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!