Blueberry Kolachy

Blueberry Kolachy

I have fond memories of making these delicate cookies with my Mother. I think of her every time I make them.  I made a batch for a friend the other night, using homemade blueberry pie filling. I have also used cherry, fig, apple, cheese and nut fillings. I made my own blueberry pie filling, but you could use store bought, if you prefer. You can also finish off the cookies with a light dusting of powdered sugar, if you like.

One problem people sometimes have, when making kolachy, is having them open when baking. When you fold the dough over the filling, give it a good pinch. Then fold it over and pinch it again. Also, don’t leave too much flour on the dough. It will prevent the dough from sticking to itself and will cause it to pop open. Some people like to moisten the dough a little, before sealing. That works, too,. I just find the double pinch method works fine for me. Important to know- even the ones that pop open will taste amazing!!

 

Blueberry Kolachy

Dough

3 sticks butter

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

3 cups flour

Blueberry Filling– recipe follows

Powdered sugar, optional

Mix dough ingredients together and chill well before using.

Roll out chilled dough into squares or circles. Spoon a little blueberry filling into the center and pinch 2 ends or corners together. Bake in 350-degree oven for about 12 minutes, or until golden on edges. Cool and dust with powdered sugar. Makes 4-5 dozen.

Blueberry Pie Filling

3 1/2 c. blueberries

3/4 c. sugar, or to taste

1/4 c. Clear Gel*

1 c. water

1 T. lemon juice

In saucepan, bring blueberries and sugar to a boil, stirring often. Combine clear gel with water and lemon juice and add to the blueberry mixture. Return to the boil and cook until thickened and bubbly. Makes 4 cups. You might not need the whole batch for the cookies.

*Clear gel is a modified cornstarch. It is used in commercial pie fillings and in homemade pie fillings, as well. Unlike regular cornstarch, Clear Gel retains it’s thickness, even if you reheat it. You can find it online or in some specialty food stores.

 

Cheesy Chocolate Hamantaschen

Cheesy Chocolate Hamantaschen

A friend shared this recipe recently, so I had to try these cookies. The filling for these traditional Jewish cookies, is inspired by the filling used in cannoli. I made a few changes from the recipe he shared, and was very happy with how they turned out. The dough, which contains no sugar, has a wonderful, pastry-like texture. It pairs up well with the filling.

They aren’t a gooey, overly sweet cookie, which I really like. These would be great served as a dessert. They pair up nicely with tea or coffee. I confess,  I had a couple for breakfast with my morning tea. I would definitely make these again.Thanks, Jared, for sharing this recipe.

.

 

Cheesy Chocolate Hamantaschen

 

Filling:

¼ c. ricotta cheese

5 oz. cream cheese

½ c. powdered sugar

1 t. cinnamon

½ c. mini chocolate chips

Dough:

½ c. (1 stick) butter, softened

3 oz. cream cheese

½ c. half and half or milk

1 t. vanilla

½ t. salt

2½c. flour

Topping:

1 egg white

2 T. water

½ c. chocolate chips

Powdered sugar, optional

 

Prepare the filling. Beat together the ricotta and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in the milk and cinnamon, then stir in the chips. Chill until ready to use. Make the dough by mixing the cream cheese and butter together. Add the milk, vanilla and salt and mix until smooth. Stir in the flour until a stiff dough forms. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, or put in a bag and chill at least an hour – or up to a couple of days – before proceeding. On lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a little less than ¼ – inch thickness. Cut dough out into 2-3 inch circles. Place a scant teaspoon of filling in middle of each dough circle. Combine the egg white with water and beat together. Brush a little of the egg white mixture over the edges of the dough circle. Fold the dough up in thirds towards the center, pinching the edges to seal. They should look like little three-corner hats. Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling the scraps. Brush folded cookies with a little more of the egg white mixture. Place on lightly greased cookie sheets and bake in a 375-degree- oven for 15 minutes, or until golden on the bottom. Remove to cooling rack. Once cooled, melt the chocolate chips and drizzle over the cookies. You can top with some powdered sugar, if you like. Makes 2½-3 dozen.

 

 

 

 

Homemade Calzones

Ham and Swiss Calzones

Calzones are traditionally made with Italian/pizza type fillings, but you can fill them with all sorts of other ingredients. They are kind of a cross between a sandwich and a pizza. Because the fillings are baked  inside, calzones are wonderfully portable and great to pack for lunch.  I like to make a batch and freeze some of them. I use one of three recipes for dough, listed below, then swap out fillings depending on what I am in the mood for. Get creative and have fun.

Basic Homemade Dough

This recipe is enough for 8 large calzones, more if you make them smaller.

