Food

Adventures in Kuchen-Making

I have many fond memories of sitting around my Great-Grandma Katie Kopp’s kitchen table. There was always comfort food. I remember her making homemade noodles, the delicious strips of dough laid out on flour sack towels on her bedspread. My brother and I would sneak a raw noodle once in a while. We’re fine.

The food I remember most from that table was kuchen. Kuchen is a custard dessert in a homemade crust. It is creamy, crispy, and comforting. The word kuchen simply means “cake” in German, and it is a family tradition for many of us descendants of German immigrants. It is also the state dessert of South Dakota.

This past weekend I decided it was time for my daughters and I to learn the art of kuchen-making. It turns out that the making of kuchen is a long, floury process. The making of kuchen with a three-year-old and a six-year-old leads to a full-on deep-cleaning of the kitchen. You know what? It was so worth it!

Grandma Kopp’s recipe was, in typical Grandma Kopp recipe fashion, vague. She frequently used phrases like “stir it until it looks right.” I knew that if I was going to stand a chance at succeeding in this venture, I needed a little more guidance. So the recipe posted below is a hybrid of the notes scrolled out in Grandma’s cursive and a couple recipes I found online.

My goal was for my kuchen to turn out as similar to Grandma’s as possible, and it came very close! Grandma passed away when I was 11, but I remember eating kuchen at her table so vividly. As we made kuchen together the girls asked dozens of questions about Grandma Kopp. It was a special time of reminiscing, and I feel like the process brought the girls closer to this woman who would’ve loved them so very much.

Recipe:

Crust:
1 package dry yeast
1/8 cup warm water
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4-5 cups flour 

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. In a stainless steel pan, scald the milk by bringing to a boil and then reducing heat. The milk should have a film on top of it. Add sugar, salt, eggs and vegetable oil into the milk. Add milk mixture into the bowl of yeast and water. Mix in 4-5 cups of flour, enough to make a good dough. Let rise about one hour. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces. Roll each to about 1/4 inch thick and place in a greased pie pan so that the dough covers the bottom and comes about halfway up the side. Let dough rise in the pan for 15 minutes.

Filling:
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups cream
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons flour

On the stove, heat the milk and cream together. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, flour and eggs together. Add the milk and cream mixture to the sugar, flour and eggs and return it to the stove and cook until it thickens. Pour about 3/4 of a cup of the filling mixture into each crust.

Topping:
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup margarine

Mix the sugar, flour and margarine together. Pour the topping on and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. After the kuchen comes out of the oven, let it set for five minutes, then remove from the pan and let it cool.

Food

Norman is 10: A Cupcake Recipe for Dogs and People

Norman turns 10 today so it was only natural that his sisters and I made cupcakes for our celebration. This banana and peanut butter cupcake recipe is delicious and safe for dogs, and, well, OK, for us humans, too. The main thing is that the birthday boy enjoyed his.

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This recipe was adapted from a few different ones I found online. I like that it makes just 5 regular-size cupcakes. They’re definitely a little bland for us humans, but Norm gobbled them right up. The girls actually devoured theirs, too. I think that was due to the cream cheese frosting on top.

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I used canned cream cheese frosting for these cupcakes, but scraped almost all of Norm’s frosting off before serving it to him. There are a lot of decent pet-friendly frosting recipes online, too. Happy birthday, dear boy. You really, really need a haircut, but we love you so much anyway.

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Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup plain white flour ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 medium banana, mashed
  • 2 tablespoons of water

 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Sift together flour and baking soda and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter, mashed banana, egg, and water until combined.
  • Stir in the flour mixture and mix until smooth.
  • Spoon into a muffin pan lined with cupcake papers.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Allow to cool before topping with frosting of your choice, or leave plain for your pooch.
Food

Roasted Squash Soup

I love squash soup, but I have never made it myself. My mother-in-law gave us some lovely squash so I decided to whip up a batch of this beautiful comfort food this past weekend. Even my squash-hating hubby enjoyed this soup.

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I started by cutting a large squash in half and scooping out the seeds.

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I drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and roasted for nearly an hour.

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Allow the squash to cool for a while before scooping out the good stuff and putting in a blender. At this point, an immersion blender on the stove top would work as well.

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As I puréed the squash in batches in my blender, I added chicken broth, sautéed onion and garlic, and maple syrup. I seasoned it with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

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Maple syrup adds a comforting sweetness to the soup. I then simmered the soup in a large pot on the stove until we were ready to eat dinner. I used an entire 32-ounce box of chicken broth, but you can add the broth gradually to ensure you achieve the thickness you want. Vegetable broth could be used to make this an entirely vegetarian dish.

