If I inspired you, I've done my job!

December 05, 2011


I have changed my schedule at work lately and I had to rearrange my life a little bit as well. I haven't been posting for a while but I am planing to resume soon. Planning is a key word here…
Meanwhile, I'm "gnawing the granite of knowledge" as a diligent self-learner, trying to re-design my blog layout. Stay tuned to see what I come up with…
For now, you can find my inspirations here

November 14, 2011

{Birch} Just Because

Мои перевёрнутые слёзы
В небо стекают стройными струйками
По белым стволам, мерцая простыми рисунками
Like inverted tears of mine
Draining down into the sky in slender streams
From white trunks, shimmering in simple patterns

November 02, 2011

October 24, 2011

Chili Con {MUCHO} Carne

So we had yet another frost warning. I interpret it this way: get your CHILLI on! It's easy. Really! Since I'm «cheating» by using canned beans, I decided to make my own chili powder…
I used the following:
  • 2-3 dried chilis (you can substitute it with 1/2 part cayenne pepper)
  • 1 part cumin seeds
  • 1 part coriander seeds
  • 1 part black peppercorns
  • 1 part dry oregano
  • 1 part cocoa powder
…and a little bit of elbow grease to crush it all in a mortar with pestle
If you don't want to sweat, use already grounded spices with the same proportions.
Now that you have your own powder, let's start the fire…
Step 1: In a dutch oven or heavy stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add 2 lb (mucho-mucho carne) of ground beef and brown it on a high heat. You can use the potato masher to separate the meat. Add 1 teaspoon of chili powder.
Step 2: Add vegetables: 1 cup chopped carrots, 1 cup chopped celery, 1 cup chopped onions, 2 chopped jalapeños (seeded). Mix, lower the heat to medium and sauté for 10 minutes. Add another 1 teaspoon of chili powder.
Step 3: Now add 3 generous tablespoons of tomato paste, mix, cover and simmer for another 2 minutes.
Step 4: Time to add 2 cans of diced tomatoes, with its juice. Mix it all well and continue to simmer until all heated through, for about 10 minutes.
Step 5: Empty two 16 oz cans of beans of your choice {I usually use kidney and pinto} into the strainer and rinse them with cold water. Add to chili. Add another 1 teaspoon of chili powder, if you like. Lower the heat to low and simmer uncovered until ready to eat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
That's it! Serving suggestions: a dollop of sour cream, a couple of table spoons of shredded cheddar cheese, pita bread, chips or cooked rice.
I purposely did not add any salt, because the tomato paste, canned tomatoes and canned beans have enough for my taste. You can adjust salt to your own liking…

The chill is gone for now, the chili, too! Gone before I was able to take any serving pictures! But I know I will be making more. The weather prognoses disposes for more chili!

October 13, 2011

Easy As Apple…

…pie? No, apple pie is not THAT easy to make. This phrase should be: Easy as apple sauce! Because this tasty concoction, that usually bought from store, is very easy to make at home. All you need is some freshly picked apples, a little water and sugar+spice, if you want. And a pair or two of helping hands. That makes it perfect to cook with kids. Depending on the age, they can help you peel, core and slice the apples.

You will also need a roomy sauce pan, depending on how much sauce you are going to make. If you make extra, it can easily be stored in an air tight container in a refrigerator for weeks.

This recipe makes about 2 quarts of apple sauce.

Easy Apple Sauce

6 medium to large golden delicious (or any variety) apples
2 T spoons brown sugar*
1 stick of cinnamon (or 2 t spoons of ground)
Some water
  • Wash, peel, core and slice apples (that's when you will need that extra set of hands)
  • Add water to the sauce pan to cover the bottom for about 1/2 inch, put it over the medium heat; throw in sugar and cinnamon
  • Start adding chopped apples, cook, stirring occasionally, until they all soft and mushed; takes about 20-30 minutes
  • You may mush them more, if you like it smooth; I leave it as it is for I like chunks…
*you might want to add more sugar if using sour apples.

That's all falks! Now pack some of this fresh yumminess into your lunch bag and enjoy!

