This past year was full of ups and downs. More downs that ups I would say. I had a breakdown and I stopped blogging for two months.The most important thing is that these days we’re all happy and healthy and that’s what matters the most.
Linking up with Ashley. Thanks to her I was inspired to put together that post which brought so many memories.
This year was definitely a self-portraits year. I hadn’t taken so many self portraits in my entire life as I took in this single year.
… and every single year, on this particular day I listen to this song and sing along!!! It makes me feel better about my New Year Resolutions and about myself, because this year is even worse than the previous ones. This year I have no single resolution I promised to do, achieve, accomplish.
I don’t know if that happened to you, but it happened to me twice.
First time when I got coffee maker. Before, I used to drink a la Turkish coffee and I was just fine. I was saying that I actually don’t need a coffee maker. After I got it I though: how could I lived for soooo long without it?!
The same happened this year. I feel like I’m happy with what I have, speaking about my kitchen tools. I mean, I need this or that, but at the end I always can go around and find a substitute if I’m missing one or two things (like, for example cookie cutter). I think everybody does that.
Till now, when (which these days means “every day”) I wanted a smoothie I would use my blender. This poor thing blends and chops almost anything for me.
Now I have “frozen treat & drink maker”. To not to sound like I’m writing a review for which I got paid (I didn’t) I will just say it’s called Ninja and I love it. I don’t know how I could lived without a mixer like that for so many years ;)
A few days ago when I made a smoothie it actually looked and tasted like ice cram. Gosh… so good!
Today for breakfast, I fixed myself something I call “Iced Inka Milk Drink”… with whipped cream and chocolate on top(!!!!). That’s right – for breakfast.
This is Inka:
Simply it tastes like coffee. Not quite the same but very similar.
Iced Inka Milk Drink:
Ice cubes of milk and inka (equal amount of each). I used 12 small cubes of each.
Blend it together adding a little bit of not frozen milk.
Topped with whipped cream and shredded chocolate.
And the whole world just stopped turning for a few minutes.
Me, my breakfast and an interesting email… .
…and if you remember me talking about my daughter sleeping with almost all her teddy bears (toys) and books – here is the evidence:
Aren’t you happy that Christmas is over?! I am! Now I can’t wait till those stupid Christmas commercials on tv are over with as well.
Most of my Christmas time I was too exhausted to enjoy it, and not very happy with what was going on around me. At the end I welcomed Tuesday with such a big relieve. At least we had a great weather on Christmas Day and we spent our morning in a park testing new playing tools.
As for Christmas without gifts we ended up with bunch of stuff, mostly our daughter’s, I’m tired of cleaning and picking up off. Yep, I’m grumpy like that. I’m really happy she likes every single piece of what she got, but the best thing she got (in my opinion) is a big teddy bear. In this case there is almost no space left in her crib for her to sleep on. Everything is covered with teddy bears, and books. One more thing and she will have to sleep outside.
We ended up with a tent even!!! I was hoping she wouldn’t like it and I will have a reason to pack it up and store it in our garage. I was wrong. Not only she loves but our dog as well. Example!? She slept all night in this tent – the dog not our daughter. Our daughter was about to do the same, but I wouldn’t let her.
Those few toys make the least mess. They take space but nothing more. I can live with them around. After our in-laws left I pack most of new toys and and hid it – for further use, of course (mhm!). We both got tired of walking around our home like it’s a minefield. I left her a few things to play with and even with those few every morning I go through a heartbreak when I see our living room… . I’m just weird like that. You would think that after almost 2 years with a kid in the house I finally got used to to living around toy mess. But the truth is different… .
So, I complained today: for the holiday there is no snow, no rain, no tree, nomoczka, no poppy seeds roll nor bigos. I didn’t have that last year neither or two years ago… . Since I came to U.S Christmas time always reminds me of Polish food more than on any other time year round.
Back in Poland my mom would always cook moczka and layer gingerbread cake. The entire house was filled with the aroma of gingerbread spices, chocolate and cooked moczka. I know, I’m talking about moczka like it’s something that everybody knows about. In MY Christmas this is the main dish. I don’t have to have anything else to feel like Christmas is here. Just give me a cup of this chocolaty-fruity-nuty-gingerbready pudding like something and I am the happiest person on the entire world. Every single household who makes it has it’s own recipe. This dish is magic and I can not make it… . I’ve tried once and it didn’t turn out tasty. Only my mom knows how to make the best moczka. So it seems that I will have to wait for Christmas in Poland to finally taste my favorite Christmas dish. How many years will that be?! I think it would be much faster if I learned how to make it – lazy me.
