Saturday, March 30, 2013


"The what??" You may ask.
I would ask the same question.

Because, before today, I wasn't quite sure what it was myself. Besides one of the best episodes of 'Seinfeld' ever.

Background: when I teach, especially the Polish stuff, I get asked if I can make certain traditional things. Like Easter Cheese (oh yeah. It's real).'s blood soup (yep. That's real too).

Usually, I get "DO YOU KNOW HOW TO MAKE BABKA?!?!?"

To which I go "No. It's a pain in the ass."

Now, mind you, I've only known it's a pain in the ass because my Aunt tells me it's a pain in the ass. I never actually tried it to find out if it was a pain in the ass myself. But it IS Easter, and my Dad is OBSESSED with Babka lately. Like he "uses it as a condiment" obsessed. He gets it from one particular grocery store, and at one point, no matter what family event was going on, he would bring the Babka. I would walk into the house and he's offer me a piece of Babka. And if they didn't have chocolate, he'd settle for cinnamon. Then offer me a piece of cinnamon Babka, apologizing that the store didn't have the chocolate version.

So for Easter, in honor of Dad, I decided to make Chocolate Babka.

But I didn't have a recipe.

I thought I had one, but turns out, I don't.

I pored through my Grandmother's cookbook, a compilaton of recipes from every Slavic housewife in the area in 1949 and not one Babka recipe. There's a recipe for "Slovak Chop Suey", but not Babka. What the hell is "Slovak Chop Suey"?!? We're causing our future generations to reinvent the wheel here, 1949 Hoursewives. Did ya think of that? Geez.

This left me to my own devices.

I looked through my favorite websites and tried to formulate a recipe of my own, which I'll eventually be doing. But I found one on "All Recipes" that seemed to do the trick.

Now, I've worked with yeast before, but never to the point where I had to be patient. Basically, as with many things in my life, I made it a lot more complicated than I had to. I was searching store to store, looking for a glass bowl to put the dough in as it rose, so I could stick it in the oven and the dough could rise. Halfway into my 30th trip I realized I could just run my space heater in my bedroom with the door closed. Duh.

Which eventually led to me screaming at my cats because they kept trying to sneak in the room. Closed doors confuse them.

Anyway, the dough did well in the "faux tropics", and 3 or so hours later, after kneading, punching, chopping, yelling, and baking, we came out with something that looked like giant chocolate filled bagels. Um, not that there's anything wrong with that!

I'll present these things to my Dad tomorrow. Let's all hope I haven't been shamed out of the family.

(Eat me. You know you want to.)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My scandalous double life...

Shhh...don't tell anybody. But I live a double life. Since we're such good friends, I know you'll keep my secret, right?


So not only do I blog about food (have you figured out food is my obsession yet? Good!), but I also teach cooking classes. Polish cooking classes. So you know I'm legit:
(Yes. That's actually me teaching. In a room that's literally the same as it was in 1976. RETRO!)

So, in Polish cooking, everything is made with butter, white flour, and fried. Sometimes in lard. (which I don't use). In short, it ain't no lowfat coking, Friends.

Ready for the big secret? I DON'T EAT THAT WAY. (Pause. Big 'GASP', followed by "MY STARS!" and, finally, fainting).

Actually, I don't think a whole big ton of us eat "that way", at least, not all the time. But when we do, man is it good!

So basically I'm cheating on my heritage, or I'm cheating on the way I normally cook, or...either way I feel devious, which in itself is kinda sexy. Visions of "cloak and dagger", trench coats, meeting in dark spaces come to mind, where I've got greasy pockets lined with pierogies....

Ohhh I'm on a tangent again. Sorry.

Anyway. Where I was headed: I love me some greasy, rich, delicious foods. But if I gave in all the time, we'd need to call a squad to get me off the couch. So while I love to teach it and delight in it, by day I do the following:

I like to make my work lunches a week at a time. This usually ends up in making a bunch of home made soups, because it's stupid easy to throw stuff in a pot, make it awesome, then portion it out every day I need it. I love coking, but damnit man. Even I earn the right to be lazy in the kitchen sometimes.

