Saturday, February 27, 2010

Easter Decorations German Style

One of the things I adore about German women is how they love to decorate for holidays.  You will always find the cutest little items in stores during the holiday seasons.  The ladies go into the shops, pull things off shelves and turn it into something pretty for your table.  I have watched my friends Oma, Ruth and Margit do this for years.  Now that I am back in Germany, I am going to show you what I mean.
This morning we went out to REAL. It's supermarket chain reminiscent of Walmart or Tesco.

4 simple little items
1 bag of plastic eggs 1.50 Euro
1 green dish 2 Euro
1 pouch of daisies 1.50 Euro

These items (except for the bunny) can be put away and used year after year.

I purchased the chocolate German hiking bunny in Rodalban at Zum Bold where we ate with Margit. The new owner got all her chocolate forms from a company that closed.  The form for this little hand painted bunny is over 100 years old.  The hand painted bunny was 7 Euros.

Here's a close-up of the bunny.  Isn't he adorble with his little knapsack?

So here it is, a very German table decoration. If you went to a German's house you might find this in an entry hall or sitting on their dinner table.  Now, I expect you people from the USA to get to the dollar store and mail me a picture of what you come up with. Go on, I dare you.
I wonder how long this bunny is going to last......he really smells yummy!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Waikiki Meatballs and der Arzt

Let's start with the Arzt.  Arzt means doctor in German and I do need to find one. While contractors are allowed medical appointments on base, we are given appointments only after all military personnel have been attended to.  What this means is that it is difficult to get an appointment.  Since Stuttgart is really nothing more than a band-aid station and the Lanstuhl hospital is two hours away, we decided to find a German doctor.  Now, dear readers, do not be afraid for me.  I do speak enough German to be dangerous and quite frankly, German doctors are exceptionally well trained.  Mac went to the pharmacy (Apotheke) and asked for a local doctor.  So, today at 4:30 pm German time, I am going to see der Arzt.  Wish me luck!

On to our recipe. My Mom was helping me find a recipe for a 4-H club competition when I was 13.  I wanted to make something "different", I told her. She pulled out her OLD Betty Crocker cookbook. I came across a recipe for Waikiki Meatballs. The name captured my imagination and we just had to try them.   I won the local competition and was sent to the regionals with these yummy meatballs. I came second in the regionals. I was beat out by a cake.....chocolate cake.  If I ever get to run the world, no savory dishes would have to go up against chocolate cake.  It simply isn't fair. 

When I got married Mom bought me a NEW Betty Crocker cookbook and I was disappointed to find that instead of Waikiki Meatballs they had changed the name to Sweet- and- Sour Meatballs.  It was bad enough I lost the competition to a chocolate cake, but Ms. Crocker changing the name was just unacceptable.  No matter what Betty decides to call them nowadays, they are still Waikiki Meatballs to me.  In fact, where ever I take this recipe, to a party, church supper or just for guests here at home I am always asked for the recipe.

We begin by making the meatballs.

1 pound hamburger (mince to you Brits)
1/2 cup Progresso Italian Style Bread Crumbs
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons minced onion (OR 1 teaspoon onion powder)
1/2 teaspoon Lawry seasoned Salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 egg

Mix these ingredients together and shape into balls.  I cook them in an ungreased pan in  a 400 degree oven until light brown.  That takes about 20 minutes.

Waikiki Sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 can (13 1/4 ounces) pineapple chunks
1/3 cup vinegar (I use white or balsamico.  It's really your own taste in vinegar)
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 green pepper, coarsely chopped (sometimes near Christmas I add red peppers in with the green peppers to be fancy)

This is what the sauce looks like when you have mixed it up in your frying pan.

Mix your brown sugar and cornstarch together. Put it in the skillet and stir in pineapple with it's syrup, vinegar and soy sauce.  Heat this to boiling and stir constantly.

Bring to a boil. The sauce will thicken,turn transparent and darker.  Reduce your heat when it looks like this and add your meatballs. Cover; simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in your green pepper and turn off the heat.  Cover the pan again and let sit for 5 minutes until peppers are crisp tender. This dish is best served over a bed of rice.

