KathyBou’s Blog

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Burglars

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Etymology, word history, lesson?

Did you know that the word ‘burg’ is German for castle?  And the word ‘burglar’ cames from the same word?  http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/burglar

This never crossed my mind until recently but no, we’ve not been sneaking around at night wearing black. Though the thought of D and me, 7 months pregnant, breaking into houses does sound quite amusing.  I’d probably be knocking over things with my protruding-more-than-I-realize-belly and D would be concerned more about me jumping down from the window ledge than the actual mission.

Anyway, burglar stuff aside, we have been visiting some nearby burgs or castles lately.  Hmm, I have no clue the German term for castle touring – probably something like Überzahlungburgtouristen. The German language seems fixated on compounding words.

About a month ago we visited with D’s friend, who has the summer off, he teaches, and he was  spending 3 weeks in Europe. Yes, he had the obligatory framed backpack.  His first week he spent in Paris before hopping on a Thalys train to visit us for the weekend.  What do you want to do as a tourist in Germany?  The top of the list for most people include:

  1. Drink beer (plural)
  2. Eat German food – because it’s authentic, not because people love fatty meat, right?
  3. Visit castles
  4. Do a festival – especially nice if it includes/centers around  item No. 1

Luckily, we got around to doing all 4 items  in the span of two days.

1. Drink beer

On that Friday afternoon we visited Aachen, and although it was cool outside, we managed to do a few beers/apple juices on a terrace before we were all chilly and looking for the indoors.

2. Eat German food

We fudged a little here and went to dinner at a place that serves potatoes in every meal.  Not exactly traditional but definitely authentic German type fare – meat and potatoes, fried:

Three kinds of meat, fried potatoes, pepper sauce with a tomato and cheese
Three kinds of meat covered in a pepper sauce, fried potatoes, and a tomato and cheese on top
Sauerbraten, German pot roast with a twang, and fries
Sauerbraten, German pot roast in a vinegar marinade, and fries
Pork with mushroom sauce and fried potatoes
Pork with mushroom sauce and fried potatoes

3. Visit Castles, Marksburg Castle

Marksburg, a working castle open to the public, is about 1.5 hours drive from where we live now.  So Saturday morning we packed some snacks and drinks, the GPS, and cameras, and headed south:

Driving to Marksburg
On the road to Marksburg

We got to the Castle just in time to join the tour, and though it was offered only in German, they did provide an English tour pamphlet, so we followed along, kinda.

Just inside Marksburg
Just inside the gate

Marksburg claim to fame?  It is the only Medieval castle on the Rhine that has never been destroyed.  The first reference to the castle dates back to 1231.

So we’ve heard, quite a few times from different people, that there are many, many castles along the Rhine River.  The reason? The Rhine has been, since Roman times, an important river in Europe used for travel and merchant traffic.  Many castles were built not only for the headquarters of lords or only to defend their territory but also to provide a strategic vantage point to regulate traffic flow on the river across a particular territory and to levy tolls on merchants passing through.

Rhine River
Another view of the Rhine

Posing in the banquet hall

The bed below looks very short.  According the guide, it wasn’t because the people sleeping in it were also very short, but that during the time, people slept propped up, in a semi-sitting position.

Bed chamber

Of course, looking at the door out of the bed chamber makes me think they were just short…

View from the herb garden

Somewhere toward the end of the tour, we, and two other English speakers, got lost from the rest of the group.  Sigh..  So typical for us non-conformists.  We waited at the gate about 15 minutes before the next tour arrived, and we could exit.

4. Do a festival, Stolberg goes Espana!

After the castle we stopped in Cologne to see the cathedral there, always impressive, but when we arrived home we realized there was a festival going on, one block from our apartment.  So why not.  It was all about Spain, so we checked it out:

Spanish meat?
Spanish-style grilled meat?

