Interesting snacks

I always like to try new food items and you never know what wacky food combinations will work well. This week I grabbed two new snacks, Snips and Schoko Pfeffer-Nüsse, and two favorites I discovered last year, Lebkuchen and Quarkini.

Snips are the same consistency of Cheetos (maybe a little less gummy on the teeth), and instead of cheese flavoring, they are made with peanuts. It is sort of like eating puffed rice peanut butter. Not bad, but not something I think I’ll be madly craving when we go back to the states.

Despite my hope that all things Christmas would not appear in shops until after Thanksgiving, most grocery stores have started selling Christmas candy and cookies. In one such display at the checkout line, I grabbed a bag labeled Schoko Pfeffer-Nüsse. Schoko is short for schokolade, or chocolate. Pfeffer is pepper, but I temporarily forgot this, and thought it meant peppermint. And Nüsse is nuts. I was hoping it was some sort of chocolate peppermint and nut cookie. No such luck. These were a soft gingerbread cookie flavored with real pepper, and dipped in a chocolate and unknown white candy shell. Not all that great, and I’m a fan of mixing things like chili and chocolate.

My favorite treat right now is definitely the Lebkuchen. They sell it in little packages and at the markets and grocery stores. Even the cheap ones at the drug stores are good! The Swiss version of Lebkuchen is a tiny (usually heart-shaped) cake or really soft gingerbread cookie, filled with a dark apricot preserve, and the whole thing dipped in dark chocolate. They are extremely addictive, and I will buy as many bags as I can to take home with us.

Last but certainly not least is the Quarkini, found at local bakeries. They remind me of a cross between a really good Cruller donut with a slightly creamy, but light and airy center, shaped like a large donut-hole and rolled in sugar. I’m not sure why these only appear in the winter, but I love them! They almost never make them home, as we eat them while walking. Too bad they usually cost at least a Franc each, because I could probably eat a dozen at one sitting! Based on the name, I believe that these treats are made with Quark (a type of curd or cream cheese that is often added to desserts or yogurt over here).

Quarkini

All this snack-talk is making me nibbly. I think I’ll go see if there are any more Lebkuchen in the pantry!

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Do you know where your eggs come from?

I do!

Most of egg packages here in Switzerland have a code printed on the inside. Our eggs this week happen to come from the nearby town of Neftenbach. We went there recently for their annual festival, and 800th year anniversary of the town. I can also tell you that my eggs came from a guy named Beat Möckli.

Also, eggs aren’t really sold as brown or white – it’s whatever is available is what you get. There are generally only two sizes of eggs, too. You can get ones that are above 53 g or below.   The smaller ones are less expensive, but man, are they tiny! And overall, eggs are nearly twice as much as eggs bought in Texas.

There is one thing that I don’t understand about eggs. The egg tray that was provided for us only holds nine eggs – Swiss eggs are sold 10 to a carton.

See? I have to put the extra egg up on the side. So strange.

Fresh Fruit of the Summer

Every few weeks here in the summer, a different fruit comes into season. Unlike the mega-grocery stores back in the states, you usually can only get the fruit that is in season. Instead of bland watery strawberries, or peaches that have been genetically engineered to be shipped hundreds or thousands of miles, in Switzerland they mostly still stick to only selling what’s fresh and good. Fresh fruit picked at the right time (rather than too early) tastes incredible. The only bad thing about having really good fruit like this is that it goes bad quickly and you have to eat it, can it, or bake it within a week of bringing it home. I try to buy fruit grown here in Switzerland, but occasionally pick up items from France, Italy, and oddly enough, Israel (the latter only in winter, though). OK, off my soapbox about the US farming industry and on to the goods!

Lately nectarines and apricots have been all the rage. Blueberries just hit their height, and we’ve probably bought at least a half a dozen cartons, mostly devoured by my son, so I have no pictures of those. Recently peaches have popped up too.

Swiss Peaches and Nectarines

Today, though, I found the biggest plumpest juiciest cherries at a road-side stand. I’ve never seen cherries this big!

The skin is thin, the fruit sweet, and I couldn’t help but stop and eat a few on the walk home. Eddie kept crowing for more as well. I swear we only had two… or maybe five… ok, I think the colander is really big, so it looks like there are a lot less…

At any rate, my nectarines are already starting to turn so I think I will make a delicious cherry and nectarine clafoutis very soon. It is one of my favorite desserts to make. Mmmm!!!

Swiss Chocolate Review

I have a new favorite chocolate bar. I’m not normally one to eat milk chocolate – much prefer dark chocolate. But when the milk chocolate is absolutely packed to the gills with hazelnuts and raisins, that’s a different story. I’d show you pictures of how absolutely choc-full of goodies this bar is, but… erm… we ate it all already. Here’s what the label looks like, though:

I’m also enjoying Villars overall as a brand. Lindt – the king of Swiss chocolate production, imho, has gone downhill – poorer quality of chocolate and using things like fake vanilla (vanillin). Teuscher is still my favorite for truffles, and I love Callier for its chocolate bars. I even use the Callier Crémant when I make Nigella Lawson’s Zucchini Chocolate Bread.

Teuscher is located in Zurich and Geneva. My new-found favorite chocolate shop, however, is Schoggibox, located in Stein am Rhein. They boast having over 300 different Swiss chocolates. In this tiny shop is everything from the big companies like Toblerone, Lindt, and Callier, and handmade and gourmet chocolates. They have hundreds of kinds of chocolate bars, plus chocolate liquor, hot chocolate, and a small assortment of candies and caramels. If you are ever in Stein am Rhein, I highly recommend it.

Now that I’ve gone all over the board in my brief  chocolate update, I’ma gonna go nibble on some chocolate that has crepes in it. 😀

Polenta

I’d never cooked, much less eaten polenta before. I know – total foodie who’d not yet dined on polenta? Who’da thunk? Polenta is pretty popular here, so I thought I’d try it. I bought a package of polenta that had dried mushrooms in it. It sat at the back of my pantry for months on end because both myself and Yahoo!Babel Fish Translator failed miserably at translating the instructions on the label.

I realized I needed to just give up translating and try something else, so I hit the internet for ideas. As far as I could tell, the package only contained large-grain polenta and dried mushrooms, so I didn’t need to worry about any extra ingredients causing a disaster if I strayed from the package instructions.

I first stumbled across the following video that seemed promising. Continue reading

Brot für Alle – Fastenopfer

Today I went to buy bread at my favorite local bakery. I tend to stick to types of bread that I know we like, but I was in the mood to try something new. I pointed to a bread that I don’t remember the name of and we enjoyed it with some roasted fennel, potato, and lamb stew that I’d whipped up.

Stuck in the bread was a little paper flag with a phrase in German on one side, and assumedly the same in French. One of the symbols had a cross in it, and I wondered if I’d accidentally bought communion bread that is usually sent up to a church or something like that. I understood the first part – “Bread for All” – but it took a few searches to try to find some more information here:

http://www.fastenopfer.ch/data/media/dokumente/english/kampagne_flyer_2009.pdf

“Following the success of last year’s event, bakeries will once more be invited to join in the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund and Bread for All campaign by selling “Shared Bread” throughout the campaign. As well as being able to enjoy this artisanal product, the shared bread gives Swiss people the chance to show their solidarity with those who do not have enough to eat. For each loaf sold, 50 centimes will be donated to the organizations for projects to fight hunger, particularly in the areas of organic farming and the preservation of natural resources. Tell everyone you know about this event and invite your local bakery to take part by registering directly on the Internet. Its success depends on you!”

Kinda neat to know that we accidentally supported a local charity.

Carnitas a la Krys

Here in our tiny Swiss kitchen, I often have to be creative when I cook. It isn’t just the ingredients that can be a challenge, but also allowing for the available utensils, pots, oven space, etc (we brought almost nothing from our own kitchen).

I wanted to make a TexMex speciality, Carnitas, for some guests that we had coming for lunch this afternoon. I found two recipes on the internet but I either didn’t have the right ingredients, or the right kinds of pots (i.e. something that could go from stove to oven). I’m a very adept and adaptable chef, and have learned from the best, so I came up with a recipe of my own and it was so good that I decided to share it as an example of getting creative with a lack of resources.

The two recipes I used for inspiration can be found here and here.

I served my Carnitas with caramelized onions and red and yellow bell peppers, fresh guacamole, sour cream, English Cheddar (that’s the only kind we can get here, but it is yummy!), spicy beans, and rice. And since I didn’t have the time or gumption to go all the way into Zurich to the Mexican import shop to get the really good tortillas, I picked up some awesome flat-breads from the Turkish market just down the road from our flat. They were practically the same as tortillas and soaked up all the juices from the meat and veggies quiet well. Continue reading