Archive for ‘Festivals & Holidays’

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) in Leipzig

May your celebration be full of love, laughter, delicious drinks, and warmth.


Weihnachtsmarkt in Dresden

May you have time to play and enjoy all the little things.

Spitzbuben Christmas Cookies

And may you eat all the cookies you can muster!

I’ll be back in the New Year with more new posts and projects. For now I’m going to go back to hunkering down with my family in our little piece of awesomeness here in Germany.  So many things to be thankful for!

November 28, 2011

Spritz Cookies


Spritz cookies are not something I grew up making.  However, I’ve certainly had them a lot growing up – in plates of cookies given to my family over the holidays and at friends’ houses.  I never thought twice about them – they were simply, tasty, crumbly cookies, sometimes with colored sugar decorations.  I never thought about how they were made, or that I would even ever make them.

And then two years ago, I inherited my grandmother’s cookie press.  I had no idea what to do with it – it came with its original “recipe booklet” which I was more fascinated in as a historical object than as a useful tool to help me learn how to use this thing that came with metal disks shaped like trees, camels, and flowers.  No idea that is until I asked my friends for their favorite cookie recipes, my friend M sent over her family’s spritz cookie recipe.  Suddenly I realized it was time to give this thing a turn (literally).

It wasn’t easy – the dough never stuck to the cookie sheet so I couldn’t actually press things out.  I gave up and did several batches  of cookies as blobs on the sheet.  And then I decided to go on YouTube (yup, it’s become one of my g0-to sources when I don’t know what else to do).  The recipes I was reading said to put the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet, and the videos all said you “don’t need to grease the pan.” However, I’d been doing what I always do when I bake cookies: even when recipes say to just plop cookies directly on the sheet, I always put down parchment paper.  Well, what the recipes and videos should be saying is not that you don’t need this, but that you shouldn’t do it.  Don’t do it!  Press directly on the cookie sheet.  Only this way will the cookie batter stick to the sheet and come off the press.  There is enough butter that the cookies won’t stick to your cookie sheet.  Also, do not put this dough in the refrigerator – use it at room temperature.

Now, without further ado, here is the recipe my friend shared with me.  She said her mom got it from a traditional American cookbook like Better Homes and Gardens or Betty Crocker, she couldn’t remember where.

Spritz Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened (I used butter)
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla (I used anise)
1. Preheat your oven to 400F.  In a large bowl, with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until they appear white.  Add the egg and extract and blend in briefly.  Add the flour and salt and continue to mix with the hand mixer until the batter is uniform.

2. If you wish, you can portion out the recipe and add food coloring to different batches.  People often do this to make the green trees.  I didn’t, because I don’t care much for food coloring, but if you do it do it in this step.  Be sure to use the hand mixer and not your fingers, because they will get stained.

3. Put the batter into your cookie press and squeeze onto the (unlined, ungreased!) cookie sheet.  You don’t need to space them too far apart because they will not expand.  Switch out shapes as you like, and decorate with colored sugar or sprinkles if you like.

4. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 6-9 minutes, until set but not browned.  Cool on the cookie sheet, then transfer to an air-tight container.

November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving friends!  I hope you all have safe travels today and enjoy the holiday. This is my first year celebrating Thanksgiving not with family (I count my JYA Thanksgiving as a family event, as well as my Fulbright Thanksgiving, because those two years were so intense and awesome, and we all bonded as if we were related).  I was sad at first, but then a dear friend from childhood asked David and me to have Thanksgiving with her, and now I know it’s going to be a great holiday.  I can’t wait to spend the entire day tomorrow cooking and eating with her and her husband, and Friday and Saturday lounging around (and packing their house for a cross-country move – sad!)



Thanksgiving for me is about family, and about community.  My good friend Kristina organized a bunch of musicians, artists, and other friends of hers and edited a community cookbook.  This isn’t just any cookbook – it’s probably the best community cookbook you can have!  It was organized through an online community, and its story is pretty amazing.   I love the book, I love the recipes, the art, and the obvious fun that comes out of the book.  It’s clear these are cool people, eating awesome food, and I kind of want to be friends with each and every contributor (there are over 50 people who worked on this book)!

If you’re looking for a great new cookbook, consider Cook Food Every Day.  100% of proceeds of your purchase goes directly to the Greater Boston Food Bank, and the book has raised over $1000 dollars, and there are still books left.  Click over to the Cook Food Every Day blog where a PayPal donation gets you your very own copy of the book.

Also, Kristina writes a pretty incredible blog called No Gluten Required.  I recommend it whether or not you eat gluten.  She’s currently got a pretty sweet round-up of Thanksgiving recipes up!

November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: The Roundup, Schedule, & Shopping List

And here we are – it’s Thanksgiving Week!  Here is the roundup of recipes we’ve gone over this month in preparation:

Thanksgiving Menu

Apple Martinis

Butternut Squash Soup
Roast Chicken & Stuffing
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Dinner Rolls (goes to King Arthur site with step-by-step picture instructions)

Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pielets

For those who still need or want to make turkey, gravy, and cranberry sauce, my sister shared with me this fantastic video by Mary Risley, a woman after my own heart.  Here’s everything you’ll need to know on these dishes:


Schedule & Shopping

Now, grab a glass of wine/beer/apple martini and relax.  Here’s a shopping list and schedule for you. The shopping list is based on one times each of the recipes, which will make a dinner for 4-6. You can edit both to fit your needs.

Thanksgiving Shopping List
Thanksgiving Timeline

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of happiness, laughter, cooking, and fun.  May the conversation at your table never be awkward, may your kitchen mishaps create funny stories, and may your family and friends enjoy health, love, and joy this year!

November 1, 2011

A Menu for Thanksgiving

I’m going to squeak in just barely with my promised post today.  But here it is folks (drumroll, please):

Over the next few weeks, up until Thanksgiving, I’m going to be sharing with you recipes that I think are delicious, and put all together will make an amazing Thanksgiving meal.  I’ll not only provide the individual recipes, I will also give you in the week before Thanksgiving a shopping list (that you can edit, so that you can take our things like “salt” or “tomato paste” if you already own those things) and a detailed timeline of what to make when, so you’re not frantically finishing up as your guests are milling about hungry.

The idea is, that with these recipes you will not only be able to enjoy the cooking, but you’ll also enjoy the actual holiday.  I’ve done everything from undercook the turkey to burning the pecans for pecan pie to oblivion and in between, so I know that Thanksgiving preparations can be stressful. Hopefully with these recipes, tips, and schedules you’ll be able to cook your Thanksgiving with a bit more confidence (and success) than some of my past Thanksgivings.  And remember the mantra I have with my sisters: something always has to go wrong with the food on Thanksgiving, otherwise it’s just not Thanksgiving.  It’s how you roll with it that counts.

So, here is the menu we’ll be talking about around here for the next few weeks (look familiar?):

Butternut Squash Soup
Roast Turkey with Herbed Stuffing
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Dinner Rolls
Pumpkin Pie

To kick it off, grab a martini glass (or any glass, for that matter, we’re not standing on ceremony here) and whip up an Apple Martini – not that you need an excuse, but if you’re going to be serving this along with your Thanksgiving you have to test it out first, right?