An Oktoberfest celebration featuring the food of German-born Monika Rashid is a highlight at Richmond Place Rehabilitation and Health Center each fall.
Three years ago, Rashid decided that the residents should have authentic food for the party.
"I'm from Germany, and I might as well cook the food so they can get the real stuff," she said.
Rashid, who works in the laundry, devotes three days to preparing the food. She chooses a menu with the health concerns of the residents in mind. Sauerkraut and bratwurst are traditional Oktoberfest fare, but because some residents can't eat that type of food, Rashid prepares a simpler menu.
She made German potato salad, rouladen, apple pie, cherry pie, black forest cake, chocolate cake, cream puffs, a variety of cookies and a castle cake.
Each year, co-worker Sherry Foster helps Rashid decorate the dining room and serve the residents. Rashid uses items from her Bavarian home to give a German flair to the buffet table.
Rashid came to the United States in 1985 with her husband, Kay, who was in the U.S. Army. They were stationed in Washington state for a year and a half. When he was sent to Korea, Rashid returned to Germany. Their daughters, Jessica and Nicole, were born in Germany.
The family came to Fort Knox in 1995, and when her husband retired, they chose Lexington as their home.
Adjusting to life outside the Army was hard, she said. The first time Rashid went grocery shopping, she took a German-American dictionary with her. But now that Lexington is home, she knows the best places to shop for certain seasonings and German products.
Meijer has the German vinegar, pickles, baking powder and vanilla sugar that Rashid prefers.
"I use as much German as I can. It makes a difference in taste," she said.
Aldi stores carry a line of German products, and Rashid also shops at Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati. Her sister sends hazelnuts from Germany, which Rashid uses in many of her dessert recipes.
Her hazelnut cookies were a hit with the Richmond Place residents, as was the castle cake that's a part of the Rashids' German celebrations. "Germany is famous for castles. I bake a castle cake every year," she said. "This year I made a marble cake, and I put German flags on it."
German desserts are less sweet than American ones, Rashid said.
"We use whipped cream, not buttercream," she said. "We don't use all that sugar frosting. We use powdered sugar and a lot of hazelnuts and walnuts.
"I go to an old German recipe book and go through that and pick different kinds of cookies and cakes I think the residents would like. Things that are nice and soft with whipped cream and not a lot of sugar, so diabetics can eat it too," she said.
The savory dishes that Rashid served were potato salad and rouladen. Her potato salad is simple: Boil potatoes until done. Peel and cut in slices, and mix with German vinegar, a little oil, salt and pepper, and a little chicken bouillon.
Here's a recipe for rouladen, Rashid's favorite German dish.
German beef rouladen
6 slices top round (see note)
Salt and pepper
3 slices lean bacon
3 German pickles, sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 to 2 cups water
Season beef slices with salt and freshly ground pepper. Thinly spread mustard on top of each slice. Divide bacon, pickle and onion, and place some on one end of each slice.
Roll up beef slices, tucking ends in and securing with toothpicks. Heat butter in skillet. Brown rouladen well on all sides. Do not crowd rouladen in skillet, or they will not brown nicely. Cook in small batches if necessary. Add extra butter if needed.
Once all rouladen are well browned, add 1 to 2 cups hot water to empty skillet, gently stirring up browned bits. Return all rouladen and any accumulated juices to skillet, bring to simmer and cover. Simmer for 90 minutes.
Remove rouladen. To thicken gravy, combine about 1 to 2 tablespoons corn starch in a little cold water and stir gently into cooking liquid until slightly thickened.
Season gravy to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. If you wish, add sour cream to gravy. Remove toothpicks and serve rouladen with the gravy.
Note: Rashid suggests asking the butcher to cut beef top round into thin slices, about 3⁄8 inch thick. Each piece should measure at least 6 inches by 4 inches. Gently pound meat until it is about 1⁄8 to 1/4 inch thick. Be careful not to put holes in the meat. The larger the slice, the easier it is to roll up.