Zimtstärnli – ‘Cinnamon Stars’ – Swiss Christmas Cookies

Another one of my all time favorites are the Zimtstärnli (meaning little cinnamon stars). Besides being super yummy, and they are really not all that hard to make, I think the fact that they are grain free, gluten free and the only fat they contain is from the ground almonds doesn’t hurt either, plus cinnamon has been shown to have blood sugar lowering properties.

Yes, these are cut outs again. And you could really make them any shape you like. You’ll just have to call them cinnamon elephants or whatever 😉 Traditionally rolled out on granulated sugar instead of flour, I suggest you use more ground  almonds instead.

Please be aware that most confectioners sugar contains corn starch.

These really should be made in every American household, just look at what they look like!



  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 1/2/ cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp Kirsch (optional, you could leave it out or use lemon juice instead)
  • 3 1/2 cups ground almonds (almond flour)



  1. Preheat oven to 480°F
  2. In a large clean bowl, beat egg white with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form.
  3. Carefully fold in the sugar. Set aside a 1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp ( a scant 1/2 cup) of the mixture, reserve
  4. Carefully fold almonds, Kirsch (if using) and cinnamon under the rest of the egg white mixture. Form to dough and place in the fridge. Chill for at least 3 hours.
  5. Roll out about 1/4″ thick on more ground almonds/almond flour. Then make cookies using star shaped cookie cutter, place on lines baking sheet and brush with a layer of the reserved egg white glaze.
  6. Bake 5-6 minutes with a wooden spatula in the door of the oven to keep the door cracked and prevent it from closing all the way. This is helping in keeping the tops of the cookies white. (They are perfectly done when the bottom is slightly golden brown but the tops stay a pristine white)
  7. Cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing to cooling rack.


Check out the post on more Swiss Christmas Cookies to try other varieties
Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Basler Brunsli

Basler Brunsli – ‘Basler Brownies’ – Swiss Christmas Cookies

Holidays are getting closer and no matter what your faith, we all like to celebrate and in line with that, prepare special foods and treats (Oh yeah!)  We share meals and we share time with family and friends.

So does it come as a surprise that coming from Switzerland, I would have treats involving chocolate? Probably not. But maybe it will stun you to known that these contain absolutely no butter, (and no, I did not replace it with margarine or some other fake stuff), are gluten and even grain free, and that the only fat in them comes from the ground almonds (and cocoa)? How is that for a healthy treat? (Now that said, it still IS a treat, almonds though containing healthy fats, still are fatty)

A “Fähri” (small passenger ferry) setting across the Rhine opposite the Münster Cathedral in Basel

Basel, on the cross roads of Europe, has long been a center of trade from exotic spices and tea to more mundane items, and having a traditional cookie involving chocolate and other luxury goods, isn’t surprising. So here adapted for the american kitchen: Basler Brunsli

Did you know?

  •  “Dark chocolate”, also called “plain chocolate” or “black chocolate”, is produced by adding fat and sugar to cocoa. It is chocolate with zero or much less milk than milk chocolate. The U.S. has no official definition for dark chocolate but European rules specify a minimum of 35% cocoa solids.[2] Dark chocolate can be eaten as is, or used in cooking, for which thicker, more expensive baking bars with higher cocoa percentages ranging from 70% to 99% are sold. Dark is synonymous with semisweet, and extra dark with bittersweet, although the ratio of cocoa butter to solids may vary
  • “Hershey process” milk chocolate is popular in North America. It was invented by Milton S. Hershey, founder of The Hershey Company, and can be produced more cheaply than other processes since it is less sensitive to the freshness of the milk. The process is a trade secret, but experts speculate that the milk is partially lipolyzed, producing butyric acid, which stabilizes the milk from further fermentation. This compound gives the product a particular sour, “tangy” taste, to which the American public has become accustomed, to the point that other manufacturers now simply add butyric acid to their milk chocolates.


