Wednesday, January 30, 2013

King Cake Balls Part II

During Carnival 2012, I had an idea.  Possibly, the best idea I ever had.  I invented an easy, 5 ingredient King Cake Ball recipe.  It was the King Cake Ball pinned round the world ... just kidding. But is was by far my most popular post.

So in the spirit of Mardi Gras 2013, I wanted to share them again. And do them photographic justice with Robert's fancy camera. Without further ado, I give you the original King Cake Balls

Photo by Robert Giglio 

-       1 can Pillsbury (whatever brand you like) crescent rolls
-       4 to 8 oz. cream cheese (I try to use the lite)
-       White bakers chocolate or white almond bark
-       Purple, green and gold crystal sprinkles
-       Cinnamon and Sugar

Bake the crescent rolls as directed.
After cooling, shred the crescent rolls and combine with cream cheese. You should start with 4 oz. (half packet of cream cheese) and see if the dough is sticky and can be easily rolled into a ball.  If not, add more cream cheese until reaching desired texture.
Add cinnamon to taste and just a spoon or so of sugar.
Roll into 1” balls. 
Dip into melted bakers chocolate.
Decorate with crystal sprinkles in Mardi Gras colors!


Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Remembering Oma and Hazelnut Cookies

As many of you may have previously read on my blog, my Oma and inspiration for The Old Country Blog, had a stroke less than two weeks ago.  Sadly, she passed away on Thursday.  I would like to take the time this week to remember her. My sister Julie, with my assistance, wrote a biography of Oma's life and I have decided to share it here with you today.  

Charlotte John, or “Oma” as she was known to most, passed away Thursday, January 17, 2013 surrounded by loved ones. She was 87 years young. She leaves behind two daughters, Leslie and Paula, as well as a son-in-law, Bob. Oma had four granddaughters, Julie, Caroline, Stephanie and Jennifer. She is preceded in death by her husband John and brother, Albert.
Oma means grandma in German.  She was also a beloved aunt, sister, mother, in-law and wife.  So many of her grandchildren's friends have sent us messages of condolences from around the country and the world.  She was a positive example of unconditional love for all of us. When Charlotte offered you hospitality, you went away having eaten one of the best meals of your life, and a little bit too full.  Charlotte loved flowers, and flower boxes, and loved walks in pristine woods and meadows.  She and her husband were expert hikers and rock scramblers.  She loved the Alps and the Rocky mountains equally.  Charlotte loved to ice skate, speed skate, and more than that she loved to ice dance. 

Born in Augsburg, Germany in 1925, Charlotte was an avid hiker and cyclist. She also competed in track and field events such as the 200 and 400 meter dash and she set a Bavarian state record for the high jump.  Charlotte also reached the highest level of gymnastics, despite the beginning of WWII.

Baby Oma 

The war meant the loss of friends to exile as they fled the Nazi regime. Because of the war she matured far beyond her years. During WWII, she acted as a guardian to a small child who was left by his parents and she also acted as the caretaker for her ailing parents while providing food for the elderly residents in her building. She completed Interpreter School and Court Reporter School for the U.S. Army.  Following the war, she took a position with the United States Army, working as a stenographer and translator. Fluent in English and German with language skills in French, Hungarian and Romanian as well, Charlotte was a valuable asset to the United States.

With the little boy she helped raise in Germany.

Through her work, Charlotte met John J. John, an officer with the United States Army.  They wed on October 15, 1949. Charlotte was known to all for her generous and independent spirit, a spirit that led her to leave her home country of Germany in 1949, to move to the United States. Charlotte’s beloved boxers, Carlo, Bielo and Donna accompanied her to her new home in America. [You can see her boxer in the header.] 

Her first home with John was in New Orleans. They enjoyed exploring America together, travelling cross-country through the American West in their Studebaker. John was called back to active duty in the Korean conflict.

My grandparents out West.

Charlotte lived with her new in-laws in Louisiana for about two years while John was in Korea.  While living in Sulphur, she enjoyed seeing her first Rodeo.  She dearly loved her mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law, and soaked up every ounce of knowledge about Southern and Lebanese cuisine from them.  Of course she was an expert cook.  Charlotte sent John care packages throughout the war, continuing her legacy of caring for those in need with food, love and practical support.

