prepared a goose years ago, it turned into an inedible potato soup. So this year, it was a project I wanted to tackle, so I started to watch German YouTube videos and tried one recipe. I didn’t like them—honestly the pre-packed ones made by Pfanni were better. But I didn’t give up. My girlfriend, Monika, from Germany makes them every year with her goose for Christmas. She uses a recipe from an old German cookbook from Schlesien (or Silesia) that is now in southwestern Poland. Both she and her husband came from this region. I love the quote in the cookbook saying that a Sunday dinner without dumplings is like a sky without stars. They were served with every roast, cooked cabbage or any other vegetable. In the cookbook, they are described as an easy-to-make recipe, but there are tricks to follow to avoid the dumplings falling apart or being hard as a rock.
I made them twice now and both times they got the approval from my friend, Susanne. Each region in Europe has their own version of potato dumplings. The Bavarian ones are made with half-raw and half-cooked potatoes. Leftover dumplings are perfect sliced and then fried in butter, the ultimate German comfort food. When making the dumplings, you can stuff them with small croutons. I think they need some kind of sauce to be truly enjoyed—like a mushroom sauce or gravy from a roast. I don’t have any photos of our Christmas dinner, but a week later, I served my second batch of potato dumplings with some of my friend’s leftover beef brisket from Hanukkah.
I recommend that you follow the recipe and make no modifications. Or you will end up with potato soup. I used two russets and two yellow fin potatoes. It is also important to make a test dumpling before cooking the rest. I made a small one and tasted it, and both times it was okay. To avoid bland-tasting dumplings, don’t reduce the salt. If the dough is sticky, add some more flour. Don’t over mix the potatoes. If you don’t have a potato press, you can use a potato masher. Don’t skimp on the salt because you are flavoring the water—first to boil the potatoes and then to cook the dumplings.
These crab cakes have a little spice with a kick and are a delicacy, especially when they are made with our local Dungeness crab. I usually buy one or two freshly cooked crabs and my husband cleans them meticulously, pulling out every little tidbit of crabmeat he can find. What a nice guy. Normally, we have crab with a salad and some fresh crusty bread. It is the perfect meal with a glass of Chardonnay. Life during crab season is good.
Then I came across an old page from my beloved Gourmet magazine that had a recipe for Louisiana-style crab cakes. Of course, I had to make it. Crab cakes are a real treat for me and I often order them in restaurants. There are many varieties, as each region has its own way of making crab cakes and using their own local crab. I am still dreaming of Maryland crab cakes made with Maryland blue crab. The secret to any good crab cake is using big lumps of crabmeat that retain its form through the cooking process. That way, you will bite into mostly crabmeat with some added flavor.
There are all kind of sauces that are served with crab cakes. I like a good tartar sauce or a remoulade. This time, I choose to make crab cakes for dinner with creamed leeks, so I didn't need any extra sauce. There is nothing wrong with a citrusy green salad and a crab cake. I can envision making mini-crab cakes, served on lettuce with a dollop of tartar sauce. What is your favorite way to eat crab cakes?
If you are looking for another special dish to prepare, try my crepes with salmon and fennel filling. In Italy, this dish is called Cannelloni Ripieni di Salmone and the crepes are called crespelle. This could be an elegant dish to celebrate the arrival of spring especially when served with fresh asparagus.
How about something sweet that is easy to make and tastes good? Try this Italian shortbread tart called Fregolotta. Pretend you are eating a slice in a little cafe somewhere in Italy.
This recipe makes 4 crab cakes and it doesn’t take more than 30 minutes to make if you buy the fresh crabmeat. Make sure your crabmeat has large pieces in it. Carefully pick over the crabmeat to remove any small pieces of shells. I finely grind the saltine crackers in my blender
I was looking through my Christmas baking folder for some inspiration (which I need desperately these days) and came upon a recipe from a 2002 Gourmet magazine issue. I had written “excellent” on the recipe. Last year, I made a a similar cookie recipe from Luisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking called Baseler Brunsli (click here for the recipeBaseler Brunsli). Both these cookies belong to the family of Lebkuchen. You can find many different recipes for Lebkuchen throughout the German-speaking countries. Lebkuchen is a blanket term for German gingerbread, and this particular recipe is a smoother and more cake-like version, with a hint of chocolate, hazelnut and almond too. I love them because they are not overly sweet, but my American family is not a big fan of this tasty treat. They will go for the sweeter shortbread, sugary kind of cookie. That’s why I bake a variety of different cookies, put them in my tins and have one I like in the afternoon with my tea.
I baked these cookies because they remind me of the German Elisenlebkuchen, a treat from the German town of Nürnberg. Traditionally, they are baked on wafers and covered with either chocolate or a powdered sugar icing. I didn’t add the wafers and the icing, which makes them less sweet and easier to bake. I also liked the combination of ground hazelnuts and almonds. Instead of chocolate, this recipe uses unsweetened cocoa powder. Like all Lebkuchen recipes, these cookies improve after being stored in a tin for a few days or weeks. They are soft and chewy, and should not be stored with other cookies.
