I am back with both feet on solid ground. After 20 hours of travel time from my doorstep in Freiburg to my doorstep in Bellingham, I am happily exhausted. Was my time in Germany all a dream?? Did that quarter of a year, really fly by that fast?? My neighborhood still looks the same, the town still looks the same, yet I have come back a little different. My european outfit, looks out of place in this town. What was casual and comfortable in Germany, seems too well dressed for Bellingham standards-tight black pants, with a thin golden belt, a small pink cardigan, leather shoes, and a bright lip stick to match. Double takes and nice bright smiles where greeting me everywhere as my mother and I walked the Boulevard promenade in the evening sun. It has only been four hours since I have been home, and the celebratory "welcome back" beer at good ol' Boundary Bay, is bringing my wired mind, down to the level of my tired body. Lets call it a day, and let these tired muscles and tired eyes rest until tomorrows light.
Friday, June 22, 2012
However now my time is coming to an end. Tomorrow I leave on a bus to Freiburg, and then Thursday I take off in a jet plane from Frankfurt to once again return home to my beloved Pacific Northwest. I am sad to say that today I ate my very last fresh baked Metzler pretzel, the best pretzel baker in all of Germany. Yet I am excited to say that soon I will be home in Bellingham to see the best of the Northwest during the summer. I missed you Bellingham. I missed you my friends. And I miss you still Dane.
With all this bounty of fresh fruit from around Langenargen, I decided to bake my last goodbye to Germany and those with whom I spent so much of my time, my grandparents. Right now, the nectarines are perfect, sun-ripened, and juicy. Their flesh is a deep orange like the color of a sunset lit sky-great for some all natural eye candy.
Nectarines characteristic sunset colored hue is due to the large amounts of beta-carotene and lutein. Our bodies use beta-carotene to produce vitamin A, which plays a large role in eye and bone health as well as in reproductive health. Lutein acts as an important antioxidant helping to rid the body of free radicals and may help as preventative medicine against chronic diseases. Not to mention nectarines are stocked full of vitamin c and carry a good punch of fiber. Now who can resist grabbing a nectarine instead of a cookie for dessert? Not me!
Yet if you are looking to make something more along the lines of a traditional dessert, I recommend this vegan nectarine and apple cake. It is very moist, lightly sweet, and full of hearty spelt flour. Nobody will miss the eggs and butter, trust me.
Vegan Nectarine and Apple Cake
Makes a 21 cm spring form cake
1 cup unrefined flour
1 cup spelt flour
2/3 cup unrefined sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (coconut, canola, sunflower)
2/3 cup almond milk (or any other nut/grain milk)
1 apple ( I used pink lady)
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch sea salt
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
4 drops rum essence
1 Tbsp unrefined sugar (topping)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Oil the spring form pan and dust the bottom and sides with flour. If you have quick oats on hand, a quick sprinkle over the flour dusting is a good addition. Set spring form pan aside.
3. Mix together the two flours, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon.
4. Grate the apple and zest the lemon into the large bowl.
5. In a separate bowl mix together the sugar, olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, rum essence drops, and vanilla bean.
6. Pour the liquid mixture into the large bowl with the flour. Mix well.
7. Depending on the juiciness of the grated apple you may not need all of the almond milk. Slowly pour in the almond milk until the mixture resembles a thick pancake batter. You don't want the batter to be too wet.
8. Pour the batter into the prepared spring form pan.
9. Top with sliced nectarines and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp sugar.
10. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Bake until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.
Now invite some friends over for cake and coffee and ENJOY :)
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
In Germany, being a vegetarian is much harder than in Bellingham, especially if you are looking for fresh healthy options. However, being a vegan is almost unthinkable. Eating out in traditional German restaurants is not even an option. I am no longer a vegan, nor a vegetarian, and I have grown to love the German cuisine, might I add, the Schwaebische kitchen. There is a huge difference between the north and the south cooking culture in Germany, just like there are huge differences all throughout the USA. Personally, the southern kitchen, also known as Schwaebisch, is the best. Fresh ingredients, locally raised meats, and traditional recipes that have French flairs, round the flavor of the southern German cook. Not to mention, the Germans also have a fantastic wine country all along the Bodensee and in the Kaiserstuhl. Across the world people think the Germans only eat sausage and sauerkraut, but I am sorry to say, this is not true. The southern German kitchen has so much to offer, that anyone, from light to decadent in nature, can find a meal that will please. One of my favorite traditional meals are maultaschen. They are similar to ravioli but bigger, usually filled with a spinach and lamb mixture, and topped with sautéed onions. They are full of flavor and satisfy any hidden craving. Usually, they are accompanied by a large mixed salad, where you will find a little bit of everything; cucumber salad, potato salad, daikon radish salad, coleslaw, carrot salad, and on and on and on. One can also find these delicious maultaschen cut up in a broth, or baked in a tomato sauce. I find them perfect with just the sautéed onions. In the restaurants they usually offer a vegetarian option, but not vegan.
