Saturday, December 31, 2016

Lucky Pig Star Anise Dinner Rolls for New Year's Eve

How cute are these lucky rolls for your New Year's dinner or brunch table? Let's face it, 2016 has been a really tough year both in the USA and globally. We all could use some luck ammo going into the New Year. 

Last year I made Lucky Pig Breads with Plum Jam Filling. For this last post of 2016, I'm simplifying things with a simple pig shaped dinner roll recipe spiked with star anise flavor. The rolls are made with a combination of white and whole wheat flour. The star anise flavor adds a seasonal warm spice touch. 

This holiday has been fraught with a stone floor installation that stole Christmas, a busted furnace that threatened our New Year's eve celebration and a series of other super annoying events, including a minor car accident and a broken computer. 

However, I am well aware these are first world problems and tried to plow through each one without getting too cranky. There is, after all, SO much to be grateful for, most of all for my delicious amazing husband and an astounding, brilliant, talented, funny circle of friends whose love just won't quit.

I've had some incredible trips in the past year, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Sudan, Dubai, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Now 2017 is shaping up with some exciting and exotic destinations both for work and pleasure. I'm excited and looking forward.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Creamy Hazelnut Chicken Noodle Prosecco Soup

Here a soup that is a cross between comfort food and celebratory dish. A sexy take on chicken noodle soup, this  slightly tipsy soup is perfect for your fancy New Year's Eve dinner or New Year's Day brunch. However, it also works if you choose to spend both of those cuddled up on the sofa in your jammies. 

There is no chicken meat in this soup. It can be easily added to the recipe. The soup is simply a blend of chicken stock (use organic if you can), heavy cream and seasoned with a bit of nutmeg. This is a quick and easy recipe to prepare for a dinner party or for watching the ball drop from your sofa.

You can get fancy and add different color noodles but thin good old workhorse egg noodles will do the trick. I used a recipe for hand-rolled egg noodles and cut out the numbers 2017 using number cutters just to be extra fancy. Using store bought is obviously a huge time saver. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Butter Pecan Kringle: King Arthur Flour's December Bakealong

Yes. I know Christmas was yesterday but we all know the holiday party train continues until January 2nd. Consequently, we all need a stockpile of cakes and desserts for friends and relative who drop by to visit. 

This butter pecan kringle is this month's bakalong recipe from King Arthur flour. It is both a stunner and a workhorse.

A stunner in looks and butter pecan flavor, one of my all-time favorites for ice cream. This kringle did not disappoint. It's a beautiful addition to any holiday table and the layer of flavors, butter, caramel and pecan are sublime. The cake is a workhorse in that it covers your holiday desserts, coffee and tea time and even breakfast danish territories.

The recipe is all about layering. First, a dough base is made, then another cake layer on top, then baked. After that, it's a matter of layering caramel, toasted whole pecans and vanilla butter flavored sugar glaze over the baked ring.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Quince Cranberry Almond Bars

Happy Christmas Eve everyone! Here are some beautiful holiday bars to make this season. Yes, there's still time to make these for a post-Christmas celebration or a New Year's brunch. The recipe feeds a lot of people. A lot. Like 20.

They look so fancy, I should call them the Fresh Quince of Bel Air Bars.  Quince is still inhabiting our local markets. They do add a unique flavor to this recipe, However, you can easily substitute pears for the quince. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Christmas Market with a Conscious - Tollwood in Munich, Germany

There are so many great Christmas markets in Munich to visit. This is one of my favorites. the entire market is devoted to sustainability. 

Handmade Goods from Madagascar
From the Christmas tree made out of recycled plastic bottles at the entrance to the rule that all the vendors present organic foods and sustainability friendly products. 

The market, on the grounds of Thereseweisn, where the world famous Oktober fest takes place every September, is vast. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Advent Calendar Hazelnut Hibiscus Linzer Cookies

I saw this idea in a German cooking magazine awhile back and planned to create my own version this year. It's way past the time to gift or create an advent calendar. Sigh. However, the cookies themselves are so delicious, you can still make them for the holidays using holiday shapes or letters for the cutouts. You can also bookmark these for next year's holiday cookie baking. 

These hibiscus flowers in syrup have been an obsession of mine since I had 2 jars shipped to be in Germany when I first spotted the product online years ago. Since then, I routinely add them to prosecco for holidays, sit back and watch the wow factor from my guests. 

