Saturday, June 30, 2012

Roman-Style Chicken

We found and made this chicken on a whim but it was delicious and we will definitely be making it again. Serve alone or with rice or noodles, this recipe is flexible and flavorful.

For four servings:

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3 ounces prosciutto
2 bell peppers, sliced (we used a frozen mix)
2 cloves garlic, chppped
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tbs thyme
1 Tbs oregano
1 Tbs parsley
2 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat (you can use more oil if needed, we were trying to keep the calories down). Season the chicken with part of the salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp of each).


Brown the chicken on both sides, remove and set aside. 


Keep the same pan heated and added the bell pepper and prosciutto (sliced into small pieces) and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp This will take about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two.

Then add the tomatoes, wine and herbs (fresh is best but we used dried herbs and it was still great). Return the chicken to the pan, add the chicken broth and bring everything to a boil.

Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve alone or over rice or noodles.

We used the rice to soak up the extra broth and it was a full meal on its own.

This recipe was adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Craft: Message Board Picture Frame

She was trying to think of a small but interesting present for a teacher she knows. What she came up was this picture frame with lined paper instead of a picture and a white board pen to allow for the writing of messages.
This craft took only a few minutes and in total was under 10 euros to make (with the supplies leftover to make 2-3 more if she buys some picture frames).

Play with the decorations and this craft can fit anyone. Who doesn't need something to help stay organized?

For one finished frame:

1 frame (any color you want)
1 white board pen (she bought one that comes with an eraser on the end)
Decorations (small wooden letters or decorations are best)
1 screw with eye large enough for the marker (if this does not work for you maybe there are other creative ways to attach the marker)
1 piece lined paper
Glue, scissors, maybe a ruler

Use the glass that comes with the picture frames to measure the lined paper and cut out the correct size for the frame.

Add the paper, just like you would a photo, and close up the frame.

Next, decide where you want the pen to hang and twist in your screw.


She did this before decorating the frame because she was afraid the screw might ruin the front. It didn't!

There was a little bit of the wood showing through the side of the frame and she just used a black marker to make it blend in. If you use a super thin frame or a super large screw this might not work and you should try a different way to attach the pen.


Decide how you want your frame decorated and glue everything on. She was going to write "To do" but could not find any small wooden letters so instead she stuck with a teacher theme.

All finished! You can write on the glass with the white board marker and erase it as often as you want. Keep it on your desk at home or work to keep track of what you need to do.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mix-Up Monday: Trains
Things in the USA and Germany are in many ways different. We *try* to not play the USA/Germany competition, but let's be happens sometimes. She likes this food better at home, he thinks quality for that is better in Germany. The list goes on and on. The good thing is sometimes we can be picky. We buy that when in the USA and buy this in Germany. It also makes us appreciate both countries, and they actually do come out pretty even. The one place, however, that German is kicking the United States' behind (and we are not even going to try to hide it) is in public transportation.

Germany has their public transportation systems down, and they got them down flat (aka, they know what they are doing!) Except for the Japanese, we are unsure that there is any other system in the world that is as on time and with it as the German train system (although we were pretty impressed by the quantity of trains when we were in Copenhagen). The system in Germany is massive. There is almost nowhere you cannot get to by train or bus, street car, metro, or whatever else the option is. It might take some time, a lot of transfers, and good planning, but it is possible.

Although he grew up in Germany, public transportation is something that she has probably had more experience with here. While he drives, she commutes to work by train about 25 minutes each way. In two years, she can only think of one time the train was cancelled in the morning and caused a problem trying to get to work on time. Otherwise, without fail, the train shows up exactly when it is supposed to, and in the worst of all cases, comes five minutes late.

