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.


TBT: Food Tour of Lisbon with Lazy Flavors

Going to Lisbon? Love food? Looking for a fun way to spend 4 hours, learn about food and history of Portugal, and get hundreds of steps in? Then you need to sign up for one of the tours offered by Lazy Flavors

One of the first things I did after booking airline tickets and hotel for a solo vacation in Lisbon for Thanksgiving, was finding a food tour. I found Mariana, the owner of Lazy Flavors, through one of my sister's friends and contacted her to see if I could join one of the tours. Because of the schedule conflicts, I could not join a group tour, but Mariana offered a one on one tour and was gracious to host me in exchange for an honest review on my blog. 

I was game!

I highly recommend arranging a food tour of any destination you are visiting as close to the beginning of the trip as possible. That way you'll get a great understanding of the city, find areas you'd like to explore further, and meet a local.

Mariana customized the tour for me when I mentioned that I wanted to visit one of the markets, and was very quick to respond by email to multiple questions I had.

Mariana picked me up at my hotel and we went next door to Confeitaria Nacional established in 1829! There, over pastries and coffee, Mariana told me that Portuguese sweets are commonly made with eggs and almonds. This particular bakery is known for their King's Cake that many residents buy for Christmas after standing in line that wraps around the block. 

Over the next 4 hours we visited Time Out Market, went on a tuk tuk ride to the neighborhood of Alfama (my favorite) where I tried fire roasted chorizo and ginginha (sour cherry liquor) sold by an old lady, then made our way back into central Lisbon for a cheese tasting, and a stop at a store that only sells tinned fish.

Time Out Market is a great place to visit whether you are staying in a hotel or an airbnb. Part of the market is devoted to produce, fresh fish, flowers, and other ingredients you can pick up to bring back to your airbnb and turn into a meal. The other part is prepared food, restaurants, and kiosks where you can buy food to eat right there. That's where I tried Lisbon's famous egg tarts at a Manteigaria. Every time the tarts come out of the oven, the little cafe rings the bell! 

I returned to the market one other time during my trip for fresh oysters. 

At the cheese store where we had our cheese tasting, with a very large glass of wine, I learned that most of the cheeses in Portugal are made from sheep or goat milk. Queijaria Nacional is a great place to pop into in between wondering around the city for a quick bite. The service, food, and decor were outstanding. 

Before dropping me off at my hotel, Mariana bought a bag of roasted chestnuts: this was the first time I've ever tried them. Lisbon's sidewalks were filled with people roasting chestnuts on little carts. The chestnuts were hot, dense, and filling! The aroma was the best part. 

Thank you Mariana for a wonderful tour of the city. I'll be sure to sign up for one of the cooking classes if I'll come back to Lisbon.

Stay tuned for another blog post about all the other things I did in Lisbon. I had the best time and am excited to share all my experiences with you to help you plan your trip!


Arugula, Apple, and Fennel Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette and Three-Cheese Crostini

I'm back from vacation and back to cooking and trying to eat slightly lighter, which is why the first recipe I made from Valerie Bertinelli's new cookbook was Arugula, Apple, and Fennel Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette and Three-Cheese Crostini.

I received a preview copy of Valerie's book and am impressed by the gorgeous photography, including Valerie herself who looks about 30 years old, helpful tips about ingredient substitutions and steps you can do ahead of time.

I've watched Valerie's show on Food Network for some time now and find her recipes simple, approachable, and quite appealing. The cookbook, called Valerie's Home Cooking, has the same feel to it.

Arugula, Apple, and Fennel Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette and Three-Cheese Crostini

Reprinted with permission

1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups baby arugula
1 head Bibb lettuce, torn
1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced, fronds chopped and reserved
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
8 (1/2-inch-thick) baguette bread slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Whisk together the shallot, citrus juices, honey, mustard, salt, and white pepper; let stand for 2 minutes. Add the extra virgin olive oil in a slow, stead stream, whisking until blended. Set aside the dressing.
2. Toss together arugula, Bibb lettuce, apple, fennel bulb, and walnuts in a large bowl. Set aside the salad.
3. Place the baguette slices in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and lightly brush the tops with olive oil. Bake until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oven.
4. Stir together the cheeses, lemon zest, and black pepper in a small bowl; stir in 1 tablespoon of the reserved chopped fennel fronds. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture onto each toasted bread slice, and return to the oven. Bake until the cheese slightly melts and the bread edges are crispy, 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Add the dressing to the salad, and toss. Divide the salad evenly among 4 plates, and serve with 2 crostini.

