I hope all of you have recovered from the holidays and are ready to tackle a New Year. 2018, can you believe it? I am speechless when I look at the number. I never thought I would reach this number but here I am, doing what I have always done. My body is telling me to slow down as the days go by faster and the years disappear. When I get engulfed by fear of the future I try to find my happy place and one of those happy places is my kitchen where I put on my apron on and start cooking.
I don’t like to spend hours in the kitchen and be a slave but I love to play around and come up with something tasty. My Ahi tacos with tropical fruit and avocado salsa always reminds me of the Hawaiian Islands and I hope they bring you all some sunshine during the dark days of January.
The dish comes together quickly but needs to be prepared ahead of time. Everything needs to be cut and ready to go because it would be sacrilegious to overcook the Ahi. I usually get Ahi at Costco and I have never been disappointed. The first thing I prepare is the seasoning, then I make the salsa. I serve these tacos with some cut tomatoes, thinly sliced cabbage and black olives on the side. Nobody would object to some extra sour cream or créme fraîche .
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.
These are your quintessential German meatballs, carefully simmered and served with a tangy white sauce with capers and lemon juice. The sauce is full of flavor, the texture is velvety smooth and the meatballs will melt in your mouth. It is a well-loved dish you will find all over Germany.
My recipe comes from my niece’s husband’s mother, Kerstin, who lives near Berlin and is an excellent cook. I admire her cooking style, simple yet expertly refined through her constant tasting and slowly adding spices. No recipe is needed. I once asked her son to describe her cooking and the answer was Hausmannskost (home cooking).
Kerstin cooked the meatballs when she and her husband visited me in Santa Cruz. I loved watching her slowly perfect the flavor. I tried to take notes, but more than once had to cross out and rewrite. The second and third time I cooked them for my German girlfriends, I got rave reviews—and not one morsel was left.
This dish is named for the Prussian city of Königsberg which is now Kalinigrad in Northern Poland. If you go on the web, you will find many variations for the recipe. Originally, the meatballs were made with veal and either herring or anchovies were added. This dish is traditionally served with boiled potatoes and cooked beets tossed in vinegar. To develop the flavors, cook the meatballs the day before. It is a humble dish and easy to make.
Usually I test my recipes several times before I post them. This recipe was such a big hit during Oscar night that I am going to post the first iteration. There are many versions of this sauce that are delicious but for once I am going to stop adjusting and just post as it is. The sauce has a strong tomato taste seasoned with Italian herbs. If you like these flavors this sauce is for you.
My husband and I have a new friend we adore. Her name is Tara and her home is in Berlin with her mother. This school year she is living with her American father and his family here in Santa Cruz. What is amazing about her is that she is truly bi-cultural. She loves German comfort food like dumplings, red cabbage with duck, and beef- or cabbage rolls. This is similar to food that her German grandmother prepares for her. I enjoy being her substitute grandmother and cooking her favorite meals. Early in the year she was a little homesick but now she enjoys life in Santa Cruz. After making meatloaf, stuffed cabbage, and several other German dishes it was time to change the menu, hence the tomato sauce.
Every Sunday I walk to our little farmer’s market around the corner and get whatever looks good. I haven't made a lot of pasta lately but when I went to the market this week I decided to splurge and make pasta with tomato sauce. I bought ground pork from a young farmer who raises pigs on a nearby farm. The meat was outstanding and I will get it again. I decided to get fresh pasta shells for my sauce and some crusty bread. Instead of a salad we had artichokes from the market. The sauce was easy to make while watching all the beautiful people on the red carpet. Tara had never seen the Oscars before and also enjoyed watching them while finishing her homework assignment.
Rouladen or Rinderrouladen is a quintessential German meat dish made with bacon, onions and pickles wrapped in thinly sliced beef. The gravy is an absolute requirement to round out this dish. It is usually served with boiled potatoes, potato dumplings, or Spätzle (depending on the region). I like red cabbage with my Rouladen, but you can serve it with any vegetable you like. The dish was once considered a recipe for common folk, but today it is enjoyed by many people as a festive dish or a special Sunday meal. Imagine braised meat flavored with mustard, pickles, prosciutto, enhanced by a rich gravy. If you like that, than Rouladen is the dish for you.
