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Scones, scones, scones

Scones are a wonderful treat. Whether you serve them as an afternoon snack or have them for lunch, they are simply amazingly tasty. And so diverse, as you can have them as a sweet or savory option and no matter which one you choose, you will always be happy. Each of the two options here makes 8 scones.

Ingredients for traditional sconesIMG_20170809_201832_132

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (55 grams) of cold butter
  • 5 teaspoons of backing powder
  • 2/3 cup (150 ml) of milk
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • Mix of 1 egg yolk with 1-2 tablespoons of milk to spread on scones before baking

Ingredients for cheese scones

  • 1 ¾ cups of all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons (40 grams) of cold butter
  • 5 teaspoons of baking powder
  • ½ cup (100 ml) of milk
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon of mustard
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) of sharp cheddar
  • Mix of 1 egg yolk with 1-2 tablespoons of milk to spread on scones before baking

Pre-heat the oven to 180° C/350° F. Mix all the ingredients until your dough is well-blended – for the cheese scones make sure you first add everything except the cheese, and only knead it in last. Then roll out your dough until it is about 2 cm (0.8”) thick. Since I don’t own a pastry cutter, I use a normal water glass to cut out my scones so they get the typical round form. If you are less concerned with a picture-perfect look, simply cutting the dough with a knife into squares or triangles is absolutely fine as well. Place your scones on baking paper and spread your yolk-milk mix on top. Let them bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes. Now your scones should have a golden brown color and be nicely puffed.

Serve them with whipped or clotted cream and strawberry jam (for a recipe for a homemade version, click here). The cheese version is super tasty combined with a chutney or simply with a bit of butter.

Homemade Pesto is the best(o)

Ok. I admit it. This rhyme is not exactly sophisticated or smooth. I promise however that my pesto will be. So let’s get started. This is an easy and quick recipe. So a perfect solution if you were to spontaneously decide you need to have spagettis with Pesto alla Genovese (which happened to me, just a few minutes ago). So rather than hoping to the store, I resorted to my pesto recipe and thus probably benefitted from a significantly healthier option than those that you can buy. So I thought I share my pesto recipe with you. I hope you enjoy it. This makes for 2 generous portions that go nicely with pasta.

Ingredients20170707_215605

  • 4 cups (100 grams) of fresh basil leaves, this usually equals on pot of basil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) of grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) of grated pecorino romano cheese
  • ½ cup (110 ml) of olive oil
  • ¼ cup (35 grams) of pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon of ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro

Roast the pine nuts in a pan fo 2-3 minutes and put them aside. Then press the garlic with a garlic crusher. Add the salt and grind it till it is a smooth paste. Mix in basil leaves (without stems), the roasted pine nuts and all the other ingredients and blend it for 1-2 minutes. Now you might want to ask: why is there cilantro in the pesto. Well, did once add it just for the fun of it, and realized it is really adding something to it. Which proofs once more that part of the beauty of cooking and baking is experimenting.

Strawberry jam

It is no miracle that strawberry jam is so incredibly popular around the globe. Hardly anything tastes so much like summer like this. So I decided, I will use the opportunity that you can currently pick fresh strawberries on the fields near Cologne and make a new batch of my favorite homemade jam. I love making my own jam, as you can regulate the amount of sugar and the taste is so much more intense. Another plus: have you ever noticed the amount of ingredients listed on an average strawberry jam jar? Incredible. I adhere to the „less is more“ principle with this simple recipe with a mere 3 ingredients. They are really all you need. The strawberry is the queen, let her shine by not drawing too much attention to a broad variety of things that are supposedly needed to make jam taste good and last longer.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (500 grams) of strawberries
  • 1 cup (250 grams) of canning sugar
  • ½ lemon (make sure you use an organic one)
  • add a bit of vanilla if you like

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After thoroughly washing the strawberries, cut them into smaller chunk and make sure to remove all stems. Place them in a pot and add canned sugar (and vanilla, if you like). Rinse the lemon well and grate some peel of ½ lemon. Then squeeze it and add the juice and the peel to the strawberries and the sugar. Let everything simmer medium heat for one hour (give or take). Make sure to regularly stir. Then let the jam cook on high temperature of approx. 5 minutes until a foam forms on top. Scoop the foam out of the pot and set aside (it won’t be used for the jam itself, though some people like to use it for baking).

After this, you will face a difficult choice: to purify or not to purify. If you prefer to remind yourself that „yes“ this is a real fruit and you like a few fruit bits in your jam, you can skip the next step. If you are more in the line of thinking „the smoother, the better“, pour the jam in a blender. Congratulations, you made your own jam. Now all that’s left for you to do is to fill it into jars. To make sure, the jars are clean and perfectly hygienic, put them in the dish washer beforehand and fill them with you jam shortly after the washing cycle ended, when the glass is still warm. If you store your jam at a cool, darker spot, it can be conserved like this for up to 2 years. Pro tip: this is also a perfect present idea. I always give away something homemade for Christmas for example. 2015 it was this strawberry jam.

