Monday, July 27, 2020

Mac'n Cheese with Broccoli

When I wrote the first part of my "Pandemic Food" posts, some of you asked for the recipe of the Broccoli Mac'n Cheese. 

I found this recipe about 30 years ago during a visit to England. It was one of many lovely recipes in a cookbook that was called "The Dairy Cookbook" if I remember correctly. I don't have that cookbook anymore - I got rid of a lot of things when we moved to the States - but this recipe had become such a favorite in my family that I don't need a recipe anymore.

You will need:

one package of Penne pasta
one head of broccoli, cut into florets only
one package of cubed Pancetta, about 4 oz (optional)
300 ml milk
25 g butter
25 g flour
one or two handfuls of shredded cheese (I use Swiss cheese and Gruyère from Trader Joe's)
paprika, salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 F
Cook the Penne pasta in boiling salted water according to directions on the package. For the last 4-5 minutes add the broccoli florets. Drain and put in an ovenproof dish. If you want to add the cubed pancetta, you will do it now.
Bring the milk with the butter and the flour to a boil, stirring often. Let the milk boil for a minute, then add paprika (I use quite a lot of that, but perhaps start out with a teaspoon or two), freshly ground pepper and a little bit of salt (remember that cheese already contains quite some salt). Now it's time to add the cheese - I'm usually quite generous with it. It really depends how you like it best. Pour the sauce over the pasta and broccoli. Top it off with some breadcrumbs.
Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

When the top is golden brown, it's time to bring the broccoli man'n cheese to the table! Be careful - it will be quite hot - better let it cool slightly for five minutes or so.

If you ever make it, let me know. I'm also interested if you do any variations.


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Paris in July 2020 - Shout it from the Rooftops

It is always fun to look down on a city from above, and Paris is no exception. During a visit to the beloved capital of France people stand in line at the Tour Eiffel to rise up to the top and enjoy the vast views of this sprawling metropolis. The view from Montmartre is just as wonderful (and a lot cheaper!). But what I enjoy is going up to the top of a building that is just slightly higher than its surrounding buildings and get a closer look down from there.

In short, to view the roofs of Paris.

You get a good feel for a city from this viewpoint. On first sight it seems to be a bit chaotic and not necessarily pretty. You might even ask yourself whether these buildings were built without any plans or whether the construction workers ran out of material. But when you look closer you suddenly see some artwork or graffiti - or a rooftop garden where people have all their privacy (except for those nosy tourists gazing over from the Centre Pompidou like I did here).

There are little pieces of heaven, a personal oasis - wouldn't you like to hang out there, sipping a glass of red wine, biting in a fresh baguette and nibbling on some cheese? Sounds like paradise to me.

There are all these chimneys!

And there is also this:

I think these are firewalls - no, I'm not talking about the firewall on your computer that should prevent the onslaught of a computer virus. I'm talking about the original term referring to a wall intended to confine a fire within a line of adjacent buildings, as you can see in the photo above. They also seem to hold the before-mentioned chimneys which probably goes quite well with a firewall.


It's July and that means I'm once again joining Tamara at Thyme for Tea's Paris in July. If you're fascinated by everything Paris and French, you can find a lot more links to posts there.

Friday, July 3, 2020

This was June!

Social distanced Happy Hour with the neighbors

In June I gave myself a little challenge of taking at least one photo each day. I had become rather lazy with photography and I hadn't used my big camera since February when I last visited the beach. Thankfully there were several occasions in June when I finally used the big camera again - it felt so good.

Sometime in late April or early May (I can't remember exactly when) the neighbors in our corner started to gather for a happy hour on Fridays at five in the afternoon. We first were sitting by the side of the street; everybody brought their chair and drink of choice and we would sit 6ft. apart from each other and chat. It was wonderful to meet up. After a few weeks one of the neighbors had the genius idea to move to the cul-de-sac at the corner - it's quieter and it also offers more shade. Since then we have met up every Friday for an hour and a half to two hours and it is one of the highlights of the week.

The little girl a couple houses down turned four and we did a drive-by birthday "party" for her. It was a lot of fun to see the decorated cars and bicycles pass by, honking their horns and ringing their bells.

During June I continued my walks, discovering the back alleys in the historical district of the town. These back alleys are very quiet and have almost a rural feel - it's hard to believe that we are not far from downtown when you walk here. They offer a lot of shade and unpaved trails.

I enjoyed my June garden a lot. The poppies were the bright spots and happily displayed their beauty. They all came from the poppies that I had first sown eight years ago. Since then they have self-sown every year - so easy.

Oh - and we had some very hot days in June when I simply wasn't up to cooking dinner. So I made tuna poké with seaweed, rice, avocado, and lots of sesame.

I was very happy when the Rural Cemetery was re-opened at the end of May. I've been there many times and each time I discover something new and see something from a different perspective. That place is never crowded, there are nature trails and lots of space to walk.

The glowing bear - Lumibär - at our entrance is from Germany. I bought it when the Geek and I were still dating. We were walking to our favorite café in Tübingen when we passed a shop that had several of these bears in different colors in their windows. There was no price, however. The Geek went inside to inquire about the price - it wasn't exactly cheap, but not very expensive either. Over some coffee and breakfast I pondered about it and decided that it would be fun to have it. When we entered the store the clerk greeted us with the words "Which color should it be?" We had to laugh about that. I chose the orange Lumibär (of course!) - that was in 1996. He moved with us to the US, he was in our evacuation "bag" - and next year he will turn 25. He shines in the mornings and evenings and the kids in the neighborhood love him. Some call him the "giant gummy bear".

We celebrated a big event in June - Kaefer graduated from the University of California, Davis. On June 12th was the virtual commencement celebration that we watched together. Of course it was very different from the "real" thing, but the important thing is that she graduated. She will now do her Masters, either in Munich or in London. She got in both programs and now has to decide where she wants to go.

The middle of June brought more days in the garden and walks through the - like-minded - neighborhood. Friends of us came over for a social distanced couple of hours of good conversation and good wine, lots of laughing and the faint feeling of some kind of normalcy. One Sunday we visited the Lavender Labyrinth at a lavender farm which was fun - more pictures will probably follow in another blogpost.

Kaefer went back to Davis to pack more of her things and I drove over one day to take graduation pictures of her and one of her best friends who was also her work mate. We took photos at different locations on campus that have had some meaning for them during those four years, and also a picture of her and myself. From that day on Kaefer has been staying with us which is a big gift for us before she will move to Europe.

I have started knitting a summer sweater for her, but I'm getting second thoughts about the neckline. It is a technique I have never done before and I'm a bit nervous about it. Maybe I should practice before!

The last week of June... Kaefer and I went to the lavender garden of Matanzas Creek Winery (I wrote about those gardens herehere and here) to take a few more graduation photos. I simply love this place. I also finally went back to Crane Creek Regional Park - I'm still avoiding the lake since there are just too many people who don't distance or wear masks, but it's safe in Crane Creek - not many people and those I met were wearing masks when we were passing each other. This is another place that feeds my soul and I just hope that they don't close the parks again. Unfortunately the number of cases are going up again rather speedily (which I think results from opening up too early and too fast) and I wouldn't be surprised if we took a few steps back again.

Since the second week of June I'm officially on summer break. I had my last class with the German School on June 10th (I decided to offer two conversation classes of four weeks each) and am glad to have some "real" free time. However, I'm also on the "re-opening" committee of the German School where we work on different strategies on how to re-open our school in the fall. That is a ton of work!

How was your June? What are you doing this summer?

To all of you in the US - have a happy Fourth!