Wednesday, November 28, 2012

50 shades of...

   ... couscous! How many different recipes for couscous salad can you come up with? I have quite few, and I keep coming up with new ones all the time. Couscous is such a versatile and easy ingredient. Cooks in minutes, can be paired with anything, and makes great entrees, sides or salads! Didn't try it as a dessert yet, but who said I'm done cooking? Here is my newest recipe for a vegetarian couscous salad with all sorts of crunchy vegetables:


*  2 cups dry couscous
*  1 medium zucchini, finely diced
*  1 red bell pepper, diced
*  1 can Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
*  1 cup chopped peanuts
*  1/2 cup black olives, chopped
*  1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
*  1/3 cup balsamic vinaigrette
*  salt and pepper, to taste


1. Place couscous in a bowl, add 2.5 cups of boiling water, mix, cover with a tight lid and let it stand for 7-8 minutes. After all water is absorbed, fluff couscous with the fork and let it cool.
2. In a large bowl, combine all chopped vegetables, peanuts, and parsley. Add couscous, balsamic vinaigrette, salt and pepper to taste.


   Fresh, crunchy and super satisfying! Zucchini and peanuts are my favorite things in this salad and I had to stop myself from picking them out of all the other ingredients! You can try a different dressing with it, but I think that balsamic vinaigrette is just perfect for this salad.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

An Appetizing Mouthful!

   Remember how I told you that Justin's mom is a great cook and she prepares an awesome Thanksgiving feast? Well, this year was no different, except for the fact that she asked me to bring some appetizers. It sounds easy, but with all the delicious dishes that follow the appetizers, I had huge shoes to fill (not literally, Justin's mom has tiny feet!). I needed to make sure that it's something not only yummy and delicious, but also good looking, because that's what everybody is used to! I wouldn't be myself if I didn't come up with something new and never tried before (at least by me). I totally improvised and added ingredients as I went, but I have to admit that it turned out pretty good and people seemed to really like it. Here is my recipe for cheese and bacon stuffed potatoes:


*  20 small potatoes
*  2 tbsp olive oil
*  garlic powder
*  2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary


*  8 oz cream cheese
*  3 tbsp fat free sour cream
*  1 cup mozzarella cheese, finely shredded
*  1/2 cup chopped scallions, chopped
*  10 slices reduced fat turkey bacon
*  1 tbsp garlic powder
*  1 tsp soy sauce
*  salt and pepper, to taste
*  1 tbsp lemon juice


1. Wash and scrub potatoes (do not peel), pat dry and using a fork or a sharp small knife prick potatoes to release the steam.
2. Place potatoes on a baking sheet, coat with olive oil, garlic powder and fresh chopped rosemary, and bake at 400F for 40 minutes. Take out of the oven and cool completely.
3. Cut bacon slices into very small pieces and crisp in the pan (about 6-7 minutes). Set aside
4. In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients of the filling with crisped bacon (reserve a spoonful for garnish) and mix together.
5. Cut cooled potatoes in half and using a melon baller scoop out most of the potato flesh.
6. Using a piping bag fill potatoes bowls with the filling, garnish with crisped bacon, and serve!

   A little bit smoky from the bacon, creamy from the cheese, and fresh from the lemon juice! A perfect bite, or two. It might not be the fastest dish I've ever made, but it's super easy and definitely worth it!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It's almost here!

