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Archive for the ‘Kitchen Toys’ Category

Making my own food is so satisfying.  I can control the quality of the basic ingredients that form a dish.  These pierogies were made with organic unbleached flour, real cheddar cheese (not that processed crap), red onions, organic potatoes, and chives from the front garden.  Back in junior high when I first learned the ways of the pierogi, we lived on a farm and grew a large portion of our own food.  If I could get the cement-like dirt in my yard to loosen up I could grow the potatoes and onions needed for this recipe.  All that I would need is a cheese purveyor and charcuterie for bacon.

I’ve noticed everyone makes their batch of tamales for the year (or few months) during the winter holiday season.  In Canada, it’s cold at least 80% of the year, so there is some leeway in the definition of “winter season”, nonetheless it’s a good time to gather and make homemade food to last through to spring.  My tamale is the pierogi.  If only I had a bigger freezer!

Traditional pierogies, at least in my family, were filled with potato and cheese.  There are all sorts of variations from blueberry, to cottage cheese, to mushroom.  Not a huge fan of the sweet blueberry version.  A perogie in my mind is savoury.  And bacon.  Lots of bacon involved.

Here is how I made my pierogies.

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1. Gather your ingredients and equipment:

  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons oil
  • leftover mashed potato
  • sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • cooked bacon and onion, fine dice
  • fresh chives
  • round cookie cutter
  • pierogi press (kitchen toy, not essential but it makes pretty pierogies)
  • rolling-pin
  • tray covered in parchment or wax paper that fits in the freezer horizontally (check to be sure you have space!)
  • pastry mat or floured work surface
  • small dish of water

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2.  Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.  Mix the water, eggs, oil in another bowl.

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3.  Pour the egg mixture in the flour.

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4. Stir until almost all the flour is absorbed, add more water a teaspoon at a time to reach a uniform dough.  Little hands can help, too!

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5.  Knead the dough for a couple of minutes.

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6.  Let the dough rest covered by the bowl or plastic wrap on the counter for at least 20 minutes.  Meanwhile mix the filling.  I prefer to have the “goodies” in one bowl (bacon, onion, half the cheese, and chives) and the potato in the other with half the cheese.  Make sure the potatoes are cold otherwise the cheese will melt and that doesn’t make for good pierogies.

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7.  Take a baseball-sized portion of the dough and roll out on the floured mat/countertop until it’s very thin.

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8.  Cut rounds of dough.

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9.  Place the dough on the pierogi press, stretch the edges if needed.

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10.  Fill the center with a bit of the bacon mixture and top off with potato.  There should be about a rounded teaspoon of filling total.  Watch out for pokey bacon pieces that pierce the belly of the pierogi!

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11.  Dip a finger in the water.

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12.  Rub the water around half the perimeter of the dough.

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13.  Squish…

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14.  There’s your pierogi!

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15.  Place the pierogies on the sheet pan and freeze.  Once frozen (20 minutes) transfer to freezer bags.  Use within 3 months for best results.  Repeat until you run out of filling or dough or patience.

Alright, that’s the hard part.  The easy part is cooking and enjoying all your hard work.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Drop your frozen pierogies in the water (not too many, don’t crowd the hot tub) and boil until they float to the top.  I give them an extra 30-45 seconds then remove with a slotted spoon.  If you want the full experience of the Canadian Perogie, fry those suckers in butter and top with bacon and caramelized onions, with a spoonful of sour cream.  Yeah baby. Effin heart attack on a plate!  I suggest serving 2 or 3 pierogies per person the first time you make this.  Let them develop the thirst for butter-coated potato cheddar pierogies before telling them how many are in the freezer.  More for you in the meantime, eh?

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I’ve been secretly wishing for a FoodSaver(R) system for years.  They don’t often pop up in searches on Craigslist, and I can understand why.  This thing ROCKS!

I bought the Chef Mini kit and the sealer itself is smaller than I thought it would be, great for counter-top use.  The first test will be sliced roast beef to freeze for lunches next week or next month.

Cookies did not really survive the vacuuming, they were sucked into crumb oblivion.

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We were out at the Outlet Mall (almost as bad as the real mall) shopping for gifts for the parents in November.  In one of the kitchen stores, I scoured every isle and every shelf searching for a cookie press to make my spritz cookies.  I gave up, the kids were looking at me like I was mad (the crazy kind not the about-to-blow-my-top kind).  I happened to turn around while leaving the store to hold the door open.  “THAT’S IT!”  I scream-whispered to Hubby.  “That’s the cookie press I was looking for all over the store!”  By then we had hit the point where the kids started acting like little animals, they needed to be fed.  I didn’t want to spend a moment more at the outlets either.

A couple of weeks went by and I decided to pick up a cookie press I found at the grocery store, a seasonal item sitting among the oven mitts, cookie cutters, and festive cupcake papers.  I tried the first batch of cookies, cleaned it up, and it’s been living on the kitchen counter ever since.

Little did I know, Hubby was listening to me at the mall.

