Saturday, April 5, 2014

How to travel with your giant lab

Usually we don't take Jackson on 16 hour road trips to Jakson Hole, WY (wait, is his name a coincidence? Um, no). Usually we don't take such long road trips either. But since this time we decided to drive, our almost 10 year old 100 lbs lab wouldn't take "no" for an answer.

        So, here are some tips on how to travel with your pup: 
1. Buy a Subaru Outback. They are dog approved. I'm sure you've seen the cool commercials. 
2. Frequent breaks. That's the most my dog had a chance to pee in a 16 hour period. 
3.  If you're stopping somewhere for the night, invest in Rock Stars, Monsters and other highly caffeinated drinks as you most certainly will not get any sleep with a dog irritated by the unknown noises. I guess a whole day of rest in the car provided him with the energy to growl and jump off and on the bed ALL NIGHT LONG...
4. Whatever you're eating - your dog will make sure he's eating it, too. Otherwise you're risking you're shoulder to be drooled on. A LOT. Oh yeah, that reminds me, make sure that you have plenty of napkins. People with teething children - please know that that's child play (no pun intended) until you encounter a hungry overgrown Labrador. 
5. When you get to your destination you owe your pup a loooong walk. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Veggie chili for Meatless Monday

Recently, I have been a crock pot queen. Perhaps because it's been so cold in North Dakota in March (hey, it's in the 30's now, what am I complaining about!) and perhaps because it is so easy. One of my favorite recipes is this vegetarian chili, since I tend to make meat-less meals. For all of you carnivores out there - I'm sure this would be as delicious if you added some meat to it. But since the swim suit season is coming, I recommend you skip those calories and save this delicious meal for your Meatless Monday.
Vegetarian crock pot chili
1 onion - diced 
2 cloves garlic - minced
2 red or yellow bell peppers - chopped 
1 zucchini - diced
2 grated carrots
2 cans of beans - I like to mix up kidney and black beans
2 x 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes 
1/2 cup water 
1.5 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
Combine all ingredients and cook on low for 8-6 hours. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of the results... Perhaps it disappeared too quickly...

The crock pot adventures

I have been in love with my crock pot recently. When a girl is in grad school and has 2 jobs, a girl needs help... Honestly though, I cannot say that I lack free time, surprisingly, and I am making it sound worse than it is, but sometimes I have so much on my mind that coming home to a ready meal is a true treat. Some recipes make you chop all the veggies and then sauté them but not this one. Chop, place in crock pot and come home to a feast.
If you've never made Indian food before, this may be a fine recipe for you - easy and very little attention required!
Slow cooker vegetable curry
4 cups cauliflower (I used frozen, no messy chopping required. I think working with fresh cauliflower is very messy and then I find it all over my floor...) 
1 sweet potato - peeled and diced
1 red and 1 green pepper - diced
1 onion - diced
(You can also add other veggies - zucchini, carrots, whatever your heart desires!)
15 oz chickpeas
15 oz tomato sauce
1 can coconut milk
1/2 cup chicken or veggie broth
1 tablespoon of: cumin, curry powder and turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne 
1/2 cup frozen green peas - add before serving
Place all the ingredients except peas in a crock pot and cook for 8 hours on low. Add peas before serving to warm up. Serve as a sauce on rice with plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream), cilantro and green onion.
Here is the original recipe - I tweaked it a bit but I think the author still deserves credit:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

No heat remedy

This morning I was awakened by an automated phone call from out local gas provider, that there is gas shortage due to a leak in Canada and we were instructed to turn down our thermostats down to 60 F. HERE is the article in a local newspaper. Yes, this is really happening while the blizzard warning is in place, the low is -27 degrees tonight and the winds are at 29 mph... I hope people working on the leak stay safe and warm!
Looks like I will be wearing a parka and ear warmers inside. To warm up my sad soul, Jeffrey made us a delicious breakfast...

Spinach Cheese Bake with Egg 
You can find the original recipe HERE
1 tablespoon of melted butter
2 bags of baby spinach
1.25 cup of shredded reduced fat cheddar
3/4 cup of Monterey Jack cheese 
(This is a lot of cheese. FYI - I used about a cup of shredded Gouda cheese - use whatever you would like!)
1 and 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1.5 cup fat free milk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon each of: salt, baking powder and Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon each of: black pepper, ground nutmeg, ground red pepper

Place the raw spinach on top of the melted butter in a pan. Cover with the shredded cheese. Next, mix all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour the mixture over the spinach and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. So easy!
When done, you may begin steaming your eggs. The concept is pretty much the same as frying an over-easy egg, but you don't have to turn them (and make a mess!). You will instead cook them in a frying pan, in a few tablespoons of water or vegetable broth under a cover to create the steam. Make sure you don't cook them too long, so the yolk is still soft. If you need more instruction, click HERE

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mystery grain

Bulgur - sounds like something Lord Voldemort would eat, but it's just a simple wheat cereal common in Mediterranean and Middle Eatern cuisine. Forgive my dorkiness here, but since I work in with gastrointestinal system quite a bit I always seem to be interested in nutritional facts, especially fiber, of which one cup of dry bulgur has quite a lot of - 25g, which is your daily need. So eat up!
Super Simple Bulgur Salad
(Can be used as a side, work lunch, appetizer or a snack)
1 cup cooked bulgur 
Half of diced red onion
Half of diced red pepper
Half of diced cucumber (some recipes say to seed it- I didn't)
Half a bunch of chopped parsley
1 can of rinsed chick peas
1 large garlic clove, minced 
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt an pepper to taste
Mix ingredients and enjoy! Yes, that's really it- the recipe is so simple and results quick and tasty!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Swieta po polsku

AKA Christmas the Polish way. Since I spent my holidays in the wonderful snow storms and below zero temperatures ( in Fahrenheit!) of North Dakota, I felt it was necessary to bring a bit of the Motherland to the table. So I started cookin'.
One of my favorite meals has always been a vegetable salad or salatka jarzynowa (try pronouncing that!), which is present on every table during either Christmas or Easter, or any big event for that matter. Not being a big fan of meat, I always appreciated the gentle flavors of veggies in a delicate sauce.
Vegetable Salad
6 carrots
6 potatoes
2 parsley roots (they look like white carrots and amazingly stores in Midwest carry them)
1 celery root (I couldn't find one. You can either skip it or substitute it with celery stalks)
6 pickles
3 hard boiled eggs
2 apples (I use Granny Smith)
1 can of corn
1 can of peas
Boil the peeled root vegetables until jut about right. They cannot be too soft - you don't want the salad too mushy. Cool in the fridge. Cut veggies, apples and eggs into a small dice. Add the canned vegetables. 
Now the sauce is the tricky part. You'll find that a lot of Polish recipes don't use the exact measurements, as if every Polak was born a perfect cook... Since the quantity of the sauce depends on your personal preference, I will just tell you in general: you will need 1 part of coarse mustard, 2 parts of mayo (I use light), salt and pepper, garlic, lemon juice. Gently stir the  sauce into the veggies and voila!

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Polish hunter stew (pronounced beegos) is a traditional Polish and Easter European in general prepared in winter. The recipe is pretty simple and the taste is comforting; perhaps that is the reason why it's been a staple on Polish tables since the 14th century. It is not a pretty dish - as a matter of fact, the name of it means "big mess"...
You will need:
1 fresh cabbage, julienned 
1 lb sauerkraut 
1 cup pitted prunes
1 onion, chopped
Half a bottle of red wine of your liking, I used Cabernet Sauvignon last time.
Half a jar of dark and tart jam, I used a Swedish currant jam. I find that a lot of American jams have a higher sugar content than their European counterparts, so I would search for something pretty tart, if you can.  
Kielbasa, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb cubed meat of your choice, cooked (I never add any other meat besides kielbasa but a lot of people do)
Fresh and dry mushrooms
Salt, pepper, bay leaf
Boil the julienned cabbage in some water until reduced to about a half, then add the sauerkraut. On low heat simmer for about 1.5 - 2 hours, slowly adding other ingredients. You may periodically add water if you feel like the dish will burn. Some serve it as a thick soup, some as a dry stew - it is your choice how much fluid you use. I also keep adding the wine (not to my glass, but to the dish) throughout the cooking process. There really isn't an exact order, in which ingredients need to be added. 
In the meantime, sauté the chopped onion, fresh mushrooms and kielbasa and add to the bigos. Adhere to instructions of the dry mushrooms (usually they need to be immersed in water for some time), then add to bigos. 
The longer you cook this dish the better - you really shouldn't cook it right before serving, it actually is t the best served the next day. Smacznego!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Bread

Did you notice that I capitalized "bread"? Because it is that good.
Let me start this blog entry with a prolonged reasoning why I think that making bread is a good idea. First of all, I am the queen of bread, cheese and wine. In a sense that I like to eat it. I could live on it. And homemade bread is always the best but it is soooo much work! See, I am a fan of McGregor's Theory X and Y that I learned in business school. (Who would've thought you use this stuff in real life, right?) A part of the theory, the X part, states, among other things, that people are lazy and in order to make them work you have to provide incentives. Well, duh. Let it be money, health insurance or delicious product to eat (they're all in same category, in my book). But another incentive is that it is very easy. No kneading, no messing around. You don't even have to touch the dough if you don't want to, I promise, just try.
First of all, you need just 4 ingredients. Mix 3 cups of bread flour (not all purpose, but it's on the same shelf in the store) with 1 packet of instant yeast and 1.5 teaspoon salt. Add 1.5 cups of water and stir until somewhat blended. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 4 hours. Open the wrap and fold the dough couple of times, cover again and let rise a bit for 30 minutes. 
In the meantime, heat oven to 450 degrees and heat an empty pan that you'll use to bake the bread in - in needs to have a cover. I used a Pyrex bowl. Once it's heated, take it out and place the dough in the pot. I just "poured" it out of my bowl into the dish. Cover with a lid and bake for 30 minutes. Then, take the lid off and bake for 15-30 more minutes.
And I have to tell you, it tastes as the European bread I grew up on does.
You can find the original recipe HERE.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fall is here!

Fall would've been my second favorite season, after summer of course, but since I have a difficulty staying in the moment and always look ahead, I think of all the cold and windy winter days to come. But only this once I'll try to enjoy the cool mornings for the sake of my all time favorite... (drum roll) pumpkin spice lattes! And pumpkin everything for that matter! I love getting them at Starbucks and I was equally as excited as sad for the thought of summer ending, when they started serving them last week of August. I mean, August? Really? Nah, I can't really complain, I love them.
I did not grow up with pumpkins, since of course I spent 18 years in Poland, where pumpkins or squashes are not utilized in cooking, so my pumpkin obsession can be attributed to my early childhood deprivation. 
So here's couple wonderful recipes for a pumpkin syrup and pumpkin scones. I will throw in a recipe for amazing cranberry and lemon scones too, just in case you're pumpkin overloaded.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup
Boil together 1 1/2 cups water and 1 1/2 cups of sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add:
 4 cinnamon sticks,
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and ground cloves,
3 tablespoons pumpkin puree - I used canned pumpkin by Libby's.
Simmer everything for 5 minutes. Keep in the fridge. The original recipe, which you can find HERE, recommends that you strain the liquid. I did not strain it and had some residue on the bottom of my coffee cup. A friend of mine did strain it and also had some residue, although much less than I did, I am sure. But if the residue is just the spices then, well, I guess I'm OK with it.

Pumpkin Scones
Mix together:
2 cups all purpose flour,
1/3 brown sugar,
1 teaspoon baking powder,
1/2 teaspoon baking soda,
1/2 teaspoon salt,
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon,
3/4 teaspoon of each ground ginger and ground cloves,
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
Set aside. Have a stick of unsalted butter chilling in a freezer ready.
In a separate dish mix together:
1 egg,
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (here I also used Libby's pumpkin, NOT the pumpkin pie filling),
1 tablespoon molasses,
3 tablespoons half and half (I used non fat),
2 teaspoons vanilla.
Whisk together. I used a food processor for this. You can either use a real blade or a plastic one if yours comes with it. I have used either for making the dough. Mix the flower mixture and a cut up frozen stick of butter in the processor - pulsate it a few times, the mixture will certainly NOT look combined. Add the wet ingredients and pulsate couple more times, make sure you do not overmix the dough. The whole idea about scones is to not overmix the dough. Take the dough out of the processor onto a floured counter top and flatten out. Cut it up into 8 squares, as if you were cutting a pizza. This will make large scones. Since I like small ones I divided the dough into two "balls" and cut each into 8 pieces. Bake on a parchment paper for 13 minutes at 400 degrees.
The scones you will end up with will be more moist than scones should be, I think, but I guess thats the price you have to pay for adding the pumpkin.
To make a pumpkin glaze mix together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon pumpkin puree, 1/8 teaspoon of each ground cloves, ginger and cinnamon and 2 tablespoons half and half. Adjust consistency with half and half and powdered sugar.
The original recipe, which you can find HERE, also included a simple sugar glaze. I thought that the pumpkin glaze was enough, though.

Cranberry and Lemon Scones
These are very, very tasty. And equally as simple to make.
2 cups all purpose flour,
1/3 cup of sugar,
1 teaspoon baking powder,
1/8 teaspoon baking soda,
and 1/2 teaspoon salt with 1 stick of unsalted frozen butter in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add:
1 egg,
1/2 cup sour cream ( I used low fat)
1/2 cup raisins or nuts of your choice
zest of one lemon
Pulse the food processor blade just until the dough is combined. Do not overmix. That's pretty much it! Divide into two balls, flatten on a floured surface and cut each into 8 squares, just like you're cutting a pizza. Bake about 15 minutes at 400 degrees. I enjoyed these without a glaze.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Perfect dessert for the summer's end

I'm all about making desserts a little healthier than their original version, mainly so that I can have seconds.  My recent fruit crisp kick started when my friend Lacey made a delicious cherry crisp. Since then, I just had to have this dessert every weekend and since peaches are in season I supplied myself with a few pounds at the farmers' market. I found this great recipe for a crisp that could be served for breakfast, which of course I consider a great concept! The recipe mentioned that the dessert can be served with Greek yogurt instead of ice cream and after implementing this idea I am happy to report that it tasted great! I used a plain non-fat yogurt because I like my desserts a little less sweet but I bet it would taste great with any flavor!
The addition of lemon zest keeps it fresh while the nutmeg and cinnamon remind me of the fall season to come. A perfect combination for the summer's end.
Since the recipe belongs to another blogger I will not post it but instead you can head over HERE to access her blog.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What to do on a weekend in town

OK, let's be honest, you may think that there is not much to do in a small city in North Dakota. I can relate to that, as I don't have a lake place and I am not crazy about camping every weekend. But I can assure you that if you look closely you may find yourself busy all weekend with various (and cultural!) activities.
A friend told me that one of the reasons he likes Grand Forks is its lack of clear breakup of social classes. Everyone is able to see the same theater show as well as go to the best restaurant in town and be able to afford it. Tickets to an outside concert at the North Dakota Museum of Art are only $10 and a four course gourmet dinner there costs just shy of 50 bucks. 
Almost every other Tuesday night NDMOA offers outside concerts with free beer or wine (donations are welcome!). You can also treat yourself to a grass fed beef burger or a root beer float. Be sure to bring a blanket or a camp chair! (More information here)
If you keep an eye out on the NDMOA calendar you may just find yourself at a dinner table at the museum on a Friday night. Gourmet dinner with the best selection of wine - your own. Gespacho, beef bourguignon, lamb meatballs, flambé cherries on ice cream - these are just couple examples of the dishes served by chef Justin. If you miss dinner you can always visit the cafe for lunch. (More information about the cafe here). 

On a Saturday morning you may find yourself hungry and bored. Hopefully not hangover enough after the Friday night shenanigans to be able to head downtown to the farmers market. That's my go-to place for eggs, veggies and honey. If you're in a mood for lunch be sure to stop by Amazing Grains for a sandwich, salad or a smoothie. By the way, check out the cheese section. You may find yourself stopping by there prior to your next dinner party. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Recently we had an opportunity to go to New York City. Since I have never been there, I was very excited to see the city that never sleeps. I was looking forward to eating all the ethnic food my little heart desires. And all the sites of course...
Our first night Jeff and I ventured all the way to the next block to a little Turkish cafe named ABA on W 57th St. 
One common rule between some cafe's in large cities is the BYOB custom. Often little restaurants cannot afford a liquor license or there are limits of the ones the city issues. In such cases you're more than welcome to bring a bottle of wine (or two), at times even without a corking fee but with a complementary bucket of ice to keep it cool. 
Although not a big meat eater, I made an exception tonight and enjoyed lamb meatballs. Jeffrey's meal was fantastic- lamb in a mixture of eggplant and cheese. I don't have a picture of it, perhaps it disappeared too quickly.

I like to enjoy a cup of coffee after my meal, especially a quality Turkish coffee. 
BTW- "lezzetli" means delicious in Turkish. I hope, because I don't actually speak Turkish. But oh it was. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

NYC Highline

Ok, the second best part of NYC is certainly it's Highline. A one mile park built on old rail road tracks is a great place for a romantic walk. Or in our case it was certainly a sweaty walk, as the weather was trying our limits. Thankfully, I had a supply of mango sorbet on a stick and a wheat grass-ginger lemonade, readily available.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Best part about NYC

I love my morning runs. They get me ready for the day, keep me motivated. Perhaps I don't feel so good at times at the beginning of my run but once I'm done, or close to being done, I have this great sense of accomplishment. It makes me feel healthy and establishes the theme for the day.
New Yorkers have to put up with traffic, sewer smells and high rental prices but are certainly blessed with the Central Park visited by millions of tourists annually. We tried to fit in and pretend we're from the city when jogging around the Reservoir. Our hopes to be unrecognized as tourists quickly shattered as we had to ask for directions back... 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Grandma's Marathon

Couple of weekends ago my wonderful husband participated in the Garry Bjorklund's Half Marathon, which is a part of the ever famous Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN. Now, I do need to mention that although a seasoned runner with couple of marathons under my belt myself ( OK, fine, one half marathon and few other races...) I decided to sit this one out and experience the joy of spectating.
Let me start by saying that when we left Grand Forks the weather was swim suit appropriate and when we arrived in Duluth I thought we fast forwarded in time to October.

Cold and rain was not going to stop us from cheering for Jeff, though. Armed with mimosas, Sam, Toni, Lori and I were very happy to make some noise and chant.

After the race Sam made his famous "meal in a glass".