Cheese Spaetzle

Cheese Spaetzle, the German answer to Mac & Cheese with a twist. Or with onions. You’ll find this dish all over southern Germany, in a small Gasthaus or in not so fancy restaurants. It’s a quick fix if you don’t want to go for a fully featured entree. Or something used as a foundation if you are out to get some serious beer drinking done. Or get the munchies while drinking serious beer. You get the idea.

But it’s also easy to make in a hurry or in a bind and once you have the spaetzle covered, the remaining ingredients should be available in every kitchen.

Recipe: Cheese Spaetzle
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Serves: 4
  • 1 pound spaetzle noodles
  • 1 medium-large onion
  • 8 oz Swiss or Emmentaler cheese, shredded
  1. Boil the spaetzle in salt water, see bag for duration.
  2. Dice the onion and saute them in oil.
  3. Drain the spaetzle once they are done and put half of them in a bowl.
  4. Add one layer of onions (about ⅔rds) on top.
  5. Add one half of the shredded cheese.
  6. Add the other half of the noodles, the remaining onions and top with the remaining cheese.
  7. Serve.
Some variants call to bake the spaetzle for 20 minutes in the oven before serving. Go ahead, it won’t hurt.

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It’s strange how history influences what we eat, or where a certain dish is eaten. Just like pizza went wherever Italians went, you can find Goulash wherever the Austrian-Hungarian empire went and then some. Originally coming from Hungary it was quickly adapted throughout. It can be made cheaply and without much attention. The German speaking military calls their field kitchen goulash canons, because its properties are great to make goulash.

I grew up with goulash and it was part of my diet for many years since it’s been offered regularly in company restaurants, or as goulash soup in bars as typical bar food. This recipe uses the crock pot which is great to get the meat tender, once it’s been seared and browned a pan.

Recipe: Goulash
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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  • 1 pound beef, diced for stew
  • 2 peppers, red preferred, but any color is fine
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cans (14oz) of diced tomatoes
  • 3 table spoons of extra sweet paprika
  • 2 table spoons regular paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ tea spoon caraway seeds
  • 1 cup of water or red wine
  • olive oil
  • 3-5 cloves garlic
  1. Heat up the crock pot on high.
  2. Dice the onion and the peppers.
  3. I prefer to slice the garlic here, but using the garlic press is fine as well
  4. Brown the beef in a pan.
  5. Drain the fat and leave some to saute the onions in.
  6. Transfer the beef into the crock pot
  7. Saute the onions and the garlic in the same pan.
  8. Add them into the crock pot.
  9. Add diced peppers and 2 cans of diced tomatoes.
  10. Add the spices.
  11. Add some water and mix thoroughly
  12. Once the mixture is boiling (takes 1 hour or so), set the pot to low heat.
  13. Cook for 5 more hours and stir occasionally
  14. Serve with boiled potatoes or noodles and a green salad

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My New Friend the Crock Pot

My New Friend the Crock Pot

Aside from me not really being a cook, there are other reasons I had never heard of a crock pot until 3 years ago. The Germans, and I am one of them, don’t get that much use out of it. Their main meal is served at lunch time. Given 6-8 hours of cooking time, it means you’d have to start your preparations long before breakfast.

But I’ve adapted to living in the US and my eating habits have as well. Which has given me the wonderful opportunity to make a new friend: My crock pot. It’s a great tool for somebody cooking “guy” style. Most crock pot dishes start with some chopping and filling up the pot. Switch it on, add some spices and stir once an hour or so. Go, mow the lawn, start writing a novel or do some scrap booking. Or facebooking.

The main purpose of many cooking recipes is to get tough meat soft and tender. The crock pot is a master in that endeavor. When I saw and tasted what the miraculous device did to my first goulash, I was overjoyed. What was even more interesting was seeing how the Pulled Sauerkraut Pork was developing over time. After two hours of cooking, it looked like the meat that was typically served during a German Schlachtfest or for the Americans, a pig pickin’. Continuing, after four hours, it came pretty close to North Carolina pulled pork.

I’ve used the crock pot often for goulash, pea and bean soups. All three of them are classic meals prepared in large quantities at gatherings or in the military – cooked in a field kitchen called the “Goulash Cannon”. All of them required a similar process: get the meal started early, cook for a long time and don’t lose much taste when kept warm for a long time.

There are plenty of crock pot recipes out there, waiting to be discovered. I might get around to reading them some day.

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German Potato Salad

Yes, potato salad. Nothing special about it. Plenty of dishes called for this potato salad and it was just a given. You only start missing it when you can’t have it. Like when you move to California. They do have decent potato salad there as well. Mayo based. You start wondering why mayo based potato salad is different and can’t tell at first. Until you call your mother and ask how she makes potato salad and she mentions vinegar. Of course, it took me five more years to write down the recipe, since I had to make potato salad on request.

The only problem is the potato selection. Back home an entire vocabulary is build around it: Boils firm, good for potato salad and other secret words. None of them have been translated for me and I have to find out through experimenting. I know the standard red potatoes are just fine for potato salad and Yukon Gold are okay. I’ll conquer the secrets some day.

Recipe: German Potato Salad
Recipe type: Side
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Serves: 4
  • 2 pounds potatoes
  • ½ cup diced onions
  • 8 oz bacon
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  1. Boil the potatoes and dice or slice them afterwards.
  2. Saute the onions until just a bit glassy, don't let them get brown.
  3. Fry the bacon and cut or break it into small pieces.
  4. Mix the dressing: broth, vinegar, oil, mustard, sugar, pepper.
  5. In a small pot, heat the mixture until boiling and stir it through for a minute.
  6. Add the onions to the potatoes and poor the dressing on top.
  7. If vegetarians are around, keep the bacon pieces on the side, otherwise add them.
  8. Mix everything through.
  9. Can be served warm or cold.

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