Thursday, May 31, 2012

Curious George!

   Are you curious what I was curious about? Well, some time ago I was looking for canned tuna and suddenly I saw a can of "Pink Salmon". My first thought was: "Ugh! That's disgusting!", but each time I saw it, I was more and more curious about it. Few years later (!) my curiosity took over, and I finally bought one. When I opened the can, I knew right away that you can't really eat it by itself, and that it's going to take a lot of "dressing up" to make it appetizing. So I mixed it with lots of herbs and veggies and made colorful and delicious salmon cakes. Here is the recipe for 10 cakes:

Salmon cakes:

*  2 cans pink salmon
*  1 red bell pepper (finely chopped)
*  1/4 red onion (finely chopped)
*  2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
*  1/4 cup chopped parsley
*  2 eggs (beaten)
*  1/4 cup bread crumbs
*  seasoned salt
*  pepper
*  olive oil


*  1 cup fat-free yogurt
*  1/2 cup pickle relish
*  1/4 cup crushed black olives
*  1 tbsp lemon juice
*  salt and pepper

1. Crush drained salmon and mix it with red onion, bell pepper, thyme an parsley.
2. Add eggs, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper, mix everything until combined, and form patties (the size of medium burger)
3. In a non-stick pan, heat a little bit of olive oil, and saute salmon cakes for about 3-4 minutes on each side.
4. Mix all the ingredients of the sauce, season with salt and pepper to your liking and keep in the fridge until served.

   Who would have thought that you can get such a delicious dish using a not so sexy ingredient? Onions and peppers give it a nice crunch and herbs are flavorful and fresh. If you are a fish lover and looking for some alternatives, this is the dish for you.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer staple.

   Well, there are many dishes that can be summer staples, and I'm sure each of us have our own. I actually have a different staple each weekend and love all of them. But somehow during Memorial Day weekend I always think about grilled meat and cornbread. Grilling seems like an obvious choice, but I have absolutely no scientific explanation for the cornbread ... it's just what I associate with this Holiday. It's not only super tasty, but also super quick and easy, so it won't keep you in the kitchen when you want to enjoy time with your friends and family. To make it extra flavorful and summery I added mint and lemon thyme. Here is the recipe:

*  1/2 cup butter
*  1/3 cup white sugar
*  2 eggs
*  1 cup buttermilk
*  1/2 tsp baking soda
*  1/2 tsp baking powder
*  1 cup cornmeal
*  1 cup all-purpose flour
*  1/2 tsp salt
*  2 tbsp chopped lemon thyme
*  2 tbsp chopped mint

1. Melt butter in skillet, remove it from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended.
2. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and baking powder, and stir into mixture in pan. Stir in cornmeal, flour, salt, and herbs until well blended, pour batter into the prepared pan (I used 8 inch square pan) and bake at 375F for 30 minutes.

   I wish you could smell my kitchen when I was taking it out of the oven. Mint and lemon thyme is such a great and fragrant combination, it just makes you want to hug the cornbread and never let it go! Add some home made strawberry preserves and you are in heaven!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Maybe some Thai?

   I think "exotic" foods are the one I crave the most. When I was a kid, Thai, Chinese, or Indian cuisine was not available in Poland, so I did not grow up with those flavors. So you know what, I'm compensating for all those years right now! Usually we just go out to a Thai restaurant (I always order Pad Thai) or we get Chinese take out, but today I decided to make my own "exotic" food inspired by a delicious cuisine of Thailand. First thing that comes to my mind (besides already mentioned Pad Thai) is coconut milk and curry chicken, so I kind of mixed all the ingredients that seemed to be made for each other and here is what I got! What you need is:

*  1 large chicken breast (cut into cubes)
*  1 large onion (chopped)
*  1 red bell pepper (chopped)
*  1 can coconut milk
*  lemon zest
*  lemon juice (from one lemon)
*  1 tsp grated fresh ginger
*  2 tbsp curry powder
*  1 tbsp turmeric 
*  2 tbsp ketchup
*  1 cup chopped cilantro
*  1 tbsp olive oil
*  salt

1. Saute onions and ginger with the olive oil
2. Add cubed chicken and cook it for 5 minutes, until lightly browned, season with salt, curry powder, turmeric, lemon zest, and lemon juice and cook for 2-3 minutes
3. Add red bell peppers, cilantro, coconut milk, ketchup (trust me, it does magic) and cook for about 10 minutes until chicken is cooked and the sauce thickens.
4. Serve it with cooked basmati rice

   It's sweet, salty, a little bit zesty, and just melts in your mouth. I might not sound too confident, but I could not believe how delicious this turned out! I think coconut milk will be my new favorite ingredient!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rebellious pesto!

