Saturday, June 30, 2012

Euro 2012 Final: Party Food


In just several hours eyes of millions football fans (soccer for US readers) will be glued to their TV sets for the final game of the tournament. Two of the most gifted teams, Spain and Italy, will make a thrilling conclusion in UEFA Euro 2012, and we, fans, anticipate a final game to remember. 
Each celebration requires a party with some beer and food. 

Roasted eggplants

Spicy meatballs and grilled zucchini

Strawberry lemonade

Pastry with meat (belyashi)

Poached cod

And a desert: delicious bite size footballs (recipe from Averie Cooks)

Teams, we are ready to enjoy 90 minutes of remarkable game. Good luck!

Are you watching the final game of Euro 2012?

See you,

Zaletti: Polenta Cookies From The Veneto

Aren't those cookies gorgeous? How innocent those diamons are?! Close your eyes and try them: do you taste a little Venice in each bite?  Lemon zest and cranberry, combined in this recipe with a little polenta, invite you to experience a new taste: fragrant and romantic. I fell in love with this cookies from the recipe in the book, as soon as I read through the ingredients list. One hour later I had a plate of an incredibly delicious gems.

(recipe adapted from the book Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma)

Ingredients (I made a few substitutions, which are marked in red):

1 ¾ cups All-Purpose Flour
¾ cup dried currants
¼ cup boiling water
3 T. Grappa Brandy 
1 cup quick-cooking polenta or fine cornmeal
¾   1/4 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling on the cookies
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
1 egg yolk
4 oz. (1 stick) sweet, unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon 

1. Start by pouring 3 tablespoon of brandy over the dried currants. Add boiling water, set aside.

2. In a bowl combine together all dry ingredients (flour, polents, sugar, baking powder, and salt).

3. In another bowl combine "wet" ingredients: lightly bitten egg and eggyolk, butter and lemon zest.

4. Stirr "wet" ingredients into the dry, add currants and form the dough. Don't overwork the dough!

5. Chill the dough in refrigerator for one hour.

6. Preheat the oven to 325 F.

7. Form the dimond shaped cookie and place on cookie sheet with parchment paper.

8. Bake 12-15 minutes until cookies are colden brown.

9. Let cookies to cool for 5 minutes.

10. It's time to make some coffee or tea, and enjoy!

It says that cookies can be stored in the air tight container for up to three days. Ahm,  in this family they didn't last even three hours...
My verdict: belissimo! (which in Italian means lovely). 

Cat's verdict... :)



Thursday, June 28, 2012

Healthy Lunch On The Go

Although I try to avoid it, but sometimes it happens and I have to have a quick lunch, made out of available ingredients: here it was a sandwich with smoked salmon, spreadable goat cheese (homemade), some sprouts on the top, a glass of orange juice, and a bowl of salad (kale salad). Nutritious and filling, this lunch kept me on the go until dinner time.

How do you eat, when on the go? 
Would you make a quick lunch, or would you have a take out from the restaurant or fast food joint nearby?

See you,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cold Summer Soup: Okroshka


Okroshka is a cold summer soup of Russian origin. During hot summer days this soup is the best way to keep  cool. Main ingredient for okroshka is kvass, a fermented drink, made off rye, buckwheat, and whole wheat  bread, barley malt, yeast, and a little sugar. When kvass is ready, it's time to make okroshka: chop all vegetables (and optional, meat) and serve.
I've never had okroshka before I met my husband, Mr. IV, who is an expert in okroshka. When we lived in Seattle, kvass was available for purchase at many European Deli and health food markets.  Here I had to learn a thousand years old skill (yes, that's how many years kvass has been around, quite a drink, ha?!) and make it myself. 

Work in progress

So, I make kvass, and Mr.IV and teenager cut all the ingredients: cooked potatoes, hard boiled eggs, radishes, green onions, dill, cucumbers. 
Diced vegetables can be refrigerated for up to two day (if it can stay that long!) Cold kvass is added in the individual bowls just before eating with a little sour cream, and seasoned with salt and pepper. 

Man at work... :)

You must wander what okroshka was made off six centuries before potatoes were domesticated in Europe? Most commonly available vegetable in "before potato" era was turnip.  

Great job dicing!

