Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

   So the girl from Poland gets to host the most American holiday ever - Thanksgiving! This day used to "belong" to my Mother-in-law, but since she passed away couple years ago, my husband and I decided to pick up the baton and continue the tradition. And let me tell you, it is not an easy task, because my Mother-in-law was an amazing cook and Thanksgiving dinner was her masterpiece. No pressure!!!
   Last year was the first time we hosted and it turned out pretty good, family was happy, food was eaten and everybody decided to come back this year (so I must have done something right!). One of my favorite dishes (well, who are we kidding, I love all of them equally) is stuffing! It's really easy and I make it the day before to save time on Thanksgiving day.

Ingredients:

* 12 oz unseasoned cubed stuffing (I used Pepperidge Farm)
* 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 8 oz of mushrooms, chopped
* 4 celery stalks, chopped
* 1/2 cup water chestnuts, chopped
* 1 apple, chopped
* 1 cup dried cranberries
* 10-15 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
* 3 cups of chicken broth
* 2 eggs
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* salt and pepper

Directions:

1. In a skillet, heat olive oil and saute chopped onions with a little bit of salt until translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add Italian sausage and cook until no longer pink.

2. Add chopped celery and mushroom and cook everything for 5-6 minutes, stirring. Set aside and let it cool a little.

3. In a large bowl, combine water chestnuts, apples, cranberries and fresh sage. Add chicken broth and beaten egg, mix everything together.

4. Transfer cooled sausage mixture into the bowl with the rest of ingredients, add cubed stuffing, season with salt and pepper and mix everything until combined.

5. Transfer into greased baking dish, cover with foil and bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for additional 15 minutes.





   Delicious! It comes out not too mushy, but not too dry. Sage makes it taste like holidays, cranberries and apples give it the right amount of sweetness and water chestnuts provide the crunch and texture! I always make a big batch to make sure that we have plenty of leftovers!

Happy Thanksgiving everybody,
Magda

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mac, cheese and veggies!

   Who doesn't like mac and cheese? I know I do and I could eat it all the time, and my boys (especially Justin) could eat it with me (but maybe not ALL the time)! I am always trying to change things up, add new ingredients or improve the taste (like it's necessary to improve the taste of mac&cheese!!!), so this time I decided to spruce it up a little bit with bunch of veggies... and kielbasa! It doesn't really make it "diet friendly" if that's what you were expecting, but it definitely removes some guilt while eating it... you are getting a serving of veggies after all and if you have seconds (I bet you will)... it's two servings of veggies!

Ingredients:

* 10 oz of whole wheat macaroni pasta
* 1 package (13 oz) turkey Polska kielbasa, chopped
* 2 medium zucchini, chopped
* 2 cups cauliflower florets
* 4 tbsp butter
* 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
* 4 cups milk
* 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
* 1 tsp Dijon mustard
* 1/8 tsp nutmeg
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente (or until it has the texture your family likes). 4 minutes before the end of cooking, add cauliflower and cook together with pasta. Drain and set aside.

2. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in the pan, add kielbasa and cook for 5 minutes until it starts to brown. Add chopped zucchini and cook everything for additional 5 minutes. Set aside.

3. In a deep skillet, melt butter, add the flour and cook whisking for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly to get rid of any lumps and cook for 5 minutes. Add cheddar cheese, Dijon mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper (to taste) and cook for additional 2-3 minutes (whisking).

4. Combine macaroni, cauliflower, kielbasa and sauce, mix everything together until sauce covers everything and ... enjoy!




   As you noticed I did not bake it in the oven as you normally would. It not only cuts down on time, but it also makes for much more creamy and moist mac and cheese, which I really like. If you want to make it vegetarian, you could obviously skip kielbasa, but I don't think Christopher would appreciate me doing so - kielbasa is his favorite food in the entire world!

Enjoy,
Magda

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Best sides!

   Today's post is about two "sophisticated" side dishes that are super easy, have only few ingredients and take no time to make. When I say "side dishes", I mean that for most people they would be on a side... for Christopher on the other hand, one of them is the main dish! When he sees the green potatoes, he refuses to eat anything else and just wants a bowl full of potatoes, spoon in his hand and he is good to go! The other one - glazed carrots, I could eat like candy (they actually taste almost like candy), but what I really like about this dish is that it takes exactly 5 minutes to make! Yes, that's right, five minutes and you have delicious side dish! So here they are: green (broccoli) potatoes that Christopher is addicted to and glazed carrots that will impress anybody with the flavor and simplicity!

