Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Guest Post: Pierogi

Hey guys!  I thought it would be fun to start having one guest post a month from my friends and family members - that way you guys don't get bored with my ridiculous posts where I just ramble on with my life! The first guest post is by my friend Kate. Enjoy! 

I would never consider myself a great cook, baker, or writer, so when Samantha asked me if I wanted to do a guest post here, I was filled with mixed emotions. What if nobody liked what I cooked? What if I ended up ruining the dish I made? Considering I only really started experimenting with baking about two years ago, I realized that I needed something that would make me at ease.

Growing up, my Buscia (Polish for grandma) would cook pierogi on special occasions (for those of you who have never heard of pierogi, think of a hybrid between ravioli and potato dumplings). For my Buscia, cooking pierogi was always a labor of love; something that would take an afternoon in the kitchen, hand rolling and stuffing little dough envelopes. She would usually make them for Sunday dinners, where her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren would gather for a big home cooked meal.

These pierogi embody comfort food, both in their heartiness and the fact that they require an act of love to make for someone (they do take a bit of time to make and assemble). If making for a family dinner, feel free to make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate until you are ready to stuff them. Although pierogi can be stuffed with a multitude of fillings, I prefer the traditional blend of cheese, potatoes, and onions. I also recommend serving with sour cream or (my favorite) cream cheese.

While these pierogi can in no way compare to my Buscia’s, they are still delicious. I recommend cooking up a batch of these for someone you love, whether it is your spouse, friend, or family. I even made a few without onions for our three pups. (They gobbled them up so quickly I could barely get a picture of them!)

Homemade Pittsburgh Pierogies with Sour Cream
(Recipe courtesy Columbus Foodie)

2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling dough
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream, plus extra to serve with the pierogi
1/4 cup butter, softened and cut into small pieces
butter and onions for sautéing
ingredients for filling of your choice (potato & cheese filling recipe below)


Pierogi Dough
To prepare the pierogi dough, mix together the flour and salt. Beat the egg, and then add all at once to the flour mixture. Add the 1/2 cup sour cream and the softened butter pieces and work until the dough loses most of its stickiness (about 5-7 minutes). You can use a food processor with a dough hook for this, but be careful not to overbeat. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes or overnight; the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Prepare the Pierogies
Roll the pierogi dough on a floured board or countertop until 1/8″ thick. Cut circles of dough (2″ for small pierogies and 3-3 1/2″ for large pierogies) with a cookie cutter or drinking glass. Place a small ball of filling (about a tablespoon) on each dough round and fold the dough over, forming a semi-circle. Press the edges together with the tines of a fork.

Boil the pierogies a few at a time in a large pot of water. They are done when they float to the top (about 8-10 minutes). Rinse in cool water and let dry. Sauté chopped onions in butter in a large pan until onions are soft. Then add pierogies and pan fry until lightly crispy. Serve with a side of sour cream for a true Pittsburgh pierogi meal.

Homemade Pierogi Tips:
If you are having a hard time getting the edges to stick together, you may have too much flour in the dough. Add a little water to help get a good seal.
If you don’t want to cook all of the pierogies right away, you can refrigerate them (uncooked) for several days or freeze them for up to several months.
You can fill pierogies with pretty much anything you want, though potato and cheese is the most common (recipe below). Sweet pierogies are often filled with a prune mixture.

Potato, Cheese & Onion Filling:
Peel and boil 5 lbs of potatoes until soft. Red potatoes are especially good for this. While the potatoes are boiling, finely chop 1 large onion and sauté in butter until soft and translucent. Mash the potatoes with the sautéed onions and 8oz of grated cheddar cheese, adding salt and pepper to taste. You can also add some fresh parsley, bacon bits, or other enhancements if you desire. Let the potato mixture cool and then form into 1″ balls.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blueberry Poppy Seed Cake

I DID IT! Yesterday I woke up at 4:45am to get ready for my first race! I was so excited and so nervous when I woke up I couldn’t really eat, but I forced myself too. Then I quickly got ready, picked up my friend Lauren, and headed to ASU to meet up with about 30,000 other runners to run 4.2 miles in honor of Pat Tillman. Let me tell you this: IT WAS AWESOME. My official time was 49:23, that’s about an 11:46 mile – my fastest time yet! My friends Lauren and Charles ran with me too.

