Tag Archives: pierogies

Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Cafe Polonez (Poland)

If you missed it, I am on a mission to eat authentic food from every country in the world, right here in Toronto! You can find all past recaps here.

Today I am all about Poland.Print

Mmm, Polish food. I have been looking forward to an Eastern European country since I started this mission. Polish cuisine is very similar to Ukrainian cuisine, which I grew up eating thanks to my Ukrainian Nana. My Nana’s Ukrainian pierogies (recipe there!) are probably my favourite food of all time, and I also love Borscht and cabbage rolls, two other very common dishes in Poland (and Ukraine). Polish food is also heavily influenced by Russia, Germany, Belarus, etc. so I am excited I have all those countries left to eat!

For my Polish eating experience I went to Cafe Polonez, in the heart of Toronto’s Polish community on Roncesvalles, with my blog friends Michelle, Casey and Shanondoah (aka the bloggers and lagers). Toronto has quite a few authentic Polish restaurants, but all my research told me Cafe Polonez was the best.

I started with a Zywiec, a popular Polish beer.

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I quite liked it, and it’s available at our local LCBO, so I may have to buy that in the future…

Cafe Polonez has an extensive menu. Almost too extensive! I wanted to eat everything but I went in there knowing that there were several things I needed to try. Borscht was one of those things. It actually originated in the Ukraine (I will be eating it again when I do Ukraine, for sure) and both my Nana and my aunt make a delicious borscht. I was looking forward to the Polish version, and it was definitely not a let down.

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Borscht is basically beet soup with other vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, parsley root,onions, and sometimes potatoes and tomatoes. That picture is not doing it justice at all but it was seriously good. I felt like I could have gone on eating it forever.

Since Cafe Polonez has such a big menu, we decided to get the platter for four, as it included all the things we wanted to try. Like kopytka…

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Little Polish potato dumplings similar to gnocchi, covered with gravy. Deeeelicious.

Hunter’s stew…

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A traditional Polish dish of cooked sauerkraut with slices of sausage (kielbasa) and pork. It was pretty good, and I especially loved the little bits of meat in there.

And a giant platter with all the Polish things.

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Cabbage rolls (golabki), Polish sausage (kielbasa), schnitzel (under the mushrooms), pierogies, fresh beets, coleslaw, carrots, and fried cabbage. Everything was delicious, especially the pierogies.

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My only complaint is that there weren’t more pierogies. They were so good that I bought 12 additional pierogies (you can buy their fresh pierogies frozen for takeout) to bring home and we ate them the next night. My favourite kind were the ones filled with pork and the cheddar and potato. So good! The other highlights for me were the kopytka, schnitzel (though I would have been okay if it was slightly smaller) and the cabbage roll. Those were very similar to my Nana’s.

It was quite an amazing evening of eating and I think I am going to start having dreams about that Cafe Polonez, specifically the borscht and the pierogies.

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Nana’s Authentic Ukrainian Pierogies Recipe (aka Pedaha)

When I think about my sweet Ukrainian Nana, the first two things I think about are love…

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Baby Eric!

And FOOD! When I was growing up, she was constantly making something. Canned everything, jams, birthday cakes with coins inside and buttercream icing, shortbread CHRISTMAS COOKIES!!!

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Banana splits every time I stayed overnight, Easter dinners, homemade pizza, lasagne, cabbage rolls, and of course, pierogies.

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Looooved her pierogies. She used to make batches of them and send them along to us. It was always such a treat. Those pierogies remind me of childhood. In my family, we always called the pierogies pedaha. I think it is a Ukrainian thing.

My Nana turned 100 a couple weeks ago, so for her birthday celebration we made some of her favourite dishes. My cousin sent me Nanny’s pierogi recipe, and I was on pierogi duty.

The pierogies are not overly difficult to make, but they are definitely time consuming. I made them over two evenings, after work. Along with wine, which I always recommend when cooking.

