Zucchini Flowers in Town! by L

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Spring is here! Well, almost. After an Easter holiday full of snow, sleet, sun and gusts of wind, it has almost arrived in Prague. Bursts of yellow and purple flowers have begun to pop up around town and even my favorite edible flower has found its’ way to our golden city. Zucchini flowers are here!image

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I am all for the farmers markets, but there is another market that I head to when I want to get serious about Italian food. It’s called the Wine Food Market, located in Prague 5. Once upon a time, I lived in Italy and I ate well, very well. After that experience, I feel like nothing can ever compare to the Italian dishes I dined on for years. But… the Wine Food Market comes pretty close, especially their pizza!

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This amazing eatery not only serves up lunch, dinner and homemade gelato, it also houses a market full of fresh vegetables, fruits, dry goods, a bakery and more! Local Prague friends, if you haven’t yet been or if you are someone planning a trip to Prague and may want to take a break from Czech food, this is the place to go. On my last visit, I found my beloved zucchini flowers and for dinner that night I cooked them up in my favorite style… fried.

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Fried Zucchini Flowers stuffed with Mozzarella (Fiori di Zucchini)

12 zucchini flowers

1 large ball of mozzarella, cut into 12 small rectangles

Batter:

50 grams/2 oz flour

100ml/3 1/2oz beer

oil for frying

salt

Directions:

Wash your flowers and remove the pistils.

Gently place a slice of mozzarella cheese inside each flower and twist the tips of the petal to close.

For the batter, add the flour and pinch of salt into a bowl.

Then whisk in the beer until the batter is smooth.

Heat the oil in a deep-frying pan.

Quickly dip the stuffed zucchini flowers in the batter and drain off the excess.

Add batches of the flower to the frying pan, turning gently, until brown.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.

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Addicted to Green by L

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During our summer road trip from Prague to Valencia, we had a little pit stop at our dear friend’s home in Saarbrucken. A’s home is absolutely cozy and stylish. Her hosting skills are beyond gracious and our tummies are always well nourished.

One morning at breakfast, I noticed that she was drinking out of a tall glass filled with a thick dark green liquid. Not exactly the most appealing vision for your first meal of the day. Of course I was curious, so I had to ask “What is THAT?”

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“My spinach smoothie,” she quickly replied, “Want some, there’s some left in the blender.”

As mentioned, I was curious. So I poured what was leftover into a smaller glass and gulped it down. Surprisingly, it didn’t taste as bad as I thought it looked. It was actually the opposite. It was deliciously refreshing.

Since that day, I can’t start my mornings without a spinach smoothie. I’m absolutely addicted.

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Spinach Green Smoothie (So easy to prepare too!)

1 cup of fresh spinach leaves

1 banana

1/2 cup of berries or whatever other fruit you have in stock

1/2 cup of your choice of liquid: water, soy milk, kefir, rice milk, milk, coconut water or juice

Optional: spoonful of chia or flax seeds

Place all the ingredients into a blender.

Blend and enjoy!

Post Holiday Detox Tea

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In our Filipino/Spanish household, the festivities of winter should have officially ended on Monday, January 6th, where we wrap up the season with the celebration of Three Kings Day. Yes, that means more presents, candies and cookies! However, on the following day, a dear friend who I hadn’t seen in years, rolled into town for a short stay. That was a definite cause for a celebration!  At one of Prague’s finest cafes, we quickly caught up on the years over hot cups of rich chocolate and delicious pastries. Topping off our sweet bond fest, our late night girlie chats also included some left over Christmas chocolates. As I dipped my hand into a box of Belgian truffles for seconds, I  announced that my “eating vacation,” was soon going to come to an end.

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Yep, it’s time to boost up the system with a little detox from the holidays and although it’s not a New Year’s resolution (I normally don’t make them), it’s not a bad idea. I would like to add that I’m really thankful for jeggings. They sure got me through the holidays!

The new green tea?

The new green tea?

I researched a few detox boosting teas and Parsley tea came out the winner. It’s a very simple tea to prep. You simply chop up some fresh parsley and brew it for 5 minutes. The tea comes out green and basically tastes a lot like…(drumroll, please…) PARSLEY!  Here’s a slight warning about this hot beverage…besides flushing out toxins, you might end up with a craving for some tabbouli. I sure did!

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Parsley Tea
(Not to be used during pregnancy or during menstrual period. Check with your doctor.)

handful of parsley

 hot water

Chop up a handful of parsley and place into a tea strainer.

Dip your tea strainer into your favorite mug.

Pour enough hot water to fill up your mug.

Let it seep for 5-7 minutes.

Drink one cup a day for a week or up to a month.

