Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lunch: comfort food

Yes, took a day off work again because am feeling slightly under the weather and needed a day on the couch: watching TV, drinking tea, and comfort food.

One of the easiest things to make that also tastes great (and according to many Jewish mothers is good for you) is matzo ball soup. All you have to do is buy one of the boxes that contains two packets: one for broth, one for the matzo balls. Follow directions and enjoy the soup! Sometimes I add carrots or peas in the soup, this time my fridge was pretty empty, so I just added fresh parsley. YUM

Dinner: weekend of testing

Testing? Not the type of testing you are thinking, after all, I've been out of school for too many years to count. Instead, I was testing recipes for one of my favorite chefs who teaches classes at Sur La Table: Robyn Webb.

I can't reveal the secrets, but here are the pictures of the winter salad with citrus, salmon with garlicky kale and pear crumble with frozen yogurt. DELICIOUS and easy and healthy!

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I love pretty things. I love flowers. I love beauty.

Yesterday Alyssa was at a wedding and brought an orchid bloom back. It's gorgeous! I hope it lasts for quite a while. It makes me happy just to look at it!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dinner: butternut squash with rice

I bought a butternut squash last week and it's been sitting on my counter for a week now, so I decided to make dinner using it. I am a bit tired of the pureed butternut squash soup and decided to roast it instead.

Directions: cut butternut squash into 4 pieces. Remove seeds and peel. Cut each piece into bite-size pieces. Coat with olive oil, salt, pepper, turmeric, a bit of cumin and chili (or any other spices you like). Preheat an oven to 425 degrees with a cookie sheet inside (similar to my roasting potatoes method). In a single layer put the butternut squash onto a preheated cookie sheet and bake for about 30-40 min or until the pieces are browned, tender on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside.

I ate the roasted butternut squash with rice leftover from one of the SLT classes and a bit of fresh parsley sprinkled on top.



Today I went to Teaism with Alyssa and Paige, and it's right next to one of my favorite stores: Secondi! So of course I had to go and see what I could find. And find I did!
1) this very unique black sweater. The flowers are made from leather. I think it's really cool, and decided to spend $55.

2) This is the first pair of shoes I bought in Secondi: BCBG! for $22!!!! and they are so cute and pretty comfortable (I wore them for the rest of the day!) And I did not have any brown flats, so I needed them (right).

3) This was DEFINITELY a splurge. Alyssa and I went to Touchstone gallery next to Archives metro and I saw this ring there and LOVED it! It's sterling silver and you can actually make it taller or scrunch the coil to make it shorter. So I decided to treat myself ($90!). I love it!!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Looking forward to....

I realized I haven't written in a few days. Not much has been happening, and the weather has been majorly depressing. It's been raining for days, cold, gray, gets dark early and is still dark in the morning....right.

So I decided to write about a few things that I'm actually looking forward to :-)
  1. Today I'm going to the Performance of Tango Buenos Aires.
  2. My friend Alyssa is coming for a visit this weekend and we are planning to have brunch at Teaism, do some shopping at Secondi and then go to a few museums.
  3. This weekend I also will be testing 4 recipes for Robyn Webb.
  4. There are several volunteering events I'll be participating at with Washington DCJCC in November. One of them is Everything But the Turkey.
  5. For Thanksgiving I'm going to Des Moines!!! Why? Because I've never been to Iowa. Okay, sort of kidding. Anna is there, so I'm flying to visit her :)
  6. Food related excitement (Sort of): on November 7th I'm going to see Anthony Bourdain!!!

I think these are all the major ones for now. Will keep you updated if anything else comes up.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dinner courtesy of Stacey

Last night I had dinner courtesy of Stacey. No, I wasn't lucky enough to have her cook for me, instead I made two of the recipes she recommended.

Asparagus and Leek Risotto with Prosciutto was my first ever attempt at making risotto and I was really looking forward to it after hearing rave reviews from Stacey and reading reviews from Epicurious. I also decided to give a zillionth chance to making pork chops in hopes that this time they will turn out fork tender (as if!).

Risotto: I cut the recipe in half. Instead of using prosciutto I used thinly sliced Black Hill Ham. I also added sauteed mushrooms. The recipe turned out great even though I had to add more liquid than called for and it definitely took more time. But the flavors were great. I'll definitely try making another risotto in the future.

Pork: pork was another story. Seriously, am I being punished for
being Jewish and cooking and eating pork? The recipe Stacey told me about called for searing pork chops on both sides and then baking them at 300 for 40-60 minutes in a dish filled with some chicken stock and wine and covered with the aluminum foil. I seared the pork. It looked gorgeous. I then decided to cook it for an hour. OMG: it was absolutely dry on the inside, although there was plenty of liquid left in the pan. Maybe I should just leave pork out of my repertoire? Sadness. I might shred the remaining pork chops and slather them with BBQ sauce and have a sort of Sloppy Joe.

If anyone has fool-proof recipes for pork chops (boneless) please let me know. The only time I had success was when I drenched them in egg mixture, coated with crumbled up Doritos and cooked on both sides in a pan. Why mess with a good thing?

Lunch: Zucchini Latkes

Lunch? I know, you are used to descriptions of dinners, but yesterday I took a day off and made lunch (that was not the sole purpose of taking the day off, obviously).

I haven't gone grocery shopping in days and my fridge was showing it. I had a few yellow zucchinis and decided to make zucchini latkes (similar to the potato latkes one makes for Hanukkah).

Ingredients and Directions
  1. Grate (I used my beloved food processor) 3-4 small peeled zucchinis (I used yellow, but you can use green or a combination of both) and 1/4 red onion (or yellow or white).
  2. Squeeze extra liquid from the above mixture. Add one egg, two heaping spoon-fulls of flour, salt and pepper to taste (you can also add fresh herbs, dried rosemary, whatever else spice/herb you wish or have on hand).
  3. Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Form patties and let them fry/saute on both sides for about 2-3 minutes depending on thickness.
  4. The typical way my parents used to serve this dish was with sour-cream, but I also added salsa (you know how I'm all about salsa).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Crafts: giant ice-cubes

Over this weekend when I was babysitting L&A, we were watching Simply Delicioso, and on the show she made decorative ice cubes with fresh flowers inside.

L&A and I decided to do the same, but go bigger! We found some wild flowers on our walk and put them in large plastic cups, filled with water, and froze***. The ice cubes turned out really pretty. I guess you could use them in a giant bucket of champagne or soda drinks :)

***Note: to remove the ice cubes, run hot water on the outside of the plastic cup for a few seconds, until you can slip out the cube from the cup.

Fall Weekend

I spent this weekend babysitting L&A. Here are some pictures of the changing leaves. The weather was gorgeous: warm, sunny, blue sky. Enjoy :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Dinner: a blast from the past

Food not only feeds the body, but also the soul. Okay, this is not going to be super sentimental.

From time to time I like making the dishes my parents made when I was little. Tonight I made a pretty typical Russian dinner, although I doubt many Americans will find it appetizing. Be BRAVE! Give it a chance.

Buckwheat with boiled eggs and "fried" onions

1. Cook buckwheat similar to rice, using 1-2 ratio (1 part buckwheat, 2 parts water). Put dry buckwheat into a bowl and pour cold water over it. Anything that floats to the top: discard. In a pot boil the water, add salt, add buckwheat, bring back to a boil. Turn to low, cover, and cook for about 3o minutes.

2. Boil eggs.

3. Cut and saute a white or yellow onion until the onion pieces are a beautiful golden-brown. This requires patience; if you are not patient and keep the heat on high, the onions will burn and you'll have to start all over.

4. Assemble the dinner: combine cooked buckwheat with cooked onions and peeled and finely cubed boiled eggs. You can add a bit of butter or olive oil. Ajdust for salt and Enjoy. It's really a great comfort dinner.

Dinner: Chili! The comfort food.

As soon as it gets chilly outside, I start craving chili! Jenny was the first one who taught me how to make it, so it makes me think of her too :) And this time I even used celery!

I usually make chili with ground beef or turkey, but this time decided to use cubed meat instead.

Directions: brown cubed meat in a bit of oil. Separately saute diced celery and onions in a big pot. Add a package of chili seasoning and cook for a few more minutes. Add browned meat, 2 drained and rinsed cans of beans (I used black and kidney), 1 drained can of corn and a large 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (with the juices). Bring to a boil, turn to low, cover and simmer for an hour or two :)
I love chili with cornbread, cheese, sourcream, green onions and sometimes a bit of salsa. It's also awesome for leftovers or potluck. You can serve it over rice or with a baked potato.


Flower Power

Right across from my office, next to Union Station, there is a guy selling flowers, mostly roses, every single day. I doubt it's the same guy that has been there almost 6 years ago, when I started working at BLS, but from time to time Jenny, Laura, Stacey and I would buy flowers from him. I think it used to be $3 for half a doze roses, or maybe even $2.
Since then, the price went up to $4, but it's still a great way to cheer up and to beautify my cubicle.

