Making Pierogies

Don’t get me wrong, I love pierogies (or pirohy, whatever floats your boat, but generally in my hometown of Pittsburgh, we go by pierogy). I mean, I. Love. Pierogies. I would marry a pierogi and during the part of the wedding where people throw rice (not that I even have any clue at what part of the wedding that happens or if people even still do that, I think I most be the most wedding-ignorant woman in the world), instead of rice people could throw sauerkraut and chopped onion.

But anyway.

They are the biggest pain to make. Worth the trouble? Yes…but…seriously, they are unpleasant to prepare. I really like to cook, and I really like to cook time-consuming dishes, but I think it must be something about the repetitive quality of making dozens of the same thing that just drives me nuts. Also, I hate making and rolling dough (which I make harder on myself because until this time, I’ve always forgotten to buy a rolling pin, and then I have to struggle to roll dough with a bottle of liquor). The first time I finished making pierogies from scratch, I recall it took me much longer than I ever assumed (and I even had help) – they weren’t ready to eat until well after midnight and after the ordeal I think I just curled up into the fetal position in a corner of my kitchen and wept.

So, I wrote all of the above in advance, expecting a chaotic and messy ‘rogie cooking sesh in my future. And I was wrong.

potato & cheese filled

veal filling and sauerkraut & mushroom filling

After making 6 dozen of these in one go (3 dozen potato filled, 1.5 dozen veal filled, 1.5 dozen sauerkraut & mushroom filled), I figured I’d be able to share photos of a disastrous cooking area to underline what a pain it is to cook these things, but no. It all ended up surprisingly organized and clean. BUT, that doesn’t mean they were any less of a time-consuming pain! I started cooking these delicious suckers at 11.30AM, and didn’t finish and get to sit down until 7.30PM! Yes, these suckers took me 8 hours all told, with only 2 minimal breaks (one for a quick lunch, another to run out and buy more sour cream).

On a side note, I always assumed, probably because pierogies, like the Steelers, are so ingrained in any Pittsburgher’s being, that they were a commonly known and eaten food around the world – or at least the Western world, anyway. But lo and behold, I move to Dubai, and after facing the embarrassment of explaining a Halloween haunted house to Brits (I promise you, there is no way to explain this without sounding like a complete moron), one day I found myself talking about my hunger for pierogies to an audience (of Brits) who again had no clue what I was talking about. I was stunned! Thankfully, at least you don’t sound like a jackass when explaining them.

I Hate Ketchup

I don’t know exactly when my loathing for ketchup began. I recall using it quite liberally in my childhood, specifically on scrambled eggs (horror! what in was I thinking?).

Maybe it was the vile Heinz factory located on the bank of Pittsburgh’s Allegheny river. Where the smell of ketchup wafted through the air and forced itself into my disgusted nostrils while on river boat cruises – such as my high school prom. What a way to celebrate the end high school in a classy way: with the whiff of ketchup in the air.

a quaint portrayal of the Pittsburgh birthplace of the condiment inspired by dumpster juice

Or maybe it was when I was working at Kennywood (Pittsburgh amusement park) in my youth and of course, of course, I pulled the short straw and instead of getting to work on rides or games like the rest of my friends, got shoved into god-forsaken food service. Where one of the chores in my food outlet was to resupply the bags of ketchup in the dispensers. OK, and these ketchup dispensers were freaking HUGE. Like, I’m talking monster 1-2 gallon bags of ketchup. And do you know what happens if the bag bursts on you, or you drop it, or even just make a sloppy job of removing and replacing the bags? Do you have any idea how disgustingly sticky and sickeningly sweet that junk is on you, stuck in your hair, sucked into your clothes, all over your skin? It’s like glue. The most disgusting glue in the world. I would have rather the Mountain Dew syrup bust all over me. Or the pizza sauce bags. Anything but the ketchup!

But maybe it was something as simple as just eating too much of it as a kid and I got sick of it. I swear I recall putting it on steaks and, well, everything.

Whatever the case, all I know is that now I simply can not and will not tolerate ketchup. I don’t want it on my plate, let alone my food. I don’t even want it near me when I’m eating. And I most certainly don’t want to smell it when I’m trying to eat. Keep it away from me. There are few things more disgusting than getting a delicious burger and fries served to me, than when a bowl of ketchup is placed on the side of my dish next to it all. TAKE IT AWAY.

How are people even preferring ketchup as a french fry condiment over any version of vinegar? How is that? Vinegar is clearly the superior fry accompaniment. Malt, apple cider, balsamic. Whatever. All better.

And mayo-chup. Are you kidding me? Way to ruin mayonnaise, ketchup you asshole.

The Farm | Al Barari, Dubai

It’s nice of Dubai to finally jump on the “fresh, locally-farmed ingredient” genre of restaurant bandwagon. Back home, I feel like every city block had one of these restaurants – not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. In Dubai however, land of the non-existent hybrid car and barely-there recycling, certainly the same claim cannot be made. I just love how this new restaurant concept is being touted as so unique, like the rest of the world hasn’t been beating this genre to death for years. It is unique in Dubai, so fair enough I suppose – this is a desert after all, not exactly prime farming land. But then again, with the amount of money dumped into this place to keep up with the rest of the world’s big cities, I am still a bit surprised it took this long. But really what do I know; I just love to complain.

All this to say, I tried a new restaurant called The Farm this weekend for breakfast. And it was tasty. And peaceful. And green. And very different from the vast majority of restaurants in Dubai.

The Farm is located in a new(?) “eco-friendly” community called Al Barari, which is pretty much just another super-expensive community for over-paid jerks to live in. (…but I’d probably be one of those jerks if I had the cash) It’s super green – like incredibly so – and is filled will botanical, herb and produce gardens and ponds and streams and it’s all this really that makes it different from many of Dubai’s restaurants. It had a very natural feel that was nice, as Dubai, to me, seems to usually throw a multitude of tacky, obvious, overwrought productions at you at every opportunity. The food was excellent as well. It all simply tasted very fresh, and very flavorful despite the fact the dishes (omelette, waffle, sausages) were relatively basic.

The only thing that bothered me there was the service. The restaurant was almost completely empty, there was no need to rush anything. Yet from the moment after being seated about every 30 seconds, the waiter would come to the table and ask if you were ready to make your order yet. Like cool your jets, dude. There’s no-one here that needs this table so no need to push us along, and between your incessant interruptions I barely have time to even properly look at the menu (which was more difficult to browse than most menus due to its layout on an iPad with different types of foods in different categories that you needed to individually select and enter). Stand off. I really, really hate hovering staff.

But whatever, it wouldn’t stop me from going back, which I hope to do in the not terribly distant future to try dinner or lunch.

On a side note, I really, desperately, want one of these for my yard:

OMG Cadbury Screme Eggs are a real thing

I have a weak spot for junk food.  Well, all food really, but I do love me some horrible overly-processed or sugary foods sometimes.  Like pizza rolls. And Cadbury Creme Eggs.  The latter very sadly only available around Easter time (and the former not available in the UAE at all, from what  can tell).

Today I was grocery shopping and what did I discover but Cadbury Screme Eggs. My delight at this was incomprehensible. These scream eggs are like an oasis in a year-long drought of sugary deliciousness.

So this post is for you Cadbury Screme Eggs. Thanks for the October save.

On a side note – I miss Halloween in America very much indeed.  And Renaissance Faires.  Hopefully I will make it into the states next October to partake in both (plus a wedding!).  *fingers crossed*

Eat this!: My Macaroni & Cheese recipe

If you’re vaguely familiar with me or this blog, you probably have come to realize that I enjoy food.  Really enjoy it.  And usually, the more artery-clogging, the better.  Which brings me to macaroni & cheese.  A brilliantly unhealthy dish so delicious that the heart attack you are signing yourself up for seems totally worth it.

I make a pretty simple homemade macaroni & cheese from a recipe that my mom gave me several years ago and has long been a favorite of mine since childhood.  Now it is often the first thing I make after returning from a holiday or when I’m feeling under the weather.  I’ve made it for a lot of my friends and it always seems to be popular and many have requested the recipe.  On that note, I figured it would be worth adding to the blog so that I can easily direct people to the recipe whenever they ask.

It’s really nothing special – no fancy cheeses, secret ingredients or excessive prep times (not that I don’t enjoy putting a meal together that takes half the day – I truly do).  Just loads of melted cheese that is quite run-of-the-mill.  I do actually have a second recipe for mac & cheese that actually is quite fancy and takes a lot longer to put together, but while quite good, I do not believe it is as tasty or satisfying as this simple recipe.

there is no such thing as too much mac & cheese

Get this in your kitchen:

  • 2 1/2 cups elbow noodles (or whatever you prefer – so long as the pasta has a cavity to hold the molten cheese)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk (or slightly more for a creamier sauce – I usually use 2 cups; also don’t use a reduced fat milk – I used to but realized it seriously compromised the creaminess of the cheese sauce, causing it to become a bit dryer)
  • 1 small-med white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 12 ounces of cheese* (6 oz Monterrey jack, 2 oz pepper jack, 2 oz mild cheddar, 2 oz Velveeta)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 9×9″ or 8×8″ glass casserole dish

Now put it all together:

While cooking the cheese sauce, preheat oven to 350° F/175° C and boil pasta until al dente.

Melt butter in large pan over low heat; add onion, salt & pepper.  Add flour, stir a few minutes until mix is smooth and bubbly.  Raise heat to med-high and slowly stir in milk, about 1/4 cup at a time;  add the next ~1/4c only after the previous 1/4c has fully incorporated.**  Bring to boil; boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Lower heat and stir in cheese until melted (I just tear off small chunks of cheese, no need to shred it).

Put al dente pasta and cheese sauce in un-greased casserole dish; stir together.  Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned.

*A couple notes regarding cheeses: avoid sharp cheeses as they will cause the cheese sauce to be less creamy and more dry; avoid mozzarella…I love mozzarella, but in my opinion, it just doesn’t work in this recipe; I personally am not a fan of Velveeta, but I feel it helps with a nice creamy texture and you can’t taste it in the end, anyway; use whatever cheeses you prefer in whatever measurements you prefer (adding up to 12 total ounces) but the above-listed cheeses and measurements are the ones that after many years of testing, I’ve come to feel make the tastiest and creamiest cheese sauce.
**Don’t say I didn’t warn your impatient ass. The cheese sauce will not turn out right if you add the milk too quickly – it may becomes a bit coagulated or chunky and not very creamy.