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Pass me the Vegemite, please

Beach relax

Hello and welcome back to reality. I mean, Germany. After a week in Australia, where Jonas and I again nailed over a dozen interviews, I’m back here, getting used to our new place, which is not hard to do at all.:-)

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We were in Melburne. Oh, no, it’s spelled Melbourne! But pronounced “Melburne,” and Jonas never let me forget it. There, the coffee and food culture is beyond compare. The city was spectacular and we had time to explore during the weekend in between work days. They take their coffee very very seriously there. On every corner you find a coffee shop filled with patrons. Each place offering more or less the same assortment. But apparently they are all unique as people will swear by the coffee place they visit every day, the barista who works there, probably the cows that create the milk that they use in their “flat whites.” I tried a flat white. Bah. Just a Latte. Obviously I’m completely ignorant.

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But I must say, they are beautiful – these coffees shops every where. And they serve up some gorgeous coffee as well.

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I can’t say that we ever had an AMAZING meal. We were pretty busy seeing the sights and pretty tired in the beginning, getting over our jetlag.

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Which was maybe a touch easier for me, as the company was willing to fly me business class while my poor intern colleague had to sit in economy. Just down there – breakfast before landing in Abu Dhabi, the 1/3 of the way there mark.

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Etihad does a fairly good job of spoiling biz class passengers. The hard part is trying to decide between trying out a bunch of things or just sleeping. On the way there I was curious and probably ate more than I should have. On the way back, I simply slept most of the way.

The city was beautiful. A combination feeling of California, Singapore and Munich somehow. The hustle-bustle of a city plus the strong influence of Asia (Singapore), with the beauty of the coast nearby (California), but still a laid-back feeling (Munich).

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We rented the city bikes to get around, which was easy and convenient.

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And saved a little of our per diem money simply by eating breakfast in our room/s. So we could spend it on sight seeing.

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Yeah, and I learned to actually like vegemite. Words I thought would never come from my mouth. But indeed, spread very thinly under a few slices of avocado and a boiled egg…wow.

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Back home now, I’m learning to use all my new kitchen appliances. The stove is awesome. And even with little energy now that I am jet lagged again, it’s easy to saute some quail breasts, slice them thinly on toast, and put the rest in the fridge or freezer for another day/meal.

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I love the Togarashi spice blend I bought in California a few weeks back. Spicy citrus and seaweed flavors plus a touch of salt. Saute after sprinkling on both sides, done.

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Tonight will be the first test of the steam oven.

And now, time to run.

 

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2016 in airplaine food, Asian, Travel

 

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Hot and Sour April Blahs

There has been an awful lot of this in the past month:

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That is, the finalizing of all the elements for the apartment…meetings, managing installations (actually, husband has been doing more of that, I have been baking cakes for the various installation teams to keep people happy and sugared up.)

And there has been an awful lot of this:

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Flying around the world and doing customer research with my colleague , (didn’t say “intern,”) Jonas. Which has been lots of fun and lots of work. We head to Australia for the final wave of interviews in two weeks, right after big move in to our new place is final.

So there hasn’t been much time for cooking, and when time has been there, not much desire. When you eat out for two weeks straight because you’re on the road, you come home and you don’t want to eat. Even if you have been on a treadmill most of those days for an hour, somehow you just feel like a piece of toast and cheese is JUST FINE, thank you.

But the typical April weather is here upon us Munich. Cold and damp and few hints of the sun. After two weeks of sun in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco and then a week of crappy weather in Hamburg, I needed to curl up under the covers.

But there is an instant fast cure that I remembered and even better is that it takes about 30 minutes to throw together, assuming ingredients are on hand. Chinese Hot and Sour Soup. It’s like instant regeneration. Fortified with the stuff, you can wait out another rainy day over here with a smile on your face.

Lucky Peach has an awesome recipe which I only tweaked a bit. Over here.

