Quarkspitzen (German Doughnut Holes)

An irresistible German treat, Quarkspitzen are like German doughnut holes. Golden brown and crispy on the outside but delicate and tender on the inside. 

A visit to the German Christmas markets or to the annual Kat (a large local carnival with rides, games and food) would not be complete without buying a few Quarkspitzen. Before I even knew what they were, I was interested just from the very smell of them cooking. Made from quark, a type of dairy that is the consistency of a thick yogurt or sour cream.

thumb_DSC05289_1024

Although Christmastime is more than six months away, there’s nothing like recalling this and the myriad of marvelous Christmas treats from the German Christmas markets.

Here’s the recipe:

Quarkspitzen (German Doughnut Holes)

  • 3 T melted butter
  • 300g quark
  • 3 T corn starch
  • 1.5 – 2 c all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1/2 lemon (juiced)
  • 1 tsp almond extract (optional)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • oil (for frying)
  • powdered sugar (for dusting the quarkspitzen after frying)

Preparation:

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and the sugar.

Then add the eggs and continue to whisk.

Mix together the corn starch, baking powder and flour.

Gradually add in the flour mixture and the quark, half at a time, rotating between the two of them.

thumb_DSC05257_1024

Then add the lemon juice and stire just until it is combined.

Set the batter aside for 10-15 minutes and fill a large stock pot with oil.

To fry the quarkspitzen, dip a spoon in the oil and then into the quarkspitzen batter and place into the fryer to create a roughly oval shape. Fry until golden brown on each side and then place on a paper towel lined plate.

thumb_DSC05260_1024

Continue until all of the dough has been used.

Dust the quarkspitzen with powdered sugar, or if you prefer, granulated sugar.

Serve & Enjoy warm.

thumb_DSC05289_1024

YUM!

thumb_DSC05281_1024

Guten Appetit!

Fröhe Weihnachten!

Homemade Apple Sauce (Simple & Delicious)

Just apples, a hint of sugar and a few of my favorite spices and you’re on your way to making homemade apple sauce.

I love applesauce. It was one of those things as I kid that I used to love to have as a snack. It just tasted so good; and honestly, I still love it. For years I never knew that it was so simple to make. I just relied on the store-bought kind until I moved to countries that don’t sell apple sauce. Lol! That’s when I go to my kitchen laboratory and get to work creating.

thumb_DSC05202_1024

The recipe is so simple. I mean, really simple. If you can cook apples and then pop them in a food processor — well, you have apple sauce.

Here’s the recipe:

Homemade Apple Sauce

  • 3 apples (I used Golden Delicious because they are sweet and delicious!)
  • 1/2 lemon (juiced)
  • 2 T white sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cardomom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 c water

Preparation:

Peel, core and slice the apples.

thumb_DSC05212_1024

Place the apples in a large stock pot. Add the lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves and water.

thumb_DSC05214_1024

Simmer for about 20 minutes (stirring occasionally) or until the apples are tender.

thumb_DSC05238_1024

Remove the cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamom pods.

Transfer the apples to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve and Enjoy warm or pop it in the fridge for later. (It is really good cold, especially on a hot summer day! Simply refreshing!) 

thumb_DSC05245_1024

Guten Appetit!

Italian Homemade Lasagna with Ground Beef

Layers of delicate noodles, tender ground beef, rich ricotta cheese and savory marinara sauce make this lasagna a flavorful dish for any night of the week.

I grew up eating a lot of Italian food and I’ve found that it has shaped and impacted my cooking in such a positive way. Lasagna was definitely a meal that we prepared at our home and I remember always wanting to eat it right out of the oven, but we always let it set for 15-20 minutes in order to ensure that the lasagna doesn’t fall apart as you cut it.

20180503_164105

This recipe is my variation of Mom’s classic recipe. I make it with homemade ricotta cheese and it really adds such a nice flavor to the dish.

