What’s Been Baking? Pandemic winter edition

Here we are, in 2021, with the Coronavirus pandemic unfortunately still raging. 2020 flew by in a blur of baby (turned toddler!) care and lockdown-opening up-tightening restrictions-lockdown. You already know that we celebrated a small Thanksgiving and did distanced treat deliveries in lieu of having friends over. This winter, F and I have been baking more bread-like creations, so in a riff on my “What’s Been Cooking?” series, I thought I’d share the baking projects that are keeping us inspired at home.

What’s been baking:

  • Sourdough bread: Back in London, there were a couple of years in which we baked sourdough bread regularly – friends taught us the classic “basic country sourdough” recipe from Tartine Bread. But at some point the starter died, and then we moved, so homemade sourdough fell by the wayside for a while. Luckily, F’s mom gave us some of her sourdough starter last fall and that inspired us to start baking again. The first attempt was abysmal! Our shaping technique was rusty and we over-proved the dough. After watching a number of shaping videos on YouTube, we were ready to try again. The second attempt went much better. We’re now in a rhythm of baking two loaves every two to three weeks, and it’s great to keep a stock of bread in the freezer. The sourdough also makes great grilled cheese.
  • Bagels: my good friend Emma (featured on this blog via her pumpkin pie recipe) has been telling me about her bagel baking escapades for a while; she always says they are not as difficult to make as you may think. As it’s nigh on impossible to get proper bagels here in Germany, F suggested we try it ourselves. We used this recipe, and it really wasn’t that hard. The bagels turned out well enough that we made them two weekends in a row!
  • Fudgy brownies: I had a brownie craving a few weeks ago, in part after reading this piece on the art of chewy brownies. I tried the recipe linked from the article, and it was pretty darn delicious. F and I devoured them over the course of two days.
  • Baby E’s first birthday was in December (she’s officially not a baby anymore! Toddler life, here we are), and I made these sugar-free banana muffins for her. They were a bit bland to our adult tastebuds, but E liked them and they were nice with a schmear cream cheese on top.
  • Banana bread muffins: it was a rainy Tuesday afternoon and I was craving a sweet baked good. We only had 1.5 ripe bananas, so I halved my nutty banana bread recipe and baked them as 8 muffins. They hit the spot.
  • Crumpets: Well, an attempt at them. I was chatting with two London friends (hi, H & E!) and described our bagel-baking attempts. H then challenged me to make crumpets! F and I had talked about trying them from scratch at some point, and H inspired me to order some egg/crumpet rings and give it a go. I used this Jamie Oliver recipe. The crumpets were a bit more finicky than I had hoped, in large part because they stuck to the rings. The flavor was also too yeasty. So not the greatest first attempt, but I will try again and I’d like to try sourdough crumpets at some point, too. Watch this space!
  • Pizza: Yes, I count this as baking. Pizza bakes in the oven and is a form of (flat)bread, right? We’ve done a couple of classic sheet pizzas as well as pan pizza. Some of our favorite toppings include (not all at the same time): tuna, mushrooms, spinach (frozen works great), artichoke hearts, and tomato slices. Yum all around.

Unusually, I didn’t bake any sweet treats around Christmastime. We were gifted some cookies in early December, and F’s mom baked her delicious Nusskuchen when we were at their place, so there wasn’t really need for extra sweetness at home.

What have you been baking this winter?


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Pandemic Thanksgiving (2020)

Simple but delicious

After having a small Thanksgiving last year due to the uncertainty of Baby E’s arrival, F and I had been looking forward to hosting a larger gathering this year. Alas, the global Coronavirus pandemic hindered those plans, but that did not stop us from cooking, baking, and celebrating our favorite holiday anyway!

Since we couldn’t invite friends over, we decided to make two batches of these maple pecan bars and do distanced delivery drop-offs to neighbors in our building and many of our local friends. It feels nice to share some parts of American culture with others and express gratitude for friendship and neighborliness, especially during these difficult, socially-distanced times.

F’s beautiful turkey breast

F and I then elected to make a 2-person lunch for Thanksgiving Day (the fourth Thursday in November, in case you’re wondering). That way, Baby E (she’s almost 1! Not really a baby anymore) could join us for her first Thanksgiving.

We opted for a classic menu, void of some of our usual dishes (no sweet potato casserole or cranberry cake! Maybe I’ll make them for Christmas). Despite cooking a relatively simple meal, we still did a lot of prep on Wednesday to make Thursday less hectic:

  • I made pumpkin pie using my good friend Emma’s recipe (now posted here on the blog!). We each enjoyed a slice for second breakfast on Thursday after a long walk around the Aasee.
  • F brined the turkey breast in a buttermilk brine (from Samin Nosrat in NYT Cooking), adding lemon zest and fresh rosemary and thyme to the brine.
  • F made chicken stock from scratch and then turned it into a classic gravy.
  • I made my go-to cranberry sauce and popped it into the fridge.

