Friday, July 31, 2015

Cauliflower Casserole

I’ve been singularly uninspired to cook for months (February packed up and sold house, March in temporary quarters, April unpacking boxes of stuff, May getting used to new job/schedule, June travel, and here we are!). I was finally motivated to haul out the garlic press when I read an interesting recipe for cauliflower casserole in the military newspaper for the base where I work. The original could be labeled a “cholesterol special” and didn’t include garlic, so of course I made modifications.
Here’s what to do: cook a head (or two)  of cauliflower, or use a bag (or 2) of frozen/thawed. Boil noodles in the proportion that you’d like for the meal- if it’s a vegetable side, a main meal, and how many heads/bags of cauliflower you used. 2 cups of raw macaroni or 3 cups of larger pasta could be a starting point for the amount. Sautee onion, garlic, and any real meat you’d like to use (hamburger, turkey, bacon, ham, etc.)- I didn’t use any meat in this casserole. Finally, whisk 4 eggs and 1/3 to ½ cup low fat sour cream or milk (the recipe calls for a “small jar” of cream). Have ¾ cup of grated cheese on hand- of course I used Gruyere, therefore omitting additional salt or pepper in the recipe.
Bern, Switzerland
Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish if you used 2 head/bags of cauliflower. Spread cauliflower out, then cover with drained noodles. Add onion/meat mix, then pour egg mixture over it all. Sprinkle with grated cheese. I was instructed to bake at 180 Celcius for 30-40 minutes, which worked fine. I’m guessing 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes- check if cheese is gently browned on top. Next time I will mix everything together, since the layered noodles were a bit too crispy for me this time.
Mail delivery in Bern, Switzerland

Since photos of cauliflower and raw noodles are not that exciting, here are some travel photos along with one of the done casserole. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A day of cheese and chocolate in Switzerland

We have taken several tours from the Ramstein/Kaiserslautern area, and appreciate the bus transportation and helpful guides. We decided to copy a tour idea, but travel independently & stay in a hotel rather than go on a 25 hour bus tour to Switzerland.
We drove through Basel, Switzerland, to Bern, and launched our gastronomic tour the following morning. First up was “La Maison du Gruyere”, which means the house of Gruyere (a type of swiss cheese). We took a self-paced audio tour and learned about cheesemaking in Switzerland. The 7 Euro tour fee included a sample of Gruyere cheese, with slices of differently-aged samples…the longer the aging, the more flavorful the cheese. We had lunch at the factory restaurant, enjoying a phenomenal mac’n’cheese and a slice of quiche. I’ll probably never want to make either of those again without Gruyere cheese!
Just up the hill from the cheese factory is a historic castle, providing gorgeous views and a self-paced tour. The surrounding buildings were restaurants, hotels, and shops, but we were eager to proceed to our next stop, so we didn’t spend as much time at Chateau du Gruyere as we could have. Thankfully the castle and church were cooler than the outrageously high outdoor temps.
right= filling of chocolate, middle= hose pours liquid chocolate over the filling, left= next stop: drying tube
The Cailler Chocolate factory tour was informative, fun, and delicious. The first sample of their original chocolate (pictured here in production) was “OK”. The second sample of a small piece of milk chocolate was decent, compared with the German chocolates we’ve become accustomed to. However, the “all-you-can-eat” sample room contained many excellent chocolates that I wouldn’t hesitate to buy. I’m not the biggest fan of white chocolate, but the sample was quite tasty. Their filled chocolates were superb, and only our wallets were happy about the incredible heat wave at hand, so we didn’t buy one single box of chocolates (you all would have received Swiss chocolate soup in the mail). I appreciated the advice I had received before the tour to bring a bottle of water along, in order to pace myself in the sample room. One of each was enough, anyway. The small caramel/chocolate cups were the winner.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Top 10 things I miss about the US when I’m living in Europe

10. Freshly-ground peanut butter from Whole Foods (don’t think it’s a good idea to ship it…may try to make some myself- any recipe tips?)
9. Central air conditioning…although some rooms in the US seemed “too cold” with a/c. Most gyms over here don't have a/c?!?!?!?
8. Stores have longer hours in the US, which is convenient for customers.
7. Lobstah! Rolls, salad, whole, etc.
6. Songs from “80’s on 8” (satellite radio)
5. Wider streets and massive parking spaces
4. Shipping that is promised to arrive in 7-10 days and actually does
3. My hair stylist, dentist, massage therapist, primary care physician, chiropracter and optometrist (although I’ve found good folks over here)
2. My church and music peeps (again, am meeting nice people here)

1. Friends and family- always connected by e-mail, FB, skype, etc.

What do you miss most about home when you are traveling?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How to “Therme” with bathing suits near K-town

There are plenty of “textile free” spas in Germany, but for those of us who prefer to wear bathing suits, here are some choices:
The Saarland-Therme is just about an hour west of the Kaiserslautern area, and the entire main floor of the large building is bathing-suit mandatory. We enjoyed the indoor pool, encircled by mesh reclining chairs, as well as the surrounding hot tubs and specialty pools (different mineral properties). There are indoor stairs descending to the outdoor pool, which is also fun. We were intrigued by the circular area where water pushes people along so you are walking quite quickly through the water. The restaurant on the upper level welcomes guests wearing bathrobes or large towels over their bathing suits, and the food is good. 2 hours cost 14.50 Euro, and 4 hours are 19.50 Euro. Bring your own towel, bathrobe, and flip flops, or rent them. We enjoyed ourselves and will definitely return. Of course, no photos of these pools! So here are some photos of our recent trip to Switzerland.

Badewelt in Sinsheim is just over an hour east of K-town. We went there after going to Ikea in Mannheim, and had a different but also positive experience. Changing rooms in the Saarland therme (above) are separated by gender (or you can elect a co-ed changing room there). At Badewelt, the locker room is mixed gender, but there are locking stalls for changing, and the showers/toilets are separate. The massive pool area has dozens of live palm trees, and there are several hot tubs, specialty pools, and a snack bar area. The snack bar calls itself a restaurant because they do serve hot meals such as pasta, but it’s self serve, whereas in Saarland there were waitstaff. The vinyl covered, padded reclining chairs were packed close together, and the day we went was a party atmosphere compared to the quieter Saarland place. A swim up bar is near the revolving door to the outside pool. Bathing suits are required in the large palm area, and the sauna area (separate fee) is textile-free. The water at Badewelt dried out our skin a bit more than Saarland, but it was fun. Fees for 1.5 hours are 14 Euro, and 3 hours are 17 Euro. We arrived just as a sporting event was ending at the arena next door, so I imagine that traffic can be bad depending on arena activities. We’ll check on that next time.

The third place to describe is in Baden-Baden, about one and three-quarters hours east of K-town. We went there on the way back from Switzerland, but we both preferred the first two thermes described above.  The Caracalla Therme in Baden-Baden has the same set-up, with the main level of pools with bathing suits, and a separate upstairs “textile free” sauna area. There were no separate mineral pools here like at the other 2 places. The snack area was counter-service, with ice creams, salads, and pasta. The changing area was similar to Badewelt (co-ed with locking stalls but gender separate showers/toilets). A three-hour visit is 19 Euro per person. There was not much shade around the outdoor pool, so bring sunscreen. Note that there are other thermes in Baden-Baden, at least one of which is entirely textile free. There is a fee for parking in a garage, unlike the other 2 thermes, due to lack of on-street parking/no parking lot in Baden-Baden.

Do you know of any bathing-suit friendly thermal spas in Europe to recommend?