Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Grandma's kitchen

I don't think I was ever a picky eater.   As far back  as I can remember I was always pretty willing to try anything.  I think it has something to do with living in a 2 family house with my Czechoslovakian grandmother living upstairs.  It really was like a one family and I spent nearly as much time in her kitchen as ours.  It was there, that I was exposed to my first ethnic dishes. Grandma would bring out huge pans of Studenina (jellied pigs feet) and my parents would literally go crazy for it.   Cirak (Slovak egg cheese) would hang for days in cheesecloth from her kitchen cabinets.  We'd save jars for months so she could fill them with Chow-Chow (pickled vegetables).  Whenever I was sick, she would head upstairs and make bowls of caraway seed soup with home-made noodles; so simple, but amazingly good!
This is my Grandma, she always had her hand on her hip!
Thinking about it, I suppose I owe my 'food is an adventure' attitude to my grandma. I've tried to pass this attitude on to my own kids.  I didn't typically bribe or reward them with money when they were growing up; but when it came to food, I wanted them to be open to everything. (So I suppose I did resort to a bit of bribery when necessary.)  When introducing something new and unusual,  I used to offer them a dollar to try it, and two to like it.  They usually did like it and I like to think it wasnt' because of the cash reward.
(Hannah has always been the adventurous one, and would always try anything before the offer of cash was on the table.)

I am always amazed when people are reluctant to try new foods.  I often think starting with a familiar ingredient will make the leap a bit easier.  Following are 2 recipes that start with a very familiar ingredient: Pasta Sauce.  You can use your own sauce or your favorite jarred brand and transform it with some simple spices and seasonings to something, just a bit more adventurous.

Mexican Chicken Parmesan Enchilada's

2 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into about 1-inch pieces
coarse salt
1 medium onion, sliced,
1 medium red or green pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon ground cumin,
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
2 cups pasta sauce
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3/4 cup crumbled queso fresco, divided
6 small flour tortillas

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and season with salt.  Cook chicken about 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly browned; remove from skillet. 

Add remaining tablespoon oil.  Add onion and pepper, season with a little more salt.  Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes until tender.  Stir in garlic, cumin and chipotle chili powder and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in pasta sauce and broth and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 5 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Stir in chopped cilantro

Remove 1 cup sauce.  Spread 1/2 cup sauce on bottom of 12 x 8 inch baking dish.  Stir 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco into remaining chicken mixture.

 Divide mixture among 6 tortillas.  Roll up and arrange in baking dish, seam side down.  Pour reserved 1/2 cup sauce down the center of the tortillas and top with remaining queso fresco.

Cover and bake 30 minutes until hot an bubbly and cheese is melted.

Indian Cauliflower Curry

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups pasta or tomato sauce
1 cup vegetable broth
4 cups fresh cauliflower florets
2 medium red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 15-ounce can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil over medium heat in a 12-inch nonstick skillet.  Add onion and salt and cook until onion is tender and beginning to brown.  Add spices and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly.  Stir in sauce and broth and bring to a boil.  Add cauliflower and potatoes and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes until vegetables are tender.  Stir in chick peas and peas and cook until hot.  Stir in cilantro.  If you like you can add a little lemon juice or stir in some plain nonfat yogurt.


  1. Boy, that cauliflower curry looks yum! Your grandma was a cutie! Hugs!

  2. That cauliflower curry is going on my dinner list this week!