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Monday, December 7, 2015

Lebekuchen Recipe

These moist, chewy cookies have a wonderful, heady aroma that says.... "Schöne Feiertage!" (er, that's Happy Holidays in German).

Growing up with a German mother we were raised with some German traditions including how we celebrated Christmas. Instead of Christmas day being THE day we celebrated on Christmas Eve, like normal people. But during the 23 days preceding there were little rituals we had to participate in. For example we always had an Advent calendar. We had the typical paper calendar depicting a glittery, festive village scene with windows you could open on each day. But the best one was a needle point calender. It was white and red and decorated with little holiday motives and cheerful elves. 24 little plastic rings were sewn next the days where my mother would tie itty-bitty presents that each of us kids would take turns opening. We also had an 'Advent Kranz', a fir wreath with four candles which we'd light at the beginning of each week of Advent. Of course I had no idea what Advent was other than it meant I got to open tiny gifts and light candles. Good times.
There's a little gingerbread house on the coffee table and you can see the Advent Kranz hanging in the foreground.
(Mom looks thrilled.)
Presents under the tree is a no-no before Christmas Eve, too. That's when 'Kristkind' delivers the goods and the real celebrating begins. It was always a magical transformation. We kids would hide out in one of the bedrooms watching Christmas shows while "Santa" would secretly deliver all the presents and transform the otherwise spartan living room into a Nüremberg Kristkindlesmarket scene. Mom would lay out the Christmas cookies which consisted of buttery sugar cookies, Anisplätzchen (anise cookies) and Lebekuchen. My mother's lebekuchen was always very dense and toothy. We loved them. The dough was spread out in a single layer when baked then brushed with a lemony icing sugar glaze and cut into diamond shapes. I like to make mine in a more traditional fashion. Individual cookies with 'back oblaten' (flour wafers) on the undersides and blanched almonds on top. It's a lot of work but well worth the blood, sweat and tears. Well, sweat anyway. (Recipe to follow).

Saturday, November 21, 2015

RECIPE: Cranberry-Pecan & Rosemary Crackers


I'm having my family over for Thanksgiving for the first time in years (I lived in Canada for ten so that's my excuse) and wanted to do a few extra special things. One of which is make my own crackers to serve my marmalade with. I was going to purchase some of those expensive raisin, rosemary, pecan crackers (you know the one's) in the fancy box but I figured, heck, I can make my own! Plus I'm frugal. (Sounds better than cheap, right?) Anyway, I found a couple recipes and mixed and matched. I didn't have the mini loaf pans required so I improvised with muffin tins. Worked pretty well but you do get some waste. Mind you, we nibbled on the scraps while the crackers were toasting so nothing actually went to waste.


On their own, these crispy, slightly chewy, aromatic and very flavorful crackers are delicious. But they are the PERFECT companion to my Orange-Cranberry Marmalade and a schmear of fresh (or aged) goat cheese. The only laborious part is the actual slicing. I sure wish I had my mother's electric bread slicer! That would make this a breeze. Aside from that, these are very easy to make. (Recipe to follow).

Thursday, November 12, 2015

RECIPE: Orange-Cranberry Marmalade


A month and a half in and it's finally beginning to feel like Fall. The air is cool (for LA), crisp and clear. I get to wear hats and finger-less mittens (no, I don't really need them). Trader Joe's is selling those cinnamon scented brooms you can smell a mile away. Hiking in the sun is actually tolerable. And the markets boast cool weather crops like pumpkins, pomegranates, parsnips and mandarins...and, one of my favorites, cranberries! I will stock up and stash as much as my freezer will hold to use for months to come. I'll add them to my juicer to get a dose of antioxidants and use the pulp for my Blueberry-Juice Pulp Bran Muffins.

Off to the General Bottle Supply for some jars and lids. It's time to make a new flavor! Orange-Cranberry. This marmalade is so good I wish I could get cranberries year round! It's perfectly balanced which is not easy to achieve as oranges and cranberries are both rather dominating flavors. It tastes like orange marmalade with a bold aftertaste of cranberry. I've kept the berries whole so you get some nice texture from both the orange peel and the berries. Plus it's a gorgeous ruby red! Top your morning yogurt with it, how about a dollop on a crispy English muffin or serve it with buttermilk biscuits at Thanksgiving? It's all good. (Recipe to follow).

Monday, November 9, 2015

RECIPE: Blueberry Juice Pulp Bran Muffins


In an effort to eat healthier I bought a juicer. What a great idea! You get fresh juiced fruit and vegetables in a matter of minutes. However, the bi-product of juicing is pulp. Lots of pulp. And since I don't have a garden compost pile to toss it in I was tossing it OUT. Boy, did I hate doing that. But what choice did I have? I began researching uses for juice pulp and found my solution. Muffins!

I experimented with several variations of flours, different fats, sugars, and other components. I'm no nutritionist but I think I came up with a great tasting, low sugar, healthy muffin. With the added bonus of a clear conscience by recycling otherwise discarded "waste". (Recipe to follow).

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Orange ya glad ya I didn't say banana?


My father loves his orange marmalade.
Well, not his marmalade. His area of expertise within the kitchen domain is limited to oatmeal. The best oatmeal, mind you, but that's another story. Growing up we always had a jar of the bitter, orange stuff in the icebox. Yuck. Bitter, bitter, bitter. I just didn't get it. Maybe it was strategic planning knowing we kids wouldn't touch it. But he also likes Miracle Whip. The man's mind is a mystery.


Topped and tailed oranges.
After watching a video of June Taylor on Chow making marmalade I got inspired to face my fears and decided to make my own. This process is an old school method and requires time, a sort of zen-like state of mind and a fair degree of nerdiness which I proudly possess. There are two stages of cooking the marmalade. The first stage is cooking the orange segments and zest in water along with a jelly bag containing the membranes and seeds of which you just separated from the segments.