Some Things I Love About Living In Germany

As we begin a new year and I celebrate 1.5 years in Germany, I thought it only appropriate to spend some time thinking about all of the things I love about my life here in Germany. (In case you missed it, I’ve already covered everything I miss about the U.S.)

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Recycling – Before moving to Germany, I recycled a bottle or can every once in a while. Now it’s my part-time job! We have yellow bags (gelber sack) for all plastic, aluminum, styrofoam, etc. which gets picked up every 3 weeks. We put all of our paper and cardboard in a special bin behind our house. We take all of our glass to the neighborhood recycling bin, or we return it to the store for a refund (pfand). The pfand applies to some plastic bottles as well. (Yes, it can be a bit complicated – I’m still learning!) We also have special bags in our kitchen for compost (bio), which we put into a special bin behind our house. It’s a lot, yes, but we generate very little garbage (restmüll). I have nightmares about visiting the U.S. and putting everything (yogurt containers, glass bottles, newspapers) into the trash!

Here’s what our neighborhood looks like the day before yellow bag pick-up:

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Butter, Milk, Eggs, Yogurt – I don’t know what it is, but the dairy products are so much better here! We do most of our grocery shopping at natural and organic supermarkets so perhaps that has something to do with it, but the dairy products here certainly beat out Whole Foods any day of the week. We eat farm fresh eggs (sometimes they’re still covered in feathers!) I’m a huge fan of all of the butter and cheese made by Kerrygold (thank you, Ireland!) They even make a nice sharp cheddar, which is a small miracle since cheddar is next-to-impossible to find here. I never really loved yogurt or ate it often before moving here, but I am now officially obsessed with this Söbbeke mango-vanilla kefir yogurt:

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They also make a peach-passion fruit yogurt, which is equally as tasty. Finally, the milk. I don’t drink a lot of milk, but do enjoy a splash in my coffee and in the occasional bowl of cereal. Since we use it so sparingly, we buy country milk (landmilch) or whole milk (vollmilch). It’s so creamy and delicious.

Bakeries – They’re on every corner and they’re loaded with fresh breads, pastries, and cakes. My neighborhood bakery even started making sesame bagels! Many Germans visit a bakery at least once a day to pick up their daily pretzel. Pretzels are serious business here. I even took a pretzel making course at Bäckerei Frank and earned a pretzel diploma! “Kaffee und Kuchen” (or “coffee and cake”) is also a popular tradition here and for that I head over to tarte & törtchen. They have the most beautiful and delicious pastries and desserts, and they make custom cakes if you need one for a special occasion.

Food Markets – The Markthalle is my favorite place in Stuttgart, and Feinkost Böhm is a close second. The Markthalle is a huge indoor food market where you can find just about anything – fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese from around the world, bread, wine, sweets, and all kinds of specialty foods and delicacies. It’s where I take all of my visitors from out of town, and where we do a lot of our grocery shopping. They also have several superb restaurants: Desiree for tapas, Marktstüble for German food, Empore for Italian, and a seafood/oyster bar for a quick bite. And, Feinkost Böhm hosts my favorite sushi spot, Sushi-Ya.

German Food: I was born and raised in Wisconsin so I’m definitely a steak-and-potatoes girl, and Germans love their meat and potatoes.  German food is heavy and that’s okay by me, especially in the cold winter months.

I’m a big fan of käsespätzle (similar to macaroni and cheese), maultaschen (a stuffed pasta “bag” similar to a ravioli), pretzels, and schnitzel (okay, schnitzel is technically Austrian, and my Austrian husband would kill me if I didn’t point this out!) I also really enjoy a rote wurst (red sausage) when at a barbecue or street festival.

My other favorite on-the-go bite is the leberkäse or fleischkäse sandwich, which is a slice of meat (similar to meatloaf) on semmel bread with a little spicy mustard. You can pick one up at the gas station, while shopping at OBI (Home Depot), at the butcher, at the grocery store, just about anywhere. They’re even better in Austria, where they add cheese to the meatloaf!

