Monday, April 30, 2012

I Don't Think You Know it, But You're Living in a Miracle

With 80-degree temps, I think I can finally pull the word "summer" out of hibernation!  I spent Saturday wandering the banks of the Neckar, consuming more ice cream than any human really should.  Three scoops -yogurt with berry sauce, chocolate, and panna cotta.  So.  Good.  And I'm done with ice cream until next weekend :D

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.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Welcoming Spring

At long last, jacket-weather seems to be over.  I celebrated yesterday with a trip to "hike" the Oesterberg.  I just call it "that hill with the sheep."  I sat up at the top for quite awhile, enjoying the miniature people, cars, and buildings down below.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Great Döner Vergleich of 2012

(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.  This is seriously going to be a food-nerd post.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chasing the Storm

Today was another cold, dreary, and dark day.  I spent it both chasing and fleeing a massive stormcloud.  I managed to snap these pictures on my way to the bus station to go to the swimming pool.  By the time I got there, the clouds had lifted, and the weather was gorgeous.

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.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Moment You've All Been Waiting For...

Ok, well maybe just my mom.  Here are some pictures of my room.  Excuse the mess -today was laundry day!

View from my wind.  I live on the middle floor (floor 1) and the bank of windows you see is the kitchen.

And, my room.  Very small, but I like it.  Especially cause I don't have to share :3

And another window-shot.  It's been a little cold and grey here, of late :(

Sun, come back!

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

Ritter Sport

The Ritter Sport factory is just 30 minutes away from Tuebingen.  With my semester ticket it is only 2.60 Euro to get there.  I managed to get a group together, and we took the 12:13 bus out to Waldenbuch to check the chocolate out.  Man was it fun, and delicious!  They have super cheap chocolate (69 Euro cents per bar.  The cheapest elsewhere is upwards of 88 Euro cents a bar).  They also have an art gallery and a chocolate museum.  We opted for the chocolate museum with its adorable free-sample machine.  Check it out:

You just press the little green button, and the "factory" lights up.  The little door opens.

...and a little red truck carrying a bar of chocolate appears.  It dumps it into a little slot, and you reach in and get it.  You can do this AS MANY TIMES AS YOU WANT.  But you really can't.  The line is insane.

Little bars of chocolate waiting for you to press that button.   Mmmmmmmmm.

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.

Waldhaeuser Hof / A Walk in the Woods

I took a walk, today.  It was wonderful.  Stumbled across stuff I would never have known existed!

Like this talented artist's work:

Enjoyed the spring in the air, the time alone in the woods, and the feeling of the path underneath my feet.

Then I went back to the farm to see the cows (and calves).  The farmers sell their own milk, cheese, goats milk, and apples right there.  A good, local source for dairy-I've been hoping for one!

I think I have four new little friends to visit.

In the Cold and the Damp

So the lovely spring weather has gone away for a bit.  It's been replaced by cool, damp weather -more fall than spring like.  That's signaled the shelving of my pretty new turquoise shoes and the return of my bean boots.  So thankful for those :)

The cold weather hasn't hindered my camera-attended wanderings, nor my perusing of upscale kitchen shops (google "Rosti Mepal" and swoon).  I love looking at pots and pans and fancy gadgets, imagining what I would buy and cook if I had unlimited funds.  You guys would all be invited, of course.

I didn't just selfishly window-shop, I looked at stuff YOU would like too!

For the Bakers, the wall of cookie cutters at my favorite cooking store (see if you can spot the Edelweiss/marijuana thing.):

For the Glasses-Wearers, look at those adorable contacts cases:

For the Nature Lovers,  how about a walk by the river by the pretty trees?:

For the Nightlifers, here's the Hoelderlin Turm (famous Neckar scene) in the dark:

For the Cartoon Enthusiasts, Spiderman makes his appearance in front of the comic-book store (don't worry, the chain is just so no one steals him!):

And for the Artists, the beautiful installation at the Hallenbad:

Wish you all could be here to find your OWN favorite things.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Making Rituals

I joke a lot about my lack of organization.  I also poke fun at others who plan their days down to the minute (usually NICE fun-poking, I'm not a horrible person!).  I'll admit, though, that there's something to be said for normalcy.  It can be what makes a home a home.  Beginning a "home" somewhere new without the benefit of knowing people beforehand is hard.  Here in Germany, student housing is home rather than dorm for the vast majority of people here.  They go to see their parents fairly rarely.  They cook for themselves.  No one organizes "dorm events."  There are no RAs.  To the happily alone of us (like me) it's welcome.  That doesn't mean that Gemuetlichkeit (an untranslatable German word that means something like cozy-home-sweetness) is easily created.

Plans, and rituals can help, so I started one today.

I bought two bags of fancy tea at my favorite spice shop.  I chose spicy chocolate and caramel fruit from the basket filled with exotic colors and flavors I'd never heard of.  I also bought a little packet of sesame candy because it is just SO good.  Sitting quietly with my tea is sweet and homey.  It's the little things you never think you'll miss that strike you the most.

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

Photo Troubles

I've been having so much trouble with blogger.  It won't let me upload any photos, and since photos are the POINT of this blog, that doesn't make updates very fun.  I finally made a photobucket account to bypass the blogger uploader. 

My second German course is over!  It was a super fun month of meeting people, having totally new experiences, and learning lots of German.  Good about that last part, huh?

We capped our experience off with a day-trip to Stuttgart.  It was rainy, cold, and super crowded.  We explored and then spend the evening in the Opera seeing "Norma" a tragedy.  The Stuttgarter Oper was so pretty!  I spent the day reading cookbooks, looking at clothes, and examining pricey kitchen gadgets.  My friend Emily and I ended the exploration with a trip to Starbucks.  That wasn't the only American thing I found!  Kaufhof has a whole shelf full of American items from taco kits to beer.  And 5 Euro Duncan Hines cake mix.  Hah.  I can make a perfectly good cake without it ;)

And Dirndls in the prom dress section:

I want this purse.  A lot.  Too bad it wouldn't match any of my clothes:

The juice bar.  Yes, my tiny drink cost 3 Euros.  Yes, it was my first American-Style smoothie since being in Germany.

Browsing and window-shopping is so much fun :)  You get all the enjoyment of shopping-shopping without all those difficult decisions lol.  We headed back to the Oper for our evening show.  Lights go down, curtain goes up: