Southwest Salad

Over the weekend it was surprisingly warm in Graz! I’m not used to cooking meals for warm days anymore but thankfully Jen over at Carlsbad Cravings had the perfect solution! A Southwest Salad.

Since this is not my recipe I did not take photos of everything, but it was so good I had to share! IMG_0012

Here is my version, which is only slightly different from Jen’s (mainly due to which ingredients I had on hand).

In my version I did not include cheese, bell peppers, or sunflower seeds & in the sauce I did not include Salsa. However one thing I did add was chicken pieces to add a bit of protein.

Original Recipe here.

I highly recommend this salad! Especially for a warm day, and it’s so customizable you can really make it how you’d like.

Noodle box

So in Graz right now a popular fast food “meal” is a noodle box. You can buy it from a stand on the street or even in a restaurant, and the types vary. However I wanted to try to make it at home and possibly a little healthier.

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The ingredients you’ll need:

noodles (in the photo Soba noodles are shown but I have also used wholewheat pasta and thought it turned out even better)

Vegetables (any type of vegetables you like. I have used peas and carrots in the past, broccoli and cauliflower, pretty much any type of frozen vegetables I have in my freezer).

optional: Chicken for protein (I have made this without chicken and it turned out well but having some sort of protein will help keep you full after! Some of the restaurants also use shrimp)

For the sauce:

Soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger

Toping: Sriracha Sauce

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First cook the noodles and vegetables (I put them in the same pot and just drain it all when finished) and cook the chicken (anyway you like).

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Make the sauce by mixing all ingredients ( I do not measure but do it by taste- this will depend on your own preference).

When everything is cooked drain the noodles and vegetables and mix the mixture, meat, and sauce together (I mix it in the post so that I don’t dirty unnecessary dishes).

Hope you enjoy this healthier take on a fast food meal.

Styrian Schnitzel

Last weekend Michael and I (and a few other friends from Arizona) visited Daria and Ernan in Vienna. Since two other friends from America were with us we decided it was about time we cooked and posted an Austrian meal!

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Traditional Wiener Schnitzel comes from Vienna and is made with Veal. This dish differs from that because we used Pork (cheaper and ethically I prefer it over Veal), and in combination with the breading we added ground pumpkin seeds (This is the part that makes it Styrian).  Also the picture shown above shows two types of Schnitzel. The one towards the right is breaded and fried and the one in the center is gluten free (for this one we only used ground pumpkin seeds and baked it instead of frying-therefore using no oil).

Ok so first we gather all of our ingredients, and despite this being an Austrian meal all of these ingredients are very easy to find in America.

You will need:

1 piece of meat per person- we used pork but you can use Turkey, Veal, and even chicken (although pounding chicken can be more difficult).

Breading (in the picture as Semmelbrösel)

Flour

Eggs (we had 6 people and ended up using 3 eggs)

oil

Optional: ground pumpkin seeds

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The first step is to pound the meat. If possible it is really best to have two people working together. I pounded the meat and Daria made the flour, egg, and breading station (for the breading we just mixed pumpkin seeds and normal breading). If you are working alone it is also relatively easy but I think it is best to finish the pounding before moving on to any further steps (otherwise it gets way too overwhelming).

The most important part here is that you pound the meat AS THIN AS POSSIBLE! This is the big difference between excellent schnitzel and mediocre schnitzel.

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As you can see above when pounding we used plastic wrap around the meat. This just makes clean up easier and we believe it helps prevent holes in the meat.

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Here you can see the difference between the two schnitzel. We finished breading everything before beginning to cook it (otherwise it’s overwhelming and some get cold before others are finished).

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The next and final step is to fry (or bake) the schnitzel. Frying schnitzel is the traditional way of cooking it, but baking is of course healthier.

Baking 250 c (or 480F) : We found that you really need to watch it when you put it in the oven (especially if you only use pumpkin seeds). There is a chance that the breading will burn. We ended up flipping it about half way through to make sure everything was cooked but not burnt.

We served the Schnitzel with french fries (although traditionally served with roasted potatoes), cranberry sauce (to dip the schnitzel in- but some people prefer Ketchup), a beat salad, lemon on top, and a beer.

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This meal is very tasty! and despite all the steps relatively easy. We hope you enjoy it!

Bonus photo:

While we were in Vienna the city was hosting the Eurovision (Since they won the contest last year with Conchita Wurst). Because the Eurovision promotes equality they changed their street signals to various types of couples.

