When we moved into our house 2.5 years ago we decided to pretty much gut it and start from scratch. One of the most important things for us was hardwood floors. I cannot stand carpet or cleaning the carpet. Once we saw our beautiful brand new oak floors, we knew that it was worth every penny. They were perfectly shiny and beautiful! I was thrilled that I would never have to carry a vacuum cleaner around the house!
Never having had hard wood floors, I was not quite sure how to best clean them. So I researched several products and found that many people swore by Murphey's Oil. I decided to try it out. Immediately I loved the smell...my floors sure smelled clean...but after drying they were streaked. "Maybe I am not cleaning them right," I thought. So I went to my usual Internet resource and looked at what other people were doing. Apparently, hard wood hates water, so it is best to use a spray and a micro fibre cloth on a mop. And so I did...I mixed the Murpheys Oil with the appropriate amount of water and poured it into a spray bottle. It sure took longer but at least I knew my floors were not going to warp from the excess water and I certainly liked not dragging a bucket around with me. However, even this did not give me the result I wanted...as soon as the sun set on the floors there were those darn streaks again! About a year in a half into using the Murphey's Oil I noticed my floors looking extremely dull. I ran across an article that said any cleaner that had a detergent as the active ingredient was the WORST thing for your floors! Essentially, once the water evaporates all that is left is the detergent and that is what makes the streaks. It was not until I read into this a little bit further that I got really upset...Murphey's Oil makes floors look dull! I freaked out and threw every bottle into the garbage immediately!
Angry and hopeless, I began yet another search for a good floor cleaner. A friend of mine said that his cleaning lady used the Swiffer Wet Jet and loved it for his floors. So I ran to my nearest target and bought the Swiffer for $29.95. I liked not having to carry a bucket or a spray bottle around with me and it was great to be able to pull it out for quick clean-ups like shoe marks and spills. It worked great on my tile in the laundry room, but that's where the good news ended. Those streaks were back! It honestly seemed that I was losing the battle.
I spoke to a number of cleaning ladies and they all recommended good ole' Windex and a terry cloth. "Just get down on your knees and wipe down after each spray, making sure to clean in the direction the wood planks are laid." Well I followed their advice...and my floors were looking better. I had given up hope of them ever looking like they used to because I knew that Murphey's Oil had ruined them for good! However, they were looking better, at least those darn streaks were gone. Nonetheless, this was exhausting...working a 60-80 hour week and still having to take care of cooking and up keeping the rest of the house, this method was just way too time consuming.
On a recent trip to my favorite store, Bed Bath and Beyond, I went into the mop aisle to try and see if I can find a better micro fibre mop. Then I noticed a line of products that I really never paid much attention to : The Bona Products. I went home to read up on them and they came very highly recommended by consumers and professionals alike! They just came out with a brand new mop that had the spray bottle already attached to it! The best part was there was no need for batteries because it has a special ergonomic design!
I went and bought the mop immediately. I knew that Bed Bath and Beyond had a great return policy and if this product was not all it was cracked out to be, I could return it. Fortunately, I will not need to to return this :) It is amazing! The pad is removable and can be washed in your regular laundry machine. The spray is more of a fine mist that covers an area evenly. It is also completely safe for pets and children. But most of all...my floors are looking clean and rejuvenated! No more streaks or back pain from the cleaning on my hands and knees! I clean my kitchen floors every night now and my living room every other day. It is so easy and rewarding to see my floors coming back to life!
Here is the link for The Bona Mop...I would recommend this product to anyone who is just plain sick and tired of the old methods. This product also comes in a special formula for tile and stone floors so almost anyone will be able to use it!
Hello Everyone! Yes I am actually back and this time I hope to stay for awhile :) I decided to add a new portion to my blog discussing some of my favorite products. Personally, before I buy any product I research it for days, sometimes weeks. Nowadays it is so hard to find a really informative and honest review. I used to depend on Consumer Reports with just about everything, but sometimes they do not have specific products that I am looking for. So I will spend a lot of time on the internet looking at multiple websites trying to come up with an educated decision based on facts and other people's experiences with them. If I find that the product is not all I thought it would be, I will definitley update the review!
I can honestly say that any review that I give is based on my own personal experience with the products and I am not in any way paid to endorse these products. Hopefully, I can help someone find the review they were looking for :)
Generally speaking, soups are a major staple in the Russian diet. They were inexpensive to make, full of nutrients and kept the people warm through the long, cold winters. Borscht...is to Russian culture as hamburgers and fries are to American culture. It's a dish that is so quintessential Russian that when I tell people I'm Russian, they say, "So did you eat a lot of Borscht when you were growing up?" and unfortunately my answer is, "No." *Now technically I am not from Russia, I am from the republic of Moldova, a country next to Romania. And even more technically, my maternal grandparents were both born in Romania, so I guess that makes me half Romanian. But no one really has heard of Moldova and since they were once all part of the USSR, I just keep it simple and tell them that I am Russian.* In fact, growing up I hated the stuff! Its bright purple color scared me and its ingredients were never my cup of tea. I hated beets and cabbage as a child and considering those are the 2 main ingredients, I was not going near it! My fiance is Ukrainian. Now if there is one part of the former USSR that can make borscht it's the Ukrainians. My fiance's father makes the BEST borscht. When we first started dating,his parents were shocked that I never ate at their house. I was not a fan of anyone else's Russian cooking other than my mother's, so I did not eat anyone else's Russian cooking. Now please do not judge me, that is the one issue I struggled with my whole life! Sue me! Everyone has them! One day his father made borscht and as usual, offered it to me. I scrunched up my nose and politely declined. My fiance looked at me and quietly said, "It's rude to never eat at my house! You are insulting my family!" After this guilt trip, how could I not try it, after all I was planning on becoming the perfect daughter in law; and perfect daughter in laws do not scrunch up their noses at perfectly good food. So I asked for a small, teeny portion of borscht. In my fiance's family, that means enough to feed me for a week! I sat there, traumatized, looking at this steaming bowl of purple liquid. I started my usual ritual: I peered over it and smelled it, then I stared at it a bit more, envisioning how it would feel and taste in my mouth; until my fiance finally broke down and said, "Just eat it! Here put some sour cream in it and EAT IT! It's just borscht!" "Ohhh" I thought, "Sour cream sounds like a good idea, it will dilute the flavor I'm sure!" I took a nice big spoonful and placed it in my mouth. I did not want to taste it, I just wanted to chew, swallow, breathe and repeat until the entire bowl was clean. But then...an amazing thing happened...something I never thought could have happened...I accidentally forgot to hold my breath while chewing and I tasted it! And OH MY GOSH...it was AMAZING! I started eating it so fast that both my fiance and his dad looked at me with wide open eyes. His dad turned to me and said, "Well, how did you like that?" To that my only response was, "Can I have some more?!?" Lesson learned: Do not be afraid to try things that you are unfamiliar with. Now I can promise you that if you like beets you will LOVE this soup. It is very filling and satisfying. I luckily made this the week that I got sick with bronchitis and it truly was the one thing that I could keep down. It's very nutritious and with this recipe, very low fat. Please do not be like me and have a closed mind about this dish. Most Americans who try a good homemade borscht beg for the recipe. So here it is ladies and gentleman, my fiance's father's borscht!
Real Ukrainian Borscht
3 Beef Shanks 1 Small Head of Cabbage, Shredded 2 Large Beets, Shredded 5 Carrots, Shredded 1 Large Onion, Shredded 3/4 Cup Tomato Puree 1 Lemon, Juiced 2 Tablespoons of Sugar 6 Cloves of Garlic, Minced 3 Large Potatoes, Peeled and Cut into Chunks *I place the cabbage, beets, carrots and onions through my food processor with the shredder attachment. It makes this dish a LOT easier.*
1. Remove all the meet from the shanks and cut into large pieces. 2. Place meat into a large pot and cover with cold water 3/4 of the way up. 3. Bring the liquid to a simmer and skim the top to remove all the scum. *Do not let this liquid boil. If it boils then the scum will break up and it will be very difficult to clean the soup.* 4. Once no more scum is coming out of the meat, add in the cabbage and potatoes. Let this cook over med-low heat for about 15 minutes, just giving it time to soften. 5. Add in all the other ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer on low for about 30-35 minutes or until proper flavor develops. The soup should be just a bit tart and a bit sweet. 6. Let the soup rest before serving with a nice dollop of sour cream. Typically, the soup tastes even better the next day!
In the midst of all my healthy cooking, I started to crave one of my favorite comfort foods, Spaghetti and Meatballs. However, since I am trying to eat lighter and spend less time in the kitchen, I wanted to see how I can make this recipe healthier and quick. The answer: Turkey Sausage! In any market today there are a variety of gourmet chicken and turkey sausages. Cosco has an assortment of chicken sausages including feta and spinach, sun-dried tomato and artichoke and garlic pesto. With all the different types of sausages available the recipe creations are infinite!
I noticed that my grocery store had Italian turkey sausage on sale. So I thought to myself, "hmmmm why not make meatballs out of sausage???" It makes perfect sense! All the flavors are already in there, all I have to do is remove the casing and roll out little meatballs. With a few additions to the sausage I created an extremely quick and lip smacking good meal!
Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Turkey Sausageballs
1 Package Hot Italian Turkey Sausage (about 6 links) 1 Jar of Trader Joes Organic Marinara 1 Package Whole Wheat Pasta 1/4 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese 1/2 Onion Finely Diced 2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley, Finely Chopped 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced 5 Basil Leaves, Chiffonade
1. Take the sausages out of their casings by making a slit down the middle of them, lengthwise. Place a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. 2. Add Parmesan, onion, parsley and mix well with hands to combine. 3. Create little meatballs and place on an oiled baking sheet.
4. Bake at 450-degrees in a convection oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown on the outside. 5. While the meatballs bake, cook the pasta and warm up the sauce with the garlic and basil in a saucepan. 6. Once the meatballs are a beautiful golden brown, add them to the sauce to finish cooking. 7. When the pasta is al dente, drain, toss with the sauce and add meatballs. Garnish with more Parmesan cheese and enjoy... Bellisimo!
I've been on a hiatis...first I got busy with work...then I had some fun weekends with friends and family and the best one...I had bronchitis! Through it all I failed to post even one teeny little post...Bad blogger...BAD! So I am finally trying to catch up with all the cooking I've been doing! Please bare with me as I will have a LOT of posts in a very short period of time! Here is a preview of what I have missed to post:
So my fridge is STOCKED with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, there was a sale that I could not resist and I intend to use everything in my freezer before I go out and buy any more meat. I love using these chicken thighs because they are so tender and moist, plus they are extremely versatile. Not to mention, if you trim up all the fat, they are very healthy and nutritious.
Last night I decided to experiment with a few ideas. I love veggies but wanted to make everything on the grill. I had a few portobellos, perfect for grilling and some fresh broccoli. Now I have never grilled broccoli, but something told me it would be delicious. And sure enough the broccoli was incredible! I could have probably eaten a pound all on my own! I cut the broccoli into huge florets and seasoned them and the Portobellos with just salt and olive oil. There was no fuss and extremely easy clean-up! The broccoli retained its gorgeous green color and had this incredible smokey flavor.
As for the chi ken...it was tender...sweet...tangy...woodsy and delicious! Please enjoy! (Sorry about this....but for some reason the pictures did not come out very clear :( )
6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs 1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar 1 Tsp Brown Sugar 1/2 a Lemon, juiced 3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce 3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced 2 Shallots, Minced (I used my microplaner for mincing the shallots as well) 2 Sticks Rosemary, Chopped
1. Combine all the ingredients except the chicken into a microwave safe container. Place into the microwave for 30 seconds...just enough for the sugar to melt. 2. Pour marinade onto chicken and marinade for at least 30 minutes. Grill on high for 5 minutes per side and enjoy!
*I wanted to include nutritional information in my recipes from now on for anyone who is health concious like me :)
I always love having homemade soup in the house because it goes well as a quick lunch or dinner, paired up with a salad or a small salad it is perfect. In the summers I like to make vegetable soups without any meat. I find them to be lighter in the summers and yet still comforting. This soup reminded me of a Provencal soup I used to make in culinary school. It has great simple flavors in it and can be made with chicken stock, vegetable stock or even water!
1 quart Stock or Water 1 Large Parsnip, Diced 1 Large Leek, Using only the Light Green and White Parts, Washed Well 1 Medium Onion, Diced 2 Carrots, Sliced 2 Small Turnips 2 Handfuls Frozen Peas 2 Stems of Fresh Thyme 2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced Salt and Pepper Olive Oil
1. Preheat a pot to medium high heat. While chopping the veggies, drop them into the pot to make everything go faster. 2. Let all the veggies, except the sweet peas, sweat together for 10-15 minutes or until tender and very aromatic. *If you are using water try and sautee the veggies for longer to extract as much flavor as possible from them.* 3. Add cooking liquid of choice and simmer on medium heat for 30-45 minutes, or until desired flavor is achieved. 4. Finish off with the peas when the heat is turned off.
I love to buy fresh wild fish from local super markets. Since I do all my grocery shopping in the beginning of the week, I try and cook the fish the same day I buy it so that it actually tastes fresh. There was some really beautiful skate on sale this week and since I had not cooked with it ever since culinary school, I decided to give it a shot. I open it up, ready to dredge and pan-fry and then I realize... I HAVE TO FILLET IT! Oh GOSH! It's been years since I filleted my own fish and I did not even know where to begin with skate! My Internet was down so I could not even look it up! With a sharp fillet knife in hand I went at it...slowly and carefully...eventually the rhythm worked its way back into my hands and I started to remember how it was done...I ended up with 3 beautifully white fillets (the first one, was a bit of an embarrassment actually...oops).
I decided I wanted to go back to my French Culinary roots with this recipe. It was very simply dredged in corn meal and seasoned with salt and pepper. Served with a simple sauce made of shallots, garlic, parsley and lemon juice. Some sauteed seasonal veggies and a glass of wine created the perfect dinner for us! *Here is a link detailing how to fillet a skate fish*
Pan-Fried Skate with Shallots, Garlic and Lemon Juice
1 lb Skate, yielding to fillets Corn Flour for Breading Salt and Pepper Olive Oil for Frying
2 Shallots, diced 2 Cloves of Garlic, minced Juice of half a Lemon 3 Tablespoons Parsley 3 Tablespoons Butter
1. Heat oil in a non-stick pan. 2. Season the corn flour with salt and pepper and dredge skate making sure to cover all surfaces. 3. Once the oil is preheated, pan-fry the skate about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. *Remember the second side always takes a bit less time. This is a very delicate fish so try not to overcook it or it will be rubbery* 4. Once complete, place fish on paper towels to absorb some of the excess oil. Wipe out pan. 5. Add the butter, shallots and garlic to the pan over medium heat. Let this sweat a little bit, you want them to be tender not caramelized. 6. Turn off the heat and add lemon juice, parsley and remaining butter. Once butter melts, immediately spoon sauce over fish and serve!
*In case anyone is interested, for the veggies, I just sauteed some sliced red peppers with garlic and some frozen Trader Joe's French Green Beans I had. It's a simple and healthy side dish for almost anything.*
I will admit it...I was a camping virgin! So over July 4th Weekend we decided to pop my camping cherry and go for it! A friend of ours' client graciously offered up his tiny cabin and 64 acres of land for us to use! The cabin had a full size refridgerator and 3 bunk beds for the little kids to use. We were 6.5 hours away from our homes, surrounded by nothing other than 64 acres of forest! Our nearest neighbor was 5 miles away and it was acres and acres of hay!!!
It was a blessing in disguise that our phones had no reception in that area...we really got to experience the great outdoors (and I mean OUTDOORS...an outhouse and everything) and finally clear our minds and think of nothing but the roaring fire and the relaxing enviornment... The boys fished and chopped wood...the girls tanned...we all ate non-stop...and partied at night!
My fiance provided the pyrotechnics for the weekend as well!
As Russians normally do...we brought an ABUNDANCE of food! All day...all night...we ate! Breakfasts were grilled panini sandwiches with havarti and swiss cheeses and BACON! Lunches were usually hot dogs or sandwiches...and dinners usually lasted the longest and were the best!
One of the nights we had incredible Georgian Shish Ka Bob, cooked over hot embers until beautifully caramalized and tender!
On another day we had a huge burger extravaganza! Sirloin burgers (from Cosco) were grilled on a tri-stand over the fire.
My cousin's hubby grilled up some BBQ and hot sauced applewood smoked bacon for us...I made sweet caramalized onions deglazed with Crown Royale...there was a variety of cheeses, from Cheddar, Havarti to Swiss to All American! Sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sliced red onions, guacomole and the typical condiments finished off the burger toppings. And so with this...I give you the BURGER FEST!
