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Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve Menu + Yes, I Work Much Better Under Pressure

On the last day of 2011, I wrote almost 10 pages -- of good stuff, not just random notes.  Also, I found another supporting idea that fits nicely into what I already had.  It's very simple and I don't know why I did not think of it before but it's there now!

Also, I put together a nice dinner without spending more than an hour.  Yay! :)  We have a few friends coming so it's going to be a fun evening.

Appetizer:  Bacon-Wrapped Marinated Shrimp (ready to grill)
Bread:  Sally Lunn, butterfly shape -- for the New Year! :) (done)
Butter:  Parsley and Feta Cheese Butter (done)
Entree:  Steak and Lobster Tail (ready to grill) with Mushroom Risotto (done, in my new fancy multi-cooker)
Dessert:  Creme Brulee (yes, flames and all!!!) (done)
Drinks:  an assortment of non-alcoholic sparkling juices, sodas, and juice (chilling)

I will post recipes and photos later.  For now, here is a picture of the butterfly bread. 

Happy New Year!!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Smarty Had A Party

After writing for the past two weeks, I am burned out... but need to finish!!!  Today is almost gone and I am still playing, dreaming of throwing parties...  S. and I love entertaining but haven't done much lately because both of us are so busy.

For small groups, I always use nice china, always!  It does not take that long to clean up but using real china and silverware is so elegant and makes food look and taste better.

For large groups, using nice china/silverware is difficult because of (1) clean up time, (2) availability of enough settings, and (3) potential damage, especially if kids are involved.  On a side note, my kids will use real china/silverware from the very beginning.  My siblings and I did.  Yes, there were a few items broken but accidents happen.  We never threw things in a tantrum like I have seen some kids do.  I strongly believe that teaching good manners early pays off handsomely later.  But I digress...

So, for large groups, I love supplies from Smarty Had A Party.  They have lots of cool stuff.

Now back to writing, sigh...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chili in Bread Bowls

There are several reasons for this recipe:  (1) I am trying to meet a writing deadline and so don't have time for cooking or grocery shopping; (2) it's chilly outside; (3) I am trying to use what we already have in the fridge/freezer before buying anything else; and (4) both S. and I have not been feeling well and so craving comfort foods.  So I have been using my crock pot quite a bit.  Chili definitely meets all our current requirements, especially when served in yummy bread bowls.

Chili in Homemade Bread Bowls
The original recipe for bread bowls is here.  I just made some modifications.  Chili recipe is my creation but, of course, there are tons of similar recipes.

Ingredients for Chili:
1 lb beef for stew
1 can baked beans
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp olive oil
fresh parsley, finely chopped -- to sprinkle on top when ready to serve

Heat olive oil in a deep skillet and brown meat, then saute onions and garlic.  Add all ingredients to the crock pot.  Season with salt/pepper to taste.  Cook on Low for 7-8 hours.

Ingredients for Bread Bowls:
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1 egg
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp Herbes de Provence
1 cup white bread flour (King Arthur's )
2 cups whole wheat bread flour (King Arthur's)
3 tsp active dry yeast

Add all ingredients in order suggested by your bread maker manufacturer.  Set on Dough.  Once dough is ready, take it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into four portions.  Shape into rounds.  Handle dough very gently at this point.  Place dough rounds on a cookie sheets (lightly sprayed with non-stick spray) and let rest for one hour or until doubled.  To aid in rising process, I always boil a cup of water in the microwave to create steam and place my cookie sheet there.  Preheat oven to 350 F and then bake bread until golden brown (20-25 minutes).  Remove and cool a bit.  With a sharp knife, slice off the top and then hollow out each loaf to desired thickness.  Fill with your favorite soup, stew, or chili.  Sprinkle with fresh parsley or your favorite toppings.

Use scooped out bread for croutons.  S. actually likes to add some croutons right away, for extra crunchiness.

