Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cinderella salad.

   Cheap and simple salad in a beautiful dress, aka how to turn simple ingredients into a sophisticated dish. Usually when I plan my dishes I focus mostly on a taste, but ever since I started this blog I also keep in mind how it would look in a picture. Probably I am willing to sacrifice the "look" of the dish for the sake of taste, but never the other way around, who cares if it looks awesome if it's not edible. Fortunately in this dish I did not have to sacrifice anything... it is absolutely delicious and it looks super cute! Perfect dish to entertain with and impress your guests! Simple Greek-style couscous salad stuffed in sexy tomatoes! If you wonder what sexy tomatoes look like... wait until you see the picture! Here is the recipe:


*  2 cups dry couscous
*  2 1/2 cup boiling water
*  3 sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped
*  salt and pepper


*  1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
*  1/3 medium red onion, finely chopped
*  1/2 cup black olives, chopped
*  3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
*  1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
*  4 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

*  small to medium tomatoes (as many as you wish to stuff)


1. In a bowl, mix couscous with salt, pepper and chopped sun dried tomatoes. Add 2 1/2 cup of boiling water, mix to combine, cover with a lid (or a big plate) and let it stand for 7 minutes.
2. Using a fork, fluff up the couscous and let it cool a little bit.
3. In a separate bowl mix chopped cucumber, onions, olives, feta cheese and parsley. Add chilled couscous and balsamic vinaigrette and toss everything together.
4. Cut the top of the tomatoes and using a small spoon remove all the seeds to make a bowl. Spoon salad inside the tomato and it's ready to serve.

   Isn't it cute? Not only good-looking but super flavorful and refreshing. It makes a lot of salad (about 4.5 cups), so it's up to you how many tomatoes you want to stuff, and you can definitely serve it in a regular bowl... it's great no matter what.

Have fun,

Friday, September 28, 2012

Stew without stewing!

   I love stews...any kind, any flavor, meat-less or meat-full. Justin's favorite are kielbasa-full, so I decided to make one of those for him. I kind of took the inspiration from a Polish dish, changed it a little bit to make it less soupy (Justin is not a big fan of soups) and I got delicious and satisfying dish. Why did I call it a stew without stewing? Because it takes only a few minutes to make and it has the "stew" flavor and heartiness without hours of cooking, simmering, reducing, and concentrating. Here is the recipe (serves 4):


*  1 lb turkey kielbasa, chopped
*  2 cans (15 oz each) white beans
*  1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes
*  1 large onion, chopped
*  2 tbsp ketchup
*  2 tbsp dry marjoram
*  1 tbsp olive oil
*  salt and pepper


1. In a deep pot or a Dutch oven heat the olive oil and saute onions with salt and pepper for 5-6 minutes.
2. Add kielbasa and cook everything for 8-10 minutes until nicely browned
3. Add white beans, tomatoes, ketchup and marjoram. Mix everything together and cook for about 10 minutes to marry the flavors.

   It's a very simple, but hearty dish. Ready in minutes, doesn't involve much work or ingredients... prefect for a busy night. You might find adding ketchup a little bit odd, but trust me it's a perfect addition. It adds a little bit of sweetness and tang at the same time. I actually use ketchup in lots of dishes (people who know me well, know that I might have a small ketchup addiction!).


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cheesy mac!

   Yes, you guessed it... it's Mac & Cheese time! It's just more evidence that I am really getting "Americanized". Is there a more American dish than that? I don't think so, and I am surprised that it took me so long to actually make it. And let me tell you... I don't think I've ever seen Justin so excited for a dinner as this time. I actually had to stop him from having a thirteenth serving of it, because I knew he would be in trouble later on. It did came out pretty delicious, in his defense. To make it even more interesting (yes, it is possible) I added some turkey bacon... you need to keep things exciting in the ... kitchen, right? Here is the recipe:

*  1 lb elbow macaroni pasta
*  12 slices turkey bacon, chopped
*  1/2 cup bread crumbs
*  olive oil

*  1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
*  1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
*  2 tbsp all-purpose flour
*  2 cup fat-free milk
*  2 tbsp Dijon mustard
*  2 tbsp butter
*  pinch of nutmeg
*  salt and pepper


1. Heat a nonstick pan to a high temperature, add chopped turkey bacon and cook for 7-8 minutes until crisp. Transfer onto the plate and set aside.
2. In the same pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter, add flour and cook for 2-3 minutes to create a roux.
3. Add milk, mustard, salt, pepper, pinch of nutmeg and whisk everything together. Cook whisking constantly for about 5-6 minutes until sauce lightly thickens. 
4. Add cheese and stir until it melts.
5. In a meantime, cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and return into the hot pot.
6. Into the hot pasta add cheese sauce and crisp bacon, mix everything together, transfer into a baking dish, top with bread crumbs and gently sprinkle with olive oil (it helps to bro the bread crumbs). Bake at 350F for about 30 min.
7. I put half of the mixture into a baking dish and half into a large muffin pan, making individual lunches.