This was my Cheddar Bacon Bacon Burger!
The DOUBLE EXTRA MAYO BACON BURGER...OR THE MAMA BURGER!
Overall this was probablly the most fun I have had in a really long time! We slept well, laughed a lot and cleared our minds...I could not have asked for a better time...I am already planning our next camping trip for Labor Day Weekend...I will however be bringing my own portable toliet :)
This is one of my favorite times of the year! Not only because it's warm and I can BBQ on my patio and talk late into the night...but because all of my favorite fruits and veggies are finally in season! Particularly, baby potatoes; baby potatoes have a different texture than other varieties. They are more tender and require much less cooking time, which makes it perfect for summertime quick cooking.
Back in Russia, when I was a child, my grandmother would always fry up fish and cook up some of these potatoes. Finished off with a simple salad of tomatoes and cucumbers our meal was complete. She dredged the fish fillets in corn flour which gave a much crispier and sweeter crust. The baby potatoes were boiled until tender and tossed with creamy butter, fresh dill and garlic. The scent of those garlicky dill potatoes still makes me salivate. These potatoes are a secret recipe of any Russian grandmother and I pass them on to you and your family! Please enjoy!
Pan Fried Wild Flounder with Dill and Garlic Baby Potatoes
2 Lbs Wild Flounder Fillets or any other Mild Flavored Fish 1 Cup Corn Flour 1/2 a Lemon Zested 2 Lbs White Baby Potatoes 3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced A Handful of Freshly Chopped Dill 1/2 a Stick of Butter, Cut Into Slices *No one said this was low fat :)* Salt and Pepper Olive Oil
1. Season fish fillets with salt and pepper on each side. 2. Add lemon zest to corn flour and mix to combine. 3. Dredge fillets with corn flour on both sides and coat well. In the meantime, preheat a non-stick frying pan with enough olive oil to come up about 1/4 inch up the pan. 4. Fry the fish on medium-high heat or about 5 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Place on paper towels to allow some of the oil to come off before serving. 5. Rinse potatoes and place them in a pot of salted water and let them come to a boil. Cook until fork tender. 6. Once they are done, drain the potatoes well in a colander, allowing all the water to drip off of them. 7. Place back into the pot and add butter, garlic, salt and dill. Close with lid and let stand for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, combine the potatoes with the rest of the ingredients and toss carefully with a spatula. 8. Serve with a nice summer veggie salad and enjoy!
I have reached that point...the point that I can no longer look or eat another boneless chicken breast (at least for this week). So I invested in some boneless, skinless chicken thighs that were on sale at my grocery store this week. When I got the chicken thighs home, I looked through them and cut away some of the pieces of fat that were left behind (the last thing anyone wants to do is bite into a yucky piece of chicken fat.) After that step, there really is not much to do with this recipe! That is how simple this is! In fact, it is so simple that I am not even listing my ingredients!
Just choose your favorite teryiake marinade, soak over night and grill the chicken thighs until juices run clear. Roughly chop 2 red onions and 4 carrots and roast in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper for 25 minutes at 450 degrees. That's it! Now set-up your outdoor table, pour two shots of Sake and sip, serve, bite, chew, swallow and repeat! I promise that this will not only be easy but one the most tender chicken dishes you eat!
Every Eastern European country has their own way of making stuffed cabbage. My mother used to make it the Moldovian/Romanian way, with lots of greenery like parsley, dill, scallions and cubes of beef and she incorporate a bit of the middle eastern influence and used grape leaves and cabbage leaves to wrap the filling in. When I started dating my fiance, I realized how different the food was even though we spoke the same language. His parents made the "Galuptsi" using only cabbage leaves and stuffed it with ground pork, a bit of rice, cooked carrots and onions. Whereas my mother's galuptsi fell apart when you cut into them, my fiance's parents' were one big oval shaped ball, but they were so tender and delicious! Completely different but sooo good! Since my fiance grew up on this food I decided to please his palate and make them for him this way.
Many times when I tried to keep it healthier, I did substitute brown rice instead of white and used ground turkey instead of ground pork. BUT the result is not quite the same. I actually put my recipe into a calorie evaluator and it turns out each roll has about 145 calories. So honestly, it really was not that much of a difference when it came down to it in calories...but a HUGE difference in flavor!
I know the recipe may seem a bit daunting...but I promise it really is easy once you get the hang of things. Not to mention filling and delicious! Serve them with a dollop of sour cream, some crusty bread and a simple cucumber, tomato and red onion salad and I promise you will be asking for more!
"Galuptsi" Ukranian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
1.5 Pounds Ground Pork 1/2 Cup Rice 6 Large Carrots 2 Large Onions 1/2 Cup Tomato Puree 1 Head of Cabbage Salt and Pepper to Taste
1. Place cabbage in a pot of water over medium heat and allow to parboil for about an hour. You want the entire head to be covered, if necessary weigh it down with a plate. *This can be done 1 day ahead of time and stored in the fridge until ready to use* 2.Once cabbage leaves have cooled enough to handle, separate the leaves, making sure to cut the center core out of each one. 3.Add all the carrots and the onion into the food processor using the shredder attachment. *This can be done by a box grater of coarse, but I find the result is the same in the food processor and is so much faster.* 4.On medium heat, add olive oil to a saute or frying pan and cook the veggies with salt and pepper until they give off their juices, about 15-20 minutes. You do not want them to brown. Just sweat them nice and slow so all the flavors come out. 5.Place the pork, rice and 1/2 of the cooked veggies into a bowl. I usually put rubber gloves on and start combining this mixture by hand. 6.Lay out the cabbage leaves and place about 3 tablespoons of the mixture into each leaf. Roll it up like a burrito. *The amount of mixture you place in each leaf will depend on the size of your leaves, just use your best judgement on how much to place into it when in doubt. Make sure that the leaf covers all of the mixture and none of it is peaking out.* 7.On the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot, pour in half of the tomato puree and sprinkle in half of the remaining veggies. Layer the rolls on top of this and continue to layer the tomato puree and veggies until all the rolls are done. I usually have one big layer because I have a huge pot. 8.Cover with enough boiling water to reach almost the top, as pictured above. 9. Place in a 325-degree oven and cook for 1.5-2 hours or until meat is nice and tender!
