Archive | December, 2011

Wishing You All a Happy New Year

28 Dec

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas holiday with family and friends.  I had a lovely combination of celebrating the season at home, worship and working at the restaurant.  We hosted thousands of hungry travelers and home-town residents.  Service helps me remember the real meaning of Christmas.  With the many choices people now have to celebrate Christmas, I am humbled and thankful for all of you who make our restaurant part of your annual family tradition.

As important as the Bavarian Inn Restaurant has been to my life, nothing means more to me than my family.  I’m blessed that these two passions of mine – family and the Bavarian Inn – could intertwine so successfully.

As most of you know I was a working woman raising a family before many women were doing that.  It’s just the way things happened – the business needed me and so did my children.  Tiny used to say that if it hadn’t been for me, we wouldn’t have succeeded.  It was a team effort back then, and it continues to be a team effort today.

I was blessed to have the ability to bring the children to work with me when they were old enough.  I remember toting them to the restaurant.  I would set them on a pushcart and gave them some teapots filled with water to play with.  Wherever I was in the kitchen – peeling potatoes, cleaning chicken, making dough – I just pushed them next to me so we could be together.

People often say to me, “Your children really turned out great!”  That makes me very proud.  Between attending parochial school and learning the importance of work, they were given a strong foundation.  They always came first in our lives.  And I truly think because of that we are a close family today.  All of the time we spend together – either reading or doing homework or learning a craft at the restaurant – help us build a bond.  A strong work ethic and emphasis on the family has been passed down from my children to their children and grandchildren.  Few businesses survive four or five generation, and few families survive being in business together.  We have had the great fortune to create a winning recipe for both.

When I began work on “Come Cook With Me,” it was quickly apparent my book would be more than just a collection of recipes.  In fact, I think people like the stories behind the recipes just as much.  I say this with much humility; our family business has become a Michigan institution.  Literally millions of people – some from other parts of the globe – have eaten or shopped or lodged with our family for decades.  And, for better or worse, they’ve gotten the Bavarian Inn bug – they’re just curious about our family and history.  We’re an old-fashioned family with traditional beliefs and practices.  I guess in a way we’re somewhat novel.

It’s been a real treat to recreate some of my fondest memories in the pages of my cookbook and here in the blog.  I hope the stories I’ve shared have given you a small bit of insight into the making of our business, how we work together today and our family values.  I’ve had some hearty laughs remembering stories about the Tiny and the kids.

This will be my final post, as I’m refocusing on some other areas of my life.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my stories, and I thank you for your comments.  They mean so much.

It has been a wonderful year with the release of my book and my 90th birthday celebration.  I believe that was quite a feat, plus working my normal shifts in the kitchen.  God has blessed me with much, and I will continue to share His gifts with all of you.  As I’ve said throughout my life, there simply are no shortcuts.  I am glad my path has brought me to where I am today.  It has not been easy, but I would not change a thing.  The satisfaction of hard work and seeing the results has stayed with me my entire life.  To this day, I’m not happy when I’m not working.

God bless you all and have a prosperous and healthy 2012.

Auf Wiedersehen – until we meet again!

90 Years of Christmas Blessings

22 Dec

My last post will filled with German traditions and a little history about the customs we still practice today.  Thanks to all of you who wrote me with stories of your own family Christmas traditions.  It’s wonderful to share your lives through the pages of my blog – it’s almost as if we’ll be together at the holidays as one big family.

The Christmases we celebrate today are quite different from the holidays I celebrated as a girl.  As you know, I grew up in Reeese, Mich.  Our family spent Christmas Eve with my Grandma Schlukebier – my maternal grandmother.  Even with 30-plus grandchildren, she found a way to give a small gift to each one of us.  Hedwig was herself one of 11 children, and knew the importance of being uniquely remembered on Christmas.  I kept every gift Grandma Schlukebier ever gave me.  As the years passed, I’ve given those gifts to my daughters Judy and Roxie.  And they’ve passed them along to their children as well.

