29 May 2008
I had a bunch of asparagus in der Kuhlschrank (note that it is green, as all good tasting asparagus should be), some potatoes starting to shrivel and I wanted something light for dinner: voila.
By the way, note the purple potatoes? I had read about them and when I passed through the Markthalle at Alt Tegel and saw them, I bought some. They taste fabulous. They have a nutty, almost smokey flavor and I will definitely buy them again, for the flavor not just the purtiness of the color (and it took me three washes to return my hands to their normal color).
Asparagus and Potato Salad
1 bunch green asparagus
7-10 small potatoes
Blanch the asparagus for 4-6 minutes in salted boiling water until tender/crisp. Cool immediately with water. Peel the potatoes and cook in boiling salted water (before or at the same time) until fork done. Also cool immediately with cold water (to stop the cooking)
Cut the asparagus into two inch pieces, cut the potatoes into edible sized chunks or slice. Place them into a bowl, add vinaigrette (see below,only when ready to eat) and toss lightly. If you aren't going to eat immediately, add vinaigrette to portions you will eat as you prepare them
A few glugs of white wine vinegar
the same number glugs of evoo (although many use a 1:3 ratio, I love vinegar)
Salt and pepper, fresh ground, to taste
a teaspoon (or more) Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon thyme (got some super fresh dried thyme last week at the markt)
Whisk all ingredients together well.
26 May 2008
1 1/2 cups lentils
5 c chicken stock (which I happen to still have from the States, next time I might try either water or my frozen, a bit concentrated, chicken soup)
1/2 cup chopped carrots (I used 1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup diced onion (didn't use)
2 t thyme- wouldn't have thought of it, liked it very much
quite a bit of Cajun seasoning, which is mainly garlic, paprika, onion, salt. and a bit of Cayenne
salt to taste
In a saucepan, place the stock and lentils. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes. Add other ingredients, simmer for 20-30 minutes.
A very easy and tasty recipe, as well as healthy and fast. Made enough for lots.
25 May 2008
My Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler
About 1 kilo rhubarb
About 600g strawberries
1/2 c sugar
Cut rhubarb in 1" slices. Hull and slice strawberries. Put them in large, nonreactive bowl in 3:1 proportions. Add 1/2 c. granulated sugar and 2-3 T lemon juice (and lemon zest if you have a zester), stir and let sit for 30 minutes to macerate.
Then I scrambled together a cobbler based loosely on Pioneer Woman's wonderful Blackberry Cobbler.
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 T baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
Now, her recipe uses shortening and involves some finicky mixing, but mine: just put it all together and mix. If it's too sticky, add a bit more flour while you mix it together. The spray Pam on your 9x13 glass pan (or butter it), lay the fruit mixture out, and drop the cobbler mixture on top. As you can see, there really wasn't enough cobbler mix to cover the amount of fruit I wanted to use, next time I would probably make half again as much.
Pre-heat the oven to 425F, or to 200C heissluft (I can't figure how to turn the convection off) and cook for 30 minutes. Let it cool a bit, then enjoy. (Some recipes add 2 T of tapioca to stiffen it up but I didn't have any around, and I don't mind it being drippy).
24 May 2008
Left Over Chili
4 onions, sliced and diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
4 carrots, sliced into thin rings
3 ribs celery, sliced lengthwise then diced
2 cans drained and rinsed kidney beans
500g sieved tomatoes
Cajun spices, granulated garlic, cayenne pepper and chili powder, sea salt and black pepper
500+g ground beef (Rinderhackfleisch)
Put them in a saucepan with olive oil and start sauteeing. I threw a bunch of sea salt and ground pepper on there as well. After about 10 minutes I poured in the tomatoes and kidney beans, stirred, added a lot of spice and stirred it again.
In the meantime, brown the ground beef in a large stockpot/soupkettle. I didn't need to use any oil, because I brought up the heat slowly and the beef gave off fat. When done browning, strain the meat and discard fat.
Then add the saucepan of vegetables to the meat, stir, add salt, pepper and more of all spices to taste. remember that hot spices get hotter as they cook, so if you spice to taste, it will be much hotter after it's done cooking.
After a few hours (putting the girls to bed) I made myself a bowl. Then, for the German, I added another 500 g of tomatoes. He's come a long way, but not quite far enough for the amount of cayenne pepper I enjoy. These are, of course, spices I brought with me from the States. I'm not certain how the spices would be here, because when I bought fierig scharf crushed red peppers here, they were absolutely bland.
Ah, the season ender of Gray's? A few surprises here and there, but what a nice, satisfying, great ending.
