Friday, May 22, 2015

Our Shepherd's Pie Recipe

Shepherd's Pie is one of the dishes which I learned to make  when in TX. Actually, it is not popular in Poland at all, and I did not hear about it before coming to the US.
This is the way I make it and how we like it best.
What you need (for two servings):
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • some canola oil (for frying)
  • 1/2 medium size onion - chopped
  • 1 cup water + 1/2 beef bullion cube (or 1 cup beef stock)
  • 1 TBS Worcester sauce
  • about 1/3 cup frozen peas & carrots (or more if you like)
  • 1 TBS dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
 For mashed potatoes:
  • 4 medium sized potatoes
  • 1 TSP unsalted butter
  • about 1 tsp salt
  • a pinch black pepper
  • 1/4 2% milk
  • grated Mexican cheese (or other kind) to cover mashed potatoes
What to do:
1. Heat oven to 350F/175C
2. Boil the potatoes.
3. Mash the potatoes, add butter, milk, salt and pepper.
4. Fry the meat  until it is no longer red (it takes a few minutes).
5. Add the chopped onion and fry it with the meat for about 3 minutes.
6. Add water & bullion cube, Worcester sauce, frozen peas & carrots, and cook it all for about 7 minutes. Add parsley and stir everything.
7. Place the meat mixture into a baking dish, cover it with mashed potatoes, spread them evenly.
8. Sprinkle shredded cheese on the potato layer.
9. Bake it for 30 minutes.
I do not cover the dish with aluminum foil before placing it in the oven. I did that a few times but the potatoes + cheese turn out/taste  better when they are baked without any cover .

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Idaho Supreme Mashed Potatoes & Baked Chicken

From all the mashed potatoes  - flakes and instant powders which we have tried, this Idaho Supreme product is definitely the best. Mashed potatoes made with these Idaho Supreme potato flakes are always tasty and fluffy. Thanks to the very clear instructions included on the box, I can easily prepare various numbers of servings, according to our current needs. What I need to add is water, milk and some butter. The only thing which I do differently than ' the manual' says - I heat milk with water and butter instead of mixing hot water, butter and potato flakes with cold milk. I tried the latter one when I was making Idaho Mashed Potatoes for dinner for the first time, but the potatoes turned to be too cool then.
We bought the product at Dollar Tree and we were positively surprised with its quality. Of course, the price was excellent too.
To sum up, so far, Idaho Supreme Mashed Potatoes has been our choice no. 1 considering buying instant mashed potatoes.
I also use the potato flakes to prepare chicken breast for dinner - it is a very easy and quick recipe.

Products you need (for two servings):

  • 1 big chicken breast
  • some grated Parmesan cheese
  • some salt*
  • some black pepper*
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 TBS water
  • some Idaho Supreme Mashed Potatoes flakes
  • a little canola oil/olive oil
  • baking dish and oven of course :)
* the amount of salt and black pepper depends on your likes but do not add too much


What to do wit it all:

1. Heat oven to 375F/190C.
2. Grease your baking dish and heat it in the oven for 5 minutes.
3. In the meantime:
  • bowl no.1 - mix Parmesan with salt and black pepper; 
  • bowl no. 2 - mix egg with water, beat it a little bit with fork;
  • bowl no. 3 - prepare enough Idaho Supreme potato flakes to coat chicken breast.
4. Coat chicken breast - bowl no.1, 2, and then no. 3.
5. Put the coated chicken breast on the baking dish, sprinkle it with some oil and bake it for about 10/15 minutes, then turn the meat and bake it for 15 minutes again.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Calder's Gourmet Bold & Zesty Horseradish Sauce

In Poland horseradish is traditionally served, especially at Easter, with different kinds of meats. The condiment consists of a few ingredients only: a grated horseradish root with some lemon juice or very little vinegar, cream, and a bit of sugar. Depending on the 'strength' of the horseradish, the mixture has  usually has quite a bold flavor. I love how it tastes with sausages, meat sandwiches or baked meat.
I have been trying to find a similar horseradish based product here but so far with no success. That is why I was really happy when I came across this Calder's Gourmet Bold & Zesty Horseradish Sauce. It is very tasty and quite 'horseradishy' comparing to other sauces. The best of all I have tried in the US so far as it is not sweet, not bitter, and there is not too much mayonnaise in it. It adds a lot to the flavor of meats, and also works well as raw chicken breast seasoning. The horseradish sauce was made in the USA and it costs $1 only.
The horseradish sauce was found at Dollar Tree

Chicken Breast in Bold & Zesty Horseradish Sauce
  • Heat oven to 375F/190C
  • Rub chicken breast with horseradish sauce.
  • Then coat it with plain bread crumbs - press bread crumbs a bit to make them stick to chicken breast better.
  • Grease a baking dish with some butter and put it into hot oven for 5 minutes.
  • Place chicken breast in the baking dish and bake it for 10 minutes.
  • Turn chicken breast and bake again for about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

About The Invention of Slow Cooker, Beans & Corn Bread

Slow cookers are not very popular in Poland. These days they are available in stores there, not too many kinds though (I checked some online stores today). I guess, people have not learned yet what a useful invention it is. Actually, I never came across anything like that while living in Europe. We had the opposite of that - fast pressure cooker which my sister had received as a wedding gift. She did not want it and gave it to us but we never used it either. We simply did not need it. Besides, we were a bit concerned about the safety matters connected with cooking in it.

The slow cooker is totally different. At first, I was not sure what I could do with it - I simply did not know the kitchen device at all. Encouraged by my husband, I decided to give it (and myself) a try. The results were great! Nowadays, I really enjoy using the slow cooker. I also very much like what I learned about it: the slow cooker (called also the crock-pot - did not know that) is safe and makes life easier. You just put all the ingredients into the pot - and that is all. No need to stand by it and check on its content all the time, which is most often necessary while cooking on the stove. Another important advantage is that food prepared in the slow cooker is always tender and tastes really good.
A few years ago, at a function/social meeting, we were treated with (among others) southern style beans. The dish tasted so good, that we asked the lady who had made it (cannot recall her name) to share her recipe with us. I am very grateful she was so kind and did write it down for me - since then, it has been one of our most favorite recipes. Having cooked the beans many times, both on the stove and in the slow cooker, I can say that the only right way to do it well, is to cook them with the help of the crock-pot. The grains are so tender and not overcooked - just perfect.
Here is the recipe. It is very simple and the beans make a great dish both for a family dinner and as a guest/party treat.


  • 1 pound bag Casserole Pinto Beans/or just dried pinto beans
  • 4 slices ham
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • water to cover the beans (check the bag instructions)

I always put the dried beans into a bowl, cover them with cold tap water and leave for a night - but it was not included as an instruction in the original recipe.
  • Sort the beans, remove cracked or rotten beans. Rinse thorough with water. Strain.
  • Put the washed beans into the crock-pot.
  • Chop ham into small pieces and put in the crock-pot with beans.
  • Boil water in a separate pot on the stove.
  • Pour the boiling water in the crock-pot, turn it on 'high'.
  • Add salt.
  • Cover and let cook for 4 hours undisturbed. Do not stir. - this is my favorite part - if you cook the beans on the stove, you have to stir them often and check- often - how much water there is in the pot.
* It is best if the slow cooker has a see through lid, so you do not have to remove it to check how the cooking is going. The more times you open the lid, the longer it takes to cook.

* If you run low on water, boil more on the stove, the add boiling water to the crock-pot. Never add cold water, it will turn the beans black.

Beans cooked in the slow cooker
Together with corn bread, the beans make a great traditional, southern style meal. I have tried many corn bread recipes but we finally decided, that the one included below is the best.

I do not have a cast iron so I use a round, 9'' metal cake tin. As you can see in the picture, the corn bread baked in it turns out rather thin, but we like it in this way. If you want to make it thicker, just double the amount of all the ingredients.

Corn Bread

  • 1 TBS canola oil (or olive oil/or any vegetable oil)
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1/6 cup all purpose flour (a half of 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • about 1 and 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 medium sized carrot (I use about 4 or 5 baby carrots)
  • Grate the carrot.
  • Heat the oven 400F.
  • Pour the oil into the baking tin. Put the tin into the oven for minutes.
  • Put all the other ingredients into a bowl and stir with a spoon.
  • Take out the baking tin from the oven. Carefully pour the hot oil into the bowl with corn bread ingredients, and stir with a spoon again.
  • Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 20 or 25 minutes - until a toothpick comes out clean.

our favorite kind of home made corn bread
Warm, straight from the oven, corn bread with some butter + the beans = a wonderful treat.

Friday, May 1, 2015

About Doing New Things & How I Won With Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Having moved to the US I experienced many 'first times': doing things and going to places, and also having different kinds of food. There was my first taco, my first Tex-Mex food, my first glass of Dr. Pepper, my first mac & cheese, and many more, including my first Banana Split. It is a delicious treat, however, it is so big that I am able to eat only a half of it. But I do like it!
The Banana Split in the picture was not my first one - just another one.
 Among others, I also learned about the Pineapple Upside-Down cake here (had neither heard about it nor tasted it in Europe). And of course I decide to make it. I found a ''from the scratch" recipe and baked it - first time. The cake looked very nice but, according to a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Expert, it did not taste as it was supposed to.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake - attempt #1
 A year later, I decided to make the cake again, using a different recipe though. I did not know that I was supposed to flip the tin straight after taking it out of the oven. It looked quite alright and I just put the upside-down cake on a cupboard. The result was obvious to everybody who had made such a treat before (but not me, at least not then). All the juice was at the bottom of the baking dish. I called it 'a day of the swimming cake'. Of course my upside-down cake no.2 was not good enough to eat it.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake - attempt #2
 Another year passed, and the time came to bake it again. This time I decided to get a yellow cake mix to make things different. I used the same baking tin as usual. Well, unfortunately, it appeared to be too small and some of the brown sugar, light corn syrup and butter mix dripped from the tin on the bottom of the oven. To make matters worse, the baking time given in the recipe, which I followed, was wrong - much too short, so I started opening the oven and checking the cake too early. The result: the worst cake I had ever made. Anyway, a good side of that experience and all the previous ones was that I finally understood the Nature of the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.
I was determined to make it right so I did not wait another year. After a few days I tried again - with a bigger baking dish and knowing all what I had learned. Attempt #4 was very successful, which was confirmed by the Pineapple Upside-Down Expert. I was happy! Now I know how to make it and bake it well. :)
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake - successful attempt #4