DIY: Make Your Own Pallet Coffee Table

I LOVE free things. When I was walking by World Market on my way home a few months ago, I saw a bunch of pallets sitting by the recycling/garbage area.

I decided to check them out and really liked one of the pallets. I took it but knew I would not be able to carry it home. So I waited 20 minutes for the cab. It cost me $5.

The pallet sat on my floor for over a month. I used it to hold a few books, remote controls, a random candle and some dishes from my table.

But then I decided I should actually do something with it.

If you look at Pinterest, you'll see a zillion projects that people have made with such pallets.

I decided to make a coffee table from mine.

And yes, it'd be ideal if this table would be higher, but I've been unable to find a matching pallet to stack one on top of another. So this is what I have.

The pallet before:

What I did:

1. First, I sanded and stained it. This cost me nothing as I already had some sand paper, stain and brushes.

2. Then I found these wheels on Pinterest and ordered them. That cost me $46.99. But they are RED and adorable.

I broke several drill bits trying to attach the wheels to the pallet. Turns out the bits I was using were too skinny. I guess now I know ;) The screws for the wheels would have cost me about $6, but I had a $5 coupon at Ace Hardware!

3. Then I decided to get a piece of plywood to nail to the bottom of the pallet so that I can actually put books inside. I also purchased a clear sealer to protect the surface of the table. That cost me about $12. Big thank you to Stacey and Luis for drivng me to Home Depot!

And that's the project!

Close up of the shelf aspect of my pallet coffee table and the awesome wheels:

I'm sort of really in with it.

I have another pallet sitting in my condo. I'll let you know if I make something from it :)


Perfect Summer Soup: Cold Potato & Spinach Soup Recipe. Memories of Growing Up in Russia

It is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too hot in DC. Yes, I realize I've lived here for a decade, but I still can't get used to the heat and humidity. I try to minimize the time I spend between one air conditioned place and another as much as possible.

But I still need to eat. This means I still need to cook. But turning on the oven or stove is not as appealing to me. This Cold Potato & Spinach Soup is perfect for this hot weather. The only cooking you are doing is boiling potatoes. The rest is just chopping, pouring and mixing.

Growing up in Russia, my mom made a cold summer sorrel soup with potatoes, cucumbers, buttermilk, etc. Unfortunately, sorrel is not easy to find in the States unless you go to the farmers market. And I'll be honest: after a night of salsa dancing, the last thing I want to do is wake up early enough to go to a farmers market.

So I adjust. If you can find sorrel, use it. If you can't, use spinach and add a bit of lemon juice to get the sour taste of the soup.

Cold Potato & Spinach Soup
6 cups water
2 cups peeled, cubed Yukon gold potatoes
3 cups packed spinach
cubed cucumbers
chopped green onions
sour cream (or buttermilk)
quartered hard boiled eggs
lemon juice
salt & pepper

1. Cook potatoes until tender. Add spinach, bring to a boil and take off the heat.
2. Let the soup cool completely in the refrigerator.
3. Add cucumbers and green onions to a bowl.
4. Pour the soup with potatoes and spinach.
5. Add sour cream, hard boiled eggs, lemon juice, salt & pepper to tastes.

Note: your eggs would fall to the bottom of the bowl. Mine didn't because I used a special trick for the sake of photographs ;)

If you love cold soups, make sure to check out my cold beet soup with buttermilk.

Have a great weekend and stay cool!


Where The Magic Happens: Tour of My Kitchen. My Submission to The Kitchn's Small Cool Kitchens 2012

A few weeks ago I submitted photos of my kitchen into The Kitchn's Small Cool Kitchens 2012 contest and it was accepted! Of course that doesn't mean that I won. For that, I need to get a zillion votes. If you like my kitchen, please go and vote for it. I'll you forever!

Since I was only allowed to post six photos on The Kitchn's website, I thought I'd post a bunch more here to give you a full tour of my kitchen: the place where the magic happens in my condo. Le sigh ;) or :(

When I bought my condo in November 2010, one of the selling points was the newly renovated kitchen. I loved the new cabinets, appliances, but the walls were a pretty non-descript white/yellow color. I lived with them for a while and then decided to paint them.

At first I thought of doing a sage green color, but my lovely twin Anna dared me to go bolder. And I did!

After one coat I was terrified at what I've done, but did not want to look back, so I looked forward and did two more coats of paint. The color came out bright and cheerful. I LOVED it! My mom loved it {her opinion matters way too much to me even though I'm in my 30ies}. Some of my friends were skeptical and made jokes about bringing sunglasses when visiting me, but all came around.

The cabinets are FILLED with stuff. I don't know how I managed to do it...maybe because I can't help but purchase dishes for the blog? Luckily, my mom encouraged me to get shelf dividers, which helps out a bit.

I have an insane collection of spices. I mostly blame freelancing for Robyn Webb for it ;)

One of the things I like about my kitchen is that the refrigerator is magnetic, so I use it for measuring spoons, peelers, etc. So convenient and saves space in the cabinets and drawers.

You can see that I'm not scared of color. You get the pops of green, red and blue all over the kitchen. I LOVE my OXO green kettle.

Another favorite thing in my kitchen, well technically slightly outside of my kitchen, is my Le Creuset tower. I bought the tower from my friends Cindy and Farid and love it as a display for my Le Creuset (some of which I've purchased, received as gifts and was sent by the Le Creuset themselves. SQUEAL.}

Below are a few of the details that make my kitchen the space I love:

These are the bowls you'll see me using on this blog. I typically buy one or two of each.

I hope you've enjoyed the tour of my kitchen. Remember, please VOTE :)


Easiest Ice Cream Recipe EVER: Mango & Nectarine Ice Cream. Thank you, David Lebovitz.

