Saturday, December 24, 2016

Brie en Croute (Baked Brie in Puff Pastry)

It's Christmas Eve, when our family celebrates in true German tradition.  Last year, I made this appetizer, and it was gone in a flash.  Puff pastry is a product that can make some of the prettiest, and simplest, appetizers! Baked Brie is a tasty, and easy appetizer to make for your next holiday party.

All you need to do is buy a 13-16 ounce Brie round. The night before, thaw a sheet of puff pastry.
Preheat the oven to 400F.

Roll the puff pastry into a 14-inch square on a lightly floured surface.  I didn't photograph where I put a "schmear" of raspberry jam (apricot works well, too).  You can add about an ounce of sliced, toasted, almonds if you desire.  Then place the Brie on the center and fold the pastry up and over the cheese.  Flip it over onto a parchment covered baking sheet. Cut off any excess puff pastry. I used the extra puff pastry to cut out some leaf shapes with some small cutters that I have.

Beat one egg with water, and brush it all all over your Brie en Croute.

 There! Now pop it into the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. 

Whoa! A lava flow of melted Brie and raspberry jam is starting to flow out from the sides!

As our guests starting digging in with a cracker and knife, the warm melted Brie kept oozing out.  This is perfect with a glass of cold Prosecco-- in my opinion.

If you've never made this easy appetizer, give it a try. This will be part of our New Year's Eve quiet evening at home, with family and a few friends.

Happy New Year!


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Friday, December 23, 2016

Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie (No Corn Syrup)

Hello everyone! Hello? Anybody there? Yes, I'm back from my silence in food blogging. I've been cooking (mostly fast and easy) and baking (a lot), but I just needed to take a break from blogging. I'm sure it's cost me a loss of readership, and I regret that. I admire food bloggers who have a full-time job AND who blog on a regular basis. I tried, but after eight years, I decided to focus on my family. Just for a bit. I won't abandon my blog forever!

Speaking of family-- this Pecan Pie was such a big hit at Thanksgiving, that I need to resurrect my blogging mojo and share it with you.  Christmas is just two days away, and if you're wanting to add a holiday pie to your menu, this version change my opinion of Pecan Pie forever!

Don't get me wrong, because I do love pecans!   I usually skip Pecan Pie, or opt for just a sliver-- because I find that the filling is cloyingly sweet and gloppy.  I think it's the corn syrup that's the culprit. I found a recipe from one of my most trusted sources: "Cook's Country", and I liked that maple syrup is used, instead of corn syrup.  Since we use pure maple syrup for pancakes and waffles, it's always on hand. 

I keep an assortment of nuts in my freezer so they don't go rancid. Here we go! First, I toast the pecans for better flavor.

For the filling, we start with brown sugar, heavy cream and a touch of molasses...

... to build a custard-like filling, we add heavy cream, butter, egg yolks and a touch of salt.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Applesauce Cake with Penuche Frosting

It seems like just last month, we were grilling on our Weber and enjoying the last of our fresh corn, homegrown tomatoes and wearing our flip-flops. Fall has nudged is way back, and the internet recipe sites is proof of that.

It's time for pumpkin recipes, a hundred different ways to prepare turkey. The grocery store produce section is now loaded with mounds of squash, apples and grapes as big as golf balls. I adore pumpkin, but there are a lot of people who don't. I'd say there's something "off" with that, only I'm also one of those weirdos who doesn't care for squash-- except for the aforementioned pumpkin. As for apples, it's not my favorite pie, either. Pass me the pumpkin pie, and the whipped cream, while you're at it. Please.  For you pumpkin-haters, I have an alternative for you.

Applesauce Cake! Top it with a Fudge-like caramel-tasting cooked frosting, and you have a fall dessert that is a crowd pleaser. Now, that's my way of enjoying apples!

I adore spice cake/apple sauce cake as far back as my childhood. I think my love affair with Applesauce Cake started with a boxed cake mix. I believe it was Spice Cake. (Gosh, it's been a while since I was a kid, but I'm pretty sure that was it.) Applesauce and Spice Cake are cousins, I think. The spices are pretty much identical... cinnamon, allspice...cloves.

I omitted adding nuts, but I did add raisins (totally optional).  The applesauce, I believe, makes this cake really moist.

