Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mac, cheese and veggies!

   Who doesn't like mac and cheese? I know I do and I could eat it all the time, and my boys (especially Justin) could eat it with me (but maybe not ALL the time)! I am always trying to change things up, add new ingredients or improve the taste (like it's necessary to improve the taste of mac&cheese!!!), so this time I decided to spruce it up a little bit with bunch of veggies... and kielbasa! It doesn't really make it "diet friendly" if that's what you were expecting, but it definitely removes some guilt while eating it... you are getting a serving of veggies after all and if you have seconds (I bet you will)... it's two servings of veggies!


* 10 oz of whole wheat macaroni pasta
* 1 package (13 oz) turkey Polska kielbasa, chopped
* 2 medium zucchini, chopped
* 2 cups cauliflower florets
* 4 tbsp butter
* 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
* 4 cups milk
* 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
* 1 tsp Dijon mustard
* 1/8 tsp nutmeg
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* salt and pepper


1. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente (or until it has the texture your family likes). 4 minutes before the end of cooking, add cauliflower and cook together with pasta. Drain and set aside.

2. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in the pan, add kielbasa and cook for 5 minutes until it starts to brown. Add chopped zucchini and cook everything for additional 5 minutes. Set aside.

3. In a deep skillet, melt butter, add the flour and cook whisking for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly to get rid of any lumps and cook for 5 minutes. Add cheddar cheese, Dijon mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper (to taste) and cook for additional 2-3 minutes (whisking).

4. Combine macaroni, cauliflower, kielbasa and sauce, mix everything together until sauce covers everything and ... enjoy!

   As you noticed I did not bake it in the oven as you normally would. It not only cuts down on time, but it also makes for much more creamy and moist mac and cheese, which I really like. If you want to make it vegetarian, you could obviously skip kielbasa, but I don't think Christopher would appreciate me doing so - kielbasa is his favorite food in the entire world!


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Best sides!

   Today's post is about two "sophisticated" side dishes that are super easy, have only few ingredients and take no time to make. When I say "side dishes", I mean that for most people they would be on a side... for Christopher on the other hand, one of them is the main dish! When he sees the green potatoes, he refuses to eat anything else and just wants a bowl full of potatoes, spoon in his hand and he is good to go! The other one - glazed carrots, I could eat like candy (they actually taste almost like candy), but what I really like about this dish is that it takes exactly 5 minutes to make! Yes, that's right, five minutes and you have delicious side dish! So here they are: green (broccoli) potatoes that Christopher is addicted to and glazed carrots that will impress anybody with the flavor and simplicity!


* 3 large potatoes
* 3 cups broccoli, chopped
* 2 tbsp butter
* 2-3 tbsp cream cheese
* salt


1. Peel, wash and quarter potatoes. Put into cold salted water, bring to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add broccoli and cook for another 10-15 minutes until potatoes are soft.

2. Drain the water, add butter and cream cheese and mash until smooth. Season with salt if needed.

And for glazed carrots:


* 10 thin carrots
* 3 tbsp butter
* 1 tbsp agave nectar
* 1 tbsp lemon juice
* 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
* 1/3 cup pecans, chopped


1.  Peel and half carrots. In a sauce pan, melt butter, add carrots (cut side down) and cook for 3 minutes on high heat.

2. In a small bowl, combine agave nectar, lemon juice and ginger.

3. Flip carrots on the other side, add agave/lemon mixture, sprinkle with pecans and cook for 2 minutes.

   To be honest it's really hard to decide which one is better (not that you can't eat them together), but I think I might be with Christopher on this one (only because I have a potato addiction as well)! I was kind of making fun of him for wanting to eat just potatoes for dinner... but to be fair, I could totally do it too!


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Veni, Vidi, Vici - Ingredient No.4

   This one is out there, I'm not gonna lie! I've seen in on TV and I've heard about it for years, but I never though of using it myself... until this New Year resolution thing! Flour made out of crickets, or if you prefer more detailed description - pressure cooked crickets ground into a dust! Who is in?

   If you are still reading it, that means you are genuinely interested in my experience with the cricket flour, so here it is. The flour itself is a little bit denser and a little "coarser" than a regular flour, and has some kind of smell to it! I can't tell you if it smells good or just smells, lets leave it at that! It's also quite dark (see pic.). I saw recipes for muffins, cakes, cupcakes, but somehow I thought pancakes would be the easiest, the quickest and with only few ingredients we had a better chance to really taste the cricket flour. I chose ricotta pancakes, because I never made them before and also I thought that crickets might need some "carrier protein" to help out!


* 1 cup cricket flour
* 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 cup ricotta cheese
* 2 eggs
* 3/4 cup milk
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 2 tbsp sugar
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
* zest from one lemon
* pinch of salt 
* cooking spray


1. Combine flours, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl and mix together.

2. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, ricotta, milk, vanilla extract and lemon zest and whisk everything until smooth.

3. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix everything until combined.

4. Heat the pan on a medium heat, spray with a cooking spray, pour the batter (1/4 cup) in the middle of the pan and cook couple minutes on each side.

5. Best served with maple syrup, lemon juice and almonds.

   So here are the pancakes, looking good, but before I tell you how they tasted, you need to know that my husband, who refused to try them, ended up eating three of them in one sitting! Also, all my coworkers (well, all, but one) tried them... and some of them even took a second bite! I am surrounded by brave people! Oh and my son ate it too... but let's be honest, he had no idea what he is eating (not that knowing about crickets would stop him!).

   Anyways, going back to the taste... the best way to describe them is that they have this "healthy taste", if that's even a thing! They are dark, dense and everybody swore that they could feel some minor crunchiness (yikes!). They have a nutty (almost naughty) taste and smell, but turns out that if you smother them in syrup and lemon juice... you can barely notice it anymore. In conclusion, as the title suggest... it's a kind of thing that you want to try at least once, to either concur your fears or to satisfy your curiosity, but somehow I am not planning on making more of those.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Easy like Sunday... afternoon!

   Sunday dinners are very different nowadays compared to the ones I grew up with. In my house (and probably majority of houses), Sunday dinners were lavish, fancy(ish) and took quite some time to prepare. There was always a soup as a starter, followed by a second course (meat, potatoes and salad) and a dessert. I loved it then and I would still love it today if ... somebody would cook it for me! It's not that I don't like or don't want to make it... it's just that we are never home on Sunday afternoon. We are usually at the park or in the ZOO or on the road trip... we leave right after Christopher's nap and we come back right before dinner, so there is no time to cook a three-course meal. Usually we stop at the restaurant, get a takeout, or I cook something quick... like today's dish - roasted vegetables. They are super versatile and you can pair them with things like rotisserie chicken (picked up on the way from the store), some fish (cooks in minutes), or my personal favorite, an over medium egg with the runny yolk oozing over veggies.


*  3 medium sweet potatoes
* 3 medium baking potatoes
* 6 carrots
* 1 large onion
* 3 cups of broccoli florets
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 1 tsp dry rosemary
* salt and pepper


1. Peel vegetables and chop them into bite size pieces making sure that all vegetables are similar size.

2. Transfer veggies into a large bowl, add olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper and using your hands toss everything together until completely coated.

3. Spread everything on the large baking sheet to create a single layer and bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes until potatoes are tender.

   Delicious! I love the caramelization on the side that touches the pan, I usually don't move or shake the pan, just so it can brown some more. If you want to "change things up" you can use a different herb each time, rosemary happens to be my favorite, but I also use thyme, basil or dill... they are all delicious.