BUI

Blogging under the influence – that’ll be a first, for me anyway. Don’t know what other bloggers out there get up to of course ;-).

So why am I high? I’m just back from a dentist appointment, always a major source of stress and anxiety for me. I have an unshakable early childhood related dentist trauma, and I’m not very brave when it comes to pain in general. So I’m mostly a wreck whenever I go, and this time I knew something was wrong with one of my older fillings, so I was bracing for impact all morning.

I’ve overanalyzed this dental phobia of mine for decades. I know I have nothing to be scared of, nobody will hurt me, I can always say stop whenever I need a break, and I do need to get my teeth fixed so they’ll work another few decades. I’m well aware of all that, and I’m having near panic attacks every single time I have to go see my dentist anyway…

Once I get my shot of local anesthesia, I’m usually good to go, and the rest of the appointment goes smoothly. It takes me a while to come down from the adrenaline rush though, and I’ve made it a habit to reward myself once I’m done. Today I bought these:

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All is well now. The filling’s restored, my stress is leveling out and I’m flushing the drugs from my system with a big pot of tea – not allowed to eat yet, but my stomach’s still tied up in knots anyway, thank you very much, plus there’s a dull ache where the drill went, ugh. Tea is good.

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Still, instead of getting back to my assignment like a good little translator, I’m pouring my relief into this most irrelevant of all blog posts ever, just so you can hear me exhale. Phewwwwww. And thank you so much for reading, and sympathizing!

I’ve been pretty busy lately, with deadlines looming and jobs piling up, but still managed to clock in a few more rows on my current WIP, the red cable knit sweater, check it out:

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I also bought yarn last week, because I couldn’t help myself :-))): IMG_3243.JPG

Can you believe this shade of yellow? I love it to pieces, and can’t wait to make a pair of gorgeous socks from this hand-spun beauty, yay! Lovely, heartwarming and very seasonal. The incarnation of color therapy.

So, yarn lovers and/or dental phobics wherever you are, I’m wishing you a great week with little to no anxiety and as much time for crafts as you can possibly squeeze in.

A Few of my Favorite Things

It’s always great to hold a newly published book I translated in my hands. It can be a proud moment, especially if the publishing house did a nice job with the editing and I don’t see any typos at first glance – as was the case when I opened my mail on Tuesday to find this:
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I care about all ‚my‘ books, but this one was a pet project indeed, because it triggered so many memories, both culinary and actual. My mom lived in Swabia for the last 15 years of her life, and I frequently went to see her, and got to know and appreciate many things about that region. Not a small number of them were mentioned in the editorial sections that precede each of the chapters in this cookbook, cleverly – and fondly – observed by the author who is in fact not a native Swabian himself.

IMG_3220.JPGWhen I moved to Berlin, one of my Swabian friends gave me my very own Spaetzle press, check it out. It’s a utensil not unlike a potato ricer (an item I incidentally also have – does that make me a true foodie, you think…?).  The Spaetzle press is not in heavy use at our house, partly because my family’s addicted to Cecco pasta, and partly because I – alas – rarely have time for elaborate cooking these days. And of course I also live in fear of carbs, just like everybody else my age, so.

I do know how to make homemade Spaetzle, though. Would you like to learn? It’s pretty straightforward, if a teeny little bit messy. This is the method I was taught by my old friend U. who is the only person I know brave enough to have made Maultaschen (another archetype of Swabian food culture) herself, dough and filling and all. The process is comparable to making Strudel, and I say RESPECT to everyone who does these things.

For 4 helpings of Spaetzle, you will need

3-4 eggs

200 g white flour

200 g spelt flour if you can get it (do try, because it adds such a distinct, nutty flavor and chewability to the batter)

1/2 TBSP salt

about 125 – 150 ml lukewarm water

Butter

Nutmeg, freshly grated (optional)

A Spaetzle press :-)!

You can sift the flour into a bowl – some recipes call for that, but personally I never bother – you want to make noodles, after all, not meringues. Add eggs and salt. Beat with a wooden spoon and carefully add a splash of water at a time, until you’ve got a smooth, viscous batter that starts to form bubbles as you stir. Let rest for at least 20 minutes, check the consistency and add a bit of flour or water if required.

Bring heavily salted water to a boil in a large cooking pot. Reduce heat. Set the Spaetzle device on the open rim of the pot, spoon in some batter, and in a smooth, steady motion, squeeze it into the simmering water. Stir gently so the Spaetzle won’t stick together as they cook.

Spaetzle will rise to the surface shortly, at which point you swiftly fish them out with a slotted spoon, drain and place in a warm shallow dish, adding a few flakes of butter, and if you want to go all out, dusting them with a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. Repeat this process until you’ve used up all your batter.