Grandma Schluckebier also made donuts the morning of the party, enough for more than 50 people. We would drive to grandma’s house in a car with no heat, covered in horse blankets to keep warm.  So you can just imagine how much we welcomed those fresh hot treats.

Growing up in the ‘20s and ‘30s, times were tough.  Our family did not have much and the economy in Reese suffered as well.  Christmas was not lavish in our home.  Certainly not the Rockwell image you see on television today.  Our folks could not afford gifts – except maybe a pretty handkerchief.

Even the decorations were sparse.  We were treated to an artificial tabletop tree that Santa would bring each Dec 24th. One year, we caught my mother in the act of bringing the Christmas tree out of storage, blowing Santa’s cover.  My grandmother had sent us girls to the barn to feed the animals – a clever way to get us out of the house.  Unfortunately we finished too quickly.  As we were coming back in we saw the two of them carrying the tree to the table.  We quickly realized Santa had two crafty helpers – mom and grandma.

Many years later I married Tiny and I began to embrace the Zehnder holiday traditions like singing.  My father-in-law William – Tiny’s dad — played the piano and led us all in song at the homestead.

After Tiny and I became managers of Bavarian Inn Restaurant, we would alternate hosting the big family Christmas party with Eddie Zehnder, who was manager of Zehnder’s restaurant.  There would be more than 100 guests. This tradition went on for many years.

Recently when my daughter Roxie was in town to help celebrate my 90th birthday we reminisced about more of our family’s traditions.  When the children were growing up, we closed the restaurant at 3:00 p.m. on Dec. 24 – a practice we continue today.  After Tiny returned home from work he’d make a big batch of oyster stew. Then he’d proclaim, “No one can open a single present until they’ve eaten at least one oyster.” I don’t believe anyone was fond of oysters except Tiny. We also had pickled herring – a treat the family did enjoy.

The children’s program at our church — St. Lorenz – on Christmas Eve was the official beginning of our family’s Christmas celebration. After church Tiny would drive us around Frankenmuth to look at the holiday lights. The children were anxious to get home and begin opening their gifts. Sometimes Santa Claus himself would come to our home, and give peanuts and candy to the children. These Santa’s helpers were usually friends of Tiny. After the gifts were handed out, Tiny would offer Santa a frosty stein of holiday cheer – something you’d only find in Frankenmuth.  When other friends came caroling they were welcomed to the same Christmas spirit.

After my daughter Roxie married and moved to Muskegon, she would bring her family to Frankenmuth every Dec 24th, spend the night and return to Muskegon early the next day to celebrate Christmas morning at home.  I made them a family lunch to eat in the car. Every year it was the same — chicken salad sandwiches, pickles and pretzels. Roxie’s children would finish every last bite by 10:30 a.m. — only one-quarter of their way home. That custom also remains the same to this day.  I guess we really should call it “brunch.”

Christmas Day has always been reserved for working.  It is our continued honor to serve Christmas dinner to families who come to Bavarian Inn Restaurant.  We will serve about 3,000 guests on Dec. 25.  For many folks, not cooking a big holiday dinner is the best gift of all.  If you are one of those people, I’ll look forward to seeing you Christmas Day!

One final thing.  Last week I promised I’d talk a little about Christmas cookies.  As you know, Mondays are for baking, and the girls and I started our holiday baking earlier this month.  In my book, “Come Cook With Me,” I have many recipes for cookies and bars.  While they are good to eat year around, there are some “musts” we bake each Christmas.  As you can imagine, everyone has his or her favorite.  So with a family as large as ours, that means baking a lot of cookies.  At the top of the list are:  Sugar & Spice cookies, Iced Spice Bars, Grandma Nuechterlein’s Raisin cookies, Butterscotch Oatmeal bars and my personal favorite, Bavarian Inn Hello Dollies.  Each of these recipes is easy to follow, easy to bake and is a guaranteed hit with your families and holiday guests.  Here’s a secret:  Be sure to make an extra batch because they sure go quickly!

God bless you all and have a very Merry Christmas.

Auf Wiedersehen – until I see you next week!

German Christmas Traditions: From Advent Wreaths to Grandma Zehnder’s Plätzchen

14 Dec

As you might imagine, things are very busy this time of year at Bavarian Inn Restaurant, Lodge, Castle Shops and River Place.  The Christmas season is officially upon us, although some say it’s Christmas all year long in Frankenmuth.  We received our first big snow just before my birthday, the shops and restaurant are beautifully decorated, and I feel the warmth of the holidays in everything – and everyone – I see.

Last week I talked a little about Christmas traditions.  Our family has many, as I’m sure yours does as well.  Being German, many of our customs and meals can be traced back to Bavaria and the surrounding regions.  In fact, many of the traditions we Americans celebrate this time of year originated in Germany centuries ago.

In Germany, the Christmas season officially begins four Sundays before Christmas Eve with the start of Advent.  Many people celebrate with Advent calendars – a calendar with 24 windows that open to reveal tiny pictures or pieces of candy — and Advent wreaths – a horizontal wreath with four candles, the first being lit on the first Sunday of Advent, with a subsequent candle being added each Sunday until Christmas.

Of course everyone knows that the Christmas tree got its start in Germany.  You may even sing “O Tannenbaum” – the German version of “Oh Christmas Tree.”  The custom started some 400 years ago with people decorating their living rooms with evergreen branches at Christmastime.  It evolved into bringing in whole trees and decorating them with apples, gingerbread and silk flowers.

Of course Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa Clause or Sankt Nikolaus as the Germans call him.  On December 6, his birthday, German children placed their boots out for Sankt Nikolaus to fill with fruit, nuts and candy.  The name “Kris Kringle” – another common name for Santa – was derived from the German “Christ Child” who was the first bearer of gifts at Christmas.

Some Germans celebrate the tradition of the Christmas pickle.  We sell these tree ornaments in our stores.  According to legend, a pickle was the last decoration placed on the tree and hidden deep in the boughs.  The child who found the pickle on Christmas Day was blessed with a year of good fortune and received a special gift.  That is not a tradition we adopted in our family.

One of the most anticipated rituals of the holiday season at our home is Christmas dinner. The traditional German holiday meal consists of duck, goose, rabbit or roast, accompanied by apple and sausage stuffing, red cabbage, and potato dumplings. Even the fruitcake we eat today was adapted from German Stollen. We bake Stollen here in our bakery all year long.  It’s a much lighter and less sweet version than American fruitcake, and immensely popular at Bavarian Inn with our fruit preserves.

In the tradition of our ancestry, the Bavarian Inn Restaurant serves roast duck on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.  Our customers tell us it’s a real treat for them to get it at Christmastime because they don’t cook duck at home.

Roasting a duck is not a lot harder than roasting chicken.  It doesn’t need to be fancy.  With just a few hours roasting time you can get a juicy bird with a crisp skin – the best of both worlds.

Just like geese, ducks have a layer of fat just beneath their skin.  It keeps them warm and allows them to float in water.   The secret to cooking duck is removing and draining that fat before and during cooking.  For an extra crispy duck, try using a standing rack placed in a roasting tray for cooking. This helps the fat drain nicely.  A perfectly cooked duck will have very little fat remaining and a nice, thin and crispy skin.

Roast the duck in the oven at 375 degrees for three to four hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 175 degrees.  We roast ours with caraway and our all-purpose seasoning.  Many people like a glazed duck.  Many good glaze recipes can be found online.  Try honey-ginger, cranberry-cherry or pomegranate glaze for a different taste.

Because I can have duck at the restaurant, I make meatballs Christmas Eve for my family.  The recipe is available in my book “Come Cook With Me” available online ( http://onlinestore.bavarianinn.com/browse.cfm/dorothys-cookbook-come-cook-with-me/4,19.html) and in our stores.

We also have lots and lots of “Plätzchen” — Christmas cookies — which I’ve already begun to bake with my daughters, granddaughters and Sophia, my great-grand daughter.  This is a tradition onto itself, which I’ll talk about next time.

