Archive for March, 2011

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B is for Bacon

March 31, 2011

I made bacon buns the other day.  Have you ever had the pleasure?  They are exactly as they sound, buns made with bacon (and ham too).  Where I lived as a girl you could get them in almost any bakery, but you needed to get them early because they sold out quickly.  My mother would make them, sometimes, and they never lasted in our house. 

When I mention bacon buns now, everyone I talk to has never heard of them.  I  guess it’s a south side thing and even though I’m still in the same state I grew up in, sometimes it’s like being on another planet.

The beauty of these buns are their versatility.  You can have them along side a salad, or soup.  You can eat them instead of a sandwich.  The sweet dough and salty middle come together so well, you can’t eat just one.

If you have leftover, these freeze well.

Bacon Buns

  • 1 lb Bacon, chopped
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 1 lb Ham, diced
  • 2 C Milk
  • 1 C Butter
  • 1/2 C Sugar
  • 1 t Salt
  • 1-1/4 oz package of dry yeast (or 2 1/4 t)
  • 6 Eggs
  • 6-8 C Flour

For the filling: fry the bacon until crisp and drain the fat.  Add the onion and ham, saute for five minutes until the onion is tender.  Cool the mixture thoroughly.  This can be made ahead and frozen.

Dough:  Melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the milk until scalded.  Add the sugar and the salt and let cool.  Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 C of the liquid for about 5 minutes.  Beat 5 eggs slightly and add the remaining milk mixture to the eggs.  Blend and add the yeast mixture to the egg mixture.  Add 5 C of flour to the egg mixture.  Slowly add additional flour until the dough starts to come away from the bowl.  You may not use all of the flour.  It will still be sticky.  Knead the dough for about 8 minutes.  Place the dough in a greased bowl and let it rise until double its size.  Punch down the dough and let it rise again.

Generously flour the counter and roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness.  Use a 4-inch round cutter to cut the dough.  I used the same glass I use for pierogi.  Place a spoonful of cooled filling in the center of the dough, pinch all the corners together sealing tightly.  Place the bun, seal side down, on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Let rise one more time, about 30 minutes.

Beat the last egg and brush over the tops of the buns.  Bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Makes 3 1/2 dozen buns.

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Sweet Thing

March 29, 2011

Last week Meeshie was sick.  Since I, of course, stayed home with her I baked.  In case you aren’t aware of it, I love to bake. 

I love to bake things that we all enjoy and I love to bake new things.

I came across this recipe back at the end of the summer and have been waiting to try it.  It mainly caught my eye because of the cherries.  I’ve had a jar of cherries from Williams Sonoma in the pantry for a while, just waiting to be used for some delectable treat.  Have you ever had their cherries?  They are divine and make anything better.

The original recipe calls for pitted cherries and almond paste, but I didn’t realize until I began that I didn’t have the paste so I used almond filling instead.  I always have that on hand for kolaczky.  The flavor was fine, but I think the consistency of the batter is definitely different that what was intended by the original recipe.  I also added about 3/4 of a cup of crushed Almond Honey Bunches of Oats to the batter and adjusted the flour accordingly.  Lovely.

Cherry Almond Crumb Bars

  • 1 C sugar
  • 3 C flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ¼ t salt
  • 12 ounces almond filling
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 1 C cold butter
  • ½ C sugar
  • 4 t cornstarch
  • 1-1lb 13 oz jar of Cherry Pie filling (I used William Sonoma)
  • ½ C sliced almonds

Mix together 1 cup of sugar, the flour, cereal, baking powder, salt, egg,  and almond extract.  Add the almond filling. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut butter chunks into the mix. It should be crumbly. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, cornstarch, cherries.

In a 9×13 pan press half of the crumb mixture in the bottom. Top with the cherry mixture. Spread into an even layer. Mix the sliced almonds into the remaining crumb mixture. Top the fruit with the crumb mixture in an even layer. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Allow to cool slightly before eating.

Here’s the original.

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Spanakopita

March 27, 2011

I love spanakopita.  I was introduced to this dish back in high school.  One of my good friend’s, at the time, mother made the best spanakopita.  The phyllo dough, spinach and dill really make this dish.  I don’t even mind that there’s feta in there.  It’s the perfect meatless meal.

