Thursday, December 27, 2012

Vegan Swedish Meatballs

On the days like today when none of the cats attempt to sneak outdoors or beg me to let them outside and just curl up in their cat beds there is typically something outdoors that has a name on the national weather map. Like Irene or Sandy. Or Euclid. It has been snowing since before I woke up this morning and it is supposed to snow another 18h. The weather is matched by my latest movie find, the PBS Master Classic series Wallander. Not much surprise that I thought about Swedish meatballs when I thought about a warm, filling meal to get me ready  for snow shoveling.  Stay warm!



Vegan Swedish Meatballs (2 portions)

  • 1/2 TB earth balance
  • 1 TB all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 raw cashew nuts, soaked in water for 1h (no soaking works, too)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 ts bouillon
  • 1 TB nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 ts allspice
  • few grates of nutmeg
  • 1/2 ts liquid smoke
  • 10 vegan meatballs (e.g. Trader Joes)
  • 4-6 medium sized red skinned potatoes, peeled

In a food processor or blender, add the cashew nuts, water, almond milk, and bouillon. Process until really smooth. Set asides.

In a large pan, heat the butter and melt. Add the flour and stir in. Toast slightly for a little bit until the butter and flour crumbles get brown. With a whisk stir in the almond mik/cashew mix, heat and whisk until it thickens. Turn down the heat, and add the nutritional yeast,  allspice, nutmeg, and liquid smoke, and mix. Add in the frozen vegan meatballs, and heat through.

Peel the potatoes, quarter them, and place them in a silicon container with a lid and about 3 TB of water and microwave on high for 5 min. Drain.

Serve meatballs with potatoes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The calm before the snow storm

Ahh, Christmas. It is all over again for another year, but with New Years coming up the holiday spirit continues with its last jolt for the season. Thanks to the Pandora xmas station I could not get “I am wishing for a white Christmas’  by Frank Sinatra out of my mind. Now, it looks like white Christmas is on the way. Or at least the white part, with a prediction of 24 hours of heavy snow starting tomorrow morning. Today, we are still snow-free, sunny weather, a green world and I better take the opportunity to head outside before being snowed in tomorrow.

Breakfast today was delicious with home-made roll German rolls (Laugenbroetchen) and some French orange jam.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Finally ready for the holidays

After a busy pre-holiday season it is finally time to relax, wonder what the weather will bring over the next days (white Christmas or not?) and enjoy the home-made treats that Santa Claus drops off occasionally.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


My deadline was finally met yesterday, and after 10h of sleep I still did not quite feel back to my old self today so I mad a season appropriate jumpstart juice with whatever I could find in my fridge and freezer. Rehydrating and nutrients definitely helped. And…. with so much carrot juice, I am getting a spray tan from the inside out!

Jumpstart smoothie: carrot juice, 1 orange, 1/2 banana, 2 frozen mission figs and a handful of fresh cranberries.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

11 days til Christmas

“Christmas presents, Mommy, for me?” “Yes, dear, heated cat beds for those cold winter days!”


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Carrot soup with the volume pumped up

Finally, a recipe again. Since things are busy at work, this very simple carrot soup with the pumped up volume is just the right thing to make, eat and blog about. The key to the soup is that the carrots are cooked in fresh pressed carrot juice -- not broth or water. It makes the carrot flavor so pronounced it does not need much else beside a few sprinkles of dried thyme, a tad of butter and a pinch of dried ground ginger.

The Carrot Soup
(makes 4 servings)

  • 1 pound organic carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 red onion, small diced
  • 1/2 TB butter
  • 3 cups fresh pressed carrot juice
  • 1/2 ts dried thyme
  • 1/4 ts dried ginger
  • salt to taste (or 1/2 ts Rapunzel organic vegetable bouillon) 
  • optional: 1/4 cup baked butternut squash or any other baked squash
In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter and sauté the onion until slightly brown. Add the raw carrots, and sauté for about 1 min. Add the carrot juice, the thyme and ginger, and bring to a simmer. Close with a lid, and simmer on low gently for about 20-30 min until the carrots are very tender.
Puree with an immersion blender in the pot, or take the soup off the stove, and cool. Once cooled, pour into blender and puree. Reheat before serving and garnish with baked squash, goat cheese crumbles or a dash of creme fraiche and chopped hazelnuts. Bon appetite! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Nikolaus. Sinterklaas Santa Claus. All the same. Did put your shoe outside your front door so he can leave you some oranges, nuts and chocolates in it? (if you have been good this year..)


