Bologna Cake

We have a good friend who requested a bologna cake for his birthday.  He sent a photo of a bologna cake that was slice of bologna, cream cheese, slice of bologna, cream cheese and so on and so on.  The sides and top were “frosted” with more cream cheese and decorated with the cheddar cheese that you buy in aerosol cans.

I decided that rather than an ALL bologna cake I would make bologna sandwich spread and use bread for the layers.  Several years ago I made a sandwich cake for a Super Bowl party.  I made that “cake” with ham salad and chicken salad.  It was lovely to look at and tasted ok but I made a mistake and didn’t cut the crusts off the bread making it very difficult to slice. You nearly mangled the whole cake sawing through the crust.  I also learned that sandwich cakes are a real “thing” called smorgastarta, Swedish for sandwich cake.

Cake Ingredients:

2 loaves of a good sturdy bread

2 pounds of garlic bologna

mayo or miracle whip

sweet pickles

onion and celery

Icing Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds of cream cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 c mayonnaise

1 envelope ranch dressing seasoning

The shape of your bread does not matter.  Round, square, rectangular.  Just ensure that it is a good quality, sturdy bread so it doesn’t turn to mush when you add the filling.  Shave off the crusts with a serrated knife.

Grind your bologna and pickles in a food processor.

Small dice your celery and onion and add to the ground meat.   The vegetables give a little crunch to the sandwich spread.  Add mayo or miracle whip until the spread reaches your desired consistency.  Now you can begin assembling the cake.  Spread a thin layer of the icing on each layer and a generous amount of the sandwich spread.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Until you’ve used all of your layers.

When you begin icing the sides and top of the cake do just as you would with a real cake.  Start with a thin layer of icing to seal in the crumbs and then go back and add more icing and smooth out the sides and top.

Decorate your cake with garnishes of your choosing.  I used fennel fronds, carrots, green onions, radishes and miniature heirloom tomatoes.

Voila!  I think my bologna cake is quite beautiful and it was appreciated and enjoyed by the birthday boy and most of the other guests.

NOTE:  It isn’t necessary to use bologna.  Any type of sandwich spread, sliced deli meats, lox, or hard boiled eggs would work.  Adding sliced vegetables like seedless cucumber, radishes, or onion would add some crunch and flavor.  I wouldn’t recommend using tomato slices which would make the bread wet and mushy.

I used the bread crusts to make breadcrumbs which I bag and freeze and croutons for soup or salad.

 

 

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Chai Tea

‘Tis the holiday season.  Time to make candy, bake cookies, and whip up a few batches of Chai tea for gift giving.  The main ingredients in chai tea are black tea, milk, spices, and sweetener.  I’m not sure where I found the recipe but I’ve been making it for years.   It has cardamom but no coffee so it is definitely not a Finnish favorite.  I typically do not care for cream or milk in my tea or coffee but I do like an occasional cup of this tea.

Ingredients:

3 cups nonfat dry milk powder

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1 cup unsweetened instant tea

3/4 cup vanilla powdered nondairy creamer

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp ground cloves

In a food processor combine all of the ingredients, cover and process until you have a fine powder.

Once the mixture is processed dump it in a bowl to make it easier to fill your jars.

Scoop the mixture into jars and store the jars in a cool place.  One recipe makes a little over 4 cups of the mix.  I made several batches.

To serve add 3/4 cup of boiling water to 3 T of chai mix.

NOTE:  Because the nondairy creamer is sweet you can choose to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe or use a sugar substitute like truvia.

To make the jars more festive for holiday gift giving tie curly ribbon to the neck of the jar or take a square piece of colorful fabric and use the band to fasten the fabric down.  Include a copy of the recipe and instructions for mixing with the jar.

Hmmmmm.  I wonder how this would taste substituting instant coffee for the instant tea?  If I do a test batch I’ll be sure to blog the results.

