Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pizza Extravaganza

Over the last few days I tested 3 pizza recipes for Robyn Webb. LOVED them. I can't post the recipes (I don't think), but here are pictures and descriptions.

Greek pizza with feta cheese, olives, pine nuts and fresh oregano.

Pizza with leeks, onions, artichoke hearts and parmesan.

Pizza with tomatoes, mozarella and fresh basil.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving in Des Moines

Thought I'd share the awesome food Anna and I had for Thanksgiving: turkey roulade, mashed potatoes, winter salad with apples and blue cheese and shortcakes with cranberry sauce and whipped cream. Of course we also snacked on my chocolate pecan pie.

(stuffing, pounded turkey breast, rolled up breast with the stuffing inside, baked turkey, dinner, dessert)

This we had for breakfast the next day: I can't remember the name, so maybe Anna will put it in the comments. But it's basically mini french toasts with a fruit salad.

New Jewelry from Des Moines

I spent Thanksgiving with Anna in Des Moines. Whenever I travel, I love buying a few things that will remind me of my trip. This trip I bought a new sweater, a really cute t-shirt, some loose tea, but some of my favorite purchases are these two necklaces.

The first one I designed by myself in a bead store and it's reversible!

This one is on a silk cord. It's a natural stone, but I can't remember the name.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Chocolate Pecan Pie

A few Thanksgivings ago Jenny made me and Anna a chocolate pecan pie. It was divine. I've also had fabulous chocolate pecan pie at several Thanksgiving celebrations at Cindy's. I love pecans and I love chocolate, so it's a great combination.

This year I'm going to visit Anna in Des Moines for Thanksgiving and wanted to make chocolate pecan pie. Anna did not like this idea, but she did find a recipe from America's Test Kitchen (email me if you are interested).

I decided to leave work a bit earlier today and make the pie :)

You basically melt some butter, add in corn syrup, a bit of salt, eggs, and vanilla. Warm the mixture in a bowl over simmering water, mix in toasted pecans.

You then pour this mixture in a pie crust (I used a premade graham cracker crust) and cover it with chocolate chips (unlike the recipe, which called for semisweet, milk and white chocolate, I used combination of semisweet and dark chocolate).

You then bake the pie at 275 for about an hour and let it cool for 4 hours. I could only wait 3 hours :) Okay, Jenny's and Cindy's desserts were definitely better, but I'm pretty pleased with
the way this one turned out. It might have too much chocolate, but overall it's rather good!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stacey saves the day!!!

Do you remember my favorite red shoes? I bought them in August and have pretty much worn them out because I really, really like them and they are super comfortable and super cute and I always get compliments on them.

I have been mad at myself for quite some time for only getting one pair and when I went back to the store a few months ago, the store no longer had my red shoes. Instead, I bought a pair of black ones.

The problem? I still wanted a new pair of my red shoes because the ones that I have are scuffed and I really would not wear them anywhere other than grocery shopping and maybe on the way dancing.

Anyway, today at lunch when I went shopping with Stacey, she found my red shoes in my right size! I think they were the only one pair in the store. So without a second thought I bought them.
Yay. Shoe Happiness!

Giving Back

Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what we have, spending time with people we care about and of course the food!

This Thanksgiving I'll be travelling to visit Anna in Des Moines, so that takes care of one of the things on the list. We'll be doing plenty of cooking and eating out, so that takes care of the food requirement.

Last night, together with more than a hundred people, I joined Washington DC Jewish Community Center for Everything But the Turkey event. I really enjoy cooking for others and it makes me thankful for everything that I have. We provided a hearty Thanksgiving Day meal for the 2,000 residents of the Community for Creative Non-Violence (C.C.N.V.) homeless shelter, the largest in the country. In addition to supplying food to C.C.N.V., DC Central Kitchen will distribute the remaining meals to local homeless shelters, transitional housing facilities and community kitchens in DC.

For anyone who might be reading this and lives in DC area, I would encourage you to check out Washington DCJCC's December 25 Community Service Day. The details should be posted soon on a variety of projects you can get involved in to help those in need.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Flower Progress

Just thought I'd post a few pictures to show how some of my plants have grown.

This one is my "Laura" orchid: there are now 4 full open blooms on one of the branches. The color is so vibrant! The same branch has 4 more yet unopened buds; and there is another branch with a total of 7 buds! I can't wait to see it all in bloom.

This is a citrus plant Alyssa gave me in July before she moved away from DC. At that time, the plant had 4 leaves at the most and it has grown quite a bit! Alyssa could not remember if the plant originated from an orange or mandarin seed...who knows? Maybe one day I'll find out. (When I lived in Moscow, we had several of such "plants")

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cupcake Madness

Wow, this is my 100th Post!!!!

I assisted a Sur La Table Cupcake class this morning. I don't think I have ever seen so many cupcakes and so much frosting! They turned out super cute (so far I've only tasted the mini brownie ones).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dinner: Corn Bread and Broccoli Rabe Strata

I was reading the New York Times food section and found a recipe for Corn Bread and Broccoli Rabe Strata . Because I did not have any plans (yes, I realize it is a Friday night) I decided to go to the grocery store, get the ingredients and make this recipe tonight.

Of course, I rarely follow a recipe to the letter. This time, I decided to half the recipe, but keep the amount of garlic, olives and roasted pepper the same as in the full recipe. I also bought jalapeno cornbread and left out red pepper flakes.

