Cooking Through The Rona…

Soba Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Greetings, Mystic Meows!ย 

It sure has been a mighty long time since I’ve written anything here, and I hope that wherever you are, and whenever you read this, that you and yours are healthy, safe, and doing as well as can be. The world sure has changed quite a bit, huh? We’ve all been going through so much emotional upheaval and strife, to put it mildly. Yet in the midst of all of this madness, there is still the need to persevere, adapt, and adjust, so that we can create our own sense of stability and certainty, at least within the safety and comfort of our homes. Even in the most desperate of circumstances, there still lies the opportunities to find our inner power through being creative and finding those therapeutic and uplifting capabilities that we may have forgotten that we possess.

Caldo de Pollo/ Spanish Style Chicken Soup

For meow, as you all know, cooking and food itself is beyond therapy for me. It is my life. My passion. My happy place. The kitchen is where I am most in my element and where I (almost ๐Ÿ˜œ) always know what I’m doing without question. My chosen profession and industry has taken quite a hit throughout the course of The Rona, and I, along with my friends, family, and colleagues have had to literally redefine how we choose to identify ourselves in the culinary world. Carve a new path so to speak… (pun intended… get It? Carve??) Anymeow, this of course applies to every single one of us. Not only are Chefs like myself finding new ways to cook, but so are you, right? I mean, meows went straight to the comfort food zone and started cooking like they may never have before. And It. Is. AWESOME!!!

Spaghetti with Meatballs

Deep Dish Pizza

I’ve never seen so many meows flock to their kitchens and begin the process of attempting to try their hand at cooking and creating things they’ve never made before, in particular, baking! So much so that for a minute, like toilet paper, yeast was hard to find on store shelves, to the dismay of many of my culinary brethren… At least that’s how it was when all of this first started and we had to shelter in place. The emphasis on cooking at home and finding new, interesting, and creative ways to nourish ourselves has brought back a sense of simplicity and purity to the craft that I welcome wholeheartedly. And The Rona has forced meows to REALLY take a long hard look at their own eating habits from top to bottom because now more than ever, nourishment is key, as it always has been, to our health and well being.

Chicken and Cheese Enchiladasย 

 

As for meow, I’ve been keeping things rather simple in the kitchen, or as simple as it seems to me… and have found myself cooking and craving a lot of dishes that remind me of childhood. Is that happening to anyone else? Or are you being a fancy pants cooking up those hard to pronounce meals? ๐Ÿ˜› Or trying foods you’ve always wanted to try like the Beyond Meats or switching things up from maybe eating less meat and more vegetable based and meatless meals? Have you tried gardening and growing your own fruits, veggies, and herbs? Are you crafting more? Making your own clothes, masks, soaps, etc? I WANNA KNOW! If nothing else, I hope that you meows are at least attempting to try something new and different to keep things moving forward and interesting to help keep your minds occupied and in a positive frame.

Sweet Chili Shrimp

And keep on cooking!! Take those food pics and post them! Inspire other meows to go to the store and whip up something new and tasty! Share those precious recipes, too! Your mom’s meatloaf, your dad’s killer kick ass chili, your grandma’s pie dough or cookies, salsa, pastas, rice, soups, potatoes, jams, jellies, pickled veggies, salad dressings, fried chicken, tofu, dumplings, homemade nut milks, gluten free, vegan, plant based, meat based, home based!!! Whatever it may be, share it with the world. You never know how that one little pic or recipe might make someone’s next meal a game changer. I mean, we all still gotta eat! Until our next mystic meal… Take good care of yourselves and Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

xo Nikki ๐Ÿฅฐโœจ๐Ÿ”ฎ๐Ÿ’•

Follow meow on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tiktok @siknik13 and @mysticmeals!ย 

All photos are MINE!!!ย ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜›๐Ÿ˜‰

Easy Peasy Summer Strawberry Jam!

Greetings, Mystic Meows!!

It is prime time for all of those luscious berries right now and what better way to enjoy them, besides eating them by the handful, than making jam! Strawberry preserves and jam is one of my favorite spreadable sweet treats. Perfect on oatmeal, toast, biscuits, pancakes, waffles… Ice cream! The possibilities are endless!

My recipe is quick, simple, and of course… easy. You’ll be seeing those words a bunch with my food blogs. Making a jam is a great way to make use of the berries that are super ripe and ready to eat right away. This recipe also works with other fruits such as peaches, apricots, plums, and cherries. If using peaches, I would quickly blanch them in boiling water for no more than 1 1/2 minutes to easily remove the skin before cutting. But let’s get to the Strawberries!!! ๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ“

Now, I tend to use way less sugar than most other recipes call for, and I also don’t use pectin because the method for this particular recipe is basically a reduction. It creates a nice, thick, and concentrated strawberry flavor. The use of lemon juice is up to you, but I also usually don’t add that either. It’s pretty much the strawberries, and sugar. That’s it! It thickens as it cools and is spreadable and insanely tasty. Here we go!

Easy Peasy Strawberry Jam ๐Ÿ“

2 pounds ripe strawberries, washed and hulled

1 1/4 cups of sugar

1/8th cup of lemon juice ( optional )

1. In a large bowl, add the strawberries and sugar, and proceed to mash the berries with a fork or wire whisk.

2. In a medium sized pot, add the mashed strawberries and cook on medium low heat and to help dissolve the sugar. Taste for sweetness and adjust by adding more sugar in small batches if you need to.

3. Once the sugar is dissolved, increase the heat to medium high and bring to a nice rolling boil, stirring constantly as not to burn the berries. At this point, you’re pretty much reducing down the sauce. The amount of time this takes will depend upon the pot you use and your stove. Usually about 20 to 25 minutes from the start of the rolling boil. Be sure to stay with it and stir it constantly.

4. You’ll be able to gauge if the jam is at the right consistency by the way it feels with a spoon as you’re stirring it. It’ll feel thick and of course you’ll be able to see how it looks on the spoon itself… Check out the video to see what I mean… ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ“

 

5. Cool completely and put into a jar or container, and refrigerate until ready to eat!

Since we typically eat the daylights outta this stuff in a matter of days, I just put the jam in a container and forgo the canning process. And I like that I can make more jam whenever I feel like it because this recipe is so simple and easy. As I said before, this Strawberry love fest of yumminess is great on just about anything! Peanut butter and Strawberry jam on toast makes a great little snack for the little meows! Even makes a beautiful base for a vinaigrette! Strawberry Balsamic, anyone?

That’s what I love about ingredients and how they’re like the gateway drugs to other recipe creations! ๐Ÿ˜One thing leads to another. Use the jam for smoothies, lemonade or iced tea… Jazz up your sparkling water or add to your mimosas! I can go on and on, but you get where I’m coming from… ๐Ÿ˜‰โœจ

Please let me know what tasty creations you come up with if you decide to give this recipe a whirl, dear reader! Thanks so much for stopping by! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

Follow Mystic Meals on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! ๐Ÿ”ฎโœจ

Lip Smacking Grilled Tofu Satay with Spicy Honey Peanut Sauce!

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Satay is one of my favorite Thai style dishes because I love the combination of the char grill and all those yummy meats and spices together! I also love tofu. I know that most meows have a love/hate relationship with it, but over the years I’ve really grown to appreciate it for its versatility and how it absorbs flavor like a sponge. I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but I do enjoy many a meatless meal more often than not.

I promised myself when I started this blog, that I would incorporate some of the tofu dishes that have become a part of my repertoire to help inspire some new ideas for your next Mystic Meal and this recipe is a great place to start. This is definitely one that is a great crowd pleaser, perfect for a bbq, potluck, or picnic, and will make your vegan friends happy!

I almost always use firm or even super firm tofu because I prefer its texture and it holds up well for this kind of cooking application. It’s easier to work with than its softer counterparts and for me, has a meat like mouth feel that I enjoy. It’s hearty and surprisingly filling. And it’s another one of those awesome make ahead recipes that can be eaten hot or cold. Yay!

Spicy Peanut sauce is one of my go to sauces for so many recipes. There are countless dishes it lends itself to. This one uses lots of honey, Sriracha and soy sauce. You can also use either smooth or chunky peanut butter as well. It’s entirely up to you! Alrighty then, meows… Let’s get down to business! ๐Ÿ˜›

Grilled Tofu Satay with Spicy Honey Peanut Sauce

1 14 to 16oz. package of extra firm tofu, drained

3/4 cup of smooth or chunky peanut butter

1/4 cup of soy sauce

1/4 cup of honey

1 T. Sriracha

1/4. cup of water

Skewers for grilling

1. In a medium sized bowl, add the peanut butter, honey, soy, sriracha and water and mix together until well incorporated and smooth. Taste and adjust the flavors as needed. I actually added a bit more honey and sriracha to mine. I like my sweet heat! ๐Ÿ˜ Cover and set aside.

2. Take the tofu and cut it in half down the middle and cut each half into 4 long pieces. Skewer each piece, season with salt and pepper and lightly coat with some olive oil or pan spray.

3. Make sure your grill is nice and hot before adding the tofu so it doesn’t stick to the surface. You want to get some sexy grill marks on all sides if you can. I used my trusty cast iron grill. If you don’t have a grill to use, just sear the tofu in your favorite frying pan. They’ll still be just as delicious cause it is all about that sauce! ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ It should take about 2 minutes per side, or about 8 to 10 minutes depending on how grilled you want the tofu to be.

3. Once the tofu is marked on all sides, place them in a shallow dish and spoon about 1/2 a cup of the peanut sauce over the skewers and let them marinate for about 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped peanuts and some cilantro and enjoy!

I served mine with some jasmine rice and a fresh carrot and cilantro salad with sliced green onions. It was soooooo yummy! I got all fancy with my grill marks cause I’m a fancy pants chef and love to grill! But don’t you worry about all that unless you’re feeling wiley and want to be a show off like I was… ๐Ÿคฃ But seriously. Can we take a sec to admire my handy work? ๐Ÿคช

And there you have it, dear reader! Another tasty Mystic Meals recipe for you meows to make and enjoy for the summer! I really hope you give this one a try because it’s really easy to prepare and you can change it up by using bbq sauce, buffalo sauce, or any of your favorite marinades! Have fun with it! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki โœจ๐Ÿ’•

Follow Mystic Meals on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! ๐Ÿ”ฎโœจ

Yummy Fried Vegetable Wontons

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Summer is here and it’s time to bust out those recipe ideas for all those spontaneous and impromptu parties and entertaining that the warm weather encourages! WHEW! That was a mouthful! ๐Ÿ˜ This recipe for Yummy Fried Veggie Wontons is kind of a twofer in the sense that you not only can make these ahead of time and freeze, but you can either boil them in a soup or fry them as an appetizer or side dish as I did here cause I love me some fried won tons! But these in a soup would be fantastic! Some broth and veggies? You’re all set!

