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Archive for April, 2009

Our Bunny is Too Cute…

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How can you resist this little guy?!

This is Tykovka, our bunny. If you’ve read the “About Me” page of this blog, then you’ve already met him. He likes to be really loud in the middle of the night – jumping back and forth in his cage, treating his hay ball like a punching bag, and sometimes flipping his plastic carrier over. It’s extremely annoying, but then something happens in the morning – he gets really sleepy and flops onto his side, rolling over like a cat or a dog, and he’s just WAY TOO CUTE – there’s no way anyone could hold a grudge against him 🙂

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(Tykovka wants you to excuse the fur-ball in his carrier… he hasn’t done his spring cleaning yet.)

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What a beautiful day in Boston!!! It’s only April and it was in the 80’s… I love the heat 🙂

Today, Stas and I woke up early (9am). After breakfast, he headed off to Orange for a day of skydiving and I went to the gym for some lifting (back & biceps) and cardio (3 miles on the treadmill). It was so nice to drive with all of the windows down and the radio turned up loud – I’ve missed that!

After a shower and lunch, I took a walk by the beach and then went grocery shopping.

It was a great day!

At the store, I picked up a package of chicken breasts. I had some mushrooms in the fridge that were about to go bad, so this recipe came to mind. It’s an old favorite of mine, because it’s quick and easy and doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. Most of the time, I have everything on hand.

The finished dish is good, but each time I make it, I remember how bland it is; it needs a little something extra. Next time, I’m going to deglaze the pot with some red wine after sauteeing the mushrooms.

Chicken with Tomatoes and Mushrooms
from the Martha Stewart  website

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14.5 ounces) stewed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large saucepan (with a lid), heat oil over medium-high heat; swirl to coat bottom of pan. Cook chicken, turning when it easily releases from the pan, until golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

sasoned chicken

sasoned chicken

browning the chicken

browning the chicken

2. Add mushrooms; cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. (this is where you could deglaze with some red wine!) Add garlic, tomatoes, and oregano. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until tomatoes have broken down, 10 to 15 minutes.

softening the mushrooms

softening the mushrooms

after adding tomatoes, garlic, oregano

after adding tomatoes, garlic, oregano

3. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pan; cover, and cook until chicken is opaque throughout, 5-10 minutes (this will depend on the thickness of your chicken). At the very end, I uncovered the pot, brought it to a low boil, and let some of the liquid evaporate.

Serves 4

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Golubtsi are stuffed cabbage rolls. Growing up, my Nana made them every so often, and we called them “golumpkies” (the Polish pronounciation).

She didn’t made them very often (probably because they take some time to make), but when she did, it was an ‘event’ – people got excited about it… except for me; I never liked them. The smell, the taste – nothing about them appealed to me. I was always much happier with my plate of macaroni and cheese.

Fast forward to a few years ago when I learned that “golumpkies” weren’t just a Polish dish – there was a Russian version as well – “golubtsi”. And it turned out to be one of Stas’ favorites.

The recipe I use comes from my Russian cookbook called “Please to the Table”. The first time I made it, I had my parents and Nana over. I was so nervous for them to turn out well and I recall the process being very long and tedious. The result? My Nana declared them to be the best she has ever tasted! And she loved them enough to rave about them to friends and family.

The second time I made the recipe, I ended up in tears. I had a difficult head of cabbage and could not seem to peel the leaves off without them tearing on me.

By the third time, I had a new plan of attack – instead of taking the leaves off and then boiling them, I boiled the whole head and then peeled. It worked wonders! But it still took a lot of time.

Tonight was my fourth attempt at golubtsi and I think I’ve mastered them. Removing the leaves was a piece of cake, and the whole process took way less time and effort than I remembered.

… all very lucky for Stas because this means I’ll be making them more often!

