Tuesday, December 30, 2008

No. More. Cookies.

Berry Pavlova

To break up the decadence that is christmas cookies, I made a pavlova one night, using this recipe with the addition of ~1/3c unsweetened coconut at the end. Thinned a little apricot jam by warming it in the microwave, then piled it high with blueberries, blackberries and pomegranate arils. I was on cloud 9 ;-) hehe!

More on how I get my arils in the next post...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Potato Pierogies

Any thoughts on the new header? I've been meaning to do something for awhile and played around last night... Now, onto the excitement that is homemade pierogies :)

These are present at many family gatherings, not just christmas! My great grandmother used to make them all, but she never let anyone watch... so we've had to adapt it from several sources to get ones that closely match the ones she used to make! While you can put many different fillings inside these, the two most commonly at our table were potato and cabbage. Since I didn't like cabbage as a kid, these quickly became my favorite and the ones I enjoy making now. I tried to take some photos along the way to illustrate the process...

The filling

The dough

The dough rests while you clean the mess

Rollin and cuttin


Up close and pinched


Potato Pierogi
Yield: 48

3c mashed potatoes (cook ~2lb yukon gold potatoes in well-salted water, drain **SAVE WATER** & mash)
10oz cottage cheese, drained
3 slices american cheese
1 onion, sauteed in butter

Mix all ingredients together. Can be prepared ahead and refrigerated until needed.

6c AP flour
1-2c potato water (saved from boiling the potatoes, see above)
2 eggs, beaten
2t salt

Make a well in flour, add salt, eggs, and 1c water. Mix well to make soft dough, adding more water if needed. Knead until smooth and does not stick (you may need to add more flour). *Today I made another batch (made too many potatoes last time!) and did most of the dough mixing in the mixer with the dough hook. It worked well and contained the mess, so that was nice! I added some of the flour, salt, eggs, water, then added the rest of the flour a cup at a time. It came together and started pulling off the walls of the bowl. Then I took it out onto a floured surface and added some more flour until the dough was no longer sticky.* Cover with a dish towel and let sit a few minutes.

Clean the counter, line 2-3 baking sheets with wax or parchment paper, get a glass or cookie cutter (I think the glass I used was ~3" in diameter). Dust your working surface with flour, and get ready to roll :)

Cut dough ball in half, working with 1 half at a time. Keep dough that's not being used covered. Same goes for pierogies as you make them. Roll out dough on floured surface (i'd guess it was about 1/8-1/4" thick) and cut rounds with glass. Stretch out rounds a bit in your hands, and fill with ~1T filling (this will depend on the size you use). Seal edges and pinch with fingers for the scalloped edge, or press with the tines of a fork. (If you do different fillings, this is a good way to differentiate them) Place pierogies in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.

You can do one of two things at this point, cook them immediately (7min in boiling salted water) or freeze them on the baking sheets. Since I was doing these by myself, I stuck them in the freezer, and a few hours later, repackaged them into freezer bags for safe keeping. When ready to eat, cook the frozen pierogies in boiling salted water for ~7min, or until they float. Drain and then toss with onions cooked in butter. Once you have these, you just can't have them any other way!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Barszcz

In case you're interested, I (finally) added a search tool on the right side of the blog if you want to find anything you'd seen one time or another. I'm trying to come up with a better way to tag my posts, and create some sort of archive for the recipes I've featured. From the Christmas Eats, some of the dishes (the ones that weren't mine) have the recipe linked by name.

First up for the family meals is a polish soup that's present at most holidays. This is the mushroom-based Christmas version, likely the Easter one will follow around then :) Alot of this is "to taste," as you see in the recipe that mom had from my grandmother (click to enlarge)...

Umm, yeah :) Do you see any amounts or measurements?? I wondered if it was invisible ink, but no such luck. Mom guided me a bit, and I guesstimated the amounts I put in... and after some tasting and adjusting, it came out JUST like my great grandmother and grandmother used to make it, I was thrilled!!!

