Weihnachtsplätzchen (German Christmas Cookies) - MERRY CHRISTMAS

After seeing how many different christmas cookies my friend Nick baked, I kinda wanted to try it as well... I used this nice little German cookie recipe book ("Weihnachtsplätzchen - alle Jahre wieder") for some "Streuselherzen" (chocolate cookies with blueberry jam topping and butter crumbles), "Nougatstangen" (chocolate cookies with nougat filling and chocolate icing), and "Himbeersterne" (cookies with raspberry icing). Also, my Mom had a nice recipe for some "Spitzbuben" (jam filled cookies). And last but not least, I baked some hazelnut-almond macaroons that I already tried last year.


Ingredients (for ca. 80 cookies):

200g butter (soft)  -   100g powdered sugar   -   2 tablespoon vanilla sugar  -  2 egg yolks  -  100g ground almonds (white, blanched)  -  230g flour (+ some more for rolling out the dough)
Topping: powdered sugar for dusting  -  50g raspberry jam  -  1 tablespoon rum 

Note: Best to use "white" ground almonds, those are "blanched", meaning that the skin of the almonds was removed before grounding. Therefore the ground almonds look really white (or yellowish) and clean and the cookies will be very light as well.


Preheat oven to: 
"Umluft" (circulating air) - 160 (celsius)/ 320 (fahrenheit) degree
"Ober-/Unterhitze" (top/bottom heat) - 175 (celsius) / 350 (fahrenheit) degree
  1. Whisk butter, powder sugar, vanilla sugar and egg yolks till creamy. Fold in almonds and flour and knead to a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
  2. Line baking tray with baking paper. Dust working space with flour and roll out dough to 3 milimeter thickness. Cut out round shaped cookies, half of them with a whole in the middle (or similar cut out shape). Place on the baking tray and bake for 8-10 minutes till golden brown. Take the baking tray out of the oven and let cookies cool down completely. 
  3. Prepare the filling by heating up the jam, stir and add the rum. Spread the warm jam onto the cookies without whole. Dust the cookies with wholes with powder sugar. Assemble cookies, a jam topped bottom cookie with a powdered sugar dusted top cookie with whole.


Ingredients (for ca. 80 cookies):

250g flour (+ some more for rolling out the dough) -  1 tablespoon cocoa  -  1 tablespoon baking powder  -  60g sugar  -  1 egg  -  125 butter (soft)

Topping: 250g blueberry jam  -  1 tablespoon rum  
Crumbles: 75g melted butter   -  125 flour  -  30g sugar  -  2 tablespoon vanilla sugar


Preheat oven to: 
"Umluft" (circulating air) - 180 (celsius)/ 355 (fahrenheit) degree
"Ober-/Unterhitze" (top/bottom heat) - 200 (celsius) / 390 (fahrenheit) degree
  1. Mix flour, cocoa, baking powder, sugar, egg and butter by hand and knead to a ball of dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
  2. Line baking tray with baking paper. Dust working space with flour and roll out dough to 3 milimeter thickness. Cut out heart shaped cookies (star shapes look great as well). Place on the baking tray.
  3. Prepare the toppings. Warm up the blueberry jam and mix in the rum. Place a little bit of the jam in the middle of each cookie. Mix the melted butter, flour, sugar and vanilla sugar by hand. It should have a crumbly consistency, if not, add some more flour. Scatter some of the crumbles on top of the jam on the cookie. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, till the crumbles turn a little golden. Take out the tray and let cool down completely before storing the cookies into a cookie tin.



Ingredients (for ca. 80 cookies):

250g butter (soft)  -  100g powdered sugar  -  2 eggs  -  200g flour  -  40g cocoa  -  1/2 tablespoon baking powder  -  120g ground almonds  -  100g nougat creme (filling)  -  200g bittersweet chocolate (icing)


Preheat oven to: 
"Umluft" (circulating air) - 180 (celsius)/ 355 (fahrenheit) degree
"Ober-/Unterhitze" (top/bottom heat) - 200 (celsius) / 390 (fahrenheit) degree
  1. Whip butter, powdered sugar and eggs to a foamy consistency. Mix in flour, cocoa, baking powder and almonds. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Fill the dough into a piping bag with a big star tip. Pipe 4-6 cm long thin bars (a circular shape of about 3 cm diameter or a S-shape is also nice). Bake for 8-10 minutes. Take the tray out and let cool down completely before filling them. 
  2. Heat up the nougat and the chocolate in two separate bowls. Use baking nougat that comes as a hard block of nougat. If that is not available, you can also use Nutella. Take one of the baked bars and spread a little bit of nougat on it (just a thin layer), then place another cookie bar on top (like you would glue them together). Dip the assembled cookie bar with one end into the chocolate. Let cool down.


Ingredients (for 100 cookies):

250g flour (+ some more for rolling out the dough)  -  125g sugar  -  125g butter (soft)  -  1 egg  
Icing 1 (dark pink): 100g powdered sugar  -  2 tablespoons lemon juice  - 1 tablespoon water  -  1 tablespoon raspberry jam
Icing 2 (light rosa with a red middle):  100g powdered sugar  -  2 tablespoon lemon juice  -  1 tablespoon water  -  1 teasppon rasperry jam


Preheat oven to: 
"Umluft" (circulating air) - 180 (celsius)/ 355 (fahrenheit) degree
"Ober-/Unterhitze" (top/bottom heat) - 200 (celsius) / 390 (fahrenheit) degree
  1. Mix together flour, sugar, butter and egg by hand and form a ball of dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
  2. Line baking tray with baking paper. Dust working space with flour and roll out dough to 3-5 milimeter thickness. Cut out star shaped cookies (heart shapes look great as well). Place on the baking tray and bake for 8-10 minutes till golden brown. Take out of the oven and let cool down.
  3. Icing 1 (dark pink): Mix together powdered sugar, lemon juice, water and raspberry jam till everything is smooth. The icing should look really pink. Spread on top of the cookies. You don't need to warm up the jam or put it through a sieve to remove the seeds. The seeds actually look like sprinkles in the dark pink icing.
  4. Icing 2 (light rosa with a red middle): Heat up the jam, then sift it through a sieve to remove the raspberry seeds. Mix the powdered sugar with the lemon juice, water and 1/2 teaspoon of the warm smooth jam till everything is smooth. The icing should be a light pink, rather on the white side. Spread on the cookies. Now, use the remaining jam and place a tiny little drop of it in the middle of each cookie. Use a tooth pick and pull it through the drop a few times into different directions.

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A little Pub Crawl Guide through Portland...

This little "guide" is inspired by my recent visit to PDX and our food and pub adventures there. However, I should mention that we did not go to all these bars in one night. Well, we did a pretty thorough job going down memory lane during my last night there though, at least hitting one bar in each area (Portland Cider House, Shanghai Tunnels, Voodo Doghnuts, North 45 Pub, Muu-Muu's) :)

Also, this is of course not an all comprehensive list. Portland has so many cute little pubs/bars and many neighborhoods that I have not really explored. I just love the Northwest and its craft beers and micro-brewery character.

This is a small selection of pubs that I believe are definitely noteworthy :)

Start in Hawthorne 

Portland Cider House

We start in Howthorne as it is a cute little area with lots of nice food places and bars. The Cider House is the first to mention as it really left an impression. Portland Cider Co. was etablished in 2012 by an English wife and her Oregonian husband. They tried to combine the English cider tradition with Northwest's micro-brewering character. This resulted in two taprooms, one in Clackamas and one in Hawthorne, the Portland Cider House. They have about 28 ciders on tap and offer flights as well as growlers. Well, as I have troubles chosing, I immediately fell in love with the flights! I also do love cider. This was the perfect place for me to start our night out :)

Bazi Bierbrasserie

This is actually also a bar that I went to for the first time. It's a taproom with a nice open patio for outdoor seating. They have a nice selection of Belgian-style beer but as you can see, you can of course also find some fancier drinks. And they have really nice bartenders ;)

Ranger Station

This place is actually a great bar to end the night. What we actually did on several occasions when we stayed in the Hawthorne area :) What I really like about this place, is that they are a cozy little bar with frequent live music. They have a little stage up front and very diverse musicians. Once, they played some Irish folk songs which was nice. While I actually never have tried the food, it is supposed to be good as well. They have a rotating menu, use local ingredients and prepare their condiments in house, smoke the meat in the back, pickle their own vegetables, etc. The owners tried to incorporate their love for the outdoor, food, music, and the Northwest Pacific and I believe it shows :)

Food stop: Cubo (El Cubo de Cuba)

I would recommend not to forget to eat while you are hitting the pubs. While you can get food in most of these places, I wanted to mention "Cubo" as another option in Hawthorne. This was another first for me :) Cubo started as a food cart in 2010 by a Havana born musician and an American artist. They serve really flavorful authentic Cuban food. The bowls are highly recommendable and include yellow rice, black beans, fresh avocado, mango and delicious tostones (fried salty green plantains) and maduros (fried sweet plantains).  

Go Downtown 

Shanghai Tunnels 

The Shanghai Tunnels are Old Portland's Underground. It's a group of passages underneath Old Town/ Chinatown and used to connect the basements of many hotels at the waterfront in order to move ship goods underground. They were also used in the 1800s by Chinese gangs and were connected to gambling dens, brothels, opium parlors. Since the mid 19th century, stories of "shanghaiing" in Portland have been told - the capture and illegal sale of able-bodied men to sea captains in need of crew members... Victims were drugged, kignapped, and dragged into the tunnels and held captive till they were shipped... 

The "Shanghai Tunnel Bar" is a famous underground bar since 1994 in that area with the feeling of being underground, in a tunnel with pipe lines above, etc. The actual Shanghai Tunnels are nearby and tours are available. A very interesting atmosphere :) The bar has a nice beer and cider selection, good pub food, and you can play pinball... A famous stop when you are downtown.

Voodoo Doughnuts

This is a little doghnut shop in Old Town Portland, but it is so much more... It's the go to place for a sweet midnight snack after hitting a few bars. The line is usually pretty long but trust me, it goes fast and it's worth it... That place is known for the special unusual doughnuts and the eclectic decor of pink boxes, chandeliers, illustrations of voodoo priests, etc. Some of the famous doughnuts are the Voodoo Doll (a rectangual doughnut with arms, filled with raspberry jelly, covered with a chocolate frosting and a preztle stake...), the Bacon Maple Bar (maple frosting with bacon on top), and the Old Dirty Bastard (a round doughnut without hole, with chocolate frosting, oreo cookies, and peanut butter drizzle).

Continue in the 23rd NW District

North 45 Pub

I would say that this bar is a little fancier in its style. The proprietors, two "travel mates", actually call it an "upscale travel pub". They did not want to be labeled as a standard Irish or English pub. Interestingly, they got inspried to the name as the bar is located on the 45 parellel which is a nice fun fact :) They also have a cute little patio in the back and they have a huge selection of about 150 different whiskey bottles that can be seen behind the bar. However, they also have a nice selection of local craft beer and other drinks as well. Another noteworthy fact is their fancy menu. They are famous for their mussels and fries. I do love their mac & cheese though. They put crispy slices of spring onions on top which gives it a nice crunch :)


Muu-Muu's is a great neighborhood bar with a nice atmosphere, great food options, and it is open late. I really like their seating options, they have these nice little booths for more privacy. And their motto is "comfort food from around the world". So, you really don't get your standard pub fare. You can order small tapas or a good variety of bigger plates including sandwiches, salads, but also main dishes such as a green coconut curry, Shanghai shredded pork, Cajun chicken penne, enchiladas, etc. This is also a good place to end a long night :)

Portland's "La Petite Provence"

After two years, I finally was able to visit my friends from my time in Portland again :) I had an amazing few days full of culinary adventures, specialty drinks and flights, a handful of familiar and also new bars, girls time with fancy nail painting, and a night down memory lane :)

One of my highlights was the return to this special little brunch place, La Petite Provence. My friend had found it when she moved to that neighborhood and had introduced me to it. It's exactly my type of place - cute and adorable :) As the name indicates, it's a French style bakery and patisserie. They have an inhouse bakery and offer lots of different sweet and savory croissants, brioches, puff pastries, little desserts, macaroons, cakes and cookies, etc. They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner menues, but I have always chosen to go there for brunch.

Their breakfast menu:

  • Each breakfast comes with a deliciously fresh baked croissant with homemade jam. Unfortunately, croissants were already out when we arrived for brunch. However, we were allowed to pick any other pastry from the selection :) 
  • Many of the savory breakfast dishes are also accompanied by "Provencal Potatoes & Butternut Squash" which I find a very interesting and tasty choise. 
  • Their menu includes different kinds of hashes (a special favorite is the "Wild Northwest Salmon Hash"), different kinds of eggs benedict (including my favorite - the vegetarian option "Eggs Provencal"), omelettes, scrambles, oatmeal, and sweet options such as the Banana French Toast and Berry Crepes.

Mimosa Flights!

