This year’s Easter trip to Germany was wonderful. I had a good time being in the village where I grew up, in spite of some bittersweet moments. But I was able to revisit old times with friends and family—and we laughed and cried together. This is why I go back to Germany, so that I can feel my roots, full of priceless memories and stories, as well as traditions. One of them is the Easter Fire in my village, when we burn away the cold winter and bad spirits and welcome Spring—an old pre-Christian tradition. It is always fun, even though it was bitterly cold this year.
The first week, I stayed at our old family farm in my niece’s pied à terre. I went to all the old familiar places, like the farmer’s market in the town of Northeim, 6 miles away from my village. Göttingen is an old university town 10 miles away where they have a cute Easter Market at the center square by the Gänselisel (a girl named Lisel herding geese) fountain.
While in Göttingen, I always have a currywurst at a 40-year old kiosk that is known to all the locals. Whenever possible I have a cappuccino and some sweets at the konditorei Cron& Lanz. They have the best home-baked goods I have ever tasted. (Read about them on an older blog post.)
I took my girlfriend’s daughter out to lunch 7 miles from my village. Located below the ruins of a 1000 year old old castle, the Hardenberg Burghotel has a nice restaurant and hotel with beautiful grounds to wander around in. They have an equestrian facility and dressage training and competition. As a child I often hiked around the castle grounds. I even had my first kiss there.
Then I went to Lüneburg for a short visit to see my niece and her husband. Lüneburg is such a beautiful and livable town. I always enjoy walking around and discovering new treasures like the City Hall of Lüneburg. Behind a baroque façade (facing the market) is the biggest City Hall in northern Germany dating back to the 14th century. Yet another chamber was built in the 13th century. Since Lüneburg was one of the few towns not to be bombed during WW2, some of the original furniture is still there for us to admire.
My three days in Berlin were much warmer as the weather improved. I met with friends and family and saw a beautiful production of the opera, Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), in the new Staatsoper. It was such a treat.
The Kulturbraueri is a former brewery that was not destroyed in the war. There are eleven large brick buildings converted into museums, several theaters , restaurants and office space. It is located in the electic Prenzlauerberg district near the Mauerpark. This is a great area to explore and eat good food.
On my last evening, back at my hotel, I had dinner at Lutter and Wegner , enjoying the Gerdamenmarkt and the warm weather.
Time flies and before I knew it, it was time to catch a train to Frankfurt and fly home. I had planned to stay in Frankfurt overnight and do some shopping, but due to a strike, my flight was canceled. I was able to catch an earlier flight to the US before chaos set in, and hundreds more flights were canceled. I was proud of my quick reactions of getting on a new flight within an hour. This old girl can still do it with the help of a friendly check-in person at the United counter. Thank you! I did end up landing in San Francisco at 1:30 am and being picked up by a tired husband, bless his heart.
Special thanks goes to my friend, Herr Lindner, the concierge at the Westin Grand Hotel in Berlin, who not only got me two tickets for the opera, but always helps me with my two girls. He makes my life very easy when staying at the hotel. I even called him from the airplane shortly before takeoff for the US and he gave me the number for the hotel in Frankfurt, so I could cancel my reservation. I hope the Westin realizes what a special person Herr Lindner is. He goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Hopefully I get to visit my friends and family again. In the meantime , if you are looking some good food, try my roasted halibut with butternut squash coulis , edamame and mushroom sauce. It's a great light meal for warmer days.
Kohlrabi has been a staple of German cuisine for hundreds of years. It was bred as a hardier version of cruciferous vegetables to grow in harsh conditions. In Germany it is a basic staple that everyone knows and can afford. You can find kohlrabi in almost every German garden. Even though I am not usually into trends and food fads, who knows, kohlrabi could be the next kale!
Kohlrabi tastes similar to a broccoli stem, but with the flavor of cabbage—almost like radish crossed with jicama. It has a crisp and crunchy texture when eaten raw. According to the internet, kohlrabi has amazing health claims and is low in calories. It is full of nutrients and minerals like copper, potassium, manganese, iron and calcium, and other vitamins. Kohlrabi promotes digestive health and helps with weight management. Do not mistake kohlrabi for a rutabaga or a turnip. It’s almost impossible to find in California grocery stores.
