Tag-Archive for ◊ Olympics ◊

18 Jan 2014 Russian Tea

Russian-Tea-1a

Are you old enough to remember the “Russian Tea” phase back in the 70’s?  I was a teenager then, a very young teenager, and our Moms and Grandmas were mixing up batches of Russian Tea like crazy and giving everyone little jars of the stuff.  I think the mix had instant tea, Tang (remember Tang? Astronauts drank it!), powdered lemonade, and some spices.  You opened up your gift jar, spooned some mix into a cup, added hot water, stirred it up and  you were drinking Russian Tea!  I liked it. It was a different hot drink.  I wasn’t into coffee yet, Hot Chocolate was too childish, English tea with milk was OK, but boring. Russian Tea was fun and different–and a bit exotic.

Fast forward to February 7th, 2014, Opening Ceremonies for The XXII Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia and I will be hosting a Russian Themed Winter Olympic Dinner.  What to have to drink after dinner? My daughter suggested Vodka shots off the tip of a sword.  Umm, no.  A citrus-y, sweet, slightly spicy version of Russian Tea is more up my alley — but not made of Tang, Country Time Lemonade and Nestea. So I hit the Internet.  First spoiler, the so-called “Russian Tea” of the 70’s isn’t Russian at all. It’s an American concoction! The only thing Russian about it is it’s name.  Shhhhhhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone!  Real Russian tea is “Russian Caravan” tea, because tea used to be imported to Russia from China, via a 16-18 month caravan, and it acquired a smokey flavor from all of the caravan campfires, according to Wikipedia.  So, I went to my local Russian grocery store, yes, we have one in San Jose, and I couldn’t find “Russian Caravan” tea anywhere (nor anyone to help me), but lots of Earl Grey.  I am not serving Earl Grey tea at my Russian Dinner.  Early Gray Tea is English and I don’t like it, it’s too smokey!

So now I am back to my original “Russian” Tea quest.  I found some recipes on the Internet, checked out their star ratings, and tried a few.  One was truly horrid; it involved extracting the juice from oranges and lemons, then boiling the  rinds in sugar and water then adding  the liquid to cold tea. I was skeptical, but the very attractive, very sincere lady on the YouTube video seemed nice, and she was raving over her tea! So I tried it.  She was not honest. Her tea was bitter and horrid.  Of COURSE it was.  Boiling all that pith then adding it to the tea? I should have known better. Why do people post bad recipes?

Eventually, I came up with this version for fresh Russian Tea.  I like it.  I really like it. I served it to five friends and two relatives, and they all said they liked it.  Then I served it to another relative, the daughter who suggested I serve vodka shots off the end of a sword, and she hated it.  I was SHOCKED.  I tied her down and make her try it again.  She STILL didn’t like it.  Harrumph.  She’s no longer my favorite child.  My son loved the tea.  He said, “That’s good.  That’s really, really good.”  He’s a good boy. He’s my favorite child now.

This “Russian” tea is in the same family as hot tea with lemon and honey, but with orange added, and some cinnamon, and a few cloves, it’s a bit more complex (there’s no honey in this tea though).  I’m going to serve it at my Russian themed Winter Olympic dinner, but I’ll brew a pot of Earl Grey, too… for the weirdos.

You all know I am not a photographer, right?  I thought I was being deliciously creative setting up a picture to look like hot, citrus-y, Russian tea in cold, stark, white snow.  Epic fail.  What I got looks like tea in bubbles, oh, not even that, it looks like tea in pillow stuffing, which it is.  Can you overlook that?  Can you just try this hot, citrus-y, slightly spiced, American-Russian tea?  I think you will be glad you did.  Just make the tea once, and put it in the refrigerator to reheat as needed. Ponyat’? Da?

I am really getting into the Olympic/Russian thing now. I made Pierogi for dinner last night, and I ordered a Pierogi press and a Pierogi cookbook written by a real babuska from Amazon.  I am trying to find a Russian outfit to wear. It seems I should go as a babushka.  I already have all the right clothes in my closet…and you know, Vodka shots from the end of a sword might not be too far fetched!

Russian Tea

  • 4 strong black tea bags
  • 1 quart (4 cups boiling water)
  • Zest of 1 1/2 oranges
  • Juice of 1 1/2 oranges (about 2/3 cup)
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • Juice of 1 large lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 6 cloves (0k to double for spicier drink)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (ok to use 2 for spicier drink)
  • 1 cup sugar (might be ok to reduce to 3/4 cup for a less sweet drink)
  • 2 cups cold water 
  1. Make 1 quart of tea by pouring 1 quart of boiling water over 4 teabags and seep for 5 minutes.  Remove tea bags from hot tea and set tea aside.
  2. Zest the oranges and lemon. Put the zest in a small saucepan.
  3. Add 1 cup sugar and 2 cups cold water to the zest in the small saucepan.
  4. Bring water, sugar, and zest to a boil and boil for 5 minutes.
  5. Juice the oranges and lemon. Pour the juice into the brewed tea.
  6. Strain the  boiled water, sugar, spices and zest mixture the add to tea and juice mixture.
  7. Stir well and serve or refrigerate mixture until ready to use. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove top.
  8. Enjoy the Olympics!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  BTW, I tried one more drink in my quest for my Olympic dinner, but I think that one qualifies as a dessert (and a gold medal)!  White Hot Chocolate.  Too, too, too decadent to post…I must keep my fans from sinning…I must…I must…OK, OK, I’ll post it soon!

17 Oct 2011 Brown Bag Popcorn

I have been meaning to post this for ages.  It’s so simple.  It’s so easy. It’s so GREAT.  Listen, there is no need to buy any more packages of oily microwave popcorn!  REALLY!  Save money. Save calories. Reduce waste. Skip the preservatives.

Those big time popcorn companies really pulled one over on us.  You don’t need thier fancy box,  their fancy bag, their celephane overlay, their oil (or any oil at all), to pop popcorn in the microwave.  You just need one plain brown lunch bag (approx 10.5 inches x 5.5 inches), 1/3 cup of popcorn, and 1 microwave, and 2 minutes on the timer.  DONE! It’s like….a miracle!

Why did I post this recipe now?  Because a Pumpkin Spice Coffee (my previous post) a fresh bowl of popcorn, and reality TV  is just about the perfect way to enjoy a bit of fall R&R. Project Runway hails on Thursday.  Brew the decaf.  Pop the corn.  Slippers.  Snuggle quilt. It’s gonna be a good, good night!

Brown Bag Popcorn

1/3 cup popcorn kernels (no more, no less)

1 brown lunch bag

1 tablespoon melted butter, if desired

pinch of salt (to taste), if desired

Pour the measured 1/3 cup popcorn kernels into the brown bag.  Fold the top of the brown bag down at least twice, just so the bag fits into the microwave and is able to turn.  Set the timer for 2 minutes.  POPCORN!  IF desired, drizzle the freshly popped popcorn with 1 tablespoon butter and a pinch of salt.  Shake in the bag to combine.  Then pour into a bowl and enjoy.  Serves one or two.

Just a few notes…there will be some unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bag.  Look for them, and then don’t pour them into the serving bowl!  Measure the popcorn!  If you get too much popcorn in the bag the bag could burst.  If you put in too little, the popcorn could start to burn.  Gray popcorn does not taste good.

My grandson likes popcorn for breakfast. I think it's a lot better for him than highly processed, often highly sugared, always full of preservatives boxed cereal.

It’s so SIMPLE!  Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  I hope there are many bowls of freshly popped popcorn in your future.

 

 

03 Feb 2011 Caramel Corn

Ooooh, Caramel Corn!   Isn’t it lovely?  You know I am not talking about that stale, pale, powdery stuff out of a bright and cheerful tin.  No, no, no, no, no!  I am talking about real Caramel Corn, the homemade variety.  Caramel Corn made with love.  Lots of love.  Lots and lots of love.  Truthfully, Caramel Corn is a bit of a  bother to make.  It’s going to take a commitment.  It’s going to take some time.  And it is going to make a mess in your kitchen.  It’s kinda sorta along the same lines as giving birth  (Forgive me for this analogy). At first bite – that first crisp, sweet crunch – the pain of bringing it forth will be forgotten.