This year will be a special Christmas because my niece and her husband are visiting from Germany. It doesn’t happen very often that I get to celebrate with my German family and it is always very special to me when they come to my home in California. So, I am baking and decorating as much as I can. Check out my post from 2016 with most of my family’s favorite cookie recipes. (click here)
If you feel like a savory treat for the holidays, try my country pâté. It’s a great party pleaser.(click here )
My dear readers, I wish you all a peaceful holiday filled with good food and surrounded by people you love. May the stars shine upon you and may your home be filled with warmth and good cheer.
Fröhliche Weihnachten and best wishes for the coming year!
This is a soft, chewy cookie that will improve with age. Store them in a tin box between wax paper. For the nut flour, use roasted and peeled hazelnuts and peeled almonds.
Every year, I eagerly await the time when the persimmons ripen in our little town of Santa Cruz. They are a sure sign that fall has arrived. I don’t have a tree myself, but friends and locals are willing to share their bounty. Hachiya persimmons are the ones I get most of the time. They are teardrop-shaped and have to soften before you can use them. Fuyu persimmons are the flat-looking ones that are great sliced in salads and other dishes. Persimmon trees can grow up to 70 feet tall, and one of these wonderful trees grows in my girlfriend’s son’s garden.
I have been cooking and baking with persimmons for years. Read more about persimmons and the recipe for my persimmon bread on a previous post (click here).
Each year, I can't wait to make this chutney. The recipe comes from a twenty-year-old local newspaper clipping. The chutney is great with a variety of different foods. This year, I am going to make it part of my Christmas cheese board. It is also great with fish, on duck breasts, or with any food you can think of. In the photo above, I am serving it with my muffin quiches without a crust . These quiches make a healthy snack. (click here to get the recipe)
My chutney is rather mild and not overly sweet. The fresh ginger gives it a great flavor. Since I am hosting our book club next week, I am giving each member a jar of my chutney and persimmon bread as a gift.
I have also made this persimmon chutney with apples or pears using lemon or lime juice. Personally, I prefer lime juice. The jury is out on whether to use apples or pears, so it is really a matter of your taste. The pears should be firm. For my last batch, I used golden delicious apples. Instead of dried cranberries, you can substitute dried blueberries. The chutney develops its full flavor after a couple of days in the fridge.
How can it already be Thanksgiving again? Time flies by so fast, it's scary. During previous years, we often traveled. I remember the duck dinner in Prague and the beautiful week in Rome where we had pasta for Thanksgiving. This year we are going to our little cabin in the Sierra Mountains to celebrate with my sister-in-law and her family. It's going to be low-key and relaxing, especially since my brother-in-law will barbecue the turkey and my nephew is a great cook. For Christmas, I will have a full house since I will celebrate with my niece and nephew from Germany and my American family. I am always very happy when I get visitors from Germany because it's during the holidays when I miss them the most.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, each family has their treasured recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. There is Aunt Mary's jello salad and the bean casserole from your grandmother. And let's not forget sweet potato pie. Tell me, what are some of the recipes you make each year? My family tradition is my red cabbage which is liked by everybody, so I will be making it again this year. Click here for the recipe.
Years ago, when I was a vegetarian, I would cook everything but the turkey. The centerpiece would be my stuffing served with mushroom gravy. I apologize for the poor quality of the photos, but they are all from previous Thanksgiving posts. I have been making this shiitake and chestnut stuffing as long as I can remember. Click here for the recipe.
If you are looking for a juicy small bird for Thanksgiving, check out my recipe for dry-brined turkey with silky gravy. I will be making this one for Christmas. Click here for the recipe.
For me, sauces and condiments are just as important as the bird. My cranberry ketchup is a wonderful addition for the holidays and I make it every year. Here is a link to the recipe.
For those of you who don't want to tackle a whole bird, I have a recipe for turkey parts. Here, I brine the parts overnight, which makes for juicy and tasty turkey. If you are interested, click here for the recipe.
Toasted, roasted, baked and done! I hope your Thanksgiving is lots of fun.
Oh, one thing, don't forget to give your compliments to the chef, and help with the dishes afterwards.
Wishing you all a relaxing Thanksgiving feast with good food, family and loved ones. May your home be filled with laughter and happiness.
I just returned from a wonderful trip to Germany, where I visited friends and family. I enjoyed every minute and would love to have stayed longer. I took six train rides, criss-crossing Germany. First I went to my family farm for a week. While on the farm I visited some nearby towns.