D trying turkey on a stick
D trying turkey on a stick

Laser show
Laser show
Spanish musicians
Spanish musicians

Written by Kat

July 12, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Posted in Food, Fun, germany, Travel

Monday tired

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Not just Monday, not just tired.

I’m wearing my navy adidas warm-up pants that are beyond D’s understanding.  I don’t even remember how they came into my possession, but I do believe they could be worn by any woman size 6 to 26.  Why yes, this makes them very flattering.  Because they are so stretchy, they can also be worn over any other clothing item I own – so they double as bike pants on especially cold commute days.  They are also warm, which is why I find myself in them tonight.

I made this mushroom soup for dinner – it was awesome.

Hmm… soup for dinner and in my might-as-well-be sweatpants by 7 p.m., yep, my dear boyfriend is out of town.  Boo.

At least I’m Monday tired.  Book and bed? Indeed.

Written by Kat

January 26, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Posted in Books, Food, Life

Salmon pasta

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One of our favorite dinners around here is salmon pasta, which is a recipe from D’s sister with a few modifications. There are no exact measurements but it’s a forgiving recipe – just trust your gut.

Salmon pasta:

You’ll need:
  • Salmon
  • Lemon
  • Olive oil
  • White wine (optional)
  • Mushrooms (lots!)
  • Onion or shallots
  • One leek, chopped
  • Whipping or heavy cream
  • Vegetable or chicken stock
  • Pasta of your choice
  1. Turn oven on at 375F. In a baking dish, and olive oil and salmon.  Add some lemon juice, white wine (optional). salt, pepper and any type of seasoning you like (i.e. dill or maybe fennel).
  2. Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness. Do not overcook and the salmon can actually still be a little uncooked in the middle as it will sit for a while.  Cover with foil when out of oven (it will keep cooking).
  3. Meanwhile, put the water to boil for the pasta.
  4. In a frying pan, put some olive oil and butter.
  5. When melted, add one chopped shallot (or 1/4 of an onion) and cook 2-3 minutes. Do not let brown.
  6. Add the mushrooms (I like a combination of crimini, white and shitake) and cook until water has evaporated from the mushrooms. Season with salt, pepper and something like thyme, tarragon or oregano (at your choice!).
  7. Add about 1 cup of stock and bring to a boil. Add chopped leek. Let boil for 2 minutes.
  8. Add cream. The amount is really up to you, taste the sauce multiple times to adjust. You are going to want to let the sauce thickens – maybe 5 minutes.
  9. Once satisfied with the thickness, cut the salmon is bite size pieces and add to the warm sauce. Mix well and serve over pasta.
Depending on how much salmon/pasta you make, this dish can feed as many as you wish.  Trust me, it is going to be yummy!

Written by Kat

November 30, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Posted in Food, Fun

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Time for nuttiness

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I always end up eating more nuts at Christmas time than at any other time of year. What about you?

Holiday foods with nuts, off the top of my head:

  • inside cookies, breads, candies
  • outside pastries and cheese logs
  • top of salads and jellos (if you are my grandmother)

Just last week a friend gave me a bag of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts.  Wowsa, were these were good.  They were spicy, with a hint of cinnamon and coriander; they tasted like Christmas.

It’s a fatty time of year but it’s also a yummy one.  And nut fat is supposedly better fat.

When we went away for our last trip, we brought our standard car snacks with us: dried cashews, dried almonds, granola bars.   My boyfriend’s mother had some tasty spiced mixed nuts and crackers too.  At some point during our snacking we had a discussion about the content of nuts and were questioning which had the most fat.

Tonight I did some checks online, nutrition facts per 100g:

Carbohydrates
Protein
Total Fat
Fiber
almonds 8.1g 23.4g 54.8g 8.4g
cashews 18.8g 15.7g 48.9g 3.4g
hazelnuts 5.8g 15.4g 63.5g 6.5g
macadamias 10.0g 9.2g 76.4g 1.4g
peanuts 7.8g 28.5g 53.0g 6.2g
pecans 14.6g 9.2g 71.0g 2.3g
walnuts 3.2g 15.6g 68.5g 3.5g

*Sources here and here.