And that’s how you make Spaetzle. As you know, they’re a side dish and usually come with a stewy meat affair heavy on the sauce (roast, goulash and the likes). I’ve also had them with creamy mushroom sauce not unlike the one I posted here, or as Käsespätzle (garnished with butter-fried onion rings and a heavy load of grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese). Swabians frequently eat them with a lentil stew and Wieners, a combination that may seem odd at first, but is actually quite good, as most Swabian dishes I’ve had. As you can see, I’m a believer :-).

One last word on cleaning the Spaetzle press (because you may be tempted to just sit down and enjoy your meal, as you’re entitled, of course). But do soak it in cold water before you dig in, I promise you won’t be sorry. The batter will come off easily if you do, and you’ll have a nicer time with cleaning up after dinner. Obviously this is also true for the bowl you used. It’s sticky, yucky stuff – and it’ll be everywhere, stove-top, spoon, side of cooking pot … ugh.

Still, everyone will love you if you go to the trouble – homemade Spaetzle are nothing like anything you can buy at the store. You’ll see. I try to work in some exercise before I cook a massive dish like this. Whether it actually makes a difference I don’t know, but it makes me feel better. Spring is coming, hopefully soon … we actually had snow yesterday. It’s getting difficult to remember these…IMG_9536

Unraveling – Infuriating!

 

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Remember when I talked about this beautiful red merino yarn I had gotten to make a sweater, and how I was pondering patterns, and looking at  different sleeves and styles and whatnot?

Well, last week I finally decided on a pattern from my good old stitches book, after consulting with my crafts club ladies. I was happy with my choice; I had looked at elaborate Aran patterns, Irish patterns, traditional Tyrolian patterns and of course I went to Ravelry too… the abundance can be positively overwhelming, don’t you think? In the end, I settled for a simple choice – kind of the design version of cable patterns, a two-dimensional interwoven look, playful but stylish, because it will cover the complete garment – look:

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All set, I thought. I had already cast on and made a bottom edge of knit 2, purl 2; I ended up unraveling that twice – at first, it seemed too wide (I already knew this yarn is very giving), then it seemed too narrow. But ultimately 110 stitches seemed perfect and I started with the pattern – only to find that this particular type of pattern makes the work contract like you wouldn’t believe. Could they maybe have mentioned that in the description, you think? Evil publishers! Arghhhh.

I unraveled again, cast on 138 stitches (divisible by 8 plus 2 edge stitches), and figured I was good to go. Yesterday was a pretty chill night of catching up with some of the episodes of Elementary I missed over the last weeks, and I made reasonable progress.

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Pretty, huh? However, after the first 4 repeats or so, it became clearer with every row I was making that this piece would be waaaay to small for my size 14 frame, and by the time I was ready for bed I was already bracing for the decision I would have to make today.

Just to be sure, I measured it against my green cardigan, and it was so frustratingly evident I could have burst into tears right there. I must confess that I actually took some of my anger out on my son’s punching bag, yeah. That felt better.

Sigh.

It helps to vent about these things here, also. And – if you’re still reading, thank you for taking an interest in my knitting woes, petty as they may seem given the horror that’s taking place in other parts of the world. Perspective is always healthy, and not everything is about me – although, a blog is one of those places you can be as self-centered as you want by definition – and you are here by your own choice. Anyway, thanks for paying attention. Wish me luck for my next attempt. What do you think? Should I go with 154? Or 160 even…?

Only one way to find out, is there ….

A Stolen Pasta Sauce Recipe

I love my fabulous friend M. for many reasons – she’s a sweet, smart, funny psychoanalyst, she was always the Most Elegant of the Moms at the playground, and she is definitely one of the best cooks I know. She also manages to keep up a strict Pilates regime without being obnoxious about it. I admire her a great deal, as you can probably tell. The other day, when I got to her house with my hungry brood, I was surprised to learn that „H. will be cooking today“. Now I knew many things about her husband before – he’s a also a great therapist, a sweet, smart, funny guy, and a dedicated Rock’n’Roll free spirit … but I had never had the pleasure to eat anything he made before.

The dish (Tagliatelle with cream of Gorgonzola and mushroom sauce) sounded – well, a bit random. But you know what? It was everything any of those ingredients will ever need to be. Whether he came up with it on a day there was nothing else left in the fridge, or whether he found it in a cookbook, I can’t tell you. All I can say is I had 2 1/2 helpings – OK, I had skipped lunch, but still – I _never_ have more than 1 plate of pasta, because carbs!!! So, exceptional: All the flavors in that sauce blend together in creamy, rich, savory, velvety bliss. Lovely on a cold day!

After dinner, I had H. explain to me precisely how he did it, so I’d be able to pass it on to whoever might find themselves in need of a happy, restoring dish – albeit a bit heavy on the carbs. Don’t worry, I’m adding a light wintry salad recipe – and however much you end up eating of either, is obviously entirely up to you ;-).

