GF Pavlova with a Twist by Allison

I tried making pavlova two times before with my hand-held “immersion blender/tool” but it was an epic fail. The egg whites just never got stiff enough and my “Tesco special” was not making the grade. So I gave up…..until I pulled my cobalt blue KitchenAid mixer out of my top cupboard. Why yes, I had a KitchenAid mixer but couldn’t ever get it to work properly as my voltage converter I had wasn’t working properly. A friend was getting rid of hers so whallah! I knew where all of the fuse boxes were and had access to all of them in case I blew any fuses, which I did, but I got my prized KitchenAid mixer to work! This definitely called for a re-do of the pavlova as I knew my KitchenAid would be able to get the job done. You see, I was such an avid baker that I decided to carry my KitchenAid mixer back with me from the U.S. to Prague in my carry-on bag several years ago. Oh you should have seen the looks on the security personnel’s faces! They were pulling each other towards the screen and shaking their heads in disbelief! One gentleman pulled me aside and said, “Mam, is this mixer yours?!” I replied, “Yes it is sir….” with a smile of course and he said, “Oh, well Mam, we haven’t seen a KitchenAid mixer come through here before! It is quite an unusual item to carry with you but everything is fine from our side, hope it makes the journey for you” and that was that! I knew it was a questionable item to take on the plane but I did have my Mom wait before she left the airport in case they wouldn’t allow it so I could give it to her to take home. But I gave my Mom the thumbs up signal and waved goodbye before I headed towards my gate on the other side of security.
FullSizeRender_2

Luckily I was flying business class on award miles and no one questioned the weight of my bag along my journey. In case you’re wondering, I was able to lift it into the overhead compartment on my own on two different flights as well! So you can imagine how rewarding it was for me to finally use it and to pull off a pavlova to serve at Easter brunch! The twist is the pavlova has cinnamon and vanilla bean in it…..and it is delicious, seriously delicious.

FullSizeRender_3

FullSizeRender_4

FullSizeRender_1

FullSizeRender

 

Now I just need to work on preventing the cracking of the pavlova so next time I won’t cook it as long!

recipe for the pavlova slightly adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients 

For the pavlova:
6 egg whites
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 heaping teaspoon balsamic vinegar
seeds scraped from a vanilla bean

To assemble:

2 small containers or 1 large container of liquid whipped cream 40% fat
2 Tbsp. icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups mixed berries for the top

To make the pavlova: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until satiny peaks form. Add the sugar, 1 spoonful at a time, and continue beating until the mixture becomes stiff and very shiny.

Using a spatula, fold in the cinnamon, balsamic vinegar, and vanilla bean. Spoon the mixture onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, forming a 10-inch circle that is about 2-inches thick.

Place in the oven, and immediately turn the oven down to 300°F or 150°C. Bake for about 1 hour . When the pavlova is done baking, it should look and feel dry on top. Remove from the oven, and let cool in a dry place overnight.

The next day, invert the pavlova onto a serving dish, peel away the parchment and reverse onto another serving dish. The pavlova shell can be made up to 48 hours in advance. Be sure to wrap it well in plastic wrap and keep it in a dry place until ready to assemble.

To make the whip cream: Use an electric whisk to beat the whipping cream until smooth. Whisk in the icing sugar and vanilla extract.

To assemble the pavolva: Dollop the whipped cream into the center of the pavlova, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle the fruit over the cream. Enjoy with friends and family!

 

 

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!

Avocado-Cilantro Eggs- two ways! By Nikki

EGGS!

EGGS!

Happy Easter! In light of the celebrations, the festivals, and the Easter bunny, I know there are lots of EGGS being used this weekend! Colored and dyed eggs, chocolate eggs and of course, plastic eggs filled with candy, toys and other things children love to receive. But as an adult, I most look forward to deviled eggs. I have posted my Granny’s deviled eggs on The Prague Basket as part of the Thanksgiving post. They are traditional and delicious… you should try them! But recently, I came across a recipe for Avocado-Cilantro eggs. The best part about this recipe is that you will use NO MAYO! I do not like Mayonnaise so this recipe is excellent for me. I enjoyed these eggs on their own; however, as I was in a hurry to get out the door for an Easter weekend trip, I crushed these eggs to make a quick egg salad! I LOVE an egg salad sandwich. I enjoyed mine open faced before heading to the airport… However I will make them again in the Spring for a picnic or a quick summer sandwich! However you choose to eat these eggs (and I know you will!)- ENJOY!

