Swedish Limpa Bread

Swedish Limpa Bread

There is nothing better than the smell of fresh baked bread. This Swedish rye bread is a favorite of mine. It has a soft texture and makes great sandwiches. It also makes the house smell wonderful as it bakes.

The flavor in enhanced by a combination of caraway seeds and a little orange zest. It even makes wonderful French toast. My brother-in-law says it is just like the bread his Swedish mother made.

It is not like rye breads you might traditionally think of. Limpa is lighter in color and texture. It makes really great French toast, too.

I shape mine in two round loaves, but you can also bake this bread in loaf pans, if you prefer. If you want to use it for sandwiches, the loaf pans are probably a good idea. You can also shape the dough into dinner rolls, if you like. You will get 2-3 dozen rolls out of this recipe, depending on how big you make your rolls.

Swedish Limpa

 6 ½ c. flour

2 c. rye flour

¼ c. brown sugar

2 t. salt

2-t. caraway seeds

2 t. grated orange peel

2 pkt. Active dry yeast

2 T. butter, softened

2 2/3 c. hot water (125-130 degrees)

Set aside 1-cup flour. Mix remaining flours and other dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter and water to flour mixture and stir to blend. Mix in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth about 8-10 minutes. Place dough in oiled bowl turning to oil top. Cover and let rest in a draft free area until doubled, about 30 –40 minutes. Punch down. Divide dough in half and form into 2 balls. Place on greased baking sheet and cover until doubled in bulk, about 30 –40 minutes. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped lightly. Makes 2 loaves.

Note: you can also divide the dough and place in 2 (9×5-inch) greased loaf pans.

Rye Crackers

Homemade Rye Crackers

Making crackers is fun, and actually pretty easy. These rye crackers are as simple to make as a batch of cookies. They are crisp and full of flavor. The thinner you roll them out, the crisper they will be.

I am a big fan of rye bread and a fan of these rye crackers, too. I love the flavor of rye flour. I think it pairs so well with any number of toppings. These are great with a little Swiss cheese melted on the top. You can also cut the crackers out in fun shapes.

So here is the recipe for rye crackers. I hope you’ll give cracker making a try.

Rye Crackers

1 c. rye flour

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 T. caraway seed

1½ t. salt

1 t. onion powder

1 t. garlic powder

1/3 cup oil

1 t. honey

¼ c. water, or as needed

Combine the rye flour, all-purpose flour, caraway seed, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder in a bowl. Stir in the oil and honey. While stirring with a fork, slowly add the water until the dough comes together in a ball. Cover and rest for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Divide the dough into 4 sections, rolling each piece out on parchment paper to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes, then place on a baking sheet. Prick each cracker a few times with a fork. Bake until the edges are brown and the crackers are crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove immediately to a cooling rack.

Hazelnut Biscotti

Hazelnut Biscotti

These biscotti are the perfect treat to have with your morning cup of coffee or tea. Crisp, but not too hard, they are studded with crunchy hazelnuts and flavored with vanilla and orange peel. I like them just the way they are, but you could dress them up with a drizzle of powdered sugar glaze. You can also dip one end of each biscotti in melted chocolate.

I was inspired to make these after buying hazelnuts recently.

I don’t know why more people don’t make their own biscotti. They are so easy to make, and you can flavor them to suit your own taste. Once baked, store them in an air tight container. They stay crisp for weeks. Assuming you don’t eat them first!

Biscotti get their distinctive, extra crunchy texture, from being baked not once, but twice. The batter is spread on a cookie sheet and baked until firm. Once cooled and little, the loaf is sliced and the slices are returned to the oven to get baked until crisp and toasted. I put the slices on a cooling rack, placed on the baking sheet, before the second bake. That way, the biscotti toast on both sides evenly. No need to turn them all over half-way through the second bake.

So here is the recipe. I hope if you haven’t made biscotti before, you give them a try.

Hazelnut Biscotti

3 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

3 eggs

1 c sugar

1/4 c. butter, melted

1/4 c. olive oil

1 1/2 t. vanilla

1 t. grated orange peel

1 c. hazelnuts, toasted, peeled and chopped*

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Mix together eggs, sugar, butter, oil, vanilla and peel. Beat until smooth and stir in flour mixture and nuts. Grease a large baking sheet, oil your hands,  and place dough on sheet, forming into a 16×4-inch log. Bake at 325-degrees until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Loaf with spread a bit. Cool 15 minutes and leave oven on. Use serrated knife to cut into 1/2 -inch thick slices. Place cooling rack on a baking sheet. Place slices, cut side down, on cooling rack and return to oven for 20-22 minutes. Cool. Makes about 24.

