Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas in Germany is what I imagine most families everywhere do. Family you haven't seen in a year drive over and you gather at one place to eat until you don't ever want to hear the word 'food' again. I never experienced such a Christmas because my family outside of its immediate members reside in Japan and living in NY never made it easy to come together. Now it's almost routine to ask Oli which house we're going to on which day and what we should bring and wear.

The morning of Christmas Eve was a peaceful one.

The tree was ready and I had finally finished wrapping the gifts to put under the tree!!

I also made some pancakes! Pancakes are kinda my specialty. If I'm not feeling creative but want a nice breakfast, pancakes are my go to. Pancakes + holiday music = the best way to spend the morning.

After breakfast we went to Oli's mother's house. Her house was literally covered in cute Christmas decorations.

After many hours of tea, coffee, cake, card games, and dinner, we went back home to sleep. It's normal in Germany to open gifts on Christmas Eve but to stay true to my American tradition of opening gifts on Christmas morning, we decided to sleep and wait til the next day to open presents.

The smoking figure Oli put out for Christmas.

Sorry for the photos from blursville and my red puffy face (was a bit under the weather) but we were excited to open gifts!

The gift I was most excited about was the one I gave Oli.

Oli has a pair of Adidas sneakers that he literally wore TO DEATH in the past 3 years. I had several ideas for gifts over the past 2 months or so but then it hit me to replace his sneakers because I knew that unless they fell apart on his feet, he probably wouldn't replace them. I got him the same exact model and great gaggling goose, look at the difference!!! Mind blown.

After present opening and cat feeding, we got to work in the kitchen preparing food for ourselves.

Honestly doesn't get much more German than this, does it?

It was a really nice few days just talking, eating, and playing games. I think it's kind of crazy how this year just flew by and it's already nearing the end of 2014 and the start of 2k15! I am super excited for what's to come. Hopefully this blog will see some positive changes as well. Look forward to my next post, which will be a continuation of some Christmas fun!

Christmas in Brandenburg

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It's December and that means the holidays are upon us. I don't know about you guys but I have already been pre-gaming for weeks (seriously guys, my body is made of cookies and mulled wine right now). With just a week left to go, I am frantically running around trying to collect some last minute gifts that are both thoughtful and useful because let's face it, when everyone on your list is older than you, you realize that cute pair of tongs that look like a monkey with cymbals is just not going to be appreciated in the same way you think it would.

Luckily, I have many distractions to keep my mind otherwise occupied.

The Advent Collection! To be fair, the penguin one is from last year and it's a somewhatkindofnotvery useful tool to learn German. Oh, and the Mini Mani Manor Advent Calendar from Ciaté is just . . . okay, no excuses, I just really wanted to spoil myself (I've only had an Advent Calendar once in my childhood!)

Then there was also Nikolaustag on the 6th, which as I've mentioned last year, is the day St. Nick comes by and drops off sweets to all the good chickadees of the world. So to all you non-believers out there, here is the proof:

Oh, you thought I meant the proof that St. Nick is real? Psych! I meant the proof that I've been good.

I also went to a few Christmas Markets. Here are a few shots from the one in Spandau (my first one this year!)

It was such a nice market! Way better than some of the central ones. If you are in Berlin and can visit the one in Spandau, I do recommend it!

Now I did mention cookies earlier, didn't I? I invited my friend Jaqueline over to make some sugar cookies with me a week ago. I've been experimenting with cookies for the past few months now so I decided to just kinda whip them up without a recipe and it turned out really well! They are very simple so it's important to use good ingredients, especially good vanilla extract. I've been making my own vanilla extract from some pods I ordered when I was back in NY and they have just taken my cookies to another level. You obviously don't have to make your own extract, but if you can splurge a bit, please use quality ingredients!

Simple Sugar Cookies
Makes 4 trays of cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar (I used raw brown sugar)
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup vegan margarine
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 packet (about 2 tsp) vanilla sugar
3 tbsp non-dairy milk (I used rice)
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.

In a mixing bowl, cream your margarine together with the sugar. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the butter mixture, a third at a time, mixing along the way. Once it's well incorporated, the texture should be a bit sandy. Now add non-dairy milk, a tablespoon at a time (note: if you need more milk, add a tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a ball but is not sticky). Flour your surface and your rolling pin. Roll out the dough in segments, cutting out shapes with a cutter or knife and adding extra dough to the remains.

Place on a tray with baking paper and bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden. Take them out and cool before adding any type of frosting. Guten Appetit!

Simple Sugar Cookies and Christmas is Comin'

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Once in a while, I like to go out.

. . . okay, let's face it, if I were made of money, I would go out way more often than I should, but of course my money tree died and my million dollar inheritance ran out (I bought a piece of the moon to prepare myself for the move when zombies eventually come a-knockin' on my door).

Due to these circumstances, I cook very often at home. However, on the rare occasion I sit in a cafe and order a meal, I like to go to a place with good food and plenty of things to stare at. Enter Goodies Cafe in Friedrichshain, Berlin.

Goodies is a place I discovered through a popular market chain called Veganz (they sell Goodies' prepared food) here in Berlin. After trying out a few of the cold dishes, I decided to visit the main store and see what else they had to offer. Naturally I was drawn to the large menu, baked goods, and fresh smoothies and juices.

The decor is quite simple but the graphic art on the walls and coffee cups make the place more personable. I admit the chairs and tables don't look so inviting but I suppose this place caters more to those "on the go".

They have wraps that change monthly as well as staple wraps, bagel sandwiches, cold noodle salads, soups, etc. The people behind the counter also speak English if German is not your forte (I think they get quite a few tourists here). It was quite busy around the time my friend and I went so counter service can seem a bit rushed. Never the less, the food is yummy and there's plenty to choose from. I think it's a great place for starting vegans/vegetarians or just someone who likes to mix it up once in a while.

Warschauer Straße 69
10243 Berlin

Goodies Cafe in Berlin

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hello everyone and TGIF! Sorry I've been missing from the blog-o-sphere; I've been a tad occupied with school, babysitting, and working out. Also I've just seen the Aliens trilogy for the first time recently and didn't realize how amazing they are! Not to mention I watched Lord of the Rings for the first time this Summer too. Have I been living under a rock or what?

Speaking of rocks, this pie rocks.

. . . okay, that was an incredibly uncreative way to dive into the recipe but my brain is really only half functional at midnight anyway (do you feel me?) I'll make up for it by giving you this insanely delicious recipe. It's very similar to my raw apple tart from last year but with a few additional steps and ingredients.

Raw Vegan Apple Pie
Serves 6-8


1 1/2 cups walnuts (you can also use almonds or a mixture)
8 pitted deglet noor dates (or 6 medjool dates), diced
1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 cups walnuts, soaked in water
6 pitted deglet noor dates (4 medjool), diced
1 knob of ginger (about 1/2 tsp), minced
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 inch piece of vanilla, or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup water

Layer & Topping:
3 medium apples, thinly sliced


Soak the filling walnuts in water for at least 2 hours (the longer you soak, the softer and creamier they will be--if you have the time, soak overnight).

Prepare the crust: pulse in a food processor the nuts until they become coarse granules. Add the dates and the cinnamon and pulse until the "dough" comes together. Press into a 9 in/23 cm round cake pan (it's important to use one that unclips on the side for easy removal) and chill in the fridge until the filling is done.

Prepare the filling: drain the nuts and pour into the same food processor along with the 1/4 cup of fresh water. Depending on how long you soaked them and the power of your machine, it may take longer than a few minutes. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and pulse until a thick paste is formed and everything is well combined (make sure to scrape the sides every few seconds during this process for best results).

Prepare the pie: Take the crust out of the fridge and spread about 3-4 tablespoons of the filling mixture on top (essentially just enough to form a thin layer of the walnut cream). Now create a layer of sliced apples. Repeat these steps until the filling is used up and you have just enough apples to garnish the pie. Chill in the fridge for an hour before serving, then sprinkle cinnamon on top. Guten Appetit!

Raw Apple Pie

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving is only 9 days away and all I can think about is pumpkin pie. Even though the holiday is non-existent here in Germany (there is Erntedankfest, which is a day meant to give thanks to nature's bounty), it's not hard to convince people to gather around a table full of delicious food and enjoy each other's company. My parents would always wake up early the morning of and start preparing food while the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade aired in the background.

One of my favorite dishes on the table was always brussels sprouts. Growing up, I never understood why some people didn't like them because I always thought they were scrumdiliumcious! I love mine roasted with garlic and a bit of salt. The moment they come out of the oven I go to town on those bad boys. So of course I'm including a recipe on my blog! And to take it a step further, I thought I'd make a soup of it because who doesn't love to warm up with a nice bowl of soup?

Roasted Brussel Sprout Soup
Serves 6

1 1/2 lb (750 gr.) brussels sprouts
2 tbsp olive oil + 1 tbsp for sautéing
3 cups chopped leek
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 1/2 cups of water
1 1/2 cups of vegan heavy cream (I used oat cream)
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp dried parsley
2 tbsp maple syrup
salt & pepper
chopped hazelnuts for garnish

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F or 200 C. Cut off the brown ends of the brussels sprouts and remove any yellow outer leaves before halving them. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the brussels sprouts onto the sheet. Drizzle the 2 tbsp of olive oil on top and massage them until they're evenly coated (fastest way is to get your hands dirty!) Pop them into the oven for 35-40 minutes.
In the last 10 minutes of roasting, prepare your leek and garlic. Put a soup pot over medium high heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the leek and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes (until the leek is tender). Add the roasted brussels sprouts and water, then bring the heat down to low. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Mix in the vegan cream, then cover and let it sit for an additional 10 minutes before adding the thyme, parsley, salt, pepper, and maple syrup. Puree with an immersion blender. Serve with chopped hazelnuts and enjoy!

Roasted Brussels Sprout Soup

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Remember when everyone online was making zucchini noodles? No? Okay, maybe I watch too many raw foodies on Youtube but I couldn't help joining the bandwagon. I'm not usually one for fads. Like that time when everyone decided color blocking was in and I went shopping at Zara only to find everything in beige, red, and forest green? Let's just say I didn't shop for clothes during those few months.

What are zucchini noodles? Basically they're just thin strips of zucchini that resemble noodles. Most people have a spiralizer or a julienne peeler (which is what I have) but it can be achieved with a peeler and some steady handiwork. Of course, you could just go ahead and use pasta.

The sauce here is a nice little mushroom sauce. I didn't add tomato puree/diced tomatoes because I try to avoid tomatoes when I cook for myself (I just don't like to consume it often) but if you like them, add a 16-oz. can (about 2 cups) of pureed or diced tomatoes along with the other liquids and taste it for saltiness before adding any miso.

Zucchini Noodles with Mushroom Sauce
Serves 2

1 1/2 cups brown mushrooms, diced
1 medium onion, diced (a med. onion for me is about 3 inches in diameter)
1 shallot, minced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup apple juice
1 tbsp white miso paste

2 zucchinis, julienned or spiralized (or 2 servings of cooked spaghetti or fettuccine as per package instructions)

Chop all vegetables accordingly then heat a pan on high heat. When the pan is heated, add the olive oil to coat the pan. Follow with the garlic, shallot, celery, and onions, making sure to constantly stir.

When the onions are tender and translucent, add the mushrooms and stir until the mushrooms have released most of their water and reduced in size (about 5 minutes). Reduce the heat to medium low and add the red wine, apple juice, and miso (making sure the miso dissolves in the liquid). Stir and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated. You can leave it chunky like this or puree it with an immersion blender.

Serve on top of zucchini noodles, garnish with basil leaves, and enjoy!

Zucchini Noodles with Mushroom Sauce

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Everybody talks about oatmeal because it's like that good friend that always has your back, even though you sometimes forget about her and she ends up in the back of your cupboard, mingling with the cocoa powder and bottle of Gordon's gin (this is a no judgement zone people).

But what is it about oats that is so special? To name a few:

-One bowl of oatmeal a day will help lower cholesterol by 8-23%. 1% drop in serum cholesterol is a 2% decrease in the risk of developing heart disease!
-A specific type of fiber known as beta-glucan is found in oats. This fiber helps the human immune system respond quicker to infection.
-Oats are a good source of magnesium, resulting in stronger bones, teeth, and improvement of insomnia, depression, and anxiety.
-Good alternative for those with celiac disease (intolerance to gluten).

I grew up eating oatmeal. I even developed a strange superstition as a kid, where if I didn't eat oatmeal on test day, I wouldn't do well. I think it was because my teachers always stressed eating a good breakfast before exams and to me, a good breakfast is hearty and filling but not too filling that it makes one feel heavy.

My basic outline for a good oatmeal is Oats + Liquid + Sweeteners + Mix-ins + Toppings. There's a fine line between mix ins and toppings because you could essentially use both interchangeably but I find some things taste better cooked. Here's the low down for each:

The three basics are Steel-Cut, Rolled/Old Fashioned, and Quick. Steel-cut oats are groats that have been split into several finer pieces which produces a much creamier porridge but also takes 20-30 minutes to cook. Rolled or Old Fashioned oats (the standard variety sold in Germany) are steamed, pressed, and dried, making them more absorbent and reducing the cooking time to about 5-10 minutes. Quick cooking oats have an even shorter cooking time but are less textured and more mushy.

Tip: Always cook the oats in water first. Milk makes it easier for the oats to burn and stick to the pan. You can add milk after the oats are 75% cooked.
Any type of milk is fine. A more decadent option for vegans would be to use coconut or homemade cashew milk. If you like butter, you can also melt butter in your oats in addition to milk. Another option is to cook oatmeal in tea! Boil water, add the tea bag, and fish the tea bag out before adding the oats. Chai makes a good porridge but experiment with other flavors for a fun breakfast.

I prefer liquid sweeteners in oatmeal but use what you like. My favorites are molasses, maple syrup, and stevia. If your stevia contains alcohol (such like vanilla extract), add it in during the cooking process so the heat cooks it out. Another idea is to add chopped up dates, loaded with natural sugar, eliminating the need for an added sweetener.

Ground flax seeds and chia seeds are great mixed in while the oats are cooking because they help to absorb water and for some people, are more easily digested when cooked. With fruit it's all about preference. I like cooked apples because it reminds me more of apple pie so I mix it in while the pot is still on heat. Same goes for pears, plums, and sometimes bananas. Berries are more delicate so I prefer them fresh and on top. Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg and powders like carob, cocoa, or even protein powders can be added at the end of cooking to enhance flavor.

This is pretty much the part of the creating where you can add anything and everything. Nut butters are great on top for added protein and healthy fats as well as chopped nuts and seeds for the contrasting texture. Dried fruits are also great for when you don't have fresh fruit on hand. Finally, fruit purees or jam, even cheese (though I haven't tried it, some people swear by it) can be added depending on what you like.

Here is a simple recipe for cinnamon apple oatmeal using rolled oats.

Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal (vegan, gluten free)
Serves 1

1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup of non-dairy milk (I used rice milk)
1 medium apple, diced (I like gala, honey crisp, fuji, or any of the sweeter red apple varieties)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
6 drops stevia extract
handful of raisins
chopped walnuts for topping

In a small pot over medium heat, bring water to a boil. Measure out your oatmeal and place in the pot, immediately stirring with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir for a 2-3 minutes until the water has mostly evaporated and the mixture looks thick. Lower the heat to medium and add the chia seeds, flax seeds, and milk. Stir and add the stevia, apples, and raisins. Continue stirring for another 5 minutes. If the mixture looks too thick and the oatmeal is sticking too much to the bottom of the pan, add water. Turn off the heat and put into a bowl. Top with walnuts. Guten Appetit!

Oatmeal: Tips, Tricks, and How I Prepare Them

Friday, October 31, 2014

I don't know what it is about salads that is so repelling. People hear salad and instantly think of 3 other things that sound much better (I thought of lasagna, sushi, and burgers btw). I mean, I don't blame them. The only time I really wanted a salad was when I discovered that goat cheese, cranberry, walnut salad at Whole Foods and let's face it, 9 times outta 10, Whole Foods got it right.

So imagine my surprise when I was just craving salad the other day. And my being famously bad at making salads (it's a fact, I'm not even going to deny it), I decided to start with the dressing first. A good salad needs a good dressing, am I right?

"Miso Nutty" Salad
Serves 2-4

1/4 cup white miso
1 1/2 tbsp peanut butter
1/2 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp black strap molasses
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp flax oil
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Mix together the miso, peanut butter, ginger, and molasses. Add the oils and vinegar and mix with a fork until well combined.

Mixed Greens
Smoked Tofu; cubed (or use regular firm tofu and season it)
Spring Onions, cut thin
Mushrooms, chopped (I used Chanterelle but Shiitake, Enoki, Maitake, or Brown Button Mushrooms would work)
Gluten Free Pasta (optional)
Plums (optional)
Peanuts for garnish

Toss all ingredients in a big bowl. Only mix with dressing before consumption (otherwise it will get soggy and unpleasant). Enjoy!

"Miso Nutty" Salad