Glühwein - Merry Christmas


This is just something that belongs to Christmas time for me, a warm spiced wine. In Germany you can usually buy it at the outdoor Christmas Markets to keep yourself warm in a wintery cold night. Even so it is pretty cheap to buy in Germany, during my college time my roommates and I used to sit in our dorm kitchen, play board games and make this spiced wine ourselves. The non-alcoholic version is basically the English Wassail, a spiced warm fruit juice punch.

Ingredients:

  • 1 - 1.5 liter Red wine
  • 4 Orange slices
  • 1 cup Honey
  • 3 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 3-4 Cinnamon sticks
  • 3-4 Anise stars
  • 10 Gloves
  • Optional: 1/4 cup of cider mate spice (including orange, lemon peel, anise star parts, gloves, dried berries)

Preparation:

Pour the red wine in a big pot, add the orange slices, cinnamon sticks, anise stars, gloves and cider mate. Heat on low, do not boil. Then add the honey and sugar to taste. Start with a little bit and add more if still to bitter. A friend also told me, that you can use orange juice to sweeten it. Heat for about 5-10 more minutes and then strain the wine in cups.

This also makes a nice little christmas gift if you fill it up into dark green bottles, add a cinnamon stick, some christmas stickers and maybe an ornament made out of the orange slices, cinnamon sticks and anise stars :)



Bed & Breakfasts





My boyfriend and I like to stay at Bed & Breakfasts. I just love this feeling of being in a home that tries to recreate a historical ambiance with cute antique furniture. And of course, I do love the self-made breakfast, arranged in a thoughtful and beautiful way. Most of the Bed & Breakfast we have stayed at have delivered delicious and creative breakfast including self-made lemon cake, blueberry corn pancakes, spinach crepes, creamy omelets, crispy warm blueberry muffins, etc.

Last year during Christmas time, we took a short trip to British Columbia, Canada and stayed at the cutest little Bed & Breakfast in Whistler (Inn at Cliff Top Lane). Everything was perfect. It was by far the most romantic and thoughtful one. The owners were very nice and accommodating. The rooms beautifully arranged, even had a jetted tub. The breakfast was very creative with lots of options. The fresh baked blueberry muffins were a dream, they had a crispy top that reminded on a cookie. The owners were so nice to share their recipe with me and I will re-create it soon :) And everything was surrounded by a fairy-tale like snow landscape.

This is a short list of all the amazing Bed & Breakfasts that I have stayed in so far and that kind of spoiled me:

However, I cannot recommend all Bed & Breakfasts...


We recently stayed at a Bed & Breakfast in Capitol Hill in Seattle (Mozart Guest House), that unfortunately did not meet our standards. The house was too small and cluttered and missed the mark of creating the historical feeling. The breakfast lacked creativity and cute arrangements. The host offered either plain eggs or plain french toast, prepared in a very simple way and was unfortunately worse than a continental breakfast at a Super 8 Hotel... However, we still had a nice time in Seattle and just went to our favorite food places to make up for it (see blog post: Seattle's Pike Place Chowder and Lola's Doughnuts).


Seattle's Pike Place Chowder and Lola's Doughnuts



This post is about my boyfriend and my holiday weekend trip to Seattle and our favorite food places there.


Pike Place Chowder
    - the best clam chowder ever

Even though I have already been several times to Seattle, I had to wait for my friend Nick to discover this little place as he and his girlfriend came visiting on a vacation trip. This is an amazing little Clam Chowder place right of the Pike Place, in the Post Alley. It is not a big fancy restaurant, however they serve a variety of freshly prepared chowders and bisques. If you are not a big fan of seafood, you can even get vegetarian or vegan chowders with fresh vegetables from the market. They also serve them in Bread Bowls. When you enter the place, you can see the "Hall of Fame" board, showing that they won best clam chowder awards all over the States, even in New England on the east coast that is famous for its clam chowders.




Lola's (or the Dahlia Bakery) 

             - the best fresh baked doughnuts ever

My boyfriend found this little place. He watched one of the shows on the Food Network Channel that I almost always have running at home and they introduced the best doughnuts on the west coast. He surprised me and took me there for my birthday. Lola's is a full sized restaurant, however, the best thing on the menu are their small doughnut holes. They are freshly baked and served in a paper bag filled with cinnamon sugar that they shake so that the warm doughnuts are covered with the sugar. But that's not all, they serve amazingly delicious dipping sauces: a mascarpone creme sauce and a seasonal jam (which can be a pear or berry jam).
If you do not want to go into the restaurant, or arrive at a time when they don't serve the doughnuts (12-1pm) , you can also get these doughnuts at the cute little Dahlia Bakery across the street, that kind of belongs to the restaurant. Here you can either sit down on a street-side table or get them to go.



Braised Leeks and Cauliflower Soup


This delicious fancy little recipe comes from my good friend Jamie. It was part of our "World Tapas Night" where we all chose an international dish that we all shared as an Appetizer (Tapas) with a drink.

Jamie's fantastic braised Leek and roasted Cauliflower soup started the evening and was served with a fancy cocktail. 

Then Adam's Tapas followed: a Spanish Tortilla de Patata that we actually learned from our Spanish friends Elena and Silvia. Steven and I finished the night with my Elsaesser Flammkuchen with creme fraîche and crispy bacon and with Steven's delicious Quesadillas with sauteed veggies and a self-made guacamole creme.

This recipe here is my adaptation of Jamie's Leek and Cauliflower soup. I also braised the leeks, and I found a nice recipe on how to do that. These leeks tasted so flavorful and fantastic that you can also eat them on their own or as a side dish. This soup is perfect for a cold winter night.

Ingredients


Braised Leeks
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper 
  • 1 big Leek
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Thyme

Roasted Cauliflower
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoon Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

The Soup
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil
  • 2 gloves Garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Ginger
  • 2 tablespoon Thyme
  • 2 cups vegetables or chicken Broth
  • 1 cup dry White wine
  • 1 1/2 cup aged white Cheddar
  • 1/2 cup Milk or Cream
  • 1/2 cup Sour cream or Creme fraîche
  • French Baguette
  • Optional for garnishment: 2-3 slices crispy baked bacon, cut into small pieces

Preparations


1. Braise the leek

Preheat oven at 355 degree Fahrenheit. Wash the leek and cut lengthwise in half, depending on the size of your casserole you might need to cut it in half as well. Place cut side facing up in a small baking dish. Pour chicken stock over them and sprinkle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Distribute grated parmesan cheese over them and top with chopped thyme. Bake for 15 min till leeks are soft and parmesan turned golden brown. Take out and cool down. This dish is also delicious as a side dish.

2. Roast the cauliflower

Preheat oven at 400 degree Fahrenheit. Cut the cauliflower into florets. In a bowl, toss the florets with the oil and salt and pepper. Place them on a baking sheet and bake until lightly golden brown for 20 min. If you have a broiler, bake them for 15 min and place them for 3 minutes under the broiler.

3. Prepare the soup

For the soup, heat the oil in a pot, add the chopped onions and sauté until translucent for 5 min. Add the chopped garlic, ginger and thyme for another minute. Be careful that it doesn't turn black. Keep a few little pieces of the roasted cauliflower and leeks for garnishment. Add the rest of the cauliflowers, leeks, the broth and the white wine. Bring to a boil, but then reduce the heat and let it simmer covered for about 20 min. Transfer 2/3 of the soup into a blender and puree till smooth. Pour it back to the rest of the soup. Add the cheese and let it melt for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add milk/cream and creme fraiche/sour cream. Remember, if you chose to add cream, do not bring it to a boil as it will separate. Serve with baguette and garnish with little roasted cauliflowers and leek slices or some crispy bacon pieces.








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Christmas Cranberry-Popcorn Garland


What would an American Christmas be without trying out some of the American traditions? Making a garland for the christmas tree out of popcorn and cranberries is one of these traditions. It might take a little bit of time, but it is very simple and looks so cute around the christmas tree.

Just be aware that if you have a cat it will not make it easy to make the garland as it will try to play with it. Your boyfriend might be another challenge, as mine was constantly eating the popcorn away. But if you master these challenges, it will be worth it :)

All you need:


  • Cranberries (fresh)
  • Popcorn (best to use one without butter)
  • Yarn and needle

How to do it:


Take the yarn, best if it is white and unwaxed, and make a big knot at the one end (I did several knots to make it bigger). Then start the garland by threading the popcorn and cranberries. I used 3 white popcorns and then 2 small red cranberries. You can use whatever pattern you like, whether you like it even, or more white or more red or completely unpredictable. Make it as long as you want. You can also do several small garlands. When you are done, make another big knot at the end.

Decorate your Christmas tree or your front porch with it.






Pumpkin Troll Horns - Happy Thanksgiving!




And here another pumpkin recipe... These Pumpkin Troll Horns were a perfect addition to the fantastic Thanksgiving Dinner of our friend Jamie's family that we were allowed to be part of.

The first time we experienced these yummy "Troll Horns" in Disneyworld at EPCOT's World Showcase at a Norway Bakery called "Kringla Bakery Og Kafe". They were delicious! The original ones had a white cream filling with cloudberries.

After a long, exhausting and unfortunately unsuccessful search for the original recipe (calling Disney world and google search), I ended up comparing several different internet "cream horn filling" recipes and as it is holiday time, we decided we want to have a pumpkin cream filling.

For this recipe I had to purchase steel cream horn molds (a package of 6). They are not expansive and you can order them online, it is well worth it :)


Ingredients


  • Cream horn molds
  • 1 package Puff Pastry Sheets (2 sheets)
  • Flour
  • 1 Egg + 1tablespoon water (eggwash)
  • Crystal sugar 
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 package vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix (about 2.5 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cream (whipping or heavy)


Preparation


Troll Horns
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Thaw the puff pastry sheets for about 20 minutes. Flour the surface and unfold the pastry sheets. Roll out the pastry sheets lengthwise a little bit more (about 2 more inches). Cut each pastry sheet lengthwise into 9 stripes. Take the cream horn molds and use one stripe for one horn. Start wrapping the pastry stripe around the form, starting at the point of the cone. Make sure to overlap so that there are no gaps. In order for the molds to easily slip out, don't wrap the pastry over the opening. Patch the end together with the rest of the pastry so that it later does not unwrap.

Spray the baking sheet with oil and place the horns on it. Beat the egg with the water and brush the horns with the eggwash. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals (large grains of sugar). Bake the horns for about 15 minutes till puffy and light golden brown. Take them out of the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. The molds should slide off right away. If you only have a package of 6 molds, repeat this procedure 2 more times.

Important: Cover the left over pastry with a wet kitchen towel, so that it does not try out while the other horns are baking.


Pumpkin Cream Filling
In a mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, vanilla instant pudding, cinnamon and milk. In a separate bowl, beat the cream until thick. Test by turning the bowl up side down, the whipped cream should stay in the bowl and not drop down. Fold the beaten cream into the pumpkin mix till everything is evenly mixed.

Pipe the pumpkin cream into the horns (use a decorating pipe or a ziploc bag with one corner cut of).



Pumpkin Cannelloni & White Wine-Sour Cream-Sage Sauce


And here comes another pumpkin recipe for the Fall... I am on a mission here :)

I looked through several pumpkin cannelloni recipes and decided that I will mix the pumpkin filling with a mushroom-spinach-pine nut filling. The pumpkin is very sweet and I wanted to balance it up with something more earthy and nutty. I also decided to go with a sour cream based sauce because of the sweetness of the pumpkin. Another tip, I used a lot of salt as well for the filling.

Ingredients


Filling

  • olive oil
  • 1 pound Pumpkin - peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup Ricotta
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan - grated
  • 1 tablespoon Butter
  • 2 tablespoons Sage - chopped
  • 3 Garlic gloves - minced

  • 6 brown crimini Mushrooms - sliced
  • 3 handful of Spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup Pine nuts
  • Salt, Pepper
  • 1 package oven-ready Lasagna sheets

Sauce

  • 5 tablespoon Butter
  • 1/2 sweet Onion - diced
  • 3 brown crimini Mushrooms - sliced
  • 1 cup dry White wine
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 1/4 Cream
  • 5-6 Sage leaves
  • Salt, Pepper




Preparation


Preheat oven at 350 degree.

1. Pumpkin Filling 
For these cannelloni, you have a pumpkin and a spinach-mushroom filling. First, you need to create the pumpkin filling. Peel, seed and dice the pumpkin, add 1 cup of water, some salt. Cover the pot and let steam for 15 minutes till tender. Then remove from heat, set aside and start smashing the pumpkin till it is soft. It should be so soft now, that you don't need to apply much strength.

In a frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and sautee for 2 minutes. Add the chopped sage and fry for 1 more minute. Add the mixture to the smashed pumpkin, add the butter, salt, pepper, ricotta and parmesan cheese. Mix till it's smooth.

Another method that doesn't require so much peeling and cutting would be to roast the pumpkin: Therefore, cut the pumpkin in half, seed it and put it in the oven. Let it roast for about 40-60 minutes (depending on the size) at around 370 degree. When its tender you can just scrape of the soft pumpkin meat.

2. Spinach-Mushroom Filling
For the spinach-mushroom filling, heat some oil, sauté the onion, add the mushrooms and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the pine nuts and roast till they are golden brown, add the spinach and heat for another minute. Remove from heat.

3. Cannellonis
For the cannelloni, bring a large pot with water and salt to boil. Add the lasagna sheets and boil for 2 minutes till they are tender. Drain the pasta and place the lasagna sheets on a cutting board, drizzle with oil so that they don't stick together. You will roll the lasagna sheets and as the sheets are very long and I did not want to have much of an overlap of lasagna sheet or big rolls, I cut the lasagna sheets widthwise in half. Then place 2-3 tablespoon of pumpkin filling in the middle of each half of a lasagna sheet, add 2 tablespoon of mushroom-spinach filling, and roll the sheet. Place in a casserole dish, add 1 cup of water, sprinkle parmesan cheese over the cannellonis, add a few sage leaves, and close the casserole with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes at 350 degree.

4. Sauce
For the sauce, heat the butter, add the onion and sauté. Add the sliced mushrooms and the sage leaves, fry for 5 minutes. Add the white wine, salt and pepper, cook for 5 minutes. Add the sour cream, mix and taste the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat down and add the cream. Do not boil with the cream as it would separate. The sweet cream will balance the sour cream taste.




Pumpkin Chowder



The main ingredient of this dish is the pumpkin - perfect cooking ingredient for the Fall. I got inspired to cook with pumpkin by my friend M. who had such a fabulous halloween themed dinner on Halloween (bat pasta with a pumpkin sauce and pumpkin cider).

The most common pumpkin to use for cooking would be the small sugar pie pumpkin, the one that looks like a smaller version of the big pumpkins used for jack-o-lanterns. However, there are tons of different pumpkins and squashes that you can use and it could be fun to try some new ones. For this chowder I went and looked at all the different possible pumpkin and squashes. I ended up using a mix of sugar pie pumpkin, hubbard squash and sweet dumpling squash.

This is a recipe for a pumpkin chowder instead the pumpkin soup. A chowder is a vegetable or seafood stew, usually with added milk or cream. The difference to the soup is that the chowder is just a thicker soup with lots of good chunks in there.

Ingredients


  • olive oil
  • 1 leek - sliced
  • 3 garlic gloves - minced
  • 1 red pepper - chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper - in cubes
  • 1 green bell pepper - in cubes
  • 2 pounds of pumpkin - peeled, seeded and in cubes 
  • 2 teaspoon fresh marjoram - chopped
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • salt, pepper, cayenne pepper to taste
  • garnishment: shaved pumpkin seeds (roasted and salted), parmesan cheese



Preparation


For the chowder you do need to peel, seed and cube the pumpkin. The pumpkins/squashes are pretty hard and it took me longer than expected. I would suggest to do this first, so that you don't need to rush later.

Heat the oil in a big pot, add the sliced leeks and cook for about 5 minutes till they are soft. Then add the minced garlic and chopped red pepper and cook for 2 more minutes for the spices to open up their flavor. Add the cubed bell peppers and cook for 5 more minutes. Then add the pumpkin cubes, marjoram, bay leaves and corn. Stir and add the white wine. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and cook for 20-25 min till the pumpkin cubes are soft. Reduce heat, add cream and spice the mix to taste (salt, pepper, cayenne pepper). Do not boil with the cream in it, as it would separate.

Transfer 1/3 - 1/2 of the chowder to a blender and mix till smooth. Transfer it back to the chunky chowder still in the pot and mix. This will result in a creamy chowder, that will still have lots of flavorful chunks in it.

For garnishment I bought shaved pumpkin seeds, I quickly salted and roasted them at 350 degree for about 5 minutes. If you want to use the ones from your pumpkin you need to roast them and then peel them. You can also top the chowder of with some grated parmesan.

If you want to go all cutesy, you can by an extra small pumpkin and seed it and serve the soup in it :)





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Deviled Eggs




Deviled Eggs - one of my boyfriend's favorite appetizers - were another quick appetizer that we brought to our potluck dinner.

I got inspired to these deviled eggs by my work colleagues M. and K. who I was lucky to share the office with for a time. M. actually made these deviled eggs for a work potluck lunch and I immediately fell in love with them. On K.'s suggestion I looked up Paula Deen's recipe for spicy deviled eggs.

Over time I modified the recipe to my liking. Really, there are no limits - from the use of a spicy aioli mustard, the additions of chives, or peppers, or relish, or bacon...


Ingredients


  • 12 eggs
  • 1/4 cup aioli mustard 
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sliced spring onions or chives
  • 2 tablespoons relish
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • salt, pepper, cayenne pepper to taste
  • optional: 2 slices of bacon - crispy cooked and cut into tiny pieces
  • for garnishment: sliced red pepper rings, sliced spring onion/chive rings

Preparation


How to boil the eggs:
Place the eggs in a pot and fill with cold water till they are covered about 1 inch. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. As soon as it starts boiling, turn the heat down. Don't keep boiling them on high heat as that results in a green, ugly ring around the egg yolk. However, I like to leave the eggs on low heat for a few minutes, then I turn the temperature off and let the eggs sit on the warm stove and in the hot water, covered, for 10-12minutes. Drain the eggs and fill the pot with cold water. This will make it easier to peel the eggs. Peel the eggs, cut in half lengthwise and remove the egg yolk and place in a separate mixing bowl. Keep the egg white halves. They will be filled.

Mix the egg yolk:
Take the bowl with the egg yolk and smash them. Add the other ingredients (mustard, mayonnaise, spring onions/chives, relish, red pepper, vinegar). If you don't have aioli mustard, you can use any other mustard and add a minced garlic glove. Mix everything, if it is still to dry, add more mayonnaise. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste. If you like it a little more crunchy and hearty, add the crispy bacon pieces and mix.

Fill the eggs:
Use a cookie decorating bag with a tip to fill the eggs. If you do not have one, you can easily use a ziploc back and cut of one corner. Fill the decorating pipe (or ziploc bag) with the egg yolk mix and . Pipe the mix into the egg white halves so that they are a little overfilled. Fill a plate with dried green split peas and place the egg halves on there in a circle. The peas will prevent the egg halves to move. Garnish each egg hall with a red pepper ring and/or a green spring onion or chive ring. Sprinkle red pepper powder over it.








Prosciutto wrapped Asparagus


The other day we were pondering what kind of appetizer we could bring to a potluck dinner. Life is busy and we did not have much time to prepare the dish, but we still wanted to have something "special". We first thought to recreate these bacon wrapped stuffed jalapenos that my boyfriend prepared for our Caribbean BBQ during summer. However, not everyone likes it spicy and I tried to think of other veggies we could wrap in bacon.

I remembered this one time during high school were my friends and I were invited to my friend K.'s place - a very nice place with winter garden, a back yard and a half blind dog. She always had exquisite taste and was very creative. That time she had prepared a few delicious looking appetizers that I had never tasted before. One was melon wrapped in prosciutto ham. At that time I did not fancy prosciutto much, I was a very picky eater and I guess I was to young to appreciate it. However, now it just sounded perfect. And because my boyfriend and I were craving asparagus that night, we decided to prepare asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.

Prosciutto, also called Parma ham, is much thinner than bacon, but has still tones of flavor as it is a dry cured ham. It tastes delicious uncooked and you can wrap the prosciutto around the already cooked asparagus and just eat it like this, but I decided I want to have crispy prosciutto. That's also the way I like my bacon - very, very crispy.

So, here is the recipe to a very FAST and SPECIAL appetizer:

Ingredients


  • 1 bundle of green asparagus (about 20)
  • 10 slices prosciutto (half the amount of asparagus)
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese (herb & chives) - optional
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper


Preparation

Break off the bottom part of the asparagus, it is hard and not very tasty. Place the asparagus in a single line on an oven tray, sprinkle with olive oil and salt and pepper them. Toss around till all spears are coated. Cut each thin slice of prosciutto in half, lengthwise. Now you should have as many prosciutto slices as asparagus spears.

Optional:
Who wants it a little decadent, can smear a tiny little bit of cream cheese on each prosciutto slice. It will be a little juicer then.

Now, wrap one slice of prosciutto around one asparagus spear. Start at the top, a little under the scaled tip and circle downwards, so that there are almost no overlays. Put the asparagus back in the oven tray, make sure that the spears are separated and don't touch each other. If they touch, the prosciutto will steam and not get as crispy. You have now two choices of baking them:

  1. Broil them for 5 min: Place them on an oven rack about 5 inches below the broiler, turn the asparagus after 3 minutes of broiling.
  2. Bake them for 15 min: Pre-heat the oven to about 400 degrees, let the asparagus bake for about 7 minutes, then turn them around.
They can be served fresh out of the oven, or even cold the next day.










Ratatouille with Polenta



I am a big fan of vegetables, so ratatouille seems very fitting to me. However, my first ratatouille dish I ever ate was back in college in our dining hall and I didn't like it at all. It almost ruined this dish for me. I am not sure what recipe they followed, but I took this as a challenge to prove that there must be a ratatouille that I like.

This recipe is such an easy and fast recipe, with lots of fresh vegetables and herbs, gives me the feeling of eating healthy :) There is actually almost nothing you can do wrong or not like if you stick to the basics. What I especially liked about this recipe was the use of fried polenta slices instead of the usual pasta.

And please check back for my "soon to come" classic Ratatouille's ratatouille, another ratatouille recipe based on the cute movie :)

Ingredients


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion - diced
  • 5 mushrooms - in halves or quarters
  • 1 red bell pepper - in cubes
  • 1 small eggplant - in cubes
  • 1 zucchini - in cubes
  • 1 yellow squash - in cubes
  • 2 tomatoes - in cubes
  • 2-3 garlic cloves - minced
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • fresh herbs (majoram, thyme, rosemary, basil) - chopped
  • 1 small can of diced tomatoes
  • salt, pepper, italien herbs to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Polenta, sliced

  • parmesan cheese for garnish


    Preparation

    As mentioned, this is a very easy dish to prepare. Just dice the onions, cut the mushrooms in halves or quarters (depending on how big they are), and cube the bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes. Chop the fresh herbs, about 1-2 tablespoon of each.

    Start with sautéing the onion in the olive oil for about 3 minutes, then add the mushrooms and bell pepper and keep sautéing for 5 more minutes until you can see that the mushrooms change their color. Next, add the rest of the fresh vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, squash and tomatoes), the garlic, bay leaves and the fresh herbs. Stir everything and let cook for a few more minutes (5-7 min).

    In the meantime start frying the polenta. I chose a polenta with dried tomatoes and basil. There are a variety of different flavors, all work very well with the vegetables. Cut the polenta in 1/2 inch thick slices, heat up the butter in the frying pan and add the slices. Let them fry for 5 min, then turn them around. They are ready when the slices are slightly crispy and golden brown.

    After all the vegetables have cooked for a few minutes, add the can of diced tomatoes to the vegetables and stir everything. The can will not add too much liquid, but I do like it when the vegetables are in a little bit of a sauce. Add salt, pepper and dried italian herbs to taste. The fresh herbs have been added earlier, so the sauce only needs to be heated up. Cook for a few more minutes (3-5min), till everything is hot and the vegetables are soft. Serve with the polenta slices on the side, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top (which I completely forgot in the end).







    Mummy Dogs - Happy Halloween!


    These Mummy Dogs are easy to make and perfect for Halloween. We made them as an appetizer for a Halloween Party... I got the idea from one of the Pilsburry classic cookbooks #362, a small mini cook recipe magazines.

    Ingredients


    • 2 Hot Dog packages (bun sized, 14 oz package, 8 pieces/package)
    • 2 Crescent Dinner Rolls 
    • Pepper Jack Cheese
    • Sea Salt (or coarse salt)
    • Salsa flavored Cheese Dip


    Preparation


    Open and unfold the Crescent Rolls. I got confused by the name "Rolls", but basically they are just the normal Crescents croissants. The unfolded dough has 4 squares, each square with a triangular folding line. Try to mend the triangular folding line, but separate the squares. Now, cut each square lengthwise in 10 stripes. These will be the bandages that we will wrap around the hog dogs. Each hot dog will get 5 stripes.

    Slice the cheese lengthwise in stripes. Hold one cheese strip onto the hot dog and then wind a dough bandage around the hot dog, try to cover the entire hot dog, stretch the dough if necessary. Keep a little space at the top of the dog on the opposite side of the cheese free of bandages, it will be the face of the mummy. Continue with 4 more dough stripes, wrap them around the hot dog like bandages.

    Place the mummy dogs on a baking tray, the side with the cheese down (face up), spray the mummy dogs with oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 10-13 min.

    Take mummy dogs out, let them cool for a few minutes and then "paint" the face with the salsa flavored cheese dip. I used a tooth pick to paint the eyes and mouth. You can serve the mummy dogs warm or cold, with the salsa on the side.

    Happy Halloween!




    Wassail




    Last year, we spent the thanksgiving holiday time with my boyfriend's sister T. and her family. She has 4 little girls and it was a wonderful holiday time with lots of fun and nice food. We made this great warm holiday punch, it is called "Wassail" and basically is a mix of fruit and citrus juices and mulling spices. We followed the recipe and used a mix of orange, apple, lemon and cranberry juice with emphasize on the cranberry juice, so that we had a very reddish looking drink (see picture on top). 

    This year, I couldn't wait to re-create the drink. I found this cranberry-apple juice mix that I used and the drink turned out more yellow. 

    The ancient English word "Wassail" has two meanings: it can refer to the hot mulled punch, but it can also refer to a salute on someone's health, "waes hail" (literally: be you healthy). Originally, the drink was a mulled cider drink and the verb "wassailing" referred to a ceremony of drinking and singing to the health of the apple trees in hope to scare away evil spirits and ensure a good harvest. 

    There are lots of variations for this drink. Mix juices you like, you can also add tea or even stronger beverages such as cider, wine, brandy, or rum. 

    Ingredients

    • 1 can concentrated frozen orange juice (+ 4 cans of water)
    • 1 can concentrated frozen cranberry - apple juice (+ 4 cans of water)
    • 1 cup of fresh pressed lemon juice
    • 3 lemon slices
    • 3 orange slices
    • 6 cinnamon sticks
    • 6 anis stars
    • 10 gloves
    • 1 cup cider mate mix (orange peel, dried berries, gloves, ginger, anis star pieces)

    Preparation

    It is up to you what kind of juices you use. A mix of orange, apple and cranberry juice works really good. The more cranberry juice, the redder the drink gets, what can be fun for the Halloween time. It works good with frozen juices that you can always have ready in your freezer. You can also add tea to the juice mix such as rose hip tea, raspberry tea or peach tea. 

    This year, I used only two cans of frozen juice: orange and a cranberry-apple juice mix. Combine the orange and cranberry-apple juice mix in a small pot or slow cooker, add water to the juice concentrate and stir till the concentrate is dissolved. Add the lemon juice, the orange and lemon slices and the spices. I always put the spices directly in the juice and use a strainer in the end. Some folks like to put the spices in a cheesecloth, so that they can just take them out in the end. It's not as messy but it requires to have a cheesecloth. Heat the punch and let it cook on medium for at least 30 minutes for the spices to unfold. In my experiences, the juices are already sweet enough, but if you like it sweeter, use honey or sugar. Serve warm and use a small strainer to pour into a cup. 








    German style "Curry Wurst"



    The "German Curry Wurst" is one of the most famous "fast food" dishes in Germany and you can usually buy it on almost every event and outdoor food cart. The Curry Wurst goes really good with Pommes Frites (french fries) or just a good baked roll. 

    All you need for a "good" curry wurst is the right sausage and the right sauce. This is easier said than done here in America. I went to a special German store that has original German meats, breads, candy and condiments. The store is called "Edelweiss" and I was so happy as I discovered it. I think this is as close to original German food as you can get here in the US. They do make their own sausage here in the US, so, it is still a little "americanized". 

    However, even if it is not true authentic, the sausages are delicious. I bought a variety of different ones that in my opinion seemed to work well as a Curry Wurst: a White Wurst, a Curry Wurst, a German Wurst, a Fine Bratwurst. 

    I was also able to find the right sauce: A Curry and a Schaslik Ketchup. These are flavored Ketchups, spiced with some curry, cayenne, cumin, etc. It is not the same to just use Ketchup and Curry powder.

    Ingredients:

    • Sausage
    • Curry Ketchup
    • Schaslik and Zigeuner Sauce (if available, not necessary)
    • Curry powder
    • Hot sauce
    • side dish: french fries or role

    Preparation:


    The Curry Wurst tastes best, if you really grill it on a BBQ. When the Curry Wurst is done, plate it and slice it.

    In the mean time prepare the sauce. Therefore, I warm up the Curry Ketchup, mix it with the Schaschlik Ketchup and Zigeuner Sauce (if I have some, but not necessary), and then I add some Curry and Cayenne Pepper, some Hot Sauce.

    As soon as the sauce is warm, pour it on top of the Curry Wurst, sprinkle with some additional Curry powder and serve with French Fries/ Roll.

    Guten Appetit!






    FLORIDA PART III: The Three Broomsticks



    Wizarding World of Harry Potter...


    Seeing The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was the main reason for us to go to the Adventures of Island, and I have to admit is was really cute. Because we went there late September and it was right before school started back up, we were lucky that there weren't long lines. We enjoyed the rides and walking through the alley, checking out the Owl Post, Olivanders and his wands, Zonko's and Honeydukes and Filch's Emporium.

    For more fantastic pictures and details on that day, check out M's Blog post at: http://peachesnorangesflorida.blogspot.com/2013/09/harry-potter-meets-titanic.html

    At the Three Broomsticks


    Of course we had to try out the "Three Broomsticks". We ordered a lunch feast for all four of us and the atmosphere, sitting on wooden banches, the castle in the background was magical. We also tried out the Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice, delicious! And for desert, we went to Honeydukes and got some chocolate frogs and chocolate cauldrons :)






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