The Kitchen, My Playground

“Laughter is brightest where the food is best.”

– Irish Proverb

DSC06946When I look out my kitchen window, I see two young girls swinging in the playground. They swing in rain, in snow, from day to dusk. It’s so refreshing and makes me smile every single time.

While they swing, I bake. I have been in the kitchen a lot these last few weeks and have been discovering the beauty of baking without white flour, refined sugar and trying to incorporate plant based dairy substitutes. I know what took me so long? I have tried using different flours like whole wheat, chickpea, almond and buckwheat to see how they get along in pancakes, biscuits and desserts. Instead of refined sugar, I have been using honey, maple syrup and dates.

Some days I feel like a mad scientist trying to get the formula right. Maybe this partially explains my last post on Berlinale. Good golly, I can’t believe I posted even in its horrible sloppiness. Oh the inner angst of a blogger egger nogger. Blergh.

Anyway, I thought I would share a few of the recipes I tried. I often tweaked them (because that is how I roll) and am directing you to those that have inspired me. Thank you, awesome fellow bloggers! I am reminded that it’s not important to please others, just yourself. So feel free to make any changes to better suit your taste buds.

Sweet Potato Pancakes from @dieffs – I used oatmeal flour (made from oatmeal ground in the food processor) because I didn’t have any almond flour, added 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 tablespoons unsweetened flaked coconut and cooked these babies in coconut oil. We enjoyed these as minis – well…because sometimes good things come in small packages.

Buckwheat Pancakes from Cookie + Kate – It was snowing and frankly, I didn’t feel like getting out of my pjs just yet. I didn’t have buttermilk so I used 1 cup soy milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar for the batter and used honey instead of white sugar. I didn’t roast strawberries but made a fruit compote:  2 cups Trader Joe’s frozen fruit blend placed in a small pot and brought to a boil. I added a half teaspoon of brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon then simmered for 5 minutes. I love the nutty texture of the buckwheat and especially feel comforted by pancakes like this on a cold winter’s morning. Yummm.DSC07183Cheddar Biscuits with Scallions & Black Pepper from Completely Delicious – we paired these beauties with Carrot Mango Coconut Soup by Heavenlynn Healthy. I used half whole wheat and half all purpose flour for the biscuits. I ran out of butter and soy milk so I used plain soy yogurt. Warm and delicious straight out of the oven!IMG_8497.jpg2 Ingredient Naan from Little Spice Jar – great with Indian dishes or even 7 Layer Greek Hummus by The Larson Lingo. I used half AP flour and half whole wheat flour to make the naan. Ugh I forgot to take a picture. Sorry. I will woo you with my attempt at a 7 Layer Greek Hummus instead. 5 out of 7 layers isn’t so bad. Beneath the blanket of feta, cucumber and tomatoes lies the hummus base which is homemade. That should count for something, right?

Chickpea Naan from Broke Ass Gourmet – I have recently discovered chickpea flour and am loving its flavor and protein factor. To me, it has a peanut buttery taste and if you know me, I do love peanut butter. I ended up adding a bit more water than called for in the recipe and added chili flakes and chopped garlic for a little kick. This pairs well with Daal simmered in Indian spices, tomatoes and spinach. What is it with Naan? I forgot to take a picture again. Sooorrryyyyy.

Healthy Banana Bread with Blueberries from Cookie + Kate – This time I had all the ingredients (yay!) and added fresh blueberries and chopped walnuts. Even with the awkwardly split banana on top, it still tastes amazing! I had been using the Best of Bridges recipe for two decades now and feel less guilty by replacing the loads of white flour and sugar. Great with company and coffee!

Dark Chocolate Black Bean and Raspberry Brownies by Hummusapien – almond flour and black beans make this a protein packed dessert sweetened by maple syrup. I used 1/2 tsp almond extract instead of vanilla and replaced the Theo chocolate bar and chocolate chips with Schwarze Herren Schokolade, but you can use whatever brand you fancy. It was so good and moist we forgot it had black beans in it. How about that!?

Chocolate Date Caramel Walnut Tart by Gourmande in The Kitchen – Ever since I had a walnut tart at a café by Adenauerplatz last summer, I have been wanting to make a walnut tart. In this recipe, I used half ground oatmeal and half almond flour for the base. The rest is sweetened by maple syrup and dates. The chocolate is dreamy just like a ganache but without heavy cream. Absolutely my new favorite!!

