Weekend Edition: Buy Yourself Flowers

TGIF! I'm back from a wonderful vacation in Mexico City with my twin Anna and our friends Kate, Sveta, and Jenny!

One of the things I did almost immediately, other than unpacking, was buying fresh flowers. You see, when I was a little girl growing up in Russia, my parents and my grandmother always placed fresh flowers in Anna's and mine room for us to see after we came home after summer camp. Isn't that the sweetest tradition?

Well, I now do the same for myself. I encourage all of you to treat yourself to fresh flowers or a new plant!

This arrangement is an homage to Pantone: greenery for 2017 and ultra violet for 2018.


Meatless Monday: Black Nebulla Carrots With Lemony Tahini Dressing & Pistachios

Have you ever heard of Black Nebulla Carrots? If like me you order produce from Washington's Green Grocer, you probably received these beauties in the last few orders. Well, now you can make a stunning vegan dish with them: Black Nebulla Carrots With Lemony Tahini Dressing & Pistachios.

Washington's Green Grocer started a Cookbook Club, which I joined immediately, and the first recipe is a lemony tahini dressing from Alison Roman's Dining In cookbook. Lisa (owner of WGG) posted a recipe idea on instagram of roasting the carrots and drizzling them with the dressing. I went a few steps further by adding chopped pistachios, parsley, and lemon zest.  

Black Nebulla Carrots With Lemony Tahini Dressing & Pistachios

Black Nebulla carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise
olive oil
kosher salt
for the dressing
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely grated
salt & pepper to taste
roasted pistachios, chopped
parsley, chopped
lemon zest

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly coat the carrots with olive oil and season with kosher salt. Roast in a single layer cut side up for 20-30 minutes depending on the size.
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients.
3. Drizzle the carrots with the dressing and sprinkle with pistachios, parsley, and lemon zest. 

Beware that these carrots will stain your hands!!! 

I really liked this recipe. It can be served straight out of the oven or at room temperature. I bet it'll taste equally great with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, or any other vegetable you want to roast. The dressing, of course, is perfect on any salad!


Sunday Supper: Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon

Need a filling delicious meal to satisfy your taste buds and warm you up on a freezing cold winter weekend? Make Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon (beef stew) for Sunday Supper.

This is only the first weekend of 2018, and I'm already fulfilling one of my resolutions to make new recipes more often!

As I've mentioned in my earlier post, I've never made Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon...until now that is!

I used this recipe from tbsp, but made a few adjustments.

My thoughts:

1. After making the recipe, I think there really is no need for bacon. There is plenty of flavor from the wine, onions, and mushrooms. Also, the recipe called to simmer bacon in 4 cups of water...what? I simply browned mine.

2. 1 carrot for a big pot of stew is ridiculous ;) I used 3.

3. There are a few steps where you cook the stew in 450F oven for four minutes at a time to cook out the flour. No thanks. I skipped those steps and kept the pot on the stove and then put it in the oven for 3 hours at 325 to tenderize the beef.

4. Did you know good stew beef is expensive? That was news to me.

5. I used brown mushrooms instead of white ones because that's what I had.

6. For the pearl onions, I simply sauteed them for 10 minutes without then simmering them in liquid for 40 minutes. Who has the time? Plus, they are small and 10 minutes was long enough for them to be fork tender.

7. Overall, I loved this stew! It wasn't too complicated to make and I'll probably do it again. Plus, it'll keep well in the freezer.

What have you cooked lately?


2018 Cooking Resolutions & Lucky Lentils For New Year

Welcome to 2018! Hope you are entering the new year in good health and with a good attitude! Are you making any resolutions?

I've made a few cooking related resolutions I'd like to share with you:

1) Cook more new recipes: after making chocolate salami for the first time in December, I felt such satisfaction and pride. There are so many recipes out there I'd like to try. Can you believe I've never made Boeuf Bourguignon?

2) Minimize food waste: this doesn't require an explanation, but will take a lot of work!

