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.
(klick here for the recipe).
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.
This is an over-the-top salmon dish. Crespelle, an Italian pasta-like version of crepes, makes this a showpiece for a home-cooked meal. The Italians call it Cannelloni Ripieni di Salmone. With a name like this, you can’t go wrong. Crepes or cannelloni are filled with salmon, fennel, shallots, parmesan cheese, crème fraîche and basil. A lemony béchamel sauce puts it all together and creates a memorable meal to share with family and friends. Everything can be assembled ahead of time, which in my opinion is perfect for entertaining.
I found the recipe for the crestelIe in an old Gourmet magazine. I miss Gourmet! I think the crepes give the dish an elegant presentation and add flavor, but you can substitute fresh pasta made into cannoli. Although I have to say, I prefer the crepes.
First, I make the crepes and stack them between paper towels and cover everything with plastic wrap. The béchamel sauce can also be prepared ahead of time, but needs to be reheated before using and maybe thinned out a little. It will save you same time if you can have your fish monger skin the salmon and cut it into bite-sized pieces.
Spring is asparagus time and that is what I serve as a side dish. I cut off the woody ends and peel part of my asparagus. I massage them on a cookie sheet with some hazelnut oil (although regular olive oil is fine), sprinkle some salt and pepper on then bake it in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes according to size. I like my asparagus crunchy.
Fregolotta, an Italian giant cookie that is easy to make and the perfect ending for this special meal. Click here for the recipe.
I missed my last book club meeting because I was in Germany. As our next book, our group choose Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, an Australian prisoner who escapes and lives in the underworld of Bombay. It’s a 936-page epic novel about living in the slums, romantic love, prison agony, criminal wars, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas. It’s a huge novel that embraces every human experience imaginable, all framed by a love for India. It was an interesting but long read. I liked it.
It’s been over two weeks since I returned from Germany and there is no question that I have had writer’s block. I did not write while I was in Germany and now I am scrambling for words that will entertain you and tell you about my trip. I had a great time, despite having a nasty cough. Going to Germany means so many things to me. I connect with my family and friends, which is so important to me especially as I get older. There is also something personal for me by connecting with my German side: the culture, the behavior, and the way of life. When my mom still was alive. I was a participant. Now I have become more of an observer. I am more relaxed and don't have to intervene as often, other than helping my niece pick out her bridal gown, which was a lot of fun. (Click here to continue reading this post on my Wanderlust blog ).
Just in case you need another rhubarb recipe! Here is simple but delicious
Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp
Cecilia from The Kitchen Garden, a blog I have been following for years, asked us to post photos of where we work.
Most of my work is done in my kitchen where I do the cooking.
My little desk in my kitchen with some of my recipes and cookbooks
My dining- kitchen table, where I sometimes take photos.
My computer is right around the corner from my kitchen.
I saw the first strawberries at the farmer's market yesterday and some rhubarb in the store. This German Strawberry Rhubarb Meringue cake will make you happy. It is a light cake that brings out the flavors of the strawberries and rhubarb. Enjoy!
This one is a real crowd pleaser. Start any festivity with these savory salt-topped cheese puffs and sparkling wine. They also make a great snack that you can't stop eating.
According to Wikipedia a gougère, in French cuisine, is a baked savory choux pastry made of choux dough mixed with cheese. There are many variations. Gougères are said to come from Burgundy, particularly the town of Tonnerre in the Yonne department. In Burgundy, they are generally served cold when tasting wine in cellars, but are also served warm as an appetizer. Gougères can be made as small pastries, 3–4 cm in diameter; aperitif gougères; 10–12 cm, individual gougères, or in a ring. Sometimes they are filled with ingredients such as mushrooms, beef, or ham.
I never made either cream or savory puffs before. But my mom often made large cream puffs filled with sweet whipped cream for Sunday afternoons. She was very good at it and could make them in no time. She used the eggs from her chickens and fresh cream from her farm in Germany. Her cream puffs were large and filling. In Germany, people visit each other in the afternoon to have coffee and sweets. I don't know why I never made them myself and I only ate them when my mom made them. They are called Windbeutel in German, which means bags of wind. I like that name.
When I found this recipe for savory little puffs, I was ready to try them. This is another old recipe from Sunset magazine that was tacked away in my appetizer folder. They were my third appetizer for my book club meeting and everybody liked them. What made these puffs so tasty and good was the strongly flavored, aged cheddar I used and my crunchy sea salt crystals. These little treats are best eaten on the day they are baked. Freeze the rest on a flat sheet and then put them in an airtight container. I put mine in a ziplock plastic bag. If you keep them until the following day, zip them for a few seconds in the microwave. That is what I did with my leftovers. I have to say they are quite addictive.
In the meantime we had our second book club meeting. The Shoppenhauer Cure got mixed reviews. Some people liked it and some did not. We are now reading My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.
This finger food has it all—it is healthy and low in calories (160 calories for three). Sesame wonton cups filled with smoked salmon, ginger, green onions and avocados. A showpiece at any cocktail party or whenever you want to serve a delicious appetizers.
In my last post, I wrote about my roasted eggplant spread that I served for appetizers at our first book club meeting. I also wanted to add some yummy-tasting appetizers with a wow factor to our meeting. It was like magic. I transformed good old won ton wrappers into the cutest little cups by simply brushing some melted butter over them and arranging them in a mini muffin pan to bake in the oven. How easy is that—and makes a great presentation. The only trick is that you have to own a mini muffin pan. If you don’t, maybe your neighbor or friend has one you can borrow. I deserve no credit for this idea, but my passion for collecting recipes does. This little jewel was hiding in my appetizer folder. It came from an old Sunset magazine.
A healthy vegan spread that has a rich flavor and can be used as a dip, a sandwich spread, or added to pastas or salads. It is made in no time and will nourish your body with wholesome food for days.
My friend, Diane, and I decided to start a book club with some of our friends. At our first meeting at my house, we were off to a good start. Everyone enjoyed themselves and we talked about our personal relationship with books. Three of us (myself included) told stories about reading under the blankets with a flashlight when we were children. All of us love to read and admit that we often don't take the time to do so. Oh, those busy lives we live! As a hostess, I nominated three books and our group chose The Schopenhauer Cure by Irvin Yalon, a beautifully told tale about a psychotherapist who is diagnosed with a fatal disease. Knowing he has only one good year left, he is inspired to reexamine his life and work. He chooses to continue to work with his therapy group during this final year. He reconnects with one of his former patients, who is miraculously transformed by the teachings of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.
Schopenhauer lived an isolated life, without friends, wife, family, or colleagues. He was a troubled individual and a most peculiar man. Yet his work showed an extraordinary range of depth in his vision. Some philosophers argue that his work contains more interesting ideas than other famous philosophers. He advised to minimize our natural desires for the sake of achieving a more tranquil frame of mind. He was the first western philosopher to look to the east and the Buddhist teachings for guidance. The book is a moving debate about the end of life.
Let's not become too philosophical and return to one of my favorite snack. I like it because it makes me believe that I am eating healthy food, even though it tastes so rich and sinful.
I have made this tasty spread for years. My inspiration comes from Ina Garden's recipe. I have played with it and used it for different purposes. The originally recipe is for a dip. The spread is great with homemade or store-bought pita chips. But it also great as a vegetable added to quinoa or on a sandwich. I love to snack on it. I get hungry just thinking about it.
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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