Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring cleaning!

   No, this post is not going to be about cleaning your house, although it's not a bad idea because there is nothing better than a clean and fresh house! Well, OK, there are better things than that, but lets not go there! Today's "spring cleaning" post will be about cleaning out your fridge's leftover and unused veggies. When they sit in a fridge for a long time they are not as fresh and crispy, so the best thing to do is to put them into a soup! So that is exactly what I did! Don't worry about sticking to the list of ingredients, just check what you have in your fridge and use it. I'm sure it will make a delicious soup anyways. What I used is:

*  1/2 savoy cabbage
*  2 carrots (shredded)
*  1 tomato
*  3 celery sticks
*  1 large onion
*  3-4 tbs tomato sauce
*  dill
*  3-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
*  2 tbsp fat-free plain yogurt
*  salt and pepper

   Chop the vegetables, put into a big pot with the broth and some water (adjust it to your liking) and cook until veggies are soft. Add tomato sauce, salt and pepper, turn off the heat, and then add the yogurt. It's that easy!

   If you are one of those people that think that soups should be eaten only in fall and winter, I'm sure you will change your mind after trying this one. It's very light and springy and is good all year around!


Friday, April 27, 2012

Chicken salad with a kick!

   I think it's high time for one of my own creations. I don't even remember how I came up with this one, I guess it just seemed like the perfect combination. Chicken salad between two slices of bread is not something I grew up with, but I do have to admit that it's a great invention! You can add any ingredient you want and give it your own spin. Some time ago I posted an avocado chicken salad, which I found in "Everyday Food" magazine, and this time I came up with my own version with vegetables and curry sauce! What you need is:

*  2 chicken breasts (poached and shredded)
*  2 celery sticks (chopped)
*  4 scallions (chopped)
*  1 cup raisins
*  1/4 red onion
*  1/2 cup chopped parsley


*  1 cup fat-free yogurt
*  2 tbsp yellow mustard
*  2-3 tbsp curry powder
*  salt and pepper

   In a bowl whisk all the ingredients of the sauce, add chicken, celery, raisins, scallions, onion, and parsley, mix everything together, and it's done. I like to serve it with pumpernickel bread.

   It's creamy, crunchy, sweet, and spicy at the same time. You don't even need a bread but it definitely doesn't hurt!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Everybody should try it!

   I have to thank all my friends who insisted that I start a cooking blog! Thank you! It became my favorite hobby, and I am more and more committed to it. I constantly look for cooking inspiration, how to serve my dish, and how to take the best picture! I switched from buying gossip magazines to a cooking magazines and from watching home renovation shows to cooking shows. I used to either cook the dishes I knew from home or I just made up some quick and easy recipes, sometimes with the addition of some "exotic" ingredients. Recently, I started to follow some of my favorite chefs and try out their recipes, and let me tell you... every new dish I make becomes our new favorite! There is no way we could decide which one we like better. Today is no different and I really think everybody should make this dish because it's "out-of-this-world" good. It's Giada's recipe for "Butternut squash and goat cheese pasta" and it's amazing. What you need is:

*  1 lb whole wheat penne pasta
*  1 medium butternut squash (peeled and cut into cubes)
*  1 large onion (chopped)
*  8 oz goat cheese (room temp)
*  1/2 cup chopped walnuts
*  1 cup chopped basil
*  1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
*  olive oil
*  salt and pepper

   Arrange the butternut squash and onions in a single layer on the baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and bake at 425F for 30 minutes until vegetables are golden. Cook the pasta, drain and reserve about 1 cup of cooking water. Put the pasta, pasta water, and goat cheese in a large bowl, toss until the cheese melts and forms a creamy sauce. Add the squash and onion mixture, walnuts, basil, mix everything together, and garnish with a Parmesan cheese.

   Did I mention that it's amazing? Oh, I did? But let me tell you again, it's amazing!!! Very creamy, but light, earthy, but fresh, and very, very filling! You absolutely have to try it out, I'm sure you will agree with me how delicious it is.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fruit crostata with a twist.