In the summer months when evenings are longer and the weather is nicer, I try and get out of the house as much as possible to enjoy those few warm months we are blessed with in Chicago. Therefore, my meals tend to be quicker and less fuss. I always found that slaws can be easily made with minimal work and maximum flavor and vitamins. Salmon is always a good go to fish for something nice and quick.
I came up with this meal last week when I came home late from being outdoors all day! The fish only took 30 minutes to marinate and during the time that it marinated I made my slaw.
Happy Summer everybody I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do!
Soy Citrus Salmon and Thai Peanut Slaw
Soy Citrus Salmon
1.5 Pounds Fresh Salmon (preferablly wild) sliced into desirable portions 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce 1 Tsp Sesame Oil 1 Orange, Juiced and Zested 1 Lemon, Juiced and Zested 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced Black Sesame Seeds to Sprinkle for Presentation
1. Combine all ingredients in a ziplock plastic bag and let stand for 30-60 minutes. (Any longer than this and the acidity in the citrus may start cooking the fish, much like in a ceviche) 2. Place in a 450-degree oven for 15 minutes, or until center is flaky and pink.
Thai Peanut Slaw
1/2 a Head Red Cabbage, Cored and Thinly Shredded 1 Head Napa Cabage, Thinly Shredded 1/2 a Red Pepper, Thinly Sliced 4 Scallions, Thinly Sliced on a Bias 2 Tablespoons Cilantro, Finely Chopped
Spicy Peanut Dressing for Slaw
1/4 Cup Peanut Butter 3 Tablespoons of Water (use as much as needed to get a thin consistancy) 2 Teaspoons Seasame Oil 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced 1 tsp Siracha Hot Chili Garlic Paste
1. Combine all in a blender until smooth and creamy. Toss with slaw veggies just enough to coat.
*This slaw is meant to be crunchy and fresh, do NOT over dress or you will end up with a soggy mess! Save remaing dressing for another meal!
With the summer heat here I am craving salads...salads for lunch...salads for dinner...SALADS SALADS SALADS!!! In order to keep things interesting I like to play around with different ingredients and toppings. There is this one bar/pub close to our office that the girls always order salads from. There is one salad in particular that we all love! It's the most filling salad filled with veggies, deli meats and cheeses, all tossed in a creamy buttermilk ranch! I must admit this salad has turned many of my frowns upside down!!! When I make it at home, I try and use less cheese to take the fat value down.
When it comes to dressings I am quite particular. A good ranch is always hard to find and a low fat one is even harder to find! Every time I made this salad at home, it never tasted right...it had an artificial sweetness to it that I just was not a fan of. Then I realized that it was the Kraft Light Ranch Dressing. So instead of buying another mystery dressing, I decided to make my own ranch using the Hidden Valley mixes and light sour cream. I dumped the packet of seasoning into 12oz of light sour cream and had an amazing dressing that was almost guilt free! When purchasing your deli meat at the counter for this salad, ask them to cut the meat a bit thicker so the strips of meat are substantial.
1.5 Hearts of Romaine Lettuce 2 Tomatoes, Sliced 1/2 a Large English Cucumber, Sliced 1/2 a Green Pepper, Sliced 4 Thick Slices of Your Favorite Ham, cut into strips 4 Thick Slices of Your Favorite Turkey, cut into strips 2 Slices Swiss or Havarti 2 Hard Boiled Eggs Cut into Quarters
*I tend to cook about a dozen eggs in the beginning of the week so that I have them for salads. There is one fool proof way to do it: Place eggs in a pot and completely cover with water. Once the eggs come to a boil, turn off the heat and cover with the lid; let stand for 12 minutes EXACTLY. After that, peel and you will have perfectly cooked eggs each time!*
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss together with your dressing of choice. Garnish with the quartered eggs.
Hey all! Well my new event planning business is almost ready to be launched and I could not be happier! My logo is done so I can finally order my business cards and my web designers should start working on website in the next week or so! I will definitley be linking my blog and my website...
In the meantime.... I am cooking up a storm...and I will be posting this week!
I understand I have been MIA for the past couple of months... But with the planning of my best friend's wedding and my cousin from Israel coming to visit me, life took a turn for the crazy and I had to leave my blog behind for awhile :(. But now I'm back and with summer here I'm ready to get the grill fired up, the mojitos pouring and start get summer off to a right start!!!
Aside from making really fresh and healthy foods, I have also tried to create some nice quick recipes. Things that I can marinate the night before and stick in the oven the following night. It makes my life so much easier to have something waiting for me in the fridge in a neat little plastic bag. I loved this chicken! I roasted the bone-in chicken breasts with the skin on and removed it when eating it. The chicken was unbelievably moist and juicy! I made plenty so that I can use it in salads and other dishes. Yet another time saver for me, is turning one dish into several!
BBQ Chicken with Oven Roasted Veggies
2.5 Pounds Chicken Breasts Bone-In, Skin-On 1 Cup Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce or Your Fave Sace 2 Garlic Cloves Minced 1 Tsp Salt 1/2 Tsp Pepper 4 Large Carrots, Cut into Large Pieces on a Bias 1 Large Onion, Cut into Large Wedges Salt and Pepper Olive Oil
1. Combine 1/2 of the BBQ Sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a bag and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours. 2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees to ROAST. 3. Toss veggies with salt, pepper and a touch of olive oil. 4. Spray down a roasting pan with pan spray and place chicken on top. 5. Roast both the veggies and chicken at the same time, about 30 minutes. Use the remaining half cup of bbq sauce to baste the chicken while it's cooking so it's extra saucy!
Lately, I have been trying to cook much lighter and healthier. My fiance'and I are both trying to modify all our favorite recipes to be less caloric. I love creamy soups and one of my favorites is cream of broccoli. The creamy factor of the soup is obviously the most important and can be achieved by blending or pureeing the soup the right way. The soup had tons of flavor and a really great texture! The best part...not one touch of cream or butter was in this soup!
Creamy Broccoli Soup
1.5 Pounds of Broccoli with Stems 1 Onion Chopped 1 Carrot Chopped 1 Celery Stalk, Chopped 2 Shallots Chopped 2 Garlic Cloves Chopped 3 Slices of Canadian Bacon 5 Cups Chicken Stock 1/4 Cup of Milk Salt and Pepper to Taste Olive Oil
1. In a little bit of olive oil, crisp up the Canadian Bacon. 2. Remove the bacon and turn down the heat. 3. Sweat out the onion, carrots, celery, shallots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Sweating the veggies really brings out the flavor more. Keep the heat nice and low and keep the lid closed. 4. Add all the broccoli into the pot and sweat them for about 5 minutes. Until they have softened a bit. 5. Pour in all the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. 6. Add all the broccoli and some of the liquid into a blender or food processor. Play around with the amount of liquid being poured in, since it will be put through a sieve it will lose some of its volume, it is important to not put all the liquid in. 7. Put the mixture through a sieve and finish of with just the splash of milk to add some creaminess to it. 8. Put some blanched broccoli florets on the bottom with the crispy Canadian Bacon. Ladle in the soup and enjoy!
If my fiance' could hacve one thing for the rest of his life, it would be seafood, especially shrimp. He was still feeling under the weather on Friday so I wanted to make him something with that would clear his sinuses. I marinated the shrimp in the morning and they were ready to sautee up in the evening when we both got home. Nice, quick and easy! I made him some toast to mop up the remaining sauce and he soaked up every last bit.
1 Pound Shrimp (I used shrimp with their heads because my fiance' loves it) 2 Cloves of Garlic 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste 1 Tsp Salt 1 Tsp Black Pepper 1/2 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes 1 Tsp Siracho (Thai Chili Garlic Paste) 1 Lime Juiced 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1. Throw all the ingredients in a plastic bag and leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours. 2. Place all ingredients in a pan and sautee for five minutes or until shrimp are fiery red and tender.
Back in high school, every day for breakfast, I would go to the school cafeteria and have 3 amazing warm, gooey chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips. It was the the highlight of my day, every day. Do you remember those days when you could eat whatever you want and not gain an ounce? I had this way of stuffing anything into my body and still retaining a perfect, perky figure, wish I had it that easy today :) To this day I never found a recipe for cookies that tasted like those did. Today, as I was folding laundry, I caught an episode of Barefoot Contessa. She was reminiscing all her favorite chocolate recipes...and there they were... my beloved White Chocolate Chunk Chocolate Cookies! (Now I am sure that the ones at school were made from some frozen mystery cookie dough) I was instantly inspired and made them this evening. I didn't have any chocolate chunks, but I did have some white chocolate chips, so I just used 12 oz of those.
Now I will be honest...I have NEVER been good at baking cookies. I ALWAYS over baked them because I thought they were still raw inside, turns out they just had to cool :) I followed Ina's instructions exactly and they were PERFECT! I ate three of them on my own! (Diet? What diet...) I am going to bring them to my fiance's work tomorrow so they can enjoy them as much as I did! (And so that I can get those tempting little devils out of my house!)
Here is Ina's recipe:
Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
40 to 48 cookies Ingredients 1/2 pound unsalted butte,r at room temperature 1 cup light brown sugar, packed 1 cup granulated sugar 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 2 extra-large eggs at room temperature 2/3 cup good unsweetened cocoa 2 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 1/2 pounds good white chocolate, coarsely chopped Directions Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix well. Add the cocoa and mix again. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and add to the chocolate with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Fold in the chopped white chocolate.
Drop the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, using a 1 3/4-inch ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon.
Dampen your hands and flatten the dough slightly. Bake for exactly 15 minutes (the cookies will seem underdone). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Yesterday my fiance' was feeling really icky still and I know that there is nothing better than a filling breakfast! So I went a bit crazy! Thanks to Pam from For The Love of Cooking, I have developed a sudden love for making muffins. I had several vanilla yogurts left over so I decided to make some muffins! Pam's recipe really was delicious! I made a cranberry orange muffin and a banana walnut muffin. Both equally delicious and moist!
I also made some nice spicy breakfast potatos to clear up his sinuses! I added 2 fried eggs on top and he was thrilled!
As for the 2 dozen muffins...I put them in a platic bag and gave them to my in-laws.
