beef stroganoff!

Some people love fall. I get it. It’s not my favorite I will admit. The transition just doesn’t do me well, it hits me out of nowhere and I get a bit depressed. But I do what I can and cook and bake and start to be a babushka again. Fall and winter is great for being babushka, which I love :). I wish I had more time to be babushka but I use what time I have.

This recipe is actually really easy and so tasty, it will impress if you think your not a good cook. It’s also mushroom season right now so feel free to use some different types if you can get your hands on them!

beef stroganoff

2 lbs beef sirloin, lean, cut into thin slices

1 tbsp butter

2 cups sliced mushrooms, baby bella will do just fine or some sort of button type

2 small onions, cut into half moon shapes

2 cups of beef broth, sometimes I use mushroom which is also good

4 tbsps all purpose flour

1/3 cup sour cream

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup chopped parsley for serving

12 oz of egg noodles

– in a wide saucepan add the butter and sauté the beef for about 5-8 minutes until it is half browned on both sides. remove from the pan and set aside for a moment.

– in the same pan add the onions and the mushrooms until soft. add the beef back in and season with salt and pepper. add the broth and the flour and mix everything very well.

– let the sauce boil and then bring it to a simmer with a lid for 20 minutes. take the lid off and simmer for another 10 minutes.

– meanwhile cook your noodles.

– once the sauce has thickened adjust the seasoning if needed and mix in the sour cream. we like to add a lot of black pepper! serve with noodles and parsley on top.

Enjoy xoxoxo

jagodzianki! (blueberry yeast buns)

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I am going to be honest with you.  I have been determined to get a a good recipe for these mostly because I love the name.  They are good, don’t get me wrong, especially when they are fresh.  But the name is just the best.  In Polish blueberries are called jagody, so it’s just a cute word for blueberry buns.  It’s a little harder in English because it doesn’t have as many ending options of making something cute, but it would be like saying blueberry bunsies, cute little blueberry buns.

Another thing I will be honest about is that these are more popular in the Spring and early Summer when blueberry season first starts.  This year I was a little late at making these the way I wanted and I was late to go blueberry picking in Indiana like I try to do every year.  But, I did go and now I have a freezer full of blueberries!  And actually these are perfect with defrosted blueberries, I think because they turn jammy better when baked.

They are easier than you think, just like with any yeast dough you gotta stick around and watch it, because it’s alive!  The folding can also be tricky, I had many a leaked jagodzianki.

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Jagodzianki

3 cups packed all purpose flour (or 500g)

1 cup milk

1 tbsp instant dry yeast

8 tbsps sugar

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 stick of butter (8 tbsps), softened

3 1/2 cups frozen blueberries, defrosted

2 tbsps potato starch

for the crumble:

3 tbsps sugar

4 tbsps cold butter

5 tbsps flour

1 egg for brushing

– heat the milk until it is lukewarm, not more than 100º F.  mix in a little bit of the sugar and all of the yeast and let it sit until it blooms.

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– mix the flour, and add the rest of the 4 tbsps of sugar in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, or in a big bowl with a large spoon.  add the milk mixture and mix on low in the stand mixture or continue with a spoon if you have a bowl instead.  add the egg and keep mixing until incorporated, possibly using your hands if not in a stand mixer.

– add the softened butter a bit at a time and knead or mix it in.  mix or knead for about 15 minutes, you want the dough to be very soft and elastic.  cover it in a bowl and let it sit in a warm place for about an hour.

– make sure there is no more liquid in the blueberries and mix the blueberries with the sugar and starch.

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– once it doubles in size take it out of the bowl.  divide the dough into about 12 even balls.  flatten each ball on a floured surface and place about 2 tbsp of blueberries on the dough.  pinch four sides together to make a little sack to cover the berries.  really pinch the sides and twist the top slightly, and fold it in.  really make sure there is no space for liquid to leak through and place it twist side down on a lined baking sheet.

 

– repeat with all of them and let them sit for about half an hour.

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– pre-heat the oven to 375º.

– make the crumble by mixing the flour and sugar first in a bowl.  cut the cold butter into small pieces and add it to the flour.  mixing with your hands or a fork, but probably ending up with your hands, mix the crumble into a nice crumble.  beat the egg and set aside.

– once the little balls have rested, brush with the egg and sprinkle some crumble on top.  bake for about 25-30 minutes.

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enjoy!!!!!!

cheesecake and jello cake (my Polish-American pie)

Does it seem weird? Does it kind-of sound not appealing? Maybe. But we do it anyway and actually it’s quite delicious. Especially because I would eat jello everyday if I made it everyday. This cake is so very Polish to me and maybe even Polish-American. I saw it in Poland. But jello is so American to me, as well as no bake cheesecake. So it’s one of those things that somehow became a thing when mainstream American commercialism made its way to post Soviet countries. At least that is my story. I can say I never grew up having this at any of my American friends houses and we have had it many times and I see it at almost every Polish bakery. So there you go.

Here is a picture of me on my second birthday eating a very similar style cake my mama made 🙂

Here is how I made mine, I thought it was very good. Also yes to no baking in the oven!!

Cheesecake and Jello Cake

1 1/2 cups crushed up ginger cookies (the dry hard kind)

5 tbsps butter, melted

1 cup ricotta cheese

8 oz cream cheese

3 tbsps honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

zest of half a lemon

2 packets plain gelatin – 1/4 oz each

2 cups white grape juice

1/4 cup sugar

3 1/2 cups berries (about), cut into bite size pieces if big like the strawberries especially

– mix the melted butter with the cookies and press them into an 8 inch spring form pan (or something close to that size) to create a crust. place it in the fridge for half and hour.

– mix the ricotta and cream cheese together in a food processor until well blended. add the zest, extract and honey and mix well. if the crust is hardened enough pour it onto the top and let the whole thing sit in the fridge for an hour.

– in a small sauce pan heat 1/4 cup of the white grape juice until warm enough to mix in the sugar to dissolve it. keep it on low.

– in a small bowl sprinkle the gelatin over another 1/4 cup of the white grape juice. let it sit 2 minutes.

– turn the heat off the sauce pan and pour in the other gelatin mixture and mix well with a whisk. then add the rest of the grape juice.

– if the mixture is cool pour it over the cooled cheesecake and start to add your pieces of fruit in whatever way is pleasing to you. make sure not to touch the cheesecake part with your fingers or don’t press the fruit down too much.

– let it cool about 1.5 hours until set. when serving run a knife around the edge before removing the spring form. keep in the fridge if not eating 🙂

Enjoy!

a meaty, beety barszcz

Barszcz is borscht.  And borscht is борщ.  And probably some other names.  We are going with barszcz here.   You got me?

Now the history of barszcz is deep and complex.  And that is how it should taste, even if it’s simple.  I’m sure someone will write a book about it’s interesting evolution and history, and I will read it.  If there is a book out there, correct me please!  Apparently first made with fermented hogweed (a common plant) in Poland, it eventually was just sour things.  But basically the beet was not introduced to this so called barszcz for a long time.  I, myself cannot imagine a barszcz without beets (unless it’s a white barszcz, which is delicious!).

I have been thinking about making barszcz all winter.  I have an awesome cold barszcz recipe here.  The kind I made below is a winter soup to me, it’s rich and hearty.  Polish barszcz is a clear broth most of the time, but I like having some more substance, something like the Ukrainian’s do but still simple.

Mine starts with a kwas.  Which is kvass, which is also квас.  Kwas is a fermented juice/liquid.  It can be also made with bread, which we will make white barszcz from.  I also added bread to my beet kwas to help it ferment.  Here is how I made mine.

Kwas

a couple of fresh small beets

1 tbsp sea salt

2 cups of filtered warm water

a couple of garlic cloves

stale bread – rye is best

1 liter jar with a lid

– make sure your jar is cleaned really well!

– chop off the ends of the beets.  wash them really well with a scrubber.  chop them into small pieces, leaving the skin on.

– mix 1 tbsp of sea salt with the water until evaporated.  place the beets in the jar, pour the water on top.  crush your garlic cloves and place in the jar.  cover it and shake it around a bit to mix everything.  you want to make sure the beets are fully submerged.  remove the lid and add more water if needed.  place the stale bread on top, also making sure it is covered with water.

– let the beets sit 1-2 weeks.  if your lid is very tight, open it once a day to release pressure and check for mold.  the jar I used is pretty loose so I don’t do it every day, maybe every other.  if there is mold best to not risk it so throw it out.

Meaty Beety Barszcz

1 lb beef short ribs

1 onion

3 bay leaves

5-8 peppercorns

1 carrot, ends cut off and skin peeled

4 medium beets

5 small waxy yellow potatoes

4 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

1 tbsp oil

2 cups beet kwas

juice of half a lemon

herbs for garnish, like dill, parsley or cilantro

– place the short ribs in a large pot. cut the onion in half and place half of it in the pot along with the carrot, peppercorns and bay leaves. cover everything with 4 cups of water, a little more if not covered all the way. bring to a simmer and then cook on low heat covered for an hour.

– meanwhile peel the beets and chop them into match stick size pieces. dice the potatoes into big chunks and set aside.

– cut the other half of the onion into thin half moons. heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. cook the onions on medium low, slowly until they start to turn soft and lightly brown, then add the garlic. cook about 8-10 more minutes. set aside.

– once the meat has cooked for an hour and softened, remove the carrot and onion. either strain the broth and place the liquid and meat back in or try and pick out the peppercorns and bay leafs with tongs and a spoon (what I did). add the beets and potatoes and simmer covered for another 30-45 minutes until the beets and potatoes have cooked.

– add the onions. add the beet kwas and lemon juice and stir well. you can take out the meat to serve and chop the more meaty parts into small pieces, it’s quite fatty usually and hard to leave in the soup whole.

Enjoy!!

 

brooklyn food guide

The thing about New York, and maybe this is similar in other big cities, is that it is always changing.  You have your favorite place you go to, and then you go back a couple years later and see that either that place has changed to keep up with the times (sometimes in a good way and sometimes not) or it is gone for good.  So in that way it’s hard to make guides sometimes, but here is to hoping these places make it in the big apple for a while!

I recently went back for a weekend and did a lot of wandering around Brooklyn, because I tried to not go into Manhattan unless I really had to.  So here is a tip for traveling, if you go to New York spend some time in Brooklyn.  Honestly, if you booked a trip only in Brooklyn I bet you would have an awesome time.  You can go along the waterfront and take the ferry and look at Manhattan from a distance. There are so many different neighborhoods and awesome parks, museums and the best food these days seems to be happening in Brooklyn.  Sure, Manhattan will always be cool, but Brooklyn is like super cool now and it’s worth spending more than a day there.

These are places I actually would go to, and I don’t go out a lot because I am a babushka.  Some were neighborhood spots and some were more places my friends would go.  I am not sure you need to plan a whole trip around these places, but if you find yourself in these neighborhoods check them out!

EAST WILLIAMSBURG

(This has become a very hip place to live lately but if you look past the ramen and juice shop and the tattoo parlor that used to be a gravestone shop you will find an old Italian neighborhood where people still walk around talking to each other in Italian and grow tomatoes and basil in there tiny yard and walk to church at 7am with rosary in hand ❤️. Things you’ll only see living there.  I lived here for a bit and I really miss it.)

Emily’s Pork Store

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This place is the best.  It has all your Italian staples.  Jerry is such a nice guy, works hard and makes amazing food.  They have real cheese and meat, they have pictures on the wall of all the people who love this place, some famous! They have awesome rice balls, or aracini.  For sure get the dried sausage, that is what he is holding up in the picture, it is my favorite thing there, spicy and sweet are both delicious.  Also, if you are hungry and just want a sandwich they make awesome roast pork sandwiches with mozzarella and sweet peppers.  Gevork has one of those shirts hanging up there and was wearing it in Chicago and got stopped by a man who used to live nearby and also loved this place.  It is that good!

The Blue Stove

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This place is pretty popular.  Other bakeries have tried to open in this neighborhood but this one always does the best.  They keep it simple.  Pies, biscuits, quiches, scones, cookies.  I think it has become a bit pricey but sometimes you can treat yourself.  Also, it feels like grandma’s kitchen, and you know I love that.

Beco

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I have a soft spot for really small restaurants.  This is one.  They serve Brazilian food.  Just simple, good stuff.  It’s great in the summer when you can sit outside but also great in the winter huddled inside at a big table.

GREENPOINT

(This is the Polish neighborhood of Brooklyn that is slowly being taken over by hipster families.  My favorite hole in the wall Polish restaurant shut down and I kind-of stopped exploring.  But there is one I really like that is super cool)

Polkadot

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This is kind-of like a updated deli, not intimidating at all, it’s appealing to those who maybe don’t know Polish food as well.  Meats, pickles, soups, blintzes.  They make everything really well and it’s very fresh.

PARK SLOPE

(This was the first area I lived and worked, I worked at a restaurant called Miriam, it’s pretty good but I’m not putting it on my list because I haven’t been there since I stopped working there like 5 years ago.  This is a yuppy neighborhood.  But some good classic food spots.)

Brooklyn Larder

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They just make really good stuff, and sell really good stuff, it’s like a little taste of what Brooklyn’s about.  Get the tune egg anchovy sandwich, deliciously salty 🙂

Blue Sky Bakery

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Oh the days when I used not wake up or have the right groceries to make breakfast and instead would get a muffin and a coffee here. Solid, interesting muffins, they sell them other places too but here is the original. Cute vibe inside, it feels like someone’s beach house. Newspapers being read, books in case you don’t have one, people chatting. It’s been a while since I’ve gone here regularly but I’m guessing it’s the same.

BED STUY

(I really like Bed Stuy, it’s really the epitome of gentrification but it has really pretty brownstones and it’s far enough from Manhattan that those people don’t make it out.)

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Saraghina

This place is so hipster, it’s hasn’t been here forever but long enough. It’s so good though. Sit outside in the summer in the back and get pizza, it’s the real deal. Also it’s called Saraghina. Fellini anyone?

So there is my short list. I wish it was longer, but these are all solid places. Enjoy!!

pączki!

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I’m so happy to be back in Chicago where people actually know what Pączki Day is!  Do you know what it is?  It’s Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday.  Which is the beginning of Lent, the 40 days before Easter.  Catholic’s usually give something up as a fast.  A lot of time it’s sweets, or other indulgences.  In Europe it’s Fat Thursday, and in Poland you eat Pączki, which are jelly filled donuts.

I tried making pączki in the past and failed, because I really suck at frying things.  This year however I made sure to use a good digital thermometer, fresh yeast and I found a method I like best to seal the little dough balls.

So my recipe is with fresh yeast, which is just better, it grew so much more!  You can find it in some regular grocery stores in the refrigerated section, or if you have an Eastern European store they will sell it in big chunks.  This method of folding over the dough works best when the dough is really yeasty and slightly damp from that.  So I think its best with fresh yeast, try it 🙂

Pączki

5 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

40 grams of fresh yeast

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted European style butter, melted

1 1/2 cups warm milk (not hot, just warm when you stick your finger in)

1 whole egg

4 egg yolks

1 liter frying oil

jam or jelly for filling, I used a whole small jar of plum butter

powder sugar for dusting

– prepare your yeast to bloom.  place it in a bowl and squish it a bit so it is easier to stir.  add a spoonful of the sugar and 1/2 cup of the warm milk and stir to mix well.  add more milk if it’s not mixing up.  let it sit for about 5 minutes until it’s doubled and it’s bubbly.

