Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bread Salad #2: Sicilian Style

This bread salad recipe sounded just as delicious as the first, which is what prompted me to create the contest. However, during the assembly process, I was becoming skeptical, especially over the green pesto sauce mixed with balsamic. Ignore those thoughts and stick with it, as this recipe did not disappoint. A definite keeper!

Unfortunately, we have a draw for our contest. Drat. What can I say, we liked them both! Which means we have two equally good bread salad recipes to call-on, depending on what ingredients we have available to use up, or our preference for the night. Not a bad way to end the contest.

The two recipes are very different, as this sicilian recipe includes lettuce, garbanzo beans and a pesto sauce. But both are very easy, and can be prepared/served in under 20 minutes.

Tim thought this recipe so scrumptious, he said it could have been the meal itself. In that case, I'd recommend adding some additional protein, like fresh mozzarella. It has chickpeas, but I think you'd want a little something extra. And fresh, cold mozzarella on a summer day... nothing better.

If you decide to make either of the bread salad recipes (click here for the classic recipe), be sure to let me know what you think. Be forewarned, both recipes makes a large salad. I halved them, which probably would have been the perfect amount for 4 adults as a side salad, or 2 adults as the main dish.

Sicilian Style Bread Salad
from Allrecipes

8 ounces country style white bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (I used a kalamata olive wheat bread)
3 tablespoons garlic flavored olive oil (I used regular)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups red or yellow teardrop tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 small red onion, cut into 3/4 inch slices
10 kalamata olives, pitted and halved (I used green)
1/3 cup basil pesto
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese (I left this out)
1 head green or red leaf lettuce
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Cut onion, and place in small bowl with balsamic vinegar for up to 10 minutes. While the onions are soaking, start to cut your other vegetables.

Once other vegetables are prepared, strain the onions into a larger salad bowl and reserve your balsamic vinegar. Toss together the onion, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, peppers, and kalamata olives.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the pesto, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and pepper. Toss the tomato mixture with the pesto sauce, and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Toss the bread cubes with the olive oil to evenly coat. Sprinkle with salt, and toss again. Spread the cubed bread evenly over a baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
* Because I used regular olive oil, I sprinkled the bread with garlic powder and skipped the salt. No more than 1/4 teaspoon. I also toasted the bread under the broiler, which took less time (about 5 minutes total, stirring occasionally).

To serve, toss the toasted bread cubes and goat cheese with the tomato mixture. Line a serving platter with a few lettuce leaves. Shred the remaining lettuce, and add to your tomato/bread mixture. Mound the salad in the center of the platter. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

Other thoughts: Either bread salad recipe would be a great pot-luck dish. Mix your veggies together in a portable salad bowl, bring your crispy bread in a ziplock sack (keep separate to prevent it getting soft), and the dressing in a tupperware container. Mix on-site, and your ready to rock!

Guten appetit!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bread Salad #1: Classic

The contest has begun, and Bread Salad #1 (aka: the 'classic' version) was a hit! Tim cleaned the plate, and I had quite a few scrumptious bites as well.

While I've had bread salad in restaurants before, this was a new experience for Tim. He was thoroughly confused and skeptical when I said there was no lettuce in the salad. But one bite is all it took, and he's a newly discovered bread salad fan. So if you have a newbie in the house like me, don't be deterred when you get that quizzical look over your menu choice. This is definitely a keeper.

And for us in the kitchen, it was very easy, fun to make and good to mix-up the usual routine of leafy salads. Definitely give it a shot this summer! Especially while you can pick fresh veggies from your garden (I'm talking to you, Lori).

Classic Bread Salad
adapted from Allrecipes

1 clove garlic
1 loaf bread - can be italian, french, olive, rye, etc. And stale is also OK!
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1/2-3/4 cup olives (black or green)
1 cup cucumber - peeled, seeded and chopped (I didn't 'seed' ours and it was fine)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
2 cups chopped fresh basil (I used less, as tim is not a big fan of 'green stuff', but he didnt say a word and again, loved the salad)
1/8 cup chopped fresh thyme
1/8 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Pre-heat oven to medium-high broiler.

Cut and chop your red onion, then soak in the balsamic vinegar (up to 10 minutes).

Rub a peeled clove of garlic over bread.
Pull apart or chop the bread into bite-size pieces. Place on cookie sheet, without overlapping the bread. Place in middle rack of the oven, and lightly crisp (approximately 3-4 minutes). Be sure to mix/stir the bread around every 1-2 minutes, so as to brown evenly and not burn. TIP: bread should not be as hard as a crouton, and still have a little softness.

