Go Sparkle This Weekend

All the things I'm looking forward to this weekend:
Fall weather
Shoes with sparkles
Sleeping in

All the things I'm trying to ignore:

What fun things do you have happening this weekend?


Forget Cereal For Dinner: FIVE Quick & Satisfying Dinner Ideas For Any Night Of The Week!

Years ago I learned something that seemed really strange to me: some people eat cereal for dinner! {Shout out to my friend Jenny!}
As someone who rarely eats cereal even for breakfast {I grew up in Russia}, the idea of cold milk and dry cereal for dinner saddened me. I understand that we all have different tastes and that sometimes you are so tired when you get home from work that you really don't want to cook, but you can do better!
Trust me!
Below are FIVE ideas for a quick and satisfying dinner {unless you are a meat and potato dude or dudette} that take less than 20 minutes. Some of these will make perfect leftovers for lunch the next day!
Bulgur with raw beets, carrots and chickpeas. I made this salad last night after seeing Ellie Krieger's recipe on Washington Post. Yes, it takes 2 hours to cook bulgur if you are using the soaking method, but if you happen to have bulgur already cooked, you are in luck! If you don't, you can use leftover rice, or quinoa or even pasta. I eliminated mint from the recipe and added home-cooked chickpeas.
The salad gets better as it sits in the refrigerator as the lemon juice, olive oil and salt & pepper permeate the rest of the ingredients. The only thing I'd caution you about is this: if you are planning to bring the leftovers to work, don't add red onion!  


Broccoli salad. The inspiration for this quick dinner came from my aunt in Israel. Her version included blanched broccoli, vinegar/mayonnaise/honey dressing, cashews and dried cranberries. I opted for dried cherries, a bit of red onion and a dressing of mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar. Of course you can use any nut you like or even sunflower seeds! I used 3 broccoli crowns for one person and felt no guilt whatsoever.

Eggs!!! Seriously, eggs are one of my favorite ingredients for a quick dinner:
- egg salad with olives, herbs and tomatoes
- scrambled eggs mixed with cilantro and wrapped into a warm tortilla that has been slathered with hummus
- omelet
- shakshuka!!!
- poached eggs with toast

Tuna. I love, love, love canned white solid tuna. I usually get mine in water, but I know many people who are fans of tuna packed in oil. Choose whichever one you like. Of course you can make a simple tuna/mayonnaise/celery salad, but that's not my cup of tea. Below are a few of my favorites:
- tuna, hardboiled egg, leftover cooked rice, mayonnaise, white or red onion, salt & pepper
- tuna, olives, tomatoes, herbs, mayonnaise
- tuna, avocado, olive oil, lemon juice
- don't forget a tuna melt!

Picnic Dinner. This is a great way to have some fun: cheese, salami, pickled vegetables, hummus, guacamole, salsa, roasted eggplant, olives, crackers, wine, dark chocolate, dried fruit, more wine...you get the idea.

See?!?! There is a world beyond cereal for dinner.

Please share your ideas for a quick dinner in the comments.


Oregon Wine Country

Happy Travel Tuesday and happy upcoming Wine Wednesday. I usually don't participate in such things, but I haven't photographed a blog worthy recipe in the last few weeks, so thought I'd share with you some great memories from a road trip to Oregon Wine Country I took with my sister Anna and our friend Lera when I visited my family in Seattle in August.

Visiting family is not exactly a vacation, am I right? Of course it's great to see my parents and siblings and have a few family meals together and sleep in and just hang out and go salsa dancing and meet up with friends. But I always crave something new and different and a bit touristy. That's why the last time I visited Seattle I was so happy Anna and Lera took a few days off work so we can take a road trip to check out some of the Oregon wineries and spend a day in Portland.

We visited 3 wineries with a stop for lunch before making our way to Portland. I loved the overcast cooler weather (because DC was experiencing one of the typical hot and humid weeks when I left), the friendly people who worked at the wineries, and the really generous portions of wine we were poured. Also, the price of wine tasting in Oregon is a lot less than it is in the DC area.

The first winery on our list was Anne & Amie Vineyards, named after the owners' daughters. It was founded the year Anna and I were born: how special!!

The second winery was Vidon named after the founders Vicki and Don: do you notice the theme? I loved the views from this winery and its symbol: a bee. Why the bee?