Kvass is not only an ingredient for okroshka but also is a drink, consumed during a hot summer days more than water.
To make kvass, I start with baking the bread (any store bought dark rye bread can be used).  
Then I slice it and toast until it has amber brown color. Next, to 8 liters of water (2 gallons) I add 6-7 slices of toasted bread, 2 cups of sugar, 20 grams dried yeast, and 1/4 cup barley malt. 
Mix it well, cover and let to ferment from 12 to 24 hours. 
Strain kvass into a glass bottles or pitchers and keep refrigerated. 
Enjoy as a drink, and make some okroshka, it will keep you cool!

See you,

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Give Yourself Permition to Take a Journey

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and land.” 
                                                                  Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass 

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Little Fish Snack

Recently, I found an Asian store not that far from our home. Oriental ingredients are still terra incognita to me, I feel more like on a cultural expedition rather than a shopping experience. Usually I would buy some vegetables,  but last time a little fish caught my attention. Why everything small is so cute and attractive, and impossible to resist?! I asked a sales person what kind of fish it was, but was met with a puzzled look and a phrase: "a small fish". 
Well, I came home with a pound of that little fish, dipped it in corn flour, mixed with salt, cayenne pepper, and fried it. Part of the little fish I used for my salad, the other part I put on a small picks with some red peppers. 

Little fishy snack

It was our snack during the Euro 2012 game Italy-England. 
And what a dynamic, fascinating, and the toughest game it was! Players of both teams gifted their fans with two hours of good football.

Are you a football (soccer) fan? 
Do you have a favorite game snack?

See you,

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kale Salad

Forecast for next week is not promising: temperature above 40C (100F) all week long. I was brave enough to cook a few meals and bake some bread, but most of our meals during the week will be cold, cold salads, beginning with a simple kale salad. 
Last Saturday at the Farmer's Market I stopped at the stand with a great selection of leafy greens with young kale being most attractive. I made this salad as soon as I came home from the Market.

Kale Salad With Avocado Dressing and Peaches

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2-3 peaches, chilled

Wash the kale and set aside.
Cut avocado, remove the pit, spoon avocado flash into a small bowl, mash it with a fork, add lemon juice and mix well.
In a large mixing bowl combine kale and avocado dressing, mix well until all kale is coated. 
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve with chilled sliced peaches. 

This salad became quickly our favorite, flavor is incredible. I tried other fruits, and even berries, but peaches make the best topping for the avocado coated kale.

Have a great week!

See you,


Last weekend we were left alone, unsupervised by our kids. We unleashed our be-an-example-to-your-kids guards, and had a total fun. At some point, I stepped away from it and took a few photos.

My friend Lisa and I were talking about this book while having a glass of that...

There was some exciting conversation going on... probably, about the food. What else can be so fascinating? Drinks?  
Sorry, kids, I know we didn't talk about you at that moment...

Then some of us opened their pool season. Yey!

Floating bar with ...

...a drink: beer or that Skinny Girl (see photo on the top)

Mr. IV (my husband) resting in the pool, aw... I want in there too! :)

Let the fun begin!

A vocal ...

...and a dance performance by Lisa's husband,

and by both of them. You two are so cute, and happy! :)

Cat was"supervising" us, safely, through the window

It was a good day, when we left all restrictions and rules aside, and just were, how do I say it?  Kids again?! Unsupervised? Free to be silly? Whatever it was, it lifted our spirit for many days to come. 

How often do you let yourself off the "appropriate in public " guards?

See you,

Friday, June 22, 2012

UEFA EURO 2012, Ferrari, and Macaroni and Cheese

I love the color... Source
What this three things have in common? Dreaming of a Ferrari, our teenager, Mr. Neo, watches football (soccer) Eurocup daily. And when he doesn't watch TV, he plays football (soccer) and drives Ferrari on his X Box. Oh, sweet time: summer break! 
A few days ago I offered him to bake something, to practice his coulinary skills. He already makes pizza and best sushi rolls ever. Back in Seattle he proudly made dinner on Friday nights, most of the time it would be eel rolls, spicy tuna rolls, salmon rolls, California rolls. He brought all his sushi tools with him, but lack of seafood in the area keeps our Fridays sushiless.