Filling ingredients:

  • 6-8 large potatoes (I actually used 10 because I didn’t want to run out, and I had a bit of mashed potato leftover)
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (so I used a pre-shredded bag of cheddar and mozzarella, and I definitely noticed a difference between my filling and my Nana’s. Hers was more yellow in colour and just a bit tastier. Nana is adamant about the sharp cheddar cheese)
  • Salt to taste (Nana uses a lot, always. Salt in everything)

Dough ingredients:

  • 6 cups flour
  • 1/2 lb butter (one cup) 
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp sour cream (secret weapon!)
  • 1 1/4 cups water

Yield – 55-60 pierogies

Filling directions:

As my cousin tells me, our Nana used to boil the potatoes with the skins on, and then peel them after they were soft. As you can imagine, trying to peel boiling hot potatoes is not a fun time. We think Nanners did this to add more flavour to the potatoes, but I’m sure it isn’t necessary. My cousin Chrissy has made these a bunch of times, and she followed Nanny’s directions to a T and finally she was all “Why am I trying to peel these boiling hot potatoes?!” so, yeah. Peel the potatoes and then chop them up prior to boiling. Much more boiling-friendly. Add chopped onion to the peeled, chopped potatoes.

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You can do this the night before and leave in the fridge if it’s easier (I did, but not necessary).

Once the potatoes are boiled and soft, you can remove the onion or keep it in the filling. I chose to keep the onion in, because I LOVE ONION.

Add cheese and more salt if you like (Nana likes!), and mash those puppies up.

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Dough directions:

Nanny suggests that you boil the water and add the butter, and then wait for the butter to melt and the water to cool. My cousin assumes this was because when Nana was first making her pierogies there were no microwaves. This is silly. Melt the butter in the microwave. Use lukewarm water, add the butter, eggs, and sour cream. Mix together, and then add the liquid to the flour.

You can use an electric mixer if you like, but I know our Nana is all about using her hands. This is how she inserted her love into everything she made (and love makes things taste better). So make sure your hands are nice and clean, and then mix that dough up. Knead it until it is smooth with no floury bits.

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It doesn’t look like much, but it goes a long way.

You can also make the dough the night before and use chilled dough the next day, but I actually found that warm dough worked best for me. It is the opposite of Nana’s shortbread Christmas cookies. In that case the dough is easier to work with when chilled because when it’s warm it sticks to evvvvverything! But with the pierogi dough I found the stickiness to be manageable. I also use parchment paper with my Nana’s Christmas cookies, and roll the dough between it, but for the pierogies I did not because I found using parchment paper was actually more of a hinderance. I know my Nana likes to feel that dough with her fingers!

Get a good handful of dough, and put it on a well-floured surface (the flour is KEY for no stickiness).

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Also put flour on top of the dough. Roll the dough into 1/8 in thickness.

Use a cookie cutter or a cup to cut in 2″ circles. Add a spoonful of filling in the middle.

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Seal by pressing the edges together. If the edges are not sealing, dampen them with water. Create your semicircle of pierogi deliciousness.

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After cutting your circles in the dough, put your leftover dough scraps back in your bowl of dough to be re-rolled.

Repeat until you have all the amazing pierogies.

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Place in a singler layer on a baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth, and then freeze the pierogies. Once frozen, lightly flour, put them in freezer bags, and back into the freezer. This stops them from sticking to each other (for the most part, I find it is almost unavoidable to have a little stickage once you cook them, even with Nana’s pierogies – I remember them being a bit sticky).

To cook the pierogies, boil water, salt, and some butter, and throw in 10-15 pierogies at a time. Once they rise to the top they are ready!

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These ones were boiled and then buttered by the staff at Willows Estate, I just brought them in frozen.

You can fry them afterwards if you like, but our Nanny never did, so I have always liked them just soft and doughy like she used to make them.

Eat them with lots and lots of sour cream! (and salt!!!)

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Nanny loved her own pierogies when I made them for her birthday!

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Did I mention she’s 100?!

So go forth and make your pierogies and enjoy them with your family!!!

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Photo source – quite the article written about our Nans on her birthday 😀

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Fam Lunch (alternate title: why doesn’t Lindsey get a diaper?)

I had a half day at work on Friday (I had 1.67 days of vacation to use up before the end of the year, so Friday was .67), so just before lunch I hit the road to my aunt Nancy’s house for a little lunch date with my family. (Side note: I drove to work for the first time since I started working there and it took me six minutes. Much better than the hour to hour and a half commute I used to do).

Anyway, my cousins Chrissy and Allie were visiting from BC with their husbands Aran and Keith (respectively) and their beautiful little babies, and I haven’t seen them all since Allie and Keith’s wedding in BC in June so I was pretty excited. We also had our amazing Nana with us for the day.

That picture is terrible. I didn’t have my camera with me, and my iPhone was slacking on the picture-taking, but that is basically just a lower-quality version of this picture from the spring:

Only one less dog and one more baby. Chrissy and Aran’s son Evan is missing from both though, he is tricky little minx to lock down for a photo. But I did get him earlier…

I’m surprised they were okay with me holding Evan upside down, considering my track record of dropping children on their faces… Evan sure liked it though. He made me do it over and over and over.

Anyway, we had a really great lunch full of Ukrainian food in honour of our Ukrainian Nana.

Who is the cutest Nana in all the land. We say that she is going to live forever because she is fueled by love.

We started with borscht (beet soup) that my aunt made herself, and it was soo delicious.

Seriously, it was amazing. I am sometimes not the biggest fan of borscht, it really depends how it is made. My Nana used to make really excellent borscht also, so I guess it runs in the family. My aunt said it is really easy to make actually, so I think I may have to try it out sometime. Pretty much my entire family is obsessed with sour cream also, so we all topped our soup with that.

And our main dish was pierogies! Or my family has always called them something different that I don’t know how to spell and I can’t even Google it, but when I was little I interpreted its pronunciation as “pettah hair”.

Whatever you call them, they are the best. Definitely one of my favourite foods. My Nana used to make the best ones ever! I miss them so much. And of course each pierogi on my plate must be topped with sour cream. It is very important. I can NOT eat pierogies without sour cream. And fried bacon and onions. Yes yes.

We also had kielbasa, which I LOVE, and cookies for dessert.

After lunch (and man, I was stuffed), Allie and my uncle Brian had some work to do outside, so the rest of us headed into the family room to sit around and digest. Chrissy and I snuggled up with our Nanny on the couch and had a little catch-up session.

Nana snuggles are the greatest. My Nana has smelled the same for as long as I can remember, and being near her makes me feel all warm and comforted.

Anyway, we were just talking, and all of a sudden my Nana brought out a little gift bag and said she had presents for us!

I know all about Nana’s presents, let me tell you. She is all about the ‘care packages’. She always likes to get us useful gifts. I have mentioned this before, but it’s worth bringing up again. When she lived on her own, she loved to get me anything that was on sale at the grocery store, so cookies, oranges, cheese (wrapped in wax paper, tin foil and then plastic wrap), and bread were all big items that frequented the care packages. Also half-used bottles of Windex and paper towel. And stamps. The care packages have always been very random (but very useful), for as long as I can remember.

And they are more random now that she is in a home and can’t really get out and shop for herself. My care packages from her now consist mainly of socks won at Bingo, cookies saved from meals (in Ziploc bags), other random gifts she has somehow acquired (like little stuffed animals, or figurines), and stamps (still stamps!).

Here was her care package for me around Easter:

And another one from a year ago or so:

So I know how random her “gifts” can be. But I was not prepared for what came next.

When my Nana was not doing well in the summer, she was pretty much bedridden, and couldn’t get to the bathroom on her own during the night. So she wore diapers for a bit. Hey, it happens. We will all be there someday (let’s not think about it). So I guess when she was getting better, she switched from diapers to these diaper-like pads. They were basically like REALLY thick maxi pads. So she pulled two of them out of the bag, turned to Chrissy, handed her one, and said “These are for your PANTIES,” (really loudly because her hearing is not the greatest).  And then she turned to me, handed me the other, and repeated “THESE ARE FOR YOUR PANTIES.” And went on to explain why we might need them. Feminine time, you know (sorry to all you men reading this).

They were not unlike this:

And Chrissy’s husband was sitting across from us watching the whole thing.

We were dying. Chrissy, my aunt Nancy and I could not contain our laughter. I tried, really I did, but I was crying. I was doubled over with tears streaming down my face. My Nana has been known to say funny things sometimes… One time after Easter dinner as we were leaving (and this was years ago), she asked us “Do you want a beer for the road?!” Um, Nana. That is illegal.

But this trumped everything she has probably ever done. And she was so serious about it. She really was just trying to be helpful, and it warmed my heart and made me laugh ridiculously hard all at the same time.

As we attempted to contain ourselves, my Nana looked at me and said “Oh, Lindsey! I thought you were Allie! Sorry, this isn’t for you,” and she took the pad out of my hands and tucked it back into her bag. And then she handed me MY gift.

Frickin’ cookies saved from meals!!!! No pad for me, suckers! This of course made us all laugh even harder.

So then my cousin asked, “Why doesn’t Lindsey get a pad?”

And my Nana said “Well Lindsey lives on her own you know…”

Yes, yes I do. A girl has to eat! If living on my own gets me cookies instead of a diaper, well, I am down with that. She also gave me $20. Who is the favourite?! 🙂

And then Allie came inside, and my Nanny regifted her the pad, and we all laughed all over again. She is 98, so of course she is allowed to have moments like this. But man it was funny.

It was a great day with my family. I loved seeing them!

And I know our Nana had a great time too. She kept saying how happy she was to be there. She is amazing. Sometimes I look at her and I just feel like my heart might burst. She makes me so happy.

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Island Adventuring

We had the day to kill on Saturday, as the wedding didn’t start until later, so Eric and I decided to rent bikes and explore Quadra Island.

I had grossly underestimated the size of the island. I kind of had the image in my head before we arrived of it just being the resort and a marina, with maybe some forest. But there was a small town (like four stores), and people live there (it has a population of nearly 2,500 according to Wikipedia). Even though we were biking for two hours we didn’t quite get to explore the entire thing. It was really hilly also. MAN it was hilly.

You can see Eric huffing and puffing up the hill in the background. I had to abandon my bike a few times to walk.

I’m eating like an absolute champ around here so it was nice to squeeze in something active.

We also did some general exploring around the resort, and Eric found a friend.

Eric the Eagle!

I am not sure how Eric the Eagle and Eric the Man both had nametags… Such a coincidence.

Sunday morning (Canada Day!) we woke up basically just in time to make it to brunch, and rolled ourselves out of bed and into the lodge for some food.

I saw this along the way:

And it made me laugh, because that man kind of looks like Richard Dreyfuss, and that is absolutely the shirt he let Bill Murray borrow in What About Bob.

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I saw some of our family and friends in the restaurant, so we did the ol’ “how are you feeling this morning?” thing, and regaled each other with tales of what time we eventually went to sleep after the wedding. And then I loaded up my plate with buffet goodness…

And then Eric and I waddled back to our room for a nap.

We awoke about an hour later feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. We took the water shuttle from our resort to Painter’s Lodge to see what kind of activities were going on for Canada Day.

We do actually say ‘eh’ a lot in Canada. That is one thing that is not just a stereotype. It’s when you ask a question and you want someone’s feedback, like “Wow, that’s a beautiful sunset, eh?” I don’t think there is any other word that works as well as ‘eh’ does in this context, so I fully embrace saying it. How else would I end my questions, eh?

Anyway, we immediately saw this when we docked at Painter’s Lodge.

That’s a big salmon, eh?! Campbell River is known as the salmon capital of the world (self-proclaimed, I am pretty sure), and Painter’s Lodge resort is famous for its fishing. They have these stations set up right on the dock so they can clean the fish immediately. And if you are staying there and catch a fish, the resort staff will clean it, cook it, smoke it, or freeze it for you so you can either eat it there or take it home.

We also saw a ton of seals. The salmon guts go right back into the water so the seals pretty much stalk the dock for food. I didn’t get a decent picture of them, but they were cute. They reminded me of my cat Winnie.

After Eric made another new friend…

We picked up our car and headed to downtown Campbell River to check out the Canada Day festivities.

We found a parade!

And it reminded me of the parades that used to happen in my hometown, with random vehicles decorated, and tractors.

We also came across a market on the water with tons of vendor booths selling various jewelry, pottery, and other knick-knacks. And they had a few authentic European food stations set up, so I made a beeline for the pierogies as soon as I saw them.

They weren’t quite as good as our Ukrainian Nana’s homemade pierogies, but they were still delicious. And that coleslaw was actually pretty good also, and I usually am not a fan of that stuff.

We perused the market for a bit, before continuing down the water to the historical pier.

There were a lot of boats. Boats everywhere!

So many clouds also. It was overcast and chilly. But we still wanted ice cream, so we got some from a little shop on the pier and sat down to take in the view.

And then we headed back to our car and continued along the highway for about 20 minutes to Saratoga Beach.

It was pretty, but man it was cold. I really wanted to swim in the ocean, but it was just too cold. I’m not usually afraid of cold water swimming, but I was already freezing in my jacket. I couldn’t do it. Ah, one day I will swim there.

But we had a good time walking along the beach enjoying the view and looking for crabs and shells.

When we finally got back to our resort, Eric met up with our Dad for an intense game of chess.

Please note the denim on denim. If my dad isn’t wearing a tropical shirt, he is wearing denim.

I watched them for a bit before heading to our room to leisure around. I thought maybe since the chess was life-sized it would make it more exciting to watch. I was wrong.

Later that evening, Eric and I again took the water shuttle into town to meet up with Chrissy, Allie, my aunt, and their friends for dinner at Quay West, a restaurant located right on the ocean with a beautiful patio.

We were also there to see the fireworks display, which were set to go off on the wharf right beside us.

Our reservations were on the patio (for optimal fireworks viewing), and beautiful though the patio was, it was FREEZING. We are Canadian though (eh?!) so we sucked it up. Well, after some of the boys ran home to grab a ton of sweaters to pile on us… Then I sucked it up.

I started with the seafood chowder, mainly to warm me up, but also because I wanted to try the local seafood.

This picture is not doing the chowder justice at all. It was really good, and had tons of seafood in it.

For my main I obviously had to get salmon, since I was in the salmon capital of the world.

It came topped with crab, shrimp, and cheese, alongside corn on the cob and rice. And the salmon was honestly amazing. I was not disappointed.

And I would have gotten dessert, but Eric and I had to book it back to the resort. The fireworks started to go off around 10:20, which was bad timing for us, as we had to take the water shuttle back to our resort and the last boat was at 11. We were only able to stay for a few fireworks before we had to head back. But hey, if this was the only thing to go wrong during our island vacation, I will take it. It was great to see everyone at dinner, and I will take that over the fireworks any day.

And that was our last day at April Point.

(View of the resort from our water shuttle)

I will miss this view from our cabin patio, even with the clouds.

And I will miss these people.

But at least I took a million pictures. I had a great time! And my vacation in the west isn’t over just yet!

The next day we packed up and left for Salmon Arm (where my mom and Eric live, in the BC interior) at 5:30 am, but that is a story for another post.

Hope you guys are all having a good week! And Happy Fourth of July to all my American chums, eh?!

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