Birthday Cakes are special – “your” cake is there only once a year, complete with all the trimmings. Although in our family every birthday-kid (grown-ups and children alike) gets that special cake for their birthdays, “your” cake seems to taste just that much better, because, well, it’s yours, candles and all.Continue reading “Birthday Cake”
No birthday cake without an icky, sticky layer of chocolate on top – at least not in this house. In really warm and/or humid conditions it won’t set completely, so be prepared for sticky fingers. It’s well worth the effort and tastes so much better than the store bought alternative.Continue reading “Chocolate Ganache Frosting”
One of the things that I miss after we moved from California are the coffee shops – and the pastries that go with them. Me, I’m a Peet’s girl; I like the pitch black coffee they brew (unless I loose a whole cupful of it on the grey carpet at home, to leave a stain that will last until the carpet dies…) and the fact that they play the classical radio station; nothing against Jazz and Blues, but nice for a change. Close by where we used to live there is a Peet’s next to a Whole Foods with a view of the hills: a win-win combination, coffee, pastry and a nice view (there’s also a 6 lane Highway right next to it, but it sits lower than the hills, so you can’t see it – you can’t win every time).
Continue reading “Almond Thumbprints”
My friends and family give me cookbooks – for birthdays, anniversaries and Christmases; I’m very happy about that, no complaints at all and by now I have an interesting collection that I like to browse, read or get inspiration from. I still remember the very first cookbook I ever bought, when I was sixteen and had just returned home from some time spent as an exchange student at The George School in Newtown, near Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. While I was there I had developed a serious liking for sweet things like brownies, pancakes and chocolate chip cookies and once home I fully intended to keep eating them, which meant making them myself and since I had no idea about cooking or baking (which wasn’t on the top of my to-do list at that time), I needed a cookbook when buying cookbooks was still uncool and knowledge of american cuisine virtually nonexistent. The book I bought, by the way, is about as tall as my hand is high and about as thick as my index finger and it doesn’t sport a single picture. But it did the trick, anyway. You might say, you can blame it all on the brownies….
Greek Food is really great; lots of olive oil, lots of lemon, oregano, sage, honey – and full-fat, extra creamy yogurt to go with it – meat, fish and seafood until you wish for a couple of extra stomachs to put it all. My kids are firm believers of the incredible phenomenon called the “desert stomach” – extra capacity for sweet stuff that seems to be infinite…..I could have used one or two of them to eat myself through the extensive lunches we’ve enjoyed daily when we visited our friends in Athens. Obviously, though, it seems to be a thing you really, truly have to believe in, else it won’t work – or maybe it only works for sweet stuff? Instead, I felt a lot like Eric Carl’s “Very Hungry Caterpillar” does on Saturday evening….
My friend Pia is blessed with italian roots and a family that knows how to cook and by extension I get to enjoy ecxellent espresso and home cooked italian food whenever I see her, which is not nearly often enough. Last time we met we cooked toegether for her birthday party and ended up with a culturally confused yet tasty buffet – cheesy chicken nachos and tiramisu, anyone? – but the star of that nights’ show was the minestrone, a big pot full of tomatoey goodness and fresh veggies and a good dose of olive oil.
It has been warm for winter (8 C / 45 F ) here so far, not warm enough to suit me, and that’s hardly a surprise, but decidedly wet and grey and generally yucky; it gets light late and dark early and snotty nose season in school and kindergarten is in full swing. Last week the weather has taken a turn for the worse, it started to snow on and off, the cat doesn’t want to leave the house anymore and complains to me about it and our beefy BBQ is shivering in the corner of our deck. If it looks like winter, if it feels like winter, it probably is…winter.
Inside the door of the kitchen cabinet that is home to our oldie-but-goldie Gaggia (that sadly suffers from severe calcification at the moment and refuses to make more espressos for those in need) there sticks a post-it note every week that has the days of the week (weekends are free for all, more creative, everybody has a say – and an opinion – about what’s for dinner) and dinner plans on it, that I stick to (pun not intended), mostly. It facilitates shopping (I’m brain dead when I’m at the store without a plan; that and being hungry while grocery shopping are a loose-loose combination: none of the things that we actually need make it home with me, but all of the things that I felt like, instead…lunchbox-limbo: bread? Let them eat cake!) and it takes the “what should we have for dinner tomorrow” out of the dinner conversation today. It also helps to keep the protein situation in our freezer at a manageable level; amazing and completely unexpected, how frozen chicken breasts seem to have a second lease on the after-life and migrate from shelf to shelf just to confuse me…
It’s Christmastime, right in the thick of it, and these are almond biscotti that taste of sunshine and warm Tuscan summer evenings and not of (potentially) snowy days and icy cold winter weather that takes me ten minutes to dress the kids for in the morning before going to school – I’m aware of that. But they’re still cookies and it is Christmas and I don’t mind at all to have a little bit of sunshine to dunk in my espresso – or my vin santo, for that matter.
The first time I met up close and personal with pumpkin pie was unfortunately when I got served a big, quivering, orange slice of store bought (and not the right store, let me tell you) goodness…I was told it was an acquired taste and right away I had no idea why anybody would like to acquire a taste for what was sitting on my plate. A pity, really, since it took a long time for my taste buds to get over that memory – think of all the excellent pumpkin pies I was missing in the meantime…until then, I swear I have never been eating around a food item, but that pumpkin pie did it for me. Shame on me, then, that I didn’t try to figure out what pumpkin could really do for you in a pie – or in other applications. When – or probably more like where – I grew up, pumpkin was pretty much the stepchild of the veggie family; it came pickled, sweet and sour. Period. Now I suspect that nobody really knew what to eat it with or on, unlike cucumber pickles, where everyones’ knee-jerk answer seems to be “burgers”, I haven’t been able to find out what all these glasses of preserved pumpkin slices and dices that sit on german store shelves are designed to go with….the Danes, on the other hand eat anything pickled to everything, it seems, cold cuts or warm meat, makes no difference – to me it made a lot more sense, if those pickled pumpkins were to be found in danish supermarkets instead…