My favorite soup here is the frittatensuppe (or flädlesuppe), a beef broth with strips of pancake inside. And while technically Hungarian, we also eat a lot of gulasch here.

Finally, I love nothing more than eating something that requires a lot of little side dishes, sauces, etc. — I love having a lot of different flavors in the mix. Tafelspitz is just that kind of dish. It’s boiled beef or veal (very tender) served in a little broth and with the following dipping sauces: sour cream with chives, horseradish with minced apple, and apple sauce.

Although Munich/Bavaria is really home of the giant pork “knuckle,” (schweinshaxe) we do eat it here, and I love it. It’s definitely a dinner for two! It’s normally served with potatoes, cabbage, or bread dumplings.

For even more food pictures (not only German food, I promise!) follow along on Instagram @hungry.in.europe 🙂

dm – I miss Target terribly, but love dm almost as much. Like Target, it’s the kind of place where you go in planning to buy just one thing and end up walking out having spent hundreds of euros! Despite the usual household and personal items, I appreciate the large selection of health foods and snacks (non-dairy milk, müsli, seeds/nuts, etc.) I’m also in love with all things Balea, which is the dm-brand of shampoos, conditioners, body wash, hand soap, etc. Back home I never bought the store brand, but this is different. I mean, you can buy body wash that smells like rainbows, starlets, and little clouds!

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Rainbow body wash with starlets and little clouds

Location, location, location – Germany is in a great location in Europe in that it shares borders with France, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Denmark. With fast trains and cheap intercontinental flights, it’s possible to travel not-so-far and yet be in a whole new place. From here in Stuttgart, we can go to Strasbourg or Colmar (France) in less than 2 hours by car and to Paris in 3 hours by train. We have been known to make day trips just across the French border to gather supplies (bread, wine, cheese, foie gras). We can also easily make our way to Switzerland or Austria in just a few hours.

Infrastructure / Public Transportation – It’s no surprise that the infrastructure in the U.S. is in need of a major upgrade! And it’s really refreshing to live in a place where everything (the roads, bridges, tunnels) are seemingly brand new and really safe. I only take the U-Bahn (the local city train), which is clean, fast, and reliable — quite the change from my days commuting on the “L” in Chicago! I can also plan my route and purchase tickets from my phone (VVS app), which is super convenient.

Vitello Tonnato – Of course I ate a lot of Italian and Italian-American food in the States, but didn’t discover this gem until I moved here. Vitello tonnato (or veal tuna) is very thin slices of veal topped with a tuna-mayonnaise sauce. I admit that it sounds a bit peculiar, but promise you that it’s delicious.

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Vitello Tonnato at Bottega da Giulia

 

Dining Al Fresco – I love eating outside — at a restaurant, on a picnic, whatever — and Europeans know how to do this right. SO many restaurants have outdoor seating. I even see some people eating outside in the winter, when it seems too cold to be outside for any reason!

Foodora – Every great city needs a great food delivery company and ours is Foodora. (We also have Deliveroo, but Foodora is our go-to.) They deliver just about anything you might have a hankering for – sushi, pizza, burgers, tacos, spätzle, salads, etc.

Kaufmann’s Haut und Kinder Creme – I don’t know what you’re really supposed to use this stuff for (a baby’s bottom, perhaps?) but it makes an excellent lip balm. It was recommended to me by a German gal last winter so I have a feeling it’s also popular with the locals. 🙂

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(Almost) everyone speaks English  – I really appreciate this and try not to take it for granted. Yes, I have resolved to learn more German this year, but in the meantime I’m able to do all of the things I really need to do like have a bank account, go grocery shopping, dine out, belong to a book club, and even make a few German friends.

Mezzo Mix – I went to a wedding just after arrriving in Stuttgart and noticed some people at our dinner table mixing Fanta and Coke in the same glass. I was a bit confused. I mean, it seemed like a good idea, I’d just never thought about it or knew it was a “thing.” And, yes, it is a thing here. And it’s good. You can mix it on your own or you can buy Mezzo Mix (or other brand).

