It has been an entire week since I last published a blog post. I guess that’s what happens when work is particularly busy! Nevertheless, Jake and I hosted our planned Mini Oktoberfest last weekend and it was so much fun! We prepared a bunch of German eats and our friends spent the day with us eating, laughing, playing games, and having some drinks! We even had a stein-holding contest. I opted out due to the impending embarrassment and also because I played videographer. Haha! More to come on that…
Here’s what we made (with links to the recipes):
We had some friends that brought extra delicious treats, as well:
I already wrote last week in my food blog post (Oh My! Homemade Pasta and Sauces, Carbonara Arancini, Caesar Dressing, Sausages, Chargrilled Oysters & Clams) about Jake’s sausage prep. When he cooked them this past weekend, he grilled the majority of them, but he chose to cook some of the beef and pork sausages in the smoker. The cooked brats were placed in a beer, butter, and onion bath and sat for 5-10 minutes to give a little extra flavor. Overall, the sausages were good, especially for a first attempt. The beef and pork recipe was actually for patties, which I think made them a bit dense. The chicken and apple sausage may have had too much liquid from the apples because they fell apart a little easier. They were, however, really flavorful and full of great spices. The only problem is there was so much excitement, we didn’t take any photos of the cooked sausages. Oops! Jake thought the smoked brats smelled and tasted a like kielbasa, so he definitely wants to try those next.
I’m sorry if this photo is not up your alley, but for those who appreciate meats, this is probably like a Picasso!
Pretzel Rolls and Beer Cheese Dip
I made the pretzel rolls and beer cheese dip the morning of the party, since I didn’t want the pretzels to get stale overnight. I was NOT looking forward to it, but I sucked it up and did it. The dough was actually really simple to make and I loved how smooth and clean it was after rising for an hour.
I read comments on the recipe that people wished they made smaller pretzel bites so more people could try them. So, I opted to make pretzel balls instead of the twisted pretzels. I simple tore off approximately equal size pieces of dough from the risen dough ball and rolled it in my hands. I tried to cut an “X” on top of each one, but they were a little too soft – that’s why the rolls didn’t come out very symmetrical.
I plopped two at a time into the boiling baking soda/water bath. It became cumbersome to set the timer to 30 seconds each time, so I just eyeballed it. Letting them sit for longer than the 30 seconds, though, did make the dough more soft and gooey. I suggest not trying to multitask or anything while doing this. I then baked them and only after 5 minutes, I checked the bottoms. Not surprisingly they were already brown, so I moved all them on top of a baking rack.
Toward the end, I actually let them sit for another 5 minutes or so in the oven with the temperature off. This is because I felt like the sides could get a more brown, while trying not to over-brown the tops. I thought to myself during the baking process that flatter pretzels would’ve cooked more evenly on the outsides. In the end, though, they turned out great. They just needed that extra little time to sit.
I followed the beer cheese dip recipe, although I accidentally put all the mozarella in the mix, instead of reserving the specified amount for sprinkling/browning on top. Luckily, I had some extra I was able to add. I don’t think the changed ratios of cheese made any negative difference to the dip. I actually also doubled the recipe, which was perfect for the amount of pretzels and people. People loved this dip!
The cabbage casserole was prepared completely the day before, except for the final baking, which I did while the pretzel dough was rising. I used ground chicken, so our guests that can’t eat beef could munch on this. The main deviation from this recipe is that I ended up using probably only 2/3 of a medium/large cabbage, which is a bit less than I think the recipe intended. I found that it would’ve been difficult to fit in the pot if I had had more and the ratio of meat-to-cabbage would’ve been a off. This dish was a great addition that doubled as both an entree and a side.
I had pinned 3 different German potato recipes, but I settled on the one that was more of set it and forget it, since there were already a million other things we’d be doing and cooking. I prepared the potatoes the night before and then dumped everything into the crock pot the morning of the party and let it heat through/finish cooking up until it was time to eat. I was disappointed that it called for boiling the potatoes ahead of time. It would have been infinitely more convenient to be able to literally dump it all in the crock pot and let it cook. I’m sure some adaptations could be made to accommodate this.
I think I made more than 4 cups of potatoes because I wanted to make sure there was plenty. I hadn’t increased any of the other amounts, so my potatoes were probably a little less saucy than they were supposed to be. These weren’t bad. I wished there was just a little more flavor. Perhaps if I had just increased the amounts of mustard, vinegar, or salt, then that would’ve done the trick. I also didn’t have fresh parsley and I think that would have been a nice addition, as well. It was still good and I ate all the leftovers anyway!
The onion pinwheel recipe was actually an onion tart recipe. I didn’t feel like making the tart dough/crust and I don’t have a proper tart baking dish. I took the easy way out and used Pillsbury crescent dough. For the amount of onions I made, I bought two cans of the crescent dough. I prepared the onion mix the day before.
Then that morning, I rolled out the crescent dough as a single piece, pinching a bit at the seams so it didn’t totally rip apart. I spread the onion mix across the rectangular piece and rolled it. I then sliced about 1/2″ thick rolls and put then in parchment paper, on top of a baking rack, so that the bottoms wouldn’t get too brown.
These were great as an appetizer and the caraway seeds gave it a unique flavor! Don’t be scared by the amount of onion. Once the crescent tough puffs up between the layer of onion, it provides a nice buttery and flaky component. Also, I didn’t use speck. Instead, I used regular bacon from our local store. I think using a heavier, higher quality bacon or pancetta would tip this over the edge.
The last dish I cooked is the cucumber salad. I chose to do this to provide some crispness and freshness among all the heavy foods we were eating. I used sour cream because I already had some that I needed for the other recipes. I thought that perhaps Greek yogurt would’ve been a little better for this dish. I also used a dried dill that isn’t overly dry. Overall, I think this was successful and mild in flavor, which was nice. I don’t think it was a favorite among all the other food choices, but I continued to eat some of the leftovers.
Now comes my talented friends!
Lindsay made two dishes. She made spatzle, which is sort of like a pasta dish. Normally, the dough is shaped by pushing it through a colander with wide holes. Because Lindsay didn’t a colander that fit the description, she ended up manually shaping the spatzle into more of a small dumpling shape to make a casserole with caramelized onions. This was another great alternative for non-beef eaters and made for a good entree or side!
Bee Sting Bars
Lindsay also made bee sting bars, traditionally called “Bienenstich”. I had sent her a recipe for a bee sting cake, but she was worried about prepping it ahead of time. She did a little more searching and found bars. She was worried about this, too, because there was no cream on the bars like the cake did. She ended up just making the bars and they were so good. Buttery bottom and a sweet layer with almonds on top. These were even better the next day!
Coconut Pecan Chocolate Balls
Last, but not least, were Liz’s delectable brownie bites with a coconut pecan frosting mixed right in there. These were ooey, gooey and delicious. I felt like eating just one was like I had an entire slice – it was so rich and these were a huge hit with our guests. I might just have to steal this for my next get together!
I almost forgot, we also had the stein holding contest. Jake won, but just by a hair ahead of Ben, Liz’s husband. They held the steins for just over 3.5 minutes! I’ll forego uploading the video because you can hear me WAY too clearly narrating. Lol.
All in all, it was a lot of prep and a long party night, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I love cooking and being able to entertain. I hope all our friends had fun, too!