Kohlrabi is one of the most versatile vegetables around. My husband likes kohlrabi raw, thinly sliced. You can easily add it to any salad or soup. The leaves can be steamed like most greens, although I have not tried that. I was super excited when I found out that “Route 1,” a local organic farm, was selling kohlrabi at the Westside farmer’s market (on Saturday morning) here in Santa Cruz. I bought several bunches last week and two more this week.
My favorite recipe for kohlrabi is the one I made with my mother when would visit her in Germany. Basically, it’s meatballs cooked with kohlrabi in a white sauce. Here’s the link to one of my earliest posts:
I found a vegetarian recipe using kohlrabi on a German website that I liked. The kohlrabi is hollowed out and stuffed with a mixture of spinach and feta cheese. The kohlrabi stays firm and crunchy and compliments the soft stuffing. The sauce is made from the hollowed out kohlrabi meat mixed with the cooking water and some cream. This dish makes an impressive lunch or dinner. I ate it for lunch for a week since I had to work on the recipe and enjoyed it while losing a couple of pounds.
I am on my way to Germany to visit friends and family for two weeks. I hope you all have a wonderful Easter holiday. Here are some previous posts where I celebrated Easter in Germany and some ideas for you to make something special for your loved ones.
These elegant crepes filled with salmon and fennel make a great brunch or dinner. Add a salad and you have a great meal.
Here is a recipe for a nutty lemony cake using whole lemons.
There is nothing fancy about this peasant version of an apple or cherry cake, but you will enjoy every bite of it and not feel guilty. The apples are not thoroughly baked and the cake tastes like pound cake, although I am trying to make it more moist by playing with the recipe. You can enjoy it for breakfast or any time of the day. It is perfect for beginning bakers. If you don’t want to use apples, use cherries. Pitted Morello cherries in a jar can be substituted for apples. I tried frozen cherries but I didn't like them as much as the Morello cherries from Trader Joe's.
This apple or cherry cake is not overly sweet with only ½ cup of sugar but is full of fruit and flavor. I have baked this cake many times and have never gotten tired of it. The recipe is from an old Dr. Oetker cookbook that I brought with me when I came to this country in the seventies. The Dr.Oetker brand is a 100-year-old family-owned business where you can find products like vanilla sugar, puddings or baking powder here in the United States.
My very first cookbooks were three Dr. Oetker cookbooks. For my 16th birthday, my girlfriend Gabrielle, my mom and I made a cold buffet from the title picture of one of the books. I had promised my dad some leftovers, but there was nothing left at the end of the party. To this day, I wish I had put some food away for my sweet, hard-working dad, who will always be the love of my life. He was a gentle and loving man who was born into a horrible time in German history. He loved visiting me here in California and would have stayed longer if my mother hadn’t been homesick for her village.
If you want a richer and pie like German apple cake try my Apple Strudel Cake
This stunning dessert will dazzle your guests after a heavy winter meal—or any meal. Whole pears are poached in tawny port and cranberry juice with dried cranberries, fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, allspice, and pink peppercorns to add flavor. The syrup alone is delicious over ice cream or just by itself. I enjoy desserts like this because they are refreshing, light, and make a great presentation.
My memory of pears will be forever linked to my parents' huge pear tree in the chicken yard at our family farm in Germany. I don't know what variety they are, but it was my job as a child to collect them when they fell from the tree and feed them to the pigs. They were stone hard and had no flavor or taste. After picking, we put them on a rack in the fruit cellar and by Christmas, the skin was all shriveled up. But when my grandfather peeled them and handed them to us, we tasted the juiciest most delicious fruit. They had ripened in the cellar. Nobody would buy them today because of their appearance, but the taste was unbelievable.
I used Bosc pears for this recipe, because they have an elegant neck and a nice stem. This is another old recipe from my beloved Gourmet magazine. I have made it many times over the years, and it always has been a hit. It’s delicious with whipped cream or ice cream.
I should have posted this recipe a while ago, but my brother and his wife are visiting from Germany and I am happy being a hostess. They are enjoying the sunny California weather and the beautiful Pacific coastline. I often forget that I live in such a beautiful place. I am taking them to different beaches for walks and ocean views. Their favorite place is the beach at sunset. Having my family around me makes me happy.
Here are two other pear desserts I love to make. One is a humble but delicious bundt cake and the other is a pear tart with an exquisite flavor and taste.
I was fortunate enough to spend two wonderful days in the Napa Valley during the misty January weather. I have always loved visiting this region of California, which is about two and a half hours from Santa Cruz. I have many memories over the last 30 years of visiting there with different girlfriends or with my husband. It has always been fun. The devastating fires that raged through the area in the fall of 2017 were devastating. My heart goes out to all the people who lost their loved ones, homes and belongings.
The Napa Valley is beautiful with its oak-covered hills, crisscrossed by vines and small towns. Here you find the kind of pastoral beauty rarely seen outside Tuscany.
My driver (and husband) decided to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to get us to the town of Napa where we stayed the first night.
Napa has a fabulous food culture with some great stores. Our hotel, the Westin Versa, was within walking distance of the 40,000 square-foot Oxbow Public Market. It is a foodies' paradise. I bought a bottle of brandy cordial and some bitters from a Napa Valley distillery. I would have had some oysters or ice-cream, but already had a delicious sandwich from the "Fatted Calf Charcuterie," which was out of this world. I tasted some lard with truffles, since it was truffle week in Napa. I never saw so may sausages as I did in this store. Next door is the "Model Bakery," which supposedly has exceptional oversized muffins. Unfortunately, I missed tasting them because I had one of those "have to have oatmeal" mornings.
That evening, we had a special dinner at "La Toque," a Michelin-starred restaurant which is Chef Ken Frank's landmark eatery. The restaurant pairs wine with the food. We chose the "Core Menu," where you can make a selection from a list of different dishes. If you are in the mood to splurge, this is the right place for you. The food is inventive and delicious and the service is flawless.
While in Napa, we visited three wineries. Everything I know about wine, I learned from my husband. He is a very knowledgeable wine lover. He belongs to a wine club which gives us access to some of the smaller wineries in Napa Valley. Our first stop was the Foley Johnson Winery. My favorite wine was the 2014 Estate Meritage.
We also visited a very small winery called Altvs, where I bought my husband a special bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The last winery was Kuleto Estate. The wine was great, but I fell in love with the setting and the place. It's like a Tuscan villa, and would be gorgeous and on a sunny day. So, I will come back to this magical place, even though you have to go up a steep and winding road to get there. They have tours of the property on weekends.
We all have special places in our lives, and for me, one of those places is the pool at "Indian Springs" in Calistoga. This pool is filled with water from a geyser on the property, the same as the drinking water you buy in the store—except this is an oversized pool filled with 103 degree hot mineral water. It is heaven. Years ago, Indian Springs used to be a funky place with small cabins, but they have beautified it and added a restaurant where I had a delicious breakfast with homebaked bagels and home-cured lox. It was delicious. I will always come back here and float in the pool as long as I am able to.
I should have put this on my Wanderlust blog, but because I can't send an email from that page, it is on my food blog. I had kohlrabi with crab at La Toque. Kohlrabi is an everyday vegetable in Germany. My mother grew it in her garden and loved to cook it all the time. She was a farm woman and her food was simple but good. Here is a recipe I posted years ago when I visited her and we cooked kohlrabi with meatballs together.
If you feel like a fancy dinner, here is a recipe for crepes filled with fennel and salmon in a white sauce.
I hope all of you have recovered from the holidays and are ready to tackle a New Year. 2018, can you believe it? I am speechless when I look at the number. I never thought I would reach this number but here I am, doing what I have always done. My body is telling me to slow down as the days go by faster and the years disappear. When I get engulfed by fear of the future I try to find my happy place and one of those happy places is my kitchen where I put on my apron on and start cooking.
I don’t like to spend hours in the kitchen and be a slave but I love to play around and come up with something tasty. My Ahi tacos with tropical fruit and avocado salsa always reminds me of the Hawaiian Islands and I hope they bring you all some sunshine during the dark days of January.
