Sunday, July 25, 2010

What's for dinner July 25, 2010

I have a long lived love (say that three times fast!) for all things miniature. When I was a girl, I went through a phase where I would rush out and agonize over which teeny tiny little dollhouse accessory to blow my allowance on. And while I intend to build myself Cheeseball her own dollhouse at some point, for now I content myself with making big things small. Tiny little cookies in tiny little boxes. Teeny little bowties on little knitted coffee sleeves. And, tonight...teeny little burgers on mini little buns.

mini burger and homemade fries

These are a lot of fun for a party. We've put on a mini burger bar before with all the fixings you can think of - different kinds of cheeses, bacon, avocado, sauteed mushrooms, veggies, sauteed onions, etc... - so everyone can try several different combo burgers without filling up too fast.

But, they're also fun for an evening at home with the kiddos. I made two different kinds of burgers.

raw burger...yuck
Raw hamburger...less than appetizing.

On the left, I took a quarter kilo (which I think is about a half pound) of ground beef, pressed a big clove of garlic over it and drizzled some olive oil. I added about a third of an egg. Then, I ground some sea salt and pepper and scissored some fresh basil with my new toy.

How badass are these!?

In the burger mixture on the right, I made my patented World Famous Burgers, known to at least 10 or 12 people. I just eyeballed the ingredients, since it was such a small amount of meat. But, I'll include the recipe at the end of the post.

This was the first time I'd tried the basil, and they came out well! They're even kind of pretty when cooked.

basil burger
Well, as pretty as hamburger gets.

I chopped some mini fixins.

mini burger fixins

For our mini burger bar party, I used frozen dinner rolls, since they're so nice and perfectly round and look just like "I'll gladly repay you..." Wimpy's burgers. But, defrosting and rising the rolls was more trouble than I was going to go to for a Sunday evening Q with the fam. I just toasted up some dinner rolls.

grilled mini burger buns

I sliced yellow potatoes, and tossed them in peanut oil in our mini-fritteuse (which I believe is called a deep fry to the rest of us), then seasoned.

homemade fries

Yummy, teeny tiny and fresh. What more could I want?

World Famous Sushi Burgers

1 1/2 lbs 80% lean ground beef
1/2 a smallish onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs worcestershire sauce
1 egg
1 envelope Lipton Beefy Onion soup mix
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rapid fire gift giving.

When we dropped Cheeseball off at kindergarten this morning, I learned that although school isn't over for the year until mid-August, today is the day they do gifts to the children and the children bring gifts for the teachers. Wait, what!?!?! This is the last week of German grade school for the year, so families start going on vacation next week, taking their kindergarteners with them.

Well, this left me with nothing to do but speedwalk/sprint home and start brainstorming. I was going to consult a German friend to see what would be the typical kinder-to-lehrer (teacher) end of year gift. But, then I thought wait...when I have friends from exotic places, I don't want them to bring me whatever I'm used to! I want to check out whatever they're used to. So, I decided to bake something American. Apple pie would be a little tough to wrap up and transport and also I suck at it. What's more American (though, less American than apple pie) than chocolate chip cookies!?

Unfortunately, the move and corresponding gutting of the kitchen for the movers still has us a little low on staples. The baking soda, the brown sugar, the flour, really everything is different here and the Internet told me you can't mix American baking recipes and German ingredients. So, I had to drive to post and by then, it was time to bite the bullet and buy ready made cookie dough.

But, the packaging could be homemade! I downloaded some box templates and used an adorable wrapping paper template by Kellie Medivitz that I'd saved previously.

Download the box templates here.

Download the tags and wrap here.

I printed the wrapping paper print on one side of cardstock and the box template on the other.

gift box in the making

Then, used craft glue (even though craft glue and mod podge both claim to be non-toxic, the craft glue seemed even nonner-non-toxic to me) to line the inside of the box with wax paper.

gift box in the making

I cut the wax paper off the flaps and scored the dotted lines. Then, put the box together! I recommend gluing flap by flap as you go - both so that the glue stays fresh and because until you're putting it together, it's tough to figure out which flaps you're going to want to glue on the inside and which on the outside.

I had cut the pre-made cookie dough squares in half to make smaller cookies. I stacked the cooled cookies inside the boxes.

cookies in a box

Then, closed them up, tied a pretty ribbon and attached a coordinating gift tag.

kinder gift

All in all, I thought it was a pretty cute, very last minute and with limited supplies kind of gift!