You can of course use meat or seafood in the filling for this recipe as well. I would stick with ground pork, chicken, or shrimp. You could also use beef, but make sure that it’s got a fair amount of fat otherwise it’ll be a bit too dry on the inside. Rather than be all fancy pants about the shaping of these lil puppies, I went with a simple agnolotti inspired fold, which is basically a filled rectangle shape.

I tend to favor this particular application because it’s requires less oil for frying, cooks fairly quick, and also looks really cool once arranged on a plate or serving dish. As far as a dipping sauce for these crunchy little morsels of yumminess, that’s entirely up to you. I love a good duck sauce or my favorite Thai chili sauce from a brand called Mae Ploy. It has the perfect balance of sweet/heat with a hint of vinegar that isn’t too overpowering. So here we go Meows!

Yummy Fried Vegetable Wontons- Makes 24 to 30 pieces

1 pkg small Wonton wrappers, square shaped

3 cups cole slaw mix

1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli

1/2 cup mushrooms, small dice

1/2 cup green onion, thinly sliced

1 large clove of garlic, minced

1/4 cup soy sauce

Oil for frying

Your favorite dipping sauce such as sweet and sour, duck sauce, or sweet chili sauce

1. In a medium sautรฉ pan, add a drizzle of oil and briefly cook the vegetables on high heat for about 5 minutes. Just before removing from the heat, add the soy sauce and stir together well. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely.

2. Once the filling is cooled, grab your won ton wrappers and begin to fill them at the center, using no more than a teaspoon of the vegetable mix. Wet the edges with a bit of water and fold over to seal them, making sure to pinch the edges shut. You want to make rectangle shapes. You can also make triangles as well. Whatever floats your boat! ๐Ÿ˜›

3. Once your little wonton pockets of love are filled and sealed, it’s time to fry those bad boys up! In your favorite frying or sautรฉ pan, add a fair amount of oil so that the won tons are able to move around a bit when fried. Start with 1/2 cup and add more if you need to. Make sure the oil is nice and hot, but not smoking otherwise they’ll burn! ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ

4. Add about 5 to 6 won tons at a time and fry until golden brown on one side, then flip them over and repeat. The first batch will probably take the longest to brown, and after that the process will go quickly, so be sure to keep an eye on them! They only take a couple of minutes to cook once the pan is up to temperature. Once they’re nice and sexy, place them on paper towels to absorb the oil and serve with your dipping sauce of choice!

Quick, easy, and super fun to make. Definitely a crowd pleaser and a great way to use up those random leftovers. I also like to make pizza wontons by adding tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese! So good. I mean, you can pretty much add anything you can think of to take won tons to the next level! Ever try filling them with leftover mac and cheese? I’m telling ya… Wontons are a great addition to your Mystic Meals! I hope you meows give these a try and let me know what other filling ideas you come up with! How about something sweet? HA!

Thanks for stopping by, dear reader! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!!!

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

Follow Mystic Meals on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter! โœจ๐Ÿ”ฎ

 

5 Ingredient Beer Bread! Half Baked Harvest Recipe

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I don’t know about you meowsers, but I enjoy baking quite a bit. I suppose as far as bread is concerned, most meows feel either intimidated by it and think it’s too hard or takes too much time. Thankfully there’s a world full of easy bread recipes that don’t require a high level of cooking skills and only use a handful of ingredients to pull it together. And I’m here to encourage you to try your hand at it with a recipe that was created by one of my favorite cooking blogs, Half Baked Harvest by Teighan Gerard.

This recipe that I used is I believe the original posting from 2013, and it’s exactly what it says. Five ingredients. That’s all you need. Ready? Flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt, and 12oz of your favorite beer. That’s it. 1,2,3,4,5. Sounds easy enough, right? Next all you need is a large bowl for mixing, a wooden spoon or spatula, and a loaf pan to bake it in.

Here’s where it got interesting for me. To start, I don’t own a bread pan or loaf pan, but I do own a set of mini loaf pans from Chicago Metallic that I adore! So that’s what I used. So if you’re in the same boat as I was as far as the actual cooking equipment is concerned, you’ll have to make the necessary adjustments and consider if it will add or subtract in the amount of baking time. I also own a ton of round cake pans, which I could have used instead of the mini’s, but I wanted to stick as close to the recipe as possible. My little loaves took about 45 minutes to bake with 15 minutes of rest time before slicing.

Next was the actual consistency of the dough or “batter” as it’s referred to in the original recipe. I feel that the wording of a recipe is vital when there’s a lack of visual references. Thankfully HBH has several video tutorials out there so you can see what I mean. When I was mixing everything together after being sure I measured everything to the tee, my end result was in between a dough and a batter. I felt compelled to add a bit more water to it a little at a time being mindful not to over-mix the base to get it looking closer to what I had seen in the videos.

And this is why often times, what we see at first isn’t always what we get when trying out certain recipes because there are so many variances that contribute to those subtle differences. The size of measuring cups for example really do vary from brand to brand and not all are created equal. So although my spidey senses told me that my bread base was a tad on the thicker side, I forged ahead and baked away.

Here’s the link to the recipe : 5 Ingredient Beer Bread

The end result? Happiness. I was pleasantly surprised by how these little kitties turned out. The outer crust was crisp and chewy, and the inside of the bread was dense, but soft and almost cake like. A hearty bread for sure. I yielded 3 mini loaves out of the recipe. The beer I used was the 805 brand which has a nice flavor that isn’t too malty or hoppy, if you know what I mean. I served the first loaf with honey, butter, and my homemade strawberry preserves which was super yummy! The bread itself is very satisfying on its own and is pretty filling after a couple of slices. I’ll definitely be making this recipe again. Mystic Meals approved! ๐ŸฅฐโœจI also made little sandwiches with butter, honey, turkey, and cheese and it was EPIC! Sorry, no pics! They were gone in a flash! ๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ

Half Baked Harvest has a few variations of this bread recipe. In the most recent one I’ve seen, Tieghan is using a darker beer and honey in place of brown sugar, so be sure to check out the site and try the recipe that speaks to you the most. This one seemed to be pretty neutral and again, EASY, which is awesome! This bread goes with both sweet and savory toppings, which is also a huge plus. I bet it’ll be great sliced and toasted with a soup or for breakfast with eggies! I hope you meows give it a try! There you have it, dear reader. Quick, easy, simple, and delicious. Just how we like it around here. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!

xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

Follow Mystic Meals on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Plant Based Nutrition and Skincare With Arbonne

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I’m always fascinated and intrigued by all of the food related products out there on the market that promote wellness and self care. Let’s be honest… Some of these brands aren’t very tasty, but are really good at convincing us consumers that we “need” their products in our lives and have to incorporate them into our daily routines because they’re better for us and easier to use, or just as good and comparable to what we ingest and put into and on our bodies, and use thought provoking catch phrases and words like “Environmentally Friendly”, “Non GMO”, “Vegan” or the new high key deal maker… “Plant Based”. So I decided to start doing a bit more investigative research on this particular subject since food is how I make my living, and as a chef it’s part of my job to be as educated on the subject as possible, and found some incentive from a former co-worker who started using, selling, and promoting a wellness brand that has been around since the 60’s, long before “Going Green” was even a popular thing to say, do, and live by. Hence my introduction to the brand, Arbonne.

I first met Roslyn Aguiar several years ago while we both worked at a restaurant in Visalia, Ca. She’s such a vivacious woman with a great and bubbly personality, and we got along really well. We’ve kept in touch over the years and follow each other on social media. She first started using Arbonne not long after she got married. She and her husband being in newlywed marital bliss put on what Roslyn refers to as “happy weight” and was seeking a way to get her health and weight back on track.

A friend of hers was the regional Vice President for Arbonne and at first Roslyn thought that the products weren’t for her and honestly felt too good for it. You know… “I don’t need that stuff”. 3 1/2 years later, Roslyn had gained 30 pounds and was seeking a way to start losing weight and becoming healthier, so she decided to take the plunge and try one of their Healthy Living Kits, which is a 30 day supply of various protein powders, shakes, and detox teas to help kick start your body into better overall gut health and improve your metabolism. Roslyn was pleasantly surprised by how much she actually enjoyed the taste of the powders, drinks, and teas, and how after the first couple of weeks, she as well as her family noticed the difference in her overall appearance, and well being, as she was beginning to suffer silently from depression due to her weight gain and food intake, which led her to give Arbonne a try and see if it could help to improve things from the inside out. And for her it really did. It made a marked difference in not just her physical health, but more importantly, her mental health as well. She felt invigorated, her mood was elevated and had more incentive to partake in and enjoy the simple pleasures in every day life. A walk outside, the sunshine, engaging more fully with other people. She had gained her confidence back and she credits Arbonne for helping her get her life back to a better place than she had been living before. It was her personal journey with it and her experience that prompted her to become a consultant for the company, and share her story and belief in Arbonne and their products with as many people as possible.

It’s very easy to take for granted how much the foods we consume and the things we put on our bodies can have profound affects on our state of minds and physical fitness. Our skin is the largest organ we all have and things are very easily absorbed through it. It only takes 26 seconds to be exact. All the preservatives, sugars and other chemicals in the foods we eat truly does have influence over our health. So now more than ever, the better educated we are about what fuels our bodies and keeps our skin hydrated and healthy, the better our quality of life should end up being. Arbonne is trying to set the example and lead the way to an alternative with all natural ingredients that helps to achieve a better state of body and mind by providing products that claim to help us try to become better versions of ourselves by offering a line of wholesome goods that simply promotes the idea of wellness. Thus making us more aware of the natural ingredients and make our own comparisons as consumers. It’s crazy how many chemicals, preservatives, and by-products are in most of the every day items we use and put on our skin! We can achieve similar results without all the fillers and additives and research Arbonne’s range of supplements and skin care that are… Vegan, Plant Based, Non GMO, Not Tested On Animals, and Kosher.

