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, yummy....in 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 :-)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Braised Cabbage/ almost grandma's recipe

When I was a kid I lived in West Ukraine with my grandma. She often made something very special. Something that I didn't quite appreciate back then, and now, much later, this sad feeling is almost eating me inside, that I didn't ask her about a lot of things, a lot of techniques and recipes which I would love to keep and cook for now my family,here, in New York.

My grandma is a very talented cook! However due to her age she can't cook the way she used to, but I still remember that no matter what she made, it was delightfully tasteful, with some sort of magic harmony of flavors tucked into every one of her dish.
It was very comforting, satisfying and cozy.

Once in awhile she made me a braised cabbage. For some reason she decided to name it "American braised cabbage" to make it look more appealing for a 5 years old child, so that way she could feed me more. Grandma probably didn't know that I actually adored this cabbage, and there was no need to be "creative" and call it American :-)  We usually  ate it with creamy and fluffy mashed potatoes and fresh caught fried fish.

I don't have the original recipe. And my grandma doesn't even remember her "American" cabbage. But the recipe is pretty basic and very popular in a lot of Russian and Ukrainian households.The idea is to sweat the cabbage with carrots and onions and then braise it with some tomato sauce and sour cream till it's fully cooked.

My version of braised cabbage is a little bit different as I wanted to make this dish more completed, no need of serving it with anything else.
Make sure you cook it in a big heavy-bottom pot or dutch oven. You can stick to salt and pepper and the result will be great, anyway I like to use a lot of spices while cooking.

Braised Cabbage:
1 big white onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, grated
5 tbs olive oil or coconut oil
1 medium cabbage head, shredded
1 lbs to 2 lbs  any sort of smoked meat (sausages, pork, beef, it gives a nice "smoky" taste at the end) or   regular raw meat, cubed
17 oz or about 500 ml  tomato sauce/strained tomatoes
4 tbsp greek yogurt
1 cup farro (didn't have it, used couscous instead)
1 can of lentils, rinsed
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp zaatar
1 tbs cumin
1 tsp salt
4 medium bay leaves
fresh chopped herbs: dill, chives or parsley for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven, add onions. Cook on a medium heat for about 3 minutes, then add carrots. Lower the heat and saute onions with carrots for 5 more minutes.

Add the cabbage to the dutch oven. Pour about 3 cups of water in it. Cover with the lid, lower the heat to the minimum and let it "sweat" for 45 minutes. Stirring occasionally, just to make sure the cabbage doesn't burn or stick to the bottom.

Meanwhile fry the meat in skillet, until it is fully cooked.
In a large bowl combine tomato sauce with yogurt, farro, lentils,spices and cooked meat.

Once the cabbage is done "sweating"(you will notice almost half is remaining) slowly and very carefully pour the tomato mixture into it. Gently mix it all together.

Add bay leaves. Cover the pot and let it simmer over the very low heat for 25 more minutes, just until the farro is cooked. Discard the bay leaves once done cooking.
Enjoy hot or cold. It tastes better on the second day!
Just want to say how much I love and miss my grandma. Hopefully will visit her soon!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Baked berries with banana

You might have already noticed that I am a fan of different sorts of "healthy" or at least "not that bad for you" desserts. Which is kind of ridiculous because we all know that to make a really good cake, cookies, or desserts, most of the time, you have to use real ingredients: sugar, white flour, full fat cream, good butter and so on.
No substitutions, precise measuring, attention and patience.

I hope one day I'll get to that point: I will eat very little, but very real and buttery desserts.
Meanwhile, I am proposing for you to enjoy this warm and crispy fall dessert (no sugar, etc, etc).  It is sour-sweet with crunchy notes and very comforting.
The best way to enjoy this dessert is sitting on the deck (even if it is an imaginary one) covering in your favourite blanket (it is cold and might be even rainy outside) and drinking hot tea. That's my scenario, of course yours might be completely different (but let's just say that hot Miami beach won't be the best option here, as the dessert is actually warm).

