I am trying!
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.
Thank you my friends in the blog world for the all the entertainment and encouragement I get from reading your posts and comments. It makes me feel connected and takes some of the loneliness of isolation away. Happy Holidays to all of you. And may you find peace in these turbulent times. I am sure all of us are ready to say farewell to 2020 and welcome 2021 with open arms.
I know I’m overdue to write a new post for my blog. I have many excuses why it has taken me so long: the California wildfires, an unexpected medical diagnosis, as well as my friends, house, and garden all needing attention. What it really boils down to is major procrastination. It’s not that I haven’t anything to post, as I have cooked many meals in my partially remodeled kitchen. I love my new countertops, my new sink, and my pull-out drawers.
I made some delicious beef short ribs with cauliflower gratin for a friend who just moved back into her house after evacuating from the Bonny Doon wildfire. The fire had burned her fence and woodpile, but left her house intact. She had hitched her horse trailer in the middle of the night to save her horse and donkey. I had several other friends who had to evacuate, but luckily nobody lost their homes.
So, let’s get back to my kitchen and cooking. I made different recipes with zucchinis and yellow squash from my garden. My favorites are zucchini cakes and zucchini carpaccio. The recipe for the cakes are here and the carpaccio is easy to make. Slice a small yellow squash with a mandoline, put them on a plate, sprinkle some raspberry vinegar and good olive oil over the squash. Put it on a bed of lettuce if you like. Season with coarse salt, pepper, and some fresh thyme and you have a great salad. Now you can add whatever you want.
For my book club dinner, I went all out. I served my over-the-top crepes filled with salmon and fennel. It was delicious and everybody enjoyed the alfresco dining on my outdoor deck. It was a gorgeous evening and we didn’t talk a lot about books. We just enjoyed each other’s company, one of those rare treats in these times of COVID. There were only five of us, which made it easier to keep the 6-foot distance.
For dessert, I decided to make a French apple cake by Dorie Greenspan from her book Around My French Table. David Lebovitz adopted and posted the recipe on his blog, which I really enjoy reading. He now lives in Paris but used to be the baker for Chez Panisse in Berkley. It's a delicious and easy-to-make recipe. I have made it several times and everybody sees to enjoy it. Please do not omit the rum in this recipe, as it what really makes the cake. Because I didn’t have any rum, I used some of the liquid from my Rumtopf (fruit preserved in rum). In my humble opinion, this cake needs to be served with some whipped cream.
Click here for the recipe
Of course, there is always my German Apple cake which I have baked for decades.
Click here for the recipe.
You may also like my apple strudel cake, another favorite of mine.
Click here for the recipe.
Here we are, Labor Day has passed, summer is almost over. Recent weeks have been devastating for Santa Cruz County and California with huge fires burning and thousands of people evacuated. Many people lost their homes and all their belongings and some lost their lives. My heart goes out to all of them. For a couple of days Santa Cruz had the worst air quality in the world. My husband and I decided to go to our mountain cabin. I packed some personal stuff, just in case. I also took one of my favorite cookbooks called Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters that had not been packed away during my remodel. From this book I would like to share a scrumptious recipe for a blueberry lemon tart. I have made many recipes from this book and have never been disappointed. I make her apricot jam every year and never get tired of it. I like everything about this book, the recipes, the layout, and the illustrations. I also have been fortunate enough to eat at Chez Panisse in Berkley many times. Alice Waters is a great cook and shares her talent with children and young adults, which I think is wonderful. She was a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement.
I baked the lemon tart twice, once in the first week of August and then again last week. Even my husband who usually goes for the sweeter versions when it comes to dessert liked this tart.
The flavors in this tart are phenomenal, with the crispness and rich butter flavor of the páte sucrée, and the sweet tart flavor of the blueberries combined with the zesty lemon curd. It is a perfect combination for your taste buds. If you bake this, I hope you enjoy this tart as much as we have.
If you are interested in some different lemony or blueberry desserts click on the photo for my blogpost and the recipe.
My lemon trees in my tiny little yard are my treasures. I love their aroma and love their flavor. Every year I try to write a new post on my blog with a new lemon recipe. I remember the year all my lemons were stolen . It was so sad. This year I had a bumper crop that I shared with friends near and far. I sent off some boxes to friends on the east coast. I don’t mind sharing as long as they are a few left for me.
I asked for new lemon recipes on a Facebook site I belong to and the response was amazing. I got over three hundred responses with a lot of wonderful new recipes. Thank you to all of you. I will share two new recipes here and save the Facebook post so I can try some amazing looking recipes later. I am a little pressed for time because I am leaving for a trip to France in two days where I will cook my heart out in a very special kitchen. If all goes well I will tell you about it later.
I made Limoncello and lemon curd. The curd is delicious and easy to make if you have a Vitamix. This is the first time I made limoncello and after reading more about it I don’t think that it is authentic, but again it was easy to make and I had a little taste today. Not Bad! I also made 6 jars of preserved lemons. I must say I had a production going and loved it because I was in my element. Click here for the lemon curd and the limoncello recipes.
Preserved lemons capture the heavenly perfume of the lemon and excite your palate. It brings out the best in my avocado toast and many other dishes.
Click here for the recipe.
