Friday, January 30, 2015

Coconut and Dark Chocolate Mockaroons

Today, an indulgence. A recipe that is simple and decadent and just plain friggin' awesome. We tend to make these cookies around Christmastime, when the cookie-baking-spirit really abounds, but also about three or four times during the rest of the year just for the hell of it (see above, re: awesome).  Warning-- if you're not a coconut fan, these are not for you. If you're not a chocolate fan, go jump in a lake.  Okay, well, that may just be my personal opinion. I have actually been told by several self-professed non-chocaholics  (incomprehensible members of the human race) that they quite like these cookies because they're not that chocolate-y and have an interesting mix of tastes.  

Coconut "Mockaroons" Dipped in Dark Chocolate
adapted from German baking magazine Plätzchen a long long time ago

Makes ca. 30

150g shredded coconut
200g sugar
the zest of half a lemon, must be fresh, recommend organic
4 egg whites
30g flour
dark chocolate, melted, for dunking
optional but helpful: edible wafers (german: backoblaten) 

Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F). Combine shredded coconut, sugar, and fresh lemon zest in a bowl suspended over boiling water for ten minutes, mixing gently with a spoon.  Remove from heat and let cool. Add flour and mix until just combined. Scoop the dough with two small spoons to create mounds about 3 cm (1 inch) in diameter. If you have edible wafers, use them as a substrate for the dough; if not, you may need to add a little flour to help them hold, but only a little. Bake for 15 minutes until barely brown. Melt chocolate (I like to use really dark chocolate, ie. 75-85% if that's not to your taste, anything above 60% does fine too). When 'Mockaroons' have cooled, dunk each about half way into the chocolate. Let the coating cool and harden on a baking tray.Voila, enjoy!

I have kept these in cookie cans and Tupperware outside the fridge for up to a month and they still tasted great! Unfortunately I have no experience trying to freeze either the finished product or the dough, so no advice there.

Look up at the Sky!


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Five Things No One Knows About Me

Wall Art at Cinema Paris in Berlin
I was inspired to write this post by Rita of the Hey Rita blog. I'm new to this blogging thing and while I love the journal-y aspect of it and the connections with strangers that reinforce my faith in our common humanity, I am also skeptical of the sterile, self-centered, present-my-perfect-little-life part of blogging. Don't worry, in this facet I'm more critical of myself than of anyone else, and I love scrolling through the beautiful pictures of other peoples adventures, cities, and yummy food. It's my own theoretical insincerity I despise. And that is why I was touched by this post: an effort to circumvent the comfort zone. 

So here goes. Five things no one knows about me:

1. I'm sarcastic, and yes, often in the mean way. I hate to admit it, but it's true.  The master of the snarky comment and the not-so-gentle-jive, I strive for a friendlier and more forgiving dialogue and yet I negate my own aspirations of positivity daily. I think part of it just comes from the pervasive irony our family employs, the currency of humor that I grew up with. In our clan, nothing and no-one is safe from humorous harm, no topic too taboo and no psyche too vulnerable. Somehow, the laugh always justifies the joke, no matter how underhanded or unnecessary. Its not a character quality I like, and I'm working on it, but there you have it.

A Quiet Evening: Me reading, Papa napping, Oma with her paper
2. I'm an loner and a bookworm trapped in an extroverts body. I find myself being the life of a party I didn't want to go to in the first place, but got dragged to by Karl or another friend with the admonishment that six hours of a Saturday spent in bed with chocolate and a book is enough. I often tire of social interactions, but find myself extending the conversation out of politeness. I ask all sorts of questions about salmon culture and macrobiotics and investment banking in order to engage my conversation partner and show interest in their field while yearning for a solitary soak in the bath. It's not that I'm not interested in what they have to say, I just love love love being alone sometimes. 

3. I go through a whole bar of dark chocolate at day. The big bars.

4. I am always homesick for a different homeland. This is part of being a mixed culture kid. The other language, the other world, far-away tastes and scents and sounds are as much home as all you have right here and now. Missing a home is like missing a loved one; a constant ache where an essential part of you should be. You forget, in the shower and on the bus and in line at the grocery store, that the hole is always there. Then you hear a song about Berlin or see the New York skyline in a deodorant ad across the street and remember, like a punch in the gut, the piece of you that's an ocean away.

5. I am regularly overwhelmed (literally stop-in-your-tracks overwhelmed) with gratitude at the immensity of undeserved blessings I have been given in this life. The opportunities and adventures and pure-dang-good-fortune with with I have been endowed boggle my mind. Sometimes, on a quiet weekend, I'll take a walk in the woods around the corner and whisper to myself like a witchy old crone: "thank-you, thank-you, thank-you, thank-you."

Look up at the Sky!


Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Memories: Pool Cousins

Cousin Bobby plays "the throwing game" with Zelda
I only have one sister- Zelda the Goofball, Queen of Makeup and Math, our family's fashion arbiter and eternal baby. I sometimes wished for more siblings, but other times I was jealous of the attention my baby sister commanded and was glad our parents' booboo blowing and artwork admiring skills were only split between us two. In the end, it just felt right to be just us four--and continues to feel right to this day. But we had a saving grace: a large, chaotic, and kid-heavy extended family. And although they live on the other side of the country, if not of the other side of of the world from us, the adults always made a huge concerted effort to meet at least once a year, often in California. And of course, those sun-drenched days of being spoiled by grandparents and carted around in a caravan of cars were fun fun fun for us kids.The only hardship I remember was the mandatory 30 minute wait after lunch before being allowed to reenter the pool. Only the half hour before the doctor gives you your test results compares. 

Cousin Lina, Zelda, Me and Cousin Bobby in Grandma's Pool
I can't wait to see my kids and Zelda's playing in a pool together. Cousins have such a unique position in a kid's life: age matched, not as bicker-y as siblings and closer than friends.  I hope my kids have as awesome a relationship with theirs as I do with mine! This week we found out Bobby got into Stanford Law School and I am just over the moon proud for him. 

Look up at the Sky!


PS. If you need a overview of the cast of characters find one here!

PPS. More Monday Memories here and here!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Five Favorites: Destinations for 2015

The Eiffel Tower, Paris, April 2014 with Karl on a blisteringly cold, sunny day
As I this blog reflects, I love to travel! So to get me through the cold and gloomy winter we've been having, I like to fantasize about the places I'm longing to go. Some of these are just pipe dreams, some are in the process of being planned, and one or two are already booked! 2015 is turning out to be an exiting year, suitcase-wise.  Since this is my last year of formal medical school, I won't be having as much time off in the near future and I want to put these last twelve months of freedom to good use. So without further ado: my top five destinations for this year!

1.) Gdansk (Danzig), Poland. This was a Christmas gift from my darling Karl. Last year he gave me a long weekend trip to Prague and it was perfect! This year we'll be visiting one of the most beautiful cities in Poland. Right on the shore of the Baltic sea and almost perfectly preserved for centuries, I've been dying to set my eyes on this gem.  Its a bit of a drive from here, so we may have to break our trip in Berlin, but thats just a added bonus from my perspective!

2.) Kruger National Park, South Africa. This one is booked, and I'm beyond excited! We decided as a family to celebrate my parents' 25th wedding anniversary with a trip. The four of us got together to start planning the party and we just realized: this is so dang expensive and its just for one night! we could go on a big huge faraway adventure for the same price! And the decision was made.

3.) The Kingdom of Swaziland. Must start reading about Swaziland, sadly under-informed.

4.) Mozambique. The last stop on our trip. The beaches are pristine, the snorkeling is fantastic (although I always find it weird, the sensation of having your face in the water and yet being able to breathe) and the capital of this former Portuguese colony, Maputo, is supposed to be an up and coming center of African chic! Zelda is sure to find some unique clothing pieces which I will then promptly borrow/steal as sisters are wont to do.

5.) US of A. This one is half planned half wishful thinking. The thing about growing up half on one side of the Atlantic and half on the other is that you always seem to be homesick for somewhere. I miss brownies, skyscrapers, cowboy hats and California highways. I miss the way "have a great day" sounds in an American accent and I miss CHERRIO, which THEY DO NOT SELL HERE, most of all! Also, Karl has never been and it would mean so much to me to show the man I love the country I adore. So let's hope. And we'll see.

Look up at the Sky! 


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Monday Memories: Hiking in Brazil

This week I'm missing my family! After spending so much time together over winter break its strange to suddenly be separated. Since we all live scattered around the globe, vacations have always been the most important way we connect. Meeting up in some foreign place and discovering new sights and sounds together tightens our little family community like nothing else! My grandparents (who used to live in Mexico but are now in California) are the most adventurous travelers of us all and continue to travel across the Atlantic, visit new countries, and even attempt to learn new languages far into their eighties! They are such an inspiration, so today I've found a old photo from 2008, when all six of us met in Brazil where my mom had some work to do, and traveled around that amazing land. Awe-inspiring landscapes, a vibrant and unique culture, and an impressive diversity knit together in a melting-pot to rivals that of the US... it's no wonder we all fell in love with this country (and particularly with the Brazilians who are the coolest of the cool people you'll ever meet). We actually made the trek from far-away Europe twice, that's how much we loved it! 

Here, we're hiking in Chapada Diamentina National Park with our friendly guide (in blue). It took a six hour bus ride from Salvador de Bahia to arrive at Lencois, a picturesque colonial city from which all walks in the national park commence. We hiked every day, all day, including lots of clambering over stones as seen here, and my grandparents were amazing;  they scrambled over boulders and laughed the whole way. We had the time of our lives, and I still look back so fondly on those days in the Brazilian sun, stopping for picnic lunches and watching Grandma inch across the most unstable hanging bridge you've ever seen with a huge grin on her face. We're so lucky to have this time with family, it's the greatest luxury I can imagine! I hope I am blessed with good health and an indefatigable spirit in old age, so that I can give my grandchildren the same kind of memories they gave me.

Here, we stop in a rock formation near a waterfall for lunch. Zelda and Mom at the bottom appear to have dug in before the rest of us even arrive! Grandma's in her sunhat, me and Papa are last in line. Grand-papa is our resident photographer, so he's never in any pictures...

Look up at the Sky!


Saturday, January 17, 2015

A belated post on our Merry Little Christmas

My parents smooching in front of the tree at Hackische Höfe
I return to by little blog project after a longish break due to the internet limitations of travel. But more on that later.  First, a look back to the holiday season!

I love coming home any time of the year, but coming home for Christmas is particularly special. Seeing all the decorations I've grown up with, chipped and worn as they're hauled out year after year, the recipes that make the house smell like cinnamon and the sound of scissors on wrapping paper from behind closed doors...its just so warm and happy. I think most young adults feel the same, snuggley and safe, when surrounded by the traditions that mean we're home. 

The part of the holiday season I love most is the onslaught of family and friends descending on Berlin from various continents and manifold adventures to freeze our butts off and exchange love and news. One highlight was seeing Clara, my best friend from high-school. She lives in Scotland and although we text and skype regularly there's really nothing like sitting down for a meal together with good friends. We also got a visit from Sam,  a childhood friend from when my family was living in NYC. He and his girlfriend came to tourist around Berlin and even though we hadn't seen each other since we were both eleven, Zelda (my sis) and I had so much fun with both of them. Its funny how little we grow up. Sam is exactly the same at 22 as he was at 11, plus some facial hair and a salary. You'd think that two kids who grew up together would meet much later and reconnect as adults but what actually happens is we meet up and just regress back to being kids. We made chocolate chip cookies and consumed about half the dough, ran around town and giggled in supermarkets, and there was even an intense and prolonged discussion on monopoly strategy. It was great to see him again, and to meet his lovely girlfriend as well!
Xmas Dinner: goose, knödel, sauerkraut and rosenkohl!

For Christmas itself we always drive to my grandmothers house a few hours north of here. We had fun on the way there singing along to all the songs on the radio in a horribly off-tune chorus and on the way back we had a huge three hour family fight, everyone yelled at everyone and we achieved catharsis by the time we arrived at our front door. Ah, such is family. 

Our Christmas Tree! (Yes, with real candles, as per tradition!)

Look up at the Sky!