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.
Family Favorites · Holidays · New Traditions

Sugar Cookies for Valentine’s Day

Sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day is such a treat. I’m usually not a big fan of actually making them (but always a fan of eating them) because of the work involved.  This year, however, I was motivated and found the process fun…walk down memory lane. The cookie recipe came from my sister, Carolyn.  She made these when her kids were younger and I loved them.

 

My kids and I started a tradition last year of gathering around Valentine’s Day for a group dinner and, this year, the cookies will be our dessert.  I loved cutting out the smaller hearts for the little ones.  We need to enjoy it because who knows when I’ll be motivated once again!

SUGAR COOKIES

3 cup sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup shortening (butter, Crisco, etc.)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg in a bowl.  Cut in shortening.
  • In a separate bowl beat eggs.  Add sugar, milk and vanilla.  Beat well.
  • Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and mix well.
  • Chill dough for at least one hour (I chilled overnight).
  • Roll out 1/2 dough on floured surface and return remaining dough to refrigerator until ready to roll out.  (I found the dough a bit sticky so used quite a bit of flour while rolling out).  Cut into desired shapes.
  • Optional:  At this point you can sprinkle with decorative colored sugar if you don’t want to ice the cookies. I did this for half of the recipe.
  • Bake cookies on ungreased baking sheet at 375 degrees for about 7 minutes or until a light brown on the edges.

CREAMY ICING:

3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4-6 tablespoons cream (or half and half)
drop or two of red food coloring (to reach the desired color of pink or red)

  • Blend ingredients together to make an icing with a thin consistency.  This will be enough icing for the entire cookie recipe.  I made half of the icing recipe and iced half of the batch.

 

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 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.
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

Biscuits and Gravy…Tradition!

Biscuits and gravy were introduced to me when I moved to St. Joseph, Missouri in 1975 and they’ve been a favorite breakfast in our house since.  My husband, Karl, made biscuits and gravy, with scrambled eggs, and sausage almost every weekend while the girls were young.

Biscuits were made from scratch, Bisquick mix, or even refrigerated buttermilk biscuits.  The gravy, however, was always made from scratch and the flour browned to just the right shade of perfection before adding the milk and watching the bubbly goodness thicken to our perfect gravy thickness. A cast iron skillet was always the cooking vessel of choice.

Daughter, Megan, stayed with me for a few days while her hardwood floors were being refinished and she wanted to make biscuits and gravy.  We tried a new drop biscuit recipe that we liked but she made the gravy the old fashioned way.

I love a little sweet with my savory so for my breakfast dessert, one biscuit with honey.  MMMM…

What a wonderful walk down memory lane and the chance to revisit family tradition.

DADDY’S DELICIOUS BAKING POWDER DROP BISCUITS

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 425º.
  • Combine all dry ingredients.
  • Blend in the warm butter.
  • Slowly add the milk to the mixture until the dough holds together.
  • Use two spoons to drop evenly sized biscuits on ungreased baking sheet.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned.

http://www.food.com/recipe/daddys-delicious-baking-powder-drop-biscuits

OLD FASHIONED SAUSAGE GRAVY

1 lb. bulk breakfast sausage
1/3 cup flour
3-4 cups milk
salt  and pepper to taste

  • Prepare biscuits and keep warm.
  • Cook sausage patties in a large skillet, preferably cast iron. Set cooked sausage patties aside and keep warm.
  • Add flour to sausage drippings and let brown (watch carefully or it will burn). Once flour is brown, add milk, salt and pepper and let gravy bubble until it thickens.  This may take about 10 minutes.  If the gravy becomes too thick, add milk to gain desired thickness.
  • Optional:  Add some crumbled cooked sausage into gravy.
  • Serve hot with biscuits, sausage patties and eggs of your choice.
Czech Heritage · Family · Family Favorites · Holidays

Chocolate Kolaches

Christmas morning without Kolaches is like the 4th of July without fireworks. Cherry Kolaches have always been my favorite and, until a few years ago, the only kind I ever made.  What to do when your new son-in-law doesn’t like cooked fruit? You can never go wrong with Chocolate.

