Race Recap: ZFS Münster-City-Run (10k)

Background: After enjoying the SIENA GARDEN-Straßenlauf 10k back in March, I jumped at the chance to run the ZFS Münster-City-Run, a 5-lap summer 10k in Münster’s beautiful city center.

But let me take a moment for a tangent/rant: What is it with weird race times here in Germany?! Last autumn’s Advents-Aaseelauf was an evening race in the dark, the spring Straßenlauf started at 3pm, and this one was at 7pm on a Sunday. It surprises me that so many races are scheduled in the afternoons and evenings; I don’t think I’m in the minority in preferring morning running (and racing, so you don’t have to think about it and pay attention to nutrition all day). Anyway, it is what it is. But an interesting and unexpected cultural difference.

And now back to the City-Run. I had plans for extending my long runs over the spring and early summer, and keeping up my speedwork. Unfortunately, toddler illnesses led to some disrupted work-/daycare-/exercise-weeks, so my running has been mainly in maintenance mode for the past couple of months.

Goal: Given my low training volume and lack of long runs – not to mention that pesky evening start time – I had no major goal other than to finish and not overheat. I’d have to see how I felt. Of course it would be great to run under 50 minutes again, but I knew that would be a stretch.

Race strategy: See how I feel, try to stick with Jochen (he wanted to run 48:00), try to run consistent lap times, hold steady until the last two laps of the 5-lap course.

Weather & outfit: Quite warm: 24C/75F and partly sunny with a bit of a breeze. It’s summertime! Of course I wore my red shorts with side pockets and my light Wienburgpark parkrun t-shirt with my Saucony Kinvara 9s and sunglasses. I carried a water bottle, too, although in retrospect that was overkill.

The race: After hanging around and chatting with some parkrunners before the start, we set off promptly at 7pm from Münster’s iconic Prinzipalmarkt. The 2-kilometer loop took us through some twists and turns over the cobbles of the city center before we turned onto the Promenade for a lovely, shaded section. Then onto Salzstraße – more cobbles – for a longish stretch before turning left onto the Prinzipalmarkt and going around again (and again, and again…).

It was clear from the start that I wouldn’t be able to stick with Jochen. After 1.5km, I told him to run on ahead. After that, I settled into my own rhythm and just ran my own race. Evening running is hard for me: even if I pay close attention to what I eat throughout the day, I often feel heavy in my stomach and legs. It was no different here. But I kept running through the discomfort and ticked off the kilometers and laps.

The cool thing about the 5-lap course was getting lapped by the really fast runners. The winner set a course record at just over 29 minutes. So fast! There were some very fast women running as well.

Meanwhile, in my own race, I was ticking off sub-5:00 kilometers according to my Garmin, but my watch and the course kilometer markers were way off. Too bad! My watch had me running faster than I probably was.

My legs started feeling the pace and distance on the fourth lap; I think running on cobbles is also harder than it seems. Starting the last lap and last two kilometers, I dug in, took a deep breath, and loosened up my stride to see what I had left in the tank. That felt good, and I did actually pass a few runners. Turning onto Salzstraße for the last 500m, Theresa – out for a regular run – jumped in and ran me towards the finish. That was a huge help – thank you!

I had no kick left but ran through the finish just as the clock ticked over to 51:00. This is how I felt:

The result: My chip time was 50:48 (5:05/km or 8:11/mi average) for the 10k. A bit disappointing not to come under 50′, but given my recent (lack of) training I’m happy with it and couldn’t have run any faster. I finished 34th of 62 women (rant number 2: why did only 62 women run this 10k, when there were 211 male finishers?! That is a huge discrepancy).

Here are my lap splits – not too uneven, but a clear slump on lap 4:


Spilts on each of the 5 laps. I was hurting on the 4th lap!

Post-race: I briefly checked in with the other parkrunners before grabbing a tasty chocolate oat drink (German races do have good post-race drinks!) and cycling slowly home to watch the Tour de France stage highlights with F.


Next up: Nothing on the race calendar, but as usual I’ll be at the Wienburgpark parkrun in Münster every Saturday that I can. Come by and run with us!


Race Recap: SIENA GARDEN-Straßenlauf 2022 light 

Background: When Jochen and I were discussing when to officially start the Wienburgpark parkrun in Münster, he mentioned that the 19th of March would not be a good date because of the SIENA GARDEN-Straßenlauf 10k taking place that same afternoon. “10k? What 10k?” I asked. Shortly thereafter, I checked out the race website and signed myself up. I was somewhat put off by the 3pm start time (what is it with German races and random start times?!), but thought at least I could volunteer at parkrun in the morning and then go to the race.

I had a pretty consistent first couple of months of training in 2022, with only a week or two when I was too busy and/or under the weather to fit in my three runs. I’ve managed to do a tempo/Fartlek run most weeks, but my long runs have topped out at just over 10k. So I knew I could run the distance, but the question was how fast.

Goal: As race week approached, I was feeling strong and in the mood to really race the 10k and see what I could do. I hadn’t properly raced a 10k since October 2018 (!) – pregnancy/baby and pandemic happened – so I was excited to give this one a go and just hoped I’d be healthy for race day. (Spoiler alert: I was.)

So I settled on a goal of finishing under 50 minutes. My recent tempo and interval runs had been under 5:00/km, so I thought averaging that pace for 10k could be doable.