My girlfriend and I had this fabulous waffle with fresh fruit, ice-cream and fruit sauce in our favorite Italian Ice caffee in Northeim. Our village is also near Göttingen, an old university town with the greatest Konditorei (bakery) ever. Cron und Lanz has been baking delicacies since 1876. You get the best cookie ever when you order coffee or tea, as well other treats. I could not get enough this time and found a reason to get something from them every day.
After the village, I went to Lüneburg to visit my niece and her husband. While there, I went to the Christmas markets and a remarkable brewery museum. It was in an historical Sud house of an old brewery that started in 1485. Lüneburg is the cutest postcard-perfect German town.
Then my niece and I spent a wonderful weekend in Berlin. Since she is often in Berlin on business, she took me to all her favorite places. My young friend, Tara, also lives in Berlin and they had a great time together.
I took a long train ride (about 6 hours ) to Augsburg to visit an old friend from my boarding school days. We had coffee and cake in a Hundertwasser house chocolaterie, in the style of a famous Austrian artist. Traveling alone and visiting friends made me feel young and adventurous again.
But I am back home in California now, trying to get ready for the holidays. It takes me a good week to adjust. Part of me is still in Germany and the other part is ready to be home here in Santa Cruz. These last days before Christmas will be busy for me. Even with a cold, I managed to bake my favorite cookies and make some persimmon bread.
I made my chocolate walnut pie using pecans instead. It’s a great dessert that can be made days ahead of time. I will serve it as dessert when I make my cioppino dinner.
One of my favorite treats is my fruit and chocolate bark. This year, I used whole hazelnuts and yellow raisins mixed with some dried cranberries. I bought a very expensive bark like this not long ago. I used roasted hazelnuts from Trader Joe’s. It was a cinch to make.
Another favorite cookie of mine is the Austrian Kipferl, a crescent-shaped pastry, which is an ancestor of the French croissant. I rolled them in my homemade vanilla sugar.
A friend’s son gave me boxes of persimmons from his gorgeous tree. I made my persimmon bread and persimmon chutney, which took some trial and error. I will post the recipe in 2018
Did I say 2018? The passage of time amazes me and seems to go by faster the older we get. I like this quote from Heather Babcock, “ Time doesn’t really march on. It tends to tip-toe. There is no parade. No stomping of boots that it is passing. One day, you turn around and it’s gone.“
And with that, I wish all of you holidays that are peaceful and tranquil, filled with love, warmth and good food. A special thanks to all the people (I am amazed at how many of you there are) who are taking the time to visit my little blog.
Fröhliche Weihnachten and may your New Year be filled with hope and happiness.
If you click on the highlighted words you will get to the blog posts and recipes.
This turkey recipe caters to the cook who doesn’t want the whole bird but only parts of it. If all you want is a breast and some thighs and legs, this recipe is for you. I am writing this post for people who don’t have the time for an elaborate dinner but still want to have a tasty feast with about four hours of prep and cooking time. It does require a little planning.
I came across this recipe last May when I wanted to make a traditional American feast for my German relatives who came to visit. Whole Foods whole turkeys were very expensive, but they had turkey parts on sale. I always either dry rub or brine turkey meat for tenderness and flavor. In this recipe from epicurious.com the turkey parts are brined overnight in a salt and spice mixture. Put the parts in a sturdy large resealable zip lock plastic bag and add the ingredients. Voila, the next day you dry the turkey parts and roast them for about one and a half to two hours. Now it is up to you to make the side dishes of your choice or have Aunt Mary bring her jelly salad .
Of course for me it is not turkey day until I have cranberry sauce, chestnut stuffing, and a lot of gravy.
My husband and I spent a weekend in our little cabin in the Sierra Nevada. I love to cook in my tiny kitchen so I decided to make him and his oldest friend an early Thanksgiving dinner because I am leaving for Germany on Sunday. On Thanksgiving I probably will be eating duck instead of turkey. I was pressed for time and used a bread mix for the stuffing and bought peeled and roasted chestnuts. By not having to roast and peel chestnuts my stuffing was easier to make.
Even though I often use prepackaged broth for my turkey gravy and stuffing I prefer to make my own. This can be done weeks ahead and frozen. In my humble opinion a homemade broth will make or break the gravy or stuffing. When I do a whole turkey I use the stomach and gizzard from the turkey for the gravy. This time I bought turkey wings. I always freeze all my leftover green veggies like the white leek ends, the tops of green onions, mushroom stems, and other greens to use in my stock. It’s great for any stock. I made the sauce while the turkey was cooking and added the pan juices later.
Of course you can check out my whole turkey recipe which I have been making for years. If you have time try my cranberry ketchup, it is great on leftover turkey sandwiches. Oh, and don’t forget to freeze some extra packages of cranberries so you can have a feast in May.
I wish you all a relaxing and peaceful Thanksgiving with a lot of good food and company.
I usually use three to four drumsticks and one large turkey breast on the bone which will make six to eight servings. This time I used two humongous drumsticks that my husband brought home.
