Wienerschnitzel, Spaetzle & Green Bean Salad- Oh My!

My husband is German. He's got the build, the forehead, the size and he even gets a little shaky and cranky when deprived of meat for too long :) Last night I had pork thawed in the fridge and decided to do a German dinner. The nice thing about wienerschnitzel is that a little goes a long way with the meat since it's breaded and there are multiple sides. I was able to squeeze two meals out of the meat instead of one (I threw some in the slowcooker with tomato sauce and we'll have pork spaghetti tonight). For sides I made spaetzle and a warm green bean, bacon & pear salad. I'll list out all the recipes & instructions seperately. It all came together nicely and the toddler loved her first taste of spaetzle.

She ate 2 bowls in a row very seriously.

(serves 2 adults & 2 kids- you'll want to up the meat if serving more than 2 adults)

3/4 lb of pork (I used pork sirloin steak because it had been on sale, pork chops or any other boneless flat pork cut will work.)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 egg
1 lemon juiced and an additional 1/2 lemon for slices to serve with wienerschnitzel
1/3-1/2 cup vegetable oil

1. Mix together the breadcrumbs, flour, salt, paprika, and black pepper. I used a food processor because I was using homemade breadcrumbs and I wanted them to be a little finer. Pour the final mixture onto a plate. In the measuring cup beat an egg. Then pour the egg onto a second plate. Squeeze the juice from one lemon onto the plate with the egg. The juice will "fluff" up the egg a bit, so give it a quick stir to mix. 

2. Put your pork on a cutting board and cover with waxed paper. Pound each piece to flatten a bit. Your goal is around 1/4 inch thickness but it may be a little more depending on the cut. Think whack-a-mole. I hit my pork with a cast iron skillet because I don't have a meat tenderizing gavel thing. I pounded two pieces and cut them in half after they were flattened to make 4 servings. 

3. In a pan pour roughly 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. I used around 1/3 cup. You don't want to skimp on the oil because the less oil in the pan the more oil the crumb coating of the wienerschnitzel will absorb. Plus burning coating makes the whole meal taste gross. Heat the oil over medium until flicking a drop of water in it makes a sizzling noise. 

The whole bottom of the pan should be covered.

Dip the pork pieces first in the egg and then into the crumb coating. Flip to bread both sides. You can scoop more onto the pork to cover all spots but don't press the coating into the pork- this will make it fall off in the pan. Gently take the pork and put it into the oil. Cook for 4-5 minutes on the first side and about 3 on the second. You want the coating to be browned and crispy but not burnt. 

Serve warm with a slice of lemon. 

(serves 4)

1 cup flour
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 eggs
1 TBS butter (not for dough- for later)

1. Start a large saucepan of water boiling on the stove. In a mixer, blend together dry ingredients and then add milk and eggs. 


2. Spaetzle dough will come out very sticky and thick. Use a spatula to scrape the dough into a strainer (a plastic or metal one- not a mesh one!) unless you are lucky enough to have a spaetzle maker (I'm not). 
When the water is boiling bring the strainer over the pot and using every ounce of elbow grease you have scrape the spatula back and forth to force the dough through the bottom middle of the strainer. If you shake the strainer slightly little pieces of the dough will fall off the bottom and plunge into the boiling water. 

Push it through with the spatula. 

The pieces will fall through the bottom. 

The spaetzle will drop into the water and boil.
I cook the spaetzle for 4 minutes once the last one has dropped in. This takes a lot of elbow grease. If you're short you get better leverage standing on a footstool over the pot. Now an important note. Be lazy- don't try to wash the strainer and spatula that night. Spaetzle dough is like glue and it takes forever to scrub off. But if you let it dry it will peel off and poke out with a chopstick far more easily. 

3. Drain the water from the spaetzle and return to the pan with a tablespoon of butter. Give it a quick 2-3 minute saute. Serve warm. 

