Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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A Day in My Life – 7 February 2014

I’ve done a few Photo an Hour posts now, but all of them have been on Saturdays. So I decided to take part in Manda from Break the Sky’s Day in the Life linkup again this month… and this time do it on the actual day. That way, you can all get an insight into what I do on a typical day. As it happens, the day of a link up was a Friday, but they’re not really much different to any other week day.
*Note* Unlike with my photo an hour posts, there are large chunks of this day that I didn’t take photos for. I mean, I couldn’t exactly keep whipping the camera out while I was supposed to be working…

Elmo slippers and red pyjamas

Elmo slippers and red pyjamas

After hitting snooze a couple of times, at 6:05 am I’m finally up and on my way to the bathroom. Not even my Elmo slippers can make the earliness of the hour bearable… (supposedly people get used to waking up early after a while, and even wake up stupidly early at weekends when no alarm is set. I’d love to know who these people are, because I’ve certainly never met one!)

Once I’m showered and dressed, it’s time to dry my hair. Then I brush my teeth and get my bag packed for the day. Pictured above, waiting to go in my bag, are breakfast (a yoghurt) and lunch (some instant mashed potato thingy… the height of good nutrition, I know ;-))

Early morning in Karlsruhe

Early morning in Karlsruhe

At 7:20, I say goodbye to the boyfriend (so jealous that he’s still in bed) and head to the train station. The street lights are still on, but at least the sky is showing signs that daytime is just around the corner. Soon, I will actually get to see sunlight on week days!

By 7:40 am, I’m on the train and the sun is rising. It’s pretty much impossible to get decent photos of the sun rise from a moving train (especially with a camera as crappy as mine!), but I tried. The above two are the best of a bad bunch. After taking the sunrise photos, I did what about 90% of the people I commute with do on the morning train… closed my eyes. (In case you’re wondering, the remainder mostly read or get started on the days work. I hope I never, ever have a job where I need to do the latter! Starting work before actually arriving at work is just wrong!)

Apologies for the incredibly crappy photo...

Apologies for the incredibly crappy photo…

For the first time in ages, I managed to get on the bus at my destination (it’s supposed to leave precisely when my train arrives). I got to work at 8:10, and the first thing I did was fetch a spoon so I could eat my yoghurt ;-) After putting in the corrections for a small job that was due in the morning, I spent the rest of the morning working on an urgent translation due that afternoon (a horrible job that I didn’t understand a word of! Thank goodness for terminology.). At around 8:30, a colleague came and asked if anyone would like a tea. We had no Erkältungstee (tea for colds), so I chose one that called itself “Hol dir Kraft” (Rough translation: Get some power) and claims to be “enlivening”. The Germans have a tea for everything…

Feeeed me...

Feeeed me…

At 12:30, it was time for lunch. I ate at my desk so I could read the news (and blogs, of course). I was watched by a hungry looking giant flesh-eating bacteria (photo above especially for Aussa Lorens). After lunch it’s back to work – this time on a longer translation that I started yesterday. The text is IT-related and actually quite interesting. At 2 pm my proofreader sends me the corrections for the horrible translation from the morning and I enter those and prepare the job for delivery before returning to my nice translation for the rest of the afternoon.

Waiting for the train to leave

Waiting for the train to leave

4:45 is home time! Usually I leave at 5, but because I caught the bus this morning I can go a little earlier today. I have plenty of time, so I walk back to the train station and have a browse in one of the shops there. Then I go and stand in my usual position just inside the door of the train. Once everyone is on and the doors have closed, I’ll sit down on the step. There’s no point in even trying to get a seat on the way home… especially not on a Friday evening when all the people who usually take the next train are on mine, making it even more full!

Reusing an Amazon box...

Reusing an Amazon box…

Back in Karlsruhe, I briefly stop off at home to pick up a package I need to send then head to the post office. On the way home, I do a bit of shopping. Usually Saturday is shopping day, but since I’m in town anyway I might as well do it now!

It’s 10 to 8 by the time I get home, so once I’ve unpacked the shopping it’s time to make a start on tea. Not until after I’ve washed the dishes though…

Apologies vegetarainas/vegans for the photo of meat...

Apologies vegetarians/vegans for the photo of meat…

Jan and I have an agreement that I’ll make food for 8:30 pm-ish and if he’s not home and I haven’t heard from him then I’ll eat alone. Usually I make an exception for Fridays since I don’t have to be up as early the next morning, but this time I told him in the morning that I would want an early night and wouldn’t be waiting for him. I’m making a turkey  and chickpea curry (it would have been chicken but the shop had run out) in the hope that the spiciness will cause my cold to do one so I can actually enjoy my weekend! I get a text from Jan just after I’ve started cooking saying he won’t be leaving work for another 45 minutes, so it looks like I’ll definitely be eating alone. While I’m cooking, I intermittently pop into the spare room to do things on the computer… because apparantly I don’t spend enough time staring at a screen at work?!

Yes, I eat from my lap despite the fact that we have TWO tables...

Yes, I eat from my lap despite the fact that we have TWO tables…

Tea time! As expected, Jan is not here so I eat mine alone while reading a book. I’m a multi-tasking genius ;-)

Once I’ve eaten, I decide to put my pyjamas on and head to bed with my book… not how I usually spend a Friday night, but I’m trying to get rid of a cold, remember? I’m still reading in bed when Jan gets home, half an hour later, and fills my hot water bottle for me.
And that’s basically it for my day. Jan went to heat up his food and I continued reading til about midnight, then refilled my water glass, said goodnight to Jan and switched out the light. And now you know exactly how unexciting my life really is… ;-)

The link up is open all month, so feel free to join in on any day in February! You can read Manda’s Day in the Life post here: http://breakthesky.net/2014/02/07/day-life-february-2014/

A Day in the Life: A Linkup by Break the Sky

 


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Tuna Pasta Bake – for days when you REALLY don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen!

I had plans to make some elaborate meal involving chicken and garlic sauce for tea, but my local supermarket foiled me by having no chicken breasts left – the supermarket running out of things is a common occurence when I’m forced to go shopping after work! I had no plan B, and after dragging my disappointed self all the way round the supermarket then carrying the far too heavy bags home in the dark I really wasn’t in the mood for slaving over our evening meal anyway, so we’re having my usual “can’t be bothered to cook properly but don’t want to just shove some crispy chicken in the oven (plus there is no crispy chicken in the freezer)” fallback meal: Tuna Pasta Bake. Here’s how to make it:

The ingredients:
Pasta – something like penne or farfalle works best
Whatever vegetables you have to hand and can be bothered to deal with (I used courgette and leek today. On less lazy days, I might chop an onion. Lazier days involve a tin of peas or kidney beans)
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Tin of tuna (in water/juice, not oil)
Freshly ground black pepper
Mixed herbs
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Cheese (preferably Cheddar, but any strong cheese will do. The mild type where you need practically a whole block just to be able to taste anything won’t work here!)
Ready salted crisps

The method:
1. Place enough pasta for the number of people you are in a pan and add boiling water. Cook for about half the time the packet says to – it will continue cooking in the oven later and you don’t want it to go mushy!

2. While the pasta is cooking, chop up your vegetables – or just open the tins if you’re going for the really lazy method – and place them in an oven-proof dish.

Vegetables

Vegetables

3. Add the tinned tomatoes and tuna and stir everything together, then add herbs and spices.

4. Add the pasta and stir until most of the pasta is covered with tomato. If there isn’t enough tomato for all your pasta, add another tin (I make pasta for 2-3 people and one tin is enough for that)

Pasta

Pasta

5. Grate cheese all over the top of your pasta/veg mix. Or use ready-grated stuff.

Cheesy!

Cheesy!

6. Crush a handful of ready-salted crisps and sprinkle them over the top of the cheese.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

7. Place the dish in the oven at around 180° for about 20-30 minutes, until the cheese has melted and top is starting to go golden brown.

8. Dish out and enjoy

If you’re vegetarian or just don’t like fish, you can leave out the tuna and add extra vegetables for a vegetarian version – I’ve done it before and it works well. Oh, and the usual reaction I get when I mention the crushed crisps is a look of disgust, so if you’re currently sitting pulling faces at your computer then I would like to say try it first! It’s nice, honest!


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Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat’s Cheese Risotto

I would like to share with you what the boyfriend and I ate for tea tonight because it tasted absolutely amazing even if I do say so myself ;-) Plus, the recipe was made up entirely by yours truly with no input from my usual recipe websites.

Here’s what you’ll need (serves 2):
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
Olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
Risotto rice, however much your packet says makes 2 portions
Vegetable or chicken stock
100g soft goat’s cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Herbs/spices to taste
White wine, about half a glass (optional)

And the method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (you should do this before chopping your squash really), then put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large bowl (I never claimed this recipe was low calorie!) and add one clove or garlic, then stir in the butternut squash until it is all coated in garlic/olive oil mix. If there isn’t enough olive oil, add a bit more. Then add freshly ground black pepper and some other herbs/spices to taste. I used a bit of cayenne pepper and some dried mixed herbs (called “italische Kräuter” in Germany)

2. Place the butternut squash in an oven-proof dish and place it in the oven. You’re going to want to roast it for between 30 and 45 minutes, taking it out half way through to give it  a stir and check on the spices (I ended up adding salt plus more black pepper at the halfway point).

Some bits of squash are slighty green because it wasn't 100% ripe yet. It still tasted good though!

Some bits of squash are slighty green because it wasn’t 100% ripe yet. It still tasted good though!

3. Place some butter in a large saucepan and melt it then use it to fry the second garlic clove and the red onion. Once the vegetables are almost done, add your risotto rice and continue frying until the rice is glassy looking.

4. Make up the amount of stock your rice’s instructions tell you to (I used chicken stock because I had run out of vegetable, but vegetable would also be good) then pour the stock into the saucepan, stir and allow to simmer.

5. When the rice has soaked up almost all the liquid, add the goat’s cheese to the saucepan and stir it in. You should end up with a lovely creamy looking mixture.

6. By this time, your squash should be ready. Remove it from the oven, check the spices again then, when all is good, stir it into the saucepan with the other ingredients.

The squash all roasted

The squash all roasted

7. Once the squash is stirred in, add some white wine to the saucepan. I used roughly half a glass. Stir everything together and simmer until the white wine has mostly been absorbed and you’re left with a colourful mixture with a creamy consistency.

8. Enjoy your meal!

The finished article

The finished article

p.s. Looking at this post and any of my previous recipe and baking posts will probably tell you exactly why I’m not a food blogger!


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Autumn eats: Pumpkin and Potato Stew

StewNot exactly a quick meal this one with the amount of peeling and chopping it requires, but it’s colourful and warming on a dark autumn evening. All times are very rough, based on what I seem to remember doing – basically it’s a case of going by what you think seems right. We got four large-ish bowls out of the ingredients below, but amounts will differ depending on the size of your pumpkin and how much water you put in.

Ingredients

Olive oil
1-3 cloves of garlic (depending on size of cloves and how garlicky you like things), chopped or crushed
1 leek, chopped
1 pumpkin, cubed (I used Hokaido)
2-3 potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, sliced
350 ml vegetable stock
Freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

Method

  1. Heat some olive oil in a sauce pan then fry garlic for about a minute.
  2. Add the chopped leek and continue to fry for another 2 minutes or so.
  3. Add the cubes pumpkin and fry for 3-4 minutes. In the meantime, peel and cube the potatoes.
  4. Add the potatoes to the pan and continue frying for another 3-4 minutes. If stuff starts to stick to the bottom at any point, add a tiny bit of water to the pan and use it scrape the stuck bits back into the mixture.
  5. Add the sliced carrots to the pan and fry for another 2-3 minutes, then season with black pepper and a bit of cayenne pepper (if using).
  6. Pour 350 ml of chicken stock into the pan and stir well, scraping anything that’s stuck to the bottom back into the mixture.
  7. If the vegetables aren’t submerged in liquid, add water to the pan until they are then place a lid or cover on the pan and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes
  8. Taste your stew and add extra seasoning, if desired, then serve.

Bowl of stew


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Mississippi Mud Pie – Take 2

I know I’ve already posted today, but I promised I would get a picture of Mississippi Mud Pie the second up today or tomorrow, and with so many other posts planned this is the only way I’m going to get everything in. There just aren’t enough days in the week any more…

Sooo,  this one’s for you, Lady of the Cakes!

A small Mississippi Mud Pie this time, since only two of us were eating it.

I definitely won’t be adding melting marshmallows to my list of talents any time soon! No matter how much I stirred, they stuck to the bottom. I even remembered to break the giant marshmallows into small pieces this time, but it didn’t help… as soon as I turned on the heat, they all stuck together in one huge clump anyway. Then, when I transferred them to the bowl ready for mixing with the other ingredients, they started hardening again before I could bling. Pouring on boiling hot melted chocolate helped a bit, but I still ended up with marshmallow lumps in the finished pie, which isn’t supposed to happen!

A melty marshmallowy mess...

A melty marshmallowy mess…

This time, I decorated with pink and white Schokolinsen. Chocolate in a sugar shell… so a bit like a giant German version of Smarties… except the Linsen taste vaguely of mint, which always confuses me. I added some heart-shaped sugar decoratuins to fill out the middle. And here’s the completed pie:

Mississippi Mud Pie 2

It was very tasty, but I think it will be a while before I try something that requires melting marshmallows again!


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Things I HAVE done before 30: Part 3 – Education and skills

It’s been aaaaages since I started writing this series. Berlin and day trips and other happenings got in the way and made me forget about it. But now I’ve remembered I’m back with the third (and final) installment of things I have achieved before turning 30. I decided to call this post “Education and skills”, for want of anything better. If you haven’t read Part 1: Travel and Part 2: Experiences, feel free to click the links. Right here, you can read about all my education and skills related achievements.

Before 30, I have…

Got two degrees

A Bachelor’s in German with International Relations and a Master’s in Translation, to be specific. I did the Master’s part time via remote learning while working full time, and managed to pass with a merit – an achievement I am genuinely proud of!

Passed two Open University short courses

Start Writing Fiction and Science Starts Here.

Learned to speak another language

German… in case that wasn’t obvious ;-) I wouldn’t say I’ve reached native speaker level (I’m not sure that’s possible after the age of about 6), but I’m pretty fluent! I’ve been trying to learn Spanish for about 4 years now, but unfortunately haven’t been getting very far. It’s sooo much harder than German!

Read many, many books

Open Book

Open Book (Photo credit: White Magnolia Photography)

I’m counting reading under education simply because it didn’t seem to fit in either of the other two posts, and I really have read a lot of books. I wouldn’t even know where to begin counting them all! I have always loved books and reading, starting with Each, Peach, Pear Plum in nursery, then moving on to the likes of Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, the Narnia books and later Point Horror and The Babysitter’s Club, and my first “adult” books by Agatha Christie. One thing I was always guaranteed to get for my birthday, no matter how little money there was to spare, is new books. Forever grateful to my family for that!

Learned to use several computer programs

There weren’t that many computers when I was a kid (I still remember having an old BBC computer in the primary school classroom!) and even once PCs did appear we never had one at home. My first introduction to a PC was in IT lessons as a teenager. Since then I’ve learned to use most of the usual programs (Word, Excel, etc.) and also four different translation memory softwares… soon to be five as I’m just starting with a new one at work! My computer scientist boyfriend would probably laugh at my so-called “skills” but personally I’m amazed that I can do anything on a computer! I’m still convinced they’re plotting to take over the world…

Learned to cook (and bake)

I consider cooking and baking to be a skill (and also something pretty much anyone should be able to do. Following a recipe isn’t that hard!). But I will be the first to admit that I’ve gone beyond the basics and can now whip up some pretty amazing concoctions. Being able to make an excellent Christmas dinner may not be particularly glamorous, but we can’t all be musicians, artists or geniuses and there aren’t many people who don’t enjoy a good meal (or delicious chocolate brownie…)

Aaaand that’s all for this series. Next time I ask myself what I’ve been doing all my life I’ll have to look back at this and remind myself that, actually, I have done quite a lot. Now if only I could figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life (other than not end up as a career woman, that is, however convinced my family may be that precisely that is my fate).

In case you missed them, links to the first two parts:


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Turkey mince and vegetable pasta bake

I had planned to make vegetable enchiladas for last night’s tea, but when I went to Karstadt, I discovered that they had turkey mince in (something that has happened so few times I would only need the fingers of one hand to count!) so I decided to grab some while I could. At home, after a quick look at what I had in the cupboards/fridge, I decided to make a pasta bake with turkey and vegetables.

To make this, you will need:
Turkey mince (obviously) – 500g was what I had
An onion, chopped
Garlic – 1 or 2 cloves, depending on how big they are and how you like it
Any vegetables you fancy/want to use up – I had a courgette, 2 carrots and a small tin of peas
A tin of tomatoes or tomato passata (I would have preferred the tin of tomatoes, but it turned out I had none left…)
Pasta of your choice (small ones, like farfalle, will work best) – 300g went into mine to use up a packet

Garlic and onions

Garlic and onions

Start by frying the garlic and onion together in a frying pan, then add the mince and fry until it’s cooked through. In the meantime, boil some water for the pasta.

Add the vegetables to the pan, putting in those that take longest first (in my case, courgettes and carrots – peas went in after a few minutes). Also add the pasta to the water once it’s boiled.

Turkey mince and veg

Turkey mince and veg

When the vegetables are starting to get soft, pour in the tomatoes and stir everything in together. Continue cooking until the pasta is ready (you’ll want to cook the pasta for slightly less time than usual).

Place the pasta and turkey/vegetables mixture in an oven-proof dish and stir everything in together.

Almost ready for the oven...

Almost ready for the oven…

Now grate some cheese over the top of the pasta mixture – I’m trying to be healthy, so I used much less than I usually would. (Even better would have been to use low fat cheese, but the shop I went to didn’t have any so I stuck with ordinary Cheddar).

Cheeese! Now it's ready for the oven...

Cheeese! Now it’s ready for the oven…

Place the dish in the oven and leave it until the cheese is melted – roughly 20-30 minutes should do, depending on your oven.

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

And there you have it… a healthy and fairly simple meal. The amounts here were enough for Jan and I plus and extra portion for me to take to work today.
Apologies for the crapness of some of my photos by the way… there’s a reason this is not a recipe blog!


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Turkey and Coconut Milk Risotto

I made a risotto for tea last night that came out pretty well, so I thought I’d share it with you. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the actual cooking process because it wasn’t until I sat down to eat it that I thought “Wow, this is good. I should share it on my blog!”. I did take a picture of the end product though, so at least can see how it looked once it was finished! :-D

Bevchen’s Turkey and Coconut Milk Risotto

 

My risotto

My risotto

Ingredients (This amount served 2 of us)

About 20-30 g butter
Olive oil, for frying
150 g risotto rice
Around 350 ml chicken stock
Around 500 g bite-sized pieces of turkey breast
One tin of coconut milk
One red onion
A handful of green beans (the long ones… Prinzessbohnen in German), roughly chopped
Two garlic cloves, crushed or chopped
Dried chilli flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
Pine nuts (optional), for decoration

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan and use it to sautee the red onion
  2. At the same time, heat some olive oil in a frying pan and use that to fry the garlic
  3. Add the rice to the saucepan with the onion and stir until coated with butter, then add about 100 ml of the chicken stock and stir. Wait until all the stock is absorbed before adding another 100 ml. Continue like this until you’ve used all the stock.
  4. Meanwhile, stir some ginger into the pan with the garlic then add the turkey and fry until almost cooked through. Close to the end of the cooking time, add the beans
  5. Once all the stock is soaked up, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in some chilli flakes and black pepper, then pour in the coconut milk and return to a low heat to warm through
  6. Ad the chicken mixture to the rice/coconut milk pan and stir everything together, then give the mixture a tate to see if any more seasoning is needed. I added extra chilli flakes and black pepper. The chicken stock provided enough salt, in my opinion, but you could add extra salt if you like
  7. Dish the risotto out into bowls and sprinkle pine nuts on top to decorate (and because they taste gooood!)

Voila! A simple yet healthy (ish) meal!
It would probably taste even better if it had fresh ginger and chillis in, but as it was a “what can I make with the things I currently have in the flat?” meal and I hadn’t been shopping, I had neither of those things to work with.

Whole green beans in a carton.

These are like the type of beans I mean, except mine were thinner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Cross cultural cooking: Toad in the hole

It had been ages since I last made toad in the hole, so when I saw it on Lou’s Labyrinth I really, really wanted to eat it again. So that’s what Jan and I had for dinner yesterday.

I always use a recipe that I got from BBC Food years ago, and which doesn’t even seem to be on the site any more. Looking at it just now, I found several similar ones but none that were exactly the same. Mine is a very simple recipe – flour, eggs (four of them!), milk, salt and pepper for the batter. I always add dried rosemary as well, although it’s not in the original recipe. And, of course, sausages. Being in Germany, I don’t actually have access to the kind of sausages one would normally use for toad in the hole, but Bratwurst work surprisingly well. Cross-cultural cooking at its best!

Toad in the hole


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Pancakes!

Tuesday was pancake day in the UK and Ireland (and also Australia, New Zealand and Canada, it seems).

This is one of the few English traditions that Jan and I keep alive. He’s not a fan of the German carnival – which mostly involves people dressing up, getting drunk and acting like idiots – so when I mentioned that our Shrove Tuesday tradition consisted of stuffing yourself with pancakes (supposedly to get rid of all the fatty/sweet/unhealthy things in your cupboards before giving up everything for Lent) he was all for it.

Pancakes

Pancakes may be the easiest thing in the world to make. My batter consists of 200 g flour, a pinch of salt, 2 eggs and 500 ml of milk. That is it. Really, I could make pancakes any day of the year – I always have those ingredients in the house!

Some people choose to eat pancakes for breakfast on pancake day. Not me! That’s waaaay too much effort first thing in the morning. (I have to leave the house at 10 past 7. Sticking some bread in the toaster is the most you’ll get out of me at that time!). Instead, we have pancakes for tea – and by that I mean the entire meal consists of pancakes, not just dessert. This year, I decided on a chicken, bacon and leek mixture for the savoury filling.

Chicken, bacon and leek

Of course, we had sweet fillings, too – including the classic sugar and lemon juice. As a child, it would never have occurred to me to put anything else on a sweet pancake! I also put out some chocolate hazelnut spread, some vanilla extract and some caramel flavoured syrup.

Sweet stuff

English pancakes aren’t like American ones. They’re close to crêpes, although not as thin. They do need to be thin enough to roll up though! In the UK, we refer to the thicker, smaller type of pancakes as drop scones or Scotch pancakes.

Here’s one of my pancakes with filling on, waiting to be rolled up:

Pancake with chicken

The mixture made a total of 9 pancakes, so I had 4 and Jan had 5. Quite restrained for pancake day – usually I would make many, many more. After all, it’s tradition! ;-)

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