Apple Cider Glazed Carrots

Elevate your carrots into this luscious plate of sweet, cider-glazed jewels – a stunning side dish. Bugs Bunny would approve.

apple cider glazed carrots on white plate

Carrots are a humble vegetable – the unnoticed wallflowers of the veggie world. Every garden grows them. Every market carries them. They’re only one step above lowly potatoes in the ‘Glamorous Veggie’ hierarchy. Even if your kids eat no other vegetables, odds are they’ll happily crunch on carrot sticks. That’s why carrots are often overlooked; relegated to hold down the veggie platter, but not considered fancy enough to warrant more than being sliced and boiled.

I say, bring ’em to the front of the line, dress ’em up in some fancy duds and bedeck ’em with jewels. Let their inner diva out. Bring those glowing root vegetables to the party and watch them dazzle the crowd.

Start with a big bunch of regular ol’ orange carrots, or find yourself a few fistfuls of richly coloured heirloom carrots. Our rainbow carrots thrived in the garden this year. We harvested a wheelbarrow full of multicoloured roots, from white to deep purple. They are such fun to use, and each colour boasts a subtly different flavour profile.

cider glazed carrot; a bounty of garden carrots and apples

And when they’re roasted and dressed with a a shiny, sweet and tangy apple cider glaze, they become a fantastic side dish.

Press yourself a jug of fresh apple cider, like we did last week, buy some at the store, or juice up a few apples in your electric juicer. Or even just use unsweetened apple juice.

cider glazed carrots; roasting rainbow carrots

While the carrots are roasting and caramelizing to sweet intensity, let the cider simmer until it becomes thick and syrupy. Then drizzle it over those roasted carrots and watch them glow.

cider glazed carrots; drizzle on the cider syrup

They look nothing like a plate of carrot sticks, do they?

I’m sure they’ll convert the carrot-indifferent in your crowd. Or for another fancy carrot feast, try this Coconut and Carrot Puree with a crunchy seed topping.

I think Bugs Bunny would go for a dish of either of these if he was offered them, don’t you?

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: Regular orange carrots work just as well for this recipe. I just happen to have a good supply of the multi-coloured ones this year. You can use up to 2 lbs (900gms) of carrots with this amount of cider. Reduce it to about 2½ tablespoons, then.

Make sure to use regular fresh apple cider (not hard cider, which contains alcohol) or unsweetened apple juice. Watch it carefully as it nears the end of its reducing time, so it doesn’t burn.

apple cider glazed carrots; beautiful on rainbow carrots

Sweet Apple Cider Glazed Carrots

  • 1½ lbs (700) carrots
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups apple cider (non-alcoholic) or unsweetened apple juice

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Wash, scrub, and trim the carrots. Cut them into sticks about 3 inches (7cm) long. Put them onto a baking sheet large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat all the carrot sticks.

Roast for about 25 minutes, tossing them a couple times during the roasting, until they are soft and starting to caramelize at the edges.

While the carrots are roasting, pour the apple cider into a saucepan and heat to boiling. Turn the heat down to medium high and let the cider boil until it is reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Turn down the heat and watch it carefully as it approaches the 2 tablespoon mark, as it will start to get thick and caramelize. You don’t want to get it too brown or burn – just nicely golden and syrupy. This should take about 20 minutes, but it will depend on the surface area of your liquid and how hot your burner is. There’s no need to measure the syrup – just eyeball it. Anywhere between 2 and 3 tablespoons of apple cider syrup will be enough to coat the carrots.

Drizzle the syrup over the carrots, toss to coat, and serve.

Serves 4 to 6.

Guten Appetit!

 

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Spiced Hot Apple Cider

Cradle your hands around a steaming mug of sweetly spiced hot apple cider, take your first warming sip, and you’ll sigh and be glad that the colder weather is arriving. It’s a reason to celebrate autumn. (Skip to recipe)

spiced hot apple cider - so tasty

Start the presses! Start the presses!

Or just start one of them. The apple press, that is.

It’s finally arrived. After a whole summer of trying to convince my husband that we need one, I finally wore him down. (Score 1 for nagging wives!) He just didn’t want to hear any more of my rationalization as to why we needed this contraption to make our lives more fulfilling.

hot apple cider, using the apple cider press

Our beautiful shiny new apple cider press arrived last week, and though it was getting pretty cold for outdoor washing and pressing of apples here in northern Alberta (we’ve had two light snowfalls already), we had a great trial run. We pressed over 50 litres of beautiful sweet fresh apple cider.

hot apple cider; beautiful fresh pressed cider

look at that beautiful fresh pressed cider

Our apple trees have been producing more apples every year, and I just cannot bear to see the ground underneath each tree littered with a thick carpet of crisp juicy apples, rotting. What a waste of precious produce. Like with our cherries, it is so deeply ingrained in me to use up every bit of nature’s bounty. But after cooking with them and canning and drying them, how many apples can you eat yourself and give away to others, even with your ‘apple a day to keep the doctor away’ mandate?

hot apple cider; apples on the tree

the sweet crisp ‘Red Sparkler’ variety

hot apple cider; wheelbarrow full of apples

two of the five varieties of apples we had for pressing

I’m excited to see what we can do with this lovely fresh apple cider; lots of sweet cider to drink, some to spice and serve hot, some to cook with, and a trial batch to ferment into hard cider. My mom, a master wine and beer maker, is going to help me with that, since I’ve never tried any kind of brewing before.

hot apple cider; supervising the pressing

mom, supervising the pressing and waiting to catch the juice to measure into the buckets

There’s some confusion about the nomenclature of apple cider. The sweet fresh cider that comes from pressing apples is called soft cider, or just apple cider. It’s distinguished from apple juice by its brownish colour and murky cloudiness due to fresh apple sediment remaining in the juice. You can purchase soft apple cider in the refrigerated section of some grocery stores or health food stores. It can be pasteurized or not. You can make your own apple cider on a smaller scale by using an electric juicer to extract the juice from fresh apples, too. Commercial apple juice has the sediment filtered out and is always pasteurized. It lacks the rich complexity of fresh apple cider. Once soft cider has been fermented and develops a percentage of alcoholic content, it’s called hard cider, though to confuse the issue further, some hard cider is also labeled simply as apple cider. You’ll need to check the labels to be sure which type of cider you’re getting.

Clear as cloudy cider?

Fresh cider for spiced hot apple cider

Apple Cider 101

We had a little bit of help with the trial run of our new press. We assembled it on Thanksgiving Sunday with our kids and their friends, but it was so cold (4°C) we only got enough cider made to have a good sample sip.

Hot apple cider; Apple Cider Crew

The next day warmed up to a balmy 14°C, so even though fingers got chilly and warm layers were in order, we got to work again. We had a small crew – lots of hands to help wash and trim the apples.

hot apple cider; getting to work on the pressing

some workers, some bosses

hot apple cider; picking a few more apples

some helpers were put to work picking a few more apples to add to the press

hot apple cider; washing the apples for pressing

first you wash the apples and trim out any bad bits

Next, the apples got fed into the grinder. I was so thrilled to get this grinder that my dad had built years ago. Mom had given it to a neighbour and he wasn’t using it, so passed it back to me. It was special to have dad’s handiwork as part of our day.

hot apple cider; feeding the grinder

then you feed ’em into the grinder to chop them up fine

Then the ground-up apple mash gets plopped into a mesh bag lining the drum of the cider press, and the cranking starts. A little bit of grunt work and out squeezes the fresh juice through the holes. Sweet apple cider flows into the bucket.

hot apple cider; turning the press

then you pop them into the cider press and start cranking, as the sweet nectar flows out

After a few hours of pressing duties in the finger-numbing weather, there’s nothing better than a hot mug of spiced apple cider to wrap your hands around. Warm sips of sweet apple nectar slipping down your throat melt away the chill, and suddenly you can think of no better way to celebrate the arrival of autumn.

