Pear Tart

We’ve been doing a four week trial of a local produce delivery. Basically, a local farm delivers fresh produce to us once a week. While it has been great to have a large quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables, occasionally it is a bit overwhelming to figure out what to do with some of the things. This week we received 10 pears! I had to figure out something to do with them so I thought a pear tart would be a great idea. The heat wave backed off for a few days so I found a few recipes and went from there. I used this recipe for the crust recipe but I found it to be too salty (and I had already reduced the salt by half!). I also modified it a bit for the actual filling/topping, simplifying everything a bit and making it significantly less salty (and I love salt). The crust is super simple (and tastes a bit like shortbread) and the rest is really not as complicated as it looks. It takes a bit of cooking time and the rest is baking and cooling time. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Pear Tart

Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1-2 pinches salt (max. 1/8 teaspoon)
  • 12 Tablespoons butter (unsalted), melted

Crust Directions:

  • Combine the dry ingredients and add in the melted butter until well combined.
  • You can use a tart or pie pan but I recommend a springform pan if you have one. Grease the inside with butter generously and you’ll be able to remove the tart easily.
  • Press the dough into the bottom and slightly up the outer edge, just enough to give it a bit of a lip on the outside.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 F (175 C) until the crust starts to get slightly golden.
  • Remove and cool while you prepare the filling.

Pear Filling/Topping Ingredients:

  • 8 pears
  • 4 Tablespoons butter (unsalted)
  • splashes of water (see below)
  • 3/4 cup preserves or applesauce
  • pinch of salt
  • a few Tablespoons of honey
  • a squeeze of lemon juice

Directions:

  • To help this make more sense, you’re basically going to be lightly cooking the pears that will be the design/topping on the top layer first and then you will be making the filling that goes in the middle.
  • Take 5 of the pears and slice them about 1/2 inch thick (remove cores, obviously). Heat 2 Tablespoons of butter in a pan. Add the sliced pears and a Tablespoon or two of water and stir gently. Put a lid on it and let them cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer these to a plate to cool.
  • Slice the remaining 3 pears (removing the cores again) into small pieces. You don’t have to be picky about this because you’re going to turn this into a paste. Place two more Tablespoons of butter back in the pan, add the 3 chopped pears, a pinch of salt, and the preserves or applesauce. I used rhubarb compote we made with leftover rhubarb last week, but store-bought applesauce would work great. However sweet the applesauce or preserves are will greatly contribute to the sweetness of your final product, so keep that in mind. Cook this mix for about 10 minutes and start mashing it up with a spatula, fork, or potato masher. (Add a splash of water if it ever gets too thick, but you don’t want it to be runny either.) Cook for about 5 more minutes .
  • You can transfer this mixture directly to the cooled crust. Spread it out evenly.
  • The sliced pears should be cool enough to touch by now, so you will start to design the top. Starting at the outer edge, lay the pears down in circles and work your way to the inside. You don’t have to be super picky about it and it will still look nice.
  • Bake at 350 F (175 C) for 25-30 minutes. Right before the timer is up:
  • Heat 2-4 Tablespoons of honey in the microwave for about 5-10 seconds with a splash of water until it is very runny. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. If you (carefully) taste it it should taste a bit like honey but not too sweet thanks to the water and lemon.
  • Brush this honey mixture over the top of the tart and return the tart back to the oven. Broil briefly (really watch it) until the pears on top just start to brown.
  • Remove and cool (ideally 1- 1.5 hours). Run a knife around the edge of the springform pan (if you used one) and release the sides.
  • Serve alone or with a bit of fresh whipped cream. You can definitely make this a day in advance, as everything tastes its best the next day.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

It has been a while since I have posted. Lots of things have taken priority over the last few weeks, and I’m afraid it will only get worse. At 36 weeks pregnant, I’m finding it a bit difficult to regularly post here when there is so much that needs to be done. I have been a bit better at posting quick tips or recipe ideas on instagram (@crossroadhealth), so follow along there until I can return on a regular basis. Now on to the recipe:

At first glance it may seem strange to share another chocolate chip cookie recipe. There are thousands of good recipes on the internet and everyone has their favorite type. The biggest problem for me is that they all call for brown sugar. Brown sugar is impossible to find in Germany and it is time consuming and messy to make your own. I wanted to try to come up with a way to simplify the process while keeping the nice flavor that the molasses lends to the brown sugar. You also can’t really find chocolate chips, so I usually just chop up a bar of chocolate (hence the “chunk” rather than “chip” in the title). I think I’ve succeeded on both, but you’ll have to test it out and let me know.

