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Gołąbki {Polish Cabbage Rolls}

It’s Secret Recipe Club time again!  I have to say, this month has been my favorite recipe of all I’ve made with the club so far.  I was assigned to Allie’s Clean Plate Club, and I bookmarked a million recipes before I decided on the Gołąbki (pronounced “go-womb-key”), because it’s something I always wanted to make but never have.  In fact, I’ve never eaten Polish cabbage rolls before!  Up until now, I’ve always had the Middle Eastern Cabbage Rolls, which are similar but don’t have the tomato sauce over the top and don’t necessarily include meat.  I have to say, I really prefer these Polish ones!

One of my ultimate comfort foods is meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy.  For some reason, I rarely make or eat it, but it warms my soul when I have a plate of it in front of me.  Well, maybe that’s why I love these cabbage rolls so much.  With the sweet and tangy tomato sauce, they really remind me of little meatloaves!  And I had no idea they would taste anything like meatloaf, but ended up serving them with mashed potatoes on a whim, and I found myself in a state of bliss with my plate of Polish comfort.

Obviously these have a foreign taste to them, not exactly like American meatloaf.  It’s the cinnamon and nutmeg, which isn’t used very often in savory American dishes.  The spices find their way into many foreign ones, however, and the flavor works surprisingly well here in these cabbage rolls.

I know nothing of Polish food except for these rolls, and according to Allie they are very similar to her Polish Grandmother-in-laws authentic gołąbki (although I did change them a bit), but based on them alone I think I like Polish food and am ready to try more!

Gołąbki {Polish Cabbage Rolls}

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1 head of cabbage, cored
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
16 oz. tomato sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 cup cooked rice (I used brown)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the entire head of cabbage for 12 to 15 minutes or until tender enough for the leaves to be pulled off and rolled. Drain the cabbage and allow to cool while you prepare the filling and sauce.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions about 5 minutes, or until tender and translucent. Add the garlic, cinnamon and nutmeg and cook for 1 minute more. Remove half of the onion mixture to a large bowl. Stir the tomato sauce, brown sugar and vinegar into the skillet with the remaining onion mixture stir together. Simmer over low heat while you prepare the filling and the rolls, stirring occasionally.

Add the ground beef, rice, egg, salt, and pepper to the onion in the bowl and mix with a fork or your hands. On a cutting board, peel off 12 or more cabbage leaves and cut out the hard stem from each leaf in such a way that you end up with two long leafs for rolling. Place about 2 tablespoons of the beef mixture in the middle of each cabbage leaf half and roll up. As you roll them, place them seam side down in a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with oil. Pour sauce on top, cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until cooked through.

Makes 20 gołąbki.

Per gołąbek (cabbage roll): 100 calories; 6 g fat; 7 g carbohydrates; 1 g fiber; 5 g protein; 3 Points Plus

Recipe source: adapted from Allie’s Clean Plate Club

Be sure to check out the other Secret Recipe Club members in Group C this month (there are so many members, we’re divided into four groups and I’m in Group C) by clicking on Mr. Linky below.  A big thanks to Angie, our fearless leader! :)


Buttery-Soft Beer Bread

One of my all-time favorite recipes on this blog is for Buttery Beer Bread, which is slightly sweet with a delicious yeasty flavor, and a thick, crunchy, and buttery crust.  The only downside to it is that it is best fresh from the oven and does not store well, so it’s a little hard to fit into a diet plan because we usually end up splitting the whole loaf between us and polishing it off in one sitting.  (Avoiding dry leftover bread is perfection justification for the overindulgence, no?)  If you’ve made this bread, you know that eating half a loaf of it is a lot easier to manage than one would imagine.  In the interest of trying to shrink our midsections, however, we try not to pull that stunt too often.

Deciding I needed a soft beer bread that stored well so that we could enjoy it for several days versus five minutes, I instinctively knew (well, hoped may be the better word) all I had to do was add an egg and blend the butter in with everything else instead of pouring it over the top.  And voilà!  I was right.  I love being right.  Especially when it results in something so delicious!

This bread has the same flavor I fell in love with in the original beer bread, the beer giving it a nice yeasty flavor despite this being a quick bread containing no yeast (another bonus-fresh bread in under an hour!).  But it is a million times prettier (smooth top versus major bumpiness), the texture is velvety soft when fresh from the oven, and the crust still has just a bit of that buttery crunch to it.  And it fulfills the reason for the modification: it stores well and stays soft and moist!