Deviled Eggs

deviled eggs

Avocado-Cilantro Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1 ripe avocado
1/2 tsp lime juice
1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
A few dashes of Tabasco sauce
A few grinds of pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Directions:

1. Mash together avocado and egg yolks until smooth.

2. Add lime juice, tabasco and salt- mix well.

3. Add cilantro and pepper and mix until combined.

4. Fill egg halves to desired  amount and top with a cilantro leaf!

5. ENJOY!

Egg Salad

open faced egg salad sammy

Follow the same recipe as above but instead of filling the eggs, crush the egg whites into the mixture until blended!

Fill the middle of a sandwich or eat open faced like me!

A Wee Valentine’s Day Celebration! by L

Happy Valentine's Day from Toddler Central!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Toddler Central!

While most children in Prague have been enjoying these past days dressed up in their costumes and celebrating Carnaval, our household is working on spreading the love. I have been busy preparing our home to celebrate my second favorite American holiday: Valentine’s Day! For me, this day has never been about the romance, the flowers or the chocolates.  Just like Julia Child and her husband, I get a kick out of making and sending home-made valentine cards to my family and friends. Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a greeting decorated with lots of hearts, glitter and lace with the colors red, pink and white? Even though Valentine’s day isn’t widely celebrated here in Prague, unlike the States, I am excited to introduce this holiday to my daughters and spread some of Cupid’s inspiration.

Our garland of homemade hearts!

Our garland of homemade hearts!

In fact, I must have been feeling extremely excited about Valentine’s day because I decided to host an afternoon play group for my daughters’ friends and their mothers. However, coming up with a menu was a bit challenging. What exactly does one prepare for a group of year old toddlers?

This is what I came up with:

Mini Heart Shaped Toast with Cheese and Jam

Mini Heart Shaped Toast with Cheese and Jam

Heart Shaped Cheese and Jam Sandwiches

Ingredients:

1 loaf of whole wheat or white bread

1 small heart-shaped cookie cutter

Olive oil (just enough to grease your baking tray)

1 round of pasteurized goat cheese

1 block of cream cheese

Your choice of red colored low sugar jam. We used raspberry and strawberry.

Preheat oven at 150 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with a few tablespoons of oil. Using a small heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut heart shapes from slices of bread. Place on cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Depending on what type of goat cheese you purchase, you can also add it to the baking tray to warm it up.

Serve with cream cheese, goat cheese, a serving of raspberry and strawberry jam.

P2020185

Carrot, Apple, Coconut and Cinnamon Mini-Muffins

This recipe was adapted from Weelicious.com One of our lil’ pals has a dairy allergy, so instead of whole cow’s milk, I used soy milk.

Carrot, Apple, Coconut and Cinnamon Mini-Muffins

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

2 carrots, peeled & grated, about 1 cup

1 apple, peeled and grated, about 1/2 cup

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup soy milk

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. In a small bowl, mix the carrots, apples and coconut together. In another separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.  Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir to combine.  Then add the carrots, apple and coconut mix and carefully blend. Place 1 tbsp of batter into greased mini muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Heart Shaped Potato Poppers

Heart Shaped Potato Poppers

These are usually served in round balls, but for Valentine’s day, I used a large heart-shaped cookie cutter for this occasion.

Heart Shaped Potato Poppers (adapted from The Laurel’s Kitchen)

Ingredients:

1/2 onion, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

1 teaspoon thyme or oregano

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/4 cups mashed potato

1 cup cooked brown rice

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup bread crumbs (whole grain if possible)

1/4 cup crushed pine nuts (optional)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C

Saute onion and celery in oil. Add your choice of herb. Combine all ingredients and shape either into a heart or 1 1/2″ balls. Place on greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until slightly browned. Serve warm and if you like, with some tomato sauce.

Valentine’s Day isn’t Valentine’s Day for me if I don’t get crafty. Here are the links to some of the activities I did with my 18 month old twins! Happy Valentine’s Day from Prague!