Drain the onion from the vinegar, saving the vinegar. TIP: soaking the onion in vinegar seemed to remove some of the 'bite'. (thanks for the info, skye!)

In a salad bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, red onions, basil and thyme.

If you have other food to prepare, do so now and allow the herbs and vegetables to set.
If you are ready to serve: Add the bread to your herb/vegetable mix. Combine your olive oil and vinegar and pour over the salad to lightly coat. Toss and serve.


Some additions you can make to the salad: 1 sliced/ripe avocado, 1/4 cup parmesan, and 1 sliced bell pepper.

Guten appetit!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bread Salad vs. Bread Salad

I've had a hankering for salads lately, and while Tim loves our simple salad, I need some variety. I've eaten a few bread salads (aka: panzanella) in restaurants, but never made one myself. No time like the present!

I went surfing for some good recipes and found two that I really like - one more traditional, the other has a bit of creative flair. I've decided to pit them in a contest against each other. I'm making one tonight, saving the extra bread (stale bread works well with bread salads anyway), and making the other later this week. We'll let you know which is our favorite.

Stay tuned. Tomorrow is Bread Salad Recipe #1.

Don't know what 'bread salad' is, click here. Love wikipedia.

Guten appetit!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fettucini Carbonara, by Guest Chef Skye

Well after leaving Laura's place, I was down in Italy for a week eating with an Italian family. The mom makes the best food. Her carbonara is really good so I thought I would try to make something similar to it with a little adaptation.

Normally this dish has some type of ham or bacon in it which makes it very tasty but it is still good without. It also contains egg which may be a no no depending on the kind of vegetarian you are. This is an adaption of this recipe, which was the first carbonara I made.

Vegetable Fettucini Carbonara

1/2 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1-2 shallots
2 egg yolks
2 carrots
1/2 zucchini
1/4 cup cream
1/4-1/3 cup parmesan
1/4 cup frozen peas
250g fettucini pasta (half the package in the picture)
salt and pepper to taste
oil for cooking

1. Put on a big pot of salted water to boil. In the
mean time dice the shallots and garlic. Chop the
onion into half moon slices. Peel the skin off the zucchini and carrots then peel both into fine ribbons (see picture). I like to do this so they cook very quickly and they also blend in very well with the pasta. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks, cream and parmesan together.

2. Once the water is boiling add in your pasta and cook until al dente. During this period, heat a fry pan on medium low. Saute the onion and shallot with some oil for 3-4 minutes until they are translucent. Now add the garlic and cook for another minute. Afterwards, add the peas, carrots and zucchini and cook until the carrots and zucchini are soft but still firm (~3-4 mins). Season with salt and pepper. While your are doing this keep checking your pasta until al dente. It should finish a little before the veggies are done. Drain it and let it stand for a few minutes to cool down.

3. Now to bring everything together. We let our pasta cool down in the previous step because if you add the parmesan sauce to hot noodles, the heat will curdle the egg yolks and you end with scrambled egg pasta (not very good). Turn off the fry pan burner and put the pot the pasta was in on it. Now add the veggies and pasta and mix well. Once mixed add the sauce and turn to coat. Keep mixing for a few minutes and the leftover heat from the burner will slowly cook the sauce and infuse it to the noodles. Check the seasoning again and add salt and pepper if needed. The noodles should turn out silky and a little heavy.

4. Serve with some garlic bread or salad and nice glass of vino. Perfect!

Hope you enjoy =)


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Summertime dessert: Strawberry Shortcake

While my cousin Skye was visiting us a couple weeks ago, I made a yummy summertime favorite... strawberry shortcake. I couldn't help it, it's my go-to summertime dessert and I looooovvvveeee it. If you actually knew what I made on a regular basis during the summer, it might go something like this: asian noodle salad (recipe coming soon!), three bean tacos, strawberry shortcake, blueberry pancakes, simple salad, strawberry shortcake, hummus, twice baked potatoes (recipe coming soon!), strawberry shortcake, and on...

At the time I made these, it was fourth of July weekend. However, the fourth passed without much hoorah over here - funny how the German's don't celebrate our independence day. But, add some blueberries around the plate for garnish, or mix with your strawberries, and you'd have quite the festive dessert.

The thing I love most about this strawberry shortcake recipe (And what makes it the best on the planet! Do I exaggerate, no), is that it uses shortcake/biscuits, not cake. I grew up eating my moms bisquick biscuits for shortcake, and it's so darn good. I really can't imagine serving a strawberry shortcake with angel food cake, or pound cake. It's just not right. However, I know others were brought up with a different shortcake. And let's face it, we really do become our mothers. So if you typically eat cake, I understand.

As we scoot into August though, I urge you not to let the summer slip by without making a delicious strawberry shortcake with sweet, fluffy biscuits at least once.

Pic courtesy of the foodchannel. Mine were lost in the hard drive crash, but this looks strikingly similar (although I add an extra layer of whip cream and strawberries on top, can never have too many!).

Mom's Strawberry Shortcake

1/2 pound strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar

Half pound of strawberries is usually enough for 4 people/shortcake desserts.

Wash, and remove stems. Slice lengthwise, 3-4 times per berry, based on size. Put cut strawberries in a large bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Cover and put in fridge until ready to serve.

2 1/3 cups Bisquick mix *
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Whip cream - home made or canned works best. Cool whip is a little too powerful.

Preheat oven to 425.

Stir mix, milk, sugar & butter until soft dough forms. Don't knead it very much - just fold gently until it's mixed. The less it's handled, the better (like pie crust).

Place onto a clean, lightly floured work surface and roll 1/2 inch thick & cut with cutter - you can use any kind of cutter you like (round, triangle, flower), but it should be at least 2 inches wide. Honestly, I use a drinking glass as I do not own any cookie cutters.

Place in cake pan (a pie plate works great) to bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.


Cut bisquit in half, and layer with a dollop (or two) of whip cream and then a scoop of sugared strawberries. Repeat with top layer, and serve.

* If you'd like a biscuit recipe that does not involve bisquick, check out the foodchannel's recipe.

Guten appetit!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Easy Fresh Salsa, by Guest Chef Skye

Well after staying with Laura in Munich for a week, she asked me (Skye, Laura's cousin) to start contributing on her food blog. I'm more of a self taught food network addict. I'm not vegetarian but I will try to post some of my tasty vegetable recipes.

After having Laura's yummy mexican casserole, I thought I would make a simple fresh salsa.

2 cloves garlic
1 medium red onion
1 large jalapeno seeded and de-veined
2 large tomatoes
1 lime juiced
1 handful of fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

I had small tomatoes and jalapenos so I used double

Roughly chop the garlic, onion, jalapeno, tomatoes and cilantro. Throw it into your food processor and add the lime juice. Pulse until desired consistency and your done.

If you like chunkier salsa, pulse the jalapeno, lime juice, garlic and cilantro. Add this to finely diced tomatoes and onion and mix.

After either method, add salt and pepper to taste. It can be eaten right away but I find it best to refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors blend.

Serve with your favorite mexican food.

Enjoy =)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

2 Year Old Birthday Cake

No, no, the cake wasn't 2 years old. Ew. The cake was for a 2 year old's birthday party! Hooray, what fun.

I used to dream of being an event planner, in particular weddings. But I love the idea of just about any party, and a kids birthday is such fun. You can be imaginative, yet the simple things really wow them. You can act zany and not seem odd, because you're 32 and should be more mature 'than that'. And you can wear jeans and be yourself. It's all about having fun!!

A friend of mine's 2 year old just had his party, and while I couldn't go (we were on a bike tour), I helped her make the cake the day before. We settled on a train theme, and found this fantastic cake online with the step-by-step instructions. The site also has other fun cakes that are not too hard. Other favorites were the snake and checker board.

We searched and found our own recipes for the cake and frosting, and were really happy with our selections.

Moist, simple white cake
from allrecipes

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x9 inch pan or line a muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.

adapted from allrecipes

4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon clear imitation vanilla extract

In a large bowl, combine sugar, shortening, water and vanilla. Beat on low speed to combine, then beat on medium speed for a full five minutes. It won't look like Icing at first, but keep the mixer going for a full five minutes, and then you're done!

With the frosting and cake done, here is the start of our train assembly...

TIP: For future, you will save yourself some annoyance by laying the outer edges facing out. Trying to frost the cut side of the cake, created a lot of crumbs in the icing. It was survivable, but would have been easier had I laid the upper layer cut-side down.

TIP: We frosted the cakes on a piece of parchment paper to avoid messes on the tin-foil covered board. Worked out very well. Just be sure to keep a small amount of each icing color to fix the bottom edges that may get pulled while removing the parchment paper.

As you can see from my pictures, the cars are quite large - a regular loaf cake size. So we decided to only make 3 train cars, vs. 4 (in the directions).

And here's our almost complete train cake...

I need to get a final picture of the cake from my friend, as I wasn't at the party. We left the second car undecorated, as she was going to put the candle in it and maybe sprinkle a few candies around it. But she needed to store the cake overnight, so we left that for the next day. She also had to find some wire or something to make the popcorn smoke stack (I left her all the hard jobs!).

But overall, I thought it turned out really well! She said after the kids had eaten all the food, had ice cream and then the cake was brought out, they couldn't eat more than the first train car. The other two train cars were brought to the nursery on Monday to share.

If you have a summer birthdays coming up, I hope you have as much fun creating your birthday party as we did. Happy, happy to you!

Guten appetit!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mexican Rice Casserole

I was in a quandry last week over what to cook for our house guests, and had a lot of leftover bits and pieces in the fridge from our last few nights of dinners... in particular, I had about 3 cups of wild rice, 10 button mushrooms and random salad fixings.

to the rescue! I had heard of rice casseroles, so I went searching.

You must know by now that I'm crazy about mexican food, so this mexican rice casserole called to me from the beginning. There were a few other cheese rice casseroles, or green chili casseroles, but when I read the reviews for this one, I was sold. 4.5 stars is a pretty darn good rating, and I'll be giving it 5 when I remember my login/password.

The winning qualities of this recipe:
1. Easy
2. Can use up leftover veggies in fridge
3. Uses up leftover rice
4. Delicious
5. Very forgiving recipe with substitutions
6. Easy
7. Easy
8. Easy

Along with the casserole, my cousin whipped up a salad with more leftovers and we had our complete meal. Thanks Skye!!

Mexican Rice Casserole
adapted from Allrecipes

2 cups cooked rice (I used wild rice, but the original recipe calls for brown - use whatever you like!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup diced yellow onion
1 medium red pepper, diced
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt to taste
ground cayenne pepper to taste (I used 1.5 teaspoons)
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chile peppers, mostly drained
2 cups shredded cheese (I used a cheddar/emmentaler mix, but the original recipe calls for Swiss. Again, use what you have or like)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a large casserole dish.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and cook the onion until tender. Mix in the bell pepper, and mushrooms. Season with cumin, salt, and ground cayenne pepper. Cook and stir approximately 3-5 minutes, until everything is well mixed and heated through.

In large bowl, mix the cooked rice, onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, beans, chiles, and 1/2 the cheese.

Transfer to the prepared casserole dish, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Cover casserole loosely with foil, and bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Uncover, and continue baking 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Want to see the original recipe? Click here.

* I apologize for the lack of photos, and will post some as soon as I remake this recipe and our mac computer is back from the shop. We had a hard-drive meltdown recently, and lost all pictures. A vegetarian hausfrau life tip: remember to back-up your hard-drives!

Guten appetit!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

CancerCare for Kids

I used to love bake sales at school... almost always participated. Brownies were the easiest, cookies a second, and cupcakes the most delicious but hardest to do (especially for a budding cook, in her teens).

If you miss those days, or never had the chance to participate in one, now is your chance!!

Duncan Hines is sponsoring a cupcake bake sale challenge, with all proceeds going to CancerCare for Kids. Noble cause, fun times, delicious food - doesn't get any better!

If you haven't heard of them, CancerCare for Kids provides FREE support, education and advice to parents, and counseling to children and teens to help them understand cancer. If you know someone who has had cancer, I'm sure you realize how valuable this service is.

I'm trying to think of how to do something over here... but with my total of 5 friends, I feel a little limited. I'd love to hosts a tea party, or a trivia night/bake sale, but realistically, I'm circling around the idea of baking cupcakes and selling them at tim's work - he's got some seriously sugar deprived coworkers. A euro a cupcake? I'm sure Mr. Hines wouldn't balk at accepting my euros.

AND, not as if you need further incentive as the cause is wonderful enough, you do have the opportunity to win prizes.

So, go out there and bake, bake, bake! I'll let you know what I finally decide to do, and try to get some pictures up*.

* I have very, very, very sad news. Our macbook hard-drive crashed on Sunday. Note to self, and all others in the world, back-up your hard-drive!! We'll take it to a mac shop this week, but I'm pretty darn sure we've lost all pictures from the last 4 years of our lives. I'm very sad, but Tim told me this morning that at least I still had him to look at, and he wouldn't ever crash on me. What a good husband. But if you see posts sans pictures for a while, now you know why. Boo.