If you like, you can dip one end of the finished biscotti in melted chocolate.

  • to toast hazelnuts, place on a baking sheet and bake in a 325 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes. You don’t want them to burn. While they are baking, place a tea towel on a rimmed baking sheet. When the nuts come out of the oven, dump them on the tea towel. They tend to roll around, so the rimmed baking sheets is to save you from cursing as nuts roll off the towel and onto the floor. Fold the nuts up in the towel and rub them to get the skins off. Most of the skins will come off, which is fine.

Orange Tea Bread

Orange Tea Bread

Winter is citrus season and I have been eating a lot of oranges lately. Besides eating them fresh, I also like to cook with oranges. If you are looking for a new recipe for a quick bread, I would recommend trying this one.

The bread is flavored with orange zest in the batter, then a warm orange syrup is drizzled over the bread, right out of the oven. This makes for a bread that is flavorful and moist. It can be breakfast, a brunch dish or even a dessert, when topped with ice cream or whipped cream. The recipe makes one loaf, but I often double the recipe and make two. It seems to disappear around here pretty quickly. The bread freezes well, too.

Orange Tea Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
Syrup:
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×4″ loaf pan. Line pan with wax paper or parchment and set aside. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, butter and orange zest. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients, and stir mixture until well combined. Transfer batter to loaf pan, smoothing top, and bake in oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. While the bread is baking, combine orange juice and sugar in a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over moderate heat while stirring, and simmer for 1 minute. Keep syrup warm. Make holes in top of bread with a thin wooden skewer and drizzle with syrup. Let stand in pan until cool. Makes 1 loaf.

Sweet Potato Muffins- Gluten Free

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Muffins

When a family member was diagnosed with Celiac disease years ago, the selection of gluten free foods was pretty limited. Happily, today going gluten free is much easier. I buy a gluten free flour at Costco that can be used in any recipe that calls for all purpose flour. Gluten free flour is available in many grocery stores, too.

Gluten free flour seems to bake, or at least brown, a little faster, so you have to keep an eye on what you use it in. It doesn’t get much easier than that. In this recipe you could also use all purpose flour, if that is what you prefer. Just increase baking time 3-5 minutes.

The muffins are moist and not too sweet. They are great for breakfast, snacks or even as a dessert. They could also be served with lunch or dinner in places of rolls.

They freeze well so you can make a batch and freeze the extras for later.  Wonderful for busy days when you don’t have time to make them.

Sweet Potato Muffins- Gluten Free

4 eggs, slightly beaten

3/4 c. oil

1 c. sugar

2 c. cooked sweet potatoes, mashed

1 3/4 c. gluten-free flour

1 T. cinnamon

1 t. nutmeg

2 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

3/4 t. salt

Blend together in large bowl eggs, sugar, sweet potatoes and oil and set aside. In another bowl combine dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture and stir until well blended. Pour into paper-lined muffin tins, filling about 2/3 full. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until muffins spring bake when touched lightly.  Makes 30-36.

These freeze well.

Cauliflower Gratin

Cauliflower Gratin

Gratin is just another way of saying cheesy cauliflower. I love cauliflower. I also love cheese. Bringing the two of them together is a classic combination.

I decided to make a cauliflower gratin for lunch today. When I started, I remembered one I had made a few weeks ago. It tasted great, but was a little too watery.

The problem is, I wanted the cauliflower to be cooked, but not cooked to mush. I just steamed it for a few minutes. It was tender, but still pretty firm. When it cooked in the cheese sauce, it cooked a little more and became more tender. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, it gave off water as it cooked and thinned the sauce too much.

I wanted to try again, with a thicker base sauce, to offset the water in the cauliflower. We were so pleased with the final dish. Creamy, cheesy and not watery at all.

I have to admit, I almost chickened out when I saw how thick the base sauce was. But, I figured if it was too thick, it would still taste good.

I forgot to measure the cauliflower before and after steaming. I had to take a good guess at how much chopped up cauliflower there was. A little more or less won’t matter that much. I had a pretty good size head of cauliflower. I guessed at 8 cups raw, but it could have been 10 cups.

So here is the recipe- I hope you give it a try.

