Sunday, February 27, 2011


Or however you spell Gram makes them the best.
Being on the other side of the country from her for all my life, it'd be a treat to have them when I did. Luckily, my Dad knows how make them, and that's how I learned.


1 Medium Cabbage
1 lb Ground Pork
1 lb Ground Beef
2 cups of rice (uncooked)
1 large can of Stewed Tomatoes

Cook up the rice as instructed.

Peel away the outer leaves of the cabbage, and then cut out the stem. Fill up with some water, cover, and put into a microwaveable bowl - microwave for 5-8 minutes. Carefully peel leaves off of the cabbage. Have a plate and paring knife nearby. The middle vein of the cabbage leaf will be prominent, cut this back with the paring knife. Put leaf on plate and repeat until you have a pile of leaves to work with. (I find when the leaves get annoyingly small or there's too much to cut off the leaf that you won't have one left, use these to line the base of the crock pot - it will prevent burning of the gawumpki)

Combine pork, beef, rice, salt and pepper in a large bowl. You can start by mixing with a fork, and then mix around with your hands to make sure that everything is mixed in evenly.

Take a cabbage leaf into your hand. At the base of leaf, place a large spoonful of the meat/rice mixture. Fold up the sides of the cabbage leaf and then curl the leaf in your hand until it is a sealed roll. Place it in the crock pot.

Continue until meat or cabbage is used up or the crock pot is full. Whichever comes first.

Take the can of stewed tomatoes and pour over the pot of gawumpkies.

Cook in crock pot on high for 4 hours, low for a only an hour/hour and a half more if you are paranoid. Any more and you'll burn them for sure.

Dad swears by short or medium grain white rice. I don't tend to have this in the house, so today I experimented by using brown rice. Now I think the importance of the white rice is the starch, which my brown rice lacked, so my gawumpkies were a little more crumbly than usual. I think I picked up the wrong kind of tomato can, too (I picked up crushed) - but in the end they turned out pretty darn tasty. And it doesn't hurt to know that these things are always better the second day!

Some of my cousins eat them with ketchup, and I think that ruins it...I'm a salt and pepper kind of girl. Yum yum yum!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Other Grape Leaves - Yebret

When most people hear grape leaves, they tend to think of Greek Dolma, a grape leaf stuffed with tomato based rice and spices. When I ask for grape leaves, I ask if there is meat inside of them. So far the only place I have found them at a restaurant is in Tucson at Shishkabab House. Luckily, I have been fortunate enough to learn how to make Syrian Grape Leaves, or Yebret, enough times that I am able to recall the recipe and share. They are stuffed with meat and rice - I use lamb, because I think it has more flavor, but have also made with ground beef, chicken, and turkey. Yes, they are ordered in preference.


1 jar Grape Leaves
1 lb Ground Lamb
1 tbsp Allspice
1 cup Long Grain Rice
2 tbsp Pine Nuts
3 cups Water
3/4 cup Lemon Juice
6 or 7 Garlic Cloves

In a bowl, combine the lamb, allspice, rice, and pine nuts.

Drain the grape leaves from jar and place them on a plate. Some grape leaves will still have the stem on them, cut them off as you are folding the yebret.

Unfold a grape leave on a cutting board, veiny side up. At the base of the leaf, place about 1 tbsp of lamb mixture. Squish the meat down so it makes a long rectangle at the base of the leaf. Begin to roll the base of the leaf towards the top of the leaf, folding in both sides, and tightly roll until you get a little grape leaf shaped cigar. Continue until you run out of meat.

Chances are you'll probably have extra grape leaves. Line the bottom of the pot you intend to cook the yebret in with the extra grape leaves - this will prevent burning of your yebret. I use a 5.5 qt skillet and usually end up with a single layer of yebret. Add the water and lemon juice. Then sprinkle the garlic cloves on top. Find a plate that will fit inside your skillet and use that to hold down the yebret. Place lid on top of the skillet.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 25 minutes and then turn off the heat. Let the yebret sit for at least 30 minutes, but the longer you leave them be the better the taste seems to be!

I like to serve them warm with a garlic yogurt as a dipping sauce. It's very simple, just requires time to chill and bring out the garlic flavor:

Garlic Yogurt
Plain Yogurt (or Greek Yogurt if you like thicker)
Pressed Garlic, to liking.

Mix together and store in the refrigerator before use. I like to keep in the fridge for at least 6 hours. The longer you let it sit, the stronger the flavor will be.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kielbasa and Broccoli Egg Bake

Like every Connecticut visit, I had to bring home several rings of kielbasa from Filipek's. They make the most amazing kielbasa that it's worth the bag charge. (Although, I think I was flying Southwest that time so HA HA HA take that airline baggage fees!)

