Hello?

Hello…testing…do we have a blog here? I know, I know – blog FAIL. This year started so…unexpectedly and I think we’ve been kind of reeling ever since. We’ve had some personal things going on as well which has made for a very sad and neglected blog. We are cooking but we are both mostly sticking with the old standbys and not much new.

I did make a Kazakh feast for Nauryz (the Kazakh New Year) last week. Chrov Plov, Cheese Pastries, Meat Piroshkis, Carrot & Radish Salad (from mymommymakesit – I omitted the anise because we didn’t have any and used a little cardamom), Chicken Shashlik (kabobs), Honey Cookies, and Russian Snowballs (which are pretty much exactly like Mexican Wedding Cakes – I used a combo of walnuts and pecans which was delicious!). Oh and I also made a Russian Tea which was like a spiced punch. All in all, I had a wonderful day of cooking and we thoroughly enjoyed sharing the meal with friends! I took exactly ZERO pictures. Sigh. What kind of blogger am I these days?

We are excited to be expanding our family again through adoption. It’s been a big decision and it’s a big step in faith but we are thrilled to welcome #4! The process will take awhile – probably 12 months or so but we can’t wait! Our boys are delighted beyond words! So…that has been keeping us a little busy – discussing, deciding. etc. I’m also launching a new business since I LOVE Pampered Chef products and need to earn extra for adoption expenses.

Steph has a new job which is exciting for her! She will be so awesome! It will allow her a little less time for posting but hopefully we’ll both manage to continue sharing some recipes – or rather, get back to sharing… We are hoping to begin a family cookbook which is a big undertaking but would be so treasured!

So…that’s what’s happening in our non-blogging world.

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Baker’s Delight: Kazakh Cheese Pastries

These savory pastries would be perfect for brunch or a snack or a dinner or any time. They are seriously delicious! They were a hit with children and adults alike. The buttery, flaky crust with the creamy cheese filling was pretty much perfect. I’m think these may be added to the Easter brunch menu this year.

KAZAKH CHEESE PASTRIES
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
Print This Recipe

Pastry:
1 ½ c. flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cream of tartar
8 Tb. butter
¼ c. ice water

Place flour, salt, cream of tartar, and butter in a food processor, Blend until texture is coarse and add water. Blend just until the mixture is combined and begins to mass together (add more water if needed). Place on plastic wrap, flatten to disk and wrap airtight. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Roll dough on floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out 24 circles with 3 inch water glass or biscuit cutter. Pleat edges of circles and fit in bottom of muffin tins. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cheese filling:
1 egg
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese (I used sharp & 3-cheese blend)
3 T. grated parmesan cheese
2 Tb. parsley, chopped
2 T. chives, chopped

Beat egg in bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Spoon 2-3 tsp. filling in each pastry shell; spread level. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the filling is golden brown. Cool on rack and serve warm.

*These could be made ahead, refrigerated and warmed in the oven.

Market Fresh: Russian Zucchini Dill Casserole

This is another Kazakh/Russian dish. My husband didn’t love this one as much as I did. I liked the flavors and textures together a lot! It is healthy and hearty. Dill is such a big part of many of the Kazakh dishes I’ve enjoyed. I will be growing it in my garden this year for sure!

RUSSIAN ZUCCHINI DILL CASSEROLE
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
Print This Recipe

6 zucchini, sliced
3 med. carrots, peeled & chopped
2 c. onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 Tb. tomato paste
 3 T. fresh parsley, chopped
 2 Tb. fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c. tomato juice
¾ tsp. sugar
1 ½ Tb. cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet or dutch oven, sauté carrots in water or vegetable stock over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the onion, celery, and zucchini and sauté, stirring, until all the vegetables are starting to tenderize.

Stir in the tomato paste and sauté for 3-4 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and dill. Mix the tomato juice with the sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir this mixture in as well and just bring to a boil. Pour the mixture into a flat-bottomed heatproof casserole that will accommodate the entire amount. Bake in the oven until tender – about 40 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley before serving if desired.

Weekend Fare: Meat Piroshki

These tasty meat pies go by many names internationally. In Kazakhstan, you can find them being sold on the street corners and in bakeries – they are nearly always wonderful! These hearken back to bierocks that my husband enjoyed and pierogies that are traditional for our friends. Whatever the name, these are great for travel, for making ahead, and for freezing. I think they would be really good with some cabbage or other vegetables in them as well.

MEAT PIROSHKI
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
Print This Recipe

 Meat Filling:
1 med. onion, diced
1 T. oil or butter
8 oz. ground beef
salt & pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
fresh herbs (opt.)
1 egg

Brown the onion and ground beef together with oil or butter if needed. Add seasonings. Allow to cool. Add egg. Stuff in piroshiki dough as described below.

Dough:
1 ½ tsp. dried yeast
pinch of sugar
5 Tb. warm water
5 Tb. butter, softened
1 lb. (about 4 c.) flour
1 tsp. salt
8 T. milk
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dissolve yeast and a sugar in the warm water. Mix in the softened butter, flour, salt, milk, and eggs. Knead into smooth dough (I let my mixer do the kneading). Leave to rise until it has doubled in volume. Punch down. Roll out dough until quite thin. Cut out in small circles and brush the inner edges with milk. Stuff with filling and fold into semi-circle or canoe shape. Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown.

International Cuisine: Chrov Plov

My oldest two sons were born in Kazakhstan. We feel so blessed to have the chance to celebrate and explore another culture. And we truly love the country, people, and food (!) of Kazakhstan. March 22 marked the Kazakh New Year (Nauryz) and so we enjoyed celebrating with friends and eating some traditional dishes. This was one of my absolute favorites but I will be sharing four different recipes throughout the coming weeks – they were all delicious.

The recipes were adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2 – my mom and I both have recipes in the book as well as many other talented cooks (how is that for a shameless promo! :)). Please feel free to check it out – the fundraiser is put on by Two Hearts for Hope and all proceeds from the sales of the cookbook benefit orphans in Kazakhstan. And the cookbook features many different types of recipes in addition to several Kazakh recipes.

CHROV PLOV
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
Print This Recipe

1 c. rice, uncooked
¼ c. almonds, chopped
2 T. currants
2 T. raisins
6 dried prunes
3 T. dates, chopped
4 T. butter
¼ c. dried apricots, cut into strips
1 T. honey
2 c. water

Soak dates, currant and prunes in warm water for 15 minutes. Remove and pat dry, mix with apricots and raisins. Melt the butter in a large skillet over high heat and add the fruit mixture and almonds. Reduce the heat to low and stir for four minutes. Stir in the honey, rice, and water. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, serve hot.

*I very successfully made this in my rice cooker by adding the sautéed fruit, almonds, butter, and honey to the rice and water in the cooker.