Friday, June 6, 2014

Tough little cookies

June 6, 2014

Our daughter Daria will be 9 months old tomorrow!  Where does the time go?

I recently started reading Karen Le Billon's new book, "Getting to Yum" and found a fabulous recipe for homemade teething biscuits.  I followed the recipe but made a few "Polish" modifications, using 7-grain baby cereal instead of oat cereal and applesauce (homemade from local, baked Ligol apples-skins on, of course) instead of banana, which I did not have on hand.  So here are my modifications on the recipe:

Teething Biscuits, Polish Style

1 cup all-purpose flour (you can use wheat, whole wheat or gluten-free oat)
1 cup dry baby cereal (oat is recommended)
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
about 1 cup of applesauce, pureed sweet potato or very ripe banana
a little water

Preheat your oven to 450 F
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the spices, flour and baby cereal until well combined.  Stir in the butter and then add in enough fruit puree or mashed banana to bring the dough together. If the dough is still too dry, add in a little water until it comes together.

Lightly flour a clean work surface and bring the dough into a ball.  Roll them out to your desired thickness and use a small circular cutter to make round biscuits.  I used the cap from a bottle of baby food as a cutter and they are the perfect size for her little hands.

Place the rounds on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper and bake for 7-10 minutes or until firm and lightly browned. Mine were a little chewy on the inside but Daria didn't mind.
Store in an air-tight container for up to a week.  You could probably stash a few in the freezer for a chilly teething treat.

Daria seems to like them quite a lot! I've gotten her some teething biscuits here in Poland but they dissolve really fast (probably to reduce the chances of choking*)  and they don't seem to satisfy her need to gnaw on something tasty. These are the perfect "tough little cookies." Other favorites include steamed carrot or sweet potato sticks chilled or frozen.  A couple of weeks ago she annihilated some steamed broccoli "trees", smothered in butter. Yum!

We are still waiting for that first tooth to emerge. She has good days and bad days when it comes to teething discomfort and willingness to eat solids. Some days she gobbles everything in sight and other days she refuses everything but a bottle or breast.  Perhaps this too shall pass.

So if you've got a little 'zombie' baby in the house munching away on everything in sight, give these biscuits a try.

*Always monitor your baby when they are gnawing on teething biscuits, as they can pose a choking hazard!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Baby Leek Soup

February 28, 2014

Well, this blog has been neglected since I started getting paid to blog for other people. This is a slow week and the baby is napping so I figured that I should catch up on things.

My Mom, baby Daria's "Grammie", said the other day that she wished that she could be here to enjoy mealtimes with us and to cook for little Daria. So, I will make a blog food log for her this week. I'm going to share my recipes as well as strategy for introducing foods to Daria.

A little history:
- Daria will be 6 months old in one week. Time flies!
- To date, Daria has been introduced to: sweet potato, potato, zucchini, carrot, banana, apple (baked), avocado, green peas, cauliflower, sugar pumpkin, and butternut squash. Daria has not started any grains yet, as we are following our Polish pediatrician's recommendation of not starting grains until after 6 months of age.

So, tonight we are having a potato leek soup as our 'first course' to share with Daria and then we are having 'Fisherman's Eggs' as our main.

I think in order to cook from scratch you need to keep it simple and enjoy the process. I love to cook and it is a very relaxing process for me but....this can be VERY difficult with a baby, so PLAN AHEAD and STICK TO THE PLAN.

Always incorporate something that you want your baby to try (that is age appropriate) into each meal that you cook.

Baby's Stock
To make 'baby's stock' - this will go into the soup everyone will eat.
Making stock at home is way cheaper than buying the stuff in the box and you can control how much sodium goes into it. I read that babies should not have salted food until they're older, and too much can overwork their wee little kidneys. So if you make it yourself, you can control the salt and what actually goes into it.
Incorporate veggies that your baby has already tried plus a new one into the stock.
This week the new thing is leek.

4 cups of water
The light green portion of the leek, cleaned. Save the white part for your soup. Discard the dark, woody part. If you've never cleaned a leek, go here and pay attention. It is easy and won't take a million years.
1/4 sweet potato, skin on and scrubbed well
1 large carrot, peeled

Put everything together into a pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn onto low and let simmer for 1 hour while you change diapers, do laundry, take a nap, stalk on Facebook, whatever. Or you could go ahead and prep your potatoes and then resume whatever it is you other SAHMs do. Remove the veggies (don't throw them out! - mash them up with a little baby stock- I use an immersion blender- and freeze them into a 'vegetable medly' in an ice cube tray for your baby.)  Having something like this is handy for nights when you order Chinese takeout or go out for a kebab.

At the SAME TIME you are making your stock, go ahead and cook the potatoes.
Wash and scrub your 5 new potatoes and cut them into the same sized chunks. Don't peel them, their skins are nice and soft and full of nutrition. You won't know they're there in the soup.
Put them in a pot, cover in cold water.
Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat, uncover, and let them boil until they're tender.  Check on them in-between folding diapers or teeny-tiny socks.  Drain and set aside or put them in the fridge. Heck you can do this a day or two in advance if you're doing a marathon weekend cook-a-thon.

Two of your pots are now working for you. Now its time to put your oven to work too. Preheat to 350 F.
Cook 4 strips of bacon on a baking sheet. When they are crispy, remove them and drain on paper towels. 2 strips are for tonight, 2 are for tomorrow.

The Potato Leek Soup

1 leek (only the white part), chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
your 5 cooked potatoes, skin on
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped fine (or 1/2 teaspoon powdered)
your 4 cups of the baby's stock
4 tablespoons sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
1 strip of bacon per person

Sweat, baby sweat

Everybody in the pool


I want to make you silky smooth

In a soup pot, cook the leek in the olive oil on medium heat. The leeks need to 'sweat', ie. become soft and fragrant but NOT browned or caramelized. If you get too much color on them it will change the flavor of the soup. If they are burned, start over.  Add in the cooked potatoes on low heat and the baby's stock.
Grab your immersion blender, and blend it all together until smooth.  Add in the rosemary to taste and blend well.
Remove enough for your baby at this point. I recommend enough for 2-3 feedings.
On low heat, add in the sour cream to the blended soup in the pot.  Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve warm or cold with crumbled bacon on top.

Enjoy with your baby! This makes 2-4 servings depending on how greedy you are. We will be having leftovers for lunch tomorrow. That's why I cooked 4 slices of bacon.

I'm not going to bore you with how to make Fisherman's Eggs. Just click on the link.  I used a shallot instead of a white onion and Italian seasoning since I was out of parsley. They sound gross but are really, really good. You Paleo kids should jump all over this one.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 17, 2013

What to do with that leftover pulled pork?
Are you out of buns or bread, and don't want to go to the store?
Is there a bag of salad that will end up in the compost if you don't use it today?
I've got the answer for you!

BBQ and Cowpea Salad

What you need:
-Leftover pulled pork. SO easy to make, just slow roast a pork shoulder in the oven or in your Crock Pot.
-Your favorite BBQ sauce, we usually make ours right at home! 
(Doug's favorite is actually the South Carolina/south Georgia mustard-based sauce that makes BBQ purists everywhere cringe) 
-A can of black-eyed peas or cowpeas, drained and rinsed, or cooked from their dry state
-2-3 Dill pickle slices per person, chopped.  There's nothing like a pickle on a pulled pork sandwich!
-Lettuce of your choice, shredded
-Leftover homemade coleslaw, or just shredded cabbage and shredded carrot

Warm up the pork, and toss with your favorite BBQ sauce until moist.
Toss together the lettuce, pickles, coleslaw and put into a large serving bowl or plate.
Pile the pork on top of the greens.
Add a handful, or several of the peas on top.
Drizzle with extra BBQ sauce and enjoy!

*This recipe was inspired by a BBQ pork salad that our dear friend Mary Lou used to order at a BBQ joint in Dallas, Georgia after a day of sun and skiing at Cole Lake.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


October 8, 2012

The fall colors are becoming more prominent on the landscape of northern Poland and in the city of Gdańsk.  It is simply beautiful and so different from South Carolina. I am excited to be living somewhere that has real seasons!  

During the last week of September the fresh fruit and vegetable market at the Hala Targowa exploded with dozens of varieties of squash.  Every shape, size and color was represented, and oh! The pumpkins!
It has been a challenge over the years to get my husband to eat squash. A few years ago he was tricked into eating my Aunt Susan's homemade pumpkin pie, and thankfully he has not looked back.
*For improved viewing of these photos, click on the picture, and view through the slideshow*

The ladies who come to sell their home-grown fruits, vegetables, flowers and eggs outside the main market.
I try to buy as much as possible from them.

Not a bad day to walk to the market!  
Now I will present, the colors of the Autumn market 

Pumpkin, in Polish, is "dynia"

I could not help myself, I bought a Hokkaido pumpkin on the spot. It's skin was smooth and lustrous and I felt a bit seduced by this little gourd of goodness. But what to do with it?

I am definitely not a pumpkin cooking expert. Luckily, the pumpkin came with a little tag, which had on it a soup recipe.  Soup sounded like a great idea on a crisp fall evening.
I hurried home and got to work translating it from Polish to English. 

Once the translation was finished, I was a little disappointed, because the soup sounded a little, well, bland. The original recipe only called for a little allspice and that's it. I shouldn't have been surprised, as the Poles are not known for using a lot of spice in their dishes. I know that some things are best simply prepared but, I just had to experiment a little.  I'm glad that I did, the results were outstanding!

This recipe can easily be made vegetarian or vegan. You can make it "healthier" by cutting down on the amount of fat by choosing a 0% or low-fat yogurt or sour cream.

Pumpkin is also full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. If you buy a Hokkaido variety pumpkin, you can boil or roast it with the skin on. The outer peel is edible, very thin, and cooks down easily. This keeps many of the vitamins and minerals in your soup, the reason you bought the little guy to begin with! 

Polish Pumpkin Soup - My Version
makes 4-6 large portions
1 kg (2.2 pound) pumpkin, variety such as Hokkaido or butternut squash
500-1000ml (17oz) chicken or veggie stock (homemade with organic or local veggies is always best!)
1 medium sized onion (spanish or Vidalia), diced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
3 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon allspice 
1/2 teaspoon clove
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 
dash of ground thyme, or 2-3 springs of fresh thyme leaves
2 cups, packed chopped spinach (fresh is best). If using frozen, be sure to squeeze out excess moisture.
100ml sour cream or creme fraiche
salt and pepper to taste 
scallion, chopped for topping
raw pumpkin seeds, for topping

Wash the skin of your pumpkin with a soft vegetable brush. As Alton Brown has said, "These things grow in the dirt, ya know."
On medium-high heat, in a stock pot, cook your onion until translucent and fragrant. Take off the heat.
Cut into the pumpkin and remove the seeds.  Save these for later, they are yummy when toasted!
Cut the pumpkin into 2 inch pieces, all uniform in size. 
Put the pumpkin into a stock pot with the onions and add the chicken stock. 
Bring to a hard boil, then lower the heat to a simmer until the pumpkin is tender, about 10-15 minutes.
Once the pumpkin is tender, take off the heat and let cool slightly.
Remove the pumpkin pieces and put into your blender or food processor. Process until smooth.
If you have an immersion blender, this is a good time to use it, directly into the stock pot.
Add your pumpkin puree back to the stock and bring to a simmer on low heat.
Add in the chopped spinach, ginger, spices, salt and pepper to taste.
Once the spinach is wilted, turn off the heat.
Allow soup to cool slightly before serving and remove bay leaf.
Offer the raw pumpkin seeds, sour cream, chopped scallion as toppings.
Adding a tablespoon of sour cream to each bowl, and stirring it in slowly transforms the soup into a rich, luxurious appetizer or main course.
This is absolutely delicious served with warm, crusty bread.


Thursday, August 2, 2012


August 1, 2012

The beautiful days of summer are slowly getting shorter here in Gdansk.  Pretty soon the dark, cold days and nights of winter will be upon us and I will be further compelled to make SOUP! 

Soup in Polish is "zupa" and it is a staple if not the backbone of Polish fare.  It is hard to say if it has evolved this way due to 50 years of Communist rule, when the Poles had to stretch every calorie, or not.  There is no better way to make do with nothing than with soup.  It fills you up and contains relatively low calories because, well, let's face it, most of it is flavored water.

There is not enough time in the day or in my lifetime to talk about all the different types of Polish soups.
The ones that are most familiar to some Americans (ok, maybe not to you in the Deep South) are barszcz (beet soup- there are white, red and Ukrainian varieties), cucumber soup, and Zurek.

This Southern cook decided to make Zurek for dinner the other night.  I scanned recipes online in Polish and in English, and found that I did not have everything on hand to make Zurek. In fact, it would be impossible for me to run to the local grocery store and get everything I need.  Zurek takes at least 4-5 days to prepare!
The key ingredient is what takes so long. It is also the key to Zurek's trademark sour taste.
What is it?, you ask?  It is a sourdough starter of rye flour and water.  
You mix up some rye flour and water and leave it out on your counter top to sour in a jar for 4-5 days. Now, this sounds great if you live in the San Francisco Bay area, where the wild yeast is fabulous and makes stuff super sour. 
I may have to get brave and try it here in Gdansk.  I may just have to make some bread too!
Who knew that a sourdough starter could be used to make....soup???

So, my idea for Zurek was shot down pretty quickly.  So what did I do?  

I just made NON-SOUR Zurek!
For 4-6 portions of soup:
I bought 200g of chicken bones for 25 cents from our butcher lady, and brought them to a boil in the biggest pot we have, (with about 2-3 liters of water) with leek, carrot, parsley root and leaves, entire head of garlic, celery stalk, and celery root.  Added salt and pepper to taste, and strained off the beautiful broth (technically this was a stock since there were bones involved).
Simmered for 4 hours, then allowed to cool before straining out all the spent bits.
When it was time to cook the soup, I took half of the stock, brought it to a simmer, and added:
- 3 large carrots, scrubbed, chopped fine
- 1 large onion, chopped fine
- 1 large celery root, peeled, washed, chopped fine
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped fine
-  big handful or two of spinach, chopped 
- 2 links of white pork sausage (still hooked cute is that!)
- 2 hard-boiled quail eggs per person (or 1 hard boiled chicken egg per person) -cook in another pot-
The key to cooking hard-boiled quail eggs is to bring the water to a boil, gently slide in the eggs, and boil for 4-5 minutes.  Remove from water and peel them under running cool water. 

Simmer the soup until the pork sausage links are firm to the touch (~10 minutes on a medium-hard boil), then remove the sausage and let it cool slightly.  When cool enough to handle, slice into 1 inch chunks, then put them back into the soup.
Simmer for another 10-15 minutes or until the small bits of veggies are cooked through.
Peel your previously cooked quail or chicken eggs and slice in half. (Be sure to cook these in another vessel - not in the soup!)
Toss in a handful of chopped parsley and chives into the soup pot right before serving.
Ladle the soup into bowls, and float two quail eggs on top.

Quail eggs are a delicious and a very petite, gourmet touch to such a humble soup.
They are extremely easy to find in Poland. I have not seen a grocery store or market without them yet.
You can even buy them from the little old lady on the curb next to the main market - the same one selling mushrooms she picked in the forest and has sunflowers from her own garden. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Blueberry Adventure in Poland

July 27, 2012

Well, here I am writing from the "Lowcountry" of Poland....the Baltic Coast!  If you have not been following our move from Northern Virginia to Poland, please check out

So, from one Lowcountry to another, my food adventure has been rewarding in this first week in Europe. I was amazed to see that the main farmer's market of Gdansk is both outdoor and indoor - fresh produce, flowers and fruit on the outdoor street-level, and then one level below is where you find the meats, fish and dairy.  It is an amazing place with beautiful colors and smells!  We have been buying our food almost every day fresh from the market and cooking it for lunch and supper.  The market is about a kilometer away from our apartment; an easy, romantic and picturesque daily walk through the medieval city.

One of the best things I've come across so far is the European Bilberry, a type of wild blueberry that Europeans have been consuming for food and as medicine for over a thousand years. The Poles call these berries Jagody Leśne or forest berries. They are about half the size of the typical American High Bush blueberry variety that we are used to seeing in the States. They have a blueberry taste to them, but it is not as strong. 

If you have ever had a wild blueberry in the States, even in a blueberry muffin, you have probably consumed a Native North American Wild Blueberry, or "star berry." They are super tiny but pack a flavor punch! I prefer them to "normal" blueberries for baking. 
For those of you who want to get nerdy, 

On the left is a typical American Highbush Blueberry variety. On the right is a Native American Star Berry.
Both of these types of blueberries are growing on my parent's property in Banks County, Georgia.
The European Bilberry is about halfway between these two varieties in size and flavor. 

Blueberries are finished for the year in the Southern United States, but the season is still going strong in northern Poland!
The Highbush Blueberries in Poland are called "American Blueberries."  The varieties are American in origin, but Poland produces them commercially on a huge scale. 

Supposedly the forest berries (bilberries) are not cultivated here. People go out into the forests and gather the berries to sell at the markets. The forests in Poland are also all government owned and managed. There is no such thing as a private forest in Poland, unlike in the UK or in the States.  You can go pick your own if you want to!

What did we do with our forest berries?  We ate them with our normal morning yogurt and granola.
There is also about a kilo of them in our freezer for those cold winter months! I can't wait to make some muffins!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Home Economics

May 20, 2012

Did anyone take home economics in middle or high school?  I took two semesters in middle school, in which I learned (among other things) to bake a cake from scratch (no cake mix from the box), sew a hem onto trousers, and perform a manicure.  It was absolutely hilarious watching the football players giving each other manicures. I am so glad that they were taught the value of having healthy cuticles.  

While these are awesome skills to have, one thing I don't remember is the economic part of home economics, also known as how to run your household on a budget or how to cut costs from your existing budget.  That lesson did not come until 11th grade Economics class, and it seems to have taken a worldwide recession and part-time work to really drive the points home for me. 

In my ongoing pursuit of physical fitness and having to cut household costs before moving to Europe, I have gotten very creative about where I find the calories that I eat (see my post about foraging).  I'm trying to get the most nutritious bang for the buck, and have been pleasantly surprised with the results.  I wanted to show you that you CAN eat healthy, local and gourmet food on a reasonable budget, but you have to do some work and be open to trying new foods.

BUT.... you often also have to sacrifice something.  This may mean that you have to give up 15 minutes of TV time to chop up your own veggies, or just cut back on your $25 foie gras burger a week habit. (Sean, nothing can replace the Red Fish kobe beef foie gras black truffle cheeseburger, but, a girl's gotta do something!)

There unfortunately comes a time when the weekly luxurious dinner treat is no longer economical or good for you.  It actually was never either in the first place.

Doug and I together have cut our food budget down in a huge way by doing three things.  
1. We "eat out" 1 night a week, and it's usually around $10 per person. 
(Think Chipotle, falafel cart or Chop't)
2. We prepare and cook everything else from scratch at home. You can control the salt content, and know exactly what's in your food.  It may take 30-60 minutes each night to cook, but, it's worth it for me. It helps me to wind down from the day and relax.  
Short on time?  Dust off your CrockPot or cook and prepare on the weekends.
3. Eat. More. Beans.  Yep.  They're cheap and there are a thousand ways to cook them. When paired with rice or quinoa, they provide complete protein.

90% of the food we buy comes from the Arlington Courthouse Farmer's Market.  Everyone thinks that farmer's markets are super expensive, but it's not!  You will soon see why.....

Below is $85 dollars worth of groceries, all from the farmer's market.  
This is 90% of what we eat in two weeks. I'm serious. 

What is all this? (10 dinners, 10 lunches and 10 breakfasts!)
- broccoli - enough for 4 stir-fry portions
- fennel bulbs and fronds -  4 portions 
- onions - goes into everything we cook
- turnips and greens - 4 portions
- 16 oz of honey
- 1 pound bag of spinach - 4 portions
- 1 pound of asparagus
- kholrabi - 4 portions in stir-fry
- lettuce - 4 large portions
- 1/2 pound heritage breed Maryland grown pork tenderloin
- 1 pound heritage breed Maryland grown pork mexican chorizo 
- 2.5 pound Virginia grown bison shoulder roast - 8 portions!
- dozen free-range eggs
- 1/2 pound of aged Monterrey jack cheese
- 4 tubs of local 0% Greek-style yogurt
- a chocolate chip cookie and a pain au chocolat  :)

The veggies vary from week to week, depending on what's in season.  In January I was having to get creative with all the kale, sweet potatoes and apples we had to buy week after week....

We also try to buy veggies that produce little waste after cleaning. This saves you money too!
100% of the leaves and stems of the broccoli, turnips, fennel and kohlrabi are cooked and eaten.

Last week we planned ahead and spent $35 extra on 4 weeks worth of strawberries to put in the freezer, which we thaw and put into our yogurt every morning. That's $1.45 per person - 5 large strawberries each. 

We spend about $20 a week on other foodstuffs at the regular grocery or Whole Foods.
What do we buy there?  The Staples: milk, flour, yeast, raw nuts, lemons, spices, fresh ginger, dried beans, canned tomatoes, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, stone-ground grits, oats, brown rice.
No soda. No chips. No frozen ready meals. No booze (beer has it's own separate budget in our house).

For two people, that is a total of $100-120 per week.   
That's $5 per meal ($2.50 per person!) for healthy, super fresh, locally grown food.  
You can't spend $5 at Chic-fil-a and get the same kind of nutrition or value.
I don't think you can buy a Lean Cuisine for less than $5 in DC.
I know that this is a great way to lose weight, eat healthy, and support local agriculture.  
Since August 2011 I have lost 17 pounds and am wearing clothes I have not seen since college. 
I have lost 3 dress sizes since 2008.
Local eating a win-win and you just can't get the same benefits from Diet Coke and Ramen noodles. 

What can you do?  Find a Farmer's Market, local CSA or road-side stand.  No farmer's market?  Every town has a Costco or Sam's Club!  Buy your veg in bulk and it really cuts down on cost, especially when you buy citrus and poultry.  You CAN have a healthy and ecological diet without breaking the bank and I promise - it will change your life.