Lunch, Anyone?

I’ve written about that vicious cycle before (so much work – imminent starvation – translating cookbook); I swear I’ve gained half of my excess weight because of my specializing in that particular genre. Doesn’t bode well for the future, does it???

Trepidation of impending obesity aside, here’s what I whipped up today after wandering into the kitchen in search of food. For lack of a better term (for it took all of 20 minutes to make, and stews, in my mind, usually take hours and hours of, um, stewing) I’m calling it

No-Fuss Chickpea and Tomato Stew

IMG_2736As you can see, I topped it with Feta cheese and some fresh basil. I thought it looked very pretty, and it was also very good. Here’s how I made it.

1 shallot, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 TB olive oil

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 can chickpeas

Salt & pepper to taste

Pinch of sugar

1 handful fresh basil and oregano, chopped

Gently sauté the vegetables and herbs until the shallots are translucent but not brown, add tomatoes and season the sauce to your liking. Let stew for a few minutes, then add the drained chickpeas and let them heat in the hot sauce for a bit. Chop or crumble your Feta cheese, pour stew in a bowl, top with crumbled or cubed cheese and a bit of fresh basil (mainly for the looks, sauce is yummy just as it is), grab a spoon and eat :-). Quick & easy, as lunch should be, in my opinion.

Dropping out of Blogland again for now with a quick wave and a few pics of last week’s ninja crocheting – I made my first (and probably last, you’ll know why when you see it!) amigurumi for my sweet niece M.’s birthday, as well as a colorful mandala as a bright little personal addition to the white peonies I gave to my wonderful friend M. for her birthday.

It has to be noted, that while I managed the mandala by myself, the unicorn was only finished on schedule because my rock star of a son took care of the finishing and assembling. That boy can sew – soooo much better than I, and unlike me, he’s patient enough to do it, bless him.

Have a great week, everyone :-).

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A Domestic Post

I love our apartment. It’s spacious, with large windows and just the right mix of slightly shabby bohemian turn of last century chic and modern amenities. The children get their own rooms, we can each be by ourselves whenever we choose to be, and there’s still enough room to converge for a meal, a movie or a game. But despite all that space, my favorite few square meters over the few precious months of warm weather we get in this climate are our two (!) balconies. One faces East and the other West, so we get both morning and afternoon sun.

IMG_2599The above is the kitchen balcony we share with our neighbors next door. They rarely take advantage of it, because they’re not home a lot, but I always use it for growing herbs. As of last summer, I’ve been proud owner of this fabulous urban gardening contraption, but it’s only recently that I’ve actually begun using it in its designated capacity. It’s a euro-pallet we found in the street, and my son took it home, painted it, lined it with plastic foil and made me this planter for my herb plants for my birthday last year. I’m having a lot of fun with it.

Last week I made a quiche from a random assortment of bits and pieces found in my vegetable drawer (leeks, zucchini, fennel, carrots and a leftover boiled potato), pimped with an unusual combination of herbs I had at my fingertips thanks to that planter (tarragon, mint and thyme – in bloom). Because I’m still trying to substitute as much wheat as I can, I used 2/3rds rye flour for the crust, which added a nice nutty flavor. I topped it with a few slices of goat cheese and thyme flowers …

IMG_2593IMG_2602… and look how pretty it turned out. It was very good, too.

I will tell you how I made this, but be warned: it’s not a lightweight, and that’s just how it is. Shortcrust needs butter (or in some recipes that are not mine, even lard), so if you’re counting calories, you’d better count in some time on the treadmill too ;-).

Veggie Quiche on a Rye Crust

The crust is pretty straightforward – flour, cold butter, 2 yolks, some salt. Some ice water if needed. Quickly make a smooth dough, chill for 1 hour, roll out and bake. Let cool for a bit. Then add the sauteed veggies, pour on the eggs-and-cream mix, and bake until puffed up and lightly browned.

You will need

200 g rye flour

100 g wheat flour

1/2-1 TSP salt

150 g chilled butter (sorry!)

2 egg yolks

2 TBSP ice water if needed to make dough smoother

Quickly knead the ingredients to make a firm, smooth dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

In the meantime, get out a large skillet and sauté in olive oil:

1 leek, the white portion, cut into 1/2 cm rings

3 green onions, cut into rings

2 carrots, cut into thin slices

1/2 bulb of fennel, chopped

1 small zucchini, chopped

1 leftover boiled potato (but only because I had it, the quiche certainly doesn’t need any additional carbs!)

