Thursday, March 31, 2011

Corn Quiche

HubbyGrouch requested a quiche to be put on this week's meal plan. I chose this recipe because he likes corn and it is different from a standard quiche with lots of cheese and eggs. I am not so crazy about corn and might use less if I were to repeat this recipe. But I still liked the quiche - don't get me wrong. It's a rather simple recipe, too. Enjoy!

10 oz frozen puff pastry
one 15 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
1 medium onion, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 pound ground beef
1 dash cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, mashed
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
4 ounces grated Gouda cheese
2 large eggs
flour for work surface

Take puff pastry out of the freezer and let thaw. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and fry until shiny. Add ground beef and brown, breaking it up with a spoon. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Add corn and bell pepper to meat and mix well. Preheat oven to 400°F. Rinse a 10 inch pie dish with cold water. Don't dry. On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry to size of pie dish. Line pie dish with puff pastry, leaving a 1 1/2 inch rim. Fill pie dish with meat-vegetable mix. Whisk together cheese and eggs. Pour over quiche. Bake dish for about 35 minutes until golden brown.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pizza Again lol !

It's pizza time again! My son is always looking forward to those days. In addition to the two large pizzas for me and HubbyGrouch, I take a little bit of dough and make two small 3 inch pizzas for the little guy. He loves to have his own! The dough praparation can be found here. Today, I made one pizza with shrimp and the second one with ham, olives, and capers.

Shrimp, Oregano, and Mozzarella Pizza
Ham, Olives, Capers, and Mozzarella Pizza

1 recipe pizza dough
1  8oz can tomato sauce
freshly ground black pepper
pizza seasoning
2-3 oz cooked ham, cut into 1 inch squares
10 black olives, pitted and halved lengthwise
1 tsp capers
dried oregano
10 raw shrimps, peeled, deveined, and halved
12-16 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch slices

Prepare pizza dough as previously described. Spread tomato sauce on pizzas and season with pepper. Spread pizza seasoning, ham, olives, capers and half the mozzarella on one pizza. Spread oregano, shrimp, and remaining mozzarella on the second pizza. Bake as directed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Smoked Pork Chops with Red Cabbage and Potatoes

This is more or less as simple and quick as dinner can be. A true 30-minute meal.

5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
1 jar prepared red cabbage
1 package boneless smoked pork chops (5 slices)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 package brown gravy mix
1 1/2 tbsp mustard

Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters. Cook in salted water for 12-15 minutes, drain. Put the red cabbage in a small sauce pan and heat over low heat until almost simmering. Keep warm. Cut the meat into 2 inch squares. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and fry on all sides for about 10 minutes. Mix gravy mix with 1 cup of cold water. Add to meat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Simmer for 1 minute, remove from heat. Stir in the mustard and serve meat with potatoes and red cabbage.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Oven-Roast Eggplant and Chickpeas with Curry

If I have to sing "Baby Beluga" one more time, I'm gonna shoot myself. Even for a children song, it is too silly and idiotic. So much more astounding that everybody (except me) seems to love it. I must admit though, that in general I have a problem with the way animal life is humanized and romanticized - for kids and adults alike! I have never been a pet person anyway, and the way people go crazy about them is always a mystery and most of the time really annoying. Just yesterday someone tried to tell me that with two kids we absolutely should get a kitten. What a notion. I don't know why people pride themselves in their selfishness. Because that's what it is. And don't tell me it's in any way beneficial for the animal. They are bred solely for their owner's pleasure. The aforementioned song is just another manifestation of this very twisted way of thinking. But before I get too upset, I'll better type out today's recipe. This is another family favorite. I have prepared it a lot of times. The preparation is quick and easy and the taste is just great. The recipe is Food & Wine's "Curried Eggplant with Chickpeas and Spinach".

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sofrito Cooked Puerto Rican Chicken

This is my version of Food & Wine's Puerto Rican Chicken in Green Sauce. If you want to save a little bit of time, you can use a sofrito mix from the Spanish food section of the supermarket.

3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt and black pepper
ground cumin
2 cups cilantro leaves
3 garlic cloves, halved
2-3 slices pickles jalapeno
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
5 small red potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices

Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and cumin. Let stand for 10 minutes. In a food processor, puree the cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, onion, both peppers, wine, and olive oil. Transfer to a pot and stir in the chicken stock. Add the chicken, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper and nestle them into the stew. Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes. Serve chicken and potatoes with rice.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gnocchi with tuna, garlic, lemon, capers & olives

This was another quick and tasty dinner.  Instead of gnocchi, you can also use pasta. The whole dish had a nice lemony taste.

