Culture, Food, Music

Schönen Muttertag / Happy Mother’s Day

Spring took forever to arrive here in Pittsburgh, but now we are enjoying the sun, the rain, and of course the seasonal allergies! The boys have really helped out a lot this year with planting and weeding, and our garden is looking great. The strawberries we planted last year are back and we can’t wait to enjoy some homegrown Erdbeeren!

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This month, the hubs and I attended a local Maifest at the Teutonia Männerchor and really enjoyed ourselves. Their currywurst was very good, the potato pancakes were made-to-order and the Hacker-Pschorr was cold and refreshing! Our favorite German band, Mädel Jäger, played with their normal pizzazz. I am excited to go back to the club soon, and I loved wearing my new dirndl too 😉

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This weekend has been so nice, my boys have showered me with attention and thanks and even let me drag them to Harmony, PA to have lunch at the Harmony Inn. We did not see their resident ghost, but their menu is heavily influenced by German cuisine and so of course we enjoyed ourselves!

The boys even made me breakfast before we went to church this morning; I am feeling very blessed to be part of such a wonderful family. I hope that all you amazing, hardworking moms out there have a great Mother’s Day and feel appreciated! xx

Culture, Food

Frohe Ostern! / Happy Easter!

Today the weather finally broke and Pittsburgh got a warm, albeit wet, day. Spring is finally appearing just shy of Easter weekend.  Last year at this time, I wrote about the German traditions of Ostereierbäume and Osterhase, but I only realized today that yet another of our Easter activities is also done in Germany! Every year my mom bakes a pound cake in the shape of an adorable lamb in a mold like this one. She usually dusts it with powdered sugar and sometimes we give it candy eyes.  This eating of an Osterlamm symbolizes both the sacrificial lambs used in Passover and the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus’ life to save us from our sin. I love the symbolism, but really any excuse to eat cake is a good one ;-P Here are some pics of lamb cakes past…

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2012, An artful version of a lamb
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2014, I guess we were hungry!
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2016, Melty but delicious. Twin-approved.

As I write this, the rain is pounding on the roof, reminding me that soon the Earth will be fertile again. Flowers will bloom, plants and children with continue to grow, and life will be more colorful. After this long winter, I can’t wait for warmer weather! From my family to yours, have a very Happy Easter. <3

Culture, Food

Weihnachtsmarkt / Christmas Market

The temperatures dropped suddenly this past week here in Pittsburgh, but the cold didn’t keep us from venturing out in the name of fun! On Saturday we bundled up and ventured to Harmony, a historic town founded by German settlers in 1804 for their German Christmas Market.

I enjoyed seeing German culture alive and well in the form of dress, music, food, and crafts. We saw several people in Trachten and they looked wonderful. My boys danced to traditional music and feasted on pretzels, and we saw wonderful handicrafts created by very talented people. Two large horses pulled a wagon up and down the street and the boys watched in amazement. A jolly Santa greeted our boys and asked what they wanted for Christmas. Finally, we waited in line for the most amazing cookies from The Two Fraus Bakery – their lebkuchen is SO GOOD!!!! I will definitely be returning to purchase more of their goodies.

One of my best memories of Germany is when my family visited the Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt – it was simply magical, with amazing food and crafts. In the middle of it, huge snowflakes began to fall; the entire experience left quite an impression on us, especially my mom, who still raves about it. I hope to go back some day to share it with my boys!

 

Culture, Food

Spätzle

If you’ve never had freshly made Spätzle, you are really missing out. A common side dish in German cooking, these delightful little dumpling-like noodles are easier to make than one might think.  The key is to having a gadget that will save you a lot of time – my great grandma used to plonk her batter on a cutting board and then use a knife to cut each noodle into the water! Talk about hard work!!! Some recipes call for nutmeg, but I prefer to leave it out. The good basic recipe is to combine 4 eggs, 1/3 C milk, 2 tsp salt, and 2 C flour – then you drop it into a pot of boiling water and cook it until it floats to the top, sort of like gnocchi 😉 Don’t forget to slather it in butter.

I topped my spaetzle with slow-cooker pulled pork with apples, and it made the perfect dinner for a Fall evening 🙂

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Mmm lecker!

Several German restaurants in Pittsburgh serve spaetzle, and the Hofbrauhaus has a decent version which I of course ate on the first day of their Oktoberfest celebration. Here I am with my girlfriends, and some of our hubbies. We had a lot of fun that night and drank some delicious beer!

Clothing, Culture, Food

Vorbereitungen für Oktoberfest / Getting Ready for Oktoberfest

We are heading into my favorite time of year – FALL! I am a fan of sweater weather, pumpkin foods, and the gorgeous Pennsylvania foliage.  Part of what makes this season so great is that it provides the perfect weather for Oktoberfest celebrations, and I am really looking forward to partying with my friends this weekend down at the Pittsburgh Hofbräuhaus.

