Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Home-made kefir with chia seeds and garden peaches

After the last hooray of summer this weekend with temperatures in the upper 80s fall has arrived. It is much colder, overcast, drizzling and makes me yearn steaming tea and snuggly cats.

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The trees still have most of their leaves, in green, orange and red when I look out of my kitchen window into the garden, but by the end of the month there will be barren trees, naked villages and Halloween howling through town.

This year my peach tree only had 4 peaches. They hung high up in the tree, but fortunately they fall down when they are ripe. 2 of them became a wonderful breakfast last week.

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I am also making kefir at home with store-bought cultures, which is less expensive around here than to buy kefir directly. It simple enough to do: boil milk, cool it to room temperature, mix a cup of the cooled milk with the cultures, mix with the rest of the milk and let sit for 24h in room temperature. Next day it has a yogurt like consistency. I pour it in a milk bottle and keep in the fridge for about a week.

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Kefir is rather tart so I mix it with some honey, add chia seeds and the home-grown peach sliced. A wonderful light, most-home made and guaranteed unknown substance free breakfast.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Komorebi

We are lucky with a beautiful fall this far – September has been mostly sunny and no frost yet but it does get colder at night and the days get shorter. This morning I found this article with excerpts of a book of words that cannot be directly translated into the English language, Lost in translation.  I can appreciate that because there are so many wonderful German words that can never be translated like wunderkind (literally ‘wonder child’, describing a surprising little genius) or biergarten (literally, a garden with beer, but it is a restaurant that looks like a garden and you have garden tables and come together in the summer with friends to drink beer and eat sandwiches or snacks). These words exist in other languages, too. Like komorebi…..

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A good word to mumble these days of the year….. Or Wabi-sabi, finding beauty in the imperfections, an acceptance of the cycle of life and death.

 

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Another komorebi moment was a fall BBQ over the weekend at a beautiful house on the lake, including smores on the lake. These were my first smores ever, and it took three attempts until I got it right. The first marshmallow I stuck directly into the fire, which made it tar-like looking on the outside. The second one I held so far from the fire it melted and had no caramelization at all. The third one finally had the right distance and was caramel brown. However, it did not as excepted melt the hershey bar. Next time? I will bring nutella for a chocolate dripping perfect smore. Oh well, wabi-sabi.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Harvest soup Sunday

It is Sunday morning. Slight drizzle today, and a day after the Common Ground Fair with darkened, but dry skies, it definitely feels like fall. A few days ago I put an older VHS tape in the player. When I taught myself cooking with the help of FoodTV, I often recorded shows and watched them over and over again until I remember how to cook a dish. I have about 15 tapes with food networks shows from way back when. These days I rarely watch live FoodTV – it no longer holds the same fascination but the older tapes are still grabbing my desire to cook something new (Where is the Netflix streaming of food tv shows!). This morning, I felt similarly nostalgic about looking back on my own blog for the fabulous fall soups I cooked over the years.

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Two years ago I had grown my own kuri squash with some seeds from a squash I had bought the fall before. Red kuri squash soup is still one of my favorite soups. So deep in flavor and silky in texture, much more interesting than roasted butternut squash soup, which is mild and needs curry or orange zest for some added humph.

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Roasting squash before adding it to a soup makes the soup deep with flavor and sweet without adding any maple syrup.

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Another great fall soup is roasted sweet potato leek celeriac soup with grueyere. Celeriac is a root vegetable, starchy and a very unique, intense flavor, like a starchy (instead of watery) version of celery.

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Or carrot soup with harvest fresh carrots cooked in carrot juice.

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Or roasted tomato soup --- made with fresh or canned tomatoes.

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Not to forget the vegan cream mushroom soup!

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More recipes:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mulled hot cider

The weather is still wonderful, sunny, not particular warm but not cold either. The trend continues of too many things pilling up with little downtime, and I feel exhausted. It feels like going to an all you can eat buffet with colleagues, being careful what you select because there are many cool things to try out, and then several colleagues piling on a few more things on your plate a la “Oh, you should try this!”. By midweek I had started to cruise to just make it through the week.Today I opted to go home early, I was just too tired. Frost is predicted for tonight and the plants needed to be moved inside again. Watched a movie and made hot mulled cider, with fresh local cider available everywhere these days. A few pinches of mulling spices, a spoonful of raw, unfiltered honey, a dash of black rum. A hot bath is waiting, too. Let the resting begin.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Baked ramen pasta with kale

The days are long these days, very long, very full, very productive. Once I arrive at work I typically don’t get around to take a break for hours, mostly until I leave. By 4pm I might eat my home-brought lunch. By 6pm, I head back to the car or the bike and ride back home. At that point, my head feels like it ran a marathon and needs a break from all things people and computer screens or any kind of thought-provoking input. Often, I shed my work clothes, put on gym clothes and sneakers and go for a walk. Or a run. No need for music. My mind is on pause, and the body trots along, in a simple rhythm, finally pumping blood filled with large amounts of oxygen through my body.

This morning I read a study that you can offset the negative impact of sitting for 3 hours with regular short walks. (I wonder if those short walks to the coffee machine and printer count? Or more like a short trip to another building and starbucks? --- 5min walks required, so yes, maybe get the coffee at Starbucks.) – It is always a concern if there is no time for feeling playful during work, time for laughs, and all signs are towards that it is more a marathon of getting things done. Coming home so exhausted is not a good idea, it would be better to lighten the to-do list or lower the expectations, and well, live well. But then, we all think we are superwoman or superman, and quite heroic for working so hard. (when indeed it is more stupid, if you think about it).

