Sunday, December 20, 2009

Beef Bourguignon

Last summer Sarah and I saw the movie Julie & Julia. It's a movie about a woman named Julie living in New York City and Julia of Julia Child fame. Julie was feeling lost and decided she needed to do something to give her some direction in her life. She decided to cook her way through Julia Child's famous book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in the span of one year. That, my friends, is 524 recipes in 365 days. Julie did find the direction she was so desperately seeking and did indeed complete all of the recipes in that cookbook in one year. At the same time the movie follows Julia Child and her quest to find her direction in life. The audience learns where Julia's passion for cooking came from and how she came to write her first cookbook. The movie was excellent and I highly recommend it.

The one recipe that stood out to me was Julia's classic dish Boeuf Bourguignon. I fully intended to go home and cook that recipe myself. I certainly couldn't cook 524 recipes but I thought one was doable. I even looked the original recipe up and bookmarked it. Intentions didn't get me very far because until now I hadn't tried it.

As fate would have it on the way home from Germany I watched the movie again. And again I was determined to try Julia's famous beef dish. Not a week after we got home I was reading through the Sunday paper and what recipe should be featured but Beef Bourguignon! An easy version of Beef Bourguignon. But the one thing that caught my eye was this Beef Bourguignon dish was supposed to be served over mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes!! That sealed the deal.

Today was the day.

The cast of characters were assembled.


First things first. Bacon is browned. Seriously, what can go wrong if bacon is involved?


The beef was cubed, seasoned and then suffered the same fate as the bacon.

Then it was the vegetable's turn.


So far so good.


Oh no, I've just read through the recipe. It will be eight o'clock before my Beef Bourguignon is done. What to do? Hold it for tomorrow. There is no way I can wait that long to eat. Besides aren't soups and stews better the next day?

But first I combine the beef and vegetables and let them simmer in a bottle of wine (yes one bottle of wine) for an hour and a half. Then it's off to the refrigerator to wait until tomorrow.


I have to say the house smells incredible. I can't wait until tomorrow to finish and eat my first attempt at Beef Bourguignon.

to be continued...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Butter-Pecan Kringle

Brother has been posting left and right showcasing his cooking abilities. I thought it was about time I posted a baking post. He's not the only one in the family who knows his way around a kitchen.

A couple of weeks ago Dave brought some pecans home from his office that were a gift from a vendor. The women in the office decided that the best thing to do with them was to send them home with Dave and let me bake something for them. I was all about that. Especially since that very week King Arthur's blog, The Baker's Banter, had showcased a recipe starring of all things pecans. It was meant to be.

Today's experiment in baking is a Butter-Pecan Kringle. From what I understand this is a Wisconsin treat found in many bakeries at Christmas time. Is that true, Brother? I read the blog post and determined that this recipe was doable. After reading through the comments I determined I would make one change involving my one of favorite products. More on that later.

The cast of characters minus that favorite product. More on that later.

butter-pecan kringle, 12.09

First things first. I needed to make the base which is essentially a pie dough. It's then formed into a ring on a parchment covered baking sheet. Notice it is essential that an official '72 Reds ruler is used to make that perfect sized circle. Essential.

butter-pecan kringle, 12.09

Next I made a pastry topping and spread it over my perfectly formed pastry ring. Thank you, '72 Reds ruler.

butter-pecan kringle, 12.09

It baked in the oven for about an hour and came out a nice golden color. So far so good.

butter-pecan kringle, 12.09

Now it was time for my secret ingredient.

butter-pecan kringle, 12.09

The original recipe called for caramels. After reading through the blog comments it seemed that after the caramels were melted and spread on the kringle the resulting caramel topping was somewhat hard. Dulce de leche to the rescue. I'll just make my own caramel. The only problem was the boiling time. I decided to try three hours and see if it would thicken up enough to make a nice thick coating on the kringle. I opened my can and poured it on my perfectly formed pastry ring. Ummmm. Could have used some more boiling time. The taste was a ten, the spreading consistency a seven. I would have like it to stick a little bit more. The next time I will try boiling the milk for four hours.

After the caramel came the pecans.

butter-pecan kringle, 12.09

One last step. A glaze drizzled over the top and my kringle was done.

butter-pecan kringle, 12.09

I have to give it a nine. The next time I will try to make a thicker caramel and thicker glaze. Other than that though it was really good. I understand Dave's office really enjoyed it.

If you are interested in recreating this Wisconsin treat yourself the recipe can be found at the Baker's Banter,

Happy Baking!

butter=pecan kringle, 12.09

Saturday, December 12, 2009


It took me a little longer than planned and few more emails to my not that much younger sister than planned but I have finished my first quilt. Well not really my first.

This is the first quilt I ever made.


The funny thing is I don't remember when I made it. I think it was when we were living in Custer's hometown the second time. I don't even remember why I decided to make it and why I never made another one. When I took it off the shelf today to take a photo I noticed that I had even taken the time to hand quilt it. Why? I don't know. So many unanswered questions.

A few years later when Sarah graduated from high school I decided to make a quilt for her. It is composed of pictures of her and her friends. I even had her friends write messages on it for her. I do remember making it and it came out fairly well considering I just made it up as I went. Sorry no photo because it resides in western Michigan.

