Simple advice for a better life.

Birthday Party AppetizersWhether you are cooking at home, dining out, or ordering take out, there are almost always some leftovers to deal with after the fact.

There is nothing wrong with having leftovers.   After all, you spent time and money on this food, so you deserve to enjoy it to the last morsel.

Some prepared dishes are not suitable for later use as a leftover…they lose their taste and texture, so it is best to just part with them right there and then.

Numerous others, on the other hand, are still great for at least one or two meals, or even to be frozen for that rainy day when you have no time or desire to cook.

Some people do not like leftovers, and never keep them.  However, if you are like me, you don’t mind them, and feel that you get your money’s worth if you use them.

Most Europeans don’t believe in leftovers….maybe because they hardly ever have any.

They serve their meals already preportioned per plate, and make just enough to feed the crowd they accounted for.  The portions are large enough to satisfy the consumer, so there is no need, or room, for seconds.  Therefore, there are no leftovers.  Any remaining food on each plate, which hardly ever happens, is discarded.  It is almost impolite to ask for a “Doggie Bag”.

Here in the USA we have no problem asking the waiter/waitress to pack up our leftovers to take home with us.

It is very important to keep track of your leftover food in your fridge, which is one of my pet peeves.  I almost feel like I am a fridge police, whether it is at home or at work.

There is nothing worse than seeing “old” food sitting in the fridge way past its safe consumable time.

My personal time line for using up leftovers in up to 3 days…4 being the absolute max.

Now I will share my best way of using up leftovers, and keeping your fridge fresh, and ready for restocking.

Since most of us work full-time, and don’t have much time for cooking during the week, we prepare extra food on weekend, to hold us over for couple of days.  Then by mid-week, it’s time for some take out.  By Thursday we have leftovers to use, or lose.

I consider Thursday  a “Leftover Smorgasbord Dinner Day”.  We pull out all the leftovers from the past few days, and add something new if needed, and call it a day.

Everyone is to create their own plate of food from the smorgasbord spread available.  We also use disposable dishes and utensils that day, to save time on clean up effort.  Whatever food is remaining after this dinner, gets discarded for good.

This is the BEST way to free your fridge of leftover food, and to prevent any food from hiding in there for too long.

Since we have no dishes to wash on this day, we devote our time to cleaning up the fridge, and getting it ready for fresh food from Friday or Saturday shopping.

It works very well every time, and it also is fun, economical, and stress free.

I suggest you try it too, and share your comments.

Have fun!

Nuwave oven - Banana Bread 2You  heard about the Nuwave oven I recently purchased, so now I am testing different recipes to decide if this purchase is a keeper.

I already made a vegetable dish, a meat dish, and this time a traditional dessert.

I followed the ingredients in the recipe, as printed in the Nuwave cookbook, with an exception of decreasing the salt, and adding vanilla extract.

The Banana Bread turned out very moist and tasty, however it took a little bit longer to bake, than originally stated in the recipe.

After the original 45 minutes, it was still quite soft in the middle, so I baked it another 15 minutes on High power, and let it cool off under the dome, before taking it out.

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup shortening ( I used butter)
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions: 

  1. In a medium bowl, place the measured and sifted flour.
  2. Mix in the baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy.
  4. Add one egg yolk at a time, mixing well after each (keep the whites in the fridge for now)
  5. Mix in mashed bananas, and vanilla extract.
  6. Add dry ingredients all at once.
  7. Stir enough to moisten the flour.
  8. Beat the egg whites, until stiff peaks form.
  9. Gently fold into the batter.
  10. Grease a loaf pan with Crisco shortening, and flour lightly bottom and sides of the pan.
  11. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  12. Bake on a 1″ rack for 45 minutes on HI power level.
  13. Top will be browning a bit, so you may cover it loosely with foil paper.
  14. Pause and test with a toothpick.
  15. If necessary, bake another 15 minutes.
  16. Once done, let the bread rest under the dome for few minutes.
  17. Remove.  Cool completely before slicing into serving pieces.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Paska baking -  our 6 year old Paska decoratorUkrainian Traditional Paska -  3 batches of Paska bakingUkrainian Traditional Paska - design D

 

 

Thursday was our family Paska Baking Day.…three generations of bakers – mother, daughter and granddaughter.
We had so much fun, especially my 6-year-old granddaughter, who did a beautiful job helping with measuring the ingredients, and decorating her Paska (above picture).

You may click on the above link for the recipe, but today I will share pictures of the different designs we created for this year’s Paska.

Ukrainian Traditional Paska - design A

The traditional braid toward the middle of the Paska, a flower in the middle, and some “figi” decorations below the braid.

Ukrainian Traditional Paska - design BThis one has the twist (two strings of dough twisted together), and a fancy cross in the middle of the Paska.

Ukrainian Traditional Paska - design G

Here we have a large cross on top of the whole Paska,  and some other decorations along the side.

Ukrainian Traditional Paska - design C

This Paska is decorated with a long braid twisted around the middle, and dough -birds all around the edge.

Ukrainian Traditional Paska - design D

My six years old granddaughter decorated this Paska all by herself.  She did a beautiful job, if I may say so myself.

Ukrainian Traditional Paska - design E

This Paska has two twists intertwined in a way to resemble the thorn crown Jesus wore on his head.

Ukrainian Traditional Paska - design F

Last but not least, a single dough rope is twisted around this Paska, with some loops formed symmetrically, and a dough rose in the middle.  Plus a single dough rope is laid around the Paska, about 1/2 inch below the upper one.

Paska baking - our 6 year old Paska decorator

Hopefully our designs will help you to decorate your Paska, or it will inspire you to create your own, even more decorative.  Please share your Paska designs with all our readers.

