Thursday, December 17, 2009

Crisp winter morning

I took these pictures about a week ago. It was fabulous to wake up to such a beautiful sight! Right after breakfast we were outside sliding down our hill.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Birthday Party

A couple of weeks ago we went to a girl's birthday party at paint studio. Kids had a blast and so did I. Couldn't stop taking pictures with my iphone.

Tomato Orzo Soup

Here is another fantastic soup from Turkey. I've learned to cook it this past summer from my mother-in-law. You see when my younger son being less then a year old has tried this soup for the first time he has not only finished a huge bowl of it-he asked for more. I thought he was just plain hungry that day. But no. He loved it ! Now I cook it basically once a week and together with my hubby they are finishing the pot almost instantly.
You can understand now that I've made this soup dozens of times and at one point I have added one more ingredient that I think made the flavor even richer. It is a Turkish red pepper paste. Let me tell you that I am in love with it! It is now my secret ingredient when it comes to pulling off any great tomato based sauce or soup. It just makes everything so much more flavorful.
By all means if you have a Middle Eastern store in your neighborhood stop by and get yourself a jar. Try to get the one that is made from Antep peppers since it doesn't get any better then that. And please pay attention as the paste may come in different levels of spiciness.
One last thing I need to comment on before I get back to the recipe. You will need to grate fresh tomatoes for this soup. If you've never done this before the best way of doing it is by cutting tomato in half and then grating it until you reach the skin.

So....lets get back to the soup. You will need

1 Tbs of flour

1 Tbs of butter

2 Tbs of tomato paste

2 Tbs of pepper paste (optional)

3 tomatoes grated

8 cups of chicken broth (about 2 liters)

1/2 cup of orzo pasta (rice shaped pasta)

1/2 tsp or more of dry mint

In a pot over a high moderate heat melt 1tbs of butter then add 1 Tbs of flour. Now you have to mix them constantly until the flour achieves this golden color and starts giving away a nutty aromas. Basically you are trying to make a roux. Then add about a cup of broth and stir everything well to make a smooth base for the soup. I like using a whisk for that task. Now pour the rest of the broth. Add your tomato and pepper pastes plus grated tomatoes. Increase the heat and start bringing everything to the boil. Once you soup is boiling add orzo and dry mint. Lower the heat and cook until pasta is ready.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just Grate

Holiday season is here. I love the spirit of it. I love the idea of simple homemade meals for the most dear people. Unfortunately our both families are far away and that's why my mind these days brings back the memories of holidays back in Russia
I thought about sharing with you two very simple side dishes that are sure to be found on many tables this holiday seasons in Russia.

I am talking about GRATED BEETS and GRATED CARROTS.

You need to cook BEETS first. Scrub them good, trim the stem but not too close to the bulb and leave the root untouched. Then boil like you would potato- until the knife inserted goes in smoothly. I would think 3 medium beets should be fine here. Once they are cooked you need to peel them ( the skin will come right off) and grate.
Add one clove of garlic crushed, couple of spoons of mayonnaise and a handful of crushed walnuts.

The CARROTS do not need cooking. For this dish you will grate 2 large carrots then simply add 1 crushed garlic clove and mayo. The day I cooked it for myself and took picture I did not feel like adding anything else in it. But crushed walnuts or even raisins would work great in here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Turkish wedding

I've been moving my data from one laptop to another and so I found the pictures I took this past summer in Turkey. I remember being very excited when I witnessed this authentic wedding. It was not at all what my wedding looked like and since it all was unfolding right on the street where my husband's parents live I knew I had to take lots of pictures.
It was a day long wedding with lots of interesting details so I will try to share with you what I saw.
It all started early in the morning with a lonely sheep tied down to a entryway into an apartment building. And then 2 musicians arrived. They were to announce to everyone in the neighborhood about wedding. That was seriously loud!Towards noon the sheep was pulled away into an empty lot near the house and was prepared for a big event.
When the bride and a groom arrived they watched the ceremony of sheep sacrifice and then with blessings from their guests they went into there future home. The guests meanwhile were invited to their tables that were arranged basically on the street. The bride did not join them. She stayed in her room with all her friends until dusk.
In the evening the men went on dancing on the street . The bride and her girlfriends were still upstairs. When the dusk came the celebrations continued. Another ceremony had to be performed.And then of course more dancing. The bride was just so gorgeous!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Yogurt soup

Fall is time for soups. And while its still not too cold outside yogurt soup seems to be the perfect choice. It has this nice velvety texture that is very warming right now and at the same time lots of mint brings back aromas of summer. What can be better!
So let me start by saying a few words about the type of yogurt you need for this soup. Please look for a full fat or at least 2% variety of Greek yogurt. It has to be almost sour cream consistency and not one of these light-textured breakfast yogurts. I buy large container of FAGE or CHOBANI brands in here.
To cook the soup you will want to mix yogurt and broth in ratio of 1 to 3. So if later you want to cook a smaller portion of this soup please keep that number in mind .
Another trick with this soup is that you have to make sure you do not bring it to boil too fast and you steer it as often as possible otherwise your yogurt with curdle. Basically with this soup you have to keep an eye on it at all times. Good thing is it doesn't take long to cook. So here is what you will need

1 large container of strained Greek yogurt (17,6oz /500 g)

3 containers filled with chicken broth ( use the yogurt container )

1/4 cup of short grain rice

1 egg

1 Tbs of flour

1/4 tsp of salt

1 Tbs dry mint+ more for serving

your favorite red pepper for serving

Without starting your stove put all the ingredients except red pepper into a pan and mix it well. Now start your stove on medium heat. Keep mixing the soup every once in a while so that it heats evenly. Your task is to bring it to a boil slowly. Go ahead and increase the heat later if neede it. Once you are there lower the heat again and cook the soup still steering occasionally until rice is done.
To serve sprinkle with some more mint and red pepper.

Monday, November 2, 2009


What a beautiful warm day it was...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkin cookies

For a few week now my son kept asking me for pumpkin cookies. And I have no idea why cookies and not muffins for instance. So I had to find a recipe and plus I knew I wanted to roast my own pumpkin. Well I ended up using butternut squash which did not really affected the taste. I cut it in half lengthwise, put it on a cookie sheet face down and roasted at 450 F (230C) for about 45 minutes. Then I scooped and pured the flash to get a nice silky consistency. I've got to tell you that it smelled absolutely heavenly!
Now I just couldn't wait to make the cookies. I used the recipe I found at all recipes dot com and it turned out really well. We love soft texture for cookies and these ones were almost like tiny pumpkin breads. They were awesome! I am sure I will make them more very soon.
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin spice mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F (175C)

Combine first 4 wet ingredients. Then in a separate bowl mix all the dry ingredients. Then mix them together trying not to overdo otherwise the cookie will come out too crumbly.

Now mix in the chocolate chips. Drop the batter by spoonful on a prepared cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Hope you willl enjoy them as much as we did.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Even if I was the last person to learn about ColorMe Katie blog I would still feel like sharing it with you guys. This girl is a ray of sun shine. I can't believe how inspirational she is . Please visit her blog and I promise you will have a smile on your face after just 3 minutes and you will want to go out and do something good for somebody you don't even know. She is contagiously amazing.
Don't miss the Grocery Store musical or any other Improv Everywhere posts. I just wish there were more people like her. Imagine, in one of her post she was describing how after missing the flight and being stuck at the airport she was making those lovely notes for people to find around the airport. How many of us would have come up with something so genuinely sweet and caring. I probably would have been rather upset and would have spent time reading , chatting with people or drinking coffee with croissants somewhere.
From now on I will follow her blog and I am sure if one day I would wake up feeling sad and uninspired all I will have to do is to check her blog.

