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Christmas was spent in Switzerland this year with my friend Rosa and her family. It’s been a lovely trip and everyone has made me feel so at home and welcome despite the fact that I tend on the side of awkward American from time to time. Mainly it’s just Rosa who gives me shit for those moments, which I expect, as it’s Rosa and she gives everyone shit, and I love her for it. Thanks for a lovely Christmas Holiday my love!

So, being here in Switzerland in this lovely house overlooking the lake, I had no idea how to thank the family for letting me come stay, so I have spent much of my visit helping in the kitchen. Rosa and May have been the principle cooks here, but I was given Christmas Eve dinner and made Cilantro Chicken and Pickled Tomato Avocado Salsa from Mattbites.com. Yum Yum. Worked out lovely.

And yesterday for Christmas dinner, Rosa and I went all out and made lots and lots of desserts. But alas, I must remind you of the title at this point because smart as I am, you will not believe what I managed to do yesterday. No, it’s worse than burning something, undercooking, or forgetting an ingredient. I mistook something. Both white. Both granulated. Both crytals. Ah, but 1 3/4 Cups of SALT makes a cake very different from a cake with 1 3/4 Cups SUGAR. Dump that one out and start over, eh?

Which I did. Thank god I eat cake batter like candy. But then another thing we must take from this cake following my sugar/salt debacle…brown sugar and white sugar are relatively interchangeable in cookies, but not in cakes. What a fail. What a chewy, sad, hard, ugly fail.

So I drown my sorrows in the chocolate cake I posted about last time, made with love by Rosa with my dark chili chocolate and a homemade Raspberry Sorbet. On the list for making next is Fillet Wellington, which we had for dinner last night and with which I happened to fall madly into lust. Tonight is Swiss Fondue. Looks as though it’s time to trek up the Swiss Alps for such a meal. I think that’s fair, don’t you?

Happy New Year friends! I love you all.

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Sometimes you have days when nothing works out how you want it.

And sometimes you have days when everything works out beyond all perfect rosy fantastical imagination.

I am going to tell you a tale. Of burned brownies. Of melted icing that wasn’t supposed to melt. Of a suuuper easy dinner recipe. But most importantly, I am going to tell you about Jesus in cake form.

But to reach such an important point for humanity, one must first hear of the trials and tribulations I endured yesterday. The brownie day. It was one of my flatmates’ birthdays, so, since I happen to be the resident baking pro (HA!), I took it upon myself to make something sugary. I had the perfect plan – brownies. With home-made caramel and stroopwafels (a diiiiiiiivine Dutch cookie) in between. Topped with more caramel. And yes, they were quite good, once salvaged: I must admit, with shame, that in all my years of cooking, baking, and eating, I have NEVER burned something…until Holland. Damn toaster oven. Thankfully, all that was needed to salvage my brownies was a sharp knife – cut the top of the brownies off, and I leave caramel-drenched loveliness in my wake.

And then came dinner at my aunt’s. My aunt is a fucking genius at cooking. She doesn’t know it, but the secret to her genius lies in the massive, copious, heart-attack-inducing amounts of butter she uses. For dinner, I asked for “Kabeljouw met Mosterdsaus,” Dutch-speak for “Cod with Mustard Sauce,” a fabulous feast that is so easy my Dad could do it. Actually, I take it back. He can’t. He’s tried. But he’s kind of hopeless with cooking. Kidding, but not really.  🙂  I degress – the dish is actually quite easy: butter, half an onion, some lemon juice, peppercorns, and a bay leaf – melt and mix, then add cod fillets and steam. Mustard sauce is also easy – Hollandaise sauce with some white wine, a couple tablespoons of stoneground mustard, a tablespoonish of dijon mustard, a little bit of the fish broth. Eat with potatoes and shredded beets – beets, finely chopped onions, lemon juice, salt, pepper, vinegar. YUM.

And then later that evening came Booze Brownies, a Christmas tradition and a gnawing craving I’ve been fighting for the past week. Brownies, soaked in bourbon, covered in an icing of powdered sugar, rum, and butter, drizzled (or in this case, drenched) with melted chocolate. But see, the only place I went wrong was timing – so impatient to get my drunk on was I, that I did not wait for the brownies to cool, thus melting the butter in the icing…whatever, they were still pretty bomb.