On Thursday, all we had to do was roast the turkey breast, make luxurious (read: lots of cream and butter) garlic mashed potatoes, and boil some Brussels sprouts. It was perhaps the most “classic” or “simple” Thanksgiving meal we’ve done, but everything turned out well and it hit the spot. Delicious!

Baby E’s Thanksgiving lunch

In case you’re wondering, Baby E had her own mini Thanksgiving plate for lunch: boiled Brussels sprouts (I was pleased she ate some!), potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and turkey (just boiled, but then she complained when seeing our plates, so we gave her some of the roast turkey breast and she devoured it. Was there salt in it? Yes. Was it a special occasion? Also yes.). She also enjoyed some leftover canned pumpkin puree – yum.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, socially-distanced Thanksgiving weekend and start to what promises to be a strange winter holiday season. I hope you can connect with your loved ones virtually and/or safely outside. When in doubt, I highly recommend eating dessert for breakfast.


Recipe: Emma’s Pumpkin Pie

Once a year I enjoy a slice or two of silky spiced pumpkin pie, ideally with some freshly whipped cream on the side. I wouldn’t eat pumpkin pie all the time, but it’s one of those treats to look forward to at Thanksgiving.

Although it often features on our Thanksgiving dessert table, we haven’t had a go-to pumpkin pie recipe until last year, when my close friend Emma shared her recipe with us. Emma said she adapted it from The Joy of Cooking, and I’ve made a couple of tweaks of my own.

ready for the oven

The filling for this pumpkin pie is super easy: it’s a dump, whisk, and pour strategy that allows you to get the pie in the oven in no time. You are welcome to adjust the spice levels if they’re too strong or weak for your taste (F said he’d prefer a little less ginger, but I quite liked the extra tickle it gave my tongue).

Many people blind bake (pre-bake) their pie crust for pumpkin pie. I tried this last year but the crust sank, so now I skip that step and haven’t had any problems with soggy bottoms – your pie just might need a few minutes’ extra baking time.

NB: As with my dad’s apple pie, I have not included a pie crust recipe here, because there are so many recipes already out there and/or you might have your own. I use this recipe from smitten kitchen.

Emma’s Pumpkin Pie (adapted from Emma, who originally adapted it from The Joy of Cooking; makes 1 standard 9-inch pie)

Ingredients

  • 1 9-inch pie crust (your recipe of choice; I use smitten kitchen’s “all butter, really flaky pie dough”)
  • Pumpkin filling:
    • 3 eggs
    • 2 generous cups (500g = 1.25 cans) pumpkin puree
    • 1 tbsp cinnamon
    • 1 tbsp ginger
    • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
    • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup (70g) brown sugar
    • 1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 375F/190C (convection setting).
  2. Roll out your pie dough and transfer it to a standard 9-inch pie dish. Pat it into the dish and crimp the edges in your preferred style (I press down with a fork around the edges).
  3. Make the pumpkin filling: Combine all the filling recipes in a mixing bowl and whisk until well-combined.
  4. Pour the filling into the pie dish.
  5. Bake the pie for 45-50 minutes, or until the filling has a slight wobble and the crust is cooked through (it helps to use a glass pie dish so you can peek underneath). If the crust’s edges brown too quickly, cover it with foil.
  6. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool for at least 2 hours. Store at room temperature or in the fridge (I prefer the latter), and enjoy plain or with whipped cream.

Recipe: Terry’s Apple Pie with Crumble Topping

I’ve tried a number of apple pie recipes over the years, but I’ve never really found one that I loved enough to return to regularly. 

Then I remembered that my dad has been making the same apple pie for years and it is always delicious. In fact, I even blogged about that tasty apple pie 8 years ago, in this post. I only recently realized that I never posted the recipe for it. Well, it’s high time to remedy that.

my dad’s delicious apple pie, 8 years ago!

My dad adapted this recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook and it has become his own; I simply think of it as “Terry’s apple pie.” It has a short ingredient list and is quick to put together. If your crust is ready to roll out, you can have the pie in the oven within half an hour, and in your mouth within 3 hours!

NB: I have not included a pie crust recipe, because there are so many recipes already out there, and you might already have a go-to crust recipe. I usually end up using this recipe from smitten kitchen; Serious Eats also has a good crust recipe here.

