Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

From Bert (Alex)

 ...and Ernie (Aaron)!

Unfortunately Bert and Ernie, even though they obviously do love each other, refused to sit together for even one photo!

I hope you and your family enjoy the holiday (and eat lots of candy)!  We'll be back tomorrow with some really awesome Ginger cookies to continue celebrating Fall.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

You may be asking yourself, more pancakes?  Yes!  More Pancakes!  Pancakes are still our go-to breakfast food for the twins.  Some days we have whole wheat waffles spread with applesauce, but most days we have pancakes. The kids are still loving the Oatmeal Pancakes and the Sweet Potato Pancakes, but since it is fall and since I do love pumpkin, we had to try some pumpkin pancakes.  Plus?  How awesome is it to be able to stir in canned 100% pumpkin puree and add a serving of veggies to their diet so quickly and easily?  Very awesome.

These pancakes are hearty with a nice pumpkin taste, very similar to a pumpkin bread.  I hope you enjoy them!

Pumpkin Pancakes, adapted from Ruth on All Recipes
2 cups white whole wheat flour (you can use all-purpose too)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups pumpkin puree

In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients.  Pour the milk into a large measuring cup and then add the vinegar, egg and oil.  Mix together then stir it into the dry ingredients.  Lastly, stir in the pumpkin puree.

Fry on a hot, lightly oiled, griddle.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pretzel Rolls

Oh pretzel rolls.  I just love them.  Odd because I rarely eat a pretzel....hmm, well maybe that isn't true...darn Auntie Anne's!

Alex and I have made homemade pretzels before, it is fun and pretty easy but these pretzel rolls were even easier. Most of the work is done by the mixer.  You do have to poach them, but it is a simple process and the outcome is quite delicious.  We ate our rolls with currywurst and sauerkraut, then had a couple left over for some sandwiches the next day.  Even the kids got in on the action and absolutely loved them.  Carbs + Babies = True Love.

Pretzel Rolls, adapted from Guy Fieri
1 tablespoon dry active yeast
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup baking soda

To get the rolls going put 1 cup of warm water (about 110 degrees) in the bowl of your mixer.  Put the yeast in and then give it five minutes or so to "bloom".   Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and once the five minutes are up, turn the mixer on low (using the dough hook!) and add the dry ingredients.  Once they are incorporated turn the speed up to medium and let it go for about 8 minutes.  Check it after about 5, if the dough seems too wet or dry adjust as necessary.  The dough should be elastic and smooth, not too sticky but definitely not dry either.

Once you are done kneading, form the dough into a ball and put it into a glass bowl that has been rubbed with vegetable oil.   Cover the bowl with a towel and set it aside to rise for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead it a few times.  Now divide it in half, then divide each half into three.  You should have six equal sizes balls.  Line a baking sheet with some aluminum foil then spray it with some cooking spray.  Put the balls on the tray and lightly draw two diagonal cuts across each one with a knife.  Cover them with a towel and let them rise again for about 15 more minutes  (or doubled in size again).

While the dough is rising again, preheat the oven to 425 F and bring 8 cups of water to boil.  

Once the dough is ready add the baking soda to the water, give it a stir and let the foam die down a little.  Then put in two rolls at a time.  Poach them for about 2 minutes per side then remove them from the water and put them back on the baking tray and sprinkle each with some kosher salt.

Bake the poached rolls for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Make sure to eat one hot!  Wow these are good.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Currywurst - German Street Food!

One of my favorite parts of traveling to other countries is eating street food.   In London there are the most amazing curry stands and of course the fish and chips wrapped in newsprint. In Paris it is all about crepes.  My favorite are the crepes au thon (swiss cheese and tuna, yum!).

So even though I haven't yet been to Germany I was excited to make some German street food for our Oktoberfest extravaganza.  Currywurst is sausages cut into slices and served with a curry sauce and either fries or Brotchen (a roll).  We decided to serve ours with pretzel rolls instead since we both love them and have wanted to try them out for a while.  (Pretzel Roll recipe tomorrow!)

