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P4055044 Sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb. Delicious!

For breakfast this past week, I enjoyed oatmeal with a fresh strawberry rhubarb sauce.

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The sauce was very simple. Just a matter of chopping up the fruit and simmering until it was tender. P4055032

I cooked the apples, lemon juice and rhubarb for a little while first then added the strawberries later. P4055041 Vanilla sugar, my new love.P4055046 Good morning, sunshine!

Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal

For the Fruit Sauce

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb

1 cup sliced strawberries

1 apple peeled, cored and diced

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 Tablespoon vanilla sugar, or to taste

For the Oatmeal
1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup soy or rice milk

1/2 cup water

1/2 banana, mashed

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

For the sauce, combine the chopped fruits, water, lemon juice and sugar. Bring to a boil, and simmer on low heat while cooking the oats.

Separately, combine the water, milk, oats and salt. Simmer on low heat, until the oats thicken to a porridge like consistency. Remove from heat, and stir in the mashed banana and cinnamon.

Serve the oatmeal topped with the fruit sauce.

Makes 2 large servings.

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I’ve always ripped out recipes from magazines, just ask my mom.

Somewhere in my room back in my parents’ house, a folder exists with about 10 years worth or magazine recipes.

No surprise, this next recipe comes from the pages of my all-time-favorite rippable recipe magazine. Back in April of 2008, Better Homes and Gardens published a recipe for Asparagus Leek Risotto.

April of 2011, in my tiny German kitchen, I made this recipe my own.

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Vegan Asparagus Leek Risotto

While in Italy last October, I learned how to made real, Italian risotto. The most important risotto making rule is to ALWAYS use homemade stock.

P4034897 I started my risotto by making the stock using vegetables that were getting a bit old. I ended up only using the bottom half of the red onion pictured, and added another new red onion and a clove of garlic as well.

P4034901 Toss the veggies in a pot with a heavy pinch of salt then top with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

P4034908 You will also need 2 leeks, asparagus, Arborio rice, olive oil, black pepper, a lemon and parsley.

P4034929 Evenly space the asparagus spears on a lined baking dish.

P4034932 Brush with olive oil.

P4034938Sprinkle the spears with salt and black pepper then place in a hot oven to roast for 10 minutes.

P4034945 Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and add the chopped leeks. Sauté until the leeks are tender.

P4034949 Add the rice to the tender leeks and cook over medium heat until the rice begins to golden.

P4034954 Grate 1/2 tsp or lemon zest then juice 1 Tbsp of juice. Chop the parsley and measure out the black pepper.

Risotto is an easy dish that seems more difficult because everything comes together suddenly all at once. By having everything measured out and ready to go before you start, life will be easier and you’ll enjoy the process or making risotto even more.

P4034956 By now, the asparagus should be done.

P4034965 Chop 2/3 of the asparagus and set the remaining 1/3 aside- spears intact.

P4034968 Once the rice begins to brown, it’s time to start the action.

Stir in 1 cup of hot vegetable stock until all the liquid is incorporated.

P4034973 Continue to stir in the broth 1/2 cup at a time. Stir until the liquid is absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup.

P4034976 Just keep stirring.

P4034979 Once all 3 cups of the broth have been incorporated, add the cut asparagus, parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest and ground black pepper.

P4034981 Gently stir the ingredients together, adding a little more salt if necessary.

P4034986 To serve, top the risotto with the remaining asparagus spears, lemon peel and fresh parsley leaves.

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For an extra zing, squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over top.

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Thick, creamy, fresh and Springy.

This risotto is the perfect combination of Spring flavors.

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Vegan Asparagus Leek Risotto

adapted from Better Homes and Gardens April 2008

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

For the vegetable broth

2 carrots, peeled and chopped into thick chunks

1 large red onion, halved

1 tomato, halved

1 garlic clove

1 handful fresh parsley

1/4 tsp. black pepper kernels

1 heavy pinch of salt

water

For the risotto

3/4 pound asparagus spears, trimmed

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups sliced, cleaned leeks

1 cup Arborio rice

3 cups vegetable broth

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

(if you eat cheese, feel free to add some grated parmesan)

Method

  1. To make the vegetable broth, place all ingredients in a large saucepan, fill with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes. More time is always better though.
  2. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Lightly sprinkle the spears with salt and pepper then bake, uncovered, in 450 F oven for 10 minutes.
  3. Cool slightly then cut 2/3 of the spears into 2-inch pieces. Set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cook leeks in the remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil until tender. Stir in the uncooked rice. Cook and stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the rice begins to turn golden brown.
  5. In another saucepan, bring broth to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer. Carefully stir 1 cup of hot broth into rice mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until liquid is absorbed. Then add 1/2 cup broth at a time, stirring until the broth is absorbed before adding more broth.
  6. Stir in any remaining broth. Cook and stir just until the rice is tender and creamy.
  7. Stir in asparagus pieces, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice and pepper. Top with asparagus spears and additional lemon slices to garnish.

