Monday, February 28, 2011


I like piroghi topped with sour cream and dill.
I love dumplings. I am on a delicious quest of slowly mastering all of the world's dumplings. It will take awhile, but I have time. Polish dumplings are my latest adventure. Specifically, piroghi which are named for their shape, not their filling. Piroghi are large rectangle, square or round pies;  they can be filled with different fillings ranging from sweet to savory. I chose two savory fillings: onions and sauerkraut and potatoes and onions.
The sauerkraut filling was so good, I made a small bowl of it and ate it while the pastry dough was resting. The potato filling became my new mashed potato recipe. The dough that is used also varies. I had yeast dough, sour cream pastry, and puff pastry to choose from.  There was no doubt in my mind; I went for the sour cream pastry. These dumplings were a bit of work but they were worth it.

Dumpling Dough

3 Cups (375 g) of Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 Tsp of Salt
1/2 Tsp of Baking Powder
14 Tbsp of Unsalted Butter, Chilled and Cut into Pieces
2 Yolks from Large Eggs
2/3 Cup (225 g) of Sour Cream (Light Sour Cream May Be Used)

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter and use a pasty blender or your fingers to blend until the flour looks like coarse bread crumbs.
The mixture should look like coarse breadcrumbs
In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks and sour cream.
Adding the sour cream mixture to the dry ingredients
Add this mixture to the dry ingredients a bit at a time, mixing into to the flour with your hands.
Mixing it with my fingers- what a mess!
Once the sour cream mixture is mixed in, transfer the pastry to a light floured surface and knead it briefly. Divide the pastry into two parts, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Mixed, kneaded and ready to rest!
I like to refrigerate the dough overnight. I think it is easier to work with.

Sauerkraut Onion Filling

2 Tbsp of Butter
1/2 Cup (95 g) of Onions, Chopped (Preferably Red Onions)
1 1/2 Cups (213 g) of Sauerkraut
Salt and Pepper, To Taste

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion to the melted butter and sauté until the onion is translucent, approximately 15 minutes. Add the sauerkraut to the skillet and sauté for 5 more minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Once it cools, I place the filling on a cutting board and chop it into fine pieces.
The sauerkraut onion mixture

Potato Onion Filling
3 Tbsp of Butter
1 Cup (191 g) of Onions, Finely Chopped
3 Potatoes (approximately 20 oz/560 g each), Peeled, Boiled, and Mashed
3 oz (85 g) Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
Salt and Pepper, To Taste

Heat the oil in a small skillet and medium heat. add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until caramelized. This should take about 15 minutes. Place the onions in a bowl and mix in the remainder of the ingredients.
The potato mixture (also the world's best mashed potatoes)
Making the Piroghi

Take a piece of dough (refrigerate the remaining dough) and roll it out on a lightly flour surface. You want the dough to be thin approximately 1/8 inch (20 cm). With a large cookie cutter (I like to use a scalloped edge) or a drinking glass, cut out rounds from the dough.
Dough round

Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of the dough round. Next moisten the edges with water and fold the edge so they meet in the center. Seal the edges tightly and set on a cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
I usually make several at a time.
Sealed piroghi.

I boil mine in water for 3-5 minutes (they are done when they float to the surface). You can also brush them with egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon of milk) and bake them in a 350 F/175 C oven for approximately 25 minutes.  I freeze (uncooked) piroghis and they freeze well.

With this dough it is important to moisten the dough and tightly seal it. Otherwise, they will come apart while you are boiling them. Also you want a "light" boil not a roiling boil. These are too delicate to be cooked in a rolling boil.

The bottom line: Would I make these again? Yes I would. The dough was easy to work with especially after chilling overnight in the refrigerator. I plan on trying different doughs and fillings.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Creamy Limoncello - When Life Hands You Lemons Make Limoncello!