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Turkish Food – It’s everywhere. There is a döner store on just about every single corner. It is said that the döner kebap sandwich is the most popular street food in Germany. The sandwich is a warm pita filled with spit-roasted meat and loaded with lettuce, tomato, onion, cabbage, red chili flakes, and a garlic-yogurt sauce. My favorite is at Ützel Brützel.  We also have a really nice (and much more formal!) Turkish restaurant just around the corner from our home, Taverna Yol.

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Döner Kebap at Ützel Brützel

Architecture – Sure, Chicago has big shiny glass and steel buildings everywhere, but I really do appreciate living somewhere that is so old and has so much history. Last year I went on an architectural walking tour of my neighborhood, Stuttgart West, with a group from InterNations. Now I just have to keep reminding myself to look up – it’s where all of the interesting architectural details are found!

Expat Community – Because Stuttgart is home to Mercedes/Daimler, Bosch, and Porsche, a lot of people come here to work so there is a large expatriate community. I have met a lot of great people through InterNations, various Facebook expat groups, and the Stuttgart Girly Book Club. I also religiously follow two expat blogs: Living in Stuttgart and Room for Gelato. All of these things have helped me create a meaningful social life, and my life is richer because I have friends from all over the world – people just like me who left their home and moved here. ♥

Mineral Baths – Stuttgart has the second (behind Budapest) largest source of mineral water in Europe with 19 mineral springs providing 22 million liters of crystalline mineral water to the city each day. This mineral water is believed to have healing properties so mineral baths are very popular here, and they’re where I spend most of my summer days. My two favorite baths are DAS LEUZE and Mineral-Bad Berg (currently under construction, expected to re-open mid-2019).

Christmas Markets – This really needs no explanation and I’ve blogged all about the Finnish section of the market before. I think most people — definitely those of us in Germany! — know how special the Christmas markets are here. Although it’s cold, it is a great time to visit this country.

Eurovision? This has a question mark because I have yet to see Eurovision! I missed it last year, but have it on my calendar (May 8/10/12, 2018) for this year so that I don’t miss it. It’s the longest-running international song competition held among member countries of the European Broadcasting Unit. I learned about this wildly popular competition by reading Living in Stuttgart – thanks, Mel!

•••Fun facts! ABBA won Eurovision in 1974 and Celine Dion won in 1988.•••

Haribo – I mean, who doesn’t love gummy bears?! Yes, they come from here! And they make WAY more than just the gummy bear – they make just about every shape and flavor of gummy candy you can imagine.

Milka – I will take a Milka chocolate bar over Hershey any day of the week. Maybe it’s the alpenmilch (milk from happy cows in the Alps) that makes it so delicious. Whatever it is, it’s working. They come in so many different flavors – my favorites are Oreo, caramel, chocolate + crackers (tastes like a s’more!), and crispy with biscuit pieces.

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Marley Spoon – My husband and I love to cook and Marley Spoon has made meal prep and cooking a breeze over the last several months. Once a week we get a box with two dinners – it has all of the ingredients we need as well as an instruction card (it’s in German, but you can use Google Translate to read it online in English). The food itself is very tasty and healthy, and we have at least 10 recipes to choose from each week.

If you’re interested in giving Marley Spoon a try, let me know and I can provide you with a referral link – you will receive one box for free and we’ll receive one box for free. It’s a win-win. 🙂

We Are Knitters – I have wanted to learn to knit for the longest time, and now I can (well, kind of — it’s a work in progress!) I found this company, based out of the UK, that sends you everything you need (pattern, needles, yarn) to complete one knitting project (beanie, scarf, sweater, blanket, etc.) They make it really easy to learn with the instructions included, and offer additional support on their website. Here is my cat Cheeto wearing the Downtown Snood:

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Gift Wrap – Doesn’t sound so exciting, right?! Believe me, it is! When the holiday season begins and people start buying gifts, stores will offer to wrap your gifts (for free!) Really, it’s EVERY store. No more buying gift wrap for home, no more hiding gifts…because they’re already wrapped!