1 pound dried (spinach) gnocchi
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
7 oz canned tuna, drained and broken into chunks
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp capers, drained
12-16 black olives, pitted and sliced
2 tbsp fresh parsley

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds, until just beginning to color. Reduce heat to low. Add remaining ingredients and stir gently until heated through. In the meantime, cook the gnocchi according to instructions. Serve with the tuna mixture.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

German-Style Meat Patties (Mettklöße)

This is another family favorite and one of the few things my very picky 3-year old likes. You can use any kind or combination of minced meat: beef, pork, veal, chicken, turkey. I usually use beef. Depending on your choice of meat, you might want to vary the herbs you use. I like to combine turkey with rosemary, for example. You can use this recipe for meat patties, hamburgers or mini-patties (for finger food). My classic combo for serving is green beans, potatoes and brown gravy. But you are free in choosing any sides you like.

1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk (optional)
1 pound minced meat of your choice
4-5 ounces minced onion
1 tsp dried thyme
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup sparkling water (or 1/4 cup water plus 1 tsp baking soda)

Put bread crumbs in a large bowl and pour milk over. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients (except sparkling water) and mix well. If using baking soda, mix in at this step. Immediately before preparing the patties, mix sparkling water into minced meat. With moist hands form meat patties. Size varies but they should be about 1/2 inch thick. Working in batches, fry the patties with a little bit of oil over medium heat, about 3-4 minutes per side. Serve with sides of your choice.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Italy: Spaghetti Puttanesca

When I moved here, I was under the impression that there were four different seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter - the regular lot so to speak. Alas, I learned differently. It turns out there are only two seasons.
They do overlap a little, though. The first season, running approximately from May to September (sometimes into from April to October, weather permitting), I am calling "Tag Sale and Biker Season". As soon as the last snow is melted and the sun comes out, so do the bikers. You can see and hear them swarm out on their Harleys. Likewise, electricity poles become covered in neon colored signs announcing tag sales all over the neighborhood. When all this is over, we have "Holiday Season". Starting with Labor Day, a series of holidays is spaced conveniently at 4-6 week intervals, ending with Memorial Day. That leaves just enough time after each holiday to take down the decorations, buy those for the next celebration, and put them up.
And now for today's recipe. I made a quick and easy pasta dish. It's one of the classic Italian recipes that exist in countless variations.

5 ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlice, crushed
1 dash dried red pepper
1/3 cup water
16 green olives, sliced
4-8 anchovis fillets, chopped
2 tsp capers, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
6 oz spaghetti
shredded parmesan for serving

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and fry for 1 minutes. Add tomatoes, red pepper, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add olives, anchovis, capers, and herbs and simmer for 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In the meantime, prepare pasta according to instructions. Serve with sauce and parmesan.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Germany: Currywurst with French Fries (Currywurst mit Pommes)

This is the ultimate German fast food, originally from Berlin. You can buy it everywhere: Street vendors, pubs, train stations, big events.... It's a quick and easy dinner (but of course not exactly a healthy one). The Deutschmacher franks are as close to the original as I could find here, although a thinner variety might work just as well.

Here was supposed to
be my picture of this 
dish, but a fussy baby 
and a whining toddler 
got in the way.

French Fries
4 Deutschmacher German Style Franks
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 tbsp curry powder (or to taste)
1 tsp oil

Prepare French Fries as directed. In a sauce pan, whisk together ketchup, 1/3 cup of water (optional)* and curry powder. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring frequently. When bubbly and hot, turn off heat and keep sauce warm. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Fry franks on all sides until heated through, about 10 minutes. To serve, cut a deep slit lengthwise into each frank, top with the ketchup and serve with fries.

*The amount of water depends on how thick you like your sauce.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Grilled Sandwiches

Today, we had Spicy Pork and Walnut Stir-Fry with Snow Peas and Pepper again for dinner. Only this time, I made it with boneless chicken thighs. A very nice version but to my taste, it was a little better with the pork.
For lunch, we had yummy grilled sandwiches. I made two different kinds. The classic tomato and mozzarella panini and the other kind with pastrami, apple, and two cheeses. I am not going to give numbers in the recipe. Some people prefere more meat and less cheese or more apple etc. In any case, HubbyGrouch and I love these two kinds of panini and today was neither the first nor the last time we had them. You can use the bread of your choice. We use sourdough or multigrain panini bread from the local supermarket. (The slices a big, so I cut them in half.)

