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Archive for February, 2012

Within the last 7 days I managed to finish 4 books.

Granted, the first one had only a few chapters left. Mastretta’s “Tear This Heart Out” is a fictional story set during the times of Mexican revolution. The novel is about Catalina Guzman, who throughout the book transforms from a naïve young girl into an independent and exceptionally strong woman. I found the sharp yet humorous writing style very refreshing – the author didn’t hesitate to openly draw violence, blunt sexuality, shocking political and social norms of the period. The book definitely keeps you on your toes!

After this Mexican story I jumped right into the magic world of young adult fiction, “The Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Of course, as most such books, it was much easier to dive into. How did I manage to finish 3 books in less than a week, all while chasing the kids? Easy! Even though, unlike my previous read, it had absolutely unrealistic setting, the story gave me serious nightmares! Hence, since I couldn’t sleep because of the damn books anyways, I decided to get over and done with them reading till 3 or 4 am almost every night.

I’m not about to sum up ” The Hunger Games”. They are SO 2010! It’s almost like if I were to write a review on “Harry Potter” at this point – everyone knows it’s a whole a lot of awesomeness, and you are not going to learn anything new from this Russian mom!

On my part, I think I’m going to take a little break from reading, catch up on my sleep, and remind the husband, that my place is in our bed, by his side!

Ta-ta!

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It’s been a week of vegetarian diet, and I’m ready to start mooing!  My husband is still holding strong though.  He is mixing delicious smoothies, shading nonexistent pounds, and is hyped about the whole diet.  I, on another hand, turn more and more frequently to my dear friend chocolate…  The kids, of course don’t care, as long as pasta is served.

While contemplating our new dinner choices, I thought about one of our favorite  Indian dishes.  It made us forget about meat in a second!

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INDIAN LENTILS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups of lentils
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 2 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1-inch piece ginger, minced
  • 1 14 oz can of coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1.5 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs ground almonds
  • Optional: 1 bunch of vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, or 2 small potatoes.

DIRECTIONS:

Cook lentils according to the package instructions.

Heat up the oil in an iron pot, sauté onions, ginger, and garlic.  Add spices, and cook, steering for about 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes, lentils, and almonds.  Take 2/3 of the mixture and blend in a food processor.  Bring the puree back to the pot, heat up, and add the coconut milk.  Add chopped vegetables, if desired.  Cook until they are done (about 4 minutes for broccoli, about 10 for potatoes or cauliflower).

Serve with naan.

Make ahead: before vegetables are added, you can freeze the lentil dish in a zip lock bag for up to 6 months.

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Four days with no meat and we haven’t turned green yet!  Apparently there are some delicious choices in the vegetarian world! Who would have thought!!!

This recipe is a combination of two summer soups my babushka used to make.  Baby Pea and I hit the jackpot at the San Francisco Ferry Building farmers market – nettle and sorrel!  I wasn’t patient enough to cook separate meals with all that goodness on my hands. 

One has to be extra careful when playing with nettle as it … ouch!!! stings!  with skin burns and everything.  If you are in New Zealand, I’d stay away from nettle all together, since you have some scary poisonous stuff growing there.  

On my part, however, there are no doubts in nettle’s healing powers.  Not because of what I find in Wikipedia , but because I grew up believing a shirt made out of nettle (especially the kind that grows by graveyards boo-ha-ha) can break evil spells. I’m talking of pour Elisa’s story from Anderson’s “Wild Swans” of course.

Fairy tales aside, the soup is magic in its own right. Here is how to make it:

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SORREL-NETTLE SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 cups of water or your favorite stock
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 3 medium potatoes, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch of sorrel
  • 1 bunch of stinging nettle
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs
  • 3 tsp sour cream (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Bring water or stock to a boil.  Add potatoes and let boil on  low heat for about 10 minutes.  If desired, sauté onions and carrots, add them to the soup.

Meanwhile boil about 3 cups of water.  Carefully place nettle in a colander, and pour boiling water over it.  Your nettle should not be stingy any more!

Remove stems and chop sorrel and the nettle, divide between the soup bowls.

Shell the eggs and dice them. Distribute with the sorrel/nettle mixture.

Once the potatoes are cooked, adjust the broth flavor with salt and pepper,  pour the soup into the bowls.  The sorrel leaves will turn brown and very soft, while nettle will release it’s special flavor and get even brighter and greener.

Serve with sour cream if desired.


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“Well, if you like burgers give ‘em a try sometime. Me, I can’t usually get ‘em myself because my girlfriend’s a vegetarian which pretty much makes me a vegetarian. But I do love the taste of a good burger.” 

I don’t even like them, but I was dreaming of a Big Kahuna Burger, as my husband turned all vegetarian on me last weekend.  Our good friend from Denver was visiting, and instead of barhopping with my man every night (like they always do when Jayson flies in), he brainwashed Dave on healthy lifestyle and hit every vegetarian joint in the area.

