Monday, October 31, 2011

To squash or not to squash?

   We have all heard about spaghetti squash but how many of us actually use it? Well, I know I never did until today! I tried it mostly because I was curious how it tastes and also because I'm looking for some substitutes for pasta, which we love and eat a lot, way too much!
   There are two main ways, or at least two that I know of, that you can prepare it. It can be either boiled, which takes about 20 min, or roasted, but in this case be ready to wait an hour or so. They are supposed to have a different taste depending on the method you use, but I'm sure you know already which one I chose! Roasting is good for the weekend when you have a lot of time and you are not starving after work, especially with all this Halloween candy laying around, waiting for the kids! The choice was either to make dinner ASAP or have a sugar overdose!
   I will show you step by step what I did and how did it turned out, and you decide if you like what you see and if you want to try it. There is many different types of pumpkins and squashes so make sure you buy the one which actualy says: spaghetti squash.  :)

   Be prepared to use some muscles...and a very sharp, heavy duty knife because this thing is not a joke! Cut it in half lengthwise...

    ... scoop out all the seeds and "guts" (that's an appetizing word right there!)...

   ...and boil for 20 min (or until it's tender) skin side up. When it's done just take a fork and shred the pulp into strands.

   Add your favorite sauce and you have a great dish. I went with shiitake mushroom sauce with some onions and parsley. Yummo!

   I loved it! Creamy and delicious and I could eat it all the time. I think you have to be a squash lover from the beginning though because Justin, who never was a big fun of pumpkin/zucchini/squash family wasn't too crazy about it. He ate it, at least most of it, and he said it's only that much he can handle. Little as he knows there is already a lunch packed for tomorrow with a second half of the squash! Oh well...
   I am absolutely recommending it to anyone who loves to experiment in the kitchen and is not afraid to try new things!

Good luck.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

And yet another dinner with friends!

   Are you ready for some pictures? I've got a lot! We had another great dinner party with our very good friends. I love when they come over for dinner, it's always a lot of fun, good food, good wine, good conversation, and good laughs. And this time was no different, maybe except for the wine, I mean it was good, but since their unborn baby can come any day now we took it easy on alcohol to stay alert in case we need to drive to the hospital! But who needs wine if you have such a great company?
   As a first course we had... yeah you are right...we had a soup, made out of some awesome dried mushrooms I brought with me from Poland. Just look at them...


   I soaked them in cold water for about 5-6 hours, chopped them a little bit, and cooked them in the same water they were soaking with a chicken bullion cube, onions, carrots, small pasta, and lots of parsley and black pepper until the mushrooms were tender. When everything was ready I added a little bit of sour cream for acidity and color.

   Yummy! Since I started with such a Polish soup, I decided to continue with the homeland theme and I made a beef goulash (it may not be a Polish dish but it's so popular over there that we'd like to think it's ours). It's very simple with veggies, bay leaves, juniper berries, salt, and pepper.

   Since it is a Halloween weekend what can be better than serving it with some creepy, purple potatoes and sweet and sour red cabbage (it doesn't get any more Polish than that!).

   I'm getting full just by writing about all this food and adding pictures, so imagine how we felt after eating all of this. We felt like ... having some sweet and delicious dessert and that's exactly what we did. We had coffee (mama had decaf tea!) and freshly baked croissants filed with raspberry jam. Sweet, a little bit sour, flaky and simply a perfect ending to a great dinner with friends!

I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as we enjoyed eating it!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chilly outside and chili inside!

   Oh yeah the time has come. The chilly weather is here no matter if we want it or not, and we all know what that means! It means that we can cook and eat as much chili soup as we want! Everybody knows that it is the perfect dish for cold weather! Dense, meaty, saucy, beany (yes, I just created a new word!), just a little bit spicy, delicious dish, which is super easy to make. I always make a huge pot of it, portion it in plastic containers, and have lunches for a minimum of 3-4 days for the both of us! And no, you don't get fed up eating the same thing for a few days in a row, it's that good!

