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1/26/23

Let there be CAKE: Flourless Chocolate Cake with Cayenne

 

You know what kinds of things I love in life? Those that are low effort and high reward! This Flourless Chocolate Cake with Cayenne is exactly that!

Last weekend I went to visit my friend Laura and her family and was encouraged (ha!) to bring dessert. I asked if Laura wanted tres leches (I've never made one) or something chocolate'y, and she said definitely chocolate.

Anna (my twin for those of you who are new to this blog) suggested flourless chocolate cake.

Genius! I've made several versions of flourless chocolate cake in the past, and they are seriously one of the most ridiculously easy desserts to make (not counting fudge or boxed brownies). Most of the recipes are very similar: chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs. This time I used this one from Epicurious, but added a bit of cayenne and baked it in a springform pan. Home made whipped cream (unsweetened) was the perfect topping!

The cake was such a success, I made it again the next day to share with my friends Emily and Olivia.

1/12/23

Russian Recipes Revisited: Pirozhki (Piroshki)

Russian pirozhki on a plate

Every cuisine has a dish of a filling stuffed into dough. Dumplings, pelmeni, empanadas, and then there are pirozhki or piroshki. The latest ones are these wonderful baked Russian pockets of thin dough stuffed with a variety of fillings.

This past weekend my friend Jazmin and I got together to make them! This was the first time I made pirozhki, and the first time Jazmin made and tried them!

For the dough and the filling/baking process we used a recipe from Sonya. It was pretty easy to follow, but I did have to add quite a bit more flour. The dough puffed up beautifully and smelled so deliciously yeasty.

For the fillings, we made two:
1) sauteed onions, cabbage, and scallions seasoned with salt and pepper and mixed with chopped hard boiled eggs
2) sauteed ground beef seasoned with salt, pepper, and adjika and mixed with little cubes of a cooked potato

Definitely have a friend when making these because it'll halve your job ;)
I give us a B- for the crimping job, but an A for the taste! 

It took longer to bake these than the recipe called for in order to get a golden brown top, and we ended up putting them under a broiler for a bit.

I served these with pickled okra and peppers, and adjika. This is definitely not authentic. My mom said she normally likes them with a bowl of broth or a cup of tea with sugar and lemon.

Other fillings: rice and chicken, potatoes with sauteed onions, or you can even do something sweet like farmers cheese with cherries.
You do you!

Russian Pirozhki (Piroshki)



1/3/23

New Year, New Recipe: Layered Pistachio Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting & Mango Jam

Layered cake on a cake stand

Happy 2023! Can you believe we are in a new year!? Here's to it being sweeter, more fun, and healthier than 2022, with many new opportunities and possibilities!

Anna, my twin, suggested I start a tradition of making a new recipe for a new year and sent me a recipe for a pistachio cake she had at one of the restaurants in Chicago. That recipe was too complicated for me, so I asked Google to find me a 6" layered pistachio cake recipe, and it did: Broma Bakery!

Layered Pistachio Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting & Mango Jam
I followed the original recipe pretty closely but made a few changes:
1) I used salted butter and so did not add salt to the batter or the cream cheese frosting
2) I strongly dislike almond extract (especially when the flavor I want is pistachio): no thanks
3) I added a layer of homemade (not by me) mango jam!

Hard lesson to learn: regardless of what the recipe says, always layer your cake pans with buttered (on both sides) parchment paper to avoid the headache of removing the cake layers from the pans. I ended up putting the cake pans in the freezer for about an hour, then dunking them in very hot water before banging out the cake from the pans. OOOF

Layered Pistachio Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting & Mango Jam

I love the texture of the cake but think I slightly overbaked it. The frosting was smooth and quite easy to make...I still have some leftovers in the fridge. 

I shared the cake with four friends, a few buy nothing fb group friends, and had 3 (!!!) slices myself: I call it a success. There's one slice in my freezer!

slice of cake on a plate with a spoon

Going forward, I will try my best to post more photos and links to recipes I've made or the ones I've created. 

Happy 2023!

