Thursday, November 30, 2006

If you are a vegetarian, please don't get mad at me...

You guys are so nice to me… I’m totally blushing… And embarrassed…

Sometimes these gloomy things/posts just come over me. Could be hormones, could be the weather. I have no idea. Probably both. I prefer to blame the weather, though… El Nino and Global Warming are responsible for me being grumpy. And I’m absolutely going to write a letter to the Kyoto people to hurry up on that protocol, or else I’ll start driving people around me crazy…

And now I’m going to shock and upset the vegetarians:

See, it turns out that I’ve been all tired and irritated cause I have very low iron levels. (Pregnancy anemia is apparently pretty common). But I can’t stomach the iron pills for some reason. They make me even grumpier and sicker. And they are about as pleasant as swallowing real nails… (I mean, really, iron pills? Who came up with that concept?) So… I’ve started occasionally nibbling on things like chicken parts… Which I haven’t done in soooo many years… But I guess when you get all breathless from just the thought of going up the stairs, principles go by the wayside… And I’m becoming a part-time carnivore. Isn’t that horrible? And hypocritical?

Yup, it is…

It’s official…

I’m a hypocrite…

And not only am I a hypocrite, I’m also an absolute weirdo who likes chicken liver. It’s true. My carnivore husband can’t stand it, but I looove it… Except I only love it in one special way. A pâté that my dad makes for me. Even though I know that the recipe is ridiculously simple, something about him making it makes it sooo much better. But I successfully negotiated the above-mentioned recipe out of him, just so that those of you with liver-averse kids can try it out… (See? I can be so thoughtful :-) )

You’ll need 1 medium or large carrot, 1 onion, a pack of chicken livers (I think those are usually about half a pound or so), about 100 grams of softened butter (my dad just eyeballs 1/5 or 1/4th of the standard butter pack, which is 454g around here). Plus salt and pepper to taste.

Slice and fry the onion and the carrot (in oil, of course). Separately fry the chicken livers (till cooked – i.e. fry first, then cover to let it simmer). Keep the butter at room temperature long enough for it to soften. Then put all the ingredients in a food processor. Blend very well.

Done.

I like to chill it in the fridge for a while and then spread it over a nice white (or whole wheat) toast.

And that’s pretty much the only way I can get my iron right now.

My apologies go out to all the chickens out there… But you gals are just too irresistible right now.

And irreplaceable…

Posted by vasilisa @ 1:27 AM :: (8) comments

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

There is some food here...

You’ve probably noticed that I have completely fallen off the cooking wagon… I’m either busy, or have other excuses… Which is really typical me. I don’t tend to last too long on anything. I loose my steam… For some reason I go through these stages, where I’m all into something, and then I can’t force myself to do the very thing that I really liked not so long ago. It is a very annoying habit. Lack of will power? Probably. Except I’m not sure what I can do about it.

And right now I’m on a “I don’t like cooking” phase. I don’t want to cook. I don’t know what to cook. I don’t like the smells, I don’t like the ingredients… I don’t want to stand in the kitchen… (In fact, all I want to do is lie down on a couch somewhere… )

But today I forced myself to do something. Zucchini pancakes, curried chicken and some rice. And yesterday there was simple spaghetti in marinara sauce. Nothing to be excessively proud of. Though the chicken came out pretty nice (Fry a chopped onion, add cubed chicken, and chopped veggies, like bell peppers, celery, carrots, then add curry powder (or other spices, I also added masala powder), salt, pepper, a tblspn tomato paste, a cup of water… simmer for 20 minutes, then add couple of tblspns of sour cream and simmer 5 minutes more.)



And it’s embarrassing. Cause I was supposed to have a cooking blog…

But instead it’s just lots of mindless ramblings… And I don’t really know how to get back on track. And I don’t know what to write. I really don’t.

I think I’m an emotional wreck right now, being totally optimistic about every thing one minute, and totally pessimistic the next. Somehow finding the middle ground is harder than usual…

And that sucks…

PS: Spaghetti from yesterday: (proof that I’m trying…)

Posted by vasilisa @ 10:37 PM :: (7) comments

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Off tangent…

I haven’t been posting cause I’ve been insanely/incredulously busy with all kinds of secret and non-secret projects, that I’ve had no time to cook/write/think or even visit others in the blogosphere (for which I’m sorry, I’ll be improving soon). But I’m sure you’ve all been pretty busy too, with Thanksgiving in the US and all… Hopefully we’ll all make it to Monday when normalcy shall reign supreme once again.

Though not really. Cause I’ve seen the subtle changes in the air. Like radio channels doing a switcheroo and all playing Christmas music (which I don’t really mind… but not 24 hours a day…). And houses around our neighbourhood are lighting up. And car is having a stubborn layer of ice all over it at night. And storeowners are looking out from behind their counters like they are getting ready for the hunting season…

So I guess, Christmas season is here. And I totally am still in the game. Am planning to put those towels up first thing Monday. And maybe even think about the menu. And the gifts… And the whole decorating thing. It will happen. And not on December 24th. I’m working on being proactive.

