Monday, June 29, 2015

A Special Gift From Me to You!

I have a little gift for you today. Instead of my usual Monday Blog ramblings, I decided to share a few of my Baba's favorite Slovak/Polish recipes. Everybody in our family would agree that Baba was the most terrific cook on the planet. What made her even more amazing was that she could whip up a dinner fit for a king while washing clothes, ironing, quilting, cleaning, and more. She kind of floated through life doing this and that, making every chore seem easy, while always making sure we were presented with dinners replete with scrumptious meals and delicious desserts. 

In addition to the recipes,I've added tidbits about how her Mondays ususally unfolded (pun intended).
Hope you enjoy my journey back in time and place. The years in Baba's house were some of the happiest I've ever experienced in my entire life.


Baba washed clothes every Monday. After attending Mass, she’d return home, consume her usual breakfast of toast and coffee, and begin emptying the upstairs hampers. In the basement, she’d sort the clothes according to color, whites, pastels, darks. Next Baba filled a huge metal tub with water, set it on the old stove, added bleach, and soap flakes, and turned on the burner. When reaching a boil, she’d drop the whites in the soupy mixture and let them soak. Then Baba attached the hose from the utility sink to the washing machine, and filled it with warm water, soap, and the pastels. Viola! Wash day had officially begun.

Because her schedule was extremely busy, food preparation had to be kept to a minimum. Kielbasa Bow Tie Skillet Dinner was quick and easy, so to our delight, Baba made it often. My grandmother was a master of time organization and cooking expertise, and her Monday meals were just as delicious as on days when she had more opportunity to be in her kitchen.

While the whites were soaking, and the pastels were sloshing around in the washing machine, Baba went back to her kitchen to prepare the batter for the poppy seed cake. In less than twenty minutes, the scrumptious dessert was popped into the oven for a little more than an hour. It was then time to return to the basement.
By now the pastels were ready for the next step in the washing process. Baba picked up the clothes piece by piece and ran them through the wringer. A second utility tub containing warm water received the washed items for rinsing. Once all the suds were thoroughly removed, the pastels again traveled through the wringer into a waiting clothes basket.

Baba siphoned out the dirty water from the machine to prepare it for a second load, the whites. After dumping a cup of soap into clean, hot water, she turned it on for another round.

My grandmother carried the basket upstairs, but before going outside to hang clothes on the line, she’d take the cake out of the oven, and turn it upside down on the neck of a milk bottle to cool. After pinning the washed items on the line, and before returning to the basement, Baba placed water on the stove to boil for the bow tie pasta. In the meantime, she filled another pot with water, started a boil, and submerged six-inch precut pieces of kielbasa to cook for ten minutes. Usually both the pasta and the meat were done at the same time. Baba drained the pasta and ran cold water over it so the bows wouldn’t stick together. She’d then take out the meat, place it in a roasting pan, cover it, and be off to repeat the rinse-and-wring process for the whites.
With her second basket full of cleaned clothes, my grandmother added the darks to the machine, and once again headed to the backyard to hang up the brightest whites in town.

Kielbasa Bow Tie Skillet Recipe

Afterwards Baba stopped in the kitchen to cut up the kielbasa in bite-sized chunks. She’d pull out her largest cast iron skillet, melt a pound of butter, and fry the two ingredients together. She never added any kind of vegetables to her dish, and no seasoning was ever needed. When completely browned, Baba returned everything to the roasting pan, covered it, and put it into the oven to keep warm.

Since the poppy seed cake was somewhat cooled by this time, my grandmother took the tube pan off the bottle, ran a knife around the edges, and carefully dropped it onto one of her decorative cake plates. The only thing left to do was sprinkle a snowfall of powdered sugar on top right before serving it.

When the darks were finally on the line, Baba sat at her kitchen table for a few minutes of well-deserved rest. She loved to scoop out a tablespoon of peanut butter and eat it right off the spoon. If she was extra tired, Baba was known to indulge in a second helping.

                         CUCUMBER SALAD

Baba kept jars of cucumber salad in the fridge to be used as a side dish on busy days. It went well with all of her Monday dinners. The cucumbers remained fresh and crisp for weeks.

I hope you will try some of Baba’s favorite Monday recipes. As a family we looked forward to every meal because we knew how much love and caring went into the preparation. We were never served anything that came out of a box or can. With Zedo seated at the head, we respectfully gathered around Baba’s kitchen table 

to share blessings, food, and conversation. We cherished this time together and were excused only when our plates were emptied and our stomachs, full.