Ukrainian Traditional Paska - 3 batches of Paska baking

This year’s Easter is very special for Ukrainians, since the Catholics and the Orthodox celebrate it at the same time.  Most of the time the Catholic one is much earlier than the Orthodox, as they both follow different calendar (Julian or Gregorian).

KRYSTOS VOSKRES!  (CHRIST IS RISEN!)

VOISTYNU VOSKRES! (INDEED HE IS RISEN!)

HAPPY EASTER!!

Garlic and Herb BreadI just baked another loaf of homemade bread, using the Dutch Oven (Cast Iron Pot with interior and exterior enamel, plus a lid).

The process is so simple, and the bread turns out awesomely delicious.

This time I got a little more adventurous, and modified the original recipe, to create a more flavorful bread.

I was a little skeptical at first, but once I noticed how nicely the dough was rising, and the aroma of garlic and herbs filled the air, I knew it will be a great success.

I will continue to experiment further with other ingredients, and keep you posted.

Whole Wheat Bread

This is my first loaf of Dutch Oven Bread recipe, made with a mixture of whole wheat flour and unbleached all-purpose flour.

This loaf was light, but due to the whole wheat flour, it was not as airy as the other ones.

Bread Flour loaf

This is my second loaf, made out of bread flour, making it quite airy, and much lighter than the whole wheat loaf. Both breads were quite delicious, especially when served warm with a thin layer of sweet butter….yum!

Since these breads are totally fat-free, they tend to age quickly.  However, their delicious taste does not change, and warming them up in the microwave, or toaster oven, brings back their original freshness.

Today I will share my recipe for a Dutch Oven bread, with an addition of oil, egg, and herbs, giving it more flavor, and hopefully a longer shelf life.

Ingredients:

  •  6 cups of Bread Flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 1/3 cups water, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil (or any oil of your choice)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. Basil, dried
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (or 2, for more pungent results)

 Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, Basil, and yeast.
  2. Set aside.
  3. Beat the egg, mix in Olive oil and minced garlic.
  4. Mix the egg/oil mixture with water, and stir into the flour mixture, to incorporate well to make a sticky dough.
  5. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and keep in a warm, draft-free place (I keep it in a turned-off oven), for 12-18 hours, until light and bubbly (please visit the original site for step-by-step pictures).
  6. Flour your hands, and the work area, then remove the risen dough from the bowl, onto the work area.
  7. Keep on tucking the dough under, using as much flour as needed for your hands and the work surface, until you form a nice ball of dough.
  8. Place it on a well floured parchment paper, cover it with couple of clean linen kitchen towels, keep it in a daft-free area, and let it rise for 1-2 hours (it will double in bulk).
  9. At 1 1/2 hours of dough rising, turn on the oven to 425 degrees F and place the covered Dutch Oven in it, to heat it up.
  10. At the end of the 2 hours of dough rising, carefully remove the HOT Dutch Oven from the oven, pour 1 tsp of olive oil into it, and using a pastry brush spread the oil over the bottom and sides of the pot.
  11. Gently slide the dough off the parchment paper, into the oiled HOT Dutch Oven.  Replace the lid, and bake it for 40 -45 minutes.
  12. Remove the lid, and bake it for additional 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 200 degrees F.
  13. Carefully remove the pot from the oven, and cool it for 10 minutes, then remove the bread, and place it on a cooling rack.
  14. If yo wish, you may brush off most of the flour from the top crust of the bread, or leave it on, then brush some olive oil with a pastry brush, all over the top, sides, and bottom of the bread, and let it cool completely before slicing.

Once the bread cools off, the crust will be very crunchy, but it will soften up by the next day.

You may store this bread on a counter in the Dutch Oven, or place it in a plastic zip-lock bag.

This bread freezes very well, so you can either slice it all and freeze it to use couple of slices at a time, or freeze the whole piece.

I sliced 1/2 of the loaf, and kept it on the counter, and froze the second half in one piece.

To thaw the bread in one piece, for best results keep it in the plastic bag, and thaw is slowly in the fridge.

Frozen slices may be microwaved, or warmed up in the Toaster Oven.

My next bread recipe will use something different yet…stay tuned please, if effortless bread making interests you.

Enjoy!

Exotic Banana Bread Bananas are such a staple food in our house (great source of Potassium to prevent muscle cramps), so we hardly ever run out of them, but at times there are few very ripe ones left over, hence perfect time to whip up some banana bread.

This week was one of those times with several very ripe bananas, which contributed to this newly concocted recipe for an Exotic Banana Bread.

It is a light recipe, since it has less sugar and fat, than my other recipe for Decadent Chocolate Banana Bread, posted earlier.

This banana bread is very light and airy.  The coconut and cinnamon flavors add to its exotic aroma.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use Gold Medal all-purpose unbleached flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (I use kosher salt)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • 2 large bananas, mashed (nicely ripe…even if they begin to get little brown spots all over its peel)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (you also may use coconut oil, I did not have any on hand)
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate morsels (or you use raisins, craisins, nuts, or other dry fruits)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl add the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Incorporate all ingredients with a whisk, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with brown sugar and white sugar, until very light and creamy, resembling cake batter.
  3. Mix in coconut extract, oil and bananas.
  4. Gradually add in flour, and mix well to incorporate.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  7. Generously grease and flour a loaf pan.
  8. Pour the batter into the greased pan, and bake 60-70 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven, and cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Then remove onto a cooling rack to cool completely, before slicing into serving pieces.

Exotic Banana  Bread

Enjoy!

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