3) Stop buying bowls and other kitchen items: one of my friends decided to take a vacation from consumerism in 2018 and I'm following her lead.

What's the photo above you might be thinking? Well, it's the new recipe I made yesterday from Domenica Marchetti for Sausage and Lentils Umbrian Style. Turns out lentils are a lucky food to eat for the new year, and who can't use a bit of luck?

I used green lentils and chicken sausage with basil and sundried tomatoes, but otherwise followed Domenica's recipe closely. Don't skip the step of browning the sausages, I kept mine whole, because it adds a lot of flavor to the final dish.

I garnished mine with chopped parsley and celery leaves.

One new recipe down, many more to go!

Share your cooking resolutions with me!


Meatless Monday: Cookie Roundup

Whether you are invited to a dinner party and want to bring dessert, hosting a cookie exchange, or are having a rough day and need baking therapy, these three cookies will come to your rescue!

My friend Patricia invited me to join her family for Christmas Eve dinner and asked to bring sweets. I decided to go slightly overboard and bring three kinds of cookies: the more, the merrier! All of these can be done a day or two before and satisfy 99% of the people :)

The one pictured above is Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate Saucisson. I remember my mom making chocolate salami when I was growing up in Russia, but it's been decades since I've tasted one, and I've never made one before. Until this past weekend. It was so easy!! If you like chocolate dessert, you'll love this. Bonus points: no baking required! The recipe calls for pistachios, cookies and dried apricots, which is what I used, but it'd be easy to play around with other nuts and dried fruit.

For the second cookie, I baked cookies with tahini from Zahav cookbook. I had a brilliant idea, if I say so myself, to use oxo cookie press: this made the entire process so much easier that the original method of using a cookie scoop! Anna, my twin, suggested I sprinkle half of the cookies with black sesame seeds before baking: it gave the cookies a slight crunch. These will melt in your mouth!

Last, but definitely not least, I made Pistachio, Cranberries & Orange Biscotti from Domenica Marchetti's Ciao Biscotti cookbook. I added cranberries into the dough and sprinkled the biscotti with sugar in the raw before the first bake. This is not the first time I've made Domenica's recipe, and as always it was a success. Patricia's family raved about these, and I may be just a tiny bit sad that I did not leave any for myself. 

The recipe was different from the ones I've used in the past because it called for separating the eggs and whipping the whites with sugar until the mixture becomes white and glossy. Only then do you add the egg yolks with honey and olive oil. The extra step wasn't too hard and the final results were definitely worth it!

Let me know what cookies you like the most!


Chickarina Soup From Valerie's Home Cooking Cookbook

Looking for a different take on chicken noodle soup? I recommend you try Valerie Bertinelli's Chickarina Soup. This is the second recipe I made from Valerie Bertinelli's new cookbook, which I received as a review copy from the book's publisher. {Here's the first recipe I made.} 

It's been too long since I cooked with Israeli couscous, aka pearl couscous, which are larger than regular couscous, but not to be mistaken for grain. It's basically little balls of pasta, and there's nothing wrong with it!

Chickarina Soup
Reprinted with permission from the publisher

  • 3/4 pound ground chicken
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh pecorino romano cheese
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup sliced carrot 
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup uncooked pearl couscous
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Preheat the broiler with the oven rack 6 to 8 inches from the heat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and coat with cooking spray. Gently combine the chicken, egg white, salt, pepper, and half of the pecorino romano. Scoop the mixture into meatballs using a 1/2-inch cookie scoop, and place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet. Broil until the meatballs are lightly browned, about 6 minutes.
2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add the onion, carrot, and celery; cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about 6 minutes. Add the couscous, garlic, and rosemary; cook, stirring often, until the couscous is lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Add the meatballs, and cook until the couscous is tender and the meatballs are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Top with the parsley and remaining half of the pecorino romano.
The pearl couscous may be switched for rice or ditalini pasta, but the pearls are true to the original.
Trick Technique:
Don’t have a cookie scoop? These mini meatballs can also be formed by using a piping bag or ziplock bag with a corner snipped off. Simply spoon the sticky chicken mixture into the bag and squeeze out 1/2-inch meatballs.

1) Definitely increase the amount of carrots: I doubled it, but could have tripled it.
2) I made my meatballs larger, and was happy with the results.
3) This soup is great as leftovers.
4) I think the soup could benefit from adding defrosted peas.
5) I left out rosemary because I'm not a huge fan of it: the soup still had plenty of flavor.

Happy cooking and slurping!!


Travel Tuesday: Solo Trip To Lisbon, Portugal

It has been over two weeks since I've come back from my first international solo trip (not counting Toronto).

I decided to whisk myself to Lisbon for Thanksgiving for 5 nights to see what I can see, eat all the food, walk around, acquire new impressions, meet new people, and get away from my regular life.

Below are some of the instagram photos that I took along the way, but first I'll describe for you my itinerary and how I approached putting together this vacation. My intention for this post is to help you in planning your own trip to Lisbon or at the very least to show you a part of the world you've not seen before and to encourage you not to wait for anyone to travel with. Go! Go! Go!

This part was easy. My twin went to Lisbon 5 years ago and highly recommended International Design Hotel. I booked it immediately. Because I was traveling in the off season, the rates were great. The hotel is centrally located, easily accessible by public transportation from the airport, has a boutique feel, and really great customer service. I loved having the room on the 4th floor with a balcony overlooking the Rossio square. {NOTE: ask for a robe in the room and fresh milk for your coffee.}

Normally, I plan my vacations well in advance and fill the days with museum visits, markets, salsa dancing, shopping, etc. This time around, I just wasn't feeling like doing that.

Instead, I decided to book two day trips through Viator, a company I've used before both in the States and internationally with great success and to spend the rest of the time wandering around without a strict agenda. 

The first day trip was to visit Palacio de Queluz and Pena Palace. This was a magical day. I felt like I was transported to the time of kings and queens or to Disneyland, where I've actually never been. Make sure to walk through the grounds of the Pena Palace to experience the magic of Mother Nature so close to the city.

The second day trip was to a few wineries, a small seaside town where we had seafood lunch with the view of the water, and a visit to a tile factory! That's where I met Stacey and Patricia who I became friends with and shared my last dinner in Lisbon (more on that later). In fact, Patricia lives in MD and invited me to her family's house for Christmas Eve!

And if you follow my blog, you've already read about Lazy Flavors walking food tour of Lisbon I was invited to and absolutely loved on my first full day in the city

I did not visit a single museum. I did not go salsa dancing. I did almost no shopping. And I have ZERO regrets about this. 

Instead, I got lost and went to a botanical garden which was in a different part of the city from the one I intended to visit.

I took dozens of photos of tiled buildings and clotheslines and street murals.

I went to see the Tower of Belem, saw a beautiful sunset, and learned that a view of the city from Rua Augusta Arch is much better than the one from the Elevador de Santa Justa, not to mention there was no line and the entrance fee was only 2 euros.

And then there was all the food...

1. Bastardo: this is the restaurant located in the International Design Hotel. I normally don't eat at hotel restaurants, but because I was really tired one of the nights, I decided to walk down and have a meal. I was blown away. Funky decor. Friendly service. A bread basket that comes in a box made out of legos with hummus. Carefully chosen menu. What's not to like!? In fact, I returned for my last dinner at Bastardo with Stacey and Patricia before flying back the next morning.

