An Easter tradition: Potica


One of my earliest childhood memories involving food was the potica (poppy-seed bread) that Grandma always mailed to us at Easter. This is a traditional bread for Slovenians and other Europeans. Every Easter, along with the other traditional foods of ham, polish sausage, potato salad and colorful hard-boiled eggs, my family always had this sweet delightful bread. Yes, I know this meal sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen, but somehow we all escaped heart disease. 

Potica, aka poppy-seed* bread, is a light, slightly sweet bread that we always ate with the meal, but could also be served as a dessert. Grandma made this bread every year, along with a nut-filled variety that never really caught on with us. Each year right before Easter we’d anxiously await the big cardboard box in the mail, filled with potica and assorted Easter candy. Sometimes the box would arrive partly open or semi-crushed but everything inside would still be a delight.

Finally, when Grandma was gone, we learned to make potica ourselves. Maybe there was a written recipe at one time, but none of us ever saw it. It wouldn’t have done us any good anyway, as it surely would have been written in Slovenian. This recipe is one my sister found long ago in Good Housekeeping  magazine that we all agreed was as close to Grandma’s as we could ever get. I use Solo canned poppy-seed filling, but I’m sure Grandma made her own. Since this is a yeast bread, figure on staying nearby for three-four hours. Alternatively, one can make the dough one day, put it in the refrigerator to rise overnight, and finish it the next day. Or the best way? If you have a bread machine, use the dough cycle for the first part. It eliminates all the beating, stirring and kneading, and turns out just as good. If you don’t have a bread machine, you can probably pick one up at a local thrift store for under $20.

Potica (makes 2 loaves)

In a saucepan or microwave bowl, heat together

1 cup milk or soy milk

1/2 cup butter or margarine, until very warm, about 115 degrees Farenheit. (Butter does not need to completely melt.)

In a large bowl mix:

1/2 cup white sugar

1-2 teaspoons dried or fresh grated lemon peel (optional)

1 package dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour,  then add the milk mixture.

With mixer on low speed, beat liquid into dry ingredients, just until mixed. Increase speed to medium, beating in

1 egg

1 cup of flour or enough flour to make the dough thick. Beat 2 minutes more, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.

With spoon, stir in enough additional flour, about 1 to 1 1/2 cups, to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured cloth and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball and place in a greased mixing bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour, or overnight in refrigerator.

(Alternatively, place all ingredients in a bread machine, wet ingredients first and yeast on top,  and run the dough cycle. This replaces the mixing, kneading and first rising and is a lot less work!)

After rising,  punch down dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured cloth. Cut dough in half, cover and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

While the dough is resting, grease two cookie sheets or cover with parchment paper and make the poppy-seed filling:

In a medium bowl, beat 1 egg white (save the egg yolk for later) until soft peaks form. Add

1 12-ounce can of Solo Poppy Seed Filling

1 tablespoon grated lemon peel (optional)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

On a floured cloth with a rolling pin, roll out half of the dough into a rectangle, about 12 inches by 18 inches. Dough may be difficult to roll out – be patient. Spread half the filling onto the dough. Starting with the long side, roll up the dough jelly roll fashion, and place on a cookie sheet. Pinch the ends shut. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Beat 1 or 2 egg yolks and spread over the loaves with a pastry brush. Bake loaves 25-30 minutes, until browned and sound hollow when tapped in the middle. Cool on wire racks.

 

Related link: Nut-filled Potica recipe

*This bread should not be eaten by anyone who might be needing to take a drug test within a few days, as poppy seeds can cause false-positive results.

 © Huffygirl

Hungry Workday Muffins


Yummy blueberry muffins, still warm. (Photo: Huffygirl)

It’s 7:30 PM and I’m just getting home from work. I’ve had people coughing on me all day, and lunch was half a tuna sandwich gulped down at my desk over seven hours ago. I walk in the door ravenous, more than ready to dive into the pasta that my husband has been making. I smell the sauce and pasta, but I smell something else too – it’s fruity, cinnamony and delightfully, no, sinfully enticing. Forget about the pasta, I’m drawn to the aroma of hubby’s blueberry muffins.

Yes, it’s the same hubby who usually saves all his blueberry baking for July, but now that I’ve got all the freezer space in the world, he’s decided to break into the frozen blueberry stash early this year. And I’m glad he did. These

Crumbly topping and blueberries too!

muffins are huge, dripping over the sides of the pan, with sugar-cinnamon-encrusted tops and big juicy blueberries peeking out through the topping.  As we scrape the still-warm muffins loose from the pans, crumbly pieces that were stuck to the edges break off. We’re scooping the crumbs up and into our mouths as fast as we can, each bite more delectable than the last. The pasta sits forgotten for a minute until we finish our blueberry muffin orgy.  Never mind that we had to soak the muffin pans AND the cookie sheets he put under the overflowing muffin pans, AND clean the oven after the blueberry muffin overspill, it was worth it. If you don’t want to experience the same aftermath, use LARGE muffin pans, or divide batter into 16-18 medium/standard-sized muffin pans instead.

Blueberry Feather Muffins

2 1/2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 egg

1 cup milk or rice milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

 1 1/2 cups big, fresh, juicy blueberries, or ones  that have been sitting in your freezer since last August will also do 🙂

Cream together sugar, softened butter/margarine, then add egg and stir well. Add dry ingredients and milk. Fold in blueberries. Spoon into paper-lined or greased muffin pans, making 16-18 medium/standard size muffins, or 12 LARGE muffins.

Topping:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup flour

1/4 cup butter or margarine, firm but not hard, cut into pats

Mix sugar, cinnamon and flour in a medium bowl. With a fork or pasty blender, cut in the pats of butter/margarine until topping is crumbly. Sprinkle over tops of muffins. Bake 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes.

(Recipe credit: The Blueberry Cookbook, Chamber of Commerce Blueberry Festival Committee, South Haven, Michigan, 1990.)

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hearty pumpkin rolls


Hearty pumpkin rolls (Photo: Huffygirl)

This is a great recipe for a cold winter day when you have time to stay with it for about 3 1/2 hours. I’ve also made the dough one day, refrigerated it overnight and shaped the rolls and finished it the next day. The original recipe had a few glitches and I’ve added my modifications.

Ingredients:

Proof one packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons regular rise yeast in 1/8 cup warm water. Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the following:

Just under 1 cup milk or soy milk, warm

2/3 cup white sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 egg

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine, room temperature

2 teaspoons salt

3 cups white flour (5 1/2 to 6  cups total)

Mix all together on low with an electric mixer. Then stir in an additional 2  to 2 1/2 cups of flour by hand. 

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured cloth and knead in an additional 1/2 to 1 cup of flour until the dough is no longer sticky and becomes smooth, about 5 minutes. Shape dough into a ball and place in a greased mixing bowl. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1  to 1 1/2 hours. Punch down dough. Turn out onto lightly floured cloth. Divide dough with a

You'll need 2-4 baking pans, depending on their size. (Photo: Huffygirl)

sharp knife into 32 pieces and shape into rolls. Place into greased baking pans. Cover and allow to rise again, about 45 minutes to 75 minutes, until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-27 minutes, until rolls are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Turn out onto wire rack to cool. Serve warm. Rolls may be frozen for later use.

Variation 1: If you have a stand mixer with dough hook (I don’t) mix all ingredients in mixing bowl on low until combined, then increase speed to medium low and mix for 5 minutes to knead, adding additional flour if needed.

Variation 2: For hearty bread, shape into two large loaves and bake in bread pans or round cake pans. 

Variation 3: For hearty cinnamon rolls, instead of shaping into rolls, roll dough out into a rectangle. Spread with melted butter or margarine, then sprinkle with sugar-cinnamon mixture and mini chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, or currents. Slice into 1 to 1 1/2 inch slices, lie flat on cookie sheets or baking pans, and follow the directions for rising and baking rolls.

Yum! (Photo: Huffygirl)

 

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Okay Honey, you can bring the blueberries in from the snow now


Blueberry

The pesky culprits (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Today’s the big day. The freezer is being delivered. It’s just a small chest freezer, but big enough to hold all the food a family of three could possibly need, plus the jumbo box of waffles, the family pack of Popsicles, and all the bread I’ve baked this week. I could probably get a small turkey in there too if I wanted.. and I’d still have room for 10  pounds of blueberries. Who could possibly need all those blueberries, you might ask? My excellent husband, the blueberry king. Every summer he brings home 10 pounds of blueberries from the market, with plans to make blueberry pie, blueberry muffins, blueberry coffee cake and fruit salads laced with blueberries. And every year in the following July, just before the new blueberry crop appears, he does. In a fit of blueberry mania, he takes the blueberries he’s been saving for the better part of a year, and finally uses them in a cornucopia of blueberry baked delights, just  in time to fill my freezer up again. And again, and again. This has gone on for some time.

Finally, earlier this winter, something came over me. It happened shortly after we’d been watching an episode of The Middle, the show about a middle class family with eccentric kids and goofy parents. In this episode, the parents decided to take back their house from the kids. They made the kids pick up their kid clutter, clean their rooms, and stop hogging the TV, and for one episode their house looked like an ordinary middle-class home where the parents were in charge, instead of one taken over by teens.

Shortly after that I was trying in vain to fit groceries into our already bulging freezer, and it hit me. These blueberries were robbing me of my freezer space, and nobody was even eating them. “I’m taking back the freezer,” I shouted as I packed the blueberries into a large plastic bin and took them outside into the very cold wintry night, while my husband stood by in open-mouthed disbelief, watching his favorite fruit sent packing.

Fortunately for my excellent husband, this winter was especially cold and snowy, keeping his blueberries perfectly cryogenically preserved deep in the snow bank. Until today. Today he can go out into the snow, and rescue the blueberries, and bring them in to their new home, where they’ll sit until July. when the cycle begins anew. Maybe this year he’ll decide to bring home 20 pounds…

A non-recipe recipe for non-recipe cooks: Slow-bake beef and vegetables


Because of food allergies, recipes at my house are pretty simple. A lot of cooking I learned from my mom, who had few recipes but made simple, traditional meals, adding ingredients “until they look right.” I recently came up with this no-fail recipe for beef and vegetables that is easy and can be adapted to one’s tastes. Why no fail? Amounts don’t have to be measured – just

Place meat in the bottom of the pan, cover with vegetables. (Photo: Huffygirl)

estimate and throw in what looks right. You can bake it at a lower temp and longer if you need to be away for the afternoon, or higher and quicker if you’re short on time.

Ingredients:

1-2.5 pounds of beef, either sirloin, round steak, chuck or shoulder roast, depending on the size of the group you wish to feed and the time you have available. Sirloin is the quickest cooking time

Frozen, cut green beans about 1 cup

Baby carrots, about 1 to 1  1/2 cups

Celery, about 2-3 stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces

4-6 unpeeled red skin potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

2-3 cups water (may use part beef broth and/or wine if desired)

2-4 small onions, whole

spices to taste preference : I used 1/2 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper, and

Sprinkle seasonings on top. (Photo: Huffygirl)

a sprinkling of oregano and thyme, about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon each. Other spices you might like are rosemary, tarragon, garlic, or a splash of dijon mustard.

Secret sauce ingredient – Williams Sonoma Beef Demi-glace, about 2-3 teaspoons

Corn starch for thickening – 1-3 tablespoons depending on amount of liquid

Place the meat in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Cover with the vegetables, potatoes and onions.

Sprinkle seasonings. Pour in 2-3 cups liquid – enough to moisten everything, but does not have to be covered.

The secret ingredient (Photo: Huffygirl)

Add the secret sauce ingredient to the water. Place pan uncovered in oven; bake at 300-325 degrees for half an hour; cover with lid and bake an additional 2-3 hours, depending on the size of the beef, until everything is done. If you want the sauce thickened into gravy, add 1-3 tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup of cold water about 30 minutes before serving. Serves 3-6 people, depending on the amount of meat used.

Add bread and ready to eat! (Photo: Huffygirl)

Variations: For a southwest flare, add 1/2  to 1 cup of salsa. May use sweet potatoes in addition to or instead of white potatoes. May add any kind of vegetable that you like that will tolerate long, slow baking. May vary oven temperature depending upon how much cooking time you have available. If you need to be gone for the afternoon and leave it in the oven unattended, may go as low as 275 to 300 degrees. Or put it in a crock pot for the entire day on low.

  © The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Darn you Hershey!


Curses Hershey! (Photo: Huffygirl)

Hershey has come up with a new way to eat Hershey’s Kisses. I discovered this recently when my personal grocery slave er shopper came home with a bag of Hershey’s Mini Kisses instead of the standard Hershey’s Kisses by accident. 

Hershey has jumped on the bandwagon of one of two recent food trends. Trend one has been around for a little while – make food portions bigger, or make food “combos” so that buying two foods together is cheaper than just buying one.  https://huffygirl.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/do-you-want-a-gallon-of-soda-with-that-americans-love-affair-with-food/

Mini Kisses, aka The Devil's Tool (Photo: Huffygirl)

Trend two, which is perhaps even more disturbing, is making food smaller. Mini-bagels, 100-calorie snack packs, and mini versions of full size snack foods like mini Oreos, mini M & Ms and, now for your enjoyment, mini Hershey’s Kisses. Making smaller versions of well-known foods actually encourages folks to eat more (and consequently buy more) because, hey they’re so small.

Hershey’s Kisses are an iconic candy. The foil wrapper. The little tab of tissue paper sticking out of the top, that has little purpose, except to litter one’s floor when it goes fluttering out of the wrapper upon opening. I had recently made a rule at my house after finding tiny bits of foil and those little Hershey’s tissues all over the kitchen floor: anyone eating Hershey’s Kisses at my house was required to unwrap the candy over the wastebasket, to cut down on the Hershey’s litter. This actually turned out to be a great Hershey regulator, because you couldn’t just grab a handful of Kisses and wander around the house eating them. That extra step of pulling out the wastebasket and standing there while tediously peeling off the foil wrapper, helped keep our Hershey habits in check. It was too much work to stand there unwrapping Kisses, so I didn’t bother to eat them that much. Until now. The Hershey’s Mini Kisses are UNWRAPPED. Just open the bag, reach in and they’re all ready to eat. Very easy to grab a few, then a handful, then another handful. Heck, why not just carry the bag around with me, since there’s no messy foil, no silly tissue strips. Hershey’s Kisses unplugged. Hershey’s Kisses to go. Hershey’s Kisses: the new addiction.

Well, sorry Hershey.  I don’t need another addiction. I’m already flawed enough. Already have plenty of bad habits. I don’t need another temptation to make me eat more than I need. No more Hershey’s Mini Kisses at my house.

 © The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I don’t bake Christmas cookies


Not my cookies

Okay, I’m THAT person. The one who does not bake Christmas cookies. It’s not that I don’t bake, because I do. It’s just that I’m not any good at baking cute, decorative cookies. My cookies are all gobs of dough flopped down on a cookie sheet. They taste great (if the rate at which they disappear is any indicator,) but they don’t look like anything special.

I used to at least make an attempt to bake Christmas cookies, by taking the ordinary cookies I usually make and adding red and green to them. You know – sprinkle red and green sugar on top of the Snickerdoodles and they instantly become

Mine are more like this

Christmas Snickerdoodles. Or put red and green M & Ms in the chocolate chip cookies instead of chocolate chips, and voila – Christmas cookies.  I figure red and green sugar and M & Ms were invented just for people like me – the Christmas baking impaired. But they never really looked all that great and nobody was fooled – they technically were not Christmas cookies.

So then I created a better plan to make people think that I baked Christmas cookies, which involves large quantities of  red jam and powdered sugar. You know, red for Christmas, and powdered sugar for snow of course. What’s not Christmasy about that? Here was my plan. Two days before Christmas when I started

Mine are NEVER like this

to feel inadequate because there were no actual Christmas cookies in my house, my cookie plan escalated to Defcon 2. I’d make almond sandies, which of course are rolled in powdered snow, er sugar. Then a batch of jam thumbprints, with red jam, natch. Then the pièce de résistance – I would arrange this assortment on a CHRISTMAS PLATE, add some fudge, which everyone knows is a Christmas food, and there I’d have it – Christmas cookies. The white, the red, the festive plate, everyone was fooled into thinking I was a Christmas cookie baker after all.

What about your Christmas baking experiences? Are you one of those people who starts at Thanksgiving, baking ten different kinds of Christmas cookies, each one more complex than the previous? Or do you buy the big bag of red and green sprinkled cookies at

And certainly never ever like this

Sam’s Club? Or are you THAT person – the one who makes the elaborate ginger bread village with mansions, shopping malls and Santa’s workshop? Share your comments and photos – after all, they may be the only Christmas cookies that end up in my house this year!

(Cookie photos courtesy of Google. Thanks Google!)

http://foodpress.com/

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Satire Friday: Kitchen Nirvana


I’ve reached my kitchen nirvana. It’s been awhile since I’ve been at this place, so I’ve stopped just inside the doorway to take it all in. In front of me is a display of everything you need to make Easter cupcakes. Silicone cupcake bakers in spring colors – yellow,  green, pink, aqua. Jars of colored sugar in every color imaginable. And there’s two kinds of sugar – regular colored sugar and a thicker, sparkly version. There’s a tree to hold the finished cupcakes. There’s a whole set of bunny china complete with rabbit-shaped napkin rings. “I could make Easter cupcakes with two different kinds of colored sugar,” I say to myself. I picture the table set with bunny china, with the sparkling tree of spring-colored cupcakes rising up as the centerpiece. The relatives are sitting around the table, oohing and ahhing at the splendor of it. Suddenly I’m yanked back to reality by the calm voice of reason running almost silently in the back of my mind. Wait a minute – I’m not the kind of person who buys special holiday china. I don’t even have china – our “good” dishes are 35-year-old stoneware, which for the most part except for a few chips, still look pretty good. I don’t make fancy, fussy Easter cupcakes. I make cake in a 9 by 13 pan and spread one color of frosting over it, and never add sparkly colored sugar. So what has come over me? I’m in Williams-Sonoma. And not just any Williams-Sonoma. I’m at 900 North Michigan Avenue, on the second floor of the Bloomingdale building in Chicago. This is where it all began. This is where I first found kitchen nirvana.

It all started with a spatula. My husband and I were shopping in Chicago and had been going up and down Michigan Avenue discovering stores that we’d never seen before and didn’t even know we needed. Then on a whim we stepped inside the Bloomingdale Building. We were drawn in by F. A. O. Schwarz on the ground floor. But wait, there’s more. The Sharper Image. Hammacher-Schlemmer. Here’s a store that only sells expensive cigars, and one that only sells skyline pictures of Chicago. We were captivated by capitalism. And then we stepped inside Williams-Sonoma.

We saw sets of cookware that cost more than our first car; clay roasting pans in an array of sizes; a whole display of pepper grinders, perched upon a bed of peppercorns, begging to be tested. There was solid copper cookware, hand painted china, olive pitters, garlic presses, lemon zesters, lettuce knives, coffee grinders, espresso machines, and kitchen soap with matching colored dish towels. We knew then and there we could no longer settle for just being cooks – this was the store that would make us into chefs.

We knew we had to buy something here – something to begin our transformation. But we had tuition to pay and kids to raise and really couldn’t afford cookware that equaled the cost of a house payment. So we settled for a spatula.

Since then we’ve returned periodically to get back that chef-like feeling. Every time we came we were swept up into a kitchen alternate universe, where gravy separators, olive-wood tasting spoons and flambe ladles suddenly seemed like gadgets we could not live without. We once bought a cookie press, convinced that we  would start making different shaped cookies for every holiday. Turns out that all it ever got us was a chance to practice swearing before every holiday, while we produced a collection of unrecognizable cookie blobs. We actually discussed how we could possibly ever roast a chicken again without special linen trussing string that came in an acorn-shaped wooden holder, when just the week before I had announced that I was never going to put myself through the ordeal of roasting a chicken again, and if for some reason we needed a roasted chicken we would buy the rotisserie version. What came over us when we entered the store that changed us from rational, normal humans to kitchen fanatics?

We’ve never found the answer. It must be something piped in through the air ducts, or some spell that the cheery greeters cast on us as we approach the store. We don’t know the cause of our kitchen craziness, but we’ve finally found a solution. Next time we come, we’ll have a code ready to bring us back to reality. Something to jolt us back when one of us starts to get caught up in alternate-universe kitchen obsession. Something to bring us to our senses. Something to remind us that we are practical, every-day people who cook ordinary food, and will never, ever be chefs who can’t get by without a clam knife. “Remember honey, we just came in to buy a spatula.”

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.