Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bohemian Kolachky--A Sweet Treat that's Perfect with Coffee or Tea!

The recipe I'm going to share with you today was given to me by a friend I've known for many, many years. We first met when he regularly bought 50-pound sacks of organic wheat berries that I sold, but our friendship blossomed when we started working for the same publishing company about ten years ago. We love to swap recipes and discuss the finer points of bread making.

He recently brought in a sample of Bohemian Kolachky and I was immediately hooked. This recipe is a stunner! If you've ever seen the movie "What About Bob," you'll understand when I say it brings to mind the hand-shucked corn-eating scene! It's so delicious you can't keep quiet. Lots of "m-m-m"-ing going on! I promptly asked for the recipe and he was gracious enough to give it to me. We can all be thankful for that.

Basically, Kolachky is a very rich outer layer (akin to a pie crust) that wraps around a sweetened walnut filling and is sprinkled with powdered sugar. It looks like this:

And it's made like this:

Bohemian Kolachky

It's worked in two stages, by the way. First you prepare the dough and then let it chill for about 8 hours. Then you make up the walnut filling and put the kolachkys together and bake them. And then, of course, you get to eat them...which is somewhat frustrating because you'll want to eat the entire batch, but they're so incredibly rich you can't eat more than a few at a time. (Drats!)

Pastry Dough

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
6 oz. cream cheese (that's 2/3 of a regular-sized box of cream cheese)

Mix all ingredients together with a fork or your hands. I started with a fork but quickly realized that my hands worked better. When it's ready, you'll be reminded of pie crust. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, making the shape either a ball or a log--doesn't matter, really. Chill for about 8 hours so it has time to meld.

Sweetened Walnut Filling

2 cups ground or finely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream

I used my old Universal grinder with the coarser blade to grind the walnuts and it was perfect:

Grind the walnuts and then mix together all of the filling ingredients.

Now you're going to prepare the Kolachkys for baking. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to come to about room temperature. (A little cooler than room temperature will work fine. The biggest problem is in trying to roll out the dough straight from the fridge--it won't roll thin and you'll just get frustrated, so let the dough sit for about an hour [or longer] on your kitchen counter.)

Divide the dough into three or four parts and roll each part out as thin as possible; about 1/8 inch thick will be perfect. Cut into 2-inch squares and place about 1/2-1 teaspoon of walnut filling in the middle of the square. Pinch two opposite corners together and place them fairly close together on an ungreased cookie sheet. I used my silicone baking mats, by the way.

Bake them at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes; they're done when the crust and filling have puffed slightly and the pastry has just begun to turn golden. Some people like their Kolachkys browner while others prefer them lighter and softer. I like mine with just a wee bit of golden delicious crunchiness.

When the Kolachkys have finished baking, turn them out onto a serving platter and allow them to cool slightly. Sprinkle them liberally with powdered sugar.

I learned some finer points when I made my first batch:

  • I found that my dough wanted to stick so I rolled it out on my marble block--which worked okay, but I still had sticking problems. Next I rolled out smaller portions on my silicone baking mats (because NOTHING sticks to those babies!) and that seemed to work better, although I still had to go slow and get them up using my scraper:

  • Allow the Kolachkys to cool enough so that when you sprinkle them with powdered sugar it doesn't melt.
  • Use a very small amount of walnut filling because it expands during baking.
  • Make sure you have a fresh pot of coffee or tea on hand because you'll definitely want to eat some as soon as they're out of the oven!
While this recipe takes some time to produce the finished product, it's most definitely worth the effort. And while they may not become an everyday standard because of all the work involved, you'll surely want to make them for special occasions or company dinners. They present beautifully and will be an instant hit!

As always, I pray that your days are rolling pleasantly along. And if times are currently hard for you, may I suggest that you get into the kitchen and have a bit of cooking therapy? It always works wonders for me!

Blessings to you and yours,

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Silicone Baking Mats

I tend to stick to the old ways, and I'm hard pressed to make purchases of new-fangled products. So nobody was more surprised than I was when I bought a set of silicone baking mats that I found for a great price at Costco.

I got two of these full sized mats:

And one half-sized mat:

I use the full-size mats constantly; the half-size mat doesn't get use as often, but it's great for a small batch of biscuits, heating up French bread, or reheating pizza...things like that).

You can use these mats in the oven up to 480 degrees (Fahrenheit) and they are totally worth the investment. I'm in love! Cookies and biscuits turn out beautifully. I swear the food doesn't brown as dark on the bottoms and the shapes are rounder.

Caring for them is easy too. I just wash them in the sink with a soft sponge and a small amount of dishwashing liquid and then rinse them well and let them air dry. Since nothing actually sticks to them, they come clean in a jiffy.

Here are some things I've learned:

The set I got from Costco came rolled up in a package, but I store mine flat. They lay much nicer on my cookie sheets as a result (instead of curling up at the edge).

I never use them as cutting mats. In fact, I don't cut any food on them ever, being careful to remove the food before doing so.

I don't use cooking spray, butter, shortening, or anything else to grease the mats before adding the food. They really are nonstick!

If you do any amount of baking at all you'll want to invest in a silicone baking mat or two. They are so worth it! In fact, I gave one of my precious mats to my youngest son's girlfriend because she is learning how to bake, and I plan on buying more to share with my daughters-in-law. To my way of thinking, everyone needs a silicone baking mat. They are just that good!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Banana Nut Bread

This recipe for Banana Nut Bread has been in my family for probably four generations. I know that my grandma used to make it, and I think she got it from her it's an old one. But Banana Nut Bread is a classic, and I doubt there's much that's changed over the years.

