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:

 
Ingredients:

*  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

Glaze:

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


Directions:

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!

Enjoy,
Magda

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.


Ingredients:

*  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


Directions:

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!

Enjoy,
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).

Ingredients:

*  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

Directions:

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.

Enjoy,
Magda.

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):

Ingredients:

*  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

Directions:

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!

Enjoy,
Magda


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!

Ingredients:

*  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

Directions:

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!

Enjoy,
Magda.


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!

Ingredients:

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

* croutons, optional

Directions:

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!

Enjoy,
Magda

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

   So the girl from Poland gets to host the most American holiday ever - Thanksgiving! This day used to "belong" to my Mother-in-law, but since she passed away couple years ago, my husband and I decided to pick up the baton and continue the tradition. And let me tell you, it is not an easy task, because my Mother-in-law was an amazing cook and Thanksgiving dinner was her masterpiece. No pressure!!!
   Last year was the first time we hosted and it turned out pretty good, family was happy, food was eaten and everybody decided to come back this year (so I must have done something right!). One of my favorite dishes (well, who are we kidding, I love all of them equally) is stuffing! It's really easy and I make it the day before to save time on Thanksgiving day.

Ingredients:

* 12 oz unseasoned cubed stuffing (I used Pepperidge Farm)
* 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 8 oz of mushrooms, chopped
* 4 celery stalks, chopped
* 1/2 cup water chestnuts, chopped
* 1 apple, chopped
* 1 cup dried cranberries
* 10-15 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
* 3 cups of chicken broth
* 2 eggs
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* salt and pepper

Directions:

1. In a skillet, heat olive oil and saute chopped onions with a little bit of salt until translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add Italian sausage and cook until no longer pink.

2. Add chopped celery and mushroom and cook everything for 5-6 minutes, stirring. Set aside and let it cool a little.

3. In a large bowl, combine water chestnuts, apples, cranberries and fresh sage. Add chicken broth and beaten egg, mix everything together.

4. Transfer cooled sausage mixture into the bowl with the rest of ingredients, add cubed stuffing, season with salt and pepper and mix everything until combined.

5. Transfer into greased baking dish, cover with foil and bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for additional 15 minutes.





   Delicious! It comes out not too mushy, but not too dry. Sage makes it taste like holidays, cranberries and apples give it the right amount of sweetness and water chestnuts provide the crunch and texture! I always make a big batch to make sure that we have plenty of leftovers!

Happy Thanksgiving everybody,
Magda

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!

Ingredients:

* 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

Directions:

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!

Enjoy,
Magda

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!

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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:

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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!

Enjoy,
Magda

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 bad...it 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!

Ingredients:

* 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

Directions:

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.

Enjoy,
Magda

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.

Ingredients:

*  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

Directions:

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.

Enjoy,
Magda.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy Easter!

   Happy Easter Everybody!

   Today will be a short post and a short recipe. Short post - because I want to go back to enjoying the Easter with my family as soon as possible and short recipe - because I already cooked bunch of delicious, traditional Polish Easter dishes, so I decided to use a shortcut for the dessert and made some carrot cupcakes using a store-bought cake mix! Yes that's right, you don't always have to harvest your own grain to make your own flour to make a cake from scratch... these cupcakes are still home made and delicious, just a little "easier" and quicker to make!

Ingredients:

* Decadent Carrot Cake Mix, Duncan Hines
* 3 eggs
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil

* 2 boxes (8oz each) cream cheese, room temp.
* 3/4 cup powder sugar
* 2 tbsp lime juice
* food coloring
* egg-shaped M&M's 

Directions:

1. Prepare cake mix and bake cupcakes according to the instructions on the box . Let them cool completely.

2. In a mixer, combine cream cheese and sugar and beat for 4-5 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Add lime juice and beat for 1 extra minute.

3. Separate into two bowls and few drops of different food coloring to each bowl and mix until combined.

4. Frost the cupcakes and decorate with egg-shaped candy.




   Christopher had so much fun making and decorating the cupcakes... or I should say he had fun eating the candy and going crazy on the sugar rush 15 minutes later!!! Justin and I decided to join him, so we ate a couple and then we all ran around the house singing "Let it go... let it go...".

Happy Easter,
Magda

Monday, March 21, 2016

Soup again!

   I almost started the post with saying that it's been a while since I posted soup recipe... and then I scrolled down and saw the pozole! Then I thought that at least it's been a while when I used mushrooms as my main ingredient.... and then I scrolled down and saw bunch of recipes with mushrooms! So guess what's on the menu today? Yes, you are right, mushroom soup! It's kind of "springy" soup with mushrooms, veggies and chicken, so it's perfect timing since we just welcomed the Spring. I wish somebody told the weather that Spring came, but than again, it's even better timing since the temperatures outside are very "soupy"! Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

* 16 oz mushrooms, chopped
* 4 celery, chopped
* 3 carrots, chopped
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 3 tbsp butter
* 4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable stock)
* 1 cup sour cream
* salt and pepper

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, melt butter and add onions, celery, mushrooms and carrots. Add a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add chicken broth, season with salt and pepper (if needed) and cook for additional 15 minutes.

3. Combine sour cream with half a cup of boiling soup and mix to combine. Add the mixture to the soup, bring to boil and remove from the heat.




   Very light and very delicious (to be honest, most soups are delicious to me). You can use any kind of vegetables you like, it just happened that I had those in the fridge and it turned out they really pair well with mushrooms.

Enjoy,
Magda

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Ingredient No. 3!

   What, it's already March?! How did that happen? I understand that February is a little bit shorter than other months, but come on.... we just celebrated Valentine's Day not so long ago! Anyways, I'm a little behind with my "new ingredient a month" project (since I still live in February!), but I'm gonna make it up now. This month's ingredient might not be "exotic", it's something that many of you use every single day, but for some reason I've never cooked with it. Tomatillos - green vegetables that resemble unripe tomato in a husk. I think they are actually called "Mexican husk tomatoes".


 

   When I was searching for some interesting recipes, I saw a lot of tomatillo salsas and sauces, but I wanted something more than that, something different (not that there is anything wrong with salsa!). And then I found it: Green Pozole, made with chicken, tomatillos (duh!), hominy and herbs - it sounded delicious, it looked delicious... and it turned out delicious! 

Ingredients:

* 1 lb tomatillos
* 2 lbs chicken thighs
* 2 (15 oz) can hominy
* 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
* 4 garlic cloves, sliced
* 4 oz sunflower seeds
* 2 bay leaves
* 1 cup fresh cilantro
* 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
* 1 tbsp vegetable oil
* lime
* salt

Garnish (optional)

* red onion, sliced
* radishes, sliced
* cilantro

Directions:

1. Bring about 8 cups of water to a boil.  Add 1/2 chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves, bay leaves, and some salt. Cover the pot, and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

2. Add the whole chicken thighs and cook gently (uncovered) for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool a little. Strain the broth and set it aside for later.

3. In a food processor or grinder, grind sunflower seeds until they form fine powder. Set aside.

4. In a pot, heat 3 cups water with remaining 1/2 onion, tomatillos, cilantro and oregano. Cook covered for 10 minutes, until veggies are tender. Discard the cooking liquid and place the cooked veggies into a standing blender, add remaining garlic and blend everything until smooth.

5. In a Dutch oven, heat vegetable oil, add the pureed veggies (be careful as it will splatter) and cook the sauce uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the ground sunflower seeds and 1 cup of the broth reserved from cooking the chicken, stir and cook another 5 minutes.

6. Shred the chicken and add it to the sauce together with the hominy and the remaining broth (add as much as you like - depending on the thickness you want to achieve). Season with salt to taste and simmer everything for additional 5-10 minutes.

7. Serve in a bowl with sliced radishes, red onions and lime juice (you can also add avocado).




   What a cool dish! I am definitely going to make it more often (especially that my boys loved it too). It's super filling and hardy, but light and fresh at the same time. The bright and crunchy garnishes make it even "fresher". You can garnish it with all the things I mention or you can just mix and match, but if my two year old loved all of them (even the red onion!!!) you should definitely give it a try!

Enjoy,
Magda.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

For the Love of Grain!

   I love all sorts of grains! There was a very short period of my life, few years ago, when I was being tested for potential gluten allergy (long story!) and all I could think of is that I won't be able to eat my beloved grains! Wheat, barley, rye... I just can't live without them and the thought that I might not be able to eat them was pretty scary. Thankfully gluten allergy was eliminated and I could go back to enjoying my bowl of buckwheat! Since Justin and Christopher also like different grains (which makes me super happy) I cook them very often, either as a side dish or casseroles or in the soups. This time I made a farro side dish for some chicken and just to make sure that nobody will skip their veggies (I'm looking at Justin here), I added some here - it made the dish much more delicious and it made the veggies harder to avoid!

Ingredients:

* 1 cup quick cook farro
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 2 large carrots, shredded
* 16oz mushrooms, chopped
* fresh parsley
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Cook farro in salted water for 10-15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute onions with a pinch of salt for 4-5 minutes. Add mushrooms and carrots and cook for 10 minutes until softened.

3. Add farro, mix until combined and garnish with fresh parsley before serving.




   Grains and mushrooms - some of my favorite ingredients! I could probably just eat this dish on its own, nothing else needed, it's so good. The crunch from farro, the earthiness from mushrooms, the sweetness from carrots and the freshness from parsley - that's all you need in a perfect dish!

Enjoy,
Magda

Friday, February 12, 2016

Magic of social media!

   Have you seen those short cooking videos on Facebook or Instagram? I am absolutely addicted to them, to the point that I am obsessively checking my phone every five minutes to see if there is a new video! Some dishes look more interesting than others, but I really love the ones that are very simple and use only few ingredients. This recipe (below) of what I call "Savory Mini Monkey Breads" is one of my favorite dishes I've seen on social media. It's quick, semi home made (store-bought dough), it has only few ingredients, you only need one bowl to prep it (and a muffin pan)... and it's so easy, the monkey could do it (I think that's where the name came from)! Oh, and each time you make it, you can use different "flavorings" to change it up!

Ingredients:

* 2 boxes of Pillsbury Grands!® Flaky Layers Original Biscuits
* 1/2 stick of butter, melted
* 1 tbsp garlic powder
* 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
* 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
* 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Cut all the biscuits into 4 pieces. Put in the bowl.

2. Add  melted butter, garlic powder, parsley and cheeses. Toss everything gently with your hands and transfer into the muffin pan (5-7 pieces into each muffin).

3. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes.





   One bad side of the dish is... that my boys refused to eat anything else for dinner and just stuffed there monkey faces with the monkey breads! I guess it's a compliment to the chef, so I shouldn't complain! 

Enjoy,
Magda

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Game On!

   Looking for a last minute idea for a snack to enjoy during the Big Game? We all know everybody (us included) is going to have wings, guacamole and deli platters, but how about something to substitute potato chips with? It's only February, so I bet most people are still sticking to their New Year's resolutions and are looking for "healthier" snacks that are not necessarily carrots or celery sticks.  Roasted garbanzo beans - they are full of protein, they are super crunchy and you can create any flavor profile you like - sweet, salty, mild or spicy! My spice mix turned out to be awesome and I highly recommend it!

Ingredients:

* 2 (15 oz) cans of garbanzo beans
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp garlic powder
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 1 tsp five spice 

Directions:

1. Wash and drain garbanzo beans. Put them on the paper towel and pat them dry.

2. Put dry beans in the bowl, add olive oil and spices and mix together until everything is evenly coated.

3. Spread them into a single layer on the baking sheet and bake at 400F for 45 minutes, shaking the pan every 15 minutes.




    Roasting time depends on what you are looking for - if you would like them to be hard and crunchy, add  extra 5 minutes; if you like them softer, 40 minutes is probably all you need. They turned out really good and every time I look at my boys their jaws are moving... I'm not sure if we will have any left for the actual game if they keep "sampling" them like that!

Enjoy,
Magda.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

New ingredient, part 2!

   I am a huge fan of mushrooms... any kind, any preparation, any amount!!! In Poland we pick our own mushrooms straight from the woods (yes, that's right!) and we cook them as fresh as can be! And yes, we know exactly which one to pick and which one to stay away from... it's just one of our "Polish skills" that we are born with! I triad hundreds of different kinds of mushrooms (probably exaggerating here a little bit), but somehow I never tried Enoki mushroom... so thanks to my new year's resolution I have a perfect opportunity to do so.




   I was looking for some interesting recipes featuring Enoki, but since I didn't find anything that was "satisfying" enough, I decided to create my own.  I took the inspiration from Japanese cuisine and created a miso-ginger soup with Enoki and tofu.

Ingredients:

* 4 cups ginger miso broth (Trader Joe's)
* 15 oz fresh Enoki mushrooms
* 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
* 4 oz extra firm tofu
* 4 green onions, chopped
* 2 tbsp butter

Directions:

1. Cut roots of the Enoki mushrooms, at least 2-3 inches from the end. In the small pen, melt butter and fry half of the mushroom for 6-7 minutes until golden brown, set aside.

