2020 was quite the year, and Easter was no exception. During the lockdown, my daughters and I cooked different things and did a front porch, socially distanced food swap. We each ate our Easter Dinner in our own homes, different than our normal family gatherings.
The following weekend, our neighbor invited everyone in our cul-de-sac to partake in a Greek Orthodox Easter dinner. It was warm enough to gather outside, socially distanced, to celebrate this special day. For the potluck gathering, I made Koulourakia, Greek Easter Cookies. The cookies are a wonderful, orange-flavored butter twist cookie.
They were fun to make and similar in design to the Kringla I make at Christmas. The cookies are especially good with a hot cup of coffee. This year, Greek Orthodox Easter will be May 2, 2021. I may be inspired to make these yummy cookies once again!
KOULOURAKIA GREEK EASTER COOKIES
3½- 4 cupsall purpose flour420- 480 grams (3½ + ½ cup separated) 1½teaspoonsbaking powder 3/4cupgranulated sugar150 grams zest of 1 orange 1/2cupbutter115 grams, cubed, room temperature 2largeeggsroom temperature 1largeegg yolkroom temperature 1½teaspoonsvanilla extractpure 1/4cuporange juicefreshly squeezed 1/4cupmilkroom temperature 1teaspoonouzoor Sambuca (optional)
1egg yolk 1teaspoonwater 2tablespoonssesame seedssprinkled on egg wash
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Place rack in the center of oven. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Sift together 3½ cups flour and baking powder and set aside. The other 1/2 cup of flour is reserved in case we need to add extra flour (see recipe note).
In a bowl of a stand mixture, with the paddle attachment, whisk together the orange zest and the sugar.
Add the cubed room temperature butter and cream together with the sugar until light and fluffy. This can take up to 5 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.
Add the eggs, one at a time beating well and scraping down the bowl between each addition.
Add the egg yolk and again, beat well and scrape down the bowl.
Add the vanilla extract, orange juice, milk and ouzo (if using). Beat together for 30 seconds.
On low speed, add the 3½ cups of flour and baking powder. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Add a few tablespoons of flour if the dough is still sticky. (Optional: cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes).
With a medium sized cookies scoop, portion and roll into a 7-inch log.
Shape into desired shapes (braids, pinwheels, twists, etc…) Refer to pictures in the post.
Place on parchment lined cookie sheets about 1 inch apart.
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for 13 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. (This was too long in my oven. I baked for 11 minutes and probably could have done even less.)
Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to wire rack to completely cool down.
Can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for about 2 weeks. Cookies can also be frozen.
Czech and Slovak heritage is of great interest to me, given my Father’s family roots. Late 2020, I participated in ‘Czech & Slovak Christmas’ offered through Global Slovakia Academy. It was a wonderful class, offering education of the Slovak advent and holidays, celebrations and food.
One of the recipes shared was this Slovak Christmas Sauerkraut Soup. It is traditionally made for Christmas Eve. I was not willing to wait until next December to make the soup! The ingredients are things our ancestors would have had on hand: wild dried mushrooms, sauerkraut, smoked sausage, etc.
I love to tweek recipes and decided to add homemade egg noodles for the last hour of cooking and loved the addition. The soup was thick enough, so I chose not to add the flour and additional water. This is a hearty soup and great paired with a hearty roll or rye bread.
SLOVAK CHRISTMAS SAUERKRAUT SOUP
1 package (32 oz) sauerkraut
2 quarts chicken or beef broth
6 whole black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
2 cups of dried wild mushrooms
1 klobásaor chorizo (Note: I used Kielbasa)
½ cup pitted prunes
1 large onion chopped
3 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Optional: 2 tbsp plain flour and 1 cup water
Salt and pepper
Optional: I added homemade egg noodles to the soup about an hour before serving
If you are not keen on the sour flavor of the sauerkraut, you can wash it before proceeding with the recipe. However, we do recommend keeping it as it is – this is when it contains the most goodness and gives the iconic flavor and smell to the soup. Fry the onion in a large pot over medium heat. Traditionally, Christmas Eve dinner was strictly meat-free. Leave klobása out if you wish to stick with the tradition.
Place the sauerkraut, broth, peppercorns, bay leaves, salt and mushrooms into a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the sausage, prunes, and paprika. Lower the heat to gentle simmer and allow to cook for at least 2 hours. Our grandmas used to set the soup on lowest heat and keep it simmering until dinner time. It fills the entire house with quintessentially Slovak Christmas smell. (Note: I simmered the soup on low for 4 hours).
Remove the bay leaves from the soup and discard. Season to taste. Serve.
