Friends & Feasts: Pumpkin & Feta Tart

| 27 comments
Pumpkin Feta Tart (01) by MeetaK


Thanksgiving came and went but there is really no time to rest! Christmas is around the corner and everyone is feeling merry. At least I hope everyone is. Although I really like Thanksgiving, Christmas to me has something magical about it.

Be it the wonderful lit up windows in the snow covered houses, or the spicy fragrance that fill the streets of the Christmas market or simply the gleaming eyes of enchanted children, enamored by the "ho! ho! ho!" of Santa Claus, or even listening to Wham!'s "Last Christmas" for the trillionth time on the radio, Christmas time brings on a special cheer and spirit in me.


I really enjoy the entire December month. Because as soon as December 1st comes along, I know it's time to bake, cook and decorate. OK I do this all year round but during the weeks counting up to Christmas the entire house looks warm and cosy with dimmed candle lights, decorated with mistletoe and berries and the sweet scent of cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla lingers in the entire house.

It's also the time of month where friends will drop in for Advent tea or after a nice long winter walk we spontaneously invite friends to stay for supper. So it's always good to have cookies, cakes and quick snacks around the house.

Although I always add a lot of affection and care into my cooking and baking, somehow during the Christmas weeks I feel especially close to my kitchen. The dishes, cakes, desserts and cookies I create during this time carries more thought and care, peppered with a little more feeling and spiced with slightly more love. Maybe in my crazy mind I hope that the people I share my creations with might get infected with my merriness. Tis the season to be merry - after all.

So, I hope a tart like this will spread more warmth, joy and affection among everyone I share this with. Layered with the sweetness of pumpkin and topped off with a crumbling of salty feta cheese, which offers the perfect counterpoint to the pumpkin. Vegetarians would leave it as it is but for the bacon lovers among you, adding a handful of cubed crispy bacon pieces enhances the flavor, giving a new dimension to the tart.

It's perfect on it's own for a lovely supper with friends and a glass of wine, but it also makes an extraordinary side to your grand Christmas turkey or it would look elegantly at home on the New Year's buffet. This type of flexibility makes it the ideal dish for entertaining with friends and feasts, using produce fresh from the Farmer's Market.



Reminder!



Come join me for a Traditional Feast this month. Bring along your favorite dish to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanuka or Diwali.

Details can be found here.
Deadline: December 3rd.



Ingredients
Printable version here.

Pumpkin Feta Tart (05) by MeetaK


Makes 2 tarts for tart forms of 22 cm diameter each.

300 g + additional handful all-purpose flour
150 g soft butter
A pinch of salt
50 ml milk
1 kg Hokkaido pumpkin - cut in thin slices
300 g sour cream
100 g Crème fraiche
5 eggs
200 g feta cheese - cubed
Salt and pepper
Grated fresh nutmeg
Dried thyme



Method

Quickly combine flour, butter, pinch of salt and milk into a homogeneous dough. You can use your food processor or your kitchen machine for this. Form the dough into a large ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Butter your tart or spring forms. On a floured surface roll out the dough and spread the dough out into the forms. Spread the pumpkin slices on to the dough.

In a bowl whisk together the crème fraiche, sour cream and eggs. Season generously with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then pour the mixture over the pumpkin. Spread the feta cheese over the top and sprinkle with some dried thyme. Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes.

If the top starts to darken simply place a sheet of baking paper over the top of the tart.

Optional: Add about 200 g of bacon cubes with the feta cheese to the tart for a fantastic smoky flavor.



Verdict

Pumpkin Feta Tart (06) by MeetaK


A fantastic harmony of flavors are combined to give a irresistible tart. We enjoyed this with chilled white wine and I think I was really able to spread the merry and joyous sentiment around our dinner table.



Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First
27 comments Continue »

Tender Potato Focaccia & Bread Rolls

| 91 comments
Daring Bakers November 2007 Challenge

Focaccia (03b) by MeetaK


I was jinxed with this one! I truly was - not with regards to the recipe but with regards to finding time to actually complete it. The month has been so busy Phew! Every time I alloted time to start the challenge something would get in the way. And I was so excited to tackle this great challenge.

The challenge was from the truly wonderful and close to my heart Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups. It was as if Tanna had managed to look into the deep realm of my brain and picked out the one thing that has been on my mind a lot lately. Bread - and bread baking!

I live in Germany where good bread is plentiful. I have even been doing an interesting German bread series on The Daily Tiffin, where I have shown the several different varieties my baker offers. So, I have never really found the need to actually bake my own bread. But as I did the "Inside a German Bakery" series, I was more and more intrigued by bread baking. I just did not actually dare to make my own!