Christmas Barszcz
Reczek family recipe

~1/2c dried mushrooms
4c boiling water
scant 1T oil (I think i used smart balance oil, for a mild-flavored fat)
1/2c minced celery
1/4c minced onion
4c "kielbasa water" (water used to cook kielbasa, with the fat skimmed off- can be kept in the freezer)
3/4c evaporated milk
1 bay leaf
3 mushroom bouillon cubes
~1/4t dried dill
barley (?? we forgot about this until afterwards... but i think it's supposed to go in ;) )

Pour boiling water over dried mushrooms (or drop them in), cover with lid or saran wrap, and let sit for ~30min. Once they are reconstituted, roughly chop mushrooms (I ran my knife through 3 or 4 times). Reserve some of this liquid (I probably kept 1/4c or so out, but the exact volume isn't important) and mix well with 3T flour.

Add oil to large pot over medium-low heat. Saute onions and celery until softened, but don't brown them! Add remaining ingredients (the water-flour mix last) and adjust to taste. Be careful adding the mushroom liquid, as there may be some sediment at the bottom from the mushrooms that doesn't need to go into the soup. We also added one bouillon at a time, as the amount needed may vary depending on the mushrooms and broth (or water) that are used. I prepared this ahead of time and just kept it on low heat until the rest of dinner was ready! The flavor will deepen as everything comes together. Enjoy!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eats

As mom is recovering (thanks for all the well-wishes!!), we stayed home this year and had a very nice, relaxing Christmas. I had a great time preparing the holiday meals, which weren't too extravagant, just included some of the favorites. Today will just be the pictures, I'll feature the family recipes soon!

Christmas Eve Dinner

Shrimp- Dad's tradition

and a parfait!
I made some French Vanilla Mousse from a box, cooked down some blueberries to make a sauce, and layered the two with blackberries and pomegranate arils. Very yummy, and a nice way to end the night.

everything was SOOOO good, i did a happy dance at the table :)

Christmas Dinner


As requested by mom, I made:

Christmas Oatmeal Cookies (with craisins and white chips sub'd for the cherries)

Don't be surprised if i don't do too much baking for awhile... :) Hope everyone had a wonderful couple days with loved ones as 2008 comes to a close!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

White Christmas

I shoveled the porch the other night and couldn't help snap that picture of our front yard! Loving the beautiful-ness that is the snow :) If only the roads clear up a bit so I can get out for a run...

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday (whichever one you celebrate)!! Lots and lots of food coming soon, but for now I'm off to enjoy the family. Best wishes to you and yours!!

Until then, go comment on this post, to help Katie say ENOUGH to genocide.

Nick is also celebrating the big 100 by giving away peanut butter, so click on over!! As contradictory as that seems, it's nice of him to think of others at the time of this great accomplishment :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rosemary Lovin

Right before I left to go home, the heat of my apartment got to my Rosemary Tree :( I picked off all I could, and got to work!

I made some Rosemary Peanuts, based on this recipe, just using different nuts.

The bulk of what I had left went into some Rosemary Rolls, which were fantastic (yes, i had one fresh out of the oven! At least it was only 11pm this time :)) but I wish I had more rosemary in them! Nice crispy crust, fabulous texture (crumb?) inside, I was pretty excited at the way these turned out.

Rosemary Rolls
adapted from Two Fat Als
Yield: 12

1/2 packet dry active yeast
1/2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter, softened (I used Smart Balance 50/50, as that's all i have at the moment)
chopped fresh rosemary (I probably had ~1/4-1/3 cup, and could've easily added double that)
2 1/4c AP flour, plus more if needed (I needed more)
1c whole wheat pastry flour
1T vital wheat gluten
olive oil, for brushing (might also be good with some kosher salt dusted after the olive oil too!)

In a large bowl, add yeast to warm water and sugar and let sit ~5min, until foamy.