I can say that although I haven’t tried it yet, I have seen how Roslyn’s appearance has changed since she started using Arbonne, and how much happier with herself she seems. Her hair is longer and more luscious than it was before, her skin is glowing, and she just looks better than she ever has! I’m waiting on my 7 day sample pack to arrive in the mail so I can see for myself what these protein powders and energy fizz drinks taste like and if there’s any difference in how I feel. Will I have more energy? Will the shakes be satisfying enough to get me through the day? We shall soon find out, dear reader… I am extremely curious. So I’ll have to update you meows in another follow up blog about my results from living a week on Arbonne. As with anything, everyone has different experiences and results when using any kind of supplement, and what works for you might not work for me and vice versa. I’m not looking for a miracle here, but I am looking for better alternatives to things such as pill vitamins and vitality boosters that I can incorporate into my already existing routine. It’s worth a shot.

If you want to learn more about Arbonne and the products they offer contact Roslyn Aguiar and follow her on Instagram so you can see for yourselves the changes the products have made for her and others. If you contact her via text or DM using the code MEOW619 (not an affiliate link, btw…) she’ll wave the $29.00 sign up fee. So check it out and see what you think! They also have make up, too! I was surprised by how many products they offer, and was also impressed. Perhaps you might find something that speaks to you and compels you to give them a go! Thank you meows for stopping by! And I’ll keep you posted about my results for sure! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking! Hey, it’s my catch phrase… Reading is brain food! ๐Ÿ˜›

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!

xo Nikki โœจ๐Ÿ’•

Follow Mystic Meals on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Photos courtesy of renewed.roslyn and Google images

The Perfect Classic Cheeseburger

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Now that the Summer season is rapidly approaching, it’s time to get our menus ready for all that outdoor picnicking and grill friendly cuisine! But what if I told you that in terms of burgers, that the best way to cook them isn’t on a grill? Would you think that I was cuckoo for cocoa puffs? Well, I am, but that’s beside the point. ๐ŸคชI’m a chef after all, and most chefs are slightly bonkers in the head to draw it mild! ๐Ÿ˜œ Most of the classic All American style burgers that I grew up eating from some of the best diners in the world (NYC, of course… ) were cooked on griddles, or flat tops, which is a solid sheet of metal heated by burners underneath them, and not on an actual grill. Don’t get me wrong… I love me the taste of a char grilled burger, however when cooking burgers at home, a well seasoned frying pan, or even better, a cast iron skillet is your best friend. The heat is evenly distributed and helps you get that delicious crust on both sides. But let’s start with the essential building blocks for the perfect classic cheeseburger.

The Meat

Let me start out by saying that when it comes to ground beef for burgers that fat is your friend. You don’t want to use meat like ground sirloin for burgers because it’s very lean with little fat content. You NEED the fat to give you that juicy, flavorful burger. Because the components of a burger are so simple and straightforward to begin with, it’s important that above all, you start with the highest quality of everything from the outset. For the best burger results you want a fat to meat ratio of 80/20. That’s 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat. If you can find it, 75/25 is even better. But let’s stick with 80/20 for now. 100% ground chuck is great, but if you have a local butcher in your area, or good butcher counter at your local supermarket,  see if they can grind up a chuck/brisket combo. It’s slightly more expensive per pound, but hot damn is it worth it!

Another important step in making burgers is the freshness of the meat itself. Don’t use frozen and thawed ground beef as it will be a lot tougher and a bit dryer. Save that for meatballs, meat sauces, chili or meatloaf  if you can ๐Ÿ˜‰ When shaping your burger patties, the less you man paw the meat, the better. Try to be quick about the actual shaping process. This will yield a softer, juicier, and tender burger. If weighing the patties, I’d stick with the traditional size of between 5oz to 8oz per patty. Also, when you’re shaping the patties, try not to pack the meat and make it too dense. This will also result in a tougher cooked burger. Again, the less you handle it, the better. Season well with salt and pepper on both sides before cooking.

The Cooking Method

Now it’s time to get our trusty cast iron skillet ready! Add a drizzle of your favorite cooking oil to your skillet and get it nice and hot. Once the oil starts to shimmer and move like little waves on a lake, carefully add your burger patties, and leave it alone until you’re ready to flip it. Don’t press it with the spatula, or move it around at all. This is how you create that flavorful crust on both sides. It’s the same as if you were making a steak. Depending on how you like your burgers cooked, for a true medium burger, cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side depending on the weight and thickness of the patties themselves. This searing of the burger patties will give you a light and juicy burger because the meat isn’t over worked or over cooked. You’ll have some rendered fat from the burgers in the skillet, so be sure to spoon most of that out so as not to steam cook the patties.

** Side Note~ Grilling. Most of us do associate a good burger with the grilling method but allow me to explain the difference.  A burger usually cooks faster than a steak, and what you’re looking for is the actual browning of the protein in the meat, which creates depth of flavor. This is called The Maillard Reaction. A steak can benefit from being cooked on a grill because of its high fat content and longer length of cooking time. The meat won’t become tough or dry out as a burger would, because a burger takes a shorter amount of time to cook, therefore it benefits more from an even surfaced cooking vessel, like the cast iron skillet to cook the burger quickly and evenly across the total surface of the burger** Meow ๐Ÿ˜ป

The Yummy Melty Cheese

So now it’s Queso ‘o clock for those boigahs! For the Classic All American Cheeseburger you definitely want to use American cheese. It’s melty, ooey gooey, and delicious! And don’t skimp on the amount of cheese you use! At least 2 slices for each burger so it melts all over it and adds to the awesomeness of every bite! A little trick to getting the cheese to melt is by adding a Tablespoon of water and covering the burgers for no longer than 10 seconds. This will help melt the cheese without altering the temperature or texture of the burger. It’s not a necessary step at all, but it does add a nice touch to the burgers themselves.

Buns, Buns, Buns! 

Okay… this is where it becomes a matter of preference because we all have different tastes when it comes to the style of bread for burgers. A sesame seed bun, brioche, potato, whole wheat? It’s entirely up to you. The one thing I will suggest is that no matter what type of bun you’re using is to toast the buns on both sides with a bit of butter. It just adds a richness and texture to the end result of your classic burger extravaganza!

To Sauce or Not to Sauce?

Again… pure preference here. I like my burgers pretty simple. Ketchup. That’s all I need. And that’s how I like it, so there! BBQ sauce is a close second, though… However, there’s a world of options as far as what kind of sauce to put on a burger. Most meows enjoy the ketchup, mustard, mayo combo, while other meows enjoy that secret sauce, or thousand island type of crazy sauce. All of these options add depth and flavor to the burgers without taking away from the flavor of the meat. They should enhance the flavor, not cover it. And that’s all I have to say about that… ๐Ÿ˜›

Sides, Sides, Everywhere There’s Sides!! 

Give me some lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and I am good to go! A happy meow indeed! French fries? Onion Rings? Sweet Potato Fries? Tater Tots? Cole Slaw? BACON???? Baby it is ALL GOOD!!

And now we’re ready to feast on these succulent burgers of love! I hope this helps you create the ultimate classic cheeseburger and perhaps see them and taste them a whole new way. By changing little things here and there, it makes something as simple as a burger become one hell of a mystic meal and transforms itself into another kitchen staple to be enjoyed all year round. Thanks for stopping by, dear reader! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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Images courtesy of Google ๐Ÿ˜‰

Make Crunchy Onion Rings Like A Boss!

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Do you ever just crave something fried, like french fries, fried chicken, or onion rings? I’ve had some wicked fried food cravings these days and I decided to bite the culinary bullet and go for it! I have to admit… It took me a long time to warm up to homemade onion rings because I grew up eating and still love eating what I refer to as the “cheapie” onion rings. You know the ones… chopped up pieces of onions mixed with whatever fillers or batter they use to make them so perfectly round and tasty? The kind you get at Burger King, an old school greasy spoon Diner, or from the frozen section at the grocery store? Hey… We all have those guilty pleasure snacks, right? It might not be the best stuff to eat, but then again, I’m not eating this stuff every day, either so… Meow!

Onion rings are incredibly easy to make and most of us have the ingredients for preparing them right in our cupboards. Flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, a bit of paprika paired with some milk and eggs, along with those trusty onions are all you need, with oil, of course… although I go an extra step and coat them with breadcrumbs for that added crunch factor that I love. I suppose the next question would be, what kind of onions work best? In theory basically any type of onion will work, but I find that some kinds yield better taste and results than others. I typically use yellow or white onions, and like to use ones that are in between medium and large in size. While you can of course use the whole onion for rings, I find that saving the smaller inner rings to be chopped up and used in other recipes works best for me. The larger outer rings make for easier frying, anyways.

You’d be surprised by how many onion rings you can get out of just one bulb. At least a dozen if not a little more. Depending on how many meows you’re feeding, if cooking just for yourself, I’d stick with one. If feeding a crowd, I would use 2 to 4 onions. That all depends on how wiley you’re feeling in the kitchen! This recipe yields a fair amount of batter for using just one onion, and can be easily doubled and tripled if using more. I hope you give these a try and have some fun frying away!

** Food for Thought : The other bit of advice I have while you’re frying is to not let the oil become too hot otherwise the rings will cook too quickly and become too dark. Some adjusting of the heat and fry time will be mastered once you start to cook them. And I would fry in small batches, doing 4 to 5 rings at a time to have more control over how they fry and getting that golden brown color so you’ll have better end results. **

Crunchy Onion Rings

One medium to large sized yellow or white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick and separated into rings ( peeled of course…)

3/4 cup of All Purpose Flour

1 Tbls baking powder

1 heaping teas. of paprika

2 Tbls. of cornstarch

1 teas. ground pepper

1 teas. salt

1 Whole Egg

3/4 cup of milk

Breadcrumbs for coating

Vegetable, Canola, or your favorite oil for frying

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, egg, baking powder, cornstarch, paprika, milk, salt and pepper. Mix together until you have a smooth and slightly thick batter. If too thick, add a splash more milk. If too thin, add a bit more flour one teaspoon at a time until desired thickness.