  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 c ground almonds/almond flour, unblanched
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp tapioca starch (or cornstarch)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3 1/2 oz extra dark or cooking chocolate, melted (use Lindt chocolate if available)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp Kirsch (optional; a clear Cherry Brandy)


  1. In  a big bowl, mix the first four ingredients.
  2. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form (being careful not to overwork, you can only do this once)
  3. Add to the bowl with the almond mixture. Carefully fold in the beaten egg whites.
  4. In the meantime, melt the chocolate: Break into smallish pieces and either melt in a double boiler with a tablespoon water or (and this is the easier way) place in a bowl, cover with warm water and microwave at 30 second increments until the chocolate is soft and molten, then carefully pour off the water and stir smooth. Let cool slightly (so as not to cook the egg whites) then mix into the ingredients in the bowl.
  5. Refrigerate overnight or at least for several hours to firm and chill the dough
  6. Roll out on sugar (or sugar mixed with ground almonds) to about 1/2″ to 1/4″ thick.
  7. Cut out shapes using your favorite cookie cutter, place on lined baking  sheet and bake at 480°F  for 4-6 minutes (mine were perfect at 5) (if you bake them too long, they will get rock solid when cold)


Check out the post on more Swiss Christmas Cookies to try other varieties

Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Traditional Swiss Christmas Cookies

It’s not Christmas without traditions and for me going without the cookies I grew up with is unthinkable. When I first moved to this country, I was suddenly faced with the challenge of making cookies that before I would just be able to buy at the local bakery, cookies I had never made before. yeah, I did not always make everything myself. But I needed them, I mean Christmas was NOT going to come without, so I was going to find a way and I was going to learn how to make them, whipped egg whites and all. Over the years I tried different substitutes for ingredients that are not readily available in the US, and have refined and tweaked the recipes to reproduce the flavors of my home without having to fly back and what not 😉

I grew up in Basel, a city on the Rhine that had extensive trade with spices, sugar and tea long before the rest of secluded Switzerland had ready access to such luxuries, and there is extensive use of (former) exotic spices. A lot of times the recipes also have a couple of tablespoons of local cherry brandy on the ingredient list (which can be left out without altering the result significantly)


Over the years ground almond meal (aka almond flour) has become more readily available and my cookies turn out much better than when I tried blending the almonds in my food processor. Yeah, not a grinder, should have known, but driven by desperation (I wanted to have Christmas, after all) I sifted through the result and picking out most of the large remaining almond chunks.

Another challenge is the measurements. All my recipes are not only metric, but in grams, kilograms, deciliters and so forth. We measure ingredients by weight not volume, which I still believe gives you more accurate results in most cases, specially if you have to divide or multiply a recipe. But  for convenience in the American kitchen, I have converted all of the ingredients into imperial measurements, cups and so forth. So, worry not, no need to run out and get a food scale (although I do think it’s a good thing to have, just sayin’)

Many of the recipes that I will be sharing here are considerably healthier than your average cookie recipe. What usually happens when I bring them somewhere is this: people marvel at the different looks and how pretty it is, then they try one and are amazed that there is so much  flavor and not just plain sugary sweetness, and then they completely lose it when they learn that many of the cookies they just tried use no butter or oil and the only fat content is  natural oils from the ground almonds, many are gluten and even grain free ( a thing I never realized until this year)

There are four that absolutely HAVE to be on my list for a real Swiss Christmas,

Links will be updated as I update the recipes

Basler Brunsli (our local version of Brownies)

gluten free, grain free and butter free

Mailänderli (delicately scented with lemon, these were always the first ones my Mom would bake each year)



Zimtstärnli (Cinnamon Stars, I think this one has great potential to become a American Favorite, given it’s shape, taste and color, not to mention taste)

gluten free, grain free and butter free

Änisbrötli (Anis breads/cookies )

fat free besides the eggs


And of course there are several other that are just as good and I try to make them too, but without those four, I don’t even care if it snows or not!










 Chocolate Balls

Almonds and chocolate, what more could you want?

   Hazelnut Squares













Spitzbuebe (Sablé like, translates to Rascals, I have heard them called Linzer Cookies in the US)

Orange Hearts

And I could go on and on

What is one thing that is absolutely essential to your holidays?




Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade & Simone Kereit. All rights reserved

Lighter Asparagus Quiche


Asparagus Bacon and Cheddar, what better combination could there be? Oh I know, a crispy pie crust to encase it all. A Quiche in this country a lot of times feels like an ‘egg pie’ to me, which can make it pretty heavy and rich. So for this recipe I only used 1 egg, and by adding greek yogurt, we up the protein content without adding a ton of fat or weighing down the filling. Serve with a big salad for a light lunch or dinner or with a side salad as a first course for a leisurely, sit down dinner.


Okay so after all that pretty talk, here’s the truth: I made so many different traditional Swiss cookie dough recipes (you know, for Christmas I get homesick if I don’t have ‘my’ cookies), that I ran out of eggs, well, besides the one used here. So I had to make due with what I had on hand: 1 egg, flour/pie crust (there’s always pie crust), asparagus and some odds and ends.

Well, as so many times, when you find yourself in a tight situation, it leads to the discovery of something much better than expected…



  • Single pie crust
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 1 oz Speck *, diced
  • 2 oz Gruyere (or cheddar), grated
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • salt to taste
  • 2 heaped tbsp Greek yogurt


  1. Preheat oven to 380°F
  2. Roll out pie crust 1″ bigger than pie pan, fold to place into pan, and roll edges under to make a thicker edge.
  3. Mix milk through Greek yogurt
  4. Cut any hard ends off of asparagus, then place them into the crust in two layers, the second layer at a right angle to the first. Break any asparagus that are too big into smaller pieces
  5. Distribute the Speck over the asparagus, then pour the milk egg mixture over everything, and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
  6. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35-40 min
  7. Serve hot or warm

*often translated as bacon, it however has much more meat than fat on it, but plain old bacon would do as well, just have the butcher cut you a thick piece you can then dice into cubes)

Serves 4 as a lunch/light dinner, or 8 as an appetizer.

Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Pear Cranberry Almond Tart


Looking through my collection of recipes, I realize I bake a lot. Well, I do love my oven, so there’s that. It’s nothing fancy or anything but its GAS. And it bakes the best bread, and pies, and tarts, and muffins and lasagna. 🙂 I love baking, did I mention?  And since cooking with gas, I will never, ever want to live in any place I cannot cook with gas (alright, if the choice is living in a house with an electric stove or living under a bridge…, but short of that)

And on to another fall/winter treat…

Can you tell I got a good deal on pears recently? After shopping the local farmers market at the end of the day on Saturday, I suddenly found myself with bags of produce that now needs to be eaten. As for pears, it’s a race against time, as they are only at that ‘perfect ripe but not mushy’ state for so long, or should I say, so short. Sometimes it really seems like that window is measured in minutes not hours. So what’s a girl in possession of 12 pears to do? Well I made this, twice. And this deep dish pie uses another 6, so doing pretty good overall.

I also have been on a quest for the perfect pie crust recipe and am trying out different ones to see what to add or subtract from my two standard go to recipes in order to make a perfect and foolproof everyday crust. But more on that after the study has been completed.  😉 Here I used an amazing flaky, slightly sweet, all  butter crust.


So for this seasonal recipe besides using the abundance of pears in my kitchen, I used some cranberries. I think that the tartness of the cranberries very nicely offsets the sweetness of the ripe pears, but you could just as well leave the cranberries out. Almond and pear are a natural match and a lot of fancy French pastry draws on that flavor combo, you can do the same here, just easier.

imageFresh in the oven

You will need a Deep dish pie plate


  • Single pie crust (home made or store bought, your choice)
  • 6 medium pears * see note
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 3/4 ground almond
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup almond milk (or dairy, if you prefer)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (i used coconut/palm sugar)
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour (you could use cornstarch instead)
  • 1 tsp almond extract (you could also use vanilla)

* note: I used pear the size of your fist, like the ones that come in 3lb bags at the grocery store; if you use bigger ones, you might need less


  1. Roll out pie crust about 1-2″ bigger than the pie dish. Fold crust in half and in half again to easily transfer it to the baking dish. Refrigerate
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F
  3. In a bowl or 4 cup measuring cup, mix the eggs, sugar, ground almond and almond milk. Then  add the coconut flour and the almond extract. Beat with a fork until well mixed.
  4. Wash pears and cut in half, core and cut each half into 4 slices (you should have 8 slices per pear)
  5. Remove crust from refrigerator, arrange pears in circles into the crust, layering the cranberries in between (or if you almost forget like me, just put them over top the pear before it goes in the oven). You should end up with two layers of sliced pear.
  6. Pour the filling over the pears into the pie pan, doing circles as you pour to distribute evenly
  7. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the filling is set and not liquid any longer.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature!

imageand that’s light Asparagus Quiche in the background

Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Corn Free Baking Powder


If you are allergic or sensitive to corn, it can be quite a hassle eliminating all products containing corn or corn derivatives. It juts so seem since it is a heavily subsidized crop, it’s in everything or made into something that is in everything. Baby Carrots for example, are processed using citric acid, in this country made mostly from corn (ever notice how they are softer than regular carrots? Ever wonder why?) Somehow, besides adding substances that corn sensitive people react to, it seem to alter the GI (Glycemic Index, how fast carbohydrates in a particular food elevate your blood sugar), my guess is by breaking down some of the plant tissue by ‘cooking’ it with citric acid. I have heard from several diabetics that their blood sugar goes through the roof after snacking on baby carrots, but regular carrots are fine. Stay away from them.

