Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas dinner

This year, I wanted to make something special but not difficult. Turning holiday meals into an ordeal inhibits enjoyment for me and for my family. Everyone wants to help and I just want them to go away so I can work work work, which is not at all the spirit I like to cultivate at this or any time of year. With my mighty principles in mind, I had no idea what I wanted to cook for our Christmas meal and waited for inspiration. It came on December 22nd during a trip to the local upscale grocery store. I spied a bottle of pomegranate molasses on the shelf and remembered coming across a fabulous-looking recipe that called for it once while I was living in The Hague. At the time, I had no clue where I might find pomegranate molasses (I struggled to find baking soda!), so I dismissed the recipe...but the ingredient name stuck. And here it was. Of course I bought it and brought it home, where I turned to epicurious to find what I could do with it. I came across this recipe, and Christmas Eve dinner was planned! I served it with baby spinach tossed in balsamic vinaigrette with sultanas and cashews and we enjoyed some local cleanskins Classic White wine. This was definitely fancy enough for a special occasion without being painful in the least to prepare. My only suggestion is go easy on the pomegranate molasses. It has quite a tangy bite, which some may love but others may not.

Crisp Cheese-Filled Eggplant Sandwiches with Pomegranate Molasses
Bon Appétit | September 2003
by chef Brenda Langton
Cafe Brenda, Minneapolis, MN

Pomegranate molasses is sold at Middle Eastern markets and some supermarkets; panko is in many supermarkets' Asian foods aisle.
Yield: Makes 4 servings

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
5 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup water
1 large long eggplant, cut crosswise into sixteen 1/3-inch-thick rounds

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
4 ounces coarsely grated sharp provolone cheese (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Pomegranate molasses

Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray, then brush each with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Mix panko, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl. Place flour in another medium bowl. Whisk egg and 1/4 cup water in shallow bowl. Coat each eggplant slice with flour; shake off excess, then dip into egg mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Coat with panko. Place on prepared sheets. Bake until bottoms are golden brown, turning once, about 12 minutes per side. Cool slightly on sheets. Maintain oven temperature.
Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Cool slightly. Mix in both cheeses, parsley, and basil. Season with pepper.
Divide cheese mixture among 8 eggplant slices on 1 baking sheet; spread to cover. Top with remaining eggplant, pressing to compact and making 8 sandwiches. Bake until eggplant is crisp, about 15 minutes. Divide sandwiches among 4 plates; drizzle with pomegranate molasses.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I've been a bit of a pancake connoisseur lately, sampling the pancakes at various local cafes. Brekky is a popular meal to eat out, and many cafes serve breakfast all day. I had been in raptures over the pancakes at Vans in Cottesloe. Those are served with slices of banana between the warm pancake layers...but the real key is the citrus butter melting over the top. This weekend, I tried eat cafe's crepe-like pancakes, topped with toasted coconut and maple syrup and served with thinly sliced fruit salad (strawberries, bananas, pears, and melon) in between the layers. Look at how beautiful:

I ate every bite! And I am taking notes, adapting my own pancakes at home to reflect the deliciousness I find while out. Citrus butter is super easy! Just mix freshly squeezed orange juice with melted butter and let the butter re-solidify in the fridge, stirring occasionally so they won't separate. Give it a try, and I promise you will be happy you did!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I am immensely proud of having made bagels, and good bagels too! These take more time than the bread, but if you like bagels, I say it's worth it! Both of our girls are big bagel fans, so this recipe is a great discovery for us. Bagels are good on the go, and they are extra-handy for a baby who wants to feed herself (and wants to eat constantly). In fact, we read once in a bagel place that bagels were created as bread for babies, because the ring shape is easy for them to grasp. Who knew?

Again, I followed a recipe from Feed Me I'm Yours by Vicki Lansky, and again I added wheat germ and dry milk. My biggest tip is add the flour carefully! I mixed the dry ingredients in a bowl (4 cups of flour plus the add-ins) and planned to add them gradually to the wet, only to have the whole contents shift half-way through my "gradual adding" and slide right into my other bowl...creating a very hard, very lumpy wad-o'-dough that went in the bin. Sigh. Lesson learned! You'll also see in the photo that some of the bagels got quite brown. The ovens here are TINY, and the baking sheet you see goes from wall to wall. One dozen bagels is all I can make in one go, but lemme tell ya...they're almost already gone!


1.5 cups warm water (105-110F)
1 package dry yeast
1 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar or honey (I used super-fine raw sugar)
4-6 cups flour (white, whole-wheat or a combo)(I used all whole-wheat)
1 egg
poppy or sesame seeds (optional)(I omitted)

In a large bowl, mix warm water with yeast. Add salt and sugar (or honey). Cover bowl with a damp cloth and let stand 5 minutes. Gradually add flour until a soft-to-medium (but not stiff) dough is obtained. Knead on a lightly floured board (5-10 minutes) until shiny and smooth, adding a little more flour as necessary for kneading. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until dough is doubled (about 30 minutes). Punch down and knead lightly.

To form into bagels, roll out approximately 1/4 cup of dough into a strand about 7 inches long and pinch the ends together firmly. Place bagels fairly close together on a floured board or baking sheet. Cover and let rise again (about 30 minutes) in a warm, draft-free place.

Bring about 5 inches of water to boil in a fairly large, open pot/kettle. Turn the heat down to simmer. When bagels have risen, gently lift one at a time and drop into simmering water. Turn them immediately and simmer for about 2 minutes until puffy but not disintegrating. Several bagels may be put into the water at one time, but do not crowd the pan. Remove the bagels to a towel-covered rack to drain and cool while you boil the next batch.

Place the cooled bagels on a greased baking sheet. They can be close together. Beat the egg briefly with 1 Tablespoon of water and brush the mixture over the tops of the bagels. Sprinkle with seeds if using. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Honey-Wheat Bread

Having rediscovered the joy of homemade bread, I doubt we'll be going back anytime soon. It just takes time, and most of that time is hands-off waiting for it to rise while you do other things. You have to be mindful of the clock, but the only real requirement is you stick around to see the whole thing through. I'm hoping to be together enough to bake two loaves in the evening twice a week. One loaf can be fresh; the other can wait in the freezer. When supplies dwindle, it's time to bake two loaves again. Easy-peasy. And this bread is DELICIOUS! The recipe is "Basic Whole-Wheat Bread" from Feed Me I'm Yours by Vicki Lansky. She recommends adding a measure of soy flour, nonfat dry milk and wheat germ to each cup when using white flour. I went ahead and added what I had (no soy flour) to the whole wheat. We can always use the extra nutrients, and it certainly doesn't compromise the taste!

