Category Archives: Cooking Can Be Fun!

Cold German Potato Salad

If you’ve been cooking for a long time, particularly if you have (or have had) small children in your home, I’ll bet you make some of your favorite recipes “by heart,” without really referring to a recipe or using measuring tools. This has certainly been true for me, and this is true for Gerlinde, who explained how to make potato salad while she and Amélie were making the rouladen for our German feast. So, I’m going to pass along to you this recipe just as Gerlinde explained it, and if you feel a little insecure about making something without measuring, know that most dishes are wonderfully resilient and can taste great with quite a margin on amounts. One of my goals in writing up these recipes is to get my blogging buddies motivated to experiment, innovate, and appreciate the joy of cooking. No matter who you are or where you go, everybody loves delicious food!

Gerlinde’s Cold German Potato Salad
(Makes 10-12 servings)
1. “I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a recipe for the potato salad that I usually make. But…what you can do is just peel some potatoes, boil them, and cut them into slices. Usually potatoes that are firm and not floury are the best for the salad.” We peeled a dozen medium-sized potatoes. Gerlinde says the salad is best if the potatoes are boiled whole (not sliced) and then cut later. This keeps them a little firmer. The potatoes are done when a fork can be inserted, but don’t overcook them, as you don’t want the potatoes to get mushy or fall apart too much. I’d say bring the pot of water to a full, rolling boil before adding the potatoes, and then boil them for about 20-25 minutes. Drain off the water and let them cool enough to handle them, but cut them into slices while they’re still warm.2. Boil some water (about 1.25 cups) and add some chicken or beef broth (or vegetable broth – whatever you have) to the water. (Probably no more than 2 cups fluid altogether. If you use 2 bouillon cubes, then 2 cups water, but if you use broth, then reduce accordingly.)
3. Add about 4 tablespoons of oil and 4 tablespoons of vinegar to the broth. (“Here again it  depends on the amount of the potatoes you have. Basic rule is that I use the same amount of vinegar and oil; last time with the amount of potatoes at your house I might have used 1/2 cup of oil and vinegar.”) Add salt and pepper into the broth to taste.
3. Cut an onion into small, fine chunks and add to the potatoes. If you have it you can add fresh chives chopped finely too. Or you can use spring onions (green onions) instead of the regular onions. 4. “Pour the hot broth (that is now mixed with vinegar and oil and salt and pepper) over the potatoes, mix well, add more salt or pepper if needed and let stand in the fridge… before you serve the salad taste again and add salt and pepper according to your gusto..I usually have to add salt at this point. Also, if the potato salad seems as if it has too much liquid from the broth you added, don’t worry. The potatoes will all soak it up. That’s why you leave it in the fridge for some time.”I’m not a big fan of potatoes, but Gerlinde’s potato salad is so good it’s almost addictive. It’s hard for us to resist eating it while it’s still warm, and it’s hard to wait long enough to let it soak up all the liquid, but it’s really worth the wait, and I’d say that—if possible—it’s even more delicious the next day!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3…as well as many blessings here on earth, such as nourishing, delicious food).

A Few of My Favorite German Dishes: Tantalizing Rouladen

We have been so blessed to have our son Jonathan and his family living a couple thousand miles closer to us than they have for the past seven years.           They now live in the Chicago area, which makes visiting so much easier!  This means we get to see them a lot more often, and not long ago Gerlinde sponsored an amazing German dinner! As a special gift, she let me choose exactly whatever I wanted, and I asked for four of my favorite German dishes that she makes so much better than what I’ve tasted anywhere else:                          Rouladen, German potato salad, and red cabbage                                             with apple strudel for desert.  I asked her if she’d share her recipes with us. She said some are family favorites, but she also (humbly) pointed out that most recipes are available on the internet. HOWEVER, I really the way she makes them, so she said she’d be willing to share.  During the Saturdays in August, I’m going to pass along to you four wonderful German recipes as demonstrated by Chef Gerlinde, her sous chef (Jon), her protégé, and her apprentice (Amélie).  I served as photographer so didn’t do anything but capture the magic and enjoy the fruit of all their labors! I hope you’ll enjoy this foray into authentic German cuisine as much as we did.   🙂

Golden Brown Rouladen
(serves 6+)