2011 Food Meme: Food from Apple to Zucchini


A is for Apple: What’s your favorite variety?
Gala -- sweet and yummy!
B is for Bread: Regardless of nutrition, what is your favorite type?
Sally Lunn -- buttery, with succulent crust
C is for Cereal: What is your favorite kind currently?
Honey Roasted Bunches of Oats
D is for Donuts: You might not currently eat them, but what kind do you fancy?
Krispy Kreme, original, hot
E is for Eggs: How would you like yours prepared?
F is for Fat Free: What is your favorite fat free product?
Tassimo Fat Free Cappuccino (sipping one right now)
G is for Groceries: Where do you purchase yours?
Fresh Food Market, when possible; Publix
H is for Hot Beverages: What is your favorite hot drink?
Earl Grey Tea
I is for Ice Cream: Pick a favorite flavor and add a fun topping.
Plain vanilla, with homemade creme brulee topping
J is for Jams or Jellies: Do you eat them? If so, what kind and flavor?
Mango butter...  I tried it on Maui and can't wait to order more.
K is for Kashi: Name your favorite Kashi product?
Go Lean Cereals are pretty good.
L is for Lunch: What was yours today?
Corn chowder with meatballs with homemade croutons
M is for microwave: What is your favorite microwave meal/snack?
Mashed potatoes.  I boil them in a microwave to save time, mash/fill with goodies like butter, herbs, cream, and keep warm in the slow cooker, on Warm setting.
N is for nutrients: Do you like carbs, fats, or proteins best?
Proteins but try to eat everything in moderation.
O is for oil: What kind do you like to use?
Canola oil for cooking. Olive oil for everything else.
P is for protein: How do you get yours?
Chicken and eggs, not necessarily in that order.  :)
Q is for Quaker: How do you like your oats?
Milk, butter, assorted fruits, and brown sugar on top.
R is for roasting: What is your favorite thing to roast?
Eggplant -- to be made into a dip.
S is for sandwich: What’s your favorite kind?
Panini, with lots of cheese.
T is for travel: How do you handle eating while traveling?
Try to eat healthy but sample as many local specialties as I can.
U is for unique: What is one of your weirdest food combos?
Pies with potato filling, carbs with carbs.  They are yummy, though!
V is for vitamins: What kind do you take?
Daily multivitamin.
W is for wasabi: Yay or nay?
X is for XRAY: If we xrayed your belly right now, what food would we see?
Rolls and eggs from breakfast, soup from lunch, cappuccino.
Y is for youth: What food reminds you of your childhood?
Fried potatoes and tomato-cucumber-onion-herbs salad.
Z is for zucchini: How do you prepare it?
Grilled, in a kebab.

Your turn!  Please link back.  Thanks! :)

Rosemary Rolls with Gorgonzola Butter

S. is not feeling well so I made fresh rolls for breakfast.  He loves these savory buttery rolls that melt in your mouth...

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage
Thank you so much, Miz Helen!
Rosemary Rolls with Gorgonzola Butter


1 cup warm water
1 large egg
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp powdered coffee creamer or milk
2 tbsp instant potato flakes
3 1/4 cups bread flour (King Arthur's is the only one I use)
1 tbsp bread machine yeast
1 tbsp crushed dried rosemary (or finely chopped fresh rosemary); experiment with other herbs, too
Optional:  Gorgonzola butter for brushing (we always use -- it's so good;

Gorgonzola Butter
Mix 4 oz of Gorgonzola with 4 tbsp of butter, process in your food processor until smooth.

  1.  Add all ingredients (except Gorgonzola butter ingredients) to your bread machine.
  2. Select Dough cycle.
  3. When dough is ready, remove it onto a lightly floured board and divide into 12-24 portions.
  4. Shape each piece into a roll and place in a lightly greased muffin pan.  Note:  I usually make 12 large rolls and so use two muffin pans.
  5. Heat a cup of water in the microwave, to create steam.
  6. Slide your muffin pan(s) into microwave -- do it quickly, to prevent steam from escaping.
  7. Let rolls rise until double in size -- about an hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375 F and bake rolls 10-20 minutes or until golden.  For large rolls, it usually takes about 20 minutes.
  9. Brush with Gorgonzola butter.  
  10. Enjoy!
The original recipe is here.  Shared here:
Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Corn Chowder... with Meatballs... in a Crockpot...

