Veggie Grill's All Hail Kale Salad & Cauliflower Mash

Pregnant and craving kale! Who knew the day would come when I would be pregnant and craving kale amongst all things?! All I know is, this baby's already a health nut, I suppose I should be happy about this. Unfortunately, kale is still a pretty new vegetable to me and I haven't really a clue on how to cook these delicious leafy but tough greens. The only thing I've really had that included kale was baked kale chips that my sister made a few times, and a bite of kale salad from a friends plate that one other time long ago. Apparently that one bite of kale salad I had off a friend's plate that one time long ago stuck, because that's all I've been thinking about since a couple of days ago, and so... as all pregnant ladies do, I went to fulfill my craving.

Veggie Grill, the All Hail Kale salad includes not only kale but red cabbage, candied walnuts, shredded carrots, diced onions, diced tomatoes, a sprinkle of corn and bits of quinoa. Dressing? A mango dressing that sweetens it all up quite nicely. "ALL HAIL KALE!" That's really what I wanted to yell out at the top of my lungs while I sat down alone at a table for two scarfing down the deliciously fresh kale salad that would surprise any new-kale eaters, fortunately for me I'm pregnant, not insane.

I ordered the lunch portion of the All Hail Kale salad (opposed to the entree portion which is a larger plate) and also ordered the cauliflower-mash on the side. "Cauliflower-mash?!" You may ask scrunching up your nose making a Pee-Ew face, but really... it's perfect. The texture and taste is probably as close as you can get to real mashed potatoes and not only that it's absolutely delicious. And in all honesty, if one was to never tell you it was made from cauliflower you'd probably never know anyway, but in my opinion the whole cauliflower part just makes it better doesn't it? After all, it's good for you!

If there's one thing to learn from Veggie Grill it's this, healthy food can really taste wonderfully good.

Cooking At Home: Beef Borscht

"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach", while many may not agree with this saying, I find this to be totally the case with my husband. When I serve a breakfast, lunch or dinner that he absolutely loves I get more kisses and hugs, funny enough the kisses and hugs usually come after the meal. Payment must be made I suppose. As Husband Borscht is Russian (as if you already didn't know by the little pet-name I've given him) he does get homesick for Russian food, which is why I have mastered the art of borscht-making! Granted I've never had true borscht, ever, according to Husband Borscht my borscht can give babushka a run for her money, even though most babushkas don't make very good runners.

From what I understand borscht is something that is usually made in large quantities. Perhaps this is due to the fact that borscht while fairly simple to make requires many steps and is actually a long process, although it doesn't take all night it can take up a good part of your day. And/or second, because borscht can last several days in your refrigerator only getting better flavor as it sits, which means... not having to worry about dinner for a few days!

So if you're feeling up for it, look below!

INGREDIENTS (for 10-12 servings):
2 Lbs. beef shank (bone-in) <You can also use 2lbs of lean stewing beef but I find that the beef shank gives more flavor to the broth and the overall borscht

3 Lbs. of red beets, tops removed, scrubbed and trimmed <borscht is primarily made of beets so remember to try and pick the best red beets for

Vegetable oil for coating the red beets

4 Strips of bacon

12 Cups of shredded green cabbage <I opted to go the easy way and bought bags of pre-shredded green cabbage, this will save loads of time and energy!

2 Russet potatoes, medium diced

2 Medium yellow onions, small or medium diced

2 Lg carrots, shredded or small diced

4 Teaspoons of dill seed

4 Teaspoons of dried oregano

2 Teaspoons of kosher salt

2 Teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon of whole peppercorn

6 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar

2 6-oz cans of tomato paste (or 1 12-oz can)

2 Tablespoons of minced garlic

4 Fresh bay leaves (or 2 dried bay leaves)

4 Quarts of water

1 Cup of  fresh dill, roughly chopped

Sour cream

1. Rub the beets with vegetable oil and roast in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 1.5 to 2 hours (until the beets are tender). Once roasted allow the beets to cool down so that they are easier to handle. Once cooled, peel the beets by slipping off the skin with your fingers (or you can also use a speed-peeler). Once the beets are peeled, shred the beets.

2. Preheat a large stock pot on medium heat and fry up the strips of bacon to render the fat. Once the fat is rendered remove the bacon, the bacon can be discarded after this point.

