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Russian Roasted Pork Sausage

This is the sausage my Russian grandparents would make several times a year. It was served at every family gathering. They were from a small village outside of Minsk in Belarus. Preparing this phenomenal sausage today for our family and friends is a wonderful way to carry on traditions through the generations.

This sausage is not made with ground pork. Hand cut 1 inch pieces of pork butt or pork shoulder are used. The leaner cuts do not work. We tried. It needs to be fatty.

The meat is mixed with a special combination of spices and garlic. Then it is marinated a day. Fresh crushed spices and fresh minced garlic are more flavorful than ground spices or jarred garlic.

The meat mix is stuffed into casings and then simmered in lots of water. The final step is roasting and browning the sausage in the oven

Make sure not to boil or roast too long. This is a moist fatty sausage.

My family always made double this recipe which is for 20 pounds of meat. Our family today is smaller so 10 pounds is enough for us.

Ingredients

10 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder

Hog casings, soaked in water and then rinsed inside and out

Spice and seasoning mixture:

1 tablespoon sugar

10 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

5 large cloves garlic, or more, minced

1 tablespoon dill seed, crushed

1 teaspoon ground allspice or 20 seeds, crushed

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or 2 whole cloves, crushed

1 teaspoon ground coriander or 20 seeds, crushed

1/2 bay leaf, crumbled fine

1 teaspoon ground mustard powder or 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, crushed

1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes or 1 dried hot red cayenne pepper, crushed

3/4 cup water

Steps

  • The spices that need to be crushed can be combined and broken into tiny pieces with a mortar and pestle or use a small bowl and the bottom of a small glass. Grinding these whole fresh spices give you better flavor than the ground spices.
  • Combine the dry seasonings in a small bowl, reserving 1 teaspoon salt.
  • Mince the garlic and add 1 teaspoon of the salt to it and mash it with the knife side
  • Cut the pork shoulder or butt into 1 inches pieces. Place in a very large ceramic or glass bowl
  • Add the water, garlic and seasonings to pork and mix well with your hands
  • Cover and refrigerate 1 day
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Make sure the hog casings are rinsed thoroughly under running cold water. Allow the water to run through the interior of the casings and look for holes. Cut out the sections with holes.
  • Tie a knot in the end of the casing.
  • Using an automatic sausage stuffer, slip the casing over the stuffing tube. I have an attachment to my Kitchen Aid stand mixer
  • Twist the links every 8-12 inches. You can keep the links connected or you can break off and separate each link from the stuffing tube. Twist the ends. Set the sausage links aside. Continue until all the meat is in the casings
  • Bring 1 or 2 large pots of water to a boil. Leave room for the sausage
  • Add the sausage to the water. Poke a few holes in each length. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 15-20 minutes. Skim any scum that rises to the surface.
  • Drain most of the water from the cooking pots but reserve some.
  • Remove sausage from the pot and place on shallow baking sheets. Maintain about 1/2 to 1 cup of water from the cooking pot in the bottom of the roasting pan. Cover with foil and roast about 15 minutes
  • Remove foil and roast till browned on each side, turning once, about 15 minutes on each side. Add and maintain the 1/2-1 cup cooking water to the roasting pans too. Sausage should be cooked till browned and tender. Do not overcook or it will be dry!
  • Serve the sausage links on a large platter. You can cut into pieces about 3 inches long if you like.

Here are some photos of the process

Gather your seasoning ingredients

Crush the whole spices with a mortar and pestle. You can make your own using a small bowl and small glass

Marinate the meat & seasoning mixture one day & stuff it into the hog casings the net day

Boil the sausage in a large pot of water

Roast the sausage on shallow baking pans in a 350 F oven

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Voila! Enjoy our familiar taste of Russia!

Curried Chicken Salad

This is a main dish salad that can be presented in many forms. Add things like grape halves, walnuts, pecans, dried cherries or celery slices for a refreshing cold main dish, add pasta or cooked rice, spread it on bread as a sandwich or on crackers for an appetizer. Or just make the dressing and dip in fresh veggies!

