Monthly Archives: February 2011

Macedonian Pastry Shop: Tolumbi

Before I continue with today’s post, I would just like to show you a picture of our weekend that was filled with fun, music, food, and love. Lots of love. And it was one of the reasons why I was missing from the blogging world for a couple of days; My daughter, Ana, was one of eight flower girls at my best friend’s wedding!

The beautiful bride, me, and Ana

Congratulations Julie and Riste! I wish you a lifetime of happiness, health, and lots of kids! I love you!

Onto the Tolumbi (Toe-loom-bee)!

A Macedonian Pastry Shop, or a Слаткарница – Slatkarnica (Slaht-car-knee-tsa), is a spot for, first and foremost, excellent sweets, then a great cup of espresso or cappuccino, accented with a yuppy decor, good looking chairs, sofas, and a delicious conversation.

This is my favorite Pastry Shop/Cafe in my hometown of Bitola, Macedonia.

photo credit

Moreover, a Macedonian Pastry Shop does not serve just Macedonian pastries; you can find a variety of delicious sweets, from tiramisu to eclairs and macarons, to baklava and ravanija.

Even though we Macedonians make use of the great variety of fruits, nuts, and spices that are cropped all over the country to prepare our traditional desserts, there are also desserts that are produced in Macedonia but are typical to all the countries from the Balkans and beyond. Such a dessert is the tolumba, which is believed to have Turkish origins.

Tolumbi are one of the most sought out for desserts that can be found inside of the fridge at any local pastry shop in Macedonia. This is a delicate pastry dough which is dropped into hot oil, soaked in a sugar syrup, and enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea.

To keep it light, I do not fry the tolumbi; mine are baked. There is a slight difference in texture (no crunch :(), but for the sake of healthy eating, some things have to be compromised. The good news is that the delicious taste is still there.

And I should tell you that my mother just about murdered me when she saw that I baked the tolumbi. She was beside herself, “How dare you mess with the classics… Tolumbi are always fried!”, was her response. Oops…

Tolumbi

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups of AP flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs

For the Syrup:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 slices of lemon

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Mix the flour and baking powder together, set aside.
  • Mix the water, sugar, oil and salt in a saucepan, bring to a boil.
  • Add in the flour mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the sides of the saucepan.

  • Transfer the mixture into another bowl and allow to cool.
  • Add the eggs one at a time to the cooled mixture.
  • Place portions of the mixture in a piping bag with a wide star shaped tip.

  • Pipe out the mixture onto a baking sheet, each cookie should be about 4 inches long.

  • Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden brown.

In the meantime prepare the syrup.

  • In a medium saucepan combine sugar, water, and lemon slices.
  • Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved.
  • Allow to completely cool.
  • Place cooled syrup in a deep bowl.
  • Place the cooked tolumbi into the syrup and let them sit in there for 30 minutes.
  • Remove tolumbi from the syrup and drain.
  • Place on a plate and serve.

Fried Tolumbi:

  • Pipe the mixture into a saucepan containing hot oil, cutting the tolumbi to about 4 inches.
  • Cook until golden in color.
  • Cook 4 to 5 tolumbi at a time depending on the size of the saucepan.
  • Place the tolumbi into the cooled simple syrup and let sit for 30 minutes.

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

Asparagus Soup

Before I introduced solids to my daughter, plenty of family members and friends made sure to share some horror stories with me about their picky eaters. I soon found out that they were not lying.

Our prepping before dinner time went something like this:

Carrots? Waaaah! Peas?! Waaaaaaaah! Geez, Ana…Mother of … how about Pears?!? Smiles from ear to ear.

I soon learned that she was a fan of fruits, but veggies were going to take a bit of convincing… Or not.

I came home one day with some groceries, and in her usual manner, she began to take everything out of the bags. As she continued, she grabbed some asparagus and without any reservations, she just had a go!

I sat there and stared at her in disbelief. I then quickly took it from her because I had heard that asparagus should not be eaten raw. Even though I didn’t believe it when I heard it, when it comes to munchkin, I believe everything and anything. And I wanted to avoid a choking episode. Besides, have you ever tried raw asparagus? Um… I don’t like it. I love it when it’s cooked, but not raw.

