What’s so expensive about Switzerland?

groceries

I get asked what makes Switzerland so expensive. I usually just answer with some information about properties values and rental cost. Today I thought I would share some grocery comparisons.

First lets talk bread. I may have mentioned how this is one of the best parts of Europe. It is what keeps me carrying around those extra pounds. It really deserves a lot of credit, trust me. Today we had sandwich rolls made from some of the stuff in the basket on the left. Delicious twisty bread we call it- sort of like a chewey, crusty, baguette. Also pitured are braided pretzel bread, and whole grain rolls with dried fruit (perfect for breakfast). The braided loaf is affectionatly known as “Sunday bread” because it’s beautiful sweet white chewey buttery bread that you should only eat on Sunday. All that bread was about 10.00 chf=$10.72. I think that’s pretty comperable to something I would pay for a good bakery quality in the states.

Then there’s great quality produce. I love it, I think it’s better tasting, fresher, riper, more local, so yes we are spoiled. But I think we pay a little more for it.

  • celery: 2.70chf=$2.89
  • tomatoes: 1.20chf =$1.29
  • sweet Potatoes: 3.65chf=$3.91
  • borccoli: 2.05=$2.20
  • mellon: 3.50 chf=$3.75
  • kiwi: 1.80 chf=$1.93
  • lemons: 2.70chf=$2.89
  • oranges: 3.70chf=$3.96
  • appels: 1.85 chf=$1.98
  • pears: 1.75 chf=$1.88
  • strawberries: 3.95chf=$4.23
  • bannanas: 4.50chf=$4.82

In most of Europe the milk is UHT, its somehow made to store at room temperature for long periods of time. Some brands taste better than others. I buy a whole pack (6  one liter cartons) for 7.80 chf= $8.36, its cheaper than fresh, the kids cant tell a difference, especially on cereal. It does not have to be stored in our tiny little fridge, so that’s a real win for us. A litter of fresh milk is 1.50chf=$1.61.

The swiss are proud of their eggs, they are probably better for me- I haven’t figured it all out yet. They are over 5chf for a dozen, I have been buying the cheaper imported ones for about 3.95chf=$4.23. They also keep these on the shelf in the supermarket, not in the cooler. They are all very fresh. Once they start to become less fresh they turn them into boiled eggs, dye them pretty colors and sell them for 2.95chf=$3.16. They eat a lot of eggs here, I suspect because the meat is terribly expensive.

SO ready for the kicker? I purchased the pork roast for 24.85chf=$26.63, it was on sale for half off! Normally it would be 41.05! The turkey breast I purchased at the discount grocery store called LIDL. Lidl is like an Aldi. It is reduce groceries but you don’t always know what they are going to have and what you can count on buying. There prices make it worth going at least once a week and making a second trip to the normal supermarket. I bought the turkey breast for 10.50chf=$11.25 , normally it is 14.99chf= $16.06. The turkey will make 2 meals and frankly we have just cut back on the amount of meat we eat, which is healthy anyway.

One of my favorite non alcoholic options for a party drink or special occasion is REMUS- a bottle cost 4.95chf= $5.30.

Well, what do you think?  Except for the meat I think most things are pretty comparable for the quality. But I know friends who became vegetarians for a year (almost) because they refused to pay such high prices. I really miss Press and Seal, brown sugar, shortcuts like rice mixes and french onion soup mix. Sometimes I can’t find cilantro (called Koriander here) at the market and forget about fresh salsa. Some things are just hard to give up!

* Prices are based on today’s exchange rate.

 

 

Zucchini boats and other ways to get kids to eat things that don’t taste good.

Zucchini again! Today’s post was going to be another Zucchini recipe. Here’s what we made today.

zucchini boat.moxiblog.com

It looked adorable! Everyone was excited when I put it on the table. But once we started eating, it left us… not wanting more. I haven’t eaten zucchini boats for many years. I think it was the summer of 4th grade, we had a garden, there must have been a lot of zucchini, we ate a lot of zucchini boats. I never wanted to eat them again. I guess my parents didn’t want to either because I don’t remember ever eating them again, until today. SO no recipe to share but I thought I would share an idea…

By making the food interesting and fun I generated enough enthusiasm that everyone happily ate the meal. I remember when I was young, probably first grade my mom made a meal that I would now consider disgusting. Huckleberry fin rafts made of Toast with refried beans on it, a toothpick and an olive to “steer” the raft. Navigating the “swamp salad” – coleslaw, was no easy thing, it may have even had raisins in it. For a long time I thought this was my favorite food. I am sure my mom, who at the time had 4 young children and a husband that worked 24 hour shifts as a fireman, was out of groceries and didn’t want to drag us to the store. This crazy meal was a product of some serious genius and desperation. Funny enough we all loved it. My mom was so good at infusing creativity into our young impressionable life’s. She served Lady Godiva soup ( curly – cheap Raman noodles) and told us stories while we ate. It didn’t matter what it tasted like, we loved feeling like it was a special occasion dinner. I love that she thought us the classics while we did ordinary things like cook and eat. It was our home-school experience.

