Simple advice for a better life.

Those of us who celebrated Christmas Eve on Dec. 24, are now gearing up towards a New Year Party.

Preparing for a party requires considerate amount of planning, organization and coordination.

I will contribute to your party planning by sharing some of our family’s favorite recipes you might like to try out.

You can also visit my Pinterest boards with Party foods or Party ideas, for new inspirations:

   http://pinterest.com/vmkz/

Here are links to my previous posts with party food recipes:

DIPS:

OTHER FINGER FOODS:

You can add some cheese and cracker platters, fruit platter, chips, nuts, plus a niece selection of beverages, and your party will rock!!

 

 HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baking cookies is a fun family project anytime of the year, but especially exciting before Christmas, because not only family and friends enjoy them, Santa expects some as well.

If you are getting ready to do some baking, and not sure where to find “winner” recipes, Suburbangrandma will help y0u out by providing you with links and pictures of her favorite recipes.

 

These are my two most favorite cookies.

Cream Wafers     and       Butter Cookies    (heart shaped for Valentine)

Pecan Butterballs    and    Tea Tassies.

Pecan Butterballs are very easy to make, but the Tea Tassies require a little more time and patience.  They both are so scrumptious.

Dycio Crescents    and   Sugar Cookies.

These crescents are lightly sweetened, and require a little more playing with than the sugar cookies, but so worth it.

If you prefer to make truffles, rather than baking cookies, both of these recipes are easy, and decadent.  How can anyone go wrong with chocolate, right?

Oreo Chocolate Truffles   and   Ginger Chocolate Truffles.

Here you have two more no-bake recipes for delicious desserts anytime, or for the holidays.

This is a great baking project with your young children, or grandchildren.

Chocolate Scotcheroos   and   Chocolate Oatmeal cookies.

If you like a little citrusy  flavor to your cookies, you will find a perfect balance between lemon and sugar in these Glazed Lemon Cookies.

My list would not be complete, if I did not include America’s favorite cookies, the ever so popular Chocolate Chip cookies.

These are jumbo size, but you will agree that they are the best chocolate chip cookies you ever tasted.  So soft, chewy, and full of chocolate goodness.

I am sure this list will suffice for this holiday baking, and by next year I will have additional recipes to share with you.

I am always looking for new recipes, your favorite, to share with ME.

Please send me your favorite cookie recipe to try out, and to post.

Thank you.

Merry Christmas!!

Happy Holidays!!

 

 


 

Varenyky (Perogy, Pierogy) lovers will agree that you don’t have to wait for any special occasion to crave these delicious dumplings, so anytime is the right time to have them.

With Christmas Eve just around the corner, many Eastern Europeans will be making varenyky (pierogy, perogy) for their Christmas Eve 12 course meatless meal.

Making them from scratch is an involved process, but totally worth the effort, since all the manufactured ones don’t stand a chance when compared to the real stuff….you will agree if you tasted them both.

I already posted very detailed step by step directions (click this link) for making the dough and making the varenyky.

Many of you have asked about the different fillings one may use to fill these dumplings.  You can basically use anything you like as a filling, even meat, or seafood, but I will post few of the more traditional ones.

    

Potato and Cheese filling for varenyky (click on this link, then scroll down towards the bottom of that post for the list of ingredients and directions).  This is the most popular filling of all, and loved by everyone.

 

Cheese filling for Varenyky

Farmer Cheese filling for varenyky.

Use at least 1 lbs. of farmer cheese (I love the Friendship brand, which is easily found at Wegmans supermarket, but I also found it locally at Shop Rite grocery store).  I tried “farmer cheese” from at a Dutch Market, but it was kind of grainy and bitter, so I am sticking with the Friendship brand.

Using a mixer or food processor, beat it for a minute or so to make it a little creamier.  For a savory cheese filling, add one raw egg yolk, a pinch of salt, and ground black pepper, to taste.  You can also add some chopped chives to add more flavor to the cheese.

If you prefer it on a sweeter side, you can still use the egg yolk, but use sugar instead of salt and pepper, and you can even mix in some raisins, or chopped prunes.

Savory Cheese varenyky may be served with tomato sauce, just like ravioli, or with onions sautéed in butter.  The sweet cheese varenyky may be served with melted butter, or butter and sugar (white or brown).

Blueberry filling for Varenyky

Blueberry filling for varenyky (click on this link to find the ingredients and directions for this filling).

Actually, you can use any fruit you like, such as chopped apples, rhubarb, strawberries, strawberries mixed with chopped rhubarb, cherries, plums, etc.

 

Green Cabbage filling for varenyky.

My mom used sauerkraut for her varenyky filling, but my mother-in-law taught me how to make the green cabbage filling, and these are my husband’s favorite.  He prefers these over the potato ones.

To prepare this filling,  remove a couple of the damaged outer cabbage leaves, and discard.  Cut the cabbage head into quarters, then chop up coarsely.  Add chopped cabbage to salted boiling water, bring back to boil, and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the core ends of the cabbage pieces are almost done, drain off the water by pouring it all out into a colander, letting it to cool off.

