Eating {gluten-free} in Berlin | Tim Raue

July 24, 2015

I was a firm believer that cheese was not a dessert... until Tim Raue
Tim Raue dessert shaved cheese with apricots and pecans


I admit, I'm a bit of a food snob, but not at all where money is concerned. In fact, I tend to be put-off by really expensive meals and instead opt for street food at inexpensive spots with super tasty, authentic dishes to satisfy my desire for the delicious without breaking the bank. With so many great casual and affordable places to eat in Berlin, I never really thought much about the fine-dining experience until my fellow gluten-intolerant and food-loving friend Christie came to visit. Tim Raue was on her must-visit list and with a set lunch starting at 38€, our first visit in over a year and a surprisingly affordable menu for two-star Michelin cuisine was reason enough to indulge.

With very little gluten-containing items on the menu, we still inquired as to what could be done for us beforehand and were told it wouldn't be a problem at all. It's no surprise that such an acclaimed restaurant is going to take food allergies pretty seriously. After all, that's a pretty long way to fall if people start calling you out for making them terribly sick. Not surprisingly, my much-anticipated visit to this mecca of amazing cuisine left me safe from glutening - and a serious penchant for the finer things in life.

The food here is described as "Asian-inspired cuisine that can be characterised as a blend of Japanese product perfection, Thai aromas, and Chinese culinary philosophy." You will find no bread, noodles or rice, nor any white sugar. They work only with lactose-free dairy items, but animal products are in nearly every dish. While they say they will make vegetarian alternatives, they "cannot offer vegan guests the same taste experience" (read: you're not letting our dishes live up their potential, so why bother). It always warms my heart when chefs stick to their beliefs with what they cook, but are at least willing to compromise for those of us who have no choice in what we cannot eat.


The amazing amuse bouches before we even ordered... and the equally intriguing and delicious
end to the meal - a mix of cold, crunchy fennel with pear


Tim Raue amuse bouches pickled veggies, sausages and spicy cashews Tim Raue final sweet course fennel pear pudding



The restaurant itself is tucked back in a little courtyard off Rudi-Dunker-Strasse, with even the front facing the street so understated, we nearly missed it on our arrival. After our coats were taken and we were lead to our table, we breathed a little sigh of relief at the attire we'd fretted over that morning. The servers were all wearing either dark slim t-shirts or button-down shirts with black jeans and Converse sneakers. Perfect Berlin causal, but exuding a quiet elegance appropriate of the venue.


Lush banquettes and modern simplicity at Tim Raue
Restaurant Tim Raue interior


The tables were similarly simple and chic, with white linen tablecloths hung across and through small slits at the edges of the tables. The rich blue banquettes and light blue curtains were streamlined and simple, cool yet giving off a warm, calming vibe. Overall, I was feeling redeemed for the jeans I was wearing and it was just when I realized there were only chopsticks in front of me when they brought the amuse bouches that I started panicking with visions of accidentally flinging a cashew at someone's head at a neighboring table. Thankfully, with my increasing dexterity and the warmth of the staff that was perfectly happy to speak in German or English, or in our case, a bit of both, I was put right at ease - and kept my food at our table.


The most delicious - and expensive - fancy French juice I've ever enjoyed
Tim Raue French madarin juice


I won't bore you with the details of every single thing I tasted or every minute detail of our experience, because honestly, I was too busy trying to snap as many unobnoixious iPhone photos before diving into whatever heavenly thing was put in front of me next to take copious notes. I will say the experience - and more importantly, the food - far exceeded my expectations. Not surprisingly, it's the kind of place where everything you taste isn't just good, it's one of the best preparations of said item you have ever tasted. That is, unless you're used to eating at Michelin-starred restaurants on the regular, in which case, I hate you.


Seafood at its finest: Langoustines with wasabi-crisped rice, a gluten-free substitution just for me
Tim Raue langoustine with wasabi crisp rice


The menu here changes often enough, so I would recommend just ordering the first thing that sounds good to you. Or better yet, order something that doesn't sound like what you normally would and chances are you will be blown away. I am a notorious seafood avoider, but I sprung for the langoustine for my first course and it might have been the most delicious thing from the sea I've ever tasted. The same with the mango-based dessert - not my favorite fruit, but the flavors and the way they danced and played together on my tongue was nothing short of amazing.

My dessert, a mango-saffron dream complete with crunchy dehydrated lime slices
Tim Raue dessert with mangos saffron and dehydrated limes


One thing worth noting is the peking duck speciality - which unfortunately is served on some kind of bread slice, so I was unable to try it. My husband shook his head in affirmation after each bite, telling me it took him back to the incredible duck we'd had at a vineyard wedding in Bordeaux a few summers back. Side note (and I've had other friends confirm this): if you ever get invited to a wedding in France, move heaven and earth to go. It will be some of the best food you will ever eat.


Christie's beautiful strawberries, the perfect flavor and texture combinations
Tim Raue dessert strawberries with basil and ice cream


With no alcohol and our modest three-course lunches, the bill was around 200€, still a serious splurge for the likes of us. Even so, we weren't treated as anything less than the well-dressed business men around us who clearly ordered everything on the menu. I would love to return for a special dinner, but honestly, with many of the same offerings on the evening menu, why not have the fancy lunch instead for a fraction of the price? Another bonus: Foodie pics come out so much better in the bright afternoon light! I'm already thinking of celebrating my birthday here in the fall...