   Thanksgiving!!! I was waiting for the entire year! I know it sounds silly from somebody who started celebrating this American holiday only a few years ago, but thanks to my new family I felt in love with this day at first sight (and first taste)! My mother-in-law is an excellent cook and Thanksgiving is the perfect day to showcase her talent! Every single thing she makes is rich, delicious, comforting, and very satisfying! Oh, I can't wait for tomorrow!!! To make the "waiting" less painful I usually make the cranberry sauce a few days earlier and we eat it with everything we can, just to "prep" ourselves for the Thanksgiving feast. The recipe couldn't be easier:


*  2 bags fresh cranberries (12oz each)
*  4 oranges
*  4-6 tbsp white sugar


1. Place washed cranberries in a pot. Add a little bit of water, just enough to cover the bottom of a pot (about half an inch).
2. Cut skin off the oranges and using a small knife cut out the segments of citrus flesh.
3. Add 4 tbsp of sugar, bring to boil and cook for 5-6 minutes untill all the berries open up.
4. Depending on how sweet you like your cranberry sauce to be add more sugar, and cook for 1-2 minutes.
5. Turn off the stove and let it cool. It will thicken as it cools and it's just perfect every time!

   Sweet and tangy! Perfect with turkey or pork, or just toast! You can make it any time of the year, but it will never taste as good as at the end of November!

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Easy enough?

   Recently one of my friends asked me if any of my blog recipes are easy enough for her to make them? What? All my recipes are super easy and not complicated. And to prove my point I decided to make a 4 ingredient, under 30 minute, fancy enough to serve to your guests, chicken dish that is easy enough to make in the middle of the week just for yourself. And if somebody doesn't think this recipe is easy, I don't know what is. Check this out:


*  8 chicken tenders
*  8 slices Prosciutto
*  8 leaves fresh sage
*  1 tbsp olive oil


1. Coat chicken tenders with olive oil. Place one leaf of fresh sage on the top of each tender, wrap Prosciutto slice tightly around chicken.
2. Place in a baking dish and bake at 425F for 15-20 minutes.

   This dish doesn't even require salt or pepper! The Prosciutto is salty enough on its own and baking it concentrates the salt even more, so you don't need to add any (trust me I made this mistake the first time I made this dish). Wrapping the chicken in a "piggy" blanket prevents it from drying and keeps it moist and tender. You can serve it with a salad or a side of delicious mashed potatoes.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Battle of Stroganoffs!

   Some time ago I posted a recipe for a "Polish version" of beef Stroganoff, which you can find here. Ever since I found out that this version wasn't the original, I wanted to make a "real" one and compare it with ours. So today's post is all about original and traditional beef Stroganoff with mushroom and sour cream... and I have to admit it's pretty good! Here is the recipe (serves about 6)


*  1 lb egg noodles
*  1 lb thinly sliced beef sirloin steak
*  1 large onion, chopped
*  1 large container (16oz) mushroom, sliced
*  2 cups beef stock
*  Worcestershire sauce
*  2 cups fat-free sour cream
*  1 tbsp corn starch
*  1 tbsp olive oil
*  salt and pepper


1. Cut slices of sirloin steak into a bite size pieces.
2. In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and brown the beef.
3. Add chopped onions, slices mushroom, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add beef stock and Worcestershire sauce and cook everything for about 30 minutes until sauce reduces by half and beef becomes tender.
5. Add corn starch, cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce thickens, add sour cream, bring to boil and it's done!
6. Serve it over cooked egg noodles.

   Creamy, tangy and delicious. I don't know which version I like better, the Polish one or the original. It's a close call. Serving it with egg noodles might be the deciding point (since I am a pasta junkie).


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fall and pasta.

   Another dish that combines a few of my favorites: pasta, roasted butternut squash, and a creamy sauce. I told you it was pumpkin season and I decided to take a full advantage of it. Starting in early October my pantry is full of all sorts of pumpkins, squashes, and zucchinis waiting for me to come up with some creative dishes. They are one of the best staples of fall cuisine and I just can't get enough of them. They are cheap, super versatile and delicious. Check out one of my recent creations, a creamy pasta loaded with vitamins!


*  1 lb penne or ziti pasta
*  1 medium butternut squash
*  1 large onion, chopped
*  10 slices turkey bacon
*  1 cup green peas, frozen and thawed
*  1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
*  1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
*  2 tbsp butter
*  2 tbsp flour
*  2 cups fat free milk
*  2 tbsp olive oil
*  salt and pepper
*  pinch of nutmeg


1. Cut butternut squash into 1-inch cubes, place on a baking sheet, cover with 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake at 420F for 20-30 minutes. Set aside.
2. In a meantime cook pasta until al dente. Chop turkey bacon into small pieces, crisp it in a skillet and set aside.
3. In the same skillet melt 2 tbsp of butter and saute chopped onions for 5-6 minutes. Add 2 tbsp of flour, cook for 2-3 minutes, add 2 cups of milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg, and whisk everything to create smooth sauce. Cook for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens, add green peas and Parmesan cheese and mix everything together.
4. In a deep bowl mix together sauce with cooked pasta, sun-dried tomatoes, baked butternut squash, and crisped bacon. Toss everything gently to combine and it's ready to serve.

   Look at those colors, you can tell it's a great dish just by looking at it. Creamy, buttery (from the squash, not the butter!), crunchy, and just heavenly! Perfect way to pump up pasta with healthy vegetables and not feel guilty about it!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pumpkin season!

   Yes, another pumpkin... another soup... another pumpkin soup! I already posted one of those here, but this time it's a different one... it's a pumpkin and ginger version of it! Super exotic, super delicious, and perfect for fall/winter dinners. I make it every year at this time and I make a lot of it. Here is the recipe:


*  large can (30oz) pure pumpkin puree
*  1 large onion, chopped
*  2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
*  1 tbsp curry powder
*  2 vegetable bullion cubes
*  3 tbsp butter
*  2 tbsp lemon juice
*  salt and pepper
*  pumpkin seeds for garnish


1. In a skillet, melt butter and saute onions until softened (5-6 minutes). Add ginger, salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
2. Transfer onions into a small blender, add 1/2 cup water and blend everything until perfectly smooth.
3. In a large pot, mix together pumpkin puree, curry powder, bullion cubes and water (into desired consistency), and cook everything for about 5 minutes.
4. Add blended onions and lemon juice, season with more salt and pepper if needed and cook everything for 10 more minutes.
5. Serve garnished with pumpkin seeds!

   I eat it for lunch, for dinner, as a starter, as a main dish, with sandwich or by itself, at the table, on the couch, sitting, standing... you got the idea how much I like it. Try it, I'm sure you will enjoy it too!

Good luck,

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Oppan Indian Style!

   Well, it should be Casserole Indian Style, but since "Gangnam style" is so popular recently, I couldn't resist. Can you believe that I actually learned the dance they are doing in a video? I know, I know... I surprised myself as well... but it's actually a lot of fun and a great workout, so what the heck! But, lets go back to food! I kind of feel guilty calling this dish "Indian" because, not only there is beef in it, but also none of my Indian friends ever heard of it. I can't really blame them since I made this whole dish up, used lots of lentils and Indian spices...and called it a Casserole Indian Style! Sorry guys, I know I'm bad... but to me it tastes so Indian, I have to call it that! Here is the recipe:

Rice layer:

*  2 cups red lentils
*  2 cups white rice
*  1 medium tomato, chopped
*  1 large onion, chopped
*  2 garlic clove, minced
*  1 cup fresh chopped cilantro
*  2 tsp turmeric
*  1 tsp curry powder
*  salt
*  1 tsp chili powder 

Meat layer:

*  2 lbs lean ground beef
*  1 cup mixed frozen vegetables
*  1 tbsp curry powder
*  1 tbsp Garam Masala
*  1 tbsp coriander powder
*  1 tbsp ground cumin
*  salt and pepper

*  1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


1. In a pot combine 2 cups of red lentils, chopped onion, minced garlic, tomato, turmeric powder, chilli powder, salt, pepper and 2 cups of water. Bring to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until lentils are cooked. You can adjust the amount of water, to get a thick and dense mixture without burning it.
2. Cook 2 cups of rice, mix it with lentils, add fresh cilantro and set aside.
3. In a non stick skillet, brown the beef, add vegetables and all the spices and cook for 5-6 minutes.
4. To assemble the casserole, grease  a large baking dish, spread half of the rice/lentil mixture on the bottom, top it with the meat layer, and cover with remaining rice and lentils. Top the casserole with a mozzarella cheese and bake for 20 minutes at 350F.
5. Let the casserole cool and firm up for at least 15 minutes before cutting into it.

   Wow, the recipe makes a huge batch of casserole! We might be eating it for a while, but it's actually really good so I'm not complaining.  It has some kick from the spices and chili powder, just a perfect amount to keep it "interesting", but not too hot! 


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pull that Pork!

   I have to admit that whoever came up with pulled pork will be my hero forever! Actually, whoever came up with BBQ in general is just the awesomest (yes, awesomest!) person in the world! The smokiness, the tenderness, the juiciness... I can go on, and on, and on... I just adore BBQ and pulled pork. And I know, that if you don't have a "real-deal" smoker in your back yard, you probably will never get the same flavor, but I don't care and I'm making my own little pulled piggy anyways! It's supper easy and works every time... and who said you can't "cheat" a little bit and use liquid smoke? Here is the recipe, serves 6-ish:


*  2-3 lb pork shoulder
*  1 large onion, coarsely chopped
*  2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
*  1/2 cup dried cranberries
*  1 cup red wine
*  2 tbsp brown sugar
*  1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
*  2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
*  3 tbsp original BBQ sauce
*  3 tbsp liquid smoke
*  salt and pepper
*  2 tbsp vegetable oil


1. In a Dutch oven heat the oil, season pork with salt and pepper and brown it on both sides (3-4 minutes on each side).
2. Remove the pork from the pot, set aside.
3. Into the same pot add chopped onion, carrots and cranberries, and cook everything for about 6-7 minutes.
4. Add all remaining ingredients, bring to boil, and return meat to the pot.
5. Cover Dutch oven with a lid, transfer into the oven and bake for 2.5 hours at 325F.
6. When meat is tender, remove it from the pot and using a fork shred it into desire pieces.
7. Using a hand blender, blend the sauce until smooth, return meat into the sauce and mix everything together.

   The pork is very tender, juicy and cooked to perfection! You can serve it in a sandwich, with rice or pasta... or you can just devour it straight from the pot! Delicious any way! Liquid smoke makes all the difference, and if you never used it before... you just have to try it!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mexican note!

   We love Mexican food! There is something special about the spice blend and flavors of this cuisine that just makes it super addictive. Mexican restaurants are, next to Chinese take-outs, one of our favorite "go-to" places when we are craving something "bad". I mean what's not to like, great prices, great flavors and big portions! Oh and lets not forget about a bucket (or two) of tortilla chips and salsa! And those chips are exactly the reason why we try to avoid going out there too often, they just awake the animal instincts in us! So to avoid chips chow down, I make my own version of "Mexican" enchiladas... at least nobody sees how many of them we can eat :)). Here is the recipe:


*  20 corn tortillas
*  1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
*  2 cups cooked rice
*  1 15oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
*  1 cup fresh chopped cilantro
*  2 10oz cans enchilada sauce
*  1 package McCormick enchilada spice
*  1 cup shredded cheese


1. In a bowl, combine chicken, rice, black beans, cilantro and enchilada spice.
2. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with 1 can of enchilada sauce.
3. Warm corn tortillas in a microwave so they wont crack.
4. Fill each tortilla with about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture. Roll the tortilla tightly and place seam-side down in the baking dish.
5. Pack all enchiladas tightly next to each other, cover with the remaining sauce, sprinkle with cheese and bake in 350F for 20 minutes.

   Such an easy, fast and delicious dish. If you like your food spicy you can add some hot sauce and serve it with some sour cream... perfect combination!