Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

Making cinnamon rolls and icing from scratch is undoubtedly more work than using the canned variety, or buying them ready made from a store. However, if you take the time to make these just once, you will struggle to accept any alternative ever again… sorry! Even if these aren’t practical for rushed mornings, they are perfect for any occasion that deserves extra “oomph”… whether it’s an unscheduled weekend, or a gathering with friends or loved ones, you will not regret the work you put into this and whoever tastes them will beg you for more. Even though cinnamon rolls are often associated with breakfast, the made-from-scratch version can be tricky to get on the table in time without waking up very early. In order to eat them at breakfast, I usually start the dough at night. I let it rise the first time at room-temperature. For the second rise, I put it in the refrigerator (before I go to bed). First thing in the morning, I remove the dough from the refrigerator (where it has slowly risen overnight) and shape into rolls. Then the final rise is once again at room temperature while I complete my usual morning routine.


Dough

1½ cups lukewarm (not hot!) water

3 envelopes dry yeast (if you buy bulk, it’s 2 tablespoons plus ¾ teaspoons)

½ cup sugar

½ cup vegetable oil (I use canola)

½ cup mashed potatoes, totally plain (no milk, salt, or anything else)

1 egg

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder

5-6 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting work surfaces)
Cinnamon-Butter Filling

½ cup room-temp/softened butter

¾ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon powder
Cream-Cheese Frosting

1½ cups powdered sugar, sifted to remove all lumps

2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup milk (plus more if necessary)
Other

3 standard 9-inch cake pans


Take a teaspoon of sugar out of your measured sugar and mix the teaspoon of sugar with the warm water and yeast and wait for it to activate and become bubbly (roughly 5-10 minutes depending on ambient temperature).

In a large bowl (preferably using a stand-mixer), add the remaining sugar, oil, potatoes, egg, and salt, and mix until incorporated. When the yeast is foamy, and the yeast mixture and briefly mix again.

Add the powered milk and 4 cups of flour and and mix for a few minutes. Slowly add remaining flour, a half-cup at a time, until the dough is pliable and but not too sticky. Be careful not to add too much flour. It is easy to knead more flour in if necessary, and it is better for the dough to be a little soft and sticky rather than stiff. Knead with a dough hook attachment on your mixer, or by hand, until this texture is achieved (roughly 5 minutes). Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until it has doubled. This can take between 1½ to 2 hours depending on ambient temperature.

Punch down dough, reshape into a ball, and return to bowl. Re-cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled again (the second rise usually takes less time than the first, closer to an hour).

Punch dough down again and place on a floured work surface. Divide the dough into three equal parts. The best way to do this is to use a kitchen scale to ensure all three pieces are the same weight. Reshape into balls. One at a time, press the dough flat into a rectangle shape (as best you can), then fold into thirds like a letter. This shape is easier to roll into a proper rectangle shape with the rolling pin.

Butter the cake pans and lightly dust with flour. Mix the cinnamon and brown sugar together. Roll a dough “letter” into a 12×8 inch rectangle. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the softened butter all over the top (feel free to briefly microwave if your house is cold and the butter doesn’t spread easily), and sprinkle with a third of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Roll the dough up tightly from the short side and pinch the seam shut. Slice into 9 even pieces, and evenly space them in one of the prepared cake pans. Repeat the process with the other two dough “letters”. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to for about 1 hour.

During the final rise, preheat the oven to 325F.

Once the third rise is finished, remove plastic wrap and bake the rolls for 10 minutes. Raise the temperature to 350F and bake for 5 more minutes.

Remove, and allow to cool slightly before pouring on frosting.

While cooling, place all frosting ingredients in a bowl (preferably a stand mixer) and whisk thoroughly. And more milk, if needed, to make the frosting thick, but still easily pourable.

You may remove cinnamon rolls to a serving platter before drizzling desired amount of frosting over them, but I typically serve them from the cake pans.

Tvorog: Instant Pot or Yogurt Maker

Tvorog (pronounced closer to TVOR-ok), is a type of farmer’s cheese that is easily made at home, and does not require rennet. There are many types of farmer’s or cottage cheese that are made around the world… Indian paneer is very similar. Tvorog is not the same texture as the cottage cheese you will find in typical American grocery stores, though. Tvorog is very finely grained, and drier. It is not typically eaten plain, as American cottage cheese is, but is incorporated into other dishes. The following recipe is an easy version based on a recipe I found on That’s What She Had , and compares very favorably with the tvorog I enjoyed when living in Russia. For more information and methods (especially if you do not have an Instant Pot or yogurt maker), I highly recommend visiting That’s What She Had: How to Make Authentic Russian Tvorog . She also provides troubleshooting if your tvorog doesn’t turn out quite right.

