Everyone has those food items that stick with them as they grow up. A soup or casserole your mom made that you miss as you go through college. Then there are the recipes and foods that have a deeper history. For me, that is my great-grandmother’s kolaches. She would spend a full day making these for the family and we loved them. Our favorites were those filled with poppy seed and others topped with a sweetened cream cheese. This recipe, and the technique that went along with it, was passed to my mother. She too would spend a full day making kolaches. The smell of yeast would wander through the house and that was the sign that something awesome was a few hours away. My mom would send my dad to work with bags filled with different flavors and he would return telling her how quickly they disappeared. These small pastries were a staple of my childhood. And sure, there are some store bought options out there that come close to being a temporary replacement but they all vary just a little bit.
My mother was kind enough to pass the family kolache recipe to my wife and I after we got married. My wife made the savory versions (klobasneks) once before and they turned out great, but recently we decided to try our hand at the sweet version that I grew up with. Of course, we made some savory ones as a snack and for the science of it. If you’re going to perfect something, you have to practice. We ended up with a product we were happy with but that we know can be improved and perfected so we took copious notes and will make another attempt soon. We are also going through different flavors that could be combined to make the kolaches our own and we have a number of ideas of things that are readily available in Portland so we will give those a shot as well. As we make the tweaks to get the dough as close to what my great-grandmother would make, we know that we will be able to pass that along to our own children and keep this tiny bit of my Czech heritage alive.
I posted a few photos of the end result and received a large number of requests for the recipe. Seeing as this recipe was passed down to my mother first I asked how she felt about the recipe being shared. Right now, she would prefer that the recipe stay in the family and I am going to respect that. However, she had no qualms with me posting a few similar recipes that I found online and sharing a few ideas on techniques.
The first recipe is for klobasneks, the savory, meat and cheese version of a kolache. While the history of it (and the kolach in general) is a little off in the link, the recipe is a great start for making klobasneks. One note I will make here is that the dough and the sausage are the stars here and special care should be paid to both. For sausage we try our best to find a German or Czech style link. We then boil it and when cooked, give it a sear on all sides before letting it cool. We then cut it into the proper size before forming the klobasneks. The dough part is just as important. With all of the recipes I am going to post, patience (and butter) are the key. The more patience you have for the rise of the dough and the less you work the dough when preparing it, the better the final product. When you think the dough is ready, wait a little longer. A little more time and you may get a little jump in the rise, resulting in an even better result.
Next up is a very detailed history and recipe for sweet kolaches. The technique in this one is a little too precise and methodical for me and what you will find is that as you start to make kolaches, being precise is overkill. I do like that they include some filling recipes as well and the general concept of the kolache is still intact. For a more free form version there is this recipe. It is not perfect but it gives a lot more leeway to do what you wish with the kolache recipe.
I think these three recipes are a great way to get started trying to make your own Czech pastries at home. I hope you enjoy these sweet treats that remind me of my chilhood!
Houston, I grew up on your suburban streets. You have been my home for the better part of 25 years. But, it is time for a change. We’ve grown apart the past five or six years, my work taking me to Chicago, New York, Atlanta, and D.C. for most of the week. I would return on Thursday evenings and enjoy a fun weekend. That has happened less and less the last couple of years and I blame you. You have grown too big too fast and I long for the Houston of my youth. Not only have you grown, you have become more expensive, yet added little in the way of benefits. All of this, coupled with the heat, has made you less enjoyable.
So, my family and I are leaving for greener (literally and figuratively) pastures in Oregon. We are giving up the 100 degree summers for 80 degree summers. We are giving up Saturday afternoon traffic for Saturday afternoon hiking. We are giving up newscasts where the nightly report is a shooting or stabbing for a nightly newscast where the big story is “What to do with all that cauliflower”. We are slowing down. We are going to enjoy life and our city, not have our city rush us from one place to the next, trying to keep up with the Joneses.
We are giving up this:
Yes, the news is true. We are leaving Houston for Portland come July. With my work being focused on traveling to customer sites, we can be based anywhere there is an airport. We are ready for a change of scenery. We are ready for somewhere where 30 minutes away we can go for a hike and see waterfalls like Multnomah Falls pictured above. I am willing to put up with rain and gray days for the opportunity to have summers that are spectacular and give my family the ability to be outdoors most of the time.
This has been a long time coming. We had our hearts set on moving to Berlin but I was not able to find an opportunity with my company there, so we started exploring cities in the U.S. We have always loved Portland and on our most recent trip back, we knew it was where we wanted to live. It is a big city that doesn’t feel like a big city. The downtown is well laid out, the people are friendly, and the weather, even when it is raining, is pleasant.
Of course, we are sad to leave our family and friends in Houston, but we will certainly be back to visit. This decision was not an easy one but we do believe we are doing what is right for us as a family.
That is all as far as Portland news is concerned. Now back to your regularly scheduled travel post!
“The mass is cancer. Ringo has one or two months left.”
At first I stared at the text message, still trying to focus on the conversation that had suddenly started sounding like faint background noise. Then, my mind grasped the meaning of the message and I felt my eyes water. Wait, what? I’m in the middle of a client meeting, why am getting choked up over a dog? He is not just a dog, that’s why. He is a family member, a friend, and my little buddy.
Ringo has been a member of our family since I was in high school. Right off the bat he and I were friends. We did not do the stereotypical dog and young boy things that you see in movies. No, he would lay under my feet while I was reading or on the computer. He would follow me around the house, sometimes coming close to knocking me over when I did not realize he was behind me. But most often, we played a game of chase. Ringo loves showing off and a chase is the best way to get him to strut his stuff. At the same time, Ringo is an ornery guy. A sprinter. He loves to wait for the front door to open just to take off and explore the neighborhood.
Sure, to most people, dogs are dogs. But Ringo, and other family pets for that matter, represent something else. Ringo is a confidant, a silent friend. As I type this, all of the memories I have had with my friend are overwhelming my thoughts. My one hope, to be home and with him when it is time for his final rest.
For those who we have yet to tell, Jess and I are engaged to be married!
So, I’m sure everyone wants the scoop, how it happened, when we’re getting married, and how little sleep I’ve achieved. To start, I’ll explain how the engagement went.
Jess and I have always enjoyed heading to Coupland Dancehall to dance and enjoy good music. I contacted Kyle Park, an old friend of Jess’s who happens to be a country musician, asking when he would be at Coupland and whether or not he would be willing to play his ‘Yours and Mine’ song. Of course, Kyle, being the nice guy that he is, happily agreed. Having a date that Kyle was going to play, I was able to organize Jess’s and my parents to surprise her at the dancehall.
Of course, loving to dance, Jess agreed to go to Coupland and we headed to Austin on Friday, February 22nd. The ring was hidden away in the depths of my suitcase the whole time, my biggest worry was dropping the ring or flat out losing it. The evening of the dance rolled around and Jess and I made the thirty minute drive. To our surprise, the dancehall was packed (Kyle is getting popular!) and walking in we realized there were very few spots to sit.
We danced a few times during Kyle’s first set and were having a great evening. Kyle came back out for his second set and I became anxious, knowing that the song would be played in the next few minutes. Kyle had informed me before the show that he would play a George Strait composition before he played our song and when it came on I text messaged my mother and told her to get everyone ready.
Jess and I started dancing to ‘Yours and Mine’ and I eventually leaned in and asked her to marry me. She stepped back, looked at me confusedly, and then I showed her the ring, she just about lost it. At first I’m not sure she thought the whole thing was real and for both of us the next few minutes were a blur. I pointed out our families standing to the side and they gave us all hugs.
As far as when we are getting married, we do not know the exact date just yet but have been exploring options in late July and mid to early August. Neither of us have really slept thanks to excitement and adrenaline.
A belated “Happy New Year!” to anyone who still visits.
Yes, I am alive and well and back in Houston after a long break for Christmas and the ringing-in of 2008.
My recent trip to Chicago and small town Indiana was capped on both ends with upgrades to first class on Continental Airlines, and I would like to point out a few things.
For one, Continental’s upgrade methods are probably some of the easiest in the industry to acquire, especially after you understand the way it works. As an elite OnePass member, you receive complimentary upgrades whenever there is space available on the aircraft. First to be upgraded are Platinums, then Golds, and finally Silvers. There is also a fourth group of fliers who can be upgraded, the Y class ticket-holders. Y class tickets are full fare economy tickets. After all of the OnePass members have been upgraded, Y class ticket holders are upgraded in order of check-in time (as long as there is space available).
For my trip, the system worked flawlessly. I was set to leave on December, 26th and upon checking-in noticed that my seat was changed to 1B. A pleasant surprise. On the return, I was put in 2A and was going to give the upgrade to my girlfriend Jess but after talking to the gate agent, was actually able to get her in the front cabin with me. I have pondered how the gate agent was able to give me the seat and after watching the gate area I think I figured it out.
For one, this was a packed flight. Since it was the 31st of December, there were not a lot of business travelers (elites) and I’m assuming there were not any Y class ticket holders. I simply walked up to the gate and asked if there was any room in the front cabin. The agent looked at me and surprisingly said “yes”. A few minutes later and Jess had a seat next to me, making the trip home even more enjoyable.
The time in Indiana was well spent with family and it was a real treat to be able to spend more quality time with my grandmother who has not been well over the last year. I will post pictures from the trip as soon as I get them organized and uploaded.
This blog will be seeing some changes and a potential move over the next few weeks so stay tuned.