It's fall and I should be posting my pear tart recipe. Instead, I bought three beautiful baskets of delicious strawberries from my friend Ronald at the local farmer's market. They are so good that we ate half of them while listening to music during our weekly get-together at the market. Each Sunday when I am in town, I meet with some friends over lunch with at the market. It has become a lovely and relaxing Sunday ritual that I really enjoy.
The strawberries from Ronald are sweet with an earthy flavor. They are good just by themselves, but I thought I fancy them up a little with vanilla sauce. It is a simple and straightforward recipe, yet so delicious – and a healthy ending to any meal. My husband decided to grill a steak since the temperature reached over 90 degrees here on the Pacific coast. After a foggy and cold summer, this was a welcome respite.
Vanilla sauce brings back memories from my childhood days. Almost every Sunday, we would have pudding for our Sunday lunch (which was dinner served at noon). We ate bread and spreads in the evening and called it Abenbrot, which literally means “the bread for the evening.” Our favorite pudding was Götterspeise (translates as “the meal of the gods”) known as Jello here in the US. Jello is also called Wackelpudding, meaning that the pudding will wobble when touched or moved. Another favorite dessert of mine is rote Grütze (red fruit Jello). My mom always would serve these puddings with vanilla sauce. I apologize for boring you with all of of this, but trust me, I have not thought of them for years. Maybe that’s why I like blogging, because it brings back so many memories. My sweet dad loved these puddings. He has been gone for so long, but I believe that chocolate pudding with vanilla sauce was his favorite. He was such a sweet and kind man.
Back to the sauce! It is light, healthy, easy to make with a velvety texture and creamy flavor. It will elevate any fresh fruit– strawberries, raspberries or simple puddings–to another level. You can make it in no time and be creative by serving a cookie on the side, some ice cream or whatever tickles your fancy. This time, I just sliced the strawberries and added some of the sauce. Enjoy!
Just in case you are longing for some apple or pear cakes, here is my well loved apple strudel cake, as well as a delicious chunky pear nut cake flavored with spices and juicy pears. Click on the picture to get the recipe.
New York to me is quintessentially American. It is a vibrant city with many different cultures, life styles, and a rhythm of its own. As far as I can tell, there is nothing like it on our planet. Some people call it the Big Apple or the City that Never Sleeps. It has many different names and means different things for different people. We all have seen movies that have shown us the city like King Kong climbing the Empire State Building. My very favorite movie is "When Harry Met Sally" and Meg Ryan is moaning in Katz’s Deli. My claim to fame is seeing Robert De Niro in the River Cafe under the Brooklyn Bridge 14 years ago.
I spent six beautiful days in New York, exploring the city. I ate, I walked and I ate again. Find out about my adventure on my Wanderlust blog, Click here .
Ruth Reichl, the former editor of Gourmet magazine and a native New Yorker, posted a recipe of the oyster stew served at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant in New York on her blog. We had lunch there on my last day in New York. Click here for the recipe.
Perfect for Picnics & Parties
This potato salad is one of my favorite recipes—I created every bite of it myself. So, if you don't like it, you have only me to blame. I have used this recipe for decades, and it’s perfect for picnics, large parties or any small gathering. There is no mayonnaise, so it won't go bad if left out on the table for awhile. When I have a large summer party, I usually make this salad (or my Chinese noodle salad), both go well with salmon, chicken or any other protein. It makes a stunning presentation.
This salad has several components. I use small white potatoes that I steam, and then add some steamed green beens and radishes. Pickled onions or pickled carrots are delicious as well. You can let your imagination and taste buds run wild. Shortly before serving, I arrange everything on a large bed of mixed lettuce. Many moons ago, when I was snooping around kitchens in Germany, a farm woman told me to slowly heat up the vinaigrette—and that's what I've been doing ever since.
If you make this, I hope you enjoy it as much as my friends and family have.
This delicious light and fruity cake is easy to make. It makes a great snack or breakfast. One could call it a coffee cake. You will find it in every German bakery or household using a variety of different fruits. I’ve used blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, and plums. However, my favorite for this cake are gooseberries mixed with red currants. I love the tartness of these fruits from the northern hemisphere. Unfortunately, they do not grow here in northern California. I have tried to grow them many times, but without success, as they need frost in the winter. .