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Before serving, I drizzled a bit of olive oil over the soup and sprinkled each bowl with a bit more nutmeg.

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Recipe:

  • 1 large (or a couple of small) squash
  • 32 ounces of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tablespoon nutmeg (plus more for sprinkling before serving)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

 

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Cut the squash in half and scoop out seeds
  • Drizzle each half of squash with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place each half of the squash face down on a large baking sheet.
  • Roast the squash in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Let the squash cool for at least 15 minutes before scooping out of the peel and into the blender.
  • Purée the squash in batches, never filling the blender more than half full at a time. It will expand as you blend.
  • As you blend the batches, place the puréed squash in a large pot on the stove.
  • Simmer for about 15 minutes, adding more broth as needed until the desired consistency is achieved.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with nutmeg and serve!
Food

A Fun Summer Dessert (and a Fourth of July Recap)

The fact that the Fourth of July fell on a Wednesday this year meant the day stayed simple without feeling obligated to cram travel plans into a three-day weekend. We stayed home, walked down to our small town’s parade, and hosted my parents for a cookout on the deck. We were asleep before the fireworks and that was OK.

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I made this super tasty no-bake dessert to celebrate the birthdays of both America and my mother. It’s a variation of a recipe I found in an old family cookbook, the kind where church potluck favorites reign supreme. I used strawberries and blueberries for a patriotic look, but you could play around with all kinds of fruit combinations. Keep enjoying summer, everyone!

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Recipe:

  • 3 sleeves of graham crackers (whole)
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 3.4-ounce packages of instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 1/2 cups of cold milk
  • 1 carton of fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1 carton of fresh blueberries
  • 12 ounces Cool Whip (or homemade whipped cream)
  • 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips

 

  • With an electric mixer, cream together the instant pudding mixes and the cream cheese.
  • Gradually add the cold milk.
  • Fold in the Cool Whip, reserving enough Cool Whip to coat the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan.
  • Spread a small amount of Cool Whip in the bottom of the pan.
  • Place one layer of whole graham crackers in the pan, breaking them apart if needed.
  • Place a layer of pudding mixture over the graham crackers and sprinkle (or carefully place if that’s your thing) the fruit over the pudding layer.
  • Do another layer of graham crackers, followed by pudding, followed by berries.
  • You’ll do three layers total, ending with the pudding/fresh berries on top.
  • Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave and spoon over the top layer. (I spooned it into a plastic bag and cut off the corner to create a little piping bag.)
  • Chill at least four hours (overnight is even better.)
Food

Happy Birthday Norm: Birthday Cake for Dogs and Humans

Norman turns nine this week. After his cancer scare last month and the surgery that followed, we are celebrating his life and health more than ever. This birthday cake is edible for dogs and humans, so it is perfect for spoiling our furry friend.

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I scoured the web for dog-friendly cake ideas and ended up combining a couple of recipes to come up with this. It’s quick and easy. My older daughter had a great time helping bake it.

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Full disclosure: It wasn’t my favorite cake in the world, but it wasn’t terrible. Norman, actually a fussy eater most of the time, devoured his serving. My daughter thought it was so cool that she and her dog brother could eat the same cake.

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I loved this green striped number candle by Papyrus that I found at Safeway. My daughter helped Norman blow out his candle and said she made a wish for him. Later, she revealed the wish: “I hope Norman gets a princess.” I think he has more princesses around than he can handle.

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Recipe:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (plus more for frosting the cake)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg

 

  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the flour and baking soda.
  • Add the remaining ingredients.
  • Stir with a spatula until combined.
  • Place in a greased 9-inch pan.
  • Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool for 30 minutes and frost with peanut butter.
  • Serve to dogs and humans alike!
Food

Christmas Spirit and A Delicious Chocolate Cake

Normally I am a proponent of holding off on decorating for Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but this past weekend I started looking at our busy schedule for the next few weeks. That led to hauling the decorations up from the basement, putting everything up, and baking this delicious cake featured in the gorgeous winter issue of Magnolia Journal. The girls even napped to Christmas music while I scurried about cleaning up glitter and cocoa powder.

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Three years old might be the most magical age when it comes to enthusiasm for the holidays. I want to bottle every moment with my oldest daughter. OK, maybe not the occasional tantrum, but you get my drift.

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We put the tree in the dining room this year, mainly because my youngest daughter just started crawling so finding a safe spot in the living room proved to be a challenge. However, I really like it in this spot. It is great to enjoy it during dinner, and it happens to be in front of a window that faces the street.

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The magic of the holidays is in the air. The time between Halloween and New Year’s goes so quickly and seems to fly even faster now that I have two children of my own. I’m trying to focus on work-life balance as much as possible so I don’t miss the special times attending my daughter’s Thanksgiving lunch at preschool and helping with the church Christmas program.

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The recipe for this delicious cake is below. It would make a great treat to share as a holiday gift or to serve at upcoming gatherings. Hint: It doesn’t hurt to pair it with a dry red wine.

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Recipe:

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups water

 

  • Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Let the butter and eggs stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, generously grease a 10-inch Bundt pan. Add cocoa powder. Shake and tilt pan to generously coat the bottom, sides, and tube. Shake out any excess cocoa powder.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a small bowl, microwave unsweetened chocolate 1 to 2 minutes or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Cool slightly.
  • In a large bowl, beat butter on medium to high 30 seconds. Add both sugars. Beat until combined, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add melted chocolate and vanilla. Beat until combined.
  • Alternately add flour mixture and the water to the chocolate mixture. Beat on low after each addition until just combined. Pour into pan, spreading evenly.
  • Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Sift powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder over the cake.
Food

Halloween Fruit Dip

I love this easy and delicious fruit dip that can be dyed for any festivity. Of course I have been doing orange lately for my little goblin.

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It’s just one softened brick of cream cheese beaten together with one 7-ounce container of marshmallow cream. Then dye the dip according to your food coloring instructions.

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Serve with your favorite fruit.

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It’s the perfect snack for a girl watching college football with her daddy.

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Food

Slow Cooker Andouille Corn Chowder

Chilly October days call for hearty soups that can simmer all day. Corn chowder with Andouille sausage is one of my favorites. The Andouille adds a bit of spice, but the creamy base tones it down. My three-year-old said “It’s a little spicy, but not too spicy.”

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I slice the Andouille into about one-inch cubes because I like the chowder to be chunky, yet want the pieces bit-sized. Slow cooker meals are a great way for kids to help because they can throw in ingredients without risk of a hot stove or splatters.

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Everything gets combined in the slow cooker for this tasty soup. Then the only thing left to do is cut up some bread, sprinkle the soup with a bit of shredded cheese, and serve. This is so hearty and satisfying. The leftovers are great, too!

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Recipe:

  • Heat a diced medium-size onion in a little butter until tender.
  • Combine 3 cups chicken broth, 1 1/2 cups of half-and-half, a bag of frozen corn, 2-3 cups of diced potatoes (I peeled mine because I used russets), and a diced Andouille sausage in a slow cooker.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. I also threw in a bay leaf.
  • Cook on high for 3 hours or low for at least 6 hours until potatoes are tender.
  • About 30 minutes before serving, dissolve 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in 1/2 cup of half-and-half and add it to the soup.
  • Allow to cook for another 20-30 minutes.
  • Garnish with cheese and serve!
Food

Boca, Cincinnati

I love trying new restaurants so you know Boca in Cincinnati is pretty outstanding if I ended up eating there two of the three nights we stayed in the Queen City. The food, service, and ambience were out of this world.

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Boca does a great Midwestern take on Italian cuisine.

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David, our server, was the best. This guy could serve me stale bread and I would still think he was great.

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But no stale bread here. Far from it. Instead I ordered the corn cappallacci, which were little homemade pasta pockets with sweet corn and black truffle. I can still smell it now. It was one of the very best things I have ever eaten.

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The restaurant’s signature dish are these delectable pommes soufflées. These puffed potatoes are a nod to the old building the restaurant occupies. They are so complicated that the chef that one out of every three batches gets thrown out. And they’re divine.

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Boca was a delicious find I will not be forgetting.

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I think it would be worth a trip to Cincinnati just for the corn cappallaci and pommes soufflées.

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Food

Lamb with Tzatziki

On a lovely summer night what could be better than grilling and dining on the deck? Last night the hubby and I made lamb with tzatziki sauce. It was simple and delicious.

We started by marinating a small rack of lamb (16 very small chops) for about an hour in the marinade listed below. This was the perfect amount of food for us with a small bed of couscous, but could easily serve four people with a couple more side dishes. Tabbouleh or roasted potatoes would be great!

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Marinade: Combine a teaspoon of chopped garlic, two tablespoons lemon juice, salt and pepper, a tablespoon fresh thyme, and three tablespoons olive oil in a food processor just until blended. Then pour into a plastic bag and add the individual chops. Marinate about an hour.

Grilling the lamb: Grill the lamb chops over direct heat at 450 degrees for about three minutes on each side.

Tzatziki: Whisk together one cup of Greek yogurt, three tablespoons vinegar, one teaspoon sugar, salad pepper, and a teaspoon of chopped fresh mint. Drizzle over meat or use as dip.

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