Friday, January 27, 2012

Red Pepper Black Bean Meatball Soup & a visit to Sun Peaks Resort

Well... I thought I'd squeeze in one more post prior to the weekend...  what the heck right?!  Besides, I actually REALLY enjoyed this soup... even had it for lunch TWICE!  (which if you know me, I usually "forget" leftovers in the fridge)..... aannnyyywaayyys.   It went something like this... it was a cold rainy Monday, just coming back from a weekend of "Champagne Powder" up at Sun Peaks Resort, BC.  I wanted a quick - yet hearty - soup to serve up for dinner...SO, I came up with this Red Pepper Black Bean Meatball Soup. (whew, say that 10x fast!) The quick part happens because I do use some pre-made "mixes" to speed up the process...  and feel free to switch around flavours / etc, to suit your families taste buds.  This is what worked for us.  I'm also throwing in a few pictures of our Sun Peaks trip... as it even though the "sun" really didn't "peak" (haha) out too much, it was still gorgeous!

Red Pepper Black Bean Meatball Soup
Red Pepper Black Bean Meatball Soup

  • 1 package (Campbell's) Red Pepper Black Bean Soup Broth
  • 4 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped yellow potatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 lb ground extra lean ground beef (seasoned with seasoning salt, garlic,pepper)
  • 1/4 cup chopped red pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 1 container (Philly dips) Low fat Smokin' Chipotle dip
Combine Red Pepper Black Bean Soup mix with chicken broth in a pot, over medium-high heat, add potatoes, carrots.  Bring to a boil, and let simmer until potatoes/carrots are fork tender.

While potatoes and carrots are cooking, make mini-meatballs using the seasoned ground beef.  Balls should be about 1/2 inch round.  When Potatoes/Carrots are fork tender, and broth is simmering, add meatballs and stir gently, until meatballs is no longer pink in middle.

Add red pepper, onions, mushrooms and pasta.  Stir frequently to ensure pasta does not stick to the bottom of the pot. 

When Pasta is done to desired texture, using a measuring cup and a soup ladle, remove 1 cup of broth mixture from pot.  Carefully mix in Smokin' Chipotle dip to the broth mixture in the measuring cup.  Stir until well mixed.  (the hot broth helps melt/blend in the dip).  Pour mixture back into the soup pot and stir soup until well blended.

Let simmer for an additional 5 mins.... and then... Bon Appetite!  (I added a little bit of Parmesan Cheese 'just cause' right before eating... but it's not necessary)

Coquihalla on the way up to Sun Peaks...
To get to Sun Peaks, you've got to go through a couple mountain passes, which, during the winter season, always makes for an "interesting" drive...  beautiful though!  Thank goodness the trip was pretty uneventful... I do know of times where you are "stuck" on the side of the road for several hours while crews do "avalanche control" .... not fun to wait!

Even without the "sun peak"-ing through, it's still a sight to see!  Now... if only I knew how to get down from the mountain! haha - I can handle a snowmobile... but my snow board and I... it's a love/hate relationship.  

What gets me through the aching knees, sore wrists, and general face plants in the so-called Champagne Powder up there?! .... The apres-ski soak in the hot tub!!  It's the simple things that I love! One of the evenings up there, we were treated to a beautiful sunset.  
 That's the view from "my seat" in the hot tub... which was breathtaking...  BUT you were treated if you took a moment - braved the minus degree outside air temps- and stood up....
What a way to end a day on the mountain...and start the evening!  While we were at Sun Peaks, their Winter Wine Festival was on.  It's not as "big" and "grand" as Whistler's Cornucopia, however, it did have it's advantages.  It was laid back, more casual - and while tasting some of BC's BEST wines... you were able to stroll through the village in the evening during the Progressive Tasting Event.  Fun in our group of 16, but would be great with a small group as well.  My suggestion; take a moment to try and "chat" with the different people representing the different wineries.  Not only will you gain the opportunity to try more wines, you will also understand better what you are tasting - and they have some great hints / pairings / tips on how to drink their wine so you enjoy it to its fullest potential.

One last little "look" into the weekend spent up there...  we took a quick 2 hour trek out on snowshoes...  now that's more my speed.  But don't kid yourself.. if you do an intermediate or advanced trail.. it's a heck of a workout!  A totally different "look" at the mountain... hiking through the snow covered trails is breathtaking (especially if you're climbing uphill) haha.  Did you know you still "sink" into the snow...even with the snowshoe on?? 

Well folks - be safe whatever you do this weekend!  Since it's been dumping down snow on those mountain passes... I believe the sleds are calling!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Ukie Christmas"...another MORRIS Tradition...

"The Ukrainian Christmas festive days according to the Julian calendar, start on 6 January, Christmas Eve, and end on 19 January, "Jordan" or Epiphany. (according to Wikipedia)."

For me, it also including several weeks of preparations.. and one hell of a day cooking, and opening my home to good friends for a great "Ukie" meal.  I believe this year's was my "7th Annual Ukie Christmas" - WOW, where does time fly?!, and what it has become to me is a gift - and a Thank you - to my closest friends.  It's a time right after the mad holiday rush to get all get together, eat good food (hopefully! haha), and just hang out.  Some people call me nuts... cooking for "that" many people, I don't think I'm THAT crazy - as I just feel like I'm in my element. 

Typical Menu -using some of the traditional thinking of what to serve (then throwing in some meat dishes, as typically, I do it after the actual Ukranian Christmas Eve) Every year making sure there is at LEAST 12 dishes - mainly consisting of Perogies (Varenky), Cabbage Rolls (Holubtsi), Crepes (Nalysnyky), Kolach ,  Turkey, Ham, Stuffing...and more.   I usually start preparing weeks in advance (a full day to make perogies is hard to schedule in!)...and the night before is a late one, ensure the Kolach is freshly baked, morning of - it's rise-n-shine, as in order to have everything done at once and before midnight, typically means the turkey -this years was 23lbs- has to be prepped, stuffed and go in by 9am at the latest!

The Ukie Spread....

This year was no different from the previous 6, aside from the fact, when we woke up... it truly was a WHITE UKIE CHRISTMAS! Which for those who do live on the WET COAST know that a "White Christmas" is a rarity.  Which meant there was an earlier "HONEY... WAKE UP!  Get the Shovel!" haha
Waking up to snow, and Jason shoveling the ROCKSTAR parking spot out....
Of course, you have to add in the good friends to EAT all of the food... Always a fun time!  I may not be able to formally SEAT everyone down at the same table...  however, I like to think we make do.  Serve everything up buffet style, and then you're on your own to find a seat...

Good Friends...Good Times!!
 And then, (well in MY circle of friends anyway)... where there's good food...good friends...there's also Good Drinks...which leads to Good Fun!  In our household... it's usually a show on the Garden Wall that just adds to the "fun".  This year... even with the snow covering the wall/ground... was no different! 

Gotta Love the Can-Can lesson in the snow!
To all of you who came out... Thank you.  I really hope you do enjoy the evening at least half as much as I enjoy hosting every year for each and every one of you.   Sometimes, its the simple pleasure of having everyone together enjoying that I find I remember and cherish the most.  Alot of people say the kitchen is the heart of the home. When it's full of people that mean the most to you, enjoying their time together, life just can't get any better at that moment.   Also.. thank you to my honey -xor- he has been right there with me, helping prep..entertain and clean up! haha ....  I love you all. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Kolach - Homemade Ukrainian bread... worth the work!!

"Kolach" - a braided ring-shaped bread.  The name is derived from the Ukrainian word "kolo" meaning a circle. 

For the longest time, I shyed away from "bread making".  If you've read up on the topic... many people swear how precise you need to be. Some of the recipes can be quite daunting!  Taking a cue from my Baba and my mom... precision in the kitchen isn't always a must! You think those cute ole' Ukranian Woman back in the day sat there and precisely weighed out their flour? Or used the exact temperature of water to activate their yeast!?  Heck no!  Though, I will say... all those tips and recipes from sites like Yeastspotting are fabulous - (I'm going to master sour dough, and french bread soon!)  However, some recipes like the one below, are basic, "easy" and oh sooooo yummy!  So mine may not be picture perfect.... but still think these are goregous...and taste even better!

