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.
Traveling is a wonderful way to enrich your life but there are inherent dangers that we all hope won’t happen to us. After half a century of traveling, I had an accident. My husband and I planned a 10-day trip to Europe, visiting Vienna and a long weekend in Budapest. Vienna was gorgeous, and hopefully I will write a blog post about it. We took the train to Budapest for a long weekend, planning to return to Vienna Monday and fly home Tuesday.
On Sunday afternoon, after spending some delightful hours in a large thermal bath, we were looking for a taxi in the park. I saw a taxi and turned around on a small incline—and the next thing I knew I was on the ground and heard a loud crack in my left ankle. My left foot was turned the wrong way and I knew something bad had happened. A kind soul called an ambulance and a woman who spoke English called our hotel. The ambulance picked me up, the EMT didn’t speak English and I was transported to the Budapest Trauma Center.
In the admission room, some guys took me and grabbed my foot to set it. I screamed bloody murder, then somebody stuck me with a needle to take some blood and insert an IV in my hand. Nobody asked my permission, because nobody spoke English. It was like a pre-war movie. I was in shock, my husband and the most wonderful concierge from the Ritz Carlton spent four hours doing all the paperwork.
While lying on a gurney for four hours, I made calls to Germany, the US, and Switzerland. I didn’t think I had an option because I had a complicated break that needed an operation immediately. I was rolled into a room with five female patients who lay undressed, covered only with a sheet. (The hospital does not provide gowns.) I was snarled at by the staff, and my husband was not allowed in the room. The surgeon came in saying that he would perform the surgery the same night or the next day. When I asked him how many of these operations he had done, he told me that I had insulted him by asking the question. The anesthesiologist was a kind and gentle woman who stayed with me throughout the operation late Sunday night. She looked so tired. After my operation in a very antiquated operating room, I was rolled to what I thought was a private room, because I spent the night by myself with a kind nurse who gave me an extra pillow and asked if I wanted a blanket. The next morning, two other patients were rolled in, when I realized it was not a private room. My husband came as soon as possible, bringing water, juice and something to eat that the hotel had packed for me. In Hungary, the family of the patients provide the towels, cups and everything else you need. The staff is totally overworked and earns very little money. Most of them are unfriendly and don’t speak English or German. The surgeon told me that I was going to be released on Wednesday and I could fly home that day. He never checked my wound and disappeared and I never saw him again. But I am thankful for his skills, because my doctor here in Santa Cruz told me he did a pretty good job. Most important, he had written a sentence in my report that allowed my return flight home.
There was no wifi in the hospital, I called all my friends in Europe who offered to pick me up and drive me to Switzerland, Austria or Germany, but I thought it was best for me to go straight home. My husband went back to the hotel and booked a new flight, canceling all the old reservations. The hotel staff helped him. I was on the phone all day, calling my doctors, friends and anybody else who I thought could help. I spent another horrible night at the hospital, and checked myself out the next morning after my bandages were changed and the drainage taken out.
I can tell you I was so happy when I reached the Ritz and the entire staff, including the manager, greeted me. The hotel extended our room for an additional three nights and provided me with a wheelchair. It was like I had entered heaven after being in hell. I will never forget the kindness and the generosity that the Ritz-Carlton in Budapest gave us. It was phenomenal. They provided us with food, drinks, comfort and taxis anytime my husband needed one. One of their employees took us to the airport counter, where the airline personnel asked for a document from my doctor saying I was "fit to fly." And here is one of the reasons why I am writing this post, my dear readers. If you ever intend to board a plane with some obvious handicap, you need to have a doctor’s note saying you are FIT TO FLY.
The 2 flights lasting 14 hours were fine. My husband booked a business class seat that enabled me to raise my legs. The flight attendant brought ice for my ankle. Thank you, United Airlines. I was transported by a special wheelchair that fit the aisle of the airplane and a regular wheelchair for the airport.
I arrived on Thursday and ended up going to the Stanford emergency room where I waited for five hours before somebody changed my bandages. It was a total waste of time and we were totally exhausted, especially my poor husband. The next morning, we saw a wonderful doctor here in town who is now taking care of me. He said my operation was good, so now I am in a cast hopping around on one leg.
