Bavarian Inspired Cheese Spread (Obatzda)

This week for our DistanceDishes date, Amanda and I had German foods on the mind with both of us recently attending local Oktoberfest celebrations in our respective states. While Amanda arrived in style with her spiffy new dirndl to an impressive Florida/German celebration, my experience was a little less…authentic. While the local brewery’s Oktobertfest event was wonderful in the beer selection department, the food was a bit lacking. This inspired me to have a little home-based Oktoberfest celebration of my own, complete with a few Bavarian-inspired munchies.

Full disclosure, I had never heard of Obatzda while in Germany (although food wasn’t really my thing past french fries when I was there) and this recipe is more “inspired” than authentic. Typically this cheese spread was a way to use up leftover Camembert or brie cheese, and the spices were added to change any “off” flavors into something else delightful. Now, I love me some brie, but it’s never quite the same the next day and I certainly don’t need to be eating a whole wedge in one sitting (can…but shouldn’t…). Since I had some leftover from a cheese plate, why not? An extra creamy cheese seems to sometimes be optional and is usually cream cheese. However, since I was introduced to Laughing Cow cheese while living in Germany, I thought it seemed appropriate (and it’s delicious in this). While it may not be the exact same being served in the tents over in Munich, this recipe is certainly going to be making more of an appearance in my home all year round.

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz brie cheese, softened (rind and all)
  • 1-2 tbsp butter, softened wedges
  • 4 Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss cheese
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1-2 tbsp finely minced onion (depending on your desire for “bite”)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2-3 tbsp German Beer (I used Hoegaarden)

Instructions: 

  1. Allow the brie cheese to come to room temperature. In a small mixing bowl, mash  brie and butter with a fork, food processor or immersion blender until mostly mashed with minor lumps.
  2. Add laughing cow, paprika, onion, salt, caraway, and beer and stir with a wooden spoon, your food processor/immersion blender to make sure everything is incorporated. If you would prefer your cheese spread to be a little more spread-y, feel free to add more beer if you prefer.
  3. Return mixture to the fridge to allow flavors to mingle for at least 2 hours but overnight is even better.
  4. Before serving, allow the cheese to come back to room temperature and serve with a nice slice of rye bread, pretzels or any other vehicle of your choosing. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: You could finish the rest of that beer you opened to add to the cheese, but if you’re set on the wine route, I would say a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc might go well with the caraway and other biting flavors in the spread. 

 

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Chocolate Ganache Truffles

I just recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas so naturally I had lavish and over-the-top themes running through my head because of it. I had the opportunity to taste so many delicious meals and I wanted to bring back those feelings of relaxation and luxury back home to my own kitchen after the vacation was ended. Amanda also had a free weekend and was in the mood to treat herself, so we were both wanting to make something that truly felt like we were chilling in the lap of luxury. Still getting over the jet lag though, I didn’t want to spend my whole day making my “treat,” and ganache truffles were the perfect mix of fancy and elegant, but still not too labor intensive. With Valentine’s Day approaching as well, these make a great homemade gift for your sweetie if you’re up for whipping up a batch. Otherwise, they make a great afternoon treat any day you want to feel a little fancy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Instructions: 

  1. For coatings: 1/2 cup crushed oreos, crushed peanut butter cookies or cocoa powder (or all 3!).
  2. Over medium heat in a small saucepan, heat the cream until just simmering.
  3. Remove from the heat and add your chocolate chips, butter and bourbon and stir until the chips are melted and everything is combined. Transfer the chocolate to a stand mixer bowl and fit your mixer with a whisk attachment.
  4. Whisk the ganache mixture for 3 minutes on medium speed to ensure that everything is combined. Transfer the bowl to the fridge and let chill overnight or at least for 3 hours until set.
  5. Once set (if too firm, remove from fridge and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes), use a dough scooper to portion one inch balls and roll quickly between your hands to smooth. It does help to wear gloves at this step. You will also want to move quickly and not overwork the ganache to keep it from melting.
  6. Roll your ganache balls through the coating of your choice and place in a mini-cupcake liner for easy snacking later. Store your truffles in the fridge until ready to eat or give to your valentine. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: I personally would probably want something peppery to complement the sweetness of the truffles like a zinfandel. However you could go with a dessert wine as well and savor everything. It’s hard to go wrong with wine and chocolate!

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The “I’m Ready for Fall” Cocktail

While it might not feel like it to Amanda right now, or me for that matter, Fall is here! Alright, I might be feeling it a little bit more than Amanda (yay for 60° nights!) but I’m not really there quite yet (ugh, 85° days…). If I can’t bust out my knee-high boots and box of scarves just yet, I at least want to sip some flavors of Fall while I light my “Scents of Fall” candle and pretend my nose is a little chilly.  This cocktail did just that.

With cinnamon, nutmeg and notes of ginger, this yummy adult beverage leaves the familiar comfort of Fall desserts on your tongue and the rum sure does help to make your tummy warm, even if it is too warm outside for something more of the Hot Toddy variety. This is also a great way to utilize that delicious, seasonal, apple cider hitting the shelves right now. Feel free to make yours a little cider heavy, it’s always a tasty choice.

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts spiced dark rum
  • 1 part ginger beer
  • 1 part orange juice
  • 1 part apple cider
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Dash of cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Stir all ingredients together* and pour over ice. If you want to get fancy, rim a glass with some cinnamon sugar and stick in a cinnamon stick. Enjoy!

*Note: I did use my cocktail shaker for this one, and it does work but just be warned that ginger beer has bubbles and will expand when agitated as my kitchen floor soon found out. I’m sure you all knew that but I’m not good at carbonation. okay? 

 

Easter Lamb Shank and Side Dishes

This was our first recipe Amanda and I cooked together when we first had this idea to keep in touch through food and it was right around Easter last year! We decided for our first meal together, we wanted to cook the same dish so we’d have something to discuss on our skype dates. Our first meal was something of a departure from my usual dinner rotation recipes and it was a new experience in both cooking and eating for me. We decided to cook one of the traditional Easter recipes, a leg of lamb. However, upon examining the goods at the grocery store, we quickly and independently decided that a whole leg of lamb was entirely too much (much to my husband’s dismay) and decided on lamb leg shanks: much smaller and more economical.

To start, we both seasoned our lamb shanks similarly, and I decided to serve my lamb with a simple cauliflower mash and roasted green beans. It was the perfect introductory meal to our new food and communication goals which have so far been successful and a blast to continue.

Roasted Lamb Shank Ingredients:

  • 1 lamb shank, on the bone
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
  2. Trim the lamb shank of any large, unwanted pieced of fat, although it is not necessary.
  3. mix together the garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and marjoram in a small bowl. Rub lamb shank with spice mixture and place in on rack in roasting pan.
  4. Add sprinkle some of the fresh rosemary over the lamb shank and add the remaining sprigs to the top for cooking.
  5. Place lamb shank on rack of roasting pan* and cook in oven for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F for Medium or 170°F for well done. I would recommend removing from the oven a few degrees lower than your desired temperature, covering with foil and allowing to rest for 10 minutes to keep everything juicy.
  6. Serve with vegetables of your choice, or the two recipes I made follow.

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*I did not have a specific roasting pan, so I fashioned these foil tubes to lift the shank above the floor of the pan so that it was not sitting in its own juices, and it seemed to work in a pinch. 

Cauliflower Mash Ingredients:

 

  • 1 head of cauliflower cut into rough florets
  • 2 cloves of garlic-minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Additional herbs to your liking ( I added a bit of rosemary, some oregano and thyme to tie to the lamb)

Instructions:

  1. Place the cauliflower in a large pot and pour in enough water to cover, you can salt the water a bit if you like
  2. Bring to boil and cook for 5-10 minutes until fork tender
  3. Drain and let the cauliflower cool a bit until it is suitable for a food processor
  4. Place in food processor with salt, pepper and any additional herbs and blend until smooth
  5. Reheat over low heat if necessary and serve

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Balsamic Roasted Green Beans Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of green beans ends removed
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Spread green beans on a baking sheet and sprinkle on all other ingredients
  3. Use hands to toss ingredients together so that beans are well coated
  4. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes and enjoy!

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Wine Pairing: It makes sense that our first recipe would pair well with one of our favorite and most readily available wines. Because lamb has notes of traditional beefy flavors while also being pleasingly different, a fruit forward cabernet would be a great match with this dish. Happy cooking!