Isn’t it interesting that almonds taste less fatty than cashews but actually contain more?  I kinda always knew pecans were higher, they just taste more slippery.  Walnuts are also on the higher end, but they are really perfect in banana bread.  Mmmm.

Written by Kat

November 16, 2008 at 11:22 pm

Posted in Food, health, holidays

Tagged with ,

Internet pancakes

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I’ve been trying different recipes for a while now, the internet is a lovely place to go recipe ahunting isn’t it?

Lots have been good, but we reached new highs in pancake-y goodness on Sunday.

Here is the recipe, called Old Fashioned Pancakes, with with minor alterations:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon butter butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.
  2. Pour or scoop the batter in pan or griddle. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

One thing I read somewhere, and that I’ve started doing, is to put the pancakes into a warm (not hot) oven.  This is especially good if you want to eat together, as opposed to eating each pancake as it comes off the griddle.

Written by Kat

November 12, 2008 at 12:34 am

Posted in Food

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Drinking Beaujolais

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About a month ago now, we had a Friday off and decided to take a long weekend and meet up with a friend visiting France.

While we were there we decided to do a Beaujolais wine tour since we were so close by and it happened to be harvest time.  The tour lasts all day; we got picked up at the auberge at 9 a.m.

Wine tour van

Wine tour van

We drove from Lyon north into the Beaujolais region.  Our guide said there are about 2000 separate vineyards in the area.

Beaujolais is most famous for the Beaujolais Noveau Day, which is every year on the third Thursday in November.   Basically it’s a publicity party serving that year’s newly harvested grapes in a newly made wine.  The wine is not high-quality and not meant to last long, up to one year, and seems mostly to be a good excuse for a party.

Regular Beaujolais wine has much higher quality and lasts in the bottle for years (depending on the variety).

Grape fields

Grape fields

Here, the vines are kept short, between knee and waist height.  One winemaker told us this is to keep both the quantity of the grapes per vine lower and also to minimize the amount of sap, both factors contributing to the quality of the grape.

Grape vines out the window

Grape vines out the window

We were here the first weekend in October, and the big harvest had been the week before.  This region still uses people to harvest instead of machinery.  They hire temporary labor for about 2 weeks to gather the harvest. The vineyard pays around 60 Euro/day and include meals and a party at the end.  In this photo you can see the temporary camp that was set-up and used by the grape-pickers:

Camp of harvesters

Camp of harvesters

Our first wine tasting was at Domaine Chasselay.  Claire told us all about her family’s wine business.  Her vineyard has been getting lots of press lately because they are growing the grapes organically. Nice!

La Cave de Claire

La Cave de Claire

Father and son at work:

New harvest work

New harvest work

We got a chance to see the grapes in the chambers.  In these, the red color from the grape’s skin will turn the wine red.

Getting a look inside

Getting a look inside

Beaucoup de grapes!

Beaucoup de grapes!

Barrels and barrels:

Wine

To be wine

Claire showed us where the bottling is done after the wine has aged for the appropriate amount of time:

Barrel to bottle

Barrel to bottle

We got to try the wine and also, as a special treat, we got to try the fresh grape juice, both red and white.  I was really surprised by the juice.  The white tasted exactly like grapes, without the skin or pulp, and the red grape juice tasted like raisins a bit.  Nothing I’ve ever bought in a store tasted like either, both were sweet and delicious.  The wine was great too, we bought two bottles.

After lunch and a few scenic stops, we stopped at the second vineyard, makers of the Domaine de Milhomme.