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You don’t need to speak German or wear traditional clothing to enjoy Oktoberfest, but it sure doesn’t hurt! I am lucky to own a dirndl that I love and still fits me even after popping out twin boys, and I can’t wait to wear it. My loving husband does not currently own lederhosen, but he gets in the spirit by wearing a blue and white checkered shirt, reminiscent of the Bavarian flag.  Our boys have outgrown their lederhosen so I will be searching for replacements soon because they look so stinking cute in ones like these <3

I wish you all a very happy and healthy Oktoberfest, and make sure to keep well fed and hydrated in between Maß. PROST!!!

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Food

Gurkensalat / Cucumber Salad

One of my favorite summertime foods is cucumber salad, or as the Germans call it, Gurkensalat. I learned to make the creamy version from my Oma Ellen and Tante Vivian. If you love dill, then this recipe is for you! It is best made with the fresh stuff, or frozen dill if you’ve got it.

  • 1 large cucumber (I used English), sliced
  • 1/4 cup Thinly sliced red onion (optional)
  • About 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 large sprigs dill, chopped
  • 1 to 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Sugar to taste
  • Salt – regular or kosher

The cucumber needs to give up some of its water, so after you slice it you’ll want to sprinkle it with a decent amount of salt and leave it to sit in a strainer over a bowl for at least an hour. Discard the water before mixing the cucumber with the sauce.


To do the sauce, combine the yogurt, dill, vinegar, and just a bit of sugar. Make sure you taste it and then let the flavors blend in the fridge while the cucumber sweats.


Combine and enjoy! This is best eaten day-of, and if you add onions make sure you eat it within 3 days. Because it is so refreshing, I like to pair it with a juicy, well-seasoned steak or spicy chicken.

Culture, Food

Trautes Heim, Glück allein / Home Sweet Home

We are back from our adventure! And while it was a fabulous visit filled with family, friends, and fun, I am glad to be sleeping in my own bed again.  And also the tiny twin beds of my boys, because travel means wacko sleep patterns and giving in to toddler demands that you snuggle with them until they (and oftentimes you) fall asleep.  I was actually awoken this morning at 2 am by the sensation of being gently crushed by my son’s 40 lb body after he snuck in and crawled in the middle to sleep.  It’s moments like this that are always more precious after the fact 😛

Highlights of our trip include:

  • Seeing Grandpa, Auntie and Uncle, Cousins, and Best Friend. In miraculously good weather!
  • Visiting many awesome playgrounds and Thomas Land, the most well-run and kid-friendly amusement park in all of history (probably)
  • Pigging out on fish and chips (french fries), cheddar and onion crisps (chips), M&S chocolate mini bites, and so. much. CAKE.
  • Drinking refreshing cider ON TAP and German coffee on the plane (I kid you not, it was GOOD)
  • Our stay at the Frankfurt Airport Hilton Hotel – so new, so clean, so modern.  I ordered Frankfurter sausages from room service and they were delicious!
  •  Introducing our kids to the strange realm that is England – they were so confused by driving on the “wrong side of the road” – kids’ words, not mine! lol
  • Watching the kids try real Brezeln for the first time (they loved them, of course!!)

 

Overall, our trip was successful, but there were some painful bits brought on by organizational incompetency. We flew directly from Pittsburgh to Frankfurt on Condor Airlines, the slightly disappointing younger sibling of Lufthansa. They began offering this flight two weeks ago, and while the food was great, service was friendly, and they even provided activities for the kids, they definitely were in “soft open” mode. Our flight over was delayed because they didn’t have the right paperwork, and our flight home left from Terminal C, which is truly the shittiest section of Frankfurt Airport. It is cut off from the larger, newer, and more interesting terminals – a fact which we didn’t realize until after we’d gone through security. We had promised the boys a playground, and not being able to provide one, we paid for it BIG TIME. If you don’t have kids, imagine trying to catch a crafty, small dog. On speed.

All said, I enjoyed our trip massively and feel so blessed to have been able to visit England and Germany, even if only for a bit 🙂

Food

Glücklich zuerst von Mai / Happy May Day!

I can’t believe it is already May 1st!!! Here in America, as well as in Europe, today is marked by holding meetings, marches, and giving public speeches in support of laborers and unions.  But the first of May has long been a day of celebration for Germans since pagan times; festivities can include bonfires, the raising and decorating of a tall maypole, or Maibaum, and dancing and partying around it.  A few years ago my husband and I were at Penn Brewery for May Day and got to see traditional German dancers twirling ribbons around a small maypole. Perhaps they had already sampled the beer, but their intricate dancing and weaving looked rather tricky!

The great thing about this time of year is the increased opportunity to visit the Biergarten (beer garden), although there are not as many open air venues here as I would like.  The most popular and accessible place to drink good beer in the sunshine is at the Hofbräuhaus Pittsburghbut sometimes you want to try a new place. I’m hoping to visit the Biergarten on top of the beautiful Monaco hotel downtown soon, the pictures of food look so good! Last weekend we went to the brand new brewery right across the river in Coraopolis, Cobblehaus Brewing Co. and their beers were great!  This weekend we’ll be heading to the public Maifest being held at the Teutonia Männerchor – last year we went to their Reinheitsgebot fest and had a lot of fun 🙂 Really, any excuse to drink beer and wear my dirndl brings a huge smile to my face!!!

Before I go I also wanted to let you know that April 26th was National Pretzel Day!!! If you missed it, that’s ok, you can still honor the most amazing baked good ever by baking some at home from scratch – don’t worry, it’s easy!!! Check out my sister’s step-by-step recipe below; they taste very close to the real one that can only be gotten in Germay.

Recipe for Bretzeln

Makes 12 pretzels

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 Cup warm water
  • 2 1/2 Cups flour (more or less depending on humidity)
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • A butt-load of baking soda
  • Coarse salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Dissolve yeast in water. Mix with oil, sugar, and half of the flour. With electric mixer, beat the mixture for about 3 minutes or until it becomes smooth.
  2. Stir in remaining flour until it forms a loose ball.
  3. On floured surface, kneed the dough until it is smooth and elastic (about 5 min).
  4. Put dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or wet tea towel. Place in a warm place until it doubles in size (about an hour).
  5. Empty dough onto oiled surface – a clean kitchen counter will do – and punch it down. Divide it into 12 equal pieces.
  6. Form each piece into a rope that resembled a skinny snake (takes you back to childhood play-do days, eh?) Twist the dough into a pretzel shape.
  7. Place formed pretzels onto 2-3 oiled baking sheets, allowing the room to grow. Cover and let them rest for 30 min.
  8. In a large pot, boil 10-12 cups water and add 1 Tbsp of baking soda for every cup of water in the pot – yes, it is a lot!
  9. This next part can be tricky – Gently place one pretzel into the water at a time and let boil for 20 seconds. Remove and place back on baking sheet, sprinkle with coarse salt.
  10. Bake the pretzels for 13 minutes or until nicely browned in a 450°F oven.
  11. Serve warm with butter, or cut them open and top with jam, nutella, etc.  Warning: Pretzels will not be good the next day, so eat ’em while you can!
Food

Aldi Love

Aldi is the answer, people. Do you get frustrated with the tedious, overstocked nature of your local grocery store? ALDI.  Hate paying a ton of money for groceries? ALDI. Want to be able to afford organic food and fresh produce? ALDI. Love German food? ALDI!!!!!!

Today my mom came over and watched the kiddos so that I could take a luxurious solo trip to my favorite grocery store.  And while they sadly did not have Bavarian wursts in stock 🙁 they DID have lots of sweet treats from Germany, just in time for Easter!!! Check out the most exciting items:

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  1. Haribo – If you don’t like Haribo, then I’m afraid you can’t be my friend. That’s how serious we are in my house about these little gummi guys!
  2. Heller & Strauss candies – I haven’t seen these in a long time, but they are just as good as they were when I was a little kid at Oma’s house.
  3. Apfel Schorle – defined by Wikipedia as “consisting of carbonated mineral water and apple juice“, I would add that it also has the magical property of quenching great thirst beautifully. This is especially true if you have spent any amount of time outdoors, perhaps hiking in the woods or taking a walk in the sunshine! I have great memories of drinking Apfel Schorle after hiking up a German mountain 😉
  4. CAKE – no need to go into great depth with this one because, well, it’s cake! With chocolate in it and on it! Goes particularly well with a good coffee when hanging with your best friends.

If you don’t have an Aldi near you, I’m very sorry. If you do and have not been, please go – you’ll be glad you did. Make sure to take a quarter for the shopping cart (no stealing a cart!) and reusable grocery bags (Schuetzt unsere Umwelt!) The best day to go is on Wednesday since that is when the Aldi week begins and you can grab all the good German food before other people do. When it is Nuernberger season, watch out – it can get crazy if my mom is there stocking up. lol

Food

Apfelkuchen / Apple Cake

Every culture has its own unique foods, and even though so many Germans settled in America, it can be challenging to find high quality German food.  My mom makes several outstanding traditional dishes in her own kitchen, and one of my favorites is our take on Apfelkuchen. This recipe has a very simple ingredients list, and it is very easy to throw together.  My boys helped me bake this one, they even stuck the apples in themselves! Apfelkuchen can be served warm or cold, goes best with cream, and is the perfect way to use up wrinkly or bruised apples. I had to use canned whipped cream this time, but if you’re making this for a party or special dinner, buy some heavy cream and whip it yourself. Throw in some of Dr. Oetker’s Whip It  and ooohhh man, is it tasty! Serve with milk, coffee, or tea. Guten Appetit!

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Ingredients:

  • ½ C butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 C flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 large apples (peeled, cored, thinly sliced)
  • Cinnamon & sugar for the top

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350℉.
  2. Beat butter and sugar until combined, add eggs and combine.
  3. Add vanilla, baking powder, and flour, mix well.
  4. Pour into pan (see note below).
  5. Arrange apples on the top in any design you wish, pressing in slightly.
  6. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top.
  7. Bake for 50-60 minutes; let cool before serving.

Note: I use a greased springform pan, with a circle of parchment paper on the bottom so it releases effortlessly. If you don’t own one, and don’t have time to buy one, you can use a normal cake pan that is well greased and dusted with flour.

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