Then say good-bye to those 2013 toxins!

Perfect Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares by L

Pumpkin and pecans sharing the spotlight!

Pumpkin and pecans sharing the spotlight!

This is a two-for-the-price-of-one recipe. If you’re a fan of pumpkin pie AND a fan of pecan pie, imagine them both together! Did you? Can you picture all that sweet yumminess together? Well, that’s exactly what you get with this recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares.

So happy together!!!

So happy together!!!

My mom was cleaning out some of her kitchen cupboards and found a number of tattered recipe cards. She asked me to take a look at them, just in case something caught my eye. Otherwise, they were all heading out to the recycling bin. Halfway done with the stack, this recipe caught my eye. How could I go wrong with a combination of pumpkin and pecan pie? I didn’t. Best of all, the steps were so easy to follow and this will surely be added to my list of favorite autumn desserts to bake!

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares (adapted from my mom’s cupboard)

Crust:

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup old fashioned or instant oats

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine

Filling:

1/2 cup of granulated sugar (3/4 if you prefer something sweeter)

1 3/4 cups of pumpkin puree

1 12 oz. can of evaporated milk

2 large eggs

2 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Topping:

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

Pre heat oven to 180C/350F  degrees

Combine flour, oats, brown sugar and butter in small bowl. Beat at low speed or blend with fork or hands until crumbly. Then press onto an ungreased baking pan, 13X9 in.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Combine the sugar, pumpkin, milk, eggs and spice in large mixing bowl.

Beat at medium speed 1 to 2 minutes, pour over crust.

Bake 20 minutes.

Combine pecans and brown sugar in small bowl.

Sprinkle pecan topping over filling.

Continue to bake for 15-25 minutes or until fork or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely before serving.

Best if served with some fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!

Pumpkins in Prague by L

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A few weekends ago, the family and I took a ride out to Bykos farm. Just a 45 minute drive outside of the city and you are in pumpkin heaven. For me, autumn isn’t autumn without a visit to the pumpkin farm and celebrating Halloween. Happily, we accomplished both this year.

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Kabocha, acorn and butternut squash, along with jumbo size pumpkins waiting to be carved into Jack o’ Lanterns were everywhere. We came home with variety of pumpkins of all shapes, sizes and colors. Besides picking out pumpkins at the farm, one could also enjoy a bowl of homemade pumpkin soup, with a klobasa and top it all off with some pumpkin cake. The owners of the farm also sold jars of homemade pumpkin jam to take home. It was a festival of pumpkins.

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Instead of sharing a sweet pumpkin recipe with you, I decided to share one I recently tried from the cookbook, Vegetables from an Italian Garden, published by Phaidon. This dish is easy to prepare and makes a great side addition to any entrée. However, it can even be enjoyed as a main dish along with some delicious bread. It was an attempt to enjoy pumpkin in a less fattening manner.  Although, I’m really not one to ever pass up a delicious slice of pumpkin pie. Bring it all on!

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Baked Pumpkin with Potatoes and Rosemary (adapted from Vegetables from an Italian Garden)

Olive Oil, for brushing and drizzling

1lb of pumpkin, peeled and de-seeded

4 potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 onion, sliced into rings

4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced

few sprigs of fresh rosemary

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F

Brush a roasting pan with olive oil.

Cut the pumpkin into thin slices.

Alternate layers of potato, onion, pumpkin and sprinkle some rosemary here and there.

Add the diced tomatoes to the top, drizzle with oil, season with salt, pepper and some more rosemary.

Bake for 1 hour or until all the vegetables are tender.

Leave to stand for 5 minutes, then serve.

The Prague Basket’s 100th post! by Liezel

100 posts ago, I was trying to navigate through my new role in life, a mother of twins.

100 posts ago, I was searching for a way to fulfill a creative void.

100 posts ago, I was entertaining the idea of developing a new blog with the aid of my dearest gals in Prague, Allison and Nikki.

100 posts ago, The Prague Basket shared its first post.

100 posts later we are celebrating, and to commemorate this happy achievement we have a special gift for one of the readers/guests of our blog. The winner will receive a tender basket filled with goodies from the Andel Famers’ Market. Take a look…

A little thank you gift!

A little thank you gift!

To enter, please leave us a comment on the blog. The winner will be randomly chosen and announced by Tuesday, the 18th of June. In the meantime, click and reminisce with us a hundred posts ago… https://thepraguebasket.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/very-veggie-pasta-sauce-by-liezel/

Many thanks to our readers and we look forward to hearing from you. On behalf of The Prague Basket, we say “Dekuji!” (Thanks!)

