by Nancy on May 3, 2011

in Appetizers,Soups,Vegetarian

If you have been following Kuchen Together, you probably guessed that gazpacho is not an old family recipe. Carrie and I both live in Silicon Valley which has a multiethnic population. When Carrie was in elementary school, the school of 500 had students speaking 17 different first languages. Eating with friends and acquaintances has introduced us to wonderful foods from all over the world and gazpacho is one of them. I’m posting this recipe for the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo which is celebrated here by people of all ethnicities.

There are hundreds, thousands of recipes for gazpacho. This one is the one I use. It has a nice, fresh flavor, a bit of bite and is fast and easy to prepare.


  • 1  46 oz can tomato juice
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T vinegar
  • 2 tsp. hot sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  1. Peel and seed cucumber.
  2. Place garlic in blender with 1/2 cup tomato juice and puree.
  3. Chop cucumber, onion and bell pepper into pieces.
  4. Add cucumber, onion and bell pepper to blender and fill blender with tomato juice.
  5. Blend on slow speed just until vegetables are chopped to about 1/4 inch in size.
  6. Mix all ingredients in bowl and chill.


Mild Midwest Chili

by Nancy on December 28, 2010

in Main Dish,Soups

Winter holidays were full of family parties and at New Year’s we had two! On New Year’s Eve my parents went square dancing but us kids, my grandparents and my uncles and aunt went up the (gravel) road a whole 1/2 mile for a evening at my Great Aunt Irene’s house. We watched football, played Tripoly and card games, ate all kinds of great tasting, bad for you snacks and welcomed in the New Year watching the Times Square Ball drop on TV with Guy Lombardo singing Auld Lang Syne.

On New Year’s Day, well later the same day, we gathered at my grandparents house for more football, preferably with the Green Bay Packers playing and winning. After huge Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts (and being out late the night before) my grandmother made a couple of simple soups for our meal, chili and oyster stew. Oyster stew was a favorite of my grandfather and I think New Year’s was the only time my grandmother made it because she had to special order the oysters. Oysters were not a common food in the Midwest.

Chili on the other hand was a meal we had frequently. Both my mother and grandmother canned tomatoes in the summer and this was a dish that used them that everyone liked. They mostly canned tomato juice (passing cooked tomatoes through a colander got rid of the seeds and the skins easily) so chili was really a tomato juice based soup. Midwesterners don’t tend to like much heat in their food and the chili was mild. If I remember correctly, my mother used about 1 tsp. of Shillings chili powder mix in 3 quarts of chili. This wasn’t powdered chili, this was a mixture of spices like cinnamon, cloves, and a mild chili powder.

I only grow tomatoes for fresh use in my urban garden so I modified my mom’s recipe to use store-bought canned tomatoes. I make my chili chunkier, more like a stew, by using diced tomatoes instead of tomato juice as a base and leaving the other vegetables chunky. I vary the type of beans that I use. My mother used kidney beans but I sometimes use pinto beans or black beans instead. You could even use garbanzo beans to add a cheesy flavor.  I’ve spiced it up a bit by increasing the amount of sweet spices (cinnamon and cloves) but keep the hotness down by adding only a small amount of hot chili powder. I did grow up in the midwest after all.

Mild Midwest Chili

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3  14 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1  14 ounce can kidney, pinto or black beans
  • 1 cup celery
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1/2 bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. whole mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes or powdered chili (optional)
  1. Brown ground beef in 4 quart pan.
  2. Add celery, onion and pepper and saute with beef.
  3. Add tomatoes and beans including liquid in cans.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 20 minutes.


Gingerbread Men Cookies

by Carrie on December 7, 2010

in Cookies

It’s taken me 8 years now to perfect my gingerbread men and now they’re one of my favorite Christmas cookies.

Gingerbread Men Cookies (adapted from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook)

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  1. Beat butter or margarine, sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and ground cloves in an electric mixer.
  2. Add molasses, egg, and vinegar and beat until combined.
  3. Add flour and stir until incorporated.
  4. Cover and chill dough for about 3 hours.
  5. Roll out dough until 1/4 inch thick. I roll my dough out on the cookie sheets.
  6. Cut gingerbread men out with cookie cutter. I use the Wilton Comfort Grip gingerbread man.
  7. Bake at 375° for 6 to 8 minutes.