12/13/22

In Praise of Braised Lamb Shanks with Butternut Squash

 

Oh let me count the reasons I absolutely loved this Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks with Butternut Squash from Cooking With Cocktail Rings blog.

There were hardly any hands on tasks in this recipe! You brown the lamb shanks, then brown butternut squash and carrots (I left out zucchini and celery), add in the wine, the broth (I used chicken instead of beef), and nest the lamb shanks in the mixture before letting the oven do the rest of the job.

Two and a half hours later, your kitchen will smell divine, and the meat will be beyond tender! I served the lamb shanks on top of chunky mashed potatoes with a side of salad, baguette, and a glass of red wine.

My friend Jazmin and I had a fabulous dinner with plenty of leftovers for a few more meals.

Why don't I braise meat more often?

11/29/22

Winter Dessert: Upside Down Cranberry Cake

3 cake slices on 3 plates with spoons and whipped cream

You know how they say (whoever they are) not to make a new recipe for a dinner party? Well, I did just that when I went over to my friend Jazmin's house for Thanksgiving.

I wanted to try a new recipe and happened to see a recipe for Upside Down Cranberry Cake on Simply Recipes website. 

The recipe could not have been easier to follow even though it was my first time making caramel (I know!). Luckily, the combination of butter and brown sugar did not burn (neither did it burn my hands when I poured it into the cake pan).

The cranberries went in next, followed by a pretty simple batter which included sour cream. Any time a cake or muffins recipe has sour cream or yogurt, you are almost always guaranteed a success.

The only deviation I made from the recipe was to not use cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. I know, I know, I know! I just do not like those spices. Instead, I added a splash of vanilla extract Jazmin made and gifted me.

The cake smelled and looked incredible! To make the cake even more festive, I topped it with homemade whipped cream and sugared fresh cranberries.

The cake was quite a success at Thanksgiving and tasted equally as great the next day, and the next, and the next! The last few slices are safely wrapped in plastic and stored in my freezer. 

11/22/22

Italian Wedding Soup Recipe

Meatball soup in a bowl with toast on the side

Remember me? I know it's been a while: I really should get back to regular blogging!

Today, I'm sharing a recipe for Italian Wedding Soup I made with my friend Jenn a few weekends ago. This is the soup Jenn has been making for years using a recipe from her friend Anna, but it was my first time making and eating Italian Wedding Soup ever!

I edited the original recipe. 

Italian Wedding Soup
4-6 portions

Ingredients
96 ounces chicken broth
1-2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
5 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 chicken breasts
1 bunch escarole, sliced

Meatballs
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons dried parsley
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 egg

"Cheese" balls
2 egg whites
1/2 pound grated or finely shredded Parmiagino Reggiano

1 pound cooked orzo

To serve
Italian bread, fresh parsley, extra cheese

Directions
1. In a large pot, bring the chicken broth, salt & pepper, carrots, celery, and chicken breasts to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through (about 25 minutes). Remove chicken and shred in a separate bowl.

2. Mix together all the ingredients for the meatballs and form into 1" balls.  Drop the balls into once again boiling chicken broth, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, combine the egg whites with the cheese and form into 1/2 inch balls. Drop the balls into the broth, and also add shredded chicken and chopped escarole.

4. Simmer the soup for about 10 minutes. Check to make sure the meatballs and cheese balls are cooked through. Adjust for salt and pepper.

5. Spoon the cooked orzo into each bowl and top with the soup. 

6. Serve with slices of Italian bread, a sprinkling of extra cheese and parsley.

The original recipe used a whole chicken, but you know how I feel about chicken skin, bones, and dark meat. You can do as you please.

Also, I changed the recipe not to add orzo into the soup pot because it will soak up all the liquid overnight in the refrigerator. 

I hope you make this and enjoy a bowl of soup with your family or with your family of 1 (with plenty of leftovers).

And as with any recipe, there are a zillion variations. Let me know how your family makes Italian Wedding Soup.

PS there's no Italian wedding happening for me any time soon.

9/14/22

Mango & Raspberry Pavlova

While in Seattle, I made my first full-sized pavlova using Mary Berry recipe under my twin Anna's supervision. 

I topped it with slightly sweetened homemade whipped cream and fresh raspberries and mango. A bit of powdered sugar was the final touch. 

Everyone, especially my mom, loved it!!

8/4/22

TBT: Flower Arrangement Classes

Did you know that over the last 3 years I've taught more than ten private and group flower arrangement classes both in person and virtually? 

I love how much happiness flowers bring into my life and enjoy sharing the techniques I picked up over the years with others. Below are some of the arrangements I've made in the past. 

You can see even more of my love of flowers here or on instagram. If you are interested in a class, please email me at olga@mangotomato.com!

Which of these is your favorite? 





8/2/22

Travel Tuesday: Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, Arizona

Hi, friends.

Can you believe I've not updated my blog since November 2021? No worries, I've still been cooking, eating out, taking photos of food, traveling, and sharing all these adventures on instagram.

In honor of Travel Tuesday, however, I thought I'd share with you a fun (I hope) write up about my trip to Arizona with my twin and two of our friends in April.

If you want to get away and discover Arizona, you don’t have to choose just one city. Find a hotel or an Airbnb in Phoenix, rent a car, and you’ll be able to visit Scottsdale and Sedona during the same trip! Below are a few highlights for each city from my trip earlier this year.

 

Phoenix

Desert Botanical Garden: whenever I travel, I always visit a botanical garden if one is located nearby. This garden, however, stood out amongst all others because of thousands of varieties of cacti showcased in 55 acres of desert landscape.


 

Little Miss BBQ: get a plate with 2 sides! I recommend sliced brisket, potato salad, and coleslaw. If you are a vegetarian, you’ll have to stick to mac and cheese, cheddar jalapeno grits, potato salad, and smoked pecan pie.


 

Harumi Sushi: sushi may not be the first cuisine you think of when you are in Arizona, but this was a great find because the restaurant gets fresh seafood flown overnight from places like Scotland and Nova Scotia. Harumi Sushi was voted best sushi in the state of Arizona in 2021, and I could see why: great variety of sushi and sashimi at reasonable prices, especially when compared to DC, and friendly service.



Scottsdale

Taliesin West: if you are a fan of architecture, and specifically Frank Lloyd Wright, this is a must-see attraction. Take a guided tour, don’t forget to bring sunscreen and water, and learn about Wright’s life and his thoughts on organic architecture while walking through the grounds and taking a peek into the building and studio spaces.

 

Pinnacle Peak Park: wake up early, put on your tennis shoes, grab sunscreen and water and drive out to the park for a moderate hike with great views of the city and countless opportunities to take photos with cacti in the background.



Sedona: for slightly cooler temperatures and a change of scenery, drive to Sedona for a day.

Crescent Moon Picnic Area: this is a beautiful area featuring Red Rocks and perfect for a stroll especially around the sunset. Don’t forget to take a photo of the Cathedral Rock and dip your feet into the nearby stream.



Javelina Cantina: this spacious restaurant with a big outdoor is perfect if you like margaritas and generous portions of food. I recommend fajitas with chicken and beef.

 

Book your flight, pack your bags, and have an unforgettable vacation.

11/9/21

The Best Japanese Milk Bread Recipe

Japanese Milk Bread

My discovery of The Best Japanese Milk Recipe** all started with me wanting to make Japanese egg salad sandwich with Japanese mayonnaise and a fun way of presenting the sandwich (when cut in half, you see a cross-section of an egg). Why not also bake Japanese Milk Bread then, I thought!? 

Never having even tried Japanese Milk Bread, but hearing quite a bit of praise for it, I googled for a recipe and found Caroline's Cooking blog. I followed Caroline's recipe exactly and was stunned at the results. My friends were too. The bread was so pillowy and slightly sweet and smelled divine. The sandwich did not disappoint either.

**This is The Best recipe because it's the only one I've baked and have no need for another one.

Egg Salad Sandwich

I don't know if anyone is even reading this, but if you are, please leave a comment and tell me the latest new recipe you tried!