Pizza Muffin Bites

Hello there… It has been a while…

The summer was long and very active – we traveled a bunch and now I am actually glad to be back home. In my newly renovated house with my newly renovated kitchen and my large fridge and pantry. I love traveling but it gets old with children when you are trying to keep a schedule and not only feed them junk food all day long.

Now with school starting we are finally back into a well balanced routine and it’s time to start thinking about school lunches – again. This always turns out to be a challenge for me – and I bet for all other moms out there as well – but I am (still) full of energy to face it!

This year I have two kids in school and they are both very different from what they like to eat and snack – which is an extra challenge.

Also my younger daughter has a severe peanut allergy and is in a classroom that does NO nut products – that means to also cut out the substitutes for peanut allergy we always use like almond butter, nut crackers, pistachios, cashews, almond milk and so on… so quite a reduced diet for my child that other than starch and cheese only eats meat and nuts…. no problem I say – lets give them Pizza!! But the healthy kind! Homemade and fun in muffin shapes…

Pizza Muffin Bites

makes 10 small muffins – prep time: 5 min – Cook time: 20 min

 

one thin Pizza dough

favorite Pizzasauce

organic Mozarella cheese

ham, olives, mushroom, spinach, brokkoli – anything your kids like on pizza!

I use a silicon muffin form that make adult bite size muffins – this cooks faster, cools faster and is easier to eat for their little hands and mouthes.

oil the little muffin holes with some olive oil

cut little circles with the top of a glass out of the pizza dough and push it in the muffin opening

add one spoon of your favorite pizza sauce to each of them

add a pinch of cheese

(add ham, olives, mushrooms or any other topping if you like)

now use the leftover pizza dough and put it on top of the little muffins (we do not like to throw that stuff away 😉 – spray some olive oil on top and put it in the oven at 400F for 15-20 minutes

let completely cool before packing them in a airtight container – keep in the  fridge or freezer to defrost the night before for school lunch!

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Finger lickin’ Chicken asian style

Late afternoon – 1 hour to dinner – you open the fridge door…. you look around in there, still looking… you know you have some chicken to use.. ok now – but what to do with the chicken… grill it, sauce it, soup it? Or do something else for once!

This following recipe was my ‘something else’ yesterday. I found myself in this position, thinking about how to make this chicken into a delicious meal without doing what I always do! And it was well received! It even made a nice school lunch for my 6 year old the day after! Win – win!

Asian glazed chicken nuggets with rice

serves: 6 – prep time: 15 min – cook time: 15 min

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Rice:

3 cups rice of choice – to steam in rice cooker or cook according instructions on package

Chicken nuggets:

5 Tbsp olive oil

2 large organic chicken breasts cut into bit size pieces

3 Tbsp cornstarch

2 eggs, lightly beaten

10 Tbsp flour

some pepper, salt, paprika and garlic powder to add to the flower

Sauce:

1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

3 garlic cloves minced

1 Tbsp White wine vinegar (i used balsamic that was also fine)

2 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp sweet chili sauce

4 Tbsp ketchup

5 Tbsp soysauce

2 Tbsp brown sugar

heat the oil in a large cast iron pan (or any pan or wok you like to use) until HOT

use 3 bowls to ‘bread’ your chicken – 1st bowl is cornstarch – after that is egg (make sure the chicken is completely covered – last is the seasoned flour

put the chicken in the hot oil and cook 4 minutes on each side (or until crispy) – put on a plate that you layered with a paper towel to do your second batch (I have a 12 inch Lodge cast iron skillet and have to do 2 batches as it isn’t big enough)

when you are done with the chicken add a Tbsp of sesame oil to the pan

add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds (it doesn’t need very long as the pan is very hot and you don’t want to burn it!)

add the vinegar, chili sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, honey and brown sugar and stir for a minute until the sugar and honey are dissolved

now taste and see if you would like to add a bit more chili sauce to make it spicier or maybe a bit more ketchup to make it tangier or a bit more soy sauce to make it saltier…

return the chicken to the pan (I reserved 5 nuggets for my picky eater just in case) and coat with the sauce – let cook for 1-2 minutes and then serve over brown rice with some cucumber salad, avocado or grilled bak choi

Decorate with sesame seeds and spring onions

Marco Rice and Beans

Time to check in and see how the Challenge went for you!?

I am proud at myself how much space I made in my pantry this last week and also how much money I saved in the grocery store. I have to admit that it somehow makes me a bit uneasy to have such an empty pantry – like I would expect whatever apocalypse coming upon us at any minute – but I think that may be a very natural feeling to have when you are in charge of cooking food in your family – sometimes as often as 2 times a day..

I think that next grocery store run means to stock back up but on grains and beans and pasta which makes it easier to whip up a meal last minute when you decide to do so.. – but that said, at least I managed a shift on the expiry date front and can now start with fresh resources and make smarter choices…

Big lessons learned:  Do a pantry challenge at least every 6 month! Stop buying hummus and start using the 4 jars of Tahini! and last but not least..: dried beans are not for me  (although cheaper) – I prefer canned!

And here we go with my weeks favorite recipe that I have learned from a roommate we had back in London. His name was Marco and he was from Puerto Rico. He cooked this dish at least once a week and ate the leftovers for 2 to 3 days! Thanks for sharing Marco!!

This Rice and Bean dish tastes so authentic that it almost feels like a little vacation in the Caribbean! It is also a great alternative to the mexican chili and a good addition to every potluck! Double the recipe to have leftovers – it’s worth it!!

Marcos Rice and Beans

serves: 6 – prep time: 5 min – cooking time: 35 min

Image result for rice and beans

4 cans of Kidney Beans – or mix 2 kidney with 2 black beans or pinto beans – the recipe calls for the cans with the juice although I prefer to rinse my beans and add 2 cups of water instead

1 big onion

1 green pepper

1 big bunch of cilantro

1 Tbsp dried oregano

salt/pepper

4 cloves of garlic

5 rashers of bacon

1 tube of tomato paste (equals 5 oz or 140g)

*1/2 butternut squash – cut in cubes and steam or bake until soft then mash with a fork or potato masher

*2 cups of rice – wash and rinse – add a dash of olive oil and salt and cook slow and covered until the water is absorbed

First: set up the rice and the squash to cook

then start the bean dish by cutting the rashers of bacon and fry them in a deep large pot (5 min)

meanwhile cut the onion, pepper, garlic and cilantro – just roughly chop them as they go in a food processor or blender anyway – blend with salt/pepper and the Oregano until smooth

add the mix to the bacon and fry for another 5 minutes

add the tomato paste and fry for another 5 minutes

add the canned beans with the juice or add the rinsed beans and add 2 cups of water

cover and cook for about 20 minutes on medium-low heat – stir from time to time so the beans don’t get stuck to the bottom

add the mashed squash and let sit for 10 minutes to thicken

serve with your rice of choice and sprinkle with cilantro

Buen provecho!

*in front of an ingredient means, that I added the recipe next to where I listed the ingredient..

clean out the pantry challenge

It’s January and we all have taken a small step into the year of 2017.. We have achieved, played, lost and started again.. doesn’t need a whole year to get there – we all have our hopes and dreams for this year and maybe even created our own little challenges..

The no smoking challenge, less booze challenge, no junk food challenge, spend less money challenge… I have thought about it all… maybe not the no smoking one as I don’t smoke but I think I covered basically everything else. Then I realized what my personal achilles heel is and what I would like to change, so I am about to start the pantry Challenge.

This may sound familiar to you: going to the grocery store, buying your fruit and veggies, meats and then it comes to the aisles where I always overbuy… International food, grains, beans, snacks, nuts,… – my shopping list turns into my mothers voice telling me to keep focusing while my eyes wander the aisles in search for interesting products. But I can easily convince myself – every time – to buy a few more cans of beans (because they are healthy and we should eat more of them), more cans of crushed tomatoes, the new rice and grain mix, veggie pasta, more dried mushrooms… and there we are.. back in my kitchen I am trying to cram in the 14th can of pinto beans, the 7th packet of ancient grain and rice mix, some more kennel corn, spice blends and and and…

We recently moved out of our house which meant to clean out the whole kitchen, freezer and pantry and gosh I tell you – I had a lot of expired cans and other products that went straight into the trashcan!

How sad! So I have set myself the one week

CLEAN OUT THE PANTRY- CHALLENGE

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and these are the rules:

I am only allowed to buy fresh fruit and veggies and 2 different kinds of meat as well as one choice of fish and everything else has to come from my kitchen cabinets!

You think it sounds doable?  Then pick up the challenge and clean out your food overload! Don’t forget to post your own fun and crazy recipes in the comments below! I would be curious how and what you are concocting in your kitchen!

Ready – set – GO!!

Dukkah Salmon with Eggplant and Kale

I discovered this recipe last weekend when I cleaned out the fridge and was due to make lunch.. I found some kale – the kale was still nice and green but a few leaves were a bit withered – so it needed to be used, also a salmon fillet was to be consumed and an eggplant that was in the fridge for a while…

I also went through my spice drawer to find a perfect blend or spice to use with the fish and I found a mix that I recently bought and wanted to try – DUKKAH:

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it smells amazing when you open it (almost like a free trip to southern Africa with your eyes closed..) and it suggests to dip bread in olive oil and then in the Dukkah mix.

This spice blend originated in Egypt and was the bread seasoning after baking.. The main ingredients are herbs, nuts and spices. This is the very affordable Trader Joe’s version, but it is usually found in bigger grocery stores with a well sorted international section.

 

Dukkah Salmon with Eggplant and Kale

feeds: 4 – prep time: 5 min – cook time: 20 min

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1 pound fresh salmon fillet

1 Eggplant

1 bunch of curly kale (remove stem and cut roughly)

Dukkah spice mix

salt

pepper

1 clove of garlic (minced)

olive oil or your preferred high heat oil (avocado, sunflower, canola, peanut, coconut…)

heat up your oven to 400F

find a skillet that can be transferred to the oven and heat up the olive oil – I use a cast iron but a stainless steel is fine too – !!this is a stove to oven recipe so please do not use a non stick pan or any pan with plastic handles!!

Cut the eggplant in chunky squares and fry it with the garlic in your skillet – 1 minute

Push it to the side and add the salmon with the skin down to your pan – put 2 tbsp of Dukkah on top of the salmon (or as much as you need to lightly cover the salmon with it) press it down a bit and spray with oil

add the kale all around and push it around the eggplants – salt the veggies (go easy on the salmon as depending on which Dukkah you bought it may already have salt in it)

transfer to the oven and bake for 17-20 minutes until the kale started browning on the edges and the salmon is cook through

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enjoy with some Couscous, Rice or Quinoa

Anytime Muffin Quiche

My wonderful new magic bullet is buzzing along ever since it’s made it’s way into my kitchen – making healthy shakes, pestos and cocktails..

While searching for lunch box ideas for my daughter I found this wonderful and quick recipe – eggs, cheese, ham, veggies… it has it all! I had to try it out and adjusted a few ingredients to my and my childrens liking but still easy cheesy!

These are also perfect for brunch or breakfast or simply bring them to the next potluck. Consider them as snacks and appetizers – just get creative with the veggies to put in and it’s a fingerfood that everybody will love!

My friend recommended these Silicone Muffin Liners to me and I use and love them ever since! Colorful fun in the Lunchbox and zero waste!

Anytime Muffin Quiche

makes: 6, prep time: 5 min, cook time: 20 min

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I made 2 different batches of 6 muffins each – each had other veggie or meat ingredients

3 eggs

1/2 cup of milk (dairy or non dairy)

1/2 cup of broccoli

2 slices of ham

salt

pepper

1/2 cup of cheese (i use cheddar)

Alternate mix-ins: chicken, Spinach, smoked salmon, herbs, peppers, mushrooms, Chorizo, Salami, cauliflower or add cooked grains like quinoa and rice,..

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Combine all ingredients except the cheese in a blender/magic bullet and pulse together a few times (really just a few times so you don’t loose the consistency of your food!)

Distribute the muffin liners in your muffin baking tray and spray them lightly with oil

Pour the mixture into the forms and sprinkle the cheese on top

Bake for 20 minutes – let cool

I freeze half a batch to have them handy for my kids lunchbox – simply unfreeze the night before and they are ready to go!

It is nothing bundt delicious! Marmorgugelhupf – Marble bundt cake

I hope y’all had a very festive and wonderful holiday season! We had a very busy one this year – not only we wanted to spend Christmas still in our own home also we wanted to move out a few days later to get our renovations starting.. All of that meant we had Christmas – boom – then we had to pack all the boxes – boom – packed even more boxes – boom – emptied the house from all furniture – boom – and all of that with the kids out of school – Phuuh – not an easy job I tell ya!

I guess you can recall why my pots and pans had a break too – but now in a new year and in my new temporary beach habitat – also to mention a kitchen twice the size – I am picking up where I have left you last year and welcome back for the first post in 2017!

I guess everybody is done by now with eating their sugar cookies and flushing them down with some egg nogg. So it’s about time to concentrate on a less sweet dessert, but just as delicious – in my household also eaten for breakfast…

 

Marmorgugelhupf – Marble bundt cake

feeds: 12  – prep time: 20 min – cook time: 50 min

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200g/ 7oz butter (soft from outside)

100g/ 3.5oz powder sugar

100g/ 3.5oz sugar

4 egg yolk

4 egg whites

230g/ 8.1oz flour (I use 100g/3.5oz whole wheat and 130g/4.6oz white)

4 Tbsp coco powder (Nesquick or unsweet kind)

1 pkg vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

1 pinch of salt

butter and flour for the pan

Preheat your oven to 180C/ 350F

Use the butter paper where you have unwrapped the butter to butter the pan and then dust it with flour

Beat the egg whites with the sugar until they stiffen – set aside (if you do it this way around you don’t have to clean your beaters)

Now beat the butter (room temperature) with the icing sugar, the Vanilla sugar or extract and salt until fluffy – add egg yolks one by one – add the beaten egg whites – beat on minimum setting – add flour – beat on minimum setting until well mixed

put half of the batter into the cake tin

add cocoa to the rest of the batter and mix well – add it to the form and then swirl it with a thin tool like a kebap stick to get a nice marble finish

put on the middle rack for 50 minutes – then let cool and serve with some extra powder sugar

Tip: My daughters love this cake as a breakfast cake with some jam or apple cinnamon butter!

 

Masoor Dal – every day is a good day for Dal..

It is Christmas time – this is supposed to be the most quiet and thoughtful time of the year but as usual we are all running around totally stressed out, not sitting still, squeezing in one more play date, baking the last 10 trays of cookies, wrapping presents and finding even more stocking stuffers (I mean !really! how BIG can this stocking BE!!).

Soon it will all be Christmas menu, duck versus roast, hot versus cold, presents on the 24th versus on the 25th, Santa versus some other flying or sneaking ghostlike creature that brings presents – my family tradition versus yours… yes!! – certainly the most peaceful time of the year! Ha, just kidding..

Before everybody is off doing their family traditional meal for Christmas, I want to share this easy and delicious recipe that my whole family loves a lot – it keeps in the fridge for as long as 5 days, is vegan and all you need to serve it is some rice. So, when you are done with the Christmas weekend this year and don’t feel like cooking, you will be delighted that you still have this fancy and exotic one dish in your fridge! Consider doubling the recipe – make more and share the joy with some neighbors!

Merry before or after Christmas to you and your family!

Masoor Dal from India

feeds 6 – prep time: 1h (includes soaking time of lentils) – cooking time: 10 min

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1 cup of pink lentils (rinse then soak in water – this reduces the cooking time)

1 large yellow onion – chopped

2 medium size tomatoes – chopped

3 garlic cloves – crushed or finely chopped

1/2 inch fresh ginger root – finely chopped

1 green chili (jalapeno) – chopped

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/4 tsp chili powder

3/4 tsp garam masala powder

1 tsp turmeric

1.5 – 2 cups of water

1 Tbsp fresh coriander chopped

salt to taste

Juice of 1 Lemon

After soaking the lentils cook them for about 5 minutes – Tip: you can just soak them in a large pot so the soaking and cooking process are a bit smoother and don’t accumulate too many dishes to wash..

heat some sunflower oil in a large pot and fry the cumin seeds for about 2 minutes and keep stirring

add the onions until lightly browned – 2-3 minutes and keep stirring

add ginger and garlic and fry for 10 – 15 seconds

add green chili, all dry spices one by one and stir

add the chopped tomatoes and fry until the oil separates and the tomatoes are soft

add the drained and cooked dal and the water

salt and simmer for 6-7 minutes or longer if you like the consistency to be a bit mushier

remove the pot from the heat and add the coriander and the lemon juice

enjoy with some basmati or jasmine rice

English Pub Grub – Bangers and Mash

It all started with a delayed flight and an hour spent at the airport bookstore… oh and the thought of some healthy entertainment on the weekend – of course – somewhere in the back of my head.. I started reading through a walking guide for London and I was intrigued by this simple way of combining sightseeing and culinary adventure with a healthy twist.. just like the lime in a Gin and Tonic! Finding these walking guides was a blessing and I put them to good use!

I really can’t decide which one I liked better… They are both well structured, have all the information on how to get to the starting point of the chosen walk and back and point out pubs for food and drinks on the way – just make a day out of it – it’s FUN!

Walking London by Andrew Duncan

The Rough Guide to Walks in London and the Southeast by Helena Smith

The city of London is a walkers paradise – living there, I spent hours walking the always slightly rainy streets of mostly east London with my partner and ending the day with a drink and dinner or lunch at a pub before we returned home.

Bonus: **One of our neighborhood pubs and favorite hangouts just got promoted to a Michelin star pub of the year – Congratulations The Marksman!! – It is well worth a visit my friends if you are planning a trip to the UK!

The Marksman pub

English Pubs usually serve comfort food and charcuterie platters besides bags of vinegar chips and salty nuts. Some of those Pub grub meals are fish and chips, Sunday Roast and Bangers and Mash. And what does feel better then a nice big bowl of sausage and mash smothered in gravy after coming in from the cold and drizzly air? Not much!

There are very many Sausage and Mash recipes out there – I am almost certain every family in England has their own recipe – this one is my style! A thick and sweet Gravy, mild Italian sausages and a creamy buttery mash! A Tastesplosion (I know that’s not really a word but it describes it best!!) I served this last night at my daughters birthday dinner for the whole family and it was well received, I say…

Bangers and Mash with sweet Onion Apple Gravy

feeds 8 – Prep time: 15min – Cook time: 30min

for the Mash:

6 medium Russets or Yukon Gold Potatoes – or 4 large baking potatoes

2 Tbsp Butter

1 cup of milk

salt to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add peeled and cut (reduces cooking time) potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 20 minutes – drain. In a medium size saucepan heat butter and milk over low heat until butter is melted – add potatoes – using a potato masher slowly blend milk mixture into potatoes until it is smooth and creamy – add salt to taste (if the potatoes are cooked in salt water and already peeled they usually absorb enough salt to not have to add additional – I recommend tasting it before you add more….)

for the Sausages:

12 mild Italian sausages (store brand – or any sausage you think your family and friends would prefer!)

In a large pot bring water to a boil – poke sausages a few times with a fork and add to the water – gently simmer for 10 min or until cooked through – transfer sausages to a baking sheet – spray or brush with some cooking oil and broil until browned on both sides – don’t forget to turn sausages around for even color.

After the sausages are all nice and brown I cut them into mouth size pieces – that makes it possible to serve this dish as one bowl with only a spoon or a fork! Put them into an oven dish and return to your oven to keep warm – there is enough leftover heat in your oven after broiling to keep the sausages warm without setting a temperature.

for the gravy:

2 large red onions or sweet onions – sliced

2 – 3 apples – peeled, cored and sliced

1 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp sugar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 Pkg of Knorr Au Jus Gravy Mix (as sausages don’t make a nice dripping it is impossible to make the gravy from scratch – I find this an easy and tasty alternative)

Melt the butter in a skillet and fry the onions on medium high heat until translucent (about 5 minutes) – add the sliced apples and fry another 5 minutes then add the vinegar and sugar reduce the heat and wait for the mix to caramelize – meanwhile make the Au Jus in a small pot according to instructions on the package – add 3/4 of the Gravy to the onion and apple mixture, stir well and take off the heat – add salt to taste

I leave the last bit of Gravy for the pickiest eater in my family – which wants no no onion nor apples no no…

Now grab a bowl – spoon in as much mash as you like, add some sausages and cover with gravy! Don’t forget your spoon! Dig in!

Soup for dinner! sBlend-It!

Finally the cold weather has reached Charleston, SC. Well let’s say the temperatures dropped below 60 – which makes almost everybody in the Lowcountry frantically looking for their hats, gloves, scarves and UGG Boots…

This is the time where we drink hot apple cider, enjoy fresh baked cookies and the food habits switch from salad to soup.. Soup is such a blessing on a cold and wet day – it comforts us and at the same time keeps our hands warm…I love serving soup in mugs around a dinnertime fire and the children love it too..  Having your dinner in front of a crackling fire wrapped up in blankets on the couch or in the backyard is a treat you will want to experience more often! It is also a certain way how to get my kids to eat veggies.. Soups are versatile, healthy, tasty and they leave us so much room to experiment with spices, toppings and textures.

Let’s say this post convinces you to jump onto the soup train – a must have is an Immersion Blender. I bought mine off amazon – It is reasonably priced, easy to use, clean and store and it comes with a blending mug – https://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-CSB-75BC-Blender-Brushed-Chrome/dp/B00ARQVM5O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481048714&sr=8-1&

This specific blenders shaft, blade and blender guard are made out of stainless steel so be careful if you use it on nonstick cookware – in this case I would recommend blending the soup in a high bowl or in the blending mug that comes with the blender..

It is also true that lot’s of soups do not need to be blended, but for the purpose of mug serving it is less messy to do so..

Roasted Vegetable Soup

feeds 8 – Prep time: 30min – Cook time: 60min

Olive oil  (for frying and drizzling)

1 small red or yellow Onion

2 carrots

1 Parsnip

1 Cauliflower

1 Tbsp garlic powder (for cauliflower)

1 Tsp salt (for cauliflower)

5  stems of parsley (whole)

2 juniper berries

2 cups vegetable broth

4 cups of water

3 sprigs of thyme

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar

Garnish: Prosciutto and thyme

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

Cut the stem out of the cauliflower, divide the florets into same sizes and put them onto a baking sheet – drizzle with olive oil, salt and garlic powder – toss and bake for 30 – 40 min or until the cauliflower is evenly browned and has darker tips..

In a large pot heat up 2 Tablespoons of olive oil – cut the carrots, parsnip and onion in small cubes and fry them in the oil for about 10 minutes to get a nice and roasty flavor.

Add 2 cups of broth and 2 cups of water, the crushed juniper berries and the stems of parsley – cover and cook until soft (10 min) – add the cauliflower, add 2 more cups of water and the thyme sprigs – bring to a boil and cook covered for 10 more minutes so the flavors can mix well – when done cooking remove the parsley stems and thyme sprigs

Blend with an Immersion blender – add 1 Tbsp of Balsamic vinegar and the cream – taste!

Does it need salt? Pepper? More Thyme? Maybe Chili flakes?

Play around with it…. see what’s left in the bottom drawers of your fridge.. maybe you have some pumpkin from yesterdays dinner?  Leeks or eggplant that you can roast with the cauliflower? Add a potato to get a thicker consistency or more water or stock to get a thinner soup?  Add some Curry to get a middle eastern flavor? Fresh coriander, chili and lemon to make it taste more asiatic? You know what your family likes.. – you can always divide the soup into batches to experiment with it to make sure you will end up with something they will like and eat. Or plan a soup tasting dinner with a bunch of different toppings to choose from – your family will for sure get a kick out of being a judge in a tasting and you may be surprised with their answers!

Possible Toppings:

Prosciutto and Thyme, Sour Cream and Thyme, sundried Tomatoes, Garlic breadcrumbs, Bacon, Sour Cream and Paprika, Pumpkin seed oil, roasted Nuts (Pine, Pecan, walnut,..), Smoked Salmon, Chili flakes, ..