And, the teachers asked "sind diese amerikanischen cookies!?" and they seemed pretty excited about it. So, I think bringing an American gift from their American kinder was the way to go.

Although I ended up having to use pre-made cookie dough, I'm posting my totally awesome chocolate chip cookie recipe anyway. I use a half a bag of chocolate chips in these, and the girl who originally gave the recipe to me uses a bag and a half, so go with your own chocolate lover level.

2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (or better yet, scrape the inside of one vanilla bean)
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Cream together butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl. Slowly add to egg/sugar mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My town has fleas.

I've been trying to make it up to the Saturday flea market (flohmarkt, here) in Stuttgart for what seems like ages now. For one reason or another, I just haven't been able to make it. But, last week, a flea market came to me! What luck!

Holzgerlingen sommer flohmarkt

And when my little village has a flea market, they have a flea market. Oh my goodness, it was amazing! There were bands...

Holzgerlingen sommer flohmarkt
And I mean bands., beer gardens, wine booths, camels...

Seriously, camels.

...and booth after booth of wonderful flea market finds for the taking. At first, I was doing it wrong. Nothing had prices marked and I kept asking "was viel kostet das? (what does that cost?)" until I finally ended up side by side with locals at a few booths. They just name a price, haggle from there and make a deal. Fun!

I ended up walking home with some things I really wanted. I was on the hunt for tea cups for Cheeseball. She loves tea parties and throws them for herself and her dolls on a regular basis. Now that she's a little older and a little less prone to random breakage, I'd like to replace her kiddie tea set with vintage cups and saucers. In my mind, I picture a set wherein nothing matches but everything is pretty. So, I was mainly looking for those, but ended up with this instead.

my flea market haul

I can now report that sewing machines are heavy when you walk all the way home with them. I am quite pleased this one came with a handle. I've been looking for a sewing machine with European plugs and now I have one! I just need to figure out what all the German on my machine means and then how to sew. I mentioned recently that I was on the hunt for a "new" alarm clock and I found one!

my "new" clock

Isn't it cute!? I wasn't quite used to actual ticking, so at first it felt rather like trying to fall asleep next to a bomb. Unfortunately, Jack Bauer didn't pop up while I was dozing off, but neither did the clock explode. So, there's that. And I wasn't quite used to a clock that needed to be wound, so I forgot to do it at first and it stopped ticking. But, the clock and I have an understanding now. And the best part of all of this is that I only spent around € 25!!

Let's Call It Brinner. Or Dinfast.

Some days you just don't much feel like cooking. On those days, I try to resist the siren call of the frozen lasagna (and that call is sooooo good) by whipping up something easy and fun. Sometimes it seems all you have to do to muster up a little enthusiasm is take a little side road off your beaten path.

Days like that we come up with new things like Bacon and Eggs Spaghetti. Or It's-ah Breakfast-ah eh-Spaghetti. Or Noodle Eggs and Ham. Or Noodles Cooked By One Who Is Easily Sidetracked.


The kickoff point was a recipe posted long ago by my friend Lea of Smörgåsbord. I vaguely remembered her cooking some sort of noodle dish that she cracked an egg into, letting the heat from the noodles cook the egg.

I'm not that adventurous.

In fact, a very popular Japanese dish consists of cracking a raw egg into hot rice and mixing in a little soy sauce. It's called tamago. I scramble the eggs first and call it egg rice.

So, I scrambled the eggs, chopped and cooked the bacon, cooked the noodles and mixed it all together, letting the bacon grease coat and flavor the noodles. Less adventurous, still darn good.

breakfast spaghetti

And a bonus shot of the outdoor seating at a little cafe we came across as we wandered downtown Stuttgart the other day. Just because I really liked it.

cafe in Stuttgart, Germany

Monday, July 19, 2010

At Least A Cut Above The D List

In our house here in Germany, we have a built-in fridge that is lovely and matches the cupboards but is not magnetic. (I know, right!? I didn't even know there were fridges you couldn't overpopulate with kitschy souvenir magnets!) Having also relocated the junk drawer to a basket in a hall storage closet, I'm fresh out of spots to keep a running shopping list.

I came across two quite awesome printable shopping lists at A Print A Day and suddenly my motivation to create a spot for that running list went through the roof.

I picked up an old tin from a thrift shop.  Then, I covered a piece of cardboard with a coordinating pattern I printed and jammed it in the tin so that the pen wouldn't slide behind the lists. 

shopping list

I printed out the lists above and created some new ones of my own, that I'd love to now share with you.

printable shopping lists

Download the owl shopping lists here.