Green Bean, Bacon, and Pear Salad
(makes 4 side dish servings)

8 oz package frozen french cut green beans
4 slices of bacon
1 1/2 pears, diced
3 TBS white vinegar
1/2 TBS sugar

1. In a saucepan cook the 4 slices of bacon until crispy and then place on a paper towel to dry out. Do not dump the bacon fat. 

2. Make sure you have 1-2 tablespoons of bacon fat left in the pan. If you have more than that you can discard the excess. Add the green beans into the pan, they'll defrost and saute quickly. While they're cooking peel and dice the pear. I used 1 1/2 pears because I diced 1/2 of the second one for the toddlers dinner. Feel free to adjust to your taste. Add the pears to the pan. 

3. Cook for a minute to warm pears. Crumble the sliced bacon into the pan and add vinegar and sugar. Mix to coat and cook for a minute to make sure everything is warm. Pour into serving dish. 



Make a Giant Fabric Softener Sheet

The pretty lavender towel is really a giant fabric softener sheet I made , and it makes the diapers smell nice :)

I make most of my own cleaners. I make a new batch of laundry detergent every couple of months, dishwasher detergent every month or so and some oven cleaner on occasion. I plan to felt some wool balls for my dryer but I haven't gotten around to it yet. In the meantime, I'm left with an assortment of laundry "accessory products" such as fabric softener and scented tablets that I don't use. Our laundry shares the front hall closet with our coats so minimizing items that need to be stored is at the top of my list as I reorganize that space.

I had seen posts flying around in cyberspace saying that you could create your own fabric softener sheets so I decided to give it a whirl. I was skeptical, I mean how long could it possibly last? Since I had extra fabric softener and was almost out of dryer sheets I decided I had nothing to lose.

You will need:
One spare hand towel or several washcloths (I chose to do a large hand towel as we have a dog and frequently wash large items like comforters and blankets)
Fabric Softener of your choice
A tupperware container that is missing it's lid (It's a good way to use up those lonely containers- I used my laundry detergent mixing container.)
A chopstick, or a poking tool of some kind
Plastic Gloves
Something large, plastic and flat to lay the towel on to dry (I used the lid to a rubbermaid storage tote)

1. Pour about 2-3 inches of fabric softener into your plastic container. I used a Target brand lavender scented one. I love lavender. Fold up your towel and shove it in on top of the softener.

Pour another inch or so on top.

Using a chopstick (we always seem to have some laying around) or another poking object push the towel down into the softener until the entire thing is saturated. Let it sit for about an hour occasionally poking it down into the softer to cover it.

Ok, at this point I stopped taking pictures. I was home by myself with the toddler and hadn't really thought through the fact that I would need two hands and not want to get my phone covered in lavender goo.

Put on gloves if you want, fabric softener can be really hard to fully rinse off your hands. Bring the tupperware container over to wherever your flat plastic drying surface is. Make sure that surface is out of the reach of little hands. Now you want to squeeze out the excess liquid without wringing it out. The idea is to leave some liquid to dry into the towel but not have it sitting in a puddle. The towel will take 1-2 days to fully dry depending on what kind of climate you live in. Mine ended up a pale shade of purple which is great. My husband knows we don't own any purple towels so he always puts it back in the dryer if he's the one to take the laundry out. One month later it is super soft and still smells fabulous, so the verdict is that it was worth it! Not only did I eliminate a bottle that I had been storing but my laundry smells awesome. 


Lime Coconut Sugar Cookies

I love treats. I do not claim this to be a healthful post, the cookies are sinfully delicious emphasis on the sin. Butter, sugar, coconut- they marry into a melt in your mouth cookie and the addition of lime zest and lime juice drive them over the top into magical territory. For years when I lived down in Boston one of my favorite treats was Dancing Deer Lime cookies. I had no self control. They came in 6 packs and they'd be gone in two days. These cookies remind me of them a little.

Lime Coconut Sugar Cookies (2.09/batch)
(makes 3 dozen)

1 stick of butter, softened a bit (1/2 cup) (2.99 for 4 sticks) .75
1 cup of sugar (3.99 for a 5 lb bag- 11 1/4 cups/bag) .35
1 egg (2.95/18 pack= .16/egg) .16
1 lime- you will use all the zest and all the juice .33
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt (reduce to 1/4 tsp if using table salt)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour (I buy 25lbs at a time for 11.99- it breaks down to 13 cents/cup) .20
1/2 cup coconut (14 oz bag is 2.69= .19/oz) .30

1. Preheat oven to 350. Put the butter in the mixer (if you're using one). If the butter isn't softened make sure you lock the top of the mixer otherwise it will "bounce" around as it mixes the cold butter. While the butter is creaming zest the lime and juice it.

I put the zest & juice in the same bowl since they're going to the same place.
2. Add 1 cup of sugar and beat until fluffy. 

Fluffy creamed butter and sugar.
Add the egg, lime juice & zest. Whip it until well mixed, then scrape the sides of the bowl to grab any missed bits and push them into the batter.

My father-in-law got me this cool finger scraper spatula thingie.
Start whipping the batter again and it will get to look like this:

3. Now it's time to add the dry ingredients. I add the baking powder, baking soda & salt first and mix it a bit to make sure they blend in properly with no clumps. Then the flour, and the coconut is added last. 

4. In a little bowl put a few tablespoons of sugar- in my experience it takes about a TBS per dozen. You want to use a spoon to scoop little pats of dough. Then gently roll them into a ball shape- it doesn't have to be perfect and spin them around in the bowl of sugar to coat. They will cook 1 dozen at a time on a sprayed cookie sheet. 

Make sure to keep the scoops small. They expand a bit when cooked.

Roll in sugar.

Space out on cookie sheet- I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't have parchment paper to cover my loved cookie sheet. 
The cookies will cook at 350 for 9 minutes. You can put the dough in the fridge between batches so that it doesn't get too soft but I do not recommend refrigerating the dough for any longer than 10 minutes. Because the dough is butter-heavy refrigerating for too long makes the cookies "melt" when they're cooking in the oven. When the cookies come out let them sit on the pan for a minute. Make sure when removing them from the sheet that you slide the spatula all the way underneath. If you press too high up on the side they can crumble. After removing them from the pan let them cool on a cookie rack. 

Enjoy! One of the things I love about these cookies is even though they aren't "healthy" they're perfect because I only want one or two with a cup of tea, whereas some other cookies I want to eat a dozen in a sitting. 


Starting Seeds

Normally April is seed-starting season for me, because realistically you don't plant anything outside in a home garden in Vermont until Memorial Day. Until then who knows- it might snow! However, with our 80 degree "heat wave" I got the itch to start things early. This was also a great project for the toddler to do with me. She's in her "helping" stage and loved being my assistant.

First things first. Gather many egg cartons. Why? They're free and they're great for planting in. Some folks say they're not deep enough but I just poke holes in the bottom. This way if my plants get too big before it's time to put them outside I just rip the bottoms off so the roots can poke through and I put them in a cardboard flat of soil. The great thing about egg cartons is you can cut them into individual cups when it's time to plant outside and then plant the entire thing since the carton will eventually decompose. Cut the tops off. I save them because I cut toilet paper tubes in half and set them on the flat top of the egg carton to plant cucumbers in, but that'll have to be the subject of another days blog.

My stash.

I poked a little hole in the bottom of each  in case the root pack needs an escape route.

Next, gather your seeds and your soil. I use High Mowing Seeds for a couple of reasons. One they're located only a few towns away from me, their seeds are 100% organic, and they test the lots multiple times to ensure germination. Plus the added benefit of knowing the items will grow in Vermont makes me pick varieties more freely. They also have a great blog and Facebook page so you should check them out! Since we belong to a CSA I tend to grow what I plan on canning or items we eat a lot of. Today we started San Marzano tomatoes (for sauce), cherry tomatoes (to sun dry), basil (I love it!), arugula (an addiction), habaneros & jalapenos (my husband makes hot sauce), and cauliflower (it was cheap & stores well). I'll start cucumbers, pumpkins, and cushaw squash in larger containers this weekend. We'll wait to do root veggies like carrots, onion, and beets outside since they do not transplant well. Potatoes are going in potato towers so those will be done closer to May when it is consistently warmer. 

