Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chickens like beer too!

   Here is another one of my creations that makes a perfect dinner after a long day at work. It's easy, quick, and super flavorful, oh ... and it has beer in it too. Somehow I think that chicken and beer is meant to be together because they make a great couple. Add some mushrooms and sour cream to the mix and you will end up with a delicious sauce that will make you lick your plate! Cook it for your man and you will be his super hero for days! The list of ingredients is:

*  2 cups pasta (any shape you like)
*  chicken breast (cubed)
*  2 cups sliced mushroom
*  1 chopped onion
*  1 beer
*  1 cup fat-free sour cream
*  1 cup chopped parsley
*  2-3 tbsp soy sauce
*  1-2 tbsp olive oil
*  salt and pepper

   Heat olive oil in a pan, add onions and mushrooms, and saute for about 4-5 minutes. Add chicken, parsley, salt, pepper, and soy sauce and cook for 5 more minutes. Pour the entire bottle of beer into the chicken, cook for 4-5 minutes to let the sauce reduce. When chicken is completely cooked and the sauce is reduced add sour cream and cooked pasta and it's read to serve!

   It's super fast and super delicious. The beer gives the sauce "a different" taste, a little bit tangy, a little bit bitter, and it's a perfect combination with the mushrooms and pasta. I don't even have to tell you that it's one of Justin's favorite dishes. It has three of "his" ingredients: chicken, mushrooms,... and beer, what's not to like?


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

To shell or not to shell?

   Another busy day? Do you need some comfort food which doesn't involve slaving in the kitchen for hours? I have just the perfect thing, which is fast, easy, fresh, and delicious. Who doesn't like tacos? I think it's Justin's favorite Mexican dish (just after quesadillas) and he likes them in the hard, crunchy shells. I'm not crazy about hard shells because somehow they always break when I bite them and I end up with taco all over my table and floor, and not much in my mouth. So I introduced Justin to a taco salad and I got rid of taco shells and substituted them with crunchy tortilla strips as a topping. What you need is:

*  1 lb ground turkey
*  1 large onion (chopped)
*  2 tomatoes
*  shredded lettuce
*  taco seasoning
*  1 cup chopped cilantro
*  sour cream
*  tortilla strips
*  1 tbsp olive oil

   Saute onions with olive oil, add ground turkey, and cook until no longer pink. Add taco seasoning and a little bit water to create a sauce and cook for 4-5 minutes so all the flavors marry together. That's all you need to do before building the taco salad. Put shredded lettuce on the bottom, top with meat, tomatoes, tortilla strips, cilantro, and sour cream. If you have some salsa you can also add it to the mixture, which will make the salad even better.

   Who needs taco shells? This way it's much easier to eat and you save a lot of calories... which can be used for a big bowl of ice cream as dessert! Isn't it a better solution?


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pigs have great shoulders!

   Do you have people coming over for dinner and you want to serve them a meal that they will never forget? I have a perfect dish, which doesn't require a lot of work, but will definitely be the star of the evening (as long as your guests eat pork). Pork is one of those things that if made properly is super flavorful and elegant. Don't be scared of it, it's so easy. What you need is: 

*  pork shoulder
*  2 carrots (chopped)
*  1 large onion (chopped)
*  2 cloves garlic
*  1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
*  vegetable oil
*  3 cups chicken broth
*  1/2 cup soy sauce
*  1/2 cup rice vinegar
*  2 tbs Worchestire sauce
*  3/4 cup light brown sugar
*  1 orange (zest and juice)
*  salt and pepper

   Coat a large Dutch oven with some oil and bring the pan to high heat. Sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper, brown it on all sides, and remove from the pan. Into the same oil add onions, carrots, garlic, and ginger, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add soy sauce, Worchestire sauce, rice vinegar, orange zest, orange juice, and cook for 5-6 minutes to reduce it a little bit. Add chicken broth and brown sugar, return the pork to the pan, and bring to a boil. Cover tightly with a lid and transfer into a 300F oven for about 3 hours. The meat should be 3/4 covered with a liquid, so you can turn it during roasting. You will not believe how moist and tender it will become.

   Do you see this bone in the middle? The meat was so soft and tender that the bone just fell off when I touched it. You don't even need teeth to eat just melts in your mouth! And the flavor is amazing! A little bit sweet, salty, and tangy. It's so yummy that even vegetarians would love it (maybe!).


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Super salad.

   Who said that salad has to be boring and predictable? All you have to do is mix and match different ingredients and each time you can end up with a different salad. Try with substituting at least one component at a time with something completely different and you will see how much fun a simple salad can be. I usually have some kind of greens and veggies in a fridge for the days when I feel like "dieting" or not cooking so I can just toss everything together and have dinner ready in seconds! This time I made spinach salad with grilled beef. The list of ingredient is:

*  baby spinach leaves
*  1/2 white onion (thinly sliced)
*  1 red pepper (chopped)
*  grilled beef
*  1/2 cup blue cheese
*  1/2 cup dried cranberries
*  1 cup slivered toasted almonds
*  3 sliced scallions
*  raspberry vinaigrette dressing

   You know the drill... just mix everything together, drizzle with a raspberry vinaigrette and that's it! I usually buy already grilled and packed beef because it's fast and easy, and why wouldn't you make you life easier if you could?

   It's absolutely the perfect combination of flavors and textures. Spinach gives the salad freshness; almonds, onions, and peppers give it a crunch; cranberries and a raspberry vinaigrette give it sweetness and tang; and blue cheese gives it a nice richness. What's more can you ask for in a salad?


Monday, March 19, 2012

Expect the unexpected!

   I love to experiment in the kitchen. The more bizarre the combination of ingredients, the more I want to try it out and see how it works together. I found this great recipe for cookies made out of something you would never expect. When I told my friends that I'm planning to make them they looked at me with a "what-a-lunatic" facial expression and they couldn't believe that I said that. I did not understand them, because for me "Potato Chip Cookies" just sounded like an amazing and delicious idea. And trust me, I wasn't wrong about it, they turned out to be awesome, and I think they made my top-ten-desserts list! Here is what you need:

*  1 cup (2 sticks) room temp. butter
*  3/4 cup light brown sugar
*  1/3 cup white sugar
*  1 tsp vanilla extract
*  3 eggs
*  2 cups all-purpose flour
*  1 tsp baking soda
*  2 cups crushed potato chips
*  1 cup chopped pecans

   In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract, add flour, baking soda, potato chips and nuts, and mix to combine. Drop tablespoon size of a cookie dough onto a baking sheet (about 2 inch apart) and bake at 375F for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Don't worry about the shape of the dough, they are going to spread and make a perfect round cookie.

   They are so yummy! Super crunchy, sweet, and salty, just the perfect combination! Don't be scared of potato chips in a dessert, they fit right in! If you don't believe me try it for yourself.

Good luck.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

As seen on TV.

   Are you hungry? Are you watching your calories? Do you like delicious food? If you answered "yes" to at least one a question, this post is for you. No, this time I didn't come up with the recipe myself, I just copied it from Lisa Lillien from the Food Network show "Hungry girl". She always has great ideas on how to make guilt free dishes without scarifying the flavor. This recipe especially caught my eye. It combines all of my favorite ingredients, is perfect not only for lunch, but also as an appetizer for a party, and is super fast and easy. Oh probably I should tell you what dish I'm talking about, huh? The Crab Rangoonies, yeah this name didn't tell me anything either. Here is the recipe:

*  8 oz. flaked imitation crab-meat
*  1/2 cup fat-free cream cheese
*  2 wedges of The Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss cheese
*  3-4 chopped scallions
*  1 tsp soy sauce
*  2 cloves garlic (minced)
*  1/2 cup chopped parsley
*  salt and pepper
*  small square wonton wrappers (about 30)

    To make the filling, combine all the ingredients except for the wonton wrappers in a bowl, breaking up the cheese wedges as you add them. Mix until uniform.

     Lay one wonton wrapper flat on a dry surface. Spoon the filling into the center, moisten all four edges by dabbing your fingers in water and going over the edges smoothly, fold the bottom left corner to meet the top right corner, forming a triangle and enclosing the filling. Press firmly on the edges to seal. Place each rangoonie flat on the baking sheet, spray the tops with nonstick spray, and bake at 375F for about 12 minutes until golden brown. They are very good on their own but you should definely try them with my signature dipping sauce, because it just makes them unbelievable. To make the sauce mix equal parts of teriyaki sauce, BBQ sauce, ketchup, and lime juice! It's awesome!

