Walk to Castle “Burg Rotberg” near Mariastein

Mariastein Abbey, nestled into the lovely landscape of the gentle Leimental valley, is the most important place of pilgrimage in Switzerland after Einsiedeln Abbey.

Only a few Kilometers from the Abbey you will find other interesting places can find 7 castles around Burg in Leimental, some of them are actually ruins, but some are fully restored and in use.

One of this castles is the Burg Rotberg, actually know a the
Mariastein Youth Hostel
a real special place in a fairy place.

As we visited this place, the hostel was closed, but we got the chance to visit the entrance and the wonderful landscape.

Growing Edible Mushrooms at Home – First Tentative with Oyster Mushrooms

This fascinating experience begun as simply a challenge almost a game: is it really possible to grow mushrooms at home?

After checking some articles and buying some grey oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus also called blue oyster mushrooms), I knew I would try this adventure!

I started oyster mushrooms as are easy to get from a good store and start with. I did not know a lot and it was a learning by doing.

Finally I have to say that growing oyster mushrooms is quite easy, and will continue to work on this great project and make some experiments.  I enjoyed very much watching the quick growth of the fruiting bodies, take a few photos to compare the growing status (size) and I can’t wait for the coming harvests!

I understood that there are many different ways to grow Pleurotus ostreatus at home and I’m sure I have a still a lot to learn about this, so that I will make it easier and getter better results.

Note: each oyster mushroom species has its specific “best” requirements for temperature, humidity, light, and nutrition.

1.         Starting from tissue of oysters mushrooms without a kit

The goal of this step is cloning a piece of oyster mushroom (your starting material) and preparing coffee ground spawn for the inoculation of your culture block.

In this step some oxygen is needed, for this reason do not close or seal the jars and the box, best once or twice a day open the cover of the box!

Material:

  • Coffee ground (after brewing), enough to fill 2/3 of the jars
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • Jars ( I made 3 of them in order to have some backups)
  • Empty tea bags or coffee filters
  • Rubber
  • Pressure cooker, microwave or canning pot
  • Sharp knife
  • Spoon
  • Kitchen gas burner
  • Fresh oyster mushrooms
  • Plastic box at least 10 times bigger than the volume of all jars together.
  • 1 layer of stones (or other material) about 2-4 cm high.

Procedure:

  • Place your used coffee ground in a bowl, add some water and stir until well moist but not too wet.
  • Fresh brewed coffee ground is almost pasteurized, but for this step, you need more than a small portion and you have to prevent contaminations. Fill your jars with the moistened coffee ground (about 2/3 of the volume). I used jars of about 400 ml as well as plastic bags for some more ready to use coffee ground. Place the coffee filters over the opening and fix it with the rubber so that only filtered air has access to the content. Another option is to use plastic bags with a pies of sponge as filter loosely closed with the rubber. Second alternative: pasteurize the jars with the content, the filter and the cover in the canning pot.
  • Sterilize the jars in the pressure cooker for about 30 minutes. First alternative: Place the coffee ground in plastic bags add little more water (about 10 ml water / 100 ml coffee ground) and place in the microwave at medium power for about 10 minutes (start taking the time from the moment that steam is coming out of the bag, then take out of the oven close the bag immediately.
  • Now you need to do is harvest a piece of tissue from a mushroom fruit-body (your store-bought oyster mushrooms).
  • Clean your working surface, wash your hands and rub them with some disinfectant. Open the jar carefully, keeping the inner part of the filter side up (should not touch your fingers or the working surface) For this step sterilize your knife with the flame, keep the knife shortly in the hand (do not lay it down on an unsterilized surface) until cooled down, cut the mushroom stem butt in half vertically and cut out a piece of tissue. With the point of the knife take the tissue and place it into the jar. Close the jar and tight the borders with the rubber again. Repeat with the other jars.
  • Prepare the box with the stones and add about 1 cm water.
  • Place the jars over the stones and cover loosely the box. At this point allow the mycelium to grow until you your will see that it is full colonized. From time to time check the humidity. Temperature: 22-24°C, Humidity: 85-95%, 2-3 weeks, no light.

