November 3rd was my son’s 4th birthday. We managed to finagle our way out of throwing a birthday party with his friends, and just had a quiet one at home with family. But the only way to get out of a birthday party with friends this year was to promise one for next year. So, since I’m terrible at throwing/hosting parties (for adults and children alike), I began thinking immediately about party ideas for next year.
One: take them to the giant indoor play place/jungle gym to burn energy and consume greasy calories for a few hours. Two: take them to the zoo to have the staff organize the activities, and I just participate. Three: organize a fun scavenger hunt. 5-year-old boys would like that, right?
So I asked my husband: “Are German kids familiar with scavenger hunts? Do they do that here?”
“Yeah, of course. A Schnitzel Jagd.”
“Huh what? You’re kidding, right?”
“No, it’s a Schnitzel Jagd. I’m serious.”
“You’re kidding. You have to be kidding. You’re trying to play me for the non-German speaking fool.”
And so it went on for a short while. But it appears to be true: German kids don’t go on scavenger hunts, they go on schnitzel hunts. How very…suitable. I love it. A fifth birthday Schnitzel Hunt it is, and it will finish with schnitzel, of course.
And since we’re almost a third of the way into November now, and Thanksgiving is obviously not celebrated here, Christmas anticipation is already floating through the air. Is it too early to get started? Well, I don’t think so. Bring it on. Let’s use this merry atmosphere to pull us through the cruddy, gray winter it’s gonna be!
But I will start off slowly today and not jump directly into Christmas baking, but with a bowl of warming, soul-comforting rice pudding. With Christmas spice. More specifically, Nürnberger Lebkuchen Spice. Have you heard of Nürnberger Lebkuchen? It’s the most German Christmas staple I can think of. Think soft, fluffy cake cookie with a thin glaze of icing. And when I combine those spices and put them in a rice pudding, well, that’s what winter would taste like. When you mix your spices together, take a deep breath in inhale the scent, and you have it right there: that’s what Christmas smells like in Germany.
Nürnberger Lebkuchen Spice Rice Pudding (Nürnberger Lebkuchengewürz Milchreis)
Serves about 4
1 cup (200g) Arborio rice
4 cups (1 litre) milk
½ cup (110g) sugar
1 tablespoon Amaretto (alternatively ½ teaspoon almond essence)
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon finely grated untreated orange rind (careful not to get the bitter part!) OR ½ teaspoon orange essence
Combine the rice, milk, sugar and Amaretto in a saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking/burning to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer, then reduce heat to low. Cook the rice for about 30 minutes covered, still stirring occasionally. While the rice is cooking, mix together the spices.
The rice is ready when most of the milk is absorbed and the rice grain is tender. Remove the rice from the heat and stir in the spices and orange.
Tip: if you’re enjoying the rice pudding while stir warm, you can throw in a small piece of your favorite dark chocolate. Let it sit for a moment to melt, then give it a little swirl to mix in. Heaven sent treat right there. Enjoy!