Golubtsi
adapted from “Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook”

Stuffing

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 ounces ground beef
  • 6 ounces ground pork
  • 1/2 cup *cooked* long-grain rice
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/3 cup canned beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Cabbage and Sauce

  • 1 large head of green cabbage (you’ll need 10-14 cabbage leaves)
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • ground black pepper, to taste

1. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until browned, 8-10 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, combine the meats, onion, and remaining stuffing ingredients. Knead until thoroughly blended. Set aside.

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meat mixture

3. Place a head of cabbage in a pot of salted boiling water for abot 5 minutes. Remove the head and peel off the whole leaves, one by one. You may need to stick the head of cabbage back in the water as you remove more leaves. Drain the leaves thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.

4. Run a sharp knife parallel down the tough center vein of each cabbage length, to thin it. Divide the stuffing into equal portions. Place a portion on the base of each leaf, tuck in the sides, and roll the leaves up, tucking in the sides firmly as you roll.

5. In a large oven-proof casserole or Dutch oven that will accomodate all of the rolls, heat the oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Spread flour on a plate and roll the cabbage rolls in it, then place them in the casserole/Dutch oven, seam side down. Brown the rolls on all sides until deeply colored, about 15 minuts.

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just placed into the pan

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browned on one side

6. Heat the stock in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the tomato paste, ketchup, and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Add the mixture to the casserole. The liquid should cover the rolls completely – if it does not, add more beef stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.

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after adding the liquid

7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

8. Increase the heat under the casserole to high, uncoverm and let the liquid boil until it is somewhat reduced, about 5 minutes. Place it in the oven and bake, uncovered, until the liquid reduces even further, about 25 minutes.

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boiling the liquid

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done!

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a close-up

serves 4 to 6
(or if you’re Stas, serves 2!)

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I love fish! My favorite is raw fish (sashimi), but I’ll settle for cooked as well 🙂  And for Stas, the fish has to be really really cooked!!

Last night I stopped at the grocery store for CHEESE (I looooove cheese – I’m a cheese addict) and saw salmon fillets on sale. I immediately thought of a recipe in the current issue of Cooking Light that I had flagged – so I bought a 1lb. fillet.

The dish was incredibly easy and fast to make, and it was delicious! I’ll definitely be making this again.

I gave Stas the thinner side of the fillet – to be sure that he got the “more cooked” side. (Seriously, he loves his fish over-cooked. He doesn’t know what he’s missing 🙂 )

Cooking Light also recommends this glaze for pork tenderloin or boneless,skinless chicken thighs.

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Salmon with Maple-Lemon Glaze
adapted from Cooking Light, April 2009

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (real) maple syrup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1lb. salmon fillet (original recipe called for 4 6-ounce fillets)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
cooking spray

1. Preheat broiler

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add fish to bag and refrigerate 10 minutes, turning bag once.

3. Remove fish from bag, reserving marinade. Place marinade in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute.

4. Heat a large *ovenproof* nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish evenly with salt and pepper. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish to pan, skin side up; cook 3 minutes. Turn fish over. Brush marinade evenly over fish. Broil 3 minutes, or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, or until desired degree of doneness.

Serves 2-3 (original recipe with 4 6-ounce fillets serves 4)

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My mom makes the *best* seafood stew. She got the recipe from an old coworker and passed it town to me a year or so ago. But I confess that I’ve never actually used that recipe. It’s a recipe that you need to really shop for (lots of ingredients that you don’t normally have on hand) – and I always forget about it when I’m making my weekly grocery list. The other downside to her recipe is that it’s time-consuming.

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I found a recipe that takes care of both. Sure, I still had to go out and buy some ingredients- like the fresh seafood and clam juice- but not enough to rack up a huge grocery bill. As for time? This cioppino only took about 30 minutes to make! And it was delicious!

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My mom’s seafood stew still reigns supreme, but my new quick cioppino is almost as good and is a great substitute when I’m short on time and money!