Download the vintage veggies shopping lists here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grilled Sushi

We've been getting our grill on here at Chez Sushi on the regular lately. Our landlord gave us a giant umbrella to use on our terrace and it makes grilling under the hot sun much, much nicer. At least I think it does. I guess I really wouldn't know...The Man kindly slaves over the grill and spares me the heat.

We've developed two new favorites that we've made a few times and also taken over to Chez Other People. Barbecues are even more fun at someone else's house, aren't they? When they get to do the grill slaving and the beer bottle wrangling and the forgetting of things that they worked very hard on that don't make it out of the fridge until the cleaning up and then they just have to call those leftovers.

honey soy chicken kebabs

We started with this recipe for Honey Soy Chicken Kebabs.

Whisk together:

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Squish three cloves of garlic and pop them in. Then toss in cubed chicken breast and whatever veggies you'd like to skewer. We like onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. Let the whole shebang percolate for a couple of hours in the fridge, then skewer. We like to also cube pancetta or fold bacon and skewer next to the chicken, but we don't marinate that.

grilled veggies with mozzarella

We cook this on the grill, but I suppose the oven would work just as well. I mean, if you wanted to heat up your whole kitchen like that. We chop onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, squash and really whatever else strikes our fancy. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then slice fresh mozzarella (none of that square, dry stuff) over the top and voila! Melty goodness.

grilled veggies with mozzarella

You wouldn't think so, but the veggies are even delicious as leftovers. The desired kind of leftovers...the intentional ones.

Bicycles built for me.

Maybe it's the beautiful weather or all the pedaling going on around me in Europe, but I'm in love with bicycle imagery lately. Here's some of what has caught my eye.

Clean, modern bicycle desktop wallpaper. seen on How About Orange and created by Eleanor Grosch of pushmepullyou design.

I have this one on my desktop at the moment.

I adore this bike makeover seen on poppytalk. Look closely, that's not a paint job...that's fabric!

How sweet are these cards by satsumalynn? I fell in love with them on design*sponge.

I think these printed glasses from vital are so much more fun than plain glass yet still feature a simple and clean look.

Less imagery than accoutrement, I couldn't resist what I found at The Bicycle Muse after following a link from oh joy!.

Ah, now I want to get out and hop on my bike!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bento Sandos.

I haven't blogged anything bento in a while. I haven't really made any bento in a while, come to think of it. El Niño just isn't in to it. And Cheeseball has been making her way through the wilds of German kindergarten, and I didn't really want to do anything that would make her stand out more than being the sole only just-the-one American. But, I've been easing my way into slightly more bento-ish lunches for her. And one thing she and I both adore is the Sando de Panda sandwich cutter. Sando is how the Japanese say sandwich. We've talked about how we incorporate foreign words into English. The Japanese take foreign words and um...Japan-ify them.

The set from CasaBento includes two shape imprinters, a crust cutter, a sandwich-edge-squisher (yes, the technical term) and a little scoop. Soft innards like PB&J, egg salad, etc.. work best. Horribly unhealthy Wonder Bread type breads work best, but Wonder Bread is too small. Here in Germany, they sell what they call "American Sandwich Bread" and it's pretty much Wonder Bread but bigger. I assume they must sell something similar in Japan, which is why it fits the cutter. It also helps to microwave the bread for about 15 seconds, then it accepts and holds the imprint much better and doesn't tear in the center when you squish down the edges.

You can make one big whole squished-edge sando or fold the bread in half and angle the cutter to make half squished-edge sandos. (I can feel my intelligence radiating out through this post. Can you feel it?)

sando de panda sandwich
Not microwaved long enough. Still cute.

sando de panda sandwich

Making Space for El Nino

El Niño's room has always been the epitome of the function over form problem that permeates the entirety of Chez Sushi. The public rooms have to have some sense of decor or I feel like a total failure. A little girl's room is a little easier to decorate, and Cheeseball really cares about that kind of thing. So, her room has some personality. But, poor El Niño has been toiling away on his Lego cities and amassing his personal armory in a room completely devoid of style.

I had just resolved to do something about that when I happened upon this adorable digital print of an original illustration by june craft on Poppytalk. Poppytalk has repurposed their handmade market as an oil spill response market for the month of July and june craft is donating a portion of proceeds to the cause, making this an even more satisfying (yet totally inexpensive!) purchase.

