Saturday, February 6, 2016

Game On!

   Looking for a last minute idea for a snack to enjoy during the Big Game? We all know everybody (us included) is going to have wings, guacamole and deli platters, but how about something to substitute potato chips with? It's only February, so I bet most people are still sticking to their New Year's resolutions and are looking for "healthier" snacks that are not necessarily carrots or celery sticks.  Roasted garbanzo beans - they are full of protein, they are super crunchy and you can create any flavor profile you like - sweet, salty, mild or spicy! My spice mix turned out to be awesome and I highly recommend it!

Ingredients:

* 2 (15 oz) cans of garbanzo beans
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp garlic powder
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 1 tsp five spice 

Directions:

1. Wash and drain garbanzo beans. Put them on the paper towel and pat them dry.

2. Put dry beans in the bowl, add olive oil and spices and mix together until everything is evenly coated.

3. Spread them into a single layer on the baking sheet and bake at 400F for 45 minutes, shaking the pan every 15 minutes.




    Roasting time depends on what you are looking for - if you would like them to be hard and crunchy, add  extra 5 minutes; if you like them softer, 40 minutes is probably all you need. They turned out really good and every time I look at my boys their jaws are moving... I'm not sure if we will have any left for the actual game if they keep "sampling" them like that!

Enjoy,
Magda.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

New ingredient, part 2!

   I am a huge fan of mushrooms... any kind, any preparation, any amount!!! In Poland we pick our own mushrooms straight from the woods (yes, that's right!) and we cook them as fresh as can be! And yes, we know exactly which one to pick and which one to stay away from... it's just one of our "Polish skills" that we are born with! I triad hundreds of different kinds of mushrooms (probably exaggerating here a little bit), but somehow I never tried Enoki mushroom... so thanks to my new year's resolution I have a perfect opportunity to do so.




   I was looking for some interesting recipes featuring Enoki, but since I didn't find anything that was "satisfying" enough, I decided to create my own.  I took the inspiration from Japanese cuisine and created a miso-ginger soup with Enoki and tofu.

Ingredients:

* 4 cups ginger miso broth (Trader Joe's)
* 15 oz fresh Enoki mushrooms
* 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
* 4 oz extra firm tofu
* 4 green onions, chopped
* 2 tbsp butter

Directions:

1. Cut roots of the Enoki mushrooms, at least 2-3 inches from the end. In the small pen, melt butter and fry half of the mushroom for 6-7 minutes until golden brown, set aside.

2. Wrap tofu into 2-3 paper towels and squeeze excess water. Cut into small cubes.

3. Boil miso-ginger broth, add remaining mushrooms, spinach and chopped onions (leave some for garnish) and cook everything for 5 minutes.

4. Add tofu and cook for 4-5 minutes.

5. Pour into bowls, garnish with fried mushrooms and green onions.




   The broth is delicious - super flavorful and comforting, while fresh and light. The Enoki mushrooms are a great substitute for noodles, they are a little bit chewy and have a "bite" to them - just like noodles but without all the extra carbs and calories.

Enjoy,
Magda.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Our Baby is two!

   I can't believe it, but it's true, Christopher just turned two (I swear, this rhyme was not intentional)! He is super funny, has strong opinions and lots to say, he loves to sing ("Let it go, let it go...") and loves to dance. He is really into cooking and baking, he always wants to help in the kitchen, he knows how to grate veggies, he can operate the KitchenAid mixer (supervised!) and he can "measure" dry ingredients (that does NOT mean that all the ingredients are getting into the bowl!)... basically what I am trying to say is that he is one awesome kid! So for his birthday we both made a hazelnut birthday cake with a Nutella frosting and chocolate glaze! He might only be two years old, but he already made his own birthday cake... and then ate a huge piece of it, but it's a different story.
Here is the recipe:

Cake Ingredients:

* 7 oz hazelnuts, grated
* 1/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
* 2 sticks of butter, room temp.
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
* 5 eggs
* 5 tbsp milk
* 2 tsp baking powder
* 1 tbsp vanilla extract
* pinch of salt
* 1 tbsp cocoa powder
* 1 tsp cinnamon

Frosting:

* 2 sticks of butter, room temp.
* 7 oz mascarpone cheese, room temp. 
* 1/3 cup powdered sugar
* 1 cup Nutella

Chocolate glaze:

* 10 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
* 1/3 cup butter
* 1 tbsp light corn syrup

Directions:

1. Using a mixer beat together butter and sugar until smooth, about 5 minutes.

2. Slowly add eggs, vanilla extract and milk and mix for additional 2-3 minutes.

3. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients (including nuts) and slowly add to the batter. Beat together for 2-3 minutes until combined.

4. Pour batter into two 9-inch, round, greased pans and bake at 350F for 30-35 min, until toothpick comes out dry. Transfer onto drying rack and let them cool completely (preferably overnight).

5. To make the frosting, combine butter, mascarpone and sugar and beat in the mixer for 5 minutes. Add Nutella and mix for additional 1 or 2 minutes until smooth.

6. Spread frosting between the cake layers, on the top and on the edges.

7. To make the glaze, combine chocolate chips and butter in glass bowl and microwave in 30 seconds intervals stirring after each time until melted completely, smooth and runny. Add corn syrup and pour over the cake immediately allowing the glaze to run down the sides to completely cover the cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the glaze to set.




The cake was a hit! The birthday boy enjoyed a huge piece (so as his shirt and table and floor) and demanded another piece the second he woke up the next day (luckily we have enough to last us for ever).




