Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from the Old Country! 

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and may your New Year be bright!
 I'll be back next week with a holiday recap. But, until then please enjoy this festive photo of Rasco from Christmas Eve.  (Notice my Oma's German tablecloth!)
And if you need to find any of my previous Christmas posts, just click here

Frohliche Weihnachten! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Peppermint Margaritas & Christmas Movies

Peppermint Margaritas
Take the edge off this holiday season 

Ingredients (for two): 
2 tbs Grenadine
1/2 cup Tequila
1/4 cup Triple Sec
1/4 cup Water
1/4 cup Sugar
10 Peppermints or two Candy Canes, broken
1 tsp Peppermint Schnapps, or to taste
1 tbs lime juice, or to taste

Make simple syrup: Boil water and add sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add broken peppermint pieces and let simmer until flavor is absorbed. 
Pour tequila, grenadine and triple sec into pitcher and stir. Mix in half of the simple syrup, and use more to taste. Add lime juice and schnapps to taste.  Drop in just a pinch of salt. 
Make sure it is well mixed. Put in fridge to cool. 
Rim cup with peppermint sprinkles or finely mashed candy canes/mints and garnish with peppermint. Enjoy! 

Photo by Robert Giglio 

My TOP 3 Christmas Movies 
In no particular order ... 

3)  Christmas Vacation 

Like most American families, we stuff ourselves and then watch movies.  It's a Christmas Day Tradition.  After we watch Independence Day, we usually pop in this bad boy. And when we aren't watching it, we quote it.  This house is bigger than your old one Clark. 

2) The Muppet Christmas Carol

Ok, so at first this post was going to be a love letter to The Muppet Christmas Carol.  It will forever hold a special place in my heart because it is the very first movie I saw in a movie theater, way back in 1992.  I was a young three and my Dad took my sister and me to see it.  I fell asleep during the previews. But we still have the VHS that came out in 1993 and my family watches it every Christmas.  I adore Ms. Piggy's, aka Mrs. Cratchit, sass, the little bunny that sings Good King Wenceslas, the part where Rizzo can fit through the bars and my god do I love Michael Caine. Children's film be damned, he puts his all into being Scrooge, and it's awesome.  If you can watch the movie without crying when Old Scrooge regrets a lost love, you, quite frankly, have no soul.

1. Love Actually

Tonight, Robert and I are having a Christmas date. We are watching Love Actually and drinking my Peppermint Margaritas. I adore this movie and watched it so often that I had to make a rule for myself — I can only watch it once during Christmas.  In the nine years — yes it has been that long since the movie came out — that I have been watching this movie, my favorite couple has changed. Sometimes it's the couple that doesn't speak the same language, because A) Colin Firth and B) It reminds me of my German and Lebanese grandparents.  I also love the Prime Minister and his adorable Natalie.  But the "To Me, You are Perfect"scene will always be a favorite/guilty pleasure.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Peppermint Bark and New Orleans Gift of the Magi

Peppermint Bark 
AKA Christmas Crack 

12 oz dark chocolate
12 oz white chocolate
6-8 candy canes
Peppermint Extract
Almond Extract, I used my secret ingredient arak instead.

Unwrap candy canes and place in a ziplock bag. Smash candy canes with a hammer. Set aside.

Melt dark chocolate.  Stir frequently and blend in a half teaspoon mint and half teaspoon peppermint extract. *Use just a sliver of butter if chocolate is congealing. I also mixed in some dust from the candy canes I smashed. Pour onto a parchment covered baking sheet. Set aside in refrigerator for 10 minutes.

While the chocolate is hardening in the refrigerator, melt the white chocolate.  Stir frequently and blend in a half tablespoon (or less) butter to keep it from hardening. Pour in 1 teaspoon peppermint extract with a half teaspoon almond or arak extract. Blend in peppermint chunks.

Pour white chocolate mixture over hardened dark chocolate. Cool for 45 minutes.

Break and Enjoy! 

Getting into the Christmas Spirit
Christmas is about giving, not getting ... 

I have been under a lot of work stress lately. And as I count down the days to deadline, I have been planning a spectacular day to get me in the Christmas Spirit after I turn in my big oral history project.

The plan goes something like this: Watch Love Actually while I wrap presents and have a spiked hot cocoa. Then try some Christmas nail art and read Holidays on Ice while I dry ...

This sounds like the best day ever, mostly due to the present wrapping. My favorite part of Christmas has always been the wrapping and the giving.

And, in the spirit of giving, I would like to share one of my most favorite New Orleans holiday traditions with you. Full disclosure, I cannot watch this video without sobbing.  Every year, WWL New Orleans anchor Phil Johnson told O. Henry's Gift of the Magi on Christmas Eve. When Phil Johnson retired, they rebroadcast his poignant editorial.  And, after his death, his thoughtful rendition still airs on Christmas Eve. Please take the two minutes to watch this lovely video and reflect on the loved ones you share Christmas with, not the things you buy them.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Weinachten Advent Calendars & Hot Potato Salad

It's beginning to look a lot like Weinachten ... 
Christmas, in English 

So those of you who followed my new baby blog last Christmas, already know my family does traditional German Christmas on Christmas Eve and Louisiana Christmas on the 25th. There's Lebanese food there too. We've been into this whole fusion thing since before it was a thing. 