Here’s my recipe.  I think I first got it from Taste of Home about, oh, maybe, five years ago.  Over the years, after reading every other Caramel Corn recipe, and testing out and then incorporating the best tips, I have improved upon their recipe.  It’s still a mess to make, but, using this recipe has a guaranteed outcome.  I know this recipe works.

There are a lot of occasions coming up where Caramel Corn would be very welcome.  What’s happening back East right now?  Snow Days!  How about a Movie Night?  I just had friends over to watch a few of this years “Best Picture” Academy Awards nominees.  Then, in a few weeks it will be the Academy Awards themselves.  Let’s not forget abut Super Bowl Sunday: the best reason on the planet for the best snack layout of the year!  Touchdown! And, Valentine’s Day. Just pop Caramel Corn in those heart motif bags and you’re all set. Your Valentine will melt in your arms…

Need some more reasons to make Caramel Corn?  (Tough crowd today…) Caramel Corn can be made ahead, way ahead, like a week or more.  Once made, Caramel Corn is no more bother.  Just pour it in a bowl on put it on the table.  No refrigeration.  No reheating.  No slicing. No spreading.  No dip.  No utensils. Leftovers, highly unlikely, but if there are any, will keep for up to two weeks. The real reason to make Caramel Corn though?  The taste.  That sweet, crisp crunch.

Caramel Corn

  • 1 cup unpopped popping corn (divided use)
  • ¼ cup vegetable, canola, or corn oil (divided use)
  • 1 cup butter (no substitutions, no margarine)
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Set out two large, rimmed baking sheets and one clean, large brown grocery bag.
  2. First, make the popcorn.  You’ll have to do this in two batches.  Get out your biggest pan (I use my stock pot) with the tightest fitting lid (if the lid is glass, you’ll have it made in the shade).
  3. Note:  I make my popcorn the old-fashioned way, on the stove, in some hot oil, as the directions below reflect.  I am guessing you could also make the popcorn in an air popper or in the microwave.  If you choose to go down that path, skip the popping directions below, use your own method, and have about 16 cups of popped popcorn warming in the oven when you start on the caramel part of this recipe.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of the pan.  When oil is hot, stir in ½ cup unpopped popcorn kernels.  Put the lid on and SHAKE the pan like crazy. After 2-3 minutes, the popcorn will begin to pop.  Keep shaking the pan!  When you can see (if you have a glass lid) or hear the corn has stopped popping for 2 seconds or more, remove pan from heat.
  5. Pour the popcorn onto a baking sheet and place in warm oven.
  6. Make the second batch of popcorn.  Wipe out the hot pan and repeat the steps above with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and ½ cup unpopped popcorn kernels. The popcorn will cook faster this time around because your stock pot should already be hot.
  7. Put the second batch of popcorn onto the second baking sheet and place in warm oven.
  8. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
  9. Stir brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt into the melted butter and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Now, STOP STIRRING.  Let mixture boil, undisturbed, for four minutes.
  10. Remove warm popcorn from oven.
  11. Pour ½ of hot syrup over each tray of popcorn.  Stir to combine.
  12. You can skip this step if you want, but I find it helpful.  Pour the partially coated popcorn into a clean brown paper grocery bag.  Fold over the top to seal, then vigorously shake the bag to evenly coat with the caramel syrup.
  13. Pour the popcorn back onto two baking sheets.
  14. Place popcorn in preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and stir to evenly coat caramel over all kernels.  Return pans to oven, switching pan locations.  Repeat three more times, so the popcorn bakes for 45 minutes total.
  15. Remove pans from oven and let cool.
  16. Serve, or store in air tight container until ready to serve.

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen today!  I hope you like the Caramel Corn. Want to serve it with Maple Bacon popcorn?  Stop by again, I have that recipe in my line up. Enjoy!

