Things To Do With Kids – Traveling

Last month my children landed in Moscow wearing a perfect shade of San Francisco Pale on their skins. These city kids were raised where outside requires constant adult supervision, they had only minor encounters with nice weather, and were yet to experience a water or electricity outage.

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In 3 weeks they were completely transformed into tan Russian-speaking sun-loving kids who had a bite of freedom and lots of bites of freshly grown produce right outside of their great- grandmother’s house!

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Their only swimming experience up till now was in a heated pool. I don’t quite get it, but apparently swimming in a river with cousins, fish, ducks and frogs is much more fun!

 

Grandma’s garden was an endless source of entertainment and nourishment. Apples, cherries, currant, strawberries – and that’s just the begging of the list. The kids had a blast playing in all this lusciousness!

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They even found it cool to be washed outside with water heated up by sun.

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Though, you should have seen my son’s excitement when he got back home and went to the bathroom: “Есть вода!” (The water is on)! Hmmmm….

 

Here are some Instagram favorites from the trip. Enjoy!

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Russian Friday – dumplings

Yesterday was our book club gathering.  Naturally, a bowl of fresh Aspirin seemed like a perfect breakfast choice this morning.  Ohmmmm… Instead I went for one of my favorite Russian dishes – farmers cheese dumplings, called “vareniki”.

More often than not vareniki are made with a bit of sugar, but I prefer a savory version.  To prove my husband (who says Russian food is bland) wrong, I added a little zing with garlic and red pepper, and used lots of dill to maintain that unique Russian flavor.   The result is a whole a lot of yum!

Print this recipe

FARMERS CHEESE DUMPLINGS

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp salt

FILLING:

  • 450 g farmers cheese
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp red pepper, ground
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1-2 stalks of green onion
  • 1 bunch of dill, hard stems discarded

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the filling: combine all the ingredients and blend in a food processor to reach a smooth consistency.

Prepare the dough: in a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together.  Once incorporated, dump the dough on a floured surface and knead with your hands.

Roll the dough into a 1mm-thick sheet and cut out circles (about 3 inches in diameter) with a cookie cutter. Since we don’t have one, I used a wine glass, which worked just fine. Place about a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each circle, and fold the dough in half, pinching the ends.

Make ahead: at this point you can freeze the dumplings.  Arrange them on a floured cutting board and leave in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  After that, transfer frozen vareniki to a zip-lock bag and keep frozen for up to 3 months.

To cook: boil some water, add salt to taste.  Dump the vareniki in, and cook for about 8 minute till they float up to the surface.  Remove with a perforated spoon.

Traditionally served with butter and sour cream.  I sprinkled mine with aspirin! Crazy delicious!

If you liked this recipe, you may enjoy:

Russian Cutlets

I remember a year ago my son didn’t quite get the whole present idea.  Naively and cute he was thrilled about all the wrapping paper.

Today the morning started with “Mama! Birday? Presens!?” Oh! I was watching him opening all the presents, sadly wondering if his sweet innocence was forever gone,… when he asked my husband if Santa was coming…  Oh, dear…

Today’s recipe is the one he actually likes (because of the bacon).  I usually make a bunch of them, fry a few, and freeze the rest. 

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RUSSIAN CUTLETS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb (450 g) of ground beef
  • 1 lb (450 g) of ground pork
  • 5 oz (150 g) of day-old sourdough bread
  • 7 oz (200 g) of bacon
  • 1/2 cup brown rice, cooked
  • 1.5 cups of milk
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Oil for frying
  • 2 eggs, bitten (optional)
  • 3 cups of bread crumbs (optional)

Yields about 40 cutlets

DIRECTIONS:

Break the bread into chunks and pour milk over it.  Let soak. Note: use your favorite bread – I usually go with my 5-seed one.

Grind bacon, rice, onion, and garlic. Grind soaked bread with all the milk.

Mix ground beef and pork with the bacon/bread mixture, salt and pepper, squeezing with your fingers so that all ingredients incorporate.

Shape oval patties.  If you wish to, dip into the eggs and roll the patties in the bread crumbs.

Heat the oil on the skillet.  Fry the patties covered on mid-low heat for 4-5 min on each side.