Raise a toast with a sweet cup of spiced hot apple cider!

hot apple cider; cider press and wheelbarrow of apples

 

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: You can purchase fresh apple cider at some grocery stores or  health food stores. You will recognize it by its murky brown colour. It is an unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice, and can be pasteurized or unpasteurized. Pasteurization is done by heating it to a specific low temperature or exposing the cider to ultraviolet light. You can make small batches of your own cider if you have an electric juicer.

If you don’t have star anise pods, you can substitute with a couple slices of fresh ginger. If you don’t have cardamom pods, use a pinch of ground cardamom, or omit it altogether. You can use 2 orange slices instead of one lemon slice.

Apple cider is generally sweet enough on its own, from the natural sugars in the apples. However, if you find that your cider isn’t sweet enough (especially if you made it yourself from a strain of tart apples), add sugar, honey, or maple syrup to taste.

mugs of spiced hot apple cider and apples on table

Spiced Hot Apple Cider

  • 4 cups (1 litre) apple cider or unfiltered pure apple juice
  • 3 whole cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 whole allspice berries (or peppercorns)
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 slice fresh lemon

Pour the apple cider into a medium saucepan. Crush the cardamom pods with the bottom of the spice bottle or a glass, to crack the shells. Place the pods and any escaped seeds into the apple cider, along with the remaining ingredients.

Bring the apple cider to a simmer, and continue heating at a low simmer for about 20 minutes, covered. The sediment will foam up a bit and form small cloudy particles. This is normal. Strain out the spices through a fine meshed strainer and pour the hot apple cider into small mugs, adding a cinnamon stick or clove-studded orange wedge to each if you like, or garnish the lip of the cups with a thin slice of apple, notched so it clips onto the rim.

*Add a shot of brandy, bourbon, whiskey, or rum to each glass to make your drinks more ‘festive’.

*You can also make a large batch of mulled apple cider in a slow cooker. Multiply all ingredients to make your required amount (but only use up to a maximum of 4 star anise pods, as the flavour can get too strong) and simmer in a covered slow cooker on high for 1-2 hours or on low for 4-6 hours, then keep warm. For convenience when making a big batch so you don’t have to strain it, bundle all the spices except the lemon into a cheesecloth square and tie it up. Float the lemon slices in the cider, then simmer, and remove the spice bundle just before serving.

Serves 4 to 6.

Guten Appetit!

 

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Sauerbraten

Want a special dish for your next Sunday dinner? How about a tangy German Sauerbraten – a wonderfully flavoured, simmered pot roast with a fantastic gravy? Oom-pa-pah! Bring on the Lederhosen! (Skip to recipe)

a beautiful platter of Sauerbrate with gravy and braised vegetables

Being German, I should have a decent recipe for Sauerbraten on this site, shouldn’t I? It’s time to rectify that omission.

What is Sauerbraten? It’s basically a tangy marinated German pot roast, a wonderful Sunday dinner and a special comfort food. I didn’t grow up with Sauerbraten, though the flavour profile is familiar to my tastebuds. My mom marinated lots of meats and fish in vinegar solutions before roasting or frying them. She also pickled raw herring and fried herring, pickled fried peppers and stuffed peppers, made her own sauerkraut, fermented huge crocks of cucumber pickles, and green tomatoes, and little apples. She made her own cottage cheese and Kochkäse (cooked cheese). She made headcheese and a kind of absolutely delicious loose sausage, kind of like haggis (we called it Knipp). She cooked beautiful roasts and cabbage rolls and savoury Strudel. She made big meaty casseroles and stewed chicken with homemade noodles.

But no Sauerbraten.

So, when I was newly married I wanted to learn about this Sauerbraten. Translated directly, the word means ‘sour roast’. Like many German foods, it’s not a really pretty sounding name, is it? The recipe is actually one I got from a German student, when we compiled a cookbook of international family recipes in my grade three class years ago. It’s the one that stuck and which I then made for my family over the years. Since we’ve become a gluten-free family, I’ve adapted that recipe with a few modifications, and it is just as fantastic.

Sauerbrate and those beautiful tangy vegetables

If I had to describe German cooking, it would be with the words savoury, piquant, and tangy. Also big, bold, and full of flavour. ‘Tangy’ is the key word in today’s recipe. Many of Germany’s dishes contain an element of sour – whether it’s the sour pickles used in Rouladen, or the sublte lacing of vinegar in an Eintopf, or the unabashed pucker-inducing tang of a dish of hearty Sauerkraut. Germans have become the master of elevating ‘tangy’ to new culinary heights. Pickling and fermenting were key techniques used long ago to preserve food in a northern climate with a long chilly winter. The techniques remain today because of tradition and a deeply ingrained love of the flavours.

rump roast for sauerbraten

I got my butcher to cut me a nice 4.5 lb rump roast from local, hormone-free beef

I love the ease of making Sauerbraten. The recipe looks long and involved, but the steps are actually pretty simple. You prepare the marinade days ahead and pop the roast and veggies into a bag in the fridge.

sauerbraten in its marinade

pop ’em all in a bag in a bowl

You let them do their stuff while you go about your merry way. Then on the day you’re entertaining, you just brown up the roast to get the nice caramelized flavours, pop it all into the oven and again, let it do its stuff, on the stovetop this time, while you read a book or swipe a dusting cloth around.

browning the sauerbraten

look at that nice brown sheen and crusty flavour bits in the pan

Not much to do when the company gets there, but to slice the meat and make the gravy. A good slosh of red wine and a touch of sugar do wonders to balance the tartness of the vinegar in the piquant gravy. The tangy braised veggies laced with bits of bread (almost like a stuffing) are a great accompaniment to the moist and tender meat.

slicing up the sauerbraten

Serve the Sauerbraten with buttered noodles (gluten-free if you wish) or Spätzle, or mashed potatoes. Or you can make up a batch of potato dumplings. I often cheat and cook up a batch of the packaged German dumplings (Knödel) available in import shops. Read the ingredients, many of them are gluten-free, to boot.

Then serve the meal with a hearty red wine and the rollicking strains of oom-pa-pah music playing in the background.

Prosit!

*Thanks to reader, Bonny, for her request for a Sauerbraten recipe. I’d been meaning to do one, but her gentle nudge is what got me going. 🙂

 * * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: *I used Schär brand Gluten Free Artisan Baker Multigrain Bread. It holds up well and doesn’t cook to mush, but any other favourite gluten free loaf would be fine to use if you’re making the recipe gluten free. Also, for gluten free, make sure to use sweet rice flour (or glutinous rice flour), not regular rice flour. Sweet rice flour makes the best substitute for regular all purpose flour when making gravies.

sauerbraten sliced up and ready to serve

Sauerbraten

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon dried juniper berries
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 cups low sodium beef broth (gluten-free, if necessary)
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 boneless beef round rump roast, 4 – 4½ lbs (1.8-2kg)
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 slices pumpernickel bread – or *gluten-free whole grain bread
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 additional teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1/3 cup flour – or sweet rice flour for gluten-free
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon powdered ginger
  • hot cooked noodles (gluten-free if necessary), spätzle, or mashed potatoes

Supplies needed:

  • 1 six-inch (15cm) square of double layer cheesecloth plus a length of cotton twine or thread
  • 1 large heavy duty plastic bag with a zip top or a twist tie

Pile the bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, and juniper berries onto the center of the cheesecloth square. Gather up the corners and tie the string around the folds, making a tidy bundle.