Domaine de Milhomme

Domaine de Milhomme

Here they were busy at work too, the harvest just behind them but still much work ahead.  After the wine has sat in the chambers long enough, the grapes are pressed for the juice in a machine that looks like this:

Giant juice press

Giant juice press

Leftover grape skin and stems

Leftover grape skin and stems

The owner here let us try some of the fermenting wine, it’s called paradise wine.

Wine in its early stages

Wine in it's early stages

Trying the paradise wine.  It was opaque and bubbly.

Good or not good?

Good or not good?

After the paradise wine, we walked in the vineyards. There were still grapes here so of course we tasted some too.

In the fields

In the fields

Gamay grapes - so good!

Gamay grapes - so good!

It’s a common practice to plant a rose bush at the end of each grape vine row.  The rose bushes are susceptible to the same diseases as the grape vines and serve as early warning.

Rose bush per row

Rose bush per row

Another tasting.  This vineyard has been around for 120 years.  They had some very nice wine here.

More wine

More wine

And more purchases:

Wine to take home, Wee!

Wine to take home, Wee!

For the most part my wine education has only involved learning what varieties that I liked and didn’t like.  According to many sources, Beaujolais is a great wine for new red wine drinkers because it is usually more fruity and contains less tannins than other red wines.  I’ve always preferred red wines and I liked the Beaujolais.

Ripe gamay grapes from Beaujolais

Ripe gamay grapes from Beaujolais

The tour turned out not to be a snobby affair at all.  The wine making process, in this area at least, is very earthy, and the people were friendly – that makes me happy.  I’m thinking I should find a book about French wine and it’s history.

Written by Kat

November 10, 2008 at 12:01 am

Posted in Food, Fun, Travel

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Cafeteria lunch, German style

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This morning as we rode our bikes to work, D and I were discussing what we would and would not miss about our stay here in Germany.  We both agreed we will miss our apartment. Inevitably, we came upon the subject of the company’s cafeteria which has been a bit of a sore subject.  The cafe isn’t terrible but it sometimes serves terrible food; when you badge in, in the morning, you have the option between one meal choice or a salad. There are no microwaves or refrigerators anywhere in the offices so bringing your lunch becomes quite limited too.

This is all a big negative as far as I’m concerned.

Add on top of that the German obsession with pork products, especially sausages, and you sometimes have some very unhappy out-of-towners. This is especially evident from the complaints from our Montreal coworkers when they visit the cafeteria on a bad food day.  (We used to complain more too but you sorta get tired after a while).

So yes, this morning I said “I won’t be missing the cafeteria, that’s for sure.”  D was feeling forgiving, he replied “at least we have a cafeteria in the building.”  Yes, I suppose we are lucky for that.  Bad food is better than no food, usually.

Coincidentally, I came across an article talking about the typical German day at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Stuttgart, Germany.  I found it interesting that the top lunch menu choices there are eerily similar to our cafeteria’s most popular dishes.  As the article states, “defying every fashion trend and nutrition debate,” here are the favorites:

  1. Currywurst (hot dog covered in ketchup mixed with curry spices, with fries)
  2. Schnitzel (with fries)
  3. Cordon bleu
  4. Thick lentils with belly of pork
  5. Sausage and spätzle

I actually like spätzle pasta, but I detest the pork belly.  Go figure.

Written by Kat

November 7, 2008 at 10:40 pm

Posted in Food, Life

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Visiting Warsaw

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Finally made it to the last city on our tour from May. Whew!  Warsaw is a fun place to visit and a great way to finish off the trip.

To keep the time line intact, after the morning we visited Auschwitz, and gotten completely soaked and frozen, we soberly piled back onto the bus and headed north.

I think this was the only time in the whole trip I got annoyed. I was upset that we didn’t really get a chance to change clothes because all the luggage was under the bus, and logistically we didn’t have time for the break.  Being cold and wet does not make Kat a happy camper! (I did survive obviously).