This is a nutty, chewy , nor-too-sweet cake which is made with whole lemons and ground almonds. Click here for the recipe
You want a melt in your mouth lemony dessert, try my German lemon mousse or Zitronenspeise as we call it in Germany.
Click here for the recipe
This tart lemon sorbet made with buttermilk has been an old friend of mine for years.
Click here for the recipe.
Perfect for an afternoon snack, this simple lemon tea bread is compact and infused with lemon juice.
Click here for the recipe
A delicious lemon pudding cake that is light and makes a great ending to any meal. The recipe comes from the Greens Restaurant in Fort Mason in San Fransisco.
Click here for the recipe
You have all heard of the famous German cake called Black Forest Cake, a chocolate cake filled with cherries and whipped cream. In Germany it is called Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. I had my share of it when I lived in Germany. My godmother, who was an excellent baker, made an awesome one. Somewhere I have her recipe, I think! But in the meantime and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I found a much easier German recipe for chocolate mousse with cherries. How good is that? You can whip this up in no time and end up with a memorable delight.
This is not a sweet dessert, it has no added sugar and it is made with a few ingredients that I got at Trader Joe’s. It needs some good chocolate, heavy cream, frozen cherries, cherry marmalade and Kirsch liquor or Kirschwasser as we call it in Germany.
I upped the ante by adding some fruit from my Rumtopf, which turned it into an adult dessert for my book club meeting. Remember my Rumptopf I made last summer by preserving fresh fruit in rum. I was a great success, we enjoyed it over the holidays and I gave some jars to my friends. Next year I am making it again when cherries are in season. Cherries were my favorite fruit in the Rumtopf.
Let’s get back to my mousse that I am leisurely nibbling on while writing this post. Like I said before, it is not sweet but it is rich and chocolatey. The cherries with their sauce add a fruity crunch to the mousse. A little bit of this dessert will go a long way. If you make this I hope you enjoy it as much I did.
For my book club dinner I made my Italian crespelle (crepes) stuffed with fennel and salmon in a white lemony sauce. Life is good when I am in the kitchen.
When I see plums I always think of the Italian prune plum tree we had at our farm in Germany where these plums are called Zwetschgen. When the fruit ripened in mid September we would make Zwetschgenmus (plum jam) and everybody baked Zwetschgenkuchen on large trays. They dough was usually a yeast dough with different toppings for the plums. My favorite was a custard topping which is called Schmandkuchen. One day I would like to bake it in my village and get advice from all those old cooks and bakery friends. In the meantime I found this wonderful recipe on YouTube that is easy to make and all my American friends liked it. The shortbread dough is used for the crust and the streusel.
The Zwetsche , a European plum ( Prunus domestica) has many different names, in France it is called quetsche, here in the US they are called Italian Prune Plums and sometime Empress Plums. These plums are small and dense with purple skin, easy to pit (freestone pits) and have yellow flesh. There is something magical that happens to this egg shaped, somewhat bland tasting Italian plum when you bake it, it becomes a sweet gooey delight, in cakes, in jams, and dumplings. As was the case with my cake.
I am writing this while eating small slivers of this tasty treat. My doctor tells me to stay away from sweets and I do most of the time but there are times when these rules don’t apply. This cake brings back memories from my childhood in Germany, where Zwetschgenkuchen was a seasonal treat . My mother liked the simple version, adding plums with a little bit of sugar to a sheet yeast cake. Sometimes she splurged and put a custard on top of the cake. I remember stuffing myself and being told to share. My friend, aunt Frieda, that lived on the next farm made the best sheet cakes ever in a wooden pizza oven where she also baked her bread. I would sit on her wood box watching her cook. Oh, those childhood memories.
Some more of my recipes using plums. The plum jam is tart but full of flavor. It's baked in the oven so you don't have to sweat over a hot stove and there is no stirring. Click on the photos below for the recipe.
Here is the link to the YouTube video where I found this recipe. It's in German but Thomas speaks very slowly and it is fun to watch him make the tart. I think this would be a great project for young cooks.
Apricots are in season and it’s time to make my favorite recipes and discover some new ones and that is exactly what I have done for the last couple of weeks. On our way home from the Sierras I bought several pounds of apricots from a fruit stand in the Central Valley of California. They were not quite ripe so I put them on a cookie sheet in my cool downstairs bedroom. They ripened quite nicely and I ended up with some juicy apricots.
I had dreams of making my delicious apricot jam or my apricot dumplings but I didn’t. Instead I was searching for new recipes. I found some but wasn’t real happy with them. In my opinion one cake was too sweet and the other was not as good as my German apricot cake or my apricot blueberry cobbler. Click on the photo below for the recipes.
After looking through some of my cookbooks and folders I came upon a recipe that caught my attention, poached halibut with apricot salsa. Sunset magazine published this recipe in 2007. I was a little hesitant to poach the halibut, but it was perfect and had an amazing texture and the apricot salsa was a perfect condiment for the halibut. This meal makes an elegant lunch or dinner, especially on a hot summer day. I served it on lettuce with some avocados. I can also imagine making this salsa with peaches or plums.
I am disappointed that I didn't get to make my roasted apricot sorbet, my apricot dumplings, or my apricot jam. Hopefully I will catch up next year. Click on the photos for the different posts and recipes. Have a happy and healthy summer, my friends.
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.
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!
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.
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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