Crepes in Switzerland… sigh…

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Swiss-Inspired Pumpkin Apple Crepes

…can I go back?  C’mon, Santa, I’ve been good this year.  A plane ticket would be such a light item to tuck into your sleigh.  I mean, really, I’m just trying to help you out here!

Sigh.  A girl can dream.

Go ahead and laugh, but check out these photos from the lovely little Creperie we found tucked away in the otherwise bustling Right Bank in Geneva…

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Swiss Crepe with Fresh Cherry Preserves

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Swiss Crepe with Chestnut Puree and Chantilly

“But crepes are French!” You say.  Well, yes, but remember that France and Switzerland are neighbors, and Geneva is practically swallowed up by France on three sides.  This is pretty darn convenient for those of us with minor (OK, major) obsessions with French food.

Today we are making crepes with pumpkin applesauce.  This impressive-looking dish is seasonal and is quite simple to prepare (remember, toppings and garnishes make even flawed crepes look fabulous!).  Your kitchen will smell wonderful and your dining companions will be impressed.  Let’s get started!

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Bains des Paquis, a popular destination for swimming and casual dining in Geneva

Ingredients for Pumpkin Apple Crepes (serves 4 with leftovers)

1 small pie pumpkin

6 apples

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 beaten eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup half & half or cream

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons sugar

Directions

WIN_20140927_130304Step 1) Prepare the pumpkin applesauce.  This takes a little while, but it’s worth it!  If you need a shortcut, combine 1 cup of canned pumpkin with 2 cups of jarred applesauce and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.  It’s not quite the same, but it will do.  Otherwise, proceed as follows:

Cut pumpkin in quarters and scoop out the seeds.  Place pumpkin quarters on a baking pan with shallow sides, skin side down, and roast in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour.  Remove from oven and scoop pumpkin flesh into a large pot.  Cover – barely – with water and turn heat to medium-low.

Peel and core 5 of the apples, and add apple chunks to the simmering pot.  After 20 minutes or when everything is fork-tender, remove from heat and puree contents of pot using an immersion blender.  Stir in cinnamon.  Taste; add a bit of brown sugar or a bit more cinnamon if you think it’s needed.  Set aside.

Step 2)  Combine eggs, milk, cream, flour, oil, vanilla, and sugar.  Whisk well until lumps are gone!

Step 3)  Heat an 8 inch, nonstick sauté pan over medium heat and grease with a bit of oil and a pastry brush (a paper napkin works fine, too).  Add about 2 tablespoons of batter to the pan and “swirl” the pan to spread batter in a wide, thin circle.  It might take 2 or 3 tries to figure out exactly how much batter to add to the pan (remember, you want the circle to be THIN).  Don’t stress out about this – plan to wreck a crepe or two, call it a learning experience, and move on with your day!  :)

Step 4) Let your circle of batter cook over medium heat for about 1 minute, then check to see if it’s done.  Just lift the edge of the crepe to see if it’s lightly brown on the bottom and comes off the pan easily.  If so, it’s done!  Crepes are only cooked on one side (you aren’t making pancakes).  Remove from the pan grease the pan again, and make another crepe.  Repeat until you run out of batter.  Keep cooked crepes warm on a pan in a barely warm (170 degrees F) oven.

Step 5) To serve, spread 1 tablespoon of pumpkin applesauce onto the uncooked side of each crepe.  Fold crepes into thirds, cooked sides out.  Place 2 or 3 crepes on a serving plate.  Top with additional pumpkin applesauce.  Garnish with thinly sliced apple and chopped walnuts.  Serve immediately!

Bienvenue en Suisse! (Welcome to Switzerland!)

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Saint Pierre Cathedral

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a week in Geneva, Switzerland.  Thanks to an amazing online booking deal, my travel companion and I were able to stay at the elegant and historic Hotel Les Armures.  This boutique hotel, housed in a 13th century building overlooking Geneva’s Saint Pierre Cathedral, has graciously hosted former Presidents and A-List celebrities.  Adding my name to their guest list was unexpected and fun!

