Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Gluten free adventures!

   I always wanted to try gluten free baking... mostly to challenge myself and to try something new. I heard a lot of negative opinions about gluten free baking goods... that the texture is off, that the flavor is bad, or that it's impossible to make at home. The last one is really what caught my attention and I wanted to put my skills to the test and see if I could make a delicious, gluten free desert. My friend's son (who also happens to be my son's best friend) is gluten free, so she became an expert in gluten free cuisine, constantly testing new recipes for breads, muffins, bagels... you name it, she probably tried it... and I have to say all of her stuff is delicious! So what better way to test my gluten free baking skills than inviting them to dinner and feeding them my gluten free lemon-blueberry cake? Here is the recipe:


*  1.5 cups gluten free all purpose baking flour (Bob's RedMill)
*  1 cup sugar
*  1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temp.
*  1 container (6 oz) lemon Greek yogurt
*  2 eggs
*  1 tsp baking powder
*  1/2 tsp salt
*  2 tsp lemon zest
*  1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
*  1 cup fresh blueberries
*  1 tsp corn starch


*  1 cup powdered sugar
*  1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice


1. In a bowl combine and whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and lemon zest. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs (one at a time), add yogurt and lemon juice and mix everything for 1-2 minutes.

3. With mixer on slow, add dry ingredients, a little bit at a time, and mix until combined.

4. In a small bowl, combine blueberries and corn starch and mix until coated.

5. Gently mix in blueberries into a batter, transfer into greased loaf pan and bake at 350F for 50-60 minutes. Transfer onto a wire rack and let it cool.

6. Combine powdered sugar and lemon juice, mix until smooth and pour over the cake to glaze it.

   I have to be honest, baking the cake was a little bit tricky... every time I inserted a toothpick in the middle of it, it came out a tiny bit wet, but after 60 minutes of baking I decided to take it out of the oven and let it sit. It turned out great! There was no under-baked dough, the cake was moist (maybe not as moist as a regular flour cake, but not bad at all) and the flavor was really, really delicious. My "gluten-free expert" friend, who doesn't really have a sweet tooth to begin with, loved it... or at least that's what she said and I take it!


Monday, April 10, 2017

Duet in the kitchen!

   Cooking dinners during a weekend is usually "Christopher and Mommy" time. He brings a chair to the kitchen, puts it next to me so he can reach the counter, demands bunch of utensils and of course the same ingredients to work with as me (anything but onions and garlic... and raw meat of course!). He chops, he mixes, he samples, he makes a lot of mess and usually he has no problems with me trashing it at the end of it. Recently however, he became more sophisticated and he started demanding that if I take pictures of my food, I must also take pictures of his. At first I though it was just a cute joke, but he got serious pretty quick and he even insisted that he will plate and arrange his own photo-shoot (insert eye rolling emoji here)! I'm a little proud and very entertained by all of this!
   This time I made a quinoa stir-fry with chicken and veggies and Christopher made a vegetable soup, both featured below.


*  2 cups dry quinoa
*  2 large carrots, sliced
*  2 small zucchini, sliced
*  4 oz mushrooms, sliced
*  2 cups broccoli heads
*  3 green onions, chopped (save a little for garnish)
*  1 lb chicken breast, cut into small, thin pieces
*  1 egg
*  2 tbsp olive oil
*  1 tbsp hoisin sauce 
*  1 tbsp honey
*  2 tbsp soy sauce
*  1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
*  1 tsp garlic powder
*  salt


1. Cook quinoa according to the instruction on the box. Set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and add chicken with a pinch of salt. Saute for 5-10 minutes (depending on the size of the pieces) until thoroughly cooked. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

3. In the same skillet, heat the remaining olive oil (1 tbsp) until very hot. Add vegetables, season with a pinch of salt and garlic powder and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Do not cook more than 5 minutes if you don't want the veggies to be mushy.

4. Make a little bit of space in the middle of the skillet, add egg and cook stirring until dry. Mix with the vegetables.

5. In a small bowl, combine hoisin sauce, honey, vinegar and soy sauce to create the sauce.

6. Add chicken and cooked quinoa to the veggies, add the sauce and mix everything until combined.

7. Sprinkle with some green onions when serving.

   As promised, I also took pictures of Christopher's "soup" and even though his knife skills have some room for improvement, given the fact that it was a butter knife (as blunt as it gets) I say he did pretty damn good! Thank God he didn't ask me to taste it, because there might have been some "floor ingredients" in the dish.

