Monday, November 26, 2012

Grand Marnier Apple Pie

Grand Marnier Apple Pie...

Have you had enough pies over this holiday weekend? We didn't. We never have enough pies. If I decide to feed my family only pies for a whole year, which is 365 days, then on 366th day they would ask for more. Filling is the key, and each member of my family has their favorite: our kids love pumpkin pie; husband and I melt from an apple pie (I think we fell in love over an apple pie), my dad has his tooth set for a cabbage and egg pie, and mother can't have enough of potato-mushroom pie. But we don't eat pumpkin pie year round. Although pumpkin filling is readily available canned at any given time, cravings for it becomes obvious only in the fall and early winter. The filling for the pie changes with the season and by the time we had enough of cherry and blueberry pie, we all are ready for pumpkin again. 

Over the weekend I made this simple pie with a gourmet touch of Grand Marnier. Don't worry about the alcohol: it evaporates during baking, leaving only it's gentle flavor.

Keys to happiness... :)

Grand Marnier Apple Pie

  • 1 sheet puff pastry (store bought)
  • 4-5 apples (I used red and green), cored and pilled (optional), and sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • 1 lemon (juice and zest)
  • 1 Tablespoon good honey
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

In a large bowl combine sliced apples, lemon juice and zest, and honey. Mix all ingredients well and refrigerate for 30 minutes, shaking the bowl a few times for even flavor distribution.

Preheat oven to 355 F (180 C).

Roll puff pastry and  cover the 9 inch pie dish, then cut the excess of the dough.

Add the filling and decorate with the remaining dough.

Sprinkle a little pinch of sugar over the top (optional) and bake 30 minutes or until the crust turns brown, rotating dish 180 degrees half way through baking.

Serve warm or let it cool (if you can wait that long). 
I love apples in this pie: baked to the bite, not mushy.


I didn't have a chance to play with props, lights, etc.
By the time I had it all ready this slice was all that left... :)

Note: I was thinking if I should post this pie and photos as it is not one of those state of the art pies with fancy rims and beautiful tops. It is just a simple pie made for the family dinner, and I decorated it with love. But then I thought: how many of us have time and patience on a regular weekday night to play with the pie crust? I decided to share. 

What do you think about this pie's appearance?

What is your favorite pie filling?

See you

Sunday, November 25, 2012

On a Goat Trail

Thanksgiving holidays gave us four days of togetherness, lovely family time, and celebration with our friends. 

Early Thanksgiving morning we took a little road trip to visit our friends Ginger and Bob, and our goats-friends. Forty minutes drive took us through a beautiful country side.

Upon our arrival, Ginger offered a walk with her goats.

Let me introduce you Miss Hadley... 
 I could never say "no" to such graceful invitation...

Goats are very intelligent creatures: 

 they took us to our first stop:

the persimmon tree, one of their favorite treats.
Bob knocked off the tree one of the ripest and most delicious persimmons I've ever tasted. 

Hadley and other girls enjoyed their "persimmon" stop...

Another gourmet stop along the way: apparently, those red leaves don't just look beautiful...
Hadley's having some "me" time...
Back on the trail...

we found some pecans...

and girls found some "berry" tasty treats...

We met this confused cow. I wonder: is she confused about her twisted horns (see, one horn is twisted up, another- down), or the hikers on the trail?
Ginger and Bob: happy family and happy goats...

Upon our return from the walk Hadley went to check out a feeder,
but was taken aback by the view ...

 only for a moment...

When we were driving back home, the husband said: "No wonder that milk tastes so good..." 
Nothing more, nothing less...

That tasty milk makes a delicious cheese too.
Dill goat cheese on rye bread

Happy friends and happy goats made another family Thanksgiving happy. 

She is definitely next American Goat Model! :)

Thank you, Ginger and Bob, 
and thank's to the girls!

See you,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Celebrating Thanksgiving

While Thanksgiving is a national holiday in US, anyone in the world has something to be thankful for: family, friends, love along with rain, food, shelter... 

“Be aware of what you have in hand rather than to be for what you don’t. 
Everyone will be grateful to what you have.” —Kurt Avish

Have a joyful day!