I used to buy it from Trader Joe’s, and their version is pretty good, but now I don’t have to. 

I was able to make the filling a few days before assembly which made assembly a breeze.  This actually makes enough for two baking dishes.  I stick one in the freezer.  The other thing that I do is fold the phyllo in half to fit inside the dish therefore doubling each layer.  (There are about 24 sheets in a box.  I used 6 sheets for each layer which equaled 12.)  You can use butter instead of olive oil, but the oil is easier to work with on the dough.

Spanakopita

  • 1 pkg Phyllo Dough (#4)
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 lbs fresh Spinach, washed, trimmed and chopped
  • 8 Green Onion, chopped
  • 1/2 C Fresh Dill, chopped
  • 12 oz Feta Cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

For the filling:  Heat a large skillet and add olive oil.  Add the spinach and saute until wilted.  Remove from pan and place in a large bowl.  Add the green onion to the pan and saute for about 4 minutes.  Add the onion to the spinach along with the dill, cheese and eggs.  Combine well and add the salt and pepper.  Set aside to cool. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Unwrap the phyllo dough on a flat surface and cover with a damp towel.  Oil a baking dish.  Place half of the sheets in the bottom of the dish, brushing each sheet with olive oil as it is added.  Add the filling and then spread the remaining phyllo dough on top, again brushing each sheet with olive oil as it is added.  Cut into squares before baking and score the top in the shape of a triangle.  You can cut it into triangles if you wish to serve this as an appetizer, but if eaten as a meal I like to make them into squares.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

You can serve this hot or cold with your favorite salad.

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Twisted Grilled Cheese

March 24, 2011

I made these on my Panini, but it’s not mandatory. 

We love grilled cheese and I’m always looking for ways to enjoy it.  Remember the five cheese grilled cheese?

This sandwich is twisted because I used the spinach balls inside.  They were a perfect addition to the sandwich and easy to work with.  So simple, yet so good.  I love a meal like that.  I especially love it during Lent.  This is a perfect Friday meal served with a salad or your favorite soup.

Twisted Grilled Cheese

  • 2 slices of Sourdough bread
  • 1 slice Provolone Cheese
  • 2 -3 Spinach Balls
  • Marinara
  • Olive Oil

Preheat your Panini press.  Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the griddle.  (The parchment paper is for easy clean up.  Trust me.  This stuff rocks and prevents a hot mess.)

Assemble the sandwich by placing the provolone, spinach balls and a spoonful of marinara on one of the slices of sourdough.  Place the other piece of sourdough on top to make the sandwich.  Drizzle olive oil on top of the bread.  Place the sandwich, olive oil side down, on the griddle and drizzle additional olive oil on top of the sourdough.  Cover with additional parchment paper, pressing the Panini closed.  Cook for 5-6 minutes until cheese has melted.  Cut in half and serve warm.

Easy and delicious!

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Banana Cream Pie

March 22, 2011

It seems like I’m on a pie kick, but really I’m not.  I did make this pie after seeing Hoosier Mama on television.  I liked that she mashed the bananas up and incorporated them into the pie.  I really don’t like banana cream pies that have the bananas sliced on the bottom of the pie.  Banana cream pie should really scream banana, right?

So I found a recipe that I thought I could use and tweaked it to my liking.  Loved this pie.  Truly this was so yummy.  We topped it with some whipped cream and slivered almonds.  But I can also see that you could crush some banana chips and place them on top. 

I used the same blind baking method for the pie crust as I do with the sugar cream pie.  Coffee filter and beans on the bottom of the pie and cook it in a 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes. 

It’s best to make this pie on the morning you plan to serve it.  When the custard was still warmish I asked my husband to sample it and he didn’t like it.  Once the custard cooled down though, everyone was digging in and demanding seconds. 

Meeshie thought this was awesome.  It was.

This is a close second to the sugar cream pie and if you like bananas you are going to love this pie.

