Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Granny's Birthday Cake

Tomorrow my Granny is turning 93. Can you imagine it? I remember a few days ago sitting with her and she said to me "I wasn't able to imagine that I will turn so old". So I prepared everything for the party tomorrow. A cousin and an old neighbour are coming for coffee and cake. At her age it's not that you have a lot of friends anymore. But there are a lot of people who like her and today she got the first package by mail with some sweets. When I think what changed over that years - when she was born, the Kaiserreich and Prussia just ended. She was a young woman when the WWII started, she got married and lost her child and husband who was captured at Stalingrad and finally came back home after 12 years in 1956, after Chancellor Adenauer's agreement with the Soviets about setting free the captured German soldiers and allowing them to go home. My uncle died soon on leukaemia because he was working in uranium mines somewhere at the Ural. After the rules of displaced persons for Germans in the former German Eastern Territories she resettled as a refugee to Western Germany where she already spend the most of her life. She worked and I was spending a lot of time with her when I was a child. Later after she turned sick and old I started to take care on her. It's been eight years now I am doing it and helping her with the everyday works. She feels good - good for her age. She's funny and always tries to look like a lady - you know some make up and a permanent wave from time to time. How easy it is to describe someones long life in only few sentences. So I am happy and it's a great honour to me that I can participate in her 90th, 91st, 92nd, 93rd birthday. I baked her an apple cake with a pudding topping, I bought a bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling wine, a package of cigarettes and a fire lighter. Yes. She turned 93 smoking like a chimney - now she's smoking less, something like a "only" 15 cigarettes a day. And I remember times she smoked two packages. She's interested in politics, sports, crosswords and her beloved women magazines. So happy birthday Granny, alles Gute, lass dich feiern und bleibe uns lange erhalten!




Monday, August 27, 2012

What Do Singles Cook?

I enjoy keeping tabs on people when I am in the grocery store. I mean it's not difficult you can take a look into their shopping cards or baskets. I was always a good observer if I concentrated on a thing or a topic. In my usual life I do not see a lot things. Sometimes I don't want them to see and sometimes I just have twenty thousand thoughts in my head. But I truly hate shopping. For me it's one of the biggest punishments to go to a grocery store and walk and walk and walk looking for stuff I could need for my next dinner. My method to get my peace with the fact that I love cooking and hate shopping is making a list of things I need to buy for the next few days and knowing my local grocery's I can even do the shopping with my eyes closed. A few years ago I started an experiment. I was trying to guess if a person is a single or not. After a few years I'd like to share with you what I observed. First of all, the most singles are shopping in the late afternoon or soon before the shop's closing. Until 1 pm, most of the clients are older people or housewives doing family shopping. The shopping cards are always full of different stuff and the cars outside are minivans or some Volvo-style station wagons. The generation 60+ drives quite a lot of Mercedes. Sometimes I have to laugh seeing a senior who is not able to walk properly but then gets to the card and drives on the street. My first thought is always: “wohoho, drive with God”.

The second run on the grocery markets starts after 5 pm when most of the people do the after-work shopping for themselves or their families. It's a good time to see and meet a lot of singles in the store. How do I know it? They're usually not taking the big shopping cards but take the small baskets instead. Guys usually have a deep frozen pizza, some beer or wine, sometimes some cosmetics, a litre of milk, a few small stuff for the breakfast like cereals or a cheese and a car or sport magazine. The same with the ladies except the sport magazines. If you see a lady buying something like this, be sure she's for 99% in a relationship. But in the baskets of the beautiful sex I can see more fruits, vegetables and salads. It's funny but I have never seen anyone buying condoms! Maybe people don't buy condoms in shops everyone knows them where they're buying their milk and bread day by day? I don't know but it's funny.

I would risk to say that a lot of singles don't like too cook. Maybe their flats are too small and they don't have even a small kitchen or they don't like cooking only for themselves. I never had that problems. I always had an own separate kitchen in my very first own flat and the same in my second over those years. And I am always cooking for two days. Sometimes also I am too lazy to cook everyday and sometimes it's impossible and makes no sense to cook one meal. You need the same amount of time to cook for two or even three people and also I do not cook everyday. So the most of my meals I make I eat two days but not longer. For me it's okay to eat two days the same. I like the stuff I cook and it's nice to come home and just warm up a meal. I enjoy food and to be honest in 70% of the cases my food I cooked for the next day disappears on the same evening...

Anyway let's get back to the topic. My local grocery store closes at 10 pm and between 8-10 pm you can be sure not to meet any mommies or housewives you see in the mornings but a lot of people with baskets and less with shopping cards. And the baskets are quite full of “single stuff” I call it. I also enjoy shopping in the evenings. First of all there are not a lot of people in the store, second no one is pushing you with a full card saying “sorry, the card is so heavy I wasn't able to control it” and second – you have time for a smalltalk with the till lady. I always enjoy it because I know some of the ladies since a couple of years and we're always doing smalltalk if there are not a lot of customers at the till.

So I am not a typical single. I never was. Even in my last relationship which was a quite long one I always paid attention to have my freedom and own free space. So as long we are singles: let us not buy pizzas, beer and sport magazines but make some experiments in our kitchens instead. Let's enjoy our freedom and let us be curious on everything the future will bring. The life is too interesting to let it pass by.

Semolina Pudding

Yes, sure you can buy a semolina pudding [Click here for the Wiki-article about semolina if you don't know what it is] in every grocery store in Germany and that was my idea today when I went shopping. After I saw the list of the ingredients, I thought that I must be crazy to eat that tasty chemistry (yummy yummy) so I decided to make the pudding myself. I bought a package of semolina, a litre of milk and brought some apple purée from the basement. Check the picture of that semolina package. It's the same one I remember since my childhood. My mom used to cook me exactly that semolina pudding and the picture of the small boy/girl (?) hasn't changed over the years. So what's the deal about cooking semolina pudding? It's fast, it's easy and only with the ingredients you add yourself. You'll need: milk (or water- I prefer milk), semolina (about 1/2 oz for 3 fl. oz milk / 17g/100ml, check the instruction on the package), some sugar (depends how sweet you want to have the pudding), a little butter, some fruit purée or crushed fresh fruits.

Bring the milk to boil, add the semolina and agitate it nonstop with a beater. Do it for about a minute. After one minute, switch off the oven, add some butter and the fruit purée or crashed fruits. That's all. You can serve it hot as a nice midday-meal or cool it down and eat as dessert. Preparing time: max 5 minutes.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cooking With The Doctors

I enjoy cooking while listening to music. It's much more fun if you are in a good mood and the kind of music I like is fast, a little bit disco style, with good beats. I was preparing the lunch for Sunday (nothing special, so there is no need to share it with you) and I started listening songs of one of my most favourite German punkrock groups Die Ärzte (The Doctors) Check it here on Wikipedia . Cutting the vegetables and listening music makes you forget the work I hate. Yes, I DO HATE TO CUT VEGETABLES. I was listening to Die Ärzte since I was a teenager and enjoy their kind of music. OKAY some of the videoclips are nothing for children but they're funny and well done. That's why I wanted to share some of the clips with you I was listening while cooking. Some of them are quite old, but the first on the list on the very top is the newest one. It's being played all over the radio stations here in Germany and I absolutely love it. Maybe you'll start liking some German music. Enjoy.








Sunday, August 19, 2012

Spinach Tarte Recipe


Thanks to heaven I had all the ingredients for my favourite spinach tarte at home so I could make mine and granny's lunch today. I realised that I posted the pictures a few times but I never wrote the recipe. And it's so easy and fast to prepare. So here it comes:

You will need 1 lb (450 g) frozen spinach, 1 puff pastry, a few cloves of garlic, one onion (you can take the roasted one), black pepper, 1/2 lb (250 g) feta cheese, two eggs and some butter.

  1. Unfreeze the spinach (in a closed pot) and leave it for a while to cool down.
  2. Add the crushed onion, garlic, a very good shot of fresh milled pepper, the feta cheese you cut in small pieces and the two eggs. Mix it all with a spoon. Don't add salt, the feta cheese is salty enough and adding some extra salt is not a good idea (believe me, I tried it once).
  3. Butter a baking pan for tartes (watch the picture) and prick it with a fork. Add the spinach mass.
  4. Bake around 40 minutes at gas mark 6 (about 200°C/390°F) for 40-45 minutes. After 30 minutes prick it with a fork a few times.
  5. Enjoy the tarte with some fresh yogurt or with Greek tzatziki.
Backing a tarte at this temperatures is more than crazy - After I closed the door to the kitchen I had the feeling to be somewhere in a desert after I came in after a half of hour to check it. Learn out my mistakes!!! But the tarte was like always... A DREAM. Even granny loved it. I was really surprised!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Lazy Sunny Impressions