   Normally when you think about pesto you think about basil, pine nuts, and olive oil, but not me. For me pesto means any green thick sauce made out of fresh herbs and green-leafy vegetables (wow, that's very "experty" of me!). I usually make it out of whatever I have in my kitchen, pair it with chicken and pasta, and I get a delicious dinner! This time I had rather unconventional pesto ingredients, but I got one of the best sauces I've ever made (oh, and it was almost fat free)!

*  1 chicken breast(cubed)
*  2 cups arugula
*  1 large onion (chopped)
*  1/2 cup chopped cilantro
*  1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
*  1/2 cup slivered almonds
*  1/4 cup lime juice
*  1/4 cup fat-free milk
*  salt and pepper

*  fettuccine pasta

1. Combine all the ingredients (besides chicken and pasta) in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
2. In a non stick pan saute chicken until browned and cooked, add the pesto sauce, and cook for 5 more minutes.
3. Boil pasta, add it to the sauce, and cook all together for 2-3 minutes so pasta can absorb some of the "juices"

   Who would have thought that cilantro and mint would go together so well? The almonds don't really puree all the way so they give the sauce a nice crunch and the acidity of the lime juice gives it a great touch! It's a very unique dish and has lots of flavors! If you are vegetarian, just skip the meat and you can enjoy it as well.

Good luck.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Got rosemary?

   I think Justin and I are really getting used to the breakfast muffins, and nothing else seems to be satisfying anymore. I usually make enough muffins to last us from Mon through Fri and to avoid monotony I am trying to come up with new flavors each week. This time it came to me when I was weeding my garden and trying to maneuver around a huge rosemary plant. I was thinking what can I use rosemary for rather than in meat and potato dishes, and I thought that rosemary muffins sound like an interesting idea. I also had some sun dried tomatoes in my pantry, so why not throw them into the party as well? Here is the recipe:

*  2 cup all-purpose flour
*  1 tbsp baking powder
*  1/4 cup light brown sugar
*  1 tsp salt
*  1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
*  1 cup fat-free buttermilk
*  2 eggs
*  1 stick of butter (melted and cooled)
*  2 tbsp chopped rosemary
*  1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes

1. In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, rosemary, tomatoes, and whisk everything together
2. In a separate bowl mix eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, and cheese, add it all to the dry ingredients and mix until combined
3. Scope the batter into the muffin pan (lined with paper muffin cups) and bake at 400F for 20 minutes

   I'm not going to write much about them. I think Justin summarized it all very well by saying "wow, those are your best muffins yet"! What can I say, the man likes my muffins!!!


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Guilt free Middle Eastern treat!

   Deep frying is not in my dictionary! If it is still in yours you should absolutely watch the new HBO documentary called "The weight of the Nation", which is terrifying, eyeopening, and educating. Trying to watch what you eat doesn't mean that you have to forget about all your favorite foods (like deep fried falafel), it just means that you have to find a way to improve the dish and make it more "skinny jeans" friendly. So that's exactly what I did with my beloved falafel, I switched the deep fryer for the oven and rather than serving them with a heavy dipping sauce I made a fat free yogurt based tzatziki sauce. Check it out for yourself, here is the recipe:


*  2 cans garbanzo beans (drained and washed)
*  1 onion (chopped)
*  2 cloves garlic
*  1 egg
*  1 cup chopped parsley
*  1 tsp ground cumin
*  1 tsp coriander powder
*  1/2 tsp baking soda
*  2 tbsp all-purpose flour
*  1 tsp salt

   Mix all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until everything is combined. I like to leave mine just a little bit chunky to give a falafel some texture. Form the patties (about 1.5 inch diameter), place on a baking sheet, and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

Tzatziki sauce:

*  1 cup fat-free plain yoghurt
*  2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
*  1 cucumber (shredded)
*  1 tsp garlic powder
*  1 tbsp lemon juice
*  salt

   There is not much too it, just combine everything, season with salt and lemon juice to your own taste and enjoy the dish!

   Such a versatile dish, you can have it as a lunch, dinner or a snack, delicious either warm or cold (I prefer it cold). It might not be completely guilt free (garbanzo beans are not calorie free), but much better then the fried option. Isn't it what it's all about, making better choices without losing the flavor?


Friday, May 18, 2012

Need some comfort?

   Pasta carbonara, doesn't it sound like a sophisticated and complicated dish? Well, there is nothing complicated about it and it probably isn't the most sophisticated either. What it is, is super delicious and comforting. I was wanting to make this dish for a long time and I finally got around to it! It just has all of my favorite ingredients and seems to be perfect as a comfort food if you need some. To make it "comforty" and guilt free at the same time, I substituted most of the ingredients with the "skinny" options so we can enjoy it freely. Here is the recipe:

*  angel hair pasta (or any other)
*  10-12 slices of turkey bacon
*  1 cup green peas
*  3 eggs
*  2/3 cup fat-free half and half
*  1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
*  salt and pepper

   Cook pasta according to the package directions. In a bowl combine eggs, half and half, Parmesan cheese, and whisk everything together. In a non stick pan saute turkey bacon until crisp, add drained and hot pasta, egg mixture, peas, salt and pepper, turn off the heat, and mix everything together. The heat of the pan and pasta will cook the eggs and form a sauce. Garnish everything with green onions or parsley and it's ready to enjoy!

   I might be bias because I am a big egg and pasta lover, but this dish is great. Creamy, salty and saucy with fresh and sweet notes from the green peas. Who wouldn't love that?


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It's strawberry season!!

   Hi, my name is Magda and I'm a strawberry addict! It's not a joke, I'm not trying to be cute or funny, I just have a serious problem with strawberries (and watermelon, but that's a different story). Normally I can control it by buying just one small box of them in the store... but when May comes and the berry farms have their "pick your own strawberries and eat as much as you can" deal, I'm in big trouble! What ends up happening is that Justin is picking the strawberries that we take home and I'm just going through the field like a giant strawberry vacuum cleaner inhaling all the berries. You would think that an "adult" would recognize when he/she is full and can't eat anymore and stop, but not me, I eat strawberries until I can't no longer walk, think, or keep my pants buttoned! Strawberries are my kryptonite. Last weekend was no different, we went to the berry farm, picked few tons of strawberries (ate even more) and brought them home to make strawberry preserves!

   There is absolutely nothing better than home made jam, you won't find it anywhere! Here is the recipe:

*  5-6 lb strawberries
*  5-6 cups sugar (depends how sweet you like it)
*  lemon juice (from one lemon)
*  8 tbsp pectin (depends on the manufacturer)

   In a large pot, mix quartered strawberries with sugar and let them stand for about 2 hours (to let the juices come out). Put the pot on medium heat and cook strawberries slowly for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add lemon juice and pectin and cook for exactly one more minute (or whatever the pectin manufacturer recommends). Sterilize jars and lids in boiling water, pour the hot preserves into the jars and close the lids. Transfer filled jars into boiling water (do not cover completely with water), boil them for 5 minutes, take them out of the pot and let them stand for an hour so the lids can pop and seal. All is left to do is enjoy your labor. From 6 pounds of fruit I got 14 jars of preserves!

   Of course we "had to" open one jar to make sure it was good and let me tell you.... it's not "good", it's heavenly!!! So flavorful, sweet and tangy, with big chunks of fruit! No matter how much you pay for the store bought preserves, you will never get the same taste as home made!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Where it all comes from!

   This post will be completely different than all others! There will be no cooking, no plating and no tasting... yet! I was watering my garden and admiring gorgeous and vibrant colors of my herbs and veggies and it just hit me! All those plants would take amazing pictures so why not change things around a little bit and write a post about my garden? It's a huge part of my cooking adventures and sooner or later everything will end up on a plate anyways! It might not be the biggest garden ever, but it's mine, it's organic, delicious, fresh, and I have 24/7 access to it! You can't beat all of that! It's still in its early stage, and I'm sure that all the plants are going to triple in size in couple of weeks, but it's looking good already. So here it is, take a look at my personal little heaven that makes my dishes taste so good!

My absolutely most favorite herb of all time: mint

... basil...

... parsley...

... dill (now that's really Polish in my opinion)...

... rosemary ...

... thyme

... onions...

... oregano...

... black and yellow tomatoes...

... and strawberries...

Look who was sun bathing in the yard and watching me taking pictures! It's the cutest dog in the world, my sweet little Spikey!

Stay tuned for some exciting recipes featuring all the herbs and veggies from my garden!


Friday, May 11, 2012

Simple sophistication!

   Who said that weeknight dinners have to be bland and boring? And who said that all delicious and good-looking meals have to be difficult and time-consuming? Well, I'm gonna prove that you can get a restaurant quality dish which is not only good for you, but also for your wallet! Justin was actually pretty impressed that I just came up with that dish on a spot and that it looked and tasted so good. Who knew that putting together such simple ingredients as salmon, yams, and some veggies would make such a sophisticated dinner? Well, check it out for yourself. Here is what you need:

*  4 fillets of salmon

*  3 medium yams
*  1/2 tsp cumin

*  3 medium tomatoes
*  1 medium cucumber
*  1/4 onion
*  2 tbsp chopped dill
*  2 tbsp wine vinegar
*  1 tbsp sugar
*  salt and pepper

   Peel the yams, cut them into cubes and cook for 15-20 minutes until fork tender. Mash the yams with salt, pepper, and cumin. Put salmon fillets on the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 400F for 10-12 minutes. Chop tomatoes, cucumber, and onion, mix all together, add dill, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. To "assemble" the dish put a spoon of yams on the plate, cover them with a piece of salmon, and top everything with the vegetable mix.

   It's very light and super flavorful. The cumin and yams go great together and make it "different" and exotic, while the vinegar's acidity brings everything to life! And doesn't it look like something you would get in a restaurant? Well, maybe not, but I like to think so.  :)


Tuesday, May 8, 2012


   Don't you just want to shout it out whenever you are having Greek food? Opa! Well, it's not really Greek... it just has spinach, tomato, and feta in it, so that was the first thing that came to my mind. Besides it's so yummy that I'm sure it could be easily mistaken for ambrosia, which really made me think it's Greek. If you are a (check all that apply): pizza lover, vegetarian, veggie lover, cheese lover, or calorie counter, this recipe will steal your heart! It's not difficult to figure out what I made this time, is it? It's a healthy-cheesy-vegetarian-Greek style-pita bread-pizza. Sounds like a mouthful, doesn't it? Here is what you need (serves 4):

*  4 whole wheat pita bread
*  1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
*  1/2 cup feta cheese
*  2 tomatoes
*  1 bag baby spinach
*  1 large onion
*  2 garlic cloves
*  1 tbsp olive oil
*  pinch of nutmeg
*  salt and pepper

   Saute chopped onions and garlic with olive oil until soft and translucent. Add spinach, nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes until spinach is wilted. Spread ricotta cheese on the pita bread, top with the spinach and onion mixture, cover with sliced tomatoes, sprinkle with feta cheese, and bake at 400F for 15 minutes.

   Crispy, creamy, fresh and very flavorful. Nutmeg really gives a "warmth" and comfort to the dish (like all this cheese isn't enough to do that). Highly recommended!


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cinco de Mayo!

   We don't really celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but it doesn't mean we can't have Mexican food for lunch. Well, to be honest I don't know if it's "allowed" to be called that, but for me if the dish has a cilantro in it and is called a "taco", somehow I categorize it as Mexican. I understand it's probably wrong and the same as adding kielbasa to the dish doesn't make it Polish, cilantro doesn't make it Mexican. Call it what you want, but no matter what, it's super delicious, fresh, and healthy. Check out my chicken tacos with pineapple and tomato salsa! Here is the recipe:

*  4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
*  3 tbsp teriyaki sauce
*  3 tbsp lemon juice
*  1 tbsp soy sauce

*  corn tortillas
*  2 medium tomatoes (chopped)
*  4 slices pineapple (chopped)
*  1/2 cup cilantro
*  1/4 cup chopped red onion
*  lemon juice
*  salt and pepper

   Combine teriyaki sauce, lemon juice, and soy sauce, mix it all together and marinate the chicken thighs in it over night. When you are ready to make tacos roast the chicken thighs at 400F for 30-40 minutes.
   To make salsa: combine chopped tomatoes, pineapple, onion, and cilantro, add lemon juice, salt and pepper while adjusting it to your taste. All thats left to do is assemble your tacos! Slice the chicken, put it on the tortilla, top it with salsa and... enjoy it!