Birkenstock – I never thought I would fall in love with Birkenstocks. I always associated them with hippies or people who wear socks and sandals. Boy, was I wrong! They are SO very comfortable, and now you can buy so many different styles and colors that they’re actually quite cute. They also make a nice house shoe — I wear them when I need to run to the mailbox, do something on the balcony, take out the recycling. I’ve already got my eye on a new pair for the summer.

How about you? What do you love about Germany?? Am I missing something? 🙂 

A Week in Amsterdam

Last week we were in Amsterdam with my father, my Aunt Connie, and Aunt Lori. It was my first time in the Netherlands, and it did not disappoint! It’s such a magical, beautiful place…despite the massive amount of tourists and bikes! No joke, there are 800,000 people living in Amsterdam and 1 million bikes. While this blog post will focus mostly on what we ate (!) we did do some of the go-to tourist stuff like the Floating Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt), the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, a canal dinner cruise, and even the XtraCold IceBar.

I highly recommend walking through the flower market, and perhaps picking up a bag of tulip bulbs to plant at home, and you have to see Van Gogh and Anne Frank. The food on the dinner cruise was less than appetizing, so do a cruise without food. The IceBar is well, an experience. Coming from Chicago, it actually didn’t feel so cold (it was 9°C).

We stayed at an Airbnb at Herengracht 361 — a perfect location right in the heart of the city center. Note: “Gracht” translates to “canal.” Here’s the view from our living room window:

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View from Sonnenberg House (Herengracht 361)

On our first night in town, we had dinner at a Peruvian restaurant called Mashua. I had the cau cau de mariscos, or seafood prepared in mashed yellow peppers with homemade fish broth, fresh mint, diced potato and carrot, and rice. Yum!

For Dutch pancakes (because you can’t NOT have pancakes while in the Netherlands!) we went to The Happy Pig where they specialize in the rolled pancake. They have sweet and savory options and I opted for a bit of both — wheat pancake with fresh banana and strawberries with bacon and maple syrup. Major YUM!

On our second evening, Robert and I enjoyed the Dutch Flower Power 5-course menu at de culinaire werkplaats. Here is a description of the dishes, followed by photos:

SNEAK PREVIEW | homemade flatbread + asparagus topping

FLOWER BOMB | roses, lavender, almond

FLOWER ARRANGEMENT | cauliflower, beans, spices, fresh herbs

SPRING GARDEN “KEUKENHOF” | vitelotte noir, root vegetables, tomato

GLASS HOUSE | vanilla, pumpkin, dark chocolate

We sampled Dutch “bar bites” at a restaurant recommended by our landlord and down the street from our house, Herengracht Restaurant & Bar. The Dutch really love their croquettes, but I must admit that I wasn’t a huge fan. However, I will eat all of the samosas and cheese sticks. 🙂

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Dutch Bar Bites at Herengracht Restaurant & Bar

I stumbled upon Lotti’s while doing a little Amsterdam restaurant research, and knew I had to make a visit for breakfast. Lotti’s was located just a couple of canals from our house inside The Hoxton Hotel. It’s such a cute and cozy place — I wish I had time to go back and curl up with a book and a cup of tea. I had the Lotti’s Benedict with avocado, smoked salmon, two poached eggs, hollandaise, and caviar.

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Lotti’s Benedict at Lotti’s

For me, the absolute highlight of our trip was the Hungry Birds Street Food Tour, which I learned about on the Kaffee und Kuchen blog (thank you, Meredith!) We met up with Rachel, our “Mother Bird,” at 10:30am and spent the following 4.5 hours walking the city and making stops to sample food. Seriously, is there a better way to spend a day?? Rachel was so full of energy and so passionate about Amsterdam and food — it was contagious!

The first stop on our tour was Toko Ramee, an Indonesian/Asian specialty food shop with a food counter. We sampled two things: a Pastel (similar to an empanada) filled with vermicelli noodles, beef, hard boiled egg, and some wonderful spices, and Spekkoek, or Indonesian layer cake with cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and anise. Ours had 12 layers!