My variations:
1. I forgot to pick up feta in the grocery store: used grated Parmesan
2. I don't have white pepper: used black pepper
3. Sliced my baguette into thinner slices to make them easier to eat
4. Added tangerine segments

This was a great light lunch. I can't believe there was a time when I did not like fennel! 

I will be posting another recipe from Valerie's book soon: stay tuned!

Disclosure: I received the cookbook free of charge but am not compensated for this post. All thoughts/opinions are my own.


TGIF: December

TGIF!! I'm back from Lisbon where I had such a great solo vacation. I'm planning on blogging about it and sharing with you all my favorite impressions, but for now I wish you a great December and a lovely weekend. {If you are as impatient as I am, you can go see all my vacation photos on instagram.}

Buy yourself some flowers, because having a bit of nature in your home is so uplifting! I added a few fennel tops to my bouquet. 

Tell me if you have any exciting plans for the last month of 2017.


Semi Homemade Thanksgiving For One

Here's what: holidays can be hard and lonely for many people. There's almost an added pressure to feel happy and festive and social and joyous. Because you know, social media, and preconceived notions of what holidays should be like, and all the hype.

This Thanksgiving I'm actually whisking myself out of the country on a week long vacation. I'm THANKFUL I'm able to do this physically, logistically, emotionally, and financially. 

In the past, I've spent Thanksgiving with my own family, my pseudo adopted family, friends, and a combination of these groups. This will be the first Thanksgiving I'll be flying solo (figuratively and literally). Still, I wanted a Thanksgiving meal, and I made it. 

Semi homemade. But still really good.

1) Green beans: splurge and buy the French thinner ones. Simply saute with olive oil, adding minced garlic in the last few minutes. Season with salt. Toss in toasted almonds.

2) Mashed potatoes: for the love of everything sacred, make them from scratch. I used a method my friend Mary shared: pressure cook Yukon gold potatoes. Put them through a ricer which saves you the peeling step. Add half & half, olive oil, and salt. 

3) Cranberry sauce: this is as easy as adding fresh cranberries to the pot with freshly squeezed orange juice and a bit of sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the berries pop. Literally, this can be done in 10 minutes. You can add chopped apples, orange zest, or even a bit of adobo sauce for a kick!

I bought a rotisserie chicken, a mix to make stuffing to which I added sauteed mushrooms, onions, and celery; and a roll. Stuffing was beyond mediocre. The store bought gravy was also mediocre. 

Still, all together, this was a great way to feel that Thanksgiving-can-I-take-off-my-pants-and-take-a-nap-now food comma.

I hope you have a good Thanksgiving regardless how, where, and with whom you'll be spending it. Remember, you are worth a great meal, not EVEN IF you are eating it on you own. You are worth it.

I'll leave you with some recipes you may want to add to your menu:

Curried Carrot Ginger Soup

Miso Brussels Sprouts with Dried Cherries & Pine Nuts

Date, Pistachio & Scallion Rice

Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry, Walnut, Orange & Chocolate Tart

Pecan Pie Bars


Mrs. Plum Cake From The Modern Jewish Table Cookbook

Have winter plums? Want a quick and easy dessert that will be approved by both kids and adults? Then you should make Mrs. Plum Cake From The Modern Jewish Table Cookbook.

A few weeks ago, my friend Sylvie invited me to her house for homemade Vietnamese food and asked me to bring dessert. I decided to page through The Modern Jewish Table Cookbook I received as a preview copy and noticed there was a cake with plums. Luckily, I had black plums in my latest Washington's Green Grocer order and needed only a few extra ingredients from the store.