   One very important piece of advice: do not forget about the cake while it's in the oven! Yes, that happened! We were playing with Christopher's train and the cake might have baked for few minutes more that it should... but it all turned out awesome and moist and delicious!

Happy Birthday My Little Man!
Magda

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Power plant!

   No, not the power plant you are thinking about... I'm thinking about the plant that everybody is talking about recently and is considered a super food, apparently with some super powers! Normally, kale would not be my first choice as a green component of a salad, but I started using it more and more for two reasons: 1) it's one of the most nutritious leafy vegetables and 2) it is getting a little bit boring to always use lettuce or spinach. Everywhere I look, I see those extravagant, colorful and innovative ways to plate your salad, so I wanted to have a fancy lunch myself and I created my own kale salad extravaganza! Recipe below makes salad for one person:

Ingredients:

* 1.5 cups baby kale
* 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash (recipe below)
* 1/2 cup shelled edamame
* 1/2 apple, chopped
* 4 grape tomatoes, halved
* 1 cooked egg
* 2 tbsp chopped red onions
* 1oz goat cheese, crumbled
* 2 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

Directions:

1. Roasted butternut squash: peel and dice one small butternut squash, coat with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a baking sheet at 400F for 20-25 minutes until tender.

2. To assemble the salad, combine all ingredients, toss together with the dressing and enjoy!




   I would add some baked chicken or turkey breast, to be honest. I didn't have any in the fridge and I was to hungry to cook/buy one (well, actually I had some until Justin ate it before I got to it!!!), but I think it would be a good addition, especially that it was my entire lunch.

Enjoy,
Magda

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pantry cleaning

   I'm sure we've all done it... looked into the pantry to see if we can create a dish out of things that are in there. I, personally, do it very often - it's cheap, it's convenient, and it's exciting - it allows me to "express" my creativity in the kitchen (and clean the pantry a little). Some times I look at the result of this "pantry creation" and I think to myself: what the heck was I thinking with this combination, but most of the time I am pretty pleased with the dish. Usually I am able to create something with only ingredients I find in my fridge and pantry (makes me so proud of myself), but sometimes I need an extra thing or two. This time I had to buy some peppers, but I was able to stuff them with things I already had on hand. They turned out great and extra bonus - they are diet and healthy eating friendly. The recipe serves 6 dieters following the New Year's resolution or 3 people who just want to enjoy their dinner without starving!

Ingredients:

* 3 large red peppers
* 1 lb lean ground turkey
* 3/4 cup quick pearl barley
* 1 15oz can of petite diced tomatoes, drained
* 1 15 oz can green pigeon peas, rinsed and drained
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 3 tbsp shredded sharp cheddar
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* salt and pepper

 Directions:

1. Cook barley in excess salted water for 15-20 minutes until soft. Drain.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute onions with a pinch of salt until translucent (5 minutes). Add garlic and cook for one more minute.

3. Add ground turkey and cook for 10 minutes.

4. Add drained diced tomatoes and pigeon peas, season with salt, pepper and cumin. Cook everything for additional 5 minutes.

5. Add drained barley and mix until everything is combined.

6. Cut peppers in half, clean the seeds and fill with the barley mixture. Arrange on the baking sheet, sprinkle with cheese and bake at 375F for 20 minutes.




   If you don't have pigeon peas, you can use black beans (or any other beans for that matter), I just happened to have few cans of those (they are Christopher's favorite), so I used them. Another tip for this recipe is that you can use more cumin powder for bolder flavor, but I wasn't sure what my two-year old thinks about cumin yet, so I went lighter on it - he loved it!

Enjoy,
Magda

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Year's Resolution!

   It's that time of the year again - time for the New Year's Resolutions! This year I decided to ditch the usual "losing weight" crap, I never follow through with it anyways, and I decided to be adventurous and think outside the box. My 2016 resolution is... drum roll please.... once a month I will cook with the ingredient I've never cooked before!!! How about that? It doesn't necessarily have to be something I've never ate before, given my love of food and willingness to try anything, this might be difficult. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of exotic ingredients I haven't tried yet, but they might be difficult to get and I refuse to drive 2 hours to the specialty store to get some live cobra hearts (yes, that's right, I would totally try it)!!! So I decided to go with things I never personally cooked with in my kitchen!
To kickstart the new trend, I bought some... persimmons.




   I don't know how that happened that I've never tried them before, but somehow I always thought they would be mushy and melon-like (I do not like melons)! Well, I was wrong,  they are firm, sweet and delicious... and we are slowly getting addicted to them. I found some interesting recipes for cakes and desserts, but I figured persimmon salad might be the good way to start the new year!

Ingredients:

* 1 lb Brussels sprouts
* 1 large persimmon, sliced and cut into pieces
* 1 pomegranate
* 1/2 cup dried blueberries
* 1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Dressing:

* lemon juice, from 1 lemon
* 2 tbsp honey
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
* pinch of salt

Directions:

1. Using a mandolin, thinly slice Brussels sprouts and transfer into the bowl.

2. Add pomegranate seeds, persimmon, blueberries and pecans.

3. Combine all ingredients of the dressing and mix well until smooth. Add to the salad, combine and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving.




   Delicious! Sweet, sour, savory, crunchy and a little bit chewy (blueberries) - all flavors and textures on one plate. We paired it with some citrus baked salmon and it was a hit! So it's official now, my first experiment with new ingredients was a success!

Happy New Year,
Magda

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holiday food detox.