It all started when my blogging friend, Suzanne, from apuginthekitchen had bought some gooseberries and red currants at the farmer’s market and asked if anybody knew what to do with them. Instant childhood memories came to mind of stuffing myself with gooseberries fresh from the bushes as they ripened. I remember spitting out the tough skin while enjoying the soft creamy inside filled with seeds. My mom used to can them so that in the cold winter we could eat them as compote with vanilla sauce for our Sunday lunch. Sunday lunches were warm meals (more elaborate than weekday meals) and there was always dessert. My family would also bake large sheet cakes or Blechkuchen as they are known in Germany. These cakes could be as simple as a yeast cake dotted with butter and sprinkled with sugar, which is called Zuckerkuchen (sugar cake). Or the cake could have fruit with custard added as a topping. Another favorite sheet cake of mine is Schmandkuchen (sour cream cake), a yeast cake topped with a rich custard and raisins. Today, whenever I’m in Germany these simple cakes are some of my favorites.
Let’s get back to my sheet cake. I cut the recipe in half, which still makes enough for 9 generous pieces. I used a mixture of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. I am going to try plums next time. If I use plums, I will add some cinnamon too. With the second cake, I substituted spelt flour for the regular flour and ¼ cup coconut sugar for the regular sugar. This version of my cake was dense and lacked the lightness of the other cake. I think my cake tasters were polite when they said they liked it. I prefer the regular recipe served with whipped cream or ice cream.
If you like butter you will like this buttery almond sheet cake I posted earlier.
It has been three years since I started my two blogs. I had no knowledge nor any experience when it came to blogging. With the help of some friends I was able to get started. I have enjoyed the process of embarking on something new where I could share my love of cooking and traveling with others. At the beginning I spent a lot of time in Germany taking care of my ailing mother. Blogging enabled me to have something else to do. I quickly connected with other bloggers around the world who had similar interests and I enjoyed reading their stories. The connections I have made are very important to me. They have become part of my life . The blogging community feels like an extended family to me.
I also wanted to organize my recipes to make them more accessible to my friends and myself. In my Wanderlust blog I share trips and experiences I have encountered. Overall, my blog has provided me with a creative outlet that connects me with people from around the world. I find it fascinating. I am thrilled with the surprising number of people who visit my blog. Thanks to all of you for showing an interest and connecting with me. It is greatly appreciated and I am thankful for the comments and encouragement. You have enriched my life. Hopefully, I can provide you with some interesting and delicious tidbits of life, traveling, and cooking.
Here are some of my posts from the last three years. Click on the picture for the recipe.
Tell me which are your favorites?
Every wedding is special for the ones involved and etched into our memory forever. This was a special one for me because it involved my niece, who has been like a daughter to me from the day she was born. Since I was unable to have children of my own, her birth was the only one I was able to participate in. My son was six years old when I adopted him.
After living with her boyfriend for seven years, my niece toyed with the idea of getting married in a chapel in Las Vegas, but no papers were ever filed. Then last year, they had a sweet spiritual commitment ceremony on the French Atlantic coast while camping with some friends, her brother and his family. This year, they finally decided to do the real thing with a church wedding at our family farm in Germany on a Friday, followed by a huge summer party Saturday with more people and more friends. It was definitely an event that my niece had planned for months which took an enormous amount of effort. First, it was going to be a small wedding with family and some friends, followed by the annual summer party that my nephew, niece and friends have every year. As time went on, things got bigger and bigger like weddings often do.
After everything was said and done, it was the most genuine and sweetest weddings I have ever been to (of course I am biased). When I saw my niece dancing with her friends on the stage very late at night, I knew that she was happy.
Literally, it took a village, complete with friends and family to make it all happen, but she made all the decisions. A huge tent was rented in case of rain. And it did. Two smaller tents were put up. A stage and a large play area was built for the children. Most of the work was done by friends who arrived days ahead and camped on the property or slept in the emptied-out garden shacks. My son arrived early with my niece and about 12 friends. These guys worked tirelessly until the moment they left. My niece’s best friend, Corinna, was amazing—she cooked for all the people and was the best personal assistant I have ever seen. Dominik , the best man, was working very hard in the yard and making sure that the groom had a helping hand. Guest came from Austria, Colombia, Venezuela, Nepal, and let's not forget California.
We old folks decided to stay in a hotel in a nearby small town. The groom’s mother transported some beautiful but very fragile wildflowers from home. The woman in the neighboring village made a huge wedding wreath. It is tradition in this village to make one for every wedding. What a wonderful local custom. My niece wanted to be married there rather than in her home village two kilometers away.
In the truest sense, it was a dramatic event. Mother Nature added a violent thunderstorm a half hour before the wedding. The boys had to get undressed and rescue one of the tents. The decorations from the stage flew all over the farm. Getting to the church was a task not easily done, due to high wind and rain. The church bells rang for awhile. But all was forgotten as my my niece and the groom walked together down the aisle lead by the pastor, which was something they had decided ahead of time. They had lived together for seven years and had been separated by my niece's internship in Melbourne, Australia for a year. And a life-threatening illness had brought them even closer. There were tears of happiness flowing in the little church.