Our next stop (and my favorite stop) was Tjin’s Toko, an international grocery and Surinamese meal takeaway store located just off the Albert Cuyp Market, Europe’s longest daytime market. We had a Surinamese Chicken Sandwich with a very spicy sauce!

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Surinamese Chicken Sandwich at Tjin’s Toko

Then, we made our way into the market to sample seafood. We had Kibbeling, or fried cod, served with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, and garlic sauce and Herring with raw onion and pickles.

Our next stop at the market was sweet. We had Poffertjes, or small fluffy pancakes with butter and powdered sugar.

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Poffertjes at Albert Cuypmarkt

Before leaving the market we picked up a Stroopwafel at Original Stroopwafels. A stroopwafel or “syrup waffle” is a waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough filled with a caramel-like syrup.

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Stroopwafel

After leaving the market we made our way over to Klaver 4, a popular lunch spot and for good reason. As white asparagus is currently in season (April-June), we had a white asparagus soup and a white asparagus quiche.

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White Asparagus Soup & White Asparagus Quiche at Klaver 4

We then headed over to the famous Vleminckx Sausmeesters for french fries, one of my favorite things! They serve up Belgian fries that are fried twice so they are extra crispy, and you can choose from 28 different sauces. I went with Rachel’s recommendation, the Oorlog Mix, with mayonnaise, satay sauce, and raw onion.

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Belgian French Fries with Oorlog Mix at Vleminckx Sausmeesters

Last but certainly not least, we walked over to Dutch Delicacy – De Mannen Van Kaas, a huge cheese shop modeled after Eataly. We tasted five different types of cheese (one with cumin, one with truffle, goat, and two types award-winning gouda). Not only was the cheese tasty, they have an amazing bakery and gift shop.

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Cheese Tasting at Dutch Delicacy – De Mannen Van Kaas

With happy hearts and full bellies, we bid farewell to Rachel and went home to nap. I really can’t say enough good things about the Hungry Birds Street Food Tour. If you’re in Amsterdam, DO IT. It’s the perfect way to see, experience, and eat your way through the city. Without our Mother Bird, Rachel, we never would have seen some areas of the city and found all of the hidden food gems. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

After eating such delicious seafood at the market, we wanted more. Rachel recommended The Seafood Bar which most definitely satisfied our craving. We went to the location on Spui and Robert and I shared the Fruits de Mer or “Seafood Bar,” a combination of cold crustaceans and shellfish including mussels, cockles, scallop, razor clams, periwinkles, amandes, north sea crab, seaweed salad, prawns, langoustines, lobster, snow crab, and oysters.

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Fruits de Mer at The Seafood Bar

Until next time, Amsterdam. ♥

Vienna’s Naschmarkt

Although I’ve only been to Vienna a handful of times, the Naschmarkt is not to be missed when we visit Robert’s family and friends. “Nasch” means “to eat” or “to snack,” which makes sense as it’s Vienna’s largest food market, or market of any kind. The market boasts over 100 permanent stalls and is over 1.5 kilometers long. It is located in the 6th district and is within walking district of all the very touristy (and beautiful) sights including Schönbrunn Palace, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Hofburg Palace, and the Opera House.

At Naschmarkt you’ll find just about any food product you can imagine. Of course there are a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and flowers, but also seafood, cheese, nuts, pottery, tea, meat/butchers, wine, oil, sweets, coffee, bread, and more. We visited just after the new year on a very cold day in January so the market was much less busy than usual, which was actually kind of nice as it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves! We wandered around, bought some nice tea, and warmed up in one of the many restaurants on-site. Here are some photos from our visit:

If you’re planning a visit to the Naschmarkt, I found this guide to be really helpful in choosing restaurants to eat at and local specialties to buy.

Dukatenschnitzerl

On Christmas Eve Robert and I feasted on fresh raw oysters, a fresh whole baked trout with lemon and herbs, and parsley potatoes before opening gifts in the evening. Unlike in the States, Germans (along with many other European countries) celebrate Christmas on the 24th, Christmas Eve, with a big family dinner and  gift exchange in the evening.

On Christmas Day we made dukatenschnitzerl, or little fried balls of pork and fried potatoes with a lemon-thyme salt and fried parsley. This dish reminds me of the classic British fish and chips dish, but pork instead of fish. (Is there honestly anything better than fried pork??!) It´s a classic Austrian dish. We used a recipe from the Wiener Küche cookbook by Susanne Zimmel. FYI:  “Dukaten” is an old word for “coin” and the pieces of pork and potato are roughly the size of coins, which is where this dish gets its name — “little coin schnitzel.”

First, here is a list of ingredients you will need:

  • Potatoes
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh parsley
  • Lemon
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Eggs
  • Flour
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Salt & Pepper

To get started, boil the potatoes until they are soft, about 30 minutes. While the potatoes are boiling, remove a few sprigs of thyme from the stem.

Then, get out your mortar and pestle to make the lemon-thyme salt. First, place the thyme inside and add the zest of one lemon. Crush well. Then, add salt and pepper and crush well once more. (As you can see, we also added a few dried tomatoes because we had them, but these are not required.)

While the potatoes continue to boil, cut up the pork tenderloin into bite-sized pieces. Also, set up your flour-egg-breadcrumb station (from left to right) as you can see below. At this point, the potatoes are likely soft and can be removed from the boiling water. Once the potatoes have cooled a bit and are easy to handle, peel them and cut into bite-sized pieces as well.

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Pork tenderloin cut into small pieces
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Flour + Eggs + Breadcrumbs
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Boiled potatoes cut into bite-sized pieces

Next, put the butter and the lard (schmalz) into a big pot, which is what you will use to fry the pork, potatoes, and parsley. Allow the butter and lard to melt and then raise the temperature to 150ºC for frying. Add the potatoes to the pot with butter and lard and fry until they´re crunchy like french fries or chips.

Next, fry a few sprigs of fresh parsley in the same pot of hot butter and lard. Make sure to have a plate or bowl lined with paper towel nearby where you can deposit the potatoes, parsley, and ultimately the pork after frying so that any excess frying grease can be absorbed.

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Fried Potatoes
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Fried Parsley

Now, take the pork pieces and dip into the flour, then the eggs, and finally the breadcrumbs before placing into the frying pot. Be sure the butter-lard is still at 150ºC for frying. Fry the pork until golden brown in color.

Now that the potatoes, parsley, and pork has been fried you’re ready to assemble! We served our dinner in newspaper cones as if it were street food. Just load up the cone with pieces of the fried pork and fried potatoes and top with slices of lemon, the fried parsley, and the lemon-thyme salt …and bon appetit!

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Feinkost Panzer – Stuttgart West

One of my most favorite places in Stuttgart is located just around the corner from our apartment in Stuttgart West, a little shop called Feinkost Panzer. I mentioned this special place in a previous blog post, but finally got around to taking a few more pictures inside the store to share here.

The store is run by a tiny blonde woman, Theresia Panzer, and is modeled after a small  delicatessen she stumbled upon while in Paris, pictured here:

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Frau Panzer handpicks all of the items she sells, and it’s clear that she has great taste!  She sells a little bit of everything — fruit, vegetables, meats and cheeses, bread, pasta, chocolates and other sweets, wine, juice and soda, flowers, coffees and teas, oils and vinegars, jams, honey, and the list goes on and on. She’s even getting us a whole fish from the market tomorrow morning at 5am (!) for our Christmas dinner.

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Feinkost Panzer is also a stop on the Stuttgart West walking culinary tour. If you visit Stuttgart, be sure to visit this gem…and tell her that Dr. Ebner and Nicole sent you! 🙂

Super Easy Stuffed Peppers

Last night Robert and I made really easy stuffed peppers. You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Large bell peppers (we used red, green, and yellow)
  • Bulgar, cooked
  • Chickpeas
  • Fresh Chives
  • Feta Cheese

The easy recipe is as follows: cut the peppers in half and clean out the inside, in a bowl combine chives + bulgar + chickpeas and then use this mix to fully stuff each pepper, top with feta cheese and roast in the oven (we had our oven set at 200°C) for 15 minutes. Here is a picture of the peppers before they went in the oven and one after. ENJOY!