3. Brown the beef shank on all sides in the stockpot with the bacon fat. Once the beef shanks are browned, remove them from the pot with tongs or a slotted spoon and set aside.

4. Add the shredded carrots and diced onions to the stockpot and stir occasionally while they soften (about 5-minutes). The carrots and onions do not need to be completely soft, they will cook to softness during the  long simmering process later.

5. Add the minced garlic, oregano, dill seed, bay leaves, salt and pepper to the vegetables and stir to mix. Allow to cook for about 1-minutes.

6. Add the red wine vinegar and deglaze the pan, scraping up all bits stuck to the bottom of the stockpot as well.

7. Add the tomato paste and stir to mix and combine all the ingredients.

8. Add the peppercorn and browned beef shank back into the stockpot and cover with 4-quarts of water. Stir to combine all the ingredients and allow the stew to come to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 2-hours with the stockpot half covered. Check the stew occasionally and skim any foam that collects at the top of the stew.

9. At the end of the 2-hour simmering process the beef should fall off the bone. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to pick the beef and bones out of the stew. Discard the bones and cut the beef into bite-size pieces. Put the cut-up beef back into the stew.

10. Add the potatoes, shredded beets and cabbage into the stew. Mix to combine and allow the stew to come to a simmer again, allow it to simmer for another 30-minutes in order to cook the potatoes and cook down the cabbage.

11. At the end of the 30-minutes check your stew. Do a taste-test, add a bit more salt, pepper and red wine vinegar if needed. Add a bit more water if needed- sometimes I find that the stew is too thick and at this point I will add more water if needed. If adding more water continue to simmer for another 15-30 minutes.

Serve the borscht with chopped fresh dill and sour cream if you wish! Husband Borscht also likes to add fresh thinly sliced garlic cloves into his borscht as well- he loves the bite, if you love the bite then you should try this as well.

Remember that the borscht will be only become more flavorful the next day and the day after that. Enjoy!

Cooking At Home: Guacamole with an exotic twist

One of the reasons I love plain mashed avocados as a guacamole dip is the simplicity of it, no chopping or mixing needed. Perhaps I've never found a guac recipe worthy enough for all that chopping and mixing trouble. But the other night I decided to try a guac recipe called the Speedy Guacamole from a book my sister gave me called The Healthy Gluten-Free Life, and guess what? There was a bit of mixing involved with added ingredients but it was totally worth it! One of the most flavorful and interesting guac recipes I've ever tasted, and it wouldn't be farfetched for me to say that it does taste a bit exotic. And what exactly is the big secret ingredient? Simply... Cumin!

If you're a guacamole lover you must try this recipe, here you go, straight from Tammy Credicott's The Healthy Gluten-Free Life.

1 large ripe organic avocado
2 Tbsp of your favorite GF salsa
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp granulated onion
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp chili powder
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Squeeze of lime juice

1. Scoop out avocado flesh into a medium bowl. Mash with a fork until fairly smooth, with some small chunks of avocado still in there.

2. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

*Note: I omitted the granulated onion and garlic since the salsa I was using already contained those ingredients in chunks (I used Trader Joe's Pico De Gallo).

You can also simply UN-gluten-free this recipe by using your choice of salsa (gluten-free or NOT), it'll taste just as delicious!

Product Review: Baking with Trader Joe's Buttermilk Pancake All Purpose Baking Mix V.S. McCann's Irish Oatmeal

As of late I've been in a baking mood but for me there isn't any escaping the idea buried deep inside my brain that I'm simply not a very good baker, if I was a good baker then I'd probably try making scones (which I did try once, it played out as a tragedy). But, since I know that I'm not a very good baker I decided to try making cookies from recipes printed on the back of boxes, I'm sure you know the one's I'm talking about. In this instance I had two different boxes, from two difference brands, for two different types of cookies.

TRADER JOE'S Buttermilk Pancak & All Purpose Baking Mix

Obviously I bought the Trader Joe's Buttermilk Pancake & All Purpose Baking Mix in order to make a few pancakes, I had been eating them so often lately I decided to try making them at home. Sadly the pancakes were not as delicious as the one's I was eating at breakfast restaurants. The pancakes turned out rather tasteless, I even added blueberries to make them exciting but there just wasn't any getting around the fact that the Buttermilk Pancakes were tasteless. So in order to get my moneys worth from this box of All Purpose Baking Mix I decided to try out the chocolate chip cookie recipe printed on the back of the box. A lesson to us all amateur cooks, you can't change something tasteless into something delicious simply by baking cookies with it, unless of course you're putting loads of other goodies in it which wasn't so in this case. What I ended up with were tasteless chocolate chip cookies with boring texture... Zzzzzz..... If there's one thing I've learned from this experience it's that the mix really does matter.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 eggs
2 tsp vannila
3 cups Trader Joe's Baking Mix
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup (6oz) chocolate chips

Add softened butter, eggs and vanilla to a large bowl. Blend with a spoon until creamy. Stir in baking mix, sugar and chocolate chips. Using a teaspoon, drop heaping spoonfuls of dough onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. For a chewier cookie, remove cookies a few minutes earlier and allow to cool.

McCann's Irish Oatmeal, Quick Cooking Rolled Oats

I've targeted McCann's Irish Oatmeal as my favorite, and I have gone through many different brands of oatmeal but I found that McCann's Irish Oatmeal had the best texture and the best flavor (even when absolutely nothing was added!) I always have a box of McCann's in my kitchen pantry and on the back of the box is a recipe for walnut and raisin oatmeal cookies.

I decided to try out the cookie recipe but instead of walnuts and raisins, I omitted the walnuts completely and simply added a mixture of dried berries (blueberries, golden raisins, chopped dried dark sweet cherries and cranberries). The mixed berry oatmeal cookies turned out fantastic and was a big hit! I made 27 cookies which were completely gone in 3 days!

I was so excited that the mixed berry oatmeal cookies turned out great that I decided to try a different type of oatmeal cookie using the same recipe but once again substituting. This second time, instead of using the mixed dried berries (which I had run out of) I used chocolate chips and the rest of the chopped dark sweet cherries that I had left over. I made the mistake of adding a 1/2cup LESS flour into the mix and the chocolate chip cherry oatmeal cookies turned out flatter than the first batch (as you can see from the pictures) but crispier around the edges and slightly crunchier... the chocolate chip cherry oatmeal cookies were even better than the first batch! 

Thinner and Crispier cookies when adding 1/2 cup less flour

I suppose after reading my experience with the two brands and the cookie recipes on the back of the boxes, it goes without saying which I will suggest. The oatmeal cookies turned out wonderful, the crunchy texture, the flavors, being able to easily substitute ingredients, the simple recipe! If you're not a very good baker, such as I, try the recipe on the back of McCann's box and you'll feel wonderfully satisfied with yourself, as probably your husband and children will too. And after a few rounds of baking delicious cookies with McCann's rolled oats you may just find the courage to bake something a little bit more challenging.

1-1/4 cups softened butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
3 cups McCann's Quick Cooking Irish Oatmeal
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla extract. [I used a hand mixer to cream the butter and sugars and used a wooden spoon to mix in the egg and vanilla extract].

3. Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to butter mixture. Mix well. [If you add 1/2 cup less flour (which I accidentally did on my second batch, you end up with crisper and crunchier cookies].

4. Stir in McCann's Quick Cooking Irish Oatmeal, raisins and walnuts. [I substituted the total amount of raisins and walnuts with my own ingredients, ie. mixed dried berries and chocolate chips].

5. Drop rounded teaspoons of batter on an ungreased cookie sheet. [I found that the oatmeal cookies do not spread as much (unless using less flour) so I was able to put the oatmeal cookie dough roughly 1-1 1/2" apart opposed to the standard 2" apart usually asked for when baking cookies].

6. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350 degree F. Cool for 1 minutes before removing to wire cooling rack.

Cooking At Home: Desserts fit for Valentine's Day!

Last Valentine's Mr. Borscht and I made the horrible mistake of trying to eat out to celebrate the special occasion. What we ended up with was 45 minutes of sitting in bumper to bumper to traffic only to get a mere 10 blocks away from where we had started. So thus I've learned my lesson, don't eat out for Valentine's which is the reason why I'm cooking a very special something this year.  Planning a special dinner for my husband is always one of the more funner moments in the kitchen for me: What should I start with? What would be a great side for that fish? Wine or champagne? And of course, what's for dessert?- The most important part of the meal! For Valentine's anyways.

So, what is a Valentine's Day worthy dessert? That is the questions. I've tried making two different desserts, both Valentine's Day worthy, both very simple to make. Chili Chocolate-Covered Strawberries and Chocolate Pots de Creme.


Chili Chocolate-Covered Strawberries (recipe by Claire Robinson of 5 Ingredient Fix) adds a touch of I LOVE YOU with just a bit of heat from the chili. The most difficult part of making the Chili Chocolate-Covered Strawberries will probably be finding the appropriate strawberries, not only do they need to be red, beautiful looking and sweet but the recipe also suggests getting the long stemmed strawberries, which I have yet to see in Los Angeles. Never the less I tried the Chili Chocolate-Covered Strawberry recipe with regular strawberries. The strawberries were fruity and delicious and the bite of dark chocolate with a tang of heat from the chili was fantastic, a rather exotic and exciting take on a classic Valentine's Day dessert. Take note that leaving the green stems on the strawberries will make for a better looking dessert.

6-oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon ground pure chili powder, such as ancho
10 large strawberries with long stems

In a heat-proof mixing bowl, add the chocolate, cream, and butter. Place over a smaller pot of simmering water. Be sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir until chocolate is melted.

Stir in the chili powder and mix until fully incorporated.

Hold each strawberry by the long stem and dip into the chocolate allowing the excess to drizzle back into the pan. Place chocolate covered strawberries on a parchment or waxed paper lined sheet tray. Once chocolate is cool, chill until fully set, about 30 minutes.


Chocolate Pots de Creme, sounds fancy doesn't it? But really Chocolate Pots de Creme (recipe by Food Network Magazine) is just a fancy way of saying chocolate mousse, although kids would probably call it pudding. In my opinion however, this dessert rightfully deserves to be called in the fancier term, "Chocolate Pots de Creme", while it is a simple dessert to make that requires very few ingredients the Chocolate Pots de Creme is rich and... decadent. Yes, decadent. The texture is smooth and soft, and when served with whipped cream (to make it all the prettier) the coolness of the whip pairs beautifully with the rich silky sweetness of the chocolate creme. The Chocolate Pots de Creme is the winner for my night!

0-oz high-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons granulated sugar (add an extra tablespoon if using bitter chocolate)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

Place the chocolate in a blender.

Whisk the milk, 1 cup cream, egg yolks, granulated sugar and salt in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula [or spoon], until the mixture is thick enough to coat the spatula and almost boiling, 5 to 6 minutes.

Immediately pour the milk mixture over the chocolate in the blender. Cover and hold the lid with a thick kitchen towel; blend until combined and smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender as needed.

Divide the chocolate mixture among ramekins or small cups and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.

Whip the remaining 1/2 cup cream and the confectioners' sugar with a mixer or in the blender until soft peaks form. Top the chilled pots de creme with whipped cream. [I also added a tsp of vanilla extract into my whipped cream].

Did You Know there's two steps to cooking perfect brown rice?

I'm not sure how many of you made the same mistake I did in thinking that it took the same amount of effort to cook brown rice as it does white rice. The first and only time I tried to cook brown rice, a long long time ago, I stuck it in the rice-cooker, what I ended up with was mushy brown rice that was only partially cooked- a total catastrophe and of course not very yummy. Ever since that one time brown rice has been a bit of mystery to me.

But in my efforts to a healthier eating, since I've been really packing on the pounds at 5 months pregnant, I've replaced my white rice with brown rice. I came home from the market with a whole bag of brown rice and remembered how awful that one time was, my mind went into a little panic and my fingers frenziedly typed out 'how to cook perfect brown rice' - 'SEARCH'. What I found was a two step process on how to cook perfect brown rice in two steps, not as easy as pressing the 'cook' button on the rice cooker but still easy enough for perfect brown rice.

This is what Saveur suggests, and... it really does work, you'll come out with perfect brown rice, I did.

Makes 2 cups

1 cup short, medium, or long-grain brown rice
Kosher salt, to taste (optional)

1. Rince rice in a strainer under cold running water for 30 seconds. Bring 12 cups water to a boil in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid over high heat. Add the rice, stir it once, and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Pour the rice into a strainer over the sink.

2. Let the rice drain for 10 seconds, then return it to the pot, off the heat. Cover the pot and set it aside to allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes. Uncover the rice, fluff with a fork, and season with salt (optional).


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