Monday, July 27, 2015


I love sharing my Baba's favorite recipes. She was such a special person in my life, and by offering these delicious ethnic foods, I feel like I'm giving Baba herself to you. Every thing she did was mixed with authenticity and love. There was nothing pretentious about her. What you saw was what she was! NO-FRILLS, HONEST, CARING, TRUE. When I look through Baba's recipes, all of these qualities are reflected. I hope you see what I see!


Baba belonged to a women’s quilting group. When it was her turn to host, she’d have Zedo set up the quilting frame in the dining room days before they were to meet. She always chose a Thursday since it was the day of the week she had little to do. After Mass, Baba hurried home to put on a pot of coffee. By nine o’clock, six or seven ladies walked through the back door, needles and threads in hand, ready to enjoy a morning of productivity and communal bonding.

It was customary for one of the women to bring some type of pastry to the session. About mid-morning, the group would retire to Baba’s kitchen for a cup of strong coffee and a cruller or a piece of pie. They’d share stories about family and things of interest to them.

Oftentimes the women talked about holding fundraisers for those in need. Back then church people were a tight-knit community who looked out for their own without having to be asked. Many of the quilts the group made were raffled off to support a particular church project or a family who’d fallen on hard times.

Their handmade quilts were beautifully made.

(fried dough)

In Polish, we say ‘Kruschiki’ and in Slovak, it is ‘Ceregi.’ No matter which word you use, this simple pastry was a favorite snack anytime of the year. Since a recipe can yield approx.100 bows, dozens were left for Baba to treat her family with that night for dinner.

My mom loved to let the ceregi stand for two or three days. They would get really hard, but when dipping them in her cup of coffee, they tasted like they'd just been made. Try it and see if you agree.



When the quilting group met in the summer months, pie was their usual morning snack. Cherries, peaches, and berries from backyard trees and bushes were plentiful. Whoever was in charge of bringing the dessert always had a pie in each hand when she walked through the door. Our family was the recipient of that generosity. The key to a perfect crust was the buttermilk.


Because Thursdays were spent doing good works and enjoying the company of her friends, Baba always chose something for dinner that was quick and easy to make. Liver and Onions was a meal that could be made after the quilting group left, and Baba had cleaned up the dishes and dining room.

There were two factors that made Baba’s Liver and Onions so delicious. The type of liver she chose was extremely important. My grandmother always selected baby calves liver, never beef. She insisted that the pieces be thin, not thick.

The second rule of thumb for her was to soak the liver in milk overnight. Baba said that her technique took the ‘wildness’ out of the meat.

Baba began by slicing five or six large onions and sautéing them in butter. She never let the onions get mushy, but rather liked them translucent and firm.

Next she’d dredge the pieces of liver in flour and fry them in lard for a very short time. Afterwards Baba combined the meat and onions, placed the mixture into a casserole dish and popped it into the oven until dinnertime.


I hope you will try some of Baba’s favorite Thursday 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.


Monday, July 13, 2015


Over the years, I made stuffed cabbage many times, yet it took me so long to perfect it. I'd add a little of this, and subtract a smidget of that. It was good but not like Baba's. I experimented with different types of meat, regulated the amount of rice, and chose a variety of seasonings. Seems as though I got closer to perfection with each attempt, but something was always lacking. My family loved it, but I knew I had to do better next time.

I can honestly say that in the last twenty years, I make stuffed cabbage the way Baba did. I don't know how it all came together, but who cares! The recipe I've included in today's blog will get you close to Baba's dish. With time and practice, you'll reach the high standards Baba set way back when. I promise.


Baba took Wednesdays off so to speak. Having completed the weekly washing and ironing, she focused on doing errands, and spending more time in her kitchen. Of course, Baba attended Mass as usual. Afterwards she might walk down to Eighth Avenue to pick up a coffee cake at the Blue Bonnet Bakery, stop in at Judy’s Nut Shop to chat with a friend and buy a few popcorn balls, one of her favorite treats.

Upon returning home, Baba fixed herself a cup of coffee, ate her toast, and decided on what she’d make for dinner. Since my grandmother never froze meats, she’d almost always need to take a trip to Paul Utes’ Grocery Store on Ravine Street. She never worried if she had enough money on hand because Paul kept a book for each one of his customers. After ringing up their purchases, he’d write the date and amount in their book, and add it up. Normally Baba paid a few dollars per visit to keep the balance reasonable. I think Mr. Utes was one of the first owners to utilize the credit card system long before it came into vogue. The only difference with his way of doing business was that he never charged any interest.

(stuffed cabbage) 

The Polish word for stuffed cabbage is ‘Golabki’. In Slovak, we say, ‘Halubki’. No matter how you say it, stuffed cabbage was one of our family’s all-time best dishes.

Baba filled her huge soup pot with water, added a pinch of salt, and allowed it to reach a boil. She’d core a head of cabbage and drop it into the pot. As the leaves separated, she’d pull them out, and place them in a colander to cool. While the cabbage was being softened, Baba filled a sauce pan with water, added a pinch of salt, and lit the burner. When boiling, she’d add a cup of rice, stirring until cooked.

Next Baba unwrapped the freshly-ground meat, placed it in the white pan used to make dough, seasoned it, dropped in an egg, and added the rice. With her two hands, my grandmother mixed all the ingredients together until she was happy with the consistency.

Finally Baba cut the hard vein off each leaf, scooped in a generous amount of meat, rolled it up, and tucked in each end. When all the leaves were stuffed, she’d line them up in her electric roaster, pour a can of diluted tomato soup over them, and let them bake for two hours.


