Autumn Dill Bread

A couple of mornings ago I went out on my deck and was surprised by the chill in the air. The leaves of our cottonwood tree are beginning to dot the yard. Yesterday the sun went down earlier and it was dark before 7 p.m. Today’s temperature is predicted to reach eighty-five degrees, but tomorrow may not reach seventy! These are all signs that autumn is on its way. This time of year always triggers my desire for comfort food. Here in the Midwest it is a sign that our bodies are getting ready for a winter hibernation of sorts.

This morning I looked through my recipe box to find the directions for one of my favorite cool weather treats, Autumn Dill Bread. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.

Autumn Dill Bread

  • 1 pkg. yeast
  • 1/4 c. warm water
  • 1 c. room temp cottage cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. instant minced onion
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. dill seed
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg (lightly beaten)
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • Soft butter and salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Soften yeast in warm water and let proof. Combine cottage cheese, sugar, onion, 1 Tbsp butter, dill, seed, 1 tsp salt, baking soda and egg in large mixing bowl. Add the softened yeast to the other combined ingredients. Add flour a little at a time to form a stiff dough and until all flour is mixed in thoroughly. Cover dough and let rise in warm place until double (about 1 hour).

Stir down dough and turn into a well greased 8 inch round (1 1/2 to 2 quart) casserole. Cover and let rise again until light (30-40 minutes).

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown. While bread is still hot, brush crust with softened butter and sprinkle with salt. Allow to cool!

Makes one loaf.

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Grandparent Joys

Today my heart is singing an old Neil Diamond tune, “Hello, my friends, Hello!” It has been about a month, since I’ve been able to add to this blog. I’ve missed you and hope that with my entry here, this day after the 4th of July, I will be welcomed back into your hearts and homes. Let me first say that my husband and I have been nurturing our two grandsons (and our daughter’s fiancé) while she has been studying in India. We left the comforts of our Illinois home on June 4th. Now, one month and one day later, we on the thousand mile drive back home as I type this blog.

Here is what I have learned (or relearned) in the past month.

  1. Young boys and men eat A LOT!
  2. Northern Colorado contains some of the most beautiful places in our country
  3. Grandparenting has definite advantages over parenting!
  4. At my age, keeping up with 9 and 12 year old boys is exhausting…and FUN!

Since my husband and I have been empty nesting for a long time, I forgot how different it is to cook for five, when two are growing boys and one is a young man working 16-hour nights! Grandma pulled out all the stops! The favorites were Blueberry Pancakes, Chicken and Dumplings, Kiwi Upside Down Cake and Crepes filled with cannoli filling, sautéed apples, or peanut butter and mixed fruit. Here are the links to those recipes. 

http://www.foodrepublic.com/recipes/easy-blueberry-pancakes-recipe/

http://www.food.com/recipe/chicken-and-dumplings-72963#activity-feed

http://food.ndtv.com/recipe-kiwi-upside-down-cake-846631?desktop=true

http://www.thereciperebel.com/cannoli-crepes/

http://www.food.com/recipe/apple-filled-crepes-447745

http://juliasalbum.com/2014/06/crepes-with-strawberry-banana-and-peanut-butter/

 

We had the joy and privilege of spending some free time, when the boys were with their dad, to drive into Estes Park, Georgetown, Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, Allenspark, Idaho Springs, Walden, and Greeley. Our future son-in-law also took us up into the foothills for some fishing in the Pinewood Reservoir and, when our daughter returned she treated us to a day in the Carter Lake area. If you are ever in the front range of northern Colorado, near Fort Collins, we highly recommend the following day trips. 

http://www.stanleyhotel.com/tours.html

https://www.georgetownlooprr.com

http://boulderteahouse.com/

http://www.rmnp.com

http://www.scenicusa.net/090210.html

http://www.colorado.com/history-museums/idaho-springs-heritage-museum

http://rockymountainnationalpark.com/things-do/scenery/scenic-drives/cache-la-poudre-scenic-byway

http://greeleymuseums.com/locations/greeley-history-museum/

http://www.co.larimer.co.us/parks/parkareas.htm

When I was a young mom, raising three children, working, and earning my Masters’ Degree, I’d reach the end of the day and be exhausted. I don’t know what I would have done without the support of my dear husband. As a grandmother, I am 40 years older, retired and, on occasion, I take responsibility for my grandchildren. Again, thankful for the help of “Grandpa.” At the end of those days we are both exhausted. The difference is that we are also filled with pride to know our children are raising fun-loving, hard-working, and simply terrific grandchildren! It let’s us know that, even with all the mistakes we know we made, we can honestly say we must have done SOMETHING right!

My final lesson was that exhaustion can be fun. There is nothing better, at the end of the day, than to hear my grandchildren say, “Grandma, can you make crepes again tomorrow?” It is revitalizing to hear them planning another putt-putt golf excursion “as a family.” It is heart warming to know that your future son-in-law has said, “Do you think your mom would be willing to make chicken and dumplings one more time before they have to leave?” Exhaustion melts away when the boys say, “Grandma, don’t forget “Nighty-night, sleep tight, don’t let Bugs Bunny bite.” It makes one realize that the funny circumstances and family stories that were begun while raising our children, have been passed on to the next generation. Hopefully, one day, Jacob and Ben will tell their children, “when my Grandma tucked me in at night she’d repeat poems from an old TV show and make up verses just to make us laugh!” 

Lord, we have had an exhausting month of love, thank you for these many grandparent joys!

Sweet Cornbread

It just came to my attention that I have not shared a recipe lately. I will remedy that situation right now!

First off, allow me to say that I’m a “northern gal.” I figured I’d better make that clear right in the beginning because when it comes to cornbread I’m sure my sisters in the south have a million recipes. I’m also sure that many of those recipes originated with their “Mee-Maw”, their “Aunt Maybelle”, or “Granny Something-or-other.” I would NEVER cast aspersions on any of those wise women or their ancestors’ recipes. However, being a “northern gal” I must say that many of the old southern cornbread recipes have left me unsatisfied due to a grainy or dry texture. Maybe, I have not been exposed to “Mee-Maw’s recipe” and would feel completely different if I had.

That being said, a dear friend of mine brought this recipe to a Lenten Simple Supper a few years ago and it has been my “go-to” cornbread recipe ever since. I don’t know if the “Jiffy” brand mixes are available in the true south, but I don’t know what I would do without them.

I have tried to make this recipe with a regular yellow cake mix and, thought it was tasty, it was too sweet and more like a yellow cake than a cornbread. The Jiffy mixes weigh in around 9 oz and a standard boxed yellow cake is closer to 18 oz. So, I think it was just too much cake!

This is definitely not a diet-friendly, sugar or fat restricted recipe, so it is not something I would bake every day. My husband is a diabetic, so this is definitely only for really special occasions and we cut it into 24 slices to try to keep it realistic. It is, however, the tastiest cornbread I have ever had and served with Apple Butter, it is sheer nirvana!

Sweet Corn Bread

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 box Jiffy yellow cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1 can creamed corn
1 stick butter melted (cooled to room temperature, or you will cook the eggs)
3 eggs

oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 x 13 pan with nonstick cooking spray (butter flavor is the best for this recipe or you may grease a pan with with shortening, if you’d prefer). Mix together corn, eggs, sour cream and melted butter. When thoroughly blended add both boxed Jiffy mixes. Pour into prepared 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cut when cool. Serve with apple butter. Makes 24 slices.

Pillows of Deliciousness

Christmas is past. The new year is upon us. Here in the Midwest we have begun the long trudge toward Spring. Midwesterners traditionally surround themselves with comfort foods. Stews topped with dumplings are bubbling, bowls of soup are steaming, casseroles topped with cheese and bread crumbs abound and crock pot recipes fill our social media pages. So you might be thinking that the days of tasty sweet treats have been tucked away with the last nativity scene, pine cone, and Santa ornament. Not for my family!

Today I have pulled out a kolaczki recipe given to me by my best friend. I think she received the recipe from her cousin, who received it from someone else. It is one of those wonderful treasures that will be passed from one energetic baker to another from generation to generation. It is very different from the cake-like kolaczki which were served as the dessert at any Polish celebration throughout our lives. These little delights are light and crisp pillows filled with just a bit of sweet filling! They require a bit of fussing, but are well worth the effort! Enjoy!img_2021

Kolaczki (makes 9 dozen)

1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) margarine at room temperature (I prefer butter)
3 (3 oz) packages of cream cheese at room temperature (I use Neufchâtel)
3 c. flour

Powdered sugar
1 1/2 cans of Solo filling (your favorite flavors)

Cream margarine and cream cheese thoroughly. Blend in flour and mix well. Roll into 12 balls. (Each ball will be approximately 2.8 oz) Wrap each ball in saran and refrigerate AT LEAST 6 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease shiny baking sheets.

Liberally sprinkle your working area with powdered sugar. Place one ball of dough at a time on the sugar and roll into a 9 inch circle. (Keep the remainder of the dough balls in the refrigerator.) Cut the circle into 8 wedges. Place about scant 1 tsp of filling at the wide end of each wedge. Fold the end of the dough over the filling and seal around it. Then roll the wedge in crescent fashion. Press the two ends to seal and then fold under to hold the point in place and create a little pillow shape.

Place about and inch apart on the greased baking sheet. These do not rise or spread very much, so you don’t need loads of space between.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the bottom of the crescents are lightly golden. Don’t be too concerned if some of the filling oozes.

Remove from the baking sheet immediately and allow to cool. When COMPLETELY cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve, or store in an airtight container with wax paper or baking parchment between each layer of cookies.

Auntie Roberta’s Rhubarb Crunch

At this time of year, my rhubarb crop is just about ready for harvesting. This activity always brings delightful memories for me and my family.

In 1982, I was 30 years old and the mother of three, but I had never tasted rhubarb.  Then I attended a party at a dear friend’s home and was introduced to a delicacy beyond compare. It was the perfect balance of tart and sweet, with a crispy crust and lusciously creamy center. For my husband, it brought back memories of his grandma’s farm in Iowa and her delicious rhubarb pie. So I asked Roberta for the recipe.

Fast forward twenty years or so, when our eldest son invited us to a birthday celebration for our first granddaughter. In typical Midwestern fashion, I asked what food I could bring to the feast. He replied, “Is your rhubarb ready? Could you bring Auntie Roberta’s Rhubarb Crunch?” It was at that moment I realized this recipe had become a true “family favorite.”

It is important to know that “Auntie Roberta” is not a blood relative. She is a friend who had become as close as a sister, and my children became very comfortable referring to her by that appellation. My husband and I firmly believe that the term “extended family” has nothing to do with pedigree.

Making rhubarb crunch has taught me many deeper life lessons. Some years my rhubarb “is ready” in early June. Other years the plants don’t mature until later in the month. The experience has taught me patience. When the weather cooperates and the harvest is plenty, the recipe is truly “rhubarb” crunch. When the harvest has been sparse, I have added strawberries to fill the pan and Rhubarb-Strawberry Crunch is equally yummy. This was a lesson in flexibility. I have recently read that apples are another very tasty complement to rhubarb desserts. The lesson is, always be willing to learn something new! I may give that a try this year. I will let you know how it turns out!

For now, here is the original recipe, a picture of my “sister from another mister,” and the recipe (adjusted for a larger batch). The original was in a 9 x 9 pan. I increase the amounts by half and make it in a 9 x 13 pan.

 

Butter stains are a sure sign of a family favorite!

Auntie Roberta’s Rhubarb Crunch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 1/2 cups sifted flour

3/4 cup melted butter

1 1/8 cup rolled oats (oatmeal)

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

Mix all together and press half into a 9 x 13 pan. Save other half for topping.

Pour 6 cups rhubarb (cut into 3/4 inch chunks) over pressed crust. You may also mix in strawberries to make the 6 cups if you don’t have that much rhubarb.

In a medium saucepan mix together

1 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

3 Tbsp. corn starch

Cook until bubbly and thick. Pour over the rhubarb. Then sprinkle remaining oat mixture over the top and pat down gently. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour until bubbly and lightly brown. Serve hot or cold with whipped cream or ice cream on top.

Lithuanian Kugelis: A Neighborhood Recipe

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I had to do research to find out what my old neighborhood in Chicago is being called today. As it turns out, I grew up in the “Lower West Side,” more recently referred to, in news reports, as “Pilsen.”

When I was growing up, we said that we came from “Saint Ann’s Parish,” alternately called the “Polish neighborhood.” All my Catholic friends-of-a-certain-age still talk about their childhood neighborhoods based upon the church they attended.

On many Sundays, after “church” and “dinner,” at about 2:00 p.m., we would carry our “skate cases” over to St. Stephen’s Roller Rink (about a half of a mile) into the “Lithuanian neighborhood.” Those cases were most often metal and decorated like antique leather trunks, complete with decals detailing the many roller rinks the case (and its owner) had visited.

It was in that neighborhood that I first encountered a Lithuanian delicacy called Kugelis. This is a potato pudding, also called potato pie or potato casserole. I recently found my mom’s recipe card for this decadent side dish and thought it would be fun to share that recipe with you today.

Kugelis

image
Sour cream and parsley complete this tasty treat!

4 lbs white potatoes
1 medium yellow onion
1/2 lb bacon
1 sm. can evaporated milk (5 oz.)
1 cup regular milk
6 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and grate fine the potatoes and onion. Cut bacon in small pieces and fry until crisp. Pour fat and bacon over the potato-onion mixture. Beat eggs and add to the potato mixture. Add both milks, salt and pepper. Stir well. Pour into a greased 9 X 13 pan. Depth of potato mixture should be no less than 2 inches deep. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour until crispy brown on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with a dollop of sour cream. Flavor is very similar to potato pancakes.

Super Coffee Cake

(Makes 3 cakes)

The coffee cake after baking and icing.
The coffee cake after baking and icing.

1 pkg. dry yeast
1/4 c. warm water (110 degrees)
1 c. milk
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. grated orange peel
1 c. butter
2 eggs beaten
3 1/2 – 4 c. flour
1 egg yolk beaten
2 T. cream
1 can any flavor pie filling

Scald milk. Add sugar and salt to milk and allow to cool. Dissolve yeast in water. Sprinkle in a pinch of sugar. Let stand 5 min. to proof. Add 2 whole eggs, orange peel and yeast to milk mixture. Stir in flour gradually until soft yet not sticky consistency. Turn dough onto floured board and knead thoroughly.

Roll into a 12 X 18 rectangle. Take 1/3 of the butter cut into tiny pieces distribute over the dough. Fold in thirds. Roll out to 12 X 18 rectangle. Repeat twice. Cover dough and refrigerate 2 hours or preferably overnight.

Cut dough into thirds. **Use 1/3 and refrigerate remaining dough. Cut the single serving of the dough into thirds. Roll each third into a log about 15 inches long. Braid 3 logs together. Place braid on ungreased baking sheet (you may use parchment). Spoon 1/3 can of pie filling in between the braid openings. Cover lightly with plastic and clean kitchen towel. Repeat from ** two more times.

Let rise to double (about 2 hours).

Brush cake with egg yolk and cream. Top with streusel.

The coffee cake as it is ready to go into the oven, risen, brushed with egg/cream wash and sprinkled with streusel.
The coffee cake as it is ready to go into the oven, risen, brushed with egg/cream wash and sprinkled with streusel.

STREUSEL
1/4 c. melted butter
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1 T. cinnamon
Mix together until crumbly.

Place one loaf in middle of oven and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Interior temperature should be 190 degrees.

ICING
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1-2 T milk
Mix powdered sugar and vanilla. Add 1/2 T of milk at a time until thin enough to drizzle. Mix until all lumps are gone. Drizzle confectioners sugar icing over cake while still warm.

Kluski and Milk

In my post, Comfort Foods, I said the dish that most reminds me of Mom is Kluski and Milk. Kluski (pronounced KLOO-ski) is actually Polish for noodles. This recipe is  free-form and has the flavor of an egg noodle and the texture of a dumpling. Kluski take a lot less time than making homemade noodles, but gives the same satisfaction. The recipe below is for a single serving. The kluski can also be made with rye flour, though Mom most often used white.

My comfort food kluski were always served floating in warm milk with a bit of butter, but they are much more versatile. They can be served in any recipe that calls for cooked egg noodles. They complement any soup, but can also be used with beef stroganoff or spaghetti sauce. They may also be topped with butter and served as a side dish.

For Kluski
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. milk
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. plus 1 Tbsp. of flour)

Bring about 6-8 cups of salted water to a boil while you are mixing the batter.

Mix the dry ingredients together. Whisk the egg and milk. Create a hollow in the dry ingredients. Pour the egg mix into the hollow.

Mix by hand from the sides until all the flour is incorporated into a thick batter. Batter will not be completely smooth.

This is what the thick batter should look like and the maximum amount of batter that should be dropped from the teaspoon.
This is what the thick batter should look like and the maximum amount of batter that should be dropped from the teaspoon.
When water has reached a boil, dip a teaspoon in the water to prevent the batter from sticking. Scrape about a half  teaspoon of the batter onto the spoon (on a flatware teaspoon this will look more like 1/4- 1/3 tsp) and then dip the spoon into the boiling water. The batter will drop off and sink to the bottom of the pot. Keep scrapping the batter and dropping it into the boiling water. As the kluski get done they will come to the top of the water. After you’ve dropped in the last of the batter. Allow the kluski to continue cooking another minute or two. Drain off the water. Pour about a cup of milk into the pot just to warm it. Do not allow milk to boil. You may also decide to put a teaspoon or two of butter into the milk. Put the kluski in a bowl and pour in the warmed milk. Enjoy!

NOTE: This recipe can be multiplied to accommodate more people. However, you will need to use a bigger pot and more water. You will also need to use a slotted spoon to clear the cooked kluski from the top of the water (otherwise your pot may boil over). Spoon the cooked kluski into a colander (placed in a bowl) and allow each batch to drain while you are in dropping in more batter.