Monday, July 30, 2012

Citrus Polenta Cake

Polenta is one of my favorite ingredients mostly used in savory dishes. Each time a recipe calls for polenta, I am all ears (and eyes too). A few weeks ago I made  Zaletti, polenta cookies. 
For my birthday I made this cake, and it quickly won our hearts: I made it three times since...


Citrus Polenta Cake 
(adapted from the book Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma)

Ingredients (my changes are marked in red):

1 1/2  cup all-purpose flour (unbleached)
1 lemon (zest and juice)
1 lime
1 orange (zest and juice)
3/4 cup instant or fine polenta
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 cup 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325F.
Grease the 9 inch spring form pan with butter and dust with flour.
Grate the zest from the lemon and orange (and the lime, if using).
Combine together flour, polenta, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk together eggs and sugar until they are pale yellow and more than doubled in size. 
Add citrus zest. I also added a juice of a whole lemon.
Add dry ingredients in small batches alternating with olive oil: one third of dry ingredients followed by half the oil, then add another part of dry ingredients, then olive oil, and finish with adding last part of dry ingredients and beat only until each addition is mixed. 
Transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top.
Bake the cake 25-30 minutes.
Test the cake by inserting a wooden stick (I use a bamboo skewer) comes out clean.
Let the cake cool completely.


1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 cup berries (use your favorite)

In a stand mixer whisk all ingredients for 2-3 minutes. 
Brush the cake with the orange juice (more juice will make cake more moist, so you decide how much of it to apply).
Cover the cake with the filling, and decorate with your favorite berries.

Please, noteto make two layered cake as the one on the photo double the ingredients and bake two cakes.


I love the sunny color and the citrus taste of this cake. Because I am not a sweet eater, I always reduce sugar to 1-2 tablespoon from what the original recipe calls, and even then sometimes it is too sweet for me. 
To bring down the sweetness, I dress my cakes with fruits and berries. 

What is it about sweets and me, you may ask? I don't like sweets, just like that, plain and simple. I guess, the part of the brain, responsible for enjoying all things sweet, wasn't born, or developed... :)
I haven't eaten sweets for about 20 years, from when I was 3 years old. Nothing, no candies, no ice cream, no cakes, no chocolate. I hated all that stuff, and it was a torture when during my school years at some party I was given a  slice of cake to try. 
My very first sweet bite was when I was at the university, during the summer exams. That day I had a  four hours long written exam, and was walking back home, all brain tired, heat exhausted, and hungry. 
As I was walking by a candy store my head suddenly started to spin from the smell of... chocolate? candy?.. . My feet brought me inside without my approval, but I was happy to be there and I bought four chocolate bars! 
I wasn't much of the thinker after my exam, so everything happened on autopilot: I kept walking the streets while eating the chocolate bar. I was shoveling that chocolate into my mouth (I thought), having an unusual pleasant sensation in my brain... 

My mother met me at the door when I came home, concerned about my exam. I dropped myself on the couch, lifted my daughter up (yes, my friends, marriage, kids, work and university all happened at the same time), and told my mother all details she was so interested about my exam, completely forgetting about the chocolate. 
My then little daughter, unlike her mother, loved all things sweet (and still does). She didn't hesitate to unwrap what was left on the kitchen table: all four chocolate bars (apparently, what I thought of shoveling was a very modest nibbling) and  covered herself, some walls and furniture in a cute chocolate "mask". 
My mother couldn't believe my story that I bought that chocolate for myself, and I had to make another bite (pea size though) to prove that I "started" to eat sweets. We had such a blissful time talking about all things "sweet" while: me - cleaning my child from the chocolate, and my mother - cleaning her grand-daughter's chocolate "art" from the walls and furniture... 

Another twenty years later, and I still don't like sweets... 
But I make it for other's to enjoy... :)

See you,

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dragonflies and Yoga

Yesterday I had a couple of my yogi friends coming over for a fresh pasta lunch. I had all menu  planned in my head: I would make a dough, and while it's resting I would make some fillings for tortellinis and work on sauces for pasta. By the time they would come I should have everything ready to go into a pot with boiling water. That was a perfect plan, and on that happy note I got out of bed, stretching myself for a day ahead. 
Then Mr. I.V. called and said he wants to invite for dinner his buddy, who is in town for a few days. Great, I told him, would be lovely to have him at our home, and would be an excuse for me to cook different dishes. I went downstairs, smiling and  blissfully unaware of what was in store for me. 
As I approached the kitchen sink the scene of a horror movie in the kitchen appeared before my eyes: both of my kitchen sinks were backed up with raising sewage water. My first reaction was a semi-hysterical laugh... 