And just the thought that next Christmas we’ll be a family of four… It’s so mind boggling. I can’t believe how fast time goes by. It’s as if once you hit 20, your life goes on overdrive, and keeps gaining speed every year. Time used to be such a stretchy thing. From birthday to birthday you had to wait forever and a day. Now… Didn’t we just have Christmas? (Nope, that was a year ago)… Didn’t I just find out I was pregnant with number one? (Nope, that was over two years ago, and you’re on number two now…) Didn't I just pay the bills yesterday? (Nope...)

Which has both perks and drawbacks, naturally. The drawbacks are obvious – getting older faster, running out of time to do things that were planned.

But speeding time also has its perks. It’s much easier to be patient. Cause weeks, months, even years, don’t seem to be so distant any more.

I’m needing lots of patience now. Things I want to happen faster are just taking way more time than I expected. But that's ok. I'm much more patient now than I was at 16. And that's the benefit of growing up.

Posted by vasilisa @ 1:30 AM :: (3) comments

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The shortest post yet…

A simple fare we had today, of fish cakes and mashed potatoes… And some salad… Cause we are simple people. Without fancy tastes…



And that’s about it.

And I don’t have anything else to write right now…

Cause I’m having a blogger’s block…

Oh, wait… Nope… Blank…

I’ll have to talk to you later, when Ms. Muse decides drop by…

Posted by vasilisa @ 10:28 PM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hinting, hinting...

All by myself again… Just me and my Chinese food leftovers… So, ahem… no recipes again… I’m sure you’re not surprised…

I was sitting here wondering about Santa... He must be a pretty busy guy, getting all those wish lists, and planning all his shopping/toy making… And I figured, why not be proactive and write him a wish list now? So he knows what I want and all. So he can plan me into his shopping schedule…

And therefore I wrote him a letter… I hope he has access to the Internet, as I only correspond online nowadays.

Here it goes…

Dear Santa.

How are you? Did you have a good year? Did you keep an eye on me? You did? Then you must know I’ve been a good girl. So it is with complete belief in my goodness that I’m sending you my wish list for this year.

First of all, I would like a huge mansion. The kind that celebrities are usually not satisfied with and constantly have to rebuild. I’m not that picky, Santa. That house J.Lo. got and spent millions on upgrading? I would’ve been just fine with it. Really. Even if it only has one pool. That’s cool with me.

Secondly, I’d love a nice Mercedes convertible. For cruising around my mansion. You can’t really expect me to walk around it, can you? I mean, this is the 21st century. We don’t walk. Unless we’re in the gym. Cause that’s our only way of justifying inventing both the elevator and the stair master.

Of course, given the above, I’d like a membership to a mega snobby gym club with a personal trainer and all. Or you can build a proper gym in my mansion. I leave that up to you. As I said above, I’m not that picky.

If you dab into medicine, you could consider taking care of the whole morning sickness nonsense… You know, sixth month of it, that’s kinda pushing it. And of course once you’re on that wave, you might as well make me skinny again. I can take a rain check for that till March. But then I’d like a Britney Spears type of makeover (just the skinny part, thank you…)

Some furniture would be nice too. The whole empty dining room thing looks a bit strange… But I’d have to go shopping with you, Santa, cause that’s something I am pretty picky about… Sorry…

If you really can’t master those, at least consider giving me a proper KitchenAid Mixer. You know, that fancy one, with all kinds of attachment. Cause I don’t have any mixer at all. And that’s a shame…

You may even forward this last request to my husband.

And if he complains about the budget, at least convince him to get me a small hand-held one. I could probably live with it till next Christmas… If he accompanies it with some diamond earrings or a very nice card…

Thank you, Santa.

Yours truly,

Vasilisa

PS: and if the above mentioned husband wants something for himself, feel free to tell me what it is, cause I'm flat out of ideas...

Posted by vasilisa @ 10:46 PM :: (6) comments

Monday, November 20, 2006

First snow

We are having snow… The first snow of the season… The kind that looks like it hasn’t quite made up its mind on whether it should be rain or snow. For all intents and purposes it feels like rain, and is wet like rain, but the grass is getting whiter, and the cars are developing skinny whitish coats… Which will all be gone in the morning… And had I been sleeping now, like all the normal people in our neighborhood, I’d probably miss it altogether.

But I didn’t.

And I feel happyish. Cause the holidays seem that much closer now. And the global warming is not quite winning yet. And we still have a chance at normalcy…

Which is nice.

I know that I’ll get sick of it soon, when driving becomes a nightmare and front porch becomes inaccessible.

But for now I like it. Cause I still remember the kid in me that used to look outside the window at the snow and get all excited because of all the games we were going to play, all the casteless we were going to build, and all the snow-wars that were going to start…

When I was about ten, my parents bought amazing new curtains for the kids’ room. I remember the excitement of hanging them up, and how they had this cool system where you could pull on the string and they would move apart, and pull another string, and they would close. So technologically advanced! And the day we hang them up, just as we were enjoying the view, it started snowing. First snow that year. That picture is still so fresh in my mind like it was yesterday.

And it is haunting me tonight. I feel like I’m ten again. Like snow is a beautiful start to an exciting season, and life is great and everything is as it should be.

Which is good.

Posted by vasilisa @ 12:36 AM :: (6) comments

Friday, November 17, 2006

So budget conscious...