While I might still make the original if we have company over since there would be less risk of leftovers, and I adore that thick, crunchy & buttery crust, this is the one I’ll be making most often because the texture is so wonderful and its ability to stay that way upon storage robs me of the justification for polishing off an entire loaf in one sitting.  Which I may not be so thankful for, but my hips surely are.

*Despite this loaf storing well, we still ate half of it as soon as it was out of the oven, so I only had half a loaf (OK, maybe a little less than half, truth be told) to photograph the next day.  Sorry.  Our stomachs got in the way of the interests of my blog!  At least we didn’t eat the whole thing this time. At least not all at once.  :)

Buttery-Soft Beer Bread

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3 cups self-rising flour*
1/4 cup sugar
1 (12-oz) can beer
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, melted
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Whisk the flour and sugar together in a large bowl. Add beer, butter, and the egg, and whisk well to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

*I know it’s weird, but I really feel I get the best results using self-rising flour for this bread. However, if you do not have it, you can replace it with 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 Tablespoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt instead. I recommend using a baking powder without aluminum, such as Rumford, particularly in this recipe since you need so much of it. The aluminum has an aftertaste and can foul up baked goods which call for quantities in excess of 1 teaspoon.

Update 2/18/15: I’ve discovered you can substitute honey for the sugar with delicious results as well, lending a light honey-sweet taste to the bread.  Just look at how tender it is!


Less-Mess Bacon

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Now you don’t need a splatter guard when you fry bacon!  Bakin’ bacon makes the process so simple, and you get perfect, nice & flat strips of bacon just like you get at a restaurant.  Plus, no flipping!

P.S. When I first started trying to think of blog names, I liked “Bakin’ & Bacon” because it indicated my blog would include both sweet and savory recipes, plus it’s cute & clever, but when I Googled it, it was already taken.  Not only that, but Bacon & Bakin’ was taken too. Guess I’m not the only one that loves that name! I also had to nix “My Kitchen Addiction,” and “My Baking Addiction.”  But I’m happy with the name I ended up with!  And I liked Recipe Rhapsody,  my former name, too. Though I can’t take credit for that one, Dennis came up with it!

Less-Mess Bacon

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil or parchment paper, then lay the bacon strips flat, making sure pieces do not overlap. Bake until crisp and browned, 15 to 18 minutes, or to desired doneness, rotating the sheets once. Transfer strips to a paper towel to drain.

Recipe source:


Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal

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I’m atoning for my sins of last week: fattening, nitrate-filled chili-cheese dog casserole, decadent red velvet cake with a pound of butter and over a pound of cream cheese in it, and beef roast slathered with high-sodium cream of mushroom soup and onion soup mix.  I felt I owed myself, and you, a healthy reprieve.

I usually don’t like labeling my recipes “healthy” or unhealthy” in the title (although I have been known to do so) because that’s not how I want you to think of them.  If something is healthy, I want you to think about how delicious it is, not how healthy it is.  And if something is unhealthy, I don’t want you to focus on that either, I just want you do enjoy your splurge.  So, I’m not labeling this as “healthy” in the title, but I am telling you right now it’s pretty darn healthy.

First of all, it’s naturally sweetened from three sources: apple cider, maple syrup, and honey (because it’s sweeter and because I was running low on maple syrup).  Second, it’s packed with fiber from the pumpkin and the oats.  It’s even got a little protein from the eggs (and the oats)!  I did use a smidgen of butter, but I’m not one who thinks of butter as unhealthy, especially in meager amounts.  It could easily be left out if you want to reduce the fat.

Now let’s talk about the important stuff: the taste.  It’s all well and good to eat healthy foods, but who wants to eat them if they taste terrible?  Not me, and there’s no reason to when healthy food can (and should) be just as delicious as unhealthy food.  These baked oats are perfectly sweet, with a great spiced pumpkin taste, very soft and creamy, with a nice nutty crunch from the pecans.  Served with a drizzle of maple syrup over the top, it is a breakfast treat that is good enough to make your mouth so happy that you forget that you’re doing your body good as well.

Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal

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Printable recipe with picture

1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup apple cider
2 eggs
½ cup milk (any kind)
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾ cups rolled oats
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a deep-dish pie plate or a casserole dish with oil; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, apple cider, eggs, milk, honey, maple syrup, butter, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the oats, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

Pour into prepared dish and sprinkle with pecans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until set. Serve hot with maple syrup or honey.

Recipe source: adapted from The Other Side of Fifty, as seen on Betcha Can’t Eat Just One and Little Bit of Everything (this one’s really making the rounds!)

If you have leftovers, they will slice a lot nicer and will resemble a piece of pie more when served. You can even serve this cold, though I do like it better hot! If you want the oatmeal to be more firm so that you can slice it like pie after removing it from the oven, you’ll have to do some tweaking to reduce the amount of liquid and maybe add another egg.

My Favorite Cheesecake and BSI: Cream Cheese Announcement

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Fact: I don’t have a sweet tooth, I have 24 sweet teeth and if I hadn’t had my wisdom teeth and first molars removed to make more room in my tiny sugar-addicted mouth, I have no doubt they would be sweet too.  Fact: Despite my sweet teeth, there are certain things I make or buy very rarely because I like them so much that my self-control us utterly nill when in their general vicinity.  These things are: any kind of cookies, but particularly homemade chocolate chip, chocolate éclairs, pecan pie, and cheesecake.

Prior to giving in and making this particular recipe, I hadn’t made a cheesecake in seven years.  But a friend requested one last year and I chose this recipe since I found it through one of my most trusted sources.  After raving over it for two days, my friend let me have a piece while I was at her house (it was a gift to her in exchange for a favor she paid me), and I’ve never made another cheesecake recipe since.  I have now made her three of these cheesecakes, which is a perfect arrangement because she always lets me have a slice and I don’t have to worry about going crazy and eating the whole thing in one sitting since it is not my cheesecake to dominate.  But I totally would if I could, which is why I will never make this cheesecake only for myself.  Never say never, but I’m saying it.  NEVER.  It is just too risky.  (Full disclosure: the last cheesecake I possessed that was only for the two of us was ten years ago.  It was about two-thirds the size of this one, and I ate it all by myself.  In one day.  And now you understand why I make them so rarely.)

This cheesecake comes out perfectly creamy with the best sweet-tangy flavor, enhanced by lemon zest.  Due to the minimal mixing time, it is not prone to cracks caused by air bubbles in the batter.  This doesn’t matter to me since I usually cover my cheesecake with a fruit topping anyway, but if you’re a cheesecake purist, you might dig the perfect top that comes out without doing anything special to achieve it.  No water baths, no pan of hot water sitting in a rack below the cheesecake, no baking it at super-low temps or leaving it in the oven an hour after you turn it off.  It’s a very simple, straight-forward recipe that yields a superior result, far better than any other I’ve tried.  Try it for yourself and you be the judge.

Favorite Cheesecake

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1 1/2 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 25 squares)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon, zest finely grated
1 (16 oz) tub of sour cream

To prepare crumb crust: In a mixing bowl, combine the crust ingredients together with a fork until evenly moistened. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. Firmly press the mixture over the bottom and about halfway up the sides of the pan, using your fingers or the smooth bottom of a glass. Refrigerate the crust while preparing the filling.

To prepare filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute just until smooth and free of any lumps. Gradually add the sugar and beat just until incorporated.  Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to slowly beat until combined. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest. Blend in the sour cream. The batter should be well mixed but not overbeaten. Overbeating incorporates too much air and will cause the cake to puff when baking, then fall and crack when cooling. Pour filling into the crust-lined pan and poke any air bubbles you see with a toothpick.  Smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 50-55 minutes (mine usually takes a little more than an hour, but I think my oven runs cooler than most). The cheesecake should still jiggle slightly, it will firm up after chilling. Be careful not to overcook! Do not do a toothpick test in the cake’s center, this will make a crack. Loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the inside rim. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours to set up. Demold and transfer to a cake plate. Slice the cheesecake with a thin, nonserrated knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry after each cut.

Recipe source: adapted slightly from Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Cheesecake

BSI Announcement

I’ve chosen CREAM CHEESE for this week’s Blogger Secret Ingredient contest.  You can use regular, low-fat, homemade, or even vegan.  Sweet or savory, snack or main course, you choose!  I know you guys probably have a lot of great recipes using cream cheese and I can’t wait to see what you submit!

How to enter:

  • Make a recipe using the secret ingredient and write a blog post about it.
  • Include a link back to this post.
  • Add your entry to the comments section at the bottom of this post (permalink to your entry, not homepage, please).
  • Older/archived posts may be used as long as they’re updated with a link to this post.
  • If you don’t have a blog, but would still like to enter, please email me your entry (w/ photo) to vraklis (at) yahoo (dot) com

Deadline for submissions is Sunday, April 17th at 9pm (Central).  I will post the roundup and the winner the following day and send a prize to the person whose recipe I like best.  Please let me know if you are interested in hosting next week’s BSI.

For a list of all the previous hosts/choices, check out Biz’s BSI page.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comment area or send me an email and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

Herbed Mayo Salmon

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I got this idea from my friend, Rossie, who I also adapted my favorite salmon recipe from.  Her favorite dinner is taking a salmon fillet, sprinkling salt and pepper (or lemon pepper) on it, slathering mayonnaise on top of that and baking until browned.  I love some good salmon, so when I snagged some fresh herbs on sale, I thought of Rossie’s mayo salmon and had a little fun with it.

Dennis and I both loved it!  The creamy, crusty herb-infused mayo really complimented the salmon, and was quite simple to throw together.  The herbs I used went well with the fish, but I bet you could substitute any others you might have on hand.  Have fun!

Herbed Mayo Salmon

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4 (3-4 oz) skinless salmon fillets
Salt and pepper
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1 teaspoon dried dill

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a baking dish with oil. Place salmon in baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix the mayonnaise with the herbs, the spread it over the fillets. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until the mayo gets a little brown crust.

Veronica’s note: When substituting dried herbs for fresh or vice versa, use this general rule of thumb: 1 teaspoon dried herbs = 1 tablespoon fresh.

Recipe by Veronica Miller, inspired by Rossie K.

*I served the salmon with Jenna’s yummy Buttery Lemon Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Nutmeg.*

I didn’t calculate the calories for this recipe and was wondering, as a reader, do you prefer the calorie information to be included or does it matter to you?

Crispy Kale Chips

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It may be hard to believe, but kale is super easy to turn into a shatteringly-crisp, salty treat that satisfies potato chip cravings.  OK, if you REALLY need potato chips, then this won’t give you the same flavor, but they are delicious and the crisp & salty combo along with the distinct flavor is addictive!  And if you’re going to be addicted to something, it may as well be something this healthy, right?

Crispy Kale Recipe
The biggest secret to getting the kale super-crisp is to dry them in a salad spinner. If there is moisture on the leaves, the kale will steam, not crisp. Also, do not salt the kale until after they have come out of the oven. If you salt beforehand, the salt will just cause the kale to release moisture…thus steaming instead of crisping. I’ve also found that the convection setting on my oven works really well too – I set the convection on 325F and bake for about 10-15 minutes. Have fun with this recipe, I sometimes mix the salt with Cajun or Creole seasoning.

4 giant handfuls of kale, torn into bite-sized pieces and tough stems removed (about 1/3 pound)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (you can lightly mist with oil for less calories)
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Place the kale leaves into a salad spinner and spin all of the water out of the kale. Dump the water and repeat one or two times more just to make sure that the kale is extra dizzy and dry. Use a towel to blot any extra water on the leaves. Place the kale on the baking sheet.

3. Drizzle olive oil over the kale leaves and use your hands to toss and coat the leaves. Bake in the oven for 12-20 minutes until leaves are crisp. Take a peek at the 12 minute mark – the timing all depends on how much olive oil you use. Just use a spatula or tongs to touch the leaves, if they are paper-thin crackly, the kale is done. If the leaves are still a bit soft, leave them in for another 2 minutes. Do not let the leaves turn brown (they’ll be burnt and bitter) Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt and serve.

Recipe from Steamy Kitchen

Veronica’s Note: I should add that these should be eaten as soon as they’re cooled and not stored.  If you put them in an airtight container or baggie, they will lose their crispness.  OK, I actually don’t have first-hand knowledge of this since we eat the whole batch as soon as it’s out of the oven, no matter how big it is, but I’ve read it somewhere and it makes sense to me. Just thought I’d give you a heads-up!

Overripe Bananas

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Whenever I buy a bunch of bananas, I rarely get through half the bunch before they start turning brown.  If I’m not ready to make a loaf of banana bread or another banana concoction (smoothie, muffins, cupcakes, pancakes, pie), I pop the suckers in the freezer whole with the peel still on–no bagging, wrapping or sealing–and leave them there until I’m ready to use them. 

When you do this, the skin on the bananas will turn completely black and when you thaw them out, they will get extremely limp and will leak water so set them on a plate or in a bowl (I don’t use the water but you could stir it back into the bananas if you like).  You only have to peel a little and the insides will fall out like wet goop and you barely have to stir them to mash them.  It is quite unappetizing, but the flavor is wonderful!


To make a banana cake today, I just used three bananas I’ve had frozen (with no protection save their skins) for over six months and there was no freezer taste, just a very strong banana flavor due to me freezing them after letting their skins get super spotty.

Don’t be scared of over-ripe bananas!  Their powerful flavor might not appeal when eaten fresh, but once mixed into a smoothie or into some sort of baked good, it lends loads more banana taste than a fresh banana ever could.

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