   So fresh and delicious.  You have a lot of great flavors going on, sweet, savory, sour, and tangy (did I just invent a new flavor?). You are going to love it!


Friday, May 4, 2012

Cookie Monster!

   Who doesn't love cookies? Even if you tell me you don't, I still won't believe you! You might not like all of them, but I'm sure everybody has their favorite cookie. For me the real "cookie love" started when I came to the US and discovered the absolutely amazing and irresistible oatmeal cookie! Whoever came up with the recipe deserves a Nobel Prize, or even two! Sweet, crunchy, gooey, and delicious. Of course the most famous oatmeal cookies are chocolate chip, but I don't really like chocolate, so for me the real treats are either macadamia or cranberry cookies. The recipe couldn't be simpler and here is what you need to make dried cranberry oatmeal cookies:

*  1 stick butter (room temp)
*  1 cup all-purpose flour
*  2 cups old fashioned oats
*  1 cup dried cranberries
*  3/4 tsp cinnamon
*  1/2 teaspoon baking powder
*  1/2 teaspoon baking soda
*  1/2 teaspoon fine salt
*  1/2 cup light brown sugar
*  1/2 cup white sugar
*  1 large egg
*  1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

   In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy for about 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. With the machine running, gradually add the flour mixture. Add the oats and cranberries, mix until just incorporated (dough will be stiff). Using a 4-ounce cookie scoop, scoop slightly rounded mounds of the dough into 12 (2-inch-diameter) balls, arrange them on a baking sheet spaced evenly apart and bake at 350F until the cookies are slightly golden on the edges, about 13 to 15 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 20 minutes before serving. This is very important that you take the cookies out of the oven after 15 minutes and let them cool completely. They will seem a little bit underdone but it's exactly how they should look if you want them to be moist and gooey!

   Do I really need to say how good they are? After all it's cookies we are talking about... they are good no matter what! You can add different fruit, chocolate, nuts, or whatever you desire and have a different kind each time.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Drunken chops!

   Remember when I told you that you are going to see more grilled goodies? I keep my promises and today I will show you how to make delicious grilled pork chops soaked in port, topped with an onion/apple glaze, and served with roasted broccoli! Is your mouth watering yet? I'm getting hungry just writing about it. Even though the dish consists of three different components, it's super easy, fast, and effortless. Oh, and low in calories too! Here is what you need for 4 servings:

*  4 pork chops (1/2 inch thick)
*  1/2 cup port
*  2-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
*  2 tbsp brown sugar
*  2 tbsp soy sauce
*  1 tsp garlic powder

*  1 large onion
*  1 large apple
*  2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
*  1 tbsp sugar
*  1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
*  1/2 cup water
*  1 tsp corn starch

*  broccoli
*  cooking spray
*  Vegeta or salt and pepper

   Combine all the ingredients of the marinade, soak the pork chops in it, and refrigerate overnight in a covered bowl or plastic bag. Preheat the grill and grill the chops for about 5-6 minutes on each side until the meat is done.
   To prepare the glaze, thinly slice the onion and apple, saute them with the apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar for about 6-7 minutes. Next add the water and corn starch, bring to a boil, and its done!
   The last ingredient of the dish is broccoli, which I cut into a long pieces (with the stems), cover with cooking spray, sprinkle with Vegeta (or salt and pepper), and bake at 430F for 15 minutes.

   How good does that look? The pork chops are super flavorful (well, they taste like port so they have to be amazing!), the glaze is sweet and tangy, and the broccoli is nicely roasted with a little bit of crunch! Oh, and check this out... all this has only 350 calories and 40 grams of protein!!! You can't beat that! Who said you need to sacrifice taste in order to cut down on calories?