Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Wreath Giveaway

With the holiday season finally here, the season of giving and being charitable has also arrived for many of us. So when the kind folks over at Lindsay Olives (you might remember my Bloody Olivia drink that was sponsored by them) approached me yet again with a wonderful giveaway for my readers, I did not hesitate. Lindsay Olives is selling beautiful fresh handmade wreaths made from olive, bay and eucalyptus branches on their website with all the proceeds going towards the The Meals on Wheels Association of America.

The Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) is the oldest and largest national organization in the United States representing those programs that provide meals to people in need. MOWAA's mission is to end senior hunger by 2020. With our economy still trying to recover, programs like these are definitely in high demand. To get more information about helping or how to locate a local Meals on Wheels program, visit the MOWAA website at If this is a cause that you find worthy to support you can donate  directly (remember, no donation is ever to small, even a few dollars can help), or you can purchase one of the gorgeous wreaths from Lindsay Olives by either ordering online or by calling (800) 765-2029 . The wreaths come in two sizes, a 12-inch and a 16-inch, are reasonably priced, make for beautiful holiday decorations or gifts and best of all you can support a great cause.

For the giveaway, Lindsay Olives generously offered me two of their 16-inch wreaths to give away to two of my wonderful readers. I'm thinking that is certainly a fantastic way to kick off the season!

* This Giveaway is CLOSED*

As always, here are a few rules for entering:

- To enter, simply leave me a comment of what you are planning to do this season to help or support a worthy cause

- For a second (bonus) entry, go to facebook and "like" MOWAA, then let me know in a separate comment you did this

- For a third (bonus) entry, follow my blog on google friend connect, then let me know in a separate comment that you already do or did

- This giveaway is open to U.S. Residents only (sorry my international friends)

- The wreath must be shipped to a physical street address, sorry no P.O. Boxes

- The giveaway will close on December 2nd at midnight pacific time.

I will pick two winners via, which will be announced on December 3rd. Lindsay Olives will then ship the wreaths to you before Christmas, so please make sure to contact me quickly with your address/shipping information if you are the winner.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Blog Update

Hi guys!

I'm sure by now a few of you have been wondering were my posts for this week are and while I wasn't sure if this would be the right forum, I also figured I owed you guys an explanation for my absence. The truth is that I've been dealing with some health related issues for a couple of months now and while I thought I could do it "all", I've been brought back to reality when I started feeling worse with each passing day. I struggled through last week and have finally reached the conclusion over the weekend that I needed to stop pretending everything is fine. My priorities have always been family and friends first and following a close third this blog, which has become my creative outlet. The one place that has brought me immense joy, where I could "shine" and allowed me to meet so many wonderful, encouraging, and talented people all over the world. Unfortunately, with pretty much zero energy and a few other problems associated with my illness, I realized I couldn't keep up the pace I had been keeping. I don't know when I will feel better at this point, but I do know that I love this little place I have created for myself on the Internet. So, at this point I guess all I'm asking of you is that you continue to be patient and supportive of Susi's Kochen und Backen. In return, all I can promise at this point is that I'm not giving up blogging, but depending on how I'm feeling any given day or week, you may see more or less of me. Some weeks I might feel good enough to post a few times, while during others I will struggle to put on one post and on others, like this past week, I may not even be able to do one. I'm also sorry for my lack of commenting. I will still try and visit a few pages a day, but this is all taking a little backseat while I'm trying to feel better. I'm not asking for sympathy, but any good vibes or prayers you want to send my way would be greatly appreciated.

With love,
(Susi's Kochen und Backen Adventures)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Apple Toffee French Toast Bake with Apple Syrup

Sometimes I happen to find recipes in the strangest places and those turn out to be the best ones. Today's recipe came in a little Magazine that Costco puts out for their members called Costco Connections. I was doing a quick thumb through before putting it in my recycling pile and that is when this recipe caught me eye. After reading through the recipe I knew I had to make this for my family. Apples, toffee and french toast? There was no way this could go wrong. Hold on, there is also cream cheese and toffee bits in the filling? And the finished bake is topped with an apple syrup? Sold, sold, sold!