Christmas came and I unwrapped Hubby’s gift (he even bought new paper to wrap it in).  An electric cookie press and piping tool.  Everything works better as a power tool, obviously cookie making and cake frosting needed an extra boost of horsepower too.  I thanked him profusely for the very thoughtful gift and that I would return my manual press or give it to his mom.

On the way home, Hubby confessed he had kept the receipt in case I wanted something else.  I liked his gift.  I liked the idea of faster, maybe more consistent, cookies.  Plus it was multi-purpose!  I opened the box and found a recipe booklet, several different flavours of cookie batter are included, as well as pâte à choux!  Awesome.  This will be a swell addition to kitchen toy island.

Now the manual cookie press needs a new home.

Giveaway!

All these contests have rules, so here it how to enter to win this cookie press (used once to subdue my craving for spritz)

  • Follow my blog (leave 1 comment for this)
  • Like Cardamom Finnish Cottage Bakery on Facebook (leave 1 comment for this)
  • Follow midnitechef on Twitter (leave 1 comment for this)

Choose any or all methods, maximum of three entries until contest closes Jan 14th, 2012

You must live in Canada or continental USA to win.  Random.org will be used to select the winner.

UPDATE:

The lucky comment is #1, that means The Edmonton Tourist!

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Kitchen toys are so much fun to share with the kids, at least the safe ones.  They love to push buttons and turn handles.  Big Brother was my pasta sous chef for the day, in charge of turning the hand crank of the pasta machine and using scraps of pasta to make his own noodles.  He is obsessed with Kung Fu Panda, and easily convinced he should eat lots of noodles, just like Po.

Little Sister can’t keep still now.  She has learned the tools of the toddler trade: chairs and stools.  These tools are especially useful to see what is cooking.  Any long utensil extends the toddler toolkit to be able to scoot objects off high surfaces and spilling them on the floor.

Big Brother and I worked on the ravioli.  I roasted the softball-sized acorn squash from the garden box with salt and pepper until it was soft.  The flesh of the squash was combined with fresh basil and Pecorino cheese.

The pasta dough is easy to prepare: I used about 2 cups of semolina flour and 2 large eggs.  Pour the flour on the counter and make a well in the middle.  Take off your pointy rings, they will become dough balls and you will tear the pasta sheets as you handle them.   Mix the eggs and slowly incorporate the flour, you might not use all of it.  Knead for about 1 minute until the dough springs back when you poke it.  Cover with a glass bowl and rest for 30 minutes.  Cut slices about an inch thick to begin squishing it down to size, either in a pasta roller or with a rolling pin.  Cut the sheets into squares, roughly the same size squares for even cooking.

Too much water around the rim of the first two ravioli caused a sticky mess.  From then on, I used a sprinkle of semolina flour on the work surface and very little water to seal the edges.

After the squash filling was used up, Big Brother had the chance to make more noodles as I boiled the finished ravioli.

Voilà, fresh ravioli!

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Big Brother is officially a student and is off and running in his first week of Kindergarten.  That means there really is a bedtime now, no two ways about it.  I feel rushed and Big Brother is still learning how to tell time, he is trying at least.  There is a way to be on time for dinner though, get out your crock-pot!  If yours is anything like mine, it was housed in the bottom of a cupboard and is missing its lid.

Apologize to your topless crock-pot and fit it with another lid.  Tin foil and a large kitchen towel may be substituted if needed.

Before you go to sleep tonight, fill up the crock-pot.  Option 1) Cover and refrigerate until morning, then put it on LOW whilst you work, or 2) Turn the crock-pot on LOW now so you can turn it off before it burns dinner, then refrigerate just before leaving for work.

I’m going with option 2.

Carne Guisada (before)

A certain someone likes mushrooms, so those are the extra special ingredient which would not normally appear in a traditional Carne Guisada.  Be your own chef, right?  Well that’s what I intend to do…

Midnitechef’s Carne Guisada (via Crock-pot)

  • 1 pkg Carne Guisada seasoned beef (approx. 1.5 lbs)
  • 1/2 onion, large dice
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, large dice
  • 1 roasted Poblano pepper, seeded peeled and diced
  • 1 15oz canned tomato + 2 cans water
  • 1 cup sliced baby Portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 baby carrots, sliced crosswise

Combine everything but the beef in the pot, mix to distribute.  Add the beef and stir slightly, add more water to just cover.  Set the crock-pot to LOW and cook for 6-8 hours.

Serve with rice, tortillas, avocado, lime wedges, and a tall glass of <insert your favorite beverage here>!

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eBay find!

Thrifting is not just for clothing and accessories, you can find everything you need for your kitchen second-hand as far as machines and appliances go (and serving ware and dishes too).  I bought my bread maker off Craigslist, $40. Hubby found me a scale and food processor at a garage sale, $10.  The Antique Mall is a great place to find little plates and platters and decor for the table.  And today my pasta maker ($12 including S&H) arrived in the mail!

Let’s give it a try, shall we?

First is the dough.  1 egg to 100 grams semolina flour per serving.  Mix and knead the dough into a cohesive ball.  Divide the dough into manageable portions and flatten to an oval.  Start feeding the dough through the flat rollers, starting with the widest setting.

