Category Archives: OKTOBERFEST & GERMAN RECIPES

CABBAGE CASSEROLE WITH MEATBALLS (LAZY COOK CABBAGE ROLLS)

Once again it’s Oktoberfest time in the city. And most years when we host a JazzVox concert in September, I serve a German themed meal before the concert. Well, this year is no different. Except this year I am expanding my geographic area to include food from some of the neighboring countries. After all, they celebrate Oktoberfest too. I mean really. Who doesn’t like a big old party featuring beer, rich food, and 16-18 days of revelry? Not we Washingtonians, that’s for darned sure. We have Leavenworth, which prides itself on celebrating Oktoberfest 365 days a year! Take that Munich! (Munich may host more than 6 million people each year for the 16-18 days, but our very own Leavenworth has endurance, 365 days a year, and that counts for something!) But back to this recipe.

I love cabbage rolls. But cabbage rolls for 30 some people – I think not! Just the thought of removing the core of several cabbages, boiling the cabbages until the leaves are softened enough to pull off individually, then gently removing the leaves as they become tender and setting them aside to drain and cool seemed like just too onerous a task. (Yah think!) So I decided to simplify the process so that I could still serve cabbage and savory meat to my guests, while at the same time avoiding a trip to our local hospital for exhaustion or a home for elderly nitwits who have delusions of being able to work like they were still in their thirties!

Now if you have already perused this recipe, you know there is still an average amount of work involved in preparing this dish. I simply couldn’t deprive you of the wonderful meat filling that is the reason for cabbage rolls in the first place. (The cabbage is really just there to justify all the time and energy you put into growing the darn things in the first place.) But please note, the Meatballs don’t take all that much time to prepare, and the Sauce and Topping are only about 3 minute tasks.

So get into the September spirit and fix this casserole for your family and friends before winter sets in. And if you’re interested, I posted my menu for this coming Sunday at the bottom of this post. (Guests attending the concert – no fair peeking!)

Cabbage Base:

  • ½ medium-large green cabbage (about 1 lb.), cored and cut into ¾-inch strips
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped, divided
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. chicken or vegetable stock
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes

Place the cabbage pieces in a lightly greased 9×13-inch gratin or baking dish. Scatter the cabbage with half of the chopped onion. Drizzle veggies with the olive oil and stock. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper, and a scant amount of crushed red pepper flakes. Cover tightly with foil or lid, and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. While the cabbage bakes, prepare the meatballs, sauce, and topping.

Meatballs:

  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp. Hungarian paprika, divided
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can (14-oz.) diced tomatoes plus juice (canned Italian tomatoes are the best), divided
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c. cooked rice (white or brown)
  • ½ lb. lean ground beef
  • ½ lb. ground chicken
  • 1 T. minced fresh parsley

Heat the vegetable oil in a small frying pan. Add the remaining half onion and gently fry until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute. Transfer the onion and garlic to a medium sized mixing bowl. Whisk in 1½ teaspoons of the paprika, cloves, salt, pepper, 1/3 cup of the diced tomatoes, and the egg. Gently stir in the cooked rice, ground beef, ground chicken, and parsley. Using a good sized ice cream scoop, form balls and lay them in a single layer on a sheet of waxed paper. Set aside. (I get 11 meatballs when I use my #16, 2-inch diameter scoop.) For information on ice cream/portion scoops, see The Real Scoop at bottom of post.

Note: You can use all ground beef or all ground chicken in the meatballs. I use both because I like the combination in these meatballs.

Sauce:

  • 1½ c. sour cream, divided
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the remainder of the can of diced tomatoes, remaining 1½ teaspoons paprika, ½ cup of the sour cream, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Topping/Garnish:

  • 1 T. chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed (fresh is always best)
  • pinch of kosher salt

Combine the remaining 1 cup sour cream with the dill and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Assembly:
When the cabbage has baked for one hour, remove from oven. Turn the oven heat up to 375 degrees. Carefully remove the aluminum foil (there will be steam) and set aside. Lay the meatballs in a single layer over the braised cabbage. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Tightly cover with the saved aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil (again being very careful), raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees and change to convection (if you have a convection oven, that is). Continue to bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the meatballs are fully cooked and the sauce is almost gone. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-7 minutes before serving. Pass the sour cream and dill topping.

