Oktoberfest 2020

This year’s Oktoberfest celebration was a weird one, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising in 2020. Normally, a Markel Family Oktoberfest is an at-home event. We listen to our Germany’s Greatest Hits CD, make some of our favorite German foods, and watch The Sound of Music and any episode of Rick Steves’ Europe set in Germany (or the Alps) we can find.

But this year was supposed to be different. The Great North American Oktoberfest was going to have its inaugural event in St. Louis this fall, and I had Plans. We were going to spend a day downtown, and listen to music and try out the rides and I was going to eat a steckerlfisch and maybe buy an authentic dirndl. And then COVID-19 happened. So we were back to our traditional Oktoberfest at home, which happens to be a very nice event. I started my shopping at Aldi a few weeks ago:

We made pretzels (of course):

And fondue:

We played Ticket to Ride–Germany:

We had a traditional German dinner

And our favorite German cake for dessert:

I even got into the spirit of the occasion in Animal Crossing: New Horizons!

So we had a fun day. Like so many other things this year, it wasn’t exactly what I had planned, but I’m glad we already had a tradition in place so we didn’t miss out on anything familiar!

The Top Five–Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2020

Here we are, at the beginning of a new decade! I thought it would be fun to come up with a “Top Five” of the things I’m most looking forward to this year. I kind of wish I had something really big on my list, such as a family vacation like the one we took to Florida in 2018, or a trip to London, but I really don’t need grand events to come up with things I’m excited about! So here are the things I’m thrilled are coming up in the next year (more or less in chronological order):

  • Lego Modular Bookshop–I always look forward to the release of the new modular building on January 1st, but I’m especially excited about this year’s set, because like the Pet Shop, it is a building in two halves, which will offer me lots of options for displaying it on my Main Street! Actually, I was so excited about the set, I was in line outside the Lego Store 20 minutes before they opened this morning, just to make sure I got one of the 29 sets they had in stock (I did)!
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons–I feel like I’ve been waiting for a new Animal Crossing game forever. Sure, I’ve played (and enjoyed) Pocket Camp for the last two years, but it’s not a full game, and it’s just not the same. So if you’re looking for me on March 20th, I’ll be living the island life with my animal friends!
  • Katheryn Howard: The Scandalous Queen–One of the highlights of every year for the last several years has been the release of the latest book in Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens series. We’re nearing the end, with the last book set to come out in 2021, but until then, May will be a great month for reading for me!
  • Tokyo 2020–Everyone knows I love the Olympics, and I’m especially looking forward to this year’s summer games, because our whole family has an interest in Japanese culture. It will also be a bit bittersweet for several reasons, including the fact that it will be the closing bookend on Turkey and Bunny’s homeschool summer school experience (summer school began in 2008 with the Beijing Olympics), but in spite of that, it’s still going to be a fun time!
  • Great North American Oktoberfest–I actually thought this event, which is the first in what appears to be an annual event traveling to different cities, was going to be held in 2019 (and, as it turns out, I was right…originally it was scheduled for last year), so you can imagine my disappointment when we didn’t get to attend. I’m hoping that it won’t be postponed again, and I will be able to enjoy this experience in St. Louis in the fall!

A Markel Family Oktoberfest

Yesterday we celebrated Oktoberfest! This is something we do most years, but not always on the same date, and it definitely doesn’t always look the same (some years, we go pumpkin picking on the day of our Oktoberfest celebration, but it’s still a little too early in the fall for that). Here’s a look at this year’s festivities.

We started the day with a special (but not specifically German), fall-themed breakfast:

We made pretzels from scratch, which is always fun, and they went perfectly with the German fondue I prepared for lunch. We also had pickles and mini bratwurst for dipping (or just for eating, because the boys aren’t big fans of fondue), plus a delicious cheese and artichoke strudel I found at Aldi:

For dinner, I made schnitzel (also from Aldi…they’re the best frozen schnitzel I’ve ever had, probably because they have saltines in the breading), Jäger sauce, spaetzle, red cabbage, and sauerkraut:

And for dessert, our favorite German cake…Black Forest cherry torte:

We spent the day watching The Sound of Music (I know, it’s set in Austria, but Oktoberfest is a chance to celebrate part of our family’s heritage, and my grandfather was from Austria, so I think it works), and every episode of Rick Steves’ Europe set in Germany that we have. We also played Chrono-Trek, which really has nothing to do with Oktoberfest, but is our current favorite game, and so much fun to play. It was a great day!

Prost!

Tasty Tuesday–Ideas for Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is one of my favorite times of year! My children have come to expect me to tell the story of why Oktoberfest starts in September and to make all their favorite Oktoberfest treats. Here are the recipes I’ve shared over the years…pretty much just sides and desserts for some reason, but those are the most delicious kinds of recipes, right?

