Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hello readers, sorry for the long absence! I've basically been busy being a really lame routine person, dedicating most of my time to working out, studying, and my cat. She's actually sleeping next to me right now and I keep pausing every few seconds to stare and pet her (can you understand how typing out one sentence can take forever here?)

So recently I had a craving for some sweet rolled buns. Of course, I love my classic cinnamon bun, but I was just too excited to use the walnuts we cracked for this year and well, chocolate. So say hello to these delicious babies! I also swapped out sugar with maple syrup, which not only gives a nice robust flavor but you get the added benefit of zinc and manganese. Enjoy!

Chocolate Date Walnut Rolls
Makes 16-18 rolls

2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup non-dairy milk
42 g cube fresh yeast or 2 teaspoons of dry yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut, sunflower, rapeseed)
2 tablespoons warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt

100 g chopped dairy-free bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
6 finely chopped dried deglet nour dates
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons maple syrup

Heat the non-dairy milk until warm to the touch. Add the yeast, warm water, and a touch of maple syrup. Stir until well combined and set aside.

Mix the flours and salt together. Add the oil and maple syrup and stir. Slowly mix in the yeast mixture, stirring in the meanwhile until everything is well combined and it forms a ball. Cover the bowl with a towel and either let sit in the fridge over night or in a warm place for 1.5 hours

Flour your surface and roll out the dough into a
1/2 cm thick 3:4 rectangle, the longer side facing you. Mix the maple syrup and oil and spread evenly on the dough, using the back of a spoon. Distribute the chocolate, walnuts, and dates over the surface, leaving about a 2 cm edge all around. Roll the dough upwards and pinch and tuck the ends in to complete your roll.

Divide the roll into 16-18 pieces, wetting the knife inbetween to get clean cuts. Distribute the rolls between two baking trays covered in baking paper. Cover with a towel and let rise for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 360ºF/180ºC for about 6 minutes. Bake the rolls for 25 minutes (if it gets darker faster, cover with a sheet of aluminum foil until the baking time is up). Take out and let it cool before taking off the tray. Guten Appetit!

Chocolate Date Walnut Rolls

Sunday, January 4, 2015

It is officially the first week of 2015 and mainly I've been lounging around the house. I've been sleeping in a lot lately and I feel like it's all due to the winter season: cold weather + warm bed = never want to get out. Same with the shower. You can imagine it takes centuries for me to get ready in the morning.

We've recently been blessed with some snow. I say blessed because last year we had none and I don't really consider it a proper winter without it! Decided to celebrate by making an igloo in the backyard!

Starting off with a good breakfast! Going for the oats with a fruit salad of kiwis, mangoes, and grapes. Also trying to cram in some German grammar.

While I was boiling water for tea to bring outside, Oli already started making the walls.

Oli making the walls stronger while I collect snow and take pictures.

Finished! Looks kind of like an egg on top but at least it allows for more head space!

We called Miku over to the house by bribing her with food . . .

It was pretty warm inside!


There's also something about chili on a chilly day (do you like my wordplay?) that puts me in a good mood. I mean, who doesn't like a bowl of warm, beany goodness? Here's my fool-proof recipe for chili that's super easy to make and satisfying.

A few notes:
  • I use black beans because they are a great source of protein and antioxidants. They also contain a higher amount of indigestible fraction which allows bacteria in the colon to produce butyric acid to keep it working properly. However if you don't have black beans, feel free to use another bean (kidney and azuki are good options)
  •  The vegetables used here are what I had. Feel free to use what you'd like though I do recommend keeping the onions and celery for a more familiar chili flavor.
  • The amount of cayenne here is not listed because it's all based on preference. I have a cayenne that is [to me] much stronger than others I've used so I only use a pinch of it for a whole pot. Always add less first and taste before adding any more!

Classic Vegan Chili
Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil (or any vegetable oil)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 large stalk of celery, diced
1 x 15 oz. drained and rinsed can of black beans
1 x 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp ground cumin
cayenne (I use about 1/4 tsp)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium high heat. Add the garlic and onions and stir until the onions are tender and translucent. Add the celery and zucchini and stir for another 6-8 minutes.

Add the drained beans and diced tomatoes (including the juice) and bring everything to a boil before reducing the heat to medium low heat. Cover and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and add the cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Stir and let it stand for another 10 minutes so the liquid can further evaporate. Turn off the heat and serve as is or over rice. Garnish with fresh parsley or coriander/cilantro.

This dish tastes even better the next day and it's also great frozen. Make a double batch if you want to have a great meal waiting for you whenever you want.

Vegan Chilli and Building Igloos

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