Thursday, June 30, 2011

A little Polish dish for you!

I don't know very much about my mother-in-law. She passed away just one month before I started dating Jack. I've seen lots of pictures and heard a few stories, but the one thing I know for sure is that she was a good cook. Of course, my husband was a teenager when his mother passed and never bothered to ask or learn how to make all of the wonderful dishes that she made for him. (Which is why I love when Matt cooks with me! I hope he'll treasure those memories always!)

Jack will describe dishes that she made and he or I will try to replicate them from his descriptions, but it's pretty complicated. One dish that he remembers from his childhood in Poland is called nalesniki. (It is pronounced nothing like it looks. I think the English phonetic pronouncation would be something like: (Nah-lesh-NEE-kai) and that may actually be the Lithuanian pronunciation. Whatever. On with the story...

So, many years ago Jack wanted to create this dish that his mom used to make for him when he was a child. He didn't know what ingredients she used, but he knew the taste. He said it was like a really, super thin blintze. So, he searched through my Joy of Cooking cookbook, found a recipe for blintzes and modified it until it tasted like his mom's dish.

So, without further ado, here is Jack and his amazing Nalesnikis...

(Jack's mom used to make this as a breakfast meal, but Americans eat blintzes for dessert too, so we used it for both. Today was a dessert!)

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 eggs
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 & 1/2 Tbsp sugar (plus more for filling)
Pinch of salt

Cream Cheese
Vanilla Sugar
Powdered Sugar

Stir or (blend in a food processor) all of the ingredients until smooth. Pour batter into a crepe pan that has been coated with a little butter. Lift the pan off the heat, tilting and rotating so that the batter forms an even, thin layer. When the top is set and the underside is golden, flip.  Cook until the second side is lightly browned. Place on wax paper to cool. 

For the filling. Mix together 2 parts cream cheese to one part sugar (or make it as sweet as you prefer). I like mine less sweet.  Spread a really thin layer of the cream cheese onto the crepe/Nalesniki.  Roll it up. Sprinkle with fruit of your choice and powdered sugar.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Beautiful Day for the Zoo

We had beautiful weather for a family trip to the zoo recently. The skies were a bit overcast, which was perfect for us and the animals. Check out a few of the animals we saw along the way...

The kids had a blast too! There were lots of animals to see and touch, places to climb, jump and crawl!  Check out what my little monkeys were busy doing at the zoo...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Banana Bread

This is one of my favorite banana bread recipes, modified from an original by Emeril Lagasse.

Banana Bread
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/4 cup flour
Pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350*.
  2. Oil and flour a loaf pan.
  3. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar.  With the mixer running on medium, add the eggs, one at a time.  Add the bananas and mix well.  Add the baking soda, salt, flour, cinnamon and mix well. Add the chips. Dough will be sticky.
  4. Pour dough into loaf pan and bake for one hour or until center is brown and set.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gweyneth's Gruyere Stuffed Turkey Burgers

The past Sunday, in the Parade, magazine, Gweyneth Paltrow wrote an article, in which she reminisced about her father and the visceral way he cooked.  She included a recipe for a delicious stuffed turkey burger.  Gweyneth doesn't eat red meat, but if you do, I am sure it would taste just as delicious if you subsituted beef for turkey.

Gruyere Stuffed Turkey Burgers
1 Tbsp EVOO
1/2 cup minced yellow onion
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup grated Gruyere (or your favorite sharp, hard cheese)
4 whole grain buns

  1. Heat oil in a small skillet over low heat.  Add onion and rosemary; cook until soft and sweet, about 10 minutes.  Let cool and add turkey, salt and pepper.
  2. Divide mixture into quarters.  Cut each quarter in half and form 2 patties.  Place two Tbsp cheese on one patty.  Place the other patty on top, pinching edges together.  Repeat with remaining patties.
  3. Preheat grill to high. Cook burgers 5 minutes on one side; flip, then cook until burgers are browned and firm (5-6 more minutes).
  4. Serve on buns with all the fixings!
Thanks Gweyneth.  Check out more recipes in her newsletter: GOOP.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Scrappy Update

Now that the kids are out of school for the summer, my life has become an over-scheduled, hectic, race to drive this one here and that one there. When it's sunny and hot, we spend our days in the pool. When it's cloudy and rainy, we tend to spend more time at the library, museums and on day-trips. In between, I'm trying to fit in guitar lesson, musical theater class, Girl Scouts, bowling, golf, cooking classes, iCarly camp, ballet, magic class, and a few other random birthday parties and that sort of thing. Keep in mind, that none of these are for me!

The best thing about it, however, is that it exhausts the kids (especially Baby Zoey) and that means that naps happen! :)

So, while Zoey has been taking her daily two (sometimes three) hour naps, I have been trying to catch up on scrapping this humongous pile of pics I have sitting here.

Now I have to catch up on the piles and piles (did I mention piles?) of laundry!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Roast Rosemary Chicken

Roast Rosemary Chicken with Veggie Couscous

4 bone-in chicken breasts or chicken leg quarters
1 package of McCormick rosemary seasoning for chicken with potatoes
EVOO (reserve one teaspoon of seasoning mix)
salt & pepper
1 box of couscous (I used whole wheat, but you could use any kind, even giant pearls)
2 cups chicken stock/broth
½ cup diced yellow bell pepper
½ cup diced zucchini
Fresh rosemary

  1. Preheat oven to 425*. In a small bowl place contents of seasoning package (reserve one teaspoon for couscous).
  2. Place chicken on large rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with remaining seasoning mixture, salt and pepper; rub over chicken. Bake for 45 minutes.
  3. While chicken is baking, prepare couscous.  Add dry couscous to pot.  Add bell pepper, zucchini, salt, pepper, 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 12 minutes.
  4. Arrange chicken over couscous and drizzle with pan drippings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Raspberry Monte Cristo

When Jack and I were dating, we used to go to this cute little donut shop for sandwiches and donuts late at night. It was so unhealthy, but so delish!  One of our favorite sandwiches was the Monte Cristo.  This one is a sticky, tart version of that yummy sammie!

Whole Wheat bread (2 thick slices per person)
Boiled Ham (I prefer Krakus, sliced medium)
Turkey (sliced thinner)
Swiss cheese
Raspberry preserves (about 2 Tbsp), more for topping
Honey (about 2 Tbsp)
Dijon mustard (1 Tbsp)
Powdered sugar (optional)
2 eggs
Splash of milk, heavy cream, or water
2 Tbsp butter

In a small bowl, combine the raspberry preserves, honey and Dijon mustard. Mix well.
In a second bowl, combine eggs and milk, cream or water. Mix thoroughly.
Spread the raspberry-Dijon mixture on the insides of two slices of bread. Place a couple slices of ham, cheese and turkey in between the bread.  Dip the entire sandwich into the egg mixture, getting both sides wet. 

Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Melt butter in skillet. Place the sandwich into the skillet and cook until both sides are light brown and cheese melts.  Serve by spreading a little more of the raspberry-Dijon mixture on top and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Super Simple Marinade

Summer is here, and my favorite part is my blooming garden. I have a pretty large garden on the side of my house, which houses different fruits and veggies every year. Of course, it always has onions, tomatoes and hot peppers.  This year it also has some cucumbers, strawberries, basil, and cilantro.  Using some of my herbs, I found that this is a super easy way to make a marinade for chicken, veal or pork chops. 

Take a gallon size Ziploc bag and add your protein of choice (pork chops are pictured above). Drizzle in a tablespoon or two of EVOO, a splash of balsamic vinegar (or any vinegar: white, cider, red wine), throw in a handful of chopped herbs (I used lemon basil), and squirt of a half lemon, salt and pepper. Zip up the bag and shake it until everything is mixed.  Refrigerate for at least an hour, but you can make this a day or two ahead of time as well.  Grill or cook as usual. The meat will have a delicate lemony flavor, but will be nice and tenderized from the lemon/vinegar combo!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Crock Pot Cider Beef

You know I love a good one pot meal. Life is so much simpler when I don't have to dirty every pot and pan in my cupboard (and I have a lot of pots and pans. Several sets to be exact.) And just a side note -- the cheaper sets are so much better than the fancy, expensive sets I registered for. Gotta love the cheapies! Heehee

Back to the dish. Not sure where I found this one, but it's very yummy. It was my first time working with turnips and I am hooked! I will definitely be using them again. They smell kind of radish-y when raw, but cooked, they taste like a sweet version of a yellow potato. My husband tells me that he used to eat raw turnips as a child in Poland, but he ate lots of weird things as a kid, so that doesn't mean they are tasty! LOL

Crock Pot Cider Beef
1.5 lbs. sirloin roast (buy a cheap cut, because it will still fall apart after cooking all day)
3 yellow potatoes, diced (don't peel)
3 turnips, peeled and diced (I bought them from a bag and they were super easy to peel, but I've heard that some are waxy and not so easy to work with. My advice: Look for non-waxy turnips!)
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup flour
2 cups apple cider (the cloudier, the better)