In a saucepan, combine the red wine vinegar, beef broth, salt, and spice bundle. Bring to a boil, then cool to room temperature.

Place a handful of the sliced onions, carrots, and celery into a large, heavy-duty plastic bag set in a large bowl (to catch any overflow should the bag leak). Add the beef roast and the rest of the vegetables. Pour over the marinade, and seal with a twist-tie or the zip top of the bag, trying to keep out any air, if possible, without the marinade spilling out as you close up the bag.

Place in the refrigerator and leave to marinate for 3 to 5 days, turning the bag daily.

About 4 hours before you wish to serve the Sauerbraten, remove the roast from the bag, discard the spice bundle, and reserve the marinade and vegetables.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed large saucepan. Pat the roast dry with paper towels, and brown it on all sides in the hot oil. This should take 10 to 12 minutes.

Scoop out the vegetables from the reserved marinade and add them around the roast in the Dutch oven. Pour 3 cups of the marinade over the roast and vegetables. (Discard the remaining marinade.) Bring the roast and marinade to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 2½ to 3 hours, turning the meat occasionally, until it feels very tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Alternately, you can cook the Sauerbraten in a 325°F/170°C oven (bring it to a boil on the stovetop first.) If necessary, top up the liquid with water to keep it at about the level you started with.

Crumble or tear the pumpernickel or gluten-free wholegrain bread into small pieces and add it, along with the raisins, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper, to the vegetables around the roast.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes more. Remove the meat to a cutting board and tent it with foil to keep warm. With a slotted spoon or strainer, remove the vegetables, raisins, and bread crumbles to a covered saucepan to keep warm. Pour the liquid from the Sauerbraten into another container, then strain 3 cups of it through a fine-meshed sieve back into the Dutch oven. Discard the rest or save it for soup.

Whisk together the red wine, flour, sugar, and ginger, and stir this into the liquid in the Dutch oven. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper or sugar if needed. Cook and stir for two minutes more.

To serve, slice the meat and place it onto a platter, spoon the vegetables around it, and pour a bit of gravy over the meat. You can also serve the vegetables on the side separately. Serve the remaining gravy on the side.

Serve the Sauerbraten with cooked noodles, spätzle, potato dumplings, or mashed potatoes.

Serves 8 to 10.

Guten Appetit!

 

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Sauerbraten Banner - deliciously tangy, special German pot roast

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Swiss Green Salad (Nüsslisalat) with Creamy Dressing and Chopped Egg

What is Nüsslisalat, you ask? It’s a tender green, usually grown in the fall in Switzerland and Germany, a type of corn salad. But don’t worry – you can substitute romaine lettuce and spinach and get to enjoy this simple but deliciously fresh, light, green salad any time, with its piquant dressing and bits of rich, sunshiny egg. (Skip to recipe)

Swuss green salad with creamy dressing and chopped egg

It’s sweater weather!

I love this time of year. There’s a chill in the air that brings a feeling of excitement, of anticipation. We’ve worked so hard in the summer, keeping on top of the yard and garden. It’s rewarding work, but back-breaking, and we need a rest. Once we get the garden harvested, we can start to take life a bit easier. We’ve got a bit of work left to do. Root vegetables are all still in the ground and everything aboveground is looking pretty straggly.

Yet some people are still harvesting greens. This week my aunt from BC was visiting my mom (who recently moved to a townhome only ten minutes away from us). My friend, Ronaye, called and asked if I wanted to come and pick up some garlic and fresh salad from her garden.

Fresh salad? At this time of year? What was she talking about?

Well, she is Swiss and always brings Nüsslisalat seeds (a type of corn salad) with her from Switzerland. This salad green, also called Feldsalat, WintersalatAckersalat, Vogersalat, or Rapunzel (as in the fairy tale) is known as a winter salad in Germany and Switzerland, withstanding temperatures as low as -15°C, and being harvested throughout the winter. Here in our harsh winter climate, it needs to be grown as a fall lettuce. Ronaye plants the seeds in mid-summer, and in the fall she harvests a bounty of these tender little bundles of green.

Nüsslisalat first grew wild at the edges of fields and meadows, but is now cultivated as a delicious, hardy salad green. To serve it, keep the little rosettes of leaves intact. Rinse well in several changes of clean water to remove any clinging soil, then dress it lightly with a robust vinaigrette, or use it in omelets or other dishes like you would use fresh spinach.

close up of corn salad for Swiss green salad

She strews them thickly in a green carpet.

patch of corn salad, ready to harvest for Swiss green salad

And today she shared them with us. So we piled in the car and headed over.

My mom and friend got right down to the picking while my aunt and I wandered around her garden, admiring its bounty on this beautiful fall day.

picking nusslisalat for Swiss green salad

After our garden harvest, my friend washed up a huge bowl of the tender greens, mixed them with a little chopped egg and a zingy, creamy dressing, served alongside moist chunks of grilled chicken. We feasted like the luckiest of kings for our lunch. It was such a simple meal, but it nourished with rich fulfillment. Minutes before, those delectable greens had just been absorbing minerals from the soil and energy from the sun, and now they gave them up to us.

The Swiss dressing for this salad is robust and tart – the perfect foil for these mineral-rich little bundles of green and the pops of sunshiny egg.

eggs and greens for Swiss green salad

But don’t despair if you haven’t got a secret stash of Nüsslisalat – replace them with baby spinach, or romaine lettuce, or any other mix of rich, hearty greens. A handful of arugula would go well here, too.

The woods are calling and so are the paths. Drifts of yellow leaves carpet the ground and fill the air with a rich muskiness. I’m gonna have a quick salad and head back outside.

Come join me for a walk?

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: I like to make up a double batch of this dressing. It keeps for two to three weeks in the fridge and is so handy to have for tossing on any type of greens for a quick salad.

Swiss green salad with chopped eggs and creamy vinaigrette

Swiss Green Salad – ‘Nüsslisalat’ with Creamy Dressing 

Creamy Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup (60ml) white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup mild-flavoured oil (like avocado oil)
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

Green Salad

  • 4 large handfuls (10 to 12 cups) of Nüsslisalat/corn salad, well washed, or a combination of baby spinach and torn romaine salad
  • 4 hardboiled eggs, peeled
  • 2 green onions/scallions
  • ~½ cup of Creamy Dressing, recipe follows

Make the Dressing: In a jar or bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with a small amount of the vinegar until smooth. Gradually add the remaining vinegar and keep whisking until it is smoothly mixed in. Add the  oil. Press or grate the garlic clove on a microplane grater and add it to the dressing. Add the mustard, salt, and pepper. Seal the jar and shake until creamy or whisk until creamy. Makes a generous ¾ cup(200ml) – more than you’ll need for the salad. Save it to dress salad greens another day.

Make the salad: If using Nüsslisalat, leave the little rosettes of greens whole. If using spinach and romaine, tear them into bite-sized pieces. Coarsely chop the hard-boiled eggs and thinly slice the green onions.

