December 24, 2016

Holiday's Simpl(e)y (and) the Best


With Christmas around the corner,
things are hectic enough without having to worry about what to cook
up for dinners. We're always looking around for new and interesting
recipes that will make the holiday season a bit more special and
memorable than usual.


 Everyone knows the basics of a traditional holiday meal, but having something different will not only make you stand out as the fabulous host that you are, but it will put a smile on everyone's face!

Recipes


Ceviche

For the first recipe, I've put down
some mouth-watering ceviche cups. Ceviche is a deliciously fresh and
vibrant appetizer, full of bold flavors all around. It consists of
various seafood that get cooked by citrus juices, so no pan is
required. The best part of this recipe is that it fits in perfectly
with a busy meal schedule because it's quick and easy and very
flexible. Red snapper can be substituted completely or partially with
anything from scallops, to shrimps, to salmon. The best part of
eating this yummy appetizer is that it is pretty guilt-free, unlike
most of the stuff that will likely have you loosening your belt.

Ingredients
500 grams Red Snapper
Juice of 6 limes
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 small red onion, halved and thinly
sliced
1 avocado, pitted and diced
2 tbsp finely chopped, fresh cilantro
2 small red chilies, seeded and finely
chopped
8-12 romaine lettuce leaves, to serve
on

Directions
  1. Slice the fish into thin slices/strips and place into a medium bowl.
    Drizzle with the lemon and lime juices and stir gently to coat.
    Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours,
    stirring occasionally. The flesh of the fish will be opaque when
    ready to serve.
  2. Drain the fish, reserving 3 tablespoons of the marinade. Whisk the
    reserved marinade with the olive oil in a small bowl. Season with
    salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Combine the fish, tomatoes, onion, avocado, cilantro, chilies, and
    marinade dressing in a medium bowl and stir gently to combine.
  4. Spoon some ceviche mixture into each lettuce leaf. Prepare 2-3
    filled lettuce leaves for each guest. Serve.

Meatballs

To balance out the oceany feel of the
first dish, the the next yummy bite should be something more
traditionally meaty, like, say, some meatballs with a sweet ginger
sauce. These meatballs are easy to make, packed with flavor, and
pretty hard to mess up. The recipe calls for chicken in the
meatballs, but for an even more festive twist try using turkey!

Ingredients

for the
sauce:
100 grams firmly packed dark brown
sugar
120mL Water
120mL soy sauce
120mL sweet rice wine
1/4 cup chopped peeled ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
4 whole black peppercorns

for
meatballs:
500 grams ground chicken breast or
thighs
6 scallions, finely chopped
50 grams fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
Fresh ground black pepper
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions
Sauce:
  1. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat,
    stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the soy sauce, sweet rice
    wine, ginger, coriander, and peppercorns and simmer, stirring
    occasionally until reduced by half, about 15mins. Strain through a
    fine-mesh sieve.

Meatballs:
  1. Mix the chicken, scallions,
    cilantro, egg, sesame oil, soy sauce, and pepper in a bowl. Roll
    tablespoons of the mixture into balls.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large
    frying pan over the medium-high heat. Cook the meatballs in batches
    until browned and cooked through, 7-8 minutes each batch.
  3. Arrange the meatballs on a heated
    platter, spoon some ginger sauce over each one, and serve hot.
Gingerbread
Cookies




To top off one fun-filled day of good
food, nothing beats classic gingerbread cookies! Ginger bread is
especially great for kids because it offers up a great way for them
to express their creativity. They can decorate these tasty cookies in
any way they like, which spares you some work and makes it more fun
for everyone! All of these warming spices scream holiday season and
add up to make one really tasty cookie!

Ingredients
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup shortening, melted and cooled
slightly
1 cup molasses
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
Sift together the flour, baking powder,
ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon; set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together the
shortening, molasses, brown sugar, water, egg, and vanilla until
smooth. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, until they are
completely absorbed. Divide dough into 3 pieces, pat down to 1 1/2
inch thickness, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3
hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175
degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4
inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place
cookies 1 inch apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the
preheated oven. When the cookies are done, they will look dry, but
still be soft to the touch. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on
wire racks. When cool, the cookies can be frosted with the icing of
your choice

May 21, 2016

Sartu di polenta

I got an inspiration for this dish while watching "Giada in Italy" making Sartu di riso, festive Italian dish, similar to timpano/timbale.



Sartu di riso, as it says made with rice. I'm not that big fan of rice, and I thought why it wouldn't be possible to make it with polenta instead of rice.
It turned out actually possible and tasty. And it really looks spectacular before and after the cutting.



So the basic principle of this dish is made an outside layer from rice, or someting similar and fill it with meat, cheese, tomato etc.., and than cover it with layer of rice again and bake in the oven so that you get like a cake that has layers of the colorfull filling inside and outside is the layer that protect that filling from running out. Timpano/ timbale has pastry layer, sartu di riso has rice. I made this cake with polenta.

You need Bundt pan deep dish that has a hole in the middle.
RECIPE



Ingredients

FOR WRAP LAYER:
2 cups of instant polenta
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1/2 cup sheep feta cheese

FOR THE FILLING:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1lb turky meatballs
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 shallot, sliced
2 sprigs basil
One 2-inch piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
One large can of crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
7 tablespoons fine breadcrumb
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 leak 
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 boiled eggs
One 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella, or curd cheese
or any other soft cheese cut in little cubes

steps:

1.PREPARE MEATBALLS

2.COOK TOMATO SAUCE

3.PEAS AND LEAK

4.POLENTA MAKING:
In a large saucepan combine the chicken broth, 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt and 2 tbsp of olive oil. Stir and bring to a boil over high heat. Take it off the stove and add instant polenta. Cook on the stove for few minutes, untill the liquid is absorbed.Stir in cheeses until is well combined, and set aside.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using 1 tablespoon of the butter, grease the inside of a Bundt pan or a 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven, making sure to coat it very well. Dust the inside of the pan with 3 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. Make sure it is evenly coated without bald spots. This is very important to prevent sticking. You an add aluminum foil that you can peel off once you take the sartu from the oven.

5.COMBINE FILLING:

Add the peas, leak and diced mozzarella or other cheese to the meatballs and sauce, and toss gently to incorporate, at the end add chopped hard boiled eggs. Spoon two-thirds of the polenta mixture into the prepared bundt pan. Using damp hands, press the polenta evenly over the bottom of the pan and 2 1/2-inches up the sides and middle of the pan. Spoon the meat filling into the well of polenta and press gently to make sure it is evenly packed. Spoon the remaining polenta over the filling and, using damp hands, spread polenta evenly over the filling, being sure to press along the edges to seal. Bake until lightly browned on top, 30 minutes.
Cool for 10 minutes.

Cut and serve with lettuce salad.
Buon appettito!

May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day!

This is probably the happiest of all mothers on this day: the pigeon mother that made a nest on my balcony in April, after 18 days laying on two eggs, had two babies this morning, on Mother's Day!



It was great gift to me as well, Everyone is so happy and full of joy!

March 25, 2016

All you need to know about Easter Egg Coloring

The egg as a symbol of Easter dates back to the time when Mary Magdalene Emperor Tiberius donated egg, telling him that Jesus was resurrected, but also symbolizes a new life, life force, because the saw just inside the shell breaks and comes to light. The egg is a symbol of life and it was part of tradition and customs, not only with Christians but other religions and societies trough the history.















Eggs are painted mostly on Good Friday, that means today, (or Great, as in Eastern Ortodox Churches is called), although in some areas painted on Thursdays, which is also called the Great(Good).
Traditions vary from country to country around the strictly religious, but there are Easter traditions that have nothing to do with religion as it is in Western countries used to the Easter Bunny brings gifts to children. In many countries in recent years, boiled eggs are replaced with eggs of chocolate, consumer society has led to the custom of coloring eggs somewhere dies under the pretext that children prefer chocolate eggs.In Austria, a very important holiday Green Thursday before Easter, when it is customary to eat green vegetables and eggs this day symbolize painted green.In Mexico, the Thursday before Easter, believers go to the seven churches in each pray for the forgiveness of sins. 
 For Jews, anywhere in the world, Easter is a very important holiday, as well, with their families reminded of the exodus in its history, and during the holidays they eat food that has symbolic significance, unleavened bread and eggs.
Catholics in many countries, Easter, welcome in churches, at midnight, when the church bells ads, they kiss three times, and the feast of the resurrection can begin.In Russia, the people of Easter with baskets of food go to the graves of deceased relatives, where we stayed most of the day eating and thus paying tribute to the deceased.
Easter, Eastern Orthodox believers greet each other  for Easter with – “Christ is Risen” – “Indeed He is Risen!”
Easter color is red, symbolizing the blood of Jesus shed innocent, and custom in Serbia is the first egg painted red. This egg is called the "Homeprotector", is kept throughout the year and as the name says, protects your home and family. "Homeprotector",  attributed magical powers, keeps the evil forces and demons out of home and its occupants. In some parts of Serbia, “Homeprotector” egg is kept in a bowl with water until Easter morning, and then family members, especially children, wash their faces in that water mixed with basil and few other important local health herbs, to symbolize family to be healthy and rosy all year.
 In South American countries, in many cities Easter day turns into a carnival with music and confetti, children in America that day, looking for eggs hidden in the courtyards.
As you can see, the traditions vary from country to country, but the most important is that it is one of the holidays that brings together family and its  traditions.
Giving and sharing eggs was still the custom in the Persian civilization, even Egypt and Greece, long before Christianity.and at that time they were decorated and gave away as eggs are considered a symbol of life, representing the birth and was associated with the spring, the season that also symbolizes rebirth.



