Saturday, October 31, 2009

7,000 calories later

It's after 11 p.m. and I've given up on trick or treaters tonight. Oh well. Not really surprising since it's not a German tradition. But it has caught on in some areas, just not in our dark and scary cul de sac. That means more candy for us. Not a good thing. One more mini Mars Bar and I swear I'll explode.

Boy13 designed our pumpkin this year. I love it.

We had our usual Halloween dinner, including a very scary serpent

(no venom, just ham and cheese - recipe here)

and a candy corn cake for dessert

I'm going to go to bed now and try to sleep off the sugar shock.

Happy Halloween!


Friday, October 30, 2009

regular folks like you and me

Is it the end of October already? I haven't even finished talking about summer yet.

This was a great year for plums and my mother-in-law dropped a metric ton of them on us about a month ago.

We ate some, we froze some and there were still a whole bunch left.

Many got turned into cake

I think I made about four of these in the course of a few days. 1 1/2 times the old faithful recipe from this post was just right for my larger baking pan.

Still more went into muffins. I made blueberry ones as well from berries we bought at a roadside stand. So good!

And let's not forget the Zwetschgenknödel, the plum dumplings I've been making every summer for years and years.

The recipe and detailed information can be found here.

It suddenly occured to me that these might be freezable so I did some research and yes, indeed, you can freeze the raw, filled dumplings and then simmer them for 20 minutes in boiling water before serving. We enjoyed a batch from the freezer last night and they were very nice.

It's a bit late in the year for fresh plums now, but if you're still in a baking mood my mother recently sent me a recipe for a cake made with the next best thing - prunes. Don't be afraid, prunes are delicious and not just for old people!

This is not a fancy, fluffy cake. It's dense and a bit chewy and all those nutritious prunes and walnuts in there really keep things running smoothly, if you know what I mean.

Spiced Prune Cake - Mausi's Mum

Note: Even if it looks done, be sure to bake this cake for as long as the recipe specifies so that it can caramelize and easily release from the pan.

Unsalted butter, room temperature, for the pan
2 cups all purpose flour plus more for the pan
1 cup pitted prunes
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup low-fat buttermilk*
3 large eggs
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting.

1. preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a non-stick Bundt pan (12 cup capacity) tapping out excess flour, set aside.

2.Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, remove from heat and add prunes. Cover and let soak for 10 minutes. Drain prunes and finely chop, set aside.

3.Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and baking soda. Set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together oil, buttermilk, and eggs. Add oil mixture to flour mixture. Mix just until combined. Stir in prunes and nuts.

4. Spoon batter into prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean and the cake has pulled away COMPLETELY from sides of the pan. 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours.

5. Immediately invert onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely and transfer to serving plate. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired. Makes 12 servings.

* If you can't find buttermilk, put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in measuring cup and add milk to equal 1 cup. Let sit for 10 minutes before using.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

so much to be thankful for

It's the end of the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (second Monday of October, mark your calendars so you don't forget like I did!) and here are a few of the little things I've been thankful for lately

Roses in fall hues...

A burst of colour from the mother-in-law's allotment garden

A flower with my name on it...

Sage, rosemary and thyme still going strong...

Beautiful autumn leaves...

A bountiful harvest...

(Apples and tiny white gourds from our garden, the rest from the market)

Homemade pumpkin pie and cranberry pear crisp...


And here are the three not-so-little things that I'm thankful for all year long...

My boys. Summer 2008 - Cape Disappointment, Washington State

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all you Canucks out there!


Thursday, October 08, 2009

the patter of little feet

What a terrible blogger I am. I have an excuse, though. Aside from a weird cold that just won't seem to go away and is making my head feel like Krakatoa before the big bang, I've been really, really busy looking after one of the things I like best about Germany - hedgehogs! And we've got tons of them this year.

This little female was the first one to show up in the evening and sometimes even during the day. That's unusual for a hedgehog since they are nocturnal, but apparently some of them do come out when the sun is shining even if they are not sick or injured. She looked just fine so we let her do her thing.

Isn't she pretty?

We know there are lots of creepy crawlies in the garden for her to eat but just to make sure she gains enough weight to make it through the winter we've been feeding her cat food

from a dog bowl

We have neither a cat nor a dog, so no one is getting his or her nose put out of joint by our new guest.

A couple of weeks ago I spied something small walking around on the grass. A baby! And another one! Six in total and the cutest things you've ever seen.

They definitely needed snacks

nom nom nom, we scrambled eggs

A mother hedgehog suckles her babies for about 6 weeks, but at 3 1/2 weeks they are developed enough to leave the nest and start learning how to forage for food on their own. The ones we keep seeing are certainly bright eyed and bushy tailed and look very healthy. I've read that it's unlikely that more than four out of a litter will survive but we're hoping for the best and letting nature take its course. As of now, we only see three or four babies at a time. Hopefully they're just eating in shifts!

So what do hedgehogs eat besides scrambled eggs and cat food? Well, they are omnivores and their diet can include all sorts of insects, worms, snails, frogs(!), bird eggs, mushrooms, grass roots and fruit. Sounds like they'll eat just about anything, but please don't give them a bowl of milk. Although they would probably love it, they are lactose intolerant and could get very ill.

I was lucky enough to get close enough to take a few pictures, but hedgehogs are usually shy creatures who will scuttle off as soon as they see someone approaching. It's hilarious to watch them assume what we've come to call the "I can't heeaaar you!" position, tiny nose towards the wall, back towards the supposed enemy, quills up.

As well as being completely adorable, hedgehogs are great as a natural pest control, eating the nasty bugs and leaving the good ones behind.

They've told me what they like best about our garden is:

1) undisturbed piles of leaves, old branches and dark spaces to hide out in
2) a big ol' composts heap teaming with insects and other delicacies
3) a ground-level bird bath to slurp out of
4) a sucker who will make scrambled eggs on demand and spoon feed them if asked nicely

At the rate we're going, we should have the babies fattened up before the first frost. We'd really like to see them emerge in the spring as young adults ready to start their own families.


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