Heart Garland

Valentine Footprints

Valentine treats for the Mamas and Lil'Ones

Valentine treats for the Mommies and Lil’Ones

It’s called, “Keeping your ducks in a row”! – guest post by Tom Hume

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

After a full day of skiing on Mt. Hood, it was a treat to come home to a New Year’s day dinner of roast wild duck, oyster stuffing and sweet, baked acorn squash.
That is a nicely centered plate!

That is a nicely centered plate- thanks Mom!

The post below is a contribution by my dad who has always had an interest in fish and wildlife- especially hunting, fishing, and clam digging. So much of what I have learned about being a creative cook has come from working in the kitchen with Papa Bear!
Here is what he has to say about roasting wild ducks…
plucking the feathers

plucking the feathers

After the birds were plucked, they were soaked, breast down in organic 1% milk for 3 hours.
This decreases the game-y flavor of the meat.
ducks take a milk bath

ducks take a milk bath

When finished soaking, place the birds breast side up in a baking dish.
Pat dry with paper towel. Then separate the skin from the breast meat with fingers.
the dirty work

the dirty work

Under the skin place 1 piece of small mandarin, 1 dried apricot and 1/2 slice of apple on each side of the breast, squishing the mandarin in between the skin and the meat. Salt the inside of the cavity with kosher salt and replace 1 heart and 1 liver per duck along with remaining apple and 1 minced garlic clove.
prepping the birds

prepping the birds

Slather the top skin with olive oil, dust with a mixture of dried sage and thyme, kosher salt and fresh parsley.
almost ready...

almost ready…

Pour about 1/3 cup of full bodied red wine in the bottom of the pan and roast on 375 degrees F for 50 minutes, covered.
Mama and Papa Hume- teamwork!

Mama and Papa Hume- teamwork!

Reduce heat to 325 degrees F and continue to roast for another 15-20 minutes.

those squash look yum

those squash look yum

Let sit out of oven for approx 10 minutes, uncovered before serving.

those are some beautiful ducks- all in a row!

those are some beautiful “ducks in a row”!

Notes about these ducks: “Northern Mallards are originally from Canada. The duck is recognizable by the 1 quarter inch of yellow, insulating fat under the down. They feed on grain and corn. Their flight path brings them through Moses Lake in Eastern Washington then on to Umatilla in Eastern Oregon. Colder weather will push them further south to the Klamath river basin where they winter with up to half a million ducks and geese.”

Ain’t No Ham Like the One I Know by L

Ham here. Ham there. Ham everywhere. In our house, Christmas dinner isn’t a dinner without a ham.

Hamon:Filipino Style!

Hamon:Filipino Style!

One of the guest stars at our family’s table during these holidays was the deliciously sweet and tender Filipino Hamon! It’s so simple to make and will leave your taste buds wanting more! This post will be short as I know many of you are busy getting ready to say farewell to 2012 and welcome the new year.

So, I’ll say on behalf of The Prague Basket, we hope you and your family had the merriest of Christmases and may 2013 bring you much fortune, happiness, love, joy and good ham!

Filipino Hamon  (best if prepared the night before serving)

All set for the carving!

All set for the carving!

1 Cured Pork Butt on the bone, with or without skin, it is up to you, so are the grams and kilos)

1 bottle of beer

1/2 container of pineapple juice

1 liter bottle of  7/up or Sprite

2 bay leaves

1/2 -1 cup of brown sugar (depends on how large your ham is)

Sliced pineapple rings

Maraschino cherries

Parsley

In a large pot, add all the liquid ingredients, ham and 2 bay leaves.

Let the marinade come to a boil and then turn the heat down.

Let the ham simmer for 30 minutes.

Then let it sit overnight. Be sure to rotate it at some point.

For the next day…

Heat oven to 200 celsius or 400 fahrenheit.

Place ham in a large baking pan.

Take a brush and glaze the ham with the liquid marinade.

Then rub the ham with brown sugar. Make sure it is evenly coated.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Garnish with sliced pineapple rings, maraschino cherries and parsley.

Best way to have leftover ham!

Best way to have leftover ham. A post-Christmas ham and cheese sandwich!

Lola’s Lumpia by L

P2010511

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.

P2010480

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!!!!”

P2010530

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.

P2010523
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!

DSC05478

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

DSC05463

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.

DSC05448

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.

DSC05457

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…

mmm

mmm

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!

DSC05473

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!

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.