Oreo Macarons

Macarons are the queens of sweet treats. A little taste of heaven. They make for the perfect dessert, as they are an ideal union of the slightly crunchy and soft cream textures/flavors. Whenever I eat one, it reminds me of my college year abroad in France. We all know the standard version with chocolate ganache, vanilla, raspberry, you name it. But how about Oreos? After all, they are sort of following a similar “design.” I asked myself this precise question and came to the conclusion that this is something I should definitely get onto. So this is my take on Oreo macarons. This recipe makes approx. 35 macarons.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium-sized egg whites20170617_123839
  • 20 Oreo cookies
  • 1 ¼ cups (255 grams) of powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (110 grams) of almond flour/grounded almonds
  • ¼ teaspoon of either cream de tartar or baking powder
  • 1 cup (200 grams) of sugar
  • 60 grams of butter
  • 7,5 ounces (200 grams) of cream cheese

Beat the egg white until stiff, then add the ¼ cup (55grams) powdered sugar through a sieve and mix in the baking powder or cream of tartar. Then mix the sugar with the almond flour in a separate bowl until no large chunks are left. Add the sugar-almond mixture to the egg white. Then separate the Oreo cookie shells and scrape out the filling. Ground the Oreo shells and add them to your base mix. Now we are all set.

To make sure the macarons are all more or less the same size and have a very even round form, I highly recommend getting a silicone macaron sheet (like this, if you are in Germany or this if you are in the US). Place about ½ to 1 teaspoon on each of the round circles of the mat. Bake them in the oven at 290 degrees Fahrenheit / 145 degrees Celsius for approx. 15 min.

While the first batch of macaron shells is in the oven, we have plenty of time to prepare our filling. Mix the original Oreo cookie filing with the butter (make sure it is at room temperature). Once blended in, mix in the cream cheese and then sieve in the remaining powdered sugar.

Keep the filling in the fridge until the shells have cooled down. Once that is the case, spread 1 teaspoon of the cream onto a shell and cover it up with another. And voilà… your first macaron is now ready! Whether you indulge right away or keep them in the fridge for a while is down to the strength of your mental capacities and will power. Mine is weak. But then again a little quality testing doesn’t hurt, right?

Enjoy!

Protein Peanut Butter Cups

We all want to eat healthy, but might crave a sweet treat after a workout or just because. Wouldn’t it be awesome if this moment of indulgence could still be healthy? The good news is: it can. Even with something as naughty as peanut butter cups. Here is how. The recipe below is good for ten peanut butter cups.

Ingredients

  • 6 scoops / 150 grams of chocolate-flavored protein powder (see product recommendation below)
  • 6 tablespoons / 80 grams of unrefined coconut oil
  • 6 ounces / 170ml of water
  • 6 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter

Mix the protein powder, coconut butter and water in a bowl and place half of it evenly into 6 silicone cupcake baking forms. Use silicone ones, as it makes the job of getting the cups out of their form much easier. Let it chill in the freezer for 10 minutes, till the mixture has hardened. Then spread 1 tablespoon of peanut butter onto each of the cups as a second layer. Place it in the freezer again for another 10 minutes. Afterwards, fill the remaining half of the protein powder mix into the cups to create the top layer. Let it rest in the freezer for approximately 45 minutes. Congratulations, your protein peanut butter cups are now ready to be served! Any treats that you want to keep for later should remain stored in the freezer. So yes, sadly this probably wouldn’t work as a ‘take to work’ snack, as the cups might melt on the way, but they are just perfect for an evening treat at home on your porch or balcony.

A last few words regarding the protein powder. We always use the products of Myprotein, simply because they are one of the few brands that do not overload their products with sugar. This is a very important aspect. Plus, they don’t compromise on taste. So you get yourself set up for a win-win-situation with this one. We usually use the stevia one, but I can also highly recommend the peanut butter chocolate flavor they offer.

Shopping links for German readers:

Shopping links for American readers:

Oreo Cake

It’s my fiancés birthday today and every year I bake him a birthday cake. He loves Oreos so this year’s choice was an easy one to make: a moist Oreo cake.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (100 grams) of flourIMG_20170525_130142_295
  • ¼ cup (30 grams) of baking cacao
  • ¾ cup (150 grams) of sugar
  • ½ cup (100 grams) of sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) of vegetable oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2/3 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla aroma
  • 3 cups (600 ml) of heavy cream
  • 48 Oreo cookies

For the dough, mix flour, cacao, the egg, oil, ½ cup (100 grams) of sugar, sour cream salt, baking soda and 1 tablespoon of vanilla aroma until smooth. Butter a round 9 inch cake pan (23 cm) and pour the dough into it. Bake it in the oven at 350 °F / 175 °C for approximately 20 mins.

