Thursday, December 31, 2009


The Trout and I love all foods. Rarely have we found friends with the same taste in food. Dear friends Ben and Jan in Wisconsin fit into this category, but unfortunately, we don't get to see them much anymore.

So, The Trout and I enjoy these special foods with each other. When our daughter and family were here for Christmas week, they drove over to the east coast of Florida where we lived 10 years ago. They were kind enough to go to our favorite seafood market and bring back two dozen oysters from New England. We had one dozen last night and they were salty and perfect. Tonight we have the last dozen with our favorite New Year's Eve meal. That will be shared at another time.

We like to end the year with seafood. I'm not sure why, but we do love all fish and shellfish a lot and it just seems a fitting way to seal off the old year.

Wishing all my blogger friends a very Happy New Year 2010. My wish for the new year is that all the guests to my blog will make a comment now and then. I know you are there, I'd just like to get to know you. Comment anonymously. That works also. But let's get to know each other because I'd like to welcome you all to my little world. Happy 2010!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A few special pictures

The house is very quiet now. I miss the kids a lot. They left at 4:15 this morning for their 16 hour drive home. We so appreciated the time they spent in the car to spend a week with us at Christmas time.

I remember driving many hours from Michigan to Iowa when our children were small, to visit our parents at the holidays. Actually, only tried coming at Christmas once. Weather was always too tricky. Instead, we would always spent Easter and Thanksgiving with our parents. Twice a year, the kids got to know their grandparents. Now, I can understand a little better how our parents felt at this time. They got to hug and love the grandchildren for a short time and then it was only by phone calls the remaining time of the year. Now, I understand the feeling. The only thing that could have made our Christmas a little better would have been having our other daughter and her family join us for this week. Maybe next year.

Josiah with one of his fish

Noah looks quite proud of his catch also

The boys proudly announced at the end of the week that they had caught 43 fish in our back pond and some of the other ponds around where we live. All were placed back into the water to grow bigger until the next time they visit. I thought I heard a large sigh from the pond this morning. The fish are looking forward to some rest.

And then a rare picture. This is my daughter, Angie, and myself. For some reason, we just don't have pictures taken together much and that is something I need to remedy. I realized this when I didn't find any pictures of me with my mother or father.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and a list of 'things to do' that can be accomplished in 2010.

Wowwie! A blog I absolutely love, Once Upon a Plate has just reached her 600,000 hit by visitors like you. Mari is a terrific cook and her photographic is totally professional. In honor of having so many hits on her blog, she is giving away a beautiful Johnson Bros. Blue Willow tea set that would look very nice in my home!! Please take a look at Once Upon a Plate and see what magic Mari produces in her kitchen.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It's time to make new lists for the new year

The week has just gotten away from me. Have enjoyed spending time with daughter, son-in-law and those two grandsons that are going up so quickly. Lots of meals, visits from friends, a party in the neighborhood. I just have not been on the computer as much, which is okay, too.

The kids went to the east coast of Florida yesterday where the grandsons were born, visiting old friends. They get back tonight and then the sad good-byes tomorrow as the once again head home.

The new year. 2010. Just seems like we were watching the millennium turn a short time again. Must start the new year by getting organized and getting some things done. In today's paper I found a website for our local library which offers on-line languages. Actually, they offer 72 different languages. Amazing. Just checked into it briefly and it looks promising. The Trout and I need to improve our French. I truly believe the only way to learn a language is to live it. That is one of our dreams, to one day live for a year in France to take it all in. Aha, one more item on my 'Bucket List.'

Only 4 months from today and we will be in France. We have tried several methods of learning French, but this computer work just might work better. We will also be dipping into Germany for a few days, and I know I don't have to practice my German. In fact, we Skyped with our German friends in northern Germany on Christmas. Have not seen them in 9 years, so it was nice to reconnect in their living room. Isn't it amazing, what the computer allows us to do?

We are having our traditional New Year's Eve dinner which I will share with you and then a little South Beach dieting to get into shape for the coming year. I have so thoroughly enjoyed reading all the blogs of my blogger friends. Wonderful pictures and family stories and phenomenal food.
Looking forward to a new year and reading all the posts to come.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas Greetings

For you, 100 year old Christmas cards and our German pyramid to wish you Merry Christmas from our house to yours.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Smell those cinnamon rolls

In 2002, my three female cousins got together and compiled a "family cookbook." It was a lot of work and I think they had fun. The outcome is a fantastic cookbook with many comments from the contributors, making this a fun, fun book for the family.

My cousin Harriet, known as an 'awesome baker' by her children, contributed a Cinnamon Roll recipe that is simply wonderful. It works every time and each time it seems to taste better. I have made a few minor changes like changing the margarine for unsalted butter, but I follow it otherwise. Below you see some of the cinnamon rolls formed after the first rising.

And then this wonderful smell comes out of the kitchen as the baking starts. If you have never tried to make cinnamon rolls, I really hope you will try this recipe as it is almost fail proof.

Cinnamon Rolls

2 pkgs dry yeast ( I use SAF instant yeast)
1 cup lukewarm water (120 degrees)
2 sticks unsalted butter (melted)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup cold water
2 unbeaten eggs
6 cups flour (I really like King Arthur Flour)
Cinnamon (I use Penzey's Vietnamese cinnamon) mixed with sugar to your liking

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Place melted butter, sugar, salt and cold water and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add flour and mix well. You may need to use your dough hook as you begin adding flour. Put dough in a large bowl and cover and let rise until it is double (about 1 1/2 hours) in size. Divide into 3 clumps. Roll each clump on a floured board and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle dough with cinnamon and sugar combination. Roll the dough up into a long roll and cut into individual rolls. I get 12 rolls out of each clump of dough. Place into greased pans, round or square. Let rise again, 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours. During this time, cover with a clean cotton towel while rising. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Frost with your favorite recipe when cooled.

I put these in the freezer and then pull out and thaw and add frosting just before serving. My oldest grandson told his mom he was looking forward to eating grandma's cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, and, he will get his wish. What are grandma's for?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our Kippy

Our baby, Kippy the Bichon Frise, spent the morning at the spa. Bath, grooming and new ribbons and scarf make it a special day for her. She loves being groomed. She has a 14th birthday on December 31, so she will look quite festive for her birthday and the New Year.

Oh help....why do we get so involved with our pets? She has been a delight 99% of the time. The other 1% we will not talk about.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Duck and wild rice

A very nice 2002 Tamarack Cellars Merlot we picked up on a visit to Walla Walla, Washington, several years ago. Hmmm..what goes with this?

One entree we do not eat enough of is roast duck. We love duck. Heaven knows, we ate it for 2 weeks straight when we were in the Dordogne of France. I will admit I have not roasted a duck in quite a while. 1) They are not easy to find..always frozen. 2) I just forgot about it.

A trip to Costco netted this beauty. Granted, it was already roasted and sealed airtight, ready for reheating, but, it was so good! We truly enjoyed it with some wild rice I have been hoarding for quite some time. This is Minnesota grown wild rice and we do like it a lot, but do not eat it often. It is just not the easiest thing to find.

I would definitely buy this duck again. It was two halves of a duck with prepared orange sauce which was also very good. We have decided though, that we will make an effort to search out more duck and maybe even a goose, because we do love these two birds. A very, very nice change from chicken.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

O Tannenbaum

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur
zur Sommerzeit,
Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lentil Soup - Linsensuppe

One of the comfort foods of my childhood is Linsensuppe or Lentil Soup. My mother was an excellent cook (she cooked in a restaurant for many years) but she never wrote any recipes down. This is how I remember her lentil soup and it takes pretty close to the original.

Linsensuppe - Lentil Soup

1 cup lentils
8 cups water or stock
1 potato, diced
2 carrots, diced or sliced
2 ribs celery, diced or sliced
1 onion, minced
1 pound bratwurst
salt to taste

I don't feel that the lentils needs soaking since they are so small. I boil in the water for about 10 minutes. Then add the vegetables and continue simmering for about 20 minutes.

I take the bratwurst and remove the casing and make small meatballs and brown in a skillet. I believe it is also possible to simply boil the brats in the soup and then when done, remove the casing and slice into small bites and return to the soup. I like the taste and looks of the browned meatballs.

I then add the browned meatballs to the soup and continue simmering for another 10-15 minutes.

My mother would not approve of the shape of my meatballs because I am not a perfectionist when it comes to this task. But, they will taste the same. Unfortunately, I do not have the bratwurst I grew up with. In fact, I even like my childhood bratwurst better than what I can find in Germany. The Amana Meat Shop in Amana, Iowa, makes fantastic brats, but for today, I used Johnsonville which comes in a close second.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Do you need some rosemary?

Here you see our rosemary bush. It was bought in the fall of 2006 in a little 3" pot and probably costing no more than $3. We planted it and hoped that we might get some rosemary out of it because we use it a lot with lamb and chicken. Now, three years later, this 'thing' is unbelievable. What I find strange is that it has never blossomed. Discussing this with the Trout, I mentioned that perhaps this is a male plant. I know some plant species are definitely male and female with the female doing all the blooming. (Now isn't that just about right?) I mentioned that this must be a male.

This rosemary scrub has been pruned every year and still it grows and grows. After a rain, you can smell it the minute you step out of the car or go out the front door. I remember a week we spent in Tuscany. The beautiful home we rented had a hedge of rosemary and it was absolutely delightful. At that time, I never dreamed I could grow rosemary this beautifully.

We have used rosemary a lot and have told our neighbors and friends that if they need rosemary for cooking, please come and gather what they need. As far as I know, no one has ever taken us up on this. To be honest, I think the Trout and I are the only ones in the near distance that use rosemary, but I can't imagine cooking without it.

So, if you are in the area, please stop by and gather some rosemary for your dinner.

Friday, December 11, 2009


It is known in our family, that I am the 'navigator.' It is a pretty impressive title for someone born without the mental ability to know north from south in any situation. If the sun is shining brightly, I can find EAST. If the sun is setting brightly, I can find WEST. The stars--forget it. I love to look at stars, but nothing has ever clicked in my brain as to where a special constellation should be. So, you can see, navigator is a mislabeled title for moi!! I honestly think this is an ability you are born with. You cannot gain it along the way. And, since my brother has been a pilot since the age of 15, you know who in the family got the good stuff when it comes to navigating.

The Trout and I have been talking for some time about getting a GPS. We have researched many models, talked to people who own them and still, we did not buy. We put close to 20,000 miles on our automobile this year and I can attest that most raised voices in this marriage were about misdirection. We have had several trips to Europe and again, I am the designated navigator. Reading maps in French, for instance can put more stress on an individual. I have found that some small villages in Europe will have a sign at one end of the town as to how to get to a certain attraction. Lo and behold...if you enter from the opposite end of town, there just might not be a sign at all. So.....

We bought a GPS which also includes European maps. This should be helpful when we make our trip to France the end of April. We have tried it out several times now and it is remarkable. How in the world can this thing work? Big brother is certainly watching.

I am looking forward to using it by myself next week. Last month I went to a neighboring town for my haircut. I had never been there before, so I Mapquested it all and got there fine. Now, here is where my lack of sense of direction comes in. I could not turn the directions around and get home. Yes, eventually I got home, but it was a long way around until I found some landmarks that lead the way. I am so looking forward to hitting, "Go Home" next week after my haircut. This is going to be great. It is such a crutch for my impairment!!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The time is coming quickly

An old photo postcard from 1910, wishing old fashioned Christmas greetings to all.

My poinsettias from last year now growing outside. I have two more to add to the grouping after Christmas.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Zigeuner Schnitzel

One memory of living in Germany was the many ways schnitzel could be prepared. Tonight, we had Zigeuner Schnitzel or Gypsy Schnitzel. It gets its name from the addition of peppers and Hungarian paprika to the sauce. Gypsies were known to come from Hungary. Growing up in a small village in Iowa, every spring we were greeted by "gypsies" coming into town to buy food and wares. They camped in a wooded area near our town and our parents, of course, (this was the late 40's, early 50's) put fear in our hearts and thoughts by telling us the gypsies would take us away if we did not behave. Kind of a crude and rude way to talk to children, but it worked and did not harm me in any way. Possibly, it even taught me more respect for those that were different than me.

I remember being amazed at the women coming to town with long, black, curly hair, layers of clothing, and pulling money out of the front of their blouses to pay for things. Believe me, this was better than reading any novel available at the time. I wish I could see myself now, looking at these guests of our community. I must have been very wide-eyed. I must add, I am not aware that they caused any trouble, or ever stole any children.

Paprika jar brought back from Hungary

Gypsy Schnitzel
Zigeuner Schnitzel

4-6 thin, boneless veal or pork slices (used flattened pork tenderloin)
flour for dredging the meat
olive oil for frying

The Peppers and Sauce

1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 portabella mushroom, sliced
1 medium sized onion, sliced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon Hungarian Paprika (mild or hot)
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup beef or chicken stock
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons capers
salt and pepper
I added a roux of 1 Tablespoon butter mixed with 1 Tablespoon flour to thicken

Cut peppers into thin strips.

Lightly flour the veal or pork cutlets. Brown in 2 Tablespoons olive oil and then reserve to a plate.

Add minced garlic and sweat and then add the peppers and mushrooms. Just cook until tender.

Add the wine and stock, tomato paste and capers. Bring to a simmer. At this time I added the butter and flour roux to help thicken the sauce. Then add the meat cutlets back into the sauce and gently simmer.

Serve by placing schnitzel on plates with the pepper/mushroom sauce and serve with noodles, potatoes or spaetzle.

I will need to make more schnitzel in the months to come. There are several variations. After all, that is where I got my name for my blog!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It is always the wine

It must be the Christmas season, because I always seem to reminisce more during this time of the year. The Trout has been collecting wine for many years. During those early years of marriage, when we had the good fortune of living in Germany on behalf of Uncle Sam, we had a dear, single friend with whom we would spend a lot of time. His family owned a bar in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and they were friends with quite a few wine growers in Germany. "The Fox", as we lovingly called him, would make trips to these wine growers whenever he had a free day from the Army. The bar was called "Kurtz's Bar" and I remember he ordered a suit of armor to be sent to the States to be displayed in the bar.

I recall many times we invited him to dinner and to play gin rummy, and we would bring out a bottle of German wine. He would comment on it and then pause. He would stand up, all 6'3" of him, and say gently, "I have a bottle downstairs in the Volkswagen that you might like." And so began, our education of German wine.

Fast forward quite a few years and you find The Trout doing a lot of research on wine. It used to be through the magazine Wine Spectator that he would become informed about wine. We found a very nice wine store in western Wisconsin and in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, and then the education started becoming serious. We found a wine store in California that would send wines to Wisconsin and so it began.

One of the main reasons for traveling to Europe after retirement ten years ago, was to "check out" the wines. In those ten years, we had eight trips to Italy and France. Before 9/11, we would bring a lot of bottles back with us in carry-on luggage. That, of course, cannot be done anymore. Wine can be checked into luggage, but that is always a worry for me. So, we enjoy it while we are in these wonderful countries.

Fortunately we can still find quality wines near our residence and also have some shipped in. This is all leading up to the last two wines we had with our dinners.

Last evening we had a mustard coated pork loin with a Shiraz from Australia, McLaren Valen The Footbolt, 2001. It had survived all of our moves in the last few years and was thoroughly enjoyed.

Today we had our favorite grilled lamb chops marinated in garlic, rosemary and olive oil, with Tuscany white beans and grilled asparagus. The wine matched with this dinner was a Novelty Hill, Columbia Valley, 2002 Merlot. Once again, it was perfect, but I have not met a Merlot that I didn't like. This last wine had the label on it showing where we bought it...Pike and Western Wine Shop in Seattle. That brought back even more memories for us.

Wine collecting is a wonderful moderation. We are getting to the age when we know collecting wine for a time in the future might not be the right thing to do as we generally try to age our wines from six to ten years.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A thought or two over coffee...

It must have rained for the last 24 hours. Not always heavy, but a lot of rain. Better than snow in Houston! Haven't driven in snow in a few years, and it is a talent you need to have to survive in snowy areas.

All Americans, especially young students going abroad, need to know that they need to keep their noses clean when in a foreign country. It has been proved again and again, that the American justice system is far superior to anywhere else in the world. Even something as simple as a car accident in a foreign country can prove to be very difficult to settle.

Countries foreign to us simply think differently than we do and we have no right stepping into their front doors and to keep acting like Americans. The old saying "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" is one that should always be remembered.

I remember in 2000, I was an adult chaperon on a mission trip to Graz, Austria and Budapest, Hungary. The majority of our group were teenagers. These kids were very good kids, but they were American teenagers. I was the old grouch who frequently reminded them that while walking down the streets of Graz or Budapest, to quiet down, don't make so much noise as to have people notice you. I have always loved to 'blend in' when in a foreign country. I try to dress like they do, no bright colors, and certainly keep a quiet demeanor. I usually get away with it until I try to speak their language! Unless I am in a place where they speak German, my foreign language skills are weak. I try though, and try to blend in. After all, I am a guest in their country. I truly believe, American exchange students are never fully prepared to spend any time in a foreign country.

Here is something new. The Trout stopped at the vegetable market and picked up some Roma tomatoes. Complaining that they were quite green, he was told that the new rules to stop salmonella are that the tomatoes need to be cleaned with scalding water before being sold. Because the hot water takes the skin right off the tomatoes, they need to be less ripe to accomplish this, so tomatoes will be sold greener. Makes you want to grow your own, doesn't it?

Need to refill the coffee cup...til next time.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Our Limoncello!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a friend giving us some lemons. I made the "Mile High Lemon Chiffon Pie", but secretly, the Trout and I were also doing something else with the lemons. We were making Italian Limoncello!

We followed Giada De Laurentiis' recipe, but did some tweeking along the way. Tonight, we had our first taste, and I called it delightful!

courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

10 lemons
1 (750 ml bottle vodka)
3 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips. Using a small, sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the peels and discard. Place the lemon peels in a 2 quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon
peels in vodka for 4 days at room temperature. (We steeped for 2 weeks.)

Stir the water and sugar in large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.

Now here is where I admit I goofed up. After two weeks of steeping in the vodka, I had forgotten that we had cut the recipe in half. I used the full amount of sugar and water to pour into the vodka mixture.

Surprisingly, it was not as sweet as it could have been. I really liked it. Of course, just a sip or two is necessary. This is not a drink where you drink a lot. To be honest, I do not know if I would cut the sugar/water syrup in half next time. Personally, I do not like sweet drinks, and I still find this enjoyable.

Cin, cin!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

One more step back in time

It's been six months since I had any luck in furthering the search of my family tree. Last month I wrote a letter to the priest of a small town in Germany, asking for information on my father's ancestors. Today, I received an email with some new information.

Granted, it is a small amount of information, but important. Baby steps at this time. It is only one generation back that I found, but now I am more determined to reach back even further.

Do any of you do research of your ancestry? Thanks to the Internet, it is a lot easier.