Friday, December 13, 2013

Pumpkin, Tomato, and Cayenne Pepper Soup

Today begins the one week countdown until I return to the US. There's a flurry of last-minute office visits, bureaucratic junk, packing, travel-toothpaste purchasing, and all those other small but time-consuming things that surround a move.

So simple is king when it comes to food. I was craving something warm, spicy, and orange. Something to complement my newly-developed fresh-squeezed orange juice habit. With a big container of homemade chicken stock sitting in the fridge and a sharp nip in the air, homemade soup was a clear winner.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Quote Christianity

In the social media business, we run across a lot of quotes. There are business quotes, inspirational quotes, cheesy quotes, and, yes, quotes about faith. I rarely see one that really hits me. After day after day of words scrolling by, they start to all sound the same. "Be better!' "Be godlier!" "Sell more product!" "I am innovative!" 'I'm nothing special, but the guy that said me is!" Most of them don't really say anything at all.

In my opinion, the worst are the Christian quotes. Now before I offend someone, I don't think that reminders of faith are bad. I don't think that art is bad. I think it's the "quote culture" that I think when we reduce our expression of Christianity to a sound byte or a board on Pinterest that we lose something really valuable. When we shrink such powerful and amazing concepts down to an aesthetically-pleasing color pop for out kitchenette, without ever pausing to re-expand them, it's easy to forget them. To let them fade into the shabby-chic background.

So I was surprised when I stumbled upon this one. Instead of shrinking faith down to a nibble-able nugget, it offers a challenge that jolted me.

That's what a quote should be. Not a decoration on the wall, not something to add to a collection, but a powerful reminder that we can, and should, be better.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Emma Blessed

I remember the first time I heard the phrase "If you want God to laugh, make plans." I decided that God would never laugh at me because we were always going to have the same ones anyway.

My whole life was filled with grand dreams and even sometimes very specific plans about my future. I was going to work for my church in Boston, cuddling up under a hand-knit blanket in my cute Cambridge loft on the weekends. I was going to start a farm with a sweet kitschy name in rural Vermont, sun-browned and happy, harvesting berries every evening to enjoy on home-cultured yogurt for the next morning's breakfast. Then that farm was going to move to some impoverished urban setting, like Detroit, where I'd introduce local kids to the wonders of tomatoes. Then I was going to get my foot in the door with the government in DC, spending late nights in my tiny office, feeding off the incredible energy surrounding me. Then I was going to study something official-sounding like economics at university in Berlin, while my posh, metrosexual German boyfriend (a blond, named Lars or Jan) read Hegel by candlelight on the opposite end of the couch.

Clearly God and I have been on the same page every step of the way.

The last six months of my life have involved a number of gifts greater than I imagined. From faith to friendship to health to growth, I have been richly blessed. I am looking forward to sharing the story in person.

But before then, I have a major announcement:

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Favorite Cookie

I like to cook exotic things and new recipes. I like to try new foods and dream up exciting combinations for the familiar and the not so familiar. I like to experiment. I like to check Pinterest. I like to tweak and refine.

But I also like simplicity. I like satisfying sweetness and classic combination.

I like these chocolate peanut butter cookies. They're lick the spoon, eat four before they're cool, sneak one as a midnight snack, and feign ignorance when your family asked if you baked today good.

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (VERY important to use only the natural unsweetened kind)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup honey ( I usually use closer to 1/4)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand chocolate chunks)
How To:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Cream the peanut butter, the honey, the egg, the baking soda, and the salt together until thick and gooey. Fold the chocolate chips in.
  2. Scoop in tablespoon-fuls onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 10-ish minutes. They will be gooey and soft when they come out, and they will not look done. Resist the urge to bake them longer -they will firm up!
 Makes two dozen. So enough for one evening ;)

**Note, although I've never tried it, these would probably be great with hazelnut or almond butter too!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Super Simple Salmon

I REALLY like salmon. I would even go as far as to call it my favorite meat. When life gets busy, good cooking can seem like a luxury. It shouldn't have to be, though, so I found a really quick (really delicious) way to get a filet from fridge to table in just 20 minutes total, or less (!!!!)

Salmon Seasoning Mix (for 2 filets)
-2 tbs. fish seasoning (I used Sven's from Sonnentor -so yummy!)
-2 tsp. ground mustard seed
-1 tbs. coconut flour 
-salt and pepper to taste
-Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix your ingredients in a small bowl with a fork. Rub your filets gently with olive oil. Lay on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spoon seasoning over the top of each filet generously. Bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes or until desired done-ness.