Hey, and being a Daring Baker does not mean you magically are relived of all your fears. Ohhhh noooo! You still have them - but what the Daring Baker group really does to you is make you confront your fears, challenge yourself and, in my opinion the best part of this group, motivate, cheer and help you along each step of the way.

So, as I said when Tanna chose a Tender Potato Bread from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Traditions from Around the World by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, I was at first fearful but the optimist in me was quite ecstatic. Especially as one of the variations we were allowed to make was a focaccia. It's something I was recently looking into and Tanna's magical powers pulled the idea out of my head, put it through her trick box and turned it into reality.

It was time to knead bread!

Potato Roll (03) by MeetaK


At the time I was emailing Hilda of Saffron and Blueberry and discussed the prospect of doing it together, but both our schedules did not seem to match and as the days sped past I was finding myself with less and less time. Hilda finally did manage to finish her challenge ahead of me and gave me a few helpful tips. All I needed was a day with ohhhh - approximately 72 hours and I was in business.

I finally thought of making the dough the night before and then doing it the next morning and once again the folks over at our DB blog were great with ideas, help and advice.

In the end I did manage to complete the challenge all in one day. It was brilliant, soothing and incredible. I was kind of irritated the day I chose to make the bread - but take it from me, on such days, folks, forget your shrink - just bake bread! I kneaded the bread, slapped it around, punched it and knuckled it back and forth. It was awesome. In the end I was rewarded with a soft, tender, moist crumb so wonderfully aromatic it was heavenly.

The allowed modifications for this challenge were as follows:
  1. The recipe was to be followed to the "T" until we get to shaping the bread.
  2. The bread had to be savory and not sweet.
  3. We were to knead by hand (medical exception allowed)
  4. We could not use a biga, sponge, or starter method.
  5. Recipe ingredient exception allowed only if allergy or an ingredient not available or cost prohibitive in our region.
  6. We could shape the dough anyway we liked: as a loaf, as rolls, as focaccia.
  7. We could season the bread in any way we wanted.
  8. We could fill it if we wanted to, keeping the filling savory
I was thankful that after the few previous sweet Daring Baker challenges we were getting to go savory again.

I also got to use my new measurement utensils I bought from Dubai. Together with my new digital weighing scale that gives me the weights in grams/kilos and ounces/pounds, I am armed for any future challenges!!



Reminder!



Come join me for a Traditional Feast this month. Bring along your favorite dish to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanuka or Diwali.

Details can be found here.
Deadline: December 3rd.



Ingredients
Printable version here.

4 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks.
4 cups (950 ml) water, reserve cooking water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups (1 kg to 1350g) unbleached all-purpose
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (130g) whole wheat flour

Note: For the beginner bread baker it is suggested to use no more than 8 ounces of potato; for the more advanced no more than 16 ounces. I used approximately 9 ounces, which did not make the dough as sticky as it probably would have if I had used more.


Making the Dough (Directions are for making by hand):

Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender.

Drain the potatoes, reserving the potato water, and mash the potatoes well. Tanna had suggested using a food mill for this, I always use my mill to make mashed potatoes as it gives the smoothest results. So, I too would suggest this.

Measure out 3 cups (750ml) of the reserved potato water. Add extra water if needed to make 3 cups. Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread dough in. Let cool to lukewarm (70-80°F/21 - 29°C) – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.

Add yeast to 2 cups all-purpose flour and whisk. Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes and water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.

Note about adding yeast: If using active dry yeast or fresh yeast, mix and stir yeast into cooled water and mashed potatoes and water and let stand 5 minutes. Then add 2 cups of flour to the yeast mix and allow to rest several minutes. If using instant dry yeast, add yeast to 2 cups all-purpose flour and whisk. Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes and water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.

I used instant dry yeast and simply whisked it into my flour. Sprinkle in the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.

Add 2 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated. At this point 4 cups of the possible 8 ½ cups as suggested by the recipe have been used.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking.

The dough was very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it becomes easier to handle. Scrape the dough off the surface using a scraper.

Keep adding flour until you feel the dough has the right texture. I personally only needed a little over 6 cups.

The kneaded dough will still be very soft and moist, but don't worry, leaving it on parchment or wax paper to proof and to bake makes it easier to handle. Place the dough in a large clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap or lid. Allow to rise for about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.

Flour the surface generously and then turn the dough out onto the surface. Knead gently for several minutes. It will be moist and still a little sticky.

Focaccia (01) by MeetaK


Forming the Bread:
I decided to use half of the dough to make a focaccia and the other half to make rolls. I was able to get one medium sized focaccia (approx 10 x 15 inches) and 6 medium sized rolls with the dough

To make rolls:
Butter a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake pan or a shallow cake pan. Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball under the palm of your floured hand and place on the baking sheet, leaving 1/2 inch between the balls. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 35 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled.

To make focaccia:
Flatten out the dough to a rectangle about 10 x 15 inches with your palms and fingertips. Tear off a piece of parchment paper or wax paper a little longer than the dough and dust it generously with flour. Transfer the focaccia to the paper. Brush the top of the dough generously with olive oil and topping (please see below). Cover with plastic and let rise for 20 minutes.

Baking the bread(s):

Note about baking order: Bake the focaccia before you bake rolls.

Note about cooling times: Let all the breads cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Rolls can be served warm or at room temperature.

For rolls:
Brush the tops of the rolls with a little melted butter or olive oil (the butter will give a golden/browned crust). Slash the rolls crosswise two or three times with a razor blade or very sharp knife and immediately place on baking sheet in the oven.

Just before placing the rolls in the oven, I sprinkled my rolls with a few black cumin seeds to give a delicious aromatic flavor. Believe me, the fragrance that lingered in the kitchen was simply gorgeous!

Bake rolls until golden, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the rolls to a rack when done to cool.

For foccaia:
Place a no edged baking/sheet (you want to be able to slide the shaped dough on the parchment paper onto the baking sheet and an edge complicates things). Place the baking sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450°F/230°C.

Just before baking, dimple the focaccia all over again with your fingertips. Leaving it on the paper, transfer to the hot baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a rack (remove paper) and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.


Focaccia (04) by MeetaK


Focaccia Topping of my choice:
My topping consisted of some lovely roasted Piquillo Peppers, black olives, basil and coarse sea salt.

200 g of roasted peppers - cut into strips
Handful of Ligurian balck olives - coarsely chopped
Handful of basil leaves - chopped
Coarse sea salt

Simply layer the topping on the focaccia before allowing it to rest for 20 minutes (see above). After the focaccia has rested, dimple bread again and bake as mentioned above.

Alternative suggested toppings:
Simple topping: Olive oil, coarse salt, and rosemary leaves

Anchovy-Onion Focaccia:Top with onions slow-cooked in olive oil or bacon fat, a scattering of chopped anchovy fillets, and flat-leafed parsley leaves.

Important Notes
Conversion Chart for yeast:
1 oz/ 1 Tablespoon of fresh yeast = 0.4 oz/ 1.25 teaspoon active or instant dry yeast = 0.33 oz / 1 teaspoon instant or rapid rise (bread machine) yeast. (Reference: Crust & Crumb by Peter Reinhart).

Notes about Flour:
King Arthur Artisan Organic All-Purpose Flour is fairly new in the markets in the US and is advertised to be best for making European-style hearth breads with a protein level of 11.3%



Verdict
This is simply the most tender focaccia I have ever had. It was not very potato-ey but there is a wonderful potato aroma to the crumb. We had the focaccia filled with Italian prosciutto and a green mixed salad. It was a great dinner. Tom actually asked me "Did you really make this yourself!" He was blown away by the texture and the flavor the focaccia offered. Soeren devoured the focaccia at lightening speed and wanted to take a sandwich to school in his lunch box the next day. Apparently everyone wanted a bite. We had the rolls the day after. I tasted half a little after they came out of the oven and they were quite good. However, the next day, I placed them in the oven to warm through again and the truth is they tasted even better. I presume the flavors were able to combine and infuse more. The cumin seeds added a wonderful pungent flavor and with some strong cheese it was another treat we loved.

Would I make this again?
I already have!! I made the rolls for Thanksgiving again, this time topped with Thyme and yet again it was simply awesome. I already have plans to make a loaf using the same dough this weekend. It's easy and straightforward. Never once did I feel overwhelmed while making the challenge. I followed the recipe and was amazed how easily everything came together.

What did I learn from this challenge?
Have no fear when making bread. I have to say the challenge taught me a few things. That bread is not really the same as baking a cake - where you do have to weigh everything out to perfection. Here I went with my own feeling. For example I did not use the entire 8 1/2 cups of flour as proposed in the recipe - I used about 6 and a bit. My feeling told me that the texture of the dough was OK after that amount. I also liked the idea that we were left enough room to experiment with different types of breads - loaves, rolls or focaccia. That made me more creative. The cumin seeds idea was only a minor thing but it came to me at the spur of the moment and it was brilliant. I am learning that there are so many great sides to baking. The group is allowing me to discover so many hidden facets in me I did not even know existed!