1 gal milk

1/2 gal buttermilk

Straining tool (I recommend using a nylon nut-milk bag that can by hung by its own cord as the cheese drains, is easy to clean and reuse, and is very durable)

(I have a very large Instant Pot, but you are welcome to halve this recipe if your equipment has a smaller capacity)

Allow both ingredients to come to room temperature by leaving them on the counter for a few hours. Pour milk and buttermilk into your Instant Pot or yogurt maker. Set it to the yogurt incubation function for 48 hours (do NOT scald them first as you would typically do for yogurt).

Leave it alone.

Really, just pour, turn on your device, and leave it alone.

Once the 48 hours is up, the mixture should have naturally separated into tiny curds and whey. Carefully strain using your cheesecloth, or preferably nylon straining bag. Hang the bag over a pot to catch the whey as the tvorog drains for a few hours.

Carefully pour or scrape it out of the strainer into your storage container, and store in the refrigerator as you would for regular cottage cheese. The amount of milk and buttermilk listed for this recipe yields at least 4 cups of tvorog.

Octopus in Tomato Sauce

Despite my birth and early years in Japan, octopus is not something that was frequently served on our family table when I was growing up. However, it really started to grow on me when I realized what a wonderful and unique source of nutrition it can be once I started abiding by Orthodox Christian fasting traditions, and found myself in extended almost-vegan periods throughout the year (seafood that isn’t fish is exempt from the no meat/fish rule, so octopus can be eaten throughout the year). Not to mention, seeing octopus in the table is certainly a conversation starter where I live!

1 package of Panna Pesca frozen whole (cleaned) octopus

1 28oz can tomatoes

Oil/fat to saute onions

1 onion

5-6 cloves garlic (or more!)

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 bay leaves (not pictured)

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (not pictured)

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Flat leaf parsley

Pasta for serving (ditalini is pictured)


 

Slice the onions thinly and saute in a large pan with fat of choice (or water, to keep it oil-free).

Slice the octopus tentacles and body in roughly 2-inch sections.

Peel the garlic and put garlic and canned tomatoes in a blender and briefly puree.

Once the onions are translucent, add the puree mixture, salt, paprika, cayenne, bay leaves, and vinegar. Bring to a simmer, then add sliced octopus.

Return to a simmer, then cover and simmer on low heat until octopus is tender, roughly 30 minutes. Stir from time to time and add water as necessary if the sauce seems too dry. It should be like a slightly watery pasta sauce, as it will thicken a bit once it cools. Once finished, remove from heat and stir in fresh parsley, to taste (I use about a cup of chopped parsley).

Once the stewed octopus is finished, cook pasta, rice, etc as you choose. Spoon sauce and octopus over individual plates of pasta.🦑🍝

Lazarakia

Coming from the Greek tradition, Lazarakia are a festive bread that are made to resemble Lazarus in his burial cloths, and baked by many Orthodox Christians on Lazarus Saturday. As a convert, I did not grow up with this tradition, or recipe… so while I can’t claim this to be “authentic”, I can claim it to be much beloved by my whole family!

1 3/4 cups warm water

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one standard envelope

2 tablespoons sugar

5 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

2/3 cup olive oil, plus more for pans

Whole cloves

Combine warm water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl, stir, and leave until bubbly.

Once the yeast is ready, in the bowl of a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment, pour the flour and salt. With machine running, add water mixture, and oil. Run the mixer for a few minutes until dough is just combined, stopping to scrape down side and bottom with a rubber spatula as needed. Briefly knead by hand for a minute or two if necessary.

Cover the bowl with plastic and allow dough to rise until doubled (about 1 hour, depending on ambient emperature).

After first rise, punch down dough amd knead one or twice. Re-cover, and allow to rise until at least double once again (roughly another hour).

