Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cologne & An Old Friend

The final installment in my Food & Travel series: 
German favorites & Cologne

As some of you may know, German food was the basis for this blog.  The Old Country is Germany. And the indigenous Bavarian cuisine — coupled with Lebanese and Louisiana dishes —taught to me by my Oma became a little blog. This was my second visit to Germany and my first visit after losing my Oma. It was a happy reminder of the stories she read me, the chocolate candies she snuck me, the language she spoke in whispers to my mom and the food she cooked for us. 

Cologne was also significant because I stayed with a dear friend.  We had the luxury (after living out of a duffle and cheap baguette lunches) of home cooked, healthy meals in Cologne. 

If you would like to try any German inspired meals at home, I invite you to peruse the German recipes in the "100 Recipes & Counting" box [see lefthand side]. Or click here!  

Scenes from Cologne 
German love.

The Cologne Cathedral.
After 5 years, we had a lot of catching up to do. 
Kolsch beer.
A pretzel at the 500+ year old Haus Zims Brewery.

Yummy food prepared by my friend Janina.

The Original Cologne perfume.
Cologne dome clock tower.

We made it to the top of the cathedral ... 500 ancient stairs later.
Janina & Robert on the Rhine's version of the Love Lock bride.
Old town.

A little note on friendship ... 

I first met Janina when she was an exchange student at my high school in 2005. Janina had excellent timing, moving to New Orleans in August 2005 ... Her arrival could be marked in days before Katrina's. I couldn't imagine being a 15-year-old, far from home and thrown in a disaster. Obviously, it was a tumultuous year for us both and we became fast friends. My family — and Oma — quickly bonded to Janina with a German common ground. We celebrated our 16th birthdays together, a few holidays, dances, Janina's first Mardi Gras, inhaled my SATC dvds and attended lots of losing high school football games. When Janina went back to Germany, we stayed in touch emailing each other massive essays about boys, school and dreamy futures in big US or European cities. Janina stayed with my family in summer 2007 and surprised me with a visit again in summer 2008. In 2009, Janina's family hosted my family in Germany. But then five years passed without a visit. Although we were continents apart, we stayed friends. When we went through breakups, moves, new boyfriends and loss, we still messaged or called each other — though months may have passed since the last conversation. So we were both a little nervous to see each other again when I visited her in Cologne. And we both felt silly for being nervous. Because some friendships, regardless of time and distance and change, never go out of style. 

With Janina summer 2008.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dark & Stormy Cupcakes AKA Rum, Lime and Ginger treats!!!

Dark & Stormy Cupcakes 
As seen on HelloGiggles

This recipe was first posted on HelloGiggles as part of my Cupcake Girl column. 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup finely chopped ginger
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (1 cup sugar, ¼ cup brown sugar)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp of rum (set rum aside)

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and milk.
Add dry ingredients, including ground ginger, slowly. Mix in minced ginger (I actually chopped the ginger in a food processor).
Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Use the 2 tablespoons of rum you set aside to lightly brush the tops of cupcakes.

Now for the buttercream lime frosting!
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ (AKA powdered) sugar
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3½ tablespoons lime juice
Optional: 1 tablespoon rum, or rum to taste
Mix it up. (If icing is too runny, add more sugar. If too thick, add a splash of milk.)

Apply frosting.
Garnish with limes, ginger or zest! (I used all three!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Amsterdam & Appeltaart

The Third in my Food & Travel series: 
The Appeltaart & Amsterdam

Cafe Winkel Appeltaart 
Dutch Apple Pie 

When I asked a couple of friends what I should do in Amsterdam, I got a resounding "GO TO CAFE WINKEL!" And, order the appeltaart

And it was excellent advice — as you can see! Cafe Winkel is located in the Jordaan (I loved this Amsterdam neighborhood) and has a very European al fresco vibe. Several copycat recipes can be found online. This one looks pretty good ... but I doubt anything can beat the deep crust, rich apple flavor of the real deal. 

Home of the yellow tulip, my favorite! 

Our Amsterdam highlights ... 
The Park
My black jumpsuit purchase in the Jordaan
Cafe Winkel
The little white dog that pranced on the canal
The little boat that played music a la the Mary Poppins chimney sweep & went in circles
Getting lost in the red light district Chinatown
Amsterdam Centraal 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Moroccan Sweet Potatoes & Summer Salad

I have been doing a lot of cupcakes and travel posts lately, so I decided to take a little break from that and post a summer recipe: Moroccan Sweet Potatoes & Strawberry Arugula Salad

Moroccan Sweet Potatoes 
With Mint Yogurt Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 large sweet potatoes
2 Tbs. Harissa (paste or sprinkle)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. coarse salt
1-2 Tbs. sesame seeds
1 cup Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup mint leaves, dried, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Golden Raisins

Cube potatoes. Pour oil over potatoes and make sure the oil is spread throughout baking sheet.
Coat potatoes in harissa, cayenne, sesame seeds and salt. The harissa paste is quite spicy, so make sure the potatoes are lightly coated. You can add flavors to taste halfway (or longer) through baking.
Bake for ~25 minutes at 425 until potatoes are tender and mush when pressed/cut.
Saute about a half cup of golden raisins on the stovetop in olive oil. Browning the raisins will only take a couple of minutes.

To make the sauce, mix the yogurt, mint, and lemon to taste in a chopper/mixer. A dash of salt and pepper to taste is good.

Serve the potatoes warm, mixed with raisins, and the dipping sauce on the side.

Summer Salad 
Fruit + Prosciutto

Arugula, feta, prosciutto (pan fried), strawberries* & balsamic.
*I also make this salad with watermelon instead of strawberry. 

Harissa makes it Moroccan 

Whenever you read a menu with Moroccan this or that, it is because the item contains Harissa — a multi-pepper paste with garlic and herbs (sometimes sold as pepper flakes). An NPR article describes the tangy, spicy sauce as Sriracha's cousin and the "ketchup" of North Africa due to its ubiquity as a condiment for entrees and spread for bread.

Harissa's ingredients vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, though it is always a complex pepper blend. And though the sauce is considered Moroccan, the peppers it uses are native to the New World.

"It wasn't until Christopher Columbus and crew arrived that pepper fever really took off," the NPR piece states. "With the arrival of the spice-seeking Spanish and Portuguese, it was not long before chilies were shipped back to Europe and thence to Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Africa, India, and Southeast Asia." [The article sites Greg Malouf's book, From Artichokes to Za'taar: Modern Middle Eastern Food.]

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Antwerp & Waffles

The Second in my Food & Travel series: 
The Belgian Waffle & Antwerp

Belgian Waffles

So, what makes a waffle Belgian?
Does it have to be born on Belgian soil? 

All jokes bad jokes aside ...  makes a distinction between the two types of waffles found in Belgium.
The post states: 

"The [Liege] is dense and doughy – in the most delicious way – with deep, crispy pockets and nubs of caramelized pearl sugar. The [Brussels] is airy and yeasted, with whipped egg whites folded in, yielding a cloud-like texture – almost as light as the powdered sugar showered over top."

Other food blogs report that, at the most basic level, Belgian waffles opt for yeast, not baking powder. Similar to the Brussels recipe described above.

This Brussels waffle is the type Robert and I helped ourselves to in Antwerp at Van Hecke. For under five euro we shared a little slice of Belgian heaven! If you are ever in Antwerp, Van Hecke is a must! 

When I was at the WaffleHuis, I asked our gregarious waiter what the secret was to the Antwerp staple? His answer: the 100+-year-old, original waffle iron from the business's 1905 inception! 

While I can't duplicate the Belgian waffle iron at home. I can try my best with a Bed, Bath & Beyond stand-in ... 

For an authentic Belgian waffle, I suggest this recipe from

With love. 


Our Antwerp Highlights

- Our stay at the Soul Suites on the Marienplatz.
- The beautiful train station.
- Sunset on the river.
- Belgian Beer.
- Belgian Chocolate.
- Frituur.
- Marzipan, hazelnut & pistachio gelato.
- Old Town.
- Cathedral.
- Fashion.
- The modern art museum.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Red Wine Velvet Cupcakes

My latest HelloGiggles boozy cupcake: Red Wine Velvet. 

I mean I don't want to oversell it, but this may be my best recipe yet. 

And, they're mildly topical ... Red velvet, wine and blue? 

Ok, so there is no blue. 

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup Greek yogurt with a splash of lemon
1/2 cup buttermilk
¼ cup wine
Red food coloring to get that red velvet color!
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
For the Red Wine Cream Cheese Frosting …

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
1 tbs arak extract
4 ounces cream cheese, softened

Mix the butter and sugar. Blend in eggs. Then mix in yogurt, buttermilk, red wine and extracts. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add these dry ingredients. Stir in cocoa powder. Now add desired red food coloring to get that red velvet color. Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350 F.

Drink wine and eat cupcakes!

Blogging tips