Serve with salad.

Friday, November 15, 2013

In Pictures: The Altstadt

Bank of China occupies the primest of prime real estate
Each German city has an Altstadt (literally "old city"). It's the part of the city where the old churches, the Rathaus (seat of the city government, usually the prettiest building in a German-speaking city), and other major tourist attractions are. It's also where the shopping is -from super ritzy to budget.

Kinder Quotes

Anyone with kids knows that they really do say the darndest things. Especially this little guy. Keep reading for my favorite quotes (mostly) from my favorite 4 year old.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In Pictures: St. Pauli

Entrance to the famous "Herbertstrasse." The sign reads:-entry for those under 18 and women forbidden"
St. Pauli is the quarter between mine and the Altstadt. Home to the infamous red light district and the Reeperbahn, it's the party center of Hamburg, full of bars, clubs, and seedier establishments, it's also the center of prostitution here.

Prostitution is legal, and the ladies both cluster on a specific corner (right in front of the local police precinct!) and solicit. They're required to check in and check out each evening. I go running down the Reeperbahn many weeknights, and it's not uncommon for a slow walking man in front of me to be pulled off to the side by a blonde woman in skinny jeans and a puffy vest wearing a fanny pack and a bulky ID badge (seems to be their unofficial uniform).

The Reeperbahn is actually quite safe, particularly during the week, and it's not uncommon to see families with small children drinking juice and hot cocoa at the outdoor bars (not that that's a practice I endorse!). There are some cafes and souvenir shops, as well as St. Pauli Fussball gear (the cult-favorite soccer team is headquartered there). On game days, the whole district is flooded with fans sporting the skull and crossbones logo. Pauli (as the team is known) is famous for its counter-cultural beginnings, it's strong anti-racism, anti-nazi stance, and for its unique fan base.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In Pictures: Altona and Ottensen

Fall in Altona (by the church)
The place I call home is a quarter of the city of Hamburg called Ottensen, on the western part of the city. It's separated from the Altstadt (the city center, where the old churches, government buildings, and shopping is) by the St. Pauli district. That's where the partying happens and where (bow chicka woww woww) the red light district is. I spend the majority of my time in these three areas, and traveling through them to get to the others.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Introducing a New Series

Hi readers old and new! I'm about to unveil a brand new series called "The Emma Enthused Guide to Studying Abroad in Germany." I'll reveal valuable tips, tricks, and questions from my long experience living, traveling, and yes, studying abroad in Germany.

Stay Tuned for Posts Covering:

What to Bring
Saving Money
Traveling in Germany
Hassle-Free Hostel Travel
Not in Kansas Anymore: Weirdest German Things  
Best Drugstore Products
What to Eat
What to Eat: Tuebingen Edition
How to learn German
Umgangsprache 101
Only in Germany
City Profile: Tuebingen
City Profile: Munich
City Profile: Stuttgart
City Profile: Dresden
City Profile: Nuremburg
City Profile: Hamburg

...and more

Looking forward to have you join me on an inside look of Germany to help you make the most of your semester abroad!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Great Lip Balm Review

I'm torn on winter. On the one hand, I love snow. I love the fantastic views out my window. I love sledding, and warm boots, and hot tea, and long walks, and roaring fires, and cuddling under the covers in my favorite sweatpants.

On the other hand, as someone with dry skin, winter wreaks absolute havoc on my lips, hands, feet, and face. It's the time when I haul out my extra-strength lotion collection and write myself a note to stock up on lip balm.

Lotions and lip balms are a big choice. They're a commitment. For one, when you're on a budget, buying a whole bunch of different ones that may or may not work is a real gamble. When you have sensitive skin and a sensitive nose, it could be a real disaster.

So I present to you many seasons of lip balm research. From the good to the bad, from the popular brands to the cult favorites, Emma's great lip balm review.

Starting with the Natural Balms:

Burt's Bees Lip Balms are hugely popular. But I'm not sold. I have tried their regular, honey, mango, pomegranate, acai, and tea tree balms. The only ones I would purchase again are the pomegranate and honey balms.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Really. Good. Brownies.

For those of us on restricted diets, recipe suspicion is a common phenomenon. What does that mean, exactly? Well there are a lot of recipes out there that make big promises: "perfect," "gooey," "tastes like it contains gluten!" As a former everything-eater believe me, I have tried them ALL. Some of them have been close -the first bite was heavenly, and then the grainy rice-flour taste kicked in.  Eventually, you fight through the denseness and the crumblies and stop trying to replace the old flavors, and learn to embrace the new ones. Nothing will ever taste like your mom's chocolate chip cookies. But that's ok, because there are other delicious flavors and textures out there.