Needless to say, and all parents can relate, I could not get over my excitement with the whole asparagus incident. And because I thought she loved the asparagus, I quickly got my ingredients together and started working on one of my favorite soups: Crème D’asperges.

Guess what? She HATED IT! My husband and I could not get enough of it and there she was making that ewwwww face at us. What the? The answer to that came a couple of months later…

We recently figured out that it wasn’t the vegetables that she didn’t like; she just is not fond of vegetables in a pureed form. She loves veggies so long as they are not mushy.

I wish kids could talk from day one – this guessing game sucks.

Asparagus Soup

(adapted from Epicurious)

You will need:

  • 2 pounds green asparagus
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 to 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream (I use a cup of 2% milk instead)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Directions:

  • Cut tips from 12 asparagus
  • 1 1/2 inches from top and halve tips lengthwise if thick. Reserve for garnish.
  • Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces.

  • Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened.
  • Add asparagus pieces and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, 5 minutes.

  • Add 5 cups broth and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain.
  • Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth, transferring to a bowl and return to pan.

  • Stir in crème fraîche, or a cup of milk, then if needed add more broth to thin soup to desired consistency.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring soup to a boil and whisk in remaining tablespoon of butter.
  • Add lemon juice and garnish with asparagus tips, or with mint. The cooked asparagus tips went to Ana. 🙂

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Filed under Dinner A la Diethood, Home

National Pancake Week: Whole Wheat Pancakes filled with Chocolate Ganache

I know – DROOL!

These pancakes have become a Sunday Brunch staple in this household. The inspiration for this particular recipe came from our love for crepes, or as we call them, Палачинки. That is, Palachinki (Pa-la-cheen-key).

When I make crepes, 50% of the time they are filled with Nutella, and the other 50% of the time they are filled with chocolate ganache. As a matter of fact, when I created this recipe a few years back, my friends dubbed these delicious cakes as Panachinki; pancakes and palachinki in one. And that is what we have been calling them since.

In honor of National Pancake Week hosted by Rachael Hutchings, author of one of my favorite blogs, Lafujimama, I rolled up my sleeves this morning and made a batch of these delicious pancakes just in time for breakfast.

You can check out some of the other delicious photos and recipes of pancakes on Flickr.

Because of all the yummy calories in the ganache, I tried to save a little on the pancakes: they are made with a bit of whole wheat flour and unflavored Almond Milk. I know that this is like ordering a Big Mac with a side of Diet Pepsi :), but it’s what works for me. Feel free to make the pancakes as fat full as you want!

Whole Wheat Pancakes filled with Chocolate Ganache

You will need:

For the pancakes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups unflavored Almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

For the Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:

  • Prepare the ganache first because it needs to be chilled before you can use it in this recipe.
  • Place the chocolate into a medium bowl.
  • Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, watching very carefully because if it boils for a few seconds, it will boil out of the pot.
  • When the cream has come to a boil, pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth.
  • Put about 1/3 cup of the ganache in a small bowl and set it aside at room temperature.
  • Place the remaining ganache in the refrigerator until firm, about one hour.

Pancakes:

  • Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk; add to flour mixture, stirring until smooth.
  • Mix in melted butter. If the batter is too thick, add a little more milk.

  • Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes.
  • On a hot, greased griddle, pour about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake.
  • Cook for one minute, then add a tablespoon of the chilled ganache in the middle of the pancake.

  • Pour a tablespoon of the pancake mixture over the ganache and allow to cook for one more minute before turning the pancake.

  • Turn and brown the other side.

*The ganache will begin to ooze out; not to worry. Push the ganache back towards the pancake with a spatula.

  • Set pancakes aside and let cool.

In the meantime prepare the 1/3 cup of ganache that we set aside earlier:

  • Pour the ganache in the top pan of a double boiler and heat until the ganache is pourable.
  • Sprinkle the pancakes with powdered sugar and top with the warm ganache.

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Filed under Home, Sweets. Now. Please.