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • ½ C wood ear mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup other mushrooms – I’ve used shitake and King oyster mushrooms
  • 2 T neutral oil
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 1 T chopped fresh ginger
  • ½ C chopped scallions
  • 8 oz pork shoulder, cut into fat matchsticks (1″ long, ¼” wide)
  • 6 C chicken or pork broth – I used bullion cubes, which is just fine, really
  • 8 oz tofu, cut into fat matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup bamboo shoots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1/3 C rice vinegar
  • 1/3 C black vinegar
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • 2 T sriracha (or more to taste)
  • 2 large eggs (optional)

     

  • Cover the tree ear mushrooms with warm water and soak until plump and pliable, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat the neutral oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and pork and cook, stirring, until the aromatics soften and the pork whitens, about 4 minutes. Pour in the broth and bring to a simmer.

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  • Stir in the tofu, bamboo shoots, sugar, vinegars, soy sauce, pepper, sesame oil, and sriracha. Add both types of mushrooms. Return to a simmer and adjust the seasoning.

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  • If using the eggs, beat them in a small bowl and drizzle over the soup while gently stirring. When the eggs set into strands, divide the soup among 6 bowls and serve.

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Posted by on April 10, 2016 in Chinese, Cooking at home

 

Wait wait, oh…no tell me

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How many days to go? Too many damn days. The architect says April, we’re pushing for March. This is the view of the new place from the back. Still some work inside to be done, as you can sort of see. Yes, we’re soon to be homeowners in Munich, rather than home renters. It’s a rather sudden and huge commitment to this city, this country, and to a bank. (OH GOD.)😉

But, in the end, it’s just an apartment, and a nice one at that, which can be rented out fairly easily based on the size and location and beauty and efficiency of the place. At least we tell ourselves that.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to stay warm over here, and not think about the fact that by signing the papers I have committed myself to yearly winters for the next X years. Damn.

One of the best dishes I experimented with recently was Chicken Paprikash. A dish from my Hungarian roots, and the inspiration to cook it was simply coming across this recipe. Did you realize that Chicken Paprikash has only…what…5 or 6 ingredients? Oil, onions, paprika, chicken, water…salt. Brown a chopped up onion, add 4 tablespoons of sweet paprika,

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(yeah, funny looking paprika…ehem…from Spain, not Hungary) stir, add a cut up chicken or 4 chicken legs and thighs, let the chicken brown for a few minutes, and then add two cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Let simmer 45 minutes.

One always should serve chicken paprikash with dumplings – Spaetzele would generally be called for, those little flour dumplings that are so irresistible in any format. But because I am doing my best to stick with whole grains and stay low carbish (is that a word? now it is), I decided to experiment with the dumplings.

Joan Nathan (no, no relation), had an interesting variation on chicken paprikash with dumplings – persian – that served as the inspiration because it puts spices and herbs directly into the dumplings.

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I decided to go with a mix of flours, none of them white. Mix:

2 cups of flour – I think I used about 1/3 of each,

2 gloves of garlic, chopped

a handful of cilantro, mint and parsley each, chopped,

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons olive oil

a teaspoon of salt

Add water if needed to loosen a bit. You want a dough that you can shape with your hands. The dark flours make it really look sludgy. Yes, very sludgy.

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Create balls – I used two spoons to form them because the dough was sticky. And drop the dumplings into boiling water.

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Cook for about 6 minutes. They’ll float to the top. Take out one to test the inside before you remove them. You will likely need to do this in batches.

Add the dumplings to the chicken after draining, stirring in some greek yogurt or sour cream depending on your preference – about 1/3 of a cup.

Like Indian food, it’s not the most photogenic of dishes, but it was sooo sooo good.

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Curry Overload

This is way way overdue. Many apologies. I wonder if I should back-date it, just so there is not a big gaping hole in the blog record.😛

And because I am so terribly behind, I will keep this short. Shorter than it should be, especially considering how many different impressions were gathered, sights seen, runs sweated through, flavors tasted, etc. over the course of the two weeks we were in Sri Lanka last year. However, I also don’t want to bore you.