Of course, the train system is not always this perfect. We have had our fair share being annoyed at late trains after long days when we just wanted to get home after a long flight or something. The trains often do not run very late into the night...probably the biggest annoyance...making planning important. Trains in Germany are also not particularly cheap. With this being said, there is always a way to find a deal. Buying your ticket in advance, using group discounts or weekend specials, or just buying a discount card (good for one year and gives you 50% every ticket you purchase) makes it possible to commute by train and not feel a big strain on your wallet. When compared to the USA and Amtrak, German trains look cheap cheap cheap, so we are not really complaining.
The USA does have a train system (although I do not think many in Europe would believe it) but it is expensive and limited...and let's admit it, most people drive and know nothing about the system (Her included. She has only used Amtrak once.) New York City has the famous metro, so does every large and medium sized city in the USA, but they are a entirely different conversation and much too complicated to get into here. For now we stick to trains and say wake up USA, you have a lot to learn.

There is a reason for the stereotype that Germans are punctual...their trains are part of the proof.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Shrimp Pasta with Low-Fat Alfredo Sauce

We made this low-fat Alfredo sauce to go with a shrimp pasta we were making but it would be good with any type of pasta (maybe next time we will try chicken and broccoli) or as a pizza sauce. Although this sauce is much lower in calories than typical Alfredo sauce, it is still creamy and full of flavor.

This recipe makes enough sauce for four small-medium portions of pasta.

1 cup 1%  milk
1 1/2 Tbs butter
1 1/2 Tbs flour
3 Tbs Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp minced garlic
pepper, salt, oregano

Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium.

Once the butter is melted, slowly whisk in the flour. This will make a thick yellow paste.

Slowly add the milk and continue to whisk until all the milk is added and there are no lumps.

Heat for 3-5 minutes and continue to whisk. Once the milk mixture is warm through add the Parmesan cheese

Add pepper, salt as needed, and other herbs such as oregano if you wish.

Serve immediately.

For dinner we cooked onion, garlic, and zucchini in a small amount of oil until soft.

We then added shrimp and cooked for a very short amount of time, just enough to cook the shrimp thoroughly but not make them rubbery.

We  mixed the shrimp and zucchini with the Alfredo sauce and served it over pasta.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Baked Chicken Fingers

Have a craving for chicken nuggets or fingers but trying to keep the calorie count low? By making your own chicken fingers and baking instead of frying, you can have the calories left splurge on dessert with no guilt :)

Chicken fingers for 3-4 people

3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts 
2 eggs
1 - 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1 Tbs mustard
2 tsp curry powder (optional but delicious)
(Cumin or another seasoning can be added too. We add some sweet paprika)

Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F).

Cut the chicken breasts into strips. Typically, you can get 3-4 strips per chicken breast.

In a shallow bowl, whist the eggs, mustard, 1 tsp curry powder, and about 1 tsp salt together.  (Here we added our paprika, and you can add seasonings of choice.)

In another shallow bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and the other 1 tsp curry powder.

Dip each chicken strip into the egg mixture and then the breadcrumb mixture, making sure each is completely covered with breadcrumbs.

Bake directly on the rack or, if you are like us and don't want to have a mess to clean up, on a piece of parchment paper for 20 minutes. They should be cooked through and have a nice brown. If the chicken is not getting as brown as you would like, move it up to a higher oven rack for the final few minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on it!

Serve with any sides you think fit. We ate ours with broccoli and mashed potatoes. Yum!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mix-Up Monday: Phone Calls

They say phone numbers were partly decided on because they fit the idea of the magic number seven plus or minus two being the maximum number of things (or in this case digits) a person can easily remember. In America, phone numbers include an area code (xxx) and then the basic number (xxx-xxxx) giving a total of 10 digits, however, often only seven are needed. The area code lets you know where the phone is located When a cell phone is bought, it is given the area code for where it was purchased.

In Germany, phone numbers are a bit more complicated (or at least according to her they are).  There are no standard lengths set for either area codes or subscribers' numbers which means that unless you know the system really well, there is no way to know if you missed a digit when writing down a phone number. The area code can vary from two to five digits and the entire number can be as long as 11 digits. In some ways this makes sense. Germany will never run out of phone numbers because digits can continue to be added. Some research says that phone numbers in the USA may need to change around 2038 in order to handle the increasing number of phones and lines being created each year.