Apple Walnut Cake with Simple Syrup

Monday morning. Hubby is at work, munchkin is taking a nap, and I am in the kitchen… Where else would I be? But, today’s kitchen duty is special; I am following a recipe to the “T”! Why? Because it’s my mother-in-law’s recipe. And you know what that means: it better be the best apple cake that I have ever made! 🙂

Fortunately Unfortunately, my in-laws live across the oceans, rivers, mountains, and seas, and they will not be able to taste my creation. But, don’t worry, their son is here and he will definitely know if this cake is like Mama’s, or not. We will find out soon. Munchkin and I are going to surprise him by taking a piece of this cake to him at work. He will be so excited!

And through the magic of the internet, soon is here (lunch with daddy was fun!) and the verdict is in: He loves it! In his own words, “Not quite like my mom’s…it must be the different climates, environment, oven (bla bla bla)…but I love it! It might even be better than mom’s!”. Cha-ching!

The only thing I did different was the addition of apple slices on top of the cake. Maybe that is why he thought it was better? Shrug

The cake really is delicious. Moist, light, and sweet. Thanks for the recipe, Mama!

My Mother-in-Law’s Apple Walnut Cake

You will  need:

  • 3/4 cup instant wheat grits
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 4 apples, grated

For the Simple Syrup

You will need:

  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 cups of sugar

Garnish:

  • 1 apple, quartered then thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, excluding the apples and walnuts.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.
  • Add the mixture to the dry ingredients and stir in the apples and walnuts.
  • Mix it all together until well blended and let stand for about 20 minutes.

  • Put the mixture in a 9×13 cake pan and bake at 375 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

In the meantime prepare the simple syrup.

  • In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water.
  • Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved.
  • Allow to completely cool.

When cake is done, let it cool for a couple of minutes.

  • Cut the cake into bars while it is still in the pan, then pour over the cooled simple syrup (see the bottom of the recipe for tips on simple syrup).
  • Let cake stand on the counter for 30 minutes so to absorb the syrup.
  • Lastly, cut an apple into thin slices, toss them in a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, then arrange them on top of the cake. Drizzle a bit of the syrup on top of them.

About simple syrup:

If the cake is cool, you need hot syrup.

If the cake is hot, you need cold syrup.

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

Chicken Breast with Homemade Croutons and Peas

Nearly 20 years ago my father came home from a routine check-up at the doctor’s office. He walked inside the house, said, “Dobar Den”, or “Good Day”, and walked straight to the refrigerator. He opened up the door and began to empty it out. My sister and I thought something was definitely wrong because our dad never cleans!  Few moments later he walked out of the house with a garbage bag that contained most of our food. He then moved onto the pantry, and lastly he cleaned out the cupboard with all the snacks.

Later on that night we found out what had happened:

My father’s doctor warned him that if he did not stop eating the food that he was eating, he would die before the age of 50. At that time my dad was only 36.

His blood pressure and his sugar levels were inside the danger zone. His eating habits were out of control; a bucket of ice cream would be gone in three days, he would eat half pound of feta cheese with each meal, and his favorite meal was any type of grilled meat with a side of Taratur. And lets not get into what he ate in-between meals.

But, within days our kitchen looked like the kitchens at Weight Watchers; lots of chicken, lean meat, vegetables and fruits galore, and plenty of brown rice and whole wheat bread.

My dad is on the same diet to this day, and according to his doctor, his body’s age is 42 even if he really is 56.

The preparation of this meal reminds me of those days; my mom trying to hang on to the flavor without adding in the extra fixins.

Chicken Breast with Homemade Croutons and Peas

You will need:

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 3 cups frozen peas
  • 1 cup of mushroom gravy
  • 1/4 cup Light Italian Dressing
  • 2 – 3 cups of whole grain homemade croutons

Whole Grain Homemade Croutons

You will  need:

  • 8 slices of whole grain bread, cut up in cubes
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • In a large saute pan, pour in the olive oil and stir in the garlic.
  • Add bread cubes, and toss to coat.
  • Season with oregano, salt and pepper, toss and spread on a baking sheet.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until crisp and dry. Set aside.

For the Chicken:

  • Heat olive oil in skillet on medium heat.
  • Add in the chicken breasts and cook for about 3 min on each side or until brown.
  • Stir in peas, mushroom gravy, and dressing, then bring to a boil.
  • Spoon the croutons on top of and around the chicken in the skillet.

  • Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for approximately 15 minutes.
  • Serve warm.

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