Hershey's Chocolate Kisses
Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses

The first year I was a bit doubtful about the results but I was pleasantly surprised. I took a piece of dough, as I would for the cherry kolaches, but flatten in slightly, pressing 1-2 chocolate kisses in the dough, then pinching the dough closed around the chocolate.

Update January 2021:  I have made these every year but have graduated to a higher grade of chocolate, using Ghirardelli chocolate chips or squares.

Allow the dough to rise, per the recipe, and bake.  Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar when removing from the oven (optional).

See the original recipe on my Cherry Kolaches post.

Family Favorites · Home · My Roots

Meat Loaf…a slice of home

Meat Loaf is a favorite of mine and feel badly that it’s gotten a bad name.  Perhaps people have even too many ‘bad’ meatloaf to appreciate the good.  Meat Loaf is not a pretty dish but it is excellent paired with a good baked potato, salad and green vegetable. And, who doesn’t like a good meatloaf sandwich from the leftovers?  My Mother always had a slice of raw potato on her meat loaf sandwich and it’s good.  Who knew!

Meat Loaf is not easy to photograph…my apologies but I won’t apologize for the wonderful results!

MEAT LOAF

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I prefer ground chuck or sirloin)
3/4 cup quick oatmeal (uncooked)
1/2 cup chopped onion (optional)
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup milk

TOPPING:
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1/3 to 1/2 cup catsup
2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • Mix all but topping together. Pack firmly into a loaf pan. Spread the topping over.

  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 60-90 minutes or until done. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

 

Family · Family Favorites · Holidays · New Traditions

Christmas Crockpot Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate and the holidays just go hand-in-hand.  That warm cozy feeling in your tummy while gathered around the fire or Christmas tree with loved ones is what Christmas is all about.

Christmas Fireplace
Christmas Fireplace (Photo credit: rockinpaddy)

Daughter, Sarah, requested that we try this recipe for Christmas morning 2012 and it was delicious.  It took a little longer to heat in the crock pot so allow plenty of time for it to warm to serving temperature.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas!

CHRISTMAS CROCK POT HOT CHOCOLATE

1.5 cups heavy cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
2 cups milk chocolate chips
6 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 tsp. vanilla
mini marshmallows

  • Stir together the whipping cream, milk, vanilla, and chocolate chips in a crock pot.
  • Cover and cook on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until mixture is hot and chocolate chips are melted.
  • Stir again before serving. Garnish as desired.

adapted from mrshappyhomemaker.com

Family Favorites · My Roots

Thanksgiving Turkey and Dressing

Turkey and Dressing baking the morning of Thanksgiving is such a sensory experience, bringing back fond memories of Thanksgivings past while creating new memories.

This photo of my Uncle George carving our Thanksgiving turkey in the 1960s while my Dad and Aunt Wilma watched (or snitched pieces of turkey) transported me back to the Smaha farmhouse and large family gatherings.

Uncle George carves Christmas turkey while Aunt Wilma and Archie watch 1961

Traditionally, my family made the dressing from only white bread. When I married, Karl introduced me to cornbread dressing and I’ve become a big fan. The texture and flavor of the cornbread are a great addition.

Roast Turkey and Dressing
Roast Turkey and Dressing

ROAST TURKEY AND DRESSING

1 bag dried bread cubes
1 pan cornbread, crumbled
Chicken or turkey broth
Chopped onion
1 egg, beaten
Sprinkle of sage & poultry seasoning
Celery leaves
salt & pepper

  • Put bread cubes and crumbled cornbread in large bowl and saturate with broth.
  • Add onion, egg, salt & pepper, sage & poultry seasoning. Season to taste. Add chopped celery leaves.
Turkey Dressing ready for the oven
Turkey Dressing ready for the oven
  • Make sure stuffing is moist!
  • Stuff mixture in and around the turkey or chicken.
Stuffed Turkey ready for the oven
Stuffed Turkey ready for the oven
  • Cover with aluminum foil tent until last 2-3 hours of roasting.  (Note for stuffing as a side dish, cook a minimum of 1-1.5 hours at 350 degrees.)