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Summer Memories: Cucumber Salad

Summer Memories: Cucumber Salad

Okay.  Before we get started, let me confess that this one isn’t from Grandma’s box.  But when some Farmer’s Market cucumbers found their way into my kitchen, I knew I had to make my dad’s cucumber salad!  One of my favorite summer food memories is watching Dad make his salad dressing for the cukes that came out of our garden.  He would make a big batch at the beginning of the week and use it for cucumbers and all his garden salads in general.  Truth be told, this is the kind of lick-your-plate-clean kind of good that’s good with pretty much everything!

I don’t know exactly where the recipe originally came from.  I think Dad saw a recipe somewhere and tweaked it enough over the years until he could call it his own, lol.

Dad’s Homemade Salad Dressing/Dip

  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp white vinegar
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp dry mustard (or ½ Tbsp quality prepared mustard)
  • 3 Tbsp pickled onion juice (or pickle juice)
  • Dill to taste.

Mix all the ingredients into a medium bowl and whisk until well combined.

I didn’t have any dry mustard, so I used some spicy Dijon mustard.  I found that I really liked the little bite it gave and will probably increase the mustard to a full Tbsp next time.  Pour desired amount of dressing over sliced cucumbers and let chill for about an hour before serving.

This recipe makes about 2 cups in total, but don’t expect it to last more than a couple of days … maybe a week, tops.  And if you’re anything like me, you might even find yourself going back to the fridge to take a spoonful every now and then. :)

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Eureka!!!

 

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Aside
White Cake Susie

I’ve been looking at this recipe for a long time. It’s probably one of my favorite recipes in the whole box because of the history attached to it. One of the things I’ve really come to appreciate about Grandma was that she was notorious for taking whatever paper was closest to her at the time to write her recipes on. Envelopes, bills … and even used bowling score sheets.

When I showed this recipe to my family, Mum said that my aunties Carol and Elma used to bowl together regularly and that this was one of their scoring sheets. My sister and I loved looking at the advertisements – amazingly enough, the dry cleaners is still doing business in town, though sadly it’s the only one. Looking at this sheet brings back such good memories of my childhood and the innocence that comes from being raised in a rural Canadian prairies community.

The recipe itself took a good chunk of time to interpret. I finally realized that the two recipes listed side by side were for the same dish, only using two sets of instructions. Thought the vague instructions and faded pencil scratchings still made it a puzzle to piece together. I looked online for some help but couldn’t find ANY White Cake Susie recipes. It was actually only after I made the cake that I realized Susie must the person whom Grandma got the recipe from. Silly me, lol.

WHITE CAKE SUSIE

  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup corn starch
  • 4 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Unlike many of Grandma’s other recipes, the directions were there, though they were confusing at best. So I did what I could to follow them. I used my baking instincts as well, though … I was, after all, taking a chance, crossing my fingers, and making this for my sister-in-law’s birthday.

The recipe calls for lard, and although I would normally substitute shortening for that, I didn’t have any so I used softened block margarine instead. I creamed that together with the sugar, added vanilla, flour, corn starch, salt, and 1 cup milk. The recipe says to beat that for 2 minutes until it’s “soft like ice cream”. I wasn’t completely sure what that meant, but I beat it for 2 minutes and assumed that’s what soft ice cream looks like, lol.

I added the eggs, baking powder, and last 1/3 cup milk and beat for another 1 ½ minutes, as per Grandma’s instructions.

The batter looked good and tasted like white cake … I was becoming optimistic! I turned it into a 9×13 inch pan and baked it at 350° for 35 minutes. The cake came out looking and smelling wonderful – I was so pleased!

Once the cake cooled completely, I covered it with a thin layer of whipped topping and made a birthday greeting decoration out of buttercream icing that I found on pinterest.com. You can find instructions for this decoration at http://www.brasstacksandbasics.com/2011/08/super-fancy-cake-decorating-tutorial.html, and the buttercream recipe I used at http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Buttercream-Icing.