Another big difference between Germany and the USA brings us back to the idea that cell phones in the USA are given a phone number with the area code for where it was purchased. In Germany, cell phones are given special area codes that allow users to know that the phone number belongs to a cell phone. Unless the user kept his number and changed service providers, the area code also allows others to know what provider the cell phone belongs to. This is actually quite useful when making phone calls because often calling someone on the same provider as your phone is much cheaper than calling someone with a different service provider. This is also true for land line to land line versus land line to cell phone.

We are not going to get into the whole cost for cell and land-line plans here but we can say that the most significant difference (at least according to us) is that in the USA both the sender and receiver pays. This includes phone calls and text messages. In Germany, only the person making the call (or sending the message) must pay. This idea makes a lot of sense to us and we think that the USA should take note of it. You no longer have to worry about getting many text messages you do not want to receive (There is nothing worse than receieving a message that only says OK and knowing you paid ten cents for it.).   You also then have the ability to keep a pre-paid phone with almost no money on it and use it only to receive calls (a good idea for parents who do not want their kids to run up telephone bills but want them to have a phone for emergencies). The downfall? Making a phone call in Germany is, for the most part, much more expensive than in the USA. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the person making the call is paying for both parties?

Of course there are many other differences between phone calls and phone numbers in the USA and Germany. Country codes, emergency services, fees for calling businesses and hotlines. The thing is we have a few calls to go make and we are sure you do too.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Spätzle and Linsen (Lentils)

She likes hers separated

Love Spätzle but looking for a new way to eat it that does not involve cheese? Try Spätzle and Linsen (the German word for lentils). A common German dish, Spätzle and Linsen is not much more work than making Spätzle alone, but is an entire meal. Serve with wurst to round it out and you have a very filling lunch or dinner.

Use our Spätzle recipe, just don't add the cheese and onions. Instead, leave the Spätzle plain. This also means you do not need to spend the time cooking the Spätzle in the oven.

Then make your lentils. We used canned lentils but do not love their flavor so we add vinegar, a bit of salt, and some herbs. If you make your own lentils from scratch you will have to make sure to let them soak plenty of time before you plan on cooking.

The wurst can be warmed up in a pot of hot water (not boiling) for a few minutes or cooked on the stove in a bit of oil.

He likes his all on top of each other

Put it all together and finished! A tasty and traditional meal!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Crunchy Honey Garlic Chicken (or Pork)

She was sooo excited to try this recipe she saw online at Rock Recipes, but was disappointed about how it turned out. The meat was amazing but the sauce was too sweet and hardened too quickly. The pictures on the site look just too good not to try again sometime in the near future.

We recommend you try it, but take our advice and don't let the sauce cool down before putting it on the chicken/pork!

For 2-3 chicken breasts/ pork

2-3 chicken breasts or pork flattened like Schnitzel
1 cup flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 tsp each of thyme/sage/nutmeg
1 Tbs paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 eggs
4 Tbs water
Oil for frying

Flatten the chicken/pork and season with salt and pepper.

In a shallow bowl, place the flour with the seasonings. In another bowl, whisk the eggs with water.

Dip the chicken breasts into the egg mixture and then into the flour. Make sure to get a good amount of flour on the meat. Repeat by dipping into the egg and then the flour.

Preheat a good amount of oil over medium heat. When the oil is very hot add the meat. Medium allows the meat to get a good brown without cooking too quickly on the outside before the inside gets cooked.  Cook about 3-4 minutes and flip, cooking another 3-4 minutes.

Remove from heat and dip into the honey garlic sauce

Honey Garlic Sauce

1 Tbs olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp pepper

Cook the oil and garlic in a sauce pan over medium heat until the garlic is soft but now brown.

Add the honey, soy sauce, and pepper. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

The recipe we found says that the sauce should then be removed from the heat and allowed to cool for a few minutes before dipping the chicken into it.  We recommend not to do this! Our sauce got hard right away and was impossible to dip the meat into. Instead we had a thick layer of sauce on top of our meat.

Tasty but very sweet and not as beautiful as we were expecting.