Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Severe Weather

My plan for today was different from what it turn out to be. And all because of the weather, severe weather in our area. I was glued to National Weather Center, Storm Prediction Center, and local news after receiving a first weather warning e-mail. 

Such emails, while being informative and useful, don't make you at ease. You eyes, ears, and even senses are all weather, and your head becomes a mini radar. Today we had some sun, wind, rain, and even a tornado just a few miles North. 

I am grateful for the modern technology, that keeps us informed and safe. Today was a good time to check on the emergency plan and make an inventory of our emergency kit. 

Sidewalk  under a few inches of water

Are you informed and prepared? 

After the storm (photo source)

Be safe! 

See you,

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mushroom Stock (Broth)

Cold winter days are perfect to stock up on some broths.  Every other weekend I make a fresh broth to use in cooking during a week and to freeze for later (for hot summer months when just thinking of turning on the oven makes me hot!). I prefer to make my stock during weekends, uninterrupted by pick ups, drop offs, and other school activities that sometimes come on a moment notice. 
For the stock I use portobello mushrooms as they have a little more flavor. 

Mushroom Stock (Broth)


2-3 portobelo mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, washed and pilled
1 leak, thoroughly washed white part, cut lenthwise in half
1 onion, sliced in half
1 celery root (you can use 2 celery stalks, just don't bake it, and add it with the seasoning), washed, pilled, and quartered
5 l (a little over a gallon ) water

1 teaspoon dill seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorn
1 bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 350F (175 C).

Prepare all ingredients (clean and cut), and place on oiled baking sheet. Roast until golden brown (about 25-30 minutes depending on your oven).

Transfer all roasted vegetables to a big pot, add water and bring it to a simmer (never let your broth reach a rapid boil point!). If there is any foam, skim it with a slotted spoon. 

Simmer for about 3 hours.

Add dill seeds and peppercorns and simmer for another 1-2 hours. Add bay leaf and simmer another 10 minutes. Cool, discard bay leaf, and refrigerate over night: let all the flavor develop and blend.

Next day strain the broth, bring it to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Now it's ready to be used in your favorite risotto, soup, sauce. Shelf life in the refrigerator 3 days. 
I also freeze it in a freezer safe  and labeled container (I personally like wide mouth jars) for up to 6 months. 

There's no salt in this broth as I prefer to control salt when I make a dish with it. However, from time to time I do add salt at the end and label it accordingly.  

Can you smell it?! :)

See you,

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Confession of a Bookworm

"My wealth is not possession but enjoyment".
Henry David Thoreau

There is something I need to tell you about myself: I have an addiction. A healthy one, but addiction. Addiction to books, specifically to fiction books. I can't tell you when it all started, but I remember my parents watching me: turning lights off and making sure I don't have a flashlight under my bed to keep reading after the light was switched off. 
I also remember my dad bringing home a four volume book  Le Juif Errant by Marie Joseph Eugene Sue, which I neatly placed on my night stand. 
"Why did you keep all those books on your nightstand?"- my dad asked me later that day.
"I am going to read it",- was my natural respond.
"You are not going to read all of it soon, so why don't you keep one volume on your nightstand, and put the rest on the shelf?" - said my neat dad to me.
"I don't want to get up in the middle of the night, and go to another room to switch volumes",- I replied.
"Yes" - was dad's answer with an expression of a big doubt.

That time I just came to my parents home for a summer vacation, and all I wanted was to take it easy after a whole month of tests and finals. I wanted to stay away from any academic textbooks, and immerse myself into an easy reading to clear up my mind (to clean my "hard drive" as I call it). 
For  a whole week I hardly left my room while I was reading this fascinating story day and night. By the end of the week, on Saturday morning, I closed the fourth volume of the book, and came into the new day all refreshed and quite happy (although the book didn't end on a happy note). My dad couldn't believe it: "Have you swallowed those thousand pages?" was his rhetorical question. 
When we had our morning coffee, he said: "Let me fill you in of what had happened in the last week... You definitely were in another century..." And he went on telling me all about local news.
My reading "escape" was a much needed therapeutic, healing, and mind cleaning task. But I also understood something about myself: when my hands hold a fiction book, my mind receives a "vacation" signal. Which means I am going to read a fiction book until I am through. For that reason I try to restrain myself from buying fiction books. I also keep myself away from fiction section in the library. 