Tanna, you are gorgeous and amazing. I thank you for daring us to make this challenge. I also really thank you for going out of your way and explaining every detail, answering every question on the DB blog and giving fantastic instructions. All that made me a little less fearful and more of an optimist!

You'll be seeing a lot of Tender Potato Bread variations today and if you feel encouraged to bake your own bread this is the perfect way to start.

Please do check out some of my other talented and daring colleagues over at the Daring Baker blogroll. We've grown to more than 400!

Check out my other Daring Baker challenges on the left sidebar under "A Proud Daring Baker". You'll find each challenge listed chronologically in the index. Have fun browsing!



Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,



All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First
91 comments Continue »

A Sweet Potato Flan ...

| 29 comments
Sweet Potato Flan (01) by MeetaK


... to wish all my readers celebrating, a sweet Thanksgiving.

This year I find myself in the midst of a gorgeous Thanksgiving. I have so much to be thankful for. My stuffed turkey roll is gently roasting in the oven and I have a moment to steal away and share my thoughts with you.

You - who have always been so motivating and supportive of me, my work, writing and madness. I am glad I can come here once again today and share a sweet moment with you.

I think this year Thanksgiving is going to be a special celebration. There were so many great moments in our life this year. Yes, we had a few sad ones too - the passing away of my grandma was rather tragic, however the positive and truly wonderful effect of that was the way my entire family simply came together. I mean emotionally. For a person who has her entire family spread across the world these things are so very important.

We met some fantastic people who have become so dear and near to our hearts and I am so glad to be sharing our Thanksgiving dinner with them this year. Our Thanksgiving group has grown from the 10 of the previous years to 15 this year! I am totally ecstatic and I can't wait to have them all - big and small - sitting eagerly at the table so that we can spend a wonderful evening chattering, giggling and simply having a warm and cosey time.

To you all, I also wish a warm and truly wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. So go, bake, cook, eat and have a ball! I leave you with lots of hugs, kisses and a luscious sweet potato flan. A wonderful take on the great Crème Caramel, adding to it the character of the season.


Ingredients
(Adapted from the recipe from Epicurious.com)
Printable version here.

Sweet Potato Flan (02) by MeetaK


400 g sweet potatoes (yams) - peeled and cut into thick slices
Juice of one lime
190g sugar - divided in half
2 tablespoons water
240 ml milk
4 large eggs
125 ml whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tawny Port



Method

Sweet Potato Flan (04) by MeetaK


Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Place the thick potato slices on a baking tray lined with a sheet of waxed or baking paper. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, making sure they do not become too dark. Roast them till soft. Allow to cool. Put the slices in a food processor and add the lime juice; puree until smooth. I strained my puree through a fine meshed sieve to get it really smooth.

Stir about half of the sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring, until the syrup turns a deep amber color, occasionally swirling the pan. This should take about 5 minutes. Immediately pour caramel into small ramekin bowls or one larger oven-proof dish. Save about 2 tablespoons caramel in saucepan. Swirl each ramekin form around, allowing caramel to coat bottom and about 1 centimeter up sides.

Add the milk to the remaining caramel in saucepan. This will cause the caramel to solidify but don't worry keep stirring over medium-low heat until the caramel dissolves. Whisk eggs in medium bowl until frothy. Whisk in cream, salt, sweet potato puree, and remaining sugar. Gradually whisk in hot milk-caramel mixture then strain back into same saucepan. Stir over medium heat for about 1 minute. Remove from heat; whisk in Port. Pour custard into prepared forms.

Place the forms in a large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to come halfway up sides of ramekin forms. Bake until just set in center, about 30-45 minutes. If you find the top getting too dark place a sheet of baking paper over the tops. Remove flans from water. Chill until cold for about 5 hours or overnight.

Just before serving dip each ramekin bowl into a pan of hot water for about 15 seconds. Wipe dry. Invert onto serving plates, scraping caramel in forms over flan.

Optional: Decorate with some juicy, sweet pomegranate seeds.



Verdict

Sweet Potato Flan (06) by MeetaK


I made a test run of this dessert last week. It's incredibly smooth with a sweet mellow flavor of sweet potatoes and a toffee aroma of the caramel. Each flavor, in this divine dessert, comes together so well - without being too overpowering. It makes for an irresistible dessert and simply perfect for any feast.

If you are looking for fun things to do this Thanksgiving weekend, I've written a lovely post about fun and games with family and friends over at the Daily Tiffin. Read all about the Thanksgiving Fun with Kids.

The lovely Leslie over at Definitely Not Martha is celebrating Sugar High Friday this month and has invited us to celebrate with a Beta Carotene Harvest. Hope she'll find room for this on her table! Thanks for hosting Leslie!


Reminder!