I have discovered the ultimate eating-place… Where taste and budget meet each other and hug in euphoria. Cause a descent-sized plate of veggie pasta can be acquired for $1.99 (Canadian!). And an order of salmon (yes, I cheated again…, boo…, but I’m pregnant, so it’s ok) with potatoes and veggies and a blueberry pie (plus a soft-drink generously shared with the hubs, I get enough sugar as it is, thank you very much...) comes to only 7 bucks!

What is the miracle place, you ask?

It’s…



IKEA…

Yup… Didn't even bother with the furniture and all the trimmings.

In fact, my only beef with IKEA is that once you get in, you can’t get out without making a gigantic loop around the whole store. Tricky. And annoying. If they didn’t have that, I’d be eating there every day.

But I guess they are very concerned about my figure and all. They must presume that if I eat, I might as well burn those calories running a marathon after the little arrows on the floor that keep saying “EXIT” and leading you on and on to the neverland of cheap household gadgets. Which I would totally buy. If I actually brought money with me. Or a stroller for the kiddo. Or at least a less cranky kiddo instead of the one who decided right then and there that he is due for a nap and is therefore going to wail loud enough to be heard by every IKEA-wandering soul. Making his mommy feel like a rat trapped in a maze with an electric shocking thingy right there in her ear.

But it was worth it.

Just look at it, isn’t it pretty?


The salmon...


The veggie pasta in Alfredo sauce... $1.99!!!

And yummy. And totally lazy-mommy-friendly.

But at that price, I don’t feel one bit guilty… Or if I do, it's buried very deep behind the never-ending veil of denial…

Posted by vasilisa @ 2:57 AM :: (10) comments

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Christmas is almost in the air...

I’m home alone. All by myself. Left to wander the hallways and contemplate my role in keeping them clean. Which I’m in no mood to do what so ever. If anyone needs the hallways clean, they are welcome to come here and sort through all these toys and shopping bags and hell knows what else. I gave up. At least for this week. Even though I subscribe to Fly Lady. Even though I purposely ignore up to 30 reminders from her per day. I just don’t see the point. I put the toys in the box, turn around, and they are back on the floor. I put the jackets in the closet, turn around, and they are back on the staircase. This house is haunted, I’m telling yah…

So anyways, as I said, I’m home alone and blogging in peace and quiet for a change. And my contemplations are inevitably drifting towards… Christmas! I have no idea why. Really. I haven’t cared about Christmas for years. Not that I ever did. We didn’t do Christmas back in Russia. We did New Years, which there served (and still does) as a combined holiday for Halloween, Christmas, and New Years. As in people got dressed in costumes, got gifts from our version of Santa (Grandpa Frost, we call him, yeah…) and got drunk all at the same time. So when I got here the whole Christmas hoopla just kinda went by me. Couldn’t bother.

Eventually I got used to it (it’s not so bad to get gifts almost a week in advance), but still didn’t feel anything special about it. New Years was always the big day for me. I have to meet it with my family around. I have to yell out the countdown. And lots of other “have to”s…

But something is different about this year. This year I’m thinking “Christmas” more and more… I’m thinking about Santa, and not Grandpa Frost. I want my tree up before December 25th, and not the 31st…

And if I really think about it, I actually know why. Cause this year it’s not about the commercialization and the other things that I never cared about. This year it’s about my son. Cause I am realistic. If I tell him about Grandpa Frost that comes on the New Years eve, kids in school (once he actually starts one) will *educate* the *stuff* out of him…

He needs a Santa. Cause Santa, whatever you call him, is all about childhood. It’s about the excitement, the gifts, the decorations… It’s about being happy and expecting something grand to happen, a miracle to drop down your chimney… And every child deserves a miracle. Even if he’s too young this year to fully grasp it, I want him to feel the holiday spirit in the air; I want him to sense that something amazing is happening… And that’s Christmas.

I'm gonna get more toys?


Mommy, you are the best!

And the surprising thing that is happening, is that I’m getting excited about it too. For the first time in years I’m not looking at it as a season when shopping is a nightmare, budget is stretched, and the gift list (or the creation of it) is a source of never-ending headaches. Instead, I’m thinking about what ornaments to put on the tree, the snowflake patters I’ll be cutting out, the cookies I could bake… I’m thinking about all those toys I could get for the kiddo (and yes, I’m even thinking about the “Tickle Me Elmo” and where the heck to get it, since no store around here seems to have one…just thinking… so don’t go all rowdy on me…).

(And it’s still November! Oh, God, I need a therapist!)

What a change can a baby make… They tell you kids change your life, but they never get too specific. They never tell you how you get to do all those things you loved again… How you can relive the best moments of your life through the eyes of your child. How the simple presence of a green poky tree in the window display can get you all giddy and silly and send you searching for the perfect snowy kitchen towel…

(yes, I bought it… but it was very reasonably priced…).

And with still over a month to go before the big day, I guess I’ll just have to talk some sense into that impatient reawakened child inside me, focus on that terrifying gift list, and eat store-bought cookies. And occasionally tell the kiddo things that are totally meaningless to him at this point, like: “eat your cereal, or Santa’ll skip our chimney”… And then mentally prepare myself for how next year I’ll probably have to explain the physics of Santa fitting down our chimney-less house…

But I'll save physics for next year... This year it will be magic only.