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On second thought, maybe this only makes 2 servings.

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I can’t believe it’s all over. I have had such a great week and although I’m excited to get back to Sebastian, I’m sad to be leaving tomorrow.

PA200549 No words can describe how fortunate I feel to have had the opportunity to come to Italy for a week, cook amazing food, stay in a fantastic apartment and spend my days with two new-found friends.

I am blessed beyond my own understanding!

PA220819 For our final cooking class we prepaerd stuffed tomatoes and zucchini, homemade tagliatelle with a pumpkin sauce, breaded fish cutlets, a mixed salad and lemon poppy seed cake.

We also had wine. Lots and lots of wine. Hey, it might have only been noon but it was our last day together in Italy, what do you expect?

Stuffed Tomatoes and Zucchini

PA220790 Although I’ve stuffed tomatoes many times before, I’ve never used bread crumbs. This way was much more crunchy.

Ingredients

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 4 zucchini
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 6 Tbsp. bread crumbs
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Prepare the tomatoes by cutting them in half width-wise and scooping out the seeds. Reserve the seeds in a small bowl.
  2. Prepare the zucchini by cutting out and discarding the seeds and spongy bits. Place the zucchini and tomatoes on a baking dish and sprinkle with salt.
  3. To make the filling, smash the tomato seeds with a fork to break up and then mix in the parsley, garlic, bread crumbs and enough olive oil to make a slightly moist mixture.
  4. Fill the tomatoes and zucchini creating a flat top which covers the entire top of the vegetables.
  5. Bake in a hot oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the stuffing is golden brown.

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Pumpkin Sauce

PA220791 I knew I’d love this sauce from the first mention of it’s name. Eating pasta with a pumpkin sauce was a nice change. It was savory, rich and absolutely delicious! I will certainly make it again!

Ingredients

  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 800 grams pumpkin, seeds and skin removed, chopped into tiny cubes
  • 8 oil-packed sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • wild fennel leaves
  • 3 Tbsp. pine nuts
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 handfuls fresh grated parmesan
  • water

Method

  1. Coat the bottom of a non-stick pan with olive oil and fry the sliced shallots until they soften, stirring constantly.
  2. Add in the pumpkin, 1 Tbsp. chopped fennel leaves, 2 fennel stalks, a generous pinch of salt and fresh black pepper. Cook 10 minutes over medium high heat, stirring and tossing frequently. Add water as needed to keep the sauce moist and prevent the vegetables from sticking.
  3. Add the tomatoes and toss to incorporate.
  4. Dry toast the pine nuts until golden brown then add them to the sauce.
  5. Stir in 2 handfuls of parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

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Homemade Tagliatelle

PA220782 Rolling out pasta by hand it hard work but the reward is worth it! I can’t wait to make pasta at home. I’ll have to invest in a long rolling pin, Stefania said my wine-bottle-rolling-pin method just won’t do.

Ingredients

For 2-4 servings.

  • 200 g. all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • good pinch of salt
  • drizzle of olive oil

Method

  1. Create a large circular well in the flour which goes all the way down to the cooking surface. Crack the eggs inside the well and add the salt and a little olive oil.
  2. Using a fork, begin to whisk the eggs pulling in flour from the side as you go. Keep the well sturdy and continue pulling in flour. Continue to whisk in the flour until you have only a small well-wall left.
  3. Begin to knead in the remaining flour with your finger tips. Work gently at first and then, as the dough starts to harden, knead regularly.
  4. The dough will be quite dry. Keep kneading for about 10 minutes or until your dough is smooth and elastic.
  5. Make a ball with the ugly sides under and then squeeze out your dough until it is like a thick pancake. Dust your working table very lightly and dust the top of your ball of dough.
  6. Using a rolling pin, start in the center and push all your weight into a back and forth motion until you reach the ends. Rotate the dough 45 degrees and then repeat.
  7. Keep rolling out the dough and when it becomes too big, have a friend hold down the ends for you or simply fold some of the dough over the edge of the table and lightly lean on it. Roll until your dough is about 2 mm thick.
  8. Fold in two inches of the ends of your dough on both sides. Dust with flour then fold over again on both sides. Dust and repeat until you reach the middle. Fold the two ends on top of one another.
  9. Using a sharp knife, cut straight down through your pasta to create a uniform width of about 1/2 cm. Keep slicing without moving your already cut pasta.
  10. Grab a hold of the first layer of pasta and shake out to separate the strands and remove excess flour. Pile up.
  11. Cook your pasta in a pot of boiling water which is very well salted (as in one whole handful of salt.) When you add the pasta the water will stop boiling. Once it begins to boil again, your pasta is cooked.
  12. Remove the pasta from the water and add directly into your prepared sauce. You may need to add a little more pasta water.
  13. Serve your pasta with more parmesan, salt and pepper.