Meanwhile whisk the heavy cream until it is stiff and firm. Mix in the remaining sugar and place it in the fridge. Then chop the Oreo cookies into small bits and fold them into the cream. This should give your cream a slightly chocolaty color, the smaller you chopped the cookies, the darker it will get. Then put the mix back into the fridge until the cake has cooled down enough (approx. for one hour).

When that’s the case, cut your cake in half horizontally. Then stack the lower half on your cake plate and apply 1/3 of the cream. Spread it out evenly on the cake and then place the second level on top. Apply the remaining 2/3 of the cream and spread it out evenly on top and on the sides. As for decoration I got colored black sugar and cut 2 of the Oreo cookies in half and used 3 halfs on top. Let your cake rest in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.

Enjoy!

Fudgy glutenfree brownies with black beans

We can’t fool ourselves. Brownies mean indulgence. They certainly don’t mean diet-friendly food. However there are definitly ways to make them a little bit healthier without sacrificing on taste. By using black beans instead of flour, we can lower the amount of carbs in our brownies, plus we also load them with fiber. And by using dark chocolate, we get a few health benefits thanks to the high cacao percentage. Cacao contains flavanols. The higher the percentage in your chocolate, the more of this substance you get. Now why should that matter to you: flavanols help lowering blood pressure for instance and supports your vascular system and the flexibility of your blood vessels so that oxygen and nutrients can be delivered through your body more easily. So this brownie is certainly a little less sweet than the classic version. But we don’t compromise on the fudginess and it is still damn delicious.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (400 g) of black beansIMG_20170523_100449_408
  • 5 ounces (100g) of dark chocolate (make sure you get 50% cacao or more, though the higher you go, the more you sacrfice on sweetness)
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • ½ cup (100g) of sugar
  • ½ cup (120 ml) of milk
  • 1 handful of walnuts or pecan nuts
  • Butter for the baking dish

Start with this recipe the night before – or if you plan on baking your brownie in the afternoon, start in the morning – by soaking the beans in water and let them rest for 8-10 hours. If you want to spare yourself this task and save the time, get the canned version and make sure you rinse and drain them well. Use a blender to mash up the beans.

Melt the chocolate and mix it with the blended black beans. Add sugar, backing powder, oil, milk and eggs. Depending on your personal taste preference, you might want to add vanilla aroma or cinnamon as well. Continue by choping the walnuts and stiring them into the dough. Butter a baking dish and heat up your oven to 350 F/ 175 C. Bake the brownies for approximately 25-30 min.

If you want to book yourself a ticket to food heaven, have your brownie with vanilla icecream while they are still warm. Yummy.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes – May the fluffiness be with you

They say that happiness is only a pancake away. Weeeeell, maybe they don’t. But they are so darn tasty, so I can hardly think of anything else that brightens up my day quite like pancakes on a Sunday morning. The number one quality of a good pancake is a fluffy and moist texture. So this recipe should do the trick. Plus, it is a perfect breakfast prior to your morning workout, as it is rich in protein thanks to the cottage cheese. I’d also say that it is relatively low carb as far as pancakes go. This recipe serves two happy people.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (65g) of flourIMG_20170514_100119_441
  • 2/3 cup (200g) of cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of baking soda (though this is optional I’d say)
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • Looooots of maple syrup (this one by REWE in Germany or this one from Stonewall Kitchen the US are my favorites)

Pancakes have one wonderful characteristic: You do not have to rigidly follow a certain order when adding the individual ingredients. Just mix them all together in a big bowl. The only exception would be the butter. I came to the conclusion that pancakes somehow turn out this tiny bit better if you melt the butter in a pan before adding it to the dough. I also like to add a pinch of cinnamon.

As for the frying itself, I like small pancakes. So I usually scoop a generous tablespoon of dough into the pan. To make sure that your first batch of pancakes stay warm until you get your last batch ready, store them in a dish in the oven at a very low temperature.

Enjoy your Sunday folks!

Zucchini waffles with sundried tomato ricotta dip

The sign for a great weekday dinner recipe is that is quick & easy yet tasty. This meal incorporates all of those feature, making it a perfect option after a day at work or full of activities, when the last thing you feel like doing would be standing in the kitchen for longer than absolutely necessary. This recipe serves 2 hungry people. You will manage to get around 10 waffles out of it.