But once you get over that hurdle, it's still not over. Some of those new recipes still call for ingredients you can't eat. Like potato starch, almond meal, corn starch -of course you can substitute, but sometimes you just want to sit down and bake something without furiously checking your pantry for substitutes and racking your brain for equations.

Sometimes you want something simple. And sweet. Something that just perfectly satisfies that bit of you that longs for moist chocolatey crumbs that don't have a bitter quinoa aftertaste.

Enter these brownies:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

From My Kitchen

It's been a busy week of cooking and baking here in Hamburg!

Chocolate chip banana muffins

Pumpkin risotto

Chocolate raspberry muffins

Cherry tomato + basil sauce

Rainbow cupcakes for E's 8th birthday party

Carrot, fruit, and ginger salad

Saturday, August 10, 2013

First Week in Hamburg

The city of Hamburg is more than just a city, it's a state too. It's formally Hansestadt Hamburg which signifies its part in the ancient Hanseatic league and the independence its citizens value.

Facts about Hamburg:

-They are hockey mad. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, plays field hockey. Once a kid is old enough to hold a hockey stick, they're old enough to play.  My kids play. They're intense.
-Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany (after, you guessed it, Berlin) and the seventh-largest in the EU.
-Hamburg is divided into seven boroughs with 104 quarters.
-Germans are really into the anti-Nazi sticker. Almost every available surface in many of the districts is covered in stickers, some silly, some advertisements, some voting-related, and some anti-Nazi/anti-Fascist sentiments.

I live in the Ottensen quarter of Altona, which is kind of like the Brooklyn of Hamburg. It's super cool to live in Ottensen. The quarter is wealthy, but maintains an edginess from its punk days. It's also very close (20 min bike ride or so) from the Altstadt, the center of Hamburg. Ottensen borders the Elbe, and just a few minutes by foot or bike and one is on a road directly on the river that leads most of the way through Altona, St. Pauli, the Neustadt, and the Altsdtadt. It probably leads through more places, but I haven't ventured quite that far yet!

I was welcomed home with this sweet sign:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

One Year Later...

Enjoying the couple days of summer I have in Tuebingen.  This is a great place.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I'm Here!

Back in one of my favorite places with favorite people. Going out for a walk to keep from falling asleep.

Will update soon :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nut Free Paleo: Trail Mix

Trail mix is one of my favorite standby snacks.  It's nutritious, full of energy, and mighty tasty.  Crafting a nut-free, (mostly) paleo version has been high on my list.

Here I've used one of my favorite combinations -pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips, and dried apples, and added some other nutritious goodies.  Of course, you can make it however you want, but I mixed (about equal) parts dried cranberries, dried apples, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts (not paleo) and allergy-free chocolate chips (also not paleo).

What's your favorite snack?

Note: all of the seeds shown here carry a label indicating possible cross-contamination.  People with very serious nut allergies may need to look elsewhere for their seed supplies.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chinese Takeout Favor Boxes Tutorial

I knew my graduation party had to have lots of DIY.  One of the first things that was decided upon was that the favors would be m and m "confetti" cookies packaged in bright orange takeout boxes.  Assembling those cute little boxes of goodness turned out to be very easy and very fun.

You start with some cookies.  Actually lots of cookies.  Love is best expressed with a pile of baked goods, right?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Preppy Polka Dot Picnic Graduation Party

I graduated college.  It was kind of a big deal.  So we threw a party.  A confetti/polka dot theme indoor picnic.  It was casual, delicious, and full of good fun and food company.  Just the way I like it.  And there were tulips.  Long live tulips.

New Home: Strange Beauty

I almost didn't go to Hamburg.  It's the second-largest city in Germany, and it was not on my priority list.  All ugly bricks and cold ocean and fishy air.  It had none of the ancient, half-timber friendliness of my beloved southern Germany.  It wasn't quaint and beautiful.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sneak Peek: Preppy Polka Dot Picnic Graduation Party

What's going on here today: an indoor picnic to celebrate my graduation.  It's low-key, and mostly homemade.  Just the way I like it.  Stay tuned for more pictures tomorrow :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Picture Recipe: Frozen Bananas

Three exciting things happened this past week:

1. I graduated college
2. I am now able to eat Bananas, Almonds, and Lemon
3. Arrested Development is coming back for its third season

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Felt Tablet Case Tutorial

If you check Etsy out you'll find page after page after page of tablet cases in all shapes, colors, and sizes, but I didn't see one that was just right.  I wanted something colorful, inspiring, and embroidered, so I decided to make my own.  If you want your own embroidered iPad Mini or Kindle Fire cover, take a look at the tutorial! (excuse the bad nighttime photos -we college students have to craft in the dark).