   I do have to confess that my chili soup is semi-home made (I use chili spice mix) and I make it with low fat turkey instead of beef! It's just something we do with Justin, we usually substitute ground beef with ground turkey breast if we can. Much better for you and your waist.
   All I do is saute 2 pounds of ground turkey breast with two big cans of crushed tomatoes, one can of black beans, one can of red kidney beans, and two packets of McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix (no they don't pay me for advertising, I just really like their stuff). They have three different options: mild, original or HOT! I started with using mild, but believe it or not, I evolved and now I use one original and one hot! After everything is combined just cook it for 15-20 min, stirring all the time because it sticks to the bottom of the pot. Turn off the heat and leave it covered for a while so the flavor can develop. A real Texan man I know thinks that chili tastes the best the next day, and I totally agree with him!

Stay warm.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Painting day lunch!

   This day couldn't come soon enough! We are finally creating our dream master bedroom! It's high time to get rid of the old mismatched furniture which I had ever since I came to the US (over 8 years ago) and get my new, dark brown, wonderful bedroom set! Yay! But before we do that the walls need to be painted! And today is the day. We already put the first coat of paint, not only on the walls but also on my fingers, legs, shoes, and hair and now we are waiting for it to dry. They say to wait 3-5 hours before putting second coat so I guess that's plenty of time to cook something for lunch, but do I feel like cooking? Not really! And that's when our favorite Freschetta frozen pizza steps in... 15 min in the oven and our delicious lunch is ready.

   Spinach and mushroom pizza with white sauce and there is no need for anything else, except maybe an energy drink to tackle the rest of the painting!

Have a great Saturday.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Husband in the kitchen.

   Justin may not be the best cook, but the few things he does make are awesomely delicious! If I'm late from work or I don't feel like cooking, he steps right in and prepares one of his signature dishes for us. Today was one of those days when I had to stay a little bit longer at work, but when I got home I could smell my favorite healthy version of the Reuben sandwich! Rather then using corned beef he makes it with smoked turkey breast, fat free Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut on whole wheat toast bread. The only splurge we allow ourselves is Swiss cheese.

   Man that sandwich is yummy! I could eat it every day!
   After this light and almost calorie free dinner we had some room for a sweet dessert. Last Friday I promised my  friends in the lab I would make a cake and surprise, surprise Justin absolutely supported the idea! I love when people like to eat my food, that's exactly what it is about, sharing my passion and making others happy! But I got so busy on the weekend searching for a paint colors for our bedroom (anybody wants to come and paint it for us?) that I almost forgot about the cake. Since I didn't want to break a promise I decided to make the quickest and easiest cake ever. I don't even know what to call this cake, but it's quite tasty!

   All you need is 4-5 apples, cut into small cubes and mixed with 1.5 cup of sugar for about 30 min. After the apples release some juice add 2.5 cups of flour, 1 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 tbsp cocoa, 4 eggs, 4 tbsp of vegetable oil, 1 cup of walnuts, and 0.5 cups of raisins. Mix everything very well and bake at 350F for about 30-40 min, or until the toothpick comes out dry (you know the trick!).

Try it, I'm sure you will like it!


Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday's ritual!

   I love Friday nights! Usually we try to eat pretty healthy all week long, but Friday is our night of comfort food in unlimited quantities, eaten on the couch in front of TV, while watching movies! And tonight was no different than usual. After three weeks in Poland we had a DVR full of our favorite shows and movies so it was the perfect opportunity for some Chinese takeout and two episodes of "Fringe".
   Can you imagine Chinese takeout without a spring roll? Me neither, that's why it was exactly what we started our dinner with. Crunchy, a little bit chewy, filled with veggies and deep fried. I told you Friday dinners are far from healthy!

   They were worth every calorie! As a main course I had my favorite steamed shrimp and veggies with rice. It's so simple, there is basically no seasoning or spices on it but all I do is put few pockets of Duck Sauce on it and it's just light, sweet, a little bit sour and delicious!

   Justin got one of his favorites, general tso's chicken. Man that was good: tender, juicy, sticky sweet and spicy. I made sure I had my fair share of his dish! He was really into the episode, focusing on every detail so I used it to my advantage and steal almost half of his portion from his plate.