October 05, 2011

{FALLiage} Almost/WordlesWednesday

Октябрь уж наступил — уж роща отряхает
Последние листы с нагих своих ветвей;
Дохнул осенний хлад — дорога промерзает.
Журча еще бежит за мельницу ручей,
Но пруд уже застыл; сосед мой поспешает
В отъезжие поля с охотою своей,
И страждут озими от бешеной забавы,
И будит лай собак уснувшие дубравы.
Унылая пора! очей очарованье!
Приятна мне твоя прощальная краса —
Люблю я пышное природы увяданье,
В багрец и в золото одетые леса,
В их сенях ветра шум и свежее дыханье,
И мглой волнистою покрыты небеса,
И редкий солнца луч, и первые морозы,
И отдаленные седой зимы угрозы.
И с каждой осенью я расцветаю вновь;
Здоровью моему полезен русской холод;
К привычкам бытия вновь чувствую любовь:
Чредой слетает сон, чредой находит голод;
Легко и радостно играет в сердце кровь,
Желания кипят — я снова счастлив, молод,
Я снова жизни полн — таков мой организм
(Извольте мне простить ненужный прозаизм).
{А. С. Пушкин}
October has arrived - the woods have tossed
Their final leaves from naked branches;
A breath of autumn chill - the road begins to freeze,
The stream still murmurs as it passes by the mill,
The pond, however's frozen; and my neighbor hastens
to his far-flung fields with all the members of his hunt.
The winter wheat will suffer from this wild fun,
And baying hounds awake the slumbering groves.
A melancholy time! So charming to the eye!
Your beauty in its parting pleases me -
I love the lavish withering of nature,
The gold and scarlet raiment of the woods,
The crisp wind rustling o'er their threshold,
The sky engulfed by tides of rippled gloom,
The sun's scarce rays, approaching frosts,
And gray-haired winter threatening from afar.
When autumn comes, I bloom anew;
The Russian frost does wonders for my health;
Anew I fall in love with life's routine:
Betimes I'm soothed by dreams, betimes by hunger caught;
The blood flows free and easy in my heart,
Abrim with passion; once again, I'm happy, young,
I'm full of life - such is my organism
(Excuse me for this awful prosaism)
{Pushkin A. S.}

October 04, 2011

Apples for Breakfast

How about apples for breakfast? I agree, that they are fine they way they are, but pancakes are fun!

Whole Wheat Apple Pancakes
Makes 12 3˝–4˝ pancakes

1 large apple, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup milk, preferably at room temperature
1 egg, beaten
1 t spoon vanilla extract
1 T spoon sugar
2 T spoons vegetable oil

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 t spoon baking soda
1 1/2 t spoon baking powder
1 t spoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
  • Combine all the wet ingredients in one bowl, whisk together;
  • Combine all the dry ingredients in another bowl, mix;
  • Mix together wet and dry, whisk a little bit (don't over-mix) and let the batter rest while you prepare the griddle (if using an electric griddle, heat to 350°F);
  • Ladle 1/4 cup of batter on a hot griddle, fry for 3 minutes and when the bubble appear, flip to fry for another 3 minutes;
Serve topped with some home-made butter and drizzled with honey.

October 02, 2011

Golden Delicious. Golden & Delicious!

This last Saturday we finally got a chance to go apple picking. Every year we pilgrimage to an apple orchard near by, sometimes several times during the apple picking season. Alas, not this year. Due to the constant rain and literally outflowing problems we were only able to take a trip to the Northhampton county for the first time this past Saturday, October 1! Despite the more than 50/50 certainty of rain, it was a nice overcast day bracketed between this never ending rain. So we took advantage to set off on a delicious adventure, Golden Delicious!

We climbed and jumped down, ran around and sampled fresh air and apples and brought home tons of crispy Gold Delicious, which are abundant this time, and some bumpy Red Delicious as well.

So it is obvious that I will be writing about apples this month, or rather about apple recipes…

And let me start with a dessert: thinly sliced baked apples resting on a vanilla cloud…

It is called Charlotte. No, I didn't give it its name. I have no idea why it's called this way, and I don't feel like doing any research, since I already know all I need: it is a quick and easy delicious dessert recipe!

