Simple advice for a better life.

All my loyal blog readers recall my recipe for Chicken Paprikash, which is an excellent dish for a family dinner, or any special occasion.

What makes my Chicken Paprikash so special, is the homemade sauce used in this recipe.

Most of my recipes for cooking and baking are made from scratch, which is not complicated, but it does require a little more time to complete, than reheating something in a microwave, or pouring it out of a box.  Not that there is anything wrong with either of these!

We all lead very busy lives, and still strive to eat a balanced meal, so we do whatever it takes to take care of our family.

Chef Rick also read my post about the Chicken Paprikash recipe, and asked me to try and review his special Chicken Paprikash Seasoning, which cuts down on the preparation time of the sauce for this dish.

I graciously accepted his offer, and decided to share my review with all my readers.

Most shoppers like to read the Nutrition Facts of the products they intend to purchase, hence this information on the back of the Chicken Paprikash Seasoning.  Not much different from any other food item in this group, but what you need to remember is that this one package makes a hefty double recipe of the sauce.  That’s a lot of sauce for at least two chicken dinners.

The complete recipe for the Chicken Paprikash dish, including the sauce, is listed on the back of the label, which is stapled to the top of the the seasoning package.

I followed his recipe precisely, and used chicken drumsticks and thighs, and all of the sauce seasoning.

The whole process was very simple and quick.  There was no frying of the chicken, and no chopping of the onions.

While the chicken was baking, I was quickly preparing the sauce, per package directions.  I even had time to try out his recommended recipe for the pasta, Spatzle, which was interestingly easy.

The sauce has a pronounced paprika taste, but it is rather on a mild side.  I expected it to taste more tangy, with a twist of more zest to it.  I like mild tasking foods, but comparing this sauce to the one in my recipe, it was a little too mild for me.  However, it is always easier to spice up a recipe to your taste, rather than to mellow it out.

Chef Rick’s sauce also requires 1 1/2 lbs of sour cream, which makes the sauce that much ceamier.  If you would like to cut down on calories, I am sure Greek Yogurt would work very well, and most likely add some “bam” to the overall taste of the sauce.

Since the chicken meat was not cooked with the sauce, but only served with it, it did not absorb any of the sauce flavor, thus did not flavor it with the paprika taste.

Next time I would use chicken breast, rather than bone-in chicken parts, to make it less messy to eat.

I would recommend this Chicken Paprikash Seasoning for a quick dinner meal for those who do not like to spend too much time in the kitchen, or do not have enough time to cook from scratch, yet still wish to prepare a tasty dish.

Chef Rick also created a Chicken Paprikash Soup and Sauce  Seasoning, which sounds like a winner to me, and I can almost taste the deliciousness of the soup made with that seasoning.

If you like Chicken Paprikash, and are looking for a quick preparation time, please visit the above highlighted links and order your Chicken Paprikash Seasonings from Chef Rick.

Please share your opinion in the comments section of this blog, once you try Chef Rick’s Chicken Paprikash Seasoning, or the Chicken Paprikash Soup and  Sauce  Seasoning.  Thank you.

Flower Garden – Very Special Additions

Very often (maybe too often) I am adding new plants to my existing flower garden, and create flower patches.  Some of the new plants are just new trials, but other ones are very sentimental and special.

Most of my perennial plants have been traveling with our family from state to state, as we moved several times over the years (such is life in the US).

I also have plants gifted to me by other family members and friends.

This year I added a patch (pictured here) with a mixture or perennial and new annual flower plants, which I grew from seeds from Europe, sent to me by my sister.

This patch is very special to me, since every time I am out gardening, I think of my sister and my mom.

The round clump of the yellow flowering bush (Coreopsis) is from my mom, who is no longer with us, hence part of this special flower patch.

Now I will share a closer view of  my new additions.

 

This plant is also from my sister, but is growing in a different flower patch, close to my patio, and next to other very special plants.

The name of this  plant is Matthiola (Bicornis), or Maciejka.  It is a very delicate plant, with equally delicate flowers with very strong fragrance.   The dainty flowers open up fully in the evening, and extend its sweet fragrance all around them, especially on cooler evening, or when watered.

I remember this plant from my mom’s flower garden, and how much she loved its sweet fragrance.  Here again, it’s a bitter-sweet memory…but that’s life.

Here is another plant I grew from my sister’s seeds.  An annual plant called Balsamina – Touch-Me-Not (Niecierpek). It is part of the Impatient family, so it prefers a cooler location.  Mine grew to about 24 inches in height, and it formed full and strong bush like plants.

What is very interesting about this Balsamina plant, is the way the flowers are tucked away in-between its numerous branches.  Its blooms are pink, red, and purple, which created a colorful arrangement in the garden.

