Good morning!

 You know those days where you wake up refreshed and alert and feel like you’re ready to tackle the day? That’s how I feel right now.

Which is odd. I’m normally not a morning person. The first 15-30 minutes are tough. I hit the snooze button multiple times. I set 3-4 alarms, about 5-10 minutes apart, and I know which one is the last one, the one that I can’t ignore and still be on time. Once I get going though I’m fine. I don’t even need a morning dose of coffee. That’s reserved for the afternoon.

Anyway, this breakfast is pretty much an awesome breakfast of champions. It’s super easy and healthy. Quark, fresh blackberries, grape nuts (I haven’t made a batch of granola yet, something that’s on the agenda), honey, flax seed oil and mint. You feel healthy as you’re eating it.

To top off the start of this morning, here’s a lovely good morning song – my favorite. It’s an oldie but goodie, with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. You can’t help but smile when you hear the song:

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Nuts!

Hazelnuts are seriously under appreciated. I’ve found a lot more baking recipes that use almonds instead of hazelnuts. But hazelnuts make for really delicious desserts, too. For example, as hazelnut macaroons or as a lovely nut cake. Then there all those ice cream versions that include hazelnuts – incl. gianduia – and of course best of all, Nutella. Oh Nutella, how I love thee… Btw, there are also savory recipes that include hazelnuts, such as Mario Batali‘s gnocchi in salsa di nocciole. Or they may be used as a nutty component of salads.

But really, this is supposed to be a post about my love for hazelnut cakes. You’ll find a lot of cakes containing hazelnuts in Germany. Hazelnuts are also a classic in Christmas cookies. But a good, moist nut cake is always appreciated here, especially when coated with chocolate ganache. So deliciously good!

hazelnut cake

Hazelnut cake, with chocolate. Mmmm!

This is one of my favorite cake recipes. It uses milk to make sure the cake stays moist, which is really important since nut cakes can easily become dry. If you’re not sure about the chocolate ‘icing’ – it does help to keep the cake from drying out. Here’s the recipe:

Cake:

250g butter
200g sugar
4 eggs
a pinch of salt
4 tsp of baking powder (for you Germans, that’s 1 package of Backpulver)
250g ground hazelnuts (you can substitute almonds)
1/8 liter of milk

Nusskuchen, pt 1

Chocolate ganache:

~ 350g dark chocolate
1 cup of cream

Beat sugar and butter until fluffy, then add eggs and sugar until entire mix is fluffy, too. Mix flour with baking powder and sift the mix, then add to sugar-butter-egg mix. Then add hazelnuts and milk alternatingly, starting and ending with the hazelnuts. Pour the finished dough into a buttered and floured loaf pan, and bake at 350 degrees for approx. 60 minutes.

Let the cake cool, then glaze with chocolate ganache: Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Heat cream seperately, until it’s almost boiling. Remove chocolate from double boiler, add cream and beat mix until you have a glossy mix. Let the mix cool, then cover the cake to glaze it. Depending on how much the ganache has cooled you’ll have a thicker glaze. Once the chocolate has set completely, feel free to cut a slice and enjoy!

Nusskuchen, pt 2

The squirrel holdup design is from the Nuts! T-Shirt is from Threadless. I love their T-Shirts

Cake! Cake! Cake!

I don’t think this was what Marie Antoinette had in mind when she suggested that they (the French peasants) eat cake, nom nom. Actually, the original quote is probably misattributed and apart from that, it’s supposed to say: “Let them eat brioche.” Oh, and did you know that there is a House episode titled “Let Them Eat Cake?”

I have a favorite birthday cake. I love love love it – well, if I didn’t love it, it wouldn’t be my birthday cake. The cake? It’s a Mocha Cake. It’s actually my Gran’s specialty. She used when my Mom was a little girl. Well, the cake was distributed among the entire family including the bunch of cousins, and everybody got a teeny sliver. A teeny sliver that everyone savored. And it was a treat – there were no mixers, no KitchenAid so all the mixing and beating of the dough was done by hand. I’ve beat whipping cream by hand, which already was a lot of work so I can’t imagine how much work that was. And since they didn’t have an oven, they had to take the cake to a bakery to have it baked there.

I didn’t take any pictures of the entire cake because it was just too tasty to take the time to photograph it

Gran doesn’t really work off recipes. Neither her cooking nor her baking is full of precise direction. Her Indian food recipes are something like “when the oil begins to pearl but not too quickly” or “when it smells right” or “depending on the meat.” Yeah, not so helpful. You need to really have a lot of experience for those directions to make sense. And my Indian cooking is nowhere on her level that I have had enough practice making those dishes. Whenever I cook something in that direction I end up being disappointed because it’s just not up to her or my Mom’s standards. Which means that I don’t get the practice in to get more cooking experience. I also don’t like going out for Indian food since it’s never as good as Mom’s. A catch-22.