By adding some cinnamon I adjusted a popular version a bit. The preparation is very quick and takes way less time than to type the recipe here…

~Charlotte~ An Apple Dessert

2 medium golden delicious (or any sweet variety) apples
some lemon juice
1 t spoon cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 t spoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 T spoon butter for preparing the spring pan
+some more flour for dusting

1 T spoon confectioner's sugar, if desired
  • Peel, core and thinly (≈1/4˝) slice them. Drizzle the lemon juice over the apples to prevent from browning and then sprinkle with cinnamon.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter the spring form (or any other dark* cake pan) and dust with some flour. You might avoid it altogether if you're using non-stick baking spray, I don't use it and don't recommend, but if you're accustomed to it, go ahead…
  • In a bowl, beat the eggs+vanilla until they foam, for about 3 minutes on high speed. Gradually add the sugar, continuing beating but now on a medium speed. After all the sugar is added, beat for another 2 minuted on a high speed.
  • Turn the mixer off, sift the flour into the egg mixture. Slowly beat it together until all combined.
  • Pour the batter into prepared pan, top with apples and bake for 30-35 minutes or until inserted into the center toothpick comes out clean. Cool.
  • Dust with some confectioner's sugar if desired…
Enjoy this deliciously golden and easy dessert!

*The time is for a dark metal pan.

September 28, 2011

September 23, 2011

Lingering the Roasted Summer Taste

Before we kiss the summer harvest good-bye, I want to share this new recipe. It is a perfect treat for a rainy early autumn days yet a tasteful reminder of summer. The pungent taste of the bell peppers, which are still available at the farm marked, is the perfect summer taste that I want to hold on to. Let it linger, just a little more…

I came across a picture of this recipe somewhere online and since I had an overload of heirloom bell peppers, I couldn't resist not to try it. I would say I heavily adapted it for I didn't even bother reading the recipe, I was too inspired and exited to make this soup.
To counterpart the taste of bell peppers, I used fresh celery, which is also still abundant at the market. I used stems and leaves, which given my soup its fresh note.

Roasted Pepper+Celery Soup
Serves 8-10
6 medium bell peppers
2-3 celery stalks+leaves, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2 T spoons olive oil
6 cups water/stalk
Salt+Pepper to taste

• Preheat the oven 450° F. Wash peppers
• Line peppers on a shallow cooking sheet, roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes
• Place the peppers in brown paper bags and let cool. When cool, peel the peppers collecting the juices and discarding the seeds and stems
• In a pot, heat the oil and sauté onions and celery for 5 minutes over medium heat
• Add peppers with the juice. Sauté for another 5 minutes
• Add water, bring to boil over high heat. When boiled, add salt+pepper
• Remove from heat and blend with an emersion blender or in stand-up blender in batches
• Serve with some fresh celery, peppers and your favorite bread
Summer is gone, but we can still savor its flavor even if for a little while…

September 15, 2011

Fall is afoot…

Busy time it is for many of us: school, harvest, bidding good-byes to the summer season.

I've been preoccupied with illustration work and page layout. So I'm sharing some with you…

These are fall themed coloring pages. Kids love to color and mothers love the time when the little ones are occupied… enjoy!

Just click on each image to open in a new window and download it to your computer and then print.

More ideas and recipes are coming soon!

August 11, 2011

Piccolo Amore

Have you ever thought about how certain words provoke particular associations? Probably not if you speak only one language. But for a bi—or multi—lingual individual this could be a daily practice.

I first started thinking about this a little while ago while interpreting one of the conversations from English to Russian and back. The lady said “Я поела огурец”//”I ate cucumber” and as soon as I heard the word “огурец”, which is Russian for “cucumber” I had an image in my head of a crisp, cool and watery—this is how I remembered cucumbers from the childhood—green vegetable, associations that are so strong I could almost feel the cucumber on my teeth!

Word “cucumber”, meaning of which is quite clear to me, still does not awake such associations as its Russian translation.

Now the word "pickle" brings yet another association, quite different too.

I know the song isn't about pickles but about love. I love pickles, always have. And this year, I braved to make my own.

The process turned out easier than I though. And the outcome was out of this world! And by “this world” I mean this side of the globe—I have never eaten such pickles here. But I was indulging in store bought varieties, so it’s no surprise.

Another way we experience associations is trough our taste buds. Once I took a bite of these home made pickles, I was transported in time back to the street markets of my hometown where old ladies were selling semi-sours from the large buckets.

Pickles Lacto-fermenting

You will need:

A 5 gallon paint bucket with lid (new, never used for paint, buy it in the paint supply aisle of your home improvement store)
A large pot 8 or 12 quart
10 pounds medium pickles (4˝ to 6˝ long), washed
6 quarts of water
1 cup minus 2 T spoons pickling or kosher salt
About a dozen fresh grape leaves—they keep the crunch
1 bunch of dill weeds, washed
1 head of garlic, peeled
1 T spoon coriander seeds
1 T spoon dill seeds
1 T spoon black peppercorns
5-6 dry chili peppers (optional)

*Keep cucumbers in cold water overnight for freshness*

  • In the bucket, layer washed grape leaves on the bottom to cover. Put in washed pickles, dill, garlic and spices.
  • In the pot, bring water and salt to boil. Slowly pour boiling water over the pickles into the bucket.
  • Close the bucket and keep it in a dry cool place. In 5 days you can open and skim the pickles as well as sample some semi-sours.

And that’s it for Piccolo amore!

August 04, 2011

The Cook's Soul

I love proverbs and saying from different cultures and in different languages. In Russia, we have yet another saying "Вкладывать душу" that literally translates to "put {one’s} soul in {something one does}”.

An imaginative little child that I was, when I first heard this phrase I tried to imagine how a person would put a piece of his soul in his project. It would look like a little cloud, emanating from the chest area, gently descending on a man's work, growing and smoothly enveloping the new creation, illuminating it from within.

As I matured, this saying became my guide. No matter what I do, I believe that a little particle of my soul always passes on to my work. On a bad day, when I complain about my daily rut, I remember that hologram I once had in my imagination when I was a child and instantly my perspective turns around. Because when you put your soul into something, you illuminate your creation as well as the process itself. I believe that you give or rather share life with your endeavors.

I also believe that soul is a flow of energy and everything has its own energy. When we touch the surface, we pass our own liveliness, creating a ripple effect. If we touch with kindness the ripples are smooth and soothing. We have an effect on everything we touch.

Now think about how we affect the food. When we cook, we pass our energy to the dish. That’s why it is even more important to pour your soul into your cooking. The food with soul is alive and potent whereas the commercially prepared food is weak and dead for most of the part. No wonder when we eat commercially prepared food, a.k.a. processed foods we often feel tired and sluggish.

When we cook, we get to share our soul, our heart and love with our dear ones. Machine has none of the above-mentioned qualities, at least since the last time I checked!

My dad’s cooking is a perfect example. He doesn’t cook often but when he does, he gives in wholeheartedly. Ever since I was little I enjoyed watching him cook: with love and kindness, he would carefully prepare the ingredients on a chopping board, making sure that each piece is equal to another. Then he would attentively combine everything over the element, creating a delicious dinner. It looked like he was in meditative state of mind. We always liked his cooking better than my moms, however, when confronted we were hesitant to admit it! He still cooks, alas even less often then before, but approaching his task with the same significance as ever.

One of my favorite dishes my dad cooks is a ragout of nightshades. We didn’t have a name for it until one day my husband told me that in Arabic cuisine they have a similar dish and its name is … The Cook’s Soul. Isn’t it poetic?

This time of the year, the nightshades are making appearance in the local gardens and farm markets. The nightshades are tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and potatoes. The latter one’s fruits aren’t eatable, of course—but it’s a story for another blog post …

The Cook's Soul
Serves 6
½ pound eggplants (2 medium)
½ pound tomatoes (3-4 medium)
½ pound bell peppers (2 large)
1 jalapeño pepper
2 medium carrots
1 medium onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 T spoon tomato paste
2 T spoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Prepare the eggplants: peel the skin if desired and dice the eggplants. I peel it with a julienne peeler (I think it’s the name of this gadget) so it is easier to cut through the skin. Put the diced eggplants in the colander and pour 1 teaspoon of coarse salt over to let the bitter juice run off.

2. Prepare the tomatoes: score a cross on the top of each tomato (the opposite pole from where the tomato is connected to the vine) and pour an entire teapot of boiling water over the tomatoes. Let cool and peel the skin starting at the incision. Put whole peeled tomatoes aside.