Come join me for a Traditional Feast this month. Bring along your favorite dish to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanuka or Diwali.

Details can be found here.
Deadline: December 3rd.



Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First
29 comments Continue »

CLICK: Pasta in the Raw

| 10 comments
Pasta Tricolore (01) by MeetaK


I love handling raw fruit, vegetables and food products, when photographing. It's simply exciting and challenging to see how I can capture something like a banana or figs, spinach or, of course, eggs on camera.

There are so many possibilities to make a boring fruit or vegetable look interesting. My aim almost always is to use bare minimum effects. The star should be the product or motive.

An event like Click gives me great possibilities and motives to photograph interesting ingredients. This month's theme is Noodles. Being a judge this month my entry will not be scored but as it was the case last month, I did not want to give up the chance of playing around with the theme.

I decided to use the three colored pasta spirals I was planning to make a pasta salad with. This time I wanted to highlight the colors. A black background almost always looks elegant, at times dramatic and highlights certain colors beautifully. I also love playing around with the DOF of a certain shot. This time I decided to give the photo three different depths and placed the motive in such a way to achieve this. The single pasta gives way to the pasta in the bowl. The bowl has a similar texture and color to the background, but using the lighting I was able to get it to give more of a 3D effect so that the outlines of the bowl are visible. Finally, the pasta in the background adds to the last layer of depth.

I used natural lighting coming in from the right and, once again, trusted my piece of styropor to bounce the light back onto the object. In this shot it was important to have the light be quite powerful as my aim was to give the pasta a kind of shine. Furthermore, I wanted to slightly accentuate the rough texture of the background and the bowl, which corresponds similarly to the texture of the spiral pasta.

Details:

Camera: Nikon D70s
Lens: Nikkor 18-70mm
Tripod: Bilora 1211
Focal Length: 70.00 mm
Exposure time: 0.08s (1/125)
Aperture: f/4.5

Check out all the other entries for this month's Click over at Jai and Bee's.


New Cards and Posters

I've been busy over at my Zazzle gallery and have added a few great new items. I got a few mails asking me to put up a few of the Dubai shots and I am glad to say I have finally done that. Now you can get your hands on the following photos as postcards in the highest quality.


A Night in Dubai postcard
A Night in Dubai
A breathtaking shot of the full moon over the city.
For those who asked about a poster of this shot, it will be up by the end of the week.


Sunrise in Dubai postcard
Sunrise in Dubai
A moment of serenity before the city awakens. For all my Flickr buddies this one's for you ;-)


Finally, a gorgeous shot I took last year for Christmas, I have created a lovely greeting card with it for all of those you have been telling me to do so ;-).


Merry X-Mas! card
Merry X-Mas!
Glamorous way to send your Christmas greetings this year. This card can be customized and is currently available at 17% off for a set of 10.



Eggtastic card
Eggtastic
If all you want to do is wish a special some an "Eggtastic" day, I have the perfect card for you





All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First
10 comments Continue »

Home: An Apple In My Bouquet...

| 22 comments
Apple Bouquet (03) by MeetaK


...keeps my blues away!

I am keeping with the theme of using food for my bouquets. If you have been following my monthly Home & Design series you will know that I have been literally playing with food for my centerpieces.

My aim was basically to integrate fruit, berries and vegetables offered by Autumn, trying to make the arrangements inexpensive by using what I found on our walks and from our our garden. The results were quite eye-catching.

This month I wanted to share with you the arrangements I will be using for my Thanksgiving table on Thursday. It's so simple to create yourself with a stunning effect.

In my local garden center I found some gorgeous mini apples. They are real apples just reared to grow in miniature form. The first time I used them was in this bouquet. My neighbor had generously given me a few. I did not want to ask for more so I made my way to the garden center and was delighted to find perfect, rosy, red, mini apples.

My idea is to keep the arrangements for my Thanksgiving table small. I have a pretty huge table and thought making 3 or 4 of these, set out across the entire length of the table, would have a nicer effect than making just one big arrangement, which in the end kind of gets in the way. I will be scattering chestnuts and acorns and then draping a few wines of ivy leaves to complete my look.

The idea for the apple arrangement actually came to me at the garden center. At first I wanted to use a few flowers too but when I saw the large basket filled with these apples I thought they simply have to be the mega stars for this centerpiece. I bought 4 small terracotta pots that had been glazed and painted, moss and a small basket full of the apples. The rest is easy.

Apple Bouquet (01) by MeetaK


You'll need:

Mini apples - look in your garden center for these. I used approx. 20 mini apples for one arrangement.
Planting pot - 8-10 cm diameter
Floral foam - cut to fit into the pot
Toothpicks
Natural Moss

How to:

Tightly fit the floral foam into the pot. Prick each apple with the toothpick - do this at the bottom of the apple - and drive it halfway through the core. Make sure the apple sits firmly on the toothpick.