My love affair with Rouladen began here in the United States when Susanne, my friend and neighbor and an excellent cook, started making it for me. This dish is the best cure when I get homesick for Germany. It’s like soul food imbedded into my DNA. It’s not fancy or delicate, but homey and nourishing. I can’t wait to sit at Susanne’s inviting table and start eating.
There are many recipes for Rinderroulden (beef roll-ups), but I enjoy Susanne’s the best. She uses thinly sliced prosciutto that she buys at Trader Joe’s (instead of bacon) as well as cornichons (gherkin pickles). The butcher slices a piece of London broil into 1/8 inch thin slices. I find that this dish develops more flavor when made a day ahead.
My recipe for red cabbage ( here is the link for the recipe) goes well with Rouladen. Susanne serves boiled potatoes that she flavors with melted butter and parsley. Thank you Susanne, for being my friend and taking care of me for so many years.
For dessert I recommend something light and lemony like my lemon mouse, lemon pudding cake, or my lemon and buttermilk sorbet. Click on the photo for the recipe.
If you like duck, try this recipe. It is easy to cook and anyone can do it. Duck confit is on the top of my list of favorite foods. I have made different dishes using duck confit over the years. My claim-to-fame recipe is Duck Quesadillas. Making duck confit is fun, however it is time-consuming and you need a lot of duck or goose fat. In the past, I have bought pre-made duck confit and there is nothing wrong with that. I freeze it, knowing I always have something very tasty in my house. I make a pasta dish with cabbage and duck confit that is delicious. My girlfriend, Marie, has promised me another dish that her French grandmother used to make. Duck confit or confit de carnard is a centuries-old process of preservation that consists of salt-curing a piece of meat and then cooking it in its own fat. You will find it in the rich cuisine of southwestern France. I had some duck confit while visiting France that was to die for, crisp skin with tender meat.
Every year, I prepare a birthday dinner for my friend, George. My best one was cooking a goose years ago. It was delicious and I will have to make it again and post the recipe. This year, I remembered a recipe from Sara Moulton that was in my fowl folder. I had been wanting to make it for years, but had forgotten about the recipe. (I have been known to get sidetracked easily.) This recipe is an easy alternative to preparing duck confit without using goose or duck fat. You cook it in a Reynolds Oven Bag. “Why not?”, I thought it was worth a try. Sara Moulton is a great cook and I always enjoy watching her on TV. Click here for her website and the original recipe. She used a whole duck. I decided to only use duck legs. (I like my duck breasts cooked differently.)
I served my duck legs with my red cabbage and roasted parsnips, sweet potatoes and fingerling potatoes. I made a gravy too, although that is not necessary
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
Every wedding is special for the ones involved and etched into our memory forever. This was a special one for me because it involved my niece, who has been like a daughter to me from the day she was born. Since I was unable to have children of my own, her birth was the only one I was able to participate in. My son was six years old when I adopted him.
After living with her boyfriend for seven years, my niece toyed with the idea of getting married in a chapel in Las Vegas, but no papers were ever filed. Then last year, they had a sweet spiritual commitment ceremony on the French Atlantic coast while camping with some friends, her brother and his family. This year, they finally decided to do the real thing with a church wedding at our family farm in Germany on a Friday, followed by a huge summer party Saturday with more people and more friends. It was definitely an event that my niece had planned for months which took an enormous amount of effort. First, it was going to be a small wedding with family and some friends, followed by the annual summer party that my nephew, niece and friends have every year. As time went on, things got bigger and bigger like weddings often do.
After everything was said and done, it was the most genuine and sweetest weddings I have ever been to (of course I am biased). When I saw my niece dancing with her friends on the stage very late at night, I knew that she was happy.