Baking is a science so sometimes things don’t always go exactly as planned. Not to worry. Enjoy the experiments, learn from the failures and have a little fun on your playground. Happy baking!

Pasta is a Must-a

DSC06792I don’t know why I feel compelled to rhyme but oh my goodness the sun is shining bright today! The gray, the snow and the rain has cleared and my appetite is back. Food in the dark is not so appetizing unless it’s by candlelight, of course.

Anyway, it’s lunch time. Eating for one is not so exciting. I thought about an avocado egg but found out that Karina had dove into two of my avocados this week. So that will be for another day.

Yesterday, one of the teachers was talking about her aunt from Italy who she adores. She talked about pasta carbonara and how her Italian friend took one look at her cookbook and crossed that recipe out! He penciled in his own recipe. Hilarious! Another friend chimed in and said that the trick is to use half Pecorino and half Parmesan – and it isn’t considered carbonara if it has green in it. I think she meant parsley. I believe her because she’s from Rome.DSC04559So my craving for pasta begins. We discovered tagliatelle in Dresden, of all places, as we drove to Prague last summer. Can you believe we chose the hottest day of the summer to order pasta at a restaurant in the city square? We did perspire while eating but it was totally worth it! I realize it isn’t too difficult to replicate so we have been eating tagliatelle since. I like it because you can portion just the right amount and like spaghetti or linguine, any sauce from pesto to bolognese works. I don’t usually use cream since I am considering going dairy-free. So instead of cream, I use lemon juice. I would like to think I can go without carbs too, but then life wouldn’t be worth living, would it? I joke. I joke, but carbs are hard to live without.

Today I looked around and used what I had. The base is always the same – olive oil, garlic, parsley. I’ll be darned. I forgot to add parsley! I’m quite sure, my cousin, Shirley, also said shallots. Darn, I forgot them too. Poor shallots – they are sitting quietly, feeling neglected, in my pantry.DSC06800

DSC06804Then add whatever vegetables you like. I happened to have cherry tomatoes and I found spinach in my freezer. I freeze them for smoothies.DSC06805 (1).jpgI chopped up some leftover roasted veggies (from our salmon dinner) but with taking pictures and worrying about the garlic burning, I forgot to add them too. This isn’t going well. Blergh.DSC06790Since I was cooking for me, I used 3 bundles but if you have a bigger appetite, just add more bundles. I usually do 3 – 5 bundles per person. I don’t know if that is the norm but that’s what I do. Easy and versatile. Enjoy!TagliatelleTagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Spinach

Serves 2

tagliatelle, 6 – 8 bundles or more, depending on your appetite

2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, sliced (optional)

4 cloves garlic, minced

about 12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

4 cups fresh spinach

1/4 cup parsley, stalks removed and minced

juice of half lemon

salt, pepper to taste

Parmesan Cheese and/or Pecorino Cheese, grated to taste

chili flakes (optional)

In a large pot, boil water for pasta. Add salt (yes, add enough salt so it tastes like sea water). Cook pasta according to directions.

On another burner, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat.DSC06810Add olive oil. Sauté shallots, if using, for 2 minutes or softened. If the pan is too hot, move away from the burner and lower temperature slightly. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute, being very careful not to burn. DSC06811Sauté tomatoes for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper.DSC06812.jpgWhen the pasta is ready, use tongs and toss into the garlic-tomato mixture. It’s okay if some pasta water comes along for the ride. If you need to, add a little more pasta water to the pan.DSC06813.jpgAdd spinach.DSC06814 (1).jpgSqueeze lemon and toss to coat. Make it pretty by using a serving fork to swirl and serve on individual plates. This would be a good time to add parsley too.DSC06827Arrange tomatoes and sprinkle with cheese.DSC06836If you like a little zing, add chili flakes.

For a heartier meal, use other veggies like asparagus and mushrooms, walnuts, salmon, shrimp or chicken if you like. The sky is the limit. Bon Appétit!

Dates can be fun

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A few months ago, I discovered dates. I didn’t realize how easy these can replace refined sugar (usually 1:1) in some recipes. So now I have been using these wrinkly gems as much as possible. I meant to post this in the summer but forgot. With the upcoming holidays (can you believe we’re in December already?), I, at least, hope these recipes inspire you to think easy and healthy.