Punch dough down again after second rise is complete. Separate into 16 even balls. An easy way to do this is to split the dough in half, then split each section in half, and keep repeating until you have 16 portions. Roll each portiom into a roughly hotdog size and shape, then flatten slightly. With kitchen shears, cut three long strips through the bottom 3/4 of each roll, and cut the sides at the top of the first cuts, as shown in the photo below (the side cuts provide more definition for the head).

Braid the three strips at the bottom, and place on a cookie sheet that has been liberally greased with olive oil. Once all the buns are arranged on the cookie sheets, firmly insert whole cloves to resemble eyes. Allow to rise for about an hour.

During the third rise, preheat your oven to 350F.

Before baking, brush more olive oil over the tops of the buns, and push the cloves back in if some have worked themselves loose during rising. Bake untol golden brown, rotating baking pans halfway through baking time (about 20 minutes, or until desired golden color has been achieved).

Goan Black-Eyed Peas

This recipe is designed to be cooked in a mini crockpot (mine is about 2 quarts), but it can be doubled or tripled and put in a larger crockpot. This dish can also be cooked in a pot on the stove over low to medium heat, and stirred frequently. Based on a dish that hails from Goa, India, I rely on this recipe whenever I’m eating vegan and want something warm, and very satisfying! It is also a meal I rely on when I know I will have a busy day, and want to come home to a hot, yummy meal, with minimal effort. I like the hearty thickness of this dish and enjoy eating it on its own as a stew, but it also goes great with rice, naan, etc. I don’t use any chilies in my version, but feel free to add to your taste!

1½ cups dried black eyed peas

2 small tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 small yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 Tablespoon sea salt

2 teaspoons brown sugar (jaggery is even better if you can find it!)

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon powdered turmeric

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ can (roughly 6oz) unsweetened coconut milk

cilantro to taste


Wash the beans and soak them for at least 8 hours. I typically soak mine before going to bed at night, then start the crock pot in the morning to have the meal ready by evening.

Once soaked, drain the beans and add to crock pot.

Put the tomatoes, onion, ginger, garlic, salt and brown sugar in a blender, and blend smooth. Add to crock pot. Add enough water to just cover the beans. Stir, and put on the lid. Set the crock pot to high for 7 hours, and stir occasionally as the beans become thick at the bottom. Add more water if necessary, but the goal is for a thick consistency.

Once the beans have cooked until they are very soft and mushy (about 7 hours), add the coriander, turmeric, cumin, and coconut milk. Continue to cook for about 15 more minutes.

Serve warm with a drizzle of coconut milk, cilantro, rice, and/or bread.

I hope you enjoy!

Kid-Approved Homemade Chicken Tenders

Chicken tenders (and chicken fingers, and chicken nuggets) are ubiquitous on the plates of most American children… and the same could be said for many adults! Many rely on the convenience of fast food restaurants and frozen packages from the grocery store. There is no denying the convenience of those options, but if you have a little more time to spare, why not give these a try? They are simple, not overpowering for a young palate, and don’t use many ingredients. If you are able to eat peanuts, I strongly recommend peanut oil for superior taste and frying, but feel free to use whatever frying oil works best for you.

I have not added very specific quantities for this recipe because it varies so much from batch to batch, and personal taste. I have estimated as best as I can, but this can serve as a great base for your own experimentation. I was inspired to use self-rising flour for frying after trying some Lenten recipes from The Festive Fast, by Marigoula Kokkinou and Georgia Kofinas. I enjoyed several recipes from this book and highly recommend it!

20190724_172324.jpg


  • Chicken breasts, sliced no more than 1 inch thick (I used three large breasts in this photo)
  • garlic salt (or plain salt or seasoning of choice)
  • self-rising flour (several cups, but it’s hard to measure exactly so have plenty extra!)
  • water
  • peanut oil, to fry (enough to be at least 2 inches deep in your pot)

Lay out the sliced chicken in a single layer, and sprinkle liberally with garlic salt on all sides. Allow chicken to sit for about 30 minutes while the salt absorbs.

Pour frying oil into your pot and begin heating over medium high. It is very convenient to have a candy thermometer for this, especially if you are unfamiliar with how hot the oil should be. We are aiming for about 350-375°F (I believe that’s about 175°C).

Make a runny batter of about 1 cup of self-rising flour to 2 cups of water, whisked thoroughly to remove lumps.

Pour a cup or two of self-rising flour onto a large plate or bowl for dredging the chicken. You may choose to add additional seasonings here, but I refrain in order to keep the salt content down, and the flavor mild… it’s for my kids after all.