This was something new. They now are offering Bloody Mary and Mimosa flights! I am not a big fan of Bloody Marys, but I do love my sparkling juice and I do love flights. Whoever knows me, knows that I do love to try as many options as possible, so flights are perfect ;) Mimosas are basically prosecco with juice (originally citrus juice such as orange or grapefruit juice). They offered a variety of different Mimosa options including fancy juices such as rasberry-apple cider and cranberry. They also had fruit purée choices including white peach, passion fruit, and caramalized pineapple.

What we ordered:

  • My favorite - The Eggs Provencal: two flame roasted tomatoes topped with basil pesto, melted morzarella and poached eggs. Accompanied by potatoes and squash. I could not stop myself to also order a side of extra crispy bacon :)
  • My friend orderd the "Risotto Cakes & Eggs": a lighly breaded and grilled patty of risotto rice, sautéed bacon, asparagus, mushrooms, red onion, and fresh basil. This also came with potatoes and squash. 
  • Instead of the croissants, I got a Kouign Amann (which is basically also a croissant, but differently folded ;)). I am not quite sure which one my friend picked, but it lookes like a cream cheese croissant. 
  • Mimosa flight - I believe we ordered the caramlized pineapple, hibiscus, rasberry-apple cider, and white peach mimosa.

Smokin' Tally - Of Smokehouses, Smoked Salmon, and Smokin' Rooftop Cocktails

I just love to visit my Floridian friends in Tallahassee and not just because I love hanging out at their amazing pool and going kayaking/ canoeing ;) They do know how crazy I am about food and they always find some great food (and beverage) places that they show me. Check out last year's experience

4 Rivers Smokehouse

This year, I was craving pulled pork and my friends took me to 4 Rivers Smokehouse. This is a great place for several reasons. First, you actually order and pick up your food yourself which is fun. Second, they had a huge selection of side dishes to choose from. You are able to see them behind the coutner when you order which I always enjoy. Third, they have different menu options. You can order regular "Signature Stackers" where the meat comes in a bun or similar. However, the special and fun part is, to order the "Old School" menu when the meat is the highlight. And last but not least, the signature 4R BBQ sauce and the pulled pork were just delicious! This smokehouse is a winner for me :)

Old School Menu 

Here you can pick your meat (brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, smoked turked, sausage to name a few) and then choose whether you want it as a sandwich or just as a "Dinner" with a biscuit and sides. Dinner means here that the meat is placed on your plate without a bun, however, you get a separat biscuit. I highly suggest to substitute the biscuit for a delicious Texas Cornbread like my friends did. And then you can pick your sides...

Homemade Sides

They have a lot of nice options: 4R BBQ beans, mac & cheese, Texas cornbread, collards, southern coleslaw, potato salad, baked cheese grits, southern green beans, sweet potato casserole, smoked jalapenos, smokehouse corn, bread pudding, french fries, fried pickles, fried okra, seasonal sides. 

When we ordered, I was set on my idea of having pulled pork within a bun, so I ordered from the "Signature Stackers" the Messy Pick - and it was messy! The BBQ sauce was just running, but that just belongs to a good pulled pork sandwich! My friends ordered the "Dinner" option with pulled pork and cornbread. Together, we had the corn, the beans, the collards, the potato salad, the sweet potato casserole and the bread pudding as sides. My favorite sides were the collards, the 4R BBQ beans, and surpisingly, the sweet potato casserole, which tastes like a dessert but it goes really good with the BBQ sauce... And the bread pudding surprised me as well. I am glad that my friend has such a sweet tooth and ordered those so that I could try :)

Smokin' Rooftop Cocktails

Another highlight was actually my girl's night out with my friend M. while her husband stayed home for a podcast interview. My friend suggested to go to this rooftop cocktail bar that she always wanted to try out, the Level 8 Lounge at the Hotel Duval. We put on some nice dresses and went there right in time for a beautiful sunset. I could not stop myself from ordering a Cosmopolitan and feeling a little bit like in Sex and the City ;) This was just a very special evening for me, the atmosphere, the company and the talks!