Anyway this post it’s not about moczka. It’s about gingerbread cookies I finally made today. They were inspired by Polish Mama on the Prairie after I read one of her post in which she was sharing her gingerbread cookies recipe. Before that I wasn’t planning to bake anything Polish.
I’ve decided that if I want to make gingerbread cookies they need to be fluffy and thick and reminds me, at least, a little of pierniczki toruńskie. While looking for a good recipe I found out that a good gingerbread cake or cookies should be made at least two weeks before the day you’re planning to eat them, sometimes months before. It’s because they get very hard after they are baked and they soften after resting for long period of time. So as you probably figure it out, there is not time this year to experiment with those kind of recipes.
Finally I found something that I thought will work this year (go here for original recipe in Polish). Funny enough this is not recipe for Polish gingerbread cookies but for German called Lebkuchen.
It took me two days to make them. On the first day I made candied orange and lemon zest and gingerbread spice mix.
Ingredients for the gingerbread spice mix:
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp cloves
3/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp nutmeg
10 seeds of star anise
To make candied orange and lemon zest took me a little bit longer.
Zest from 2 peeled oranges and 1 lemon. Cut into strips, boiled for about 10 minutes. Drained and dried. When they were dry I cooked them in a mixture of:
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
until the liquid was almost gone.
Left on cooling racks overnight.
Ingredients for gingerbread cookies:
1 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
15 Tbsp blended almonds (make almond flour)
3 tsp gingerbread spice mix
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup honey
3/4 stick of butter (6 Tbsp)
1/2 cup candied zest*
In a medium bowl mix the dry ingredients: flour, almonds, gingerbread spices, baking soda and powder, cinnamon.
Heat the honey and butter in a sauce pan over a low heat until the butter is melted. Let it cool down until lukewarm and pour over mixed dry ingredients. Add candied zest. You can use spoon or mixer at this point and mix it well. Cover and leave to in a cool place.
The dough may look very sticky and hard to shape any cookies from it. Don’t worry after it cools down it gets harder and easy to work with.
When the dough is ready preheat oven to 355 F. Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll the dough into a small balls not bigger than a medium size walnut. Place them on baking sheet about 1 inch apart. They will rise and spread.
Bake for about 15 minutes.
Transfer to a cooling rack and let it cool completely.
Decorate the next day.
I have never had them before but as I can assume they are going to be better and better the longer you keep them. Tomorrow I’m planning to cover them with powder sugar icing or melted chocolate. Can’t decide, yet.
Anyway, I am happy that something feels like Christmas, finally. It more smells like feels but it doesn’t matter. I’ve been so focused on baking and preparing sweets that I actually forgot that christmas dinner is something more that fudge, pies and cookies only. I need to change it tomorrow or we will end up eating pasta on Saturday… .
* In my opinion (and my husband’s) those cookies have too much candied zest. They taste really zesty. I am not sure but I might boiled the candied zest for too long and that’s why they came out too hard as for my taste. They might be ok if you want to eat them just like that, but if you want to use them in those cookies (or any other cookies) they seem to be to hard and stick to teeth (a lot). Next time I will use zest madethe way I always make it.
So… In the period of the last few days I’ve peeked at this cake (and this) several times. Those are actually the same cakes with the same recipe but called different. Anyway, first of all I was too sick to do anything around the house, especially to cook or bake. So I was just looking and drooling and thinking how good it would’ve tasted if I had it in front of me. I had a bag of fresh cranberries talking to me from the fridge every time I would open it: “bake that cake”, “bake that darn cake”… .
Finally yesterday I got extremely bored and sick of being sick and doing nothing. I asked my husband if he would want to try this cranberry almond coffee cake and he said that he doesn’t like cakes with coffee. I said there is no coffee in it but his answer got me thinking, though. I looked at the recipe one more time just to be sure if it really doesn’t have any coffee. NOP.
So, Why is it called coffee cake then?!
Of course I googled it. The answer for obvious: “because it goes well with coffee”. I’m not kidding. Here it’s explained better: wiki.answers.
My husband was really satisfied with that answer. He said that sure, if there is no coffee and looking at those ingredients he may even like it. Woooo…. ;)
Coughing and trying not to loose my lungs I pulled myself together and fixed it really fast. I did not have almonds nor almond extract. Instead I used walnuts and vanilla extract. It turned out delicious!!! After it was done I’ve noticed my husband sneaking to the kitchen and snacking on it all the time.
It’s tart and sweet at the same time with a little bit of crunch that we got from those walnuts. It’s seems to be the perfect combo for a cake.
Today it’s almost gone.
Even our daughter tried it with a little help of the dog which got so spoiled lately that she will take your food right out of your plate or hand if you don’t watch her. She wasn’t like that before. We still love her, though ;) If you look closely you’ll see that our daughter doesn’t look very healthy as well. Red eyes, red chicks. Today she has 100.6 F temperature.