This is definitely not a weekday recipe (unless you are on vacation or you like getting up really early), but more of a weekend breakfast/brunch item. The preparation is pretty much a cinch, but you do have to let the casserole soak overnight, plus count in the baking time the next morning. French bread is cut into cubes, half of the bread is layered into a greased casserole dish before topping it with a tart apple variety (I used Granny Smith) that has been chopped. Cream cheese is then mixed with brown sugar, white sugar and apple juice until creamy and smooth and then English toffee bits are stirred in. This mixture is spread over the apples and finally the other half of the bread goes on top. The whole casserole gets an egg/milk bath and is placed in the refrigerator overnight to soak and let the flavors mingle. The next morning, after letting the dish come to room temperature, it is baked until the eggs are set. Meanwhile the apple syrup is prepared. It is simply apple juice, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice which are brought to a boil and finally butter is incorporated.

Wow, wow, wow! This is pretty much one of the best sweet french toast bakes I have ever made. It is wonderfully crunchy on top, creamy in the middle with just a hint of toffee, tart apples and a custard like consistency. Absolutely amazing! The syrup just adds another little bit of apple flavor, but this would be just as tasty with maple syrup. With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, many of us will be hosting guests and this French Toast would be wonderful for anyone to wake up to. If you like apples and enjoy breakfasts on the sweeter side, this is one recipe I'm urging you to make this season. I don't think you will regret it!

Apple Toffee French Toast Bake with Apple Syrup
(adapted from "Costco Connections")


For the French Toast:
8 cups French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tart apples, peeled and chopped (I used Granny Smith)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1/2 cup English toffee bits
6 eggs
1 cup milk

For the Apple Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups apple juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons butter


For the French Toast: Place half of the bread cubes in a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan; top with apples. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugars, apple juice and 1 teaspoon vanilla until smooth; stir in toffee bits. Spread over apples. Top with remaining bread cubes.

In another large bowl, beat the eggs, milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla until well blended; pour over bread. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Bake, uncovered, for 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the French toast is baking, prepare the syrup.

For the Apple Syrup: In a medium-size saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, apple juice and lemon juice; heat to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 1 minutes, then stir in butter. Serve over warm Apple Toffee French Toast Bake.

Adapted from: Costco Connections

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Southwestern Corn-Potato Chowder

My husband is by all means a great eater. I don't recall many things he won't eat or at least try once. However, he is a huge flavor person. If the food is tasteless or bland he won't touch it. I've learned over the years that big flavors and especially a good amount of spice, will make him love pretty much anything. In the early years of our marriage I tried my hand at corn chowder. It was only received lukewarm and so I figured the time had come to give this soup another go. This time around I thought I would have a true winner on my hands if I went the Southwestern route and boy was I ever right. 

Looking all over the internet for a recipe for this chowder I came to find out very quickly that most of them weren't going to cut it and would just end up being another mediocre meal. My plan was to just take bits and pieces from several recipes and come up with my own version. This soup comes with a bit of a warning though. If you are a sissy when it comes to spicy food, then this is probably not the bowl for you, but if you love a good flavorful soup with a good kick, I encourage you to read on.

I started the soup by crisping up some bacon. See, already a step in the right direction! Sauteing onions in the leftover bacon flavored grease was the next step. Flour, salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin made up my seasonings. For the stock I decided to go with chicken stock since that is what I had in my freezer, but you could certainly use vegetable as well. Potatoes are then added, and again I went with flavor by using the Yukon Gold variety. Once the potatoes are cooked nice and tender in the flavorful broth, I added frozen corn which I always have in my freezer and consider one of my convenience items. To add the final touch and to make this truly Southwestern, I decided on a combination of canned diced green chiles and minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce which added a wonderful smokiness to the dish. To "cool" the palate down, I went with some half-and-half which made the soup creamy, without making it too rich. For garnish, I used the previously crisped bacon bits and fried tortilla strips which my husband ever so kindly agreed to fry for me. They are simply flour tortillas cut into thin strips and fried in some hot oil before getting a sprinkling of sea salt.

