Monday, November 23, 2015

Legos for Christmas

2 weeks ago we had to go out to the shopping center to get something. On a Saturday. Headed into Christmas. And if you think USA stores are busy, try Austria where all the stores are closed on Sundays!

If you know me, you know I hate crowded shopping centers. Which is exactly why I usually have all my shopping done and everything wrapped by the 1st week of November. IF I want to add something more, I can...but no stress if I go shopping again, or don't. My DH thinks this is a bit funny of me, but over the years he has learned just how very stressed I become if I wait too long. Can we say panic attack in a crowded store? So, I know what bothers me...and avoid it.

But, School Boy needed something for school and he has a tight schedule, which meant we headed out shopping on a Saturday. We went early in the get a parking spot.

The stores were loaded up with toys, games, Playmobile...and stacks and stacks of Lego sets. Everywhere I looked - Leo's.  It was actually a pretty amazing sight.  The most wished for items tend to sell out fast. But, happily, it is not something I have to worry about. I am all done with Christmas shopping.

We went in a car provided by our Auto Club.
My car broke down, sigh. 80 km from home. But the Auto Club came right away...towed the car to a home garage...and gave us this car for a few days. It was super nice to have, but sadly we had to give it back.

But I am not worried. We live in a city and can get around by walking, biking or public transportation for now. And, I already have ALL my Christmas shopping done. So, no stress. I was able even score a most wanted Lego set late in October. Phew!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cactus Flower!

 My son's cactus had a flower this month. It was such a nice surprise!
 In the photo below you can see it is not a huge cactus yet.  I am pretty sure we got it last year. When we repot cacti, we get a special soil mix. Seriously, I have no idea what the plant in the front is, but I guess it likes living with us - it keeps getting taller!
This tall cactus...should I be worried? My son has 2 of them and they keep growing and growing. I am afraid that eventually I will not be able to fit them out the door! One needs to be repoted and we got the soil this week. The spider plant is a "baby" from the spider plant my son gave to me when he was 6. You can see some of the many plants I still have out on the balcony.
 Someone recently told me that I can snap off these small, new growths and pot them. Hmm. I am just wondering how many more cacti we have room for in the house?! 
 The fuzzy cactus has been moved inside next to my kitchen basil plant. The weather here is unusually warm, still mid 60's during the day. I need to go to the thrift shop to get some saucers for underneath. But, since you hardly ever water a cactus, there is no rush!
 This one is still outside. Don't worry, it will not fall! It is not windy here. If it does tip over it will just go into the flower box. But it has been there since June with no problem.  My pepper plants below are still going strong. But I know, winter is coming and I will need to re-arrange to make room for all these cacti!
 And here is my little, white Christmas cactus, blooming away for all it is worth!
Well, that is a little tour of some of my plants. I have more out on the other balcony. I really enjoy having fresh chives, rosemary, thyme, basil,  etc. And those plants are still outside. Some herbs are in windows boxes and those will need to be put into inside planters. So, I have a bit of work this week to get the plants sorted out for the coming winter. I wonder what cactus will have a flower next?!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Simple pan fried fish with Mediterranean tomato sauce

We had some tomatoes that needed to be used, so I decided to make a tomato based sauce and serve with fish. This is a nice sauce and freezes well if you make extra.

Green/black olives - chopped
Basil - I have a plant on my kitchen counter
Tomato paste - just a bit. Or tomatoe juice. Or both.
Squirt of lemon juice
Some white wine (maybe 1/4 cup)
Capers if you have any

Seems like most my favorite foods start with the same base.
Sautéed chopped onions in a generous amount of butter for 4-5 minutes and then add chopped garlic for another 2 minutes maximum. Garlic cooks much faster than onions and burns quickly. If you burn your garlic you have to start over. So, I add garlic at the end and make sure I stir, stir so it doesn't burn.
Now add your other ingredients. Turn the heat down to simmer and put a cover on the pan. Simmer for about 10 minutes, give it a stir every now and then. Make sure you stir in the paste of using.

Cod loin, or whatever fish you have. Haddock is a favorite of mine too
Milk in a shallow dish with sides
Enough flour to coat the fish on a plate
White pepper - I prefer white over black pepper
Paprika! A nice large pinch, plus
Grated parmesan cheese
Any other seasoning blend you like

Mix the flour and spices and cheese together.
Rinse and pat dry the fish
Dip both sides in the milk
Dip both sides in the flour mixture

*My frying instructions
I put about 1/4" of cooking oil in a cast iron pan. A frying pan is fine, but I use my deeper pot to help contain the grease splatters. But wear an apron anyway! I put the heat on low and start preheating the pan/oil while I am cooking the tomatoe sauce. I love cast iron pans, but it is best to preheat them. Anyway, while you are battering the fish, turn the heat up. You want the oil pretty hot. Once hot, put a big glop of butter on top. Butter is fragile and will burn directly on the pan, but floating on the oil protects it. The butter will give the fish a nice dark crust, which I prefer.

Ok. NOW you are ready to fry the fish! Put it in there and do not fiddle with it or your crust will fall off. 3 minutes first side, flip over and take a look. 2nd side is 3-4 minutes depending how crusty the 1st side was. This is based on a thicker piece of cod/haddock. Adjust if you are using thinner fish.

A note about frying with oil. Do NOT walk away from it, you might get a fire. If you ever do have a grease fire, do NOT put water on it! Use flour! You already have your flour out anyway for the fish. If you even think your oil is too hot, turn it down! I guess I should add that this is just a friendly blog post about how I pan fry fish, if you suffer damage from anything I write about, I am not responsible.  Ok. You are warned.

Ta-da, done! Garnish with freshly shaved parmesan cheese.

Anyway, I served it with salad and bread & butter. We also ate left over cream of pumpkin soup and I posted that recipe a few days ago.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cream of Pumpkin Soup

I think it might be easier for me to post 1 at a time what I cooked over the course of the week with cooking tips instead of grouping the week together.

My soup this week was Cream of Pumpkin. I buy the pumpkin fresh cubed from the farmers market. I bought the leek there too.

I used:
Nutmeg, salt & WHITE pepper
About 600 grams pumpkin - chopped
2 potatoes - chopped
2 carrots - chopped
White part of the leek - sliced in rings
6 cups homemade chicken broth
Reduced fat cooking cream
Garnish with pumpkin seed oil

Using a deep pot:Sautée a finely chopped onion in butter for a few minutes. Add 2-3 cloves chopped garlic with a generous pinch of nutmeg and sautée a bit more. Garlic cooks way faster than onion, so make sure your onion is cooked first. If garlic overcook it gets really bitter and then you have to start all over again. Ugh!

Add the other ingredients, except cream. You can use bouillon if you do not have homemade broth. We make broth every week so that is what I use.

Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to simmer and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes...until vegetables are soft. Use stick blender to puree. Add maybe 1/4 cup of reduced fat cream.

Garnish: Drizzle with pumpkin seed oil and garnish with basil leaves.

Pumpkin seed oil: I highly recommend you search this out! We almost always dress our salads with pumpkin seed oil and a nice balsamic vinegar.

Basil: buy a plant and keep it on your counter!

Sunday, November 08, 2015

What I cooked this week


I tried this recipe this week from a German cooking magazine. You know the saying...when in Rome! Or, in my case, Austria. We cook with different ingredients in North America and sometimes it can be an exercise in frustration to find ingredients. So, I am buying German cooking magazines and trying new things. The owl in the picture says the whole family will like it. Hmm.  My son has never had leek before, but we all love chicken so I gave it a try. I bought the leek at the Farmers' Market. You pre-fry the chicken and cook the sliced leek for 8 minutes. The sauce is basically cream, broth and mustard. I used a 50% reduced fat cooking cream. I also made 2x more sauce because sauce makes a nice left over for rice for another meal. So, here is my photo...

Maybe not as colorful, but so very good. I will make this again. Served with salad. I think next time I will add some peas to the rice or something for a bit more color. But no matter, we all really liked it!

One day my husband and I wanted an afternoon snack and I quickly made these. Sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, some spices, moz. cheese and fresh basil...baked in the oven for about 12 minutes and served on bread...Small dish of balsamic vinegar on the side for good!
My husband made this wonderful stew early yesterday morning before I was even out of bed. It simmered on the stove all day. We had it over rice with tazekki sauce late yesterday afternoon and over egg noodles late this afternoon. I love egg noodles with stew! Delicious!  And those soft potatoes, a favorite of mine. Mmmm.

We were in Vienna last weekend until Monday so it was a short cooking week. We were away 2 nights and that was plenty for me. I was starting to miss my own kitchen! We got home on Monday around noon. Usually we have Sunday left-overs to start out the week, so this week was a bit out of order. Monday night I cooked a fabulous poached salmon dinner with stir fry veggies. Poached salmon is so quick and easy when you are at a loss about what to make. ..I like to put some soy sauce with freshly chopped ginger into the pan for poaching.

Frozen bio salmon. 

I like spaghetti so much I have it at least one time a week. My son likes little sausages wrapped in bacon so we had that this week too with lots of frozen veggies and pan fried potatoes (you boil them 1st). And that is pretty much the week!

Above is a goofy husband is testing me on my German vocabulary words. We are sharing a piece of delicious apple strudel cake that I got early in the day at a bakery. Herbal tea in my favorite mugs. I always get the red kitty mug. I am studying very hard. My first test I failed, the 2nd test I got an A once I understood the test format. Next test is Tuesday. More tea with honey, please! Oh! And I was painting my nails! You can just see the corner of my nail polish box in the photo. Just a normal night at home.

It was a lovely day today in Graz. My son and I went out for a long walk...we packed sandwiches and drinks. Good thing because it was warmer than I expected. We have fall leaves, but some roses are still hanging on! I hope you all enjoyed your weekend.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Vienna weekend in photos

Too much to write, so I am just going to share a bunch of photos from last weekend in Vienna!

The drive to and fro was very pretty!

This is an old WWII anti aircraft tower, which now houses an aquarium. 
We went to The Natural History Museum. It is huge and we did not even make it through 1/2 of it, so we will have to go again! Children up to the age of 19 are free...not 6 and under, but UP to the age of 19. Got to love that. The ceilings are super high with beautiful paintings waaay up there. The display cases are lovely old wooden cases. This is a photo from a room of sea fossils with a bit of overflow from the dinasauer room.
There is a restaurant, and we had a snack there. Pretty!
Here is a photo looking up into the dome from the entrance floor.

It was getting dark by the time we left! This is a photo of the building directly across from the museum.
I posted a few photos from the zoo in my previous post.

Wonderful getaway, but I was happy to get home, water the plants, throw in a load of laundry and cook in my own kitchen! I really think October is the perfect month to travel...not too hot or cold and no ice or snow!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Lunch at the Vienna Zoo

It was a holiday weekend here in Austria. I thought it would be nice to go to Vienna, while the weather is still nice. We went to a The Natural Hisyory Museum the day of our arrival and the zoo the next day. The zoo is world famous and I love it so much. But I have never been when the outdoor restaurants are closed. We ate lunch in the center pavilion. ..which at first was full of screaming kids. Oy! Why don't parents take screaming kids out of a restaurant, especially one this small? But when our order was brought out, the screamers had left, so thankfully we were able to enjoy our meal! And really, what a lovely little pavillion! My son had his favorite putenschnitzel with potatoes,  truly a favorite dish of Austria. We left my husband at the hotel for the day, he is just not capable of walking around a zoo!  And then we all enjoyed dinner at the hotel together. It works for us.

I always love the panda bears.  They usually sit with their backs toward the glass while they eat...They do not like camera flashes. People pay no attention to the signs so the pandas have solved the problem themselves by presenting their back sides. But the 1st time in the panda house (we went 3x and 2x in the koala house, I like to see them so much), one panda was sleeping right against the glass! The 2 year old panda is being "returned" to China this week.  The parents are on loan from China and the zoo was successful at breeding the 2 year old was born at the zoo, but belongs to China, hence the quotes around the word returned! So it was special to me to see all 3 bears. The koala bear photo is on my camera so...hopefully I will figure that out sometime this week. I am just not Ms. Technology! But they are so cute, I really want to show you. I had never seen a panda, koala bear or brillen bear (photo also on my camera) before going to the Vienna Zoo.

All in all, a nice little getaway. Next post...Some photos from the drive and the Natural History Museum,  which is just amazing. But I am still Blogging from my phone and it gets tedious typing with 1 finger!