Jasna Gora Monastery:

Our next stop was very short one and bizarre for us because we didn’t really know what we were in for until we got there.  We stopped in Czestochowa, Poland to see the Black Madonna or Our Lady of Częstochowa or The Queen of Poland.  This painting is both Poland’s holiest relic and one of the country’s national symbols.

According to tradition, the icon was painted by Luke, the bible’s Luke, on a tabletop built by Jesus himself.  John Paul II made pilgrimages to pray here numerous times and so do many Polish Catholics once a year.

We didn’t get very close to the painting.  The monastery was packed.  I have never seen a church this full of people.  Worse than trying to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.  It reminded me more of being at a concert near the stage, with people throwing the occasional shoulder to edge a little bit closer.

Here is the best photo we got:

Black Madonna

Black Madonna

Yes, it’s the painting in the center that you can’t really make out, behind the bars.  Check out the Jasna Gora Monastery site for a better photo and more information.

On to Warsaw:

In the afternoon we arrived in Warsaw and had a city tour, similar to all the other cities on the tour.

One thing was very evident about our city guide in Poland.  She loves Frédéric Chopin, the famous Polish composer. By the end of our tour, we knew gossip about Chopin’s love life.  Juicy stuff too! He’s a well known guy in these parts to say the least, the Warsaw international airport is also named after him.

Here’s D at the Chopin park:

Chopin statue and park

Chopin statue and park

Moving across town by bus, we also visited war memorials:

Memorials in Warsaw

Memorials in Warsaw

The tallest building in Poland, the Palace of Culture and Science:

Palace of Culture and Science

Palace of Culture and Science

That evening we visited a former royal palace and listened to a piano concert (playing Chopin of course).  Romantic building, no?

Royal Palace

Piano concert house

Flowers and peacocks at the entrance:

A picture of me with the pianist:

At Chopin piano concert

At Chopin piano concert

Our second day in Warsaw we got to wander around Old Town.

Old Town

Old Town

Old town is famous for numerous reasons, one being it is the oldest part of Warsaw and the traditional market area of the city with shops, restaurants, bars and terraces. Another is that this city had to be almost completely rebuilt after it was destroyed in WWII as part of a German terror bombing campaign. By the time the bombings were finished 85% of the city was in ruin.

Center of Old Town Warsaw

Center of Old Town Warsaw

To rebuild, old architecture drawings were used and the rubble was sifted for reusable materials and decorative elements, which were reinserted into their original places.  Here’s one example:

Statue from old buidling set into the newly constructed

Statue from old buidling "set" into the newly constructed

For lunch we decided to try something Polish; we ended up at a restaurant that served just periogi.

Pierogi restaurant

Pierogi restaurant

Plate of pierogi

Plate of pierogi

Do you know pierogi?  Essentially they are half-circle shaped dumplings that are filled with various sweet or savory fillings.

D and I had never had them before so we were all eagerly awaiting our orders:

Waiting for my pierogi

Waiting for my pierogi

Still waiting for pierogi

Still waiting for pierogi

Oh! D got his pierogi

Oh! D got his pierogi

All together, since sharing ensued, we tried five different fillings – meat, mushroom, potato, sauerkraut (my least favorite), and apple pierogi for dessert.  Condiments for our pierogi included a small serving dish of crumbled bacon in fat (so not healthy) for topping the savory pierogi, and a cream sauce for the apple pierogi.  For the first-time pierogi eater I would recommend the meat filling. It reminded me, ever so slightly of ravioli – at least for the filling.

We roamed around town for the rest of the afternoon, shopping and relaxing in the same area.

Amber is a big export for Poland and you see it everywhere in shops in Warsaw.  I’m terrible when it comes to buying souvenirs but I did buy a pair amber and silver earrings here that I liked.

We met up with our tour guide and driver later in the evening.  We all posed for a last photo in front of an antique controller for the first escalator in Warsaw:

Everyone was going separate ways the following day, either for more travel or homeward bound. Quite a few people would stay on the tour bus that was returning to Berlin and would take their flights from there.  Some were flying out of Warsaw directly like us, and a few people were continuing other travel in Europe.