2. Add about 4 onion rings at a time to the batter. Meanwhile in a medium sized pot or preferred frying pan, heat up the oil over medium heat adding just enough oil so that the rings will float.

3. Thoroughly coat the rings in the batter, allow some excess to drip off and coat the battered onion rings with the breadcrumbs and fry immediately for about 2 minutes per side until nice and golden brown. Adjust the heat of the pan so the rings won’t burn. Once browned, remove and set on a plate with paper towels. Serve these bad boys with your favorite ketchup or bbq sauce and munch your heart out!

I love to eat these on their own, but also serve them with burgers and sandwiches, and these also reheat really well in the oven, too! So no worries if you have some left over, but I doubt you will!! And there you have it, dear reader! Another delicious recipe to help bring your next mystic meal to a new level of awesomeness! Until we eat again… Thanks for stopping by and Happy Cooking!

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!!

Xo, Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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Three Sauces To Step Up Your Food Game

 

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Cooking a meal can be a bit daunting at times, huh? It’s tough to find inspiration and the motivation to be creative in the kitchen, and come up with something new or different to eat, especially when we’ve had a busy day or have a ton going on and just don’t want to think about it! As a Chef, there have been many occasions when making family meal (food for the kitchen staff) where you often times don’t have much on hand to work with and are forced to think outside the box and literally make something out of nothing. Kitchen Sink cookery, if you will. Out of those food challenges, one of the things I’ve learned is how to make various types of sauces, and their magical powers of transforming something ordinary, into something extraordinary. A good sauce can change everything.

Over the next few months I’ll be writing about lots of different sauces, marinades, and other easy ingredients that are sure fire ways to help inspire the kitchen gods to be ever on your side in those times of wanting a delicious meal without having to spend hours cooking like a maniac. Unless you want to, that is… These 3 sauce recipes are my go to’s for those times when I want something that I know is tried and true, can be easily made ahead of time, are versatile, and can be used as bases for other creations. A sauce can go from being an accompaniment such as a dipping sauce, to taking center stage and binding all the elements together. So lets get to the sauces and see what yumminess we can come up with!

Spicy Peanut Sauce

3 T. creamy Peanut Butter

2 T. Soy Sauce

2 T. Brown Sugar

1 t. Sambal Oelek

1 t. Sriracha

1/4 cup water

Lime, Lemon juice, Cider vinegar or rice vinegar to taste.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk all of the ingredients together until smooth. At first it’ll seem like it doesn’t want to combine, but keep whisking. It’ll come together. Everything can be adjusted, from the thickness by adding more water or peanut butter, the sweetness of the brown sugar, to the spiciness and acidity. Personally, I prefer more of a sweet heat and not too much acid. But that’s just me. I use this sauce :

As a dipping sauce for spring rolls and raw veggies

As a salad dressing with lettuces, chicken or shrimp

As a sauce for various kinds of noodles, like rice noodles, soba noodles, vermicelli, Lo mein, and even spaghetti works just fine if you don’t have the others.

As a sauce for chicken or beef

Next up is Pesto. Most meows think of a pesto sauce being primarily made from basil, but these days there are so many different “greens” you can use to create interesting and delicious variations of it. One of my favorite ways to make it is by using broccoli, in particularly the broccoli greens or leaves, which most meows throw away. I love eating them and incorporating them into my dishes. As with most recipes, certain things can be adjusted to suit your tastes. If you have a nut allergy, just omit it. If you’re vegan, don’t use cheese, or use a vegan friendly substitute. Here we go!

Broccoli Pesto 

10 oz. of blanched and chopped broccoli (leaves too!)

4oz fresh romano cheese, roughly chopped

2 large garlic cloves

1/2 cup of pine nuts, walnuts, almonds or your favorite type of nuts (optional)

1/2 olive oil

1 t. chili flakes

salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, blender or nutri bullet, pulse all the ingredients together in batches if need be, adjusting and stirring until you have sort of a chunky paste, with no large pieces of cheese, garlic or nuts if using them. I use this sauce :

As a pasta sauce and sometimes add cream to it for a creamy pesto

As a base or add in for soups

A dipping sauce for vegetables

As a spread for sliced crostini with goat cheese, toasted bagels, sandwiches, and of course as a base sauce for pizza and flatbreads!

As a topper or stuffing for baked chicken breast, pork, or fish

Last, but certainly not least… Tomato sauce. I cannot stress enough how important I feel it is for everyone on this crazy planet to know how to make some type of tomato sauce. It is one of the five Mother Sauces of cooking for a reason, and is way less complicated to make than you might think. All it consists of at its core is onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Then you just cook this down by reducing it to concentrate the flavors and create thickness. That’s it. Anything else you add to it is up to you in terms of herbs and spices. I keep mine fairly neutral since I almost always use it as a base for something else. Here are 2 variations of it, The first is a quick and easy pan tomato sauce using fresh, ripe tomatoes, and the second is using canned tomatoes with a longer cooking time. Both of these are terrific make ahead recipes that keep well in the freezer and thaw out pretty fast. Boom!

Quick Pan Tomato Sauce

1 pound of red RIPE roma, cherry, grape, or any variety of tomato. If using cherry or grape, keep them whole, otherwise cut larger tomatoes into pieces.

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 large cloves of garlic, sliced thin if you want the flavor but don’t want to actually eat it or minced if you wanna get your garlic on

1/4 cup of olive oil

salt, pepper, and herbs of choice to taste

In a sautรฉ pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions and cook all together until the cherry/grape tomatoes start to burst or your regular tomatoes start to break down.  About 10 to 15 minutes. Crush them down with a fork or spoon to start to create the pan sauce. If making pasta, add a touch of pasta water or plain water, season lightly and begin to reduce. The whole process takes about 20 to 30 minutes. **Remember to season as you go since you’re reducing and concentrating flavors. If you add too much salt right away, it will just become saltier as it cooks down, so do your final seasoning at the end**

 Tomato Sauce

1 35 ounce can of tomatoes (San Marzano tomatoes are the best,  but use whatever you find or like)

6 large cloves of garlic, sliced or minced

1/4 cup of olive oil

1/2 cup of small diced yellow onion

A sprinkle of chili flake

8 fresh basil leaves (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, add the olive oil, onions and garlic and sautรฉ for about 2 minutes. Add the contents of the canned tomatoes, juice and all, reduce the heat to a simmer, lightly season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes, and continue to stir and break up the tomatoes, cooking for 30 to 45 minutes. You should have a thick and chunky sauce. Cook longer the sauce is still too thin, but keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Right before it’s done, adjust the seasoning and if using fresh basil, add it in and turn off the heat. Stir, serve or cool and freeze in portions. I use this sauce :

As a base for pasta dishes like spaghetti with meat sauce, ziti, farfalle, and basically any pasta shape your little heart desires… and you can add cream and vodka to it to make a yummy vodka sauce.

As a sauce for pizza and flatbread

As an add in for soups and stews

As a base for chicken cacciatore, a topper for grilled or roasted fish and seafood

As a spread for sandwiches and wraps

A base for creole inspired dishes like jambalaya and gumbo

A base for cooking red beans, lentils, or pinto beans

The possibilities are endless with these three sauces and it’s up to you what you create with them. I hope these help give you some ideas for your next mystic meal, and please let me know what you come up with! I’d love to hear about the creative recipes you make using them! Until we eat again, dear reader… Happy Cooking!

Xo, Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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All photos courtesy of google images and all recipes by meow! ๐Ÿ˜‰โœจ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled Mango Habanero Shrimp with Sweet Corn Succotash

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Im living for all the new seasonal fruits and veggies that are finally making their appearances at the local markets! Cherries are here, but not for long, so my advice is to stock up on them and freeze them! ๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ’But this blog isn’t about cherries. (Soon, though…) Corn is looking beautiful right now and I took advantage of a sale and grabbed a few ears.

I already had some shrimp in the freezer, half of a perfectly ripe mango, and as always, a variety of vegetables. I just love the word Succotash! It’s like something you use to cast a spell or invoke magic like speaking the words abracadabra and then seeing what happens next! ๐Ÿ˜โœจ

Succotash consists of corn kernels, and shell beans, like Lima beans, for example. You can add peppers, onions, herbs, olive oil and something acidic like your favorite vinegar or citrus juice. Sugar Snap Peas were looking pretty sexy at the market so I bought some of those and love eating them raw as well as cooked. Since I was grilling the shrimp for this recipe, I decided to grill the corn as well.

I used that half a mango I mentioned, purรฉed it in my Nutribullet along with a quarter of a habanero pepper, a splash of sweet chili sauce, and some lime juice. I peeled, cleaned, and deveined the shrimp, marinated them in a bit of minced garlic, salt and pepper, skewered them, and grilled them off on my trusty cast iron grill, which has been my favorite new kitchen toy since buying it several months ago.

I basted the shrimp with the mango habanero sauce, which acted like a spicy, yet fruity bbq sauce. It was lovely. If the grill is hot enough, the shrimp will cook rather quickly, while still getting those glorious charred grill marks on them. The sugar from the mango sauce also helps since the natural sugars caramelize nicely with the heat from the grill.

Here’s the recipe I used for the Succotash. This made about 4 cups after adding the other vegetables. As long as you’re using corn as the base, you can add whatever the flippity flap you want to it in terms of veggies and herbs. ๐Ÿ˜› I really like this version, though. The combo of raw and cooked vegetables provides crunchiness and flavor contrasts, and is quite healthy on its own since it’s fairly simple and the flavors are clean and pure. It makes a great side dish, is picnic friendly, or you can enjoy it as a salad topper like I did here. ๐Ÿ˜‰โœจ

Sweet Corn Succotash

2 ears of corn, shucked, cleaned and washed

2 pieces of green onion, sliced thin

1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, washed and sliced in half

1 cup of sliced sugar snap peas

1/2 cup of red bell pepper, small dice

1/4 cup of chopped parsley

1/2 cup of olive oil

The juice from half a lime

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the corn cobs in half, and grill the ears until they’re nice and marked all around. If you don’t have a cast iron grill at home, just carefully cut the kernels off of the cobs and sautรฉ in a pan with a bit of oil over high heat to quickly cook the kernels and pan toast them, making sure they get some color, but being careful not to burn them. Set aside to cool down a bit. If grilling, once they’re charred a bit and marked, cut the kernels off and again, set aside.

