No more buying bottled water

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That’s it. I brought back the last returnable water bottles to the store. No more. No more lugging heavy bottles back home. No more empty bottles in the corner to be returned. No more returning bottles. Instead, all I need to do if thirst strikes me is to pull out my reuseable water bottle filled with tap water and I’m good. So why did it take me so long to convert from bottled water to tap water?

I did start drinking tap water years ago. At home. But when I’m not at home, for instance, at the university,  I then rely on bottled water. I thought about getting a reuseable water bottle before but what stopped me was the fact that I couldn’t find one that pleased me. Most reuseable bottles have a sporty look which isn’t my taste. Or they want to be super innovative products with lots of special features which I don’t need. The Bobble one is a good example. I don’t like the bright cap colors but I could deal with them. What I can’t deal with is the carbon filter which needs to be replaced regularly.

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All I asked for is simple bottle that is easy to use and nice to look at. Minimalistic Design. And who does that better than the Scandinavians? There is the Retap bottle which I find very pretty, almost like a perfume bottle. Unfortunately, it’s not leak-proof. But the Eva Solo one is! That’s the one I got in the end.

The Eva Solo bottle is made of a material called tritan, which looks very much like glass. You can’t tell the difference until you actually touch it. The cap is steel and comes with a strap attached to it. At first I wasn’t sure about the strap. But it’s really convenient to hold the bottle with it, especially if your hands are occupied. The bottle holds about 570 mL if you fill it almost to the rim.

There is a story about how I came to this bottle. I saw it listed in several online stores but I was reluctant to order because I wanted to see it in person first plus I didn’t want to pay for shipping. Therefore I contacted Eva Solo to find out where I could purchase this product in Hamburg. The Eva Solo team’s response came quickly and was helpful, they gave me names of several stores. And one of them turned out to have their 50th anniversary and offered a 20% discount on everything. Everything! How great is that? That sealed the deal with the Eva Solo bottle. I love coincidences like that

Of failing in baking. Repeatedly.

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The recipe for Martha’s pistachio cupcakes with raspberries looked so promising. And boy, did they look pretty after they left the oven! The cupcakes were studded with magenta berries and chopped almonds. But did they taste as good as they looked? Sorry to disappoint, but no. I did like the tartness of the berries and the crunchiness of the almonds but the cupcake itself was dense and not light at all. I declared the recipe a miss and moved on to try new recipes.

Since I liked the combination of berries with almonds I decided to add them to my magdalenas. The result was okay but not outstanding. They were magdalenas with berries and almonds on top, that’s all. Remember when I wrote over muffins that were more than the sum of their parts? The math didn’t add up in this case.

Then I thought: Hey how about adding chocolate to the mix! Bad idea. The cupcakes turned dry and slightly bitter. I was at my wit’s end. It was time to admit defeat and to focus on brighter things. Like on the lemon squares that I baked last year around Easter! I should have known better. The lemons were somehow bitter which did no good to the lemon squares. But hope’s not lost yet! I recently got my hands on Fiona Cairn’s recipe book bake & decorate and got my eyes on some recipes. Keep your fingers crossed!

Candied almonds – bringing my sweet love from fair to home

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They look amazing, don’t they? So glossy and shiny and bronzed… I can’t resist them. I could happily munch them all day long (in fact, I did)! Sweet on the outside and nutty inside. What’s not to love? Candied almonds are usually sold on fairs and hard to get in actual stores. And even if you find them you’ll have to shell out at least 4,50 € for 200 g. How pricey! So let’s recap: They are hard to come by and pricey. Hmm, I only see one solution to this problem – we make them at home!

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup water (125 mL)
  • 1 cup sugar (200 g)
  • 2 cups almonds (400 g)
  1. Put all ingredients into a skillet, stir and bring it to a boil on high heat. Keep stirring.
  2. The water evaporates. Lower the heat, when nearly all the water is gone. Stir the almonds to coat them with the sugar syrup.
  3. When there’s no water left, the sugar recrystallizes. The almonds and the bottom of the skillet are covered in a sandy layer of sugar.
  4. Now it’s time to check the heat. You want it quite low. Watch the bottom of the skillet. When you see glossy patches appearing on the white layer of sugar, you’ve got it. That’s the sugar melting. Stir the almonds towards those patches.
  5. You want all sides of the almonds to touch the hot bottom of the skillet so that the sugar can melt. Stir, stir, stir. Stop, when the almonds are glossy.

Fit cooking in your schedule

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When it comes to food I’m easy to please. Just give me something with lots of carbs (rice or potatoes or pasta or bread), a small but delicious portion of meat and lots and lots of vegetables. Take away my meat and I shall chase you across the globe with a broom stick in my hand. Take away my vegetables and I shall plan your demise. Food is quite important to me.

Let’s face it: We students don’t dine the finest food. For lunch we eat whatever the cafeteria serves, more often than not, it’s pasta with some bland sauce. No or few bites of meat and vegetables. When we finally make it home for dinner there’s not much energy left in us. Enough to throw a pizza into the oven or maybe pasta with pesto.

But I don’t want store-bought pizza and I don’t want pasta with pesto. What I want is good cooking. Yummy meals that sate me and satisfy my palate. What to do?

  • Plan your meals. Decide on which day you have enough time to cook. Decide what to cook.
  • Cook more than one serving. You can reheat and eat the leftovers on days you don’t have time to cook. Or freeze the leftovers.
  • Look for recipes that are quick to cook. Or buy groceries that don’t need much preparation to shine. For instance, bell peppers are great in stir fry. But also tasty raw. The same applies to tomatoes. And courgettes.
  • Spice things up. And spices aren’t the only things that can make a dish much more delicious. Feta cheese, olives, pickled cabbage, bacon… they all add a little something.
  • If you long for homemade pizza, make a batch of pizza dough and keep it in the freezer. Put some tomato sauce in that, too.

No matter what your excuse is, no matter how busy you are, it should never prevent you from enjoying food!

I don’t want coffee

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Tea has always been around me. On weekends, mornings started with a cup of Ostfriesentee (black tea), rock candy (kluntjes) and cream. It wouldn’t be winter without Dad’s lemon tea. Or Mum’s orange tea. When someone fell sick he was forced to drink chamomile tea with a spoonful of honey. When my brother was a few months old Mum started to buy fennel tea, for the baby’s sake. I fell in love with that sweet-smelling tea. When I traveled to Ireland it was the package of Twinings Fruit Infusion Selection that got me excited. In England it was Earl Grey. Mum’s acquaintance got my brother and I into rooibos tea.

See, tea is awesome. And lightweight. Why am I mentioning this? Because tea makes my life a lot easier. See, when I first moved because of university I couldn’t enjoy the perks of having a car anymore. Grocery shopping without a car results in lots of heavy lifting. Especially if drinks are involved since one litre weighs at least one kilogram. But tea on the other hand, doesn’t weigh much and little goes a long way. Perfect! So yes, I usually drink tea all day now. Right now I’ve got Twinings Lady Grey, a rooibos tea and a fruit tea in my pantry and I recently purchased a rooibos tea with marzipan flavor. My brother loves it! I usually buy loose tea since it’s much cheaper that way and give half of it to my parents so that we can enjoy it together. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that I can try out new teas faster!

 

There is always some in the freezer

PhotobucketTomato sauce is incredibly versatile. Put it on your pasta, slather it on rice, smear it on bread or on pizza. Quite convenient! And just to be clear: I’m not talking about the tomato sauce that comes as powder. It may be okay if there is nothing else in the pantry and you’re starving. But if you do have the ingredients and the time then I’d like to suggest making your own homemade sauce. It certainly pays off! I advise you to use a whole can of tomatoes even if you cook for only one person. It takes time to cook the sauce and you can always freeze the rest for later use.

Tomato sauce (4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 carrot(s), chopped into fine pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • pepper and salt to taste
  1. Cook half an onion in olive oil on high heat until they give off aroma. Add the carrots and cook on medium heat until the carrots turn soft.
  2. Add the tomatoes and crush them with a potato masher. Add the garlic and the oregano and cook to reduce the sauce until the consistence is to your liking. Add the remaining onions. Add sugar and pepper and salt.

I think, I’m in heaven. In pizza heaven.

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Third time’s the charm: The first time my homemade pizza tourned out wobbly and wet. The second time I cranked up the heat as high as possible, still, the pizza was too wet. The third time it was perfect, prebaking it for a few minutes worked out beautifully.

The first bite was a revelation: The pizza crust was deliciously crispy, just like I like it. The moment the homemade tomato sauce touched my tongue, the fruity flavor sent me to heaven. The courgette slices were juicy, the ham wonderfully salty, the cheese gooey, the onion slices sweet. They created magic in my mouth. It was so good. I would have never thought that I could cook something that tasty!

You want to know what else is amazing about this dish? It actually didn’t involve much more work and time that I’d normally spend on a store-bought pizza. The dough was made beforehand, I used Jamie Oliver’s recipe, which I halved. That gave me enough dough for 4 big or 8 small pizzas. The tomato sauce was also prepared beforehand, since I always have some in the freezer. So while the oven was heating up, I rolled out the dough and chopped my toppings. Then I prebaked the crust for a couple of minutes. Tomato sauce, toppings, back into the oven until the cheese is all molten and the most amazing smell makes your mouth water. Got the pizza as fast as possible out and on the cutting board to cut into slices. Took one bite and we’re back to this blog post!