   I don't think I even have to describe how it tastes! I'm sure you know that it's creamy, gooey, bacony with a nice crunch of the top! If you are not fan of a turkey bacon, you can skip it... or if you are a fan of a "real" bacon, you can definitely use the real deal. Great idea with the muffin pan, this way I could portion it into individual lunch boxes and not eat all of it at one sitting! Yep, it's that good.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Half calories comfort!

   Another "comfort Friday" dinner recipe post. I was waiting the whole week for this evening. First, because it means two days off of work and second, because it means a bowl of delicious comforting food, enjoyed on a couch, with a good movie on (and Spikey watching us like a hawk, waiting for one of to drop something on the floor). I wanted to show you that a bowl of delicious comforting food doesn't have be loaded with fat and calories, and that you can enjoy a great dish which super light and guilt free! For me comfort food usually involves some kind of pasta, so I decided to substitute half of the noodles with vegetable ribbons and use herbs and citrus rather than heavy sauce to dress it all up. Oh, and lets not forget shrimp... that screams comfort too, at least for me! Here is the recipe which serves 2-4 (depending on how rough your week was!).

Shrimp marinade:
*  1 lb raw medium shrimp (about 30-40 shrimp)
*  1/4 cup olive oil
*  lemon (zest and juice)
*  1/4 cup fresh, chopped mint
*  1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme
*  1 tsp garlic powder
*  salt and pepper

*  2 cups rice noodles
*  2 large carrots, peeled
*  2 small zucchinis, peeled
*  2 tbsp black sesame seeds
*  salt

1. In a bowl, mix olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, mint, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Whisk everything together, add shrimp and marinate for 10-15 minutes.
2. Using a vegetable peeler thinly slice carrots and zucchini into ribbon-like slices, set aside.
3. Boil a pot of salted water, add rice noodles and cook for 5 minutes. Add zucchini and carrots and cook for additional 5 minutes.
4. In a meantime, heat the skillet, add shrimp together with marinade, and cook everything for 6-7 minutes until shrimp is pink and cooked.
5. When shrimp is ready, drain the noodles and vegetables, add to shrimp and toss everything together. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds and it's ready to serve.

   One of the best dishes I've ever created on a spot! Mint and lemon are definitely the star, light, bright, and flavorful. Zucchini and carrots "stretch out" the noodles without adding any calories, making the dish super colorful at the same time. 

Have fun,

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Something different!

   Bored of always serving your dishes with rice, pasta or potatoes? I have the perfect solution. Actually, it was my sister, Dorota, who had a solution first, and I totally stole her idea and I'm sharing it with you. Of course I added my own touch to it and you can do your own spin on the dish as well. Oat cakes - fast, easy, cheap, healthy and delicious, can you ask for more? It really can change an ordinary dinner into something exciting and "different", give it a try. Here is the recipe (serves 4):


*  2 cups old fashion oats
*  1 cup boiling water
*  2 eggs
*  1/2 cup fresh, chopped parsley
*  1/3 tsp cumin
*  salt and pepper
*  2 tbsp olive oil


1. In a bowl, combine oats, cumin, salt, and pepper. Mix everything together.
2. Add boiling water, mix in and let it stand for 5 minutes to soak up all the water.
3. Add eggs and parsley and mix everything until combined.
4. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and using a spoon form 4 medium cakes (using half of the oat mixture) and cook 3-4 minutes on each side on a medium heat.
5. Remove cakes, add remaining tbsp of olive oil and cook another four cakes.

   You can serve them with whatever you want to, chicken sauce, mushroom sauce, whatever-you-feel-like sauce. You can probably eat them without anything, whatever you prefer. They are very filling and will keep you satisfied for a while. Cumin is just a perfect spice to use here, but you can get as creative as you want and make your own version.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ladies of the night!