Soon my time in Germany will come to an end, and my beloved brother’s will start. Knowing that the traditional, savory, delicious, German kitchen will be off limits for him during his stay, I decided to give it a whirl and make him some vegan maultaschen, so he can have a little bit of the good stuff too. Instead of just making them vegan, I also added a little more wholesome grain, which lacks in the traditional version. I hope he enjoys them as much as I do mine.
These do take their time to prepare and therefore I made a large batch at once. You can easily freeze them for easy dinners later on. Since this recipe takes a little bit of day before preparation, I recommend reading through the whole recipe to make sure a simple step does not hinder you from continuing on.
Vegan Maultaschen with Oat Groats
Makes about 20 large maultaschen (serving size: two per person)
For the Noodle Dough:
200 grams unbleached flour
200 grams spelt flour
½ Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
5 Tbsp olive oil
130 ml lukewarm water (plus extra if needed)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
3 Tbsp water
For the Filling:
125 grams oat groats (soaked overnight)
400 grams cooked spinach (packaged organic frozen spinach, reheated, is a quick option)
1 day old roll (or 2 slices day old bread)
3 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 small onion (finely chopped)
1 garlic clove
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp sugar
fresh grated nutmeg and pepper
chili flakes (optional)
Directions for the noodle dough:
Combine the ingredients in a bowl and begin to knead the dough until smooth. This may take some time and patience. If you feel you need a bit more water sprinkle some over the dough with your hand and then knead some more. Spelt flour needs more water than white flour, and more patience when kneading. Once well combined (can still be somewhat dry in the middle) and smooth on the outside, cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to sit overnight in a warm spot. This helps the water to evenly diffuse through the dough, giving you a nice smooth dough to work with the following day.
Directions for the oat groats:
Strain the oat groats from soaking water and place into a saucepan. For every one part oat groats add about 3 parts water. Add a vegetable bouillon cube and garlic clove and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and cook slowly until the groats have become creamy. This will take about an hour with a saucepan, and less with a pressure cooker. Stirring the groats every once in a while makes them creamier. Once groats are fully cooked and creamy, with no liquid remaining, use an emersion blender and blend the groats until most groats are pureed, and some whole. You are trying to imitate a texture of ground beef. Once cooked and pureed the total mass of the mixture should come to about 400 grams.
Directions for the remaining of the filling:
Sautee the onions in the oil until browned. Meanwhile, soak day old bread in lukewarm water. In a large bowl add sautéed onions, cooked spinach, and fresh parsley. Squeeze out day old bread and add to the large bowl. Stir the mixture well and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and chili flakes. Add the oat groat mixture and mix well. Add more salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
Phew!! Now the mixture is all said and done…now comes the fun part....making the delicious maultaschen!
How to make the maultaschen:
Separate the dough in half. It is easier to do the batch in two sections than in one. Sprinkle flour on your working surface and roll out the dough until very thin. Try to keep the dough in a rectangular shape. Make sure as you roll out the dough that you flip it every so often and dust with flour. You do not want the dough to be sticky. Once rolled out cut into rectangles that are about 6 inches long and 3 inches wide. You don’t need to measure them exactly, just estimate. Mix together the cornstarch and water in a little bowl and set it near your working station-this is the glue for the maultaschen.
Take one rectangle and dust the top with flour. Roll the rectangle out a bit more to get a nice thin rectangle. Flip and dust with flour again. Using your finger, line the edges of the noodle rectangle with the cornstarch and water mixture. Then place about 2 Tbsp of the filling onto the rectangle and spread it out 2/3 of the length-always leaving the edge free. From left to right flip the dough three times and press the edges with a fork. Repeat with all the dough and all of the filling. Set finished maultaschen aside.
When the first batch is finished. Bring to boil a large saucepan filled with 1/3 water and a bouillon cube. Reduce heat to a low medium and add only enough maultaschen that they do not lay on top of each other. Do not let the water boil. Cook for 10-12 minutes. With an slotted spoon place them individually on a large baking sheet or wire rack to cool. DO NOT STACK ON ONE ANOTHER- THEY WILL STICK AND RIP.
Once they are cool, you can then freeze them, refrigerate them, sauté them, or bake them. If you choose to refrigerate or freeze them, you must reheat them in a broth for 10 minutes. I usually serve them with a large salad and sautéed onions on top. After warming in the broth, I place them in the oiled pan with the onions and allow them to crisp up a bit. Enjoy!
Optional: If you are not vegan you can replace the 400 grams of cooked oat groats with ground beef, lamb, pork, or quark.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
It was a sunny warm day at the Bodensee and the town of Langenargen was bustling with people. The Match Race attracts people from all over the world to watch sport sailors race across the lake in high-class sailboats. Every year the event takes place along the promenade, with beer gardens, music, food, and fancy cars. It is an event that attracts the locals, the posh, and the sailing folk alike.
I have zero clue about sailboats, nor do I care much for the race, but still it was interesting to see how it was done. Spinnakers billowed from the sailboats to carry them across the lake and back, and agile sailing brought winners to the shore. I lazily sat in the sun with a nice cool beer, and took some photos in remembrance.
After a few hours of sitting in the sun, I decided to venture away from the crowds and from the town Langenargen itself. Today would be the perfect day to harvest elderflower for some elderflower syrup. I grabbed my bike, a canvas bag, and a scissor, and off I was. I stopped at every elderflower bush I saw and picked the five most beautiful clusters. I made sure to take only side roads and trails with little to no traffic to insure that my flowers were clean of toxins and dirt. My canvas bag was filled within an hour with beautiful fragrant flowers. Now off to the kitchen!!
Here in Germany, elderflower syrup, also known as holunderblütensirup, has made its way into fancy cocktails, drinks, and desserts. Its floral aroma is very unique and pleasant on a hot summer day. The typical way the syrup is used is in a drink called Hugo. It is a mixture of elder blossom syrup, prosecco, and a splash of sparkling water with fresh mint leaves and ice. Absolutely refreshing and delicious…
I have also used it in fresh berry tarts. For example, in the strawberry tart, you can substitute the syrup for the sugar in either the custard or in the clear glaze. Also, you can add it in a simple yogurt dessert to add a floral note. It is versatile, unique, and elderflowers have some wonderful health benefits to boost.
Many people may have noticed elderflowers or berries in herbal immune boosting teas. This is because elderflowers can help reduce mucous due to seasonal colds, allergies and hay fever, as well as keep the immune system stimulated. Elderflowers also have known benefits in digestive irregularities, may it be diarrhea or constipation and can help detoxify the blood. The flowers and leaves themselves can also be used to soothe burns or dry skin.
If you want to get creative with this wonderful flower please try this delicious elixir, I promise you will not be disappointed! It makes a great gift too.
Makes about 2.5 liters
50 Elderflower Bulbs (rinsed)
1.5 L filtered water
1.5 Kilo Organic Sugar (or honey)
2 Organic Lemons
2 Organic Oranges
30 gram Citric Acid
1. Heat water and sugar until sugar is dissolved.
2. Meanwhile rinse the flowers to remove bugs and dust, and clip away the branches and leaves. You only want the flowers and the tiny stems they are on. Put the cleaned flowers into a large pot
3. Zest and slice both the lemon and oranges and put into the pot with elderflowers.
4. Pour the warmed sugar water over the flowers and citrus.
5. Sprinkle in the citric acid and stir well until all flowers and citrus are under the level of the sugar water.
6. Cover and stir occasionally. Allow the mixture to sit a minimum of 24 hours and a max of 48 hours.
7. Strain mixture through a muslin cloth and then through fine sieves to remove any zest or flower particles.
8. Pour into clean, boiled canning jars or bottles. Seal and keep refrigerated.
Optional: Fresh ginger root is also a nice addition in place of the orange. Also, you can keep the orange and lemon slices for dessert garnishes later.