I've made different types of ice cream ever since my friend Erica gave me her ice cream maker. Most turned out amazing, but all required quite a bit of work.

They were worth it though.

This Mango & Nectarine Ice Cream is THE EASIEST ice cream recipe I've ever made. Of course if you are one of those people who loves bananas, and make ice cream from frozen bananas, this recipe will not be the easiest for you ;)

While reading Washington Post's Food Chat, I saw that Bonnie Benwick posted a recipe for David Lebovitz's Peach Ice Cream from The Perfect Scoop. At first I thought that maybe Bonnie left out some of the ingredients or directions because the recipe seemed too good to be true. No eggs, no corn syrup, no complicated procedures.

I decided to give it a try. I just did not want to use peaches. When I tweeted out what I should use instead, @gourmetdiva1 suggested I use mangoes. DUH! Why didn't I think of that? In the end, I decided to use a combination of mangoes and nectarines.

Mango & Nectarine Ice Cream
Recipe only slightly adapted from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop

2 mangoes, peeled, pit removed and chopped
2 nectarines, peeled, pit removed and chopped
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. In a nonreactive saucepan cook mangoes, peaches and water over medium heat, covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
2. Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the sugar, and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
3. Puree the cooked fruit and any liquid that was in the saucepan with sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla, and lemon juice.
4. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to directions.

The texture of the ice cream came out smooth and silky and I liked that it wasn't overly sweet.

I'm going to have to figure out other fruit combinations to use in this recipe. Suggestions?


Ground Lamb with Whole Wheat Shells, Broccoli Rabe, Fresh Tomatoes and Mozzarella

A few months ago I received a boneless leg of lamb courtesy of Lean on Lamb and asked to develop a healthy dish with the lamb. I decided to grind it and mix it in with pasta, some vegetables and mozzarella. My recipe is below.

The recipe will be judged by a panel of culinary experts and I might even win an iPad!

Ground Lamb with Whole Wheat Shells, Broccoli Rabe, Fresh Tomatoes and Mozzarella
8 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ large white onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, ground
Salt & pepper to taste
9 cups chopped broccoli rabe
1 pound whole wheat medium pasta shells, cooked according to directions
1 ½ cups grape tomatoes, halved
10 ounces fresh Mozzarella, cubed
Red pepper flakes to taste


1.       Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and let them sweat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 more minutes.
2.       Add ground lamb and cook until it is no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper.
3.       Add broccoli rabe and cook for 5 more minutes.
4.       Add cooked pasta and heat through.
5.       Serve the dish in shallow bowls topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and red pepper flakes.

Note: in the winter time you can add canned tomatoes and shredded mozzarella, transfer everything into a baking dish and let the cheese bubble under the broiler.


Not Your Momma's Fruit Salad: Watermelon, Mango & Blueberry Fruit Salad with a Twist

Happy Friday! Today's post is simple and sweet. Literally.

Growing up in Russia, I'm sure we had fruit salads. But those involved a bit of mayonnaise. I know. What can I say? We love our white condiments.

When my family moved to the States, we discovered new types of fruits while others simply became more accessible. For a while, I LOVED that. But then, it just became the norm and I started to turn my nose up toward watermelon and grapes with seeds. My dad still reminds me how in Moscow I would have been happy to have any watermelon or grapes period.

I also began to detest bananas. I hate the smell of them, the texture and just the idea. I know I'm not the only one.

So this salad has no bananas. Instead, it uses sweet mangoes, juicy cubes of watermelon, hand-picked blueberries and for a bit of novelty jalapeno pepper and basil!

Yes, this combination of sweet and savory is definitely not your momma's fruit salad.

Watermelon, Mango & Blueberry Fruit Salad with a Twist

1 part watermelon cubes
1 part mango cubes
1 part blueberries {I actually used frozen blueberries that I picked myself}
finely chopped jalapeno to taste
chiffonade of basil to taste
optional: a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange and/or a dash of sugar or salt

Serve the salad right away or let the flavors get familiar with one another as they hang out in the refrigerator.

What do YOU put in your fruit salad?


How to Make Potato Salad: Cold Potato Salad with Pickled Beans, Smoked Salmon and Dill Dressing

This is one of my no recipes posts. I'm just going to share the ingredients that make this Cold Potato Salad with Pickled Beans, Smoked Salmon and Dill Dressing and let you decide how much of each ingredient to put into your own bowl. I have faith you can do it ;)

This salad was inspired by two media dinners I attended. At the first one, at Jackson 20, I received pickled beans as a going away gift. Brilliant. At the second one, Tel'Veh, I tried a dish of cold mashed potatoes with seared tuna and green beans. That's how this dish came about. Of course I used smoked salmon instead of seared tuna and pickled beans instead of regular ones, but you get the idea.

Cold Potato Salad with Pickled Beans, Smoked Salmon and Dill Dressing


small potatoes, cooked until tender in salted water, cooled and halved

pickled beans, cut into 1 1/2" segments

shallot, thinly sliced

smoked salmon, chopped into bite-size pieces

fresh dill, chopped

sour cream

lemon juice

salt & pepper


1. Combine the first five ingredients in a bowl.

2. In a separate bowl thin out your sour cream with a bit of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. This will be your dressing.

3. Add the dressing to the salad and combine.

If you don't like sour cream {how could you not!?}, skip the dressing and add some olive oil and lemon juice instead.

But you know that I love all the white condiments ;)

If potato salad is not your thing, check out my guest blog post on SkinnyTaste where I share a recipe for Warm Pasta Salad with Corn and Zucchini!