21 Oct 2010 Soft Pretzel Bites

Time to play in the kitchen again! I am not a newbie to homemade soft pretzels.  My favorite bread machine cookbook “Bread Machine Magic” has a recipe for “Special Ed-ible Pretzels” on page 158 which I have been making since my kids were in elementary school (they are in college now).

I had never made pretzel bites until I stumbled onto this post at Two Peas and their Pod. I made the recipe, but the pretzels didn’t taste as good as I was used to.  So I got out my old “Special Ed-ible Pretzel” recipe and combined the best of both, to get these.  My family, and some of my son’s friends, ate both batches. Both were good, but they liked this batch the best.  The changes I made to the Two Peas recipe were: amount of baking soda in the water (down from 3/4 cup to 2 1/2 T), using 2 tsp. white sugar instead of 1 T. brown sugar, replacing the egg wash with a brush of butter, doubling the yeast, and halving the recipe.

Polly’s Notes: This recipe can be successfully doubled (since I successfully halved it!).  Dips would be good to serve, but I haven’t made any yet. Two Peas has a recipe for a cheddar cheese dip, but I did not test it. If you know how to make a pizza sauce dip, that would go well too.  And since we are in Oktoberfest season, mustard might be good but, there is nothing wrong with eating these “plain”  in their basic buttery, salty goodness, which is what we do. Pretzel bites should be eaten warm. They don’t keep well at all.

Soft Pretzel Bites

3/4 cup warm tap water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 tsp white sugar
4 tsp vegetable oil (or melted butter)
2 tsp. yeast
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp. Kosher salt (or ¾ tsp table salt)
10 cups boiling water
2 ½ T. baking soda
1 T. melted butter
Kosher salt

Combine water, sugar, yeast and oil in a bowl.  Stir to combine, and then let sit for 5 minutes.  Add the flour and the salt to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Pour in the yeast mixture, stir to combine then beat with a dough hook for 3 -5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  If your dough seems a bit wet, add additional flour 1 T. at a time.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in warm place to rise for about 60 minutes, or until dough has doubled in volume.  Preheat oven to 425º.  Bring the water and the baking soda to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer.  Meanwhile, divide dough into 4 equal sized pieces.  Roll each piece into a rope, about 12 inches long.  Cut dough into 1 inch slices.  Rest slices on a rack over a baking sheet.  You should have about 48 pretzel bites.

Boil the pretzels bits in the simmering water, adding 10 – 12 bites to the water at a time.  Boil each batch for 30 seconds, stirring gently.  With a slotted spoon remove boiled bites to rack to dry slightly.  Sprinkle each bite generously with Kosher salt then place on a well greased cookie sheet.  Bake in 425º oven for approximately 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Brush baked bites with melted butter.  Add a bit more salt, if desired.

Wait five minutes, then these bites are ready to be devoured.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today. Have some fun, invite some kids over and play in the kitchen! I’d be interested in hearing what sort of dip, if any, you served these with.

05 Jul 2010 Pickle Fried Chicken
 |  Category: Appetizers, Poultry  | Tags: , , , ,  | Leave a Comment

Pickle Fried Chicken! Was it something I dreamed? I couldn’t find the recipe that I thought I had seen  ANYWHERE! I searched all of the food magazines I’d bought recently, and not so recently, and all of the none food magazines, too. I searched the Internet. I looked in my files. There’s not a recipe for Pickle Fried Chicken anywhere… A memory is a terrible thing to waste. Luckily though, I DID remember part of the recipe I thought I’d read: brine the chicken in “pickle juice until it turns a bit green… Stay with me here…!” I remember that part word-for-word!* So that’s what I did. I brined chicken tenders in pickle juice for 30 minutes. For the battering and frying part I used a technique I had used before. Success! Pickle fried chicken! Tasty, as I knew it would be. Next time, I think I will make Poppers…, Pickle Fried Poppers! I’ll cut the tenders into thirds and proceed as below, but probably cooking the chicken for a little less time. It’s time for the Olympics. These would be great as part of a TV dinner. BTW…, while you’re making these and waiting for the Olympics coverage to air, watch “Cool Runnings”. What a great way to spend a Saturday!

PS. My elder daughter wants to try these in a sandwich…, ciabatta, Thousand Island dressing, lettuce, Pickle Fried chicken, and a few pickles…, YUM!

Polly’s Pickle Fried Chicken

1 lb. chicken tenders (8 or 9)
about 1 cup pickle juice (drained from a jar of pickles)
1 cup flour (divided use)
1/2 cup buttermilk
salt and pepper, to taste
Oil for frying

Brine the chicken tenders in the pickle juice for approximately two hours. Put ½ cup flour in shallow bow (like a pie plate), ½ cup buttermilk in another shallow bowl, ½ cup flour in third shallow bowl. Set a wire rack next to the third bowl. Sprinkle a pinch of salt (yes, the chicken does need a bit more salt) and pepper into both bowls of flour, and stir. In assembly line fashion, take each tender from the pickle juice, dredge in first bowl of flour, carefully dip and cover in buttermilk, then dredge in flour in the next bowl and then place on wire rack to dry for about 30 minutes.

Heat oil to 350 degrees. Add 2 or 3 pieces of chicken and cook for about 5 minutes.

You might need to test one. Don’t overcook the chicken. Drain cooked chicken on a rack or on paper towel. Serve warm. One of my daughters wanted Ranch Dressing on the side. I just wanted a bit more salt (Maldon’s Sea Salt, of course).

*Found the source! This recipe was inspired by “Andy’s Pickle Fried Chicken”, page 113 in the magazine Mixing Bowl 2010 (a Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication).

Olympics here I come! And if you stop by…, I’ll have some Pickle Fried Poppers and Nanaimo Bars to share with you 🙂

09 Feb 2010 Nanaimo Bars (for the Winter Olympics)
 |  Category: Cookies & Bars, Holidays & Events  | Tags: ,  | 3 Comments

What makes my pulse race, my heart surge and my eyes well up? The Olympic theme music. “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat nor gloom of night”…, will keep me from the opening ceremonies, closing ceremonies and the two weeks of coverage in between. It’s only right that the games be celebrated with one of Vancouver’s celebrated foods, Nanaimo Bars. Truth-be-told, I find Nanaimo Bars to be a bit sweet, but being an Olympic Patriot, I’m sticking by them! Fudge is sweet, and we all like fudge right? So cut these bars into fudge sized squares and all will be OK. If you want to know more about Nanaimo bars, follow this link to the city of Nanaimo. I DID changed it a bit, of course 🙂 See you at the games!

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer- A Nutty Chocolate, Coconut Base

½ cup butter
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 egg beaten
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler (Do it in the double boiler, I did my first batch without a double boiler, and I had a curdled mess after I added the egg) Add a T or so of chocolate mixture to beaten egg, and then another T. Turn heat off the double boiler. Pour warmed egg mixture into the chocolate mixture in the top of the double boiler. Stir vigorously to cook and thicken. Remove pan from bowl from double boiler and then stir in graham cracker crumbs, coconut, nuts and vanilla. Spread mixture into the bottom of a greased 9″ x 9″ pan. Refrigerate bottom layer while preparing the middle layer.

Second Layer-The Sweet, Firm, Cream Filling

½ cup butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder (Bird’s Custard Powder preferred, Instant Vanilla Pudding powder if you don’t know what Bird’s is or where to get it)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt together. Beat until the mixture is very light, about 5 minutes with an electric mixer. Spread filing over the bottom layer and refrigerate while preparing the top layer.

Top Layer-Solid Chocolate

8 oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. butter

Melt chocolate and butter together on 50% power in microwave. Cool slightly. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer, spread evenly and then and chill in refrigerator until firm.

To cut the squares without cracking the hardened chocolate, use a sharp knife that has been warmed slightly before each cut. (Dip knife in boiling water, then quickly dry off before making a cut). Then use a small spatula to remove the squares from the pan. Keep squares refrigerated until serving time. Cue the Olympic Theme music!

Note: I have heard of two other places these are served; New York, as New York Slices, and Alaska, as Yukon Bars.

Thanks for visiting!  Now go watch the Olympics…, with a Nanaimo Bar!