Simple advice for a better life.

Apple TorteIf you love Tortes, but have been looking for a lighter filling, rather than the traditional butter cream one, this is a great recipe for you.  The cake layers are very thin, and the filling is mostly apples, with a nice caramel glaze.

My sister-in-law shared this recipe with me, and I tried my best to convert the metric measures to cups, and spoons.

She actually has  a nice collection of really great recipes, but they need some modifications here and there, to make them more precise.

This torte is quite easy to assemble, and to cut into serving pieces, since it is in a sheet cake form, rather than the usual round shape.

Torte Ingredients:

  • 4 cups flour, all purpose
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated
  • 2 cups butter, unsalted
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 Tbs sour cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3 tsp. baking powder

Torte Directions:

  1. Sift the flour with baking powder, and salt.
  2. Set aside.
  3. Grate the butter on a large eye grater, over flour.
  4. Using a pastry cutter, cut together the flour and butter.
  5. Set aside.
  6. Beat the egg yolks with sugar, until light and fluffy.
  7. Mix in vanilla extract, and sour cream.
  8. Add egg mixture to flour mixture, and form dough.
  9. Divide dough into 3 equal parts.
  10. Grease and flour, three sheet cake pans, 9 x 13 x 2.
  11. Spread evenly 1/3 portion of the batter, in each pan (I placed scoops of the batter all over the pan, then using the back of a spoon, I spread the batter evenly over the bottom of the pan).
  12. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and bake the cakes for 15-20 minutes, until golden.
  13. Remove from the oven, and cool off in the pans, loosening up around the edges for easier removal.

Apple Filling Ingredients

  • 8 apples, pared, cored, and shredded on a large eye shredder (I used 4 Granny Smith, and 4 Gala)
  • 1 single package of lemon, or orange jello ( I used orange, but next time will try the lemon)
  • 1 Tbs. of butter
  • 1 tsp. of lemon juice

Directions for Apple Filling:

  1. Heat a large frying pan, melt the butter to coat the bottom of the pan.
  2. Mix in shredded apples.
  3. Lower the heat to medium, cover pan, and saute for 10 minutes. Mixing occasionally.
  4. Mix in the jello powder, and lemon juice.
  5. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool off.
  6. Remove one of the cakes from a pan (read comment below the post), and lay it on a serving platter, or tray (I used a large cookie sheet, lined with aluminum foil).
  7. Divide the apple filling in half.

Apple Torte - first layer of apples

7.  Spread first half of the filling over the first cake.

8.  Place the second cake over the filling.

Apple Torte - second layer of cake and apple filling

9.  Spread the second half of the apple filling over this cake.

10.  Cover it with the third cake.

11.  Set aside.

Caramel-Nut Glaze Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup chopped nuts (I used Pecans)
  • ¾ cup sugar, granulated
  • 3 Tbs. milk
  • 3 Tbs. honey
  • 5 Tbs. butter

Directions for Caramel-Nut Glaze:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan.
  2. Bring to boil, and cook for 1 minute.

Apple Torte with caramel glaze
3.  Pour hot glaze over the top of the cake, and spread evenly.

4.  Cool slightly, and score the top of the glaze all the way through, to the first cake layer, to prepare for easier

cutting into serving pieces, later on.

5.  Once the glaze cools completely, you may continue to cut through the other layers of the cake, to form  serving

pieces.  Otherwise, may cover the cake with aluminum foil, and store it in the refrigerator, until ready to serve, at

which time you will cut it up into serving pieces.
TIP: This cake is firmer right after assembly, but later on the cake layers pick up the moisture from the apple filling, and become very moist.  The Caramel/Nut glaze tends to separate slightly away from the top of the cake, so for serving ease, I arranged my serving pieces on a serving platter, in individual cupcake liners.  For a better presentation, I trimmed about 1/2 inch of f ,  from all the sides of the cake, before cutting it into serving pieces.

Grow Your Own Potatoes

Potato PlantIf you love potatoes, but never tasted home grown potatoes, fresh from the garden, you will enjoy the taste and texture of these, and will try to plant some in your garden patch.

Potatoes are planted in spring, as soon as the ground is warm enough to work in.  You do not want to plant potatoes too early, when the soil is still pretty cold from winter, and the weather is cold and rainy, because your potato chunks might just sit there too long before sprouting, and start rotting.

