Sweet n Sour Stuffed Cabbage

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Sweet n sour cabbage rolls, smashed new potatoes and homemade applesauce. It’s what was for dinner. I think my actual favorite thing about this dish is the cabbage and sauerkraut “gravy” that you cook the cabbage rolls in. I’m thinking that all of the leftovers would make an awesome pot of soup for the next day. This is another dish that I did in the pressure cooker but you could do this on the stovetop and finish it in the oven or even a crockpot and it would be every bit as good. What makes this recipe for cabbage rolls a little unique is the addition of sauerkraut And balsamic vinegar to the mix.  See what you think.

Ingredients:

large head of green cabbage

1 pound or so of ground beef, pork or lamb

1 large sweet onion divided

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1 cup cooked long grain white or brown rice

1 large egg

fresh mint chopped

2 T canola oil

2 cups fresh (refrigerated) sauerkraut

1 can tomato sauce

1 pint stewed tomatoes

1/2 cup chicken broth or stock

2 T balsamic vinegar

3 T granulated sugar

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Carefully separate the large outer leaves of the cabbage and dip each leaf in a pot of simmering, salted water to soften. This will make the cabbage leaves much easier to work with. Chop the remainder of the cabbage and set aside.

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Combine the ground meat, rice, salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 cup of finely chopped onion, egg, and mint.

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Mix well with your hands and shape into 7 or 8 “footballs”.

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Put one of the ovals on the core end of the cabbage leaf. Begin rolling it up folding in the sides to make a neat package.

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Put the cabbage rolls seam side down on a plate and set aside.

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Heat the oil in the pressure cooker over medium heat. Rough chop the rest of the onion and add the onion and chopped cabbage to the hot oil.  Sauté for a few minutes to soften.

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Add the sauerkraut, tomatoes, tomato sauce, stock, vinegar and sugar and stir together.  I didnt have fresh sauerkraut and substitued canned.

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Arrange the cabbage rolls in the sauce. Lock the lid and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Release the pressure naturally.

Serve the cabbage rolls with some of the sauce.

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NOTE:  A cabbage roll is a savory entree that you can stuff with a variety of ingredients. Instead of rice you could use barley or quinoa. You can add mushrooms or other vegetables to the stuffing. Cabbage rolls are part of the traditional cuisine of many European and Balkan countries.  In Finland they are known as kaalikääryle.  I don’t ever remember eating these as a child but apparently  in Finland cabbage rolls are baked in the oven and are brushed with dark syrup. The syrup glaze is made with bacon, dark corn syrup, and tomato paste.  I may have to try that next time.  And of course they served them with fresh lingonberries or lingonberry jam.

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Juustoa (Finnish Squeaky Cheese)

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I have always loved juustoa. It’s a very mild, fresh cheese that “squeaks” when you bite into a piece, especially when it is still warm. It’s a cheese that you rarely see in a deli or cheese counter unless you live in the UP (of Michigan). I can’t buy it where I currently live so I decided I would make my own. I got on line and found some recipes and video instructions. The recipes varied slightly but overall were very similar. I have absolutely no cheese making experience but I always say, if you can read and follow instructions you can make anything. Well I’m not sure I still believe that. If you’re at all familiar with juustoa you will recognize the picture at the beginning of this post as bearing some resemblance.

Ingredients:

2 gallons skim or raw milk (the recipe I chose to follow stressed that whole pasteurized milk would not work)

1 pint heavy cream

3 T sugar

1 tsp salt

2 T cornstarch

1/2 vegetable rennet tablet or 1/2 tsp liquid rennet

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I found rennet at my local food coop and organic skim milk from a local dairy. There is animal rennet and vegetable rennet. Rennet causes the proteins in milk to form a curd. You might not want to know what either type of rennet is derived from so I won’t go into that. It’s just important to know that it’s an ingredient essential in the cheese making process. I got out my big stainless kettle and heated the milk and cream over medium heat to exactly 90 degrees.

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I removed the kettle from the heat and added the sugar, salt, cornstarch and rennet. The recipe said the milk should gel in 20-40 minutes.  The readiness test is to insert the handle of a wooden spoon in the center and it should leave a hole. Its at this point the process failed. No “hole” after 20 minutes, 40 minutes or even 90 minutes.

I googled, “what if the rennet doesn’t set up”.  It suggested I add half again the amount of rennet the recipe called for so I added another 1/4 tsp of rennet and waited some more. Now it’s been a few hours. I’ve rearranged the furniture in my house, done a couple loads of laundry. Still my milky concoction has not gelled.

