Easy Rhubarb Tarts

Rabarber_Toertchen_2804If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it… exactly 11 times, (since I started writing the recipe post for Coop@home over at www.LivinginLuzern.info) their recipe section is easy to make! These easy rhubarb tarts are no exception. To start, find the list of ingredients here, and the recipe here. Im not even jokin y’all – I made these twice in twenty four hours- they’re that good!

Confession: This southern girl had never cooked with rhubarb. It’s just one of those exotic yankee ingredients that grows up north in cold weather.  I can whip up a batch of okra blindfolded, but I had no idea what to do with a raw stalk of rhubarb… until today! 

chopped rhubarb

I weighed out my Rhubarb so that I could follow the recipe with exactness, but you don’t have to. You can use 2-3 stalks of rhubarb. Chop it up a little and put it in a small saucepan with the water and syrup. Let it cook till softened. Meanwhile make the tart shells be cutting out circles in the prepared dough and fitting them to your muffin tin, small bite-sized ones are really cute but I prefer the normal sized ones that hold more filling.


Make sure to poke holes in the bottom of the crust so that the pie shells don’t bubble up. You can also purchase pre-baked pastry shells at Coop (if you live in Switzerland) so I am sure you can find this stuff locally anywhere in an English speaking country.

pastry shells

Once the filling is cooked till soft, strain it through a sieve, extracting the syrup and leaving the warm soft rhubarb to fill the pastry cups.

strain rhubarb

Finally, reduce the left-over syrup by boiling it for some minutes until you have about 2 1/2 tablespoons left. Whip cream and add the syrup for a light tangy pink cream to top the tarts with. Don’t forget to garnish by sprinkling on the chopped pistachios, the color contrast makes them look more appetizing and beautiful.

I was impressed at how little sugar is actually added to these tarts, especially because Rhubarb can be quite sour. I think the creaminess of the whipped cream helps tame the tartness of the filling. And because they were practically “healthy” we all helped our selves to seconds! These little guys are always so helpful like that.

kids love tarts


Spanish Birthday Cake

DSC_0426On my Birthday “Week” I had a few of my friends (and old neighbors) come over for tea. Sonia (who is famous for her cakes) surprised me with a special cake in my favorite color! Not only was it beautifully perfect to look at but I loved it and so did the kids!!! I think it would be a good cake for brunch- especially if you skip the frosting and served it with fruit? Or just sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar before baking- which is the traditional method,  but it really tasted better with aquamarine icing and sprinkles!

sonia and grandmother

Sonia explained that this cake recipe was passed down from her Grandmother who grew up in the Valnecia region of Spain. She said they did not have ovens in their homes so they could mix up a cake and bring it to the neighborhood bakery and pay a little money to have them bake it. Perhaps I wouldn’t be baking so many sweets if I had to take it somewhere to bake? Maybe thats why dessert used to be for a special occasion? With all my New Years fitness goals I am cutting way back on the treats but this cake is on my splurge list- in my defense, it has less than a 1/2 cup of sugar. I think the subtle cinnamon and orange flavors make it feel like perfect comfort food for the winter weather.

Sonia’s Spanish Birthday Cake

  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g sugar
  • 50 veg oil
  • 50ml orange juice
  • 125 ml Milk
  • 200 gr flour
  • 1/5 package of baking powder
  • lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. cinammon

1. mix sugar and eggs

2. add other liquids

3. add powders and zest

4. pour into a greased 9inch cake pan

5. bake 10 min @ 200 C and 25 @175 C


New Years Gingerbread houses

cover shot

As a child I was enchanted by gingerbread houses. I don’t remember ever making one.
I even have a Pinterest board of beautiful candy crusted gingerbread houses that I admire.

Many years ago I swore I’d never do this with my kids again.
I decided it’s a non-kid project.
Some how I found myself unable to resist the lure of gingerbread kits at a shockingly fantastic bargin again ( thank you ikea) because it was on sale after Christmas. Of course the candy (which I also bought at IKEA) probably cost $20!


We tried again for New Year’s Eve and I watched my son suspiciously have accident after accident that caused pieces to break, after each time he would say ” oh that’s okay, I really just want to eat it”. (He’s pretty transparent).


Determined to have a result that reflected some representation of all my effort, I sawed pieces on to new shapes and created a cute cottage and shed.


