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The Christmas Markets are Here!!

To say it’s the most wonderful time of the year might be a little bit much.  The most wonderful time of the year for me is when the weather is warm and I’m enjoying a beer or some other cold beverage outside.  

The very close wonderful time of the year is clearly when the Christmas Markets open and we are able to enjoy a nice Glühwein (mulled wine) and some other delicious food for about a month.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmarkt), first of all, where have you been?  Second, I’m really sorry for you, and third, there is no third.  I just wanted to make it seem like I might be making a list.

Christmas Markets are exactly what they sound like.  They are an outdoor market, full of really awesome Christmas items.  Would you like a really traditional ornament for your tree?  You can get it there.  Would you like chocolate, pastries, household goods, warm socks, etc?  They have all of that.  To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure what you can’t find at the market.  I live close to the Stuttgart market, so I go almost every day for some reason.

With all of that, what is the best thing about Christmas Markets?  Well, to me its that every city has one and every cities market has something unique to it.  Take one of the favorites in our area in Esslingen.  They have a medieval market, where they have hot tubs, flamethrowers, and so much more.    

My second year here, I decided to do a tour of several markets.  I went to almost 10 different markets.  It was fun, I was able to see what every city had, experience some unique food.  Met some interesting people, and had some really tasty warmed beverages.  Interest anyone in a tasty warm Gin and Tonic?  Yes, that was a thing, and yes, it was really good.  Not to mention, even got an online spot in the Nordbayern photo gallery for people coming to the markets.

Now that some of the main markets are open.  You might not know where to go.  I’ve put together a list of the ones I would suggest you need to see.  Also, before you ask, Germany isn’t the only place that has Christmas Markets.  If it’s a cold climate country, they most likely have one.  Take Prague for example, though I still haven’t been.  I’ve heard their market is pretty cool.  Take the time this season, drive, catch the train, get a flight, whatever works for you, and go out and see these awesome places.  It will be worth it.  Even if you aren’t into Christmas stuff. Go for some food and drinks, everyone likes something warm and delicious, right?

Stuttgart Weihnachtsmarkt (28 November – 23 December 2018)

Some of you might think because I live in Stuttgart, I have to put it down.  Well, some of you are kind of correct.  However, hear me out, the Stuttgart market is pretty good.  You have countless stands, around 300, to buy a wide array of items for Christmas gifts.  Several stands where you can be inside in the warmth.  Not to mention the various extensions of the regular market.  One of the extensions is the Finnish Market.  This market is awesome.  You are able to get some smoked lachs (hot smoked salmon) right off of a nice fire.  Not to mention the glühwein, they have the Finnish version called glögi.  The biggest difference between the two is the spicing, dried fruits are added, instead of just sugar, for one primary difference.  The glögi is also able to be paired with some very nice and shots, which enhance the mulled wine experience.

Last, but not least in all of this, is the fact they have tippees, where they have a nice fire going.  Yes, you can get your drink on, but be nice and warm.  To go along with these things.  You also have the Wintertraum, where you can get a few drinks after the main market has closed, oh if you feel like it.  You can go ice skating.

Der Esslinger Mittelaltermarkt & Weihnachtsmarkt (Medieval Market and Christmas Market (27 November 2018 – 21 December 2018)

What is considered to be one of the best markets.  The Esslingen medieval market is a mix of your standard fair market, but another side all to itself.  You have your standard stands, with all of your standard Christmas items, plus a lot your standard food, sausages, käsespatzle, various types of stews.  Once you leave from the normal and go into the medieval, you see people carving things.  Medieval clothing, plus some of the most tastiest food you will ever find at a market.  They have venison gulasch, along with some amazing pizzas with lamb, venison, and what my friend calls the best käsespatzle.  For reference, käsespatzle is the German version of mac n’ cheese.

They have also have some flamethrowers, you can throw knives, axes, do some bo and arrows too.  You might wonder what these things have to do with Christmas.  Frankly, I have no idea, but they are some pretty cool activities to see.

Munich Weihnachtsmarkt (Varying start dates, some ending on 24 December 2018)

The Munich market isn’t just one market.  They have markets.  If you are familiar with Munich and the various places to see there, then you won’t be surprised to know, that there are way more locations to go and see things.  If you really want to get a true feel of everything they have.  You can read about my trip there several years ago when I did one of the best trips with a group when it comes to seeing a market.

In short, they have a market in the Marienplatz area, there is a gay market, called Pink Christmas, where they have a daily cabaret show.  There is also a medieval market as well, oh, they also have a pretty cool one in the English Garden.  We did several in one day, but you should probably give yourself a few days.

Strasbourg and Colmar (23 November – 30 December 2018)

If you start early enough in your day, you can do both the Strasbourg and Colmar markets.  I’ll be honest, going to a French Christmas market isn’t exactly like going to the German markets.  However, you aren’t that far away from the German border, so you will see a few similiarities.

You can start in Colmar, spend several hours there, see the town, then drive the hour to Strasbourg and see their several markets.  Colmar has 6 Christmas markets.  Each is its own little village, the 6th is the newest one this year, which is for gourmets.  I think I’ve found my new favorite one.  The best thing I found about Colmar was the setup.  As you walk, it was like a new discovery.  Like I said, you can do two of these in one day, but you might get caught up and not want to.