Typically, standard fare is to boil up the basy, saute some sauerkraut/onion/butter/salt/pepper, and eat with some good spicy mustard. If I'm feeling super fatty, I'll cook up a box of the frozen pierogies, too. Alas, if it's something my Polish genetics can't's the excessive carbs.

So I thought I'd try and find a different way to consume my mass quantities of kielbasa. My Gram got me hooked on kielbasa and egg sandwiches on one of my return flights - the second I took a bite of that sandwich, I knew that kielbasa + egg = amazing.

Kielbasa Quiche it must be.

Sans crust.

Add broccoli, onions, and feta (it's what I had in my fridge).

And we come up with Kielbasa and Broccoli Egg Bake.

I didn't measure anything other than the eggbeaters, so here we go:

Kielbasa and Broccoli Egg Bake
1/2 ring of Kielbasa (probably about 8")
2 1/2 cups of eggbeaters (10 eggs)
Frozen Broccoli
Frozen Onions (I think this was 1/2 an onion)
Some Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper
Feta Cheese

Use 9x13 baking pan and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350.

Cook the whole kielbasa by putting it in a pot, filling with water and let boil. With fresh kielbasa you'll notice it will plump up. Not sure with Hillshire or other store bought preservative laden rings. Don't let the casing explode - if this happens you've cooked it too much.

Defrost frozen broccoli and onions. Drain as much as you can, then saute in a pan with a little bit of olive oil (I took the bottle and drew a quick circle around the perimeter of pan). I also sprinkled some salt and pepper on the veggies. Saute enough that the water is pretty much evaporated. Don't brown it. Put into large bowl.

Cut half of the kielbasa ring and dice into little squares. Do the same for the feta. Empty into veggie bowl.

Add your eggs/eggbeaters to the bowl and mix together. Empty into prepared baking pan.

Put into oven and time for 20 minutes. At 20 minutes, check it out...mine still needed some more baking, so I left it in for 5 more minutes. I would say take it out before it browns on the side because if/when you reheat it, it will probably be rubbery. Sometimes less is more :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Two Pound Strawberry Cake!

I've never made a strawberry cake before, so I figured the first go is only proper if from scratch and with real strawberries! The few searches online mostly yielded recipes using a white cake box mix, and I finally stumbled upon one that was worthwhile.

Luckily, Costco had 2 lb containers of strawberries in a somewhat off-season? Thank you, Costco!

To process the strawberries so that they wouldn't be completely watery, and therefore ruin the recipe, I first cut off the tops of the strawberries and then squished them through an egg slicer. From there they went into a food processor and were pulsed until they were processed just right without a bunch of strawberry juice in the bottom.

One of the comments in the reviews for the recipe noted separating the egg yolks and the egg whites, decreased sugar, and increased the baking powder to yield a more fluffy cake. It all sounded good to me, so that's exactly what I did. Mixed the yolks with two tbsps of water, added the mixture with the butter/sugar/vanilla bowl. Once you got to mixing the flour bowl, sugar bowl, and strawberry puree, the batter became very thick. The final bit was to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and then fold it into the batter. This seemed to lighten it up as far as mixing goes. In two 8 inch rounds, I set the timer for 20 minutes and babysat it after that. It smelled nice as it was baking, but we'll have to see how the cake fares later.

The frosting was another experiment of sorts. Cream cheese frosting seems to be the favorite as of late, so since I still had an abundance of strawberries left from my 2 lb Costco buy, I figured why not? Used the same technique with the squishing of strawberries with the egg slicer and then threw it into the food processor. This time I was paranoid about extra moisture/strawberry juice, but I didn't want my frosting to be chunky. So I pureed it almost to a pulp, then strained the liquid out. This seemed to work very well.

My mistake while making the frosting is a simple one. Let your cream cheese and butter soften all the way!! Otherwise you'll end up with chunks of cream cheese and it's very hard for them to be worked out afterwards. I never really knew, cared, or understood this until a few years ago. Seeing the curds in my frosting today reminded me of my early cheesecakes where it was very curdy and I thought I was just a horrible cheesecake baker. Turns out I was just impatient! :) So, while there are a few chunks in the frosting, the strawberries did well in masking it, at least I hope so!

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

2 8oz boxes of cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup processed/strained strawberries
Powdered sugar to your liking - I think mine today was roughly 2 1/2 cups?

Take out cream cheese and butter and leave out on counter to soften. This is very important!
In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix together cream cheese and butter.
Add strawberries.
Start adding powdered sugar, slowly, to liking.

Frosts a 2 layer 8 inch cake, plus some to spare!

After the cake and the frosting was made, I still had some strawberries left over. My original vision was to egg slice the strawberries and put them in between the layers. I decided against this, and ended up halving the remaining strawberries and decorating the cake with them.

We'll see if this cake makes the fingers are crossed! With two pounds of strawberries in it, how could it be wrong?