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Archive for April, 2010

Photo by Timo

The river that winds through town here is surrounded by little parks and gorgeous old buildings. Since coming here, I have been inspired to pack a picnic and meet friends on its shores.  Before today, I had only managed to enjoy the picturesque views with take-out pizza and beer.  It was great, but I wanted more.

Today, a friend and I gathered our things and went to the park. She made a delicious salad with chicken and avocados and her signature homemade salad dressing. I brought along strawberry hand pies from Martha. The recipe worked well, but I was worried about them being too juicy (a common problem with hand pies and berry pies especially). So I added a little step to her directions. I followed someone’s advice and let the strawberries sit in the sugar for a while. Then, I poured the sugar/juice mixture into a pan and let it simmer on the stove until it had reduced to half. I added this condensed syrupy liquid back in with the strawberries. And continued to follow martha’s orignal recipe. Bake them on a silpat, if you have one, because these do stick to the pan. Otherwise, these hand pies were easy and delicious. Perfect picnic food.

Next time, I plan to make one or all of the following for our picnic:

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I love granola bars or more specially protein bars. It boils down to this: I’m a girl of habit and I’m not a morning person. So granola bars are perfect. They are my morning staple. Through the years, I have gone through some phases. I loved the crunchy granola bars, cliff bars, homemade granola, but here in Germany there really aren’t many options. There are tons of muesli options, which I do like, but requires doing dishes afterwards. There just aren’t a lot of option for breakfast bars. The only widely available option is called “corny”– with no granola in it at all.  So this week’s challenge was to make something delicious, filling and easy — that wouldn’t need to be supplemented by scrambled eggs like last weeks ginger scones.

I started with this granola bar recipe from smitten kitchen (found via domestifluff and originally adapted from King Arthur). I made some changes, partially because of what was available here in Germany and partially cause, well, I made some mistakes that actually ended well.

Rather than copy the recipe here with my simple changes, just follow the links above, but keep my substitution in mind. I didn’t have a food processor so I substituted “oat flour,” which is just processed oats, with finely ground coconut (readily available here) and two tablespoons of wheat flour.  For dried fruits, I used 1 cup chopped prunes. For nuts, I used a package of “salad seeds” which included pumpkin seeds *highly recommended,*  sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. After baking, I realized these are too sweet and a little too thick, so make your own call, but maybe less than a 1/2 cup of sugar and thinner. With a wax paper or tin foil lined pan, these come out really easily. Just cut them up when cooled and enjoy.  I know, I will.

Hopefully, they will make it so I can enjoy more sleep and have a hearty breakfast. These bars could have saved me on Friday, when I woke up a 5am for work/breakfast and stayed out until 4am. Ug.

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Living in German definitely has its perks, one of which is the forced leisure on Sundays. Stores (and many restaurants) are closed, so people spend the day relaxing. I have found Sundays to be the perfect day for baking.  I had originally planned to make cinnamon rolls, but I forgot cinnamon and like I said no place was open. So I looked in my kitchen for something to make. I knew I wanted to bake something for breakfast on Monday. Monday is a big day for us here. It’s the start of classes and all of the teachers are a little stressed. So I had 2 lemons, 1 ginger root, basic baking ingredients and a baking sheet. I decided to make the most out of that. I made three delicious things.

First, I made candied ginger. It’s perfect for nervous stomaches. The candied ginger recipe was adapted from Alton Brown. I followed his basic directions, but I used one ginger root and 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar.   Basically, after boiling the ginger, strain it and boil it in simple syrup until the sugar re-crystalizes.

Next, I used the liquid that the ginger had been boiling in (and was strained off) to make ginger ale. I added some simple syrup, a little lemon juice, and sparkling water. I haven’t really been looking, but I haven’t seen ginger ale here. This was so good that even if I do find it, I wouldn’t buy it. It would make this!

The third ginger project of the day was ginger scones. I used this lemon ginger scone recipe and added a glaze on top. It used most of my candied ginger, but I had a few big chunks set aside to enjoy later. I am usually not a scone person… but wow! The texture was perfect. So moist. And the flavor was incredible.

I am so happy with each of these. When I moved into my little apartment, where the kitchen is literally in a closet and the only oven is a toaster oven, I thought all attempts at baking would be worthless. But my sweet coworker told me not to underestimate my toaster oven. And he was right. That thing is pretty powerful. I haven’t exactly figured out cooking times and temperatures, but that’s just more reason to bake.

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So, what’s happened in my life? My sister had her beautiful baby boy.

And I got offered a job in Germany. The kind of opportunity that you don’t even hesitate accepting because right away you know it’s going to be great. So, the last few months, I got rid of most of my belongs: sold my car, donated tons of clothes, and gifted some of my fabric stash. Pairing down my things has been both freeing and frustrating. And now, that I am living with just one suitcase worth of belongings (and a furnished apartment) I can hardly imagine why I needed so much.

I’ve still been crafting and cooking. It’s a nice way to fill the down time.

A gift for my new coworker’s daughter using the bunny nugget pattern. She sweetly invited me to Easter.

A little heart dishtowel for the house. From this tutorial.

Both of these projects were really fun. Since I left my sewing machine in storage, knitting is my new hobby. I am a very basic knitter, but these were easy enough. I have to admit the heart dishtowel took a little bit too much thought and time for me. (It was my first time with a purl stitch.)

But the bunny was a blast. I think, next up is Rebbeca Danger’s “monster chunks.” It would make a good ball to throw around my new classroom.

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