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Kaiserschmarrn (Emperor's Cut-Ups) -- and a snippet of our trip to Europe

Craig and I returned from our two-week tour of Bavaria, Austria and Switzerland a couple of weeks ago. This trip was the best one, EVER, and I say that with a whole heart.   Well, maybe not WHOLE, because I feel as thought I left a piece of it in my mother's home town of Bad Reichenhall, Bavaria.

I lived there from age 3-8, and made four return trips -- some with my Mutti, and some without.  Then, my travel to Bavaria took a hiatus for the last 25 years.  I'll share a little about my trip, at the end of this post.

Kaiserschmarrn... this is a classic Austrian recipe for "cut up pancakes" that we saw on every menu, including in Bavaria.  These are very light and fluffy pancakes-- almost soufflé in texture--that are also served for breakfast or as a light evening meal.  In Bavaria, we saw this served with a plum compote or with apple sauce.

My mother used to make this for us, as kids, and to this day it is one of our favorite breakfast dishes.  Now my son and husband like this, and they are very easy to make.  The batter is very simple-- flour, milk, egg yolks and folded in egg whites.

It's cooked with clarified butter (or just melted is fine) until it becomes golden brown...

...the is carefully flipped over and cooked a few minutes more.

I served ours lightly dusted with powdered sugar and with homemade apple sauce.  I'm sure I'll make this a few more times, for nostalgic reasons.  We could have, easily, spent another week or two in Bavaria. The food, the beer, the scenery and historical places to visit exceeded our expectations.

I'm just scratching the surface of our trip details, but here's a snippet of our wonderful two week trip:

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Auf Wiedersehen - Bavaria, Here We Come!

To my dear readers and friends, In just a few hours, my husband and I will board our non-stop flight to Frankfurt. We will take a bus-tour, including a Rhine River Cruise, and then travel through Germany, Switzerland, Austria and ending our trip to Munich-- with a few of King Ludwig's Castles throw in. My husband is thrilled that he can enjoy the scenery, and not have to worry about focusing on driving. Win! Once the bus tour ends, we'll pick up a car rental and drive to my mother's hometown of Bad Reichenhall, Bavaria.

Our family lived there, in our early years, while my father was stationed there at an Army base. I've gone back to visit family, but it's been 25 years since I was last there. My Oma was very old and ailing, and I knew this would be my last chance to say goodbye to her.

I have no desire to attend the big Oktoberfest (too many people, a bit too much drinking for my own taste). However, we will go to the famous Munich Hofbräuhaus for some beer, Bavarian food and music. That's a must!

I so wanted to find some time to post recipes, over the last few weeks, but it never happened. I was focused on making sure my work desk was tidy and my projects were finished. Our house sitters arrived, from Rhode Island, and we've been busy spending our evenings catching up on our 25 year friendship. So, I will leave you with a photograph taken from a web cam of my mother's home town.

We will return in two weeks-- but I will be posting photos on my Instagram Account, and on my Facebook Page.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Root Beer Baked Beans with Bacon

Hello Friends! Today, I am sharing a very simple recipe for one of the tastiest beans I've ever made.

I almost didn't post this recipe, because I didn't take pictures of the cooking process, and only two quick shots of the finished recipe.  I made these beans as a side dish when I made Jamaican Jerk Chicken, for the second time-- it's that good!

It's funny, but root beer isn't my favorite beverage of choice, unless you serve it in a frosty mug with a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream.   With this recipe, root beer is deglazed just enough to give a sweet and savory flavor to these beans.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Italian Style Sloppy Joe's - Another Manly Dinner

The men in my life (aka: my husband and adult son) are so easy to please, when it comes to what I cook for them. They lovingly express their appreciation for my culinary achievements with more "sophisticated" fare, such as "Osso Bucco" or classic "Beef Bourguignon with homemade egg noodles".

Yet, one of their favorite recipes that I still make for them is "Sloppy Joe's".   It's certainly not fancy, but it's comfort food that never fails to please them. There's something about ground beef, tomato paste, tomato sauce, bell pepper, onion-- and a few other goodies-- served atop a hamburger bun that they sink their teeth into with gusto.  While my son no longer lives here, officially, he is a frequent guest for meals-- and I'm absolutely fine with that. 