Mrs. Plum Cake From The Modern Jewish Table Cookbook
reprinted with permission

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (plus extra to grease)
1 cup superfine sugar
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups self-rising flour plus extra to flour)
4 ripe plums, sliced {of course remove the pits}
1 tablespoon plum jam (if you can't find plum jam, use a red seedless jam)

1) I decided to double the recipe
2) I did not use the right size of baking dishes and had to bake the cakes twice as long: my own fault! But they still came out great.
3) I used apricot jam from Rigoni di Asiago that I received as samples.

1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
2. Cream butter and sugar together with a beater. Beat in eggs one at a time.
3. Add yogurt, flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Beat the mixture until smooth.
4. Grease with more butter and flour a 12 x 6 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pan. Pour in the mixture.
5. Decorate with sliced plums over the top of the cake (make sure there are plenty).
6. Bake for approximately 40 minutes.
7. To check if the cake is baked, push a skewer below the plums into the center. It is done when the skewer comes out clean.
8. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack.
9. Melt the jam in a small saucepan and glaze the top and sides of cake using a pastry brush.

This was such an easy recipe to put together. I used a stand mixer. As you can see, the plums fell into the cake. Maybe it's because I used the wrong sized baking dishes? The taste was still awesome!

I wish I did not leave all the leftovers at Sylvie's ;)


A Sheet Pan with a Plan: One Pan Roasted Sausages With Potatoes, Fennel & Apple Recipe

If you are looking for a quick dinner that requires only a few dishes to wash afterwards, my One Pan Roasted Sausages With Potatoes, Fennel & Apple Recipe will be perfect for you. Once again, I received a few products from my friends at OXO to use in my kitchen and to share my experience with you. As always, all opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this post.

I love roasted vegetables with any protein: beef, chicken, or pork. This time I used Italian sausages with apples {very seasonal!}, fennel, onion, and potatoes. Everything cooks in 30 minutes and you have very little mess to clean. Be ready for your home to smell delicious!

A few key notes about the oxo products I used:

By placing the sausages onto the silicone roasting racks, you make sure that they don't sit in the fat. Instead, the fat seeps into your vegetables and flavors them! The best thing about these roasting racks is that they will never ever rust!! I bet I can use one of them in my pressure cooker as well.

The non stick jelly roll pan has enough of a lip to hold everything in the pan, allows for even heat distribution, and is incredibly easy to clean. Plus, just like other oxo baking pans I've used in the past, it has a great weight to it and will not bend.

One Pan Roasted Sausages With Potatoes, Fennel & Apple Recipe

5 Italian sausages, at room temperature
1 large apple, or 2 medium ones, cut into 8 pieces {of course remove the core}
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 8 wedges
1 large onion, peeled, cut into 8 wedges
2 cups nibbles potatoes {if you can't find these tiny potatoes, cube regular potatoes into bite size pieces}
olive oil
salt & pepper
whole grain mustard
hard cider

1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
2. Place silicone roasting racks directly onto the non stick jelly roll pan. Place the sausages on top of the roasting racks.
3. Place the apple, fennel, onion, and potatoes onto the jelly roll pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss with your hands to make sure all the vegetables (and the apple) are coated with olive oil.
4. Roast for 30 minutes, turning everything 180 degrees half way through the process.
5. If you wish to get crunchier texture, broil the meal for a few minutes at the end.
6. Serve with whole grain mustard and hard cider. 

What's your favorite one pan meal??


Meatless Monday: Vegan Laksa With Zucchini, Peppers & Mushrooms With Goya

What if I told you that by buying a can of Goya Coconut Milk or Cream of Coconut you can help feed America?

I've paired up with Meatless Monday Bloggers and Can Do campaign to let you know that when you buy a can of Goya Coconut Milk or Cream of Coconut this November and December, Goya will donate at least 600,000 pounds of food to those in need! Will you participate?

I hope you do! And I have a fabulous recipe for you for Vegan Laksa With Zucchini, Peppers & Mushrooms Soup. This recipe is my adaptation of a recipe for Squash Laksa Soup from Jamie Oliver.

Disclaimer: I received a few Goya products, but am otherwise not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Vegan Laksa With Zucchini, Peppers & Mushrooms Soup

2-3 red chillies, seeds removed
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 inch-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled
stems from 1 bunch of cilantro {reserve the leaves for garnish}
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 limes, zested and juiced {more for garnish}
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can coconut milk
4 cups vegetable broth
1 large zucchini, spiralized
2 portobella mushroom caps, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced

1. In a food processor make a puree from the chillies, garlic, ginger, cilantro stems, sesame oil, zest and juice of 2 limes, and soy sauce.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot and pour in the puree, aka laksa paste. Allow it to cook for a minute.
3. Add in coconut milk and vegetable broth and simmer for 15 minutes. NOTE: If the mixture separates, use an immersion blender to very carefully smooth out the broth.
4. Add in zucchini, mushrooms, and peppers. Simmer until the vegetables are tender.
5. Serve topped with cilantro leaves and an extra wedge of lime.

This was the first time I've ever had laksa soup and I'm utterly in love with it. The flavors are so vibrant! You can make this soup with any other vegetables you like or add tofu. If you don't observe Meatless Monday, feel free to add cooked shrimp or chicken.

I'll leave you with a visual process of how I adapt recipes ;)


Lamb Lollipops With Adobo Cranberry Sauce: Get Read For Thanksgiving

And so it's November. November is the month of my dad's and brother's birthdays and what would have been my grandmother's birthday. It's also the month of one of the most delicious holidays: Thanksgiving! I'll be overseas for Thanksgiving this year, but wanted to share a Thanksgiving related recipe with you I made in collaboration with Superior Farms. They sent me a gift card to cover the ingredients and challenged me to create a recipe using lamb that could make it onto your Thanksgiving table.

Immediately I thought about using lamb lollipops. These are fun to eat and can be served as an appetizer, a snack, or the main course. The cranberry sauce I created has a bit of sweetness and some heat, and can be served not only with the lamb, but also with the turkey, or even on toast with peanut butter!

Lamb Lollipops With Adobo Cranberry Sauce
Makes 5 (easy to double or triple!)

olive oil
5 lamb lollipops (ask your butcher for a lamb rack in the French style and cut it into individual pieces)
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 cups fresh cranberries
juice of 1 blood orange
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons (or more to taste) adobo sauce from chiles in adobo can

1. Preheat the broiler.
2. Heat a cast iron skillet. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet and allow to heat.
3. Season lamb lollipops with salt and smear with mustard on both sides. 
4. Sear the lamb in the oil for 2-3 minutes on each side and then broil until it's golden brown and the mustard starts to sizzle.
5. Meanwhile, make the cranberry sauce by adding cranberries, orange juice, sugar, and adobo sauce to a small pot, bringing the mixture to a boil and then simmering  the sauce for about 5 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to crush the berries.
6. Serve the lamb lollipops topped with the cranberry sauce. Be careful because the bones will be really hot! 

NOTE: there will be fat and mustard left in the skillet which I highly advise you to use to fry some cubed parboiled potatoes!! Don't waste the goodness ;)

Have a wonderful November!


Meatless Monday: Pickled Beet & Egg Salad On Avocado Toast Recipe

Beet lovers, this Pickled Beet & Egg Salad On Avocado Toast will have your taste buds doing a happy dance. 

I'm not sure why it took me so long to combine pickled beets in a salad with eggs since growing up in Russia, there were multiple dishes in which roasted beets were combined with hard boiled eggs and mayonnaise. The taste was great, the vibrant color was even better.

If you think beets taste like dirt, you need to reconsider. Roast a few beets or buy them pickled in a jar and give them another chance.

My twin has posted several photos of hard boiled eggs pickled in the liquid from pickled beets and turned them into a salad. I decided to go one step further and add pickled beets into the salad!

First, you cook the eggs as you normally do. For me, that means covering eggs with cold water in a small pot, bringing it to a boil, turning the heat off, and letting the eggs sit covered in the pot for 10 minutes. Cool, peel, and dunk into the liquid from pickled beets. Refrigerate.

I found the texture of the eggs change quite a bit and become firmer and almost unpleasant. The color was gorgeous, but even after several days in the pickling liquid, the flavor didn't really permeate the egg. 

Instead, I suggest you use regular hard boiled eggs, and then add pickled beets. You'll get the same great color, but better texture.

Pickled Beet & Egg Salad On Avocado Toast Recipe

1 hard boiled egg, peeled, chopped
1-2 pickled beets, depending on size, chopped
mayonnaise, the more the better
whole wheat toast
avocado, sliced

1. Combine chopped eggs and beets with mayonnaise.
2. Top the toast with sliced avocado and beet/egg salad.
3. Serve with coffee.

By the way, the very first photograph in this post shows my avocado tree!! How pretty is it? Have you tried growing one? It's a super long process which has tested my patience several times. The tree will never produce actual fruit, but I love the green leaves!


The Tale Of Two Burgers in DC: Duke's Grocery and DBGB

Do you ever have a craving for a burger but don't want something that's a simple patty on a bun with ketchup and a few slices of pickles for $3 or some extravagant concoction that's served on a silver platter and will cost you $40? Well, I have two candidates that will satisfy your taste buds and not cost you an arm and a leg. 

First, featured above, is Proper Burger from Duke's Grocery. It's made from Angus beef with melted Gouda, dill pickles, charred red onion, Thai sweet chili, rocket (arugula!), and garlic aioli on a ciabatta for $12. You can add a fried egg, but it's not necessarily. 

I like my burgers medium rare. This was a juicy, delicious mess in the best way possible. The only negative thing was that it did not come with fries. AND I could not order fries because Duke's Grocery doesn't have a fryer. Why??? I ordered elote instead. My friend Emily shared her pickled vegetables with me which were a great counterpart to the rich burger.

The burger below is from DBGB. The Frenchie is made with a 7 ounce beef patty, pork belly, arugula, tomato-onion compote, and morbier cheese on a potato bun and comes with fries for $19. If you are ordering this burger for brunch, like I did, get the Bloody Mary on the side and then make sure you have time for a nap.

Where are some of your favorite places to get a burger? How do you like yours cooked?


Meatless Monday: Veestro Plant Based Meals

It's Monday! I had a weekend of yoga, burgers, Bloody Mary, ballet, and shrimp and grits. It's all about balance, right?

I also had a chance to try out plant based meals prepared and shipped to me by Veestro on behalf of Meatless Monday. The meals were sent free of charge, but I'm not compensated in any way for sharing my thoughts with you.

Okay, not that that is out of the way, let's talk about the fact that we all know that we need to consume more vegetables and fruit. I will not tell you to cut out all animal products, because that's not what I do. Instead, I try to have meals that are balanced and some that are completely plant based. After all, eating less meat is good for our health and our planet, and stretches our budget and creativity when it comes to creating recipes.

Veestro sent me the meals frozen with clear directions on how to prepare them. Some required to be simply defrosted in the refrigerator over night, while others had stove top or oven heating directions.

Overall, I liked all the dishes I tried and found them easy to reheat, satisfying, and something that I'd consider recreating in my own kitchen.

The Red Curry with Tofu pictured above was probably my favorite because of the flavorful sauce and surprisingly pleasing tofu texture despite it being defrosted. I recommend topping the dish with fresh cilantro before serving.

Below is Beluga Lentil Braise with kale, peas, and quinoa. I wish it had more lentils than the other ingredients because of its name, but liked the contrast of creamy sauce with the crunchy vegetables.

The Oatmeal Breakfast Pie was big enough for two breakfasts. The texture reminded me of a souffle, and I was happily surprised this pie wasn't too sweet. I had it with Greek yogurt, sliced apples and a bit of ginger syrup drizzled on top. This also reheated great in a microwave the next day.

The Roasted Beet and Kale Salad in my opinion could have used the most work. I don't know about you, but defrosted kale is not my idea of the best salad. I recommend you actually saute the kale and also toast the walnuts before making it into a salad. I did like the dressing that came with it. The Johnny Appleseed juice was just as refreshing and bright as its color.

These meals weren't complicated in their flavor combinations and would be something I'd keep in my freezer for those nights/days I don't feel like cooking. They were easy to make and did not leave me feeling hungry a few minutes later.

What are you eating this Meatless Monday?