Thursday, February 28, 2013

Improvising in the Kitchen Before Payday

It doesn't rain all the time in Seattle...

When we came back from our trip to Seattle, I did a small shopping for milk, vegetables and some fruits and decided to experiment: what if I don't go shopping anymore until the payday? We had milk, apples, flour, legumes, and different vegetables that I used for everyday cooking. 
Three days before payday I realized I am out of many fresh ingredients, so I had to be really creative to cook from what I had available. 

Three days before payday: soup (a.k.a. Kale soup)

After a quick inventory of the refrigerator, I made a "Three days before payday" soup, also known as Kale and Potato Soup. A friend, that we visited in Seattle, gave me the recipe, and despite a few missing ingredients, this soup quickly became my men's favorite.  To make it I had one potato, a small container of whipping cream, one onion, a few kale leaves, two cups chicken broth, salt and pepper, a tablespoon of butter or good quality olive oil. 
Cooking is just as easy:  saute onions in fat of your choice, add chicken broth, bring it to a boil, add potato, cook until potato is done, add cream, salt and pepper to taste. Add kale leaves and turn the heat off. Quick, easy, and simple. Plus delicious, as my men said.

Two days before payday: Beet salad with micro greens, and a meat filled pastry

The next day, I decided to make a meat filled pastry and a salad from a roasted beets and shoe box microgreens. "What?!" I hear you. Microgreens are a tiny green vegetables, that grow in shoe box (in my case), that rent a kitchen's window seal. Still have question? I guess it's about the shoe box. 
Well, there was an empty plastic shoe box, that was traveling from one closet to another, than to the shoe rack, than back to the closet until one day I looked at it and... Evrika!, decided to plant my greens in it. I made a few holes in the box, filled it with a good soil (I don't have a garden, but I do have my worms, that eat our food scraps and make a perfect compost and tea for my plants), planted seeds, and in two weeks I had my first harvest of the most nutrient and ecofriendly greens.

While I was making my pastry, beets were roasted at 400F for 90 minutes. Then I peeled it, sliced it, and mixed it with a sliced green onion. I seasoned it with a freshly grind black pepper and a good quality sea salt (I had Alaea Hawaiian sea salt), and served with a handful of micro greens (arugula, dill and lettuce), then drizzled a little olive oil on the top.
The Husband loved the salad, teenager however gave the greens a look and tried to push it to the side of the plate. I gave him my look (we have a long negotiated agreement that he finishes his salad before he eats any meat), and he asked me what was it. I told him it's lettuce, but a very small one. He scoffed but made a first bite. Then he quickly finished his salad and moved a bowl with meat filled pastry closer, giving it a soft hug. Kids... :)

One day before payday: Polenta with shallots and porcini mushrooms

On the morning of the third day I was inspired by Ottolenghi's recipe from his book Plenty, and had all available in my kitchen ingredients (polenta and dried porcini mushrooms) set on the kitchen counter to make polenta pizza for dinner. I don't have a book, hence I know only that this polenta pizza has mushroom topping. 
I prepared the mushroom with shallots and white wine, and all was left is to make the pizza crust from polenta. I was in the middle of making polenta when the husband came home with question that sounded more like a statement: "when's the dinner?" He rushed himself into the kitchen, looking for something to warm up. "Oh, polenta! Let me wash my hands!"
I quickly  changed my plans from pizza to simple polenta with porcini mushrooms: an always welcomed dinner in this house! 

Peach and berry pie

That was an interesting experiment that proves no extra shopping necessary to make a good dinner. We often tend to over-complicate our food, forgetting that simple food tastes just as good. 

Oh, yes, we also had some pie! All before payday. 

See you,

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mushroom Stuffed Eggs (for Chinese New Year)

Chinese New Year started on February 10th, so I am just a few days late with this post. My intention, a very good intention I must tell you, was to make this post upon our arrival to Seattle, illustrating it with some photos from celebration in China Town. And it didn't happened the way I planned. The closest I got to the celebration was this sign in the Bellevue Square Mall:

Because I already had this festive appetizer made, and also because I have two  snakes in my home (I meant two people born in the year of Snake: my daughter and my husband), I decided to go for it and post. Better late than never, right? :)

And what is the best food to welcome the Snake?

Mushroom stuffed eggs. 


  • 10 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 portabello mushrooms, cleaned and cubed
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 Table spoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry dill (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saute pan pre-heat olive oil, add onion, and saute until golden brown.
Add mushrooms, and cook on medium heat until all water evaporates, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Cut eggs in half, remove from each half egg yolk.
In a food processor combine egg yolk, mushroom and onions, dill, garlic, and salt and pepper (start with a little pinch and taste). Pulse 2-3 times until all ingredients mix. Taste for salt and adjust if needed.
Carefully fill each egg white with filling and serve. 

Variation: use cooked chicken liver (my personal favorite) and follow the same direction. 

This appetizer is on top of 10 favorite appetizers:  easy to make, and everyone loves it. 
Although, now that I am thinking, I may not even have 10 on that list, but anyway it's on the top of however many are there. 

Happy Year of the Snake! May prosperity be with you!