The Real Scoop:

To get uniform sized portions, be it cookie dough, meatballs, ice cream, etc., the most reliable method is to use a portion scoop.

Portion scoops, commonly referred to as “ice cream scoops”, are standard-sized scoops used to measure out food, both cooked and uncooked. They have a spring release that scrapes your food/ice cream/cookie dough, etc. out of the scoop as the handle is squeezed. The interesting thing about portion scoops is that they come in strange sizes. For example, a #16 has a 2-inch diameter which is perfect for the meatballs in this recipe and for scooping out muffin or cupcake dough. Many cookie recipes direct you to roll the cookie dough in a 1-inch ball or a rounded tablespoon. That would be a #100.

In addition to the 2 scoops listed above, I routinely use a #60 (1¼-inch diameter) for medium sized cookies, meatballs, etc., and a #40 (1 5/8-inch diameter) for larger cookies or portions.

The number on the scoop basically represents how many “scoops” it would take to fill a quart sized container. Therefore, the larger the number, the smaller the scoop. For practical application however, picking out the right scoop for your needs is as simple as going to a good kitchen shop. Then choosing scoops based on the size of the cookies or whatever else you plan to portion out. The time saved in not having to hand roll cookie dough, all by itself, is well worth the money spent on the scoop. (Oh – for just one nickel for every cookie I’ve ever baked. I would probably be able to buy us round trip tickets to Portland, or to some other fascinating destination.)

2017 JazzVox Oktoberfest Menu:

Appetizers – Viennese Liptauer (recipe on site), cornichons, and 3 types of cheese

Main Dish – Cabbage Casserole with Meatballs

Side – Roasted Garlic, Buttermilk, and Fresh Chive Mashed Potatoes (recipe coming)

Salad – Cucumber and Red Onion Salad (recipe on site)

Bread – Overnight Rye Beer Bread (never made it before, so it may or may not appear on this site)

Dessert – Berry Pie Bars with Cinnamon Whipped Cream (recipe on site)

 

 

 

 

 

CREAMY GERMAN COLESLAW

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I love coleslaw. And everyone I know loves coleslaw. But you can rarely get a decent coleslaw in a restaurant these days. I know, I’ve tried. The coleslaw dressing is usually either flavorless or non-existent, and all you taste is the cabbage, or the dressing has ingredients that don’t seem to go with the cabbage. I really just don’t get it! It’s not like the chef is being asked to build a world class dish here. It’s a couple chopped veggies in a simple dressing, for goodness sake!

So basically, I’ve given up on restaurant coleslaw. When I order fish and chips, I usually try and get a green salad in place of the chips and almost always when asked if I still want the coleslaw, I say no thanks. Perhaps I’m taking the negative approach, but darn it, at my age if the coleslaw I get in restaurants is only good about 1% of the time, why bother? Truly, I have not found a decent coleslaw in a restaurant for decades, so that leads me to believe it’s probably not going to happen again in my lifetime.

So what to do when I want a delicious coleslaw? I build it myself! And this coleslaw that I made recently to go with an Oktoberfest meal is a true winner.

Usually I don’t much care for sweet dressings. But this dressing is absolutely lovely and perfect with rich German food. I found the recipe on the allrecipes site. I added a bit of black pepper to the original dressing recipe and a small amount of red cabbage and carrot mainly for the color. Other than that, the recipe is straight off the site. And I truly can’t wait for you to try it. Just make sure that you grate the vegetables into very small pieces. This helps create the “creamy” consistency that sets this coleslaw apart.

So grate up a Cruciferous veggie or two, an Apiaceae (formerly known as Umbelliferae) and whip up this simple dressing. Mix all together, let marinate in your refrigerator for a couple hours, and prepare yourself for a coleslaw that will knock your socks off.