Homemade Honey-Wheat Bread

2 packages yeast
1 cup warm water (105-110F)
1 Tbsp honey
2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter, margarine or vegetable oil (butter!)
1/3 cup honey
1.5 Tbsp salt
5 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ (optional)
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk (optional)
3 cups white flour (or as needed)

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in 1 Tablespoon of honey. Set aside for 10 minutes.
In a saucepan, combine milk, butter (or margarine or oil), honey and salt. Heat to lukewarm--do not scald.
Pour warm milk mixture and dissolved yeast into large mixing bowl. Add the whole-wheat flour, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Be sure to use all the whole-wheat flour. Add wheat germ and dry milk if desired. Add enough white flour to make a soft, yet manageable dough.
Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (approx 8-10 minutes). Place dough in a greased bowl, turning it to grease the top. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in bulk (40-60 minutes).
Punch down, divide in half, and knead each half for about 30 seconds. Shape into 2 loaves and place in greased loaf pans.
Cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F and bake 40 minutes or until done.
Turn out loaves onto rack and cool.
Slice, eat, enjoy, and wonder how you will ever eat store-bought bread again.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Free-form apple pie?

Recently, I made strawberry-rhubarb hand-pies again and (once again) ate them all in less than 24 hours. They are that good. And I have that little restraint. Following the same recipe for the crust and only slightly amended recipe for the filling, I made what angry chicken (recipe source) called "apple galette". My crust was extra generous, so I folded it completely over for an enclosed free-form pie. Oooooooo....De. Li. Cious! We already ate half. I'm sure the rest will be gone before dinnertime tomorrow. Sad, sad, sad...but oh so good!

p.s. (especially for gail) Inspired to reduce refined sugars by a certain healthy eater I know, I used super-fine raw sugar in this recipe, and it was perfect! I think any added honey-type flavor from the sugar only enhanced the recipe. Highly recommended! And try those handpies too. Uh. Maze. Ing!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Apple Oatmeal Bread

There is such goodness in homemade bread. Yes, it takes a bit of effort and planning, but it mostly takes time to rise all by itself. When it bakes, it fills the house with fabulous smells, and you can't beat the goodness of freshly baked bread! Since we moved from Europe, we have lost the good breads available daily in our local bakery. In their place, we have supermarket bread. In the words of Mimi, "Yuck! Ick! Pooey! We spit on that!" It just isn't the same! No flavor, no richness, no texture! We just can't handle it, so I'm going to have to buckle down and bake my own for the first time since Qatar (where we also had icky supermarket bread). My returning foray into homemade bread couldn't have gone any better! The recipe I tried was "Apple Oatmeal Bread" from the King Arthur's Flour website. They have an impressive list of bread recipes, by the way. Take some time to peruse if you are interested in bread-making. The Apple Oatmeal Bread smelled heavenly while baking, and ooooooo the goodness when it's done!

Apple Oatmeal Bread

2 packages (a scant 2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups warm milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups oat flakes or old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 cups (approximately) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (I used whole wheat)
2 cups coarsely chopped tart apples (Granny Smith)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water, for glaze
additional oat flakes or rolled oats, for topping

In a large bowl, stir yeast into water to soften.
Add remaining ingredients through walnuts. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.
Gradually add remaining flour, a little at a time, until you have a dough stiff enough to knead.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface.
Knead, adding flour as necessary, until you have a smooth, elastic dough.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl, turning once to coat the entire ball of dough with oil, and cover with a towel.
Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Grease two 9 x 5-inch or 10 x 5-inch loaf pans, and sprinkle with rolled oats.
Turn dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface.
Divide dough in half.
Shape dough into loaves and place in prepared pans.
Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

Just before baking, brush tops of loaves with egg/water mixture. Sprinkle with additional rolled oats.

Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 30 minutes, or until internal temperature of loaves reaches 190°F.
Immediately remove bread from pans and cool on a rack, to prevent crust from becoming soggy.

This morning, we discovered this bread makes the MOST DELICIOUS FRENCH TOAST!
I grew up with (dreaded supermarket) white bread French toast, which I always hated for the soggy, eggy nothingness it was. Now, I have a whole new understanding of why people eat French toast! Yum yum yummers!

French Toast

slices of Apple Oatmeal Bread
2 eggs
1 cup milk (or less if you prefer an eggy toast)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
butter or oil to grease skillet/griddle/pan/what-have-you

Mix ingredients from eggs through salt.
Heat pan/griddle/what-have-you until water drops dance on the surface.
Melt butter or spray/spread oil.
Dip bread in mixture until both sides moist. (you can soak the bread rather than dip if that's your pleasure)
Place in skillet and cook (flipping when first side is done) until both sides are nicely browned.
We spread jam on ours and were over the moon. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Strawberry Rhubarb Handpies

These are oh-so-delicious! Very simple and full of yummy goodness. The site where I found the recipe advocates eating them for breakfast with a hot cup of coffee...sounds like a brilliant idea! I just made them tonight because I am tired of not baking and I could make these without any appliances (though the dough is even easier if you just whip everything but the ice water in a food processor, adding the water in after you have your cornmeal textured dry stuffs).

Strawberry Rhubarb Handpies
discovered the joy on angrychicken

1.5 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 stick butter
4 Tbsp ice water

4 cups chopped rhubarb and strawberries
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Roll out dough. Add filling. Fold over and crease.
Bake 15 minutes at 425F, then 25 minutes at 350F.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Black bean quesadillas or soft tacos or whatever

This is a great solution to dinner-on-the-run. It's delicious, nutritious and (sometimes, most importantly) FAST.

can of black beans
your favorite salsa
cheddar cheese, shredded
fresh spinach
corn or flour tortillas

Heat the beans in a pot or skillet on the stove. I usually let 'em boil gently in the cooking water that came in the can for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, steam the spinach. The easy way to do this is rinse the leaves well, put them in a microwaveable bowl, cover and cook for 1 minute. When cool enough to handle, chop the steamed spinach.
Assembly is up to you. If you have big tortillas, pile in your ingredients, roll it up (you may have to heat the tortillas first to avoid breakage), and enjoy! If you have little tortillas, you might want to layer the ingredients on one tortilla, top it with the other tortilla, and bake or pan fry until the cheese is melted.

It's very easy to adapt these to include whatever you like. We often add in corn and brown rice if we have some on hand. Sometimes we toss in bite-sized cooked chicken too. It's up to you!

Really moist chicken

I was trying to come up with some way to cook chicken breasts that would make them yummy but neutral enough to use in lunch sandwiches in different combos. I came across this recipe, and it worked out great!

boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup natural plain yogurt
2 Tbsp country-style mustard
1 cup wheat germ, toasted
salt and pepper

Stir together yogurt and mustard.
Toast wheat germ and stir in seasoning.
Dredge chicken in yogurt mixture. Completely coat.
Now coat those in the wheat germ.
Place on ungreased baking sheet.
Cook at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

The yogurt keeps the chicken incredibly moist. The chicken is good as is (serve it with some brown rice and green veggies), but we sliced it up and used it in sandwiches too.

