31 December 2009

Goals for 2010

I'm hesitant to use the phrase New Year's Resolution since I've never stuck with one.  But goals I can meet.  So here are a few of my culinary goals of 2010.

1.  Find a good knife, then buy it.  We bought an okay knife set when we arrived, but I'd love to have a good chef's knife to slice through the big hunks of bacon that my current knifes rip apart.  Key for this knife is a safe carrying case so it can follow us during our next move.

2.  Join Meeta's Monthly Mingle.  I'm not going to set a goal for meeting 12 mingles, but I'd like to at least do eight.  January's theme is Winter Vegetables and Fruit and is due by January 14.  Wish me luck!  (I'm also taking suggestions)

3.  Introduce one new fruit or vegetable a month.  We have a tendency to get stuck in a green beans or broccoli rut, so I'd like to liven things up a bit on the dinner table.  I've also cooked Brussels sprouts a few too many times for them to count as "new" as well.  Perhaps I'll make it a feature on my blog!  "Exotic of the Month"

My other goals are the normal boring ones (eat less fried food, etc).  But I've decided if I can reach these three goals, I'm well on my way to sticking with a (gasp) New Year's Resolution.  But I'm not calling it that.  :)

23 December 2009

Die Feuerzangenbowle

Loosely, die Feuerzangenbowle translates to Fire Tongs Bowl.  I was introduced to this beverage by several coworkers.  They were discussing the upcoming Christmas party for the younger crowd within the department, and I got to hear all about this crazy drink.  And, of course, fire perked my interest.  

Die Feuerzangenbowle is also a movie.  It's a strange movie about a poet who pretends to be a student again in order to play tricks on all the teachers (he was schooled by tutors, so never had the chance to be a prankster as a kid).   Anyway, the movie opens with old men surrounding a Feuerzangenbowle, and the joke is that most Germans don't know the end of the movie because everyone is too drunk from their own Feuerzangenbowle to remember the end.  Hubby and I had the joy of experiencing die Feuerzangenbowle at the Christmas party, both the movie and the beverage.  The movie is in German (with no English subtitles), but one of the PhD students found the subtitles in English online and actually put it together with the movie.  From my little German, I could tell that the subtitles were either slightly ahead or slightly behind throughout the movie, but that just added to the drunken fun.  Okay, so actually the beverage isn't that great in taste, so none of us were drunk.  We watched through the whole movie, so I actually know the end!  But I guess that makes me a bad German...

06 December 2009

Good Ol' Mac and Cheese

I grew up on Velveeta Shells and Cheese.  I loved the stuff.  Gooey, smooth, a cute shaped pasta... I was in heaven.  My friends' moms were serving blue box with the powdered cheese.  Edible, of course, but it just didn't call to me... besides, it was a boring old macaroni noodle, not a shell!  And then my grandmother served something completely different.  A baked macaroni and cheese.  I just couldn't understand why she had to put it into the oven.  With boring old elbow macaroni as well.  I couldn't stand the stuff.  That's right, my grandmother made from scratch macaroni and cheese and I didn't like it.  Give me shells and cheese any day. 

26 November 2009


I spatchcocked.  And it was fun!

This week has been trying for both of us.  Monday dawned full of hope for a new job for me.  I had plans to go down to the foreigners office to obtain my work visa so I could start.  In the back of my head, I knew that things would not go smoothly, so I had prepared myself by thinking that I would start Thursday, on Thanksgiving with all the irony of me going to work whilst my family back in the States enjoyed the day off and a table full of turkey.  So, back to the point.  With Monday came an email.  The person who had to sign off on my hire was out sick.  Thus, the foreigners office could not be contacted and I could not get my visa on Monday.

20 November 2009


I intentionally did not use punctuation in my title.  You fill it in however you like.

So why do I want to talk about lard?  Well, I've seen info on lard on other blogs touting it's wonderfulness, but I brushed the thoughts aside.  The thought of lard still kind of frightened me, I could hardly imagine the look on Jason's face if I told him I wanted to render it myself, and I hadn't seen any in the stores, so I put it on the back burner for something to think about when I have a bigger kitchen with actual cooking tools (we still only have one bowl that barely qualifies as a mixing bowl).

But then I saw it in the store.  I was looking for butterschmaltz (clarified butter) since it's cheaper than the imported ghee available at the Arabic grocery store in town (I love that store for spices though).  The word schmaltz caught my eye, and then I saw it: schweinschmaltz.  Lard.  Right there in the refrigerated section where Lisa at Homesick Texan and Pim at Chez Pim told me I should find it.  I looked at the price.  Around a dollar for 250 grams.  I was tempted.  So I bought it.  I was intrigued to hear that lard has less saturated fat than butter, so much so that it is considered an unsaturated fat.  And I won't even start on how much better it is for you than vegetable shortening... though if you buy the lard sitting next shortening, you're still purchasing a hydrogenated fat, thus all health benefits are gone.  So make sure it's non-hydrogenated before you buy it!

Lard is highly acclaimed for two things (at least to my knowledge): superb pie crusts and great frying oil.  But something in me cannot get past turning a vegetarian item, such as strawberry pie (yes, that's for you Heather) into something that vegetarians cannot eat.  So I haven't used it for pie crust.  Heck, I've never made a pie crust.  For that matter, I don't live on the same continent as my pie plate!  So I'll wait on pie crust and tell you about my experiences with frying.

Round One: Chicken.  Delicious of course.  However, I put the heat to the same level I normally do for vegetable oil frying and it took much longer for my chicken to brown.  While tasty, the chicken was a bit dryer since it spent more time in the oil since I was trying to brown it.  I didn't tell Jason I used lard until AFTER he'd started eating and told me it was yummy.  His reaction to hearing the word lard was similar to mine... Eww.  Why?

So we discussed it.  I spent the rest of the evening researching lard v. vegetable oil.  I'm still not convinced lard is better for you than vegetable oil for frying.  If anyone has any information on it, I'd love to see it (and citations!).  I can agree that it would be better to use lard than butter or vegetable shortening, but I don't fry my chicken in butter or vegetable shortening, so I'm still not sold.

But I tried it again because I didn't want to give up too easily.

Round Two.  Pork Chops.  Tasty again.  This time I increased the heat in hopes to decrease the frying time.  I don't have a thermometer, but I can tell you the lard bubbled nicely.  Again, the meat took a while to develop a pretty golden color.  Maybe I just need a cast iron skillet?

One major plus about the lard is that it doesn't pop nearly the same way oil does.  I didn't get hit with lard once tonight, and only twice during the chicken experience.  And I always get popped several times with oil.  It's just something I've learned to expect.

But my lard did one thing I expected it not to do... it smelled... well, porky.  Thus I've come to the conclusion I don't have the highest quality lard.  One day, when I have the communication skills to ask for leaf lard (or even read the package), I may try lard again.  And if I ever get that fully stocked kitchen, I may try rendering it myself.  But for now, I'll go back to oil for frying.  I hear coconut oil is fantastic for you and fantastic for frying, so maybe I'll give that a try.  What do you use for frying?

19 November 2009

Food on the Brain

I was having trouble sleeping tonight... and all I could think about was food.  I think I composed three or four different food blogs in my head.  But then I realized that not everyone reading about life in Jena would appreciate that many blogs on how to make food rather than what I've been up to in Jena (which is food since I don't have a job...yet).  So here we are.  No posts tonight since I don't have pictures, but I'll be back at you soon!
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