To kick off Weinachten, I'm going to give you our German Potato Salad recipe. A staple at each year's celebration. 

Oma's Hot German Potato Salad

The Recipe, typed up by Oma 

The Advent Calendar 
Teaching kinder self control for a couple hundred years ... 

This German tradition of a candy filled calendar made its way west in my childhood. The question is, were you the type of kid who ate all of your candies at once? Or did you patiently eat a chocolate a day. I was a patient kid, and my sister was an all at oncer. Who sometimes would move to my chocolate.  Life sure can be hard on the little things ... 

But before kids got chocolates and toys, the tradition originated with German Lutherans crossing off days on a calendar in the mid 19th Century.  The tradition grew to include a bible verse a day or an image.  Now, modern calendars hold a host of daily surprises.  

An instagram shot of this year's Advent calendar from Oma.

*Light on bliggity blog content today ... I am on deadline.  Wish me luck!  If you want to learn more about Weinachten — Bad Santa or Christkind — you're in the right place!  

Friday, November 30, 2012

So I did that Instagram November Photo-A-Day thing ...

Nov1 Nov2 Nov3 Nov4 Nov5 Nov6 Nov7 Nov8 Nov9 Nov10 Nov11 Nov12 Nov13 Nov14 Nov15 Nov16 Nov17 Nov18 Nov19 Nov20 Nov21 Nov22 Nov23 Nov24 Nov25 Nov26 Nov27 Nov28 Nov29 Nov30

1. Day of the Dead 2. Rasco's new toy 3. My cousin’s baby shower
4. Gelato with the journos 5. Boyfriend built a bed 6. Election Cupcake
7. Date Night 8. My Birthday 9. Oops bought People Espanol
10. Girl’s Night in Hotlanta 11. Friend’s dog in NC 12. Back at home
13. Back to work 14. A blog within a blog 15. Skyfall
16. Oma got me an Advent calendar 17. A&W in MS 18. Edelweiss Restaurant in VA
19. At Nat Geo Headquarters 20. Caffeine 21. Belated Bday gift
22. Thanksgiving 23. Taffy in Arlington, VA 24. Great Falls, VA
25. Time Warp Vintage Goodies 26. Christmas decor 27. Groomed
28. 1st Selfie Ever 29. My Christmas Cards 30. The Avett Brothers are today's jam.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pecan Pie & Thanksgiving Recap

As you all know, I post on Wednesdays. And as I was cooking up a storm last Wednesday in preparation for Thursday, I had no completed recipes to share.  This was the first time I didn't include a recipe in a post. Don't worry. I promise it will not become a pattern. But, I hope you all took my message to heart and are nice, not naughty, to yourselves this holiday season.  

I am back this week with a delicious, Southern pecan pie recipe, perfect for the holiday season. 

Grandma Gerdes' Pecan Pie
Sans Egg shells 

This Thanksgiving,  I was thankful to spend some quality time with my family, visiting my sister and her husband in D.C. I made the trip with my parents and am so very glad that we were all able to cook together and celebrate as a family. This is the first Thanksgiving in several years that the four of us (plus gentlemen callers and a couple of friends) were all together. And I have to thank my sister for hosting and cooking a myriad of delicious dishes.  My mom made her famous New Orleans rice dressing and I contributed, with help from my Dad, a pecan pie. Pe-can NOT Pee-can. Just to clarify.

My dad and I sought to recreate his grandmother's pecan pie. She was a real ... uh firecracker. And when I say recreate, I mean make it like she did but without all the eggshells. And I have to admit, I am pretty proud of how it came out. 


for the filling ... 
1 cup Karo Syrup  
1/4 cup Maple Syrup 
3/4 cup Brown Sugar 
3 Eggs 
1 tbs Almond extract 
.5 tbs Vanilla extract 
3-5 tablespoons butter (I used 5) 
A pinch of salt 
11/2 cups pecans

for the crust* ...
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
3 egg yokes
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ teaspoon lemon zest

*This is the crust recipe I always use. You may remember it from here, here and here. This recipe gives the best instructions ... 

Once you make the crust as directed above* (I used a spring form pan but you don't have to), bake the pie crust at 400 for 6-8 minutes.  Set aside. Lower oven to 350. 
For the filling ... In a medium saucepan, combine butter, syrups, brown sugar and salt.  Bring to a boil. And let boil or ONE MINUTE ONLY. Stirring the whole time so nothing sticks. 
Remove from heat. Mix in nuts and extracts. Set aside and allow to cool for about five minutes. 
Now blend in eggs, already lightly beaten. 
Pour filling into crust and bake for 40 minutes to 50 minutes at 350.
Cool on rack, allowing pie to harden.  Serve!  

The pie just before being served! 

Additional Scenes from Thanksgiving 
Tis the Season for food porn ... 

Brussel Sprouts with lemon.  
The cheese tray. The speckled one was a mustard cheese.  
Our sweet table. 
Roasted veggies. See the fresh pumpkin?
Mason Jar Wine.
My plate: Pumpkin curry soup, kale salad,
 mushroom, mashed potato and green bean casserole,
roasted fall veggies, turkey,
New Orleans rice dressing and hazelnut stuffing.
 Hats off to my sister for ALL of the from scratch cooking! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Be Nice or Leave

No recipe this week for the first time ever. My sister and I are making a ton of Holiday food for Thanksgiving and the finishing touches won't be done until tomorrow. So enjoy your Thanksgiving and my holiday message. 

Found these Thanksgiving cuties on Pinterest.

The holidays have sort of commenced, which means a lot of really great things: cookies, cakes, cheese, pie, to name a few. 

There is a myriad of foods that we indulge in just this time of year. Like grandma’s famous this and the thing mom has been making since you were three. Food is one of many things family’s share during the holidays. It is a tradition, and gosh darn it, it makes you happy. 

So, that’s why all I want for Christmas is for you to be nice to yourself. Enjoy your time with your loved ones and have seconds. Now, I am a proponent of healthy eating. But, I also believe that you shouldn't deny yourself life's little joys like Thanksgiving pecan pie and cookies shaped like snowmen.  
Weighing yourself down with grief and stressing over food is no way to spend the holidays.  Which is why I decided to add the "No Diet Talk" button to my blog.  

While I am a proponent of healthy lifestyles, that doesn't mean making food or you "skinny." I will never subject my readers to weight loss talk. This is a place where food is pleasurable. I think everybody should be respected and taken care of, and that means allowing it some sweetness from time to time. That's my soapbox. And I hope we can all just spread kindness this holiday season, which means being nice to ourselves. 

With this message in mind, I would like to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful this year to cook a feast with my mother and sister. I can't remember the last Turkey Day we were all together.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Birthdaycation and Homemade Pasta

My Hotlanta Birthday Trip
We laughed until we cried and we cried until we laughed 

I first want to thank my mom for giving me the best present and buying me a plane ticket to see my sister and our shared best friend Rachael. So, really, I have two sisters.  I then want to thank my Rachael and her husband Johnny for letting me crash at their place in North Carolina for a couple nights, their new town is just so cute. And lastly, I would like to thank the best big sister in the entire world for planning my fabulous birthday trip to Hotlanta where we saw Regina Spektor. After what Rachael figured was nine years of listening to Regina we finally were seeing her all together, and for my birthday! Julie was the only one who had seen her before so I was overflowing with excitement.

But the whole drive from North Carolina (where we flew in, me from Louisiana and Julie from DC) to Atlanta, we laughed, cried and got in all of that fabulous sister time.  I am so lucky to have these two. And I am so fortunate to have all of the wonderful people in my life that made my birthday special last week, with letters, phone calls, messages and an Audrey Hepburn children's book :) 

For my birthday dinner, we went to Alma Cocina in downtown Atlanta, which I cannot recommend enough. Everything was delicious, lots of vegetarian options and they brought me a fabulous tres leches cake for my birthday. Then we saw Regina at the Tabernacle.  Center balcony!

birthdayhotel tights rach
girls regina

1. hotel lobby, concert looks. 2. my polka dot tights 3. with rachael at alma
4.  the girls 5. tres leches cake  6. regina :) 

The concert was just the best. She played a little bit of everything, old and new. And closed the show with our three favorites, Us, Fidelity and Samson. Best show ever. Sunday morning was brunch at Radial Cafe near Little Five Points. Super yummy! We loved the challah French bread. Then it was back to North Carolina ... where my sister taught us how to make homemade pasta. 

Homemade Pasta
Just add wine for the perfect end to a birthday weekend

  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour ( I use whole wheat flour)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  1. Using a food processor, process basil leaves until chopped very fine. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour and pulse two or three times, or until combined. Add egg, 1 teaspoon oil, and the water until dough forms a ball shape. If dough seems dry, add a bit more water. Wrap dough in a piece of plastic wrap which has been coated in a few drops of olive oil. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours.(or freeze for 45 min. or so)
  2. Remove dough from refrigerator, and cut into 6 equal size portions. Run pasta though pasta machine, or roll with rolling pin to desired thickness. Use the additional flour to coat pasta while rolling. (Julie said you can cut the pasta with cookie cutters to make fun shapes)
  3. Allow pasta to dry for one hour prior to cooking.
  4. Cook in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. This should take only a 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pasta.
The final product with pesto and veggies. 

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