Monday, September 30, 2013

Blueberry Pancakes For One

Here is another tasty, quick yet special breakfast for one. It is somewhat similar to the Single Blueberry Muffin I recently posted. Because these pancakes are made in a small batch with whole wheat flour, they are not as light and fluffy as normal pancakes would be, but they are hearty and delicious. I use a little flax and water in them, which serves as an egg replacement in baking, in order to achieve a better texture, just like with the muffin.
Blueberry Pancakes For One
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
2 Tablespoons oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch salt
1/2 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon water
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat a little oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. 
In a medium bowl, mix together the first six dry ingredients. Mix together the flax and water and add along with the milk and vanilla. Mix well. Spoon batter into prepared pan, I made four small, thick pancakes. Cook until golden on both sides.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Apple Banana Muffins

Apples and bananas are likely two of the most common fruits. They seem to pair well together, so why not put them together in a muffin? These muffins are moist, with a subtle hint of cinnamon, and a nice texture from the addition of oats. Some chopped nuts or dried fruit would add a little extra. For a little extra flavor and sweetness, sprinkle the muffins with cinnamon sugar before baking.

Apple Banana Muffins
2 large, overripe bananas, mashed
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 3/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat or all-purpose (plain) flour
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 medium apples, peeled and chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line muffin cups.
In a large bowl, mix together the first four wet ingredients. Stir in the dry ingredients, then fold in the apples. Divide evenly among muffin cups.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Makes 12 muffins.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Chocolate Carrot Mini Cupcakes

What to do with some extra carrots? They are always great in a cake, muffins, or cupcakes! In fact, you barely even notice the carrot in this recipe, as it is masked by the chocolate  Chocolate, carrot, caramel, and apple may not seem like a typical combination, but it works really well. The caramel icing is from yesterday's post. I wrote the carrot cake recipe from memory, as I no longer have the copy of it, so I hope I have remembered it accurately!
Chocolate Carrot Mini Cupcakes
1 cup all-purpose (white) or whole wheat flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup oil
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrots

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease or line mini muffin tins (or use regular-sized - Pictured are some of each).
In a large bowl, mix together the first six dry ingredients.
In a separate medium bowl, mix together the four liquid ingredients. Add the liquid to the dry and mix. Stir in the carrots.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake for about 15 minutes for mini cupcakes or about 20 minutes for bigger cupcakes. 
Let cool slightly before icing.
NOTES: Recipe can also be baked in a 9x13 inch rectangular pan for about 30 minutes.
To make a regular cake, replace the cocoa with an equal amount of additional flour.

To decorate: I placed a smear of caramel frosting on each (doesn't need to be artfully spread) and a small piece of green apple. Extra caramel and green apple make a great snack!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Quick Caramel Icing

Quick Caramel Icing
1-2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1-2 Tablespoons golden corn syrup
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon milk or cream
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
icing (confectioners') sugar

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, corn syrup, and sugar together over medium heat. Stir, then bring to a boil. Boil without stirring for two minutes. Remove from heat, stir, and immediately stir in the vanilla and milk, the mixture will sputter a bit. Let rest for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Gradually mix in enough icing sugar to make a thick icing, adding a little extra milk or cream if necessary. Use as desired - great on cupcakes, as a dip for apples, or straight from the spoon.

This is a quick and easy, no-fail recipe for caramel frosting. The ingredient amounts do not need to be precise, I usually end up eye-balling them. This recipe also makes a great caramel sauce or drizzle if the icing sugar is omitted. This recipe is very versatile and goes well with many different things. Today I used it on chocolate carrot cupcakes, which I will share tomorrow.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Cake

Here is another fall-themed cake I decorated. This one is a miniature chocolate cake covered in chocolate buttercream, and combed with lines of the side. The bottom border is a simple ball  border in Halloween orange buttercream using an open round tip. The top border uses the same tip in a type of braid border. It is decorated with a small plastic turkey ans some fall sprinkles. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Recently my father got a new espresso machine. So lately he has been creating some unique coffees, as opposed to simply an instant, a tiny stovetop espresso, or a brewed pot. Here is his first cappuccino. He simply brewed up an espresso and foamed some milk and put that on top. It certainly looks fancier than just a cup of coffee. So much so that my mother, not a habitual coffee drinker, decided to try some, and requested a weaker version the next day. The espresso that come from this machine certainly smell divine. I love the aroma of espresso, but coffee is not my cup of tea (haha). The machine also seems relatively easy to use and quick to produce drinks, so that's a plus. Who needs specialty coffee shops or expensive commercial cappuccino machines when you can make your own at home?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Leaf Cake

This is a fall-themed leaf cake I decorated recently. It is a pretty quick and simple design, but I think it's quite nice and a really great way to celebrate fall (not that I'm happy about summer ending). This is a rectangular cake iced with white buttercream. I began with a simple red shell-type border on top, and an orange ruffle-style border on bottom. Then in opposite corners, I placed four leaves using a leaf tip in each of the following colors: red, orange, yellow, and green. A few fall plastic cake decorations in the other two corners complete the cake.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

These were supposed to be veggie burgers. Unfortunately, not everything in the cooking world works out perfectly, especially when relying on recipe websites where any user may post a recipe, and most of the recipes have not been tested and reviewed by many people. Oh well, the recipe sounded good, and it was definitely a learning experience. It wasn't a complete failure either. The burger mixture was much too soft to grill, let alone form into burgers at all, as planned. But there was nothing wrong with the mixture, so I just fried it up and cooked it as if I were scramble-frying ground beef. The mixture cooked well, and I just served it on the buns as if it were sloppy joes. The great news? The taste was quite good, and the recipe is quick and easy to prepare, and may be made in advance as well. 
Hey - in this picture you can barely tell it isn't a real burger!
Vegetarian Sloppy Joes
1 medium carrot
1/3 cup oats
1 can (14 ounces) black beans
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 green pepper, finely diced
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper

Grate the carrot in a food processor. Add the oats and beans and pulse to combine. Add remaining ingredients and process until combined, but be sure not to purée and make the mixture too mushy. Chill mixture for at least 45 minutes. If you can form it into patties, great! If not, just scramble-fry in a little oil in a pan over medium heat for about ten minutes. Serve on buns. Makes 4-6 servings, and leftovers keep well too.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pizza Muffins

Muffins are often thought of as a sweet recipe. However, there are plenty of tasty savory muffin recipes as well. These pizza muffins are a great way to use up some leftovers - chopped vegetables, cheese, and spices. You can of course vary the ingredients depending on what kind of pizza you like. If you are craving pizza, but short on time, this recipe is great to do, and is very tasty. It is also more convenient to transport. I would suggest placing some sauce and cheese not only on the top, but in the middle of the muffins as well for even more pizza flavor.
Pizza Muffins
2 cups whole wheat or all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cheddar cheese, cut into tiny cubes
1 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
1/4 soft margarine, melted
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet pepper
1/4 cup pizza sauce
1/2 cup shredded marble cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease or line 12 muffin cups.
In a large bowl, stir together the first six dry ingredients. Stir in the cheese cubes.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, and margarine. Stir into dry ingredients, stir in pepper. 
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Spoon one teaspoon pizza sauce on each, then sprinkle with some cheese. 
Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chippers

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chippers
1 cup soft margarine
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare ungreased or lined cookie sheets.
In a large bowl, cream the first five ingredients. Stir in the flour, soda, and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips, dough will be stiff. 
Drop dough by tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets, two inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until light browned. Let stand on the cookie sheets for a few minutes before removing to cool. 

You won't even notice the fact that these cookies are whole wheat. The use of soft margarine also makes them a healthier choice.They are soft, chewy, chocolaty and super-tasty. They are also quite easy to make! Just watch carefully, they seem to have the tendency to burn easily.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Single Blueberry Muffin

You know when you're really craving a blueberry muffin? But you don't have enough time to whip up a batch, you don't want to wait, and you don't really want any leftovers? Here is the solution for a single blueberry muffin, that is mixed up in seconds and cooks just as quickly in the microwave. Perfect for a quick and healthy breakfast!

Single Blueberry Muffin
2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon water
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 Tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
sugar to sweeten
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and blueberries. In a separate bowl, mix the flax and water together to form a paste, then add the remaining ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and still until just moistened, do not overmix. Place in a small greased mug and microwave on HIGH power (100%) for about 90 seconds. 