The thunderstorm was over after the church and all was well. Some farmers decorated a trailer to transport the couple back to the farm. Some other guests were in a second trailer pulled by a tractor. I loved it.
The reception party following the ceremony was fun and we danced way into the night. Everybody had fun.
The next day, the annual summer party took place. It was a potluck event so people brought salads and my brother's friend barbecued sausages and meat. Unfortunately, it rained, so everything took place in the tents. The following day everybody helped clean up and
the wedding weekend was over. Weddings in Germany are as different as they are here in the States—from very formal to a small gathering at the justice of peace.
I used my own photos except for the the first two. I will add or replace some photos later.
I ask the bride and the groom to choose their favorite food from my blog for this post. The bride likes my duck confit quesadillas and the groom my chocolate tart.
I get up very early these days since I am recovering from jet lag. I love the early hours because they are quiet and peaceful and I have them all to myself. What a treat! It takes awhile for me to adjust and get back into the groove.
Do you remember when I wrote about packing light? Well, I didn't this time. Whenever we have a car, we seem to overdo it. We took a lot of stuff to the village for the wedding: gifts, dresses and shoes just for the wedding. What can I say? My grand nephew really liked his Hawaiian shirt and the flip flops were also a hit. Originally we had planned on returning with an empty canvas bag. However, both my husband and I managed to fill it up. My husband bought a gargoyle at a garden show in our little town where we stayed for my niece’s wedding. I managed to fill up the rest of the bag.
Continue to read about my trip on my
Wanderlust Blog ( klick here)
Cooking helps me to reconnect and what is better than a good breakfast.
These banana pancakes might do the job ( klick here for the recipe ).
These crustless little mini-quiches or muffins also make a great breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They are filled with vegetables and even taste good cold
(klick here for the recipe).
An ode to dumplings and apricots, a special treat
These dumplings are delicious leftovers from the old Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Bohemia and Moravia (today’s Czech Republic). In Austria, apricots are called Marillen, hence the name. The savory curd dough is stuffed with an apricot, cooked and then rolled in breadcrumbs that are roasted in butter. They can be a stand-alone meal or a dessert.
I make apricot dumplings once or twice every year when apricots are in season. They are a culinary dumpling delight. Think of a Chinese (or any other dumpling) filled with shrimp or meat and now take away the savory stuffing and add apricots instead. What you will get is a taste like no other dish, a sensation of flavors that makes you want more and more. I’ve been wanting to post this recipe for a couple of years. This year, I made them for dessert after a light meal. I kept some dough for the following day so that I could take some photos. I was in heaven, eating them all day long. Marillen Knödel (apricot dumplings) are said to be the favorite dessert of the Austrian composer, Gustav Mahler. I enjoy his music and I enjoy the dumplings.
There are different kinds of dough. I watched some Austrian “youtube” videos about all the various kinds. Boy, do I have a difficult time understanding the Austrian-German dialect. I decided to use a recipe from Delicious Days and the Wednesday Chef. To make these dumplings, you have to have quark, a German soft cheese made from soured milk. Wikipedia explains it quite well. For Santa Cruz locals, you can find quark at Shopper’s Corner. Sometimes I buy mine in Oakdale, a Central Valley town in California. This is a town you will drive through if you go to Yosemite, a great spot to stop for a break for kids and dogs and picnics. They have the best aged cumin gouda cheese ever—and they have quark. They sell their cheeses at quite a few northern California farmer’s markets.Check their website here.
Quark freezes well. Almost every morning, I have toast with quark and jam. Years ago, I bought a yogurt maker that also makes quark . My machine is a Salton Quark Maker . It turns buttermilk into quark. For this recipe, you have to drain the quark in a fine sieve to turn it into Austrian Tropfen, a firmer version of quark.
Enough of quark and back to the dumplings. I recommend you make these if you like to experiment with cooking. They are so different from the food I usually eat. Dumplings can be tricky, but with a little bit of practice, you will be richly rewarded
We finished reading The Goldfinch for our book club. All of us agreed that the writing was superb and the story was interesting. Art was woven throughout the story. Everybody in the bookclub liked some part of the book. My friend, Virginia, says that the book is a great escape from awkward and boring situations, spiced heavily with decadence, but quite philosophical in the end. My girlfriend, Marie, had recommended it, which is no surprise since she is an accomplished watercolor artist herself. Here is her website. We chose two books for our next read, one of them being Elizabeth Huxley’s The Flame Trees of Thika and Zero K by Don DeLillo. This will give me something to read on my upcoming flight to Germany. I am also reading the last of the four books of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante.