22 May 2008
Thing1 said that she was ill because A, a little boy in her class, had hit her. I am actually sure that he had (he is a behavior problem that I understand, because he is very young and very large: my nephew had the same problem) but I don't think that was why she was sick. She had no fever, wasn't ill again, and ate dinner without being sick so she went to school on Tuesday. We called her teacher and there was no real problem at school (Thing1 is good at telling others "Stop touching/hitting me", we have practiced it) so all was well.
But Wednesday night, Thing2 started vomiting. After the third time ( and not small vomits either), when we finally got her to sleep at after 11 pm (and after stripping and changing sheets and pillowcases on two beds- see why I couldn't live without a washer and dryer?) I knew that she needed to stay home from school.
So Thursday was a home day and the second missed German class day for me. I called my teacher and asked if one of the other students (who lives by me) could drop off the homework that I missed and she kindly brought it over herself: she's so nice! She stayed for a few minutes to explain it to me and I will try to catch up this weekend.
In any case, things are currently difficult with Thing2 anyway. It seems that 4 of her teeth are all coming in at once and she's having trouble getting to sleep, she has developed a terrible fear of the bath (which I guess is developmental because Thing2 went through it as well at around this age) which is wreaking havoc on our generally happy play/bath time and making Thing1 sad as she has to play alone, and she is starting to think about toilet training, although she is only sitting on the potty with her diaper on, rather than without. Lots of changes and stress.
21 May 2008
Today I went along on Thing1's class trip to a children's theatre (as an extra adult to herd the cats). The brochure calls it a "PuppenFigurenObjekte", although I didn't see any dolls...?
It was put on by Schaubude Berlin, an experimental theatre sposored by the Berlin Senate. There were about 40 of us and it was very mausing as we went along like ducklings, taking two light changes to make it across the street..., we took a bus to the S-Bahn and then
18 May 2008
17 May 2008
- I started another German class two weeks ago. I had thought that I would take some time off, but no, I signed up for another. I really like my teacher, K, and the location (walking distance) really can't be beat, but I'm already a little fatigued by it: the weather has been gorgeous and it's just depressing that I am inside most of the day. I have 90 minutes after class before the girls come home and that seems to give me just enough time to make a run to the supermarket. I am definitely going to be taking days off here and there. I had also hoped that my friend Y would take this next class and that we would get a chance to see each other, but I think she is taking the summer off as a vacation.
- We are spending far too much time apartment hunting. Ah, Germany, the land where real estate brokers still make a monopolistic, non-transparent market commission, where they don't work most weekends, and where they don't bother to return calls. Reminds me a bit of Manhattan in 2000, before the dot-com crash. And yet prices are quite low here.
- Berlin is also the land of the insane property owner, who thinks that one can rent apartments without kitchens or appliances, or apartments with an estimated 3 months of renovations (with costs to be borne by tenant) or where a landlord offered to have us pay for his kitchen, while he would retain ownership!
- We didn't go to Amsterdam (or the originally planned Venice) this weekend. The German's work interfered: a crisis/deliverable timeline change cancelled our plans. So instead, we will be going to see the wild horse round up in the Duelmen area, which is held the last Saturday in May outside Muenster. This is only about a 90 minute drive from my in-laws, but the German has never seen it. It's quite famous and I think that a lot of the extended family will join us, so it should be great fun. In a funny bit of serendipity, I read about this last week in class (the theme for the week was little known but interesting attractions in Germany and the area) and I was so excited that I went home to google it and to ensure that we could actually still make it, then we rebooked a visit from my sister-in-law and her friend so that we could go. This link is to a Flickr slideshow from the round up.
- We went to a concert on May 10th, on the third anniversary of the opening of the memorial at the Holocaust Denkmal. (This is a stock photo, I haven't downloaded mine yet). It was fascinating and I may try to add more. It was performance art in music and it was indeed very moving. There was also a poetry reading, which of course I could only understand the smallest amount of, of work by a Holocaust victim. The concert itself was held by musicians scattered throughout the memorial, which is composed of stones varying in size and orientation laid out in a pattern. The "stelae" made the sound waver in and out, be audible and inaudible, loud and soft, as we moved between them while the musicians were playing from their stations in the memorial. It was haunting and evocative.
15 May 2008
12 May 2008
- The Karneval des Kulturen ( and it looks like it was fabulous: check out Braving it in Berlin and Snooker in Berlin to see what I missed)
- the make up meeting for the Berlin Booker book club
We had planned on it, we kept saying that we would, but instead we wound up
- Having some of the German's friends over, first for a long pleasant walk at the Zoo, and then for our first on-terasse grill session. We had putenwurst and we also brought in some felafel take-out from Habibi. It was a surprise (three day's notice) visit of the German's best man with his girlfriend and another couple. It was very nice.