Here’s the recipe:

Lasagna

  • 1 box lasagna noodles
  • 48 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 12 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 c shredded mozzerella cheese
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 T dried oregano
  • 2 T dried basil
  • 2 T olive oil
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

To make the marinara sauce: sauté the onions with olive oil until tender. Then add the crushed tomatoes and stir well. Season with half of the dried oregano, dried basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for 15-20 minutes on low heat.

To make the ground beef: place the ground beef  in a large pan and sauté until it is browned. Then add the garlic and the rest of the dried oregano, dried basil, salt and pepper. Stir well and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

To make the lasagna: Place about 1 cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan. Then layer the noodles.

Then add more marinara sauce, ground beef and top with another layer of noodles.

Add some more marinara sauce on top of the noodles and then add the ricotta cheese.

Layer with another layer of noodles and add some marinara sauce the remaining ground beef.

Add another layer of noodles and cover with the marinara sauce and mozzerella cheese.

20180503_173631

Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven to bake for about 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese on top is melted.

Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 15-20 minutes.

Serve and Enjoy!

20180503_19114920180503_191215

Note: This can be prepared ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator to bake later.

 

 

 

Roasted Eggplant Salad

A refreshing salad packed with tender pieces of roasted eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and onions.

Ever since I started roasting eggplant, it has brought such joy to my recipes. Roasting eggplant is super simple, it pretty much guarantees that the eggplant will be tender and perfectly cooked and it is so delicious.

This salad is great to make ahead of time because you can put all of the ingredients together and pop it in the refrigerator. As all of the ingredients meld together, the flavor gets better and better.

Here’s the recipe:

Roasted Eggplant Salad

  • 5 large eggplant (the long variety, sometimes referred to as “Japanese eggplant”)
  • 2 large tomatoes (diced)
  • 2 large cucumbers (halved & sliced)
  • 1 sweet red pepper (diced)
  • 1 sweet green pepper (diced)
  • 1 red onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1/4 c chopped parsely
  • 1.5 lemons (juiced — approx. 1/2 c juice)
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried cumin powder
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

Pre heat the oven for 375 F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the eggplant on the paper. Coat the eggplant with 1/2 a tablespoon of olive oil. Place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until tender.

Allow the eggplant to cool and then peel off the skin and chop the roasted eggplant into bite size pieces (discard any excess liquid from the eggplant).

DSC03156

Chop the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, parsley and onions.

DSC03165

In a large bowl, combine the chopped vegetables with the roasted eggplant.

DSC03172

Drizzle over the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Toss thoroughly, then serve and enjoy!

DSC03188DSC03180

 

So Crispy & Tasty Potato Latkes

Who needs french fries when you have potato latkes? No, this is not an exaggeration. Trust me, with one bite you too will be a latke fan.

I realize more and more as an adult, how blessed I was to grow up in such an international and intercultural community. It expanded my world so much to think different thoughts, see new perspectives and of course taste and variety of delicious foods. Plus, my parents have a fine appreciation for different cultures and this definitely positively impacted my life to this very day.

Thanks to one of my friends in first grade, I learned how to make (and of course taste) potato latkes for the first time ever. I was seven years old and it is truly a memory I will never forget.

DSC03233

Flash forward 15 years later and I am re-learning, or perhaps learning a different way, to make potato latkes by one of my student colleagues from Belarus.

Now, I am still learning and open to learning and I love cooking and eating potato latkes. It is such a good recipe, and I have quite frankly met someone who doesn’t like latkes. It would be like trying to find a person that doesn’t like french fries; do they exist? Maybe, but maybe on Mars or something. Lol!

Here’s the recipe:

So Crispy & Tasty Potato Latkes

  • 2 potatoes (small to medium size)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 egg
  • 2-3 T flour
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
  • oil (for frying)

Preparation:

Shred the potatoes and the onions.

Then place them in a tea towel or a piece of cheese cloth and drain out the excess liquid. (Note: the potatoes and onions should be fairly dry after this process. You don’t want to omit this step because this step is what makes the latkes able to get so crispy during the frying process).

