Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mondays with Brinks

Posted on Tuesday.  Failure.

But just look at that grin!  (And then forgive me.)

[Angie @ Harbor Cottage]

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mondays with Brinks

How could anyone resist that "play with me" face?
[click to see another cute puppy]
[for photos of a pretty precious kitty, click here]

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nearly Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

It might not be the best photo in the world, but don't let that fool you.  This soup is awesome.  I put a few shortcuts in the recipe, so it only takes about thirty minutes to get this soup from "stack of stuff in the fridge" to "piping hot and ready to go."  Try it.  You'll never give Campbell's a second glance again.

Nearly Homemade Chicken Noodle
(serves 4)

2 tbsp olive oil
4 large carrots, diced
1/2 medium onion, very finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
4 cups low sodium chicken broth (I used 1 box, Swanson brand)
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded (I used 1/2 a rotisserie chicken)
egg noodles, to taste (I used 1/2 bag of whole wheat egg noodles)

In a large saucepan or small dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Throw in the carrots, and let them cook for about five minutes, occasionally giving them a toss.  Then add in the onions, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.  Toss everything around, and let it cook for another 5 minutes.  Pour in the broth, increase the heat to medium high, and bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Add the chicken and egg noodles, and continue boiling until the noodles are done (about ten minutes).  

Serve it up with a grilled cheese, pb&j, or even a baguette, if you're feeling fancy.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I see the moon. The moon sees me.

I see the moon. The moon sees me.
The moon sees somebody that I don't see.
God bless the moon. God bless me.
God bless the somebody that I don't see.
If I get to heaven before you do,
I'll make a hole and pull you through.
I'll write your name on every star.
That way the world won't seem so far.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mannheim Christmas Market

The Christmas Market fun continued last night when we explored the market in downtown Mannheim.  Everything was so gorgeous!  Here, have a look:

Wandering markets aglow with lights and filled with laughter, browsing for gifts, sampling treats and sipping hot cocoa...I could do this all year long.  These markets need to become traditional in the states before we move back!

What's your favorite part of the holidays?

Gingerbread Men

In addition to all the awesome food, I also purchased my first set of cookie cutters at the Christmas Market. That could only mean one thing:  It was time to find a good gingerbread recipe.  This one is super easy and delicious, and the dough can be made well in advance.  This recipe makes anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 dozen, depending on the size of your cookie cutter.  Mine is about five inches tall, and I got 16 cookies out of the dough.

Gingerbread Men
(adapted from Joy of Baking)

3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup unsulphured molasses

In a large bowl, cream the butter, egg, sugar, molasses, spices, salt and baking soda.  Add flour one cup at a time, and mix until well combined.  Turn dough onto a well floured surface.  Divide in half.  Pat each half into a round disk, and wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight.

After chilling the dough, preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease (or line with parchment paper) two baking sheets.  Flour a work surface and rolling pin generously.  Working with one disk of dough at a time, roll dough into a circle about 1/4 inch thick, and begin to cut your cookies.  Transfer them to the prepared baking sheets with a spatula.  Reform any remaining dough into a disk, and roll it out again to repeat the process.  When all the dough is used, do the same with the second disk.

Cookies should bake 8-10 minutes, until they are just beginning to brown around the edges.  Do not overcook!  Overcooked gingerbread is tough as bricks.  Cool cookies 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack.  When completely cooled, decorate as desired.

Simple Confectioners Frosting
(makes 2 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla 
1 tbsp milk

food coloring, 1-2 drops of any color

Cream together ingredients with an electric mixer, and spoon into a pastry bag with a small tip, or a ziplock bag with a very small hole cut in one of the bottom corners.   Pipe frosting onto cooled gingerbread men as desired.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Heidelberg Christmas Market

Last Saturday we took the tram to Heidelberg to browse the Christmas Market with some friends and their munchkins...erm...I mean kids. Heidelberg's month-long holiday market is exceptionally large, covering five squares of the old downtown area.  Booths sporting Christmas decor, handmade crafts, pottery, and novelties line the streets, and the whole city seems to be glowing with Christmas lights.  Of course, there are tons of vendors offering tasty treats as well.  I sampled more than my share, among which was a hot steak and onion sandwich, a paper cone of "pommes" (fries), organic dried apple chips, warm candied cashews, and a skewer of chocolate covered grapes (they were better than you'd think).  There was even a carousel and a miniature train ride for the kiddies.  The trip was a lot of fun, and well worth the hour of travel.  I can't wait to peruse a few more markets this year.

(The munchkins slept through most of the tram ride.)

(Heidelberg Castle, illuminated, from a bridge near the market.)

(Kind of blurry, but this one captured the storybook colors well.)

(So many teapots!!)

(I purchased my apple chips from this adorable little bakery.  Everything inside was both organic and vegan, as well as locally produced.  It was also pretty darn scrumptious.)

(These giant star lamps were everywhere!  So pretty!)

(I'm not sure of the story or tradition behind German Christmas windmills, but they're gorgeous.  
Traditional Gluwein was sold beneath this gigantic one.)

(Beautiful, but expensive!)

(This teensy tea set was precious, but at 20euro, a little too sweet for my tastes...)

(We took a break for crepes.  Seriously, who can resist?)

(The ice cream shop where we bought our crepes was adorable.
I especially love that chandelier!)