Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lemons & Laughter - Candied Lemon Peel Hearts and LOL April Food Blog Posts


I was on a tear making lemon candied peels using this recipe from Epicurious.

Very Simple. Once you get the pith off the peels...


 boil in water a few times and then in sugar and water.


Then roll in sugar.


So easy, I got bored.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Cake Pops


Do we need to be reminded once again that Mother Nature always has the last word? She recently hit the reset button big time on global air traffic with little more than a few hiccups through an Icelandic volcano.

Seriously, we humans think we are so smart, important and in control of everything. To an extent, this is true. Just look at all the wonderful things we can do - technology, science, medicine, art....

However, it doesn't amount to anything when it all can so easily be destroyed by an earthquake, hurricane, or a tsunami.

Feeble. That's what we are in comparison.

Or to put it more positively, think about your coolest iphone App, most fabulous software or gadget and then compare it to the awesomeness that is a spectacular sunrise or sunset, a tree in full outrageous bloom or the amazing, colorful and fascinating critters we humans share our planet with... Yep. Trumped again by Big Momma.

She humbles us, Mother Nature.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dr. B's "FIN"tieth Birthday Cake


When I met my husband (crazy story involving scuba) he had a pair of 20 year old scuba fins he was incredibly fond of. I suspected he would even kiss those fins when I wasn't looking. That's how much he loved them.

Well, they finally wore out completely on one of our numerous dive trips. Can't remember where - Thailand? Burma? Caribbean? Or was it on one of our numerous trips to the Red Sea? Hmmm I am off diving now.....

Anyway, back to the cake... Dr. B was forced to buy some shiny new new fins in the last few years.  While they do the job just fine, he still misses his old ones.  You should also know my husband dives with a computer from 1987. It works. He loves it and that's that.

Dr. B is a very low tech diver. He's no Gear Head, my hubby. Not one to jump on the latest scuba toy or suit out there. Of course I am the complete opposite.

Still, between us we have six big bags of dive equipment.

Six.

Ok, five of them are mine.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Candied Bacon, Caramel, White, Milk and Dark Chocolate Chunk Heart Attack Cookies


I know. I know. These are completely over the top. The idea to make them has been in my head for awhile but until now, I didn't have a proper audience for them until recently.

I'll always be a TV producer looking to entertain a target demographic :-)


When Dr. B is home on leave from Iraq, he usually works one overnight shift as an emergency doctor on call for our area. He has done this job ever since I've known him, since he was in medical school, actually. Recently, there was a birthday party for one of his local colleagues, an ER nurse. Many of the local paramedics and nurses were there.


Let me briefly explain how our "911" system works here in comparison to the States. When someone calls 112, (German equivalent of 911) the call is transfered to a call center where a trained person evaluates the emergency to determine if they should send a paramedic or a doctor. That's right, you get a doctor arriving at your home if you need one. All of you in the USA can pick your jaws up off the ground now. Since they implemented this system years ago, the short time survival rate rose significantly. This means an increase in the amount of people who made it to the hospital alive.



Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring Cookies, Animal Stalking Continues and Springtime for Hitler


I am not a Spring person.  Sure I enjoy it, but not like the Fall.  I LOVE the Fall.  Especially Fall in NYC.  I know.  I know.  What type of person prefers weather where everything is dying and dropping instead of blooming and budding?


Maybe it's that in the Fall, Octoberfest in Munich, Halloween, my birthday and Thanksgiving all come rolling in one after another. All fun celebrations.  Fall is like the gift that keeps on giving. Then full steam ahead to Hannukah, Christmas, and New Year's.


I'm not a total Spring Scrooge. This time of year in our little German Village Near the Dutch Border is definitely an enjoyable experience for a city girl.  The neighbor's newborn lambs and deer.  The bunnies bounding everywhere. The endless parade of creatures in the garden (the pheasants are my fav). The trees budding and flowers in the garden.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Brunch Menu & Some Little Lambs


We had a rag tag family gathering for Easter this year. Usually, there is a big egg hunt but no one was around to participate. My twin nieces left for riding camp Saturday. My sister in law, a pediatric nurse, worked the overnight shift at the hospital the night before. So I decided to take on the brunch.  The rest of the family and a sleepy sister in law celebrated at our place.