   Just be careful... they are super addictive! They might be diet friendly (4 of them are about 140 calories) but it doesn't really matter if you end up eating 20 of them... and it's not that difficult!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

More Polish goodness!

   If you started to wonder where are all those recipes from the old country, here you go! I present you with another delicious and very traditional Polish dish called "lazanki". Actually it was a request from my friend, who is going to be a proud Mama soon, who was craving lazanki the other day (sorry Agatka for a delay)! You know you can never say no to a pregnant woman, especially if she is your close/far friend (she is my close friend who lives far, far away). Besides Justin is a huge fan of lazanki too, so it worked out for everybody. Here is my version of the recipe, and I'm sure everybody has their own spin on it. What you need is:

*  pasta (seashells or bow ties)
*  1 small cabbage head (chopped)
*  2 cups sauerkraut
*  1 cup chopped Canadian bacon  (bacon or kielbasa, whatever you like)
*  1 chopped onion
*  2 tsp chopped fresh dill
*  soy sauce
*  olive oil
*  salt and pepper

   Cook chopped cabbage and sauerkraut in salty water until it's soft (depending on how soft you like it). Saute onions and Canadian bacon with a little bit of olive oil until the meat is nicely seared and a little bit browned. You can substitute Canadian bacon with regular bacon, turkey bacon, or kielbasa, but I like to use Canadian bacon because it's delicious, and much leaner then other things. Combine sauteed meat and onions with cooked cabbage and pasta, and then season it with salt, pepper, soy sauce, and dill. That's it, the dish is ready.

   You can adjust the ratio of cabbage to pasta however you like. I'm not sure if you can see it in the picture, but we like ours to have a lot of cabbage (hey, I'm Polish and I love my cabbage!). Agata, I know it's late, but this post is a special dedication to you Mama (hopefully your wonderful man will make it for you next time you crave it!).


Monday, March 12, 2012

Nuts for coconuts?

   Last Christmas my aunt sent me the best Christmas card ever.  Rather than adding a picture or a letter she inserted a recipe for a delicious coconut cake. How cool is that? So simple, but yet so thoughtful. I am a little bit embarrassed that it took me three months to finally make the cake, but I guess it's better late than never. Justin is not too crazy about coconut in general, so I took it as my personal challenge to change his mind. It worked just great, the cake turned out delicious, Justin had a huge piece of it, and didn't mind the coconut at all! Here is the recipe:

*  2 cups toasted sweetened coconut
*  2 cups all-purpose flour
*  1 cup butter (room temp.)
*  6 eggs
*  0.5 tsp salt
*  1 tsp baking powder
*  1.5 cup sugar
*  2.5 tsp almond extract

   To toast the coconut spread it thinly in a shallow baking dish and bake at 350F for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently until it's a little bit brown. Do not leave it in the oven for too long because it browns pretty fast. After it's done, set it aside to cool down before mixing it into the cake. In a large bowl beat the butter until creamy and then gradually add sugar while beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs (one at a time) and almond extract, mixing well after each addition. Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a big spoon stir in all dry ingredients and coconut. Transfer the cake batter into a baking pan and bake at 325F for about one hour.

   It's delicious on its own, but I decided to "dress" it up a little bit with drizzle of chocolate. I melted a few pieces of chocolate with 2 tbsp of milk and an orange zest and drizzled it over the cake. It's yummy, super coconuty, and super rich, so it's the best when served with a scoop of refreshing fat free raspberry sorbet!


   Do you see how fluffy the cake is? The almond extract and toasted coconut is just a perfect marriage of flavors and make this desert super tasty. I'm sure everybody will love it.

Good luck.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Emergency plan.

   I usually plan all my meals ahead for the week. First, so I can get all my groceries at one time and second, so I don't have to worry about planning and figuring out what I'm going to make later during the week. Well, it works most of the time because sometimes (like few days ago) in the middle of cutting some mice tails I realized that I forgot to take a chicken breast out of the freezer. Hey, don't judge me, I have to kill time somehow when I'm in the animal room so yes, I'm thinking about cooking while genotyping! I knew my chicken dinner is not going to work since the main ingredient was frozen solid and that I have to come up with an emergency plan that does not involve a trip to the grocery store. This is one of those days when I look through my pantry, see what I have, and put it together somehow to make a delicious and creative dinner. And here is what I found this time:

*  Chinese Jade noodles (you can use any pasta)
*  1 bag of frozen spinach
*  1 chopped onion
*  2 cloves garlic
*  2 tbsp butter
*  1 cup chopped parsley
*  2 cups chopped walnuts
*  1 cup of heavy cream
*  salt and pepper

   I've never done it before, but somehow I knew it would all make sense together and I was right. Saute onions and garlic with butter, add frozen spinach (you don't even have to defrost it), parsley, 1 cup of walnuts, and salt and pepper. Cook everything for 5-10 minutes until the spinach is nice and soft, add the cream, and blend everything in a blender until it is nice and smooth. Mix it with cooked noodles, sprinkle with the remaining walnuts, and serve it.

   It's very flavorful, a little bit naughty... I mean nutty, healthy, oh it's fast and easy too. Simple dish with a "complicated" flavor that you can come up with in seconds while cutting mouse tails and toes for example!


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Abuela's secrets!

   I'm sure everybody has at least one favorite dish that can only be made by your Grandma and nobody can repeat it and make it taste exactly like hers. Reason # 4582 why I love to be married to Justin is that I gain a Puerto Rican Grandma (Julia) who is an amazing cook and makes the best "Arroz Con Pollo" in the entire world! There is no way anybody can ever make it taste the same as hers, but we can definitely keep trying. My sister-in-law, Rachel, was trying to get Abuela's recipe for years and all she got was: it's so easy, you add a little bit of that and a little bit of that, and when it feel like that you add a little bit of that! Yeah right, good luck with that! So she took matters in her own hands, watched Abuela making it all the time, writing down the "observations", and trying it out over and over again until she got it pretty close! And guess what, she was super nice to share the recipe with me, so now I'm sharing it with you! The list of ingredients is:

*  chicken (I use 4 drumsticks and 2 tights)
*  Adobo seasoning
*  2 cups long grain rice
*  1 can (8oz) tomato sauce
*  1/4 cup manzanilla olives (stuffed with pimientos)
*  1 tsp. capers
*  1/2 cup Sofrito (I got the red one)
*  2 cloves garlic
*  1 envelope onion soup
*  1 envelope Sazon seasoning
*  1/3 cup oil
*  3 cups water (you may need to adjust it depending on how you like your rice)

   OK, don't be afraid of all those "exotic" names, you can find all of this in the International/Latin section of any supermarket (GOYA makes all of them). Here is what you do: sprinkle the chicken with an Adobo seasoning and keep in the fridge for a couple of hours. Heat the oil in a pan, brown the chicken on both sides, and remove from the pot. Into the same pot add sofrito, tomato sauce, olives, capers, and garlic and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes until the flavors "marry" together. Add the onion soup, sazon, and rice and cook everything for 5 more minutes, stirring it often so it won't stick to the bottom of the pot, and then add water and cook on low heat until half of the water evaporates. Return the browned chicken to the pot, "bury" it in the rice, cover with the lid and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. I was afraid that the rice will burn a little bit on the bottom so I used the dutch oven as my pot, covered everything with the lid and baked in the oven at 350F for 40 minutes. It turned out just right.

   It's hard for me to judge the authenticity of the dish, but I think I did a good job because Justin told me he was not hungry and then he had a huge bowl of my Arroz Con Pollo! I think I still need to adjust few things to make it more "Abuela's like" but I think that as for a first try I did good! Thank you Sis for sharing the recipe!

Hope you like it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The sequel to the pork tenderloin.

   Remember my last post (it was just two days ago!) about the two pork tenderloins? One was stuffed with apricots and the other mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the post and never came back. Don't you worry, there is absolutely no food missing in my kitchen (well, it disappears but I usually know where it goes!) and this time was no different. I made two loins and I used one for a few dinners (served with some starch and vegetables) and the other one I made into delicious and filling sandwiches for lunch. Forget about store bought lunch meat, there is nothing that can beat this. It's fresh, juicy, low salt, and no artificial ingredients (I know, I sound like a sales rep). Keep it in the fridge and slice it whenever you are craving a delicious sandwich. Just look at it:

   I know that sandwich building is an art form and it's very personal and different for everybody (some people are very "particular" about how they want their sandwich to be prepared)! What I do, and what I think is the best is:

*  ciabatta roll
*  2 tsp horseradish spread
*  lettuce
*  sliced provolone cheese
*  sliced tenderloin
*  tomato
*  chopped parsley (this is my favorite component on all my sandwiches!)

   Spread the horseradish on a roll, layer all the ingredients and here is what you end up with:


   Now, that's a sandwich. You probably wonder how can somebody possibly bite this gigantic mountain of food, right? No worries, first of all I have a big mouth (that's what I've been told) and second, everything is so fresh, juicy, and fluffy that you can just squeeze it together and bite it no problem. Try it!


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pork with an attitude.

   If you are a vegetarian you may want to skip this post (unless you actually enjoy looking at my amateur pictures), but if you are a meat lover and looking for a fast and easy recipe you are in a right place. Some people are afraid to cook with pork thinking that it requires a lot of experience and magic skills to make it taste good and moist. This is so not true. In my opinion pork is super easy and much more forgiving than beef for example, it's actually pretty hard to make it dry or not tasty. Let me show you what I do. All you need is:

*  pork tenderloin
*  1 onion (sliced)
*  2 cloves garlic
*  dried apricots (or plums)
*  1/2 cup chopped parsley
*  6-7 juniper berries
*  fresh rosemary
*  salt and pepper

   Take a long and skinny knife and insert it in the middle of the tenderloin (length wise) to make a cut. If your knife isn't long enough to cut through the entire loin you can always "attack" it from both ends and cut it half way from each side. Stuff it with dried fruit (apricots or plums, which ever you like better), put the meat on aluminum foil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover with onions, garlic, parsley, rosemary, juniper berries, and wrap everything with the foil as tightly as you can. Bake at 370F for 1 hour.

   I don't know if you can see it in the picture, but I had two separate loins. I seasoned both of them with the same things, but I stuffed only one of them (and "decorated" it with some extra fruit on the top). The other one I just left the way it was. After it's baked remove the rosemary and juniper berries, slice it and it's ready to serve. It's super juicy and flavorful and all it needs is some light and fresh starch to complement it. I decided to serve it with couscous mixed with lots of parsley and lemon zest.

   You probably wonder what I did with the other tenderloin don't you? Well, be patient, come back in two days and the mystery will be revealed! For now enjoy this juicy, fruity and delicious dish!


Friday, March 2, 2012

Sunshine in a bowl.

   You know what time it is? It's time for another soup recipe! Since Justin was out of town for the entire week I took it easy on cooking and I made a huge pot (almost a bathtub) of creamy cauliflower and potato soup and I had it for dinner every night. I made it thick, rich, and flavorful so it can satisfy my evening hunger and comfort me since there is nobody to cuddle with (and Spikey just can't handle all this "love" I'm giving him). The list of ingredients is:

*  1 cauliflower (florets)
*  2 medium potatoes
*  2 carrots
*  1 onion
*  vegetable broth
*  1 tsp curry powder
*  1 tsp turmeric
*  lemon zest
*  lemon juice (from half a lemon)
*  chopped parsley
*  salt and pepper

   Chop all of the vegetables and cook them with the vegetable broth, lemon zest, lemon juice, and all the spices. Adjust the amount of broth depending on how thick you want your soup to be, I usually add enough liquid to cover all the vegetables. Cook everything for 15-20 minutes until the veggies are tender (but not mushy) and then blend everything with an emulsion blender, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and it's ready to serve.

   Cauliflower and carrots make it healthy, potatoes make it creamy, curry makes it warm and comfy, turmeric makes it sunny, and lemon makes it zesty and refreshing! If it's not quite satisfying enough you can always serve it with a grilled cheese or turkey sandwich and you have a great dinner.

Have fun.