Rolled Egg Noodle Bake

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There is something magical about being outside in the fog as it overflows from the river, camera in hand, before the sun comes up on a crisp spring morning. The palette transforms from blue to grey to gold in a wave that can only experienced though patience and watchfulness. On a day when my youngest was moving through her own kind of palette, her life filling boxes, overflowing with all that she would need; I was up early, anxious in both good and bad ways to help her to transform herself as she moves out on her own. Unable to sleep in the dim grey light of night I walked though the house and caught a glimpse of the mist outside. This weather would give me an opportunity to capture some shots that would hopefully be worthy of hanging in her new house, images of the old, remembrances of where we last lived together… for her.

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As I walked around our neighborhood, lurking around trees and fences and birdfeeders, peeping through yards and driveways I had time to reflect on the day ahead.   This is what I had worked and hoped for over the last twenty some years. From the time I had my second daughter I had pushed for them to have a relationship that was close. When they were teens and fought relentlessly, I resorted to brainwashing, a technique that became a ‘go to’ manner of raising them. Initially I used this technique to try to convince my oldest into turning her little sister into a slave, the youngest only wanted to be around her, if only she would find ways to use that to her benefit rather than trying constantly to keep her away. It was a struggled for years and then one summer we had turned a corner. Maybe it was age and maturity, maybe it was that they both realized they were inextricably linked through a match in bone marrow we were fortunate enough to not have to resort to, maybe they were both just grateful that my oldest came home… It doesn’t matter why, it only matters that now as my youngest is getting ready to move she made the decision to move close to her sister and her sister is finally her closest friend.

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I have plans for the bedroom that my youngest has occupied for the last number of years, with its wall of windows I plan on moving my photography into that room, making use of the light and space to create a space of my own. I have been looking forward to this for a while. I can’t fill that room fast enough… not because I want that space so desperately but because its emptiness is a reminder that time moves on, things transform from darkness to grey to gold and then back again, over and over. And change, regardless of how positive, is difficult and sometimes painful, though for now I’m focusing on the light, how it changes, the beauty of it and the peacefulness I need to draw from it as I move, and as my daughter moves later today.

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Today is a day that is about finding comfort and I find comfort in the sunrise on a day filled with fog and mist and I find comfort in pasta, a food group I don’t eat as often as I’d like. I made these rolls a little while ago and they are delicious.  Home made egg pasta cut into lasagna sized strips, the filling of ricotta, slow roasted tomatoes, ground dried mushrooms, mozzarella cheese and spinach. So good, so comforting, if only I could eat them every day!

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Egg Pasta – rolled into strips about the size of lasagna (I used about 5 eggs and 2 1/2 cups flour, boiled for a couple of minutes, rinsed and set aside to fill.

Filling Mixture 

  • 500 gram container of ricotta
  • 1 cup grated Mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup ground dried mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup slow roasted tomatoes, though you can use sun dried
  • 1/2 cup chopped spinach

*The amount of filling will be dependent on how much pasta you have and want to fill.

Mix all the filling ingredients and allow to sit so that the mushroom crumbs have a chance to hydrate. Then spread the mixture along the pasta, roll, and stand up in a baking dish.

Once your dish is full, sprinkle with more grated cheese and oregano and dot with chunks of butter OR you can pour pasta sauce, my preference is minus the tomato/pasta sauce.

Bake at 350 degrees until all the cheese has melted and the rolls are hot.  Serve immediately.

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Cherry Cheesecake Chocolate Brownies

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We all have those times in life when everything comes together to generate one of those perfect moments. When you wish time could just stop so that you could enjoy it a little longer and not have it slip away. I have lots of those moments or actually more like ‘times’ in my life when my children were little and so many more as they were growing up, when I caught myself smiling when no one was around because I just felt grounded and settled and peaceful with the world around me. I think that’s what Buddhists would call being in the Zen.  I imagine that Buddhists feel that far more often than most, I wonder if that’s not just a matter of “being present in the moment” and I’ve often thought about studying Buddhism in more depth so that maybe I could find that centered’ness’ and have it become a more prevalent part of my life.

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This morning, as many this time of year seems to generate those kinds of moments. When I wake up on a weekend morning, the sun is shining though the window onto the head of my bed, the squirrels and birds are squeaking and chirping, the breeze is cool enough to tell you that is going to be a beautiful day outside but not cold enough anymore to keep you under the covers… just… perfect. Mornings like today I stay in bed for a bit, long enough to not feel guilty about the time I’m letting slip away and long enough to really feel the day opening up.