L 🙂

Tortilla de esparragos/ Spanish Asparagus Omelette by L

Chrest season!

Chrest season!

I can’t believe how much my local farmers market has grown since last year! Normally, I would have to wait every other week to be able to take home the wonderful goods, but now the Andel market in Prague 5, is open every Friday and I look forward to it. This week a new stand appeared– asparagus season has hit and is in full force. Everywhere I look, bunches of asparagus spears are beckoning me to take them home.

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Andel Farmers’ Market, Praha 5

Even though it was my turn to post, I actually had no idea what I was going to cook or write about. Thank goodness for some farmers market inspiration. As soon as I saw the stand that is pictured above, I had tortilla de esparragos on my mind.

Best spot in town to buy eggs (and butter.)I'm a sucker for their packaging.

Best shop in town for fresh eggs and butter.  I’m a sucker for their packaging.

This meant I needed to round up some eggs, which wasn’t going to be a problem. Just a few stalls down was my favorite stand that not only sells fresh eggs, but also fresh butter, home-made jams, musli and honey.

Tortilla de esparragos

Tortilla de esparragos

If you have ever traveled to Spain, you will know that the word tortilla does not refer to a thin flat piece of bread meant to hold some hearty mexican-seasoned fillings. The best way to describe a tortilla is to compare it to an omelette and Spain’s most famous one is Tortilla de patata. A thick omelette made from a combination of potatoes, onions and eggs. However, that’s not the only tortilla out there. When it comes to tortillas, I have been spoiled by my husband and my father-in-law. They can both whip up some delicious varieties that can include zucchini, tuna, and artichokes (my ultimate favorite).

Always accompanied by a few slices of great bread!

Always accompanied by a few slices of great bread!

The star of this tortilla is asparagus. It is a dish that is quick and easy to make. If you’re looking to get into the asparagus action, give this one a try. It’s a no fail recipe!

Tortilla de esparragos (Spanish asparagus omelette)

1 bunch of asparagus, clean, peeled and diagonally chopped into small pieces

1 small onion, chopped

3-4 tablespoons of very good olive oil

salt

4 eggs

Warm up a non-stick frying pan.

Add two to three tablespoons of olive oil.

When hot, add the onions and let cook for 7-10 minutes.

Then add the pieces of asparagus and cook until tender, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. (about 20-25 minutes)

Add a few pinches of salt.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the eggs.

When the asparagus is cooked, add them to the eggs.

Stir and combine well.

If your pan looks dry, add another tablespoon of oil.

Add the mixture of vegetables and eggs to the pan.

On medium to low heat, let the egg cook through.

Run a fork around the edge of the pan to loosen the edges of the omelette.

When the edges appear cooked and the top of the omelette is slightly runny, take a plate that is big enough to cover the pan and place it on top.

Pick up the pan and use the other hand to hold the plate on top in place.

Standing over your kitchen sink, invert the pan and let the omelette fall onto the plate you have kept tightly over the pan.

Slide the omelette back into the frying pan and let it cook for another few minutes.

When done, place omelette on a platter and wait a few minutes to serve.

Be sure to accompany it with slices of great tasting bread.

Spring’s Not Here, but the Farmers’ Markets Are! by L

Náplavka Farmers’ Market

Náplavka Farmers’ Market

The sun has been quite a tease around here in Prague. We’ve gotten a few warm days, but then the temperatures suddenly go down and we’re back to winter all over again. The coldest of seasons continues to linger on, but I know spring is coming because the farmers’ markets are back! A favorite of mine is the Náplavka Farmers’ Market, located on the Vltava River in Prague 2. There are a variety of stalls selling food and homemade goods by local artisans and farmers. On a good day, you can find a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits. Unfortunately, the day I visited, it wasn’t a good day for fresh produce. However, if you were looking for smoked meats, dairy products, fresh eggs, bread, chicken, fish or pop-up restaurants serving pasta, Balkan food, a cup of Belgian hot chocolate or a plate of fish and chips, then this would have been a good day for you.

The Market Crowd

The Market Crowd

There were cartons of potatoes, carrots, parsips, cabbage and onions which were all signs that winter was still here. Despite the bleak variety of vegetables and lack of fruits, it was still great to enjoy a sunny Saturday stroll at the market.  I indulged in a fresh almond croissant, along with a cup of Belgian hot chocolate to warm me up. In the end, I bought a bag of carrots and decided to make some fresh carrot-ginger-miso salad dressing. It’s not exactly salad weather, it still feels like we need some hearty soups (or cake in my case) to get us through these chilly days. However, summer will be here sooner than we imagine and I need to get ready for those sleeveless tops and shorts!

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Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing

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2 tablespoons peanut, corn or vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons white miso
2 medium carrots, grated
1 inch ginger root, diced into small pieces
1-2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
a few tablespoons of cold water

Put all the ingredients in your beloved blender, except the water.
After running it for a few minutes, slowly add a few tablespoons of water
until you get the right consistency.
I will leave that up to you, as some people prefer a creamier dressing and some a
thinner, liquid like type.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Mixed Greens with Fried Tofu Salad

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1 block firm tofu
Cornstarch to coat tofu
1 -2 tsp. salt
Your choice of mixed greens ( I used a bag of baby spinach leaves and some romaine lettuce)
1 tomato, sliced
1 scallion, diced
Neutral oil for frying

Drain and slice tofu into thin blocks.
Cover all sides in cornstarch and salt mixture.
Heat oil in shallow frying pan.
When ready, add the coated pieces of tofu.
It should take about 3-4 minutes for each side,
until it begins to turn golden.
Remove and drain excess oil.

Toss all the vegetables in a bowl.
Cut up the tofu into small square pieces.
Add to the salad.
Serve with carrot-ginger miso dressing.

A Wee Valentine’s Day Celebration! by L

Happy Valentine's Day from Toddler Central!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Toddler Central!

While most children in Prague have been enjoying these past days dressed up in their costumes and celebrating Carnaval, our household is working on spreading the love. I have been busy preparing our home to celebrate my second favorite American holiday: Valentine’s Day! For me, this day has never been about the romance, the flowers or the chocolates.  Just like Julia Child and her husband, I get a kick out of making and sending home-made valentine cards to my family and friends. Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a greeting decorated with lots of hearts, glitter and lace with the colors red, pink and white? Even though Valentine’s day isn’t widely celebrated here in Prague, unlike the States, I am excited to introduce this holiday to my daughters and spread some of Cupid’s inspiration.

Our garland of homemade hearts!

Our garland of homemade hearts!

In fact, I must have been feeling extremely excited about Valentine’s day because I decided to host an afternoon play group for my daughters’ friends and their mothers. However, coming up with a menu was a bit challenging. What exactly does one prepare for a group of year old toddlers?

This is what I came up with:

Mini Heart Shaped Toast with Cheese and Jam

Mini Heart Shaped Toast with Cheese and Jam

Heart Shaped Cheese and Jam Sandwiches

Ingredients:

1 loaf of whole wheat or white bread

1 small heart-shaped cookie cutter

Olive oil (just enough to grease your baking tray)

1 round of pasteurized goat cheese

1 block of cream cheese

Your choice of red colored low sugar jam. We used raspberry and strawberry.

Preheat oven at 150 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with a few tablespoons of oil. Using a small heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut heart shapes from slices of bread. Place on cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Depending on what type of goat cheese you purchase, you can also add it to the baking tray to warm it up.

Serve with cream cheese, goat cheese, a serving of raspberry and strawberry jam.

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Carrot, Apple, Coconut and Cinnamon Mini-Muffins

This recipe was adapted from Weelicious.com One of our lil’ pals has a dairy allergy, so instead of whole cow’s milk, I used soy milk.

Carrot, Apple, Coconut and Cinnamon Mini-Muffins

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

2 carrots, peeled & grated, about 1 cup

1 apple, peeled and grated, about 1/2 cup

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup soy milk

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. In a small bowl, mix the carrots, apples and coconut together. In another separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.  Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir to combine.  Then add the carrots, apple and coconut mix and carefully blend. Place 1 tbsp of batter into greased mini muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Heart Shaped Potato Poppers

Heart Shaped Potato Poppers

These are usually served in round balls, but for Valentine’s day, I used a large heart-shaped cookie cutter for this occasion.

Heart Shaped Potato Poppers (adapted from The Laurel’s Kitchen)

Ingredients:

1/2 onion, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

1 teaspoon thyme or oregano

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/4 cups mashed potato

1 cup cooked brown rice

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup bread crumbs (whole grain if possible)

1/4 cup crushed pine nuts (optional)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C

Saute onion and celery in oil. Add your choice of herb. Combine all ingredients and shape either into a heart or 1 1/2″ balls. Place on greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until slightly browned. Serve warm and if you like, with some tomato sauce.

Valentine’s Day isn’t Valentine’s Day for me if I don’t get crafty. Here are the links to some of the activities I did with my 18 month old twins! Happy Valentine’s Day from Prague!

Heart Garland

Valentine Footprints

Valentine treats for the Mamas and Lil'Ones

Valentine treats for the Mommies and Lil’Ones

Mommy and Me Miso Soup by L

Miso for my Munchkins and Me!

Miso for my Munchkins and Me!

When I was a little girl, my family attended church every Sunday. I never looked forward to going to church, but I sure did get excited about what came afterwards- lunch! Instead of big family dinners at Grandma’s house, we got to dine out. Who needs to be slaving over a stove and washing up a bunch of pots and dishes? It was Sunday. The Lord’s day. We all needed to rest and eat! When I say “WE,” I happen to mean my extended Filipino family of 9. When church was over, my granny, aunties, brothers, parents and I squeezed into our big blue van and headed to a restaurant.

Now that my brothers and I have grown up and moved out of the house, it’s great to see that this tradition still lives on. During our recent visit to NYC, we had plenty of Sunday lunches to catch up on and we made the best of every one of them. However, our whole family could no longer fit into my parents’ van. Over the years, a new generation of kids were born and spouses were added on. Our original party of 9 had expanded to a party of 15!

When the girls’ turned a year old, I was sad to see my babies become toddlers. Yet, one thing that is especially great about toddler hood is how the girls can eat practically anything I eat. So, when we went to dim sum, they feasted on congee, shu mai and shrimp rolls. When we had slices of New York pizza, they devoured the crusts and licked off the tasty tomato sauce! At our family’s favorite Japanese restaurant, they tried to eat sushi with chopsticks, but found that using their hands was a faster way to eat their cucumber rolls. They also delightfully slurped away at bowls of miso soup and I discovered their appreciation for this simple soup of fermented soy paste, sea veggies and tofu.

"I can do it all by myself, Mama!" T

“I can do it all by myself, Mama!” T

In fact, I wish I had thought of it sooner because it is one of the most simplest and tastiest soups to make. Oh, and of course, there are all the health benefits that come with it too!

This is miso soup from scratch, which is very simple to make. Truthfully, anything “instant” frightens me, but we all have to do what we have to do. If you keep reading on, you will find that making homemade miso soup is as simple as making oatmeal from scratch. (Reader- I hope you are making oatmeal from scratch 🙂 ) Miso soup and you might imagine: boiling water, ripping open a packet, pouring contents into a bowl, and with a swirl your soup is ready! Um… you are really missing out on something here. Yes, you still have to boil water, but with just a few simple additions, you can have a customized bowl of miso soup in your own home. Doesn’t everyone want something personalized and authentic these days?

"Seaweed is so much fun to play with, uh, I mean eat!" P

“Seaweed is so much fun to play with, uh, I mean eat!” P

I call this “Mommy and Me Miso Soup” because of the type of miso I used: white miso. This type is less salty than the others. Should I want to make a stronger pot miso for an adult palate, I tend to use a combination of brown and white miso and add a few more tablespoons.

Easiest broth you'll ever make!

Easiest broth you’ll ever make!

It all starts with the broth. You need some Dashi broth to get started and this is REALLY EASY! You just take strips of dried kombu and place it in a pot of cold water. Then leave it overnight. In the morning, your broth is ready to go. This really is a mama/papa friendly recipe! I sneaked in a few more vegetables such as shitake mushrooms and spinach to boost up the nutrients in our soup, but feel free to leave them out. It becomes an even simpler soup if you just stick to the wakame and tofu. Enjoy!

Miso Soup and More (adapted from Essentials of Asian Cuisine by Corinne Trang)

Konbu Dashi Broth:

1 package of about 2 oz. of Kombu.

2 quarts of cold water

With a damp paper towel, wipe the strips of Kombu.

Then place it in a big pot filled with cold water.

Let it sit for 12 hours or like I do,  overnight.

In the morning, the dried sea vegetable will have expanded and your broth is ready!

Remove the kelp (you can use slice it up and use it in a stir-fry with vegetables) and follow the miso recipe.

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Just a few simple ingredients found at my local organic bio shop.

Miso Soup:

8 cups of Konbu Dashi

1/4 cup of Wakame (this needs to be soaked prior to using it in the soup. Soak for 30 minutes, then drain)

1 block of tofu, cut into tiny cubes

3 tablespoons (more if just for mama and papa) white miso paste

2 scallions, sliced thinly,

6 fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced thinly

1/2 cup of spinach leaves

Set aside 1 cup of broth.

Place the rest of the broth in a deep pot.

Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat.

Add the mushrooms, wakame and tofu.

Let it cook for 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the miso paste with the remaining bowl of dashi.

Add spinach and check if the mushrooms are tender.

When ready, stir the miso paste into the soup and let it cook for another 2 minutes.

Do not let the miso paste cook any longer than that or you will lose all of its healthy benefits!

Pour into bowls and garnish with scallions.

Enjoy with your favorite lil’ person!