Sauce first. For 4 reasonable helpings of

Cream of Gorgonzola and Mushroom Sauce

you will need:

2 shallots, finely chopped

250 g Portobello mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced

125 g Gorgonzola cheese (more to taste, but no less)

250 – 300 ml whipping cream

1 TBSP flour

Olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Twig of fresh thyme if you have it

First, you heat a dash of good olive oil in a large, Teflon-coated skillet. Add shallots and after a minute, flour, to make a roux. Stir for a minute. Do not let the onions brown – it’ll taste completely different if you do, and you want both the flavors of the mushrooms and the cheese to be dominant, with the shallots being no more than a solid basis. Pour on the cream and stir, add mushrooms and bring to a soft boil for a few minutes. Finally add the cheese and let melt in the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste, even a pinch of sugar may be in order. You can let a twig or two of thyme steep in the sauce for a few minutes – but that’s optional. If you feel intimidated by the fat ratio, substitute some of the cream with milk. You’ve got your roux to thicken the sauce, so no worries about consistency, and it won’t affect the taste.

Boil pasta and serve.

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If you’ve read any of the other recipes I posted before, you already know that I’m a Cilantro person. I like to use it in many dishes, Asian as well as European, Arabic or Mexican. It always adds a certain unexpected zing to the food, and it’s supposed to be really healthy, so win-win. I’m calling this one:

Mâche Salad with Orange Fillets, Roasted Pine Nuts & Cilantro

For 4 helpings, you will need:

4 large handfuls of mâche salad

1 small shallot or 1 green onion, finely sliced

1 handful of cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

2 large oranges, filleted (Don’t know how to do that? Here’s a great tutorial from YouTube – be warned, it has a very, um, distinct Banjo background music 😉

fillet an orange

2 TBSP roasted pine nuts

4-5 TBSP premium quality olive oil

2 TBSP white balsamic vinegar (or any other type you like, this one’s just my personal favorite)

1/2 TSP salt, pinch of sugar, freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix your ingredients (minus dressing) in a large bowl. In a screw-top jar, combine dressing ingredients. Shake well. Try that dressing before you pour it on – who knows how much salt you like to put on your food? Might be way more than I like, or less – and that goes for all the condiments, of course. But you knew that, right?

So, that’s a very nice meal for a cold winter day right there. Enjoy :-)!

A Bit of Down Time

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In Berlin, we get this thing called „Winterferien“ – a week off from school right before the second semester. It can be inconvenient when on a deadline, but this time I decided to actually take a little time off to try and recharge those batteries.  I was going to start on the soccer book I’ll be contributing to, I really was, but sank into a deep bout of exhaustion instead. I didn’t use my brain a lot at all last week, but managed to do quite a bit of knitting.

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I also spent time with the kids, played a lot of board games (Ticket to Ride, always great and good for geography skills as well as for learning how to pronounce weirdly named American places … Duluth/Sault-Saint-Marie/Arkansas …). I also hosted a number of cute teenagers for my son’s birthday.

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They watched Studio Ghibli movies, I served them cake, my son’s favorite Chili and chips and got to hang out with parents who are also my besties. All in all, it was a pretty chill day, and a quiet week of regrouping for the next 6 intense weeks of school & work. I’m feeling better now, even though sleep was elusive (good for the knitting, though!).

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Not sleeping has also given me time to binge-watch the fourth season of ‚glee‘. Such an awesome show, if you have a soft spot for young adults, not to mention educational in terms of pop music. And occasionally, the glee club’s interpretations are actually preferable to the originals. I swear, Blaine’s solo version of Katy Perry’s ‚Teenage Dream‘ made me cry, it was so intense. My liking this show is most probably an outlet for my apprehension of having to bite that bullet and turning 50 next year. Not looking forward to that :-/…

And then I had to say goodbye to a dear friend who moved to Munich. I took the opportunity to try out one of the more challenging patterns in my faithful crochet book and made her this bookmark, from a pretty shade of grey-blue that suits her so well:

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I will miss her! Long-distance friendships aren’t easy to maintain, but also not impossible if both parties put a little energy into it. Right, A.?

On my walks last week I kept looking for signs of spring (snowdrops, specifically), which were nowhere to be found, even though the grainfields did wear a little sheen of green from the first crops. But lo and behold, as I got out of the car yesterday here in town, I was greeted by these beauties:IMG_0643

There’s hope :-)).

And since no birthday-related post could ever be complete without a recipe, here’s what my absolutely fabulous 14-year old made for his birthday:

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Small Puff Pastry Apple Tarts

You will need:

1 roll of store-bought puff pastry dough

3 tart apples, cored and thinly sliced

3 TBSP apricot jam

Cut dough into 3 cm wide strips and spread with some jam. Thinly slice apples and soften in hot water for 5 minutes. Place on dough strips side by side with the half-moon shapes on top, then roll up tightly for that sweet rose petal look.

Place on baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for approx. 20 min at 160 – 180 °C.

They’re really good when fresh out of the oven, with a dollop of whipped cream.

And now for something completely different … back to work. Have a great week, everybody.