Ingredients:

* 3 large potatoes
* 3 cups broccoli, chopped
* 2 tbsp butter
* 2-3 tbsp cream cheese
* salt

Directions:

1. Peel, wash and quarter potatoes. Put into cold salted water, bring to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add broccoli and cook for another 10-15 minutes until potatoes are soft.

2. Drain the water, add butter and cream cheese and mash until smooth. Season with salt if needed.




And for glazed carrots:

Ingredients:

* 10 thin carrots
* 3 tbsp butter
* 1 tbsp agave nectar
* 1 tbsp lemon juice
* 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
* 1/3 cup pecans, chopped

Directions:

1.  Peel and half carrots. In a sauce pan, melt butter, add carrots (cut side down) and cook for 3 minutes on high heat.

2. In a small bowl, combine agave nectar, lemon juice and ginger.

3. Flip carrots on the other side, add agave/lemon mixture, sprinkle with pecans and cook for 2 minutes.




   To be honest it's really hard to decide which one is better (not that you can't eat them together), but I think I might be with Christopher on this one (only because I have a potato addiction as well)! I was kind of making fun of him for wanting to eat just potatoes for dinner... but to be fair, I could totally do it too!

Enjoy,
Magda

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Veni, Vidi, Vici - Ingredient No.4

   This one is out there, I'm not gonna lie! I've seen in on TV and I've heard about it for years, but I never though of using it myself... until this New Year resolution thing! Flour made out of crickets, or if you prefer more detailed description - pressure cooked crickets ground into a dust! Who is in?



   If you are still reading it, that means you are genuinely interested in my experience with the cricket flour, so here it is. The flour itself is a little bit denser and a little "coarser" than a regular flour, and has some kind of smell to it! I can't tell you if it smells good or bad...it just smells, lets leave it at that! It's also quite dark (see pic.). I saw recipes for muffins, cakes, cupcakes, but somehow I thought pancakes would be the easiest, the quickest and with only few ingredients we had a better chance to really taste the cricket flour. I chose ricotta pancakes, because I never made them before and also I thought that crickets might need some "carrier protein" to help out!

Ingredients:

* 1 cup cricket flour
* 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 cup ricotta cheese
* 2 eggs
* 3/4 cup milk
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 2 tbsp sugar
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
* zest from one lemon
* pinch of salt 
* cooking spray

Directions:

1. Combine flours, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl and mix together.

2. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, ricotta, milk, vanilla extract and lemon zest and whisk everything until smooth.

3. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix everything until combined.

4. Heat the pan on a medium heat, spray with a cooking spray, pour the batter (1/4 cup) in the middle of the pan and cook couple minutes on each side.

5. Best served with maple syrup, lemon juice and almonds.




   So here are the pancakes, looking good, but before I tell you how they tasted, you need to know that my husband, who refused to try them, ended up eating three of them in one sitting! Also, all my coworkers (well, all, but one) tried them... and some of them even took a second bite! I am surrounded by brave people! Oh and my son ate it too... but let's be honest, he had no idea what he is eating (not that knowing about crickets would stop him!).

   Anyways, going back to the taste... the best way to describe them is that they have this "healthy taste", if that's even a thing! They are dark, dense and everybody swore that they could feel some minor crunchiness (yikes!). They have a nutty (almost naughty) taste and smell, but turns out that if you smother them in syrup and lemon juice... you can barely notice it anymore. In conclusion, as the title suggest... it's a kind of thing that you want to try at least once, to either concur your fears or to satisfy your curiosity, but somehow I am not planning on making more of those.

Enjoy,
Magda

Friday, April 1, 2016

Easy like Sunday... afternoon!

   Sunday dinners are very different nowadays compared to the ones I grew up with. In my house (and probably majority of houses), Sunday dinners were lavish, fancy(ish) and took quite some time to prepare. There was always a soup as a starter, followed by a second course (meat, potatoes and salad) and a dessert. I loved it then and I would still love it today if ... somebody would cook it for me! It's not that I don't like or don't want to make it... it's just that we are never home on Sunday afternoon. We are usually at the park or in the ZOO or on the road trip... we leave right after Christopher's nap and we come back right before dinner, so there is no time to cook a three-course meal. Usually we stop at the restaurant, get a takeout, or I cook something quick... like today's dish - roasted vegetables. They are super versatile and you can pair them with things like rotisserie chicken (picked up on the way from the store), some fish (cooks in minutes), or my personal favorite, an over medium egg with the runny yolk oozing over veggies.