Note: I got this recipe idea from a website; it only made one muffin but baked it in the oven. I tailored the recipe for more efficient microwave use, but my first try didn't turn out great. This is the revised version, and I recommend following it exactly in order to achieve good results.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained well
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
ground black pepper
6-8 sun-dried tomatoes

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process for a few minutes until smooth. Refrigerate for a few hours for flavors to blend, then enjoy as a spread on sandwiched, a dip with pita and vegetables, or a garnish on burgers. 

Hummus is a delicious and nutritious vegetarian snack or meal accompaniment. I have had store-bought varieties before, but I don't think I could ever go back after making this homemade version. It only takes minutes to make, and will last in the refrigerator for a few days, or in the freezer for longer storage, if you still have some left. It is super tasty and so versatile. The flavors may be varied as well - instead of a sun-dried tomato version, try roasted red pepper, spinach and basil, or olive and cheese. I enjoyed some with toasted pita bread and my tabbouleh salad from yesterday.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


1 cup Bulgar wheat
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 tomato, diced
8 black olives, sliced
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

Place bulgar wheat in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover. Let stand for about 30 minutes, until much of the water is absorbed and bulgar is doubled in size.
Drain well.
In a small bowl, mix together the oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. In a large serving bowl, mix together the bulgar with this mixture. Place in the refrigerator and marinate for at least one hour, or up to six hours before serving.
Mix in remaining ingredients. 

This is my first time making this Levantive Arab dish. Traditionally it is made with bulgar, but new versions make use of couscous, quinoa, and rice. The traditional dish is flavored with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, parsley, and mint. Any finely chopped vegetables may be added for flavor and color, and the spices may also be varied. This is a nice, cold side dish. If I had to categorize it, I would call it a salad. It is great served as a light lunch with toasted pita chips and hummus. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Our garden is producing an abundance of fresh tomatoes, and the threat of frost suggests this may not continue much longer. We had a pile of ripe tomatoes that would go rotten if they were not eaten soon, so my mother decided to make a quick tomato sauce to put on some pasta for supper. She cooked up some of the tomatoes with some onion, and a little butter and sugar. The sauce was quite delicious! You can really tell the difference when fresh, home-grown tomatoes are used, as the sauce simply tastes fresher and sweeter. The problem with using homegrown tomatoes is often the sauce will end up with more seeds, and possibly more skin. If you skin and seed your tomatoes, there isn't a whole lot left, as home-grown tomatoes tend to be smaller (and therefore tastier) than commercial varieties. I didn't really mind this, but a whole basket of tomatoes only yields a small amount of sauce. However, this does accomplish the problem of using up a bunch of tomatoes quickly! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sweet & Sour Liver

I ate liver again for the second time in my life yesterday for supper. This time it was calf liver, and my father cooked it. He decided to try it in a sweet and sour sauce. This is quite possibly the easiest sweet and sour sauce ever - with only vinegar and sugar. It is amazing how something so simple could be so tasty, and it certainly goes well with the liver, and of course, onions. 

Sweet and Sour Liver
olive oil
1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced calf liver
2 onions, sliced
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 Tablespoon granulated (white) sugar

Heat oil in a frying pan. Dredge the liver pieces in flour and fry for 4-5 minutes per side.
Meanwhile in a small saucepan, heat some more oil. Sauté the onion until clear. Add the vinegar and sugar and cook to reduce the mixture into a sauce. Pour sauce over liver. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Coffee Chip Streusel Muffins

My mother came across coffee-flavored chocolate chips at the grocery store the other day. I had heard of cinnamon, mint, peanut butter, even raspberry flavored chocolate chips, but never coffee. But it makes sense, it is a popular flavor combination. So I researched some recipes online and decided to try this one. 
Coffee Chip Streusel Muffins
1/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine, melted
3 Tablespoons coffee-flavored chocolate chips 
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup coffee-flavored chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease or line muffin cups with paper liners.
STREUSEL: In a small bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Drizzle in the butter, then stir in the chips.
MUFFINS: In a large bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, soda, and salt. In a separate medium bowl, mix the milk, oil, and vanilla. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry until just combined. Gently stir in the chips. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with prepared streusel. Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

“Coffee Streusel Mini Muffins.” Hershey's Kitchens, n.d. Friday, September 13, 2013..