I’ve invested too much money and time and I’m determined to make something of this mess. I got out a large mesh strainer and poured the pot of clotted milk into the strainer. I’m reminded of little miss muffet sitting on a tuffet eating her curds and whey. I cannot fathom eating the curds and whey. This was a real challenge to my weak stomach. I got rid of as much of the whey as possible and poured the curds into a round 9″ glass pan. I preheated the oven to 400 and put the pan in the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. After about 10 minutes I checked and removed my cheese from the oven and siphoned whey with my turkey baster. A whole cup. I put it back in the oven, reset the timer for another 10 minutes. I removed another half cup of whey. But I’m finally getting a solid mass that is holding together pretty well.

Now I turned the broiler on and put the cheese under the broiler until it was browned. I took it out and waited until it had cooled down enough to flip and put side two under the broiler to brown. As soon as it had cooled enough I cut a piece off.

It tastes just like I remember. And it squeaked!!!

I’m going to do a little more research and try again. Even though my recipe said to use skim or raw milk other recipes did not specify skim milk. Organic vegetable rennet apparently has a 4 month shelf life.  Since there was no date on my bottle perhaps my rennet was outdated and losing its potency. It was a little disappointing to have things go awry but I’m glad I was able to salvage enough to make a little juustoa.  Sorry there aren’t more pictures but most of the process was not at all photogenic.

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Juustoa. Perfect sprinkled with a little salt and enjoyed with a strong cup of coffee.

Mitten Beer Koozies

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This Christmas I found a web site that was selling beer koozie mittens and I ordered several for gifts. They were a big hit!!  “Ingenious” the winter beer fest aficionados said!  “Best gift ever!”

So I decided to do some more web searching and I found a pattern and now I can make them myself!  Even more ingenious I say.

Coleslaw

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This weekend we had an at-home fish fry with friends. They brought the walleye and fried it up and I made the sides. For me an essential side with fish is coleslaw. I also like coleslaw on my fish tacos. I have had some really awesome slaws and some very mediocre…or worse…slaws. I like my coleslaw to have crunch and to be a little tangy, a little bit sweet. It’s something that should be made a bit ahead so the flavors can marry. It even makes a great midnight snack, speaking from experience!

Ingredients:

10 cups, approximately, of shredded or finely chopped cabbage

1 cup of matchsticked carrots

1/2 cup of matchsticked radishes

1/2 cup of red onion chopped (more or less based on personal taste)

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup half n half

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 T white wine vinegar

2 T fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

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You can shred your own cabbage or purchase a bag of shredded cabbage (2# bag). Shred or use a mandolin to matchstick your radishes and carrots. Chop your onion.

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Mix your vegetables together in a large bowl.

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Whisk the remaining ingredients together and pour over the vegetables. Toss well and refrigerate. Mix a couple more times before serving.

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Enjoy!

NOTE:  Like any salad you can add or delete items. Just don’t delete the cabbage or it wouldn’t be coleslaw. According to NPR the term coleslaw came from the Dutch term koolsla… “kool” means cabbage and “sla” means salad. We anglicized kool into cole.  While it’s best served cold, it’s coleslaw, not cold slaw.

Oatmeal Cake with Coconut Pecan Topping

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I am not sure where this recipe came from but I’ve been making it for years. It’s always moist and tasty and the fact that it contains oatmeal gives some of us the delusion that we are eating “health food.”  We had friends spending the weekend with us and I chose this for our Friday night dessert.

Cake Ingredients:

1 cup old fashioned oats

1 1/4 cups boiling water

1/2 cup butter flavor crisco

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar (packed)

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

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Preheat oven to 350.

Combine oatmeal and boiling water and let it stand for 20 minutes.

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In a mixing bowl combine shortening, sugars, eggs and vanilla. Cream together until fluffy.

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Beat in the oatmeal.

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Measure out your dry ingredients and whisk them together. Gradually add them to the creamed mixture and beat on medium speed until everything is incorporated. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan and bake for 35 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean. While the cake is in the oven prepare the topping.

Topping Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts if you prefer)

1/3 cup butter

1 cup coconut

1/4 cup half and half

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Rough chop the nuts.

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Mix all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil stirring frequently. Allow to simmer for 3-4 minutes.

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As soon as the cake comes out of the oven spread the topping over the hot cake. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving.

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Serve as is or with a little dollop of whipped cream. Oatmeal cake with coconut and pecans. It’s what was for dessert.