Fruit stand near Columbo airport

Fruit stand near Colombo airport

Did you know that there are over 15 kinds of bananas in Sri Lanka? I didn’t.  My favorite, and I didn’t make my way through all 15 varieties, though I would have loved to have, was the “sour banana.” I wish we could get sour bananas here in Germany. The ones that I eat now taste bland and mushy compared to the fresh, just off the tree sort that we got every day there. Sour bananas are not aptly named – they simply have a nice fruity note to them that “normal” bananas here don’t have. Perhaps a bit of an apple tang. The photo above was taken just minutes from Colombo airport after we arrived there. Our driver-guide pulled to the side of the road and bought us coconuts to drink, bananas to eat, and began to tell us the story of Sri Lanka. Over the course of the next two weeks we heard a lot of stories as we traveled around the country, moving from Colombo to Kandy to Hatton to Galle to Negombo and then back home. But since this is a food blog, I’ll focus there….

Fruit platter for breakfast

Fruit platter for breakfast

Ah – I suppose I could manage one of these every morning here in Munich, but it would be ungodly expensive, take too much time to prepare every day, and wouldn’t be special anymore after a few weeks of it. This was an instance of a fruit platter at our hotel near Hatton, but it looked similar everywhere we stayed – full of mango, passion fruit, papaya, pineapples…

The landscapes were breathtaking, almost everywhere you turned. It rained every day, although we were there during the beginning of the supposed dry season.

River near Kandy during a morning run

River near Kandy during a morning run

Lagoon near Galle I passed when walking to the nearby town, Hikkaduwa

Lagoon near Galle I passed when walking to the nearby town

Dog enjoying view - overlook near Kandy

A friendly dog enjoying view – overlook near Kandy

Same overlook

Same overlook – before the fog cleared

 

The rice paddies near Kandy during morning run

The rice paddies near Kandy during a morning run

An African Tulip tree down the hill near Hatton

An African Tulip tree down the hill near Hatton

The tea plantation hills near Hatton

The tea plantation hills near Hatton, snapped during a morning run

Lake overlook in the Hatton hills

Lake overlook in the Hatton hills

Stormy weather waves in Galle

Stormy weather waves in Galle

Waiting for the train to Hatton in Kandy

Waiting for the train to Hatton in Kandy

And so what you must know about food in Sri Lanka is that there is curry and rice…or rice and curry. Ok, it’s not that extreme. We enjoyed a lot of amazing food – egg hoppers becoming a fast favorite from day 2. What we didn’t know is that if you order a little curry for lunch…just thinking…one dish…you get something like this:

Light lunch - fish curry ordered

Light lunch – fish curry ordered, 6 curries received

And that night for dinner, we had already pre-ordered the curry at breakfast. So we were met with this:

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10 curry dinner – you get used to not finishing everything they put before you…

There were some common curries that we saw over and over again – chicken curries, red beet curries, coconut sambals, banana flower and casava root curries. But there were also some favorite unique ones – the cashew nut and pea curry was a favorite, as well as the okra curry.

At our second hotel, I ran across this cookbook in the public living room of the place and immediately started snapping pics of interesting looking recipes to try when I got home.

Sri Lankan food cookbook to order?

Sri Lankan food cookbook to order?

And at two of the hotels, I asked for the secret recipes of relishes I really enjoyed – a tamarind relish and an onion relish – both amazing and easy to make.

Upon arriving home, our friends demanded a Sri Lankan dinner as soon as possible. And I swear, after eating curry for two weeks, I was still willing to try out my hand.

Recreating curries at home after the trip

Recreating curries at home after the trip: banana flower, cashew and pea, casava, dal, spinach, rice

One well worth passing on to try is the cashew nut and pea curry. Super simple, and comes together very quickly. Despite the fact that the recipes say you should soak the cashews, there is really really no need.

With a bit of rice or a coconut roti, this alone would be simple savory sweet dinner.

INGREDIENTS

150g cashew nuts
75g frozen peas
1 cup thick coconut milk
1 cup cold water
1 teaspoon each: coriander powder, cumin powder, chili powder (or more to taste based on how spicy you like it), mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder
Curry leaves – nice big handful
2 inches cinnamon stick
3 small red onions (chopped)
Salt to taste

METHOD

  • Saute onions in 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil until they begin to brown (about 10 min)
  • Mix cashews with all the curry ingredients and cold water then add to the onions and boil until soft (about 15 min)
  • Add peas, mix well, cover and cook another 10 minutes
  • Lastly, mix in the coconut milk and check the seasoning and simmer about 5 minutes
 
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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in vacation

 

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The girl with half a tongue

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It’s been awhile since I’ve been here, I admit. In the last weeks I’ve faithfully photographed a number of delicious meals with every intent to post them, and yet….motivation was lacking. But here we are. Motivation found.

So let’s catch up. Miss sourpuss up there was obviously pissed as hell at me for leaving her in the care of a cat sitter for a week. Granted, she always looks a bit pissed off, but there was a note of evilness in that glare that was even a little scarier than usual. While we were off cavorting in the sun (amazing view from the terrace of the house we rented):

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(Dad and Michal probably talking about politics in Israel.)

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(a church in Porto San Paulo I ran by each time I ran on Sardinia),

and moping a bit in the rain:

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(Just before a downpour at a beach about 100 km south of where we were staying)

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(No point in leaving the house that day)

for a week in Sardinia with my parents, the cats sat quietly waiting for our return. And our cat sitter took a photo of them every day and sent it to me…

Ahhhh….Sardinia.

I think this must have been my favorite meal there:

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In just 4 hours I will be at the starting line for the half marathon I am running today. The six weeks of training were rather grueling, mostly the heavy protein diet to quickly drop 10-12 pounds. (Done!). The running felt almost easy compared to that. So the week of pasta in Sardinia was especially wonderful. I must have eaten it every day. Up there – a local pasta shape, I don’t even remember the name of it, with a lamb ragu. Every bite heavenly.

And I came back…and am running a full 45 second per kilometer faster. Hopefully I can hold the tempo for the 21 kilometers today.

I have a date with a pizza tonight. Already I can imagine it…even if I will only be able to taste it…halfway. I still have only “half a tongue,” due to a little accident that my dentist had in my mouth a month ago…when he punched through a nerve with his needle, partially severing it, while giving me anesthetic for some tooth fixing. He tells me…”it should come back (feeling in my tongue, which completely mutes the taste buds on that side and makes half the tongue feel like a giant slug in my mouth) in no more than six months.” By now, I’ve gotten used to it. But….I wish it hadn’t happened.

Getting nervous – a little bit – now…and am busy downloading music to my phone to listen to. And packing the bag I can pick up at the end of the race. And hydrating hydrating hydrating.

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(Can you spot Sardinia?)

Next magnet to come in December: Sri Lanka!:-)

 

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I can’t get no satisfaction

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Just so you know, there is something behind this nonsense diet I have undertaken. With all the running I have been doing this summer, around 50k per week these days, I decided I might as well put some goals behind it, so it’s not all aimless running. Scratch that. None of it is aimless, it’s all for fitness, staying in shape, keeping stress away, feeling good, staying young (29 and counting!). But when you can put another specific, dated goal on top, a real challenge that will push you – at least a bit – it feels even better. So I have. As long as the weather is reasonable on that day, I will run the Munich half marathon on October 11. A mere six weeks away. But considering I have been running all summer with the aim to improve, I feel like I have been training for quite a long time already. In theory, it should be a breeze. Not that I have ever done it before.

But…it would be even nicer not to come in last. I’m slooooow. And while I have seen nice improvement over the summer – so far cutting about 35 seconds off my average km speed, I know I can do better if I get more serious. More serious about core strengthening for better posture and simply easier running, more serious about speed by doing interval training, more serious about diet, for which there has been very little seriousness. I don’t eat junk, at least not much, but when you perform sport activities for 2+ hours a day (running, biking to work and back, biking everywhere), you burn a lot of calories, and I’ve noticed that the hunger gets really out of control mid-day. I snack too much in between meals and it’s not snacking on carrot sticks. I am a carb junkie. Give me crackers and pretzels and I am a really happy camper. Throw in some ice cream when the thermometer hits 30+ degrees, and I am wallowing in bliss. But all this means that calories in are only perhaps a bit less than calories out. So I have managed to lose a few pounds over the summer, but really only a few.

And wouldn’t it be nice to be 10 pounds/15 pounds lighter to run a half marathon?

