My dear blogging friends from around the world, I want to thank you for connecting with me through my blog for the last seven years. It has been so much fun getting to know you and I appreciate how you motivate me to keep on going. While I sit at my computer, I think of you in your own individual spaces. These are lonely times, especially for older people like me. Because of COVID, we have to distance ourselves and can’t socialize the way we used to. That’s why this blog is so important to me, as it keeps me connected. Thank you!
This last month has been a very busy one for me, as my husband and I finally found a contractor whom we like and appreciates our unique home. After I broke my ankle in Budapest (and made it home safely), I realized that my bathroom situation needed a change. As I was unable to take a shower in my upstairs bathroom, I had to slide downstairs on my butt using my arms to push me up and down.
Upstairs, I had a beautiful tub-shower combination but I had to step over a 20-inch ledge to get in and out. Right now, the workers are building a shower that will enable us to stay in our home of 35 years a little longer. I also decided to give my well-used kitchen a facelift by putting in a new countertop and backsplash, as well as some other improvements like pull-out shelves in my lower cabinets. During this construction project, my husband and I have moved into our downstairs living quarters.
It is comfortable and cozy, but we only have a hot plate and a microwave to cook with. Sometimes in the evening, I can sneak upstairs and use my oven. Because of that, my cooking has been simple and there has been quite a bit of takeout food. My friends have also cooked for me, but we are at the age where we have to be careful not to catch this nasty virus. So, almost all of our get-togethers occur outside.
Let's talk about my beloved Rote Grütze, a typical German dessert from northern Germany. There you can buy it in jars in almost every grocery store. You cannot buy it here in the US, but that’s OK because it is super easy to make. It’s healthy and a perfect way to use all the fruit you have in your garden or the refrigerator. Traditionally, it is made with red currants and other berries. Here in California, red currants are seldom available, so I made mine with cherries, blackberries, blueberries and a few raspberries. Since the fruit is only heated and not cooked, it is crunchy and fresh. Rote Grütze translates into “red porridge.” It was traditionally made with semolina, but today potato or corn starch is being used to achieve a creamy to pudding-like consistence. Think of a jelly with fruit. Or a compote. I personally like it with my homemade vanilla sauce, because the sauce adds richness and flavor. However, some people eat it with yogurt or ice cream. There are cakes made with Rote Grütze in Germany and sometimes it is served over warm waffles. Why not serve it with pancakes? If you make this, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Last week at the farmer’s market I scored 2 baskets of red currents and I just had to make Rote Grütze again. It was divine. With the leftover red currents and other fruit I made my Rumtopf. The one I made last year was delicious with ice cream or just by itself , a potent little treat.
Here we are a little over two months of being confined to our homes trying to adjust to a new life. No, I can’t complain, I haven’t lost a loved one, I am retired, I can pay my bills, and I live in a beautiful area. I am trying to be positive and some days I am, but other days are difficult and depressing. It makes me sad to think of all the hardship that this pandemic has created and yes I miss my old life with all its privileges and perks. There is no running away from it, we are all affected. Enough of whining, I know there are people who are much worse off than I am.
So, how am I coping. I cook and cook and cook and when I don’t cook I watch youtube videos on cooking . My screen time is up exponentially. I read and I watch TV, although I am watching much less TV than in the beginning. My little garden gives me some pleasure. Sunshine makes me happy, but today it is raining. Every morning I make a plan but on the blah days I procrastinate and nothing gets done.
The other day I was fantasizing about sitting in a little German restaurant somewhere in the countryside enjoying a glass or two of wine and eating Flammkuchen (flame cake) with my friends. So, instead of looking at cheap flights or redeeming my miles I started to research Flammkuchen recipes. Flammmkuchen is a specialty from Alsace where it is called tart flambé. It is a crispy somewhat blackened very thin (1mm) and blistered crust that is traditionally topped with Crême Fraîche, Speck (smoked pork belly,) and thinly sliced onions, sprinkled with arugula. Today it is topped with anything imaginable . It is a favorite treat for the young crowd and often is the cheapest prized item on the menu.