It is very easy to grow potatoes, since all you need is a chunk of a potato, which contains at least 1-2 buds, called eyes, like this one:

Potato eye

  1. Select a place to plant them, and have some patience, since it takes 3-6 months before they are ready to harvest, but during all this time they require very little additional care.
  2. One potato has enough eyes to easily be cut into 2 or 3 chunks, which means you can get at least 2-3 plants from one potato. It is best to use potatoes which start growing sprouts from their eyes, before you plant them, but that is not necessary.
  3. Potatoes are normally planted in the spring, and most of them are ready to harvest in early fall, but some become ready even  sooner.
  4. Once you have your potato chunks ready for planting, you dig up a small hole in your garden soil, a little larger than the potato, and deep enough to cover the potato with at least 1 inch of soil.
  5. Place your potato in the hole, cover with soil, and pat it down to firm up the soil.
  6. Since the spring weather is not that hot, you do not need to water it, or do anything special.
  7. After 1o-14 days, your potato chunks will start poking out of the ground, and few dark green leaves will start forming on a short stalk.
  8. Once the plant is about 8 inches tall, you need to form a dirt mound around it, to support it and to provide a good home for the growing potatoes, as new potatoes form under ground, soon after the plant stops blooming.
  9. You also need to watch for potato beetles, nesting on the leaves, and pick them off, to prevent larvae from devel0ping, which will eat up your potato leaves and stalks, and weaken, or destroy the potato.  If you are not having an organic garden you can use Sevin pesticide and follow manufacturer’s suggested application directions.
  10. You can check for new potatoes  in about a month after blooming, since you might be able to feel some big enough to be picked off for immediate use, and leave untouched the small ones, to give them a chance to grown.
  11. Very new potatoes do not need to be peeled.  You can just wash them, and boil with the very think skin on, and eat them that way as well, or you can easily scrape the paper thin potato skin before boiling.
  12. Once the potatoes reach their full term, the skin gets firmer and will not be able to be scraped off, but will need to be peeled.
  13. You will know when to harvest your full grown potatoes, since the leaves and stalks will start drying out, or even totally dry off.
  14. To harvest potatoes, you need to gently use a hoe and dig around the main bush, in at least a 10 inch diameter, and as deep as 6 inches.  Larger potatoes settle themselves deeper than the smaller ones.
  15. If the potato plant still has  firm enough branches, you can gather them all together and pull out the plant from the ground, which will also pull out some of the potatoes, but you need to look for more in the 10 inch diameter area, as you will most definitely find more potatoes.
  16. Once you dug up all your potatoes, you can bury the potato branches in your garden patch, to turn them into compost.
  17. If you plan to plant potatoes next year again, you should fertilize the soil with cow manure,  or other organic fertilizers.
  18. Here is my potato crop from one chunk of a potato, with 2 eyes:

Potato crop from one plant

This means that your crop from one whole potato (cut into 2-3 chunks), will double or triple in quantity of this one.  And just think of the money you will save by planting your own potatoes, plus enjoy the wonderful, fresh taste of home grown potatoes.

potato eyes

This year I have planted 6 Yukon Gold potato chunks (seen above), which I cut up from one whole potato, and am looking forward to a nice crop of potatoes, sometimes in late August, or early September.

I would like to hear from you, if you are growing  potatoes in your garden, and which variety is your favorite.

Brownie cupcakesFirst of all, THANK YOU VERY MUCH to all of my readers for your loyalty, increasing my traffic to over 16,000 page viewers…this is awesome.

According to my Google Analytic Reports, I have viewers from over 140 countries, and even though the highest three are US, Canada, and United Kingdom, I am receiving comments from many other readers, asking me to convert US measures from cups and ounces, to grams.

You will also notice that an American cup, which all my recipes use, is equivalent to 8 oz, or 250 ml.

To help you all out, I am posting several links to sites I found very helpful and user friendly, which will take the guessing out of your weights and measures conversions.

Here you will find easy conversions for the major baking ingredients, such as butter, flour, sugar, and more:

http://www.traditionaloven.com/conversions_of_measures/butter_converter.html

http://www.traditionaloven.com/tutorials/conversion.html

http://www.realfood4realpeople.com/convert.html#International%20Liquid%20Measurements

http://allrecipes.com//HowTo/cup-to-gram-conversions/Detail.aspx

If you still are not sure, please do not hesitate to contact me via email or leave a comment below my posts, and I will definitely assist with a prompt reply.

If anyone is familiar with even better sites than the ones listed above, please share this information with all of us, as we are one happy bloggy family.

Thank you so much, and please continue visiting my blog.

Ukrainian Traditional Easter BasketI love the traditions associated with Ukrainian Easter, and especially the Blessing of the Easter Basket, which contains all the food items used at Easter Brunch.

