Crisp, autumn apples paired with nuts, dried cranberries, feta and salad greens. Yum! The salad dressing is the perfect pairing as well. A great salad as an entree or as a side. It’s Fall Y’all!
APPLE CRANBERRY WALNUT SALAD
6 cups salad (I used a combination of arugula and baby spinach, any spring green mix will do)
1 red apple
1 green apple
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped (I used pecans)
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 cup apple juice
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar in a pinch)
2 tablespoons honey
scant ½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup oil
Core and chop apples (thin slices or 1 inch chunks). Toss lettuce, apples, walnuts, feta, and cranberries together in a large bowl.
Whisk together all dressing ingredients. Toss with salad immediately before serving. Enjoy!
Fresh Peach Cake is delicious, even though the photo of the finished product is not. I was disappointed by the appearance of the finished product, but the taste was delicious.
Next time, I would use a slightly bigger pan, since the batter cooked over the side. However, a few crispy bites of dessert are equally good!
FRESH PEACH CAKE
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch-square baking pan.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar for 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon.
Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan. Top with half of the peaches, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the sugar mixture. Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining peaches on top and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture and the pecans.
Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Chlebíčky are open-faced sandwiches served in the Czech Republic. The sandwiches include meat, cheese and vegetables and are meant to be eaten in a few small bites. Think of them as an appetizer, often served with wine or beer.
Czech hospitality is like a warm hug from your Babicka, or Grandma. While visiting the Czech Republic and visiting my ancestors villages, we were almost always asked to enter their home and enjoy a treat, be it Chlebíčky, pastry, dandelion tea, or even a little sip (or two) of Slivovice.
Our Colorado Czech/Slovak/Rusyn Genealogy Group used to gather once a quarter (before COVID), often sharing Czech treats. I made Chlebíčky for one of our potlucks, using recipes from Czechcookbook.com. They are easy to make and you can customize the ingredients to your liking. I’ve included links at the bottom to the recipes as well as a link to more information on the history of these delightful bites!
Czech Spread (vlašský salát) (Recipe follows)
thinly sliced ham
thinly sliced cheese (baby swiss)
hardboiled eggs, sliced
dill pickles, sliced
bell peppers, cut into strips
cheese for grating
Czech Spread – Vlašský salát
3 small potatoes (13 oz.)
10 mini carrots or 2 medium (4-5oz)
2 pickles (preferably dill pickles)
1 tsp pickle juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp granulated sugar
little bit pepper
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1/3 cup canned peas
4 oz. bologna or ham
1 cup mayo
Pork Carnitas are a favorite while dining at local Mexican restaurants. This recipe, made in the Crock Pot, made the work easy. I chose to skip the final step in the recipe and it was delicious. If you love the crispy pork, go for it. The pork is great in tacos, burritos, bowls, nachos….your choice!
Crusty Bread that I don’t have to knead? Just what I needed to go with the soup I was making. Honestly, the recipe seemed too easy but it worked perfectly. I baked the bread in my Lodge Dutch Oven and I baked it according to directions. The crust was a little too brown, but the interior of the bread was perfect and tasted great!
It is wonderful served with soup and also wonderful as a sandwich. As long as I plan a day ahead, I can make this bread any time!
CRUSTY NO-KNEAD BREAD
3cupsall-purpose flour 1 ¾tsp.salt ½tsp.active dry yeast 1 ½cupswaterroom temperature
Form the dough: In a big bowl mix the flour, salt and yeast together. Pour water into the bowl and using a spatula or a wooden spoon mix it until well incorporated. You do not need to activate the yeast before, even though we’re using active dry yeast. The slow rising process will do the trick.
Allow it to rise: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on your counter or inside your unheated oven for 12 to 18 hours.
Preheat your oven: Preheat oven to 450°F. Add your cast iron pot to the oven as it’s heating and heat it as well until it’s at 450°F. Usually when the oven is done preheating your pot should be hot enough as well. Remove the pot from the oven and remove the lid from it. Use oven mitts, as to not burn yourself.