PS: And as for the dinner, since it was just me, I made the infamous mushroom soup again. Except this time I had enough potatoes…

Posted by vasilisa @ 12:17 AM :: (7) comments

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Simple and homey...

I finally got myself into the kitchen. And even managed a couple of simple quick dishes that just hit the spot. Cause that was all I was in the mood for making today. Plus the lack of some key groceries combined with no gas in the car = don’t feel like going anywhere, and leads to cooking whatever is in the fridge… So I’m presenting a ridiculously simple dinner for your entertainment… Accompanied by horrible pictures, as usual -- I'm still working on my photo skills.

For the hubs: Chicken in whitish sauce.

2 chicken breasts
about a cup of sour cream (more won’t hurt)
1 and a half teaspoon of curry powder (other spices or poultry seasoning would do just fine)
3-4 cloves of garlic (I used 5, but hubs loooves garlic), squeezed
salt
pepper
optionally some onion

Fry half an onion, chopped, till translucent. Add chicken breasts and fry a bit on both sides. Mix all the other ingredients with sour cream in a separate bowl (spices, salt, pepper, and squeezed garlic).

Pour the mix over the chicken breasts. Add some water (about half a cup or so, just enough to cover the chicken in the sauce). Simmer for about 30 minutes (add water if necessary – something I always forget about till it’s too late). Optionally season with fresh herbs (dill, parsley, etc…)




I have to say, the chicken came out fantastic… The aroma… I was really impressed, and would really recommend this simple dish to any chicken lover out there…


And me, the hungry fishetarian had fish, of course.

2 tilapia fillets… (But any amount of any fish would do. I just happened to have thalapia in the freezer.)
One onion, cut to rings
Salt
Pepper
Juice from half a lemon
2 small bay leafs (or one really big one)
About a tablespoon of mayonnaise

Mix everything except the fillets and the mayonnaise in a bowl. Add the fish: make sure you dip it on both sides in the marinade, and then just leave it lying on top (or partially submerged) of it all for about 20 minutes.

Take a small baking dish. (Optional, for those who hate doing dishes) line it with foil. Put the fillets down. Poor the liquid part on top. Brush with some mayonnaise. Put the onion rings on top (discard the bay leaf).

Bake for about 20 minutes at 400F.



Yup… That’s it. That was our dinner. Quite homey, actually. I think it must have been the potatoes… Did I mention that I boiled some potatoes? I did. With parsley and all. Very wintery… For some reason as it gets colder outside I start eating more potatoes. They are just so cozy and warming, especially with a nice sauce on top…

(And just in case I haven’t mentioned it a hundred times before, potatoes to Russians are pretty much what rice is to Chinese, or pasta to Italians. Which is why they are such frequent guests on my blog… Cause I can’t imagine life without them… Cause if I could, it would be a really sad one… )

Posted by vasilisa @ 10:29 PM :: (7) comments

Food, as promised.

But first, let me thank you all for not lynching me for the last post. I really appreciate it. The morning after I posted it I was going to delete it, but I already had comments, so I decided to let it be for the accuracy of the historical review... But I’m so grateful that people that drop by my blog are rational and not the “you are just stupid and don’t get it” kind of types. And I don’t hate you if your opinion is different from mine. It’s a free country here, so everybody is entitled to likes/dislikes and opinions… So feel free to disagree with me any time :-)

And as for the food, it was all take-out today. Precious, precious affordable and delicious Chinese take-out. How do people manage without it? I have no clue. Naturally today was one of those no-cooking days. I’m not even going to bore you with the reasons. But this was a very welcome and budget conscious meal:






What I love about Chinese food, are the sauces. The perfect ratio of liquid to gooiness that I for some reason just can’t conquer in my own kitchen. No mater how much I’ve tried. I wish I knew the secret formula. I know that it contains cornstarch, I just think there is something magical about the proportions…

I was recently reading a fascinating article about Chinese cuisine in general. Did you know that the basic form of Chinese cooking has essentially been formed 3000 years ago? (For comparison, the classic French cooking has been systematized around 300 years ago, at the end of 18th century, and has since been only polished/perfected.) That’s 3000 years of history of perfecting cooking methods and dishes. For some reason that fascinates me. Just a thought that 3000 years ago people might have been eating pretty similar stuff to the stuff I get at my local take-out place. That I’m somehow part of a never-ending chain of rice/noodles/tofu lovers.

And that makes me feel special.

Posted by vasilisa @ 12:43 AM :: (5) comments

Sunday, November 12, 2006

On Borat… And this does not seem to be the popular opinion... So you should probably not read it. Please don’t. I’ll post about food next time.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m loosing my edge. You know, the coolness factor. No, I’ve never actually been cool, not at school at least. (How many math geeks are cool? No, really? I’d like the number? ) But I’m usually on top of hip movies and music, and news.

And now… What’s the hippest coolest movie out? Borat, naturally. The whole world seems to know that. And I went to the movies on Friday night, and guess what I went to see? It wasn’t Borat. No. Even though it seemed like the rest of humanity was lining up for “the cultural learnings…” I was lining up to see “Stranger than fiction.” A nice romantic thoughtful movie… Nothing “cultural” or “cool” about it.