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stocking stuffers

Last Saturday, with small business Saturday, I roamed the streets of downtown Bangor again, and ended up at one of my favorite new stores, the Blue Herron. The store is definitely ready for the holiday season with ideas for stocking stuffers, christmas tree ornaments and finding gifts even for the people who have everything, such as very expensive hand-made ipad stylus. But it is only fair that the Ipad has an stylish stylus...

here are some of my favorites:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Spiced red cabbage with cloves, red currant jelly and red wine

The holidays are over (for now) and things are getting back to normal – until we are gearing up for the next holidays, which are not too far off. This was a dish I brought to this year’s thanksgiving holiday dinner; it is a bit of different, interesting and still fabulous side dish that compliments any holiday dinner. It is a traditional German holiday feast or Sunday roast side --- sauteed spiced red cabbage, based on my mom’s recipe here.


Spiced red cabbage with cloves, red wine, and red currant jam

(makes a large pot, about sides for 10 people)

  • 1 medium sized head of red cabbage (ca. 2-3 pounds)
  • 1 red onion, diced finely
  • 1 TB butter or ghee (my mom’s recipe actual calls for bacon fat)
  • 1 medium sized tart apple, finely diced (not peeled but core removed)
  • 1/2 TB whole cloves (or 1/2 ts ground cloves, whole one are better)
  • 1/2 TB juniper berries
  • 1/2 cup of red wine (e.g. cabernet sauvignon or a good table blend)
  • 1/4 cup of apple juice (if not using red wine, use more 1/2 cup of apple juice)
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 TB red current jam or black currant jelly(e.g. Bonne Maman or Schwartau)
  • 1/2 TB beef broth concentrate, diluted in 2-3 TB of water
  • optional: 1-2 TB  aged good balsamic vinegar


Prep: quarter the red cabbage head, remove the core, and slice the quarters really thinly with a sharp knife (or use a mandoline) – the finer shredded, the better.


In a large cast iron pot, dutch oven or heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt the butter or clarified butter and add the diced onion, and saute until slightly browned. Now, add the shredded cabbage, the cloves, juniper berries, the bay leaf, and the diced apple to the pot, and mix all ingredients well.


Add the red wine and the apple juice, and close with the tight fitting lid (there is no other liquid and make sure the steam from the gabbage does not evaporate but helps steam the cabbage). Turn heat on medium-low, and cook for ca. 20-25 min depending on how ‘crunchy’ or ‘well-done’ you like the cabbage to be cooked. Nevertheless, stir once in a while to make sure it does not burn on the bottom. If it gets too dry, add more apple juice.


Once the cabbage is tender, turn the heat to low, and add the red or black currant jelly or both, remove the bay leaf, add more salt and pepper to taste, and a half TB of beef broth concentrate (or bouillon) dissolved in some hot water. Mix well, and add a glug of balsamic vinegar to round out the flavor. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beef Bourguignon

It is US Thanksgiving holiday week, work is winding down (I wish) and it is time to focus on cooking, turkeys, side dishes, buy good wine, and invite friends and family and/or be invited. To warm up, I cooked a beef bourguignon with some grass-fed local organic beef from the farmers market.

Beef Bourguignon (makes ca 4 not too large servings):

  • 4 oz smoked bacon, diced
  • 1-2 TB olive oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut into larger cubes
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 cloves of garlic, microplaned 
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 1/2 bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  • 1 ts fresh thyme leaves (1/2 ts dried)
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dry
  • 1/2 pound fresh whole pearl onions
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1/2 ts thyme, 1 bay leaf, salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced
  • 1/2 TB butter
  • 1.5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Add the diced bacon to a large Dutch oven and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is releases the fat and is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate. Add the olive oil to the pan.


Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside. Add more olive oil if the pan gets too dry.


Again, add more olive oil if the pan is too dry at this point, and add the carrots, and onions to the dutch oven, 1 ts of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned and the carrots caramelized. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol (or just cook off). Add the braised meat and bacon back into the pot with all the juices.

Now, pour the 1/2 bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme and stir in. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 3-4 hours until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork (*).


Meanwhile, prepare the pearl onions. Peel them, and heat 1 TB butter in a pan. Add the pearl onion and brown from all sides for 10 min, gently roll over for even browning. Add salt, pepper and a bay leaf as well as the thyme. After browning, add 1/2 cup of broth, cover, and simmer for 45-60min until tender and most of the liquid is evaporated. Discard the bay leaf.


Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and add the sauteed pearl onions and the mushroom. Also, sprinkle 1/2 TB of flour and stir into the beef stew. Heat, stir and see that the stew starts to thicken. Optionally, add a 1/2 TB butter. Serve with crusty bread, or boiled potatoes.


(*) I used a very low-fat beef, and even after 4h in the oven it was still not tender. So, I placed the stew in a pressure cooker, the wonder weapon to get any meat tender, and cooked under pressure for another 30min. It was not perfect, but tender enough. If you are short on time, you can also cook the entire stew in the pressure cooker for about 45min.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Streuselkuchen (German crumb cake)

It was my late great aunt Jenny’s 100th birthday yesterday (10-11-12, and suddenly it was 100 years later), and in her honor and to remember her I baked one of her most famous cakes (famous across generations in our family) – the streuselkuchen. When it was baked, everyone came to her house ‘zum Kaffee trinken’ (come over for a cup of coffee). It is a German custom, much like the British make time for tea and pastries in the afternoon, Germans make time for coffee and cake. Typically, since only the stay at home moms have time to do this, it is a way to meet up with girlfriends, let your kids play together, and hang out, knit, gossip, solve the life’s latest problems, and spend a few hours. On the weekends or for birthdays everyone came. This cake was a staple in my family when we all still lived close together, and it is fabulous not only because it tastes fantastic but also because it only gets better after a few days, less crumbly, more dense and the best thing to bite into when having the hot coffee.

No one could make this cake like my great aunt. It is involved, you have to have patience, nurture it, and it richly rewards you. Just like my great aunt was, one of the best cooks and bakers and gardeners I’ve ever known. Aunt Jenny, this is for you!


Streuselkuchen (German Crumb Cake)

this is a 1/4 of the original recipe, but the original recipe makes a whole large 8x13 inch cookie sheet. This fills the bottom of a small spring form; if using a 10 inch spring form, double recipe.

Special equipment: standmixer with dough hook (can also be kneaded manually), 7 inch spring form

Base layer:

  • 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 TB warm milk
  • 1 ts fast rising yeast
  • 1 ts + 3 ts sugar (20 g altogether)  (divided: 1 ts for the yeast + milk, 3 ts for the dough)
  • 1 TB bakers milk powder (optional, but helps the yeast to rise)
  • 2.5 TB (20 g) unsalted sweet cream butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 egg (reserve other half for the crumbs)
  • pinch of salt

Mix the yeast, 1 ts of sugar and the lukewarm milk in a small bowl, and wait until yeast starts to get bubbly (ca. 15min).

In the bowl of a standmixer with the dough hook attachment, add the flour, 3 ts sugar and the bakers milk powder, and mix all three ingredients. Make a well in the flour, and pour the milk yeast mixture in it. Turn on the standmixer, and on slow mix the dry ingredients with the yeast mixture (do not yet add: butter, egg or salt since it interferes with the yeast). Once the yeast is well incorporated and distributed in the flour mix, add the butter, 1/2 egg and salt. Knead the dough on medium speed until it comes together as a ball (it will be crumbly for quite a while, ca. 10 min). If it does not come together after 15min of kneading, add 1 TB of warm milk.  Once the dough forms a ball around the hook, continue kneading for another 15min on medium speed.


Now, remove dough from bowl of standmixer, and place in a metal, glass or ceramic bowl, and let rise for ca. 30min at a warm place. Time to make the crumbs!

Streusel (crumbs):

  • 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
  • 60 g sugar
  • 60 g unsalted sweet cream butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 egg (reserve other half for the crumbs)
  • 1/2 ts bitter almond extract
  • 1 pouch Dr. Oetker Vanille sugar (or 1/2 ts liquid vanilla extract)
  • pinch of salt

In the bowl of a standmixer with the dough hook attachment, add the flour, sugar, and the butter, cut into small cubes. Start the mixer on low speed, until the flour/sugar and the butter start to incorporate. Add all the other ingredients, and let the mixer run for about 10-15 minutes until uniform-sized crumbs are form. At the beginning, the butter will be large lumps, and the flour has only tiny crumbs, but over time the butter distributes over the flour more evenly, all crumbs are about equal in size. When it doubt, just let it run a little longer. Patience!

Stop the mixer, when the crumbs are at equal size.


Preheat the oven to 50-80F (warm). Spray a spring form with baking spray, and distribute the base dough into the pan.


Take a fork, and gently poke the dough all over the pan. Once done, brush lightly with some warm milk.


Now, distribute all the streusel on the cake evenly.



Place in the oven at 50F for about 45min for the yeast-based base layer to rise to about 0.5-1 inch thickness. After that, remove cake from oven, and preheat to 425F, and bake the cake for ca. 20-25min.

Before serving, sprinkle wit granulated sugar.



Thursday, November 8, 2012

The first snow

Well, after a bit of dusting the other day, we got the first snow last night thanks to the first Northeastern’er. Now, the wind is blowing and it is cold, and rain on top so it’s the mess. Just makes you want to stay put in front of the fireplace, cuddled by cats, and not venture out in the world. Brrrh! Winter to come.


Lunch is the last romaine in the fridge, cannellini beans and fried baby portabellas with gorgonzola and snippets of the last rescued rosemary from the garden and a blonde balsamic vinaigrette.

first_snow_2012_0 first_snow_2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Foggy November

October ended with keeping everyone in its grip watching Sandy, and November came quietly leaving us with assessing the damage, the devastation and helping to rebuild. In some ways, looking at the news coverage, it feels like Sandy is the Katrina of the Northeast. Not in means of lack of FEMA response but by the widespread devastation. So many people who lost everything. The weather report says there is a new storm on the way, this time a winter storm, with snow and cold temperatures. Looking at global climate change, unfortunately this will not be the last of a storm like this.

Things here in Maine are more quiet, we were not impacted much, at least not as long as you do not live in the Southern and coastal Maine parts. Our days consist of raking leaves these day, from trees finally emptied of their bright yellow coat by Sandy, clearing out the vegetable beds, buying dried local beans and bags full of beets for cheap at the farmers market, and also wondering if there will be the first snow this week.

One thing this week is for sure, though, tomorrow is election day, so GO VOTE.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta Alfredo

It is not just the primetime week for carved pumpkins, but also the time to get fresh and inexpensive butternut squash. A few days ago I had made a big pot of roasted butternut squash soup, but after 3 helpings I was kind of tired of more leftovers. So, I reinvented the rest into a brandnew meal: a vegan butternut squash alfredo sauce. It is so tasty even none-vegans will be delighted. Savory, rich, creamy with a slight hint of sweetness with maple syrup and the aroma of sage.

Note: Instead of the 1 1/2 cups of butternut squash soup you can also use simply roasted butternut squash.


Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta Alfredo

(Makes 2 larger servings)

Alfredo sauce:

  • Base:
  • 1 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash soup (or fresh roasted butternut squash)
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1/3 cup soaked cashew nuts
  • 1 TB nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 TB mellow white miso, sodium reduced

  • Rest of Alfredo sauce:
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced using a mandoline
  • 2 cloves garlic, microplaned
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 ts of grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 TB maple syrup
  • Several dashes fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste


  • 4 oz penne pasta, cooked al dente
  • for garnish: fresh sage, pepitas or sunflower seeds, dried thyme


Pour all the ingredients for the sauce base into a food processor (best: Vitamix for extra smooth texture) and puree. In a pan, heat the olive oil, add the onions and saute until slightly brown. Add the garlic, and saute for about another 1 min. Add the white wine, and reduce for ca. 1 min. Now add the base butternut squash base cream, and gently stir in. Add the sage, nutmeg, and maple syrup, and simmer on medium-low for a few minutes until slightly reduced. Add salt and paper to taste.

Add in the cooked pasta, and stir until the pasta is coated, and heat through for about 1 min. Serve with fresh sage, roasted squash seeds (caramelized!) and some dry thyme. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

It is the time of soups again, and the time for ripe, inexpensive winter squash. Butternut squash is one of my favorite squash variety to make soup with (kuri the other). I have a handful of different recipes, one with coconut milk, another with a dash of cinnamon, or with sweet potato, but this basic recipe is still my most favorite: roasted squash with carrots, celery and a hot pepper for some spice kick. I left on the skin when I added the roasted squash to the soup, and it thickened the soup beautifully.


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1/2 TB olive oil
  • 1 shallot, peeled and diced
  • 1 hot red chili, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, microplaned
  • 1 small butternut squash (ca 1-1 1/2 pounds), cut in half
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, wiped clean and diced
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • optional: orange peel of 1/2 orange
  • crème fraiche, to serve

Preheat the oven to 375F. Half the butternut squash, and scoop out the seeds (preserve and clean or compost). Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet, and roast for ca. 30 min at 375F. 
In a large pot, heat 1/2 TB of olive oil. Once hot, add the diced shallot and the chopped red chili, stir and cook until softened (ca. 2-3 min). Add the diced carrots, the celery and the garlic and continue to cook for another 3-5 minute. Cut the soft and baked butternut squash into 2 inch pieces and add to the pot (if it is an organic squash you can leave on the squash skin; it will thicken the soup. If it is not organic, only use the flesh). Add the broth, and cook the soup for about 20 min until all vegetables are softened. Season with salt and pepper and fresh orange peel (optional). Using an immersion blender, and purée the hot soup. Serve with creme fraiche, or in my case with goat cheese crumbles, walnuts and cranberries.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Home-grown radicchio

Every year I do a certain amount of ‘experimental gardening’, i.e. trying to grow something that I have never grown before, sometimes with the surprise factor of how these plants really grown and mature, seeing the entire process. There have been eggplants, soy beans, broccoli and this year I picked up a small container of radicchio plants at the farmers market in late spring. I planted the little seedlings in a pot and for most of the summer they grew into lettuce like green leaves, so I wrote it off as a failed experiment. Only by September did the plants develop dense little centers in dark red that resemble the radicchio I know from the store. This one (below) is the first one that makes it into my almost completely home-grown lunch salad with some concord grapes grown on the back of my garage.

home_grown_radiccio home_grown_radicc_salad

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Small marbled bundt cake

What better to do on a rainy, cold October evening than to warm and sweeten it up with a small marbled bundt cake!


Small marbled bundt cake (for small, 6 cup bundt cake pan)

  • 10 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. sugar (135 grams)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 free-range organic eggs
  • 1 2/3 c. (185 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 ts baking soda
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder 

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream butter, sugar and salt together for several minutes until light and fluffy (best in a standmixer). Add vanilla extract and one egg at a time. Mix well, and add in second egg.

Sift flour with baking powder and baking soda. Add flour in two parts, alternating with half of the buttermilk each time. Divide batter equally into two bowls.Sift cocoa over the batter in one bowl and mix well. Add 1 tablespoon of milk to cocoa batter to thin.

Spray the bundt form with a baking spray. Place half of the “white” batter in the form or pan. Add all of the dark/chocolate batter on top and distributed around the form with a spatula. Finish with the remaining white batter. Place a spatula vertically in the batter and draw it around the form once to swirl. Smooth the top.

Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out cleanly. Remove from oven, cool slightly and then turn out on a cake rack to cool further.

Home-made chocolate glaze:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 TB unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons warm milk
  • 1 ts rum extract
  • 1 ts vanilla

Pour the chocolate chips in a glass bowl or a ceramic bowl, and set it over a pot with boiling water on the stove (the bowl should not touch the water). Stir continuously until the chocolate chips start to melt. Add in the butter, and melt it with the chocolate chips. Once it is all a creamy, lump-free consistency, add in the milk, the rum and vanilla extract. Once incorporated, take the bowl off the pot, and continue to stir while adding in the confectioners sugar. Keep stirring. Brush the cake with the chocolate glaze. The glaze will thicken when cooled, and it is great to have a 1/4 of an inch thick glaze on the cake. (Leftover chocolate glaze is great on graham crackers… )
Let cool and dry for about 4-5h before serving. The cake actually tastes better with time; at the beginning it is dry and light and slightly crumbly, and after a week it becomes moist with an intense nutty flavor. It should be stored cool and airtight. 



marbled_cake_sm_3 marbled_cake_sm_4

Sunday, October 14, 2012

At the Orono farmers market

The weather was brisk and sunny, and besides the produce the farmers’ kids entertaining each other were the main attractions this time.




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