My daughter, on the other hand, may have provided me with the hope I need to continue this tradition forever. She picked up the tweezers and patiently placed sprinkled by sprinkle into the window box ” planting colored flowers”. I admit it, it was a proud moment for me, just imagine what she will be able to do in a few years. I like to think that it’s good practice for surgical skills. A doctor in the making.

How to make an Authentic Swiss Fondue

Last month our very authentic Swiss friends invited us for a very authentic Swiss fondue. This is not the “uncultured box brand” this is the real thing. I am sharing the recipe because I want to clarify any misnomers that Monterrey jack and cheddar are acceptable substitutions. My Swiss fondue miester (fondue boss) says that there can be no deviation in the recipe and that it is critical to use Swiss wine and Swiss cheese.

  1. Sparticus was assigned to cut the bread. The Fondue Miester says this is the most important job and that it is wise to always ask the guest to do it- here’s why. The cheese is the expensive part of the meal and if you cut the bread in big chunks then less cheese is used to coat it- there fore the host will look like a miser- or a cheap skate. If the bread is cut too small than the host looks like a show off. You see  there is a fine line to walk.

dave cuts bread

IMG_9310Our fondue Miester is pictures on the left. He put me to work grating cheese, measuring wine and listening carefully to the origins of the finest fondue products.

IMG_9320First combined the wine, cornstarch and spices and bring the pot to the stove for the melting. Once the cheese has been added the next step is easy but important. This assignement is likend to making rissoto- you must stir and stir with our distraction. There should be no scorched fondue! IMG_9325


IMG_9332I stired and stired until it was creamy and then removed from heat and added the baking soda and stirred some more. We then poured in an ounce of kirsch cherry liquior. The liquor is supposed to make it more digestable and the alcohol is supposed to burn off. I have tried a few recipes and have choked on the taste of alcohol that ruins the fondue for me. A real fondue is not supposed to taste like that!!!

IMG_9337Our Fondue Mister says that if you can find vintage fondue plates like his, it will make your fondue taste better- I say any excuse to rummage through Brocantes and antique markets sounds like a good one to me!

vintage fondue plateson left:  Jean De la Fontaine – It cannot translate litteraly but the equivalent expression in English is “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.

on right: “Nothing is better than a good fondue and a good glass of wine”. For the Swiss this bit of wisdom must rank equal to Jean De la Fontaine’s.

On a side note- unlike some of our favorite American cheese, Swiss cheeses do not seem to “melt” into a sauce by simply adding heat or milk. If you have ever tried you will have a big hard ball of white “cheese” sitting in a slightly orange pool of oil. It’s strange. The addition of an acidic liquid (wine) breaks the cheese down. I have seen recipes that allow for substitutions of apple cider- I have used a clarified cider from here that was not sweet- it seemed to work but it would not have been acceptable to our fondue mister!

Fondue recipe:
You will need 200 grams of cheese per person. This recipe is made to serve four.
800 grams of cheese –
1/3 Gruyere
1/3 Vacherin
1/3 Appenzeller
*if you live in Switzerland you can get this mix at migro pre-grated and premeasured!
  • 2 pieces of garlic
  • 1 1/4 cups (3.2 dl)  dry white wine (the Fondue Mister says Chasselas is the best but if you can only get french chardonay than it will be sufficient- He also says the wine is more important than the cheese, and that american white wine is to aeromatic).
  • a little nutmeg
  • pepper
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • baking soda ( a messerspsitze- which means the tip of a knife- good luck , it should be about a 1/4 teaspoon to the best of my estimations)
  • 1 oz. Kirsch
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
Mix the wine, lemon juice and crushed garlic with a pinch (to taste) of grated nutmeg, pepper and a 4 teaspoons of cornstarch. Stir these together and heat them until cornstarch is disolved on the stove but do not let it come to a boil. Add cheese to mixture and stir, stir, stir until smooth, finally just before serving add the knife tip of baking soda- this will cause it to foam ever-so-slightly as you stir it together. Adding the baking soda makes the mixture lighter. Finally add in the Kirsch, stir well and start dipping.

Sicilain Chicken Roll Recipe


plate of foodLong awaited Sicilian Chicken Roll recipe -as promised.

You may remember last month I did a house exchange with a really cool Italian family who gave us a cooking class at their place before we left for home. We made Italian Stuffed Artichokes, and Sicilian chicken rolls, and risotto.