The Easter Basket of special foods (described below) is arranged on Holy Saturday, and taken to church, where a special blessing ceremony with prayers and sprinkling with Holy Water, is performed by the parish priest.  Some churches perform their basket blessing on Easter Sunday, after the Morning Liturgy.

Besides the special foods, the Easter Basket is also decorated with greenery and flowers, as well as colored eggs, and beautiful Pysanky.

Each basket is covered with a hand embroidered cloth cover, with Easter motif of pussy willows and Easter Eggs.

This blessed food may not be consumed until after the morning Resurrection Liturgy on Easter Sunday.

The food in the basket is the only food being consumed at the Easter Brunch, which breaks The Great Lent fasting.

After Easter Brunch, the Easter celebration continues for the rest of the day, with family and friends visiting, and enjoying many other foods and desserts.

Today I will describe all the different foods used to fill the basket, and their Christian symbolism.

Paska

Paska - Special Easter Bread (sweet yeast bread, rich in eggs, butter, etc), takes the center stage in the basket.

Symbolic of Christ, who is the True Bread to Christians. Paska bread is always round in shape, and decorated with a dough braid around the perimeter, and a ornamental cross in the middle.  The Cross reminds Christians that Christ died on the Cross for their salvation.

Diets and Watson Smoked Ham

Baked Ham – very popular meat for the Slavs as the main dish, because of its richness.  It is symbolic of the great joy, and abundance of Easter.  Some prefer Lamb or Veal.

Kobasa from NYC

Kobasa - a spicy, garlicky, smoked pork sausage.  Indicative of God’s favor and generosity.

Burachky - Red Beet Vineagrette Horseradish

Red Beet Vinaigrette (with Horseradish), or plain Horseradish, is symbolic of the Passion of Christ still in the minds of Christians, but sweetened with some sugar, because of the Resurrection.  The bitter-sweet red colored mixture is a reminder of the sufferings of Christ.

Salt

Salt is also included in the basket, necessary for flavor, and as a reminder to Christians of their duty to others.

Butter

Butter - A favorite dairy product, is usually nicely displayed and decorated with a cross made out of cloves, or allspice grains.  Some prefer to mold it into a shape of a Lamb.  Butter is symbolic of  the goodness of Christ, that we should have toward all things.

Cheese

Cheese - Creamed cheese, or “Hrudka”, a sweetened cheese ball, decorated with same herbs as butter, indicative of the moderation that Christians should have in all things.

Eggs - are another very important food item in the Easter Basket.  All eggs are hard boiled, and kept in their shell. There should be at least one or two hard boiled eggs per person, for the Easter Brunch.  One of the hard boiled eggs is peeled, as it will be cut to as many pieces as there are attendees to the Easter Brunch, and shared with everyone, accompanied by salt and horseradish.

Wishing you a Happy and Blessed Easter!!

Embroidered Scarf – Ukrainian Easter Basket Cover

Easter Basket cover 2As you already know from my previous post, Ukrainians follow an Easter tradition of blessing an Easter Basket full of special foods, which is covered with a special embroidered scarf.

These scarfs are hand embroidered by family members, and used only for the purpose of covering the Easter Baskets.

Embroidery is very popular in Ukrainian culture, and used in many aspects of very day life, such as home decor, male and female attire, ceramics, arts and crafts, etc.

The Easter Basket Covers, not only include a beautiful cross stitched geometric design, but also an announcement of a special Easter greeting, and other symbols associated with the celebration of Spring and Easter.

Easter Basket cover

The writing you see above, pronounced, “Khrystos Voskres”, means, “Christ is Risen”, the true meaning of Easter for all Christians, and a greeting everyone uses beginning with Easter Sunday and continuing for several weeks.

Notice the pussy willows and the Easter Eggs embroidered on the cloth; also  symbols associated with Easter celebrations.

The real twigs of pussy willows, or palms, are blessed during the liturgy on Palm Sunday (the last Sunday before Easter Sunday), as a symbolism of Jesus Christ arriving in Jerusalem.

They are distributed to all the attendees, after the liturgy, as everyone is being anointed on a forehead, with a holy oil.

The recipients of these twigs of pussy willows, or palms, pat each other on the shoulder, and exchange a traditional greeting, announcing that Easter is coming in one week (Ne ya byu , a shootka bye, za tyzden Velykden).

These embroidered scarfs are removed from the baskets before the blessing of the food, and displayed in front of the basket, as you see in the picture at the top of this post.

Ukrainian women pride themselves on their embroidery abilities, the variety of embroidery designs and techniques, thus very proudly display their work to be admired by others.

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