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Breaded Fish Cutlets

PA220806 This is such a fast dish to make. The fish was incredibly moist and flaky inside. I’ll be doing this one at home too.

Ingredients

  • 1 large fish fillet (4 servings worth) we used a fish from the local lake but perch or another soft white fish would also work well
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • lemon wedge

Method

  1. Cut your fish into medium sized pieces with scissors.
  2. Prepare your breading station, 1 bowl with flour, 1 bowl with the egg, 1 bowl with the bread crumbs and parsley.
  3. Coat the fish with flour then dip into the egg and cover well. Drip off the extra egg and then place in the bread crumbs and coat well. Repeat with all fish pieces.
  4. Fill the bottom of a skillet with olive oil, about a pinky-width deep. Heat the oil over medium high heat until it is hot. Fry the fish until golden brown on both sides.
  5. Remove fish from oil and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
  6. Squeeze the lemon wedge over the cutlets. Salt and pepper to taste.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

PA220810 I love lemon poppy seed anything but as far as the cake goes, I like my mom’s version better. This cake wasn’t lemony enough for my taste and was too dry to eat alone.

Ingredients

  • 125 g. butter, melted in a double boiler
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 150 g. sugar
  • 180 g. flour
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1.5 lemons
  • 8 g. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
  • powdered sugar

Method

  1. Using an electric mixer, cream together the sugar and eggs until it has doubled in size. Sift in a little flour at a time while continuing to mix.
  2. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, baking powder and butter- mixing the whole time. Incorporate the poppy seeds.
  3. Butter and dust a bunt pan. Spread the batter evenly inside and bake at 180 degrees for 40 minutes.
  4. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

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If anyone is interested in coming to Italy for cooking classes, I would highly recommend Let’s Cook in Umbria. The classes are small and personalized. I learned so much over the four cooking classes and would stay if given the opportunity! You can also come for 1 day classes if you’re just passing through the area!

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One of my favorite books growing up was The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear.

I believe that everyone should have the pleasure of knowing this wonderful story, so I’ve found an audio version for those of you who are not familiar with this children’s classic.

My favorite part of the story has always been when the little mouse attempts to disguise the strawberry.

Yesterday, there was no disguising the red ripe strawberries from this Big Hungry Bear.

Yesterday morning I was up early and on the road with a very nice Irish colleague of mine, heading to a strawberry field outside of Troisdorf, Germany.

The drive was beautiful, winding through small villages speckled with timber-framed houses and old mills which have been converted into lovely homes.

Rustling water and weeping willows= total peace.

If you live in Germany and are looking for farms in your area to harvest your own produce, visit this website. There are links to a variety of different farms, growing all sorts of produce.

Once we arrived at the field and opened the car doors, I was instantly struck by the smell.

Red Ripe Strawberries

Lots and lots of perfectly ripe strawberries.

The best part of picking your own berries? You can instantly eat the fruit fresh off the vine while you’re picking.

After 20 minutes, I had about 20 strawberries in my basket and probably 50 in my stomach.

I would pick a red ripe strawberry and think, “Oh no, that strawberry is too perfect to wait for!”

Then it would go in my mouth rather than my basket.

Although I didn’t think it possible before, one can develop a sick feeling stomach from too many strawberries.

After about an hour in the beautiful sunshiny weather, my basket was full.

Goodbye field of dreams.

My basket was weighed and amazingly, the total came to €4.50!!

It’s a good thing the lady didn’t weigh the difference in my weight pre and post picking.

But as always, there’s the one who got a way!

I couldn’t wait to get home and begin to bake for my berries!

More specifically, I couldn’t wait to bake strawberry lemon shortcakes!

Summertime fresh and sweet.

Ingredients for the shortcakes.

Mix the dry ingredients and cut in the butter until crumbly.

Whisk the egg, milk and lemon peel together.

Wet meets dry.

Combine to form a sticky dough.

Knead on a floured surface.

The dough will become soft and smooth.

Roll into a long log.

Slice into 12 even pieces.

Form into a ball

Then lightly press on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.

Bake until golden brown

The lemony smell is sweet and light

Fresh strawberries, ready and waiting!

Layer it all together.


Strawberry Lemon Shortcake

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Shortcake:

  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon cold butter
  • 1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons cold milk
  • 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • grated peel from 1 lemon

Whipped cream:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • grated peel from 1/3 of a lemon

Method

  1. Hull and quarter the strawberries. Toss with sugar and refrigerate.
  2. For the shortcake, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until crumbly. (Hint: if you do not have a pastry cutter, freeze the butter, grate it into the dry mixture, then stir until well coated.)
  3. Whisk together the milk, egg and lemon peel. Pour into the dry mixture and stir until well combined. The dough will be slightly sticky.
  4. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead 10 times. Roll the dough into a log then slice into 12 even pieces.
  5. Form the sections into balls then lightly flatten onto an un-greased piece of parchment paper.
  6. Bake at 400º F for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Place on a cooling rack.
  7. For the whipping cream: whip all ingredients until light and fluffy.
  8. To assemble, top the shortcake with the cold strawberries and whipped cream.

Simply Delicious!

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I love the rich taste of a good, fresh pesto.

I don’t, however, like the way my body feels after indulging in the oily green Goddess.

Solution?  Lightened-Up Pesto.

Lightened-Up Pesto

Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces Romano cheese, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup mixture of Brazil and pine nuts
  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes
  • dash of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (1 large lemon)
  • Hot cooked spaghetti

Method

  1. In a food processor, combine Romano cheese and garlic; cover and process for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the basil, nuts, tomatoes, salt and pepper; cover and process until combined. While processing, add the lemon juice; process until combined.
  3. Warm the sauce with the prepared spaghetti, allowing the cheese to melt.

I added a skewer of boiled baby shrimp to my dinner.

This is the lightest, most refreshing pesto you will ever taste.

Once you make pesto with lemon juice, you will never turn back to oil again.

Here’s the step-by-step.

Collect your ingredients

Fresh ingredients always point to an outstanding meal.

Get your pasta going.

Process the garlic and cheese until combined.

Add the basil, nuts, tomatoes, pepper and salt.

Process while adding lemon juice.

Heat and serve.


Simply delicious!

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I have always had trouble with time.

  • Keeping on time
  • Being on time
  • Predicting the amount of time an activity will take
  • Today- I add a new time trouble- Telling time
  • One would not expect a teacher to have trouble telling time, but two instances today made me very aware that I can not accurately tell time.

    Experience #1. The new German math teacher asked me what time her lesson with my students was to end.

    “11:45. Oh wait, (frantically looking at my time-table) oh, no, it’s actually 10:45. Just go by the bell, that’s what I do.”

    Probably not the best, most professional, “I have it all together,” first impression.

    Experience #2. During our Spring is almost here let’s go outside for PE nature walk, I rushed my students back to school (as in we ran for one block) when I noticed that the day would end in 5 minutes. Only to get to school and hear no bell. Weird. I looked again more carefully. Minute hand= 15. That’s correct. Hour hand=2. Oops, I expected to see 3. Apparently I had overestimated the amount of time 2 science experiments took and was off by ONE HOUR all afternoon.

    This morning my oats took longer to cook than I had expected. They also didn’t taste as good as I had hoped.

    Lemon Poppy Seed Oats

    Don’t try this at home… it isn’t worth it!

    1/4 cup each of oats, water, milk

    1 tsp. wheat germ

    dash salt

    1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds

    1/2 mashed banana

    Juice of 1/2 lemon

    1 spoon peanut butter

    ground flax

    At least my coffee never fails me!

    Luckily, I made it in time to both put together and enjoy this beautiful tuna salad salad for lunch.

    Lettuce, shredded carrot, cucumber, tuna salad made with tuna, light mayo, italian seasonings, and pepper, along with a slice of “Farmer’s Bread” – literal translation.

    One thing I am good at is finding time for chocolate!

    Funny Fact: A few years ago a survey showed that German children believe cows are purple. This product is to blame.

    Class fruit snack happened on time– well not really.

    I was able to hitch a ride with a colleague to the local hardware store- to save a bit of time this afternoon.

    I spent €50 on duct tape for a class project. Yes,€50. Note to self, never plan a project using affordable and easy to find American products. They are neither affordable nor easy to find in Germany.

    I munched on a roasted red pepper baguette from the bakery to fuel me before hitting up the gym.

    Unfortunately, while in the rush of packing my gym bag, I forgot my sports bra. Not good. I took it easy- bike and treadmill for 45 minutes then called it a night.

    Dinner was a time-saving fruit salad.

    Lettuce, two furry kiwis, 4 strawberries, 1/2 avocado, roasted pecans, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, melted goat’s cheese, and balsamic glaze.

    Delicious.

    I’m now in the process of making sunflower seed butter and doing dishes. Both are taking longer than I had expected. After that I look forward to spending some quality time with my fellow bloggers!

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