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Euro 2012: Fans Enjoy the Best of Poland, Good Beer and Great Food!

15 Jun

I love really good food and a good glass of wine or a great cold mug of beer; add to the mix a great football (soccer) match and life is good.

The fans who flocked to Poland and the Ukraine for UEFA Euro 2012 have not been disappointed when it comes to entertainment; there hasn’t been a dull moment since the opening celebrations.  What has kept them happy and coming back for more, the hospitality, the food and beer of course.

Some fun food Friday for those that have not yet had the privilege of sampling the best of Poland; No I don’t mean the good-looking guys and gals!

The fans are definitely enjoying the beer in Poland, as I mentioned in Euro 2012: Have a Drink or Two, I believe Poland has some of the best beer and vodka.  I think the fans may agree.

Na Zdrowie!!

Love this Picture, this is so Europe!

What’s his favorite brand?

Is Polish beer better than German, I might argue, yes?

Drinking may inspire your team to win; it surely helps the Polish economy!

 Yup, it’s better to drink when your team still has a chance, makes for happier fans.

Now for some food.

Gołąbki (cabbage rolls)

Pierogi (dumplings with different yummies on the inside)

Barszcz

Barszcz

Salatka kiszona z marchewką

Kielbasa

Kotlety schabowe

The perfect Polish meal.

Check out Euro 2012: Gdansk, A City of Freedom, to take a look at grand Polish breakfasts.

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Sprinkle Someone with Love and a Great Meal: Quick Polish Inspired Pork Cutlets (Kotlety Schabowe)

5 May

This affordable Polish inspired meal is definitely quick and easy and yet; it has the sophistication of a meal that took endless hours of preparation.

If you are looking to impress someone with your great cooking skills, look no further, this meal has very little room for failure, and it is packed with great flavors that will make everyone beg for more.

A pork loin fillet (pork cutlets) breaded, seasoned and fried to perfection.  Some lovely mashed potatoes, glazed carrots and of course, the perfect breaded pork cutlet (kotlety schabowe) side dish, sauerkraut with carrots (surówkę z kapusty kiszonej z marchewką).

Ingredients

1-Pound Pork Loin

Salt

 Black pepper

½ t Butter

1 T Olive Oil

½ t Sugar

2 T Sour Cream

Expeller pressed Canola Oil

1 large egg

Bread Crumbs

1 Bunch Carrots  (I always buy the organic small bunch from Whole Foods, they are very economical and no peeling necessary)

6-10 Potatoes (depending on how much you enjoy eating them)

1 Large Carrot

½ White Onion

1/3 Jar Sauerkraut (I recommend any Polish sauerkraut that you can get your hands on; I do believe it is the best. However, for those of you that are not fortunate enough to have a global market in your town, any kind will do, although sauerkraut in a jar is much tastier than the stuff that comes in a bag!)

Preparation

1. Cut  pork loin into desired pieces, 1 pound should give you 4-5 really nice kotlety (pork cutlets)

2. Pound the meat until tender and thin

3. Peel Potatoes and Boil

4. Heat skillet on medium, lightly coating with expeller pressed canola oil

5. Beat one egg with a fork (preferable on a plate, easier to dredge the meat)

6. Prepare breadcrumbs on a plate

7. Sprinkle pork cutlet with salt and pepper on each side

8. Dredge in egg and then bread crumbs

9. Place on the skillet, fry about 5 minutes on each side

10. Add about ¼ cup water when all kotlety (pork cutlets) are fried, cover and let stand on very low heat for about 10 minutes (a little secret that will leave your meat beyond tender)

11. Wash carrots and boil for about 6-8 minutes (in a skillet)

12. Drain, add about ¼ teaspoon butter, a bit of salt and pepper and about ½ teaspoon sugar, a quick sauté of 3-4 minutes will create a perfect flavor

13. Place the sauerkraut into large bowl, grate 1 large carrot and add to sauerkraut, finely chop ½ onion and add to bowl, drizzle with 1T olive oil, sprinkle pepper about 1 t (don’t add salt), and mix will.

14. Mash potatoes, add ¼ t butter, 2 T sour cream

 Of course, as always, no Polish inspired meal would be complete without a glass of tea.

The Brilliance of May: A Little Succulent Fruit

2 May

May is upon us; so far, this glorious month has decided to bring wonderful weather as well.  I love the month of May, not because with it comes another birthday, I think after 25, I decided I would rather celebrate my name day.  (In Poland, everyone has a day of the year that is linked to his or her name, and thus you are celebrating your existence, celebrating you, and not your age, or rather the addition of another year.)

The month of May always brings a bounty of flowers ( my favorite flower peony) , newborn babies (human and our little friendly, furry creatures), and a sense of a new beginning.  I feel as if anything is possible, you finish the old and bring in the new; a rejuvenation of your spirit takes flight.

It may have something to do with my incapability to live outside of the school year calendar, or with the fact that all my favorite television shows have their finales and take a well-deserved hiatus, giving me one as well.  I refuse to watch summer television shows, instead I focus on spending all my free time in the sunshine or at least in the fresh air (you will never catch me without my SPF 30).

May brings wonderfully delicious, succulently ripe strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and mangos, to name a few.  I eat fruits in the winter, often resorting to frozen berries for my daily smoothies, but with the coming of May, my mouth starts to water just thinking about the fresh fruit, I will be able to enjoy.

I start to think about all the deserts that I can create using fresh fruits, and my mind starts to wander to my favorite pastime, a good book, a great lounge chair under an umbrella on the beach, fresh fruit, cheese, a yummy baguette and a great glass of wine.

Check out my ode to spring; strawberry whipped cream angel food cake

Remember to enjoy the season and to take time to soak in the beauty of May.  The month comes upon us, rather quickly, giving us a little glimpse of the possibilities that wait for us and then it passes us by.

Like the bloom of a flower, May gives us such pure unadulterated pleasure; a burst of energy, hope and beauty, quickly fading, yet making a brilliant impact while it is here.

A Friday the 13th pick me up: Strawberry, Whipped Cream Angel Food Cake

13 Apr

Do you need a Friday the 13th pick me up?  I have just the thing, a wholesome, beautiful and of course yummy strawberry and whipped creamy angel food cake.

Easy to make, not bad to look at and so tasty; that’s all you need to make today fun Friday and then some…

Just a hint, if you leave off the whipped cream your desert is just about fat free; something else to look forward to.

If you just do not feel like making the angel food cake, you can cheat, yup, I said cheat.  Buy a cake that is already made and add the whipped cream and strawberry topping, no one will ever know the difference.  If there is a Whole Foods near you then splurge on their angel food cake, it tastes like my homemade version.

Ingredients

1 cup cake flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 large egg whites, room temperature

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 package heavy whipped cream

2 pounds strawberries

Crushed walnuts (optional)

1. Beat egg whites on medium-high until foamy

2. Add cream of tartar continue beating until soft peaks form

3. Gradually add sugar, beating an additional 2-3 minutes, adding the vanilla

4. Sift flour and salt together

5. Sift flour mixture over egg white mixture

6. Use a spatula to fold in the flour mixture, turn the bowl, it helps a great deal

7. Spoon batter into greased angel food cake pan

8. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees

9. Let angel food cake cool for about an hour

10. Whip Heavy cream on high speed until stiff

11. Cut strawberries into thin slices

12.Gently cover angel food cake with whipped cream (using the a plastic spatula)

13. Arrange strawberries on whipped cream, sprinkle with walnuts and sugar if you desire

(and walla it only takes 13 steps…..)

 

 

Euro 2012: Have a Drink or Two

29 Mar

Would a soccer match be as good without a celebratory drink?  Although many will join the argument in regard to the best beer or vodka in Europe, I have my own favorites.