I’m not making fudge, but since Gran fudges her recipes this was very appropriate. And darn it, now I want ice cream

Anyway, Gran has always fudged her proportions, which is pretty contrary to baking since it so based on chemistry – change the balance and you might end up with a cake mess. In fact, the last time I made a Mocha cake with her, she basically asked me dump 1 lb of butter in the bowl, plus a bunch of sugar – just based on her sense of proportion. And a bunch of eggs – I’m not sure how many since it’s a been a long time since we baked together, but it was at least 8 eggs. The mixing bowl was already full with that mix, so we separated the mass, and then she added flour and nuts and coffee according to her judgement. We ended up with 3 and a half cake ‘loaves’ – our neighbors and friends loved us. In fact, one of our friends always hopes that there’s some leftover mocha cake when she stops by for a meal.

The cake is basically a modified sponge cake, with less sugar than normal (so many cake recipes call for too much sugar). Apart from the usual suspects, it als consists of ground nuts, either almonds or hazelnuts, and mocha. The mocha is very concentrated coffee – instant coffee dissolved in very little water. I guess you could also use a very very strong espresso. Once the cake is in the oven you make your frosting. It’s a mix of butter, powdered sugar, more concentrated mocha and ground nuts, whatever you used in the cake. Once the frosting is done you stick in the fridge to keep it cool.

Then it’s time for the best part of the cake – apart from eating the cake of course. The completely cooled cake is carefully cut in half . If you’re ambitious, you can cut the cake into 3 layers rather than two. Just make sure you whip up some extra frosting. Now you’ll frost the bottom layer of the cake before adding the top layer. If your frosting is too, well, buttery and warm, stick it in the fridge til the frosting is cool and spreadable, not too solidified. Then you’ll frost the remainder of the cake. At the end, when you’re done you’ll add walnut pieces, preferable walnut halves as a decorative element. Stick the cake in the fridge to solidify the cake. Make sure to also store the cake in the freezer.

Mmmm, frosting (sorry for the blurry pic)

And then, then it’s time to eat! The end pieces are the ones everyone battles for, but the rest is just as tasty. Plus you savor every single bite since it’s made only once a year.

Star Wars party invitations

But – I think I want a Star Wars kind of cake too. I mean, how creative. And the geek in me would have so much fun. And can you imagine Star Wars cupcakes? You know, headshots as cupcake decorations? I think I need to tinker around with that. I probably will need to make the cake covering out of fondant, or if I really want to be decadent, I could also make them out of marzipan. Mmmm, marzipan.

I’ll also take a Star Wars party – the geek in me would have so much fun, plus it’s so much more practical than a Stormtrooper outfit, or Darth Maul or Leia slave costume. Tasty cake vs uncomfortable costume, hmmm, which one would win… Although, it is pretty awesome to see the costumes that people create. Plus there are apparently many Star Wars themed weddings – not my cup of tea, but I’m sure it’s a great wedding party. (Click on the images for more pictures from the different parties).

a great haul for $35…

vegetables & fruit from the farmer's market

$35 for that haul

I love going to the farmer’s market. You never know what treasures you may find. And it’s great to know that you’re supporting local farmers and that you’re actually buying that what’s in season. Plus, you can’t beat the price. I got all that for $35. Yup, you read that right. That would be: a bunch of beets, one fennel bulb, one Kohlrabi bulb, 3 Cara Cara oranges, 2 red onions, 4 avocados, 2 baskets of strawberries, a bunch of asparagus, 5 Asian lemons, 2lbs of fava beans, fresh peas, a bunch of Cilantro, a bunch of purple basil and red walnuts. Just awesome!

I used to hate Kohlrabi as a kid, but I decided to give it another shot and try it in a salad. The inspiration was this winter salad I found via Epicurious, and since I like adventurous salads I thought I should see if I will change my opinion. The beets will be pickled, the fava beans might just become a fava bean spread, peas for a fresh pea risotto, fennel for salad, the strawberries are so good that they’re not going to make it through the weekend, same with the Cara Cara oranges, and the rest I’ll figure out as inspiration hits.

I know I’ll be going to this farmer’s market again!

M is for millet

millet salad

I’ve been trying out other grains since I’m trying to go gluten-free as part of a detox. I was looking for a millet salad recipe, and I found this one. Genius! A yoghurt-lime-avocado-dressing, millet (I substituted it for quinoa), grilled zucchini and crunchy pine nuts, plus hardboiled eggs makes for a tasty and satisfying meal. And it hits all three groups: protein, fat and (complex) carbohydrates, plus lots of good for you vitamins.

I’m all for experimenting with new salads, so recipes like this one help you think outside of the box. And a delicious dressing – homemade dressings are just so much better than dressings from the bottle. And its really easy to make –  you can whip it up pretty darn fast. Try it for yourself.

 

{this moment}

via Soulemama

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Spring salad with deconstructed salad dressing

Spring salad with deconstructed salad dressing

Normally I let the this moment photographs stand on their own, but since next week will be mostly about knitting and crafting, I thought I should sneak in a food post beforehand. This was a quick salad I whipped up – good ingredients and a tasty – deconstructed – salad dressing = lunch of champions. The salad has little heirloom tomatoes, watermelon radish, avocado, feta, plenty of mint, and said dressing.