Auf Wiedersehen – until I see you next week!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

7 Dec

 

Wow, what a time I’ve had!  Celebrating my 90th birthday was a week-long affair, with parties and radio shows and good food and great friends.  Thank you all for your birthday greetings and well wishes.  I caught up with friends I haven’t seen in a long time and others I see nearly every day.  And, I was blessed to see my entire family over the weekend – three children, 10 grand children and six great-grand children.  We’re quite a crew when we all get together.  That much partying can be exhausting.

Last week I shared my recipe for longevity; I have a passion for work, I’m open to learning new things, I’m active and I have faith in God.  It’s a simple recipe and one I continue to live by each day.  God has graced me with much, and I do all I can to share my blessings with those at work and at home.

All week long, people asked if I was surprised to reach 90.  Maybe not so much surprised as amazed.  None of us get a roadmap when we’re born.  My life has twisted and turned in many directions.  Tiny and I worked hard building our business, raising a family and developing the community of Frankenmuth.  We were not certain how anything would unfold.  Today, I am amazed at my life, what we have been able to accomplish, the success we’ve had in business and the joy our children have brought me.  My life is fabulous beyond my wildest dreams.  I thank Tiny, I thank God, and I thank the millions of people who’ve shared a meal with us.

The other question I was asked frequently — “What’s next?”  Well, that answer is simple:  Get back to work.  We are in the midst of our busiest (and my favorite) season – Christmas.  After serving 4,500 guests on Thanksgiving, we are full steam ahead at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant, Lodge, Castle Shops and River Place through the New Year.

I’m back in the kitchen planning menus, overseeing quality, teaching new employees and enjoying every minute of it.  My health is good and I’m energized.

Frankenmuth is a national treasure, especially during the holidays.  Recently, our little berg was featured in both Midwest Living and Time Magazines – that’s good for business.

Midwest Magazine ran a story called “The 12 Reasons to Visit Frankenmuth, Michigan”

(http://www.midwestliving.com/travel/destination/michigan/frankenmuth/).

The article – perhaps a play on the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” listed many of my favorite things, including the Frankenmuth River Place Shops – managed by my grandson Michael.  Also on the list, Lorenz Lutheran Church, brew pubs and candy makers, and the Castle Museum.

Time magazine named Frankenmuth one of the nine “Most Christmassy Towns in America.”

(http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2099452_2099450_2099866,00.html)

Yes, even at 90, I get a very sentimental feeling at Christmas.  The season fills my heart with joy.

I’m sure your family, like ours, has some time-honored traditions you practice during the holidays.  Because the Bavarian Inn Restaurant is open Christmas Day from noon until 7:00 p.m. our family celebrates the night before.  We close the restaurant at 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, allowing all our team members to spend the evening with their families.  Our family gathers together at one home for a big pot luck dinner.  Everyone brings a dish to pass, from time-honored favorites to new recipes.  Then we have a white-elephant exchange.  There’s passing and stealing and chaos and laughter, and generally the time goes by far too quickly.

Before you know it, it’s time for bed, church in the morning, and back to work to host our guests.  It is an honor to share our Christmas with you.

Please share your favorite holiday memories and traditions.  I love to see what my readers write and I enjoy learning something new from you each week.

Auf Wiedersehen – until I see you next week!

90th Birthday Blessings: Family, Friends, Food and Faith

1 Dec

Today is my 90th birthday.

I’m very lucky to say that. Only 2 percent of Americans can make that statement. I’ve become part of a very exclusive club.

I’m blessed in so many ways – with family and friends, a good business and good health.

And I’m excited that so many people have taken time from their busy schedules to celebrate with me.

I’m most appreciative to the Good Lord for providing me with everything I’ve ever needed and most of the things I’ve ever wanted. That includes all the people who’ve helped plan this special birthday. At 90, I’m find I have an abundance of love and support from an extended family — more people than I could have ever imagined.

Lately, people have been asking me, “What is the secret to my longevity?”

