Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Apple Crumble Cake

This crumble is more of a cake with a crumble topping but whatever you want to call it, it is delicious and not at all hard to make.
My daughter was super sweet and helped me bake this. She took over the apple-peeling step and artfully layered the apples slices on the cake in a beautiful spiral before we sprinkled the crumble on top.
We enjoyed a slice (or two, possibly!) with a cup of hot milk-coffee in a favorite mug after a lovely fall forest hike. With a pretty magazine to dream over and a curious kitten poking his hungry little nose as close as he dared to get this was a perfect little snack on a Sunday afternoon.
Apple Crumble Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
225 g cold butter cut into small pieces
1 t vanilla extract
dash of salt
1 egg
1 cup slivered or flaked almonds
800 g apples (we used Belle de Boskoop, a tart apple good for cooking)
juice of half a lemon
lemon zest
1 t cinnamon (or more according to your taste!)
1 T powdered sugar
margarine or butter for the tarte form (26 cm diameter)

1. Combine the following ingredients in a large bowl with the kneading attachment of your mixer: flour, sugar, butter, vanilla extract, salt, egg and almonds. Once the dough is slightly combined, use your hands to produce a course crumble.

2. Grease the tarte form. Pour in half of the crumble mixture and press down firmly with your hands.

3. Peel and quarter the apples, removing the stems and seeds, and cut the quarters into slices. Distribute the slices evenly over the prepared cake layer and sprinkle with lemon juice.

4. Mix the lemon zest and cinnamon into the remaining crumble mixture and then sprinkle over the apples. Bake at 200°C (400° F) convection setting ( for about 50 minutes on the middle rack. You may need to cover with aluminum foil for the last 15 minutes of baking.

5. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Dust with the powdered sugar and enjoy the plain or with vanilla ice-cream.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sweet Potato & Ginger Soup

Today I have a sweet, spicy and vibrant soup to warm you on a cool autumn day! With a few small substitutions which I include in the recipe, you can make this with dairy products or completely vegan.
Ginger & Sweet Potato Soup

(serves four)

1 onion
500 g sweet potatoes (approx. 2)
250 g carrots (approx. 4)
20 g fresh ginger root, or more to taste (about a one-inch piece)
50 g butter or margarine or 2 T oil
300 ml apple juice
1 liter vegetable broth
fresh chives
40 g almond flakes
150 g cream or soy cream
2-3 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper

1. Dice the onions. Peel and wash the sweet potatoes and carrots and slice. Peel the ginger and chop finely. Heat the fat in a pot and saute the onions until translucent. Add the chopped vegetables and ginger and saute for a few minutes. Add the broth and apple sauce and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.

2. Wash and chop the chives for the garnish, set aside. Roast the almond flakes in a pan without any fat until golden brown.

3. Puree the soup (I like to use an immersion blender), then stir in the cream and the lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne. Serve with a garnish of chives and roasted almond flakes.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Roasted vegetables

Hi, welcome to my second post on autumn cooking! Roasted vegetables are so easy and your home is filled with delicious aromas. I think bright orange carrots and pumpkins and the spicy fragrances of cumin and rosemary bring a wonderful warm feeling on a gray November day. My children are not big fans of stir-fried vegetables and have been known to pull certain unwanted bits and pieces out of their soup, but if the veggies are roasted they love them. I'm thankful anytime they are getting vitamins.

Trio of Roasted Vegetables:
You will need sweet potatoes, carrots and a small pumpkin/squash. These Red Kuri Squash or Hokkaido Squash are very popular and easy to find in our supermarkets here in Germany. I have also had some success with growing them in our own garden. 

Peel and slice the veggies into wedges. You do not need to peel the Hokkaido squash but please do remove the seeds! If you like, toss in a few onion quarters as well. Mix all vegetables in a bowl to cover with olive oil. Transfer to a baking sheet or baking dish. Sprinkle with curry or cumin. Roast at 400°F (200°C) for about 30-45 minutes or until soft. Season to taste with fresh ground black pepper and sea salt. 

Potato Wedges:
Scrub the potatoes, only peel if necessary, and cut into wedges (or leave whole, if they are small enough!). Mix in a bowl with olive oil and distribute evenly on a baking sheet. Add some fresh sprigs of rosemary. Turn once or twice during baking. Roast at 400° /200° C for approx. 45 minutes, they should be golden brown with a nice crust. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.
(photos of potatoes and veggies (above) before baking, getting ready to be popped into the oven!)

A quick dip of yogurt, cream cheese and grated cucumber is lovely with the potatoes. Add garlic or chopped fresh herbs for more flavor and season lightly with salt.
Grated Carrot and Zucchini Salad: 
I like to compliment oven-roasted veggies with a leafy green salad. But I also use whatever I have on hand. This salad of grated carrots and raw zucchini was what I had left over from these muffins . Toss with toasted sunflower seeds and a splash of oil and vinegar. Garnish with cucumber slices for (little) people to munch on!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vegan Carrot Muffins

As promised, today and in the next days I will be sharing some delicious fall inspired recipes. My goal as a mom of three is to prepare healthy, interesting and tasty meals and baked goods with seasonal ingredients - preferably uncomplicated and quick! Right now the rich colors of autumn and the harvest abundance are making working in the kitchen a real pleasure.
Lately I have been dreaming of carrot cupcakes. Literally! Fall cravings can really add another winter layer to me if I don't watch out and I'm not taking about layering on a pretty sweater! So today I'm sharing a healthy alternative for those sweet cravings that tastes fabulous.