   And lets not forget about the fortune cookie. Mine said: "It's at the worst of times that you need to summon your optimism." So I am staying optimistic that I won't gain too much weight after this big and rich meal!

See you next time.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kwasnica & Co.

   Our Polish adventures are slowly coming to an end, so there is only few more opportunities to share some of my Mom's cooking with you. The weather so far was great but you can definitely tell winter is coming. As a matter of fact, there is already snow in the Polish mountains in the south.
   Speaking of mountains, today for dinner we had a traditional mountain region sour soup called "kwasnica". Oh it's sour, that's for sure, but delicious. There are only two main ingredients: sauerkraut and pork ribs, but what else you really need? Those two make me plenty happy! I was curious if Justin will like it since it's very taste specific and very "different" from what I cook, but my worries were unnecessary because he finished his plate way before any of us. This soup was the perfect choice for today's cold winter-like weather, it really warmed us up, and the ribs didn't hurt either!

   We decided that after this rich soup we should have something a little bit lighter as a second course, so my Mom made us pasta with spinach... well after we ate a mountain of it there was nothing light about it any more. Justin couldn't believe how different, and better, Polish pasta is. It has completely different taste and texture and seems much lighter (seems!!!) and when you pair it with healthy spinach it's like eating negative calories!!! I know, I know... I'm in my own dream world, but somehow I need to convince myself I didn't eat too much. Just look at it, does it look fattening to you?

   Well, maybe a little, but it's too late now. Since we ate such a "healthy" dinner we couldn't end it with anything else other than some fruit... and, as we all know fruits taste the best with some sugar and dough :). This time I decided to take care of the dessert and I made one of my signature desserts: szarlotka (Polish apple pie, which Justin keeps calling "skarpetka", which means "a sock"!). I used my old recipe, which I always use and I was really surprised that the cake was completaly different than at home. I don't know if it's a different flour, butter or just the Polish air but it came out a little bit better than usual. Nobody complained about it and half of it is already gone so I think I did pretty good job!

Piece of szarlotka, glass of milk, a good movie and here you have the best cold Saturday night ever!

Hope you enjoy your weekend as well.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What can be more Polish than that?

   This is the day I've been waiting for ever since we got to Poland! All I wanted is some real and absolutely not figure friendly Polish food. I've been eating it for most of our time here, but today my Mom made the most Polish dinner of all. The funny thing is that when I was a kid I didn't even like it that much, especially the soup.... made out of beans with a hint of smoked bacon. Yeah, I can honestly say I used to hate it, but not today. I had a full, and I mean full plate, and I loved every spoon of it!

   My Mom makes it a little bit spicy with some potatoes and lots of herbs. I don't know what it is... if my taste just changed after all these years, or I just love everything my Mom makes now, but I definitelly enjoyed this soup, which I used to hate as a kid.
   But this post is not really about the soup. What I really wanted to show you is schabowy (pork chop) with potato and cooked sauerkraut.  It's a very traditional and I think very underappreciated dish nowadays. I had it the other day in a restaurant and after Justin ate half of my portion, all he wanted is another one. So Mom made it for us today... oh man it was good. Notice that I said "it was" because there is none left! Justin didn't want it to dry out so he took care of buissiness! The schabowy was very tender inside, crunchy on the outside and very, very flavorfull. And there is nothing better than pairing it with smooth mashed potatoes and a sauerkraut, which is cooked for a long time with some veggies, cumin seeds and a little bit of bacon. It's very sour, just on the edge, but it's perfect for the heavy schabowy! Well you can't really tell how it just need to eat it yourself to understand why I am so exctited about it, but maybe a picture will help a little.

   And just when we think that we are in heaven and there is nothing better  ... my Mom brings us a cherry kompot (call it juice but its not the same, Polish people will understand) made out of cherries picked in the summer from our own garden. Delicious!

   And no matter what people say this dinner will never taste the same if it's not made in a Polish home in Poland! I tried.

Hope you enjoyed it.