Here is the skinny on how the Chicken Rolls are made:

Slice the chicken breast (or get scaloppine) and pound it thin and evenly flat.
flatten chickenUse pancetta to layer on the chicken and then roll them and use toothpicks to close them.

flour rollCut them in bite size rolls, roll them in flour, and set them to rest.

lemon sage oilMove the pan on the stove, use an eighth of a cup of olive oil. Put sage and sliced lemon peel in the oil while it gets warm. Cook the chicken rolls about 10 at a time (depending on the size of the pan), when they are golden take them out of the pan and put them aside on a dish. If the sage and the lemon peel get dark in the process, change them with new ones.

sauteeing chicken - add back wineWhen you have finished sautéing small batches of chicken rolls,  bring all back to the pan, increase the heat and add half a glass of white wine to form a creamy tasty sauce. Cook just a minute or two longer to make the creamy sauce coat all the rolls. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve it with your favorite risotto and artichokes for some Valentines Day love for the whole family. If you make it let me know how it turns out- this is Axel’s new favorite dish!

Stuffed Artichokes


You may have heard that artichokes are an aphrodisiacs? That’s why this week I am finally getting around to sharing the Italian Stuffed Artichokes for Valentines Day. Over New Years in Milan the artichokes were huge and abundant at every market and grocery store. Since they are a “festive” specialty and it was still holiday season I really wanted to learn to cook them properly. I have always wondered what I was doing wrong with my whole steamed artichokes which never seemed to be worth all the hype. The answer is that a boring old steamed artichoke isn’t really worth all the hype, but a stuffed artichoke slowly bathed in hot olive oil is definitely worth the hype! So check out the photo tutorial and the recipe below.
I think part of my problem is the I really believe artichokes are beautiful and I never peeled back enough layers. I now realize my hesitation for waist was not helping the pleasure of artichoke eating. If your lucky you keep about 1/2 the artichoke. Truth is, that most of the flower gets peeled away and cut off and whats left is tender and meaty.

cleaning the artichoke tripticAnother tip: The stems are delicious! Peel back the stems to the round tender center and voila you have tender bite-sized artichoke sticks.

waistAlso make sure you scrape out the artichoke “whiskers”- my friend referred to it as the beard. They are the white fibers in the very center that I guess are a hairy unpleasant texture to eat.

triptic 2Hollowing out the artichoke also allows you room for a tasty flavoring of anchovies, and garlic and parsley.

Oh and when you finish cleaning and cutting an artichoke immediately place it in a bath of cold water and lemon juice to prevent discoloration. You know how potatoes and avocados turn brown when exposed to air, that same thing happens to artichokes – 10 times faster! You can watch it happen in seconds! AND it does the same thing to your hands so wear gloves or clean them with lemon juice after.place in lemon water

The filling is a combination of roughly chopped parsley, garlic, and an anchovy (I might add 2-3 next time for a stronger flavor- DON’T be squeamish and regret it later!)

tryptic 3

After the prep-work is finished then its time to bath them in olive oil.

start cooking in OO and water
The pot should be large enough for all the artichokes to fit comfortably. My friends father owns a farm in Italy where she gets loads of beautiful virgin olive oil, she liberally poured in several inches and then added about an equal amount of water- the chokes were about 1/2 way submerged.

place paper towel with lid on
Cover the pot with a stiff paper towel first and then the lid. I am not sure what this does exactly but it’s part of the ancient secret recipe that has been passed down through her big Italian family for generations and now it belongs to you!!!!

pot of artichokes
After about 45 minutes pierce the artichoke bottom and check if it is fork tender. When it is, remove it and squeeze on a little fresh lemon and salt and pepper to taste.

text artichokes lemon- meal


Large Fat Artichokes – at least one per person- (this recipe will make 3)

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 Tablespoon anchovy paste or a few whole anchovies

1 clove garlic crushed

olive oil to cook

Clean artichokes hollowing out the center. Combined the parsley, anchovy, and garlic and stuff the filling into the center of the artichoke using your finger tips. Place the artichoke top down into the small pot with 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 water. Low boil with paper-towel on top of pot and lid covering it for about 45 min. Cooking time will depend largely on how big the artichokes are. Test or for tenderness. Salt and pepper to taste.