If you are in Poland for any of the soccer matches, don’t forget to try some of the local favorites.

Some of the more popular Polish beers are Zywiec, Tyskie, Zubr, Lech, Okocim, Warka, Debowe Mocne, Tatra.

Zywiec is a great pick; the porter is my favorite, with a slight chocolaty flavor (??) and a pleasant crispness that does wonders to my pallet.

Top Vodka brands are Sobieski, Pan Tadeusz, Belvedere, Żołądkowa Gorzka, Dębowa, Krupnik, Chopin, Żubrówka, Luksusowa, and Wyborowa.

My favorite is Żubrówka.  Żubrówka also known in English as Bison Grass Vodka, is a brand of dry, herb-flavored vodka that is distilled from rye and bottled at 40% alcohol by volume. Its flavor is unique and is described as having vanilla, coconut, and almond notes. The name comes from grass eaten by polish bisons, (żubr – bison) and in each bottle you will find a blade of bison grass.

In Poland, vodka is usually served chilled, not on the rocks , not mixed and without a chaser; I cannot really imagine a Polish native ordering a vodka and coke or vodka and orange juice.  What you  may become familiar with, I have to say it is my favorite, is Żubrówka with apple juice or cider. The combination is delightfully sweet with a great kick, unfortunately substituting with apple juice bought in the states just doesn’t give it the same flavor, so if you can get your hands on Polish apple juice, I advise it whole heartedly.

If you find yourself lucky enough to be invited to an authentic Polish dinner, make sure you bring your appetite; the food and drinks never stop coming.  The secret is to take a drink with every bite 😉   If you have the elusive invitation to try some bimber, do so with enthusiastic vigor.  Bimber is Polish moonshine (never say never).

I am definitely having a beer tonight; a lovely, crisp cold Polish beer.

Polish Wonders: Apple Pancakes (placuszki z jablkami)

23 Mar

A quick Polish recipe that is delicious and healthy.  The recipe can make a great desert or, at least for me, a fantastic dinner alternative.

Ingredients

2 cups flour

2 eggs

1 ½ cups skim milk

4-5 apples (depending on size)

Whisk flour, milk and eggs until creamy

Peel apples and add slices, the thinner the better

Drizzle skillet with oil, medium heat

(I recommend expeller pressed, organic canola oil)

½ ladle of batter onto hot skillet, about 3 minutes on each side or until lightly brown.

Enjoy your apple pancakes; sprinkling with sugar or top with your favorite fruit.

 Always enjoy all my Polish recipes with a great cup of hot tea.

Euro 2012: Gdansk, A City of Freedom

22 Mar

Gdansk is a charming city, an illustrious choice for Euro 2012.  If you have always wanted to travel to Poland and just didn’t know which city to choose, (Krakow is the city I would recommend, alas it is not one of our soccer towns), Gdansk is a great option.

Gdansk in my mind will always be synonymous with the fall of communism in Europe.  The movement Solidarity (Solidarnosc) laid its groundwork in Gdansk; a birth of freedom stemmed from this historical and picturesque town.

I love Gdansk, no matter how many times I visit; there is always a new place to discover; perhaps a hidden cafe nestled in one of Old Town’s cobblestone roads.  My favorite part of the city may be the shipyard; many visitor sites go out of their way to point out that Gdansk has revitalized itself for the 21st century (no more dingy shipyard).  However, how can one ever wipe away a history stemmed from this very existence?  The wooden port crane, which was built in 1367, is a picture perfect keeper for your mementos, the very heart of Gdansk.

About an hour east of town a site not to be missed on your adventure is Malbork Castle.  Construction on the castle began in 1275; it is one of the biggest gothic castles remaining in the world.

My favorite hotel in Gdansk would have to be Hotel Krolewski, unfortunately; it is completely booked for Euro 2012, but if you are ever in the area make it a priority to stay here.  The view in most rooms is the wooden port crane and at night, the cafes and restaurants let a little twinkle filter through your window.  On average, the hotel is 80 euros with breakfast.

I will give my fellow readers a great tip when traveling to Poland:

Always, always book your hotel with breakfast included.  Breakfast in Poland is one of the greatest delights.  I am not even being biased, most of my fellow friends that have had the pleasure of traveling to Poland would agree.  Most hotels offer a breakfast option and surprisingly even the 1 star hotels have great food.

Have You Booked Your Ticket Yet??

Buckwheat Frenzy and the Perfect Breakfast

10 Mar

My obsession with buckwheat started about two years ago, and it has escalated into a frenzy.  Of course, having been born in Eastern Europe it’s not like I was blind to its existence, but it took a few major health concerns to bring the magic of buckwheat back into the light.

For this post, I will stick to praising its wonders for us humans, but stay tuned as I start to share with you the wonders buckwheat has done for my two, ever-faithful pups.

Buckwheat a GLUTEN-FREE grain is high in magnesium and a great source of fiber.  The grain is available all year long and is such a hardy plant, that there is no pesticide use needed in its farming.  The greatest part about buckwheat is that the calorie count almost overshadows the health benefits.

Buckwheat is said to control diabetes, promote a healthy digestive system and aid in the prevention of high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

I don’t have a medical problem with gluten, but I have noticed that when I eat gluten-free foods, my energy levels seem to skyrocket, and overall I seem to feel and look a lot healthier.   Another benefit and a great way of getting rid of some of your acid reflux problems, without giving up the wonders of wine, chocolate, tomatoes, and spicy foods, just to name a few, is to pump up your diet with gluten-free foods.   The best way to overhaul your diet without having to think too hard or without changing your whole life around is to add a little buckwheat into your diet.  The little change can do wonders for your overall well-being.

It seems that buckwheat not only keeps you healthy but can help you cope with stress as well.  Something that seems to be off in the western diet is not calcium intake, as milk and other dairy products seem to be consumed in abundance, but the imbalance of calcium to magnesium.   Calcium excites nerves; magnesium calms them down, Calcium makes muscles contract, however magnesium is necessary for muscles to relax.  Studies have shown that the underlying cellular change enabling the stress response is a low Mg:Ca ratio caused by a large and sudden influx of calcium into cells.  The healthy way to balance your diet and your sanity is to eat a little buckwheat.

Buckwheat can be a substitute for staples you already use daily.  Buckwheat flour can make your baking healthier and best of all the calorie count actually goes down on your favorite recipe.  Buckwheat noodles can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store; although make sure to check the ingredients if you need gluten-free because sometimes the manufacture puts other flours into the mix.

The most well known form of Buckwheat is grouts or Kasha (as it’s called in European or Jewish cuisine), and this can be eaten as a sugar free, gluten-free, wheat-free breakfast cereal alternative, as well as a substitute for any recipe that calls for rice or potatoes.

The hardest thing about enjoying buckwheat is being able to find it in the United States at your local grocery store.  I am baffled at this fact.  Buckwheat is easy and cheap to manufacture, the President of Russia, Putin, has said that there is such an abundance of buckwheat in his country that they have to sweep it off the streets.  However, it seems to escape the import market and there is not only a shortage of places that sell buckwheat, but the price is a little inflated.  I find my buckwheat at a local international market; the product is directly imported from Russia, Poland and Ukraine and the prices, although not as cheap as in Europe or Canada, are not too bad, about $3 for 2 pounds.  Two pounds last me about 2 ½ weeks.  I eat it every day for breakfast, a few times a week for dinner and my pups eat it as part of their meal twice a day, every day.

To prepare buckwheat make sure you rinse the grouts thoroughly.  I recommend buying the roasted oats; the cooking process is faster.  I like my buckwheat a little firm, if I wanted mushy, then I would eat cream of wheat, thus I boil 1 part buckwheat to three parts boiling water.

1 cup buckwheat groats to 3 cups water

4 cups buckwheat groats to 12 cups water (this lasts me about 2 ½ weeks)

It stores really well; keep it fresh by storing in Tupperware and refrigerate, do not forget to put a lid on. 

I will share some fun and yummy buckwheat recipes in the weeks to come, in the mean time start your morning out on the right foot.

My breakfast of choice; it might take some time to get used to the flavor but don’t worry once you acquire the wonderful earthy flavor of buckwheat you will wonder why it’s taken you so long to get acquainted:

3/4 cup buckwheat

1 cup Almond Milk (I find lactose a little harsh on an empty stomach)

1 apple

1 kiwi

1/2 t coconut oil (optional)

Hot tea

fish oil

A wonderful thing I have learned is if you persist in something for at least 21 days, then it becomes a habit.

I have this healthy breakfast Monday through Friday.  On Saturday and Sunday, I indulge in eggs, crepes, French toast, and all the other wonderfully delicious, extravagant breakfast feasts you can imagine.  All this comes without any guilt, of course, because I have spent 5 days of the week eating a healthy, energetic and scrumptious buckwheat breakfast.

If my readers know of any great online sites to order buckwheat or kasha please feel free to share.

Academy Awards 2012 Feast and a Little Obsession with Sautéing

25 Feb

I always enjoy eating a bit of everything during the Oscars.  Whether you are having a little get-together with family and friends, or it is just you and the pups, having good food is a great way to enjoy the awards show.

I think my favorite thing about this meal is the smell of onions sautéing in butter, a smell that brings back the very best memories of my childhood in Poland.   The smell conjures up a period of my life when time slowly melted away; the comforts of a childhood home that can never fade, the trivial daily routines of my mother or grandmother that gave me a sanctuary of stability, love and reassurance.

I am having just a few friends over and decided to combine a few fast and easy Polish dishes with a little Mediterranean flare.  If you are throwing a lavish party double or triple the recipes and always remember that presentation counts as much as the food, so let the fun begin.

A simple sausage can turn into am extravagant meal if you add the perfect sides; grilled potatoes, sautéed zucchini, grilled mushrooms, and a sauerkraut salad (surowka z kiszonej kapusty), trust me, it’s delicious.  For desert, an easy-peasy cheesecake with fresh strawberries.  I have a creamier, more intricate cheesecake recipe I will share in the future, but for this weekend who has time to bake when the Academy Awards are on.

Ingredients

Sausage -(2 sausages a guest) any kind will do, but make sure you are buying nitrite and nitrate free sausages.  Whole foods and Trader Joes has a grand assortment.  I have chosen a spinach, fontina and roasted garlic chicken sausage (all natural, raised with no antibiotics-Trader Joes)

1 bag Dutch yellow potatoes (or any small potatoes, that do not require peeling)

(I love You Trader Joe’s Dutch Yellow Potatoes, only $2.79 a bag)

4 carrots

(I always buy the organic small bunch from Whole Foods, they are very economical and no peeling necessary)

3 ½ onion (yellow or white)

5 zucchini

10-12 or 1 package baby bella mushrooms

10-12 Shitake mushrooms

1 Jar Sauerkraut (I recommend any Polish sauerkraut that you can get your hands on; I do believe it is the best.  However, for those of you that are not fortunate enough to have a global market in your town, any kind will do, although sauerkraut in a jar is much tastier than the stuff that comes in a bag!)

Olive oil

4 T butter

Salt and pepper

Ingredients for the Cheesecake

2 packages cream cheese

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 orange (for the zest)

1 Vanilla bean

Fresh strawberries

Go ahead and start on your cheesecake first.

Bring the cream cheese to room temperature

Zest your orange

Beat the cream cheese with 1/3 cup sugar (I am not a fan of overtly sweet desert, if that is what you enjoy add another ¼ cup of sugar), the vanilla bean, and the orange zest until the batter has a creamy consistency.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time until well blended

Butter your glass-baking dish and lightly coat with breadcrumbs or flour

Pour batter into a glass dish, I am not a fan of piecrust (it is usually made with hydrogenated oils (very bad for your health), unless you make your own, but in Poland, cheesecake is usually made without a crust.

Bake at 350°F for about 50 minutes or until center is almost set.

Wash and slice your strawberries, sprinkle with 1-2t sugar and mix well.  Garnish cheesecake or each individual slice or allow your guests to add their own strawberries.

The meal

Boil your sausages for about 15 minutes

Boil potatoes (stick a sharp knife into potatoes 15-20 after water starts to boil; you want the knife to slide in gently, do not over boil potatoes, or they will fall apart)

Melt 1 T butter, 1 T olive oil, sauté 1 onion  until lightly brown in a large skillet, slice potatoes leaving the skin on, throw onto skillet and lightly brown, sprinkling with salt and pepper to taste.

Sauté 1 finely chopped onion with 2 T butter and a drizzle of olive oil until lightly brown

Add chopped mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste (about 1 t each)

Sauté about 15-20 minimum until juicy and tender (adding ¼-cup red wine-optional)

Peel zucchini, slice, drizzle with olive oil, and sauté in skillet, adding 1t cayenne pepper and 1 t salt.  Make sure you do not sauté for more than 5 minutes; you do not want your zucchini to tender.

Finely chop 1 onion and sauté in 1T butter and 1T olive oil until lightly brown in a skillet, cut sausage into thin slices and toss into skillet, brown on both sides, about 10 minutes.

Place ½ of the contents of the sauerkraut into large bowl, grate 4 carrots and add to sauerkraut,  finely chop ½ onion and add to bowl, drizzle with 1T olive oil, sprinkle pepper about 1 t (don’t add salt), and mix will.

Walla, your meal is ready.  The secret word of the day seems to be sauté.  I just realized that there is a lot of chopping, sautéing and drizzling with this meal, but it is worth it.  Enjoy and do not forget to make sure you have a variety of drinks available for your guests: red or white wine, beer or even a variety of liquors that do not require mixing.

No Fuss Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Topping

17 Feb

The dessert is a fun and easy way to tell the person you love (which may just be yourself tonight) that you made something homemade.

No one needs to know that it is only semi-homemade, that will be our little secret.  The recipe is definitely a smidgen of quick and easy.

Ingrediants


1 box Dr. Oetker’s Organic Chocolate Cake Mix

(You can substitute your own cake mix, although I am partial to the organic or gluten free mixes found at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods)

The ingredients below are for this particular cake mix

3 Eggs

¾ cup milk

1/3 cup oil (I use expeller pressed canola oil, or you can use olive oil)

** (More to come in the future about why NOT to use vegetable oil) **

For the Whipped Cream Topping


1 ½ Cups Heavy Whipped Cream

(I prefer Organic Valley; pasture raised, and farmer owned.  What could be better?)

1 Vanilla Bean

½ Cup Sugar

 Optional (for decoration)

Ghirardelli chocolate chips

Strawberries or Raspberries

Beat cake mix with eggs, milk and oil (follow package instructions – as they may vary)

Place in the oven

Remove from oven when done and let completely cool before starting on topping.

Prepare the vanilla bean by cutting the bean in half lengthwise and then scraping the seeds from the bean with the tip of the knife

Pour Cream into bowl, whip until it forms stiff peaks, adding vanilla bean and sugar half way through the whipping process.

Smooth whipped cream topping with spatula or just a big spoon.

Decorate as you wish and enjoy!

Remember no one needs to know that your dessert is not completely from scratch (remember to dispose of the evidence)!

One of my little pups, Misiu, tried to get a piece of the action as well.  No worries, I did share a little whipped cream with him, but no chocolate; which, by the way, is very bad for pups.

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