What is wrong with me? Why am I not going crazy over the whole Borat thing? I saw the previews, and found them funny… But I just can’t bring myself to watch it. I keep making up excuses of the type “the movie is too popular, will be too crowded, and I need air…” But in reality I just don’t think I want to watch it.

Maybe if he picked a fake nation. Like Krakozhia in “The Terminal” (in which, surprisingly everyone spoke Russian… but I guess when Hollywood wants to come up with a screwed up fake country, their imagination is still stalled somewhere in the Cold War zone).

But he picked a real country. And there is something nasty about that. Just something that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Cause I honestly doubt that many people know that Kazakhstan is a normal modern country. How many people in North America have even heard of it before? (What, “no publicity is bad publicity” argument? Yah? Then what happened to the glorious career of Michael Jackson? Not enough publicity?) Even the news that deal with Borat rarely add anything to the statement that Kazakhstan is a former Soviet Republic. Well, it also happens to be worlds 9th largest country by size. And Kazakhs don’t look anything like Borat, by the way. Majority of the population actually looks Asian. The movie footage was shot in Romania. But I guess too many people know Romania to use it as a prop.

No, I don’t think the movie is all bad. As I said, I haven’t watched it yet. So I can’t pass that judgment. In fact, apart from the country reference, it might actually be good…

But picking on a little country (politically speaking) even if the intent is to make fun of a big one, is kind of low. Since mostly everything about Kazakhstan was invented why not also invent a dummy country? Is that so hard? Besides, Hollywood already has a “Krakozhia” somewhere in the imaginary Eastern Europe. I’m sure "Boratia" would've been a very happy neighbor.

There are opinions out there that Borat’s point is making fun of ignorant people that would actually believe all this nonsense. I agree. Any intelligent person would understand that people don’t drink horse urine or celebrate their sister’s rank in prostitution. But not everyone is intelligent. Flip the news channel any day, and you’ll see proof of that. This is like saying that “***** (fill in the blank) eat babies.” Of course intelligent people would never believe that. But there are enough jerks out there who do, or pretend they do. A movie like that would supply them with more nasty comments then they need.

And besides, even though many people won’t believe the ridiculous assertions, nevertheless plenty will walk out of the cinema thinking that Kazakhstan is at least a “backwards” country. You know, one of those “former Soviet Republics” that is probably drugging its existence in the realm of nothingness compared to the “Great First World West”.

And that, frankly, p***s me off.



PS: Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest. And I fully intend to get back to cooking. Really. Next post is going to be all about food. I promise.

Posted by vasilisa @ 2:25 AM :: (11) comments

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On Britney, math and paneer...

I don’t know, I should probably start with dinner, cause I actually made one tonight…

But have you heard the news? Britney Spears has filed for divorce… As much as I like to avoid gossip columns and star tracking, for some reason that piece of news stuck with me… For some reason in a positive way… Except I feel really bad for the kids… But the jury is still out whether they are better off or not… I really should stop thinking bout Britney and get a life of my own now… (but, girl, you look great, now get your act together, move on, and please don’t forget about the kids…)

Anyways, those kinds of moments make me want to do google search for totally unrelated things, like jokes and all. And here’s a gem I recently found: math genius at work... Honestly, as a quintessential math geek (I took math as an elective throughout all my four years at university) I found them so hilarious, I almost cried… (Maybe hormones? Doesn’t take much to make me cry nowadays…) Check it out. Seriously. If you remember your basic high school math, you’ll find it funny too. I hope…

Which nicely leads into tonight’s dinner (It doesn’t? Oh well…). Which we actually had. At home. Provided by yours truly. Aren’t you impressed? I am…

Basically after weeks of hinting, asking and begging, I finally got my husband to buy me some paneer (took me only about 10 reminder calls), which is an Indian cheese, which I know can be made at home , but not by me, cause I’m too lazy, and also cause boiling milk has always freaked me out…

So here is what I did with it:

My Indian inspired (only inspired, I hope Indian girls don’t get too mad at me for messing with Indian food… the original recipe was taken from “The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking” and then tampered with) paneer dinner with peas and tomatoes (and bell pepper, cause I felt like adding one...)

Ingredients:
400g of packaged of paneer, cut into grape sized cubes
oil for frying
2 and ½ teaspoons turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tspn of garam masala
3 tspns of salt (maybe more, according to taste)
1 inch cube of ginger
3 cloves of garlic
1 tblspn of sour cream
2 cups of frozen peas
2 or more tomatoes
1 bell pepper (if you choose to only use 2 tomatoes. If you use 4 or 5 tomatoes, you don’t need the bell pepepr)
1 tblspn of tomato paste (again, if you opted for only 2 tomatoes. Otherwise you don’t need it)

Instructions:
Heat oil.
Fry the paneer cubes turning over so they get a nice brownish crust (the book suggested deep frying, but I don’t have that much oil to spare…).
In a separate bowl mix 2 cups of warm water, 2 tspns of turmeric powder and 2-3 tspns of salt.
Transfer the fried paneer into that mix.
Put it aside.
Now, you still have the frying pan with some hot oil.
Into it add: The cumin seeds, finely chopped garlic and minced ginger (also, for you heat-lovers, you can add some minced chili peppers at this stage).
Fry for a few seconds (till cumin browns, and garlic gives nice aroma).
Throw in ½ teaspoon of powdered turmeric.
Mix it up.
Add the peas, chopped red bell pepper and 1 cup of water (you can add water later depending on how thick you like the sauce), and 1 tblspn tomato paste (optional, but I like it).
Cover and bring to boil.
Let it simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes (till peas and are tender) .
Add the finely chopped tomatoes and fried paneer cubes (without the liquid) .
Cover, simmer for another 5 minutes.
Add 1 tblspn of sour cream (this is my own addition, I find that it makes the sauce thicker…) and 1 tspn of garam masala. Mix, adjust seasoning (salt, pepper…)
Bring to boil, and turn it off…
Done.




And for the boys I made pretty much the same thing, but with chicken. The difference is that you add the fried chicken at the same time as you add the peas, so the chicken cooks through.



They were perfectly happy with it.

But I firmly believe that the paneer version is infinitely better. Really. I just don’t get the chicken fascination…



What can I say... Carnivores...

Posted by vasilisa @ 11:54 PM :: (10) comments

I'm moving to Japan... Or at least I should...

The verdict is in… I’m making another miso baby…

There is just something about Japanese food that works for me… When I can’t eat anything else, plain salad with that special dressing and a miso soup work miracles. But especially the salad dressing… I don’t know why…



I’m on a quest. I want to know how they make it. Is it ginger? Some secret spice? Anyone have any ideas?

And of course there is tempura. And teriyaki salmon.



And my poor hubs who’s genuinely sick of it all keeps trying to improvise by ordering new unidentifiable things. Though this was a pretty good case of fried rice with teppaniaky (spelling?) chicken.



I’m proud of him. He takes it all pretty well.

And then there is the green tea ice-cream… It never lasts long enough to snap a picture. So you’ll have to use your imagination. (It looks like ice-cream… green…)

So I've decided, if I get pregnant again, I’m moving to Japan…

(Just in case I didn't make it clear -- I didn't cook... We ate at a restaurant... Again...)

Posted by vasilisa @ 3:30 AM :: (2) comments

Monday, November 06, 2006

In which you'll learn how to make the perfect lasagna...

Today the hubs stayed at home, as in he had a day off, and we were all planning to go out for dinner, except… there was a hockey game on TV. Which is completely something that cannot-be-missed-and-has-to-be-watched-because-it-is-all-so-important (despite the fact that the season has just started -- but common sense is lost on men enwrapped in the intricacies of chasing a piece of rubber with wooden sticks on ice… But I really shouldn’t complain, cause I’ve been guilty of wasting precious hours watching running on ice without any puck in sight – a.k.a. figure skating…).

So, anyways, after waiting and waiting I grew incredibly hungry and realized that I will have to live up to yesterday’s promise and make something myself. And I did.

Behold the dinner:




See the lasagna?



Isn’t it beautiful?

And the recipe is so complicated… I mean the directions, they are, like, so mind-boggling… Really… Extra-super-duper-complicated…


Are you ready?


Ok, here it goes:


Pull out a box from the freezer that says “Vegetarian Lasagna” on it. Take the lasagna out of the box. Read instructions that say: “put it in the oven”. Put it in the oven.

Yup… It’s a pre-made frozen lasagna bought during one of those inspirational store trips… (Cause I haven’t actually conquered real lasagna yet… I never even tried… But I’m pretty good at following box instructions…)

But since I promised cooking last night, I also made a quick fried potatoes/mushroom/onions dish.



(Recipe can be found here.) Just so you don’t start throwing tomatoes at me… Unless those are nice fresh yummy organic tomatoes… Then bring them on!

So now I feel truly accomplished and deserving of something nice. Like those diamond earrings that in honor of the upcoming completely uncommercialized Christmas season are now on every TV channel.

Or maybe a mini-statue to commemorate myself for posterity.

Or at least a cake. Yes, a cake will do.

Ahem...

Ok, bye now, I’m off searching for a cake…

Posted by vasilisa @ 11:01 PM :: (4) comments

Don’t read this if you don’t want you appetite ruined… I’m not kidding… This is not a post with nice recipes… You’ve been warned…

Not home… Not cooking… You know the drill…

So, yet another filler post…

Ahem… I’m flat out of ideas… Need… to… write… something… now…

Ah?

Ok… So…

How was your weekend?

Mine was great, thank you for asking… Morning sickness paid a solid revisit, you know, just so I don’t forget about it and all… Cause you know, there are some naïve people out there who think that morning sickness can be cured by a cracker, and that it goes away after the first trimester…

Yup… Sure…

Dream on…

Though, apparently it’s true, unless you end up being one of about 1 or 2% of women who get it THE WHOLE DARN NINE MONTHS!!! What the heck is up with that? Why couldn’t I win the other lottery? Like those couple of women out of humanity who don’t even realize they were pregnant till they suddenly pop out a baby? LIFE IS NOT FAIR!!!