That’s a great question. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about longevity or mortality.  I’ve never been the kind to sit and contemplate. I’m too busy for that. Maybe that’s one of my secrets right there.

Recipe for Life

I’ve been working with recipes since I was a girl, so let me share the main ingredients that make my professional and personal life a success. These are simple ingredients – you should be able to find them easily. However, it’s important to use the ingredients correctly. Don’t overcomplicate the recipe. That’s the number one mistake people make.

Here’s the first ingredient — enjoy working. I love coming to work. I work every day except Monday, where you’ll find me at home baking with my family. That’s a tradition we’ve enjoyed for years.

During the 60-plus years I’ve been in the kitchen at Bavarian Inn Restaurant, I’ve worked with hundreds of team members. My job is to teach them food preparation skills, but often times we end up learning life lessons. My standards are high and I show new employees how to keep them high. I’m a stickler for details. That’s why we’ve run a successful business for six decades.

There is a correct way to do every task. Each piece of chicken is to be arranged on a plate just so. I don’t want to see an upside down leg or a breast with the bone up. Presentation is an important part of the meal.

Back in the kitchen, we follow exact procedures. For example, noodles in the steam table must stay moist. Hot food goes on hot dishes and cold food on cold dishes – never the other way around. As for keeping tidy, I have a variety of sayings: “If you can lean, you can clean,” and “if you made the mess, the mess is yours to clean up.” I’m not doing my job if I let mistakes slide. These lessons help instill good behaviors team members will use throughout their lives.

The second ingredient: Have a passion for the customer. Although I do not spend very much time in the dining room working directly with the guests, I think about them as I am making the food. The customer is the focus of everything we do.

When I try something new, I will ask our servers, “What did your guests think of that?” If something is not quite right, I either fix it or take if off the menu. I enjoy getting feedback from our diners. It helps keep me on my toes. We’re always looking for even the smallest ways to improve the Bavarian Inn experience. Our goal: exceed customer expectations in everything we do.

The third ingredient to successful longevity is an active mind. I’m always learning something new – either through my own experiments or from other cooks on the Food Channel and in cookbooks. Most often I learn from my own family members. From my late husband Tiny I learned business principles and new ways of marketing. We started the business from scratch and he had a wonderful business sense.

From my daughter Judy I learn about travel. Judy has traveled the world and often takes me with her. We learn about different cultures – their traditions, styles, social interaction and family dynamics. Of course we experience the local food and we love to shop and bring home souvenirs.

My son Bill teaches me something new at his Sunday night dinners. He is always experimenting with new recipes and ingredients. At the end of the evening he will ask if he should keep the recipe or toss it out. We often vote to toss it out.

From my daughter Roxie, with whom I bake most Mondays, I learned that two good cooks can – at times– disagree. Roxie and I can debate over methods, ingredients and instructions.  We laugh and concede that it’s okay to like different ways.

I really enjoy learning from my grandchildren – all ten of them. They have such a zest for life. They show me things they love such as computers, cell phones and motorcycles. My grandchildren tell funny stories and I laugh myself to tears just like my mother Hattie used to. There is no end to the learning that takes place in our family.

Finally, I have faith in God. I believe in the Jaycees creed – “Faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life.” That phrase really speaks to my heart.

I am thankful for my long and healthy 90 years. But I’m not throwing in the towel yet.  Tomorrow is a workday and I have lots on my “to do” list.

To my fellow 90-year-olds, I encourage you to keep active, stay passionate, work your mind and have faith. It is a recipe that has suited me well, and one I highly recommend.

Auf Wiedersehen – until I see you next week!

Dorothy’s book, “Come Cook With Me,” can be purchased for $24.99 in the Bavarian Inn’s Bakery, by phone 800-228-2742 Extention 3331 and online through the Bavarian Inn website at http://onlinestore.bavarianinn.com/browse.cfm/dorothys-cookbook-come-cook-with-me/4,19.html. It contains recipes that have been in Dorothy’s family for more than a century, several never before shared with the public.