Guten appetit!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Easy Mixed Rice

This is my stand-by dinner. Ready at a moments notice, and takes you less than 10 minutes to prepare. Within 30 minutes, it's on the table ready to eat.

Do you have a rice cooker? (Did someone say 'no'? Go out and buy one. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, buy one - now. How do you survive?). Those that said 'yes', you're set.

I can't stress this enough: it's so easy. And as an added bonus, you can use up whatever vegetables you have left-over in your fridge (within reason). I was taught this recipe by my Japanese teacher in Tokyo, and I've loved it ever since.

In the recipe below, I used green asparagus, snap peas and onion. In last nights version, I used green asparagus, carrot and onion (this is my favorite combo). But mix and match, and if you make it yourself, let me know what you used! You could also spice it up a bit with some freshly grated ginger.

Easy Mixed Rice

1.5 cup rice
2 cups mixed vegetables - washed and cut to bite-size pieces. Some possible vegetables: asparagus, onion, carrot, snap peas, shelled peas, green beans, bell pepper, and broccoli.
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce (approximately)

Add 1.5 cups of short grain japanese rice to your rice cooker bowl (you can use any kind of rice you want, this is just my favorite and works well). Cover with water, and swish around the rice trying to 'clean' some of the starch off. The water will be very cloudy. Drain the water and refill with fresh water to 1.25 on the rice cooker water mark*.

Place rice bowl on the kitchen counter, so it's level. Add your soy sauce, and the liquid level should hit the 1.5 mark. Equal liquid to rice used.

Make sure the liquid level is up to the 1.5 mark. If not, add a little more water. Place the rice bowl into the rice cooker.

Top the liquid/rice with your cut vegetables. There should still be some space between the rice cooker lid and the vegetables - do not overfill or 'stuff' it full. The rice tends to burn on the bottom, if it's too full.

Do not stir. The vegetables should sit on top of the rice.

Put the lid on the rice cooker and press 'cook'. When the timer goes off, stir the rice and vegetables together. I then like to replace the lid, and leave it in there a few more minutes while I get the table ready. It will continue to cook a little and stay warm. IF the rice truly isn't done (take out a couple pieces to test it), then put the lid back on and press cook again. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water, if you like, but it's not necessary. It wont re-cook for the entire time, but go off again in another 5 min - approximately (at least, mine does), and should be completely cooked by then.

Serve with marinated or fried tofu for a complete meal. Great leftovers for lunch the next day!

* Each rice cooker should have a water level marker on the inside that corresponds to the amount of rice you are making

As a main meal, this would make enough for 2 people. As a side dish, you would have enough for 4.

Guten appetit!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

White Asparagus

This is a very untimely post (about 1.5 months tardy). White asparagus season has come and gone in Deutschland, and delicious meals were had by all.

White Asparagus = Weiss Spargel

To be honest, I'm sure we have white asparagus in the states, but I'd never seen it. Or rather, I'd never noticed it before. It's a 'season' in Germany. They love it over here. Probably because it's a local product, whereas a lot of produce these days is imported. Or maybe they just love their weiss spargel. Whatever the reason, during the season, restaurants have special menus with white asparagus soup, salads, pasta dishes, sides, and even deserts. I kid you not.

Hey it's good, so I'll never complain! Bring on the weiss spargel and keep it coming!! It's also pretty fun to get caught up in the hype.

However, preparing white asparagus is a bit trickier than it's cousin - the green asparagus.

White asparagus is usually grown underground, and develops a tough outer skin. To cook it, you have to peel the outer skin. But let me tell you, it's not easy to peel without snapping the spear. Tricky business.
Left side, peeled. Right side, before peeling.

White Asparagus

1 bunch white asparagus
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

When buying your white asparagus - the stalks should be thick, and firm (not easily bendable).

Wash, and peel, using a carrot peeler. You don't need to peel the tips, but all the way up to the tips. Be careful, as the stalks like to snap in half. Cut 1-2 inches off the bottom of each spear.

Heat a medium saucepan of water to boil (use enough water to cover the asparagus while boiling). Add 1 tablespoon butter, sugar and salt. Let butter warm and spread into the water.

Add aparagus spears to water and boil 5-7 minutes. Once a fork is inserted without resistance, they are done. If you like them crisper, or 'al dente' (can you use that term, not related to pasta?), you should check them sooner.

Drain and put on a plate. Place 1 tablespoon butter over the top to melt, breaking it up to coat most of the spears. Sprinkle with fresh pepper, and serve.

Guten appetit!