Ingredients:

*  3 medium sweet potatoes
* 3 medium baking potatoes
* 6 carrots
* 1 large onion
* 3 cups of broccoli florets
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 1 tsp dry rosemary
* salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Peel vegetables and chop them into bite size pieces making sure that all vegetables are similar size.

2. Transfer veggies into a large bowl, add olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper and using your hands toss everything together until completely coated.

3. Spread everything on the large baking sheet to create a single layer and bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes until potatoes are tender.




   Delicious! I love the caramelization on the side that touches the pan, I usually don't move or shake the pan, just so it can brown some more. If you want to "change things up" you can use a different herb each time, rosemary happens to be my favorite, but I also use thyme, basil or dill... they are all delicious.

Enjoy,
Magda.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy Easter!

   Happy Easter Everybody!

   Today will be a short post and a short recipe. Short post - because I want to go back to enjoying the Easter with my family as soon as possible and short recipe - because I already cooked bunch of delicious, traditional Polish Easter dishes, so I decided to use a shortcut for the dessert and made some carrot cupcakes using a store-bought cake mix! Yes that's right, you don't always have to harvest your own grain to make your own flour to make a cake from scratch... these cupcakes are still home made and delicious, just a little "easier" and quicker to make!

Ingredients:

* Decadent Carrot Cake Mix, Duncan Hines
* 3 eggs
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil

* 2 boxes (8oz each) cream cheese, room temp.
* 3/4 cup powder sugar
* 2 tbsp lime juice
* food coloring
* egg-shaped M&M's 

Directions:

1. Prepare cake mix and bake cupcakes according to the instructions on the box . Let them cool completely.

2. In a mixer, combine cream cheese and sugar and beat for 4-5 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Add lime juice and beat for 1 extra minute.

3. Separate into two bowls and few drops of different food coloring to each bowl and mix until combined.

4. Frost the cupcakes and decorate with egg-shaped candy.




   Christopher had so much fun making and decorating the cupcakes... or I should say he had fun eating the candy and going crazy on the sugar rush 15 minutes later!!! Justin and I decided to join him, so we ate a couple and then we all ran around the house singing "Let it go... let it go...".

Happy Easter,
Magda

Monday, March 21, 2016

Soup again!

   I almost started the post with saying that it's been a while since I posted soup recipe... and then I scrolled down and saw the pozole! Then I thought that at least it's been a while when I used mushrooms as my main ingredient.... and then I scrolled down and saw bunch of recipes with mushrooms! So guess what's on the menu today? Yes, you are right, mushroom soup! It's kind of "springy" soup with mushrooms, veggies and chicken, so it's perfect timing since we just welcomed the Spring. I wish somebody told the weather that Spring came, but than again, it's even better timing since the temperatures outside are very "soupy"! Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

* 16 oz mushrooms, chopped
* 4 celery, chopped
* 3 carrots, chopped
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 3 tbsp butter
* 4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable stock)
* 1 cup sour cream
* salt and pepper

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, melt butter and add onions, celery, mushrooms and carrots. Add a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add chicken broth, season with salt and pepper (if needed) and cook for additional 15 minutes.

3. Combine sour cream with half a cup of boiling soup and mix to combine. Add the mixture to the soup, bring to boil and remove from the heat.




   Very light and very delicious (to be honest, most soups are delicious to me). You can use any kind of vegetables you like, it just happened that I had those in the fridge and it turned out they really pair well with mushrooms.

Enjoy,
Magda

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Ingredient No. 3!

   What, it's already March?! How did that happen? I understand that February is a little bit shorter than other months, but come on.... we just celebrated Valentine's Day not so long ago! Anyways, I'm a little behind with my "new ingredient a month" project (since I still live in February!), but I'm gonna make it up now. This month's ingredient might not be "exotic", it's something that many of you use every single day, but for some reason I've never cooked with it. Tomatillos - green vegetables that resemble unripe tomato in a husk. I think they are actually called "Mexican husk tomatoes".


 

   When I was searching for some interesting recipes, I saw a lot of tomatillo salsas and sauces, but I wanted something more than that, something different (not that there is anything wrong with salsa!). And then I found it: Green Pozole, made with chicken, tomatillos (duh!), hominy and herbs - it sounded delicious, it looked delicious... and it turned out delicious! 

Ingredients:

* 1 lb tomatillos
* 2 lbs chicken thighs
* 2 (15 oz) can hominy
* 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
* 4 garlic cloves, sliced
* 4 oz sunflower seeds
* 2 bay leaves
* 1 cup fresh cilantro
* 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
* 1 tbsp vegetable oil
* lime
* salt

Garnish (optional)

* red onion, sliced
* radishes, sliced
* cilantro

Directions:

1. Bring about 8 cups of water to a boil.  Add 1/2 chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves, bay leaves, and some salt. Cover the pot, and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

2. Add the whole chicken thighs and cook gently (uncovered) for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool a little. Strain the broth and set it aside for later.

3. In a food processor or grinder, grind sunflower seeds until they form fine powder. Set aside.

4. In a pot, heat 3 cups water with remaining 1/2 onion, tomatillos, cilantro and oregano. Cook covered for 10 minutes, until veggies are tender. Discard the cooking liquid and place the cooked veggies into a standing blender, add remaining garlic and blend everything until smooth.

5. In a Dutch oven, heat vegetable oil, add the pureed veggies (be careful as it will splatter) and cook the sauce uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the ground sunflower seeds and 1 cup of the broth reserved from cooking the chicken, stir and cook another 5 minutes.

6. Shred the chicken and add it to the sauce together with the hominy and the remaining broth (add as much as you like - depending on the thickness you want to achieve). Season with salt to taste and simmer everything for additional 5-10 minutes.

7. Serve in a bowl with sliced radishes, red onions and lime juice (you can also add avocado).




   What a cool dish! I am definitely going to make it more often (especially that my boys loved it too). It's super filling and hardy, but light and fresh at the same time. The bright and crunchy garnishes make it even "fresher". You can garnish it with all the things I mention or you can just mix and match, but if my two year old loved all of them (even the red onion!!!) you should definitely give it a try!

Enjoy,
Magda.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

For the Love of Grain!

   I love all sorts of grains! There was a very short period of my life, few years ago, when I was being tested for potential gluten allergy (long story!) and all I could think of is that I won't be able to eat my beloved grains! Wheat, barley, rye... I just can't live without them and the thought that I might not be able to eat them was pretty scary. Thankfully gluten allergy was eliminated and I could go back to enjoying my bowl of buckwheat! Since Justin and Christopher also like different grains (which makes me super happy) I cook them very often, either as a side dish or casseroles or in the soups. This time I made a farro side dish for some chicken and just to make sure that nobody will skip their veggies (I'm looking at Justin here), I added some here - it made the dish much more delicious and it made the veggies harder to avoid!

Ingredients:

* 1 cup quick cook farro
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 2 large carrots, shredded
* 16oz mushrooms, chopped
* fresh parsley
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Cook farro in salted water for 10-15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute onions with a pinch of salt for 4-5 minutes. Add mushrooms and carrots and cook for 10 minutes until softened.

3. Add farro, mix until combined and garnish with fresh parsley before serving.




   Grains and mushrooms - some of my favorite ingredients! I could probably just eat this dish on its own, nothing else needed, it's so good. The crunch from farro, the earthiness from mushrooms, the sweetness from carrots and the freshness from parsley - that's all you need in a perfect dish!

Enjoy,
Magda

Friday, February 12, 2016

Magic of social media!

   Have you seen those short cooking videos on Facebook or Instagram? I am absolutely addicted to them, to the point that I am obsessively checking my phone every five minutes to see if there is a new video! Some dishes look more interesting than others, but I really love the ones that are very simple and use only few ingredients. This recipe (below) of what I call "Savory Mini Monkey Breads" is one of my favorite dishes I've seen on social media. It's quick, semi home made (store-bought dough), it has only few ingredients, you only need one bowl to prep it (and a muffin pan)... and it's so easy, the monkey could do it (I think that's where the name came from)! Oh, and each time you make it, you can use different "flavorings" to change it up!

Ingredients:

* 2 boxes of Pillsbury Grands!® Flaky Layers Original Biscuits
* 1/2 stick of butter, melted
* 1 tbsp garlic powder
* 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
* 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
* 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Cut all the biscuits into 4 pieces. Put in the bowl.

2. Add  melted butter, garlic powder, parsley and cheeses. Toss everything gently with your hands and transfer into the muffin pan (5-7 pieces into each muffin).

3. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes.





   One bad side of the dish is... that my boys refused to eat anything else for dinner and just stuffed there monkey faces with the monkey breads! I guess it's a compliment to the chef, so I shouldn't complain! 

Enjoy,
Magda

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.