Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Simplicity at its best!

   You can't go wrong with a dish if you let the ingredients shine on their own! This is especially true for fish, which is delicious on its own, and doesn't need to be drenched in thousands different ingredients. Of course only if you get a good quality piece of fish! Since I'm a fish lover I've tried many different kinds of fish and liked most of them, so this time I was trying to be adventurous and get something I'd never tried before. I looked through the seafood section in the supermarket and found one thing I've never heard of before: Swai Fish. Somehow in my head I imagined that this is super sophisticated and luxuries fish but as it turned out it's "only" a shark catfish. Well, not what I expected but you have to make the best out of what you have and I decided to make a citrus baked Swai fish. You couldn't need fewer ingredients than this:

*  4 fillets of fish (you can use any white fish you want)
*  orange
*  cilantro
*  butter spray
*  salt and pepper

   Spray the bottom of a baking dish with a butter spray (you can use a real butter, but I'm trying to cut down on the calories) layer the fish fillets and season them with salt and pepper. Cut four thin slices of orange and use the remaining fruit to squeeze out the juice over the fish. Put a couple of cilantro leaves on the top of the fillet, cover with a orange slice, and bake at 350F for 15 minutes.

    So simple and so flavorful. You don't need anything else to dress it up, the orange and cilantro do a great job. Since it's such a "delicate" dish you don't want to serve it with anything heavy and starchy. My favorite thing to pair it with is a simple veggie bouquet, and I use a frozen mixture which I just warm it up in a pan with some garlic, salt, and pepper.

   Isn't it pretty? Who said that healthy food has to be bland and ugly? This one is definitely pretty, delicious, and nutritious!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Got chicken?

   I'm sure most of us cook with chicken a lot (well, unless you are a vegetarian) because it's very popular, cheap, and cooks within few minutes. I usually buy a huge tray of chicken breasts, portion them into single servings, and freeze them so I have it available whenever I don't know what to make for dinner. I love to cook with chicken because it's a super easy ingredient, can be paired with anything you have in the pantry, and it always works (as long as you don't burn it or under-cook it of course). Since I started this blog I wanted to use it as an opportunity to experiment more with new ingredients which I never cooked with before. It's hard to believe (at least for me) but I never cooked with fresh fennel for example. What kind of food blogger am I right? So I decided to change it and I will show you my new creation (well, maybe a little bit inspired by Rachael Ray) of fennel and chicken pasta with toasted pine nuts. What you need is:

*  chicken breast (cooked and cubed)
*  1 large onion (sliced)
*  1 large fennel (sliced)
*  2 cloves garlic (chopped)
*  1 cup fat-free sour cream
*  1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
*  olive oil
*  salt and pepper
*  2-3 cups of whole wheat pasta

   With fennel you mostly use the bulb, but I also take the fronds off, chop them, freeze them, and use it as a garnish. To make the dish, saute thinly sliced onions, fennel, and garlic with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. When the veggies become translucent, add the cooked chicken and sour cream and cook everything for about 5 minutes. Mix everything with cooked pasta, sprinkle with some fennel fronds, toasted pine nuts, and you are done!

   I think I was a little bit afraid of fennel because it's supposed to have a licorice taste to it, so I wasn't sure if I would like it, but I had absolutely nothing to worry about. It tastes great, it's super crunchy, and gives a dish a new and exciting flavor. I think I found myself a new favorite ingredient to cook with! I already have a few more recipes I want to try out and of course I will keep you posted :).


Friday, February 24, 2012

Now, that's Indian food.

   Did I tell you that I love Indian food? I'm sure I did, but I want to point it out again. Usually I just cook stuff I've seen my friends cooking or I just mix different Indian ingredients and spices and call it "Indian food". This time was different because I finally got the "real" recipe for my favorite lentil soup from a "real" Indian person. A good friend of mine is a very good cook but I can't really enjoy too many of her dishes because she loves her spices... and I mean she LOVES spices! Every time she says: try it I didn't put any heat in it.... I know it's going to burn my mouth. Oh maybe I should mention that I have a really low threshold for heat, if any, so that might be the reason why. Even though I can't take too much heat, I love the flavors and aromas of Indian food. So without further ado here is the recipe for the Masoor Daal:

*  2 cups red lentils
*  1 onion (chopped)
*  2 garlic cloves
*  1-2 tomatoes (chopped)
*  1 cup chopped cilantro
*  2 tsp turmeric
*  1 tsp mustard seeds
*  1 tsp cumin seeds
*  1 tsp curry powder
*  salt
*  chili powder
*  3-4 tbsp vegetable oil

   Before starting the dish wash the lentils and soak them in cold water for at least 1-2 hours. Cook them in a pressure cooker with 5 cups of water, salt, chili powder (as much as you like), 1 tsp of turmeric, half an onion, and garlic for about 5-10 minutes. In the meantime, heat the oil in a pan to a high temperature, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, the rest of the turmeric, curry powder, and the other half of onion, and saute for about 5 minutes. When the lentils are cooked add the onion/spice mixture, chopped tomato, cilantro, and cook everything together for 5 more minutes so all the flavors can combine. Serve it with basmati rice and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

   Super, duper, extra delicious! Of course I couldn't brag about it without some quality control from my friend. She said it tastes exactly how it should, and what can be a better compliment than that? If you like heat you can add more chili powder or a chopped chili pepper and it should satisfy your "spicy tooth".


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Skinny lasagna!

   Who said that lasagna has to be heavy, unhealthy, and fattening? If you chose the right ingredients, avoid butter, fat sauces, and control your portion size (good luck with that, I'm still working on it!) you can enjoy a nice piece of a delicious and decadent lasagna. And if you still feel guilty, just go for a walk after dinner and problem solved! I'm tired of avoiding all this delicious food just because it's not diet friendly. If it's not in your diet you just need to reinvent it, change a little bit, and make it healthy. So here is my take on a skinny lasagna:

*  1 box of whole wheat, ready to bake lasagna pasta
*  1 lb lean ground turkey
*  1 jar of marinara sauce
*  1 chopped onion
*  2 cloves garlic
*  2 cups skim milk ricotta cheese
*  1 bag baby spinach leaves
*  3 eggs
*  2 cups shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
*  salt and pepper
*  1 tsp ground nutmeg
*  1 cup chopped parsley
*  olive oil

   Before you start to assemble your lasagna you have to prepare two sauces (meat and ricotta). For the meat sauce saute ground turkey with onion and garlic until cooked, add marinara sauce, cook for 5 minutes and set aside (this sauce is done). For the cheese sauce saute spinach in a pan with a tsp of olive oil (just enough to wilt the spinach) and set it aside to cool down a little. Mix ricotta cheese with whisked eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, parsley, and cooled spinach. You are ready to build the monster and you can get as creative as you want with that. What I do to layer it is: a little bit of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking dish (just so the pasta won't stick to it), layer of pasta, layer of meat sauce, pasta, layer of cheese sauce, pasta, meat sauce, pasta, cheese sauce, pasta. On the top of the last layer of pasta I put a little bit of marinara sauce to keep it moist and I sprinkle it (generously) with grated mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 375F for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for 15 more minutes to let the cheese melt and crisp up.

   Look at that! It comes out smelling like a piece of heaven (that's exactly how I picture heaven!). Don't cut it right away, let it cool down for at least 10-15 minutes. First, you won't be able to eat it anyways (is boiling hot) and second, you want it to set a little bit so that when you cut it you have a firm and solid piece (without everything spilling out). If you will be patient this is what you will end up with:

   Isn't she a looker? This baby has looks and personality. This recipe makes 8 huge pieces, 400 calories each, which I think it's pretty impressive for such a rich dish! And if you are vegetarian use the marinara sauce without the meat and you are good to go! Hope you like it.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Good and good for you!

   What am I saying? The title should be: "Delicious and good for you"! Me and Justin love burgers, but we try to avoid junk food in our house (well, at least most of the time!) so we always make our own burgers from the good quality lean meat and with lots of fresh veggies! It's funny how men and women have different definition of "veggies"! I have to make sure Justin puts his lettuce and tomato on the bun because otherwise he swears that two spoons of ketchup is like two servings of veggies! I love traditional beef burgers but my absolute favorite is a turkey, feta, and cilantro burger! So flavorful, so healthy, and if you use whole wheat bun, it's absolutely guilt free. Oh, and you know it's fast and easy too, right? What you need is:

*  1 lb lean ground turkey
*  1 cup feta cheese (crumbled)
*  1 cup chopped cilantro
*  salt and pepper

*  burger buns
*  lettuce
*  tomato
*  onion
*  black olives

   Mix meat with feta cheese, cilantro, and spices but remember that feta is salty so you don't want to over season it. Form four "generous" patties and grill for about 8-10 minutes (4-5 minutes on each side) until the middle is no longer pink and juices come out clear. Remember it's not beef so it has to be cooked all the way. That's pretty much it, you are ready to stack your burger. It's really tasty when served with olives so make sure you try it this way unless you don't like them.

