Happy Easter! Easter is a holiday that brings back a lot of memories from my childhood. One of my favorite memories is the Polish tradition of baking the Lamb Cake, then placing it in a basket to take to church on Holy Saturday to be blessed with samples of the food we would eat for Easter dinner. The basket would even include decorated hard-boiled eggs, lamb molded butter, salt and pepper shakers and a small carafe of wine.
I borrowed my Mom’s cast iron lamb cake mold. It is very important to grease the pan and every nook and cranny very good, then dust with flour!
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and say “I only eat this cake once a year”.
My Grandma’s Pound Cake
yields two lamb cakes (or one lamb cake and 12 cupcakes)
1 lb. butter, softened
2 cups sugar
9 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flour, sifted
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease both sides of the cast iron lamb mold, then dust with flour.
Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract, the gradually add one egg at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl. Once combined, reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour and baking powder.
Place the batter into the bottom of the mold. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake 10 more minutes until browned.
I also made 12 cupcakes with the remaining batter. Bake in the same oven for 25 – 30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
Gently unmold the cake and let cool completely before decorating. For this cake, I used cream cheese icing and piped it in swirls. Raisen eyes are very traditional.
What are you traditions for Easter?
Tonight, I made a dinner that I haven’t had since my Mom made this when I was a kid. I just remember her telling me that it is a traditional Polish dish and my grandma used to make it. Well, since I had a surplus of green bell peppers from the U-Pick farm, I thought I would give it a try. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make and how tasty it turned out!
Stuffed Bell Peppers
4 large green bell peppers (6 medium – small peppers)
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup cooked rice
1 onion chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 – 8 ounce can of tomato sauce
Pre-heat oven to 350° and coat a casserole or deep baking dish with non-stick spray. Mix the raw ground beef, rice, egg, onion, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Cut the tops of the peppers off and remove the seeds. Fill each pepper with the meat mixture and place upright in the baking dish. Top the peppers with tomato sauce and pour some at the bottom of the dish. Add about 1/4 C water at the bottom of dish. Cover tightly with foil and place in the oven for about 1 hour until the meat is cooked thoroughly. (I cut into the largest pepper to ensure the meat was cooked, if not, cover and bake longer.)
Traditionally, the peppers are served with noodles, dumplings or potatoes. I served mine over white rice with a scoop of the tomato sauce from the bottom of the baking dish.
The preparations for Easter dinner have begun! Pierogi have been made for Easter dinner as one of the Polish traditions in family. The cheese filled have been my favorite since I was a kid! Pierogi can also be filled with potatoes, sauerkraut, ground meat and fruit. My family would serve them along side a baked ham and Polish sausage. I can even remember helping my grandmother stuffing the sausage by hand.
My Polish family has been in the Chicagoland area for 4 (and now 5) generations. This is one recipe that has been handed down and I am honored to know how to make them from scratch, just like my grandma tought me. They are actually easy to make!
4 C flour
1/2 lb. butter
2 tsp. salt
1 C milk
Mix all ingredients and knead on a well floured surface. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add 1 tsp. salt.
2 lbs. cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 tsp. sugar
salt & pepper
Cut the dough in half and roll out on a well floured surface. The trick is not to roll the dough too thin because the filling could poke through. When my grandmother tought me, we used to cut, fill and crimp the pierogi by hand. A few years back, I found this inexpensive kitchen utensil called a dumpling crimper that makes the process a lot quicker. Cut a piece of the dough large enough to fit over the handy dumpling crimper. Place a teaspoon full of the cheese filling into the middle and carefully close the crimper. Pull off the remaining dough and tada…you have a beautiful dumpling!
Once you have made a first batch of dumplings (around 8 dumplings), gently drop them into a pot of boiling water for 10-12 minutes. At first the dumplings will sink and after a couple of minutes they will float to the surface. Flip each dumpling over after 5 minutes.
Let the boiled dumplings cool on a plate to remove the excess water. The steam will evaporate. At this point I am going to freeze my dumplings in a single layer (so they don’t stick together) until the day before the dinner. Using Sweet Stackers, I can get two trays of pierogi dumplings in one 3″ deep container – perfectly divided and condensed for storing in the refrigerator or freezer. These pierogi were made two weeks in advance and will be served for Easter dinner.
The dumplings are cooked and are edible, but traditionally they are fried in butter and sliced onion.
Oh, the pierogi smell so good, my mouth is watering!
Wishing you all a Blessed Easter with family and friends!