Cut 1 slice of bread in half. To assemble the sandwich, put slices of fresh mozzarella on one half of bread. Spread a little pesto on cheese, top with sliced tomato. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover with more cheese and pesto, then top with other half of bread slice. Grill in panini grill until bread is crisp and cheese is melted, about 2-3 minutes.

Pastrami Apple Panini with Two Cheeses
Cut 1 slice of bread in half. Spread Dijon mustard on one piece of bread. Top with sliced Havarti cheese, then fresh baby spinach, sliced pastrami, apple slices, brie cheese and a second piece of bread. Grill in panini grill until bread is crisp and cheese is melted, about 2-3 minutes.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Czech Beef Goulash

Well, I didn't actually cook this today. I just took it out of my freezer. I usually prepare a huge pot of goulash and then freeze it for the days that I don't have time to cook or am sick or else. I have always loved goulashes. With beef, pork, bell pepper, sauerkraut - all the varieties. I like it best with red cabbage and potato dumplings. It is also great with green beans or peas & carrots, and pasta. You should use a short pasta that can take up the sauce, like fusilli, gemelli,  elbows etc. Also, the original recipe calls for caraway, which I don't like. So I use cumin instead. The amount of hot and sweet paprika can be altered depending on how hot you like your goulash.
You can turn this goulash into a hearty soup by adding more water and bell pepper, tomatoes and potatoes. Other variations include mushrooms, white beans, peperoni, or ketchup.

1 1/2 pounds beef for stewing, cut into 2 inch cubes
4 oz sliced bacon, cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp sweet paprika
1/2 tbsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp marjoram
2 tbsp corn starch

In a pressure cooker, fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels, reserve bacon fat. Working in batches, brown meat from all sides, using bacon fat. Fry the onions until starting to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add bacon, meat and both paprika powders. Stir for one minutes. Add 1-2 cups of water, depending on how much sauce you like. Add cumin, garlic, marjoram, and season to taste with salt. Cook in goulash in pressure cooker over low heat for about 45 minutes. Dissolve corn starch in 2 tbsp water and thicken goulash. Adjust taste with salt, paprika powder, and marjoram.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Carrots and Broccoli

One of my favorite oven dishes in autumn and winter is a mix of potatoes and vegetables tossed with a lemon-herb vinaigrette. It's easy to prepare: you just cut up the veggies and potatoes and toss them with the marinade, put in the oven - done. Now, depending on what veggies you use, they might have shorter roasting time than the potatoes. So you might have to open the oven again after a while and add something. Most of the time I use potatoes, onion, whole garlic cloves and carrots. Then I might add bell pepper, zucchini, eggplant, spinach, chick peas, cherry tomatoes, olives, broccoli.... Somestimes I add a little Feta cheese or bacon or breakfast sausage. There are unlimited options. For the marinade I usually whisk olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper together, and then mix it with the veggies and potatoes. I roast everything in the oven at 400°F for 45 minutes. After half the time I usually add some vegetable broth.
Today's recipe was inspired by Bon Appetit's "Roasted Potatoes with Fresh Herbs". It was the first time I used broccoli in this kind of dish. I am not really a big fan of broccoli but I thought it might be nice roasted. And indeed it was. It was all crunchy and lemony - yummy!

For the marinade:
6 garlic cloves, crushed
3-4 tbsp lemon juice
2-3 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp white wine
1 to 1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 to 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tbsp dried parsley

1 pound Fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
3 large carrots, cut into 1 inch thick slices
1 bunch (about 1 pound) broccoli,  crowns cut into florets
1/2 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk all the ingredients for the marinade together. Place potatoes, carrots, and broccoli in a large bowl. Add marinade and mix well. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread vegetables (if possible in a single layer). Roast until tender and crisp, about 1 hour 15 minutes. After 30 minutes, add the chicken broth. Serve and enjoy.

This post is linked to Potato Blog Hop on Katherine Martinelli.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fajitas with Beef and Bell Pepper

Fajitas are always good for a quick and easy dinner. I have made lots of different kinds: with chicken, beef, shrimps, salmon, pork. With homemade salsa and guacamole or store-bought toppings. The bell peppers in this recipe give a nice extra flavor and texture.