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Bavarian Zwetschgendatschi – German Plum Sheet Cake (Tart) Recipe

That's a mouthful of a recipe name, isn't it? "TCH-VENCHKEN-DATCHI" is as close as I can get to teaching non-Bavarians how to say that word. German Plum tart is probably a lot easier to remember.

My Bavarian Mutti made this dessert for as long as I can remember.  This dessert is as traditional to Bavarians as apple pie is to Americans.  To keep things authentic, I wait until August-- when I call my local produce store and ask "do you have Italian prunes in stock"?  I hold my breath-- and I feel a sense of joy when the answer is "yes".  

Italian plum/prunes have a very short season-- pretty much between August and September.  Last year, I waited too long, and there were none to be found.   

This year, I got really lucky!  Craig and I drove 90 minutes to Los Altos Hills to visit my Bavarian cousin.  Her Italian plum tree was full of ripe fruit-- ready for the picking!  (The pink ribbons is an effort to keep her  neighborhood squirrels from stealing her fruit.)

She generously filled a big bag full of those precious fall fruits, so I could go home and make my own Zwetschgendatschi.

These two "cousins" (left and right of me) are 100% authentic Bavarians and haven't lost their spunk being 95 and 80, respectively! They are very active ladies, with a hilarious zest for life.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Jamaican-Style Jerk Chicken and Citrus Mashed Plantains

Summertime is when my cast-iron Dutch Oven is lovingly tucked away into my kitchen cupboard, until the summer temps start to drop. That's when our Weber grill has it's winter cover removed, is given a gentle wash up and is made ready to prepare grilled recipes.  Heaven!

We own a gas grill, and it has its own merits. It's perfect for when you want to grill a quick burger or chicken kebabs. However, when it comes to flavor-- to us, nothing beats the flavor of charcoal and/or wood chips.

Wait.  I take that back--just a little. The very best barbecue, in our opinion, is with a fire pit and real wood. But, that's for the reaaaaaaaaaaally serious pit-masters. So, we have been working on learning ways to work with charcoal and wood chips to make our faves--like brisket, and baby back ribs, to name a few.

I've never had Jerk Chicken, and I have been missing out!  Jerk Spice originates from Jamaica. Meat is marinaded with a blend of spices-- always including allspice, and habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers.  I like a leeeetle bit of spice and heat to my food, but I'm pretty wimpy when it comes to turning up the scoville range of peppers. So, with this recipe, I used jalapeño peppers.  There are plenty of other goodies that I tossed into the blender-- cinnamon, cumin, soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, ginger.... maybe not exactly a 100% authentic version you'd find on Jamaica-- but it is absolutely delicious! 

My Vitamix whirred all the ingredients into a thick, brownish marinade.  I bought three organic chickens and asked my butcher to quarter them-- which he gladly did.  After placing the chicken into a large gallon-sized zip-loc bag, I poured the marinade over it and gently mixed it all up-- then placed it in the refrigerator overnight.  I let the chicken come to room temperature (about 30 minutes) before starting to grill.

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

Well, hello! Are you surprised to see that I'm still blogging? I know, I know, I've been very silent for the last-- let's see-- six weeks! Yikes! That's a record for me! I'm halfway through my five-week summer break, and I am making the best of it-- and I am loving it!

We'll be traveling to Bavaria, Austria and Switzerland in October. So, this summer, we're working on giving out master bedroom a facelift. My husband still works, but I'm spending my free time doing some much needed deep cleaning and de-cluttering.  It's almost finished, but it's been very time-consuming. Also, I haven't been working on savory recipes as much. Instead,  I've been using Blue Apron to ship ingredients and recipes to make sure that Craig and I are eating healthy and delicious meals.  I'll talk more about Blue Apron, at a later time.  I will say that having three meals, a week, that are quick, flavorful and easy to make has been a blessing.

For the last few years, the Salinas Valley has been dedicating a lot more acreage to growing these beautiful Driscoll berries.  There was an irresistible sale, so I snatched two pints with all kinds of ideas on how to make them. At first, I thought I'd bake and update new photos for this Raspberry Lemon Shortbread Tart.   But, then, I remembered that it has been a while since I've baked this super easy Raspberry Buttermilk Cake-- only I used our home grown Olallieberries.