   Are you as full of holiday food as me? I never thought I will say it, but I don't think I can eat one more piece of pierogi... at least not in the next few hours! After all this indulgent and festive food, we were craving something "easy" and on the lighter side. You don't necessarily have to eat only lettuce or sacrifice flavor and comfort for the next few days, but lighter food and smart choices might be a good idea. How about light, low carb tacos? Not only are they light and delicious, but also they are super quick... who would want to slave in the kitchen after all this cooking for the past few days?

Ingredients:

* Romain lettuce
* 2 lbs ground turkey
* salsa
* 1 tomato, chopped
* shredded cheese
* plain Greek yogurt
* 2 packets McCormick taco seasoning
* tortilla strips 
* 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

1. In a skillet heat the olive oil and saute ground turkey for 5 minutes. Add McCormick seasoning, 1 cup of water and cook everything until meat is fully cooked and most of the liquid evaporates.

2. Separate leaves from the lettuce, and fill them in with meat, salsa, tomatoes, cheese and yogurt. Garnish with tortilla strips if you like.




   You probably know what I'm going to say now. Yes, you are right, those are quick, easy and delicious! And it really is a good option after all the crazy holiday foods.

Enjoy,
Magda

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Simple yet innovative!

   My husband asked me to make some kind of pasta salad for quick and easy lunches, but I didn't want to just make something I always make, I wanted to "doctor it up" a little, so I used basil pesto and mixed it up with the mayo. One simple change, one simple ingredient and it transformed the ordinary macaroni salad into something new and exciting. Highly recommended!

   Oh, and the funny story behind the salad too: ... so Christopher was watching me make the salad and keep "stealing" the bites here and there. Then when I was taking pictures for this post, he kept walking around the table, eyeballing the glass with the salad in it and finally the hunger took over and he just grabbed it and started eating. I was so proud of the dish... until the lunch time when I tried to feed it to him, he would spit every single bite and didn't have any of it. So I gave up, fed him something else and Justin and I enjoyed the salad for the next couple of days (Christopher refused to eat it ever again, eww). And then one day when I was finishing the very last bite of the salad, Christopher walks by, looks at me and says: I wanna! ... uhmmm good! More pasta, mama! Needless to say, there was no more pasta, because mama ate it all... and he kept saying: more pasta, mama! I want more pasta!!! I still keep hearing his voice in my head, the sad voice of a child that was denied his favorite pasta! I want more pasta, mama!
Clearly, the pasta salad wasn't so "eww" after all, so just try it!

Ingredients:

* 0.5lb small pasta, cooked
* 1 cup diced ham
* 1 red bell pepper, diced
* 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
* 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
* 1 cup diced pickles
* 1 cup mayo
* 4 tbsp basil pesto

Directions:

1. In a large bowl combine all the veggies together.

2. Combine mayo with pesto, mix until well blended together.

3. Add mayo to the veggies, mix well to combine, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.




   As the title says, it's pretty simple, yet different and exciting. I always liked pesto, so I knew I will like this "twist", but if you are on the fence, this might be a good way to give pesto another chance!

Enjoy,
Magda.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

The prelude!

   I am back in business - kitchen is finished, cleaned and organized (actually it was done few weeks ago, but I was being lazy with posting). Not that I needed any encouragement to cook before, but now I love it even more! And what better way to break in the new kitchen than to host family Thanksgiving dinner (for the first time, may I add!)? It turned out great - we had family, we had some great friends and we had lots of fun (and food). But that was long time ago and now we are ready for Christmas. With that in mind today's post will be about "pre-feast" dish - an appetizer! Everybody always focuses on main dishes, but to me, appetizers are equally important and I always struggle to find the right one. It has to be something that will be satisfying, but not too filling, so you still have room to enjoy the dinner. So here is one that was a hit recently - a veggie pizza, but not the one you would buy in the pizza joint, very different and very delicious! Check it out.
 
Ingredients:

* 2 ready (pre-cooked) pizza crusts
* 16oz cream cheese, room temp.
* 0.5 cup ranch dressing
* 1 tsp garlic powder
* 1 bell pepper (any color), chopped
* 8 radishes, sliced
* 1.5 cups broccoli cut into small pieces


Directions:

1. In a bowl, combine softened cream cheese, ranch dressing and garlic. Mix until combined and smooth.

2. Spread half of the mixture on each pizza crust, sprinkle with vegetables and cut into small (about 2-bites) pieces.




   Fresh, light, crunchy and delicious - the perfect appetizer! You can get creative with toppings and you can use any veggies you like: carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, cauliflower... endless possibilities. I cut it into small squares that were easy to manage and didn't require plates or utensils, finger food is always fun!

Enjoy,
Magda

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Great Friends!

   We still have no kitchen, so I can't cook anything at home, but we have one very important "thing"... we have great friends in the neighborhood! Obviously, I would not show up in their kitchen to cook the entire three course meal, but I did ask if I could boil some eggs. Not only it's an easy "grab and go" breakfast during the week, but also it allowed me to make an egg salad and break up the freezer meals a little. To make it a little different and add some healthy fats and creaminess, I used avocados. Yes, you guessed it, it's green so Christopher loves it as well!
   It's a perfect dish for "no kitchen" conditions - quick, easy and the most important thing - you don't need to dirty any dishes (paper plate to hold your sandwich is just enough). Did I mention it was easy? Just look at the directions section, it says it all!