The dish comes together quickly but needs to be prepared ahead of time. Everything needs to be cut and ready to go because it would be sacrilegious to overcook the Ahi. I usually get Ahi at Costco and I have never been disappointed. The first thing I prepare is the seasoning, then I make the salsa. I serve these tacos with some cut tomatoes, thinly sliced cabbage and black olives on the side. Nobody would object to some extra sour cream or créme fraîche .
I just returned from a wonderful trip to Germany, where I visited friends and family. I enjoyed every minute and would love to have stayed longer. I took six train rides, criss-crossing Germany. First I went to my family farm for a week. While on the farm I visited some nearby towns.
My girlfriend and I had this fabulous waffle with fresh fruit, ice-cream and fruit sauce in our favorite Italian Ice caffee in Northeim. Our village is also near Göttingen, an old university town with the greatest Konditorei (bakery) ever. Cron und Lanz has been baking delicacies since 1876. You get the best cookie ever when you order coffee or tea, as well other treats. I could not get enough this time and found a reason to get something from them every day.
After the village, I went to Lüneburg to visit my niece and her husband. While there, I went to the Christmas markets and a remarkable brewery museum. It was in an historical Sud house of an old brewery that started in 1485. Lüneburg is the cutest postcard-perfect German town.
Then my niece and I spent a wonderful weekend in Berlin. Since she is often in Berlin on business, she took me to all her favorite places. My young friend, Tara, also lives in Berlin and they had a great time together.
I took a long train ride (about 6 hours ) to Augsburg to visit an old friend from my boarding school days. We had coffee and cake in a Hundertwasser house chocolaterie, in the style of a famous Austrian artist. Traveling alone and visiting friends made me feel young and adventurous again.
But I am back home in California now, trying to get ready for the holidays. It takes me a good week to adjust. Part of me is still in Germany and the other part is ready to be home here in Santa Cruz. These last days before Christmas will be busy for me. Even with a cold, I managed to bake my favorite cookies and make some persimmon bread.
I made my chocolate walnut pie using pecans instead. It’s a great dessert that can be made days ahead of time. I will serve it as dessert when I make my cioppino dinner.
One of my favorite treats is my fruit and chocolate bark. This year, I used whole hazelnuts and yellow raisins mixed with some dried cranberries. I bought a very expensive bark like this not long ago. I used roasted hazelnuts from Trader Joe’s. It was a cinch to make.
Another favorite cookie of mine is the Austrian Kipferl, a crescent-shaped pastry, which is an ancestor of the French croissant. I rolled them in my homemade vanilla sugar.
A friend’s son gave me boxes of persimmons from his gorgeous tree. I made my persimmon bread and persimmon chutney, which took some trial and error. I will post the recipe in 2018
Did I say 2018? The passage of time amazes me and seems to go by faster the older we get. I like this quote from Heather Babcock, “ Time doesn’t really march on. It tends to tip-toe. There is no parade. No stomping of boots that it is passing. One day, you turn around and it’s gone.“
And with that, I wish all of you holidays that are peaceful and tranquil, filled with love, warmth and good food. A special thanks to all the people (I am amazed at how many of you there are) who are taking the time to visit my little blog.
Fröhliche Weihnachten and may your New Year be filled with hope and happiness.
If you click on the highlighted words you will get to the blog posts and recipes.
This turkey recipe caters to the cook who doesn’t want the whole bird but only parts of it. If all you want is a breast and some thighs and legs, this recipe is for you. I am writing this post for people who don’t have the time for an elaborate dinner but still want to have a tasty feast with about four hours of prep and cooking time. It does require a little planning.
I came across this recipe last May when I wanted to make a traditional American feast for my German relatives who came to visit. Whole Foods whole turkeys were very expensive, but they had turkey parts on sale. I always either dry rub or brine turkey meat for tenderness and flavor. In this recipe from epicurious.com the turkey parts are brined overnight in a salt and spice mixture. Put the parts in a sturdy large resealable zip lock plastic bag and add the ingredients. Voila, the next day you dry the turkey parts and roast them for about one and a half to two hours. Now it is up to you to make the side dishes of your choice or have Aunt Mary bring her jelly salad .
Of course for me it is not turkey day until I have cranberry sauce, chestnut stuffing, and a lot of gravy.
