Czech Heritage · Holidays · My Roots

Slovak Sauerkraut Soup

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.
Family Favorites · My Roots

Beef Macaroni Skillet–blast from the past!

Beef Macaroni Skillet, a  one skillet meal, was a regular menu item when my children were young.  It was a quick meal that I could put together after work.  I haven’t made it in over 20 years and it was a fun walk down memory lane.

My older daughter, Megan, and her girls were here to experience it.  Megan didn’t remember it but liked it as did her two year old daughter.  The five year old didn’t care for it, but then again, she’s in a phase of only liking what she knows.

The original recipe card is in my handwriting, probably around the age of 11 or 12, when I started my recipe box.  It’s funny to look back at it and find humor in the reference to ‘this main dish’.

BEEF MACARONI SKILLET

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups tomato juice (add more if it becomes too dry)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni

  • Brown beef and onion in a skillet.  Drain fat.
  • Add remaining ingredients and cook, covered, until the macaroni is cooked, about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally while cooking to prevent from sticking.
Garden · My Roots · Vegan · Vegetarian

Wild Plum Jam

Wild Plums are a new discovery for me. A few weeks ago,  I was on a walk with my granddaughter when we saw these pretty purple, red and yellow fruit growing in the open space.  I brought a few back to house and identified them.  Wild Plums!  My daughter and her family walked to open space to pick several pounds of fruit. We were cautiously optimistic and decided to make a trial batch from the few ripe plums.  We left the skins on for the trial. It was delicious but and we did not like the texture of the cooked skins.

A week later, the rest of the plums were ripe and we decided to make and can the jam, using a food strainer to remove the skins.  My Mom’s trusty food strainer did the trick!

Vintage Sieve and Pistle

The jam is pretty and tart.  I can’t wait to try it on  breakfast toast, pancakes, or perhaps with a mild cheese.

Finding these little gems caused interest in the history of the wild plum and how Native Americans and our ancestors may have used them.  Wild Plums appear to grow in many states. The Minnesota Conservation Volunteer published an interesting history.

WILD PLUM JAM

5 pounds Wild Plums
5 cups sugar (the original recipe called for 10 cups of sugar)
4.5 tablespoons lemon juice

  • Pit the plums and place them into a thick bottomed pot.
  • Add in the lemon juice and cook for a few minutes, until the plums begin to release their juices.
  • Add in sugar and stir.  Simmer, stirring often for about 10 minutes.1/2 to compensate for the naturally sweeter fruit.
  • When the jam thickens, pour the hot jam into a food sieve.  Press to remove the juice and pulp.  Discard the remaining skins.  Put back on heat to assure the jam returns to temperature.
  • Pour the hot jam into prepared canning jars.  At this point, the jam can either be stored in the refrigerator or processed for 10 minutes in a water bath canner.
  • After a 10 minute process, turn off the heat, wait 5 more minutes and then remove the jars from the canner.
  • Allow the jars to cool, and after 24 hours place any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use within a few weeks.

Recipe adapted from Earthfoodandfire.com

DIY · Family Favorites · Garden · Home · My Roots · Vegan · Vegetarian

Easy Dill Pickles

My Mother always grew a large garden and had a plentiful canning room in the basement with many types of pickles, tomatoes, corn, green beans, chicken, beef, peaches, pears, apples,  jams. jelly, and more.  What she didn’t can, she froze.  I fondly remember the annual family gathering to pick, husk, parboil, cut and pack sweet corn for the freezer.  How wonderful to enjoy this bounty during the long, cold Iowa winters.

This year I had a plentiful harvest of cucumbers. With the first hard freeze shortly after Labor Day,  I had to pick most the produce, including many cucumbers.  I made my Mom’s Easy Dill Pickle recipe and it didn’t disappoint. The addition of fresh garlic to the second batch will be a new twist!

EASY DILL PICKLES

Medium Cucumber, sliced into spears or slices
Fresh dill
White vinegar
Water
Salt
Alum
Optional:  Peeled cloves of garlic

  • Wash medium size cucumbers and pack in canning quart jars.  Add fresh dill to the top (stem and all).  Place 1/4 teaspoon alum in the top of each quart jar of cucumbers.
  • Boil canning lids and rings in a separate pot.
  • Mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water.  To each quart of liquid add 4 tablespoons salt. Heat liquid to boiling point.  Pour liquid, while hot, over pickles.
  • Immediately place lids and rings on each jar.Let stand until cool.  Check to assure lid has sealed. Let the pickles sit in the brine for a few days/weeks. Store in a cool place.
  • I’ve also made these pickles and just placed in the frig, skipping the canning process.
Family · Family Favorites · Holidays · My Roots

Easter Memories

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:

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‘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. IMG_8330

Memories are a wonderful thing…to be treasured and shared.

May your Easter be joyful…May your blessings be many.  Happy Easter!

Family · My Roots · New Favorite · New Traditions

Cherry Bars

Cherry desserts are one of my favorites and I had to try this Cherry Bars recipe from my late Aunt Joyce’s recipe box.  While I don’t recall ever having these, they are wonderful. The combination of almond and cherry…yum!

Leafing through old, handwritten recipe cards is such a treasure…a lost tradition in today’s world.

CHERRY BARS

1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs, beat after addition of each egg
3 cups flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
1 can cherry pie filling

  • Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease 10×15″ pan.
  • Cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time and beat after each addition.
  • Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.
  • Slowly add flour mixture to batter.  Then add vanilla and almond extract.
  • Spread 1/2 of batter into pan.  Spool filling on top and spread to cover. Drop the remaining batter by spoonfuls over the top.
  • Bake for about 40 minutes.  Watch it to just golden brown.
  • Drizzle with glaze of 1 cup powdered sugar, 4 or more tsp. milk, a few drops of almond extract.  Add milk until the drizzle consistency is reached.
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 · 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!

Family Favorites · My Roots · Vegetarian

Fresh New Potatoes and Peas

Fresh New Potatoes and Peas were a summer treat on the Iowa farm.  My Mother would dig potatoes and shell peas from her large summer garden.  I cannot verify the origin of this recipe but Mom always said it had Dutch or Pennsylvania Dutch roots.

While I do not grow potatoes in my garden, I prepared with red potatoes from the grocery store and peas from my CSA weekly bounty.Fresh New Potatoes and Peas

This recipe can easily be prepared with frozen peas as well.  It’s a wonderful side dish with steak, hamburgers, or fish. My oldest daughter, Megan, suggested it would be great with a little Parmesan cheese.  I’ll be trying that next time!

New Potatoes and Peas

FRESH NEW POTATOES AND PEAS

1 1/2 quarts new potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups new peas, cook until done
1 cup sweet cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup grated carrots (optional)
salt and pepper

  • Cover potatoes, peas, and carrots with water and cook until tender. Drain.
  • Combine cream and flour until smooth. Add to potatoes and peas and add butter, salt and sugar.
  • Cook and stir over medium-low heat until thickened.