Roasted Vegetable and Prosciutto Tart

The inspiration for this recipe came from the Fall 2017 issue of Cook Fresh.  When I’m in the supermarket checkout line I’m always looking at the tabloid headlines with the latest movie star gossip and the women’s magazines that have pictures of gorgeous desserts and promises that you can lose 15 pounds in 15 days.  I’m always in the slowest moving lane at the grocery so I have plenty of time to read.  I spotted this Cook Fresh magazine on the very bottom of the rack and it was the only copy left.  The vegetable tart was on the cover so I picked it up and put it in my cart.  Sold.  I modified the recipe somewhat.  The real beauty of this is you can use any vegetables you have on hand or just add or omit based on personal preference.  These are the ingredients and quantities I used.

Ingredients for Filling:

2 cups of cubed butternut squash

1 cup of thin sliced leeks (white and light green parts only)

1 cup of course chopped sweet bell peppers

1 cup of course chopped cauliflower

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

1 T of fresh rosemary minced (I only had dried)

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes halved

4 oz of prosciutto in bite sized pieces

2 T olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

10 oz goat cheese softened

grated asiago

1 egg

Ingredients for the Crust:

1 1/3 cups AP flour

6 oz of cold unsalted butter cubed

6 oz of cold cream cheese cubed

1 tsp kosher salt

2 T cold water

Preheat the oven to 375.  Combine all of the vegetables (except the tomatoes) and toss with the olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Spread the vegetables out in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool.

While the vegetables are cooking and cooling prepare your crust.  Preheat the oven to 400 once the vegetables are out.    Pulse the flour, salt, cream cheese and butter in the food processor until it starts to come together.

If necessary add a little cold water.  Put the dough on a generously floured service and knead.  Form the dough into a ball.

Roll the dough out into a 16 inch round.  Place the round on parchment paper and spread with the softened goat cheese.

Halve the tomatoes and dice the prosciutto.  Toss them with the vegetables.

Heap the vegetables and prosciutto on the goat cheese leaving about a two inch border.  Sprinkle with a little shredded asiago cheese.

Fold the edges of the dough over the edge of the filling.  Whisk together one egg and a tablespoon of water and brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash.

Bake for 35-45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.  Allow the tart to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Slice and serve with a fresh fruit cup or salad.  We had ours with a side of applesauce.

NOTE:  I put the goat cheese in the microwave for a few seconds on the defrost setting so that it would spread on the crust more easily.

Any combination of vegetables equaling 5 cups is the perfect proportion (not including the tomatoes).  Brussel sprouts, carrots, golden beets, sweet potato, fennel, broccoli…any of those would work.  I used nearly triple the goat cheese called for in the original recipe and I thought that was perfect.  You can also change up the herbs and use basil, oregano or dill.

The Cook Fresh magazine was a great impulse buy!!!

 

 

Pea Soup (Hernerakkaa)

Pea soup.  It’s something you either love or hate.  Pea soup is something you will find in almost every Finnish cookbook.  In The Finnish Cookbook by Beatrice Ojakangas she calls pea soup hernerakkaa.  Interestingly, in Finland it is a traditional Thursday supper followed by baked pancakes with homemade jam for dessert.  Many of the pea soup recipes I read call for adding a couple dollops of whipped cream just before serving.  Finnish pea soup is also served with a side of spicy mustard and that is added at the table based on personal taste.  Some of the Finnish pea soup recipes included meat, others did not.  Pea soup is one of my dad’s favorites and mine as well.  My immediate family eats it but I’m not sure it ranks in their top five soup choices.  I say my immediate family because I’m quite certain none of my brothers would eat it.  My daughter posted a picture of their homemade pea soup a week or so ago and I decided I needed to make a pot.  I had a beautiful, meaty pork hock in the freezer and a bag of Michigan split peas so I was all set.  I decided to make my soup in the pressure cooker but I first cooked my ham shank which was a good decision.

Split peas do not require soaking.  Just put them in a colander and rinse them well.

Ingredients:

Pork hock or ham bone

1 pound of split peas

4 cups of water

4 cups of chicken broth

3 T butter

1 medium onion finely diced

1 cup of finely diced carrots

1 cup of finely diced celery

3 or 4 cloves of garlic minced

1 cup of diced potato (peeled and rinsed)

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste

I used my electric pressure cooker which I think works great for dishes like this.  I put the pork hock in the cooker, added 4 cups of water and set it on high pressure for 20 minutes and allowed the cooker to release naturally.

The meat fell off the bone and I had 4 cups of excellent broth to start my soup.

Heat the 3 tablespoons of butter in the pressure cooker using the saute setting.  Saute the onion, carrots, and celery for 2-3 minutes until tender.  Add the garlic and saute for another minute.

Add the diced meat and potato.

Add the peas that you’ve rinsed well, the bay leaves, the 4 cups of pork broth and 2 cups of the chicken broth.

Set the pressure canner for 20 minutes on high pressure.  Do a quick release.

Scoop out a little for a taste.  Add additional salt and pepper if needed.

I added 2 more cups of chicken broth at this point.  Leave the pressure cooker setting on warm until you’re ready to serve.  Ladle into bowls and serve with homemade croutons or crusty bread.  Maybe the next time I make pea soup I’ll whip up some heavy cream and stir a good size dollop in each bowl.  And put the spicy mustard out for an authentic Finn bite.

NOTE:  Once this sits over night the flavors are even better but it also thickens even more.  You could slice the soup!  Prior to serving the leftovers stir in additional broth or water.  The next time I make this I may use a quarter less peas.

You can make this in a dutch oven on top of the stove if you don’t have a pressure cooker or instant pot.  I would still recommend starting the ham hock first.

Pillow Cases

A couple months ago I went, with my KnitWit friends, to a big quilt show.   I am not a quilter but I love to go and see the works of art that other people create.  And they are truly works of art.  There are always lots of vendors selling everything to do with fabric at these show and I picked up a kit to make two pillow cases.  How hard can that be you ask??  Well.  I am a visual learner and the written instructions were challenging me so my good friend Sydney came over and gave me a tutorial.  Once I watched her I was good to go.  I made the set I purchased at the quilt show and a couple other sets since.

For my beer loving kids.

For my surrogate grandchildren.  One was having some bad dreams and I’m hoping her special pillow case brings only sweet dreams.

For my niece’s daughter (and son) who love monkeys.

A really fun and practical thing to do is to make pillow cases and use them for gift bags for birthdays, Christmas or other special occasions.  My sewing tutor Sydney gets credit for that awesome idea!

Because I’m a visual learner, and maybe you are too, I’m going to include step by step photo instructions.  It’s also in case I don’t make any for awhile and forget how to make them.  These instructions are a combination of two different patterns.

You’ll need 3 pieces of fabric.  And LOTS of pins.

7/8 yard (31.5) inches for the pillowcase body

1/4 yard (9 inches) for the band

3 inches for contrasting band

Fold the 3 inch piece of fabric in half with wrong sides together and press.  Lay the band right side up and pin the contrasting band to the top matching the raw edges.

Place the pillow case fabric, wrong side up, on top of the first two pieces, keeping all of the raw edges even.  Pin all the layers.  (For directional fabric, top of the fabric should match the top raw edges.)

Now you do the roll.  Roll the pillow case fabric up from the bottom to the top, stopping short of the pinned area.

Fold the bottom raw edge of the band to meet the top raw edges and pin all raw edges together.  The pillowcase fabric is now inside the tube.

Sew a 1/4 inch seam backspacing at each end.

Pull the fabric out of the tube.

Press and fold in half with wrong sides together matching raw edges.  Sew a 1/4 inch seam along the side and bottom.  Start at the band to ensure that the seams match.

Turn the pillowcase so that the right side is in and sew a 3/8 inch seam along the side and bottom.  Turn the pillowcase right side out and press.

Voila!!!!  A beautiful French seamed pillowcase.

 

Spicy Pickled Beets

Pickled beets are one of my favorites but for some reason I had a lot of trouble finding good beets this year.  You want to have beets with one or two inches of tops and a root.

Having the tops and roots in tact  keep your beets from bleeding out, results in the best flavor and preserves the nutritional value.  And maybe it’s just me, but I think they are easier to peel.  Every farm market I stopped at either didn’t have beets or they had been cut to the quick.  A friend picked a bushel up for me from an Amish farm in the area.  Now I know exactly where to shop for my beets.

Beets are kind of messy, especially when you start peeling  and slicing or dicing.  I diced.  Bite size dices.

