Friday, 21 February 2014

Easy kitchen: The no-brainer casserole

I was technically born as a lazy person. So, naturally I try to accomplish everything with the least effort possible.
Cooking is no exception.

I am neither Jamie Oliver nor Gordon Ramsay, but I share their love for food and this casserole is perfect for everyone who enjoys a warm, comforting dish without having to work his ass off for it. You will end up with a creamy sauce, a crusty layer on top and all that goodness that makes you forget whatever is bothering you at the moment!

You'll need:

  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • pasta of your choice
  • veggies (either frozen or fresh, it does not matter, I used peas and spinache)
  • about 350 ml of cream
  • cheese and breadcrumbs to top it off
  • butter
  • salt, pepper, nutmeg
  • optional: a dash of white wine, broth
Let's start:

1. Chop up the onion and the garlic cloves and heat them up in a pan with a bit of oil until they are translucent. In the meantime, place your pasta and the veggies into the casserole.

Note: Be careful not to let your garlic and onions brown, otherwise they will taste a little bit bitter. 

This casserole is pretty small, so you might have to adjust the recipe for the sauce depending on the size of your casserole

2. Once the onions are translucent, add your cream. I used a 250ml can, then filled it with water and added the water to the mixture. The sauce is the most important part of this dish and you need plenty of it!

3. Now on to seasoning:
Add salt, pepper and nutmeg according to your liking. I also put in a dash of white wine and half a teaspoon of vegetable broth. Let the sauce simmer a little bit to thicken. Finish it up with a bit of butter.

4. Cover your pasta and the veggies with the sauce and make sure everything is coated. Since the pasta and veggies are still raw, you need the sauce to "cook" them. Also, you do not want your casserole to be dry, do you?  Top it off with plenty of cheese and a thin layer of breadcrumbs for the perfect crust.

As you can see, it is almost not enough sauce this time. You have to be way more generous, but was still alright in the end.


5. Put it in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. In the meantime you can clean up the mess you created.
Once the cheese and the breadcrumbs are golden brown, take out the casserole and enjoy!

This is what I call a perfect crust! Crunchy and cheesy and underneath the smooth mixture of pasta, veggies and sauce!

This recipe might not be ideal if you are in a rush, but it is extremly easy to make and can be changed in order to fit your taste or the ingredients in your pantry. You can try different variations of vegetables (for example cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, etc) or add some leftover chicken or salmon to it. However everything meat or fish related should be cooked or roasted to use in this dish.

Also, I always make a lot just for myself, so I have something left to eat the next day.
This casserole is perfect for days, when you have the time, but not the drive to cook.

And before I forget it: If you want to reheat the leftovers, place small chunks of butter on the top. That way the crust is less likely to get mushy. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Wanderlust

The summer of 2012 was the best summer of my life so far. 
It was the summer, which really unleashed my desire to travel

At Gyeongbokgung-Palace in Seoul (2012)
When I was little my parents used to take me on various trips to Portugal, Corfu, Mallorca and other places around Europe, so I have always enjoyed seeing something new, but none of these travels made me feel like there was this deep feeling of need for me to leave Germany every once in a while. However during the summer of 2012 I spent a whole month in Korea. It was a journey organized by my university which consisted of a three week culture and language program in Daegu at the Keimyung university, but my friends and I added another week to spend in Seoul. 
This whole trip was a wonderful mixture of so many things, I had never encoutered before in my life:

The sound of cicadas during the day, the smell of Samgyeopsal, the almost poetic composition of a perfect Patbingsu, the wonderful view from the mountaintop which took so much effort to reach in the hot humidity of a Korean summer and of course silly drinking games which a bunch of amazing friends

Just one out of many gorgeous shops and café in Seoul <3 br="">

Ever since that journey I have this inner desire to pack my things and jump into the next airplane. I want to see it all!
Places I have never seen before and also places I have already visited, just to unfold new secrets and see new sights. Korea made me realize how much I actually want to see the world with all the beautiful and sometimes strange aspects it has to offer.

One of my alltime favourites is probably London. I have been there four times by now, but it never fails me. To me it is one of those perfect destinations for a weekend-getaway (and great to stock up on DVDs). Wandering around the smaller streets, discovering new pubs and cafés and of course this glorious moment when you exit the tube at "Westminster":
You look up to the top of Big Ben and you know: "Yes, I'm here!"

Another favourite of mine is Paris. Well, isn't Paris everyone's favourite? Nibbling on a lemon macaron, marveling at the wonderful architecture and preferably enjoying the sun, while talking a walk along the Seine. Paris is everything the romantic girly-girl inside me screams for and once in a while everyone needs this kind magic, right?

To me traveling is so much more than just taking a break from your ordinary daylife.
Traveling means to indulge in something completely unkown and still having this feeling of total bliss.

The entrance of the Meiji-Shrine in Tokyo (2013)

I remember walking around Montmartre with a friend on a sunny spring day. We went into this tiny, crammed restaurant to eat our lunch. French chansons acompanied our little feast consisting of a perfect onion soup, salmon and a lovely piece of apple tart at the end. We had no hurry and just sat there enjoying our simple meal, laughing and watching the old lady who ran this restaurant. When we left, I felt the warm sunshine on my face and a satisfying feeling in my belly. It was perfection.

The view over Paris from Sacre-Coeur. It was the most beautiful spring day! (2012)

The other time, when we were in the gorgeous city of Edinburgh, we took a trip to Hopetoun House, a lovely little château nearby. On our way back it started to rain very, very badly. Once we arrived at the bus station we were soaked, but incedibly happy.
The wonderful castle of Edinburgh (2011)

Travelling means to let go - To let go of your worries, but also of your habits and the life you are used to.

The streets of Edinburgh
In a week from now I will be back in Seoul for two weeks. I really can not wait to pack my things and finally go. Since I took the plane back to Germany about one and a half years ago, I wanted to return to Korea and now it is not even a whole week until the wait is over. Finally!

The great Buddha in Kamakura (2013)

Yes, I am infected and I hope, that it will never go away.



[Wanderlust]

Monday, 10 February 2014

MEAL PEEK: Fried Kohlrabi and salad

Yes, I should be studying.

I should be studying at this very moment for the exam I am about to write in two days.
However what better way is there to procrastinate than eating and later on talking/writing about your food?
So, this is what I am doing right now.
Screw you Japanese translation and leave me alone in my wonderful wonderland of food and games!

Anyway, this is what I had for dinner not ten minutes ago: 

Sooooo healthy! .... Well, actually not.
 On the left you can see a sliced up kohlrabi root which I coated with Panko. Then I fried it in the pan. To me this is a great substitute for pasta or meat, because it is warm and filling. And yes, I patted these little babies dry with a kitchen roll, 'cause you do not want any excess fat on your kohlrabi roots, do you? We are healthy like that, hell yeah!

On the right is my "alibi-salad" - just your standard green salad with some tomatoes and a simple dressing (oil, balsamic vingear, honey, salt, pepper, garlic, and fresh herbs). "Lovely!" (as Jamie Oliver would say)

The thing is, that I rarely just eat a salad all by itself. On all the fitness blogs and tumblrs I see people posting pictures of their huge salad bowls filled with healthy goodness, seeds, veggies and stuff, but you know what? This. does. nothing. for. me.
Sometimes a nice, fresh salad is great, but it does not satisfy my cravings for something warm - which is why I paired it up with my fried kohlrabi root this time - Just to give me the feeling of having done something good for my body by rejecting my usual pasta meal without any vegetables.

Do you see this crust? 'S wonderful!
And yes, I ate all of it. I ate it all by myself and there is nothing left. 

But still I already see myself returning to the kitchen in about an hour to grab something sweet.
Well, what can I do? I am just a sweet-tooth and do not judge me!

I know would do the same.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

The awkward funeral service

Yesterday was my grandmother's funeral service.
She had died after being diagnosed with cancer about a year ago.

Going to her funeral service was a weird experience for me, maybe because it was my first time. It was my first time being confronted with the subject of death in my own family. Since I am almost 23 years old, I think that I am quite lucky, that out of four grandparents, there are still three left. So many children do not even have the chance to get to know them or they only have a few years.

When I went to the funeral service yesterday, I was of course very sad, but I was not really mourning. Instead of mourning over her death, I tried to think of all the wonderful memories I have of her. She was truly a wonderful, kind and sophisticated woman.

Apart from getting a chance to „let her go“, there were many awkward situations during the funeral service. So many people I had never seen before in my entire life came up to me to say that they were sorry for my „loss“.

Loss.
What kind of word is that anyway?

It seems so wrong to use this word when you talk about a deceased person.
„Did I tell you? Today, I lost my phone on the way to work.“
It sounds so trivial. Too trivial for something that serious. Whenever someone referred to my „loss“ it made me crinch.

Then there was this man my father had engaged to say something about my grandmother's life. He disturbed me.
It was not the fact, that a complete stranger tried to describe her life on an occasion, which is very personal and intimate. It was merely the structure of his speech.
It sounded like a mixture between a profile on a dating website and a curriculum vitae.

„She enjoyed taking long walks and going to the fitness studio three times a week. She also liked the company of other people and often went to the city center with her girlfriends.“
„From 1965 to 1972 she worked at the company xy and then changed to the company jfk.“

I mean, are you serious? Is this really the kind of speech that is given at a funeral service? I can only repeat myself by saying, that maybe it is just me, but this speech seemed to be so inappropriate. Not rude or disrespectful, just awkward.

On top of that among the guests was the man who had been her partner for many years, but she had left him maybe 2 years ago, Why? Because he had fooled around with other women.
I never liked him and seeing him at the funeral service of the woman he had betrayed felt so wrong. My mum later told me, that my grandmother did not even want him to come, but well. He did. Maybe it was some kind of personal issue he had to solve. Honestly, I don't care.

Her ex-husband (my father's father) did not even come. He only dropped off his wife, whom I really like, and even though my father tried to convince him to stay, he left.

Overall, this funeral service was a very uncomfortable experience. On the one hand I had the chance to say goodbye to my grandmother, but on the other hand there were so many little things which were too ridiculous to take this whole affair seriously.

Sorry grandma for thinking all these inappropriate things and getting all worked up about them, but I could not help it.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Observations at the gym

Every Friday I try to go the gym and today (Sunday) I finally managed to get my butt out of bed early (in my case 10:30 a.m.) to go again. On Fridays, I am quite early in the afternoon, so it is not very crowded, but today a whole new world opened up to me.
First of all, I was surprised to see how many people actually manage to go to the gym on a Sunday – a day I have always considered as the official day of laziness. Secondly, I got to observe many different types of people.

Whenever I go I like to start off my workout with 25 minutes on the elliptical machine. Wait, who said „like?“ Actually cardio training is a real chore to me, but it has to be done. So I do it at the very beginning, just to get it out of the way and get my metabolism going.
During these 25 minutes of boredom I like to observe the other people around me – not to compare myself to them, but to figure out what their life might be like. Why do they come here? What expression do they have on their faces during excercise? Are they alone or as a couple?

As a matter of fact there are many different kinds of people who to the gym. Personally, I am the kind of person who stays for exactly an hour each time. I never go crazy, so I never end up being all sweaty and I never challenge myself too much, but I try to get stronger in small steps. That is probably why I am not as fit, as I could be. I am definitely not as determined as other people I see there.

So, what kinds of people do I observe regularly?

1. The obsessed-one

I most cases this type is represented by a young man – very muscular and with a rather serious look on his face. No matter which machine he uses, he looks as if this was the most important task of his whole life. He likes to concentrate on his arms and abs, maybe because it is what most girls look after? Also, he might take his workout very seriously, but he does not always perform his excercises correctly.
Whenever I see one of those guys, I can already imagine him coming home and preparing a protein-shake and a nice salad.

2. The „show-off“

I do not know why, but when I go to the gym, most of the people are either male or older ladys. So again, most of the „show-offs“ I see, are male, and again they are often very young. The more mature guys go to the gym to stay fit and keep in shape, but the „show offs“, goes not for the sake of health, but to impress. To impress during the workout and afterwards, which might be why they often wear these shirts with the low cut outs at the sleeves – so everyone can see their arm and back muscles. And strangely enough, a lot of them wear a baseball cap – which to me is rather unnecessary, because you normally sweat I lot. Personally I would not really appreciate the feeling of sweat collecting underneath the cap, but well. Who am I to judge them?

Today I saw an especially interesting individual of this species. He had his girlfriend with him, who was there for the first time I suppose. He explained her how to use the treadmill and do various other excerises and occasionally left to do his own workout and well, what should I say? This guy worked out, like there was no tomorrow! All of the excercises where performed so hurriedly and unprecise – as if he was on escape! Apart from the fact that he wanted to impress his girlfriend, I think it is his way of working out. A way which is not very focused on a proper workout, but on the effect it might have afterwards.

3. The housewife

Another type I see quite often due to the time of day when I go to the gym. These women try to fill their days, while their husband is away and I do not judge them. In fact, I think it is admiring, that they want to invest time and energy into their health and looks, while other women their age prefer to stay at home. Who needs to impress his husband anyway? Once the ring is on, he has no chance to leave!
However these women seem to think differently. They always to to perform their workouts correctly. There is nothing drastic or overly challenging about their training, because they do not seem to try to change dramatically. In most cases, I think they just want to stay at a certain level or improve slowly. They are ready, when they are ready.

4. The retired one

The same goes for this kind of people. I also see a lot of retired or just older people who work out. Nothing crazy, just a little bit to keep them healthy. They do not force themselves like these overly-obsessed guys with that tense look on their faces. It is another kind of people I admire a lot, because my own grandparents do not care too much about their health. Once you become older it is not necessary to power through one and a half hours of intense training and they know that. They know their limits and they know what is appropriate for them and it is a kind of view something a lot of younger people could profit from.

5. The laid-back one

If I had to categorize myself considering my workout-habits, this is how I would classify myself. Determined and willing to do something without trying to force myself. Most of the people, I have seen, who would maybe fit into this category also represent this image when it comes to their workout gear: A loose print-shirt and a pair of shoes, might be a bit to old, but as long as the soles do not fall off, they are still okay. No fancy equipment, no fuss and this is what their workout is like, too.
They do, what they think is necessary to reach their goal, but there is no rush. There is also time for a small chat once in a while – not about how time they have already spent on the treadmill, or how many reps they managed with their weights – just a normal, down to earth conversation.
I imagine this kind of person eating pizza on the weekend and spending their freetime on festivals and having fun with their friends without caring about the consequences concerning their „healthy lifestyle“.

Of course it is always a bit tricky, whenever you try to categorize people. I do not even know, if it is right to do that. However this is what I do to pass the time. Most people do not even fit into any kind of image and some are also a bit exaggerated, but you should get the basic idea. Everyone has his own background and his own reasons for working out, but sometimes there is a certain pattern, which connects different people.
It is one of the reasons, why I actually like going to the gym. It is always a hassle to get there, but once I get started I am happy and I enjoy what I do: taking care of myself and watching other people. Well, how creepy is that?