1 packet active dry yeast
1 t. sugar
1 2/3 c. warm water
4-4½ c. flour
2 t. salt

In mixing bowl combine yeast with 3 cups of flour, sugar and the salt. Add the warm water and stir together, mixing well. Gradually add more flour until soft dough forms. Place dough on floured surface and knead until stretchy and smooth, about 10 minutes. Allow dough to rest 3 minutes and knead a few more times. Place in bowl and cover. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Punch dough down.

Assembly: Divide into 8 or more pieces. Cover pieces until ready to roll out. Roll out a piece of dough into an 8-inch circle. Add fillings to half of the dough and wet edges with water. Fold over and press edges firmly to seal. Cut a couple of slits in top of calzone to allow steam to vent. Repeat with remaining dough.

Finishing /Baking: Place calzones on greased baking sheets. Cover calzones and allow to rise 30 minutes or so. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

 

Variations:
Whole Wheat: You can add 1-2 cups whole wheat or spelt flour to replace the same amount of white flour for a whole grain calzone.
Rye: Add 1-2 cups of rye flour to replace the same amount of white flour. This is great for the Reuben calzones.

 

 

Fillings: Traditional fillings could include shredded mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, pepperoni, cooked sausage, chopped onions or peppers, pizza sauce (some prefer to serve sauce on the side) olives or anything you might top a pizza with.
Note: For any filling use ingredients that are cold or at room temperature. Vegetables should be cooked as raw veggies will give off water and may make your calzone soggy. If using a sauce make sure it is on the thick side. Sometimes I brush the dough with a little oil first to keep the dough from getting soggy.

Toppings: You can brush the top of the calzones with an egg wash if you like for a shinier top. Apply just before baking. If you want you can also sprinkle the tops with seeds- but use an egg wash to make sure the seeds will stick.

 

Ham and Swiss  Calzones

1 recipe calzone dough, rye variation preferred

1 1/2 -2 lb. thin sliced ham- more or less

3/4  lb.  sliced Swiss cheese

Thousand island dressing- recipe follows

1 egg , beaten

In the middle of the dough place 1 1/2  ounces of the Swiss cheese, a spoonful of the dressing  and 2-3 ounces of the ham. Brush the edge of the dough with water. Fold over the dough in half and press the edges to seal. Brush the edge again with water and roll the edge over again. It will give you a prettier look and seal the calzone better. Repeat with remaining dough and fillings. Place calzones on greased baking sheets- or on a baking sheet with a silicone liner or parchment paper liner. You will end up with 8 calzones in all. Only put 4 on one baking sheet. Cover and let rest 15 minutes while preheating the oven to 400 degrees. Before placing calzones in the oven brush with beaten egg and make a few slashes with a knife to help steam to escape while baking. I put 2 baking sheets in the oven at the same time and switch them halfway through baking. Bake in a preheated 400-degree for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. If baking 2 at once switch them after 10 minutes or so. Cool slightly before eating. Serve warm and refrigerate leftovers. Makes 8.

 

Thousand Island Dressing

Combine equal parts of ketchup, mayo and sweet pickle relish. You likely need at least a cup for this recipe. I made extra so the sandwiches could be dipped in extra dressing, if desired.

Reuben Calzones

1 recipe homemade dough, rye version
1½ -2 lbs. sliced corned beef
½ lb. sliced Swiss cheese
2 c. rinsed and drained sauerkraut
Thousand Island dressing
Caraway seeds, optional
Make dough and assemble 8 calzones dividing the ingredients among them. Dressing can be added in the calzones or served on the side. Use an egg wash and sprinkle on a few caraway seeds , if desired. Makes 8.

Curried Vegetable Calzones

1 recipe calzone dough
2 T. oil
1 onion, sliced
1 c. sliced carrots
1c. chopped cauliflower
1 c. green beans, sliced
1-2 T. curry powder, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in skillet and sauté onion until tender. Add the rest of the veggies and cook until tender. Sometimes I cover the pan and turn down the heat to steam them. Once veggies are tender drain and set aside to cool. Season to taste with curry powder and salt and pepper. Divide mixture among 8 calzones. Makes 8.

 

Spinach and Artichoke Calzones

1 recipe calzone dough, whole wheat works well in this recipe.
1 can (about 15 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained well and chopped
1 package (10 oz.) frozen spinach, thawed, and drained well
2 c. shredded mild cheese or 1c. crumbled feta cheese
1 T. lemon juice
Salt and hot pepper sauce to taste

Combine ingredients and mix well. Divide among 8 calzones. Makes 8.