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– mix the flour with the rest of the sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl. with a stand mixer, using a dough hook, mix the flour on low, slowly adding the rest of the milk, the butter, the yeast mixture and the eggs.  or mix everything bit by bit in a big bowl, eventually using your hands.  mix well until everything is combined but still slightly sticky.  you don’t want to work the dough too much, but you want to form a nice ball.

– place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl.  cover with a dish towel and let it sit in a warm place for about an hour, for it to double in size. 

– once doubled, flour your surface and roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick.  make a light mark down the middle with your hand, not piercing through but just so there is a mark on the dough indicating half.  do the same thing with a large cup on one side of the dough, just lightly marking circles with space in between.  these will be your pączki.

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– fill each circle with a spoonful of jam or jelly.  once they are all filled, take the other half of your dough and place it over the side with the jam, make sure it fits all the way over to the other edge.  lightly press around the little jam hills to slightly seal. 

– take your cup again and place it over the circle so it goes all the way through.  it should seal well from that but if not, lightly press to make sure the jam is not coming out.  set aside, under a dish towel is good to not let them dry out.

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– once you do one set of circles, mix your dough again and roll out to repeat until you have no more dough.  i did it even with one circle.  let all the circles rest and rise for 30 minutes.

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– heat your oil in a large pan on medium to high, cast iron works well for frying. you want the temperature to get to 356° F and to stay at that temperature for the whole process.

– place a couple of pączki and cook 3-4 minutes on each side, they will be quite brown. use a slotted spoon to remove them onto a plate with a paper towel. repeat.

– once they have cooled a bit sprinkle them with powdered sugar.

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Enjoy!  They are so good when fresh 🙂

pickle soup (zupa ogórkowa)

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Let’s talk about the weather, because food and weather always go together.  We are in that strange time of year where fall starts to creep up slowly. It starts with a couple of cool days that feel like heaven because the sun is still warm enough to tingle the surface of the skin.  Then it comes in fast with a day where we do not have enough clothes and we get a little tickle in our throat that turns into full on sore the next morning.  I am very much not looking forward to that day or to my first winter in Chicago in 8 years.  Every year I have dreams of trying to enjoy winter, we will see if I am better this year.  I really really want to like winter, but every time it comes around I can’t seem to keep my spirits up. What about you?

This soup seemed to me to represent this time, mostly because it isn’t really seasonal.  In some ways it is a winter soup because well, it is soup. But also because it is made from pickles so you don’t really need the bounty of summer produce to enjoy it.  But maybe it’s actually perfect right now when we are not in love with squash yet and so cold that all we want is fat.  We still want a little funky freshness, so try this funky delicious soup.

It’s a basic soup that is flavored with brine pickles to add a little tang, just enough.

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Pickle Soup / Zupa Ogórkowa

2 tbsps butter

1 onion, diced

1/2 tbsp dried marjoram

salt/pepper

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 small parsnip, peeled and diced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

6 cups of vegetable stock

4-6 pickles in brine (not vinegar pickles), grated on a cheese grate

1/2 cup pickle brine

1/3 cup sour cream (optional)

1/2 tbsp flour

dill

– in a large pot heat the butter. cook the onions until soft. season with salt and pepper and marjoram. add carrots and parsnip. cook about 5 minutes.

– add the stock and potatoes. bring to a boil and then simmer 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.

– grate the pickles if not already grated. once the potatoes are cooked add the pickles and simmer another 10 minutes. add the brine.

– mix the sour cream in a small bowl with the flour until combined and then add 1 cup of the warm soup. mix it well until everything is dissolved. add it back to the soup. season with more salt/pepper to taste and serve with chopped dill.

enjoy!