The first thing you need to do is select your quote.  My favorite poets are Rilke and Hafiz (sometimes spelled Hafez), but Pinterest is a good place to look if you don't have one in mind.  Some of them can be pretty cheesy, but comb through for a bit and you may find gems. is another good option.

After you select your quote, gather your materials.  For an iPad Mini or a Kindle Fire, you will need one square of felt for the case (mine were 9x12 inches), plus more felt for decoration, four inches of thin elastic, two buttons, thin lining fabric (if you want), embroidery floss, needles, scissors, and a ruler.

First, sketch your quote and design out.  Since my quote was "May the Gratitude in my Heart kiss all the Universe" (from Hafiz) I wanted to incorporate both a heart and something starry or sunny into my case.  I did a few drawings to figure out just what I wanted it to look like.

Once I had it all planned out, I cut a heart out of yellow felt and appliqued it right on.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Fruit and Chocolate

I wasn't always a fan of fruit and chocolate.  In fact, I, the kid who would never turn down sugar, would wrinkle my nose at raspberry filled chocolate bars and those foil-covered chocolate oranges that my mom and my nanna shared at Christmastime.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Applesauce Cake

For someone who is German-American, a natural-toymaker, and interested in alternative education, being aware of the Waldorf world was pretty much a given.  There are many things that I find really attractive about Waldorf (which I would describe as a life philosophy rather than an education method).  There is a simplicity and rhythm to life, a desire to appreciate nature (including the food production process), and gratitude and celebration for all of life's moments, big and small.  What's better, is that no child is too young to take part.

So when I saw the charming Waldorf Kindergarten Snack book with it's sweet illustrations, wholesome recipes, and little fun facts, I knew I had to try something.*  I selected applesauce cake, because I really love applesauce.

Check the recipe out below!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How To: Make your Own Beauty Treatments

Honey: Yummy and Good for Skin
Eating and washing healthy are two things that are really important to me.  I make them a priority because my health is important, but even more so because the planet is too.  Sometimes natural beauty fixes don't work (no-poo is NOT for me), but sometimes they do.  I'll try anything once, so I've been through a lot of kooky ideas.  I've kept the best and disregarded the ones that either don't work or take too much time and effort.  I think that's the way life should be ;)

After the jump, see my top five homemade beauty picks!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Soup for the Soul

Today was rough.  By all accounts.  You know those times when you just can't win?  When your to-do list stays undone?  Where everyone needs something?  Where it snows on the first day of April?  Yeah.

So I did what any good cook does.  I made soup.  Last time I was in New York City I stopped into Gluten Free NYC.  While gluten isn't the only thing I can't eat, it is one of the toughest to avoid, so whenever there's an opportunity, I check those offerings out!

Of course, being corn-free, potato-free, yeast-free, and egg yolk-free cuts down on the GF choices, so as cool as this little store was, there wasn't a lot there for me.  I did manage to snag this little bag of organic, fair-trade King Soba buckwheat Ramen noodles.  A little pricey, yes, but not bad for a pack of four imported from the UK.

I cooked them up today with some baby bok choy, chicken broth, and mushroom.  Boring, yes.  But sometimes in a day filled with unpredictable excitement, that's what you need.

**I can heartily endorse these guys. While definitely pricier than your average ramen, they are delicious, quick-cooking, filling, and certified Gluten Free. King Soba also makes some other products -including ramen noodles with flavor packets. I haven't tried them, and GF NYC stopped stocking them because they didn't think they were up to snuff.

Monday, April 1, 2013

(Choosing) Hostels Like a Pro

Sooo, you’re headed abroad and you want to travel, right?  If you do not want to travel, boooo, that’s the best part!  Of course, fun, safe, and stress-free travel is the goal, here, and the best way to achieve that is to make like a cub scout and be prepared.  So without further ado, here are my hostel tips from several hostels in three European countries –mixed with some anecdotes and advice from friends who’ve seen many more.

