Fröhliche Weihnachten and best wishes for the coming year!
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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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