Monday, March 13, 2017

Christmas on Florida Street and other Stories: Our Interview with NPR StoryCorp

Florida Street in Detroit, Michigan. The neighborhood was almost exclusively Polish in the 1950s.

In January, 2017, my husband, John Rush and I recorded my stories of growing up in a Polish American family near Detroit, Michigan during the 1950s and 1960s. We were recorded by folks from StoryCorps at the StoryCorps van, which was visiting Fort Myers.
Click on the StoryCorps van above to access my stories of growing up in Detroit.

Many of the stories that were recorded have companion pieces in the written stories that appear on this blog. I thought it would be a nice idea for folks and family to be able to hear the stories in my own voice. Please feel free to send us comments.

John, me, and my sister, Barbara at a surprise Shrimp Dinner at her house in Michigan.




Monday, January 23, 2017

National Pie Day 2017 - Adam's Coffee Toffee Chocolate Pie

January 23 is National Pie Day so I decided to make a wonderful pie I have made before. The original recipe was called Blum's Coffee Toffee Pie and was taken from a restaurant that no longer exists in San Francisco, California. The Wives with Knives site has the original recipe along with more information about the restaurant and the pie

Unfortunately the recipe calls for raw eggs so that sent me on a hunt throughout markets in Fort Myers looking for pasteurized eggs--I didn't want anyone to get sick from raw eggs. Pasteurized eggs no longer exist in Fort Myers! I might have to check health food stores in the area, but I gave up after two hours of searching.

My recipe is similar, but not the same, but it sure makes a good pie and it is fairly easy to make! Enjoy!

Adam's coffee toffee chocolate pie, Coffee Toffee Pie, Blum's Coffee Toffee Pie, Blum's restaurant, Polish kitchen
Adam's Coffee Toffee Chocolate Pie - Finished product!
Rolling in the brown sugar and chopped nuts.
Pie shell ready for oven. Use a pie weight to keep crust uniform.

Adam's Coffee Toffee Chocolate Pie, Blum's Coffee Toffee Pie, Walnuts,
Nothing like a good cup of coffee to go with the Coffee Toffee Chocolate Pie!

Adam’s Coffee-Toffee Chocolate Pie

Crust:

1 refrigerated pie crust
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Filling

1 package cook and serve chocolate pudding
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee
2 tablespoons butter

Topping

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered instant coffee
1 tablespoon Ghiradelli unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon grated semi-sweet chocolate  or chocolate curls

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Crust:

Unroll pie crust. Sprinkle with brown sugar and walnuts. Use rolling pin to lightly press brown sugar and walntus into dough.  Line a 9-inch pie pan with the rolled-out dough, prick all over with a fork, then press a piece of heavy-duty foil snugly into the pie shell. Bake for 6 minutes, remove the foil, and bake for about 10 minutes more, until dry and crisp. Sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Return to oven for 1 minute. Then use back of tablespoon to spread chocolate over bottom of crust.

Filling:

Combine powdered chocolate pudding mix and instant coffee granules. Add milk and cook as directed. After pudding is cooked quickly stir in 1 tablespoon butter until combined. Pour into pie shell. Allow the pie to chill for at least four to six hours before adding the topping. 

Topping:

Combine the cream, confectioners’ sugar, and instant coffee in a large mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until the mixture is stiff. Spread the topping in swirls over the chilled pie and sprinkle with the grated chocolate or chocolate curls.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Post Christmas Brunch - Adam’s Eggs Benedict Florentine

Eggs Benedict Florentine Polish Kitchen Adam Janowski
Eggs Benedict Florentine - New Year's Eve Brunch 2016.
I first had this dish at my friend, Ted's apartment in Walldorf, Germany, the day after Christmas Dinner in the early 1980s. The apartment was overflowing with guests who were staying over from all over the world. It had been a raucous Christmas Eve with eleven men and one woman singing Christmas carols accompanied by two pianists playing on two baby grand pianos in a cramped living room. There was such a radiance and joy in that home that Christmas, that when one man, a steward for Lufthansa, was called and received late notice that he had to work a flight to South Africa that was leaving late Christmas Eve, that he cried, and we all were in tears as he departed. There was such a feeling of family in that apartment that night, and throughout the days of Christmas during my visit.

On the day after Christmas, two of the guests prepared the Eggs Benedict Florentine for the dozen or so guests visiting at the time. It was such a magical table. The house too warm and crowded, but oh, so cozy, the fragrance of balsam and fir, the smell of ham frying on the stove, and the loud laughter of young men in their prime vying for attention.

Most of the guests who attended that dinner are gone now, lost to the ravages of a disease that was unknown that joyous Christmas, that time of new-found love and joy and family.

I paid attention to the preparation of that dish, not taking notes, just mentally keeping track of what went into it, just as I took mental notes of the visit—I have no pictures of that visit, but it is one of the most vivid in my mind, and always will be.

Post Christmas Brunch - Adam’s Eggs Benedict Florentine

1 cup ham sauce (see recipe below)
2 English muffins, split, toasted, and buttered
3 cups fresh spinach
Garlic powder
1 package Hollandaise sauce, prepared as directed on the package
4 eggs, poached
8 thin slices of ham
1/2 cup butter, divided
Dash of paprika (optional)

Ham Sauce:

1/4 cup leftover ham drippings
1/2 cup red wine or red grape juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (if using grape juice)
1/2 cup chicken stock

Directions

Prepare ham sauce by combining ham drippings, red wine (or grape juice and vinegar) and chicken stock. Whisk in cornstarch. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Lower heat and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Adjust thickness of sauce with additional cornstarch dissolved in chicken stock as necessary. Set aside.

Sauté ham slices in 1 tablespoon butter.

Sauté spinach in 1 tablespoon butter and 1 dash of garlic powder. Set aside.

Toast English muffins and spread with 1 tablespoon butter.

Poach eggs to desired doneness.

Assemble dish by placing English muffin halves on plate. Top with ham. Spoon ham sauce over ham.

Top with spinach, poached eggs, and Hollandaise sauce. Sprinkle paprika on top if desired.

Eggs Benedict Florentine, Polish, Adam,


Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving in Michigan

As long as I can remember, Thanksgiving Dinner was always held at Uncle Vince and Aunt Mary’s home in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. The smell of the huge turkey baking in the roaster in the basement wafted throughout the house. All the relatives brought side dishes. After thoroughly stuffing ourselves, the meal was not complete until Uncle Ed said, “OK, who’s ready to go get some hamburgers!”

The Thanksgiving menu was traditional with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. There might have been a jello salad on occasion, but they were never memorable!

I still stick to the original menu, sometimes adding Corn and Oyster Casserole and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots. Thanksgiving is a time for comfort food not experimentation.

Adam's version of Turkey Tetrazzini.
This year, I did experiment with a leftover turkey dish making my own version of Turkey Tetrazzini. According to Wikipedia, “The dish is named after Italian opera star Luisa Tetrazzini. It is widely believed to have been invented circa 1908–1910 by Ernest Arbogast, the chef at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, California, where Tetrazzini was a long-time resident.”

I found several versions of the recipe, most including turkey, pasta, cream, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese, but the variations are endless. My version follows. My husband and I found it mighty tasty!

Adam's Turkey Tetrazzini Casserole

5 tablespoons melted butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 package (8 ounces) sliced mushrooms
1 can Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3 cups cubed cooked turkey
1/2 cup frozen peas, rinsed and thawed
8 ounces (1/2 of a 1-pound package) linguini broken in half and prepared as directed, drained
1/2 to 1 teaspoon McCormick’s Grill Mates Montreal Chicken seasoning
1/3 cup plain dry bread crumbs
Butter flavor baking spray

Directions

Set oven to 400 degrees. 

Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Combine one tablespoon of the melted butter with the bread crumbs in a small bowl and set aside.

In the frying pan with the melted butter add the onions and red pepper and sauté until onions are golden and the red pepper has wilted. About 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for an additional 6 minutes until the mushrooms are tender.

In a small bowl, whisk together soup, half and half, chicken broth and Parmesan cheese.

Add sauce, peas, and chopped turkey to frying pan and stir to combine. Add McCormick Montreal Chicken seasoning to taste.  Add the linguine and toss to coat. Spoon the chicken mixture into a 13x9x2-inch baking dish sprayed with butter-flavored baking spray. 

Bake for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the chicken mixture.

Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until is hot and bubbling.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Adam's Lemon Cream Cake

Although I have always liked to cook and bake, I never thought I could cook for large groups like the 2nd Sunday Brunch or fundraising dinners we have had at St. John the Apostle MCC Church in Fort Myers, Florida. When I first joined St. Johns I volunteered to help serve brunch, never thinking that someday I would be creating menus and executing meals for groups as large as 80 people. It still amazes me that I can pull it off at a reasonable price, with good quality and taste, satisfying most people. I do struggle with individual needs such as gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian, etc. I work with a simple home kitchen with usually a staff of one—me! (My husband John does dishwashing, taste-testing, delivering, helping set-up, serving, cleaning, and generally keeping me sane, for which I am very, very thankful!)

I am grateful that God has given me a talent that I did not know I had. And I am humbled by the words of praise that come from satisfied diners. It can often take days of planning, deciding, modifying, purchasing, fixing, delivering and serving a meal that is over in about an hour. The dinner itself has an ethereal quality about it. What took hours to prepare is gone within minutes. I am lucky if I take a photo of the end result and often I don’t--to my regret.

Adam's Italian Lemon Cream Cake (Photo by my niece, Jennifer)
I got the idea to make a lemon cream cake for the Lip-Schtick dinner, a church fundraising event, after having a piece of Italian Limoncello Cake at Bruno’s of Brooklyn Italian Eatery restaurant in downtown Fort Myers. If you haven’t been there yet, I highly recommend it. I don’t normally cook with alcohol so had to find a substitute. The Dickinson’s Lemon Curd worked nicely. If I had the time, I would search out a recipe for lemon curd on the Internet and make it from scratch, but Dickinson’s is very nice and it certainly is a timesaver.

Adam’s Italian Lemon Cream Cake

1 15.25-ounce box Betty Crocker Super Moist Lemon Cake Mix

3 eggs

1/2 cup oil         

1 cup cold water

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 10-ounce jar of Dickinson’s Lemon Curd (or you can make your own)

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 good sized tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar (sweet to your preferred taste)

1 8-ounce container of mascarpone cream cheese

1 and 1/2 teaspoons lemon flavoring.

Canned whipping cream

Jelly lemon pieces (Optional) (I found them on Amazon)

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour 3 9-inch baking pans or use a baking spray with flour. If you only have 2 pans, will have to reserve some batter and re-use one baking pan.

Prepare cake mix as directed adding 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest to the ingredients. Divide 3 equal portions and spread in cake pans. Bake approximately 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Do not overbake!

Remove from oven and allow to cool on rack for at least 10 minutes. Using a cookie sheet or big plate lined with parchment paper, flip the cake over and out of the baking pans. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for about an hour until chilled and firm.

When cool, spread about a 1/3 of a cup of the lemon curd on each cake layer.

Whip the cream until it starts to come to soft peaks. Add confectioners’ sugar, lemon flavoring and mascarpone, and continue to beat until hard peaks form. Do not overbeat.

You have a couple of options at this point. You can spread the cream equally on top of the lemon curd on the bottom and middle layers which is what I do, or you can reserve some of the cream and frost the sides of the cake with the reserved cream.

Put in refrigerator and chill about 4 hours or overnight before serving. This cake keeps well in the refrigerator.

Cut into serving size slices and place slices on their side. Spritz some canned whipping cream on each slice, then garnish with a piece of optional lemon jelly candy.

This cake is very rich so small slices will go far.