I liked the currywurst!  It was simple pub-type fare but it was good with some sauerkraut and some beer.  We enjoyed them and had a nice relaxing Friday night. :)

Currywurst, adapted from JenFen on All Recipes
1 pound bratwurst or other pork sausage
1 (15 oz) can of tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chili sauce (we used Heinz)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons curry powder

Cook sausages on the grill or a grill pan. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the tomato sauce with all the rest of the ingredients.  Bring to a gentle boil and then allow the sauce to simmer for 5 minutes or so.

Slice the sausages and then pour over some sauce and enjoy them!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Weiner Schnitzel

I honestly didn't think I'd have, not one, but two "schnitzel" recipes on my blog.  But in our decision on what to make to celebrate Oktoberfest this year Alex and I decided to try Wiener Schnitzel since I have never in my life eaten veal.

Wiener Schnitzel is basically a thin piece of veal, lightly breaded and fried.  The thought of poor little baby cows has made me pass on veal for many years but we decided we would get some humanely raised veal from Whole Foods and give it a shot.  I highly recommend buying meat at Whole Foods for that reason along with a host of others.  It can be pricey but if you can afford  it, it is worth the extra cost.  If you want to pass on the veal though, feel free to substitute pork loin instead.  Just slice the pork into medallions and pound them thin.  Less guilt, lower cost.  Still delicious.

Wiener Schnitzel, adapted from Paula Deen
4 veal cutlets (about 4 oz each, pounded thin)
salt and pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons water
2 cups plain dry breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for frying
1 lemon, cut in wedges

This recipe takes only about 10 minutes start to finish so make sure your sides are ready to go.  (We served pan-roasted carrots and parsnips with some braised red cabbage with our schnitzel.)

First get your breading stations ready.  Put the flour in one shallow dish, the beaten eggs and water in a second, and the breadcrumbs in the third.  Now pat dry the veal and salt and pepper them on each side.

Fill a large skillet with an inch or so of vegetable oil and place it over medium-high heat.  Now you can dredge your veal in the flour, then the egg wash, and lastly the breadcrumbs.  Once the oil is hot put the veal in the pan. Depending on the size of your veal and pan you may need to do these in two batches.  Fry the veal for 2 minutes per side then remove them to a plate lined with paper towels.  Sprinkle them with a bit of salt.

Make sure to give each person a lemon wedge or two for them to squeeze over the schnitzel before that first bite. The lemon adds a nice crisp flavor to the schnitzel.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How-To Tuesday! Spatzle

How-To Tuesday German Style! For those of you who have never even heard of spatzle....spatzle is basically a German egg noodle.  It's a short little noodle that is generally made of eggs and flour, it's very easy to make and very yummy to eat.  Another good reason to make your own?  Buying boxed spatzle is actually kind of pricey here in the U.S.

Quick and easy directions for the spatzle, then a great recipe to use it in to follow. :)

Spatzle, adapted from Gordon Ramsay (serves 2)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp grated nutmeg
2 eggs, one whole and one yolk beaten together
3 tablespoons of milk
3 tablespoons of water

Bring a large pan of water to boil.  While it is heating, combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl.  Make a well in the middle and pour in the eggs.  Mix together.  Now add the milk and water, stirring to make a thick batter.

To make the spatzle, spoon a small amount of the batter into a colander held over the pan of boiling water.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape over the batter pushing it through the holes in the colander and into the boiling water below.  Let the spatzle cook for about a minute then use a strainer or slotted spoon to scoop it out and into a bowl.

If you want you can make the spatzle early and then reheat it by sauteing it in some butter for a minute or two.

My favorite dish to make with spatzle uses sausage and a creamy mustard sauce.  Even making the spatzle from scratch, the dish only takes about 20 minutes.  A great warm dinner for a crisp fall night.  (Not that we are having any of those here in Vegas yet)  I prefer to use the spatzle recipe I listed above with Robert Irvine's sauce...his spatzle is ok, but we didn't think the extra ingredients really came through in the dish.  The mustard sauce though?  Outstanding.

Spatzle in Mustard Cream Sauce with Sausage, adapted from Robert Irvine
Spatzle, see above
1 lb sausage in casings (sweet or spicy both work!)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small shallot, minced
3 tablespoons white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoon Dijon Mustard (we used the Country Style Grey Poupon)
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons grate Gruyere cheese

Prepare the spatzle as described in the recipe above and set it aside.  Cook your sausages either in a grill pan or in a pot of boiling water.  Once done, slice them into 1/2 inch rounds.

To make the sauce, heat a saucepan over medium.  Add the butter and shallots and cook until the shallots are a nice golden brown.  Pour in the white wine to deglaze the pan, then add the cream, thyme, and mustard.  Taste and then season the sauce with salt and pepper.  Put the sauce on low and continue to cook until it has thickened, about 5 minutes.  Once the sauce is thick, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese.

Pour about half of the sauce over the spatzle and toss to coat and reheat it.  Place the spatzle on plates then put the sausage over the spatzle and spoon over a bit more sauce.

Comfort food at its, German-style, finest!

Monday, October 17, 2011


Around this time of year Mr Pears and I always make some German food to celebrate Oktoberfest.  But did you know that Oktoberfest is actually held in September?  The traditional German beer festival actually begins in mid-September and continues through the first weekend in October, so we are a little behind...but better late than never right?

This week all of our posts are going to be Oktoberfest related.  Get ready to learn how to make spatzle on Tuesday, then we'll have some Currywurst (a German street food favorite), Weiner Schnitzel, and even some homemade Pretzel Rolls!

So break out the Oktoberfest beer! Prost!  (psst...that means cheers! :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Shrimp Pasta with Chili and Lime

So yesterdays soup may not have been that low-calorie.  Darn cream.  But today's Shrimp pasta sure is!  We make this one a lot, actually, because it is super quick and easy for a nice light weeknight dinner.  It's definitely a "go-to" recipe for us.

The original recipe is Gordon Ramsay's but we've tweaked it quite a bit over time.  (Nobody tell him though, he kind of scares me!)  I like to use a Thai chili for some heat, a red bell pepper for sweetness, and I substitute cilantro for the parsley...because I just love cilantro.

This dish is really quick so make sure you have your pasta boiling before you start cooking the rest.   And make sure to boil it in salted water.  Angel hair is traditionally used in recipes with such a light sauce but we used fresh fettuccine this time and it was still great.  Fresh pasta can be pricey in the grocery store but if you see it on sale or have a coupon definitely pick some up.  It is unbelievable how much better fresh pasta is over dry.

Shrimp Pasta with Chili and Lime, adapted from Gordon Ramsay
1/2 lb cooked angel hair pasta
3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 green onions
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 thai chili, seeded for less heat, not seeded if you dare
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 lb uncooked shrimp, cleaned and without tails
olive oil
1 lime
handful of cilantro, chopped

In a large pan over medium heat, add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Once the oil is hot add the garlic, onions, and bell peppers.  Cook them for about 4 minutes before adding the chili pepper.  Now cook one additional minute.  

Add the white wine to the pan and let it cook for about another minute or so.  The wine will quickly reduce.  Toss in the shrimp and cook them until they are pink.  Only 2 to 3 minutes.  

At this point get your pasta drained and into the pan with the shrimp, drizzle some olive oil over the pasta, squeeze over the lime juice and toss in the cilantro.  Toss the whole thing to combine.

Done.  Simple right?  And so good.  I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

I have a very large place in my heart for pumpkins.  I loooove them. :)  I could eat an entire pumpkin pie, can't wait each year for Starbucks to bring in the pumpkin spice lattes, and I love pumpkin soup.

Usually I buy all fresh ingredients for my recipes.  Little sugar pumpkins are easy to bake, but the canned stuff is pretty awesome too.  100% Pumpkin, pureed and ready to go.  Now, you may not have noticed but sometimes Mr Pears and I like to make things kind of complicated (see Tuesday's 6-hour French Onion Soup for evidence).  But yesterday I decided that I wanted pumpkin soup and I was going to do it easy.  It was easy, and it was delicious.

This recipe is really simple and really easy but it is a little spicy and a little sweet and it's just a great fall soup. To make it even easier on myself I made up the soup during nap time, all the way up to blending it. Then I poured the soup into two containers, one to put in the freezer for another time and one to put in the refrigerator for dinner. Then, when we were ready to eat it, I warmed it up and added the milk, etc. to finish it up.  It only took a few minutes to complete. Awesome.  I hope you try it out!