Restaurant Tim Raue
Rudi-Dutschke-Straße 26
10969 Berlin-Kreuzberg
U6 Kockstrasse/Checkpoint Charlie
Tel: 030 25937930
Online reservations through booktable.de


Summer Shoe Checklist: The 5 Must-Have Pairs

July 15, 2015

Summer Shoe Checklist: The 5 Pairs You Need


The start of summer can so often be marked by that first day your toes see the sunshine after what has felt like an eternity crammed into winter boots. There's something about kicking your shoes off, letting your toes dance through the grass and bask in the warm sunshine that means it's officially summer. Every year there's a fresh crop of new strappy sandals, playful flats and summer sneakers to pick from, but really, there are only five basic styles that will get you through the season with happy feet. Just add pedicure.


1. Saltwaters

If you grew up in America, these sandals were synonymous with childhood summers. Well, all those parents were onto something. Lightweight, durable and, as the name implies, waterproof, these are some of the best all-purpose summer shoes out there. In the U.S., you can find them at places like Zappos and My Saltwater Sandals (where I always ordered from), but they have also launched a European Saltwater site for those of us across the pond - hooray! Here in Berlin, you can pick them up at Victoria Met Albert. Wherever you get them, trust me, you won't be sorry! Tip: Order your regular shoe size, not your sandal size.


2. Birks

I realize some people still have not gotten on the Birkenstock train, and that's fine. I understand 'ugly-pretty' can be a tough sell. But these babies have been around for decades and they're not going anywhere, so why not take advantage of their popularity? The comfort factor, coupled with the Made in Germany factor (read: affordable here), means I have five pairs already - a couple Gizeh and a few Arizona - including this summery bronze pair as my most recent addition to the Birks club in my closet. Birks can be found everywhere in Germany, from fashion-forward shops like & Other Stories to online mega retailers like Zalando to our own little Birkenstock shop here in Mitte - but my secret? Online at Natürlich are some of the best prices I've seen here. The stock moves quickly each season, so buy early. As for those in the U.S., I guess you're stuck with paying over $100-200 a pair *gulp* at places like J.Crew... until you visit Germany!

There is much debate about Birkentstock sizing. The official website say to order your regular size to make sure your feet have plenty of room to wiggle in the formed bottoms, but I end up literally falling out of my regular size so have go one down. Some pairs require more breaking in and rub more than others at the heel or toes because of this, but I'd rather be secure in my shoes than tripping any more than I regularly do.


3. Flip-flops

Whether your stance on the most casual of summer footwear is suitable for everyday wear or more relegated to the beach/pool (I fall staunchly in the latter category), no summer shoe wardrobe is complete without a pair or three. For the last several years, my favorite has been the cheap Old Navy version, perfect to stock up on have around for summer house shoes, trips to the pool or that blissful beach vacation. I've even enlisted my next US houseguest to bring me a few pairs! While I almost always size down in flip-flops, I've found these run more true-to-size.


4. Wedges

Summer means more to do outside, more traipsing around and if you're lucky, some lovely sunny holidays with lots of traipsing around somewhere by the sea. With all this walking, I find nothing works better than a solid wedge for support in a shoe that looks a bit elevated from a rubber flip-flop. It's something nice to wear to museums or to dinner without looking like the tourist that you are. I have a couple pairs from Clarks and they are some of the best sandals I own. Once you sift through the matronly styles, there are some definite winners. I've got the pair above currently on order from a flash sale site and I am anxiously awaiting its arrival... The U.S. has an even bigger range of Clarks and its sub-brands (artisan, unstructured, indigo, etc.), but I've found nothing beats the regular UK Clarks. Unfortunately, they do run a bit small compared to standard US and EU sizing.


5. Slip-on sneakers

Sometimes you need more of a shoe, even in the summertime. Something you can kick off while you're arms are full of picnic supplies and won't leave pebbles between your toes after trekking to a lake. While classic Vans have made a big comeback in recent years, I've been a fan of the lower-profile, super-affordable ones from H&M recently. If I get caught in a summer rainstorm (pretty common here), I don't feel too bad about getting them covered in muck. Another bonus? They run big so I can actually find a size that fits (still rallying for the size 42: H&M, COS, & Other Stories, are you listening?!). Pick up a few when they go on sale and you've got it made.


Here's to summer!


Joining Urban Jungle Bloggers with June's #plantcolorpop

June 30, 2015

purple orchid for urban jungle bloggers plant color pop

Where plants are concerned, I have no natural aptitude whatsoever. If there was something more inept than having a black thumb, that would be me. I even managed to kill a succulent earlier this year. I didn't even know that was possible! But when reminded of Judith and Igor's project, Urban Jungle Bloggers, from this post from Anna about great planters and getting more greenery in her own home, I decided there's no time like the present to improve my plant situation.

So I'm starting out slow, with my little bargain orchid from Ikea, a flower I'd always admired in other people's windowsills yet always thought they would be too delicate for my clumsiness around plant life. According to the website Beautiful Orchids: "Phalaenopsis... are among the easiest of the orchid family to care for." Praise the plant gods! These relatively low-maintenance flowers might be just what I need to tentatively test my toe into the waters of successful plant ownership - beyond a couple succulents and some half-dead herbs.

I remember a few years back lamenting to my friend's mom about my basil always dying and felt immediately better when she told me of basil's temperamental, needy nature, thriving in lots of sunlight that seemed so rare in Germany. This hurdle of understanding each plant and what to expect is perhaps my biggest. I've always been of the mindset that water plus sunlight means it lives, right..? Clearly my learning curve is going to be pretty steep. My fumbling start may mean I'm a less-than-regular poster for this project, but I intend to take full advantage of the inspiration I know it will provide to learn about and care for each of my green friends appropriately.

Pressing thumbs I can create my own urban jungle before too long...

Celiac and the frustrations of eating out

June 23, 2015

gluten-free card in Jute Bäckerei bakery window

Sigh. Celiac, it seems, is a constant dance with my well-being. I ease up on the reigns of food enjoyment - and I pay the consequences. I mean, we moved to Berlin in large part for the food! We got a taste of all the culinary greatness here, and then - boom! - I'm just supposed to give all that up? Am I just supposed to stay at home every evening with raw veggies, ignoring the sounds of summer - the satisfied slurp of an ice cream cone, the celebratory clink of wine glasses - on the street below us? Granted, with the arrival of summer weather and all the glorious food fests Berlin has to offer, my strict eat-bio-and-grain-free-at-home-only has seen me slip back into less vigilant eating practices. So much so, my body is pulling back on the reins.

Admittedly, I'm a little raw after a recent realization about food I'd eaten that it turned out was not gluten-free. As soon as I read the message from my friend Adam, that his more thorough inquisition turned up soy sauce as an ingredient in the meal I'd had twice in one week, my heart fell. All at once, I understood that my distended belly and foggy brain had not been a result of too much sugar, as I had thought (read: hoped). More importantly, it hit my eating-out confidence hard and I had a mini-breakdown right there in the park. I pouted and realized I'm better off boarding myself up inside and eating only home-cooked meals. What can I say? I still get really emotional about food.

As other celiacs can attest, even when being vigilant, eating out is a minefield. Like my glutenings from the last couple of weekend food fests made clear once again, too many people are unaware of what gluten really is and the serious implications it can have on someone like me. So why eat out at all? I mean, it's my food issue and why should I impart that on folks just trying to provide people with some good food? Believe me, I used to be one of those eye-rollers every time someone began the laundry-list Starbucks order or launched into a soliloquy of why said menu item must be altered to meet their lengthy requirements. No one realizes what a pain in the ass I am, culinarily-speaking, more than me.

But this all begs the question: Is a food allergy sufferer just never supposed to eat out? And more importantly, how is travel possible? It's one thing to inflict one's dietary needs on a well-meaning chef when managing at home is often the better, and safer, answer, but what if that isn't an option? Will people in food service ever truly understand the importance of knowing all their ingredients and their allergy ramifications? Don't even get me started on the emotional fallout around celebrations and time out with friends.


"There are few things more isolating and disheartening than being unable to freely join with loved ones to celebrate significant times in life." 
- Jenni Hulet (The Urban Poser) from My Paleo Patisserie, An Artisan Approach to Grain Free Baking


I don't mean to rant, but I thought that after 10 months of healing from my initial diagnosis and the start of living a gluten-free life, I wouldn't still be dealing with such lows where my health is concerned. All these frustrations have been bouncing around in my foggy brain, yet I never seem to have the clarity to come to terms with it 100%. Speaking with a friend one day about her husband's diabetes and its constant need for surveillance, it hit me that celiac was much the same, at least where recovery is concerned. Not even the middle of an estimated 2-year recovery time, I must still pay close attention to what my body is telling me each time I put food into it. Some days I might feel strong enough for grains or a glass of wine, others might require upping the gelatin and coconut to soothe my ailing gut. It's rather frustrating to feel like there isn't a clear-cut answer for good health and well-being every day, but I've spent much of my life not listening to what my body really needs and now we're playing catch-up from years of miscommunication.

In a very lucky turn of events, the visit this last weekend from my Wiesbaden-based friend Christie, a fellow foodie who's body also takes serious issue with gluten, meant eating out was a necessary indulgence, yet a carefully thought-out affair. After two and a half days of what was essentially a gluten-free food tour of Berlin, I managed to remain free from the clutches of usually inevitable, albeit unintentional glutening. From street food to the Michelin-starred Tim Raue (more on that later, to be sure) to the gluten- and grain-free paradise that is Sauvage, I ended the weekend rather tired, but with my belly in mostly good spirits. For all the times I am glutened and left feeling vulnerable and weak - physically and emotionally - there are shining beacons of light on the Berlin food landscape that give me hope for eating out. This weekend was definitely one of those.

And so I proceed with more caution, but also more optimism as we dive into this currently grey, rainy season that Berlin calls summer. I will stick mostly to places I know are safe, but I will also feed myself healing, nutritious food at home so I am more fortified to go out into the big world of uncertain ingredients. As I refine my diet, I hope to bring you more the successful recipes here soon!

