This was a particularly special trip to Maui because my niece and her husband from Germany came with us. It was a wonderful week long vacation. Hawaii has always been my favorite tropical destination. The warm trade winds greet you as soon a you exit the airplane.
Continue to read about my Maui trip on my Wanderlust blog . Click here!
After all this traveling, I am ready to cook some food at home. Since it is crab season here in Northern California, it’s time to make my cioppino. Click here for the recipe.
If you need a more substantial meal that is absolutely delicious try my Jägerschnitzel. I just made this breaded pork cutlet with a creamy mushroom sauce and I enjoyed every bite of it. It's the perfect meal for a rainy evening. Click here for the recipe.
For dessert, let’s have something with chocolate. It’s February after all.
This is a German chocolate walnut tart with a shortbread crust. It is a chocolate lover's delight. Click here for the recipe.
These chocolate walnut delight bars are great for a crowd. The office will love you for these tasty morsels. Click here for the recipe.
My husband and I love to visit the Napa Valley in January or February when it is not crowded, and the rolling hills are green and covered with yellow mustard flowers. The air is usually crisp in the morning and warm in the afternoon.
Did you know that the Napa Valley is the only Agricultural Preserve in the United States? With an abundance of different wineries and fabulous restaurants, the valley’s cute little towns lure visitors from all over the world. I feel so lucky that I live within a two-hour drive to this gorgeous spot on earth. .
My husband is the wine expert in the family, so he gets to pick the wineries we visit. Since we belong to the Foley Johnson Wine Club, we always visit their wineries. Click here for our 2018 visit to Napa and read more about their beautiful wineries. If you go, I recommend you pick a few you really like, as there are so many beautiful and often spectacular ones. I read that there are approximately 475 wineries in the Napa Valley, 95% of which are family owned.
This year, we visited the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in the Napa Valley. I have eaten there several times and have never been disappointed.
We only had a quick lunch at the cafeteria and it was delicious. All the food is prepared and served by CIA students under the direction of a CIA director. I had a wonderful Caesar salad with a moist chicken breast and my husband had a delicious small pizza that he shared with me. For dessert, the chocolate-caramel nut cookie with my espresso was divine. I bought some local products at their store. There are also tours of the Institute. The Gatehouse restaurant is part of the Institute and serves creative meals prepared by the students.
Just as my husband likes his wineries, I love to overnight at Indian Springs in Calistoga to swim in their amazing pool. The pool was built in 1910 and is completely fed by naturally hot geyser water that ranges from 92-101 degrees Fahrenheit. There are four geysers and the water comes from a 400-foot depth heated by the earth’s hot magma. I love to float in the pool for hours, especially at night or in the early morning. It’s an experience that I treasure.
The two days went by too fast, and before I knew it, I was back at home and dreaming of next year. As soon as I got home, I started to work on some new recipes. One of the recipes was from a famous chef and his new cookbook promoting a healthy diet, which was a Christmas gift from my son. I picked a recipe I thought I would like: fish marinated in miso and cooked in parchment paper with bok choy. It totally bombed—for which I take full responsibility. Once again, I realized that not every recipe works for me. In the meantime, I’ll stick with my foolproof Mediterranean recipe with fish and vegetables baked in parchment paper. Click here for the recipe.
There are some wonderful pears in the store right now, so here are a few pear recipes I have enjoyed over the years.
I baked this almond pear tart last week and everybody loved it. This is a variation of the traditional French-style Pear Frangipane Tart. It is easier to make than it looks.
Click here for the recipe.
This poached pears make a stunning presentation. It's a light dessert, perfect after a heavy winter meal.
Click here for the recipe.
A great bundt cake, full of spices and different flavors. The recipe is from Gale Grand, a pastry chef from Illinois.
Click here for the recipe.
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!
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.
At the end of October I spent five days in Singapore and had a wonderful time. If you are interested in my adventure you can read about it on my Wanderlust blog, click on this link.
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 really shouldn't do this, instead I should go for a walk to give my old body some exercise before a very long flight. But I just have to share this because fig season is almost over and I love this mustard. Have you noticed that I am running a little behind when it comes to seasonal cooking? Later on, I will try making this recipe using dried figs and add it here.
It all began with a basket of Italian figs that my girlfriend Diane gave me.
This mustard would be great on a cheese plate or on a turkey sandwich. In France, figs and fig mustard is often served with foie gras, and in Germany it is served with a Weißwurst (veal sausage). This is not a sweet mustard, but it is full of flavor with the taste of the figs and a hint of vinegar.
Fall is in full swing and tomato season is over. Here in Santa Cruz there are still some wonderful heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market. I savor every one of them, as I know only too well that pretty soon they will all be gone. Many of my blogger friends who grow their own tomatoes have posted some great recipes for canning and preserving them one way or another.
About three weeks ago, I picked my meager cherry tomatoes in my sad-looking garden. Since I was going away I needed to do something with them. Years ago I slow roasted some regular-sized tomatoes and I remember enjoying them. Being pressed for time, I tossed them with some herbs, garlic and olive oil and roasted them in the oven. The result was a delicious tasting treat that could be used in many ways. It’s perfect on a slice of baguette, in a salad or on a sandwich. The leftover oil is wonderful by itself.
For my second try I choose some store bought cherry tomatoes . They were not as good as the first batch because I think the skin of the tomatoes was too thick.
I used my farmers market vegetables for this delicious Mediterranean fish baked in parchment paper with anchovies, green beans, olives and tomatoes. This is an old recipe that I always enjoy making and it takes little time to prepare. It is a healthy dinner any time of the week.
Cooking in parchment paper is a simple and healthy way to steam food in its own juices and it seals in all the wonderful aromas. There is little cleanup afterward and you can be creative with the vegetables and fish.
Fall has arrived and I have been happily cooking away in my kitchen with my new-found treasure Zwetchgen, a small unassuming purple plum that is called Italian plum in this country. In their natural state these plums have very little flavor and taste bland—but once baked, they transform into a treat , perfumed, tart, and sweet. I made several batches of my plum butter and I am thrilled to have them in my pantry (garage). The flavor is amazing, rich and earthy. But I also made several cakes.
Every September, from 1983-1989 the New York Times printed Marian Burros’ recipe for plum torte. Here is a link to the recipe (and I love reading all the comments). I have made this cake twice now, and have adjusted the recipe to my taste. I also baked a tart with a custard that my Swiss friend made for me in Switzerland. It was delicious and I hope to post it one of these days. My French girlfriend made a tarte aux quetsches, unfortunately I didn't get to taste it. Zwetschgenkuchen in Germany is usually baked with a lot of plums and a yeast-based sheet cake. Marian Burros’ Plum Torte recipe is a no-fuss, easy-to-make dessert. It is similar to other cake recipes with fruit that I have made many times. My tasters approved, but my fussy husband thought it was a little dry.
I also like using plums for my galette. Click for the recipe here.
When I was a child, we had several plum trees in our garden. One variety was called Zwetschgen, similar to the prune. Our Zwetschgen tree would overflow with fruit and our family would make Zwetschgenmus (aka spiced plum butter) in a huge copper kettle that was heated by a piece of burning wood from underneath. We would have big glass canning jars with rubber rings in our pantry filled with delicious plum butter.
As children we could not get enough of this sweet, rich and gooey plum butter spread on country bread and topped with schmand. The best way to describe schmand is a fresh cream that is similar to Créme Fraîche or whipping cream. I used greek yogurt on my sandwich .
In this country we call Zwetschgen Italian plums and they are seldom available where I live . You can imagine how happy I was when I found them in a local food stand. I bought all they had and made two different batches of Zwetschgenmus and baked two different cakes.
My Zwetschegenmus is a tartly rich and earthy-tasting fruit butter with a slight taste of cinnamon and allspice. These sour little plums (without much juice or flavor) once baked turn into an amazingly flavorful treat. It’s like the frog that turns into a prince. For the Zwetschgenmus, I chose a recipe from Louisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking book. I have to say it turned out just as good as Helga Papas,’ my village neighbor who has made it for decades in Germany and always shared some with my family. My brother is especially fond of it and I will keep a jar for him to eat when he comes to visit me this year. If you see this little unpretentious plum in a store next to their juicy voluptuous cousins, don’t pass them by. You will not regret it when you have a spoonful of Zwetschgenmus.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means a lot to me and I would love to hear from you .
Comments in English and German are welcome!
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