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mix It Up Batter Bread

Mix It Up Batter Bread
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 teaspoon granulated (white) sugar
2 packages instant yeast
1 cup warm milk
1 large egg, beaten
3 Tablespoons molasses
2 Tablespoons oil or butter
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup natural wheat bran
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, divided
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in the water. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand for ten minutes until bubbly. Stir to dissolve yeast.
Stir in remaining ingredients except for the flour and seeds. Stir in two cups of flour, then the seeds. Add another cup of flour.
Allow dough to rise for an hour.
Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour. Divide batter between two greased or lined 9x5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for another hour.
Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes. 

I call this mix it up batter bread, because it really is that simple, no kneading in this simple homemade bread recipe! Also because it contains a nice mix of healthy grains. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Multigrain English Muffins

English muffins are a nice breakfast treat. They can be easily split and toasted, and spread with butter, honey, jam, peanut butter, cream cheese, and more! They are even better when they are homemade, and this multigrain version is chock full of nutrients. English muffins are not difficult to make at all, though like most yeast breads, they take some time. It is important to give them enough time to rise, or the end result will be disappointing. English muffins are traditionally cooked on a griddle or skillet, though some versions are baked. 
Multigrain English Muffins
3/4 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon liquid honey
1 teaspoon butter
1 package instant yeast
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup natural wheat bran
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk

In a large bowl, dissolve the honey and butter in the water. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand for 10-20 minutes until bubbly. Stir to dissolve.
In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients except for the buttermilk. Stir the buttermilk into the yeast mixture, then gradually stir in the flour mixture. Briefly knead the dough until smooth, about three minutes. Allow to rise for one hour.
Knead the dough for a minute and a half, then lightly pat to 1/2 inch thick. Cut out rounds with a 2.5-3.5 inch cutter. Place on a lined baking sheet and allow to rise for at least 40 minutes more. The muffins can be coated in flour or cornmeal if desired to help prevent sticking.
Preheat a little oil in a frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Fry the muffins until browned, about 5-7 minutes per side (you may need to do this in batches). 
Makes around 12-18 muffins, depending on size.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Spaghetti Carbonara

I have been wanting to try making pasta with carbonara sauce for quite some time now. It is quite a simple and basic dish, but the idea always intrigued me. A sauce made with eggs that are cooked once tossed with the hot pasta? Interesting! I didn't really follow a particular recipe for this one, but just sort of made it based on several different recipes I read. Therefore, I don't have any precise measurements - just eyeballed amounts  based on taste preferences.  I also made a vegetarian version - usually carbonara begins by frying up some bacon or pancetta, and using the flavorful oil in the sauce base, as well as the crispy meat in the finished dish. I omitted this, but I did add some breadcrumbs for a little extra flavor. Another change I made, since I am paranoid about food poisoning and proper cooking, was to bring the sauce to a boil, instead of removing the spaghetti from the heat and then stirring in the sauce. This not only ensures the eggs are properly cooked, but also thickens the sauce. I have given approximate measures, and the procedure below for about four servings, though amounts may be tailored to suit different amounts or tastes. 

spaghetti (4 servings)
butter (1 Tablespoon)
olive oil (1 Tablespoon)
chopped onion (1/2 small)
dry breadcrumbs ( 2 Tablespoons)
whipping cream (200 mL)
eggs (2 large)
grated Parmesan cheese (3 Tablespoons, plus extra for topping)
salt (to taste)
ground black pepper (to taste)
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat the butte rand oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Sautée the onion until softened, but do not brown. Add the breadcrumbs and stir for a few minutes until aromatic.
Beat the cream, eggs, Parmesan, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. 
Drain the spaghetti, return to pot, then immediately stir in the onion mixture and the cream mixture. Stir for a few minutes to coat, then turn heat to high and cover. Bring the mixture just to a boil, stir again, and serve topped with more Parmesan. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Black Forest Cake Troubleshooting

Keeping with the black forest theme (just for one more day, I promise) I would like to provide some recommended tips based on my experiences, what I had success with, and what I would change for next time. 

Improvement #1 - Loose Cream - I didn't have this problem because I used cream stiffener. I used four packets of this cream stabilizer and beat the cream until stiff, stiff peaks formed.

Improvement #2 - Bleeding Cherries - I found the cherries I used to decorate the cake bled into the cream a bit. I would recommend washing the cherries and blotting them very dry, as well as adding them just before serving. 