Creamy Limoncello Lemon Drop Martini
Limoncello is a traditional Italian drink and it is incredible. Store bought is good. I have had some homemade limoncello that is incredible. I told Steven I wanted to make limoncello and he immediately suggested creamy limoncello. We had a creamy limoncello once and it was wondrous. I did some research and found out that limoncello is easy to make. So we started the two week process of making limoncello.
Limoncello is comprised of alcohol with lemon zest and simple syrup. With creamy limoncello you substitute milk for water when making the simple syrup.  We decided to give the creamy limoncello a try.

I did not have access to Everclear (which is the preferred base) so we used vodka. All of the recipes I reviewed recommended a vodka that was at least 100 proof. This is to prevent the mixture from freezing (remember you add a lot of simple syrup to the vodka). We had 80 proof vodka so we used that.  Some limoncello makers recommended filtering the vodka several times through a Brita filter. I did not filter the vodka. 
I used Skyy vodka
The most difficult part was carefully zesting 12 lemons. Even with a microzester it took awhile and unfortunately, I was the only one zesting the lemons.

The lemons after the were zested.

A bowl full of zest
I tried to avoid the white pith which could make the limoncello bitter. Once all of the zesting was done, amazingly, my family showed up and we  put the zest in the vodka. We let the vodka  infuse for a week shaking the bottle daily.

After a week, we tried the lemon vodka and it wasn't lemony enough so we waited another week. After two weeks, we decided to go forward.

To make the creamy simple syrup we combined 1 quart of cream with one quart of whole milk and added two cups of sugar. This mixture was simmered over medium-low heat until it reduced to 4 cups (about 25-30 minutes). We set it aside and allowed it to cool.

While the milk sugar mixture was cooling, we strained the vodka.

The zest lost a lot of its yellow

The vodka is now yellow and tastes like lemon flavored vodka
Once the mixture cooled, we strained the milk sugar syrup and added it to the vodka. We ended up with two bottles of limoncello. We allowed the limoncello to chill for several hours. Because we used 80 proof vodka, we put the limoncello in the refrigerator instead of the freezer.

I loved the limoncello and the people who have tried it have loved it. We drink limoncello from small glasses  sometimes as an aperitif and sometimes as a digestif. (It is supposed to be drunk from cordial glasses - I would love some of the ceramic limoncello glasses made in Italy. Other suggestions are drinking it from a shot glass).

Creamy limoncello
It is also excellent as a martini. Here is the recipe:

Lemon Drop Limoncello Martini

1.25 oz (40 ml) Vodka
.75 oz (25 ml) Limoncello (Creamy or Regular)
.25 oz (10 ml) Simple Syrup*
.25 oz (10 ml) Lemon Juice

Put the above ingredients in a martini shaker filled with ice and shake. Then pour into a martini glass. I like to wet the edge of the glass and dip it in sugar. I also drop a lemon drop candy into the martini.

The finished martini
Simple Syrup

1 Cup (150 ml) of Water
1 Cup (225 g) of Sugar

Place in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil (stirring constantly) until sugar is dissolved. Cool before using in a drink recipe. Store unused syrup in the refrigerator.
Limoncello martini with regular limoncello
Bottom line: will we make this again? Yes it is delicious! I plan to make some changes and will blog it with the changes. Next time, I am going to make regular limoncello and I will use Everclear. Next time I make creamy limoncello, I will use whole milk instead of a mixture of cream and milk.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mashed Potato Pancakes

Leftover mashed potatoes? I have the solution: mashed potato pancakes. My mother used to make these when I was a kid, and I did not like them at all. However, my mom and brother loved them. Sometimes I thought we had mashed potatoes for dinner so we could have potato pancakes for breakfast.
Now that my taste buds have grown up, I like them. I still prefer the traditional potato pancakes made out of grated raw potatoes.  Maintaining the pattern, my daughter loves traditional potato pancakes but does not like the ones made out of mashed potatoes. She will probably like them someday and try to feed them to her daughter.

Mashed Potato Pancakes
1 Tbsp Butter
Mashed Potatoes

1 Tbsp of butter in skillet
Form the mashed potatoes into patties.

Melt butter in non-stick skillet over medium heat.
Potato patties ready to be fried

Place mashed potato patties in skillet. Cook for approximately 5 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Golden brown potato pancakes
The potato pancakes are even better if your leftover mashed potatoes include cheese. The potatoes I used were leftover from a pirogi filling so they were mixed with cheese and caramelized onions. Yum!!

The bottom line: will we make these again? Yes, whenever we have leftover mashed potatoes we will make these.  However, I will not make mashed potatoes for dinner so I can have these for breakfast. If I have plain mashed potatoes, I will add cheese and either garlic or caramelized onions to the potatoes before making the potato patties.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mushrooms Filled with Boursin Cheesey Goodness!

Boursin stuffed mushrooms
I love Boursin cheese and I love mushrooms. Ok I admit it there are a lot of foods that I love. But in my defense, mushrooms filled with Boursin cheese, topped with buttered bread crumbs and then baked are wondrous little nuggets of goodness. I know that I used a lot of adjectives but I think they are that good and I think they deserve them (so does Katie). Also they are very little work but they seem like you did a lot of work. I have made other recipes with a lot more steps but they weren't any better, just more complicated. So if you come to my house for dinner and I serve these, go along with my "I slaved in the kitchen story."

I vary the mushrooms I use.  Big portabellas are my favorite, but we are in the middle of a winter storm and grocery store had button mushrooms so that is what we decided to use. (If I had a lot of people over for a party, I would use button mushrooms; they are more like finger foods. Baby bellas would work as well). The grocery store had a sale on Boursin cheese, otherwise I would have made it from scratch (in case you want to make it from scratch I included the recipe at the end- it is basically cream cheese with garlic and herbs). Well, you can never have too much Boursin cheese so I decided to make some as well and have a taste test.
You vary the stuffing you use in these. You can change the cheeses or stuff with crab. You could make it spicy. The only limitation, if you don't like mushrooms this is not the recipe for you.You certainly can use straight Boursin cheese in these but I mix it with cream cheese to make it last longer. Adding cream cheese is not as important with button mushrooms, but very important with portabellas.

Mushrooms Stuffed with Boursin Cheese

One Part Boursin Cheese
One Part Cream Cheese
Mushrooms, Big Enough to Stuff
Bread Crumbs

Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Mix the boursin cheese and cream cheese together. Clean mushrooms (by brush or wiping with a damp cloth) and remove stem (I freeze the stems and save for making broth).

Fill the mushroom with the cheese mixture and top with buttered breadcrumbs (2 Tbsp of melted butter and 1/2 cup of bread crumbs).

For button mushrooms bake 20 minutes; for baby bellas bake 25 minutes, and for full-size portabellas bake 30 minutes. You want the bread crumbs to be golden brown and the cheese to melt. (The portabellas can also be grilled and they are amazing)

Homemade Boursin Cheese

If you want to reduce the calories, use low fat cream cheese and use less butter.

4 Ounces (113 g) Butter, Softened
8 Ounces (227 g) Cream Cheese, Softened
1 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
Dill (Fresh 1 Tsp; Dried 1/4 Tsp), Fresh Should be Finely Minced
Marjoram (Fresh 1 Tsp; dried 1/4 Tsp), Fresh Should be Finely Minced
Basil (Fresh 2 Tsp; Dried 1/2 Tsp), Fresh Should be Finely Minced
Chives (Fresh 2 Tsp; Dried 1/2 Tsp), Fresh Should be Finely Minced
1/4 Tsp White Pepper, Ground
Thyme (Fresh 1 Tsp; Dried 1/4 Tsp), Fresh Should be Finely Minced
Oregano (Fresh 1 Tsp; Dried 1/4 Tsp) Fresh Should be Finely Minced

Whip the butter and then add the cream cheese. Blend together.

Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
I premeasure the herbs and garlic and put them in a bowl

Once you think it is mixed well enough, scrape down the sides and mix again.

Place in serving container and cover with lid or plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for a couple hours before serving.
Katie called first dibs on the beater
The bottom line- We of course loved the mushrooms and will make again. The mushrooms were gone within 3 minutes of leaving the oven. I was lucky I got pictures.

Also we tested both cheeses side by side and liked both. The real boursin cheese was less buttery and had more garlic. Our homemade  cheese was creamier. We will be making more boursin cheese, especially this summer when we have fresh herbs.
The finished Boursin cheese

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Convection Oven Whole Roast Chicken

Roast chicken, green beans, and gnocchi.
The convection oven is perfect for roasting chicken. It creates a crispy skin and it is moist and juicy inside. It is also oh so easy to make. The fennel gives it a different twist, a slight licorice flavor.

Roast Chicken
Finished roast chicken

1/2 teaspoon of of the following herbs: basil, thyme, fennel, white peppercorns,  and rosemary 
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
Whole Chicken

Preheat oven to 350 F/177 C.

Place spices in a spice grinder and grind into powder. Put spice powder into a small dish and add olive oil. Rub mixture on chicken and place on a  roasting pan. Place it into a preheated oven. Roast for 60 minutes.

Chicken rubbed with herbs; ready for the oven

That's all there is to it!

Roast Chicken Part Deux

This time we brined the chicken overnight prior to roasting. Why? We wondered if it would have a noticeable difference in taste and moisture. Why did we do this? Because of a conversation I had with a member of the waitstaff at one of my favorite local restaurants. She mentioned marinating chicken. I pondered our conversation and decided to brine a chicken.

After we took the chicken out of the brine, we let it dry out for 1 hour. Then we rubbed olive oil and Kosher salt and ground pepper all over the skin. We roasted it in 350 F/ 177C for 60 minutes.

The result - incredible mouth watering moist chicken. The best chicken we have ever made. Who knew? The bottom line - we will brining our chickens in the future.

Monday, February 7, 2011

White Almond Sour Cream Wedding Cake

Katie's birthday cake
This is my family's favorite cake. I made it last year for my daughter's and my husband's birthdays. I tried to talk them into chocolate (at least chocolate icing) but they wouldn't hear of it. They are both crazy about almond. So it was the traditional cake with an almond butter cream frosting. Well, I also added a layer of whipped cream with almond flavoring and crushed raspberries. I have to admit it was an amazingly good cake. Katie's cake had sugar coated flowers (from our garden) on her cake. A special note - I make my own vanilla extract. All other extracts I try to get from Penzeys Spices.

Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too?

This time I decided to make the cake I want.  This cake is to celebrate the "actual" birthday of my friend's daughter who was born premature. We can't be there so we are celebrating separately. Happy Birthday Elisa!You are wondrous!

I used Kakeladi's White Almond Sour Cream (WASC) Cake Recipe
(This recipe makes the amount of batter of 1 1/2 cake mixes)

1 Box of White Cake Mix 
1 Cup (125 g) Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 Cup (225 g) Granulated Sugar
Generous Dash of Salt

1 Cup (242 g) Sour Cream

1 Cup (250 ml) Water
3 Whole Large Eggs

1 Tbsp Almond Extract


In medium size bowl mix together dry ingredients. Set aside.   

In mixing bowl add next 4 ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Once all of the dry ingredients are added, mix on medium for 2 minutes.  

Pour batter into prepared pans (grease sides and bottom of the pans). I used two 8 inch round pans.   

Bake the cakes per the instructions on the cake mix. (I made two 8 inch rounds and cooked them at 325F for 30 minutes (well one for 30 minutes in the light pan and one in the dark pan 35 minutes)).
    Chocolate Almond Butter Cream Icing


    1/4 Cup (57 g) of Butter, Softened
    1 1/2 Cups (170 g) of Powdered Sugar
    1/3 Cup (28 g) of Cocoa
    1 Tsp Almond Extract
    2 Tbsp of Cream

    Beat the butter; Alternate adding the powdered sugar and cocoa and the cream and extract. Scrape the bowl and beat until creamy. Add more cream or sugar until you get the desired consistency. I made mine thick because I used it as the icing layer between two 8-inch round cakes. This makes just enough.

    Almond Butter Cream Frosting


    1/2 Cup (114 g) of Butter, Softened
    4 Cups (452 g) of Powdered Sugar
    6 Tbsp of Cream
    2 Tbsp of Almond Extract

    Beat the butter; add the sugar alternating with the cream and extract. Add cream or sugar to get the correct consistency. Makes enough to ice two 8-inch round cakes.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    Vodka Pasta Sauce

    Raviolis with vodka tomato sauce
    I am willing to buy pre-made raviolis but not canned sauce. It is so easy to make your own. There are people who buy canned sauce and add to it- but then why not buy good canned tomatoes and make your sauce? I would like to have fresh summer tomatoes for sauce but I don't. So, canned tomatoes it is. I use the sugar to take the acid edge off of the canned tomatoes and to compliment the spice. I love garlic so I use a lot of sliced garlic. If you are not a garlic devotee then you may want to reduce the amount of garlic and mince it. I liked this so much I made two different servings of raviolis so I could have more sauce.

    Vodka Tomato Sauce

    1/2 Cup (50 g) Diced Onions
    6 Cloves of Garlic, Sliced
    2 Tbsp of Olive Oil
    1/2 Cup (120 ml) Vodka
    1/2 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
    Salt and Pepper, To Taste
    10.75 Ounces (305 g) of Tomato Puree
    15 Ounces (425 g) Crushed Tomatoes
    2 Tbsp of Sugar

    Olive oil in pan add garlic and onions cook over medium low heat until onions are soft.

    The onions and garlic
    At this point your house should smell incredible. 
    Add the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  
    The onions, garlic, red pepper, salt, and pepper.
    The sauce with everything in it.
    Add vodka (I used Cîroc, a French Vodka distilled from grapes) and add the tomatoes and sugar.  Simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
    The sauce is done!
    Sauce over mushroom raviolis.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Lemon Asparagus Pasta

     Lemon, bacon, sweet onions, a bit of heat, cheese, and pasta - these are a few of my favorite things. Also they are just the things that I need when I am coming down with cabin fever. It is one thing to live in a climate where they are used to snow and get a large snow fall. It is another thing to live in Tulsa and get hammered with snow. I am being to wonder if the city even owns a snow plow. Thankfully, I have a lot of food in the house and plenty of recipes to create. Here is my latest creation. I hope you like it!

    Lemon Asparagus Pasta

    3 Tbsp Olive Oil
    1 Cup (191 g) of Chopped Onions
    3 3/4 Ounces (105 g) Chopped Bacon or Pancetta
    6 Ounces (170 g) Asparagus, Chopped into Pieces 
    1/4 Tsp Pepper Flakes
    Zest of One Lemon
    Juice from 1/2 of a Lemon
    1/3 Cup (38 g) of Shredded Parmesan Cheese
    Salt and Pepper, to Taste

    Boil salted water for pasta and cook pasta according to directions. Heat the olive oil over medium low heat and add onions.

    Saute briefly and add bacon. Salt and pepper the sizzling bacon and onions. Saute bacon and onions over low heat until onions caramelize.

    Add asparagus, pepper flakes, lemon zest and lemon juice. Saute for approximately 4 minutes (asparagus will still be crisp).


     Place pasta in bowls, tops with bacon asparagus mixture and top with Parmesan cheese.

    Bottom line: Will I make it again? Yes, it has the tastes we love. It is an easy pasta sauce. In the time it cook the water to heat up and cook the pasta, the sauce was done (and that included all of the prep work- I was like a tornado in the kitchen). Part of the reason I blogged the recipe is so I can find it and make it again. Will I do anything differently? Maybe. I may reduce the olive oil and add the bacon with the onions so I can reduce the amount of oil in the recipe. But then again, maybe not.