It’s a soup-er holiday season… by Nikki

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Oh Christmas tree… oh Christmas tree

I cannot believe I have already spent 12 days in the US with my family… the celebrations began the weekend I arrived with a stormy weekend at the Oregon coast! While I was flying over the Atlantic Ocean to be with them, my family was out on the beach digging for razor clams. The following week was full of clam fritters and a magnum bottle of bubbly Spanish champagne! I guess my being home for the holidays was apparently a cause for a pre-Christmas celebration…

Hume Family Clam Fritters

Hume Family Clam Fritters

… and with the holiday in full swing, there has been a LOT more celebrating this December. On Christmas eve the tree was overflowing with gifts and all of our family members- in one place at one time! The Christmas cookies have been quickly disappearing and the holiday microbrews have been filling our pint glasses- it is really, truly Christmas time in our house!

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Dad’s Christmas Eve clam chowder

But on Christmas day after a full two days of family fun, we had a much needed lazy day… after sleeping in, and a light, leisurely breakfast, we chose to stay in our pajamas all day! The most activity during the day were a few games of Cribbage and my brother and I jamming – him on the keyboard, me on the guitar and mom on the couch singing along! That evening when our stomachs began to rumble… Dad used some of the leftover Christmas ham to make split pea soup.

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Yellow Split Pea and Ham soup

I love soup- especially on a cold, gray, rainy day in Oregon. This is an easy soup to make despite the few hours needed to simmer it with ingredients many people already have on hand… carrots, celery, and an onion! Add a little dried marjoram or oregano, salt and pepper to taste, dried, split peas and round it off with some leftover ham bits and you have yourself a tasty post-Christmas dinner.

From our family kitchen to yours… Merry Christmas!

Dad in the kitchen

Dad in the kitchen

Split Pea and Ham Soup

recipe by Papa Hume – one of my favorite cooks on Earth!

Note: this recipe uses the ham bones and discarded vegetable pieces to first make a fresh broth. If you didn’t save the bones from your ham then simply use a vegetable broth in place of the homemade broth.

prep: simmer ham bones, butts and tips of carrots, ends of the onion, and celery tips in 2 liters of water for three hours to make the broth

soup ingredients: 4 celery stalks, 2 carrots, 1 medium onion, 1 tablespoon marjoram, 1 pound of dried split peas and 1 cup of ham pieces

essential soup ingredients

essential soup ingredients

directions:

while the broth is simmering, dice all veggies and ham and set aside

when broth is ready strain into another large soup pot to separate the liquid from the bones and vegetable pieces

throw away the bones and vegetable pieces- they no longer have flavor because it is all in the broth now!

mmm... fresh broth

mmm… fresh broth

add the diced veggies, dried herbs, and split peas to the broth and simmer for about 45 minutes -stirring every 10 minutes

when the carrots are just about tender (about 50 minutes into cooking) add the ham pieces and simmer for another 10 minutes

Perfect rainy day meal!

Perfect rainy day meal!

serve hot with fresh bread, crackers or your other favorite soup pairings

our dinner table

our dinner table

ENJOY!

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Gingerbread Cake by Allison

The tune of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” by Harry Connick, Jr. blares from my MacBook Pro, the Christmas tree is positioned in the window, candles lit, festive red berry stems from the flower shop around the corner sit in the crystal vase on the table but my family is not here and there is not a Christmas cookie in sight! Growing up there were many family holiday traditions that I would like to carry forward from my childhood. Everything from ornament traditions to decorating the house, family time and visiting the neighbors with homemade sweet treats in tow to eating crab on Christmas Eve and opening up stockings on Christmas morning with family. The taste of Christmas is in mulled wine, gingerbread and spiced almonds. Chocolate gingerbread cake baking in the oven was the Christmas scent and taste that made me feel like it was indeed Christmas time.

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I found these festive silicone shaped bakeware at Tchibo in the Palladium mall on sale! I just love a good sale. They went home with me as you can see!

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This cake is best warm out of the oven dusted with powdered sugar. Yummmmmm…..

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

by Gluten-Free on a Shoestring

Ingredients

6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter

2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

2 ¼ cups (315 g) gluten-free cake flour (I used Mark & Spencer gf flour)

1½ teaspoons xanthan gum

½ cup (40 g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used Mark & Spencer cocoa powder)

1 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder (make sure this is gluten-free)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar

½ cup (109 g) packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons (42 g) unsulphured molasses (I used treacle from Marks and Spencer)

6 tablespoons (126 g) pure maple syrup

4 tablespoons (84 g) honey

1 extra-large egg (60 g without shell) at room temperature, beaten

1 cup warm water

2 tablespoons (28 g) vegetable oil

Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

*In place of 2 1/4 cups gluten-free cake flour, you can use the same amount, by weight, high-quality all-purpose gluten-free flour. Your cake will simply be a bit heavier.

Directions
  • Preheat your oven to 163°C or 325° F. Grease a 9 inch square baking pan, line it with unbleached parchment paper, and set it aside.
  • In a small, microwave safe bowl, place the butter and chopped chocolate, and microwave for 45 seconds at a time at 60% power, stirring in between intervals, until melted and smooth. Set the mixture aside to cool briefly.
  • In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and granulated sugar. Whisk to combine well. Add the brown sugar and whisk to combine, working out any lumps in the brown sugar. Add the molasses, maple syrup, honey, egg and water, mixing well after each addition. Add the oil, and the melted chocolate and butter mixture, and blend well. The batter will be smooth, and thickly pourable. Pour into the prepared pan, and smooth the top with a wet spatula. Bang the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles from within the batter.
  • Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with, at most, a few moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in pan until firm (about 10 minutes). Turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Lola’s Lumpia by L

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Whoever came up with the line “One is the loneliest number,” clearly did not have relatives living on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In our Spanish/Filipino household, turning one has never been sweeter! A few days before T & P reached their first birthday, their Spanish grandparents hosted a Valencian fiesta to mark this momentous occasion. In our part of Spain, a party is not a party without a Valencian paella to feed forty people! That was party #1.

In Prague, party #2 was a delicious picnic in the park, thrown by the girls’ fairy godmothers, for all of their close friends. The main attraction was the cupcake centerpiece. Tiers of four different flavored cupcakes sat pretty in polka-dotted liners for all to enjoy!

Last, but definitely not the least, it was the Filipino-New York family’s side to celebrate T & P’s First Birthday. Yes, you are reading this correctly. Not one, not two, but three birthday parties in one year. That’s what happens when you’re born in Prague and live in Prague, but one set of Grandparents live in Spain and the other in New York City.

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Party #3 was a Filipino buffet with a 3 foot hero to remind us of NYC roots. On the menu was palabok (rice noodles in shrimp sauce), kare-kare (beef and vegetables stewed in a flavorful peanut sauce), Filipino BBQ (barbequed pork in a sweet filipino style marinade), dinuguan (filipino version of blood pudding) and of course a Filipino party isn’t a party without the ultimate Filipino Finger Food: Lumpia!

Inside our Filipino version of the fried egg roll, you’ll find a medley of sautéed vegetables, such as sweet potato, carrots, potato, celery and green beans, along with tofu and plenty of garlic. You can eat this crispy roll plain, but there is also the delicious option of  dipping it into a side sauce of vinegar, soy sauce and crushed garlic. All of this just screams: “Comfort food!!!!”

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Growing up, I can’t recall ever going to a Filipino hosted event without ever seeing lumpia on the table. I would definitely bet that if you ever visited a Filipino home, you would even find some rolls stored in the freezer. Lumpia is our party food staple and it can be addictive. Once you bite into one, it’s over. You will soon eat another and then another and then…. well, I think you get the picture.

For my daughters’ birthday party, Lola (tagalog for grandmother) cooked all the lumpia for the party. It’s not the easiest dish to whip up. There are hours and hours of preparation needed for these delightful rolls. All the vegetables must be finely chopped and then stir fried. Once they have cooled down, it’s time to wrap and then finally fry them up. It’s an arduous task, but one that will put endless smiles on the lucky eaters.

I was hoping to get a video of my mom wrapping the egg rolls up because there is definitely an art to this, but sadly with all the party preparations, we didn’t get a chance to do so. Maybe next year, when the girls turn two.

Lola’s Lumpia

Ingredients:

For the filling

  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into chunks
  • 8 to 10 ounces green beans, trimmed
  • 10 inner ribs celery, trimmed, strings removed
  • 1 medium onion, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 large head green cabbage (outer leaves discarded), cut into chunks
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 5 large cloves garlic
  • 4 blocks of tofu, drained
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • Pinch plus 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the lumpia

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch
  • 36 8-inch square, thin spring roll sheets, can be found in Asian grocery stores (in Prague too!)
  • 3 cups canola oil, for frying

For the sauce

  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • Pinch sugar (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

For the filling: Chop the following ingredients into thin matchstick slices or use a food processor, placing the ingredients in separate bowls as they are done: the carrots, to yield 2 cups; green beans, to yield 2 cups; celery, to yield 2 cups; onion, to yield 1 cup; cabbage, to yield 6 cups; sweet potatoes, to yield 5 1/2 cups;  garlic, to yield about 2 tablespoons.

Slice the tofu blocks into thin squares. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a non-stick frying pan. Fry a few slices of tofu together until golden. Stand them upright in a colander/strainer lined with a paper towel, to release excess oil and let it cool down. When ready, chop tofu into smaller pieces.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a well-seasoned wok or shallow pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant but not burned. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until it has softened. Add the cabbage and celery, cook for 15 minutes, stirring often.

Add the sweet potatoes and cook for 10 minutes or until softened, stirring often, then add the carrots and green beans; cook for 15 minutes or until softened, stirring often. Add the cooked tofu, some more oil if necessary, the remaining teaspoon of black pepper and the remaining 2 or 3 tablespoons of soy sauce (to taste). Mix well and cook until all the vegetables are tender and of the same texture. Let cool almost completely.

While the filling cools, make the paste and prepare the wrappers for the lumpia. Mix the warm water and flour/cornstarch together until you get a slightly thin pasty texture.

When you open your package of wrappers, you must separate the wrappers, one by one. Carefully pull them apart and separate them, stacking them alternately as square and diamond shapes on a plate. Cover with a clean, damp dish towel until ready to use.

Usually there are visual instructions on the back of every egg roll package that demonstrates how to roll lumpia, but just in case here’s how to assemble lumpia:
Place 1 wrapper on the table or counter in front of you, one corner should point towards you. Place a tablespoonful of the filling about 2 inches above the corner closest to you and  spreading it out into a mini log. Lift and fold the corner pointing towards you, over the filling, tucking it snugly against the vegetables and tofu, so the corner lays flat.

Roll the filling twice, then neatly fold in the left-hand and right-hand sides of the wrapper. Roll once again, then dip your fingers into the cooled water-flour or cornstarch mixture and use them to dampen the remaining wrapper to be rolled. Roll the lumpia as tightly as possible, ending with the far corner of the wrapper. The lumpia should be about 4 inches long. Place the rolled lumpia in a single layer on a plate and cover with plastic wrap or wax paper. Repeat.

When you are ready to cook the lumpia,  line a colander with several layers of paper towels.  Heat the canola oil in a medium saucepan over high heat.

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Fry a few lumpia at a time until crisped and browned. I recommend using tongs to help you turn them over. If the oil is heated properly, it should take about 2 1/2 minutes for the lumpia to brown on both sides. Transfer the lumpia to the lined colander when they are done. Repeat to cook all of the lumpia.

For the sauce: Whisk together the garlic, vinegar and soy sauce in a small bowl.  Serve alongside the hot lumpia.

If you don’t want to cook all the lumpia at once, feel free to freeze them. You can do the same with if there is a lot of the filling left over. Enjoy! Ang sarap!

Party Popcorn! by Nikki

Kinda sweet and salty

Kinda sweet and salty

One of my favorite dinners when I am too lazy or tired to cook is a bag of microwave popcorn… accompanied by a good Czech beer. I ate this a lot during the summer- usually in front of a movie or lame, summer TV show. Popcorn is a great snack… and during the holidays, I can remember digging into the big tin of flavored popcorn- you know the big one that was given as a gift! I never cared much for the cheesy popcorn or the fake buttered popcorn- give me the sweet stuff- caramel corn! This popcorn is a combination of sweet and salty- kind of like my personality! Made with lots of butter, cinnamon and sugar it is a compliment to the salty popped corn. I took a big bag of this tasty popcorn to our staff holiday party earlier this week. Many people couldn’t believe it was homemade… it tastes that good! Add this to your holiday party snack table and your guests will thank you!

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Cinnamon and Sugar Popcorn

Ingredients:

2 bags of natural, microwave popcorn (popped!)

1/3 cup butter

2/3 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 120 degrees C or 250 degrees F

Melt butter in a saucepan then add all ingredients.

Stir until bubbly!

Place popcorn into a large mixing bowl, pour glaze on top and mix very well until evenly coated. (or as best as possible!)

Place into a baking pan lined with wax paper and bake for 10 minutes.

Let cool completely before packaging!

Enjoy

It’s snowing outside… so let’s make cake! by Nikki

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It’s finally snowing in Praha

By snowing, I mean the frequency in which the snowflakes are falling from the sky is beginning to cover the sidewalks and slowly the patio, the outdoor chair, and the skylight windows are beginning to disappear under a blanket of snow. If you currently live in Prague, you might remember the first snow actually happened at the end of October this year. I had a friend visiting from the US and the weather suddenly turned winterish and made sight seeing more difficult! But over the past few weeks, the air has begun to chill more and more and today- it is snowing a beautiful winter white snow.

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chopped, fresh cranberries and pecans… so festive

It is the beginning of the December holiday season and with this time of year come the multitude of parties and festivities. As I hear of my friends beginning to decorate the Christmas tree or celebrate Hannukah or Ramadan and participate in other various December traditions, I am, as usual, baking my way into the new season. While November was a month of gratefulness and many pumpkin based recipes, I find myself ready for December and using fresh cranberries. This week, I am using fresh, whole cranberries and pecan halves in my favorite summer cake recipe.

roughly chopped pecans and cranberries replace the usual berries in this cake

roughly chopped pecans and cranberries replace the usual berries in this cake

Yes, this triple berry summer cake recipe is delicious- everyone LOVES it. But since winter is upon us, we will now use cranberries and pecans to change this cake into a festive December treat! Joy the baker’s recent post about Cranberry Orange and Pecan Coffee Cake made my mouth water and my brain (and stomach!) began to think I needed to eat this very cake with my coffee soon… inspired by her festive December recipe, I replaced the zest of lemon in the original triple berry cake recipe with orange zest.

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my coveted cathedral bundt in silicone

Instead of using my traditional bundt pan, I used my cathedral shaped bundt pan. Thanks to my dear friend A for this amazing birthday gift…

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My REALLY hot oven, blasted the heat and caused the edges of my cake to become a bit darker than I prefer… but the smell of this citrusy cake is gorgeous! And from the bird’s eye view, you can see the result of the cranberries bursting during baking… all red and festive! Enjoy!

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a heavenly scent

Cranberry-Orange Pecan Buttermilk Bundt
Adapted from Joy the Baker and Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

Cake
2 1/2 cups (355 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
1 cup (8 ounces or 225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups (340 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 medium orange
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk

1-2 cups(100-200 grams) roughly chopped pecan halves
2 cups (350 grams) roughly chopped fresh cranberries (You can add more to change the tartness of your cake!)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F or 170 degrees C

Grease a 10-cup Bundt pan, either with butter or a nonstick spray, lightly flour and place in the fridge while making the cake batter.

In a medium bowl, whisk or sift 2 1/2 cups flour (leaving 2 tablespoons back), baking powder and salt together and set aside. In another bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest until light and impossibly fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. (I use a regular mixing bowl and a hand mixer but you can also use a stand mixer!) With the mixer on a low speed, add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to batter, beating until just combined, followed by half the buttermilk, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk and remaining flour mixture. Scrape down from time to time and don’t mix any more than you need to.  With a silicon spatula, gently fold the cranberries and pecans into the cake batter.

Spoon the batter into your greased cake pan then spread the top smooth. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the cake 180 degrees after 30 (to make sure it browns evenly). The cake is done as soon as a tester comes out clean of batter. Enjoy!

December Greetings by L

Sadly, the farmers markets have come to an end. Well, at least until April. In our city of Prague, the stalls once full of bountiful produce and local goods, have now been replaced by the annual Christmas markets.

Stroll through any of the major public squares in Prague and you will find people drinking piping hot mugs of mulled wine, the smell of cinnamon and vanilla drifts through the crisp air and knocks you into that cozy warm spirit  The stalls are replaced with ornaments, puppets, dolls and lot of souvenirs to lure folks into buying stuff to fill those Christmas stockings up. The centerpiece of every square is its’ own giant Christmas tree, sparkling with all the trimmings.

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It’s not a terrible replacement, but it does sadden me to think that all those wholesome vegetables and fruits won’t be seen for some time.

So, what is The Prague Basket going to do, now that the farmers markets have gone into hibernation? Well… this is where we need to get a bit more creative.

For the month of December, we will be focusing on the holidays that we hold near and dear. In the next few weeks, we will be traveling outside of Prague and spending time with family and friends. We hope to highlight and share some of the dishes and desserts that we will feast on.

We hope that you will stay tuned and even let us know what you are cooking in your kitchen. What are the staples of your holiday table? We’d love to hear from you!

May you kick your winter season off right!

The warmest of December greetings from the gang at TPB