But I’m going off on a tangent here. When I first started paying attention to the ‘corn in everything’ issue (my boss at work with is allergic to corn) I realized that baking powder is made with cornstarch, who would have thought?

So after some research, I have found this recipe that you can make yourself if you can’t find a corn free baking powder recipe (there are a couple out there I hear, but pretty hard to find)

Here’s what you need:

  • Baking Soda
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Rice, Tapioca or Potato starch (depending on quantity you’re planning on making)

From my research, I found many similar recipes and have compiled the info here for y’all. Basically you need an alkaline ingredient and an acid salt, and an inert ingredient to keep the two from reacting until you want them too.

More technical stuff, if you care, if not skip to the recipe, I won’t be offended 😉

Cream of tartar is the common name for potassium hydrogen tartrate. Grapes are the only significant natural source of tartaric acid, and cream of tartar is obtained from sediment produced in the process of making wine. Cream of tartar is obtained when tartaric acid is half neutralized with potassium hydroxide, transforming it into a salt. Sodium bicarbonate reacts with the potassium hydrogen tartrate,  causing the release of carbon dioxide (the bubbles that make the cake rise)

I even found the chemical reaction, but let’s skip that and get on with the program.

And as per my research, if you don’t add the inert starch, it will become rock solid (haven’t tried that, if you do let me know if it really does, I am infinitely curious)

For just a small quantity:

If your recipe calls for:

  • 1 tsp baking powder:         use 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder:  use 3/8 tsp baking soda, 3/4 tsp cream of tartar

Or to keep on hand:

  • 1/4 cup cram of tartar
  • 2 tbsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp potato, rice or tapioca starch

Store just like you would for store bought baking powder.

Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved



They are super quick, I made them this morning, before going to work. And besides quick, they are also the easiest cookies ever, with a delightful caramel flavor! With Thanksgiving ringing in the holiday season for shoppers and this coming Sunday being the First Advent or people in Europe ( the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas) I think I can start getting in to my traditional seasonal cookies here soon. This one is not a classic Christmas cookie in Switzerland, (there are many others I would not make any other time of year) but I have been adding this one, because it’s caramel flavor and slight crunch are too good to resist.

Can’t wait to try them tomorrow as a topper for my Egg Nog Ice Cream! It will be sooooo awesome!


  • 1 stick butter, unsalted, softened
  • 3/4 cups raw sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey or molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups flour


  1. Preheat oven to 425F (220C)
  2. Mix first 6 ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Mix Flour and baking powder, then add to the bow, stir until combined.
  4. On wax paper, form into a 2″-3″ diameter roll, chill in the fridge or freezer until firm
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut into 1/8″ thick slices and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. (if the cookies deform when cutting, it’s not chilled enough)
  6. Bake 6-8 minutes in the upper third of the preheated oven, until slightly brown on the bottom and edges.
  7. Cool on rack

Makes about 2 standard cookie sheets full


Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Savory Sweet Potato Cheddar Pie


Make something different this Thanksgiving!



  • 2 Pie crusts  (either home made or store bought)
  • 6 oz cheddar cheese, grated (using the coarse side of a grater)
  • 2 cups chopped onions (from 2 med cooking onions or 1 lg sweet onion)
  • 3/4 lb (about 1 md) sweet potato, grated using the coarse side of your grater
  • 1/4 cup milk or half-and-half
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten, plus 1 egg for glaze (total 4)


  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. In a large skillet, heat 2 table spoons oil over medium, add the chopped onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the grated sweet potato, cook stirring to mix contents for an additional 5 minutes, to soften the sweet potatoes slightly. Remove from heat, let cool slightly
  4. In a bowl, combine the grated cheese, 3 eggs, milk and spices, stirring with a fork to combine.
  5. Combine the cooled sweet potato mixture with the cheese, eggs and milk mix, using a fork to stir until mixed evenly.
  6. Place crust in a deep 9″ pie pan, fill with sweet potato cheddar mix. Beat remaining egg, brush edges with egg wash, then place second pie crust on top, crimp edges to seal, cut 6-8 steam vents into the top crust and brush with remaining egg wash.
  7. Bake at 425 for 40 min or until the top is golden brown and filling is set.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature with a large green salad or as part of your Thanksgiving dinner.


Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

5 minute Snack Cakes

imagePumpkin White Chocolate version here shown made with rolled oats…

imageand Tropical Mango version with Raspberry Mango Sauce, shown made with Quinoa   (I know, it looks like Ketchup; Trust me it tastes TOTALLY different!)

For breakfast, as a snack and the best part, it’s utterly delicious cold as well AND when cold, they are portable (minus the garnish)

You can make these with rolled oats or any other flakes such a quinoa or barley flakes. You might have to adjust cooking time a little, but whatever is on hand works for these!

As an easy alternative to getting a mango, peeling and pureeing it, I have used mango baby food. One of my friends turned me onto the idea of using baby food as a flavoring for plain greek yogurt. Check the ingredients, but the brand I use has no added sugar, some flavor varieties use fruit juice to add extra sweetness. Don’t like mango? Make it juts with apple sauce or maybe a pear baby food?

Tropical Mango Banana Cake


1/2 cup quinoa or oat flakes,
1/2 ripe banana (1/4 cup)
1/4 cup mango purer (use 1 small glass of mango baby food, 4 oz)
1 tbsp sugar (palm sugar, etc)
(1 tbsp Chia seeds, optional)
1/4 cup rasbperries, frozen or fresh
Mix 1/4 cup of the mango, banana, oats (or quinoa), sugar, and Chiang seeds if using in a bowl
Grease two 8 oz ramekins with some oil on a piece of papertowel
Fill and smooh the top
Microwave on high for 3-5 minutes, depending on the power of your device. It’s done when the top does not look liquid anymore and the sides gently separate from the bowl.
Run a knife around the edge, inverted on a plate and serve with raspberry mango sauce (below), or your favorite topping. Such as maple syrup, almond butter, Apple sauce.
Or eat out of the bowl

For the raspberry mango sauce, heat the raspberries in a small saucepan then stir in the remainder (1/4 cup) of the mango puree

Pumpkin White Chocolate Oat Cake


1/2 cup rolled oat or quinoa flakes
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tbsp sugar
1 dash cinnamon
1 dash pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp vanilla
White chocolate chips  and coconut for garnish (optional)

Mix all ingredients except chocolate and coconut in a bowl, then divide into two 8oz prepared ramekin forms.
Microwave on high for 2 min 30 sec to 3 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge, inverted on a plate and decorate with white chocolate chips, cover with the just removed ramekin and allow heat to steam the chocolate until soft (you can also re-microwave for 30 seconds), serve with coconut, or your favorite topping.

Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Cranberry Oat Scones


Guess what I found in my freezer? Cranberries! …and I remember putting them in there too. At the very tail end of winter, they were on sale, and I can be such a sucker for sales when it involves things that can and will be eaten. As for those cranberries, well, apparently they did not. So since they endured summer somewhere in the recesses of my freezer, I decided it was time to finally turn them into something, well, more than just frozen cranberry taking up space in the freezer.

For those of us that enjoy an occasional baked treat, scones are the perfect marriage between sweet and substantial. These scones are just a touch sweet, and even though full of oats and other goodness, have a surprisingly light texture. Having made the discovery before that finding a good scone, isn’t as simple of  task as it seems. I remember the taste bud disappointment from biting into what I expected to be slightly crunchy on the outside and soft crumb in the center,  just to bite into a brick, a extra sweet brick 🙁 Not a fan, no can’t say. So with this recipe I made sure that would not happen. Try them still warm for breakfast or reheat in the toaster oven.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (sucanat, coconut sugar or turbinado/raw)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 7 tbsp butter, cold, cut into cubes
  • 2/3 cup + 2 tbsp rolled oats
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp milk (dairy or almond) or half & half
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp turbinado (raw) sugar for garnish


  1. Combine dry ingredients (flour through salt)
  2. Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry cutter or 2 knifes, or pulse in the blender until coarse meal forms
  3. Add 2/3 cup oats and stir to mix
  4. Add cranberries, then add the milk and vanilla
  5. The resulting dough is going to be quite sticky. Using a measuring cup, drop by the 1/4 cup onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, spacing about 2″ apart. (I made them in the 1/2 cup size before, but they get really big)
  6. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsp oats and 3 tbsp sugar
  7. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until skewer inserted from the side comes out clean

Makes about 12 scones, (or 6-7 big ones )


Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved