Food

All About Cheese

So, unfortunately, I am sick today. Thus I’m going to be writing a short post so I can go back to bed and get better. You know what’s great, cheese. Cheese is a magical substance that can transform almost anything into awesomeness. So, here are my favorite recipes concerning or featuring cheese because who doesn’t love cheese. (Click on the photos for the recipe)

Baked Fontina Cheese:

Caramelized Onion, Gruyere, and Bacon Spread:

Creamy Caprese Pasta:

Mac and Cheese:

Bacon Cheese Bites:

The Slow Dance Grilled Cheese Sandwich:

Advertisements

Bacon in All the Things, A.K.A. The Lithuanian Motto

Today’s post is again brought to you by LAWNDHAA, the Lithuanians Are Weirdly Not Dying of Heart Attacks Association. Here is a list of 6 Lithuanian foods that should kill me, but haven’t yet.

  1. Kepta duona:
    • This, at its simplest, is black bread fried in oil and rubbed with garlic. Easy, right? Not by a long shot, the best way to make this bread is to fry it in oil, then put it in a Ziploc bag while still hot with minced garlic and salt. Shake the bag a couple times and then leave for an hour or so to let the garlic soak in completely. As you can see, there are no precise measurements to this recipe. This is very common in Lithuanian food, because it’s all made to taste. Generally, the ratio is about 3 or 4 cloves of garlic per loaf of bread.
  2. Kugelis:
    • The most important line of the whole things though is, “Do not discard the drippings.” Just putting bacon bits in kugelis isn’t good enough for us Lithuanians; you gotta put the bacon fat in too.
  3. Lašiniuočiai:
    • This is a lovely little side dish for every family. They’re basically like normal dinner rolls, but with bacon inside, drippings and all.
  4. Bulviniai Blynai:
    • The traditional way to cook these pancakes is in lard, or some other form of rendered fat. Just let that sink in. These are basically flat french-fries, and you eat about ten of them in one sitting, or 4 if they’re the size of plates…. Which they sometimes are.
  5. Cepelinai:
    • These are dumplings with potatoes on the outside instead of dough that are the size of a human hand. Then you pour a mixture of melted sour cream and bacon on top. ‘Nough said.
  6. Krustai:
    • And finally we come to dessert. You will be happy to know that there is no bacon involved, there is fat but only because these pastries need to be deep fried. And we did kind of negate the no bacon by adding alcohol…

Well there you have it, 6 Lithuanian dishes that should’ve probably killed me by now. If you’re in the Chicago area, you can visit Racine Bakery to try out the baked goods, or Cafe Smilga to try out the hot dishes. Gero Apetito.

Šaltibarščiai

Šaltibarščiai
(Cold Beet Soup)
1 lb. red beets
2 cucumbers
3 eggs
4 c. buttermilk
2 scallions
Pinch of fresh dill
Salt
Cook whole beets; cool them. Peel and grate coarsely. Peel cucumbers; cut into little squares. Chop the hard-boiled eggs, chop the scallions.
Mix everything except buttermilk together. Pour buttermilk in and stir, salt to taste. Put in refrigerator to cool. Serve with boiled young potatoes sprinkled with chopped dill, or hard-boiled eggs.

Look at that. Have you ever seen anything tastier? If you’re American you’re probably like, “Yes, Julija, of course I have seen something tastier than bright pink soup.” To which I say, “… it’s really good, I swear.”

My mom has been making this soup for us since we were children, and I’ve always tried to get my friends to try it. I’ll talk about how refreshing and cold it is. I’ll talk about how putting hot potatoes in the cold soup adds a whole ‘nother layer of creamy, warm goodness. But inevitably, as soon as they see the bright pink color, they cringe and decide they don’t want any. I never really understood why this particular color was so off-putting. It’s really a lovely shade of pink. In Lithuanian tradition we use beets a lot. So, we also have a cold pink salad called vinegretas and a hot pink soup called just barščiai. I guess I just grew up used to pink food, and thus don’t have the aversion. It’s kind of like a super power. Lithuanians eat some weird stuff, (jellied fish… actually jellied any meat, pig’s ears, smoked eel, and pickled everything) and I have tried everything at least once and liked most of it. I can try almost anything, no matter how strange it looks, because that’s what I have been doing my whole life.

Of course I went through a period where I wanted to not be Lithuanian anymore. I wanted to not eat weird things for dinner and be just like everyone else. Not anymore. Not having Lithuanian food readily accessible for four years made me realize how great it is. I, like the X-men, have embraced my super power. I am a super-eater! I know other cultures have these kinds of things too, and kids growing up in America may feel that they don’t want their food to be weird anymore. But I say, embrace your superpower. Your food is one of the things that defines you, and your culture. So, kids of the world, stand up and be proud of your weird food. It’s probably delicious, and if not well… it builds character.

10 Reasons Honey is Magical

So, I don’t know if you’re aware, but honey is awesome. Here’s why.

  1. Honey that is sealed properly will never spoil. Sealed honey found in King Tut’s tomb could potentially still be edible despite over 2,000 years. 
  2. Bees have to fly over 55,000 miles to make 1 lb. of honey. 
  3. There is a medical grade honey which is used to sterilize instruments and treat wounds. 
  4. Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including water. 
  5. Bees have been producing honey for at least 150 million years. 
  6. Eating local honey is thought to decrease seasonal allergies, because it contains the pollens in the area and allows the human body to develop antibodies to the pollen over time. 
  7. The first recorded word for honey comes from the Proto-Indo-European language and was melit. However, the Germanic languages started describing the substance by its color using the word for golden brown, huna(n)go. This eventually become the word we know and love today, honey ( or hunny as Pooh Bear Spells it). 
  8. Honey is the only substance produced by insects that humans consume. 
  9. Honey is also known as the nature’s energy booster as it is the greatest source of carbohydrates, glucose and fructose as well as anti-oxidants.
  10. Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic substances on the planet and is made by fermenting a mixture of honey, water, and yeast.

    Don’t be sad, Pooh! Think of all the mean you can make.

The Day My Whole Life Changed

The Day My Whole Life Changed

Part 1:

By Julija Petkus

I sit in a dim, dank room and try to get my bearings. There is a dull throb in my head and I can feel a slow stream of what I presume is blood slinking down my neck. I can feel the hard plastic of a zip-tie holding my wrists together behind me. My legs appear to be unbound, but they hurt so much I don’t think they will support my weight. I must have broken at least one bone in each of them when landing. I continue to take stock of my injuries instead of thinking about where I am (three major bruises: arm, side, and head; wounds on my bare feet that have scabbed over…). I hear a door open and shut in a shadowy corner of the room. There is a whisper of fabric, and I can see the vague outline of a person standing in front of the door. He walks forward into the feeble light. The man stands directly in front of me a few feet away, staring.

“Who… who are you?”

He stares, harder.

“What do you want with me?” My voice cracks, betraying my fear.

The man walks a little closer to me and examines my face. His eyes are clear blue, too beautiful for his face. I try and be brave and stare him down, but I know he can see the dread pouring out of the golden brown swirls of my eyes. I can’t stand to look at him anymore; I turn away. He inhales sharply and deeply. Then he turns on his heal and walk away, out of the room through the door I can’t see.

As soon as I hear the click signaling his exit I can feel the sobs bubbling in my throat. My breath comes in gasps as I try and swallow them down. It’s no use. In an instant, the floodgates open. I’m sobbing like I did when I was a kid and had nightmares, but this time I can’t just run to my parent’s bed and fall gently asleep in their arms. This time, I am alone.

TO BE CONTINUED….

Part 2

Varškečiai

Today’s post is brought to you by the Lithuanians Are Weirdly Not Dying of Heart Attacks Association or LAWNDHAA for short.

VARŠKEČIAI

(Gnocchi? Dough pillows?)

2 c. flour

2 lbs. Farmer’s Cheese

6 eggs

2 tsp. salt

Mix together above ingredients, and form into a ball. Cut ball of dough into four parts and form four balls. Roll out dough into snake of desired thickness and flatten top. Cut into 2 inch parallelograms and cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. When cooked remove from water.

 This recipe is not my family’s recipe because there is not set recipe, just a general set of  guidelines for how to make these wonderful little pillows. My grandma says that  varškečiai (or selnėkai) are all about the texture. The dough cannot be grainy or dry, but  it also cannot be too sticky. The perfect dough is slightly firm, but springy. As for the  taste, well, they honestly don‘t really have any. They, like gnocchi, are meant to let the  sauce shine. And our sauce… is terrible for you.

In order to make our special sauce which accompanies varškečiai, you need a whole tub of sour cream and two or three whole stick of butter. You put both in a saucepan, stirring occasionally until everything is melted. Then you pour it over the varškečiai while still hot and you‘re done. Our sauce (which we put on a lot of things) is just butter and sour cream melted together. How my family manages to avoid obesity is a mystery to all of us. I always marveled at the fact that this is the only dish I can think of (besides the ones we eat at Kūčios) that doesn’t involve bacon in some way. I have some theories:

  1. When this dish was created the last piece of bacon had been used and since then it’s become tradition.
  2. This is a dish the pigs themselves developed because they were sick of being eaten.
  3. This dish was meant to be eaten on Fridays during lent when fish was too expensive or not readily available.

I’m pretty sure it’s number three. The way I have been raised, Lithuanian and Catholicism is one and the same thing. I grew up thinking that all Lithuanians were deeply religious and that Catholicism was one of the main principles that shaped the country. Although that is fairly accurate, I now realize that I grew up in a community that was all about preserving the Lithuania my grandparents knew. I grew up in a community where communism could not oppress Catholicism and thus it flourished. But in Lithuanian, that isn’t anywhere near the reality. In Lithuania, Catholicism had to grow in concrete and barbed wire, under heavy boots and rifles. It had to grow in dank underground caverns and ‘dangerous’ books In constant fear and oppression. But grow it did, if only little by little.

There is a hill in Lithuania that is completely covered in crosses. People have been leaving crosses on this hill since the late 1800 in order to remember fallen brothers whose bodies were never found. It was never a big deal until the Soviets came along. They bulldozed that hill at least three times. And what happened after the place was leveled? Within days the hill would be covered in even more crosses. The people used this as a sign to the Soviets that they were still there and true to their faith and country. If only in secret.

My great great-uncle was a catholic bishop in Lithuania, and he died defending his  faith. I have seen his face only in museums and books. But he was a minority. Many  abandoned their faith to avoid torture or death. My uncle died for no reason. He did  not inspire a great uprising, or become a saint. He died and was forgotten. That is  until Lithuania was free again. When Catholicism was free again. The people sang of  his faith, and his name has become familiar to many, but he died alone.

I’m considering becoming a rebel and trying the varškečiai with bacon. But then I would have to make them, and they are incredibly time consuming. When I grew up enough to help my grandma in the kitchen I saw how much labor went into each and every little perfect bite, and I developed a great appreciation for my grandma and the varškečiai. After having worked so hard on them each bite was sweeter and more delicious. The work and struggle make them better, stronger. Like a faith grown among weeds.

Sorry I took a break, but look……. things. :)

Hi there! Sorry I took a break yesterday; I was working on a plan for this blog! Yay! I finally figured out a schedule of what I’m going to do (that I’m going to share with you so you can avoid days you don’t care about).

The schedule is:

Monday – Nerdiness

Tuesday –Story Time

Wednesday – Marketing and Media

Thursday – Wild Card

Friday – FOOD!

So, unfortunately I missed yesterday, but today is a new day and story time! This one is brought to you by my family again. Enjoy!

My dad rarely had to cook for us when we were kids. My mom was a typical stay at home mom, and thus it normally fell on her shoulders. When I was about three or four, she planned something that forced her to be out of the house at dinner time.

“Just give them Mac-n-Cheese. It’s really easy, just follow the box.”

Of course it wasn’t that easy for my dad. He read the box and decided that he didn’t need those precise measurements. He knew what a tablespoon was and that was good enough. My dad overestimates his guestimating abilities quite a bit.

I wasn’t actually paying attention at the time the flour was added but I have heard this story so many times from my brother and sister that I feel like I saw every little thing. First, my dad did not put in enough milk. Then, he put it too much butter. Finally, he put in more milk and the “easy” mac-n-cheese had turned into mac-n-cheese soup. Drawing on all of his “vast” cooking experience, my dad had a brilliant idea. When dough is too watery you add more flour, so when pasta is too water clearly you must be able to do the same! The resulting goop looked like no other mac-n-cheese I had seen or have seen since.

Being the well behaved children that we were (wink, wink), we withheld our complaining until after we had taken a bite. The travesty of my favorite dish was somehow gummy and gritty at the same time. It tasted like salty death, and my fork barely managed to free itself from the swampy goo. To this day we don’t let my dad anywhere near the kitchen.