2.         Inoculation of your substrate (Spawn run)

I used about 3 l of straw as substrate and inoculated it with 300 ml of coffee spawn.

For a bigger quantity of substrate you should increase the quantity of spawn for example inoculating your coffee spawn and an additional quantity of pasteurized coffee or layers of wet cardboard (same conditions as above) and wait until it is fully colonized. For the straw, a too long colonization, would increase the risk of contamination.

It would be easier to grow oyster mushrooms outside in a humid place, but now in winter, we have to do in indoor.

To sterilize the substrate outdoor, it would be possible to do it by fermentation under water (10 days), but for an easy a quick start, the best is to pasteurize the straw.

In this step some oxygen is needed, for this reason do not forget to make cuts into the bag and do not close the box tightly, best once or twice a day open the cover of the box!

Material:

  • 5 l bucket
  • 3 l chopped straw
  • Water
  • laundry bag or similar
  • 5 l Plastic bag
  • Big cooking pot or canning pot
  • 300-500 ml coffee spawn (see above)
  • Spoon
  • Kitchen gas burner
  • Plastic box at least 10 times bigger than the volume of all jars together.
  • 1 layer of stones (or other material) about 2-4 cm high.

Procedure:

  • Place the straw into the bucket and cover with water. Let soak at least two hours.
  • Drain until no water comes out.
  • Place the Straw in pillow case, nylon mesh laundry bag or similar, submerged in water and heated 80°C degrees for 1 hour (for indoors on stove top or in canning pot). Let cool down.
  • Put one quarter of straw into the plastic bag, add one third of coffee spawn; pay attention to remove the coffee from your jar with a spoon sterilized over the flame. Repeat with the next quarter of straw, the next third of coffee spawn, quarter of straw, last third of coffee spawn and last portion of straw. Note: if you want to keep some coffee spawn for the next time, add some sterilized coffee to the jar, stir and cover with the filter (work as in written above in chapter 1.4.).
  • Press the content to compact a little bit, close the bag tight and make about 10 cuts of about 1 cm into the plastic bag. Place the bag over the stones (should not touch the water) and cover loosely the box At this point allow the mycelium to grow until you your will see that the bag is full colonized. From time to time check the humidity. Temperature: 22-24°C, Humidity: 85-95%, 3 weeks, no light.

3.         Inducing primordia formation

Once the mycelium has completely covered the straw, it should be ready to start pinning.

After about 4 weeks I still did not see primordial (mushroom pins), and only after researching I understood, that at this point I had to reduce the incubation temperature as well as light. Now you know! J

Procedure:

  • I opened the bag (not necessary cuts on the sides are enough) and placed it in a cool and well lit room (about 8h light per day are needed, no sunlight). The temperature for blue oyster mushrooms should be around 10-18°C. If the place is too dry cover with a big plastic bag, but mist with water and open remove shortly the plastic about 2 times per day. This is to reproduce the fall conditions! In this stage they need more oxygen.
  • Around one week later you may notice the formation of the primordia. They look like tiny pins. It’s time for fruiting!

4.         Fruiting

Our baby mushrooms (primordia) are ready to grow; they need now warmer conditions and in any case light, but avoid sunlight.

The produced CO2 content has to be removed, for this reason I wrote that high boxes are not the best option. So I placed them on a cardboard box with holes and newspaper. The CO2 will drain out of the holes of the bag.

Fruit flies as well as other insects may be a problem, in this case move the culture in another place.

If in the garden, watch for snails!

  • Place the bag on flat box or tray or ventilate with fresh air and mist 3 times per day. A temperature of 18-21°C should work well.
  • In a few days the mushrooms will be completely developed, when the caps are flattening at the top or just begin to turn upright, it’s time to harvest.
  • Pinch the base of your mushroom and twist firmly, or cut them with scissors.

5.         Inducing fruiting for a second or more times

Usually the substrate has enough nutrients to activate the mycelium and fruit 2 to 4 times. Try if you are lucky!

  • Water and drain the bag with fresh water.
  • Reduce temperature and induce primordial as described above.
  • At the end of the cycle dispose the used straw by composting or in the rubbish bin.