I just noticed that I planted these next to the Coreopsis from my mom.  How sweet is that….this makes us all closely connected through nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Zinnia Dalia plants are popular here in the US as well, but I grew these from my sister’s seeds, so they are very special to me.  They come in mixture of colors: orange, pink, red, white and yellow.  They add lots of color to my garden, and are very suitable for cut flowers for indoor arrangements (but I prefer enjoying my flowers in the garden rather than in the vase).

These are new flower beds created by me last fall.  My husband helped with trimming off the lower branches of the Douglasfir trees, which began to invade a good portion of our yard.  We were going to cut them down all together, but then decided to save them, and just trim the largest bottom branches, which worked out very well.

The trees  still provide the wind protection, and privacy, plus create a new space for additional flower beds (still work in progress…) along the side of our back yard.

 

This is my largest flower patch on the East side of the house.  It stretches all along the back side of the back porch and the patio.  I love working with this one, because there is so much room for different plants, in addition to the Azalea bushes and evergreens, which fill out the landscaping whole year round.

Now you understand why gardening is so relaxing for me.  It lets me enjoy the beauty of nature, reminisce about the past, and connect with my family.

If you have any sentimental plants in your garden, I would love to hear about it.  Please share your stories.

 

This summer has been quite hot, thus more challenging to keep the veggie and flower garden hydrated enough to keep it alive and productive.

We already enjoyed fresh strawberries, raspberries, and herbs from my garden, so today I harvested my other veggies as shown in this picture.

Since I do not use any chemicals in my veggie garden, it is very pure and organic.

So you ask – “what will you be doing with all of these veggies you harvested”?

I will list each harvested vegetable individually, and link it to my favorite recipes posted previously, for your cooking convenience and pleasure.

If you like my posts, and/or pictures, please share them with your family and friends, through the above links to Facebook, Pinterest, Google, Stumble Upon, and Twitter.     THANK YOU:)

I also started  my own Pinterest board, if you like to visit, please click on this link:  http://pinterest.com/vmkz/

 

 

This is my small garden, which keeps me happily busy, and produces all of these fresh veggies for our family.


 

These lettuce leaves are from Black Seeded Simpson seeds, by Liberty Garden.  The leaves are very tender and mild in taste.  I gently pick off the individual leaves from the main plant stem, so the stem continues to grow and produce new leaves.  A white milky fluid seeps out when snipping them away from the stem.  Perfect lettuce leaves to use in Tossed Salad, of Chef’s Salad.

Red Beets are a must in my garden, as my Eastern European recipes require these for soups and salads.  They have grown  from Detroit Dark Red, Moses’s Strain seeds, by Ferry-Morse.

Some of my recipes prepared with red beets are:  Ukrainian Traditional Christmas Borscht, Quick and Easy Ukrainian Borscht, Botvinka Soup (Borscht), Red Beet Vinaigrette (Easter Burachky), Exotic Red Beet Salad   (my favorite).

 

These Green Beans come in several varieties. You can select the bush kind, or the climbing type.

I usually plant the bush kind – Garden Bean- Greencrop- (Bush Snap) by Burpee.  I also tried the climbing one, which needs to be staked – Garden Bean- Burpee’s Tenderpod.  These pods are not as tender, and not stringless (not my favorite).

Cooked or steamed Green Beans are always a great accompaniment to a main meal, in a casserole, or as a Green Bean Vinaigrette Salad.

Most of you are probably not very familiar with the above leafy vegetable.  No, it is not Spinach, it is Sorrel.  It is not readily found at your corner grocer either, that is why I plant my own.

The closest you will come to it, is it’s byproduct, which you will find in a Kosher section, packaged in a glass jar, labeled as Shchav.  However, in my opinion, it is not as tasty as my recipe for Sorrel Borscht – Shchav.

Zucchini and Squash are also easy to grow, and produce in abundance.  Besides Zucchini Bread, this veggie is great in a delicious Zucchini/Tomato Casserole, or Zucchini and Goat Cheese FrittersMy mom loved zucchini and squash sliced,  and sauteed with onions and garlic, seasoned with salt, pepper, and Italian Seasonings.   Zucchini or squash are excellent, additional ingredients, in a vegetable soup, and great for grilling.

Tomatoes and Basil, are taking the center stage here, since they both are so versatile in usage in myriad of recipes. Every year I am trying different varieties of tomatoes, and this year I planted Early Girl, and Rutgers.  The Early Girl is doing very well, and producing lots of large fruits, but next year I will have to give a second chance to the Rutgers variety, since this year they are not doing as well.

 

It was very difficult to select only few recipes for this veggie, so I decided to share: HomemadeTomato Soup, Party Canapes (best party food ever), and Pesto Sun-Dried Tomato Cheese Spread, also my favorite.

Last, but not least, are the Yukon Gold Potatoes.  If you have been reading my posts, you already know that last year I had some FREE potatoes growing in my garden, but this year I actually planted these myself.  I chose this variety, because they are the most expensive to purchase at the grocer, and they are very tasty.