Cook your beets  in a big, heavy pot, simmering until they are just tender.  Then I dump them into my sink and start peeling.  I wore gloves through the entire process so my hands wouldn’t be  “beet red” and so that I could easily handle the hot beets.  Be careful in your kitchen as well because beet juice can permanently stain.  If you’re not wearing gloves, allow the beets to cool down before attempting to peel them.

Pickling Brine Ingredients:  (For about 5 pounds of beets)

2 1/2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)

1 1/2 cups water

2 cups sugar

3 cinnamon sticks broken up (use a hammer and a towel)

1 T whole allspice

1 T whole cloves

1 T mustard seed

1 T pickling salt

Combine all of the brine ingredients.  Cook over medium heat stirring frequently to make sure all of the sugar is dissolved.  I made a double batch.

Once the beets have been cooked, peeled, and sliced or diced fill hot jars with the beets.  Ladle the hot pickling brine over the beets leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.  Make sure to wipe the jar rims clean.  Center the lids and adjust the bands.  Place your jars in the rack elevated over simmering water in water bath canner, repeating until all jars are filled.  Process pint jars in the water bath for 30 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let jars cool for 5 minutes.  Remove jars to cool on a heavy towel or wire racks for 12 hours.

You frequently see pickled beets on salad bars and they are particularly good on a Greek salad.   They’re a beautiful addition to a relish tray.

NOTE:  I remember my mother saving the brine from the pickled beets and pouring it over hard boiled eggs.  They would sit in the refrigerator for days and when you sliced them they were pink through to the yolk and had a great pickled flavor.  Beet juice is used as a natural red food coloring in everything from candy, to ice cream, to tomato sauces.  Even some breakfast cereals.  Beets are one of the world’s healthiest foods.  They are said to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support.  So eat your beets!

One more interesting factoid.  10-15% of adults experience beeturia (red urine) after eating beets.

Cucumber Mint Jelly

Some time ago I bought a Better Homes and Gardens magazine with jam and jelly recipes in it.   Lots of good stuff!  I love cucumbers and I love mint so this combination really intrigued me.  Interestingly, most of my brothers hate mint.  They won’t even use mint toothpaste.  And I think some of them probably don’t like cucumbers either.  My kitchen smelled wonderful while I was making this jelly.  A friend came in while it was cooking and the first thing she said was, “your house smells like cucumbers.”  This recipe was very easy and it’s something you can make year round.

Ingredients:

3 large cucumbers

7 cups of sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

1 6-oz package liquid fruit pectin (both envelopes)

1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves

a drop of green food color

Peel and cut the cucumbers into chunks.  No need to remove the seeds.  Purée them in a food processor or blender.

Press the purée through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl.  You want to recover 1 1/2 cups of cucumber juice.

You pretty much waste most of the cucumber.

In a heavy saucepan combine the cucumber juice, sugar, and vinegar.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar.

Quickly stir in both packets of pectin and the mint.  Bring to a full rolling boil stirring constantly.  Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat.  Use a metal spoon and skim off any foam and remove the mint.  Add a drop of green food color.  The “natural” color is not appetizing.  While I was making the jelly I had this bright idea that a mint leaf in each jar would be really pretty.  As you remove the mint from the pot you realize, as I did, that this would not be a good idea.

Ladle hot jelly into hot sterilized half pint jars leaving a 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rims, adjust lids and screw on the bands.  Process jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.  Start the timer when the water comes to a boil.  Remove jars and allow to cool completely on a heavy towel or wire racks.

Makes 6 half pints.

I love the finished product!  The day I made the jelly we had lamb chops for dinner so I could showcase the cucumber mint jelly.

NOTE:  Try a spoonful of cucumber mint jelly, some tonic water and good gin or vodka for an amazing cocktail.  Zap the jelly for a few seconds in the microwave, add the alcohol, ice and stir in the tonic.

Cheers!

Four Bean Salad

We’ve all made 3-Bean Salad in the past or at least seen it on salad bars.  It has the mild pickled taste that most people like and it is easy to throw together.  I first tasted this particular version of the salad when a friend brought it over and we shared a small dish with our lunch.  This salad has an extra bean and a little twist that gives it a unique taste.  I coudn’t put my finger on it until my friend sent me the recipe and I realized it was the toasted sesame oil.  This is now my new favorite bean salad.

Ingredients:

1 15oz can of black beans

1 15oz can of garbanzo beans

1 15oz can of kidney beans

1 15oz can of green beans (I used a pint of my home canned)

1 small onion sliced thin (sweet or red)

3/4 cup of sugar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

salt and pepper to taste

Ok.  This is pretty simple.  Open the 4 cans of beans and drain.

Whisk together the sugar, oils and vinegars.

In a large bowl combine the beans and sliced onion.  Add the dressing and toss.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sample some, of course.

Refrigerate and serve chilled.  If you need a passing dish for a potluck or a simple side for a barbeque this salad is perfect and so easy to make.

Enjoy!

My friend’s recipe included 1/2 tsp of tarragon.  I omitted it because it is not one of my favorite herbs.  But if it’s a favorite of yours, by all means add it.  James Beard, a very famous chef and cookbook author, is quoted as saying, “I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around.”  That quote doesn’t make me like it any more.  Tarragon is one of the herbs considered essential in French cooking.  I used to think I was part French until I sent my DNA to Ancestory.com.     Perhaps my dislike of tarragon should have been my first clue that I’ve no French in my DNA. And I think this recipe is great without the tarragon.

NOTE:  You can change up your beans based on personal preference or what you have on hand.  I have a friend who dislikes kidney beans so she could substitute butter beans, cannalini beans or navy beans.

Benches

Several years ago I rescued a metal headboard and footboard from my parent’s house.  It used to belong to my grandmother.  They have been painted several times and the paint is chipping.  But I have a love of old things, particularly those that come from family, and I knew one day they would be repurposed.

Our good friend Greg is a very talented finished carpenter and he agreed to make them into outdoor benches for me.  They look amazing!  The bases are painted an artichoke color (I just made that up because that’s what the color reminds me of and I can’t remember the real name) and the seat slats are painted blue, red, yellow, orange and green.  The peeling paint on he headboard and footboard make them shabby chic.  I just finished the second coat of rustoleum polyurethane.  Not exactly sure where I will put them but they will certainly be eye catching.  The chairs around our fire pit are also colorful so the benches will fit right in.

So happy I know someone as generous and talented as Greg!!

Here are some pictures we took while we were painting them.

One coat of primer and two coats of paint.  Making sure to coat the feet well to prevent moisture from wicking into the wood.

Primer and two coats of paint on the slats.  It helps when the sun is shining because the paint dries quickly.

Two coats of rustoleum polyurethane to protect the paint.

Looking forward to enjoying these for many years to come.

 

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Pasta Salad

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato is one of our favorite sandwiches.  Combining all of those ingredients in a salad had to be a good idea.  A perfect accompaniment to burgers or sausages on the grill.  Most recently I served it as a side dish to barbecued beef brisket.  My daughter always says bacon and butter make everything taste better.  She’s right.

Ingredients:

1 pound of dry pasta (your choice)

1 pound bacon

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 T minced shallots

3 T minced fresh basil

2 T cider vinegar

1 T sugar

3 T bacon drippings (cooled to room temperature)

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups of lettuce (I used baby kale and arugula)

4 cups cherry tomatoes halved

Cook your pasta according to package instructions.  Once it’s cooked shock it in ice water to stop the cooking.  Set aside to drain.

Cook your bacon until it is crispy.  Drain it on paper towel and set aside 3 T of the drippings.  Allow the drippings to cool to room temperature before adding them to the dressing.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, shallots, basil, cider vinegar, sugar, and bacon drippings.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  I whisk it in a large mixing bowl because that becomes my salad vessel.

With the dressing on the bottom of the bowl layer the remaining ingredients.

Pasta first, followed by the cherry tomatoes.

Add your salad greens.  I chop the bacon and put it in a zip lock until the salad is ready to serve.  That keeps a little more of the crunch on the bacon.

When you’re ready to serve the salad toss all the ingredients together and enjoy.

NOTE:  You can use your favorite pasta, or whatever you have on hand.  Diced green onions or a little red onion can be substituted for the shallots.  And chopped romaine or even iceberg lettuce, if that’s what you enjoy, works equally well.  The fresh basil is a bonus and adds a great flavor to the salad.  As with most recipes you can customize this based on your personal preferences.

ENJOY!