Spicy Breakfast Potatos
4 Large Red Potatos, Diced 1/2 Green Pepper, Diced 1/2 Spanish Onion, Diced 1/2 Jalapeno, Diced 1/4 Pound Canadian Bacon or Ham, Diced 2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced 2 Tsp Garlic Powder 2 Tsp Onion Powder 1 Tsp Salt 1 Tsp Pepper 1/4 Tsp Cayenne Pepper (Use less if you want it mild or you can leave it out) 2 Tsp Smoky Paprika 4 Eggs 1/4 Cup of Parmesan Olive Oil
1. Place onions, peppers, Canadian bacon or ham and garlic into a pan with olive oil. Saute on medium high until everything begins to caramalize. 2. Add potatos and all the spices. Cook for about 15 minutes until potatos are tender. 3. In the meantime, prepare 4 eggs and cook them to your liking. 4. Sprinkle the parmesan over the veggies and top with eggs!
Cranberry Orange Muffins *This is based on Pam's recipe..please check out her blog as it is one of my favorites!*
1 3/4 cup flour 1 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp baking soda 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 egg 1/2 cup of vegetable oil 1 cup of low fat yogurt 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 Tbsp Orange zest 1 Dried cranberries
1. Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl with the cranberries. 2. Combine all the wet ingredients in another bowl. 3. Slowly add dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix just to combine. 4. Spray down a muffin pan with oil spray and bake muffins at 325-degrees for 22-25 minutes!
*I used Pam's exact recipe for my banana walnut muffins, except I subbed out a cup of walnuts instead of chocolate chips.*
My fiance' loves chicken marsala because of all the mushrooms. I found that one of the key elements to a really great chicken marsala is to get some really deep color in the flavor. With mushrooms, the darker they get, the more intense the flavor is. Also, a little tip for browning your mushrooms: DO NOT put salt in until the end. Salt draws out moisture and moisture will prevent that caramalization process. I served this over a really yummy garlic and Parmesan polenta. I had the polenta...and my fiance' had the marsala. It was a great dinner :) *Even though the dish is called "chicken Marsala" I actually didn't notice that I ran out of Marsala wine. I substitued a sweet Sherry and some dry white wine. It turned out just as great!*
1.5 Pounds Chicken Cutlets 1 10 Oz Package of Crimini Mushrooms 1 Shallot, Chopped Small 1/2 Cup Sherry Wine (or Marsala of course) 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine 1/4 Cup Chicken Stock Olive Oil Salt and Pepper
1. Season chicken cutlets liberally with salt and pepper. 2. Heat olive oil in a large pan until it is hot. 3. Sear chicken on both sides until it develops a nice crust. *Traditionally, the chicken cutlets are dredged in flour and then seared. However, I am trying to stick to a healthier diet. If you get the pan hot enough and let the chicken brown, you will not miss the flour at all.* 4. Remove the chicken to another plate. 5. Reduce heat to medium high and add shallots, add olive oil if necessary. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon and scrape up the bottom to remove all the yummy bits. 6. Add the mushrooms and continue sauteeing until nice and rich in color, about 15 minutes. 7. Pour in wine and sherry. Let reduce by half and add chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. 8. Add in chicken and finish cooking; about 5 minutes. *If the sauce is too thin, mix in some flour so that it thickens.*
I know this may not sound like the most appetizing dish, but I promise it is! I had a few chicken carcasses leftover in freezer from all the roast chicken that I made. So I decided to make a really nice chicken stock. Thank God I did! My fiance' came home today very under the weather! I made a soup with that my mother used to call,"Green Borscht". There's tons of greens in there to give you the nutrients that you need when you are sick. My fiance and I both ate a huge bowl of it since it was so low fat I did not have to feel guilty at all! I strained the chicken stock of all the fat and ended up with a very lean stock.
Green Chicken Soup
1/2 a Pound of Chicken Tenders 5 Cups Chicken Stock (this would be one of the only soups I recommend using homemade) 1 Bunch Dill, Chopped 1 Bunch Parsley, Chopped 1 Leek, Chopped (Do not use the tough green parts) 1 Bunch Scallions, Chopped 1/2 an Onion, Chopped 1 Bunch Kale or Spinach, Chopped 1 Tbsp of Lemon Juice Salt and Pepper to Taste
1. Take all veggies and put in a collander and wash thouroughly, they all have a TON of dirt on them. 2. Heat chicken stock and bring to a nice slow simmer. Add chicken tenders and all veggies. 3. Let everything simmer nice and slow for 30 minutes. Remove chicken tenders once they are finished cooking. 4. Shred chicken tenders with a fork and add back into the soup. 5. Add lemon juice and serve!
*This is very tasty and you can put any greens you want into it. In Russia, sorrell leaves were plentiful and cheap and we added them to this soup. Here, they are hard to come by and very pricey, so use any greens you want and just add a bit of lemon juice for the tanginess!
I needed something extremely quick an simple for dinner one night. I had some chicken quarters that I wanted to use up. I stuck them in the marinade in the morning and it was ready to go for me in the evening. The sugar in the balsamic vinegar caused the skin to roast and crisp up beautifully! This was the closest that I have ever gotten to the flavor and texture of a rotissire chicken. I honestly think it had to do with the marinade as well as the roasting process. My fiancee could not stop raving about the chicken. I served it up with some whole wheat orzo with garlic, basil and tomatos. Later in the week I used one of the leftover chicken breasts in a simple garbage salad. Nothing more to say here, this dish was simple and delicious.
1 Whole Chicken, Cut up into Wuarters 2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Basil 2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced 1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder Salt and Pepper to Season 1 Plastic Bag
1. Place all ingredients into plastic bag. For at least 12 hours. 2. Set oven to "ROAST" at 450-degrees. 3. Place chicken parts on a roasting pan on the middle rack in the oven. Roast for about 25-30 minutes or until juices run clear.