Terry’s Apple Pie with Crumble Topping (adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook; makes 1 standard 9-inch pie)

Ingredients

  • 1 9-inch pie crust (your recipe of choice; I use smitten kitchen’s “all butter, really flaky pie dough”)
  • Apple filling:
    • 1/2-2/3 cup (100-135g) white sugar
    • 2 tbsp (15g) plain/AP flour
    • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
    • 6 cups pared, cored, & sliced tart/baking apples (6-8 apples; fewer if your apples are very large)
  • Crumble topping:
    • 1/2 cup (64g) plain/AP flour
    • 1/4 cup (50g) white or brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup (57g) unsalted butter

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 400F/200C (convection setting).
  2. Make the apple filling: Pare, core, and slice your apples, then put them into a large mixing bowl. Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and cardamom & stir into the apples.
  3. Roll out your pie dough and transfer it to a standard 9-inch pie dish. Pat it into the dish and crimp the edges in your preferred style (I press down with a fork around the edges).
  4. Turn the apple mixture into the pie dish.
  5. Make the crumble topping: Combine flour and sugar, then cut in the butter until the mixture reaches a crumbly consistency. Sprinkle the topping over the apples.
  6. Bake the pie for 45-50 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly, the crust is cooked through (it helps to use a glass pie dish so you can peek underneath), and the crumble topping is starting to turn golden brown. If the pie browns too quickly, cover it with foil.
  7. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool for at least 2 hours. Enjoy plain or with whipped cream, ice cream, or yogurt (for breakfast – yum).

Recipe: Red Cabbage Slaw with Punchy Dressing

Last month we made some soba noodle salad with peanut sauce, for which we needed red cabbage. The only red cabbage we could find in the supermarket was quite large, though, and we ended up using just 1/4 of it for the noodle salad.

What to do with the rest of the cabbage, then? It’s summertime, so we wanted something crunchy and refreshing. I immediately thought of slaw but wasn’t sure what dressing would be best. A quick search for “red cabbage slaw” on NYT Cooking provided some inspiration and this red cabbage slaw with punchy dressing was born! F and I have since had it three times – each time with a further quarter of that same cabbage we bought for the soba noodle salad.

This slaw is great on/alongside tacos, as a tangy foil for grilled cheese sandwiches, and as a side dish for a barbecue menu. Double, triple, or quadruple the recipe below to serve more people, and take it along to your next socially distanced event. You could also make it with a standard white cabbage if you can’t find red. Feel free to play around with the ingredient proportions in the dressing, too – I never actually measure but rather glug and dollop my way along. Add more honey if you want it sweeter, or amp up the lemon/lime for more tang. However you do it, this is a perfect summer salad!

Red Cabbage Slaw with Punchy Dressing (inspired by Martha Rose Shulman at NYT Cooking; makes 2 generous servings of slaw – just double or triple to feed more people)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 red cabbage, sliced very thinly (ideally on a mandonline)
  • to taste: salt & pepper
  • Punchy Dressing:
    • juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime
    • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 tbsp honey
    • 2-3 tsp Dijon mustard

Procedure

  1. Wash the cabbage and use a mandoline to shave the cabbage into thin slices. (You can also do this with a very sharp knife but it’s hard to get the slices uniform.)
  2. In a jar or small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and shake or whisk to combine.
  3. Pour the dressing over the cabbage, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss until the cabbage is fully coated with dressing. Enjoy immediately or let sit in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

What’s Been Cooking? Pandemic edition

 

Life has certainly changed a bit since my last “What’s Been Cooking?” update. Social distancing is the new norm, so the three of us have been holed up at home (when we’re not out for our daily walk(s)) doing lots of cooking. This won’t be an exhaustive list of everything we’ve cooked since the stay-at-home recommendations started a month ago in Germany; rather, I’ll try to highlight some of our shopping strategies and follow that with cooking/baking highlights and projects. So without further ado…

Shopping & stocking the pantry:

F had good foresight regarding the quick global spread of the Coronavirus, so we started stocking up our pantry early with rice, lentils, dried beans, and canned goods. The only thing we forgot was flour, which sold out of the shops and supermarkets really quickly! Apparently when the going gets tough, the Germans get baking… We finally found some Type 1050 (high gluten) flour, which worked great for pizza dough but probably isn’t great for sweet baking; I finally caved and bought 2.5kg of Type 550 (all-purpose) flour online. It was not cheap but I’m glad to have it now.