Here was my menu:

Prosecco with Aperol - Festive and a lovely color

OJ - Add prosecco if desired :-)

Strawberries and Kiwi Fruit Salad

Breakfast Pizza - From this amazing recipe adapted from the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook via the wonderful SmittenKitchen. FABulous blog, that SK. Also provided me with an excuse to further experiment with my new pizza stone. More about that later in this post.





Friday, April 2, 2010

Italian Easter Cookies


Who doesn't love visiting Italy? In numerous trips there over the years I never had one bad experience. Not one.

Whether I am in Rome, Venice, Florence, Tuscany, Apulia, Cortina, South Tyrol, Italian Riviera or Amalfi Coast, as far as I'm concerned, everything is delicious and beautiful in Italy. The sights, the people, the eats, the goods, the spirit, the weather, the language. All of it. Just yum.

I joke with my girlfriends that the fundamental difference between my husband and myself is what we each think would be fun to do with a free weekend.

Me - Shopping and eating in Italy.

Dr. B - Conducting a mass casualty exercise.

Just kidding.

OK, not really.

Vive le Differenze!

Makes me restless to travel again. I can thank the King Arthur Flour website for that. It's there I found this recipe for adorable Italian Easter Cookies. Couldn't resist.

The little doughnut shapes were fun to do. As I was making them and listening to the rain coming down outside, I imagined I was sitting in a sun drenched piazza sipping Limoncello...


Once I came to and cleared the dull roar of imaginary Vespas out of my head, I focused on the cookies and realized how easy it is to switch out the colors to celebrate different occasions...red and green for Christmas or black and orange for Halloween. You get the idea. Feel free to pile on the sugar decorations and glitter as well. Like Italy, the possibilities for beauty and deliciousness are endless.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool's French Fries Cookies With Raspberry "Ketchup" and "Mayo" Frosting Dips



My entire Germany family are French Fries Monsters. I don't know if it has something to do with living so close to the Belgium border (45 minutes) where they were invented, or because my sister in law raised 5 kids and while they eat mostly locally grown healthy food, french fries once a week sometimes are just easier.



Passover Dinner - Lemon Matzoh Ball Soup with Pistachio Pistou

 

I had to step outside the Matzoh Ball box this time. Ok, I admit I live my life outside the matzoh ball box, especially my Jewish life.


The seders I prepare are in no way traditional so please don't hold me to any kind of kosher standard even though my maternal grandparents were both Jewish.  My Grandfather was  a talmud scholar and my Grandmother the daughter of a rabbi.  And me, well, I got kicked out of Hebrew school.  I can't remember why but I guess I was sort of a Jew-venile delinquent.


So I am not a religious Jew but usually I organize something to celebrate Jewish holidays.  It's important to me to acknowledge my ancestors and well, it just feels right to carry on traditions, as wacked out as my interpretations can be sometimes.


This soup was inspired by the recipe below.  I looking for something different because of a comment my husband made at my last Seder.  He thought the Matzoh Ball Soup I made was bland.  I had whipped up a traditional recipe but admittedly, it fell flat.  I didn't have a Seder this year but cooked a Passover dinner and still had this in my head when I designed the menu.




The last time I had a seder in Germany I was so preoccupied with the meal, I forgot the Haggadah needed to be in German.  I have a humanitarian version of the Hagaddah that I cannibalized from another one I found years ago on the internet.  I cut it way down and change it every year to refer to current events, both good and bad between people of all races and religions. Anyway, like I said, I was busy obsessing over the menu. At the last minute I started to translate it myself and with the clock ticking and frustration mounting caused by wrestling with my (meager) written translation skills,  I thought, "what the heck" and threw the entire text into a translation program, assigned everyone their reading parts, printed out the copies and went back to the kitchen.

Pysanky Easter Cookies - Never Underestimate the Decorating Power of a Toothpick -

Original Post 3/29/10



I heard somewhere that the number one children's toy of all time is a cardboard box. 


Yep. 


A cardboard box. 


In 2005 it was added to the National Toy Hall of Fame.


A simple box with endless possibilities.


This came to mind when decorating these cookies. Many of us have succumbed to buying pricey decorating toys to play with.  As a matter of fact, I am sure my cookie cutter collection is worth the same as the GNP of a small nation.  Printers with edible ink anyone? Cricut machines? speculaas molds?  Pricey dragees, colored sugar crystals, luster and disco dusts?


