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 sauté 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 sauté 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 💕✨

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All photos courtesy of google images and all recipes by meow! 😉✨

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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! 🍒🍒🍒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! 😝✨

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, puréed 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. 😛 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. 😉✨

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 sauté 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 💕✨🌽🍤🌶

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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 😉✨ 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? 😉✨

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 💕✨

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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 😛) 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, sautéing, 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… 😉

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… 😂 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 💕✨

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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! 😛 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 💕✨

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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 💕✨

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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… 🤔 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 sautéed the bacon until it was nice and barely crisp. Removed it, then sautéed the mushrooms in the bacon fat. Cause I’m crazy like that and like to extract the most out of everything I cook with. 😜

I then added a pat of butter to the mushrooms, cause the bacon fat wasn’t enough… 😛 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 💕✨

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All photos taken by moi! 😉

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. 😛

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 sauté 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. Sauté 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… 😛 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 jalapeño 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 😉 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. 🤪

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 😉✨

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 sauté 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 💕

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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 💖✨

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Photos courtesy of Carl’s Jr., and Google images 😉