And who came up with the “morning” part of it? Really? Who was that creative? What is so "morning" about anytime during the 24 HOURS OF THE DARN DAY? Or those days when it’s ALL DAY LONG? Please, if you know that person, tell them I said “hi”…

Yes… I’m sure that’s what you wanted to hear… Coming from a cooking blog and all…

But, at least if you know the back-story, you’ll give me more credit for those days when I’m actually trying to cook…

Like tomorrow… Totally planning to…



See? I even did my groceries… At 12 AM…

Cause I really am a good girl...

With tons of excuses…

(And even more dots...........)

Posted by vasilisa @ 1:31 AM :: (7) comments

Friday, November 03, 2006

Bread again – the improved version…

I decided to give the bread one more try. Basically, yesterday it looked and tasted mostly like bread, but had way too much yeast. So I figured I’ll remedy the situation. After much more research, thinking and calculations, I figured that 2 and a half teaspoons of yeast should be enough. I.e. my formula: 2 and a half teaspoons per 2 and a half (or three) cups of flour. So roughly 1 teaspoon of dry yeast per 1 cup of flour. From now on, it will be my rule number one (in yesterday’s list of rules).

I also couldn’t resist some experimenting. Just as I was planning, I scrapped the milk, and used water instead. I melted butter instead of oil. Though it was just not enough butter to fill my 1/3 cup, so I added a bit of canola oil, but hey, the rules say any fat, right? And I used one cup of rye flour. And I sprinkled a tiny-tiny bit of coriander powder and just few cumin seeds. So my today’s recipe looked like this:

2 and ½ teaspoons of dry active yeast, dissolved in ½ cup of warm water with a pinch of sugar. (wait 10 minutes for it to foam)
Then add:
½ cup of water
1/3 cup of melted butter and or oil
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cumin seeds
a pinch of coriander powder
mix
add 1 cup of rye flour
1 cup of all purpose white flour
start kneading
add another ½ cup of white flour (so dough still elastic, but not sticking to hands)

Then I thought that I heard somewhere that rye flour takes longer to rise, so I left my dough alone for about 40 minutes, and went about some household chores…

Then I shaped the buns (make apple sized balls, then squash them, put on the cooking sheet and draw a couple of lines on them with a knife). I let them wait while the oven was warming up to 400 F. And then I baked them for 15 minutes.



Much better. Completely bready consistency, and perfect amount of yeast. Now I feel liberated to experiment with shapes and flavours…



PS: when you take the bread out, put it on a wooden board, or paper towel, or plain towel. Don’t leave it on the baking sheet, cause the bottom will get soggy…

Posted by vasilisa @ 9:38 PM :: (3) comments

Thursday, November 02, 2006

All about bread...

Today I want to talk about bread. Yes, bread. The absolutely easiest thing you could ever cook that should be the first thing anyone ever cooks, cause it is really hard to screw up. Wah? Did I shock you? Did you think that only fancy bakeries can make bread, or bread machines, or some really specialized cookbooks with detailed instructions for real experts and so on?

Yah, that’s what I thought too…

And then I read a book. Unfortunately it’s in Russian, so there is no point checking the link as I’m sure most of you might as well have it in gibberish. But I’ll give you the gist of it.

It is a book that is meant to be a “learn to cook book”. As in, learn to cook in general, and not just from recipes. Cause let’s face it, recipes are nice… When you have them… And when you have the matching ingredients. But sometimes you are just stuck with whatever you have in your fridge/pantry, a hungry family and absolutely no way/time/money to get to the grocery store. And then you have to improvise. And for that you need to know the basics, the principles. Like, that you need to boil water first, before you throw in the pasta. Or that you need to preheat the oil, before you try to fry anything. Or that you need to mix corn starch in COLD water before you add it to a stir fry (thank God my dad taught me that, cause until then… ouch…) Anyways, you get the point…

So this book is full of tips/tricks of this sort. But the most novel concept (to me, at least) is that the author’s premise is that baking bread is the easiest cooking thing to learn.

So being the preppy perfectionist that I am, and wanting to learn to cook properly I decided to give it a try. Given how easy it is…

Except, as soon as I started doing it, I ran into problems. First, the author gives quantities for fresh yeast… Where the heck do you get that? I only have dry… But I didn’t give up, and after a very productive internet research session I found reasonable conversion guidelines. Then he said to put as much flour as you need until it stops getting stuck to your hands… I must have missed the moment. It didn’t stick to me at all. And barely to itself…

So my final recipe looked something like this: 4 and ¾ teaspoons of dry active yeast, ½ cup of water, ½ cup of milk (he said milk or water, milk was closer…), 1/3 cup of oil, pinch of salt, pinch of sugar, about 3 cups of flour… (I was supposed to put in some onion too, but I didn’t feel like it…)

Mix yeast with ½ cup of WARM water, add pinch of sugar, and let it sit for about 10 minutes. (It will foam if your yeast is good…) Then add all the other liquids and salt, and mix. Then add the flour and knead. Basically add two cups, and then knead and keep adding flour till it stops sticking to your hands. Like I said, in my case it ended up being 3 cups.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Shape the dough into apple-sized balls, then squash them, and put them on the cooking sheet. With a knife cut a few lines on the flattened patties (make them stripy!). Let them sit for 5-10 minutes (the book says 3 minutes, but I beg to differ) and then put in the oven. Bake 10-15 minutes (test readiness with a tooth pic – if there is dough on it when you pull it out, not ready yet). Take out. Wait about half an hour before eating.