Baba’s mashed potatoes were the best! She used an ample amount of butter and her secret ingredient, sour cream, to make the finest in the land!

I'm too lazy to peel potatoes, so I use instant flakes. Using a lot of butter and sour cream helps to make mine taste almost as good as Baba's did.




Baba peeled the apples, quartered them, removed the cores, and then cut each into smaller pieces. She’d then fill a large saucepan with 1/4 cup water and add some cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla. Once the apples were soft, she’d put in a pat or two of butter and a tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken the mixture.  After simmering for a few minutes, Baba turned off the burner and let it cool. 

Flour with baking powder, egg, sugar, and milk were the ingredients Baba used to make her dough. Afterwards she’d cut the dough ball in half, setting aside one portion in the refrigerator to be used later for the top crust. Because the dough was sticky, she’d flour the wooden pastry board Zedo had made for her before trying to roll it out. Sometimes it took her two or three attempts before she was able to transfer the bottom crust to a sheet pan.

Next Baba spread the apple mixture on top, careful not to make holes in the bottom. Finally she’d roll out the bottom crust and place it atop the apples, pinching the two dough sections together in order to avoid leakage.

Baba set her oven on 350 degrees, and when it was hot enough, she placed the sheet pan inside for approx. 45-50 minutes. Occasionally she’d check on whether or not the squares were done by poking a toothpick in the center. If the pick came out clean, Baba knew the dessert was baked through.While the baking sheet was cooling, Baba took powdered sugar and a spoon of hot water to make a thin glaze. When her internal radar alerted her, my grandmother smoothed it over the crust and her master-piece was complete.


I hope you will try some of Baba’s favorite Wednesday 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.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Baba's Favorite Tuesday Slovak/Polish Recipes

I was pleased to hear that so many of you enjoyed Baba's Favorite Monday Slovak/Polish Recipes. I was even happier that you wanted to know more about the woman who was so important in my becoming the person I am today. Without any formal education whatsoever, Baba was a vessel of wisdom and knowledge she willingly shared with anyone smart enough to listen. She had a glorious sense of humor, and a stubborn streak a mile wide. Mostly Baba had a deep faith in God which carried her over the hills and valleys of life without bitterness or despair. 

I've decided to share more of my Baba's recipes with you on my Monday blogs for the next six weeks. I hope you treasure them as much as I do.


Upon arriving home from daily Mass, Baba hurriedly ate breakfast, then set up the ironing board in her kitchen. Before she actually started this tedious Tuesday task, Baba separated Zedo’s and Uncle Tom’s dress shirts from the rest of the clothes. Next she’d fill a bowl with water and grabbed the bottle-cleaning brush from the drawer. My grandmother spread the shirts out on the kitchen table one at a time and generously doused them. Finally she’d roll each one up tightly, wrap the entire bundle in a towel, and place it in the refrigerator. She always said her technique was the best way to crisply-ironed shirts with the least amount of effort.

Baba took a break at lunchtime, not so much to eat as to get off her feet for a little while. She’d enjoy a salami sandwich on rye, and a cold glass of milk. If there was a cookie around, Baba was sure to find it. Oh how she loved her sweets! I’m the same way. Without dessert, a meal just isn’t complete.


Pan-Fried Pork Chops were not exclusive to Slovak or Polish kitchens.  Baba often made them because Tuesdays were busy, and this dish was very easy to make.

When buying her chops at the local butcher shop, my grandmother insisted they were not too thin, and not too thick. Medium thickness insured that when frying them, the pork chops would be cooked thoroughly.

Baba floured the meat on both sides. She’d then let the chops sit on waxed paper for a while. Baba said that by allowing them to dry first, the flour wouldn’t stick to the skillet. She was definitely right. I use her method all the time and have never had that problem.

When the bacon grease was heating, Baba diced garlic cloves and sautéed them in the oil. As she placed the pork chops into the skillet, the meat sputtered for a few seconds. Baba fried one side of the chops for about three or four minutes, then turned them over for another three. She could tell when they were done by their color.

Once the pork chops were removed from the skillet and placed in the oven, Baba left the grease and garlic on the stove. During dinner, she’d warm up the skillet so we could dip bread into it, sop it up, and eat it with the meal. Yum!

(Potato Drop Dumplings)

A great side dish to go along with Pan-Fried Pork Chops was Baba’s potato drop dumplings mixed with cottage cheese. All she needed was three or four potatoes, flour, milk, and salt and pepper. Before she combined the ingredients, she’d fill a pot with water, add a pinch of salt, and light the burner. After the dough was made and the pot was boiling, Baba took a teaspoon, dipped it in the water, and then used it to scoop up a small amount of batter. Using a second spoon to nudge it off, she’d drop the dough into the boiling pot. Baba continued this process until all of it was gone. The dumplings were done after simmering for about twenty minutes.

Using a little butter, Baba prepared a large skillet to warm the cottage cheese. After draining the dumplings, she’d spill them in a pan and add the cottage cheese to it. If you aren’t a fan of cottage cheese, Baba oftentimes mixed in sweet cabbage or simply served the dumplings plain.


                      VANILLA ICE CREAM

Baba didn’t have time to make dessert on Tuesdays. Instead she’d pull out the carton of vanilla ice cream and place one or two scoops in a small bowl for each of us. It was always vanilla because that was Baba’s favorite. To this very day, I will choose vanilla over any other kind because vanilla is my favorite ice cream, too.

Baba never made her own ice cream and neither have I. But after finding this simple recipe on Pinterest, I’m planning on making it by the gallons and storing it in the fridge. I guarantee it will disappear quickly since both my hubby and I love the stuff!

I hope you will try some of Baba’s favorite Tuesday 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.