   And here is the master chef himself... very proud of his creation! We fed the soup to the birds and they loved it ... we think!

    Going back to my stir fry... it tastes as delicious as a regular rice stir fry, but the texture is different. Quinoa is a grain that people either love or hate... if you are like us and love it, you will really enjoy this dish!

Magda and Christopher

Monday, March 20, 2017

Improvised muffins.

   Funny story behind those muffins... well actually maybe not that funny, but still worth mentioning. Some time ago, I saw a quick cooking viral video (I am so addicted to watching those!) where they made flour-less, few-ingredients-only banana muffins and when I saw couple of my bananas turning ugly brown, I knew this would be a perfect solution. I searched for this video for hours on all the websites I could think of and couldn't find it, so I decided to improvise and make my own version. I knew I needed bananas, an egg and baking powder/soda... and the rest just happened to be around, so I threw it in as well. Since Christopher was helping me to bake... they also have chocolate chips in them (whatever was left after "sampling") ... but you can totally skip them (or substitute with dried cranberries).


*  1 cup old-fashioned oats
*  2 tbsp flax seeds
*  2 ripe bananas
*  1 egg
*  2 tbsp honey
*  1 tbsp vanilla extract
*  1 tsp baking powder
*  1/2 tsp baking soda
*  1/3 cup mini chocolate chips


1. In a food processor blend oats and flax seeds until they resemble coarse flour.

2. Mash bananas with a fork or potato masher until smooth, add all remaining ingredients (reserve 1 tbsp chocolate chips for decoration), mix until combined.

3. Using a small ice cream scoop, fill the mini muffin pan up to 3/4 full, sprinkle with few chocolate chips on top and bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.

   They turned out awesome! Breakfast, snack, dessert... you can have them any time of the day. And they are guilt free too... low in sugar, high in fiber, tiny in size... and to balance all the healthy stuff, there is also chocolate - the perfect combination.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Not as hard as I thought...

   I don't know why, but I always thought of "stuffed pork chops" as something that requires a lot of skills and time... and for that reason, I never made it before! Last weekend I was looking for something more challenging that my usual dishes, so I decided to tackle this "difficult" task and make some stuffed pork chops for dinner. Well, let me tell you.... easy-peasy, no special skills required dish! Who knew?! I was so surprised how quick and effortless the dish was, the "hardest" part was to make sure the the stuffing won't explode all over your shirt if you squeeze it too hard (don't squeeze it too hard, trust me on that!!!). Here is the recipe for pork chops stuffed with cream cheese/mushrooms/spinach deliciousness (serves 4):


*  4 bone-in pork chops (1.5 inch thick)
*  4 oz cream cheese
*  4 oz mushrooms, finely chopped
*  2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
*  2 tbsp olive oil
*  4 tbsp butter
*  salt and pepper


1. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and saute mushrooms until soft (5 minutes). Add chopped spinach, season with salt and pepper and cook until spinach is wilted, 4-5 minutes. Transfer into a bowl, add cream cheese and mix everything until combined and smooth. Set aside and let it cool.

2. To cut pockets in the pork chops, insert the point of a small and sharp knife horizontally into the edge on the opposite side of the bone. Gently move the knife back and forth inside of the chop to create deep pocket, but without making the "opening" any bigger. Make sure you do not cut through or pierce the meat.

3. Transfer stuffing into a small piping bag (or a zip-lock bag), cut the corner off and gently squeeze it in the pork chop pocket. Pinch the opening to seal it.

4. In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil and butter, season pork chops with salt and pepper and sear them on both sides until golden brown (4-5 minutes on each side). 

5. Transfer chops into a baking dish, add the olive oil/butter grease into the baking dish (you can add 2-3 tbsp of water if there is not enough "juices"), cover with foil and bake at 365F for 30-35 minutes or until the temperature inside the chop reaches 145F.

    I think my biggest fear was under- or over-cooking the meat, so I kept checking the temperature once in a while, but it turned out awesome. Very tender and flavorful meat with a creamy, savory filling and delicious sauce that forms kind of by "accident". I served it with mashed potatoes and broccoli and it just hit all the right spots... for all three of us!


