January 7, 2015

Homemade Pretzels

When you hear the name "Glitter Ball" what do you think you are being asked to go to? I have to admit when we were first asked to go to the Glitter Ball with our friends I thought for sure that the we were being invited to an actual "Ball". You know one where you get dressed up in gowns you will probably never wear again....WRONG....the Glitter Ball has nothing to do with fancy gowns and suits. Its one crazy costume party hosted by the Australian Club here in Dhaka. It's the type of party where you come up with a theme for your table and dress up, possibly even do a skit/performance and if you are lucky win prizes.

The biggest challenge with the costume/theme is that you want your table to be noticed and you want to have an idea that no has done before. A lot harder then you think! One couple in our team attended the 2013 Glitter Ball so thankfully they were able to fill us in on some of the ideas people had before us. Last years winning team did a KISS performance! This year there was a team dressed up like characters from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and did an awesome performance.  So much fun!!

Here is my 2014 Glitter Ball team/theme:

So with our theme we decided we had to have something to go along with our costumes besides the awesome engrave beer mugs we had custom made....we decided on pretzels!! Perfect snack to go with our theme. But instead of just a few we decided to spend 6hrs on baking enough pretzels to last us through the night and t A whole basket full of them!! For us to eat and for us to share.
We miss having fresh pretzels from the local bakeries in Germany....but let me tell you....I have filled a void our family has had ever since we moved away from Germany. These taste and look like the real deal, as real as you can get pretzels to look & taste without using food grade lye.......not that I think I would actually use it if I did have it available thought LOL!

How do you like eating your pretzels? Dipped in cheese, mustard or butter? Or is there something I haven't tried yet that I am missing out on??

Our German Pretzels

1+1/2 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 Tb brown sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
4 +1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c butter, melted
Vegetable oil
2 quarts + 2 cups water
2/3 c baking soda
1 egg yolk
1 TBS water
Coarse Salt

To begin, place the 1 1/2 cups of warm water in a mixing bowl, with the brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Sprinkle the active dry yeast over the top of the water, and let it sit about 10 minutes until it gets bubbly. Place your bowl under the mixer, fitted with a dough hook, and add in the flour and butter. Let the mixer run for about 4 minutes, until the dough comes away from the bowl and is nice and smooth. Form the dough into a ball, and place it in a clean, oiled bowl, Turn the dough to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and let it rest in a warm place for an hour, or until the dough is doubled in size.

When the dough has risen, grab a large pot, and put 2 quarts plus 2 cups of water in it, along with the baking soda. Bring the water to a full boil.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, and lightly spray the paper with oil. Set aside.

Now grab your dough while the water is heating up.
Turn it out onto a lightly oiled surface. Cut the dough into 8 equal portions.
Take one portion and roll it into a long snake, about 2 feet long. To shape the pretzel, bring the ends up; twist once, and then again. Turn the ends down towards the bottom, and press the ends gently against the dough where it crosses. With a slotted spatula, gently place the pretzel in the boiling water for **30 seconds**

Lift the pretzel out, and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining 7 pretzels.

Beat the yolk with a tablespoon of water in a small dish, and brush the tops of the pretzels with the mixture. Sprinkle with some coarse salt. Bake the pretzels for 12-14 minutes or until dark golden brown.

December 30, 2014

Cabbage, Potato and Sausage Stew

If you ask most of my friends where I am from the chances of them telling you Germany are much higher then them telling you where I was born. I guess I can't blame them though, I did spend most of my life growing up in Germany, speak German fluently and even graduated High School from a German speaking school so besides the fact that I was born in Texas and am a proud American I pretty much am as German as it gets.

The best things about living in Germany (besides family & friends) has got to be the food! I miss the local bakeries and butcher shops the most. Or maybe it's the "Turkish" Döner Kebabs you can't actually get in Turkey. Wait, I do really miss eating the best gummy bears ever....Haribo made and sold in Germany are the best!

I have made this stew a number of times and have had all intentions on sharing it with you sooner....but for some reason I always forget to take a picture before it's gobbled up!!

Taste of Germany Stew

2 TBS olive oil
14 oz. smoked sausage, cut into thin slices
1-1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bottle of lager beer
2-3 potatoes, peeled & cubed
2-1/2 cups chicken broth, divided

1-1/2 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 TBS fresh parsley, finely chopped

In a dutch oven or large stew pot heat oil, add sausage and brown. Toss in onions; cook & stir until tender. Add cabbage and 1/2 cup of chicken broth; cover and let steam for 5-10 mins. Stir in spices and garlic. Slowly pour in the beer, bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes before adding the potatoes and the remaining broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook for 40 minutes or until the potatoes and cabbage are soft.