Coloring with Pysanky, Naturally with herbs and in a Steamer 

On this Easter Friday, here are some unusual and the most beautiful egg dyeing methods for me, all here:
*Ukrainian Pysanky, 
*Natural in onionskin and fruits and vegetables with herbal imprints and 
*Abstract egg coloring in Steamer 

New method I recently discovered, definitely fun for kids is hot glue egg coloring, where with glue gun, you apply glues on the egg, dip in the color, take off the glue and voila! 

Happy Easter!

Ukrainian way of hot wax egg design - Pysanky

Easter eggs done Ukraininan way - Pysinky


Beside eggs, to make Easter Ukrainian eggs, you'll need some tools:
1. kistka
2. beeswax
3. egg dyes
white vinegar, candles, papers ..

The most important tool - kistka is a hollow metal pen that has a container where your heated wax flows through and draws shapes on the egg shell. One can find kistka and wax, along with special egg dyes in some craft stores or markets at this time of year. Egg is than dipped in different colours and the whole process is repeated. The whole meaning is to dye egg in one colour, protect that colour with a wax (by drawing some shapes), and to repeat the whole process by using different colours, ending up with a colourful egg with many patterns and shapes. The egg dyed this way can be a real piece of art!

The entire process starts with design preparation. Patterns are drawn on the paper and then same lines are copied by drawing with a kistka and wax to the egg. Some easy as well as some more complicated patterns are now easily found on the internet. Some simple and more complicated designs with instructions can be found on Learnpysanky.
Eggs should first be washed in a vinegar bath at room temperature, because that way the dye is better applied to the egg.
Dyes are prepared in a containers according to the instructions.
Then, take a kistka and pour some wax in the kistka's container. Heat it over a candle.


Whole process for one egg, from white, yellow, red to black. Ready for oven.

Here is the way of drawing and dipping in colors to get shape on the bottom:
Steps for lines and colors for one Pysanky egg..
..this is the final product of previously shown steps and dipping in different colors

Draw the shapes from your pattern by applying melted warm wax on the egg shell trough the tip of the kistka. Dye the egg in a next desired colour of your next pattern lines. Draw the lines over new colour with a wax again. Follow the whole process of dying and wax drawing from your pattern design. Light colours (white, yellow) are applied first and dark at the end.

Tools, Patterns and Dyes

Eggs are then dried with a paper towel and the wax is melted from the egg shells. This can be done over a candle or, even simpler, in the oven at 250 F (120 C), just so the wax can be melted and an egg is not cooked. After 10 minutes or until eggs start to be oily, take hot eggs out from the oven and wipe the melted wax from each egg with paper towel immediately.
The Ukrainian egg dyeing process is finished with this step and now your Easter eggs are ready for Easter.

Wax removing process done in the oven



Natural egg color dyeing
with fruit and vegetable infused colors and herb and flower imprints



The technique of herb-imprinted eggs in onionskin infused water is one of oldest and most unusual you’ll find in the western world. Commercial dyes are available, but this old-fashioned natural method can create beautifully golden-red eggs with artistic imprints of natural herbs and flowers.


The following is a process for of herb imprinting and colouring in onionskin infused water for one dozen eggs. 
1. Prepare the dye with the onionskin:
In a stainless steel saucepan, place skins of 10 big yellow (Spanish) onions and 2 tbsp of white vinegar in about 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about half an hour. Cool and leave it aside for couple of hours or overnight to infuse.
2. Prepare eggs with herbs:
First you'll need some old pantyhose cut in 3"- 4" (8-10 cm) strips with no holes, closed at one end with a tread or tied in knot and a bunch of small garden herbs and flowers (parsley, basil, cilantro, clover etc..) that can stick to the egg tightly.
  
Place one herb on one side of your egg. Wrap the egg with pantyhose strip that is closed on one side.
                                                                                          
        

When herb is nicely placed on one side of the egg, wrap it tightly and carefully so your herb is still stuck on the egg. Stretch the pantyhose and close the other side tightly. The tighter the pocket of the pantyhose is around the egg, the better the herb will appear on the egg.