Today he pleased us with his very own macaroni and cheese, made all from scratch.
He used corn macaroni, cheddar cheese, cream, and a little butter. Baked in the 350F oven for 30-35 minutes, or until cheese is golden brown. He also made a garden salad to go with macaroni and cheese. For dessert we had a bowl of fresh cherries. 

The simple dinner made us happy, 
and that's what food is all about, right?

See you,

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cold Cucumber Salad For a Hot Summer Day

We love chunky salads
Some months ago, the owner of the store where I buy my cheese and yoghurt cultures, gave me a small jar with some kefir grains. He knew I was looking for it, asked his customers, and one gentleman happened to have some extra to share. When Paul, the store owner, called me to come to pick up my grains, I was as happy as I could be: I was looking for live kefir grains for a long time. I took my little cooler, where I prepared an ice bed for my new "babies", got in the car and drove to the store. Another pleasant surprise was in the store: I wasn't charged for the kefir grains, it was donated to me by the gentleman. Thank you!
I drove back slower than usual: I didn't want to disturb my little grains. At home I placed the grains in a half gallon (2 liters)  jar with a whole milk and patiently waited util next morning. The reward was worth all the waiting and asking around: kefir was born, and is still alive (in 2-3 batches a week). 
I make the kefir from a whole cow and goat milk, last one being milder than forerun. Kefir can also be made from soy milk, and even a water. 
We drink kefir as is (raw kefir has an incredible qualities, responsible for health and longevity of people in Caucasian region in Easters Europe), use it in salads, soups, and cooking. However, temperature above the  40 °C / 104 °F would kill the culture, hence would reduce all health benefits. 

Variation with sweet onions

Cold cucumber salad with a kefir dressing

Both, cucumbers and kefir have to be chilled.

Cut the cucumbers to a desirable thickness, and set aside.

Mix 1/2 cup of kefir with a salt and dill, pour over the cucumbers and enjoy. 
Your can place covered bowl with the salad in the refrigerator for two hours for all flavors to blend. 

Easy, healthy, and refreshing. This salad would make you happy on a hot summer day! 

Do you drink  kefir or use it in any recipes?  

See you,

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Give Yourself Permission to Relax

The time to relax is when you don't have time for it (Sydney J. Harris)

See you,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Breakfast: Polenta With Peaches

Our Farmer's Market smells like orchard lately: peaches are in it's season. Baskets filled with a velvety fruits and delicate aroma invite the visitors from many stands. We've been eating peaches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and in between for two weeks. Our home is perfumed with a lovely peach aroma. 
I am experimenting with peaches in unusual (for us) meals. For example: polenta for breakfast with peaches and agave nectar. Easy, but healthy and delicious start of the day. Why it is unusual? Because we eat polenta with cheeses, mushrooms, vegetables, in other words savory. 

Polenta with peaches and agave nectar
Cook polenta following the instruction on the package, and serve with peach slices and agave nectar. 

Dear friends, have you made an unusual meal with the peaches? 

See you,

Monday, June 18, 2012

Easy Berry Cake

Easy Berry Cake

This recipe I found in the recent edition of America's Test Kitchen called Best Summer Desserts, which came in full color this time. As you know, I don't bake that often, maybe 3-4 times a year for a very special occasions (bread and savory baking doesn't count). Also a high motivation is needed to put in in a baking mode. This time I had the occasion, all was needed was a motivation. That's where the magazine played it's role: I turned page by page until one photo struck me. It momentarily brought me back to my grandmother's country home: table under the cherry tree was covered with white airy tablecloth, a bawl of fresh summer berries, a clay pitcher with fresh milk, and a summer berries cake. Fresh breeze from the river would swing through the play area with an inviting smell of cake would gather us, kids, around the table for a snack. 
I lingered over that page for some time before I continued reading. And then I went back to that photo,  and idle in the moment before I put on an apron to carry on to baking.


Easy Berry Cake 


1 1/2  cup (200 gram) all-purpose flour
1 1/2  teaspoon (8 gram) baking powder
1/2   teaspoon (3 gram) salt
8  tablespoon (120 gram) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (100 gram) sugar Agave nectar
2 large eggs plus one large white, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (80 ml) whole milk, room temperature
2 cups (400 gram) fresh berries: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries

Smooth the batter evenly in the pan
For the topping:
1 cup (250 gram) sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoon (8 ml) Agave nectar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest 
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175C). Oven rack is on the middle position.

2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in bowl.

3. In a stand mixer beat together butter and Agave nectar (or any other sweetener of your choice) until butter is pale and fluffy).

4. Add eggs and white, one at a time. Add vanilla and beat until well mixed. Scrape the bawl and a paddle, if needed.

5. Start adding flour in portions, alternating with milk. 

6. Stop the mixer, and give batter a good stir to make sure all ingredients are mixed well. 

7. Gently fold berried into the batter.

8. Transfer batter to a well greased 9 inch pan, even the top.

9. Bake 35-40 minutes, rotating pan in the oven half  way through. Set a kitchen timer for 20 minutes for this task.  When cake is done, toothpick, inserted in the middle of the cake, comes out clean.

10. Cool cake in the pan for 30-60 minutes. 

Topping: whisk together sour cream and Agave nectar. Chill in the refrigerator before serving.
Serve cake with a dollop of topping, sprinkled with a few dollops of lemon juice and lemon zest.

Sour cream topping

To make it diabetic friendly cake for my father, I didn't use any sugar in this cake. I also reduced the amount of sweetener in half in both cake and topping. The cake tasted great with all the fresh berries flavor combination. The original recipe uses whipped heavy cream for topping. I made topping my grandmother's way, with chilled sour cream. 
When teenager had his first slice, he said that he had a feeling that he had something like it before, but doesn't remember me making it. I told him that when he was little, we spend a few summers at grandma's summer cottage, and he did enjoy eating that cake. He doesn't remember anything but the taste. 

My friends, what triggers your good food  memories: 
a photo, a taste, a smell?

See you,

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Father's Day Cake, and a Basket

 Fresh berries cake with a lemon zest cream topping

Thinking of the Father's Day post, I asked myself a question: what my father would like? My first thought was a cake, but not just any cake, something my father would eat. Oh, no, he is not a picky one! He has a sweet tooth for our whole big family. However because of his diabetes, he can't eat sweets anymore.  I found a recipe, twisted it a little bit around, and made a diabetic-friendly cake. I know my dad would really enjoy it all to himself! (The recipe is coming in the next post).

Another thought I had was about my/partially dad's garden. Back in January, when my parents were visiting us, my dad started my little garden: he prepared garden beds, changed a soil in the boxes, walked me through on seed preparation  before planting, patiently answered a zillion gardening questions I asked him. Now they are back in Europe, but each time we Skype or talk on the phone, dad always asks me about the garden. And a big thanks to Skype and my blog, he can actually see it growing.  So as another gift from mother-nature and my labor is this basket of today's harvest. 

Today's harvest: tomatoes, basil, jalapeno and banana peppers
I know my dad would be happy seeing those gifts. 

Happy Father's Day! :)

See you, 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato: Gourmet Dinner

Boiled potatoes topped with sunflower oil, salt, minced garlic, dill, and black pepper

We have an all time favorite dinner: a bowl of boiled potatoes and a bowl of fresh garden salad. No matter what elaborate meals I make, once a week (or more) we need to have our favorite meal. And I have two men to watch me (I've tried to skip it for some time but was firmly reminded to add "our favorite potatoes" to the weekly menu). 
Our Farmer's Market has a variety of potatoes, hence we have a variety of potato meals. My latest favorite are fingerling potatoes that come in different colors:  yellow (Russian Banana), Purple Peruvian, and red (French Fingerlings), to name a few
I started with the yellow: when cooked they hold shape but it's creamy flesh melts in your mouth into the pleasing your taste texture.

There is no recipe how to make this potatoes, you just boil it, drain the water and top with a tablespoon of a oil of your choice, salt, minced garlic, chopped dill (mandatory in my family!), and freshly grind black pepper. Mix and serve with a side of meat, fish, or in our home with some garden salad. 

Easy, quick, delicious, and healthy too (potato is a good source of dietary fiber and vitamins and minerals). 
Out of curiosity I made boiled potatoes for dinner several days in a row, thinking that my men would notice and ask for something else. 
Silly me! they didn't get bored of potatoes at all, and even when I asked they said they would eat boiled potatoes every day! Message taken.

Garden fresh salad: tomatoes, basil and onions are home grown

Do you have an easy "go to" meal?

See you,