Potato and Celery Root Gratin Packets

Potato and Celery Root Gratin Packets-1-14 Since 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-1-22 I 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-1-13 Even 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-1-11 As 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_9837 Hi 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-1-13 Even 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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Blendtec Giveaway – The Best Blender I’ve Ever Used

Blendtec-1-4 This giveaway is CLOSED. Congratulations to Angela Y., the winner!

I’ve heard great things about the Blendtec blender for many years, so when I met two Blendtec representatives at a blogging conference and got a chance to try out the blender and do a giveaway on my blog, I was so excited. I’ve been playing with the blender in my own kitchen, and let me tell you, I am VERY impressed.  It is absolutely astounding and makes so many kitchen jobs easy and at lightning speed. I am sure I will be using it all the time, making smoothies, sauces, soups, crepes, batters, juices, cappuccinos and much more. You can be sure I’ll be sharing lots of recipes with all of you.

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Apple Dutch Baby (Or German Apple Pancake)

Apple Dutch Baby-1-13 Apples are in season again, YAY! My apple appreciation goes way back, to my childhood in upstate New York, all the way to present day pregnancy days, when it’s one of the few things my stomach doesn’t rebel against. Apples are great in many different recipes, savory dishes and, of course, there are endless dessert possibilities.

For a special breakfast or a really easy dinner dessert, your really have to try a dutch baby. Isn’t that a funny name? Sometimes, it’s also called a German pancake. This recipe is from my favorite cookbook, America’s Test Kitchen, and I’ve been using it for a few years now. It is very similar to a popover. The texture is amazing; it’s a mixture of a thick crepe and custard. I often make this on a regular weeknight for just my husband and myself, when we are craving something sweet, but don’t want to fuss too much. You’ll see just how easy this is to make. It’s also very impressive. It puffs up beautifully and would make a stunning dessert to serve to guests, in which case, I always make two at the same time, because it gets devoured immediately. … 

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Banana Walnut Muffins

Banana Walnut Muffins-1-2 Whenever I get a craving for something sweet, it’s usually something simple, like a muffin. Even though muffins or bars don’t take that much effort to make, that doesn’t mean that they will somehow be less satisfying.

I’ve been looking for a perfect Banana Walnut Muffin recipe for a long time, and I finally came up with the perfect combination of ingredients to end up with a muffin that is moist and tender in the center, not too sweet and of course, really delicious. The best part about simple desserts is that the ingredients are very basic and don’t require an extra trip to the store. It’s also a great way to use up bananas that get too ripe.

Now that I’m pregnant and have very little appetite, I was thrilled when I made these cupcakes that they actually awakened some of my tastebuds and I just smiled as I bit into the first warm muffin and realized that I finally found the perfect recipe for one of my favorite muffins…. 

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Pregnancy: The Continuing Story

Pregnancy Announcement-1-2 Thank you everyone for being so excited with us about our pregnancy! Sergi and I are completely overwhelmed by such an astounding flood of congratulations and warm comments. We did read ALL your comments and are so thankful for everyone who took the time to write and share in our happiness.

Announcing the Pregnancy to Our Families

The perfect opportunities to share our exciting news with our families came just a few weeks after our first visit to the doctor, where we finally confirmed that yes, indeed, we WERE pregnant…. 

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