- Taking the girls out to practice bike riding. Thing1 is pedalling now and Thing2 is resisting moving from the trike to the laufrad.
- Hitting a week market again and loading up on more tomatoes, green beans and spargel (and this time I was able to find green). I also got a bunch of flowers for 50% of the price at the shop by us, which I am still enjoying. We had the tomato and green bean salad again today and I need to find a good spargel recipe for tomorrow.
- I made banana bread again. This time I added raspberries and I am interested to see how it turns out. I never put in the 1/2 cup of nuts the recipe calls for (because I really don't like nuts in food), so I think that I'll start trying different additions every time that I make it. It smells delicious and I'll add a photo later.--- Here it is. It was delicious: the raspberries really lightened up the density of the bread.
2 Cups sifted flour (I don't have a sifter here, so I don't sift);1 tsp baking soda; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup granulated sugar,2 eggs; 1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (about 2, I have used up to three);1/3 cup milk (I use fat-free because I save the whole organic for the girls);1 tsp lemon juice; 1/2 cup chopped nuts (which I never use and here replaced with raspberries)
Sift flour with soda and salt (I throw them all min together). Cream butter and gradually add sugar. Mix well. Add eggs and bananas and blend thoroughly (I have done this all by hand, in which case I soften the butter by leaving it on the counter and add the milk when I am creaming the butter and sugar). Combine milk and lemon juice, which will curdle a little when placed together (I just pour them in together). Slowly and alternately fold in the flour mixture and the milk mixture beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (I always just pour the liquid into the dry). Blend well after each addition. Stir in the nuts (or not, or raspberries...), then pur the batter into a lavishly (love his use of the word) buttered (I use Pam spray) 9x5x3 pan (here I am using a bread loaf tin) and bake in pre-heated 350F (180C, 170 convection) oven for 1 hour or until bread springs back when lightly touched in the center.
Who ever looks at the end of your aluminum foil box? What a fantastic idea. Now,if someone would just make plastic wrap that didn’t stick to itself.I’ve been using aluminum foil for more years than I care to remember. Great stuff, but sometimes it can be a pain. You know, like when you are in the middle of doing something and you try to pull some foil out and the roll comes out of the box. Then you have to put the roll back in the box and start over. The darn roll always comes out at the wrong time. Well, I would like to share this with you. Yesterday I went to throw out an empty Reynolds foil box and for some reason I turned it and looked at the end of the box. And written on the end it said, ”Press here to lock end”. Right there on the end of the box is a tab to lock the roll in place. How long has this little locking tab been there? I then looked at a generic brand of aluminum foil and it had one, too. I then looked at a box of Saran wrap and it had one too! I can’t count the number of times the Saran warp roll has jumped out when I was trying to cover something up. I’m sharing this with my friends that did not know this. If you all ready know this, delete this message and don’t e-mail me and make me feel dumber than I already feel. If you didn’t know this, e-mail me and let me know so I won’t feel so dumb. I hope I’m not the only person that didn’t know about this.
09 May 2008
Or perhaps it's the contrast with what is happening right now in Darfur and Myanmar and many other places...
08 May 2008
This was meant to be Lime Chicken from Kitchen Parade (a great site filled with fast and easy yet flavorful recipes)but I had only lemons, so I substituted the lime juice and zest with lemon juice and zest. I used Dijon mustard with the German's favorite creamy honey for the honey mustard (and boy, was that zippy: I usually hate honey mustard, but this was great) and our Kikkoman for the soy sauce. Still out of garlic and used leeks this time to dice and substitute. A very refreshing dish.
I also made mashed sweet potatoes to use up the 4 (they were actually yams) that I had sitting in a basket. Very simple, only requiring the always difficult to find in Germany brown sugar. Nice meal, not too sweet, since I used a little less sugar and 1/3 more yams than the recipe called for.
I am really trying to live with having to shop every other day and that anything I purchase will go bad within 3 days and I am gettimg better at it.
07 May 2008
06 May 2008
This is the reason I spent the first part of the day without power and most of the rest without water. It was a more amusing picture when it had the street cleaning machine (about the size of a Smart) stuck in it, but I didn't want to run up 5 floors and then back down again with a camera after I carried the girls and the car seat down the stairs to catch the school bus.
