28 April 2006

Kapusta

Well, it's been a rather cabbage-y week. Tuesday, I made an unstuffed cabbage casserole using the "Sausage & Cabbage Casserole" over at Aimee's Adventures. It was very good (all the recipes I've tried from Aimee's site have turned out well), but quite a lot to eat. After I had two portions on Tuesday, I thought I'd skip a day and save the remainder for Thursday and Friday.

Because the casserole recipe only uses about half a bag of cole slaw mix, I cast about for a recipe that would use it up, but not be too much like the previous recipe. In the end, I fell back on the old and familiar. I made cabbage and noodles. Sautéd half the remaining cole slaw with onion, parsley, caraway seed, and garlic and then mixed in a serving of cooked egg noodles and a little prepared mustard. 'Twas very good, but probably would have benefited from sitting overnight in the fridge.

And now I still have a quarter of the cole slaw mix left ... mmmm ... more cabbage and noodles. And a Morningstar Farms corn dog to go with! Yum.

27 April 2006

Birthday Lunch With The Ladies

Today, my mother, grandmother, aunts and I all went out to celebrate my mother's birthday. We went to NuNu's Bisto -- a tiny restaurant in Colchester that my mother and I both adore, but I don't get to very often (my mother is going back next week with her ladies' group and I am just so jealous).

To begin, I had a vegetable soup in a clear broth. It was very flavorful and chock full of broad beans, carrots, cabbage, celery, onions, and barley. I would gladly have brought a container home with me.

Then, for our main course, my grandmother and I both ordered the pirogi and cabbage special. My grandmother was quite suspicious of the pirogi -- she considers herself a master pirogi maker and didn't really think "some Italian cook" cook do a proper pirogi. While I do agree the cheese and potato filling was more potato than cheese and certainly would have benefited from the addition of some onion, the chef's dough beat hers hands down. (Probably not surprising, given that he makes all his own pasta).

The pirogi were served atop a bed of onion and cabbage. I do not know quite what was done to the cabbage, but it was so tender and so sweet and melted in my mouth so delightfully that I could have eaten a platter of the stuff. Yum.

25 April 2006

Bet I'll Drive Off With It On The Roof Of My Car ...

Wednesday is my mother's birthday and we all chipped in together to buy her a laptop. She has one of those fancy-schmancy sewing machines that (besides doing plain sewing, quilting, and quantum physics embroidery) can be connected to the Internet in order to acquire secret instructions for world domination new embroidery patterns. This has been a hassle for her, because she has to plug her machine into my dad's computer and she doesn't know what she was doing, my father never really has time to help her, and, being an old cripple woman, it is also physically difficult for her.

So. We got her a laptop. Gateway from Best Buy. Cheap and basic. Hopefully, "just like what the other ladies have" or we are all screwed.

Anyway, came home from work yesterday and was going to wrap it, but couldn't find it. Checked the bedroom closets. No laptop. Checked the office closets. No laptop. Checked basement. No laptop. Ate lunch. Checked closets again. No laptop. Checked car trunk. No laptop. Checked office closets, knowing it should be in there. Am staring at smallish square white box and thinking "if I were a big yellow Best Buy bag, where would I be?" when I realize I am staring right at the laptop. Yes. It was never in a Best Buy bag.

'Tis all wrapped now in pretty pink geranium-patterned paper with a deep pink bow and green ribbon curls. All I have to do now is remember to put the present in the car Wednesday before I pick up mom's flowers or, you know, I'm likely to show up with flowers and no present.

13 April 2006

Varenyky? Pyrohy? Pirogi? What??

My mother and I got together today to make pirogies. My mother has made them before, but it was a whole new experience for me. While I've been a devoted pirogi eater all my life, the mysteries of pirogi makery seemed far beyond my ken. But, thanks to a family kerfuffle and the resulting break in the pirogi supply chain, my mother and I had been left to our own devices pirogi-wise. And, as we cannot have a proper Easter without them, we made them ourselves today in my mother's kitchen using Blind Grandma's (my maternal great-grandmother) rolling pin and authentic recipe.

Well, her supposed "authentic" recipe. If you hear my grandmother tell it, Blind Grandma brought this recipe all the way over from the Old Country and there is no other recipe that yields pirogies as good as this one. If you listen to my mother and aunts, however, they'll tell you Blind Grandma never wrote down her recipe and the pirogies we make today owe as much to a recipe in the newspaper forty years ago as they do to Blind Grandma. Regardless of its origins, the recipe makes pretty good pirogies and this is how it goes:
To Make Varenyky (Pyrohy)

3 tsp oil
about 1 cup lukewarm water or skim milk
4 cups flour
½ tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup minced onion
¾ cup mashed potato
¾ cup dry large curd cottage cheese (drain in lined strainer in fridge for 24 hrs)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix cream of tartar and flour together. Add 2 tsp oil and enough liquid to flour mixture to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a freshly floured surface and knead slightly (don't over knead or you'll get really chewy pirogies), 10 to 12 times. Cover and let rest 30 minutes. While dough rests, sauté onion in remaining 1 tsp of oil until tender. Combine with mashed potato, cottage cheese, salt and pepper and set aside.

Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each half until about 1/8 inch thick. Use a cup or glass to cut out 3-inch rounds. Place a rounded teaspoon of potato mixture in the center of each round. Fold rounds in half and firmly press edges together (crimp edges with a fork if you want more decorative pirogies). Place on a kitchen towel and keep covered with another towel until all pirogies are assembled.

Gently plop six at a time into a large pot of boiling water. Boil uncovered until the pirogies bob to the top. Lift out with a slotted spoon and put in a colander. Rinse under warm water and drain. Place back on towel to dry while the others boil. When all are boiled, leave on towel and chop one large sweet (vidalia) onion. Fry in butter until well browned.

Put a little onion at the bottom of a baking pan. Top with a layer of pirogies and then more onion and then more pirogies and then the rest of the onion. Cover and refrigerate overnight1.

Bake uncovered at 350° for 30-60 minutes or until the pirogies are just warmed through. Serve with sour cream.

This recipe makes approximately three dozen pirogies. My mother usually doubles the amount of minced onion and mashed potato she makes, knowing she'll need more than the recipe calls for (eats any extra filling with dinner as if it were regular mashed potato). However, if you are a parsimonious cook, you might be able to stretch the one batch out.

1 You don't have to refrigerate the pirogies overnight, but they taste better when we do.

11 April 2006

Cleaning House

The Husband is away this week and so I have been cleaning the house. Not to suggest it was a terrible sty to begin with, but there are homekeeping tasks I normally avoid either because I don't particularly like doing them or because I don't want to risk someone walking in on me while I am channeling my inner Cleaning Wench. She ain't pretty and she ain't nice, but she sets everything all shipshape and Bristol fashion pretty darned fast.

Aside from bleaching the bathroom floor (I hate tile floors) and cleaning the microwave (note to self: invent self cleaning microwave), I have done everything on my list. Dusted, polished, swept, scrubbed and oiled. I even washed the windows and caulked around the tub. Yes. Dragged out the "weight limit: 200 pounds" step ladder, perched on the "not a step" rung, and washed all the horrible windows we haven't replaced yet. The new windows fold in for washing, you see, and so I don't need to flirt with death in order to clean them.

Caulking around the tub was a truly delightful experience -- not only did I get caulk in my hair and on my glasses, but I managed to ruin a perfectly good shirt in the process. And, yes, the tub looks like it was caulked by a three year old. But, hey, I did it and I can stop obsessing about how it needs to be done and how horrible it makes the rest of the bathroom look. Instead, I'll fixate on how the sink doesn't drain properly or something.

I also baked a carrot cake/muffin combo. While cleaning out the kitchen cabinets, I found a long forgotten Betty Crocker carrot cake mix in the shadowy usually-ignored-by-short-people depths. It expired in February, but I figured what was a couple months to a cake mix? Used the "ultimate carrot cake" recipe from the back of the box (used golden raisins and pecans) to make one unfrosted 9" layer and twelve muffins. Took the muffins to work where they were scarfed up with many happy noises.

Obviously, I said nothing about the mix being expired and (as far as I know) none of my co-workers has died. Hmm. Now there's a way to get a new job.

02 April 2006

You Say Hoover, I Say Vacuum

We bought a new vacuum this weekend, because The Husband could no longer abide our old suckless one. The Husband, you know, is the one who vacuums. I do not vacuum. I do a lot of other things, but not that. That is The Husband's Responsibility. And he does a good job, too.

Even if he calls it "hoovering."

I'm not sure if any of the staff at Sears believed it. The stock guy who carried it to the car seemed to think that, if The Husband vacuumed, it was something he did to humor the little woman and would probably have preferred to purchase a big screen television (which we already have, thank you, because you can't properly game or watch food pr0n on a itty-bitty screen). And the salesperson who sold us the vacuum initially kept talking at me about the vacuums, too, even though I kept alluding to The Husband being the vacuum king. Grr. People, why is this so hard to grasp? I. Do. Not. Vacuum. I do not give a toss about vacuums. As long as the floors are clean when I come home from work Saturday or Sunday, I don't really care how they got that way. He could have trained the cats to do coordinated carpet licking, for all I know.

In general, I cook the meals, dust, tidy, and wash the floors. He vacuums and cleans up cat sick. We both run the dishwasher and do laundry. Maybe, the housework is not evenly shared out enough to suit my more feministic sensibilities, but it seems to work with minimal bloodshed or shouting. Most days, that's good enough.

So, anyway, The Husband seems to have picked out a pretty good vacuum. I borrowed the October 2005 issue of Consumer Reports where they rated a bunch of vacuums ("Vacuums: Style vs. Performance," pgs 43-45) and he read the article, took some notes, and then we hied off to Sears whereupon we discovered that the models they had for sale where newer than the ones reviewed (of course). Also, they all mostly looked like highly breakable plastic toys in primary colors rather than something that could suck pounds of cat hair out of our carpets every week. Finally settled on the Kenmore Progressive with "Direct Drive" and The Husband seems pretty satisfied with it.

Now we just have to figure out what to do with the old clunker vacuum. It won't fit it the bin without quite a bit of disassembling and then, you know, it's going to take up the whole bin. I suppose we could disassemble it and then throw a little bit out each week until all the evidence is gone. Or it can just live on the back porch for a while ...