Tag Archives: Switzerland

It’s Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday

Mardi Gras KidThere’s a lot going on today. In addition to Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday, today is also the 100th International Women’s Day, which I’ll be posting on later today.

But Mardi Gras deserves attention all on its own.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the last day before the Christian season of Lent begins. In Lent, Christians make sacrifices, fast, pray, and try to prepare for Easter, the holiest time in their religious calendar.

So Mardi Gras is the last hurrah before the solemnity of the Lenten season. And some people really do make the most of it.

In Brazil, Carnivale has a world-famous reputation as an all-out extravaganza.

In the United States, New Orleans pretty much holds the title for most festive Mardi Gras destination.

The celebrations can get wild – but there are some family-friendly traditions that anyone can adopt.

King CakeOne of the most fun is King Cake. King Cake is not only eaten during Mardi Gras, but it is also a popular food during the Christmas holidays in places such as France, Belgium, Portugal, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Switzerland, and Spain.

Inside the cake is a tiny figure of a baby, meant to be the baby Jesus. Whoever finds the figure in his or her piece of cake earns the right to buy next year’s King Cake (I like this tradition!).

In addition to King Cake, parades are a common activity at Mardi Gras festivities. You can organize a mini-parade with your family either inside or outside (depending on how frigid it is where you live). Dress up in masks and pile on every piece of funny clothing, jewelry, or decoration you can find.

Mardi Gras beadsIf you’ve got beads, flaunt them! Mardi Gras beads are traditionally distributed during parades. These plastic beads, usually found in purple, green, and gold, are fun treasures for kids to collect. You can give out beads according to your own idea of a good time. Encourage your children to compliment each other or do nice things for other friends or family members in order to earn the beads. You can keep the fun going long after Mardi Gras.

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Cookies 23: Speculass

Speculass cookies, which are from the Netherlands, resemble the Springerle cookies from Germany we made way back on Cookie Day 4.

This speculass recipe is from Martha Stewart and it looks difficult and amazing. But then again, isn’t that what we’ve come to expect from Martha?

Speculass

Ingredients

Makes about 32 cookies

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for surface

Directions

  1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, mace, white pepper, and cloves in a large bowl.
  2. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in half the flour mixture. Beat in water, then remaining flour mixture. Shape into 3 disks. Pat each to a 1-inch thickness, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Dust surface and springerle mold lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Roll out dough to a 1/4- to 3/8-inch thickness (deeper molds will need thicker dough). Cut a piece of dough about the size of the mold. Press mold firmly into dough, flip over, and gently roll over dough with a rolling pin. Flip over, and press onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a knife, trim excess dough. Gently coax dough out of mold with fingertips and onto a baking sheet. Repeat, spacing cookies 1 inch apart, and placing same-size cookies on same sheet. Freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Speculaas Cookies – Martha Stewart Recipes

 

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Cookies 22: Basler Brunsli

Today’s cookie is from Switzerland and – much like that country – it’s pretty picture-perfect for the holidays!

This Basler Brunsli recipe is from Pastrywiz.com.

Basler Brunsli (Chocolate Almond Cookie)

1½ cups natural almonds (8oz)
1 cup sugar
½ cup powdered sugar
6 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chopped
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 large egg whites

In a food processor combine almonds with sugars until ground fine. Add chocolate and mix until fine. (Do not overmix or chocolate will melt.) Add spices and egg whites and mix until dough comes together. Chill dough for about 1/2 hour.

On a surface covered with sugar, roll dough to about ½ inch thickness. Cut out cookies with a 2 inch cookie cutter (heart or star shaped) and transfer onto baking pan lined with parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 350º F. Put cookies into the oven and reduce the temperature to 325º F. Bake for 15 minutes or until firm. Be careful not to overbake or the cookies will be too hard.

 

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Tripping on Travel Envy

So here’s the downside to social networking sites like Facebook:  I have come to the unpleasant realization that many of my friends are living more interesting, adventurous lives than I am. 

images-2Take the friend who updates regularly from Dakar, Senegal.  She and her husband both served as Peace Corps Volunteers with me in Burkina Faso in the late 1990s.  Today, he’s working for the Foreign Service and she is raising their two young children in a bourgainvillea-covered home.  

Then there’s my  college roommate who is leaving in a month for a job in Bogota, Columbia.

Another Peace Corps friend now works for the World Health Organization and is frequently updating her profile to announce her latest trips to Mali and Switzerland.

There’s even an old boyfriend announcing his plans to move to China for a year.

I’m Shrek-green with envy.  

Even though my job and my family keep me pretty firmly tethered to exotic New Jersey, a girl can still dream.  I’m already plotting trips to Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, and China.  After all, I may not be able to live overseas for the time being, but a girl can still dream – and research – for the future.

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Filed under Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America