We tried to stay together, but eventually all got separated. When I started running by myself I started to talk to my feet (I needed something to get my mind off how bad my knees hurt). I just kept telling them “You can do this!” and “Come on feet! Take me places!” A little bit crazy? Yes. But did it help? Yes. I also liked running in an actual race because having people pass me pushed me to run faster so that I could pass someone else. I think that’s why my time was faster than it normal is. All I know is that It was the best feeling in the world to cross the finish line and feel SO ACCOMPLISHED. My knees were killing, my body was dehydrated, my feet wanted me to sit down, but for the first 10 seconds after I crossed the finished line none of that matter because I accomplished my goal! GO ME!

So to reward myself for my awesome run yesterday I decided to make this oh so delicious blueberry poppy seed cake and eat TWO pieces as soon as it was done! This recipe is originally from Joy the Baker, but I adapted it slightly. I cut out some of the oil and added some Greek yogurt. Instead of making a blueberry glaze, I added the blueberries into the actual cake and then made a lemon glaze on top. SERIOUSLY. LEMON AND BLUEBERRY ARE THE BEST FLAVOR COMBINATION EVER. It’s my favorite. It should be yours too. I also think you should get your butts in the kitchen and make this recipe as soon as you are done reading my post! Deal? Deal.

(Beware I got a little picture happy with this recipe.)

Blueberry Poppy Seed Cake
(Adapted from Joy the Baker)

2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
1/3 cup Greek yogurt*
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 – 2 ½ cups fresh, or frozen, blueberries

Preheat oven to 325F**. Grease and flour a ten inch bundt cake pan. Then, in a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Set Aside

In a medium bowl combine oil, Greek yogurt, buttermilk, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until there are no lumps in the batter.

Then fold in poppy seeds.

Then fold in blueberries.

Bake 325F for 1hr 15 mins – 1hr 25mins***. Let cool completely in bundt cake pan.

Once cooled, release cake from pan by flipping it over. Then glaze the cake with a mix of powdered sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice). THEN DEVOUR!

*You can use plain yogurt if you like, I just prefer Greek yogurt. You could even use the original 1 1/3 cup canola oil if that is all you have
**&*** The original recipe says the cake should be baked at 325 fro 35-45 minutes. Mine took a lot longer than that. I don’t know if it was because of the Greek yogurt, the frozen blueberries, or just because I was too excited to keep the oven door shut. So your cooking time may very. Also, trying baking the cake at 350 for a less amount of time. Let me know what worked best for you!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Minty Lime Tea Cookies

The only exciting news I have to share with you lovely people is this: I RAN 4.17 MILES on Wednesday! It was the farthest I’ve ever ran and it felt so FREAKING AWESOME.  Once I got past 3.25 miles I kept singing out loud to myself,  “This is the farthest I’ve ever ran. Go me!”  The few people that walked past me probably thought I was a fool, but I was just so happy nothing mattered!  I also had Jill’s voice in the back of my head telling me, “Some people can’t even run a mile,”  and here I was about to run over 4 miles!  It was awesome motivation. 
Pat’s Run is exactly one week away!  I’m so happy and excited about this.  It’s crazy how far I’ve come with running.  When I first started I couldn’t even run a half mile on the treadmill with out dying.  It was horrible.  But now I know my body is capable of running 4+ miles!  I can’t wait to see my mileage number increase.  I just LOVE LOVE LOVE the feeling I get when I’m done running.  Yeah, my knees might be killing me when im done, my feet my be yelling at me during the run for making them do it, and when i wake up the next day my hamstrings might be ridiculously tight.  BUT it's all worth it because running is so much fun!  Okay. I’ll stop boring you with this.
Let me share something with you that I know you’ll just LOVE.  Meet Minty Lime Tea Cookies.