My recipe is adapted from our family "bible" ..... "The Ukrainian Daughters' Cookbook" I use it for just about anything Ukrainian...and then some (omg their crackle top peanut butter cookies....YUM YUM) Years ago, my mom got a copy, and since then... I've got my own....that being said... there's something about "hers" that is just so sentimental.  It contains breakdowns for several of the larger recipes... umm... recipe for 100?!  (guess these Ukie Woman didn't mess around!) haha....


1 tbsp yeast*
1 cup luke warmwater*
2 tsp sugar*

1 cup sugar
4 cups warm water
3/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp salt
5 eggs, beaten
12 1/2  - 13 cups flour

**Dissolve the sugar and yeast in water and let stand for 10 minutes.  IF you are using "active yeast" you can omit this step, and add the extra cup warm water/sugar/yeast to the next step.

- Dissolve the cup of sugar in 4 cups of warm water.
- Add melted butter, salt, and beaten eggs. Mix in the flour and knead it till it is smooth and elastic. The dough should be a bit stiffer than for bread.  Keep adding flour a little at a time, and knead well in between.  The dough will be ready when your hands come out "clean".
- Cover, let it rise in a warm place until double in bulk. Punch it down and let it rise again.
- Divide the dough into 3 equal parts.
- Take 1/3 of the dough and divide it into 6 equal pieces. Roll 2 pieces to a length of about 30 inches.
- Put the two lengths side by side, and starting from the center, entwine the dough, thus forming a rope-like twist. Do the other half in the same manner.
- Place the entwined dough in a circle along the edge of a well greased 9 inch foil pan.
- Make 2 more twists about 24 inches long using the remaining 4 lengths of dough. Now take these 2 twists and entwine them in the opposite direction, making a double twist.
- Form these into a circle. Cut the ends at an angle and join neatly by pinching the ends together. There should be a small empty circular space in the center. If desired, you can keep the center open by placing a 12-ounce can that has had its outside well greased in the center.
- Cover, set the loaves in a warm place and let them rise till almost double in bulk. Be careful not to let the loaves rise too long as the ornamentations will lose their definition.
- Brush the surface gently with a beaten egg and bake at 350* F for1 hour. Like Easter "paska" or "babka", this dough is temperamental and should not be subjected to loud noises or constantly opening the oven door.
- Bake the "kolach" until they sound hollow when you tap the bottom. Place the finished "kolach" on cooling rack. 

The recipe above make 3 loaves of bread.  Typically, I make the first one a little bigger then the other two.  For the 2 smaller ones, play with the dough a little.  One layer of double twists, or braided dough made into a circle loaf tooks beautiful as well.  Kolach is awesome toasted and buttered for breakfast as well!  (Just saying!)  Your whole house will smell like sweet, rich bread - truly carb heaven!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Perogie 101

Perogies - Pyrohy - Varenyky- however you spell them... they are lil' bundles of comfort food heaven!  (ok, so that's in MY Ukie opinion!) .  There are literally tons of different ways to make them...from the filling, to how they are prepared. Boiled, baked, fried.... all of the above....  they are just plain YUMMY!

What some don't realize is the work, and time it takes to make a batch.  From preparing the basic dough... to creating whatever filling, to pinching each one shut by hand, it can quickly become an all day event! I mean... if you are going to make SOME ... may as well make SOME MORE ... they freeze incredibly well, and there's just something about being able to "whip up" a perogie dinner on those week nights that a good comfort-food dinner is in the cards.  We're talking pretty much a full day of "work" (okok, like about 4ish hours depending how quickly you can make em)... I typically make 3-4 batches of dough at once - using about 5lbs of potatoes for filling - this ensures a nice stockpile in your freezer.  SO... why wouldn't you just run to the store.. pay the $6 per bag, and pick up the frozen mass produced ones!? ... hmmm....  take one bite of a homemade perogie... and you wont ever ask again.  This time around, I WON'T be telling you my filling ingrediants percisely (trade secret after all) ... buuuuuut I WILL give you the basic perogie dough recipe, as well as my tips and basic filling suggestions, along with how I like to pepare that perfect Ukie "comfort food" dinner.  YUM YUM