We have been planning our meals weekly and doing a big shop once a week for a few years. It was simpler to shop less in London because our commutes were so long, and here in Münster we find it easier to save money when we’re not popping out to the shops every other day and inevitably impulse-buying things we don’t really need. So COVID-19 hasn’t really changed our shopping habits, except for trying to go when it’s least busy: for supermarkets, that has been around 8:30am on a weekday, and before 8am on Wednesdays for our weekly outdoor market.

What’s been cooking:

  • F discovered Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt’s YouTube channel and we watched his video on pan pizza. Needless to say, we were inspired to try it ourselves! F made a sauce like Kenji’s, and I made NYT’s Roberta’s pizza dough, which is one of the two I usually make. We used our stainless steel pans and topped the pizzas with cheese, basil, and salami. After 10-12 minutes in the oven, we quickly finished browning the bottoms on the stove, and voilà! Super delicious crispy pan pizza; we both agreed they were perhaps the best pizzas we’ve ever made. Richtig geil. We might never go back to the sheet pan style…
  • Our favorite buttermilk pancakes for weekend brunch! Always in the rotation.
  • Michaela’s chewy chocolate brownies – devoured just by the two of us over the course of a few days. It’s not great for the waistline when social distancing prevents you from sharing goodies with friends, but it is delicious.
  • F made a delicious Bärlauch (wild garlic) pesto, and we even had enough to freeze for future meals.
  • Pretty regular batches dal and rice, often from Priya Krishna’s Indian-ish cookbook.
  • One of our main meals for the week is always a big, hearty salad. Sometimes we do a Niçoise-style, sometimes beet(root) and carrot, sometimes just a mass of chopped veggies. At the moment we are loving cooking dried butter beans to add to our salads: soak them overnight, then add a generous pinch of salt and a couple of bay leaves and cook at a strong simmer for 45 minutes.
  • I made my whole wheat sweet potato quick bread, since we had more whole wheat than white flour. Great for breakfast and/or afternoon snacks.
  • For our fourth wedding anniversary this month, I made Melissa Clark’s one bowl cornmeal poundcake; it came together really quickly and made a great snacking cake, toasted and spread with butter and honey. I used lemon zest, half butter and half rapeseed oil, and split the flour between spelt and all purpose/plain.
  • For Easter weekend, hot cross buns from the Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook. They are actually not hard to make, and I doubled the recipe to produce 24 buns so we could gift some (at a distance) to our local friends in lieu of meeting in person. Yum!
  • This crispy potato kugel from NYT Cooking: definitely for potato lovers! It could’ve used another onion and a tad more salt, but overall was quite nice with applesauce and sour cream. It was a bit too much work to make regularly but it was a fun project.

What have you been cooking while sheltering at home?


What’s Been Cooking? Early 2020 edition

I was hoping to publish this earlier and now it’s almost March…where have the first two months of the year gone?! The time is flying scarily fast, especially as Baby E grows and develops just as swiftly. In the kitchen, F and I are focusing on more vegetarian dishes (not that we ate a lot of meat beforehand, but we’re now really only buying meat from the market every other week or so. We do regularly eat canned tuna) and thus have tried some great new recipes this winter to add to our already pretty good arsenal of vegetarian meals. Here’s what’s been cooking:

What have you been cooking so far this year?


Recipe: Thai-Style Peanut Sauce

I thought F and had a pretty good Asian-style peanut sauce recipe for use on soba noodle salads and the like. Then I discovered this recipe from Cupful of Kale: we’ve already made the sweet potato and cauliflower lettuce wraps twice this winter, but the peanut sauce has featured even more frequently.

Compared to my old recipe, this peanut sauce has a shorter ingredient list, is extra creamy thanks to coconut milk, and has a good kick from Thai red curry paste. It is so good. As the Germans might say, einfach geil. I feel like this is the only peanut sauce I ever need to make again!

I’ve made a few tweaks to the original recipe and am quite flexible with my measurements, so feel free to add or subtract from the amounts to balance the flavors to your liking. If you want a thinner sauce, add some water. If you want more tang, increase the lime and/or rice vinegar. If you want more coconut flavor and creaminess, add more coconut milk. Increase or decrease the curry paste amount to adjust the level of spice. However you do it, it will be delicious!

Thai-Style Peanut Sauce (recipe adapted from Cupful of Kale; makes 3-4 generously drizzled servings)

Ingredients

  • 2 generous tbsp natural peanut butter (ideally just roasted peanuts, with/without salt is okay)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 2-3 tsp Thai red curry paste
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 tsp rice vinegar

Procedure

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small food processor and blend until smooth. (You could also use a hand mixer to bring everything together.) Use as dressing for a soba noodle salad or drizzle over crispy tofu and roasted vegetables.

Year in Review: 2019

Happy New Year! Frohes neues Jahr! З Новим Роком!

I know I’m a bit late with this, but give me a break – I had a baby less than eight weeks ago! As we settle into 2020 and a new decade (!), here are some reflections on my 2019.

Running and fitness in 2019:

  • Distance run: Strava tells me that in 2019 I ran 530.4km =  329.58mi, which is less than half of my 2018 distance, but considering I was pregnant for 9.5 months of 2019, I think that’s not too bad.
  • I had a really good start to the running year, with a solid Fred Hughes 10 Mile time and one of my best XC races in recent years. I snuck in a casual but swift-ish 5-mile intra-club race in March in Finsbury Park. Due to pregnancy, I consciously slowed down and cut out speedwork by April-May, so ran a steady Crouch End 10k with Jo (at around 11 weeks pregnant) in May. That was also a bittersweet final road race in London before moving to Germany.
  • I ran 12 parkruns from January through May, including a course PB at Finsbury parkrun in February.
  • Distance cycled: 1,527.9km = 949.39mi of commuting in London and then Münster, with a few fitness rides thrown in on Cape Cod. I was happy to be able to cycle (in flat Münster on an upright, Dutch-style bike) throughout my entire pregnancy.

Favorite books read in 2019:

  • In 2019 I read 24 books. Here are some I enjoyed the most:
  • Deborah Frances-White, The Guilty Feminist. I discovered DFW’s “The Guilty Feminist” podcast in late 2018 or early 2019. It’s a hilarious comedy podcast with appropriate serious moments covering a range of topics relevant to feminism and broader equality today. The podcast let me to DFW’s book of the same name, which was fun and insightful to read. Highly recommended for anyone who calls themselves a feminist or believes in gender/person equality.
  • Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind is a fun bit of fantasy; I read the first two books in this trilogy and then ran out of steam, as the second book got a little repetitive. Some good unrequited love and magic, though!
  • Speaking of magic, F, my parents, and I all read the first trilogy of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series (first book: The Final Empire). They feature a fascinating and unique magic system as well as a strong female lead and a good amount of political and philosophical musing. Would recommend.
  • Yes, I was an English major. No, I hadn’t read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale until late last year. I was finally motivated to pick it up by the press and awards Atwood got around the publication of its sequel, The Testaments. I read both and they were equal parts fascinating and terrifying. The writing is also much more accessible than I anticipated it would be.
  • Jo recommended I read Mark Sullivan’s Beneath a Scarlet Sky and it was excellent. I love historical fiction, as you may know, and I also learned a lot about World War II in Italy.

Other highlights of 2019, in no particular order:

  • If you know me and/or follow this blog, you’ll know that 2019 was a big year for F and me:
    • We decided to move to Münster, Germany after 6.5 years in London.
    • We got pregnant (March) and had a baby (December)!
    • The above events included a new job for F – working remotely – and me going freelance as an English teacher in Münster. New work arrangements for both of us and so far going well (although I’m currently on a break from work given the second point above).
  • I passed a German exam to gain my B2 Goethe-Zertifikat. Next up: C1!
  • We spent a lovely two weeks with my parents in August on Cape Cod.
  • We celebrated Thanksgiving in Münster by sharing all the best desserts with friends here and making a two-person feast for ourselves.
  • I’ve continued to cook and bake loads, which is fun in our new larger kitchen in Münster. I had 6 weeks (that turned into almost 8 weeks) off before baby E was born, so I filled my time with many projects in the kitchen. F and I are still being mindful of how much meat we eat and where we get it. We’re eating a lot more vegetarian now and have added some new recipes to our rotation from Bon Appétit magazine and Priya Krishna’s Indian-ish cookbook as well as the ever-present NYT Cooking website/app.

I’m not big on resolutions but my main intentions for 2020 are to live as much in the moment as possible, enjoy baby E’s growth and development, get back into decent running shape, and figure out how I want to work as a freelancer going forward.

