Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend Wrap-up (and Bierox)

Warning: LONG POST.

Oh my goodness, we have been busy the past couple of days!  Last weekend Chris had to work a lot, and then I went to Mom's for a few days because he was still very busy.  While there, Mom and I made an apple pie.  We almost always make one when we get together; it's my favorite!
Rachel enjoyed playing with the left over dough.

I would write more about the pie, but I promised a Bierox post, so I'll save the Apple Pie Post for a rainy day.

Chris and I planned to make Bierox on Saturday, but it ended up being a nice day here.  We took advantage of the nicer weather and cleaned out the car (which it desperately needed).  We also did a bit of shopping and I got to visit my favorite store: Williams-Sonoma.  If I didn't stay home with Rachel, I would probably want to work there.

Today Chris got up before church to marinate some chicken we were going to grill.  We had seen a "Good Eats" show where Alton Brown grilled chicken and it looked so good we had to try it.  After returning from church Chris added a seasoning rub and got the grill fired up.  I cannot provide many details because I am banned from the grilling zone, but the result was fabulous!  We will definitely be making this again, especially in the summer.

After we got the kitchen all cleaned up, I put Rachel down for a nap with the intentions of starting my bread.  However, nap time was cut short so we went for a drive (with a Coke and Twix!) hoping Rachel would fall back asleep.  No such luck, but I really enjoyed our little outing.  Too bad gas is so expensive, I really enjoy driving around to areas I haven't seen before.  So when we got back home I finally started my Bierox.

Now Bierox is something I had never had before I met Chris.  His mom makes them quite often and I assumed they were a Polish dish since it sounded like a funny name and I think most Polish words sound funny.  Nope.  They're German.  And they are delish!  I like them because they taste good and they are so handy to have in the freezer.  I like to make them ahead of time when I know we will be having company and don't want to be stuck in the kitchen.  If you've never had one, it's sort of like a homemade Hot Pocket, except a lot better.  And probably way better for you.  So, here we go! (I use my mother-in-law's roll recipe for the dough and the Guymon church's cookbook for the filling.)

1 c sugar
4 tsp salt
2 pkgs active dry yeast
flour (almost an entire bag)
4 c water
2 sticks butter
2 eggs

In large bowl, combine sugar, salt, yeast and 4 1/2 c flour.  In 2-quart saucepan over low heat, heat water and butter until very warm (approx. 120 degrees).  With mixer at low speed, gradually beat liquid into dry ingredients.  Add eggs; increase speed to medium; beat 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.  Beat in 1 1/2 c flour or enough to make a thick batter; continue beating 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl.  Stir in about 5 c flour to make a soft dough.  Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.  Shape into ball; place in creased large bowl, turning over to grease top.  Cover with towel; let rise in warm place, until doubled, about 1 1/2 hrs.

At this point, if your kitchen isn't a total disaster, you must have done something wrong.

Note:  You definitely need as big a bowl as you possess, and probably your biggest spoon also (unless you have one of those giant decorative ones hanging on the need to get that dusty thing down!)  I often say "Cooking isn't hard; you just have to be able to read!"  Sure, some recipes are more involved than others, but that doesn't make it hard.  This is one time when I will actually admit, making bread is hard!  I actually get sort of worn out by the time I'm done kneading it.  But it's all worth it!

 2 lbs lean ground beef (I used venison today)
1 lg onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/2 head cabbage, shredded

Brown meat along with the onion and garlic.  Drain, then add the seasonings and the cabbage.  Continue to cook on low heat until the cabbage is wilted.  To assemble, roll out  1/4 of the dough at a time on a lightly floured surface to a 1/4" thickness.  Use a 5-6" diameter object to cut circles out of the dough.  Place about 3 spoonfuls of filling onto dough, then pinch dough up and over the meat like a taco, and then seal the ends.  Place bierox, seam side down, on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.  Makes 2 dozen.


As if this wasn't enough craziness for one little kitchen in one day, Chris decided to make souffles while I was in the midst of filling my bierox.  Again, I can't provide any details because I was a bit occupied, and totally missed what he was doing.  But they were yummy! Here's a snapshot:

Raspberry souffle...yum!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Menu Planning

I started to write a post about our dinner tonight (venison roast, carrots, and roasted potatoes) and then realized that several of the posts I have written involve many of the same ingredients and that people might be tired of carrots and potatoes!  So instead, I thought I would just say that I meant to cook things with the same ingredients lately.  I cannot stand to waste food, so when I am trying to decide what to cook for the week, I try to make several dishes that contain some of the same ingredients so that I can use up those veggies before they spoil.  Since it is primarily Chris and I who eat dinner, we usually have 1 or 2 nights worth of leftovers.  I don't mind eating the same thing a couple of days in a row, but I sure don't want the same thing every night for 2 weeks... So the problem I run into is coming up with meals that contain similar ingredients but have very different tastes.  The solution for using up a bag of potatoes and a 2 lb bag of carrots this time was: chicken pot pie, minestrone, and roast.  I was pretty pleased because all of these dishes have rather distinct flavors and I haven't grown "dinner weary."  Another bonus to the minestrone: the recipe called for 1/2 head cabbage!  When we make bierox (more on this later!), I always wonder what to do with the leftover 1/2 head of cabbage because cabbage isn't something I use very often.  So tomorrow we will be making bierox to use up that cabbage before it goes bad...and I am pretty excited!  There's nothing like the smell of homemade bread on the weekends! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Never underestimate the power of a good dessert.  Last week, after the Packers' devastating loss, Chris was in need of some cheer.  I told him to pick whatever he wanted, and we could make it.  Chris chose tiramisu; now we had tried this once before, and the result was only OK.  This time Chris wanted to try making our own Lady Fingers; he was sure this was the key to better tiramisu.  Last Sunday night we made part I of the dessert, and the cookies turned out great! They don't have much flavor and are extremely soft, so they make awesome kid cookies!  If I were going to make these to eat by themselves, I would probably adjust the recipe to include some flavor (like vanilla extract or something).  Our recipe is from here:
Here's what they looked like:
The recipe made 2 sheets.

