Saturday, August 17, 2019

Rosy Cheek Cheese Pie

I asked my mom for a recipe for rolled filo dough cheese pie, taking notes while on the phone with her. After  we finished the conversation I looked over the recipe and realized what I’d written didn’t look at all like a recipe my mom would give.

To my credit, I noted all the ingredients correctly – eggs and cheese, oil and yogurt, but their quantities meandered from cups to grams to coffee cups (which are not the same as U.S. measuring cups), sprinkled with, ‘the way you like it’, which eventually merged into the final word of precision wisdom, “you know, not too thick and not too runny’.

Mom, I don’t know. And you sure have more faith in my culinary abilities than I do. I thought to myself and before I hung up, I promised I would let her know how the pie turned out.

I followed the general directions that surprisingly enough gave rather promising results, but just as I was about to slip the pie into the oven, I realized I don’t know either the temperature of the oven or the length of baking time.

I glanced at the Celsius/Fahrenheit chart that's attached with a magnet to the side of our refrigerator, noting that 200 degrees Celsius is approximately 400 degrees Fahrenheit, before I called 'mom-to-the-rescue' hot line again.

Mom, what temperature is the oven supposed to be at?

It was a simple question for which my head allowed only two possible answers – numerical answer one and numerical answer two - representing the same value expressed in either Celsius, or Fahrenheit. What I got wasn't even in the ballpark.

What do you mean 'what temperature'? It’s the same temperature as when you bake a cake…

A cake??? When I bake a cake, which is like never, I set the temperature at what the box…. I stopped before I could make fool of myself any further, and decided to showcase my limited baking knowledge.

So, it’s not super-hot like when you bake bread?

No, no! That’s too hot. You don't want to turn it into charcoal. I told you, just like when you bake a cake…

Alright, I got it, I said, making a mental note to check with Betty Crocker on the cake baking temp

For how long?  The time is measured in minutes, hours, days and weeks on both side of the ocean so I thought I was safe.

How long???? As long as it takes! You need to keep checking it while it's in the oven until it gets nice and rosy, like rosy cheeks.

I stand there, the phone in my hand, realizing that between my multitasking English and Serbian,  Celsius, Fahrenheit and timer, I’ve lost something important, and not just in my culinary skills.

I am so grateful I still have my mom, who, without even realizing, not only taught me how to bake a pie, but recovered the precious lost and gave it back to me.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


Used with permission ©Örs Lévay2019

I came across the following post in one of my watercolor on-line groups:

Scrolling through my Amsterdam sketches I found this unfinished and partially smeared pen sketch. Instead of tearing it out of my sketchbook I revitalized it with some watercolor. In real time it took 5 minutes.

Attached to it was a 30 second video showing the process and the result, which, needless to say, was absolutely fabulous.

What caught my attention were the words like 


partially smeared, 

tearing out and, not surprising, 


I love the way artists express life truths through their work.

When I scroll back through my life ‘sketchbook’, I am more inclined to rip the pages out than allow the great Artist to revitalize the old work and turn it into something beautiful.  Thankfully, there are artists like Örs who remind us that there could be a better way…

Perhaps, it may take a bit more than 5 minutes but whatever it takes it's well worth it. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Teriyaki Paprikas

I’ll blame it on Buckee’s.   It was in this mega gas station on steroids we came across during our trip that I got inspired to make our own beef jerky. Who wouldn’t after seeing the massive displays of packaged and by-the-pound ‘ mountains of the irresistible deliciousness.

I’ve never made beef jerky before, so it took two half-tries to perfect the product. I thought that was pretty good for a novice. As a result of my second half-try, I had a rather large quantity of home made teriyaki sauce (it was teriyaki flavored beef jerky that I made) left over.  It just so happened that at the time I had some fresh boneless skinless chicken breast that needed a marinade, so I did the obvious, threw the chicken into the marinade, anticipating a making of a chicken teriyaki dish in our near future.

But, today, a need presented itself when I noticed that my potatoes are starting to go bad. Not being of the wasteful kind, I thought,

I need to use these potatoes – I’d better make paprikas.

Being a good Serbian cook, paprikas making ingredients are a staple in our house.  I always have everything I need on hand….everything, I thought, except… I remembered with a shudder, the teriyaki flavored chicken.

Teriyaki paprikas?!!!??? No way! I can hear my mother’s horrified voice of a bona fide culinary purist pronouncing a swift judgment on such unholy union. You can’t put teriyaki flavored chicken into a pot of paprikas!!

I deliberated my options.  I did all the mental gyrations trying to accommodate available ingredients and the time-honored recipes, until I made myself dizzy. The dinner hour was approaching and I had nothing half-edible to put on the table (jerky already long gone).

In a moment of inspired desperation, I closed my eyes and I did the unthinkable. I put teriyaki chicken into a pot of paprikas!

The act of liberation was followed by a rush of excitement and curiosity… Now that the pot is being stirred, what’s going to happen? Will one flavor overpower the other, will they blend together in a fresh culinary symphony…. Or will they end down the garbage disposal along with the carrot and potato peels?

As they say, The proof is in the pudding, so I was keenly observing my favorite food critics, as they were spooning the stew into the bowls.

How is it?, I finally dared to ask. With the mouths full, all I could get were enthusiastic thumbs up.

My big sigh of relief was followed by,

What did you do to it? It taste different – it’s good but definitely different. I grinned, a culinary rebel with a mission accomplished. 

You didn’t put that teriyaki chicken in it, did you? I grinned even more, the ends of my mouth touching the ears.

YOU DID NOT!!! You committed A CULINARY SACRILEGE!!! How could you put teriyaki chicken in paprikas?!!?!! Baba would be mortified.

She doesn’t need to know, does she? I winked,  fishing the extra potatoes into my bowl.