I don't know why, but that particular blog post has disappeared! Strange! This cake is so simple to make, that I decided it was time to create a new post and share it with all of you.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

My husband was just saying that the official first day of summer is just a month away.  Boy, howdy, I am so looking forward to it!  I'm counting the days, and so looking forward to having my beloved summer break.  I'll have five weeks to enjoy my "practice retirement" without an alarm clock. Essentially, I can do anything I want, and that's exactly what I hope to do.  I have so many recipes to make, and dozens more that I've photographed and simply not had time to edit and upload to share on my blog.  My blog... oh, how I miss not having the time to give it the overdue attention that it deserves.  I hope that many of my internet friends, subscribers and followers haven't entirely given up on me!

I am still very passionate about cooking and baking. My husband says he rarely gets the same thing twice, and he so appreciates all the different recipes I continue to make. My son has moved back from Texas (insert happy mom face, here) -- and while he doesn't live with us any longer, he still comes to visit and eat mom's home cooking. My heart is full, and they are the main reason that I am always trying out new recipes. It's my love language, for sure.

It's no secret that I have a wicked sweet tooth, as does my husband and son.  My husband is a pie lover. Me? Cake. Definitely cake One of my very favorite classic cakes is a homemade Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  I don't make it very often, but when I do-- I love the way the pineapple slices become caramelized from the brown sugar and butter mixture.  Maraschino cherries are another guilty pleasure. They're just a pretty color, and have a slight flavor of almond (another one of my favorite flavors.)  Red Dye 40 doesn't scare me, because I don't eat these every single day.  Besides, let's face it-- cake isn't a health food. It's just a sugary dessert that makes my taste buds very happy.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Blueberry and Cream Cheese Galette

I love the challenge of trying to figure out a way repurpose leftover ingredients.  It's an added bonus when that recipe, leads to creating another recipe that turns out to be even better than you had hoped. That's exactly how this dessert recipe came to be.

I had a container of fresh ricotta and I didn't want it to go to waste. So, I made a batch of  Meyer-Lemon Ricotta pancakes for Sunday breakfast.  Instead of making Lemon Curd I decided to make fresh blueberry sauce.

We love pancakes and candied bacon for breakfast.  I had enough leftover blueberry sauce to fill a pint-size canning jar. I tucked it into the refrigerator, figuring it would be fine for next weeks pancakes or waffles.

We were having guests for dinner, and I always like to bake a dessert to serve.  I thought of the blueberry sauce... how could I use this?  Could I make a pressure cooker cheesecake, and top it with this sauce  Oooh, that would be good!  Then, it hit me. Why not combine the pie idea with the cheesecake? Yes! That's exactly what I'll do!

Galettes are one of my favorite sweet or savory baked recipes to make.  They're rustic pies, and you don't have to worry about making a fancy looking pie crust (though I do find that fun to do) So, I made an all-butter pie crust, layered a sweetened cream cheese mixture...

...then I covered the cream cheese filling with that luscious blueberry sauce.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread


My work day begins at 7:00am. Yawn.  That means that I drag myself out of bed in the early hours of the morning-- and I'm not much of a morning person.  I don't wake up grumpy, but I'm not very talkative until I've showered, dressed, styled my hair and put on my makeup. I leave myself just enough time to assemble my lunch tote, fill my travel coffee mug and slather my toast with peanut butter and homemade jam.  Then I hit the road at 6:15am for my commute to my job.

Four hours later, my stomach is growling and I need a power snack.  Bananas are my favorite on-the-go way to appease my now empty stomach.  I can only buy them a few at a time, because once my bananas cross over that just-ripe stage, and the sugar spots start to show up-- I'm out.  I usually toss them into my freezer to make healthy smoothies.  On the weekends, that is. I never have enough time to make them on work mornings, per my first paragraph of this post.

I don't know when I suddenly decided that I didn't like banana bread.  It doesn't make sense, because I used to make a really good banana bread muffin recipe man years ago (and posted here).  NOTE: I should make those again, and update with newer pictures. Maybe I've just had dry and tasteless banana bread that left a bad food memory.   Whatever it is, this recipe changed my way of thinking.

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