3/4 pound 1/2 inch thick beef steaks, cut into 1/2 inch by 2 inch strips
3 tbsp olive oil
juice of one lime
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/8 tsp dried red pepper
1 tbsp red wine
black pepper
1/3 of one red pepper, cut into 1/4 inch by 2 inch strips
1/3 of one yellow pepper, cut into 1/4 inch by 2 inch strips
1/3 of one red onion, cut into thin strips
8 whole wheat tortillas (8 inch)
shredded iceberg lettuce, sour cream, tomato salsa, and guacamole for serving

Whisk 2 tbsp olive oil, lime juice, garlic, red pepper, and pepper together. Add meat and mix well. Let marinate for 1 hour. Heat 1 tbsp oil in large skillet. Add meat, bell pepper, and onion and season with salt. Fry for 4-5 minutes until meat is done. Heat the tortillas between two moist papertowels in the microwave for 30 seconds. Working with one tortilla at a time, arrange toppings and some meat-pepper mixture in one thick line on the tortilla, then roll up tightly. Cut into halves and serve.

Monday, March 14, 2011

More Pizza

Today I want to mention something I really love here: The big arts & crafts stores. I could spend every day of the week there and plan projects that - let's face it - I wouldn't have the time to do. I just started a whole new project line. I bought a sewing machine, pieces of fabric and plain baby/toddler clothes. I am going (or at least try) to put appliques on my kids' clothes and tote bags. I was inspired to do so by the blog "Red Bird Crafts". I think I'll try for an Abstract style using Kandinsky and Mirò as inspiration. Maybe I'll start a new blog featuring those creations if the project turns out well.
      Today we had pizza again. I made what is known in Germany as "Pizza Napoli" (Capers, Olives, Anchovis) and one of my own creation with ham, gorgonzola and yellow pepper. Enjoy!

Ham, Yellow Pepper, and Gorgonzola Pizza
Pizza Napoli

Pizza dough
tomato sauce
black pepper
pizza seasoning
8-10 black olives, halved lengthwise
1 tsp capers
1-2 anchovis fillets, cut into 1/8 inch pieces
6 slices fresh mozzarella
2-3 oz ham, cut into 1/8 inch by 2 inch strips
1/3 of a yellow pepper, cut into 1/4 inch by 1 inch strips
1/4 pound crumbled gorgonzola

Refer to the Pizza, Pizza, Pizza blog entry for dough and preparation. Distribute the olives, anchovis, and capers on one pizza (Pizza Napoli). Top with mozzarella. For the other pizza, use ham and yellow pepper, and top with gorgonzola.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Shrimp and Snow Peas Stir-Fry with Ginger

I often wonder whether I live in the real world or in a movie or TV show. This country does that to me.  Ever since my first visit to the US (when I was still a teenager) I have had this notion. Is it because things are so much like what we see in movies or on TV? Or do people just try more to be like characters they see on the screen? Reality and movies/TV seem to influence each other much more in this country than elsewhere. I guess that's why a lot of people I meet seem like stereotypes that jumped right off the screen. Maybe that's also because a lot of people believe that "reality TV" is real and not doctored. How anyone can be so stupid is beyond me.
Today's recipe is my slight alteration of "Gingered Stir-Fry with Shrimp and Snow Peas" from the current issue of Food&Wine. HubbyGrouch and me liked the flavor combination, and I will probably repeat it sometime. Enjoy!

1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Sesame-Garlic Sauce (Iron Chef)
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
1/4 pound snow peas, cut into 1/4 inch by 2 inch strips
24 medium raw medium shrimps, peeled and deveined
6-8 scallions, cut into 1/4 inch slices
rice for serving

Whisk broth, soy sauce, sesame-garlic sauce and cornstarch together. In a wok, heat the oil over high heat. Add ginger and snow peas and stir for 2 minutes. Add the shrimps and stir-fry until they start to turn pink, 3-4 minutes. Add the scallions and fry for 1 minute, stirring. Add the sauce and cook until starting to thicken, 1-2 minutes. Serve with rice.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pasta Bake with Lamb and Feta

This dish is a great combination of flavors. I had to hold myself back not to eat the whole thing alone (or at least to try). It took HubbyGrouch a few bites but he decided that although unusual and different, he liked his dinner. The recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit's "Moroccan-Spiced Pastitsio with Lamb and Feta".