We had such a wonderful time and the cake turned out to be just as tasty as it looked!

Thank you Grandma!


White Cake Susie

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Eureka!!!

 

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Summer Memories: Roll Kuchen

 

 

Growing up in a Russian Mennonite** home, the best summer memories usually included Roll Kuchen and Rhebuze.  The direct translations of these are “rolled cookies” and “watermelon”, though the term rolled cookies is a bit of a misnomer.  They are indeed rolled, but they are certainly not cookies – they don’t even have sugar in them, for goodness sake!  Instead, roll kuchen is a kind of a fritter or perhaps fried bread.  Whatever you want to call them, they’re wonderful!  My mum says that her mother would make them in summer and they would ALWAYS be eaten with watermelon: “you would have the roll kuchen in one hand and the rhebuze in the other and eat them together, alternating bites between the two.”  She herself likes to dip them in corn syrup, or a strawberry rhubarb syrup/jam.  Personally, I prefer mine spread with honey.  Whatever way you have them, it should be something sweet because of the saltiness of the kuchen.

I had never made roll kuchen before and was, frankly, a little intimidated by the process.  I decided to make them when my aunt was planning a family gathering and was saying she had arranged for one of my uncles to buy roll kuchen.  I thought of my blog and offered to make a batch.  As I rolled out and fried the dough, my mum and I looked at each other in amazement.  Neither of us could believe that we had actually made what sat in front of us – real authentic roll kuchen!  It really was quite the moment, lol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The recipe I ended up using was not from Grandma’s recipe box.  But it was from my other grandmother’s collection of recipes.  My aunt who lives in California has Grandma K’s original recipe book and was kind enough to email me a picture of the recipe.  I will also admit to veering from the original recipe slightly, adding a little sour cream.  I would feel guilty about it, but since they turned out so good, I don’t think I have to. :)

 

Roll Kuchen (Rol Cookies)

  • 3/4 cup whipping (32%) cream
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 1/2 cups flour

You’ll notice that I cut the whipping cream down and added sour cream.  I did this because it didn’t make sense to me that there would be baking soda in a recipe without an acid.  I also thought the sour cream would add to the taste and texture of the kuchen.

I beat the eggs and creams together and then drizzled the melted butter into the liquid.  The recipe doesn’t actually say to melt the butter, but most other recipes I looked at gave this direction, so I went with it.  I then sifted in the dry ingredients and mixed it all together with a spoon.

I chilled the dough for a few hours (though it probably only needs one hour in the fridge) and then I started rolling it out.  I used LOTS of flour to coat the counter surface, as the dough was quite sticky.  I was sorry I hadn’t added more flour to the batter when I mixed it all together, but my mum said she had heard it’s better to have a sticky dough and use more flour in the rolling process rather than adding too much flour and risk having a tough dough.  I rolled the dough out to about 1/8 of an inch … possibly a little less (I’m terrible at measuring thicknesses like that!) and then cut the dough into strips using a pizza cutter.  Roll kuchen always has a slit down the centre to make them cook faster in the hot oil.  I placed the uncooked kuchen on cookie sheets so I could fry them all without having to stop and roll out more in between.  It’s important to note that if you want crispy roll kuchen, roll the dough out VERY thin.  Mine was plenty thick enough for a soft kuchen.  You might want to experiment on this to get your own preference.

Once I had all the kuchen rolled out and the deep fryer was ready, I gently dropped them one at a time into the hot oil (I fried up 3 in at a time).  They immediately puffed up and took about a minute to a minute and a half to cook on each side.  I drained them on a baking sheet lined with paper towels and tried not to eat too many before the gathering.  Not sure I was successful on that count. :)

These were so much fun to make – I’ll definitely be putting this recipe in my own special recipe book.  My mum has even volunteered me to make them for a small gathering with my siblings next Sunday, lol.

**  Note: Russian Mennonites should not be confused with the Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch.  After the Anabaptist reformation, the Mennonites (those who followed the teachings of Menno Simons) had to flee Germany and Holland due to religious persecution from not only the Catholics, but the Protestant church as well.  Some Mennonite groups came immediately to North America – those would be the Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish.  My forefathers, however, emigrated from Europe first to Russia and Prussia (now known as the Ukraine) and then to the North American prairies several generations later in the early 1800’s and mid 1900’s.  We kept much of our Dutch heritage, but incorporated a lot of Ukrainian and Russian cooking into our diet.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Eureka!!!

 

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Uh, I’m Gonna Say … Waffles??

Again, I chose another recipe blindly. And another – one of many, it seems – that has neither a name nor instructions listed. Only a list of ingredients. I could tell it was some kind of baked item. Perhaps biscuits, I thought … but the ratio of wet to dry ingredients wasn’t right. And it wasn’t cake or cookies either because it only called for a tablespoon of sugar (at least that’s what I think the recipe meant). The amount of baking powder told me it was something that was meant to rise a lot, but it had too many eggs to be pancakes. That leaves … waffles. At least, that’s how I decided to interpret the recipe. That was just fine by me, because I love waffles! :D

As much as I love waffles, however, the absolute BEST thing about this particular recipe is that it was written on the back of an envelope addressed to my father’s sister, the original 2¢ stamp still on the front, and a postmark dated 1963. To me, this was more than just a recipe – it’s a piece of my family history.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp margarine
  • ½ Tbsp sugar

Since 3 cups of flour sounds like A LOT, I decided to cut the recipe in half. I mixed all the ingredients together as I would a regular waffle recipe. I remained true to the recipe with the small exception of adding a little salt.

What I ended up with was very thick batter – almost what I would expect for making muffins.

I thought I must have interpreted the recipe wrong, so I took a good long look at it again. And then I saw it – right at the very top was what looked to be a faint impression of the word “waffles” that had been almost completely worn away. I had gotten it right, and regardless how the waffles actually turned out, this was turning into quite a find!

I went ahead and put the waffle batter into my Belgium waffle maker and cooked for 4 minutes.

I wanted to taste the waffle right away, but anyone who knows Russian Mennonite waffles, knows they always come with “White Sauce”. I looked through Grandma’s recipe box for such a recipe but found nothing, so I used my own.

(White Sauce, for those uninitiated, is a homemade warm vanilla pudding that’s served over waffles. There are several versions out there, but mine is adapted from the Mennonite Treasury of Recipes)

WHITE SAUCE FOR WAFFLES:

  • ¼ cup waffle batter
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium sauce pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Let it come to a boil and take off heat. Serve sauce over waffles.

In the end, the waffles themselves weren’t great (I actually prefer my own recipe over this one). But what an amazing discovery the written recipe was in itself. I’ll definitely treasure this one!

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Meh ...

 

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Meatloaf and Chili Con Carny … I think

Choosing a recipe sometimes seems like so much pressure, so this time I closed my eyes and let my fingers decide what to make.  What I came up with was two separate recipes (I think) that Grandma had written on a notepad.  The top recipe was untitled, and though the mention of tomatoes initially threw me off, I eventually guessed from the rest of the ingredients that it was meatloaf.  The other recipe was a little harder to figure out, partly because of disintegration in the paper quality where the title seemed to be.  My best guess was Chili Con Carny.  Grandma’s handwriting makes it look like the last word is Earni, doesn’t it?  But that’s Grandma for you :).

Ingredients

MEATLOAF

Ingredients on the actual recipe:

  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 onion
  • salt, 1 level T
  • pepper, a little bit
  • some tomatoes if needed

Color isn’t great, but you get the idea.

I bought a couple of crusty rolls – similar to what I imagined Grandma would have had on hand.    I cut the buns into small cubes and put them in a slow oven (about 250°F) for about an hour to dry them out. I then broke the cubes of bread into small crumbs and measured out 1 cup.

Admittedly, the salt and pepper threw me for a loop.  Because of the German-influenced backwards grammar that Grandma used, it looked to me like she meant salt and 1 level Tbsp pepper.  I thought that Grandma must have meant 1 teaspoon pepper – certainly not a whole tablespoon (even a level tsp would be spicy)!  It was only AFTER putting the meatloaf in the oven that I realized Grandma must have meant a Tbsp salt and some pepper.  Being someone who doesn’t like my food too salty, I’m glad I made the mistake I did.

I used canned tomatoes because I figured that would most likely have been what Grandma would have used.  It still seemed strange to me, but I went ahead and put about 3 heaping spoonfuls of diced tomatoes into the meatloaf mixture.  I mixed  all the ingredients together and put it into a foil lined loaf pan.

Although Grandma’s recipe didn’t call for a glaze, I made one for the meatloaf anyway.  I mixed together 3 Tbsp each: ketchup, yellow mustard, and brown sugar.  I put this glaze on the meatloaf when it was nearly done and put the broiler on to caramelize it (about 10 minutes).

For all the concerns I had about the recipe and how it would turn out, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the meatloaf tasted.  In fact, it was gobbled up by my family before I ever had a chance to take any pictures of the finished product.  And though it was a little spicy, it had a great flavor.  Definitely a keeper, and something I’ll make again!

CHILI CON CARNY

This wasn’t so much a recipe as it was a group of cryptically abbreviated directions.  Here’s the ingredients I used:

    • 1 lb ground beef
    • 1 onion, diced (the recipe doesn’t say anything about onions, but I guessed that onions go without saying when frying ground beef)
    • 1 tin pork and beans
    • 1 tin tomato soup
    • 1 tsp chili powder

I sauteed the onions and browned the ground beef in a large skillet (I drained the ground beef once cooked, even though the recipe doesn’t include this instruction).   I then stirred in the chili powder and added the beans and soup.  It didn’t actually look all that bad.  And once I started eating it, I realized it didn’t taste bad at all either!  I had my serving with a bun, but you could easily serve this over rice or pasta as well.

Again – pleasantly surprised.  Who knew??

 

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Grandma Reimer’s Easter Cookies

Not the original, but close.

 

Grandma Reimer used to make these Easter cookies every year and although they’re not the sweetest or most visually stunning (though few of her recipes are anyway, lol), they were always a great treat at Easter.  Grandma gave me the original recipe at my request about 17 years ago.  She was getting on in years and wasn’t as active in the kitchen as she used to be, so I wanted to carry on the tradition for her.  After all, this was a dearly treasured recipe that my family brought over with them from Russia when Mennonites immigrated Canada in the early 1900′s … SOMEONE needed to continue making the cookies, and it might as well be me. :)  I tried to find Grandma’s original copy, but haven’t been successful.  At least I have it written in my own book of favorite recipes.

The first time I made these cookies, I merely skimmed over the recipe before starting and thought a HUGE Tupperware bowl would be more than big enough.  Had I taken the time to look at the recipe closely, I would have saw it called for 4 cups cream, 20 eggs and 22 cups flour.  I ended up with just the liquid ingredients filling my extremely large bowl right to the brim.  Thankfully, we had an extra bowl that same size and so I was able to pour half the liquid in there and the cookies were saved.  But you can imagine just how many we ended up with.  After that, I cut the recipe down by 3/4 and it still gives more than enough for my family to enjoy.

 

cream butter and sugar together

 

 

The cookie cutter I use is my grandmother’s that she used every year for this recipe.  It’s the only one of her antique cookie cutters that I managed to snag when she moved out of her apartment, and so is very special to me.  It’s become a way I can truly connect with her every Easter.

 

egg wash

egg wash

 

 

Yield: 6 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I used 18% because I couldn’t justify using butter AND whipping cream)
  • 5 eggs (I used large eggs)
  • 3 Tbsp pure lemon extract (NOT juice –  you can find this in the grocery store by the Vanilla extract)
  • 5 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cup baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together.

Slowly beat in cream and lemon extract.

Beat in 5 eggs, one at a time.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl and stir with a sturdy spoon until well combined.  Dough will be quite soft – almost like a drop cookie.

Roll out dough on a well floured surface and cut out in round (or any other shape you like) cookie cutter and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Beat egg (yolk and white) in a small bowl and brush egg wash over cookies.

Bake cookies for 11 minutes or until just barely turning brown on bottom of cookie.  Be sure not to over bake.

 

 
 

Paska – Russian Mennonite Easter Bread

Paska – Russian Mennonite Easter Bread


I’m finally getting back to to Grandma’s Old Wooden Recipe Box.  But for this post (and in honor of Easter), I`m blogging about a recipe I got from my mum many years ago; one that`s been passed down from generation to generation.

I grew up with my mum making Paska every Easter.  I would watch as she mixed the ingredients together and then got my dad to knead the dough (arthritis in her hands made that part too difficult for her).  It was a yearly ritual that signaled the end of a cold dark winter and the hope of long summer days to come.  Oh, how I loved it when she made her Easter bread.

The first year I lived on my own, I wanted to continue that tradition.  I had made bread before, and so was quite confident it would be a wonderful success.  “What could go wrong” I thought.  Well, nothing … until I put the dough in a warm spot to rise.  I waited.  And waited.  And then I waited some more.  There was simply nothing happening – even after twice the amount of time it takes normally takes.  I was so disappointed.  I knew the yeast I had used was at least a year old and figured that must have been the problem.  So at the end of a long and disappointing day in the kitchen, I threw the dough into the garbage and went to bed … heartbroken.

I’ve always believed that good night’s sleep does wonders for perspective.  I woke up the next morning and as I began to make breakfast I opened the cupboard under the sink to throw something away.  I started closing the cupboard door and stopped.  Something had caught my attention.  A massive kind of blob was oozing out of the garbage can.  Yes … the bread dough I had thrown out the night before had not only risen, but was taking over the space underneath my kitchen sink.  I giggled to myself and immediately called my mum.

We both had a good laugh and figured that the acid in the lemon juice slowed down the rising process.  I was so relieved – I hadn’t done anything wrong afterall!  Well, aside from throwing my bread dough in the trash, that is. :)

Since then, I’ve let my Paska rise at least 5 hours.  And it’s worked out every time.

This is my own special book that I`ve written my own favorite recipes in.

Ingredients:

  • 5-7 cups flour
  • 2 packages quick rise yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4-6 eggs (depending how large they are – we always used 4 double yolkers)
  • juice and zest of 1/2 an orange and 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup scalded milk

Beat eggs well, add sugar gradually and beat until disolved.  Add juice and zest to egg mixture.  Set aside and let come to room temperature.

In a large bowl, mix 3/4 cup flour, salt and yeast.  Add scalded milk (cool enough to stick your finger in it, but hot enough that you don’t want to keep it there) and oil.  Beat with mixer for 1 minute.  Add egg mixture and beat for another 3 minutes.

Stir in flour until you can’t stir anymore.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, adding flour as you need it.

As you can see, I no longer have trouble getting the dough to rise, lol

Let rise until double.  Shape into loaves and let rest for 10 minutes.

You'll notice that I've got one of the loaves in a coffee can. My mum tells stories of how her mother would bake all the paska in tins like this.

Place in pans and let rise until double again (about an hour and a quarter).  Bake at 325 for 30-35 minutes (cover with tin foil for first 20 minutes).

Traditional Paska is always decorated with a simple icing and sprinkles. But in our house, we prefer to spread the icing on toasted slices. Either way, it doesn't get any better than this!

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Eureka!!!

 
 
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