1 TSP thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

1 TSP fresh tarragon, chopped

A few careful leaves of mint to taste, chopped

(The above is what I used. You can, depending on the season, on what looks good that day and your personal preference, use any vegetable and/or herb that strikes your fancy – bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, chard, cabbage, or I suppose even kale, asparagus, beans, green peas, onions, eggplant, okra, squash, mushrooms and seeded and juiced tomatoes …)

Cut up the veggies and cook them with the herbs at medium heat for a few minutes. Season to taste, then let cool in the skillet until you’re ready to fill your quiche.

After 1 hour in the refrigerator, take out the dough and with a rolling pin, quickly roll out a 3-4 mm thick crust. Butter a baking dish and dust with flour. Line it with the dough evenly. You’ll probably have to do some patchworking here and there, because the dough might tear as you transfer it to the baking dish, but don’t worry, it’s not going to show after you bake the crust. Next, pierce the crust with a fork every few centimeters, preheat the oven to 160 °C and bake until the dough sets – 20 minutes should be enough. Let cool for a while.

For the topping, you will need

4 eggs

200 ml whipping cream

Salt and pepper

1 goat cheese log, cut into 5 mm thick slices

Fresh thyme flowers, one for each slice of cheese

Now beat 4 eggs into 200 ml whipping cream and add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the vegetables to the crust and spread evenly. Place as many slices of cheese as you like on the vegetables and top each slice with a thyme flower. Pour the egg mixture in the pan and bake for about 30 minutes at 150 °C, until the surface puffs and browns lightly. Serve with a large bowl of salad so you have a chance to have some non-fattening food with that indulgence :-).

We had a week off from school, two days of which were spent on the Autobahn No. 9. Car travel is always hell for my back, but good for crafts projects when I’m not driving. Here’s what happened on that front:

Originally, this was planned as an addition to my ‚give that couch some color‘ quest, but then my daughter pointed out how very well the color scheme matched that of her room, so … I’ll have to come up with another design for the couch, another time.

Right now, I’m grappling with my first amigurumi crochet project – very exciting, and so much more counting stitches than I’m usually comfortable with, but it’s for a good cause, so I’ll just have to cope ;-)). My sweet niece M.’s birthday is coming up, and I’m making her a unicorn, check it out:

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To come full circle with the domestic topics (notice how I didn’t mention work even once 😉 ?) let’s have a look at the first green peas my husband grew in his vegetable patch, proudly presented by our own little Sweet pea:

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Signing off today with a piece of interior decoration I saw in my mother in law’s guest bathroom:

IMG_2535For those who don’t know any German, it says: Sometimes it’s just better to blame others. It made me laugh out loud, because it’s so to the point for everyone who was, like me, brought up to be a ‚Good Girl‘. Not sure how well that worked out, but I do know that I’m still working on ditching some of that early childhood imprinting :-).

Have a great month of June, everyone!

Favorite Summer Things

Yesterday, we did something we hadn’t done in years. It used to be one of my favorite pastimes when my daughter was little: a lazy afternoon at the park, and a picnic dinner.

It felt nostalgic to think back to those carefree days with no school, no homework or piano practice and nothing more important to do than watch the toddlers play in the sandbox and change a diaper every once in a while. My daughter’s sweetest cutie-pie of a girl friend’s lovely mom and I were sprawled on the lawn – she as a former dancer way more graceful than I, no doubt, chatting and munching on carrot sticks. It was fabulous.

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The weather was like you can see above, and below you can see our mishmash eats.

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There were hard-boiled eggs, salami sticks, a slab of cheese, a lentils and chard salad, a quickly thrown together pasta salad, some cream cheese and crackers, olives, cherry tomatoes, bread and butter, carrot sticks and a few slightly stale leftover chocolate and almond muffins for the young. Not a bad turnout, and a good way to get rid of leftovers and slightly mismatched foods that had just about outstayed their welcome in the fridge.

We had a nice 2 hours out in the sun, and I soaked up the rays like I rarely can once we’ve passed the 20s and entered the 30s. Usually, over the summer, my place is in the shade, under a hat, in some not too heavy long-sleeve garment. I just love the spring and the fall more than the heat, despite the outdoor swimming that I, illogically, love too.