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Chicken with Rice Straight from the Oven (A Bosnian Specialty)

It’s finally time to share an occasional Bosnian recipe that I like to make. Since Ernan and I were both born in Bosnia, it’s nice to go back to our roots and cook up something that our parents, and their parents before them, basically grew up on. Even though we were both raised in the States, we were lucky enough that our moms still held on to those roots and we got to experience delicious Bosnian cuisine. This whole chicken and rice baked in the oven (in Bosnian: Piletina s rižom iz pećnice) is one of our favorites and one of the easiest to make! There are several different ways you can get creative with this one (like adding potatoes, bell peppers, and/or tomatoes) but I kept it simple this time.

Ingredients:

  • A whole chicken (or you can use chicken drumsticks, chicken thighs, or chicken wings – just make sure the bone is in it)
  • 2 cups of brown rice
  • 4 cups water
  • carrots, cut into small squares
  • onions, chopped
  • 2 Knorr jelly chicken bouillons (I swear I can’t live without these lol)
  • All purpose seasoning (I used Vegeta – this is an absolute must-have spice in a Balkan kitchen)
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Boil the whole chicken in water for about 20 minutes. (Tip: always dump out the first round of water that you bring to a boil because that’s where the yucky parts from the chicken come out. The second round of water that you bring to a boil is perfect to use as a base for chicken soup)
  • Take the chicken out from the boiling water and simply lay it on a large pan, season to taste
  • Spread evenly the 2 cups of brown rice, carrots, and onions

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Add 4 cups of water
Add 4 cups of water
  • Add 4 cups of water (if you’re using chicken stock just substitute it with water here)
  • Simply bake at about 210C (410F) for 25 minutes
  • Take the pan out of the oven and add the 2 Knorr jelly chicken bouillons (ignore this step if using chicken stock instead)
  • Continue baking at the same temperature until the rice has absorbed all the liquid (close to the end I like to rank up the temperature on Broil until the chicken looks nice and crispy)
  • We like to eat this with sour cream on the side (weird, I know, but it’s really tasty!)

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  • I like to garnish with fresh parsley

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Enjoy!

Quick and Cheesy Chicken Quesadillas

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We finally found some shredded CHEDDAR CHEESE at the Austrian grocery store here! It’s often the small things you miss when you’re so far away from home. We thought what better way to use it than to make deliciously cheesy chicken quesadillas! This is just a super simple recipe and takes under 30 minutes to make.

Ingredients:

  1. Chicken, cut into cubes and seasoned with taco seasoning
  2. Tortillas
  3. Bell peppers, sliced
  4. Onions, sliced
  5. Jalapeños
  6. Cheddar cheese, shredded
  7. Olive oil (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)

For the guacamole on the side:

  1. 1 avocado
  2. couple cherry tomatoes
  3. juice from half of a lime
  4. salt/pepper

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Directions:

  • First, sauté the onions in some olive oil for a few minutes
  • Add the seasoned chicken
  • (I made my own taco seasoning and it’s delicious, for the recipe click here
Homemade Taco Seasoning
Homemade Taco Seasoning
  • Once the chicken is almost cooked all the way, add the bell peppers
  • Cook until bell peppers are tender and chicken is cooked through
  • Set aside
  • In a separate pan, lay down one tortilla and sprinkle the shredded cheese on top, add the cooked chicken mixture, and some jalapeños (I tried to keep it as “healthy” as possible so I avoided using oil in this step)
  • Cover with the second tortilla, let cook until cheese is about melted, then flip over to the other side

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I always like to serve Quesadillas with a side of sour cream and guacamole. I didn’t go all out with the guacamole recipe this time. Instead I just used my chopper and put 1 avocado, a couple cherry tomatoes, juice of half of a lime, salt/pepper, and done!

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Farro with Asparagus, Spinach, and Tomatoes

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After a long and busy day I had to think of something quick and easy to make, so this works perfect! This is one of those recipes that works with any vegetables you have on hand and no measurements necessary. Since I had a lot of spinach in the freezer, this was a done deal! (tip: I like to buy fresh spinach, chop it up, and freeze it!). The best thing about this recipe is that it is also super healthy! Farro, also called Pharaoh’s wheat, is an ancient grain that originated in Egypt thousands of years ago and is today most commonly used in Italy. Like many other grains, Farro is filled with loads of protein, fiber, B Complex vitamins, and pretty low in gluten. Read more about Farro and how to cook it here. Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of Farro (rinsed in cold water, drained)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed/minced
  • Spinach, chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Asparagus, cut into 1-2 inch pieces, boiled (I used white asparagus)
  • 2 knorr chicken jelly bouillon
  • Butter (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (optional)
  • Feta cheese (optional)
  • Fresh Parsley and/or chives (optional)

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Directions:

  • First put the asparagus pieces into salted, boiling water and let cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Cook Farro according to package directions (for 1.5 cups farro, add 3 cups water, bring to boil, add 2 chicken jelly bouillons, let it simmer until all the water is absorbed (approx.  30 minutes)*can also substitute water with chicken stock)

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  • While the asparagus and Farro are cooking, in a separate pan melt some butter and add the spinach, sauté for 3 minutes

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  • Then add the cherry tomatoes, let cook for another 3 minutes
  • Add the minced garlic and stir

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  • By then the asparagus should be done, so add it as well

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  • Once the Farro is cooked, add some butter (I added 1 tablespoon) and the sun-dried tomatoes, fluff with fork.

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  • Add the Farro to the veggie mixture and stir to combine
  • Serve with feta cheese, parsley, and chives on top
I'm super excited that my parsley and chives are finally growing!
I’m super excited that my parsley and chives are finally growing!IMG_1579

IMG_1666 Tip 1: Ernan and I sprinkled some chia seeds on top as well! Click here to read all about the cool health benefits of adding chia seeds to your diet! Tip 2: You can also substitute Farro with brown rice, Quinoa, Millet, whole Buckwheat, or any other yummy grain! Enjoy!

Kung Pao Chicken

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Kung Pao Chicken, a popular Chinese dish, is one of my all time favorites! I recently went grocery shopping at Nakwon, one of the few Asian stores here in Vienna, and bought some more yummy Asian sauces and other goodies. This recipe was slightly tweaked but inspired by a recipe post that I found on pbs.org by Alice Currah.

from left to right: rice vinegar, soy sauce (Kikkoman is the best), sesame oil, hoisin sauce, dark soy sauce (pearl river bridge is the best brand for this one, and some good ol' cornstarch)
from left to right: rice vinegar, soy sauce (Kikkoman is the best), sesame oil, hoisin sauce, dark soy sauce (pearl river bridge is the best brand for dark soy sauce), and some good ol’ cornstarch)

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have most of these sauces! I would say the dark soy sauce, sesame oil, and corn starch are actually the “main” ingredients and all you’ll need to make this work! I just like to mix in some other sauces for more flavor but it will still taste absolutely delicious without all those little extras. So, I made ALOT of Kung Pao Chicken this time because we wanted to have leftovers, but of course you can cut the ingredients in half and it will be perfect for 2 people (and maybe you’ll still have some leftovers). Here is what I used:

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts cut into slightly “bigger” cubes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 dried and chopped hot pepper
  • 2 teaspoons crushed sichuan peppercorns
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • Sauce **See recipe below.
  • Marinade *See recipe below.
  • Handful of leeks (can also use scallions)
  • 2 handfuls of dry-roasted peanuts (can use more or less as you like)

*For the marinade:

  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon regular soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan pepper corns

Whisk the ingredients together until the corn starch is dissolved.

**For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon chicken stock/broth
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce (add more or less depending on how salty your broth or soy sauce is)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce (optional)

Whisk the ingredients until the corn starch is dissolved.

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sichuan peppercorns and dried chili pepper (so beautiful)
Sichuan peppercorns and dried chili pepper (so beautiful)

Directions:

  • Coat the cubed chicken with the *marinade in a bowl and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

    I may have accidentally drenched it in marinade, this is not necessary (I reduced the measurements in the actual recipe a little bit)
    I may have accidentally drenched it in marinade, this is not necessary (I reduced the measurements in the actual recipe on the post)
  • While the chicken is marinating you can get started on the **sauce for later!
  • When the chicken is done marinating, heat the vegetable oil in a large pan (if you have a wok, that’s even better!) on high heat. Once the pan is hot, turn the stove top off and then add the chopped chili pepper and crushed peppercorns quickly stirring for 1 minute (be careful not to burn it)
  • Add the chicken to the pan and turn the heat back on to medium high.
  • Once the chicken is cooked add the ginger and garlic. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Slowly add the **sauce a tablespoon at a time, making sure the chicken is absorbing all the flavors between additions.
  • Once the chicken is done cooking, add the leeks (or green parts of the scallions) and peanuts. Cook for a minute or two longer.
  • Garnish with some leftover peanuts and leeks
  • Serve with a side of brown rice

Enjoy!

One pot pasta

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Another very simple recipe.  I typically make this when I am about to go out of town and have already cleaned out my fridge. It’s simple and since I use frozen vegetables it can be made even when my kitchen is fairly empty.

The only ingredients you need are frozen vegetables (of course you can use fresh if you’d like), pasta (here I used regular pasta but it would be even better if you could use whole wheat), olive oil (or any type of oil you prefer- but I have only tried it with olive oil), and whatever spices you prefer (I used pepper and dried basil).

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Simply bring water to a boil like you normally would with pasta. Then put the vegetables and pasta in at the same time.

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The final step is to drain the pasta and vegetables and then add your oil and seasoning.

*cooking the pasta and vegetables in one pot is really convenient because you use less dishes and it’s a lot less work.

I find this recipe incredibly easy and delicious, but in the future I would like to find a way to add some sort of protein to the meal.

Vegetable Lentil Soup

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This is a very quick and healthy meal.

Ingredients:

Any vegetables you have. I typically buy fresh vegetables and freeze them, or buy frozen vegetables.

Based on what I had in my kitchen my soup included: frozen carrots, spinach, and onions. Then Fresh Tomatoes, one cup of lentils, soup mix, and spices.

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This recipe really can’t be any easier. Simply put all the ingredients in a pot – season to taste, and let it cook until all vegetables are cooked.

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I find this recipe to be really great at night because it is filling enough to keep you full but since it’s a soup it’s light enough that you don’t feel like your in a food coma right before bed.

Tip: Michael enjoys dipping toast into it.

Bulgogi Beef

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This Bulgogi beef plate brought back so many memories of working the Saturday shift at my old job in Mesa, Arizona. It became a Saturday tradition to order lunch from Aloha Kitchen! I tried to replicate this dish over the weekend and I must say it was delicious and tasted just like how I remember it!!! Just the smell of the beef while it was grilling made me think of those old days, so I’d say that’s a sign of success. This recipe was made possible by the help of a blog posted by Maangchi. Bulgogi (literally translated as fire meat) is a Korean dish consisting of grilled marinated thinly sliced prime cuts of beef.

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Ingredients:

  1. 2 pounds of beef tenderloin, thinly sliced (you can find frozen pre-cut Bulgogi beef in any asian market!)
  2. For the marinade:
    1. 1 cup of crushed pear
    2. 1/2 cup onion purée
    3. 4 cloves of minced garlic
    4. 2 teaspoons minced ginger
    5. 2 handful chopped leeks
    6. 5 tablespoons soy sauce
    7. 4 tablespoons brown sugar
    8. 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
    9. 2 + 1/2 tablespoons of sesame oil
    10. several thin slices of carrots
Chopped garlic and ginger
Chopped garlic and ginger
Leeks and several carrot slices
Leeks and several carrot slices

Directions:

  • Mix all the marinade ingredients in a large Ziploc bag.
  • Add the sliced beef and mix well.
  • Let the beef marinate in the refrigerator over night for best results.

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  • The next day, right before you are ready to grill the beef, drain the marinade in a separate bowl and discard the remaining leek and carrot pieces.

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  • In the marinade sauce, mix in about 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch.

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You can grill, pan-fry, or BBQ right after marinating.

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Since my little grill does not make the beef crispy (which is how I like it), I transferred the beef into the oven and set it to broil (turning once in a while) until it’s nice and crispy (of course if you are using a charcoal grill this step will not be necessary). About five minutes before the beef is done broiling in the oven, coat it with the remaining marinade sauce.

Serve with a side of macaroni salad and lettuce (I love to wrap the bulgogi beef in lettuce, YUMM) At Aloha Kitchen the Bulgogi beef plate was always served with hawaiian macaroni salad! Find the recipe below!

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Hawaiian macaroni salad

Ingredients:

  1. 1 lb. Elbow Macaroni
  2. ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  3. 1 cup mayonnaise
  4. 1 cup greek yogurt
  5. 2 cups whole milk, divided
  6. 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  7. 1 teaspoon salt
  8. 2 teaspoon2 pepper
  9. 2 carrots, shredded
  10. 2 handfuls of chopped leeks

Directions:

  • Make the elbow macaroni according to package directions.
  • Drain, return to cooking pot and toss with vinegar. Let cool about ten minutes.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the mayonnaise, 1½ cups of the whole milk, the brown sugar, salt, and pepper.
  • Once the pasta has cooled to room temperature, toss with the mixed sauce and let cool to room temperature.
  • Once cool, fold in the leeks, and carrots.
  • Whisk together 1 cup of greek yogurt and ½ cup whole milk and pour over macaroni salad. Toss well to coat. Taste and add more salt or pepper as needed.
  • Best if refrigerated until cold.

*Can add more greek yogurt/mayonnaise as needed

ENJOY!