2 tbsp olive oil
1 big red onion, chopped
1 lb ground lamb
1 tsp garlic powder
1  28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp dried mint
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 1/2 tbsp ras-el-hanout
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups 2% milk
6 1/2 tbsp butter
6 tbsp all purpose flour
3 large eggs, separated
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 pound penne rigate or spirali pasta
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, sauté until onions soften, about 5 minutes. Add lamb, cook until brown, about 8 minutes, breaking it into small pieces. Add tomatoes with juice, garlic, mint, parsley, ras-el-hanout, tomato paste, cumin and cinnamon. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 cups of milk. Melt 5 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes until golden. Gradually add hot milk, whisking sauce until smooth. Whisk remaining milk and 3 egg yolks, then whisk into sauce. Add feta. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking often. Simmer until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes, breaking up feta with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a deep 14-cup baking dish. Cook pasta al dente. Drain pasta, mix in remaining butter in, then add egg whites an 1/4 cup parmesan. Mix well. Spread half the pasta in the baking dish. Top with the meat sauce, then remaining pasta. Spoon cheese sauce over, sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Bake until heated through and top is golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

India: Chickpea Tomato Curry with Cucumber Raita

Every parent, although we try to be open and claim to be proud of our kids no matter what, is likely to be dissappointed if their kids' inclinations and beliefs take unexpected and (from our viewpoint) undesirable turns. I recently went through one of those experiences. You won't believe it but my (then only 2 year old) son is already a Republican! I mean, he is unreasonable and just says no to everything. Just like about every Republican I have heard on the radio. They always sound idiotic in their attitude, totally insensible, and sometimes like stubborn little kids. I hope my son will grow out of it and eventually become a reasonable, responsible citizen.
And now for today's recipe. I love chickpeas and have made different versions of this curry over the years. This recipe is my take on the "Chickpeas in Spicy Tomato Gravy" from the current issue of Food & Wine. This is a great meatless and quick dinner. I serve it with homemade raita and naan or pita bread.

For the curry
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, cut into 1/4 inch dice
8 garlic cloves, pressed
3-4 slices hot jalapeno pickles, minced
one 2-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
one 14 oz can diced tomatoes
one 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
1 cup of water
1-2 tsp dried cilantro

For the raita
1 1/2 cups  plain low-fat yogurt
8 scallions, thinly sliced
2-3 oz cucumber, cut into 1/8 inch cubes
1 tsp dried mint
2-3 tbsp water

Mix all ingredients for the raita together and set aside. For the curry, heat the oil and fry the onions until they are shiny and soft, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, jalapenos, and ginger. Fry for 2 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, and cayenne pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, water and salt, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Add cilantro after 10 minutes. Servec curry with raita and bread.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Today we are having left-overs. This is an opportunity to reflect on other issues besides food.
It is always a cultural shock when you move to another country. Sometimes even when you move within the same country (even if it's the country you were born in). So, I am no exception in this regard. I rather think the cultural shock of coming to Massachusetts from Europe is much smaller than ending up in Texas (ugh!) or - God forbid - the Bible Belt. Anyway, after the initial shock there is usually acclimatisation (the "getting-used-to-it" phase), adaption and (to a certain extent) conversion.
     HubbyGrouch rather mixes with scientists than "ordinary" people. I on the other hand meet All-American moms during my daily routines and excursions. Like the high-strung, ambitious soccer mom who insisted that her 2-year old daughter didn't use her hands when playing with a soccer ball, or else mommy would stop playing with her. Or mothers who only serve canned or frozen food to their kids. Or the absolutely-no-sugary-snacks-for-my-kid mom (hey, news flash: Fruits have lots of sugar!). So whenever I conveyed the quirky/weird/strange/ridiculous/idiotic/crazy/stupid behavior of people I interacted with during the day to HubbyGrouch, he thought I didn't like it here. When I started entering that last phase (the "conversion"), HubbyGrouch said he would keep a checklist about that. Just to make fun of me. He never did though, and now I already got so used to people and their ways that I don't remember many of these initial "shocks".
     We have an American family car. Something that even a lot of American families don't have - they prefer Japanese cars. It's not a MiniVan, though. That's where I draw the line! I am still complaining that all the driving is necessary. I don't want to do it but there doesn't seem to be a good alternative. I used to say that all that American mothers do is drive their kids from A to B all day - and now I feel like I'm doing the same. And it gets worse the older they get!
I said that I don't want my kids to watch TV - something I have heard from a lot of other mothers. Guess how many of them really stuck to it. But we have an excuse (that's what we keep telling ourselves). Our kids have to be exposed to the English language, how about that. Same thing with food. I wanted my kids to eat fruit snacks instead of crackers but was (at least in part) beaten by reality.
     Maybe these things don't add up to much. Writing this I realize that maybe I haven't blended in as much as it felt like. There are still so many things that I find very odd. I'm sure they will come up in other blogs later. So long.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Colombia: Bistec Encebollado (Onioned Beef with Coconut Rice)

On HubbyGrouch's special request, we had another Colombian dinner today. This is a nice and rather quick dinner. The onions are very tasty, and the coconut milk gives the rice an interesting and special flavor. The rice is more typically served with seafood, but I find it works well with the beef.