So for last week, I decided to make something with a good amount of protein and fiber. Veggie lentil chili came to mind. Mostly because I've always failed dismally at it. Well look at this beotchh:

(Hi. I'm pretty.)

I got over my fear with this one. Not only did I construct a gorgeous, thick, rich lentil and black bean chili, it tasted good too. Which is great, because I think I would have hurled something through my window if it tasted like a bad Tuesday.

So try this recipe. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised! (But if not, forget we had this little talk, ok?)


"I Smell a Scandal!" Lentil and Black Bean Chili

2 cups dry lentils (red, green, whatever you prefer)
1 15 oz can black beans (organic or regular), rinsed of their nasty gunk
1/2 bottle of beer (amber brew works well with this, but choose whatever you'd like)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (organic or regular-if you can find 'no salt added', that's what I'd go for)
1 carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 package cremini ("baby bella") mushrooms
6 cloves garlic, smashed with your knife and chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to your taste)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, dutch oven, or cast iron dutch oven (like the one pictured here, which I LOVE), heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. When shimmering, add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add peppers and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms begin to brown, another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until you can smell it. Add the lentils. Season the veggies and lentils with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 bottle of beer and let it cook, 5 minutes. Add all seasonings (the chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, oregano) and stir. Add the can of diced tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to MEDIUM LOW and cook, 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Once this happens, add the black beans and stir in. Take the pot off the heat and let the mixture sit for a bit. The longer it sits, the more the flavors meld.

Then, dig in. YUM.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Stupid winter.

Just writing to say "HELLO!" from my cave, with a space heater, regular heater, 2 fuzz cats, a giant "marshmallow" comforter, 12 layers of clothes and 2 pairs of fluffy socks. And I'm still freaking cold.

Okay, I exaggerate. It's only one pair of fluffy socks.

I type because I want to keep warm. I type fast because I don't want my fingers to lose feeling again.

And this is just January.

Blegh. Stupid winter.

More stories and recipes on the way!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Swoon Worthy Lentil Soup?

So...I havent written in awhile. I know, I know. I'm terrible. Allow me to make it up to you.

Actually, it's hard to write after you pass out AFTER you gave blood. While in a dress.

True story.

My company had a blood drive on a Tuesday. Fair enough. I signed right up to save a life.

Super sweet, right?

Eh, not so much.

Don't get me wrong. The whole "giving blood and saving a life" thing was awesome.

What happened after was not.

I ate a banana and some peanut butter before I gave. And drank a lot of water. So I'm thinking I'm making a sweet score and I'm just going to up and dance out of the blood giving area.

The Red Cross girl had me sit up.

"Are you okay?" The Red Cross Girl asked.
"YUP! Totally fine!" I replied.

Then she sends me to "the table" to eat pretzels and drink water. Superb. Like I even needed it. I was gonna bypass all that noise but decided to sit down to look like I was following rules.

A co-worker friend of mine, a nurse, sits down and we get to talking. For 3 whole seconds.

Co-Worker: "How's your Team?"
Me: "Um...fine. Fine. Yeah. I think I have to throw up!"

So I get up to walk to the bathroom across the hall, go 2 feet, and the room spins. She tried to ease me into a chair. Which I totally sat down in, and later, I was at my desk telling her "See? I told you I was fine!"

Oh't happen.

What actually happened was that I bypassed the chair, skinned my knee on it, and hit the floor (does that count to at least getting into the chair?).

And I sort of dreamed the whole "I'm fine!" part.

When I came to, I was surrounded by shoes and water. Looks like I spilled the water I was holding on the way down. NO, I DID NOT PEE MY PANTS. And I was told I was the most graceful person ever to faint (cut to a shot of someone wearing a dress. You. Your neighbor. Your boyfriend. Whatever. And they're falling, legs crossed over each other, pulling their dress down while they pass out. Sexy.)

After some cold compresses and scaring people, I was fine. But I got to thinking. If I ate the following lentil soup before I went, all of this wouldn't have happened.

Make it. It'll save you from fainting too.


SWOON WORTHY LENTIL (and Chicken Sausage!) SOUP
(No pictures cuz you can't take pictures while you're passed out).
1 bag Goya lentils (or whatever lentils you can find/like!)
2 ribs celery, chopped fine
1/2 sweet onion, chopped fine
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped fine
3 large cloves garlic, minced
64 oz (2 32 oz boxes) low sodium chicken broth
1 package chicken sausage, pre cooked or raw, whatever you want (I tend to love chicken sausage with maple syrup in it, if you can find it. If not, any will do!)
1 pound cleaned and cut kale
Salt and pepper, to taste
1.) Pour the lentils into a strainer. Rinse them. NOW.
2.) Meanwhile, in a soup pot (or enameled cast iron dutch oven, which I LOVEEEEEEEE), toss in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once shimmering, toss in the chicken sausage. If raw, break up while it cooks. If pre-cooked, heat through until it browns and you get some nice brown on the pan.
Once cooked/browned, take it out of the pan and on paper towels to drain.
3.) Put the pot back on the heat and toss in the onions, celery, and carrots. Add a little more oil if necessary. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes.
4.)Add the garlic and stir the veggies until you can smell the garlic. Pour in 1/2 cup of the chicken broth (or some nice, dry white wine if you got it!).
5.) Pour some of the wine for yourself. You deserve it.
6.) THEN...Scrape up all the good brown bits from the bottom and let the liquid reduce 1 minute.
7.) Throw the lentils into the pot and get them nice and coated.
8.) Cover everything with 1 complete container of the broth and 1/2 of the other. Save the other half if the soup gets too thick (you can add it to thin it out).
9.) Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer, and simmer for 30-45 minutes. After 30 minutes, taste the lentils. Crunchy? No good. Tender? Rockin.
10.) Once the lentil soup is ready, add the sausage and the kale. Stir until the kale is wilted.
Then you're done.
Now eat it and pass out.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quiche for the Apocalypse: A Paula Deen Tribute

Q: How do you spend a Saturday Morning?
A: Why, teaching a cooking class of course!

And that's what I did:
Bowls. So full of promise. And....flour.

Q: How do you spend your time AFTER teaching cooking class?
A: Doing more cooking!!!

And that's what I did.

Here's the deal: my Sister was celebrating her first anniversary moving in with one of her closest friends by throwing something called "THE BRUNCH OF EPIC PROPORTIONS". Which involves every breakfast meat you can imagine. Potatoes. Breakfast sweets. And a sh-t ton of mimosas. It's an epicurean delight, 10 times over.

"What can I possibly make to add to this feast?" I wondered.
Then it hit me:

If we're brunching, I'm making quiche. But for an event such as this, we're gonna need man power. We're gonna need street cred. We're gonna need...a quiche for the apocalypse. Inspired by Paula Deen. The one who used to eat butter by the stick and sugar by the bag. The pre-diabetic Paula Deen. Before Women's Day Magazine blasted her MIRACULOUS WEIGHT LOSS on their cover. IT'S CALLED DIABETES, PEOPLE! THAT'S WHAT CAUSES MIRACULOUS WEIGHT LOSS!

Stupid magazine.

Rant over, here's the quiche recipe I made, based off something old Paula Deen used to make. She calls it Hash Brown Quiche. I call mine "Quiche for the Apocalypse".

3 cups shredded frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed and drained
4 tablespoons butter, melted (in memory of old Paula Deen)
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup half and half
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 pound turkey bacon (if you live near a Trader Joe's, GET THEIR TURKEY BACON. NOW.)
1/2 a zucchini, diced
1/4 of an onion, diced
1/4 of a pepper, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes

So, like preheat the oven to 450, right?

You do 2 things:
Take the tomaters, lay them out on 2 sheets of foil, put olive oil on them, salt and pepper them, and wrap them up in the foil tightly.

Melt the butter in a SKIL-LET. Then you take the melted butter and combine it with the potatoes and slap it into a 9" pie plate. You bake that and the tomaters (on their own separate cookie sheet) in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the taters get brown. Turn the heat down to 350 after that.

The tomaters will be roasted. For the love of god, be careful when opening the foil packet or you'll LOSE YOUR HAND.
 (So purty.)
DON'T TOSS THE BUTTER PAN! You're gonna need it. Return it to medium heat and put the bacon in the butter SKIL-LET:
Then make it look like THIS:
Yeah. That's Nice.

Then you add your diced veggies to the bacon butter pan.
PS: EVERYONE needs a bacon butter pan.

Once those are soft, you take those, and the now chopped up bacon, and the roasted tomaters, and add them to the rest of the stuff in the recipe (the eggs, cheese, half and half).

You get a quiche orgy:
(Please note my lack of thumb nail. Nice.)
Throw the quiche orgy into the hash brown crust and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is brown and puffy.

There. Done.

Thanks for the memories, Old Paula Deen.

PPS. Don't use a springform (read: cheesecake) pan for this. Turns out when you pour the orgy into the pan to bake, the orgy ends up spilling its love all over your kitchen floor. Eeewww.

Eat the love,

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Leftover Hangover Dilemma: Chipotle Turkey Tacos

You make a 14 pound turkey named Billy and all the trimmings and then, what's left?
(OH SH-T. I just forgot I didn't take out the wishbone!!!!)

But besides're left with a bunch of food to do things with. Or to. I don't know your personal life, so I'm going to back slowly away from that.

At any rate, I was faced with just such a dilemma tonight. The following were left in my fridge:
Salsa, Turkey, a zested orange from making cranberry sauce, and bags of...what the hell? Chipotle peppers and a sack of eggplant??

Which made me ponder....
...So then I enlisted some help...
..And I GOT IT.
Why, I'll combine all the ingredients, plus add a couple more, and I'll make chipotle turkey tacos!!!
Which is exactly what I did. Except for the sack of eggplant. I ate that. (NO, not out of the sack. Well maybe a little. Then I put it on a plate).
While you judge, let me tell you how I made these things. In the ever popular stylings of a Mr. Samuel L. Jackson (a close personal friend. Not of mine. I don't know the guy. But someone, I'm sure).
Thanks, Sam!
I hope this has been educational as well as terrifying. Remember-always adjust the flavors as you want. If you like more spice, put in 2 tablespoons adobo (the sauce chipotle peppers come in) instead of 1. For wusses like me, 1 is perfect. But feel free to play! Hell, it's your food, not mine.
Fiesta en Noviembre! Ole! MOTHER EFFER!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Spanksgiving 2012: An Oddysey

Let's start with the fact that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Why, you ask? For the simple reason that it's about family, just hanging out, sharing laughs, cooking, eating, possily passing out, hopefully not ending up having each other in headlaocks, and that's fine.

My family, I am happy to say, is pretty damn awesome. There are 2 parents, an older brother, and a younger sister. And me in the middle (which may explain my need to write a blog. Middle children need CONSTANT attention.)

Anyway, let's review my history of cooking. Since I was 8, I have been midly obsessed with the notion of combining foods and seeing what happens. Some have been feats; others have not (like that pasta salad I made in the 6th grade. It...oh let's not go there.)

Let it be known, though, that I AM NOT a baker. My sister is a baker, par excellence. My brother is a brownie master. Cheesecake brownies are his specialty. I recently tried to make cheesecake brownies and this is what happened:
 (oh. my. GOD.)
Let it be known that I just decided to plunk down whipped cream cheese in the brownie batter and that's not how you do it AT ALL.
So my Aunt says to me recently: "Where are you guys having Thanksgiving this year? Your place?" Well sure, why not? Note that it's my first time making the entire meal and shoving the 5 of us in my relatively small (yet large) apartment. But I'm up for the challenge because, if you remember correctly, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
Mashed potatoes? Cool. Stuffing? Sweet. Pumpkin Cheesecake? Got it.
Ahhh...but I've never made a turkey.
Now, in expressing this fact to others, you'd be amazed at the rainbow of advice I've gotten. 100% of responders said making a turkey is easy. Many said "Brine it!" Many said "Don't let the pop up time pop up or it's too dry". Others asked if I killed mine yet (WHAT???).
At any rate, I decided to roast mine overnight, like my Grandmother used to. And I found this killer recipe in Food and Wine Magazine for prepping it with an herb butter. YES.
The plan was set.
First, I decided to make fresh cranberry sauce. No cans here, just mine (ba ha ha.) Which turned out to be stupid easy. Boil a cup of water with 1/2 cup sugar. Add a bag of cranberries. Bring back to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add some fresh orange zest for fun (like I decided to). Adjust sugar for sweetness. It was a damn good cranberry sauce:
 (no it's not zombie chunks. stop that.)
Made the pumkin cheesecake. Yay.
Then, then it was time for the turkey. I planned on putting it in between 11 and 11:15pm. The recipe itself is easy: Mix a stick of softened butter with 1 tablespoon each chopped fresh thyme and sage. Get a turkey thawed, get the gross stuff out, rub the butter under the skin, put it in a roasting pan, add a cup of water to encourage juices, and set a foil tent atop it's deceased bird body. A 14 pound bird cooks for like 8 hours at 250. The whole house smells like roasted turkey. Heavenly.
Yeahh...that's what happened AFTER I prepped the bird. I could hear Mom and Dad's voices in the background: "Get the kidneys and heart and stuff out of the neckhole. It's in a bag. Wear gloves to get the neck and gizzards out."
Me: "Oh, those are in a bag too right?"
Them: Stony silence.
I reach into the neckhole and get the bag of gross out. Now onto looking into the cavity to get the neck and gizzards out, when I was greeted with something that led me to shout out loud: "WHAT THE F-K is THAT?!?! A turkey penis????!??!"
I had never really seen the neck before. It wasn't in a bag. And it was still frozen inside the cavity. So there was that.
You mean to tell me they butcher this thing, cut its neck off, and shove it up their tooter????? How barbaric is that??? But a turkey is damn tasty though.....
Anyway, I gave myself a mental shake and told myself I touched lots of gross meats before, so I steeled myself, jacked the frozen mass with my kife and...birthed a turkey neck. Complete with shouting: "AAAAAAAAAAGHHHH! TURKEY PENIS!!" like I was a damn Valkyrie entering war or something. A dead freaking bird and I'm in my kitchen yelling as I pull out a neck like It's still alive.
So I of course thanked the bird for its sacrifices and its delicious, delicious meat.
I don't have a picture of the actual pulling out of the neck. The closest I can come to the feeling I had is this pictorial aversion I had to a banana, circa 2008:
(replace banana with a turkey neck. Man, my hair looked good that day.)
Then I slapped the butter under the skin (elbows deep, Friends), put it in the oven, saluted it, and went to bed.
In the morning, I was greeted with this vision of beauty:
Once done, I took this marvelous, luscious, success out of the oven and let it rest for a few before I tried to move it out of the pan so I could pour the drippings and make a legendary gravy.
Bitch promptly fell apart and became somewhat of a turkey autopsy:
("Ha haaa! That's for thinking my neck was a penis, ignorant human bastard!!!" He seemed to say.)
My Father supportively let me know "well, at least we know it's done!" If you've ever met my father, you know that he was laughing at me while he was saying this.
But as the day wore on, everything went well. The Family was together, we talked, laughed, and had a good time, the food was fantastic (even my turkey autopsy), and Mom even brought the centerpieces, which she was very proud of.
(Insert picture of 3 ceramic pumpkins, each relative in size to birth order. Largest is my brother, medium size is me, smallest is my sister, "the baby". Oh, Mom.)
Happy Holidays to all. May your turkeys always be neckless, your butter always be warm, your family always be laughing.
I celebrate with a food wreath.
Gizzards and Glory,