For the last couple of weeks I have been baking up a storm. Those who follow me on Instagram and Facebook have seen my photos. Baking cookies has given me some peace in these turbulent times.
Because I like to reduce or replace sugar in recipes, some of my cookies were rejected by my tasters. One of them was my German chocolate cookies, the ones that look like paws. I liked them but nobody else did, so I won’t post that recipe.
My husband’s favorite cookies are the biscuits de Noël (French sable cookies), they are sugary and remind him a little bit of his mother’s sugar cookies minus the frosting. The recipe comes from Clotlide, who lives in Paris and has a lovely blog called Chocolate and Zucchini.
Click here for the recipe.
My girlfriend, Marie, likes my hazelnut meringue cookies. Click here for the recipe.
My favorite cookies this year are Basler Brunsli, a specialty of Basel, a city in German-speaking northern Switzerland. These cookies are chocolatey and chewy with the flavors of Christmas. The main ingredients are chocolate and raw almonds (no flour), just some confectioner’s sugar, egg whites, cinnamon and cloves. Both, the hazelnut meringue cookies and the Basler Brunsli are gluten-free.
I started my blog because my girlfriend, Diane, took me to our local bookstore over three years ago to listen to an author who was promoting her new book, My Berlin Kitchen. “Oh no,” as I thought she was one of those plump German women dressed in a dirndl with braids in her hair promoting sauerkraut and dumplings. I didn't want to disappoint my girlfriend, so I agreed to go. Off we went and I almost fell from my stool when I saw a beautiful, shy young American woman introduce herself as Luisa Weiss. This was definitely not the person I had expected. She opened my heart and allowed me to be German again. You see, I was never proud to be German, as I was mostly ashamed of Germany’s ghastly past. That evening, when I listened to Luisa read an insert from her book, my heart finally opened and I allowed myself to be German for the first time ever. It was okay, I would and could never forget what happened in Germany during the Nazi times, but I could be German and learn to love my native country.
In her first book,My Berlin Kitchen,Luisa describes her life in Berlin. Born to an Italian mother and an American father, her childhood takes place in the divided Berlin of Soviet Times. She describes many situations that are very familiar to me, such as her search to belong somewhere and her experience of different cultures. In food, she finds a common denominator. After living a successful life in New York, she leaves for love in Berlin. You can also follow her on her blog, “The Wednesday Chef.” This year, she has published a beautiful, new cookbook called Classic German Baking. This impressive volume opens up the world of Germanic baking to all of us. The Washington Post included it in the round-up of the year’s best cookbooks. According to them, Classic German Baking is “a happy marriage of European craft and American sensibilities.” When I showed it to my 16-year-old friend from Berlin, who is living with her American father here in Santa Cruz for a year, her eyes lit up and she was transported back to Berlin through all the recipes she loves.
Click here for her website The Wednesdaychef
Fruit and Nut Chocolate Chunks. No cooking required. Click here for the recipe.
These Blueberry Mini Muffins are my son's favorite. Click here for the recipe
Since this is a new recipe for me, I followed Luisa’s recipe and made no changes. The recipe is thrown together in no time but rolling out the dough was a little bit of a challenge. I used a small wine glass that I dipped in sugar as a cookie cutter. For chocolate, I used Trader Joe’s Pound Plus chocolate. Luisa recommends 60-70% cacao in the chocolate. According to Luisa, the cookies will last for a month if kept in a tin.
For the last three years, my husband and I have gone abroad for Thanksgiving. Our first trip was to Rome and it was fantastic. There were no lines at the Vatican or anywhere else. The next year, we went to Prague and had duck on Thanksgiving in a cozy restaurant. Last year, we had goose in Berlin. I choose to stay home this year, but with the recent election and family stuff, I wish I was back in Rome.
I have a vivid imagination and I can picture some of you sitting around the table with family and friends and hopefully not discussing politics. That could end badly this year. Each family has their own recipes with some of them being passed down from generation to generation. The center piece is usually a turkey, if you are not a vegetarian. There also is cranberry sauce, stuffing, rolls, and so much more.
I remember my first Thanksgiving when I was in Germany and my then American husband prepared a Thanksgiving meal while I was teaching. Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Germany. I can’t remember any of the food he prepared other than the turkey. The next year, I was living in Lowell, Massachusetts and I was invited to Thanksgiving by a Greek family. I remember spinach spanakopita and a tasty stuffing. The years went by and many Thanksgivings have passed. My favorite Thanksgivings were the ones when we fed 90 people at our school. The children were dressed as Pilgrims and Indians, and recited little poems. We invited our friends from a nursing home and had a wonderful time. The children’s mothers cooked the turkey. We made instant mashed potatoes and instant gravy. Yes, you read correctly, this food blogger made instant mashed potatoes. There is no way we would be able to peel potatoes for 90 people, dress the kids and have them ready for the feast. I did bring some fresh herbs and spices for them to try. It was glorious! This was not about fancy food, but it was about giving thanks, having compassion and sharing everything. This happened on a Wednesday and I would come home and prepare another feast for my family and friends on Thursday. If you were a friend of mine, and you didn't have your own family to eat with, you were always welcome to join us. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about.
Over the years, I have made several vegetarian Thanksgiving meals with chestnut stuffing, mashed potatoes, and mushroom gravy. I lost the recipe for the best sweet potato yeast rolls ever, and I have not been able to reproduce it. Please let me know if you have some good recipes. These days, life has become simpler and I use the recipes that I have on my blog, but I’m still looking for that elusive sweet potato roll recipe!
My turkey is moist, tender and juicy with a flavorful gravy. Rosemary, thyme, and sage add flavor to both. If you are too busy to read my posts, click on the photos for the recipe.
For me the most important dishes for Thanksgiving dinner are the stuffing, the gravy and the cranberry sauce. The cranberry ketchup is a new addition to my repertoire and I love it.
I wish you all a peaceful Thanksgiving with good food, good friends and family and a full belly. And please, don't discuss politics, it is not good for digestion.
Whenever I bake this tart, I pretend I am in Paris. I’m in one of those neighborhood bakeries smelling the scent of sweet pastry and fresh baguettes. I am taking my wrapped tart to one of the benches in the park near Notre Dame and savor every bite while life unfolds in front of me.
But I am not in Paris, I am in Santa Cruz and it is time to share this delicious tart recipe with you. Let’s go back to the IFBC (International Food Blogger’s Conference) in Sacramento that I attended this past summer. While there, my friend Deb (who writes a blog called “East Of Eden”) and I went on an a pre-conference excursion to the California Endive farm and Stillwater Orchards, a pear orchard in the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta. The delta is a labyrinth of sloughs and an estuary in Northern California. It’s gorgeous country with small rural towns, islands, and tributaries flowing throughout. Most of the land has been claimed by agriculture, pears being one of the fruits grown. There is a Pear Fair in the small town of Locke. Our visit at the end of July was wonderful. The pears were on the trees, ripe and ready to be harvested. After a tour of the orchard, we had a picnic lunch under a giant oak tree. The dessert was a delicious pear crumble.
We all got a bag of pears to take home. I decided to make my pear tart with them. This tart recipe has been a family treasure for many years. Yet I am always in search of the perfect crust. For the blog post, I decided to use a pastry crust known as pâte sucrée, a rich and sweet pastry with a crisp cookie-like texture.
I always buy some extra pears and make sure that they are ripe. I use Bartlett pears that are juicy. I grind the almonds in my Vita Mix , or you can use a food processor
This is an over-the-top salmon dish. Crespelle, an Italian pasta-like version of crepes, makes this a showpiece for a home-cooked meal. The Italians call it Cannelloni Ripieni di Salmone. With a name like this, you can’t go wrong. Crepes or cannelloni are filled with salmon, fennel, shallots, parmesan cheese, crème fraîche and basil. A lemony béchamel sauce puts it all together and creates a memorable meal to share with family and friends. Everything can be assembled ahead of time, which in my opinion is perfect for entertaining.
I found the recipe for the crestelIe in an old Gourmet magazine. I miss Gourmet! I think the crepes give the dish an elegant presentation and add flavor, but you can substitute fresh pasta made into cannoli. Although I have to say, I prefer the crepes.
First, I make the crepes and stack them between paper towels and cover everything with plastic wrap. The béchamel sauce can also be prepared ahead of time, but needs to be reheated before using and maybe thinned out a little. It will save you same time if you can have your fish monger skin the salmon and cut it into bite-sized pieces.
Spring is asparagus time and that is what I serve as a side dish. I cut off the woody ends and peel part of my asparagus. I massage them on a cookie sheet with some hazelnut oil (although regular olive oil is fine), sprinkle some salt and pepper on then bake it in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes according to size. I like my asparagus crunchy.
Fregolotta, an Italian giant cookie that is easy to make and the perfect ending for this special meal. Click here for the recipe.
I missed my last book club meeting because I was in Germany. As our next book, our group choose Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, an Australian prisoner who escapes and lives in the underworld of Bombay. It’s a 936-page epic novel about living in the slums, romantic love, prison agony, criminal wars, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas. It’s a huge novel that embraces every human experience imaginable, all framed by a love for India. It was an interesting but long read. I liked it.
This recipe makes six large crepes and serves 4-6 people. Make the crepes ahead of time just in case one of them doesn't turn out, in which case you might want to make another batch. Don't let the length of the recipe scare you. Each step is straightforward and doesn't take much time.
This one is a real crowd pleaser. Start any festivity with these savory salt-topped cheese puffs and sparkling wine. They also make a great snack that you can't stop eating.
