Thursday, September 26, 2013


Hummus is almost an everyday snack food for many many people. I have no idea why, but it is so damn addictive, I've never even thought that (apparently) I can be in deep love with beans. There are so many ways  to make the huge variety of spreads and dips, with different kind of beans, not chickpeas only,  even though at the end it's not exactly hummus, but still delicious.

I'm trying to keep it on a healthy side, but I am OK with store-bought hummus. However my preference goes to one brand among others: "Sabra hummus". If you read its label, it won't question you as many other competitor brands with lots of 0_o?? ingredients. There is also a nice mediterranean store at 39th and 9th ave, where you can buy a simple hummus in a can, and then mix it with olive oil and lemon juice at home before serving.
Here is my attempt to make hummus.
I followed an easy path and made it with canned chickpeas (yes. being lazy).
Unfortunately, using the wrong source of information and having no practice I got a very bland and runny hummus.
However! I was quite persistent aka  pissed that I didn't manage to cook such a simple thing as a hummus and fixed my mistakes and got REALLY GOOD hummus at the end.
Here are few mistakes I made:
1. Not enough garlic. Hummus is not a hummus without a garlic in it (don't add too much though..)
2. Too much liquid.
3. Lack of spices.
If you already added too much liquid, try to thicken it with the chia and flax seeds.

Homemade Hummus:
1 can of chickpeas
2 tbsp reserved liquid (from the can)
2 tbsp tahini
2 medium garlic cloves
3 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp olive oil
pinch sea salt
1 tsp cumin
fresh parsley for decorations
Dry the chickpeas and reserve their liquid. Pulse the chickpeas in a blender, slowly adding garlic, tahini, lemon juice, reserved liquid and olive oil. Blend until you have the desired texture: you can regulate it from more coarse to the silky smooth. And that's basically it. Spread it on toasted pita, dip mini carrots and celery in it (fingers will work too).

No need to stick to my ingredients list, as it varies to your liking. Mix in whatever you want to, and make a very exclusive and your very own bowl of unique hummus. Go on and add bell peppers, sun dried tomatoes, basil, paprika, dill,zaatar, mushrooms, turmeric, pine nuts, olives,and many many other favorites of yours. Pick the consistency you prefer: skip half of the liquid if you like more stiff hummus or add more olive oil with lemon juice to thin it out.

The idea is to keep those basic ingredients together (along with proportions): chickpeas, liquid from it, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. And then only the sky is a limit :-) Play around with it!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pasta with chicken and grape tomatoes

I pinned this recipe long ago, and just now got a chance to cook it (or lets put it this way: I had very boring chicken breasts in the fridge which had to be cooked asap and the simpler, the better).
The recipe is VERY easy, also giving you room for your own additions and experiments.
You can arrange the whole dinner in less than 30 minutes, thus it makes a perfect choice for busy weeknights.
 I personally love pasta with less ingredients. I used to overload the pasta dishes with vegetables, meats and cheeses, and the whole point of pasta was lost. It was simply hard to taste the actual pasta hidden in the ocean of other ingredients. Tomato, basil and olive oil is a GO for me.
You can omit the chicken here or serve it with shrimp instead. Or maybe you'd like to add your own magic ingredient, who knows?

Pasta with chicken and tomatoes:
Adapted from

2 chicken breasts, skinless, cut in cubes or as matchsticks (or hearts,etc)
2 tbsp dried italian herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary, parsley, thyme, sage)
sea salt and pepper
3 tbsp EVOO
8 oz spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
fresh rosemary leaves
fresh basil leaves, chopped

Pat dry chicken breasts. Season very generously with all the desired dry herbs, sea salt and pepper.
In a large skillet heat 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add chicken. Brown the meat until it's no longer pink. About 3-4 minutes on a medium heat. Remove chicken from the skillet and set aside.

Add chopped garlic cloves and red pepper flakes to the same skillet. Reduce the heat to low. Saute garlic for less than a minute. If there is burning happening, add remaining olive oil. Stir in tomatoes. Fry for one more minute. Add white wine, stirring and scraping up all the browned bits in the pan. Once wine is reduced by half in volume, add fresh rosemary. Keep the heat very-very low at this point.

Cook pasta according to the package instructions (keeping it 1 minute away from al-dente).
Reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water once pasta is ready.

Add chicken to the skillet with tomatoes, gently mix in the drained pasta. Toss well, making sure pasta is absorbing the sauce. Add a little bit of pasta water if it seems too dry.
Keep the skillet on very low for one more minute (or less if you'd like to keep your pasta al dente). Serve with fresh basil and parmesan cheese.

I read this article recently. Some points of it, seriously, opened my eyes for the whole process of pasta cooking . It turned out I've made some small but important mistakes. Here is what I found:

  • " Have your sauce completed by the time you add the pasta to the boiling salted water. Keep the sauce on a low simmer until the pasta is ready. Your pasta shouldn’t wait for your sauce to cook. The sauce should be awaiting the pasta." -my mistake #1 
  • "As you drain the pasta, reserve some of the pasta water. Loosely drain the pasta, keeping the pasta moist. Never rinse the pasta."  
  • "Turning the heat on the pan will allow the hot sauce and hot pasta to cook for a couple brief minutes together to incorporate their flavors and create a beautiful texture. The starches from the pasta will slightly thicken the sauce. This is why it is suggested to cook your pasta just a tad more than al dente… it will continue cooking for a moment in the saucepan." -good to know, sometimes I served sauce like this one over the top of drained pasta, instead of adding pasta to the sauce and cooking it together for a few minutes. 
  • "Add a couple tablespoons at a time of the reserved hot pasta water to the pan to smooth out the sauce. Reserved pasta water contains starch that can be used to adjust the consistency of your sauce, from thickening it to thinning it."
And last one but not the least one:
  •  "In total, you want to only cook your pasta and sauce together on the stove for about 2 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, and transfer your pasta to a warm serving bowl."

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! And enjoy your perfect bowl of pasta now that you know some tips (I'm not the one who didn't know it, right?) 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Weekend and icecream

I love to get out from the city for the weekends and spend a nice and quiet time with friends and family somewhere outside. I really love the city, but my love for rural places is bigger.
So good friends of ours just bought a boat and invited us to share their first trip on it, yay! It was really cool. We brought this adorable dog with us, Koko. Poor dog....he was so afraid and lost during the whole trip. Here he is:
Look at his huge eyes (you can see the fear in there)
And me:
And my husband, Aleks:
If you are still here, I'd like to share not only the weekend pictures but also the one of the best ice cream recipes I've ever tried. Its not just super tasty, it's extremely quick. There is a downside though: to wash the sooo not my thing. I'm totally Ok with washing dishes, but not the blender. However in this case, it's totally worth it.

Banana Ice cream:
-4 ripe bananas, chopped and frozen

So the first step of this super complicated recipe would be to peel the bananas, cut and freeze it for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Once it's frozen (the next step) put it in the blender until you have a creamy and silky consistency. It takes about 3-4 minutes depending on the blender.
Add your favorite fruits or flavors. DONE!
I added frozen raspberries to one and cacao powder with hazelnuts to another one.And that's basically it. No ice cream machine, no huge list of ingredients needed, paradise.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lamb loin chops with baked polenta

Somehow I've managed to buy the lamb loin chops instead of  lamb rib chops. I was looking for recipes with my lamb rib chops and then when I'm ready BOOM: we are loins!
Not a big deal though. I've figured there won't be any big difference in a preparation itself.
Unfortunately  I don't owe a grill, and mostly all of lamb chops (or loins!) recipes require grilling.
So I combined few techniques and got tender and juicy broiled lamb, which was marinated in pomegranate molasses with lemon juice  and generously seasoned with zaatar and fresh herbs
I served the lamb over a  goat cheese polenta which in this case made a perfect match.
Lamb Loin Chops: 
2 lbs lamb chops ( I had 8 pcs)
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp zaatar (enough to cover both sides of each piece)
chopped fresh herbs: rosemary, basil, tarragon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Take the lamb out of the fridge at least one hour before the cooking time. Make sure it is dry and is at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to a maximum (broiler mark). Meanwhile, mix the olive oil with lemon juice and molasses. Season each piece of lamb generously with zaatar, fresh herbs and salt with pepper then brush with the olive oil mixture. Let it sit for a few minutes, while you are preheating the cast iron (if available) or any other ovenproof skillet.
Once the skillet is hot, sear the lamb loins, approximately 1 minutes per each side. It should be brown. I've just read recently that meat should have rich color at the end. No color= no taste.
Once done searing, put the lamb skillet into the broiler for about 5 minutes (rare), 6-7 minutes (medium rare).
Cover with the foil and let the meat rest  for 10 minutes before serving.

Goat cheese baked polenta:
2 cups polenta grains
7 cups water
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp cumin
4 oz goat cheese (or more if you'd like it "goaty")
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp fresh herbs, chopped

You will need to use the cast iron skillet or any other ovenproof dish.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a saucepan bring water to a boil. Slowly stir in polenta, whisking constantly, to omit any lumps.
Reduce the heat to low and keep stirring for about 10 more minutes, scrape the bottom of the pan (as polenta will probably stick to it). When you see the polenta is thickening, add olive oil, cumin, sea salt, goat cheese and 2 tbsp of fresh herbs.
Transfer the mixture to the cast iron skillet and bake for 20 minutes.
Once done baking, sprinkle with remaining (if any) goat cheese and 2 remaining tbsps of fresh herbs.
Done done and done!
As a nice accompaniment for this feast will be fresh vegetables (I had  tomato with cucumbers sprinkled with sea salt and olive oil) or tzatziki sauce or even babaganoush.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Snack choice: Granola

Granola was on my to do list for a pretty long time. Everyone cooks it. Everyone raves about it. Everyone says it's very easy to make. OF COURSE I kept it in mind and was dying to try to make my own.

And finally I made my first batch of granola! Yay!
Now I can't stop eating it. Aside of the fact that it is homemade and obviously healthy, it is also crunchy, sweet, salty, chewy, one word: addicting.

There are tons of homemade granola recipes. You can adjust them to your liking.
Here is how it works:
oats, nuts, dry fruits, shredded coconut (dry ingredients)  + oil, sweetener like honey or agave, almond butter or PB and water (wet ingredients) -> bake -> do not touch and let it cool completely =  nom nom nom!
I like my granola chewy and refrigerated.

 I keep experimenting so I can find my perfect granola formula.
You can add fig jam for sweetness, or substitute honey with maple syrup if you like it really sweet.

Homemade Granola:
Dry ingredients:
1/2 cup oat flour (blend oats in the blender until you get flour consistency)
1 1/2  cup oats
1 1/2 cup nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, you pick) sliced or crushed
2 cups dry fruits (apricots, cranberries, raisins, apples, pineapple, etc)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chia seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup almond butter
4 tbsp raw honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a big bowl mix all dry ingredients.
In a small saucepan melt coconut oil, butter, honey and vanilla together. Make sure it is all well combined and melted. You don't need to boil it.
Pour wet ingredients over the bowl with dry mixture. Mix it all together.
Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper and spread your future granola on it.
Bake 25-30 minutes, until nice golden color.
Let it cool completely before cutting into bars.
You can refrigerate them, or just keep it in your snack jar, it wont last long anyway :-)