Improvement #3 - Dry Cake - I found the cake a little on the dry side, but this could definitely be improved by sprinkling all cake layers with some cherry schnapps, as the cake is a spongecake and that is what it is designed for. For a version with less alcohol, cherry juice could be used instead. 

Improvement #3 - Sweet or Sour Cherries - My only recommendation here is to tailor it to your consumers. Sour cherries may be used in all cases, but you may or may not want to add sugar. Generally sweet cherries should only be used for American versions. 

Improvement #4 - Even Cake Layers - Slicing a cake horizontally can be difficult. Make sure the cake is cooled completely. Slice the top layer first - which should be very thin. Use a long, serrated knife, and rotate the cake while slicing slowly. Then slice the remaining cake in half. 

Improvement #5 - Disappearing Cake - To prevent your cake from disappearing too quickly due to its deliciousness, try hiding it in the back of the fridge in a covered container labelled "Leftover Spinach Sautée". 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Black Forest Cake Comparison

Black Forest is a fairly common type of cake, but really there exists two distinct types: the sweeter American version (common in North and South America), and the more traditional German version (common in Germany and Europe). As of Sunday, I have made both types, and I noticed some significant differences. I am personally used to the American version, but I also had the privilege of hearing the opinion of someone who is used to the German version. I can't say I really have an overall preference, as there are many different variations within the two versions, but I may say generally the American version is prettier to look at, but the German version is tastier. Here is a brief comparison. 

The American version typically consists of rich chocolate sponge or similar type cake layers, sweet cherry filling, sweetened whipped cream, and chocolate curls or flakes and maraschino cherries to decorate. The major differences between this version and the German are the cherries used here are very sweet - often maraschino from a jar or a cherry pie filling. The cherries are bright red and thick. The whipped cream is flavored with sugar and vanilla, and perhaps a little cherry juice, but often alcohol is omitted. Chocolate curls are used more often than grated chocolate for a better presentation. There is no shortcrust pastry base. There is no particular order for the layers - sometimes cream and cherries are placed together in layers, sometimes separated with numerous layers of both. 

The German version also consists of a chocolate spongecake layered with sour cherries, and flavored whipped cream. However, it features a shortbread pastry base on the bottom of the cake, spread with cherry jam. The cake is decorated with sour cherries and grated chocolate. The major differences here are the shortcrust bottom, which does not exist in the American version, and the use of sour cherries instead of sweet. Usually bottled sour cherries are used, though these can be difficult to find outside of Europe. Fresh or frozen sour cherries may be substituted, but never sweet red cherries. The cake and cream are often flavored with Kirschwasser or cherry schnapps. Grated chocolate is used to decorate the cake. Typically following the bottom shortcrust layer, a cake layer, a cherry layer, a cake layer, a cream layer, and at least one more cake layer follows. 

The similarities between the two cakes are they both have a similar chocolate spongecake base. They are both composed of layers of cherries and flavored whipped cream. They are both typically adorned with whole cherries, whipped cream rosettes, and chocolate pieces. 

The conclusion? Here is a comparison of the three I have made. My parents preferred the American versions, as they found the cherries in the German version too sour. My boyfriend and his mother (both from Germany) preferred the German version, and she even thought the cherries were not sour enough. Me? As said before, I would take the best from both worlds!

Simple American Black Forest

German-influenced American Torte

Traditional German Black Forest

Monday, September 09, 2013

Kirschwasser Torte

Here is the procedure for the authentic black forest cake I featured yesterday. It seems like a lot of steps and a lot of layers and a lengthy procedure, but it doesn't take too long to assemble once all of the individual components are made. And the process is not difficult at all.

First take the shortcrust pastry:
Spread it with cherry jam:
Add a chocolate spongecake layer:
Drizzle it with cherry schnapps to moisten.
Spread it with sour cherries and the thickened juice:
Add another chocolate spongecake layer.
Spread it with sweetened thick whipped cream flavored with a little cherry schnapps:
Add the final thin chocolate spongecake layer to form a dome over the cake:
Spread with the remaining cream mixture:
Decorate with some more sour cherries and grated chocolate:

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Original Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte means Black Forest Gâteau. I have made two of these before in my life, but the recipe I used for this one is authentic. I received this recipe from the grandmother of my boyfriend, in a nice little keepsake book. The recipe comes straight from Germany, the location of the Black Forest, and of course the original Black Forest cake. The recipe was written in German, since it is a German recipe and my boyfriend's grandmother lives in Germany. So thank you to my boyfriend and his mother for translating the recipe for me!