2. Wrap tofu into 2-3 paper towels and squeeze excess water. Cut into small cubes.

3. Boil miso-ginger broth, add remaining mushrooms, spinach and chopped onions (leave some for garnish) and cook everything for 5 minutes.

4. Add tofu and cook for 4-5 minutes.

5. Pour into bowls, garnish with fried mushrooms and green onions.




   The broth is delicious - super flavorful and comforting, while fresh and light. The Enoki mushrooms are a great substitute for noodles, they are a little bit chewy and have a "bite" to them - just like noodles but without all the extra carbs and calories.

Enjoy,
Magda.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Our Baby is two!

   I can't believe it, but it's true, Christopher just turned two (I swear, this rhyme was not intentional)! He is super funny, has strong opinions and lots to say, he loves to sing ("Let it go, let it go...") and loves to dance. He is really into cooking and baking, he always wants to help in the kitchen, he knows how to grate veggies, he can operate the KitchenAid mixer (supervised!) and he can "measure" dry ingredients (that does NOT mean that all the ingredients are getting into the bowl!)... basically what I am trying to say is that he is one awesome kid! So for his birthday we both made a hazelnut birthday cake with a Nutella frosting and chocolate glaze! He might only be two years old, but he already made his own birthday cake... and then ate a huge piece of it, but it's a different story.
Here is the recipe:

Cake Ingredients:

* 7 oz hazelnuts, grated
* 1/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
* 2 sticks of butter, room temp.
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
* 5 eggs
* 5 tbsp milk
* 2 tsp baking powder
* 1 tbsp vanilla extract
* pinch of salt
* 1 tbsp cocoa powder
* 1 tsp cinnamon

Frosting:

* 2 sticks of butter, room temp.
* 7 oz mascarpone cheese, room temp. 
* 1/3 cup powdered sugar
* 1 cup Nutella

Chocolate glaze:

* 10 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
* 1/3 cup butter
* 1 tbsp light corn syrup

Directions:

1. Using a mixer beat together butter and sugar until smooth, about 5 minutes.

2. Slowly add eggs, vanilla extract and milk and mix for additional 2-3 minutes.

3. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients (including nuts) and slowly add to the batter. Beat together for 2-3 minutes until combined.

4. Pour batter into two 9-inch, round, greased pans and bake at 350F for 30-35 min, until toothpick comes out dry. Transfer onto drying rack and let them cool completely (preferably overnight).

5. To make the frosting, combine butter, mascarpone and sugar and beat in the mixer for 5 minutes. Add Nutella and mix for additional 1 or 2 minutes until smooth.

6. Spread frosting between the cake layers, on the top and on the edges.

7. To make the glaze, combine chocolate chips and butter in glass bowl and microwave in 30 seconds intervals stirring after each time until melted completely, smooth and runny. Add corn syrup and pour over the cake immediately allowing the glaze to run down the sides to completely cover the cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the glaze to set.




The cake was a hit! The birthday boy enjoyed a huge piece (so as his shirt and table and floor) and demanded another piece the second he woke up the next day (luckily we have enough to last us for ever).




   One very important piece of advice: do not forget about the cake while it's in the oven! Yes, that happened! We were playing with Christopher's train and the cake might have baked for few minutes more that it should... but it all turned out awesome and moist and delicious!

Happy Birthday My Little Man!
Magda

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Power plant!

   No, not the power plant you are thinking about... I'm thinking about the plant that everybody is talking about recently and is considered a super food, apparently with some super powers! Normally, kale would not be my first choice as a green component of a salad, but I started using it more and more for two reasons: 1) it's one of the most nutritious leafy vegetables and 2) it is getting a little bit boring to always use lettuce or spinach. Everywhere I look, I see those extravagant, colorful and innovative ways to plate your salad, so I wanted to have a fancy lunch myself and I created my own kale salad extravaganza! Recipe below makes salad for one person:

Ingredients:

* 1.5 cups baby kale
* 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash (recipe below)
* 1/2 cup shelled edamame
* 1/2 apple, chopped
* 4 grape tomatoes, halved
* 1 cooked egg
* 2 tbsp chopped red onions
* 1oz goat cheese, crumbled
* 2 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

Directions:

1. Roasted butternut squash: peel and dice one small butternut squash, coat with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a baking sheet at 400F for 20-25 minutes until tender.

2. To assemble the salad, combine all ingredients, toss together with the dressing and enjoy!




   I would add some baked chicken or turkey breast, to be honest. I didn't have any in the fridge and I was to hungry to cook/buy one (well, actually I had some until Justin ate it before I got to it!!!), but I think it would be a good addition, especially that it was my entire lunch.

Enjoy,
Magda

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pantry cleaning

   I'm sure we've all done it... looked into the pantry to see if we can create a dish out of things that are in there. I, personally, do it very often - it's cheap, it's convenient, and it's exciting - it allows me to "express" my creativity in the kitchen (and clean the pantry a little). Some times I look at the result of this "pantry creation" and I think to myself: what the heck was I thinking with this combination, but most of the time I am pretty pleased with the dish. Usually I am able to create something with only ingredients I find in my fridge and pantry (makes me so proud of myself), but sometimes I need an extra thing or two. This time I had to buy some peppers, but I was able to stuff them with things I already had on hand. They turned out great and extra bonus - they are diet and healthy eating friendly. The recipe serves 6 dieters following the New Year's resolution or 3 people who just want to enjoy their dinner without starving!

Ingredients:

* 3 large red peppers
* 1 lb lean ground turkey
* 3/4 cup quick pearl barley
* 1 15oz can of petite diced tomatoes, drained
* 1 15 oz can green pigeon peas, rinsed and drained
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 3 tbsp shredded sharp cheddar
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* salt and pepper

 Directions:

1. Cook barley in excess salted water for 15-20 minutes until soft. Drain.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute onions with a pinch of salt until translucent (5 minutes). Add garlic and cook for one more minute.

3. Add ground turkey and cook for 10 minutes.

4. Add drained diced tomatoes and pigeon peas, season with salt, pepper and cumin. Cook everything for additional 5 minutes.

5. Add drained barley and mix until everything is combined.

6. Cut peppers in half, clean the seeds and fill with the barley mixture. Arrange on the baking sheet, sprinkle with cheese and bake at 375F for 20 minutes.




   If you don't have pigeon peas, you can use black beans (or any other beans for that matter), I just happened to have few cans of those (they are Christopher's favorite), so I used them. Another tip for this recipe is that you can use more cumin powder for bolder flavor, but I wasn't sure what my two-year old thinks about cumin yet, so I went lighter on it - he loved it!

Enjoy,
Magda

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Year's Resolution!

   It's that time of the year again - time for the New Year's Resolutions! This year I decided to ditch the usual "losing weight" crap, I never follow through with it anyways, and I decided to be adventurous and think outside the box. My 2016 resolution is... drum roll please.... once a month I will cook with the ingredient I've never cooked before!!! How about that? It doesn't necessarily have to be something I've never ate before, given my love of food and willingness to try anything, this might be difficult. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of exotic ingredients I haven't tried yet, but they might be difficult to get and I refuse to drive 2 hours to the specialty store to get some live cobra hearts (yes, that's right, I would totally try it)!!! So I decided to go with things I never personally cooked with in my kitchen!
To kickstart the new trend, I bought some... persimmons.




   I don't know how that happened that I've never tried them before, but somehow I always thought they would be mushy and melon-like (I do not like melons)! Well, I was wrong,  they are firm, sweet and delicious... and we are slowly getting addicted to them. I found some interesting recipes for cakes and desserts, but I figured persimmon salad might be the good way to start the new year!

Ingredients:

* 1 lb Brussels sprouts
* 1 large persimmon, sliced and cut into pieces
* 1 pomegranate
* 1/2 cup dried blueberries
* 1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Dressing:

* lemon juice, from 1 lemon
* 2 tbsp honey
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
* pinch of salt

Directions:

1. Using a mandolin, thinly slice Brussels sprouts and transfer into the bowl.

2. Add pomegranate seeds, persimmon, blueberries and pecans.

3. Combine all ingredients of the dressing and mix well until smooth. Add to the salad, combine and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving.




   Delicious! Sweet, sour, savory, crunchy and a little bit chewy (blueberries) - all flavors and textures on one plate. We paired it with some citrus baked salmon and it was a hit! So it's official now, my first experiment with new ingredients was a success!

Happy New Year,
Magda

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holiday food detox.

   Are you as full of holiday food as me? I never thought I will say it, but I don't think I can eat one more piece of pierogi... at least not in the next few hours! After all this indulgent and festive food, we were craving something "easy" and on the lighter side. You don't necessarily have to eat only lettuce or sacrifice flavor and comfort for the next few days, but lighter food and smart choices might be a good idea. How about light, low carb tacos? Not only are they light and delicious, but also they are super quick... who would want to slave in the kitchen after all this cooking for the past few days?

Ingredients:

* Romain lettuce
* 2 lbs ground turkey
* salsa
* 1 tomato, chopped
* shredded cheese
* plain Greek yogurt
* 2 packets McCormick taco seasoning
* tortilla strips 
* 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

1. In a skillet heat the olive oil and saute ground turkey for 5 minutes. Add McCormick seasoning, 1 cup of water and cook everything until meat is fully cooked and most of the liquid evaporates.

2. Separate leaves from the lettuce, and fill them in with meat, salsa, tomatoes, cheese and yogurt. Garnish with tortilla strips if you like.




   You probably know what I'm going to say now. Yes, you are right, those are quick, easy and delicious! And it really is a good option after all the crazy holiday foods.

Enjoy,
Magda

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Simple yet innovative!

   My husband asked me to make some kind of pasta salad for quick and easy lunches, but I didn't want to just make something I always make, I wanted to "doctor it up" a little, so I used basil pesto and mixed it up with the mayo. One simple change, one simple ingredient and it transformed the ordinary macaroni salad into something new and exciting. Highly recommended!

   Oh, and the funny story behind the salad too: ... so Christopher was watching me make the salad and keep "stealing" the bites here and there. Then when I was taking pictures for this post, he kept walking around the table, eyeballing the glass with the salad in it and finally the hunger took over and he just grabbed it and started eating. I was so proud of the dish... until the lunch time when I tried to feed it to him, he would spit every single bite and didn't have any of it. So I gave up, fed him something else and Justin and I enjoyed the salad for the next couple of days (Christopher refused to eat it ever again, eww). And then one day when I was finishing the very last bite of the salad, Christopher walks by, looks at me and says: I wanna! ... uhmmm good! More pasta, mama! Needless to say, there was no more pasta, because mama ate it all... and he kept saying: more pasta, mama! I want more pasta!!! I still keep hearing his voice in my head, the sad voice of a child that was denied his favorite pasta! I want more pasta, mama!
Clearly, the pasta salad wasn't so "eww" after all, so just try it!

Ingredients:

* 0.5lb small pasta, cooked
* 1 cup diced ham
* 1 red bell pepper, diced
* 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
* 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
* 1 cup diced pickles
* 1 cup mayo
* 4 tbsp basil pesto

Directions:

1. In a large bowl combine all the veggies together.

2. Combine mayo with pesto, mix until well blended together.

3. Add mayo to the veggies, mix well to combine, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.




   As the title says, it's pretty simple, yet different and exciting. I always liked pesto, so I knew I will like this "twist", but if you are on the fence, this might be a good way to give pesto another chance!

Enjoy,
Magda.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

The prelude!

   I am back in business - kitchen is finished, cleaned and organized (actually it was done few weeks ago, but I was being lazy with posting). Not that I needed any encouragement to cook before, but now I love it even more! And what better way to break in the new kitchen than to host family Thanksgiving dinner (for the first time, may I add!)? It turned out great - we had family, we had some great friends and we had lots of fun (and food). But that was long time ago and now we are ready for Christmas. With that in mind today's post will be about "pre-feast" dish - an appetizer! Everybody always focuses on main dishes, but to me, appetizers are equally important and I always struggle to find the right one. It has to be something that will be satisfying, but not too filling, so you still have room to enjoy the dinner. So here is one that was a hit recently - a veggie pizza, but not the one you would buy in the pizza joint, very different and very delicious! Check it out.
 
Ingredients:

* 2 ready (pre-cooked) pizza crusts
* 16oz cream cheese, room temp.
* 0.5 cup ranch dressing
* 1 tsp garlic powder
* 1 bell pepper (any color), chopped
* 8 radishes, sliced
* 1.5 cups broccoli cut into small pieces


Directions:

1. In a bowl, combine softened cream cheese, ranch dressing and garlic. Mix until combined and smooth.

2. Spread half of the mixture on each pizza crust, sprinkle with vegetables and cut into small (about 2-bites) pieces.




   Fresh, light, crunchy and delicious - the perfect appetizer! You can get creative with toppings and you can use any veggies you like: carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, cauliflower... endless possibilities. I cut it into small squares that were easy to manage and didn't require plates or utensils, finger food is always fun!

Enjoy,
Magda