Whenever I pass by a chocolaterie or candy store, I admire the chocolate-covered fruits that they sell and usually end up buying some. I love them all—apricots, oranges, and my favorite chocolate-covered strawberries. When I saw Roland’s strawberries at the farmer’s market an idea was born. Why not make my own? It couldn't be that difficult. And guess what, it is not.
You just have to get the right chocolate. I tried making them with chocolate chips mixed with bittersweet chocolate, but the chocolate looked horrible and I didn't care for the taste. After several tries, I came up with a satisfying solution. I love orange-flavored chocolate in my baking and that’s what I used this time. Mine do not look like the super fancy ones you get in the store and pay $3 each. Mine have more of a shabby chic look made by some clumsy adult (which happens to be me). This would be a great fun summer project to lure your children into the kitchen. And it’s finger-licking fun. I once made chocolate-covered pretzels with children and it was a real hit. We ended up with some chocolate-coved faces as well.
In two weeks, I will be going to Germany again to attend my niece’s wedding, which will be on our family farm. This will be very special occasion for me and I can’t wait. If my niece and her soon-to-be husband don't mind, I will do a special post about German country weddings
I love to travel. Most of my trips are to Europe because that’s where my roots and my family are. Several times I had to get ready within hours, because my mom was so very ill and needed me. (Click here to read about one of those trips.) In the old days, I would have a suitcase full of gifts for my mom’s caretakers and my grand nephews. I don't even want to think of how many pounds of California almonds I brought to Germany over the years.
I no longer do that now, as I try to travel light. Since I often go by myself, I have to be able to carry my suitcase and anything else. I often get help, but I can’t rely on it. I take two small suitcases, one as a carry-on and the other to check through. I buy lightweight suitcases, and my carry-on weighs six pounds when it’s empty. All my suitcases have four spinning wheels.
I put all my electrical devices in the carry-on: iPad, computer, camera, chargers and converters. I always carry some extra clothes, a scarf, an extra pair of glasses, a small cosmetic bag that holds enough stuff to keep me going if my other suitcase gets lost. Various airlines have lost my luggage several times.
Ziplock bags are a life saver and I always have extras. When it comes to shoes, I always go for comfort. Sneakers are “in” in Europe and I always bring a pair that I wear it most of the time. A rain jacket is a must because the weather can change in an instant. I love scarves, as they dress up any plain outfit. I take only the jewelry that I have on me and when I travel to third-world countries, I take all jewelry off. Never take anything you can’t afford to lose. But I always take my own special little pillow
When I start packing, I put a bag in my bedroom and whenever I think of something, I throw it in. My husband makes a list and then packs. He also packs very light. I am so excited that I can barely contain myself. This is going to be a very special trip.
Let's have a toast to the happy couple with this refreshing strawberry punch.
(click for the recipe here)
Pretend your are in a fancy, expensive spa and imagine being pampered with a delicious meal. I have been making this recipe for my health conscious friends for years using different types of fish. The butternut coulis and mushrooms are vegan and are very low in calories. For fish I have used whatever is available and fresh. Red snapper or cod are good choices. For this occasion I roasted some asparagus as an additional vegetable. This meal serves four with some leftover coulis.
I live in Santa Cruz where over half the population is vegetarian and some folks are vegan. This is the perfect dish because they don't have to eat the fish and all I have to do is substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth. The coulis can be turned into a delicious healthy soup by adding additional broth. Last Saturday I invited some friends who were in a middle of a health crisis and needed a comforting and healthy meal. This one fits the bill. A good meal will let you forget about the problems and fears you are facing and enjoy the moment. For an appetizer, I served my baked goat cheese with fresh herbs and garlic. We sat outside enjoying the warm evening, dipping fresh baguette in our goat cheese and sipping a glass of 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Hewitt Vineyard which my friends had brought.
The meal was a great success. The halibut was a little overdone, so watch the time when you roast it. My friend’s immune system would not allow any uncooked fish. This is one dish I always plate before serving. I am sorry about the quality of the photos, it does not reflect the food. I have tried to photograph this several times before but what can I say?… I am a slow learner and I am not devoting much time to improving my photography skills. It shows! My dream is to take a workshop somewhere in Europe where I might improve my photography skills.
I had some fresh raspberries and blueberries in my refrigerator . For dessert I decided to make my favorite galette. Okay, this is where I chose not be too healthy and got some bitter caramel ice-cream from the Penny Ice-Cream Shop in Santa Cruz. These guys make the absolutely best ice cream ever. I loooooove the bitter caramel and yes, I know that vanilla ice-cream probably would go better with the galette. But I couldn't help myself. If you are ever in Santa Cruz and before you hit the beach, treat yourself to ice cream from this wonderful creamery. It is worth every bite.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means a lot to me and I love to hear from you .
Comments in English and German are welcome!
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