Babka

During this Coronavirus pandemic many of us have been busy cooking and baking. The stores, at least temporarily, are out of yeast and flour. Fortunately we had a small stockpile. Last week my friend Jane and I were on voluntary quarantine with my daughter in Chicago. We decided baking bread was a good project to pass the time. Our first loaf of bread was an herb loaf that we apparently allowed to rise too long. It fell during baking and, while it tasted okay hot out of the oven, it was too dense and it later became croutons. A second batch of dough didn’t want to rise at all. We tried deep frying dough balls to simulate donut holes on the theory that anything tastes good deep fried. Wrong. Everything does not taste good deep fried. Our “donut holes” were overcooked on the outside and raw in the center. Even liberal dosing with cinnamon sugar didn’t help. Then we decided to make a Babka. Babka is a traditional Polish Jewish bread. In Polish Babka means old lady or grandmother. If I was a grandmother I wouldn’t mind being called Babka. Soft and sweet and smelling of cinnamon and vanilla. Babka is thought to have originated in the early 1800s when extra challah dough would be spread with cinnamon or jelly and rolled up before baking. The recipe we used is a King Arthur Cinnamon Babka recipe with golden raisins and pecans. Last week we made an initial babka run. I failed at reading the instructions correctly and we cut the dough wrong. It still tasted great! Once I got back home I made another loaf of babka. This time I knew how to properly cut the dough.

Dough Ingredients:

3 cups (361g) AP flour

2 tsp instant yeast

1/4 tsp cinnamo

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 large egg

5 T unsalted butter at room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all of your dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl, starting with the lesser amount of water. With a wooden spoon mix all of the ingredients together until everything is moistened. If necessary add more of the water until the dough comes together. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. Remove the dough to a clean, lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and smooth. Place the dough into a lightly buttered bowl, cover, and allow the dough to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the dough is quite puffy.

While your dough is rising make your filling.

Filling Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 tsp cinnamon

1 T AP flour

1/4 cup melted butter

1/2 cup diced pecans

1/2 cup golden raisins


Just before you’re ready to shape the dough combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon and stir in the water and melted butter. Set aside.

Once the dough has risen place it on a clean, lightly floured surface and shape into a 9” by 18” rectangle that should be about 1/4 inch thick. If the dough is fighting you let it rest about 10 minutes, then stretch some more. I used my hands to shape the dough.

Smear the dough with the filling coming to within an inch of the edges. Sprinkle with the nuts and raisins.

Starting with the short end roll the dough gently into a log sealing the seam and ends.

Using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife, cut the log in half lengthwise, not crosswise.  You should have two pieces of dough, each about 10” long.  Take care to prevent too much filling from spilling out.  With the filling side up, twist the two pieces into a braid, tucking the ends underneath.  Place the twisted loaf into a lightly greased 9×5 loaf pan.

Whisk an egg with a pinch of salt and brush the top of the loaf with the egg wash.  Cover the loaf and let it rise until very puffy and crowned a good inch over the rim of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Toward the end of the rise time preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Now the bread is ready for the oven.  Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, tenting with aluminum foil during the final 15 to 20 minutes of baking.  The loaf should be a deep golden brown and the internal temperature should be about 195.

Remove the babka from the oven and immediately loosen the edges with a spatula or kitchen knife.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Slice and enjoy.

NOTE:  King Arthur suggests a topping (also known as supreming) consisting of:

2 T AP flour

1 T brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

1 T cold butter

Mix the topping ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle over the loaf before rising.  

I used the topping on one loaf but not on the other.  We also omitted the raisins in the first loaf.  As with so many recipes, it’s all a matter of personal preference.  

It seems like it would make excellent French toast but I haven’t tried that.  It is excellent briefly warmed in the microwave or oven.

 

Meatballs

Meatballs are a classic comfort food and they are so versatile.  You’ll find countless recipes in cookbooks and online.  Spaghetti and meatballs, Swedish meatballs, meatball subs, teeny tiny meatballs in Italian wedding soup.  They can be adapted to different ethnic cuisines by altering the meat you use, the seasonings and the sauces.   Jewish meatballs made with ground lamb, veal or chicken.  Middle Eastern are made with bulgur (cracked wheat) and ground lamb, beef, goat or camel. Traditional German meatballs are made with beef liver or pork.  In Austria spleen is mixed in with the liver.  And, of course, Finnish meatballs, which are made with ground beef, fried in butter, and finished in a milk gravy.  I just made a very large batch of meatballs to take to a funeral dinner.  The ingredients below are for a small batch…about 15-20 medium size meatballs.  I multiplied the recipe by eight.  Use the ground meat of your choosing.  I used half ground round and half bulk Italian sausage.

Ingredients:

1 pound ground meat

1 egg

1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1/2 cup milk or half n half

1 cup bread crumbs

2 tsp garlic salt

1 T Worcestershire

2 T fresh flat leaf parsley chopped

1/2 c finely diced onio

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

I save ends of bread and grind them up in my food processor for bread crumbs.  I added my parsley near the end of the grind.

Once your bread is in the bowl stir in your milk or half n half and add the eggs.

Add the ground meat, onions, Worcestershire, garlic and herbs.

Add the fresh grated cheese.

Now comes the fun part.  Take off your rings, roll up your sleeves and dig in with both hands.  Mix all of the ingredients together well.  Once everything is incorporated you’re ready to start making balls.

I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper (easier clean up) and used a scoop to make my meatballs a consistent size.

I baked these at 375 for approximately 20 minutes.  Baking time will vary based on the size and number of meatballs.  Internal temperature should ideally be 160 degrees.  Meatballs can also be fried on top of the stove in butter or olive oil.  I almost always bake my meatballs unless I’m making a small batch in which case I may do them over medium high heat in a cast iron skillet.

Once the meatballs are done it is time to sauce them.  You can add them to your pasta sauce, pizza sauce, or gravy depending on what you’re serving.  I used what I call a sweet and sour and it’s been a standby for years.  One bottle of Brooks Tangy catsup and one can of Ocean Spray Whole Cranberry Sauce.  Stir the two together and ladle over the meatballs.

Because I made 8X the recipe, I layered the meatballs and sauce in the roaster.  By doing that you ensure that the sauce reaches all of the meatballs for best results.

Once they’ve been sauced I put them in the oven at 325 degrees for about an hour to meld the flavors.  And that’s that.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  If you’re making meatballs they freeze well.  You’re already making a mess and getting your hands dirty so you might as well double or triple the recipe.  Allow them to cool completely, put them in freezer bags and they’ll be ready for a quick dinner or appetizer.  One of my Dad’s favorite foods was meatloaf.  I used to make up enough for several miniature loaf pans and freeze them for easy dinners.

Change up the ground meat…chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, beef or a combination.  Change up the spices depending on the dish you’re serving and the flavor profile you’re looking for.

Empanadas

 

It occurred to me, as I was making the empanadas today, the last couple of weeks have been an ethnic diversity palooza in my kitchen.  I made a Moroccan chicken tagine with apricots and olives, Asian inspired sticky ginger sesame chicken meatballs, Mexican tostadas with my friend’s pickled pigs feet sauce, a Vietnamese shrimp spring roll bowl with sweet chili mango sauce, Italian chicken parmesan with linguine and marinara, Polish pierogis with polish sausage and cabbage, and Jewish penicillin, chicken soup with matzo balls.  It’s all been good.  A couple recipes were better than others.  But good just the same.  It makes cooking and mealtime much more interesting when you experiment and try new dishes.  A couple weeks ago I got new kitchen gadgets that made pierogis and empanadas more fun to make…a crimper and a roller that cuts the dough into perfectly sized discs to fit the crimper.  The gadgets are the real reason I was inspired to make the empanadas today.  I have a few packages of pierogis in my freezer.  Now I will have a few bags of empanadas in my freezer.  The recipe for the empanadas comes from America’s Test Kitchen, special collector’s edition, The Best Mexican Recipes.  There are a lot of great recipes in that magazine.

Dough ingredients:

3 3/4 cups AP flour (18 3/4 oz.)

1 T sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

12 T unsalted, chilled butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 1/4 cups ice water

2 T olive oil

Process the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined.  Scatter the butter in the processor over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.  Add 1/4 cup of water at a time, stirring after each addition.  You may not need to use all of the water.  Once the dough sticks together, turn out onto a clean, dry work surface and gently press into a cohesive ball.  Divide the dough into two discs, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.  Let the chilled dough sit out on the counter for a few minutes before rolling.

While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling.  I made a vegetarian filling with corn, peppers, and cheese.

Filling Ingredients:

2 T unsalted butter

1 poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped fine

3 whole canned mild green chilis chopped fine

3 green onions, whites minced and greens sliced thin

1 small mild orange pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped fine

2 cloves of garlic minced

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

salt and pepper

3/4 cup frozen corn thawed

1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped

6 oz shredded Jack cheese

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and cook the peppers and scallion whites until softened and lightly browned.

Stir in the garlic and the spices and cook another 30 seconds until fragrant.

Stir in the corn and remove from the heat.  Put the corn, pepper mixture in a bowl and refrigerate until completely cool.

While that’s chilling, slice the scallion greens, cilantro, and grate the Jack cheese.  Once cool, mix all of the ingredients together and now you’re ready to start rolling your dough.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut discs with a biscuit cutter, a glass, or, if you’re fortunate enough to have one of these rollers, roll on.

Fill each circle with 1 T of filling.  Brush the edges of the dough with water to help ensure a good seal.  Fold the dough over and crimp the edges with the tines of a fork.  Or, if you’re fortunate enough to have a crimper, crimp on.

Transfer the empanadas to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush each with olive oil.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Allow to cool and enjoy!

NOTE:  The filling options are endless.  There is a beef and cheese filling in the magazine and many, many more recipes on line.  The empanadas freeze well.  Put them in the freezer on a cookie sheet until frozen and then transfer them to zip lock freezer bags.  Bake them a few extra minutes if they’ve come out of the freezer.  Serve them as is or with salsa or Mexican crema.

Cudighi

Cudighi is an Italian sausage that originated in northern Italy and is seasoned with sweet spices, but is now primarily made and served in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  You’ll see it on the menu of many mom and pop restaurants and bars that serve burgers and sandwiches.  If you’re a “Yooper,” you’re most certainly familiar with cudighi.  You’ve had it in a sandwich with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, on pizza, or in other dishes that would traditionally be make with Italian sausage.  An old friend of mine was famous for making cudighi sausage in a tomato gravy served with polenta.  Italian immigrants in northern  Michigan began making “Gudighi” in the 1930s.  It is apparently derived from Cotechino, a northern Italian fresh sausage make from pork, fatback, and pork rind.  Some places add a little heat to their recipe, most likely with red pepper flakes.   Since Cudighi is not available to any of us Michiganders in the Lower Peninsula, my friend Jane and I decided to make our own.  There are a couple recipes on line as well as  commentary by one individual who claims to have the “original” recipe for cudighi, but has been sworn to secrecy and cannot disclose the ingredients.  This was our first attempt.  We did not use casing but you certainly could.  The result was pretty darn good.  We each bought about seven pounds of pork butt and set about to make our cudighi.  You’ll need a good electric meat grinder or a manual grinder and a strong arm.  Meat should be cut into strips and semi-frozen before you put it through the grinder so that it doesn’t gum up.

Ingredients:

Ground pork butt

1/2 cup of dry red wine per 2 pounds of ground pork

Spice blend:

3 T kosher salt

1 T fresh ground black pepper

1 T nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp mace

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 T garlic powder

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Whisk spice blend and use 2 T of spices and 1/2 cup of red wine per 2 pounds of ground pork.

Work the spices and wine into the meat with your hands.  Once the spices and wine have been worked into the  meat, cover and refrigerate for two or three days.  We divided the cudighi into one pound packages and sealed them for freezing.

Of course I had to cook some up so we could sample the end result. I made small paddies for sliders and fried them on a cast iron griddle.  This sausage recipe may require a little tweaking but we were pretty pleased with the end result.

Choose your toppings.  I used mozzarella cheese, pizza sauce, tomato and red onion.

The only thing left to do is assemble and enjoy.

Serve with your favorite side.  Chips, potato salad, baked beans.  Mangia!

NOTE:  If you want your cudighi kicked up, add a few pepper flakes.  You may want to increase or decrease the amount of spice blend.  This sausage is different from what most of us think of as traditional Italian sausage because of the ”sweet” spices like cloves and cinnamon and nutmeg.  The cudighi that I get from the Chatham Co-op, in my little UP home town, has more heat.  In the end it’s all a matter of personal taste.

 

 

 

Chocolate Mayonnaise Sheet Cake

A year ago on April 19th I lost a very special friend, Debra, to cancer.  There was a celebration of life for family and friends  followed by a luncheon.  I made the chocolate mayonnaise sheet cake she loved and decorated it with the monkeys I had bought to use on her birthday cake.  She loved all animals but monkeys were a favorite of hers and always made her smile.  Whenever I saw cute monkey memes I would share them with her and I once gifted her a hideous pink sock monkey that I made.  She adored it.  My first and last attempt at sock monkeys.  Debbie had the gift of gab.  She loved to come down and sit and visit and have a cup of tea or a cup of coffee with a little rum chata in it.  And she had a sweet tooth.  She loved chocolate.  So if there was a cake or cookies or brownies she was a happy girl.  And if there were no baked goods, there was always a dish full of chocolate candy and that’s where she’d head.  I’ll always think of her when I make this cake.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups hot, strong coffee

1 cup cocoa

3 cups AP flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350.

Whisk together the hot coffee and cocoa and let stand for 20 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl combine the sugar and eggs.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Beat in the mayonnaise and vanilla.

Alternate flour mixture and coffee/cocoa mixture beating after each addition and beginning and ending with flour.

Pour the batter into a lightly greased and floured sheet pan.  Bake for 22-25 minutes.  Allow the cake to cool completely before icing.

To make this cake easier to serve to a crowd I cut the cake, used cupcake lines to separate individual pieces, and then iced each piece.  I made a peanut butter icing but you can use any flavor icing you like.

This post is for you my beautiful friend.  I miss talking to you and enjoying a cup of coffee or tea with you at my kitchen island.  I hope there is a lot of chocolate in heaven.  And monkeys.  A lot of monkeys.

Roasted Nuts

Nuts.  A healthy and filling snack.  Nuts are a great source of fiber, protein, and healthy fats as well as a number of vitamins and minerals.  Almonds are the highest in calcium of all nuts and and studies have shown that they can reduce the “bad” LDL cholesterol which is particularly harmful to heart health.  Pecans and walnuts have also been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels and contain compounds that act as antioxidants.  Walnuts, one of my favorites, may help to reduce inflammation which can contribute to many chronic diseases.  A study of college students found that eating walnuts increased cognition, suggesting they may have beneficial effects on the brain.  Walnuts are supposed to be the top nut for brain health.  That’s probably why I like them so much!  I’ve always been told that fish was brain food.  But maybe it’s really nuts!

Considering all of the health benefits, snacking on a handful of nuts each day, unless, of course, you have an allergy to tree nuts, is a good thing.  Eating nuts that are covered in chocolate might, however, cancel out the health benefits.  And while raw nuts are probably best, nuts that have been roasted with a little sea salt are ever so much better tasting.  My friend Jane gave me this quick and simple recipe for roasting nuts.  They are excellent!

Ingredients:

5 cups of raw nuts – I used pecans and almonds

1 1/2 T HOT water

1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

2 T olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375.

Measure out your nuts into a large metal bowl.

Whisk together the 1 1/2 tsp of salt and the HOT water together until the salt is dissolved.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon pour the salt water over the nuts and stir well.

Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and spread the nuts out in a single layer.

Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from the oven, stir, and bake for an additional 8 minutes.  Depending on your oven temperature you may want to bake them for a couple more minutes.  You can sample a couple after 15-16 minutes remembering that once they cool they will crisp up a little more.  After baking return the hot nuts to the bowl and stir in the 2 T of olive oil and additional sea salt to taste.  Spread the nuts back out on the parchment covered pan and allow them to cool completely.  Once cooled store them in an airtight container.

ENJOY

NOTE:  I used raw almonds and pecans but any kind of raw nut would be good.

These nuts were so good I decided that some other flavor profiles might work as well.  I did a second batch adding 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla to the 2 T of olive oil and sprinkling 1 T of cinnamon and 2 T of superfine sugar on the hot nuts.   I could have added even a little more vanilla and cinnamon.

If you like things kicked up a bit, 1/2 to 1 tsp of cayenne pepper added to the sea salt at the end may be another good choice.

If you don’t have superfine salt or sugar on hand you can use a coffee grinder or mini food processor to accomplish a fine grind.

As with any recipe, you’re only limited by your imagination.

Vanilla

Good quality, pure vanilla extract is crucial to good baked goods.  And it is not inexpensive.  A good friend winters in Texas and she brings me awesome vanilla from Mexico.  I use her Mexican vanilla all the time.   When people try to replicate some of my recipes they notice subtle taste differences between what I baked and what they baked.  I’m convinced it is the vanilla.  I recently came across instructions for making your own vanilla on the King Arthur blog.  And decided I would try it.  It’s not complicated at all.

Homemade vanilla consists of vanilla beans and liquor.  You want to make sure your vanilla beans are fresh.  They should be pliable and soft to the touch.  According to King Arthur there are three kinds of vanilla beans that are readily available.  Sharing his descriptions.

“TAHITIAN:  Contains floral notes as well as subtle cherry and almond overtones; pairs well with fruity desserts and has a strong vanilla aroma.

MEXICAN:  Described as woodsy with hints of spice.  This vanilla is exciting, a perfect choice to bring something new to your baking.

MADAGASCAR:  A classic vanilla flavor that’s described as creamy and sweet.  Often used to make vanilla extract; it’s familiar and comforting.”

The vanilla bean descriptions reminded me of the labels on wine bottles!  I chose the “familiar and comforting” beans from Madagascar.

You also choose the kind of liquor you want to use for your base.  Something that has a neutral flavor like vodka or brandy or rum. You want to steer away from spices or smoky flavors that may overpower the vanilla.  No cucumber vodka or Captain Morgan.

Ingredients:

Vanilla beans

Liquor

You want to make sure you have clean bottles/jars with tight fitting lids.  The bottles I used hold 8 ounces.  I used 2 1/2 beans in each jar.  You want to slit your beans to expose the seeds.  If you don’t want to have “flecks” in your vanilla you can scrape out the seeds.  I choose to leave the seeds in for a richer vanilla flavor.  Once you’ve slit the beans put them in the bottles.

Add your liquor of choice to the jars.  I used a funnel because it’s sinful to spill and waste liquor!  I used rum in one jar, vodka in the other.  Make sure your beans are totally submerged.  If they are not, cut the beans into shorter pieces and return to the bottle.

Now you wait.  For at least 3 months.  Store your bottles in a cool, dark place.  King Arthur says the refrigerator is too cold (and it’s light in there when you open the door) so consider the basement or another area of your house that is relatively cool and dark.  Don’t store them in the kitchen which is typically the warmest room in the house.  If you left the seeds in the pods like I did, shake the bottles gently every week or so.  This will help deepen the flavor,

NOTE:  You don’t have to use top shelf liquor.  I used liquor that I serve at home.  You do want to make sure that you have good quality, fresh beans.  Finally, you don’t want to leave this somewhere where someone might pour themselves a shot!

I’m excited for the end result.  Last year a lot of people got homemade laundry soap for Christmas.  This year it may be homemade vanilla.  Worst case scenario, I’ll have to come up with some great vanilla cocktail recipes!

 

 

Zucchini Bread with Walnuts and Golden Raisins

Zucchini.  The vegetable that people are always giving away after it has inexplicitly multiplied and grown to ginormous proportions in their gardens.  One can only make so many zoodles and side dishes with tomatoes and onions and zucchini boats stuffed with meat and cheese.  But everyone loves zucchini bread and cake and other sweets.  Zucchini makes for very moist bread and cake and no longer even tastes like a vegetable.  Not even a little bit.  That’s probably the appeal to many people.  This bread is an easy quick bread that is at least a little healthy.  The inclusion of nuts and raisins,  ground flax seed, and, of course squash, bolsters that claim.  And cinnamon.  Cinnamon is very healthy!  It is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.  You’ll feel so good after you have a slice or two of this tasty bread.

Ingredients:

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 T vanilla

3 cups AP flour

1/2 cup ground flax seed (or wheat germ)

1 tsp nutmeg

1 T cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 cups shredded zucchini

1 cup walnuts chopped

1 cup golden raisins

Preheat your oven to 325.

Beat white and brown sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla together.

Sift together flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, and salt.

Add raisins, nuts, and flaxseed.

Add shredded zucchini and stir until well combined.

Grease 2 loaf pans or 6 small loaf pans.  Use parchment paper if you’d like.  Divide batter evenly.

Bake for 40-60 minutes depending on the size of the pans,  Check for doneness using a tooth pick or cake tester after 40 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

Slice and enjoy!!

NOTE:  Zucchini bread freezes well.  If it lasts that long.  If you prefer you can use dried cherries or pecans.  A little different flavor but it’s all good.

Bologna Cake

We have a good friend who requested a bologna cake for his birthday.  He sent a photo of a bologna cake that was slice of bologna, cream cheese, slice of bologna, cream cheese and so on and so on.  The sides and top were “frosted” with more cream cheese and decorated with the cheddar cheese that you buy in aerosol cans.

I decided that rather than an ALL bologna cake I would make bologna sandwich spread and use bread for the layers.  Several years ago I made a sandwich cake for a Super Bowl party.  I made that “cake” with ham salad and chicken salad.  It was lovely to look at and tasted ok but I made a mistake and didn’t cut the crusts off the bread making it very difficult to slice. You nearly mangled the whole cake sawing through the crust.  I also learned that sandwich cakes are a real “thing” called smorgastarta, Swedish for sandwich cake.

Cake Ingredients:

2 loaves of a good sturdy bread

2 pounds of garlic bologna

mayo or miracle whip

sweet pickles

onion and celery

Icing Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds of cream cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 c mayonnaise

1 envelope ranch dressing seasoning

The shape of your bread does not matter.  Round, square, rectangular.  Just ensure that it is a good quality, sturdy bread so it doesn’t turn to mush when you add the filling.  Shave off the crusts with a serrated knife.

Grind your bologna and pickles in a food processor.

Small dice your celery and onion and add to the ground meat.   The vegetables give a little crunch to the sandwich spread.  Add mayo or miracle whip until the spread reaches your desired consistency.  Now you can begin assembling the cake.  Spread a thin layer of the icing on each layer and a generous amount of the sandwich spread.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Until you’ve used all of your layers.

When you begin icing the sides and top of the cake do just as you would with a real cake.  Start with a thin layer of icing to seal in the crumbs and then go back and add more icing and smooth out the sides and top.

Decorate your cake with garnishes of your choosing.  I used fennel fronds, carrots, green onions, radishes and miniature heirloom tomatoes.

Voila!  I think my bologna cake is quite beautiful and it was appreciated and enjoyed by the birthday boy and most of the other guests.

NOTE:  It isn’t necessary to use bologna.  Any type of sandwich spread, sliced deli meats, lox, or hard boiled eggs would work.  Adding sliced vegetables like seedless cucumber, radishes, or onion would add some crunch and flavor.  I wouldn’t recommend using tomato slices which would make the bread wet and mushy.

I used the bread crusts to make breadcrumbs which I bag and freeze and croutons for soup or salad.

 

 

Cucumber Mint Jelly

Some time ago I bought a Better Homes and Gardens magazine with jam and jelly recipes in it.   Lots of good stuff!  I love cucumbers and I love mint so this combination really intrigued me.  Interestingly, most of my brothers hate mint.  They won’t even use mint toothpaste.  And I think some of them probably don’t like cucumbers either.  My kitchen smelled wonderful while I was making this jelly.  A friend came in while it was cooking and the first thing she said was, “your house smells like cucumbers.”  This recipe was very easy and it’s something you can make year round.

Ingredients:

3 large cucumbers

7 cups of sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

1 6-oz package liquid fruit pectin (both envelopes)

1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves

a drop of green food color

Peel and cut the cucumbers into chunks.  No need to remove the seeds.  Purée them in a food processor or blender.

Press the purée through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl.  You want to recover 1 1/2 cups of cucumber juice.

You pretty much waste most of the cucumber.

In a heavy saucepan combine the cucumber juice, sugar, and vinegar.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar.

Quickly stir in both packets of pectin and the mint.  Bring to a full rolling boil stirring constantly.  Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat.  Use a metal spoon and skim off any foam and remove the mint.  Add a drop of green food color.  The “natural” color is not appetizing.  While I was making the jelly I had this bright idea that a mint leaf in each jar would be really pretty.  As you remove the mint from the pot you realize, as I did, that this would not be a good idea.

Ladle hot jelly into hot sterilized half pint jars leaving a 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rims, adjust lids and screw on the bands.  Process jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.  Start the timer when the water comes to a boil.  Remove jars and allow to cool completely on a heavy towel or wire racks.

Makes 6 half pints.

I love the finished product!  The day I made the jelly we had lamb chops for dinner so I could showcase the cucumber mint jelly.

NOTE:  Try a spoonful of cucumber mint jelly, some tonic water and good gin or vodka for an amazing cocktail.  Zap the jelly for a few seconds in the microwave, add the alcohol, ice and stir in the tonic.

Cheers!