You will likely need to fry the chicken in batches, so take the first batch of sliced chicken and gently press it into the dredging flour, and leave it for a minute or so to let the flour absorb excess moisture. Lift the slices and gently shake or tap off excess flour, then quickly dunk into the batter. Lift the slices up and hold them over the bowl for a moment so excess batter can drip off, then return to the dredging plate and turn the slices gently once or twice to absorb moisture.

20190724_173015.jpg
Returning the chicken to the dredging plate after a quick dunk into the batter.

When the oil has reached the right temperature, gently place the slices in, being careful not to overcrowd. They should sizzle and bubble immediately. Fry until golden brown, turning gently once or twice, this should take only a few minutes if you sliced them thinly.

Remove them from the oil with tongs or a slotted spoon, and place on a rack (or plate with paper towels) to drain.

Repeat this process until all the slices are cooked.

We enjoy ours with plain old ketchup, but you can go as gourmet as you want and try just about any sauce you can think of! This recipe is almost absurdly simple, and I wouldn’t have thought to share it if it wasn’t for the fact that my children (and husband) become absolutely ecstatic when they find I am making this for dinner. Sometimes, simple is best!

20190724_174511
Sometimes, it really doesn’t take much to please a hungry family!

 

 

Sloppy Southern Sammies – or – Not Pulled Pork (vegan) (oil free)

This recipe (part of my Orthodox Lenten fasting series) is one of those happy concoctions that is discovered accidentally, while playing with “a dash of this, a splash of that.” Based on the recipe for “Sloppy Black-Eyed Peas” from Vegan Slow Cooking, for Two or Just for You by Kathy Hester, this dish kept evolving the longer it simmered, until I found I had personalized it into something uniquely me! My mixture never got quite as red as the photo in the book, and the collard greens (and my addition of apple cider vinegar) immediately made me think of pork, as collards and vinegar are frequent accompaniments to various pork dishes down South. Culinary experiments don’t always turn out so well, but I will count this as a victory… and I will enjoy dinner tonight!


1 cup dried black-eyed peas

½ cup millet

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

½ red bell pepper, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon sea salt, or to taste

5 cloves garlic, peeled

2 medium tomatoes

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, or more to taste

1 teaspoon cumin powder

4 collard leaves, stems removed, leaves finely chopped

¼ to ½ cup tomato paste (I recommend Cento brand)

Splash of apple cider vinegar, roughly ¼ cup, or to taste


 

**Soak black-eyed peas for at least 8 hours.**

Add black-eyes peas, millet, carrots, bell pepper, bay leaves, and salt to a medium pot.

Blend tomatoes and garlic in a blender with 2 cups of water. Pour into pot. Pour in more water if necessary to just cover the beans and vegetables.

Bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer until beans and veggies are soft. Roughly 45 minutes. Stir frequently as the mixture begins to thicken, so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Add water if mixture is too dry and thick. If mixture is too watery, uncover and continue simmering while allowing some liquid to evaporate.

Once beans are becoming soft and mixture is getting thick to your preference, remove bay leaves and carefully ladle out 1-2 cups of the mixture. Allow to cool slightly, then carefully transfer to blender. Blend until smooth, then return to pot. Stir. Add Cajun seasoning, cumin powder, collards, tomato paste, vinegar, and any additional salt or pepper to taste. Stir thoroughly.

Cover and leave to sit, and cool. As it cools, it will continue to thicken, and the flavors will continue to gently infuse.

Stir again before serving.

Can be eaten from a bowl, but the idea is to treat it somewhat like a pulled pork sandwich… best served on a toasted bun!IMG_0345IMG_0352

IMG_0348

IMG_0350IMG_0351

 

Cheesefare Meal Plan

“Cheesefare” may sound like an odd term to many of my readers… odd, but also probably delicious. It is! Gearing up for Orthodox Christian Great Lent, Cheesefare is a vegetarian week that helps ease us into the more restricted menus of the traditional Christian Lenten fast, which starts next week. Now is not the time for gluttonous extravagance (ahem, Mardi Gras), but this is the week to use up all your dairy products and prepare to tighten your belts for the next month. Month and a half…. -ish. At the insistence of my oldest child, the oldest two girls and I are going to try to abide by the Lenten fast this year!!!