Race strategy: To go out steady and not too fast. To come through the first 5k in 25-26 minutes and then see what I had left and try to run a negative split. I wasn’t quite sure how my body would react to the 3pm start time – it’s not my usual running time – and how tired I’d feel after being on my feet at parkrun all morning.

Weather & outfit: We have had unusually (for Münster) sunny weather recently, and race day didn’t disappoint: it was about 11C/52F and sunny, but also quite breezy – even trending towards blustery, as we experienced during the race. The wind made it feel cool, so I was unsure what to wear: 7/8 leggings and a t-shirt, or shorts and a t-shirt? After consulting previous race recaps (practical to have these records on my blog!) at similar temperatures, I opted for my red shorts with side pockets and my light Wienburgpark parkrun t-shirt with my Saucony Kinvara 9s, my go-to racing shoes, and sunglasses. It was the right choice.

The race: I cycled to the race and let that be my warmup, although Theresa and I did do one token lap of the track before the start. Even 30 minutes before the start there were a lot of runners already milling around and warming up. Embedded in the SIENA GARDEN-Straßenlauf were the 10k road race championships for North Rhine-Westphalia (the German state we live in), so there were a lot of fast runners around! Theresa and I found Jochen at the start, and shortly thereafter the countdown began. I was impressed that we started promptly at 3:00pm.

Off we went onto the two-lap course. The start was a bit slow and congested, so I went with the flow and let the crowd of runners pull me along and out onto the Sentruper Straße. Many runners streamed past me, but I kept reminding myself to run my own race and stay steady. The last thing I wanted was to go out too fast and tank in the last few kilometers; my Garmin showed me running under 5:00/km pace, so I was well within my goal pace.

We had a nice tailwind running west along the Sentruper Straße and on the track as well; unfortunately, these segments of the course felt much shorter than the rest along the Aasee, where we experienced blustery headwinds and crosswinds.


Though the first kilometer in 4:51, I checked myself a little bit and relaxed into a steady-hard pace. My next three kilometers were just under 5:00 each. We turned back onto the sports grounds and ran one lap of the track, where the water stop was (except there was also sweet tea, a cup of which I accidentally grabbed instead of water! I was parched from the wind but only took a couple of sips when I discovered it wasn’t water). The end of the track lap was also the 5k marker, which I passed in 24:45, a bit faster than planned. But I was feeling strong and decided to run with it (ha! Pun intended).

Knowing that kilometers 6-8 would be the hardest, I intentionally picked up the pace going back out away from the sports grounds. I also knew we’d have tailwind and wanted to use that to my advantage. 4:48 and 4:39 for kilometers 6 and 7 – the 7th kilometer ended up being my second fastest of the race.

Around 7.5k we turned back down towards the Aasee and into the wind. I slowed down a tad and ate a shot block during this stretch. With 2k to go, I started picking out runners ahead of me to try and pass. I spotted a woman who had passed me early on in the race and decided to catch her. At this point my legs and feet were getting tired, but with less than 2k to go I pushed on.

I caught up with the woman just before we turned back onto the track for the final 250-300m. However, as we came onto the track, someone started loudly encouraging her (sounded like a coach) to start her sprint and pass me. Which she did; I tagged along as best I could, knowing it was too early for me to kick. But when we turned onto the final straightaway, I could tell she was starting to tire. So I gritted my teeth and dug deep for a final surge. I passed her in the last 5-10 meters for a strong finish (a 4:27 final kilometer, and the last 100m in 3:19/km pace).

The result: My chip time was 48:26 (4:51/km or 7:48/mi average) for the 10k; my gun time was 48:43 but I prefer to go with the faster of the two! I’m really pleased to have run under 50 minutes, and by a decent margin with a strong finishing kick (and a small negative split). I was 293rd out of 441 finishers, and the 73rd woman of 127 that finished.

I was happy about my steady pacing and my overall race execution. While it’s not even close to the fastest 10k I’ve run, it felt good to race again and see that I’m regaining some fitness and speed. That my legs and feet got tired means I need to work on my strength and longer tempo running, I think. Goals for moving forward!

Post-race: I drank a cup of sweet tea and a cup of water, then found Robin and cheered in Jochen and Theresa. We exchanged race recaps and took some pictures, then got our free alcohol-free beers (love German post-race goodies!) and stood around chatting until it got too cold and it was time to cycle home.

Next up: I’m not sure what’s next on my race calendar, but I’ll be at the Wienburgpark parkrun in Münster every Saturday that I can. Come by and run with us!

Bringing parkrun to Münster | 1st official Wienburgpark parkrun

Well hello, there. Long time no post, I know. Life with a small child, working as a freelancer, and living through a pandemic aren’t so conducive to regular blogging. My energy for baking and cooking is also minimal, hence no recent recipes (I should probably post a “What’s Been Cooking?” edition soon). I am managing to fit in my three runs a week, though – when I haven’t caught a cold or some other virus that E has brought home from day care – and that’s keeping me mostly sane!

Speaking of running, that’s what this post is about. If you are a longtime reader of my blog, you may know that I have been an avid parkrun fan ever since discovering it after moving to London in 2013. Completing 50 parkruns in 2018 was a big achievement for me, and it’s something I miss most about living in London.

When we moved to Münster in 2019, I knew that parkrun was slowly catching on in Germany but was surprised that there was not yet a parkrun in Münster, given the amount of green space there is and the number of active people who live here.

May 2019: My final parkrun in London before moving to Germany. And the last parkrun I completed!

Fast forward to late 2020, when I stumbled upon a Facebook group called “Ein parkrun für Münster – bringing parkrun to Münster.” One of the parkrun Germany ambassadors, Janina, had started it to gauge interest and support people to set up a parkrun in Münster. I immediately joined the group to stay in the loop and see what I could do to help. At some point Janina set up a Zoom meeting for those who were more seriously interested, and there were about 10 participants, including Jochen, who had helped set up a parkrun in Würzburg not long before, and who has become our Event Director (somewhere along the way, I’ve actually become the Co-ED!). Some participants had never heard of parkrun before, but all bought into the concept and were keen to get one off the ground in Münster.

So what happened next? The main hurdle was going to be getting the city of Münster’s approval for a parkrun course; once you have that, parkrun helps you handle much of the rest of the logistics. Our first choice was one loop of the well-known Aasee, and the group even did a couple of test runs there. However, the city rejected our first proposal, citing too much regular foot traffic around the Aasee and something about not allowing anyone to put up signs around it. I think the city also had trouble understanding the concept of parkrun as “free, weekly, 5km timed community events around the world.” We had been warned of that possibility by other teams that had set up parkruns in Germany; a former London Heathside club-mate Sandra, who lived in Stuttgart for a few years and helped set up a parkrun there, had also alerted me to this potential challenge.

Luckily, we had already discussed a Plan B: two loops of the Wienburgpark, a couple of kilometers north of Münster’s city center. After a bit of back and forth with the city, our proposed park/route was approved in fall 2021, and planning commenced in earnest. (Throughout this time, the core organisation team and others had been meeting weekly for an unofficial parkrun on the route, at the usual parkrun time. We had over 40 of these informal meet-ups (Lauftreffs, in German) before the official parkrun started. They were a great way to drum up interest and start building a network of potential parkrunners in Münster.)

The Covid-19 situation (or die Corona-Lage, as it’s often referred to in German) prevented us from officially starting the parkrun before Christmas, and it didn’t improve much into early 2022. We finally bit the bullet and decided to start in mid-March. Since parkruns are outside, they are allowed even when Covid numbers are relatively high.

So after a long run-up, many unofficial parkruns, a number of Zoom meetings and lots of WhatsApping, we finally launched the first official parkrun in Münster, the Wienburgpark parkrun, on 12 March 2022!

And what a start it was: we had 47 participants, 14 volunteers, a few spectators, and even blue sky and sunshine. In case you’re wondering, the course consists two flat laps of the park on mixed terrain. It could be pretty fast, although there are a number of sharpish turns and a muddy day could slow you down on the mulch sections.

In any case, we have a great core team of enthusiastic (park)runners and I’m excited to see how the event and volunteer team grow. I’ll probably be on the volunteering side of things for a while (I handed out finishing tokens this week and I’ll be run director for the first time next week – eek!), but I’m looking forward to having my first officially-timed crack at the course – and completing my 76th parkrun after a long break.

Thanksgiving with a toddler (2021)


Thanksgiving desserts

Last year we made a simple Thanksgiving family lunch, since we were more or less in lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Things weren’t looking much better this year, but we wanted to host a proper Thanksgiving and decided to have a “2G+” celebration with two other families, each of which brought a toddler/baby along, on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. Since we have a toddler ourselves, the group dynamic worked really well.


What we underestimated was the amount of coordination it took to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for 6 adults + kids, all while wrangling said toddler!

F planned well and took Friday off to get a lot of preparation done. In the end, it took us a good day or so to prepare everything, and we were perhaps a bit overambitious with the menu, but it all turned out deliciously and everyone seemed to have a good time. I’ll spare more narrative, since this post is mainly to remind myself what we did, and include what we made below:

  • Mains
  • F salt-brined an entire turkey, roasted it, and it was delicious
  • U & V made our sweet potato casserole recipe
  • This bread stuffing – it was a hit!
  • Simple boiled green beans
  • Brussels sprout & tomato salad
  • Vegetarian & non-vegetarian gravy (F made the latter with homemade stock – yum)
  • Desserts
    • I made cranberry upside-down cake, as usual
    • We made two pumpkin pies: Emma’s recipe, plus this one that F’s boss had recommended. The latter was too sweet for us (we even reduced the sugar in the recipe!), but we liked the addition of black pepper to the spice mix.
    • F & E baked a delicious apple pie
    • Whipped cream, of course!

And with the leftovers? F made delicious turkey-stuffing meatballs and Brussels sprouts mashed potatoes the day after the feast. They fueled me well for the Advents-Aaseelauf. I continued to enjoy the cranberry sauce on bread with cheese throughout the following week.

Race Recap: Advents-Aaseelauf 10k


The Aasee at night, lit up more than usual for the event

Background: Finally, at long last, an actual race taking place in person that was a 5-minute cycle from home? Yes, please! I hadn’t run a “live” race in over two years, since the Crouch End 10k in 2019 (at 11 weeks pregnant). It was fun to do the Virtual Wings for Life World Run back in May, but that was more of a personal challenge and not the same as running together with other competitors. So when a friend told me about the Advents-Aaseeslauf at the end of November in Münster, I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to register for the 5k but it was already full, so I bit the bullet and signed up for the 10k, even though I hadn’t actually run that far in one go since June.

The race timing intrigued me, and almost put me off: a 6pm start for the 10k. But the race took place on the first Sunday of Advent (a big thing here in largely Catholic North Rhine-Westphalia), so I assume that was the idea behind the evening start and decided to give it a go.

Goal: I thought registering for a race would motivate me to get back into a rhythm of tempo runs and long runs. It did, for the few weeks that I stayed healthy in between viruses brought home by E from daycare! I never managed a run over 9.2km, but I figured with decent base fitness I would certainly finish the 10k. Unfortunately, we all got colds the week before the race, and I still felt a bit congested on the day. I almost decided not to run, but then Jochen, my co-event director for our coming-soon Münster parkrun (first official parkrun on 8th Jan 2022 – stay tuned!), suggested we run together at social pace and chat about parkrun. That sounded good, so I rallied myself and told Jochen I’d be happy if we finished the 10k in under an hour.

Race strategy: No strategy other than finishing under an hour and enjoying it. The course was 3 laps on the somewhat narrow Aasee paths, so I wasn’t sure how congested it would be at the start and wasn’t really bothered about where I started.

Weather & outfit: Classic Münster weather: 3C/37F with on and off drizzle (I love the German word: Nieselregen). And completely dark, of course, given the evening start. We had to be there not later than 15 minutes before the start, to get our “2G” status (geimpft oder genesen = vaccinated or recovered) checked, plus I was cycling there and back, so I dressed a bit warmer than I might for a run in these conditions. I wore long running leggings with side pockets (so practical!), tall merino ski socks, a warm mock-turtleneck baselayer with my parkrun 50 t-shirt on top, a snood, a hat, and gloves. I opted for my Brooks Ghost 13 shoes, since I wasn’t planning on really racing.


Jochen, me, & Theresa before the start. Photo credit: Jochen M.

The race: After hanging around in the starting area with our masks on (don’t worry – we didn’t have to run in them!), we were ushered forward for a casual but on-time start at 6pm. The first 2-3 kilometers were very congested; even if we had wanted to run faster, Jochen and I couldn’t. So we had a nice gentle warmup-style start to the race while we caught up on parkrun chat.

I finally warmed up by around 4km and started taking off layers: first my hat, then the snood, and eventually my gloves. By then, Jochen and I had reached a good cruising speed. We came through 5k in 30:40, and I said we’d better pick it up if we wanted to come in under an hour! By then the pack was finally thinning out, so we didn’t have a problem speeding up.

My right outer knee started twinging a bit around 6km, but other than that I was feeling good – much better than anticipated – and we picked up the pace even more while still maintaining conversation. Kilometers 8 and 9 were 5:15 and 5:11, respectively, and I suggested we go for it in the final kilometer. I felt strong and even had a bit of a kick, coming through the last kilometer in 4:41.

The atmosphere was beautiful, with wide candles set up around the course. It was challenging to run in the dark and took a while to get used to it; I didn’t want to trip and fall. It felt peaceful yet festive to race in the dark at the start of the holiday season. I still prefer morning running and races, but I wouldn’t rule out another evening one.

The result: My official time was 56:09 (5:37/km or 9:03/mi average) for the 10k. That’s under an hour, so I’m happy with it. In retrospect, I probably could’ve actually raced the entire thing at a decent clip, but it was nice to run with Jochen and not tax my body too much, especially with a lingering cold/sinus infection. I couldn’t figure out my overall place, but I was the 81st woman of 217 that finished.

We ended up running a perfect negative split race in the form of a progression run, without really intending to. While it wasn’t even close to my fastest 10k race, it gave me confidence in my fitness and motivated me to keep up my training and speedwork.


Stutenkerl (Münsterland) / Weckmann (Rhineland)

Post-race: I picked up my post-race goody (a Stutenkerl/Weckmann with Streusel – yum) then headed back to my bike and cycled home. F had made me fresh hot chocolate with leftover whipped cream from our Thanksgiving celebrations the day before. He’s the best!


F makes delicious hot chocolate

Next up: I’m not sure what’s next on my race calendar, but soon my energies will be focused on getting the Wienburgpark parkrun in Münster up and running!

(Virtual) Race Recap: Wings for Life World Run


Nostalgically sporting the London Heathside vest

Background: Due to pregnancy, childbirth, getting back to running, and a pandemic, I haven’t raced since the Crouch End 10k in 2019 (at about 11 weeks pregnant). I’ve been feeling the itch to compete again, mainly to motivate myself. So when I completed a recent Strava challenge and it plugged the Wings for Life World Run, I quickly signed up. The basic idea is everyone starts at the same time and you have to keep running until the chase car catches you. My good friend Hannah ran Wings for Life live a few years ago, and I remember her talking about the strange experience of having to just keep running until being caught by the car. Due to the pandemic, this year’s event was run virtually; the app tracks you via GPS and tells you when the car catches you.

Goal: I’m not in racing or long distance shape, so my goal was to make this my longest run of the year (and longest post-baby run). The app told me that if I wanted to do 15k, I would need to average 6:07/km. On the day, I decided to aim for at least 14k (to complete my weekly mileage goal) and not push the pace too much.

Race strategy: Try to maintain an average pace of around 6:00/km, break the race into thirds (I figured I’d be on my feet for about an hour and a half), and enjoy it. A challenge for me was the 1:00pm start time – not my body’s ideal running time – so I knew I’d have to just see how I felt after setting out.

Weather & outfit: Classically, it turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far. After weeks of cool weather, the heat was turned up to about 25C/77F (maybe more) by the 1pm start time. It was sunny with a bit of haze. I wore shorts, my Heathside club vest (for nostalgia! I’m no longer officially a member since I don’t live in London anymore), and my Brooks Ghost 13s, my everyday running shoes (remember, I wasn’t really “racing” this). I took a couple of shot blocks and my running water bottle.


The Dortmund-Ems Canal in Hiltrup

The race: I had originally thought I’d run laps around the Aasee but I knew it would be packed at midday on an unusually warm Sunday in May – not social-distancing-friendly. So I opted for an out-and-back along the Dortmund-Ems Canal that flows through Münster.

I felt sluggish and a little bit nervous all morning, even though this wouldn’t be an all-out effort for me. But I was a bit anxious about the midday start time and whether my various niggles would hold up over a longer distance than I’d run in a while.

The first couple of kilometers were indeed sluggish, but once on the canal I got into a pretty good rhythm. The World Run app would check in every kilometer with a cheesy motivational statement, which was slightly annoying but also somewhat amusing!

After the first 5k, I knew I’d manage at least 14k, so I decided to keep going down the canal and turn around after 7k. There was a bit of a headwind on the way out, which had a cooling effect; I definitely felt the heat more on the way back and was glad I had my water bottle.

I took a shot block and a short walk break around 10k. I was actually still feeling quite good, although the fatigue started setting in around 11.5k. When I got off the canal and headed back towards our neighborhood, I was ready to call it quits…but I had to keep running until the car caught me! I surged a bit to run through my 14k goal, and then pretty much shuffle-jogged my way through the rest, waiting to be caught by the virtual car.

The result: I was (finally!) caught by the virtual chase car after 1:32:50 and completed 15.26km (9.48mi) in that time. That’s an average pace of 6:05/km or 9:47/mi. It’s about what I was aiming for.

Post-race: I finished in my neighbourhood and walked the last steps home, where F presented me with a big glass of cold sparkling water. After a shower, I devoured half a Laugenecke and a Käsebrötchen with a boiled egg. F took E out for the afternoon so I could sit with my legs up and recover a bit.

Next up: It’s unclear when races will resume in our part of Germany, so this is a big TBD/TBC.

Recipe: Shakshuka with Feta

Photo by F

When we lived in London, we enjoyed the occasional brunch at BEAM in Crouch End. My friend J always raved about their shakshuka, but I was never in the mood for a spicy, tomatoey brunch. It therefore wasn’t until we moved to Münster that we started making shakshuka ourselves, after coming across this recipe from Melissa Clark at NYT Cooking.

According to Wikipedia, shakshuka most likely originated in North Africa but has been adopted and adapted by many cultures. Melissa Clark implies that adding feta cheese is not particularly traditional, so this version may not be very authentic. What it is, though, is delicious!

Some shakshuka recipes, including Clark’s, call for finishing the eggs in the oven. However, after reading through the “helpful” comments on the NYT recipe, I elected to skip that step and steam-poach the eggs on the stovetop. It works well and saves energy by eliminating the need for the oven.

While it takes patience to cook down the peppers and onion until they are soft and browning, I love how shakshuka is a true one-pan dish. It is also flexible in terms of ingredient proportions (you’ll see in the recipe below that I’ve given generous ranges for most ingredients): you can amp up the spice or tone it down; use more peppers or go onion-heavy; sprinkle coriander over the top or leave it out; go heavy on the feta or crumble sparingly. Make it your own!

F and I often eat this with pita, but if you don’t have any around, you can easily sub in regular bread or another kind of flatbread: we’ve been known to cuisine-mix and have leftover roti on the side.

Shakshuka with Feta (adapted from NYT Cooking; serves 2-3)


  • A generous glug of olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small-medium onions, halved & thinly sliced
  • 1-2 red bell peppers, seeded & thinly sliced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed or thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika (sweet or smoked – you choose)
  • to taste: pinch of ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 cans (700-800g) crushed tomatoes (you can also use a combination of crushed tomatoes and passata/tomato puree)
  • to taste: salt & pepper
  • 150-200g feta cheese (we often use an entire 200g block)
  • 4-6 eggs (we usually use 4, but you could easily fit 6 into the pan)
  • optional, for serving: chopped fresh coriander/cilantro & hot sauce


  1. Heat olive oil in a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and cook gently until they are very soft and starting to brown.
  2. Add garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes, then stir in the cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper.
  3. Add the tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened to your liking, 10-15 minutes.
  5. Crumble the feta into the skillet and gently mix it in.
  6. Crack the eggs into the skillet, nestling them into the tomato sauce. Season the eggs with salt and pepper then put a lid on the skillet and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the egg whites are set.
  7. To serve, sprinkle the shakshuka with coriander/cilantro and/or hot sauce. Scoop it up with your favorite flatbread and enjoy!

What’s Been Baking? Pandemic winter edition

Here we are, in 2021, with the Coronavirus pandemic unfortunately still raging. 2020 flew by in a blur of baby (turned toddler!) care and lockdown-opening up-tightening restrictions-lockdown. You already know that we celebrated a small Thanksgiving and did distanced treat deliveries in lieu of having friends over. This winter, F and I have been baking more bread-like creations, so in a riff on my “What’s Been Cooking?” series, I thought I’d share the baking projects that are keeping us inspired at home.

What’s been baking:

  • Sourdough bread: Back in London, there were a couple of years in which we baked sourdough bread regularly – friends taught us the classic “basic country sourdough” recipe from Tartine Bread. But at some point the starter died, and then we moved, so homemade sourdough fell by the wayside for a while. Luckily, F’s mom gave us some of her sourdough starter last fall and that inspired us to start baking again. The first attempt was abysmal! Our shaping technique was rusty and we over-proved the dough. After watching a number of shaping videos on YouTube, we were ready to try again. The second attempt went much better. We’re now in a rhythm of baking two loaves every two to three weeks, and it’s great to keep a stock of bread in the freezer. The sourdough also makes great grilled cheese.
  • Bagels: my good friend Emma (featured on this blog via her pumpkin pie recipe) has been telling me about her bagel baking escapades for a while; she always says they are not as difficult to make as you may think. As it’s nigh on impossible to get proper bagels here in Germany, F suggested we try it ourselves. We used this recipe, and it really wasn’t that hard. The bagels turned out well enough that we made them two weekends in a row!
  • Fudgy brownies: I had a brownie craving a few weeks ago, in part after reading this piece on the art of chewy brownies. I tried the recipe linked from the article, and it was pretty darn delicious. F and I devoured them over the course of two days.
  • Baby E’s first birthday was in December (she’s officially not a baby anymore! Toddler life, here we are), and I made these sugar-free banana muffins for her. They were a bit bland to our adult tastebuds, but E liked them and they were nice with a schmear cream cheese on top.
  • Banana bread muffins: it was a rainy Tuesday afternoon and I was craving a sweet baked good. We only had 1.5 ripe bananas, so I halved my nutty banana bread recipe and baked them as 8 muffins. They hit the spot.
  • Crumpets: Well, an attempt at them. I was chatting with two London friends (hi, H & E!) and described our bagel-baking attempts. H then challenged me to make crumpets! F and I had talked about trying them from scratch at some point, and H inspired me to order some egg/crumpet rings and give it a go. I used this Jamie Oliver recipe. The crumpets were a bit more finicky than I had hoped, in large part because they stuck to the rings. The flavor was also too yeasty. So not the greatest first attempt, but I will try again and I’d like to try sourdough crumpets at some point, too. Watch this space!
  • Pizza: Yes, I count this as baking. Pizza bakes in the oven and is a form of (flat)bread, right? We’ve done a couple of classic sheet pizzas as well as pan pizza. Some of our favorite toppings include (not all at the same time): tuna, mushrooms, spinach (frozen works great), artichoke hearts, and tomato slices. Yum all around.

Unusually, I didn’t bake any sweet treats around Christmastime. We were gifted some cookies in early December, and F’s mom baked her delicious Nusskuchen when we were at their place, so there wasn’t really need for extra sweetness at home.

What have you been baking this winter?

Pandemic Thanksgiving (2020)

Simple but delicious

After having a small Thanksgiving last year due to the uncertainty of Baby E’s arrival, F and I had been looking forward to hosting a larger gathering this year. Alas, the global Coronavirus pandemic hindered those plans, but that did not stop us from cooking, baking, and celebrating our favorite holiday anyway!

Since we couldn’t invite friends over, we decided to make two batches of these maple pecan bars and do distanced delivery drop-offs to neighbors in our building and many of our local friends. It feels nice to share some parts of American culture with others and express gratitude for friendship and neighborliness, especially during these difficult, socially-distanced times.

F’s beautiful turkey breast

F and I then elected to make a 2-person lunch for Thanksgiving Day (the fourth Thursday in November, in case you’re wondering). That way, Baby E (she’s almost 1! Not really a baby anymore) could join us for her first Thanksgiving.

We opted for a classic menu, void of some of our usual dishes (no sweet potato casserole or cranberry cake! Maybe I’ll make them for Christmas). Despite cooking a relatively simple meal, we still did a lot of prep on Wednesday to make Thursday less hectic:

  • I made pumpkin pie using my good friend Emma’s recipe (now posted here on the blog!). We each enjoyed a slice for second breakfast on Thursday after a long walk around the Aasee.
  • F brined the turkey breast in a buttermilk brine (from Samin Nosrat in NYT Cooking), adding lemon zest and fresh rosemary and thyme to the brine.
  • F made chicken stock from scratch and then turned it into a classic gravy.
  • I made my go-to cranberry sauce and popped it into the fridge.

On Thursday, all we had to do was roast the turkey breast, make luxurious (read: lots of cream and butter) garlic mashed potatoes, and boil some Brussels sprouts. It was perhaps the most “classic” or “simple” Thanksgiving meal we’ve done, but everything turned out well and it hit the spot. Delicious!

Baby E’s Thanksgiving lunch

In case you’re wondering, Baby E had her own mini Thanksgiving plate for lunch: boiled Brussels sprouts (I was pleased she ate some!), potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and turkey (just boiled, but then she complained when seeing our plates, so we gave her some of the roast turkey breast and she devoured it. Was there salt in it? Yes. Was it a special occasion? Also yes.). She also enjoyed some leftover canned pumpkin puree – yum.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, socially-distanced Thanksgiving weekend and start to what promises to be a strange winter holiday season. I hope you can connect with your loved ones virtually and/or safely outside. When in doubt, I highly recommend eating dessert for breakfast.

Recipe: Emma’s Pumpkin Pie

Once a year I enjoy a slice or two of silky spiced pumpkin pie, ideally with some freshly whipped cream on the side. I wouldn’t eat pumpkin pie all the time, but it’s one of those treats to look forward to at Thanksgiving.

Although it often features on our Thanksgiving dessert table, we haven’t had a go-to pumpkin pie recipe until last year, when my close friend Emma shared her recipe with us. Emma said she adapted it from The Joy of Cooking, and I’ve made a couple of tweaks of my own.

ready for the oven

The filling for this pumpkin pie is super easy: it’s a dump, whisk, and pour strategy that allows you to get the pie in the oven in no time. You are welcome to adjust the spice levels if they’re too strong or weak for your taste (F said he’d prefer a little less ginger, but I quite liked the extra tickle it gave my tongue).

Many people blind bake (pre-bake) their pie crust for pumpkin pie. I tried this last year but the crust sank, so now I skip that step and haven’t had any problems with soggy bottoms – your pie just might need a few minutes’ extra baking time.

NB: As with my dad’s apple pie, I have not included a pie crust recipe here, because there are so many recipes already out there and/or you might have your own. I use this recipe from smitten kitchen.

Emma’s Pumpkin Pie (adapted from Emma, who originally adapted it from The Joy of Cooking; makes 1 standard 9-inch pie)


  • 1 9-inch pie crust (your recipe of choice; I use smitten kitchen’s “all butter, really flaky pie dough”)
  • Pumpkin filling:
    • 3 eggs
    • 2 generous cups (500g = 1.25 cans) pumpkin puree
    • 1 tbsp cinnamon
    • 1 tbsp ginger
    • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
    • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup (70g) brown sugar
    • 1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream


  1. Preheat oven to 375F/190C (convection setting).
  2. Roll out your pie dough and transfer it to a standard 9-inch pie dish. Pat it into the dish and crimp the edges in your preferred style (I press down with a fork around the edges).
  3. Make the pumpkin filling: Combine all the filling recipes in a mixing bowl and whisk until well-combined.
  4. Pour the filling into the pie dish.
  5. Bake the pie for 45-50 minutes, or until the filling has a slight wobble and the crust is cooked through (it helps to use a glass pie dish so you can peek underneath). If the crust’s edges brown too quickly, cover it with foil.
  6. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool for at least 2 hours. Store at room temperature or in the fridge (I prefer the latter), and enjoy plain or with whipped cream.

Recipe: Terry’s Apple Pie with Crumble Topping

I’ve tried a number of apple pie recipes over the years, but I’ve never really found one that I loved enough to return to regularly. 

Then I remembered that my dad has been making the same apple pie for years and it is always delicious. In fact, I even blogged about that tasty apple pie 8 years ago, in this post. I only recently realized that I never posted the recipe for it. Well, it’s high time to remedy that.

my dad’s delicious apple pie, 8 years ago!

My dad adapted this recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook and it has become his own; I simply think of it as “Terry’s apple pie.” It has a short ingredient list and is quick to put together. If your crust is ready to roll out, you can have the pie in the oven within half an hour, and in your mouth within 3 hours!

NB: I have not included a pie crust recipe, because there are so many recipes already out there, and you might already have a go-to crust recipe. I usually end up using this recipe from smitten kitchen; Serious Eats also has a good crust recipe here.

Terry’s Apple Pie with Crumble Topping (adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook; makes 1 standard 9-inch pie)


  • 1 9-inch pie crust (your recipe of choice; I use smitten kitchen’s “all butter, really flaky pie dough”)
  • Apple filling:
    • 1/2-2/3 cup (100-135g) white sugar
    • 2 tbsp (15g) plain/AP flour
    • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
    • 6 cups pared, cored, & sliced tart/baking apples (6-8 apples; fewer if your apples are very large)
  • Crumble topping:
    • 1/2 cup (64g) plain/AP flour
    • 1/4 cup (50g) white or brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup (57g) unsalted butter


  1. Preheat oven to 400F/200C (convection setting).
  2. Make the apple filling: Pare, core, and slice your apples, then put them into a large mixing bowl. Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and cardamom & stir into the apples.
  3. Roll out your pie dough and transfer it to a standard 9-inch pie dish. Pat it into the dish and crimp the edges in your preferred style (I press down with a fork around the edges).
  4. Turn the apple mixture into the pie dish.
  5. Make the crumble topping: Combine flour and sugar, then cut in the butter until the mixture reaches a crumbly consistency. Sprinkle the topping over the apples.
  6. Bake the pie for 45-50 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly, the crust is cooked through (it helps to use a glass pie dish so you can peek underneath), and the crumble topping is starting to turn golden brown. If the pie browns too quickly, cover it with foil.
  7. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool for at least 2 hours. Enjoy plain or with whipped cream, ice cream, or yogurt (for breakfast – yum).

Recipe: Red Cabbage Slaw with Punchy Dressing

Last month we made some soba noodle salad with peanut sauce, for which we needed red cabbage. The only red cabbage we could find in the supermarket was quite large, though, and we ended up using just 1/4 of it for the noodle salad.

What to do with the rest of the cabbage, then? It’s summertime, so we wanted something crunchy and refreshing. I immediately thought of slaw but wasn’t sure what dressing would be best. A quick search for “red cabbage slaw” on NYT Cooking provided some inspiration and this red cabbage slaw with punchy dressing was born! F and I have since had it three times – each time with a further quarter of that same cabbage we bought for the soba noodle salad.

This slaw is great on/alongside tacos, as a tangy foil for grilled cheese sandwiches, and as a side dish for a barbecue menu. Double, triple, or quadruple the recipe below to serve more people, and take it along to your next socially distanced event. You could also make it with a standard white cabbage if you can’t find red. Feel free to play around with the ingredient proportions in the dressing, too – I never actually measure but rather glug and dollop my way along. Add more honey if you want it sweeter, or amp up the lemon/lime for more tang. However you do it, this is a perfect summer salad!

Red Cabbage Slaw with Punchy Dressing (inspired by Martha Rose Shulman at NYT Cooking; makes 2 generous servings of slaw – just double or triple to feed more people)


  • 1/4 red cabbage, sliced very thinly (ideally on a mandonline)
  • to taste: salt & pepper
  • Punchy Dressing:
    • juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime
    • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 tbsp honey
    • 2-3 tsp Dijon mustard


  1. Wash the cabbage and use a mandoline to shave the cabbage into thin slices. (You can also do this with a very sharp knife but it’s hard to get the slices uniform.)
  2. In a jar or small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and shake or whisk to combine.
  3. Pour the dressing over the cabbage, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss until the cabbage is fully coated with dressing. Enjoy immediately or let sit in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

What’s Been Cooking? Pandemic edition


Life has certainly changed a bit since my last “What’s Been Cooking?” update. Social distancing is the new norm, so the three of us have been holed up at home (when we’re not out for our daily walk(s)) doing lots of cooking. This won’t be an exhaustive list of everything we’ve cooked since the stay-at-home recommendations started a month ago in Germany; rather, I’ll try to highlight some of our shopping strategies and follow that with cooking/baking highlights and projects. So without further ado…

Shopping & stocking the pantry:

F had good foresight regarding the quick global spread of the Coronavirus, so we started stocking up our pantry early with rice, lentils, dried beans, and canned goods. The only thing we forgot was flour, which sold out of the shops and supermarkets really quickly! Apparently when the going gets tough, the Germans get baking… We finally found some Type 1050 (high gluten) flour, which worked great for pizza dough but probably isn’t great for sweet baking; I finally caved and bought 2.5kg of Type 550 (all-purpose) flour online. It was not cheap but I’m glad to have it now.

We have been planning our meals weekly and doing a big shop once a week for a few years. It was simpler to shop less in London because our commutes were so long, and here in Münster we find it easier to save money when we’re not popping out to the shops every other day and inevitably impulse-buying things we don’t really need. So COVID-19 hasn’t really changed our shopping habits, except for trying to go when it’s least busy: for supermarkets, that has been around 8:30am on a weekday, and before 8am on Wednesdays for our weekly outdoor market.

What’s been cooking:

  • F discovered Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt’s YouTube channel and we watched his video on pan pizza. Needless to say, we were inspired to try it ourselves! F made a sauce like Kenji’s, and I made NYT’s Roberta’s pizza dough, which is one of the two I usually make. We used our stainless steel pans and topped the pizzas with cheese, basil, and salami. After 10-12 minutes in the oven, we quickly finished browning the bottoms on the stove, and voilà! Super delicious crispy pan pizza; we both agreed they were perhaps the best pizzas we’ve ever made. Richtig geil. We might never go back to the sheet pan style…
  • Our favorite buttermilk pancakes for weekend brunch! Always in the rotation.
  • Michaela’s chewy chocolate brownies – devoured just by the two of us over the course of a few days. It’s not great for the waistline when social distancing prevents you from sharing goodies with friends, but it is delicious.
  • F made a delicious Bärlauch (wild garlic) pesto, and we even had enough to freeze for future meals.
  • Pretty regular batches dal and rice, often from Priya Krishna’s Indian-ish cookbook.
  • One of our main meals for the week is always a big, hearty salad. Sometimes we do a Niçoise-style, sometimes beet(root) and carrot, sometimes just a mass of chopped veggies. At the moment we are loving cooking dried butter beans to add to our salads: soak them overnight, then add a generous pinch of salt and a couple of bay leaves and cook at a strong simmer for 45 minutes.
  • I made my whole wheat sweet potato quick bread, since we had more whole wheat than white flour. Great for breakfast and/or afternoon snacks.
  • For our fourth wedding anniversary this month, I made Melissa Clark’s one bowl cornmeal poundcake; it came together really quickly and made a great snacking cake, toasted and spread with butter and honey. I used lemon zest, half butter and half rapeseed oil, and split the flour between spelt and all purpose/plain.
  • For Easter weekend, hot cross buns from the Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook. They are actually not hard to make, and I doubled the recipe to produce 24 buns so we could gift some (at a distance) to our local friends in lieu of meeting in person. Yum!
  • This crispy potato kugel from NYT Cooking: definitely for potato lovers! It could’ve used another onion and a tad more salt, but overall was quite nice with applesauce and sour cream. It was a bit too much work to make regularly but it was a fun project.

What have you been cooking while sheltering at home?