Fat Tuesday – Paczki

Today is Fat Tuesday. Since I am Polish and Catholic (Gasp! Don’t mix religion and food Stef!) that olny means one thing for me today…Paczki!!!

It is pronounced poonch-key. This Polish dessert is similar to a jelly doughnut-except better, because it is Polish and has no filling. You fill up on these fried bad boys today before you start the season of Lent tomorrow.
My mom once told me a story about my Dziadzia (Polish for grandpa, pronounced jah-jah), where he tried to make a chocolate cake from a box and failed terribly. You see, my grandmother was working days and my mom forgot to tell her she needed a cake for a bake sale at school before she left for work. The next logical choice was to ask my Dziadzia to make the cake (ou would think).
My Dziadzia came from the mentality that nothing is cooked until it looks cooked. So, he baked the crap out of this cake. My mom told him she could not take this cake to school for the sale; nobody would buy it. He tried to pawn it off on her saying,”This is how a cake is supposed to look!”

My mom snuck out of the house without taking the cake. My grandmother got home from work, saw the cake, and laughed. My Dziadzia was known for many things, and boxed cakes just didn’t happen to be one of them!
Luckily, he could fry up a mean paczki. My mom told me that him and my grandmother would make the dough and fry up these little clouds of heaven together in their kitchen. My grandmother would make the dough and my Dziadzia would be in charge of frying them.
I can just imagine my mom and uncle as children, sitting at the table watching the two of them lovingly interact and cook together. They would smile at the interactions between their parents. When the paczki were done, everybody would eat them right away, when they were still warm. My mom, being the interesting person that she is, would save a little stash on the side and wait for them to get stale and crunchy and then eat them.

 So, in honor of my Dziadzia and my mom, today I am sharing with you the Polish tradition of Paczki.
Note: Sorry I don’t have the usual step-by-step pictures. I stress out when dealing with yeast, because normally it never works for me. Here is a great video that will walk you through the steps.
2 Tablespoons of Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Butter
½ Cup Milk, heated to 110 degrees
¼ Teaspoon of Vanilla
¼ Teaspoon of Salt
2 Eggs
1 Teaspoon of Yeast
2 Cups of Flour, plus additional for rolling out the dough
Vegetable oil for frying
Sugar or confectioner’s sugar for coating the Paczki

Add the butter and sugar to a large bowl. Heat 1/2 cup of milk in the microwave to about 110 degrees F., and pour it in. Add 1/4 tsp vanilla, a pinch of salt, and then 2 whole eggs.
The milk should be cool enough by now to not scramble the eggs, but if you need to let it cool a little, let it cool. Whisk those in, and add 1 teaspoon of yeast – whisk that in to dissolve, and then we’re going to add, about a 1/2 cup at a time, 2 cups of flour. This step can be done with a hand mixer or using the bread hook attachment and your stand mixer.
What you want to do is keep adding the flour until you have a really stiff dough and you can barely stir it. Then you’re going to transfer this on to the board.
Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. We’re going to put that back in the bowl, cover it, and let that double in size, which will take about an hour to 1 1/2 hours.
When the dough is ready, pat it down on a lightly floured board. Roll it to about 1/2-inch thick. Use a little flour if you need too. Then cut out little round paczki shapes. I used a 3 inch glass as my cookie cutter. I think I might need to invest in some actual cookie cutters…
I got 12 from this batch. You can re-roll the excess dough to cut a few more. Let those rise for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. In the meantime, heat your oil to 350 degrees F. I used regular vegetable oil.
Fry the paczki about 2 minutes per side, until they are a beautiful golden-brown. Fish those out with a strainer and let them cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes.
I didn’t fill them, because that isn’t the way my Dziadzia used to do it. I just rolled them in some plain old sugar. Trust me, they are good enough alone where you don’t need all the frills or filling.

Strawberry-Ricotta Tartlets

My best friend is having a baby!!! In fact, today is her baby shower!

I could not be happier about this little angel joining our close knit group of girls. My friend is the first of any of our clan to be pregnant.
So while this is all new and exciting, it is also the end of an era so to speak.
No more inappropriate conversations out in the open. We will have to think of the baby. No more spur of the moment outings; we will have to plan way in advance so there is somebody to watch the baby. (Unless somebody wants to volunteer to miss out and be the DD and the DB: designated babysitter.) No more crazy summer house parties…well, that needed to end some time soon, I mean we are all getting a little too old for all night flippy cup and power hour.

All of our lives have to change eventually. I know this, but I didn’t really think about how different it would all be until now.
I guess instead of being selfish and filling my BFF’s mind with sad thoughts, I started thinking about all the new things we are all going to be experiencing in the coming months. (Read that paragraph in a Carrie Bradshaw voice… “That night, I got to thinking…”)
We are going to have a new little girl in our group to watch out for, to spoil with the trendiest baby clothes, to teach about all the dumb boys in the world, to share many many giggles with, and to make sure she always feels all the BFF love that we have to give.
So, it might be the “end of an era”, but it is also the start of a new one. I know my best friend is going to be a wonderful mother and I can not wait to be right there along side her for this journey. I mean, I can just see what a cool aunt I am going to be!

So, for my sweet friend, here is a little something sweet for you on the day of your sweet baby girl’s shower.
Ingredients (Makes 16)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons molasses
3/4 pound strawberries, thinly sliced
¼ Cup Port or Red Wine
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ¼ cups fresh ricotta
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

In a bowl, sift both flours together with the cinnamon and salt. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter, light brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar at medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in the honey and molasses, about 30 seconds.
Scrape down the side of the bowl and beat in the flour mixture at low speed, just until incorporated. Pat the dough into a disk, cover with plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick.
Using a 3 1/2-inch oval cookie cutter, stamp out 16 ovals; reroll the dough scraps if necessary. (I used a 3 inch drinking glass to cut out the tartlet shapes.) Transfer the ovals to the baking sheets and bake for about 12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until lightly golden around the edges.
Let cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer the ovals to racks to cool completely.
In a bowl, toss the strawberries with the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, port, and the lemon juice. Let stand until syrupy, 20 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, confectioners’ sugar and lemon zest.

Spread about 1 tablespoon of the ricotta mixture on each oval.

Arrange the strawberries over the ricotta, drizzle with the syrup and serve.
Recipe adapted from Food & Wine

Baked Eggs with Roasted Red Peppers and Avocado Goat Cheese

Here it is-the easiest recipe I have ever posted on my website.

No joke, start to finish, this recipe takes thirty minutes at most. You can make it for one to 12 people; as long as you have a full carton of eggs, some goat cheese, and an avocado you’ll do fine. It still won’t take you longer than thirty minutes to make this.

Well, it might take a bit longer if you are cooking for 12 people just because it takes a little longer to assemble twelve of these little cups of awesomeness.

This recipe can be made in a muffin tin, an individual ramekin, or even on a larger scale in a casserole dish.
Since there are only two of us in the house, I went for individual servings. It is kind of like a quick, breakfasty lasagna you can eat any time of day.
Ingredients (makes two ramekins)
1 Haas Avocado
1 Jalapeno, seeded and diced
3oz Goat Cheese
A Pinch of Fresh Cilantro Leaves
Juice from 1 Lime
Butter for Greasing
1 Roasted Red Pepper, drained and cut into fourths
2 Eggs
A Pinch of Salt and Pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
First: add the avocado flesh, diced jalapeno, goat cheese, cilantro, and lime juice to a food processor. Puree into a thick, slightly chunky paste. Spoon the avocado and goat cheese mixture into a small bowl.
Grease the inside of the ramekins with the butter.
Cut the roasted red pepper into fourths. Place one piece of the red pepper in the bottom of the dish. Cover with a tablespoon of the avocado goat cheese mixture. Layer another slice of red pepper on top of the cheese. Spoon another tablespoon of the cheese mixture on top.
Crack the egg into the dish. Season the egg with salt and pepper. Continue that process for the other ramekin.
Place the ramekins in the oven and bake for twenty minutes. The egg will still have a runny yolk when it is done. If you don’t like a runny yolk, feel free to bake it a little longer.
I am not going to lie to you, when I make this I cook two baked eggs for myself and my husband each. I also serve it up with a side of bacon and roasted potatoes.
Can’t beat breakfast any time of day!

Spicy Shrimp and Quinoa Salad

Have you ever looked around at your life and thought, “Is this really my life right now?” I have thought this to myself on more than one occasion: for both good and bad reasons.
I asked myself this question yesterday during what I had thought to be very pathetic circumstances.
Last night, around seven thirty, I was lying on the couch, a Whitney Houston E! True Hollwood Story was droning on in the background, and I felt myself starting to drift off to sleep.