These can be made a bit thinner and crunchier or a bit thicker and chewier, although I would say they are definitely on the thinner and crunchier side overall.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon molasses or malt syrup (such as Gerstenmalz- barley malt)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 package vanilla sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped chocolate, chocolate chunks, or chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Cream together the butter and sugar. Add in the molasses or malt syrup. Mix well. Add in the egg and the vanilla and mix well again.
  • In a different bowl combine all the dry ingredients. I was a little short on flour so I added 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. I like adding 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch when making crispier-style cookies because I think it gives it a nice crunch and keeps it from being greasy (but that is just my opinion, so skip it if you’re not interested.)
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients with a spatula or wooden spoon and stir in the chocolate.
  • Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes before baking. If you want less crunchy cookies that don’t spread as much you can either refrigerate or freeze overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C) and scoop the dough onto a cookie sheet. I roll it into balls and then lightly press with my hand. Bake about 15 minutes for crunchy cookies. If you refrigerated or froze overnight you’ll need 20-25 minutes, but keep an eye on them- you don’t want them to be too brown!

Let me know what you think!

Easy Cinnamon Rolls (Date sweetened)

I love a really good homemade cinnamon roll. It is actually one of my favorite desserts (or breakfast desserts?). We were looking for a kid-friendly cooking project and just threw these together – perfect in time for a long Easter weekend.

The dough is store-bought puff pastry dough, so it certainly isn’t as good (or even a similar texture, really) as homemade, but it is easy and quick!

They are also only sweetened with dried dates (or another dried fruit). The flavor of the dates compliments the cinnamon really well, but they would be fun to experiment with using other kinds of dried fruit. I added ground almonds too, to give them a bit of texture and something other than sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried dates (packed and slightly rounded. I counted this to be 19 dates in my batch). You could try other dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, or even plums, just make sure the fruit is the only ingredient (no added oils, sulfur, or powdered ingredients) or it won’t work well.
  • 4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup) melted butter, unsalted*
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 pouch vanilla sugar (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 cup blanched, sliced almonds (you could probably use 1/4 cup or less of ground almonds)
  • 1 package of rolled puff pastry (cold or frozen section of the grocery store). Follow thawing directions so it is ready to roll out.
  • 1 pinch salt *omit this if you used salted butter
  • 1 egg (optional, but I recommend this if you aren’t using a glaze or icing)

Directions:

  • Put the dates in a heat-safe bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 20 minutes then drain.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C).
  • Place the drained dates, melted butter, cinnamon, vanilla, salt and nuts in a food processor and blend until it forms a smooth paste. I used the food processor attachment for my immersion blender- it isn’t super-powerful but it did the trick. You can add a few splashes of water if the paste is too thick to blend (also try pulsing).
  • Unroll the thawed pastry and spread the paste out on top. Leave a bit of space at both longer sides to allow for rolling later.
Kids love helping with this part.
  • Roll it up from the long side so it is in one long roll.
  • Cut into 3/4 inch rounds and place on a baking sheet.
  • Brush with the beaten egg (optional) for extra shine.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes. Feel free to go a few minutes longer if they don’t look quite ready.
  • Cool. For kids (and those who don’t consume a ton of sweets) these really are nice without an icing. If you really want to you can mix up a simple icing and drizzle on top. They’re fairly light and thin, so you may not want to overwhelm them with more than a light drizzle.

Enjoy!

Portobello Pizzas

If you’ve been visiting this site for a while, you’re probably aware that I like finding (and sharing) easy and family-friendly recipes. This one can be thrown together in just a few minutes, completely adapted to your preferences, and kids love to assemble their own pizzas. If you don’t have mushrooms (or have family members who don’t care for them) you can easily sub in french bread or English muffins.

Ingredients:

  • Portobello mushrooms, stems removed*
  • clean tomato sauce (I usually toss a can of chopped plain tomatoes into a bowl with a pinch of salt, olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, and rosemary and blend it with an immersion blender). I’ve also used pesto with great results.
  • mozzarella cheese (the drier kind that you can shred works best so everything isn’t watery)
  • toppings (veggies, pepperoni, salami, olives, sausage, or whatever you like)

*If you’re using french bread (sliced in half) or English muffins just skip the first step of pre-baking the portobellos.

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven using the broiler setting. I usually heat it to 425 F (220 C).
  • Place the mushrooms on a baking sheet with the smooth, curved side up. You can brush them with a little oil if you like.
  • Bake for 3-4 minutes. (you can skip this step if you like your mushrooms a bit more firm)
  • (Start here and follow the same directions for bread).
  • Spread the tomato sauce on the mushroom (or bread).
  • Top with toppings.
  • Broil until the cheese is bubbling and melted (usually 5 minutes or less).

Enjoy!

Mushroom version
French bread version

Maple Hazelnut Brownies

These brownies are sweetened only with maple syrup (unless you make the icing) and taste like crunchy nutella or something I can’t quite put my finger on. You can make them without the ground hazelnuts, but I had some leftover from my lemon hazelnut cake, so I wanted to use them and the result was delicious!

I actually usually just halve the recipe and bake it in a bread loaf pan, but this one should make a square 8 inch x 8 inch batch.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup maple syrup (can sub. sugar, but you’ll need to reduce the flour a bit or omit the nuts)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I skipped this and used a package of vanilla sugar since liquid vanilla extract is difficult to find here and I always forget to make a batch.)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup ground hazelnuts (could sub. ground almonds if you like)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt (or a few pinches)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Directions:

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan and remove immediately when melted.
  • Pour the maple syrup in the pan and stir well. Make sure it is cool to the touch so you won’t cook your eggs.
  • Stir in the eggs and vanilla.
  • Add in the rest of the ingredients (cocoa, flour, hazelnuts, salt, and baking powder). Stir until combined.
  • Pour into a greased and ideally floured 8 inch x 8 inch baking pan and bake at 350 F (175 C) for about 30 minutes. You don’t want to overbake, but you don’t want it to be runny either.

You can eat them as is or you can make a simple icing to top them with. I usually just mix things together and ignore the proportions, so you may just have to experiment with the example below. You can google brownie icing and just see what you come up with. Some call for powdered sugar and others call for granulated sugar. I find the granulated sugar ones to be a bit less sweet.

Brownie icing:

  • 6-8 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
  • 6-8 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • vanilla (optional)

Heat all the ingredients in a small saucepan until the chocolate is melted and the sugar dissolved. You want it to be smooth, neither runny nor thick, and have a nice chocolatey taste. Pour over slightly cooled brownies in the pan. Let cool completely before cutting or it will run everywhere.

Both the brownies and the icing actually taste better the next day, although I am a big fan of warm brownies.

Roasted Rosemary Beets & Oranges

This is an easy and tasty side that can be thrown together in a few minutes and tossed in the oven. Even if you think you don’t like beets, try roasting them in the oven. It brings out a nice sweetness, especially with the roasted oranges. You don’t need to peel anything, but if the orange peels are especially bitter you may not want to eat them.

Ingredients:

  • A few beets (it depends how many you want to serve. I did 5 small-medium beets and it worked well as a side for 2 adults and a toddler with leftovers)
  • 2 oranges
  • fresh rosemary
  • olive oil, salt, and pepper

Directions:

  • Scrub the beets well, cut the ends off, and slice into thin slices (maybe 1/4 an inch or less).
  • Wash the oranges and slice the same thickness.
  • Toss with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary.
  • Spread on a sheet pan and roast at 400 F (200 C) for about 20-30 minutes.

I like to serve this with pesto chicken and a leafy green vegetable, but it would go well with anything on the grill.

10 Minute Lunch

I wasn’t quite sure what to call this, but it is basically something you can throw together with whatever is in your fridge/pantry in a few minutes. It is less of a recipe and more of a framework, but give it a try!

Here is what I used with alternate suggestions:

  • cucumbers quartered and sliced (feel free to use other veggies)
  • tomatoes, cut into small pieces (see above)
  • diced red onion (spring onions or chives would work, or omit)
  • diced feta cheese (could use mozzarella, something else, or skip)
  • fresh herbs (I used dill, but basil or oregano would also be good. A pinch of dried herbs would also work.)
  • olive oil
  • fresh lemon juice or a mild vinegar
  • A complex carbohydrate of some type (beans or quinoa or similar) could be added also. I had some leftover hummus we made yesterday so I had that on the side.

