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Archive for May, 2013

Foodie Penpals

It’s time to reveal my Foodie Penpals goodies for the month of May!

2013-05-31_Foodie_Penpals_MayThis month my parcel came from Julia, who lives in the Netherlands! She made sure to send me some typical Dutch specialities. This is what I love the most about the Foodie Penpals party, being able to try new foods from many different countries without travelling. (Side note: I do love travelling, but it’s hard find the time to do so these days.)

Here’s what I received:

Hagelslag: This is the Dutch word for sprinkles! As I understand it, hagelslag is a popular bread topping, similar to fairy bread. This box contains several different varieties, and I’m especially looking forward to trying the chocolate ones.

Rooibos tea: I really love tea! I have a cup of green or herbal tea almost every day, and rooibos is a nice change of flavor in my cup.

Syrup wafers: I remember having a larger version of those and loving them, so I opened this bag immediately after seeing it. Those mini wafers are lovely, full of caramely goodness.

Tea strainer: Isn’t this the cutest tea strainer ever?! It’s a strawberry! I think I still have a box of loose leaf tea in my pantry, and I’m going to try this pretty little thing very soon.

Pudding mix: As far as I understand, you simply mix the contents of the box with two cups of milk and heat it on the stove for a few minutes. This mix even contains cookie bits! I haven’t had one of those in ages, so I’m quite exited to give it a try.

Gingerbread: Actually I love gingerbread, I even have a recipe for it on my blog, but these are way beyond my sugar threshold. They are incredibly sweet! I was already thinking about how I could use them, maybe turning them into bread pudding, but then my husband took a bite and claimed them for himself. He says they are great with butter on top. Fine with me!

Thanks again, Julia, for your lovely parcel!

See you!

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Please excuse the bad pun in today’s title. This current mini ice age has frozen my brain cells. And my fingers. And everything else. (Dramatic? Me? No way!)

Anyway, I’ve been craving hearty, spicy meals lately, and my usual lunch salads are taking a time-out.

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Some things don’t change with the weather, like my breakfasts. Sunflower spread on whole wheat toast, with a side of tomatoes and cucumbers.

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But somehow those toasts didn’t fill me up, so I had another slice of whole grain bread, topped with peanut butter and jam. I’m surely not the only one who enjoys second breakfast once in a while. Or am I?

2013-05-26_Veggie_Chili

For lunch I made a big batch of vegan chili, loosely based on Laura’s recipe. I don’t make my chili crazy spicy, just a little kick is enough for me. I enjoyed it on a bed of quinoa, topped with avocado chunks.

2013-05-26_Cookies

In the afternoon I was craving something sweet, but I rarely have sweets in my house, besides some plain dark chocolate. So I baked a bunch of cookies. Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, to be exact. Oh yeah, they were amazing!

2013-05-26_Veggie_Sausage

For dinner I mixed up a quick quinoa tabouleh, and tried a new vegan sausage from our local Aldi, which I cut into slices and fried in a pan for a few minutes. While I’m not a big fan of meat replacements, I do occasionally try a new-to-me product whenever I see one. It’s all for the sake of research. This sausage was okay, but not that good. Just like most of the tofu products from Aldi. The only exceptions are their vegan deli slices. Those a pretty good!

Is is already sunny and warm where you are? Or are you still cranking up the heating, like me?

See you!

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I kind of suck at meal planning. I just never know what I want to eat, but I do know that I don’t want to eat the same dish for more than two days in a row. I have no problems eating sandwiches for breakfast and salad for lunch any day, but when it comes to dinner I want a little more variety. So I’m currently putting together a collection of my favorite dishes to choose from every night.

The dishes, that I want to add to my go-to list, have to be plant-based, balanced (containing complex carbs, protein, and vegetables), and prepared in under 30 minutes. And they need to be delicious, of course.

Here are a few dishes that have earned a spot on my list already.

2013-03-31_Tofu_Stew

Vegan jjigae = vegetable stew with tofu

I’d call that a classic kitchen sink dish. Just chop up all the leftover vegetables in your fridge, throw them into a pot, add a spicy miso broth and tofu, and serve it all with rice. This dish is usually made with meat and a lot of red pepper paste, but I adjust it to my taste, and make a separate pot for my husband.

2013-05-21_Bibimbap2

Bibimbap = a bowl of rice with various toppings

This is my husband’s favorite dish at the moment. I like to use brown rice instead of white, and prepare several different toppings in advance, like pan-fried tofu, black soy beans, roasted vegetables, etc.