Banana Cream Pie

  • 1 whole Pie Crust, Baked
  • 3 C Half and Half
  • ¾ C Sugar
  • ⅓ C All-purpose Flour
  • ¼ t Salt
  • 3 whole Egg Yolks
  • 2 T Butter
  • 2 t Vanilla
  • 4-5 Very Ripe Bananas, mashed
  • Fresh Whipped Cream, For Topping

Have your baked 9-inch pie shell ready (if you buy store-bought, get a good one. But really, making your own is much better)

In a large saucepan, scald the milk by heating it until it just begins to boil. Combine the sugar, flour and salt and then gradually stir into the scalded milk. Over medium heat, stirring constantly, cook until thickened.

Combine the 3 egg yolks in a small bowl and beat lightly. Stir a small amount of the hot mixture into beaten yolks; then when thoroughly combined, stir the yolks into the hot mixture – this prevents the eggs from scrambling in the custard. Cook for one minute longer, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and blend in the butter and vanilla. Allow to sit until lukewarm and add the mashed bananas. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust.  Allow to set in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Top pie with fresh whipped cream and slivered almonds, if desired.

Here’s the original recipe.

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Easy Cheese Bread

March 17, 2011

I love bread.  It is the perfect food.  I love bread so much that I gave it up for lent last year.  I’ve done it before and let me tell you it’s really hard.  Bread makes everything better.  This cheese bread really was an awesome side to dinner.

We grilled over the weekend.  I have spring fever and so does my husband.  He moved the grill onto the patio along with the patio furniture over the weekend.  We do grill over the winter, but since the grill is stored in the garage we don’t do it as often as we like.  We grilled pork chops and I made this easy cheese bread. 

This bread could easily be made into cheese stuffed rolls.  I also think that you can go wild with the cheese combinations.  I actually didn’t have any Havarti on hand and  used some Dubliner Irish cheese.  Dubliner cheese is dry like Parmesan cheese but slightly sweeter and nuttier.

Cheese Bread

  • ¼ ounces, weight Active Dry Yeast (one Envelope)
  • ½ cups Warm Water
  • 1 teaspoon Sugar
  • 1-⅔ cup Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 whole Egg, Lightly Beaten
  • ¼ cups Shredded Dubliner Irish Cheese
  • ½ cups Shredded Whole-milk Mozzarella
  • Sea Salt

Sprinkle yeast over warm water and stir in sugar. Let stand until frothy, about 5 minutes.

Mix salt and flour in a bowl, then stir in egg and the yeast mixture to form a dough.  Using your hands knead until smooth and elastic (dough should pull away from sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom – add flour by the teaspoon until it tightens up), about 10 minutes. Form into a ball and let rest in a bowl on the counter, covered with plastic wrap, punching down with a wet fist every hour, for at least 2 hours and up to 3.

Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in middle.

Turn out dough onto floured countertop, turning to coat, then flatten into a 7-inch disk. Toss together cheeses, some sea salt and some basil.  Press into a compact 3-inch ball with your hands. Place ball in middle of dough, then gather dough up around ball of cheese, squeezing excess dough together on top to enclose the cheese. Then begin to flatten ball into a disk, pressing down from the top and spreading cheese out from center, until dough is an 11-inch disk.

Dust with an egg wash and sprinkle with additional sea salt.  Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake 12-15 minutes.

Slice and serve.

Here’s the original.  I altered the cooking style slightly as well as added the sea salt.  Again it’s so versatile you can really do so much with this simple delicious recipe.

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Just a Side

March 15, 2011

I make this side every year for St. Patrick’s Day.  It’s a great way to serve cabbage, but I don’t limit this dish to once a year.  That’s because it’s a Polish noodle dish that has nothing really to do with St. Patrick’s Day.  It’s the bacon.  Bacon makes everything taste great.

Although the title of this post implies that this is a side dish, it’s more than that.  This can be served as a side but it is also a great main dish too.  Perfect for a potluck or a midweek meal.

I don’t really have a recipe for this one, kind of like my potato pancake recipe.  I more or less throw everything together and step back and enjoy.