But last Saturday a fiction book did slip into my bag and was checked out. From it's title: Recipes and Wooden Spoons (by Judy Baer), I thought I was checking out just one more recipe book. On Sunday night I took the book out of the bag to see what recipes are there, and was surprised not to see many. Then I started to read it to find out why there were only few recipes. Oh, boy! Good thing next Monday was a day off at school and I didn't have to get up early. 
Once again, I was immersed into a life of Grace Chapel Inn and a charming village of Acorn Hill in rural Pennsylvania. After I closed the book, I though: there was a reason this book slipped into my library bag. I needed a good story to read, I needed to refuel my brain, and my soul with a dose of goodness. The book made me feel really good, uplifted, joyful. My "battery" of life was once again charged. 
This book made me grateful for who I am, and what I have. 

See you,

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Everything Roasted Warm Red Winter Wheat Berry Salad

Everything Roasted Warm Red Winter Wheat Berry Salad

This morning was cold, very cold, -7C (19F) cold... So I let myself  linger under a blanket for a few extra minutes before I rushed myself out of a bed. Then I had my traditional ritual "wake me up" dance (you know, the one when you move all your limbs in different directions), which this morning turned out to be a "warm me up dance". 
You know I am not a morning person, not at all. And my kids, bless their hearts, have been so kind to let me sleep just a little longer, like 2-3 minutes longer on a school day mornings. 
Today when I finally got out of the bed and came to the dining room, the teenager was doing the same "warm me up" dance. After a quick breakfast we left for the car, continue moving our limbs, almost performing a break dance on a parking lot. 
That's when I thought of something warm and comfortable for lunch, and Everything Roasted Warm Winter Wheat Berry Salad idea came to me. 
What else would you think of on a parking lot?! :)


Everything Roasted Warm Red Winter Wheat Berry Salad


  • 1 cup cooked red winter wheat (see notes)
  • 1/2 fennel bulb
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 1 turnip
  • 1 parsley root
  • 1/2 squash
  • 1 Tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs mix (basil, oregano, rosemary, coriander, chives, marjoram)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-3 Tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed)


Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).

Cut fennel, carrot, red pepper, turnip, parsley root and squash into wedges, place in a large bowl, add dried herbs and olive oil, and mix. 
Transfer all vegetables to a baking sheet, and bake 25-30 minutes.
Wash and dry the bowl. 
Mix roasted vegetables and cooked wheat berries with lemon juice and chopped parsley.
Sprinkle with chia seeds and serve.

Red Winter Wheat Berries

1. Dry wheat berries take a long time to cook, about 2-3 hours. If you pre-soak it for 8-10 hours, the cooking time will be reduced 30 minutes. I usually pre-soak wheat berries from 10 to 24 hours, rinsing it a few times before cooking. Then I keep cooked wheat berries in the refrigerator and add to my soups, salads, breads, and etc. 
2. This recipe has no salt in the ingredient list as it doesn't need any: you have all that flavor from the dried herbs, enhanced by the heat, plus lemon juice and fresh parsley. However, if you wish to, you can add salt and pepper to taste.


Now, I am off to another dance, a happy belly dance!

See you,

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Postcards from Seattle

Ferry: one of the transportation in the area

Space Needle

One of the Seattle's Marinas

Watching out for fish...

My friend's daughter, also a teenager and a friend of my teenager, after reading my blog told me that she likes posts with stories and I should have a story with each post. Oh, boy! It doesn't work this way in my kitchen as often I am all by myself among my pots and pans, and ingredients. 
Anyway, the point is taken. And while I am "cooking" some stories, here are a few cute photos from Seattle, taken by my lovely daughter. 

Author of all photos for this post

See you,

Friday, January 4, 2013

Polenta for Breakfast

I've been trying to write something but my cold affected brain  refuses to work. So I decided to share a picture of polenta with scrambled eggs and mushrooms.  There's no recipe for this meal as it is easy: cook polenta, make scrambled eggs with mushrooms, and serve! 

See you,

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from our family!

This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!
William Arthur Ward

May 2013 be healthy and happy for you. 
Have the patience and the passion to live the life you have imagined. 

See you