1. Fry until fully cooked:
12 oz. sliced bacon (chopped into small, bit-sized pieces), with
2 chopped onions; set aside to cool; drain off excess fat.
2. Buy (or pound and roll out) 1.5 pounds of thin-sliced flank steak (Or, order from your butcher; we apparently didn’t have any available, so Gerlinde and Amélie pounded and rolled them out by hand.)
3.  Add your favorite mustard (spread as thick as you like), a thick slice of your favorite pickle (we used German pickles) placed at one end,and a heaping tablespoon of fried bacon and onions. Add salt and pepper to taste,  then make the flank steak into a roll, starting with the pickle end. 4. Carefully tie up each roll with heavy thread, string, or toothpicks so they’re completely sealed (to keep the filling from coming out). This is an intensive, labor-of-love and process, but the result is superb!6. Fry the rouladen in oil until they’re crispy brown  and the steak is fully cooked. Take out of the pan for a few minutes.7. Add to the pan:
2.5 cups water
1 beef bouillon cube, stirring and scraping gently to help dissolve the bouillon cube and ensure nothing is sticking in the bottom of the pan.
8. Add the rolls back into the broth and simmer for an hour with the top on, or use a pressure cooker or instant pot if you prefer (which takes less time; Gerlinde used our pressure cooker). When they’ve simmered long enough, remove them onto a platter. Gerlinde wrapped her arm in a dish towel to keep the steam from burning her…a very clever trick, I thought! 9. Remove the strings by cutting with scissors and unwrapping. 10. Serve up your tantalizing rouladen and accept the compliments… they will have been well earned!!  🙂
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens” (Proverbs 31:15. I know this verse is speaking of the “virtuous woman,” but that makes it all the more applicable to my dear daughter-in-law, because she is such a virtuous woman!)

You Don’t Have to be Jewish to Love Lox and Bagels!

Probably most of you have enjoyed bagels with cream cheese, but are you a fan of lox and bagels? (“Lox” is derived from the Yiddish word for salmon and refers to a fillet of brined salmon, usually thin-sliced.) Lox and bagels were served by delicatessens in New York City as a Sunday morning treat as far back as the 1950’s, although it’s only been since about the 90’s that I remember learning about “lox.” The traditional formula was to serve them with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and sometimes capers. However, in the past 25 years, I’ve learned to love lox in concert with all types of breakfast treats…although atop a savory bagel is still a great favorite. And bagels? Well, I don’t remember them from childhood, although they’ve probably been around for ages. One of my first experiences of falling in love with bagels was at Schmagels Bagels in St. Augustine, Florida,  where they feature 13 varieties of New York-style bagels (all home made in St. Augustine—of course!) and eleven types of home-concocted cream cheese spreads. One of my favorite breakfasts of lox and bagels was served at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island with a dill cream cheese, giant capers, and a mango smoothie. However, I recently served lox and bagels for a Sunday  treat at home, and Alan (who is pretty discriminating) gave his stamp of approval, so I’ll pass along my recipe in the hopes you’ll like it too.

Lox and Bagels à la Avocado
(serves 2)

1. Split two “everything” bagels in half and toast them in the toaster. (An “everything” bagel has poppy and sesame seeds, onions, and probably some other things on top, but use your favorite savory bagel.)

2. Butter the bagel lightly, and then add smear on as much cream cheese as you like.

3. Add lox (You can add some thin-sliced smoked salmon instead if you can’t find “lox;” they are similar but not identical. Lox are soaked in a salty/sweet brine and come from the rich, belly portion of a salmon, but I think any thin-sliced salmon is very good.)

Top with:
1 slice avocado
1 thin ring of onion
1 teaspoon capers

Obviously, as mentioned earlier, you can also serve it with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, or anything else for that matter! I used fresh cherries, but there are no end of delicious combinations. I do think the capers and onions add critical taste points, though, or the dish may seem too bland. THEREFORE, if you serve it for Sunday breakfast before church (as I did), be sure you all brush your teeth and use breathe mints or chewing gum before trying to engage your church friends, or they may wonder why you have such bad breath!  🙂  It did occur to me that I should have thought through when to serve it. Jewish people attend synagogue on Saturday, so on Sunday they aren’t engaging all their dear friends in conversations. In like spirit, maybe Gentiles should make this as a Saturday treat instead of a Sunday treat!

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

(Photo Credits: I didn’t actually have any photos of the traditional way of serving bagels, so I looked online. Most of the photos are mine, but #3. is from Bottega Louie’s in L.A. #5 is a photo of Schmagel’s Bagel Shop in St. Augustine, and #6 is a photo from Schmagel’s. The rest are mine.)

 

Swiss Steak with Mushroom Gravy

Some foods are definitely “comfort food,” and Swiss steak with gravy is one such perennial favorite. In fact, whenever I know my fifth son is coming home for a visit, I start watching for a good sale on swissed steaks, because I know he’ll be hoping I make some for him. “Swiss steak” isn’t really from Switzerland. In England and the Deep South it’s sometimes called “smothered steak.” The term refers to the the way it’s tenderized by pounding and piercing, which is known as “swissing.” I suppose you could take any cut of beef steak and “swiss” it, but I always buy it pre-swissed at the grocery store. Once your meat is swissed, it’s simple to turn into a savory dish that’s sure to please rain or shine, although I think it’s at its finest on a cool evening accompanied with some traditional sides, such as mashed potatoes, peas, and tossed salad (±bread). I probably serve it 5-10 times a year, and it’s always welcome at our table. So, if you’ve not discovered this easy meal, here’s how:

Savory Swiss Steak with Mushroom Gravy
(serves 4-6±)

1. In a large frying pan, add:
2 tablespoons butter
1 finely chopped onion
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon Montreal Steak seasoning (or your favorite)

Heat until the butter is melted, then fry until all the veggies are starting to brown and become tender.

Add 1-2 pounds swiss-style steak (how much ever you want, I would say about 6 oz per person± depending on your appetites). To prepare the steak, coat it with flour on both sides. (If you place 1/2 or 1 cup of flour on a dinner plate, that will be more than enough, unless you really have a lot of steak. Just lay the steak on the floury plate and rub in the flour, then turn it over and rub flour on the other side. If you want, you can add the rest of the flour to the frying pan at that time or later, depending on how thick you like your gravy. If you add it, be sure to whisk it so there aren’t any lumps.) Salt and pepper both sides, then place it in the bottom of your frying pan under the veggies. Fry at a medium-high heat until it starts to brown, and then flip it over (making sure most of the veggies end up back up on top) and fry it until the other side is browned. At that point, add two cups of water. I turn the heat entirely off for about 2 minutes just to loosen anything that’s sticking to the bottom of the pan. Using a metal spatula, carefully scrape all the flour or other food that’s sticking to the bottom of the pan free, and gently stir everything until you’re satisfied that nothing will burn. Cover the pan and simmer everything for a half an hour or until completely tender. During that process, I check about every five minutes to flip the meat over and make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. If the gravy seems to get too thick, add another 1-2 cups of water a little at a time as needed. Before you serve it, taste it, as you might want to add more salt and pepper. If it seems flat, you can also add 1 teaspoon of Lawry’s Seasoning salt (or your favorite). Obviously, the more steak, the more seasoning you’ll need, so you may not need to add anything, but it’s always worth checking!

And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savory meat, such as his father loved” (Genesis 27:14). In Genesis 27, Rebekah used her culinary skills to trick her husband, which was a very bad idea! Not only did she end up having to part with her favorite son, Jacob (who left home to escape the wrath of his older brother), Rebekah never had the joy of seeing her son again on this earth, and she missed the blessing of watching her grandchildren growing up. Sad thoughts! Hopefully, we’ll use our cooking abilities to bless and nourish those we love!

 

 

Tacos for Breakfast? You Bet!

When we were in India last fall, we traveled with a very diverse group of people and ate a lot of really exotic food…pretty much morning, noon, and night.And, even in between times too…like this lovely tropical punch, which was part of  a very refreshing welcome when we arrived at the Jaypee Palace in Agra.

However, much as we enjoyed the food, there were definitely times when we’d daydream a little about what we missed from home! Several of the couples were Hispanic, and we learned from Marcy and Hugo that what they missed the most on the trip was what they always ate for breakfast in Texas. They appeared to be very wealthy (at least they’d been in 39 countries in the last 18 months), so I was expecting them to say “steak and eggs” or something like that. But, do you know what they love most?

Beautiful Breakfast Tacos!

