Today is one of those dreary Fall days where it’s cold and rainy and I’m in need of a little pick me up from some classic comfort food. One that involves BACON. And CHEESE. And PASTA. And all those yummy yums that aren’t that good for you. I was looking through some of my family recipes and this one came up that looked perfect for the mood I’m in today. It’s a sinfully good baked Pierogi casserole that my family used to make around the holidays – I remember sitting around the table with my family devouring this tasty dish with absolutely no shame. It’s not fancy. It’s easy to make. Has layers of flavor from the crispy bacon, earthy mushrooms, creamy sauce and tangy sauerkraut. And it’s so darn GOOD.
Traditional Pierogies are like Polish or Ukrainian Ravioli, made with fresh made dough that is filled with potatoes and cheese, meat or sauerkraut, and usually boiled or sauteed in butter with golden brown fried onions. This recipe takes the main ingredients of Pierogi (butter, mushrooms, sauerkraut, bacon, fried onions, pasta and cheese) and blends them together into a bubbling baked one-pot dish of goodness you’re gonna die for. It’s the ultimate comfort food perfect for a chilly dreary day that will keep you coming back for more…trust me.
Pizza is probably one of my most favorite things on the planet. Seriously. Who can resist that crispy crunchy crust topped with melted gooey cheese and fresh, savory baked toppings? A pizza is a creative endeavor that is only limited to your imagination. The pizza dough is like a blank canvas just waiting for the artist to paint a masterpiece on.
Speaking of dough, you can certainly take a stab at making your own – here is a basic pizza dough recipe that’s easy enough to make. If you don’t want to bother making your own and want to save time, you can use pre-made refrigerated pizza dough from the grocery store (I get mine from Fairway stores, or you can try Pillsbury pizza dough which is inexpensive and easy to use. They even have Artisan, thin and gluten-free crusts now which is kinda cool.)
I made these rustic pizzas the other day in an attempt to use up some fresh veggies, pizza dough and ingredients from my kids cooking show I taped last week – we made all kinds of fun pizza on set but i couldn’t bear to waste the leftovers!
So here’s how easy these babies are to make…I divided the pizza dough and patted out the dough on to pizza pans to make four rustic pizzas – one of them topped with sauteed garlic, spinach, olive oil, savory chicken, sun dried tomatoes and plenty of mozzarella gooey cheese. The other one I made with sauteed bell peppers in different colors, broccoli, pepperoni, ham, tomato sauce and two gooey cheeses – mozzarella and muenster, great for melting. The trick to a great pizza in my experience is to saute your veggies in some olive oil and garlic BEFORE you put them on the pizza (the chicken too!). This gives them a deeper flavor and keeps them from drying out in the oven when you bake the pizzas. Throw them in a preheated oven on 400 degrees for about 15-17 minutes, let them cool on a baking rack for about 5 minutes, and then top them with some fresh torn basil, some extra parmesan cheese and pepper flakes and you’ve got some serious deliciousness going on.
The class began with an introduction to the color wheel and the various benefits of eating colorful fruits and vegetables in the spectrum. Kristen had the kids name some of their favorite Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Violet foods and discussed ways to add more color into your cooking. Instead of just making a cheese pizza, add some spinach and fresh tomatoes or basil. Make your Macaroni and Cheese healthier by adding some broccoli to it. Perhaps these photos will inspire you to explore home grown veggies or to learn how to grow your own food.
Madiba Restaurant, Brooklyn NY
Lots of fun colorful ideas were exchanged as the kids got ready to start making some of their own colorful recipes from the South African Restaurant Madiba in Brooklyn.
Students making South African Pap Cornmeal with Monkey Gland Sauce and Tomato Onion Gravy
Kristen with students and parents after Cooking with Color 4 Kids class at Madiba Restaurant
Kristen with students and parents after Cooking with Color 4 Kids class at Madiba Restaurant
Students and parents after Cooking with Color 4 Kids class at Madiba Restaurant
On the cooking program menu were South African specialties such as: South African Pap Cornmeal with Tomato-Onion Gravy and Monkey Gland Sauce made with apricots, red wine, tomato and raisins, Sweet Corn and Pumpkin Salad, Pumpkin Fritters, Shebeen Salad with house wild greens, papaya, mango, summer berries, avocado, and nuts, and Rooibos Tea.
South African Chakalaka
South African Monkey Gland Sauce
Shebeen Salad with Wild Greens, Papaya, Mango, Berries, Avocado and Nuts
Pumpkin and Corn Salad
The class was videotaped live on Livestream by eDiningNews, and the video is featured online and also below for those who missed the class. All in all, it was a fun, interactive class that the kids and parents loved. And most of all a rewarding experience for me as I got to teach kids how to cook and eat healthy by adding colorful fruits and vegetables to their everyday cooking.
Stay tuned for more class locations and dates as the cooking program grows around NYC!
I love waking up in the morning to the smell of fresh brewed coffee and breakfast cooking in the kitchen. This is a delicious brunch casserole that’s perfect for the holidays and feeding a crowd. It’s filled with delicious sauteed ham, onions, baby bella mushrooms, garlic and dill, over a thin layer of torn whole grain bread (I use low carb bread and only 4-5 slices instead of a whole loaf of bread, and you can actually skip the bread all together if you want it to be more of a frittata), then topped with lots of gooey cheddar cheese. Bake the casserole until its light and puffy, let cool and then serve cut into squares with a green salad or fruit salad and whole grain toast. If you want to switch up the herbs, try Herbs de Provence or Fines Herbes instead. Experiment with different cheeses or meats if you like too (Brie, Monterey Jack, Bacon or Sausage), or spice it up with some red pepper flakes or a dash of Tabasco.What’s great is you can reheat it easily and have some yummy brunch/breakfast for a couple of days if you’re only cooking for a few people. Delish!
Mushroom, Ham and Cheese Strata: Best Brunch Casserole. EVER.
Recipe Type: Breakfast, Brunch
Author: Kristen Hess
This is a super easy and quick brunch casserole that’s perfect for the holidays. It’s filled with delicious sauteed ham, onions, baby bellas, garlic and dill topped with lots of gooey cheddar cheese. Make it a meal with a green salad or fruit salad and whole grain toast.
Looking back on this past year, and all of the tragedies our country has endured with natural disasters and shootings and other acts of destruction – it makes me wish for people to remember what Christmas and the holidays are REALLY all about: joy, sharing, laughter, warmth, peace, giving and most of all LOVE for others. I sincerely wish all of you a holiday filled with these things – and a New Year filled with promise, prosperity and wonderfulness. Merry Christmas. xo
Mom’s Holiday Cutout Cookies
Recipe Type: Holiday, Baking, Sweets, Desserts
Author: Kristen Hess
Serves: 50-60 cookies
This is a recipe for my Mom’s Holiday Cutout cookies – a recipe that she got from my Grandmother that we still use today every year for the holidays. The cookies are crisp and thin with a delicious vanilla almond flavor in the cookie and the icing. They are the most popular and addicting cookies on our holiday table every year. Enjoy!
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon water
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 c. soft butter or margarine
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
1/8 to 1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract.
Add 1 egg and water, and beat until light and fluffy.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt; blend into creamed mixture.
Divide dough in half; chill 1 hour.
On lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8″ thickness.
Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters.
Bake on greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees about 6-8 minutes.
Cool slightly; remove from pan and glaze with buttercream frosting and top with sprinkles and decorative toppings.
Let cookies chill and cool overnight, store in a container in layers of wax paper to prevent cookies from sticking.
Mix together all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Divide frosting into separate medium bowls, add food coloring of your choice.
I love coming home for the holidays, not only to spend some quality time with family and friends but for some of Mom’s cooking! With all this crazy weather lately I haven’t been feeling so hot and of course, just in time for Thanksgiving. I flew home to stay with my parents earlier this week, and Mom had the perfect remedy – a big ol’ pot of her homemade Chicken Noodle Soup. I could smell the delicious golden aroma brewing on the stovetop the second I walked in the door and knew I was home.
My Grandmother used to make this recipe with a secret ingredient called George Washington Golden Seasoning, a powdered chicken soup base with chicken fat and seasonings that gives an extra savory, golden chicken-y flavor to the soup broth, developed by a distant relative of George Washington. I’m not sure if this is even around anymore, but my Mom uses Lisa Marie chicken base (a brand from Syracuse, NY). If you can’t find this brand, use a few tablespoons of any quality chicken bouillon or chicken soup base to bump up the flavor of the chicken broth – you can find plenty of these at your grocery store or at Amazon online. Make sure to add plenty of fresh veggies (carrots, celery and onion) and let the soup simmer to it’s shimmering, golden delicious state for at least a few hours to let the flavors meld.
One tip: we always keep the egg noodles and cooked, pulled chicken separate from the broth to avoid the broth getting cloudy – this also ensures the noodles don’t get soggy and you are left with an absolute pure and delicious golden broth that will warm your bones and lift your spirits.
Kristen Hess is a NYC-based Food Stylist, Photographer, and Food Writer. Her client experience includes: Eggland's Best, Arnold Bread, QuickChek, Subway Restaurants, Grapes From CA, Food Network, Castello Cheese, Unilever, Bacardi, Stoli, Today.com, ShapeMagazine.com, KitchenAid, Nespresso, Buitoni, Colavita, Kraft Foods, The Works Catering, Downtown Magazine NYC, NYS Restaurant Association, Domino's Pizza, Cadbury/Stride, Cole's Supermarkets, Brown Brothers Wine and more.
Kristen is also the host of Cooking with Color 4 Kids®, a TV show that teaches children how to cook healthy, colorful food using fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the color palette. Learn more about becoming a sponsor or how to get involved with the TV show at http://www.ediningnews.com/cwc
The Artful Gourmet blog is a celebration of the art of food and cooking through colorful stories, recipes and photography.
Food Styling & Photography Portfolio: http://www.kristenhess.com