Chicken Barley Soup

Chicken Barley Soup-1-13I love soup.

I love soup all year long.

I love soup every week.

I love soup of all kinds.

It’s my thing, so to speak.

You get it, I love soup. When I start making up goofy poems about something, you know that it’s serious. Soup is on my menu at least twice a week. What is more soothing than a warm bowl of comforting soup? Chicken soup is the ultimate comfort food and supposedly the remedy for all diseases, and I can see why. This is a very simple variation of Chicken Soup with the addition of barley instead of the usual noodles or rice. Cooked barley makes this soup creamy and makes my belly feel really cozy as I’m sipping each spoonful.

Another awesome trait of this soup is that it can be made ahead of time and tastes great as a leftover the next day and you can even freeze it. … 

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Fish and Vegetables En Papillote

Fish and Vegetables En Papillote-1-12Are you surprised that I have another en papillote recipe for you? I wasn’t kidding when I said that I’ve been captivated with this cooking method this month. Spending half an hour in the kitchen to have such an elegant, healthy and beautiful creation is perfect these days. Healthy, easy and tasty are my prerequisites for a perfect meal.

As the fish and vegetables steam together in their paper shell, all the flavors get really concentrated and the fish stays moist and juicy. It’s also awesome to have both the fish and the vegetables cook at the same time. I love the generous portion of vegetables; it is enough food to make this meal complete. Of course, you can serve it along side rice or couscous, but they are really easy to make too, and you can do that while the fish is in the oven.

A fun way to serve this dinner is to place the parchment packet on each dinner plate and have your family or guests open their packets themselves. Not only is it bold and entertaining, but as they open the packets, they will get a really good waft of incredible aroma, and that will boost their appetite even more. … 

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Almond Pear Tart

Almond Pear Tart-1-8Fall baking always includes apples and pears for me. I’m not as much into pumpkin flavored this and that as I am in love with these delicious fruits. Maybe that points back to my Belarussian roots, where pears and apples were in abundance and pumpkin baking wasn’t as popular as it is here in America. I’ve never even heard of a pumpkin pie until we were well acclimated in the states. In any case, I have so many recipes with apples, so I decided to look for some pear recipes to add to my repertoire. This Almond Pear Tart immediately caught my attention and since I was very happy with the results and my husband gave it his stamp of approval, I knew I should share it with all of you.

Almonds and pears are a flavor combination that complement each other beautifully. The batter portion of the tart is so easy to make – just pulse everything in a food processor and pour it out into the baking pan. It can’t get any simpler than that! Take another minute and place the pears on top of the tart and it’s ready to go into the oven. The tart has a lovely sandy and buttery texture, and the pears add juiciness and just a hint of tartness. It’s a perfect dessert for glorious autumn days and for busy people. … 

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Boy or Girl?

Gender reveal party for our family

Gender reveal party for our family

Finding out the gender of the baby is one of the most fun things during pregnancy, at least in our family. We found out really early on this time, at 14 weeks, which is amazing. It’s so incredible that at such  young age, the tiny baby is already so beautifully and wonderfully formed. Sergi and I wanted to know just as soon as the ultrasound could show something, so we were really excited when we found out. We both had a feeling, parent’s intuition, maybe? that it was a certain gender, and we were right!… 

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Potato and Celery Root Gratin Packets

Potato and Celery Root Gratin Packets-1-14Since my recent obsession with packet cooking, I’ve noticed one huge advantage of using this method – the flavors of the finished dish become really concentrated and every bite is infused with the taste of every single ingredient. Another advantage of cooking food in packets, is that the ingredients stay really moist, since they literally steam as they cook.

Fish is my favorite ingredient to cook en papillote – (French for “in parchment”), so I thought it would be a great idea to come up with a side dish to throw into the oven at the same time. A potato gratin is such an indulgent, scrumptious dish, but usually takes awhile to prepare and is also very heavy. Cooking it in a packet in smaller serving portions speeds up the cooking time significantly and also is a wonderful way to steam the potatoes in aromatics instead of lathered in a heavy cream sauce. I also added some celery root to the potatoes. If you’ve never tried celery root, I would really encourage you to give it a chance – it is delicious!

I was intending to cook these potatoes on the grill, but Sergi ended up coming home later than usual, so the oven worked out just as well. Next time I get a chance, I will grill these delicate spuds. Sergi and I are both partial to grilled potatoes and love the slightly charred edges on the potatoes and the grill marks, as well as the grilled flavor. This is a convenient recipe to have on hand to use both the oven or the grill. As in all my other packet recipes, you can use parchment paper instead of aluminum foil, unless you will be grilling the packets. … 

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Cheesy Chicken, Rice and Broccoli Packets

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-22I am convinced that the main reason that most of us don’t eat more healthier, homemade meals is simply because we are too busy. We resort to take out, tv dinners, frozen dinners and prepackaged, highly processed food just because it seems to be so much more convenient. Even though I love to cook and actually enjoy spending hours in the kitchen, I can completely understand. When you come home from work tired, there’s hardly any motivation left for a cooking endeavor. This is why I love dinners that can be made ahead.