Veggie Toss

I've been happily frequenting the local farmer's market each Saturday, but there is a downside. I tend to get over-excited and completely carried away. I purchase everything that looks yummy, giving me WAY TOO MUCH fresh goodies to use in a timely manner. The other night, I looked at my produce mountain and realized I'd better do something quick. I'll call the result the "Veggie Toss", because that's literally what I did (tossed in different veggies that were laying around). There's no real recipe to relate here, but the results were so pleasing I had to share.

corn on the cob
bell peppers (I had red, yellow and green)
fresh herbs

Roast the bell peppers. If you haven't done this before, you really should! What a flavor impact! Cut the bell peppers in half length-wise. Toss out the seeds and cut out the white ribs. Rub 'em with olive oil and place them cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast on the top shelf of your oven at around 425 degrees or so. Yes, they will turn black. This is what you want! When the skin is all black and blistered, take them out of the oven and toss them in a paper bag, roll the top of the bag shut, and allow them to cool (can use aluminum foil if you don't have paper bags). When they are cool, peel that blistered skin off and voila! Roasted bell peppers, ready for your culinary pleasure!

Chop the zucchini into bite-sized bits. Saute in combination of butter and olive oil until softened, browned and yummy.
Cut corn off cobs. Toss into pan with zucchini. Saute for a few more minutes (enough to heat the corn but not brown it).
Chop herbs. Sprinkle over corn and zucchini and corn along with some sea salt and pepper if that's your thing.
Slice those lovely roasted bell peppers and stir those in too.
It's a hodgepodge mess, but oooooo did it taste good!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cooking on the fly

Here in temporary accommodation, we have a kitchen and therefore want/need to cook. On the other hand, we don't want to buy a lot of spices and whatnot given that we will just have to move it all when we find a house. So I bought the basics and tonight I made something up with what little we had. We didn't have any cheese or spices beyond salt and pepper, but somehow dinner worked out well, so I thought I'd share.

olive oil (2-4 Tbsp)
salt and pepper to taste
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 each red, yellow, green bell peppers, deseeded and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
your favorite organic tomato sauce

Heat olive oil in pan until hot. Add chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste as they cook in the oil. Cook until lightly browned. Remove chicken from pan.
Add a bit more olive oil. Lightly saute the garlic. Don't let it brown or the flavor will be compromised. Stir in the bell peppers. Lightly saute for a few minutes. Stir in tomato sauce. Stir in chicken. Let sauce simmer while you prepare the couscous. Sauce will be chunky and relatively thick.

Bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil. Stir in couscous and remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

Spoon couscous into a bowl. Spoon sauce over top. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stones Pizza

Still not cooking for ourselves much, but oh my have we discovered some yummy pizza! Stones Pizza in North Perth won the Bronze Medal 2008 at America's Plate World Pizza Competition in New York for their "Sweet Tina with Bacon" pizza. What does this mean to us? That we had to try it! Try it we did, and holy moly what a pizza! Without the bacon, it's vegetarian. In fact, most of Stones Pizza pizzas are vegetarian, and nearly all can be made gluten-free. The gluten-free option is readily available in most restaurants and prominent in grocery stores here, telling me it must be a fairly common allergy among Australians. But I digress. Pizza!

No recipe since we ordered in, but here's the topping list on a thin crust pizza:

Stone Pizza's "Sweet Tina with Bacon"
garlic butter
roasted sweet potato
caramelized shallots
fontina cheese

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Why oh why do I neglect this site? Are we not eating? Of course we are eating! Many good things that are worth sharing! But somehow I never get to updating this. Oh dear. The problem is two-fold:
1) I am a very good cook, but I am not very original. Grad school beat me over the head with citing every source for everything and not sharing copyrighted material online, so I still feel apprehensive about sharing recipes I use here on the blog.
2) I rarely think to photograph the food. I believe a good picture is an important part of the food blog, and no picture makes me think not to share.
What do you think? Do you want to see regular updates here to get ideas for good foods? Would you prefer wait for photos, even if that means irregular posting? Let me know and we'll get this going better!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bee Sting Cake

My first introduction to Bee Sting Cake was in Dubai, strangely enough. Our hotel had a great cafe where we stopped for tea and cake, and Markus was very excited to see Bee Sting Cake in the pastry case. I had never heard of it before, but apparently it's quite popular in Germany. For some unexplained reason, I decided to try my hand at making one this week. Markus warned me that it took a lot of time and told me not to do it, but being the unselfish hubby-person he is, he always tells me not to take extra time when the something is for him. Being the good wifey-person I am who wanted to make a cake he likes, I ignored his well-meant advice and plowed ahead.

Let me just tell you, if you are ever served a piece of Bee Sting Cake, APPRECIATE. The cake is good. Not over-the-top-amazing, I -want-this-for-my-birthday-cake-every-year fantastic, but it is rather tasty. But it takes HOURS to make. I am not kidding. HOURS. If someone serves you Bee Sting Cake, either they devoted hours to your culinary enjoyment or they paid someone else to do so, so either way, APPRECIATE. Holy moly. I've never spent so much time preparing a cake before. This is serious.

Just in case you have invited the German chancellor to tea or you have nothing better to do (in which case, please come to my house and help me!) or you are just plain curious and up for a cooking challenge, here's the recipe modified for reality from Nick Malgieri's "Perfect Cakes".

**For the record, when we tried this today, Markus was amazed. He lavished compliments and said it was probably the best Bee Sting Cake he had ever tasted (and he is not one to pay lip service). So the moral is: at least if you cook your buns off for this, your guests will be pleased. That should keep the tiny Martha in all of us happy.**

Bee Sting Cake

1/2 cup milk
1 envelope (2.5 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 or 8 pieces
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs

Almond Brittle Topping
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup (about 4 ounces) sliced blanched almonds

Pastry Cream Filling
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon kirsch, optional
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened

Start with the filling, since it has to be refrigerated for a couple of hours.
1. Combine 3/4 cup of milk and the sugar in nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Whisk to mix in sugar. Bring to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/4 cup of milk and cornstarch in small mixing bowl. Whisk in yolks.
3. In steady stream, whisk hot milk mixture into yolk mixture. Pour back into pan and replace on stove on medium heat. Whisk constantly (though not too quickly, which slows process) until cream thickens and comes to a boil. Allow cream to boil while whisking constantly for an additional 30 seconds.
4. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and kirsch (if using). One piece at a time, beat in butter.
5. Pour cream into a bowl. Scrape sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula so cream isn't on the sides, and then cover tightly with plastic wrap, plastic wrap touching the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
*Note: The "about 2 hours" is the only good time indicator in this recipe. The recipe claims the cream should take about 2 minutes to boil over low heat after you combine the milk and yolk mixtures. HA. Maybe on a nuclear fusion stove, but on my electric pansy stove, it took about 20 minutes and I upped the heat a lot, though not so much that I risked scalding it and needing to start over.

