Smažený sýr (Czech fried cheese)

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Smažený sýr – pronounced like “smazhenee seer”

 

I can’t believe it took me this long to finally make one of my favorite (and yeah, not-good-for-you haha) Czech foods.

I first tried this fried delicacy when I studied in Prague during the summer of 2009. Fried? Cheese? As a sandwich? For the equivalent of $1usd? Those were the ingredients for a fast-food miracle. It may knock a few minutes off your lifespan, but as a treat once in a while it’s worth it. These sandwiches (served with mayo in a nice bun) were a quick grab during lunch breaks and roaming through St Wenceslas Square.

Traditionally this uses Edam cheese, which is what I used (by chance I found a 7oz wheel at Aldi for around $3, so I sliced it into two rounds).  My slices were a perfect enough size for some thin sandwich buns I had. I’ve read elsewhere online that you could also use Gouda or Swiss, but as long as the cheese is hard and isn’t easily meltable then it’ll be fine. My cheese wasn’t stringy or a molten pool; I was able to bite it cleanly.

Forgetting that the wheat sandwich thins I used were nothing like the lovely fresh buns I had in Prague, this sandwich otherwise tasted just as I remembered and it brought back some fun memories of that city. My mom also tried a bite of my sandwich and she also loved it. If you ever travel to Prague, you MUST order Smažený sýr at the food stands! (I usually pronounced the whole thing, but I’ve seen/heard it shortened to Smaž [‘smahzh’].)

It’s not much of a recipe because it’s very simple. You need flour, breadcrumbs, and a beaten egg for your breading, and then oil for frying. Then some mayo and a bun/bread.

 

Directions
1) Slice your cheese into approximately 1/2″ thickness.
2) Bread your cheese by first coating with flour, then dipping into the egg. Lastly, cover the entire piece with breadcrumbs.
3) Heat a bit of oil in a frying pan at medium-high heat. I used vegetable oil, just enough to coat the bottom of my pan. You could deep-fry this, but if you’re just making one or a few sandwiches then I think you’ll be fine with just a frying pan.
4) Fry your cheese for approximately 45 seconds on each side, until golden brown. It may start to ooze a bit at the edges along the middle (like in my photo) but it’s okay. This cheese won’t behave like Cheddar or American.
5) Quickly place your cheese into a warmed bun and slather some mayo inside. Eat immediately while your cheese is warm and soft.

Dobrou chut’! (Czech for “Enjoy your meal!”)

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Aussie Meatpies

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Today my mom and I made three varieties of meat pies – in all we made 26. Some were eaten freshly baked for dinner, and the rest were wrapped and packed away in the freezer for future meals. 

Our three varieties were:
1) Ground beef with a roasted beef gravy, traditionally eaten with ketchup
2) Ground beef with taco seasoning (eaten with some sour cream, cheese, etc on top)
3) Equal mix of ground chicken and turkey, with chicken gravy and veggies (pot pie)

Ours feature a Grands biscuit bottom and a Bisquick top. 

 

Ingredients for 12 pies: (recipe from my mother’s cookbook)
– Aluminum pans that are the size of mini pot pies like the cheapie 80c pies
– Grands biscuits, 2 or 3 tubes
– Approx 3 lbs ground meat: cooked, drained
– Gravies or seasonings
– 1 bag of frozen mixed veggies per 2lbs ground meat if you want a pot pie
For the top crust:
– 4 cups Bisquick mix
– 1 1/2 cups milk
– 2 eggs
– 4 tablespoons margarine or butter, softened

We don’t really measure for making the meat mixtures: we just mix and add until we like what we’re tasting and it’s moist enough 😛

 

Directions:
1) Cook your ground meat and drain it. Add your gravy; you want this mixture to be moist since it will be baked again and you don’t want it to dry out. For the pot pie mixture we had, it was 2lbs of meat with one bag of frozen mixed veggies and chicken gravy. Keep this mixture warm.
2) Preheat your oven to 375*F.
3) Spray nonstick cooking spray on the sides and bottom of your aluminum pans.
4) To make the bottom crust of your pies, cut a few of your Grands biscuits in half. Put one half with a whole, and between two sheets of parchment paper use a rolling pin to flatten them together. Place at the bottom of your pans and mold it up the sides.
5) Spoon approximately 2 ladles of the meat mixture into each pan.
6) To make the top crust, combine the Bisquick, eggs, milk, and butter in a bowl. It will be soft. Spread a layer of the dough on top of each pie, making sure that it reaches the edges.
7) Bake for 35 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the top crust appears fully cooked on its underside.

