Hot Cross Buns

Happy Easter! My family is very Polish.  Think “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” but with short, stout, very pale people. We’re so short that my 5’11” husband is actually considered “really tall” in our family.  I am third generation Polish, so many traditions are still very present in our holiday celebrations.


(Our traditional Polish Easter breakfast we had this morning)

Dave is Irish, so therefore Casimir is half Polish, half Irish heritage.  Dave and his family don’t really incorporate any Irish traditions into their holidays, but I want Caz to have some insight into his Irish heritage.  We East Coast Poles are pretty pushy and Dave is from the Midwest, so I don’t want that part of him to get lost in the craziness.

I tried to find some information on  Irish Easter traditions on Pinterest to no avail, so switched to Google with some more success. I found a pretty informative website called Irish Central and found out that a traditional food on Easter are Hot Cross Buns. Food–something stout Poles like us can all agree on! The website even provided a recipe for the buns which I used with a few tweaks.

I am not much of a baker, but my mother is superb. We stayed the weekend at my parents, so I felt comfortable that Dave and I could tackle the buns under her tutelage. Actually, Dave is a pretty good baker as well, but neither of us have not really done the yeast bread type of baking.

My mom had a few tips I never would have known to do to get the best possible rise from the yeast.

First big tip: “Prove” the yeast by mixing it in lukewarm water. Setting the mixture aside and seeing if it rises let’s you know if the yeast you have is good or not. She said to touch it once it’s all puffed up. I’m not really sure what she was looking for, but to me it felt like the consistency of whipped cream, so I guess that’s what it should be like!

Second big tip: When adding flour to the yeast, egg, butter mixture, start with two cups of flour. Mix these two cups in thoroughly until dissolved. She said this is the gluten phase. It activates the gluten in flour and this helps with improving the rise of the dough.

Third big tip: Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes! Kneading helps fully develop the gluten. (Sorry gluten free people) This video shows a techique that my mom taught me growing up. Don’t forget to flour your kneading surface first!

Dave and I did all of these techniques and I think our Hot Cross Buns came out amazing!





HOT CROSS BUNS

Ingredients

2 cups scalded milk
 (Put milk on medium heat until a film forms on top)

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 packs dry yeast, dissolved in 1/3 cup lukewarm water

2 eggs

8 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 ½ cups dried currants

1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Pour scalded milk over butter and sugar, stirring to dissolve. Cool to lukewarm. After proving, add the yeast mixture and beaten eggs. Mix well. Gradually add the flour and salt. Start with quickly stirring in two cups of flour until dissolved. Then add the rest of the flour a cup at a time. Use a small amount of flour to dust the currants.

Add cinnamon and floured currants to the dough and knead thoroughly for at least 10 minutes. Place in buttered bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a floured surface. Shape dough into 30 buns and place on buttered cookie sheets.

Cover and let rise 30 minutes, then very carefully press the shape of a cross into each bun, using a spatula or the back of a knife. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until buns are browned, about 10 to 15 minutes longer. Frost.

White frosting:

1 egg

2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 tsp vanilla

Confectioners’ sugar

Beat egg white until stiff, adding confectioners’ sugar until mixture is thick. Add vanilla and lemon juice. If frosting is to thin, add more confectioners’ sugar.

Enjoy! We definitely will be adding this to our Easter Traditions in the future!



What Happened to Stacia May Cooks??

 My friend, Rachel, posted the following on my @staciamaycooks Instagram account:

 
It has challenged me to get my butt in gear and start blogging and cooking again. What happened? A lot has happened in the past year since I last posted.

Soon after my last post I found out that I was pregnant. 

  
Unfortunately with pregnancy there is this lovely side affect called “morning” sickness–more like “evening” or “all day” sickness for me! So cooking was off the menu for me, since I couldn’t even stand the sight of food.  I lost 15 pounds in my first trimester. As time went on I did end up being able to eat more normally again, but then came the fasting blood sugar test. I failed it the first time and then had to return for the dreaded 3 hour test. I failed that too. So what did that mean? It meant I had gestational diabetes (GDM) and had to eat a very specific diet.  It was summer, so my meals contained a lot of grilled chicken thighs and grilled veggies. Not too interesting for blogging, but I will say this, I always used a cookbook or made up my own recipes for the entire year last year! So I kept my resolution for 2015!

As the year progressed, due to the GDM, it became easier to just eat the same meals every day. One positive about that though, is that I didn’t gain that much weight during my pregnancy! 

 

(Sorry for the iPhone, mirror selfies, but I opted to not get maternity photos)

My water broke at 39 weeks and after 25 hours of labor, 3 hours of pushing and then an unscheduled C-section, Dave and I welcomed our son, Casimir Jack into the world in October of 2015!

 

Recovery from the C-section was pretty rough and while I was in the hospital we discovered the hard way (as in they had to call a code) that I am allergic to NSAIDs, such as Motrin and Aspirin.  My pain medication choices ended up being either Tylenol or Narcotics. Needless to say, I didn’t think being a zombie or high for the first few days of my son’s life would be good, so Tylenol it was!  I never had surgery before and the pain was pretty intense. 

Eleven days after giving birth, I became dehydrated and ended up back at the hospital. After that I realized that I was starting to develop post partum anxiety (PPA) which led to some post partum depression (PPD).  My counselor said anxiety and depression are cousins! Yay! Thankfully through prayer, counseling and medication I have greatly improved and am feeling more like my “normal” self. Little did I know that gestational diabetes and traumatic birth predispose a person to PPA/PPD.  Besides being just plain exhausted from recovering from surgery and taking care of a newborn, I think the PPA/PPD decreased my desire to cook and blog.  I used the wonderful meals provided by friends and family for the first month and half as an excuse not to cook as well.  Little by little I have started to cook again. I started out simple with basics like stir-fry or omletes.  On Valentine’s Day I made a yummy prosciutto wrapped, goat cheese stuffed chicken breast with pappardelle pasta and a side of salad.  

  

Dave was happy because he took me cooking again as a sign I was feeling better.  I also have tried some meal preppin’ a few times. If you’re ever looking for a good meal prep plan that incorporates most of the same ingredients made in different ways check out this plan I found on Buzzfeed!

And that brings us to the present–I’m feeling a lot better, getting back into the swing of my work routine, Casimir is sleeping pretty well at night–so time to get back to cooking and blogging. Not saying it’s going to be as consistent as it was a year ago, and I can’t promise it will always be from a cookbook, but it definitely won’t be a year until my next post! In fact, stay tuned, because tommorow I will have an Easter recipe to share!

  

P.S. If you or someone you know is struggling with PPA, PPD or really any mental health problem, please seek help! Like I said, a combination of prayer, counseling and medication really has helped me. And new moms, don’t try to be a hero and “tough it out”, we are not meant to do this alone! Reach out to someone–there is no shame in needing help!

Sage and Potato Pizza

I love Pizza.  Love it.  I would say it’s probably my favorite food.  But because pizza loves me too, especially my hips, I’m always looking for a delicious new healthy version.  I had some leftover sage, so I looked it up in the Joy of Cooking to see what I could do with it and lo and behold–Pizza!  Thin sliced potatoes and sage drizzled with olive oil, sounds great!

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It was a pretty simple recipe so I jazzed it up a bit, adding turkey bacon, onions, fresh ground black pepper and pink himalayan salt on a ciabatta crust.

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I sliced the onions and potatoes with a mandolin, to get them really thin. I still thought it needed something, so I garnished it with parmesan.

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I do admit I did not make the crust, it’s a pre-made ciabatta crust.  Perfect for this type of pizza, crispy and just the right amount of char.

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A tip for the ciabatta crust, to get the right amount of crispiness, bake directly on the oven rack–no pan.

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Sage and Potato Pizza

Ingredients:

3 slices turkey bacon, uncooked

1 medium sized potato sliced thin

1 small red onion sliced thin

2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)

1/2 teaspoon pink himalayan salt (or to taste)

2 tablespoons parmesan (or to taste)

1 pre-made ciabatta crust (or crust of choice, homemade or pre-made)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Brush the ciabatta crust with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Assemble the pizza by placing the potatoes on first evenly covering the crust, but not overlapping the potatoes.  Next, evenly distribute the onions.  Tear the turkey bacon into small pieces and place all over the pizza.  Finally sprinkle with sage, salt and pepper and bake directly on middle oven rack for about 10-12 minutes or until the crust is crispy and browned.  Drizzle with the remaining olive oil, garnish with parmesan and serve!

Serves 4-6

Firecracker Chicken Pasta

So I was scrolling through Pinterest–don’t worry, not for recipes, but for blogging tips and I found some photography tips from the blog Pinch of Yum.  When exploring her blog further I found that she put out an ebook with all of her photography tips.  I ended up buying the book and it has been very helpful in improving my photography game.  What do you think?

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The ebook is titled Tasty Food Photography by Lindsay Ostrom.  She goes through tips from using manual settings on a DSLR camera, to composition, to editing in photoshop.   The book has been helpful for me, especially with lighting and editing.

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I have seen improvements already in my photos and with practice it will hopefully only get better!

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Now for the food!  This recipe was given to me by my sister-in-law, Heather.  She said that when she made it for her family, they raved and raved, especially Steve, my brother-in-law.

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Since it had such great reviews, I decided to make it for a crowd, with a side of greek salad.  My church, Citylight Church of Philadelphia, has weekly “city groups”, which centers around a home cooked meal, studying scripture and hanging out with good friends.  I love that we do a home cooked meal each week and enjoy creating the meal for the group on occasion.  This recipe, Heather told me, is inspired from Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta.  I don’t know about you but, it combines some of my favs-chicken, cajun flavors and pasta!

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Happily, the crowd went wild for this, including a two year old picky eater!  Many people went for seconds and loved the heat of the cajun flavors.

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Good food, improved photos, happy bellies, what more could I ask for!

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Firecracker Chicken Pasta

Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts

4 teaspoons blackened seasoning

4 tablespoons of butter

1 Cup heavy cream

2 Cups half and half

(Can substitute heavy cream and half and half with 2% milk for a healthier recipe)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 large garlic clove minced (or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder)

1 pound penne or fusilli pasta

2 roma tomatoes diced

1 green bell pepper diced

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper

grated parmesan and blackened seasoning for garnish

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package details to al dente.  Put blackened seasoning to a resealable bag or container, add chicken breast and shake until chicken is covered with seasoning.  In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat.  Add chicken and turn as needed until cooked through.  As chicken is cooking, combine heavy cream, half and half, 2 tablespoons butter, lemon pepper, salt, black pepper, and garlic in a large saucepan. Reduce sauce until thickened and begins to be bubbly.  Add pasta and combine until sauce is incorporated.  When chicken is cooked, slice into strips.  Spoon pasta on a plate and top with chicken, tomatoes, peppers, parmesan, and blackened seasoning if desired.  Alternatively, mix half the tomatoes and peppers in with the pasta and top with chicken and the rest of the peppers and tomatoes, along with the parmesan and blackened seasoning.

Serves 4-6

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!  For a surprise I made Dave (and me!) chocolate covered fruit, with a little twist.

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Anjou Pears, Blood Oranges, Strawberries and Pineapples with dark chocolate…

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I sprinkled equal parts sugar with a savory ingredient such as cardamon, chili, cinnamon.

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I also seasoned some of them with fresh ground black pepper and himalayan pink salt

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I like a little savory with my sweetness and this chili power did the trick!

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I sprinkled each mixture on the chocolate after it was firm enough to set down, but not so firm that the flavors would not stay on the chocolate.

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Blood oranges are in season right now and they taste amazing!

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Pretty and delightful!