Friday, December 30, 2011

Michigan (Crack) Rocks

Not only did I get to meet with a friend (who's originally from Pennsylvania) this evening and visit the Schokoladenbar, where you can eat, drink or slurp something like warm pudding spiked with anything from milk rice to cherries, plums and spices from a giant cup, but I also got a little surprise package of Michigan Rocks, pictured above.  At first, when presented with this shiny package of rocks, I nearly laughed at the name, because all I could think was: Michigan rocks?  Like crack rocks?  Ah yes, my mind is always functioning at a very high level.  But then I learned that the contents of this little package were cookies.  With what ingredients?  The regular old cookie ingredients, dates, raisins and walnuts, that's what.  But still, I'm hung up on the name.  Why, oh why are these called Michigan Rocks?  I am from Michigan and lived 23 years of my life there, and have never heard of these cookies.  Is it a Pennsylvanian way of poking fun at one of Detroit's major goods?  Or is it a reference to Michigan's mining industry in earlier times?  Or are they (truthfully or ironically) exclaiming "Michigan Rocks!" every time they say the name of these cookies?  I don't know, but what I can tell you is that these are some moist, delicious treats!

 I also baked some cookies myself yesterday.  This was a little experiment.  The recipe came from a vegan cookbook, and so while I was happy to have everything required on hand, I was sceptical that baking cookies with no egg would supply me with a satisfying result.   I was to be proven wrong!  These little guys are chewy oatmeal raisin cookies, and while they are not as soft as the Michigan Rocks, they are pleasantly chewy and excellently seasoned with a generous portion of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.

Not only did I bake cookies yesterday, but I also baked some stuffing and made some soup.  These short, dark, work-free days are inspiring me to do things that I otherwise don't have time for.  Actually, I've been craving stuffing for a few days.  Probably because it was Christmas and I think my family always has stuffing at Christmas.  However, I think the stuffing wasn't really stuffed (into a bird, for example a turkey or goose), I believe it was prepared much like I prepared my vegetarian stuffing:  mix some roasted bread cubes with some sauted onions, peppers and celery, add some vegetable broth, seasonings and an egg, stir it up, put it in a covered baking dish and bake the heck out of it.  While this stuff tasted a bit like stuffing, some liquid was lacking and the consistency wasn't quite right.  I think the key is more seasoning, more broth, more baking!  We'll see if I can perfect this recipe. 

My other kitchen masterpiece yesterday was celery soup.  I only used 3 stalks of celery in the stuffing, and had the rest of a bunch of celery, so I had to do something with it so that it didn't just go all limp in my fridge.  So I whipped out my cooking notebook and consulted the celery page:  celery soup sounded appealing.  It's really quite simple:  saute the celery and an onion, throw in one cubed potato, cover with broth and boil, boil, boil.  When everything is soft puree it, put in 2 tablespoons of cream and maybe some salt and pepper and voila!  You've got some warm, delicious celery soup.

Scenes from Christmas

 Better late than never, here are some pictures of Christmas in Dresden-Neustadt.  I was so thrilled when I found that the above mural survived the holiday, this particular location is often painted and repainted at regular intervals.  It's between Katy's Garage and the Scheune on Alaunstrasse.  The message is "Gift's instead love" and while the English isn't perfect, I find the painting absolutely perfect.


Here are two views of the giant ferris wheel at the end of Hauptstrasse near the Golden Rider.  A part of me would love to ride that ferris wheel, and another part of me gets terrified even being near the thing.  I'm always a little scared of these rides that are assembled and disassembled and operated by carnies.  Need I say more?
The other thing I really like at this spot are the humongous and slightly creepy figures: the nutcracker and the chimney sweep.  As pleased as I am that there's no snow yet, these guys look just a little out of place surrounded by dry leaves blowing around. 

I've always been a fan of the Christmas pyramid, and this one with its life-size figures is my absolute favorite one.  The kids like it, too.

Santa Claus even came to my house!  This Claus is actually a vending machine for parking tickets.  It seems that our neighbors decorate this machine each year with the Claus costume.  That's the spirit!

Sunday, December 25, 2011


 Finally!  These blasted socks are finished!  I really like this yarn, I got it years ago as a birthday present.  It's hand spun and the colors are just fantastic.  I saved it and saved it until I thought of a worthy project:  warm, cuddly house socks.  I started them, a simple spiral sock pattern, and finished the first one rather quickly.  But then, I started the second.  About halfway in, it became depressingly clear that the yarn wouldn't be enough to finish the sock.  So my search began.  No shop seemed to have this yarn in stock this year, so I had to go with a simple deep red to complete the toe of the second sock.  And now, finally, it's done. 