In a large bowl, combine the salad greens, chopped hard-boiled eggs, and green onions. Add  enough dressing to just coat all the greens lightly, and toss the salad well. This should take about ½ cup (120ml) of dressing or a little less.

Serves 4 generously, or 6 as a side salad.

Guten Appetit!

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Swiss Green Salad - a delicious, robust fall salad

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Sweet Corn Pudding – A Special Side Dish

Looking for a special side dish for your Thanksgiving feast? Or maybe just a way to enjoy the tail end of summer’s corn harvest? Sweet, creamy, and sunshiny – corn pudding will be that special side dish having everyone sneaking back for more.
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sweet corn pudding - I want a spoonful now

Yup, fall is here. And not only on the calendar.

The trees are turning golden wherever I look, the furnace kicks in every morning, and I’ve pulled out our winter coats.

Aaaaaand, we had our first snowfall last week. Sigh . . .

I was teaching that day in a grade one class, and the kids were beyond excited to look out the window and see those fat, white flakes swirling thickly down. They kept jumping to the window and shouting, It’s snowing! It’s snowing! It snowed all day, leaving the world winter-white and slushy. The snow had melted by the next day, but the damage that heavy blanket of white stuff did to all the trees still full of leaves was disheartening. It broke huge branches off our weeping willow tree, split a friend’s apple tree in half, and finished off the garden. We had harvested our tomatoes the week before, beans and peas are long picked, but most everything else is still in there.

sweet corn pudding - the garden after the frost

the frost-blackened basil is done. luckily I made some pesto and have it stashed in the freezer to enjoy this winter. the purslane behind it is more hardy and we can still salvage some fleshy leaves to add to salads

The corn patch is now a sad sight, with stalks bent over in a higgledy-piggledy fashion from the weight of the snow.

sweet corn pudding - the corn after the snowfall

I pulled off about half of the cobs to blanch and freeze.

sweet corn pudding - corn harvest

But first I had to indulge in my yearly tradition. I ate a couple cobs raw, standing out in the garden – sweet milky juice squirting and dribbling down my chin as I bit into the crisp kernels and gnawed them off the cob. Oh, heaven. If you’ve never eaten a fresh ear of corn, right after it’s been picked, you have not yet had the ultimate corn experience. Don’t even think to try it with corn that’s been sitting in a grocery store bin for days. They are worlds apart. The sugars have already been turning to starches, and you won’t have that crispness of juicy kernels popping as you bite into them.

Pippa, our dog, has discovered that same joy. She has become very crafty in fueling her addiction to fresh corn. She’s figured out how to jump up and pull herself an ear of corn off the stalk, then holds it with her paws as she pulls back the husks with her teeth. Once the cob is clear, she gnaws all the juicy kernels off and leaves the evidence strewn over the lawn for me to find.

Mister, the cat, looks on with raised eyebrows, thinking, Dumb Dog.

sweet corn pudding

our corn-eating dog at work

Pippa, our eat-anything-and-everything dog, also digs herself her own carrots, snatches peas off the vine, raspberries off the bushes, and eats apple windfalls whenever she feels like a sweet snack. She’s quite the happy vegetarian when there’s no meat around. Luckily our garden is large enough to supply both us and the dog 🙂

I’m sure Pippa would gobble up this delicious corn pudding, too, but I’m keeping it from her clutches.

 

big bowl of hot corn pudding

Golden corn, soft and fluffy like a soufflé but creamy like a pudding, dotted with chewy kernels, natural sweetness enhanced with a kiss of maple syrup, crispy caramelized outer bits . . .  oh, my. What a fantastic side dish for a festive turkey dinner!

Or just have it for a simple supper like we did,  served with a few strips of smoky bacon and a crisp green salad.

scoop up a spoonful of sweet corn pudding

Get your hands on some fresh ears of corn, or even use frozen. Cut the kernels from the cobs, making sure to scrape off all the best milky bits next to the cob.

cutting kernels from the cobs for sweet corn pudding

Whiz it up in the food processor,

ingredients for sweet corn pudding in the food processor

and bake to crispy-edged golden perfection.

pan of sweet corn pudding

It’s the next best thing to eating a garden fresh cob of corn you’ve pulled right off the stalk.

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: If using frozen corn, you will need more than 4 cups, since it shrinks when thawed. Defrost it first, drain off the water, then measure it. To quickly defrost corn, you can put it in a colander and run cold water over it.

If your corn is super sweet and fresh, you can omit the maple syrup if you like. Or use a couple tablespoons of light brown sugar instead.

Corn cob sizes vary. One medium cob yields about 2/3 to 3/4 cup of kernels.

sweet corn pudding with cobs of corn ready for freezing Sweet Corn Pudding

  • 4 cups corn kernels, cut from 5 to 6 cobs of fresh corn (or 4 cups defrosted frozen corn kernels)
  • 1 cup (240ml) light cream (or ½ cup heavy cream + ½ cup milk)
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ cup (60gms) soft butter
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease an 8×8-inch (20x20cm) or 2-quart glass baking dish with butter.

Cut the kernels from the corn cobs, and use the back, dull side of the knife to scrape off the hearts and all the sweet, milky bits remaining on the cobs to add to the kernels.

Set aside one cup of kernels, and add the remaining 3 cups of kernels to the bowl of a food processor. Add the cream, eggs, butter, cornstarch, maple syrup, salt, and pepper to the food processor. Whiz until you have a coarse mash.

Remove the food processor blade and stir in the remaining 1 cup of corn kernels.

Pour the corn pudding into the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the center is set.

Serves 6 to 8.

Guten Appetit!

 

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Corn Pudding - gently sweetened with maple syrup and the natural sweetness of late summer corn - a wonderful side dish for a special.

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Posted in Gardening, Vegetables | 4 Comments

Feuerwehrkuchen (Fire Brigade Cake)

Feuerwehrkuchen is a special German cake – buttery base, luscious sour cherry filling, nutty crumble, topped with fluffy whipped cream. What a grand way to celebrate an important occasion or just coffee with friends. (Skip to recipe)

Feuerwehrkuchen - German Fire Brigade Cake - celebrate those special occasions with cake

Life is short. Celebrate with cake.

Those big moments of huge accomplishment, those little moments of quiet success; those are all worth celebrating. They’re what make this epic journey worthwhile, the milestones to mark our progress. It’s all too easy to let difficulties, disappointments, and failures define ourselves, to get swallowed up by them and forget about the joys in life.

We can just be trudging along, getting through the days, and the weeks, and suddenly it’s the years, if we don’t make an effort to punctuate the passing time with markers – events and experiences that wave their arms and shout out, ‘This is important! This is special! This happened now!” We need to be more deliberate in finding joy in our lives.

So, I vote for celebrating everything and anything, great or small. Set the table with your best dishes, put on your favourite music, and light a candle while you eat your grilled cheese sandwich by yourself, or pour a glass of nice wine and clink glasses with a loved one on a Tuesday night, or a pull out all the stops and make a fancy schmancy dinner to toast an accomplishment or milestone. Invite over your friends.

And for that you’ll need cake.

A simple cake, or maybe a special one.

Fuerwehrkuchen on red cake stand

Like this Feuerwehr cake. I’ve made it four times in the last six months: to celebrate a birthday, to share with friends, to celebrate our daughter’s completion of her Master’s degree, and just last night again to celebrate her boyfriend’s completion of his PhD – some huge accomplishments for sure. This German cake has become the favourite, oft-requested cake around here.