Poaching the chicken is the first step

  • Place 4 chicken breasts, cut in halves crosswise, in a large cooking pot of boiling water with 1 quartered onion, 1 bay leaf and several black peppercorns.
  • Once it’s boiling again turn the heat off and cover. Or place on an extremely low flame. The remaining heat of an electric cooktop works well
  • Using an instant read thermometer check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast after 10 minutes. Once each piece reaches 155 F remove it from the water and cool. It’s temperature will rise to 165 F as it rests on a platter or in a colander.
  • When cool either shred the chicken or cut into bite size cubes. Your choice. I prefer shredded!!

Dressing

In a large bowl mix together

1 cup light Hellman’s mayonnaise

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon Madras style curry powder

4 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Add chicken to dressing. Serve cold

This curry dressing is the same recipe as the curry dip we made at Strongbow’s Turkey Inn which is located in Valparaiso Indiana. Serve as a dressing or dip for fresh veggies like we did at Strongbow’s!

Voila! I hope you enjoy this as we have!

Cowboy Casserole Light

Cowboy themed foods are traditionally very hearty and full of calories and fat. Not this one! You’ll find here a lower calorie, low fat and low carb “Cowboy Casserole” which was a hit at the recent potluck dinner hosted by The Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region. Jeanne, one of the parents brought this casserole and it was devoured!

Here is the recipe and it’s many versions she shared with me. Thank you Jeanne!

Cowboy Casserole is a very quick and easy one dish meal to prepare. It’s as good reheated as it is fresh from the oven too!

Basically it’s a layering of mashed potatoes, shredded chicken, bacon bits, grated cheese and BBQ sauce! I used puréed cauliflower in place of the potatoes for fewer carbs and an even lighter taste. Mashed or puréed are good

Other options are to use instant potatoes or adding flavoring packets to your mashed potatoes such as Ranch Dressing Seasoning Mix or Caesar Salad Dressing Mix.

I used grated sharp cheddar cheese. You may prefer another cheese like white cheddar or Parmesan. If you prefer more meat add more. Add more or less bacon. Use your favorite BBQ sauce. I like Sweet Baby Rays or Billy Bones.

Poach your own chicken in water with onion and celery, bay leaf and black peppercorns My method is quick and easy. Cover the chicken with cold water. Add 1 unpeeled onion, quartered. Add 2 stalks celery, 1 bay leaf and 7 peppercorns. Bring to a boil. Cover and place on the lowest heat possible for 20 minutes. Voila!

Or buy a rotisserie chicken

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower or 2-3 pounds potatoes cooked and mashed or puréed or a large package of instant potatoes or a large package of frozen or premade mashed potatoes or cauliflower

Ranch Seasoning mix optional

Butter for lining a baking dish

Foil

2 -3 large chicken breasts or 1/2 to 1 whole rotisserie chicken, shredded

1/3 cup real bacon bits or pieces of leftover cooked bacon

1 cup grated or shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup or so BBQ sauce

Here’s the Steps

  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish
  • Spread the pureed or mashed cauliflower or potatoes in bottom of baking dish
  • Place shredded chicken over potatoes
  • Sprinkle bacon over chicken
  • Sprinkle cheese over bacon
  • Squirt or spoon BBQ sauce over cheese to cover in s striped pattern
  • Cover with foil
  • Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until bubbly
  • Remove foil and bake about 15-20 minutes until browned and slightly crispy
  • It’s best served with a large flat spatula so the layers remain intact on the dinner plate
  • Reheat as needed
  • Voila!

Spread puréed cauliflower in buttered baking pan

Sprinkle on shredded chicken

Sprinkle on bacon pieces

Sprinkle on shredded cheese

Squirt or spoon on BBQ sauce

Cover and bake

Remove foil and bake till browned

Here’s how to poach your chicken. Don’t cook them too long! Chicken breasts are easy to over cook and dry out

Place chicken breasts of equal size in a large cooking pot. Cover with water by 1 inch. Add an unpeeled onion, quartered, 2 celery sticks, 1 bay leaf and 5 peppercorns Also salt if you like.

Bring mix to a boil. Then reduce heat to lowest level to barely a simmer for 15 minutes. Check temperature of chicken with an instant read thermometer. Remove chicken from water at 155F degrees and set aside 10 minutes. The chicken will reach 165 degrees while resting at room temperature.