Cake part. This is a brioche, so technically, you could just make this and be satisfied. It won't be a Bee Sting, but it will be a fully decent yeast cake to serve with tea or coffee.
1. Prepare your baking pan. Either use one 2-inch-deep, 10-inch round cake pan or a 9 or 10 inch springform pan. Butter the pan and line the bottom with buttered parchment paper. If you use springform, wrap the bottom in foil because the topping will probably leak.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk over low heat until warm, about 110 degrees F. Pour into small bowl and whisk in yeast. Then stir in 1 cup of flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients. Don't worry if it starts to rise a little.
3. In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine butter, sugar and salt, pulsing at 1 second intervals until soft and smooth, scraping the bowl several times to ensure even mixing. Add eggs one at a time, processing until smooth after each addition. If mixture appears curdled, process for 1 more minute until it looks smooth (or smooth-er).
4. Add remaining 1.25 cups of flour and the milk-yeast-flour mixture, pulsing for 1 second intervals until a soft dough forms; then process continuously for an additional 15 seconds.
5. Scrape dough onto floured work surface. Fold it over onto itself several times to make it more elastic (if you can; mine was way too goopy) .
6. To shape dough, fold it into a sphere (again, HA!), making sure the outside of the dough is smooth and seamless (okay). Cover the dough with a towel and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Get yourself something to drink and maybe eat a snack. You're still going to be here for a while.
7. Press the dough evenly into prepared pan and pierce it with a fork all over the top (this gives the topping something to cling to). Cover the pan with a towel and allow the dough to rise until half again larger in bulk, about 30 minutes.
8. Uncover the dough and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
9. When the dough goes into the fridge, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and start the topping.

1. Butter a heatproof bowl and set aside. (recipe says 2-quart bowl; I used a regular ceramic cereal bowl)
2 Combine butter, honey and sugar in a small saucepan. Place over medium-low heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Again, I upped the temperature from the "low" called for in the recipe, but don't burn your sugar or brown your butter.
3. Stir in the almonds and immediately remove pan from heat. Pour into prepared bowl and cool to room temperature.

By the time the topping is room temperature, it's probably been at least 20 minutes with your dough in the fridge (in my case, it was more), so it's time to proceed to the combination/baking phase.
1. Remove chilled dough from refrigerator. Using the back of a spoon or a small offset metal spatula, spread the almond topping evenly over the top.
2. Bake for about 30 minutes, until topping is well-caramelized and dough is firm. Toothpick will come out clean.
3. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the topping from the sides of the pan by running a small sharp knife between topping and pan. Unmold the cake and remove paper. Set cake topping-side up to cool completely.
4. When cake is completely cool, remove cold pastry cream from fridge and whisk until smooth, about 10 seconds.
5. Slice the cake horizontally with a sharp serrated knife. Place the bottom layer on a platter. Evenly spread the pastry cream over the bottom layer with a small spatula or back of a spoon.
6. Cut the top of the cake into serving wedges (10-12) and reassemble them on top of cream. Precutting the top makes it easier to serve the cake and also reduces pressure on the filling to keep it from oozing out too much.
7. Keep in a cool place FOR SEVERAL HOURS before serving. (again, WHEW. What a labor of love, this cake)
8. Serve and APPRECIATE. You worked hard for this moment.
Keep any leftovers in refrigerator.

Let me know if you try this. If you do, kudos up front! You earned it, baby!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fun at the organic market

Every Wednesday, there is an organic food market in The Hague next to Parliament. Many (though not all) items are local, but all are organically grown/raised/produced. You see a lot of long hippie skirts there and a few judgemental eyebrows when you don't bring your own bags, but we like stopping in to pick up some fresh goodies each week. Ellie likes to help with the eggs. She is always very careful and deliberate, and the proud look of accomplishment when she's done is priceless.

This time around, there were lots of fresh local berries on the market. While I was making my selections, the lady working the fruit/vegetable stand handed Ellie a fresh strawberry...and that was it. Sales pitch scored! The big grin, the enthusiastic "More! More! More! PLEASE!" accompanied by baby sign language for "more"...we had to have some. I bought a little basket of them, which Ellie proceeded to eat with gusto. Thank you, makers of Tide pen for saving her cute sundress from strawberry-red doom.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Baked Eggplant and Lamb

Over the past few years, my food choices have increasingly vegetarian leanings. While I don't plan to become a total convert, most meat products have really lost their appeal, particularly in the US where industrial farms are something I can scarcely think about without feeling green. Recently, I read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, and she makes some very good points about ethically-responsible meat. I suppose that motivated me for the first time to visit the meat man at the organic food market last week. Also a first, I bought lamb burgers. Markus really likes lamb, but I had never tried it. I'm still not sure how I feel about it, but I thought I would give it a try, as those animals were breed and raised ethically (locally, organically, open pasture) for that purpose. Those lamb burgers were pretty good. I only ate half of mine, but it was good enough to have me give lamb another try this week on market day. This time around, I chose a recipe from for Baked Eggplant and Lamb. All of the ingredients (except the wine) came from the local organic market, and wow, the flavor is incredible! Unfortunately, it does not photograph well, and we were too impatient to eat it for me to try setting it up better, so you'll have to trust me on appearance and just go make it yourself.

Baked Eggplant and Lamb
8-10 (modest) servings
WARNING: this takes quite some time to prepare, so don't think you'll have dinner on the table within an hour.

2 pounds pounds eggplant
About 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices (1/2 in. thick and 4 to 5 in. long) French bread
1 pound ground lamb
1 onion (8 oz.), peeled and chopped
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (Note: I would add more, maybe 2 cups or so. I thought the result with 1.5 was a little dry)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped parsley (I omitted this, as parsley is unpopular around here)

1. Rinse and dry eggplant; slice crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, discarding ends. Brush both sides of rounds lightly with oil and place in a single layer on two 12- by 15-inch baking sheets. Bake in a 400° regular or convection oven until browned and tender when pierced, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cut or tear bread into 1/2-inch chunks. Put in a food processor or blender and whirl into coarse crumbs; you should have 1 cup. In a 10- to 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat, stir crumbs in 1/2 tablespoon olive oil until lightly browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Pour from pan.

3. In the same pan over medium-high heat, stir lamb until crumbled and no longer pink, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer lamb to a bowl. Drain all but 1 teaspoon fat from pan. Add onion, mushrooms, and garlic and stir occasionally until onion is limp and mushrooms are browned, about 8 minutes. Add tomato sauce, wine, mustard, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and the browned lamb. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, to blend flavors, about 10 minutes.