Freezing Calzones: Note: you can freeze them baked or unbaked. Just place calzones on wax paper on a baking sheet and place in the freezer until frozen. Remove from baking sheet and wrap in plastic wrap, foil or wax paper and place in freezer bags. Label and place back in the freezer.

If you froze them unbaked- thaw in fridge overnight- unwrap but cover loosely with plastic wrap and a towel. Thaw in fridge at least 8- 12 hours. Place on greased baking sheet and place on counter at room temperature for another hour or two, covered with a towel. Bake in oven as normal.

If you froze them baked- you can heat up in a microwave- about 3 minutes per calzone. You can also warm them in a conventional oven. Place on baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Cover with foil if it starts to get too brown.

Reuben Calzones

Reuben Calzones

 

Honey Pomegranate Glazed Ribs

Honey-Pomegranate Glazed Ribs

While I prefer cooking ribs on the grill, you can cook them indoors with good results, too. Sometimes the weather isn’t right for cooking them outside. But, we had unseasonably warm weather yesterday, so I could have fired up the grill. Of course, once I realized I was out of charcoal, cooking the ribs inside was the only option.

 

I like my ribs to be fall off the bone tender, but still have a crispy glaze. I decided to use a combination of moist and dry heat to get the result I wanted. I finished them off with a sauce made from pomegranate molasses and honey. They were really good. Here is what I did.

 

 

Honey-Pomegranate Glazed Ribs

1 slab ribs, cut into 3-4 rib portions

salt and pepper

1 c. apple cider vinegar

2 T. soy sauce

1 T. hot sauce

1 t. garlic powder

1 t. smoked paprika

Glaze:

3/4 c. pomegranate molasses*

1/2 c. honey- or more to taste

1 T. hot sauce, or more to taste

Place rib portions in a large pan and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the vinegar, soy sauce, hot sauce, garlic powder and smoked paprika. Cover and chill for a couple of hours. You could even do this the night before. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place rack in large baking dish. Pour 2 cups of water into the bottom of the pan. Place rib portions on the rack. Pour over the marinade. Season with salt and pepper then place in the oven and bake for 1 hour. Turn heat down to 400 degrees.  Remove ribs from oven. Place ribs in a fresh baking pan. Combine glaze ingredients and brush all over the ribs. Return to oven and bake 20-30 minutes longer, or until glaze has gotten sticky and browned a little.

*Pomegranate molasses is available in some specialty stores, or you can make your own by boiling down pomegranate juice until it gets thickened.

Pasta with Creamy Spinach Sauce

Pasta with Creamy Spinach Sauce

I was always a fan of spinach. Even as a kid. When my mom would make Pork Chops Florentine, I would eat all of the spinach. She learned to add a lot more than the original recipe called for. I love spinach raw in salads, in soups, creamed, baked in casseroles. When I grow spinach, I will often graze on it while working in my garden. It is no surprise that I love this recipe, then.

The sauce reminds me of creamed spinach, also a favorite childhood dish of mine. The recipe makes enough to generously sauce a pound of pasta. It is very tasty and easy to make. Great when you need a home made meal, but don’t have a lot of time.

The recipe uses frozen spinach, but you can use fresh spinach , if you prefer. Just cook down 12-16 oz. of fresh spinach and use like the frozen spinach.

Creamy Spinach Sauce

1/4 c. butter

1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed and drained

1 t. salt

1 c. ricotta cheese

1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 c. milk

 

Heat spinach in butter for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and heat gently until warmed through. Do not boil sauce. Toss sauce over hot, cooked pasta. Makes 2 1/2 cups, enough for about a pound of pasta.

 

Classic Egg Custard

Classic Egg Custard

There are dishes that will always be connected with childhood for me. Custard is one of them. I remember helping my Mother make it when I was a little girl. It was so simple, and sort of magical to me. A few ingredients, beaten together, sprinkled with a little nutmeg,  and baked. Once cooked and chilled, it became this creamy, soft dessert.

I had forgotten how much I like egg custard. It had been years since I made it. Recently, a friend asked me to make him some egg custard. I’m glad he did.

The nice thing about custard, is that it is perfect served just as it is. You can also dress it up. Fresh fruit, whipped cream, shaved chocolate, chocolate sauce, maple syrup and nuts are just a few of the things you can use.

I used vanilla extract in my custard, but you can use other flavorings, too.

So here is the recipe. I used custard cups, but it can be baked in a shallow casserole dish, too. The custards are baked in a water bath, to help them cook evenly, and not to crack.