My husband and I spent a weekend in our little cabin in the Sierra Nevada. I love to cook in my tiny kitchen so I decided to make him and his oldest friend an early Thanksgiving dinner because I am leaving for Germany on Sunday. On Thanksgiving I probably will be eating duck instead of turkey. I was pressed for time and used a bread mix for the stuffing and bought peeled and roasted chestnuts. By not having to roast and peel chestnuts my stuffing was easier to make.
Even though I often use prepackaged broth for my turkey gravy and stuffing I prefer to make my own. This can be done weeks ahead and frozen. In my humble opinion a homemade broth will make or break the gravy or stuffing. When I do a whole turkey I use the stomach and gizzard from the turkey for the gravy. This time I bought turkey wings. I always freeze all my leftover green veggies like the white leek ends, the tops of green onions, mushroom stems, and other greens to use in my stock. It’s great for any stock. I made the sauce while the turkey was cooking and added the pan juices later.
Of course you can check out my whole turkey recipe which I have been making for years. If you have time try my cranberry ketchup, it is great on leftover turkey sandwiches. Oh, and don’t forget to freeze some extra packages of cranberries so you can have a feast in May.
I wish you all a relaxing and peaceful Thanksgiving with a lot of good food and company.
These are your quintessential German meatballs, carefully simmered and served with a tangy white sauce with capers and lemon juice. The sauce is full of flavor, the texture is velvety smooth and the meatballs will melt in your mouth. It is a well-loved dish you will find all over Germany.
My recipe comes from my niece’s husband’s mother, Kerstin, who lives near Berlin and is an excellent cook. I admire her cooking style, simple yet expertly refined through her constant tasting and slowly adding spices. No recipe is needed. I once asked her son to describe her cooking and the answer was Hausmannskost (home cooking).
Kerstin cooked the meatballs when she and her husband visited me in Santa Cruz. I loved watching her slowly perfect the flavor. I tried to take notes, but more than once had to cross out and rewrite. The second and third time I cooked them for my German girlfriends, I got rave reviews—and not one morsel was left.
This dish is named for the Prussian city of Königsberg which is now Kalinigrad in Northern Poland. If you go on the web, you will find many variations for the recipe. Originally, the meatballs were made with veal and either herring or anchovies were added. This dish is traditionally served with boiled potatoes and cooked beets tossed in vinegar. To develop the flavors, cook the meatballs the day before. It is a humble dish and easy to make.
This soup is a treat for the cooler days. It makes for a light dinner or a first course for a dinner party. It appeals to the diner in you. In Paris it is a quintessential bistro staple.
Whenever I am in Paris I have to have French onion soup. It’s usually my first meal. I am jet-legged and just want a light, comforting, tasty, and very French meal. The restaurant has to be right around the corner from my lodging. I am so happy just to be in Paris after a long flight. If the sun is shining, I like sitting at a small table in an outdoor cafe enjoying my surroundings.
That was the case this last time when I visited Paris in late August. (Click here to read more about Paris.) Everything was just the way I like it, except the onion soup. It was horrible—the broth had no depth, it tasted like dishwater with vinegar added. This prompted me to try my hand at making my own onion soup. Why not? Years ago, I made Julia Child's recipe from her book Mastering The Art of French Cooking. Unfortunately, I have no memory of it. I do remember making my own broth by roasting beef bones. This time I choose to use organic beef broth from Trader’s Joe’s. The soup was excellent but I think it would be even better with homemade stock. For vegetarians, you can substitute vegetable stock. If you choose to make it this way, add some juniper berries and one star anise for additional flavor.
Whatever broth you use, make sure the onions are cooked slowly and caramelized. This is how you get the rich intense flavor, making this soup a savory delight. My main taster (my one and only) loved the soup. His only request was to add more cheese and maybe cut the toast into bite-sized pieces. I will give him more cheese, but the toast stays in one piece or cut in half.
Time has been flying by. We have had some beautiful fall weather here in Santa Cruz. The fires around us have been polluting the air making it hard to breath. My heart goes out to all the people that experienced pain and suffering.
I have been cooking simple meals like baked salmon with broccoli and my German green sauce. I made my quinoa salad and baked shrimp with feta for my monthly book club. I also baked my banana bread and I made my lentil salad for my girlfriend’s Open Studio. Cooking always improves my life.
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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