Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Ukrainian Rogalyk


In one of my earlier posts I wrote about supporting individual people in Ukraine by buying digital files from their Etsy shops. Those files you can download just a few minutes after checkout. There are recipes, knitting and crochet patterns, Lightroom presets, and paintings. The digital files of paintings you can send to a place where they will print them for you in the size you want.

Among others I bought a recipe for Ukrainian Rogalyk. They looked delicious in the photo (of course!) and the seller assured in her listing description that they are easy to make. Okay, I thought, I go for it, and if it doesn't work, who cares?

Let me tell you that I am a pretty good cook, but I am not a baker. But my word of the year is "explore", so I decided to explore my baking skills.

The problem was that the recipe was written in a mix of metric and imperial measure. Before I could even start I sat down with my calculator, trying to get everything in metric. I then realized (which I didn't know before, call me ignorant) that UK cups are slightly different from US cups. I figured since Ukraine is in Europe that the seller was probably thinking of UK cups. In the end, I went for a number in the middle. Remember, I was exploring...

I made the dough, let it rest in the fridge and then got to work. First I rolled out the dough.

Usually when I roll out cookie dough, it either is bumpy in places or it sticks to the rolling pin (or both) despite the flour I put on in order to avoid this. With this dough none of this happened - it was smooth and didn't stick to anything.

Then I had to cut triangles, fill them with jam and roll them into "croissants". I still have quite some jars from last year's raspberry preserve I made and it worked beautifully.

My shapes were pretty crooked and after the first batch came out of the oven, I realized that I had put too much jam in the dough. But hey, who cares if it doesn't look like in the picture?

Odd shapes are easily hidden under powdered sugar...

We let them cool and then tried the first one. Oh - they were delicious. There is almost no sugar in the dough, all the sweetness comes from the jam and the powdered sugar. This recipe was for 50 pieces - I must have made my Rogalyk too big or rolled the dough too thick, because I only got 29. I brought some of them to German School for our break and they were a hit.

I am not posting the recipe, because I want this Ukrainian seller to make all the money she can and that she needs. I don't know where she is right now, whether she is still in Ukraine or was able to get into another country, but I do know that she and her family need the money. If you are interested in this recipe (it costs only a couple bucks), you can get it here. I am happy to help you with the measurements.

I'm linking with Kathy's Food Wednesday.

Monday, March 28, 2022

The Lilac in my Garden


Lilac - or French Lilac as it is called here, "Flieder" in German - is a shrub or small tree that you can find all over Germany. There, it usually blooms in May and fills the air with its wonderful scent. California is not the best place for lilac - the summers are too hot (at least in many areas) and the winters are too mild. Lilac needs a good and decent winter chill to perform to its full glory.

And still I have lilac in my garden. This year they are doing especiallywell - maybe because we had some pretty cold days in the winter.

I planted this particular one in memory of my dad who passed away in 2014.

He loved lilac. Specifically, he liked the scent of lilac. Whenever he saw a blooming lilac he would go there and put his nose close to the flower, inhaling the typical lilac perfume. Sometimes we would all be in the car - my parents, my brother and I - driving somewhere when he would suddenly stop and jump out of the car. He had seen a lilac by the side of the road and of course! he had to smell it. This didn't happen once but several times. I remember that I felt rather embarrassed as a child about this behavior.

Today, I understand him so much better! I wish he could smell my lilac.

This is one of my fondest memories of my dad. He was a difficult man and we often argued, but the older I get the more important the good memories become - and this is perfectly fine with me. I only wish I had told him how many good memories I have of him.

And since this is a post for Elizabeth's T stands for Tuesday and I'm writing about my dad, I'm sharing a drink my dad often enjoyed - a cold German beer (this picture, however, I had taken in a German restaurant in Manhattan).

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Tasty Leftovers


We love to eat Pesto and I don't even bother making my own pesto sauce since a few years ago I had found a very good Italian one that we have bought ever since. Pesto sauce, spaghetti, parmigiano reggiano directly grated over it, a glass of red wine on the side - it is so delicious.

Since I always make an entire package of spaghetti, we have quite a bit left, and I use them for a tasty leftover meal. I just look what I have and then come up with something.

Last time I made this:

I broke apart sweet Italian sausage (after I had removed the casing) that I fried in my cast iron pan. Then I sauteed sliced zucchini and red bell pepper, added the spaghetti and finally put the sausage back in, a few grinds of black pepper, warmed it all up - done. It was very tasty. The anise and fennel seeds of the Italian sausage gave the meal a distinct flavor that I liked very much.

I'm linking with Kathy's Food Wednesday.

Monday, March 21, 2022

T is for Tempting


After I had written a lengthy post last week about the permanent residents in my garden, today's post is short and sweet - and a bit of an addition to last week's post. We love to eat outside if the weather allows and Kibeau likes to hang out with us, probably hoping to get a morsel or two which to his big disappointment never happens. Sometimes while I'm still busy bringing out the food and the Geek is setting the table, he loves to sit on my chair. I don't think he is having a silent conversation with the coyote on my placemat, but he is waiting for the food to appear.

And when it does - it's tempting!

Look at that face! Oh, how much would he like to get that chicken with an herb crust.

The rosé from a local winery is my drink for Elizabeth's T Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Sweet Balls of Fire

Usually I love to cook, but sometimes I also like shortcuts, especially for food that is eaten outside and are more of a snack than a full meal. The recipe for the sweet balls of fire I found at Trader Joe's - always a good source for great food ideas.

The recipe asks for turkey meatballs of which none of us is a fan, so I use the Italian style meatballs (of course you can make your own meatballs, but cooking time would vary then). I also don't buy their raspberry preserve since I make that myself and have many jars of it.

Here's the recipe:

As you can see, it's pretty straight forward. So far I've only made them in the oven, but I might use the slow cooker one day as well. I also bake focaccia to go with it.

A fresh salad with cherry tomatoes, avocado and sunflower seeds rounds it up.

This is the first time that I'm linking up with Kathy's Food Wednesdays - you can check it out for more posts about food.

Monday, March 14, 2022

The Four-Legged Residents in my Garden


Last week I mentioned a raccoon who came in our garden to eat the cat food and I promised to tell you why the cat food was outside (and by the way, I'm taking the food in for the night to discourage the raccoon and other wildlife). This is a bit of a lengthy post.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, cats have always come to me. This started while I was still a student at university and a cat turned up on my doorstep. I usually gave them water and if they wanted to hang out and curl up somewhere I let them. However, I never tried to make them my "own" (can you even do that with cats?), it was always their choice. One cat stayed with me for several years until she died. Her "real" family lived just across the street and was aware of it, but thankfully never had a problem with it (they had four boys and I suspect that was a bit too much energy for the cat). Since my husband is severly allergic, I have never had a cat inside our home since we were married.

The current situation began in the fall of 2018 when Kibeau - the orange-white cat in the photo above - started to show up first in my front garden, then on the fence and finally in the garden behind the house. He would just soak up the sun and when it got too hot, roll up in the shade and sleep for hours. In the evening he would walk home and turn up again sometime during the following morning.

However, he wasn't alone. Otis - top photo -, turned up as well. He has been in my garden on and off since we moved in this house in 2012, but now he decided to spend most of his days here. I did know where they belonged to, but I hadn't met Kibeau's owner yet since they had just moved here.

That changed a few months later. 

I noticed that Kibeau did go home in the evening, but returned a short time later. He did spend the night in my garden. This happened again the following night. A neighbor told me that R, his owner, did go on vacation for a few days, but had hired a catsitter who was supposed to feed the cats. (R has several cats and a dog). That night, Kibeau wouldn't go home at all, but hang out on one of our patio chairs. When we went to bed he suddenly stood in front of our window, meowing. Our bedroom is on the second floor! He had to climb first onto the garage and from there on the lower roof in order to get to our bedroom window. We tried to ignore him, but when we got up the next morning at 6:00 we heard a loud "meow" right next to us. He was still sitting at the window!

I usually don't feed other people's cats, but now was the time to break this rule. I got dressed, hopped in the car and went to Safeway to get some catfood. And there I was , standing in front of the pet food shelf at 6:20 in the morning and trying to decide which of the 3.5 pound bags of kibble would be the right one. Maybe he was allergic to something? Maybe he had special food issues? I had no idea. So I decided to buy a bag of food for "sensitive stomach", hoping that this wouldn't do any damage.

Thankfully it didn't. And there was a very hungry cat that finally was a happy cat.

As soon as R was back, I talked to her and stopped feeding Kibeau. The only thing available to him was water - which, by the way, is my ticket to the T gang which gets together every Tuesday with Elizabeth, showing their drinks. I'm showing the cats' drink.

Several months later, R was gone again. Kibeau went home to eat, but came back to sleep. I was a bit worried because nights were cold, so I put out a box with a blanket inside and one wrapped outside. Kibeau loved it.

Even after R had come back, Kibeau wouldn't go home in the evening. For some weeks I actually walked him home almost every evening because R thought that he showed signs of feline dementia and couldn't find his way home. Then he walked home on his own again for some time.

And then he stopped walking home altogether. Even if I accompanied him home, he would turn up again a short time later. He simply would not go home. Both R and I were worried because he lost weight and R finally asked me if I would mind feeding him if she gave me some food. Of course I didn't. Since then I have been feeding Kibeau, but because of my husband's allergy he cannot come into the house.

I mentioned the other cat, Otis.

Well, if you feed one cat, other cats will come as well. Since Otis already had spent a lot of his time in my garden, the bowl of food for Kibeau didn't get unnoticed. However, Otis doesn't eat that much; I suspect his true pleasure is to eat from Kibeau's bowl, even though by now he has his own bowl. Otis has decided that he doesn't want to go home anymore either. Thankfully, his owner B totally understands cats and knows that outdoor cats often choose their location. She still picks him up every now and then, but he usually is back the following day.

If you look hard, you can see three cats in this photo. This is what I sometimes see in the morning.

There is Kibeau right at the sliding door, Otis under the table and on the table is King Louie, who is from another home (kitty corner from us) who eats himself through the neighborhood. He is big and fat; he looks fierce, but he is the most docile cat I ever met. However, when I happen to see him coming I take the food bowls away because he is simply too fat.

Winter came. I was hoping the cats would go home when it got cold, that it was just too uncomfortable for them to sleep outside.

Little did I know. They stayed.

I remembered the box, found a second box and set up a two-bedroom "condo" under the table to protect them from rain. While the two cats don't love each other, most of the time they tolerate each other and peacefully sleep next to each other.

But then temperatures dropped into the 20's and I worried again. By now I knew they wouldn't go home, but I also thought that sleeping outside when it is freezing is not healthy. So out came more blankets and they got their own cave.

During the day the cave is opened up and the blankets are a welcome spot to hang out.

Sometimes though, Kibeau prefers to sleep on the chair - maybe he really has feline dementia! He loves when I wrap him in blankets and purrs loudly - he usually is not a purrer.

.By now you surely think I'm a crazy cat lady. 

I honestly hope I am not.

I apologize for this lengthy post. Please bear with me for another minute or two.

Perhaps you are feeling helpless about the war in Ukraine. I know that I do. Yes, we can donate to organizations that hopefully bring some relief and much needed help - and we did do that. But thanks to Lorrie I discovered a way to help individual families in Ukraine - Etsy shops by Ukrainian sellers. While they cannot ship physical items, many shops offer digital items that you can download. It is no extra work for them - the selling of digital items is automated - but the sellers can earn some money that they need for themselves and their families. I simple put "Ukraine sellers" in the search bar. You can find patterns for knitting, crochet or cross stitching; prints of paintings; recipes and even Lightroom presets. Among others, I got these two beautiful prints:

It is only a small way to help, but it is much better than nothing. Most of the sellers respond with a short personal message and they are grateful for any kind of support.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Early Signs of Spring


There is always something going on in my garden, even in winter, but come the end of February things start to become exciting. My garden is always my place of calm and peace, but now even more so. February gave us some unseasonably warm days as well as very cold ones with frosty nights - the way it should be. Even now nights are quite chilly, but spring is definitely on its way. There are signs of it everywhere.

The camellias usually start to bloom in winter, some as early as December. This variety - unfortunately I don't know its name - has been going strong since the end of December. 

Some early tulips are here - this one is Mystic van Eijk - and the daffodils are such a beautiful bright spot in the otherwise rather bare front garden.

I love the pink flowering currant - Ribes sanguineum - so much that I actually have four of them in the front and am thinking of planting another one in the back come fall. They don't need much water, tolerate some shade and are low maintenance except for cutting them back every other year of so. Deer also don't like them and the berries are loved by the birds.

Of course there are also wildflowers in my garden, most of all our state flower, the California poppy - Eschscholzia californica -, but also those wildflowers that are called weeds. Like dandelions. I don't pull them out anymore because the bees go crazy over them in the very early spring, so I just leave them in the ground.

Calendula do best in cooler weather and don't really like the heat. They are annuals, but easily re-seed. I love them because they remind me so much of home. I was quite excited that the scabiosa never stopped blooming in the winter and am delighted by its lavender color.

Can you belive that the clematis already has buds? Every fall I cut them back hard and wonder every time whether they will come back - and they always do. They are gorgeous when they flower. All my clematis - I have three - are in pots since I never was successful growing them in the ground. Even in pots I killed many of them. 

The best for last - French lilac. No, California is NOT the best location for French lilac, but how can you NOT have at least one of them? Those of you who have have read my blog for a while might remember that I planted this lilac in memory of my dad who loved lilac and would always stop to smell the flowers.

What signs of spring do you see in your corner of the world?