Patience is not my strongest virtue. I was supposed to keep the strata in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight before baking it. However, I wanted to eat it tonight: I ended up keeping it in the fridge for just an hour and then baking it. The timer just went off! Can't wait to try it! I will post pictures and let you all know what I thought of the final product after I taste it :)
put cornbread in a baking dish and cover with the mixture of broccoli rabe, roasted peppers and olives
put dollops of ricotta cheese over the mixture
pour milk and egg mixture over the cornbread, vegetables and ricotta cheese and then sprinkle Gruyère on top
after baking for an hour
the final product!


1) definitely buy broccoli rabe and not plain broccoli: completely different taste!

2) I would add more vegetables!

3) When mixing eggs with milk, put the mixture through a sieve in order to have a smooth custard (I actually did it)

4) This would be absolutely amazing for brunch! Wonder how it tastes cold...

5) Overall, I really enjoyed it. And there are so many adjustments and variations for this one recipe.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dinner: winter salad

I made a totally awesome salad tonight for dinner! Warning: no lettuce was hurt in this adventure :)

1 can of black beans, drained
2 roasted peppers, cut into thin strips
3 small sweet potatoes cut into small cubes, microwaved for 7 min and then quickly pan-fried

garlic, salt, cumin, olive oil, red wine vinegar

*In a salad bowl combine one large garlic clove finely minced (I used a microplane), some olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and a few pinches of cumin
*Add beans, potatoes, peppers and finely chopped parsley. Combine and enjoy!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dinner: Lasagna!

Lasagna. To me that means good food, good for left-overs, great for cold nights. This is exactly what I wanted to make last night. By now you know that I usually don't cook using recipes; this was not going to be an exception. I bought a box of lasagna noodles, ground beef, pasta sauce, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and lucked out on super cheap yellow and red peppers.

Cook ground beef with an onion and some spices. Mix with tomato sauce and layer on top of pre-cooked lasagna noodles (make sure to cook them a few minutes short of what you'd normally do for pasta you'd eat right away).

On top of the ground beef mixture, layer roasted peppers.
Top off with ricotta cheese mixture (ricotta cheese, an egg, some fresh thyme) and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Repeat with lasagna noodles, ground beef, peppers, etc. The top two layers are ricotta cheese mixture and mozzarella. Bake in an oven for 30-40 min at 350 degrees (Note: I put the Pyrex container on top of a cookie sheet in case there would be some bubblilng over (there was!)).
Her is the final product. It was really hard to wait 10-15 minutes to cut into lasagna after I took it out of the oven (you wait so that everything settles in). It was still a bit soupy, but oh my gosh, it was SO good! Can't wait to have leftovers for lunch today.

Things to think about: you can make this with ground turkey or chicken or no meat at all. You can use any other vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, etc). You can use any other type of cheese you like. This is really just a template to follow.

Roasted Peppers

My grocery store has an area where they put slightly damaged produce on a huge sale. To my surprise, they had bags of yellow and red peppers in an absolutely perfect condition marked 2 for $1! You know I had to buy a few, okay, 5 bags.

Came home and decided to roast them (after calling Anna for advice). Here is what you do: wash the peppers, take the stickers off, rub with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 450 for 40 minutes, turning half-way through.

Don't they look gorgeous? I used some in my lasagna (see the post above) and also made home-made hummus using one of the red peppers: delicious!

These will also be good in salads, on sandwiches or pasta. Such a great buy!

Edible Gems

I love pomegranates! I first ate this fruit when I was a little girl in Russia. Oh the memories. A few nights ago I bought my first pomegranate this year and it was so juicy and sweet and full of vitamins! The seeds reminded me or rubies or garnets depending on the color. See below for more info. If you've never tried this fruit, what are you waiting for?

The Pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 5–8 m tall. The pomegranate is native to the region from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and has been cultivated and naturalized over the whole Mediterranean region and the Caucasus since ancient times. It is widely cultivated throughout Armenia, Iran, India, the drier parts of southeast Asia, Malaya, the East Indies, and tropical Africa. Introduced into Latin America and California by Spanish settlers in 1769, pomegranate is now cultivated mainly in the drier parts of California and Arizona for its fruits exploited commercially as juice products gaining in popularity since 2001. In the global functional food industry, pomegranate is often mentioned among a novel category of exotic plant sources called "superfruits".

Fresh pomegranate season is from September to November in North America. (Wikipedia)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Holler for Challah

Last week I was reading Washington Post's Food Section and their discussion about bread. I had an idea that I should make challah! Because I've never made challah, or any bread for that matter, I asked Anna what recipe she used when she made it a few years ago. She said Yaneev's. Emailed Yaneev, got the recipe, invited Paige and Jenn to come over and set out to make my first ever challah.

Good thing I read the recipe the night before: turns out you have to let the dough sit in the fridge over night. I ended up buying the ingredients and doing the prep work the night before.

this is what it looks like when the yeast gets activated with sugar and warm water
this is what the dough looked like after I added the rest of the ingredients....something went wrong....but what!?
I realized the recipe was missing a step (adding the rest of the water with the flour). Problem solved: now it actually looks like a proper dough
after almost two hours covered in a warm place, the dough doubled in size!!!
after a night in the fridge, the dough somewhat dried out and I totally panicked. When Jenn and Paige came over, we ended up adding some water and kneading it again. The result is on the right side of the picture: another crisis averted
3 challahs: Paige's, mine, Jenn's
3 of our challahs after they were allowed to rise for an hour and a half: they totally expanded!!!
before putting challahs in the oven, we brushed them with an egg mixture and sprinkled with sugar
challah is ready!
my challah: with cranberries
time to enjoy the fruits of our labor!

This was a great success. There were definitely several "oh my god, this is going to suck" moments, but I'm glad I tried a new recipe. Thanks Yaneev and Anna for encouragement. Thanks Jenn and Paige for doing this with me :)

If you want the exact recipe, email me me directly, and I'll be happy to send it to you.