Monday, July 30, 2012

Mix-Up Monday: Currency

Obviously, the USA and Germany use different currencies. The worth, name, and basic look of the Euro and US Dollar are of course different but that is not as interesting as the size of the bills and the number of coins. US money drives Germans crazy (it all looks the same) and Euros drive Americans crazy (too many coins). We don't really think it can be determined that one is better than the other...they are just different. Besides, we just love money, whatever form it takes :)

Euros (€):

Euro coins come in eight different values (yes, eight!). Germany (and the whole Euro zone) love their coins. Coin values include 1 cent, 2 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent, 20 cent, 50 cent, 1 euro and 2 euro. The coins increase in size as they increase in value so it is quite easy to tell them apart without even really looking (except she finds that the 1, 2, and 5 cent coins are very similar).


Common Euro bills come in the values of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 euros. There are higher denominations available but let's be realistic...we sadly are not walking around with 500 euro bills very often. Just like the coins, euro bills increase in size as their value increases. There is quite a large size difference between a 5 euro bill and a 100 euro bill. The colors also vary drastically from light blue/green to bright purple.

US Dollars ($/¢):

There are six different values when it comes to US coins but only four of them are common. This includes coins for 1 cent, 5, cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents and 1 dollar (yes, the US does have a one dollar coin but it is very rarely used or seen). To all non-Americans US coins are pretty much senseless. While the 1 cent coin is quite large, the 5 cent coin is a bit large and the 10 cent coin is tiny. The size increases again for 25 cents and 50 cents and the dollar coin is smaller (but thicker) than the 50 cent coin. The material of the coins is more important than the size but really, do we need to go into a history lesson right now?

US Dollar bills are all the same color and size. You have to look at the value printed on them to know what they are worth. The most common denominations to use are 1 dollar, 5 dollars, 10 dollars and 20 dollars. 50 dollars is not always accepted by stores and therefore 50 and 100 dollar bills are not as common as the smaller denominations. There are even large denominations available but they would never be used on a daily basis. Unknown to most people outside the USA, there is a 2 dollar bill available...however the typical American will probably run into a 2 dollar bill only every couple of years. Don't ask her why they bother to still produce is just one of those mysteries.


Perhaps it is because the Euro is still quite a new currency but the entire currency seems to lack any real nicknames. On the other hand, Americans love nicknames for their money. Coins are rarely called a 1 cent or 5 cent coin but by their nicknames.
1 cent = Penny
5 cents = Nickel
10 cents = Dime
25 cents = Quarter
50 cents = Half-dollar
1 dollar = Often called a Sacagawea dollar (or golden dollar) even though it has only had Sacagawea on it since 2000.

Dollars in general have lots of nicknames including bucks, greenbacks, smackers, cha-chingers, and buckaroos :)

Does the Difference Matter?

Money is money so does the difference between different currencies really matter? It is always fun to go to a new country and see how different their money is. Some countries seem to have some very fancy money while others seem quite boring (she admits that the dull green of the US dollar is not too exciting). Australia and a handful of other countries have money made out of a type of plastic... you can wash it (go surfing we guess), try to rip it, send it through the dryer and it will continue to live on. Pretty cool idea.

If we were blind, we would definitely be more of a fan of the euro. The bills can be told apart without sight making it possible for those with vision problems to know what bill they are giving out and what change they are getting in return. If you do not like a heavy wallet then the US dollar is probably the right currency for you. Change in Germany quickly adds up and one and two euro coins are quite heavy and bulky.

In the USA people dream of is one of the most commonly associated things with the color green in the USA. We guess in Germany people dream of a rainbow of colors...unless they are only interested in the bigger bills :)


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Paprikaschnitzel (Schnitzel with Bell Peppers)

So much sauce and so little schnitzel - the best way!
Although the breaded Wiener schnitzel is the most commonly thought of when people think of Germany, there are many other varieties out there. We often make Jägerschnitzel which is a lot like Wiener Scnitzel except served with a creamy mushroom gravy. This week we wanted to try a new type of schnitzel. What we ended up with might just be her favorite type of schnitzel yet (and that is saying a lot!).