 

Pumpkin Soup / Kürbissuppe

Tonight we made pumpkin soup (in German: kürbissuppe) for dinner. We used a recipe from a cookbook I bought for Robert for Christmas last year, Wiener Küche by Susanne Zimmel. (“Wiener kuche” translates to “Viennese cuisine.”) We used a Hokkaido pumpkin, which we picked up at the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival last month.

The recipe I’m sharing here is for 8 servings (we doubled the recipe from the book). It’s super easy and healthy. Here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 1 Hokkaido pumpkin, de-seeded and chopped into large pieces
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 600ml / 2.5c of vegetable (or beef) broth
  • 1/2 diced onion
  • 1 pinch of chili flakes (if you’d like, for a little heat)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive (or other vegetable) oil
  • 100g / 1c of heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon peanut butter (surprise!)
  • a drizzle of pumpkin oil

The first step is to dice the onion and chop the pumpkin. At the same time, heat the vegetable stock in a small pot.

Then, heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pot and add the onion and cook until translucent. Then, add the tomato paste and stir until the onion and tomato are incorporated. Finally, add the pumpkin, the vegetable broth, and the chili flakes to the onion-tomato mix and stir well. Cover with a lid and low boil for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, remove the lid and add the heavy cream and peanut butter and stir well. Blend all ingredients well with an immersion blender. Finally, spoon the soup into bowls and add a drizzle of pumpkin oil.

ENJOY!

 

Marcella Hazan’s Lasagna

You may have read in my Roma & München blog post that I missed out on the famous lasagna at Tavernaccia da Bruno while in Rome so Robert and I decided that, once back in Stuttgart, we would make Marcella Hazan’s classic lasagna with bechamel and bolognese sauce. Hazan is by-far my favorite Italian cookbook author. I make her easy tomato sauce at least once a week. My favorite book by her is The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which is where we found this lasagna recipe. I bought this book in Florence, Italy in 2001 while studying abroad so it also carries a lot of special memories. Here I will include the recipe with photos.

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First, we made the Bolognese sauce. Here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 45g / 1.5oz butter
  • 85g / 3oz onion, chopped
  • 3 sticks  celery, chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, chopped
  • 350g / 12oz ground beef
  • 250ml / 8oz whole milk
  • nutmeg
  • 250ml / 8oz white wine
  • 500g / 1lb + 2oz canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with juices

The first step is to chop the carrots, celery, and onion. Then, add the butter, oil, and onions to a medium-heat pan (I used Le Creuset) and cook the onions until translucent. Then, add the carrots and celery and cook altogether for a few minutes. Add the ground beef to the mixture and salt immediately, separate with a fork, and cook until no longer raw. Add a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg. Then, add the milk and cook until the milk completely boils away.

Then, add the white wine and tomatoes and let simmer for at least three hours. The waiting is tough as it already smells so good! And, that’s it for the Bolognese sauce! Just wait, wait, wait… 🙂

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Then, when the Bolognese sauce is ~10 minutes from being finished, get started on the Bechamel sauce.

Ingredients for Bechamel sauce:

  • 450ml / 3/4pint milk
  • 50g / 2oz butter
  • 47g / 1+3/4oz flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Add the milk to a pot and bring just to the verge of boiling. While heating the milk, melt the butter in a separate saucepan and then turn the heat down to low. Add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add the hot milk (a couple of spoonfuls at a time) to the flour/butter mixture and continue stirring. Once all ingredients are incorporated, turn the heat down to low, add salt, and stir until the sauce has the consistency of sour cream. Done! Finally, add the bechamel sauce to the bolognese sauce and stir well.

Now it’s time to assemble the lasagna and stick it in the oven!

