Totally Amazing Tomatoes – GF, SF, DF, NF, and V of course

Once you’ve had fresh tomatoes from the garden that have been grown with love and tender loving care, then there’s just no comparison to the taste of mass-produced tomatoes that can be found at your go-to grocery store chain. The taste, the flavor, the color and even the texture are different between the home-grown or farmer’s market tomatoes and store-bought tomatoes. Don’t you agree? I adore tomatoes. Really truly. Sun-dried tomatoes are a must-have in my pantry at all times. I cannot run low on sun-dried tomatoes. Speaking of which….have you seen the ingredient list on the back of a sun-dried tomato jar? Brace yourself. Vegetable oil to top the list and too many other crazy things in there that shouldn’t be in there to be honest. So I took matters into my own hands. I bought a dehydrator and set out to dry my own tomatoes! The result?! Incredibly tasty tomato chips if you like crunchy things without preservatives and artificial ingredients. They are absolutely delicious. I’ve also made dehydrated tomatoes and am preserving them in olive oil. They are waiting to be consumed with other Italian delicacies one day soon. This is not a new idea, many people have dehydrated tomatoes, but I’m here to share with you how easy and amazing they really are and urge you to get a dehydrator!  photo 3photo 1

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Dehydrated Tomatoes by Allison

Tools: 

sharp knife

dehydrator

delicious tomatoes from a farmer’s market

cutting board

Method:

Rinse tomatoes, you may also need to de-stem and de-core your tomatoes depending on the variety to prepare them for dehydrating. Cut tomatoes into 1/4 inch to 1/3 inch slices and place on the dehydrator trays. Leave space in-between slices so the warm air can circulate around and between the tomato slices. I dehydrate mine at 55 degrees Celsius for 20-24 hours depending on the variety of tomato I used. You can sprinkle with salt, oregano, basil if you’d like. They are finished when they are dry and leathery. Sometimes I dehydrate them for 24 hours until they are brittle and eat them like chips or crisps. Either way they are delicious! Store in a sealed jar or freeze. Enjoy!

 

It’s a colorful dish- Sausage and Peppers by Nikki

it is colorful despite the grey season

it is colorful despite the grey season

Do any of you use Pinterest? Let me tell you it is both amazing and somewhat addicting. It is very useful for digitally “housing” all sorts of information you find on the internet. I mainly use Pinterest for collecting and storing ideas for home, classroom, and kitchen projects. However, I also have boards titled as such: “workout ideas”, “I want that too” “My reading list” “places and spaces”, “for the love of yarn,” etc. You see, Pinterest let’s me keep all of these great ideas, things I like or would consider buying for my home, closet or kitchen, all organized into boards… and as long as it is not on a secret board, I  can search Pinterest and have access to other people’s pins a.k.a more good ideas from other people’s internet collections! So, why am I mentioning my love and addiction of Pinterest on our blog… well, because that is where I originally found this recipe. I pinned it some time ago onto my “food is love” board.

it's a one bowl job

it’s a one bowl job

 As you know from my last few posts, I have recently been cooking a lot of vegetarian meals. However, it is half marathon training season, and as I increase my running mileage, I also feel the increase in my body craving meat-based protein. I usually stick to chicken, fish, and occasionally, beef. But two days ago, I just wanted something different. Well, I was in the local grocery store and I had this craving for sausage. I stood there contemplating what to make with this and I remembered that I had “pinned” a recipe for Sausage and Peppers. So I bought the sausage, the onions and peppers and I went home to consult with my Pinterest board. This recipe calls for one regular potato, but I replaced that with a sweet potato and it worked. I like it when adaptations work! In fact, you could even use your favorite vegetarian “sausage” if you wanted. This recipe would be an easy, weekday meal. You can do the preparation one day ahead, wrap everything in foil and then pop it in the oven the next evening. Depending on your oven, it only takes 30-40 minutes for the potatoes and peppers to soften to perfection. Serve in individual bowls, with a little parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top… trust me, it goes well with a cold beer!   

colorful peppers and onions

colorful peppers and onions

Sausage and Peppers

adapted from the recipe One Pouch Feast on HyVee.com

 ingredients: half a yellow bell pepper, half a red bell pepper, half a green bell pepper, and half an orange bell pepper, one red onion, half a large sweet potato and 1-2 sausages (kielbasa in Polish, wurst in German, Kolbasa in Czech), olive oil, 1 teaspoon garlic salt, salt and pepper to taste

Directions: chop all the veggies and put into a medium size bowl.

