It’s My Birthday!

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The weather has been gloomy and rainy for the past week or so, but yesterday, on my birthday the sun was shining bright and it was a beautiful morning. I woke up to the sound of my four year old daughter Anna calling out to me from her bedroom and the first words on her lips were “Happy birthday Mommy!”. This put a smile on my face along with the little handmade gifts that she gave me throughout the day like drawings, a paper ring and a little pink flower that she had picked. She even tried to give me one of her new sticker books and a couple of her prized DVDs. What a sweetie!  I proceeded to make blueberry shortcakes for us for breakfast (which took no time at all) that were delicious and slightly decadent as breakfast fare, but hey it’s my birthday!

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After breakfast we made a quick trip to the old playground near out house that we take care of and cleaned up an old slide that was donated from one of our neighbors for all the neighborhood kids to use. We also checked on our plants in the raised beds there which have been under attack by a wayward, formerly domestic, rabbit as of late.

After lunch we headed off to a scenic town right on the river Rhine to spend the rest of the day. Königswinter, my favorite town in Germany, is a tiny little town about a half hour south of Cologne that is not far from the city of Bonn. Anna was able to ride her “laufrad”, a no pedal, foot powered bike, there as Thomas and I walked along the beautiful paths that follow the river and wind through the rural countryside that is known for its Siebengebirge or seven hills. It was a gorgeous day, sunny, warm and perfect for being outside on a bike/laufrad or going for a walk. I had a very good birthday this year indeed.
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– In my fourth month

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA– Anna riding uphill, with help

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 Blueberry Shortcakes

Adapted from the Vegetarian Times Strawberry Shortcakes
Serves 4

For the Biscuits

1 1/4 cups Flour
1 Tbs Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
3 Tbs cold Butter
6 oz plain Yogurt
A little bit of milk for brushing on the top

Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a baking sheet with baking paper or butter and flour the surface of the pan. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl then cut in the butter until tiny pieces no larger than a small pea remain. Stir in the yogurt and work the dough gently with the spoon or your hands until it just comes together, do not over work the dough. Pat the dough out onto a floured surface until it’s about 3/4-1 inch in height. Cut into four rounds. You may need to cut two then reshape the dough to cut the other two rounds. Brush the tops with milk or cream and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the center is no longer wet but springs back a little when pressed.

For the Cream

2 cups of vanilla or unsweetened Greek or strained* Yogurt
2/3 cup Heavy Cream
2-4 Tbs Orange Juice

If using unsweetened yogurt you will also need:
3 Tbs Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract or 1 packet of Dr. Oetker’s Bourbon Vanilla

*Use more than you will need because you will loose some volume due to water loss. Place the yogurt in a cheesecloth or paper towel lined strainer set over a large bowl and cover. Let it sit in the fridge for 2-3 hours and up to overnight.

Whip cream with sugar and vanilla, if using, until stiff. Gently fold in the yogurt and orange juice to taste.

For the Berries

1 pint sized container of fresh Blueberries

To assemble the cakes:

Cut the biscuits in half, add the cream and blueberries and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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In a Pickle

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I’ve been craving pickles a lot lately. The crisp, slightly sour and a bit spicy kosher dill type pickles, that you can find without even batting an eyelash in NY but don’t seem to exist where I am living right now in Germany. I wanted a no sugar pickle, just cucumbers, vinegar, dill, salt and of course garlic. This refrigerator pickle recipe is super quick and easy! I like that there is no fuss with canning, they go straight in the fridge and are ready to eat in no time!

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I know this sounds awfully cliche but normally I don’t feel the need to consume pickles on almost a daily basis, at least not as much as I have been lately. And maybe you can guess why my consumption and craving for this tasty marinated snack has gone through the roof in the past three months?

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Quick Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Adapted from allrecipes.com

Makes Two 1 Liter Jars
8-10 small pickling Cucumbers
3 1/2 cups of Water
1 1/2 cups White Vinegar
1 1/2 Tablespoons finely ground Sea Salt
4 Cloves of fresh Garlic
1 large bunch of Dill with flowers

You will need to have ready two clean mason jars with lids or other type of glass jar with about a 1 liter capacity.  I used Weck jars. Wash the dill and put two flower heads in each jar along with some additional dill branches if you want. Wash the cucumbers very well with a vegetable brush under running water and then cut off the tip of each cucumber where the stem comes out. If you like spears cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and then in half again or you can just cut them into halves. Pack the sliced cucumbers into the jars making sure the height of the cucumbers doesn’t exceed the height of the jars (if they do you can just trim a little off the ends until they fit nicely into your jars). Peel and cut each clove of garlic into four slices and pack the wedges of garlic between the sliced cucumbers in the jars. In a medium sized saucepan heat the water, vinegar and salt, stirring to dissolve the salt and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Once boiling pour the hot liquid over the cucumbers, filling the jars to the very top. Put the lids on securely and when the jars are cool enough to handle transfer them to the fridge. Allow them chill before trying one. I waited about 3 hours and they were good. Overnight and they were even better. Store in the fridge and use within 3 hours and up to 3 days.

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