2. In a large bowl, add the tomatoes, green onions, sugar snap peas, red bell peppers, parsley and the corn, and mix together well. Add the olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper, stir and adjust the seasoning. Leave covered at room temp for about 10 minutes. The tomatoes will begin to macerate and create a nice vinaigrette with the olive oil and lime juice, so it’s important to taste it again before serving.

I served the shrimp and the Succotash over some baby lettuces and it was really nice, light, and satisfying. Since I left the lettuce leaves whole, I wound up making little lettuce wraps with the shrimp and corn. It just kind of morphed into a different way of eating it, and I loved every bite!

And there you have it, dear reader! Another mystic meal to be enjoyed again and again over the coming months, and as I said, you can change it up by using whatever you see on your shopping travels. Green beans, heirloom tomatoes, basil… it’s up to you! Have fun with it! Until we eat again… Happy cooking!

Xo, Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ๐ŸŒฝ๐Ÿค๐ŸŒถ

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Baked Rigatoni with Meat Sauce

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Pasta, pasta, pasta! Sometimes I just get in the mood for a dish that reminds me of some of the Italian restaurants we used to go to when I was growing up in The Bronx. This is one of them. It just gives me all the feels every time I make a baked pasta dish like this. The sauce and other components are the same, although I do change up the pasta shape I use depending on how I feel or what I have in the pantry.

This time around I chose rigatoni. Ziti or penne also works for this too, but I haven’t cooked rigatoni in quite a while and knew it would turn out really nice and hearty. The overall flavor inspiration comes from a place called Mike’s Pizzeria that used to be on Bedford Park Blvd in my old neighborhood in The Bronx. I swear they had the best red sauce and meatballs! I’ve spent years trying to master that meatball recipe based on pure flavor memories.

This comes pretty flippin close, meows… It feeds a crowd and is very delicious and satisfying. Now their recipe was a bit simpler than what I decided to replicate because I had a lot of different types of cheeses on hand that I needed to make use of. That’s why I love the name Mystic Meals. Cooking is pure culinary alchemy. Sorcery. A little of this… a pinch of that, and voila! Plus over 23 years of professional cooking experience comes in handy ๐Ÿ˜‰โœจ Ok. Enough tooting my own horn. Back to pasta love!

Here’s the meatball recipe that I always use and any brand of your favorite pasta sauce in a jar will work just fine. However, if you make your own, even better. Just make sure you have plenty of it so the pasta isn’t too dry. AND please, please! When you’re boiling your pasta, A. Salt the water well, B., slightly undercook the pasta by a few minutes since it will continue to cook in the oven, and C., before you drain the pasta, reserve at least 2 cups of the pasta water to add to your sauce. The starch and salt from the cooked pasta water adds flavor and balances things out in case the sauce ends up on the thick side.

Mystic Meatballs

1 pound ground beef

1 large clove of garlic, minced

1 Tbls fresh chopped parsley

1/2 cup Italian style breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup of milk

A pinch of red chili flakes

1 teas. Italian seasoning

1 Tbls salt

1 teas. ground black pepper

1. In a large bowl, mix everything together until well combined, and the meat has absorbed the milk and breadcrumbs.

2. In a small skillet, add a drizzle of oil over medium heat and grab about a tablespoon of the meatball mix. Shape into a small patty, like a little burger, and cook thoroughly. Once it’s fully cooked, taste and adjust the seasonings in the raw meatball mixture if need be. Keep in mind that you’ll be layering flavors. The sauce has salt, the cheeses are salty, so you don’t want the meat to be blandsville, but you also don’t want it to be too salty. You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it out. Make sense? ๐Ÿ˜‰โœจ

3. In a large skillet over medium heat add about 2 Tbls of olive oil or oil of preference. You can either shape the meat mixture into meatballs and cook them that way and break them up later, or I just take the meat mix and drop it into the pan by spoonfuls and cook it a bit more like loose meat. I like the pieces to be broken up so there’s a bit of meat in every bite.

4. Once the meatball mix is cooked, deglaze the pan with about a cup of the reserved pasta water, stir to grab all those yummy bits of love, and add in your tomato sauce. Lower the heat and simmer altogether for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining pasta water to the sauce and adjust the seasonings.

Notice that I did not drain the fat from the pan. For me, fat is flavor unless there’s an excessive amount depending on what you’re cooking. In this case, there really isn’t a lot swimming around and what’s there just becomes part of the sauce and again, adds flavor and body to the end result.

Now you’re ready to add the meat sauce love fest to your pasta. I use a 1 pound ratio of dry pasta. It makes enough to feed four to six meows and remember that the pasta will continue to cook, expand and absorb all those flavors, so don’t worry if the sauce is a tad on the watery side. It will thicken up as it bakes. I layer it on similar to making lasagna. Sauce, then pasta, then cheese, and so on. For this I used fresh mozzarella, fontina, fresh Romano, whole milk ricotta, and Parmesan cheeses.

I emphasize fresh because it really does make a difference, and I’m bougie like that! But seriously, whatever you like to use will be fine. I baked the rigatoni at 350 degrees for 50 minutes covered with foil, and another 15 minutes uncovered. Once baked I let it rest for about 20 minutes before serving.

Serve it with some garlic bread and there you have it! Another mystic meal full of , well… lots of things but most importantly, love. It’ll come through in every bite! Thanks for stopping by, dear reader! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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Chicken Gyoza~Potstickers

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Asian cuisine is one of my favorites. Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese… I love it all. So as I get older, I’m trying my best to master some of the dishes that I frequently order when going out to dine, or ordering take out. Gyoza is one of those delicious dumplings that I eat a lot at restaurants, and now make quite often at home.

I pan fry them in a bit of oil to crisp them up, then add a splash of water and cover them to steam cook for a couple of minutes. This was actually a recipe I planned to post a while back, so forgive me if the pictures aren’t that great, ( since I like to think my most recent food pics have gotten much better ๐Ÿ˜›) but the recipe itself is pretty easy to prepare and the end result is yummy as all get out!

I think meows get intimidated by the idea of making certain stuffed pasta dishes like ravioli, for example because we have it in our heads that you have to have a certain kitchen skill set to pull it off. I mean, if you can take a circle and fold it over into a half moon, then you can make pot stickers. As with anything, practice makes perfect. I also think it’s the “pleating” of the edges with pot stickers that makes folks think twice about trying their hand at it.

The main reason why most professionals, Chefs included, are good at what they do, is repetition. Doing the same things over and over again until it becomes second nature. That’s all. Cutting, chopping, grilling, sautรฉing, pasta making. The more you do it, the better you get. So when making gyozas, just remember that some will look better than others, but in the end, it’s the tlc you put into what you cook that matters.

And by the time you serve them, they’ll be gone in a flash! I also use bagged cole slaw mix in the filling. It already has chopped cabbage and carrots, and is cheaper than buying a large head of cabbage & carrots separately, unless you’re feeling crazy and just wanna go for it. I just try not to buy more than what I’m actually going to use… ๐Ÿ˜‰

So here’s the recipe for the chicken gyozas. These also freeze really well if you go all ham and make a bunch more than you’ll eat in one sitting. I hope you have fun making these delicious little bites of yumminess!

Chicken Gyoza Potstickers

1 pound ground chicken

2 pieces of green onions, sliced thin and chopped

1 1/2 cups of cole slaw mix, roughly chopped

1/4 cup of soy sauce

1 large clove of chopped garlic

1 Tbls. sesame oil

1 teas. grated ginger

1. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together until well combined.

2. Take one Gyoza wrapper and place a heaping teaspoon of the chicken mixture in the center of the disk.

3. With your finger, add a bit of water to the edges of the gyoza wrapper, and seal the wrapper, making a half moon shape.

These were pleated because I’m a fancy pants chef… ๐Ÿ˜‚ But don’t you worry about that. Keep going!

4. Place each filled pot sticker sitting up to form a flat base on the bottoms. Continue to fill until you’ve used all the wrappers.

5. In a large non stick frying pan on medium heat, add 2 Tbls. of vegetable oil and place 10 to 12 potstickers in the pan, flat bottom side down. Fry for about 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown. Turn to brown the sides and cook for about 2 minutes.

6. Add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover the gyoza and let them steam for 3 minutes or until the water is dissolved. Remove from the heat, and continue to cook the gyoza repeating the steps above. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy!

The sauce you see in the bowl is a mixture of soy sauce, chopped green onion, chopped garlic, a rounded Tbls. of brown sugar, Sambal and Sriracha. So good!

And there you have it! Another Mystic Meal to add to your repertoire! It’ll be one of those dishes that will make the meows in your life feel special because of all the love that goes into preparing them. And it’s worth it! Thank you so much for stopping by, dear reader! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!!!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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Manilla Clams with Spicy Charred Tomatoes and Pancetta

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I really do love seafood. Heck. I just love food! And I love to eat… and cook, of course! ๐Ÿ˜› I especially enjoy clams. Not too big on eating them raw, I must admit, but I can get down on a bowl of some yummy linguine with clams, stuffed clams, clam chowder. I think you get my drift.

When I’m setting out to create these recipe blogs, I’m never really quite sure what I’m going to make until I take a look at what I have in terms of ingredients, and basically work around that. I haven’t had clams in a while, and it’s another one of those dishes that remind me of Summer on the East Coast.

So I set my devilish cooking plan into motion, bought some beautiful Manilla Clams and a bunch of Mother Earth’s bounty from the farmers market, including some freshly baked Ciabatta bread that I used in this recipe. I suppose this dish is a fusion of Italian and Spanish flavors, but also wanted to keep the ingredients fairly simple and easy to prepare. As with any recipe, you can adjust and play around with different ingredients.

One thing’s for sure. The end result is just delicious. The following recipe made enough for about 2 entree portions or enough for 4 people to share as an appetizer. Enjoy!

Manilla Clams with Spicy Charred Tomatoes and Pancetta

3 pounds of Manilla Clams, cleaned and washed

1 pint of ripe cherry or grape tomatoes

4 oz of small diced pancetta ( or 4 slices of bacon)

1/2 medium size yellow onion, sliced thin

2 large cloves of garlic, chopped

1/4 cup of chopped parsley

1 cup of chicken stock, white wine, or water

1 small red chili pepper

1. In a non stick skillet, put the tomatoes in the pan with no oil over medium heat and begin to char the tomatoes, gently shaking the pan to get a nice hard sear on them. They should look like this :

2. Once the tomatoes are charred, reduce the heat a bit and add the diced pancetta or bacon. The pork fat will render out and will help to further cook the tomatoes. Cook until the bacon is nice and crispy. Leave the pork fat in the pan, as it will become part of the sauce itself.