Toss with one tablespoon of olive oil, garlic salt, and salt and pepper

Cut the sausage into round pieces and add to the peppers.

Mix until all ingredients are well coated.

Wrap in foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees F or 200 degrees C

Check the peppers and potatoes 30 minutes into baking time to see how they are softening…

When finished baking, let the mixture sit for 5 minutes then serve in bowls with a sprinkle of cheese and/or your favorite hot sauce.

Enjoy!

Yum!

Yum!

 

Perfect Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares by L

Pumpkin and pecans sharing the spotlight!

Pumpkin and pecans sharing the spotlight!

This is a two-for-the-price-of-one recipe. If you’re a fan of pumpkin pie AND a fan of pecan pie, imagine them both together! Did you? Can you picture all that sweet yumminess together? Well, that’s exactly what you get with this recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares.

So happy together!!!

So happy together!!!

My mom was cleaning out some of her kitchen cupboards and found a number of tattered recipe cards. She asked me to take a look at them, just in case something caught my eye. Otherwise, they were all heading out to the recycling bin. Halfway done with the stack, this recipe caught my eye. How could I go wrong with a combination of pumpkin and pecan pie? I didn’t. Best of all, the steps were so easy to follow and this will surely be added to my list of favorite autumn desserts to bake!

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares (adapted from my mom’s cupboard)

Crust:

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup old fashioned or instant oats

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine

Filling:

1/2 cup of granulated sugar (3/4 if you prefer something sweeter)

1 3/4 cups of pumpkin puree

1 12 oz. can of evaporated milk

2 large eggs

2 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Topping:

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

Pre heat oven to 180C/350F  degrees

Combine flour, oats, brown sugar and butter in small bowl. Beat at low speed or blend with fork or hands until crumbly. Then press onto an ungreased baking pan, 13X9 in.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Combine the sugar, pumpkin, milk, eggs and spice in large mixing bowl.

Beat at medium speed 1 to 2 minutes, pour over crust.

Bake 20 minutes.

Combine pecans and brown sugar in small bowl.

Sprinkle pecan topping over filling.

Continue to bake for 15-25 minutes or until fork or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely before serving.

Best if served with some fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!

Pumpkins in Prague by L

IMGP8810

A few weekends ago, the family and I took a ride out to Bykos farm. Just a 45 minute drive outside of the city and you are in pumpkin heaven. For me, autumn isn’t autumn without a visit to the pumpkin farm and celebrating Halloween. Happily, we accomplished both this year.

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Kabocha, acorn and butternut squash, along with jumbo size pumpkins waiting to be carved into Jack o’ Lanterns were everywhere. We came home with variety of pumpkins of all shapes, sizes and colors. Besides picking out pumpkins at the farm, one could also enjoy a bowl of homemade pumpkin soup, with a klobasa and top it all off with some pumpkin cake. The owners of the farm also sold jars of homemade pumpkin jam to take home. It was a festival of pumpkins.

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Instead of sharing a sweet pumpkin recipe with you, I decided to share one I recently tried from the cookbook, Vegetables from an Italian Garden, published by Phaidon. This dish is easy to prepare and makes a great side addition to any entrée. However, it can even be enjoyed as a main dish along with some delicious bread. It was an attempt to enjoy pumpkin in a less fattening manner.  Although, I’m really not one to ever pass up a delicious slice of pumpkin pie. Bring it all on!

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Baked Pumpkin with Potatoes and Rosemary (adapted from Vegetables from an Italian Garden)

Olive Oil, for brushing and drizzling

1lb of pumpkin, peeled and de-seeded

4 potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 onion, sliced into rings

4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced

few sprigs of fresh rosemary

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F

Brush a roasting pan with olive oil.

Cut the pumpkin into thin slices.

Alternate layers of potato, onion, pumpkin and sprinkle some rosemary here and there.

Add the diced tomatoes to the top, drizzle with oil, season with salt, pepper and some more rosemary.

Bake for 1 hour or until all the vegetables are tender.

Leave to stand for 5 minutes, then serve.