This quick bread is good anytime, but I especially like to make it during the cold months of winter. Spread with butter and eaten with a steaming cup of coffee--it's tasty comfort in a slice! Plus it's quick and easy. What's not to like?

Banana Nut Bread

2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
2 eggs
3 T. sour milk or buttermilk (see note below if you don't have either of these...there's a fix!)
1 cup mashed bananas (use very ripe, soft bananas; 2-3 will be enough)
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Note: You can "sour" your milk by putting in a few drops of vinegar, or else use half sour cream and half milk instead.

Mix together sugar, shortening, and eggs (an electric mixer works best). Stir in sour milk and mashed bananas.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and blend into the banana mixture. Then add the walnuts.

Pour batter into a well-greased loaf pan. Let stand for 20 minutes before baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

That's it. That's all there is to it. It's so easy, and you don't make a ton so it gets eaten up. You can always freeze it too as it freezes quite well. Just be sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap before placing it in a freezer bag.

My hope is that this post finds you and your loved ones in good health.

Happy eating!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Corn Chowder--Super Easy, Super Good!

Every year at Christmas my boss makes her famous corn chowder. Everyone in our department anticipates the day when we have our holiday lunch because we know she'll make way more than we can possibly eat, although we try our best to do just that, because we know it will be another long year before we get another taste.

Well this year, I summoned my courage and asked if she'd be willing to share the recipe and she was delighted to do so. The only problem was that the copier didn't get the amounts of the ingredients and I didn't notice in time to rectify the situation. Uh oh! I was bereft at first, thinking I'd lost my opportunity, but then I thought surely I could make something at least similar. So into the kitchen I went and started to experiment.

The recipe I'm about to share with you is my own, but based in large part on my boss's recipe. (For instance, I wouldn't have thought to include cream cheese in the soup.) She originally got the recipe from a local restaurant that is no longer in business, and unfortunately I can't remember the name of said restaurant, so there's no way I can give kudos to the anonymous cook.(*See Note at end of this post.) But I think you'll be glad that the original recipe didn't go down with the closing of the doors.
I love how colorful this chowder is!

Corn Chowder

1/4 cup butter
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed in small dices
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (you can use water if desired)
4 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp. dill weed
1 1/2 cups half and half or cream (or a combination)
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups canned corn, drained (or you can use frozen  corn)

The first thing you want to do is take out the cream cheese from the refrigerator and let it sit in a small mixing bowl so it's room temperature (or thereabouts) when you go to use it later in the process.

In a fairly large pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the butter until onion is translucent. Add the potatoes, carrots, and chicken broth and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are cooked through. Add a bit of water or broth if it boils down very much, although this isn't absolutely necessary.

While the veggies are simmering, mix together the cream cheese and diced tomatoes; use a fork to smash the cream cheese into the tomatoes. Here's what my bowl looked like when I was done with this step:
Cream cheese and tomato roux

When the veggies are cooked through, add the cream cheese mixture, dill, half and half, cheddar cheese, and corn and stir until cheeses are melted. Let the soup warm on low heat for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, but make sure it doesn't every boil.
Finished chowder heating on stove

Add salt and pepper to taste and serve it up!

This chowder is very rich and can easily feed a family of four, but if you have lots of people to feed, or if you have extra hungry eaters (like a couple of teenage boys!), you can easily double the recipe.

Try it. I think you'll like it!

Blessings to you and yours,

* The name of the little café was the Jazz Station, and the owner and chef was Gary Wilson. He had a flair for taste combinations, I'll give him that!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

8 Time-Saving Tips--Perfect for the New Year!

I was recently asked by Harvest House Publishers (my book publisher) to write a blog post relating to my newest book, 501 Time-Saving Tips Every Woman Should Know, which will be available for purchase on February 1, 2015:

If you click on the link below, you can read the post I wrote that is timely, what with a new year upon us. By making some small changes now, you'll be able to look back at the end of this year and be satisfied with all you've accomplished!

Blessings to you and your loved ones,

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Free Book Giveaway!

Hello, all. I'm so excited to have another guest blog post featured in the Cook's Corner section at Amish In this post I share how to make tasty egg noodles. And if you leave a comment, you have a chance to win one of my books! Here's the link:

Would you like to win a copy of my book, The Homestyle Amish Kitchen Cookbook? #giveaway #AmishWisdom

So log on to Amish Wisdom, make a comment, and best of luck!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Cheesy Garlic Biscuits Hit the Spot!

Red Lobster restaurants make a rich tasting cheesy garlic biscuit. I figured if a chain restaurant can do it, so can kitchen cooks, so into the kitchen I went, and I nailed it on the first try! Here is a sample of the results:


Cheesy Garlic Biscuits

2 cups homemade biscuit mix or Bisquick
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup cheddar cheese
1/3 cup butter
1/4 tsp. garlic powder, more or less to suit taste (I like mine really garlicky!)
1/4 tsp. (heaping) dried parsley
a few shakes of salt from your salt shaker
one shake of pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, stir together the biscuit mix, milk, and cheddar cheese; don't overmix.

Drop by large spoonsful onto an ungreased cookie sheet, or a cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking mat.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until biscuits are golden on top and baked completely.

In the meantime, melt the butter (I use a coffee cup in the microwave) and add the garlic powder, parsley, salt, and pepper and gently stir to mix. Immediately after removing the biscuits from the oven and while they are still on the baking sheet, brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter mixture. Brush heavily and use it all up--you'll be glad you did when you take your first bite!

This is such a quick and easy recipe--sure to add something wonderful to any meal. Or, do like I do and make a batch just to snack on. They're that good!

As always, it's my hope and prayer that you and your loved ones are faring well. Blessings to you!