3. Add in the onions, garlic, a few slices of the red chili and saute until the onions just start to wilt. At this point you can smoosh the tomatoes with a fork to start to create the pan sauce.

4. Add in the clams and deglaze the pan with the 1 cup of water, stock, or wine, and cover the pan to allow the clams to open and release their juices. Some of the clams might take a bit longer to open. Discard any dead clams ( you’ll be able to smell which ones) and make sure not to reduce the sauce too much. Add more liquid if you need to.

5. Once all of the clams are open, sprinkle in the parsley, and taste the sauce for salt, pepper, and heat from the chili’s. Add more sliced chili peppers if you like it spicy!

For the bread, I stuck with the stove top, melted some butter and pan toasted the bread slices. I made sure not to burn the bread, but also wanted a nice char on them. Over all I was going for layers of smokiness that lent itself well to this dish.

Put those clams in a bowl, pour the sauce all over them, drizzle with olive oil, slice the bread and add them in with the clams to soak up all the yumminess and go eat!! Mussels would also be fabulous with this sauce as well, but I enjoyed the chewiness of the clams.

I hope you give this one a try sometime. It’s a really nice mystic meal to make for yourself or share with family and friends. Until we eat again, dear reader… Happy Cooking and Happy Eating!!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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Churro Waffles with Candied Apple Crunch

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I absolutely love churros! There’s just something about them. They’re crunchy on the outside, soft inside, rolled in cinnamon sugar… Then dunked in chocolate sauce or in some cafe con leche or tea?? Say, WHAT? It’s a delicious treat and being that Cinco de Mayo is upon us, I wanted to make a Mexican inspired version of a breakfast classic… Waffles!

Now truth be told, I’m more of a pancake meow, but every once in a while I get in the mood to change it up and make some waffles. Recently I was shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond, and noticed in the clearance section this cute little red box that had a picture of a mini waffle maker on it. The price was $4.99, and I just fell in love with how tiny and adorable it was ( only 4″ ) and immediately started thinking about how much fun I’d have in the kitchen teaching my 5 year old daughter how to use it.

So fast forward to the brainstorm I had about churros and A. How easy they are to prepare, and B. How to make them in a different way. I knew my trusty little waffle iron was perfect for turning churro dough into the breakfast I had been cooking up in my head. So I went to work on the dough.

The candied apple crunch part was a happy accident. I diced up an apple, and was heating up the sugar in a small non stick pan without any liquid. I wanted the sugar to melt, ( 2 T. ) which it did, just start to caramelize, and then would incorporate the apples. After adding the apples to the slightly caramelize sugar, part of the sugar started to harden and I had all of these pieces of crystallized apple sugar swimming in delicious syrup.

Then I remembered when I was in The Netherlands, Amsterdam to be precise, I tasted my first true Belgian Waffle. This thing blew my mind! It was sweeter than I expected it to be and was perfect in every way. What stood out for me the most was the little bits of sugar throughout the inside of it that added a burst of sweetness and a crunch that was something quite special with every single bite. I knew I had to use that crystallized apple sugar to replicate the feels of a Belgian waffle and garnish the churro dough version with, so I chopped it all up and sprinkled away! Success!

Here’s a recipe for churro dough that’s super simple. The waffles can be made ahead of time and keep well in the freezer for a rainy day. After I made the waffles I fried them to get that authentic churro crunch and coated them with lots of cinnamon sugar. Enjoy!

Churro Dough

1 cup of water

4 oz of unsalted butter

1/4 teas. salt

1 cup of A.P. flour

3 whole eggs

1/2 cup of sugar

1 Tbls. ground cinnamon

1. In a medium sized pot, bring the water, butter and salt to a boil.

2. Add the flour to the salted butter water and stir until you have a dough. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook the dough in the pot for about 2 minutes, turning constantly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.

3. Remove from the heat and add in the eggs one at a time. A wooden spoon or rubber spatula is best. You can also use a hand mixer. The dough will separate at first, but it will come together into a smooth dough after each addition of the eggs.

4. Now your ready to make churro waffles! Don’t forget to fry them up to get them nice and crunchy and cover them with that cinnamon sugar!

Because my waffle iron was so small, I was able to get about 10 pieces out of this amount of dough. I used a heaping tablespoon of dough for each waffle and made enough for 3 servings. Any fruit topping, chocolate, or caramel sauce would be lovely on these! Have a blast giving them a try! Until we eat again dear reader, happy cooking and Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Cheers, hugs, & meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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Bacon and Mushroom Flatbread with Fresh Mozzarella and Fontina Cheese

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

The title says it all. However, what is the difference between flatbread and Pizza? Hmm… ๐Ÿค” The only real difference to me is texture. Flatbread is thinner and crispier. A bit more cracker like around the edges. Pizza tends to be a lot thicker and doughier. They both allow for an endless amount of toppings, and are always fun to make.

You can also use pizza dough to make flatbread by simply rolling the dough out much thinner than you normally would. Flatbreads are usually in the shape of a rectangle, where as most pizzas are round. So is it all in the name? Is a flatbread still a pizza even though we’re calling it a flatbread? Doesn’t it taste just as good?

Hell yeah, it does! I was in the mood for making this for lunch and it was insanely delicious. I’ll just list off what I used rather than an actual recipe, since it’s really up to you the kind of toppings you’ll have on hand. I did use a variety of cooking methods for each ingredient because I knew exactly how I wanted this to be. I like contrasts in texture and taste and how roasting one thing, and grilling another creates those bursts of flavor that make the ordinary, extraordinary. Here’s what I used…

Ingredients:

Bacon cut into small pieces

Button and Oyster mushrooms, sliced

Grilled spring onions, chopped

1 bulb of garlic, roasted

Spinach

Fresh Mozzarella

Fontina Cheese

Parsley & thyme

Olive oil

Salt, pepper, and chili flakes

Now, if you’re feeling wiley and want to make the dough from scratch, I suggest this Classic Pizza Dough by Martha Stewart. It’s fairly easy to prepare and works well for both flatbread style and traditional pizza making. A high quality pre made pizza crust or heck… French bread or baguette will work just as well.

I roasted the garlic bulb in foil with a drizzle of olive oil in a 400 degree oven for about 35 min. I have a cast iron grill and used it to char the spring onions. I sautรฉed the bacon until it was nice and barely crisp. Removed it, then sautรฉed the mushrooms in the bacon fat. Cause I’m crazy like that and like to extract the most out of everything I cook with. ๐Ÿ˜œ

I then added a pat of butter to the mushrooms, cause the bacon fat wasn’t enough… ๐Ÿ˜› some fresh thyme leaves, chopped parsley, seasoned with salt and pepper and deglazed the pan with 1/4 cup of water. I removed the roasted garlic cloves and put them in a small bowl with more thyme and parsley, olive oil, chili flakes, s & p, and smooshed it all together to make a paste. I then shmeared the roasted garlic love on the flatbread dough and proceeded to add the other ingredients.

I put the fontina on first, then the shrooms, spinach, chopped onions, mozzarella, and finally, the bacon. I sprinkled some more chili flakes on top, drizzled with olive oil and baked it at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. My oven runs pretty hot so things cook rather quickly, so check yours after 10 minutes and see if you need more time.

The end result for this was fantastic. From the nuttiness of the garlic, the char from the onions, the earthiness of the mushrooms and herbs, the creaminess of the melted cheeses, and the savory flavor of the bacon, with the perfect amount of heat from the chili flakes on top of the crispy, yet chewy flatbread was culinary magic.

I hope you try your hand at making some pizza & flatbread and have fun with different styles and cooking techniques to make it a mystic meal of your own. Thanks for stopping by, dear reader! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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All photos taken by moi! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thai Yellow Curry with Chicken and Vegetables

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely LOVE curries. There’s just something about the complexities of the spices involved that make it stand out in such memorable ways. Some people don’t really like curries because of it’s association with heat/chilis, but there is a difference between Thai Curries and Indian Curries. They both contain levels of spiciness, but this depends upon the amount of chili’s used to create the curry paste or mix in the first place.

Indian curries tend to incorporate a wide variety of dried spices like a masala mix, and Thai curries are typically made in the form of a paste using wet ingredients like galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime. Thai curries also tend to be a bit soupier, meaning that the curry sauce itself isn’t as thick as an Indian Curry. And it should be noted that not all Indian curries are coconut milk based.

When I’m out and about on any kind of food shopping excursion, I’m always on the hunt for something new to try and add to my cooking repertoire. Those key ingredients that help make my own mystics meals that much more epic and over the top. I found that in a brand called Mike’s Organic Curry Love and have been hooked on it ever since. The brand has been around since 2008, so it’s not a new thing on the market, it’s just new to me because I’ve only discovered it about 6 months ago.

They make a variety of curry pastes and sauces that are wonderfully authentic in flavor. There are several things I enjoy about the brand itself, including it’s packaging, ease of use, and minimal waste factor. They come in single use pouches and make enough for a nice hearty meal to feed 3 to 4 people, depending on if you even want to share any of it! The instructions are easy to follow, so any home cook at any skill level can create a mystic meal of their own that will impress the daylights out of your friends and loved ones. Trust me. ๐Ÿ˜›

I went with the Yellow Thai Curry Paste and added chicken to it, and a slew of veggies that I had that were screaming to be put into this recipe. Below is what I used to create this amazing meal. Enjoy!

Yellow Thai Curry with Chicken and Vegetables

8oz. chicken breast, diced into cubes

1/2 cup cubed sweet potato

1/2 cup cubed yukon potato

1 cup green beans, stems removed and cut in half

3/4 cup of diced yellow onion

1/2 cup of bell peppers, sliced

1 13.5 fl oz can of coconut milk ( I like the Chaokoh brand )

I packet of Mike’s Organic Curry Love’s Yellow Thai Curry Paste

2 T. vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste.

 

1. Boil the potatoes and cook them until they’re tender, but not mushy. I put both kinds together in the same pot with a touch of salt in the water. Once cooked, drain and set aside. Should take about 10 minutes.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the 2 Tbls of oil and the chicken, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and start to brown the meat. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add in the green beans, onions, and bell peppers and continue to sautรฉ together for another 5 to 6 minutes.

3. Add the yellow curry paste and mix into the chicken and vegetables to help break it up and distribute into the ingredients. Sautรฉ together for about a minute.

4. Add the can of coconut milk, being sure to scrape all the goodness out of the can, and stir all together. Lower the heat to a simmer, adjust the salt and pepper, and let simmer for about 5 minutes.

5. Add the cooked potatoes, and gently stir into the curry. Remove from the heat and serve. Meow!

 

I opted to serve this with Basmati Rice, but it can be eaten as it is, with some yummy noodles or with some toasty bread. And of course you can make your curry with whatever the flip you want! Meat, no meat, seafood… Anything goes! I hope you give this recipe and this brand of curry pastes a try. It’s so worth it, in particularly if you’re looking to jazz up your next meal and try something new!

Thank you so much for stopping by, dear reader… Until we eat again. Happy Cooking and Happy Eating!

xo Nikki

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Cheesy Poblano Corn Fritters and Garlicky Green Beans with Mushrooms

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I love making side dishes. For me they often become the center of the meal and I like their versatility when it comes to how to eat and serve them. And I typically throw the rule book out the window when I’m cooking, anyways… ๐Ÿ˜› Both of these recipes are vegetarian friendly and perfect for any kind of meal, morning, noon, or night. I’ll start with the Corn Fritters.

Corn can sometimes be a one trick pony in the sense that most of the time, speaking for myself, I prepare it the same way ( with butter and a pinch of salt ) because my daughter’s super picky when it comes to the way she eats. However, she’s becoming increasingly curious about the dishes I’ve been making for these blog posts and is at least “tasting” what I make. It’s a start, right? So I tried out a dish I haven’t made in a long time.

Fritters are made up of a thick batter containing fruits or meats and vegetables depending on the recipe. Some are deep fried in lots of oil and are bit rounded or oval since they’re spoon dropped into it. In this recipe the fritters are more of a pancake shape, use way less oil, and are nice and crispy on both sides thanks to all the yummy cheese getting fried to perfection. They’re really easy to prep and cook and I recommend using fresh corn if you have it, but you can use canned or frozen corn as well. Just make sure you drain and dry the canned corn, and defrost the frozen corn and again, dry it to absorb excess water.

Cheesy Poblano Corn Fritters

2 Cups of corn

1 medium sized Poblano pepper, seeded and small diced

1 half jalapeรฑo pepper, seeded and small diced

1/4 cup sliced green onion

1/8 cup chopped cilantro

1 large clove of garlic, minced

1 cup shredded jack cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup AP flour

2 large eggs

3/4 cup of milk

3/4 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

1/4 cup vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients, wet and dry. Mix together well. The batter will be VERY thick.

Heat up your favorite frying pan over medium heat and add 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil per batch of Fritters.

Scoop about 1/4 cup of the batter into your frying pan, frying 3 to 4 scoops at a time. Press down with a spatula to round them out, not making them too flat or thin.

Fry for about 4 minutes per side until golden brown on both sides. Serve them warm with sour cream if you’re feeling fancy ๐Ÿ˜‰ Makes between 10 to 12 pieces. *Side note: I didn’t feel the need to add any extra salt since the cheeses are pretty savory, but feel free if you want to add more S & P at the end. Btw, my daughter took the tiniest bite… Baby steps. ๐Ÿคช

Now on to the next recipe…

Green beans are one of my favorite vegetables to make as a side dish, however I also love to use them as a salad topper and as a main course. Easy to eat raw or cooked and again, extremely versatile, there are countless ways to incorporate them into your next mystic meal ๐Ÿ˜‰โœจ

I also love mushrooms and combining these two together is always a win-win for me. With so many people taking control of their eating habits by meal prepping for the week, this is a great recipe to add to your next green salad, grilled chicken or fish, grain bowls, etc.

I must admit… I’m from the Julia Child school of butter, and this recipe uses a fair amount, but you can of course use olive oil or cooking oil of choice. I just happen to prefer using butter and for me, it adds a richness to the dish that I love and let’s face it… Butter is delicious, but use as little or as much as you see fit for yourself.

Garlicky Green Beans with Mushrooms

1 pound green beans, cleaned and stems removed

8oz of your favorite mushrooms, sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup thin sliced onion or shallots

1 Tablespoon fresh chopped thyme

1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

4 Tablespoons of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil and add the green beans. Cook in rapidly boiling water for no more than 2 minutes. Drain the green beans and cool under cold running water or in an ice bath. Drain and set aside.

In a large pan over medium heat, add the butter, garlic, mushrooms, and onions and sautรฉ until the vegetables just start to caramelize. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Add the green beans and cook together for about 3 minutes. Then add the thyme and parsley, mix together. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.

There you have it, dear reader! Two very different, vegetarian and easy to prepare side dishes that I hope you try out and add to your next Mystic Meal! Happy Cooking and Happy Eating! And Happy Easter, too!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•

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CBD Infused Foods

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Chefs all over the world predicted that in 2019 one of the biggest food trends we would see is the incorporation of CBD in pretty much everything edible. From drinks to pet food, chips to chocolate, chefs are seeing unique opportunities for new cuisine and experimental dining options by the inclusion and infusion of cannibis and CBD oil. Just take a look at what a company called Cannabinoid Creations is doing with CBD infusion.

What exactly is CBD? CannaBiDiol is a compound found in the resin of the cannibis flower, and has a rich medicinal history going back for a long time. As in, thousands of years. Unlike the THC compound, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning it won’t get you “high”, so it’s not going to alter your state of mind upon consumption.

However, CBD research indicates that the changes it causes the body might be beneficial. I’ll link a couple of places where you can learn more about it. So far it’s research has shown that it might relieve pain, depression, anxiety, causes of acne, and alleviate certain cancer symptoms.

CBD Benefits

CBD and the FDA

As far as consumption, there’s a variety of ways in which food is being used to entice us into trying CBD products in the latest health food vitamin, chocolate confection, infused coffee, and treats for our pets. Even fast food chains are jumping on the CBD bandwagon. Carl’s Jr., a West coast fast food chain known as Hardy’s on the East coast, recently announced that it is debuting the Rocky Mountain High Cheeseburger infused with CBD on 4/20. You need to be 18yrs or older to purchase it, of course… But the variety of ways that CBD will be making its way into everything you can think of will be intriguing to see and taste.

It’s an interesting and controversial subject considering that no one can say for sure how beneficial CBD really is for us, but as a chef I can totally see the appeal to incorporating it into recipes as these days it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep consumers engaged and interested in following food trends that aren’t embracing a plant based, sustainable, zero waste mentality. CBD would fall into plant based, I suppose.

I’m looking forward to seeing how creative and inventive chefs and other companies are going to be with it all and what changes people will feel if consuming CBD on the regular. Time will tell! Until next time dear reader… Happy Cooking and Happy Eating!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’–โœจ

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Photos courtesy of Carl’s Jr., and Google images ๐Ÿ˜‰

Spicy Sambal Lobster Salad

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

With Spring upon us and Summer approaching at a rapid pace, ( it’s already almost mid April! ), the abundance of the rainbow colors of fruits and vegetables in our local markets are quite inspiring. Everything just looks so… Fresh!

Even the fish and seafood are impeccably tempting and inviting. With the weather warming up I always find that my tastes change and my desire to cook and create different dishes kicks into high gear. And I start to crave those flavors that remind me of summer and the sea.

On a recent food shopping excursion I was captivated by some incredible looking lobster tails at a great price that I couldn’t resist. Along with some gorgeous brioche bread and herbs, my chefs brain immediately started going through the inventory of what I had both in the pantry and the fridge, and I knew exactly what I was going to make.

So here is the recipe for Spicy Sambal Lobster Salad, which can be put on your favorite bread or toast, lettuce, crackers, or raw veggie chips like jicama, fresh beets, or radishes. Even rice paper for a healthier version of a lobster roll without the bread! That’s what I love most about recipes… You can always change things to make them your own! Enjoy!

Spicy Sambal Lobster Salad

1 pound cooked lobster meat, diced into medium sized pieces

1 piece of green onion, thinly sliced

1/4 c. chives, chopped

1/2. cup of mayonnaise

2 Tbls. Sambal Oelek ( you can find this in the Asian section at the supermarket ) use more or less to taste. I like mine a bit spicy.

2 tsp. Sriracha or a dash of cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and adjust the amount of Sambal, mayo, salt and pepper to suit your palate and set in the fridge for about 10 to 15 minutes for the flavors to marry together. Serve on top of your favorite toasted bread or lettuces. ๐Ÿฆž

I made this for lunch and I used brioche and toasted the bread in a skillet with some butter to brown the sides. I like the sweet butteriness of brioche with lobster. The added heat gave it a nice kick that I really enjoyed and I hope you will too! I was feeling extra fancy and made Garlic Parmesan Fries to go with it, cause… why not? ๐Ÿ˜› Until next time, dear reader… Happy Cooking!!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•

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Beyond Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Ok. I’m not in any way vegan or vegetarian, but as a Chef who loves to eat, um… almost anything, I’ve really grown to love the Beyond Meat line of plant-based products and am super excited to try their latest offering Beyond Beef, which tastes, looks like, and can be used just as you would ground beef.

I’m already a fan of the Beyond Burgers, meat crumbles and chicken strips, and recently my local grocery store started carrying the Beyond Sausage Hot Italian flavor and I grabbed it like a mad woman! I was super excited to try it and immediately my creative brain went to work on the countless variations of yumminess I could prepare with it. Hence the title of this here blog post ๐Ÿ˜‰

When I go grocery shopping, I usually have a list of the things I actually need, but mostly I just wander the produce and meat aisles and see what jumps out and inspires me. I spotted some gorgeous looking Crimini ( baby bella ) mushrooms and knew exactly what I was going to make. I grabbed some spinach and a chunk of deliciously nutty Pecorino Romano cheese and off I went.

So here it is, dear reader… My recipe for these absolutely tasty morsels that I hope you make and enjoy as much as I did. If I didn’t have to share them, I could have easily devoured them all by myself! Meow!

Beyond Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

12 large mushroom caps ( reserve the stems)

7oz. (2 links) Beyond Sausage

1/2 cup small diced onion

1 large clove chopped garlic

3 cups fresh chopped spinach

1/3 cup breadcrumbs

2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup small diced fresh Pecorino Romano cheese

2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Wash the mushrooms thoroughly. Remove the stems and chop them up as small as you can. In a sautรฉ pan or skillet, add the olive oil or butter on medium heat. Crumble the 2 sausage links and add it to the pan along with the chopped mushroom stems, onions, and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring and breaking up the sausage, cooking until the onions become translucent.

Add the chopped spinach and sautรฉ until it becomes wilted. Lightly season with salt and pepper, being careful not to over-season the mixture since you’ll be adding the cheeses at the end, which are salty on their own. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Add the breadcrumbs and Parmesan, mix until well-incorporated and remove from the heat. Add in the diced Pecorino cheese and mix well.

Taste and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Take a heaping Tablespoon of the stuffing and start spooning the mix in your mushroom caps, being very generous with the filling, You might have a bit of the mixture leftover depending on how many mushrooms you make.

Place the mushrooms on a sheet pan or baking dish and bake them uncovered for about 15 to 20 minutes depending how large or small the mushrooms are. Once they’re cooked, remove from the oven and take about 1/4 cup water and deglaze the sheet pan before plating the mushrooms. This will create a nice pan sauce for the shrooms. Plate them up, add a touch of salt to the pan sauce, pour over the mushrooms and serve!

I have to tell you that these were really, REALLY delicious! This by far is my favorite Beyond Meat product to date. The flavor and texture was just like pork sausage, and I’m glad I chose the ingredients the way I did, especially the Pecorino. ( Pats self on the back ๐Ÿ˜‰)

I do hope you give these a try cause they are sooooo worth it and easy to prepare. Until next time… Happy eating and happy cooking!

Cheers, hugs & meows!

Xo, Nikki ๐Ÿ’•

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Cuchifritos!!!

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Growing up in The Bronx the food landscape represented the people who lived there. From Chinese food to Pizzerias, Jamaican to Chino Latino, Irish Pubs and good old fashioned Diners that served the best breakfasts and burger platters to satisfy your cravings day or night, there was always a place to go to get your comfort food fix, or a taste from your homeland or cultural background. On a side note, did you know that The Bronx is the only one of the 5 boroughs that’s part of the U.S. mainland? ๐Ÿ˜›

The diversity of the Latin food culture in The Bronx is something that I’ve grown to miss very much since I moved to California many moons ago. There are a few stand out Colombian and Cuban restaurants here in Tinseltown, but there is, at least to me, a lack of the Puerto Rican cuisine that I grew up eating. In particularly, Cuchifrito restaurants. What the flip is or are cuchifritos you ask? Allow me to explain…

Cuchifritos are various types of fried foods that originated in Spain and Puerto Rico, although most Latin and Afro Caribbean cultures have their own variations of them. Cuchi is short for pig or concino, and frito means fried. It was referring to the combination of fried pork prepared with a wide range of ingredients typically prepared in small bite portions and nowadays refers to the types of restaurants that serve this kind of food and frituras.

You’ll also find offerings of Pernil ( roast pork shoulder ) Arroz Con Guandules ( yellow rice with pigeon peas ) P.R. style Fried Chicken, Soups and Stews, Mofongo ( fried plantains mashed up with garlic and chicharron ) and Pasteles ( think tamales made with yuca, potatoes, and plantains instead of corn masa ) just to give you an idea.

It’s basically a full blown starch fest of the most delicious and epic proportions! Some of my favorite cuchifritos are Rellenos de Papa, mashed potato balls filled with seasoned ground beef or cheese and deep fried. So good! Then there’s the various types of Epanadillas that have all kinds of meat and vegetable fillings fried to crispy perfection. And how can I forget Alcapurrias, which is a fritter made with plantain and yautia filled with ground beef and yes… Fried! Absolutely delicious!

Some would say that most of these are an acquired taste, which I suppose is true. But I’m telling you… Once you taste any one of these you’ll be craving them just like I am today. These flavors remind me of my childhood in The Bronx, and both of my Abuela’s cooking. Now that I cook for a living, I have a better understanding and appreciation for it, and I find myself wanting to prepare the food I grew up with for my own family to keep those flavor memories alive and relevant. If you google Cuchifritos, you’ll see what I’m talking about as well as a ton of recipes that I know I’m going to try my hand at and I hope you will, too! Happy Cooking and happy eating!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’–โœจ

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All photos courtesy of google images ๐Ÿ˜‰

Tumeric!

Hello there, Mystic Meows!

Occasionally I get the opportunity to submit a food related quote or two to a major online publication. I posted about this last year on social media when it was first published and figured I’d write about it here on Mystic Meals, since it’s such a great piece, especially looking back on it now and seeing how on point most of the predictions were.

One of Total Beauty s lifestyle contributors, Courtney Leiva, was working on a piece about 13 Food Trends and asked a series of food experts what they thought those foods would be. I chose Tumeric because I was seeing so many of my friends and colleagues not only cooking with it, but using it for its medicinal properties, inner wellness, and incorporating it into their beauty routines in unique and interesting ways. My part of the write up is the 13th ( my lucky number ๐Ÿ˜Š) See below!

I hope you take a look at the article and see if you can spot some of the mentions from it that are trending now. Most of them are and more than a few of them are sure to make your mouth water to try them for yourself, if you haven’t already. I wonder what food beauty trends we’ll be talking about a year from now? Did someone say CBD in just about everything? So many possibilities! Happy cooking and happy reading!

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Cheers, hugs, & meows!

Xo Nikki Meow ๐Ÿ’–โœจ

Sack Lunch PDX – Chef Chris DiMinno Rides for No Kid Hungry

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

This time around I write about a very dear friend of mine who is doing something extraordinary and magical for a most worthy cause. Feeding children in our schools.

Sack Lunch PDX is a non-profit organization consisting of a team of 19 hospitality industry professionals based in Portland, who work together to raise money for Chefs Cycle an annual event that goes to benefit No Kid Hungry.

It’s extremely rare that one can combine all of their passions into something and help make an impact with it, and that’s exactly what Chef Chris DiMinno is helping to do. Having grown up on the East Coast in a large Italian family, food was the focal point of all of his family gatherings instilling the importance of nurturing and nourishment.

Chris honed his skills and learned the art of practicing sustainable farm-to- table cooking under some of New Yorks most renowned Chefs, such as Tom Valenti, Bill Telepan , and Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, just to name a few.

He moved to Portland, Oregon where he was able to embrace his love and passion for cycling since the landscape provides the perfect environment for riding, enjoying the outdoor lifestyle, and encouraging the culture. It wasn’t long before he found others in the culinary scene that had the same love and enthusiasm for riding that he has.

Eventually, Chris was offered the opportunity to combine his two passions of cycling and cooking while he was the Executive Chef and Event Producer for King Cycling Groupโ€™s Gourmet Century Events, where he first heard of and became involved with Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry a few years back.

NKH is striving to end childhood hunger, currently focusing on working with Public Schools to improve, and in some cases reinstate meal programs all over the country, including Oregon. When I asked Chris what it was about this cause that means so much to him, his answer was heartfelt and to the point.

“When I was growing up, my parents worked their asses off to make sure I never went without a meal. 1 in 6 children in this country go to school every day hungry… and the fact that this is an issue is an abomination. It’s a solvable problem. As a chef who’s job it is to feed people, it is my obligation to help, especially in such a fun way.”

He says that the SLPDX team is holding several events in the Portland area in the next two months, with a 300 mile ride taking place May 14-16 in Santa Rosa, CA with a goal of 275+ chefs riding to raise $2.4M. Pushing their physical limits while raising funds and awareness in support of such an organization is no easy feat. I was curious as to how he prepares himself for such a thing, so I asked Chris what his daily eating regimen consists of.

“Every day I ride I usually start with a protein shake, then eat something small with a lot of fat…. avocado toast with bacon usually works well. During the ride it varies, but every time I stop I eat and drink a whole bottle of water. I’ve been in the situation too many times where I don’t realize I’m undernourished until it’s too late. Dinner will be huge, and usually a lot of vegetables and proteins. I do everything in my power to avoid a ton of bread and alcohol, but I love beer too much to let it go entirely.”

In addition, he says that their Facebook page is setup with a donate button which will bring you directly to the Chefs Cycle website where anyone can contribute. Even $1 can make a huge impact. Click here to donate!

Currently he’s the Executive Chef at Trifecta, a restaurant and bakery that offers seasonal and sustainable cuisine and a bar that serves up old school cocktails like Negroni’s and Sidecar’s with a modern twist, and also has some impressive wines. He’s already working on the Spring Menu, and if you’re in the Portland area, I highly recommend you check the place out.

I have the utmost respect for people who put themselves out there in such a selfless way to help others in need, especially children. This is truly something that we can all relate to and help with. I hope you, dear reader, will consider giving a donation to help the Chefs reach their goal to help stop childhood hunger in our schools!

Be sure to follow Chef Chris on Instagram for more info and updates about Chefs Cycle 2019!

And Chris… As your friend, I am so very proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished so far. Cheers, hugs, and meows to you and everyone involved with Sack Lunch PDX!๐Ÿ˜ป

Follow me on Instagram at Mystic Meals!

Xo,

Nikki Meow ๐Ÿ’–

LA Weekly

Hello there, Mystic Foodies!

Recently I was given the opportunity to submit an article to LA Weekly about some fellow Chef friends of mine who have recently started their own Mexican inspired weekend pop up, Tortilla Con Amor based out of North Hollywood, Ca. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have something I’ve written published in a mainstream publication, and I hope you meows give it read and enjoy the story.

Even if you don’t live anywhere near California, be sure to follow Tortilla Con Amor on social media and watch their food journey unfold, just as my own is blossoming in unexpected ways. I will continue to write for myself, and whoever wants to read about the people, meals, ingredients, and experiences that have and continue to make their impression in my life. You can also keep up with me at Mystic Meals on Instagram!

Happy reading, and happy cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki

https://www.laweekly.com/restaurants/on-the-street-feeling-the-love-at-tortilla-con-amor-10138020