The evening was really lazy. The Gods of Weather gave us great 30°C (86°F) in the shadow during the day and the sunset was phenomenal! That's a great thing living so much north at the 50th latitude. The sunsets last for ages and it takes ages until it gets really dark. The beautiful blue hour makes it possible to sit until 9.30 PM on the balcony without the need of a lamp. Four weeks ago it was 9.30 PM when the sunset started, now... anyway that's the circle of life. It won't take long the leafs on the trees will become dark red and yellow and later again I'll be singing "Going home for Christmas", when I'll pack my stuff to visit my parental home. We get older, we get mature, we love, we hate, we lose, we die. People will come, people will go, they will be parts of our life and disappear. C'est la vie. It always worked this way and that's something we have no influence on. When I was watching the blue sky I was asking myself "what if there is some life, there, somewhere, over me?". Is it possible that we might be not the only creatures in the infinity of the universe? Do they have the same thoughts we have, do they fear the same things, do they see the same sun and stars we can see? It's so amazing. I wish I would know the answer to my own question. Imagine, somewhere in the universe there's someone who can see the same things we can see and we even don't know that those one exists. Maybe there's somewhere someone who watches the sunset and thinks: "is it possible that there's other life somethere?". I would answer: "There's a Blue Planet called Earth". But he wouldn't hear me as we can't hear them.

When I saw my balcony today, I saw my poor crosswords I forgot two days earlier. And because we had some rain the night before and the Westside is always the rainy one here... I dried my crosswords. On the photos they look better than in reality - the exactly opposite of me. I am totally crazy on doing crosswords. I always was. In the bus or in the underground, on the plain or in the train. Books and crosswords, crosswords and books. In the last time I was doing them every evening before the sunset and I could improve my own record. It takes me exactly 6 minutes for one.

Here are some pictures I took in the evening sun - 1) something is eating my basil. I don't know what but if I'll catch it.... and 2) I wish I could take really good pictures. I am the world's worst photographer and 3) no cooking today, I'm still eating that ratatouille from yesterday.



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ratatouille


After the horrible headaches I have very often in the last time stoped some when at 9 pm, I decided to cook my tomorrow lunch. And it was nice to think about something else than the pain which didn't allow me to move today. I still had some zucchinis left as well an eggplant so the only idea I had to use it was cooking a ratatouille. Ratatouille is as all my dishes quite fast and easy to make.

At first dice the eggplant and sauté it in a little bit of olive oil. Eggplant need more time to be done. In the meantime, dice the onions and the garlic and the zucchinis. If you take fresh tomatoes, dice them as well. This time I had no fresh tomatoes so I took a can of Italian crushed ones. Add the vegetables to the half done eggplants and add a shot of red wine.  After all the vegetables are in the heavy pan, close the lid and stew it gently on the smallest gas mark for about 15-20 minutes. But 20 minutes might be too long, so check the vegetables after 10-15 minutes. After the dish is done, add the herbs (basil, oregano, black pepper or else if you want - you can add salt if the taste is not heavy enough). You can serve ratatouille with rice or bulgur what I am going to do tomorrow.

Check the pictures of the cooking steps I wrote. Voilà tout.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mastering the Art of French Cooking - Zucchini Ragoût

Do you remember the film Julie & Julia? I've seen it in the cinema and I absolutely loved it. It was funny, the food seemed to be tasty and the actresses were good looking. So what about it? It was the first time I heard something about Julia Child. When I went to google today, a doodle remind me about her.

Today is the 100th birthday of Julia Child (Check it here on WIKIPEDIA), the co-author of the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking Check it here on WIKIPEDIA and of the book My Life in France. Child tried to balance the recipes between the traditional French haute cuisine and the possibilities of an American hobby cook. Everyone could find something for himself. It's important to mention the influence of Julia Child on the American cuisine and culture - she had a cooking show in TV as well. Also Julia Child was one of the great people who brought wine back to the [American] kitchen. Cooking with wine is a fine thing. It's possible to bring the taste and the aroma of dishes out. Don't worry, the alcohol boils out nearly to 100%. Nearly, so that's the reason why I wouldn't serve dishes where I put alcohol to children or people who have/had a problem with it. On the other hand, you don't have to put a lot, just a shot and that's nothing you have to be worried about. As you may see in my older posts I am a great ambassador of using white wine in the cuisine.