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fat on Tuesday... I mean Happy Fat Tuesday!

   In Poland, we actually celebrate Fat Thursday (a week before Ash Wednesday), rather than Fat Tuesday and let me tell you... it is a big deal! Everybody eats paczki (jam filled doughnuts) that day, all the bakeries have a mile long line in front of them and every household has a huge pile of paczki on the table! They are probably one of the worst thing you can eat when you are on a diet, but it does not matter on that day... no matter what, you just can't resist! Oh, and try to eat just one... I dare you!
   In the US, we celebrate the Fat Tuesday and it works out pretty good since paczki really need some time to prepare, so weekend is a perfect opportunity for such project. They are not that hard to make, but they do require time and patience. You need to let the dough rest and raise few times and you do not want to rush... but it's all worth it in the end, I promise!


*  3.5 cups all purpose flour, sifted
*  2 tsp instant yeast
*  1 cup milk, warmed
*  4 tbsp sugar
*  4 egg yolks
*  4 tbsp butter melted and cooled
*  2 tbsp vodka
*  fruit jam (I chose raspberry)

*  vegetable oil fro frying

*  powdered sugar for decoration


1. Combine warm milk with 1 tbsp of sugar, 1 tbsp of flour and yeast. Mix together, cover and let stand in a warm place for 30 minutes.

2. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat eggs with sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Change attachment to a hook (for kneading), add remaining flour, milk/yeast mixture, vodka and cooled butter. Knead until the dough is smooth and not sticking to a bowl (10 minutes). Add a little bit of flour if needed.

4. Transfer the dough into a greased bowl, cover with a cloth and let stand in a warm place (like a turned off oven) for 1 - 1.5 hour.

5. Transfer the dough onto floured counter, make a long roll and divide equally into 12 pieces.

6. Flatten each piece in your hand, add a little bit of jam, pinch the dough around the jam, sealing any cracks and put onto a floured surface seam side down.

7. Cover them with a cloth and let stand in a warm place for 30 minutes.

8. In the Dutch oven heat the oil (around 3 inch deep) until it reaches around 350-375 F and fry doughnuts few at a time (so they don't touch each other), for about 1-2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

9. Transfer onto a paper towel to drain the remaining oil and sprinkle with powdered sugar (or with a glaze).

   So, they were supposed to be for Fat Tuesday celebration... the problem is, I made them on Saturday... needless to say, there are none left for today! Really, there were none left for Monday either! We shared some with our friends, we "sampled" some, we ate some and ... somehow they were all gone! Well anyways, Happy Fat Tuesday!


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Guess what... a soup again!

   Need something simple, but delicious? My usual go-to is a soup, I can eat it any time, all year long, but you all already know that... I've been saying it for years! Soup really is a great thing -  you can make it in no time, you can make it with a very few ingredients, it's a lighter dish and you can pair it with a lot of different things (if you are not a fan of light dishes). It makes me very, very happy that my 3 year old son is also a soup fan, there is not many soups I made he didn't like... and if he is not too sure about some, I just add a spoonful of pasta to it and he loves it (unfortunately this little trick does not work on my hubby!).
   The leek soup I made recently needed no enhancers and it was a hit with both of my boys, even though daddy needed some grilled cheese sandwich with his, but that turned out to be a good idea after all!


* 3 large leeks
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 3 tbsp butter
* 3-4 cup chicken broth (or vegetable for vegetarian option)
* salt

* croutons, optional


1. Halve the leeks (the white and light green parts), wash them under cold running water and thinly slice.

2. In a pan, melt butter, add onions and leeks, season with a little bit of salt and saute on medium heat until soft and translucent (about 10-15 minutes).

3. Transfer into a blender with 1-2 cups of chicken (or vegetable) broth and blend until smooth.

4. Transfer into a pot, add remaining broth (to the density you like) and cook for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt to your liking.

5. Serve with croutons on the top.

   Smooth, silky, creamy and decadent - I bet butter had something to do with that! Croutons are optional, but I really recommend some crunchy element, since the soup itself is very creamy. Oh, and remember the pasta trick? I had some leftovers, so I mixed them with elbow pasta the next day and it created a nice and thick pasta sauce... perfect for Christopher!