Cauliflower Gratin

1 medium head of cauliflower, stems trimmed off and cut into bite sized pieces- you should have about 8 cups

6 T. butter

6 T. flour

1 c. half and half- you could use cream or milk, if you prefer

6-8 oz. cheese- cubed, shredded or sliced- any cheese that melts will work. I used a combination of cheddar and Muenster

Salt and pepper to taste

Hot sauce to taste

½ c. bread crumbs

2 T. butter

Steam the cauliflower until just tender. I steamed mine in the microwave for 6 minutes. It took me two batches to steam it all. Place cauliflower in a mixing bowl and set aside. In pot, heat the butter until melted and stir in the flour until smooth. Add the half and half and cook, over medium heat, stirring often, until mixture thickens. It is going to get REALLY thick. Don’t freak out. When the mixture cooks with the cauliflower, the cauliflower will give off more liquid which will thin out the sauce. Once the mixture gets bubbly, cook over very low heat another couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and add the cheese. Stir occasionally, until the cheese has melted. You can turn the heat on if you need to for a minute or so. Trust me, be patient, the cheese will melt. Spoon the cheese sauce over the cauliflower and mix it together as best you can. Add seasonings, if you like. Place cauliflower mixture in a baking dish. I used a deep dish pie pan- and it fit, but I had to push it down a little. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until it gets all bubbly and starts to brown a little. This takes about 25-30 minutes.

Let it sit a few minutes before you try to eat it. It is really hot.

Growing Fresh Sprouts

Fresh Pea Sprouts

To satisfy my urge for fresh produce I have taken to sprouting seeds. I have a nice assortment of seeds for this purpose and I can start more anytime I like. I can have sprouts, like pea, garbanzo beans and mung beans that can be eaten cooked or more delicate seeds like alfalfa and radish sprouts that are great as a salad ingredient or on sandwiches. Maybe it is also the time of year, but with snow outside the window the sight of fresh green growth is especially satisfying.

The upside is the seeds last for ages so they will be available for sprouting when I need them. The downside is that it takes a week or more to get sprouts so some planning is required.

Sprouting is pretty simple- although it is a little like having a pet. There is some care than needs to happen. First, start with a clean, wide mouth jar. I have these handy lids with holes in them that are made just for sprouting. Place the seeds in the jars and cover with water. Allow them to be covered in the water for at least several hours. Drain and rinse the seeds. After the first soaking, only keep what ever water stays on them after a rinse and drain. That’s pretty much the whole process. Twice a day, maybe three times if the weather is really warm, rinse the seeds and drain off any extra water. Depending on the seeds you can expect your first crop in 7-10 days. You can place the jars in a sunny window for greener sprouts. If you don’t have the lids with holes in them you can cover the jar with some cheesecloth. Hold in place with a rubber band. That will allow the sprouts to get air and make it easy to rinse and drain them.

Sprouts are full of nutrients and can be eaten cooked or raw. In some cases, like with mung beans, the skin of the seed will come off after a few days. They tend to float so if you just place the sprouts in a big bowl of fresh water and agitate them. The skins will come to the top and can easily be discarded.

Also, quantity can be tricky. Very few seeds can produce a heck of a lot of sprouts, so go easy. A few tablespoons of tiny seeds like radish, alfalfa or broccoli should be plenty. Perhaps a 1/4 cup of larger seeds like the beans and other legumes is also going to give you a bountiful supply.

They do take time, so if you want a steady supply start a new batch every few days.   Once sprouts are the size you want them to be give them a final rinse and drain well. Store in the fridge until you are ready to use them. Do use them soon. Often they are quite perishable. Besides, if you were sprouting for fresh food- enjoy it while it is fresh.

Mung beans sprouts, about a week old.

Alfalfa and radish sprouts

I don’t generally endorse any specific business in my posts. There are numerous sources for sprouting seeds on line. I have purchased seeds from Mountain Valley and was pleased with the results and quality. I receive no compensation from them- I just like them.

Jellied Pigs’ Feet

Jellied Pigs’ Feet

This is a dish you either love or hate. It is a dish a grew up with and I love it. My Polish grandmother made it and so did my mom. I can remember my father always adding a splash of vinegar to his.

The dish is pretty simple, really. Pigs’ feet, sometimes called trotters, are cooked in water with salt and aromatic veggies until very tender. The stock is strained and then the pigs feet are returned to the stock and chilled until it sets up. The stock is very gelatinous and can easily be sliced to serve. Similar to head cheese found in some delis.

The difference from one cook to the other is whether the pigs feet are returned to the stock whole, or if the meat and skin are removed from the bones before they are added. I have had it both ways. It is much easier to eat when the bones are removed.

Jellied Pigs’ Feet

4-5 lbs. Pigs’ feet, washed well

Water

Salt and pepper

1 medium onion, peeled

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

1 t. minced garlic

1/4 c. pickling spice, optional

Vinegar

Cover pigs’ feet with cold water in soup pot. Add 1-2 t. salt and bring to a boil. Drain and repeat process. Return feet to pot and cover with cold water. Add salt, pepper, veggies and garlic. Simmer, skimming any foam off the top until meat is getting tender, about 2 hours. Fill tea ball with pickling spice, if using, and place in pot. Cook until meat is falling off the bone, at least 2 more hours. Remove all meat and bones from pot. Set aside. Remove tea ball and set aside. Strain  broth through fine strainer or cheesecloth. Add more salt, to taste, if needed. Remove meat  from bones and place meat in a loaf pan. Discard the bones. Pour over the stock and chill. Remove fat from top of dish after chilling. Serve with vinegar, if desired.   

Venetian Cabbage

Venetian Cabbage

This Italian-inspired recipe really elevates the humble cabbage.

I love cabbage in all sorts of dishes. Maybe it’s my Eastern European roots. I really love it prepared this way.

Smokiness from the pancetta and a hint of rosemary and garlic really makes this dish sing. I made it recently, but didn’t cook it as long as the original recipe called for. I think I prefer it less cooked. The cabbage retained some crispness. My best advice is to taste this dish as it cooks to see how “done” you like it.

If you are looking for an easy and tasty way to prepare cabbage, try this recipe for Venetian Cabbage. I think you will be pleased.

Venetian Cabbage

1/2 c. minced pancetta (Italian bacon) or thick bacon

4 cloves garlic, minced

pinch of rosemary, minced- I used a bit more

1 T. olive oil

2 1/2 lbs. green cabbage, trimmed and shredded

1/2 c. chicken stock or white wine

Cook bacon, garlic and rosemary and oil in saucepan until mixture starts to sizzle. Stir in the cabbage, tossing to coat well. Cook, covered, over low heat for an hour, or a little less,  adding the stock or wine a little at a time. Add salt to taste before serving. Serves 6.

Busha’s Beet Soup

Busha’s Beet Soup

This colorful, tasty soup, was first made for me by my Busha, my Polish grandmother. Beets are a big ingredient in Eastern European culture. My Mom cooked with them, too.

I have fond memories of spending time with my Busha. I stayed with her on weekends a few times. One of those weekends, she taught me how to make a wonderful coffee cake. I still have the index card where I wrote down the recipe as she went along making it. Busha didn’t write her recipes down much.

Another time, she made beet soup. I loved it. I think the color is what pulled me in. I was a big fan of pink back then. I still am, especially when it comes to this soup.

I love to use fresh, raw beets, when possible.  You can use cooked beets, or even canned, if you like. This time I used frozen beets- using ingredients I already have on hand.

I make homemade spaetzle, but other pasta or cooked, diced potatoes are good, too.

So here is the recipe for the soup and the spaetzle. I always think of Busha when I make it.

Busha’s Beet Soup

1 large onion, sliced thin

oil

5-6 medium beets, about 2 pounds

5-6 cups beef, chicken or vegetable stock

1 c. dairy sour cream

1 t. dill weed

cooked spaetzle, recipe follows

In soup pot, sauté onion in oil until starting to brown. Meanwhile, peel and dice the beets. You should end up with 5-6 cups of cubed beets. Add beets and stock to pot and bring to boil. Cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook until beets are tender, about 20- 25 minutes.  Place sour cream in small bowl and ladle in a little of the hot soup, whisking until smooth. Add another ladle of soup and whisk again. Pour this mixture into pot of soup along with the dill weed. Serve with the spaetzle.  Serves 4-5.

Note: You can also pre-cook the beets or use canned beets. Trim off leaves of beets, leaving 2 inches of stem. Leave roots intact. Boil beets in water until tender, which can take as little as 20 minutes for tiny beets or 45 minutes for the large ones. Cool in bowl of ice water and then slip off the skins. Dice and add to soup as if the beets were canned. You don’t need the long cook of fresh beets. Just bring soup up to a simmer.

If you prefer, serve the soup with diced boiled potatoes or kluski, rather than the spaetzle.

You can serve the sour cream on the side, rather than incorporating it into the soup, then allow people to add a dollop of sour cream to individual bowls. Polish beet soup usually adds the sour cream and Russian style is to dollop on the top. Both versions taste good.

Spaetzle

3 eggs

1/2 c. half and half or evaporated milk

1/2 t. salt

1 1/2 c. flour

Combine all ingredients and let rest 30 minutes. Drop by small spoonfuls into boiling water. Cook until they float and puff up, about 5 minutes. Drain and serve with soups, stews, sauces or buttered.

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