A Super-Easy Appetizer (easy as… 1-2-3!)

So, the Super Bowl is this weekend, and whether you are a fan of the Falcons, the Patriots, football in general, Lady Gaga, commercials, or none of the above, it is an EXCELLENT day for snacks.  I’d like to share with you an old family favorite that is one of the easiest and tastiest things around.

These little delicacies, known as 1-2-3 Hors D’Oeuvres, were a New Year’s Eve staple in my family.  Growing up, I’d spend every New Year’s at my Grandma’s house as a guest at one of the most glamorous parties around.  My sisters, Cabbage Patch Kids and I would all have new outfits to wear for the occasion.  We’d sample food from an elegant, well-stocked buffet all night, and be treated to any kind of pop we wanted to drink, often encouraged by adults to mix them together in a multi-color concoction called a “suicide.”  We’d wear sparkly headbands or hats, choose our noisemakers from an overflowing box, stay up dancing until well beyond midnight and eventually pass out in our sleeping bags among piles of colorful confetti on Grandma’s living room floor.  It was the height of sophistication for elementary school kids.

Of course, as an adult and in the clear light of day, I know that what we were actually doing was eating a bunch of sausage, sour cream and Cool Whip-filled appetizers piled on the kitchen table, drinking off-brand soda, bobbing around with our Cabbage Patch kids in a sea of mildly-to-moderately (perhaps sometimes “heavily”?) intoxicated adults crammed into my Grandma’s wood-paneled basement, all of us throwing around piles of round paper scraps emptied from someone’s office hole punch, the mess of which probably caused my grandma a minor cardiac event every January 1 and may have sent one or two vacuum cleaners to early graves.

However, when I recently made a batch of these hors d’oeuvres, I was instantly transported the enchanted New Year’s Eve parties of my youth.  I think these would make an excellent addition to anyone’s Super Bowl spread – whether or not you are aching to add some 1980s Basement Party Magic to the occasion.

1-2-3 Hors D’Oeuvres

(originally published in the George Worthington Co. cookbook)

This recipe is pretty flexible.  I’m including the original below, along with some footnotes that you can use as variations.  These are best enjoyed shortly after they are made and I can’t really tell you if they’d freeze or keep well, because I’m not sure we’ve ever had leftovers!

  • 1 lb. Bob Evans sausage
  • 2 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • 3 c. Bisquick

Combine ingredients in a large bowl with your hands.  Roll into little balls, about 3/4-inch in diameter, adding water if the mixture is too dry.  Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  Serve hot.  Makes approximately 80 balls.

NOTES:

  • I have made this with chicken sausage and vegetarian sausage in place of the Bob Evans pork sausage, and while both versions are tasty, I’d recommend you add some form of fat (a few tablespoons of olive oil, butter, etc.) to the mixture to get the texture right.  The perfect 1-2-3 Hors D’Oeuvres have a crispy exterior with a soft filling.
  • If you, like me, don’t have a box of Bisquick at the ready, there is an easy substitution that I found online.  For every 1 cup of Bisquick (so for this recipe, multiply by 3), use a pastry cutter to combine:
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Careful if you substitute both the sausage and the Bisquick!  The reduced amount of fat could give you dry, less-than-perfect treats that really only taste good the first 10 minutes they are out of the oven (trust me, I speak from experience!).  I recommend subbing only one ingredient at a time.

Bled Cream Slices (Blejska kremma rezina): a delicious disaster

I aimed high for my contribution to this year’s Christmas Eve dinner.  Inspired (and, perhaps, carried away) by the complex dessert recipes in Recipes from a Slovenian Kitchen, I decided to attempt a dessert so legendary in Slovenia that is has been granted special “protected designation of origin status”… meaning, you can only get the official version of this pastry in the Lake Bled region of the country, and there is one particular location known for being the home of the original recipe.  When an entire region of a country is known for one single food, I assume it must be something pretty special!

Legend is that the recipe for Bled Cream Slices (Blejska kremna rezina) was discovered by the son of a Slovenian baker while traveling in Germany and Austria.  More than 8 million slices of this dessert have been served at the Park Hotel in Bled over the past 50 years!   Wouldn’t it be great to bring it to our dinner table in Ohio?

Bled Cream Slices have essentially three components: puff pastry, a custard layer, and a cream layer.  The finished product is supposed to look like a very pretty sandwich, dusted with powdered sugar.  On the face of it, this recipe is not complicated, but somewhere in the setup of the custard layer, things went very wrong for me.  And unfortunately, despite diligent taste-testing, I did not realize this until I’d already started to spread it on the pastry.

What can I say?  My Bled Cream Cake bled all over the plate.

No pretty sandwiches here.

However, despite being a total mess, this dessert was absolutely delicious.  The puff pastry doesn’t contribute much in the way of flavor (and, full disclosure, I did not make it from scratch but used the Pepperidge Farm brand in a box), but the cream and custard layers were wonderful — very light and airy with a slight hint of lemon.  Honestly, to me this dish was a welcone departure from Slovenian food which is often on the heavier side, especially desserts which, though tasty, tend towards being dense and full of nuts.   If the disastrous version above was still tasty, I can only imagine how good it is when done correctly!  I am including the recipe below, and hope to someday have more luck with it.   And if you beat me to it (or if you’ve already had success with this dish!), please tell me what worked for you!

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Kolachy (also: Kolache, Kolachki, Kolacky, Kolace, Kolachi, Kolachke)

I have always loved almonds, but I never truly appreciated them until I visited an almond tree farm in Spain and learned how they are actually grown and harvested.  Almonds grow in little pods of one nut each, and at harvest time the trees are shaken to release these pods, then each one is cracked open, collected, and processed.  Almond trees take about 5 years to produce a harvest, and once the trees are mature it’s about 7 months from flower to almond.  This all makes $6.99/pound seem like a real steal when you consider the time and work involved!

Why all this talk about almonds?  Because I recently discovered that Kolachy are like the almond of the holiday cookie world.  My aunt makes them every year, and I’d usually eat one here or there, but it wasn’t until I spent a day making them this fall that I came to truly appreciate the detail, care and deliciousness that go into each one of these little treats!

[A note here on spelling… like so many other Eastern European foods, Kolachy have about 50 different spellings and 8,000 different countries of origin.  I wish I could tell you that these are the definitive Slovenian version, but just like my decidedly non-Polish family’s habit of listening to Bobby Vinton singing “Santa Must Be Polish” every year on Christmas Eve, I think it’s fair to assume that these are a mishmash of several different ethnic traditions.]

Kolachy has as many recipes as it does spellings, but they are all pretty similar – a soft, cream cheese dough with your choice of filling.  I’m sharing my family’s recipe below.  For filling, we used some purchased at a local baking supply store (also available online).  Occasionally, you can also sometimes find it in the grocery store (just make sure it is for pastry, as “pie” filling tends to be too watery).  You can also use a very stiff jam (again, just nothing too watery).  And, of course, there are recipes online if you’d like to try making your own.

Kolachy

  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup any flavor fruit jam or pastry filling
  • 1/3 cup confectioners sugar for dusting
  1. Mix cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add flour slowly until well blended.  Shape into a ball and chill for several hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out dough on a floured surface into 1/8 inch thickness (check out our favorite rolling tip here!)
  3. Cut into 2-1/2 inch squares.
  4. Move squares to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper*.  Place approximately 1/2 tsp filling onto each square.
  5. Overlap opposite corners and press dough together — you should press hard so all three layers of dough make contact.
  6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until very lightly browned at the edges.  Cool on a wire rack, and sprinkle lightly with confectioners’ sugar.

(*this is a really helpful step that most recipes neglect to mention.  It is so much easier to move the dough to the tray before you fill and seal the kolachy!!!)