Basic Perogie Dough  (Varenyky)

1 1/2 cup warm water
3 tbsp cooking oil
1 egg
4 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Combine water, oil, egg in mixer bowl.  Mix well.  (a wire whisk works well for this)
Add in flour, salt.  Using your Mixers dough hook,  start on low, until a dough ball starts to form. Increase speed slowly, (I have a kitchen aid mixer and used speed 2.)   Mix for 3-4 minutes, until dough ball is forms around the dough hook.

Remove dough from mixer, and place on a lightly floured surface.  Knead until dough no longer sticks to your hand - you can add a little bit of flour if needed, on contrary, if dough is too dry, wet hands, and knead in.  Dough should be smooth and not sticky.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover.  Let rest for 20 mins.

While dough is resting - prepare your filling.  Typically, I use a mixture of potatoes -cheese-bacon-garlic-butter.   Do an internet search of filling for perogies - there are endless possibilites.

When it's time to make the perogies - work in small batches to prevent the rolled dough from drying out.  Here's a couple other tips:

Don't have that "perfect" sized cookie cutter - who cares!  I use a white wine glass!  Roll your dough out, and cut out circles - I find about 16-18 circles at a time is the perfect size, as the dough tends to dry out if its laying on the counter to long - which means they won't close and pinch together.

Place filling in centre of dough circle, keeping potato away from edges.  **very important to not have filling on edges, as they will come apart when you try and cook them later!  Remember to start off slow, less is more.  As you get more comfortable with the dough and filling - increase the amount of filling.

Fold into a half moon, and pinch the edges shut.  **watch your seams!  Make sure there's no filling in the seams, or holes in the dough and that the edges are pinched completely shut.

Using a cookie sheet, lay each perogie flat in rows.  Typically I'll use a clean, freshly laundered dish towel to place over top of bottom layer, and then do a second layer of perogies, making sure they are not touching eachother.

Once the cookie sheet is full - carefully place tray in your freezer.  Once they are frozen, you can put them into a large ziploc bag.  You've now got your own - made from scratch - Perogies! 

Perogie Dinner - YUM YUM

So You've got your perogies, and now you wanna taste the finished product.  Here's a quick and easy dinner - what I like to call .... Ukie Comfort Food. 

- Boil a pot of salted water.Once fully boiling, place perogies in carefully. Using a wooden spoon, stir carefully so they don't stick.  Once they all float to the top - they are ready!  Remove from pot with a slotted spoon.... You can enjoy them as they are - drizzled with butter, onion and garlic - OR, you can take it a little step further....

Toss some chopped onion, butter,minced garlic and pepper into a frying pan. Fry until onions turn transluesent.  Add in some cut kobassa and fry until heated through.

Place boiled, cooked perogies in the hot frying pan with the kobassa mixture, and lightly fry the perogies until they get a crispy outside (to your taste). Flip them carefully to fry up each side.
Once they are done....  place on a plate with a dollop of sour cream...  ENJOY!!

HMM... now that I have a freezer full of perogies.... thinking cabbage rolls may be in order... hmmmm  Until next time... for now, I'm pooped!  time for a hot shower.. glass of wine... and sleep.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup & Snowmobiling for the 1st time this Season!

Christmas is over.  New Years – well - YUP… it’s a “New Year” ….. WINTER is here!  For some of us on the WET Coast – oops, I meant WEST coast (...really I did...), it means rainy days...nights...weeks…seems like MONTHS (Pretty sure a wooden ship full of animals just floated by my window)….  For others lucky enough to have a place to escape to - SNOW replaces the rain.  Throw in some mountains, a couple of snowmobiles, fresh mountain air and you’ve got a pretty wicked day!
Once it has been decided it’s going to be a day out on the sleds, there is several “to-do’s” that must happen in order to ensure a great day out.  First off… for me.. LAYERING. 6 ft plus of snow...higher speeds of travel and fresh mountain air, can equal a chilly day if you are not prepared.  Then there’s the gassing up of the sleds, checking oil, and all that fun stuff.  Those are what I like to call “BLUE jobs”.  I have my own “PINK jobs” to attend to.  Snacks for while we’re out there (sandwiches, water, granola bars etc). PLUS, after a long day out, the last thing I’ll want to do is worry about what to make for dinner. SO – I have my old faithful friend “slow cooker”.  Being that my honey loves Mexican Food, I went with a “Chicken Tortilla Soup” for us to return home to after a long day out playing in the snow.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
 Some simple quick prep, and POOF – your best buddy “Slow Cooker” stays home, on low, and does the work for you. 6-8 hours later, you've got a warm, comforting dinner just about ready to sit down to! Meanwhile while your out and about enjoying the day.  Below are some of the shots I got during our first few trips out for the season on the sleds... 

view from one of the "mountain tops" out on the sleds

By no means would I consider myself an intermediate rider, heck, I’m  barely suited to the title “Beginner” …  that being said, I’m pretty much loving the sled.  I let the “guys” do the big jumps, crazy carving through the powdered valleys and trails while I tend to attempt the smaller jumps – with some success, let’s just say though.. it’s a work in progress.

My honey on a small jump...

me...  taking in the view
  I have to say, we are quite lucky - it may not be extreme sledding - crazy mountain trails, it's still pretty darn cool that we can literally ride out of the front yard, up a steep "goat trail" of a pathway, and we are in god's country!

For it being relatively early in the season... there was a decent amount of fresh powder in most areas... at least 4-5 feet!   (for those extreme "slednecks" that's not alot, buuuuut for us rookies, plenty to play in)
Then of course, there's the little area of open water that was on the Lake, which *someone* who I won't name... couldn't resist playing on...  who knew sleds went on water?! This picture was taken right BEFORE the big roll over... I knew I should of been videotaping instead of trying to get pictures for here!  DOH! Sled's ok..  rolled several times after a "rough land" back on ground after gliding on the water. Rider's he flew off in the opposite (thank goodness) direction of the rolling sled.... He even went back and successfully did it again - just to show the area who's boss! haha

waters about 7-8 feet deep here...
 If you've never been out on sleds - or in the back country, I wish you could see what's there.  The sights are just beautiful.  Snow sparkles in the sunlight, and everything appears so peaceful.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thighs would work too)
1 small jalapeno diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 gloves garlic minced
1 can  diced tomatoes, including juice
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper (to taste)
1/2 package taco seasoning
4 flour tortillas, sliced into 1/4-inch strips
-remaining 1/2 package of taco seasoning
1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded (or tex-mex, or cheddar works too!)
  1. lightly spray slow cooker with PAM (or cooking spray) this helps with clean up after
  2. Place chicken in slow cooker
  3. In a separate bowl, combine jalapenos, garlic, onion, tomatoes,  chicken broth. mix well and pour over chicken.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. When chicken is tender, use the tines of 2 forks to shred. Add taco seasoning, add salt/pepper to taste.
  5. Just before you are ready to eat - preheat oven to 425F, give a baking sheet a quick spray of PAM (cooking spray) and lay out the sliced tortilla shells in an even layer.  give another quick spray with the PAM, and then sprinkle them with the remaining Taco Seasoning, even a little salt should you desire.
  6. Bake shells in oven until just starting to turn brown, and are crisp. stir once while baking. (about 5-8 mins.)
  7. Remove crisp shells from oven, and put into a serving bowl to have with the soup
    tortilla "crisps"
  9. Serve in soup bowls, topping each with shredded cheese, baked tortilla crisps

Guess he liked it eh?!?!