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! 😝 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 sauté 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! 😛

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 sauté 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! 🔥🔥🔥

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 💕✨

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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! 🥰✨I also made little sandwiches with butter, honey, turkey, and cheese and it was EPIC! Sorry, no pics! They were gone in a flash! 😋🙌🏼

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. 😉 Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!

xo Nikki 💕✨

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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. 🤪I’m a chef after all, and most chefs are slightly bonkers in the head to draw it mild! 😜 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 😉 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 😻

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… 😛

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 💕✨

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Images courtesy of Google 😉

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! 😉✨

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 💕✨

Follow Mystic Meals on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

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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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. 🦞

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? 😛 Until next time, dear reader… Happy Cooking!!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki 💕

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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? 😛

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 💖✨

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All photos courtesy of google images 😉

‘‘Tis the season!

Season’s Greetings, dear meows!

Wow! I can’t believe it’s December already! Where did the year go? One more month and then on to 2018! I don’t know about you meows, but 2017 was quite an interesting year for me. Lots of ups and downs, unexpected surprises, a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and a whole bunch of memories! Speaking of memories…

The holiday season is where eating, cooking, and food in general take center stage, at least for me 😉 This year for Thanksgiving, the roasted Turkey I made turned out exceptionally good. Literally picture perfect. See? 😉 ( pat’s self on the back… )

My secret? I dry brined the bird. It’s a great way to impart maximum flavor and ensuring crispy browned skin, while keeping the meat tender and juicy! Here’s a simple and easy dry brine rub that works wonders on Chicken & Turkey! For me, roasting low and slow, then turning up the oven temp towards the end really helps with the end results…

Dry Salt Brine Rub :

3 tablespoons kosher salt 

1 1/2 teaspoons dried herbs, such as thyme, sage, and rosemary, or blend

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (14- to 16-pound) thawed whole turkey (not kosher or pre-salted)

The reason for not using a kosher bird is that they typically have a salted solution added to them. Try to find a bird that has no pre seasoning or solutions injected into it. Use half the amount of rub if you’re using a whole chicken instead of a turkey. Pat your bird dry before adding the rub. They key here is get the dry rub under the skin as best as you can, and using the rest all over the outside of the bird. Then let it rest in the fridge, uncovered for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days max. The process of osmosis will draw out the natural juices from the bird, and then miraculously the meat then reabsorbs them, basically seasoning itself from the outside in. So worth it!

This year for Christmas, I’m not sure what I’m going to make. I’m leaning towards cooking some of the ethnic dishes Colombians and Puerto Rican’s typically prepare around this time of year. Pernil, which is roasted pork shoulder, is always a crowd pleaser and perfect for feeding a ton of meows.

Accompanied by yellow saffron rice, beans, salad and a creamy flan for dessert? Yes, meow! I haven’t made a flan in a while and I hope I haven’t lost my touch!

What are some of your favorite Christmas foods to make? I’ll be back here soon with some more recipes that’ll be great for holidays and beyond! But before I go… Lest we forget to make a yummy cocktail for toasting to the season! I found this one on Pinterest and I’m definitely gonna make a batch of these!

Pomegranate Mules

2oz. Vodka

1oz. pomegranate juice

1 Tbls. pomegranate seeds

1 Tbls. lime juice

1 tsp. honey

1/2 cup ice

Ginger beer or ginger ale

sprig of rosemary

In a cocktail glass, stir together the vodka, pomegranate juice, seeds, lime juice, honey and ice. Top off with the ginger beer and add a sprig of rosemary to garnish.

Thank you meows for being here and I hope to hear from you! Happy Holidays and Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs & meows! Nikki 💖✨😻

Photo credits by Jay Luna, Google images, Micha Morton and Pinterest 😉