A toothpick just blew my creative mind.

Pysanka is an elaborate style of decorating Easter eggs that comes from the Ukraine. I have seen similar eggs in my travels through the Czech Republic and Hungary.



Last week I saw this great tutorial on the King Arthur Four website and decided to do all my bunny and egg cookies in this style.


I have tried this technique before but I never committed to it as a decorating theme for the whole batch, just a random cookie or two.  The tutorial shows three basic techniques, for hearts, stripes and circles.  All you need is a toothpick.  In it, she used pastry bags to apply the stripes, dots and circles to the cookies.  I used a thin paint brush.


There are so many possibilities for switching up the colors and techniques.


A toothpick is now my new cardboard box.

Bunny Butts Cupcakes

Original Post 3/20/10



On my daily walks, I see bunnies everywhere bounding through the fields around our house. They reminded me this cupcake recipe from the fabulous Hello  Cupcake book have been on my list for awhile.

I didn't get to make these adorable Rabbit in the Hole cupcakes last Easter.  Sure am glad I made them today. My nieces and nephew would agree.

Fine's Garten Cupcakes

Original Post 3/19/10
I kill everything...green that is. Great with animals.  Horrible with plants.  That's me.  Right now I am desperately trying to keep my husband's ficus and palm trees alive while he is in Iraq.  I don't know where I got this brown thumb. My mother back in the States and everyone I live with here in the German countryside are all fantastic with plants and gardening.  My mother in law, Fine is no exception.  At 83 she's still out in the garden in all kinds of weather.  When she isn't working in the garden she is shelling nuts, bottling preserves or making apple sauce out of the bounty.



Today is Fine's Name Day, a celebration of the St. she was named after, Josephine.  For her this is a bigger event than her birthday.

I surprised her this morning with this garden. I figured if can't make a real one, I can sure make one out of sugar.  Fina was in the middle of baking her own cherry almond tarts to share with her girlfriends who are coming over this afternoon for a little party. I thought these cupcakes would add something special to their gathering, a conversation piece at least.  However, Fine was so in love with her sugar garden,  she won't let anyone eat them!

St. Patrick's Day & Irish Spring Soap Cookies


I don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I used to wear green to work when I lived in New York City in solidarity with my Irish friends. That was the extent of it. Never went to an Irish pub. Never drank green beer. And I permanently boycotted the St. Patrick's Day Parade in NYC because they wouldn't let gay people march in it.

So it was with nonchalant apathy I began cruising around the internet looking at what fabulous food bloggers were making and baking to mark the occasion.



I stumbled upon this recipe for rolled cookies using Bailey's Irish Cream. I had a caramel flavored bottle left over from the holidays. So I decided to give it a go.

Not only did these cookies smell heavenly while baking, they were one of the easiest to work with as well. Lavendarsky24 at grouprecipies.com, whoever you are. Your cookies rock.


In my too many to mention the exact number collection of cookie cutters, I do not have a Shamrock. So I had to fauxshamrock it and use this flower shape instead.


Spectacular Orange Cake

Original Post 3/10/10




I love orange.  I love the color.  I love the taste.  I even have an orange coffee machine.  It looks like a little orange spaceship, which definitely would be the color of mine if I had a spaceship.



My little orange spaceship/java generator is quite the TV star.  I cheered it on every time I saw it in Will's apartment on Will & Grace or in Nip/Tuck's break room on the set of their LA office. Seem's there are a few Hollywood set decorators who feel the same way.

Pretty Ballerinas For My Ballerinas



Today is the 100th anniversary of Russian Ballerina Anna Pavlova's debut in America at NYC's Met. I am thinking of her today and my grandmother who saw her perform. I was obsessed with Pavlova when I was a young ballerina and would make my grandma tell me the story over and over again of seeing this legendary artist dance.  Grandma was the one who walked me several times a week to the dance studio until I was old enough to go alone.



My favorite story about Pavlova is when performing the dying swan (a role she created) in Swan Lake, she used to powder her costume beforehand so when she oh so elegantly collapsed at the end it would look like her soul was rising up to heaven.  She was a drama queen that one.  No doubt. But more importantly, a pioneering artist who was the first to bring ballet to the world and into the hearts of so many people. Thank you Pavlova.

Last Minute Karneval Cookies and Mayhem

Original Post 2/15/10


For various reasons this year we blew off a dive trip to Ko Chang, Thailand and then the possibility of a trip to Paris for Valentine's Day. We stayed home and celebrated Karneval. Every year I moan and groan when I hear the first Karneval cry of ALAAF!  However, once in costume and having downed a few glasses of sekt, I am singing and dancing along like the rest of the natives. Part of the fun for me is watching my husband enjoying himself being so completely at home in his element.

There is no way to describe Karneval here in this part of Germany. My husband says, like him, you have to be born to it to get the whole experience.  Everyone just goes crazy for about a week with nonstop parties and parades and all sorts of insanity happening everywhere. For you New Yorkers think Halloween Parade times 1000. The kids stand in the streets and are showered with candy and toys from the floats. Much less work and more efficient than trick or treating.  The world famous celebration is in Cologne.  I didn't have the energy to get up and battle the insane crowds this morning so here's a peek into yesterday's local celebration in our village:




All rules are off during this celebration.  you might find yourself walking down the street and kissed by a stranger dressed as a bee or handed candy by a dragon or a little bottle of alcohol by a pirate.

Valentine's Day - Pink heart shaped cupcakes and purple (meringue) Hearts, because love is a battlefield.

Original Post 2/13/10
Germans, in general, do not observe Valentine's Day.  However, over the last few years I have noticed more valentine items in the stores.  I think it's slowly catching on.   Since I am a one woman band for all things American here and the only actual American around for miles,  I did what I always do -  completely ignore what is or isn't celebrated here and made Valentine's Day treats to share with my family.

Pink Heart Shaped Cupcakes with Butter Cream Frosting


White cake is my favorite.  Forgive me chocoholics of the world but when faced with a choice, I would rather have a slice of deliciously light, moist white cake with yummy vanilla frosting than a brownie sundae.

RGB 3 Traffic Light Cookies

Original Post 2/6/10



RETRO GERMAN BAKING

                  Part 3

Traffic Light Cookies
I saw a Sign and I shoulda just turned the page...



As I mentioned on my last post, the decorating aspect of these cookies was hell.  Me! Me who cuts, colors, paints, pipes and adheres things to cookies with tweezers for hours.  This recipe first got my attention because of the four ingredients total it takes to make them.  And just look how cute they are...little traffic signals!  Me thinks... fast, easy, nieces and nephew will love them and a cute post for the blog. Nuh uh.


RGB 2 Raisin Hearts

Original Post 2/5/10

RETRO GERMAN BAKING
                Part 2




Raisin Hearts



Many of this book's recipes feature a general version of cakes, souffles, cookies, bread, etc. then it illustrates different variations by adding different ingredients.  Ah,  typical German efficiency! When flipping through the baking sections, I was intrigued by this cookie dough recipe because it has only four ingredients - butter, sugar, flour and one egg yolk.


I had started out  with the intention to make a different cookie with the same dough recipe and failed miserably on the last two attempts. The problem was not the recipe, I am, um having a little  a decorating issue. Still trying to solve it.  Hopefully I will be victorious and can feature the results on the next RGB entry.  So I switched gears at the last minute and since it's getting close to Valentine's Day, I decided to try these Raisin Hearts made from the same dough.



RGB 1 Cube Cake with Hazelnut Marzipan

Original Post 1/23/10

RETRO GERMAN BAKING
                  Part 1



I have several vintage German cookbooks collected from thrift stores, all of them at least 20 years old. I love looking at the retro pictures and graphics

Some of the pictures are just fabulously kitchy:


Some I find hilarious.  How undignified for these poor fish...


A lot of the graphics manage to be tacky and cute at the same time.  These contain helpful tips...


From what I have gathered by pouring over these books, it seems the trend in cooking In 70's and 80's Germany was "International".  Many include basic recipes with a global (more like) tacky flair.  Some they claim are American I don't  recognize at all. Toast Hawaii is considered exotic.

So far these cookbooks have just mostly taken up space in the kitchen. At the start of this new year I decided to stop making fun of them and actually try out some of the more challenging and interesting baking recipes. Most  recipes I will be making are not all traditional German, they are just pretty much the flavor of what was popular in Germany's culinary world at the time.