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". 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

4th of July

It has been too long. Between my super important job as a nurse and my graduate courses I clearly did not find motivation for keeping up with my blog for the last couple of months. And rest assured that I have received much grief from my loving fans...
I would like to report that my 4th of July celebrations were wonderful. Jackson and I of course went for a nice long walk. Look at him posing for photos he just knew would end up online in one form or another. 
No 4th of July festivities can be complete without fireworks accompanied by very American brownies and cookies - courtesy of my friends' little boy Cayden. 

And of course I would not be myself if I didn't have a beer-garita. I even shared. Not many places in Grand Forks can offer outside seating in the summer, so I tend to frequently visit those that do. This yummy margarita is available at the Boardwalk Bar and Grill in East Grand Forks. Although only 3/5 stars on the Yelp review, I do think that it is a good place to visit, especially because of their summer outside seating. The menu, although one writer wrote was very limited, provided just enough options. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What to eat when traveling

Choosing an inexpensive yet nutritious and tasty meal is certainly a challenge when traveling. Not at the Minneapolis airport! By recently banning McDonald's the airport is transforming into a place where you really can find something good to eat. (I do have to admit though; I love the McDonald's oatmeal as well their coffee- which means a lot coming from a self professed coffee snob- I guess those are my guilty pleasures!) Read about the recent change in the article HERE.
Recently I had a chance to stroll by the G gates and what I discovered amazed me and made my very excited for the next layover. The huge area is filled with fruits and veggies, freshly made sandwiches, hot and cold buffet style meals and yogurts- it will certainly be a planned stop.
One of my favorite places remains Surdyk's. Known for its wines and cheeses, at MSP airport it also offers amazing meals and drinks. Stop by there next time for a bloody and a salad, it is located in the mall area near the Body Shop or the Harley Davidson store. Yum!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Must have Moussaka

I love all things eggplant. When we were in college Jeffrey used to make an eggplant parmesan bake that I absolutely loved. For some reason we haven't made it for a while but recently the good old friend visited our tables again.
Moussaka is traditionally made with meat, such as lamb. It's eaten in Mediterranean countries; in some as a cold dish and in some as a hot one. I would definitely recommend eating this dish hot!
Since I haven't been cooking with meat for a while now, I am always on a lookout for vegetarian recipes or I simply skip the meat or add something else instead of it. Easy for me - this recipe was already designed vegetarian with bulgur instead of lamb. If you haven't heard of bulgur, it is a very healthy grain that is pretty rich in fiber.
The recipe is from Cooking Light and you can find it online HERE. I only used 2 eggplants, actually. One mistake I made, which you can probably tell from the photos is that I poured the Bechamel sauce BEFORE I arranged the final layer of eggplant, which made it look pretty but the edges of it became hardened during the baking process. Regardless, it disappeared from our plates pretty quickly!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The simplest pizza in the world

I have written about pizza before; I love how easy and delicious it is. The reason why I don't make the grilled or the balsamic pizza (click on the links for recipes!) as often as I used to is because making the dough can be a real pain in the behind...
My life has changed since I found this recipe for the simplest dough ever. I am unsure of who created it; I have heard gossips that she was an Australian nutritionist, or perhaps a school teacher. She better take credit soon before the nominations for Nobel prizes are accepted.
The dough requires two ingredients:
1 cup Greek plain yogurt
1 cup self rising flour
Now, if you don't have a self rising flour at home you may make it using this recipe. Just click on the link!
You must mix both ingredients and knead the dough for 5-8 minutes. Roll it out and place on a baking sheet. The dough bakes quite fast - I recommend placing your toppings on it and baking it all together.

 I don't like using pizza sauce, instead, I brush the top of the dough with a mixture of olive oil and chopped garlic. Almost all the ingredients are raw, the spinach was sautéed earlier. I baked it at 350-375 for about 15-20 minutes.