As the cook for the family, I am nervous about providing meals that will encourage children to willingly follow this tradition, as I am firmly against forcing it. While I did dabble in vegetarianism and veganism in my early 20s, it has been a long time since I committed to that type of diet, and this is the first time attempting it with children in tow! Also, my husband will not be participating, so there will continue to be plenty of “regular food” in the house to tempt us every day. But that’s life I suppose, isn’t it? And Lent isn’t supposed to be easy anyway. It is supposed to be an exercise in self-discipline.

Despite my apprehension and lack of experience, I though some of my readers might find it helpful, encouraging, and maybe even inspiring to see someone try their best at something new, and document their plans and experiences. So much of social media shows only the polished final result of monumental efforts…. or the glamorized chaos of people who have given up. This potential series will fall somewhere in-between. Far from polished! But hopefully I won’t give up, either. I will struggle and learn and keep trying.

Here is a list with links (when available) of what I plan on making at least for dinner this week. Lunches and breakfasts will be more spur-of-the-moment, but I will try to jot them down and edit this post with that information later in the week.


Monday – Macaroni and cheese. (I don’t yet have my own version up, but this one is very similar!) We will probably be eating leftovers from this meal throughout the week for lunch, and I will freeze whatever isn’t eaten.

Tuesday – Quesadilla with beans. I don’t have a set plan for this one! Maybe cheese quesadillas with beans on the side? Or cheese-and-bean quesadillas??? I will likely throw some veggies in the quesadillas as well. Some cooked bell pepper slices, probably! Maybe a bit of broccoli… it’s such a versatile dish, that I really can’t decide what I will do in advance! If we do beans on the side, I am hoping to try a traditional Colombian version by My Colombian Recipes. My husband is Colombian, and I think he would be surprised and pleased to see these on the table.

Wednesday – Tomato soup and grilled cheese. This is another recipe I need to type up and post here. I will update this with a link when I get around to it. I typically grate sharp cheddar cheese for the sandwiches, and ideally use my own homemade pain de mie. GAME CHANGER. I’m telling you! I enjoy adding exotic stinky cheeses, but the kids don’t tolerate that much experimentation.

Thursday – Dal makhani. I’ve been cooking this dish for years and have sort of developed my own version of it. However, I started with the version from Manjula’s Kitchen, and seriously, you can never go wrong with one of her recipes!! I am inspired by her recipe as well as the version by Anupy Singla’s book, “The Indian Slow Cooker“.

Friday – Vegetable lasagna. Surprisingly, I have never come up with a lasagna recipe we have fallen in love with, so I’m especially nervous about this one! I found a recipe online from Cookie+Kate and immediately put in on my “Cheesefare” Pinterest board. I couldn’t find whole wheat, no-boil lasagna noodles at my local store, so I bought Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles instead, and will hope for the best! I will edit this with an update if I attempt this recipe.

Saturday – Pizza. Likely Pizza Hut stuffed-crust cheese pizza. Because that’s what we usually order for family movie night anyway!! This is our last hurrah for a while!

Sunday – Bean and egg burritos. I honestly don’t have a plan for this one either… will probably incorporate cheese?

20190304_161134

Russian Dumplings (пельмени)

Somewhat reminiscent of Italian tortellini, but without cheese, pelmeni dumplings are a Russian staple. If you live in a metropolitan area, there is a good chance you can buy these pre-made at your local supplier of Eastern-European cuisine (likely in the frozen section). Living where I do, I am obliged to DIY… and while these are undoubtedly time-consuming to make, they are a delicious crowd-pleaser and store perfectly in the freezer as a “Foodie Freezer-Meal”. Traditionally, these are made en masse, and the entire family is enlisted in filling the delicate dough circles, and forming them into countless dainty, meaty morsels. Various meats can be used to fill, but the most traditional are beef or pork… my recipe calls for a mix of the two! To add to your traditional Russian spread, I humbly recommend my borscht recipe as an accompaniment.

This recipe is in two parts: first the dough, then the filling. I hope you enjoy making (and more importantly, eating!) these delectable dumplings. If you give them a try, I would love to hear how things went in the comments!

Watch me make them on my YouTube channel!



1. Dough

My preferred version uses bread flour, but it is totally fine to use all-purpose flour. It is hard to gauge how much dough I will need per batch of meat, so I usually start small, and make more if I need it.

This recipe can be halved or doubled easily, as required. Any leftover dough can be rolled very thinly and used as fresh noodles.

20180426_150729.jpg


2-4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour, plus more to dust work surface

1 generous tablespoon sea salt

4 eggs

4 tablespoons canola, or other neutral-flavored oil

¼ cup water


Start with only 2 cups of flour, and slowly add more if needed.

Add 2 cups flour to a medium bowl, making a small depression in the center, into which add all other ingredients, and mix well. The dough will likely be quite sticky.(see below)20180426_151236

Slowly add flour until you are able to knead the dough by hand without a great deal of sticking. Briefly knead (be careful to not over-work the dough, or it will become tough, and difficult to roll out!) until dough is smooth, and ingredients are well-incorporated. (see below)20180426_151812

Allow the dough to rest for at least an hour. Giving the dough time to rest helps it roll out with more ease.



2. Filling

Like the dough, the quantity of filling can be easily adjusted to your personal needs. When I make dumplings, I tend to go all-out and spend a day or two assembling a massive amount to store in the freezer for later, hence the large amount of meat shown here.20180426_152748.jpg


2 lbs ground beef

2 lbs ground pork

1 large onion

1 head of garlic

large bundle of fresh dill

1 tablespoon sea salt, to taste

fresh-ground black pepper, to taste


Peel the onion and grate it with the small holes on a box grater (not the teeny-tiny pinprick holes, the next size up). Transfer to a fine sieve, or a colander lined in cheesecloth or clean, tightly-woven fabric. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Transfer the dry(ish) remains to a large bowl. Peel and finely grate the garlic (a microplane grater is what I recommend), add to bowl. Remove any conspicuously tough stems on the dill. Some stems may remain as dill stems tend to be quite tender and flavorful anyway. Finely chop the dill and add to bowl. Add salt and meats and, with clean or gloved hands, mix all ingredients together until completely combined. This can be a fun tactile experience, gently squeezing the filling mixture through your fingers, and is much easier than doing this with a spoon.



3. Assembly

After the dough has had adequate time to rest, remove a large lump from the bowl (not too large, as the dough will dry out quickly once rolled, and is best rolled in small batches) and gently roll it out with a rolling pin until it is very thin, but not translucent, carefully flipping dough and lightly dusting with flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Use a cutting tool between 1.5-2 inches in diameter (I use the cap from an old spice bottle) to cut as many tiny circles as possible. Remove dough scraps. These may be re-used after they have been briefly kneaded and allowed to rest.

To fill dumplings, place a small ball of filling in the center of the dough circle. How much you use will depend on your skill level. Start with a small amount of filling (about ¼ teaspoon) and slowly increase as you get more practice and manual dexterity. Filling these takes practice, but you will get the hang of it! A ½ teaspoon of filling is what is pictured below.

20180426_192746.jpg

I find I achieve better results if I place the side of dough that was against the counter-top facing up. The “counter-top side” retains moisture longer, and the extra stickiness comes in handy when sealing the dumpling.

Gently fold dough in half, over the meat and gently press the edges together to seal. It should look like a half-circle or mild crescent. (see below)

20180426_192811.jpg

Gently brings the points together and lightly pinch to seal. Now that my older girls are beginning to help me with this task, we’ve begun calling this step the “hug step,” as I looks like the plump dumpling is giving itself a hug. (see below)20180426_192905.jpg

Now all you have to do is repeat this process hundreds of times to complete all the dumplings! Did I mention this job is traditionally a team-effort? If you are doing this alone, I hope you take comfort in the fact that for the past ten-or-so years I have always done this completely on my own so… I sympathize. Put on some music or a movie – preferably something Russian-themed! Two of my personal favorites are Dr. Zhivago, starring Omar Sharif, or the Russian miniseries called “Sofia”, currently on Netflix as of this writing. Both are, for the most part, pretty decent even with kids around… however there is a date rape scene, attempted suicide, and minimal violence and gore in Dr. Zhivago (it was filmed in the 60s, so it is tame by modern standards) that you may want to research before viewing in mixed company. Sofia has a beheading scene towards the beginning, and a brief sexually explicit scene towards the end… also some torture, murder attempts, and war. While this was filmed recently, it is still quite tame compared to much of what is shown on American TV. In other words, do your research before watching, but I do watch this with my kids, I just pay attention and remember to skip a couple parts.