   Now I got your attention, didn't I? Well, today's post is about mini pulpety (Polish meatballs) in Puttanesca sauce! You wonder why the title than? Puttanesca in Italian means nothing other than "ladies of the night"... actually it translates to only one word, but it's a family friendly blog and I'm not gonna use the "W" word!!! You probably also wonder why I said pulpety rather than meatballs, but the difference is that pulpety are cooked in a sauce (or water), rather then being baked or seared with oil, which makes them much healthier (and it also sounds much better that way!). So the dish is half Polish (meat) and half Italian (sauce) ... and the marriage is just delicious! And to make things even more interesting lets throw a Japanese accent in and serve it with Soba noodles. It looks dark and naughty, but hey... you saw the title! Here is the recipe that serves 6:


*  1 lb lean ground turkey
*  1/2 cup bread crumbs
*  1 egg
*  2 tbsp grilling seasoning
*  3/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Puttanesca sauce:

*  1 large onion, chopped
*  3 garlic cloves, minced
*  1 tbsp anchovy paste
*  1  32oz can crushed tomatoes
*  3 tbsp capers
*  4 tbsp chopped black olives
*  1 cup fresh chopped parsley
*  1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
*  1 tbsp olive oil
*  salt and pepper

*  1 lb Soba noodles


1. To make pulpety, combine meat, bread crumbs, egg, parsley and grilling seasoning. Using your hands, mix everything together and roll small balls (about one inch in diameter). From 1 lb of ground meat you should get about 30 balls (I told you they are mini). Place them on a plate and set aside until the sauce is ready.
2. To make the sauce, in a deep pan heat the olive oil, add anchovy paste, onions and garlic. Cook everything for 4-5 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, red pepper flakes, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to boil.
4. Reduce the heat, gently drop the meat balls in a sauce, covering them completely. Simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes.
5. In a meantime cook Soba noodles in salted water for about 6-7 minutes.
6. To serve pour sauce and pulpety over bed of Soba noodles.

   So delicious. Rich and earthy, but still light and healthy. No cream, no heavy sauces, no fatty meats. Red pepper flakes definitely give it some kick, so if you are not a fan of it you may want to skip them. Pulpety are tender and flavorful, the sauce is thick, but light and fresh. Capers and olives add some saltines which balances the acid from tomatoes. It's a really great dish!


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Almost Classic.

   Pizza again! "Classic" - margherita, "almost" - fresh tomatoes rather than marinara sauce! This was a special request from my lovely husband, who had this pizza when we were vacationing this summer and he was so impressed by it that he talked about it for next two days. I do have to admit it was pretty amazing... fresh, light, flavorful, just a perfect simple margherita pizza. I still have tomatoes and basil in my garden, Justin spotted a great deal on a huge ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, so how could I not make it? It's one of those dishes that are supper simple, with only a few ingredients, but man do they taste good! Here is the recipe and few tricks on how to make this pizza perfect.


*  Pillsbury Refrigerated Thin-style Pizza Crust
*  2 medium red tomatoes, sliced
*  1 cup yellow grape tomatoes, halved
*  1 ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
*  1 tbsp olive oil
*  10-15 fresh basil leaves


1. Place the pizza dough on the baking sheet or a pizza stone. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil and using a pastry brush spread it on the entire dough.
2. Bake the crust at 400F for 6 minutes. It's important to pre-bake it, because you don't want to bake tomatoes for too long, not to make them mushy.
3. Remove pre-baked crust from the oven and cover with tomato slices and mozzarella cheese. Return into 400F oven and bake for 7-8 more minutes.
4. Sprinkle baked pizza with fresh basil and serve your dinner!

   Such a great pizza. The simplicity of the ingredients allows all of them to stand out and shine. Tomatoes are sweet and juicy, mozzarella super gooey, and the basil is fresh and fragrant. Brushing olive oil on pizza dough changed my life, it makes it so much better, you should definitely try this trick. No need for any sauce, it's just perfect the way it is.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Polish or Greek?

   Why not both? Actually it's two in one, it's a traditional Polish dish called "Fish a la Greek". No, it has nothing to do with Greece, it doesn't originate from Greece, and I'm not sure Greek people ever heard of it, but that's how it's called and don't ask me why! All I know is that it's delicious, rich, and healthy, and to be honest that's all I need to know. I almost forgot about this dish, and how much I love it, so I decided to make up for lost time and made a huge batch of it. Here is the recipe (serves 4):

*  4 filets white fish (anything you like)
*  1 tbsp olive oil
*  salt and pepper

*  5-6 large carrots, shredded
*  3 parsnips, shredded
*  1 small celery root
*  1 large onion, chopped
*  4-5 tbsp tomato paste
*  3-4 bay leaves
*  3-4 allspice berries
*  salt and pepper
*  2 tbsp olive oil
*  fresh parsley

1. In a deep pot, heat olive oil and saute onions for 3-4 minutes.
2. Add carrots, parsnip, and celery root, and cook everything for about 5 minutes.
3. Add tomato paste, bay leaves, allspice, and salt and pepper. Add a little bit of water and cook everything for about 20 minutes until veggies are soft. You can keep adding water if needed, you want the sauce to be rather thick, but you don't want it to burn or stick to the bottom.
4. In a meantime, layer the fish on a baking dish, brush with some olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 380F for 10-15 minutes, depending on the filet thickness.
5. To serve, top the fish with the veggie hash and sprinkle with fresh, chopped parsley.

