Mimi’s Spiced Sweet Bread (Kleeja)

This recipe comes from my best friend’s mom.  It’s a Middle Eastern sweet bread that’s perfect toasted up for breakfast or in the afternoon with a cup of coffee or tea.  Don’t be afraid to “make bread” – it’s really not a hard thing to do!

INGREDIENTS

  • 10 cups of bleached flour (2 1/2 lb.)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp anise powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar added to 2 cups warm whole milk
  • 1 package of yeast added to 1/2 cup warm water + 1/2 tsp sugar
    • 1-2 egg whites for brushing

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl – mix well (if you have a KitchenAid stand mixer, you can place the dry ingredients into the bowl – do NOT use a hand held electric mixer, the weight of the dough will probably break the motor)
  • Add in the melted butter and oil while the mixer is going – if using your hands, get mixin’!
  • Next, add in the water and yeast mixture
  • Lastly, mix in the warm milk and sugar mixture
  • Your dough should be moist, sticky and, well, dough-like – it should not be dry and crumbly nor too wet
  •  Place the dough into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap – place the dough in a warm place away from any drafts for 3 hours so it can rise
    • I always place my rising dough in the cabinet with our cable box, etc. because the equipment gives off some heat and helps the rising process
  • After the dough has rested for 3 hours, roll pieces of dough of desired size into cylinders and twist the dough into a knot (I used a small handful)
  • Place the knotted buns onto a parchment paper lined (or greased) baking sheet and brush the tops with egg whites
  • Bake at 350°F for approximately 15 minutes on the top rack and approximately 15 minutes on the bottom rack (next time I make these, I’m going to to cut the time down by a few minutes, so it’s a little bit trial-and-error with the timing)
    • Recipe yields approximately 35-38 buns
    • These freeze really well – once they’ve cooled, just place them in a Ziploc bag and pop in the freezer!

Veal Bolognese

My husband’s favorite Italian dish is, hands down, pasta with a bolognese sauce.  He’s ordered it in every Italian restaurant we’ve ever been to and even has them mentally ranked.  It seemed only natural for me to figure out a way for my bolognese to get to the top of his list.  Mission accomplished.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large onion (or 2 small ones), chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 large carrots, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 large celery stalks, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • Olive oil to coat the pan
  • 3 lb. lean ground veal (you could also use ground beef or turkey)
  • 2 cups tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups good red wine
  • Water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied in a bundle
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream (room temp)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup powdered Parmesan or Romano cheese
*This recipe makes enough sauce for 2 lb. of pasta – keep in mind that this sauce freezes really well

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in a food processor and process until it forms a course paste
  • Coat the bottom of a large sauce pan with olive oil and then add in the pureed vegetables
  • Season the puree with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes or until the water has evaporated
  • Add in the ground veal, season with salt and pepper and cook until the meat is totally browned, about 15-20 minutes
  • Add in the tomato paste, dried herbs, red pepper flakes and nutmeg and mix well – cook for another 5 minutes
  • Add in the red wine and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently
  • Add water to the pot until the meat is covered with an inch of water – add in the bay leaves and bundle of thyme and mix well
  • Bring the contents of the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat so the sauce is simmering
  • Now, is the painful part – allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for AT LEAST 2 hours, ideally you want the sauce to simmer for 3-4 hours, stir it frequently
  • You want the bolognese to be a very meaty consistency – not really “saucy”
    • If you find that your sauce is getting too thick, add some more water and continue to simmer
  • When you think that your sauce looks ready, add in the cream and blend well
  • Add about half of the sauce to 1 lb. of cooked pasta and toss in at least 1/2 cup powdered Parmesan or Romano cheese – stir well and enjoy!
    • You can freeze the other half of the sauce and defrost it when you’re ready to have it again!

Potato Gnocchi

It may sound a little crazy to make your own gnocchi, but it’s really worth it.  It definitely takes a little time, but the good thing is that you can make a bunch and then freeze it into individual meals so that when you want it, it’s already done!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. russet potatoes (approximately 2 large)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, powdered
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (make sure there are no large clumps)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for dusting
  • Robust Red Sauce
    • Make it a pink sauce by adding 1/2 cup cream and 1/2 cup powdered parmesan cheese
    • This sauce recipe will make enough for 3 recipes worth of gnocchi

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Scrub the potatoes and then rub them with olive oil and kosher salt
  • Prick a bunch of holes in the potatoes and bake them at 425°F for about 45 minutes or until very tender
  • Let the potatoes cool a bit and then cut them in half, scoop out the flesh and press it through a potato ricer – if you don’t have one of those, grate the potatoes on the large holes of a box grater
  • You should now have about 2 cups of mashed potatoes – on your countertop, make a mound of the potatoes with a well in the middle
  • Add 3 of the egg yolks to the middle of the well and the salt, pepper, nutmeg and parmesan cheese
  • Mix the potatoes into the egg yolks with your hands
  • Pour in half of the flour and continue to mix with your hands, using your knuckles to press in the dough
  • Fold the dough over itself and press down with your hands
  • Slowly sprinkle in the rest of the flour while continuing to press with your hands – add the 4th egg yolk if the mixture seems dry
    • The dough should give under pressure but should feel firm and not sticky
  • To check if the consistency is correct, take a piece and roll it with your hands on a well-floured board into a rope 1/2 inch diameter – if the dough holds together, it’s ready (if not, add more flour and fold and press a few more times and test it again)
  • Cut your ball of dough into 4 pieces – roll each piece out into a rope 1/2 inch diameter on a floured surface
  • Cut the rope into 1/2 inch-long pieces – you can either cook these as is or form them into the classic gnocchi shape, here’s how you do that
  • As you shape the gnocchi, lightly dust them with flour and line them up on a baking sheet
  • Set the gnocchi filled cookie sheet in the fridge for a few minutes so they get a little bit firm
  • When you’re ready to cook them, place a small batch of them into salted boiling water (you don’t want to cook too many at ounce because they will stick together if they’re touching while cooking)
  •  About 2 minutes after the gnocchi has floated to the surface, you can remove them from the water with a slotted spoon
    • I just place the cooked gnocchi into a strainer while the rest is cooking
    • While the gnocchi is cooking, I make sure to get my sauce well heated
  • Once all of your gnocchi is cooked, toss it together with the heated sauce and you’re ready to eat!
    • If you’re planning on making a few recipes (which I recommend) just freeze the extra gnocchi in freezer bags – when you want to eat it, just boil the frozen gnocchi in salted water the same way you cooked the fresh ones

Lois’s Pumpkin Cake Roll

This recipe comes from a dear friend of mine… she loves making this around Halloween and has even made a low fat* version that tastes just as good!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin or squash
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
CREAM CHEESE FILLING
  • 1 cup confectionary sugar
  • *6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (use low fat cream cheese, if desired)
  • *4 tbsp softened margarine (or butter), room temperature (you can use as little as 1 tbsp, if desired)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Beat the eggs on high speed for 5 minutes
  • Gradually beat in the sugar
  • Stir in the pumpkin and lemon juice
  • In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture on low speed until all of the ingredients are well blended
  • Line a greased 15 x 10 x 1 in. cookie sheet with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper, too
  • Spread the batter evenly onto the pan
  • Sprinkle with nuts, if desired
  • Bake at 375ºF for 15 mins
  • Lay out a dish towel (preferably not a terrycloth towel) and sprinkle it with powdered sugar, this will help the cake from sticking to it
  • Turn out the cake onto the sugared towel and remove the parchment paper
  • Roll up the cake with the towel inside and let it completely cool
    • While the cake is cooling, make the cream cheese filling…
CREAM CHEESE FILLING
    • Beat all of the ingredients on low speed until well blended
  • Unroll the cake and spread the filling right up to the ends of the cake
  • Now, roll up your cake without the towel
  • Wrap the pumpkin roll up in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze it – when you’re ready to serve it, slice it into slices of desired size

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This cheesecake is the ultimate fall treat.  It’s decadent and has just the right amount of sweetness.