Shape the dough: Flour your hands really well and also sprinkle a bit of flour over the dough. With your floured hands gently remove the dough from the bowl and roughly shape it into a ball. Sprinkle some extra flour directly into the bottom of the pot. Take the ball of dough and drop it into the pot. Cover the pot with the lid and place it back in the oven. Alternatively, you can also place the ball of dough onto a piece of parchment paper, then lift the parchment paper and drop it in the pot, with parchment paper and all. This could also ensure that your bread doesn’t stick at all to the bottom of the pot. I have found that if I use parchment paper, the bread doesn’t brown so much on the sides, but otherwise it’s still crusty and delicious.
Finish the bread: Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, after which remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove the bread from the pot, it should fall out easily. Let cool completely before slicing into it and serving.
French Macarons are such a light, sweet delicacy. I never would think of making them, yet, one day, my oldest daughter, Megan, called to say she’d had a dream about making Macarons and was going to bake them that very day. Megan is the dessert maker in our family, always coming up with something new and delightful. Even so, I thought they would be extremely difficult, especially at Denver altitude.
Never fear! The results were stunning and delectable. The only change Megan made to the recipe was reducing the vanilla and adding almond extract to both the cookie and to the frosting. I’ll leave the Macaron making to Megan and praise (and enjoy) the results!
For the Cookie
100gegg whitesroom temperature or 3 large eggs
140galmond flour or 1 1/2 cups
90ggranulated sugarjust under 1/2 cup
130gpowdered sugar or 1 cup
1tsp.vanilla5mL (Megan used 3/4 tsp. vanilla and 1/4 tsp. almond extract)
1/4tsp.cream of tartar800mg
For the Buttercream
1cupunsalted butter softened226g
1tsp.vanilla (Megan used 3/4 tsp. vanilla and 1/4 tsp. almond extract)
For the Macarons:
Sift the confectioners sugar and almond flour into a bowl.
Add the room temperature egg whites into a very clean bowl.
Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites. Once they begin to foam add the cream of tartar and then SLOWLY add the granulated sugar.
Add the food coloring (if desired) and vanilla then mix in. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
Begin folding in the 1/3 of the dry ingredients.
Be careful to add the remaining dry ingredients and fold gently.
The final mixture should look like flowing lava, and be able to fall into a figure eight without breaking. Spoon into a piping bag with a medium round piping tip and you’re ready to start piping.
Pipe one inch dollops onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (this should be glued down with dabs of batter). Tap on counter several times to release air bubbles. Allow to sit for about 40 minutes before placing in oven.
Bake at 300F for 12-15 minutes, rotate tray after 7 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing from baking sheet.
For the French Buttercream Filling:
Combine sugar and water in medium saucepan. Heat over low heat while stirring until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium- high and bring to a boil
Put egg yolks in a stand-mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat until thick and foamy.
Cook the sugar and water syrup until it reaches 240 degrees F. Immediately remove from heat. With mixer running, SLOWLY drizzle hot syrup into bowl with yolks.
Continue mixing until the bottom of the bowl is cool to the touch and the yolk mixture has cooled to room temperature.
Add in butter one cube at a time allowing each piece to incorporate before adding the next. Add vanilla and salt. Continue mixing until buttercream is smooth and creamy. (About 5-6 minutes.) Add food coloring if desired.
Pipe your filling onto the back of half the shells. Form a sandwich and repeat. Macarons should be aged in the fridge for 1-3 days for best results. This allows the filling to soften the shells inside.
THE MERINGUE!!!! That meringue HAS TO BE STIFF! I had no idea French meringue could be whipped to such a thick marshmallowy consistency but all it takes is a bit of extra whisking. You’ll notice the meringue start to fill the whisk when you’re getting close to the right stage.
Sift, Sift, SIFT! Those larger pieces of almond flour will mar the surface of your macarons. Best practice is to sift then whiz in the food processor and repeat two more times. Discard the larger particles, don’t try to press them through the sieve.
Use a scale if possible, accuracy helps with this recipe.
The mixing will take some practice, you will fold and fold the batter and then use the spatula to GENTLY press the batter against the bowl. You want to remove some of the bubbles but not to many… Continue this until it reaches a thick “lava” consistency. It should slowly fall off the spatula in ribbons and be able to form a figure eight without breaking.
Pipe the macarons perpendicular to the surface. If your tip is pointing a bit in any particular direction when you pipe the macarons might be oblong or malformed.
Add your coloring to the meringue after it reaches the soft peak stage.
When you are finishing the piping motion stop squeezing the bag and pull up with a circular motion.
