Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall and Halloween Decor around the House

There are a few other things I have around the house with that go with the Fall and Halloween theme!

One is this beautiful cat topiary I picked up at one of my favorite stores, Roger's Gardens. 
The Martha Stewart pumpkin vase found it's way out of the closet again. Filled with mums!  
 I picked up this pumpkin wreath at  Homegoods this year.  I think it's pretty cute and fun!

Then I have my owls out, which were shared in an earlier post! 

My scary cat Halloween table is still looking the same!
Still have my Halloween table set as well! 
I just love decorating for Fall, don't you?

Written at http://peoniesandorangeblossoms.blogspot.com

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Halloween Table

I've decorated my buffet table with a Halloween theme.  I have pumpkins, mums, scary black cats, and a friendly pumpkin bear.

In the background you can see the vintage Halloween postcards.

I like how these scary black cats mimic the shape of the scary black cat in the postcard behind them! I've placed mums in the tulipiere.

These are real pumpkins.  Frankly, for $1 each, I think they are the best looking pumpkins around.  Fake pumpkins typically look... fake. They are pretty pricey too!

I hope you enjoyed my little Halloween table!
Written at http://peoniesandorangeblossoms.blogspot.com

Monday, October 13, 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Cat Macarons

As you know, I LOVE macarons.  Earlier this year I did a feature, Macaron Mondays, for a few months.  For this upcoming Halloween, I created some scary cat chocolate hazelnut macarons!  

The recipe is adapted from Laduree's Sucre book.


scary cat chocolate hazelnut macarons

Materials needed:
  • silicone spatula
  • parchment paper or silpat
  • electric mixer (trust me, your hand will get tired whipping meringue)
  • a food scale (yes, you need this.)
  • a piping tip and piping bag (I like the ateco #806)
  • Food coloring (the gels or dry powder works best, not the liquid store stuff)
  • A macaron template (either make one or get one here or here. It makes piping easier)
  • Googly food eyes
  • Food marker

Chocolate Macaron Shell:
260g almond flour
250g powdered sugar
15g cocoa powder
210g granulated sugar
210g egg whites

1.  Mix almond meal, cocoa powder, and the powdered sugar in a food processor. Be careful not to grind too long, otherwise it will form a paste.

2. Sift the almonds, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar. Set aside.

3. Weigh out granulated sugar.

4. Weigh the egg whites.  Beat them slowly on a low speed until foamy. SLOWLY add the granulated sugar to the egg whites as you beat.  Once all mixed, increase speed to medium and beat until a firm meringue forms.  You want a firm meringue with glossy peaks but not stiff peaks.  They should defy gravity and remain in the bowl if you turn it upside down.  If you tilt your bowl to the side and they are sliding out, keep beating.

5. Add the food coloring gel and mix.  To make mine a richer brown color, I used "chocolate brown" food coloring.


6. Then fold in 1/3rd of the almond/sugar mixture into the meringue with a silicone spatula.  Once combined, add another third of the almond mixture. Add last bit.  This batter requires more deflation during this step since it creates such a poofy meringue.

7. Add the batter to a piping bag.  Pipe in rows using your template onto parchment paper.  To add the cat ears, pipe a tiny bit and use the flick of your wrist to make it point at the tip.  This takes some practice.  I piped half the rows with cat ears and the other half as regular circles.  This way when you assemble the cookies you have the cat on one side and a regular circle on the other.

8. Pick up the pan and beat until the counter.  The cookies need to rest on the counter between 30-60 minutes.  They are ready to go in the oven when they are dry to touch (the shell shouldn’t stick to your finger)

9.  Set the oven to 300F.

10. Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes one sheet at a time. They are done when they look kind of matte and seem firm when you lightly tap on them.  You can always rescue a slightly overcooked one with the maturation process that comes later, but you cannot rescue an undercooked one!!   

11.  Remove from paper once completely cool. If they stick they stick to the paper, they aren’t cool yet. Or you undercooked them.