But the real, true reason for this post is due to the cake my dear Rosa requested we make tonight. I appeared this evening to do dinner with my girls. Rosa took the ingredients I brought for dinner and whipped up an ah-mazing dinner of salad and gnocci w/red pesto, pepper, tomato, and onion, while Sonia did all the dishes in her kitchen – none of which were her’s (this girl is awesome) – and I attackd Rosa’s ingredients to make the cake. Armed with 400 grams (140z) of dark, swiss, gorgeous, rich, decadent, OMG chocolate, I tried a random recipe found online, stirred, whipped, whisked, and baked it. Poured still-hot ganache over it, and then, we ate.

I know I can never dream to copy down Rosa’s description of our experience verbatim, but I sure as hell am going to try. ***Warning: very graphic language to follow. Very necessary graphic language. Very truthful graphic language. No laughing, just awe.

Jesus. Fucking. Christ.
No, not Jesus Fucking Christ. I am fucking Christ.

This cake is tattooed arms and big dick good,
It is making out in the elevator I-Need-You-Now,
Wet before you hit the door,
Hard, pounding sex,
Soft and sweet,
Fast and hard,
The combination of all the sex I’ve had,

Earth-shattering, I can’t breathe,
I might have to go change my clothes,
Because I just came in my pants,
Chocolate Cake.

The only difference between this cake and sex is
I’m going to need more.

Rosa’s Chocolate Cake
Theoretically feeds 8. Realistically, 3…
Prep time: 20 min.
Cook time: 25 min.

  • 8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 9 inch round cake pan.
  2. Melt chocolate and butter in top of double boiler (or my make-shift bowl in a frying pan with simmering water), stirring until smooth. Cool slightly.
  3. Separate yolks and whites. Whisk yolks and sugar in large bowl until pale yellow. Mix in flour, then slowly add chocolate mixture (don’t dump it all in at once or the eggs will cook because of the heat from the chocolate. YUCK).
  4. Beat egg whites in another bowl until stiff but not dry (thanks to Sonia for beating the eggs by hand. My hero of the day).
  5. Fold the whites into chocolate mixture (I repeat, no all at once business. No cooking of the egg whites, por favor).
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (approx 25 minutes). Cool. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen cake. Turn cake out onto platter.

Enter ganache.

Simple Chocolate Ganache
Prep time: 2 min.
Cook time: 10 min. + 30 min. cool-down time

  • 4 T (ish) Butter
  • 7-8 0z. Chocolate
  • 1/4 C. (ish) Cream
  1. In a double boiler (or bowl in a pan with hot water, as I intimated before), melt the chocolate.
  2. Add the cream until happily melted and combined to smooth perfection.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Let cool. You may pour it over the cake now or spread it later. Either way, it’ll taste beyond lovely and that’s all that matters.

I submit: Who needs sex when you can have this cake? Seriously. Who?

The trouble with being an “exchange student” in another country is homesickness. You miss sights, sounds, food, smells, friends, family. The way my parents’ house smells. Blasting the radio. 24 hour grocery stores. The mountains and the smell of snow. Miss Erica and our numerous inside jokes. Iced coffee. My dear Jo, whom I miss so dearly, but I love reading her posts – it’s like talking to her, somehow. Kisses to you my darling.

Anyway, yes, I miss things. But I’ve overcome the missing food part. With the exception of chocolate chips (my mom literally shipped me some because she knows how much I miss them) and whole wheat tortillas, but that’s water under the bridge at this point.

Another obstacle is my quest to integrate and shake this dumb “exchange student” stigma is my damn nationality. Yeah yeah yeah, American accent. Okay, I can’t shake that. The assumption by EVERY OTHER NONAMERICAN PERSON that I am the authority on all things American. For example, in my literature course – my American literature course – I am the only American and am therefore called upon to explain the historical and social context of every text we encounter. Last time I checked, I was a communication science major, which entails socio-cultural theories, studying gender and organizations, understanding the facets of nonverbal communication, and being able to write a bomb essay analyzing a billboard. I am NOT a history student. But hell, when the instructor asks what happened in 1864 in the US and no one says anything, looking around the room with sad and confused looks on their faces, what do you expect me to do? Civil War my friends. Civil freaking War.

And the trend continues. I have dinner with two of my Dutch friends every Tuesday, and today, it was requested that we make something easy. Domi studied in Utah for three years (she was my roommate last year), so she requested Mac n’ Cheese or Sloppy Joes. And it was determined that “the American” would deal with it, she being the resident authority on these particular dishes.

Mac n’ Cheese is kindof boring to me these days, since I make it quite often (with real cheese, of course, non of this boxed crap). So, Sloppy Joes I done did make. Sans Manwich Sauce, I might add. Not as hard as you might think, and in my expert American opinion, just as, if not more tasty than the lazy kid normal American method. Look at me defying stereotypes.