Now stick all the apples into the foam arranging it in a circular form. Finally fill out all the spaces in between with the moss.

This arrangement last for 5-7 days. After that the apples start getting moldy.

If you cannot find mini apples other alternatives would be kumquats or nuts like chestnuts.

I love the fact that these arrangements are not huge or too high. When I am sitting down at a table I want to look at the people sitting across me and not have to peer through jungle like arrangements to get a glimpse of the expressions on the faces of my guests. Another thing I am not too fond of are far too opulent arrangements. They simply take up far too much space on the table and one is forever fighting to get the fern out of the gravy.

If you would like more ideas for your dinner table this Thanksgiving browse through my Home & Design section.

I hope I was able to give you one or two nice ideas for your own Thanksgiving table. Happy decorating!

I'd like to send this over as my Centerpiece of the Month to Janelle and Sandi.


Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First
22 comments Continue »

Drop In & Decorate

| 4 comments

I am sure many of you have already started your cookie baking season. If not at least you've looked up or started to collect a few recipes that you would like to bake this year. Am I right?

If you are in full cookie baking swing I'd like to bring to your attention a wonderful cause started by the lovely Lydia over at The Perfect Pantry.

It all started a few years ago when Lydia and a few of her friends got together to bake cookies.

It seemed like they had baked a few too many and decided to call their local shelter to ask them what they thought about receiving a package of wonderfully baked and decorated cookies. You can guess - they were extremely pleased. These cookies had brightened up many peoples day.

Ever since then it has become somewhat of a tradition. Each year Lydia and friends get together and have a cookie baking and decorating party. Each cookie is carefully wrapped and then donated to a shelter. Imagine the smiles all around!

Lydia calls it Drop In & Decorate. It's simply a wonderful idea. Call up a few friends, bake a few cookies and then donate them to your nearest shelter. Then watch how this small gesture puts a sunny smile on someones face.

Lydia has also put together a helpful guide, which will show you how to host your own Drop In & Decorate party. This year she's even got King Arthur flour to sell a perfect Drop In & Decorate party kit.

So, if you are already in cookie baking fever why not have a party and help others. Drop on over to Lydia's blog and check out how you can host your own Drop In & Decorate party.





All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First
4 comments Continue »

Spanish Flavours: Roasted Pumpkin & Mushroom Salad

| 22 comments
Pumpkin Ham Salad (03) by MeetaK


Blogging does have so many positive sides to it. I've often said this - it's about the people you meet, the experiences you gather, the motivation and trying out things you would not have dared to before.

Blogging has been all these things for me and much more. There have been times when through blogging I have actually improved certain skills and learned new things, all of which have molded my character a little more. I want to cross boundaries, which normally I might have hesitated to do so. I want to see what happens if I try out new things.

From the very beginning though I knew one thing. I always want my blog to be a place where people have an experience for all their senses.


I want people when they come here to feel comfortable and homey. But I also want to share all the things I have learned or picked up along the way too. I'd like to inform people of what is out there, what is available, what is good and what is not.

In the past I have received a few mails asking me to review this or that. In the beginning I was hesitant. I was not sure how to handle something like that and how it would come across. So I declined. But I am an inquisitive person by nature and always hungry to make new experiences. I decided I would tell people that I would review their products but they would expect the honest truth from me in the reviews and I would only post about something that I thought my readers would benefit from. Some never wrote back and the fact that I have never had a food review on the blog to date tells you enough about what I thought about the other products.

A short while before I left for Dubai I got a mail from David Toro. He too inquired if I would like to do a review about the products they sell online. As I visited Spanishflavours.com I was quite pleasantly surprised. It was like visiting a wonderful Spanish delicatessen. I realized soon that this was the kind of thing people should know more about.

In Weimar we have a delicatessen that sells many products from around the world - at steep prices I might add. I am sure many of you have experienced the same thing or maybe even do not have the possibility to buy such products because you live a little out of town. This is where such websites come into the picture. It gives you a possibility to enjoy exclusive products like wine, cheese, hams etc. without even leaving the home.

I agreed to David and told him the same that he could expect a review if I liked the quality of the products and thought that they might be of interest to my readers.

David put together an impressive package for me and upon my arrival from Dubai I was greeted with a few scrumptious items. Ever since then we have slowly been going through the package.

The first thing I was interested in was how the items are packed. After all, depending where they are headed to, the food needs to be packaged and handled in such a way that they arrive fresh and in good condition. Here I have to say that the packaging was ideal. The hams and sausages were vacuumed sealed and the breakable bottles and jars were carefully bubble wrapped.