According to Wikipedia a gougère, in French cuisine, is a baked savory choux pastry made of choux dough mixed with cheese. There are many variations. Gougères are said to come from Burgundy, particularly the town of Tonnerre in the Yonne department. In Burgundy, they are generally served cold when tasting wine in cellars, but are also served warm as an appetizer. Gougères can be made as small pastries, 3–4 cm in diameter; aperitif gougères; 10–12 cm, individual gougères, or in a ring. Sometimes they are filled with ingredients such as mushrooms, beef, or ham.
I never made either cream or savory puffs before. But my mom often made large cream puffs filled with sweet whipped cream for Sunday afternoons. She was very good at it and could make them in no time. She used the eggs from her chickens and fresh cream from her farm in Germany. Her cream puffs were large and filling. In Germany, people visit each other in the afternoon to have coffee and sweets. I don't know why I never made them myself and I only ate them when my mom made them. They are called Windbeutel in German, which means bags of wind. I like that name.
When I found this recipe for savory little puffs, I was ready to try them. This is another old recipe from Sunset magazine that was tacked away in my appetizer folder. They were my third appetizer for my book club meeting and everybody liked them. What made these puffs so tasty and good was the strongly flavored, aged cheddar I used and my crunchy sea salt crystals. These little treats are best eaten on the day they are baked. Freeze the rest on a flat sheet and then put them in an airtight container. I put mine in a ziplock plastic bag. If you keep them until the following day, zip them for a few seconds in the microwave. That is what I did with my leftovers. I have to say they are quite addictive.
In the meantime we had our second book club meeting. The Shoppenhauer Cure got mixed reviews. Some people liked it and some did not. We are now reading My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.
These little treats are best eaten on the day they are baked. Freeze the rest on a cookie sheet and then put them in an airtight container. I put mine in a ziplock plastic bag. Thaw and reheat for 5 minutes uncovered in the oven at 375 Fahrenheit.
The cheese and salt will make or break this recipe. I used a good coarse, crunchy fleur de sel from France and an aged cheddar from Whole Foods.
This finger food has it all—it is healthy and low in calories (160 calories for three). Sesame wonton cups filled with smoked salmon, ginger, green onions and avocados. A showpiece at any cocktail party or whenever you want to serve a delicious appetizers.
In my last post, I wrote about my roasted eggplant spread that I served for appetizers at our first book club meeting. I also wanted to add some yummy-tasting appetizers with a wow factor to our meeting. It was like magic. I transformed good old won ton wrappers into the cutest little cups by simply brushing some melted butter over them and arranging them in a mini muffin pan to bake in the oven. How easy is that—and makes a great presentation. The only trick is that you have to own a mini muffin pan. If you don’t, maybe your neighbor or friend has one you can borrow. I deserve no credit for this idea, but my passion for collecting recipes does. This little jewel was hiding in my appetizer folder. It came from an old Sunset magazine.
Hopefully, I will find some time for baking my favorite sweet treats for Christmas. Last year, I baked up a storm, packed most of it to take to the mountains where we have celebrated Christmas many times. As we left on December 23, I got messages from my niece saying that my 91-year-old mother had fallen down and was on her way to the hospital with a fractured hip. I made my poor husband turn around and was on a plane to Germany the next day, December 24, arriving in Germany on Christmas Day. My mom by then had peacefully passed away with my brother's family around her.
I took a tin of cookies with me sharing them at the airline ticket counter and later in Germany. They were a connection to my life in California. Food can be so comforting and nourishing. As long as I can remember, I have baked goodies for the holidays. I don't always bake the same things. My Christmas recipe folder is bulky. Depending on how I feel, I bake different things, some of which I haven't posted yet. For my girlfriend, Marie, I bake the hazelnut
meringue cookies (click for recipe here). My husband's favorite treat are his mom's sugar cookies that my sister-in-law bakes every year for him. His second favorite are my chocolate chip walnut bars (click for recipe here). I like gingerbread cookies, but nobody else does, so I don't make them very often. My Vienna vanilla nut cookies remind me of my childhood (click for recipe here).
My fruit and nut chocolate chunks are a healthy and tasty treat. Click here for the recipe.
I enjoy making individual graham cracker gingerbread house ornaments with young children. These cute little ornaments are a lot of fun and children just love them (click here for the recipe ).
Another staple in my family have been blueberry mini-muffins.These tiny muffins have a crunchy almond sugar flavor with a burst of blueberries and lemon. The recipe comes from an old Gourmet recipe and is my son's favorite.
I hope your holidays are filled with warmth and happiness.
I am back from my whirlwind trip to Germany. It was short, but I was so happy to see my German family and friends. I love them and miss them when I'm here in sunny California. I am fortunate that I can visit them often and stay in touch. Read about my four days in Berlin and my visit with my family on my Wanderlust blog (click here).