The Strasbourg market has a lot going for it, with 300 different stands, full of amazingness.  When you walk in you are greeted with the true feel of Christmas.  You have stands, with ornaments, clothing, wine, cheese.  You know, things that make France, well, France.  Like Colmar, you have several markets, or little villages with things going on.  You really need to walk around and try not to miss anything.  

The great thing about each of the French markets is that they are open after Christmas.  In Strasbourg, they won’t have everything open as far as every area, but as I found out several years ago, they still have a lot for you to see and do.

Der Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt

I have to say there isn’t a list of markets that won’t list the Nürnberg Christmas market.  Though to be honest, it wasn’t my favorite when I did my tour years ago.  In the main square, you had a lot of repetition of items.  I lost count of how many mini bratwursts stands I saw, but there were a lot.  I can say that the market in full though was very nice.  One of the big draws is the largest Feuerzangebowle (fire tong punch), a better description is that it’s mulled wine that has a rum-soaked sugar cube dripping into it.  Now that the technical explanation is out of the way.  It’s deliciousness in a cup!  

You have hundreds of stands, that will definitely openup  your eyes to one of the best markets in Germany.  Things you will need to get, so you’ll know you did it right.  Get a few Lebkuchen (Gingerbread cookies), get a few mini bratwursts, you can find them at a lot of places.  Lastly, like I said above, Feuerzangebowle, you gotta do it.  Even if you aren’t a rum fan, you can deal with at least one of these.  

First off, if you made it through this list, thank you!  You deserve a glühwein on me.  You just have to come to Stuttgart to get it.  There are a lot of wonderful markets all through Europe if you live in a German city, that city will have one.  It might not be 6 weeks long, like your bigger cities, but you will at least have a good weekend or longer to enjoy one.

If you can’t make it to Europe or Germany, a lot of countries are starting to have markets.  Get in the spirit and enjoy the season.  Thank you for taking the time and stopping by!

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Malaga, ​the destination, you have to visit

Are you looking for somewhere really nice to go, but isn’t the normal tourist place?  If so, let me tell you about a nice trip my girlfriend and I took to Malaga, Spain.  This fabulous city located in the Costa del Sol (sun coast) region was a great trip, especially since around that time Stuttgart was doing what Stuttgart and various parts of Germany do.  It was starting to be freezing out.

Malaga might not be on your list of places to see in Spain, frankly, it wasn’t top of my list either.  We all know the main places, Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia.  I should probably mention, I’ve been to those three, though Madrid was only like 6 or 7 hours, but I’m still counting it.  Spanish cities have a charm and chill nature that just make you want to see what they have to offer.  I mean they take siestas, what can be better than that?

Now if you look it up, you’ll notice something pretty convenient about making Malaga your starting point.  This is the fact it’s a central location for seeing other fascinating cities in the southern region of Spain.  You are able to travel to Granada, Seville, and Gibraltar.  Not to mention other smaller cities that have so much to offer.  If you have ever have seen pictures or know anything about white towns, those villages where the buildings are just white, these are good to see.  You won’t be sorry at all.

You can do a lot in a European city within several days.  We were there just under a week, landed on Sunday, left on a Friday.  One thing that we found to be really cool, especially for the fact that we are beer drinkers, is the fact that Malaga has a lot of craft beer bars.  Yes, the country that is known for sangria, along with really amazing wines, has some really nice, affordable craft beer places.

I’m happy to say that we tried out a good amount of those places, along with really awesome finds not beer related.  Of course, there are a lot of places people who have gone to Malaga enjoyed.  Here are a few of those really cool places, I think you should go and see for sure.

Craft Beer  Bars

Central Beers

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Central Beers is a nice craft beer bar and restaurant.  Honestly, what is better than traditional Spanish dishes, with tasty craft brews.  They have several beers on tap, along with countless bottles of beer from around the globe.  This included a nice selection of my favorite beer, which is Belgium beers.  For food, they have a good selection of burgers.  We had ham that was stuff with cheese then deep fried, so pretty much a very large croquette.  This was a perfect meal to share and enjoy.

La Madriguera

One of the more interestingly setup places was La Madriguera.  When you walk past this place, you wouldn’t think much of it, but once you walk in, you are greeted with a board full of beers, Spanish, Belgium, Scottish, plus many more.  The Bartender for our visits, yes, visits were always really good.  They could give a lot of recommendations.  Here unlike Central Beers, they have more bar food selection of items, with a few unexpected things.  Like  Poke bowl, not something I would normally be getting, but they have it there for you.  It’s obvious that a few American inspired things made their way onto their menu.  Depending on your plan for the night, you should go here and get a few drinks.

Arte & Sana Craft Beer Cafe

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Bottles… #malaga #craftnotcrap #craftbeer

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This was one of the best places that we went for sure.  Their selection of beers definitely impressed and made us wanting more for sure.  Out of these three places listed, this by far looked like a dive.  Though, what they didn’t provide in a hipster like setup, you were welcomed with so many delicious varieties of beers.  Unlike the other places, there aren’t any food options here.  There are a few places nearby that you can go to for a quick snack, then come back for another beer, but nothing on site.

Cafes, Restaurants, Good drinks, and Eats

Gloria Hoyos

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We stayed in an apartment that wasn’t very far from Gloria Hoyos.  Every day, we walked past here, looked in and said, “It looks good, we should go.”  It took until our last evening to finally do it.  If you want your fill of tasty traditional Spanish Tapas, this is your spot.  The decor is a little eclectic, but still fun and interesting to see.  They have a live DJ, along with other live music that happens too.  If it’s you and a group of people, or just you and your partner, then order up a variety of things, then go to town.  Lastly, they breakfast, yes, we went back there for breakfast on our last morning there.  Go there for breakfast too, it will be worth it.

La Tranca

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Buen domingo, trancosos!! #latranca #dominguito

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Listen to me here, you need to go to this place.  Out of the bars, restaurants, other things I’ve mentioned and will be mentioning, La Tranca was pretty neat.  This smallish cafe has so much going on, it’s just great.  We were big on drinking beer during our trip, but you have to drink wine here or try one of their aged Vermouths.  They are serving you directly from the barrels.  I had one because, why wouldn’t I have one?  What I found to be pretty cool was the singing of the bartenders.  The night we were there, the bartender was a guy, that was just doing his thing.  They also have some tapas, which if you want to do it in true Spanish style, get a little something there, then start your tapas tour of other places.

La Recova

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Buenos días! #desayunoespañol

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The best way to describe this place, simple.  Several days for breakfast, I would see people eating bread with olive oil, and thought how cool that was.  At La Recova, you get some toast, homemade jams, and spreads, some tomatoes, plus some other random things you can also order separately.  Some fruit, other vegetables, etc.  This place doubles as what I would say is an antique shop as well.  The food, coffee, juices are pretty good, and again, simple.  Something that I have come to enjoy and love about Spanish food, the use of simple ingredients, that create tasty flavorful dishes.

Sights and Places to See

Mercado Central de Atarazanas

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Do you like markets?  Do you like a market where you can see a lot of different things under one roof?  If you answered yes to either of these things, then the Mercado Central de Atarazanas is a must.  I’ve been to several markets like this in Spain and this one definitely ranks high on the list.  You are able to find some really awesome Spanish Chorizo sausage, various amounts of fruits, vegetables, nuts, dried fruits, etc.  What’s another thing that makes this place interesting?  There were a few stands where you can order various types of croquettes.  They are sold by weight so you can mix a lot of different types of things.  I’m happy to say that we had a few different things.

Playa de La Malagueta

Malaga Beach

The Playa de La Malagueta is one of the closest beaches to Malaga’s city center, about a 10-minute walk.  This is a beautiful beach and definitely one of the first places you have to go and see, that is after you’ve had your sangria, beer, or that glass of wine.  I mean Spain, beaches, can you really go wrong?  Up and down the beach are various restaurants and cafes to get a quick bite or a cold drink.  We stopped, got some seafood, along with a nice pitcher of sangria.  You can’t go wrong with whatever it is you decide to do on the beach.  If you just sit on the beach, go for a swim, or walk around the area.  You will enjoy and just want to stay and enjoy more.

El Teatro Romano

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The El Teatro Romano is a pretty different site.  This outdoor theater has the traditional Roman tier seating, not to mention is still used from time to time for special events.  What makes this spot pretty interesting as well, is the fact you can just walk down the Calle Alcazabilla, then turn your head and see this amazing landmark.  It is located near the Alcazaba, which is another must-see landmark.  All in all, this entire area should be on your list while in Malaga.

There is so much more to write and mention, but I think we all have enough to ponder and think about.  There will be more, look out for Granada and Nerja, which were so good, they deserve their own separate story.

Thank you for taking the time and watch out for more.  So many more trips and stories to tell.

Stuttgart’s​ Best Burgers

In my 7 years of living in Germany, mainly here in Stuttgart, there are various meals I really do miss from the states.  Now I can easily cook these things myself, but as we all know, there is a time, when you don’t want to have to go and buy the ingredients for whatever.  You don’t want to have to go and have that random jar of this or that, then a month later think, “What am I going to do with this?”

Over the years I have become resourceful.  That big bottle of tahini, well you can make a dressing, use it for a crumble topping, even make a dessert, I should say desserts.  I digress, those meals I really miss are those things that even though I can fix it, you want someone else to make it for you because that’s how you learn to taste food differently, figure out how something was made, then go back home, make it myself.  That, in turn, saves me about €20 ($23), when I really want to go and fix that meal myself.

With all of that, what do I miss?  First has to be Mexican.  I really never thought I would miss a good Mexican meal, but once you have been burned several times here in Stuttgart, then the closest good place is in Munich.  You figure out what you are missing.  The second thing, which if you just didn’t just scroll down and miss the title, is a burger.  Who knew that a city could mess up the humble, simple hamburger.  Stuttgart is always right there saying, “Hold my beer.”

The bright side is that Stuttgart over the last few years has improved their burger game.  I have tried a good amount of the burger places here, even did a little Facebook poll last week, just to see what some of my friends thought about a few places too.  With all of that, I’m going to be going over what I feel are Stuttgart’s Best Burgers.  Yes, there are more new places.  I have tried a lot of them.  Of course, I might do another list, but these are the ones I think everyone should try.

Let’s look at a few of the places Stuttgart has to offer, in no particular order:

Triple B

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Triple B came on the scene several years ago and they raised the game in Stuttgart in a major way.  One of the problems that you find a lot of the time in Stuttgart is that they add a lot of unnecessary extras in their “burgers”.  As one friend described it, the burger in Stuttgart is meatloaf.  At Triple B you are getting a true beef burger that is cooked correctly.  You have a lot of options for burgers too.  You can get a standard cheeseburger, have a little spice, with some jalapenos, or if you are feeling really fancy, you can get some gold on your burger.  Yes, that’s right, editable gold on a burger.

Now let’s talk about the extras, like fries.  The fries are pretty good there.  They compliment the burger perfectly.  Unfortunately, another sign that you aren’t in a burger eating cultural, fries aren’t included.  You have to order them separately.  You can either get a space portion or a large, which is enough for two people if you are dining with someone else.  Lastly, when you order a burger here, remember to get the bigger burger.  One more time, because I know, a lot of people won’t know what I’m talking about.  They have a 100-gram (around 4 ounces) burger and a 200-gram burger (around 7 ounces).  Go big!  It fits better when it comes to eating it and let’s be honest, bigger is better when it comes to a burger.

Prices:  The price range for a burger here goes from a standard burger at 200 grams (remember, go big, I’m not steering you wrong) €8.50 ($10) up to the 23 karat gold burger at €19.90 ($23).  If you want to add fries, then add €2.90 ($3.40) to the total.  You are spending around €12-€15 ($14-$18) for a normal burger, drinks not included.

Locations:  Triple B has a location in Stuttgart, their newest one, along with the original in Zuffenhausen.  Try both, The Stuttgart location is in the center of town, always very busy.  Not a lot of space, depending on when you arrive.  The Zuffenhausen location allows you to move around a little bit more, but still, both get very busy.  Lastly, the Stuttgart location is closed on Sundays.

The Burger House

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The Burger House comes in as another good burger place that I normally like to try.  First, they are a chain, I know some people don’t like chains, but they aren’t a McDonald’s like chain.  Though they have a Burger House in Kuwait City, which is amazing to me.  A chain from Bavaria, with one location in the Middle East, not bad.

Getting back to the burgers though.  The Burger House has a very good burger, that is juicy and cooked to order.  You want medium, you can get medium.  Frankly, medium is the best way to go.  I’m not a hockey puck fan.  Their burgers are 125 grams (5 ounces), yes a little small compared to Triple B, but the flavor is there.  You can get a double burger, but you can stick with regular size.  Fries are extra, but they also have sweet potato fries, if you want something different.  Not to mention they have hand cut fries, pretty much wedges, but they are good if you are in that mood.

If you want to get something other than your standard bacon, cheese, or just a regular burger.  Burger House throws you some interesting toppings.  The Chorizo burger, a slice of deli-style chorizo, gouda cheese, and a basil sauce.  The Big West, a fried onion ring, bacon, and bbq sauce.  Not to mention the Vato Loco Burger, guacamole, jalapeños, and bacon.

Prices:  The prices for the burgers here range from €4.99 ($6) for a small cheeseburger, 75 grams (3 ounces) up to €15.99 ($19) for a jumbo burger, 500 grams (around 1 pound).  Add fries to that, €2.99 ($3.50).  If you are going to get a classic burger that’s €7.49 ($8.80), with fries, you are at about €11 ($13).  The other burgers, like The Big West, are €9.99 so you could be spending €13 ($15), again, drinks not included.

Locations:  As stated before, The Burger House is a chain, the original in Stuttgart is in the center of town.  They have a location in Stuttgart-West as well, along with Ludswigburg as well.  They are open every day which is a plus for sure.

Burger.Place

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Burger.Place, that is the name of the place and the website, FYI.  This a Canadian style burger.  I know for many Americans, you would think what do they know about burgers, but this place is good.  They serve up a 175 grams (6 ounces) burger, that has good flavor is all beef.  They have a new location in Zuffenhausen, their original was in Feuerbach, which is where I originally found them.  Not a complete cooked to order burger, so no medium for you.  Though they don’t cook it until the cows come home.  See what I did there?  The people who run it, are German, who spent several years in Canada, learning the ways of the burgers, probably also picked up some hockey skills too.

Just like other places and the trend nowadays, you can get your burger with a lot of stuff.  Can I interest you in a Pulled Pork Beefty-Boy?  That’s a burger topped with pulled pork, bbq, along with the normal toppings, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.  You can even design your own burger if you would like.  Fries are extra, but they also have onion rings and poutine for our Canadian friends.  I’m not sure if they are real cheese curds, or they are using mozzarella, so be cautious there.

Prices:  The prices range from €6.50 ($7.65) for the kids and senior burger, that is 110 grams (almost 4 ounces) up to €19.95 ($24) for a burger that is pretty much man v. food style of a burger.  4 patties, a lot of cheese and bbq sauce.  Add fries €2.95 ($3.50), you are spending about €10-€23 ($12-$27).  Drinks as is normal, aren’t included.  Though, at Burger.Place, they have root beer, plus a few other interesting beverages, not just beer.  If you are interested.

Locations:  Burger.Place has just one location.  They are closed on Sundays, so Monday through Saturday are your times to go and get a tasty Canadian style burger.

Final Thoughts

I didn’t mention it for all of the places, but each one has a veggie burger option, not to mention a chicken sandwich, or as they call it, a chicken burger.

The Bun Game

I am a big bread person.  I like my bread to be a certain way.  With that being said, don’t look for the perfect bun with any of these places.  Just go in and taste the burger.  The Burger House has a decent bun, the rest are OK, but it’s not like what I know a lot of you are looking for.  On the other hand, the buns are locally made in a lot of cases, so that is something for you all.

Please comment, share, and definitely try out some burgers!  Stuttgart has a burger place on like every corner nowadays.  Cheers!

 

 

 

Peach Moscow Mule

It’s all coming to an end.  Sadly, it always comes to an end.  You look at reports, you look outside, things just aren’t the same anymore.  You know it has to end, but why?  Can’t it last forever?

Unfortunately, nothing last forever, so yes.  We have to say goodbye to summer.  Oh, I can only wonder what you might have thought I was talking about.  Anyhow, yes, it is Labor day weekend.  The unofficial end to summer, well, for America that is.  Here in Germany, labor day was several months ago.  This week we have seen various temperature swings.  A glorious 80℉ (27℃) plus day, with a few days on the outside, where I’ve seen people wearing heavier than normal jackets.  Yes, it is coming to an end.

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I, however, will not allow summer to leave without a nice seasonal cocktail or two, maybe three.  Say hello to the Peach Moscow Mule.  A lot of us think of the peach being the star of your peach cobbler, peaches and cream of course too, maybe even a peach jam or jelly.  I look at a peach and think, how can I put this into a cocktail.  I mean, when you have a lot of peaches, you need to do something with them that’s different, right?

Now, normally I have ginger beer in the frig.  I also always have vodka, throw in a lime, you have the traditional Moscow Mule.  I just need the copper cup and I would have all of my bases covered.  The good thing about the Moscow Mule is that you can add different flavors to it.  Adding the peach really provide a unique flavor that elevates this drink and gives it that summer feel.

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When making this, make sure you have a nice ripe peach.  If it doesn’t feel soft in at least one or two places, don’t bother making this drink.  Let the peach sit on the counter to ripen a day or two more, and make something else.  You need ripe fruit so that you get the proper flavor for this drink. Give this drink a try, it’s construction is simple, which means you can make a few and really enjoy your Labor Day weekend.  Be safe and enjoy the weekend!  I know I will be, with a few of these, plus some other really awesome creations!  Cheers!!

Peach Moscow Mule

Prep Time: 10 Minutes             Total Time:  10 Minutes      Yield: 1 Drink

Ingredients

  • 1 Peach, unpeeled and sliced
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice (about the juice from one 1/2 lime)
  • 1 1/2 oz Vodka
  • 3 oz Ginger
  • Peaches for garnish

Directions

In a rocks glass add your sliced peaches, reserve two or three slices for garnish.  To the glass add your lime juice and muddle until you have a nice looking paste.  You want it to be pretty much liquefied.

Add vodka, then ice to the glass, stir to combine this part of the drink.  Pour ginger beer on top, give it another light stir to combine this portion of the drink.  Add peaches to your drink on top for garnish.  Serve immediately.

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Gin Blackberry Smash

Oh look, it’s the weekend again.  I have to say, when I get up to start my Monday, I kind of think how fast or slow will this week go?  Next thing you know, it’s Thursday and I’m trying to figure out the weekend plans, praying that Monday doesn’t come too quickly.

With all of that, just like I wrote about a few weeks ago, a cocktail has to be in the mix.  This week I got to go to the farmers market, where I saw some awesome looking blackberries.  Over the years I have learned to enjoy various berries.  The one issue I always run into is finding ripe, sweet berries.  Finding strawberries, not a problem, while blueberries, raspberries, leave a lot to be desired.  However, these blackberries were good to go.

Along with the love for berries, I have also found a love for gin, not to mention my girlfriends help too.  The variations that are available really mix well with a lot of different cocktails.  Just like my Gin Blackberry Smash.  A blackberry smash might not be something a lot of people are familiar with.  I wasn’t really familiar with a smash cocktail until I was at one of the bars in my neighborhood and I had a Gin Basil Smash.  I think this is what really opened my mind up more to gin.  Before I associated gin with the taste and smell of a pine tree.  With years and more experience in drinking, I’m a gin fan now!

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Now for this fabulous drink, the components aren’t exotic.  They are however seasonal.  For me though, these are things that I always like to have around.  I think everyone should have mint and limes around, especially in the summer.  Making a simple syrup is well, simple.  You just need sugar and water, bring it to boil, let it cool.  You are good to go.  I should mention the gin too, but I think if you got this far, you know gin is a prerequisite.

I hope you take the time this weekend, or anytime really to make this blackberry smash cocktail.  You won’t be disappointed!

Gin Blackberry Smash

Prep Time: 10 Minutes             Total Time:  10 Minutes      Yield: 1 Drink

Ingredients

  • 8 Blackberries
  • 7 Mint Leaves
  • 1 oz lime juice (about the juice from one 1 lime)
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz Gin
  • Garnish of Mint sprig, and 2 to 3 Blackberries (optional)

Directions

In a rocks glass add ice and set aside.  In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients except the gin, and your garnishes.  Muddle the shaker ingredients until you can smell the mint and the blackberries are completely liquified.  Add the gin, followed by ice, put the cap on.  Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds, or until shaker is extremely cold.

Strain cocktail into your prepared rocks glass and garnish with mint and blackberries if using.  Serve immediately.

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Cherry Jam Margarita

It’s the weekend!  The weather here in Stuttgart has had its moments.  a few moments of sun, followed by it going away for a while, then you get some rain mixed in there.

With the weather being nice at points, here Stuttgart, that is anything over 72 °f (22 °c), I start going out for more walks in my neighborhood, as well as to the farmers market.  Not to mention you see really nice seasonal fruits and vegetables come about.  When I start seeing strawberries, blueberries, cherries, etc.  I can’t help but just want to make a nice cocktail.  Normally, if you follow my instagram, you know I love a Friday cocktail.  I come home after work, hit my liquor cabinet and decide what I’m in the mood for.  My Friday rule is pretty clear, nothing too simple, because I deserve something tasty as a reward for finishing a week of work.

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This time I was in the mood for a margarita.  I enjoy the taste of a margarita, if you can find a nice tequila that goes down smooth and mixes well, then you have a great drink.  A problem that I’ve run into here in Stuttgart is finding a tequila like that.  That’s why when I get a visitor, OK, when my mom comes, or a friend,  I ask for a nice bottle.  This time it was Milagro.  This is a wonderfully smooth tequila, that you can shot and not feel horrible the next day.

With my love of cocktails and also because I live in a neighborhood that has some of the best bars in the world, seriously I have a bar (Schwarz Weiss) that was voted as one, I’m constantly inspired to learn from them, then come home and make a great drink, for way less of a cost.  This time it is a cherry jam margarita.  Yes, if you never thought about it, you can make a great drink using that jar of jam or jelly in your frig.

If you want to try out different flavors, go get a jar of jam, you will be amazed.  It works in many ways.  You have something, which will impart the flavor you are looking for from that particular fruit, along with the sweetness you might also enjoy.

If you are looking for that first cocktail to make tonight, or really any night in general, then make this Cherry Jam Margarita.  Once you do, make sure to tell me about it.  I know I can’t be the only person who enjoys a nice Friday drink to start the weekend.

Cherry Jam Margarita

Prep Time: 10 Minutes             Total Time:  10 Minutes      Yield: 1 Drink

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon cherry jam
  • 1 oz lime juice (about the juice from one 1 lime)
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 1 1/2 oz Silver Tequila
  • Dash Angostura Bitters
  • Garnish of a lime wedge, or a cherry (optional)

Directions

In a rocks glass add ice and set aside.  In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients, except for garnishes.  Fill shaker with ice and put the cap on.  Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds, or until shaker is extremely cold.

Strain cocktail into your prepared rocks glass and garnish with lime wedge or a cherry if using.  Serve immediately.

Tasty Carrot and Banana Bars

It’s been an interesting time with February rolling in, here in Stuttgart, the weather always leaves you wondering what will come next.  For instance, take last Sunday, I was sitting here in my living room, look outside and there are nice fat snowflakes.  I should probably mention a few days before if I wanted, a nice light jacket could’ve been worn.  That’s just the weather you come to expect here.  Can’t say I’ll ever get used to it, but it’s not something that going to stop me from really being active.  I mean it’s just a little random weather, right?

Other than the random flurries along with the seesaw of temperatures, an excellent bright side is the fact it’s staying brighter a little while longer.  Everyone knows what that means?  Cold temperatures are leaving, and longer days are on the horizon.  However, we still have some colder days coming, which means you will probably want something that’s going to warm you up.  Carrot and banana bars anyone?

Oat Loaf

These bars have a lot going for them.  They are gluten-free and vegetarian, not to mention they have all of those good things, we all love.  One of those flavors being peanut butter.  Now you have a peanut allergy, then you can definitely sub it out with another nut/seed butter without a problem.  Now this recipe uses a fun technique, but you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.  If you have a spiralizer, get it out and spiralize those carrots!  You will want to make sure you are cutting the carrots here or there.  Long strands of carrots look cool but can be a little problematic, when eating, or that might just be me.

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If you don’t have a spiralizer, don’t worry, just get out the box grater, a shredder or whatever, and get at it that way.  Lastly, you have honey as a sweetener, but no other refined sweetener, that’s right none of that white sugar, which means these bars are good for you all the way around.  Eat them for breakfast, as a snack, or even dessert.  You name it, it’ll work great for it.

Give these bars a try, you won’t be sorry that you did!