What caught my eye straight away, was of course the olive oil. A wonderful full bodied extra virgin olive oil from the Bajo Aragón region. I am the type of person who almost always has at least 2 to 3 different types of olive oil at home. Mostly the oils originate from Greece or Italy. I admit that I very rarely have one from Spain. Shameful actually as I soon realized that this oil had a lot to offer. Hand picked and preserved in a dark bottle to contain all of the flavor, I found the oil to be smooth and full bodied. Perfect for a salad or to dot over on top of a soup.

Last week I made a wonderful salad using some of the products I received. I decided to use the olive oil and some of the gorgeous Serrano ham. We were enjoying the ham on slices of fresh bread, but I thought serving it on the salad would really bring out the rustic flavor. The ham has a powerful taste and smell - unlike any other Serrano ham I have tasted and bought here. It has undergone a curation period of 16-20 months and comes in slices of 150 g, vacuumed packed to preserve that wonderful aroma.

Finally our dessert! And my joy. Gorgeous nougat. I am talking about the Arabic type of nougat made with honey, sugar and egg whites. This nougat was jam packed with whole almonds and wonderfully crunchy. David had also sent us a packet of the softer nougat - but we really took a passion for the crunchier version.

Spanish Flavours Nougat by MeetaK


There were a lot of other items in the package like (peaches in syrup, roasted peppers and mussels) and I hope to try them out as the next step. I will inform you about those in a future post.

I hope you enjoy my wonderfully rustic salad using a few Spanish flavors to add an excellent touch. Maybe you might want to drop over at Spanishflavours.com and browse through their incredible delicatessen items. They've also put together a few incredible Christmas hampers that are worth checking out.

Please Note: You will find the delivery conditions, payment methods and shipping costs here.




Ingredients
Printable version here.

Pumpkin Ham Salad (01) by MeetaK



200 g Hokaido pumpkin - sliced and cut into bite sized pieces
6-8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil - Olive oil G.O.
150 g brown button mushrooms - sliced
1 medium red onion - finely chopped
Handful of parsley - finely chopped
200 - 300 g mixed green lettuce and greens - I used rucola, argula, raddichio, frisee etc.
2 tablespoons Crema di Balsamico
A few slices of Serrano ham - Serran Ham G.O. Teruel
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
Juice of half a lime
Salt and fresh black pepper




Method

Pumpkin Ham Salad (02) by MeetaK


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. In a mixing bowl place the pumpkin slices and then add the lime juice 4 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat the pumpkin with the marinade. Place the pumpkin slices on a baking tray and roast for 10-15 minutes or until the pumpkin has become slightly softer and turned a wonderful golden color.

In the meantime sauté the onions and mushrooms in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Prepare your salad greens by placing in a large salad bowl. Add the mushroom mixture and the roasted pumpkin. Sprinkle some more olive oil on the salad and top off with the Crema di Balsamico. Toss well and place on individual plates.

Sprinkle each plate with some pumpkin seeds and place a few slices of the Serrano ham on top of the salad. Enjoy with a rustic bread and a glass of wine.




Verdict

It's a fantastic salad bursting with incredible flavors. Each ingredient adds it's own special note making it a perfect starter for any feast. I love the limey flavoring of the roasted pumpkin drizzled with the olive oil. The effect you get when paired with the Serrano ham in simply outrageous.

Here's a list of ingredients I used from Spanishflavours.com for this salad and a few other things I have tried and would like to recommend.
I'd also like to mention that I have not accepted any monetary payment from Spanishflavours.com and am doing this review as a means to inform my readers about the availability of products that might be of interest to them.

I am now packing up this salad and my party mood to visit Peabody who is having a Housewarming Party in her new home. Pea, thanks for the invitation and hope you have many grand baking, cooking and family moments in your new home.



Reminder!



Come join me for a Traditional Feast this month. Bring along your favorite dish to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanuka or Diwali.

Details can be found here.
Deadline: December 3rd.




Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,



All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First
22 comments Continue »

Dubai - A Booming City

| 42 comments
Dubai Nights (01) by MeetaK
A stuning warm night - the view from my bedroom

I can't say I do not slightly enjoy the impressive and envious looks from friends when I tell them I am going to be visiting my parents in Dubai for a few weeks. In all honesty I am a modest person - but there is a certain thing that fills me with pride when I see their expressions.

What I can almost always expect is the one I question I am always asked.

"Is Dubai beautiful?"

No - not really!