See you,

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

La Conner, WA

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, April 2010
Last week my husband and I were in Seattle for business (and some pleasure). He had several job interviews in the area.  I had planned to make a few food posts and maybe one or two posts about our journey. Well, it was a good plan, but didn't happened that way. 

I didn't even look at the menu . The plates rotate on the conveyor  belts that winds through the restaurant, and I just picked what looked at me. Isn't it pretty?!

Upon our arrival our first stop was for food. We let our daughter to choose where to go, and lucky for us Sushi Me place it was. We love fish and everything seafood, and miss having a good seafood in the South. 

Who can resist the famous Pacific Oysters? I couldn't, twice... 

We couldn't resist this either, and  27 more plates! :) 

After we made our bellies happy, we drove 65 miles North to a small town Mount Vernon, famous for it's tulip festival and several breweries. 

I told you about the weather, so just ignore it and enjoy!
This photo is from our trip to Skagit  Valley Tulip Festival in April 2010.

Next day, while my husband was performing his best on the first interview, I went to a little town La Conner, one of my  favorite getaway place. 
Despite the rainy day (ignore the rain when in Pacific Northwest to enjoy your stay, really), I geared up for a little run: I needed to experience once again the mist in my face, beautiful 360 view, and air so fresh it made my lungs laugh! :)

Rainbow Bridge, La Conner, WA.
Legend has it that the new bridge was supposed to be painted in the usual grey/green color,
but someone decided to add some orange to the town's landscape.

Three miles later I treated myself to a cup of tea and a slice of delicious pie. I don't remember how crust tasted, but the filling was melting in my mouth, warming up me from inside out. 

I didn't take picture of the pie, but this is the cafe where I had it.

I strolled along town's 1st Street, entering almost each open door on my way: museums, stores, until I burned all my pie calories and was hungry for lunch. Each time I am in La Conner, I always have lunch, or dinner, or just a pie at one of my favorite places there, at Waterfront Cafe

Mural at Waterfront Cafe (by Jerry Ragg)

The place is small and casual, but famous for it's fresh seafood, clam chowder, and... a view at spectacular mural painted by Jerry Ragg complimented by a river side view. 

Clam Chowder - hearty New England style chowder.
I loved it's silky texture with chunks of fresh clams and potatoes. 

I ordered my favorites: clam chowder and Waterfront Cafe's signature dish Fish and Chips. It wasn't a rush time yet, so I enjoyed my food in quiet, immersed in a pleasant view. 

Fish and Chips, Waterfront Cafe's signature dish made with fresh Alaskan cod.
Under that golden crust is perfectly cooked flaky fish.
I guess they shake off the breading before frying as it has just enough of it to make a crust, but doesn't leave you wandering what was it: fish in bread crumbs or bread crumbs with slight flavor of old fish. 
Here it is definitely the most delicate fish enveloped in light crust.

Here's whom I met along my run. 
This birds didn't even notice me or any other moving object like other runners, bikers and cars.

I left La Conner refreshed, re-energized, and emotionally re-charged. I was glad I was able to squeeze this de-tour in our hectic schedule. 

I didn't have my camera when I run,
but this curious bird made me come back later to take it's photo...

See you,

P.S. All the meals were payed out of my own pocket. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cranberry and Quince Preserve

February is a month when I least think of preserving. Nevertheless, I made some cranberry preserve that lasted not longer than a week (can you even call it a preserve if it didn't have any time to actually go through all the stages to be a mature preserve?!)

A week ago, while I was doing my monthly shopping, I got stalked by  bags of cranberries. Yes, those bags kept looking at me when I added to my basket carrots, leeks, beets, cabbages, onions, greens. 
Each time I put something in the basket, cranberries would appear either before my eyes or in the corner of my eyes. 
When I reached for turnips, my hand somehow piked a bag of cranberries instead. 
"Oh, well, if you insist I might do something with you", was my thought, and I added another bag of cranberries to the basket. 
"Cranberries make a good winter drink, quick and easy, yet loaded with nutrients. It will make the teenager happy and help him fight his after practice thirst", I convinced myself.


I came home, washed the cranberries and set it aside, still deciding what to do with it. I rotated produce in my refrigerator (something I forced myself to do a few years back, and now doing it on autopilot: saves a lot of food, not to mention money), and found a lone quince. As soon as I looked at it, I smiled and my eyes lit with this spark of adventure: I know what I am going to do! 