Bastardo also does a fantastic buffet breakfast for 15 euros {!!!} including pastries, fresh fruit, quiches, coffee, mimosas, meats, cheeses, etc. I only went once because of my schedule, but wish I had visited it at least one more time. {NOTE: Bastard happens to be one of my favorite words.}

2. A Cevicheria: my friend Jenny's friend went to this restaurant and recommended it to Jenny, who then recommended it to me, and I'm so glad I listened. {NOTE: one of the benefits of solo traveling is that your wait for a table or a seat at a bar is waaaaay shorter than if you are a couple or a group of people.} I loved this place as soon as I saw a giant octopus {not real} hanging from the ceiling, and saw the beautiful tiled floor. I sat at the bar next to an adorable American couple in Lisbon on their honeymoon and chatted off and on with them throughout the meal ooh'ing and aah'ing over how vibrant, flavorful, and creative the food was. Go for the chef's menu!

Have you been to Lisbon?
Do you travel solo?
Leave a comment sharing your favorites with me and my readers!!

Safe travels!


Easy Homemade Challah Recipe From Olga Massov: Happy Hanukkah & Shabbat Shalom


Happy 4th night of Hanukkah and Shabbat Shalom if you follow Jewish customs. Even if you don't, hold on and don't click out.

I'm here to share a great recipe for challah from Olga Massov, formerly Sassy Radish! I've not baked challah in at least 8 years, but have been thinking about it for quite some time.

I hesitated because the last time I baked challah was slightly disastrous, messy, and the results were mediocre. Plus, most recipes make at least a few loaves. I live by myself--I don't need that much bread.

And then.......Olga, yes, we have the same name, posted a few insta stories of baking challah, and I decided it was a great push/encouragement for me to do the same.

I used Olga's recipe and am soooo happy with the results! 

The recipe uses honey, orange juice, and olive oil. I was a little worried that the challah will taste too sweet. It did not! I was a little worried the dough will not rise. It did. I was a little worried I would end up not being impressed. I was impressed!

I was impressed with the ease of the recipe, how gorgeous the final challah looked, and with the pride I felt in baking it at home!

I highly recommend doing the 3rd rise of the challah overnight as Olga mentions. It was exciting going to bed at night and knowing that I'll be baking fresh bread in the morning. Once cooled, the challah went great with white fish salad, fresh orange juice, avocado and cucumber/tomato salad. You can have this brunch too if you just plan slightly ahead.

The challah tasted even better the next day. I have frozen half of it sliced so I'm not tempted to carbo load ;)


Gluten Free Carrot Latkes For Hannukah

Happy Hannukah! Yesterday for the first night of Hannukah I made Gluten Free Carrot Latkes. Why? Because I was out of potatoes :)

Using carrots has a few benefits: you don't need to squeeze out any liquid as you would with potatoes, there are most likely fewer carbs, and the color is so pretty!

Gluten Free Carrot Latkes For Hannukah
Makes 5

vegetable oil for frying
2 carrots, peeled, grated
1 small shallot, grated
1 egg white {I had it left over from making challah over the weekend}
pinch of salt, or more
pinch of cayenne, or more
Ranch dressing {I did not have sour cream!}
fresh dill, chopped

1. Heat a cast iron skillet. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the skillet. Heat.
2. Meanwhile, as the oil is getting hot, combine grated carrots and shallots with egg white, salt and cayenne.
3. Drop the mixture carefully into the hot oil making little latkes. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side depending on the size. 
4. Season with salt as the latkes come out of the oil. 
5. Serve IMMEDIATELY with a side of Ranch and sprinkled with dill.

Here's to everyone getting at least one miracle this season.


Salad Inspired By Pantone's Color Of The Year Greenery

I love playing in the kitchen and creating food that is simple, colorful, and fun. Over the weekend I made a salad using produce from Washington's Green Grocer and inspired by Pantone's 2017 color of the year: Greenery.

Salad Inspired By Pantone's Color Of The Year Greenery
Bibb lettuce
avocado, sliced
cucumber, peeled and sliced
Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced
Castelvetrano olives
olive oil
kosher salt

No cooking required! Arrange the first 6 ingredients on a platter and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with Kosher salt.

Maybe I'll create another salad for Pantone's 2018 color of the year: Ultra Violet.