After a thin sheet of pasta is formed, very lightly dust with flour if it’s tacky.  Keep thinning out the sheet of pasta by decreasing the size of the gap of the rollers.  Switch the sheet of pasta to the wide noodle roller.

I found a #6 to be the right thickness and the noodles won’t fall apart. A thicker #4 noodle was alright but it requires a longer cooking time.  So if you’re in a hurry make thin noodles!

 

Immediately toss the fresh pasta into salted boiling water.  Cover for the first 30 seconds to allow the water to return to a boil quickly, thus locking in the starches.  And make sure you salt the water, as you may recall, we didn’t put any salt in the dough!

Have the sauce simmering as you are working on the noodles.  Thin noodles will take only about 4-5 minutes to cook.  Thicker noodles may take 8-10 minutes.

The sauce is just a jar I had in the fridge, I threw in sausage and diced fresh tomato.  Keep the sauce hot.  Pull the noodles out of the water and put them in the pan of sauce.  Toss to coat every noodle.

 

Then serve to your guests (in this case: hungry munchkins).

Fresh herbs (oregano, basil, parsley, chives) can be added on top.  And don’t forget some grated cheese.

Enjoy 🙂

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This might sound strange to the average go-abouter, I read cook books.

What else would you do with a book?  Eat it?

Well, no, not exactly.  What I mean to say is… I read cookbooks like they were a novel.  Most have chapters dividing the courses or main ingredient, just as a novel strings you along the story with each passing chapter.  The clash of characters occurs when you come across a recipe that just doesn’t make sense and is not appetizing at all (every cookbook has at least one of these, you can’t please everybody!).  The happy ever after comes with the dessert you fall in love with and won’t live without for the remainder of your days standing in a kitchen.

There are two designated spaces for my small, but growing, collection of cookbooks.  The kitchen shelf and my bedside drawer. 

5 Ingredient Fix by Claire Robinson -- amazon.com

It occurred to me last night while thumbing through Claire Robinson‘s book that what I’m doing is probably not normal.  How many people climb into bed, get all cozy and warm, then quietly slip a cook book from its hidden resting place and proceed to read recipes while trying to contain drool. Not to mention late night hunger monsters hiding under the bed who heard the crack of a binding belonging to my culinary tome of the week.

I’ve even used my nocturnal habit as a teachable moment for Big Brother.  He asked me what I was doing and I shared my cookbook, Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat, with him.  This book is an oddity among the glossy illustrated cookbooks I have.   If you haven’t watched Nigella on television you might not understand the tone of this book.  Nigella writes her recipes closer to conversations you would have with her, rather than precise mechanical instructions for meal preparation.  The lack of images will perhaps let your mind see the outcome of the dish instead of being lead to believe your poussin should look as it is represented by the book.  There are several recipes designed for the single diner, which sould be easily extrapolated for larger parties.  Her section for children’s meals were especially of interest to me, being a mom of two little ones.  You won’t find many hot dogs or PB&J sammies in here!

How To Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food by Nigella Lawson -- amazon.com

Meanwhile, Big Brother amazed me with his word recognition skills…

cup

mushroom

pan

milk

and on he went, reading the words to me and smiling after each one.  My heart skipped along with the pronunciation of each syllable.  Would he share my passion for food when he grows up?

Do they have cookbooks at the city library? I later pondered.  That could get around my lack of cash flow for frivolous expenditures such as yet another cookbook.  There are so many cultures in the world and I want to learn about them through the food they eat, prepare, and share. 

Do you have a favorite cookbook?

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YAAAAY! New toy! New toy!

It dawned on me after bringing the bread machine home that it matches my kitchen.  The stove, fridge, KitchenAid, waffle iron, blender, toaster, and crock pot are all black with stainless steel.  The only odd duck is my Santuko, sporting a lovely red handle.  Oh well, she’s a special toy.

These little buggers are at least 100 bucks at regular stores.  I started searching on craigslist yesterday and this was one of three contenders.  Then I searched on epinions.com for the three brands of bread machines, just to see what people were saying.  This one stood apart with rave reviews and this is a replacement for my old bread maker (from a different manufacturer).  This little lady was 50$.  Divide that by 3$ per loaf of bread from the store and she will be paying for herself at loaf number 17. 

But wait… it’s not just for bread!

This machine, OK it’s a heated blender (sort of), can make dough for pizza/buns/cinnamon buns (blibble)/stromboli, pasta, cookie dough (I don’t really understand why this is a feature, guess it’s an added bonus?), AND JAM.  If you recall one of my early posts was about my jam addiction.  Strawberry season is just around the corner and I can’t wait to test the machine in that respect.  Imagine fresh bread with fresh jam.  Aaaahhhhh.

Test Case: White Bread

I’m optimistic.  The machine has been filled with the manufacturer’s specified ingredients, in the exact order from the manual.  The timer is set to produce a completed loaf of white bread by 6AM tomorrow.  (It has a 15 hour timer!)

We will see if this will help my bread making score.

The Result

A loaf of white bread with great texture!

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