Since I've moved to the states I've been lucky enough to have met the rep for The Wild Hibiscus Flower Company. They have been generous enough to send me an assortment of their cool, creative products made with exotic ingredients. Aside from the hibiscus flowers in syrup, there are gorgeous teas, extracts and salt to choose from. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

12 Days of Christmas Rosemary Springerle Cookies

The only thing I love more than a cookie exchange is busting out the disco dust to decorate baked goods. Participating in this Food Blogger Love Cookies Exchange provided an opportunity to do both. A big thanks to Food Blogger Allison Boyer of The PinterTest Kitchen and her co-host Sarah Ellis of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes for creating this cookie initiative.

Everyone who signed up sent three set of cookies to three random participants chosen for them. In return, every participant also recieved three packages of cookies from different senders.

I had purchased this beautiful 12 Days of Christmas themed shortbread pan last year and decided to give it a test run for making springerle cookies. I switched up the flavor of the springerle from the traditional anise by adding fresh chopped rosemary from my garden.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving Leftovers Flamkuchen

This had got to be my best Thanksgiving leftovers repurposing idea yet. Admittedly, this is a little weird considering flammkuchen comes from Germany/France where they do not celebrate Thanksgiving.

So call them Thanksgiving Leftover pizzas if you like. The ones pictured have mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, roasted Brussel sprouts, shredded roasted turkey and cranberry sauce. For extra crunch, I sprinkled some raw walnut pieces over the tops.

You can get creative with whatever savory leftovers you have in your fridge. String beans, creamed corn, stuffing all would work well. Sprinkle nuts or cheese over the top if you like. For a breakfast version, crack an egg on top before baking.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Roasted Pumpkin Apple Ginger Soup

Here's a last minute idea for a seasonal soup for your Thanksgiving meal. Pumpkin, apple and ginger do the heavy flavor lifting in this creamy, fragrant recipe. 

To save time on Thanksgiving day's meal preparations, you can roast the pumpkin a day ahead. I'm also a fan of chopping things ahead of time. The apples and onions can be chopped and stored in the fridge. 

The recipe serves 6 but if you are cooking for a large crowd,  serve this soup as shooters for appetizers. If you are cooking a lot of different dishes for a smallish crowd, you can also cut the recipe in half and serve it in smaller bowls. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Boiled Apple Cider Pie - November's King Arthur Flour Bakealong

So I think I've already proven that boiled cider is my baking ingredient obsession this fall. I just can't get enough of it. It seems like the season is already over and I have so much more boiled cider ideas to experiment with. I hate to leave it behind as I move onto December's recipes.

The first time I used boiled cider was in Inside-Out Pumpkin Muffins for September's King Arthur Flour's bakealong challenge. I didn't have time to order some so I just made my own.  

This month's challenge was apple pie. This recipe also called for boiled cider and luckily I still had some after making the muffins and creating these boiled cider pear oatmeal cookies. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Butternut Squash Mash with Caramelized Onions, Candied Sage and Pistachios

Shhh, don't tell pumpkin but I prefer butternut squash.

Vats of butternut squash soup emerge from my kitchen every fall but I'm always looking for new ways to get more butternut squash in my life. 

I was really pleased with the recipe result of my ground beef butternut squash casserole but I wanted to create a meatless Thanksgiving side dish using my favorite orange friend. 

A quick scan of my pantry revealed some pistachios and red onions. Thankfully, the sage in my garden, as well as the rosemary, does not give up until the end of November, so there is always plenty to use up.

I roasted the butternut squash, mashed the flesh, then mixed in caramelized onions and butter. The dish is garnished with crisp candied fresh sage and raw pistachios. It sounds fancy but it's so simple to make and such a pretty addition to any Thanksgiving or autumn table.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Oatmeal Marzipan Streusel Stuffed Baked Lady Apples with Classic German Vanilla Sauce

This dessert may look complicated but it's actually very easy and it comes together quickly. The shortcut is using store bought marzipan. However,  I would like to officially plead a case here for making your own. It is so easy. I recommend making a big batch for the upcoming holidays and keeping it in the fridge or freezer to add some great flavor to your holiday desserts and homemade marzipan is sure to impress your guests. 

I'm all about quick and easy and make ahead recipes for this Thanksgiving. However, I refuse to sacrifice flavor or style. 