Classic Egg Custard

2 c. milk or half and half- I used half and half

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 c. sugar

2 t. vanilla

pinch of salt

nutmeg for sprinkling on top

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Put some water on to boil. Beat together the milk or half and half and eggs until well blended. Add the sugar, vanilla and salt and beat well. You want the mixture well mixed and smooth. Divide mixture between 4 (10 oz.) custard cups or 6 (6oz.) custard cups or  an oven safe baking dish. Sprinkle the surface with some fresh grated nutmeg. Place cups or pan in a larger baking pan and pour the very hot water around the cups about halfway up the cups. Bake in the oven for about an hour or until custard sets. Remove from oven and carefully remove from the hot water bath. Allow to cool a little before placing in fridge until ready to serve. Custard is traditionally served cold, but it is pretty good when still warm too. Serves 4-6.

Black and White Cookies

Black and White Cookies

These lovely cookies are always a lot of fun to make and to serve. The name comes from the mix of both white and dark frostings used to decorate them. Black and White Cookies are a classic.  They are tender, cake like cookies and one of my favorites. After the cookies are baked, you brush them with both white and dark chocolate frostings. The effect is dramatic and tasty. If you have never tried one, you really should.

Black and White Cookies

1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter – room temp.
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. lemon extract or
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Frosting:
4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup boiling water
1 ounce bitter or semi sweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter until fluffy. Stir in eggs, milk, vanilla, extracts, until smooth. Fold in flours, baking powder, salt and stir until mixed. Using a soup spoon (or a small ice cream scoop) drop spoonfuls of dough onto baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of room between them. Bake until edges are browned – 20-30 minutes.
Frosting: Place confectioner’s sugar in a bowl. Gradually stir in boiling water until you have a thick spreadable mixture. Remove half of frosting to a bowl and stir in melted chocolate. With a brush, decorate each cookie half with white frosting, half with chocolate. Let set until thoroughly dry.
About 2 dozen cookies.

Homemade Pineapple Rum

Pineapple Rum

I make all sorts of homemade liqueurs. This is one of my favorites. Pairing pineapple and rum is such a natural thing to do. Their tropical flavors blend together so well.

 

You can flavor rum with any number of fruits, flowers and spices. I have paired rum with citrus fruit, vanilla and more.

 

I think my favorite is still pineapple with rum.  So simple to make- just cut up pineapple and put in a jar. Add the rum- light or dark- and leave the jar in a cool, dark place long enough for the pineapple to flavor the rum. The hardest part is just waiting for it to mature!!

 

Pineapple Rum

½ lb. fresh pineapple
3 c. rum

Cut  pineapple into chunks and place in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add rum, close jar, and steep for 3 weeks. You can leave it longer, if you like. Strain out the pineapple. You can just toss out the pineapple, or sweeten it and use it in desserts. Once you have strained out the pineapple, you want to filter the rum to make sure it is clear. I filter mine through coffee filters or you can use layers of cheesecloth. Mature at least 1 month for better flavor.  Makes 3 cups.

Mini Cocoa Love Hearts

Minty Cocoa Hearts

If you are looking for a simple chocolate treat- that requires no cooking – try Minty Cocoa  Love Hearts. This easy to make candy is made with just a few ingredients. The “dough” is mixed and rolled out. Then you just cut them out into little hearts. They taste great and they are also a nice project for kids. There is no special equipment needed other than a tiny heart-shaped cookie cutter. So if time is short, and you really want to make something homemade this Valentine’s Day- these could be the answer.

 

 

 

Minty Cocoa Hearts

9 c. powdered sugar
1 c. cocoa
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. water
2 t. peppermint extract

In large bowl combine ingredients until well blended. You can add more water, if needed, 1 teaspoon at a time. Divide mixture into 2 pieces and shape in balls. Place each between sheets of wax paper and roll out to 1/4 -inch thickness. Cut out with tiny cutters and place on foil-lined tray. Chill several hours, then wrap up in colored foil or place in tiny candy bags. Makes 80 (1-inch) candies.

Chocolate Waffles

Chocolate Waffles

These waffles can make a great start to Valentine’s Day. Chocolate for breakfast? Why not? They also make a wonderful dessert.  Top them with whatever you like. I enjoy topping them with whipped cream and berries. You can also top with a scoop of ice cream and hot fudge.  If you like, you can even add some chocolate chips to the batter for a stronger chocolate taste.

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Waffles

 2 eggs, room temperature

1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled

1 t. vanilla

1 c. buttermilk

1 c. flour

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 c. cocoa

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 each baking powder and baking soda

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. nutmeg

Beat first three ingredients until light and foamy, about 2 minutes. Stir in milk. Beat in dry ingredients just until blended. Bake until waffles are cooked through. Makes 4 cups batter. Serve with whipped butter or sour cream and fresh fruit. I like them just dusted with powdered sugar, too.

New Release: