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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