Ingredients for the wafflesIMG_20170511_191718_752

  • 1 medium-sized zucchini
  • 1 small onion
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup of flour
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • ½ cup of of grated cheddar
  • Salt, pepper, basil, oregano, chili pepper

Ingredients for the dip:

  • 1 cup of ricotta
  • 5 tablespoons of diced up sundried tomatoes
  • 1 diced up fresh garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • ½ teaspoon of thyme
  • A pinch of tumeric/kurkuma (if you don’t have any tumeric at home, you can just as easy use substitute with chili powder)
  • Salt and pepper

Ideally you prepare the dip first so it can sit in the fridge for a while and the flavors can really infuse the ricotta. So this dip ain’t exactly rocket science, and yet the preparation time can be handled at light speed. This makes it a good last minute choice if you need something tasty to go with your food. In this case our homemade zucchini waffles.

As for the zucchini waffles themselves, the first step is grating the zucchini. Place the zucchini bits in a bowl and salt them. This is a very important step for making sure all the excess water of the vegetable evaporates out.  After 10-15 minutes – give or take – you can squeeze the remaining water out of the zucchini. Meanwhile, dice the onion and fry it in a pan with a bit of vegetable oil. Mix the flour, eggs, baking powder and spices. Then add the cheddar. After everything is well blended, add the zucchini. Now we are ready for the grand finale: whether you use a waffle -maker or pan really comes down to personal preference. If you use a waffle maker, your end result might be a bit more compact yet also more even. The pan on the other hand will certainly make them a bit more “fluffy”, yet also a bit less symmetrical. In any case, make sure you use vegetable oil to prepare them in whatever device you end up choosing.

Enjoy!

 

Eggs Benedict – A breakfast for champions

IMG_20170312_112724_265Admittedly this breakfast is the opposite of fast and easy. But it certainly is darn tasty and therefore worth every effort. This recipe serves two hungry people who are ready to tackle the day. While eggs benedict are one of THE traditional American breakfasts, it is fairly unknown in Germany and only very few cafes actually serve it. So as an expat, you are pretty much on your own if you want to start your day with a taste from home. Luckily, you can make it at home and are thus fully independent of their availability (or not) in your neighborhood.

*Disclaimer: Patience is key with this dish. It always takes quite a bit of time to prepare, so only opt for this meal if you can stand to wait a while before it’s ready. It is, however, worth every second.

Ingredients

  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 English muffins (these are fairly uncommon in Germany, but they have them at REWE)
  • ½ cup of vinegar
  • Salt
  • Streaky breakfast bacon

For the hollandaise sauce

  • ½ cup (60 grams) of butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Salt & black pepper

Start by frying the bacon. You’d want to already place it in the pan, while it’s still cold. Thereby, your bacon will be less greasy and thus crispier, as the fat is able to render out. Place the bacon on a paper napkin to get rid off the grease and then leave it in the oven so that it stays warm and crispy. I know, this is typically done with Canadian bacon. My personal taste preference however is streaky bacon, as the crispiness  just works perfectly nice with the soft poached eggs.

Now we are done with our “prep work” and can get down to business: the eggs. Place a large pot of water on the stove, add ¼ cup of vinegar and bring to a simmer. The water should NOT be boiling as the bubbles would cause the raw egg to disperse. I recommend preparing one egg at a time and add a new egg whenever the previous egg has solidified a bit. As for the poaching, use a small cup and crack the egg into it. Add a bit of vinegar, which serves as a sort of coating. Don’t worry – you won’t taste the vinegar afterwards. Gently pivot the cup and pour the egg into the water, making sure you stay at the outer edge of your pot. Use a spatula, large spoon or small sieve that is large enough to contain your egg to “secure” it at the edge of the pot and hold it there. (Or, use this super helpful device). Otherwise, the egg white will disperse and you will create a big mess and essentially have egg white soup rather than a poached egg. Wait until the egg has solidified somewhat, then repeat the process with your next egg. The amount of time it takes for your egg to be ready depends on the size of the egg and your personal preference (i.e., whether you prefer it runny or a bit harder). A general rule of thumb, however, is 5 to 8 minutes. Once they are done, place them on a tray in the oven to keep them warm, until all your eggs are poached.

Prepare the hollandaise sauce last. While you can certainly go for a store-bought option to save time and be just as happy, why not go all-in and make your own, since eggs benedict is not a quick-and easy dish anyways. Melt your butter in a pot at a medium heat and put it aside. Note: the butter should be melted but not boiling. Mix the egg yolk, water, juice from the lemon and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Set up a water bath and beat the egg yolk mix until it’s creamy. Ideally, it should also increase in volume. Slowly drizzle the melted butter into the mix while continuing to stir. Add the salt, cayenne pepper and black pepper.