After long negotiations, we agreed that at least our weekend diet remains unchanged.  However, weekdays are vegetarian.  Ouch!  While mourning my beloved chicken, fish, and occasional beef, I got totally high on ice cream and chocolate. Which I think is a good start to any diet, since I cannot look at chocolate.. nah… more than 4 pieces of chocolate at once.

This Kale salad (Whole Foods recipe) was our first vegetarian dinner.  It turned out tolerable I suppose… The husband ate two bunches of Kale, and I didn’t turn green after eating a bowlful either.  I paired the salad with baked sweet potatoes, which complimented the dish very well. 

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KALE SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 bunches kale, stems and tough ribs discarded, leaves very finely chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled, seed discarded, cubed
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, chili powder and salt. Add kale and avocado, toss to combine. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Make ahead: this salad will keep well refrigerated in an airtight container for a couple days.

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I remember these overwhelming feelings of excitement and anticipation when we decided to have kids! Oh, we dreamt how we’d be spending all the time with them, doing everything together, teaching them everything we know!

It’s incredible how much they absorb from us:  how to say “please” and “thank you”, how to make secret family recipes, biking…  At the same time we learn so many wonderful things too!  

Very quickly we discover that it’s best not to drop disposable diapers into the laundry basket; that it’s easier to clean yogurt out of the carpet, when it’s dried up, and that it doesn’t matter with the oatmeal – it’s a lot of pain to clean wet or dry.

Today I learned that permanent Sharpie markers are not the worst thing that can happen to hardwood floors (been there, done that). Apparently ball-point pens can be quite as damaging, you just need to lose the ball point, and the ink can be easily  goo-ed all over the floors!

James and I spent a good hour rubbing acetone into the ink and brushing it with toothpaste.  I baked these  Russian pastries as a reward for our hard work. 

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FARMERS CHEESE TRIANGLES

INGREDIENTS:

  • 120 g butter, softened
  • 400 g farmers cheese
  • 150 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbs cinnamon (optional)
  • zest from 3 oranges (optional)

Yields: 20 pastries

DIRECTIONS:

Mix butter and farmers cheese to incorporate.  It will be crumby.  Add flour to the mixture.  After all the crumbs are coated in flour.  Knead the dough with your hands to form a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile mix sugar with cinnamon and zest.  The original recipe uses regular sugar, no cinnamon and zest.  I just stuff my favorite brown sugar/cinnamon/orange zest mixture everywhere.

Roll the dough to a 5mm – thick sheet.  Cut circles with a cookie cutter.  Dip one side of each circle in the sugar mixture.  Fold the dough in half, dip again, and fold again to form a triangle.

Make ahead: you can freeze cooking for up to 3 weeks.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Place pastries on it. 

Bake at 350° F/175°C for 25-30 minutes.

Voila!

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We had our fair share of Valentine’s evenings that are quite memorable.   A few where we are sitting in this or that romantic restaurant packed with couples trying to be romantic pretending we are not hearing our neighbors trying to be romantic, pretending they are not hearing us trying to be romantic, pretending…  

The most special one is when while waiting to be seated in our favorite seafood joint, we met this older couple (he was a WWII veteran).  Here we are, thinking, wow!!!, what could be more inspiring than spending the evening with these old love birds!? They happily agree to share a table with us.  A few wine glasses later, Dave and I are just about to get all starry-eyed and envision ourselves  in 50 years still madly in love, when we find out that the couple is actually cheating on his hospitalized wife, they are swingers, and would love to invite us over to her place after the dinner!

So, this year we celebrated at home.  Of course I faced a dilemma.   How do you enjoy a festive dinner, and yet fit into that special night gown later on…

This recipe is a pretty light dessert – a much skinnier version of a traditional fruit tart, but still yummy and exceptionally easy to make.  Adopted from TasteOfHome

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LIGHT FRUIT TART

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 tbs cold butter, grated
  • ¼ cup water, ice-cold
  • 1 package (8 ounces) fat-free cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups halved fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1 can (11 ounces) mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 cup fresh kiwi, peeled, and cut in circles

GLAZE:

  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ¾ cups unsweetened pineapple-coconut juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Yields 16 servings

DIRECTIONS:
Make crust: in a large bowl, mix flour, confectioners’ sugar, and butter until crumbly. Add water and mix the dough. Place dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll to form a ¼ inch-thick (about 5 mm) sheet.
Place onto an ungreased 12-in. tart baking platter. Cover lightly with foil. Bake at 350°/175⁰ C for 10-12 minutes for about 20 min, remove the foil and bake for another 1-15 min or until very lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
Make filling: in a small bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth with a hand mixer. Spread over crust. Arrange the strawberries, oranges and kiwi on top.
Make glaze: in a small saucepan, combine the cornstarch and juices until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Cool and drizzle over fruit. Refrigerate until chilled.

And finally, my most delicious desserts, my little Valentines.

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