This makes enough sauce for 3-4 well-covered schnitzels

3-4 pieces of pork that can be flattened as schnitzel
1 bell pepper (red), in strips
3 cloves garlic
3 Tbs (EL) tomato paste
1 onion, cut in rings
1 can of diced tomatoes
1/2 Tbs (EL) oregano
1 Tbs (EL) salt
100 ml (~1/2 cup) whipping cream
2 Tbs (EL) oil
salt, pepper, paprika for seasoning  the meat

Preheat the oven to 220 C (430 F)

Flatten your meat and season on both sides with salt, pepper, and paprika. The cut the onion, garlic and bell pepper.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is very hot, drop in your schnitzel and let brown on both sides. It does not matter how cooked it is, only that it gets a nice brown.

Remove the meat from the pan and place in an over-safe dish.

Return the pan to the stove and add the onions and bell pepper. Cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the garlic, tomatoes, 1 Tbs salt, oregano, and tomato paste. Let cook another few minutes until everything is well mixed and the onions and bell peppers and soft.

Add the whipping cream and mix well.

Pour the entire mixture over the meat and cover with foil.

Cook 30 minutes (keep covered the entire time).

Sorry, this photo does not give this meal justice!
 Serve with spätzle or another traditional German side.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mix-Up Monday: Time Off

Woo-hoo for time off! (
We are in the summer season right now and summer means one thing...vacation! The problem is if you do not have a job that gives you many vacation days summer can just mean more of the same old work. Another place that the USA sadly lags behind in comparison to Germany is paid time off. If you are working hard and want to have time off to play hard too, you better hope to find yourself in Germany with the vacation time to take off and travel the world.

Days off in the USA:

Unfortunately, the USA does not have any law that forces companies to give paid vacation time. That's right, NONE! No fear though. When you work for a large company you often get something. According to Mercer, the minimum paid vacation days for large companies is 15. Yes 15, that is three weeks off. Sounds really great when you add in the 10 paid public holidays (also not law that these days must be given off but typical for large companies). Twenty-five days off if you have a good job that gives them to you. That is plenty of time to relax a little and still get paid...until you compare it to Germany.

Days off in Germany:

Germany is a firm believer of free time for workers. The legal minimum paid vacation days that can be given (Yes, this is law so no matter if your company is big or small you can be rest assured you will get time off.) is 24. The chances are if you work for a large company your vacation days will range between 30 and 35. In addition, law in Germany gives workers public holidays off which average around 10 a year (more where we live because Baden-Württemberg is the only German state that publicly celebrates both Catholic and Protestant holidays). This means the minimum number of days off you can legally receive in Germany is comparison with the USA's legal minimum of ZERO.  No wonder Germans love to travel!

What this means:

Closed June 28 - July 22
Having a large number of days off is great if you are the worker. It gives you time to take off, relax, see the world, or catch up with things around the house. There are some negatives about it though. Some companies shut down in August so that their employees can use their time off. There is nothing more frustrating then trying to get in contact with someone who will be gone not for a week or two but an entire month. This is very common for doctor offices and other privately owned small companies. Also, Germany does not allow stores and businesses to be open on Sundays (other than restaurants). Not even truck drivers are allowed to drive on Sunday. When you forget that one thing you need for dinner Sunday night, you might be cursing the idea of  protecting the worker. Believe us, we both have been there before :)

Obviously, the pros outweigh the cons. Germany is one of the most productive countries in the world and workers (at least from the outside) seem to be happy and not as burned out as American workers. Also, Germans make good use of their holiday time and seem to use them up each year while Americans will often let vacation days go to waste because they do not feel they can get away from the office. While Americans live to work, Germany is definitely a work to live type of nation. Right now we aren't complaining. We are happy to have our vacation days and use them all up each year.

Statistics according to Mercer on CNN money

Friday, July 20, 2012

Beef Rolls with Pickles and Onions

These take a little effort to assemble but are nice and different. Serve with mashed potatoes or some other type of comfort food and you have a good German winter's meal even on a summer day.

6-8 slices of beef or minute steaks
1 large onion, slice lengthwise into pieces
6-8 small pickles, sliced lengthwise
2 Tbs oil
250 ml broth (beef or vegetable)
Crème fraîche
sweet mustard
Worcestershire sauce
cornstarch dissolved in water

Your meat should already be very thin but for this recipe it needs to be super thin so use a rolling pan or meat mallet to flatten your beef.


Once flattened, season the meat (on both sides) with salt and pepper (we also added some sweet paprika as an experiment).

Then spread a thin layer of mustard over one side of the meat and then cover with onion and pickle slices.

You can put in as many as you can fit and still roll up the beef slice. Our onions were leftover from another dish and therefore they were not long strips.


Roll the meat up (more challenging than it sounds!) and secure with toothpicks.

Once all of your meat is rolled, heat the oil in a pan on the stove over medium-high. Fry the rolled meat on each side and then remove the excess oil from the pan. It is okay if they are not fully cooked on the inside because they will continue to cook in broth.

With the meat still in the pan, add the broth and reduce to low heat. Cover and let cook about 1 hour 15 minutes.


Once the time is over, remove the meat and the toothpicks. Keep the broth in the pan and add about 1 tsp of cornstarch (already dissolved in a small amount of water before adding) and let the broth thicken. Add more cornstarch if needed. Add Crème fraîche and Worcestershire sauce for taste.

Pour the finished sauce over the beef or mashed potatoes (or Spätzle for us) and enjoy.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mix-Up Monday: Animal Sounds

Go to the zoo with a friend who grew up with a different native language and you will quickly learn that there are some pretty funny and unique differences when it comes to the "sounds" animals make in different languages.
Here are some of the examples we have run into when comparing German and English animals:

Sheep / Schaf
English: Baaaaa
German:  Määääää

Rooster / Hahn

English: Cock-a-doodle-doo

Donkey / Esel
English: Hee-haw
German: Iaah

Pig / Schwein
English: Oink oink
German: Grunz grunz

Chick / Küken
English: Cheep cheep cheep
German: piep piep
Dog / Hund
English: Bow-wow, woof woof
German:Wau wau, wuf wuf

Frog / Frosch
English: Ribbit ribbit (USA), Croak croak (GB)
German: Quak quak

Bee/ Biene
Buzz buzz/Summ summ
English: Buzz buzz
German:Summ summ

Hen / Henne
English: Cluck Cluck
German: Gak gak

Horse / Pferd
English: Neigh
German: They say the sound horses make is huii but in our experience if you ask a German what a horse says they just snort and throw their head like a horse and do not have such an agreed upon horse sound as English does.

Next time you go to the zoo try out your new animal might be homesick and happy to hear a little talk from home ;)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Taco Salad

After making our baked fajitas last week we were still craving Mexican food but had no tortillas or chicken. Instead of going out and buying more we decided to get creative and made taco salad for dinner. Not much healthier than a normal dinner of Mexican food but a nice change and a quick way to use any leftovers in the fridge you may have.

Two large salads:

1/3 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
1/2 to 1 bell pepper, diced
3/4 - 1 can kidney beans
1/2 can diced tomatoes
2 hot peppers, diced 
sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, pepper, oregano
3-4 cups shredded lettuce (or as much as you wan)
sour cream
tortilla chips

In a pan over medium heat. Cook your onions, bell pepper, hot peppers, and ground beef. Once the beef is fully cooked, drain off the excess fat and return to the stove.

Add the kidney beans and tomatoes. Start with 1/2 Tbs of sugar and continue to add until the sweetness is how you would like it. Add a pinch of salt and a healthy dash of oregano, red pepper flakes, and pepper.

Cook until everything is heated and the tomato sauce begins to reduce.

During this time place the lettuce in a bowl or on a plate. Top with a handful of nacho chips.

When the ground beef/tomato mixture is finished. Pour on top of the lettuce and top with a spoonful of sour cream and some cheese.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Nothing says summer better than a fresh strawberry pie. We were lucky enough to get big juicy strawberries from a local farmers' market the past few weeks. The strawberries don't last long so a pie was a great way to use them up but still get maximum flavor.

We used the pie crust we used to make apple pie. You can also buy a frozen crust.

Here is a quick repeat of the pie crust recipe:

One pie crust

1/2 cup butter (keep cold until you use it)
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 Tbs sugar
1/4 cup cold (ice cold) water

Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl. Cut your butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture. Cut the butter into the flour until only small pea-sized pieces are left.

Add water and mix until everything sticks together. Do not use any extra water! It is very easy to put too much in and make the entire thing a sticky mess.

The secret to a good pie crust is very cold ingredients and not to handle the dough too much. Use your hands to get the dough into a ball but do not spend extra time kneading the dough.

Our first try...
Place the dough ball in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove, roll out, and cut into whatever shape you need.

We have no pie pan in Germany so we made mini pies using cupcake holders. One time we place the dough into the cupcake holders (made tiny pies) and one time we turned the cupcake holders over and draped the dough over them. This made much larger pies but not as perfectly round. We liked this way better but unfortunately do not have any photos of these.

If you are willing to spend the time (we recommend it), put your crust back into the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before you bake it.

Bake 20-25 minutes on 350 F (180 C). Since strawberry pie does not get baked it is important that your pie crust is completely cooked before adding the filling.

Once your pie crust is finished, remove from oven and let it cool to room temperature.

Strawberry filling:

This is the recipe for one regular pie. We only made 1/3 of this when we made our mini pies.

About 5-6 cups of fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
3 T corn starch
3/4 cup cold water

Slice up some (not all!) of your strawberries until you have about about 3 cups sliced.

Add them to a pot and mash the strawberries until the juice comes out and only small pieces are left.


We used a fork but a potato masher would probably be even easier.

Place the pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the sugar and a dash of salt and mix well.

While the strawberry mixture comes to a light boil, mix the cold water and corn starch in a separate glass. Stir until the corn starch is completely dissolved.

Once the strawberry mixture is boiling, add the corn starch and water. Bring the mixture back to a boil while constantly stirring. The mixture should thicken up (about 4-5 minutes of stirring).

Once the mixture is thick, remove from heat and set aside. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. We moved our mixture out of the pan and into another container to speed up the cooling process.

Putting the pie together:

Once everything is at room temperature you can put together your pie.

Cut the stems off the rest of your strawberries. We were making mini pies so we also had to cut our strawberries in half.

Add the strawberries to the pie crust and cover with the strawberry sauce. Place in the refrigerator and let set for at least two hours before serving.

Serve that day! This pie does not keep very well.

We made this recipe three days in a row for different to get as much strawberry pie in as possible during strawberry season!

This recipe was adapted from Jamie Cooks It Up

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

One Pan Baked Chicken Fajitas

We know that we have blogged a chicken fajita recipe before and boy are they good. We love that recipe but the problem is that it is time consuming and leaves a lot of dirty dishes to clean up. Sometimes we want tasty fajitas without much effort. For those days we use a fajita recipe that uses only one pan. Yes, ONE PAN. Clean up is simple and the entire meal is quick to put together... something everyone needs after a long hard day.

For about six fajitas:

100 to 150 grams chicken, sliced into strips
1 can diced tomatoes
1 onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
2-3 chilies, diced (depending on spice level you want)
1 Tbs oil
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp oregano

Tortillas and toppings you want. We used cheese, sour cream, lettuce and hot sauce (yes, we know lettuce is not typical for fajitas but we like the extra crunch).

Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F).

In a baking pan, mix the chicken, tomatoes, sliced onion and bell pepper, and hot chilies.

Pour the oil and herbs and spices over the chicken mixture and mix well so that everything is covered.

Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve with warm tortillas and any toppings you want.


On the side we ate our favorite Mexican rice and nacho chips.

Oh was it soo good and the clean up was super easy with just one pan to wash.

This recipe was adapted from Eatin' on the Cheap