Veal Marsala

mushroomsInspired by the gobs of fresh mushrooms at the market and grocery stores I scooped some up to make one of our family favorites Veal Marsala. Now I know veal in the states (and I suppose elsewhere in the world) can me controversial, but in Switzerland veal is a staple. If your really sensitive about this subject skip to recipe and everywhere it says veal, mentally insert the work chicken. Switzerland is a dairy country, and if your a cow here and can’t make milk you don’t have much chance of living a long life. That’s why there is an abundance of very good quality veal. So while it can be hard to find in the states, here it is very common throughout the year. In Switzerland good beef is elusive. Even decent ground beef can be hard to find. So a delicious, tender veal schnitzel does the trick.


Veal Marsala:

6 veal medallions sliced and pounded thin (if you have a good butcher (like publix supermarkets) they will do this for you)

1/3 cup flour

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, sliced thin

3/4 cup Marsala

3/4 cup veal stock

2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

Pat veal dry and season with flour, salt and pepper. In a large heavy skillet heat oil and 1 2/3 tablespoons butter over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Brown veal in 2 batches, transfer with tongs to a large plate as browned. Don’t overcook- it will make veal tough (just like beef). Er on the side of under-cooking- these tasty medallions will go back into a hot bath of Marsala sauce in a few minutes.

Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet and saute onion and mushrooms, stirring occasionally until the liquid mushrooms give-off is evaporated. Set mushrooms aside. Add Marsala to pan with drippings and deglaze. Add stock and reduce to almost half, about 15 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter and salt and pepper to taste, stirring until butter is just incorporated. Add mushrooms and veal back to sauce to reheat. Spoon mushroom sauce around veal and sprinkle with parsley.



Veal Stock might sound boring until you spend 16 hours with it

finished veal stock copy

Veal stock may not be something that people will comment on or read about. I want this recipe in my archive so today’s post is all about my 16 hour day with a pile of veg, some cow feet, and a pot of water~ sounds riveting, I know. Just pin for future reference.

I have never bought veal stock from a store, I am sure there are high quality products available in specialty gourmet stores, I have never seen any in my mid-sized Southern towns. In fact veal is a little elusive. But the young calf’s bones yield more collagen and thus a far superior stock than do regular beef bones. So once a year if I am lucky enough to find the bones I make my own. Here in Switzerland Slow food is the ONLY way to go. You wont find cans of stock at the supermarket. But even better, you will find a good variety of soup bones. I guess they know how to make a good pot of hot soup in these parts. Good stock gives the recipe a better taste yes, but for certain recipes, like Veal Marsala, I think it gives it more body, a slightly different consistency to the sauce, a richer, heartier, and tastier end result. So if you are paying for veal, better to make your own veal stock.

Veal Stock is easy to make but must be thought about in advance (12-16 hours in advance). I freeze it in 1/2 cup portions for use in Risotto, Marsala, and of course French Onion Soup.


8 slices or more of Veal bones, knuckles & joints

3 Carrots; coarsely chopped

3 onions; coarsely chopped

3 leeks; coarsely chopped

6 celery; coarsely chopped

1 bunch parsley

6 Bay leaves

1 bunch Thyme

2 Bulbs garlic; cut in half crosswise

2cans tomato paste (6 oz. size)

Water as needed

Preheat oven to 400 F. Don’t worry about peeling veggies since everything will be strained out in the end.

veal stock 1

On a flat baking sheet place the veal bones, and all the veggies and roast them for 30-45 minutes until browned a little. Remove the bones and try to smear the tomato paste all over the veggies, some will be browned like the parsley and the leaves of the celery. Return the veggies to the hot oven for another 30 minutes or more. The tomato paste and veggies will start looking dark brown- don’t worry you are concentrating flavors. After they are finished they will likely look pretty dark, and you might even think they look burnt and yucky, but have faith.

In a large stock pot add bones and veggies and enough water to cover them. Bring liquid to a boil. skim foam that appears on top. Simmer ingredients for 12-16 hours or until liquid reduces to half. Strain the stock well and voila!

yucky looking leftoversThis mushy brown stuff is whats leftover after you strain it- it still smells good enough to eat.

The smell is heaven for a cold tired family returning from a long day of work and school, so make sure you do something good for dinner or the smell is torture.