My family always makes fun of me for asking "did they have another color?" and whenever I buy roses, I'm always looking for variety. I have mentioned several times to the seller that it would be fun to have mixed colors in the bouquet instead of just red or yellow, etc.

Today, the guy had a bouquet with all 6 different colored roses! I decided I needed to support such an endeavour, and bought it!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dinner: healthy and sinful (a bit)

This has been quite a busy weekend, and tonight for dinner I just wanted something really easy but satisfying. It also had to be light because when I assisted with a Mexican class at Sur La Table, there were plenty of leftovers: I wasn't too hungry. Unfortunately, that never stops me from eating.

On the menu: vegetable medley and strawberries with whipped cream.

Vegetable medley: thinly slice one yellow zucchini, a quarter of red onion, a few garlic cloves, green onions, one tomato (remove the seeds), and separate a head of broccoli into small floretes. Heat some olive oil in a pan and add onions with garlic. Saute. Add zucchini and broccoli. After the vegetables are pretty much cooked through, add tomatoes, a few splashes of soy sauce, and a few teaspoons of Sweet Chili Sauce. Cook for a few minutes and serve garnished with sliced green onions.

Strawberries: slice fresh strawberries, "garnish" with whipped cream and for a bit more flavor, add shaved chocolate (I used one of my favorite tools: microplane). Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Say What???

For a long time now I have been thinking about writing down all the strange, bizarre and ridiculous things people have told me over the past years. And today is the day I'll actually start doing it. Look for the title of Say What??? to see what people are saying!

Tonight I went dancing and after dancing with GT, he leaned forward and said:
"You have nice elbows."

Who says that??? What does that even mean?

Dinner: a can of salmon

I came home tonight after picking up my free gift at Nordstrom and only had a short amount of time to make dinner before going dancing. In addition, I haven't gone grocery shopping since Sunday, and I hardly bought anything during that trip.

I did however have a can of salmon and a few other ingredients that would make excellent salmon cakes. That's exactly what I did.


1. saute red onion, celery and garlic in a little bit of olive oil (you can also use green or red pepper, carrots, etc.)

2. drain a can of skinless, boneless salmon and mix with a tablespoon of mayonnaise and a few crackers (put them first in a Ziploc bag and hit a few times with a saucepan to make "bread" crumbs)

3. add sauted vegetables to the salmon mixture and mix together

4. form the mixture into small patties and cook in olive oil for a few minutes on each side

Perseverance Pays Of!

At the beginning of September, Nordstrom had a promotion where if you brought in an email from them they would give you a free eye shadow compact from Smashbox. Well, I was like a kid in a candy store. I love freebies and new makeup is always fun.

When I went to Nordstrom at Pentagon City, they haven't received the give-aways yet, but said if I leave my information with them, they'll send it to me soon.

I then flew to San Francisco (not for the purpose of getting Smashbox :)) and Nordstrom there was out of product as well.

Disappointment set in. Then I sort of forgot about it...until today. I decided to call Smashbox counter at Nordstrom and ask about my free gift. Well, the manager there said I can come in and pick it up!!!!! YAY! Can't wait to try it out :)

Rant: 1800 Flowers

Anna started an internship at the Cuisine at Home magazine in Iowa on October 1st. I was completely excited and proud of her and decided to send her flowers to say "Congrats on following your dreams and good luck on your new adventures."

For several years now I've used 1-800-Flowers, and decided to go with this company again. I selected Fields of Europe arrangement and sent it along. Anna received the flowers, was absolutely thrilled and that was the end of the story.

...until she bought a new pair of shoes and along with sending me a picture of the new shoes also sent a picture of the arrangement she received from me.

When I opened the picture of her arrangement I could not believe my eyes. It looked nothing like what I ordered. I was annoyed and outraged with 1800 Flowers and worried that Anna's co-workers would think I have absolutely no taste or style. Instead of receiving a fall arrangement of sunflowers, lilies and daisies, she received a vase full of mums and daisies and there was a pumpkin stuck in the middle of the flowers!!! (the top picture is of the flowers Anna received, the bottom picture is of the flowers I ordered)
I called the customer service at 1800 Flowers and they promised to send her the right arrangement and refund me 20%. Right, that did not happen. Instead, they sent her yet another incorrect arrangement. Who does that? I've spent more than an hour on the phone with them talking to 3 different supervisors who all promised me different things and as of now the issue is not resolved. My advice to you: do not use 1800 flowers, and whenever possible ask the recipients of the flowers to send you pictures to make sure they received what you paid for.
Update: spoke with one of the supervisors again and she promised to refund 50% of my purchase. Hopefully they'll actually go through with it.