Potatoes to Eastern Europeans (and the Irish), are like pasta to the Italians…we can’t live without them!  Hence, the myriad of recipes this veggie is used in, but I will only link to three, as this post is already quite lengthy.

If you were patient enough to read the whole post, you finally stumbled upon the most popular recipes for: Varenyky (Perogi), Irish Potato Pancakes, and Potato Balls (Knedle).

Now you know about the veggies I harvested, and have some of the links to my favorite recipes associated with them.

Please share your gardening and cooking stories in your comments.  Thank you.

 It has been a while since I made cream puffs, so today seemed like a perfect day to make a batch.

The dough for cream puffs is rather simple, but the preparation technique is interesting, since it requires cooking of some of the dough ingredients, before turning them into the actual dough for baking.

The filling for cream puffs can be as simple as instant pudding of your choice, scoop of ice cream,  freshly whipped cream, or  filling made from scratch, which I will post with this recipe.

This recipe yields 12-15 medium size cream puffs.

Cream Puffs Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, unsifted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs

Cream Puffs Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, add water, butter, and salt.
  2. Bring to rolling boil.
  3. Add vanilla.
  4. Stir in flour, all at once.
  5. Reduce heat, and continue stirring vigorously, until the mixture no longer sticks to the sides of the pan, and forms a soft ball-like mass.
  6. Remove from heat.
  7. Cool until just warm.  At this stage, the dough resembles cold, thick,  lumpy porridge. Don’t panic, it will improve its texture in the next step.
  8. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until mixture is smooth, as shown below.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  10. Grease 2 baking sheets, 13 x 18.
  11. Drop a spoonful of dough onto a greased baking sheet, spreading it about 2 inches apart.
  12. Bake 15-17 minutes, or until browned and quite firm to the touch.  The crust must be rigid to prevent collapse on removal from oven.
  13. Remove from the pan, and cool on a cooling rack.
  14. Slice off the tops of each cream puff (about 1/3 down from the top)
  15. Set aside until ready to fill.

You can use chocolate instant pudding filling, for simplicity and ease.  However, if you wish to make your own filling from scratch, please follow the recipe below.

This Chocolate Filling is NOT suitable for freezing. 

I tried it and it turned into wet, spongy, mess!

I also froze cream puffs filled with Lemon Instant Pudding Mix, and those were fairly OK, but not as good as before freezing.

You can freeze the unfilled cream puffs, and fill them the day of serving.

 

 Chocolate Filling Ingredients :

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely cut
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2+ 1/3 cups milk
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Filling Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt.
  2. Add chopped chocolate.
  3. Gradually stir in milk.
  4. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.
  5. Stir a little of the hot mixture into egg yolks, to temper it.
  6. Add the tempered egg yolk mixture to the remaining hot mixture in the saucepan.
  7. Cook 1 minute longer, stirring constantly. Do not overcook, as not to thin it out too much.
  8. Remove from heat.
  9. Stir in butter and vanilla.
  10. Cool , until just warm.
  11. Spoon warm filling into the bottom half of the pastry shell.
  12. Replace the sliced off top, over the filled pastry bottom.
  13. DO NOT FREEZE.  Refrigerate filled cream puffs until ready to serve (preferably the same day).
  14. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, or drizzle with melted chocolate.

Enjoy!!

TIP:  Cream puffs can also be made smaller, using a teaspoon, and used for appetizers, filled with meat or fish salads, (in which case you would not add vanilla to the dough)

 

Growing cucumbers presents a challenge for me, since their season seems to be way to short, compared to the rest of the plants I grow.

I remember my mom’s cucumber season used to last so much longer than mine does.

Soon after I begin to pick off the grown cucumbers, and even though there are still lots of new blooms, the vines begin to dry out slowly, and the plant eventually dies.

I really would like to hear from all the gardeners out there with some advise on this issue.  Please help.

This year I tried a different variety of cucumbers, just to see if I will have more luck growing these for a longer time.

I selected the Greencrisp Burpless Hybrid Cucumber, by Burpee.

 

So far the plants are doing very well.  However, I noticed that they like to climb, rather than sprawl on the ground, so I purchased a support trellis, which they utilize fully, as you can see from the above picture.

This is my first harvest this year, and even though they resemble the English Cucumber  (which you can find at the grocer usually wrapped in a plastic sleeve), the outside layer is covered with needle sharp stubby pricks, making them kind of difficult to handle.

I used a veggie scrubbing brush to scrub these off under running water.

They are excellent for slicing to use in:

My granddaughter loves to eat them plain, as shown above.

These cucumbers are practically seedless, their skin is very thin, so you really may choose not to peel them at all.  They are much tastier than the regular cucumbers, and have a nice crisp texture.  Totally delicious.

I highly recommend this variety for the above recipes.

For pickling  (check put this link for easy pickling method), I prefer the smaller variety of cucumbers.

I plant Picklebush Cucumber, by Burpee, to use for pickling, even though they are also very suitable for the above recipes.

 

 

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