March thru Europe Week 3

With all of the chaos around is this last week, changes to schedules, and the need to prepare for a few weeks of isolation, I spent very little time in the kitchen! I’m currently working at home, which is an awesome perk, especially during such a massive health crisis. That has kept me very busy, but I had thought (incorrectly) that I’d have plenty of time to cook each night so prepping wasn’t necessary! Lesson learned for next week; at the end of the work day, even in my own home, I prefer to have my dinner mostly ready with just a few easy steps before eating. I did manage to get through two more stops on our March thru Europe!

IRELAND: Reuben sandwich

The one thing I did prep was the corned beef for my annual Reuben sandwich! I know I posted it about it last year, and I know it’s not the most Irish thing out there, but I just have to make it for St. Patrick’s Day. I did try one new thing this year, and that was using Jessica Gavin’s Instant Pot Corned Beef. While I opted not to make the veggies, the meat portion of this recipe was AMAZING. The corned beef was perfectly tender, the broiled glaze added extra flavor, and I was able to easily shred the meat for my sandwiches. Here’s how I make the best Reuben sandwich:

  1. Use shredded corned beef over deli meat if possible.
  2. Use a griddle to make the sandwich. The panini maker just squishes it all together too much.
  3. Sauté the meat on the griddle before layering on top of buttered rye (or pumpernickel rye swirl) bread and Swiss cheese. Do the same with sauerkraut.
  4. Use my dad’s sauerkraut. I know that’s not an option for you, but at least buy good sauerkraut. NOT anything the least bit sweet.
  5. Make your own Russian dressing. Equal parts mayo and ketchup, a dab of horseradish, chopped red onion, a hefty spoon of sweet pickle relish, and a splash of white vinegar.
  6. Top the meat & kraut with the Russian dressing, and more Swiss & rye.
  7. Once the bottom piece of bread is browned and the edges of the cheese look melty, very very very carefully flip your sandwich. Admittedly, there is where things go awry. I literally used a spatula to pick the sandwich up, put my hand on top of the uncooked side of bread, and held the sandwich together to flip it. Then I carefully slid it back on the griddle.
Dad’s sauerkraut, preparing my corned beef & sauerkraut, and the final product!

I served our Reubens with sweet potato fries and an “Irish” salad. For the salad, greens, red onion, cucumber, tomato, hard boiled egg, white cheddar cheese, and a tarragon lemon dressing. I love this salad – protein, bright flavorful dressing, and lots of veggies.

POLAND: Pierogies and kielbasa

All month my plan had been to make pierogies with a Polish friend. However, with our efforts to quarantine, it was best to save that for another time. So instead, I roped my husband into helping. I was a little nervous after last month’s ravioli. Making pierogies turned out to be much simpler, and so delicious that I’m absolutely willing to make these again. My recipe came from Half Baked Harvest. Since I wasn’t sure how much of my day, or grocery supply, I wanted to spend elbow deep in pierogies, I decided to make only a half recipe. Next time, I would make half the filling recipe and the full dough recipe, as I had a ton of extra filling leftover. I’ll be using those leftovers for another dinner! Here’s the recipe run down (plus salt & pepper!):

My assistant, cutting out pierogies

Dough: flour, egg, butter, Greek yogurt

Filling: potatoes, cream cheese, butter, grated cheddar

Sauce: bacon, onion, butter, fresh thyme, apple cider vinegar

I boiled the potatoes while I made the dough, then let the dough rest for a half hour. The potatoes got mashed with all the yummy additions. Once we were ready for assembly, I just used a rolling pin (no pasta roller!!) and rolled the dough as thin as possible. My husband helped cut circles with a biscuit cutter, and added a spoon of filling. Each circle was folded in half (sealed with a bit of water around the edges) and I froze the pierogies immediately.

When it was time to eat, I boiled the frozen pierogies, and made a pan sauce with the bacon and onions. Once boiled, the pierogies got a quick sauté in the sauce so that each one had little bits of bacony and oniony goodness.

My kielbasa was already precooked; I browned smaller pieces to serve with the pierogies. This meal was fantastic; I can’t wait to make these again with my Polish friend!


Besides the pierogies, I also made one other new recipe from Half Baked Harvest this week, Swirled Banana Bundt cake. I modified it a little, figuring two of us didn’t need an entire Bundt cake, and I have limited ability to share right now! I actually cut the recipe into one-third, and used two tiny loaf pans to bake it off. I’m sure muffins would have worked as well. This recipe was super simple and so delicious with chocolate chips and a swirl of cream cheese in the middle. Totally worthy of making the full Bundt size for a brunch! I’m missing my normal banana muffins, but I’m out of pecans and I just like them better with nuts. This was a worthy substitute.

Banana cake with chocolate chips and cream cheese!

I have all of my ingredients ready to finish out March thru Europe next week! I’ll be repeating two countries and hitting one new spot to complete my theme. Stay tuned to see where I make my final stops in my European kitchen!

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