Waikiki Meatballs

Mac gives it two thumbs up!
My daughters and son-in-laws also give it two thumbs up.
You get the idea. Give the Waikiki Meatballs a try, you won't be disappointed.  I don't think I ever did thank my mother for taking the time to help me find this recipe.
Thanks MOM!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

Now for one of my favorite recipes.  Nothing hits the spot like a creamy warm soup on a winter day. Add a cheesey biscuit with lashings of butter and I am in heaven. I perfected this recipe years ago for a women's Bible study group that used to meet each Wedsnesday at my house. My friend Beryl taught the class and I did what I do best, cook and look after the children!

2 medium size butternut squash
3 large carrots
1 onion diced or (onion powder 2 teaspoons)
4 cups water (800 g for Europeans)
2 Knorr chicken bouillon cubes (stock cubes for Europeans)
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine these ingredients in a large pot, cover and simmer until the vegetables are very soft.

Now process what remains in your pot, liquid and all, in a blender or food processor. Blend until mixture is smooth. Put your blended soup into the rinsed out pot that you cooked your vegetables in.
Now add 1 cup of cream (200 g for the Europeans)
and 1 cup of milk (200 g for the Europeans)
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Warm this mixture, do not boil!
Yes, I know this makes rather a lot, but the good news is that you can freeze it and have it again when ever you want.

Now the cheesey biscuit accompaniment. I really wanted to give you my friend Jason's recipe, which is to die for! Sadly, I haven't managed to get that from him yet, so this one will have to do!

2 cups Bisquick
2/3 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
1/4 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon parsley flakes

Directions:  Heat your oven to 450 degrees.
Mix Biquick milk together and add your remaining ingredients. Mix well.
Drop dough by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

There it is, a nice creamy, warm soup for a winter's day.
Dieters: You can add low fat milk for the cream and milk but again, be advised, it doesn't taste as nice.

Mac gave this a thumbs up as always.
We are headed toward my birthday weekend and I intend to give you, my readers, the thumbs up myself.  We will see  if  Mac can whisk me away for some entertainment.  After all, don't you think I should be wined and dined in the manner I have grown accustomed to?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Vampire Schedule

Mac has been working the 7 to 7 shift at work the last few weeks.  In order to see him, I have heroically volunteered to go to his schedule. I must say that I do feel like a bit of a vampire.  We go to bed between 8 and 9 in the morning and wake up at 5 in afternoon. Not many hours of sunlight on this schedule I can tell you. Still it hasn't been nearly as bad as I thought. It only bothers me a tiny bit when I wake up and see that the skies are a beautiful blue and the day is mild.  On those kind of days I long to be out walking on the lovely "wandering paths" in the village.

I was asked a question by one of my blog followers.  "Does Mac really get to eat like this all the time?"  No fast food or precooked meals from the store?"
The answer is YES.  Why?  Well, Mac has ADD.  After consulting with many doctors about the best course of action to help his concentration, it was explained that fresh food without preservatives is what will help him the most, as well as limiting his caffeine and sweet intake.  So being the loving wife I am ( it's actually that I see the difference in his concentration levels when he eats fresh foods) of course, I cook this way for him.
He has had way more red meat than I would like for him to have lately but on the vampire schedule I am simply too tired to fight him on what he wants.
So today's offering is Lemon Pepper Steak
Here's Mac's breakfast or is it dinner? Who knows? A bit of salad, fresh green beans, home made cheese spatzle and Lemon Pepper Steak

To make the steak:  Rub each of the steaks with olive oil on both sides. Then rub the lemon pepper seasoning (I mix 1/2 teaspoon of Lawry Salt in with the rub) on both sides of the steak and let it sit for a half hour.
If it were spring or summer I would have put the steaks on the grill but, since it isn't, I heated up the frying pan and added two tablespoons of garlic infused olive oil. Mac likes his steak rare so three minutes on each side seems to do it. If you like your steak "well done" you will have to cook it longer. Don't ask me how long because we don't eat it that way!  LOL

He doesn't look excited because he just got up....but I assure you he is!

