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!