Ingredients:

* 10 eggs, hard-boiled, chopped
* 2 avocados, diced
* 2 large pickles, diced
* 2 tbsp sweet relish
*  2 tbsp fresh, chopped parsley
* 1/2 cup mayo
* 1 tbsp yellow mustard
* salt and pepper

Directions:

1.  Combine all the ingredients, mix together, season with salt and pepper and it's ready!




   I really love eggs! A day without an egg is a sad day for me - I need to have it in some form or shape. My men are not as crazy about the eggs as I am, so I always look for creative ways to use them and make them "exciting" and this avocado-egg salad definitely did the trick! They loved it.

Enjoy,
Magda

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Freezer friendly!

   So last week I promised you an explanation of why my life is crazy busy recently. Well, here it is: we have no kitchen due to the renovation! Actually we have no kitchen (because we are getting a new one), no family room (because contractors are using it as their storage) and no dining room (because we store our kitchen and family room in it). No kitchen and a toddler - deadly combination, but I keep telling myself it's all going to be worth it at the end when I get my dream kitchen. So since our new sink is in the family room and the stove is in the dining room, there is no cooking happening for the next couple of weeks, but it is not a problem because we still have a big freezer! I was prepping for this renovation for a while, so I made bunch of freezer friendly dishes, portioned them into lunch/dinner sizes and I'm ready!
   First dish out of the freezer - cashew chicken with broccoli and raisins. It may not be the most photogenic dish, but it just came out of the freezer, so let's give it a break!

Ingredients:

* 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces 
* 12oz frozen chopped broccoli
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 8oz cashews
* 1 15oz can of crushed tomatoes
* 2 cups chicken broth
* 1/2 cup raisins
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* salt and pepper 

Directions:

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and brown chicken thighs for 2-3 minutes.

2. Add onions and raisins, season with a little bit of salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and cook for 15 minutes.

3. In a food processor, combine cashews and crushed tomatoes and blend until it forms a smooth paste.

4. Add to the chicken and cook for additional 15-20 minutes, stirring from time to time.

5. If the chicken is tender, add frozen broccoli, adjust seasoning to your liking and cook for additional 5 minutes. Serve over rice.





   Delicious! Tender chicken, sweet raisins and creamy cashew sauce. You can freeze it by itself, you can freeze it together with the rice, or you can just not freeze it at all!

Enjoy,
Magda.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mixing cheeses!

   It is going to be a super short post - unfortunately life is crazy busy in the last few days (stay tuned for details next week) and I just can't focus on writing an elaborate post, but I at least owe you a recipe! And it's a good one too... two cheese Alfredo pasta with broccoli and peas! Traditional Alfredo sauce has Parmesan cheese only, but why not add some extra creaminess from the cream cheese - I think it's a great idea!

Ingredients:

* 1 lb whole grain pasta of your choice
* 4 tbsp butter
* 3 tbsp all purpose flour
* 1 cup heavy whipping cream
* 2 cups milk
* 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
* 8oz cream cheese
* 2 cups broccoli, cut into small florets
* 1 cup frozen peas
* pinch of nutmeg
* salt

Directions:

1. In a deep skillet, melt butter, add flour and cook for 2 minutes whisking constantly. Slowly add heavy whipping cream and milk, whisking to get rid of any clumps. Season with salt and nutmeg.

2. Add cream cheese and mix everything until it melts into the sauce.

3. Add shredded Parmesan, mix until it melts (2-3 minutes) and add frozen peas.

4. In the meantime cook pasta until al dente and blanch broccoli in boiling water (about 1 minute).

5. Mix pasta, broccoli and cheese together and it's ready to serve!




   Green, creamy and cheesy... perfect combination. It's our family on the plate: broccoli and peas - Christopher's favorite, cheese - Justin's favorite, and of course pasta- mommy's favorite! Well, actually, we all love every ingredient of this dish!

Enjoy,
Magda

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Green!

   Green is the first color Christopher learned and it's his absolutely favorite so far. He loves green veggies, green foods, green crayons, green trucks, and everything else that is green! We got a little bit tired of eating broccoli and asparagus (his favorite veggies) all the time, so I came up with a new green dish that hit the spot - pasta with a creamy spinach/kale sauce. Have you heard of a kid that loves spinach and kale? Well, mine does and I'm very happy about it! I blended them into a sauce since leafy veggies might be tricky to eat for a two year old, but he ate it all and demanded more! Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

* 12 oz frozen chopped kale
* 6 oz fresh spinach
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 3 tbsp butter
* 1cup 2% milk
* pinch of nutmeg
* salt and pepper
* 1 13oz box of whole wheat pasta

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, melt butter and saute onions with a little bit of salt until translucent (4-5 minutes).

2. Add minced garlic, fresh spinach and frozen kale, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and saute everything together for 10 minutes.

3. Transfer the mixture to the blender, add 1 cup of milk and blend until think and smooth. You might need to add a little bit more milk, depending on how thick you like the sauce to be.

4. Return to the skillet, bring to boil, add cooked pasta and mix until all the pasta is nicely coated with the sauce.




   How pretty is that? Creamy and saucy pasta with a hint of umami - a real treat that couldn't be healthier. One recommendation - don't wear white shirt while eating it... just trust me on that!

Enjoy,
Magda

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Cream without the cream!