2013-05-21_Carrot_lentil_soup

Carrot lentil soup (from the book More Peas, Thank You)

Blended vegetables soups are awesome! I always make a big batch and store the leftover servings in my fridge of freezer. Adding beans or lentils to the soup before blending provides an extra dose of protein.

2013-05-21_Pasta

Whole grain pasta with tomato sauce

Friday night is pasta night. That decision was made quite a while ago. I usually make a batch of vegetable-laden tomato sauce, but sometimes I go for a creamy white sauce instead. Americans call that ‘alfredo’, right? Nutritional yeast is a great substitute for grated Parmesan cheese, if you want to go that way.

2013-05-21_Roasted_Vegetables

Roasted asparagus and sweet potato

My favorite way of preparing vegetables is roasting them in the oven. This method works well for sweet or white potatoes, broccoli, carrots, squash, asparagus, bell peppers, etc. I like to pair them with a simple dip made of soy yogurt, mustard, honey, dried herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. And ketchup. Always.

This list is far from complete, of course.

What dishes are on your list of favorite quick dinners?

See you!

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Confession: I love coffee and have about two cups per day, but I don’t own any kind of coffee maker and I haven’t been to a coffee shop in ages. What?!

I usually get my coffee fix in the form of instant espresso, which is incredibly convenient and surprisingly delicious. But whenever I feel fancy, I brew a cup or two of Turkish coffee. This special kind of drink is not only available in Turkey, but also in many other countries along the Eastern Mediterranean coast, ranging from Croatia to Egypt.

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My husband has been a fan of Turkish coffee for a very long time, and I fell in love with it during our last trip to Croatia and Bosnia two years ago. When we returned from that trip, I immediately jumped into the next Turkish grocery store (thankfully, there are quite a few around here), and bought everything I needed to make Turkish coffee at home, which is just a small boiling pot with a long handle and a can of ground coffee.

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The term Turkish coffee refers to the method of preparation, not a special kind of coffee bean. The beans are roasted as usual and then ground to a very fine powder, finer than for any other way of preparation. To make the coffee you simply fill the pot with cold water and heat it on the stove. When the water is hot, but not boiling, stir in the coffee powder and as much sugar as you like. Those coffee pots come in different sizes, mine holds three servings, and you usually need one teaspoon of coffee powder per serving. Bring the mixture to a boil again, but watch out, it might boil over. Don’t stir the coffee at this point, as the foam on top is considered the best part of it. Remove the coffee from the heat and let it cool down a little. You can reheat the pot one or two more times. Be sure that the coffee doesn’t boil too long, because that will result in an unpleasant burnt taste.

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Pour the Turkish coffee into small cups, espresso cups or shot glasses will do, and serve immediately. This kind of coffee is not filtered, so you need to wait a little to let the coffee grounds sink to the bottom of the cup or glass. But don’t wait too long, as Turkish coffee is best when it’s really hot.

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This drink is traditionally served throughout the day, from before breakfast to after dinner.

I love the mild, smooth taste of Turkish coffee, but I also love that it’s relatively easy to prepare, and you don’t need any fancy, expensive equipment. The #strangebutgood part is the fact that you don’t filter the coffee, so a thick layer of sludgy grounds is left behind at the bottom of the cup.

Have you ever tried Turkish/Greek/Arabian coffee?

See you!

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May is full of public holidays, which is just awesome. I love sleeping in! The weather is still nasty and cold, but I’m still hopeful that it will warm up soon.

2013-05-12_Breakfast

What I love the most about spring is the return of local produce. Especially tomatoes and cucumbers are so gross during the winter months. Those Spanish or African greenhouse vegetables are just no good, sorry. But now my favorite plant foods are finally delicious and affordable again. I even found local strawberries this week! *happy dance*

2013-05-12_Asparagus

Without a doubt, the star of German spring vegetables is asparagus, especially the white variety. Its season is very short, lasting only from early May to late June this year, so the people around here have been hoarding the precious white spears like crazy. I personally prefer green asparagus, but decided to give the white ones another chance, because my husband loves them. Well, I’m still not a fan. They are just too stringy and a little bland.

Asparagus is traditionally served with Hollandaise sauce, which is basically just egg yolk and butter. I decided to use this cheesy cauliflower sauce instead, to lighten things up. It was quite good, but very different from the original, of course.