I am writing all week (and making good progress) so don't have much time for cooking.  Yesterday afternoon, I opened the freezer door to check the contents.  Leftover meatballs caught my eye -- about 10-12 of them, small.  Since I am so engrossed in writing right now, have no idea why corn chowder popped into my mind -- but it did.  Maybe because it was a bit chilly outside?  So that's how we ended up eating corn chowder last night.  It was good, too! :)  The entire process took about five minutes.

Meatballs Corn Chowder

1 can whole corn
1 can cream style corn
1 small can (8.5 oz?) cream of chicken and mushrooms
10-12 small meatballs
2-3 potatoes, peeled and cubed (I did not have any so skipped)
2-3 tbsp butter (I used lite butter, Land O'Lakes)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

Mix all ingredients, except salt/pepper and parsley, in a crockpot.  Simmer for several hours.  Season with salt/pepper to taste.  Add parsley 10-15 minutes before serving.  Serve with fresh croutons.

Garlic Parsley Croutons

Leftover bread or rolls, cubed
Garlic Parsley Salt (California style), to taste
Non-Stick Spray, Butter Flavor

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Spray the cookie sheet with non-stick spray.  Arrange cubed bread.  Sprinkle with garlic parsley salt (or any other spices), toss, and spray with non-stick spray.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Mix, bringing still soft bread to the top layer.  Spray with non-stick spray again.  Return to the oven and bake until the top layer is golden brown.  Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Red Velvet Christmas Cake -- Gift Idea

This is his "sample" cake.  He only used one box of mix so it's not high enough.
S. is working with several different departments on various projects, so there are lots of people to buy Christmas presents for...  You know how it goes -- you buy something for one person, you need to buy for all, since all of them are involved.  Last year, I baked lots of cookies and he gave small packages to everybody.  Everybody loved them.  Who would not like yummy homemade cookies?

This year, I am so tempted to bake but need to write.  Then I had an idea -- put S. to work!  Baking cookies is beyond his culinary expertise but mixing and baking bundt cakes is no big deal.  So I told him to buy several boxes of any cake mix he likes and several 12x12x12 cake boxes with clear lids (Michael's).  He chose Red Velvet.  Then he was entrusted with my mixer and instructed to read the directions on the box, lol.  He baked the cake batter in this bundt pan.

The first cake (shown above) did not come out as expected because one box of mix was not enough.  After that, he mixed two boxes and filled the pan to the edge of the pattern (not the edge of the pan -- doing that would result in an overflow).  Once his cakes cooled, he sprinkled them with powdered sugar.  We placed cakes on cake doilies and packaged them in cake boxes.  Added a red bow to each box...  And he wrote Merry Christmas! on each box, along with his initials.  His artistic writing always impresses me.  Done!  I should have snapped several photos of the finished product but we were finishing this morning and he was running late.  I hope he took some pics...

S. had fun, I was able to write while still observing the process and giving advice as needed, and his "creations" were the talk of the hospital today.

And the cost...

Red Velvet Cake Mix is $1.25 per box so the cost per cake is $1.25 x 1.5 = $1.88
3 eggs per box of mix so let's say 5 eggs per cake, for easy math...  $1.09 per dz so $0.45 per cake
1/3 cups of oil per box (let's say 1/2 cups per cake) is too much trouble to calculate so let's say $0.50 per cake; same goes for the powdered sugar
Bows came from the dollar store, 20 bows for $1, so $0.05 per bow.
Each cake box costs $2.49

Total:  $5.87

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lamb Turbans Savory Pastries

Sorry for the horrible photo.  The "pretty" ones are gone.  They really do look much better. :)
I posted a variation here. S. loves these little pastries and they are easy to make. I made a batch last week, for his birthday.

Special Ingredient:  dibs ruman, pomegranate molasses; you can buy it online.  I did not have any left so added some fresh pomegranate kernels instead.  I am sure the taste would have been enhanced by dibs ruman.

By the way, these pastries can be refrigerated for several days.  Just reheat in the oven until warm and slightly crispy.  Microwave works, too, but they won't be crispy, of course.  Perfect for easy finger foods!