The rather unromantic name has little to do with the actual bliss-inducing powers of this delicious confection. Feuerwehrkuchen (pronounced foy’-er-vare-koo’-hen, with the ‘h‘ in ‘hen’ being forced up from the throat in that guttural German way) means ‘Fire Brigade Cake’, and nobody, not even the internet, seems to know where that name originates from. Was it first baked by firemen in a fire station kitchen (well-known for their fantastic cooking)? Is it because of the red, flame-coloured cherries hidden under mounds of whipped cream? Or maybe because of the layer of crumbles, resembling burnt rubble? Is it the dusting of cocoa on top, like a misting of fine ash? If you know the origin of the name, I’d love to hear it in the comments below.

Feuerwehrkuchen cloud of cocoa

I was given the recipe by my German friend and co-worker (and fantastic cake-baker), Ruth, at the German Language School where I teach. She got it from her sister in Germany, also a cake-baker extraordinaire (Germans know cakes!) and her sister got it from one of those little community cookbooks comprised of tried-and-true recipes collected from fantastic home cooks. Feuerwehrkuchen looks labour-intensive but it’s really not, if you break it down into smaller parts.

There’s the firm but tender, buttery, cakey/biscuit-like bottom layer holding up a filling of silky, sweet-tart sour cherries. That’s topped with a nutty, crunchy hazelnut crumble. After baking and cooling, the whole top of the cake is slathered with billows of barely-sweetened, Kirsch-kissed chantilly cream. Finally, it’s powdered with a whisper of cocoa dust.

Feuerwehrkuchen, smoothing in the crust

press and smooth the crust

defrosting cherries for the Feuerwehrkuchen

appreciating my stash of frozen Evans cherries

Feuerwehrkuchen Cherry Filling

sour cherry jewels

crumble on the Feuerwehrkuchen

everything’s a-crumblin

Feuerwehrkuchen ready to top

it’s even good eaten just like this

for a quicker version, simply spread the whipped cream on top

for a quicker version, simply spread the whipped cream on top

dusting the Feuerwehrkuchen with cocoa

or go all out, and gild the lily

Such a delicious explosion of contrasting tastes and textures – not too sweet, but rich and tangy and perfect with a cup of coffee or a glass of champagne.

Celebrations deserve a little bit of effort and love. Putting in the time to make a lovely centerpiece like this beautiful cake is a gift given from your heart. It’s the gift of you. It says You’re special to your guests.

Take a look at your life. Find something to celebrate – even if it’s just the fact that you are alive and you can eat cake.

C E L E B R A T E

Kitchen Frau Notes: I’ve adapted the recipe for ingredients we have here in Canada (the cake is also wonderful with frozen raspberries if you don’t have frozen sour cherries or can’t find canned ones). I’ve played with the base ingredients to make this cake gluten free, and it is every bit as good as the regular version. If you need to make it dairy-free, use coconut oil or non-dairy margarine instead of butter in the base and crumble layer, and omit the final layer of whipped cream and serve slices of the cake with whipped coconut cream or your favourite non-dairy whipped topping to dollop on top.

Feuerwehrkuchen is traditionally made with sour cherries, but frozen raspberries make a very delicious substitute. Just use 4 cups (50ogms) of individually frozen, unsweetened raspberries instead of the frozen cherries.

I have not tried the cake with any other gluten-free flour except my own g.f. flour mix, so cannot speak to how it turns out if you use anything else.

I prefer to use organic cornstarch (found in health food stores) to avoid using genetically modified corn, which most regular cornstarch is made from.

a slice of German Feuerwehrkuchen is a lovely way to celebrate

Feuerwehrkuchen

Cake Base Layer:

  • ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon (180gms) butter
  • 6 tablespoons (70gms) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2½ cups (350 grams) flour (or for gluten free – use 2 cups/280gms of my gluten-free flour mix + 2/3 cup/75gms almond flour)

Cherry Layer:

  • 2 jars (about 540ml each) pitted sour cherries – or use 4 cups (500gms) frozen, pitted Evans sour cherries or raspberries, defrosted + ½ cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (40gms) cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons Kirsch (clear, distilled sour cherry brandy)

Streusel Layer:

  • ½ cup (70gms) flour (for gluten free use my gluten-free flour)
  • 6 tablespoons (70gms) sugar
  • 5 tablespoons (70gms) butter
  • ¾ cup (70gms) ground hazelnuts
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Whipped Cream Layer:

  • 1½ cups (360ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons Kirsch
  • unsweetened cocoa powder (¼-½ teaspoon)

Make the cherry layer first so it can cool:

*If using sour cherries from a jar: Drain the cherries, reserving the juice. Measure the juice and use 1 cup (save the rest for another use). If there’s less than 1 cup, add water to make 1 cup and place the juice in a saucepan.

*If using frozen sour cherries or raspberries: Defrost the cherries, reserving their juice. Strain the defrosted cherries and measure the juice. Add enough water to make 1 cup. Pour the juice into a saucepan and add the half cup of sugar.

Whisk the cornstarch into the cherry juice until no lumps remain. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the juice thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the cherries and the Kirsch. Set aside to cool.

Make the streusel next: In a small bowl combine all the streusel ingredients. Rub with your fingers until the butter is well-incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Make the base layer: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and salt. Add the egg and vanilla. Beat well, scraping down the bowl to incorporate all the butter. Add the baking powder and the flour (or gluten-free flour mixture) and mix until smooth.

Grease a 9-inch (24cm) springform pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Grease the paper, too. (I like to use a cooking oil spray.)

Assemble the cake: Scrape the base layer dough into the pan. Use your fingers to press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan and about 2/3 of the way up the sides of the pan (until it’s about an inch from the top of the pan). Use the bottom of a small measuring cup or glass to push into the dough against the sides all the way around to ensure your side-crust and corner aren’t too thick. Push down against the top of the side-crust of dough with your fingertips to make it even all the way around.

Pour the partially cooled cherry filling over the base. Sprinkle the streusel crumbs evenly over the cherry filling.

Bake it: Bake the Feuerwehrkuchen for 45 to 50 minutes, until the streusel is golden brown on top.

Let the cake cool in the pan until completely cold. You can even make the cake up until this point the day ahead, and let it sit on the counter, uncovered and in the pan, until serving it the next day.

Top it: Whip the cream with the cornstarch and sugar until of spreading consistency. Add the vanilla and Kirsch and whip for a few seconds more to incorporate.

Remove the sides of the springform pan and set the cake onto a cake platter (you can leave the base layer underneath if you wish, or carefully use two spatulas to transfer the cake off the pan base and onto a plate).

Spread or pipe the whipped cream over the top of the streusel layer, bringing it as close to the edges as possible. Use a fine-meshed sieve to sprinkle a dusting of unsweetened cocoa powder over the top of the whipped cream.

Makes one 9-inch cake.

Guten Appetit!

 

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Feuerwehrkuchen is a special German cake – buttery base, luscious sour cherry filling, nutty crumble, topped with fluffy whipped cream.

 

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Posted in Cakes, Bars, & Squares, German Cooking | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Evans Cherry Ginger Oat Crumble Bars

Use up some of your abundant Evans cherry harvest or raid your freezer stash for these delectable Oat Crumble Bars. The ruby red sour cherry filling peeks out between crumbly layers of sweet buttery oats. Warm ginger sings harmony, a delicious counterpart to the tangy fruit. (Skip to recipe)

Evans Cherry Ginger Oat Bars

If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?   Erma Bombeck, 1978

Well, I’ve been in the pits and in the juice, and in the trees and in the pails and in the jars – I’ve been in the cherries.