These lady apples are so adorable and look fantastic on a holiday dessert table. You can plate them individually, two or three apples to a plate, or serve them in a casserole dish on your dessert table with the vanilla sauce in a pitcher on the side. This way, guests can decide themselves how many they would like on their plate. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Orange Hazelnut Molasses Cake

I spotted a version of this cake in a German cooking magazine years ago. In making it, I've added a few tweaks and ingredients and am super happy with the result.  

Three things I love about this cake. The first is, no electric mixer needed. Everything can be hand mixed in bowls. That's the first good part. 

The second is the cake itself. It's not too sweet but packed with lovely flavor, this is a perfect dessert for your Thanksgiving table.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Boiled Cider Pear Oatmeal Cookies for Operation Cookie Takeover

For this eighth round of Operation Cookie Takeover, we're sending Thanksgiving flavor inspired love to soldiers stationed overseas. 

OCT was started in 2013 and since it's inception, over 62,000 cookies have been sent to Military bases all over the world. If you would like to participate, sign up here and you will be contacted for the next round.  

You do not have to have to be a professional baker or have a blog to participate and any type of cookies are welcome, not just super fancy creations. You can also submit a soldier here to receive cookies. 

I seem to fall in love with a different flavor or ingredient every season. Last year it was quince, this year boiled cider is my jam, my new favorite fall ingredient to experiment with. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pumpkin Fennel Bread

I never liked the taste of canned pumpkin and lost years of eating pumpkin flavored foods because of it. Learning how to make fresh roasted pumpkin puree fresh opened me up to a whole new world of flavor and recipe ideas.

Now, as soon as those little pie pumpkins start popping up in early fall, I buy a few, roast them and start stockpiling the puree for seasonal recipes.

Of course, if you have canned on hand, go ahead and use it in this recipe. It makes this simple recipe even easier and faster. Go for it. 

This is the most unfussy, easiest bread I have ever made. There was no sacrifice on flavor here and it's a great way to impress your guests with seasonal homemade bread on your holiday table. 

The recipe has a two-hour resting time in one-hour intervals. I found easy to accommodate while multi-tasking other recipes. Two things I highly recommend for pulling off holiday meals, one is planning the timing of recipes, using the down time in completing them to start or complete others. The second thing is using make ahead recipes. The latter makes the day of the celebration so much less stressful. 

This pumpkin fennel bread is flavorful, fluffy and a bit chewy. Personally, I prefer my breads a bit chewy.I baked the loaf for 45 minutes. Leave it in 5-10 minutes longer if you like a less dense texture. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

I Vote for Root Beer Martinis

There are so many reasons for posting this root beer martini recipe today.

In case you haven't heard, tomorrow is election day and as it turns out this year, also my birthday. Yikes.


Root beer is one of my all time favorite drinks. 

Creating a martini with a nostalgic, all-American flavor is my perfect way to celebrate this historic presidential election and my birthday (see #2) From what I have seen on social media this past week, it seems plenty of people will be cocktailing it up tomorrow night. Frankly, we've earned it.

No matter what side of the aisle you are on, most of us are fed up and want this over already. The bickering, the bantering and the booing have all taken a toll on our country's collective psyche. It's all been one insane electoral ride this year and these last weeks seem particularly excruciating. 

I made a version of these for my July 4th barbecue party this year and they were a big hit, not just with me but with practically the whole dang crowd of 24. I needed a good excuse to break them out again (see #1)

So tomorrow night, to celebrate both my birthday and the fact this election will finally come to an end, I am hunkering down in front of the TV with a Chinese or Indian food take-out feast, root beer martinis and my German husband (who has gotten endless entertainment out of this insane American election season) to see this political circus to it's end. 

To add some presentation pizazz to the cocktail, I crushed up some classic root beer barrel candies and dipped the rim of the martini glass in the dust. 

Root beer dust is magic, people.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Butternut Squash Ground Beef Casserole

In the fall you can't beat the butternut squash for its price, color and flavor. Every year I make at least two huge pots of homemade butternut squash soup. 

Each one is different as I use whatever fresh herbs are still left in my garden and whatever spices and leftover ingredients I have on hand. Note to self: start writing down some of those recipes. 

In the meantime, it was time to step out of the soup circle and create some more good things for my butternut squash recipe repertoire.

This is a quick and easy recipe to create. I spiralized the squash but you cutting it into small pieces works just as well.