Dough Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp lukewarm water
  • 1/4 tsp dry active yeast (it did not seem like enough so I added 1/2 tsp, just in case!)
  • 1/8 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour (King Arthur's)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil -- don't add now, use for dipping later!
Get your breadmaker bowl out, add ingredients in order suggested by the manufacturer, and set on Dough.  For more adventurous ones, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the lukewarm water.  Cover and set aside to proof for a few minutes, until the mixture foams.  Combine flour and salt.  Pour yeast mixture over flour mixture, then knead into a soft dough.

Regardless of the method, once the dough is ready, shape it into a log.  Divide the log into 2 dozen small portions.  Shape each portion into 1 1/4-inch rounds.  Lightly dip each round into the olive oil and place on a large tray.  Cover the rounds with plastic wrap and set aside, allowing to rise for at least one hour.

Filling Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cups grated onion (I use food processor)
  • 1/4 lbs ground lamb (I use beef -- less fat and much cheaper)
  • 3/4 cups peeled and seeded on the vine tomatoes, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces.
  • 3/4 tsp salt (I will reduce to 1/2 tsp next time -- filling was a bit too salty for me)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger (I did not have any so skipped)
  • 1 tbsp dibs ruman (see note above)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed, if available)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
Toast pine nuts.  You can either preheat the oven to 350 F and toast in the center for 5-7 mins or toast in a small skillet, stirring often.  You want them golden brown but not burned, of course.  Cool pine nuts before using.

Grate the onion and drain in a fine-mesh strainer, to remove as much of the liquid as possible.  Combine onions with all remaining ingredients, including toasted pine nuts.  Mix well and place into the fine-mesh strainer to drain.  Note:  If you're not ready to make pastries, refrigerate the mix w/out draining.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Use your fingers to flatten each dough round to 3 1/2 inches in diameter.  Place 2 generous tsp of filling in the center.  Lift the edges on one side and pull like a hood over 1/3 of the filling, then start tucking edges in, a small portion at a time, clockwise, like a turban.  Maybe like forming a rose bud, one petal at a time?  Pinch the last edge so the "turban" does unfold.  :)

Transfer rounds to the greased cooking sheet or tray.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until pastry edges are golden brown.  Serve warm.

I said "No!" and it feels good!

As a faculty member, I get to enjoy office-free and committee-free days between the end of semester (once grades are posted) and the week before classes start. Yes, I have to get ready for the next semester. However, I do NOT want to be asked to help somebody on their project because they procrastinated during the semester. Sorry, not my problem. Especially since I was asked to do a one-semester one-course release to help this person. We hired this person just for this project -- and his/her salary is much higher than my meager pay. Oops, the semester is over. See ya! Of course, I was more diplomatic, but I did tell the person that my own writing comes first for the next two weeks. I have no idea what this person will do (go and complain to the VP?) but I am tired of shoving my own writing to the back burner for the last two years while constantly dealing with this long-term assignment. Find somebody else. I am done.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

You know you worked in...

the health care system too long when you say that your girlfriend is not using "proper computer hygiene" when you disagree with the way she organizes folders on her computer. Oh, S. -- you are crazy!!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Quick and Easy Breakfast

I want to write as much as I can today so made this breakfast.  So easy, so yummy! :)  Here is a link:  Try it!

Friday, December 16, 2011

"Lots of Blessings" Birthday Cake

S. celebrated his 40th birthday yesterday.  It's quite a milestone and he is not happy about getting old, lol, so I decided to make a somewhat funky rather than traditional cake, to cheer him up.  It actually took far less time to put it together than the usual icing, decoration, etc. cake.

The base is Caramel Macchiato Cheesecake.  Neither S. nor I care much for the crust so I always skip that part.  Instead of coffee, I added Godiva Caramel Milk Chocolate Liqueur.  Most of the alcohol evaporates during baking so it's fine even for non-drinkers like we are.  It really enhances the flavor, though -- in my opinion.  Like with all cheesecakes, it's better to bake it the night before, leave in the oven to cool (don't move or even touch the cake, just open the door, gently), and then chill overnight, w/out opening the springform pan.

I was planning to decorate the cake yesterday afternoon before S. came home from work but he surprised me and showed up like at 2:00 pm, unheard of! :)  So he witnessed the decoration.  I opened several packages of Kit-Kat bars and sliced them in half (aim between Kit and Kat, lol) with a sharp knife.  One bar creates two sections of the border or four "slats."  Keep adding sections until they go all around.  I could not fit a two-slat section at the end so broke it in half vertically and just added one slat, which fit perfectly.  S. was observing my "fence-building" and then noted that my fence was a bit wobbly.  I told him -- no worries!  And opened a package of Fruit by the Foot, strawberry flavor!  I gently pressed the "ribbon" all around the cake, then gently pulled the paper away.  The leftover portion of the "ribbon" became a bow (I just tucked the ends inside).  I have used the "ribbon" before -- it's such an easy but elegant touch, in my opinion.  I added peanut M&Ms to the top (just one layer), as a symbol of "lots of blessings."  They were great for catching the dripping wax, too.  Finally, I added 40 mini candles.  Done! :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I found a treasure!

I discovered an awesome health foods market just a few minutes from the house!  Don't ask me why I did not bother to check it out before, even though I have seen quite a few times.  It's tucked in a little shopping center and I am not there often but still...  Anyway, I needed an ingredient not stocked in most grocery stores so I decided to visit this health foods store...  They had what I needed -- and more! 

Like "really" fresh milk...  They label proclaims:  100% Milk, The Way God Intended!

They even had non-pasteurized milk but I am not that adventurous, so bought a GLASS bottle of pasteurized milk.  Oh, the taste of my childhood, while staying on grandparents' farm...  And when I return to buy another bottle, with my empty milk bottle, I will get a significant discount!  Sadly, this is almost unheard of in this part of the country...

They have so many truly fresh organic items...  And prices are very reasonable, too.  Wow, what a treasure! :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Walk the Dog or Drink a Can of Coke Dilemma

Calories Burned with Walking The Dog

204 calories per hour

Assuming a body weight of: 150 lbs

This is equivalent to eating any of the lines of the following table.
0.8Grande Starbucks Caffe Latte - Made with whole milk272
0.3McDonald's Big Mac - With cheese704
2.6Glasses of wine (3.5 fl oz)79
0.7Snickers Bar273
1Cans of Coca-Cola207
If I want to have this figure, I better walk the dog... ;)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thank goodness and good riddance!

That's how I felt last night and this morning...  Grades are due by noon and I needed to make several last-minute adjustments.  The annoying woman kept running around, chattering about anything and everything.  She poked through cabinets and picked up every trinket, asking what is this and what is that...  Where did you get this and where did you get that...  Then she wanted to know "everything" (a direct quote) about our relationship.  Really?!?!?!

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!  Just sit down and be quiet, go watch TV, whatever!  I can work and carry a normal conversation but her incessant jabbering really got on my nerves.  Even her husband was annoyed and told her that his ears were hurting and would she please be quiet.  Yeah, like she listened...

Thankfully, the person who was taking them to the airport came shortly after 10:00 am.  The house is quiet...  So peaceful...  Wow!  We have had many people staying with us over the last few years because we have extra room and love to have company.  The husband shared very interesting stories with us and it was really nice to get to know him.  The wife???  Goodness gracious, I don't want to see her again, ever!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gluten-Free Bread, Bacon Potatoes, and One Very Rude Person

Our distant relatives, an older couple, are staying with us for about a week. Thank goodness S. had to deal with them all week and I did not get here until Thursday night... And they went somewhere else Thursday-Saturday and did not get here until last night. So last night my first encounter. First, I was subjected to non-stop drilling about what seems like every square inch of my life. I don't like being grilled and, proud to report, evaded most of the questions by providing vague answers and changing the topic. It's not like I am secretive or anything but, come on, I never met them before and so why would I divulge personal information? Then I asked about the time I should serve breakfast. The woman made a sour face, rolled her eyes, and declared that she is watching her figure (overweight, lumpy -- watching figure? really?) and does not eat breakfast. As my brain started processing this information (Yay! Since we normally just grab yogurt or fruit, I won't have to change my routine), she asked, in the same breath, what was for breakfast? Um, mixed messages here??? Remembering that she is on a gluten-free diet, I suggested potatoes and eggs. Then she wanted to know exactly what kind of potatoes... Grrrr!

Gluten-Free Bread (sorry for the blurry photo)
This morning, I woke up early and made gluten-free bread. Since I don't normally make gluten-free bread and did not want to buy rice flour, etc., I just bought this bread mix. It requires eggs and milk. I just added all ingredients (as well as some rosemary) to my bread maker and set on Dough. When it was done, I let it rise for an hour, then baked at 400 F for 40 minutes.  Considering that it's gluten-free, this bread was surprisingly good.

While the bread was baking, the woman wandered into the kitchen, asking what I am doing.  I told her that gluten-free bread was baking while I was working on other stuff.  She wanted to know how I made the bread so I showed her the box, telling her that, while I make regular bread from scratch (she saw me make it last night), I did not have all the special ingredients and so used the mix instead.  She asked if she could keep the box.  OK, sure...

When breakfast was almost ready, she wandered into the kitchen again, picked up the bread mix box she left on the counter earlier, and said she won't keep it after all because "she is honest."  Have no idea what she meant by that and did not want to ask...

So we sat down to eat and she, who supposedly does not eat breakfast, grabbed a slice of bread before we even had a chance to say grace.  She ate a bite, declared the bread to be too bland, and proceeded to load it with butter and jelly.  See the photo above?  She ate almost 1/3 of the loaf, slice by slice, while muttering that she can't be too picky!!!  I was speechless...  Especially after tasting the bread and finding out that it was tasty and fragrant.  Yes, not like the regular bread, but come on -- it's gluten-free!

Bacon Potatoes


5-6 slices center-cut low fat bacon (I always drain fat)
5-6 medium potatoes
1/2 tbsp olive oil (if you don't drain bacon fat, don't add oil)
salt/pepper/other spices to taste

I also made potatoes with center-cut bacon, since it has much less fat than regular bacon.  I snipped bacon into pieces (kitchen shears work great), fried it until golden brown, and drained fat.  This way, most of the fat is gone and there are crispy pieces of meat.  Meanwhile, I peeled and sliced (1/10 inch thickness or so) several potatoes.  I added approximately 1/2 tbsp of olive oil and potatoes to the skillet with bacon pieces, then fried on medium (it's more like sauteing than frying because of lower heat).  Halfway through cooking, I added salt and pepper to taste (you can use flavored salt, like garlic salt).

Boiled eggs, beverages (coffee, tea, juice), and condiments (butter, jelly) completed the breakfast.

The guy was very polite and happily ate several servings of potatoes and a couple of slices of regular bread I made yesterday.  He must be a saint to put up with this woman...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Ah, grading, grading, grading...  A never-ending story.  I update grades throughout the semester but it's still a daunting task because I want to make sure students know why they were assigned a certain grade and what they can do to improve.  In my opinion, grading is more than just assigning grades -- it's a critical teaching opportunity.  Also, consistency is very important but oh so difficult to achieve.  I use detailed grading rubrics (shared with students to be used while they working on assignments) and that helps, a lot.

Here is an interesting post (and the source of photo below).

Monday, December 05, 2011


I had a gazillion things going on this morning and left the house w/out my lunch.  Now I am hungry...  I really want a bowl of this soup.  It looks so delicious!  I think I will pick up the ingredients on the way home and make a pot tonight.  It will be awesome with lightly toasted Sally Lunn bread I made yesterday...
Sally Lunn Bread Recipe

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Pelmeni (Russian Ravioli)

I don't make pelmeni often because they (1) are bursting with calories and (2) do require a couple of hours to make.  However, they are definitely worth an effort and oh so yummy! :)  Also, it's a great way to put kids to work, lol.  Our little nieces are well-mannered, compared to other kids their age, and eagerly participate in any hands-on projects, w/out making too much mess in the process.  They came to visit this afternoon and proudly made late lunch.  And there are no leftovers so I don't have to worry about those lingering calories calling my name... ;)

To save time, you can use pelmeni mold.  I have an old-fashioned heavy aluminum (alloy?) mold, which is pricey, especially shipping costs, but you can buy a significantly cheaper, plastic version here.  This site also contains step-by-step directions.  They provide a slightly different recipe but I have not tested it.  My recipe, listed below, has been in the family for many years and it always works for me.  Mom never measures ingredients, just adds a little bit of this and a little bit of that until she gets the perfect consistency.  I had to observe her quite a few times and then practice on my own until I derived this recipe.

Another way to make pelmeni is traditional way -- family-style, with everyone around the counter, filling and shaping.  That's what we did today -- to have more fun! :)  See directions below.

Ingredients for the Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
Mix and knead until you achieve the consistency of soft playdough.  Mom pours the flour on the mixing surface, in a little mound, then makes a small hole at the top.  Like a crater? ;)  Then she pours in the egg, salt, and a little water.  She kneads, adding more water, until the dough is ready.  Sorry, too much trouble for me...
I just place all ingredients in my breadmaker and set on Dough.  You don't have to wait for the entire cycle.  When the dough achieves soft playdough consistency, place it in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

Ingredients for the Filling:
1 lb ground beef or turkey (raw, not cooked)
salt, 1/2 tbsp
pepper, 1/2 tbsp
small onion, grated or very finely chopped

Just mix meat, salt, pepper, and onion.  You can also add sauteed mushrooms (nothing traditional about that but I like it).

Once the dough is ready, divide it into four portions.  Roll out each portion, on a lightly floured surface, as thinly as you can.  The dough should be almost translucent.  It's fairly easy to roll out, though.  Just be patient.  Use a round cookie cutter (I improvise with the cap to non-stick spray, lol) to cut the dough into circles.  Form filling into small meatballs, approximately 1 full tsp, and place in the middle of each circle.  Fold the circle in half and firmly pinch edges.  Then bring two corners together and pinch, to form a round dumpling.  Here is a photo from today:
Fill the large pot with water, add some salt (like you would for pasta), and bring to boil.  Carefully drop pelmeni into the boiling water, bring back to boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook approximately 10 minutes or until done.  Remove with the slotted spoon and add a bit of melted butter, to prevent sticking.

Traditionally, pelmeni are served with lots of melted butter and/or sprinkled with white vinegar and freshly ground black pepper (I personally don't care about vinegar and pepper).  You can also add some freshly grated Parmesan (my favorite and how we served today) or Afredo sauce.  Sour cream is another great idea.  I don't recommend tomato sauce because it overpowers the aroma and taste of pelmeni, in my opinion.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Blinchiki for Breakfast

We have distant relatives, an older couple, staying with us for a few days.  This morning, I wanted to treat them to a nice breakfast.  Blinchiki (blintzes) are always a hit and this morning was no exception.  I have used this recipe for many years, with great results.

Ingredients (for 4 servings of 2 blinchiki each):
1 1/2 cup milk (2% works great), warmed just a bit
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tbsp butter, melted
2/3 cup all-purpose flour (I always use King Arthur)
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Combine the milk, eggs, and butter in a medium bowl.  
  2. Mix at medium speed for about one minute or until well incorporated.  
  3. Combine flour and salt in a small bowl.  
  4. Add to the milk mixture.  
  5. Mix at medium for another minute or so; again, until well incorporated.  
  6. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.  
  7. Lightly grease a small non-stick skillet and preheat at medium heat.  
  8. Pour 1/8 to 1/4 cups batter (adjust thickness to your liking; I like thicker blinchiki so use 1/4 cup measure) and move the skillet from side to side, to spread the batter.
  9. As the batter starts cooking, you may want to tilt the skillet again, to make sure batter is spread evenly.  You may need to adjust heat (I use 3 on my electric stove).
  10. Cook until top appears slightly dry.
  11. Flip with spatula (you may need to loosen edges a bit) and cook for 15-20 secs longer or until steam stops rising.
  12. Remove to the plate.
  13. Cook the remaining blinchiki, stacking them on the plate.
  14. You can serve them immediately, like traditional pancakes (with jam, syrup, whipped cream, etc.).
  15. Traditionally, they are served with various fillings, though.  My favorite is chopped cooked chicken with sauteed mushrooms and cheese.

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