There are probablly as many recipes for Minestrone soup as there are for chocolate chip cookies. Minestrone literally translates to "Big Soup." It's a very simple dish, typically containing vegetables in season, meats on hand, beans and rice or pastas. Several years ago I worked at a really great Italian restaurant. They had the best minestrone soup...THE BEST! It wasn't only the flavor that was so unique but the texture. There was a unique technique that they used to thicken the soup which also changed the color. I was so excited when I finally learned how to duplicate the sou from the restaurant! The minestrone was filling and low cal, a perfect combination!
1 Large Onion, Chopped 2 Medium Carrots, Chopped into Half Moons 2 Stalks of Celery, Sliced 1 Yellow Squash, Cut into Half Moons 5 Stewed Tomatoes and 1/4 Cup of its Juice 1 Can of Cannolinni Beans 3 Cloves of Garlic, Thinly Sliced 3 Pieces Smoky Bacon, Sliced 1/8 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes 5 Quarts Chicken Stock Salt and Pepper to taste Olive Oil
1.In a heavy bottomed pan, pour 1 tsp olive oil and add in the bacon. On medium heat, sweat out the bacon so all the oils come out. 2. After the fat has sweated out of the bacon, add in the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Toss to coat with the bacon. 3. Add in the chopped tomatoes and the tomato juice. 4. Add in your chicken stock and bring to a boil. 5. Take 1/4 of the beans and place in a blender or food processor. With a ladle, pour in about one cup of the soup and the veggies into the blender. Blend until a smooth puree. Stir in the mixture slowly into the soup, this will thicken the soup slightly. 6. Add in the rest of the beans, squash and red pepper flakes. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. 7. Season to your liking and enjoy!!!
Spaghetti and meatballs is a classic Italian American favorite. I have my own recipe that I have posted on here . It actually has taken me a long time to perfect this recipe and I am finally quite happy with it. Now I am a HUGE Ina Garten fan and there has not been a dish yet that I made that I wasn't happy with. However, this dish, I feel is more American than it is Italian. I was very determined to see what the difference in my recipe and Ina's was, so therefore, I followed the recipe exactly. (I did run out of red wine so I had to substitute with white wine. I also substituted whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta) The combination of the 2 different types of breadcrumbs definitely created a different texture, more spongy than anything else. Now I do not think that this is necessarily a bad thing, it's just not what I am used to for meatballs. The three different meats did not change much of the flavor for me. I would rather stick to lean ground meat and save on the calories. The sauce was actually quite delicious, but again not traditional marinara. All in all I have to say...I was very pleased with the dish...but I will stick to my recipe...Sorry Ina :)
1 tablespoon good olive oil 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion) 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic 1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper For serving:
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions Freshly grated Parmesan
Directions Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.
Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.
*Look how gorgeous and brown they got on each side! This really makes a difference in flavor and texture!*
For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.
Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.
Sorry guys...I have been on a hiatis...I'm sorry for not replying to your comments and posts. It's been a super busy week for me...But not to worry...I am going to try and post some pics and recipes tonight! It's Italian Week! Yeay!
It's cold in Chicago (naturally) and soup is always my favorite lunch and dinner! It always manages to warm me all over and fill my tummy up! I added a little extra heat to this particular soup with jalapenos and tasted great! I made it with some really lean chicken breast that I roasted off instead of just poaching it. I find that roasting it gives a nicer flavor. Finish it off with a squeeze of lime and fresh scallions and avocado give it the perfect bite. Simple, warm and delicious!
1. Roast in a 450-degree oven until juices run clear. 2. Let rest until cool to handle and shred with a fork. *Chicken can be made a day ahead of time or you can use rotisserie chicken to make life a little easier.*
1 Green Pepper, Diced 1 Red Pepper, Diced 1 Onion, Diced 2 Carrots, Half Moons 2 Celery Stalks, Chopped 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced 1 Jalapeno, Finely Diced (if you like it mild just remove the seeds) 1 Handful Cilantro, Chopped 1/4 Cup Tomato Puree 1/2 Cup Frozen Corn 1 Qt Chicken Stock Olive Oil
1. In a large pot, sweat all veggies together in olive oil, leaving out the corn. 2. Once all the veggies are fragrant, pour in the chicken stock and tomato puree and bring to a boil. 3. Let simmer on low for 30 minutes. 4. Taste for seasoning and add corn and shredded chicken once the soup is done. Serve with diced avocado, cilantro and fresh scallions.
Years ago, I followed my dreams and went to culinary school. I went to culinary school to continue the dream that my mother and I always shared: to open up a deli or cafe somewhere and call it our own. Whether that cafe will ever open is still up in the air...but my cooking and my love for food I owe to my mother...and in a way this blog is dedicated to her...I only hope that I can inspire other women with this blog the way my mother inspired me...With her love for food passed onto me, I quickly became a food snob after culinary school. Today, a house, a husband' (and his stomach),and an up and coming business keeps me busy enough without all my gourmet concoctions! But, no matter how busy I am, I still go to my kitchen and cook to retain my sanity. Prehaps this is a way I connect to my mother...but cooking is the only thing that truely soothes my soul. My recent transformation has led me to belive that sometimes you just have to Keep It Simple Stupid...and Cook!
I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead - not sick, not wounded - dead. ~Woody Allen
Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. ~Mark Twain
Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want. ~Gael Greene
Tell me what you eat, I'll tell you who you are. ~Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
And, of course, the funniest food of all, kumquats. ~George Carlin
Avoid fruit and nuts. You are what you eat. ~Jim Davis
The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again. ~George Miller
Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. ~Harriet van Horne
Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon. ~Doug Larson
I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian. ~Anonymous
But those aren't the flavors. That'd make too much sense. Apple and pear, according to Dr. Phil, are body types the bars are made for. Hey, I've got some advice. If you look like an apple or a pear, eat an apple or a pear! [On Dr. Phil's energy bars. ~Lewis Black