Flammkuchen was used as a trial bake for bakers to test the communal wood-fired ovens to see if they were ready to bake bread and cakes. Every village (including mine) had a Backhaus (baking house) where once or twice a week the village women would bake their bread and cake. Think of this Flammmkuchen as a tart baked in flames, burned on the outside and crispy as a cracker
Researching Flammkuchen gave me a purpose and I dived right into it. It took away the edges of uncertainty and fear. I made several and my husband liked them. Once I made it for lunch on a sunny day, we sat on our deck with a glass of chardonnay and the living was good. I see this as a perfect cooking project for young teens, making the dough and choosing their toppings.
The dough is a mixture of flour, salt, water, and oil that needs to be mixed together and kneaded for at least 5 minutes or more until it becomes a smooth and shiny and can be rolled out to a very thin crust. Some recipes call for yeast but I choose one without it from a German YouTube channel called Thomas kocht . I tried several of his recipes and they are all good. Because there is no yeast in the dough it has to be be baked in a very hot oven preferable on a pizza stone that has been heated for an hour or a sheet pan that has been heated for 30 minutes . You are in Flammkuchen heaven if you have a pizza oven.
While sheltering in place I got adventurous in my cooking and geared into the realm of the unknown for me. I prepared some Asian dishes , some of them not so good but some of them ok. Once this is over I will probably go back to my favorite restaurants. I go shopping at my local farmer’s market and buy seasonal fruits and vegetables. I love asparagus and we have the freshest green asparagus available. Unfortunately we don’t have white asparagus like they have in Europe. My husband and I both love asparagus soup. It’s easy to make and so delicious . We have had it several times.
Here are some more asparagus recipes, click on the photo for the recipe
Living and cooking in Julia Child's former summer home in the hills of the Côte d'Azur near Cannes was a magical experience, a once in a life time opportunity in this beautiful corner of the world. It is something I will always cherish.
I hope you are all staying safe and well during these difficult times. I have been cooking a lot and hope to share soon some of my recipes. Virtual hugs to all of you.
Click here to continue to my Wanderlust blog.
I still have to pinch myself when I think that I spent a week in Julia Child’s home in Provence. It was a gift from the gods, an experience I still savor while the world is dealing with the corona crisis. For me it was the perfect vacation and I am so glad I went even though when I returned from France on March 15th things got nasty with the corona virus and and I made it out the day before France was shut down. This will be a two part post, part one will be my stay in Nice and part two about staying at La Pitchoune, Julia Child’s vacation home in France. Click here to continue with the story on my Wanderlust blog.
Here is a little secret, I never made bolognese sauce before, I never looked at a recipe for bolognese sauce but here I am, in the middle of the corona crisis. I am quarantined and trips to the store to get necessary ingredients are not an option.
However, I am well stocked and as I enjoy my morning coffee I think of the ingredients that are available to me to make bolognese sauce. I pull the vegetables out of the fridge and select some that need to be used pretty soon. I find a handful of shiitake mushrooms, a beautiful looking fennel bulb and some garlic. Beside the onion, carrots, celery, zucchini I find some very tired mini peppers in the back of my refrigerator. There are a few leftover shiitake mushrooms from last weeks barley soup. Then I remember my Italian friend telling me that she uses two different kinds of meat when making her bolognese. I use some pieces of prosciutto and the leftover meat from last night’s short ribs. I have some overripe tomatoes that are not good for anything else and pull out a can of tomato sauce. That should do it.
But let’s not forget the pasta. I was given several boxes of dried pasta from an on-line store in Virginia. The pasta was outstanding and I will order some more. We had two delicious dinners, slurping the pasta being coated by the rich sauce. I served my lemon caesar salad with it and a nice glass of wine.
These days I have only one tester, my husband . He can be a picky eater, he doesn’t like vegetables and could live on steak and potatoes for the rest of his life. I love sneaking in some vegetables and this is a good way. Of course you could substitute different vegetables and use different meat like leftover pot roast or beef stew. Or, leave out the meat entirely and make a vegan sauce. The possibilities are endless.
My lemon trees in my tiny little yard are my treasures. I love their aroma and love their flavor. Every year I try to write a new post on my blog with a new lemon recipe. I remember the year all my lemons were stolen . It was so sad. This year I had a bumper crop that I shared with friends near and far. I sent off some boxes to friends on the east coast. I don’t mind sharing as long as they are a few left for me.
I asked for new lemon recipes on a Facebook site I belong to and the response was amazing. I got over three hundred responses with a lot of wonderful new recipes. Thank you to all of you. I will share two new recipes here and save the Facebook post so I can try some amazing looking recipes later. I am a little pressed for time because I am leaving for a trip to France in two days where I will cook my heart out in a very special kitchen. If all goes well I will tell you about it later.
I made Limoncello and lemon curd. The curd is delicious and easy to make if you have a Vitamix. This is the first time I made limoncello and after reading more about it I don’t think that it is authentic, but again it was easy to make and I had a little taste today. Not Bad! I also made 6 jars of preserved lemons. I must say I had a production going and loved it because I was in my element. Click here for the lemon curd and the limoncello recipes.
Preserved lemons capture the heavenly perfume of the lemon and excite your palate. It brings out the best in my avocado toast and many other dishes.
Click here for the recipe.
This is a nutty, chewy , nor-too-sweet cake which is made with whole lemons and ground almonds. Click here for the recipe
You want a melt in your mouth lemony dessert, try my German lemon mousse or Zitronenspeise as we call it in Germany.
Click here for the recipe
This tart lemon sorbet made with buttermilk has been an old friend of mine for years.
Click here for the recipe.
Perfect for an afternoon snack, this simple lemon tea bread is compact and infused with lemon juice.
Click here for the recipe
A delicious lemon pudding cake that is light and makes a great ending to any meal. The recipe comes from the Greens Restaurant in Fort Mason in San Fransisco.
Click here for the recipe
You have all heard of the famous German cake called Black Forest Cake, a chocolate cake filled with cherries and whipped cream. In Germany it is called Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. I had my share of it when I lived in Germany. My godmother, who was an excellent baker, made an awesome one. Somewhere I have her recipe, I think! But in the meantime and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I found a much easier German recipe for chocolate mousse with cherries. How good is that? You can whip this up in no time and end up with a memorable delight.
This is not a sweet dessert, it has no added sugar and it is made with a few ingredients that I got at Trader Joe’s. It needs some good chocolate, heavy cream, frozen cherries, cherry marmalade and Kirsch liquor or Kirschwasser as we call it in Germany.
I upped the ante by adding some fruit from my Rumtopf, which turned it into an adult dessert for my book club meeting. Remember my Rumptopf I made last summer by preserving fresh fruit in rum. I was a great success, we enjoyed it over the holidays and I gave some jars to my friends. Next year I am making it again when cherries are in season. Cherries were my favorite fruit in the Rumtopf.
Let’s get back to my mousse that I am leisurely nibbling on while writing this post. Like I said before, it is not sweet but it is rich and chocolatey. The cherries with their sauce add a fruity crunch to the mousse. A little bit of this dessert will go a long way. If you make this I hope you enjoy it as much I did.
For my book club dinner I made my Italian crespelle (crepes) stuffed with fennel and salmon in a white lemony sauce. Life is good when I am in the kitchen.
It’s the end of January 2020—a new year and a new decade. I never thought I would make it this far. But here I am, thankful for being able to walk again and living in this beautiful area called Monterey Bay. There are so many wonderful things to do and to see, the endless Pacific Ocean, the mountains with their valleys and so much more. I have lived here for over 30 years and I haven’t seen everything—even though I have tried. I always look for new inspiration and new things to do and eat. A free magazine called edible Monterey helps me find new ventures in food. That’s where I found a new soup recipe using celeriac root, one of my favorite winter vegetable.
This soup is very similar to my creamy vegetable soup, called Krabbensuppe from the city of Hamburg, Germany. While my German version has different vegetables in the soup to complement the tiny shrimp from that part of the world. The celeriac soup in edible Monterey has apples, onions and celeriac root, seasoned with a hint of masala.
The soup by itself is delicious. I had some leftover for breakfast. But to bring it to the next level, add fresh Dungeness crab meat sautéed in browned butter. It makes it an elegant and special dish for any occasion. When I made it, I served it with crab cakes on a salad with citrus dressing. It was one of the first meals I cooked for my husband after I recovered. To all my friends who don’t have Dungeness crab available, I think lobster or shrimp would be great, maybe even scallops. It would make a special Valentine’s Day dinner.
Here are some other celeriac root recipes.
This ginger shrimp celeriac root salad makes makes a great lunch or light dinner
A creamy vegetable soup made with carrots, celeriac root, leeks and potatoes and topped with bay shrimp. In Germany this soup is called Krabbensuppe . Krabben are tiny shrimp from the Nordsee. I make this soup all the time and everybody loves it.
Its been a while since I posted and I do apologize. After breaking my ankle in Budapest, my spunk and motivation left me. During my recovery, I was entertained by your blogs and reading them helped me a great deal. Speaking of recovery, I am walking again and I am thankful for every tiny step I take. The last part of my recovery seems to be the hardest, as I am impatient by nature and eager to move on. But I can’t. I have to take it easy, because if I don’t, I am back in bed with my foot elevated, watching Netflix or YouTube. I also had some emotional issues to deal with, like a post-dramatic depression, upon realizing the danger I had been in and its possible consequences.
But it is a new year, a new decade, and with it comes new beginnings. I am ready to move on. I am starting to cook again and I am enjoying it. I had planned to make a goose for the holidays, but instead my dear friend and neighbor, Susanne, invited me for Christmas dinner. She made her famous Rouladen (stuffed rolled beef), a German tradition for the holidays. I was in culinary heaven.
I have wanted to make homemade potato dumplings for years, but have always opted for the pre-made packaged ones. The one time I tried, when I prepared a goose years ago, it turned into an inedible potato soup. So this year, it was a project I wanted to tackle, so I started to watch German YouTube videos and tried one recipe. I didn’t like them—honestly the pre-packed ones made by Pfanni were better. But I didn’t give up. My girlfriend, Monika, from Germany makes them every year with her goose for Christmas. She uses a recipe from an old German cookbook from Schlesien (or Silesia) that is now in southwestern Poland. Both she and her husband came from this region. I love the quote in the cookbook saying that a Sunday dinner without dumplings is like a sky without stars. They were served with every roast, cooked cabbage or any other vegetable. In the cookbook, they are described as an easy-to-make recipe, but there are tricks to follow to avoid the dumplings falling apart or being hard as a rock.
I made them twice now and both times they got the approval from my friend, Susanne. Each region in Europe has their own version of potato dumplings. The Bavarian ones are made with half-raw and half-cooked potatoes. Leftover dumplings are perfect sliced and then fried in butter, the ultimate German comfort food. When making the dumplings, you can stuff them with small croutons. I think they need some kind of sauce to be truly enjoyed—like a mushroom sauce or gravy from a roast. I don’t have any photos of our Christmas dinner, but a week later, I served my second batch of potato dumplings with some of my friend’s leftover beef brisket from Hanukkah.
It has been almost eight weeks since my accident, and I am not allowed to walk without my boot and crutches. One of my ankle bones has not healed yet. My doctor told me to write the alphabet with my foot as many times as I can to regain mobility. I can now do it in cursive and in block print. I have learned a lot during these last eight weeks, especially to be patient and resourceful. I also learned to be very careful and take care of my body. Being so physically dependent, I am thankful for my husband’s and son’s loving care. Most of all, it has been a humbling experience, and a lesson about how fragile life can be.
I have been cooking very little these days. I have eaten a lot of salads, rotisserie chicken and food brought by friends and neighbors. Once I am allowed to walk, I will start cooking again. I can’t wait.
A couple days ago, I was looking at a chicken carcass. I hate to waste good food. For years, I’ve made my own chicken and vegetable stock, and never make it the same way. Sometimes I buy chicken legs or a whole chicken, but most of the time I just use the chicken or turkey carcass, leftover vegetable scraps from the freezer or veggies that have seen better days. Whenever I use leeks, I freeze the part that I don’t use which are the dark green leaves. I wash the leaves and put them in a bag. Mushrooms stems give the stock a great Unami flavor. Ginger and garlic add more flavor. I add a couple of carrots, a couple of celery stalks with the leaves, and a whole onion cut into half (leaving the skin on). Some cooks blacken the cut side of the onions in a frying pan to add color, but I don’t. I put all these ingredients in a large cast iron pot and cover them with cold water. When the water boils, I add 1 teaspoon of salt, some pepper, and garlic salt. I always add a couple of bay leaves. So, you see I really don’t have a specific recipe. Click here for some general guidelines:
Here are two fo my favorite soup recipe. My wonton and my veggie shrimp soup are perfect for cooler days, a reprieve from the heavy holiday food.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means a lot to me and I would love to hear from you .
Comments in English and German are welcome!
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