Czech Heritage · Family Favorites · Holidays · Home · My Roots

Cherry Kolaches, our Christmas Day Tradition

The gifts are wrapped, the house is decorated, and the baking is done. This year I thought I’d take a break from making Kolaches for Christmas Day until I mentioned this to my family. WHAT? BREAKING FROM TRADITION? So, I will not break the tradition and made them today.  The truth is I love them as much as my daughters and their families.

This year I used my Mother’s Foundation sweet dough which she used for cinnamon rolls and Kolaches. My KitchenAid mixer makes easy work of making bread instead of taxing my arthritic wrists. The past several batches of bread I’ve made from standard flour have been too dense, so I decided to try King Arthur’s unbleached bread flour. I loved the result with a very light sweet dough that melts in your mouth.

The cherry filling started with a bucket of frozen sour cherries I purchased at the Farmer’s Market last summer. img_8562

There is nothing better than the taste of those cherries. Truly, I could eat a bowl of the cherry filling and forget the bread dough!

I also make a dozen chocolate kolaches which started as a request by one of son-in-laws, now a family favorite as well.  I simply put chocolate chips (or this year a dove milk chocolate square) in the middle of the dough ball and then pinch it closed.  Let it rise to double in size then bake. When you remove from the oven, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

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Another tradition for our Christmas Day celebration is the Nordic Kringla.  Turns out Kringla is a big hit with my 3 year old grandson and 1 year old granddaughter.  My 6 week old grandson has yet to weigh in…but next year…

Wishing all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful and healthy New Year!

CHERRY KOLACHES, our Christmas Day Tradition

Mom’s Foundation Sweet Dough

2 cakes (Packages) yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons shortening (I used unsalted butter)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6-7 cups flour (I used 6 cups King Arthur Bread Flour)
3 eggs, beaten

  • Dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in lukewarm water. Set aside to soften and rise.
  • Scald milk.  Add shortening, sugar and salt; cool to lukewarm. Add 2 cups flour to make a batter.  Add the yeast mixture and beaten eggs, and beat well.
  • Add remaining flour or enough to make a soft dough. Knead lightly and place in greased bowl. Cover and let set in warm place, free from draft.  Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
  • When light, punch dough down and shape in balls about the size of a walnut and place on a greased cookie sheet. Let rise for 10 minutes
  • When risen, push the centers of balls down and fill with cherry filling (or filling of your choice).  Let rise again.
  • Bake at preheated 400 degree oven (375 degrees for convectional oven) for about 7 minutes or until golden brown.

Cherry Filling
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup juice from cherries
3 cups pitted tart red cherries (water pack)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring

Combine 3/4 cup sugar with cornstarch.  Stir in cherry juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, till mixture thickens and bubbles; cook 1 minute longer.  Add remaining sugar, cherries, butter, and food coloring and cook until thickened. (Mixture will be very thick.)  Let stand while preparing bread dough for Kolaches.

Reference:

KOLACHE … Bohemian Heritage and Christmas Tradition

Family · Family Favorites · My Roots

Apple Roll Ups

My Mother was such a great cook and many of my cherished recipes came from her kitchen.  Apple Roll Ups is one of those recipes.  They are fantastic served warm but equally good left-over.  If you truly want to indulge, you can pour a bit of cream on the top of your Apple Roll.

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APPLE ROLL UPS

SYRUP:
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar

  • Boil for 3 minutes.  Cool.
  • Pour into ungreased 9×13 inch pan.

DOUGH:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons shortening (I used unsalted butter)
1/2 cup milk
1 egg

  • Combine flour, baking powder, salt and shortening and blend well. Add 1/2 up milk and 1 egg. Mix well.
  • Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a rectangle shape about 1/4-1/2 inch thick.

FILLING:
1/2 to 1 cup sugar
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups finely diced apple (I used Granny Smith)

  • Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over rolled out dough. Add chopped apple.

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  • Roll up carefully and cut into 12 in slices.
  • Place in 9×13 inch pan on top of cooled syrup.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

 

Family · Family Favorites · Garden · New Favorite

Lemon Yellow Summer Squash Bread

When yellow squash and zucchini are plentiful and I’ve made every possible recipe, I go to the web and try to find something different to make.  This bread was a phenomenal find. I’ve always been fond of lemon cake and this bread is addictive. No, you can’t have just one slice, I guarantee it!

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LEMON YELLOW SUMMER SQUASH BREAD

There is no reason you couldn’t substitute zucchini in this recipe; would be pretty with the green zucchini and yellow lemon zest!  I did not make the Sweet Roasted Lemon Garnish).
Serves: 2 loaves

1 cup melted butter
2 cups sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups grated summer squash

For the Glaze:

1 Tbsp. melted butter
½ cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest

For the Sweet Roasted Lemon Garnish (edible and optional!):

1 lemon, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced, seeds removed
½ tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. olive oil

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Grease and flour 2 regular loaf pans or 4 mini pans.
  • Mix butter, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla until well blended.
  • Add eggs one at a time and once all are incorporated beat for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
  • Sift flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and mix thoroughly.
  • Add squash and stir just to blend.
  • Pour into prepared pans and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes for small loaf pans or 1 hour for regular size loaf pans.
  • Allow the pan to cool; remove the bread and place top down on a serving plate (makes for a nice presentation for the glaze and lemons).
Make the Roasted Lemons:
  • Cook lemon slices in a medium saucepan of boiling water 2 minutes to remove bitterness. Drain and pat dry.
  • Gently toss lemon slices with sugar, and 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium bowl. Spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until lemons are no longer wet and only slightly colored, 15–20 minutes. Let cool.
Make the Glaze:
  • Combine the melted butter and powdered sugar and stir until smooth; add the lemon juice and lemon zest and stir to combine.
  • Add water or milk if necessary to get the right consistency.
  • Pour the glaze over the top; covering it completely and letting excess dribble down the sides.
  • Arranged sweet, roasted lemons on top.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe from CreativeCulinary.com

Family Favorites · New Favorite

Runza

I know Runzas are a staple to my Nebraska and Kansas friends but not something we grew up with in Iowa.  A few years ago I was watching the television show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives where they visit Lauer-Krauts  in Brighton, Colorado.  A friend and I made the trek to Brighton to try one of their krautburgers and they were delicious, but frankly, too far a drive when you have a craving.

This recipe was close to what we experienced and I decided to give it a try.  It was very good and I would love to try making them with either a mixture of fresh cabbage and sauerkraut or simply with sauerkraut.  Growing up in Iowa, Mom’s homemade sauerkraut was amazing and I now love all things kraut!

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RUNZA

Makes 10 Runzas

Dough:

1/4 oz packet of dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs
3 1/2 cups bread flour
12 tablespoons salted butter
2 teaspoons salt

Filling:

1 pound lean ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoons salted butter
1 Vidalia onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 head cabbage, chopped

  • To make the dough, combine 3/4 cup of very warm water, a pinch of sugar, and the yeast in a bowl. Let it sit until it blooms. If you’ve never done this before, pop yourself some popcorn and sit back and enjoy the show. You’ll know what I mean when the “blooming” begins. Okay, maybe it’s not that cool…
  • Add 3 of your eggs and whisk with your yeast mixture.  Add 2 cups of your flour to the liquid and mix well with a wooden spoon.  Add the butter, the sugar, the remaining flour and salt and mix well.
  • Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 5 minutes.  Place the dough ball in a buttered bowl and let sit for one hour at room temperature.  Transfer to the refrigerator and let sit for at least an hour.
  • Remove the dough and divide into 10 equal portions. Roll into separate balls and let sit covered while you make the filling.
  • Speaking of the filling, get your ground beef sizzlin’ on a skillet.  Season as desired with salt and pepper.  Cook until lightly browned, then remove the beef from the skillet with a spoon and place it in a bowl, leaving most of the grease behind.  Add your butter to the skillet and begin sizzlin’ your onion.  Cook until translucent, about 10 minutes or so.  Add your garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Add this whole mixture to the bowl with the beef.
  • Next, using the moisture still in your skillet, get the pan nice and hot.  Add your cabbage and stir constantly until the cabbage is lightly browned and translucent-ish.  It may seem like a lot of cabbage at first, but it shrinks down substantially.  Add the cabbage to the beef mixture.
  • Flatten your balls of dough with a rolling pin.  Each dough saucer should be about 8 inches in diameter.  Place 1/3 to 1/2 cup of filling in the center of each dough-saucer and pull the edges together and pinch to enclose the filling in the dough.  To avoid a thickened dough-seal, I actually cut off the excess dough with cooking shears.  If you don’t do something like this, you’ll find a doughy center as you take your first chomp.
  • Preheat the oven to 375° while the runzas sit and rise for a bit.  Brush some of the egg (your remaining egg of the 4 you originally had) on the top of each runza to give it a nice browning while in the oven.  Cook the runzas on a greased baking sheet for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Recipe from Highheelsandgrills.com 

Family Favorites · Holidays

Roast Beef Perfection…Centerpiece of Holiday Parties

What says the holidays better than a delicious Prime Rib or Cross Rib Roast with Horseradish sauce. The original recipe for closed door cooking of the Prime Rib came from Colorado Cache Cookbook, still my all-time favorite cookbook.  We have served this recipe many times, always a big hit.

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This time, however, the balsamic vinegar and rub were new and I loved the results.

ROAST BEEF PERFECTION

1 Prime Rib or Cross Rib Roast, any size
3 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, removed from stems and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, removed from stems and chopped
1 tablespoon coarse sea or kosher salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place Prime Rib in roasting pan and brush with Balsamic vinegar.  Make a paste of the garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Rub paste mixture over the roast.

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  • Place roast in oven and cook for 1 hour.  Turn the oven off and KEEP THE OVEN door closed.
  • 45 minutes before serving, turn the oven to 300 degrees. Remove from oven and rest for 5-10 minutes.  The roast will be juicy medium-rare and perfect every time. If you like your Prime Rib cooked to medium, just add 15-20 minutes to the initial cooking time.

Horseradish Sauce

1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons prepared horseradish

  • Stir together and refrigerate until serving time.

Recipe inspired by Colorado Cache Cookbook and What’s Cooking America

Family Favorites · Holidays

Kringla for Christmas…Almond vs. Anise

A Christmas tradition in our house is to make Kringla, typically flavored with Anise extract. My oldest daughter Megan, likes Kringla, but not the taste of Anise. Lucky for her, I was out of Anise extract and tried Almond Extract instead, and loved the results.  I had to double the amount of extract to make sure the Kringla actually carried the almond flavor.

Kringla…hot chocolate…Kolaches (cherry and chocolate)…family gathered in the living room late Christmas morning…what a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas.

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Our new tradition…Almond Kringla.

KRINGLA…ALMOND STYLE

I usually double the recipe and freeze several to enjoy long after the holidays are gone.

1 egg
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or more to suit your taste)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 cups flour

  • Beat egg and sugar together. Add anise extract, melted butter, buttermilk and 1/2 of sour cream.
  • Mix 1/2 teaspoon baking soda with remainder of sour cream and let sit for about 5 minutes.
  • Mix together flour, baking powder and remaining 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.
  • Mix together flour mixture alternately adding egg mixture and sour cream mixture. Dough will be very stiff and you will need to finish mixing with your hands.
  • Chill dough overnight.  Remove 1-2 cups of dough at a time so the dough remains chilled.  Take a small piece of dough (size of a small walnut) and roll into a ball and then into a pencil shape.  Shape the dough into a pretzel shape and place on a greased cookie sheet.
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  • Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven and then on top rack of oven for 2-3 minutes. Bottom of Kringla should be golden brown–tops may not be brown.  (I have found that every oven is different.  Mine tends to run hot so I decrease the amount of time on the bottom shelf to 3 minutes.)  In a convection oven, I’ve found 5 minutes on the middle shelf to be sufficient.
  • Cool and store in airtight container. Great warm with butter and a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
Family Favorites · Holidays

Snowman Cheese Dip

During the holidays there are so many parties and potlucks and it’s fun to make something that people remember. Charlene, an AT&T co-worker, shared this recipe several years ago after she brought this to one of our office potlucks.

The first time I made it, I had the snowman standing upright. Big mistake, no one wanted to dip into it and have Mr. Snowman tumble. Give Mr. Snowman a rest on a platter and surround him with crackers.  He’ll be a big hit!

Snowman Cheese

 SNOWMAN CHEESE DIP

1 tub whipped cream cheese
2-8 ounce bars cream cheese
4 ounces dried beef, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 tablespoon dried parsley
bunch of green onions

  • Mix cream cheese bars and chopped dried beef.  Add chopped green onions (white part only). Blend in garlic, horseradish and parsley.
  • Form into 3 balls (small, medium and large) using waxed paper.  Stack into snowman shape using a toothpick to attach. (NOTE:  I lay the snowman down on the platter)
  • Spread whipped cream cheese over snowman using wet knife. Garish and serve with crackers, carrots, pretzels.

Garnishes:

  • rosemary branches or broken pretzel twists for arms
  • black olives cut into pieces for mouth & buttons
  • tiny baby carrot for nose
  • dried cranberries for halo
  • piece of red pepper for heart
  • green onion tops for scarf
Book Club · New Traditions

Quinoa with Roasted Butternut Squash, Pine Nuts, Feta

Quinoa with roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, pine nuts and feta…what’s not to like! I often try new recipes to share with others so my Book Club buddies were once again Guinea Pigs.  This recipe takes a while to prepare but well worth the effort!

