Monday, December 31, 2012

Cliffhanger New Year's Eve

I should have known that 2012 wanted to make an lasting expression on its exit when I read this morning that Kim Kardash. is pregnant. After that, my own day unraveled with more unpleasant surprises, and about everything about this day went wrong so far. Banking problems, technology problems, and on top of it all once I was out and about to go cross country skiing for the first after only shoveling snow so far and I had actually forgotten my skis at home. Yes, it was that kind of day. And Obama also does not have a good day there in D.C. with his own cliffhanger.

So, here's to a more celebratory cruising out of this year, and a happy, healthy, productive 2013! We can always hope....


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Snow Galore

I am just recovering from the snow shoveling of the first snow storm of the season that left about 18 inches of snow behind, and now we get another 8 inches tonight. That should be it be it for while, in my book. Time to finally get actually on the slopes! 

.... and keep up with the vitamin C!



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Vegan Swedish Meatballs

On the days like today when none of the cats attempt to sneak outdoors or beg me to let them outside and just curl up in their cat beds there is typically something outdoors that has a name on the national weather map. Like Irene or Sandy. Or Euclid. It has been snowing since before I woke up this morning and it is supposed to snow another 18h. The weather is matched by my latest movie find, the PBS Master Classic series Wallander, another dark, stark Swedish film series, reminding me of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Not much surprise that I thought about Swedish meatballs when I thought about a warm, filling meal to get me ready  for snow shoveling.  Stay warm!

snow_ready

sw_meatballs2

Vegan Swedish Meatballs (2 portions)

  • 1/2 TB earth balance
  • 1 TB all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 raw cashew nuts, soaked in water for 1h (no soaking works, too)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 ts bouillon
  • 1 TB nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 ts allspice
  • few grates of nutmeg
  • 1/2 ts liquid smoke
  • 10 vegan meatballs (e.g. Trader Joes)
  • 4-6 medium sized red skinned potatoes, peeled

In a food processor or blender, add the cashew nuts, water, almond milk, and bouillon. Process until really smooth. Set asides.

In a large pan, heat the butter and melt. Add the flour and stir in. Toast slightly for a little bit until the butter and flour crumbles get brown. With a whisk stir in the almond mik/cashew mix, heat and whisk until it thickens. Turn down the heat, and add the nutritional yeast,  allspice, nutmeg, and liquid smoke, and mix. Add in the frozen vegan meatballs, and heat through.

Peel the potatoes, quarter them, and place them in a silicon container with a lid and about 3 TB of water and microwave on high for 5 min. Drain.

Serve meatballs with potatoes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The calm before the snow storm

Ahh, Christmas. It is all over again for another year, but with New Years coming up the holiday spirit continues with its last jolt for the season. Thanks to the Pandora xmas station I could not get “I am wishing for a white Christmas’  by Frank Sinatra out of my mind. Now, it looks like white Christmas is on the way. Or at least the white part, with a prediction of 24 hours of heavy snow starting tomorrow morning. Today, we are still snow-free, sunny weather, a green world and I better take the opportunity to head outside before being snowed in tomorrow.

Breakfast today was delicious with home-made roll German rolls (Laugenbroetchen) and some French orange jam.

laugen_broetchen

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

A sunny Christmas morning here in Maine, very chilly, but bright and no snow. Presents to unwrap, breakfast to eat, friends to visit. I wish everyone a wonderful day!


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday cheer

The presents are bought, wrapped, and placed under Christmas trees. With a Sunday that leads to Christmas Eve, many people won't have to work anymore and the world slows down (or not, according to the people in the mall, the UPS and Fedex trucks, and many working in retail). I will be one of them, picking up a few knickknacks, some holiday food, a bottle of good wine, making some gluehwein, facetiming a friend and going for a chilly walk.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Coasting towards the holidays

I am sitting on my home office couch, the wind is howling badly around the house, and but that and watching Armageddon, 2012 and other end of the world movies might be as close as we get to yet another end of the world prediction. I guess the old man up there just got himself a new mayan calendar. I appreciate that because my work is finally finished for the year, and I am happily, lazily coasting towards the holidays, eaten home-made sweets that Santa drops off, listening to Jane Austen books and just have to think about a few holiday gifts to get.  Good times.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Recovery

I am still not back to my old me, and it'll take a few days. There is a snow storm approaching East to West this time, although normally the weather moves West to East, and northern Maine expects 15 inches of snow today, but we might bite the bullet and get away with 2-3 inches. The work week is still wrapping with final projects etc and no holiday cocktails on the agenda yet. Hmm. I ran across this cute knitting project, looks like a good christmas present to me. Now, whom to make it for?