For the beef and onions
1 lb filet of beef, cut into 1 1/2 inch steaks
2 tbsp red wine
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp prepared mustard
1/4 tsp pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp ground allspice
4 whole cloves
2 tsp salt
1 tomato, quartered and thinly sliced
2 tbsp sherry

For the rice
1 tsp oil
1 cup rice
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 can (400 ml) light coconut milk

Combine the wine, half the garlic, the mustard, pepper, and 2 tbsp oil. Whis well to mix. Add beef and marinate for 30 minutes. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet, add the onions, remaining garlic, allspice, cloves and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook over low heat, covered, for 15 minutes. Increase heat to medium, add another 1/2 tsp of salt, the tomatoes, 1 tbsp sherry, and 1 tsp of the marinade. Cook uncovered for 5 more minutes. Fry the meat in the remaining oil, seasoning with salt while cooking. Deglaze the pan with 1 tbsp sherry and add onions. Mix and serve with the rice.

Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the rice, sugar, and salt. Stir for 2 minutes. Add coconut milk and 1/3 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat until all liquid is absorbed and rice is soft. Serve with the meat.

(recipe adapted from: "Secrets of Colombian Cooking" by Patricia McCausland-Gallo)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mac and Cheese with Bell Pepper

Yay, I'm a flexitarian! You don't know what that is? Well, I didn't either until recently. It describes a person who is predominantly a vegetarian but sometimes eats meat. It doesn't specify how often, though. So maybe I am not a flexitarian after all because I eat meat too often. I could be called a carnivore-flexitarian: someone who likes to eat meat, but doesn't have a steak every day. Why do people like it so much to put labels on themselves? (Why do you need a label for your nutritional behavior anyway?) But then they freak out about stereotyping. Is it offensive to assume that something that looks like a dog, behaves like a dog, and barks like a dog, actually is a dog? For some, this seems not to be PC.
For tonight's dinner, I made a version of the ultimate American classic and ubiquitous children's favorite: Mac and cheese. I hadn't known about this dish until I moved here. I have made different kinds of Mac&Cheese over the past few years and must say, I really liked this one. The pepper gives a nice additional flavor to it. This recipe is my take on Bon Appetit's "Pimiento Mac and Cheese". Enjoy!

1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, halved
3-4 slices of pickled jalapeno peppers
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan
8 oz grated extra-sharp cheddar
4 oz grated whole-milk mozzarella
salt and black pepper
12-16 oz gemelli pasta
1/2 cup bread crumps

Bring 1/2 cup of water, red pepper, garlic, jalapeno pepper, and 2 tbsp butter to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes until bell pepper is soft. Add all the cheeses and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In the mean time, cook pasta until al dente, drain, and return to pot. Add cheese sauce, mix well. Transfer to a baking dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Distribute remaining butter in shavings on top and bake at 400°F for 25 minutes until topping is crisp and golden. Let stand for 10 minutes and serve.

This recipe is linked to Tastetastic Thursday.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Algeria: Chicken with Olives

Until I was about 25, I did not like olives. I thought their taste was just too intense and, for the lack of a better word, weird. I don't remember exactly what happened, but for some reason or other I found the time had come to try them again. Since then, I just love them. I often have some olives and cheese as an afternoon snack. I like them on my pizza or in dishes like this one. I have made this dish before and we both loved it. I guess it can be described as the Algerian version of a stir-fry. It's easy and quick, and a great combination flavors, which I love about North African cuisines. The lemon juice gives it the final touch. I like to use lemon juice to season dishes. It always makes me feel like summer and I use less salt. I serve this dish with couscous but rice works just as well.

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
3/4 tsp ground cumin
4-6 chickenbreast halves or boneless thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
juice of 1 lemon
30 pepper-stuffed olives

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, ginger, paprika, cumin and 1/2 tsp salt. Sauté for 2 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a bowl. Heat remaining oil, add the chicken and sauté until lightly browned, 3-5 minutes. Return the tomato mixture to the pan. Reduce heat, cover pan and cook until chicken is tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover the pan, increase heat and add the lemon juice and olives. Toss to warm the olives. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with couscous or rice.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies


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As I was having dinner tonight, I opened the local newspaper, and what did I see? Another one of those "local man completes basic training" pictures. There's one of those almost every week. Congrats, you potential Darwin Award Winners! I think all American GIs should collectively be awarded this trophy. You want to come home as a “Hero in a Box”?(∗)  Be my guest. At least there will be no money wasted on veteran services. (Ooops, I hope my GreenCard won’t be revoked for saying that.) Freedom of speech in this country unfortunately often seems to be confined to praising the U.S. of A. but is not always applicable to criticism of the system. Criticism is considered un-American, un-patriotic. That’s why congress and the Senate won’t even hint at cutting the military budget (which, to everyone with a decent IQ, seems a very obvious and easy solution to cutting government expenses) because whoever does will most likely not be re-elected. It seems that, especially since 9/11, patriotism has replaced freedom as the highest value. I have heard (I hadn’t moved here then), that just before the Iraq war, the big TV stations fired people who openly and publicly spread doubt about there being any evidence for WMDs; and if you had one person on a show who defended that opinion, you would have two who said there was. It is just incredible that in times of internet, mass media, blogs, facebook etc., a government (and not a totalitarian regime, but one of a democratic country, mind you!) could get away with lies like that.  Everybody in Europe was aware that there was no evidence whatsoever and that their were financial and oil interest at stake. Now you can maybe understand how Herr H. and Herr G. could get away with their propaganda in a time when ordinary people had very limited access to media and sources of information.

(∗)That somehow got me thinking about toys and action figures. I wondered whether anyone already had the idea to make a soldier action figure funeral set. And indeed, this is what I found this story on Recoil Magazine. I have to admit that I had never heard of Recoil, and at first didn't know it was a news parody. So then my mind with its morbid thoughts went further. How about a "Suicide Bomber" action figure? I'm thinking head, legs, and arms attached to a release mechanism with hooks and springs; I'm thinking press the belly to catapult those parts away from the body; I'm thinking selling it as a set with innocent by-standers that can get knocked over by flying body parts.

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Yes, right, I was gonna post a recipe today. These cookies are a spin-off of the Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Just use some whole wheat flour, add more juice, and replace cinnamon and raisins by allspice and chocolate chips - et voilà! This is the first time I made them and I ate about 3 or 4 right away.... They remind me of my beloved chocolate müsli, which I can't find here. Enjoy!

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp allspice
1 dash of salt
2 sticks margerine
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp molasses
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup orange juice
3 cups old-fashioned oats
5 oz chocolate chips

Mix flour, baking soda, allspice and salt. In another bowl, whisk margarine until creamy. Add sugar and molasses, then the eggs. Finally, stir in vanilla and juice. Slowly add flour mixture to get a smooth dough. Carefully mix in oats and chocolate. Drop 2 inch balls of dough onto parchment lined baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. Bake at 320°F in middle of oven for 10-15 minutes until golden-brown. Makes 40 to 50 cookies.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Colombia: Lentils with Guiso and Egg

Often, when I ask HubbyGrouch what he would like to eat, he requests a Colombian dish. That's the cuisine of his childhood. Don't we all know that warm feeling we get when remembering childhood dishes? I didn't know much about Colombian cooking before I met HubbyGrouch, but since then I discovered several dishes I like a lot. His mother makes great empanadas, cow tongue (something I wouldn't touch before), and Sobrebarriga, to name just a few. For today we picked this lentil dish, which actually came pretty close to that which HubbyGrouch knew from his mother. The guiso is used in other Colombian dishes too, and gives this one the typical flavor.

2 cups dried lentils
1/4 of a red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
vegetable bouillon cubes (for 1 quart water)
1 tsp turmeric

3 tbsp oil
1 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
1 medium onion, cut into 2 inch cubes
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch (6-8) scallions
2 sweet green peppers (aji dulce), seeded
1 celery stalk, roughly cut up
1/4 of a red bell pepper
1/4 of a green bell pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt

4 large eggs
cooked rice for serving

Bring lentils with 4 cups of water, red pepper, bouillon cubes and turmeric to a boil. Simmer for 25 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the guiso. Put all ingredients for the guiso in a food processor and process for 1 minute. After 25 minutes, add the guiso to the lentils and simmer for another 40-45 minutes, until lentils are soft but don't lose their shape. Taste for salt and serve with rice and a fried egg.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spicy Pork and Walnut Stir-Fry with Snow Peas and Pepper

I am so glad that no-one in my family has an imaginary food allergy. They seem to be quite the thing here. The most popular are allergies to any kind of nuts (or even more fashionable, the cross-over nut allergy). So much so, that (pre-) schools are either nut-free or have nut-free rooms. (Nut-free, my foot. Those places are full of nuts!) If you want to distinguish yourself more, you might have an imaginary allergy to very specific food items like, well, pink fish for example (btw, is there any other pink fish besides salmon?). Do you allergic people even realize how lucky you are to be living in a country where you can afford to have food allergies? I mean, imagine you live in Africa and all you have to eat (if anything) is millet - and then you develop an imaginary allergy to that - ooops. So, back to today's recipe. This was a very nice, quick dinner. I absolutely recommend to use pork tenderloin. Its softness was an important feature, complementing the crunchiness of the veggies and nuts. Enjoy!