I have incorporated some of our garden abundance (walnuts, honey* and zucchini) into this recipe. I used yellow zucchini squash but regular green zucchini is fine, too. These are very moist, sweet, absolutely melt-in-your-mouth healthy muffins. Warm and spicy fresh out of the oven but even better the next day.
*Technically, of course, honey can not be in a vegan recipe.
However, since we have become bee-keepers, I like to use honey as a sweetener. I offer a vegan substitute of molasses for a strictly vegan muffin in the recipe below.

Vegan Carrot Muffins

(18 muffins)

1 cup vanilla soy milk
1 ½ t apple cider vinegar

1 ¾ c whole wheat flour
½ c all-purpose flour
1 t non-aluminum baking powder
1 t baking sofa

1 ½ c grated carrot (approx. 4 carrots)
¾ c grated zucchini
½ c chopped walnuts

¾ c sugar
½ c vegetable oil
4 T honey *
1 ½ t vanilla extract
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 t salt
½ t cardamom

* for vegan muffins, substitute 2 T molasses and 2 T sugar for the honey

1. Curdle the soy milk by whisking the milk and cider vinegar in a small bowl.  Let sit for 10 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the two types of flour, baking powder and baking soda.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cardamon. Then blend in the curdled milk/cider mixture.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Stir in the walnuts, carrots and zucchini.

5. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. Pour in the batter and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Cool on a rack and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October days

Don't cozy October days just make you feel like nesting and decorating your home? I've been "shopping my home" for vintage finds, candles, flowers, and gourds to rearrange daily! When I saw this bottle of port wine at my in-laws a couple years ago I begged them not to throw it away but give it to me when it was empty. Anything with my birth year right next to the word "vintage" just makes me laugh!
The walnut tree in our backyard has hundreds of nuts. Every day there are more walnuts in the dewy grass under the tree to be found. We are all busy like squirrels collecting and spreading them out in the sun to dry. Strangely I haven't seen any real squirrels yet. I miss them.
The roses are blooming so fragrantly and the last sunflowers are bringing us so much brightness and light - especially on those foggy mornings until the autumn sun burns through. I love sunflowers! My nine-year-old took this snapshot of me in the garden.
The sweetest owl ever was born in my studio -
not of my hands but my daughter's. She sewed and sewed away and I was amazed at what she made! Miss Owl has a very clever pocket in which my daughter tucked a special note and huge chocolate lollypop. She then wrapped a satin ribbon around her closed wings and tied it all up with a bow to delight a dear girlfriend. Such a lucky friend!
In the quiet moments in the last week I have immersed myself in the paintings and life of Van Gogh, inspired by this workshop. So glad I signed up. I've dusted off my art books and am taking notes like the art history student I once was long ago and am busy sketching in my journal. Promising myself to take me and my kids to a Van Gogh exhibit this winter.
And....on these October days...a great deal of cooking and baking has been happening in the kitchen. Please visit me here next week for some delicious autumn-inspired recipes!
See you then!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

garden herbs

In the early spring I am full of gardening-energy and work hard at planting and tending my herbs. We love them! Freshly snipped parsley and chives are just wonderful tossed onto the salad, soups and veggies, stirred into dips, or sprinkled onto cream cheese. My skinny son is turning into a skinny but hungry teenager and for a snack, he loves to fry himself an egg or too - he will always go outside to grab some herbs for the garnish. I'm so glad he does that. Herbs are healthy for you and their medicinal properties are fascinating.
However, summer comes along with all its activities and then busy back-to-school autumn and I have to admit that our herbs get a bit neglected. Our spiral-shaped garden which I blogged about here often looks nice and neat in the spring but by September, it's quite a jungle. 
I wanted get the most from our herbs before the first really cool fall days come, so last week I dedicated one sunny day to collecting and preparing some of my favorite leaves for winter cooking.
Each plant has such beautiful and unique leaves varying in texture, shape, and shades of green. I felt inspired to to get out my sketchpad and make some drawings. Of course I didn't have time but maybe on a snowy winter day I will look at my photos for sketching ideas. A lovely subject!

You can hang herbs up to dry but this takes a couple of weeks and you need a warm dry airy room for this. This year I tried the more time-efficient variation of using a food dehydrator. In a couple of hours I had perfectly dried sage, thyme and rosemary and the whole kitchen was filled with the most wonderful warm fragrance reminiscent of thanksgiving and Christmas feasts.
I also chopped a ton of parsley and chives and tarragon for the freezer.
The whole time my little furry friend Shadow kept me company in a cozy corner of the kitchen and while I worked we enjoyed some favorite music in the background....
My Italian style herbs shrunk tremendously once I dried and crumbled them and my jar seemed pathetically empty. I remembered reading about adding herbs to course sea salt and that was the perfect solution, especially since my salt grinder just happened to be needing a re-fill anyway!
Another way to preserve herbs is to make an aromatic vinegar. I added some lemon balm and tarragon to a bottle of white wine vinegar and in a few weeks it will be lovely for vinaigrette on a leafy green salad. 
It seemed in order that all this work should be honored with special labels for the jars and freezer containers. I really like the popular chalkboard look right now so I drew up some handwritten labels in white ink on black paper. Loved how they turned out! The lids for the dried herbs from recycled jars did not match did not match at all so I glued on some gingham fabric (what else?!)
One of the easiest ways to use herbs is to make a little bouquet to display in a vase or cup. A sprig of rosemary tied with string also makes a lovely and simple place setting on each plate at the table. There are really no end of ways to incorporate herbs into your daily life!
I hope you're inspired to plant some herbs in your garden or window box or grab some fresh ones at your nearest market! Happy days to you!