Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Cookies!

And the food posts continue!

But honestly, during the week of Christmas, food is pretty much my life.

These are a nougat-less version of Nougattaler. I used peach and plum jams instead of nougat as, unfortunately, it's not widely available in the U.S. (and especially not in the middle-of-nowhere, which is where I'm at now).


The original German recipe is here, though I've translated it below :)

1 c. + 1 Tblsp. / 200 g. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. / 75 g. sugar
1 egg
1 c. / 250 g. flour
1/2 Tblsp. baking powder
1 c. / 150 g. ground nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, etc.)

Jam for filling

Chocolate for dipping

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, then quickly knead into a smooth dough on a well-floured surface. Roll out the dough and cut into desired shapes. Bake at 350 F / 180 C for 7-8 minutes or until golden. Let cool.

Dip half of the cookies in chocolate. Spread the bottom of the other half with jam. Sandwich the chocolate halves with the jam halves. Let chocolate cool.

(photos Jaksco)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Deutsches Essen!

How better to celebrate the season of stick-to-your-ribs food than with a German feast?

We used an apple peeler/corer for our mashed potatoes: it's multiple times faster this way. In seconds, the potatoes are peeled and "cored." Plus, potatoes prepared in this manner cook in only about 10 minutes!

We also made schnitzel... mmm. We sliced a pork roast into several thin (1/4") slices, rubbed each with some S&P and strong mustard, then coated each with some panko mixed with some thyme, parsley and rosemary. Finally,we fried them in a bit of olive oil.

Our sum feast! Schnitzel, Frikadellen (sumptuous meatballs), Salat, Rotkohl (red cabbage, prepared in a pressure cooker with some chopped apples, vinegar, and seasoning), und Kartoffelbrei (mashed potatoes).


1 onion
2-3 cloves of garlic optional
500 g minced beef
500 g minced pork or lamb
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2-3 T flour
s & p to taste
butter or oil for frying

Chop the onions and garlic finely in a food processor. Mix with minced meat, eggs, milk, flour and seasonings until a thick paste is formed. Shape into balls.

Heat butter or oil in a frying pan on high heat. Place the frikadellen in the hot pan.

Brown for 2-3 minutes on each side then turn the heat down, cover with a lid and leave to cook for 10 minutes or so, turning again, until cooked through.

(photos: Jaksco)

Monday, December 19, 2011


These ginger cookies are bangin'. Seriously.

But add some super dark chocolate to these babies fresh out of the oven, and you've created a one-way ticket to nirvana.

These are simply transcendent, these are. Find the recipe here.

My tips: add half the sugar to the dough, or omit the sugar roll. I've tried both (independently--not together) and from cloying, they become just sweet enough for such a rich topping (mmm). And chilling the dough is essential for a thick cookie with a soft, chewy texture.

Friday, December 16, 2011

O Tannenbaum

My family is so lucky to live less than 10 minutes away from real wilderness. This year, we were able to cut down our own Christmas tree--a first for both Mr. P and me.

We brought an electric cross-saw and a big handsaw... sorry tradition (and mom), the electric won out!

The snow was a sort of icy creme brûlée--crunchy on the top and powdery smooth underneath.

Momma and our sweet little tree. It's about 6 feet tall.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On Family and Fake Snow

Ah, to be with family at Christmas-time is sublime. :)

Here's Mr. P shaking out cattails. Who needs snow??

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dollar Glen

DSC_0092DSC_0138DSC_0093DSC_0096DSC_0110DSC_0112 DSC_0114DSC_0133DSC_0142DSC_0143DSC_0144

We had so much fun hiking through Dollar Glen a few weeks ago. It was nice to breathe the fresh fresh air of the country. Ber couldn't stop dropping and rolling in the leaves every 3 minutes. And the subtleties of asking for a puppy begin!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Last week, on our way to Edinburgh's Weihnachtsmarkt, which is near the ferris wheel pictured above, I stopped and snapped two pictures from North Bridge. I thought it would be a cinch to just stitch them together in iPhoto to create a panoramic shot. At least, that's what I set out to do four hours ago. Now, granted, I've puttered around doing other things in the meanwhile, but after installing and uninstalling no less than 5 different programs, I was frazzled and flabbergasted--haven't they come up with an easy way to do this?!?

That's when I finally found this sucker. I shed a tear of joy at the simplicity and quickness of it all. Thank you, Dermandar, for saving my Christmas-loving sanity. The only thing I will have to fiddle with is image size--as far as I could tell, there wasn't an option to retain image size.

In any case, here's the result:

Christmas in Edinburgh!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Power of Civic Service

Imagine if we had a systematic volunteer response to disasters across the nation. This would save time and especially money. Such civic service need not be restricted to times of disaster, but could perhaps be applied more broadly to boost community morale, national patriotism, and both our states and nation's pocketbooks. What say you? (thumbs up if you read that in your head as Aragorn to the dead Men of the Mountains in LOTR: Return of the King).

Of course the impracticalities of such a venture are many--what if such volunteerism takes away people's jobs? While some are all for the privatization of some government programs (like the postal service) for instance, the same arguments against such privatization may apply to volunteerism. What if we allow privatization of those programs that can be reasonably expected to succeed and consider soliciting volunteers for other sorts of work. In an economy where 8.6% (last I checked) are unemployed, however, I wouldn't necessarily encourage volunteerism on the part of the unemployed. But who knows--perhaps it would provide another venue for networking--a way of bringing people together that normally wouldn't socialize in the same circles--as well as the opportunity, perhaps, to gain practical experience for a future workplace.

All in all, I think that JFK's quote remains relevant--though is often only manifest unidirectionally: we ask always what our country can do for us, but not often enough what we can do for our country. I think that at a grassroots level, all can and need to give back somehow. If we all did, it would be insane. In a good way.

And that concludes my entirely uninformed, but well-meaning, ramblings. Now we'll all get back to our daily grind in a world where little of our fundamental political and social constructs actually changes. ;)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Recalling Warmer Times...

Today was a creeping cold. It made me long for the balmy weather of months past, especially after flipping through these pictures. These were taken on an outing we had in October. We attempted to hike to the top of Arthur's Seat but had to settle for hiking around it, as the path was waaaay too steep for our buggy (n.b. It's even a Jeep, so it's made for off-roading). To console ourselves, we went to Leith, right up at the tippy-top of Edinburgh, and walked along the ocean.

Ruins near Arthur's Seat.

Running near Arthur's Seat.

P livin' it up in Leith

Oceanfront bench with stone man.

Only a few more months 'til Spring, right? :) I do love so many things about winter, but the chill gets to me sometimes. I think I'll stop being so parsimonious and go turn on the heater....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker

I stumbled upon this Norwegian Christmas hymn this week and am absolutely smitten. Something about it is at once melancholy and hopeful and captures the essence of Christmas-time for me: so much joy and renewal at the contemplation of a little baby a long time ago.

The great thing about this video is it includes English subtitles. Okay, I'll stop with the pretext. It's Sissel. Need I say more? :)

I've also found several versions by canticle singers, like Arve Moen Bergset. I prefer his simpler, more traditional arrangement. Then there are the choirs, like the Oslo Filharmoniske Kor. Great stuff.

Most of my mother's family is from Norway, and I've always wanted to learn Norwegian. I just might start with this song...

Mitt hjerte alltid vanker i Jesu fødte rom
Der samles mine tanker som i sin hovedsum
Der er min lengsel hjemme, der har min tro sin skatt
Jeg kan deg aldri glemme velsignet julenatt

Akk, kom jeg opp vil lukke mitt hjerte og mitt sinn
Og full av lengsel sukke, kom Jesus dog her inn
Det er ei fremmed bolig, du har jo selv den kjøpt
Så skal jeg blive trolig, her i mitt hjerte svøpt

Jeg gjerne palmegrene vil om din krybbe strø
For deg, for deg alene jeg leve vil og dø
Kom la min sjel deg finne sin rette gledesstund
At du ble født her inne i hjertets dype grunn


My heart always wanders where Jesus once was born
There I collect my thoughts into a total sum
There my longing finds a home, and my belief a treasure
I can never forget you blessed Christmas night

Oh, I want to open up my heart and my soul
And full of longing sigh, come Jesus here within
This is no foreign housing, you bought it all yourself
Then I will likely stay, swaddled in my heart

I'll gladly spread palm branches around your crib
For you, for you alone I will live and I will die
Come let my soul find you its true blissful moment
That you were born here deep in my heart's abyss

(Original lyrics found here and English transcribed from the video.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Goings-on of an Edinburgh Kitchen

It has been an adjustment learning how to cook again. It always surprises me how, whenever traveling or living abroad, one's palate and style of cooking adapts quite quickly. In this case, however, my actual abilities have yet to catch up. Here are some of the more successful dishes to come out of this emerging Edinburgh kitchen, however.

I made some pesto bread via Mmm is for Mommy. In my haste to devour, I forgot to take pictures after it baked. I love the concept, but next time I'd like to do it with a more crispy/chewy bread recipe.

This is my go-to, eggs in a basket. Easy as (or rather, quite a bit easier than) pie. Take a piece of bread and an egg. Poke out a little circle in the middle of the bread. Give this little circle of bread to the squalling baby nearby. Place the hole-y bread in a preheated, oiled frying pan. Crack the egg into the bread-hole. Let fry on medium heat for 2-3 min. Flip and let cook for a remaining 2 or so min. Voila! Easy-peasy. I love runny egg yolks..................... (this represents my dribbling face at the moment).

This is a roasted carrot and goat cheese salad atop some watercress and arugula. Quite simple: wash and cut the carrots (I don't peel mine), toss inolive oil, thyme, and s/p and roast for 20-30 min. The flavors here are great: tangy, creamy cheese; mellow, sweet carrots; spicy, crunchy salad. Yum.

This is some roasted pak choi (aka baby bok choy) and Brussels sprouts. Similar method: trim and chop the greens, toss in olive oil, s/p, sage, and a teensy bit of both honey and vinegar, then roast for around 30 min. I both toss and roast in the same 9x13 pan. One pre-emptive step against dishes for me, a giant step for my war-zone kitchen. Okay, I'll stop with the terrible mash-up of 1960's catch-phrase and, well, er, me. But it was quite tasty, specially with some tatties (what taters are known as here).

This is a spontaneous learning experience for Ber, who usually hangs out with me in the kitchen. I was cutting potatoes and I made a little star potato stamp for him. Then we stamped tomato sauce onto a paper towel. Yeah, I'm what's known as a hipster mom. snark. But it WAS fun (and did not involve harmful plastics or unfair trade practices, insofar as I am aware).

These are some persimmon chips, via TheKitchn. I sprinkled them with a bit of curry powder and sugar and a teensy bit of salt. YUM! Just slice the persimmons yay-thin and bake them at a high temp until they are toasty. (I always have a wee chuckle about persimmons though... they're sold here under the name "kaki," which is a diminutive German term related to "kacken"... tehehehehe).

Sadly, much of everything else I have cooked has been kind of gross. But I have my eye on a few recipes that promise to change that... so stay tuned. :)