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Quick Cioppino
adapted from Cooking Light, May 2003

2  teaspoons  olive oil
1/2  to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4  garlic cloves, finely chopped
3  cups  clam juice
1  cup  water
1/2  cup  finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2  teaspoon  dried basil
1/4  teaspoon  dried thyme
1  (24-ounce) bottle tomato-and-basil pasta sauce (such as Bertolli)
16  littleneck clams
1/2  cup  dry white wine
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
1  pound  cod or other lean whitefish fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2  pound  medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2  cups  torn spinach

(optional: mussels, scallops)

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; sauté 30 seconds.

Stir in clam juice and next 5 ingredients (clam juice through pasta sauce.)

Add clams. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until shells open. (Discard any unopened shells.)

Add wine and next 4 ingredients (wine through shrimp); simmer 5 minutes or until fish and shrimp are done.

Stir in spinach.

serves 8

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The original recipe called for mussels, but Shaw’s didn’t have any, so I used extra shrimp. You can use whatever seafood is fresh and available.

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Tuxedos

On Saturday, we went to Men’s Wearhouse to pick out tuxedos.  Stas insisted that it was way too early to be thinking about tuxes (the wedding is a little less than 5 months away), but he was a good sport!

We chose Men’s Wearhouse because they have locations all around the state (and country), so it will be easy for the guys to get fitted wherever and whenever is most convenient. They now have until August 21 to be fitted… plenty of time!

Originally, I wanted to have the men in champagne-colored suits. But then I decided that I really wanted them in traditional tuxedoes – I think it will look more sophisticated and tie in with the whole look and feel of the wedding much better.

I also wanted the groomsmen to wear light blush pink ties and vests. But the pink swatches were all wrong – way too bright – so we put them in champagne instead. (The groomsmen will be very happy about this!)

The groom – my handsome Stas 🙂 – will be wearing ivory to match me.

The groom's tux

The groom's tux (ivory)

Groomsmen (champagne)

Groomsmen (champagne)

Here are the details:

  • Calvin Klein One-Button Super 100’s Peak Lapel
  • Microfiber Ivory Point Collar Shirt
  • Tuscany Ivory Vest (groom)
  • Geometrics Champagne Vest (groomsmen)
  • Black/Silver Stud & Cufflink Set
  • Black Round-Toe Shoe

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Tongue!

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tongue: take 1

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tongue: take 2

When I first met Stas, I was vegetarian – and the mere thought of eating tongue grossed me out beyond belief. Even after I started eating meet (Valentine’s Day 2007), tongue was still pretty damn disgusting to me. But I’d cook it anyway – cow tongue, veal tongue, pig tongue. You’d be very surprised by the variety of tongues out there! (I know I was).

I don’t remember exactly when I started enjoying tongue, but I’m almost positive that it was during our last trip to Ukraine, in September ’08. I think because it was one of the few ‘safe’ things for me to order at restaurants there – I knew it wouldn’t be fried or covered in sour cream sauce. It would come on a big platter, sliced ever-so-thinly, with a side of horseradish. So tender and juicy and unlike any other flavor. Yum!

Cooking tongue is not for the squeamish – first of all, it has a very strong smell when you boil it (and you need to boil it for a long time), and second of all, you need to peel it once it’s done cooking.

But if you can get past all of that, then you NEED to try this. You won’t believe how GOOD it is. I guarantee that it’ll be come a favorite 🙂

Boiled Tongue

I generally don’t use a recipe when I make tongue…

Rinse the raw tongue under cold water/

Place some celery, carrots, parsley, whole peppercorns, salt, 1 bay leaf, and 1 tongue (I used veal tongue) in a large pot. Fill with water.

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pre-tongue

veal tongue

veal tongue

Cover halfway and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook for 1.5-2 hours. (larger cow tongue will need to cook for 2-3 hours).

Once it is finished, drain and place tongue in a colander to cool.

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after boiling

Peel the outer portion of the tongue.

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starting to peel the tongue

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after peeling

Slice thinly and serve with horseradish!

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The tip is the leanest (and cleanest) part. As you get closer to the other end, there will be some ‘gunk’ to clean off from the underside.

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Stas loves the tip! (this used to gross me out SO much!!!)

Enjoy!!!

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