Poor Little Thing. Yesterday she was just laying on the sofa cuddling me or her teddy bear and watching Next Iron Chef… which sucked sooooo bad, btw. I mean the show was great but the end was terrible!!! Can’t believe Zakarian is the Next Iron Chef!!!
Even sick she still has her funny and playful attitude. She smiles a lot, laughs and makes funny faces when I point my camera at her. That’s my girl!
Actually, this cake didn’t take my sickness away but it improved my mood a lot… . Now not only I suffer a terrible cough but heartburn as well. It’s worth it, though.
In our house there is never lack of oranges, lemons and grapefruits. Not only that I like to eat them (yes, I like to eat lemons!) but I really enjoy the smell of citrus peels. So many times I’ve left cut peels on the kitchen counter just to let that beautiful scent to spread all around the kitchen. It works like air freshener. I know that many people make their own essential oils using citrus peels. I’ve never tired it but I’m planning to after I run out of my recent supplies.
I do use my citrus peels in cooking and baking. Yesterday I made raspberry sandwich cookies with lemon and orange zest.
My husband wasn’t a big fan of the raspberry jam inside so I left a few plain cookies just for him. He tried one with marshmallow topping but at the end he wanted to eat them just plain. (Recipe on the end of this post)
Speaking about baking. This is my new scar which is aching sooo bad… .
Despite my terrible cold (or whatever virus I’ve have for the last week or more) I managed today to make a new supplies of a cut and preserved in sugar grapefruit zest. I learned it from my mom who always would make it before the Christmas holiday season as she always used a lot of orange zest in her Christmas baking. I like it so much that I always keep a jar of ready to use zest in my fridge, no matter what season of the year it is. She would always use only orange zest, but I’ve learned that grapefruit and lemon is great for use as well.
So after I ate my grapefruit for breakfast the funny part started:
Making it you need to remember to wash the skin really good. The best way is to sprinkle baking soda over the fruit and scrub it. Then you need to get rid of the white part of the peel as much as you can because it’s very bitter. Than, you need to cut your peels with a sharp knife in a tiny pieces.
Transfer it to a small glass jar, sprinkle it with a teaspoon (or two) of white sugar. Shake it well, cover and store in the fridge for months. If you have new peel you can just add it to the old one as a new layer. Every time you put some new peels you need to remember to add a teaspoon of sugar and shake it.
It’s ready to use anytime you need it: for cakes, cookies, salads, or to flavor meat (yep, it’s really good with meat, just don’t overuse it).
You can not only use it for cooking and baking but in body scrubs as well. Today I made a new batch and it smells sooo heavenly.
This is my recipe:
1/2 cup while sugar,
1/2 cup packed brown sugar,
fresh squeezed juice from half lemon,
fresh squeezed juice from two parts of grapefruit,
1 tablespoon olive oil,
1 tablespoon preserved in sugar orange zest,
10 drops (each) essential oils grapefruit and orange sweet.
If the mixture is too wet just keep adding the sugar.
In the meantime my daughter was doing her stuff which normaly means sneaking behing my back and doing what she shouldn’t be doing:
Do you see that guilty look on her face… She knows she can’t take things off of the caunter but she always does it anyway. I bet you noticed those WAY TOO BIG socks. Yes, those are mine but she loves to wear them as well as many of my clothes.
I didn’t have any lemon zest to photograph today as I do not use it as much as grapefruit and orange but I found a website with22 ways of how to use Lemon. You might want to check it out.
I used it yesterday to make my cookies and last time when I made granola.
Speaking about cookies.
As I promised this is the recipe:
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. white sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon zest (grated or made as I make it)
1 Tbsp. orange zest
1 large egg
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raspberry jam
1. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until light, 2 minutes. Beat in 2/3 cup sugar, zests, then egg and salt. Beat in flour 1 cup at a time. Divide dough in half and form into 2 disks. Wrap in plastic foil (or parchment paper) and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. On a floured surface roll out a disk to 1/4-inch thickness. In my case those disks started to crack and stick to the surface so I used more flour for the surface and I used my palm of my hand to press the dough until it reached the right thickness. Cut out cookies with a 2 1/2 -inch cutter.I used my vitamins bottle cap.Placed cut out cookies 1/2 inch apart on sheets. Gather dough scraps, reroll and cut more cookies. Sprinkle cookies with sugar. Repeat with remaining dough disk.
3. Bake cookies until golden around edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Let the cookies to cool then transfer to racks or on the plate.
4. Spread 1 tsp. jam on bottom of a cookie; sandwich with another. Repeat with remaining cookies.
I think those cookies can be eaten just plain.