Literally, it took a village, complete with friends and family to make it all happen, but she made all the decisions. A huge tent was rented in case of rain. And it did. Two smaller tents were put up. A stage and a large play area was built for the children. Most of the work was done by friends who arrived days ahead and camped on the property or slept in the emptied-out garden shacks. My son arrived early with my niece and about 12 friends. These guys worked tirelessly until the moment they left. My niece’s best friend, Corinna, was amazing—she cooked for all the people and was the best personal assistant I have ever seen. Dominik , the best man, was working very hard in the yard and making sure that the groom had a helping hand. Guest came from Austria, Colombia, Venezuela, Nepal, and let's not forget California.
We old folks decided to stay in a hotel in a nearby small town. The groom’s mother transported some beautiful but very fragile wildflowers from home. The woman in the neighboring village made a huge wedding wreath. It is tradition in this village to make one for every wedding. What a wonderful local custom. My niece wanted to be married there rather than in her home village two kilometers away.
In the truest sense, it was a dramatic event. Mother Nature added a violent thunderstorm a half hour before the wedding. The boys had to get undressed and rescue one of the tents. The decorations from the stage flew all over the farm. Getting to the church was a task not easily done, due to high wind and rain. The church bells rang for awhile. But all was forgotten as my my niece and the groom walked together down the aisle lead by the pastor, which was something they had decided ahead of time. They had lived together for seven years and had been separated by my niece's internship in Melbourne, Australia for a year. And a life-threatening illness had brought them even closer. There were tears of happiness flowing in the little church.
The thunderstorm was over after the church and all was well. Some farmers decorated a trailer to transport the couple back to the farm. Some other guests were in a second trailer pulled by a tractor. I loved it.
The reception party following the ceremony was fun and we danced way into the night. Everybody had fun.
The next day, the annual summer party took place. It was a potluck event so people brought salads and my brother's friend barbecued sausages and meat. Unfortunately, it rained, so everything took place in the tents. The following day everybody helped clean up and
the wedding weekend was over. Weddings in Germany are as different as they are here in the States—from very formal to a small gathering at the justice of peace.
I used my own photos except for the the first two. I will add or replace some photos later.
I ask the bride and the groom to choose their favorite food from my blog for this post. The bride likes my duck confit quesadillas and the groom my chocolate tart.
Pretend your are in a fancy, expensive spa and imagine being pampered with a delicious meal. I have been making this recipe for my health conscious friends for years using different types of fish. The butternut coulis and mushrooms are vegan and are very low in calories. For fish I have used whatever is available and fresh. Red snapper or cod are good choices. For this occasion I roasted some asparagus as an additional vegetable. This meal serves four with some leftover coulis.
I live in Santa Cruz where over half the population is vegetarian and some folks are vegan. This is the perfect dish because they don't have to eat the fish and all I have to do is substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth. The coulis can be turned into a delicious healthy soup by adding additional broth. Last Saturday I invited some friends who were in a middle of a health crisis and needed a comforting and healthy meal. This one fits the bill. A good meal will let you forget about the problems and fears you are facing and enjoy the moment. For an appetizer, I served my baked goat cheese with fresh herbs and garlic. We sat outside enjoying the warm evening, dipping fresh baguette in our goat cheese and sipping a glass of 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Hewitt Vineyard which my friends had brought.
The meal was a great success. The halibut was a little overdone, so watch the time when you roast it. My friend’s immune system would not allow any uncooked fish. This is one dish I always plate before serving. I am sorry about the quality of the photos, it does not reflect the food. I have tried to photograph this several times before but what can I say?… I am a slow learner and I am not devoting much time to improving my photography skills. It shows! My dream is to take a workshop somewhere in Europe where I might improve my photography skills.
I had some fresh raspberries and blueberries in my refrigerator . For dessert I decided to make my favorite galette. Okay, this is where I chose not be too healthy and got some bitter caramel ice-cream from the Penny Ice-Cream Shop in Santa Cruz. These guys make the absolutely best ice cream ever. I loooooove the bitter caramel and yes, I know that vanilla ice-cream probably would go better with the galette. But I couldn't help myself. If you are ever in Santa Cruz and before you hit the beach, treat yourself to ice cream from this wonderful creamery. It is worth every bite.
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.
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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