Again, feel free to toss in whatever you have. Serve alone, on lettuce, or with bread.

Adult Plate
Toddler Plate (I knew the salad with feta wouldn’t be a favorite but provided it for a new taste. I gave him some extra veggies, hummus, and prosciutto/serrano ham.

Salmon Avocado Salad

I invented this salad a few weeks ago when I had some random ingredients in the kitchen and needed to combine them into something tasty. They manage to come together to form something surprising but delicious. I have made it several times since then. I buy smoked salmon at Aldi here in Germany because it is affordable, good quality, and doesn’t have any added sweeteners.

Ingredients:

  • arugula or other lettuce (I used mache)
  • smoked salmon, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
  • avocado, sliced
  • blueberries (you could use raspberries or cherries)
  • toasted pecans or walnuts (you can toast these yourself with a bit of salt and butter in a pan beforehand if you want)
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • fresh dill, if desired

Directions:

  • Layer the arugula, salmon, avocado, blueberries, and nuts on a plate or in a bowl. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top, and sprinkle on the fresh dill and a bit of salt, if desired.
Toddler Plate
Adult Plate

Spaghetti Carbonara

I absolutely love spaghetti carbonara. It is definitely rich and comforting; something that is perfect for a cool evening. I usually have the ingredients on hand and can throw it together in a short amount of time, yet it feels really special and even luxurious. The whole family (even the toddler) goes crazy for this one. I’ve used many different recipes over the years and settled on my own version, which I’ve shared below.

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces of bacon or pancetta, cut into small pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • about 2 ounces finely shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for topping (I use a microplane to get it really fine). You may prefer less or more. I usually just add enough to get the mixture the right texture (see below)*.
  • 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks (Please use good and fresh eggs here.)
  • olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • 12-14oz spaghetti (350-400g) (I’ve used spiral noodles and even gluten free pasta with success)

Directions:

  • Boil the spaghetti according to the package, but subtract 1 minute from the recommended cooking time. While that’s cooking:
  • Whisk your eggs & yolks well, adding a good bit of black pepper and the parmesan. *You want the parmesan to thicken it up, but you don’t want it to be too dry, so you may want to add it a bit at a time until it forms a paste. That’s why I prefer to use a microplane- I just can’t seem to get the smooth texture without superfine shreds. It should look like this:
  • Sauté the bacon in a bit of olive oil until it starts to get crispy, add the garlic and remove from the heat if your pasta isn’t ready (if so, you’ll have to bring it up to temperature again later).
  • When the pasta is ready, drain it but reserve a bit of the cooking water in case you need it later. Add the pasta directly to the warm bacon and garlic mix and stir well for about a minute until everything is warm, adding a splash or two of the pasta water.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the egg mix. Mix well. If everything goes well, your eggs mix will warm and thicken to a nice custardy sauce. Add a splash more pasta water if it looks dry and keep stirring! You don’t want scrambled eggs (although one time mine did turn into scrambled eggs and it was still edible).
  • Serve immediately with a fresh grating of parmesan and a pinch of black pepper on top.

Lemon Hazelnut Cake

Our upstairs neighbor originally gave us a slice of this cake and I have never tasted anything quite like it. The texture is almost a bit like a moist cornbread, mostly due to the fact that ground hazelnuts make up a large portion of the ingredients. It is fresh and tart and certainly not too sweet- all the characteristics of a good cake in my opinion.

The only problem if you’re in the US is that you’ll need a kitchen scale. You can buy a cheap one on amazon or at Target/Walmart, etc. You’ll need to switch it to grams. If you do that then this cake is as simple as can be.

Ingredients:

  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 60 grams flour
  • a bit of baking powder (maybe 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 125g ground hazelnuts
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • juice of 1 lemon, plus more for garnish

Directions:

  • Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs.
  • Mix in the flour and baking powder, combine well.
  • Add in the hazelnuts and lemon zest and combine.
  • Add the juice of 1 lemon and stir well.
  • Pour into a greased circular pan or springform pan.
  • Bake at 180 C (350 F) for 30-45 minutes. Most pans will take about 35-40 minutes. I use a black springform pan so mine actually took about 25 minutes. You can check it with a toothpick or knife to see if it is ready.
  • If you like your cakes a bit sweeter then leave it as is. If you prefer it a bit more tart, then pour/squeeze a bit more fresh lemon juice over the top while it is hot.
  • Let cool and enjoy!