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NOTE:  I really do measure my ingredients out in advance into prep bowls. That way I can put my containers away right after measuring out the ingredients keeping my kitchen neater and I am less likely to forget to add essential ingredients.  Also, it’s important to whisk your dry ingredients together before adding them to ensure even distribution of things like salt and leavening.

Mac and Cheese

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Mac and cheese. It’s the ultimate comfort food.  We all remember loving the neon orange stuff we made from the box when we were kids. Truth be known, many of us grown ups have whipped up a box and eaten it right out of the pot.  One of our family’s favorite Mac and cheese stories involves a father, daughter dinner while I was out of town for work. Dad boiled the elbow macaroni to perfection and added the contents of the powdered cheese packet and the butter. What he forgot to do was drain the water from the pasta. Comfort food.

My Mac and cheese never tastes the same twice because I love mixing up the cheeses.  But I always remember to drain the pasta.

Ingredients:

1 onion diced (about a cup)

6 T of butter

4 T flour

4 cups 2% or whole milk

2 T franks hot sauce

2 tsp dry mustard

fresh grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups of grated cheese; 3 or 4 varieties…you choose

14-16 oz box of pasta…you choose…cooked al dente per package instructions

Preheat your oven to 375.

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In a heavy kettle or Dutch oven melt the butter. Add the diced onion and sauté over medium heat until tender but not browned. I had some poblano pepper left from another recipe so today I added that as well.

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Once the onions are tender add the flour and make the roux. Cook for a minute or two stirring constantly.

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Begin slowly adding the milk and continue stirring until it begins to thicken. Add the franks, the dry mustard, and salt and pepper.

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Once the mixture has thickened begin adding the cheese a handful at a time and stir until the cheese is melted. Add another handful and so on until all of the cheese has been incorporated. Today I used a sharp Vermont cheddar, asiago, and fontina. I usually like using a bit of smoky cheese like a smoked Gouda but no smoked cheese in my cheese drawer.

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Grate some fresh nutmeg into the cheese mixture.

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Drain, but do not rinse, your pasta. Save a cup of the pasta water in case you need to add some liquid. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce, stir and pour into a lightly greased casserole dish.

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Find some bread in your fridge and use your food processor to make some bread crumbs. Today I had some challah so I used that and added some fresh parsley in the food processor. Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a skillet and toast the bread crumbs a bit. Sprinkle the crumbs over the Mac and cheese.

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Bake for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and the top has crisped up and browned a bit.

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Enjoy as a side dish or as a meal in itself. Great with greens, broccoli or fresh green beans.

I grew up in a rural area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and attended a small school. We used to enjoy hearty homemade hot lunches that were really very good. Fridays were tuna casserole (not my fav), Mac and cheese or Welsh Rarebit days. The hot lunch version of Welsh Rarebit was very similar to this Mac and cheese recipe minus the pasta. The cheese sauce was served over toasted white bread that had been cubed.  It was one of my favorites.

Enjoy the Mac and cheese. It’s what’s for dinner.

Cabbage and Sausage Bake

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We all like one pan dinners with simple, very basic ingredients. This is a hardy meal that makes a great supper on a cold winter night. Easy to prepare and only one pan to wash!  Preheat the oven to 375.

Ingredients:

1 head of cabbage

dozen or so new potatoes

6 slices thick bacon

2 cups (one large) yellow onion sliced thin

Polish sausage, kielbasa or bratwurst

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups chicken stock

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Dice the bacon and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

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I did everything in my roaster. Thin slice the onion. I used a mandolin but I good knife will work fine. Add the onion to the bacon and drippings and cook over medium heat until the onion is tender.

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Once the onions are tender set them aside and sear the sausages to brown them up a bit.

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While the sausages are browning up wash your potatoes. Cut the cabbage in half, then into quarters. Core the cabbage and cut each quarter in half again.

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Remove the browned sausage from the roaster and turn off the flame. Arrange the cabbage wedges in the roaster rounded side down.

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Arrange the potatoes around the cabbage.

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Add the browned sausage.

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Add the onions and bacon as well as the drippings. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Pour the broth over everything and cover the pan tightly with foil.

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Bake for 90 minutes. Let it sit covered for 15 minutes after you remove it from the oven before serving.

Serve with steamed fresh green beans or broccoli and some nice crusty bread. And, of course, some spicy mustard.

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Cabbage and sausage bake. It’s what was for supper. My dad would have enjoyed sharing this supper with us.

NOTE:  If you prefer a tomato taste substitute a can of diced or fire roasted tomatoes and one cup V-8 juice or tomato juice for the chicken stock.

 

Bourbon Cherries

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When we were visiting our daughter over the Christmas holiday she had made some bourbon cherries that made a great Manhattan. Maybe not a traditional Manhattan, but a pretty good variation. I made a batch of these tasty cherries when I got home and I think the longer they “cure” the better.

Ingredients:

1 fifth of bourbon (I used Evan Williams)

1 pint of grand Grand Marnier

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 T vanilla (or 2 vanilla beans slit)

1 T whole allspice

3 cinnamon sticks

a little grated nutmeg

32 ounces of frozen, pitted tart cherries

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In a large heavy kettle combine bourbon, grand mariner, sugars and spices. Over low heat whisk until sugars are completely dissolved. DO NOT boil. Turn the heat off and allow it to steep and cool down.  Once off the heat stir in the vanilla.

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Put the cherries in glass jars and pour the cooled alcohol mix over the cherries. You can leave the spices in the jars but be careful to remove them before serving.

To prepare your faux Manhattan…

In a small glass with a little ice pour “cherry juice” over the ice. Add a couple dashes of orange or Angostura bitters. Spear a few cherries on a cocktail pick and serve. You can add a bit of orange or lemon peel for garnish if you wish. A traditional Manhattan has a little sweet or dry vermouth but the grand mariner is a great substitute.

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I think these cherries would be awesome over a scoop of vanilla ice cream or on a dish of homemade rice pudding.

Cheers!  Happy New Year.

Ring Bologna Bake – Käyrämakkarahe

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Yup. That’s a ring bologna. It’s not my personal ring bologna and I’m not actually going to cook it but I’m going to tell you about ring bologna. It’s the crowning glory of one of my Dad’s favorite dinners. He calls it Finnish tube steak. You take a ring bologna, just like the one in the picture. Make a slit in the top all the way around. You put it in the oven at 350 for about 15-20 minutes and watch for it to begin to split open. Fill the opening with brown sugar and catsup and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes and a can of green beans or corn. I grew up in a family of 5 kids; me and 4 brothers. We had this quite frequently for dinner along with the potatoes and canned vegetables. I don’t know if my mother made two of them at a time or if all 7 of us shared the one Finnish tube steak.   When my dad visited last summer I bought the best quality ring bologna I could find and made this for him. He was a happy man!

Since I’m not actually cooking one right now I had to get on line to find pictures and I discovered that ring bologna actually has it’s own Facebook page!

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I’m not sure what the relationship is between the Green Bay Packers and ring bologna but this is ring bologna’s Facebook picture.  I apologize to all the Lion fans in my family for this picture.

The other day I was reading through a Finnish cookbook by Beatrice Ojakangas and came across a couple paragraphs about ring bologna. She says, “Ring bologna is as popular in Finland as wienies are in the United States. The Finns have many ways to cook it. They cut it into pieces and cook it over a campfire as we cook wienies. A crowning touch to a sauna party in Finland is to roast ring bologna pieces over the hot sauna stove and eat the pieces with hot mustard. With these, one drinks kalja or olut (beer).  Finns do not put the meat into bread as we do with weenies.”

Apparently the brown sugar and catsup bake is the Americanization of Finnish ring bologna.

In July of 1969 I traveled to Finland with my mummu (grandmother) and aunt and uncle. It was my grandmothers first visit back to her homeland in nearly 40 years. We spent a couple of weeks traveling the country and visiting family and friends. I had a vague recollection of the sauna/ring bologna experience so I got my “Air Travel Diary” out and read through the “places and events visited”.

July 13, 1969 we were in Kauhajoki visiting my grandfather’s relatives where I wrote, “He has a real nice home where we went to the sauna. The sauna had four rooms. First room was for undressing. Then you walked through the shower room and then into the hot sauna room. You suds up good and then back to the shower room to rinse off. Then you go into the sitting room before you dress and cook sauna bologna over a fire place.”  There was no mention in my journal about beer but the adults may have imbibed. For non-Finnish readers unfamiliar with Finnish sauna practices I’ll elaborate on that another day.

I’ve been having long morning conversations with my dad and we get on these off the wall topics like ring bologna. While looking for suitable pictures I came across a Ring Bologna in the Crockpot recipe. Dad asked me to write it down and send it to him. He wants me to write it twice so he can mail a copy to a fellow Finn who loves ring bologna as much as my Dad does. If I ever make it I promise to blog about it. In the meantime get on line and check it out…there is a whole ring bologna culture out there!

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