   Do you see this chunk of feta hanging out from the side of it? Man, I love feta! And about the Fritos on the side... I said we don't eat junk food "most of the time"!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day dinner!

   I hope everybody had a great Valentine’s Day yesterday! For us it’s just another day, no different than any other, and I just use it as an excuse to have a nice dinner with my husband (oh, and flowers are not bad either). By “nice dinner” I absolutely don’t mean going out to a fancy restaurant. We have no desire to fight with all those crowds, waiting for a table, and looking for a parking space (where is the romance in that?). What we do is cook a scrumptious and delicious dinner, open a bottle of wine, and watch a movie. You can’t get that in any restaurant. We usually cook our favorite dishes from different restaurants and last year we had sushi, so this year I decided to make a French onion soup and lettuce wraps, and for a dessert we had a red beet cake with raspberry frosting (this is going to be a long post).

French onion soup ingredients:
*  6 large onions (thinly sliced)
*  ½ stick of butter
*  olive oil
*  2 cups beef broth
*  1 cup dry white wine
*  1 tsp dry thyme
*  2 tbsp soy sauce
*  salt and pepper

*  French baguette
*  Gruyere cheese (or any other that melts nicely)

   Heat butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven on medium heat and sauté onions for about 30 minutes until caramelized  (they should be browned but not burned). Add wine and cook for 1-2 minutes and then add all the remaining ingredients (without bread and cheese), some water, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer everything for about 20 more minutes. You can prepare the soup earlier (even few days ahead) and when you are ready to serve it ladle it into an oven proof cups, put a slice of toasted French baguette on the top, sprinkle it with the cheese, and broil in the oven until nicely melted, browned, and bubbly.

Lettuce wraps shopping list:

*  iceberg lettuce
*  ground turkey
*  onion (chopped)
*  2 cloves garlic
*  Shitake mushroom
*  water chestnuts (chopped)
*  red bell pepper (chopped)
*  1 tsp grated ginger
*  1/2 cup chopped cilantro
*  olive oil
*  1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
*  2 tsp Teriyaki  sauce
*  sesame seeds

   Sauté onions and garlic with some olive oil, add meat, and cook until no longer pink. Add the remaining ingredients (besides lettuce) and cook for 10-15 minutes so all the flavors can combine. Gently peel the leaves from the lettuce forming small “bowls”, scoop the meat into them, sprinkle with some more cilantro and sesame seeds, and serve!

   And last but not least: dessert. I got this recipe from my Mom and it’s definitely something different: red beet cake. What you will need is:

*  4 eggs
*  2 cups all-purpose flour
*  1 cup sugar
*  1 cup grated beets
*  1 cup grated carrots
*  1 cup grated apples
*  ½ cup chopped almonds
*  1 cup dried raisins or cranberries (or both)
*  1 cup vegetable oil
*  1 tsp cinnamon
*  2 tsp baking powder
*  2 tsp baking soda

   Separate egg whites from yolks and beat the whites until stiff. Slowly add yolks, sugar, and flour mixed with all other dry ingredients. Add fruits, veggies, and nuts, mix everything together and bake at 350F for about 50 minutes. It’s good to go by itself, but what I do is cut in half and spread with simple frosting. To make the frosting I just mix fat-free cream cheese with Confectioner’s sugar and fresh crushed raspberries. It wouldn’t be a Valentine’s Day dessert if it wasn’t in a shape of a heart and shared with a significant other/friend/pet (circle which ever applies), would it?

   All that combined with a bottle of a great Pinot Noir and a Johnny Depp movie equals fantastic evening!

Hope you had as much fun as us.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Breakfast for dinner!

   Who doesn't love to eat breakfast for dinner? It's my favorite thing ever, but I am an egg addict, so that might explain why! I love eggs in every shape and form and could eat them non stop. Sometimes I think that it would be much cheaper if I started to raise my own chickens in the backyard (I'm sure Spikey would have a blast!) and collect eggs. So yes, today's post is about eggs, which are "dressed up" with spinach, mushroom, and blue cheese. Sounds yummy doesn't it? Wait until you see and taste it, this amazing frittata will blow your socks off! All the ingredients I used are "diet friendly" so you don't have to worry about the calories at all. Here is the shopping list:

*  6-7 eggs
*  1 cup baby portabella mushroom (sliced)
*  1 medium onion (sliced)
*  2 cups fresh spinach
*  1/2 cup reduced-fat blue cheese (crumbled)
*  1 tomato
*  1/2 cup fat-free milk
*  2 tbsp flour
*  pinch of nutmeg
*  1 tsp curry powder
*  salt and pepper
*  1 tbsp butter

   Saute onions and mushrooms with a little bit of butter, season with salt, and when they are almost ready, add spinach, and cook it for 1 more minute (just to soften the greens). In a large bowl whisk eggs, milk, flour, and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and curry. To assemble the frittata put the mushroom and onion mixture on the bottom of a greased, round baking dish, cover with whisked eggs, sprinkle with blue cheese, and decorate with slices of tomato. Bake at 350F for about 30-35 minutes until eggs are set.

   Super fluffy and super delicious! Sprinkle with a fresh chopped parsley and you've got yourself the best breakfast for dinner you could think of! When you take it out of the oven wait for about 5 minutes so everything can cool a little bit and set, and then cut yourself as big piece as you want!

   I've created many (and I mean many) variations of this dish with so many different ingredients, but you have to wait for another time to see them. For now enjoy this delicious and healthy spinach/mushroom/blue cheese frittata!

Bon appetit.

Friday, February 10, 2012

MeatLove in the air!

   Meatloaf is another one of my favorite dishes that I find very "American". There are some similar things to it in other countries (like our "klops") but it's not the same and has a little bit different of a flavor combination. It's so versatile, and can be eaten for dinner (with potatoes for example), or cold on a sandwich, or by itself (we find ourselves doing this pretty often!). Oh, and it's also one of those dishes you want to cook for the busy week ahead. I usually make two loafs, store it in a fridge, and serve it many different ways during the week. What I use to make it is:

3 lbs lean ground beef (that's for two loafs)
1 green bell pepper (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
2 shredded carrots
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
salt and pepper

   Now make sure you take good notes because the recipe is really "complicated". What you have to do is using your hands mix all the ingredients (except ketchup and BBQ sauce) together and transfer them into the long baking dish. Mix ketchup with BBQ sauce, spread it on the top of meat and bake at 350F for 1 hour. OK, how easy is that? Seriously? That's all it is to it. And this is what you end up with:

   No meat lover can complain about not having enough meat and all the veggie lovers have something for them too. Isn't it a perfect marriage? Moist, juicy, meaty, and flavorful. Who could ask for more? Slice it, bite it, and enjoy it!

Take care.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Do you have a sweet tooth?

   If you do, you are going to love this recipe, and if you don't... well, if you don't I bet you that if you try it you will love it anyways! Oh, and if you are a carrot eater you will love it as well. I think everybody knows by now what I am talking about, yes, you are right I am going to show you one of my signature desserts: a carrot cake with a citrus cream cheese frosting! Man, just writing about it makes me want to have a bite. This cake always works and never disappoints! The recipe for a cake calls for:

*  2 cups all-purpose flour
*  1 1/4 cups oil
*  2 cups grated carrots
*  1/2 cup raisins
*  3 eggs
*  1 cup sugar
*  2 tsp baking powder
*  2 tsp baking soda
*  1/2 tsp salt
*  2 tsp cinnamon
*  2 tsp cocoa

   With a hand mixer, mix sugar, oil and eggs until creamy. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa, mix everything together, and add carrots and raisins. Transfer into a baking pan and bake at 350F for about 35-45 minutes (a toothpick will tell you when it's ready). You need to cool it down after it's baked, cut it in half, and spread with cream cheese frosting. What you will need to make it is:

*  16 oz. fat-free cream cheese (2 blocks)
*  Confectioner's sugar (as much as you need to make it as sweet as you like)
*  juice from one orange
*  orange zest
*  lime juice (from half a lime)
*  1 tsp vanilla extract

   Mix all the ingredients together (with hand mixer) and here you go... the frosting is ready! Chill the cake in a fridge for couple of hours before serving.

   There was not a single time that this cake didn't come out right. It always works and it's super yummy! I'm sure you will love it. Oh, and it will satisfy your sweet tooth like nothing else!


Monday, February 6, 2012

Go Giants! Go Giants!

   What a great game last night (at least for me)! OK, I was not a football fan at all until now. I didn't understand the game and didn't really watch it. But this Super Bowl was different, first because my husband's team (GIANTS! GIANTS!) were playing, and second because he gave me his old Giants jersey with my name on the back (well, with my new last name!).

   This was the best gift ever! People were making fun of me that I just became a Giants fan two days ago, but hey, I need to start somewhere, right?! So yes, I am a new fan, but that doesn't mean I can't be super duper excited about them winning!!! I loved watching the game, Justin kept explaining everything what was going on until I finally got a hang of it (well at least a teeny, tiny hang). The Super Bowl is not only about the game, it's also about the food. Usually it's not the healthiest food in a world full of fat, calories, and guilt. So I decided to change it and make a healthy version of the most popular Super Bowl item: chicken wings marinated in a healthy marinade and baked rather than fried. What you need for the marinade is:

*  Port wine
*  soy sauce
*  apple cider vinegar
*  BBQ sauce
*  Worcestershire sauce
*  Sriracha sauce
*  garlic powder
*  salt and pepper

   In a big bowl mix everything together adjusting the amount of each ingredient to your own taste. When everything is combined, add chicken wings, coat them with a marinade, and refrigerate over night. When you are ready to entertain, spread wings in a single layer onto a baking dish and bake at 350F for one hour.

   They come out super tender, juicy, and flavorful. When the game is a real "nail biter" like the one last night make sure you have something to bite on, and what can be better than a bowl of healthy delicious wings.... a super bowl of chicken!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Racuchy, racuchy!

   Well, I could translate the name of this dish and call it "Polish apple pancakes", but there is not as much charm and homeyness to it as it is in "Racuchy". Besides wouldn't you rather tell your friends that you just made a huge batch of racuchy (well, if you can pronounce it)? Everybody would be so jealous hearing that, thinking that you probably just had a super sophisticated and cosmopolitan dish (hey, they don't have to know it's "just" pancakes!). I remember my Mom making tons of them for our meatless dinners and they would disappear right away. If you wanted it fresh and hot you would have to stand next to her and just snatch them from her hand when she was taking them out of the pan! Otherwise they were GONE! Traditional racuchy have apples in them, but I mix it up a little bit and also add pears. So what you need is:

*  1 apple (very thinly sliced)
*  1 pear (thinly sliced as well)
*  1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
*  2 cups fat-free milk
*  2 eggs
*  1/4 cup sugar
*  2 tsp vanilla extract
*  1/2 tsp baking powder
*  oil

   Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla extract together. Stir in flour, baking powder, orange zest, and sugar and mix everything together adding apples and pears at the very end. You can add more flour or milk to adjust the density of the batter so it's not too runny or too dense. Heat the oil in a pan, then using a big spoon form small pancakes and fry them for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Transfer them onto a paper towel for a couple of minutes (to drain the excess oil) and serve immediately with a glass of cold milk!

   You can make them as thin or thick as you like. We like ours not to thick so they get a little bit crunchy on the edges, while still super soft in the middle. It might be the simple dish for all of you, but for me it's a childhood memory. Every time I eat them I feel like I'm back at my Mom's kitchen waiting for her to finish another batch!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

When I was a student...

   ... I was young and energetic... no wait, that's not what this blog is about. I wanted to say that when I was a student (and didn't have much time to cook or too much money to go out to eat) my best friend introduced me to a tuna spaghetti. Oh yeah, it's not a mistake, I did say tuna spaghetti. It's super easy, super cheap, and super delicious. I love it so much that I introduced Justin and some of my friends to it and now we all eat it all the time. I have a feeling that Justin thinks that something is missing from his life if there is no tuna spaghetti for more than two weeks. It is one of those dishes that is perfect if you don't know what to make and you always have the ingredients for it in a pantry. What you need is:

*  Angel's hair pasta (or any other)
*  1 can tuna in water
*  1 chopped onion
*  2 tsp capers
*  1 cup fat-free sour cream
*  1/2 cup chopped parsley
*  olive oil
*  salt and pepper

    Saute onions with olive oil and capers (if you are not a fan of capers you can skip them all together), add drained tuna and cook for about 5 minutes. About a minute before the end add sour cream, parsley, salt, and pepper and you are done! Serve it with pasta as you would serve a regular spaghetti.

   It might not be the prettiest dish to photograph, but trust me it's absolutely delicious. You should see Justin's face when I told him for the first time what I'm making (kind of scared) and when he was eating it few minutes later (kind of scared that there won't be enough for seconds!).