Linzer Augen

While I was growing up, my family didn’t do much Christmas decorating during December. We saved that for Christmas Eve. However, we did bake up a storm in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Gingerbread, sugar cookies, “Linzer Augen” and a half dozen other traditional Austrian baked goods. Linzer Cookies come from the city of Linz, Austria which happens to be where I was born. So they’re a little bit of my heritage in sugar form.

I’ve adjusted my mom’s original German recipe to be in American measurements instead of grams. They’re easy and yummy. The trickiest part of these cookies is making sure they don’t burn. The bake time is 7-10 minutes, and ideally they should just have a hint of brown around the edges. Keep an eye on these stinkers, they’ll get dark quicker than you’d expect. Other than that, I can’t think of a way you could mess these up.

Turn on some tunes and cozy on up for a fun time filled with baking and delicious smells.


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  •  Ingredients:
    • 2 1/3 c. flour
    • 1 1/4 c. almond flour or finely ground almonds
    • 1/2 c. sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp butter
    • 1 pinch salt
    • jam, currant jam is traditional, but raspberry is common in the States
    • powdered sugar to sprinkle on top
  • Directions:
    1. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl if needed.
    2. Add the egg and beat.
    3. Meanwhile, combine together the flour, almonds, and salt.
    4. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix.
    5. Refrigerate dough until firm, about 1 hour.
    6. Preheat oven to 400°F.
    7. On a lightly floured surface, roll half the dough out until it’s about 1/8″-thick
    8. Use a 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter (or drinking glass), cut out cookies.
    9. Cut out a small circle or other shape out of the center of half the cookie rounds
    10. Transfer rounds to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
    11. Gather the scrap dough, roll, and repeat.
    12. Bake all of the cookies for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to turn brown. Keep a careful eye on them after 7 minutes as they can go from lightly browned to dark in less than a minute.
    13. Let them cool for a couple minutes on the pan, then transfer to a rack
    14. Spread  1/2 tsp of jam on solid cookies.
    15. Top each with one of the cutout cookies to make a tiny cookie-jam-cookie sandwich.
    16. Sprinkle all the cookies with powdered sugar to finish.

Prost! Mahlzeit!

Essie

Roasted Root Veggies

This a classic common sense recipe. By that I mean, there really isn’t a recipe and you should probably learn this and add it to your portfolio of skills. It’s easy, delicious and can be adjusted to match many meals.

It’s perfect for daily dinners or if you splurge on some multi-colored carrots it can be fancy enough for gatherings and holiday dinners. I love drizzling this with some balsamic glaze or throwing a handful of leftover veggies on a salad the next day for lunch.

I’ve included rough ingredient estimates because I don’t think I’ve ever measured them.


  • Ingredients:
    • 4ish cups root veggies: carrots, sweet potatoes, red, yellow, purple potatoes, etc.
    • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
    • salt
    • pepper
  • Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2. Chop your veggies into 1-2 inch cubes/chunks.
      • Note: The smaller you cut, the faster they cook. If I’m in a big hurry, I chop them tiny to cut the cooking time down as much as possible.
    3. Toss the veggies with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and any additional spices you want.
    4. Spread them out on a lined baking sheet and bake 25-35 minutes,
      • Note: You’re looking for the insides to be soft when poked with a fork and outsides that are slightly shriveled/crisped.
  • Alternate variations:
    • mix it up with some different combos.
      • garlic powder and smoked paprika
      • rosemary and basil
      • apples and onion
      • lemon pepper and chives
      • cayenne and chili powder
      • add some sausage straight to the pan and make it a full pan dinner
      • the variations are endless, go crazy with them!

 

Prost! Mahlzeit!
Esther

Kinderpunsch on St. Nikolaus Day

Happy St. Nikolaus Day!

St. Nikolaus and I had a rocky start to our friendship. In southern German and Austrian homes, St. Nikolaus comes for a visit, bringing gifts in exchange for songs and kisses.

My first encounter with him at our door was when I was two. My poor father, who was in fact the man underneath the St. Nikolaus costume, still tells the story about how “pure terror” filled little Essie’s eyes when he came in the door. Even with his fake white beard removed, this is still the best picture my mom was able to snap:

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In case you’re worried I always rewarded my parents’ efforts to create special traditions and memories for their children with fear and ingratitude, I offer these pictures that later years were more successful and smile-filled:

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However, since I don’t live with my parents anymore and I have yet to convince Dave, my husband, to dress up as an Armenian Bishop, our St. Nikolaus Day celebration will be more low key. It’ll include some popcorn, Kinderpunsch, and cozy Advent candles.

Kinderpunsch is a hot beverage served in steaming mugs at German and Austrian Christmas markets. This non-alcoholic alternative to Glühwein is a mixture of cider, juice and tea.

Three years ago, Dave and I spent Christmas overseas with my Austrian relatives and visited as many of the markets as possible. We made a point to buy a Punsch at each one and kept the mugs as souvenir. Every Advent I love unpacking our little mug collection and making this Kinderpunsch recipe as a cozy tradition.


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  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup orange juice
    • 1 cup apple cider
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1 bag hibiscus tea
    • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • Instructions:
    1. Heat juice, cider, water and cinnamon to a simmer.
    2. Add tea bags for 2-3 minutes.
    3. Remove tea bags.
    4. Add honey.
    5. Allow to simmer for at least 10 minutes. You can just keep it on the stove quietly simmering while it fills your home with amazing smells.
    6. To serve, fill into cozy Christmas mugs and sip with loved ones, preferably with a lit candle or two or ten.
  • Serves: 2 (I highly recommend tripling or quadrupling this in a huge vat and enjoying it every evening this week)

Prost!

Essie

 

Apple Crisp

Just a month ago, we were drowning under one of Michigan’s biggest apple crops. My mother sent me home with buckets and buckets from her tree. We made more apple sauce, pies and crisps than we could possibly eat. We may have even been a little sick of apples, though we didn’t want to admit it because they were so good.

Finally, we threw out hands up in the air and just started freezing them. My mom has one of those handy dandy peelers that does it all for you. We’d get them all peeled, cored, and cut, stick them in bags and freeze them. This is by far my new favorite way to process fall apples. It’s been so nice to grab a bag or two and make baked apple goodies whenever I want.

Seasonal cooking means we use what currently grows and is ripe. However, we also put away some of that bounty to enjoy later. This apple crisp is ideal for apples that aren’t perfect or pretty to look at, like previously frozen ones, seconds or just a little older.

I’ve been perfecting this recipe all fall, so it truly is the best. All goopy and bubbly and just the right amount of sweetness without overshadowing apples’ natural flavor.


  •  Ingredients:
    • Crumb topping:
      • 1/4 cup flour
      • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
      • 1/4 cup sugar
      • 1/2 tsp baking powder
      • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
      • 1/3 cup butter diced into small chunks
    • Apple filling:
      • 4-6 cups apples, peeled and cut
      • 4 tbsp butter
      • 1 tbsp flour
      • 1 tbsp lemon juice
      • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
      • 1/4 cup sugar
      • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    2. Sift together all crumb topping ingredients except butter until well mixed.
    3. Add butter and incorporate with hands or fork until crumbly. Set aside.
    4. To make the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan or in the microwave.
    5. Add the flour, lemon juice, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon. Mix well.
    6. Pour over the apples and stir until the apples are well covered.
    7. Dump apples into a baking dish (pie plate, 8×8, etc).
    8. Crumble the topping over it.
    9. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until apples are bubbly and topping is toasty.

Mahlzeit!

Essie

 

Dressed Up Turkey Sandwich

With turkey day tomorrow, I just had to share one of my all time favorite sandwiches. I really hope your turkey is so huge you’ll have leftovers for weeks and weeks. When you have that many leftovers you get sick of the same flavors over and over again. In case that happens here’s the perfect change up.

Brie and Apples. They’re like flavor soulmates. When you add balsamic glaze, a bite of onion, and some mild turkey, avocado, and naan, it’s like the two started a family, dressed all the kids in their Sunday best, and everyone gets along. Exactly the sort of thing you want around the holidays.

Once you know how much you love these flavors together, it’s easy to switch them up and incorporate them into a salad, wrap, omelette or anything else you might dream up.

Give it a try and thank me later.


  • Ingredients:
    • 2 pieces naan bread
    • 1 cup shredded turkey (or 8 slices deli turkey)
    • 1 sweet apple, sliced
    • 4 oz brie cheese, sliced
    • 1 avocado, sliced
    • 2-4 green onions, chopped
    • 1 cup spinach
    • dried cranberries
    • balsamic glaze
  • Directions:
    1. Preheat your oven or toaster oven to broil.
    2. Lay naan flat on a cookie sheet. Stack turkey, apple and brie (in that order) on one half of each bread.
    3. Toast in the oven until brie is melty and naan is warm.
    4. Pile avocado, green onions, spinach, and dried cranberries on top of brie.
    5. Drizzle balsamic glaze over it all, then fold second half of naan over the toppings. Nom.
  • Alternative: Dressed Up Turkey Salad
    1. Chop and warm turkey, apple and brie on cookie sheet.
    2. Pile on top of a bowl of greens along with the rest of the ingredients.
    3. Use balsamic glaze or a balsamic dressing to dress.