Place all chopped veggies into the bottom of the slow cooker.  Sprinkle the flour on top and stir.  Season the beef with salt and pepper (I used seasoned salt for a little extra flavor).  Place beef on top of veggies. Pour in the cider and broth.  Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.  I picked the beef up and sliced it on a cutting board, then added it back to the veggies. It was great in a bowl with a bread stick for sopping up the juices. The kids loved it and couldn't tell the difference between the potatoes and turnips!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Meat Loaf Sandwich

Meat loaf sandwich

1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 large egg, beaten
2/3 cup ketchup
1 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1.5 pounds ground beef, pork or chicken (or a combo)
salt and pepper
bread, lettuce and red onion (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375*. In a medium bowl, combine chopped onion, garlic, parsley, egg and 1/3 cup ketchup. Add breadcrumbs, meat, 1.5 tsp on salt and .5 tsp pepper. Mix until combined.

Bake mixture in a loaf pan for 50 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with 1/3 cup ketchup. Bake until meat thermometer reads 160* (about 10-20 more minutes). Cool meat loaf for 10 minutes.

Cut into slices. Place slice on top of bread. Layer with lettuce and red onion and extra ketchup. Serve open face or top with more bread.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sugar Cookie Shortcake

Out of boredom one night, I made this dessert up.  I made a package of Pillsbury Funfetti sugar cookies.  When the cookies were cooled, I layered one cookie for the bottom, a dollop of whipped cream on it and some sliced strawberries.  I repeated it again and topped it all with another sugar cookie.  It was delicious, and oh, so super easy!

What kinds of foods, desserts or meals do you make-up for fun?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fajita Soup

This quick and easy soup is perfect for Mexican theme nights or cool summer evenings!

2 tbsp EVOO
1.5 pounds of chicken tenders
salt and pepper
1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced
1 28 ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 qt chicken stock
tortilla chips
1 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1 avocado
1 lime
1 tablespoon ground coriander

In a deep pot, cook chicken in EVOO over medium heat.  Add coriander, salt and pepper and cook 3-4 minutes.  Add onions, bell pepper and jalapeno, season with more salt and pepper and cook 6-7 minutes, stirring frequently and until slightly charred at the edges.  Add the tomatoes and stock. Simmer for 10 minutes on low. Add and handful of cilantro right before serving. 

Crush some tortilla chips into the bottom of serving bowls and top with a handful of cheese.  Peel and dice the avocado and toss with the juice from the lime.

To serve, ladle the soup over the chips and cheese.  Garnish with sour cream, avocado, scallions and cilantro.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ballgame...

Once again this year, we loaded the car with family and took the trek down to The Cell for Tinley Park night! The Sox played against the Mariners.

Ugh! My arm looks huge in the pic below, but it's the only pic that shows my nails, which I painted in alternating black and white for the game!

We sat two rows above the Sox Bullpen, so we got some pics of our pitchers. Unfortunately, the Sox played like crap and this guy didn't help us any...

There was one HUGE advantage to sitting right above the bullpen, however....both kids got official MLB GAME BALLS!!!!

They didn't win, but it was memorable anyway!
Goooooooooo Sox!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

She Had Three Hearts - Week 3

I just began week three of the art class and these are some leftovers from week 2 and some new art journal pages based on a few of the week 3 techniques I've learned. I'm really sad that the class is over. I'll definitely take more classes from Christy Tomlinson. I like her style and the freedom of watching the videos whenever I want, in any order I like.

The page above represents 2 parents + 3 kids = 5 peeps in my family

The one above is a two-pager in a mini journal I had.  It's about loving my age. Argh! (Not good at that!)
I love the dripping water colors and bird rub-ons on the page above.
Cool pics of button flowers that I found in a magazine are highlighted in the above page.
Gratitude above.
I love the mini-butterflies in this one.
A page about my love for cooking (and a giant glittery butterfly, just for the fun of it!)

This was a new technique from week 3 - string art. I made the flowers from orange and green string and Mod Podge.
I made the button heart after watching Christy's tutorial.  Below is a close up of the heart.

There will be more to come of techniques I learned in week three. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

First Day of Summer Vacation

In honor of the first day of summer vacation, I decided to take the kids downtown for a little adventure. We had a doctor's appointment in the morning, so afterwards we drove downtown to Millennium Park and decided to have a little picnic. From the there the kids splashed around in the fountains, we walked over to the bandshell where there was a jazz concert going on and listened for a bit. Then we walked over to the Bean for some fun pictures. It was a great way to kick off the start of summer!


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