If you’re wondering what kind of dressing that deconstructed salad dressing is, well, I decided against making a proper dressing, with whisk and all that. Instead, I broke down the individual components and drizzled the ingredients onto the salad. That worked especially well since I used balsamico crema instead of regular balsamico. I bought some (took me a while to find it in a store), but you can easily make your own. Anyway, the dressing is made up of a bit of olive oil in it, a bit of balsamico crema (yum), a bit of honey – very little, but a lot of my dressings have some to balance out the acidity and or spice, kosher salt and a bit of Sriracha. Yup, you read that right. I normally don’t use Sriracha in my dressings since it can so easily overpower other flavors and change the balance of flavors, but I got the idea from this awesomely delicious Ottolenghi salad. Their dressing suggests using chili sauce and caster sugar – I used Sriracha and honey instead.

watermelon radish

watermelon radish – isn’t it pretty?

You can see droplets of the various dressing components in the picture – especially the crema and the Sriracha. The dressing components all mix when you toss the salad. Make sure you toss it well, though, otherwise you’ll taste blobs of, well, dressing components. But I can tell you, that dressing and the finished salad were so tasty. I’ll definitely be making this one again. Plus it was so fast to make! Perfect if you haven’t figured out what you’ll cook beforehand, and you’re trying to put something together last-minute.

Btw, watermelon radishes are among the prettiest foods out there – and they’re so tasty, too! I wasn’t a fan of radishes growing up – but I really like them if you slice them thin. They add crunch and a bit of sharpness, although the watermelon radish is more mellow. And for me, who is not a big raw celery fan, radishes are a great crunch alternative. Watermelon radishes are bigger than regular radishes – they look more like turnips except that they are green and white on the outside. Their degree of pinkness inside may vary – and unfortunately you can’t tell from the outside how pink they’ll be inside. But give them a try the next time you see them at your grocery store or at a farmer’s market – you’ll really like them. They’re also great for breakfast, e.g. sliced thinly onto a piece of Knäckebrod (e.g. Wasa) or Pumpernickel with a bit cream cheese (yeah, that’s the German in me coming through). Yum!

Where’s my Wednesday at?

Smitten Kitchen cookbook plus scarf

Hello fellow Yarn Along-ers! Yes, I’m still around, and yes, it is high time for another Yarn Along post. Especially since I have a new wip to share with you. I managed to finish my Paraphenalia socks – yay! – and decided to cast on for something new instead of finishing up one of my old wips.

But first things first. Were you able to figure out what I’m reading? Yes? Or are you distracted by the image of the luscious lemon square? I can tell you that I have a serious hankering to bake some right now. I may just head out to the store later to buy some lemons… I guess that’s the mark of a good cookbook, that it serves to inspire you.

So – in case you didn’t guess, this is the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. I’d actually planned to attend one of the book signings, but life interfered. In the end, I guess I was better off not going, given how overcrowded and incredibly long the book signing was. And so I ended up borrowing the book from the library… I have to say, I do enjoy it, but it after all they hype, it wasn’t the best thing since sliced bread. A good cookbook but not the best one ever. It didn’t knock me off my socks. I know, heresy. Especially by me, an avowed Smitten Kitchen lover.  I do like it, but I think I’ll be just fine with the website. Unless of course someone wants to gift me with a copy of the book – I won’t say no (hint hint, family).

I guess that’s the problem with hype – it raises your expectations to a level that will almost always cause a let-down when you encounter the real thing. I’ve felt the same way about Argo or Forrest Gump. Really good movies, but the hype was just way too crazy. I was kind of disappointed after watching them – although I actually enjoyed Forrest Gump more the second time around. I’m guessing that’ll be the same case with Argo.

yellow and grey yarn

Back to the knitting. I’ve been on a yellow kick lately – the color just makes me happy. Plus it’s perfect to put you in a spring kind of mood. And even though the original prototype of the pattern sports a shawl knit in red and grey – MadTosh tart! – I decided on yellow. A mellow yellow, matched with a mellow grey so the scarf would be easy to combine with all kinds of clothing. I’m really happy with the final color selection. The yarn is MadelineTosh fingering merino light, in the colorways Whiskers and Winter Wheat. Pretty!

The pattern is Elinya – it’s a scarf/narrow shawl with  alternating stripes, knit in garter stitch. This is definitely a good design for beginners. As to me, I’m already bored out of my mind, and I’m only 30 stripes in. Oy. And this brings me to another point. This is a pattern you have to pay for. $4. I thought there’d be some short rows or some kind of shaping, something worth paying that much for. And yet all it consists of are garter stitch stripes, with increases at the beginning and end of each row. That’s it. I feel ripped off. I could have come up with that on my own, thank you very much. Sigh. But more on the topic of patterns, and pattern pricing another day.

And now for the blog hop part: I’m linking up with this week’s Yarn Along, this week’s Tami’s Amis WIP Wednesday and Frontier Dreams’ Keep Calm and Craft on (KCCO) blog-a-long. Check out some of the other awesome wip posts.

Yarn Along