Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dirty Cupcakes!

   No, I did not drop cupcakes on the floor to make them dirty! I put dirt on them on purpose! But, not your regular dirt... it's a delicious Oreo dirt with some nasty worms sticking out of it. Last weekend I had some friends over for a Halloween dinner and since we decided not to dress up for it, I made my dessert wear a Halloween costume. Since I made the entire dinner from scratch, I decided that it's OK to take a little shortcut for the dessert and I used a store bought red velvet cake mix. As long as you add your own twist to it, it's perfectly fine... at least that's what I keep telling myself! Here is the recipe for Red Velvet cupcakes with raspberry cream cheese frosting (makes 24):


*  store bought Red Velvet cake mix
*  3 eggs
*  1/3 cup vegetable oil
*  1 1/4 cup water


*  16oz cream cheese
*  1 cup powdered sugar
*  1 cup raspberries
*  1 tbsp lemon juice
*  6 Oreo cookies, without white filling, finely crushed
*  24 gummy worms


1. Combine cake mix with eggs, oil and water and beat everything with hand mixer. Transfer batter into 24 cupcake liners (about 3/4 full), and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
2. Cool cupcakes completely before frosting.
3. Beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and raspberries until smooth.
4. Frost cupcakes with the cream cheese, cover with Oreo dirt and place a gummy worm on top of it.

   It's a funny looking and delicious dessert. The raspberry cream cheese frosting is one of my favorite and pairs perfectly with red velvet cake. Who said silly food is only for kids... adults (I'm not sure if we qualify) can have lots of fun with it too!

Happy Halloween,

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Different side of you!

   I have another side dish recipe, that I adore and make very often. It's very flavorful, refreshing, a little chewy and a little bit crunchy. It's a great and different side dish that will impress everybody! Unfortunately I did not come up with it on my own... I kind of took my inspiration from Giada, added my little touch, and serve to my guests as my own! I always make a little bit more than needed for dinner and take it for lunch the next day. Yes, it's that good! Here is the recipe:


*  1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
*  4 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
*  1 apple, finely chopped
*  3/4 cup dried cranberries
*  3/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds
*  1 tbsp olive oil


*  1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
*  1/4 cup olive oil
*  3 tbsp agave nectar (or honey)
*  1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
*  1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
*  1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
*  salt and pepper


1. In a pot, heat the olive oil, and couscous and toast for 5 minutes (stirring constantly) until golden brown.
2. Add the broth (stand back, because the couscous is super hot and might splash the broth!) and cook for 10-15 minutes until couscous is al dente.
3. In a meantime, in a deep bowl whisk together apple cider vinegar, olive oil, agave nectar, herbs, salt, and pepper. Add chopped apples, cranberries, and slivered almonds.
4. Drain couscous, let it cool for 5 minutes and add to the salad. Mix everything together and refrigerate for minimum 30 minutes before serving.

   Sweet, tangy, crunchy, and refreshing. One of my favorite side salads, which is a great substitute for plain old rice. You can pair it with any meat or you can just enjoy it by itself, it works both ways!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spotted cookies!

   OK, I am going to do something really bad... I will skip the introduction and go straight to the recipe! I promise I will do better next time! Here is the recipe for delicious, double-colored, vanilla cookies:


*  2 sticks of butter (room temperature)
*  1 cup white sugar
*  3 cups all-purpose flour
*  2 tsp vanilla extract
*  1 tsp baking powder
*  1/2 tsp salt
*  1/2 tsp cinnamon
*  1/4 tsp nutmeg
*  1 tbsp cocoa powder

Sugar coat:

*  3 tbsp white sugar
*  1/2 tsp cinnamon


1. Cream together butter and 1 cup white sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Beat in vanilla extract, baking powder, salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp nutmeg.
3. Beat in flour, 1 cup at a time.
4. Divide the mixture into two equal part (in separate bowls) and add cocoa powder to one of them. Mix until combined.
5. In a shallow bowl combine 3 tbsp of sugar with 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.
6. Using your hands combine 1 tsp of brown dough with 1 tsp of white dough and form two-colored balls.
7. Place on a baking sheet, flatten using bottom of a glass.
8. Bake at 350F for 14 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

   Cute and delicious! I think I will stop here, I don't even think I need to convince you to try them... I know you will!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall or any other season.

   For some people fall is a "soup season". For me fall is a season when I can eat soup all the time, without people asking me: you eat soup in the middle of summer? Yes, I do eat it all year round and I am not planning to change this habit any time soon. Justin doesn't really agree that soup is a dinner itself... for him it's an appetizer or a great addition to a giant sandwich, but for me a bowl of delicious chunky or creamy soup is all I need. Since it's the entire meal for me, I tend to use a "substantial" bowls to serve it in, so that might explain the amount of soup you will get using my recipes. Here is one of them, a recipe for delicious creamy leek and potato soup:


*  3 medium leeks
*  3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
*  3 tbsp butter
*  2 vegetable bullion cubes
*  salt and pepper


1. Slice the leeks (white part and about 2-3 inches into a green part) and put in a bowl of warm water to wash them. Drain and let them dry a little bit.
2. In a Dutch oven melt 3 tbsp of butter, add washed leeks, and cook for 5-6 minutes until softened.
3. Add cubed potatoes, vegetable bullion cubes, salt and pepper. Add water to about 2 inches over vegetables.
4. Cook everything for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are soft. Turn off the heat and blend everything with hand blender until smooth and dense.
5. If you are not a vegetarian try to garnish it with some crisped turkey bacon - delicious!

   You can adjust the amount of water to make is as dense as you like. You can serve it not only with turkey (or regular) bacon, but also with some fresh herbs or a spoon of sour cream. I usually just eat it plain, but I have to admit that this bacon garnish was pretty good and I think it will be my new go to.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fall tradition!

   Fall is back and that means that chili and pumpkins are back as well. There is nothing better than a bowl of warm and comforting food enjoyed on the couch while watching some of our favorite shows. It's a tradition that when temperatures go below 50F I make chili. It's also a tradition that I make a double batch of it, portion it, and have a whole week of lunches and some "reserves" in the freezer. To makes things a little bit different, but not to change tradition too much, I decided to make a "taco" soup instead of chili. The same concept, but slightly different flavors going on and some extra ingredients. Here is the recipe that serves... a army!


*  2 lbs lean ground turkey
*  1 large onion, chopped
*  1 can crushed tomatoes
*  1 can whole corn
*  1 can black beans
*  1 can green chilies
*  2 McCormic Taco seasoning mixes
*  1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
*  1 tbsp olive oil
*  salt and pepper

*  shredded cheese for garnish


1. In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil, add onions, salt and pepper, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
2. Add meat and cook for 5-6 minutes until no longer pink.
3. Add crushed tomatoes, corn, black beans, green chilies and cilantro. Mix together and bring to boil.
4. Add Taco seasoning and a little bit water to reduce it to the desired density. Lower the heat and cook for about 20 minutes.
5. Serve sprinkled with some cheese.

   Dense, rich and flavorful. The perfect dish for cold and dark evenings. It warms you up, comforts you, and makes everything better. You can serve it with a spoonful of sour cream to cool it down a little bit and add some contrast.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bowl of crunch!

   Looking for a healthy and delicious lunch/dinner idea? You came to the right place. I've got the perfect pasta salad, which is healthy, fresh and satisfying. Yes, pasta can be healthy and it doesn't have to be a taboo if you are on a diet. Just make sure it's whole grain and that it's accompanied by buckets of fresh veggies and fat-free yogurt instead of mayo. I was just playing with some of my favorite ingredients and what I've got is a bowl of crunchy flavorful goodness that will satisfy any hungry dieter (and we dieters are always hungry!). Here is the recipe (serves 6-8):


*  1 lb whole grain rotini pasta
*  1 red bell pepper
*  1 green pepper
*  2 zucchini
*  1/2 red onion
*  4-5 medium pickles
*  1/4 cup chopped  black olives
*  1/2 cup chopped cilantro


*  3/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
*  2 tbsp fat-free mayo
*  2 tbsp Dijon mustard
*  1 tbsp soy sauce
*  1 tbsp lime juice
*  1 tsp seasoned salt
*  black pepper


1. Cook pasta, toss in cold water, drain and let it cool.
2. Finely dice all the vegetables, combine in a bowl, add pasta and mix everything together.
3. Combine all the ingredients of the dressing, add to salad, mix everything together and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

   It's fresh, light, crunchy, and delicious. Cilantro is just a perfect addition to this salad and gives it an exotic and interesting accent. If you are not a fan of cilantro you can definitely substitute it with parsley and I'm sure it's going to be delicious as well.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pooch Love!

   We love our dog and our dog loves... peanut butter!!! Every time I open a jar of this creamy goodness his ears stand up like one of NASA's antennas and he stares at it until he almost melts the jar with his laser eyes! Look at him!

   How can you resist? No matter how hard you try to ignore the "peanut-butter-stare", you know you will give in sooner or later, and he will get his way! He always gets his way... he wants to go for a walk - we go, he wants to sleep in our bed, taking 80% of the space - he does, he wants to eat Justin's chicken nuggets when nobody is looking - he eats them! And you know what, we don't care! We love him, we spoil him, and we would do anything for him! So to spoil him even more, I made crunchy peanut butter dogy treats, so he can enjoy his own guilty pleasure!  Here is the recipe:


*  1 cup wheat germ
*  3 cups whole wheat flour
*  1/2 cup oats
*  1 cup all-natural peanut butter
*  3 tbsp canola oil
*  1 egg
*  1 cup water


1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together and using your hands knead the dough until no longer sticky.
2. Divide in half and then on a lightly floured surface roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness.
3. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters and bake at 300F for 40 minutes.
4. Turn off the oven and leave biscuits inside until crunchy for at least 1 hour.
5. Store in a sealed container.


   Hmm, how am I going to describe the taste? Well, I just had to try a piece. If you ask me, a little bit tasteless and bland, but if you ask Spikey he would say: "freaking delicious"!!! I though he would bite my fingers off, he couldn't wait to sink his teeth in those peanut butter goodies!

Woof, woof,

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sliding dinner!

   So what is your go-to dish? I'm sure you have something that no matter where you go, if you see it on the menu, you are probably gonna order it. Even though we always like to try new things, there are some dishes that we just can't pass up and no matter how much we try, we always end up with them. French onion soup, creme brulee, and eggs benedict are our absolute favorites and we never (and I mean never) miss a chance to try them. Justin has one more "cryptonite" that he can't resist, which he always gets if it's available. It's all sorts of sliders, any form, and shape, any flavor... he loves them all! So I decided to make some for dinner and just to make things more exciting I used chorizo sausage rather than beef and garnished them with avocado mayo. Here is the recipe:


*  1 lb uncooked chorizo sausages
*  1 tsp garlic powder
*  1 cup fresh chopped parsley
*  10 mini potato rolls (or any rolls/buns you like)


*  1 avocado
*  2 tbsp fat-free mayo
*  1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
*  1 tbsp lime juice
*  salt and papper


1. Take chorizo sausages from the casing. Mix with garlic and parsley until combined.
2. Form 10 mini burger patties and grill for 3-4 minutes on each side.
3. To make mayo, combine chopped avocado, fat-free mayo, parsley, lime juice, salt and pepper and mix everything together.
4. Spread the sauce on the roll, top with chorizo patty and enjoy!

   Not only small and cute, but also super duper extra delicious! You can eat as many or as few as you want to. Perfect for parties or just dinners for two. The chorizo is a little bit spicy and it pairs beautifully with the fresh and cool avocado mayo. One fun and delicious meal!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dr. Morgan prescribed!

   My very good friend was in rough shape recently, physically and emotionally, and it just happens that I am a doctor and that I had a perfect treatment for her! OK, I might be a "doctor of philosophy", but that only makes me more competent to address problems of life and existence! There is absolutely no better cure for all problems than a good conversation... and a big bowl of comfort food. I'm sure I mentioned it many times already, but just in case you missed, comfort food for me is always pasta, and lots of it! Since my friend is vegetarian I decided to make a white sauce and spinach pasta. Just not to feel too guilty about eating it, and to be able to eat more (the more you eat the faster you heal - remember I am a doctor!) I chose whole grain linguine and fat-free milk. Without further ado here is the recipe (serves 4-6, depending on how much "cure" you need):


*  1 lb whole grain linguine
*  1 bag of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
*  1 large onion, chopped
*  3 garlic cloves, minced
*  2 tbsp butter
*  2 tbsp flour
*  2 cups fat-free milk
*  1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
*  pinch of nutmeg
*  salt and pepper
*  juice of half lime


1. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente.
2. In a meantime, in a deep skillet melt butter on a medium heat and slowly saute onions and garlic until soft (about 10 minutes). Gently salt the onions, it will help to soften them.
3. Add flour and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then add milk, pepper, nutmeg, and lime juice. Cook for 6-7 minutes until sauce thickens.
4. Add spinach and Parmesan cheese and cook for additional 2-3 minutes to warm the spinach up.
5. Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce, mix everything together and get ready to indulge!

   It's so creamy and decadent. You have big chunks of spinach in a delicious and cheese sauce, with a hearty pasta wrapped all around it. How can you not feel better after eating this?

Stay comforted,

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

One Lady Down!

   The day has come... we have to say goodbye to one of our "Girls-night-in" members, Marta. She is moving back to Europe, and even though we are happy for her new adventures, it's hard to envision our get-togethers without her! Last weekend we had our last "Crazy-ladies-night-in" with all five of us, and as always, there was a lot of food and even more alcohol, finished with a huge bowl of cream puffs! I always try to come up with some new dishes (girls asked me if I am testing my food on them...and yes, they are my control group!) and this time as one of the appetizers I decided to make "fake" flat-bread with rosemary, sesame seeds and sea-salt! Here is how easy it is:


*  Pillsbury Classic Pizza Dough
*  1 tbsp olive oil
*  2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
*  1 tbsp black sesame seeds
*  1/2 tbsp sea-salt


1. Roll the pizza dough on a greased baking sheet.
2. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil on the top and using a pastry brush distribute it evenly on the dough.
3. Using a fork prick the dough, so it will stay flat without fluffing up (very important step!).
4. Sprinkle with rosemary, sesame seeds and sea-salt and bake at 400F for 15-18 minutes (depending on the package directions) until it's golden brown.
5. Slice it into small squares and it's ready to serve.

   How easy was that? It involves almost no work and no ingredients, but trust me, it makes a huge impact. Super simple and super delicious. And yes, you guessed it, we paired it with my favorite drink... mojito! The girls brought gallons of rum and some blackberries so we made beautiful and delicious blackberry mojitos...and we made lots of it!

Have a safe trip Marta,

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Who doesn't love gadgets?

   Recently I got all bunch of fancy kitchen gadgets from my husband, so I had no choice rather than come up with a dish that would require using some of them. I chose two of my favorite things from the pile: a nice and new zester and a "citrus-juice-squeezer" and decided to make a lime chicken with a creamy sauce. Man, I did not know you can get so much juice out of a lime! I always thought I am a strong girl and can squeeze the last drop of juice out of the fruit with my bare hands, but boy was I wrong! This little metal thing is pretty powerful, and I love it! Here is the recipe for my last minute, simple lime chicken (serves 4):


*  1 chicken breast, cubed
*  2 limes
*  1 large onion, chopped
*  2 tbsp flour
*  1 1/2 cup fat-free milk
*  1 cup fresh chopped parsley
*  pinch of nutmeg
*  1 tsp black pepper
*  salt
*  1 tbsp olive oil


1.  In a skillet, heat the olive oil and saute onions until translucent (4-5 min).
2. Add chicken, salt and pepper, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add zest of 2 limes and juice of 1 lime and cook everything until chicken is no longer pink inside (6-7 minutes).
3. Add flour, cook for 2-3 minutes, add milk, nutmeg, mix everything together and cook for 3-4 minutes until sauce thickens. Add fresh parsley and serve with rice or pasta.

   Saucy, limy and peppery, that's how you can describe this dish... oh, and fast and easy, too! It's not heavy, it's not too intense, it's just perfect refreshing quick dinner!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Vietnamese memories.

   We all have our favorite restaurants. They don't have to be super fancy or to be the best restaurants in town, but they are special to us for one or another reason. There was (maybe still is) this "Vietnamese" place in Krakow, where me and my sister Dorota used to go all the time. We would order this chicken dish (I don't even remember the name of it), which was absolutely the best (and the cheapest) dish ever. Every time we would want comfort food, we knew where to go. I almost forgot about it, but then my sister found a "Vietnamese chicken" recipe on one of the cooking blogs and she said I have to try it! Oh, she was right, this dish is definitely a must to try. Sweet, salty, spicy and very, very similar to the dish from our favorite restaurant. Check out the recipe (serves 4):


*  2 chicken breast, cubed
*  1 large onion, thinly sliced
*  1/4 cup soy sauce
*  1 tbsp olive oil
*  2 tbsp sugar

Spice blend:

*  1 tsp garlic powder
*  1 tbsp sweet paprika powder
*  1 tbsp smoked, spicy paprika powder
*  1 tbsp curry powder
*  pinch of salt 


1. In a bowl combine all the spices (garlic powder, paprika, curry and salt). Toss the cubed chicken breast and coat all the pieces piece.
2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil, add sugar and cook for 1-2 minutes to create the caramel. Add spiced chicken and cook everything together for 6-7 minutes making sure that all the pieces of chicken are coated with caramel (you can add some water in necessary).
3. Add thinly sliced onions and soy sauce and cook for 3-4 more minutes. 
4. Serve it with white or brown rice.

   Sweet, spicy, and a little bit exotic. The caramel and soy sauce gives it a nice and rich brown color. Smoky paprika and curry give it a kick and an exotic flavor. It definitely brings back the memories of our favorite comfort restaurant. 


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Homemade CPK!

   We love, love, love California Pizza Kitchen... the variety and quality of pizzas and salads they serve is unbelievable. Our favorite kinds of pizza from this place are the ones with a fresh and crispy salad/slaw on top, especially the "burger pizza". It has ground beef, pickles and fresh lettuce tossed with dressing on top. It's so amazing that we got really addicted to it (and I mean a serious obsession) and the second we got addicted ... they took it off the menu! I think we cried for 3-4 days straight and thought that life will never be the same, until I decided to make my own! It may not be exactly the same (I've yet to crack the CPK secret), but it's pretty damn good and that's all I care about! Here is the recipe:


*  Pillsbury Refrigerated Thin-style Pizza Crust
*  1lb lean ground beef
*  2 tbsp grill seasoning (I use Weber Gourmet Burger)
*  1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
*  1 cup of sliced pickles
*  2 cups chopped or shredded lettuce
*  2 tbsp fat-free mayo
*  2 tbsp fat-free Thousand Island dressing
*  1 tbsp olive oil


1. Heat a non stick skillet and brown the beef with grill seasoning and Worcestershire sauce for 5-6 minutes. Drain the fat.
2. Roll the pizza dough on a baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil and brush it onto entire dough. Prebake at 400F for 3-4 minutes.
3. Take out pre-baked pizza dough, spread the browned meat on the top of it and bake at 400F for about 10 more minutes (until the crust is golden brown)
4. When the pizza is ready, top it with sliced pickles and lettuce tossed with mayo and thousand island dressing.
5. It's ready to enjoy!

   If you want to you can drizzle it with a little bit of ketchup (you know I did that!) to make it more burger-like. The crust is crispy, meat is hot and flavorful, and pickles and lettuce are fresh, crunchy and tangy. Delicious, interesting and "different" kind of pizza!