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Midnight Walk in Old Town

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t get too jazzed about a continental breakfast, but Hotel Les Armures is no ordinary hotel!  Among other delicacies, breakfast featured little glass pots of Swiss yogurt, wafer thin slices of buendnerfleisch (air dried, pressed beef), Gruyère and Emmentaler cheeses, and the fresh European breads with which I have long since fallen in love.

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After such fancy morning feasts, we were well energized to spend long days exploring Geneva on foot, by water taxi, and by train.  We have gathered plenty of photos, recipes, and stories to share with you over the next few days.  Enjoy!

Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

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In creating this recipe, I was looking for a lunchbox treat that would be sustaining… something tasty, with protein and whole grains that would fuel the roaring metabolism of my boys between their school day lunches and their late afternoon kitchen raids.  I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical of my own handiwork – after all, you won’t find any chocolate or candy-coated-anything in these cookies.  I tucked the first batch into lunchboxes and waited for reviews.  At the end of the day, my oldest son announced, “You know those cookies today?  Those were, like, the best cookies you’ve ever put in my lunch.  Like, ever.”  SOLD!

Because I try to stick with higher nutrition ingredients anyway, I don’t often bother with calculating nutritional statistics.  Somehow with this recipe, I was curious.  Three of these cookies, each about two and a half inches across as shown above, contains approximately 200 calories, 5 grams of protein, and 6 grams of fat (including good quality fat from the pecans).  Oh, and they’re absolutely delicious!

picture452Ingredients (makes 36 cookies)

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups rolled oats (not instant)

1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Directions

Step 1) In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar.  Add eggs and almond extract.  Mix well.

Step 2) Combine all dry ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and mix well.

Step 3) Place tablespoonsful of cookie dough two inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake in a preheated, 350 degree oven for 10 – 12 minutes, or until centers are set.

Step 4) Immediately remove cookies from baking sheets and cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

Easy Cherry Clafoutis

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It’s time to say Au revoir to France.  While this is a painful announcement, as I’m pretty sure I could write about French food for weeks and months and years, it’s time to move on.  Crowded Earth Kitchen has awesome foods and experiences from both Belgium and Switzerland to share before our European Food Tour ends at the end of October.  Rest assured that we’ll feature French recipes occasionally throughout the coming months!  For now, we’re leaving you with a particularly fabulous French recipe… Easy Cherry Clafoutis.

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I could live here!

The cherry clafoutis shown above was enjoyed in a little café in Lichtenberg.  It was truly delicious, and I’ve mimicked the taste and textures pretty closely, with two exceptions.  First, I used pitted cherries.  I understand that whole cherries are traditional, but really, spitting cherry pits onto a china plate takes something away from the whole dining experience, don’t you agree?  Second, I added walnuts to the crust.  Why? Because cherry pits – supposedly – add a nutty flavor to the dish.  I subtracted the pits, added some walnuts, and Voila! – flavor without, well, pits.

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Ingredients (Serves 8 – 10)

For the crust:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup ground walnuts

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cold butter

2 tablespoons cherry brandy

1 egg

WIN_20140929_175243For the filling:

12 ounces frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed and drained

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened (or substitute cream cheese)

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cherry brandy

Directions

Step 1) Combine whole wheat flour, walnuts, and sugar.  Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two forks, until mixture resembles little peas.  Add egg and cherry brandy.  Mix – use your hands! – until well combined.

Step 2) Press dough into a tart pan (a pie dish would work fine, too).  Place a piece of aluminum foil over the dough and sprinkle with dried beans.  This will keep air bubbles from forming and “puffing up” your dough.

Step 3) Bake dough (foil, beans, and all) in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove beans and foil, and let cool for 10 minutes.

WIN_20140929_181944Step 4) While crust cools, use an electric mixer to combine softened Neufchâtel cheese, eggs, sugar, and brandy.

Step 5) Arrange thawed, drained cherries on crust.  Cover with cheese filling.

Step 6) Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Serve warm or cold.  Personally, I prefer this dish cold.  Try to share with 7 – 9 other people, but if you eat the whole darn thing by yourself, I won’t judge.  ;)

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Free Book Giveaway Contest!