I haven’t cooked. Friends are bringing dinner and my husband is barbecuing. So sorry, there's no new recipe, but I am sharing some photos from Budapest on my Wanderlust blog.
Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner click here for recipes that are helpful to you for the upcoming feast.
When I see plums I always think of the Italian prune plum tree we had at our farm in Germany where these plums are called Zwetschgen. When the fruit ripened in mid September we would make Zwetschgenmus (plum jam) and everybody baked Zwetschgenkuchen on large trays. They dough was usually a yeast dough with different toppings for the plums. My favorite was a custard topping which is called Schmandkuchen. One day I would like to bake it in my village and get advice from all those old cooks and bakery friends. In the meantime I found this wonderful recipe on YouTube that is easy to make and all my American friends liked it. The shortbread dough is used for the crust and the streusel.
The Zwetsche , a European plum ( Prunus domestica) has many different names, in France it is called quetsche, here in the US they are called Italian Prune Plums and sometime Empress Plums. These plums are small and dense with purple skin, easy to pit (freestone pits) and have yellow flesh. There is something magical that happens to this egg shaped, somewhat bland tasting Italian plum when you bake it, it becomes a sweet gooey delight, in cakes, in jams, and dumplings. As was the case with my cake.
I am writing this while eating small slivers of this tasty treat. My doctor tells me to stay away from sweets and I do most of the time but there are times when these rules don’t apply. This cake brings back memories from my childhood in Germany, where Zwetschgenkuchen was a seasonal treat . My mother liked the simple version, adding plums with a little bit of sugar to a sheet yeast cake. Sometimes she splurged and put a custard on top of the cake. I remember stuffing myself and being told to share. My friend, aunt Frieda, that lived on the next farm made the best sheet cakes ever in a wooden pizza oven where she also baked her bread. I would sit on her wood box watching her cook. Oh, those childhood memories.
Some more of my recipes using plums. The plum jam is tart but full of flavor. It's baked in the oven so you don't have to sweat over a hot stove and there is no stirring. Click on the photos below for the recipe.
Here is the link to the YouTube video where I found this recipe. It's in German but Thomas speaks very slowly and it is fun to watch him make the tart. I think this would be a great project for young cooks.
One of the reasons I write my blog is to share my love of cooking and experimenting with different foods. There are so many recipes hidden away in my folders, magazines and books. And there is so much food I buy because it looks so good, as was the case when I ended up with an abundance of fresh berries and cherries. I used the freshest fruits for my Rumtopf and the rest of the berries to make a quick jar of jam, using only one tablespoon of honey as a sweetener. It is good and I have been eating it for the last three weeks. My favorite is to put it on a cracker with peanut butter for a quick snack.
It’s also great on my morning yogurt. This is the perfect recipe for making your first jam. I realize cherry season is over but with this recipe you can use other seasonal fruit. It’s easy and doesn’t take much time and effort. I found the recipe in a magazine called Real Simple that I enjoy reading. A little warning that this is not a sweet jam; it is more of a spread on the tart side. The original recipe called for chia seeds and I added them, but I made my second batch without them and I like that better. I like the crunchiness of the chia seeds, but one could easily mistake them for blackberry or raspberry seeds.
Here are some recipes for some of the marmalades and jams I have made in previous years. Plums are in season right now and my Zwetschgenmus (spiced plum jam) is a real treat, as are my other jams.
Yum, yum, it’s soaked in rum! If you are looking for an easy way to preserve the taste of summer for a cold winter night, look no further. Make an old-fashioned rum pot with the tastiest strawberries, cherries, raspberries (or any other fruit), add sugar and rum, then let it sit for at least two months. You will end up with a boozy delicacy, which is perfect on pudding, ice cream, flan, cheesecake, almond cake and in drinks. You only need three ingredients and a non-corrosive container with a lid for this classic German condiment.
This German tradition of making a rum pot goes back to 18th century, when rum was imported from the Caribbean to the northern Hanseatic towns. Legend has it that some tropical fruit accidentally ended up in a rum barrel. Whether it’s true or not, it’s a good story. My story goes back to my gentle, caring and loving father who wasn’t a cook. How could he be when he worked from dawn to dusk on the farm seven days a week? But he managed somehow to make a rum pot, which he loved to pour over ice cream.