2013-05-12_Dinner

This is a classic clean-out-the-fridge meal. I found some button mushrooms that were already starting to get mushy, so I fried them up, and put them on a pile of brown rice. I also added a scoop of black soy beans and chopped green onions. Oh the randomness!

2013-05-14_Smoothie

I’ve also enjoyed a lot of smoothies lately. Most of the time, I add frozen kale and cocoa powder, which results in a very ugly brown color. I swear it tastes better than it looks. Usually.

Any tips on how to make a green/brown smoothie look more appealing?

What is your favorite spring vegetable or fruit?

See you!

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No, there’s nothing wrong with my calendar. German Labor Day (Tag der Arbeit) is on May 1st, and it’s a public holiday. I took a few more days off to enjoy an extra long weekend. Yay!

Most of my meals were quite boring, as I’ve been feeling a little uninspired about my cooking lately. But there were a few ‘highlights’ that I want to share with you today.

2013-05-07_Breakfast

Keeping it simple on a lazy morning. Finally, local tomatoes and cucumbers are back! And they are delicious! I get way too excited about produce, I know.

2013-05-07_Pizza

Confession: When I was a little girl, I loved ground meat on my pizza. Yes, I was a strange kid. I’m still strange, but that’s a story for another day. So when I saw Laura’s recipe for vegan bacon bits, I thought that they would be great on my Mexican style pizza. And they were indeed!

2013-05-07_Scrambled_Tofu

Scrambled tofu is my second favorite breakfast dish, after my savory sandwiches, of course. I hardly ever use a whole block of tofu at once, so I often have a leftover chunk in my fridge. (Note: Tofu can be stored in a tub of water in your fridge for 2-3 days.) Perfect for a single serving of scrambled tofu! Obviously, I’m the only person in my family who like to eat that dish. My version of scrambled tofu is based on a recipe from the book Peas and Thank You.

2013-05-07_Vegan_Chili

Actually, we don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo around here, especially not in my European/Asian household. But I was in the mood for chili sin carne, and it was as good as I had hoped. Even my husband ate some of it. Success! I don’t really have a recipe for that dish, I just toss chopped onions, garlic, and bell peppers into a pot, add kidney beans, sweet corn, canned tomatoes, and a squirt of barbecue ketchup, and season to taste. That’s it!

Did you celebrate Cinco de Mayo last weekend? Or something else?

See you!

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Foodie Penpals

Oh yeah, I’m still doing that Foodie Penpals thing. I just couldn’t find the time to write about my recent boxes. Ehem.

Enough excuses, let’s begin!

My Foodie Penpals box for March was a little late. Not a big surprise, though, as it came all the way from Turkey! The non-Europeans among you may not know that Turkey is not (yet) part of the EU, so customs regulations are very strict! According to my penpal Vildan, he even had to send a second box because the first one got lost! But eventually, the box arrived save and sound at my place!

FPP_2013_March

Inside the box I found:

  • a bag of Turkish coffee (my husband and I love it!)
  • a sachet of hot chocolate mix (haven’t tried that one yet)
  • chocolate filled wafers (gone in a flash)
  • a huge box of Turkish Delight, a famous confection based on a gel of starch and sugar
  • a beautiful card from Vildan’s home town Amasya

My husband immediately claimed the Turkish Delight for himself. He loves that stuff. But he did let me try a few. Those sugary cubes are definitely something different. They were flavored with rosewater and pistachios and quite delicious, but extremely sweet and very chewy. It took me at least one minute to eat one small cube.

FPP_2013_April

My next parcel came from England again, sent to me by the very kind Emma. It was filled to the brim with so many amazing things:

  • several different nakd bars (raw, vegan, and amazing)
  • a flapjack/granola bar (buttery and sweet)
  • a bag of sweet and salty popcorn (for the undecided, I guess)
  • a tube of umami paste (bold flavor, great with pasta)
  • a box of tea cakes (husband and I inhaled those)
  • a handful of green candy (tangy and sweet)
  • a giant pack of English tea (80 bags!)
  • a lovely card of Big Ben (food for my travel bug *sigh*)

The nakd bars vanished first. Oh my goodness, they are so flipping good! I liked the berry flavor the most, and the ginger bread one was mighty spicy. The tea cakes were amazing, too. Chocolate covered marshmallows with a cookie bottom. I have no words.

I’ve received so much tea in my last few boxes that I’ll have enough for the rest of the year. At least. Thankfully, my husband also likes tea, so I can share with him.

Thanks again, Vildan and Emma, for your lovely parcels!

See you!

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