   Yet, another soup on my blog! Well, I can't help it that we (Christopher and I) eat a lot of soups, but with the weather getting "Autumn-y", I know many of you will make more and more soups as well. So just in case you are looking for a new recipe, I have one! It was kind of an experiment, especially the addition of the cheese, but it worked out perfectly. I don't really know how to call it, it could be cream of cauliflower with potatoes, or cream of potatoes with a cauliflower, but however you call it, it is creamy and delicious without the need for any cream or butter. Yes, it does have cheese, but it's pure protein anyways, right? Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

* 1 cauliflower head, cut into florets
* 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
* 1 large baking potato, peeled and cubed
* 3 carrots, peeled and cubed
* 4 cups chicken or veggetable (for vegetarian option) broth
* 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
* salt and pepper

Optional garnish:
* green onions

* turkey bacon

Directions:

1. In a large pot, combine all the veggies, add chicken (or vegetable) broth and if necessary, add some water to make sure that all the veggies are covered.

2. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 40 minutes.

3. Remove pot from heat and blend everything with the immersion blender until smooth.

4. Return the pot to the heat, add cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper to your liking and serve garnished with crisped turkey bacon and green onions.




   The garnish is really optional and can be changed for something else. I just happened to have green onions in my fridge and I thought they would look really pretty on the top of a yellow soup and as for the turkey bacon...  I needed to put something in the dish that would "seduce" Justin and bacon definitely did the job!

Enjoy,
Magda

Monday, October 12, 2015

Old Fashioned Guest!

   Yes, that's right, today's post is written by a special guest blogger, who tends to be a little bit old fashioned and who likes an old fashioned drink! Ladies and gentlemen, meet my husband Justin, who will tell you all about his favorite drink - Old Fashioned! 


   Few drinks exemplify "Classical" like the "Old Fashioned".  I recall reading in Jan Swafford's "The Vintage Guide to Classical Music", a very handy definition of what "Classical" is:

"something that endures as a model because its elements are so poised as to represent the miraculous illusion of perfection"

The "Old Fashioned" does bear some similarities to the works of Haydn and Mozart in that the beauty is in its simplicity and that the performance or crafting of that simplicity can make or break its enjoyment. In short, the "Old Fashioned" is a Cocktail that everyone should find cause to enjoy and is truly a "Classic".

My preferred recipe for this drink is as follows:

* 2 dashes of Bitters
 * 1/4oz Simple Syrup
 * 2oz Rye Whiskey


 1.  Stir with ice
 2.  Strain over a large ice cube
 3.  Garnish with an Orange Twist

 2 Dashes of Bitters - Bitters are in some ways the "salt and pepper" of cocktails.  They are characterized by a bitter, sour, or bittersweet flavor.  A dash is a fairly imprecise culinary measure (e.g. pinch or smidgen), but a dash is generally considered to be 1/8 tsp.  Most bottles have a restricted cap which automatically will dispense a dash when tilted into the glass.

1/4oz Simple Syrup - Traditionally the Old Fashioned is made using a sugar cube which is muddled (i.e. mashed and mixed) with the bitters and a few dashes of water.  I use syrup for added convenience when mixing and it also reduces the need for additional utensils such as a Cocktail Muddler.  Using simple syrup also ensures that you won't have an unsweetened drink with a shot of sweet gritty sugar waiting at the bottom of the glass.  Muddling the sugar by hand does allow for certain artistic variations such as using brown sugar, as some people prefer, as finding brown sugar syrup is somewhat difficult.

2oz Rye Whiskey - This Cocktail can be made with a various types of alcohol including Bourbon, Rye Whiskey, Cognac, and Rum.  However, the common practice 200 years ago when the Cocktail came to prominence was to use either Bourbon or Rye Whiskey.  I prefer to use Rye Whiskey because it has a milder and smoother taste than bourbon, but both are great to use in this drink.

Stir with ice - Often a few dashes of water is explicitly prescribed in an Old Fashioned recipe, but the water picked up from the ice when stirring the bitters, syrup, and rye accomplishes this.

Strain over a Large Ice Cube - I recommend using a single large ice cube with this cocktail.  This helps to ensure that the drink remains cold, but does not become watered down towards the end of its consumption.

Garnish with an Orange Twist - Using a peeler, remove a strip of peel from an orange.  Next twist the peel to extract the oils from the rind and place the twisted peel in the drink with the colored side facing outward.

Note: If you make this Cocktail with Bourbon a Lemon Twist is traditionally used





   Those of you who have had occasion to order this drink when at a bar may have had the unfortunate experience of receiving the cocktail with mashed fruit.  This is a modification that came about in the early 1900's  and sometimes if you order an Old Fashioned at a bar you will get this.  The only way to avoid this is to tell the bartender "No Muddled Fruit" when ordering the drink and hope that they make the drink simply using bitters, syrup, rye, and a twist.  You probably won't have this problem if you are at a fine restaurant or a place that makes Craft Cocktails (i.e meaning every element of the drink is handmade or tailored specifically to the drink).  The specific origin of this practice is somewhat nebulous.  However, one theory I have heard is that during prohibition a lot of traditions fell by the wayside and people started to apply different variations to many different cocktails.  Unfortunately, some of these Cocktail variations such as this have gained traction over time.

   In any event, this is a drink that is sure to impress your friends when hosting parties with its simplicity and presentation.

Enjoy,
Justin.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Like mother, like son.

   Christopher might look like my husband, but he definitely inherited my palate. He is a very good eater (me!), he is willing to try everything (me!), and his favorite things to eat include meat, pickles, olives, fruit and soups (me, me, and me!!!). Oh and coo-coos (aka cookies), too. But seriously, ask my husband - Christopher and I could eat soups 24/7! We love Polish soups, American, Italian, Indian... you name it, we will eat it and it makes me super happy that now I have somebody to share my soup obsession with! With the weather getting colder (and with the rain we had for the last 8 days) we needed something warming, comforting and delicious, so what could be better than Indian-inspired red lentil soup. Full of spices, flavor and comfort. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

* 2 cups red lentils
* 1 16oz can diced tomatoes
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 large carrots, grated
* 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
* 2 tbsp vegetable oil
* 3 tbsp butter
* 1.5 tbsp mustard seeds
* 1.5 tbsp cumin seeds
* 2 tbsp turmeric powder
* 1 tbsp garam masala
* 1 tsp smoked paprika powder
* 1/4 tsp cinnamon
* 1/2 lemon, juiced
* 1 chicken bullion cube (optional)
* salt

* oyster crackers (optional)

Directions:

1. Wash the lentils at least 4-5 times, cover with excess water and let them soak for at least 2 hours.

2. In a large Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil until almost smoking, add mustard seeds and cumin seeds and cook for 1 minute, covered (to avoid all the oil splashing).

3. Add onions, garlic, carrots and cilantro and cook with a little bit of salt for 2-3 minutes (stirring). Add butter, turmeric powder, garam masala, smoked paprika, cinnamon,  bullion cube and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

4. Add around 6-7 cups of water, canned tomatoes (juice included), reduce heat and cook covered for 45 minutes, stirring from time to time.

5. Add lemon juice, adjust seasoning to your liking, cook for 2 more minutes and it's ready to serve. If you want to be rebellious you can serve it with oyster crackers!





   The recipe makes a huge pot of soup, but believe it or not, I wish I had more! Yes, it's that good! You don't really need the oyster crackers on the top, but my husband loves them and since he already "sacrificed" himself  and ate a soup for dinner, I wanted to reward him a little bit. It actually turned out pretty good and Christopher and I also put some crackers in our soup!

Enjoy,
Magda.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fancy name.

   Every Polish person has eaten tomato soup at least once in their life (it's probably more like 100 times, but you get the point!). After "rosol" (Polish version of a chicken soup), it's safe to say that tomato soup is the next most popular soup of Poland. It definitely earned the spot - it's quick, easy and delicious, so why wouldn't it be so popular? You can eat it with noodles, or rice, or I even saw some variations with different veggies. I make it very often myself, because I can have it done and on the table within 15-20 minutes, but this time I decided to go for something more "sophisticated" - a tomato bisque. It's a little bit denser than our soup, it has a little bit more ingredients and it has a French name, so if you want to impress somebody, just tell them you are serving a "bisque". They will think you are the next Julia Child!

Ingredients:

* 2 28oz can of whole tomatoes, with juice
* 1 large onion
* 2 garlic cloves
* 3 medium carrots, finely chopped
* 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
* 4 tbsp butter
* 1 chicken bullion cube
* 3 tbsp chopped basil
* 1 tbsp chopped parsley
* 1 cup milk
* salt and pepper 

Directions:

1. In a large pot, melt butter and saute onions with a little bit of salt for 5 minutes. Add garlic and constantly stirring, cook for additional minute.

2. Add chopped carrots, celery, basil and parsley. Cook for 5-6 minutes.

3. Add canned tomatoes with juice and a bullion cube and cook everything on low-to-medium heat for 40 minutes until all the veggies are tender. You can add a cup of water if necessary (if it's way too dense).

4. Take the soup off the heat and blend with the immersion blender until smooth. Add milk, season with salt and pepper if needed and cook for additional 2-3 minutes.

5. Garnish with fresh basil before serving.





   You can see in that picture how dense and creamy the soup is. It has some sweet and acidic notes and the fresh herbs are just delicious. For my husband, the obvious missing thing was a grilled cheese sandwich, but I enjoyed the soup, I mean the bisque ;-), by itself and it was awesome.

Enjoy,
Magda.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Accidently vegan!

   I am not a vegan and I was not planning on making a vegan dish, it just happened that all the ingredients I chose for this dish fall into this category. Besides, we are not really "scared" of vegan food like some people, I think it's delicious and nutritious and I wouldn't mind eating more of it. I am not willing to give up my eggs and cheese, but I have nothing against vegan food! And looking at  Justin and Christopher finishing the vegan burgers I made, it seems that they like it too. Recipe makes about 10 large patties.

Ingredients:

* 1 cup quinoa
* 2 15oz cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
* 8oz baby portabello mushrooms, chopped
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 1 tsp olive oil
* 1/2 cup chia seeds
* 1/2 ground flax seeds
* 2 tbsp ketchup
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 1 tsp garlic powder
* salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Cook quinoa in salted water for 20-25 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool down.

2. In a skillet heat the olive oil and saute onions and mushrooms for about 5-6 minutes until softened. Set aside.

3. Place drained and rinsed black beans in the large bowl and mash them using a potato masher. Add cooled quinoa, mushroom/onion mix and all remaining ingredients. Mix everything together until well combined and season with salt and pepper to your liking.

4. Form burger patties and place on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.




   You can use whatever you want to build the burger, I chose pickles (of course), tomatoes, spinach and horseradish spread. The patty is really good, but I feel like it needs a little bit of  a "kick" and horseradish and pickles take care of it perfectly.

Enjoy,
Magda.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

No-butter cake!

   Yes, that's right, not every cake needs to have butter in it (not that there is anything wrong with butter!) and it still can be delicious! I was mostly curious about it and wanted to try something different. Even though the cake is super easy and doesn't require any electric mixers, I did have some help making it from my sous chef. He is almost 20 months old, full of energy and enthusiasm for cooking, and is great with stirring the pot, especially a pot of flour! We tried to follow the recipe, but to be honest I'm not sure how much flour went into the cake itself, because I saw some on the counter, some on the floor and some in my shoes, but the cake turned out awesome so clearly you don't need to be too precise!
Here is the recipe for a blueberry-lemon yogurt cake:

Ingredients:

* 3.5 cups all purpose flour
* 3 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 2/3 cup vegetable oil
* 4 large eggs, room temp.
* 2 cups granulated sugar
* 2 cups plain Greek yogurt, room temp. 
* 3 tsp vanilla extract
* juice and zest from two lemons
* 1.5 cups frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

Glaze:

* 1/2 cup powdered sugar
* juice from half a lemon

Directions:

1. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.

2. In a separate bowl combine eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Whisk everything together until smooth.

3. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix with a spoon. Gently fold in frozen blueberries (leave few for the top) and transfer into the rectangular baking dish lined up with buttered foil.

4. Sprinkle with remaining blueberries and bake at 350F for 50-55 minutes (until toothpick comes our clean).

5. When the cake cools a little, in a small bowl combine powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth and drizzle over the cake.





   Moist, lemony, fruity and flavorful! The glaze is optional, but I really recommend adding it because it makes this cake out-of-this-world delicious! Christopher was so impressed with his own work that he actually learned two new words: "cake" and "CAAAKE" - when I gave him too small of a piece!

Enjoy,
Magda.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Keen-wah!

   There are two types of people in the word... actually there are many more types, but for the purpose of this post let's just all agree that there are people who either love quinoa, or people who don't understand what the big deal is all about! Our family happens to love it, even little Christopher enjoys a little side of quinoa (as long as it's accompanied by some meat)! I like the texture, I like the taste and I like how healthy and guilt-free it is! I use it often as a substitute for rice or couscous and it's always good! This time  I loaded it with zucchini and mushrooms, so I kind of killed two birds with one stone here - starch and veggies in one dish! Couldn't be easier!

Ingredients:

* 1.5 cup quinoa (I used the tri-colored one)
* 2 cups shredded zucchini (~2 medium)
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 8oz white mushrooms, chopped
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 2 tbsp butter
* 2 tbsp fresh basil
* 1/2 tsp marjoram powder
* 1 tsp dry dill
* salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Cook quinoa in about 6 cups of salted water for 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. In the meantime, in a large skillet, melt butter and saute onions with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes until translucent.

3. Add mushrooms and garlic, cook for 2-3 minutes. Gently squeeze shredded zucchini to remove excess water and add it the skillet.

4. Add herbs, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

5. Combine with quinoa, adjust seasoning if necessary and serve as a side dish.




   Delicious! And so versatile too! It can be a side dish, a meal on its own, or even a stuffing for different veggies, or anything really! I used it as a side dish for baked chicken and it was awesome!

Enjoy,
Magda

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Justin's kind of salad!

   I don't think there are a lot of dishes I make that my husband doesn't like. He is game for anything and will try any food I cook (as long as it doesn't contain liver), but once in a while I make a dish that he is super impressed with and wants to eat all the time. He is not really a "veggie person", so you can imagine how surprised I was when he fell in love with a salad! Obviously, not just a regular lettuce-tomatoes kind of salad, but a burger salad! Still healthy and nutritious as any salad would be, but with an amazing burger taste! What was even more surprising is that Christopher got really hooked on pickles (one of the salad ingredients), or as he would say "pee-oh" (it took me a while to figure out that pee-oh was a pickle) and that's all he wanted to eat for dinner that night. Like mother, like son... his Polish side is definitely getting stronger and stronger!
I used ground turkey, only because we prefer it over the beef, but you are more than welcome to use any kind of ground meat you like!

Ingredients:

* 2 lb ground turkey
* 1 tbsp burger seasoning (I used Weber Gourmet Burger Seasoning)
* 1 tsp olive oil
* romain lettuce, shredded
* hamburger pickles, slices
* white onion, sliced or shaved
* cherry tomatoes, halved
* turkey bacon
* thousand island dressing

Directions:

You may notice that I didn't really list the amounts of some of the ingredients. It's because it's really up to you how much you add to your salad - some like more pickles, some like more onions and some like more tomatoes. Customize it to your liking.

1.  Place turkey bacon on the baking sheet and broil in the oven until crispy and browned (turning once).

2. In a non-stick pan, heat the olive oil and cook the meat with burger seasoning for 10 minutes. Set aside.

3. Assemble your salad: lettuce, meat, tomatoes, pickles, onions,  bacon and dressing... add as much or as little of each ingredient as you like.




   Everything I love in a good burger: delicious meat, pickles, crispy onions... I mean I love every single ingredient of this salad. It works so well together and you can't stop eating it. If you are not a fan of bacon, or don't have it in your fridge, you can skip it - it will still be delicious!

Enjoy,
Magda



Sunday, August 23, 2015

Changing things up.


   We love spaghetti! No, seriously... we probably eat it every other week! So to keep it interesting I always keep changing things up - different types of meat, different types of pasta, different types of seasoning, or just some extra ingredients. This time I made zucchini-tomato sauce with ground chicken. Light, healthy, delicious... and if paired with the right pasta, absolutely guilt free! Extra bonus - hidden veggies, just in case my boys wouldn't want to eat any! I shredded the zucchini, so they had absolutely no idea what they are eating and how healthy it is (just in case they didn't feel like eating "healthy"). Here is the recipe:


Ingredients:

* 1 lb ground chicken
* 1 large zucchini, finely shredded
* 1 24oz can crushed tomatoes
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 2 tbsp ketchup
* 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
* 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
* 1 tbs dry oregano
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* salt and pepper

Directions:

1. In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil and saute onions with a little bit of salt for 5 minutes.

2. Add ground chicken and cook for 5-7 minutes until no longer pink.

3. Add shredded zucchini, crushed tomatoes, ketchup, dry oregano, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes stirring from time to time. Add fresh basil and parsley, and serve with pasta.





   Fresh basil and parsley really elevates this dish! Justin's first question was: what did you add to the sauce, zucchini? So that was it for "hiding" the veggies, but he cleaned his plate anyways, so the plan worked!

Enjoy,
Magda

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Almost traditional!

   Here is another post about the dish that I love to eat, but somehow never made it myself before! Chicken Marsala... delicious Italian dish featuring one of my favorite ingredients - mushrooms! I was craving Italian food for a while, so when we invited our friends for dinner the other day, I knew I would be making something Italian (and it just happens that my friend loves Italian food as well). I kind of wanted to stick to the traditional recipe and not change it too much, but I had to make one small adjustment... I didn't dredge the chicken breast in flour. Why add extra carbs and also, Christopher is not a fan of breaded meat, so I didn't want to risk him not wanting to eat it. Well, it turned out that he preferred mushrooms over the meat anyways, so I would probably get away with it! Maybe next time!
Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

* 4 thin chicken breasts
* 16oz crimini mushroom, sliced
* 1 medium onion, finely chopped
* 1 cup Marsala wine (dry)
* 1 cup chicken stock
* 3 tbsp butter
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
* salt and pepper 

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter and sear the meat for 5 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Add onions  and mushrooms to the remaining oil and butter in the pan, season with salt and pepper and saute for 6-7 minutes until all the moisture evaporates.

3. Add Marsala wine to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes to cook out all the alcohol. Add chicken stock and simmer for 5-6 minutes to reduce the sauce.

4. Returned chicken breast to the pan, cover it with the sauce and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add fresh parsley, season with salt and pepper if necessary and it's ready to serve. 




   Such a simple, but flavorful dish! Marsala wine gives it a little bit of a tang, mushrooms give it some comfort (at least to me) and earthiness... I could probably just drink the sauce by a glass, no kidding! Christopher was at the same page, because he skipped the meat all together and just ate mushrooms and the sauce... like mother like son!

Enjoy,
Magda.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Busy weekend fix.

   It's one of those weekends when we might have overcommited to things! We have quite few activities planned and it looks like the entire weekend we will be "on the go", with just a little bit time to sit down and eat lunch or dinner.  That's why I had to come up with a dish that won't require a lot of time commitment...either preparing or serving. I thought fast, easy and delicious tuna salad would be a perfect solution! You make a big bowl of it, you keep it in the fridge and it's ready to be served whenever you are ready to eat! Great dish for a busy weekend.

Ingredients:

* 2 12oz cans of tuna in water
* 6 eggs, cooked and chopped
* red pepper, finely chopped
* 3 celery sticks, finely chopped
* 1 cup sweet relish
* 1 cup mayo
* 1 tbs mustard
* 1 cup chopped parsley


Directions:

1. Drain the tuna.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix until everything is evenly distributed.

3. Refrigerate! The end!




   I think it is the easiest and fastest recipe I've ever posted. I actually had to try really hard to come up with three steps rather than just one! This salad is amazing, it doesn't need any extra seasoning, it just comes out right after you combine everything. How easy is that? You can eat it on a sandwich, or on a cracker or just by itself. You could even use it as a veggie dip (which I do all the time).

Enjoy,
Magda. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cheese of cake

   Cheesecake is probably one of my favorite desserts. Rich, creamy and indulgent, how can you not like it? But for somebody who loves cheesecake so much, I have a dark secret - I NEVER made one by myself! Can you believe that? I mean, never until now! I always thought that it was tricky, required some supernatural powers and took hours! Well, it does take some time, not the prep or cook time, but rather a "cooling time", but other than that it is super easy! I can not believe I was so scared to make it. As a proof, here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

* 24oz cream cheese (3 bricks), room temp.
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 lemon, juice and zest
* 2 tsp vanilla extract
* 2 eggs, room temp.
* 5-6 tbsp strawberry preserve, recipe can be found here
* 10 graham crackers
* 5 tbsp melted butter

Directions:

1. Break the graham crackers into a food processor and process until they form fine crumbs. Drizzle in melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are evenly moistened.

2. Press the crust into the foil-lined 8x8 pan and bake at 350F for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool while making the filling.

3. Decrease the oven temperature to 325F.

4. In a standing mixer, beat the softened cream cheese, slowly add sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, lemon zest and lemon juice. Beat everything for 2-3 minutes until smooth and fluffy.

4. Pour cheese mix onto the cooled crust, randomly distribute the strawberry preserve on the top and using a knife swirl the preserve to create a "marble pattern".

5. Bake at 325F for 45-50 minutes. Gently remove the cake from the oven (it will still be "jiggly" and wet, but it's OK), let it cool completely and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours before cutting into it.





   Doesn't it look pretty? And it tastes pretty good as well! Perfect balance of sweet with some salty and acidic notes. Lemon juice and zest is really a key here, it just makes it so fresh and vibrant. You could use any kind of fruit preserve, or you could just skip it all together, I'm sure it would be delicious no matter what!

Enjoy,
Magda