Turn off heat, stir in the apple cider vinegar & fresh parsley....enjoy!

**I like adding a splash of apple cider vinegar to my bowl before I eat it.

Optional: add 1/4 tsp of caraway seeds.....I personally don't like caraway seeds and feel like they aren't missed in the stew but you could add them for a little more "taste of Germany" if you care to.

December 28, 2014

Coconut Curry Soup

It doesn't matter where we live we still try to find the best Thai restaurant in town. In Tucson, AZ we had a little mom & pops place we really enjoyed going to called "Saing Thai".....I REALLY miss the fresh spring rolls from there. Here in Dhaka, Bangladesh we have a Thai restaurant right down the road from us (within walking distance) called "Soi 71"....my favorite things on the menu are the "Green Papaya Salad" & "Sticky Mango Rice"....yum.

Now even though we could walk to our local Thai restaurant and get decent priced & fresh food anytime, I still much rather make this bowl of goodness at home in my own kitchen where I know exactly what I am stirring together and can smell the magic happening.

My husband actually told me that he doesn't think its "normal" for the cook to "ooh & ahh" over their own food as much as I did while we were eating this soup the other night. So what if I think it was well worth the multiple "oohs & ahhs".....let's just say him and the kids were lucky I didn't pull a "When Harry Met Sally" moment like Meg Ryan did while I was eating this!!

Coconut Curry Soup

1 TBS olive oil or coconut oil
2-3 carrots, peeled & sliced into thin coins
1 large onion, cut in half & sliced
2-3 chicken breast, cubed
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 TBS red curry paste
1 tsp salt
1 can coconut milk (full fat)
2 cans of chicken or veggie stock
1 + 2 tsp curry powder *
1 tsp turmeric
2-3 lime leaves (these add such a great flavor)


Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions and cook them until they are soft, do not burn them. Add carrot slices and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger; cook for 1 minute then scoop out the veggies but leave as much of the liquid in the pan as possible.

Now add the chicken in the pot and cook until mostly cooked through. After 5 minutes of cooking sprinkle the chicken with 1 tsp of curry powder, 1 TBS red curry paste and salt. Return cooked veggies back to the pot. Pour coconut milk and stock in your pot. Stir in the remaining curry powder and turmeric. Heat to a simmer then add the lime leaves. Cook for 15 minutes. Taste to season (if you are using a low sodium stock you may need to add a bit more salt but I wait until right before serving to add this since it takes a little cooking to release all the flavors)

You could serve this with steamed potatoes or rice OR eat it just as is.

*use more or less curry depending on how spicy you what type of curry blend you are using, we use the mild curry powder so our kids can enjoy it.

If I am feeling like I need a bit more heat I like to add a few drops of sriracha to mine but trust me this is not a must when it comes to needing flavor enhancing!

December 21, 2014

Hot Buttered Rum

Is it just me or are the beginnings of blog posts the hardest? The beginning of the post should be what grabs your attention, it's what is supposed to lure you in to wanting more but what if the picture I am sharing should be getting all the attention and not the words I am typing before it?? I think that is why I am drawing a blank with this first paragraph today, the picture below speaks for itself (at least for me it does today).

Who would have thought adding butter to a hot drink would work!? Or what about adding coconut oil? I was pleasantly surprised that both actually work and taste GREAT. I tried both and have to say I preferred the coconut oil mixture more that the butter. I think the hint of coconut mixed with the pineapple juice pleased my tastebuds more then the butter mix did. 

Give it a try....who knows you may be adding a new beverage to your Holiday must-haves. If you would like more Hot Holiday Drink ideas jump on over to FitCakes to see my Hot Buttered Rum featured in a 12 Days of Christmas Special Day 2: Hot Drinks to Warm the Soul.

Do you have a favorite Holiday Drink you make every year?

Hot Buttered Rum 
makes 1 drink

1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 oz. Spice Rum (like Captain Morgan's)
1/2 vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cinnamon
a dash of nutmeg
1 Tablespoon butter or coconut oil 


Before you plan on making and serving this Hot Drink I suggest to prep your butter/coconut oil in advance.....whip together the butter or coconut oil with the vanilla extract, cinnamon and dash of nutmeg and put it in the fridge to chill.

When the butter has firmed up you are ready to mix up this hot cup of goodness.

Heat the pineapple juice, rum and brown sugar just until it is hot and steaming a bit but do not bring it to a boil; you could do this either on the stove in a small pot or in the microwave.

Pour the hot concoction into your coffee mug and then top it with your prepared butter. Enjoy!

July 21, 2014

Top 5 for 2013

I just realized I never did a Top 5 for my 2013 blog posts. That's what happens when you are moving from one state to another to then pack up and move half way across the world again....all in the matter of 4 months!!

The Top 5 for this year are still family favorites of ours. All 5 recipes can easily be incorporated into a meal plan, prepared in advance or even taken to a potluck.

1. Tamale Chicken Bake
This is an easy go to recipe if you love tamales but don't have the time or the know how to prepare tamales from scratch ;-)
 2. Strawberry Crisp
LOVE this recipe! So easy to make and so delicious.

3. Mexican Cornbread Salad
Not only does this taste yummy but it looks great too.

4. Sweet Sesame Chicken
One of my absolute favorite go to recipes I have.

 5. Turkey & Wild Rice Soup
Nothing taste better then homemade soup and fresh baked bread on a cloudy day.

July 15, 2014

Chocolate Carrot Cake

I have been telling so many people about how much I like carrot cake and especially this Chocolate Carrot Cake. Thankfully I already blogged about this one because not only am I able to re-share this lovely concoction but I also can't seem to find my recipe card to remake this....moving across the world can do that. Down side I don't have chocolate pudding mix at home to make this RIGHT NOW!!! But it will be on my grocery list for the next shopping trip :-)


Original Blog Post from August 22, 2012:

Yesterday was my birthday and I finally tried out a recipe for a Chocolate Carrot Cake that I have written down....uuhhh....too long ago. I have always liked a good Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese frosting but who would have ever thought of adding carrots and walnuts to a chocolate cake and it tasting so good!? And thankfully there is a cream cheese frosting that doesn't bother my lactose intolerance.....I will have to try making it one day with my dairy free cream cheese that I buy but didn't have any yesterday so the store bought kind was the one I used.

Chocolate Carrot Cake

1 box of chocolate cake mix (I used a Chocolate Fudge flavor)
1 small package instant chocolate pudding mix
4 oz. cream cheese, brought to room temperature
1 cup milk (I used lactose free milk)
3 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups shredded carrots
 ½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F and spray cake pans with cooking spray. I used a 13x9 cake pan but you could do cake rounds too (this should be enough for 2 thick layers or 3 thinner layers).

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, cream cheese, pudding mix, milk, eggs and cinnamon. Beat with mixer on low speed until all the ingredients are incorporated (about 30 secs) then increase speed for 2 mins. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Pour into cake pans and bake 25-30 mins.

Cool before frosting. Store in refrigerator. Enjoy!

June 17, 2014

Gooey S'mores Cookies

I know it is an absolute must to make S'mores when you go camping and I would never not bring supplies to make them but I hate to admit it but I really don't love eating S'mores. As much as I love to bake and try new dessert recipes out I actually don't have a "real" sweet tooth and S'mores always seem to be too much "sweet" for me. At the same time though every time I make S'mores for my kids I always eat one too, I just can't help myself, smores are just one of those things that brings back memories of all the fun I had camping as a kid.
Now I know these cookies aren't "really" the same thing as making S'mores over an open fire BUT these are easy to make, take & share, they hit the spot when you aren't able to get a campfire going or if you just don't want marshmallow smeared all over your kiddos. 

Since we are talking about marshmallows, have you tried these Marshmallow Bits yet?? I really wasn't sure what to expect when I bought them but I have to tell you after eating a few I didn't automatically think of S'mores. The first thing that came to mind when I ate them was hot chocolate! These bits taste just like the little marshmallows you have floating around in your mug of hot chocolate....which is a must for me.
Gooey S'mores Cookies 
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs 
(7 full graham cracker sheets)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Mini Hershey’s Kisses (or chocolate chips/chunks)
1 cup Jet Puffed Mallow Bits


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for an additional 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, use a food processor or blender to crush 7 graham cracker sheets into 3/4 cup fine crumbs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together. Add the chocolate and marshmallows and stir to combine.
Place 1.5 tablespoon sized scoops of dough onto the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies