Sunday, April 29, 2012

Food Philosophizing

I discovered this lovely blog yesterday.  The author's "about" page includes this wonderful quote, encapsulating something I've wanted to put into words for quite some time:

"Cooking is a reflection of lifestyle and culture. It tells about the qualities we appreciate and adhere to. It is a form of social interaction and a way to share affection and care. It is a primary need that, unfortunately, is devaluated by the modern society. It bothers me."
and then later...
"Every spoonful [of food] is a gift. It makes cooking and eating an act of devotion." 
wise words.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Delicious Failure

**Another repost, again in celebration of my new/old cooking blog.  And in celebration of Black Forest Cake.  You don't really need a reason.**

I'll be the first to admit that "failure" and "delicious" are not common pairs.  This is especially true in the culinary world, where the former conjures (at least for me) visions of soggy souffles and over-mayonaised tuna salad.  In this case, however, I am glad to report that a disappointing cake experience was rescued -with delectable results.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

How To Make Your Own: Pumpkin Puree

**Cross-Posting from my other blog in a double celebration.  One, because I now have a cooking blog, and two, because I found squash at the farmers' market yesterday.  Cue the celebratory trumpets.  Or just this awesome blog post**

I love pumpkin.  It's got a weird name, a weird shape, a weird flavor, and is stuck being the mascot of Halloween.  Willing or unwilling, we'll never know.  For whatever reason, this winter squash and I get on well.  I've used canned pumpkin for lots of different things -to replace some of the butter/oil in baking, to make bread, pie, macaroni and cheese, and soup.  I've even eaten it plain with blueberries and a drizzle of maple syrup.  Ok, more than a drizzle.  Bottom line, I love pumpkin, and I am headed to a place where the cheerful orange Libby's cans will be lacking (or cost $10 apiece which is pretty much the same thing).  With two uncarved pumpkins left over from Halloween, I figured it was time to make my own roasted, pureed pumpkin.  Here's how to do it, complete with step-by-step pictures, after the jump.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Great Döner Vergleich of 2012: Part I

(the reigning champ -see cellphone and hands for scale)

It's pretty wonderful that Germany's favorite street food is also MY favorite street food.  It's always available food.  Fantastic comfort food.  Terrible date food.  Brings-people-together food.  It's greasy and big.  Substantial and truly hunger-busting.  One of my guy friends even told me that the best way to scare a man who was being a little too friendly off was to eat one in front of him.  Guess it tears people apart too?  In short, Doener is everything the best street food should be.

...And like every street food, people stand by their favorite vendor.  I decided to do a little "vergleich" or "comparison" of the establishments in Tuebingen.  I've made it to two so far, hence the title "Part 1."  This is seriously going to be a food-nerd post.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Food and Friends

I love to cook (as I hope you can all tell!) and few things are more fun than sharing an interest with like-minded people.  Today was one of those days :)  In the morning, Silene and I made pancakes, each with our favorite recipe.  We swapped pancakes and toppings (Grade A maple syrup and butter for me, separate stacks of margarine with grade C maple syrup and nutella and strawberry jam for her).  I should have brought my camera to document the pancake bar, but sometimes moments are valuable just for being moments, not because a camera is there.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Honesty and Brown Sugar

I think cooking blogs bear a higher burden than other blogs when it comes to honesty.  Like science experiments (well, if we're being technical, cooking IS science) following the steps to the conclusion usually produces the desired result.  But like art, the expectations and inspiration don't always pan out.  This is one of those times.

I've liked papaya (isn't it a fun name?) since a family trip to Costa Rica when I was in middle school.  To me, it tastes like sweet, slightly caramelized brown sugar.  It's light, but also a little bit starchy.  Less fruity than many people expect it to be (I know I was surprised when I first tried it).  It's most often paired with mango or pineapple in some sort of tropical concoction like a smoothie or a fruit plate.  It's a shame that it never gets to be the star of its own show, though.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tortilla Time

One of the things about Germany is that the Mexican food is sorely lacking.  I suppose I should clarify that I mean "Tex-Mex" Mexican food (the Americanized kind found at Taco Bell and the like).  First, there are very very few Mexican restaurants here in Germany.  Second, when you CAN find things like salsa and seasoning mix here, they just don't taste the same.  Salsa is (for some reason) sweet.  Gross.  Tortillas are nowhere to be found.  That's probably the saddest part, because a tortilla makes a tremendous sandwich or wrap.  So, in keeping with my latest sourdough baking experimentation, I decided to...

...that's right, make my own.

I used this recipe (such a great resource, and the recipes are simple, straightforward, and full of tips should something go wrong).

They turned out fluffy and delicious.  Perfect for my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 


Saturday, April 14, 2012

English Muffins

After the resounding success of yesterday's pancakes (which I repeated today with a generous spoonful of cinnamon stirred into the batter -YUM) I decided to see what else my plucky little starter could do.  I settled on these.  This recipe appealed to me because unlike many others, it didn't require weighing all the ingredients and there were no fortellings of doom if my starter wasn't 100% proofed or I used a 50/50 white/wheat flour blend (which I did).

They turned out perfectly.  Really, truly, perfectly.  They are light, fluffy, moist, and have all the nooks and crannies one would expect from an English Muffin.  They also have very little sour sourdough taste -just enough that they have good flavor. These would be good plain, with butter and jam, or with any other spread imaginable.  A friend and I plan to cook veggie burgers together this week, and I will be putting mine on one of these.  Maybe I'll make my next batch dairy-free, so she can have some too!

 Perfect.  Looking forward to more adventures in sourdough baking as my starter matures!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pancake Days: Sourdough

Friends, family, other readers (if you exist?) I have an announcement:

I have been raising a beautiful baby.  My sourdough starter.  It needs to be kept at certain temperatures, fed on schedule, and handled firmly, but not too firmly.  It's a delicate balance, like I'm sure all parenting is.  And, like all parenting, it's panning out.  This morning my starter and I made pancakes.  They were SO SO SO good.  Fluffy, delicious, and not too tangy.  I used some more of my precious maple syrup to dress them up.  A little butter to make them melty and gooey.  And they made my morning twice the morning it otherwise would have been.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Feeding my Soul

Sometimes I forget that it isn't only my body that gets hungry, my soul does too.  Creating, reading, sleeping late, dreaming, hoping, and planning make my soul sing.  That's worth investing in.  Pardon the poor photographs -most notebooks here are just graph paper.  I've had less success finding plain.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pancake Days: Lying to Myself

I lied to myself today.  When I went to the store and saw how expensive real maple syrup was, I said "Emma, you can just eat your pancakes with butter and honey."  I came home and cooked myself some delicious apple-cinnamon pancake rings.  I drizzled a little honey on them.  I tried a bite.  I chewed.  I realized with dawning horror that the only real way to eat a pancake is with maple syrup.  I left my swiftly cooling apple-pancake rings on my desk as I ran to the store to buy that 5 Euro bottle of "Ahornsyrup."  You got me, pancake gods, I won't tempt you again.

Assuming that you have real maple syrup (or are close enough to a store to try tempting fate like I did: not recommended) here's the recipe I used for maple-cinnamon apple rings.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Science Experiments

Some people collect coins.  Some, vintage cars.  Some, issues of Vanity Fair from the 1980s.  I collect answers (and dresses.  I love dresses.).  My favorite thing is to learn something new and file it away for future reference.  Especially when it comes to food.  I want to know the how, what, why, and where of food.  I want to know how to make my own of everything.  Before modern times, everything was homemade -so why can't we do it again?  Don't get me wrong, chocolate bars are delicious, and pasta from the store is delightfully convenient.  I'd rather, however, make the choice to buy store pasta rather than have to do it because I can't make my own!  So as I try new things, from applesauce, to yogurt, to nurturing a sourdough starter, I'm trying to keep a journal of all the knowledge I collect.

It's fun to play scientist and write all my observations down.

Especially when I have a set of pretty colored pencils.

Real. Sweet.