Dinner: orzo salad

One of my favorite ingredients is orzo: rice shaped pasta. I like it because of its fun shape, ease of cooking and the fact that you can make a vast amount of different dishes based on it.

In the summer, I love making an orzo salad and eating it for days in a row. The flavors seem to become better with every day that the salad sits inside the refrigerator.

You might be thinking, wait, it's no longer summer, and of course you are right. However, it was 90 degrees on Monday, and an orzo salad sounded like a fabulous idea.

The best part, you really don't even need a recipe for this. You just need to use your imagination and creativity. There are a few rules however:
1) orzo must be cooked perfectly: do not under or over cook it, or the salad will be a failure (make sure to drain orzo well after cooking and run cold water through the pasta in order to separate each "grain" from one another)
2) you must season the salad well (I use olive oil and lemon juice, salt & pepper, and a variety of herbs)
3) be creative!!!!

This time my orzo salad consisted of orzo (duh!), cubed cucumbers and tomatoes, red onion, parsley, garbanzo beans, feta cheese, olives, olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper.

I served the salad with shrimp marinated in oil, a bit of lemon juice, garlic, and sweet/hot peppers sauce.


Notes: other good things to put in the salad: roasted red peppers, black beans, fresh corn, cilantro, tuna, etc. You can also use the same ingredients with cous-cous or other shaped pasta or even rice.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Wood Jewelry

In the last few months, I have found another trend in jewelry that I like: jewelry made from wood. A few weeks ago I bought wood earrinsg at the Crafty Bastards Arts & Crafts fair and of course I wanted to find another matching piece to complete the ansemble.

I was surprised to see that World Market had at least 4 options and ended up buying a wood ring for only $4.99!

Hope you like it.

AIDS walk

This Saturday Paige and I joined her co-workers from APCO for Washington DC Aids walk, 5K.

There were so many people walking and running who care deeply about raising awareness about this disease and about raising money for research to find the cure. It was great walking with them.

Thanks Paige for inviting me :)

1, 2, 3 Bloom!

As promised, I'm posting pictures of one of my orchids fully in bloom! It's gorgeous and makes me so happy.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Dinner: Roasted Potatoes

Tonight I wanted something comforting and delicious for dinner that would not take too much time, but still hit the spot. I decided to go with roasted potatoes, but making them might not seem as easy as you think. That is unless you know a few tricks.

My mom actually told me about this one (she saw it on TV): put a cookie sheet in the oven while bringing the oven up to the necessary temperature. The cookie sheet will be super hot and when you put potatoes on it, this will help potatoes to roast faster and for a crispy skin to form easier.

*red potatoes washed and cut into bite size pieces
*salt and pepper to taste
*olive oil
*red pepper flakes
*parsley for garnish

*preheat the oven at 450 degrees with a cookie sheet inside
*coat potatoes with oil, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes (you can also use other spices)
*put potatoes on a heated cookie sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes until the skin is crispy and the insides are cooked through
*sprinkle with parsley, adjust the salt and enjoy!

*I had it with French bread and avocado/tomato salad
*Other spices you can use: Italian seasoning, garlic salt, rosemary, thyme.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Restaurant Review: Oaxaca

Last night I tried out a new restaurant: Oaxaca! I love Mexican food and it has been quite difficult to find something authentic in DC area.

Tom Sietsema, food critic for the Washington Post, has reviewed this restaurant and highly recommended it: I was looking forward to my dining experience there.

First of all, what a name! I thought it was pronounced o-k-s-a-k-a, but according to the website, it's actually wa-ha-ca: cool!

The interior is really pretty: darker colors, candles, star-shaped lamps, mirrors: very romantic (in case someone is looking for a date).

The menu (look at the website) was rather short, but for me it's a benefit: otherwise it takes forever to decide what to order. I decided on De Borrego (tacos of marinated lamb in garlic and Oaxacan peppers served with rice and pureed black beans) and Rellenitos de Platano Macho (plantain patties stuffed with black beans).

Both dishes were excellent! Plantain patties were crispy on the edges, I'm guessing from being fried, but the beans on the inside were almost creamy. The lamb was superb!

Overall, great food, great service and great atmosphere. I haven't tried any drinks or dessert this time, but would definitely on the next visit.

Bonus: cute waiter and Latin music!
Interesting: instead of regular chips and salsa, before your meal you are treated to sliced jicama drizzled with oil and spices: delicious!