Original source HERE. I made few little adjustments though.
Baked berries with banana:
1 cup any fresh of frozen berries (you will get more syrupy result if using frozen berries)
3 ripe bananas, sliced to rounds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp honey (use the raw honey, its the healthiest one)
1 cup shredded no sugar added coconut (I used 1/2 coconut flakes and 1/2 regular shredded coconut)
1 1/2 cup any nuts and seeds you'd like (walnuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, etc)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place berries and bananas in a baking dish.Sprinkle with the cinnamon.
In a saucepan on a very low heat melt the coconut oil. Add honey. Do not let it boil. Add nuts and seeds, shredded coconut, vanilla (if using). Stir for approx. 3-4 minutes.
Place the honey and nuts mixture on top of the bananas. Bake for 25-30 minutes until nicely golden color.

The author of the original recipe suggests to serve it with whipped coconut cream on top, which you also can find on her website. I didn't add anything to this dessert, as it felt completed by itself.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013


My favorite summer drinks are iced sangria and frozen margarita.
While I am leaving margarita for the professianals to make, sangria is very easy and quick to prepare.You can see homemade sangria almost at every baby shower or girls night out. I think this drink is very feminine. A rare man would ask his buddies out to enjoy a glass of sangria .
There are tons of homemade sangria recipes, but  the general idea is the same: adding fruits to it.

Here is the way how I "load" my sangria to perfection. You will need a pitcher or a big bowl and ice. I also noticed that the smaller fruit pieces you have, the more infused sangria you get.
-2 bottles of store bought sangria (any kind you like)
-vodka, up to your liking (you can start with 1 tbsp of vodka per 2 cups of sangria)
-fresh or frozen berries (raspberries, blueberries, black raspberries, etc.)
-zest of 1 orange
-1 orange, sliced or chopped
-10 big strawberries, chopped
-1 big granny smith apple, nicely chopped
- lime wedges (optional)
-few leaves of mint (optional)

Pour sangria into a large bowl or pitcher. Mix in vodka, orange zest and fruits.  Let it sit in a cool place for at least an hour. Right before the party add ice. Decorate with mint if using. If  sangria is too strong, add more ice or sangria (if any left)
Enjoy! ;-) 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Rich Dark and Nutty Brownies

If you are a fan of a dark chocolate you  will probably adore these  brownies.
I am more on the milk chocolate side though, but I felt like dark chocolate one day (you know...there are some days when you know particularly what you want. Precisely.  Like: Celery and Hummus today! Or a Brie day!).
So few days ago was a dark bitter chocolate day.

I found the ingredients pretty cool: no white flour, sugar, 5 eggs though...(but you can substitute some with egg whites, as it says in the comments), and no chocolate (good quality unsweetened cacao powder instead)

The texture and consistency of this brownies was rich, like a cake, moisturized enough,  not wet as the original source claims. Very-very-very dark chocolate  flavour with the  little walnut bits.

I used the honey as a sweetener instead of maple syrup. I also tend to add half less than it says in the recipe. So I ended up with really not sweet, but bitter chocolate taste.  And it wasn't bad at all!
Unlike my husband's statement, which is: "All desserts should be sweet".  I think my lovely husband just can't accept the fact that his wife is a genius in the kitchen (hahaha) and creates something genuinely new (or dumb).
So to make sure I am right, I brought my brownies to work, to ask for my boss's opinion and (not surprisingly at all) he fully agreed with me regarding the nice and rich taste of this dessert.

For the topping I used chilled nonfat Greek yogurt, which I gently mixed with vanilla. And fresh berries on top.
After you refrigerate brownies,  the whole thing becomes even better!

This is the gluten-free, sugar-free recipe click here. I didn't make a lot of changes (just added crushed walnuts), so please reference to the recipe in the original source.

I REALLY hope you enjoy these brownies! But make sure that you make them on you Dark Chocolate Day! :-)