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Carrot and Banana Bars (adapted from Spiralize Everyday)

Prep Time: 30 Minutes             Cooking Time: 25-30 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 4 Tablespoons peanut butter (smooth or crunchy are fine)
  • 2 medium to large carrots (
  • 3 overripe bananas
  • 1 Cup (7 oz / 200 g) Raisins
  • 3 1/2 Cups (10 oz / 300 g) Gluten-free Rolled Oats

Cooking Method

Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C).  Prepare an 8 x 8 inch (20 x 20 cm) square baking pan with either aluminum foil or parchment paper, set aside.

Place honey, peanut butter, and coconut oil in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is completely melted.

Meanwhile, if using a spiralizer, with a spaghetti size blade (1/8 inch, 3 mm), and spiralize the carrots.  While spiralizing, roughly cut any really long spirals in half with scissors or knife.  Alternately, grate carrots into a bowl or on a plate.

In a large bowl, place bananas and mash with a fork.  Once complete, stir in carrots, raisins, and oats.  Pour peanut butter mixture over ingredients and combine.

Spoon combined mixture into prepared pan and flatten with the back of a spoon.  Bake in a preheated oven for 25 – 30 minutes (depending on your oven), until golden brown and set.  Remove from the oven and cool in the pan.  Once cool enough to remove from pan, slice into desired bar sizes.  This can vary from 10 to 12 slices.

For short-term storage, place in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days. For long-term storage, wrap individually and store in the refrigerator for a week.  They can also be wrapped and stored in the freezer, thaw in the refrigerator, then heat for about 30 seconds, and enjoy.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings4 bars

 

Gooey Bacon Brownies Revisited

 

Several years ago I shared a recipe for gooey bacon brownies.  I know the thought of bacon in something that is sweet is still odd to a lot of you.  It was that way to me too, but I thought why not.  The funny thing is that when I made these, then had friends try them, let me tell you something.  To this day, people who have either heard about them or tried them, the first question is, “Do you have any of those bacon brownies?”

There was a time when I made these things a lot.  I really enjoyed trying out different ways of layering them, presenting them.  Not to mention the fact of taking them to different parties is always fun for me to do.

When I put this up this recipe in July of 2012, it was inspired thanks to an ebook called 21 Bacon Desserts Recipes That You’ll Wish You Would Have.  Going back and looking to see if the author did anything or just to see what was happing with the book, looks like it’s nowhere to be found.  It’s unfortunate, the book has some very interesting, with a lot of very unique recipes.

Now for the recipe itself, the components are straightforward.  If you have made any brownies or baked goods before, it’s not mind-blowing at all.  You start by making a bacon caramel, which I have to say.  If you wanted, you could just do the bacon caramel sauce, and not make the brownies.  Another good option is that you can double up on the ingredients for the bacon caramel, have some for the brownies, then the rest for later.  Now, one thing that you have to keep in mind while making these.  Don’t overcook the brownies!  A problem that a lot of us do constantly is overcooking our baked goods.  We overcook brownies, cookies, cakes.  Remember this, actually, do me a favor, write it down, put it in your phone, or wherever.  Just because you took it out of the oven, doesn’t mean it’s going to stop cooking instantly.

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For these lovely morsels, they are supposed to be undercooked.  Don’t put a toothpick or something in to see if they are cooked or ready.  I like the shake test of the pan.  Just tap the pan a little bit, a little movement means that you are good to go.  In any case, you are going to let them cool, then pop them in the refrigerator for an hour or so.  This allows for nice slices.  Don’t worry though, they will still be gooey and full of tasty caramel.

If you are wondering why I’m posting this recipe again after 5 plus years, a few reasons.  You learn how to do a few things better, so why not pass that learning along.  I also was able to take some pictures that look so much better, which really show how awesome and tasty these brownies really are.

I hope everyone makes these and enjoys every single bite of them.  They are truly a very tasty sweet to have.  Enjoy the brownies!

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Gooey Bacon Brownies with Caramel Sauce

Prep time: 20 minutes                    Cook time: 35-45 minutes,

Ingredients 

Bacon Caramel Sauce

  • 3 slices of bacon, A thick cut is best
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Brownies

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate (chips or chocolate bar)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar (not raw sugar, but the kind mixed with molasses)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla bourbon (optional)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, a mix of either 1 cup cake flour, or a mix of a 1/2 cup of cake flour, with whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 slices of cooked bacon, chopped

Cooking Method

*Bacon Caramel Sauce: In a dry skillet, fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and add cream to hot pan and let cool. When bacon is cool, crumble or chop finely.

In a larger pan, heat the sugar over high heat until the mixture is liquid, keep an eye on the caramel.  It is very easy for this to go quick, and burn your caramel, which means you have to start over. Mix in the butter and the cooled bacon cream. Stir until the butter is melted. Add the chopped bacon. Remove pan from heat and let the mixture cool thoroughly.

Brownies: Preheat the oven to 350° F (175° C) degrees. Line an 8-inch (20-cm) square pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper that covers the bottom and sides of the pan. If using foil, grease the foil with butter, if using parchment, then just butter the pan and lay paper in the pan.