Crack the egg and scramble it lightly in a medium size bowl. Add the potatoes and onions. Stir until well combined. 

Sprinkle over the flour, salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly with a fork. 

DSC03242

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. 

Take a spoonful of the potato mixture and flatten it in the palms of your hand to form a little flat pancake. (Alternative method to fry on the fly, take a “fork-ful” of the potato mixture and gently place in the oil. Once it is completely submerged, flatten it with another fork until it’s a flat shape resembling a circle.)

DSC03243

Gently place the potato pancake into the hot oil and fry until it is browned on both sides.

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 6.19.45 PM

Remove from the oil and place it on a paper towel lined plate. 

Season with a little salt. 

Serve and Enjoy Warm (if possible*)

DSC03351DSC03352

*I prefer eating my potato pancakes warm, like french fries, lol! But you know, they still taste good when they are at room temperature.

Topping Suggestions:

The potato pancakes are good on their own but try these toppings for a bit of extra flavor:

  • Fresh chives
  • Sour cream
  • Thick yogurt
  • Apple sauce
  • Cheese

The Simplest Lentil Soup (Just 3 Ingredients)

Making lentil soup is as easy as 1, 2, 3 with this great recipe. Everything goes in one pot and it is minimal prep, minimal clean up but with maximum flavor and taste.

I have more than one lentil soup recipe but I love this one because it is much simpler than my other one (made with brown lentils, tomato, onion, garlic, etc.) All you need are the lentils, chicken broth and an onion.

It’s quite a healthy soup, low in fat and packed with nutritious vitamins and fiber. Plus it’s really affordable to make especially if you’re feeding a crowd. Also, it’s so simple. Even if you despise cooking, I think you might like this recipe.

Photo on 5-2-18 at 5.58 PM

Here’s the recipe:

Simple Lentil Soup (Just 3 Ingredients)

  • 1 c dry red lentils
  • 4 c chicken broth*
  • 1 onion (diced)

*Vegetarian? No problem, just substitute the chicken broth for veggie broth.

Preparation:

Sort through the lentils to ensure that there are no small stones or anything else (yes, it can happen).

Finely dice the onion and set aside.

Pour the chicken broth in a large pot.

Add the lentils and the onion. Season with salt and pepper and stir well.

Cover partially and allow it to simmer for 15-25 minutes or until the lentils and the onions are tender.

Then using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.

Garnish with some red pepper flakes and a lemon wedge.

Serve & Enjoy!

DSC04872DSC04874

Authentic Pico de Gallo (Fresh Mexican Salsa)

Fresh, vibrant and full of flavor; there is nothing quite like Pico de Gallo. With only a few simple ingredients, you’re own your way to Pico de Gallo paradise.

I honestly can’t recall the first time I tried Pico de Gallo. I grew up eating Mexican food so much that it is such an integral part of the food that I crave from my childhood onwards.

I still have a lot to learn about Mexican cooking and the beauty of the variety of dishes, but what I have learned along the way, I absolutely love.

Pico de Gallo is almost like a salad to me. If it’s placed in a bowl, I can dig right in with a spoon or a fork. But truly, it is so full of fresh ingredients that it not only pairs well with tortilla chips (no shame in tortilla chip dipping) but also it tastes really great on top of grilled chicken or fish. Yum.

DSC03375

Here’s the recipe:

Pico de Gallo (aka Salsa Fresca)

  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 T lime juice
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
  • 1 Serrano, habanaro or jalapeno (if spicy salsa is your sort of thing. For me, it’s not so I omitted the peppers)

Preparation:

Finely chop the tomatoes and onions and place them in a bowl.

Add the cilantro and stir.

Drizzle over the lime juice and season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately or pop it in the fridge for later.*

DSC03397

*From my experience, I find my Pico de Gallo to be better the next day or even two days later. At this point, the onions have mellowed out a bit more and all of the ingredients have “marinated” together and become well acquainted with each other.