With six weeks to go…time to make a drastic, impactful change and see what happens. I’m cutting carbs. Day 7 in, I’m fairly miserable, but seeing results, so sticking with it. I guess you could say I am trying out a Paleo diet – with the exception that I am also leaving out the fruit, All sugar is gone, all carbs, except what comes from nuts and vegetables, gone. Let’s see what happens. Feels like Atkins, which I tried out quite successfully a long long time ago, but much much worse because in those days I didn’t run a 10k five times a week.

Tonight’s dinner: a reflection of the diet, but doing my best to stay happy with food I love.

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Some poached salmon, long cooked kale, (always a favorite),

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And a weird but ok attempt at zucchini/pepper/cheese pancakes (I resisted adding an egg to bind everything together, hoping the cheese would do the job as the pancakes cooked, because there have been way too many eggs in the last 7 days. Wasn’t pefect).

Results:

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Good, filling, better than much of what I’ve eaten in the last few days while traveling, (on the road: piles of nuts, tomatoes, carrot sticks to fill the hunger moments) but…oh, I am really suffering without bread. Timing: gonna try to make it through another 3 weeks. For the last couple weeks before the race I’ll pull in fruit and legumes and some whole grain carbs.

So for now, dealing with this.

 

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Bean me up

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Now you’re awake, aren’t you? My colleague, Valentin, brings a smile to everyone’s face on a daily basis with his crazy outfits. That was yesterday, in the Augustiner Biergarten next door to our office, where I gathered with 5 of my colleagues for a semi-spontaneous homemade lunch. (We planned it two days prior to yesterday – spontaneously.) Now these lunches have become a lunch series, inofficially named “Lunch of Awesomeness” by Herb, another foodie colleague of mine – in the back there, with the cap on. This was lunch number two – each one entailing the participants to bring some sort of home made dish or gourmet offering. We’re quite an international crowd there – representing 5 countries – USA (me), Poland (Kinga), Romania (Valentin), Germany (Guenter and Eva) and Austria (Herb.) Yesterday was a delicious mixed bag offering of Polish celery and beet salads, an Austrian beef “salad” with pumpkin seed pesto, my spicy duck and noodle dish (granted, not very American, but yummy), fresh baguettes, chocolate mousse and strawberry quark, and a minty ice tea (which you’re not allowed to bring into the beer gardens – so Valentin served it to us after lunch back at our desks.)

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The last few days and weeks really have been scorching hot, with little reprieve from the sun. Taking picnics to beer gardens helps you stay cool. And when I cook in this heat, I try to find dishes that don’t require turning on the stove or oven for very long, if possible.

I’ve been a bit addicted to Korean recipes again lately, perhaps because of my discovery of this lady’s YouTube channel. Maangchi – just a simple housewife who started putting her recipes into short videos and over time has become this huge YouTube sensation (almost 700k subscribers!). And she’s really great. In just a few minutes she inspires me to throw together nice easy Korean dishes.

A week ago, again with her as inspiration, I went and bought a huge bag of dry soybeans. You know, these:

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In 5 days, you can sprout them to full-grown sprouts. You just need to keep them watered regularly and covered. Not much to it.

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No special equipment needed. Those are my sprouts! Fun window-sill projects.

And what to do with said sprouts? She had a great recipe for a bi-bim-bop with sprouts (called Kongnamulbap), cooked and done in about 45 minutes.

You mix up some beef with onions and garlic and a few other ingredients (a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil mixed into the beef to further flavor it).

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In a pot with the rice and sprouts – yup, all together.

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Let it cook for about 20 minutes….first on high and then down at a simmer.

Mix with a “dressing” of sorts, (⅓ cup soy sauce, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 stalk of chopped green onion, 2 ts hot pepper flakes, 1 ts honey, 1 tbs chopped onion, 1 tbs chopped green chili pepper, and 1 tbs roasted sesame seeds.)  fry an egg, mix the dressing with a scoop of the beef/rice/sprout mixture and then serve. Easy, fast and reasonably healthy – especially with a salad on the side.

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Posted by on August 7, 2015 in Asian, Cooking at home, Summer in Bavaria

 

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