Great soup, great flavors and you will definitely get warmed through and through with a bowl of this corn-potato chowder. This dish is going into my permanent recipe file and will be made many more times throughout the colder months.

Southwestern Corn-Potato Chowder
(Printable Recipe)


8 ounces bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
6 cups chicken stock (vegetable can be used as well)
3 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and medium-diced (about 1 pound)
4 cups frozen corn
1 (7 ounce) can diced green chiles
3 whole chipotle peppers in Adobo Sauce, finely minced
2 cups half-and-half
Fried tortilla strips for garnish (optional)


In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the bacon fat, and cook until onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add the corn to the soup, then stir in the green chiles and minced chipotle peppers. Cook for 5 minutes, add the half-and-half and cook for another 5 minutes. Check one more time for additional salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of the reserved bacon and fried tortilla strips (if desired).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Oma Ingrid's German Apple Cake

With Halloween behind us, the next holiday, Thanksgiving, is already looming over our heads again. This is another holiday I did not grow up with, but have come to love as well. Seriously, what's not to like about a holiday that is pretty much centered around good food, family and friends? There are so many delicious eats that are hard to resist. From the wonderful cooked turkey, to great sides and last but certainly not least, amazing seasonal pies and cakes.

I usually make a few very traditional dishes for our feast, but my German touches are never far. Our Thanksgiving dessert table also holds an assortment of "American" pies and at least a German cake or two. Today's featured apple cake is one that my mom (Oma Ingrid to my kids) has been baking for as long as I can remember and was also one of the first cakes I baked for my husband. Apple desserts are some of my favorites and this one is irresistible by having a fantastic nut topping. Served with some whipped cream it is a true family favorite.

The cake has three components. A crust, reminiscent of ones that are used in sweet tarts. A grated apple filling that really let's the apples shine without overpowering them with spices, and a nut crust made from butter, sugar, finely ground nuts and heavy cream. The crust is made quickly with the use of a food processor, but can also be made in a stand mixer. After pressing the crust into a greased springform pan it is set into the refrigerator while the apple filling and topping are prepared. Use your favorite apples in this, Cameo, Gala, or Honey-crisp are great choices that lend the perfect balance of sweet and tart, without getting too mushy after baking. The apples are grated before mixing them with a bit of lemon juice, sugar and flour, then placed inside the crust. Finely ground almonds or hazelnuts (my favorite) are mixed together with melted butter, sugar and heavy cream and then spread over the apple filling making sure to cover the entire cake before baking.

The cake takes a little bit time to put together, but is well worth the effort. It might not be the prettiest or most colorful cake you've ever seen, but let me tell you it makes up for it in flavor and has a wonderful rustic charm that fits so well into the season. This is a cake that is requested over and over in our home and is never missing on our Thanksgiving table. I do hope if you give this recipe a try, you'll enjoy adding some German touches to your table as well!

Oma Ingrid's German Apple Cake

For the crust:
250 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100 grams sugar
125 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg

For the apple filling:
6 medium apples
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the nut topping:
125 grams finely ground hazelnuts or almonds
75 grams melted butter
100 grams sugar
3-4 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.

For the crust: Add flour, baking powder and sugar into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse again until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Add the egg and once again pulse until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a floured surface and quickly knead until dough comes together. Press dough into the bottom and up the sides of the prepped springform pan. Set pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling and topping.

For the filling: Peel, core and grate apples. Add them to a large bowl and toss with flour, sugar and lemon juice. Set aside while you prepare the nut topping.

For the topping: In a medium bowl combine the ground nuts, melted butter, sugar and heavy cream. Stir to combine until the mixture is like a paste.

Putting it all together: Remove springform pan with crust from the fridge. Pour apple mixture into the formed crust and spread evenly. Spread nut topping over top of the apples, making sure to cover apples completely. Bake in preheated oven for about 50 - 55 minutes. Check after 45 minutes and if the topping and crust get to dark, cover with a piece of aluminum to prevent over browning.

Remove cake from oven and cool for about 20 minutes before removing sides of the pan (make sure to run a sharp knife around the edges before attempting). Let cool completely before serving.

Adapted from: My mom

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Bloody Olivia"

 ~ Welcome to a Progressive Party ~
 I know, right now most of you are saying "what?", but let me explain. It is actually the fantastic brainchild of Casey over at TasteStopping. It boils down to 6 different bloggers, 6 different assigned dinner courses, 1 product, kitchen tool, or ingredient, equaling one fun, unique internet party like no other. You can find more info about all of this over at Kitchen Play since Casey has a much better way of explaining than I do, but think of it kind of like Iron Chef meets Chopped.

This month the ingredient is sponsored by Lindsay Olives who happen to produce a fantastic array of different olives for any occasion. My assignment: A cocktail. The mission: Create a signature cocktail using Lindsay Olives that is NOT a martini. Sounds easy enough? Well, yes and no. Let's just say my husband had a glorious time sampling different drinks. In all honesty, those that know me are aware of the fact that I'm not an olive kind of girl and my drink of choice is usually on the sweeter side. My husband on the other hand had absolutely no problems helping me out, and in the end I was surprised that I liked the finished cocktail as much as I did.

I was trying to figure out which direction to take this drink and then it hit me. What better way to create something that also represents my geographical living area than coming up with a Southwest inspired cocktail? And what better way to achieve this than with Lindsay's Spicy Jalapeno Queen Olives. After experimenting with a few different drinks, I decided to intertwine one of my favorite drinks (the Margarita) with one of my husbands favorite drinks (the Bloody Mary) and born was the "Bloody Olivia"!

The main ingredient of a Margarita is tequila and a Bloody Mary is made with tomato juice and vodka. Trying to figure out how to combine these two drinks into one was fairly easy, but how could I showcase these great supplied olives? After a few trials and errors it came to me that I could infuse the most flavor by not just using the olive brine from inside the jar, but also by taking one of the Spicy Jalapeno Queen Olives and adding it to the drink. To do just that, I decided to break out my blender, and it worked like a charm. The drink gets additional flavor from a few spices, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce and last but not least, another traditional margarita ingredient, lime juice. After blending the tomato/olive base together, all that was left to do was stir in the tequila and enjoy.

I served the drink in a Chili-Lime Salt (which I found at a liquor store with the specialty salts) rimmed glass over ice and as a garnish I added a pickled jalapeno along with another stuffed Lindsay Spicy Jalapeno Queen Olive. This made for a tasty cocktail that had quite a kick to it. With all of the holidays and get-togethers coming up, I'm happy to have another great cocktail in my repertoire so I guess I better stock up on a few more Lindsay Olives!

"Bloody Olivia"
(Makes 1 drink)
(Printable Recipe)


8 oz. vegetable juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 tablespoon Lindsay Spicy Jalapeno Olive brine (the liquid from inside the jar)
1 Lindsay Spicy Jalapeno Olive
1 1/2 oz. Tequila
Chili-Lime Salt to rim the glass (for garnish)
Pickled Jalapeno (for garnish)
1 Lindsay Spicy Jalapeno Olive (for garnish)


In a blender add vegetable juice, salt, pepper, celery salt, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, lime juice, olive brine and 1 jalapeno olive. Blend until mixture is combined and smooth. Stir in tequila. Carefully pour over ice into a salt rimmed glass. Add the pickled jalapeno and olive for garnish. Serve immediately!

Last, but certainly not least, these progressive parties have a great way to get all of you, my wonderful readers, involved. You have the chance to win $100  cold, hard cash and all you have to do is either make my signature cocktail and blog about it, or pick any of the other party recipes to make and blog about it. You can also make all 6 courses for 6 entries to increase your chances of winning. To find out more info and all the the rules that come along with this contest, hop on over to Kitchen Play. This is a great opportunity for some easy money and who couldn't use that  right before the holidays?  Don't wait though, you have only until November 30th, 2010 to enter.


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