Now granted, coleslaw is probably never going to be the number one food you request for your 75th birthday celebration. But when done right, coleslaw is just delightful, as well as being an economical alternative to more pricey salads that contain boutique greens and expensive salad dressing ingredients.  And – it’s crunchy. One thing most green salads lack.

So give it a try. And if you really want to go on a coleslaw adventure, there are several other delicious coleslaw recipes on my site. Try them all. Amaze your family and friends. Be the first on your block. Dare to be different. Take the plunge. And have fun – that’s what it’s all about!

  • 3 T. sugar
  • 3 T. cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp. celery seed
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (not too much)
  • ½ c. mayonnaise
  • ½ lg. head green cabbage, grated (I use my food processor)
  • 1/8 head red cabbage, grated
  • 1 small carrot, grated

Whisk together the sugar, vinegar, celery seed, salt, pepper, and mayonnaise. Pour over the cabbage and carrot, stir to combine, and marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Stir well before serving.

GURKENSALAT (GERMAN CUCUMBER SALAD)

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I love cucumbers in just about any form. I love pickles (check out my recipe for Bread and Butter Pickles on this site), salads featuring cucumbers (as in Japanese Cucumber Salad – Sunomono and Cucumber and Red Onion Salad, also on this site) and now this amazing salad I worked up for our most recent JazzVox concert. And oh am I glad I decided to feature German food and wanted a crunchy and different side salad to go with my other German offerings. I’m also glad I rarely eat at the same time as our guests. Because, had I started on this salad, there would not have been anything left for others to enjoy!

This is simply my favorite kind of salad. It’s savory, creamy and crunchy all at the same time. And the best part – it needs to be prepared the day before.

Oh how I love food that has to be prepared ahead of time, especially when I have other dishes that need last minute attention and the meal has to be ready at a certain time. (And yes, I fully appreciate restaurant cooks who can get multiple entrées ready at the same time. How do they do that? I can barely manage to get one meal for 25-40 ready to serve at a given time. Maybe that’s why I never became a restaurant chef. Yah think?!)

What I did become however is a person who appreciates good food. (I actually appreciate good food a little too much if my bathroom scale can be believed.) So when I tasted this salad, I knew I had found the perfect balance of salt, sugar, and vinegar absolutely necessary for an authentic German style cucumber salad.

So give this recipe a try. You might want to have a beer close by while you eat this manna from heaven too. And should you happen to be one of those people who look good in lederhosen, you could probably get away without too much ridicule if you hand the person taunting you a bowl of this salad. It’s really hard to bait someone and gulp down food at the same time! Prost!

  • 2 English cucumbers, partially peeled and very thinly sliced
  • ½ onion (yellow, white, or red), thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ c. sour cream
  • 1 tsp. white sugar
  • 2 T. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dried dill weed
  • freshly ground black pepper (just a small amount)
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Place cucumbers and onions in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let rest for 30 minutes. Squeeze excess moisture from veggies. Meanwhile whisk together the sour cream, sugar, vinegar, dill, pepper, and parsley. Add the cucumbers and onions and refrigerate for at least 8 hours; preferably over night.

SAVORY GERMAN BREAD PUDDING WITH MUSHROOMS

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This is the second savory bread pudding I have posted to my blog. They are basically very similar. The recipe entitled Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding however has more of an Italian bent to it. For example, Parmesan cheese is one of the ingredients.

This recipe is much more consistent with a dish that would be served in Germany. Both savory puddings are delicious and a wonderful addition to any meal where the starch needs to be a key player but not become a participant in a “who’s the star” battle with the meat. (I hate it when food starts fighting right on my dinner plate.)

This dish can also be served as a vegetarian main dish. The mushrooms provide that toothsome mouth feel that is so necessary to a good vegetarian entrée.

So by all means, give this bread pudding a try. The sourdough bread gives the pudding a special tang, and the truffle oil – OMG, it really puts the mushroom flavor over the top. And as you can see, you only need 1 teaspoon of truffle oil to enhance the entire dish. But please do not be tempted to add more because of the old theory that if some is good, more is better. (I have never been an advocate of that practice.) Truffle oil is very potent stuff. It must be treated carefully and with great respect. (Think approaching a yellow jacket’s nest without appropriate head gear!) Or if you need a cooking analogy, using too much thyme. Not a good thing even though thyme is a lovely herb and used in many wonderful recipes.