4. Arrange half the eggplant slices in a single layer over the bottom of a shallow 2- to 3-quart baking dish; top with half the lamb mixture. Repeat layers of eggplant and lamb mixture. Sprinkle top with bread crumbs and feta cheese.

5. Bake in a 350° regular or convection oven until browned and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Scoop out servings with a large spoon.

It took me so long to get this ready that Markus succumbed to the hunger demons and ate leftovers while I cooked. After we got the kids down, he tried this out on his stuffed belly and he was incredibly impressed. His sample was much larger than he'd meant for it to be, but he was very enthusiastic in his praise. It really is delicious!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Frittata with sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and fontina cheese

This makes a great small meal or a perfect snack when friends stop by. I whipped one up last night for snacking while we watched the Eurocup final. Congratulations, Spain! You deserved it!

recipe from Bon Appetit

6 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
6 oz sun-dried tomatoes, drained if packed in oil and chopped
6 oz artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated

Heat greased oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat.
Beat eggs, salt and pepper. Pour into skillet to begin cooking.
Mix sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and cheese in a bowl.
Sprinkle over eggs as bottom and sides are beginning to set.
Finish under the broiler. Frittata is done when eggs rise and are fluffy, slightly browned.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Couscous with Bell Peppers and Spinach

**This recipe is vegetarian without the chicken and vegan if you also omit the cheese topper.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
I small onion, finely chopped (less or more depending on your onion affinity)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 chicken breasts, cooked and finely chopped (optional, though this does make for a more filling main course)
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon cumin
black pepper to taste
2 cups couscous

*Note: Chicken breasts must be cooked in advance; store-bought rotisserie could work well here as a shortcut.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion.
Saute until onion is translucent, about 2 minutes.
Add peppers and garlic. Saute until crisp tender, about 5 minutes.
Add broth and salt. Bring to a boil.
Stir in chicken, lemon, cumin, black pepper and couscous.
Remove from heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
Stir couscous with large spoon or fork to break up clumps.

6 cups fresh spinach leaves, rinsed and torn into smaller pieces
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
crumbled goats cheese for topping

Toss spinach leaves with olive oil and vinegar.
Distribute into serving bowls, making a thin layer on the bottom of each plate (this is the "bed" for the couscous).
Spoon couscous onto each plate.
Top with pecans and goats cheese.

This all makes for a lovely presentation, but then again you could just put it all into a salad bowl (couscous, spinach and vinaigrette) and toss it together as you see in the picture. Still top it off with the pecans and cheese if you are so inclined.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

2 week hiatus

I don't want you to worry that we haven't been eating. Mimi brought more cereal from the States, so Ellie has been tempted by little else. Markus and I haven't been so fixated, and instead we've tried a few new things we think you'd like:

Corn and Two-Bean Burgers
Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp
Orange Almond Cake from Moosewood's Simple Suppers
Mango Coconut Ice Cream (same source)

Just no pictures. It's been a bit manic here lately and food is being scarfed down on the fly as soon as it's ready. No good for the food blog, but these links should get you going. Happy eating!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

I got this recipe from another expat mom. Sloppy Joes are the ultimate kid food, right? Of course, my kid won't eat it...but Markus and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I think it was extra fabulous because the red beans we used were Blue Runner, sent to me by the fabulous Muses from Louisiana so I could have a taste of home over here.

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped carrots

½ cup chopped green bell pepper
 (I used red)
1 clove garlic, minced

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes

1 ½ Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 Tbsp distilled white vinegar

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

8 kaiser rolls

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, green pepper, and garlic: saute until tender. Stir in tomatoes, chili powder, tomato paste, vinegar, and pepper. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

2. Stir in kidney beans, and cook an additional 5 minutes.

3. Cut a 1/4 inch slice off the top of each kaiser roll; set aside. Hollow out the center of each roll, leaving about 1/2 inch thick shells; reserve the inside of rolls for other uses.

4. Spoon bean mixture evenly into rolls and replace tops. Serve immediately.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Green cheese?

Today at the cheese shop, I noticed green cheese on display. I couldn't help but be intrigued, and the shop owner insisted I try it. It's pesto-cheese, my friends! Naturally, we had to take some home and try it out as grilled cheese. The assessment: if you can get past the color, it's a tasty treat! But getting past the color was a challenge. When your grilled cheese is oozing green goo, it's hard to reconcile the image with a good taste (though the good taste was definitely there).

Baked Mini-Donuts

Here's another favorite that I de-veganized from gail's site: Baked Mini-Donuts. With the occasional exception of a piping hot, fresh Krispy Kreme donut, I prefer baked, cake-style donuts to the fried variety. When gail found this delicious recipe for homemade donuts, I had to try it! I bought myself a donut pan, and we have had very few donut-free weeks since.

Baked Mini-Donuts

Makes 12 Donuts

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:
½ cup buttermilk
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg, slightly beaten
4 Tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350º F
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients with a whisk to mix thoroughly. Mix wet ingredients in separate bowl. Add wet to dry until just combined; this should form a very soft dough.
Using a tablespoon measure, scoop out dough into ungreased non-stick mini-donut pan (2 Tbsp fills each spot in my pan perfectly). Smooth out the top of the dough for a more even donut (though this isn’t crucial).
Bake for 12 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Try not to let the donuts brown on top.
Invert hot pan over cooling rack to release donuts. Cool completely.

Chocolate Dip
Melt 6oz of high-quality milk chocolate over low heat in a double boiler, stirring until chocolate is smooth and only slightly warm to the touch. Do not get water anywhere near your melted chocolate or you will have problems; trust me on this.
Dip each donut into chocolate until covered. Place on cooling rack to set (chocolate isn’t shiny or runny anymore). If you must have sprinkles (and we must!), sprinkle away before the chocolate sets.

Other options are glazing them Krispy Kreme style with a very thin powdered sugar glaze or simply tossing them in cinnamon-sugar for a thin coating; you could also eat them straight-up, which is darn tasty too.

Below is a picture tutorial of donut eating.

First, inspect for adequate sprinkle coverage.

You are clear to enjoy!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Roasted Bell Pepper and Goats Cheese Sandwiches

My gorgeous foodie friend gail keeps a blog that regularly provides me with great recipes. She finds something tempting, fabulizes (my word) and veganizes it, and then I turn around and de-veganize it to meet our grocery finds. This recipe is one of those. Make it tonight! You won't be sorry.