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jumpstart

My deadline was finally met yesterday, and after 10h of sleep I still did not quite feel back to my old self today so I mad a season appropriate jumpstart juice with whatever I could find in my fridge and freezer. Rehydrating and nutrients definitely helped. And…. with so much carrot juice, I am getting a spray tan from the inside out!

Jumpstart smoothie: carrot juice, 1 orange, 1/2 banana, 2 frozen mission figs and a handful of fresh cranberries.

re_juicing

Monday, December 17, 2012

3!

It is hard to believe it is already the last week before Christmas. Since I’ve been so busy with work, I only managed to light my 3rd advent candle last night at 11pm. Where did the pre-holiday time go? Where did the whole year go again? But life is like a river, it flows and flows and flows, we can swim in it,play in it, try to swim head of the flow and make it speed it, we can swim against the current and try to stop it, we can not care about the current and simply frohlick in it, …… but life’s time flows, and we cannot stop it. Maybe, time does not really exist and it is really always just NOW.
3lights

Saturday, December 15, 2012

11 days til Christmas

“Christmas presents, Mommy, for me?” “Yes, dear, heated cat beds for those cold winter days!”

cat_xmas

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tonight the lights were out

It's been a busy day and in the morning I saw the alarming news that there had been a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. It said it was over and the gunmen dead. I thought, lucky. I was busy with work chasing a deadline, and only had time to check the news again by 5pm when the devastating headline had changed to that the shooting had 27 victims, mostly small children. I thought of all the children of my friends and neighbors, and of the toddlers and babies of the blogs I read daily and I felt devastated, tearing up. How can this happen? How can this happen in this country? There was just this unfathomable mass shooting at a movie theater.

I listened to the reports on NPR, and drove through a similar small quaint, rural New England town where everyone knows each other and kids are safe. A town where everyone believes that something like this can never happen.

I drove through my neighborhood, the streets leading up to my house, and realized that many of my neighbors had not turned on their christmas lights tonight.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Carrot Soup

Finally, a recipe again. Since things are busy at work, this very simple carrot soup with the pumped up volume is just the right thing to make, eat and blog about. The key to the soup is that the carrots are cooked in fresh pressed carrot juice -- not broth or water. It makes the carrot flavor so pronounced it does not need much else beside a few sprinkles of dried thyme, a tad of butter and a pinch of dried ground ginger.







































The Carrot Soup
(makes 4 servings)


  • 1 pound organic carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 red onion, small diced
  • 1/2 TB butter
  • 3 cups fresh pressed carrot juice
  • 1/2 ts dried thyme
  • 1/4 ts dried ginger
  • salt to taste (or 1/2 ts Rapunzel organic vegetable bouillon) 
  • optional: 1/4 cup baked butternut squash or any other baked squash
In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter and sauté the onion until slightly brown. Add the raw carrots, and sauté for about 1 min. Add the carrot juice, the thyme and ginger, and bring to a simmer. Close with a lid, and simmer on low gently for about 20-30 min until the carrots are very tender.
Puree with an immersion blender in the pot, or take the soup off the stove, and cool. Once cooled, pour into blender and puree. Reheat before serving and garnish with baked squash, goat cheese crumbles or a dash of creme fraiche and chopped hazelnuts. Bon appetite! 