Continue with this process until all the eggs are used. When you get more experienced, you'll be able to place even three to four herbs on the egg and tie it tightly.




Now, the prepared eggs are ready for coloring in onionskin infused water.
Put your pot with onionskin back on the stove until it starts to boil. Turn down the heat and continue simmering. Start adding prepared eggs until you fill the pot. Simmer it for about 10-20 minutes, checking on the color of the eggs, every so often.

 










When egg is ready, take it out carefully and cool it down a bit until it is easy to handle. Take off the pantyhose, place in a paper towel with a little bit of oil and rub the egg until the herb is off and all the egg is nice, shiny and polished.



done!
Tips:
-A couple of weeks before Easter, start saving onionskins in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until they are ready to use. Or buy a bag of onions and peel them all.
-Do not use any porous (wood, ceramic, plastic, etc.) materials as they can be coloured by the dye

-Leftover cooked eggs can be used later in many tasty dishes, that I'll post here soon.


Naturally colored pastel Easter eggs 
with flower imprints




This method is similar to the previously explained with onionskin, just use different plants etc.. for color and imprints.

      Natural Blue 
Half head red cabbage 
Water
Baking Soda

Wash the cabbage and cut out the stem.
Chop into small pieces.
Place cabbage pieces in a pot and add water until the cabbage is covered.
Simmer for 10 minutes and then drain.
The resulting liquid will be purplish.
Gradually add baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until you get a nice blue hue.  Be careful, because the baking soda will add flavor to the coloring.  If you are using the color for something you will be eating then you need to be especially careful how much you add.  Since it is the alkaline quality of the baking soda that causes the red cabbage juice to turn blue, you can also add spinach juice, green tea, or another alkaline ingredient.
The color in the cabbage juice, itself is not particularly sensitive to temperature, but the mixture of the baking soda with the juice is.  So add the color after the food item has cooled, or else only add it to food items that will not be heated.

Natural dark Blue with blueberries
Add 2 cups of frozen blueberries into a 2 quart pot

Add 3/4 cup of water
Add 1 tsp vinegar

Bring mixture to a boil and cook the berries until they start popping, while mixing frequently
Mash them with a potato masher to make a thick sauce like consistency.  If it seems too thick add a little more water
When the berries are cooked, strain them into a glass coffee cup, it  will submerge one egg .
For a pale blue color – leave the egg in the juice for about 20 minutes.  For a darker blue color leave it in the juice for about an hour…or longer.
Rinse the egg from any residue of the juice in cold water



 Natural yellow with turmeric

Add 2 cups of water into a 1 quart stainless steel pot…
Add 4 heaping Tbsp of Turmeric, mix and stir until all powder is mixed into the water
Add 1 tsp of vinegar

Bring this mixture to a boil and add your eggs, remove from heat and let the eggs be submerged for about 1 hour or longer.   The longer you keep the eggs in this dye the deeper the yellow color will be….
Rinse the eggs with cold water to remove any spice particles


Natural purple with grape juice
FOR 12 EGGS
8 cups water
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 cups grape juice

Place eggs in single layer in a pot, add water , vinegar and grape juice. Bring to boil, simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the eggs.
If you want dark shade, leave eggs over the night in a liquid.


Abstract egg coloring in Steamer




You’ll need steamer and egg coloring in powder for this method.

method explained below


  1. Place your eggs in a steamer. Start your steamer.
  2. Spread a little bit of your desired colors over top of the eggs. 
  3. Start with one color and then continue with all of them or some of your choice to get desired abstract designs.
  4. When one side is done, cover the eggs with a lid and wait for three to five minutes so that color start to spread around the egg and eggs are cooking.
  5. Uncover eggs and carefully with some long cooking tongs, flip eggs to the other side. Sprinkle with colors again. Cover. Continue with steaming for five more minutes. 
  6. Continue the process until satisfied.
  7. Take colored eggs carefully out, since they will be very hot, and watch not to brake them and cool on prepared newspapers or wooden board for about ten minutes.
  8. While still warm, polish them with a bit of olive oil in cotton cloth.






    Hot Glue method of coloring can be find here

    February 13, 2016

    Handmade Leather Earrings

    Last week, my daughter had her big eighteenth birthday and I made present for her.
    I used pieces of leather in different colors to create earrings in flower and her favorite stuffed toy shape.
    Little crazy, but it was fun and made for her. 
    And she really wears them now.



    No more 3D shaped cakes in special cartoon characters. It's finally about a taste and not a look of the birthday cake. She is big now and real expert in making macaroons, so she made the layers of the cake and I did a filling.
    Next time about her amazing macaroons!



    Earrings that she wears!