breakfast of champions

I am a breakfast baby. Try to talk to me before my body and mind have the company of a cup of coffee or tea, and sometimes both, or a handful of food and be warned; my ability to understand will be reduced to listening to music on mute.

Like with all meals, my cravings vary from season to season, and from market to market. And like with most other things, the small change that is hanging out in my wallet. This adds up to a collection of favourite breakfasts over time.

As a kid, it was 'Just Right,' a healthy cereal - anything that had both the words cereal and sugar were strictly forbidden in my mom's kitchen - that I would crave enough to eat it bowl by bowl through the day.

As a teenager, I quickly became a fan of the breakfast in hand concept. Muffins, pastries, granola bars, anything that could be eaten on a streetcar was of preference.

Since then I have learned better to manage my time - or at least to sacrifice being on time for eating a good breakfast - which means that my breakfasts have turned from snacks to meals.

First it was rolled Irish oats with slivered almonds and milk. Then it was weekend - and when I could manage weekday - frittatas with guacamole and black bean dip. Then I started studying in Denmark, which means that I often had enough time to eat breakfast all morning (and sometimes afternoon), which I often did. Round one was some toast with cheese and jam. Round two was a poached egg on toasted dark bread, mixed greens, avocado, sea salt, and a drop of sesame oil.

This lasted until I moved to Berlin and discovered quinoa. Nicknamed "the strength of the Incas" this little grain wakes me up most morning. The World's Healthiest Foods praises it for being a source of protein, for its nutritional value, for looking like a grain, but actually being related to Swiss Chard and Spinach, and for its versatility. I praise it for its nutty taste, its interesting texture (much lighter than oatmeal), and how easy it is to cook. A little quinoa, a little salt, a little water, a short shower and voila, pret a manger.

You can really add anything to quinoa. My breakfast of champions is quiona with some fruit, nuts, maple syrup, and milk.

So if you see me early mornings before I have eaten, offer me some quiona with banana, sliced almonds or pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, maple syrup and milk, and I promise to give you my best attention.


the pumpkin and the pie

October was a dizzy month, a month marked by pumpkin festivals in West Berlin, international art fairs, Halloween parties at soviet themed bars, and hunts for furniture. (We now have a table, but no couch meaning that because we can't afford the ridiculous prices, that both stores and private sellers alike demand for couches that resemble the carcasses of dead fabric, I have taken to drawing furniture and pinning pictures of attractive couches and chairs to our walls).

Somewhere in between, I developed a horrible case of homesickness for Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving of course). This translates as a homesickness for pumpkin pie.

It isn't as if Germany doesn't recognize the brilliance that is the pumpkin. I did, after all, stumble across a pumpkin festival. (Read: another excuse for Germans to sell beer and sausages in the middle of the street on a nice day, something that they are able to justify doing just about every weekend or so. From the Obama speech to pumpkin festivals to neighbourhood celebrations to the birthday's of small children, beer is poured and sausages are grilled.) Sure we did have pumpkin soup - really, isn't pumpkin soup just a terrible waste of the precious pumpkin guts that should be reserved only for baking and perhaps also jams - and we did eat pumpkin cupcakes complete with cream cheese icing, but we all know that pumpkin soup and pumpkin cupcakes do not equal to pumpkin pie.

Something had to be done, a thought that visits me often when I begin to crave a certain food. This thought is usually followed by a large wooden spoon.

The North American solution is to buy a can of pumpkin and a frozen pie crust, something that would make even the most sever of pumpkin cravings smile with its mouth full. However, Europe hasn't caught on to the idea of canned pumpkin, or to frozen pie crusts. Frozen tart crusts are a different story, but a tart just doesn't sound as satisfying as a pie.

One October afternoon, somewhere between the Joseph Beuys exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhoff and attempts to buy a a somewhat couch like couch on ebay, I baked a pumpkin pie. By bake, I mean to make a pie crust, to cool it, and to dissect a pumpkin (or more accurately, have my partner dissect a pumpkin, of which he did an excellent job), to boil its flesh until soft, to mash it, and then to bake a pie in the convenient North American sense of the word.

Once again, Epicurious was my first source and after several recipes were snipped, trimmed, and then assembled into a single recipe this is what I ended up with.

Butter Pastry Dough
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter crumbled into bits
4 tblsp. (and perhaps more) of ice water as needed

Combine flour and salt. Add crumbled bits of butter gradually until mixed. Add ice water and kneed until dough forms. Wrap in baking paper and refrigerate for at least an hour before use.

Maple Syrup Spiced Pumpkin Pie
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tblsp. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. all spice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 cups pumpkin (no canned pumpkin for this one, we used a combination of two different pumpkins)
3 tblsp. maple syrup
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream

and a handful of toasted walnuts to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 180F/350C. Whisk together sugars, flour, salt and spices in a large bowl. Gradually add in pumpkin, maple syrup, eggs, and then cream. Roll out dough between two pieces of baking paper. If you don't have a rolling pin, then an empty beer bottle does the trick. Once thin, place dough into a pie form and patch any holes. Trim off excess dough. Finish it off by pouring the pie mixture into the crust. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the center is just set. Top with a ring of chopped toasted walnuts and eat with a generous serving of fresh whipping cream.


weddings are for cakes

At the end of August, our friends and fellow German Canadian couple got hitched. Because of one of globalizations many obstacles, – large families, different continents, and high air fairs – they got hitched old fashioned style. It was the kind of wedding Vegas would approve of, city hall, sneakers, and an official with an undercut and a ponytail. It was both practical and whimsical, a wedding to make modern romance proud.
There was to be no wedding fuss, no white dress, nothing too traditional, minimal fuss, just sushi and friends. It made sense, well almost. The myth of white dresses was killed long ago with Frederick Engels “The Man, the State, and Private Property”. He took apart the romance of family be revealing that the origin of the word family referred to how many slaves one man owned, thus reminding us that marriage started out concerning property and not love. However, Engels never mentioned anything negative about the cake. I mean, really, isn’t the whole point of getting married is justifying buying/baking/eating a multiple layer cake that is more intricately sculpted than any piece by Rodin? Well, as a foodie my answer is yes. I may not believe in marriage, but I do believe in cake.
My friend Alice and I quickly decided that a cake was absolutely necessary and that we would be the ones to bake up the surprise. It was a two day task, one that was made enjoyable by the licking of spoons, eating of the extra blackberries, and the excitement knowing that nobody was expecting a cake.
We decided on a blackberry-raspberry spice cake with orange-ginger cream cheese frosting. Despite our fear that the cake would be too dry, or that the berries would drown the cake into a purple pile of icing, it was an edible masterpiece.
The masterpiece was inspired by a recipe from Epicurious. With a few little changes, we baked this baby with love and topped it off with our hand-made wedding topper of two birds. Our card was a strip of photobooth pictures (I really meant it when I said that it is an addiction) saying “Eat this”.
The cake was not only a big surprise, but also a big hit. When something tastes good and makes people smile (the bride said it was the most beautiful wedding cake she had ever seen), you know it was worth it.
So, if you have any future weddings or celebrations or you simply feel like spending the weekend baking and eating a wedding cake (which I might very well do now that the weather has turned bad), here is the recipe.
Spice Cake with Blackberry-Raspberry Filling and Orange-Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
(Insert breath after such a long title)
For Cake:
2 cups cake flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
½ cup/1 stick butter
1 ½ cups (packed) brown sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup
Crème fraîche
For Filling:
¼ cup sugar
2 pint baskets of blackberries
2 pint baskets of raspberries
For Frosting:
1 ½ 8 ounce packages of cream cheese
¾ cup/1 ½ sticks butter
5 cups powdered sugar
2 tblsp. Crème fraîche
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-2 tblsp. Fresh grated ginger
3-5 tblsp., or to taste, Fresh orange juice
Leftover/more blackberries and raspberries to decorate the cake
Preheat oven to 200°C/350°F. Butter cake pans. Mix together dry ingredients (except for sugar). With an electric beater, beat butter. Once fluffy, add brown sugar and continue to beat until well blended. Beat in egg yolks and then, alternatively, beat in dry ingredients and Crème fraîche (in about 2-3 additions). In a separate bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold egg whites into batter and then transfer cake batter into the buttered pans.
Bake cake for about 45 minutes or until a knife comes out of the center clean. The colour should be a golden brown. Put on a rack to cool. Window sills come in handy for this part.
While cake is baking, mix berries and sugar and mash with a fork. For best results, the mixture should then be put in the fridge to set. This will prevent it from leaving purple traces on the white icing. We left the mixture in the fridge over night.
For the frosting, beat together cream cheese and butter. Once fluffy beat in sugar, crème fraîche, vanilla, fresh ginger, and orange juice.
Once the cake has cooled, cut cake horizontally into layers. We doubled the recipe, baked two cakes and then cut each cake in half. If you have a sturdy hand when it comes to knives, then you can try cutting the cake horizontally into three. Place bottom piece of cake on a plate and then cover with frosting. Place berry filling on top of frosting. Stick to the middle and do not venture too close to the edge in order to prevent leaking berries. Top with second piece of cake and repeat. Once cake is assembled with frosting and berries, cover this baby up with the cream cheese frosting that is left over from creating the layers and from the licking of spoons.
Refrigerate until frosting sets. For the finale, garnish with berries, mint leaves, cardboard drawings, photographs, et cetera.
Proceed with caution. This is a dangerously delicious cake.


o' cardboard tree, o' cardboard tree,

your leaves are so industrial.

When we were subletting, the apartment was overruled by white walls and cardboard boxes. The previous tenant was in between cities, in between moves and, therefore, left us with a small mountain of cardboard boxes. After being surrounded by their company each time I were to lie on the couch or eat at the table, I decided to steal one.

I kidnapped one of the cardboard boxes in an effort to transform it into something less dire to look at. After all, nothing says temporary like a pile of boxes, a poster of a naked woman, and masking tape.

I was inspired by
Scandinavia's latest love child, the silhouette of a tree. Trees have been showing up in design from hooks to wallpaper to bed sheets. This muse with leaves isn't restricted to Scandinavia though. Lola and Emily, a boutique in Montreal that I would happily give all of my money to if I had some in exchange for pretty dresses and mens styled dress shirts, used trees as a starting point for decoration. The store is designed to hide the fact that it is a store. It is modeled after a shared apartment of two women, Lola and Emily, both with unique senses of style. This translates into a boutique that uses beds and wardrobes instead of clothing racks. The decorations change and at one point one of the beds wore a white bed spread dressed in the black silhouette of a tree. Flanking the bed were tall wood carvings of more tree silhouettes.

With cardboard instead of wood and scissors instead of a saw, I set out to craft my own tree silhouette. Last month it kept the kitchen table company. Now that we have no kitchen table, it hangs out next to the bed.

The cardboard boxes and any obvious traces of the previous tenant have been packed into a rental van and moved to
Hamburg. The cardboard tree is what is left, a nice wall hanging of sorts that links how the apartment was to how it now is.


the art of roughing it

I am sitting on the floor of our new, well new-old, apartment, with my bum propped up on a pillow and my head against the kitchen door. The other rooms yet to have lights and although the light is brighter in the bathroom the noise of the ceiling fan began to get on my nerves.

After investigating twelve or so other potential homes, we ended up back where we started, heimstrasse, fitting really since Heim in German means home.

The next few weeks will be centered around decorating this place as if it were a Christmas tree, but first I am learning how to live without a fridge. I always thought that I was too bourgeois to be able to feel calm about not having a fridge. To be honest, I wasn’t at first. “I don’t care if we don’t have a bed, but a fridge, a fridge, how could we possibly live without a fridge?”

Well if one drinks green tea in the mornings instead of coffee with milk or eats quinoa with apples and walnuts instead of orange granola with milk, it really isn’t that difficult. I am actually quite enjoying this. The lack of fridge, lights, and furniture is rubbing up against my creative side. All I need is space to create, not things standing in that space. With all distractions removed I am left free to focus on the ceiling, on the floor, and the relationship that I create between the two.

Toby is moving all of our furniture that has been taking some time off from Switzerland back to Germany. I guess it is inevitable that we fill up this space, but I am glad that I have gotten to know it a bit better in its purest form before it is cluttered with cardboard trees, bookshelves, and herb plants.

He isn’t bringing back a fridge though, so I do have a little more time to play with the immediacy of food, as opposed to keeping it cool until one is ready.


from apartment to apartment

I have started a collection of apartments.

These apartments come in different sizes and different neighbourhoods. They come in different colours and on different floors. However, they have all been home to fabric birds, paper trees, and flea market books.

I wouldn't mind for this collection to be small, but it isn't. Once again it is Friday, meaning we have until Wednesday to find a new roof to put over our heads, preferably one with charm and a shower that is not in the kitchen.

But, at this point, I would be happy with just a roof.

Luckily, the one thing Berlin is rich in is apartments. Big apartments, small apartments, run-down apartments, chic apartments, Berlin's got them all, even on a few day's notice. From Kreuzberg to Treptow, I am once again on the move.


why i love germany:



new roads to old places

I spent a year cycling in rain, wind, and sun through Copenhagen's well designed streets. My bike became equal to my freedom. Minus the vengeful Nordic wind, my bike was the ideal way to get from point a to point b. Despite the practicality of the geography, the flat roads left something to be desired. I missed the curves of the ground. I missed how pavement is bent to reflect them. The flatness in combination with the street lines began to hurt my eyes. Before Copenhagen I had lived in a city built around a green mountain. It was a bit of a switch, a positive one for the legs and a negative one for the eyes. However, on our drive from Copenhagen to Berlin we discovered that Denmark is not that flat afterall.

In fact, we discovered that the Danish country side provides plenty beyond straight lines for the eye.


the cupcake monster

Berlin spent the month of July teasing me with the possibility of cupcakes. After having celebrated my Birthday this year with cupcakes, cocktail dresses, and tea, I decided that cupcakes need to make more of a regular appearance in my life and, especially, in my mouth. Moving to Berlin seemed to incorporate this decision perfectly. The city has a sweet-tooth for all home baked wonders. In fact, not only does it have a sweet tooth, but it also a small cupcake shop next to Zionskirche, the perfect destination after a Sunday afternoon spent rummaging through the flohmarkt for vintage sweaters and fresh-squeezed orange juice. However, on my first attempt to satisfy my cupcake craving I was not greeted by a hand-sized cake. Instead, my craving was stopped short by a sign saying that the cupcake bakers were on vacation. My stomach felt empty, but my senses told me that patience was all that was needed. I marked down their return date and left with the anticipation of early August cupcakes. Early August I returned, but once again there were no cupcakes, only this sign. This repeated each Sunday after flohmarkt hunting and orange juice drinking. My Sundays were missing cupcakes and so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Well, I have no muffin tin. I also have no money to buy a muffin tin because my wallet has been seduced by flohmarkt sweaters and fresh-squeezed orange juice. However, this was no obstacle. Living in Denmark taught me that cupcakes do not need muffin tins; they need only muffin liners, very strong liners. A rainy Friday became the perfect background for cupcake baking. The timing was perfect, just in time for the Birthday of twins.

These are the cupcakes I made. Epicurious was my first inspiration, fresh ingredients from the Turkish market was my second. My hands never follow a recipe that closely, but these are the ingredients that went into my much craved cupcakes. I learned that Danish muffin liners are stronger than German ones and so unless one is drinking øl in the land of viking beauties, I recommend using a muffin tin.

Carrot Cupcakes with Orange Icing
-4 medium carrots, shredded
-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
-a pinch of salt
-1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
-1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
-3 large eggs
-1 cup brown sugar
-1/2 cup unsalted butter
-1/4 cup apple sauce
(-a handful of dried cranberries)
(-a handful of toasted walnuts)

-1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
-granted zest of one orange
-fresh orange juice, 1/4-1/2 of one orange
-1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
-1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 185C. Whisk together dry ingredients. Mix together in a separate bowl butter, eggs, apple sauce, brown sugar and vanilla. Add carrot (and dried cranberries and toasted walnuts). Stir in flour mixture. Scoop into a muffin tin/ muffin liners. Bake 20-25 minutes.



a rose is a rose is a name

Welcome to my collection of recipes, words, tea cups, and dresser drawers - a collection rooted in mixing the elegant with the ridiculous, the obvious with the hidden - a collection that I hope will inspire.

person: I am barely tall enough to reach the wine glasses on the top shelf. However, years of bending and stretching in ballet classes taught me how to properly stand on my toes. I sleep with books under my pillow and wear lingerie at inappropriate occasions. I consider the kitchen to be the most important room in a home. This is why I like to decorate mine with deer stickers, cardboard cut-out trees, maps of cities, and empty bottles.

place: A one bedroom apartment in West Kreuzberg. A month ago I was rich and in Copenhagen. Now I am poor and in Berlin. However, this gives me enough time to make granola with maple syrup, an ode to my native land, and become an expert in German beer, both of which conveniently do not require wine glasses from the top shelf.

thing: A thing or things, singular or plural, a sentence will not do. This documentation of inspiration does not intend to be tidy. Besides, fragments are exciting because they require much more from the eye. A list - a grocery list, a wish list, a to-do lists, a reading list - is often suggestive enough.

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