 

I try not to run through the list in my head, laundry, cleaning, gardening and all the things that distract me from the peacefulness. I try to simply live in the moment. Inevitably, I get up and start moving ahead, typically only getting half of what I want to finish actually done. :) This is one of those kinds of days, cleaning up the basement from our sewer disaster, doing laundry, helping my youngest and the last child at home to pack for her move out on her own next weekend, thinking of the things I’d like to bake or cook and the books I’d like to read and slowly move forward in my day allowing some of the less urgent things slip off my list of things to do, hoping I’ll maybe catch up on them next weekend. But this is the last weekend with my daughter who is leaving home and so there are other things to get done… Sweetie… I hope you enjoy lots of ‘moments’ between the duties and details that life places on you now that you’ll be on your own! Moments when you stop and take stock and find pride and gratitude in all that you have and will accomplish.

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Clearly this is a weekend with little blog cooking and photography… there are more pressing matters at hand that steal my time, and so I am posting the second of the brownies that I made earlier in the week, the ones that weren’t posted at that time but were eaten very quickly. They are delicious. They have definitely turned me into a brownie fan… I wasn’t one before.

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I hope you enjoy them … and your moments whichever are the ones that make you stop and take stock of all the goodness in your life.

Sour Cherry Cheesecake Brownies (Slightly adapted from Skanios Mintys)

Brownie layer

  • 250 grams butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 300 grams white sugar
  • 70 grams high quality cocoa powder
  • 120 grams all-purpose flour
  • A pinch of salt (unless you’re using salted butter)

Melt the butter and leave to cool for a bit, I put mine in the microwave for about 1 minute on high. Mix sugar and eggs for about 5 mins, until it becomes pale and fluffy. Slowly pour in the melted butter while still mixing. Then gently mix in the flour, cocoa powder and salt until incorporated, but don‘t over mix. Pour into a 9×13 pan with parchment paper coated in spray.

Cheesecake layer

  • 300 grams cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 150 grams white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3  tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 50 ml milk
  • 250 grams cups Berries of choice – I used sour cherries

Mix all ingredients (except fruit) in a bowl or stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix until smooth. It should be a nice pudding like consistency. Then gently stir in the berries careful not to break them apart and layer over the chocolate brownie base. Using a knife swirl it around so that you can see the chocolate layer peeking though. Just don’t over mix because then you won’t get the cheesecakey chunks… which by the way… are luscious! You can also reserve a few berries and lay them on top of the mixture, pressing them down gently before baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 – 45 minutes and let cool before attempting to lift out of the pan. Slice and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownie

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Usually when people hear the words, ‘unexpected vacation’ they think that someone was whisked off to a tropical destination; sun kissed sandy beaches, short loose dresses, sunscreen and plane rides to distant and beautiful places. I wish that were the case but alas my unexpected vacation is simply an unplanned day at home… awaiting the local septic guy and then later… when the news was shitty (excuse the pun)… awaiting another, more expensive guy to come and give us a cost of drilling a new line from the house to our septic tank. Not that we had a choice if we don’t like the number he comes up with… there is no relic of an outhouse we can resort to out back now that the weather is almost getting nicer.

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Seems we dodged a bullet late last week when on a windy day a couple of shingles flew off the roof and we were fortunate to find that it was just a matter of too much wind and too few nails, the rogue shingles were tacked back on as were the few flapping on the roof and we could forge ahead over this little bump in the road. Apparently this was not the case with the septic issue. Ah the joys of living in the country.

 

It was snowing this morning, I’m not wearing a summer dress or dowsing myself with sunscreen or better yet, baby oil, and I’m not cracking open a good book to read.   Instead I was pacing from one room to another, frustrated that I wasn’t at all prepared for a day off even in quasi-crappy weather.   Thank goodness for my work-wife’s vices… after texting my misery back and forth she suggested I make brownies. Actually… she suggested that she would be an assassin for some. Brownies aren’t something I make very often so… aware that I didn’t have much milk in the fridge and being subjected to a ‘waiting’ kind of house arrest I scanned Foodgawker for a brownie recipe that didn’t require much milk. Much to my surprise brownies don’t actually need much milk, if any at all.

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Thus my mission! I suppose at times like these my short attention span is very helpful. In between the arrival of repairmen I managed to make a couple of different brownies. Sour cherry cheesecake brownies since I had some sour cherries squirreled away in the freezer and peanut butter cheesecake chocolate brownies. I also decided to make some scratch pasta rolls…. These will be up on the blog soon… seriously a good comfort food for the kind of day we’re having at our house. :)

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For now I give you Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies… so good and easy they are absolutely sinful! Though they look a little like a dense cake… trust me… they come with all the brownie goodness. Thanks so much to Skanoismintys for the inspiration and the base of this recipe! And thanks to my sister wife for unexpectedly holding down the fort at work and for reminding me to BAKE SOMETHING! Cooking and baking really does take my mind off the crappy (again sorry for the pun) kind of week we’re having and it almost doesn’t feel like I’ve wasted a vacation day!

Brownie layer

  • 250 grams butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 300 grams white sugar
  • 70 grams high quality cocoa powder
  • 120 grams all-purpose flour
  • A pinch of salt (unless you’re using salted butter)

Melt the butter and leave to cool for a bit, I put mine in the microwave for about 1 minute on high. Mix sugar and eggs for about 5 mins, until it becomes pale and fluffy. Slowly pour in the melted butter while still mixing. Then gently mix in the flour, cocoa powder and salt until incorporated, but don‘t over mix.  Pour into a 9×13 pan with parchment paper coated in spray.

Cheesecake layer

  • 300 grams cream cheese
  • 150 grams white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 100 ml milk
  • 4 tablespoons of PB2

Mix all ingredients in a bowl or stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix until smooth.  It should be a nice pudding like consistency.  Pour the Peanut Butter layer over the chocolate brownie base and using a knife swirl it around so that you can see the chocolate layer peeking though. Just don’t over mix because then you won’t get the cheesecakey chunks… which by the way… are luscious!

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 – 45 minutes and let cool before attempting to lift out of the pan.  Slice and enjoy!

 

Kôprová Omáčka – Dill Sauce with Dumplings (Knedliky) and Beef

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It’s a ‘sit by a roaring fire, read a good book, enjoy good meal’ kind of day at our house day today.   Spring was in the air yesterday and after some necessary tasks we sat out on the deck and loaded up on some much needed vitamin D. Today though the skies have clouded over and the rain began to fall. I understand that it’s the way the world feeds the earth below it, nourishing it, but rather than energize me it always seems to make me wilt just a little, the dreariness of it, the dampness of it. It reminds of me camping and laying in the trailer listening to the drip drop of rain on the roof. It reminds me of naps and makes me think of lost days.

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This rainy day I’m not hiding from the rain in a trailer but wandering around the house needing to cook something that will comfort me, take me home, bring back memories of a different kind of lost days.

This meal was one I grew up with back in the days before carbs were my nemesis; they were simply nourishment and comfort. This was one of our favorite meals. It’s heaviness indicative of the food my parents and grandparents ate back in the Czech Republic. You can still get this meal at many of the restaurants and people still enjoy it, it is filling and heavy and flavorful. It is a meal that is synonymous with Czech people.

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I’m guessing that the dumplings or knedliky were a homemade substitution for bread when people had far less access to fresh bread or potatoes on a consistent bases… but truly … that’s an claim that isn’t drawn from any actual history… Really I’m making up and it makes sense to me. If anyone knows the history by all means…. Please drop me a comment and help to enlighten me. I’m not and have never claimed to be a history buff regardless of how much I feel it would be helpful and useful.

The knedliky are delicious and pillowy and an absolute dream when used as a vehicle for a good hearty sauce. The Dill Sauce or Kôprová Omáčka is one I have always loved, creamy and bursting full of fresh dill, a little sourness from the vinegar…It’s flavour unlike anything else I’ve ever eaten. This distinctive flavour profile has been imprinted on me so deep I will never be able to escape.  To this day regardless of how much I try to stay away from heavier foods I will never turn down this meal…. and sometimes, every so often… I’ll even make it.

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So if you find yourself in Prague or another part of the Czech Republic on a dreary day and need some comfort indulge in this dish, you will not be disappointed. Or if you aren’t going to find yourself in that lovely European country anytime soon then make this at home, close your eyes and I swear you will feel transported.

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Knedliky – Dumplings

  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 3 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 Cups Lukewarm Water
  • 1Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 day old Kaiser Bun (or other type)

Place flour, salt and baking powder in mixing bowl with the dough hook attachment and mix. Stop the mixer and create a well in the middle of the flour add the egg and about a ¼ cup of water. Mix on low speed to create a ball of dough adding water as needed. Slowly add water ensuring all the water is worked into the dough really well. Once you have a good soft ball of dough then pull the dough onto a work surface and knead in the chopped up bun. Day old buns work best, as they won’t fall apart when you work them into the dough. Ensure that the bread cubes are inside the dough; if they are outside they will get soggy as you boil the dough.

Form the dough into two even logs. Boil a large pot of water; I use a roasting pan so that the dumplings have enough room to expand. Boil the dumplings for 25 minutes in gently boiling water, turn half way through.

Once they are done, take them out gently and place on a cutting board. Some people have cut these with a knife but I was taught to use thread. You double up a white thread and slide it under the dumpling, criss-cross it over the top and pull through to cut through the dough. Cut through one after another with each of them about ¼ inch thick. Place in a bowl with paper towels under the lid so that the condensation doesn’t drip on the dumplings.

If you are not going to use them immediately steam to reheat. When steaming I put a paper towel under the lid so that the condensation doesn’t drip onto the them, as they really shouldn’t be wet.

Beef

Boil a beef roast in water with; bay leaves, carrots, celery, whole onion, peppercorns, and whole cloves of garlic in a soup pot and salt to taste. Boil the meat until it is tender then slice and reserve the broth for adding into the dill sauce.

Dill Sauce – Kôprová omáčka

  • ¾ Cup Butter
  • ½ Cup Flour
  • 3 Cups Milk
  • 2 large Ladles full of the Beef Broth
  • ½ Cup Vinegar
  • ¼ Cup Sugar
  • One whole bunch of chopped Fresh Dill

In a saucepan melt the butter and then add the flour, cook on low heat for about 3 – 5 minutes, stirring often not letting the flour burn. Then add the milk (it’s best if you warm it up in the microwave a bit so you’re not adding cold milk). Stir and cook until thick. Mix the vinegar, sugar and dill in a separate bowl and add this to the saucepan once the milk mixture is thick. Add the two ladles full of the beef broth, salt to taste and serve over the sliced meat and dumplings.

If you are not eating this right away the sauce will thicken each time it is cooled. In order to loosen it up add either milk or some beef broth as you are heating it up, add just enough to get a nice gravy consistency.

Maple Bourbon Banana Bread Pudding

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Are you having a full moon kind of day? …. Did you have a full moon kind of week? Feeling like finding a way to incorporate booze into your life, when a drink is not only appropriate but also inevitable? I’m not a drinker. I will admit that I went through a phase, actually probably more than one, where some could say I drank to excess. But it was all in good fun and I still have a clear criminal record. I don’t even really like the taste of booze even though I grew up with the chest-warming feel of rum in most of the Czech chocolate in desserts. Having a drink, though seemingly fitting, just hasn’t really been my thing.

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It was just one of those kinds of days at work. I call it a ‘Calgon’ day. The dog is barking and spreading dirt around the house, the kids are crying, the pot of water is bubbling and spilling over, the phone is ringing and the woman screams out… “Calgon take me away” CUT to the screen where she is soaking in a tub full of lavish bubbles, her hair loosely pinned up instead of disheveled around her face, she is completely relaxed and far away from the insanity. It’s a cliché I know but a well impressed one if you ever watched television in the 70’s or 80’s. As it was first released in the 70’s and then I suppose so representative of how women were feeling, rereleased again in the 80’s. It’s one I love because it absolutely embodies the kind of day I was having, people weren’t just crying but barking, someone was spreading something in the waiting area and it wasn’t pleasant, the phone wouldn’t stop ringing and the strangest things came up while my work wife was away. How dare she take time off when I suspect there may have been a full moon. 😉 I’m sure that there wasn’t actually a full moon but for some people every day is a full moon inducing kind of day and I dealt with a few of those this past week.

 

It was one of those days when even if you close the office door, if you’re fortunate enough to have one, people bang on it… scramble to get in… and do so relentlessly. It was the kind of day I should have made this version of banana bread and shared it with staff at work… for brunch! :) I certainly wasn’t alone in the insanity.

 

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So if you can’t run away to a hot bubble bath in the midst of a crazy day, or if you feel want something super special then this is the super easy but very fancy tasting dish for you.

 

This warm banana bread with bourbon that I found in the Food and Wine magazine a while back fits the bill on all accounts. When I first saw it I was intrigued and had to make it. It was well worth it. So good. So warm. So simple to make. The sauce is gooey and delicious and the bourbon heats up the banana bread in a way that is not overly conspicuous but rather subtle enough to make alcohol taste amazingly good for those of us who don’t like to be assaulted by straight booze. Served with a bit of ice cream this dessert has become one of my favorites.

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Maple Bourbon Banana Bread Pudding (As found in Food and Wine)

Batter

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup icing sugar (or superfine sugar)
  • 1 overripe banana (mashed)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk (calls for whole but I used skim and it was fine)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt

 Liquid

  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • pecans for the top
  • ice cream for the side

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 2 quart baking dish melt the butter and then whisk in the sugar and mash in the banana then add in the egg and milk until combined.

 

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt and add that into the dish with the wet ingredients.

In a glass or plastic measuring cup add the maple syrup, water, sugar and bourbon and microwave on high for about a minute or until hot. Then drizzle this mixture over the batter. Some of it will seep to the bottom and some of it may stay on top… don’t worry about it… and do not stir… the concoction will do its magic in the oven, seeping to the bottom and creating a gooey maple bourbon mess that is delicious, much like the topping of the best cinnamon buns you’ve ever had… with a slight kick!  Top with pecans and bake for about 40 minutes or until the cake is golden brown. Let it sit for a little bit and then serve with ice cream.

 

I’ve made this the morning of and left it on the counter so that we could have it room temperature after dinner and it was very good.   That way it makes for a very easy dessert if you’re having people over an need the oven for the main meal.     

Enjoy! 

Fried Pickerel Cheeks

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It’s not deep fried!

Yes it is.

No. It’s not… its pan fried.

Just because it’s fried in a PAN doesn’t mean it’s not deep fried.

But it’s in a PAN.

But it’s still fried in oil.

Deep fried is when it’s fried in a vat of oil.

Just because it’s fried one side at a time doesn’t mean it’s not deep fried… it’s still fried in oil… hence its deep fried.

There’s nothing deep about pan frying.

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That’s how the insane argument goes at our house. I’m trying to stay away from deep fried foods, pan or deep hot pot of oil. Often there’s a comment in there somewhere about how he’s trying to kill me… the one that loves me so much, feeding me full of fried foods, driving up that cholesterol number to trouble causing levels according to my doctor. But sometimes… like when I’m craving pickerel or pickerel cheeks I can be the one to instigate the frying frenzy at our house, throwing caution to the wind, hiding behind the nutrition value of fish to justify the frying of food.

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Everything tastes better deep fried! P says it like it’s a reason to restrict our food intake to fried foods and sometimes I say the same thing but with a tone of desperation as if to lament not being able to eat all the best tasting foods. It’s not that I disagree with him… it’s just that I have to face the numbers when I get my blood work done and they’re often not pretty. And my doctor doesn’t care that I’m predisposed to high cholesterol and she doesn’t care that this really is the best tasting food.

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I grew up on ‘fried’ pickerel, lightly breaded and fried to golden crispy perfection, the fish tender and flaky has become for me a true comfort food from years and years of eating it that way. Always served up on Christmas Eve though we don’t and have never followed any religious traditions and other times we would fish our meal during weekends spent on boat in the Whiteshell area. Deep fried… or pan fried… pickerel just fits any occasion. And it doesn’t matter if you call it Pickerel or Walleye … we call it the best fish around.

Eating fish this way has ruined me for all other recipes and any battered fish at most restaurants. I could never become accustomed to a thicker batter that finding that it obscures the tender fish with its heaviness. I like it crispy and very lightly breaded and FRIED.

Sometimes when I`m feeling particularly passive aggressive I lightly salt and season the fish with caraway seeds and quickly broil it while I fry up a breaded batch for the rest of the folks in the house. These times are far and few between though, regardless of how much I protest, this is my favourite way to eat fish.

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I`m guessing it will be yours too…. if you dare to fry.

 

(Deep) Fried Pickerel Cheeks

  • 2 lbs of pickerel cheeks rinsed and lightly sprinkled with salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1-2 eggs
  • Salt to season the meat

Place the flour, breadcrumbs and eggs each in a separate bowl. Lightly whisk the eggs and then coat the fish first in the flour, then eggs and lastly the breadcrumbs.

Bring a pan of about ½ inch of oil to medium heat and in batches fry the coated fish pieces until golden brown, turning over midway. The fish can also be fried in a deep fryer but that would just feel wrong to us….  This way we can pretend to not be eating ‘deep fried’ food.

Take the fish out of the pan and place on paper towel to absorb the extra grease. Serve while hot with lemon or your favorite tartar sauce.

Enjoy

Sweet Poppy Seed Pasta

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Life seems to be reflecting art this week… see self portrait below.  :)  Or at least that’s the case in my twisted, confused and jumbled perception of things. I’ve had to suck up the last of my vacation time before our fiscal year end and so that means that I’m off work for the next week… Whooo hooo! P isn’t able to take any time off so that also means that I am all alone. Nothing but time to wander around the house, make some carefully planned out decisions about what gets done first. I already have a very long list of things that I’d like to get to that would normally cut into my weekends.

I can get caught up on some baking I want to do for Easter Weekend, I can take pictures, plant my seedlings, write a few blog posts to have handy for when time is lacking; all these plans and then suddenly when I’m on the precipice of all this time… BAM!

 

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I woke up this morning or should I say afternoon… I never sleep THAT much! Feeling as though a truck just ran over me. My head is full of scrambled noodles… :( though my mind has been organizing a list of things to do; covertly my body seems to have programmed a different kind of week. Perhaps it’s the universe’s way of forcing a break? Perhaps it’s a way to force me to nap, pushing aside the guilt of wasting some precious moments to indulge in INDULGENT behaviors.

 

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My week will move in slow motion… I will wander around the house and be lost. I will sleep in. I will nap. I will read a little and read slower. I will cook foods that will make me happy. I will take some pictures. I will still get done most of the things I had planned but I will just get to it all a little slower than usual. Wait a sec… what the hell… This is all starting to sound like a most appropriate mantra for a well-adjusted holiday and not a passive aggressive way to deal with a bug that is invading my body. YIKES… Perhaps it’s more friend than foe!

 

 

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Turning lemons into lemonade… turning foe to friend… and turning a muddled noodle head into the best tasting noodle recipe from my childhood…. YUMMY!

 

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Recipe 

  • 2 servings homemade pasta (and 2 may not be enough… I ate both!)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh poppy seeds (lightly ground, which I didn’t do)

 

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Once the noodles are cooked take them out of the boiling water, drain and immediately add the butter allowing it to melt. Sprinkle the mixture with sugar while still hot so that the sugar dissolves. Add the poppy seeds and mix. Serve immediately… or eat cold… it doesn’t matter… either way it is pure comfort food that is heavenly!

 

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Follow me on Instagram to see what other beautiful things I’m eating this week!

Vdolky – Czech Donuts – Beignets?

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | 3 Comments

Dare I say these are just as good as Beignets?  I’ll admit, as much as I try to stay off carbs I can’t help craving these.  One of our favourite things when we were on our trip to New Orleans this past summer were the beignets.  So fluffy, so light, so unbelievably good.  We had one almost every night with a frozen coffee… Okay, one means order which is actually 3 so we split it … most people eat the whole order themselves and don’t share… we shared.  Crazy I know because you could easily eat a half dozen of these on your own without even blinking.. they are highly addictive… Yes, lots of calories but so so good.

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I tried to recreate the beignets a while back and I have to say they did not turn out very well.  Our friends who shared in them hadn’t had beignets so they thought they were good – or they were just being polite but they were very far from the original.  I had looked up lots of recipes.  I even went so far as to go out and buy coconut oil since in New Orleans they use cottonseed oil and I had a hard time finding a way to get my hands on some of that.  Coconut was as close as I could get.

Beignets are finicky, don’t over mix, make sure the temperature of the oil is just right.  Even though it’s baking and not cooking it’s just far too precise for me.  And clearly I’m not that great at following instructions because they just didn’t turn out, they were dense and heavy.  Beignets are all about being light and fluffy.

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My mother was getting a little fed up with my raving about the beignets, I think, because she emailed me a recipe one day and said… screw the beignets and try these. So I did.

 

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OMG… seriously… not nearly as finicky and pretty much as good.  Yes, I’ll admit there is something lacking, like the above 100 degree weather, the music, the iced coffee, the outdoor patio, who am I kidding… the feel of New Orleans!  But if I turn up the heat in the house, throw my coffee in a blender with ice and close my eyes these could easily pass!

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If you have or even if you haven’t had beignets I suggest you try these, dare I say better than beignets!  If you google ‘vdolky’ you will see that the Czech version is often served with preserves or jam and/or whipping cream on top.  It was suggested to me that if I wanted to serve them this way then I should squish a dip in the centre before frying to create a little groove for a filling… I was more intent on pretending I was back in NOLA.   😉

Also these can be fried or baked…. I chose to jump ALL IN and fry them… next time I’ll maybe give baking a shot.  And if you’re going to mitigate the caloric intake by baking let me know how they turn out for you.

Vdolky

  • 250 ml milk
  • 25 grams fresh yeast (1 Tablespoon of dry)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

 

  • 500 grams flour
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (fine or icing)
  • 40 grams melted butter (unsalted)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 10 tablespoons milk
  • zest of one orange or lemon (optional – more Czech than beignet so leave out for a beignet taste)
  • sprinkle of salt
  • extra icing sugar to sprinkle on top (okay LOTS)

Heat the milk until hot to the touch, mix in the granulated sugar and yeast and allow to bloom. In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt, powdered sugar and lemon or orange zest if you like.   Melt the butter and allow to cool enough so it isn’t hot, then add to the milk and yeast mixture, mix in the egg yolks and extra milk and place in a large mixer with dough hook.  Add the dry ingredients and mix slowly at first and once it starts to come together turn it up to almost medium speed.

Mix or knead the dough for a good 10 minutes.  Your dough should be soft and silky and still a little sticky.

Place a splash of oil in a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl cover and let it rest/rise for an hour or until doubled in size covered somewhere warm. I often turn the oven on for a couple of minutes to warm it up then turn it off and place the bowl in the warm oven just make sure you turned it off.  You should also roll the dough in the bowl so that the dough it’s covered in oil otherwise it’ll develop a dry skin which isn’t great.

Once it’s risen then flour a dry clean surface and sprinkle with flour and roll it out to about an inch thick.  Cover with a clean tea towel and let it rise another 15 – 20 minutes.   In the meantime fill a frying pan about a 1/2 inch with oil and bring to medium heat.  Cut the dough into squares or rectangles and fry, turning them over when they are just golden brown.  They will rise like crazy as they cook. Place on a papertowel and quickly cover with icing sugar.

Sprinkle with as much icing sugar as you think… then double that amount to get the NOLA feel… So So Good.

 

 

 

Chicken Soup and (Játrové Knedlíčky) Liver Dumplings

Posted by Pussycat in Soups | Leave a comment

A while back I had been asked to post a couple of recipes, liver dumplings for soups and kolace, I have been remise at posting them up until now… finally… tada…. the liver dumplings or Játrové Knedlíčky!  The kolace are coming…. soon I promise.

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It’s hard sometimes to make things for a blog post when the people in your house don’t like something and that that has been my issue up until now. I’m really the only one in the house who likes liver and I must admit it’s not as if I crave it on any regular basis or anything. My favourite way to have liver has been disguised as steak with a huge pile of caramelized onions and some good steak sauce.  Even then if it was ever overcooked, usually by me, not my mom, then it was just not great. There is a very fine line between cooked and bone dry. Last week when I was enjoying a beef tenderloin and reminiscing about my mom’s ‘steak’ I actually craved liver. And I remembered that these dumplings have been on my list of things to make since someone asked me for the recipe a while back…. sorry it’s taken me so long… :)  But trust me when I say… they’re worth waiting for?

No kidding… these are DAMN good!

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This post is long overdue though it works out well since my T is coming over tomorrow for dinner and she likes liver. She’s the other unusual one in my family because she’ll just generally eat anything that is good for her, even if she has to argue with her tastebuds. I’m guessing she’ll like this and I have to say it’s been many many years since I’ve had these and I like them far more than I remember. Perhaps my tastebuds have matured as well.

At any rate, if you’re iron levels are low or you think you may need a boost to help recover from a long winter give these babies a try. They are subtle and super light and fluffy, not like biting into a piece of liver if that scares you, and the garlic and marjoram give them a lovely flavour.

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Játrové Knedlíčky – Liver Dumplings

  • 100 grams ground beef liver
  • 100 grams day old bun or bread slices soaked in milk (with the excess liquid squeezed out)
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon wheatlets

Likely you won’t find ground beef liver anywhere, you’ll have to grind your own. I bought regular sliced beef liver, pulled the membrane off (don’t forget to do that) and then put through my meat grinder – you could also mince it very fine by hand.

Soak the bread in a little bit of milk for a few minutes, then squeeze out the excess liquid.

Mix together all ingredients and let sit for 3 – 5 minutes. The reason for this is that the wheatlets need to absorb the liquid before you cook them, if you don’t let them do that they tend to be hard in the middle and we don’t want that.

Your mixture should be a very loose dough or fairly thick porridge consistency. Use a teaspoon to scoop some of the mixture and drop in gently in a pot of simmering broth. I have found that if I first dip the spoon in the hot broth then the mixture will come off the spoon much earlier and won’t fall apart. Let the dumplings simmer for 3-5 minutes and then you’re done.

I would make one and then taste it so that you can adjust the seasonings, I added more garlic and marjoram but that’s because I love strong flavours and these are two of my favourites.

These are great because unlike noodles, you can leave them in the soup and they won’t become mushy with time as they sit. And because you’ll give your iron level a boost!

Stuffed Beef Tenderloin

Posted by Pussycat in Main Dishes | 1 Comment

There is something about the word ‘steak’ that conjures up a feeling of a very good, rich meal; maybe it’s paired with lobster or crab, for certain it’s accompanied by a baked potato and some nicely roasted vegetable. Steak seems to be associated with affluence, a night out, a special occasion, a big expense.

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When I was little my mother didn’t cook steak and did cook steak. Her version of a steak dinner was making fried liver with a side of our favourite steak sauce and passing it off as steak. I was really young. I bought the steak schtick. I just ate it. Liver was cheap back then and she was always deceived by my boney prepubescence into believing I was in desperate need of nutrition. Iron, I was always lacking in iron in her eyes and she could fix that by feeding me her version of steak. Fortunately for me she cooked liver perfectly, not overcooking it into a dry sawdust state and by the time I figured out that I was actually eating liver it was simply too late to protest and I realized that I liked it.

Summers when my kids were young I cooked steak, though it was never the better cut. It was generally the cheapest cut of meat and I would marinate it in a container in the fridge for about a week with lots of onions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, ginger ale or 7Up and a splash of oil to seal the whole concoction. I would let it sit there all week and on the weekend I would take the meat out and barbecue it, replenishing the stock for the following weekend. Yes, the cheap cuts of meat needed all that time to break down enough for us to be able to chew them.

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Of course it didn’t help that my girls liked their meat overcooked, revolted at the sight of any juice on their plate. Even having marinated for a week once it was ‘well done’ it was chewy. But there was just something I loved about barbecuing steak on a hot summer day, the ease, the lack of cookware involved, the feeling of a meal out (side) instead of the drudgery that comes every so often with having to cater meals to two picky little girls. Wrapping a potato in foil and letting it sit in the oven was virtually mindless. It was a treat for me to cook those meals and sometimes I would indulge in a nice cold beer, sitting outside, while the kids played and ran through the sprinkler, waiting for the potatoes to bake before setting the steaks on, feeling like I was an adult even though I was poor and we were struggling and I couldn’t afford to take them out for a steak dinner.

 

We still eat steak frequently, it’s still the epitome of a great meal for me. The cut of meat has grown and evolved, I can actually afford and much prefer a much better cut of beef. As much as we pride ourselves on barbecuing throughout the winter some minus 40 days are just too big of a challenge for our barbecue to hold heat enough to cook steak. That’s a lie. We’re sucks. No one here wants to stand outside in that weather to actually barbecue a steak or anything for that matter when the weather is that cold. And even when it’s a good cut of meat nothing really beats the barbecue and we’ve been spoiled so that we don’t want to cook our meat stovetop. We’ve had to adapt to our first world problems.

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Earlier I pulled out a piece of tenderloin from the freezer, I was craving a hearty beefy meal and once again it was much too cold to stand in the windchill and barbecue steaks. I scanned though the internet looking for something different to do with the fabulous but raw cut of meat that was waiting for me.

I drew inspiration from Dentist Chef and Becomingness and changed up the inside and outside a bit. I mixed whole allspice in with the peppercorns so that I could get the peppery crust without setting everyone’s mouth ablaze. The allspice has a similar texture to peppercorns but doesn’t pack the heat and once it’s all roasted and done, it’s amazing. I decided to ‘glue’ the peppercorn/allspice mixture to the roast with a mixture of Chardonnay mustard and honey hoping that if the peppercorns were still a little hot the sweetness would help to temper the burn. I stuffed my tenderloin with caramelized onions, spinach, slow roasted tomatoes (recipe in a previous post of mine) and chunks of gorgonzola cheese.  Two of us at this house aren’t big fans of smelly or blue cheese but I have to say this worked so well.  Everyone loved it… we’ll be doing this again!

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Peppercorn Crusted, Stuffed BeefTenderloin

  • I piece of tenderloin (denuded)
  • enough kitchen string to tie the tenderloin 2 – 3 times depending on size

Filling

  • 1 sliced and caramelized onion (pan fried in butter)
  • Large handful of fresh spinach (enough to cover the base of the beef)
  • 1/2 – 1 Cup slow roasted tomatoes (or sundried tomatoes)
  • 1/2 Cup Gorgonzola Cheese chunks

Coating

  • 2 Tablespoons mustard (whole grain preferably)
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 3 Tablespoons whole allspice

Instructions

Slice and fry a whole onion in butter until nicely caramelized and set aside. And preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice your tenderloin, as evenly as possible, lengthwise and flatten it out.  You can pound the meat lightly to get it as even as possible though the meat doesn’t really need a beating.

Layer ingredients on the length of meat leaving a bit of room on the edges to allow you to roll it up and not lose all the filling.  Layer the spinach, caramelized onions, tomatoes and cheese chunks. Then have the kitchen string handy as you’re getting ready to roll the whole thing up and tie in a couple of places so that it stays together.  ***I forgot when I made it, and seems I’m forgetting now, it’s a good idea to give the string a good soak in oil to allow you to take it off easier without pulling off the delicious crust when done.

Mix the honey and mustard in a bowl and microwave for just long enough so that the honey is melted and add in the oil.

Put the peppercorns and allspice in a plastic ziplock bag and crush coarsely with a rolling pin.

Coat the roast with the honey mustard mixture and then cover with the peppercorn mixture as evenly as possible. It’s a bit of a mess but don’t worry about that… it’ll be wonderful once baked.  Place the roast on a pan covered in foil and sprayed with oil and bake for about 20 minutes on the middle rack.

You can bake this for as long as you wish, even well done tenderloin is soft and amazing though we like our meat medium at this house these days… yes even the kids…. they adapted their way of eating beef.

Enjoy!