Add milk, egg, salt, butter, rosemary, 1c AP flour, 1c WW pastry flour, and gluten to the yeast mixture and stir. Add remaining AP flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough has come together and starts pulling from wall of the bowl. If it's sticky, add more flour as necessary. Knead dough on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic (8 min? i don't time it). Place dough in lightly oiled large bowl and cover. Let rise until doubled in volume, ~1hr.

Grease a baking sheet. Once risen, deflate the dough and divide it into 12 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball, and place onto the baking sheet. Cover the rolls with a warm, damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in volume again, about 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 350, brush rolls with a bit of olive oil, and make cross-hatches on the dough with a knife (i wasn't very enthusiastic here...). Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

And that about does it with the uni-colored food photos for the day!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Another new grain, plus a recipe from one of my new books! Wow you guys are lucky ;-) This Autumn Millet Bake hails from Mark Bittman's How to Eat Everything Vegetarian, although before I had the book I found it on Heidi Swanson's site here (where she also wrote a glowing review of the book).

It was my first time trying millet, and it was good, reminded me alot of quinoa. Which, apparently can be substituted in the recipe if you have that on hand! Anyone else tried millet? This is also another great dish that can be made ahead of time. The tartness of the cranberries and the sweetness of the squash made for a nice pairing. So go check out the recipe! I'll have to do a more formal review of the book once I can pick out some more recipes... too many that sound fabulous!

In the mean time, this image came as part of an email advertising winter cycling wear and I thought it was hillarious!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Let it Snow!!

It's beginning to look a LOT like christmas :):) I'm loving the snow outside right now!!! I got to walk home in it ~3 and by the time i got to my apartment, I looked like a snowman :) how fun!

Before I forget, two very important things. Another easy way to give, go comment on MizFit's site here. She'll be donating to a domestic violence shelter. Second, a shoutout to Erin, who sent me some of that infamous trail mix (it's as dangerous as it seems...) and some Super Charge Me Cookies!! How she knew I've been meaning to try those, I don't know, maybe she's psychic! Both of the delicious goodies refused to be photographed, they didn't want to make everyone jealous :)

Oooh, you came here for the food? Right. Well I feel like I haven't been feeling the creative bug in awhile, but when I came across these I had to pick them up!

Then it was what to do with them... I was immediately thinking cookies (witches hats), but didn't really think the peanut butter was the right pairing. I thought almond would be the best flavor base to go with these, and while I toyed with the idea of using almond butter, here's how they ended up...

Chocolate Raspberry Almond Shortbread
adapted from my aunt's Almond Glazed Sugar Cookies

1c butter, softened (I used Smart Balance 50/50 sticks)
3/4c sugar
1t almond extract
2c AP flour
1/2t baking powder
1/4t salt
Dark Choc Raspberry Kisses, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 400deg. In a small bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt together. Combine the first three ingredients (butter, sugar, extract) into the bowl of a mixer and beat at medium speed until creamy. Reduce speed and add flour mixture. Beat until well mixed.

I used a cookie scoop (probably ~1t) to scoop out cookies onto a cookie sheet, 1" apart or so. Bake 7-9min, until edges are lightly browned. Cool 1minute while you top the cookies with kisses, then remove from cookie sheet.

Look at how ooey-gooey they got!!!

A note on the Smart Balance Sticks... they seem to have different melting properties than butter. In recipes like this, where you cream the butter and sugar, it seems to work just fine. Be careful, however, when melting it for other recipes, it happens quickly and splatters!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pizza Pizza

While I love any and all squash(es?), I never would've thought to put it on a pizza. Galette? sure, but something never clicked in my head. My awesome aunt was the one who introduced this Roasted Acorn Squash & Gorgonzola Pizza to me, and I can't thank her enough, it's fabulous!!!

a peek inside

Here's my lazy version:
Roasted Acorn Squash & Gorgonzola Pizza
adapted from Giada
Serves 1 (as a side or part of a meal... if you have my kind of appetite;-))

1/2 acorn squash (sliced thin, mixed with 1/2T maple syrup, 1/4T olive oil, dash red pepper flakes, roasted at 375 until tender... this was done the day or two ahead of time)
1 pita
handful of spinach, tossed with a little bit of balsamic vinaigrette (I didn't measure, but you don't want it too heavy, just for a little flavor)

Top pita with gorgonzola (as much or as little as you like, I think I had ~2T or more on a medium-size pita) and toast until warm and melty. Meanwhile, warm acorn squash (if prepared ahead of time) slightly. Top pita with acorn squash then the balsamic-dressed spinach. Dig in!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sweets for dinner?