I was tired of working on my thesis and hungry because of that mental stress you get after hours working on the notebook - I jumped to the kitchen and made a ragoût. Since zucchinis are a great deal in the French cuisine and wine is used for cooking purpose, it was my contribution to honour Julia Child. I grated the zucchinis, put them on some butter and covered with milk. I added pepper, herbs, onions and a shot of white wine. I stewed it until the milk was already gone (about 10 minutes) and finally and the very end, add 3 tablespoons of yogurt to get the creamy consistence of a sauce. After adding the yogurt, don't cook it anymore. Otherwise the yogurt changes to proteins and water. I enjoyed the ragoût with some pasta. In the evening I'll eat it cold with some bread. It was a very fast but healthy meal. It takes about 20 minutes to prepare it. The half of the time is needed for grating the zucchinis and in the meanwhile the sauce was cooking, I cooked the pasta.

"... thinking back on it now reminds that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite – toujours bon appétit!" - Julia Child, in: My Life in France.




Saturday, August 11, 2012

Czech Dumplings

First of all, try my creation of the zucchini salad. It was brilliant! The next thing I am going to try, is to cook the real Czech dumplings. I've found an amazing video on YouTube. An older lady shows how to make the dumplings. It's amazing! Enjoy!


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Crazy Zucchini Salad

My life taught me one thing: catch the moments! I was never a spontaneous person BUT I am able to learn. If I can spontaneously say YES so I better stop searching for excuses for myself to find reasons for drawbacks. BUT it does not mean I have to be 100% spontaneously. Those one percent Mr. Planing-Man was the reason for planing the tomorrow dinner. I made a zucchini salad because it needs one day for a better taste.

For the zucchini salad you need some zucchinis, garlic (but ask before if someone likes garlic), basil, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and - that's my secret: some light white wine like Riesling or Morio Muskat. First slice the zucchinis and grill them on a pan in a little bit of oil (one teaspoon per portion). When you're done, put all the ingredients to a bowl and mix it well. Put it over night to the refrigerator and enjoy.

For the dinner I'll make a fast Spinach Feta Tarte CHECK IT HERE!. I can prepare it earlier and quickly put it to the oven for an hour. Time enough to enjoy the salad with home made bread and the wine I bought. I think I feel a little bit nervous and dizzy and I know I am crazy - but I am still nice. That's what I'll never give up. My optimism and my crazy ideas, although they sometimes can result in a catastrophe ;)


Hibiscus

Yesterday I found a small spider in my bedroom. I did something I would never do, because I am afraid of spiders:I took a glass and brought him outside. I couldn't kill him. After I caught him, he got a name: Carlito, and a fat fly I found on the window ledge. And then I decided to keep him alive. It just couldn't stop a life only because I hate spiders. I went outside to the meadow and let him free. I think I am getting weak the older I am. So Carlito found new playmates and maybe a nice Mrs. spider he could have a lot of baby spiders. My only hope is, that he's not going to tell them about the white God-Guy who saved his life and I do not have to expect pilgrimages of his offspring in my flat ;)

Two months ago I bought two hibiscus' for my balcony. I kept watering them and tried to keep it alive. It was hard job BUT finally they started to blossom. It was the nicest thing I saw today. Two months of hard work and the effects of something you believed it. But watch the pictures:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Yeast Dumplings With Plum Butter

A time ago I posted the traditional family recipe for the yeast dumplings: CHECK IT HERE!
Today I made them again but this time I filled them with plum butter. After rolling and cutting the pieces out, fill one part with plum butter than put the other piece on the top and close it carefully. Cook them on steam for about 10 minutes. You can serve it with vanilla sauce or with bilberries. My granny loved our Sunday lunch and it made me happy to cook something which reminds her old times. Since I love the dumplings the joy was double.

I made the dough in the bread baking machine, I put all the ingredients in and chose the dough programme. After 1 1/2h it was ready. Rolling, cutting out and filling of the dumplings took me about 20 minutes. Cooking takes 10 minutes for one portion. The recipe is in the link I've posted in the beginning of my post. There you can also see how to cook the dumplings on steam using a white towel or cloth.


Arme Ritter aka. French Toast

Do you know French Toasts? We call them Arme Ritter (poor knights) in German. It's one of those dishes I remember from my childhood. It's easy to make - soak some pieces of rolls or sweet bread in milk and then bake it for a while in the pan. My secret: butter instead of oil. The taste will be much better. Usually for French toast you need to soak the bread in egg, I remember my mom and my grandma soaked it in milk and so do I. You can serve the Poor Knights with some marmalade or with yogurt I did this time or better said, the rest of the yogurt I could rescue after my accident yesterday. I wanted to take a snack after midnight and took the yogurt out of the fridge. Shortly after I wanted to put it on the table I lost the control over my sins and the yogurt slipped out of my hands... you can think the rest of the story. It took me 10 minutes to clean up the mess in my kitchen.