How to Bake a Chocolate Souffle Blue Cover

How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé, by Carly Ellen Kramer

Contest Ends October 30th

***Click HERE to Enter!***

Forget what your English professor told you – life stories are not written in college.

Madeleine LaBlange, Annie Anderson, and Audrey Navarro shared formative years as roommates at Chicago’s Catholic haven for women, the historic Abbott College. If only they could have predicted the collisions between their carefully crafted life plans and the realities they discover beyond campus…

Madeleine harbors dreams of becoming a concert pianist while Dr. Reynold Fenwick, her mercurial graduate school mentor, harbors fantasies of Madeleine. Will pursuing her dreams be worth the cost? Will an evening in Budapest change her life forever?

Annie plans to build a perfect family with her perfect husband in the cutthroat news media industry, until an abrupt tragedy shakes the foundations of her marriage. What happens when she feels pulled between the two men she loves most, her husband and her father?

Audrey leaves her religious, restrictive parents behind and aims for Chicago’s downtown skyline, dating recklessly and staring down each grueling workday one Chicago Dog at a time. Will an island respite lure her away from her corporate future? When she finds herself in the arms of an unexpected lover, will she have the courage to stand up for her own evolving sense of self?

Follow the journeys of these remarkable women, and cheer them on as they navigate life, love, and chocolate soufflé.

Includes over a dozen decadent new recipes from Crowded Earth Kitchen!

Cherry Harbor Series, Volume 1

276 pages

CEK Publishing

ISBN-10: 0692292101

ISBN-13: 978-0692292105

Pumpkin Spice Latte Bread

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You can smell it, can’t you?  The pumpkin, I mean, mingled with warm spices and a touch of milk and coffee.  There’s something about autumn that makes this flavor combination simply irresistible.  It’s a good thing this bread freezes well… you can double the recipe and freeze a loaf to save for a quick breakfast, or to serve alongside a hearty winter soup.

picture480  Ingredients (makes 1 loaf)

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup white flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup very strong coffee

1/3 cup all natural applesauce

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon Kahlua (optional)

picture481Directions

Step 1) Combine all dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl and set aside.

Step 2) In a second large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, eggs, milk, coffee, applesauce, oil, and Kahlua.

Step 3) Slowly blend dry ingredients into wet ingredients.  Stir until just blended; it’s OK if there are a few lumps.

picture488Step 4) Grease a bread loaf pan and dust with flour.

Step 5) Pour batter into bread loaf pan.

Step 6) Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 55 – 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Cool and enjoy!

 

Musée Les Secrets du Chocolat (Museum of Chocolate Secrets)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMusée Les Secrets du Chocolat (The Museum of Chocolate Secrets) is located in Geispolsheim, France, just a few minutes outside of Strasbourg.  If France is shaped vaguely like a five-point star, we can visualize Geispolsheim as being situated near the tip of the Northeast arm, jutting into Germany.  Boasting many small, beautiful villages nestled into hilly, forested terrain, the Northeast region of France is well worth a visit.  While you’re there, be sure to stop at this whimsical, old fashioned chocolate museum!

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Cacao

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Inner Cacao Pod (Beans and Pulp)

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Grinding Cacao

At a glance, admission can seem a bit steep ( 8 Euro for adults, 6.50 Euro for children ages 5-15, children 4 and under are free).  While visiting the museum is a bit of a splurge, it is indeed very informative and entertaining.  After meandering through diorama displays depicting the Aztec history of chocolate, visitors are able to explore a wide variety of antique chocolate manufacturing equipment, ranging from heavy duty kitchen appliances to intricately shaped tin chocolate molds.

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Roaster

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Mixer

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Antique Kitchen

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Tin Molds

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Creepy Victorian Display

The best part – at least according to pint size travelers – are the abundant chocolate samples available at the end of each visit.  A long table laden with big bowls of chocolate confections makes an irresistible stop for visitors of all ages.

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Samples

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Samples

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More Samples

Before you leave, be sure to peruse the gift shop.  The wide variety of chocolate items range in price from just a few Euro cents to, well, very expensive.  The sights and delightful aromas make for fun window shopping and delicious travel souvenirs!

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Chocolate High Heels!

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Chocolate Fish!