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday inspirations for your favorite felines

My cats always get a christmas present each christmas -- a new piece of cat furniture like a comfortable cat condo. Their tall cat tree which brings them on my eye height is at all times occupied by one cat. These are my candidates for this christmas, still on sale at Petco and free shipping!











































Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday shopping inspirations

I spoke too soon --- after raking the last leaves in my garden yesterday without even wearing a jacket the world is covered in white slush today: 2 inches of snow overnight, now a drizzle of freezing rain, and later finished off and cleaned up with some regular rain. More snow later on. Fab.

How is your holiday shopping going? The catalogues capturing the holiday spirit make me want to bake cookies, eat insane amounts of chocolate and invite people over.

xmas_2012LR

Clockwise starting top left: 1) plates at Williams Sonoma, 2) Ipad kitchen stand 3) chocolate at Williams Sonoma, 4) Sur la table catalogue

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advent, advent, zwei Lichtlein brennen....

It is the second advent, I finally managed to finish my advent wreath this week with 4 candle pillars, a few extra bows, but I could not find any candle holders which I could just stick in the wreath to keep the candles in place. Where to get those? --- Today, I woke up to bright sunshine and really mild weather (for December in Maine). Usually by this time of the year, the temperatures are in the tenths and there is snow on the ground (piles and piles of snow), but last December was unusually mild and this December seems to follow the pattern. It feels more like October than winter in Maine. In my ideal world, it to be really cold in January, 2-3 massive snow storms so I can go skiing, but then no more snow storms (and driveway plowing) for the rest of the time. By the middle or end of February it would be bye-bye snow, and in March we unthaw and I can swing on my bike again. 

The windows to my house are wide open to let some fresh air in, the cats check out where the birds are,  and I am planning on a long walk today.

For newer readers: there is a pinterest board for this blog so you can browse for older recipes more easily!




Friday, December 7, 2012

True beauty

This morning I found this photo of Ellen Burstyn, and thought how radiantly beautiful she is --- similar to other women like Helen Mirren and Judi Dench. Not because they fight all signs of aging with botox and scalpels, attempting to look like 30 but appear oddly much older. No, because they age gracefully, with wrinkles, and the beauty is in their eyes and sense of self love and self worth, proud of the life they lived. Congratulations, Ellen! She is 80 years old today.

I will never forget you as Stabler's bipolar mother in Law and Order: SVU.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Winter eats

I have returned to my winter eats ---sauteed fresh kale, brussels sprouts, BBQ sauce, some nuts, some orange jam, simple is good. Otherwise, it is really busy with work.

brussels

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Nikolausi

Nikolaus. Sinterklaas Santa Claus. All the same. Did put your shoe outside your front door so he can leave you some oranges, nuts and chocolates in it? (if you have been good this year..)

nikolous1

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ideas for holiday presents

A neat idea for those gifted in crafts and the blow-my-nails-dry monkey is too cute.




Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent, advent, ein Lichtlein brennt

Yesterday, I packed up my Macy's 25% off coupon and headed to the mall in the evening at 8pm when most people had already left. After some rummaging I bought a beautiful plum colored Martha Stewart 3 quart dutch oven, which was reduced to $69 and with another 25% off it brought it to around $50. Almost a bargain compared to the le creusets. The color is just perfect and the shape so beautiful. I ventured out into the mall, and was mesmerized by all the sparkly pink and rose colored velvety sweatsuits at Victoria's secret, so much sparkle that could outdo any christmas tree on Christmas morning. But you cannot have enough sparkle around the holiday season, right? Whatever gets us in the holiday spirit.... sparkle, velvet, baked apples, spiced hot apple cider, gingerbread cookies and christmas music...

I was spoken to in French, being mistaken for the bright colored Canadians from New Brunswick diving into US shopping before the holidays. Somehow they were easy to spot: they wear red and pink down vests and scarfs, bright eyes, excited, while the going winter colors for Maine are gray and black and slightly depressed. And you might know my love for pink...

I hauled my new pot home, put some more wood on the fire in the wood stove, and started cooking dinner.






































Today, it is Sunday and according to German tradition you light your first candle on the 'Adventskranz", a wreath stacked with 4 candles, one for each Sunday before Christmas. Today, the first one is lit, gluehwein is served, and cookies are eaten. Happy first 'advent'! (advent = latin for advenere, coming closer).







































Friday, November 30, 2012

Gingerbread houses

Not that we have any need for this type of architecture in Maine, there is plenty of empty space, but other, more populated places might be inspired by this way of architecting houses: just stack them in layers, on top of each other. The Dutch are very creative with this type of architecture...


This gingerbread house is a colorful hotel in the Netherlands, the Hotel ZaanDam.
This 3-layer building can be found in a Parisian suburb.
This Peruri 88 tower, science fiction type construction, was built by Dutch architects in Jakarta. I like the trees and gardens everywhere!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Green christmas decor

Now if you'd collected all those egg cartons over the summer (years?) instead of returning them to their rightful owners at the farmers market, you could make this spectacular christmas tree....


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Squashpalooza

The work week has restarted, and today I was ready for some cozy food in the evening. What better to cook other that to put some squashes in the oven to roast? I cut up a small butternut squash, pierced a spaghetti squash, and placed the scooped butternut squash seeds simply on the baking sheet. It is a fabulous trick --- no cleaning, just place them on the sheet, they get crisp and the strands that held them together simply fade away during roasting. I used to toss out the seeds because it was too much of a hassle, but this is not. I added a sliced sweet potato and dinner plus more squash for the week’s meals was done.

squash

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Spiced red cabbage with cloves, red currant jelly and red wine

The holidays are over (for now) and things are getting back to normal – until we are gearing up for the next holidays, which are not too far off. This was a dish I brought to this year’s thanksgiving holiday dinner; it is a bit of different, interesting and still fabulous side dish that compliments any holiday dinner. It is a traditional German holiday feast or Sunday roast side --- sauteed spiced red cabbage, based on my mom’s recipe here.

red_cabbage

Spiced red cabbage with cloves, red wine, and red currant jam
(makes a large pot, about sides for 10 people)
  • 1 medium sized head of red cabbage (ca. 2-3 pounds)
  • 1 red onion, diced finely
  • 1 TB butter or ghee (my mom’s recipe actual calls for bacon fat)
  • 1 medium sized tart apple, finely diced (not peeled but core removed)
  • 1/2 TB whole cloves (or 1/2 ts ground cloves, whole one are better)
  • 1/2 TB juniper berries
  • 1/2 cup of red wine (e.g. cabernet sauvignon or a good table blend)
  • 1/4 cup of apple juice (if not using red wine, use more 1/2 cup of apple juice)
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 TB red current jam or black currant jelly(e.g. Bonne Maman or Schwartau)
  • 1/2 TB beef broth concentrate, diluted in 2-3 TB of water
  • optional: 1-2 TB  aged good balsamic vinegar
red_cabbage_ingred

Prep: quarter the red cabbage head, remove the core, and slice the quarters really thinly with a sharp knife (or use a mandoline) – the finer shredded, the better.

red_cabbage_prep

In a large cast iron pot, dutch oven or heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt the butter or clarified butter and add the diced onion, and saute until slightly browned. Now, add the shredded cabbage, the cloves, juniper berries, the bay leaf, and the diced apple to the pot, and mix all ingredients well.

red_cabbage_in_pot 

Add the red wine and the apple juice, and close with the tight fitting lid (there is no other liquid and make sure the steam from the gabbage does not evaporate but helps steam the cabbage). Turn heat on medium-low, and cook for ca. 20-25 min depending on how ‘crunchy’ or ‘well-done’ you like the cabbage to be cooked. Nevertheless, stir once in a while to make sure it does not burn on the bottom. If it gets too dry, add more apple juice.

red_cabbage_pot

Once the cabbage is tender, turn the heat to low, and add the red or black currant jelly or both, remove the bay leaf, add more salt and pepper to taste, and a half TB of beef broth concentrate (or bouillon) dissolved in some hot water. Mix well, and add a glug of balsamic vinegar to round out the flavor. Enjoy!

red_cabbage

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Cat Friday

Hope, your Thanksgiving was joyful and good-food-and-family full. I came home, and shared some of the leftover turkey on the send-home plate with 2 of my cats (the other 2 turn their noses at anything that is not fancy feast). For a while now, I have also been feeding a stray cat. He or she comes in the dark of the night and I never managed to see him or her, but in the morning the food is gone. Last night I made a special thanksgiving bowl for the little one: some fancy feast, thanksgiving turkey, some blue buffalo wilderness food and a few cat treats on top. This morning when I grabbed firewood from the garage, the bowl was licked clean. Happy thanksgiving, little stray cat.



Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The clock is ticking

The clock it ticking, and the deals have already started. Over the last years (as a now savvy shopper) I have realized how intertwined the thanksgiving turkey feast and the deal hunt (likely replacing the chase for a turkey 100 years ago) have become. I feel we are all at the start line of an Olympic type sprint for the best deals starting at midnight on Thursday. The air is electric, the coupons are clipped and printed, the attack strategy is formulated. I wonder if I can remove myself from the storm, and just lay low and let it pass over me, buying nothing, really. But then I open my email box and there all these deals, and I remember the things I like and never bought. But now, with 50% off? why not?

I don't really need anymore stuff. But here a few things that could tempt me.


I have many le creuset, but I never saw that there is even a 1 quart one available. 1 quart! It is only 5 1/2 inch in diameter and still costs (on sale) $100. Cute. Great for single portion chilis. But, no.

I am going through a preppy phase right now, and you cannot have enough JCrew blazer to go preppy. The middle one is tempting. But maybe I outgrow my preppy phase, and then I have way too many blazers and it is ebay time again, sell the surplus.
I have most of these items, from Gap's city girl collection, in some form or another, but this red leather moto jacket could be a life time piece, right? But the red one is not available online and it is definitely not in my store. Dreaming on (and saving a lot of money).

Now, I will hide out somewhere, and keep myself distracted with something productive.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beef Bourguignon

It is US Thanksgiving holiday week, work is winding down (I wish) and it is time to focus on cooking, turkeys, side dishes, buy good wine, and invite friends and family and/or be invited. To warm up, I cooked a beef bourguignon with some grass-fed local organic beef from the farmers market. While I am waiting for Guiliana and Bill to have their baby, I am writing this up.

Beef Bourguignon (makes ca 4 not too large servings):

  • 4 oz smoked bacon, diced
  • 1-2 TB olive oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut into larger cubes
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 cloves of garlic, microplaned 
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 1/2 bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  • 1 ts fresh thyme leaves (1/2 ts dried)
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dry
  • 1/2 pound fresh whole pearl onions
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1/2 ts thyme, 1 bay leaf, salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced
  • 1/2 TB butter
  • 1.5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Add the diced bacon to a large Dutch oven and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is releases the fat and is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate. Add the olive oil to the pan.

BB_meat

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside. Add more olive oil if the pan gets too dry.

BB_braise_meat

Again, add more olive oil if the pan is too dry at this point, and add the carrots, and onions to the dutch oven, 1 ts of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned and the carrots caramelized. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol (or just cook off). Add the braised meat and bacon back into the pot with all the juices.

Now, pour the 1/2 bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme and stir in. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 3-4 hours until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork (*).

BB_wine

Meanwhile, prepare the pearl onions. Peel them, and heat 1 TB butter in a pan. Add the pearl onion and brown from all sides for 10 min, gently roll over for even browning. Add salt, pepper and a bay leaf as well as the thyme. After browning, add 1/2 cup of broth, cover, and simmer for 45-60min until tender and most of the liquid is evaporated. Discard the bay leaf.

BB_onions

Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and add the sauteed pearl onions and the mushroom. Also, sprinkle 1/2 TB of flour and stir into the beef stew. Heat, stir and see that the stew starts to thicken. Optionally, add a 1/2 TB butter. Serve with crusty bread, or boiled potatoes.

beef_bourguignon

(*) I used a very low-fat beef, and even after 4h in the oven it was still not tender. So, I placed the stew in a pressure cooker, the wonder weapon to get any meat tender, and cooked under pressure for another 30min. It was not perfect, but tender enough. If you are short on time, you can also cook the entire stew in the pressure cooker for about 45min.

beef_bourg