Swiss Chard… a farmer’s market treasure! By Nikki

Oberusel, Germany Farmer's Market

Oberursel, Germany Farmer’s Market

This past week, our school has been on holiday for October break. Allison and myself traveled to Frankfurt, Germany to visit our good friend Anne. I have traveled many places with Anne and together we have found local food markets to purchase goodies for our various holiday adventures. Last weekend, while we wandered in the local farmer’s market in the quaint town of Oberursel, I found Swiss chard at one of the large vegetable tents.

the colorful leafy, greens

the colorful leafy, greens

Chard is one of my favorite things to eat from my mother’s garden! Swiss chard is the colorful, leafy green. It can sometimes taste bitter, similar to kale; however, with butter and garlic, it sautes beautifully- and tastes delicious. Anne’s menu plan for the evening was to roast a cut of beef and serve with a red wine mushroom sauce that Anne’s mother used to make. At the market, we were happy to find green beans, fingerling potatoes, and this chard to compliment the meal.

rainbow stems

rainbow stems

My mother would cut the stems of this chard 3/4 of the way and throw the whole leaf with stem connected, into a pan of shallow water to steam. I prefer to cut the stems off at the base of the leaves, chop the stems into small pieces and saute them separately. Add the chopped stems to a pan of sizzling butter and garlic and saute for 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently.

yummy

saute in butter and garlic

I cut the big, chard leaves into strips and add them into the same pan as the cut stems.

cut and ready to steam

cut and ready to steam

Add about 1/3 cup water, put a lid on top and let it steam for 5-6 minutes. When it is ready, you should strain the cooked chard to let the water run off.

ready to steam

ready to steam

I have never been one to enjoy cooked spinach, so when I make chard, I don’t let it get to that point where it is wilted. I prefer my greens to remain leafy with a slight crisp, and the beauty of chard is that you can cook it to your preference. We served ours with skirt steak stuffed with a sauteed zucchini and mushrooms, topped with a red wine, mushroom sauce. We also ate sides of steamed green beans and roasted, fingerling potatoes. Our German farmer’s market adventure turned into a beautiful plate of deliciousness! Thank you Anne for a wonderful meal…

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

When Autumn falls… it’s time for chilli!

When the chill of the autumn air hits, it is time to start warming ourselves with soups and hot meals. Chilli is one of my favorite fall (and winter) foods. Chili is versatile and can be made for meat lovers or vegetarians. It is also a crowd-pleaser for a football gathering or on game night. You can dress chilli up with a variety of toppings such as cheddar cheese, sour cream, or jalapenos!  l prefer mine topped with a dollop of light sour cream and crunchy tortilla chips! What’s your favorite chili recipe? I would live to hear from you and possibly give your favorite recipes a try during this chilly-chilli season! Enjoy

It's Chilli time!

It’s Chilli time!

Spicy Vegetarian Chili

Ingredients: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 medium white onion, 2 medium red, bell peppers, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoons chilli powder (2 if you want is SUPER spicy!) , 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 + 1/2 teaspoons dried cumin, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 3 cans of whole tomatoes, 1 can of kidney beans, 1 small can of yellow corn, 2 large carrots, 1 cup fresh green beans.

additional ingredients: chopped, fresh cilantro (corriander), sour cream, cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, jalapenos, and/or tortilla chips

Directions: Heat oil over in a large, soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, bell peppers and garlic and saute until onions soften. (about ten minutes) Mix in chilli powder, oregano, cumin and black pepper. Add tomatoes, carrots and green beans and cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes.  Turn heat to low, add beans and corn and let cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When ready, ladle into bowls and top with your favorite toppings or dip a piece of bread and enjoy!

Hello Big Apple… We’re Back! by L

My little ones and I made the 9 hour journey back to my hometown, The Big Apple, aka New York City! I should be a little more specific and mention that my roots lay in the borough of Queens. It isn’t famous for its’ farmers markets, but nonetheless, it is full of various markets/shops that sell ingredients from all corners of the world.

Farmer’s Market at Atlas Center in Middle Village, Queens

Queens does have a few farmers markets. Fortunately, there just happens to be one that’s not too far away from my neighborhood. The major difference between visiting the markets when I’m back in NYC vs. Prague, is that I have to travel a bit further. The distances usually require a car trip or a few transfers on the subway. In Prague, MY markets are just a few footsteps away, *sigh.* The day I visited our local Queens market, it was sadly, the last day of the season. What do you think I saw plenty of?

Apples!

Apples! I especially liked how each crate described the variety of apples for sale. Furthermore, I found comfort and pleasure in the opportunity and ability to be able to decode the signs and talk freely with the vendors. This is definitely something I struggle with as an ex-pat living in Prague. Learning the local language, Czech, is a major challenge even for the polyglot that I am.

One of the most exciting and familiar things I picked up at the market was a bag of Apple Cider donuts. These sweet treats marked my autumn homecoming and I couldn’t wait to get back home, change into my cozy fleece pants, warm up a cup of tea, snuggle up on the couch and indulge in my moist, cinnamon, calorie-rich, old-fashioned type of donut. Hello NYC! It’s great to be home!