Eating at home: Tom Kha Gai with plantain chips... and a spinach quiche with bacon & cassava flour crust
plantain chips and Tom Kha Gai Thai coconut soup gluten-free grain-free bacon and cassava flour crust spinach quiche with salad



Top 5 Berlin food events to look forward to this June

June 10, 2015

Berlin Food Collage_ Bite Club Jones Ice Cream Laksa Pop-up Spice Spice Baby Jerk Chicken

My relationship with food continues to be a complex one. Thanks to celiac, gluten is verboten. Continuing health issues have lead to me cutting out even more in an attempt to appease my protesting body. But as summer food festival season begins, my love of all things delicious has started to win out. Ever since the first Bite Club of the season, it's become almost impossible to stick to my strict organic, homemade diet. And with so many amazing things to eat, can you really blame me? Add in factors like sunshine, DJs and amazing urban locales, and my kitchen will surely be covered in a film of dust come summer's end.

These are some of the things high on my radar this month. If you're lucky enough to be in town, grab your sunnies, slip on some sandals and get outside!


Berlin Music and Streetfood Open Air Festival June 2015 at Neue Heimat

Berlin Music & Streetfood Open Air Festival

Since Neue Heimat started it's own regular street food events, I've only made it over for the Bazaar last weekend, but was easily won over by the hip, urban spot. A large open industrial space, complete with a concentrated collection of some of Berlin's best street art, leads the way here from the Urban Spree. The first of its kind, this event boasts bands, DJs, art galleries, live acts and "the best of Berlin streetfood booths". No word yet on what food will be there, but my fingers are crossed and thumbs are pressed that there's enough gluten-free options to keep me going for at least a few music sets under the summer sunshine.


When: Friday, June 12 from 18:00, Saturday 13 & Sunday 14 from 12:00
Where: Neue Heimat, Friedrichshain
More info: On Facebook



2015 Berlin Beer Week wall of beers

Berlin Beer Week

OK, I admit, it's really my husband who is looking forward to this (damn my stupid celiac), but I'm sure every other Berlin beer-drinker can relate. A whole week chock-full of events celebrating the most traditional German beverage. The list of events is rather staggering - and many big name tickets, like dinner with Lode & Stijn, have already sold out - but I can't help but pine for the ones like Beer Trivia Night at the lovely Kaschk and "Have Your Cake & Eat It" with cupcakes made with craft ales. There are also classics like craft beer and poker, hosted by none other than my better half at The Castle Pub. For all those who can drink beer, I say go forth and enjoy this momentous week. Have a beer - or three or twelve - for me!


When: June 13-20
Where: All over Berlin. Check the website for the list of events and locations.
More info: On Facebook



Berlin Ice Cream Market by Stil in Berlin This is Jane Wayne mint&berry June 2015

First-Ever Ice Cream Market

Honestly, I'm surprised it took Berlin this long to host a festival celebrating one of the best things about summer: ice cream. Like many other European countries, once the temperatures start to creep up after a long winter or at the first sign of sunshine, Germans are out in droves, lining up for a cone to kick off the season with. This is Jane Wayne and Stil in Berlin partnered up with German brand mint & berry to host an event centered solely around this perfect summer treat at the idyllic new urban pool in the open air former railway building, dubbed as industrial charm of urban Berlin meets Mediterranean '60s charm. Complete with beer garden and lounge, I foresee this afternoon to be a long, lazy one relaxing by the pool, getting up only to visit a new ice cream vendor. I think Berlin just came up with the ideal summer food event scenario.


When: June 13 @ 12:00-20:00
Where: Haubentaucher, Friedrichshain
More info: On Facebook



Schlachtfest The Lamb Edition farm-to-table June 2015

Schlachtfest: The Lamb Edition

Even in a city of the ubiquitous vegan menu, it's hard not respect a celebration around the use of a whole, humanely-raised animal. This edition will be in honor of the Müritzlamm, a native sheep that has been bred with English goats from Mecklenburg. The farm-to-table, nose-to-tail concept has been done previously with a cow and pig, to much accolades. And with courses from the likes of Mr. Susan and Lode & Stijn, duos noted among Berlin's most anticipated restaurant openings of 2015, you know you won't be anything less than blown away.


When: June 13 @ 20:30
Where: Markthalle Neun, Kreuzberg
More info: On Facebook (must buy tickets in advance)



2015 Bite Club Berlin Hoppetosse view over Spree

Bite Club

I had a love-hate relationship with Bite Club last year, considering every time I tried to go to the original spot by the river, I somehow managed to always show up on the wrong day. Well this year, they have finally published a calendar of dates to make sure it's not to be missed. I did manage a couple of last summer's Bite Club at Platoon Kunsthalle and I admit, it had nothing on that picturesque riverside location. Watching the sun set behind the Oberbaumbrücke, reflecting off the Spree, with burgers, ice cream, cocktails and tunes make this the place to be every other Friday night this summer.

Like so many food fests, gluten-free options can few and far between, but last week I tried the only thing safe* for me: caribbean jerk chicken with beans, rice, plantains and pineapple from newcomer Spice Spice Baby and boy, was it delicious. The guys from the super-tasty-looking Born Again Chicken, another newbie on the foodie scene, mentioned they were working on a gluten-free sauce (their current one sadly contains wheat), so I'm eager to see how that materializes. You can't go wrong with Jones Ice Cream's delicious new sundaes, or Zwei Dicke Bären's increasing gluten-free ice cream sandwich options either. Here's hoping more gluten-free offerings show up because I plan to be here every other Friday through the summer!

*UPDATE: Unfortunately, I was misinformed and Spice Spice Baby uses soy sauce [read: gluten] in their marinade. They have been very kind about the misunderstanding, but do know this is not safe for those with celiac or an intolerance. Bite Club regulars Taco Kween and Maria Maria Arepas claim to be gluten-free, but I can't speak to any ingredient- or cross-contamination issues. As always when eating out, proceed with caution.


When: Every other Friday (next one June 19) @ 16:00-midnight
Where: Hoppetosse, Kreuzberg
More info: On Facebook



10 things I love about {this} spring

May 29, 2015

10 Things I Love About {This} Spring

While spring is slowly coming to a close and the last of the cherry blossoms have long since been swept from the streets, the last few weeks have really felt like the best of the season. Food fests have started ramping up for summer, the weather has begun to sneak up to actual sandal-wearing temperatures, and there is a more positive vibe that falls over the city that is downright palpable. Beyond the increase in vitamin D and warm coats that can finally be stored for the relatively short season that is summer in Berlin, these are the things that have me in a spring state of mind...

Hindsight soundtrack | Whether you dig some older jams or were a teen in the '90s like me, listening the Hindsight soundtrack on Spotify will transport you back to the best of this decade. Not to worry, no awkward junior high dances or regrettable makeout sessions necessary. All the movie quoting and besties moments on the show did make me nostalgic for the days when me and my best friend were young and carefree like Lolly and Becca. *sniffle*

Blockshop Textiles new collection | I've been a big fan of these sisters' beautiful, handmade scarves for years, but I've held off on investing in one until I found the one just right for me. Thankfully this season, they introduced the Diamondback pattern and my smitten heart could not resist.

Simple jewelery | With all the shedding of layers spring affords, it seems a shame to layer on too many accessories. I'm all about simple gold things right now and the gorgeous dart necklace from Another Feather would be the perfect addition for necks finally freed from cold-weather scarves.

New sunnies | There's something about the first rays of spring sunshine that have my grey Berlin existence scrambling for my sunglasses - and this year I decided to treat myself to new prescription pair, thanks to the super affordable direct-to-customer brands out there. After much debating, I finally ordered Ace & Tate's Robin frame since every time I tried them on in a store, they made me feel chic and movie-star-esque. After all, isn't that how every pair of sunnies should make you feel?

Bright lipstick | My sister-in-law very kindly picked up a couple Bite Beauty lip products to bring during her stay last week and I have completely fallen in love with the matte crème lip crayon. I'm already plotting more from them when my mom visits later this year. There's nothing like a moisturized, bright lip to celebrate the shedding of winter layers. Plus, they're gluten-free and food-grade too!

Slouchy casual | After months of being stuffed like a sausage into layer upon layer of high socks under long underwear under pants and shirts under sweaters under coats, it's not hard to see the appeal of easy dressing in boyfriend jeans and slouchy shirts. I practically live in my H&M boyfriend jeans, but I wouldn't mind adding this Madewell courier boy shirt to my spring repertoire.

Ping pong | After nearly a year of passing by the ubiquitous ping pong tables at every park and Platz in Berlin, we finally bought a ping pong set and have taken to spending my hubby's lunch hour playing just two blocks from our apartment - as long as the wind and rain cooperate. It's such a great way to get us outdoors on most days and break that long winter hibernation. We're not terribly good, but it sure is fun.

Succulents | As much I dislike all the spring rain and grey here in Berlin, I am so appreciate how green it makes this city. I've always wanted to bring more of this greenery indoors, but my black thumb isn't having it. I have a few Ikea succulents that have miraculously survived my attempts to kill any plant that enters my home, so I'm shooting for some more of those to bring actual life into our flat. That, and those cute Ikea Kardemumma pots to put them in.

Strawberries | Growing up in California, it was always strawberry season. There was no waiting for the month when they finally hit the grocery shelves, they were always there. Now halfway around the world, the season must be patiently waited for, when all the little strawberry-shaped stands appear on every other street corner and the prices for a basket of the local stuff comes down to reasonably affordable. Then, I relish in eating strawberries with thick Greek yogurt or sliced on top of waffles or pancakes. But my favorite way to enjoy them has to be in a spinach salad, sprinkled with slivered almonds, crumbled feta and a glug of balsamic and olive oil. Mmmmm. Tastes like spring.

White sneakers | I've always been terrified of white sneakers. Perhaps the aversion had more to do with bad '80s memories of puffy-painted sweatshirts and leggings worn with ratty, high-top Reeboks or just my absurdly large feet, but I never felt like it was something I could pull off, let alone keep clean. When the Adidas Stan Smiths showed no sign of letting up this season, I figured, what the hell. Much comfier than Chucks, more substantial than Supergas, and at least the leather can be buffed back into decent-looking shape when inclement spring weather arises. I am a definite convert.


What about you? What has you feeling particularly spring-like these days?


Recipe | Matsaman Curry + Cauliflower Rice

April 24, 2015

Matsaman chicken curry with vegetables and cauliflower rice_ gluten-free grain-free

In my previous life, unburdened by poor health and any concern for nutritious eating, white rice could have been a food group. I ate it like crazy. In my poor college days, I would buy Chinese boxes filled with it, adding soy sauce for bargain work lunches, not really thinking of what little it did for my body. I'd eat leftovers for breakfast, with hot milk, butter and sugar for an improved texture experience on the oatmeal I so detested. But on it's own? Well, white rice really doesn't taste like much. So what was I holding onto by not trying an alternative?

I'll admit, I'd heard of cauliflower "rice", but as a staunch hater of the white veg, I never even considered it. Once I opened up to the idea, my newly narrowed food world opened way, way up. As an accompaniment to curries and Asian-inspired meat dishes, it's the perfect sub for rice - and surprisingly delicious, even for those fellow cauliflower-haters out there. Trust me on this one. High in fiber and vitamin C, it offers a lot more nutrition than white rice and at about ten minutes cooking time, this "rice" is ready faster than the real thing.

I feel like I'm still figuring out how to cook and eat the best way for me right now, but realizing I am down with subbing out grains like rice with cauliflower rice to make the foods I used to, the better I feel - both health-wise and that hard-to-please side of me that just wants to eat delicious food. This curry satisfies all those needs, not to mention that like most curries, it's super easy and flexible to all kinds of substitutions. Change up the veggies. Omit the meat if you're vegetarian. Use a different curry flavor (I love the green curry paste for Thai Turkey Meatballs). Make a big batch and you're fed for days. What's not to love?


Matsaman Curry with Cauliflower Rice

For curry:
2 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large chicken breasts, cut into cubes
3 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
2 zucchini, chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
1 can coconut milk
2-3 Tbsp Thai Matsaman Curry Paste

For "rice":
1 large head cauliflower
3 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 green onions, light green part, chopped
2 Tbsp coconut oil

For garnish:
toasted sesame seeds
chopped green onion
chopped corriander
lime wedges
salt & pepper

Prep the rice by grating the cauliflower into rice-sized pieces, either by hand or with a food processor. Set aside. Steam the sweet potato for about ten minutes and remove from heat, set aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and add onion and garlic, sauté until garlic is fragrant and onion is translucent. Salt and pepper the chicken cubes and add to pot, stirring occasionally. Once the chicken has cooked on the outside, push aside and add 2-3 Tbsp Matsaman curry paste and slowing whisk in coconut milk. Add more paste to your flavor and spiciness preferences. Stir curry sauce into chicken and reduce heat.

Meanwhile, heat coconut or olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat for the "rice". Add garlic and shallots, stirring constantly to keep from browning too quickly. Once softened and fragrant, add grated cauliflower and green onions. Stir well to combine. Turn down heat to medium and continue to cook for about 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally to cook evenly.

Carefully stir the vegetables into the curry. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and cook for about five minutes, until vegetables are at desired texture (I prefer mine less cooked so as not to have a mushy curry). Add in cooked sweet potato during the last minute or two to bring to the same temperature as curry.

Make sure rice is cooked through, then serve curry over rice in bowls and garnish with preferred toppings.

Serves 4


cauliflower rice ready to cook


It's Complicated: Eating for Nourishment vs. Enjoyment

April 8, 2015

Greens, greens, and more greens: My new eating mantra
fresh spinach salad


In all my life, I've never really examined my eating habits until now. I scoffed at dieters, rolled my eyes at health-food nuts and sent a virtual stink-eye out to everyone who went gluten-free because it was the cool thing to do (seemingly discrediting the strict eating my disease required). Years of anemia didn't mean ingesting more iron-filled foods, it meant popping iron supplements and going on my way. Even after my celiac diagnosis, I was still in it for whatever satisfied my need to not feel deprived - gluten-free pizza, doughnuts, cakes, cookies. Food was about satisfying cravings, yet it's become something too often indulged in more for its enjoyment factor, its Instagramworthiness, than it's nutritional value. Hashtag-donuts, anyone?

All food porn aside, food luxuries are ones we should be able to enjoy. Yes, it's a first-world problem, this abundance of food choice, but one so inherently tied to our psyche and well-being. Your favorite restaurant, holiday cookies made every year with your mom, that weekend brunch spot where you know the menu by heart. Not to mention travel. How can one possibly immerse oneself in a new culture without also enjoying the local food? But the truth is, these things are more than just food - they are warm memories and fulfilment. Time spent with loved ones, or even on our own, relishing in something delicious and creating a new life experience. It's hard to separate that from eating purely as a means to refuel. So what happens when we these sentiments control what we eat more than what our bodies actually need?

This disconnect has been my struggle. I grew up begrudgingly swallowing rubbery green beans from a can solely to get to the dessert, a constant at the finish line that was dinner. Salad was eaten only to be drowned in ranch dressing. I'm hard-pressed to remember anything nutritious or savory that I have strong memories of, aside from weekly steak dinners at Black Angus, complete with fried zucchini (pretty much the only kind of veg I would eat proactively) and the ever-present, sugary Shirley Temple. Sweets were what my world revolved around. Sunny days at Baskin Robbins, that green party punch that I reveled in watching kids turn their noses up at the color only to try a sip and greedily pour themselves more, weekly pilgrimages to 7-11 to spend a disgusting chunk of allowance on all manner of candy bars, sugary popcorn and slurpees for weekend sleepovers spent watching movies and obsessing over our latest crushes. It was always about getting to that sweetness at the end of the meal, that sugar-binge at the end of the week.

Savory foods did join my regular eating-for-enjoyment routine, though this appreciation dawned much later than for most. I enjoyed my foray into adulthood cooking when we moved to Germany, where I had the time to dedicate to preparing delicious meals in the absence of great restaurants and learned fresh, from-scratch recipes where the oft-used American shortcut staples did not exist. I learned fresh green beans are crisp and delicious, not the overly-salted little pieces that used to squeak between my teeth as a child. I enjoyed it, I even got pretty good at it. Sure, I still baked and indulged in sweets regularly, but now I looked forward to Sunday dinners of meat braised for hours and spicy curries chock-full of fresh vegetables. Delicious food finally went beyond ice cream and cake.

These food priorities, government-endorsed food pyramids and hippie naturalists be damned, is why my world came crashing down when gluten became my greatest enemy. No pizza, burgers, pasta, waffles?! How would I survive? Never again, Burgermeister? No more Sunday brunches? Well, I did survive. I re-learned how to cook in a way that was safe for my autoimmune disease-ridden body, and I hardly felt deprived at all, all social situations aside. I thought I had my demons under control. But just as things were starting to get good again, just when I had a way to channel my love of good food and satisfy a frustrating food intolerance into something positive, my body shouted 'no' and raised the white flag. All those pre-diagnosis symptoms were back, this time, enemy unknown. Back to gasping for breath after coming up the stairs to our apartment, waking from 10 hours of sleep still exhausted and regularly struggling to pull basic information caught somewhere in the fogginess of my brain. Perhaps the most upsetting? The gut that would protrude to six-month-pregnant proportions in a matter of hours and the elasticated pants that were increasingly necessary. I realized there must be something more than the now-non-existent gluten that was bringing me down.

I spent countless days falling down the rabbit hole that is medical symptoms on the internet and making very interesting discoveries. The studies that suggest sugar is more addictive than crack. The fact that there's added sugar in my canned tomatoes. The belief many have that the gut controls so much about the body's health, and when it is out of whack, the whole body follows suit. So I decided to make some more drastic changes to the way I ate. First, I cut out all sugar, including most fruit, but also grains and starches as well. I began eating only organic in a quest for simpler, chemical-free food easier on my ravaged gut. I added things in like bone broth, gelatin and lots of coconut (oil, milk, dried) and cinnamon, that are also supposed to heal and help with inflammation. While I've taken a lot of notes from diets like GAPS and Autoimmune Paleo, I've always been cautious of anything described as a 'diet' while using it as a platform to sell something. When these sites hawking cookbooks and supplements gave way to incredible stories, like Dr. Terry Wahls, who essentially reversed her MS symptoms through her diet, I started to really listen. Besides, my journey wasn't about losing weight or jumping on a trendy eating bandwagon, it was about my health, at a basic functioning level.

The more I read about healing through food and how it can help symptoms of autoimmune conditions - from which both my husband and I suffer - it seemed to be a smart path to follow. For the second time in one year, I began a new food journey... In the first week or so, I had some major emotional crashes, sobbing uncontrollably and swearing if I ate roasted chicken and vegetables again, I'd scream. But just like cutting out gluten, cutting out refined sugar, all grains and most dairy (and coffee and alcohol) has been a learning curve, though not as scary and depriving as one might think. There have been some clear losers in the quest for good recipes (I've determined paleo pancakes just taste like a sweet omelette - ugh) and some surprising winners (cauliflower rice?! but I hate cauliflower! *mind blown*), but the good news is I'm finally getting the hang of cooking this way and more importantly, feeling better. The coffee and alcohol though, I miss those terribly. Well, and corn chips, if I'm honest.

I understand these are not great realizations, that most healthy adults eat a well-balanced diet and don't fall to pieces when they can't patronize their local ice cream shop or catch up with friends over a cup of coffee. But I am a product of all my years of unbalanced eating and over-indulgence, convinced decades of choosing enjoyment over nourishment has left me with a body that is finally fighting back and a mind that's trying desperately to catch up to what is good for me. My outlook is still uncertain as I spend all hours of the day either researching, shopping for or preparing all of our from-scratch meals and try not dwell on the prospect that eating out and travel feels even more impossible than it was before. My doctor seems to be searching for a more concrete answer, one with the word 'disease' attached that requires more rounds of invasive tests, but I'm not entirely convinced. I don't know if this 'diet' is the course I will stay on indefinitely or if I will ease up once my body heals, but I'm going with my gut, quite literally. For now, it's nourishment for the win (with enjoyment thrown in every now and then).

Grain-free, dairy-free, no-sugar-added apple cinnamon roll via Grazed and Enthused
no-sugar-added, paleo cinnamon roll



Top 10 US Import Beauty Products

February 27, 2015

Top 10 US Import Beauty Buys


Being an expat is hard enough without also having to settle for crap European deodorant (raise your hand if you feel me on that one?) and lip balm that doesn't do much to un-chap your lips. Home may now be overseas and there may be a slew of great products to discover over here, but sometimes there's nothing quite like the staples you'd come to depend on. Both new and old, these are my favorites that I have come to depend on - and fill my suitcase with anytime I visit!


It's a 10 Miracle Leave In Product| As the name implies, it's a miracle for overly dry, damaged hair. My sad locks, parched from several journeys into various hair colors, soak this stuff up like a sponge. Now I'm wishing I had bought the bigger bottle last time...


Sally Hansen Nailgrowth Miracle| Ever since this product was recommended to me by a former colleague with some of the prettiest nails I'd ever seen (thanks, Ashley!), I have never been without it. Whenever I've tried something else, I've always been disappointed. I was thrilled to see Sally Hansen products show up in German drugstores, only this magic gold bottle is annoyingly absent from the lineup of nail treatments. Don't be fooled by the other offerings, this is the holy grail for strong, glossy nails. I always return home with multiple bottles for my dry, brittle nails.


eos Medicated Tangerine Lip Balm| Let me just be honest: I've always had super-dry lips. I would go through tubes and tubes of lip balm, trying every product on the market, stashing them in every pocket and in every bag. After my celiac diagnosis and realizing that vitamin E (which is often derived from wheat germ - who knew?!) is in pretty much every lip product, I feared I would be stuck with eternally chapped lips. Joy. No matter what products I tried that were safe, nothing gave the moisture I needed - until I found this. At first, it smells a bit medicine-y, but once it's on your lips, the tangerine takes over and all is fruity and yummy and super moisturized. Douglas just started carrying EOS balm, and it's available in the UK, but I've yet to see this particular version over here and frankly, the other flavors (I've tried five of them) just don't pack the same moisture punch. I've already blown through an entire little dome in just over a month - which while super cute, is a bit unwieldy in pockets and such - and have only one more from my last trip, so I'm plotting how to get more in bulk. Gluten-free and it works. Unglaublich.


Burt's Bees Coconut Foot Crème| This stuff is one of my ultimate beauty indulgences. It's not that expensive, but it's enough that even when I lived in the States, I only bought it every once in a while. Like so many of the products I covet, I love it because it works. Even better than that, it smells like a tropical vacation. The super-thick, goopy texture can be a bit off-putting, but one after night of slathering your feet in this stuff, leaving it to soak in under some thick socks and waking up with feet that feel like a baby's bottom, you'll be hooked. Lucky for us in Europe, it is available over here, but for a bit of a markup.


OPI Nail Polish| OPI has reigned supreme in the world of manicures for some time. It's reasonably priced considering the overwhelming color selection and top-notch formula - except in Germany. Here, a bottle of this stuff will set you back an ungodly $20. Even in the Netherlands it goes for much less! At around $8 stateside, I can't help myself from picking up a bottle or two whenever I'm back. Malaga Wine and Berlin There, Done That - surprise, surprise - will remain some of my all-time favorites.


Ion Color Brilliance Brights Semi-permanent Hair Color| For everyone who liked my recent foray into lavender hair, this is where it's at. After enjoying a brief stint with dark blue tips via Manic Panic a few years back, I was anxious to try out the whole pastel craze. I heard Ion has taken over as the semi-permanent color to use, so I bought tubes in both pastel pink and lavender. The results were mixed. The pink was beautifully subtle but definitely required longer developing time for more impact. So when I went for the lavender after the pink was gone in one wash, I was stunned to watch as the bright purple color cream on my head did not fade, no matter how much I rinsed. Almost two months later, it's faded, but still holding on for dear life. All that said, if you're looking for awesome 'temporary' color, this stuff is great. My hair was not damaged and the colors were lovely, with minimal weird tones as they faded, though they are recommended for use on hair that is already bleached so that they show up. The best part? You can find them for $5 a tube in the US, whereas I found only one color on Amazon Germany. And it went for €25.


Herbal Clear Sport Deodorant| Since jumping on the more natural deodorant bandwagon several years ago after discovering that what's in most of them in the US causes cancer and those gross yellow stains on your clothes (yeah, that's not just sweat), I've found that most of the more natural stuff is just not up to the task. Except this stuff. Even in the States, it's hard to find, but I promise you it's worth it. It's not super sticky, the smell is subtle and pleasant, but most of all, it just works. While I still have my pricey La Roche Posay one here to fall back on, I always make sure I've got a few sticks of this stocked up.


Aquaphor Healing Ointment| For serious moisture, this is the cream of the crop. Rough elbows, dry feet, even burns and cuts, this stuff completely heals. Eucerin is huge over here and Aquaphor can be found if you happen into the right Apotheke, but I've never come across the giant tubs like in the States. It's all purpose, can't-beat-it-product.


Burt's Bees Baby Bee Calming Lotion| Finding lotion that calms my irritable dry skin but manages to keep all the nasty parabens and unnecessary chemicals out of the equation can be tough. This Burt's Bees formulated for sensitive baby skin fits the bill nicely. Plus, it soaks in nicely and has a scent as soothing as the name implies.


Burt's Bees Baby Bee Dusting Powder| I am completely obsessed with this stuff. I don't have a baby, but you'd think I do by the stock of this I keep in my bathroom. If I'm not powering baby bottoms, what am I doing? Using this for dry shampoo! This 100% natural, talc-free, cornstarch-based powder has the most lovely soft smell (not really like a baby, so not to worry) and soaks up oil without making me look like I'm trying to bring back the powdered wig look. Not sure why Germany doesn't carry this product, but it needs to add this to it's Baby Bee lineup, stat!


What are your favorite US-based beauty products? Have you found any good substitutions when they are hard to find?


This Valentine's, wear your heart on your sleeve (or your shirt)

February 11, 2015


Wear your heart on your shirt this Valentine's


What better way to wear your heart on your sleeve for that upcoming holiday of love than to wear it right on your shirt? Some sweet, some funny, some just nice, simple design, these love-themed options are understated enough for wear well beyond Valentine's Day and just saccharine enough to make you feel warm and fuzzy without going overboard. Feel the love, people!