For our 26 pies we doubled the Bisquick dough, had approx 8lbs of meat total (2 of chicken/turkey, ~2 for the beef taco, and ~4 for the beef gravy), and 6 cans of Grands biscuits.

I know some of my measurements may seem vague, but other than the Bisquick we really didn’t measure much else. My mom isn’t much into measuring when cooking haha. If you have questions, please feel free to comment below.

Angel Flake Coconut Cupcakes

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I got this recipe from a recent edition of Relish magazine, a small weekly publication that comes with my Akron newspaper.

This cake has a light and delightful flavor of coconut, and I love the coconut flakes mixed in with the batter. While mixing the batter, it was thick due to the added pudding mix and I was a bit concerned, but the cake was so soft and light! I am definitely keeping this recipe, and I will make it for Easter as a cake. I may experiment with different pudding mix flavors with the batter and frostings in the near future.

The frosting is made with Cool Whip, so this cake will need to be refrigerated.

 

Ingredients:

1 package of yellow cake mix and whatever’s needed with it (oil, water, eggs)
2-2/3 cups coconut flakes
1-1/4 cups cold milk
1 package Coconut Cream instant pudding
1 package Vanilla instant pudding
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tub Cool Whip, thawed

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350*F.

2. Prepare the yellow cake mix as directed and also add 2/3 cup coconut flakes, 1/4 cup milk, and the dry coconut pudding mix. The batter will be thick. Pour into cake pans (or, in my case, cupcake tins). Bake cake according to directions, and cupcakes need about 19 minutes.

3. To make the frosting, whisk the dry vanilla pudding with 1 cup milk. Mix in the Cool Whip. Set it in the refrigerator to thicken as your cake cools. This will be a soft frosting and isn’t pipeable, so just use a knife to spread it. Sprinkle the remaining coconut flakes on top.

Turkish Coffee

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I’m surprised that I’ve never written a proper post about Turkish coffee, in all the years I’ve been blogging. Shame on me!

Turkish coffee has to be my all-time favorite coffee to drink. If it were quick and easy to make, I’m pretty sure I’d be drinking this every day. But, alas, I have it maybe once a month.

Turkish coffee is well-loved in the Middle East, Mediterranean, and Eastern Europe. You can actually use any kind of bean and flavor to make Turkish coffee, as this is really just a different method of preparation. Buy whole beans at your local grocery store, and find the “Turkish” setting on the grinder. It will be an incredibly fine grind. If your supermarket has a good international section, or you’re lucky to have an imports store in your area (I have a Middle Eastern store), you can buy already-ground coffee. Bosnia, Serbia, Greece, and Turkey are probably the countries you’ll find selling these coffees and being decently available in the US.

You need a special type of vessel to cook Turkish coffee, called a Cezve (or Dzezva, or other variant in spelling/language). It has a flat, wide bottom, which narrows at the top. There’s a bit of a spout, and there’s a long handle. You can also use a small normal saucepan.


(not my Cezve; found on Google Images)

What may surprise and perhaps gross out some Turkish coffee newbies is that there’s “dirt” at the bottom of the cup; this is the excess grounds. But, here’s a fun tidbit: these grounds were traditionally used to tell fortunes! I don’t know much about tasseography, but it would be a lot of fun to learn about someday. So keep it in mind while drinking your coffee; your fortune could be lying at the bottom of your cup! 🙂

Traditionally, little demitasse cups are used for drinking this coffee… but if you love it as much as I do, then you make a big mug! (I like to refer to it as “Turkish Coffee Americano” haha.) These demi cups hold approximately 3 ounces.

So let’s get on to making some Turkish coffee!

You will need:
– Turkish-ground coffee
– Sugar
– Demitasse cup
– Cezve, or a small saucepan

1. Use your demi cup to measure the water, if you are using demi cups. If you would like a coffee mug of this coffee, it’s equivalent to about 3 demi cups. Measure cold water into your Cezve.

2. Add your coffee. Per demi cup, add 1 to 2 heaping teaspoonfuls of coffee (for one mug, I measured 5 heaping spoons). Also, add one level teaspoon of sugar per demi cup (for the mug, I used a bit under 3). Stir with spoon very well.

3. Place your Cezve on the stove at medium heat. Do not stir your coffee while it’s cooking. A thick foam will rise to the top; do not let this overflow.