We have this major issue with the plumbing system, which can be fixed completely only by ripping off the floor and replacing all the plumbing. It is not possible to do while people (us) are living here, so from time to time we have to call the plumbers to fix it until the next backup. Usually, we call plumbers every other month, but this time we haven't seen them for about four months, which helped me to forget all about the plumbing issue... until now. 
My second reaction was more logical: I called the landlord. A few minutes later he called me back saying that plumbers would be there in an hour. Good, I thought, it would still leave me with plenty time to prepare lunch. 

When we have some extra tortellinis, I freeze it to be used on a "rainy" day

Two hours later, when no one showed up, I had to change my lunch plans. I had some frozen tortellinis,  that I would use. Then I can bake some eggplants with cheese and make fresh garden salad. Lunch was covered, and I had a high hopes that plumbers would come at some point that would leave me with enough time to prepare dinner. 
When my friends came, table was served and we had a good two hours of laughter and fun, and some noise as well: they also remembered that lunch was around my birthday and brought those noise making horns, which with no hesitation we put to it's laud use!  
After my friends left, I put all dishes in a dishwasher, still patiently waiting for plumbers. At four o'clock in the afternoon I decided to make another call to the landlord. He was surprised to learn that plumbers had not come yet and promised to find out why shortly.  

Garden salad

Apparently, there was a major break down two blocks away and they were working on fixing it. Outside, in over 100F (40C)? I already felt bad for those men. When they finally arrived, they were all covered in dirt, tired and rather sad. They apologized for being late, cleaned themselves off the mud before entering the apartment, and started to work. 
To their sincere surprise, instead of being upset for their late coming, I offered them some cold water and a piece of cake. They gratefully accepted my offerings and carried on with their work. 
Half an hour later  I was able to use the kitchen sink again, happy to enjoy this simple thing of modern convenience.  
For our dinner with the friend from out of town I made some roasted potatoes, garden salad again, and roasted chicken. We opened a bottle of good wine, and got into warm and lovely discussion about all things life. 
At the end, what a joyful day it was! 

You must wonder, what yoga and dragonflies has to do with all of it? Well, in Asia dragonfly is a symbol of a new beginnings, happiness, courage, strength. And it happened that the very same day I caught with my camera two dragonflies in my garden. 
Yoga is one of my "new beginnings" that teaches me to see same things from the different prospective, without overreacting. Yoga also teaches me to enjoy and appreciate small and simple things in life without the distraction from the outside world. 

A little over a year ago, before I stated my yoga practice, my reaction in the similar situation would be like this: I would call off  both the lunch and the dinner, I would pace around my apartment impatiently waiting for plumbers, I would call the landlord every hour, getting more and more upset. And no cake would've been offered to the plumbers for sure. The day would be ruined...  

So, take a deep breath, my friends. 
And put a smile on your heart, it is totally worth it... :)

See you,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


For a several days I've been stuck unable to finish a post that my son and I wrote together. It was a great experience to cook, to laugh, to write. And all I have left is to put all threads together into a canvas of what suppose to be a post about our amazing little adventure. But as it sometimes happens when you write (or do something different), I got stuck. I know, that for me the best way to clear my mind is to disconnect myself from the task for some time. I turned off my computer, and didn't look it's way for two days. 

I occupied myself with other activity: I baked a cake! I see a smile on your faces, yes, yours truly made a birthday cake for... well, my birthday, which is today. 
Another reason why I baked was watching too much of Cake Boss (TV show) and my recent trip to Carlo's Bakery. 

In this cake I combined few of my favorite ingredients: polenta, raspberries, and lemon. 
Enjoy! And come back for the recipe... :)

See you,

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Feel Good Post

Destin, FL

There are some images that take me to a places where I feel good. 
I call them Zen Photos, and I'd like to share it with you...

Sky is not a limit...

Walking on the beach... (Destin, FL)

Happy waves... (Destin, FL)
All photos for this post were taken by my friend Lisa's husband Slava. Thank you! 

Dear friends, have a Zen weekend...

See you,

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bite Size Foot Balls

This recipe was adapted from Averie Cooks, although because I changed many ingredients I call it foot balls (or soccer in US). 

1 cup cashews (raw)
1 cup almond flour
2/3 cup shredded coconut or coconut flakes
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp coconut oil (for binding)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lemon (zest and juice)
1/4 chocolate chips

In a food processor grind cashews, add coconut and almond flour and pulse. 
Add all the remaining ingredients, pulse to mix. 
Transfer the mixture into a mixing bowl, add chocolate chips, mix and form a small balls. Decorate each ball with more chocolate chips to resemble a foot ball (soccer in US). 
Refrigerate for 1-2 hours and enjoy.

If  you have patience, leave it overnight in the refrigerator to develop the flavor: lemon and coconut will blend into fantastic not too sweet taste tickle. 

See you,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Carlo's Bakery (Hoboken, NJ)

The very next morning after we arrived to NYC, I decided to go to Hoboken, NJ to visit the famous bakery and try some of those intriguing desserts featured on the Cake Boss. I told Lisa where I am heading and she decided to come along despite my warning that we may be waiting in line for some time (the website advised on average of two hours wait, and Lisa doesn't like lines). Fifteen minutes ride on the PATH (NJ Transit) from the corner of 33rd Street and 6th Avenue took us to the Hoboken. 