Swiss cookies demystified

swiss cookies

New cookie displays have appeared in the supermarket the last few weeks. Just when I have been doing so well with my running and eating healthy! I asked a Swiss friend to explain them and she tried to tell me a little about how they are made but said that the flavors and textures are distinct and had to be sampled personally. SO because I am a giver, and because I would do just about anything for a comment on this blog, I took one for the team. I bought 1 package each of the 4 cookies on the display. My girlfriend said that like Wild season and Sauser season, these cookies are to mark the coming of Herbstfest- Autumn. They are often sold at fall fairs and carnivals. When I requested help from my children for a very special job they immediately looked suspicious, mournful and I could see there eyes darting around for an escape route. I don’t often pull this kind of pranks so it is really fun when I get to announce that they must help taste test cookies.

swiss cookies overhead #

So here is the breakdown:

  1. Schenkeli (this must be a Swiss-German name since it seems like all Swiss-German words end in ‘li’ ~ I’ve been told it’s a suffix that gives meaning of “little/cute” to everything). I have seen these in Bakery windows lately and I am CERTAIN they taste better when they are fresh, the ones I purchased at Coop probably have some preservatives and are not fresh-from-the-fryer. Yes, fryer. These are a fried dough cookie. At a glance I expected something very crunchy and when I asked Axel for his impression, he said the same thing. This was Coco’s favorite cookie overall but I would almost rather describe it as a cake donut, that had gotten a little hard and stale. It is not as sweet as the cake donuts in the states and has a light lemony flavor. The Coop version is not very impressive but from experience I know that fresh-fried anything is disturbingly addictive.
  2. Marroni Biscuits- This was mine and Axel’s favorite. It is named for chestnuts one of the 3 nuts that make up this slightly chewy cookie. It’s flavor is very difficult to describe which is why my friend suggest just sampling them. At first I thought they contained dessicated coconut because of the texture, but no. I also thought they tasted a little like licorice, just at tiny hint, and maybe a little coffee flavor too?  I was a little off base, turns out they are made mostly of almond meal, have a few ground up hazelnuts, and a little coco powder too, although I didn’t taste chocolate. Over-all Axel and I both thought these were the best.
  3. Markt- Magenbrot- Both kids thought these were brownies when they were about to eat them. Turns out they are like a chewy molasses brownie with Cinnamon and honey. They are pretty strong tasting and surprisingly sweet for a Swiss delicacy. I was glad they were small and about the size of a fat thumb, because one was very satisfying. Since they do not sell Molasses here, I am very curious to find out what’s in them that makes the distinct flavor. I guess that’s pretty good incentive to learn German.
  4. Zwetschgen Tortchen- These are pleasant and tasty, a simple sugar cookie with a plum marmalade filling sandwiched between the cookie layers and topped with a tiny bit of sugar glaze. They were everyone’s second favorite cookie.

Are you a Swiss cookie connoisseur? Do you know whats in the Markt- Magenbrot? Come Switzerland and try some for yourself.


Sauser Season

sauserI am not an expert on Switzerland, but I have lived here just long enough (including the few years I lived here a long time ago) to notice what’s different and appreciate some of its most unique treasures. Years ago I discovered Sauser at a dinner party hosted by an old friend. Knowing that I do not drink alcohol she thoughtfully provided a seasonal specialty called Sauser. It comes into season the first weeks of September and sticks around for about 6 weeks, give or take. It is the first press of the grapes. It’s a delicious grape juice that is ever-so-slightly bubbly,very sweet and very “grape-y”.

I love the seasonality of food here in Europe. Which is why the distinct changing of seasons brings with it a feeling of celebration. Sauser marks “Wild” season, the time of year when wild game is served with mushrooms, and truffles and chestnuts and for us, a tall glass of Sauser. Sauser doesn’t last long though, because its unpasteurized, and must be kept refrigerated. It is sold with-out a lid on it, and is simply covered with the foil top like a wine bottle with-out a cork. This allows it to “breath” and, I am guessing,  for the natural fermentation not to build up too much pressure. If you wait too long its not Sauser anymore, but on its way to becoming fermented. Unless of course you purchase the pasteurized version which can be kept at room temperature and I suppose, indefinitely? I bought my first bottle today so I don’t know if it taste as good, but email me next week if you are curious.

You can purchase it at Getranke Luci in Stans, or ask your local getranke if they carry it. *TIP: Because there is no lid or cork, the bottle is prone to spills. Make sure you pick up a wine box at the getranke -with dividers to hold is safely in place during transit. If you are reading this from another country in Europe, Sauser is Italian so I am sure it can be purchased in Italy and elsewhere. If your reading from the states, it’s a (one of many) good reason to come visit in September.