Now, you might be familiar with breakfast tacos, but I’d never tried them. I’d never even thought about trying them! When I asked Marcy how she makes them, she said, “It’s easy! Anything you have in the kitchen wrapped in tortilla shells! I believe the most basic form is scrambled eggs with salsa, but you can add anything else you like. These have fresh spinach, but if you’re in the mood for something even more special, try adding any of the following:

*Chorizo sausage
*Any type of cheese you like, grated
*Avocado slices
*Fresh tomato
*Mango salsa
*Shaved slices of steak or ham
*Fresh or grilled onions
*Grilled mushrooms
*Anything else that appeals to you!

It’s super quick and easy…perfect for hot summer mornings when you want something with a lot of flavor that won’t heat up your kitchen much!

Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Proverbs 30:7-9).

Aunt Kathi’s Blueberry Cheesecake Pie

We spent the Fourth of July at our niece’s farm, and I remembered that whenever she’d visit, she always wanted a special blueberry pie from a recipe I dreamed up to combine a few of our family’s favorite things. After she grew up, her little brother started visiting and loved the dessert so much that he asked his big sister to make it for him. This is the recipe I generated for her, but I think it’s definitely time to pass it on to you as well!

Aunt Kathi’s Blueberry Cheesecake Pie

Crust: 1 package graham crackers (that’s one package out of three in the box), 1/2 stick butter (already melted), and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Grind together in a blender until fine and pack into the bottom of a 9X12″ pan

Filling: 24 oz carton of sour cream; 24 oz cream cheese (3 pkgs.), 2 eggs, 1 c. sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla

Puree in the blender until smooth and pour gently on top of crust. Bake at 325° for 45mins. to an hour, until it’s starting to turn a bit golden on the edges but is still wet in the middle (the less baked the better, but you don’t want it to still be soupy after it cools)

Topping: 3 pints of blueberries. I used to mix this with 1 can of blueberry pie filling, but I think it’s just as good without and probably better for you as well as less expensive to make. (I didn’t use pie filling in the one your little brother just ate, although I used to when you were little.)

For the very top: 1 pint whipping cream with 2 T. sugar: Blend until soft peaks form and ladle on top

You can also make it in a round pie pan using about 2/3 of the ingredients, but with your family, I don’t think one pie would get you very far! This should serve 12 and is easier than making two pies. You could probably make two pies instead if you want, but then you’d need a few more crackers and a bit more butter so you have enough crust, and the fillings would be just a touch thinner.

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb,
sweet to the soul, and health to the bones
” (Proverbs 16:24)

(P.S.—I just made this again for another family reunion last night, and it was a hit with even my youngest grandchild, so in our family, it’s a winner throughout the generations!  🙂 )

Pulled Pork and BBQ Pork Sandwiches

Of course, if you really want pulled pork at its finest, it comes straight
from a cooker that’s been slow-roasting a succulent pig for hours. However, that usually only happens for special occasions
like weddings or family reunions. Still, you don’t have to have the finest of the finest in order to enjoy pulled pork!Around my home, pulled pork is not an uncommon way to use leftover pork. The most tender pulled pork is stripped from a slow-roasted pork roast  or leftover BBQ ribs, although you can actually use any leftover pork.

It’s easier than pie, and here’s the simple 1-2-3!

1. Shred fully cooked pork meat into bite-sized (or smaller) chunks.
2. Cook over low heat with a cup of water, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder to taste until the meat is so tender it’s falling apart. (You can put the top on and steam it for awhile if you had pork chops or some other tough cut, but just make sure you check on it every few minutes, stirring it and adding water as needed.) 3. Once it’s tender and shredded, you’re done, and I sometimes serve it that way. However, we usually like a little of our favorite barbecue sauce added to give it an extra kick. Then, it’s “BBQ pork,” which is a perennial crowd pleaser around our house, especially when the pork is heaped on onion buns!

(P.S.—If your pork is really fatty, drain or spoon off as much of the liquified fat as you can before you serve it or add barbecue sauce. I once had a Kalua pulled-pork sandwich in Hawaii that was so big and so fatty that I couldn’t finish it and felt sick about half-way through trying to eat it. It tasted great, but the fat and sauce was literally dripping down my arms. Famous…but not for me!)

(P.S.S.—If you have an instant pot, this is the perfect way to make tender pulled pork especially fast and simple!)

He giveth meat in abundance” (Psalm 36:31).
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).