So today I was channeling my mom, and hoping the kids would eat up the zucchini boats, and it worked! Thanks to a terrific mom and one who seriously worked SO HARD, taking those extra steps, to teach us how to be creative too.

Steph Burnette’s Summer Tomato Stacks

tomoato stack 2

 

When Coco was born I was well fed for months. I felt loved. I have so many dear friends in Greenville South Carolina. Sometimes I can’t help wishing we were still there wrapped up in the love and support. Instead I re-cook this comfort food and remember those delicious casseroles made by those dear friends.

Stephanie is a food writer, good cook and teaches culinary classes, I’m just happy she shared this recipe with me.
6 Ripe Tomatoes
3 Summer Squash (I cant get these lovelies in swtizerland so I made the one pictured above with JUST zucchini).
3 Zucchini
3 Medium Sweet Onions
3 T of sugar
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
Handful of Basil Leaves
Core the tomatoes and cut into thick slices. Salt the tomatoes a bit more than usual. Slice
the squash into thin slices and coat with olive oil. Slice the onions into ribbons.
I start cooking my onions down right away. To caramelize 3 medium onions it will take
about 40 minutes, but they only need a stir once or twice so you’re not really babysitting
them. Start the onions on medium and when they start to look translucent, add 3 T of
sugar, stir and let saute on low until they are completely caramelized.
Grill or pan fry the squash and zucchini over medium heat until it’s tender and has good
marks. Immediately set aside on a plate and pepper.
In a pyrex dish pour a bit of Olive Oil in the bottom. Layer tomato, squash, tomato,
onions, basil, tomato. Splash Balsamic Vinegar over each tomato and then top each one
with Olive Oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on your counter until dinner.

 

Roasted Tomato Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tart

I have used variations of this recipe many times over the years for entertaining guest. I think it is delicious, elegant, presents beautifully, and can be made ahead and just popped in the oven 30 minutes before every one is ready to eat. Pair it with your favorite salad.

I adapted a recipe from The Barefoot Contessa so I must give her the credit. Here is my version of a roasted Tomato Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tart.

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Line 2 broiler pans with parchment and place sliced zucchini on one and sliced tomatoes on the other, mist with oliveoil spray, salt and peper. Place pans in the oven on bake 350 degrees -ish. Bake about 30 minutes until tomatoes are toasted and zucchini is soft. Alternatively you may sautee the zucchini in a frying pan if it is easier.

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Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat. TIP: you can do all the precooking and even assembly ahead of time, I would say at least 24 hours, just make sure it is covered well and refrigerated).

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Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F (190 degrees C). Carefully transfer the dough to a 9-inch (23-cm.) fluted tart pan with removable sides. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim off any excess dough overhanging the rim. Prick the base of the crist with a fork in several places.  Sprinkle the 3 tbls. parmesean and spread the carmelized onions down first.

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Arrange the zucchini in overlapping concentric circles or another attractive pattern on top of the cheese.

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Add dolops of goat cheese evenly over tart.

I’m lucky, I have a helper and these little projects are a perfect way for her to learn to cook and keep her busy. No precision is required.

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Next place the roasted tomatoes evenly over the tart. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Top with the remaining parmesean cheese and the thyme. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let the tart cool for 10 minutes. Remove the pan sides, sprinkle with herbs, and serve warm.

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Tomato, Zucchini & Goat Cheese Tart

prepared refrigerated puff pastry crust
(We are really lucky to have excellent choices in prepared dough here in Europe, and especially when I shop in France).

3 Tbs. olive oil

4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)

3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
4 tbls. Parmesan cheese.

1/2 lb. (250 g.) zucchini, cut crosswise into slices 1/8 inch (3 mm.) thick

5 oz. (155 g.) fresh goat cheese, crumbled

3/4 lb. (375 g.) tomatoes, one size or a mixture of sizes, sliced or halved, depending on size

garnish with fresh herbs, parsley, thyme, basil

Serves 6-8.

chicken and dumplin’s

DSC_4280chicken n dumplins finished
In need of some southern comfort food Coco and I prepared one of our family favorites this afternoon for our Big mid day meal. Since moving here we very much enjoy a big family meal for lunch and a light sandwich or salad for dinner. I usually walk to the store with Coco in the morning, pick up a few things like milk and bread and any thing we need for the day. Then we start cooking. I have everything cleaned up and the biggest part of the workday is over by 1:00. Unless of course- its laundry day.
Start like you are making chicken soup- see recipe below by  Dawn Vezina from cooks.com if you really need to follow a recipe but it can hardly be messed up-
water to boil- add stuff- simmer.
Also I made a few changes to this recipe- since i was in a hurry I used shortcuts. It is much better to use a whole chicken and de-bone.
DSC_4266chicken carcass
Can I just pause for a moment and show you the very un-glamorous chicken carcass many of you have probably never worked with one. Its cheap good food and can be used in a 101 ways (at least) so if you have never de-boned one of these beauties- you really should learn how!
The stock is much much better when you benefit from the collagen in the bones. I was in a hurry so I just threw in diced chicken breast. I also have a hard time finding stalk celery here so I chopped up celery root- I think it is a milder flavor but still delicious. It’s also a great option for those who have family members who are averse to the texture  of celery- the root is more like a potato than a stalk celery.
Finally I like to add more veggies when I can so I threw in some frozen peas at the last 5 minutes. I didn’t even stir them in because I just wanted them to defrost and stay the beautiful bright green color and not become mushy. I even throw in green beans sometimes.
lets get started~
1 large broiler-fryer chicken, cut up
2 celery ribs, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can chicken broth
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2-1 teaspoon pepper
water
Combine chicken, celery, carrots, onion, chicken broth, parsley, chicken bouillon granules, salt and pepper in a large pan or dutch oven; add enough water to cover chicken. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours or until chicken is done.
Remove chicken and let stand until cool enough to handle. Remove skin from chicken and tear meat away from bones. Return meat to soup; discard skin and bones. This 1/2 of the recipe can be made in advance and even frozen to have on hand. I like to keep a little extra on hand to make soup later, or to give to a sick friend.
DSC_4268preserve or gift
Add more salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Return soup to a simmer.
DUMPLINGS:
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
4 tablespoons oil
2-3 tablespoon fresh herbs- chives, parsley, maybe a little thyme
stir ingredient until just combined
DSC_4412dumplin dough
DSC_3589coco helping
Roll dough into little balls (this is where I get the kids to help while I start cleaning up the dishes), or just drop teaspoonfuls into the hot simmering soup. Once this cooks for about 15 minutes it will be a perfect pot of Chicken & Dumplin’s. The broth should be creamy and thicker so it coats the spoon and the dumplin’s will be in different consistency, the ones floating on the very top will likely be fluffier and the ones cooking below will be a little denser and chewier- I LOVE A MIX OF BOTH.
this is what the dumplins look like when cooking

this is what the dumplin’s look like when cooking

Airheads Candy Garnishes

Have you noticed an Airhead themed Valentines Day here in Sunny South Carolina? We had plenty of bars left from the Happy Hour post earlier this week. The box comes filled with an assortment of colors and flavors; so with the leftovers I crafted some roses. I think they make cute garnishes for Valentines desserts.

I simply cut the airheads in half long way and started to roll the center part. I then cute half moon shaped petals and pressed them together like play-dough! The older kids will love making them and kids of all ages will love eating them. When I served the strawberry dessert (above) the roses were gobbled up first.

Airheads Valentine

My dear friend Steph helped me concoct and taste-test the grown-up version: Valentini~ perfect for parties & afternoon playdates. For the rest of us who prefer a non-alcoholic version, the Creme-Berry Fizz! Let the kids help by putting Airheads fairy sugar on the rim and shaping the Airheads candy into strawberry garnishes and hearts for freezing. 

Valentini
A chocolate covered strawberry cocktail for two!

4 ounces dutch chocolate vodka, about 2 jiggers
4 ounces strawberry Airheads simple syrup*
Airheads Fairy Sugar
Airheads Candy Strawberry

Pour 4 ounces of dutch chocolate vodka and 4 ounces of Strawberry Airheads Simple Syrup into a cocktail shaker filled a third way full with ice. Secure lid and shake. Strain into two martini glasses rimmed with Airheads Fairy Sugar*. Garnish with frozen strawberry airhead heart “ice-cubes”*.

* See Recipes Below
Creme-Berry Fizz
A special drink for a special kid!
1/2 can of cream soda, about 4 ounces
2 ounces of Strawberry Airheads Simple Syrup*
Airheads Fairy Sugar*
Airheads Candy Strawberry*
Ice
Add ice to a highball glass rimmed with Airheads Fairy Sugar. Pour 2 ounces of Strawberry Airheads Simple Syrup into the glass. Top with 1/2 can of cream soda. Wedge an Airheads Candy Strawberry on rim.
* See Recipes Below
Recipes:
Strawberry Airheads Simple Syrup
3/4 cup water
2 Strawberry Airheads
Combine water and Airheads -Stir and place back into the microwave for 1 minute (or until most of the Airheads have dissolved).  Using a coffee filter, strain the liquid into another vessel. Then wipe out the initial container and strain back. (Solids and oils from Airheads will float to the top. Remove as much as you can while the product is still warm.)
Allow syrup to completely cool.  Refrigerate for up to three weeks.

Using a coffee filter, strain the liquid into another vessel. Then wipe out the initial container and strain back. (Solids and oils from Airheads will float to the top. Remove as much as you can while the product is still warm.)

Airheads Fairy Sugar
1/4 cup of superfine sugar
1 Strawberry Airhead
Unwrap the Airhead and place it on a piece of wax paper. Freeze for 1 hour. Using a micro-plane, grate the Airhead into a bowl or wide mouthed jar filled with 1/4 cup of superfine sugar. It sort of feels like you are zesting a lemon. Secure the lid and shake to incorporate. Store in a dry cool place for up to 3 days.
Airheads Candy Strawberry
1 Strawberry Airheads
1 Green Apple or watermelon Airheads
Place both Airheads candy next to each other on a piece of wax-paper. Top with an additional piece of wax paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out the Airheads making them larger and thinner (to about 1/8th of an inch).
Using a toothpick lightly draw 6 hearts in the red candy each about the size of a quarter. In the green candy, using the same method, draw 6 crowns each about the size of a nickel.

With scissors, cut out the shapes you traced. Pull the residual candy away.

Airheads strawberry heart ice-cubes

Place Airheads candy on a piece of wax-paper. Top with an additional piece of wax paper. Using a rolling pin, barely roll out the Airheads making them flat- not much thinner than the original. using a small heart cookie cutter, press into candy and remove residual candy. Place into the freezer until ready to use.

Gingerbread Houses

I am really trying to have a kid friendly holiday season. The advent calendar has been a huge hit with them, but kind of stressful for me. Mostly because sometimes we forget until its after bedtime. Usually by then I am already so wound up, stressed out and ready to dissolve into tears, that I swear to myself I will never celebrate Christmas for 25 days again.

gingerbread kit construction

The good and bad on gingerbread houses:

  • Use a kit! I was so glad I did this! I can not imagine baking all day and then starting on the construction and decorating. I used ANNA’S -its Swedish and actually taste good too. It comes pre-cut and with instructions. It was simple to assemble.
  • We invited the missionaries from church to make the houses; they are always happy and kind and I was really happy to have 2 extra adult hands to help. It would be a perfect thing to do with grandparents too.
  • I loved that it uses up all the Halloween candy!!! This almost makes it a tradition worth keeping- jury’s still out on weather i can forget about the mess it made and actually repeat next year.
  • The kit does not come with frosting- for some reason I thought it did. Luckily I have a ridiculously well stocked pantry and I whipped up a few batches of the hard cookie frosting~ See recipe below.
  • The cookie frosting works great- like glue, but it seemed to be a mess to clean up. If it drips on the floor or gets brushed off the table once dry, it crunches and turns back into powder sugar… walked all through the house.
  • Halloween boxes of nerds worked great as a pebble path!!!
  • You don’t need any fancy decorator tips- a resealable sandwich bag with the corner cut (tiny hole) works awesome, especially for letting kids help.
  • My kids are 8, and 3- big age span. The 8 year old wanted to take time, be careful, was very selective about what kind of candy was placed where. The 3 year old just wanted to glue down a million layers of colored candy on the roof. Both houses looked great in the end and the builders were proud. I might suggest constructing the houses ahead of time- the kids weren’t really interested in that part and were both so excited to have all that candy in their hands at one time.
  • I was glad that I had purchased 2 kits (on sale supper cheap last year after Christmas).
  • The kids wanted to eat the houses the minute they were finished. I tried to dissuade them from it (because the gingerbread was at least a year old) but seconds later it looked like a tornado had come through our little hamlet.

Coco gingerbread house

Boo ginger bread house

Wilton’s Royal Icing recipe:

Dries candy-hard, ideal for gingerbread houses.

3 tbls. Wilton Meringue powder

1 lb. (4 c.) sifted powder sugar

6 tbls. warm water

Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with heavy duty mixer, 10-12 minutes on high speed with handheld mixer.)

makes 3 cups

 

 

Pinterest Review- Candy Corn Cupcake

Here is my version of the Candy Corn Cupcake I pinned on Pinterest- check out my Holiday Board.

Or click HERE for the recipe that you should NEVER make!

This was the worst Pinterest recipe I have tried- not because the recipe was yucky, but HOLY COMPLICATED! I am a pretty darn good cook. I started this project about 1:00- I didn’t pay that much attention to time because going into it I could never imagine It would be about a 3 hour ordeal. The reason I consider this a failure is because the taste is not proportionate to the time! They are good, fine, cute. But it was over complicated in a way that is disproportionate to the pleasure.

Lets start with the batter- it is a doctored up cake mix- I figured it would taste better- I don’t think it does. The addition of sour cream only adds to the cost (and fat). The consistency is much thicker and is part of what makes them soooo incredibly time consuming to “dab” into the cup cake cups.

 

It should look like this.

It should not look like this. If its not smooth and flat it ends up looking a little like tye-dye cupcakes not the stripes on the candy corn.

I will admit I doubled the recipe so that I could have plenty- I also made mostly mini cupcakes because I think they are easier to eat at book-club when there are lots of yummy treats to taste. I also made them in-part for my little coco’s preschool party. SO I ended up with A LOT! But even doubling the effort of mixing up an extra cake mix and  S L O W  L Y dabbing tiny dollops into the cupcake wrappers, this recipe makes for a long day in the kitchen.

I finished the yellow cake layer and felt like I was really ready to wrap up the project. But holy cow, I was just getting started. I noticed the time.

*TIP: If you really love the way they look (which is why I made them), I will suggest you make the cupcakes one day and the frosting another.

I did the orange layer.

Oh, and BTW, if you dont have enough of the cupcake pans- then try using these small souffle cups. If you try using just a wrapper they will lay practically flat like a pancake.

At 2:15 I finished filling the cupcake wrappers. I started baking and making the frosting.

The frosting recipe here (link), was a little worry some and after hours just making the cake part, I wanted to postpone this part for another day. I couldn’t because book-club was tonight. But I can say that the frosting was not problematic like I imagined. Thanks to OUR BEST BITES for the recipe. Its worth making again.

Perfect Cupcake Frosting and Filling

3 tablespoon Flour
1/2 cup milk (whole milk is best, but I use non-fat when it’s all I have and it’s actually fine)
1/2 cup real butter
1/2 cup sugar (that’s granulated sugar, not powdered sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or other flavor if you wish.

Whisk together the flour and the milk. Heat in a small sauce pan on medium heat.Whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. Let it cook, while stirring, until you can start to see the bottom of the pan. Smash any flour lumps with a rubber spatula to keep mixture smooth.

Keep cooking mixture until it resembles thick pudding, almost a paste-like consistency.

It was time consuming because it required a cooking process and then a complete cool dawn before finally whipping with other ingredients. So there was some time that I took the cupcakes out of the oven to cool and the flour-milk mixture was also cooling.

Put this mixture in the fridge and let it cool completely, it’s fine if it stays in there long enough to get chilly, you just don’t want it warm at all. As it’s cooling, feel free to stir it occasionally to speed up the process and keep it from forming a crust on top.  When it is chilled, you can move on to the following step.

It an electric stand mixer, beat the butter and the sugar for a minute or two until well combined and fluffy. You’ll want to use the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, not the flat paddle. Then while beating, add in the thickened milk mixture and the vanilla. Beat to combine and then scrape down the sides. It’s going to look like a goopy mess and kind of lumpy and separated, but keep whipping about 7-10 minutes and Voila! Its perfect for piping onto a tiny double layer cupcake.

I finally finished at about 4:00! That’s a THREE hour cupcake! That taste just OK. This post is too long and so was the preparation time for these Halloween treats.