These days, I only have a few hours in a week when I actually feel good enough to cook, so I grab those opportunities to whip something up really quick. These dinner packets are what I have been focusing on a lot lately. They have the whole dinner – starch, protein and vegetable in one, can be made ahead of time, even up to 2 days in advance, and then simply baked in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

There’s nothing like a fresh, nutritious and super tasty dinner on those busy, hectic days. Who can argue with cheesy, aromatic rice served with steamed chicken and broccoli? The chicken is so juicy and really flavorful, since it’s been marinating in garlic, herbs, olive oil and lemon juice. The broccoli is perfectly crisp, not mushy and limp like most tv dinners out there. I’ll have to share some more of my dinner favorites that are cooked in parchment or aluminum foil with all of you. I am hooked. I love the convenience and the fresh flavors that are achieved with this method. … 

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Fisherman’s Pie

Fisherman's Pie-1-13Even though ’tis the season for creamy soups and hearty casseroles, my taste buds and very temperamental stomach demand light and healthy flavors. I don’t have the luxury of arguing with my gastrointestinal system – she is a diva and if she doesn’t get her way, she WILL throw a tantrum for days, which I will deeply regret later.

I am so glad that there are ways to cook very filling and deeply satisfying dishes which taste fresh and light at the same time. Based loosely on the Shepherd’s Pie, the Fisherman’s Pie is usually made with a rich and creamy sauce that is poured over the fish  in a baking dish and then topped with a mashed potato crust and baked.

In my version, I bypass the white sauce and create a sauce naturally, saving time and calories, but vastly improving the fresh flavors of this dish. It took me only 15 minutes of prep work and this impressive dish was in the oven. The onions, tomatoes and fish all steam under the potato crust and as they bake, the fish is infused with the aromatic vegetables and herbs, the fish stays very juicy and the onions and tomatoes and the fish juices all intertwine to make a really awesomely delicious sauce. The fluffy potato crust crisps up as it bakes into golden swirls, making this dish into a stunning masterpiece. Not bad for a random Monday night dinner.

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Succotash

Succotash-1-11As we enjoy the last few whispers of summer, let’s take advantage of all the fresh available garden produce. Since I crave a side of veggies with every meal, it’s easy to get into a rut of eating the same salad/side dish over and over again. That shouldn’t be the case, since there are so many different varieties of veggies available. Here is a variation of a warm side dish that you can tweak according to what you have available at the time.

Succotash was first prepared by the Native Americans and later adopted and well loved by the early pioneers. It was made with corn, beans and squash, since these were the vegetables that they grew at that time. They even called them “the 3 sisters”. Anyway, as long as you have the corn, beans and squash, the rest of the ingredients are optional, although I think they make it all the more delicious.

Not only is this a brilliant side dish to use up all your summer garden veggies, but it’s also something you can enjoy all year round. Yep. I don’t know about you, but in my case, just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that I want summer veggies any less. Even though it won’t be as 100% fresh and vibrant as when you’re using fresh picked, from the garden vegetables, you can make Succotash all year round by using frozen or canned veggies and still get a pretty good knock off, when you’re tired of creamy soups, hearty casseroles and root vegetables. … 

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17 Week Pregnancy Update

IMG_9837Hi everyone! Today seemed like a good day to check in and give you an update on what’s been going on in my life recently. I am so happy to tell you that I am 17 weeks pregnant right now and getting more and more excited to meet our new baby in March.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been feeling any better, quite possibly even worse than in my first trimester, so please understand why I haven’t been posting many new recipes, answering your questions and comments, and have pretty much disappeared from social media…. 

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Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup-1-13Even though I love soups all year round, they are especially soothing and comforting as the days get cooler. Butternut squash soup is something I look forward to all year, and as soon as I see it makes an appearance in my local farmer’s market, it quickly finds its way into my shopping cart.

My favorite way to enjoy vegetables is to roast them. Robust and hearty autumn vegetables seem to especially benefit from the dry heat of the oven, as they soften and caramelize. I have to admit, that there have been plenty of times that as I’ve taken a baking sheet of roasted veggies from the oven, I find myself sampling this morsel and that one, leaving me quite a bit short for a recipe that I was in the process of making. I can’t seem to help myself!  The solution seems to be to always make a little bit extra, since I know that part of it will quickly disappear, and I can happily report that it’s been working.

Naturally, this butternut squash soup starts out with roasting the butternut squash. As it caramelizes, the natural sugars are drawn out and add so much flavor to the finished soup. Instead of using lots of butter and flour to create a cream base for the soup, I add potato, and it thickens the soup, without making it heavy. I love this simple, luscious soup and I hope you give it a try too. … 

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