My not that much younger sister talks me into many things and the latest was that I should try making another quilt. After looking around the internet it was obvious that things had changed in the intervening years. I really liked what I saw and decided it was time to take up quilting for the third time. After all the third time's a charm. Or so I've heard.

Modern quilts can be very colorful and graphic. Though the basic construction hasn't changed all that much some of the "rules" have. Now many people don't wash their fabrics before sewing. They wait until they are finished and then wash and dry the quilt so it becomes all soft and crinkly. As far as patterns, almost anything goes from classic to modern freeform.

Armed with all of my newfound knowledge it was time to sew. Here is the result.


I made a few mistakes and my quilting lines could probably be a little straighter but I think it turned out pretty well. I really like the orange binding. Have I said how much I like orange?


Another big change is now people put as much time into the back of their quilts as the front. Frequently leftover material is used to do a simple design on the back. I used all of my leftover fabric to do this simple stripe on the back.


It has been through the washer and dryer and now Jo and I are enjoying it in our chair. There is nothing better than a warm fire, warm dog and warm quilt on a cold winter's night.

I had planned on making a quilt for Sarah next but the fabric she picked out has just started to show up in the quilt shops. I've ordered it but while I am waiting I have started another quilt. I bought this as a kit and am in love with the colors. I can't wait to see what it looks like when I get all of the quilt blocks sewn together.


I will keep you posted as I make progress on my current quilt.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Christkindl Markt

After two 1000 mile weekends in the car and a five day trip to Germany I think I have finally recovered. That is a lot of miles in a short amount of time.

Our flight to Germany was fast. We must have had some good tail winds because we made the flight in 6 1/2 hours. The flight back took over 8. Like I said we must have had some good tail winds going over. We landed about 6 AM and sailed through customs. Our only glitch came with our luggage. Dave's showed up buy mine was nowhere to be seen. While talking with an attendant who assured us my luggage was somewhere in the airport I happened to glance at the neighboring luggage carousel. I found my suitcase merrily circling with the luggage from a Singapore flight.

Our friend Hardy picked us up and took us back to his house for a typical German breakfast. Bread, cheese, meat and fruit. It was most welcome and very good. He then invited us to attend church with he and his wife. Our goal was to stay up all day, even though we had slept only two hours on the plane, so that seemed like a plan. Luckily part of the service was in English but after the first hour even the English wasn't helping us stay awake. That last half hour was hard. His church is located in an old army base. He gave us a tour which included a bunker. I can say I have never been in a bunker before. It was very quiet. And dark.

Hardy and his wife Dorka decided to take us to a traditional Christmas Market (Christkindl Markt) in the afternoon. Christmas markets have been a tradition in Germany for centuries. Almost every town has one and some larger cities have many Christmas Markets scattered throughout their cities. The markets open in late November and run through Christmas Eve. They feature food and more food. Also many Christmas crafts can be found for sale.

We headed to the nearby town of Wetzlar. What I learned during my time in Germany is that the towns are very pedestrian friendly. In fact, some areas of the downtowns are for people only. I liked that.

wetzlar, germany, 12.09

As Christmas Markets go this one was very small. In fact our hosts were disappointed for us. It consisted mostly of food stalls and very few crafts. But look at that food. You know Dave liked this stall.

christmas market, wetzlar, germany, 12.09

It looks even better in color.

wetzlar, germany, 12.09

We even found chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

wetzlar, germany, 12.09

Even though we had already had lunch Dave did indulge in some Gluhwein (hot, mulled wine). We also enjoyed some cheese samples from a cheese maker from Switzerland.

dave, wetzlar, germany, 12.09

I liked the snow on the booths.

christmas market, wetzlar, germany, 12.09

Here's a peek of the buildings that were outside of the Market.

wetzlar, germany, 12.09

There was one wood carver at the Christmas Market.

christmas market, wetzlar, germany, 12.09

After touring the Market we walked around town for a bit.

wetzlar, germany, 12.09

The one thing that astounded us was the age of the buildings. 1599! We weren't even a country yet.

wetzlar, germany, 12.09

wetzar, germany, 12.09

Here we are with our friend Hardy.

dave, carrie, hardy, germany, 12.09

German stores aren't open on Sundays but it was fun to look at the window displays.

wetzlar, germany, 12.09

This is the Dom, Collegiate Church of St Mary.

The sandstone cathedral of St. Mary was commenced in the 12th century as a Romanesque building. In the later Middle Ages the construction was continued under a masterplan in Gothic style. The church was never finished, as one steeple still is uncompleted. The cathedral suffered heavy damage in the Second World War by aerial bombing, but was restored in the 1950s.

the Dom, wetzlar, germany, 12.09

After dinner with our hosts we headed back to our hotel. We were tired. We managed to stay up until 9 PM and then called it a night. Strangely we both woke up at 1 AM and couldn't go back to sleep. So we spent a couple of hours in the middle of the night surfing the net and reading. Jet lag is hard. We eventually fell back asleep and woke up in the morning somewhat rested.

We enjoyed a traditional German breakfast downstairs and we were ready to start our day.

About Me

My photo
I'm strange, but I've got a great sister!

Newton's Cradle