Mac always gives my steak a two thumbs up!
Tomorrow I am making him eat butternut squash soup.  I mean, after all, we do have to eat things I LIKE once in awhile.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ramstein and Beef Stroganoff

On Sunday we said goodbye to Clausen and decided to visit Ramstein where Mac used to work as a contractor. Sorry we can't show you pictures (you can't take pictures on base) but just wanted to say that we were stunned with the new American mall on base that boasted "Cinnabon", "Macaroni Grill" and numerous other stores. They have even built an amazing indoor water park there.
When we got home Mac asked for Beef Stroganoff. I suppose he was inspired by the weekend because I learned to make stroganoff in Clausen years ago.
Here's the recipe.
         12 oz sirloin steak tips OR tenderloin (thinly sliced)
 1/2 teaspoon chili oil
       3 tablespoons olive oil
             2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 small onion minced
                                                   4.5 ounces sliced mushrooms (I used jar of green giant)
         2 teaspoon dill weed
      1/2 cup beef broth
      8 ounces sour cream

 Heat oil  in skillet or sauté pan over medium-low heat until hot
                       Sauté onions, mushrooms and garlic in  chili oil and olive oil until onions start to  turn translucent.  Dredge your beef tips in flour.  Place beef tips in pan and cook throughly. Now add your dill weed and beef broth. Cook and stir until everything is mixed nicely and sauce is thickening.  To finish add your sour cream to warm it in the stroganoff. Don't boil.  Serve over a bed of egg noodles.  Garnish with a sprinkle of dill.
Oma taught me to make this recipe in Clausen and she says the "dill" is the secret in this particular stroganoff.
You may notice in the picture that I put some red onion in my egg noodles. Mac hates onions but I love them!

Dieters note: You can substitute plain yogurt for the sour cream but it doesn't taste as nice!

Of course Mac gives it a thumbs up but, after that weekend I would have been happy with a salad!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Saturday in Clausen

Saturday was another grey day but it didn't dampen our spirits. Margit insisted we come to breakfast in their lovely sun room. Helmut had gone on a ski trip with a friend so Mac and I lingered over a long German breakfast with Margit catching us up on all the news. For instance, we learned that Amy's friend Timo from Clausen is in New York on Broadway. We also found that our friend's Hedda and Werner's son (He was just ahead of our Amy in school) has his own TV program on Sat 1 in Germany.  It is called Planetopia.
The best news of all though is that Melanie ( Margit and Helmut's daughter) is having a baby. It's a girl, due  at the beginning of August. They have waited so long to become grandparents and as you can imagine they are "over the moon" excited.  Sorry folks, Margit managed to evade our pictures.

The hard boiled eggs weren't on the table yet, but this gives you an idea of a typical German breakfast.
Breakfast in German is called "Fruhstuck".

View of Clausen from Margit and Helmut's patio. Mac and I took our time on the patio and reminisced over our time in Clausen.  Then it was off to visit our former next door neighbor's.
Here they are.

Oma, Ruth and Mac. Oma is almost 89 years old. It was a surprise visit and it made their day.  We were happy that Ruth's daughter Fabienne was there for the weekend. Fabi and our daughter's are like sisters.

 Fabienne with her Boxer dog, Teesha.
Our deep and abiding love for this family began the second week we lived in Clausen. I had driven to the base to pick up groceries right after the girls went to school.  To my horror, a bomb threat was made just as I got to the gate. The entire base shut down and the bomb dogs were brought out.  There I sat for the next 6 hours. It started to rain.  I mean rain, sheets of rain, bitter cold and when the realization that my girls were getting off the bus and had no key to get in the house (because we didn't speak a word of German and didn't know how to get keys made for the girls) I was inconsolable.  FINALLY, they let me off the base and I raced home expecting to find the girls sitting in the rain on the steps.  I was 2 hours late and my girls weren't sitting on the steps.  Panic-stricken I started to cry and then a little white head popped out of the next door window.  I couldn't understand a thing she said, but she gestured for me to come in.  When I walked in the door and saw my girls socializing with Fabienne I was so relieved! The girls were sitting with their feet propped up on a German "warming oven" drinking hot chocolate.
It turns out that Oma (German for Grandmother) had noticed Amy and Kaitlyn sitting in the rain and had Fabienne come bring the girls to their house.
At that moment the foundation for a deep love and friendship was born out of my undying gratitude. This family became members of our family. It was Oma who taught me German cooking words with infinite patience.  She'd hold up kitchen items such as food items, a whisk or a cooking pan and made me repeat the German word until she was satisfied I could say it properly. To this day Amy and Kaitlyn who are fluent in German say I know more words for spices, odd vegetables and cooking then they do. As we learned to speak German, we found that Oma had always lived there and that Helmut had grown up in the house we rented next door. Oma had often looked after our landlord Helmut when his mother was working when he was a boy. Oma is one of the finest examples of "Love your neighbor as yourself".

On Saturday evening we took Margit out to eat at Zum Bold in Rodalben. It had changed management since we had been there 10 years ago. The food was very good.

Mac had the shrimp (prawn) starter.

I had the shrimp and salmon puff pastry salad for a starter.

Margit had the fresh fish catch of the day.

Mac had steak with a creamy mushroom sauce.

I had a piece of pork pounded thin. It was covered with a slice of smoked ham and cheese.  A slice of pineapple was laid over that with cheese. It was put under the grill until the cheese was brown and topped with a dollop of plum jelly (jam).

All three of us shared the desert.  A scoop of ice cream with nuts, homemade chocolate and stawberries with a jigger of Bailey's Irish Creme poured over the top.  Our little minx Margit managed to escape our pictures at dinner too!

Mac gives Zum Bold the thumbs up!
Tomorrow our visit to Ramstein after 10 years and a beef stroganoff recipe.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Friday night in Clausen

Even though the skies were grey, it was with the greatest excitement that we drove into the village of Clausen. We lived here from 1996-2000.  The people in this village opened their arms and hearts to our family.

We drove to Margit and Helmut Wilhelm's house. We rented our house in Clausen from this amazing family when we lived there. Margit wasn't there when we arrived but left us a note. The note says, "Heartfelt Welcome in Clausen.  Dear Linda, Dear Christopher, I must go to the dentist but be back 12:30. In the refrigerator is a welcome drink. See you soon. Margit"
This is the sweet little German guest room at Margit and Helmut's house. Our dog Jaxson has made himself very comfortable! Notice how low to the ground German beds are as compared to American.

We then drove over to have cake and coffee with our dear friends Ilse and Hans Letzelter. This is Mac with Ilse.
We had our cake in Hans bedroom.  Very sadly Hans had 2 brain hemorrages and is no longer able to communicate. No one is even sure what he still comprehends. He did like our little dog Jaxson though.
Ilse made this yummy popular German Cake. She remembered it was my favorite.
Here we are at the Japanese Restaurant in Zweibrucken. There's Ilse and me. Ilse and Hans have three daughters. Else's oldest daughter Simone is across from Ilse with her son Noah, husband Torsten in the blue.  Their daughter Lea is in the white behind her Dad.  At the end of the table are Simone's sisters Sabrina and Katrin.  These girls are very special to us because our daughters were in school with them and became good friends. What a nice family they are!
Sabrina and Katrin
Michael (pronouced in Germany Me-shy-elle) Katrin's boyfriend and in the glasses Sabrina's hilarious husband Danny.
I had the sushi.
Mac decided to try everything! How does he stay so thin?
Mac was too busy clowning with the boys to give this food a thumbs up or down. Which one was the serious one of the "three stooges?"
It was a wonderful Friday night with our beloved family Letzelter.
Tomorrow I'll tell you about Saturday.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hi Ho, Hi Ho off to Clausen we go!

Here we are!  Ready to get started on our adventure to visit our old friends in the little village of Clausen. Clausen is a tiny village of 1,300 located near Pirmasens in the Rhineland Plalz area of Germany.  We lived in this "ort" from 1996 to 2000. Clausen is a magically place.  When our friends the Cashmans visited us years ago there, their daughter Anna exclaimed at seeing the village from a distance. "It looks like Bethleham."
It it with great happiness we set off for hugs, kisses, laughter and the delight of being with old friends who know everything about us and love us anyway.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tuna Bean Dream Cassarole

   How I get giggles every time I remember how this recipe was created. We had moved to Scotland and lived in a beautiful condo.  This condo was situated in an old Mill on a lovely river.  Swans floated by everyday as we sat on our balcony and had our tea.  It was a dreamy place to live. Dreamy that is, UNTIL bad weather sat in. In winter, we often couldn't make it up the steep hill with the car to the main road. One day in the middle of a snow squall Mac walked in and opened the refrigerator.
"We don't have anything in here to eat," he announced and closed the door with a thud.
I opened the refrigerator and poked my head in. "Looks like you are right," I agreed. "Let's go to the market."
We got the car out and headed up the dirt road. Halfway up the car got stuck on the hill. Mac spun the wheels in desperation. He must have been hungry.
"Perhaps we shouldn't pursue this any farther," I helpfully suggested.
"We'll starve," said Mac sadly.
"Nonsense, I will think of something.  Besides I can make Tuna Cassarole."
Mac raised his eyebrows. "I really don't like Tuna Cassarole," he replied.

Did I mention that once in awhile Mac can be the bane of my exsistence?  Now was one of those moments.
He pouted all the way home as we trudged through the ever deepening snow.
Okay I get it!  He really didn't want Tuna Cassarole.
I muttered to myself as I opened the pantry door to take stock in what I had.  I have long debated whether this cassarole was a stroke of genius or just plain bad temper.  I pulled ingredients off the pantry shelves in a huff.  I put some pasta twists on to boil. Next I threw a colander in the sink and started opening cans.  First the chick peas, then the kidney beans....what the heck, why not throw the corn in for good measure?  I was on a roll. I figured by then Mac wouldn't even notice the tuna fish. I drained the pasta and combined it with the colander ingredients. Mushroom soup would do nicely to stick it all together I thought.  I found some Kraft  Four cheese Mexican and wacked a cup of cheese into the mix.  I tasted...HMMMMM. It was a bland.  Wait..curry disguises everything!  I measured out a tablespoon of hot madras curry into the mix followed by a half teaspoon of Lawry's seasoned salt. Just to be mean I threw a handful of French Fried Onions on top. Everyone who knows Mac, KNOWS he can't abide seeing an onion.  I figured at the very least I would appear heroic when I offered to eat them off his serving.
It looked almost edible. I decided I better try to make the plate pretty to butter Mac up. Firstly, because he was eating a form of tuna cassarole and secondly, now I was feeling a bit guilty over the onions.

I thought maybe if I arranged  the peppers into a flower on his plate he might forgive me in two or three years.
We sat at the table.  He stared at his plate. He sat there so long I wondered if he was frozen at the horror of it all.

Finally he started eating.  He began eating faster.  "Why this is actually good."
I took a bite. "It's not inedible," I said.
"It's like comfort food and I like it," he exclaimed.

So from that day forward Mac gave the cassarole the thumbs up and asks for it often.

"So you really LIKE this cassarole and consider this comfort food?" I asked.
"Yes, I do."
"Mmmm,"  I murmured.
He sat back and looked at me. "So what do you consider to be a comfort food?"
I smiled my special little smirk.... the one I reserve just for him.  I leaned toward him and whispered "LOBSTER!"
He started to laugh.  "I forgot I married a Mainah!" he said.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Avocado and Shrimp Salad with warm Chili Sauce

My twin sister was asking me about putting more diet dishes on the blog.  As Mac and I had our coffee this morning I told him this.  He smiled and said, "She does realize we live in we have any diet foods here?" 
"Good point," I replied.  "But I think I can give Lois a variation for the avocado and shrimp salad sauce today that will make it more diet."

We first had this particular dish in England.  My friend Raymond made it as an appetizer for one of the most amazing meals we have ever had. I came home and recreated it as best as I could.  Now I enjoy serving it as a light lunch. 
Click on the picture for a close up.  Here's the recipe.

1 package cubed pancetta
1 teaspoon chili oil
2 avocados
2 cups medium size precooked shrimp (prawns to the Europeans)

Warm Chili Sauce
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons chili/garlic sauce
2 tablespoons Balsamico vingear
1 tablespoon sugar

Put your pancetta in a frying pan and fry until the pancetta cubes are crisp and brown. (You Mainers can buy the pancetta at the supermarket. In Belfast it's at the end of the cooler where you buy hummus) Now put your precooked shrimp in the frying pan with the pancetta just long enough to coat it with the oil and get the shrimp warm.  Remove from pan and set aside.  In the same pan melt your butter, add your ketchup, chili garlic sauce, vinegar and sugar. Mix together and heat for 2 minutes. (If you can't find chili garlic sauce you can add fresh garlic into your frying pan when you fry the pancetta and then substitute Heinz chili sauce)
Mix the cubed avocado, pancetta and shrimp and place on a bed of lettace.  Drizzle with chili sauce.
Now for those of you diet nuts out there I suggest using Ken's Healthy Options Sweet Vidalia Onion Vinaigrette. Two tablespoons of this sauce is 60 calories.
Mac loves this recipe. Look how eager he is to try it out!
Enjoy Mac...I love to see you smile.

Mac gives this recipe TWO thumbs up and wants to know if I can make him some comfort food tomorrow.  He only has five hours to sleep between his 12 hour shifts.
Wonder what I will make?