The macarons will be best after 2-3 days resting in the fridge.
If you over-bake the shells and they’re too crisp, brush the bottom with some milk before assembly to soften them up.
Snickerdoodles have always been a family favorite. What do you do when you want a Snickerdoodle but too lazy to make individual cookies? You find a Snickerdoodle Bar recipe. I doubled the recipe and made it in a 9 x 13 pan lined with parchment paper. This recipe is easy and uses ingredients that are in most pantries. Another recipe that will be made over and over again.
1/2 c.Butter, room temp. (can use Vegan butter)
3/4 c.Granulated Sugar
1/4 c. Brown Sugar
3/4 tsp.Cream of Tartar
1/4 tsp.Baking Soda
Cinnamon Sugar Topping:
Allow butter and egg to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a bowl, mix together butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until combined.
Add vanilla and egg and stir until fully mixed.
Add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon to the bowl. Fold into the butter mixture until combined. Evenly spread the batter into the baking dish.
In a small bowl stir together sugar and cinnamon for the topping. Sprinkle on top of the cookie batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing and cutting into 16 squares.
Juicy, fresh pears are such a treat! For the past few years, I’ve treated myself to Harry and David pears. The grandkids beg for sliced pears like it is candy.
In addition to enjoying the pears by themselves, this Pear Salad is to die for. The combination of blue cheese and candied, or spiced, nuts it wonderful. The dressing is light and a perfect compliment to the salad. My pears are almost gone but I’ll savor every remaining bite!
ROYAL RIVIERA PEAR SALAD
1 head Butter or other lettuce, washed and dried 2 Pears, peeled, cored and sliced (or diced) 2/3 cup blue cheese (if you despise blue cheese–replace with a cheese you like) 2/3 cup candied nuts (I use my homemade spiced pecans)
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar 1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard 1 Tbsp. honey 1/2 tsp. sea salt 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper 3/4 cup walnut oil (or canola)
To create dressing, whisk together the first 5 ingredients. Gradually whisk in the walnut oil.
Gently tear lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Arrange on four chilled plates.
Scalloped Potatoes with Ham in comfort food for the soul. My Mother often made a version of Scalloped Potatoes with Ham and I have made in in the crock pot for years. I wanted a new version, and loved this recipe.
While perusing the reviews, several people added additional seasoning to the sauce, parboiled the potatoes, added broccoli, etc. This is a solid base recipe that you can use to get creative. In the photos below, I did not cover the dish while baking and it took a solid hour to cook. It is delicious ad comforting…just what we all need!
SCALLOPED POTATOES WITH HAM
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Salt & Pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
12 ounces 1/4 inch sliced baked ham, cubed
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking dish.
In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium high heat. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in milk. Return pan to heat and bring to a simmer while stirring. When sauce has thickened remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
In a skillet, cook onions in melted butter until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread 1/3 of the white sauce in bottom of baking dish and top with half of the potatoes. Spread out half of the onions, ham, cheese and another third of the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Continue layering ingredients, ending with the remaining cheese on top. Bake, covered, for 45 mintues. Remove cover and bake another 15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
We made it! At 12:01 am on Jan 1, for the first time ever, Hindsight will actually be 2020. Hindsight means it is easier to evaluate situations when we are looking back at them, and with perfect vision (20/20).
2020 was a year filled with isolation, fear, skepticism, loneliness, tragedy, depression, addiction, brain fog, strife, injustice, sacrifice, and much more. We learned so much about ourselves and the tremendous strength and perseverance we hold in times of difficulty.
Turning the calendar to 2021 doesn’t change everything, but what it gives us HOPE. Hope, by definition, is a feeling of expectation and desire for certain things to happen.
Which brings me to my favorite bible verse from childhood, Hebrews 11:1 (KJV), memorized in the southeast Sunday school room of our church in rural central Iowa, the Carlton Brethren Church
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
It’s as if this verse was ingrained in my mind for hope then and for this very moment. As we begin this year, my wish and prayers for 2021 are:
To experience peace
To be gentle with ourselves
To be kind and gentle with others
To be grateful for all we have
To see the beauty around us
To stay connected
To remember what matters most in our lives
To experience rest and joy
To have good health and an end to the pandemic
To continue to see humor in the everyday things
Wishing you a Happy New Year filled with many blessings!