Moscow 2003

Found some pictures of Moscow I took back in 2003. Please don't judge the quality since I did not have a good camera back then. Don't you love this lady on a second picture ?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I guess Borsch is the first dish that comes to your mind when you think of Russian cuisine. So I am very happy to share with you the technique behind it. The reason I say technique is because basically you can do borsch any way you like it as long as you add beets and you cook them separately before adding to your soup.
I remember my grandmother cooking a rich beef stock first and then building her borsch from there. She would always make it with cabbage and potatoes. And then she would make sure everyone would get a piece of juicy meet from the pot on their plate. My mom would always make it vegetarian and would sweat the beets in butter rather than in lard. As for me I like playing with it even more. One day I would do it vegetarian and the other day would add meet. I may substitute potato with white beans and have it with Brussels sprouts since they tend to be sweeter than regular cabbage. But I never omit the step where you sweat your beets in little butter and tomato paste on a separate pan with a squeeze of lemon. This is the only way you can achieve this beautiful red color and bring out all the sweetness of beets.
If you choose to go with meet based borsch start by enhancing your beef broth. You will need to brown the meat in the pot, then add 1 onion halved and 1 coarsely diced carrot and then pour 6 cups of beef stock and cook on low for about 20 minutes.

6 cups of broth (vegetarian, chicken or beef)
2 tbs butter
1 tbs of corn oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stick, diced
3 Tbs of tomato paste
2-3 beets, diced
1 tsp vinegar or a squeeze of lemon
2 medium potatoes, pilled (or a can of white beans)
1 red pepper, diced
half a head of small cabbage , julienned
(or 0,5 lb of Brussels sprouts)
2 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

For serving: sour cream, chopped parsley and/or dill, , pilled garlic, bread and 1tbsp of salt

In a big pot heat 1 tbs of butter with oil and cook onion until translucent. Add carrots and celery and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add 1 spoon of tomato paste and caramelize it by stirring for a minute. Then pour the broth of your choice and bring it to a boil.
Meanwhile julienne your cabbage and add it to the soup. Now dice the potato and add them as well. Do the same with the pepper. Bring everything to a boil again. Add the bay leaves then lower the heat, cover with the lid and let it cook.
Now it is the turn for the beets. Heat another 1 tbs of butter on a separate pan. Add the beets, 2 Tbs of tomato paste and squeeze some lemon ( 1 tsp of vinegar). Sautee for about 10-15 minutes or until soft. Now you can add them to the pot together with some crashed garlic and bring everything again to a boil. Lower the heat to a minimum and cook for another 20 minutes.

Serve borsch with some sour cream and plenty of chopped parsley and/or dill.
Even better deep some peeled garlic into salt and rub the crust of your sliced bread. Yumm!


Saturday, October 17, 2009


Thanks to my friend Inna who reminded me about this apple cake. She is so good at it and honestly I miss having a cup of tea with a slice of just-baked-apple-goodness with her! So you would understand if I say that I had to make it today for breakfast.
This is a very Russian cake though the name may not sound so (people are still guessing about the origin of the French name for this cake). Sharlotka is as dear for Russians as Apple pie for Americans but the simplicity of Sharlotka allows a hostess to bake it an instant weather she is having some unexpected guests or say for breakfast. There are only 5 ingredients for this apple cake and they are sure to be found at any time in any Russian house.

This recipe is from my family and I've learned to bake it since I was little over 10 y.o. So think about it as a good recipe for baking with kids after you come back home from apple picking at the farm. It doesn't get any easier then:

4 eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of flour
4-5 sour apples (*see a Note)
a pinch of salt
Start by preheating your oven to 350 F (or 180 C). Then peel and slice your apples to your liking. Now beat the eggs on high for a few minutes. The longer you do it the better the cake will be. Without stopping your mixer slowly add sugar and mix some more. Now add flour and salt (cinnamon optional) but this time mix just until incorporated.

Now here I have to make another note. In Russia we use white flour but to make it more healthy I did mine today with Whole Wheat Pastry flour and it turned out perfect. I think I will not go back to white flour for this recipe anymore.

I use my Pirex glass pie dish. Oil the bottom to prevent sticking and then start building your Sharlotka by layering apples and batter. Cover the bottom with one layer of apples then pour some batter. Repeat about 3-4 times leaving some apples for the top.

I sprinkled mine with some decorative cinnamon sugar but I do not recall using any cinnamon for that recipe growing up. Now you may put it in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes.


Note: If you have only sweet apples on hand you can still use them but sprinkle them with juice of half a lemon before adding them to the batter.

Friday, October 16, 2009

TURKISH PILAF with liver, pine nuts and raisins

I thought I would share with you my all time favorite recipe for Turkish pilaf. Of course it is something I have learned to cook from my mother-in-law. I love it sooo much that one has to pull me away from the bowl of this rice in order for me not to finish it all by myself. It is has an explosion of flavors. It is so reach that it can be a meal in itself.
This pilaf is cooked with liver, pine nuts and little raisins. I know I know what some of you may think about liver. But hey liver is cut in such tiny pieces here that I find this dish to be the perfect way of introducing the flavor of liver to your taste buds. After all you can put as little or as much liver as you wish or just totally omit it. It won't be the same of course but the rice will not disappoint you.
First let me start by telling you that I use chicken liver here. You can find it in almost any grocery store in the chicken aisle. But of course the organic liver of a grass feed chicken from the place like Whole Foods would be the best option . It would be sold in a plastic container and is very very cheap. We are talking about 1-2 dollars per container here. So it won't break your bank. All you need to do at home is to rinse liver and cut it in tiny tiny pieces.
Another thing you might want to do is to soak the rice in boiling hot water before you start cooking. What it does is it quickens the cooking time fore you and you will get nice grains at the end that are not sticking to each other.
So here is the recipe

2 cups of short grain rice
3 cups of chicken stock
2 Tbsp. or more of liver, cut into tiny pieces
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp oil
a handful of pine nuts
a handful of small raisins (*see Note)
salt and pepper to taste

If you have time start by covering your rice with boiling water. Mix it and leave for about half an hour or up to a few hours if needed. If not skip this step and go straight to next.
In your pan melt butter and oil . Add liver and pine nuts and sautee for a couple of minutes. Add chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Now add rice ( you want to drain your rice if you soaked it before). Adjust salt and pepper to your liking depending on what kind of broth you are using.
Now lower the heat to simmering and put the cover on your pan. In 5 minute add raisins and give your pilaf a mix. Put the cover back on. Check it in 5 minutes again. If the rice is almost done and you still have too much liquid in your pan increase the heat to evaporate it. Otherwise cook for about 5 more minutes or until rice is ready.

* Note. In Turkey they have these very small raisins that are perfect for cooking with. I am very sure you can find them in Middle Eastern specialty shops. Otherwise just try chopping California raisins into smaller bites.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Talking about everyday discoveries... I have stumbled upon a blog/shop Emersonmade and this girl blew me away! I can't tell you how many times I have opened her pages to go over and over her pieces today. What a creativity! What an impeccable style! What a personality!
I want to own every single of her outfits and I wish I can wear those gorgeous flowers with the same grace and boldness. And did I forget to mention she's funny?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lentil apple soup

It was a perfect sunny September day with high blue sky and gorgeous white clouds. A little wind didn't let you forget that cold days are just around a corner. And occasional red spots on still green trees made you long for more colors of the fall. It was a perfect day for apple picking!

Having a large bag of assorted apples now in my kitchen I couldn't wait to use them right away. Traditional apple pie had to wait until week-end since we were having a pumpkin ice-cream for desert and it was time to cook dinner. So I had to come up with something quick and simple. It was...
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 small apple(*) diced into little pieces
1 tbs of tomato paste
4 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of red lentil

Saute onion in mixture of butter and oil for a few minutes until translucent then stir in crashed garlic and cook for another minute constantly mixing so that garlic doesn't burn. Add tomato paste and apple. Stir to combine then pour chicken broth. Bring it to a boil.
Meanwhile rinse the lentils and add them to the soup. Bring everything to a boil again then lower the heat and cook for about 15-20 minutes until lentil is cooked.
I used blender to break the apple pieces at the end and to make soup smoother but you can leave it as it is for some unexpected bites of sour joy.

(*) Note. Since we've been picking apples from all sorts of trees growing on the farm I am having hard times now identifying the apple I used. It was one of those red-green/sweet-tart apples.