I looked to the love seat next to me and saw my husband already miles into a deep slumber. Then I glanced down at my feet and saw my dog snoring away.
Before I completely dozed off, I had to double check that it was really only 7:30 pm. It was. And at that moment I thought, “Is this really my life? Twenty seven years old, newly married, and asleep on the couch by seven thirty.”
My best laid plans of not watching as much TV and eating more balanced meals was kind of shot to shit last night by a very filling burrito bowl from Chipotle and reality TV that, in reality, I wasn’t that invested in.
I am 27, not 60! I do not do hard labor and my life is not that jam packed with activity. I should not be falling asleep atseven thirty.
So tonight, this is not happening again! I am eating a lighter meal and not going to be put into a food coma by mindless television.
Ingredients For the Salad (Serves 4)
1 Cup of Quinoa
2 Cups of Low-Sodium Vegetable Stock
1 lb Shrimp, peeled and de-veined
Juice of Half a Lemon
1 Tablespoon of Paprika
½ Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
¼ Teaspoon of Salt
1/8 Teaspoon of Pepper
1 Teaspoon of Olive Oil
½ of a Red Pepper, diced
½ Cup of Canned Corn Kernels, drained and rinsed
½ Cup of Canned Black Beans, drained and rinsed
½ Cup of Frozen Shelled Edamame
10 Grape Tomatoes, halved
¼ Cup Red Onion, finely minced
1 Teaspoon of Fresh Cilantro, chopped

Ingredients for the Jalapeno Cilantro Dressing
A handful of Fresh Cilantro
1 Small Garlic Clove
1 Jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
1 Teaspoon of Vinegar
The Juice and Zest of 1 Lime
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1/3 Cup of Water
¼ Teaspoon of Salt
1/8 Teaspoon of Pepper
Start by bringing the vegetable stock and quinoa to a boil in a small sauce pan. Reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid. Cook quinoa over medium/low heat for 10-15 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the shrimp with the lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Toss to evenly coat the shrimp in all the seasonings.
Add the teaspoon of olive oil to a medium skillet and heat for a minute over high heat. Add the contents of the bowl to the skillet. Cook shrimp for 1-2 minutes per side as to not overcook it.
When the quinoa is cooked, fluff with a fork, and remove from heat. Place the quinoa in a medium bowl along with the diced red pepper, corn, black beans, edamame, tomatoes, and red onion. Toss the salad together. Chill in the refrigerator for at least thirty minutes. (If you so desire, this salad can also be served warm.)
To make the dressing; add the cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, vinegar, lime zest, lime juice, olive oil, water, salt, and pepper to a food processor. Puree until the dressing is smooth.
Pour the dressing over the quinoa and mix to evenly combine. Top the salad with the cooked shrimp and the chopped fresh cilantro for garnish.


This salad can be done however you like. As long as you have the seasonings for the shrimp, the ingredients for the dressing, and quinoa on hand you can add and subtract vegetables as you see fit.


After this meal I now feel so alert and awake. I am ready to take on the world…Well, at least until 9:30 when it is more socially acceptable to fall asleep. I mean, I’m not 21 anymore.

Pickled Peach and Fennel Salad

As most of you know, I have an addiction to all things Bravo.
I love me some housewives, but above all I loooooove the show Top Chef. This season has been pretty good so far. I mean it would be better if Fabio was on it but, even when he is on the show he can’t seem to stay around for long… Stupid ham-booo-er-ger challenge!
A few episodes back during the outdoor barbeque challenge, one of the chefs, Paul (PS He is my new fave since my girl Grayson got the boot), made a pickled peach slaw or something like that. Ever since then my taste buds have been yearning for some fresh peaches.
I know they aren’t in season but it has been three weeks since the episode aired and I can not get the idea of a pickled peach salad off my mind.
So, I am giving into my craving from Top Chef and going for it with this little gem of a recipe.
Ingredients For Pickling Liquid
¾ Cup Lime Juice
½ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
¼ Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon of Salt
Add all the ingredients to a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer. Whisk until all the sugar granules have dissolved. Simmer for five minutes then remove from heat and set on the side to cool.
Ingredients for Salad (Serves 4)
2 Peaches, pit removed and thinly sliced
1 Bulb of Fennel, core removed and thinly sliced
½ A Red Onion, thinly sliced
¼ Teaspoon of Salt
¼ Teaspoon of Pepper
5oz. Mixed Baby Greens
1/3 Cup of the Pickling Liquid
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

Add the sliced peaches, fennel, and red onion to a large flat Pyrex dish. After the pickling liquid has cooled, add it to the dish with the peaches, fennel, and red onion. Toss the fruit and veggies in the mixture.
Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours.
When the pickling process is complete, add the peaches, fennel, and red onion to the baby greens.
Reserve the 1/3 cup of the pickling liquid. Add that along with the olive oil to the salad. Toss it together and serve. You can garnish with some chopped fennel fronds, goat cheese, or walnuts…or all three!
Pickled peaches: great as a snack and on top of a salad or sandwich. My craving has subsided.
I still think that no season will compare to the two seasons that featured the love of my life, (and my husband’s) Fabio. Sigh…I am a sucker for an accent, and apparently so is my husband.
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