Talle’s Sloppy Joes

  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Serves: 6
  • Frying pan for meat and sauce, napkins!

*PS. As I am denying my Americanness despite this recipe, I’m using grams for meat measurement*

600g Ground Beef (I prefer 15 fat/85 meat, but that’s your call)
1 small onion, chopped
olive oil
2 C ketchup
3 tsp stone ground mustard
curry powder
salt and pepper
meat seasoning
cinnamon
chili powder

The Steps!

  1. Fry the onions in the olive oil until translucent, add the beef and cook thoroughly.
  2. Remove from heat. Mix in ketchup, mustard, and seasonings. I admit, I didn’t measure. I added a bit and tasted, then added a bit, then tasted. Heavy on the curry powder and meat seasoning; low on cinnamon, chili powder, and salt.
  3. Serve on buns with coleslaw, baked beans, potato chips, corn on the cob, anything interesting and “American” you can get your sloppy little fingers on.

“Hey, how about dinner tonight? I’ll bring some stuff over?” reads a text I received a few days ago. It’s from Mark, my Aussie friend, who at some point very early in the getting-to-know-you stage discovered I like to cook. No, he wasn’t cooking for me (though that would be lovely, if anyone is thinking about it…:p ). Rather, he arrived and cracked a bottle of red as I proceeded to do one of the things I believe I do best – you guessed it. Cook. I’m so predictable it’s sad.

On the menu for the night was green beans, funeral potatoes, and steak.

Now, let’s face it, green beans are easy peasy and don’t need anything special to make them tasty. Just boil in some lightly salted water for a couple minutes. Butter on top, if you want, though my favorite is sauteing the beans in olive oil with some parsley and garlic. MMMmmmMMM.

Next, the Funeral potatoes, which are simple enough as well, and any google search will lend you a plethora of good recipes. The moral of the story is potatoes and cheese…lots of cheese.  The trouble is that this food is so good I eat all of it in one go…do with it as you wish.  Here’s the recipe I used, with a few minor tweaks (no sour cream, it don’t exist in this here part of the world. And I added onions too.)

http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=1335

Meanwhile, what I do really want to share is my foray into the world of red wine. I myself am more of a white girl myself (no pun intended), though I can handle a bit of rose.  But red wine? It gets me drunk and gives me a horrible headache (sulfites, I know), not to mention the cheap stuff you can buy here tastes exactly that – cheap. So I cheated a bit. Mark poured me a glass of wine and I drank it, chatting and being the generally sociable gal that I am. But sneaky sneaky me, my second glass did not go into my tummy right away, as you would think, but into a pan to simmer and make my kitchen smell oh-so-lovely. Pour my concoction onto a couple steaks, and you have a pretty hearty meal. Mark seemed pretty happy with it, though it would have been better if he’d cooked the steaks for me. Ah, well, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Steak with Red Wine Sauce

  • Preparation Time: 1o minutes
  • Cook Time: 5-10 minutes
  • Serves: 2
  • Frying pan for sauce, grill or another pan for the steaks

2 Steaks, any cut you like
1/2 C. beef broth (bullion cubes are your friend)
1/2 C. red wine
1 T onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. mustard
1 T. parsley
1 T. butter
salt and pepper

The Steps!

  1. Salt and pepper the steaks. Grill or fry them up to your desired cooked level.
  2. Fry up the butter, onion, and parsley until the onions are golden brown. Mix in the mustard.
  3. Pour the broth and wine into the pan and simmer until it starts to thicken. If you need to, you can put a bit of flour in to help the thickening process, though I found flour messed up the texture and I prefer to simple cook it a bit longer.
  4. Pour the sauce over the steaks and serve!

Today has just been one of those days.  The kind that sort of slink by peering at you from out of the corner of their eye.  I just looked up and it was gone.  The weather was beautiful, though, with bright sunshine and fall colored leaves starting to peak out on the mountains.

Not wanting to waste such a stunning sight, I made my way to the public library after work.  And did something very naughty.  I found the cooking section, sat down and went to town.  I would have brought almost 7 of those recipe books back home with me but I had a tiny purse and plans to scour Smith’s baking aisle on the way home to stock up on a few necessary items.  As it is I brought home two baking books, Ratio (one I’ve heard rave reviews on) and Artisan Breads (one with these breathtaking pictures of stunningly crusty and rich loaves), and one other, The Lightness of Being.