1 tbsp medium-dry sherry
2 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2/3 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 2 by 1/4 inch strips
3/4 tsp sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 small orange bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch thick strips
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch thick strips
1/4 lb snow peas, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch wide strips
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Stir together sherry, cornstarch, and 1 tbsp soy sauce, then mix in sesame oil. Add pork, stir to coat well, let stand 10 minutes. Stir together sugar and 2 tbsp soy sauce. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet. Stir-fry 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp garlic, and red pepper for 30 seconds. Add bell pepper, stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add snow peas and nuts, and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Heat remaining vegetable oil. Add remaining ginger and garlic, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add pork and stir-fry until browned and barely cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add vegetables and sweetened soy sauce, then stir-fry until heated through, about 1 minute. Serve with rice.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pizza, Pizza, Pizza

Have I ever met anyone who didn't like pizza? I don't think so. Why is that? I don't know. Is it important? Maybe, maybe not. In any case, it is not the topic of this blog. Pizza is one of the few dishes my very picky 3-year old actually eats. Well, he eats the crust, anyway. Our pizza is always homemade. I make the dough in my bread machine, and then we put whatever topping we like. We have only sampled pies from in-town pizzerias on various kids' birthday parties - but they just don't do the pizza the way we like it. There's just something about the tomato sauce on bought pizza that I don't like. And they usually put way too much of it which makes the pizza soggy. Before we moved here, we had never heard of Greek pizza places either but they seem to be quite popular in this area. (Why don't you serve Greek food, by the way? It's one of my favorite cuisines - I already start drooling, thinking about moussaka or roast leg of lamb...)  We did like the pizza at Pizzeria Paradiso in Northampton, though. Another joint in that same town has probably the worst pizza I have ever eaten. I won't name the place here, of course. The amazing thing is, that that place is super popular and always crowded. Go figure. I guess my European taste buds just don't take to pizza that seems to be deep fried instead of baked. Well, here is how HubbyGrouch and me like our pizza. I only have to add that this recipe uses the metric system but I tried to convert it to US units.

Feta-Olive-Rosemary & Salami-Mozzarella Pizza
Ham-Olive-Caper-Mozzarella & Salami-Mozzarella Pizza

(makes two 12.5 inch pizzas)
250 ml (1 cup plus 1 tbsp) lukewarm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
375 g (2 1/2 cups) bread flour
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
olive oil in spray bottle
corn meal (or polenta) in a salt shaker
1  8oz can tomato sauce
freshly ground black pepper
pizza seasoning (or Italian seasoning or oregano)
dried crushed rosemary
6 slices genoa or hard salami
black or green olives, pitted and halved
1-2 oz ham (in cubes or slices cut into 2 inch  pieces)
1/2 tsp capers
1  8oz ball fresh mozzarella
2-3 oz crumbled feta cheese

If using a bread machine, use the (pizza) dough setting. Add the water, salt, sugar, oil, flour and yeast in the machine specific order to the bucket and start the program. If you don't have a bread machine, place flour in a large bowl. Push it to the sides from the center, forming a pit. Add water, salt, sugar, oil and yeast, and mix, slowly incorporating all the flower. Knead 15-20 minutes until dough is smooth. Cover bowl and let rest until dough volume is about doubled. Spray oil onto two 12.5 inch pizza dishes. Sprinkle corn flour onto pizza dishes (this makes the pizza crustier). Divide dough into 2 parts. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough into 12.5 inch round. Press into pizza pans. Put oven racks on 2nd and 4th position from bottom. Preheat oven to 450°F. Divide tomato sauce and spread onto both pizzas. Season with herbs and pepper, using rosemary for half a pizza. To the half with rosemary, add olives and feta cheese. Spread ham, capers and olives on another pizza half. Use 3 slices of salami for each of the remaining halves. Slice mozzarella and use for salami and ham pizza. Bake pizzas staggered for about 12 minutes (one in far right, one in near left corner of rack), using both racks (pizza pans should overlap as little as possible for best air circulation). Switch positions after half the time. Cut into slices and serve.

Feta-Olive-Rosemary & Salami-Mozzarella Pizza
Ham-Olive-Caper-Mozzarella & Salami-Mozzarella Pizza