Sunday, March 27, 2011

Late St. Patrick's Day Dinner

We managed to have our late St. Patrick's Day dinner last weekend.  I was crazy sick the whole week before.  Luckily, I was on the mend in time to disinfect the house and get the corned beef, root vegetables and dessert parfaits together.  Our friends brought over an insanely beautiful bouquet from the farmer's market in downtown Wiesbaden.  If you're curious about Alton Brown's corned beef that I blogged about making here, I thought it turned out great!  We didn't have the salt peter necessary for the nice, pink color that most corned beef has, but the flavor was great!  I also served root vegetables with a garlic herb butter.  I had never tried parsnips before.  They're kind of like a mild carrot.  Interesting stuff.

My favorite part of the meal *because I'm a sugar junky* was the mint fudge brownie parfaits.

YUM!  I found the recipe at Confessions of a Cookbook Queen.  It's a great blog!  I searched a ton of stores (a friend did a lot of searching for me, too) for cute jars to make these guys in, but it didn't work out.  Apparently caning/jarring isn't super popular in Germany in early spring.  Hopefully I'll manage to snag a few dozen during the summer months.  I even had some cute green ribbon to tie around the year!  This year I had to make due with regular glasses.  I think they turned out pretty cute :)

Thanks to a friend we even had some delicious Irish Soda Bread. She brought it pretty much straight of the oven and it was amazing.  Here's a picture.

*****EDITED TO ADD*****
Meredith's Irish Soda Bread Recipe!
Irish Soda Bread
prep time: 15 min / cook time: 50 min
    •    4 cups all-purpose flour
    •    4 tablespoons white sugar
    •    1 teaspoon baking soda
    •    1 tablespoon baking powder
    •    1/2 teaspoon salt
    •    1/2 cup margarine, softened
    •    1 cup buttermilk
    •    1 egg
    •    1/4 cup butter, melted
    •    1/4 cup buttermilk

    1.    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
    2.    In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an 'X' into the top of the loaf.
    3.    Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 30 to 50 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.
 *****End Edit*****

Another friend brought over a really great cake with berries baked into it.  I didn't manage to get a good picture of it but it was lovely!

I'm sorry that this post wasn't super exciting.  I'll be posting new pictures of our house and of course silly stories about my kids this week.  :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"BUT, I want to celebrate the family!"

Anna is our early riser.  She wakes up WAY too early and insists that everyone wakes up the instant she does.  The other day she woke up at 5:55 on the dot.  She said she had to go to the bathroom, so I told her to go quickly and then head back to her bed.  She finished in the bathroom and decided it was time to stage a protest to the whole heading back to bed thing.  I told her that it was definitely too early and she needed more sleep.  She replied with, "BUT, I want to celebrate the family!"  I couldn't help laughing.  What does it mean to "celebrate the family" and who wants to do it before 6 AM?  I love that girl.

The kids like to talk about future professions.  Anna's go-to career is dentist.  She says that she wants to become a dentist so she can fix the holes in kiddos teeth.  She's never had a cavity.  I'm guessing that her passion for dentistry came from being deeply moved by an episode of "Sid the Science Kid."  Because Anna wants to be a dentist, Daniel walks around saying that he wants to be a dentist, too.  Anna's side job is super hero.  I guess she'll be the female version of Clark Kent someday.  Anna Kousma D.D.S by day and Super Anna by night!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The More You Know ;)

I was checking out my status feed on Facebook this morning and the general theme of the day was Daylight Savings Time.  All of a sudden I started worrying about the fact that we seemed to forget it.  After a little of research on my husband's part, we found out that Europe sets their clocks forward the last Sunday of March instead of the second like North America.  Crazy stuff.  It's not of much use to us today anyway because we're all feeling a bit under the weather.  We'll be sticking close to the house today. Anna didn't sleep from about 3 AM on.  We're SERIOUSLY looking forward to nap time today ;).

Dan the man has taken to adding a speech impediment when it suits him :)  When he really wants something he'll say (in his cutest voice) "Pwitty, pwitty pwease?!"  I've never been a fan of baby talk, but he looks up at you with those big blue eyes and your heart melts a little.  He knows how to work the system already!  This could be trouble.

Our kids love The Muppets.  We bought Muppets Treasure Island while we were in California and it came with a little sticker book.  Anna and Daniel were going through the stickers and playing with them one day when they came across these guys
Anna said that no one would want that sticker because they were just mean guys that no one liked.  I told her that I actually liked them and you should have seen the look of disgust on her face!  She took out the sticker and handed it to me.  "I guess mommy can have this one because she LIKES *scoff* the mean guys!"  She just couldn't conceive of anyone liking Statler and Waldorf :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Current Favorite Songs...

I figured that after two posts in a row about food I needed to mix things up a bit.  Here are a few songs currently making my playlists recently.

"Sigh No More" - Mumford & Sons
"Love will not betray,
dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man
you were made to be.
There is a design,
An alignment, a cry,
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love
as it was made to be"

"MarryYou" - Bruno Mars
I love the sound of this song even though I can't say I agree with the view on marriage ;)

"Forget You" - Cee Lo Green (the edited version ;))
This is another one that I really love the sound and feel of.  It can make me smile even when I'm in a super crappy mood.

"To Build a Home" - The Cinematic Orchestra
An incredible song.  I love the way it builds and swells.  I could listen to this song on repeat for hours.

"In These Arms" - The Swell Season
Such a beautiful song.  Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova sound so great together.

"Flightless Bird, American Mouth" - Iron & Wine
Love this song.  It's so chill and very pretty.

"Someone Like You" - Adele
I'm slightly obsessed with her new album, and this is my favorite of the whole cd.  A beautiful song.  Daniel sounds pretty cute singing the chorus ;)

"Parachute" - Ingrid Michaelson
It's a pretty big departure from your typical Ingrid Michaelson, but it works and it's fun to sing along to.

"Transatlanticism" - Death Cab for Cutie
This was the song I listened to all the time when I was in Hamburg for three months in college.  It's still one of my go-to songs when I'm missing the states and my family.

"Canvas" - Imogen Heap
I love her music.  This song is so great.

"Blood Bank" - Bon Iver
I can't get enough of Bon Iver.  This song is often stuck in my head.

"Wake Up" - The Arcade Fire
An amazing song.  Hearing it on the preview for "Where the Wild Things Are" made me want to see that movie.

"Norwegian Wood" - The Beatles
I don't think this one needs an explanation.

"Paris (Ooh La La)" - Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
I downloaded this before we drove to Paris for Christmas.  It's a really fun song.

"Cosmic Love" - Florence + the Machine
I love the epic feel to this song.

Okay, that's probably enough for now.  I listen to A LOT of music, so there are plenty of songs making the rotation these days.  ;)

Corned Beef

Will and I caught an episode of Alton Brown's show on Food Network around this time last year.  He was making his own corned beef.  We decided that the next (this) St. Patrick's Day would be a great chance to try making our own corned beef.  Well, yesterday I made the brine and trimmed the massive 8.5 lb brisket we bought from the commissary.  It's insanely easy.  The biggest issue for us was the fact that our commissary isn't very well stocked with herbs and spices, so we had to go looking at the German store, Real.  We love Real, but spices have VERY different names in German than they do in English.  We spent a good twenty minutes in the spice aisle before we left with the correct spices. 

We're celebrating St. Patrick's Day a couple of days after the 17th because I'm going in for another sleep study on the actual holiday.  The beef needs to sit in the brine for 10 days.  I'll be posting a follow-up once it's done in the brine and it's been cooked and served.  It's a five star recipe on Food Network and it has 57 reviews.  Pretty impressive, Alton ;) 


  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons saltpeter  *We used Morton's Meat Tenderizer*
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 8 whole allspice berries
  • 12 whole juniper berries
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 pounds ice
  • 1 (4 to 5 pound) beef brisket, trimmed *In my case, 8.5lbs, so I did 1.5 of everything in the recipe*
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped


Place the water into a large 6 to 8 quart stockpot along with salt, sugar, saltpeter, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, juniper berries, bay leaves and ginger. Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the ice. Stir until the ice has melted. If necessary, place the brine into the refrigerator until it reaches a temperature of 45 degrees F. Once it has cooled, place the brisket in a 2-gallon zip top bag and add the brine. Seal and lay flat inside a container *I had to use a rubbermaid container and use a smaller container to weigh down the meat because it wouldn't fit in any ziplock bag*, cover and place in the refrigerator for 10 days. Check daily to make sure the beef is completely submerged and stir the brine.
After 10 days, remove from the brine and rinse well under cool water. Place the brisket into a pot just large enough to hold the meat, add the onion, carrot and celery and cover with water by 1-inch. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Remove from the pot and thinly slice across the grain.

*My notes in asterisks

Side Note:

Will brought these home for me yesterday :)  Such a sweet thing to do.  I am spoiled.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dulce de Leche Cupcakes

I stumbled upon this website the other day and found a recipe for Dulce de Leche cupcakes and decided that I needed to try them.  Baking has been interesting here due to the way the oven in our house works.  It's basically a glorified broiler, so I'm having to learn a bit along the way.

A friend came over and helped me make these.  First, we tried the old fashioned method for making dulce de leche which involves poking some holes on the top of a can of sweetened condensed milk and letting it simmer in a pot of water for hours, but it didn't work out so well for some reason.  Then, I stood over the stove stirring the condensed milk for over an hour to make dulce de leche, but I made it too thick.  Once it cooled it was more like dulce de leche fudge.  It tasted amazing, but it was not going to work for frosting.    The third, and final method, was pouring condensed milk into a microwave safe container and microwaving it in very small increments of time until it became dulce de leche.  This method worked, but made my microwave an absolute nightmare to clean.  *All that to say* If you live near a store that has dulce de leche in a jar, I would definitely take advantage of it!  :)  If you're like me and can't find a jar of dulce de leche anywhere near you, here's a link to an article that tells you all of the different ways to make it. 

Here's the recipe:


3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup dulce de leche, plus more for drizzling
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar

Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper or foil liners.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add butter and sugars.  Beat on medium speed until fluffy and pale brown, about 3 minutes.   Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add one egg.  Beat on medium for one minute.  Add the remaining eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute between each addition.  Stop the bowl and scrape down the sides as necessary. Beat in vanilla extract.

Add half of the flour mixture to the egg and butter mixture.  Beat on low speed and slowly drizzle in the buttermilk.  Beat until just incorporated.  Stop the mixer, scrape down the bowl and add the rest of the dry ingredients.  Beat on low speed until just incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and finish incorporating with a spatula.  Try not to over mix the mixture.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake pans, filling each liner about two thirds full.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of one of the cakes comes out clean.  Let rest in the cupcake pans before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cupcakes should be completely cooled before frosting.

To make the frosting:

Place cream cheese in the bowl of an electric stand mixer.  Beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds, until very soft and pliable.  Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the butter and dulce de leche.  Beat on medium speed until well incorporated.  Stop the mixer and add the salt and powdered sugar.  Beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until fluffy and lighter in color. Generously spoon frosting on top of cupcakes, or use a large frosting tip to pipe on frosting.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Let's try this again...

Ok.  I'm starting to feel semi-settled in Germany, so I suppose it's a good time to get back to the business of blogging!  I'll be posting pictures of the inside of our new home around the end of the month.  I am waiting on some canvas prints of pictures I've taken to put up on the walls.

Once I really start baking and cooking I'm planning on posting some recipes here from time to time. 

In an attempt to get back into the swing of things I'm going to post a recent picture and 15 facts about me.

1.  I am a nerd....some of you may already be privy to this information ;)
2.  I am the youngest of three children. 
3.  I have always wanted to live in Europe.  We (Will) joined the AF because we were hoping to get the chance to live in Europe. 
4.  I am insanely proud of my husband.  If you give me an opening to talk about him, you might regret it because I can talk your ear off on that subject.  He is the most intelligent, witty, and amazing guy I know. 
5.  I have two children and they are hilarious.  In some ways they're SO alike, but in many ways, they are polar opposites.  I kind of like it that way.
6.  I randomly get the theme song from Lord of the Rings stuck in my head.  I seriously end up walking around humming it almost daily.
7.  Thanks to the way my brain works, it is VERY easy to get a song stuck in my head.  My husband thinks that it is the funniest thing in the world to get super annoying songs stuck in my head...I do not appreciate this ;)
8.  I am quirky. 
9.  I love to act, but I haven't done it in years.  I am hoping to be able to get back into community theater at some point.
10.  I really want to get my nose pierced, but my husband thinks that it's really gross, so I won't ;)
11.  I really love to travel and hope to do a ton of it while living in Germany. 
12.  My favorite shows are Arrested Development, Flight of the Conchords, The Office, 30 Rock, Parks & Rec, Modern Family, etc.
13.  I am totally OCD about the way I play the game Solitaire.  It's weird, and I know that.  I'm pretty sure that if someone who didn't know me watched me play Solitaire, they would worry about me. 
14.  I love comedies.  If you ask what I'd like to watch, 9 times out of 10 I'm going to say a comedy.  I love Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Will finds my nerdy love for those movies endearing...thank goodness!
15.  Our recent visit to Prague was on my "Bucket List."  I am 25% Czech and my family came from Prague, so it was a really big deal to me.  I loved being there!  What an incredible city :)