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Archive for April, 2012

“Journal, I’m on a sugar cleanse. I haven’t had any sugar in over three weeks. I think I’m experiencing withdrawal. Today I screamed at a plant. I don’t know why I decided to do this. It’s crazy. There’s sugar in everything. Did you know that? Everything. Even cupcakes. All right, I have to go, Journal. You’re being a jerk.”

/DeGeneres, Ellen (2011-10-04). Seriously…I’m Kidding (Kindle Locations 392-395). Hachette Book Group. Kindle Edition.  /
 

My neighbor let me borrow her Ellen DeGeneres book, and I couldn’t resist copying this passage as there is nothing that could describe my feelings better, and I’m not even on a cleanse!  Today’s Russian recipe doesn’t use any sugar for a change, though I’m sure the evil thing has snuck in there anyways!

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MUSHROOM SOUP WITH BARLEY

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups of barley, cooked
  • 12 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
  • 3 large potatoes, diced
  • 2 lb mushrooms
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sour cream and fresh chopped dill for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Pour vegetable broth in a large pot and bring it to boil.

While the broth is warming up, heat the olive oil on a large skillet.   Sauté onion till golden, add the carrots, garlic, and asparagus and sauté until soft.

Once the broth is boiling, add potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, add the sautéed mixture, and cook for another 5-7 minutes until potatoes are well cooked.

Collect about 1/3 of the vegetables and puree them in a food processor.  Return the puree into the soup pot.  Add mushrooms and bay leaves, and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add salt and pepper.

The soup tastes even better on the second day.

Serve hot with sour cream and freshly chopped dill.

Make ahead: this soup freezes well for up to 6 months.  Pour chilled soup (without sour cream and dill) into a large zip lock bag.  Lock it, squeezing the air out.  Lay flat in the freezer.

 

 

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I P90X-ed most of the baby weight after Pea was born, but there are still a few stubborn pounds that refuse to go away.  Apparently trying to kick them out while dating your kitchen stove doesn’t work … I wonder, why…  ?  Since we turned vegetarian, the husband shed everything he had left.  It seems he burns a ton of calories even when he sneezes… MEN!

To keep up with the annoyingly handsome spouse, I decided to try running a marathon, but the man said something like: “NO! The kids and I will never see you if you start training”.  What he probably thought was:  “Oh NO! I will be trapped with these two screamers by myself for hours at a time!” 

So, instead we gave a try to the local climbing gym.  Even though we lacked a little bit of experience and a lot of tattoos, it proved to be a whole a lot of awesomeness!  If you learn safety rules, communicate, and trust each other, you are guaranteed to have a blast. Naturally, Dave advertised it to our friends as a cheap alternative to couples therapy.

Therefore, we are on our way to being healthy and breathtakingly gorgeous again.  California style! So, I’m proudly presenting a waste-no-food kind of recipe… California style…  Take whatever vegetables you have, steam them, and mix with pasta and this mild Thai style curry.   Healthy and pretty! 

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THAI CURRY VEGETABLES WITH PASTA

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup cilantro stems, finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 tbs red Thai curry paste
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 15-oz can light coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 4 cups assorted vegetables
  • salt to taste
  • 1 pckg whole grain spaghetti or fettuccine

DIRECTIONS:

Wash and prepare the vegetables for steaming.  Peel, cube, or cut them if needed.

Cook pasta according to the package instructions.

On medium heat warm up the oil and saute cilantro stems and onion, curry paste, curry powder, and turmeric for about 1 min. Add the broth, coconut milk, and sugar, and saute for another 4-5 minutes.

Steam vegetables till done.  Mix them with curry.

Drain pasta after it’s done and add to the curry mixture.  Add salt if needed.

Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve.

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Don’t you love eggs?!?  Hmmmmm… all those eggs after Easter – when you end up with a dozen (or more) of them!  Hooray!  Boiled eggs for breakfast! Yeay! Boiled eggs for lunch!  Boiled eggs today! Boiled eggs tomorrow! Deviled eggs! Yeeey!

Here is one of those Russian dishes designed to be complimented by the texture of a boiled egg, though it hides the white protein and yellow cholesterol so you wouldn’t even know they are there! 

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BLINI WITH CABBAGE STUFFING

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 recipe of French crepes
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded,
  • 1 small cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2-3 boiled eggs, peeled, and cut into small cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely cut
  • Salt, pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Make crepes as directed in the recipe.

Make the stuffing.  On a frying pan, sauté onions till golden and soft, add carrots and cabbage, and cook till cabbage is very soft and loses half of its volume. Mix in the eggs and garlic, and add salt and pepper and/or other favorite seasonings.

Let the stuffing cool and then fold it into the crepes.

For a healthier option – eat as is or warm it up in the oven or microwave.  For a tastier version – fry the stuffed crepes on both sides till crispy.

Make ahead: wrap each bundle in a plastic wrap, and store in a zip-lock bag for up to 3 months.


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This week I learned that gentleman-like manners are rooted deep inside our little gentlemen, and should be encouraged not just for our (mothers’) unselfish reasons, but for the child’s benefits as well.   

Our 3 year old son has been going to the swimming pool since he was 6 months old and a few months ago started diving all by himself.  I thought the timing was good to start serious lessons.  We signed him up at this Limousine of swimming schools in SF, called La Petit Baleen, where little kids – just like my baby – learn how to work their fins off swimming, jumping, and diving.   

Naturally, as soon as I left Lil’ Jem with his group, the wailing started.  Separation anxiety. Fun!  Here I am, hiding in the dressing room, biting my nails, while my baby is screaming his lungs out (suddenly in English); and all the moms shooting “understanding” (yet somehow torturous) glances my way!  Oh, the joys of parenthood!

This continued for 2 more classes when one of the deck managers made a few suggestions on possible ways to resolve the situation. In a week (after a few practice runs with babushka), Lil’ Jem was proudly presenting a flower to his teacher.  Guess what? It totally worked!  I haven’t heard a peep from him since!  Ohm… 

Now, I wonder where the little gentleman disappears when it comes to sharing toys with his little sister!?

Obviously I thought the little swimmer deserved a treat.

Both of my guys are obsessed with dark chocolate.  Lately I started feeling that our pots and pans were becoming endangered as Endangered Species were taking over the kitchen.  I saw this recipe and AMAZING photos at Relishing it a while ago, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how this loveliness could use up some of our chocolate stashes. My bread didn’t turn out half as beautiful as Laurie’s, but it was absolutely crazy delicious!!!

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YEASTED CHOCOLATE COFFEE CAKE

INGREDIENTS:

BREAD

  • ¼ oz active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup warm milk (110⁰F/43⁰C)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 8 tbs butter, melted and slightly cooled

EGG WASH

  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 tbs milk

FILLING:

  • 8 oz bitter chocolate (2 bars)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tbs ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter
  • ¼ tsp salt

TOPPING:

  • ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

DIRECTIONS:

Make the bread.In a medium bowl mix the yeast and a pinch of sugar with the milk and let stand for about 5 minutes, or until foamy.  In another bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar and the egg.  Whisk into the yeast mixture.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough-hook attachment, combine the flour and kosher salt.  Add the egg mixture and mix on low speed until almost fully combined, add the butter.  Mix until smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 9-10 minutes.  Grease a large bowl.  Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.  Place in the greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, for about 1 – 1.5 hours.

Make the filling.  In the food processor with large blade attachment grind chocolate and butter.  Add salt, cinnamon, and sugar to the mixture.

“Once the dough has doubled in size, place it on a flour work surface.  Let rest for 5 minutes and then roll it out into an 18-inch square.  Sprinkle all but ½ cup of the filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border.  Brush the edges with the egg wash.  Tightly roll the dough from one end to the other.  Pinch the seams to seal.  Fold in half and form a “U” shape.  Twist 2 or 3 into a braid.  Make sure to pinch the ends of braid together.  Grease a 5-by-10-inch loaf pan, line with parchment, leaving 1-inch overhangs; then grease the parchment paper.  Place the dough in the pan and brush with egg wash.”

Make the topping. In a small bowl combine the confectioners’ sugar, flour, butter, and the reserved filling.  Sprinkle it over the bread.  It’s ok, if the filling falls down the edges.

Preheat the oven to 350⁰F/175⁰C. Cover the bread with plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes.

Please bread pan on a sheet and position it on the center rack in the oven.  Bake for about 55 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 325⁰F/160⁰C, and bake for another 15 minutes till golden brown.

Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack before removing it.

Make ahead: the bread could be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Thank you for sharing the recipe, Laurie!

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After publishing the Kulich recipe, I was pleasantly surprised that so many of you were interested in Russian Easter celebrations!  Well, I guess Russians know how to party, so your curiosity is justified ;-)

Lots of you asked me for a Paskha recipe, which is another famous Easter dish, a symbol of joy and blissful eternity.  Often it’s made with raw eggs, though they freak me out, so I chose an egg-less version.  Traditionally this no-bake recipe requires a special pyramid-shaped mold, but ohm, I do not have one.  So, here is an uglier alternative by yours truly.

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PASKHA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500 g farmers cheese
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 50 g confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup rum (optional)
  • 4 tbs walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

If using rum, soak raisins in it, or simply pour ½ cup of hot water of them, and let rest for 30 minutes.

Grind farmers cheese through a meat grinder and mix it with sour cream until the mixture reaches consistency.  Mix in the confectioner’s sugar and raisins.

Place a cheese cloth over the mold and fill it with the farmers cheese mixture.

Cover with a wet cloth and place a weight over it. Place the mold on a plate, to catch the whey, and leave in the fridge for 12-24 hours.

If you have no mold, form a ball and wrap it tightly in a double-folded cheese cloth, place it on a plate, and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

Carefully remove the Pakha from the mold (or cheese cloth) and sprinkle with some walnuts.

Христос Воскресе!

 

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We are planning a huge Russian Easter brunch on Sunday, so I went on a hiatus from blogging this week busy with cleaning, planning, and shopping.  It also allowed me to catch up on my reading. 

I just finished The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya.  One of my favorite bloggers, Come Due Maiali, recommended the author. 

The modern Russian writers that I came across lately sounded to me like they wrote high on weed and mushrooms,  that they were immensely sarcastic, and enjoyed to swear like sailors…  Tolstaya appeared to be hit with the Blast, the one that destroyed the world we know and created another one full of occasionally drugged up, ignorant, swearing mutants with … consequences.  

I couldn’t put the book down – it was so enthralling and different! Tolastaya’s language skills are remarkable, and even the harshest jargon I typically would be disgusted with, seemed absolutely beautiful and appropriate.  If you are into Russian literature, I would highly recommend visiting this bizarre Moscow 200 years after the Blast.  

Natasha, thank you again for the advice! 

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