Spicy Pumpkin Soup, adapted from Simply Recipes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 dashes of cayenne pepper (this is to taste!  feel free to leave this out for a less spicy soup)
5 cups chicken broth
3 (15 oz) cans of 100% pumpkin puree (6 cups if you are making it yourself!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream

Melt your butter in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Put in the onions and garlic and cook them for about 5 minutes or until soft.  Next add in all the spices and cook them, stirring, for about a minute longer.  Add your pumpkin puree and chicken broth to the pot and stir well to combine.  Bring the soup to a boil and then allow it to simmer for 15 minutes.

After simmering, let the soup cool down a bit before transfering it into the blender (you will need to do this in a few batches, probably 3).  Puree the soup until smooth.  At this point, if you don't want to eat this soup right away (or even today) you can refrigerate it or freeze it until you need it.

If eating now, put the soup back into the pot on low heat.  Stir in the brown  sugar, then the milk and the cream. Taste it and season with salt and pepper if necessary.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thai Beef Cabbage Cups

Is it happens, Mr Pears and I both managed to gain a few LB's in Hawaii.  It could have been the breakfast buffet which was included with our room reservation, but I'm guessing it was all those drinks in the plastic pineapples.  Oops. 

So in an effort to eat a bit more low-calorie dinners for a while, I made these Thai beef cups the other night.  Of course lettuce wraps are so popular so I was kind of surprised (and maybe a little skeptical) of using cabbage instead.  I was pleasantly surprised.  These were light, but very tasty with a little kick and a lot of crunch.  Great texture and flavor.  Not only that but according to the recipe each serving is only 292 calories.  The recipe says this is four servings but it made a good dinner for the two of us, with no other sides.  And under 600 calories for dinner?  That is pretty good in my book.

Thai Beef Cabbage Cups, adapted from Cooking Light
2 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
2 teaspoons minced ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground sirloin
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or to taste!)
1/2 cup vertically sliced red onions
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
8 large green cabbage leaves
2 tablespoon unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and then cook the garlic and ginger for a bout 1 minute.  Add the meat and cook until browned through. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining sesame oil, sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, water and red pepper.  Toss in the meat, onions, cilantro and peanuts and stir to combine.  Serve on top of the cabbage leaves. 

We didn't serve these to the kids because of time issues, but next time we will probably cut out the red pepper so they can have some.  One recipe reviewer claimed she did that for her own kids and then just had some sliced fresh jalapenos for herself and her husband, which I think is a great idea for us too.

Happy, Healthy, Eating!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How-To Tuesday! Beef Stock

There is just no way to tell you that making your own stock is easier than using the store bought stuff.  It just isn't. Making stock takes about 5 hours...BUT!  if you are going to be around the house anyway, it is worth the time, and it can save you money too.

To save money, every time you eat beef with a bone, keep it.  Put it in a freezer storage bag and into the freezer. I'm talking steak bones, short ribs, beef ribs, what ever.  We just happened to have some oxtail lounging around in our freezer so that is what we used.  (It's good, trust me!)

Few ingredients are involved in making a good stock, just a large pot and a lot of time.  In the end, though, you've got a great base for a great soup.  In our case French Onion Soup....YUM.

Beef Stock
olive oil
5-6 lbs of beef bones
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large carrots, chopped
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
6 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
6 quarts of water

To begin your stock you first need to roast your bones.  Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Put in your dutch oven so it preheats as well.  Once heated, carefully remove the dutch oven and add a few tablespoons of olive oil to it, then the bones.  Return the pan to the oven and allow the bones to roast for about 45 minutes.

While the bones are happily roasting, melt the butter in a large pan and saute  your onions, carrots, garlic and herbs over medium heat until softened.  Around 5-7 minutes.

Once the bones are done in the oven remove the pan and deglaze it with water over medium high heat.  A cup of water should do it.  Now pour the contents into a large stock pot and add about 6 quarts of water.  Bring the pot to a boil then turn down the heat and allow it to simmer for 4 hours.

Once the four hours are  up, strain the stock through a sieve to remove all the solid bits.  Viola!  Beef Stock! About 4 quarts.  Use it or freeze it for later.  We used it.....

Onion Soup, adapted from Thomas Keller, from the Bouchon cookbook
5 lbs yellow onions
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
4 quarts Beef Stock (see above)
freshly ground pepper
sherry wine vinegar
1 baguette
extra virgin olive oil
sliced Emmentaler cheese (or swiss)
1 cup grated Emmentaler cheese (or swiss)

Get ready for a few tears.  The hardest part about this recipe is chopping the onions.  Cut the tops and bottoms off and then slice them in half lengthwise.  Remove the tough outer peel.  Now slice each onion lengthwise in 1/4 inch slices.

Are you done?  OK then, let's move on.  Melt the butter in a large heavy pot or dutch oven over low heat.  Dump in the onions and sprinkle over a tablespoon of kosher salt and toss the onions around.   Cook them for about an hour on low heat stirring every 15 minutes or so.  Once they've "sweated" out the liquid, turn the heat up but only slightly.  Maybe a 2 or 3, you do not want to burn them. Now allow them to cook for 5 hours.  5 HOURS! yeah.  Believe me, these will be the best caramelized onions you have ever tasted.

To make the croutons that go in the soup preheat the broiler and slice the baguette into about 10- 1/2 inch slices. Lay them on a baking tray and brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Broil them until nicely toasted.

Once the onions are golden brown and absolutely delicious, add the flour and saute them for another minute.  Now add them to the completed beef stock. Bring to a simmer and allow the soup to reduce by about a third, around 1 hour.  Taste the soup and add salt and pepper if needed and a teaspoon or two of the sherry vinegar.

Now place your oven-proof soup bowls on a baking sheet, preheat the broiler, and fill the bowls with the soup.  (This makes about 4 large bowls) Add enough croutons to cover the mouth of the bowl, just rest them on top of the soup.  Cover each bowl with the sliced cheese.  You want to leave about 1/2 inch overhang. Top with the grated cheese.

Put them in the broiler for about 2-3 minutes.  Watch them, and pull them out when they look nice and golden brown.

This soup is awesome.  6 hours may seem like a long time but most of it is just downtime.  If you are having a lazy Sunday, try it out.  It really is worth it!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Back to Reality

We are finally back friends! I hope you'll forgive us for our two week lapse; we had such a wonderful time celebrating the boys' birthday, visiting with our family, and then relaxing in Hawaii!

I can't believe my little boys are one!  Grandma and Grandpa Doug were here, along with Grammy and Grandpa Al. The party was small, the gifts were (very) plentiful, and the cakes I put so much thought into were mostly ignored by the birthday boys!

Alex eating some cake after some coaxing

This face pretty much sums up Aaron's interest in birthday cake

He decided on some watermelon instead.

A picture of Alex's slightly demolished cake

Overall definitely a success. :)

Cake disinterest aside it was a great day and the boys had a fun time with their Grandparents...and with their presents too of course!

The next day, though, we left the boys in the able hands of Grandma and Grandpa Doug and Alex and I flew off to Maui for a week of fun in the sun.  

We paddleboarded, snorkled, and jumped around in the waves on the beautiful Wailea beach.

Alex went down every one of the many water slides at the resort about a million times

I basked in the sun

And we both drank lots of fruity drinks out of plastic pineapples.

Despite missing the babies A LOT more than we were expecting, we had a wonderful time relaxing and enjoying time together.  This was an incredible first year with the babies for us; challenging, joyful and tearful.  But we made it, and we are looking forward to so many more.

But back to the kitchen!!  We have some good stuff cooking this week.  Fall is here so get ready for soups and more pumpkin than most people can stand! 

Saturday, October 1, 2011


We haven't disappeared completely, we just jetted to Maui!

Sorry to leave without notice but we'll be back next week with details on the twins' birthday (like how one chubby guy apparently doesn't like cake) and on our vacation to Hawaii. 

We are having a great timing soaking up sun and mai tais, talk to you all again soon.