Did you know that dates can keep you regular (if you know what I mean – wink wink!)? They are highly nutritious, packed with vitamins like A, B complex, K, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and copper. The Mejdool dates are known to have a low glycemic index which means they don’t spike blood sugar levels like refined sugar either.

I have been inspired by the Minimalist Baker as she uses only a few ingredients. How nice. The Granola Bites make a great mid-afternoon snack as it is packed with protein rich ingredients. I have made it a few times and swapped out different ingredients to see what our favorites are. I do favor the addition of pumpkin seeds and coconut flakes. I think with the right packaging, these would make great homemade holiday gifts too. Think individual bons-bons with cute ribbon.

Granola Bars

Granola Bites

1 cup packed Mejdools dates, pitted, soaked in water for 10 minutes and drained

1 1/4 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup unsalted peanuts or almonds, roughly chopped

1/4 cup maple syrup or honey

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter or almond butter

Optional ingredients:  unsweetened coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chocolate chips, cranberries, dried blueberries, etc.

Directions

Combine oats and nuts in a large bowl.

In a food processor, pulse the dates until chopped fine. They will look mashed. Add to oat-nut mixture.

In a small pot, over medium heat, warm the maple syrup (or honey, if using) and nut butter. Drizzle over mixture.

IMG_2217Spread dates throughout and combine thoroughly. (Note:  I added a tablespoon or two of unsweetened coconut flakes, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Adding an extra bit of peanut or almond butter helps bind the additional ingredients together too.)

IMG_2220Press evenly into 8 x 8 pan (or shape into individual balls, if you prefer) and refrigerate 15 – 20 minutes at least to set. See, no bake! The pumpkin seed sure does look lonely in the sea of beige.

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Cut into bite size squares. Keep refrigerated 1 week (if they make it that long). We love these! Hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

No-Bake Fruit Tart

fruit tart

If you’re feeling guilty about the upcoming holiday sugar overload, try this no-bake Fruit Tart for a pot-luck brunch or afternoon tea. It’s sugar-free, gluten-free and easy to assemble. If you’re aiming for a holiday look, simply change out the fruit to include festive colors. Easy peasy.

Base

about 12 dates, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes, drained

2 cups raw unsalted cashews or almonds, ground

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Filling

1 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon honey or to taste (optional)

zest from 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Topping

Assorted seasonal fruits like blueberries, mandarin oranges, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, mango, etc.

Directions

In a food processor, process dates. Place in bowl. Mix in ground nuts and salt.

Line three 5″ small tart pans or one large 9” tart pan with the base mixture.

In a bowl, mix filling ingredients – yogurt, honey, lemon zest and juice. Pour over base.

Wash and dry fruit. Cut fruit, if necessary. Arrange over tartlets.

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Of course, I couldn’t resist making them portable in my lil’ Weck jars too. So fun! Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Thanks for stopping by!

Green Smoothie Challenge

“When you know better, you do better.”

– Maya Angelou

Green SmoothieTwo weeks ago, I stumbled upon a website called Simple Green Smoothies. The two moms that host the site, Jen and Jadah, are super fun and their enthusiasm is certainly contagious. Heck I want to be a “rawkstar” too.

We started the 30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge on our own (the next challenge begins January 1st) and it’s going great. We are 10 days in and feel pretty darn good. At first, I could see Odd wince at the thought of green drinks daily but at first sip he was convinced – “Yes! I can do this everyday!” Karina has been drinking them daily too and sometimes she drinks two glasses. Whaaaat? As a mom of a teen, this has to tell you something.

I don’t own a magic bullet or a blender so I just wing it using my handy dandy Braun food processor. It’s probably not as finely ground as it should be but it doesn’t seem to bother us so we just drink away. Straws are optional. I have made all kinds of combinations using their chart. It’s quite simple and delicious!

SGS_makeasmoothie4I have used romaine, spinach and baby bok choy so far for the greens. I’m hoping to use kale (#ohkaleyeah) next week. I always use frozen bananas (since there should be a frozen element). I also use a combination of frozen fruit like cherries, berries, peaches, plums, grapes and fresh clementines, apples, pears, etc. It just depends on what I have on hand. Sometimes, I add flax seeds, avocado or almond butter to make it a little heartier. I notice if I use a majority of frozen fruit, the smoothie is really thick so I have scaled frozen fruit slightly or simply add more water. It’s all super tasty and good for you.

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They also have a Simple Green Smoothies Cookbook that just came out in early November and I’m hoping Santa will notice the book is on my wish list for Christmas. Maybe you’ll want one too. Let’s all be rawkstars and do the 30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge together. Let me know what you think and please visit the Simple Green Smoothies website as they have some fabulous info and tips.

IMG_7631I know my drinks don’t look as good as theirs but heck I feel darn good.IMG_7629 (1).jpgI like to serve it in a mason jar (from one of my favorite cousins in Toronto – thanks A!) and a Texas enamel mug we ordered from Tumbleweed Texstyles.

On a side note, did you know the co-founders of Tumbleweed Texstyles are high school teachers from Frisco, Texas? I love that they give back a portion of their sales to the Frisco Education Foundation, who in turn, provide scholarships for graduating seniors.  Education is always a good thing.

Cheers y’all.

Cookie Made Ladybugs

A good rider can hear his horse speak to him.

A great rider can hear his horse whisper.

– Author Unknown

IMG_1615 I am always excited to hear from friends and family back “home”. My good neighbor and friend, Cookie, who I can easily have a 3-hour Skype session with, sent me a picture of edible ladybugs recently. Yes, she made those! My socks were nearly knocked off because I have never known her to be in the kitchen (sorry, Cookie) except to make a soothing cup of coffee. In the 15 years I have known her, this is her first food related photo she has shared with me. I am honored and impressed. IMG_1624 Her grandchildren, Gracie (left) and Madison (right), are no strangers to ranch-style living. From all the stories and video footage I’ve seen, they excel at riding horses, especially Madison who is destined to work with animals. The horse on the right is a Clydesdale and Cookie tells me she is excited to spend time riding this summer. The idea of Cookie riding a horse, let alone a Clydesdale, still amazes me! In addition, Madison is keeping two little lambs (so cute!) for FFA this summer and a Great Dane puppy. I can’t wait to hear how they adjust to all their other animals.

FullSizeRender 2Since posting, Cookie has arrived in Bulverde, Texas to visit her daughter and grandchildren. Here she is with the 2000+ lb. Clydesdale. I actually googled and Clydesdales are really that heavy! And yes, that’s the same horse used in the Budweiser commercials. How neat.

photoCookie is one of the few real Texans I know (many of us are transplants) so I really enjoy listening to her southern drawl. She makes me laugh a lot especially when she pulls out her magnifying glass to look at a menu. I laugh, but I actually think I need one myself these days. IMG_1923Her stories linger and let me assure you, there is never a dull moment in the adventures that come her way. Last year before the move, we caught up and indulged at La Duni in McKinney. I must say they do have delicious cakes and cupcakes like the Venezuelan Triple Chocolate Truffle Cake and the Award Winning Cuatro Leches Cake.

Well, it is no surprise that the first picture of food she sent me is of ladybugs. She is an avid gardener and loves to spend time outdoors working on her lawn and garden. So ladybugs make a lot of sense. With BBQ and picnic season here, I thought I’d try this recipe. Hope you do too. Aren’t they adorable? Cookies LadybugsLadybug Hors d’Oeuvres

  • fresh mozzarella
  • fresh basil leaves
  • cherry tomatoes
  • pitted black olives
  • balsamic reduction/glaze
  • melba toast or ritz crackers

Slice mozzarella in rounds.

Tear off one basil leaf for each ladybug.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half and then split just the bottom part of each half to make wings.

Cut pitted black olives in half or quarters to make the head.

Use balsamic reduction to dot the backs of the ladybugs.

“Squiggle” (her words – hehe) some balsamic reduction on the serving plate before putting everything down.

Place all of the above on melba rounds or ritz crackers. Enjoy!

Brunch Worth Getting Out of Bed For

“A cup of coffee with a friend is happiness tasted and time well spent.”

– Anonymous

IMG_4776Summer is calling but Berlin is not answering. It has been gray’ish and raining on and off for over a week now. According to Odd, I am solar powered so my energy level is sub-standard. So I’ll just reminisce and show you some of the nice breakfasts Berlin has to offer in sunnier weather.

On weekends, we visit restaurants around the city and at the same time, learn a little about each and every neighborhood. It’s all very fascinating as we come to understand the architecture of the city and the ways of the German culture. Long gone are pancakes and bacon. Instead, a variety of cheese, brötchen, fish, deli and fruit easily adorn the table.

IMG_2772Breakfast for two at Czerr, a local bakery just down the street from us.

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Tier for two at Café am Neuen See in Tiergarten (a lush park similar to Central Park in New York City). No fruit included but behind the eggs are two mini jars with muesli. Love.

IMG_3617Did you notice the steak tartare in the center? To eat or not to eat – that is the question? Hmmm…

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Alpenstueck Backerei is voted one of the best bakeries. Of course, we had to try. Don’t you just love the bread board, the jam and herb infused quark in mini jars amidst the scattered fruit? The bread was, naturally, freshly baked, studded with sunflower seeds and amazing!

DSC00028 (1)My favorite neighborhood is Prenzlauer Berg and Anna Blume is a corner hot spot there. It doubles as a flower shop too. It’s a bit challenging to photograph but I think they serve the best tier breakfast for two. Three tiers of deliciousness –  creamy scrambled eggs, cheese, smoked salmon, salami, marinated veggies, olives, fruit and homemade jams. Odd is happy.

IMG_5672Although, I must say, the best brunches are those surrounded with friends in their home.

IMG_5670There is no comparison to the warmth and smiles as we are greeted at the door by Marlena.

IMG_3386I love how Jörg casually snips chives over the eggs and adds a warm sliced tomato. So cute. IMG_3382 I am not exactly sure how to describe quark but it is similar to sour cream/ricotta cheese/yogurt. It’s high in protein, calcium, Vitamin K2 and can be used for both sweet and savory dishes and known to have less calories than yogurt. This is a verbal recipe from Doreen and Jörg and hope that by letting your palate be your guide, you are able to enjoy a little taste of Germany with us. Breakfast QuarkBreakfast Quark with Berries

500g quark (see note below for substitutions)

1 – 2 cups strawberries, mashed

1 – 2 teaspoons honey, or to taste

milk to thin out consistency

fresh berries, sliced DSC03285 Mash berries. DSC03291 Mix in quark, honey and a splash of milk. DSC03294Top with more fresh berries. Or create a parfait with layers of fruit like berries, mandarin oranges, bananas and shaved chocolate. Enjoy!

Note:  Here are some Quark substitutions and more ideas.  One site mentions mixing 9 parts ricotta cheese to 1 part sour cream. If you’re lucky, quark may be available at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or even Costco. DSC04398Since we’re on the topic of quark, I also tried a Mandarin and Blueberry Quark Cake recipe from another blogger, Simply Lecker, while my parents were here. It was a hit (even if I did burn the edges – nothing a little powdered sugar can’t fix.) My dad liked it so much he even wanted to bring some back for my Auntie Cita but with 3 flights to take, we decided it was too much trouble. Surprisingly, the blueberries and mandarin oranges really complement the cheese filling – ooooh sooooo goooood! The best part is I think it seems to get better over time. Hope you give it a try even if you sub ricotta for the quark. It’s all good.Quark cake Don’t forget to visit Simply Lecker for the recipe. Enjoy!

O Berry, You’ve Got Style

“O Canada

Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons command…”

– Canada’s National Anthem

IMG_6448Saturday was International Day at Karina’s school. It was a fun afternoon where parents showcased culture and food from their home country. Indonesia rocked with their fresh off the grill Chicken Satay and Peanut Sauce. Thailand boasted Papaya Salad, Pad Korat and Fried Chicken. Ireland served Blood Pudding, Irish Soda bread, Guinness and more. Korea, Japan, China, Brazil, Hungary, The Netherlands, Turkey, Croatia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, US and Canada among other nations joined the fun event with plenty of amazing food too. IMG_6444I tasted my first Spreewaldhof Spreelinge Gurken – a delicious crunchy dill pickle from the Spreewald region of Germany. IMG_6435 Britain stole my heart with their cute little Pimm’s cocktail served with two cucumber slices and a pink pinwheel. Way to go, Britain!

IMG_6430Don’t you just love the clever tag line on their tent?

IMG_6421Canada was once again shadowed by its neighbor, the US. Even on this occasion, the US seemed to steal the show with 7 tables layered with cookies, brownies and other sugar laced goodies. They also had two fun games that brought adults, children and teachers laughing together while raising money for charity. Next door was Canada who had 2 tables, one plate of pale cookies and no tent cover for this very hot afternoon. I feel somewhat responsible. In my defense, I wanted to support “O Canada, our home and native land.” I even wore the flag’s colors. It’s just that, well, the US came to me first for support. Where does my loyalty lie, eh? See this is where my identity crisis begins. I know I should have stepped up to represent my country of citizenship. Well for what it’s worth, The Philippines did not have a booth either. I guess I take full responsibility for that. To be fair, Canada is A-OK with being #2. Always has been, always will be.

Regardless of Canada’s inferior standards on booth offerings, the idea as a whole to bring the school together in the name of community was a success. Kudos to all the parents, teachers, movers and shakers for making International Day an incredible event. Let us not forget “A” (or is it “eh”?) for effort, Canada. I still stand on guard for thee – well at least some of the time.

Since Karina is a US citizen, the US called – ok it was the energetic Zumba teacher needing American fare. I thought long about what represents American cuisine in its enormity. I thought about Texas-style BBQ, mac n’ cheese, apple pie and even Rice Krispy squares. Then it dawned on me. IMG_6415Since berries are in season, I decided to keep it simple. So 3 baskets of strawberries from the Berry Imbiss dipped in white chocolate and blue sprinkles it was. Easier than pie, for sure. IMG_6417 To my fellow Canadians, feel free to sub red sprinkles for Canada Day. I forgot to take pictures but I did have this stylish berry I took last year. Berries never go out of style. Patriotic Berry

  • white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • strawberries, washed and dried with paper towels and lined on a cookie tray (there should be no trace of water)
  • blue sprinkles
  • parchment paper

In a saucepan with an inch of water, bring water to a slight simmer (do not boil). Place a heatproof bowl over the saucepan. Add white chocolate and allow to melt, stirring with rubber spatula. When melted, remove saucepan from heat, being careful not to drip water into the chocolate. Water and chocolate are not friends.

Note: if the chocolate needs to be reheated, gently re-warm saucepan being careful not to get water too hot or else chocolate will thicken. Let’s just say I learned the hard way.

Holding the stem or green leafy part, dip one strawberry in chocolate. In another bowl, have sprinkles ready. Dip tip of strawberry in sprinkles. Lay on a tray lined with parchment paper. Chill in refrigerator to set chocolate. Serve the same day they are made. Enjoy.

Have a great week!

Rainy Day Stew

“It’s opener there

In the wide open air…

And then things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew.

Just go right along. You’ll start happening too…

Oh! The places you’ll go.”

– Dr. Seuss

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Let me start by saying that my parents are adorable when riding the Bahn.

I’m not complaining but I think traveling is exhausting especially for my parents. They are here for a 10-day visit from Toronto and I can tell the pace of a big city (sans car) is hard on them. I had given them ample warning and hoped they would start “training” six months before they arrived. I suppose casually strolling in malls while window shopping was their idea of “training”. It certainly caught them by surprise when climbing up and down several flights of stairs, walking lengthy streets, riding the Bahn and visiting sites like the Berlin Wall.

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It has taken plenty of ice cream stops, restroom breaks, a 3-day city tour bus and as my mom likes to put it, “picture-picture” moments to help them catch their breath. This is their first visit to Europe and a dream come true for them so I try my best to slow down and enjoy little moments together. I know my tour guiding skills are often inadequate, actually horrible at times – this means we get lost a lot and once relied on a taxi to get us home. I do my best and hope they have something fun to remember at least…even if it is consistently searching for euros to pay for restroom breaks. Thank goodness they are super patient and have a sense of humor!

On a rainy day in Berlin, they decided to make a simple Filipino dish for us. It’s a Spanish inspired stew I find comforting and familiar. Thanks mom and dad. Salamat po. Filipino food takes me back to my teenage years. Maybe tomorrow they will teach me how to make Torta Talong (eggplant filled omelette). Better yet, we may just take a trip to one of the many Filipino restaurants around the city like Pan, Pinoy or Ayan. Oh the places we go…

Beef SarciadoBeef Sarciado (pronounced Sarshadow)

Serves 4 – 6

1 kilogram/2 lbs thin slices of beef (beef with a little marbling is better but optional)

1 large onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 – 4 large tomatoes, diced

1 red pepper, sliced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon lemon juice, optional

salt and pepper, to taste

1 large potato or 3 small potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite size cubes( place in a bowl of cold water until meat is tender)

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Just in case you’re wondering, this is a picture of the beef slices we used called Minute Steaks bought at the local grocery store. I think my dad prefers to use the part of meat that has more marbling and can handle a long stew like beef shank, cut thinly.

DSC04227Place all the ingredients in a large pot except the potatoes.

DSC04228Cover, bring to a boil then lower to simmer (medium- low) for 45 minutes – 1 hour or until meat is tender, stirring occasionally. About 30 minutes into cooking, remove cover to allow sauce to slowly thicken.

DSC04233Around 45 minutes into simmering, drain water from bowl of potatoes. Raise temperature to high, then add potatoes. Bring down to simmer again and cook until potatoes are soft, about 15 – 20 minutes.

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Adjust seasonings and serve with jasmine rice and banana slices or green peas. I know it’s not a great photo, but it sure is delicious. Enjoy!

Picnics, Pie-lettes and Post-It Notes

IMG_5471 (1)Finally, the sun is shining longer and the days are getting warmer…well some days are warmer than others. Nevertheless, I am ecstatic! I can sense picnics on my horizon.

This past week, my cousin sent me a picture of her $7 key lime pie she ordered in downtown Toronto. Thanks Lani!

IMG_5443 (1)Adorable? Yes! So I set my sights on making a similar dessert. It starts with a graham-like crust (I had to sub with British digestives), a layer of creamy coconut almond filling and topped with fresh berries and kiwi. Keeping it fresh and simple, hoping to inspire you to pack a picnic and enjoy the best of the season. Everything tastes better under the sun, doesn’t it?

IMG_5502After you’ve have had a nice meal outdoors, consider cozying up to a good book. It’s a non-fiction book written by IDEO brothers, Tom and David Kelley, called Creative Confidence. Whether you believe it or not, everyone has the ability to be creative. It’s a powerful read with great stories from MRI scanners in the US to incubator warmers in India. It also mentions ideas from Brené Brown and Sir Ken Robinson. The last few chapters have helpful exercises that can change paradigms of thought and the way we collaborate with others. It’s about changing the world with design, sometimes saving lives. Other times, it about motivating people to believe in themselves, for the greater good of communities or corporations. I have learned Post-It notes are your friend. So are picnics and pie-lettes (not sure if that’s a real word, but that’s what I call my mini pies in jars). Hope you give these pie-lettes a try and find your creative passion. Stay curious. Or as my Zumba instructor says, “never stop learning!”

Banana Berry PieBanana Berry Pie

Makes 7 – 8 mini size desserts

Crust
1 cup (about 7) digestives or graham crackers, crushed

1/4 cup almonds, crushed

2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar

3 tablespoons coconut oil or butter, melted

Filling
1/2 cup granulated white sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups almond milk or milk of your choice

2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter

1/2 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla extract

2 bananas, sliced in rounds

Topping
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi

Sliced or slivered almonds, toasted, optional

Unsweetened flaked coconut, optional

IMG_5507Preheat 350 ℉ / 160 ℃ oven. Combine crust ingredients and press about 2 tablespoons of the mixture evenly on  base of jars.

IMG_5510Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

IMG_5512Add banana slices over the graham crust. Set aside.

For the filling, in a bowl, beat egg yolks with a wire whisk. Keep whisk handy. (Sorry I forgot to take a picture.)

IMG_5516In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt and almond milk. Heat over medium-high heat until dry ingredients dissolve and bubbles form around edge of pan, about 2 -3 minutes. Use a rubber rubber spatula to stir constantly.

IMG_5518Remove from heat and with a ladle, slowly pour 3 ladles of milk mixture into the yolks in the bowl, stirring constantly with whisk. This is called tempering the eggs.

IMG_5519Bring the pot back to heat and using the rubber spatula, stir in the yolk mixture. Stir constantly for 1 – 2 minutes. It will thicken rather quickly.

IMG_5522Remove from heat. I like to strain the mixture through a sieve but this is completely optional. Stir in coconut oil and almond extract, if using.

IMG_5523

Pour into jars, distributing evenly over the bananas and crust.

IMG_5525

Place plastic wrap directly on custard. Chill for at least 3 hours to overnight. Add sliced strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and kiwi. Add a sprinkle of toasted almonds and coconut flakes if you like.

IMG_5469 (1)Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your day…