Category Archives: Oma

When All Else Fails…


As I’ve suffered through the worst of the last week, some words of wisdom from my Oma, tucked away years and years ago, echoed in my head. “There will come a time in your life, Rebecca, when you’ll try to eat and be unable to tolerate any food at all. When that time comes, the only thing you can eat and tolerate will be saltines.”

Apparently, when she came over on a big ship from Germany in the 1940’s, she got one hell of a case of seasickness, and had said the only thing she ate for 3 weeks (and would stay down) was saltines and water. How right she was.

Having an iron stomach, I never thought I would see the day where it would revolt on me, rejecting pretty much anything I gave it, even water. But apparently, one of the side effects of migraine medication was severe nausea, so in addition to feeling like I was hit by a baseball bat, I got sick as a dog whenever I tried to eat or drink anything.

I’m happy to say things are much better now. The headache (other than some minor ache behind the eyes that feels a bit like eye strain) has been gone for about 2 days now, and the nausea has been gone for about the same amount of time. I have been able to eat little things other than saltines now, like scrambled eggs, cream of wheat, soup, etc. with no problem.

I’ve had serious buyers remorse in the past week. After my first weight loss surgery (a RNY in 2001), I never had the level of restriction that was supposed to come with it. In the end, I was happy about that – even though I didn’t lose all my weight, I had kept off over 100 lbs. And was able to eat like a normal person who hadn’t had weight loss surgery. This surgery was supposed to be completely malabsorptive – he wasn’t touching my pouch at all, and it was supposed to be an easy recovery – I just had to let the intestines rest for a couple of weeks, and would be back up to eating to my previous capacity, just not absorbing it all.

I hadn’t bargained on the hernia repair and the mesh that comes with it bringing a level of restriction that I didn’t even have with the first surgery. Everything in my abdomen is so tight at the moment (and add to it the fact I’m pretty much corseted in a binder for the next 3 months), that my actual capacity is 2-4 oz. at a time. Think of a meal for me as ordering a cup (not bowl) of soup, and only being able to eat half of it before I’m uncomfortably full. I know this level of restriction won’t last forever, but for the time being, it sucks.

I’ve compared it to that episode of The Twighlight Zone where after a nuclear war, the person had all the time in the world to read, their passion in life, only to break their glasses and be unable to read at all. In a way, I had this surgery so I could live to enjoy food on a more healthy level for the rest of my life – at least at the moment, I feel as if I’ve broken my stomach. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate irony – finally getting to a healthy weight, but unable to ever enjoy food again? If it turns out that way, I think I would have rather been fat and happy.

But things are on an upswing. We’re leaving Brazil for home on Tuesday. I’m finally reading and enjoying food blogs again. I’ve been able to branch out a little bit food-wise (will be posting about the wonderful soup we got here soon), and I should be back to normal, at least blog-wise, in the next week or so. Thank you all for your well wishes, and for bearing with me during the hiatus where food was the last thing I wanted to think about.

Apfelkuchen (Traditional German Apple Cake)

Well, you all remember when I made plum cake a few months ago, right? Well, the recipe also works for apple cake as well. And here is my interpretation of my grandmother’s apfelkuchen.


You use the same sweet dough as the plum cake, but line it with sliced apples instead, and sprinkle it with a crumb made out of melted butter, flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Bake it as you would the plum cake. Delicious. 🙂

Traditional German Plum Cake

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I was asking for a local source for Damson plums so I could make plum cake? Well, I found them, but where I least expected to!

Damson Plums

I found them at Kauffman’s Fruit Farm and Market in Bird-In-Hand, PA. I was hoping to get some peaches, maybe a little apple cider, but these beauties just hopped out at me. My eyes went wide, I pulled on Paul’s sleeve and pointed and said “Look!” – his eyes followed, and he asked, “Damsons?” – I told him, “If not, they’re close enough!” – Needless to say, we left the store with 3 quarts of these puppies.

Come to find out that they are Italian Prune Plums, a European plum which is smaller and tarter than the sweeter Japanese plums we’re used to. These aren’t meant for eating out of hand, but are wonderful in cakes and in jam. I also found out that the season is just starting (I got some of the very first harvest), so you may see these in our local farmer’s markets – keep an eye out.

Either way, the plums wouldn’t keep until the weekend, so once we got home, Paul and I did an unusual midweek baking/jam making session. We worked on the cake together – he with the yeast dough, and I with the the plums, and made this wonderful Traditional German Plum Cake (Zwetschgenkuchen) that is just like my Oma’s was, right down to the slightly sweet yeast crust. This recipe is definitely a keeper – the crust holds up well to the juicy plums. We’re even going to try to replicate Oma’s Apfelkuchen based on this recipe.

German Plum Cake

I overestimated the amount of plums we’d need (we would have been fine with 2 quarts), so we had tons left over, and we made a batch of Damson Plum Jam that tastes wondeful, but is a little runnier than I like because it was made without pectin and Paul assumed it was done when it hit the gel point and took it off a bit prematurely. Either way, it will be great drizzled over fresh biscuits, or used as the base of a plum sauce.

Homemade Damson Plum Jam

I hope I see these locally in the weeks to come, because there are still so many other plum recipes I’d love to try. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

One Local Summer 2007 – Week 1

Yay, it’s that time of year again, and Liz of Pocket Farm has brought back One Local Summer for 2007, and I’m gung ho to get started! To focus on eating local (and I’m defining local as anything from Ohio, since we’re pretty much smack dab in the middle of the state and 100 miles to each border), we’re asked to make one meal per week with all local ingredients.

For the first week, I decided to make something I’ve blogged about before (Oma’s Layered Ground Beef & Cabbage, but this time with all local ingredients. And this time, it actually came out in layers like it was supposed to!


The cabbage came from the North Market Farmers market (can’t remember the particular vendor’s name), the ground beef from OMC Farms at the Worthington Market, the milk was from an Ohio creamery (already tossed the container, but I got it at Whole Foods), the rolls were baked on premises at The Anderson’s in Dublin, the butter was Ohio Amish Roll butter that I also got at The Anderson’s, the eggs were from 2Silos at the Clintonville Farmers Market – the only things that weren’t local were the seasonings (caraway, salt, pepper, maggi).

It was so easy to turn this recipe into a local one, using ingredients that are in season. Since it’s still early in the season, I’m sure I’ll get a little more creative as different produce items come available.

Do any of you have old favorites that are easy to make with local ingredients?

Food Bloggers Geography #1: Southern Style

My Husband Cooks is hosting their first food blog event – Food Bloggers’ Geography #1: Southern Style. In this event, MHC asks us to blog about predominately “southern” food – not limited to the US south.

I decided to follow my roots back to South Germany, with a dish created by my Oma who was from the Hesse region of Germany (right next door to Bavaria). This is a hearty 30-minute or less dish that is sure to please even the pickiest eater. Definitely not a diet food, but pure heaven on the plate. I think of it as Germany’s answer to spaghetti carbonara.

Spaetzle mit Speck und Eier

Spaetzle mit Speck und Eier (Noodles with Bacon and Eggs)

8 oz. dry spaetzle (or make your own
6 eggs, beaten well
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 lb. double smoked bacon (Schaller & Weber), coarsely diced

Prepare spatzele according to package instructions. Meanwhile, saute bacon until some fat is rendered and bacon is browned and mostly crisp. Add butter, allow to melt until entire content of pan is sizzling. Add cooked and drained spaetzle, mix well with bacon/butter mixture until all spaetzle is well coated and bacon is well distributed. Keep frying until surface of spaetzle is hot enough to cook egg. Pour in egg, and stir often until eggs are completely set.

Goulash and Semmelknödel

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m participating in the Pick A Chef event over on Recipezaar. While looking through Cynna’s recipes, I saw one that stood out to me immediately — Bayerische Semmelklöße — or as they’re called in the part of Germany that my family is from (Hesse), Semmelknödel. This is a dish that I grew up with, one that my Oma made regularly, when she wasn’t in the mood to make spaetzle or egg noodles or potato dumplings instead. The recipe she used was much simpler – just bread and milk and egg and seasoning, but this sounded close enough. I figured that this time around, I would mostly follow the recipe as written (allowing for a substitution of double smoked bacon in the place of Canadian bacon, because I don’t like Canadian bacon) and see how it compared to the dumplings I remembered from my youth. Because my Oma always served hers with Goulash, I figured that I would serve them this way too.

Goulash and Bread Dumplings

The only other change I made to Cynna’s recipe was that I used two eggs instead of three, as the consistency was right with just two eggs. The flavor was great, especially with the substitution of the double smoked bacon. But as I’ve said before and I’ll probably say again, double smoked bacon makes *everything* taste better. 🙂

Below is the recipe I used for Goulash. Unfortunately, my Oma’s recipe died with her, but this is the closest I’ve been able to come in flavor over the past decade of trying Goulash recipe after Goulash recipe.

Hungarian Goulash
Source: AllRecipes

2 pounds beef chuck roast, cubed
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/4 cups water, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Place beef in slow cooker, and cover with onion. In a medium bowl, stir together ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, salt, paprika, mustard, and 1 cup water. Pour mixture over beef and onions. Cover, and cook on Low for 9 to 10 hours, or until meat is tender. Mix 1/4 cup water with flour to form a paste, and stir into goulash. Cook on High for 10 to 15 minutes, or until sauce thickens.

And I’ve already got great plans for the leftovers, too. I had originally planned on just frying them in butter like my Oma used to do, until I came upon this post at Delicious: Days. Perfect timing! I’ll definitely be following those suggestions for leftovers tonight!

Oma’s Layered Ground Beef & Cabbage

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately – pretty non-adventurous about making anything new for the most part, more content to make comfort food that reminds me of places I’ve long since left behind and people that have long since left me behind when passing out of this world.

For some reason, much of this need for comfort has manifested itself in trying to recreate dishes my Oma (grandmother) used to make me as a child. Unfortunately, many of her recipes died with her in 1995, and because she always put her own little spin on things (my Oma was the ultimate foodie!), recipes I find online are pretty much useless. For instance, her roladen was stuffed with meat and wrapped in bacon, rather than stuffed with pickles and mustard like most traditional recipes.

She pretty much had her own “meat mix” going, her ground beef mixture that worked wonderfully in everything from frikadellen to rouladen to layered cabbage and beef and everything in between. It was the key to most of her recipes, and the one thing that I have been able to perfect, from sensory recall alone. When I hit upon just the right combination of flavors, I knew it immediately.

Oma's Layered Ground Beef & Cabbage

This is one of her specialties, one that the whole family loves, from my mother to my sisisters to my husband and everyone in between. My mom translated what she could of the recipe, but I’ve added my own touches to it, which I’ll mention after the recipe details. While my mom’s version is good – the changes I made improve it, I think. But I’ll let you decide for yourself. 🙂

Oma’s Layered Ground Beef & Cabbage

1 tbsp. shortening
1 large head cabbage
2 lbs. ground beef
1 c. bread crumbs
1 egg
Maggi seasoning
Caraway seeds

Boil cabbage in a pot of water and pull off leaves as cabbage softens. Save the liquid from the cabbage. Mix meat with bread crumbs, egg, Maggi, salt and pepper. Melt a pat of shortening at bottom of Dutch oven. Layer leaves along bottom of pan, then sprinkle caraway seeds. Layer meat, then cabbage again until you have 3 layers of cabbage, and 2 layers of meat. Dot with butter between layers. Add enough liquid down sides to keep it moist. Cook in covered Dutch oven on medium heat for at least an hour, or until meat is no longer pink and cabbage is tender. Serve with potatoes.

Now, here is what I do differently:

I do use ground beef, but about 3 lbs. instead of 2 lbs. I use 2 heads of cabbage instead of 1, and I peel the tough outer leaves, then thinly slice all the inner leaves until it’s shredded. After I’ve drained the parboiled cabbage shreds, I also parboil the outer leaves. For the meat mixture, I use 1 egg, about a tablespoon of Maggi (at least, more to taste), 2 tsp. of salt, and about 3/4 tsp. of pepper. Instead of breadcrumbs, I use 6 day old kaiser rolls (preferably caraway rolls) soaked in milk until soft. I use my Le Creuset 5-quart dutch oven, and line the bottom with the outer leaves before doing the layers. I do use the butter liberally, and definitely sprinkle caraway seeds. I use the remaining outer leaves to put on the top, don’t use the cabbage juice at all, and instead of cooking it on the stovetop, I cook it in the covered dutch oven in the oven at 350 for 90 minutes.

If you do try it both ways, be sure to drop me a comment and tell me which version you prefer!