Basque Pintxos

This is not so much a recipe, as a tip on what to serve the next time you want starters for a meal, or a meal eaten by hand.

I just returned from a long weekend in Bilbao, Spain; it’s a thriving city on the Bay of Biscay.  The Basque have one food that they are probably most famous for:  Pintxos (pronounced “Pintchos”).  These are a similar concept to the Spanish Tapas, but far more elaborate.  5 or 6 of these will make a meal.  Any good Pintxos bar worth its salt will have a wide variety spread out along the length of the bar (which is not usually for drinking at, but for selecting your food), and they pride themselves in personal specialities, so you have to bar hop to get the full experience; I’m sure they’ve got a local term for it – bar hopping, pub crawling, or as my husband and I dubbed it, “Pintxopping”.

They usually come served atop a slice of toasted Baguette bread, and some of the combinations we had were:  Diced crab with tomato sauce; an unusually non-distinct mushroom patè fried in a hushpuppy-like batter; crab and vegetables sautèd in tomato sauce and served in an open clam shell, overbaked with cheese; baked squid atop a fish pate; a skewer of breaded and fried vegetables; a variety of fish and seafood in spring roll wraps; breaded chicken on a skewer with rounds of goat cheese; one bar’s signature Pintxo was a mound of crab meat overbaked with a quid-ink-tinted cheese, in the shape of the local mountain.  The possibilities are endless!  Below is an example found on Pinterest; if you want more ideas and recipes, you’ll find them there.  En Guete!

Pintxos

Tuna Salad

tuna-salad

Credit: Pinterest

Today I went to a friend’s house to show/help her learn how to make my Bread & Butter Pickles.  I was thinking of all the ways I use these versatile preserves, and one of the things that came to mind is tuna salad:  It can be eaten straight as a main lunch dish, or on bread, or in a tortilla for a sandwich wrap (just top with a bit of torn lettuce and you’re good to go), as a side dish for other main dishes, or even as a dip with crackers as a simple apéro.  The pickles make a lovely addition to this salad; I usually take a whole jar of the pickles, dump it into a blender on high for a couple seconds, and wha-la, a jar of pickle relish!  The relish and juice make the tuna salad snap with taste.

The great thing about this mix is that it can be kept in the fridge for several days; it makes a great, healthy & quick lunch (for adults or kids), a healthy nibble when you just need a bite or two, and can be served in so many ways.

So here’s my recipe for this simple mix; the amounts are really about taste, but I’ll give you an approximation of what I do, and you can add or subtract according to your own tastes.  Word to the wise:  The tuna juice is best used by dividing it evenly into small bowls and given to your cats. 🙂

Tuna Salad

2 cans of tuna in salt water, drained & mashed apart with a fork.

~1/2-3/4  C. mayonnaise (whatever your favourite kind is)

1-2 shallots, finely chopped

~1 Tbs. lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1-3 Tbs. pickle relish with juice

Mix all together in a glass or plastic bowl (not metal – the citric acid, and vinegar from the pickles will react with that).  That’s it!  Add a sprinkle of fresh or dried chives for a contrasting colour as a garnish if you want to dress it up a bit for company.

Enjoy!

Save

Eat to Live Tip: Relieve Tension

If you’re feeling tense, grab a carrot, a stick of celery, a bell pepper, popcorn, an apple, pear or peach, and bite in!  Let the tension go as you munch on crunchy healthy snacks, and improve your health two ways at once.

Crunchy Snacks & Tension

Homemade Ranch Dip

We had a large party here this week, and this dip is a standard addition!  It’s fast, simple, and delicious.

The main ingredient is my homemade mix of Copycat Ranch Dressing Mix.  It’s a great mix to have on hand for making either dressing, dip, or adding to my Bisquick recipe for Ranch rolls.  If you need more than one kind of dip, grab your favourite dressing powder mix and replace the amount called for in this recipe.

Homemade Ranch Dip

Photo Credit:  Black Diamond Catering

Photo Credit: Black Diamond Catering

2 Tbs. Ranch mix

1 C. milk

1 C. Mayonnaise

Mix it up thoroughly about 20 minutes before serving, and chill; it will thicken up as the liquids are soaked into the ingredients such as the milk powder.  Give it a good final stir and serve with crudités (raw vegetables sliced for dipping).

Tip:  The catering photo above gives a great idea for serving the dip in a bell pepper.

Elvish Lembas Bread

In honour of Lammas Day, I’d like to share a recipe for Lembas Bread, the Elvish bread from Lord of the Rings.  This recipe is floating around all over the internet, so unfortunately I don’t know who the originator is to give them proper credit.  This type of bread is similar to Hardtack, which has a long history of being used as part of a pilgrim’s travelling provisions; sailors survived on it during long sea voyages when fresh bread had long gone the way of the “bargemen” (weevils), and pioneers travelling west through America took it along in their provisions for the journey.