It’s been cherry season at our place. Evans sour cherry season.

Evans Cherry Harvest; look at those plump berries

Cherries everywhere, man.

Evans Cherry Extravaganza

There are delicious preserved cherries in the dehydrator, regular dried cherries out of the dehydrator (and another dehydrator-full humming in the background, out of sight), gallon jars full of cherries soaking in brandy, smaller jars of cherries soaking in vinegar solution for shrub (recipe coming soon), and a pan full of Evans Cherry Ginger Oat Crumble Bars – the third one this week! Plus I’ve pitted and frozen bags full, made juice concentrate, Evans cherry vinegar, cherry pie, cherry crisp, and we’ve eaten our share of the tart jewels fresh.

We’ve had fun picking cherries with friends, but mostly I just run out in my pyjamas and rubber boots to quickly pick a pail in the morning so I can get them going for the day. I’m cherried out. But it feels good.

Evans Cherry harvest; my helper

sometimes I have a helper – she waits eagerly to gobble up any cherries I drop

It’s the kind of good feeling that comes of preparing food for the winter, of using up the harvest and not wasting a bit. It’s the kind of good that was drilled into me since I was a small child, helping mom pick fruit or can vegetables from our garden. It’s the kind of good that I can’t fight – no matter how I try.

I am genetically programmed not to let food go to waste.

And sometimes it can be a curse. Because I need to use up every. . . little. . . bit.

Growing up with parents who lived through war, fled as refugees, and relocated halfway across the world as immigrants, you grow up with that fear of hunger instilled in you, even if you’ve never been hungry yourself. You know better than to waste anything. You are taught to use up and appreciate every bite of food you take.

  • You gnaw the meat off your chicken bones until they are glistening clean. (You then rinse them and make soup with them.)
  • You eat your apple cores until there are only a few seeds and a stem left.
  • You wash and re-use all plastic bags and even plastic sandwich wrap.
  • You carefully unwrap gifts without tearing the paper and reuse it again and again.
  • You suck peach pits until every little string of fruit is removed from the crevices.
  • You pour water into the last dregs of the ketchup bottle (and shampoo bottles), shake it and use it until there isn’t a drop remaining. You then repurpose the empty ketchup bottles to store your homemade syrups and sauces.
  • You mend shoes and patch clothing.
  • You reuse wax paper for sandwiches until it tears to shreds.
  • You carefully take apart brown paper bags to use as wrapping paper and writing paper.
  • You turn leftovers into casseroles and leftover casseroles into soups.
  • You make your own food from scratch even when it’s easier to buy it from the store.
  • You forage for all and any wild foods in season.
  • You scavenge neighbours’ fields after harvest, and you accept all offers of fruit windfalls.

You get the picture.

We live in a land of plenty now. And I still can’t shake those ingrained habits. I do now throw out used wax paper and sandwich wrap (even though I cringe when I do it). And I can even force myself to throw leftovers to the chickens because I’ve learned the hard way that creating a whole new dish just to use up that leftover bit of off-tasting sauce sometimes creates more waste when the new dish isn’t eaten. I even throw out the gnawed-on chicken bones, now.

But I still can’t waste the harvest off a beautiful loaded fruit tree.

Evans Cherry Ginger Oat Bars; tree full of cherries

So I give it away and freeze it and can it and preserve it. Even if there is so much of it we can’t eat it all.

Because it can feed someone who might be hungry.

Evans Cherry Ginger Oat Squares

* * * * *

These crumbly oaty bars remind me of the comfort food of my childhood – special treats my mom baked for coffee time or company. The luscious sour cherry filling and warm kick of ginger laced through buttery crumbles are a wonderful treat with a hot cup of tea or cold glass of milk.

 Kitchen Frau Notes: For an easy trick to pit Evans cherries, click here.

If you don’t have Evans cherries, other sour cherries would work, too, or you can use raspberries.

I prefer to only use organic cornstarch, since corn is one of the most genetically modified plants out there. At least when I’m using organic, I know it’s not a GMO. It’s a bit harder to find (health food stores) but I buy a lot at a time, since it lasts forever.

If you’re allergic to corn, you can use potato starch as a substitute.

*For an egg-free version, replace the egg white with 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds stirred into 2 tablespoons water; let it gel for 5 minutes, then stir into the dough for the base.

If you’re not a fan of ginger – omit it from the base and filing, and increase the vanilla in the filling to 1 teaspoon.

 Evans cherry ginger oat crumble bars

Evans Cherry Ginger Oat Crumble Bars

Filling:

  • 2 cups (350gms) pitted Evans sour cherries, fresh or frozen (or substitute with fresh or frozen raspberries) – use slightly heaped cupfuls if frozen.
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or ½ teaspoon ground dried ginger)
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (100gms) sugar (I prefer organic, evaporated cane sugar)
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) orange juice (or apple juice)
  • ¼ cup (30gms) cornstarch (preferably organic)

Base and Crumble:

  • 1 cup (100gms) oat flour (gluten free if necessary)
  • ¼ cup (30gms) cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (70gms) coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2/3 cup (150gms) softened butter or coconut oil
  • 2 cups (180gms) quick oats (small-flake rolled oats, but not instant oats), gluten-free if necessary
  • 1 egg white

Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180°C). Grease an 8×8 inch (20x20cm) square baking pan.

Make the filling: Combine the sour cherries, ginger, vanilla, and sugar in a saucepan. Stir together the orange juice and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add it to the cherries. Bring the filling to a boil, stirring often. Then stir constantly as it thickens. Cook and stir for thirty seconds – the cherries will break up quite a bit. Set aside to cool slightly while you make the filling.

Make the Base and Crumble Topping:

In a bowl, combine the oat flour, cornstarch, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar. Add the butter and blend in with a mixer or rub in with your hands. Make sure the butter is very soft if using your hands. Blend in the rolled oats, again with the mixer or with your hands. Blend it only until the oats are incorporated and the mixture is still somewhat crumbly. Large crumbles are fine. Don’t blend so long that the mixture forms a ball.

Divide the crumbles into two equal parts. Set one half aside and mix the egg white into the other half to make a thick dough. Pat this dough evenly into the greased baking pan to form a base..

Spread the sour cherry filling over the base. Top with the remaining crumbles, breaking up any large ones with your fingers and sprinkling them evenly over the filling.

Bake for 35 minutes. Allow to cool.

Cut into 9 large or 16 small squares.

Guten Appetit!

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Cherry Ginger Bars Pinterest

 

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Posted in Cakes, Bars, & Squares, Fruit | 4 Comments

Basil Pesto – it’s like Green Gold

Intensely flavourful, herbal, cheesy, and garlicky – what’s not to love about fresh basil pesto? If you’ve got a bounty of basil in your garden, you’ve got the makings for this classic Italian sauce that livens up every dish you can think of to plop it onto.              (Skip to recipe)

ingredients for classic basil pesto with Parmesan and pine nuts

Tomayto, tomahto? How do you say it? How about basil – is it bay-zil or bah-zil?

Well I say bah-zil, and I like it that way. I guess it’s closer to the German word for the herb – Basilikum. Upon a little Wikipedia poking, it seems the UK and European pronunciation is bah-zil (ˈbæzəland the US pronunciation is bay-zil (ˈbzəl). Here in Canada, both tend to be used interchangeably.

