Pumpkin Chili and White Sage Whip

Pumpkin Chipotle Chili with polenta, yogurt and roasted pumpkin seeds
It comes as no surprise that different cultures have different ideas of what is healthy. In the Balkans, people think strong coffee several times daily is good for the digestion. Turks sprinkle fresh parsley on everything and drink herb teas but are generous with the oil and dairy. And in Germany, many people chain smoke continuously but make sure to buy certified organic produce. I've realized that my specialized quirk as an American is that I think pretty much everything is unhealthy except for vegetables. 

Not that I don't eat sugar, flour, caffeine, alcohol, etc, its just that I make sure to feel guilty while I consume them, like a good American.  Which is pretty much the opposite of my husband, who thinks that everything is healthy except for McDonalds and any form of medicine. (Just trying to get this man to take an aspirin generally leads to a rant about American pharma ending in "pills instead of feelings!")

So when we decided to both try to start eating healthier, I knew this was going to be a piece of cake. Everything I eat is already not a cheeseburger so it should be easy to satisfy his demands. To satisfy his desire for healthy lunch type stuff, we've been cranking out various types of aufstrich- aka, spreads. This white bean, sage, and roasted almond spread ("White Sage Whip"from Hot Knives fit the bill awesomely and is just decadent enough to glam up brown bread and veggies.

As for dinner, my traditional Chili packed with beans and pumpkin and spiked with chocolate, beer and chipotle goes awesomely with (healthy!) polenta and soy yogurt. Its not exactly rabbit food, but neither is it a cheeseburger. (You can find various approximate recipes here and here.)

Hot Knives' White Sage Whip
Song of the Day: Arcade Fire- Reflektor


Resisting Fall

Its truly amazing how the weather in Berlin takes seasons so literally. There doesn't seem to be such a thing as Indian summer here. When summer is over, the sun disappears, people pull out their coats, and the leaves change colors with frightening rapidity. Its hard to remember that just a few weeks ago I was making excuses for not swimming nude in a lake. (Germans love that shit.) Nope, summer is brief and departs suddenly...

And yet, I'm not really ready to start eating (or for that matter, preparing) stews and casseroles again. I'm still in the mood for light and healthy(ish) dinners that make my husband complain. So I've ventured into some roasted vegetables and pumpkins, but haven't fully jumped into Fall yet. Above is a perfect example: a roasted vegetable salad with orange dressing. I simply roasted some beets, pumpkin and mushrooms, then whipped up a dressing of orange juice, agave nectar and white wine vinegar (+salt and pepper and olive oil) to drizzle all over. Perfectly delicious and still not wintry.

Then the other day I had this lovely meal- roasted beets with pumpkin seeds, sauteed spinach with garlic, sesame rice and sliced Asian pear.

Not exactly hearty fare, but then, I have plenty of months for that. #WinterIsComing, folks...

Song of the day: Fiona Apple- Dull Tool


Amsterdam is for lovers!

Greetings! I'm back from a hiatus forced by a circumstantial triumvirate of lost camera, lost appetite, and Berliner work hijinx. Now that the summertime is almost over I will return from my hideaways on instagram and twitter and resume my occasional posting of vegan food experiments and discoveries from wherever I happen to be posted in Europe. This week? Amsterdam!

Literally every time you tell someone you live in Europe the first thing they want to know is whether you've been to Amsterdam (or more specifically, smoked pot in Amsterdam.) Not being particularly into a) drugs or b) hordes of stoned tourists, I was never really keen to visit the city, despite reports that it is "soooo cute!" So when we got invited there for the wedding of two friends, I was looking forward but did not hold out high hopes for falling in love with the city.

But I'm willing to admit when I'm wrong. Amsterdam is awesome! And compared to Berlin I don't even think the drug/ tourist/ party equation is a major part of the appeal. What's far more compelling is the fact that the city is entirely navigable by bike and is filled with water, gardens, and parks- meaning you don't have to spend your time in one small "tourist district" to enjoy the sights. Amsterdam's charms are well distributed.

It didn't hurt that we had absolutely gorgeous weather while we were there. Amsterdam is probably best seen meandering through narrow streets on a rented bike (recycled rentals is central and boasts the cheapest rentals in town at 5 euros a day). Along the way your are fairly sure to find a good place to drink beer, listen to live music, or lie around in the park- and repeating these 3 activities in between meals is as good a way to spend a vacation as I can think of. Maybe punctuated with a visit to the recently reopened Rijksmuseum to check out the Dutch masters, or to Anne Frank's home for a chilling but fascinating historical tour.

When it comes time to eat there is plenty of your average European cafe fare to choose from, but a shady colonial past has also left Amsterdam with a lust for exotic tastes not often seen in European street food. Nasi goreng, Roti, curries, tempeh, plantains, cous-cous peanut sauce... the Dutch have been all over, and brought the food back to prove it. I was treated to a super-cheap platter of flaky roti with potatoes and green beans in "gravy" and crispy savory tempeh at one tiny restaurant- with a side of fried plantains and coconut juice. That would be tough to find in Berlin for sure, and here I saw plenty of restaurants with similar offerings (just double check if vegetarian = vegan.) Another evening in up-and-coming neighborhood De Pijp we had a huge meal of Moroccan and Middle Eastern specialties at Bazar, a huge restaurant filling an ex-synagogue. We stuffed ourselves with huge platters of dolmades, hummus, baba ganoush and grilled veggies with cous-cous. Who would have thought the Dutch, famous for questionable deep-fried meat products, would have such an array of vegan and vegetarian specialties to sample?

Another cool place we checked out was Moeders restaurant.This is definitely less vegan friendly (although its right around the corner from where a brand new Vegetarian Butcher(?) will open) but its so cute that it might be worth a visit if your with a mixed-menu crowd. The restaurant's theme- Mothers- is carried through its decor, which consists of hundreds of photographs of people's moms. The menu is also organized by different price levels of homey Dutch classics, which tend towards the meat-oriented but have a sprinkling of vegan and vegetarian offerings. I had a delish salad with pumpkin, figs, and an orange scented dressing that was to die for while my man dined on excellent versions of Dutch home-cooking.(Including the famous Hutspot!)

All in all I was pleasantly surprised to find my preconceptions of Amsterdam dashed to pieces. The city is perfect for a romantic getaway filled with exotic eats and homey, relaxing scenery. And oh yeah, if you wanna get high I'm sure you can arrange that too. :)

PS- Oh yeah, its VEGAN MOFO! I'm not participating this time around, but I will be following along at home. Check it out--->http://www.veganmofo.com/