It's time to share some of my holidays recipes with you. Every year, I make my country pâté for the lighted boat parade party at my friends’ house. Here in Santa Cruz, people decorate their boats for Christmas and parade around the harbor just after dark. Hundreds of people come to watch, which is the launch of the Christmas season. The pork country pâté is rich but delicious and a great treat for a large party. It has to be made ahead of time and will earn the cook many compliments.
For those of you who prefer a lighter vegetarian appetizer, my goat cheese with fresh herbs olives, and garlic is easy to make and tasty.
Even though this turkey is moist, tender and juicy—the gravy puts it over the top. What you have here is a classic turkey with some added depth and flavor. The meat tastes of sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Here we are, the third and final post for my pre-Thanksgiving dinner. I bought a 9 1/2 pound fresh petite Diestel Turkey (I call it the Gerlinde butterball). I can hear you all say that's too small, but it isn't. So far, we had eight servings and several turkey sandwiches —and there is still some left. In the past, I have bought 12 -16 pound turkeys. The Diestel turkey farm is in the Sierra foothills and we drive right by it when we go to the mountains.
My turkey has several components. It is dry brined with herbed salt. I then put herbed butter under the breast skin and cover the top of the bird with cheesecloth soaked in butter and turkey stock. I make my own turkey stock the day before, using the neck bone and gizzard. The stock adds great flavor to the turkey and the gravy.
You will be rewarded for all this work with a great-tasting bird. My photos of the turkey are horrible, as I had no time and it shows. I will replace the photos when I make this turkey again—but in the meantime, bear with me.
There is always something to be thankful for
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving with friends and family
I'm trying to organize my Thanksgiving and holiday recipes. In my previous post, I shared my cranberry ketchup and cranberry sauce recipe with you.
For me, the most important dishes for the Thanksgiving dinner table are cranberry sauce, gravy and stuffing. Forget the turkey. I did for years when I was a vegetarian. In those days, I often created lavish Thanksgiving dinners for friends and family. Since the stuffing was the centerpiece, I would bake it in a pumpkin or some sort of squash, using vegetable broth and making a vegetarian gravy. Now that the turkey has fallen back into grace at our table, I still make the stuffing, but most of the time I bake it in a pretty dish. So if you are a little pressed for time (who isn't these days?), use a casserole dish instead of a pumpkin. Although If you do use a pumpkin or squash, you will most likely end up with extra stuffing that you bake in a dish.
I made the stuffing for my pre-Thanksgiving dinner in our cabin. I removed the seeds and some of the flesh from a little red Kabocha Squash and filled it with some of my stuffing. The leftover stuffing went into a greased iron casserole. The stuffing in the squash was moist while the stuffing in the casserole was crunchy and dry. I preferred the crunchier version but enjoyed the stuffed squash for leftovers. It makes a great lunch with some sauce and pieces of the squash.
I love roasted chestnuts and I think they add a wonderful flavor to the stuffing. What I don't like is getting the nuts out of the shells. It is a tedious, nasty job and I have yet to come up with a solution. If anybody knows an easy way—please, please let me know. My husband and I have tried several techniques but none of them have been easy. Perhaps the best alternative is to buy the chestnuts already cleaned.
My husband made the croutons and peeled the chestnuts the day before.
This cranberry ketchup and my simple cranberry sauce are a tasty addition to any meal—and not just for the holidays. Freeze some extra bags of cranberries to make throughout the year.
Life is full of surprises with ups and downs like a roller coaster. One moment you are on top of the world (knowing that it won't last), full of anticipation and fear of the unknown as you contemplate the ride down. Personally, I don't like roller coasters, I prefer a gentle ride on a carousel. Last November and December were such roller coaster months for me. I had a wonderful visit with my mom in Germany. Afterwards, my husband and I went to Berlin, Prague, and Nürnberg. I came home and got ready for Christmas in the Sierras, baked cookies, tarts, made cranberry ketchup and cranberry sauce. Two days before Christmas, we loaded all our goodies into the car and left for the mountains. As we began our journey, I got messages from my niece saying that my mom had fallen and broken her hip badly. She was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. On the first summit, I decided to turn around and go back home to make arrangements to leave for Germany. I was on the plane 24 hours later, and landed in Germany on Christmas Day. By then, my mom had peacefully passed away with my brother's family around her. I am so thankful for their love and care.
Last year, while looking through my folders, I came upon a recipe for cranberry ketchup. Since I love cranberries, I decided to make some. It was still in my fridge when I returned from Germany after my mom’s funeral. It was comforting to put on my sandwiches and added flavor and richness to many meals. I promised myself to make it again. This year, I will be in Germany for Thanksgiving to celebrate my brother's birthday. So, I decided to have a pre-Thanksgiving dinner in the Sierras in our cabin with my sister-in-law and her husband. The late fall here is gorgeous. There are very few people there now and we were expecting a dusting of snow for the weekend.
I made the cranberry ketchup and cranberry sauce several days before we drove up. The ketchup is fantastic and a spoonful will enhance most any meal. It lasts for a long time in the fridge and needs to sit for a couple of days to develops its full flavor.
Every time I cook a turkey, I make cranberry sauce. Turkey without cranberry sauce is not an option on my table. For many years, I have made the same recipe—not because it is the best or special—but because it is the one my family and I like the best. It is simple and easy to make. I always make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. There have been fleeting moments when I thought about adding ginger or a minced jalapeño, but I haven't. Maybe someday I will.
The amount of sugar depends how tart you want it to be: I used ¼ cup this time, but I think I will use ½ cup the next time. The tartness of cranberries has to be balanced with something sweet like orange juice and sugar. All my tasters liked the tartness of the thick sauce.
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.
Put the things you love into these chocolate bars.
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.
You'll need a small cone with a small tip and bag for putting the icing on the crackers, parchment paper, a razor blade or small sharp knife for cutting the graham crackers and some ribbon for the hangers.
A plethora of persimmons
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.
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.
My recipe yielded 6 small breads. I like using the plump yellow raisins for this recipe. To get the persimmons ready , slice off the top, peel them and squeeze them into the food processor removing the large black seeds. Blend them with some lemon juice.
A cookie you can't resist
My friend, Tory, introduced me to these bars years ago. The recipe came from a 1976 Cuisine magazine and it has been in my Christmas folder for many years. The crust is buttery and has only one teaspoon of sugar which combines well with the chocolate and nutty topping. These bars are rich, so I cut them into small pieces. It's a yummy treat throughout the year. I've taken them to many events and they always have been a hit. They are easy to make and will last up to a week. I don't have a chance to freeze them because my family just eats them as fast as I can make them. But the original recipe suggests that they can be frozen for up to 6 months. Instead, I keep them in a covered container and hide them from my family.
A Chocolate Delight
This is definitely a pie for chocolate lovers and the crust tastes like a shortbread cookie. I found the recipe in a German magazine years ago, although the original recipe had twice the amount of butter. This recipe is a keeper and I am going to use this crust in other dessert recipes. Add the chocolate filling and the nutty egg white topping and you will have a dessert you can’t resist. The pie can be kept for several days, so you can bake it ahead of time (great for the upcoming holidays). I'm thinking of baking this recipe in individual pie tins for gifts. Being the hazelnut lover that I am, I'll try using hazelnuts instead of walnuts. And maybe I'll add caramel or Nutella too, although that might be going over the top.
This is a straightforward recipe. Be careful not overwork the dough, and melt the chocolate in a double boiler or bowl over a pot of boiling water. Use the best chocolate you can afford. I used Lindt chocolate.
These rolls can be filled with any ingredients you choose. I often use hummus instead of a cream cheese spread—or I make them with egg salad—or cheese with salami or ham. Roasted peppers, grated carrots, and chopped olives go well with hummus—and mayonnaise (or any other spread) will keep the rolls together. My friends have requested these rolls for years and they are easy to transport. They always make a satisfying and filling appetizer.
These rolls are not difficult and you can do them in no time. The rolling part is a little tricky but since they are being cut into slices a little goof up is fine. The trick is to roll them tightly making sure you incorporate the ingredients by pushing them into the bread as you roll it.
Years ago I used to be able to buy Armenian cracker bread at a local delicatessen. This bread is like a giant cracker. It is no longer available and I now use lavash bread which I buy at Trader Joe's. You can also find them at Whole Foods. There are six rectangular pieces to a package and it comes in a whole wheat version that I prefer. For this blog I used two rolls which makes about twenty 1/2 inch thick sandwiches. Spread the cream cheese evenly in a thin layer on the light side of the lavish bread. Put about four ounces of lox on top of the cheese spread. Add one half of an avocado thinly sliced over the salmon, add about 1/2 a cup of thinly sliced cucumbers and 1/4 a cup of thinly sliced red onions. Leaving 1/2 inch on the longer side of the bread with only the spread will make it easier to roll. Season with salt and pepper. Top with about 1 cup of lettuce and press everything down. Begin rolling the bread at the longer side (think sushi). Push the ingredients into the bread as you roll it. Wrap the roll in Saran wrap and store in the fridge for several hours. When ready to serve cut the roll into 1/2 inch pieces and arrange them on a platter. Decorate with cherry tomatoes and olives. I have made these many times using different ingredients. For an upcoming wedding I will make them with humus because the bride is lactose intolerant.
WELCOME TO SUNNY COVE CHEF
Thank you for visiting my blog. My two passions are cooking and traveling. Traveling exposes me to a wide variety of food and experiences. I walk around cities looking for markets, restaurants, bakeries, shops, you name it, and if it is related to food you will find me there, tasting, smelling, talking to vendors, and having a great time.