It's a bit of a pain because the bus is used for a second run picking up older children and therefore there is no room to keep the second seat on board so I need to carry it back and forth daily. We sent a lighter seat over from the States because I can't manage Thing2 and their regular Britax marathon togther, but I'm not willing to put Thing2 in just a booster pad as is done here in Germany: she's too small by US regulations and I think a 5-point harness is far safer.
So the cleaning machine was driving down the sidewalk when it fell through. This is the same spot where there had been a prior water main break so I am assuming that when they repaired it the workers did not shore up the street enough. They turned the electricity back on around 11 am but the water was not repaired until 18:45. We ordered in Indian. I asked for scharf, but it was bland. Sigh.
05 May 2008
Once again, everyone loved it (except Thing1, who had plain rice with soy sauce and plain green beans). Thing2 had so many tomatoes today I'm hoping that her digestion is okay!
04 May 2008
Since I don't keep Guiness around, I upped the red wine (which was Chilean). Since I didn't have any beef stock handy, I used chicken stock instead (and my goodnss I will be sad when I run out of my organic chicken stock from the States). No tomato paste, so I diced 6 tomatoes I had hanging around. I love mushrooms and had 200 grams left over from the Chicken Marsala so I threw those in as well. Served on a bed of rice and everyone but Thing1 (my non-eater) loved it.
I also increased the amount of mushrooms by 50%- I really like mushrooms. And after tasting the onions in the midst of sauteeing, I added two more onions as well. Here you also see the Cabernet that we are not only drinking while cooking, but also using in cooking: I don't think I've ever actually had marsala, but I have a vagueish idea that it may be a slightly sweeter red wine. No matter, I like my Cabernet.
These aren't a bouquet, they are my dill (purchased for the refrigerator pickles I didn't get to yet) and my parsley.
It's amazing how mushrooms cook down, isn't it? The German and I agree with Alex of SK- this recipe is too good not to repeat.
So instead we went to :
WinterfeldtmarktWinterfeldtplatz, Schöneberg; Wed 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Sat 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Nollendorfplatz
It was a very nice market, good looking produce (I bought champignons, beautiful cherry tomatoes on the vine, red onions and lovely garlic), nice cheese/dairy (some aged Gouda), a good looking herb table (mustard seed and sea salt- I couldn't figure out what turmeric was, so I'll go back for it), flowers, etc. Crowded market (so a bit difficult with a double stroller) and I will go back again without the children as it's just a few 100 feet down from The Nollendorfplatz U-Bahn and thus an easy trip. Ed Ward at Hungry in Berlin reviwed this some time ago. He recommends as well another market in Schoneberg that I may try to check Wednesday.
Didn't take pictures of the market (though I may add some in next time I go) but the meal you see to the left is from:
So-Do 11.00-3.00, Fr+Sa 11.00-5.00
Yes, you read that right: open 7 days a week, between 16 and 18 hours a day. The service was non-existent (and you can't blame my Deutsche: the German did the ordering and asked the questions) but the food was really, really good. We had a felafel plate and the salad on the side had actually very, very good pepperoncini. You don't know how amazing that is: I have been trying for 6 months to get good hot peppers here. No matter where I have bought them, Greek places, Russian places, what appear to be Turkish places- the peppers have been blah. Not spicey enough, not crisp enough, not fresh enough. These were great. And I had mango sauce with the felafel and it was also very good: nicely hot and spicey. The children's chicken schwarma was delicious. I could eat there every day.
I had the German call to ask about where they get the peppers (the line was too long while we were there) but they were too busy to talk tonight and said to stop by. Man, it's almost worth trying it with a dictionary in hand: I may take a run back to the market on Wednesday and give it a try.
There is, as usual, a playground in the area. This one is very exciting, large, with beautiful flowering trees (lilacs now, looks like some others will be flowering later), a large baby area, another sand area, and a huge and exciting climbing apparatus. Whenever I see something like this I marvel at how this would never be possible in the states: it is quite dangerous in areas. There were at least two spots where Thing1 had to slide down because when dangling she could not reach the next level: if she had slid the wrong way, she might have dropped 10+ feet to the sand. Yes, the sand was deep, but still quite possible to injure oneself.
Thing1 loved it.
Thing2 did the (baby)slide over and over again after Thing1 came over and gave her confidence. For some reason, several children a few years older than she were congregating at the top of this (really, baby)slide and weren't getting out of the way to let Thing2 pass. After waiting a bit, I went to the bottom of the slide and called her and she came down.