How did this turn into a movie/TV review..? I apologize, let’s continue!

If you are making these to freeze, then arrange them as you assemble them on a large baking sheet (make sure you can fit it in your freezer), lined with parchment , without any touching, to prevent them sticking together. After freezing for a few hours, they can be quickly transferred to plastic bags and returned to the freezer. (see below)finished dumplings



4. Cook

Heat a pot of unsalted water to boiling. Make sure you do not fill it to the top with water, as the dumplings expand during cooking.

Once water is rapidly boiling, carefully pour fresh or frozen dumplings into pot and gently stir. Continue to gently stir for a couple minutes to prevent sticking. Once the dumplings are all floating at the top, continue simmering for 5-10 minutes until cooked through.

Drain through a colander, and toss with butter. I recommend salted Kerrygold butter for its unbeatable flavor.

Serve hot to one and all!

Borscht

This recipe can be veganized and taste quite good, but it is simply heavenly when cooked with beef, and beef bones!! Borscht is, at its core, peasant food… made with whatever is on hand. The only real core ingredients are beets, cabbage, and potatoes! Just like chicken noodle soup in the United States, there are as many versions of borscht as their are Eastern European households. The following recipe is my absolute favorite way of preparing this soul-warming soup, but feel free to customize and adjust all the ratios to suit your taste and available ingredients. This version also produces A LOT of soup (to feed my whole family, and provide days of leftovers). Feel free to halve or quarter this recipe as necessary. For the best tasting borscht, prepare to have the pot simmering all day. Start the meat as soon as you wake up, and slowly add things through the day. Pro-tip: the flavors only get better after a day or two in the fridge.

-Small chuck roast, or any beef suitable for pot roast (WITH bones is preferable, as it enhances the flavor immensely. I often add beef short ribs or oxtail.)

– 4 fresh tomatoes

-entire head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled

-4 bay leaves

-sea salt to taste

-12 to 15 small beets (try to gauge the equivalent if using larger beets. If you are a stickler for deep purple color, you will probably need even more beets!)

-gloves, if desired, to prevent hands/manicure from staining

-half a head of cabbage, thinly sliced

-3 carrots, peeled and chopped

-1 parsnip, peeled and chopped (may substitute with additional carrot if you don’t have parsnips)

-2 to 3 cups diced red potatoes

-2 standard plastic packages of fresh dill (or one medium-sized bundle)

-1 to 3 tablespoons caraway seeds, to taste

-water, as necessary, to achieve the consistency you prefer

-sour cream, for serving

-flavorful rye bread, for serving


As soon as you wake up, trim the meats of excess fat, and place into your largest stock pot. Pour in enough water to cover the meat, and a couple tablespoons of sea salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for several hours, or until the meat is extremely tender and almost falls apart when you try to remove it from the pot.

Once the meat is tender, remove from the pot carefully and reserve on a plate. Try to leave any bones in the pot (unless they are small fragments and could easily get lost and swallowed. In that case, remove now while they are still easy to find).

Peel the beets (I recommend using a vegetable peeler to make this easier), and grate them carefully with a box-grater. This is messy work, and you may want to wear surgical gloves if you don’t want your hands to get stained for a day or two. I also suggest wearing an apron, or clothes you don’t particularly care about. Add all the grated beets to the pot.

Puree the tomatoes and garlic in a blender until smooth, and add to pot. Add bay leaves. Stir everything together, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add carrots, parsnip, and cabbage. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Taste for salt, and add water if you wish.

Add potatoes, and simmer until they are cooked and soft, and all the vegetables are soft. Continue to adjust salt and water to your preference.

Shred the reserved meat and add as much as you prefer to pot. If you have a lot of meat leftover, the tender pieces can easily be used to make Sloppy-Joes, steak sandwiches, tacos, quesadillas, or breakfast hash. Since it has simply been cooked in boiling salt water, it will have a mild taste and go well with many other recipes.

Stir to warm the meat back up, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat.

Finely chop all the dill (you may include the stems if you wish), and add to pot. Add caraway seeds and stir.

Allow to sit off the heat for the delicate flavors of the dill and caraway to infuse.

Stir, and serve with a dollop of sour cream, and maybe even a thick slice of rye bread slathered with butter and topped with caviar!