We use Green Mountain Compost Seed Starter Mix (formerly Intervale Compost), another local Vermont product that is organic. 

After dumping a small amount into a bucket I mixed in some eggshells that I had saved. I find that my plants just come out a little better with the addition of eggshells, plus in the summer once they are planted in the garden the eggshells help prevent slug and snail infestations. 

Soil with eggshells in it.

No here's where my "helper" got involved. We took spoons and she assisted me in filling the egg cartons with dirt. 

Next, I poked little holes in the middle of each egg cup and added seeds.

Add seeds into each cup.

If you tap the carton gently after that the seeds will all get covered with loose dirt. I then add a bit more soil on top.

I had intended to have the little lady help me spray the soil after planting but she fell in love with the spray bottle and ran off with it. 

She figured out how to squirt herself.

This made her very happy (and very wet).
I labeled each carton with a sharpie marker and then also clothespinned the seed packet to it. I place them on boot trays. They're great for when we water the plants and we have an abundance of boot trays that are in use during the winter season and then are not as needed come spring. I set the seedlings on a high windowsill out of the dog and toddlers reach downstairs. It gets very sunny down there during the day.


What are you starting for your garden?


Mud Season and Iced Tea

It is spring in Vermont, which I'm fairly certain has never happened before in March. In fact here's documentation from a little over a year ago of what March normally looks like in Vermont.

Our house last year, aka buried. 3/7/11

The view of our back deck 3/9/11. 

The tunnel my husband dug for us to get out. 3/7/11
Now let's contrast that with this year. It's been near 70, people are wearing shorts. I wore a tank top today. We haven't built a fire in weeks, there is no snow to be seen and mud season is officially here with a vengeance. What's mud season you ask? Mud season is a little talked about period of time where Vermonters steer clear of dirt roads unless they're in their truck. Ruts appear everywhere and cars sink up to their frames in quicksand like goo. No one wears real shoes because that would be cruel to the shoe. If you live in Vermont you have a variety of muck boots that you wear whenever you go out. When you see someone stuck on a dirt road in heels you say "They ain't from around here," because a real Vermonter would have had mud boots in the car to change into. Let's review my collection:

Ankle high BOGS- good traction for beginning and end of mud season. 
Knee High Hunters for mud season at it's worst. Impossible to take off by myself while pregnant.

Insulated Muck Boots. For those days when the mud is a little chilly.

Ok- I got distracted. So spring is here. 

Bulbs are actually sprouting before May.
Clothes hung outside actually dry- not freeze!
This calls for some iced tea. I have a deep love of mason jars. This time of year I have an abundance of them. We've eaten our way through many of the canned items from the end of last growing season and I haven't been canning a lot since there is nothing "extra" right now to put up.

I am pregnant though, and not drinking enough liquids can lead to early contractions. The last thing I want is 4 weeks of bedrest like I had with my daughter. Water is getting boring so I make mass quantities of iced teas to stock in the fridge.

It's the perfect weather for iced tea!

Gather your mason jars. Make sure they're clean and that you have lids for all of them.

Boil water. I use an electric kettle. Put the tea bags you want in each mason jar. I use two per jar. A clothespin is handy to make sure the tags don't fall in. I put the tea bag wrapper under the corresponding jar so that I know what it is until I have the chance to label it.

You can also use loose tea if you have a tea ball or tea sack to steep  it in. 

Fill up the jars halfway with the boiling water and let it steep for six minutes. This is also a good time to add honey or sugar if you're so inclined. 

When six minutes is up take the tea balls out (I leave the tea bags in) and add cold water to the top of each jar. 

Label the jars so that you know what kind of tea they are.

Store them in your fridge until you're ready to enjoy them!