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Category Archives: Avoiding Junk Food

Life after Death

I thought I had at least 3-5 more years with Sam. He was 14, or almost, when we got back from California about three weeks ago. And had a terrible cold, or so I thought. And 6 days later he was dead. And I was totally floored. Absolutely nailed to the ground with grief because I loved this cat so much. Far more than his cute, but asocial sister. In the past 17 days I have been sad and mad and incredulous and…the list goes on. I suppose the five stages of grief. I am beginning to come to terms with his loss, and doing what I can to stay positive.

His sister, Sophie, needs to stay healthy now. I am on a mission to get her to shed a little weight, get some more exercise, and try to convince her to snuggle with me more. (A lost cause). And to fill the gaps in my heart, which are huge, we are getting two new cats, crazy people that we are. In two weeks.

Yeah, those two lovebugs. :-))) We figure that Sophie …regardless of my success with her weight loss, might not be around for many more years. So we are easing the transition. May 4 or 5…here they come.

I stayed home today from work – although worked from here – every chance I get I try to hang out with Sophie. She seems to miss Sam, although who can really interpret her, certainly not I. I don’t seem to have cat whisperer skills when it comes to her.

Lunch time came and went and I wasn’t really hungry but wanted…something.

I could only look at so much bread and cheese combinations for lunch, so I decided to throw together a dish I haven’t had for ages: Indian Poha. More or less an Indian breakfast dish from Maharashta that I repurposed for mid-day. It’s rehydrated rice, plus an assortment of veggies, nuts, spices, herbs. It’s sort of like…Indian fried rice but fast and easy. On a day like today, when Winter has returned to Germany (damn it), something warm and fragrant and spicy like poha is great comfort food.

You can customize as you like.

The basic recipe is here (and many other places).

Soak your poha (dehydrated rice), and chop up whatever you’re putting in. Fry your mustard seeds and then your onions and potatoes, put in your ginger and tumeric and chili and carrots and peas, your nuts and coconut shreds, toss in your shrimp if you have a few (perfectly good as a veggie dish too), and then the poha, the herbs, season with salt…tossing the whole while as each element cooks in.

And then squeeze a slice of lemon over it, just before serving.

Enjoy the comfort and ease.

Think of kittens.

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Chop Salad – Japanese/California Style

It’s past 9 pm and I am still awake! No, this is progress, even if you don’t think so. We got back from a 10-day trip to California on Monday night and I promptly fell into jet-lag hell. Today is the first day close to normal – three days later. This is good.

Oh, and the trip was full of all the California goodness I crave when I am away. Wild turkeys waddling down the street, completely oblivious to cars that might spatchcock them a good 8 months too early….

Amazing views, which I just took for granted in the past over the bay – showcasing in one breathtaking sweep the bay bridge, the golden gate bridge, Lawrence Hall of Sciences, Alcatraz Island, and the Berkeley campus. …

The botanical gardens, where we wandered, carefree, for two hours, enjoying the sun, the climate, the super secret highly-controversial conversations with the local physicists, who delivered information in person, out of the hearing of the NSA and other prying USA governmental agencies. We hope. Just saying.

The redwood forests. Ah.

Trying out new fruits – who ever heard of a SUMO orange? Tastes like a mandarin, only…bigger.

Getting new recipes for gin cocktails from friends. Still have to make this, reads like a future addiction.

And hanging with the nephews and the sisters and the parents and aunts and cousins, etc. who make us do dangerous things on two-wheeled vehicles inside the house.

We survived. And now we are back.

Making Japanese chopped salad.

This is a little bit like… a sushi salad. But takes the classic chop salad as its inspiration.

Lots of chopped veggies, cut very small, plenty of protein in there, some fat as well, mixed with a super yummy dressing.

In this case, this dressing. Simple easy fast.

And this mix of veggies and protein:

salmon – raw, cabbage, avocado, romaine lettuce, soy beans, re hydrated wakame seaweed, hard boiled eggs, green onion, cucumber

And I added in a bit of yuzu mayo – collected in Oakland during the trip.

And a few sprinkles of bonito flakes.

some crispy bacon…would probably not be bad in this.

Dressing adds a brilliant orange glow. But MOM! No chilies! NOT SPICY. (I almost killed my mother with a not so unsimilar salad while at home.)

Actually, if you ask me, I would put in some chili oil.

Nice light salad, low carb, full of protein and energy. Lots of antioxidants.

Can you tell I am starting to think about running a marathon again?

 

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Bootstrapping Mexican Posole

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Oh yeah, Klaus and Florian singing up there to stay warm in the FREEZING Zurich weather. These days I am doing a lot of commuting back and forth to Switzerland for the latest project. Thankfully it’s just a couple days a week, but often it really limits my ability to leisurely shop over the course of the week for random, hard to find ingredients. Not that there are SOOOO many of them, but sometimes, you have a recipe that requires you to go to three shops in town to find what you need.

That happened last Saturday evening when I had 8 people over for dinner. It’s still quite cold here in MUC as well, although warming up, thankfully, and I thought that a perfect foil for the weather would be some nice warm SOUP. Soup sounds boring. Like a first course, no? Well, not this soup. It’s Mexican Posole, a celebratory dish I think I’ve even blogged about here on this blog before. But it’s such a lovely perfect winter soup, that you can’t help but make it every winter a couple times.

It’s great because it’s a soup you can PERSONALIZE. You take the basic soup – a rich blend of charred and pureed peppers and garlic and onions, studded with chunks of chicken and hominy (dried and reconstituted corn) and perhaps some cabbage or zucchini. And you top it with what you want: cheese, cabbage, cilantro, lime squeezes, tortilla strips, slices of avocado, generous dashes of hot habanero salsa.

So what starts out looking like this:

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In the end looks like this:

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A delicious meal in a bowl. As a basis for the recipe I made, I used this recipe. And during the dinner, my guests asked me to send them the recipe.

Which I did the next day. Along with some notes. After I lectured them, I had to laugh a bit and realized that what I wrote made the recipe sound way too daunting. But it’s really really not. The substitutions below make things much easier to cook in a country that doesn’t frequently stock things like tomatillos and poblanos.

From my notes to my guests:

“A couple notes: 1) I substituted green tomatoes for the tomatillos. I looked for them, but they are HARD to find in MUC. Green tomatoes approximate the flavor. 2) I substituted green peppers for Poblanos. You can find poblanos in Muc in a can at a Mexican market. But I wanted a fresher taste. Poblanos are spicier in flavor, and green peppers are much bigger, so you will need to adjust a bit on the amount and the spicy factor. 3) I substituted cabbage for zucchini. I like cabbage in this soup better. 4) I left the fresh corn out and instead used double the amount of hominy called for (the dry corn). 5) I substituted feta cheese for the Mexican cotija cheese…because (yes, it’s like a broken record)…I can’t find cotija cheese in MUC. Feta is much sharper in flavor, and there are better substitutions – also available in MUC, but I didn’t have time to source them yesterday.

A few more notes: I don’t like chicken breast in this soup. I feel like it dries out much faster and gets stringy, because you are cooking it a long time. In a crock pot, that might be different, but for a regular pot – I ended up cooking the soup for about 2 hours in total – I would really recommend chicken thighs. After about an hour and a half of cooking, you take them out and remove all the skin and bone and put the meat back in the soup.

Fresh oregano rather than dried would also be very good, but you won’t need much of it. I added one more spice, a bit of chili chipotle. Chipotle IS find-able in MUC, or just ask me for a few teaspoons, you don’t need much. Go to any good spice store and you’ll find it right away. Chipotle is spicy, although not killer, but adds a really nice smoky zing to Mexican food, so I like it in this in moderation. I put in perhaps a teaspoon. (for the quantity in the recipe.)

Don’t skip the step of charring the peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onions. The tomatoes will be done first, then the garlic (just wait till they are soft, not black), then onion and peppers. The charring step brings in depth of flavor as well.

Lastly, the tortillas we ate are corn tortillas, quite hard to find here. But…if you go to the taco shop, Condesa, in Münchener Freiheit, they sell homemade corn tortillas – 5 euros for 30 of them – a great deal! You can buy a package, use what you need and freeze the rest. They freeze beautifully.

It sounds like a pain in the ass if I describe all this, but the nice thing about this soup is that it’s flexible in a way. You can add and subtract vegetables and still get something quite tasty. Except for a couple ingredients, everything is standard in your grocery store. I will look for a source for the hominy here in MUC. In the meantime, fresh corn will also be great. You can put in white beans as a substitute for the hominy too – the texture is about the same as the hominy – soft and mealy – but you will lose the “perfume” of the hominy, which Itzik pointed out last night. Fresh corn will bring a lot of perfume back in, however.

Oh, and frozen corn is MUCH BETTER than the shit corn they sell wrapped up in plastic in the vegetable section. Do not buy that. And no canned corn. Please.”

Off to Zurich in the morning for the rest of the week. Might have to just go with a spaghetti this weekend. 😉

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Chop chop

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Have a last look. At my glasses. This is the last of the sexy librarian look for me. I get chopped on Friday morning. WHAT?!?! 😉 I don’t know what I was looking forward to more about 3 weeks back, our two week long trip to Morocco (some photos up to the right over there in the Instanibble feed, sorry, none of me lounging in the sun with my glasses on), or the laser surgery to correct my vision I will have on Friday morning now that we’re back.

People keep asking, “aren’t you scared?” and really the answer is no. I look at it perhaps a bit too logically? One in 3000 cases is a problem. And the doctors tell me that those cases tend to be the ones where the person wasn’t careful for the couple weeks after the surgery. And why wouldn’t I be careful? The only thing I am mourning right now is the fact that I am not supposed to do any sports for two weeks after the surgery. I can’t imagine that. Morocco was hard enough in the past two weeks where I mostly abstained. First came the election and who can run after those results came in? You just want to lie in bed curled up in a ball. And then there was the fact that I was in a reasonably conservative Muslim country, where I was maybe a bit too self-conscious about putting on the jogging tights and t-shirts in front of a population that might really have an issue with it. I only managed twice during the 12 days we were there. And they were both uncomfortable experiences. Again, maybe just me.

Anyway, we’re back now and I  am cooking again, focusing on vegetables! So much chopping, so many veggies being chopped to smithereens under my sharp knives and thrown into the hot pan. Because oddly enough, even though the Moroccan diet is very healthy, when you go out as a tourist and eat in the restaurants, you’re getting the richest, most calorie laden food out there. Low on vegetables, high on meat protein. Some days I thought about what we had eaten all day and was really disappointed and craving vitamins. Even the cooking class I did there didn’t offer up much in the way of vegetables, which was a bit disappointing.

So yesterday, there was a bastardized version of ratatouille.

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All the basics in there, the eggplant, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, parsley and thyme. But also some chili, some saffron, and in the end I even chopped up a potato finely to help remove some of the burn of the chili. (I was overzealous with chili.) Really simple food, but oh, so satisfying. Meat is off the menu until Saturday evening, when we will celebrate a late Thanksgiving with our American friends here in Munich. A turkey will be served.

I still wanted some more protein in the meal, so I made some Parmesan toasts and sliced a hard boiled egg on top. Perfect light dinner.

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Sweet Sixteen

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We got married in the year 2000. Isn’t it sort of freaky to say that out loud? Sounds futuristic. Except that it was 16 years ago! :-O

To celebrate on Saturday, I ran my ass off again to train for this marathon that I might or might not be doing (ok, that wasn’t really part of the celebration and a good chunk of my ass still exits.)

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But in the evening we went out for dinner and ate huge steaks with steamed spinach and mashed potatoes. Heavenly. I didn’t come close to finishing my steak, but the rest came home with me and landed in breakfast and lunch the next day. The restaurant (Theresa Grill, btw, highly recommended), also served a delicious liver pate with the bread before our steaks came out. I asked for the recipe and the chef came out a few minutes later with it written up and gave me in-person instructions! (wow!) Needless to say, this will be tried out sometime this week. Recipe below in hand-written format:

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In English: 500 grams of liver (they used goose, I guess I will use chicken), 2 red onions, 2 stalks of celery, 200 milliliters cognac, 150 grams of butter and salt and pepper. Cut the onion and celery into small pieces and brown them with the liver in a pan. After everything is cooked, pour in the cognac and let cook. Take off the stove, blend with a handmixer, and then mix in the butter. Season with salt and pepper (they used a very grainy sea salt which was delicious), and then let chill in the fridge.

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In the last weeks I have been on the road again with my teammates. Giorgio (catching Pokemon over there while we waited for our train in Stuttgart) and Jonas (with me on the train to Belgium last week) have been keeping me entertained, which has been a lot of fun. Next week I head to the UK alone for a day or two, which will be a grueling couple days without colleagues to work with.

Some lovely new dishes have been created recently, although homemade pizza is still appearing with alarming frequency.

One of the better ones recently has been an easy Ottolenghi recipe: za’atar roast chicken with onions and lemons. Plus I made a flatbread to go with it – also seasoned with the Israeli Za’atar spice blend.

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Here’s the recipe over on Bon Appetit.

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Basically you just mix up the marinade ingredients:

 

  • 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • a couple tablespoons of Za’atar spice mix

Mix it with you chicken, and let sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Then you bake it for about 50 minutes at 400 F, 200 C.

 

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Serve with yogurt (or green tahini sauce, as in Ottolenghi’s original recipe), a green salad or really ripe cherry tomatoes, and some flatbread to mop up the juices.

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It’s a practically no effort meal if you just buy the flatbread rather than making it yourself.

Just mix, bake, done.

The weather here this week in Munich is supposed to be spectacular. So happy I am not traveling. 🙂

 

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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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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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