To make some wonderful stock, continue simmering the broth uncovered until it’s reduced by half. Pour through a fine sieve and ladle into jars or freezer containers. Store in the frig or freezer

Puréed Cauliflower

Cut up 1 head of cauliflower into large pieces and place in a large saucepan with at least 2 inches of water. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer covered 15 minutes or until very fork tender. Drain and mash with a bit of added butter and milk

Enjoy!

Potatoes the French Way

This is the style of potato served in France. It has no flour in the cream sauce. Only heavy cream, grated cheese and garlic! It is baked in a heavy shallow baking pan and arranged in rows of upright slices. I used a cast iron fry pan. Serves 6-8 but can be doubled for a crowd which is what I did!

This recipe is from spoonforkbacon.com as Cheesy Garlic Potatoes Gratin

I did not add the final 2 tablespoons butter to the top of the cheesy potatoes. Otherwise the recipe is the same

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 heaping cup of grated white cheddar cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan plus more for sprinkling

3 large cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

Procedure

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Heavily butter your shallow heavy baking pan
    In a large bowl combine cream, cheeses, garlic, salt and pepper
    Thinly slice potatoes with a mandolin slicer
    Mix potatoes into cream sauce
    Arrange potatoes in upright stacks in your baking dish so they are standing vertically
    Pour the remaining cream sauce over the potatoes
    Cover with foil and bake 35-40 minutes
    Remove from oven and sprinkle with the additional Parmesan. Keep uncovered
    Bake another 25-30 minutes or until browned and tender
    Allow to sit at room temperature 10 minutes before serving

Add potato slices to cream sauce

Arrange potatoes as vertically as you can. My slices were pretty thin and delicate

Paris in Montmartre ‘n More

The very end of our 9 week trip we spent 9 nights in a large apartment in Montmartre close to Sacre Coeur. Our 3 daughters and 2 son in laws joined us. This was the beginning of May 2018 and the weather was mostly sunny!

Across the street from where the composer Erik Satié once lived we had a large modern apartment of two levels located also across from the Museum of Montmartre. The photos above were our neighborhood!

The Montmartre Museum was once home to many artists including Renoir. It’s two buildings with courtyards and gardens combined together. As many homes in Paris, including our apartment rental, the outside is plain and basic but the interior is more elaborate and inviting

There are gardens to explore here too! This is a view of The Montmartre Vineyard from the museum gardens

La Maison Rose is a picturesque spot in Montmartre. It’s a historical cafe serving fresh foods

Arugula pesto and salad

Fresh ricotta and herbs

A dinner in Montmartre at Poulbot

As we explored other areas of Paris we made reservations for Apertifs at Le Mary Celeste! They featured exquisite cocktails and small plates of creative foods!

Here is Diana’s reservation time and name written on the top of our table! So cool! 18:45 is 6:45 pm

Ellsworth located on Rue Richelieu was a favorite for dinner. The ambiance was very simple. The food delicious, creative and plentiful!

Touring the Eiffel Tower was top on our list! We bought tickets several weeks ahead directly from their website. We had tickets to go to the top and separate tickets for lunch on the 2nd floor at 58 Tour Eiffel

First we had lunch

Then we returned to the ground level and found the lift to take us to the top!

This was our only rainy day but we persevered!

Another day we had booked in advance a cooking class at La Cuisine Paris. The Intensive Macaroon Class! This was a 3 hour lesson where we learned to make the Italian and French style macaroons and several fillings. Thoroughly enjoyable!! I’ll definitely take another class next time! Highly recommended!!

We each came home with a box of macaroons!

Another memorable beautiful day we took a private tour of the Louvre, enjoyed the Tuileries and then an exquisite evening dinner cruise on the Seine!

The Louvre private tour we booked though Airbnb with Kate Chartier who is an art historian and a portrait painter. We met first at her apartment next to the Louvre. She gave us an overview of the art history and then took us to the most important pieces of art at the Louvre. We avoided the long lines and saw more than we would have on our own. It was great to all be together

After our amazing tour we enjoyed relaxing in the Tuileries, the gardens outside The Louvre

The dinner cruise boarding on the Seine was a short walk away. We booked Calife Seine Dinner Cruise a few weeks ahead. It was marvelous! The boat was small, the food amazing and the scenery was picture perfect! Paris glitters and shines at night!

We took a walking tour through Montmartre, a food walking tour booked through EdibleParis.com and we explored all over Paris on our own!

Merci! A cute beachy vibe shop

Roue de Paris the transportable Ferris wheel

Montmartre and Abbesses regions

We had a marvelous stay up on Montmartre! Great views of the city below

Our last evening together we had dinner near the Eiffel Tower at Les Grand Vernes

Look for my post on our day trip to Monet’s Gardens at Giverny soon!

Santiago de Compostela

We parked our car at the Marriott hotel we stayed and then returned it to the Renault dealer after leasing it for 7 weeks! We paid about $29 a day to rent this through the Renault Eurodrive program! Much cheaper than your usual car rental! The longer you lease it, the lower your daily rate.

Santiago de Compostela is a city built around the cathedral that houses St James crypt and his remains. This city is the most sacred in Spain and is a world UNESCO Heritage sight. This is the end point for the St James Walk or The Way. It is more popular among Europeans and Asians than Americans. Millions of people have walked across the various routes in Europe to arrive at this cathedral.

It’s a very friendly city where people from all over the world arrive and share their stories. Families with young children, college students, retired men and women all walk The Way. Some people pay to have their belongings carried and sleep in comfy hotels. Most rough it and stay in basic hostels for a few euros a night. Some people make the walk every year!

It’s a relaxed place with crowds of people who all have a story to share. The sound of music is heard throughout the day as it echos through the old town

We stayed at a Marriott several days and enjoyed the views and special attention!

Hotel Palacio del Carmen

Our hotel was a convent in past. This breakfast room was a chapel.

The sparkly clean cathedral from a side view

View from the cathedral to the main square

The cathedral has a large silver urn that contains incense. It is swung from the large ropes so it swings across the open space. Originally it was to cover the bad smell of the pilgrims!

This is a group of college students from Mexico. They formed a musical band and performed during and upon completing The Way

One day we stopped for lunch at the farmers market area called Abastos .

This small parade came by as it was Ascension Day celebrations. See my other post on this Santiago de Compostela: Ascension Day Celebrations

Pastries are a thing here too! Special breads with St James symbols

We learned of a special place for dinner one night. The storefront was basic but the food was outstanding! Casa Marcelo.

No reservations. Wait in line early to get in for a seating. The menu was all in Spanish but the waiters interviewed us to find out our likes. Tapas/ small plates

Dinner at the Marriott one night outdoors.

Santiago de Compostela was a gem! I recommend it as one of the best of Spain!

Santiago de Compostela: Ascension Day Celebrations

Santiago de Compostela: Ascension Day Celebrations

Ascension Day in Spain is celebrated with feasts of food, folk dancing, music, parades and carnivals! This holiday celebrates the 40th day after Easter remembering Jesus’ bodily Ascension to Heaven. We were lucky to be in Santiago de Compostela to experience this because the Old Town is the most religious site in Spain and a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Galicia is a region of Spain on the far western coast. Santiago de Compostela is the city built around the cathedral that holds the remains of St. James. Millions of people have walked the “Way of St James” through Europe to this cathedral!

The cathedral and main square

View of the carnival from the main square

Parades marched through the old town for several days

Huge crowds walked though town to the carnival

The celebrations began Thursday night with the carnival. Crowds of people enjoyed the colorful rides, games, cotton candy, octopus and pork ribs!

Cotton Candy was made everywhere!

Boiled octopus and grilled pork ribs were grilled on site and served with beer and wine!

As we waited in line to be seated in the massive tents, we watched the chefs in action!

Slabs of raw pork ribs were grilled over charcoal and seasoned only with salt. No pre boiling or marinating! Grilled sausages too!

Raw octopus were rinsed in tubs of cold water with a hose and then dropped in a vat of boiling water. They tested for doneness by pinching the octopus. They were then lifted out of the water and cut into bite size pieces with scissors

The line was too long for dinner so we returned for lunch Friday

Fresh churros were a big deal! They’re like a long donut with different flavors, toppings and fillings

Early Friday evening in the main square I watched a variety of well trained musicians and dancers perform. The crowds were not too large because the performers rotated through several locations in the old town.

The costumes were gorgeous!

This experience was a true highlight of all of our travels!