Cranberry and Quince preserve (sauce)

Cranberry and Quince Preserve


  • 2 (12oz each)  bags cranberries - 700 grams
  • 1,5 cups sugar 
  • 1 quince, cored and quartered
  • 2 cups water

In a blender or food processor blend together washed cranberries, quince, and water. If you don't have any of the mentioned equipment, just crash the cranberries with the potato masher. Cut quince into a small cubes with the knife.
Transfer all ingredients to a heavy-bottomed stainless steel or enameled cast iron 6+ Quarts pot.
Bring it to a boil, stirring a few times. 
Add sugar, reduce the heat to a medium and simmer for 10 minutes, stir well.
Turn off the stove, and let it rest (uncovered) until it cools down (2-3 hours at least).
Bring the mixture to a boil again, stirring frequently (to prevent scorching), reduce the heat to a medium and boil for another 10 minutes. 
Transfer hot preserve into a sterilized pint (500 ml) jar (s), leaving 1/2 inch from the top, wipe the rims of the jars with a clean damp cloth, close with sterilized lid. 
Let the jars cool completely (I usually leave it overnight), and refrigerate.
This preserve keeps up to 4 months in the refrigerator (if it stays that long. Not in my house though!)
If you process it by boiling the jars for 10 minutes, it will stay for up to a year (USDA has a resource)

Whether you like it with turkey on your sandwich, or as a dessert with your tea (my personal preference), this cranberry preserve (sauce) would be another homemade addition to your pantry. 
Two teaspoons dissolved in a cup of hot water will make a perfect cold remedy, loaded with vitamins and fiber. 

Cranberry drink

Have you ever been "stalked" by a fruit or vegetable on a  market? :)

See you,

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hot Water Soup, Also Known as Chicken Broth

Really, what else do you put in a hot water soup?! :) 
Occasionally, I make a hot water soup too, although my hot water soup has a little bit more than just hot water, and it is my husband's favorite soup to have in the winter: the colder it gets, more often he asks for it! Often times just plain chicken broth (a.k.a. hot water soup) and a toast is all he wants. 

Sometimes I get "creative" and add a potato and a carrot with some herbs to it. But whether you add "extras" to it or not, the good chicken broth is a meal on it's own. 
It takes some time to make a good stock, but it is just time, not a work as you let it slowly cook  for several hours (6-8, even 10-12), then leave overnight in the refrigerator. The next day you'll be praised with flavor of the most delicious chicken broth. 

Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, a good stock starts with good ingredients, in this case a good natural chicken.  
A few years back we did experiment with a few chickens: one store bought natural (#1), another one was organic (#2), and a third was from a local farmer (#3), who was selling his free range chickens (for this one I had to be on a waiting list!).  
I made three stocks, using the same ingredients (except chickens), same cooking time. And can you guess which stock was the most popular and was gone before it even cooled down? If you picked #3, you were absolutely right. The color and rich flavor of the stock was amazing. The runner up was #1, made from natural store bought chicken (from Whole Foods): it's flavor was milder, yet it had good body. 
Chicken stock made of organic chicken was too plain to our tastes even with all the vegetables and herbs used, however it was still much better than the one you get from a box or a can. Waaay better, and worth all the effort.

Chicken Broth (Stock)


  • 3-4 chicken carcasses or 1 good quality whole chicken
  • 2 carrots, pilled
  • 1 medium or large onion (peel and cut it in half or leave it whole)
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 2 parsley roots, peeled (if you can't find it, use one celery root, peeled and quartered)
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut in half
  • 1/2 fennel bulb (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2-3 clove garlic (optional)
  • 4-5 parsley stems (no leaves)
  • 2-3 dry dill "hay" (dry whole dill plant, that is usually used for pickling); dry dill seeds can be used instead
  • 4-5 dry lovage leaves (optional)
  • 6-7 liters (1,5 gallon) cold water

Parsley root

Place chicken carcasses in a big stock pot, add water and bring it to a simmer (do not let it boil!), skim all the foam (scum) from the top (it will take you about 40-60 minutes, be patient). You do not have to stand there, just attend to it every 15-20 minutes, skim the scum, and come back to it in another 15-20 minutes.  Then add all other ingredients, except bay leaf and simmer for 6-7 hours. Once again, simmer, do not bring it to a rapid boil (rapid boil will result in a grey cloudy stock!). Walk by the simmering stock every couple of hours to skim (if necessary) and add some water, if needed, although I rarely do it as I want my stock to have more gelatinous  body and reach flavor.

Dill "hey" (left), dill seeds (center), dry lovage (right)

After 6-7 hours of simmering the deep fragrant smell will invite you to check it out, and now you can add a bay leaf.  The reason I add it in the end is because bay leaf can make your stock bitter in a very short time. Hence, add it in the end of cooking for 20-30 minutes and then discard it. 

Strain stock into another large pot, and refrigerate overnight. Next day remove solidified fat and store it in refrigerator for 2-3 days, or freeze for up to three months. Once again, I prefer to freeze it in a wide mouth glass jars. I tried different containers: BPA-free plastic, Ziploc bags, etc, and I can taste and smell plastic in my broth after de-frosting.

Now you can do with your broth/stock whatever you want: reduce it to make a velvety sauce, make a soup, cook some risotto, or just drink it plain with some fresh herbs and a little salt.

You don't have to use all listed ingredients. It is my preference and I usually have it all. But when I run out of fennel or can't find parsley root, I still make a tasty chicken stock. My mother, for example, uses only five ingredients: chicken, onion, bay leaf, dill "hay", and parsley root. And her stock is the most flavorful I have ever had (I am being subjective here, I know). :) 
The secret to any good stock is to cook it long and cook it slow.  

Hot water soup, my way! :)

Add a dash of Love to it, and you would have a cup  full of healing power and health benefits. 

See you,