As much as I like the idea of knitting (creating something warm and cozy all by myself) I find actual knitting to be incredibly frustrating.  Starting a project is really tricky for me, as is finishing.  The middle is rather easy, but it can be boring unless I have a good audiobook or some good radio programs to listen to.  That's my other problem:  I can't watch a film and knit.  My multitasking just isn't that good.  I'm too busy counting and making sure I get the needles in the right place. 
On another note, knitting is all the rage.  I've read about urban knitting projects  now for a couple of years:  knit sheaths for everything from lampposts to signposts and everything in between (see some neat pictures here).  And now urban knitting has come to Dresden:  somebody made this colorful cover for a trash can on Hauptstr.

Monday, December 12, 2011

We'll miss you guys

Yesterday morning I was witness to great carnage as I took some bread to my bunnies:  tufts of fur and what seemed to be a whole piece of skin, complete with fur.  At first I couldn't believe my eyes, then a wave of shock washed over me.  This had to mean that poor Knuddelhase had an awful night and an unexpected visit from a very unwelcome visitor:  the marten. 

This seemingly cuddly little guy is actually a brutal killer.

We seemed to have a foolproof bunny run built into a corner of our terrace, complete with emergency escapes for the bunnies into the three-storey bunny mansion, since there are a lot of cats in our neighborhood, and a net over the top.  But nothing can keep out a marten, they are skinny, nimble little guys.  We live quite close to the Dresden Heath, a large forest area home to a number of quirky wild animals who like to pay a visit to their city friends.  Additionally, I'm sure they are regular visitors to our street because I've spotted them skipping along the street after dark when I'm out and I've heard from our neighbors that they've also eaten their guinea pigs.  But I thought bunnies were too big and quick.  After a little research, though, I've learned that bunnies are a much-loved source of nutrition for these feisty little thiefs.  In hindsight, we're lucky a marten didn't come sooner. 

Cream and Knuddelhase, I'm sorry to have left you so helpless against such a terrible enemy.  We're glad to have known you and it's going to take me a long time to get rid of my reflex of tossing you our vegetable peels when I'm cooking.  We'll miss seeing you guys hopping about when we come home, and the kids will miss looking out their window at you and bringing you in to pet.  We hope you meet Wee Man (who died of tilt head) and Waboose (who died of a broken heart after Wee Man was gone) wherever you are!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Apple Crepes!

Due to my seemingly endless supply of apples, I've had to get creative with my use of them.  My kids eat two or three apples a day along with breakfast and dinner and as a snack, but that barely makes a dent in the boxes and boxes of apples that I have.  I've made apple cake, apple muffins, apple cookies, apple sauce and I even throw an apple into some of my cream soups (curried pumpkin soup or zucchini soup), and still I have boxes and boxes left!  A few weeks ago while perusing my cookbooks for new apple ideas, I found something intriguing:  apple crepes.  It was early in the morning, and I thought the apples went into the crepe batter and I started chopping.  Then I had another look at the recipe and realized, no, the apples are part of a delicious creamy filling.  I was sceptical at first that my food testers, accustomed to fresh rolls from the bakery with cheese or Nutella for breakfast, would like this culinary experiment so early on a Saturday morning, but I forged ahead on my way.  Here's what I did:

  1. Finely chop two apples, add 200 grams of cream cheese and mix well, then add sugar, vanilla and lemon juice to taste.
  2. Put this mixture in the fridge.
  3. Stir together 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of milk and 2 eggs.
  4. Heat a large frying pan and butter it.
  5. Pour in crepe batter and spread it around the whole pan.  Basically, what you're aiming for is one giant, thin pancake.  
  6. Flip it when it starts getting golden brown on the bottom. 
  7. When it's finished, fill it with the apple-cream cheese mixture and roll it up like an enchilada. 
This is a super delicious and pretty simple breakfast.  I'm amazed that I can even remember all the ingredients and all the steps, I've made it a couple times now without even looking at the recipe.  The really beautiful thing is that with this basic crepe recipe, you can even make lunch or dinner crepes, just change the filling.  Fill them with grated cheese, herbs and sour cream, or maybe mushrooms and cheese, or really, whatever you like!  My early morning food testers were also thrilled with this new twist on breakfast.  The only problem is that even this new twist on apples has hardly made a dent in my apple supply!