At least not at first sight. Dubai is a fast paced, booming city, where the time it takes you to bat an eye lash, a new superlative has been crossed and literally stumped out of the sand. The world's tallest building - in Dubai, the world's largest man-made islands - in Dubai, the
world's tallest hotel - in Dubai, the world's largest mall, you can even buy a piece of the World in Dubai.

Burj Dubai(01) by MeetaK
The Burj Dubai - the tallest building in the World


Dubai resembles one huge building site, where one stumbles from one site to another. Traffic jams, dusty and chaotic. These would be the words that describe Dubai on first impression.

Burj Dubai(02) by MeetaK
The Burj Dubai - the tallest building in the World



A fairly young country, the modern emirate of Dubai was created with the formation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971. So, there is very little one can find in history books about the region. I remember when I lived in the region, Dubai was a dormant city. Looking back now I can't help to compare it to a sleeping giant, that has awoken to take on the world by storm.

Dubai Bird Sanctuary by MeetaK
Dubai Bird Sanctuary with the impressive Skyline as a backdrop


People seem to think that Dubai is all glitter. The image everyone has of Dubai is of ultra-modern skyscrapers, opulent interior decoration, luxury, five-star treatment everywhere.

Well it does of course but there is more than just that.

Dubai Creek by MeetaK
The "old" Dubai on the Creek


One has to look a little deeper to find the charm Dubai offers. It is a city full of contradictions and opposites. A place where you can ski on snow topped slopes in the morning and spend the afternoon basking in the warm sun. Stroll through charming old souks one afternoon and the next, shop at high class shopping malls. Spend a weekend on a desert safari or take in the beauty on a beautiful mountain oasis. Where old windtowers stand tall against a skyline of skyscrapers, old wooden fisher Dhows sway gently in the harbor next to expensive yachts. Where old conservative Arabic culture meets the modern Western world. Nowhere else will you see a Muslim lady covered from head to toe in her black Abaya standing next to a European lady dressed in a mini skirt.

Mosque in Sharjah by MeetaK
A Mosque on the Sharjah Lagoon


Mosaic ceiling by MeetaK
An old traditional mosaic ceiling in a new and fancy shopping mall


Dubai Ski by MeetaK
Skiing in the morning


Dubai Beach by MeetaK
The Beach in the afternoon


I look at Dubai with other eyes too. Dubai and the Persian Gulf region is a part of my own childhood. A place where I grew up and spent some of the happiest times in my life. A place I always am sentimental about because that's where my parents are. It's a place I long to be in when I am far from it and when I am there look vainly for peaceful moments that I have found here. I love the beaches, sun and sand, but miss the seasons here. I enjoy the hustle and bustle but yearn for the serenity. Even in me Dubai creates a turmoil of contradicting feelings.

Sharjah Skyline by MeetaK
The Sharjah Skyline - a view from my parents living room


Dubai Sunrise (01) by MeetaK
A misty morning - a view from my bedroom


When in Dubai I simply enjoy spending relaxing days with my parents, going for walks on the lagoon just outside their apartment building, spending the day with Soeren at the hotel pool or beach where my dad works and of course eating all of the food I miss here!

Dubai Sunrise (03) by MeetaK
A misty morning - a view from my bedroom


Dubai Sweets (02) by MeetaK
Indulging in my favorite sweets


Dubai Sweets (01) by MeetaK
Indulging in my favorite sweets


Dubai Eats by MeetaK
Dining out with my family


Dubai Eats by MeetaK
Relaxing under the palm trees


Dubai Beach by MeetaK
Walking towards the ocean


Dubai Pier by MeetaK
A pier at the beach



It's never really a tourist holiday for us in Dubai but I have to admit even I am always left speechless at the incredible projects being created there. However, my favorite places are the "older" parts of Dubai. The old spice markets or a walk along the Creek, in my eyes is where the true charm of the city is portrayed with an inner beauty one does not expect in such a city.

Dubai Temple by MeetaK
Colorful threads at the Hindu Temple


There is a lot of glamor and glitter on first sight, in Dubai, and even though some will leave your head shaking and some will leave you in awe. Looking deeper and beyond all that you will find it - the real beauty - hidden in a beautiful misty morning, or a full moon over a twinkling city, or the colorful flowers at the Hindu temple or simply the glitter of thousands of colorful bangles.

Dubai Sunrise (02) by MeetaK
A misty morning - a view from my bedroom


Dubai Temple Flowers by MeetaK
Colorful flowers at the Hindu Temple



Dubai Bangles by MeetaK
Glittering of Bangles


Dubai Nights (02) by MeetaK
Full moon over a twinkling city


Just a few of the things I love Dubai for.




All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved Please Ask First
42 comments Continue »