Another trend for me is to make a big baked pasta dish in the evening with leftovers for the next evening or for lunch the next day. So good. The variations are endless.

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Baked Ramen Pasta with Summer Squash and Kale

for 2 people or 1 with leftovers.

  • 3 oz small penne pasta
  • 1/5 of a block of ramen noodles
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • ca. 2 inches of Soy chorizo (I use Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 regular tomato, diced
  • 1 summer squash, cut into rounds of half rounds
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn
  • 2-3 leaves of curly or flat kale, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup of roasted bell pepper sauce (just 1 cup of tomato sauce)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 TB ricotta
  • some grated garlic or garlic powder
  • 2 TB goat cheese crumbles

Cook the pasta and ramen noodles in a boiling water for 8 min. Preserve some of the cooking water!

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and brown the onion, and the chorizo meat (discard the skin). Add the tomato, kale, corn, and summer squash, mix all together and saute until zuchini and kale are wilted and cooked. In a separate bowl, combine the tomato sauce, soup, worchestershire sauce, garlic and ricotta and mix well. Once the pasta is cooked, add to the pan with the tomato sauce, a few laddles of the pasta water and the oregano and taste for salt. Combine well and pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle with and distribute over the pasta. Bake for 20min.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Quinoa Plum Cake (glutenfree)

It was a nice, warm weekend, first too hot, then thunderstorms that brought the temperatures and humidity back to a pleasant level for Sunday. I baked another plum cake, fabulous flavor thanks to quinoa flour and texture, and went on a hike with friends.

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Quinoa Plum Cake

special equipment: 10 in spring form

  • 1/2  stick unsalted butter (if from the fridge, microwave for 15 seconds)
  • 1/3 cup part-skim milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 ts vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flour 
  • 1/3  cup all-purpose glutenfree flour (I used King Arthur Flour’s GF flour)
  • 1 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 2 TB almond meal
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/3 Teaspoon Salt
  • ca. 10 relatively firm Italian plums
  • 1 TB rum
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the springform pan with baking spray.
  2. Slice the plums into half, remove the pit, and slice each half into halves. Place in a mixing bowl and mix with the rum, sugar and cinnamon, and let marinate while making the cake.  
  3. In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the ricotta cheese and blend well. Add the egg and mix well. Add the vanilla extracts and cinnamon and mix until fully combined.
  4. Sift together the flours, almond meal, baking powder, soda, and salt.
  5. Add the dry ingredients in several smaller portions, mixing just until incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spoon (or fingers) as needed.
  7. Arrange the plum slices on top of the cake in a circular pattern and pour the remaining rum and sugar on top. Sprinkle with 1 TB of brown sugar.
  8. Bake 45 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean.
  9. Let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
    Cool completely.
  10. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla gelato.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

(Almost) vegan baked pasta

It was a perfect Saturday. All what was required was relaxing. It was a steaming summery hot September day with awaiting  thunderstorms in the afternoon. The lawn was mowed, and after getting some groceries and seeing an episode of House of Cards, I made a fabulous dinner --- baked pasta.

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Almost Vegan Baked Pasta

for 2 people or 1 with leftovers.

  • 3 oz small penne pasta
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • ca. 2 inches of Soy chorizo (I use Trader Joe’s)
  • handful of grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 large button mushroom, sliced
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup of roasted bell pepper sauce (just 1 cup of tomato sauce)
  • 1/3 TB worchestershire sauce
  • 2 TB ricotta
  • some grated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup panko and breadcrumbs
  • 2 TB grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in a boiling water for 8 min. Preserve some of the cooking water!

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and brown the onion, and mushroom. Add the chorizo meat (discard the skin), add the grape tomatoes, and mix all together. In a separate bowl, combine the tomato sauce, soup, worchestershire sauce, garlic and ricotta and mix well. Once the pasta is cooked, add to the pan with the tomato soup mix and a few laddles of the pasta water. Combine well and pour into a baking dish. Mix the breadcrumbs, panko and parmesan cheese and distribute over the pasta. Bake for 20min.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Baked leek summer squash cakes

The semester hit like a ton of bricks in the first short week. Feels like a spaceship stopped over campus and unloaded 12,000 students, all of them running around wild looking for classes, are in the wrong class, want to transfer in or out of their major after a half week of taking classes, are confused with their twin, and many of them away from home for the first time. (which will make an interesting or homesick first weekend ahead).

No time to cook (or do anything else much) for the wicked, but the continuous growth of beautiful summer squash called for action. I sat there, watching the riveting final episodes of the first season of the US version of House of Cards (I accidently started with the old UK version before) on netflix, grating three large summer squash. Claire Underwood, my new feminist hero.

To save time pour zucchini mix in a muffin pan and baked them almost like little muffins. --- great lunch box food!

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  • 3 large summer squash (or zucchini)
  • 1/2 ts salt
  • fresh crushed black pepper
  • 1 small leek, sliced 
  • some fresh herbs (cilantro, rosemary, thyme), chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten with a 1/4 cup of milk
  • muffin pan, sprayed.
Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, lined with a clean kitchen towel, grate the summer squash. Mix with the salt, and let sit for 15-20min. Twist the towel, and squeeze out as much water as you can.
Put the squished, dried summer squash in a bowl, add the other ingredients, and mix well.
Distributed in a 12-hole muffin pan, and bake for 20-25min. Serve hot or at room temperature