3. Prepare the peppers: cut the top off, remove seeds and membrane and then cut the pepper in 8 and then slice across. Slice it with the inner side up so knife goes through the pepper’s flesh effortlessly. Otherwise, the skin will be in a way. Repeat the same with jalapeño pepper, with caution, if using.

4. Chop onion and carrots and crush the garlic.

5. In a large skillet heat oil and add onion, carrot, garlic and peppers. Reduce heat to medium, cover and let it all sweat for 10 minutes. Remove the cover; add salt and freshly ground black pepper.

6. Add diced eggplants. Mix it all together, cover and let it sweat for another 10 minutes.

7. Meanwhile dice tomatoes, preserving the juice. Use a serrated knife but if you don't have one, you can use a stake knife to easily cut through tomatoes. When eggplant is almost all translucent, add diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Mix it, cover and let cook for another 10 minutes until all comes together and eggplants are completely cooked—they will not have any white left inside.

8. Serve with bread, rice, or another nightshade representative—boiled potatoes.

Here’s a piece of my soul in the Cook’s Soul!

August 01, 2011

School your children, but learn from them

In Russian, there's a saying "Старики, как дети", in English: "Old people are like children". This means that the old people behave like children. But if you think about it and consider different understanding, it could mean that for us, adults, old people are as valuable as children. We have to take care of them both, we have to protect them both, but most importantly, in my understanding, they both can teach us life lessons…

It is clear how one can learn from an elderly person, whose stories are brimmed with life experiences and valuable lessons. But, with all due respect to the elders, today I want to talk about children and what they can teach us while we're so busy schooling them.

Las weekend, we had a sleep over and there was seven children in my house for two joyful days. I couldn’t help myself but devote my entire Sunday to my amusing little guests. And I have to admit, I had the best time in so long!

They reminded me how it is to be a child; how to be imaginative; how to be innovative; how to give into the moment wholeheartedly.

Have you ever noticed how children look at the world around us? Everything is new, everything is exciting, and everything brings joy. Why do we stop viewing the world through the looking glass of our inner child?

You might say that as we grow older we become more responsible. And I do agree. But look at the root of this word: response. How can you response to or for something that you don’t even pay full attention to, something you do in autopilot mode?

The kids look at things they encounter in life with their full attention. A genuine interest is what becomes a little propeller for their little ever-inquiring minds.

Why do we stop inquiring? Is it because we think we have acquired?

As we mature, we loose these valuable skills, disregarding them as “childish” and “immature”. But our inner children never give up, waiting patiently for another chance to come forth, to remind us of simple joys and how easy it is to be happy.

The children can show us that there is so little needed to be happy. They don’t really care about having many toys or things they just want company. The rest is easily falls into place when they turn their imagination on! I barely dare myself to give anyone a parenting advise, but I must say, stop overwhelming your kids with acquisition so they can go on inquiring! Give them something they can do/make, or better yet create, not just have in possession. Give them an experience! It applies to us, adults, too.

This past Sunday, we filled our day with just joy and laughter. One of the girls came up with idea of DIY water slide. We cut up a wide strip of heavy duty plastic (I used a pool cover bubble plastic) and laid it on a sloped part of our backyard. We have arranged two garden hoses, one at the beginning and the other one in the middle, to create a fun water slide, as good as any store-bought one! I think it was a genial idea! (My body thought otherwise, waking up all beaten up next morning, but who cares?!)

When we got hungry, another guest of mine proposed we make pizza for lunch. As I was making excuses to why I can’t make pizza right now (don’t have yeast, can’t go to store with all of them, etc.) she said that we could use pita bread. And so we did.

I set up a pizza making station and we started to create our own culinary “masterpieces”. I chopped any veggie I found in my fridge or garden, shredded some mozzarella cheese and got the tomato sauce.

Kids layered the ingredients on top of the pita bread, finishing with some garlic powder and ground black pepper. We grilled the pizzas on the gas grill for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese was melted. Then, impatiently waited for it to cool down, enough to be able to chomp on it… it was good!

Find time in your life to let your inner child out of it’s “naughty corner” of our daily rut and you will gain a new, fresh, and happy perspective on life!