One year ago, we were all hustling and bustling without a virus care in the world. Stress was high because we put so many expectations on ourselves for the perfect Christmas experience.
Fast forward to Christmas 2021 and our lives are vastly different. It’s easy to focus on the negatives, but for a moment, I’ll focus on the positives of the COVID experience and a sheltered Christmas.
My family and I are COVID free. Every day I take the time to reflect on this blessing and pray for good health for all.
My family and I have shelter and food. We have the opportunity to help others in need.
We are blessed with doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential personnel who are working tirelessly to provide services during this challenging time. They have my complete gratitude for going above and beyond on a daily basis.
Vaccinations are on the way giving us hope of control of Coronavirus for the future.
Family and friends are even more precious. I love and appreciate each and every one of you!
Handwashing and mask wearing are second nature. When I watch a television show or movie where people are in close proximity, and not wearing masks, I get a little anxious. Do you? Wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing is the least I can do for the good of our country.
Home has never felt so good. I’ve always enjoyed being home but I’ve found peace and comfort in my own space.
Christmas ornaments are full of memories. Each year, I think of the moment or the year I acquired each ornament. Decorating the tree in 2020 was a reflection on a blessed life.
Christmas magic abounds with young children. My four young grandchildren are filled with wonder and awe for the holidays .
My hair is gray. If you haven’t seen me in a picture or on Zoom, you may not know that I have gone totally gray. Gray hair symbolizes the accomplishments and stress that I have lived. It has given me new found freedom.
I’m cooking more. Cooking has always been a passion and with more time at home, I can experiment. Curbside pickup of groceries is a new service offered that reduces my risk of exposure to COVID and makes quick work of shopping.
I’m posting again on Fork-Lore. I’m cooking; therefore I’m posting.
Technology allows me to catch up with family and friends to stay connected and enjoy social interaction. Our ancestors didn’t have this luxury during other lockdowns, such as the Spanish (ie., Kansas) flu.
Journaling this COVID experience for future reflection started in March and goes on to this day. Truly, I thought I would only be journaling for 3 or 4 months…Silly me!
Podcasts, audio books and long walks are saving me. My favorite podcast list has more than doubled and the number of books read in 2021 is far beyond any previous year.
Humor sustains me. There is nothing more humorous than reflecting on the silly things I do and see each and every day.
This Christmas let us find joy, peace, and good health. Sending virtual love and hugs to all!
Cranberry and Orange are a culinary match made in heaven. The combination in this wonderful quick bread is divine, especially with the addition of Orange Glaze.
The bread is great with a cup of coffee or tea or can be served as a dessert.
CRANBERRY ORANGE BREAD WITH ORANGE GLAZE
1 1/2 cups all-purpose Gold Medal flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 large orange
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh cranberries
For the orange glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In a small bowl, combine sugar and orange zest. Rub together with your fingers until fragrant. Whisk into the flour mixture. Set aside.
In a separate medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, orange juice, and vanilla.
Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Fold in the cranberries. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
Bake for 70-75 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. If your loaf starts to get too brown drape a piece of foil over the top to finish baking. I did this during the last 10 minutes of the baking time.
Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes. Loosen the sides of the bread with a knife. Carefully remove loaf from pan. Let cool completely on wire rack.
While the bread is cooling, make the orange glaze. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, orange juice, and orange zest. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the bread. Cut and serve.
Note-The bread is best eaten within 2-3 days or freeze.
Peppermint Mocha is my favorite coffee drink of the year but I rarely order it at Starbucks because it’s loaded with empty calories. After several years of using COFFEE-MATE Peppermint Mocha Sugar Free Coffee Creamer, I decided to try making my own Peppermint Mocha with the help of the internet. This was a great recipe that I’ll make again and again!
The second recipe is for a Pepper Mocha Creamer which is also good, but the first recipe is my favorite. For the creamer, I added a packet of Stevia to my coffee before using the creamer. The creamer is a little strong for my taste, but still good!
SKINNY PEPPERMINT MOCHA
2/3cupblack coffeebrewed, medium roast or coffee of choice 2/3cupunsweetened almond milk 1tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder 1packet stevia or sweetener of choice (I used 2 packets) 1/8tsppeppermint extract
Reddiwhipuse coconut for dairy free Cacao bites or sprinkles
Brew coffee, I used leftover coffee that I stored overnight in the refrigerator and warmed in the microwave.
In a small pot, combine milk, cocoa, stevia and peppermint extract.
Bring to medium heat for 2-3 minutes until cocoa powder dissolves and liquid becomes bubbly.
Pour into a large coffee cup with the coffee then use a handheld foamer to blend until it becomes frothy and foamy. Add additional toppings as desired and enjoy.