I like my sweets.  Desserts of all shapes and sizes are welcome on my plate.  From gooey chocolate banana crepes to delectably frosted cakes to chocolate bars to muffins, my tummy smiles just like my face.  One thing that I especially like is sugar for breakfast.  I am very fond of a bowl of hot cereal with brown sugar and fruit.  There's a problem though -here in Germany, there is no brown sugar.  Maple syrup is extremely expensive, and white sugar just doesn't belong on oatmeal (Why does brown sugar belong then?  Don't ask me.)  I decided to buy some honey in TreffPunkt (a SUPER discount grocery store.  Like Aldi's.).  It was just ok.  Too sweet; too strongly honey flavored.  Meh.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Baking

Happy Easter!  The way I look at it, this quote does a great job explaining what all humanity gained today:

"Let every man and woman count himself immortal.  Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection.  Let him say not merely, 'Christ is risen,' but 'I shall rise.'"  ~Phillips Brooks


What better way to celebrate than dinner with friends?  We began planning at 8:00 last night -stores closed at 9:00.  It was a bit of a mad dash to get everything done in time. 
I woke up this morning to get ready for church and remembered dessert!  We had halfheartedly decided on fruit, but I was raised better than that ;) .  Strawberries are delicious, but no good for the end to a dinner party.  Since we're having a heavy dinner (noodles) we need a light dessert.  The problem?  Stores are closed on Sundays, so I couldn't just go out and select any old box of cookies or new ingredients.  Plus I was out of butter.  

How to make a light, pretty, Easter dessert without butter?

Plum Applesauce

Mmmm, Fruit Blend Applesauce.  I could eat applesauce day in and day out.  I could eat applesauce with a goat, on a boat, in the air, everywhere.  I'm not lying.  The applesauce bill in our home increases over breaks.

Because blended applesauce is especially expensive here, and I am pretty picky with texture and sweetness level (NOT a fan of applesauce with added sugar -it's far too sweet), I wanted to try making it from scratch.  I knew you had to cook fruit and then blend it, but I wasn't really sure about the proportion, or if there were fruits that I should stay away from.  I decided to search the internet for a recipe.  I only found one that matched what I was looking for.  The author of the blog Family Feedbag had a great resource for proportions.  Thank you!

Keep reading to see what I did.

Monday, April 2, 2012

What I Eat: Spicy

As a child, I remember getting a book from the library.  Well, I remember getting a LOT of books from the library, but this one was especially memorable.  It showed pictures of families around the world and the food that they consume in a month.  The photographs ranged from lots of chips and frozen foods in the Americas to rice and seafood in Japan.  The quantities also differed, and it fascinated me.

So I decided to take a picture of what I eat in a week.

So what did I cook with all those yummy ingredients?

I made Daal.

This was a big moment, for me.  I grew up in a low-spice household.  Salt, pepper, and Lowery's Seasoning were the daily spices.  Anything hotter was reserved for chilli or gingerbread. Onions (of any form) and garlic rarely made an appearance on the table.  This isn't to say that my childhood was bland, but spices seemed delightfully exotic to me.  Whenever I cooked, I usually just left most of them out.

Until now.  Today, I went into a spice shop.  Really!  A store that is full of spices, chocolate, and olives.  Little bags of star anise, garam masala, sheep cheese marinade blend, cinnamon, flavored sugars, and so many different varieties of curry.  As a spice newbie, I carefully examined the backs of each packet.  British Curry, Sweet Curry, Lemon Curry, African Curry...  The African Curry eventually won me over with its rich orange color and short ingredient list.  I rushed outside to taste it, and was immediately impressed with its bold, bright, spicy, slightly citrus flavor.  I had survived my first spice-buying experience, but the real test was in the cooking.

I went home and adapted this recipe to make it a little more appealing for the novice spice-user.  In less than an hour, I created a spicy, filling, andaesthetically pleasing meal that I ate over bulgur.  Find out how I made it after the jump!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Yogurt Part 2: Homemade Success

My first attempt at homemade yogurt was not successful.  I followed the less-than-specific advice of several bloggers to "keep the yogurt warm."  None specified a temperature, simply stating that wrapping your yogurt pot in towels and setting it in a warm place was enough.  I did that, putting the pot in a warm water bath under a heater turned up the hottest it would go.  Nothing happened.

As it turns out, "warm" is actually supposed to be "hot."  Anywhere from 110-150 degrees Fahrenheit is best.  This time, I put my yogurt in two class jars in a water bath on the stove.  I turned the heat on as low as I could, and turned it off periodically, when the water started to get too hot.  This was a little more involved than I was planning on being, but not too overwhelming.  It just means checking ever hour and a half or so.

Checking the yogurt (since I used non-homogenized milk, the darker layer on the top is cream!)-and oops, check out the camera strap...

So here's how I made my yogurt (and how you can too!)