A friendly gentleman directed us towards the bakery, which is recognised by a line outside. Just being there made me exiting, and anticipation of what is there to come put a big and happy smile on my face. Line moved surprisingly quick, and just twenty minutes later we were inside the Carlos Bakery, the famous and the best. 

It is exactly as I've seen it on the TV show "Cake Boss": little, clean, and perfumed with a smell of freshly baked biscottis, cupcakes, tiramisu, cookies... 

Tiramisu: elegant and tastes as good as it looks...


Cannoli shells filled after you order it.
Cannolis, Napoleon, and tiramisu packed in a signature box 

Assortment of cookies

When our number was called we ordered: tiramisu, Napoleon, biscotti, cookies, and their famous freshly filled cannolis, that we ate outside the bakery, sitting on the bench and enjoying the view of the Manhattan. 
Needless to say that cannolis tasted fantastico, as everything else we had! 
It was a dream,  an adventure to remember, and a taste hard to forget. 

Everything in the bakery is made from scratch with no artificial flavorings or preservatives, and you can really taste the difference. 
As you know, I am not a big sweet eater, but I would definitely go back next time I am in the area. It's worth waiting in line! :)

Remember the hint from  this post?
Cookies from Carlo's Bakery made all the way home,
 and some were shipped to my daughter in Seattle for her birthday... :)

Carlos Bakery
95 Washington St., Hoboken, New Jersey 07030
                                                                                  Tel:     201-659-3671 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            201-659-3671      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
See you,

Happy Birthday!

My daughter is 23 today... :)

My heart for you will never break. 
My smile for you will never fade. 
My love for you will never end. 
I love you, my dearest daughter!

Happy Birthday, my little princess!

See you,

Monday, July 16, 2012

New York? New York... New York!!!

Empire State Building

A few weeks ago, when we were unsupervised and had splashing fun in the pool, Lisa came up with an idea to drive to New York to pick up her mother from the JFK. Road trip to New York sounded as an exiting experience, and with no hesitation and sealed  by our husbands' approval we set the departure date: July 9th. 

On the road...
Smokey Mountains, TN
Here and there along the road...
...the view was breathtaking.

Early Monday morning we headed East on I-40, driving through Arkansas, Tennessee, where we made an overnight stop in the beautiful Smokey Mountains, next day I-81 took us through magnificent Virginia, a little  bit of West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and... Hello, New York!

Approaching NY
Twelve years ago I lived in NY for some time before I headed to the Pacific Northwest, and I haven't been to NY since. Well, except a few connection flights from Europe, which I couldn't avoid... So going back I was wandering what feelings will I have once there again? Will I enjoy it? Or will emotions from the past hunt me? But the moment the city line showed on the horizon, my heart was filled with joy. 

Crossing the Hudson river
Tuesday evening we arrived to the hotel Pennsylvania (conveniently located across the Penn Station and Madison Square Garden in Midtown), where we waited  in line to be checked in for about one hour. After we dropped our bags in the room, we headed to a nearby bar for a quick dinner and a glass of beer.  Before returning to the hotel, we walked several blocks on 7th Avenue, immersing ourselves into the big city's lights and life. Needless to say that upon our return to the hotel, we dropped asleep the moment we reached our pillows. 

A few words about the Hotel Pennsylvania. It doesn't have a great reviews for a reason: it is old and needs some repair to be done, especially in the bathroom. My friend Lisa, who booked this hotel, wanted to change it the very next day. But when we found out how conveniently it is located, and giving the fact that it was clean, she changed her mind and we stayed in it. In the end, we didn't come to NY to stay in the hotel, and as long as the room is clean, that's all that matters. Internet in the hotel is available only in the business center in the lobby, which was pretty crowded, so we decided not to bother. Charges for Internet use are hourly or by day.

Time Square, NY

While in NY, we did some tourist stuff, like climbing six flights of stairs of Empire State Building and window shopping on Fifth Avenue. 

Famous Macy's 
We also went off the tourist's path and visited some interesting places, so come back to find out. :)

See you,

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Week of Adventures

Last week my friend Lisa and I were on a road trip to...  Well, let me tell you that we drove through a beautiful terrain of seven states, and here are a few photos from our great adventure:


Trunk lunch: bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon,
edamame, and fresh fruits

such as this most delicious cherries from WA

Charming sightseeing...

Shopping for cookbooks,

window shopping, 

more window shopping...

and more eating...

Plus desserts...

Here are a few more hints: we stayed at the hotel, that doesn't have Internet in the room (explains no posts for a week); we did some climbing; we never drove while in the town... 

Any thoughts where were we? :)

See you,