   I think you are going to see more and more recipes inspired by Giada De Laurentiis. I am absolutely in love with her show and her dishes. It took me a while to get to like her, but once I did I couldn't stop watching the "Giada at home" show. She always have great ideas for interesting twists on traditional recipes and she also comes up with new and unexpected dishes. To make things "my own" I give it my own spin and the combination of Giada's and my ideas creates an amazing dish (how modest am I?). This time I made an apple/pear crostata with walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese. Here is the recipe:


*  1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
*  1/2 tsp salt
*  2-3 tbsp sugar
*  3 tbsp unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
*  1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
*  lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
*  2-3 tbsp ice water


*  2-3 tbsp butter
*  2 apples (peeled and cut into thin slices)
*  2 pears (peeled and cut into small slices)
*  1/4 cup sugar
*  1 tsp cinnamon
*  lemon juice (1 lemon)
*  lemon zest
*  1/2 cup chopped walnuts
* 1/3 cup Gorgonzola cheese
*  1 egg (beaten)

    For the crust: In a food processor combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is finely chopped and the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the cheese, lemon juice, and the ice water and run the machine just until the mixture is moist and crumbly, but does not form a ball. Do not over mix. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
   For the filling: Saute apples and pears with butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Cook until the fruit is softened, but not mushy. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, walnuts, and cheese. Roll the dough out into an 11-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick, put onto the parchment paper, and spoon the fruit filling into the center of the dough. Spread the filling evenly, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the dough border over the filling to form an 8-inch round. Pleat the edge of the pastry and pinch to seal any cracks in the dough. Using a pastry brush, brush the crust with the beaten egg. Bake at 400F for 25-30 min until the crust is golden.

   It looks very "homey" and it tastes even better. The filling is super flavorful, sweet, tangy, crunchy, and every now and then you get a surprising and delicious bite of Gorgonzola cheese. The recipe is definitely a keeper.

Good luck.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My very first muffin pan!

   I know it's hard to believe, but there were days when I didn't own a muffin pan. We don't use them in Poland too often, so it was an unnecessary gadget for me, but I have no idea how I survived so long without it! Thank God for my friend who introduced me to breakfast egg muffins and also gifted me with my very first six cup muffin pan to make them in. Life was never the same after that. Not only did I come up with many different recipes for sweet/savory/breakfasty muffins, but I also gained a lot of weight because of them. Don't worry, today we will make some healthy and high in protein breakfast muffins (tribute to my muffin pan gifter) with my personal twist. What you need to make 6 big muffins is:

*  10 eggs
*  1/4 cup milk
*  2 tbsp flour
*  1/2 cup reduced-fat shredded mozarella
*  1/2 cup chopped parsley
*  1 cup reduced-fat turkey breakfast sausage (sauteed)
*  1 tbsp garlic powder
*  salt and pepper

   Whisk eggs with milk, flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Add mozzarella and parsley, combine everything and transfer to the greased muffin pan (about 3/4 full). Spoon the turkey sausage into each cup and bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes until the eggs are set.

   As you can see some got more sausage than others and guess which one Justin is having for breakfast tomorrow? Yeah, you got it! If you love eggy breakfasts (like I do), but don't have too much time in the morning to prepare it, this is your recipe. It takes 30 minutes of your time and you have breakfast for the entire week (unless you eat them all at once).


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Enjoy the weather!

   I love spring. This is absolutely my favorite season with warm, but not hot weather, beautiful green trees, herb gardens, and GRILLING!!! The second you go outside you can tell that all our neighbors loves grilling as well, because all you smell is deliciousness in the air! I can't say enough good things about grilled food, it's super flavorful, smoky, healthy, and fun. You can get super creative and come up if all sorts of different things which are wallet and figure friendly. Today, I will show you how to make the best chicken skewers ever with colorful veggies.

*  2 chicken breast (two halfs)
*  1 red bell pepper
*  1 medium onion
*  12-15 small white mushroom
*  1 medium zucchini
*  olive oil
*  salt and pepper


*  1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
*  1/4 cup lemon juice
*  lemon zest
*  2 tbsp honey
*  1/4 cup soy sauce
*  1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

   Mix all the ingredients of the marinade, cut the chicken into uniform cubes, and soak in the marinade for at least 24 hours (more or less, I just prepare it the night before). Cut all the vegetables (besides mushrooms) into bite size pieces (generous bites), drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and put it all onto the skewers. I put the vegetables on separate skewers than the chicken (different cooking time) and I alternate the chicken pieces with chunks of onions (for extra flavor). Grill on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side (remember that skewers have 4 sides) until chicken is completely cooked but not dry.