I obviously didn't do a very clean job of piping the cookies, but I wasn't really worried about how they looked because they were going inside of the tiramisu.

The next day we embarked on part II of our dessert adventure.  I love the Olive Garden's tiramisu, so I tried to find a copy cat recipe and I think we found a winner!  The original is seen here:  We made a few adjustments:
-Cut back to 2/3 cup sugar
-I used 2 cups mascarpone (because that's all I had...and it was definitely plenty)
-We used our homemade lady fingers
-We tweaked the coffee mixture to include Marsala; 1/3 cup each strong coffe, Kahlua liqueur, and Marsala
This turned out so so well! We will definitely be making this again! It's a little pricey to make because of the marscapone.  I figured we spent about $14 total, but it made a very generous 9 servings (more like 12 or 13) per piece it's not too bad! Here's the finished product!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gymboree Sale and Minestrone Soup

I am so excited about the sale Gymboree had this past week.  I got several things last week and earned some GymBucks with my purchase.  I had never used those before, so I didn't get too excited when the lady stapled them to my receipt.  After reading the coupon I got super pumped! If you spent $50, you could $25 off you total, and it didn't exclude sale merchandise! So back to Gymboree I went a few days later when my GymBucks were available for redemption.  I got $161.75 worth of clothing for Rachel for $34.85 (not that I would have ever spent the $161 in the first place...)  Here's a snapshot of her new clothes!

Tonight we had Minestrone for dinner.  It turned out pretty well, although I think I prefer the Pasta Fagioli I've made in the past.  The recipe is very lengthy and it's almost a little girl's bedtime around here, so I think I'll skip typing it all out.  This is what it looked like:

Also, I apparently do not know how to respond to comments because they are not showing up, but thank you to you guys for commenting! :) And to everyone who is following; I think this is going to be fun!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

I love chicken pot pie.  You know, the individual serving kind you buy for 50 cents out of the freezer section.  For anyone who knows my husband, it will not come as a surprise to find out Chris does not love frozen chicken pot pie.  I tried several times to find a good recipe online for homemade pot pie and only got frustrated, as most of them call for frozen bagged veggies and store-bought dough.

My wonderful grandma gave me a cookbook for a wedding gift (3 1/2 years ago!).  I found a recipe that finally called for fresh ingredients, but it only called for steak and potatoes with a single crust on top.  No matter!  I adapted it our tastes, and we love it!


3/4 cup diced onions
vegetable oil for cooking
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
pinch allspice
pinch ginger
1 lb chicken, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 1/4 cups boiling water
3 small potatoes, peeled and diced
4-5 carrots, peeled and sliced
3-4 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 crust pie recipe

In a large skillet, saute the onions in 2 Tbs oil until golden.  In a plastic bag, combine dry ingredients; add meat and shake to coat.  In the same skillet, cook meat until no longer pink.  Add boiling water; cover and simmer until meat is tender, about 45 minutes.  Add veggies; simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes, or until tender.  Roll pastry onto bottom of an 8x8 or 10x10 baking dish.  Pour into dish and roll pastry onto top; seal to edges.  Bake at 450 for 25 minutes.

Pie Crust (both my mother and mother-in-law use this recipe, so I think it's the best one around!)

2 cups flour (or a bit more)
1 tsp salt
1/2-3/4 cup crisco (this is a case of less is more; too much and the crust will tear easily while rolling out)
7-8 Tbs cold water

In medium bowl, stir flour and salt with fork.  Cut in shortening until coarse crumbles form.  Sprinkle in cold water, mixing with for until the mixture holds together.  Shape into ball and divide in half.  Roll out on floured surface.

This is just about the most involved recipe I have.  It's not "hard", it just takes about 2 hours from starting prep until it's on the table, so if you work during the day, this would work much better on the weekend.  And we finally have chicken pot pie again in the Zak household!

The Pilot

I'm sure almost everyone is familiar with the Ad Council's "Feed the Pig" commercials by now.  Basically, they say to eat at home, make your own coffee, etc in order to save some money.  I actually kind of like these commercials.  It's so easy to eat out because it's convenient, but I often don't actually enjoy it.  So my New Year's resolution this year was to eat out only twice a month (at most); I figure I actually want to eat out every couple of weeks, any more often than that and I just didn't plan my grocery list well enough!  Another big plus to eating at home: Rachel has more freedom.  Rachel doesn't always want to eat exactly when Chris and I do, so she is allowed to play if she's already had dinner (and that is a bit more difficult when she's confined to a restaurant high-chair).  With all this in mind, I am trying to cook a wider range of things.  I enjoy cooking since I am at home all day, but had sort of gotten into a dinner rut.  I thought a blog would be a good way to document what we've had, what turned out well, and most importantly- what to not make again! :) 

I'm sure my posts won't always be about food.  There are lots of other ways to save money, too!  I always shop the sales at the mall, garage sales, etc.  I think Edmond must be the garage sale capitol of Oklahoma!  There are always lots to go to when the weather is nice, and you can almost always find Pottery Barn discards- which is a major score for me since I like a lot of their stuff, but usually not the price tag attached.

I hope this blog is enjoyed by my family and friends.  Happy reading, and happy saving everyone!