However you say it, basil is a herb beloved by many people. Its name comes from Greek and means ‘king of herbs’. It’s quite delicate, as herbs go – not handling cold weather well, turns black quickly when cut or exposed to heat, freezing, or acid, loses a lot of its flavour when dried, and doesn’t keep more than a few days once cut. But basil’s fantastic fresh flavour is what makes it king of the herbs. It’s most often used fresh in recipes or added in the last few minutes of cooking to preserve that taste, which is herbal, slightly licorice, even a bit sweet and perfumey, yet pungent – hard to describe. Sweet basil (or Genovese basil) is one of the main herbs used in Italian cooking. Thai basil or lemon basil are very popular in Thai and southeast Asian cooking, and holy basil is widely used in Indian medicine and teas and in Ayurvedic practices.

And we love beautiful basil here in North America, too.

beautiful leaves for the basil pesto

a heaping pile of sweet basil

Basil is one of the herbs included in Italian seasoning mix and lends its flavour to many Italian dishes. It’s added to canned Italian tomato products and sauces. But the herb’s most well-known use is probably in that wonderful classic – basil pesto; vibrantly green and intensely garlicky, slightly cheesy, pungent, yet with that herbal sweetness that comes from using fresh basil leaves.

classic basil pesto, with pine nuts and garlic

With a jar of basil pesto in your fridge you’ve got the makings to elevate any meal to gourmet status. Slather it on pasta of course, but you can also coat steamed new potatoes with it, add a spoonful to vinaigrettes or salads, plop some on top of freshly grilled or pan-fried meats or seafood, stir it into eggs, plop it onto pizza, layer it on sandwiches and burgers . . . . the possibilities are endless.

a spoonful of classic Genovese basil pesto - so good

We’ve got a couple basil plants in our garden – enough to use in salads or on sandwiches, but not enough to really indulge ourselves or roll in it like I do in my fantasies. (That would be heaven!) So last week when a generous friend came visiting with a big plastic grocery bag stuffed full of fresh basil from her garden, I knew what I was going to do – after restraining myself from shoving my face into the bag, rooting my nose around in the fragrant leaves, and inhaling myself into a basil-stupor.

I knew I had to make pesto – lovely classic Genovese basil pesto. The word pesto comes from the Italian word pestare, which means to pound or crush. If I was going to be strictly traditional, that’s what I’d do. But I’m not (traditional, I mean). I’m lazy. Plus, I don’t have massive, muscly biker arms or Italian mama pesto-pounding shoulders. I use my food processor. I’m done in five minutes and have jars of beautiful green elixir to use fresh or to freeze for a taste of Italian summer when we’re in the depths of winter.

basil pesto ingredients in the food processor

smooth basil pesto

trimmings from the basil pesto

Earlier this year I made and froze a batch of out-of-this-world garlic scape pesto (also with the lazy food processor method), so now I’ve got some of both squirreled away in the freezer.

And if you’ve got a bounty of parsley on your hands – why not try the zesty Argentinian chimichurri sauce? Another amazing green-power flavour blaster!

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: Don’t worry if you don’t have exactly the right amount of basil leaves on your hands – there’s no little kitchen police who define exactly what ‘lightly packed’ or ‘tightly packed’ means when relating to springy leaves. Just use a couple good big handfuls – anywhere from 2 to 4 cups of leaves would work. If you’ve got more leaves, just add a drizzle more oil at the end to get the right consistency.

The same goes for the other ingredients, too; a big handful of Parmesan, a small handful of pine nuts, and a sprinkle of salt work as well as the amounts I’ve given below. Trust your instincts. Go by taste.

classic basil pesto - green and flavourful

Classic Basil Pesto

  • ~3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves (100gms), thick stems removed
  • ½ cup (60gms) grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup (35gms) pine nuts (or chopped walnuts)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle on top

Place the basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper into the bowl of a food processor. Process until coarsely ground.

Keep the motor running and add the olive oil in a thin stream, until the pesto is emulsified and smooth with a slightly chunky texture.

Divide into jars, and smooth the surface of the pesto with the back of a spoon. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on top and swirl the jar to coat the pesto evenly with the oil. This helps prevent the top from oxidizing and turning black. (And no worries – the blackened bits are fine to eat, even if they don’t look as bright and fresh.)

Fresh basil pesto lasts for up to a week in the refrigerator. If you can’t use it all up, pesto freezes well.

*To freeze pesto: Either fill ice cube trays with pesto and pop the frozen cubes into a freezer bag – they’ll keep for up to six months. Or fill small jars or containers, leaving a half inch headspace, then pour a slick of oil on the surface of the pesto, seal, and freeze for up to a year.

Makes 1 and 1/3 cups (320ml).

Guten Appetit!

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Rich and flavorful, classic Genovese Basil Pesto

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Posted in Condiments, Sauces & Dips, Herbs, How-to-Basics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Homemade Chili Powder

Raid your spice cupboard and quickly stir up this flavourful homemade chili powder. Ten ingredients that make a rich and complex mix. You won’t want to buy the commercially-made stuff again. (Skip straight to recipe)

homemade chili powder in a jar

Chili powder seems to be kind of a North American thing. We love our chili, don’t we?

When cooks in the rest of the world see the words ‘chili powder’ in a recipe, they think of straight-up ground chili peppers (which we would call cayenne). However, to us North Americans, chili powder is the prepared mix of spices that is the principle seasoning in that spicy ground meat and bean dish (though, no beans if you are a purist) called chili con carne or just chili. It’s also used to flavour many other Tex-Mex dishes. We tend to use chili powder liberally in all sorts of southwest-inspired foods like tacos, bean dishes, enchiladas, and pulled pork or carnitas.

homemade chili powder; 10 ingredients

There are as many recipes for chili powder as there are companies that make them, each with their own signature ingredients and varying heat levels. However, if you have a stocked spice cabinet, it’s easy to throw together your own homemade chili powder mix. Here’s a good base recipe, rich and complex, with a moderate heat level. You can take it from there – adding a touch more or less of each ingredient to suit your taste, or adding other favourite spices of your own. I love the subtle richness that comes from adding a bit of cocoa powder (an ingredient used in some savoury Mexican dishes, like molés).

homemade chili powder; layers of spices in jar

Try your homemade chili powder in this easy Number One Chili or in these super tasty Lentil Sloppy Joes.

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Kitchen Frau Notes: I’ve kept the heat level to moderate in this chili powder mix, preferring to add spice to individual dishes if I want them ‘hotter’. That way I can customize recipes by adding more cayenne or chipotle or fresh hot peppers directly when cooking, depending on the crowd I’m feeding. (Or you can always pass the hot sauce at the table.)  However, you can also increase the amount of cayenne in the homemade chili powder mix if you’d like more heat.

easy homemade chili powder - 10 ingredients you probably have in your cupboardsHomemade Chili Powder Mix

*All spices used are ground, except for the oregano which can be ground or the finely crumbled dry herb.

1 tablespoon of each:

  • cayenne pepper
  • chipotle pepper or smoked hot paprika
  • fine sea salt
  • sweet paprika
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • dried oregano
  • garlic powder
  • unsweetened cocoa powder

plus:

  • 1 teaspoon allspice

Mix all ingredients. Store in a sealed container in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

Makes a generous ½ cup (about 80gms).

Guten Appetit!

 

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homemade chili powder, pinterest long

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White Bean and Yellow Beet Hummus – a Great Snack for Sailing

This rich and luscious golden beet hummus is extra smooth and creamy. The beets add a silkiness that is hard to achieve with beans alone, and add a very subtle, sweet earthy flavour to this beloved dip. Plus a little trick in processing the hummus helps add to the creaminess, too. (Skip directly to recipe.)

white bean and golden beet hummus with veggies

‘The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” ~Jacques Cousteau

Well, lakes do that for me, too.

golden beet hummus; sailboat on Wabamun Lake

Being on the water thrills my soul. I grew up around boats – mostly river boats and motor boats, but the thrill was still born in me – the feeling of total freedom that comes when you skim the waves and feel all your cares just flitter away across the sparkling water. Bye bye worries. Or that feeling of weightlessness as you lay in a gently rocking boat, looking up at the blue, blue sky above you – fully understanding how tiny you really are within our vast universe. And how tiny your cares are, too. For a short while, you can forget it all and just imagine that you are heading off into the unknown, off into a bright blue future. Who knows where that boat may take you?

golden beet hummus; heeling sailboat on Wabamun Lake

I had my fix again this year; my boat-in-the-water-breeze-in-my-face sailing fix. Earlier this summer, Raymond and I had a skim across the waves with our friends. (Did I say before how lucky we are to have friends who own a sailboat?)

golden beet hummus; Skipper Ian checking out the sails

Skipper Ian checking out the sails

We hit a day of glorious wind again this year. Flying across the water in full sail, with the boat heeling so much I could feel the delicious spray and touch the cool water with my fingers, was a thrilling ride; soul-cleansing. I could feel the cobwebs blowing out of my head, leaving space for beautiful new thoughts.

golden beet hummus; out on the sailboat

Raymond at the tiller and Sabine watching the water

Then last week I got to go and play on the boat – our annual girl’s night sleepover (I guess Sabine decided she could brave my snoring for a night, once again!) Packing up my cooler of snacks and bringing my sleeping bag always feels like I’m heading off to grown-up summer camp, ready for adventure.

golden beet hummus; sailboats at Sunshine Bay Sailing Club

Adventure definitely called my name this time. Sabine and I headed off for a kayak trip to explore the little tributary we paddled into last year.

golden beet hummus; pushing off from the dock

Sabine set off first – notice how the water level is well below the dock?

We paddled into the reeds, up the little creek that felt like we were in another world – far from lake and land.

golden beet hummus; kayaking the tributary

golden beet hummus; kayaking near Wabamun Lake

uh-oh, can’t go any farther, a tree has fallen and blocks the creek

However, as I was paddling, I was having more and more trouble steering my kayak. It kept wanting to go in circles, and I’d have to compensate by paddling hard on one side to get it straight again, then it’d do a little pirouette in the other direction. Cantankerous thing! By this time I was saying some not-very-ladylike cuss words under my breath. It was more and more work. My bum shoulder was getting sore, and I just wanted to get back to the bloomin’ dock.

With a lot of effort and some more bad words, I got my wonky kayak to the dock – and then thought, “Uh-oh.”

The surface of the dock is about 2 feet above the water level. Somehow I had to heave myself out of the kayak, up onto the boards, without capsizing the very light and very unstable vessel. My shaking shoulders did not feel like they had the strength to pull my body weight up.

Well, you can imagine what happened . . .

Yup. More cuss words as the kayak wobbled this way, then wiggled that way, then did a nose dive and started filling with water – with me frantically throwing my camera onto the dock. I tried desperately to stay upright and keep my leather slip-on sandals on my feet (smart footwear choice, huh?), all the time trying to heave myself up onto the boards . . . to no avail. The kayak sank. I was in water up to my armpits. Luckily there was a fellow nearby tending his boat, and Sabine called for help. Between the two of them they were able to drag, pull, and flop me up onto the dock, where I lay ignominiously – a streaming, water-logged, red-sweatered whale.

Thankfully there were no photos to document that little adventure.

golden beet hummus; drying clothes on the sailboat

my soggy clothes drying on the boat

After drying off and a change of clothes, it was heaven to sit on the boat, drink in hand, nibbling a few appetizers and watching the sunset. Looking back, I realized my problem had probably been that I’d forgotten to put my feet against the footbraces in the kayak (thinking of canoeing), and maybe been putting pressure unevenly on the floor of the kayak, causing me to go in circles. Either that or my kayak was possessed!

Enough water for one day.

golden beet hummus is part of our snack selection on the boat

Time for those nibbles. We feasted on smoked salmon with horseradish cream cheese and mini buckwheat blintzes, olives, and this amazingly creamy golden beet hummus with veggies. I even cut a raw golden beet into sticks as part of the dipping veggies – yummy!

golden beet hummus goes good with a drink at the end of the day

cheers!

We love hummus, and even though you can buy tubs of hummus everywhere, it’s so easy to make your own. Cannellini beans and golden/yellow beets make a fantastic difference – the dip becomes lusciously silky and smooth. These beautiful beets are from Peas on Earth organic farm, at the Strathcona Farmers Market. They turned my hummus from ordinary to out-of-this-world.

beautiful golden beets for beet hummus

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Kitchen Frau Notes: Hummus freezes well. I like to keep half the batch for eating fresh and freeze the rest in a small freezer-safe container for another day.

Hummus gets much more mellow after the first day. So if you find the garlic taste too strong when it’s freshly made, wait a day. Conversely, if you find the hummus has lost some of its oomph on the second or third day, give it another squeeze of lemon juice to freshen it up.

Whizzing the lemon juice, oil, and tahini together first gets them to emulsify and get creamy before you add the beans and beets. This step helps make an even more creamy dip.

*To cook the beets, trim off the tops, scrub them, and cover them with water in a large saucepan. Bring them to a boil, lower the heat and cover the saucepan. Simmer the beets until tender when pierced with a fork. This can take anywhere from a half hour to a full hour, depending on the size of the beets. Drain. Set a colander in the sink under the water tap. Hold the beets under the stream of cold running water and rub off the skins with your fingers. The colander will catch the skins. You can also wrap the beets in tin foil and roast them in the oven at 400°F/200°C until tender, then remove the skins with a paring knife.

white bean and golden beet hummus with dipping carrot

White Bean and Yellow Beet Hummus

  • 1 can (14oz/398ml) cannellini beans or white kidney beans (or 1½ cups cooked beans)
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) tahini paste
  • juice of one lemon (3 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic (or 2 small ones)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1½ cups diced, cooked yellow/golden beets* (220gms), 2 – 3 medium sized beets

Set the beans aside in a sieve to drain (no need to rinse them).

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne. Whiz until the ingredients are creamy and emulsified.

Add the beans and diced beets, and whiz until very smooth. This may take several minutes.

To serve, drizzle with a bit of extra olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika or cayenne, if desired.

Serve with raw veggies, crackers, or pita bread pieces for dipping.

Freezes well.

Makes about 2½ cups.

Variation: Use red beets for a beautiful, brilliant, magenta-coloured beet hummus.

Guten Appetit!

 

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White Bean and Golden Beet Hummus - silky, smooth, and luscious. A subtle earthy flavour.

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golden beet hummus; sign at the sailing clubhouse

drinks on the deck after a sail

golden beet hummus

sunset at Wabamun Lake

golden beet hummus; sailboats at sunset

Posted in Appetizers, Beans & Legumes, Condiments, Sauces & Dips, Snacks | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments