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

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

Pizza Night

Homemade pizza night is a favorite in our house. My two-year-old, husband, and I all love it, and the only side dish required is a simple lettuce salad.

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When I have fresh basil on-hand like this gorgeous stuff from my herb garden, it becomes the star of the show. There are tons of great pizza dough recipes out there, but I often just grab a couple of pre-made crusts at the grocery store. Pillsbury canned pizza crust is also good.

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I usually involve my daughter in topping the pizzas, but last night she had better things to do like playing in her new sandbox.

When it comes to topping pizzas, the possibilities are endless, but here are three of my favorites:

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Margherita Artichoke (shown here): I spread about a cup of tomato sauce on my crust and cover with shredded mozzarella and artichoke hearts (I buy the kind packed in oil in a jar.) This time I threw some pepperoni on, too, per my hubby’s request. I bake for 12 minutes before topping with lots of fresh basil and baking for an additional minute to slightly wilt the basil. Fresh basil is a must!

Pear, Caramelized Onion, and Gouda: Instead of pizza sauce, I drizzle the crust with plenty of olive oil. I slice two pears very thinly along with one small red onion and sauté all in a skillet with yet more olive oil just for a few minutes. I layer the crust with thin slices of Gouda and then top with the pears and onions before baking about 12 minutes.

Prosciutto, Arugula, and Goat Cheese: Again, I drizzle the crust with olive oil and sprinkle on a little shredded mozzarella to hold things together. I layer on thin slices of prosciutto and crumble on  goat cheese. I bake it for about 12 minutes and then pile on a lot of fresh arugula.

Helpful Hint: We prefer a crispier crust in our house so I always bake the crust for a couple minutes before topping it regardless of if I’m using homemade dough, canned, or a pre-made crust.

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Food

Cooking Class and Tangy Tomato Vinaigrette

Last Sunday my friend Lacey and I were in the mood to do something a little different and we landed on this…

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Chef Chris, who has worked in the exciting food scenes of Seattle and Portland before returning to the Black Hills, gave us a fun tutorial on shaking up brunch.

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We made a BLT salad, peanut butter granola pancakes with homemade date syrup, and more.

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Lacey, a registered dietitian, was a much better student than I was. Look: Those are actual notes on her menu. Dedicated! By the way, go check out her blog Edible Remarks for healthy and tasty meal recommendations.

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Roberta, the chef’s assistant was hilarious. She had plenty of one-liners to amuse us while she cleaned up the kitchen and plated our delicious treats.

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These open-faced smoked salmon sandwiches with avocado were refreshing and tasty.

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Eggs Benedict with fool-proof hollandaise sauce was a favorite.

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If you live in the Black Hills area and want to take a class, visit this link for more information. Sadly, they are taking a break from classes over the holidays, but will be back with a fresh line-up in March.

Here is one of the recipes from the class. We had this vinaigrette over grilled romaine lettuce.

Tangy Tomato Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco or Sriracha sauce (optional)
  • Pinch of lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley or chives, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon (for sauté pan) olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
  • Add red onion and tomatoes. Cook until just softened, about two minutes.
  • Stir in cherry tomatoes and cook briefly, about two minutes.
  • Place contents of pan into a blender or food processor and add vinegar, Worcestershire, hot sauce, lemon zest, and parsley or chives. Blend together.
  • With the motor running, slowly drizzle in oil until completely incorporated.
  • Serve.
  • Can be saved in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Adventures

Québec and the Lake Champlain Islands


It is hard to believe it has been three weeks since my mother and I took our journey to Vermont. One of the days we took a road trip through the Lake Champlain Islands to Québec.

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We visited the little French Canadian town of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and had a very French Canadian lunch. So French Canadian, in fact, that no one at the restaurant spoke English and the menu was entirely in French.

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We navigated our way through the menu since we know words like brie, bèchamel, and crêpes, and had a delightful lunch.

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Sometimes getting out of one’s comfort zone, even if it is only for lunch, feels oh-so-good.

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After lunch, we hopped in our rental car and headed back to Vermont. It was a fun little journey and now I can say I have actually been to Canada, despite living only a couple hours south of the Canadian border for a while right after college.

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Au revoir, Québec.

Food

Best Ice Cream Ever: Salt & Straw

Confession: I’m not a huge ice cream fan. Weird, I know. However, sometimes the mood strikes and I have to have ice cream immediately. When this happened while we were in Portland, I was pleased when I typed “nearby ice cream” into my cell phone and discovered a Salt & Straw location nearby. I had heard of it before because it was featured on Food Network’s Top 5 Ice Creams in America and in Food & Wine magazine.

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Because our daughter was sleeping in the back seat, my husband pulled up to the curb and I ran in to pick out a pint and three spoons for the three of us to share. There were so many fantastic-sounding flavors available such as Honey Lavender and Oregon Peaches with Toasted Walnuts.

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I opted for Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache and it was the best ice cream I have ever had.

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Sadly, the only locations are in Portland and Los Angeles, but, fear not, because Salt & Straw offers monthly shipments anywhere in the United States. The price is a little high, but if you’re a major ice cream enthusiast looking for a fix, it would be fun. If you get a chance, try Salt & Straw. Tell them Katie sent you. And then they’ll look at you funny because they have no idea who I am.

Food

Tangy Tarragon Potato Salad

My husband and I prefer potato salads that are a little more on the vinaigrette side and less on the mayo side. This one fits the bill. It features some mayo, but the champagne vinegar makes it tangy and delightful.