   Don't be afraid of the black color on the meat or vegetables, this is absolutely the best part of the dish. That smoky and delicious char makes grilled food so special. The grilling season in the Morgan's household is on, so stay tuned for more delicious recipes.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Asian influence!

   We love Asian inspired cuisine and if we could, we probably would eat in Asian restaurants every day. There are many reasons why we can't make it our daily routine (the risk of not fitting into the door being one of them), so I had to come up with home-made, healthier version. It might not be authentic but it's definitely delicious! This time I made some sesame and peanut butter noodles with grilled chicken. Well, I don't know how figure friendly it is (with all this peanut butter and pasta) but somehow the ability to control the quality and quantity of the ingredients makes me feel better about it. Here is the recipe:

*  whole grain linguine pasta
*  grilled chicken breast
*  1/2 napa cabbage (chopped)
*  1 red bell pepper (chopped)
*  3-4 scallions (chopped)
*  1/2 cup peanuts
*  1/4 cup chopped cilantro
*  1/4 cup sesame seeds


*  1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
*  3 tbsp soy sauce
*  2 tbsp rice vinegar
*  1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
*  1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
*  1 tbsp honey
*  2 tbsp sesame oil
*  zest and juice of 1/2 lime

   Place the peanut butter in a bowl and microwave to soften (10-15 seconds). Whisk in with the soy sauce, vinegar, canola oil, ginger, honey, sesame oil, lime zest, and juice. Thin with warm water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed (dressing should be thick, but pourable). Combine together cooked pasta, chicken, napa cabbage, bell pepper, scallions, cilantro, peanuts, and half of the sesame seeds. Pour the dressing in, mix everything together, sprinkle with the rest of the sesame seeds, and delicious dinner is ready.

   I don't even know where to start with describing all the flavors and textures this dish has. Sweet, salty, creamy, crunchy, you name it, you got it! I can't decide which one is my favorite. I want to say sesame oil, but then I remember there is peanut butter and honey, and lime juice, and peanuts, and bell peppers, I'm losing my mind! I love them all!!!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Which side do you prefer?

   I'm not talking about your right of left side (hopefully you like both of them equally)... I'm talking about starch or veggies! Some people mostly focus on the main dish (usually meat) when planning a dinner party but for me the side dishes are equally as important. I always serve two of them, one being a starch and the other one a salad (again one of those Polish habits) and I try to keep them different and original each time. This time I decided to change the old and boring rice into a healthy, fun, fresh, and flavorful dish, full of fiber and vitamins. It might not be the most inventive and sophisticated dish but it definitely is super delicious. Here is what you need:

*  2 cups basmati rice
*  1 cup wild rice
*  1 cup fresh green peas
*  1/4 red onion (finely chopped)
*  1/2 tsp powdered ginger
*  1 tbsp soy sauce
*  1/2 stick of butter (melted)
*  1 tbsp lemon juice
*  salt and pepper

   Cook the basmati and wild rice separately in salted water with ginger. I usually boil my rice in an excess of water and when it's soft, but still a little bit al dente, I drain it in a strainer. Mix the cooked rice together, add fresh peas, chopped onions, melted butter, lemon juice, and season with soy sauce, pepper, and salt as desired.

   It's delicious! Ginger and lemon juice give it a fresh and exotic flavor, peas gives it sweetness, and red onion gives it a crunch. Justin is not a starch eater but he loved this one so much that he even had seconds!


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Easter!

   I hope everybody is enjoying the Easter Weekend! We are almost ready, just a few more strokes of the duster, a few more eggs to boil, and we are good to go. We are planning to sit back, relax, and enjoy the weekend with friends and family. Polish Easter food is all about eggs, kielbasa, and yeast cake called "Babka" (yes, that means "grandma", but what can I say, we love our grandmas)! It's not the quickest cake to make because it requires a lot of patience to let the dough rise (twice) while the yeast is doing it's job. But don't get discouraged because it's all worth it and the final result is very unique and delicious Oh and it makes your entire house smell like the Holidays too. Here is the recipe:

*  1 package dry yeast
*  1/4 cup warm water
*  1/4 cup warm milk
*  1/2 cup sugar, divided
*  1/4 cup butter (room temp)
*  3 eggs
*  2 1/2 cup flour
*  1/4 teaspoon salt
*  1/2 cup dry raisins and cranberries

   Dissolve the yeast in water; stir in milk and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Set aside for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly. Using an electric mixer, beat butter with the remaining sugar. Beat in eggs, flour, salt and yeast mixture until smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise for about 1-2 hours or until doubled. Stir in raisins and cranberries, put into greased tube pan, cover, and let it rise for about 45 minutes. Bake at 350F for 30 - 40 minutes until well browned. Take it out of the pan immediately and let it cool on a wire rack. When it's cooled, top it with a vanilla glaze (I use a store bought glaze), sprinkle with some cranberries, and it's ready to enjoy.

   The smell of baked yeast is just amazing. It feels like home and even if you never had it when you were growing up, there is something about it that just makes you feel like a small kid in your mom's kitchen. It just makes the Easter a little bit more special, even though I am thousands miles away from home.

Happy Easter.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Appetite for an appetizer!

   I always look for a new ideas for the appetizers so I can serve something different each time we have company over. My friends are super easy to entertain because most of them are open minded foodies that are ready to try whatever I may come up with.  Whenever I make something completely new that I have never tried before, I like to also put out something "safe" like humus, salsa, guacamole, or cheese just in case the "experiment" didn't work (if only it was so easy in the lab). This time I decided to take a new recipe for a "test drive" before having people over for Easter dinner just to make sure that this appetizer is worth serving. I saw it on the "Giada at Home" cooking show (which I'm kind of addicted to) and I must say this is amazingly delicious and it will definitely be on my Easter menu. I'm talking about Artichoke and Bean Crostini and here is what you need to make it:

*  french baguette
*  1 can (12oz) artichoke hearts or 1 bag frozen artichokes, thawed
*  1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
*  1/4 cup olive oil
*  1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
*  1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
*  zest from 1/2 lemon
*  lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
*  salt and pepper

   In a food processor combine the artichoke hearts, cannellini beans, basil, cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse until the mixture is chunky and then while the machine is running, slowly add the olive oil. Slice the baguette, drizzle it with a little bit of olive oil, and bake at 400F for about 5-7 minutes until golden brown. Spoon the artichoke mixture on top of the bread and it's ready to serve. You can also sprinkle it with some crisped prosciutto for a nice crunch.

   It's so delicious! Kind of reminds me of humus a little bit, but I think it's much more flavorful and refreshing (lemon and basil). Actually it's so good that I promised my girlfriends that I'm going to bring it to our next girls' night. I'm sure they are going to love it. 


Monday, April 2, 2012

Broccoli cheddar soup after lipo!

   Broccoli and cheddar soup is one of those things that I never had before I came to the US, but I fell in love with it at first sight (taste). I knew right away that we would become best friends, I just didn't know that my hips would love it so much too. So after so many years of "tasting" this glorious soup, I blame it for at least 5 pounds on me! I just couldn't deal with all the guilt anymore after consuming so many calories in a soup, so I made my own version without all the heavy cream and buckets of butter and cheese. Just to make it a little bit exciting I added a twist with few cubes of reduced fat ham (mostly to "encourage" Justin to eat a soup for dinner). What you need is:

*  3-4 cups broccoli florets
*  5 cups fat-free milk
*  1 large onions (chopped)
*  1 cup reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
*  pinch of nutmeg
*  salt and pepper
*  1 tbsp butter
*  1 cup cubed reduced-fat ham (optional)

   Don't be afraid of a little bit of butter, 1 tbsp won't kill you and there is absolutely nothing that can give you this specific taste. Melt the butter in the pan, add chopped onions, and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add broccoli florets, nutmeg, salt and pepper, pour the milk (enough to cover the vegetables), and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes, until the broccoli is nice and tender. Blend everything with a hand blender, add cheese and ham, bring it to a boil, and you are ready to enjoy it.

   Like I said before, ham is totally optional and the soup is super delicious even without it, but it definitely adds an interesting bite to it. Even though it's called broccoli and cheddar soup you don't have to go crazy on the cheese (unless you absolutely want to!) and use much more broccoli which will make the soup thick and flavorful without adding all the calories.