So, those are mine ideas how to use citrus zest. I was thinking about using it when making candles but making candles is on my list-to-do. Never made them before but really want to try. Someday… someday :)
Just want to let you know that my blog might be in a total mess for the next few days. I’m moving to a different WordPress theme. I really like two of them and can’t choose which to pick. Because of that I’ll be messing with my blog a lot. Until I’m done I probably won’t be posting anything new. On Thursday I’ll be atWorld Moms Blog so feel free to stop by and say hi.
Till then I hope everybody is busy with cleaning, cooking, buying gifts and pampering your pretty selves to be ready for Christmas.
Today, we’ve tried to take some pictures for holiday’s cards but…hm… I forgot that my daughter is not one year old anymore and she moves very fast not to mention she does not want to sit in one spot for a second (especially in a spot that I want her to sit).
If I am not mistaken it was Marcus Samuelsson who said during one of the Food Network shows “Next Iron Chef” that biscuits come from Poland. (shame on you Samuelsson, shame on you!)
I lived in Poland for 26 years and I had never seen on heard about biscuits before I came to US. When I first heard that word: “biscuit” immediately I thought about sweet cracker. Actually I would have been right if I was in GB but I am not so I had to get used to to a biscuit being a flour-based savory bun :)
I don’t actually care much about the name. I like ’em both ways.
What I care is that their origin is not Poland – sweet nor savory!!! – mister world class chef and “Best Chef of New York” (2003).
I made those biscuits weeks ago but I am really behind (and lost) in posting pictures and recipes… .
I really liked how their tasted but my main mistake was too much flour and overworked dough. They came out a little bit too thick and doughy inside.
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup grated Cheddar
2 Tbsp. chopped green onions (green part)
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1 cup cold whole milk
2 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter for brushing (optional)
Preheat oven to 425F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder and mix well. Add cold butter, cheese, green onions and flax seed meal. Use a blender or fingertips to mix in butter until mixture is crumbly. It’s ok if a few pieces of cheese and butter remains visible and not mixed well. Add milk and gently mix to moisten. Do not overwork the dough, it should be rough and sticky.
Turn dough out onto a large floured work surface and kneed gently into ball. Roll dough into a 1/2-inch thick circle. Cut out small biscuits using 1 inch cookie cutter (I used a glass bigger than 1 inch in diameter). Place biscuits about 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Lightly brush tops with melted butter.
Bake until lightly browned on top, 15-18 minutes. ( I baked mine 20 minutes).
Who would have thought… me embracing meatloaf. Me, not really a carnivore making a post glorifying a meat-full dish. Here I am. Doing exactly that. Once again I blame my pregnancy for that. A few nights ago I asked my husband to bring me artisan bread and baked cornish game chicken from the store… . Ridiculous. That idea came straight from me. (really!?!?!)
Anyway, for the last few weeks I’ve craved pasztet but I am not willing to pay for it a small fortune in Polish or Russian store, and I actually didn’t see any in our local Polish store last time we went there. I planned to make one at home but vegetarian (carrot) kind. I bought everything and on the day that I was about to make it I figured I don’t have the right baking dish to make it. So I put everything back and waited until our next grocery-shopping trip. On the day I got that dish I came back home and noticed that I used almost all the carrot that was supposed to be for carrot pasztet AND I didn’t get any at the store.
The idea for making a meatloaf came to my mind from nowhere. I don’t know why. I’d never made it before and from what I remember I had not tried it and if I did I have no memories of doing so.
Of course my crazy idea had to be discussed with my husband. We didn’t want to waste that much meat in case if it didn’t come our good or not edible at all, and he wasn’t sure if a meatloaf will be good when made from ground turkey breasts meat.
So, I looked it up on Internet and I found a recipe from Barefoot Contessa. He approved it and I started to cook.
Her meatloaf is huge so I actually had to change everything. I didn’t have Worcestershire sauce nor thyme leaves, and I make a few extra changes.
1 tsp fresh ginger root, grated on the smallest grating surface, so it look almost like a paste.
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
salt, pepper to taste
Preheat oven tp 325 F.
Over medium-low heat cook onion, olive oil, salt, pepper, carrot, ginger root for about 10 minutes. Add vegetable broth, tomato paste and soy sauce. Mix well and let it cool to room temperature.
Next combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, egg, onion mixture. Mix well and shape in a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan line with aluminum foil. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. (A pan with hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking).
I really enjoyed the ginger after taste. I don’t know how to describe it but the first word that comes to my mid is “refreshing”. Really!
This meatloaf actually tasted like pasztet… So imagine how happy I was after I tasted it. I wasn’t the same, but better bird in the hand than two in the bush… right? I’m happy with the final effect and I know I’ll be making it more often.