Haluski

  • 1 Cabbage, cleaned and sliced thin
  • 1 Onion, cut in half and sliced
  • 1 lb Bacon, diced
  • 1 Bag of Noodles, I use No Yolk Extra Broad (8 oz)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

In a saute pan, saute the onion in butter or bacon grease for about 5 minutes.  Add the cabbage and continue to saute until wilted.  Set aside.  In a separate pan, saute the diced bacon until crispy.  Cook the noodles as directed.  Combine the bacon and grease to the cabbage mixture.  Add the cooked noodles, a sprinkle of salt and lots of pepper.  Stir to incorporate.  Place the mixture into a 9×13 pan and cook, covered, in a 350 degrees oven for about 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

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Something Expected

March 13, 2011

Every year, around St. Patrick’s Day, I make corned beef and invite my mom and my husband’s dad over for dinner.  They both are by themselves and I know that it’s not something they would make.  For a number of years, my friend Cathy has been kind enough to give me homemade irish soda bread.  My sweet Greek friend makes the best soda bread! 

I remember as a girl my mother boiling corned beef, this recipe is a far cry from that.  I made this on Friday for Saturday’s dinner.  I came home to the most wonderful smell in the kitchen.  It almost made me cry knowing I couldn’t even sample anything.  But it was totally worth the wait the next day. 

Corned Beef

  • 1-4lb Corned Beef Brisket
  • 1 t Garlic
  • 1 medium Onion, sliced
  • 4 Carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 3 Celery stalks, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 4 medium Red Potatoes
  • 1-12 oz bottle of Beer
  • 1/2 C water
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1/4 t Rosemary
  • 1/4 t Thyme

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Remove the brisket from the packaging and rinse.  Place the potatoes, celery, and carrots on the bottom of a deep 9×13 roasting pan.  Place the brisket, fat side down, on top of the veggies and place the onion on top of the brisket.  Sprinkle the garlic, rosemary and thyme on top of the brisket.  Add the beer, water and bay leaf.  Cover the pan with foil to form a good seal.  Bake for 3-4 hours, until fork tender. 

Remove from the oven.  Remove the brisket from the pan and refrigerate the pan and brisket over night.  Remove the visible fat from the brisket and juice and thinly slice the meat across the grain.  Return the sliced meat to the veggie mixture/juices and reheat covered until warmed through about 30-40 minutes.

Serve with mustard and horseradish, as well as your favorite rye bread, irish soda bread and cabbage. 

I have a great cabbage dish that I’ll be sharing later this week.  Think cabbage and bacon and noodles.

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Heavenly Pie

March 10, 2011

I discovered this pie while watching Chicago’s Best.  We really enjoy that show.  It showcases some great places to eat throughout Chicago and it has Brittney Payton.  She’s the daughter of Chicago Bear Walter Payton, and you can see that she’s having a ton of fun.  Each week the show highlights either an area or cuisine, like pies.

Now I love a good pie, as much as the next person, I really do.  But as a child I don’t really remember my mom whipping up any family pie recipes.  Here’s a secret I need to share, polacks aren’t pie makers.  Pies are the backbone of America-baseball and apple pie, right?  If the stories I heard as a child were correct, my mom’s family owned a bakery in Poland, we just didn’t make pie.

Okay, back to the pie.  It peaked my interest because according to the show it’s the state pie of Indiana.  As a matter of fact, it’s a local legend in Indiana.  I’ve never heard of sugar cream pie before I saw this show, but once I saw it I had to have it.  So it was either head over to Hoosier Mama, or make some pie.

I opted for making the pie, actually I made three small pies.  I was thinking portion control.  A large pie can be a pain to maintain with three people.  When I say pain, I really mean it’s hell on my will power knowing a half eaten pie is sitting around waiting to be finished off.  Anyway, the picture at the top of the post is all we have left.  This pie tastes like caramel in a crust.  I’m not even giving it the proper justice.  Just try the pie or watch the video of the pie and then make the pie.

I used pie crust that I have and keep in the freezer, but this pie crust is the one that they use on all their pies.  The owner of Hoosier Mama uses depression era cookbooks for her recipes and has tweaked her pie crust recipe to perfection.  I’m planning to give hers a try once I’ve gotten through my own.

Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie

  • Crust
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 C plus 3 T all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 1/2 t granulated sugar
  • 7 T unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes; 4 T chilled, 3 T frozen for 15 minutes
  • Filling:
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 C heavy cream
  • 1 t vanilla extract

Prepare the crust: Combine the vinegar with 1/2 cup ice water in a small bowl.

Pulse the flour, salt and sugar in a  food processor until combined. Add the 4 tablespoons chilled butter and pulse until the butter is in pea-sized clumps and the mixture is sandy. Add the 3 tablespoons frozen butter; pulse until the frozen butter is also in pea-sized clumps. Add 5 tablespoons of the vinegar mixture; pulse 2 or 3 more times. Squeeze a small amount of dough between your fingers. If it does not stay together easily, add 1 more tablespoon of the vinegar mixture and pulse 3 or 4 more times. (Do not let the dough come together.) Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and gather into a lumpy ball; flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle, about -inch thick. Fit into an 8-inch pie plate and trim the extra dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang; reserve trimmings. Fold the edges under the rim and crimp. Refrigerate the crust until firm, 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line the chilled crust with foil, or a coffee filer(s), and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake until the edges are golden, 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights; continue baking until the center of the crust is dry and golden brown, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly on a wire rack. Cover any cracks in the crust with the dough trimmings before filling.

Prepare the filling: Whisk the sugars and the flour in a medium bowl, breaking up any clumps of brown sugar. Combine the heavy cream and vanilla in a separate bowl and slowly whisk into the sugar mixture until smooth. Pour the filling into the prepared crust; bake until the pie begins to set around the edge but is still slightly wobbly in the middle, 40 minutes. (Tent loosely with foil for the last 10 minutes if the crust gets too dark.) Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before slicing, if desired.

I never got around to dusting the sugar on the pie, and I don’t think I really missed it.

Here’s the original.

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Paczki Day

March 8, 2011

 

Lent starts tomorrow.  I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll be sacrificing.  I have time because today is all about indulging.  It’s all about Fat Tuesday, or around here Paczki Day. 

I love a good paczki. 

The ones of my childhood, though, are nothing like the ones I see now.  The paczki of my youth are small, like the size of a donut hole.  Sometimes they are filled with jelly, sometimes they are plain.  There was a Polish-Irish restaurant that served the best paczki at the end of every meal near my hometown. It was called Paczki-Dunn or Dunn-Paczki.  I’m not sure it it’s still there.

The ones I see now are too big.  Too doughy.  Not light enough.  These paczki are just right.

I made these in honor of Lent.  I hope you try them, they are totally worth all of the steps.  I used a shot glass to cut out the dough, but if you want them bigger-go for it.  I stuffed some with raspberry filling, some with almond and some I left plain.

Paczki

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 C warm (room temperature) milk
  • 1/2 C white sugar
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 4 ½ to 5 C flour
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool.  Pour the yeast into a small bowl. Pour the warm milk into the bowl and stir until the yeast dissolves. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine sugar, nutmeg, eggs and vanilla. Mix. Add the butter to the large bowl and mix until it is well blended.  Add the milk and yeast to the large bowl. Mix well.  Slowly add flour. When you have four cups of flour mixed in, the dough should not be sticky. If it’s still sticky, add a little more. (Remember, the eggs help make the paczki light, but too much flour can quickly weigh the dough down. Use only as much flour as needed.) 

Knead the dough gently with your fists until it no longer sticks to your knuckles.  Put the bowl of dough in a warm place; cover it with a clean, damp kitchen towel. Let it  double in size.  Once it has doubled, punch it down.  Let it rise again. This should take about an hour. 

When the dough has risen a second time, dump the dough onto a lightly floured counter and roll it out to about one half-inch thickness. Using a two and one half inch round (oblong is better) cookie cutter or regular canning jar ring, cut the dough. Carefully place the dough cutouts on greased cookie sheets, in a warm room.   Let the dough rise until about double in size.

While the dough is rising, heat the oil to about 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Fry each paczki for about two minutes per side, or until deep brown. Use the slotted spoon to turn the paczki and lift each one from the oil carefully. Place the paczki on the paper towels lined cookie sheet to drain. The more grease that is drained away from the paczki the better the paczki will taste.  While they are still warm, dipped them in a powdered sugar glaze.  I used 2 C powdered sugar, 1 t Vanilla Extract (or Almond), and 1/3 C milk.  Once they’ve been dipped, you can fill them with jelly.  They are light and airy enough to be shot with a pastry filler and stuffed.

Paczki can also be frozen.

Here’s were I found it.

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