   It takes me right back to Poland, I love this dish. Justin was a little bit intimidated by all these veggies, but the second he tasted it, all intimidation went away and he really enjoyed it. The fish is flaky and delicate and the hash is sweet, tangy and a little bit salty, too. I'm sure you will like it.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Puerto Rican note!

   I cannot even express how much I love Puerto Rican dishes made by Justin's Grandma. All grandmas' cooking is so special, they cook with only a few ingredients, toss everything together and what you get is just amazing. So simple, so flavorful, so authentic... and you cannot get the same dishes anywhere else but their kitchen! Forget fancy restaurants and famous chefs, there is absolutely nothing better than grandma's dinner. Here is another one of Abuela's Puerto Rican dishes, cracked and decoded by my sister-in-law, Rachel. It's fancy called Habichuelas con Arroz Blanco (at least I think so), but it's simply rice and beans... well, amazing rice and beans I should say! Recipe makes 4-6 servings:

*  1 29oz. can of kidney beans
*  1 8oz. can tomato sauce
*  1 packet of sazon
*  2 Tbsp sofrito
*  7-10 green olives
*  1-2 tsp capers
*  2 potatoes, cubed
*  2 tbsp olive oil

*  3-4 cups of cooked rice

1. In a deep pot, heat the olive oil, add sofrito and cook for 1-2 minutes.
2. Add the tomato sauce, sazon, olives, and capers. Cook for 2 minutes.
3. Add the beans along with all their juices, potatoes, 1/2 water and stir everything together.
4. Once boiling, cover, turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
5. Serve over rice.

   Man, I love Puerto Rican cooking!!! Such different flavors than the ones I grew up with. Lots of beans, capers and olives, that's my kind of food. It's salty and tangy from the capers and olives, the big chunks of potatoes give it some "hardiness", and the sauce-covered rice is just a perfect combination.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lord of the Rings!

   Justin is no Lord, but he definitely loves his Rings... onion rings that is. I'm not crazy about them and I would much rather have diamond rings than fried and greasy onions, but because he loves them so much, I decided to make them just for my man! I do have to admit that they are definitely much cheaper than diamond rings, but what can I say ... you like what you like! I decided to experiment a little bit and I made them two ways, with and without bread crumbs (or rather saltine crackers crumbs). And since I wasn't planning on eating them myself, I made them super duper extra spicy! That's how my man likes it, that's how my man gets it (hopefully I will get a super duper extra diamond ring too!). Here is the recipe: 

*  1 cup flour
*  1 cup fat-free milk
*  1/2 tsp baking powder
*  1 tsp salt
*  1/2 tbsp Tabasco smoked chipotle sauce
*  1/2 tbsp Sriracha sauce

Bread crumbs:
*  30 saltine crackers
*  1 tbsp garlic powder
*  1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
*  1/2 tsp ground cumin

*  2 large yellow onions, sliced into thick slices
*  vegetable oil (about 1 bottle)

Dipping sauce:
*  2 tbsp fat-free yogurt
*  1 tbso ketchup
*  1 tbsp BBQ sauce
*  1 tbsp Sriracha (I told you it's a spicy dish!)

1.To prepare batter, whisk all the ingredients together until smooth. If you are not a spice-lover, you can skip the hot sauces.
2. To prepare bread crumbs, put the saltine crackers in a plastic Ziploc bag and beat it with a rolling pin until all crushed into a fine crumbs. Add garlic powder, rosemary and cumin, and mix everything together.
3. In a Dutch oven (or equally "tough" pot heat the vegetable oil to a high temperature. You want to have at least 2-3 inches of oil in the pot.
4. When oil is hot, dip onion slices in a batter, then in bread crumbs and put into the oil. Fry for about 20-30 seconds until golden brown.
5. Mix all the ingredients of a dipping sauce together and you are ready to enjoy.

   I made few without the bread crumbs, but they are not as good and flavorful as the one with the breading on them (at least that's what Justin said). The rosemary, cumin and garlic in a breading makes all the difference, it's very tasty and fragrant. You could smell the piny rosemary and garlic on all three levels of the house! You have a sweet onion covered with a little bit spicy batter and aromatic, crunchy breading... even though I didn't try them, I could tell Justin loved them a lot. Even Spikey got one!


Thursday, September 6, 2012


   Well, probably I should say Giada-copied, not inspired, because I basically copied the entire recipe step by step. Everything she cooks seems to be so light, healthy and delicious, and I love to make her dishes. I think I watched all of the episodes of her show at least twice, if not more. This time I stole another of her ideas for a great appetizer for our "girls-night-in". I do have to warn you, that you probably should really like green peas before you make it, because you can really taste it (might be due to 99% peas content).

*  1 package frozen peas, defrosted
*  1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
*  1 garlic clove
*  1/4 cup olive oil
*  salt and pepper

*  French baguette

1. In a food processor, combine peas, garlic, Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Pulse
2. With machine running, slowly add olive oil until pesto is smooth and well combined.
3. Slice the French baguette, layer on the baking sheet and bake at 400F for 4-5 minutes until crisp.
4. Top slices of the bread with pesto and you are ready to serve!

   It's sweet, it's creamy, and it's very light. The creaminess is perfect with the crunchy, warm, and toasted bread and a little bit of pesto goes a long way. I think it makes a great "girly" appetizer which perfectly pairs with a glass of wine...big glass of wine :).


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Chili without the suntan!

   I know, it's still summer and I'm making chili, which is usually a fall or winter dish, but trust me, I know what I'm doing. There is nothing wrong with a bowl of delicious light chili made out of chicken, cannellini beans and some heat. For me "White chili" is a late summer version of the more known, regular beef/kidney beans dish, which can be rich and heavy (perfect for winter evenings). The longer I'm married to Justin the more spicy food I can handle, so I decided to spice this dish up with some Sriracha (super hot Thai sauce). Couple of years ago I couldn't even smell it without crying and look at me now... a full tablespoon of it in my chili! Here is the recipe that makes 4 dinner entree servings or 6 lunch servings.

*  2 chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
*  2 15oz cans oz cannellini beans
*  1 large onion, chopped
*  1 small can green chilies, chopped
*  2 cloves garlic, chopped
*  1 tbsp ground cumin
*  1/2 tsp dried oregano
*  1/2 tsp black pepper
*  1/2 tsp paprika
*  1 tbsp Sriracha sauce
*  salt (to taste)
*  olive oil

*  fat-free sour cream
*  fresh cilantro

1. In a deep pot, heat the olive oil and saute onions for 3-4 minutes.
2. Add cubed chicken and cook everything for 5-6 minutes.
3. Add canned chilies, beans (with the juices), and all the spices. Cook everything together for about 20 minutes. You can add some water if you like your chili more soup-like.
4. Serve with a spoon of sour cream and chopped cilantro.

   Wow, it does have some kick to it... I might have spoken too soon about how much Sriracha I can handle. That's why you need a sour cream, which cools down the fire in your mouth a little bit and makes this dish super delicious. Chunks of chicken, creamy beans, cold sour cream and fresh cilantro is just the perfect combination!


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Homemade takeout!

  A long weekend is here! I love Fridays for many reasons, but mostly because it's our comfort food day! We eat yummy comforting dinner, and we eat a lot of it. All bets are off, all diets forgotten and there is no guilt! Fridays in our household are famous for Chinese takeouts full of egg rolls, wontons and shrimp, but this time we decided to make our own takeout dish, featuring one of my favorite nuts. I made cashew chicken with celery and pineapple. Here is the recipe that was supposed to make 4 servings, but... well Friday servings somehow are much bigger and we ended up with only two!

*  2 cups cooked rice
*  1 chicken breast, cubed
*  3 celery stalks, chopped
*  1 small can pineapple chunks
*  1 large onion, chopped
*  1 garlic clove, minced
*  3/4 cup cashews
*  1 tbsp olive oil

*  1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
*  pineapple juice (from small can)
*  1/2 cup red wine
*  1/4 cup honey
*  2 tbsp red wine vinegar
*  1 tsp corn starch
*  pinch of salt

1. Whisk all the ingredients of the sauce together, set aside.
2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil, add onions and garlic, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add chicken,celery,pineapple chunks and cashews, and cook everything for 5-6 minutes.
4. Add sauce, reduce the heat and simmer everything for few minutes until chicken is completely cooked and sauce thickened.
5. Serve over a bowl of rice.

   I think I cheated a little bit and took majority of the cashews. What can I say, those are my favorite nuts and they make dish super yummy. Pineapple is a little tangy, honey is super sweet, and the wine is so aromatic! I just couldn't resist seconds...and thirds...and ... yeah, definitely comfort Friday!