"The Bee on our labels and capsule came about because of an old well house on the property that contained a very large hive between its studs. After our home was built in the summer of 2003, we heard much buzzing while sitting on the deck one evening. Upon looking under the deck, we discovered that the electrician had left a hole that led to the space between floors. As they do every year, bees swarmed and set up housekeeping in our new abode. This experience resulted in many photos and a few stings and led to our use of the bee on our packaging."

I also fell in love with the old barn on the property and ended up printing this photo to hang somewhere in my condo.

The photo below is of Anna, Lera and me. LOVE our friendship.

Then it was time for lunch! Lera suggested Red Hills Market. Perfection! Super cute décor, amazing pizza and good coffee with dessert.

We had enough room for just one more winery: I'm a light weight and was already feeling boozy :)

At Colene Clemens I shared the tasting wine flight with Lera because Anna was driving and bought one of their beautiful candles to take home with me.

I look forward to more fun get togethers with these girls. If wine is involved, that's just an added bonus!


Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash & Mediterranean Herb Greek Yogurt Dip Recipe


Guess what!? I finally have a recipe for you today! How exciting is this? Have you missed me?

It's fall. The weather is cooler. You may be staying in more. How about a snack? My Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash & Mediterranean Herb Greek Yogurt Dip is going to become a staple of your snack menu repertoire.

This recipe started with a surprise shipment from my friends at Sabra. Luckily, the shipment arrived the day I arrived from Amsterdam! Other than several varieties of hummus and individual packages of guacamole, I received samples of Sabra's Greek Yogurt Dip!

I decided to use the Mediterranean Herb Greek Yogurt Dip to make a fall appetizer. The dip is made from all natural ingredients and contains fresh zucchini, carrots, onions and basil. There are no scary things in the container!

Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash & Mediterranean Herb Greek Yogurt Dip


1 cup roasted butternut squash {my twin Anna taught me a new technique: roast the butternut squash whole at 425 for about an hour, allow to cool slightly, then remove the skins and seeds}
2 tablespoons Mediterranean Herb Greek Yogurt Dip
1 teaspoon peri peri spice mix or more to taste {if you can't find this at your store, use chili powder and/or red pepper flakes to taste}
salt & pepper to taste
chili oil
1-2 tablespoons salted & toasted pumpkin seeds
chips for eating

1. In a bowl, mash the roasted butternut squash.
2. Add the yogurt dip, peri peri spice and season with salt and pepper. Mix to combine.
3. Spoon the dip into a bowl and drizzle with chili oil and top with the pumpkin seeds.
4. Serve with chips.

How good does this look? Depending on the consistency you want, you may want to puree the butternut squash before adding the rest of the ingredients, but I liked this dip chunky. The creamy yogurt dip balances the heat of the peri peri and the chili oil. Also, this dip keeps well for several days in the refrigerator.

If you want to try one of the Sabra dips, use the $2 off coupon!

Disclosure: Sabra provided samples and compensation for the recipe development, but all opinions are my own. Make sure to check out other recipes I developed using Sabra products!


Have A Gorgeous Weekend!

I've been MIA from the blog for a week or so because I've been having a wonderful time on vacation in Amsterdam!! Great weather, great food, great adventures and company. If you haven't been following along on instagram, make sure to check out my account.

Today I'm repacking for a weekend trip to Pennsylvania to visit my friend Laura and her family and to see RICKY MARTIN in concert!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm just a tiny bit excited :)

Have a great weekend and enjoy the sunshine!


Wine And Lamb In Loudoun County Virginia With American Lamb Board

This past Sunday I was a lucky duck. Maybe duck isn't exactly the right word since this post is about lamb. Lamb and wine. And the lovely people of American Lamb Board.

I've had a working relationship with the American Lamb Board for multiple years and have enjoyed participating in their lamb recipe competitions as well as judging the latest Lamb Jam in DC. I was thrilled to be invited on a mini trip to visit Zephaniah Farm Vinery, learn about lamb butchery, and of course eat some lamb and drink some wine.

The photograph above is of the original building where the wine tastings take place. Can I move in there? I love how romantic and dreamy and old the building looks. We did not get a chance to go inside because the wine tasting and lunch took place in the new modern building, which was gorgeous in its own way.