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  1. Combine powdered sugar and milk in a small bowl.
  2. Transfer to a piping bag or Ziploc with the corner cut off to ice your cookies.


Pie Crust

by Carrie on November 2, 2010

in Desserts,Pies,Tips and Tricks

There are about a zillion different pie crust recipes out there but this is the one that consistently works to best for me. I’m not really sure who came up with the phrase “easy as pie” because before I found this pie crust recipe I constantly struggled with pie. Once you find the pie crust recipe that works for you, stick with it – any pie crust will work for any pie.

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

Pie Crust

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 5 T cold water
  • 1 T white vinegar
  1. Combine flour and salt.
  2. Add shortening. You can use a pastry cutter, a couple forks, or a food processor.
  3. Beat the egg with a fork and add it to the dough.
  4. Add water and vinegar and mix until combined.

This recipe makes enough for two pie crusts so either make two pies or halve the dough after it’s mixed up and pop half in the freezer for later. Take it out and thaw it in the fridge for a day or so before you plan to use it.

How to Roll Out a Pie Crust

  1. Put down some waxed paper and then flour the waxed paper.
  2. Shape the dough into a round.
  3. Flour the top of the round.
  4. Roll it out.
  5. Hold your pie pan over the dough to see if it’s big enough.
  6. Once it’s big enough, flour the top again.
  7. Place your rolling pin at one edge and lift up the waxed paper to roll the dough around the rolling pin.
  8. Unroll the dough over your pie pan.


Popcorn Balls

by Nancy on October 19, 2010

in Candy,Desserts,Snacks

I grew up in a rural area where we knew all of our neighbors. My mom drove me and my brothers and sisters to a few of the neighbors’ houses to go trick or treating. We didn’t have to worry about people we didn’t know tampering with treats so it meant we could have homemade treats – it really was a treat! We made treats for those who came to our house, too. Popcorn balls were a favorite. These make eye-catching treats for bake sales or parties if you can’t pass them out to little goblins and ghosts.

The syrup used to hold popcorn balls together is clear. You can add food coloring to make the balls any color. I leave it clear when making “snowballs” for Christmas but color it orange for Halloween treats.

The syrup used in this recipe is made from sugar and water cooked to a high temperature. The exact temperature determines how hard or soft the candy will be. It works like this. Temperatures around 245 degrees form soft candies like caramels but keep cooking to temperatures around 300 degrees and you get hard candies like peanut brittle. Use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature.

Be careful you don’t get burned by hot syrup when making popcorn balls. Cooked syrup is HOT, much hotter than boiling water, and it sticks to your skin. Heed the precautions below and if you accidentally get hot syrup on your hand, plunge it into cool water immediately. Sacrifice a ball if you have to.

Popcorn Balls

  • 5 quarts popped popcorn
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • food coloring (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
    1. Pop corn and place in 300 degree oven to keep hot and crisp.
    2. Butter sides of 2 quart, heavy bottomed saucepan. Carefully pour sugar into center of pan without getting any crystals on sides. Add remaining ingredients except vanilla being careful not to splash sugar on sides of pan. If the cooked syrup contacts a grain of sugar, it can cause all of the syrup to crystallize giving it a grainy mouth feel.
    3. Insert candy thermometer and cook to 250 degrees (hard ball stage).
    4. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
    5. Pour one third of syrup evenly over popcorn and toss gently with large spoon or spatula to mix trying not to break popcorn. Repeat two more times until all of syrup is added.
    6. CAUTION – syrup is HOT. Let mixture set 5 minutes to cool. Work next to sink with running water or place bowl of cool water nearby to dip your hands in if syrup sticks and starts to burn. Butter hands and form a baseball sized popcorn ball squeezing so it sticks to itself. If you make it larger than a baseball, it will be too big to wrap in a single square of plastic wrap. Set aside to cool. Form remaining balls buttering hands between each ball.
    7. Wrap each ball in a square of plastic wrap and tie closed with curling ribbon. If weather is hot, store in refrigerator.

      Makes 12 – 15 popcorn balls.