In some blog-related reflecting, here is a listicle of of my top posts via views in 2019:

  1. Lemon, Ginger, & Turmeric Infusion with Cloves & Honey – still my number-one viewed post! A delicious, warming, healing infusion
  2. A New Favorite (& possibly the BEST) Pancake Recipe – this remains our go-to pancake recipe and we’ve made it for and passed the recipe on to multiple friends in Germany
  3. Baked Scallops in White Wine Cream Sauce – a creamy, slightly fancy scallop bake nice on a cold winter’s day
  4. Issues in Modern Culture – overview of my MA program(me). Already 6-7 years ago!
  5. Smitten Kitchen’s Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – just the best classic oatmeal-raisin cookies
  6. Kale Sautéed in Olive Oil and Garlic – my favorite way to cook and eat kale. Works well with chard, too
  7. Käsekuchen (German cheesecake) – F’s favorite. Takes a bit of work but is totally worth it
  8. English Grammar Workshop: Prepositions – should I write more English teaching content?Comment if yes!
  9. Roasted Eggplant with Crispy Chickpeas, Lamb Meatballs, & Yogurt-Tahini Sauce – 4 recipes in one! Choose a couple or make them all
  10. Rhabarberkuchen mit Quarkcreme und Streuseln (Rhubarb Cake) – another classic German cake of many layered components. Make it in spring/early summer when the rhubarb is fresh!

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and successful 2020.

Recipe: Sausage Rolls

Some time last year, F and I got into the habit of treating ourselves to a sausage roll – a classic British hand-held snack – from Dunn’s Bakery in Crouch End after doing our weekly fruit and vegetable shopping across the street. F remarked at one point that sausage rolls must not be that hard to make at home, so he embarked on a recipe search and turned out some beauties based on this video.

Fast forward to a year later and we’re now in Germany without easy access to bakery-bought sausage rolls (the horror!). So with gray, wintery weather setting in, we thought we’d make them again ourselves while waiting for our tiny human to appear. This time, we tried our hand at homemade rough puff pastry, which turned out pretty well, with a little bit of lamination. You can definitely use store-bought puff pastry, though, to simplify and speed up the process.

Sausage rolls are easy to make: add fresh herbs to pork mince (ground pork, for US readers; Schweinehack for Germans!); make a log of meat (sounds appealing, I know) on top of the puff pastry; seal closed; egg wash and garnish with salt and fennel; bake; eat! Don’t skip the fennel and sea salt on the crust – they really bring it all together.

Sausage Rolls (recipe adapted from here; makes 10-14 sausage rolls, depending on how you slice)

Ingredients

  • 1 pack/batch of puff pastry (store bought is fine; we’ve used that as well as this homemade rough puff from Joy the Baker)
  • 1kg/2.2lbs pork mince (ground pork)
  • 1 medium bunch each of fresh sage, thyme, & chives, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • to taste: salt & pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten (for egg wash)
  • 1-2 large pinches of coarse sea salt flakes
  • 1-2 large pinches of fennel seeds

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F (convection setting).
  2. Chop the herbs and mix them into the pork mince along with the bread crumbs and salt & pepper.
  3. Lay/roll out the puff pastry and arrange the mince on top in a log shape, a few centimeters from one long edge.
  4. Lightly egg wash the long edge that the meat is closest to, then fold the pastry over the meat and seal to the egg washed bit by crimping with a fork.
  5. Trim any excess pastry edge from the crimped side but make sure there is still a centimeter or so of sealed bit.
  6. Egg wash the top of the long log, then sprinkle on sea salt and fennel seeds.
  7. Cut the log into roll-sized pieces of your choice (you should get 10-14 individual sausage rolls) and arrange the pieces on a parchment-lined baking tray.
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown and the meat is cooked through (71C/160F).
  9. Let the sausage rolls cool for 15-20 minutes, then enjoy warm. You can store extras in the fridge and eat them cold or reheat them for 2-3 minutes in the microwave.

Recipe: Mama K’s Winter Rotkohl

Rotkohl, ready to cook

F and I have visited his parents’ house in western Germany for, I think, five of the six last Christmasses. A highlight is always Christmas (Eve) dinner: a feast of Sauerbraten (literally “sour roast” – not as weird as it sounds and actually very delicious!), gravy, Rosenkohl (Brussels sprouts), Semmelknödel (bread dumplings), and my mother-in-law’s delicious Rotkohl (red cabbage) dish. Last year, I helped “Mama K” make the Rotkohl and jotted down a few notes so I could share the recipe with you. Maybe you’ll be inspired to try it out for your own holiday feast this year!

Mama K’s winter Rotkohl is a silky-smooth, hearty side dish with a lovely balance of spices and sweetness. Warning: it’s not vegetarian! You could leave out the bacon fat, but the dish might lose some depth. The great thing about this Rotkohl is that it cooks up really quickly in a pressure cooker (you could also simmer it for a long time in a regular pot; I’d guess a slow cooker would also do a great job). If I remember correctly, we actually made it the day before and then reheated it for Christmas (Eve) dinner; that gave the flavors a chance to meld together in their glorious richness.