  • Homemade Pretzels–This is one of favorite recipes, not just for Oktoberfest, but in general, because everyone gets involved in helping shape the pretzels…we’ve had a lot of fun coming up with unique shapes over the years!
  • Cheddar and Beer Fondue–If you’re looking for a dip for pretzels (or brats, crusty bread, and baby gherkins), this is the recipe you want.
  • Spaetzle–I can make over a dozen batches of this recipe in a single week, because it’s one that everybody loves, and it goes with pretty much anything.
  • Apple Strudel–Technically, this is an Austrian recipe, but it’s still an Oktoberfest favorite around here!
  • Black Forest Cherry Torte–This is one of our all-time favorite cakes…I’ve made it not just for Oktoberfest, but for birthday, too!

What are your favorite Oktoberfest foods?

Tasty Tuesday–Our Favorite Spaetzle

It’s that time of year again…Oktoberfest! I’m looking forward to cooking some of our favorite German foods in the coming weeks, but none is more appreciated than homemade spaetzle…well, other than Black Forest Cherry Torte! Here’s the recipe I use…it makes a lot, so you might want to halve it if you don’t like spaetzle as much as we do (or if you don’t have seven members in your family!). I use a little less nutmeg than many recipes call for, because I find it a bit overpowering, but feel free to adjust to your tastes.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch fresh ground pepper (white is traditional, but I use black)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley,  chopped
  • Shredded Gruyère cheese (optional)
  • Sauerkraut (optional)

Mix together flour, salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Beat eggs well, and add alternately with the milk to the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Working over pot of water, press dough through spaetzle maker or colander with large holes, dropping into water. Cook four to six minutes. Drain well.

Sauté cooked spaetzle in butter. Sprinkle chopped fresh parsley on top. For an extra-special treat, add some shredded Gruyère cheese and sauerkraut while sautéing the spaetzle.

Oktoberfest 2016

Today was our annual Oktoberfest celebration!

We spent the day at home, watching episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe set in Germany, as well as The Sound of Music (ok, so it was an Alpine Oktoberfest, not strictly German!). We also listened to one of my favorite CDs…Germany’s Greatest Hits. It wouldn’t seem like Oktoberfest without the “Schnitzelbank!”

We enjoyed our traditional feast. We had a light lunch so that we could enjoy a hearty afternoon snack of fondue with homemade pretzels, pickles, and brats. For dinner, we had more brats (one of these years, I’m going to make Jagerschnitzel again!), sauerkraut, and German potato salad. It’s been several years since I last made an apple strudel, so that’s what we had for dessert, but I used dried cranberries instead of raisins this time, which I think gave it an extra fall flavor.

This was kind of a silly tradition I started when the children were small, but I think it’s become one of our favorite days of the year! Prost!

Tasty Tuesday–Cheddar and Beer Fondue

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Last week I shared my homemade pretzel recipe, so I figured it would only be fitting to share the fondue we like to dip them in this week. Other things we like to dip, besides the pretzels, include baby gherkins, cooked brat pieces, and rye bread.

  • 10 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 6-8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 1 rounded tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup German lager beer
  • 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • A few drops Tabasco
  • 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Combine cheeses in a bowl and toss with flour. Add beer to a small pot and bring up to a bubble over medium heat. Reduce the heat to simmer and add cheese in handfuls. Stir constantly, melting the cheese in batches. Stir in a figure-eight pattern with wooden spoon. When the cheese has been incorporated fully, stir in the mustard, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Transfer fondue to warm fondue pot.

 

Tasty Tuesday–Homemade Pretzels

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I mentioned that we had our family Oktoberfest celebration recently. The format changes some from year to year (we picked pumpkins this year, which was a nice, new addition), as does the date (anywhere from late September to, well, any point in October), but the children have a favorite activity that we make sure to do every year…make pretzels! It’s a fun, child-friendly activity, and everyone can enjoy the results (they’re especially delicious with the cheddar and beer fondue I also make every Oktoberfest!). If you’re interested in adding this tradition to your family’s celebration, here’s the recipe I use:

  • 4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 1/4 cup warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two more tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease baking sheets.
In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in 4 cups hot water; set aside. When dough is done rising, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape (other fun shapes can be made, as well). Once all of the dough is shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda-hot water solution and place pretzels on baking sheets. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
Bake in preheated oven until browned, about 8 minutes.

Oktoberfest 2015

Today was our annual Markel family Oktoberfest. It was very similar to the celebration we had last year, with an afternoon snack of cheddar and beer fondue with homemade pretzels, pickles, and brats for dipping, an assortment of drinks, and, for dinner, brats, sauerkraut, and homemade German potato salad. The crowning glory of the day was, however, the Black Forest cherry torte I made for dessert!

Prost!

Oktoberfest 2014

Today was our annual family Oktoberfest celebration. We had some old favorites (homemade pretzels, German beer and cheese fondue served with brats, pretzels, and pickles, sauerkraut, and Black Forest Cherry Torte for dessert), and some new items (bratwurst and homemade German potato salad), on our menu.

This is always a fun day. The children really look forward to making the pretzels, and I love the chance to break out our polka CD so we can sing and dance! Prost!