See you,

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Where is my rolling pin? Cheese Bread

My dinner tonight
In the move I lost my rolling pin. Well, I didn't loose it exactly, it's hiding in one of those unpacked boxes, that in a hurry I didn't sign. The rolling pin didn't fit in any well signed kitchen stuff boxes, so I left it to be placed in some other box of appropriate size.
Which one of those still unpacked boxes hide my rolling pin? Give me a hint, please?! 
I have a dough rising and very soon I'd be desperate for a rolling pin! OK, no rolling pin, let me see what I can use to flatten the dough. Hands? Yes, I can try flipping the dough from one hand to the other like those cooks in pizza places do to show off their skills. Or maybe just to show off... No, most definitely skills, which I am lacking at this time: my dough wanted to land on the table more often that on my hand. 

What else I can use to roll the dough? Oh, a bottle of wine, it looks like my rolling pin anyway, well, if it had one handle missing. But when I am missing a whole rolling pin that could also work.

Not perfect yet rolled... :)

then spread the filling on it...


and let it proof.

Slowly but surely I did roll the dough, made a cheese bread, and left it rise while I went to a store to buy a new rolling pin. And what a pin it is, check it out yourself... A treasure... My new old rolling pin...

I wander how old is this price?

to make more savory breads...

Bread recipe is here

See you,

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Roasted Mushrooms and Potato Cakes

Autumn brings beauty to our land and bounty to our kitchens. For some people Autumn is about pumpkins, for our family it's more about mushrooms. Another day I spoke to my parents via Skype, and my mother showed me her "harvest" of wild mushrooms. I leaned towards a monitor almost flipping it over: I love mushrooms, especially the wild once, that fill your kitchen with the earthy aroma even before it's cooked. Imagine how fragrant is the kitchen when cooking starts! 
Being thousands miles away from what's cooking in my mother's kitchen, to make me feel better I went "foraging" through aisles of a local grocery store. I picked some portobello mushrooms. They are not as aromatic as the wild one, but with a little trick they can do a job. And what is better than mushrooms and potatoes together? For dinner?


Roasted Mushrooms and Potato cakes

  • 3-4 Russet potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
  • 2-3 portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 leek, white part only, shaved
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup canola or sunflower oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mushroom sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped, for garnishing
  • salt an pepper to taste

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F (200 C).
2. In a skillet preheat one tablespoon oil, and add leeks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute until translucent. Remove from the heat, and set aside.
3. Wash portobello mushrooms, pat dry with a towel, and slice into 4-5 pieces.
4. Position sliced mushrooms in one layer on a nonstick baking pan and place it in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, let it cool until easy to handle. Then chop mushrooms into small pieces.
5. In a separate bowl mix together mashed potatoes, chopped mushrooms, and leeks. Taste and adjust the seasoning: add  salt and pepper, and taste again. 
6. On a medium-high preheat a skillet with 1-2 tablespoon oil in it, form small patties, dip each side in bread crumbs, and fry on each side until golden brown (about 1 or 2 minutes on each side).
7. Serve hot with some sour cream and mushroom sauce (recipe is coming soon). Garnish with chives. 

This meal goes well with some red wine or a good beer. Optional... :)


Next American Top Model... :)

See you,

Monday, November 12, 2012

From the Simple Things to a Simple Eats: Breadless Sandwish

Why mushroom don't look good on a photo,
but tastes just out of this world?!

While I was on a road a few weeks back I received a phone call from a friend asking me to post some recipes for a simple meals on my blog. I almost choked from such an unexpected request. Then he added: "I made a borscht, following your recipe. It was very good, I just didn't know how big or small chopped pieces have to be. Would be nice if you give more details for the non-cooks like me". 
For a moment I was making non-articulated sounds, being very surprised by the whole conversation, and driving at the same time (for authorities: I have a hands-free set).
Making sure my eyes were on the road, I let my head spin a bit to process all I just mentally inhaled. 
Finally, a few moment later when I came back to the reality, I said something like: "Oh, yes! I am so happy that you read my blog and use my recipes! Sure, sure, when I am settled I will make a post with a simple recipe". 
And then we went talking about other things Life. 
A few days ago I caught myself wanting something simple for lunch, and I made this meal in one skillet and with only three main ingredients: one mushroom, one onion, and one egg. 
I served it and right before I was ready to dig into my lunch, I remembered my friend's request: he most definitely would want to make this, I better take a picture.


Breadless Sandwich


  • 1 mushroom, sliced into 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) pieces
  • 1 onion, sliced into a 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Pre-heat the oil in a non-stick skillet, about 2 minutes. Stove setting is medium-high.
2. Add sliced onions, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and stir for one minute.
3. Add mushrooms, stir for another 2 minutes.
4. Move onion and mushrooms to the side of the skillet and beat one egg (tip: brake the egg into a separate dish before adding to the skillet. If it's rotten, you won't spoil the whole meal).
5. Cook the egg for a minute, add some salt and pepper to taste, and your quick meal is ready! 