Take a handful of cabbage at a time, and squeeze out as much water as possible, or use cheesecloth for easier handling.

Again, take a handful at a time of the squeezed out cabbage, place it on a cutting board, and chop it up fine.  You will notice that the chopped cabbage still has lots of moisture, so you need to squeeze it out again, to make it dryer.

In a large saucepan saute one chopped onion, until lightly golden, add the chopped cabbage, flavor with salt and pepper, and saute for 10 minutes. Cool off before using for filling.

For easier handling, you may mix in 1/4 cup of mashed potatoes, but it is not necessary.  Most cooks add some farmer cheese to cabbage, for additional flavor and easier handling.

You apply the same process for sauerkraut, except for cooking it.  You rinse out some of the original juices from the kraut, squeeze it out, and place it in a medium pot of cold water, bring it to boil, and cook for 15 minutes. I like to add some salt and a bay leaf while cooking it, and discarding the leaf once done.  Then follow the same process as for the green cabbage.

Some cooks like to add some sautéed mushrooms to their cabbage,  or to the sauerkraut filling.

 

Buckwheat filling for varenyky.

This is not a very popular filling these days, but it was quite popular in the old country, as farmers used to plant buckwheat, to aid the bees with their honey making, by the abundance of pollen on the fields of blooming buckwheat plants.  Buckwheat is very healthy to use as a hot cereal, a side dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as a filling for cabbage rolls (holubtsi), baked with chopped bacon, or used as a varenyky filling.

I am the only one in my family who likes buckwheat, so I don’t make it very often, but I do like it steamed and mixed with sautéed onions.

Cabbage rolls filled with steamed buckwheat, flavored with sautéed onions with mushrooms, is a very popular dish for a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve meal.

Buckwheat can easily be found in a Kosher section of your favorite grocery store, or any European specialty store.

Follow the package directions for cooking this grain, but do not overcook, or it will get mushy.

Flavor with salt and ground black pepper, and sautéed onions. You can also add sautéed mushrooms, or some farmer cheese, or couple spoons of mashed potatoes, to keep it together, for easier handling during filling.

Here is not so traditional varenyky filling out of Sweet Potatoes (Yams).

One time I decided to try leftover sweet potatoes as a verenyky filling, and liked it enough to make them more often.  Some of our family members like them more than the traditional potato ones.  I serve them with melted butter, flavored with brown sugar ( I also add some whipped cream on top of mine…..).

To prepare the sweet potato filling, peel couple of yams and cut them up into chunks.

Place them in a medium saucepan, and fill with enough cold water to fully submerge.

Bring to boil, and cook until still slightly firm.  Do not overcook, or they will be too watery.

Drain off water, and keep uncovered to dry off some more.  Add some unsalted butter, and some cinnamon (optional).  Mash well, so there are no lumps. Cool off before filling.

Now you are ready to roll up your sleeves and start making  varenyky with your favorite filling.

Please let me know which filling is your favorite, or share a recipe of a different filling yet.  Thank you!

Cute and Crafty Gift Idea

Gift giving is fun, but selecting just the right gift can be time-consuming, expensive and stressful, or you can make it simple and creative.

I like the simple and creative part, since it makes these kind of gifts that much more special.

The person preparing these kind of gifts is thinking of you during the whole process of completing the project.  How special does that make you feel?

I personally admire creativity in others, and appreciate the effort it takes to create beautiful things.

Last year our office administrator was very creative, and made the pictured here snowman for all of us, at Christmas time.

Apparently the actual wrapper was prepared on a computer, via link her granddaughter sent to her, then she dressed it up with a skillful and creative attire, fit for the occasion.

This could be a wonderful project to make with children, as they can use finger paints, markers, or crayons, to draw the face, with some adult help to create the hat and scarf, as well as the message on the back of the snowman.

If you would like to give it a try, here is the back side of the lovely snowman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I guess this message will make more sense if I show you what is wrapped inside of this snowman.

 

You guessed it!  A bag of gourmet popcorn.  Perfect size to create the body of the snowman, and easy enough to wrap it with a 8 x 11 sheet of printer paper.

The hat and scarf are made out of winter design soft fleece fabric, which does not fray, thus very easy to use.

The scarf is just a long rectangular strip of fabric, snipped at the ends to create fringes.  The hat is sewn into a tube, tucked under at one end, and fringed and tied at the top. How cute is that?

If you do not want to do any sewing, you can use hot glue gun, or craft glue, to make this hat.

There you have it… simple, cute, lots of fun to make, and very thoughtful.  Not to mention, quite delicious to enjoy once popped and shared with the family during a movie night.

This would also make a great gift you your child’s teacher, babysitter, grandparent, or a neighborhood friend.

Please share your creative gift ideas.  Can’t wait to hear them all!

Roasting a turkey is  a Thanksgiving tradition in the U.S., but  many families also enjoy this meal on Christmas Day, hence the post at this time.

Our family follows a very special Ukrainian Christmas Eve tradition which includes a 12 course meatless dinner.

Christmas Day, on the other hand, is a feast of many different dishes, including smoked sausage (kobasa), as well as baked ham, but no turkey.

This Thanksgiving I tried Martha Stewart’s recipe for roasting a turkey, recommended by a friend from my church, as her absolute favorite.  I was quite impressed with the outcome of this project, as you can see from the picture of the finished product.

Doesn’t this bird look delicious?  So glossy and tender, and just awesome (scroll down to the bottom of this post).

So, if you plan to roast a turkey for Christmas, or Thanksgiving, and like to try this recipe, plus watch Martha’s video, by clicking the link above, I will share my step by step experience with this recipe.

 

Here is the cheesecloth, as well as the basting sauce ingredients (melted butter and dry white wine).

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 turkey, 14-18 lbs.
  • 1 1/2 cups of unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 bottle(750 -ml) of dry white wine of your choice
  • 1 package of cheesecloth, I cut mine in half
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into chunks
  • 2 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup dry red wine (0r white wine) for the gravy
  • 3 Tbs. of fat (reserved from the pan juices)
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour (for gravy)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I also like to sprinkle some Maggi Seasoning)

Directions:

  1. Remove turkey from plastic wrapping, and remove the giblets packed inside the turkey, and in the neck cavity.  Place the giblets in a medium saucepan filled 3/4 with water, and cook for at least an hour. Save the stock for gravy.
  2. Rinse the turkey under running cold water, outside and inside. Also rinse out the giblets, and set aside.
  3. Dry the turkey with paper towels, and let stand uncovered for 2 hours at room temperature (this lets the skin dry out slightly for better results with basting).
  4. Place oven rack on the lowest level in your oven, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  5. Combine the melted butter with wine.  Fold each cheesecloth in half, and let it soak in this mixture.
  6. Pour 1  cup of water into the roasting pan, place the cut up veggies, and place the roasting rack in the pan.
  7. Place the turkey, breast side up, on the roasting rack, remove the pop-up timer, if present.
  8. Fold wingtips under the turkey.
  9. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper inside the turkey.  If you are stuffing your bird, fill the large cavity and neck cavity loosely with stuffing (I do not stuff my turkey, I cook the stuffing separately).
  10. Rub the turkey’s breast with 4 Tbs. room temperature butter, and sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper.
  11. Tie the turkey legs together with kitchen twine, and tie a bow for easier removal after roasting.
  12. Lift  one cheesecloth one at a time from the butter/wine mixture, squeeze it slightly, so it does not drip, make sure you have it folded to form 4 layers of  cloth.

  13. Place it on top of half of the turkey, extending over the right leg and down the side (if you co not cover the thighs they will brown much faster and darker than the rest of the turkey).
  14. Do the same with the second piece of the cheesecloth, overlapping it slightly over the first one at the top of the turkey breast, covering the left side of the turkey breast, leg, and extending it down the side, as well as the front and back of the bird.
  15. Place turkey legs first into the oven. Do not cover the pan.
  16. Cook for 20 minutes, without checking on it.

  17. Using a pastry brush, baste the  cheesecloth and exposed parts of the turkey, with butter/wine mixture. Don’t panic if you notice how dark the cheesecloth gets during cooking.  The turkey underneath is still very light. Your kitchen will fill with a sweet aroma of warm butter.
  18. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F, and continue baking for 2 1/2 hours, basting every 30 minutes.
  19. If your pan fills up with too much juice, you may remove some and save for gravy.

  20. After about 3 hours of cooking, remove and discard the cheesecloth.  Notice how light the breast meat is still at this point.
  21. Turn the pan around, so the legs are facing front, and the breast is facing the back of the oven.
  22. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F.
  23. Baste the turkey gently with the juices, or the remaining butter/wine mixture.
  24. Bake for 1 hour longer, basting after 30 minutes.
  25. Insert the instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching the bone, and the temperature should reach 180 (if stuffed – the stuffing should reach 140 -160). The turkey should be golden brown.
  26. If the legs are not fully cooked yet, baste the turkey, and bake another 20 minutes.
  27. Once fully cooked, transfer turkey to a warm serving platter, and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.
  28. Pour the pan juices into a fat separator cup.  Let it stand for 10 minutes to settle.  The baked veggies in the pan may be used or discarded, but they added delicious flavor to the pan juices for your gravy.
  29. Set the roasting pan aside, do not wash it.

Finished product, ready for carving and serving.

 

To make gravy:

  1. Place roasting pan on a stove over medium-high heat.
  2. Add 1 cup of dry wine (red or white).
  3. Add 3 Tbs. of fat which separated from the pan juices.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the pan until liquid boils and all the crisp bits are loosened up from the pan.
  5. Mix 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring continuously, so it’s not clumpy.
  6. Stir in giblet stock (at least 2-3 cups) and bring to boil.
  7. Cook until liquid has reduced by half (about 10 minutes).
  8. Add the fat-free part of the reserved pan juices, and cook for 10 minutes longer.
  9. This will make about 2 1/2 cups of gravy.
  10. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and Maggi seasoning if you like.
  11. Strain into a warm gravy boat, and serve.

 

Enjoy your delicious turkey with homemade gravy.

Recipes for my favorite stuffing, and other side dishes, will be posted by next Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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