Melt the butter and your chocolate chips, or chocolate bar by microwaving in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second intervals. Stir after each melting, add the cocoa and mix until smooth.  Next add in the eggs one at a time, followed by the sugar, vanilla, bourbon vanilla, if using, along with the flour and baking powder.  Stir until combined.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Over top of that, spread a third of the bacon caramel in an even layer, if caramel is stiff, reheat slightly to allow for easier spreading. Spread the rest of the brownie batter over the top and finish with the remaining caramel sauce over the top of the brownies.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes.  The brownies will have a nice rise, along with bubbling.  If you have to or aren’t completely sure stick a toothpick in an area where there is no caramel, if it comes out slightly clean, remove from the oven, and let cool.  You can also shake the pan slightly, and a little bit of movement also means it is ready to be removed.  Don’t forget it will still be cooking, for several minutes after it is out of the oven.  After it has cooled, refrigerate for at least 1 hour, then cut into squares, or whatever shapes you desire.

Yield: 12 to 14 servings4 brownies.jpg

*Note – Depending on your bacon type, you may need to add some oil to the pan to help cook your bacon.  American bacon has a lot of fat so you won’t need to do this at all.

The return, this time hopefully for good

 

It has been over 2 years, 2 months, and 27 days, if anyone was counting, since I’ve graced my own my page with new written content.  I’m always putting material up via twitter (@jacobkthomas) and on Instagram (@jacobkt225), however actually putting words to a page, hadn’t really happened.  The question of why/how this happened is first question.  That answer is kind of easy to answer, that little thing called life.  Also, I didn’t have anything to live up to my mission statement.  I’m supposed to be providing things about my travels, my food, and my life in Germany.  I am still traveling from time to time.  I’m still eating and making excellent food, look at my Instagram, seriously, I’m not ashamed of the food.  Lastly, I’m still living here in Deutschland.  I guess when it all came down to it, providing new content that I thought people would like to read wasn’t something I felt up to doing.

However, after over 2 years of nothing, I feel like now I’m able to finally put something up.  That feeling of wanting to put up new material just happens to coincide with bringing in 2017 with renewed hope and brand new motivation.  I also felt like this place is the best place to review my 2016 resolutions.  I’m still putting the finishing touches on the 2017 resolutions, which will probably go where the 2016 ones were.  That location was my refrigerator.  The idea was simple.  What place do I spend most of my time in my apartment?  That would be my kitchen.  I decided to put it there because I felt that I would come in there everyday and be reminded of what I wanted to do.  I’ll be honest for the first part of the year, it worked.  Needless to say like a lot of things for a lot of people, even when you have something looking you straight in the face, you can find a way around it.  With all of that though, I put down 13 resolutions, goals, things I wanted to change.  Whatever you want to call it, I put down 13 of them.

20170102_154820-2017-01-02t16_44_10-996Literally decided to handwrite these, out of the 13 things I wanted to do, I can say I was able to accomplish 8 or 9.  Why 8 or 9, it comes down to the second resolution, lose weight, target weight of 165 lbs.  I did lose weight, however 165 was a pipe dream.  As I was told by my girlfriend and a few other people, me getting down to that weight is a bit much.  I did get down to around 170 or 171.  I was happy with that, though with the holidays and all, who knows where I’m at now.  My reasoning behind that was that I wanted to feel healthy.  I really feel like a healthy body can provide you with a healthy mind.  I have read that when you workout, it gets your mind going.  I can say that when I worked out, my mind was clearer and I felt happier at times.  Not to say that working out alone led to weight lose, but I also wanted to eat better and watch my portion sizes.  With that being explained, let’s review the 2016 resolutions: Read More

The times you know you should be doing something else

I’m always surprised at the times I tell myself, “You know you should probably get back to writing.”  I then think I should be working on getting something up, I have been to Greece, Spain, back to Belgium, and back to Berlin.

I however hadn’t been able to get myself into doing the actual task.  I mean the reason is pretty much I’m a perfectionist.  I’m far from being perfect, for me to go into the reason why would take longer than I really want to get into.  In any case, I’m actually writing something.  I’m working on a true system, so I can do this a whole lot more.  I like writing though actually doing it is the real problem.

The first thing to get to is where have I been?  For those of you that haven’t paid attention to the calendar, it is October, which means, it is Oktoberfest time.

Jacob fest 2014Unlike last year, when the government was shutdown and I decided to spend a Friday in Munich for Oktoberfest, I’ve only actually been to the Stuttgart fest, which is called Volksfest once.  However this week is going to be different all together.  I will be going and enjoy some very tasty food and fun sites in the fest.

Along with going to fest, as I mentioned, I went to Spain, Valencia to be more exact.  I’ll be writing about how great that trip was soon.  I mean the city in itself is amazing and the time I had there really makes living in Europe something people should do at some point in their life.

DSC_0660For right now that’s all I have.  I can’t wait to share all of the good times I’ve had over the last few months.  Not to mention some of the awesome recipes I’ve found, made, the food I’ve eaten, and the great people I’ve met.

I think I’m setting the bar very high, but I believe I can do it.

Lastly, if you haven’t been here in a  while, you might have noticed I have a Instagram feed up now.  Yup, if you wanna see what I’m seeing in Stuttgart as well as my trips in Europe and beyond, look for my Instagram feed, you can find me as @jacobkt225.

See you all soon!