Hey Bro! This Pumpkin Cookie’s for you! by L

The pumpkins are back!

Seeing the pumpkins reappear at the farmers’ markets makes me feel really happy. It’s a sign that autumn is back and it happens to be my favorite season of all. Although I was especially excited to see these bright orange gourds again, it was a slightly sad week for me. About four years ago, my younger brother came to visit me and my husband in Prague. His month-long visit turned out to be a four-year stay. In the ex-pat world, it is quite uncommon to have a close family member live nearby. I considered it a luxury to have my little brother living in the same city as me and to have a piece of home just around the corner. I felt very lucky.

Pumpkins in the bath.

However, all good things do come to an end. In the four years that my brother lived here, he made an effort to enjoy every minute of his life abroad. He appeared in poster ads and I saw his face every time I exited the metro. He acted in a few commercials. He started a handyman business that catered to the English-speaking community to support himself. He completed a degree in Computer Science and Business. He made a lot of friends from many parts of the world. Occasionally, he drove me a little crazy in the way that only one’s sibling knows how to do. In those four years, I became a home owner, traveled to far away places, a blogger and a stay at home mother of twins. It’s strange how people’s comings and goings can quickly remind us of the changes that occur in such a short period of time.

Better than the canned stuff!

I wasn’t thrilled about his decision to return back to our hometown of NYC. I knew I would miss him, but mostly I felt disappointed that he wouldn’t be around any longer to witness the changes and growth of my daughters. Since the birth of my children, I long to be closer,  geographically closer, to my family. For a huge chunk of my childhood and adult life, I was always surrounded by a large extended family. My parents didn’t have to raise my two brothers and me alone, they had plenty of extra hands. Without my brother around, the city feels a bit empty, a little less comforting and a teeny bit lonesome. Fortunately, I do have a local tribe that I can rely on here, as most of our friends have a similar situation. Reuniting with our families means having to cross time zones and travel long distances to see them.  I think I would call this being in a state of family-less, which is why we tend to recreate a new family structure in our adopted city.

This week’s post is dedicated to my brother Rhyan, who was often a frequent visitor at our dinner table. This was one of his favorite treats. He said “It’s like eating a piece of cake but in the size of a cookie.” This pumpkin dessert is tender, moist and has a fluffy texture. It also has a spicy kick that recalls the crisp cool feel of autumn. I will miss sharing these with my brother over a cup of coffee and listening to the stories of his adventures in Prague. Now, when I eat these, I will be reminded of him and remember all the good times we shared.

Who would like to share a cookie with us?

Fluffy Pumpkin Cookies (adapted from One Smart Cookie Cookbook)

2 cups flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup melted butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup freshly baked pumpkin puree

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (the original recipe calls for molasses, but this can also be substituted with honey, maple syrup or pomegranate molasses)

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 cups raisins, dried cranberries or chocolate chips or a mix of them all. (I used cranberries and carob chips)

Preheat oven to 350/180 degrees

In a medium bowl, combine flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the remaining ingredients together, except the dried fruits or chocolate chips.

When the wet ingredients are mixed smoothly, add the dry ingredients. Stir by hand until it is well combined.

Then add your choice of dried fruits or chocolate chips and stir until blended.

On a greased cookie sheet, drop large, round spoonfuls of the batter. Be sure to leave some space in between each cookie.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy with a cup of tea and good company!

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Kale Seaweed Salad with Toasted Sesame Oil by Nikki

Seaweed + purple Kale + Toasted Sesame oil

I have a feeling that some people are going to skip this post… probably because seaweed often turns peoples taste buds away! However, the salty taste of the seaweed mixed with the crunchy, steamed kale leaves is one of my favorite health food combinations. Seaweed is a low calorie, protein rich sea vegetable that allows you to feel full. It has many good health properties including being rich in iron, Vitamins A and C and it is one of the few vegetables that naturally maintains Vitamin B-12.

Toasted Sesame oil makes this purple kale salad shiny…

This weekend I had a soccer tournament at school. Our two teams of Middle School girls played their hearts out, winning or tieing all their games! This is a huge improvement over last year and they were as proud of themselves as I was of them. I left my house a few minutes early that morning so that I could take a stroll through the Dejvicka Farmers market before I had to catch the bus. I have been wanting to visit this market for a few weeks, and after my ten minutes strolling and enjoying the cool, Autumn morning, I have to say I am looking forward to finding myself here again soon. But because I was headed to school all day, the only thing I bought on this particular day was a fluffy, apricot jam doughnut- hey, it was Saturday and I was on my way to school!

mmm… Kale

Although I may not have made it to the market myself this weekend, I did send an emergency message to EC. I heard there was finally Kale at the market by the river. So I asked EC if she would pick some up for me if she happened to find herself at the market that morning. Tonight, while enjoying many forks full of kale/seaweed salad, I am grateful for my friend EC and her willingness to help out my post and search out Kale at the market… Thanks EC- this forks’ for you

Kale and Seaweed Salad with Toasted Sesame Oil

Ingredients: 1 bunch of kale (any color), 2 small carrots, 1 handful of dried seaweed, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, 1 teaspoon tamari (or soy sauce)

1. Cut kale leaves off stalks and chop into small strips

2. Steam kale just until tender… 2-3 minutes after the water gets to a boil!

3. Transfer to a bowl and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

4. While the kale is cooling, soak the seaweed in a bowl of water for 30 minutes and grate the carrots.

5. Combine all vegetables, oil, and tamari in a big bowl and mix well.

6. Enjoy cold as a side salad with fish, chicken or a marinated tofu!

Enjoy!

 

 

Radish or Carrot Top Pesto – Guest Post by Michelle

Radish or Carrot Top Pesto

I love the arrival of my Farmářské bedýnky every Thursday night. The doorbell rings, I run down five flights of stairs, eager to see what the farmers will surprise me with each week.  Now, THESE fruits and vegetables are FARM fresh: No wax to make it look pretty for the grocery store shelves and no pre-sorted foods that have to look perfect. These fresh fruits and veggies may have lumps and bumps, but they are delicious, local, and full of flavor.  The root vegetables are often still coated in a layer of earth and many still have the greens attached.  While beet and kohlrabi greens make for an excellent stir-fry (with garlic, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and Sriracha), I was unsure of what to do with the carrot and radish tops.  In an effort to not waste anything edible, I jumped on the chance to use these bitter greens.

Last year a friend mentioned using the carrot tops for a pesto. I love pesto. Anything green in my house has a chance of being chopped and blended into one: basil, spinach, cilantro. But the bitterness of radish and carrot greens was a bit of a turn-off. So, the experimentation started. I wasn’t in love with the first few batches. They came out either too bitter or too salty. I found that each time I made it I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. Sometimes the greens needed more citrus, sometimes more spice. Have fun and enjoy using all parts of the amazing, fresh and local radish and carrot!

A note about using fresh carrot and radish greens:
The greens can be quite gritty, so I like to wash them at least twice before using. I start with a warm water and salt soak for 10 minutes. I rinse with water in a colander and dry in the salad spinner. Then I rinse again and spin again.  As an added bonus, the extra rinse and spin helps make you completely sure that you’ve scared any 6-legged creatures far away. The joys of having fresh fruit and veg delivered, occasionally a small friend comes along!

Basic steps for Radish or Carrot greens pesto

  1. Wash
  2. Chop greens in food processor for 1 minute
  3. Add other ingredients
  4. Continue to chop in the food processor
  5. Taste, spice and flavor as you like!

Radish Greens Pesto

2 bunches of radish tops

2 garlic cloves, minced

1-2 Tbsp. olive oil

½ Tbsp. lemon juice

¼ cup pine nuts or almonds

salt, pepper, red chili flakes to taste

Carrot Greens Pesto

1 bunch carrot tops

2 garlic cloves, minced

1-2 Tbsp. olive oil

½ Tbsp. lime juice

⅓ cup cashews

lots of cinnamon (it cuts the bitterness nicely)

salt, pepper to taste

At first the pesto can be a bit bitter. It needs at least a day in the fridge for the flavors to combine.  The pesto keeps well in a sealed container for 2-3 weeks in the fridge. Every few days I add a light layer of olive oil and give it a stir to help keep the pesto green.

These pestos go great on salads, over roasted veggies, or even as a dollop in a vegetable soup.

(adapted from a recipe found on Chocolate and Zucchini)

Mushroom, Mozzarella and Cranberry Salad by Allison

The crisp fall air hit my face as I opened the door to leave my apartment building Saturday morning. Coffee was calling my name. Not just any coffee though, gourmet coffee from my favorite coffee shop just down the street at Muj Salek Kavy. A cappuccino from this coffee shop is like no other, it is dark and sultry like rich chocolate velvet and starts the weekend off right. My taste buds were awakened upon the first sip of my heavenly beverage and I started to make a list of what I wanted to purchase at the Karlin farmers’ market in my iPhone. I typed a few items into a note and then deleted it. Fresh herbs, well yes most definitely; eggs, for sure; fruit, yes please; veggies abound. A list was not needed after all as I just wanted to see what struck me and inspired me at the market. A stroll down Krizikova while soaking up some vitamin D from the sun while reflecting back on the week and looking forward to the days ahead made me stop and appreciate the moment. As I approached the market, I watched as many people took delight in carrying their baskets full of fresh produce or pushing their child in a stroller and talking to vendors and purchasing local goods. As I entered the market, I walked around and spotted a small wooden stand overflowing with mushrooms.

I came across this mushroom vendor and for those of you who live in the Czech Republic, you know it is mushroom season and may have already been mushroom hunting yourselves. I’ve had the adventure of mushroom hunting with my friend B before and we got a few mushrooms here and there which was really fun, but I’d like to go again and really hit the jackpot! This vendor was was so kind and helpful. I was asking him whether the large mushrooms were the best for soup, salad or sauces and a tall, kind gentleman who was sitting to the side popped up and translated everything the vendor was saying. “Just eat them raw. You will get the most vitamins and nutrients from slicing these and putting them in a salad.”

So I placed several handfuls of large mushrooms below in a bag and handed them over to the mushroom vendor. I handed him the money and the gentleman that translated for me earlier said, “Next week, he will have different mushrooms and they will be really good for soup!”. I said, “I’ll be back!” and thanked him for his kindness and help.

After I saw this green leaf lettuce, I knew it had to come home with me for the mushroom salad as it was crisp and buttery.

Mushroom, Mozzarella and Cranberry Salad

Ingredients

Green leaf lettuce

fresh mushrooms, sliced

dried cranberries

fresh mozzarella cheese slices

roasted beets, sliced

roasted almonds (optional)

Dressing:

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp olive oil

I tsp apple cider

a few drops of honey

salt and pepper to taste

Combine and enjoy!

Oh, so good Oatmeal… by Nikki

Baked Apple + Oatmeal + empty jar = healthy, breakfast on-the-go!

Remember those baked apples I shared in my last post? Well, they have been a repeat experience in my home over the past couple weeks. I have been baking 3-4 apples on Sunday morning and using them throughout the week. I got creative this week and added half of a leftover apple to refrigerator Oatmeal. No, this is not a joke! I have been getting my oatmeal ready in the evening and allowing it to sit in soy milk, in a jar, overnight in the fridge. This allows the dry oats to soften overnight but without becoming too mushy! I take the oatmeal to work, warm it in a small bowl and enjoy it with my morning coffee. Now this is the moment that I humble myself and extend gratitude to my friend E who introduced me to the concept of “overnight oats!” This breakfast gives me loads of energy to make the most of my mornings with 5 and 6 year old learners… and bonus, it keeps my stomach full until lunchtime! Try it!

mmm…

Refrigerator Oatmeal

Below are the ingredients I used- but this breakfast allows you flexibility and creative license for your own taste buds!

Ingredients: 3/4 to 1 cup oatmeal (dry), 1/2 cup mixed dried fruit and raw almonds, 1/2 to 1 cup milk. Fresh fruit optional such as peaches, blueberries or apples!

1. Find a clean, empty jar (or tupperware that doesn’t leak). I use an old jam jar…

Oats go first…

2. Measure out 3/4 cup to 1 cup dry oatmeal flakes and put into the bottom of the jar…

My 2nd layer: plump, golden raisins and raw almonds

3. Next your 1/2 cup mixed dried fruit and nuts (or seeds) go into the jar on top of the oatmeal! There are so many combinations you can create… I like this recipe with dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds or dried apricots and cashews or almonds!

My 3rd layer: baked apples with cinnamon yes please!

4. The final layer is fresh, frozen, or even baked fruit.  I LOVE fresh blueberries and the way they get hot and juicy when baked in the oatmeal! But this week, I used half of one of the baked apple I made over the weekend. And sometimes, I enjoy skipping the fruit layer overnight but adding half a banana after I heat the oatmeal in the morning… the possibilities feel endless!

Let’s get soaked…

5. Once your jar is brimming with goodness, you need to pour your milk into the mix. (Having a sensitivity to cow’s milk, I prefer to use soy milk). Depending on how many oats you measured, you will need more or less milk! After about 45 seconds, when the milk settles, I make sure the liquid is covering the oats… that is important for tender but non-mushy oats!

Finally… a little sweet stuff!

6. The final ingredients are a dash or two of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then screw on the lid- tight!

Shake, Shake, Shake…

 

…shake, shake, shake.. shake that oatmeal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy grab-and-go

7. After giving the jar a good shake (about 30 seconds) put in the fridge and let sit in fridge overnight!

When ready to eat, transfer to a microwaveable bowl and heat for 3-5 minutes. Enjoy!

Oatmeal with Baked Apples, Golden Raisins, and Almonds

 

 

 

 

Berry Be Careful! by L

The raspberries were looking gorgeously plump and delicious at the Andel Market in Prague 5. I picked up a few cartons of red and white ones. As I was thinking about what to do with all these raspberries, this cake recipe came to mind, as well as the following kitchen incident…

I’ve heard about the pregnancy haze- the bouts of forgetfulness that suddenly sneak up on you, the brain fog, and the many clumsy accidents. But I never imagined it happening to me. Like an elephant, I never forget a thing! Nonetheless, those hormones overtook my system, and I can’t believe the consequences of what occurred when the pregnancy haze casted its net upon me.

I was sixth months pregnant when my husband and I received an invitation for dinner at a friend’s home. I happily volunteered to make a dessert. On that morning I picked up a huge basket of ripe strawberries at our local farmers’ market and planned to use them in my “go-to” cake.  Normally, it is a simple recipe to follow, so easy, that one large bowl and a few ingredients are all you need to make this treat.  The cake is made with buttermilk and topped with fruits, such as apples, pears or berries. I thought the strawberries would make a fine accompaniment to the cake’s tender and moist texture, and adding a dollop of sweetened whipped cream on the side, certainly wasn’t going to hurt.

The menu was perfect for such an unusually warm evening at the first appearance of spring. Blocks of tofu were coated in breadcrumbs and then lightly pan-fried. Afterwards, they were baked in an herb-seasoned tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella. Accompanying our meal were slices of homemade garlic bread and a mixed green salad. The food was so delicious that it made my hungry palate yearn for more. Heck, I was pregnant with twins.  There didn’t seem to be any shame or harm in going after some seconds!

After the plates were cleared, our hostess asked me to bring out the dessert. My cake was sitting on its platter waiting for the cream to be whipped. As I removed the thin plastic sheet that protected the cake, it started to stick to my fingers like fly paper. Using my teeth, I slid the wrap off and a few golden crumbs clung to my hands. Instead of wiping them off with a towel, I licked the crumbs off my fingertips and suddenly my mouth felt like I had swallowed a glass of seawater!

“Hmmm. That’s strange.” I thought to myself. I traced my finger over another small part of the cake, tasted it, and there it was again, that salty surprise. I carried the cake over to the table. “Can you guys try the top of the cake?” I asked. My husband and our host threw me a look of confusion. “Just swipe the top part and tell me what it tastes like,” I ordered in a hasty and anxious tone.  Without any questions, the men quickly surrendered to my request.

“Does it taste salty?” I asked impatiently. They shook their heads, “No,” and my husband continued to look baffled. My heart took a break from its excessive pounding and I felt a slight sense of relief. For a second, I thought I might have wrongly executed the last part of the recipe, which is to sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar, before baking it, over the fruit and batter.

I dashed back to the counter. After slicing the cake and serving each plate with a generous spoonful of cream on the side, I returned to the dinner table with the hope of ending our meal on a sweet note.  “Ooooh, this looks good!” my friend raved and smiled with excitement.  She quickly dug her fork into the cake and took a huge bite. Suddenly, her head began to twist wildly from side to side. Her face cringed as she reached for her glass of water and without a break, gulped the entire glass down. Aghast, she announced “Oh, yeah! No, no, no… salllll-ty!”

Biting into mine, I realized that I had indeed dipped my silver-measuring spoon into the canister of salt and not the sugar bowl! In an effort to save the dessert, we decided to slice off the roof of the cake and frost it with the whipped cream.  It passed, but it wasn’t the best example of my “go-to” cake. I spent the rest of the evening endlessly apologizing for the spoiled dessert. Our friends were both forgiving and understanding of this bizarre baking faux pas. This embarrassing kitchen incident shattered my flawless culinary track record. The only explanation for such a terrible error of judgment could only be an attack of the dreaded pregnancy haze!

Berry Buttermilk Cake adapted from Bon Apetit Magazine
Heat oven to 400˚F/200˚C
Grease an 8 inch circular baking pan

Ingredients:
1/2 to 1 cup of sliced strawberries/raspberries/pears/apples or plums (you choose)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 stick softened butter (50 grams)
2/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon of SUGAR
1 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk

optional: if using pears, apples or plums, sprinkle some cinnamon along with the 1 tablespoon of sugar

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then set aside.

In a larger bowl, beat the softened butter with 2/3 cup of white sugar. Beat at high-speed until light and fluffy. Then add the vanilla and lastly, the egg.

At low-speed, begin to add a little of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and also alternate with the cup of buttermilk. Continue to pour small doses one by one, ending with the flour mixture. Be careful not to over mix the batter.

Pour mixture into the pan. Then decorate with the fruit of choice. Evenly sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of SUGAR over the fruit and batter. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool and serve with sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream or nothing at all.
Enjoy!

Plum Jammin’ Time by Allison

September is jammin’ time. There is an abundance of plums along with loads of pears and peaches billowing out of the crates at the farmer’s market in Holesivice. A kilo of plums for just about a dollar, you can’t go wrong with the tartness of the plum combined with the sweetness of the apples and apple juice in this low-sugar plum jam recipe. After making my own jam and being able to taste the real fruit while consuming less sugar than many grocery store varieties, there’s just no comparison. A crisp fall day along with a good friend to cut, stir and chat the day away with make it a perfect time to create some of this plum goodness that will last past the season.
Ingredients
2.2 kilos of plums, pitted and halved
2 jablo-red apples, cored and sliced
1/3 cup organic apple juice or cider
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar
2 packets of Gelfix pectin 3:1
Add plums, apples, apple juice and lemon juice in a large heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring. Cover and reduce heat for about 25-30 minutes while fruit softens and gets juicy while stirring occasionally. Uncover until the fruit is completely soft, about 25 minutes. Place the mixture through a wire strainer or a silicone strainer in small batches at a time to remove skins. Return the strained fruit mixture to the pot and add sugar, cook over medium heat until it reaches a gentle boil. Add pectin and cook for 5 minutes. Ladle mixture into a small pitcher and pour into a funnel placed over a glass jar. Fill jar full with 1/4″ head space and tighten lids on jars. Place jam-filled jars into a water bath and process for 10 minutes. Let jars sit for 24 hours, then check the lids to ensure they have sealed properly. Place in the refrigerator as it is a low-sugar jam. Consume within 6 months. Enjoy this gluten-free delight!
adapted from www.eatingwell.com

Autumn ABC’s- Apples Baked with Cinnamon by Nikki

Dahlias = one reason I LOVE Autumn!

What do you like about Autumn? For me it is simple: butternut squash, fresh apple cider, transitional weather (easing our way from Summer to Winter), back-to-school excitement, and Dahlias! I LOVE DAHLIAS! They are one of my favorite flowers. They do not have a strong, perfumey scent, and they are stunning with design and color- love, love, love Dahlias.

My Czech Basket…

I went to the market looking only for fresh eggs. My plan was to feature the local, farmer’s eggs to make Zucchini-Honey bread for Monday’s breakfast club. But then I saw the Fall variety of apples! Today at the JzP market, there were signs of Autumn everywhere as vendors had plump, purple plums, Butternut and bright, orange, Ambercup squash, and more varieties of potatoes.  I also noticed more local vendors selling jams and preserves they must have canned over the summer, and of course, there were flowers -Dahlias and Gladiolas! Where the summer fruits such as berries and apricots were once sold are now multiple varieties of apples of which I chose four beautiful Gala apples.

Apples Baked with Cinnamon

I follow a number of food blogs and recently there have been posts about baked, seasonal fruit such as peaches and plums. When I saw those apples at the market I began salivating for baked apples. They are a tasty treat, much lower in calories than other sweets. And they make your apartment smell like apple pie and cinnamon. When I bake apples, I use a recipe that I found on Simply Recipes. If you click on the link, you will find the apple recipe and then can browse for other new recipes! Or you can simply scroll down and find the recipe below…

Baked Apples with Cinnamon, Pecans and Golden Raisins

Baked Apples

Originally posted on Simply Recipes by Elise on Oct 9, 2006

Ingredients:

  • 4 large good baking apples, such as Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold (I used Gala this time!)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup currants or chopped raisins
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup boiling water

Directions:

1 Preheat oven to 375°F. Wash apples. Remove cores to 1/2 inch of the bottom of the apples. It helps if you have an apple corer, but if not, you can use a paring knife to cut out first the stem area, and then the core. Use a spoon to dig out the seeds. Make the holes about 3/4-inch to an inch wide.

2 In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, currants/raisins, and pecans. Place apples in a 8-inch-by-8-inch square baking pan. Stuff each apple with this mixture. Top with a dot of butter (1/4 of the Tbps).

3 Add boiling water to the baking pan. Bake 30-40 minutes, until tender, but not mushy. Remove from the oven and baste the apples several times with the pan juices.

Enjoy!

Served with tea… and look at those Dahlias!