Isn't that just awesome? I love the color, I love the motion, I love the retro styling...really, I just love it. I bought it on the spot and decided to build the rest of the room's decor around it.

el nino's room to be

He already has this bunk bed from Ikea, but he desperately needs a closet. German houses don't come with built in closets, so thank golf for Ikea. I like the idea of closed storage in these trunks for things like giant Nerf guns that don't really add to the room, but certainly mean something to El Niño. He needs to upgrade from his current (miniature) pencil shaped coat rack, in a bad way. In fact the only thing in this redesign that I probably won't purchase is the rug. Because it's crazy expensive. But, what I wasn't able to find online, I'm sure I can get my hands on in real life with a little bit of legwork and patience.

1. blanket from Ikea
2. bedding from Ikea
3. bunk bed from Ikea
4. coat rack from cb2
5. Pax closet from Ikea
6. ridiculously expensive rug that sadly contains all the perfect colors
7. metal storage trunks from cb2
8. bookshelf from Ikea
9. wall file for very important Lego magazines from cb2
10. lamp from cb2
11. vise grip bookends from cb2

And now that I've gone back through it all, I see that despite a very long and exhaustive Internet search and the saving of many, many links I managed to find everything at two stores. Well, that was efficient. The good news is that we have an Ikea here and I really am going to turn in those Marriott reward points for a Crate and Barrel gift card.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Not-Nearly-Drunk-Enough Cherries

Our landlord caught us outside on the way to Cheeseball's kindergarten the other morning and gifted us a great big basket of cherries. Cheeseball and I love cherries. But, we weren't going to work our way through four or five pounds of them by ourselves before they weren't quite so pretty and red and juicy anymore!

I (and El Niño) pitted a stack of them and stuck them in the freezer for future smoothies. Uh, made with our future blender. And I hopped online for a cherry recipe. It's way too hot to bake a pie, or turn the oven on for any reason, really. Cherries in the Snow from Epicurious fulfilled the NO bake proviso and it just sounded so cool and refreshing. And it was! Whisking the milk mixture made the top of the gelatin all frothy and it does look just like fresh, powder snow. Very cool.

I used skim milk, fresh rather than dried cherries and cherry juice rather than port. For the kids' sake. The kids who didn't eat the dessert. Next time, I'll use a smaller dish than recommended to make the gelatin stand a little taller. And I will liberally apply the good stuff. And then the kids will eat it and go staggering around the neighborhood and get me in trouble with the polizei. The polizei who probably wouldn't have a problem with me pouring warm beers for the kids, but won't likely have such a kindly tolerant attitude about that weird foreigner port stuff.

cherries in the snow

For almond snow gelatin:

Vegetable oil for greasing baking dish
2 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-oz envelope)
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup 1% or skim milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

For cherries in Port:

1/3 cup dried cherries (2 ounces)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup Ruby Port


Make almond snow gelatin:
Lightly oil an 8-inch square glass baking dish with vegetable oil, wiping out any excess with a paper towel.

Sprinkle gelatin over water in a large heatproof bowl to soften 1 minute.

Bring milk and sugar to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then remove from heat and whisk into gelatin mixture. Add almond extract and whisk briskly until milk is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Pour into baking dish and freeze 15 minutes (to set foam), then chill, uncovered, in refrigerator until firm, at least 45 minutes.

Make cherries in Port:

Simmer cherries, sugar, and Port in cleaned 1-quart heavy saucepan, uncovered, until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. Set pan in a bowl of ice and cold water and chill in refrigerator until syrupy, about 15 minutes.

Assemble desserts:
Using a knife dipped in hot water, cut gelatin into 1-inch squares. Remove squares from dish with a spatula and divide, frothy sides up, among 6 chilled plates. Spoon cherries in Port over squares.

Do you have the time?

Shortly after my ugly but functional clock radio became obsolete due to American vs. European voltage issues, my ugly but functional battery operated digital travel alarm clock kicked the bucket. Of course.

But, I've turned a new leaf in our new house and while I still promote function, form has taken on a new importance. So, I'm on the hunt for a pretty alarm clock and while I'm at it, why not a clock for another room or two. Currently without my ever present iPhone, I never seem to know what time it is anymore.