6.         Prepare spawn for next bugs/bucket.

Now we need more spawn for some more mushrooms.

I will grow some on bigger portions of mycelium coffee ground for bigger straw bags or I will use some material from the stem of the new mushrooms and grow it into layers of pasteurized cardboard. In alternative I will use some “clean” mycelium form the coffee cultures and grow it into pasteurized layers of cardboard or soaked/sterilized grains.

Table of growing conditions for Grey/Blue Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)

Stage Temperature Time Air Light
Spawn Run 22-24°C 2-3 weeks little O2 no
Primordia inducing 10-18°C 3-5 days more O2 indirect light
Fruiting 16-21°C 4-7 days drain CO2 more O2 8h per day indirect light

Slideshow: Growing during the first 8 days from the moment I noticed the primordia

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Guacamole con Tomates

Guacamole is very popular Mexican dip with many variations.

This variation, which includes also the use of tomatoes, is the most appreciated in our family and every times is comes out a bit different as we do not measure the ingredients, we change it a little bit depending on what we have on hand.

This is great as appetizer with tortilla chips, but also with wraps or other dishes.

Guacamole con Tomates

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 50 g chopped onions
  • 1 avocado, ripe
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 pinch of salt, to taste
  • 1 medium tomato or about 10 cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 1 dash chili powder or other little chili sauce or some paprika powder (optional)

Procedure

  1. Place the chopped onions in a small bowl with cold water (this for about 10 minutes)
  2. In a small bowl mash the avocado with the fork
  3. Drain the onions and add them to the mashed avocado along with the other ingredients.
  4. Combine very well and season to taste

Autor: https://artandkitchen.wordpress.com/

Bread Pizza

Never throw your stale bread away! You can make breadcrumbs, bread pudding, meatballs, and French toasts, and, and, and! Did you know you could also prepare a wonderful pizza? Once again, this is great opportunity to make your family happy with this great meal and at the same time, your stale bread will be gone very quickly!  

Bread Pizza

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 250 g stale bread, sliced into 1 cm thick slices (quantity may be changed upon your needs)
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups béchamel sauce
  • 1 cup tomatoes sauce (for example marinara sauce), not to liquid
  • 1 tablespoon dried fried onions, optional
  • Chopped basil, to taste and optional
  • Oregano, to taste
  • Topping to taste as capers, olives, anchovies, halved cherry tomatoes
  • 150 g mozzarella sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil, oregano, marjoram or thyme leaves, optional

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C
  2. Coat your baking dish (about 32 cm wide) with little olive oil and arrange bread slices in order to cover the bottom
  3. Spread béchamel sauce over the bread
  4. Combine your tomatoes sauce with dried onions, chopped basil and oregano. Spoon this mixture over the béchamel
  5. Top the pizza with ingredients of your choice
  6. Add mozzarella and drizzle with olive oil
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes at 220°C until the mozzarella begins to take a golden brown color
  8. Remove from the oven add some pepper and the fresh herbs
  9. Serve immediately and enjoy

Autor: https://artandkitchen.wordpress.com/

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Roasted Figs with Camembert Cheese and Honey

Camembert Cheese Figs trees are native in the Middle East and western Asia and had been cultivated since ancient times. Today they are widely grown throughout the world, both for its fruit and as an ornamental plant. Two crops of figs can be produced each year. The first or breba crop develops in the spring on last year’s shoot growth. The main fig crop develops on the current year’s shoot growth and ripens in summer (August in Southern Europe) or autumn (September to October in Central Europe). The main crop is generally superior in quantity and quality, but some cultivars produce good breba crops. There are three types of edible figs: some of them need pollination by the fig wasp with pollen for fruiting and some not. In Central Europe where this wasp is not present, the cultivation of figs is possible. This year we had a many figs during summertime (breba crops) and in addition, after the warm September, we are getting many figs again and we are enjoying them. I would like to present you this simple but very impressive recipe, which is perfect for a starter or appetizer.

Roasted Figs with Camembert Cheese and Honey

  • Servings: 8 figs
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 8 Figs, washed
  • 100 g Camembert cheese or Brie cheese, diced
  • Nutmeg, quantity to taste
  • Salt, only a very small pinch for each fig (I used my basil flower salt)
  • blanched sliced or slivered almonds (alternatively chopped walnuts)
  • 4 teaspoons honey, quantity to taste
  • Fresh savoury or thyme (alternatively dried thyme)

Procedure:

  1. Remove the stem of the figs and simply slice into the figs as if you were quartering them but do not go all the way down. You want the figs to open out like a flower but not fall apart completely.
  2. Distribute the cheese into the center of the figs
  3. Sprinkle little nutmeg and salt on them
  4. Adjust the almonds over the cheese
  5. Bake them in the preheated oven at 200°C/400°F or until the almonds are lightly roasted and the cheese begins to melt.
  6. Arrange the figs on serving dishes spoon the honey over them and add the herbs.
  7. Serve if possible immediately
Autor: https://artandkitchen.wordpress.com/

Quince and Potato Cheesy Gratin

Apples and grapes are already places in the storage room or converted in juice. Now it’s the turn for the our beloved quinces; this year we have really a lot of them and I’m looking for to try as much as possible different recipes. We all love sweets and cakes, but as quinces are very versatile, I hope we will travel virtually around the world and bring something new in our kitchen.

This recipe was inspired on an apple and bread ramequin. It is an autumn recipe for and comfort fully satisfying meal; you may serve this for Thanksgiving as well! 

Quince and Potato Cheesy Gratin

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1000 g quinces, cored and sliced (about 5 mm thin)
  • 1000 g baking potatoes, peeled and sliced (about 5 mm thin)
  • 100 g mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 150-200 g Swiss Cheese as for example Gruyere, sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 250 ml milk
  • 100 ml heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ½-1 tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • ½ tablespoon fresh savory chopped (or fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • Salt (about 1 teaspoon) and pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
  2. Layer quinces and potatoes diagonally in a baking dish.
  3. Place mozzarella and Swiss cheese between the slices.
  4. In a bowl combine all the other ingredients and whisk until smooth.
  5. Pour the mixture equally over the ingredients in the baking dish.
  6. Bake for about 1 hour at 180°C/350°F until the potatoes are soft. If necessary during the cooking time cover with a parchment foil or lid in the case the surface turns to dark.

Variations & Ideas:

  • Instead quinces use apples or pears
  • Instead of potatoes use stale bread or sweet potatoes
  • Replace mozzarella and Swiss cheese with any grated melting cheese
  • Instead of milk, heavy cream, eggs and flour use 500 ml of béchamel sauce
  • Experiment with different spices
  • Cut slices of leftover gratin and fry on all sides for a crispy way to give it new life

    Autor: https://artandkitchen.wordpress.com/

Risotto ai Fiori di Zucca – Pilaf with Zucchini Flowers

If you have some zucchini or pumpkin flowers in your garden, do not hesitate to try this delicate pilaf (risotto) dish perfect for a main dish or for a side dish. The colourful and tasty combination with tomatoes and parsley makes this dish very attractive, elegant and special. It is not difficult to prepare a good risotto, but you need to choose the correct rice and not to skip the roasting procedure, add the wine and then add the boiling liquid (usually broth) in small portions. As rice, we suggest following varieties: Arborio, Carnaroli, Roma or Vialone. Carolina, Asian or other similar “dry” rice kinds are not suitable for a good risotto.

Risotto ai Fiori di Zucca – Pilaf with Zucchini Flowers

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cup rice for risotto
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups vegetal broth, quantity to be adjusted
  • 2 tomatoes, diced in small pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 8 zucchini or pumpkin flowers, only petals in strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons flat parsley, chopped
  • 1 lemon zest, grated
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese or to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure

  1. In a wide, but deep enough pot heat the oil and fry on medium heat the onion until translucent.
  2. Add the rice and roast it for a few minutes until it becomes fragrant.
  3. Add the wine, reduce temperature immediately and add the 2 cups of broth. Let simmer and stir from time to time adding more broth when the liquid is almost adsorbed.
  4. When the rice is almost done (after about 15-18 minutes) add the tomatoes and the flowers. Stir well.
  5. When the rice is done, but not too soft, remove from heat, add garlic, parsley, lemon zest, butter and cheese. If necessary, adjust with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve immediately as well as some more grated cheese if you wish.

Notes:

  • You may also add (together with the first to cups of broth) one small chopped zucchini
  • For a smoother risotto you may add 1/2 tablespoon flower together with the rice and roast them together.
  • You may also add some ricotta or some heavy cream just before the rice is done.
  • I like to add one dash of white wine one minute before the rice is done.

Autor: https://artandkitchen.wordpress.com/

Speckgugelhopf with Walnuts – (Sourdough Version)

Traditionally bakers make this rich Alsatian (southern part of France near the Swiss border) bread in hand-painted earthenware molds, but steel, non-stick-metal or glass molds are fine too. The size of the mold corresponds to about 2 liter. This soft savory Gugelhopf (or Kugelhopf or Gugelhups) is perfect to be served (if possible lukewarm) as appetizer with some wine and it goes always very quickly.

Variations:

  • substitute walnuts with pecan or almonds
  • add chopped rosemary or thyme
  • substitute bacon by diced cheese
  • add fried onion rings
  • substitute pork bacon by dried smoked beef or turkey bacon

Speckgugelhopf with Walnuts - (Sourdough Version)

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

Activated starter

  • 100 g sourdough starter
  • 100 g water
  • 100 g flour

Dough

  • 175 ml milk
  • 350 g flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 150 g butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 egg

Additions for the taste

  • 200 g country bacon whole, skin removed
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (pecans works well as well), coarsely chopped

Procedure

  1. For this recipe, you have to activate the starter combining the sourdough starter you kept in the fridge with the same amount of each water and flour (each 100 g). Best do it the evening before and loosely cover in a bowl; it should be ready after about 10-12 hours at room temperature. At this time starter should be very active and spongy.

Note: his is left to mature (ferment) until ready to be used to mix into a dough.

  1. Now it’s time to add the ingredients for the dough. Add the milk, the 350 flour, the salt, the butter and the egg.
  2. Knead with the hock until it looks smooth and it begins to loosen from the walls. Cover and let rise until it doubles the volume. Depending on the kind of your culture, this can take 4-8 hours.
  3. Dice the bacon into 5-8 mm cubes and roast in in a pan. If it loos to much fat, drain it.
  4. Bring bacon and nuts into the risen dough it over several times. I don’t knead it in order to keep the dough as soft as possible.
  5. Make a hole into the center of the dough and place it in the prepared tin (please butter it before; you may also use the fat of the bacon).
  6. Cover and let rise in a warm place until it at least doubles the volume. This may take about 2-3 hours.
  7. Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes in the lower half of an oven preheated to 200°C. If notice that during the baking time the surfaces begins to turn to dark, cover loosely with aluminum foil.
  8. Wait a few minutes before unmolding and serve it possible lukewarm.

Autor: https://artandkitchen.wordpress.com/

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Looking Back to Stay at Home or In the Garden: Safety Net

After 6 Weeks of “stay at home” the life is slowly changing and the rules are less strict.

Compared to other countries we (in Switzerland) cannot complain: we were allowed to go out for walking, for shopping and to meet people (maximum group of 5 items).

We have to be careful and we will change the recommendation of “stay at home” to “stay safe”, this will be our safety net.

“Stay save” and “stay positive”!

Spider Net with sunlight and dark background:

Stay at home posts: https://artandkitchen.wordpress.com/category/nature/stayhome/

Stay at Home = Stay in the Kitchen

Stay in the Garden = Enjoy the Nature

Day 43 Stay at Home or In the Garden: Purple Allium and Large Bee-Fly

Purple llium with Bombylius major (commonly named the large bee-fly or the dark-edged bee-fly).

In the garden you can let you mind stopping from the busy routine, realise that a few square meter are an entire world, discover new plants and animals, listen the song of the birds, be amazed by the beauties, understand how fast everything is developing and finally you find rest and relief.

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