Here is what I got.



It actually looks and tastes like a bun (albeit a scary looking one).



And honestly, the “making” process did take just a few minutes. And the waiting in between was used for very productive toddler chasing…

My personal observations for next time: I’ll substitute some of the milk with water. I’ll add a bit more salt. I might throw in some spices, like cumin seeds. I’ll take less yeast, probably just four teaspoons, cause it’s a bit too yeasty for my taste. I’ll experiment with different flours (whole grain, rye, etc…) And if I have time, I’ll let the dough rise first, before shaping it into balls… (So, add about 40 min to an hour of rising time.)

As for the “no recipe part” of bread baking, apparently (according to the book, not me), there are 5 cardinal rules of making bread, that once you learn them, and stick to them, you can improvise the rest to your heart’s content:

1. For one kilo of flour and additives (let’s say you added some chopped onions, raisins etc…), you need to use no less than 35g and no more than 50g of fresh yeast. I.e., 40% of that if you use dry yeast. My jar claims that 2 and a half teaspoons are equal to 8g. (And reading this now, I definitely think I overdid the yeast part.) Anyways, you do the math… I’m feeling lazy. But obviously, you can see that you don’t have to be overly precise. This is not an alchemical solution… And I’m sure the guidelines on your dry yeast package are just as useful as this rule…

2. The liquids have to consist of at least ½ cup of water (for the yeast, and make that WARM water). The rest can be milk, sour cream, kefir, you name it… Hmm… I wonder if juice would work?

3. Fat – you can use absolutely any fat, animal or vegetable. So that can be oil (vegetable, sunflower, olive, canola, etc…), melted butter or margarine, etc… (if it starts out solid, melt it first.) They all can be intermixed in any proportions.

4. First you always mix the yeast (already foamed and activated if using dry…) and all liquids and additives (spices, herbs, salt, etc…). Then you add the flour, as you knead, to a point where it stops sticking to your hands, but is still elastic… The amount will apparently vary based on types of liquids and fats you use.

5. Proportions to stick to:
All dry (non-dissolvable) additives, such as onion, cheese, spices., etc should not exceed in volume a quarter of liquids. I.e. for each 2 cups of water/milk do not have more than half a cup of dry experimental flavour thingies, like fruits and vegetables or something…
Fats should not exceed half of liquids. I.e. no more than half a cup of fats per 1 cup of water/milk…
If you choose to use milk, make sure it’s no more than the amount of water you use…

There, don’t you feel all smarter now? (I don’t… But I do feel braver… And now if there is no sandwich bread and no chance to get to a store, I’ll be experimenting with my floury left-overs…)

And as for general cooking without a recipe… Today I was precisely in that situation. As it is a vegetarian day, and I was insanely hungry, and the toddler fell asleep so shopping was out of the question, not to mention that hubs forgot to transfer the car seat to my car -- I had to improvise with ingredients at hand…

So I fried an onion, some garlic and a tiny piece of ginger. Blended it with two tomatoes, some cilantro, and half a celery stick, and poured it all over the veggies (pealed, chopped, and slightly pre-fried). The veggies happened to be 4 small potatoes, 2 carrots, 3 zucchinis, and one green bell pepper. Plus a tablespoon of curry powder, salt, pepper, a table spoon of tomato paste, and just a bit of water for the sauce. Cooked for 15 minutes, then added a can of red beans (washed – I hate the beans liquid that they float in…). Simmered 5 more minutes and served over rice.



Not overly creative, but eatable…

And this entry is so long now, I better sign off… Before it turns into a novel…

Posted by vasilisa @ 11:51 PM :: (4) comments

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloweening…

Just a quick note to let you know that we’ve survived our first family attempt at Halloween! And we had fun doing it… And the weather… it… cooperated! I even went out for a little “trick-or-treating” myself (with the kid, of course).

And while he wasn’t quite sure what it was all about, he really enjoyed ringing bells and saying “bah, bah” (bye, bye) to everyone on the street…

What do they want from me?


What? Pose for yet another picture?


That's the smiliest look you'll get today... Now where is my candy?


So, once more, Happy Halloween, everybody! And let’s do it again next year!

Posted by vasilisa @ 1:56 AM :: (8) comments

About

I'm a 29 year old mom of two! A toddler (kiddo one) and a new baby (kiddo junior). I am also the most horrible (as in I barely ever do it) cook that I have met in my life. This blog is a diary of my attempts to feed my hungry growing family

PS: My name is not actually Vasilisa... But I find that honest reporting comes easier when there is a shred of anonymity. (Apparently, posting pics of my sons doesn't count...)

PPS: For those of you wondering where on the planet I am: I'm cosily tacked away in the Torontonian suburbia of the Great White North (Canada).

The Beginnings

What is all this?

Listening

To music, naturally.

Reading

All kinds of books. Haven't figured out how to post links to them yet.

E-mail me

Yes, you can actually email me:

Vasilia

Real Savvy Mom Blogger