INGREDIENTS

CRUST
    • 1  cup graham cracker crumbs
    • 3/4 cup gingersnaps, finely crushed (put about 20 in a food processor and process until they’re fine)
    • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 stick butter, melted

FILLING

    • 3 – 8 oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
    • 1 – 15 oz. can pumpkin
    • 3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
    • 1  1/2 cups granulated sugar
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/8 tsp cloves
    • 2 tbsp flour
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

HOW TO MAKE IT

CRUST

    • In a medium bowl, combine the graham and gingersnap crumbs, sugar and cinnamon
    • Add the melted butter and mix well
    • Press the mixture down into a flat 9 in. springform pan – make sure the crust comes up along the sides of the pan
FILLING
    • Beat the cream cheese until it’s smooth
    • Add the pumpkin, eggs, egg yolk, sugar and spices
    • Add the flour and vanilla and mix together until well combined
  • Pour the filling into the crust and spread it out evenly
  • Bake in the oven for 45 minutes at 325°F (wrap the spring form pan in aluminum foil and bake it in a water bath – here are some more tips)
  • After 45 minutes in the oven, turn the oven off and leave the cake in there for another hour
  • After the hour, take the cheesecake out and let it cool on the countertop covered with an inverted large plate/platter – this will slow the cooling process down and prevent cracks
  • When the cheesecake is room temperature, place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours
  • Top your piece off with some whipped cream and enjoy!

Hushway

This Middle Eastern dish literally translates to “stuffing.”  It’s what my mom stuffs our Thanksgiving turkey with – minus the peas.  It’s super easy to make and really gives you the feeling that you’re eating something exotic.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. – 1  1/2  lbs. ground beef
  • 1 cup uncooked white basmati rice
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • In a medium pan, season the ground beef with the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper and then brown it
  • Once the meat is cooked, add 2 cups of water to the pan and stir
  • Bring the water to a boil and add the frozen peas and mix
  • Bring the water to a boil again and add in the rice and stir
  • Lower the heat on the stove to low and cover the pot
  • Keep stirring the rice often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan
  • Cook for 20-30 minutes or until the rice is tender

*Try topping this rice with cool plain yogurt – it’s not only a refreshing combination, but it also hits all of the food groups!

Apple Crumble Pie

Now that Fall has arrived, it seems only appropriate to post my recipe for the most magical apple pie.  This marriage of two amazing things – apple crumble and apple pie – combine to make something you won’t be able to refuse…

INGREDIENTS

PIE CRUST

    • 2 cups flour
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2/3 cup shortening (i.e. Crisco)
    • 12 tbsp cold water

FILLING

    • 6 large apples (Jonagold, McIntosh or Cortland are good choices)
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
TOPPING
    • 1  1/2 cups flour
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 cup Quaker oats (I like the old-fashioned oats more than the quick oats)
    • 1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)

HOW TO MAKE IT

PIE CRUST

    • Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl
    • Chop the shortening up into small squares and add it to the flour mixture
    • Add in 3 or 4 tbsp of cold water and use your other hand to start mixing it with the flour and shortening
    • Keep adding in the cold water (one tbsp at a time) and mixing the dough with your other hand
    • Once the dough has reached a moist, but not sticky, consistency it is finished (if the dough seems too sticky, add in a little bit of flour to dry it out)
    • Form your dough into a large ball and wrap it in plastic wrap – place it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it

FILLING

    • Peal and core all of your apples and slice them up into thin 1/2 wedges (if you slice the apple horizontally, you want to quarter each slice) and place them in a large mixing bowl
    • Add the lemon juice to the apples and stir – this will keep them from browning
    • Add in both sugars and stir the apple mixture well, coating everything evenly
    • Combine the flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a separate bowl
    • Sprinkle the flour mixture over the apples, coating them evenly
    • Place the apple mixture aside until you’re ready to use it

TOPPING

    • Soften the two sticks of butter on very low power in the microwave (be careful not to melt it)
    • Combine the flour, salt and cinnamon first, then add in the oatmeal and both sugars
    • Cube the softened butter and add it to the topping mixture – again, using your hands to mix it up!
    • This mixture should be moist yet crumbly

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER…

    • Take your pie dough out of the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface – you want to roll it out to be pretty thin, but thick enough to handle and transfer into the pie dish (about 1/8″ thick)
    • Drape the rolled out dough over an ungreased pie dish and use your fingertips to press it down onto the dish
    • Pour the apple mixture over the dough
    • Cover the apples with the topping mixture – again, use your fingertips to pack it on there (this is the best part, so you’ll want to use all of it)
    • Now, to make this pie look pretty – trim the edge of the dough off with kitchen shears leaving enough over the edge to either pinch or roll up into a beautiful crust
    • Bake at 400°F for 50 minutes covered (with aluminum foil) and uncovered for an additional 10 minutes – everyone’s oven works differently, so just keep your eye on this to make sure it doesn’t burn!
    • I always have the best results when I let it cool for at least 20 minutes, then enjoy!