What else? Well, the sun seems to be tired and the sunsets are everyday earlier and earlier. The days are warm but not hot, a nice breeze comes from the river. I made my balcony to my second living room in the evenings. I eat and read outside. It won't take long and it will be too cool for sitting outside so I am enjoying every single day. I finally started again reading Stephen King's Insomnia which I started in 2004 for the first time and I tried to read it for about 3 times. Now I am in the middle and know, that I will finish this book this time. Take a look of the picture. Can you imagine that I am living nearly in the middle of a big city in a metropolitan region with 5 millions citizens? I need only ten minutes to get by bike to the city centre or 15 by metro to the centre of our metropolis? People would kill for such amazing views, full of green, trees and mountains which are behind those buildings. Quite village like. And à propos village: I have a small herb-garden on my balcony: basil and peppermint. For more herbs I had no time this spring.

I planed my vacation in Austria and Hungary. I haven't been to Vienna since years. I always loved the city. I loved the Habsburg culture, the way Austrians speak German, the style of life. This time I'll be able to visit Budapest and travel around Austria and Hungary. Back to the roots somehow. The ancestors of my grandfather were somewhere from Czechia which was until 1918 a part of the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire. Somewhen in the 18th century they settled down in Prussia where they stayed until the end of WWII. But the Austro-Hungarian roots of my grandfather's family are present until today in the maiden name of my mother. I can't wait to bring some new ideas home. Palatschinken and Kaiserschmarrn are two dishes I absolutely love. Let's see what else I'll try.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Staying Healthy With Food or Feed the Granny Healthy

I must confess, after strawberries this year, I discovered a new drug: WATERMELONS! I tried different kinds of and the most I love the yellow ones and the real, real red ones. I always liked watermelons but I've never eaten too much of them. Now, every second day I come home with a watermelon which I am eating together with my granny for the next two days. 

But my granny is a different story and a topic I wanted to write about. I maybe could be right with keeping thinking, that food could make us healthy: After our common Sunday lunches I started a new tradition: "feed the granny with fruits and vegetables". I want her to eat fruits and vegetables to get the vitamins and dietary nutrients she needs in her age. There was a time that she couldn't eat fruits or even yogurt. Her old body wasn't able to accept it. Than she had to go to the hospital and stayed there as well in a nursery for one month. I read a lot about keeping healthy with food and I decided to push her up with food. I started cooking for me and her during the weekends and always added small portions of different fresh food and vegetables to her eating plan. After two years i succeeded! During the last blood tests the doctor took out of the medicine plan the synthetic vitamins like potassium.

It's funny when I come with some ideas or stuff she doesn't know and just tell her in our horrible German to-the-point way of speaking: "EAT". Our discussions look like: "But I don't want!" - "Eat, it's healthy, no discussion." - "What is it?" - "This and those" - "Aha.... Where does it come from?" - "From XYZ" - "Uhm... Maybe I'll try it..." - "Try, try, it's tasty. Look at me, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. You will see it's okay" - "Okay, give it to me!" - and after a while "I didn't expect that's really tasty". That's the way I put i.e. some Greek or Italian food to her eating plan - eggplants, zucchinis, dried tomatoes, feta cheese... Two years ago she would throw me out together with the food I serve her sometimes. Now she enjoys it and it probably does good to her, eating more different kinds of stuff and not only a bread witch cheese or salami/ham. Maybe it's not the food itself but the variety and diversification of her latest diet. I do not know.

The other aspect and a great source of dietary nutrients is good mineral water. We've got a lot of great local mineral waters (not table waters!) in Germany (God bless German mineral waters!) that you sometimes do not know what to buy. I tried different, checking the nutrient lists and looking for exactly the minerals she needs the most. So I found two very good mineral waters which I told her to drink instead of table/tap water she was used to. One day one kind the next day the other. I think that it was also the reason for better medical findings in her case. Together with fruits, vegetables and a balanced diet she feels quite well in the last year.

So yes, I believe that food can make us healthy or even unhealthy if you enjoy ONLY junk food. Do you remember the report "Super-size Me?" My experiments with feeding my granny and myself healthy seem to bring results after two years. In her and as well in my case. 

Or maybe it's only fiddle-faddle. If yes, it's a tasty fiddle-faddle without any side-effects that impinge upon us.

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