As always, my first stop is Etsy. And look what I found! Love.

fave clocks on etsy

1. hard drive clock by pixelthis
2. vintage Czechoslovakian Prim from ClockworkUniverse
3. vintage Russian Vitjaz from ClockworkUniverse
4. VW hubcap clock by GreenWisdom
5. vintage Russian Slava from ClockworkUniverse
6. splat desk clock by pilotdesign
7. Bulova mod pedestal from stilettogirl
8. green leaf clock by botanicraft
9. vintage German Europa from ClockworkUniverse
10. triangle clock by WoodstockClocks
11. vintage German Junghans from spacejam

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cheeseball Parade

Over the weekend, we got a lovely taste of small town, German style. One of the kindergartens (German kindergarten is akin to American preschool, for kids ages 3 to 6) in town was celebrating their 100th anniversary. So, the town shut down all the streets at the center of town and children from every kindergarten in town got together to march in a parade.

Look how many people came! And this is just part of the route. I was pretty amazed.

kindergarten parade, Holzgerlingen, Germany

Each class in each kindergarten represented a different book, some of which are recognizable to Americans...

kindergarten parade, Holzgerlingen, Germany
The Very Hungry Caterpillar

kindergarten parade, Holzgerlingen, Germany
Where The Wild Things Are

kindergarten parade, Holzgerlingen, Germany
Pippi Longstocking

...and some of which were not, but were equally adorable.

kindergarten parade, Holzgerlingen, Germany

Cheeseball's class walked out of the pages of a book called Swimmy. I've never heard of it, but feel like I might have to buy it now!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Home Cookin'

Once outfitted with their adorable training chopsticks, the kids requested a chopstick worthy meal. Months later, I still get a ton of visitors googling for the yatsumi zuke tsukemono (koko) recipe I posted. So, somebody out there is hungry for Hawaii food and I thought I'd share a little more.

First up, how to Hawaii-fy your leftover grilled (or in this case, roasted) chicken breast. I just slice it up, mince some ginger and sprinkle liberally, grind a little pepper and dab on a touch of soy sauce. That's a great way to Hawaii-fy anything, really. We like to cube extra firm tofu and give it the same treatment.

leftover chicken with ginger and soy sauce

Another super easy dish is not-really-pickled cucumbers. We like to use rokusuke salt which is rock salt infused with mushroom flavor by a big kahuna chef in Japan who no longer allows it to be sold outside his restaurant and therefore I have a bone to pick with him. But, any coarse salt will do. Add some rice vinegar, and let sit for about a half hour. So yum and super simple.

cucumbers in rokusuke salt and rice vinegar

On to a Hawaii staple, which you call soy sauce and we call shoyu. The Internet tells me shoyu is a specific kind of soy sauce. Huh. News to me. Anyhoo. I dearly miss my Aloha Brand Shoyu, which is so good that you can get it all over the place these days. Except apparently Stuttgart, Germany. So, to make the dreaded Kikkoman palatable, I've been resorting to an old Hawaii trick. Start with a little rice vinegar, add some minced garlic and ginger and then if you're lucky enough to be in Hawaii, slit the sides of a Hawaiian chili pepper and toss that in (thai peppers work pretty well, too). If you're out of reach of either, red pepper flakes work in a pinch.

You'll end up with something that looks like this, but you'll have to snag your own totally awesome Sailor Moon dish.

new and improved shoyu

And now for something my mainland and European readers will likely find totally disgusting. But, if you grew up chowing down on satojoyu at drive in movie theaters, you would be all natsukashi over this recipe, too.

For satojoyu, toss a can of vienna sausage (no, not ew!), liquid and all, and some chopped spam and cabbage into a pot. Cover with water, then add about 2 teaspoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons of soy sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. I didn't have any spam or cabbage on hand, so the picture I took just features bloated vienna sausage swimming in soy sauce and really it's not a pretty dish anyway but still leaving that one out.

In conclusion, well...not a dazzling spread. But, you can find recipes for things like chicken katsu and lomi lomi salmon all over. It's the little touches that round out a meal that are always a little tougher to hunt down. And here they are! Well, a few of them...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

In Training

My backlog of Things I Intend To Blog is only slightly shorter than my list of Crafts I Am Going To Get To. But, drop everything, the queue can wait a little longer...I got a package from Amazon today!

Are these the cutest training chopsticks you ever did see? I think they are.

I use chopsticks with any kind of Asian noodle and lots of other rice-based dinners, so the kids have been dying to master the art themselves.  A cool dude in a Korean restaurant whipped up some homemade learning chopsticks for them one night a while back, but despite these handy instructions, it hasn't worked out for us at home.

The super cute pair are working just fine, though! The kids requested a chopstick worthy meal, which I'll also blog...uh, one day.  For now, action shots...