I’m stoked about the Artisan Breads book, mainly because I’ve got this crazy need for bread making in my life right now.  A few days ago I completed my first experiment with sourdough bread, and it has only bolstered my need to explore the world of bread even more.  This loaf is soft and tangy on the inside with a chewy crust on the outside.  The boule ( the French term for bowl is merely a round loaf), however, was about the size of a “wagon wheel” (per Texas Joe) so next time I’m definitely going to go for baguettes or rolls.  The bread is also amazing with the spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto I made last weekend.

Sourdough Bread

From How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

*Note, this first part is the recipe for the starter.  This takes about 2 days to get the “sour” for the sourdough bread, so start it about 48 hours before you really want to get started.  To maintain the starter, take half out (like for the bread loaf) and mix in 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup water into the remaining starter.  Do this every week and starter will maintain itself “forever.”

1 1/2 cups flour

1/8 teaspoon yeast

1 cup warm water

  1. Mix the flour, yeast  and water together in a bowl. Cover loosely and place in an out of the way place (the recipe suggests the top of the refrigerator).   Stir every 8 to 12 hours; the mixture will eventually bubble and start to smell sour.  If the kitchen is warm this can take as little as 24 hours (mine took the full 48 hours and its about 70 degrees Fahrenheit).

3 1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon yeast

1 1/3 cup water

2 teaspoons salt

  1. The night before you plan to bake, put half of the starter in the mixer (the recipe uses the food processor, but I just used my hand mixer) and add the additional flour, salt, and yeast.  As the mixer is going pour in the water and process until a sticky dough is formed.  It will be a little too sticky to knead by hand.
  2. Put the dough in a large bowl, cover and let sit for a few hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. For a boule: Sprinkle a small amount of flour on the counter and dump dough out of bowl. Start to shape into a ball by “tucking in” the dough towards the bottom center, rotating, and repeating to create a surface tension on the top. (I didn’t use the counter much for this.  I just held it in my hands and worked the dough over the counter.) Pinch the seam that will form on the bottom of the loaf together.
  4. Place dough ball on a well floured clean kitchen towel in a colander or round basket seam side up.  Cover with towel and let rise 2 to 6 hours.
  5. Preheat oven about 30 minutes before baking to 450 degrees F.  Turn dough out onto baking sheet and cut the top of the loaf a few times.  Spray the inside of the oven with water to create steam and then slide baking sheet into oven.
  6. Bake at 450 degrees F for 20 minutes (spray the inside of the oven with water 2 or 3 times in the first 10 minutes) then turn oven down to 350 degrees F and bake 25 more minutes.  Loaf should have a golden brown crust.  Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Spinach, Walnut and Roasted Garlic Pesto

*Note: These measurements are all estimates considering I just sort of threw this together. Also this is the easiest in the food processor.

4 cups spinach

1/2 to 3/4 cup toasted walnuts

1/2 head roasted garlic

1/4 cup olive oil (more might be needed)

1/3 cup parmesan

  1. Place walnuts, parmesan, and roasted garlic in food processor.  Process until chunky.  Add spinach in batches, using olive oil when necessary to keep things going smoothly.

I wrote this on my old, forgotten blog, which I intend to delete, but I wanted to save this for sharing (and for personal use later. MMMM)

“My roommate’s boyfriend wandered into the kitchen the other night and after observing my tomato-slicing prowess labeled me “the Queen of Making Delicious-Looking Salads.” However, I’m not entirely sure that title is quite appropriate. Most of the time I just throw stuff together and call it ‘dinner’, and when I am making something extra special, it’s because I stole it from someone else. But really, who doesn’t steal – or rather, borrow and perfect – recipes. Honestly. So I’m going to run with it.

The following salad is not the one that earned me my title, but none the less, it is absolutely amazing, and for some reason screams ‘SPRING’ to me (though the fact that it’s Easter but snow outside may have a bit to do with it – 60 degrees and sun, come back, come back). Either way, this salad makes me want to slip on some shorts and go for a hike/picnic and munch on this once I reach the summit. Too bad I’m not into hiking.   :)

Almost Spring Salad

baby greens

red bell pepper, thinly sliced

avocado, chopped, chunky

1/4 Cup (ish) of almonds, chopped

1/4 Cup (ish) of grapes, sliced in half

1/4 Cup (ish) orange, peeled and diced

onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, sliced

Wake-Up Call Dressing

1/2 Cup olive oil

1/2 Cup white wine vinegar

2 T brown sugar

1 T chives

1 T curry powder

1 clove garlic, sliced or minced

1 T soy sauce