The Hatch family has farmed in Loudoun for 64 years and three generations.  From these years on the farm, we have grown to understand the land.  We work to honor the land we love and to preserve its productivity and integrity. 

What is significant about Zephaniah?  Our family tends the grapes by hand.  We are the ones who care for the vines and the grapes through every season. Harvest is accomplished by family and friends. They know the level of care we put into every part of the process.  Our wine is truly hand crafted.

We tried four varieties of wine. The Adeline was my favorite: not only was it crisp and slightly on a sweet side, but it also shares the name with my friend's newborn daughter ;)

What goes with wine? Food! We feasted on roasted vegetables, freshly baked bread, one of the best potato au gratin I've had in years, and of course lamb from Mill Road Farm. I especially liked the lamb that was smoked. And just to be healthy, there was a great salad with butternut squash and pumpkin seeds.

Mill Road Farm honors the land by producing pasture-fed Angus, lamb and honey.  We sell our farm products at the Loudoun Farmers Market in Leesburg on Saturday mornings year round and at Cascades Farmers Market on Sunday mornings during the summer market season.

I love that two brothers own and run this operation: Bill is in charge of the wine and Chris is in charge of the lamb!

Then it was time for some serious work. Luckily, we weren't allowed to butcher a full lamb...I probably would have passed out. Instead, Matt Levere of Urban Butcher showed off his amazing skills. He made the whole task look as easy as cutting soft butter. Every piece of lamb gets weighed, used, and appreciated.

We also got to see the sheep!

I can't leave you without a recipe. This is a dinner I actually made a few weeks ago that takes about 15 minutes from start to finish:

1. Salt and pepper a few lamb loin chops.
2. Heat olive oil in a skillet and sauté the chops a few minutes on each side. If you are like me, you'll want the chops to be plenty bloody in the middle.
3. Meanwhile, sauté thinly sliced mushrooms and radishes in a bit of olive oil till tender. Season with salt and pepper and add a few dashes of half & half.
4. Serve the lamb loin chops with sautéed vegetables topped with chives and a few toasted slices of baguette.
And wine!

For more inspiration, check out some of the other lamb dishes I've made and consumed over the years.

Disclosure: I was invited on this field trip, but am not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.


Scallion Matzah Brei With Smoked Salmon And Horseradish Cream From The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen By Amelia Saltsman

Last week I shared with you my adaptation of a recipe from a preview copy of Amelia Saltsman's cookbook The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen for Roasted Carrot And Sweet Potato Tzimmes.

Today I bring you my take on Amelia's Green Garlic And Leek Matzah Brei With Smoked Salmon And Horseradish Cream.  My store did not have green garlic or leeks, so I used scallions. I also used a flipping method of turning the matzah brei instead of cutting into wedges and flipping each wedge individually so that the second side will brown as Amelia instructed in the book.

Scallion Matzah Brei With Smoked Salmon And Horseradish Cream
Adapted From The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen By Amelia Saltsman

olive oil
10 scallions, chopped
4 sheets matzah
4 eggs
salt & pepper

Greek yogurt
smoked salmon

1. Drizzle olive oil into a large nonstick skillet. Sauté scallions until they have softened and browned slightly.
2. In a small bowl, crumble the matzah, cover with hot water and let sit for about a minute. Drain out the water, slightly squeezing the matzah.
3. In a separate bowl, crack and whisk the eggs. Add the matzah and sautéed scallions. Season with salt and pepper and combine.
4. Heat the original skillet again, drizzling in more olive oil. Once the oil is hot, pour in the matzah mixture and with a spatula make sure it is leveled.
5. Allow the mixture to cook for 5 minutes, then very carefully slide it out of the skillet onto a large dinner plate.
6. Then, again very carefully, flip the "pancake" back into the skillet and cook for 5-7 more minutes.
7. Slice the matzah brei into wedges and serve with Greek yogurt mixed with horseradish (as much as you want), a few slices of smoked salmon, fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit of lemon zest.

This is a great brunch dish or a perfect Meatless Monday dinner (if you don't consider fish meat). This recipe is also good to make on a Sunday and have for breakfast for the next few days.

To reheat, it's best to sauté the matzah brei in a bit of olive oil in a skillet.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the cookbook but am not being compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.