You can serve it on a slice of bread, which will make it an open face sandwich. I didn't use any bread, hence my sandwich was breadless.  
Add some herbs and vegetables to it, poor yourself a cup of coffee or a tomato juice, and with a big and happy smile have a great lunch (or breakfast, or dinner)! :)

Here's where I was when my friend called me...

See you,

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Enjoying the Simple Things...

Can you see those little ball shaped stars hiding in leaves?

This morning while heaving my tea with a slice of a leftover cake, I looked in the window and smiled: there was a bursting in fall colors tree. Light breeze moved it's leaves, turning each side to a morning sun. It was one of those quiet moments when you want to stop and just be in it, breath deeply and slowly, with your eyes closed. I also wanted to spread my arms and hug that tree if it was closer... 

Gracefully moving in the morning breeze...

I had some chores to do: Farmer's market, grocery shopping, more unpacking, some housework. But emotions of that morning moment kept me lifted. 

Those leaves look like to inviting hands... :)

When I went to the library, I took my camera with me, planning for a walk in a  park across the street from the library. Each shot filled my heart with joy and happiness. I asked myself: why those moments are so rare? When in a hurry I miss so many small and simple yet delightful things. 
I do need to stop more often, and get a dose of happiness from time to time...

Have you ever noticed how beautiful a leaf looks on asphalt?

I am thankful for ... my camera, that makes me to slow down and experience a new moments, see little things that bursts into a thousands of colors of joy...

I never lifted my head while driving by this building.
Today I stopped to look at it...

What small things make you happy?

See you,

Friday, November 9, 2012

Vatrushka - Russian Cheese Pastry

Many years back, while at the university, I took a quite challenging summer assessment: to document a Russian folklore language. That was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had: traveling to a little remote Russian villages, deep into the Russian North and talking to an incredible people, tasting their simple yet most delicious food, while making endless notes of their dialects.  During this folklore expedition for a very first time I tried Vatrushka - a traditional Russian pastry filled with cheese.

History states that the word "vatrushka" is of ancient origin. According to one version, the word is borrowed from the Roman languages, as in Romanian «vatra» means "bread, baked on the fire." In the western dialects "Vatra" means "fire". 

True to the tradition most women in the villages I visited were baking their vatrushka in firewood ovens indeed. The aroma of freshly baked  goodness perfumed the entire neighborhood, and there was no need to ask for directions: just follow the smell!



For the dough:

  • 400 g flour
  • 1 egg (optional) 
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 50 g butter
  • 0,5 tsp salt
  • 8 g dry yeast (1 packet)

For the filling:

  • 300 g cottage or farmer's cheese 
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 40 g butter 
  • 2 Tbsp sour cream
For the egg wash:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon milk

1. Prepare a soft yeast dough (follow this steps) and let it rise for about 2 hours until dough doubles in it's size.

2. After two hours give the dough another good knead and let it rise for another hour or two.

3. While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Combine all ingredients together, mix well. If the filling is too wet, add a tablespoon of flour to thicken it.

Preheat the oven to 200C (390F).

4. Divide the dough into pieces size of an egg, let it rest for a couple of minutes.

5. Stretch the dough with your hands (or roll it) into a small cakes about 1 cm (half an inch) thick.

6. Dip a bottom of the glass in flour and press the middle of the cakes to make a deepening for the filling (see photo below).

7. Lay all the cakes on a backing sheet, lined with parchment paper.

8. Brush each cake with an egg wash (1 egg mixed with a teaspoon milk).

9. Fill each cake with the filling to the edges of deepening.

10. Bake 30 minutes, rotating baking sheet 180 degrees half way through the baking.

I let it rest for 5-10 minutes and serve with some tea and a warm smile.


Divide the dough into pieces size of an egg

If the filling is too wet, add a tablespoon of flour to thicken it.

Make an impression in the middle of each cake with a glass

Ready to go in the oven

30 minutes later...

A basket filled with Vatrushkas make a perfect gift...

While on the expedition I was focused more on the language. Now I wish I wrote down more recipes. Guess what? I think I have another road trip in mind. Well, not exactly by road though... I guess it's hard to cross Atlantic Ocean by car. 
Anyway, a traveling bug in me is never sleeping. And a dozen of vatrushkas can keep me going for some time! :) 

See you,