Smoking Salmon at Uptown Cafe

Last but not least, I just have to mention this nice little brunch place - the Uptown Cafe. I love breakfast and brunch! And this place was just so cute. But shocker, I did not take pictures!! I guess I must have enjoyed the food and company so much that I completely forgot about it... actually a first :)

We were able to sit outside and even so we had to wait a little bit, the service was just really nice. They are famous for their Uptown Smoked Salmon - an apricot glaced smoked salmon.  On suggestion of my friend I ordered the Salmon Hash which came as a red potato hash with salmon, paprika, feta cheese and an egg on top. I was delicious! As a dessert we tried the very decadent Banana Bread French Toast - a very good ending :)

Those weren't the only food highlights in Tally. I also really enjoyed the Food Truck Thursday at Lake Ella, the Burger and Oreo Milkshake at Red Robbins, ordering in from Buffalo Wild Wings, the annual pizza & boardgame night, a spontaneous living room picnic with Gruffalo and the Mouse, and my daily breakfast everything bagel with creamcheese and a Chobani Flip yoghurt (which comes in so many different delicious flavors)... Just to name a few ;) I can't wait to come visit again!!

Dinner Buffet at "Boma - Flavors of Africa" (Orlando, FL)

As already mentioned in my last two posts, I had the pleasure to visit my friends in Florida a few months back. We spent a weekend in Orlando before we went up the coast and back to Tallahassee. Next to Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar and Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, there was one more food highlight in Orlando - The Dinner Buffet at "Boma - Flavors of Africa", a Disney restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Last year, we went here for the Breakfast Buffet. It was just so delicious and exotic that I wanted to try it out again :) The atmosphere is really nice as well.

I cannot say whether I liked the Breakfast or Dinner Buffet more, both were really great and offered different highlights. While breaksfast is always great, I really enjoyed the Soup and Dessert station at the Dinner Buffet... Also, the Jungle Juice was again a great favorite of mine :)

Here, a list with the stations. While I believe, it is pretty comprehensive, it still may not be complete. I also added a few pictures, but as during breakfast, the light was pretty dim and there were a lot of people... =)

Appetizer Station

  • Spinach & Paneer Sambosas
  • Asparagus with Paprika Olive Oil
  • Zulu Cabbage
  • Cous Cous with Spinach
  • Geel Rys - South African tumeric and cinnamon spiced basmati rice with golden raisins
  • Selection of breat and crackers with White Bean Hummus and Kalamata Olive Hummus

Soups (my favorites!) & Salads

  • Harira - Northwest African vegetable lentil soup
  • Ghanaian Oxtail Stew - Western African inspired tomato based stew with tamarind
  • Curried Coconut Seafood Stew
  • Seafood Gumbo
  • Buternut Squash Soup
  • Sambal Chicken Corn Chowder
  • Avocado, Papaya, and Grapefruit Salad
  • Pasta Salad
  • Watermelon Rind Salad
  • Kool Slaw
  • Spinach Quinoa Salad

Main Entrees & Sides

  • Chakalaka - South African spicy tomato stew
  • Nut-crusted Salmon
  • Fufu - Western and Central African sweet and white potato mash
  • Beef and Lamb Bobotie - African style egg bake
  • Cariving station with Chicken and African Carved Strip Loin with some sauces (Boma Mustard,  Sambal, Horseradish)
  • Pap - creamy white cornmeal
  • Some American Dishes for the Kids (mashed potatoes, corn dogs, mac & cheese, pasta & tomato sauce, corn & peas)

Desserts - my second favorites!

  • Kenyan coffee tarts
  • Oreo cheesecake tarts
  • Zebra domes
  • Guava panna cotta 
  • Cape dutch malva pudding
  • Apple cobbler
  • Assorted cookies and mini cupcakes

My Highlights:

  • The Soup selection in general! Especially the Harira Soup and the Ghanaian Oxtail Stew.
  • The Dessert section! Especially the Kenian Coffee Tarts and the Oreo Cheesecake Tarts. My friend M. really enjoyed the Guava Panna Cotta. For most people, the Zebra Domes are also a big highlight.
  • Other favorites: The Spinach & Paneer Sambosas, the Chakalata with Fufu

Appetizer - White Bean and Kalamata Olive Hummus
Appetizer - Sambosas, Asparagus, Zulu Cabage, Cous Cous
Harira Lentil Soup
Ghanaian Oxtail Soup
Bobotie and Chicken
Carving Station with Strip Loin and African Sauces
Nut crusted Salmon, Fufu, Pap, Chakalaka...
Zebra Domes, Kenian Coffee Tarts, Oreo Cheesecake Tarts (in the background)

Zebra Dome, Guava Panna Cotta, Cape Dutch Malva Pudding, Oreo Cheesecake Tart, Kenian Coffee Tart

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