Monthly Archives: December 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom!

With the celebration of the New Year, comes another special occasion for us – my mommy’s birthday! She was born on the 1st of January at a little bit past midnight. Here’s some TMI – she was born at home! While my grandpa and his buddies were playing cards in the living room, my grandmother was giving birth to my mom in the next room and nobody knew. Amazing, isn’t it? Then again, this was happening in a very remote village in Macedonia back in the year of 1956. To get to a hospital they would have needed about two hours, and that is why grandma decided not to tell anyone that she was in pain – she thought she might have the baby on a bus, so instead of the bus, she opted for her bathroom! My Baba (grandma) is my hero! I thank her for giving me my mommy – I love you, Baba!

~/~

My mom is a very picky eater; from sweets to steaks – it is really hard to find something she likes, so you have to ask her. This year for her birthday she told me that she wanted me to make her one of her own cakes. My mom has tons of cake recipes. When we were younger there was a cake in the fridge at all times. She never bought a cake; always made them at home. Same with ice cream – it was always homemade. Come to think of it, she never bought anything that was already made. We grew up on homemade food. Explains why I don’t go out to eat a lot. I’ve only been to a fast food restaurant a total of maybe 20 times in my 32 years of life. Thanks to mom, I don’t even know the taste of a Big Mac!

I started to list through her cake recipes and noticed that all her cakes are genoise cakes. I knew that she had always made genoise cakes, but after looking at her recipes, it seems that genoise cakes are the only cakes she knows how to make. 🙂 In Europe, this is a popular way to make a cake. The cake is named after the city of Genoa and it is associated with French and Italian cuisine. Genoise is a thin, whole-egg cake – very different from the cakes that I’ve seen here in the USA. But, unlike the Italian or French genoise cakes, the Macedonian genoise cake, maybe even in other Balkan countries, include ground walnuts. I think this gives the cake a bit of flavor and balances out the taste of the eggs.

After so much reading, I decided to go with a yule log cake; it perfectly fits in with the New Year theme. But I have to tell you – I need to be honest – I messed up so many times while I was trying to make these genoise cakes (two genoise sheet cakes are needed). I am no pastry chef, but 26 eggs and 4 hours later, I had my cake!

First Mistake

What was I thinking? I put the cake batter in a 12×17 baking sheet – the cake was so thin that I couldn’t even take it out of the sheet. This was the result:

Oh well – dust yourself off and try again! 🙂

Perfect! I baked it in a 9×13 baking sheet.

But I messed up on the second one, again. That one was just eggs and I let it sit in the oven for too long. I should have taken it out after 15 minutes, but instead I let it sit in the oven for 20 minutes.

Look at those hills and mountains! I didn’t redo this one, though. It’s the jelly roll cake that is covered by the other two cakes so you won’t be able to see the hills. 🙂 Instead I put a wet towel around it and that softened it up so that I could roll it.

Mistake after mistake – it’s how we learn.

You will need:

For the first genoise cake

  • 5 eggs
  • 4 egg whites
  • 7 tablespoons of sugar (I am writing this out as my mom has it written because after my mistakes, I began to follow her recipe to a “T”)
  • 14 tablespoons ground walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions:

  • Preheat oven at 350.
  • In a deep mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and the egg-whites for 30 seconds before you begin to add in the sugar.
  • Beat it all together and add in the ground walnuts followed up by the flour.
  • Mix it well and pour it in a 9×13 baking sheet.
  • Put it in the oven for 25 minutes or until the top is a light golden brown.
  • Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes and then invert onto another rack. Be very careful when you flip that sheet – you might end up with what’s in that picture above – broken up pieces of a really tasty cake.
  • Let it completely cool before you cut it in half, crosswise.

The filling for the first cake:

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • 4 egg yolks, cooked
  • 1 1/2 cups of walnuts
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 (1 oz.) squares of Semi-Sweet Baker’s chocolate, melted

Directions:

  • In a deep mixing bowl, bring together the butter and powdered sugar.
  • Beat in a stand-up mixer until creamy.
  • Add in the cooked egg yolks, and mix.
  • Put the ground walnuts in a bowl.
  • Pour the milk in a cup and stir in the sugar. Pour it over the ground walnuts.

  • Add the walnuts into the mixing bowl and continue to mix.
  • Pour in the melted chocolate and continue to mix until blended.
  • Divide the filling into 3 parts.
  • Spread two-thirds of the filling evenly over both pieces of cake.

For the roll cake:

  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons flour

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup of your favorite jam or jelly

Directions:

  • Preheat oven at 350
  • In a deep mixing bowl bring together the eggs and the sugar.
  • Beat at low speed for about a minute, then add in the flour and mix it well.
  • Pour in a 9×13 baking sheet
  • Put it in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.
  • Cool in pan on a rack about 10 minutes and then invert onto another rack. Be very careful when you flip that sheet – you might end up with what’s in that picture above – broken up pieces of a really tasty cake.
  • Let it completely cool before you spread on the jam or jelly.

  • Lay it on a wet towel for about 10 minutes before you begin to roll it. This prevents the cake from sticking and it softens it a bit so to make it easier to roll.
  • Once you’ve rolled it, put the roll cake in the middle of one of the cakes covered with the chocolate filling.

  • Then cover the roll cake with the other piece, filling side down.
  • Cover the entire cake with the rest of your filling.

  • Sprinkle some ground walnuts on top.
  • Place the cake in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers.

~Have a safe and a fun NYE! Best wishes for the New Year!~

And while I was working on that, this is what was going on in our wreck room:

That’s my 17 month old with her pajama bottoms on her head dancing to a song that her dad and grandma are singing. Look at the mess she made!

СРЕЌЕН РОДЕНДЕН, МАМА! ТЕ САКАМ!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! I LOVE YOU!

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33 Comments

Filed under Home, Macedonian Cuisine, Sweets. Now. Please.

Fajita Pinwheels

With NYE only two days away, most of you that are entertaining a party, or going to a party, are probably working on a plate, or two, of bite-sized gems to serve, or to bring with you for the lovely host/hostess. This year I intended to host a party, but things never go as planned, right? Instead, we are going out for a nice dinner with very dear friends of ours and then we are going to ring in the New Year back at their place. Because I could never go empty handed, even if it was just for a coffee visit, I made a bunch of hors d’oeuvres (or as we call it, “meze”) that I will be bringing with me.

These cute, delicious little treats are fajita pinwheels filled with bacon, turkey ham, roasted pepper, and green onion mixed in neufchatel cheese. These will be coming with me because they always please a crowd, especially when served with a glass of Chardonnay! And since my husband knows his wines, he will be bringing the Chardonnay.

You will need:

  • 1 package (16 oz.) whole wheat tortillas (16 in a package)
  • 1 (8 oz.) package of neufchatel cheese, softened
  • 1 green bell pepper, julienned, roasted and finely chopped
  • 3 slices of thick cut quality smoked bacon, cooked and diced
  • 2 green onions, chopped (include the green stalks)
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion salt
  • 16 thin, deli-cut slices of turkey ham
  • pinch of salt
  • EVOO

Directions:

  • Preheat oven at 425.
  • Arrange the julienned peppers on a baking sheet covered with foil; add a pinch of salt over the peppers, drizzle with EVOO, and in the oven for about 15 minutes.

  • In the meantime prepare the bacon; dice it and cook it over medium-low heat.
  • Remove the bacon and in the same pan where the bacon was cooked, add in the thin slices of turkey ham and cook on each side for about a minute.
  • In a deep mixing bowl add in the neufchatel cheese, the bacon, green onions, peppers, and onion salt. Beat with a mixer on the lowest speed setting for about 30 seconds – this will result in a creamier mixture.

  • Spread a tablespoon of the mixture onto the tortilla and top with a slice of the turkey ham. Repeat this process until you’ve run out of tortillas.

  • Roll up the tortillas and place them in a plastic container with a cover.

  • Put the rolled up tortillas in the fridge for 2 hours.
  • Remove them from the fridge and cut each roll-up crosswise into 5 slices.
  • Place the pinwheels in a plastic container, and back to the fridge until you are ready to serve them.

27 Comments

Filed under Dips & Spreads, Home

Eggplant Parmigiana

By now most of you feel like you’ve overloaded on all the bad food and forgot about how it was to eat good food. Funny thing is that I feel just as overloaded yet I’m still Fasting for my (Macedonian Orthodox) Christmas, which is on January 7th – I can’t wait to see how I will feel eating some good, fatty foods after six weeks! But even though I’m on this Fast, I’m always eating because I’m always hungry. How do you vegans do it? I applaud you! I do a vegan Fast twice a year for six weeks and by the 4th week I can’t wait to get it over with.

On the up side though, I get creative with my food during the time of Fast despite the fact that I’m limited to just a few ingredients; no meat, no butter, no cream, no fish, no eggs, no this, no that…phew…it’s a challenge, to say the least, and thank goodness for meaty vegetables. Eggplants, to be more precise. I love them! I can do a million things with this vegetable. Well, maybe not a million, but I can make it a few different ways; I can grill it, fry it, roast it… you catch my drift.  So today I got to work and prepared this fabulous Eggplant Parmigiana! For all of you that are trying to see a flatter stomach again, give this healthy recipe a try; it really is fabulous! Most Eggplant Parmigiana recipes require you to fry the eggplants prior to baking, but I skip that first step and go straight to my oven.

You will need:

  • 1 large Eggplant, sliced into 8 to 10 – 1/4 inch slices
  • 4 fresh tomatoes, sliced into 8-10 slices
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced, evenly divided
  • 3/4 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 – 3 tbsp. EVOO
  • 4 slices whole wheat bread, toasted and crumbled
  • ½ cup shredded part-skim milk mozzarella cheese (optional – I’ve included it because my husband is not Fasting so his portion is with cheese)
  • 1/8 tsp. Salt, divided
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper, divided
  • 1/8 tsp. Garlic powder, divided
  • 1/8 tsp. Basil, divided

Directions:

  • Preheat oven at 425 degrees.
  • Arrange the eggplant in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish and place the tomatoes over each eggplant slice.
  • Sprinkle with half of the minced garlic, then add garlic powder, salt, pepper, and basil. Remember to evenly divide up your seasonings.
  • Drizzle a tablespoon of EVOO over the eggplants.

  • Repeat the process until you have used up all the slices of eggplant.
  • Season with the rest of your seasonings, and arrange the mushroom slices over the entire mixture.

  • Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and add the bread crumbs, then, if using the cheese, add the mozzarella on top.
  • Put it back in the oven and cook it uncovered for about 10 more minutes, or until the cheese has melted.
  • Let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Eggplant Parmigiana without Mozzarella Cheese

That’s for me.

Eggplant Parmigiana with Mozzarella Cheese

And that’s for Hubby!

32 Comments

Filed under Dinner A la Diethood, Home

Semi-Homemade “Pizza Alla Bismark” & A Review

When I started dating my husband, about five years ago, we would often engage in a conversation about cooking. He seemed interested, intrigued, and “knowledgeable” – he would agree to everything I said so I thought he knew what I was talking about. It wasn’t until I went to his place when I first found out about his cooking skills. Don’t get me wrong, the food was good, but he didn’t exactly make it; a box did. In his pantry he had a bunch of these packets for muffin mixes, bread mixes, pizza mixes – that is why he didn’t know how to answer my “how much flour did you use” question. On the other hand, I didn’t even know that all these short-cuts existed. I knew about the cake mixes, but not about the rest of the stuff in his pantry (pumpkin cheesecake in a box!).

Fast forward to December of 2010 – I prepared a pizza and it wasn’t from scratch! Hubby felt that I had been working too much (he noticed!?!) so he bought a couple of Betty Crocker Pizza Crust pouches (the kind he used back in the day) and asked me to give them a try – and I did. Well, gosh, Betty knows what she’s doing! The taste of this crust is simply homemade! The only trouble I had with it was when I tried to press the dough in my pizza pan, it kept breaking. At that point I turned to the original method of spinning the pizza dough with my hands just a few times and it all worked out. Next in line were the toppings, and that’s where Pizza Alla Bismark steps in!

Pizza Alla Bismark is a pizza topped with a raw egg, which after cooking it becomes a sunny side up egg in the middle of your pizza! I first saw this type of pizza many years ago in Macedonia and I did not want to try it. “Where’s my pepperoni?”, was the thought that kept circling in my head. No pepperoni to be found – just ham chunks and an egg. So, as the saying goes, ‘don’t knock it until you try it’. I tried it. To my surprise I could not wait for the next slice. This was one incredible pizza – the runny yolk mixed in with the ham and cheese was a superb combination.

You will need:

  • 10 inch pizza pan
  • 1 Betty Crocker Pizza Crust Mix pouch (6.5 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce or fresh tomato chunks
  • 1 slice Thick Cut smoked bacon, cooked and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup canadian bacon, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 raw egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano

Directions:

  • Preheat oven at 450.
  • Per package instructions: Stir pizza crust mix and hot water until moistened; beat 20 times, cover, and let stand 5 minutes.

  • In the meantime, prepare your toppings.
  • Then, take the dough and press it into your pizza pan, using floured fingers.

  • Spread the tomato sauce, then add the smoked bacon, the canadian bacon, the mushrooms, 1/4 cup of the cheese, and add the raw egg in the middle of the pizza.
  • Layer the rest of the cheese, add salt and pepper, and sprinkle the oregano.

  • Put the pizza in the oven for about 15 minutes. Watch the egg – you want it cooked, yet runny, so that the yolk spreads onto the rest of the pizza when you cut into it.

  • Let the pizza cool for a few minutes before cutting.

Note: I was not asked, nor was I paid to do this review – I just wanted to share it with you because it is a delicious time saver.

33 Comments

Filed under Dinner A la Diethood, Home

Bajadera (Bah-Ya-Deh-Ra)

The weather outside is frightful, but my cookies look so delightful, and since I have no place to go (because I’m stuck in the kitchen), let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! I have saved the best Christmas sweets for last! These treats are my gifts to all my readers (I really wish that I could give one to each of you) that have given me the confidence and the ability to share my kitchen with the rest of the world. From the bottom of my heart and soul, I thank you all and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


You will need:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 sticks of margarine
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar, or 1 1/2 cups of Splenda
  • 4 cups of Petit Beurre or ETI tea biscuits, ground, or you can also use ground animal crackers
  • 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 12 squares of baker’s chocolate, melted
  • 1 tablespoon margarine

Tea Biscuits

Tea Biscuits, ground

Walnuts, finely chopped

Directions:

  • Place the water, sugar, and margarine in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook and stir until the sugar and margarine dissolve.
  • Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl and let it cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • Stir the ground tea biscuits or animal crackers into the mixture until well moistened.
  • Spread half the mixture into a 9×9-inch pan and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes, or until it sets. I put mine in the garage and it only took 15 minutes for it to set. I live in the midwest – we’re freezing!

  • Stir the cocoa powder and ground walnuts into the rest of the mixture; mix until well combined.

  • Spread the entire mixture over the first layer; put it in the fridge for 20 minutes.

  • In the meantime melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Add in a tablespoon of margarine only after the chocolate has melted. Continue to cook until the margarine is melted.
  • Pour and spread the melted chocolate over the entire bajadera.

  • Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight (even better).
  • Cut it into 16 pieces and serve!

25 Comments

Filed under Home, Macedonian Cuisine, Sweets. Now. Please.