International Theme Feasts: Germany

Last weekend I planned the second of my International Theme Feasts.  This time, it was a German meal in honor of my sister-in-law, Sarah, who was visiting from Las Vegas.  Like myself, she is German (or at least a large percentage German).  Time for us to celebrate.  Besides, who doesn’t love sausages, beer, kraut and Black Forest cake?  In my humble opinion, it’s one of the best cuisines out there.  I should know.  I gained ten pounds when I visited Germany in the summer of 1992 (That’s me next to the Ferrari below.  The only thing bigger than my ass was my hair).



Since I was planning another feast, I felt I deserved a new flag for my collection.  My first flag was in honor of my Norwegian Feast.   From now on, every time I do an entire theme meal for guests I will treat myself to a new one (friends – just let me know when and what you want me to cook for you!).   I’ve got them proudly displayed on my dining room table.

German WineWith our German Feast I also got to add a couple new corks to my collection.  Sarah gave me a hu-MON-gous bottle of German Riesling.  Sa-weet!  (Riesling definitely is sweet).  Not to be outdone by his wife, my brother-in-law also brought me a bottle of fine wine.  Boone’s Farm Wild Cherry.  He likes to keep it classy.  Thanks, Mark.

On the Menu

Main Course:

For Dessert:

german feast

Germany: Red Cabbage with Apples

Germany: Red Cabbage with Apples
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 C. sliced green apples
  • ⅓ C. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. water
  • ¼ C. sugar
  • 2¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  1. In a large pot, add all the ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 1-1½ hours until tender.

red cabbage and apples

red cabbage and apples

England: Cornish Pasties

Cornish Pasties

Cornish Pasties

I grew up eating pasties, so it surprises me that some people have never even heard of them.  Last week I made them for our Norwegian Feast.  Pasties are definitely not Norwegian, but I wanted my friends could get a little taste of my heritage as well.

My grandmother’s ancestors came from the Cornwall, England area, where pasties are thought to have originated.  Grandma grew up on the Minnesota Iron Range, where they were also a common meal.  Pasties were a hearty and satisfying lunch for wives to send with their miner husbands.  The crust acted as an insulator and kept the insides warm, and he could eat it by holding it in his hands.

Nearly 100 years later, I’m still making them for my family. Making pasties is not a quick process.  The chopping of the veggies and dough preparation can turn it into an all-afternoon project.  However, you can make lots of them at once.  I make a double or triple batch so I can enjoy pasties all winter long.  Cook them partially (about halfway) and freeze for later.

downton abbey

How to Make Pasties

For me, the dough is the hardest part of the pasty.  I have never quite been able to get it right.  I either overwork it and its tough, or not enough and it tastes good but is too crumbly.  One of these years I’ll get the hang of it.

I actually don’t mind chopping the veggies.  While that part can be time-consuming, it’s easy.  Put a good show on TV and chop while you’re watching.  I happened to be watching Downton Abbey while I chopped.  Oh, such a very British night.  I was definitely channeling Mrs. Patmore.  We almost look alike, don’t you think?

England: Cornish Pasties
  • Ingredients
  • Cornish Pasty Crust Recipe
  • 2 C. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ⅔ C. lard or vegetable shortening*
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 6-8 Tbsp. ice water
  • Cornish Pasty Fillings
  • 1½ C. minced onion
  • 3 C. diced potato
  • 1½ C. sliced carrots**
  • 1-1/2 lb. beef steak, cubed (sirloin or round)***
  • 1-1/2 lb. pork steak, cubed***
  • Parsley, chopped (fresh)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter wedges
  1. For Crust: Mix dry ingredients together, then add shortening bit by bit until mixture becomes mealy. Add ice water one tablespoon at a time until a dough has been formed. This makes enough dough for three large pasties or four medium-sized pasties. Form dough into a ball and cut into three or four equal sizes. Roll out each ball and then add pasty fillings below. For Filling: On top of the dough that you’ve just rolled out, layer minced onion, potatoes, carrots, beef steak, pork steak, parsley. Add a couple butter wedges and season with salt and pepper. Fold the top of the pasty dough over the filling ingredients and seal the edges (mine was not fancy, but if you’re a skilled pastry chef you can do fluted edges). Bake your pasties at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375 degrees and cook one hour more. If you’re going to be freezing them to eat later, cook for 45 minutes instead of an hour. When ready to cook, heat them for about a half hour at 375 degrees. *The original recipe that my grandmother used called for lard, but I substitute Crisco. **Many other traditional pasty recipes call for rutabaga or turnip, but we’ve never used that. It was a recipe that my grandmother handed down to my mom, and now to me. ***For me, packs of beef and pork sirloin came in 1-1½ lb. packages. That was enough for a double recipe of pasties, or save half and freeze to use later.