Sweetness in the bag!

I am feeling especially thankful for this year’s visit. The last time I celebrated an American Thanksgiving here in the States, was well over 7 years ago. Although, my Filipino family doesn’t really partake in the common Thanksgiving traditions, we have over the years adapted our table to feature some of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes.  Of course, there is a turkey with stuffing waiting to be carved into, two or three kinds of pies for dessert and cranberry sauce in bowls, but if you were a guest at my grandma’s house, you would also have to make space on your plate for some Filipino dishes in between the yams topped with marshmallows and creamy mashed potatoes.

The recipe that I am featuring in this post, however, isn’t a Filipino one this time around. I was planning to cook something for this year’s Thanksgiving meal, since it was my daughters’ introduction to this all-American holiday. However,  it needed to be a simple recipe and something that my girls could eat.

It was refreshing to see bunches of kale being sold at the market. I can usually snag one or two at the Naplavka market in Prague 2, however that takes a bit of work.  I have to ask the vendors about it ( I somehow manage in my weak Czech,) as it isn’t always displayed. Usually, the vendor runs behind the stall and magically comes back with some kale. Tracking down these healthy greens  can be an elbow shoving mess and when a kale lover like me finally gets some, it’s like gold.

Kale and Company

Here in Queens, it’s a breeze to buy kale. There was no need to tackle anyone or go on some adventurous hunt for those curly leafy green stalks. In fact,  I got so kale-happy when I saw bunches of them stacked up at the market, that I went home with an exaggerated amount. It didn’t take long for me to get sucked back into the act of consumerism.

Back in my parents’ kitchen, I decided to make a batch of garlic mashed potatoes to add to our array of side dishes. At some point,  I came up with this grand idea to sneak in some greens and ended up making a bowl of Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Kale. It was the first time that most of my family members would be trying kale. I thought that, maybe, it might become a new tradition of ours, or a legacy I leave behind at my family’s Thanksgiving table or just a dish that we once shared on Thanksgiving in the year 2012.

Happy Thanksgiving from NYC!

Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Kale

Kale:
1/2 onion chopped

1/2 bunch of kale, washed and chopped

1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth (add more if necessary)

Heat a shallow frying pan with 1-2 tablespoons of oil

Add onions and cool until transparent.

Then add kale and stir in well with the onions.

Add the broth and lower the heat.

When the kale is tender, set aside to cool.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

8-10 potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

8-10 peeled cloves of garlic

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup milk

salt and pepper to season

Boil potatoes and garlic in enough water to cover.

When cooked, drain potatoes.

Soften the butter and warm the milk a bit.

Mash the potatoes with a masher.

Add the warm milk and butter.

Continue to blend the ingredients.

If you want a smoother mash, use a hand blender.

Add the kale mixture.

Combine well and season with salt/pepper.

Eggless Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones by Nikki

freshly canned pumpkin

Today is November 23 and it is American Thanksgiving Day- my favorite holiday. Many people ask why it is my favorite and my response is the same- it is one day to truly celebrate gratefulness. For me, Thanksgiving has always been a celebration of family, friendship, food and of course, the life blessings I have received and am currently thankful for. It is the time of year when I begin to look back at the current year, reflect on the ups and downs, the accomplishments, the failures and begin to let next year’s goals take shape… yes, I am that goal setting type person!

butter and flour

So much about November has to do with pumpkins… pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake or muffins, pumpkin patches, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin stuffed shells and recently, warm pumpkin dip! As November soon comes to a close and December and the winter celebrations begin, I am featuring one more pumpkin based recipe on The Prague Basket!

pumpkin pie spiced puree and cream

My classroom of 16 Kindergarten children are currently inquiring about bread, where it comes from and how a bakery works as a team to create breads of all kinds. I happen to have a child in my classroom with a severe allergy to eggs. Baking without eggs is fairly new to me, but I have been experimenting with eggless baking to safely and authentically guide the learners through the baking experience.

These scones are so easy to put together and not too terrible for your waistline. Because I made them for my breakfast club friends, I used chocolate chips, but I imagine they would be tasty with dried cranberries, nuts or seeds, or possibly a cinnamon glaze for the top! Today, on American Thanksgiving, I am not only thankful for my family and friends but also for the opportunity to learn and explore a new side of baking- NO egg style!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones

Ingredients:

1 cup (120 grams) whole-wheat flour
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder, preferably aluminum-free

1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup (91 grams) chocolate chips (or dried cranberries)
3/4 cup (190 grams) pumpkin puree (flavored with pumpkin pie spice to taste)
1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425F / 220C degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment/wax baking paper.

