Monday, September 26, 2011

Mom's dinners are the best!

   No, no, no... I did not forget about you, nor did  I quit blogging, I'm just enjoying my vacation so much I even forgot to take my camera out!

   We are at my childhood home being spoiled rotten by my mom cooking, baking, and doing everything else for us. What can be better than that? I appologise up front for very rare post and not too many pictures, but I promise to pick up the slack as soon as I come back to Richmond. I will still try to share some things with you, but I can't promise any recipes, since my mom cooks exactly like me, makes up stuff as she adds it to the pot, and never follows any rules! Now you know where I got it. All her dishes never taste exactly the same, but somehow I can always recognise them... if you put 10 meals in fornt of me... I can show you my mom's with my eyes closed!
   Today we had a typical Polish soup, krupnik, made with broth from ribs, barley, potatoes and tons of vegetables.

   After this delicious and nutritious soup, we had some even more delicious but way less nutritious potato pancakes, aka placki ziemniaczane! Oh man, I can still taste them. So soft and moist inside, fried and crunchy outside, served with a spicy chicken sauce and of course a pickle! Thank God we jogged today so I dont feel complately guilty for eating two of them!

   And as I said, unfortunately no recipes this time. First, I can't give away my mom's secrets and second, I don't even know exactly what she did since I was very busy outside playing with my dog Gon. He is a pretty big German Pointer, who still thinks he is a tiny puppy!

Isn't he a cutie?

See you next time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reconstructed sweet and sour chicken.

   Many people asks me where I take my recipes from, well... I just made them up as I cook. It's really not that hard, just don't be afraid to experiment and use a variety of ingredients. And yes... sometimes you end up with a not so tasty dish, but that's OK, with time you will get more experience and learn what ingredients work best together! And if something doesn't work, troubleshoot and keep changing things until you get the right balance! This is the way I came up with some of our most favorite dishes. The only thing I struggle with is to remember what exactly I put into the dish, so I can replicate it exactly the next time. I notice that I have the same problem in the lab... I think it's high time to work on my note taking skills!!!
   Anyway, today was the day when I made one of those dishes, which I just put together in a spare of the moment few years ago, and I keep making it once in a while. Who said sweet and sour chicken has to be heavy, sticky and unhealthy? Its all about creative reconstruction!
   All you need is: chicken breast, onion, dried fruit (I use cranberries and cherries), apples and olive oil. Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add cranberries, cherries and onions and saute for 2-3 min. Add chicken, salt and pepper, and cook some more. When chicken is ready add chopped apples and cook for 2-3 min more and it's done!

   You have sweet (apples) and sour (cranberries/cherries) chicken! Fast, easy, healthy and delicious! As you can see I couldn't stop myself and added a little bit of potatoes, hey it's a vegetable!!!

   I'm sure you're gonna like it! Good luck.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall is all around me...

   I know, I know ... we still have few days of summer ahead of us and nobody wants to even think about fall. But doesn't this weather feel like fall already? It does to me and I never thought I would say this but I really enjoy it. Don't get me wrong... I love the sun, heat and long days, but isn't it nice to come home after work, put your favorite pj pants and get cozy on the couch under the warm blanket, snuggle with your spouse, or dog, or cat, or all above? There is only one thing missing from that picture, can you guess what? You got it, a bowl of hot, rustic, flavorful and hardy beef stew with tons of vegetables. That's exactly what I was craving for the last couple of days... and today was the perfect evening to enjoy it.

   Dredge some beef stew meet in flour, until evenly coated and cook in a little bit of olive oil in a skillet until the meat is brown. The regular stew is very time consuming and requires stirring and cooking, and stirring some more, and then cooking for few hours... but remember how I said my dishes are very time friendly? And that's when my wonderful pressure cooker comes handy! Transfer meet to the cooker, add some water (not too much, you want the sauce to be thick and full of flavor), salt, pepper, paprika and 4-5 dried bay leaves. Since meat requires much more cooking time then veggies, I first cook it for 20 min and then add big chunks of carrots, potatoes and celery, and leave it in a pressure cooker for next 10-15  minutes. After that is done I take the lid off and let the sauce reduce for about 5-6 min. And here it is... the working girl's version of the stew, it's done under 40 minutes and has the same amount of flavor! The beef is tender and juicy, vegetables are soft but not mushy, and the sauce is just right. The best way to serve it is in a deep bowl, on the couch with lots of love and fresh parsley ... need to boost that immune system before winter!

Hope you enjoy it!


Saturday, September 17, 2011

What's better than dinner with friends?

   What's a better way to start a cooking blog than hosting a small dinner party? Nothing fancy, just couple of friends visiting us, relaxing, chit chatting, and enjoying some comfort food on this rainy day. Of course it doesn't mean I'm just going to open a can of chicken noodle soup (which I like a lot) and serve it in a chipped bowl! Dinner parties are my favorite! I get to show off my cooking skills, "play house" by setting the table with my fancy dinner plates and glasses, ironing napkins, opening some wine... and of course taking a lot of pictures.

   But there was no way I was going to slave in the kitchen the whole day just to prepare some dinner. Saturdays are pretty busy in our household so it had to be super time efficient meal! And that's exactly how it was! The plan was simple, as a Polish gal I had to start dinner with a soup and my choice was a cream of mushroom - simple, fast, healthy and most importantly delicious! Simply saute a chopped onion and mushrooms in butter (butter is good for you!!!) with some salt and pepper, puree it in the blender with some chicken/vegetable broth and voila, the soup is ready! No need for a milk or cream.... it's going to be silky and smooth on its own!

    As a second course we had margarita-marinated, roasted chicken legs with broccoli potatoes and simple green salad. Trust me, the chicken is to die for. The marinade is one of my best creation... just ask Justin if you don't believe me. Combine margarita (I use SkinnyGirl Margarita by Bethanny Frankel just because I'm crazy about The Real Housewives of....everything!), soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, BBQ sauce and crushed garlic into a bowl. Mix all of it together and soak chicken legs/thighs for at least 12 hours... or as a scientific part of me would say: incubate chicken particles in the marinade for 12 hrs in 4C with occasional shaking (every time you walk by the fridge). If you don't have 12 hours... 1 or 2 hours should be sufficient, the same as primary antibodies in Western Blot! To roast it, the chicken goes to the 370F oven for 45-60 minutes without covering it with foil.... let the skin crisp a little bit!

   When we were waiting for chicken to be ready, we enjoyed a healthy version of spinach and artichoke dip with tortilla chips, and as a grand finale of the night we had my "famous" fruit tarts!

What a great night it was... food, wine, and a "Lost" and "Dexter" conversation.


Friday, September 16, 2011

...and it happened! I started my own blog.

   I can't believe I let you guys talk me into it... but I am going to blog about my cooking adventures. Rather then flooding my Facebook page with all those pictures, I will now post them here. I also had many requests for recipes, so maybe I will post them too. Just be patient with me since blogging requires a little bit more time and thoughts put into it then just posting pictures.
   I will share with you what I cooked, what we ate out, or what I think looks good in the picture! And what can be better to start with, than going back to my roots, where it all started? In a few days me and my hubby are going to Poland to visit my family and I will try to take you with me for our culinary adventures and what not.
   Just remember, it's not all about food, I'm also trying to improve my photography skills. So feel free to comment and share your opinion about both because any criticism would be appreciated.
   I'm sure most people who will follow my posts will be my friends that know me very well (some even too well), but if you would like to find out more about me check out my "About me" tag.

   Hope to see you here soon.