I was very excited to try this recipe. Black Forest cake is popular around the time of the German celebration of Oktoberfest, so I decided to try a trial run of the cake before then. My father's birthday seemed like the ideal time to test it, which works out well because it is also close to the birthday of my boyfriend's mother. She definitely deserves some cake for all the trouble she went through in translating the recipe. I wanted to do a trial run because, like many older or authentic recipes, the directions are not completely specific, the availability of ingredients differs between here and Germany, and it is possible some information was lost in translation. So if something does not work out this time, I can try to improve upon it for next time. Also, there were two options for the chocolate cake layers included: a chocolate spongecake and a cocoa biscuit. This time I will be trying the spongecake, as it seems easier with more familiar ingredients, but I certainly may try the biscuit recipe another time! I won't share this recipe - since it was a gift to me and is authentic, but also because the recipe translation can be a bit confusing, and the original is written in German. Tomorrow however, I will share a step-by-step procedure with pictures. 

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Apple Carrot Flax Muffins

I made these muffins to have with my breakfast in place of my usual biscuit. Therefore, I made 22 fairly small muffins, but you could make them bigger if you wish. They are very nutritious and excellent spread with peanut butter. 

Apple Carrot Flax Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup oat bran
1/2 cup natural wheat bran
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large apples, shredded
3 medium carrots, shredded
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, stir together the first eleven dry ingredients. Stir in the apple and carrot.
Mix the eggs, milk, and vanilla together and add to dry mixture. Spoon into prepared muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  

Friday, September 06, 2013

One Hour Cinnamon Rolls

This is a really quick and easy cinnamon roll recipe. I do have my go-to cinnamon roll recipe, which is so fluffy and sweet, but it does require a little extra time and work. It also makes only nine rolls, and the recipe does not double well. I have used another recipe for biscuits, and added a cinnamon filling, but it isn't as good as the other one. I have not yet tried yeast cinnamon rolls, they just don't look as fluffy and tasty as biscuit rolls. Plus they take longer and require more work, and usually I can't wait that long for cinnamon rolls, I want them soon and I want them hot! That's where this recipe comes in. The time you begin to the time you sit down and eat will be less than one hour. 
One Hour Cinnamon Rolls
2 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, very soft or melted

Preheat oven to 375F. Line or butter a large round springform or a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan.
FILLING: In a small bowl, mix the two sugars and cinnamon together. Set aside.
DOUGH: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the yogurt, milk, and oil. Add to dry ingredients and mix to form a dough. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and roll out to a large rectangle, about 10x16 inches, and at least 1/8 inch thick. There is no need to be precise here. 
Leaving a border all around, at least 1/4 inch, spread the dough with melted butter. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over top. Roll dough tightly from a long end, and cut into twelve equal rolls (dental floss or thread works wonders for this). Place the rolls, facing up, in the prepared pan. Spread with a little extra melted butter. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Or, you can refrigerate the rolls and bake later to enjoy them hot from the oven!

ICING: I don't think they need them, but if you like your cinnamon rolls iced, you can whip up a simple powdered sugar and milk, or a cream cheese frosting and slather it all over the rolls once they come out of the oven. Let stand a few minutes to set, then dive in!

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Sunny Honey Flax Bread

Sunny Honey Flax Bread
1 1/3 cups warm water
2 Tablespoons liquid honey
1 package instant yeast
2 Tablespoons oil
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, stir together the water and the honey. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand for ten minutes, until foamy. Stir to dissolve. Stir in the oil. 
Stir together the remaining dry ingredients and gradually stir into yeast mixture. Knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth, adding extra flour if needed. Allow to rise one hour.
Punch dough down and transfer to a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan. Allow to rise for another hour.
Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes. 
I decided to try an old-fashioned bread recipe again. The kind that needs kneading and rising, not just a quick or batter bread. This one is 100% whole wheat and has a nice texture from flax and sunflower seeds. This bread rose nicely and is not too difficult or time-consuming. It makes nice sandwich bread, and the recipe could probably be doubled. 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