Anyway, to the recipe! This is a family recipe from K’s mother and I’d highly recommend it as a side dish to any festive (or even not-so-festive) winter meal. It’d probably make a great accompaniment to a Sunday roast.

Rotkohl prep

Mama K’s Winter Rotkohl (my mother-in-law’s recipe; serves 4-6 generously)

Ingredients

  • 4 small heads of red cabbage, chopped medium-fine (see picture at top of post)
  • 4 apples, peeled, halved, & cored
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup Speck (lardons/bacon cubes/salo), or any amount you prefer
  • to taste: red wine vinegar & sugar

Procedure

  1. Wash and chop the cabbage, then toss it into the pressure cooker.
  2. Wash, peel, halve, and core the apples and place them on top of the cabbage in the pressure cooker.
  3. Stick the cloves carefully through the bay leaves (so as not to lose them in the pot! No one likes to accidentally chomp on a whole clove) and then arrange them on top of the cabbage with the apples.
  4. Add a few cups of water to the pot, and salt to taste.
  5. Seal the pressure cooker, bring to a boil, and cook on medium-high pressure for about 10 minutes.
  6. While the cabbage is cooking, fry the Speck/lardons in a hot pan, draining regularly, until the pieces are small and crispy.
  7. When the cabbage is ready, stir in the Speck pieces as well as sugar and red wine vinegar to taste.
  8. Enjoy immediately or heat up the next day for an even richer treat!

What’s Been Cooking? Maternity leave, weeks 5-6

In Germany, expecting and new mothers have the advantage of a legally protected, essentially “no work allowed” time for 6 weeks before and 8 weeks after their due dates. So now I am on Mutterschutz (maternity leave) and working my way through some cooking and baking projects to keep me from getting too stir-crazy at home and to try and stock the freezer with easy winter meals to reheat when our tiny human arrives.

You can catch up on what I made in my first two weeks off here, and in my second two weeks off here. Below, see what I’ve gotten up to in my third fortnight off, including two Thanksgiving celebrations:

Week 5

On Monday, I made one of F’s and my go-to cool-weather dinners: these sweet potato and black bean enchiladas. The recipe is flexible and forgiving, and the enchiladas are always delicious. I’ve been making them semi-regularly for years.

sweet potato & black bean enchiladas

On Tuesday, I made a variation of The Full Helping’s curried quinoa salad. I discovered this recipe a year or so ago and it has become part of our regular salad rotation. The ingredients are really flexible – this time, I left out the broccoli and used two boiled beetroots that we had in the fridge. You can adjust the curry level in the dressing and swap in or out other veggies according to your preferences. Highly recommended!

Also on Tuesday, I baked two test lactation cookies from Serious Eats. I was skeptical of the brewer’s yeast so left it out. The cookies were delicious – F liked them, too! – and I froze the rest of the dough to batch-bake as and when I am breastfeeding (hopefully) and get a cookie craving (highly likely, whether or not I’m breastfeeding!).

simple & delicious

On Thursday I used up leftover cabbage by making smitten kitchen’s roasted cabbage with walnuts and parmesan. F billed it as “really nice, and so simple!” The lemony walnut dressing and hint of parmesan lifted the cabbage to the next level.

Wednesday through Friday, I spread out preparations for our Thanksgiving-themed Kaffee und Kuchen gathering on Saturday. We planned this in lieu of a full Thanksgiving, which, given my due date, we thought was a bit too risky to shell out for an entire turkey and all its trimmings. Enter a slightly early dessert extravaganza! But you’ll have to click here to read more about it.

Week 6

black pepper beef & broccoli

For Tuesday dinner, I made these curried potatoes, lentils, and peas from The Full Helping. They were tasty but quite mild; next time, I’d up the spice levels as well as the amount of lentils. On Wednesday for lunch, F and I made a delicious black pepper beef and broccoli stir-fry, based on this NYT recipe. We served it over rice. I also made some more of my go-to granola; now the freezer is well-stocked for upcoming granola cravings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday was Thanksgiving! There was no sign of the tiny human arriving, so we decided to prepare a mini Thanksgiving feast for just the two of us. Click here to see what we cooked.

choc nut butter oatmeal muffins

Last up for maternity leave cooking/baking: chocolate peanut butter oatmeal muffins from My Name is Yeh. I made these in a sudden burst of energy on Saturday while F was out helping friends move flats. I made a few adjustments to Molly’s recipe: spelt flour in place of the whole wheat flour; mostly almond butter + 20g peanut butter to make the right amount; dried cranberries; zartbitter (dark) chocolate chips; no coconut (didn’t have any). The muffins took 27 minutes to bake through and were thoroughly delicious! We nibbled a couple and I froze the rest for postpartum snacking needs.

That’s it for “What’s Been Cooking?” on maternity leave. Next up: have a baby – hopefully soon!


Thanksgiving 2019: Kaffee und Kuchen + A Feast for Two

 

Given that our tiny human’s arrival is estimated for just a couple of days after Thanksgiving this year, F and I decided it was too risky to plan a massive feast and invite loads of people on the actual holiday. But I wanted to do something to celebrate my favorite holiday and share it with friends in Germany. So, a bit like we did last year, I thought to combine Thanksgiving with the excellent German weekend afternoon tradition of Kaffee und Kuchen (“coffee and cake”), and to celebrate on the Saturday before (slightly less risky in terms of my due date).

Update: As of the day before Thanksgiving, our little turkey was still roasting, so we decided to plan and prepare a a mini Thanksgiving feast for just the two of us to enjoy on the actual day. I’ll outline the menu below the Kaffee und Kuchen details.

Thanksgiving Kaffee und Kuchen – the Saturday before Thanksgiving

I initially planned to make four desserts, and the week before sat down to strategize how to spread the shopping and baking out over a few days – partly to avoid oven clash, but also to avoid doing everything on one day because I don’t have the energy for that at the moment.

But as Saturday approached, my energy was waning and a few people said they couldn’t make it, so I dropped the apple crumble plan and stuck to the following:

  • These maple pecan bars, which this time I made with roughly 2/3 pecans and 1/3 walnuts (pecans are expensive here). These are very rich and sweet – one square at a time is enough – but totally worth it.
    • I made these on Thursday (two days before), put them in the fridge overnight, then cut them on Friday and stored them in a Tupperware container at room temperature.
  • My family’s cranberry upside-down cake, which never fails to surprise and delight people’s taste buds! It’s F’s and my favorite for this time of year.
    • I made this on Friday (the day before) and popped it in the fridge until Saturday morning.
  • My good friend Emma’s recipe for pumpkin pie. I had a bit of a par-baking crust fail on the first attempt (they sunk!), using this pie crust recipe from smitten kitchen. After despairing and then resting, I made a new crust (Emma’s recipe) and risked not par-baking it, which ended up being fine (no soggy bottom!).
    • This all transpired on Friday afternoon (the day before), and I kept the pies in the fridge overnight, getting them out just before people arrived on Saturday (I prefer my pumpkin pie chilled). We served the nice-looking pie on Saturday but I tried the thinner pie (in sunken smitten kitchen crust) on Sunday and almost preferred it due to its higher crust-to-filling ratio.
  • Plenty of freshly whipped cream, made as people were arriving on Saturday.

The Thanksgiving Kaffee und Kuchen afternoon ended up being lovely! Seven people came around 3pm and we feasted on cake for a solid couple of hours. Coffee and tea were abundant, and I was glad I’d picked up some early-season clementines for a fresh, juicy hit after all the sweetness. It was fun to introduce some of my favorite seasonal American treats to German friends. People were intrigued by the pumpkin pie’s unique flavor and spice combination; the cranberry cake was praised; and the pecan-walnut bars all but disappeared. Yum all around!

Thanksgiving Feast for Two – Thanksgiving (Thurs)day

To be fair, the mini feast we prepared probably could have served 3-4 people, but around here we like leftovers. Here’s what F and I prepared and ate on Thanksgiving day:

  • My go-to cranberry sauce. So good.
  • Green beans and crispy shallots, inspired by this recipe. I sautéed thinly sliced shallots in olive oil until they browned and crisped. While that was happening, I blanched the green beans in boiling water for 5-7 minutes, then drained them. To serve, I squeezed some lemon juice and sprinkled a bit of sea salt over the beans, then piled the shallots on top. Delicious!
  • This Bon Appétit bread stuffing/dressing – F requested it after we watched the ba YouTube video about it. It was super delicious: moist underneath, with a lovely crunchy top layer that married well with gravy and/or cranberry sauce. Will add this to the Thanksgiving recipe list for next year!
  • One very large turkey thigh that F dry-brined overnight and then roasted at 180-200C for just over an hour. The meat was tender and moist, but overall it was too salty (especially for me); we couldn’t really see the benefit of the dry brine but it was worth trying out.
  • Gravy!
  • We decided to forego desserts, since we had had enough cake, bars, and pie the weekend before.

Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving weekend and start to the winter holiday season! When in doubt, I highly recommend serving dessert first.