love + red cabbage

Last year I read the book My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes) by Luisa Weiss. To me it was one of those books you look forward to picking up each day and are truly saddened when it’s finished. It’s a memoir written by a former publishing assistant/cookbook editor/food blogger (www.thewednesdaychef.com) who discovers that for her, the key to dealing with life’s ups and downs is to be found in the kitchen. Her touching memories of simple childhood meals and stories of life, love and food truly resonated with me. And the glorious yet simple recipes at the end of each chapter made me want to head directly to the kitchen.

My Berlin Kitchen isn’t the first food centric novel I’ve been drawn to. A quick scan of my bookshelf and you’ll read titles like Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris, Rosemary and Bitter Oranges by Patrizia Chen, A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle, Licking the Spoon by Candace Walsh and of course Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (the book, not the movie). Each story focusing as much on the characters as the meals they prepare and enjoy. When I finished My Berlin Kitchen I jumped right into trying out some of the recipes. The very first one I made (and the one I still like best) is the braised red cabbage.

Let me begin by saying that my husband is a self-proclaimed red cabbage hater. A pint of German beer… You bet! Bratwurst… He’ll take two. Spätzle… Stop talking and start serving. But traditional German-style red cabbage… Nope, no thanks, not now, not ever. I on the other hand love braised red cabbage but I had never attempted to make it. The recipe sounded so easy, truly requiring minimal time and effort to prepare, that I figured it was worth a try. And so what if I was the only one who ate it! (Perhaps I could bribe my kids into giving it a shot, it would after all be my daughters favorite color.) But just to stack the deck in my favor I was sure to serve it along with tasty chicken sausages and of course mashed potatoes. How could they possibly resist!

Turns out they couldn’t. While the kids weren’t exactly knocked-out by the cabbage they both ate it without much complaint, perhaps due in large part to my husbands declarations of “It’s good, you’ll like it!” as he went back to the kitchen for seconds…

Braised Red Cabbage
Even proclaimed red cabbage haters will like this recipe. Yeah, it’s that good.

red cabbage2

2 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 medium (2 pounds) red cabbage, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. yellow mustard seeds
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup dry red wine
1 medium apple, coarsely grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

  1. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cabbage and toss until it begins to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the brown sugar, mustard seeds, vinegar, wine and apple. Stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover and allow to simmer until the cabbage is soft, about 45 minutes. Adjust seasonings and serve.

*adapted from the wednesday chef

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little loves lemonade

My husband and I hold a garage sale every year and last weekend lemonade standwas it. At past sales we’ve sold everything from bikes and bassinets to the kids barely broken in winter boots and a first generation iMac. We’ve become something like pros at hawking our junk and keen negotiators with the hard-core pickers always looking for the best price. But this last sale was unlike any other we’ve ever held in that the kids decided to participate. How… with a good ol’ fashioned lemonade stand of course!

My little loves (that’s them at their stand) sold cups of homemade lemonade and mini chocolate-chocolate chip muffins to nearly everyone who visited our sale, not to mention a few unsuspecting individuals just out for a walk. They worked hard promoting their product and played the cute kid card big time— it totally payed off for them. Their little enterprise was such a huge success that not only did they sell out of 4 gallons of homemade lemonade and 48 mini muffins, but they did so way before the garage sale was over! Not everyone bought from us, but almost everyone bought from them.

So if you’re contemplating a garage sale over the next few months I highly recommend encouraging the kids to run a lemonade stand as well. And if you’ve got some Amway products, Girl Scout cookies or a little Avon you’re looking to move fast, I just may have the salespeople for you!

Classic Homemade Lemonade
This is lemonade is super easy to make and tastes nothing like the powdered stuff in a can. Give it a try once and I promise you’ll never go back!

lemonade2

Lemonade
2 cups simple syrup (see recipe below)
2 cups fresh lemon juice* (about 12 lemons)
4 cups water

  1. In a large pitcher stir together the fresh juice and simple syrup. Add the water, tasting as you go, until the lemonade is as sweet/tart as you like it.
  2. Serve in tall glasses garnished with a sprig of mint or a slice of fresh lemon and enjoy.

Simple Syrup
2 cups water
2 cups sugar

  1. Add the water and sugar to a pan and heat. Stir frequently, until sugar fully dissolves and the syrup becomes clear, about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Let cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

*When lemons are on sale I buy and squeeze enough for 2 cups of juice, but when they’re not I use half fresh juice and half bottled. It’s slightly less amazing than entirely fresh squeezed, but still miles better than the “just add water” canned stuff.

*adapted from whats cooking america

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins
These mini muffins are truly the perfect one bite chocolate fix. However the same recipe can be used for full sized muffins, simply adjust the baking time.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tbsp. red wine
1 tsp. vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and mini chips in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the egg, water, oil, wine and vanilla. Add oil mixture to flour mixture and stir until all the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  3. Place the liners in the muffin pan and lightly coat with cooking spray. Add a dollop of batter to each prepared muffin cup and sprinkle a few mini chips on the top of each.
  4. Bake mini muffins for 12-14 minutes (full size for 18-22 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire rack.

*adapted from cooking light

sweet summer sauce

As I mentioned last week my tomatoes and peppers are very happy with this record breaking hot weather. So happy in fact that I have an insane number of cherry tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter. I’ve been eating them everyday day; quickly sauteed with eggs, in a green salad or as a snack, but I’m not even close to making a dent in my overwhelming supply. So, what’s a girl to do but… make sauce!

Ordinarily I make red sauce during the cool months with canned tomatoes, a bit of lean meat (to round out the flavor) and a full day of simmering on the stove. But this was going to be a summer sauce; all garden fresh ingredients with a short cooking time and instead of meat I’d use a bit of butter to knock down the acidic bite.

This resulting sauce was some of the best I’ve ever made. Seriously, the best! It was so good that after we enjoyed it for dinner the remainder went directly into the freezer; how lovely it will be to pull out a container of that wonderful sauce on a cold winter night. And with the way my plants are continuing to produce tomatoes, I just might be able to squeak out another batch or two of sauce before the end of the season. Hooray for happy heat loving tomatoes!

Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce
This sauce was the perfect way to use the freshest of summer ingredients from my garden. It was only a matter of hours from harvesting to serving.

3 tbsp. olive oil
4 cups chopped onion
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 1/2 lbs. cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
5 springs fresh thyme
6 large leaves fresh basil, julienned
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup red wine
3 tbsp. unsalted butter

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Cook the onion until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Add the whole cherry tomatoes, give a good stir and let cook (covered) until the tomatoes begin to pop.
  2. Add the fresh herbs, bay leaves, red pepper, salt and wine. Let cook, stirring every 2-3 minutes and smashing the tomatoes with the back of a spatula, until all the tomatoes are popped, about 20 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat to low, cover and let simmer until the sauce has thickened, 25-30 minutes. Once everything is soft and cooked through remove the bay leaves and thyme stems. Use an immersion blender to break down the skins, seeds and onion and make the sauce smooth.
  4. Add 3 tbsp. of unsalted butter and 1 tsp. white sugar and let cook uncovered for another 10 minutes. Adjust the salt to taste and serve with your favorite pasta or cool for use at a latter date.