I have no idea where I came across this recipe, but I'm guessing it was in the bulletin boards of Cooking Light... I can't believe how tender the pork was--I couldn't slice it, it was just like buttah and fell apart instead! Easy peasy, and it'll be ready when you come home starving from work/gym/errands :) I thought about throwing in some fresh herbs at the end (sage, thyme, or rosemary), but I couldn't make up my mind and left it out. Might've added a little something-something ;-)

Apricot-Glazed Pork Loin w/Sweet Potatoes

From Cooking Light Slow Cooker Cookbook, 2004

Serves 2

3 c cubed sweet potatoes
1/2 c apricot preserves, divided (mine was apricot-peach, I bet cherry would also be fantastic)
1/4 tsp salt, divided
1 bay leaves
1/2 lb boneless pork tenderloin or pork loin, trimmed

Place sweet potatoes, 1/2 c preserves, and 1/4 tsp salt into a slow cooker. Toss well. Add bay leaves. Arrange tenderloins over sweet potatoes; sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt. Spread 1/2 c preserves over tenderloins. Cover with lid; cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce to low and 7 hours or until pork and sweet potatoes are tender. Remove pork from slow cooker and slice. Discard bay leaves. Serve pork with sweet potatoes and sauce.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Who's Auntie Anne anyways?

Did I conquer my fear of yeast?? A foccacia here, flatbread there, some pizza dough that wasn't half bad, and now this... I think I just may have! I think the pizza dough was the best learning experience for me. I'm still not overly-comfortable, but with an open package of yeast after my flatbread and a rosemary tree, I jumped at the chance to make some homemade pretzels :) These have been on my "to-make" list for awhile now, so now was as good a time as any.


I followed a recipe from Baking Bites, via the Peanut Butter Boy, cutting it it back to 1/3 as to account for the amount of yeast I had left (why i didn't just open another package i don't know...). Also threw in about 1T rosemary as that's in abundance right now :)

There's something about homemade bread that smells freakin fantastic, and is so irresistable when it comes out of the oven that there's no denying it, even if it is midnight!! (yeah, i started them a bit too late!). SOOO good warm, I'd recommend eating them this way :)

spooky, no?

And if you're not a reader of Jaden's Steamy Kitchen yet, you should be! Here's a reason to start, she's hosting a HUGE Holiday Giveaway with a bunch of really fantastic products that would be such a treat to recieve.

Another fabulous blogger Zesty is also having a giveaway to celebrate 100 posts!! Go visit his site for the details, and check out his yummy recipes while you're there :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rounding out the Care Packages

The weekend was filled with baking, as I wanted to get my 'Thank you' goodies out Monday morning. Unfortunately for me, I did not realize that it would be a balmy 1 degree outside (w/wind chill) Monday morning as I trudged to the post office with a garbage bas full of boxes. I did, however, feel a bit like santa :) hehe. I heard that one of them arrived safe and sound last night, so i think it's ok now to share what else I included...

In the spirit of the cranberry season, I made mini loaves of Orange Cranberry Bread. The orange juice and zest really contribute to the flavor, and I really enjoyed it (don't worry, I made an extra ;) )! I didn't realize until the batter was almost done that I didn't have dried cranberries, so dried cherries got thrown in, in case you notice that they look larger than your average cranberry.

From a post on holiday gift giving ideas over at 28 Cooks, I decided to include some Dukkah. I'd never had it before, but it seemed like the perfect thing to ship. What is it? A mix of ground nuts and middle eastern spices, the possibilities with this one are endless. Just in case I wasn't the only ignorant one, I included a list of potential uses that I compiled from various places on the web. I actually ended up following the recipe found here, adding some pine nuts (since I scaled up alot, that would've been a LOT of sesame seeds!). I think I ground mine up a bit too fine, but still really enjoyed the flavors on this one! I guess it doesn't help when you start picking out the large chunks, either--oops!

So far I've tried it on fresh baked bread

And on a grilled cheese toast of sorts

It's quite yummy and I'm thinking this won't be the last time I make it!! Ooh, I should probably note, in case you don't already know, that cumin seeds don't grind in a food processor, you'll need a coffee/spice grinder for them! I was worried for a bit :) This is definately amenable to individual tastes, too, so have fun with it!

Last, but very not least, to accompany the two other cookies, I had to include my Seven Layer Bars. These are ALWAYS a crowd pleaser, and often requested, so I couldn't let my people down :) I remember them as my mom's, but I think it was my grandmother who started making these. They're a permanent fixture at our family holidays, although there are various versions out there (Magic Cookie Bars?).

Seven Layer Bars
Mom/Grandma's tried and true

1 stick butter (sometimes i go a little less)
1c graham cracker crumbs
1c chocolate chips
1c butterscotch chips
1c flaked coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk (I use fat-free)
1c chopped walnuts

Place butter in 9x13 pan and put it in the oven, preheat to 350deg. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs evenly (or somewhat) over butter. Then add both of the chips, coconut, drizzle the condensed milk, then top with walnuts. Bake for 30 minutes (might want to check at 25 min, but you're nose will tell you when it's done!), until golden and bubbly. Let cool before cutting. (this is by far the hardest part for me, I love the ooey-gooey-ness!) Enjoy!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Healing Biscotti

Mom's recovering from back surgery, so I figured I would send her some Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti to help keep her strength up ;-) I didn't have any of the finished product, but the batter sure was tasty! Hopefully they will arrive in bigger, rather than smaller pieces...

Here's a look inside my mug :) Given to me by my college doubles partner, I love it!!

On another note... I was flipping through the January 2009 issue of Bon Appetit and was excited to see the Best of the Year treands. First was dessert: peanut butter desserts!! umm, me thinks bon appetit is a little slow on the uptake here, but that's ok, as long as you don't take away the peanut butter! Next was breakfast being the new restaurant trend! As someone who would happily eat breakfast 3x a day, I'm loving this one, too. Pegged 'the value issue' I also noticed an article on bargain bottles (reds and whites), if you're into that sort of thing. Ricotta and Eggs also made appearances in the issue, so it was a pretty good one :)

Phew, one last dish, a slightly tweaked version of Maggie's Pear and Crab Salad. I used more cabbage, and threw in some apple slices and arils. I love adding arils to salads, provided a little crunch in there and diversified the textures :) Yum!

my Christmas tree jumped into the photo!

And if you haven't heard of some amazing things happening in blogworld... The amazing Heather and Mark over at Hangry Pants are sponsoring a food drive!! Hit up the comments on this post and help support the RI Community Food Bank :) And since I don't have a blender, I was extremely excited to see a VitaMix giveaway over at Eating Bender. And importantly, don't forget that I referred you;-) hehe. Baking Bites is also hosting a holiday cupcake contest, so there's room for creativity if you're so inclined :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

You got it, Rosemary!!

Want a good gift for someone who likes to cook? The 'tree' in my last post was a rosemary plant, given to me by my awesome mom at thanksgiving :) How thoughtful! I knew I'd have to put it to good use, and the first thing I used it for was a Rosemary Flatbread w/Grapes, Gorgonzola & Honey. I cut the recipe in half and used white whole wheat flour and some vital wheat gluten instead of white bread flour. The dough smelled great, and it really was a great combination of flavors!! Here's a small slice...

... which didn't suffice :) Definately went back for more! Look for more rosemary in the weeks to come!

on the stone
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