My Home Fries

Since my grandfather is used to having fries with his liver, whenever he eats it in a restaurant, I decided to try making some fries for him. I wasn't about to take out the deep-fryer, as that is my father's territory. I decided to just make some fries in the oven. Basically I followed the same recipe I use to make homemade hashbrowns here: Hashbrowns.
The only real difference is I cut the potatoes into fry shapes instead of small cubes. This worked really well.
I peeled, rinsed, and sliced the potatoes, then covered them in water and brought them to a boil. I drained them and placed them on a baking sheet with a little oil and a light sprinkle of salt. Then I baked them on the top rack of the oven at 425F for about 25 minutes, flipping every ten minutes. The result was a batch of crispy, tasty fires that are not greasy at all. A healthier choice, but comparable to restaurant fries (and I don't mean fast food style). A great side dish, and easy too!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Liver & Onions

Liver tends to get a bad rap. It always seemed like a threat at our house, "What's for supper?" 'Liver and onions if you don't behave!' Nevertheless, liver isn't exactly a gourmet, expensive meal. It is actually incredibly cheap. You can still find liver and onions on the menu at restaurants, though it isn't usually a highly popular choice. I'll be honest, I am not a beef fan, or even much of a meat fan at all. However, I have been wanting to try liver for quite some time now. This is the first time I have tried it. My grandmother cooked a batch of fresh beef liver up for me with some onions. Apparently calf liver is the most tender, but there was none at the store at the time. However, this piece of liver she cooked was incredibly tender. It just melted in your mouth, and you could cut it with a fork. Liver is really the only form of beef I enjoy eating. I mean, steak and roast beef are two of my least favorite foods, yet I enjoyed the liver. Which is a good thing, because liver is incredibly nutritious. Liver is very high in protein, iron, and zinc, while relatively low in fat and calories. It is also very affordable and easy to prepare. We bought 4-5 portions for under $2. Here's how my grandmother made it:

Heat some oil in a large frying pan. Saute onions, in large rings or slices, over high heat for about a half hour or so. You don't want them to brown or caramelize, just release their flavor and soften. Transfer to a dish and keep warm. Place the beef liver, cut into small slices, in the frying pan and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the onions back in and cook for at least five minutes more, until cooked. Do not overcook, you want the liver to be tender. 

Monday, September 02, 2013

Nonna's Shortbread Cookies

I was quite pleased one day, when I was staying at my grandmother's house and found my great-grandmother's recipe for shortbread cookies. I was looking through my grandmother's stashes of recipes, as we were sharing, comparing, and discussing. I came across this one, and immediately copied it out for myself. I could remember my great-grandmother's shortbread cookies, and they were always the best. They were rich and buttery, never dry and crumbly, not too sweet with  a nice flavor. And they were always cut out in pretty little shapes, such as flowers and hearts, and adorned with just a light sprinkle of colored sprinkles. I couldn't wait to make them myself! 
The first time I made them was like a step back in time, they were exactly like my grandmother's - perfect. I enjoyed inhaling them warm from the oven. I used this prized recipe (which I'm sorry, but I cannot share) in the exhibition baking competition, as it is certainly award-winning. I entered it in the heritage plain shortbread category. So I could not use sprinkles on these cookies, but I did use the same shape my grandmother often used. This recipe has been passed from my great-grandmother, to my grandmother, to my mother and me. I am sure it will be passed on again and again, as it is certainly the best! And it is quite easy as well! Whipping up a batch and baking takes no more than 30 minutes in total. 

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Mini Doughnut Cupcakes

These are some miniature chocolate cupcakes I whipped up the other day. I call them doughnut cupcakes because I think they look like doughnuts or doughnut holes - with the small round chocolate base, the vanilla frosting, and the colorful round sprinkles. I was making my signature chocolate cake batter for the exhibition competition, but of course I only need to submit three small pieces. I have tried halving this recipe before, which doesn't seem to work out so well, so I made one round cake and used the rest of the batter to make miniature cupcakes. Then I whipped up a small batch of my vanilla buttercream, and used my large open star tip to pipe a swirl of buttercream on each. Then I sprinkled on some colored sprinkles. Because the buttercream icing had already hardened, and the chocolate cake is very moist and sticky, the sprinkles stuck to the cake and not the icing. I liked this effect, the plain swirl of icing surrounded with sprinkles on a chocolate cake.