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I dumbed this down from a recipe by my girl the Barefoot Contessa. I cut down the number of ingredients significantly and I used red potatoes instead of Yukon Gold.

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If it was just me eating it, I would have left the red peels on because I like the color and flavor, but we had company for dinner and not everyone is into that kind of thing.

So peel, chop, and boil your potatoes until fork-tender. Drain them and put them in a pretty bowl.

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Mix up the following: 1 cup mayo, 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 cup champagne vinegar, 2 teaspoons tarragon, 1 teaspoon dill, and a little black pepper. Pour it over your potatoes.

If you have fresh tarragon and dill, please please please use it! I love fresh herbs but sadly, they are not available to me all that often since I live in the middle of nowhere in a usually snowy climate.

I don’t like telling you what to do, but listen up right now: Pour the dressing on while the potatoes are still hot. This makes a big difference on the overall texture and helps the potatoes really absorb the dressing.

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I served this alongside the burgers my husband grilled for a meal full of summery goodness.

Recipe:

  • Peel, chop and boil 6-8 large potatoes (I used red, but you can switch it up!) until fork-tender.
  • Drain potatoes and place in bowl.
  • Mix together 1 cup mayo, 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 cup champagne vinegar, 2 teaspoons tarragon, 1 teaspoon dill, and a little black pepper.
  • Pour dressing over potatoes while still warm.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
Food

Easiest Possible French Dip Sandwiches

Sometimes I like to Google “easiest possible…whatever food I want to make” and then dumb down the resulting recipe even more. That’s what I have done here with a French Dip recipe I found on allrecipes.com.

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The slowcooker makes this a super easy meal to throw together before work or on a busy Saturday chasing a one-year-old around the house.

All you need is a roast, hoagie buns, a beer, a can of beef broth, and a can of Campbell’s French Onion soup.

Put your raw, thawed roasts in the slowcooker. I had two smaller arm roasts so that’s what I used. I have tried various sizes of roasts with this recipe and the cooking time of seven hours seems perfect regardless of size. This would be an easy meal to feed a lot of people.

My husband swears by always searing a roast in a cast iron skillet before he puts it in a slowcooker, but I didn’t with this and it was still yummy. If you want to sear first, knock yourself out!

Then mix up the following: A beer, a can of Campbell’s French Onion soup, and a can of beef broth. You can add other seasoning if you want, but I did not think it needed anything more. As for the type of beer, don’t overthink it. I have tried it with a few kinds and it does not really make a difference. The beer is there to tenderize the meat, not add flavor. I think the alcohol cooks out, but I’m not a scientist, so if you are concerned about serving this to children or pregnant women, you could leave the beer out.

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Pour the concoction over your roast and cook on low for seven hours. It can cook for an extra hour or two if you want to put this in before the work day.

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Cut up your roast and serve it on hoagie buns. I always splurge on good buns from the bakery when I’m doing these sandwiches.

The au jus for the French dips is left behind in the slowcooker. Spoon it into little bowls for dipping. I like to use my red ramekins.

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Now serve, dip, and enjoy!

Recipe:

  • Place thawed, trimmed roast in slowcooker
  • Mix one 12-ounce bottle of beer, a can of beef broth and a can of Campbell’s French Onion soup and pour over roast.
  • Cook on low setting for at least 7 hours.
  • Slice roast and serve on hoagie buns.
  • Spoon au jus from slowcooker into dishes for dipping.
Food

In My House: Cooking Shows

One of my guilty pleasures is cooking shows.

Although cooking is not my favorite thing to do, it turns out I’m a little bit of a foodie. I love trying new cuisine, pairing interesting food and wine, and fantasizing about going to dinner at Ina Garten’s house (see below).

Here are three of my favorite cooking shows:

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(I could definitely eat this entire dish.)

(Image from realgirlskitchen.com)

The Real Girl’s Kitchen (on the Cooking Channel): This show is hosted by Haylie Duff. You might know her as Summer from Napolean Dynamite (or at least that’s how I knew her). She is also sister of Hilary Duff, who, sorry to say, has always annoyed me, but luckily Haylie is pretty laid back and cool. Recently she made a baked brie with honey and thyme that had my mouth watering. She also made a version of s’mores in a waffle cone. You put marshmallow, chocolate, bananas, and other yummy treats in a waffle cone that you then wrap in foil and place on a campfire. What?! Genius.

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(When I watch these shows, what I really want is for the hosts to just bring the food over to my house. Like this ham quiche prepared by Damaris Phillips.)

(Image from foodnetwork.com)

Southern at Heart (on Food Network): Host Damaris Phillips was a winner of Food Network Star and brings some new and interesting approaches to southern cooking. I never really fancied myself a southern food fan. Maybe because fried food sometimes turns my stomach and I am a wimp about spicy cuisine. Damaris is a likeable, friendly host.

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(My girl Ina’s lemon chicken. I have actually cooked this many times but I’ll leave the food photography to the experts, at least for now.)

(Image from barefootcontessa.com)

The Barefoot Contessa (on Food Network): I have been watching this for years. I own four of her cookbooks and my girl Ina really inspires me to cook something decent now and then. I make her tarragon potato salad regularly and I often turn to her lemon chicken recipe. I fantasize about being invited over to Ina’s for a dinner party. I about died when I saw the scene from 30 Rock where Ina visits Liz Lemon in a dream and says: “Hello, neighbor! My husband Jeffrey is out of town and I have this platter of bruschetta and a bottle of wine I need to share.”