Ingredients for Lasagna:

  • Lasagna noodles (fresh or store-bought)
  • Butter (for greasing the baking dish)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese , shredded (for the top of the lasagna before baking and serving)

Cook the lasagna noodles in salted boiling water according the directions on the package if store-bought, or for just a few seconds if using fresh pasta. Once boiled, rinse the pasta in cold water and lay flat. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400ºF. Grease the lasagna pan with butter. Line the bottom of the pan with lasagna noodles. Spread a thin layer of the bechamel-bolognese sauce on the noodles and top with shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat the last few steps until you have at least 6 layers of pasta — make sure to reserve enough bechamel-bolognese sauce for the top layer. Once complete, sprinkle the top with Parmigiano-Reggiano and a few dollops of butter. Bake for 10-15 minutes…and ENJOY!!

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#marleyspooning

For the last couple of months Robert and I have been members of the meal kit delivery service, Marley Spoon. Each week we receive the ingredients for two different meals that we choose online from seven options. We pay 38€ for four meals each week. The meals are healthy, the ingredients are fresh and seasonal, and all meals can be prepared in just six steps. Also, all of the packaging can be recycled — paper, plastic, and sheep’s wool, which can go into the compost bin. The best thing, for me, about this delivery service is that all of the recipes are available online so I can use Google translate to read all of the recipes in English. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the ingredients are delivered to my doorstep each week and I can avoid climbing 4 flights of stairs with heavy groceries! Anyway, I’d highly recommend! Here are a few pictures of some of our recent dinners:

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival

The first I heard of the world’s largest (yes, the world!) pumpkin festival was by reading this post by living in Stuttgart, a blog that I follow on Facebook and have found so very helpful in my first several months in Stuttgart. Then, as recommended, I headed over to the Kaffee und Kuchen blog to read even more about the festival. (Thanks, you two!!)

The festival’s main website is available in English and has everything you need before you make your visit. Don’t worry, it’s not too late! The festival runs through November 6th. The cost of entry (before 5:30pm) is 8,50 Euro. The theme this year is the circus (or Zirkus in German) and there was certainly no shortage of circus-themed pumpkin creatures and decorations!

Outside of these pumpkin sculptures, there are hundreds of different varieties of pumpkins to look at and buy. They’re all very well marked so that you know which ones are good for carving, baking, cooking, decoration, etc. We bought a few small bright orange ones (picture below) for soup, two larger orange ones for carving, and one tromboncino (it looks like a snake!) for baking sweets.

There are a lot of activities for both children and adults, including an entire walking adventure through different fairy tales, a labyrinth, and a hay/straw pit for the kids. Robert and I opted for the boat ride. It may have been a bit silly for two grown adults, but we enjoyed the ride. 🙂

Oh, and we did A LOT of eating. Everything there is pumpkin-involved, of course. We tried pumpkin soup topped with pumpkin seeds and balsamic vinegar, a pumpkin rice dish with veggies (fyi – rice was very undercooked), pumpkin flammkuchen, pumpkin bratwurst, and a vegetarian pumpkin burger. Outside of the rice, everything was very good. I believe the gourmet kitchens close at 5:30pm so make sure you plan accordingly!

We also saw the largest pumpkin in the world! It was grown in Belgium and weighs a whopping 1,190kg (over 2,500 pounds!) — essentially, it weighs about as much as a standard car. It wasn’t the prettiest thing to look at, but it’s pretty amazing that a vegetable can grow so very big! (Sorry, this picture doesn’t really do it justice…)

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Last, but not least, I failed to mention that this festival is on the grounds of Schloss Ludwigsburg, or the castle of Ludwigsburg. The castle is beautiful and the acres and acres of gardens surrounding the castle are just stunning. It would be worth a visit even without the pumpkin festival. Here is a collage of the some of my nature pictures, along with a picture of the castle itself:

Bottom line: If you live in Stuttgart or anywhere near Ludwigsburg, definitely check out this festival. This will now become an annual event for us. We drove from Stuttgart and it took us just 30 minutes on the B27. And, what’s even better is that we brought home pumpkin juice, homemade pumpkin bread, we have two pumpkins to carve, and will soon be making pumpkin soup and pumpkin muffins. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.