A pin up she sent to my Opa in Korea. 
Upon John’s return, the couple moved to New Orleans. Their time in New Orleans was also marked with the arrival of both their daughters, Leslie in 1954 and Paula in 1956.
Oma as a new mom.

In 1960, Charlotte returned to her beloved Germany with her family when John was stationed there. Charlotte enjoyed the time with her family, taking the opportunity to expose her children to her birthplace by teaching them the language, traveling to countries like Switzerland and Italy with them and carrying on Bavarian culinary traditions.
When Charlotte returned to the United States, she and her family resided outside of Chicago for eight years before returning to New Orleans. Their time in Chicago was full of adventures apple-picking and ice-skating. The backyard of their Midwestern home hosted Charlotte’s garden, which was filled with yellow gladiolas, mint and snapdragons.
In the 70’s both Leslie and Paula attended LSU. An avid LSU football fan, Charlotte spent many a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium cheering for the Tigers, even making football shaped kibbie and Purple and Gold cheesecakes in honor of her beloved tigers.  She witnessed many exciting moments in LSU football history from Billy Cannon’s legendary run to the Tiger’s 1958 National Championship win.
Charlotte became “Oma” in 1984 when her first grandchild was born. From that point on, she could always be found with home-baked cookies on hand and usually a small gift or two in one of her many purses.

Me and my sister with our Oma. 

Charlotte’s four granddaughters all have her smile and each carries some special love of hers – whether it be running, cooking, ice-skating or music, these traits live on. Even though Charlotte only had four biological grandchildren, she was Oma to many, many more. 
Oma would often say that “life is for the living” and she lived every day with that in mind. When other eighty-something year olds were content to sit still, Oma was on her treadmill daily, on the roof cleaning the gutters, trimming her cypress tree branches from an extension ladder, gardening and of course, knitting. This last Christmas, Oma cooked an eight course meal for 10 people. It is often said that youth is wasted on the young, but Oma lived her mantra, “forever young” in the sassy blue jeans she bought, the flirtatious twinkle in her eye and in her trademark advice – “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” There wasn’t much that Oma wouldn’t do and following her advice left us all with a world of possibilities – it really only ruled out eating carrots. Oma hated carrots.

Our last multi-course Christmas dinner.

Through patience, generosity and tolerance, Oma taught everyone she met that joy can be found in the moment, in the every day and in the smallest gestures. At Oma’s house a plate never stayed empty long, a glass was always topped-off and the heart was always filled with her ever-present laughter.
Oma had a love for all creatures from the tiny squirrels she fed to the hippos she liked to visit at the Audubon Zoo. In her later years, she would laugh and refer to herself as a “dinosaur” because she thought she was a relic of the past. She wasn’t though, she kept learning and living until the end.
In the hospital she told us of her dreams. As she drifted in and out of consciousness, we watched her garden, knit and prepare meals. We shared family stories in moments of lucidity and learned her recipes. We watched her ice skate, climb mountains and feel the warm sun on her face as she lay in an alpine meadow. We watched her live. 

Hazelnut Cookies 
The last thing Oma taught me ... 

The last recipe Oma taught me how to make were her delicious hazelnut cookies. We baked together on a Thursday, and on Friday she had a stroke. Just like my sister said above, Oma was independent and an inspiration until the very end. I want my beautiful cousins and friends to have this recipe, which is just as significant as all the other ones she prepared for my family and will be missed.

Oma's wonderful hazelnut cookies. 

Oma’s Oblatten Hazelnut Cookies
·      240g sugar
·      240g butter
·      1 pat butter (less than 1 tablespoon) for greasing baking sheets
·      454g (1 pound) hazelnuts, ground to small nibs, not meal
·      3 teaspoons flavor extract: 1 part pure vanilla, 1 part pure almond, 1 part arak if available = the preferred combination
·      2 tablespoons flour plus ¼ teaspoons baking powder, in reserve
·      1 to 2 tablespoons milk, in reserve
·      1 egg yolk, beaten
·      40mm rice paper baking wafers AKA Oblaten (comes in packages of 100)
Thinly and sparingly grease a baking sheet with the pat of butter.  Fit the Oblaten wafers on the sheet, evenly spaced, and not touching.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Let butter soften but not melt before creaming. Cream the sugar and butter - beat very well - until the sugar is dissolved.  When the butter and sugar are thoroughly creamed, beat in the egg yolk. Blend in the ground hazelnuts and stir by hand until blended. 
Focus on the flour and liquids for good results. The dough will melt off the wafer and not form a nice, mounded macaroon if it is too liquid.  Add two tablespoons of flour and ¼ teaspoon of baking powder and blend gradually and evenly through hazelnut dough.   Add milk by the teaspoon if the dough is too stiff.  Stir by hand until mixed.  The dough needs to be stiff enough to scoop. Refrigerate dough to firm it for handling between baking batches.
When firm enough to shape, scoop balls of dough onto center of each oblaten wafer.  Center a scoop of ball on each wafer, with a border of wafer showing all the way around the dough.  Use enough dough to make a mounded macaroon that does not melt past the edge of the wafer while baking.  Make an experimental cookie or two before baking a whole sheet.  You can still blend in flour or milk to adjust the dough’s consistency before baking a whole batch.
When baking the test cookies, watch the cookies carefully to see how quickly they brown.  A rich caramel color is desired.  Baking time should be between 5 and 10 minutes.  Oma’s oven requires 8 minutes.  Let the cookies set several minutes. Gently lift them to a plate.  They get firmer as they cool.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Oma & Pink Champagne

So, you all know my Oma. My inspiration for my blog. Her pictures are in my header and her wonderful German and Lebanese recipes are what fuel my posts.  She is currently in the hospital after a stroke on Friday.  

Things have been waxing and waning and her health has declined. Oma is not extended family. She helped raise me. And, my mother, aunt, sister, brother-in-law, father and me have been returning the love and care.  We have been helping take care of her in the hospital. 

Oma and me at my graduation, May 2012. She loves the Tigers!
It all seems so surreal because she taught me how to make Hazelnut cookies on Thursday. I promise to one day share the recipe with you all — it would be too hard right now.

I debated typing any message today.  But it is cathartic and normal in all the stress that has been surrounding me. 

The reason for the "& Pink Champagne" portion of the title is that since Oma has been in the hospital, we play music for her and talk to her about her favorite things, like Cary Grant movies and recipes.  

She was able to talk to us yesterday about one of her favorite movies "An Affair to Remember." 
We used to watch it when I was little and in one scene Deborah Kerr orders pink champagne.  Well, I just thought that was the classiest thing as a kid. And, I have since been obsessed with fancy pink champagne. 

When Oma mentioned "An Affair to Remember," I reminded her of the pink champagne.  She told me that I should go have some. Which is just so Oma.  

I love this pin up she sent to my grandpa in Korea. 

Please keep Oma in your thoughts and prayers.  

Or have a glass of pink champagne and toast to her ...

From Pinterest
From Pinterest
From Pinterest
From Pinterest
Add cotton candy to make pink balls in your champagne.
From Pinterest.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Liebster Awards Teil Zwei

Hello All!  It has come to my attention that the lovely blogger Fannie at Living Life in ... Pink has nominated me for a Liebster Award.
Here's the rundown of what that means: "The Liebster Award is for blogs that have 200 followers or less. The word "Liebster" is German for kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, valued, cute, pleasant, endearing and welcome. It's a great opportunity to meet other bloggers and gain more followers." 
Yes, I did do this Liebster thing a few months back. But, I am very excited because Fannie's blog is great. And, I get to meet new bloggers.  And, it is such a sweet recognition.  And, hello, it is in German — as you know, Germany is my family's Old Country and blog namesake!

Here's how you play along!
1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the questions the tagger has set for you. 
3. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag with the award. 
4. Choose 11 bloggers (with less then 200 followers) and tag them in your post.


2.  As a kid, I never went to Disney World on a family vacation. But we did dig for fossils — both of my parents are geologists. 
3. I have eaten raw cow ... Yep, it's a Lebanese delicacy called Kibe Nia.  I am Lebanese and a great-aunt made me try it at a family reunion.
4.  I swam with Manatees once.
5. In Junior High, I was on a breakdancing/hip-hop team. lolz
6. I also used to highlight my naturally black hair blonde-ish ... 
7.  When I was a kid, I would watch the movie Overboard to fall asleep.  What can I say, I find Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn soothing.
8. I have studied German, Arabic, Latin and Spanish. Sadly, I only speak English.
9. Cake Ball baker since before it was cool.
10. My childhood dog Penny Lane is still kicking. I got her in first grade, and I just graduated from college. She's a sweet 15+-year-old schnauzer. (You guys already know Rasco)
11.  ESTJ - If you do not know your Meyers-Briggs type I suggest you do!


So much love for my Buxom lipstick.  Photo from Pinterest.

1. What's your favorite movie? Oh that's hard ... The Big Lebowski, Amelie or anything Wes Anderson. 
2. Which do you like better: Cake or Pie? Cake
3. What's your favorite travel destination? I loved visiting Munich. 
4. What's you favorite color (if it's pink, i love you!) Yellow!
5. Why did you start your blog? My blog started as an outlet for my combined study of journalism and history. I also love to cook and had the luxury of growing up in a setting where ethnic food was the norm. And,  Louisiana is all about food! I decided to investigate food traditions and catalog my love of cooking. 
6. Who is the most influential person in your life? My grandmothers.  My Oma was a huge inspiration for this blog, she always brings food and warmth. And my Gammie was the influence for my expedition
7. What's your fairy tale date night, and what would you wear? Well, Robert and I are long distance right now.  So, I would say being in the same city, Thai food and wedges (he is a tall guy).
8. If you had to choose only 1 to be the cutest, who would you choose: Matt Bomer or Ian Somhalder? :) I am going to go with Matt Bomer, but only because Ian Somerhalder and I are from the same hometown and I am terrified it would somehow get back to him.  No joke. 
9. What's you favorite: lipstick or nail polish? Red lipstick all the way
10. What was your very first car, and what do you drive now? I still drive my first car, a Taurus named BB who goes Beep Beep! 
11. What is the funniest memory you can remember? There's a lot of those. But I think this is a good one :) 


I've watched my homegirl LL  a few times. Photo from Pinterest.

1.  Book you have read more than once?
2.  If you could live anywhere for one year, where would you live?
3.  Some solid advice you have been given?
4.  Favorite ice cream flavor?
5.  TV show you have watched every episode of twice?
6.  What song gets you pumped up?
7.  Cats or Dogs?
8.  If you could befriend a fictional character, who would it be?
9.  Ever fallen in love with a fictional character? Who?!
10. Why did you decide to blog?
11. What was your New Year's resolution? 


1.  Haley at Les Petites Joies
2.  Stacey at Risotto and Mistletoe
3.  Stephanie at The Phanie Pack Blog
4.  Kristen at A Few Good Meals
5.  Laura at Up In The Clouds
7.  Camille at Wildflower Diaries 
8.  Marina at Balance, Light, Harmony 
9. Julie at Engaged With A Cause 
10.  Brandi at Cupcakes and Curves
11. And, of course, my nominator Fannie at Living Life in Pink 

Rules for Nominees: 
1. List 11 facts about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
3. Create 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.
4.  Choose 11 bloggers with less 200 followers to nominate.
5. Go to each page and let them know about the award.
6. Thank the sweet blogger who nominated you! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Animal Pasta - Cookie cutters aren't just for cookies!

You may remember my previous pasta post. Well, this week has a fancy little twist.  Use cookie cutters to make animal shaped, or any shaped, pasta! 

Ingredients: (for pasta)
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil (If you do not have enough basil, substitute with spinach, or just use spinach)
  • 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. My sister Julie  (this is her recipe) said you can cut the pasta with cookie cutters to make fun shapes. So, I used my zoo set. 
  3. 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.

While I am only sharing a new take on the above recipe, I am sharing my sister's Greek Yogurt Pesto recipe for the first time. It is an excellent pasta topper!

Ingredients: (for pesto) 
Blend in food processor ... 

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (2-3 bunches)
¼ cup pine nuts toasted
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1 large clove garlic, quartered
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon (or to taste)

I sautéed some veggies to blend with the pesto.  I used eggplant, bell peeper and tomato.  But you could blend your favorites too! 

Photos by Robert Giglio 

For more creative ways to use cookie cutters, see these posts: dog treats, animal pie-lettes or plain old cut out cookies

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