OR I heated all ingredients together and then poured in a coffee mug and topped with Coconut Reddiwhip. YUMMY!
Cranberry relish for the holidays is a tradition. I’ve made cooked and raw cranberry sauce, but the addition of raspberries, is a nice change. Cranberry relish is great with the big meal but also great on a leftover turkey sandwich.
Wishing everyone a wonderful, safe, healthy Thanksgiving in this difficult 2020. Let’s take the time to count our many blessings, thank our medical and essential workers, hug (virtual and real) those we love, help those in need, take care of ourselves, and breathe!
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a saucepan, combine ALL ingredients.
Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
After 10 minutes, mash up berries using a potato masher or fork or something to mash up the berries. You can mash up all the berries, some, or none, depending on how chunky you like your cranberry sauce.
Breakfast oatmeal in a bar or cake form is my favorite. Most of this year I’ve been eating my Breakfast Oatmeal Bars, but a favorite fall flavor of pumpkin and maple is calling my name. Daughter, Megan, told me about these bars and made a batch for me a few weeks ago. They are absolutely delicious and the original recipe was posted by IowaGirlEats, a website my girls and I love!
Since I didn’t have Pumpkin Spice, I made my own from a recipe on Taste of Home.
I like my breakfast bar with a dollop of Greek yogurt and fresh fruit on the side with hot coffee! It doesn’t hurt to warm the Breakfast Bar for a few seconds in the microwave, either. Healthy and delicious breakfast!
Maple Pumpkin Oatmeal Breakfast Bars
2-1/2 cups gluten-free old fashioned oats, divided
1 cup milk, any kind (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees then spray an 8×8″ baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
Add 1 cup old fashioned oats to a food processor or blender then process until oats have turned into flour. Set aside. (Alternatively you could use a scant cup oat flour.)
Add milk, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, coconut oil, egg, and vanilla to a large bowl then whisk to combine. Add remaining 1-1/2 cups oats, oat flour, chia seeds, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt then stir to combine. Fold in chopped pecans then pour batter into prepared baking pan.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the center has set. Check on the bars at the 25 minute mark – if the edges are browning too quickly, place a piece of foil on top of the baking pan. Cool before slicing into bars then store in the refrigerator, or individually wrap bars in saran wrap and freeze.
Easter 2020 will be like no other. Most Americans will be home, distanced from family and friends. Our family will be doing the same but plan to share food and get together on Zoom for a short visit. Saturday we will be doing porch pickups of 1) homemade rolls, 2) Fresh Peach Cobbler…summertime favorite (using frozen peaches from last summer), and 3) Scotcheroos…Easter tradition. We will each cook our own dinner and enjoy a bit of what the others have made. It won’t be the same, but it will be an Easter to remember.
Today is the 26th day of self isolation and I am so blessed to be doing well, keeping in touch with family and friends and checking items off my ‘to-do’ list. Cleaning closets and recalling memories is part of the experience. While selecting books to read to my grandchildren, I found one of my childhood Easter books now very tattered but well loved. One of my daughter’s remarked that the bunny’s red eye creeps her out…I never even thought about that!
The pictures and stories are charming and would spark my childhood imagination. Here are a few pages:
‘Helping One Another’ is something we need to do all of the time, but especially now. ‘Jack In The Pulpit’ takes me back to springtime in Iowa and wandering the timbers with my Mother gathering Morel mushrooms and seeing Jack In The Pulpits, bluebells, Johnny Jump Ups, and many other wild flowers.
This week I also rediscovered my childhood bank, a bunny so sweet and tender. She was manufactured in the 1950s by Knickerbocker Plastics in North Hollywood, California. My mother saved her for many years, but why have I stored in the basement all these years? It’s time for her to shine her pretty little face again.
Memories are a wonderful thing…to be treasured and shared.
May your Easter be joyful…May your blessings be many. Happy Easter!
Old traditions, stories and folk lore are precious to me, especially when it comes to my Czech heritage. While this Prayer is from another time, it brings to mind the challenges of the time, not that much different than today.
Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy 2019!
WE EXTEND TO YOU A HAPPY NEW YEAR!
May the next year be more fruitful, more peaceful, more full of good health and better than any you’ve known in the past.
May you have all the earthly good which is possible to come from the hand of God.
And in the life hereafter, we wish you the glory of heaven.
And while on this earth, may we be tolerant of each other.
And on the lighter side,
We wish also that all your cows would be fat,
That the milk they give be heavy with cream,
And that your cheeses be as large as a table,
May your yard be full of chickens and geese,
In the springtime may you carry seed in small bags to your fields,
And in the autumn harvest may you require wagons upon wagons to bring in your harvest.