First: The internet is your friend.  You know this, but it never hurts to be reminded.  There are several hostel services that allow for easy booking and comparing.  I always used HostelBookers, but you can bargain hunt around several.  Things to look for are good reviews, good security, cleanliness, free maps/wifi/sheets/etc., reviews that mention friendly staff, and no “funny business” –suspiciousness, as I call it.  Every major city has multiple good, safe hostels.  Booking well in advance of your trip means you have a better chance of staying at a good one, and will get a better rate.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Practicing Resurrection

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. -Wendell Berry
I live a fact-governed existence.  I love figures and numbers and black and white.  I like knowing and weighing and considering, and making choices on pro/con lists.  But over time, I've come to realize that that isn't how I should live my life.  As comfortable as the neatest trajectory from A to B is, or as much as I love the glow in my heart that comes from doing what's expected, that's not how I now feel called to live.

Last Easter, I sat in a cold wooden pew in the Stiftskirche St. Georg in Tuebingen, where Easter services have been held longer than the US has been a nation.  As I looked around, I realized that we were all alone, even in our togetherness.  Celebrating in silence.  Comforted by our adherence to tradition.  Waiting for church to be over to rejoice with friends and family.

This year, I woke up early to celebrate at sunrise with an eclectic bunch of students, faculty, staff, and children from all Christian traditions.  We clutched our little paper programs as we stood on the cold dock watching the sunrise.  We laughed with the kids who couldn't keep quiet.  We shivered together in sweatpants and earmuffs.  We took turns reading scriptures and prayers.  We all hugged after the final hallelujah.  It was far away from fact and tradition.  In that moment, we were united in faith and in something bigger than ourselves.  The celebration was in the service, not after it.

Sometime around 7:20 this morning, I realized something.  Easter is the holy in the messy.  It's in the shrieking children and in the broken promises, in the missed calls and the misread prayers.  Easter isn't a testament to the enduring and the predictable and the traditional.  For me, in this time in my life, it's the radical departure from all that we know and trust.  It's the certainty that even the craziest, most confusing, darkest, scariest, most unpredictable nights emerge into glorious mornings.

Happy Easter.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pancake Days: Blueberry Sorghum and Hazelnut

The hunt for the perfect gluten free pancake might be nearing completion.  These guys were pretty great: light, puffy, slightly sweet, and THICK.  Don't they look like regular pancakes?  I know!  But they are delicious, fluffy, gluten-free blueberry pancakes!

I've never cooked with sorghum flour before.  I've seen it, but heard somewhere that it's bitter and gross.  WRONG!  I used Bob's Red Mill sweet white sorghum flour and these flapjacks turned out mild-tasting and delicious.  If you want to make your own, check the (very easy) recipe out .

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cooking For Yourself in College

Mmmmm, homemade chococado pudding!
Most people I meet groan jealously when I tell them that I got a meal plan accommodation to cook my own food.  For American college students, avoiding the dining hall or cafeteria is one holy grail of success by which coolness can be measured.  In most cases, your parents are wealthy enough to pay your meal plan and discretionary spending, you're finally a senior or live in the right place, you're studying abroad where there are no dining halls, or you're like me and allergic to enough foods to cause chefs to throw up their hands.  As nice as it may be to avoid overcooked Friday fish and watery iceberg lettuce, cooking for yourself can actually be a hassle and a surprising time commitment.  Busy college students are, well, busy and you may find yourself eating one too many packets of Ramen between practice and student government.  Or even worse, not eating at all.   

If you're an aspiring chef, living with a newly limited diet, or already cook for yourself and feel overwhelmed, check out these tips on how to cook for yourself in college. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Fatherland Tastes Like Curry

Laugenweckle.  I stumbled over the cumbersome names of the rows of soft pastries lining the shelves at Keim’s, but the beautiful, exotic Ingwer, Rosmarin, Basilikum, and Kirkuma rolled off my tongue with languid ease.  The smoky sweet scent of the paprika, the texture of the multicolored peppercorns, and the taste of the free Turkish marshmallow candy always lured me back.               

The front door of the spice store, the one I usually came in, opened into a bright, airy room, painted gold, and stuffed with rugs, plants, masks, baskets, and tiny elephant carvings.  Massive walnut chests and tables held everything from the everyday to the exotic:  Italian seasoning, vanilla sugar, dried chilies, flavored salts like basil-rose and citrus, dried lavender, sage, bright round peppercorns, powdered mango, garam masala, big green cardamom pods, graceful saffron threads, five types of mustard seeds, curries, and anything else you could imagine.