Also attached is a template for a Mallorn leaf, which in LOR lore, the elves used to pack the bread for travelling.  To make the leaves, I’d recommend a forest green cloth, or a mesh-fibre table cloth.  I’d also recommend making the bread before cutting out the leaves, so that the latter fit the former.  Adjust leaf joints to the size of squares as you pack them.  Just copy the jpg, adjust the size for printing out your template, then cut it out and have fun!

By the way, if you love reading, and love Elves, check out my 2-part fantasy novel, The Cardinal!  Available in Kindle and Paperback.  Just click on the cover art to link to Amazon.  Enjoy, and be sure to write a great review to let other people know what you loved about the story!

This makes a delicately lemon-flavoured, lightly sweetened scone-type bread.

Lembas Bread in Mallorn LeafLembas Bread

2 ½ C. flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
8 Tbs. cold butter
1/3 C. sugar
2/3 C. milk
½ tsp. lemon extract

Preheat over to 425°F (220°C). Mix flour, baking powder, & salt in a large bowl. Chop butter into mixture with a pastry cutter or knead in with your fingers until you get a crumbly mixture. Add sugar & mix. Add milk & lemon extract & stir with a fork until dough forms.

Roll the dough out about ½ inch thick. Cut out 3 inch squares & transfer to a cookie sheet. Criss-cross each square from corner to corner with a knife. Bake for about 12 minutes or until set & lightly golden.

Mallorn Leaf

10 Recipes in Pictures

I love to collect recipes and try them out; here are a few I’ve collected that are straightforward!

Bacon & Cheese Bread Ring

Bacon and Cheese Bread Ring

Baked Omelets

Baked Omelets

brownie in a mug

Brownie in a Mug

Cheese Bread

Cheese Bread

Cherry Chocolate Mice

Cherry Chocolate Mice

Chocolate Covered Bananas

Chocolate Covered Bananas

Easy Pizza Bread

Easy Pizza Bread

Egg Burger

Egg Burger

Filled Apples

Filled Apples

Fruit Flower Cups

Fruit Flower Cups

 

Swiss Christmas “Samichlaus” Gift Bags

 

Swiss Samichlaus & Schmutzli

A Swiss Santa Claus and Schmutzli, in traditional costume.

Here in Switzerland, Santa has come and gone!  In Zürich alone, the Swiss Santas (“Samichlaus”) will make roughly 1,000 visits this year; within a few days around 6 December each year, just over 30 Santas, 50 Schmutzli and 50 drivers are underway.  Now I’m fairly certain most of my readers are familiar with Santa; but here in Switzerland, his helper is called Schmutzli.  Parents throughout the land book Samichlaus and his assistant, “Schmutzli”, and fill in a form for their children:  Names, ages, their favourite subject in school, and the most important questions:  What have the children improved in since the last visit by Samichlaus, and where do they need to improve?  Making their bed, cleaning their room, being nice to their siblings, or sharing more often?  The Samichlaus und his assistants (often two Schmutzli, who are the “coal” bearers, and often have blackened faces, and carry large baskets with some coal, a besom broom, and room for gifts given back to them by grateful parents!) go to the home at the appointed time, and sit down to speak with each child, reading from a great book they carry with them.  Each child is then given a “Samichlaus” bag, and perhaps a gift sponsored by the parents.

Thomas Fetz, local Schmutzli. Image Credit: Migrosmagazin

Thomas Fetz, local Schmutzli. Image Credit: Migrosmagazin

Since 6 December is the official Samichlaus Day, it is customary on that day to give “Samichlaussäckli” (Santa Claus Bags) to friends, family, neighbours and coworkers.  They are great winter gifts to take when visiting friends, and so I thought I would share it here with you, to spread Christmas cheer!

Swiss Samichlaus-Bag:Swiss Samichlaussäck

Peanuts in the shell (whole walnuts are also traditional, but optional)

Mandarin Oranges, apples

Individually wrapped chocolates

Homemade Christmas cookies, wrapped in clear plastic

Options:  Gingerbread men, marzipan fruits, or pralines

 

The traditional bag is made of burlap, though cloth or plastic will work well too.  Fill the bags, and put a note on them if you’re going to leave them at a neighbour’s door, or on a co-worker’s desk.  Enjoy the joy of giving!  And Merry Christmas!

Some bags I prepared for my husband's coworkers; the santa claus is a chocolate ornament hanging on our tree.

Some bags I prepared for my husband’s co-workers (mandarin oranges are hiding in there somewhere!); the Santa Claus is a chocolate ornament hanging on our tree.