Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Special: Perogies

Ahh, morning after Thanksgiving.   The turkey coma has faded and it's time to do something other than cook.  Time to write about cooking!  :)

My husband's family has a Thanksgiving tradition of making perogies and I am happy to embrace this.  Perogies are dough pockets (like big ravioli) filled with cheesy mashed potatoes and sauteed with sweet onions.  They are delicious!

This recipe is especially good for Thanksgiving because the work is much easier with many hands and an assembly line.  I broke out the directions by assembly-line task.  It's a lot of fun to be in the kitchen with loved ones!  Mashed potatoes and onions can be prepared in advance, and a bread machine with a dough setting saves a lot of kneading time.

This year it was just the two of us for turkey day and my rolling pin skills aren't quite up to par, so we discovered that parchment paper keeps the pre-boiled perogies from sticking to the plate so all of the filling step can be done at once with a layer of parchment paper in between each level of perogies.  Don't let them touch each other though, the potato-filled dough pockets are very very friendly with each other and tough to separate.

The recipe was passed down from my husband's grandmother and has morphed a little over the years.  The full recipe is here but we cut it in half since my bread machine only does a half-batch of dough at a time.  Whether doing the dough in the machine or by hand, the amount of milk will vary depending on the humidity and elevation.  If the dough is dry and crumbly it needs more milk; if it's sticky it has too much milk and some added flour will help balance it out.

Additional recipe instructions involve throwing handfuls of flour at siblings, trying to eat the hot just-cooked perogies while keeping everyone else away from them, hoping to still have room for turkey later, and eating cold leftover perogies with onions on top straight from the fridge for day-after-thanksgiving breakfast and lunch.


Perogie-maker (these can be found at kitchen gadget stores)
Heavy rolling pin
Bread machine (not a necessity but very helpful)


6 cups flour
2 eggs
2 tsp salt
1 to 2 cups of milk

6 large potatoes (half russet and half yukon gold), peeled and cut up
Grated cheddar cheese - sharp white if available
1 large sweet onion, diced
Milk, to taste
Butter, to taste
Salt & Pepper (1/2 tsp salt per lb of potatoes)

Extra milk in a small cup for sealing perogies
2 large sweet onions, sliced (these can be sliced and frozen in advance and used straight from the freezer)
1 to 2 sticks of butter

1. Slice onions.  These should look like a bag of smiley faces.  Every good recipe should start with smiley faces.

2. Prepare mashed potatoes: Saute onion with a little butter.  Boil potato pieces until fork-tender.  Drain.  Mash potatoes with sauteed onions, cheese, milk, butter, and salt & pepper.  This should be a little saltier than one would normally make mashed potatoes for serving.

3. Make dough: Knead together all dough ingredients, starting with 1 cup of milk and adding more as needed until the dough is not crumbly and not sticky.  If using a bread machine, use the dough setting.  No rising cycle is needed.

4. Make circles: Using a heavy rolling pin on a lightly floured flat surface, roll out dough to about 1/4" thick.  Cut out circles that are smaller than the perogie-maker using a round cookie cutter or the top of a glass.  Roll these circles flatter so they are the size of the perogie-maker with a little bit hanging over the edges.  They need to be thick enough to hold potatoes through boiling and frying but not so thick they won't cook through.

5. Fill perogies: Carefully lay the prepared circle of dough on the perogie-maker.  Drop a spoonful of mashed potatoes in the center; it should be plump but not enough to squish out the sides.  Dip a finger in milk and run along the edge, then crimp the perogie-maker together.  Make sure it's sealed before moving on to the next one.  Put these on a parchment-paper-lined plate *not touching each other* until there are enough to boil.

6. Boil: Fill a large stock pot about halfway with water and set to a boil.  In small batches, drop in the filled doughy perogies so they have some space to float and not be on top of each other.  Boil for a while until the dough is cooked through.  Remove carefully from boiling water with a slotted spoon and place in a waiting area for the frying.  When all are removed from the water, add the next batch.

7. Final cooking: Heat a very large frying pan with a teaspoon or two of butter.  Add a handful of sliced onions and let soften for a few minutes.  Add a batch of boiled perogies in a single layer on top of and in between the onions.  When that side is browned, flip them over.  When both sides are nicely browned, remove to a plate and try to keep everyone from eating them so some will make it to the table.  The onions can stay for a batch or two depending on how cooked you want them.  Add a little more butter for each batch and more handfuls of onion slices as they get cooked and moved off to the serving plate. 

8. Serve and Enjoy! 

Thanksgiving Special: Cranberry Sauce

Once you make your own cranberry sauce you may never go back to the canned kind.  Warm fresh cranberry sauce is incredible and takes very little effort.  The basic recipe is on the back of most bags of cranberries; the zest and cinnamon take it over the top.  Frozen berries can be added when the cranberries are too for a different twist; cherries and blueberries are great, strawberries did not work so well.  When the cranberry skins pop it can be a little messy so this is not the time to wear a favorite white shirt. 

Cranberries are hard to get most of the year but they freeze very well.  I suggest stocking up with as many as your freezer can hold while they are on sale for the holidays to use throughout the year.  In addition to cranberry sauce, they are great in bread, smoothies, and syrup. Keep an eye out for those recipes during the year as I get cranberry cravings!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

1 package cranberries (12 oz)
1 c sugar
1 c water
1/2 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp cinnamon

1. Pour cranberries into a bowl, rinse to get rid of any bits of stems or leaves, and sort out any bad ones.  No need to thaw them out if they were frozen.

2.  In a medium saucepan, mix together the water and sugar and bring to a boil.

3. Add cranberries, zest, and cinnamon.  Bring back up to a boil then turn down to a simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The cranberry skins will pop as they heat up.  When most of the skins have popped, remove from heat.

4. Optional: For jellied cranberry sauce without the whole berries, put a fine mesh sieve over a container and pour the sauce into it.  Use a spoon to press the liquid through.  Discard the skins and seeds that will be left in the mesh.  Chill if desired.

5. Pour sauce into a pretty serving dish!

Thanksgiving Special: Winning Turkey

This recipe for a perfect roasted turkey has moved to my new website!  Please visit it at Winning Thanksgiving Turkey!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Crockpot: Hot Buttered Rum

Crock pots are truly wonderful inventions, and there is no need to limit their use to meals.  This toasty warm drink simmers for several hours and fills the kitchen with a welcoming holiday aroma. The rum is added just before serving so it doesn't cook off.  I cut the amount of rum in half from the original recipe (2 cups) since that was too overwhelming for me, but it's nice to have some extra on hand for guests who like it stronger. For the non-alcohol-drinking crowd, the rum can be skipped or experimenting with adding apple cider would be a nice twist.

Some tips on this recipe:
Crock pots don't all go to the same temperature at "Low" so if it seems too buttery, bump it up to high for a little bit and see if that helps. Stir just before serving.
Straining out the spices isn't absolutely necessary but it does prevent people from accidentally eating them.  :)

Hot Buttered Rum, Crockpot-style
Adapted from
8 servings

2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (only real butter!)
1 pinch salt
2 quarts hot water
3 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
1 to 2 cups rum (I use the spiced kind)
1 cup whipped cream, for serving
Ground nutmeg for garnish

1. Combine the brown sugar, butter, salt and hot water in 5 quart slow cooker. Add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Cover and cook on Low for 5 hours. Stir in rum.
2. Use a fine mesh strainer and fish around to get the cloves and cinnamon sticks out.
3.  Ladle from the slow cooker into mugs and top with whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Preserving: Freezer Apple Pie Filling

Tis the season to preserve the last of the local apples!  It's also time to start thinking about the upcoming holidays, guests visiting, parties and potlucks.  I love this season!  Always up for trying something new, I wanted to know if it's possible to make apple pie filling and freeze it... and it sure is!  I have a nifty apple peeler/corer/slicer contraption that makes preparing the apples a snap (only about $20 on Amazon if you don't have one yet, they are amazing!).

Use some cheap aluminum pie plates for this, the ones that are a little smaller than a regular pie size, and line them with aluminum foil for easy filling removal.

The amount of water in this recipe is variable depending on how juicy your apples are and whether you want extra "apple syrup" to put over pancakes or waffles or ice cream... or to eat with a spoon... we made some into pie-flavored ice cream!   For no extra syrup, about half to two-thirds of the ten cups of water will probably work fine, and cut the corn starch down proportionally. 13 small apples makes enough for 3 pies. 

Freezer apple pie filling, ready for pies!

Freezer Apple Pie Filling

18 cups thinly sliced apples
3 tablespoons lemon juice (optional, to prevent browning)
4 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 to 1 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 to 10 cups water

1. Prepare pie tins: line aluminum pie tins with foil. (13 small apples makes 3 pies)
2. In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice and set aside. Pour water into a large pot over medium heat. Combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Add to water, stir well, and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Add apples and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until apples are tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.
4. Ladle into prepared pie tins. Cool at room temperature no longer than 1 1/2 hours.
5. Freeze, then transfer frozen discs out of pie plates into zip-lock freezer bags. Can be stored for up to 12 months.

Baking the frozen pie filling is a lot like baking a pie from the store except you can proudly announce that it was homemade.  I like the frozen pre-shaped pie crusts, and the frozen filling discs fit perfectly inside!  I use a crumbly oat topping instead of a top crust.  Bake in a 350 oven for 45 minutes and test for done-ness.  This made the crust a little soggy so I might play with the time and temp a little, but the apples were completely thawed and cooked through and it's always nice to have the house smell like apple pie.  Only thing better is having the house smell like apple pie and hot buttered rum.