QUINOA WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH, PINE NUTS & FETA

2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
2 large onions, sliced
2 pounds cubed butternut squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
salt
French Vinaigrette salad dressing (add generous amounts of dressing to individual portions)
1/2 cup Feta cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

  • Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Peel the squash and slice it into 3/4 inch cubes, about 2 pounds. Toss the squash cubes in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil and generously sprinkle with salt.
  • Put butternut squash on the greased baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, until soft. Flip the squash cubes over midway through baking. Cool slightly before adding to the salad.
Caramelize the Onions:  
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on high heat in a large skillet.  When oil is heated, add onions and cook on high heat for about 10 minutes, constantly string with wooden spoon. The onions will start to brown, but not brown.
  • Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 10 additional minutes, continuing to stir as onions brown even more. Add a pinch of salt over the onions.
  • Continue cooking the onions for 10 more minutes on medium to low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the onions don’t stick to the pan.  Add a bit of water if the onions begin o stick.  Total cooking time is 30 minutes.
  • Remove the onions from the heat and sprinkle onions with a small amount of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan. Using the wooden spoon, mix the onions scraping the bottom of the pan and coating onions with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.
Assembling the salad:
  • In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, and mix with the dressing. Add the dressing only before the serving, and add as much as you want to individual portions, as both quinoa and butternut squash tend to be on a dry side, and this dressing (when generously applied) fixes this beautifully!
  • Top each individual serving with Feta cheese and toasted pine nuts.

Note: This salad keeps very well refrigerated for up to a week, but only without dressing. Add the dressing before serving.

New Favorite · New Traditions

Roasted Stuffed Kobacha Squash (or Pumpkin)

Stuffed pumpkin (or in my case Kobacha Squash) was a novel idea I heard about from friends. I found this wonderful recipe and adapted it to use the Kobacha squash I’d recently purchased from Trader Joe’s.

It was a fun, and delicious, experiment and one I’ll try again, shaking it up with different ingredients. This is a great way to use leftover pumpkins from Halloween or Thanksgiving. A new tradition perhaps.

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ROASTED STUFFED KOBACHA (OR PUMPKIN)

1 pumpkin (I used Kobacha squash), about 3 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, shredded
2-4 garlic cloves (to taste) coarsely chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that’s just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you’ll have to serve it from the pot—which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn’t so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I’ve always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I’ve been lucky. (Note: I baked my squash in a round Pyrex casserole lined with parchment paper)

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  • Using a very sturdy knife—and caution—cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween Jack-o-Lantern). It’s easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.
  • Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper—you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure—and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled—you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little—you don’t want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (It’s hard to go wrong here.)

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  • Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours—check after 90 minutes—or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.
  • When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully—it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly—bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table.

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  • You have a choice—you can either spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful, or you can dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, pull the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mix everything up. I’m a fan of the pull-and-mix option. Served in hearty portions followed by a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect cold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls, it’s just right alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.
  • It’s really best to eat this as soon as it’s ready. However, if you’ve got leftovers, you can scoop them out of the pumpkin, mix them up, cover, and chill them; reheat them the next day.

Recipe Adapted from Epicurious.com

Family · Family Favorites · Home · My Roots

Halloween Memories

Halloween on the farm was a far different experience than my current city experience. Childhood costumes were simple, always with a hot plastic or rubber mask. Note our fancy trick or treat bags! We couldn’t run from house to house but instead our parents drove us to our neighbors farms.  We collected wonderful home-made goodies while our parents visited for a while.  At the end of the night, we visited 6 to 8 houses but came home with luscious home-made popcorn balls, cookies, caramel apples, and full size candy bars.

Halloween on the Farm about 1959

My children never experienced the wonders of home-made goodies, ruined by the scare of Halloween candy tampering.  None-the-less, they had a wonderful time running from house to house in our suburban neighborhood yelling ‘trick or treat’ and collecting their Halloween bounty. Masks were not a favorite (thank goodness) but costumes were pretty traditional and fun. Our AT&T office hosted a family Halloween party letting the kids gather treats at each office and cubicle. Good times!

Sarah Mom Megan Halloween 1990

Fast forward to 2015 and grandson, Evan’s, Halloween experience.  His favorite character today is from the movie FROZEN and we were fortunate enough to find the darling OLAF costume on Amazon.com.

Evan as Olaf

Evan has been to his first corn maze and is in awe of the amazing (and sometimes scary) Halloween decorations. He’ll be out gathering treats in the neighborhood and celebrating with his little friends.  As his little 3 year old girlfriend says, they’ll be out ‘Candy Tricking’.  Love this age!

Next Halloween we’ll have a baby girl in our family joining the Halloween fun. We’ll anxiously await the arrival of ‘lil pumpkin in November.

Wishing you all a safe and wonderful Halloween!