Assembly and filling:

Ingredients

  • Chocolate Hazelnut filling (I cheated and used Nutella!)
  • googly eyes
  • food markers
  • flat circles for the nose (I used some sprinkles from decorating sugar cookies)
  • small tube of frosting (to glue the eyes to the cat)


  1. Once your cookies have cooled, draw a cat's face with the black food marker.
  2. Pipe two circles on the cat's face and attach the googly eyes.
  3. Fill the inside with a small amount of Nutella and twist the back on.
  4. Store inside the refrigerator for approximately 24 hours before enjoying... trust me, it will taste better!

chocolate cat macarons
    Chocolate Cat Macarons!
getting the cat ears right takes practice!
I had fun taking pictures of these cute little cookies!
scary cat chocolate hazelnut macarosn
Written at http://peoniesandorangeblossoms.blogspot.com

Thursday, October 9, 2014

German Pumpkin Soup

Ever since I went to that fabulous pumpkin festival in Germany that I keep talking about, I have been just dying for some pumpkin soup.  The pumpkin soup I had there was the BEST pumpkin soup I've ever had.  I have been searching for months trying to find an authentic German recipe that I think was very similar to the soup I fell in love with.  I read recipes in German and English.  I came up with my own, which is a combination of about 10 recipes I read!
*THE* pumpkin soup I've been dying to eat.  Guess I need to go back to Germany??
German Pumpkin Soup recipe, authentic Kürbissuppe rezept

Ingredient
  • 1-2 small baking pumpkins*** (see notes)
  • 1 large potato, cubed largely about 1x1 inch
  • 1 large onion, large cubes as well
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • 1 liter water
  • 4 cube vegetable broth bouillon
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 5 twists of cracker pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • pumpkin seed oil****
  • pumpkin seeds
Directions
  1. Cut off both ends of the pumpkin. Then slice pumpkins in half and scoop out the seeds.  If it is too tough to cut, we microwaved each half in the microwave for approx. 3 minutes until the pumpkin was cooked.  You will only need to do this if your pumpkin skin is inedible or too tough to cut.
  2. Take butter and melt in pan or stock pot. Place sliced potatoes and onion inside the pan. Place lid on pan and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes. 
  3. In a separate pot, add the the liter of water with 4 vegetable broth bouillon cubes and bring to a boil. 
  4. Add pumpkin to the potato and onion. Next, add the pumpkin pie spice, salt, and pepper. Stir together, then allow to cook for 5 minutes. 
  5. The water should be boiling now.  Once it is boiling, pour into the already cooking vegetable mixture. 
  6. Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Purée your soup either in a normal blender or a handheld immersion blender. 
  8. Stir in cream. 
  9. Top with pumpkin seed oil (this really makes the dish).  Garnish with pumpkin seeds. 
***Notes on pumpkins
The Germans tend to cook with Hokkaido pumpkins, which are readily available there.  The nice thing about that pumpkin is you can eat the skin.  Here, I hadn't found any Hokkaido pumpkins.  I did find a golden nugget squash, which appeared very similar.  It tasted about the same.  Regular baking pumpkins should be fine too.  Just remember, if it's a "pie pumpkin", it may be a little bit sweeter.  I have not tried this recipe with canned pumpkin.

About our specific pumpkins used in this recipe: Each pumpkin uncooked was 1 pound. We used two golden nugget squash.  The skin was very tough and we had to microwave the pumpkin halves in order to slice them.

The Hokkaido pumpkin, AKA red kuri squash
the golden nugget squash, AKA Oriental pumpkin
****Notes on Pumpkin Seed Oil 
This REALLY makes this dish in my opinion.  You NEED to get some.  Here's where I got my Pumpkin Seed Oil and I can say it is delicious.  This is not something you can easily find here in the US.  I searched 6 grocery stores (specialty ones included) and had no luck.  It is hard to get here because it is grown and made in a very specific region in Austria.  It's everywhere in Germany and Austria... but not here! Boo!
the amazing Pumpkin Seed Oil!  
This soup isn't like your American version of pumpkin soup. It's WAY better. I don't really even like pumpkin soup... but this is delicious. Especially with that pumpkin seed oil!
Authentic German Pumpkin Soup Recipe
Oh SO delicious!! 

Linking up with these fabulous link parties: The Scoop!,  Metamorphosis Monday'sInspire Me Tuesday,Wow us Wednesdays! What's it WednesdaysCenterpiece WednesdaysCreative Ways Treasure Hunt ThursdayHome Sweet Home Feathered Nest FridaysG'day SaturdaysFoodie Friday
Written at http://peoniesandorangeblossoms.blogspot.com

Monday, October 6, 2014

Halloween Tablescape

I've had fun this year setting up my tablescape for this Fall and Halloween 2014.

New additions to the table setting include these wonderful napkins that my Mom made!  She got a new fancy sewing machine that allows her to do this fancy embroidery on it!  I picked the fabric out when I was 600 miles away from home... I think I did a good job guessing which purple would go best with the plates and goblets!
Look how great these napkins look!
Also found a set of new chargers from Homegoods.  I'm loving the look of everything with my velvet pumpkins, pumpkin napkin rings, and pumpkin plates!
Here's a look of the pumpkins that are all in the center without any distractions of plates in the way!

I wanted to show a close up of one the plates... they are by Juliska.  There are four different scenes.  The one I focused on today for the Halloween table has witches dancing in the center.

Plates and goblets - Juliska
Charger - Homegoods
Napkins - MBM (made by Mom!)
Velvet pumpkins - Hot Skwash
Burlap placemats - etsy
Napkin rings - Pier 1 (they still have them there this year)

Written at http://peoniesandorangeblossoms.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pumpkin Animals

Last year I blogged about a fabulous pumpkin festival I went to in Germany.  Each year, they have different themes for the festival.  I found some pictures from one year when they did a farm animal themed festival.  Let's take a look!


horses
I love these black and white cows.
Each year they move the various sculptures around to different parts in Germany/Austria/Switzerland... this is moved to somewhere along a lake.
How cute is this tractor?
Of course a German cow would have a cute bell!  Also, like how the udder is made of gourds?
I think this goat is just adorable!
A pig and piglets!

How cute is this??




One more cow to end...

I thought this festival was so incredibly cute!  I wish I had gone during that year instead of the sports themed year last year.  Which one is your favorite?  I think I like the goat the best.

Be sure to check out my trip last year.  They have over 450,000 pumpkins!!

Written at http://peoniesandorangeblossoms.blogspot.com

Of note, I saved this pictures a while ago on my computer and unfortunately don't have the sources.  If you recognize these pictures as yours, please let me know and I am very happy to give you credit!!

Linking up with these fabulous link parties: The Scoop!,  Metamorphosis Monday'sInspire Me TuesdayWow us Wednesdays! What's it WednesdaysCenterpiece WednesdaysCreative Ways Treasure Hunt ThursdayHome Sweet Home Feathered Nest FridaysG'day Saturdays,

Monday, September 29, 2014

Authentic German Pretzel Recipe

With Oktoberfest currently going on, I thought I'd try my hand at German pretzels. Now, the *authentic* German pretzel recipe calls for a dip in a bath of lye. I'm not going to risk my health with a lye bath in order to enjoy pretzels.  The much safer alternative is a baking soda bath.

German pretzel recipe
Authentic German Pretzel Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 packet active yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 2 quarts water for bath
  • coarse salt

Instructions


  1. Add yeast to warm water.  Let it settle for about 5 minutes.  Then add the sugar and salt to the yeast and mix in.
  2. Add the yeast, sugar, and salt mixture to the flour. Mix together. I used the dough hook on my kitchenaid and mixed for about 5 minutes on speed #2.  Let dough rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Cut dough into about 5-6 equal parts. Roll out on a clean surface.  Don't need to flour the surface, the dough shouldn't stick.  Roll the dough in a line until it is about 1/2 inch in diameter, and approx. 16 inches in length.  Then, make a U shape, twist the ends at the top one time, and fold over.
  4. Place the baking sheet uncovered in the fridge for approx. 1 hour. This is key. This helps build a skin making it have that nice crust.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  6. Bring 2 quarts of water to boil. SLOWLY add in baking soda into the boiling water little bits at a time. *caution* this creates quite a bubbly reaction for a few seconds so stand back and don't get burned!  It will eventually simmer down after a few seconds.  Then add more.  You have been warned!
  7. Add the pretzels one at a time into the soda bath.  Let it sit for about 10-20 seconds and then remove. Place on baking sheet.
  8. Sprinkle with coarse salt.  Bake the pretzels for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.  Move to a cooling rack. Grab some honey mustard, nacho cheese, or a slice of cheese and enjoy!
  9. To enjoy the next day, refrigerate and place in the toaster oven. 
hint: I had only rolled out the dough to about 1 inch in diameter and 14-16 inches long and then folded.  As you can see in the pictures, they puffed up quite a bit.  I suggest making it even thinner, maybe about 1/2 inch.  However, they still tasted fantastic!
    German pretzel recipe
    cooling on the rack


Check out my other German pretzel recipes:
Written at http://peoniesandorangeblossoms.blogspot.com