Roasted Bell Pepper and Goats Cheese Sandwich
makes 4

5-6 bell peppers (I use a mix of red, yellow and green peppers)
A handful of basil leaves (10-12) (be green and use basil fresh from the garden – delicious!!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
goats cheese
1 loaf of “long" fresh bread (i.e. French bread or a long sour dough loaf) or ciabatta sandwich rolls
Olive oil to spray or rub on peppers

Roast peppers by turning oven to broil and placing halved, seeded peppers on a cookie sheet lightly sprayed with olive oil or covered with aluminum foil to prevent sticking. Lightly spray peppers with olive oil (or rub them all over with oil if you can't find an oil spray) and place in oven. Broil them black. This looks scary, but believe me, it's the way to go and the skin is so easy to remove when they are done right. Remove peppers from oven and cover tightly with aluminum foil or place in a brown paper bag (roll the end shut to trap steam) for 30 minutes or until completely cool. Uncover peppers, peel outer skin off and place peppers into a bowl until ready to use.
In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use.
Slice bread in half lengthwise. Spread goats cheese on the bottom half of the bread. Place the peppers evenly on top and then put the basil leaves on top of the peppers. Drizzle the garlic vinaigrette dressing on the top half of the bread and then close your sandwich. Enjoy!

(sorry there is no picture, but Markus was very hungry so we tucked in straight away. the sandwiches were delicious though!)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ricotta Almond Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting AKA "Markus's all-time favorite cupcakes"

I found this recipe on the cupcake blog about a year ago, and they were an instant hit. Markus is a huge fan of almond desserts, so I thought it would be a safe bet. I had no idea it would become his all-time favorite, but this is the recipe he asks for on the rare occasions he makes requests. The original recipe called for adding berries (half of the batch with blueberries, half with raspberries), which I did faithfully the first time around with unpleasant results. We didn't like the sogginess of the cooked berries, and Markus decided they distracted too much from the almond goodness of the cake. The texture of these cupcakes is particularly nice, so why muck with greatness? The only warning I offer is that these are a bit high-maintenance to prepare. It is very important that the eggs and butter be room temperature (especially the butter), so plan ahead.

Ricotta Almond Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: 12-15 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

4 ounces almonds, slivered/peeled
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 stick butter, unsalted/room temp
4 eggs, large/room temp
2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Grind almonds with 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until very fine. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer.

2. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of sugar to the ground almonds while beating at low speed.

3. Add the ricotta and beat to combine.

4. While beating at low speed, add a tablespoon of butter at a time, waiting for the butter to incorporate until adding the next pat. The butter must be at room temperature or it will not incorporate well.

5. Stop mixer, scrape bowl, then beat at medium for about 2 minutes.

6. Crack eggs into a bowl and break up with a fork. At low speed gradually add eggs about a tablespoon at a time, waiting for the eggs to incorporate until adding the next bit.

7. Beat again at medium speed for about 2 minutes.

8. Measure flour, salt, and baking powder into bowl; whisk to combine.

9. With rubber spatula, fold flour mixture into cake batter until combined.

10. Scoop batter into cupcake liners, about 2/3s full.

11. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean

Cream Cheese Frosting (I usually half this for one batch of cupcakes, and even then I have lots leftover when I use a decorative tip to apply frosting)
12 ounces or 1-1/2 packages of Philly cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
4-5 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Bring butter to room temperature by sitting it out for 1 or 2 hours.

2. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment.

3. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.

4. Add 4 cups of the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until combined.

5. Add more sugar until you get to the consistency/sweetness you like.

Of course, no cupcake is a complete cupcake in this house without frosting and sprinkles (Ellie insists!), so our cupcakes tend to look the same even though we try a variety of recipes and flavor combos.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Halibut with Sesame-Lime Sauce

The halibut fillet I bought the other day was so huge that it cut up into four servings. Two were consumed in the recipe I posted yesterday, leaving two already cooked but plain fillets for another night. Turning again to the latest Cooking Light, I decided to try the sauce from their Steamed Halibut with Sesame-Lime Sauce and Coconut Rice recipe. Fresh and flavorful! We liked this sauce more than other.

Sesame-Lime Sauce

1/4 cup finely chopped green onions (I omitted these for Stephanie's sake)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red curry paste

Combine ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.
Place 1/2 cup rice on each of 4 plates; top with 1 fillet. Drizzle each serving with 2 tablespoons sauce. Serve with lime wedges.

Cooking Light, APRIL 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Malaysian Barbecue-Glazed Halibut

Over the weekend, we drove along the beach and made a stop at the Simonis fish market, where Jennifer picked up some shrimp and a huge halibut filet. We've been without seafood (excepting salmon) since that IHT article on European demand causing overfishing, and frankly we were ready for some fish! Not having any particular recipe in mind is what propelled the particular choices, since shrimp is always appreciated around here and halibut is a nice, neutral white fish. Yesterday, we received the latest issue of Cooking Light, and lo and behold there was an entire section of halibut recipes! We tried the Malaysian Barbecue-Glazed Halibut based on time and available ingredients, and we weren't disappointed. The sauce has a nice kick and a sweetness to balance out the salt. I served it over rice with a side of sugar snap peas because that's all we had that was quick. We'll have to get a better menu out of it next time. Although the sauce has a zing to it, the recipe would work well with any number of veggies or a simple salad with Asian-fusion dressing.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Irresistable Peanut Butter Cookies

Only slightly modified from the Jif website, I have to agree with the cookie title. They are irresistable! Reese's was onto something with the peanut butter-chocolate combo, so I always add chocolate to my peanut butter cookies. This recipe was responsible for turning my non-peanut-butter-eating husband into a believer. Recently, our grocery store has stopped stocking light brown sugar, so this weekend I used a combo of white (3/4 cup) and dark brown (1/2 cup): WOW. Try it! And enjoy!

• 3/4 cup Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
• 1/2 cup butter, room temperature (my replacement for shortening, which I don't like)
• 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
• 3 Tablespoons milk
• 1 Tablespoon vanilla
• 1 egg
• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 cup or more chocolate chips (my addition)

• Preheat oven to 375ºF.
• Combine Jif peanut butter, butter, light brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl.
• Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended.
• Add egg. Beat just until blended.
• Combine flour, salt and baking soda.
• Add to creamed mixture at low speed. Mix just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips.
• Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.
• Bake at 375ºF for 7 to 8 minutes or until set and just beginning to brown.

• Makes 3 dozen cookies

A tasty variation on this is to omit the chocolate chips but top each cookie with a Hershey's Kiss when the cookies are fresh out of the oven. That was my favorite as a kiddo, and I bet that could top the list now too if that candy were available here. Yet another variation that I've never made but have tried in a bakery is topping the cookies with a Reese's peanut butter cup instead of the Kiss. Decadent.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Oooo...I am so proud! There's something about making a yeast dough that makes a girl feel like a real cook. Last night after what seemed like the ten billionth lament about lack of good pizza places around here, I decided to try my hand at making calzones. I found a super-simple recipe for dough, crossed my fingers, and gave it my best shot. SUCCESS!!!! Oooooo, yummy calzone-y goodness with the added bonus of fresh-baked-bread-smell filling the house. Is there anything better? Perhaps you should try it yourself and see.

Calzone dough
Makes 8

1 cup warm water (110 F)
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
2.5-3 cups flour

Stir water, yeast, honey and salt in large bowl until yeast is dissolved.
Using wooden spoon, stir in 2 cups of flour until well combined.
Add remaining flour as needed until dough forms a ball. More flour might be necessary if dough is too sticky.
Scoop out dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
Place dough in lightly greased bowl, cover with damp cloth, and place in a warm spot. Allow dough to rise until doubled, approximately 1 hour.
Punch down dough. It is now ready to be shaped.
Separate dough into 8 balls.
Roll each ball until about 1/4 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter (please don't get out a ruler; this is just a guideline!).
Fill with 2-3 tablespoons of whatever yummy goodness you find appealing.
Use your finger or a pastry brush to moisten the edges of the dough with water.
Fold over until the filling is inside the dough pocket. Crease the edges together to seal.
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet in a 450F preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!

For filling last night, I whipped up some quick homemade tomato sauce with basil and garlic, steamed some spinach, and added some feta and black olive tapenade. Even Ellie was a big fan, which means we'll probably have calzones every week from now on.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Why the lack

Hey there to anyone who actually checks this blog. I apologize for the lack of posting. It certainly has nothing to do with lack of cooking (or especially baking!), because I've been doing lots of that! As a frequent peruser of food blogs, I realize that I am most interested in and motivated by sites and recipes with good accompanying images. Since I continually fail to capture what I make, I just haven't been posting about it. One reason for the poor images I get is lack of good natural light. Sunlight and winter in Holland don't tend to go hand in hand, and I hate flash. Another reason is that acquiring a macro lens for this purpose is way down near the bottom of my monstrous to-do list, particularly right now when I'm waiting for our egg to hatch.

Not to completely leave you hanging, some new and tasty favorites we've tried that you can see elsewhere include:

gail's black bean sweet potato chili love it love it love it (although we made it more stew-like, keeping the kick to a minimum to encourage Ellie to eat it)
cornmeal cake This is delicious and light, and the orange zest makes it smell heavenly while baking.
mini-donuts ala VeganYumYum always with chocolate and sprinkles to satisfy our most demanding customer

Just today, I tried out mini-coconut-blood-orange bundt cakes ala VeganYumYum and I'm a big fan. Not only do you have to love the mini-Bundts, but the flavor is really outstanding for such a simple recipe. I did pour syrup over the hot cakes fresh out of the oven for extra flavor and moisture, but I found the syrup way too sugary to use again for serving.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Happy Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras is making us miss New Orleans and New Orleans food more than usual. I wanted to bake up a king cake for our prenatal class on Monday night, but I just couldn't get around to it. Actually, I can usually find time to bake just about anything if I'm motivated, so I suppose the real reason is that Markus and I aren't really into king cake itself...just the fun it symbolizes. Since no one here would know the difference, I just made up some Mardi Gras themed cupcakes using Markus's favorite recipe (see birthday treat posting). They came out great, and everyone enjoyed them. Ellie loves the "tinies" (she loves all tinies). Happy Mardi Gras, everyone!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Markus's birthday treats

I am a huge fan of birthdays, and my favorite birthday tradition is the birthday boy or girl choosing the menu on his/her special day. For dinner tonight, we reveled in the noodle-y goodness of vegetable lo mein and followed it up with Markus's favorite cupcakes: ricotta almond cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I discovered this recipe months ago on chockylit's cupcake blog, and we are huge fans! The only adaptation I make is omitting the berries. We tried that the first time and were unhappy with the soggy mess in the middle. We make up for it by serving them with homemade raspberry sorbet. Delicious!
Happy Birthday, Markus! We love you!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Where's the beef?

For the two friends joining us for lunch today, we decided to serve up one of our favorite easy meal options: walnut oatmeal burgers. As I've mentioned before, we tend not to eat red meat anymore, but that doesn't have to mean we can't have a good burger now and again. Months ago, I found the burger recipe below on the cooking blog everybody likes sandwiches. The blogger had gotten the recipe from someone else and was proclaiming happy surprise at such a yummy, no meat burger. I'm guessing it still counts as vegetarian despite the milk and eggs, but I bet you could get around that for vegans, gail. We really enjoy these, and the best part is making them for guests and asking them to guess what the "mystery meat" is. No one has even come close, but neither has anyone ever disliked it. This afternoon, we served up the burgers with fresh sugar snap peas and homemade baked sweet potato "fries", with iced tea to drink and peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for dessert. It felt like summertime despite the winter chill! Enjoy!

walnut oatmeal burgers

burger mixture:
2 c walnut pieces
2 c rolled oats
½ c breadcrumbs
3 eggs, slightly beaten
½ c skim milk
1 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t sage
1 t salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

for cooking burgers:
oil to brown patties
3 c vegetable stock*

1. Grind walnuts in blender and combine with the rest of the burger mixture ingredients. Let the mixture rest in refrigerator for about an hour to let the flavors meld together.

2. Form the mixture into patties. The entire mixture will make 8-12 burgers depending on the size patty formed. It is recommended to use half of the mixture now, and reserve the rest for use in another recipe or for more burgers later.

3. Brown patties on both sides in a lightly oiled skillet, then pour the stock into the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. Serve on buns with all your burger fixings.

* If you are only cooking up half the mixture now and half later, be sure to also half the amount of stock. We find a half recipe makes about 4-5 burgers in the size we like, so a half recipe usually suffices for one meal, even with friends.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bigger tease than intended

Hi folks! Sorry about the long delay between the teaser and the recipe. I couldn't find it again! I have about 5 years worth of old "Bon Appetit" magazines, where I get a lot of my recipes. I put the magazine I used for the salmon away again after I finished cooking, and I still haven't found the recipe. I will keep looking and post when I find it. I don't worry about copyright infringement there because I changed it a bit (I can remember my changes). Does anyone know what the story is with copyrights on recipes? I see so many food blogs that share recipes from published sources, but I don't want to get myself into trouble there. That's a bit reason why this new blog of ours has fallen short of late. If someone has insight on this, please share!

While we aren't vegetarians, our meals tend towards that direction. We don't really care for red meat or pork (though Jennifer can't deny some crispy, salty bacon here and there), chicken gets boring, and fish poses a problem. Why is that? There was recently a cover article in the International Herald Tribune about serious overfishing and illegal fishing that is depleting the oceans and causing all sorts of ecosystem issues to feed the demand in Europe (and we live in Europe). The report said there is really only one checkpoint that is severely understaffed to deal with these issues, so the illegal fish gets mixed with the legal fish too quickly to know what is ethical and what is not. Fish sellers don't feel any need to address the problem at their end, because they often don't know if the fish is illegal and they don't see the point in not selling what has already been caught. The only solution is to demand tighter regulation and stop buying fish (reduce the demand) unless you know its source. Sigh. Our four year stint in New Orleans converted us to happy seafood eaters, and now we have had to cut back in that area too. We are lucky here in that The Netherlands is so dairy-oriented that we know our milk and dairy products are all fresh and don't come from industrial farms; nor do our eggs (even stateside I can't buy anything not free-range organic). Unethical fish poses a problem of conscience that we opt not to face on a regular basis. So...we are left with vegetarian options most days. Thankfully, those are quite healthy, satisfying, and delicious when you get into the groove of finding good recipes! My favorite source: Cooking at the Pacific Outpost by my good girlfriend, gail. She is a vegan on a mission to only eat the most yummy foods possible. Sounds great to me! Last night, we tried out her latest recipe: Moroccan Couscous with Roasted Vegetables. Rave reviews, people! It was/is delicious! If you are interested in adding more veggie-friendly options to your diet, I highly recommend checking out her site and cooking up something new. I bet you will love it!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


We've been up to our eyeballs in new goings-on here at blitzpampers HQ, so I haven't been posting much. To get myself back into the routine, I am here to post at least a little teaser about the latest new recipe: Salmon with Maple-Thyme Glaze. We don't eat much salmon, because Markus generally doesn't care for its strong taste and Jennifer can't be bothered to make it for just herself. I have tried here and there to find different recipes that can be enjoyed by both, and tonight's attempt was a big hit. Who am I kidding? It was FABULOUS. And so easy! I can't quite remember proportions (which is why this is a teaser), but look out for that recipe soon. If you like salmon (or are willing to give it a go), I highly recommend you try this!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

She's a maniac!

To say I've been on a bit of a cooking spree this weekend would be an understatement. I have come across so many recipes I want to try that I can't seem to stop myself once I get going. Since my last post, I've made:

homemade granola
cornbread pancakes
peanut butter banana waffles
cranberry sauce with orange marmalade and cinnamon (awesome on the cornbread pancakes or with yogurt and granola)
roasted garlic and sweet potato spread
broccoli pesto
pasta with spinach, roasted bell peppers, lemon and feta cheese
peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (old recipe but new craving)
ricotta-almond cupcakes

With the close of the weekend, I should be slowing down a bit. Markus has been a wonderful and willing guinea pig for these foods (all of which I'm delighted to say have turned out YUMMY!). Ellie is on a pomegranate binge right now, so she's pretty much tried to subsist on those and cereal when she can get away with it.

After many unsatisfactory attempts at good food photography, I've decided to let it rest until I can get a macro lens for my camera. Until then, you will just have to use your imagination...or better, make it yourself! I'll share a recipe for today to get you going. I know it's a bit late for cranberries. Most of us only buy/eat them at Thanksgiving, but we love them here and I bought lots and froze them. This sauce is our current favorite (adapted from a 2003 Bon Appetit), and it couldn't be easier to make.

Cranberry Sauce with Orange Marmalade and Cinnamon

1.5 cups orange marmalade
2/3 cup orange juice (I use Sanguinello/blood orange juice)
1 cinnamon stick
12 ounce bag cranberries, rinsed and picked over for baddies

Heat first three ingredients in small saucepan over medium heat until marmalade dissolves. Stir in cranberries and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until all cranberries have popped. Remove from heat. Pour into heat-resistant bowl and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to serve (ideally, refrigerate overnight first to let the flavors and texture meld).

As mentioned above, this sauce is great on the pancakes or in the granola, but it is also good on sandwiches or as a side. Providing you like cranberries, of course.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Tonight, I prepared chicken and vegetable lo mein, a recipe from "Lunch Lessons" (a new favorite in our house). I'm not sure how copyright issues work with sharing recipes that are published, so I won't do so here tonight. I'll have to look into that as this food blog evolves, but I had to write about it anyway because the dish was a HUGE hit in our house! Everyone loved it! Even Ellie ate more than we could have expected, and she even secretly ate chicken because I had cut it up so small that she didn't spot it when she shoveled in noodles by the fork-full. The great thing about this recipe is it can be served cold, room temperature or hot, so it makes a great packed lunch as well as a dinner. It's also vegetarian (I added the chicken, but tofu could work as extra protein or just skip it) and might be vegan (I'm unfamiliar with some of the sauces so I can't say for sure what's in them).

"Lunch Lessons" was written by a chef who is working hard to revolutionize school lunches and childhood nutrition. The book is excellent reading on those topics, but I've also found it to be a wonderful resource for anyone trying to incorporate more healthy choices into their diets. Markus's new favorite muffins (peanut butter power muffins) came from that book, as did some homemade granola and our dinner tonight. For those of you who are interested, I bought it along with a Laptop Lunchbox for Ellie. Laptop Lunchboxes are an excellent and visually appealing alternative to traditional lunchboxes/bags for kids (and adults!), especially since most kids (like ours) prefer small servings of various foods. A different lunch and nutrition cookbook came with the starter "kit" and it is quite good as well.

Oatmeal with pumpkin

Taking note of our wee one's constant battleground over meals, I've become more dedicated to offering a wider variety of foods and flavors at mealtimes while also trying to get the most bang for my buck (so to speak) nutritionally. The other morning, I made oatmeal with added pumpkin. It was so tasty! Pureed or mashed sweet potato would work just as well, but we didn't have any on hand. The recipe is simple enough and every member of the dipe squad approved of the flavor!

Oatmeal with Pumpkin

1 cup milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (canned solid pack pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling works well) or sweet potato
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
maple syrup
dried fruit

Heat the milk and puree to a simmer over medium heat. Add oats and stir until thickened.
Serve into bowls. Drizzle with small amount of maple syrup and top with your favorite dried fruits and nuts. We used chopped dried cranberries and apricots with slivered almonds. Delicious!

Grilled cheese with flair

I whipped up a variation on grilled cheese for my lunch today, and I am still happy with it. I can't testify to how healthy this is (not), but it tasty! I ate it too quickly to even attempt a picture, but it is a sandwich, people. There's not much to show off visually, but your tastebuds will party, I promise.

Grilled Cheese with Flair

your favorite variety of apple, cored and sliced thinly (I also peel the slices)
cheddar cheese, sliced
honey-dijon mustard
bacon slices, cooked the way you like 'em (told you this wasn't very healthy)
sandwich bread slices

Lightly butter the bread as you would for any ol' grilled cheese.
Heat a pan on the stove and place one slice in, butter-side down.
Layer cheese, apple slices and cooked bacon on top.
Slather non-butter-side of remaining bread with mustard and put mustard side down on sandwich pile.
When first side is toasty brown, flip to grill other side.
Eat while warm and enjoy the yumminess!