In other news, I’m happy to report that the Three Weeks Without My Boy are drawing to a close. In fact, we’ll go get him Saturday – a prospect that has me feeling like Christmas came a bit early this year, with some Thanksgiving and a couple birthdays thrown in. As suspected, the world didn’t end while he was gone, and I wasn’t crying myself to sleep every night, nor did I stop enjoying life. It helped that, after a few days of absolute radio silence, we did get the odd What’s App and a few pics even – look, aren’t the goats pretty?

IMG_2409In terms of crafts, I started on yet another cushion – a simple Granny Square gradually getting bigger. I’m using up a few leftover sock yarns from the past few months for this.
IMG_2422The color combo is a bit random, probably due to the fact that I grabbed the first four yarn balls I could find when I rushed out the door late for picking up my daughter, and then challenged myself to make something pretty out of the colors anyway. I’m pleased at how it’s turning out, though. For the back, I’m leaning toward either the baby blue or the mint green, whatever will seem more promising in a few rounds.

And since my friend and picnic partner from yesterday M. was curious about the lentil salad, here’s how I made it:

Spontaneous Lentil Salad

2 handfuls black Beluga lentils, boiled

1 green onion, finely chopped

1 tomato, seeded and cut up in 1,5 x 1,5 cm pieces

1 handful cilantro, chopped

500 g baby chard leaves

Olive oil

White Balsamic vinegar

Pinch of sugar

Salt & pepper to taste

As I was in a rush, all I basically did was throw everything in a salad bowl and add the condiments and spices without much decorum or fussing with the dressing. I suppose everything kind of mixed nicely when I was walking over to the park.

And since I never took a picture of that salad, I’d like to throw in a cake, with pics.

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This is before it went into the oven. The cake is based on a recipe I got from Ms M., the wonderful midwife who helped me ease into motherhood when my son was born 15 years ago.

I hadn’t made this for years, and was reminded of it only recently when I was supposed to bring a cake to a school thing, and had neither time nor energy for a grocery run, but needed to work with what I had. So I took stock and what I found sort of triggered the memory of this buttery, fluffy indulgence topped with almond slivers, sugar and melted butter. (Who watches calories when they’ve recently delivered a baby, right?)

The one I made 2 weeks ago did go a bit easier on the butter, and unlike in the original recipe that doesn’t involve fruit, I topped 2/3rds of the cake with sliced apples. I also substituted most of the wheat flour with coconut flakes, and used Stevia sugar because I was out of the regular kind (it happens!). But it turned out nice anyway ;-), and everyone at the parents‘ meet enjoyed it. That’s why, today, I made it again: because I could, and also because it was Children’s Day.

Here’s how I went about it:

Children’s Day Cake

100 g coconut flakes

100 g sugar

Pinch of salt

Zest of 1,5 lemons

100 g plain yogurt

Juice of 1/2 lemon

3 eggs

150 g softened butter

50 g flour, possibly a bit more

1/2 p baking soda

1 p vanilla sugar

A dash of milk if needed

50 g sliced almonds (or coconut slivers)

4 TB sugar

2 large Boskoop or other tartish apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

50 g butter, melted

Cream the softened butter, sugar, salt and vanilla sugar. Add the eggs, yogurt, lemon zest, coconut flakes and flour. Add lemon juice to taste. Let sit for a while so the coconut flakes can absorb some of the moisture; should the batter seem too dry to you, add a bit of milk. If it seems to moist, add more flour.

Just before baking, stir in the baking soda.

Butter a baking sheet and dust with flour. Spread the batter evenly, about 1 cm high. At this point, you can either go all the way and just sprinkle almonds (or coconut slivers) and sugar on the batter, and generously drizzle melted butter on top.

Or you can top the batter with apple slices and just sprinkle a wee bit of sugar and a few drops of melted butter on to caramelize. Bake at 160 °C for about 30 minutes or until a light, golden brown.IMG_2471That’s what it looked like when it came out of the oven…

img_2472.jpg… and that was 20 minutes later, I’m not lying. I’d say the cake turned out pretty good ;-). In fact, I’d recommend you go for the coconut slivers instead of the almonds if you do want to try this recipe, they’re far superior.

In Berlin, we get a week off from school next week – a short break that needs to last us until summer break, so I’ll feed the kids lots of fresh fruit and let them sleep in and relax – although there is some renovating I’d like them to help with at the cottage. Maybe I can bribe them.

Enjoy the early summer, be glad it’s not 40 in the shade yet, and look forward to the first strawberries from the region – I just bought some yesterday and there’s just nothing quite like them :-).

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