And I know some culinary arts experts are saying that truffle oil is passé. Or if it simply must be used, it should only be used as a drizzle. Well to these experts I say – fooey! In my opinion you can take many dishes to a new level of deliciousness with the judicious use of a drop or two of this amazing ingredient.

Wonderful drizzled over scrambled eggs, in vinaigrettes, almost any dish with mushrooms, and the most decadent use of all – over popcorn along with a little salt.

So if you don’t already own a bottle of truffle oil, don’t hesitate to get yourself a bottle at your earliest convenience. In my opinion, white truffle oil is great as an ingredient or a drizzle. I tend to use black truffle oil only as a finishing oil, in much the same way I might garnish a dish with a light sprinkling of Fleur de Sel.

  • 1 c. very hot water
  • ¼ c. chopped dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. coarsely chopped mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, button)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt, div.
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 c. whipping cream
  • 3 large eggs, room temp.
  • 1 tsp. white truffle oil (Trader Joe’s carries truffle oil certain times of the year or you can purchase on line)
  • ¼ tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 c. packed cubed sourdough bread (1 or 2 day old bread is best for this recipe)

Place hot water and dried shiitake mushrooms in a small bowl. Set aside. Melt butter in a medium sized frying pan. Add onion and sauté until soft. Add mushrooms and cook until golden brown. Add the garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper; cook for one minute. Remove from heat and let cool. Meanwhile combine milk, cream, eggs, truffle oil, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper, thyme, and parsley in a large bowl. Gently fold in bread cubes and set aside. Scoop the reserved mushroom mixture into the bowl with the bread cubes. Drain the re-hydrated shiitake mushrooms and add to the mixture. Stir gently and pour mixture into a lightly buttered pan. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Serve immediately.

Can be made a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator until about 30 minutes before baking.

 

 

 

 

LIGHT RYE BREAD

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When I think about bread, and I think about bread a lot, my thoughts always drift to the types of bread I have yet to perfect. And light rye has always been one that I could never get just right.

I have a great recipe for pumpernickel, but I could never get a light rye to come out with just that perfect balance of sweet and pungent. And as much as I like caraway seeds in some things, I just don’t like them in rye bread. So never one to be discouraged, I went on line and tried once more to find the rye bread of my dreams. And believe me, there are lots of recipes out there for light rye bread. But only one caught my eye. So I decided to give it a try and see if I could finally check light rye bread off my list. And yes indeed ladies and gentlemen, I made the perfect loaf of rye bread this weekend, thanks to George. I found the recipe on a great blog www.simplyrecipes.com and I recommend visiting this wonderful cooking resource at your earliest convenience. And yes, of course, I changed the instructions to fit my way of bread baking, but the ingredients, except for the optional 2 tablespoons caraway seeds (and yes, you can add them if you must), is right off George’s recipe. So thank you George, whoever and wherever you are, for this amazing recipe. I will send good thoughts your way every time I sit down to a Reuben sandwich or smear soft butter over a warm piece of your incredible bread.

  • 2 T. or 2 pkgs. active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 c. warm water
  • 2/3 c. molasses
  • 1 T. kosher salt
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 2 c. rye flour
  • 5 c. bread flour
  • cornmeal

In the bowl of a heavy duty mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water; add the molasses. Let proof for about 10 minutes. Add salt, vegetable oil, cocoa powder, 2 cups of the rye flour and 2 cups of the bread flour. Mix until all of the flour is absorbed. Add the remaining 3 cups bread flour until the dough pulls away from the bottom of the bowl and the dough is smooth and elastic. (This step may take more or less than 3 cups of bread flour.) Pour a small amount of vegetable oil over the dough, turning it so it gets coated in the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, about 90 minutes. After 90 minutes, gently punch down the dough and divide it into 2 equal parts.  Shape each half into a torpedo shaped loaf and place both loaves well separated on a greased baking sheet that has been lightly sprinkled with corn meal. Cover with a clean tea towel. Let rise again for about 45 minutes. Just before placing in a pre-heated 350 degree oven, cut 5 shallow diagonal slashes across each loaf. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when gently tapped.

 

 

SOFT PRETZEL BITES

So once upon a time I went to the Bellevue Mall and saw a shop offering soft pretzels for sale. Being a sucker for soft pretzels I felt duty bound to help this struggling new business get a foot hold in an arena that caters to the terribly sophisticated Bellevue elite. (I only went there about 3 times after is became Bellevue Mall. I was simply not worthy. I felt much more suited to the old Bellevue Square. But I digress.)

So I ordered a plain pretzel and took my first bite. Now, I am not a sugar person. I like salt. And I like bread. And I like butter. And this chewy, salty, savory pretzel was just about the best thing I had ever tasted. And to this day, I simply can’t resist a warm, soft pretzel. So when I was preparing the Oktoberfest menu for our JazzVox (www.jazzvox.com) concert this past weekend, I decided to see if I could locate a recipe. Well not only did I find a recipe, I found the recipe. And through one of the best sites out there for all things baked – www.bobsredmill.com

I of course changed the instructions a bit to make them work for me, but the basic recipe is all Bob’s. Hopefully you too will enjoy preparing this simple recipe for soft pretzels. They are just unbelievably delicious.

  • 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast  
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 7/8 to 1 cup warm water*
  • 2 c. (or more) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 T. baking soda
  • coarse salt, kosher or pretzel, opt.
  • 3 T. butter, melted
  • mustard for dipping, opt.

*Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall.

Combine yeast, salt, sugar, and the warm water in heavy duty mixer bowl. Let proof for 5 minutes. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Pour a little flour in bowl, coat dough, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30-40 minutes. While the dough is rising, prepare the water and soda bath. Pour water into a medium sized frying pan. Bring water to boil, turn off heat and stir in baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally (or almost totally) dissolved. Allow to cool to lukewarm (or cooler). After the dough has risen for the allotted time, punch down and transfer to a lightly greased work surface. Divide into 8 equal pieces with a bench scraper or a sharp knife. Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Roll each piece of dough into an 8-9 inch thin rope and cut in 4ths. Working with a few pieces at a time, place them in the pan with the baking soda/water for 2 minutes, spooning the water over their tops. (This baking soda “bath” will give the pretzel bites a nice, golden-brown color. And yes, they will get a little mushy from their bath, but they will be just fine.)

Place the pretzel bites on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or sprayed with vegetable oil. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt and allow them to rest, uncovered, for about 10 minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees. Bake the pretzels for about 6 minutes. If you have a convection oven, bake them for 4 minutes on the regular oven setting, and the last 2 minutes using the convection option.

OKTOBERFEST BRATWURST COOKED WITH BEER AND ONIONS

Bratwurst, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I’m almost sure that’s the way Elizabeth Barrett Browning originally intended to begin her classis poem, but for whatever reason dismissed the idea before the poem was published. (Perhaps she discovered soft pretzels at the same time and couldn’t decide on which of these two master pieces of culinary delight should be immortalized in her literary masterpiece.) That can be the only reason I can think of that Bratwurst was excluded from her opening sentence.

But regardless, Bratwurst cooked with beer and onions should be immortalized. Therefore, I offer my late great friend Davey Finch’s recipe.

I have also taken the liberty to include Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s wonderful poem. Like good Bratwurst, wonderful poetry never goes out of style. It remains a treasure to be shared with others, and used as a reminder that we live in a wonderful world full of lovely food, great literature and art, amazing music, and treasured friendships. Cheers to Davey Finch and to all our friends who were blessed by his loving and generous spirit.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

  • Bratwurst (I use Johnsonville), any amount you want
  • Beer (not light beer, but nothing too dark either – an amber or pale ale works great), a bottle or two depending on how many Bratwurst you are cooking (I use 2 bottles for 20-25 Bratwurst)
  • Chopped onion, ½ large yellow onion for 10 Bratwurst; 1onion for 20-25, etc. etc.

Combine Bratwurst (Brats), beer and onion in a covered pan. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. Remove Brats from pan and transfer to a pre-heated barbecue. (Reserve the beer and onion liquid.) Grill until nicely browned. Return to beer/onion liquid. Keep warm. Serve with any of your favorite mustards.

GERMAN POTATO SALAD

Every September I love to make at least one dinner that celebrates the fall harvest. And as far as I’m concerned, there is just nothing better than a good old fashioned Oktoberfest menu. Who can resist homemade pretzels, Bratwurst cooked in beer and onions, braised cabbage or coleslaw and of course – German potato salad? Not me, that’s for darned sure! So knowing full well that I am not that different from everyone else, I thought you might enjoy my take on these Oktoberfest classics.

So I am going to keep my comments to a minimum and post some wonderful recipes for you before the “Oktoberfest” season is over. (Imagine that, Patti keeping her comments short. And they said it couldn’t happen! Hah!)

  • 2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes
  • ½ lb. thick-cut bacon, diced (I use Fletcher’s Pepper Bacon)
  • 1 c. diced yellow onion
  • 1/3rd c. white vinegar (regular old-fashioned vinegar)
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp. dill weed
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • paprika, garnish

Cook potatoes in lightly salted water. Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Once crisp, use a slotted spoon to remove to a large mixing bowl. Add onion to remaining bacon fat in pan, and slowly cook until translucent and just beginning to brown. Whisk in the vinegar, sugar, mustard, dill weed, salt, and pepper. Simmer until thick and bubbly, about 10 minutes. When potatoes are cooked, cool for about 30 minutes, and then peel and dice or slice into small bite-sized pieces and add to bowl with bacon. Pour the sauce over the potatoes and gently toss until potatoes are well coated.  Spoon into serving dish and sprinkle with paprika. Serve warm. To make ahead, spoon potatoes into a lightly greased casserole or baking pan; allow to cool before covering and placing in refrigerator. About 2 hours before you plan to serve, remove potatoes from the refrigerator. Place on a counter for about 90 minutes and then place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until salad is warm.

 

APPLE CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

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This is probably the best and easiest apple cake recipe imaginable. I received the basic bones of this recipe from my dear friend Linda’s mother Rhoda. Rhoda told me the cake was OK served the same day but was absolutely sensational after it had been frozen. I sometimes bake wedding cakes for relatives and friends and always freeze them until the day they are to be served. But until Rhoda told me about freezing this particular cake, I hadn’t really thought about why some cakes are actually moister after having been frozen.  Since vegetables and fruit are built of cells containing cytoplasm (the clear liquid that fills the cells), when frozen, water expansion causes the cell membranes to rupture. This creates a distinctly different texture. In essence, plant cells lose any remaining crispness that may have remained after having been exposed to heat during the baking process. (I’m no chemist, so this is a very rudimentary, and hopefully accurate explanation.) Bottom line: I would never dream of serving any cake containing fruit or veggie matter without first letting it spend a bit of quality time in my freezer. Same goes for quick breads such as Banana or Zucchini. The difference is simply that remarkable.

Cake:

  • 4 c. grated apples
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • 1 c. chopped nuts
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. soda
  • 1 tsp. salt

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • ½ c. butter, room temperature
  • 8-oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • ½ c. chopped nuts, decoration

Cake: Combine apples, sugars, oil, nuts, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk together the flour cinnamon, soda, and salt. Add to apple mixture. Pour into a greased and floured 9 X 13-inch pan. (A glass pan is best.) Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven (for glass) or 350 degree oven (for metal) for 40-45 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted into middle of cake comes out clean. Cool completely, cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and freeze for at least 2 days. Defrost and spread with frosting. *Decorate with chopped nuts. Serve at room temperature.

*I always decorate a cake with nuts if there are nuts in the cake itself. You never know when someone might be allergic. So if there are nuts on top, no one has to wonder. Many people don’t like to cause a fuss, and having nuts so in evidence, nothing has to be said to the hostess except no thank you!

Frosting: Cream butter and cream cheese together until well blended. Add vanilla and enough powdered sugar to make a firm but not too stiff consistency. Beat until smooth and easy to spread.

 

 

 

APPLE PIE BARS

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There is just nothing better than apple pie.  Apple pie is delicious, relatively inexpensive to prepare, and by golly, it’s American! But Apple Pie Bars, an Irish favorite, are simply amazing too and take about half the time to prepare. All the lovely spiced apple flavor we so dearly love is right there in this dessert. Then to make matters even more delectable, and decadent I might add, we take the whole dish over the top by adding a *cognac flavored whipped cream. (I don’t know if a liquor enhanced whipped cream is Irish or not. But when Mr. C. and our good friend Mr. H. recommended the use of cognac when I approached the subject of adding some type of booze to the whipped cream for this dessert, it sounded perfect to me. It turned out so amazing, that if the Irish don’t add liquor to their whipped cream, they sure as heck should be!)

*Some interesting information about cognac. According to the Cognac Expert web site “cognac is a type of blended brandy (distilled wine) that most commonly is produced in 3 different grades – V.S. (Very Special – aged 2-5 years), V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale – aged 5-10 years), and X.O. (Extra Old – 10 years and beyond). Blending different ages of cognacs is what determines the grade and quality of the finished product. And it doesn’t matter in what proportion these cognacs are blended, it’s the youngest one in the blend that determines the grade. So, for example, you might find that a large producer blends a few drops of a very, very old and rounded cognac with a small amount of middle aged Cognac, and then fills the bottle with seven year old cognac. They would still only be able to market the bottle as V.S.O.P. because the youngest member of the blend was within the 5 to 10 year guideline for V.S.O.P.” As with other fine liquor, aging time is often a consideration in both quality and price. So obviously an X.O. cognac is going to be considerably more expensive to purchase than a V.S. For cooking purposes, I use a V.S., whereas for sipping, Mr. C. prefers a V.S.O.P. (Of course he does.) A little hint regarding the use of cognac in cooking: I love good gravy, and in my humble opinion, I make one that’s fairly decent. (Our good friend Jim swears it’s only because I have the “grandma” gene.) But I have a secret. I often finish my gravies with a teaspoon or two of cognac. There is just something about the flavor of cognac that blends beautifully with the richness of the meat juices, especially in turkey gravy. You don’t even really taste the cognac. It just helps ramp up the other flavors. So give it a try next time you fix gravy. Just go easy, you don’t really want your family or guests to learn your secret. Just let them think you possess a “gravy” gene too. It’s more fun that way!

  • 2 c. + 1 T. flour
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. chilled butter, diced
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 3 large semi-tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon + more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 2 T. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. cognac or spiced rum or 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Whisk the 2 cups flour, granulated sugar, and salt together in a bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (I use my fingers.) Stir in egg yolks with a regular table knife. (The dough will be crumbly.)  Remove 1/4 of the mixture and set aside. Press remainder onto bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, remaining 1 tablespoon flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg; add prepared apples. (See tip below.) Place apples on crust, and top with reserved crumb mixture sprinkled evenly over top.
Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for an additional 20 minutes or until top is a light golden brown and filling is bubbly around the edges of the pan. Meanwhile whip heavy cream to stiff peaks. Add powdered sugar and cognac and whip again just until combined. Serve bars warm or at room temperature dolloped with whipped cream and sprinkled lightly with cinnamon. Absolutely delightful served with a nice hot cup of coffee or a cold glass of milk. (Tip: cut your apples ahead of time if you want, but don’t add the brown sugar mixture until just before you are ready to bake. If the sugar mixture is added ahead of time, osmosis (the tendency of liquid to travel) will occur and just that little bit of excess liquid can make the shortbread crust soggy. This same principle also applies when baking fruit pies. Regardless of whether you are using apples, berries, or any other type of fruit, don’t add the sugar mixture until just before you place the mixture on the bottom crust. (I even go so far as to have my top crust all ready to go before I add the filling.) Believe me, the fruit will still give off plenty of juice while it is baking, but you have a better chance of your pie crust not getting soggy if you start with as little liquid as possible.)