Written by Kat

November 1, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Food, Fun, Travel

Tagged with , ,

Eating and driving

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Where I left off in the last post, we’d spent the day walking around Budapest.  The next morning we met up at the bus after breakfast for a travel day, departing Hungary and arriving Poland. You know, the days where you don’t do much, eat and sleep (if possible) while getting from point A to B.

A few notes on the European breakfast:

Price:

Of course it depends on the hotel, but generally hotels charge for breakfast. Rarely here have I found the complimentary breakfasts that are popular (though often unimpressive) in the USA.  Our breakfasts on this tour were part of the package so I don’t know how much they cost, but when we travel for work in France and Germany, it’s between 15 and 20 Euro.

Contents:

Again, big variability, but generally there are the following items at a breakfast buffet:

  • Fresh bread, think sliced French baguette, croissants and/or danishes
  • Eggs, scrambled or hard-boiled
  • Sausages, sometimes bacon
  • Cold cuts – ham, turkey, hard salami
  • Sliced cheeses to go with the cold cuts
  • Fruit juices, rarely fresh tasting (miss the US for this)
  • Coffee machine coffee – Europe is big on the machine brewed cappuccinos and lattes, some are excellent; some the opposite
  • Yogurts
  • Fresh fruit

Right, so after breakfast we loaded up on the bus and set off towards Slovakia, where we had lunch (and a break for the bus driver), then traveled north again into Poland.  On almost every leg of our trip we saw fields like this out the window:

Rapeseed field

The yellow flower fields (which look like big yellow geometric shapes from the air) are rapeseed or canola plants, grown for the animal feed, canola oil (obviously) and biodiesel. <– courtesy of wikipedia.

A few photos from the center square in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia:

City square

May Day tree

Monument to Soviet soldiers WWII

Monument to Soviet soldiers WWII

Written by Kat

October 25, 2008 at 9:22 am

Posted in Food, Travel

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Experiment in the kitchen

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I don’t have any Nitrous acid and my beaker/Bunsen burner is packed away.

But I found a cookie recipe that seemed to call to my inner scientist: 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 cup of sugar and 1 egg = PB cookies?  Seems unlikely to be a good cookie right?

I decided to go the way of  Myth Busters and make them.  I’m nothing if not up for an experiment.  Let’s use the scientific method – it’s fun:

1.  Define the question

Is the 1-1-1 recipe for PB cookies valid?

Possibly part of the recipe got forgotten?  Or a cookie-crazed baker’s desperate act?

2.  Gather information and resources (observe)

Okay, after digging around the internet, I have found at least two sources for this recipe:

3.  Form hypothesis

I think there must be something good enough about this recipe that I find it in multiple places.

It doesn’t hurt that the recipe is gluten free, but I’m not certain these will taste very great.

I predict that something cookie-shaped, and tasting like PB will come out of the oven.

4.  Perform experiment and collect data

Procured (from the pantry) the following items:

  • 1 cup peanut butter (pick your favorite)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 egg

Baked at 325 for 8-12 minutes.

5.  Analyze data

After waiting the mandatory 30 seconds, I put one of the 1-1-1 experiment batch#001 samples into my mouth.  See Figure-1.

Observer D did the same a few minutes later.

Figure-1.  PB cookies Batch#001

Yummy.

Crispy on day 1.  More soft and chewy on day 2 but still crunchy.

6.  Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis

I think a graph or something would normally be included here.  For the cookie experiment, that feels a bit much.

The fact that my boyfriend ate them vigorously, and that I liked them too equates to a valid recipe.

7.  Publish results

Uh hem… done.

8.  Retest (frequently done by other scientists)

Feel free!   They really are good.  I was surprised.

Written by Kat

August 12, 2008 at 8:51 pm

Posted in Food