They are scrumptious.  The PERFECT cookie to eat outside, on your porch, or in the grass, with a large glass of iced tea.  They just hit the spot and make you stomach smile.  The lime is definitely the flavor that sticks out the most, and that’s okay with me.  I’m afraid that if the mint flavor was stronger they might not be as delicious.  People.  Please make these, please eat these outside in the grass with some one you love,  and please bring a big pitcher of iced to was these down with.   Please. Please. Please.  Your belly will thank you.  I promise.
Minty Lime Tea Cookies
(Recipe Slightly Adapted from My Tea Shelf)
1 2/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup granulated brown sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2  teaspoons grated lime peel
1/2 teaspoons grated tangerine peel
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 egg


In a medium size bowl combine butter, brown sugar, powdered sugar, lime, tangerine, and olive oil with a hand mixer on medium high speed.  Then add the egg; beat until combined.

Add flour, baking powder, and mint to the wet mixture and mix until combined. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350F.  Roll dough into one inch balls and then flatten them on your baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Let cool. Enjoy. :)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Quinoa Crackers

If there is one thing that makes me happy it is definitely tea, and if there is a second thing that makes me just as happy it is tea parties!  Yes, I’m almost 23. Yes, I have a college degree.  Yes, I should probably act my age. BUT tea parties and wearing big hats are just too much fun! Don’t judge. Just love.  While my friend Kate was in town we had a picnic tea party.  It was AWESOME.

 The picnic included iced mint green tea; quinoa crackers with cream cheese, fennel seeds, and cucumbers; minty lime tea crackers, cranberry walnut bread with goat cheese and fig jam, and finally cranberry walnut bread with peanut butter and honey.  It was delicious!

We made the quinoa crackers using Ashley’s, from edible perspective, recipe.  My oh my! They were so delicious!  I was so excited to make these as soon as I saw her post on her blog about them, and I figured using them for our tea party would be perfect!  We didn’t have all the ingredients Ashley used in her recipe so we made some slight changes.  We also used fresh ingredients when it came to the herbs; the crackers we made have a shorter shelf life because of that.  But do make these! It is so simple and so easy.  Plus, why buy store bought processed crackers, when you can make them at home, know what is exactly in them, and brag to your friends that you are cool enough to make crackers!?  MAKE THESE. End of story.

Quinoa Crackers


1 – 1 ¼ cup quinoa flour (we made our own, so did Ashley - directions below)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal
1 clove fresh garlic, grated (or ¾ teaspoon garlic powder)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
2/3-3/4 cups water


Preheat the oven to 400F, and grease a large baking sheet.  In medium size bowl combine both flours, sesame seeds, salt, fresh basil,  fresh rosemary, flaxseed meal, garlic, and baking powder until everything is well mixed.

Then using your hands, add the oil to dry mixture until  it is moist and crumbly.  Add enough water to the mixture so you can form a ball of dough. 

Flour  a large surface and roll out the dough as THIN AS POSSIBLE (about 1/16 of an inch).  Cut the crackers using a pizza cutter and transfer to a baking sheet.  Brush the tops of the crackers with grapeseed oil (any oil will work), salt, and pepper.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.  Then eat!

Directions for Quinoa Flour:
Preheat oven to 250F.  Rinse 1 cup of quinoa and spread on to a baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes then stir the quinoa, and bake for another 15-20 minutes.  You want to make sure the quinoa is completely dry.  Then pour the quinoa into a food processor and grind until you get a mix between a flour and bits of whole quinoa (this added to the crunchiness of the crackers).  It took us about 15 minutes of processing to get the flour to the consistency we wanted.