In a bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt together.

Add butter and mix together initially with a wooden spoon.

Switch to using your hands and mix until the “dough” begins to look shaggy!

Using a spatula, add the pumpkin puree and cream and fold into the dough.

Note: Fresh pumpkin puree will add more moisture than canned puree. You will most likely need a bit more flour to keep the dough from becoming too sticky… I used about 1/4-1/2 cup extra!

mmm… scone dough

When the dough comes together, place onto a lightly floured surface.

Roll or flatten with hands into a circle about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick.

I generally use my hands to flatten the dough!

ready to cut

I used a circular pastry cutter to make circle scones…

if you prefer, you can flatten dough into a rounded rectangle and cut them into triangles or small squares with a knife.

scones, scones, scones

For a finishing touch, I paint a little cream on the top of each scone and sprinkle with just a hint of golden sugar!

Place scones on the baking sheet and bake about 12-15 minutes depending on size and thickness.

Enjoy!

Adapted from the Whole-Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scone recipe in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman.

Homemade Caramel Sauce for Caramel Apples – Gluten Free by Allison

I was on my way to purchase some flowers and walked past these apples at the Holesovice market, glanced at them as I continued right on by and then I took a few steps back to stop and admire them. I had to take a closer look and truly appreciate their gorgeous colors up close. How could I resist from buying some of these beauties? Well, I just couldn’t! I walked away with several bags full of crisp beautiful apples of varying shades and combinations of green, red and golden yellow all grown here in the Czech Republic. Now I can be a bit of a harsh critic when it comes to apples. I’m from Washington after all! But I do have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the apples in different ways over the last week or so.

 

Truth be told, I’ve been craving caramel, not just any kind of caramel, but homemade caramels. My Aunt D and my Grandma have made some amazing caramels for the holidays over the years and since I’ve been gluten-free, most good quality caramels available to purchase are covered in chocolate that contains gluten! So it was high time for a sweet treat.

 

 

Caramel-flavored sweetened condensed milk can too be yours at Albert here in the Czech Republic. Couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it for the first time months ago. It even says directly on the can (the English translation is: “suitable for gluten-free diet”)!

 

 

 

Homemade Caramel Sauce for Caramel Apples

Ingredients

250 grams/1 cup of salted butter ( I use Madeta Maslo in the light blue package)

2 1/3 cups brown sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

397 grams/14 oz. sweetened condensed milk (I used salto, caramel flavored sweeted condensed milk)

2 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Combine first four ingredients into a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and stir constantly until the mixture reaches between the soft ball stage and the firm ball stage on your candy thermometer. I cooked it until 250 degrees Fahrenheit and it turned out perfect to my liking! Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and quickly stir to combine. Poke apples in the center with wooden sticks or chopsticks and swirl the apple around in the warm caramel until coated. You can add extra toppings such as nuts, sprinkles, coconut, or candy to make it more festive and colorful if you’d like while warm. Let cool and enjoy!

 

 

Warm Roasted Butternut Squash Salad by Allison

Warm Roasted Butternut Squash Salad by Allison

I’m a sucker for squash. Really truly! The first year I arrived in Prague, there didn’t seem to be any butternut squash around the city. Maybe it is because I wasn’t “in the know” and didn’t know where it was available. The next year, it miracously arrived at Tesco in random spurts. I’d hear a co-worker talking about making butternut squash soup for dinner and I’d ask where they picked it up and by the time I got there 24 hours later, there was no trace of those tasty butternut squash left in the produce aisles. But now, thanks to the farmers and farmers markets, we seems to have an abudance of this lovely orange squash to consume! Lucky us!

I like making this warm salad on a crisp autumn day when the oven warms the kitchen and the aromas from the oven fill the rooms in my apartment. I picked up a large butternut squash from the Holesovice market along with some red peppers, garlic and goat chesse for this dish.

Warm Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

1/2 large butternut squash peeled, cored and cubed into 1 1/2 ” pieces

3 red peppers, deseeded and deveined, cut into chunks

1 can of rinsed chickpeas (15 oz)

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

olive oil for drizzling

salt and pepper

fresh goat cheese for the top

flat leaf parsley, 3 Tbsp. chopped finely

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

Combine butternut squash cubes, red pepper cubes, chickpeas and garlic in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread on a roasting pan and roast uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and add parsley and goat cheese. Mix and enjoy!