I turned to one of the other moms, who was chatting on a handy while her 5 year old was standind/sitting/blocking the top and asked if she would mind asking her to either slide or move aside: she told me that because I was at thhe bottom of the slide, I was preventing her child from sliding. I said, "uh-huh", called Thing2 and caught her on the way down.
This seems to go to yet another of the cultural differences between Germans and Americans: they can be personally quite agressive to us (Put a hat on your daughter, how old are you. No, really. Are you going to have a child. Americans wear loud clothes and baseball hats. Americans are fat. Why doesn't your child x,y and z. You should do this with your child x,y, and z) but if we say "Would you ask your child to move, please, I find the fattiness of the butter hard to adjust to, I wish I could get peanut butter without sugar..." the answers are "No, it's your fault/problem if he doesn't move, American butter is terrible, all American products have sugar in them...." And then their feelings are hurt.
03 May 2008
In particular, I need to get used to (finally!) the fact that my refrigerator is too small, holds temperature poorly, that my freezer is tiny and clogs easily with ice, that I don't have a chest freezer, that my kitchen is smallish and overheats easily (so storing produce on the counter is short term) and that I have very little storage space and almost no counter space. The storage problem escalated this past weekend when we brought back the mini-vanload of boxes from my in-laws (almost all the rest of the food and drygoods products that came with our container last September) and started unpacking them.
Unlike Lynda, food delivery here seems to be generally terrible, starting with soup that is completely spilt by the time one receives it (lack of correct containers) and continuing through poorly spiced (compared to in restaurant) meals and scanty servings (compared to generous in restaurant portions) so I need to start making more meals and more "real" meals than I have been, or I will go insane.
To that effect, I have brought back many of my cookbooks and I am starting to make shopping lists and plan for meals because I need to recognizethat I will never have the things I need in house to make a specific recipe and I am just tired of one-pot sloppy meals.
So, yesterday I made Rosemary Chicken with Rice, an interesting recipe from The New Weight Watcher's Complete Cookbook which combines chicken, garlic, 1/4 c. of dijon mustard, carrots, 1 T of dried (or 2 of fresh) rosemary, carrots, pepper and 1/4 c. of orange marmalade (I only had grapefruit, so used that). It was very good and something I wouldn't have thrown together without using a cookbook. The girls had the left overs for dinner tonight.
Today I made baked macaroni and cheese with breadcrumb topping and it was great. Once again, I would never have thought to bake it withoout a friend mentioning his recipe for that in his apazine. And for dinner I made holishkes, or stuffed cabbage, from Marlena Spieler's The Jewish Heritage Cookbook . That was an interesting recipe, using cinnamon, white wine vinegar and sugar with the ingredients I am more familiar with from my family recipe. I prefer my mom's recipe though, which is more tomato-ey. This is the same book that I used for the charoseth recipe over Pesach.
Interestingly enough, a few days ago I made Knodel from a package and quite liked them and now I see that they are really a German variant on Kishke and Pierogies, a flour dumpling usually served with brisket. Luckily I won't need to use an actual animal casing these days if I want to try to make them myself.
Tomorrow I think I'm going to try Duisburg Bunny's homemade pickles (look in the comments)so I need to make a note as to what I want when we go to the Turkish Market (if it doesn't rain).
01 May 2008
Went to another book club last night, to discuss the Tudors. Most of us had read The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory, which I greatly enjoyed.
I have always had a thing for that period, from reading through Shakspeare's histories (starting with Henry IV pt II (why, you ask- I have no idea why I started with part II!)) and I found the book fun but frothy, with a decent description of the court and how it worked. I did think that some of her theories of the history were wrong. In particular, her presentation of the relationship between Anne Boleyn and her brother George as being actually incest**us rather than charges laid solely to allow Henry VIII to actually go through with murdering her are really her own: no reputable historian considers that those charges are true .
But it was great to get out for an evening and I'm looking forward to the next meeting.
Today we slept in as much as the girls would let us (not very) then tidied up, played for a while, and had a late breakfast.
When I put Thing2 down for a nap, I went down with her and the German and Thing1 headed out to a market that would be open today (May Day is a legal holiday here in Germany and in most of Europe). We need to buy milk every other day here because 1. it is sold in liters and 2. our refrigerator is too small to stock enough liters to last longer and 3. I can't drag even more liters in my little trolley every other day. There were no chicken breasts available, but I had two in the fridge and made an interesting recipe that allowed me to stretch them through stir frying. I may add it later....
After the girls were in bed I made a marble cake: tomorrow Thing1 can frost it with me.
And now Desperate Housewives and, if we have time, Brothers and Sisters.