How to make pasties How to make pasties How to make pasties

Egypt: Halal Guys Chicken and Rice

halal guys chicken and rice

My Version: Halal Guys Chicken and Rice

halal guys chicken and rice

The Original

Most of you who know me also know I have a passion for NYC.  The first time I visited wasn’t until I was about 35 years old, but since then I’ve been there at least a dozen or more times.  I love the energy, the culture, and especially the food.   I could spend all day going from eatery to eatery stuffing my face.

The thing about New York City is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get incredible food (more on my favorite Frugal New York Eats).  Food bargains are everywhere.  Some of the best offerings are under $10.  In fact, one of our favorites is the Halal Guys Food Cart on 53rd and 6th.   Their chicken and rice plate is only around $6, and it’s worth the long wait in line.   Every once in a while, I crave it and nothing Mankato comes close.

Their fare is billed as “Middle Eastern” so I tweeted them to see which nationality, specifically, to assign to their yummy food.  I felt really special when they responded to my tweet.  The answer?  Egyptian.  So with that, I cross the first African dish off my checklist.

Egypt: Halal Guys Chicken and Rice
Cuisine: Egyptian
For the Chicken: 2 Tbsp. lemon juice 1 tsp. dried oregano ½ tsp. ground coriander ½ tsp. cumin 3 garlic cloves, minced ¼ C. olive oil Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (the kind in the bag work well) For the Rice: 2 Tbsp. butter ½ tsp. turmeric ¼ tsp. cumin 1½ C. Basmati or Texmati rice 2½ C. chicken broth Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper For the Sauce: 1 C. mayo 2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish ½ tsp. salt ½ tsp. cracked black pepper 1 Tbsp. lemon juice ¼ C. white vinegar 1 C. Ranch dressing ⅓ C. Greek yogurt ⅓ C. sour cream 2 Tbsp. white sugar 3 tsp. dry dill weed
  • For the chicken, whisk together the lemon juice, oregano, coriander, cumin, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Place inside a crock pot and pour sauce over it. Cover and cook until chicken is done (4 hours on high, 6-8 hours on low).
  • For the rice, heat butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Saute the rice for a couple minutes together with the tumeric and cumin, until it begins to brown slightly. Add the chicken broth, cover and reduce heat. Cook 20-25 minutes until liquid has been absorbed.
  • Serve with shredded lettuce, tomato wedges, and pita.


Notes:  The Halal Guys sauce is SO yummy.  It’s a great dip or salad dressing too.  The above recipe makes a whole quart.  Cut it in half if you don’t think you’ll be using it for anything else.  Otherwise, it does keep in the refrigerator for a couple weeks.

halal guys chicken and rice

Thanks to The Gothamist for the sauce recipe

I first posted the Halal Guys Chicken and Rice recipe on


Pinterest, You’re a Fickle Bitch (aka Black Forest Cake)

black forest cake

Pinterest, You’re a Fickle Bitch (aka Black Forest Cake)

The gorgeous Pinterest images of the Black Forest Cake made me think I could re-create the same thing at home.  It’s EASY they said.  It’s SIMPLE they said.  Silly Pinterest.  She’s a fickle bitch.  She’ll lure you in with her pretty pictures and promises of the good life then leave you on your own when things don’t work out quite the way she promised.

What’s pictured above is a my version of the REAL WOMAN’S Black Forest Cake.   It’s not quite Pinterest Fail bad, but not nearly what was promised me.  Still as tasty, just not as pretty (kind of like real life). She may not win any beauty contests, but this one won’t abandon you when you need her most.

PicMonkey Collage


The “Pretty” image source:

Germany: Black Forest Cake
  • 2 C. flour
  • 2 C. sugar
  • ¾ C. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 C. milk
  • ½ C. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 1 jar pitted cherries
  • 1 C. sugar
  • ¼ C. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 C. heavy whipping cream
  • ⅓ C. confectioners' sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch, round, cake pans; cover bottoms with waxed paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, 2 cups sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil, and 1 tablespoon vanilla; beat until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 35 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Loosen edges, and remove to racks to cool completely.
  4. Drain cherries, reserving ½ cup juice. Combine reserved juice, cherries, 1 cup sugar and cornstarch in a 2 quart saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cool before using.
  5. Combine whipping cream and confectioner's sugar in a chilled medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form.
  6. With long serrated knife, split each cake layer horizontally in half. Tear one split layer into crumbs; set aside. Reserve 1½ cups Frosting for decorating cake; set aside. Gently brush loose crumbs off top and side of each cake layer with pasty brush or hands. To assemble, place one cake layer on cake plate. Spread with 1 cup frosting; top with ¾ cup cherry topping. Top with second cake layer; repeat layers of frosting and cherry topping. Top with third cake layer. Frost side of cake. Pat reserved crumbs onto frosting on side of cake. Spoon reserved frosting into pastry bag fitted with star decorator tip. Pipe around top and bottom edges of cake. Spoon remaining cherry topping onto top of cake.

This was inspired by a black forest cake recipe I found on

Denmark: Aebelskivers

danish aebelskivers

Danish Aebelskivers

Aebelskivers are a Danish breakfast pancake that are popular around the holidays.  Traditionally, they included apple filling which is how they got their name.  Whipping the egg whites make them fluffy.  They’re almost like little mini popovers.

I’m not quite sure how I decided to make these.  It could be that I thought the aebelskiver pan was just really, really cute.  Pans like this aren’t the most practical thing to keep around the house, but I do love collecting them.  My dream home has not only a huge kitchen and walk-in pantry, but a special place for me to store all the pots, pans and cooking collectibles that I love.

The aebelskivers were pretty easy to make.  The batter itself isn’t very sweet, so you need to either dust them with powdered sugar or fill them with fruit.  Mine tended to stick to the pan a bit, but I don’t think it was seasoned well enough before I gave it a go. Next time I make them I want to experiment with some fruit fillings. I’ll update this post when I do.

Denmark: Aebelskivers
Danish pancake balls
  • 2 C. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 C. buttermilk
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  1. In a bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Set aside.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, sugar, egg yolks, melted butter and buttermilk at one time and beat until smooth. Gently fold in the egg whites.
  3. Put a small amount of vegetable oil in the bottom of each aebleskiver pan cup and heat on medium. Pour in about 2 tablespoons of the batter into each cup. As soon as they get bubbly around the edge, turn them quickly. For turning, you can use a skewer, knitting needle or a fork. Continue cooking, turning the ball to keep it from burning.
  4. Serve immediately.


IMG_3402 IMG_3403 IMG_3406

Germany: Sauerbraten

How to make German Sauerbraten

German Sauerbraten

This week homemade sauerbraten was on the menu. I’ve wanted to make it for many years, ever since I had it in Cologne, Germany when I was 21.   Since authentic sauerbraten has to marinate for three days, and I am not good at planning ahead, it took me 20 years to finally recreate it at home.

That’s me with the unfortunate perm in the photo below.   What can I say.  It was 1992.  I was in Cologne with my friend Katja and her sister.  I was lucky enough to spend a month with her that summer traveling and hanging out in Europe.  We had just toured the incredible Cologne cathedral and were moving on to Kölsch (a local specialty beer brewed in Cologne) and sauerbraten.  Too bad this photo shows more of my bad hair than the food itself.  The food is what I really want to remember from that day, not my frizzy perm and the ten extra pounds I had packed on up eating and drinking my way through Europe.

gaffel am dom cologne germany

After making the sauerbraten back home, I’ll tell you the only tricky thing about it is having the foresight to get the marinade going three days ahead of time.  Some other sauerbraten recipes tell you to marinate the meat even longer.  However, it’s a really simple dish.  The meat is tender and the gravy is fabulous.  The gingersnaps are the thickening agent, and give the gravy its distinctive flavor.  Plus, the cousins had fun crushing them.

Germany: Sauerbraten
  • 2 C. water
  • 1 C. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 C. red wine vinegar
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt, additional for seasoning meat
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 12 juniper berries (found in the spice aisle)
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 (3½ to 4-pound) bottom round
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • ⅓ C. sugar
  • 18 dark old-fashioned gingersnaps, crushed
  1. In a large saucepan combine the water, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, onion, carrot, salt, pepper, bay leaves, cloves, juniper, and mustard seeds. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Rub the vegetable oil on the bottom round. Spread the salt on all sides and rub in. Heat a large skillet and brown the meat on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  3. Place the meat in a one-gallon Ziplock freezer bag and pour marinade over it. Remove all the air from the bag before sealing and marinate in the refrigerator for three days.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the meat in a glass baking dish. Add sugar to the marinade, cover and cook until tender, approximately 3½ - 4 hours.
  5. Remove the meat from the baking dish. Strain the remaining marinade to remove the solids. In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk the gingersnaps in with the marinade and cook until thickened, stirring occasionally.
  6. Serve with potato dumplings or spaetzle noodles



sauerbraten marinade

 sauerbraten marinade

 sauerbraten marinade

sauerbraten gravy sauerbraten gravysauerbraten gravy




This recipe was inspired by Alton Brown’s recipe on

Last night I was one hot mess. Literally.

one hot mess

Last night I was one hot mess.  Literally.  Trying a dish from Burkina Faso* called “Riz Gras” had me in the kitchen with bags of ice on my face while Scott googled “what to do when you eat a habanero pepper.”   It wasn’t pretty, and it certainly didn’t feel good.

What I assume happened was that I used my hands to remove the seeds from the peppers.  The oils from the pepper spread to my face and neck as well before the burning action started.  At first it wasn’t so bad, then the pain started building and building.  Once it did, there was no turning back.

We found out that the only thing that works to neutralize the oil are dairy products like milk, yogurt, and sour cream.  Oh yeah, and waiting it out while you’re left feeling like your face is going to burn off.  Scott wanted to take a picture of me with Yoplait Light Red Velvet Cupcake yogurt smeared all over my face but I wouldn’t let him.  I’ll show you my cooking failures, but I won’t let you see me like that.  Call me vain if you wish.

I knew when I started this project that not every dish would turn out the way I wanted it to, but I never imagined a failure like this.  I swore off this crazy project for a couple of hours while I was in a pepper spray-like pain.  Yes, it took at least that long for the pain to subside.  What the hell was I thinking?  Who is stupid enough to work with peppers without checking their rating on the Scoville scale?  That would be me (just in case you’re wondering, a habanero ranks nearly as high as pepper of death, the ghost pepper, as well U.S.-Grade Pepper Spray).   Who knew?!  Silly me for not doing my homework.  NOW I know.

The upside?  Between the capsaicin in the pepper and all the dairy products I smeared in my face to neutralize the oil I think I may have just discovered an inexpensive way to give myself a chemical peel at home.  I should have a fresh glow for quite a while now.  If you see me, let me know how great I look.  I paid dearly for it.

Burkina Faso I will come back to you.  I may be one hot mess, but it’s not your fault. I’ll make a dish that does your country justice.  I don’t want this to be my only memory of you.  But I’ll never touch a habanero pepper again.


*My friend Amy inspired me to try a recipe from Burkina Faso this week.  To celebrate her site’s tenth birthday, she opted to run an online fundraiser to purchase wells in Burkina Faso for clean drinking water.  That’s just one example of how big her heart is.  I want to be like her when I grow up. (I donated a small amount to the cause and you can too: Well of Hope).

chile temperature chart_04

Norway: Krumkake

norwegian krumkake maker

If it’s possible to consider yourself Norwegian without having any ancestors from Norway, then that’s what I am.  As a Minnesotan, I’m surrounded by so many Norwegians I feel like I’ve absorbed the culture in my own blood.  My husband is 50% Norwegian, and so are other friends and non-blood relatives.

Our good friends the Knutsons, also Norwegian, have inspired my interest in Norwegian food.  So, when I invited them for a holiday celebration this week it had to have a Norwegian theme.   I knew I’d be making meatballs and lutefisk, but I was still searching for a good Norwegian dessert idea.

Oddly enough, I came across this Norwegian Krumkake maker while cleaning out the storage room downstairs just a day before our Norwegian Feast.  It had belonged to my grandmother, who passed away over four years ago.  I hadn’t given it a second thought since then.  My grandmother wasn’t Norwegian but her sister-in-law was, so I assume it was a gift from Aunt Marg. I knew I had discovered it at just the right time to give it a whirl.

My first batch was a learning game.  I had the heat too hot, so the krumkake burned before they got crisp.  The second time went much better.  I lowered the heat and was able to get in the groove of how long to leave them in the krumkake press.    As soon as they came off the heat, I wrapped them around the wooden cones to crisp.  

Norwegian Krumkake Recipe
These light, airy Norwegian cookies are as pretty as they are delicious.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1¼ C. flour
  • ¾ C. cream
  • ¾ C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ tsp. cardamom
  1. Preheat krumkake iron over low-medium heat. Mix the batter and drop by teaspoonfuls onto krumkake iron. Heat about 30 seconds on each side. Remove immediately and wrap around wooden cones until cool and crisp.

norwegian krumkake recipe norwegian krumkake recipe

Modern-Day Norwegian Holiday Feast

norwegian feast

Even though the calendar said January 9th, the holidays would noIMG_3176t be officially over for me until I had fed my favorite Norwegians their Christmas Lutefisk Dinner.  I not only love cooking, I love entertaining – especially theme dinners.   A Norwegian theme would not only be fun, it would be a challenge.   So, I ordered my cute little Norwegian flag from and got out my best Nordic-looking plates and tablecloths.  The table would look great and despite the lutefisk, I was determined that the meal would also be tasty.

I’m not a huge fan of salty, lye-cured cod myself, but I will serve it to those who praise my cooking (Take a look at this comment my Norwegian buddy left on Mommysavers the day before the big feast.  This HUNGRY MAN knows what he’s doing by buttering up the chef!).  For those who aren’t familiar with it, this is how Wikipedia describes lutefisk:

Lutefisk is made from dried whitefish (normally cod in Norway, but ling is also used) prepared with lye in a sequence of particular treatments. The watering steps of these treatments differ slightly for salted/dried whitefish because of its high salt content.

The first treatment is to soak the stockfish in cold water for five to six days (with the water changed daily). The saturated stockfish is then soaked in an unchanged solution of cold water and lye for an additional two days. The fish swells during this soaking, and its protein content decreases by more than 50 percent producing a jelly-like consistency. When this treatment is finished, the fish (saturated with lye) is caustic, with a pH value of 11–12. To make the fish edible, a final treatment of yet another four to six days of soaking in cold water (also changed daily) is needed. Eventually, the lutefisk is ready to be cooked.


We’ve made lutefisk before, and it’s not really as bad as it sounds (or smells).  You know you’re dealing with some pungent stuff when Wikipedia describes how to “make the fish edible.”  I think the key is rinsing it enough so that it doesn’t taste so much like fish-flavored Jell-o.

On the Menu


Main Course:

For Dessert:

Slightly Americanized, our Norwegian Feast also included Jiffy Corn Casserole and Rice Krispy Scotcheroo Bars (if the picture below is any indication, apparently the young ‘uns think the middle ones are the best).  There was also an absence of anything green or very healthy on the table, but since I was cooking for men and kids I didn’t get any complaints.

It was a fun night.  The food was good, and the company even better.  The best part? The Norwegian “Miss Kim” apron they gave me.  It’s very special for many reasons, and I hope I do it justice by wearing it to cook up some authentic Norwegian dishes.  We wrapped up the night with an intense game of sock basketball in the living room.  That’s just the way we roll.  And now the holiday decorations can come down until next Christmas.

norwegian feast