A traditional Rumtopf is done in a special crock pot ( see the photo below) . My father just used a regular crock pot, but a mason jar will do. The fruit is added when it is ripe—strawberries in June, followed by raspberries, apricots, blueberries, cherries, plums (or any other fruit) in July and August. Sugar and rum is added for each addition. The beauty of the Rumtopf is that you can use almost any fruit you have available as long as you top it with rum that is 54% or higher (108 proof). It will put hair on your chest, so be careful and eat responsibly.
I live in California and only harvest a handful of berries from my garden, but fresh delicious fruit is everywhere else, especially at the farmers markets. I am found of cherries and love to eat them. I ended up with a refrigerator full of fresh fruit and had to do something with it, so the idea of a Rumtopf was born. All I had to do was find was a bottle of rum that was more than 54% alcohol. I am thinking of starting another Rumtopf the traditional way, by adding fruit and sugar and topping it with rum. Layering my Rumptopf with different fruits as time goes by, which keeps the pot going indefinitely.
Before you click on the recipe, please understand that this is an experiment , I usually taste my recipes before I post them, so please keep in mind that this is not one of them. If it turns out (and I don’t see why not), I will fill some small mason jars with my Rumtopf and give them to my friends for Christmas. We’ll see!
Do you want a fruity drink tonight, try out my recipe for a light Strawberry Punch. Click on the photo for the recipe.
A personal note to followers of my blog:
For those of you who been wondering about me, life has had its challenges this year for my family. But we survived and I had to become stronger because of it. It’s been difficult, but the outcome is good for better days ahead. Thank you to all my friends and family for your support and love. I am respecting my husband’s request for privacy to not share more on the worldwide web.
Apricots are in season and it’s time to make my favorite recipes and discover some new ones and that is exactly what I have done for the last couple of weeks. On our way home from the Sierras I bought several pounds of apricots from a fruit stand in the Central Valley of California. They were not quite ripe so I put them on a cookie sheet in my cool downstairs bedroom. They ripened quite nicely and I ended up with some juicy apricots.
I had dreams of making my delicious apricot jam or my apricot dumplings but I didn’t. Instead I was searching for new recipes. I found some but wasn’t real happy with them. In my opinion one cake was too sweet and the other was not as good as my German apricot cake or my apricot blueberry cobbler. Click on the photo below for the recipes.
After looking through some of my cookbooks and folders I came upon a recipe that caught my attention, poached halibut with apricot salsa. Sunset magazine published this recipe in 2007. I was a little hesitant to poach the halibut, but it was perfect and had an amazing texture and the apricot salsa was a perfect condiment for the halibut. This meal makes an elegant lunch or dinner, especially on a hot summer day. I served it on lettuce with some avocados. I can also imagine making this salsa with peaches or plums.
I am disappointed that I didn't get to make my roasted apricot sorbet, my apricot dumplings, or my apricot jam. Hopefully I will catch up next year. Click on the photos for the different posts and recipes. Have a happy and healthy summer, my friends.
I returned from Germany and Switzerland two months ago. I was planning on writing several posts about my wonderful trip but didn't. My April-May trip was wonderful. I savored every minute and criss-crossed Germany on the train by myself visiting places and friends. I decided to write a post on how to navigate the German trains because some people have ask me to do so . Hopefully this post will unravel some the mysteries of German Railroad travel.
ICE means Intercity Express. It is the fastest train of the GermanRail system and provides high-speed connections between metropolitan areas. They usually run every hour and have a dining car and a bistro for food and drinks. However, I would recommend taking your own food and drinks. Ok, maybe the lentil soup is fine and so is the potato salad with a hot dog. Most of the trains have WiFi.
The dining car in the ICE train divides first class from second class. It is called Bordrestaurant. Some people stay in the dining car for the duration of their trip and order a drink or something to eat.
You can order food and drinks in first class. Of course it's expensive and that is why I often bring my own lunch which is totally ok. Larger rail stations have several food courts , a book and magazine store, and an information center where most of the agents speak English and can help you with your ticket and other questions you have.
Most of the time I take the ICE but sometimes I take the IC/EC ( InterCity/EuroCity). They are slightly slower than the ICE and are usually older trains. I have never taken an overnight train with sleeping accommodations. I often take the Regional Express (RE) or RB (ReginalBahn) that connect smaller towns.