Traditionally served with mashed potatoes or pasta, or could simply be eaten with bread.

Make ahead: you can store uncooked cutlets for up to 3 months.  Wrap each cutlet in plastic wrap, place in a zip-lock bag, and freeze.  Thaw completely before frying.

Homemade Yogurt

I guess it’s my own fault.  I don’t know why, but I listened to that woman again.  I’m talking about my mother, of course, whose topmost culinary achievement is microwaved oatmeal…  Somehow she convinced me to buy a yogurt maker.  Little did I know that her version of “extremely easy to make and absolutely delicious” yogurt looks like buttermilk and has utterly tart flavor.

For some time I thought that whatever we save on not buying commercial yogurt we are going to spend on psychiatrist fees, since I was going mad trying to play with temperatures, processing times, and ingredients in order to produce an eatable substance  with a nice thick texture that my household loves.

Finally my yogurt is up to par with our favorite brands, and I can proudly share the recipe with you!  This one is for my EuroCuisine yogurt maker that uses about 1 QT of milk and has 7 individual jars. 

Print this recipe

HOMEMADE VANILA-MAPLE YOGURT

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 qt milk (you can choose any milk you like from fat-free to whole)
  • 1 pckg yogurt starter
  • 7 tbs dry milk
  • 1 tbs vanilla
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup

 

DIRECTIONS

Pour milk into a medium-size saucepan and turn the heat to low.  Warm up the milk to 180⁰ F (approx.  80⁰C), steering to avoid burning.   On my small gas burner it takes about 15 minutes.

Immediately take the milk off the gas and chill to 110⁰ F (approx. 40⁰ C).  The process could be expedited if you place the saucepan into a bigger dish filled with ice cubes.

Meanwhile, measure the other ingredients, and turn on the yogurt maker to warm it up.

Once the milk reaches 110⁰ F (approx. 40⁰ C), pour about 1/3 of it into a mixing bowl.  Whisk in the yogurt starter.  Once yogurt starter is dissolved, whisk in dry milk.  Mix in vanilla and maple syrup.

Pour the mixture into the remaining milk through a fine strainer.  Mix to incorporate and pour into the yogurt jars.  Place the open jars in the yogurt maker and cover them with the top.

Let process for about 7 hours or until your yogurt reaches desired consistency.

Turn the yogurt maker off.  Remove the jars and cover them with individual lids.  Immediately place your yogurt into the fridge in order to stop the fermentation.

NOTES: If you read the directions above, yogurt recipe actually is “extremely easy”.  However, it does require attention.  The higher the temperatures – the more acidic the flavor, same goes for longer processing times.  We were trying to make yogurt based on the Gottschall’s recipes from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  Her version requires at least 24 hours of processing time in order to kill all lactose.  The end result was so tart, it even smelled sour.  We could only use it as a flavor enhancer for soups and such.  Also, fortifying yogurt with dry milk gives you a more nutritious product, though it makes it much thicker.  We like it thick, so it works for us, but the yogurt will still taste good without it.

2011 Instagram Favorites – Lil’ Jem and the fam

In a fruitless attempt of realizing some unfulfilled dream of his, my husband is growing Lil’ Jem’s hair.  He declared himself the sole person responsible for Jem’s Hair Plan.  

Mr. Big Hair Man.  Oh, little did I know that those days would go down in history as “short hair” days…

Watching the penguins at the zoo

100% boy

Non-fat spicy chai tea latte, thank you very much!

It’s always sunny in San Francisco

California Dude

Catching the waves with babushka

The big hair days

Happy Holidays! Na zdarovie!

2011 Instagram Favorites – baby Pea

My baby girl changed so much this year from this little bundle of lovin’ to the cutest toddler on Earth (coming from the most unbiased mother).  I guess this was the year of hats!.. or the year of mostly bold… ;-) Smooching my laptop screen right now!

Baby Pea in her flower hat

Baby Pea in her stocking hat

Baby Pea with a flower

Baby Pea in her brother’s hat

Baby Pea in her car-seat

Baby Pea with Daddy

Baby Pea with pumpkins

Baby Pea after a nap

Toddler Pea – Love of my life

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