4. Once the foam has risen, remove from heat, and divide the foam evenly among your cups. Return the Cezve to the stove for a few seconds, until it foams again. Pour your coffee into each cup.

Of course, you can adjust your coffee and sugar to your likings after you’ve tried this ratio.

UPDATE, 5 May 2014: I made a mug of coffee using Chocolate Raspberry coffee beans at my local market. The beans are sweet enough on their own due to the infused flavors, so for one mug I used 5 spoons of coffee and 1 spoon of sugar. Even then it was a bit too sweet, but I don’t care for really sweet Turkish coffee.

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?????????? I absolutely ADORE my demi cup and saucer! It’s actually an authentic replica of Titanic’s 1st Class china. My mom got this for me as a birthday gift while we toured a Titanic artifact exhibit in Cleveland last year. Someday I would love to own a service-for-four complete set of this china! I know there are dinner plates, dessert plates, and soup bowls with this pattern.

?????????? Aaaand this is how I normally drink my Turkish coffee – in a mug! This is my awesome peacock-inspired mug that I got for Christmas.

Any other questions? Please feel free to ask in a comment below. And if you give Turkish coffee a try, let me know what you think of it!

 

Vanilla Cake (from scratch!) with Kahlua Buttercream Frosting

A baking first for me: cake from scratch.

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It was my mother’s birthday last week, but yesterday was when her parents came over for birthday cake. I offered to make her cake, and after some suggestions we decided that we’d try to make a vanilla cake from scratch. She had a recipe in her cookbook for a white cake; she had never tried it, so I figured that I’d give it a go.

The recipe was originally using almond and vanilla extracts; we’re not fans of almond flavoring, so we just replaced it with more vanilla.

We got mixed reviews on the cake. I’m not sure if it’s because we didn’t let it warm up to room temperature (it had been in our freezing sunroom), but the cake seemed dense and thick. Look in the photo below to see what a cut of the cake looked like inside. The batter seemed oddly sticky, whereas I’m used to runny batter when using mixes. Taste-wise, it tasted good. Nice vanilla taste, and wasn’t too sweet.

UPDATE: We put our cake slices in the microwave for a few seconds, and the cake was perfectly fluffy and light, so our problem was that we chilled/refrigerated the cake. I suggest keeping your cake room temperature as long as you can.

I baked this cake on a jelly roll pan, and then cut it into thirds to make a three-layer cake.

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White Vanilla Cake

2 3/4 cups sifted flour
4 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
2 t vanilla extract
3/4 cup butter
4 egg whites

1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease and flour pans. (Or, if you’re baking a cake like how I did, a sheet of parchment paper on a jelly roll pan will be enough.)

2. Sift flour with the baking powder and salt in one bowl.

3. In another bowl, combine butter with vanilla and cream until soft. Work in 1 cup of sugar until fluffy.

4. In a third bowl, beat egg whites until stiff, then beat in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar.

5. Add the flour and milk alternately to the butter mixture. Fold in the egg whites into the batter gently until egg whites are blended. Pour into pans.

6. Bake for 25 minutes or until it tests done, when a knife comes out clean. (If you bake in a jelly roll pan, it will be done in approximately 15 minutes.)

… but I’m going to guess that you’re more excited for the frosting. Boozy frosting? Yes please!

When I first made this recipe last week for cupcakes, I followed the recipe exactly. The Kahlua was DEFINITELY present, and perhaps a bit too boozy (like, I could feel it hitting me and making me feel a bit buzzed haha). When I made the frosting this weekend for the cake, I omitted one tablespoon of Kahlua and substituted it with one tablespoon of vanilla extract; it tasted much smoother, not as boozy, but still incredibly delicious. I imagine this frosting being great on Devil’s Food cake. Oooo baby!

Kahlua Buttercream Frosting

1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups (plus extra) powdered sugar
3 T Kahlua
1 t vanilla extract
3 T instant coffee granules

1. Cream the butter until smooth, then gradually add the sugar. Start off with the initial 1.5 cups.

2. In a small bowl, combine the Kahlua, vanilla, and coffee granules until the coffee dissolves.

3. Add the liquid to the butter-sugar mixture and mix well. Add additional sugar until the desired consistency is achieved.

* To frost the cake above, I doubled this recipe. *

For a bonus, here are the cupcakes I made last week for my mom’s birthday-day. It’s French Vanilla cake mix, with a Ferrero Rocher baked in the middle. Kahlua Buttercream on top. This was pretty much heaven in cupcake form. PERFECTION.

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