Each railway station is different and it takes some time to navigate your way to the train. Most rail stations have escalators and elevators but occassinally you have to carry your own suitcases down some stairs. I always have to negotiate stairs in Hamburg which is my least favorite railway station.
Once you arrive in the station look for an electronic display for the departure of trains. This display will tell you from which track your train is leaving and if it is on time. You will also find the information posted on boards in the railway station. These boards will show you the cities at which the train stops. White boards show the arrivals and yellow boards show the departures. Each train is numbered . Compare the number on your ticket with the number on the board to get the right one.
You made it to the right track, called a Gleis in German. This was my train leaving at 12:14 pm to Interlaken Ost (East). I was getting out in Göttingen which is not on the board . You see the A B C D E F G and the knife and the fork. The knife and fork indicate the dining car. The 1 and 2 indicate first and second class. The next train following my train was an IC going to Amsterdam and the one after that was a regional train going to a small town nearby.
At the track where your train is leaving you will find a board like the one below. It has your train number and the location of your car if you made seat reservations. Even if you didn't make seat reservations I recommend deciding where you want to enter the train. The last thing you want to do is to slog your luggage through a train. Not good, believe me. On the blue board an announcement was made indicating the train cars were in a different order than on the yellow board. If you ever are not sure don't hesitate to ask other train passagers or a conductor.
Here you can see how long some of the trains are and why you want to be in the right section. In this case it is G. The trains will only stop for a few minutes and the doors close automatically. I know of an American family that lost their father because he wanted to get something outside the train. They eventually reunited but it ended up to be a stressful day.
Congratulations, you made it to the right car, stored your suitcases and found your assigned seat. The seat numbers are above the seats and tell you from where to where the seat is reserved. Let's say the seat is reserved from Frankfurt to Innsbruck but I get out in Göttingen, several stations before Frankfurt so I can occupy that seat.
The ICE has a little booklet called "Ihr Reiseplan" a travel itinerary that shows when your train arrives at your destination and connecting trains at the different stations.
Whenever I plan my trip to Germany I decide on what to buy for a train ticket. If I know exactly what I am doing and where I am going I buy tickets ahead a time with the Deutsche Bahn. This is the least expensive way. The Deutsche Bahn has a good English website. I also have the app on my phone. When you buy tickets you have to use the train you buy the ticket for, changing times and trains can be expensive.
These days I prefer to buy a German Rail Pass for a set number of days. You can buy this pass before you travel or at some stations like the one at the Frankfurt Airport. I always bought mine ahead of time. When you arrive in Germany you have to validate it at the station with your passport. The pass is good for four weeks and you choose which days you want to travel. For each day you travel you can go anywhere in Germany. I buy a first class pass because there are usually more seats available, second class is fine but it can be very crowded and if you don’t have a seat reservation you are liable to stand for hours. I seldom buy a seat reservation in first class, although I recommend it for long trips. There have been times over the years where I have had to stand .
My favorite train ride was in an old Hungarian train going from Berlin to Prague , the train continued to Budapest. It was in the winter and the countryside was beautiful and remote .
I hope I didn't bore you with this post, but I have helped so many American travelers that I hope this will be helpful to some. Let me know if you have any more questions that I can answer for you. Gute Reise my friends.
Asparagus was considered a beneficial herb among the Romans and later in the 12th century was given aphrodisiacal power by Indian sex gurus. It was cultivated by French monks circa 1469, and a century later in Germany.
Here in the United States we eat green asparagus, while in Germany white asparagus is popular. Although green asparagus is becoming more popular. In Germany, Spargelzeit (asparagus season) is from April to June. During that time in Germany, you will find an abundance of asparagus at the local farmer’s markets and on the menus in most restaurants. Traditionally, it is served with boiled potatoes and hollandaise sauce. You can have it with cooked or smoked ham, or Schnitzel (pork chops).
Asparagus is low in calories and rich in fiber and vitamins. It has chromium, a trace mineral that helps insulin-transporting glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. This is a big plus for the millions of people who are diagnosed with pre-diabetes or are diabetic. Click here for a recipe for asparagus frittata that I posted a couple of years ago..
I love asparagus. Once the season starts, I buy it all the time. My husband prefers steamed asparagus, but I prefer mine roasted with hazelnut oil and sprinkled with some sea salt. When I steam the asparagus, I break off the woody ends. When I roast the asparagus, I prefer the thicker stems. I break off the woody ends and peel the rest of the stalk using a vegetable peeler, leaving the tips intact. However I cook my asparagus, I like it al dente. Click here for a delicious Chinese noodle salad that is perfect for spring and summer parties.
I have been playing with the recipe for this asparagus soup for a few years. Last year, I made one using leeks that was good, but not as good as the one I am posting here. This is a very simple but deliciously creamy soup with the flavor of asparagus. It is cooked in no time and you will enjoy every spoonful. I usually serve it with some fresh bread and salad. It would also make a great first course for a fancy dinner.
Quickly, let me give you my recipe for avocado toast. Take a slice of your favorite bread (toasted or not) and spread a ripe avocado on it. Or just put slices of avocado on your bread. The choice is yours and anyone can do it. If you want to, add a fried egg and call it breakfast or lunch. Or add anything else you like. I see coffee shops and restaurants that sell these toasts for a lot of money. There is a way to elevate this simple toast into a culinary delight by adding finely chopped, preserved lemon rind. Anytime you bite into one of these crunchy little lemon cubes, your palate will experience an explosion of flavors from the floral notes of the released lemon oils to the salty fermented umami crunch.
Preserved lemons are more than just lemons, as they capture the glorious perfume of the lemon and excite your palate. They will enhance almost any dish. Sprinkle them on a salad, a chicken dish or anything else you can think of. Preserved lemons add a fermented quality that regular lemons don’t have with their tart, salty and slightly bitter taste.
Preserved lemons have been a staple in North African cuisine since the 11th century. It is a way to preserve lemons for use long after their season is over. Paula Wolfert introduced them to the American audience in 1970 with her award-winning cookbook Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco. If you want a true Moroccan preserved lemon, add the spices.
Those who have followed me, know about my lemon trees and my ongoing love for lemons. My blog has many recipes using my Meyer lemons, which I treasure. For years, I have made preserved lemons with some of them, but I have never blogged about them. So, I thought it is time to do so. I have given many jars to my friends and wish I could share them with you too. My niece and her husband took a jar with them back to Germany. I have added whole cloves, dried bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds and black peppercorns. In my last batch, I used just kosher salt, and I think that’s what I prefer. Usually, I use the rind and peel only, removing the pulp and rinsing the peel thoroughly to remove most of the salt. Then, I cut them into into tiny cubes, the smaller the better. I read somewhere that the pulp is great in cocktails, but I haven’t tried that. Lately, I have been adding some preserved lemon when making my chicken stock.
Making preserved lemons at home is easy; it just takes time. Mine have lasted a year or longer in the fridge.
I am leaving for Germany in a few days and I am not sure that I will post again before Easter. Easter is one of my favorite time to visit my family and friends. The arrival of spring is a happy occasion after the long winter. Everybody is happy and ready to embrace the warmer weather and longer days. The restaurants and cafes move their tables outside, as every ray of sunshine is greeted with a smile and spring is celebrated with holidays and festivities.
This year is especially nice because the Easter holiday is later in April. I am going to be able to not only to celebrate Easter but also the first of May. In my village, this day is celebrated with a walk through the forest into the next village. Along the route, there are stands with drinks, some of them being little shots of Schnaps (a gin-like drink). The word Schnaps (according to wikipedia) refers to the fact that the drink is a consumed with a quick slug from a shot glass. In the evening, the celebration continues with a gathering around the May tree in the center of the village where Maibowle (May punch) is being served. This punch is wine steeped in an herb called sweet woodruff. I'll post more about my trip when I return, but in the meantime, I will add some photos from my trip on Facebook and Instagram. I can't wait to be with my German family again. Read about one of my previous trips and deviled eggs here.
In this nutty, chewy, not-too-sweet almond lemon cake, whole cooked lemons are being used. It is not your average lemon cake. Click here for the recipe.
Here is an easy-to-make pound cake that is infused with lemon juice. A great combination and perfect any time of the day. Click here for the recipe.
I wish you all a Happy Easter or Fröhliche Ostern as we say in German.
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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