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Cabbage Casserole

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If you like Cabbage Rolls you will love this dish. Another name for it is Lazy Cabbage Rolls – the same ingredients, but no rolling. It’s a very light meal, and you can make it  without rice and/or without meat for even lighter version.  If you go for a vegetarian version you can add mushrooms to the mix. Don’t be scared by a lot of ingredients – it doesn’t take long to prepare and it’s very easy to make .

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack of Ground Turkey (or chicken, or beef)
  • 1 cup of Rice (any rice you like, I use brown rice)
  • 1 cup of Chicken Broth or hot boiled water (I use water)
  • 1 big head of Cabbage
  • 1 big Onion
  • 3-4 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 pound Tomatoes, diced (or 1 can of diced tomatoes)
  • 1 pound of Sweet Colored Peppers, diced
  • 1 big Carrot, peeled and shredded (or 1-2 handfuls of store bought matchstick carrots)
  • 1-2 stalks of Celery, peeled and diced
  • Olive Oil, salt, pepper to taste
  • Curry (Optional)

Cooking instructions:

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Add ground turkey to  a skillet with heated olive oil, break it into small pieces as much as you can, let it cook, stirring,  until it’s no longer pink. Meanwhile, in another skillet cook onion and garlic until it’s golden brown,  add it to turkey, salt and pepper it (I also sprinkle it with Curry that I love so much, and it’s a very healthy spice),  add chicken broth or water, cover and let it cook for about 30 minutes. Add  rice (if you use it), I also add some shredded carrots to it,  mix it well and cook it all together, stirring once in a while, for about 5 min.

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Meanwhile start shredding cabbage and dicing vegetables. Keep shredded cabbage and diced mixed vegetables in different bowls. Add half of shredded cabbage to a pot you’ll be cooking in, salt it and give it a little squeeze, place half of diced mixed vegetables on top of cabbage, half of tomatoes,

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then add cooked meat mixture, then cabbage again, the other half of mixed vegetables and another half of tomatoes. Add some chicken broth or hot water to it, so it wouldn’t stick to the bottom, cover it and let it cook for about 1-1,2 hours. That’s it, it’s ready to eat. It’s delicious if you serve it with sour cream on top. It can be a  a side vegetarian dish if cooked without meat.

Buckwheat cereal (kasha)

Buckwheat is a very healthy grain, very good for you, and cooking it is very easy.  You can eat it with cold or hot milk, with or without sugar, or you can heat it in a skillet with some olive oil and use it on a side with meat dishes.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups buckwheat
  • water (1/2 inch above buckwheat)
  • salt

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Wash buckwheat in a pot you’ll be cooking it in. Wash it well, about 4-5 times, until the water runs clear. Add salt and enough water to cover it + another 1/2 inch.

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Cover the pot, place it in the oven, let it cook for about 90 minutes on 250F. Done. I leave it in the oven for a little while after I turn it off. Eat it with chicken broth or with milk:

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Potato Salad with Smoked Fish

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This is another variation of potato salad, it’s made with smoked fish. There are two kinds of smoked fish – hot smoked and cold smoked. Hot smoked fish crumbles, cold smoked fish does not, it has a smooth texture (lox, for example). Smoked Whiting fish is the first kind,  it crumbles.

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Ingredients:

  • 3-4 boiled potatoes, peeled and diced (boil them with skin on, cool completely)
  • Smoked Whiting fish, crumbled (I used both that you see on the picture)
  • 3-4 pickles, diced
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • parsley and dill, chopped
  • Mayonnaise and sour cream (equal parts, just enough to make the salad moist)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything, and you are done!

Sponge Cake with Raspberry and Apricot filling

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Sponge cake is a cake that you can eat just out of the oven, or you can make all kinds of beautiful and delicious cakes and deserts with it. It’s easy to make. Three basic ingredients for a sponge cake are eggs, sugar and flour. This time I added vanilla, lemon rind and a bit of cornstarch to it. I found this recipe in an old magazine and it turned out great!

Ingredients for sponge cake:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of flour (minus 1 tsp if you use cornstarch)
  • 1 tsp of cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • grind from 1 lemon (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla powder (or 1/2 tsp liquid vanilla) (optional)

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1,5 cup raspberries
  • 2 small cans or 1 big can (29 oz) of apricots
  • 1 cup of small curd cottage cheese (farmer cheese is best, I used homemade cottage cheese)
  • 150 gram sugar
  • 18 gram gelatine powder (3 envelopes)
  • grind from 1 lemon
  • lemon juice from 2 lemons
  • 400 ml (1 pint) whipping cream
  • some coconut flakes for garnish

Syrup for soaking the sponge cake:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar (1/2 or 1 cup for a thicker syrup if you prefer)
  • 2 tbsp rum or brandy

Making instructions:

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Line  baking spring-form with parchment paper. Heat the oven to 350F.

Separate egg whites from egg yokes into two different bowls. Be careful not let any yoke droplets into the whites.

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Beat egg whites until frothy and somewhat stiff, continue beating adding sugar until you used half of sugar, beat it on high speed until thick stiff peaks are forming.

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Beat egg yokes until they become frothy, continue beating adding the rest of the sugar, lemon grind and vanilla until it becomes smooth and thick. Put your mixer away. From now on use only a wooden spoon or spatula.

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Carefully fold egg yokes mixture into egg white mixture working from the sides, not just mixing it like you would normally do. When it’s all smooth and uniformed start adding flour using the same motion from the sides of the bowl.

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Pour the batter into the form and bake it for about 30-35min. The cake is done when you gently press the center and it springs back immediately.

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Place it onto a wire rack to let cool completely before you can cut it in two, soak it with  syrup and add filling.

Now, this was a traditional way of making sponge cake, and that’s exactly how I made it the first time. Then I experimented – I mixed everything together in one big bowl, sprayed spring form with baking spray,  poured batter into it and baked about 30 min at 350F, and it worked for me just fine,  it’s  also much faster.

Making syrup

Bring water and sugar to a boil, let it boil until all sugar is dissolved (about 1-2min), let it cool, add rum or brandy to it. It’s ready for soaking the cake. Place the bottom part of the cake on the serving plate, and the top of it on another plate upside down. Use a spoon, a brush or a cup with a spout to do it. Keep a little of the syrup to use is on the top of the cake before you spread the top layer of filling.

How to make a filling

  • Cream together cottage cheese, sugar, lemon juice and lemon rind.
  • Drain apricots, catching the liquid in a bowl.  Puree apricots in one bowl (reserve a few for garnish), and raspberries in another bowl.
  • Mix gelatine with 3-5 tbsp apricot liquid in a small pot, place it on medium heat and dissolve it stirring it constantly.
  • Stir gelatine into cottage cheese mixture, allow to cool, mix one half of it with pureed raspberries, and another half – with pureed apricots.
  • Shortly before both raspberry and apricot cream start to set (just wait a few minutes), beat the whipping cream until it’s stiff, mix half of it with raspberry mix and another half with apricot mix.
  • Spread raspberry cream on the bottom part of the cake, cover it with the top part, soak with leftover syrup if you have it, and spread apricot cream on top and on the sides of the cake.
  • Sprinkle it all over with coconut flakes, tilt the plate a little to get the sides, garnish with apricots.

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I know, it looks like a lot of work, but it’s much easier than it sounds. It’s delicious and light. Keep it in the fridge for at least couple of hours before serving. I make it a day ahead.

Beauty tips

1. Lipstick does not go well on dry lips. Use chap-stick or lip-smacker 10 minutes prior to applying lipstick. I always do it before applying any makeup, and lipstick goes on at the end.

2. If you have dry skin try using sour cream once or twice a week – apply it on clean skin, wash it off with warm water after 10-15 minutes, follow up with your favorite moisturizer.  Sour cream is natural product, it’s a very inexpensive way to take care of your skin and goes a long way.

3. If your finger nails are brittle and crack easily switch to hand cream that has either lactic acid or urea in it. I have read it in a Home Medicine book when no doctor could help me. I’ve been using for years Dead Sea Minerals brand, and love it. I also use nail growth system called Rejuvacote from Duri cosmetics, it’s like a transparent nail polish, very nice. These two things have done wonders for me over the years. Give it a try.

Cherry-Apple Cider Jello

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This is a different kind of jello, it has funny ingredients in it – like celery, walnuts and cream cheese. Many years ago a friend shared it with me and I love it since.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can sweet dark cherries (cut in halves)
  • 1 6 oz package cherry jello
  • 2 cups apple cider or juice
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 1/2 up chopped walnuts
  • 3 oz Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 8 oz apple sauce

Directions:

Bring apple cider or juice to boil. Take it off the stove, add  cherry jello powder and stir it until it dissolves. Open can with cherries. Keep the liquid and add enough water to it to make 1,5 cups. Add this liquid to the jello and stir it. Take out 2 cups and keep it at room temperature. Put the rest of the liquid into the bowl and into the fridge. Let it set half way, add cherries, walnuts and celery, mix well and transfer it back to the fridge until it’s completely set.

Mix soft cream cheese with 2 cups of jello mix (that was kept at room temperature) until it’s smooth, stir in apple sauce and pour it on top of completely set jello. Leave it in the fridge for at least 2 hours. I always do it the day ahead. To serve: turn it over onto serving plate, cover the bowl with wet hot towel so the jello would come out easier.

Fritata

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Fritata is  a great for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I think there is no hard set recipe for it, the main ingredient is eggs, but the rest is up to you, you can make it with anything you have handy. Use the idea of fritata and feel free to experiment. And the idea is simple – it’s a fancy omelet with  vegetables and may be ham or leftover cooked ground beef/chicken/turkey. Here is how I made it today for breakfast with the ingredients I had in my fridge.

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Ingredients (that I had handy):

  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cream (heavy whipping cream or half-and-half)
  • parmesan cheese
  • onion, peeled and diced
  • garlic, minced
  • few slices of ham,  diced
  • parsley
  • some sweet peppers, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 boiled potatoes, peeled and and cut into circles
  • salt, pepper to taste

Making instructions:

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Cook onions and garlic in some olive oil until just start getting golden, add ham and vegetables, cook together for a couple of minutes.  Smear baking dish with a little olive oil, cover the bottom with potato slices, spread vegetable mixture on top.  Beat eggs with some salt, pepper and whipping cream, stir some cheese into it, pour it over vegetable mixture, sprinkle some more cheese on top and bake for about 30 minutes at 350F. It should be golden brown and the middle of it should be set. That’s it, you are  done.

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Pears in Wine

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This is a wonderful desert recipe from my French cooking book – just in time for Christmas! Of course I added my magic touch to it but the idea is all French. It’s perfect for any celebration, it looks beautiful,  it’s  so easy to make and at the end you have both – sophisticated desert and Glentwein (or Gluhwein, or Mulled wine) - hot spiced wine is so good on a cold day!

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Ingredients:

  • Pears, peeled
  • Bottle of red wine (1,5 Liter for those 10 pears on the picture)
  • 1 – 1,5 cup of sugar
  • Spices – whole cloves,  cinnamon,  star anise, all spice, vanilla
  • orange and lemon rind
  • juice from 1/2 lemon or lemon slices
  • Whipped cream for garnish

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Instructions:

Choose hard pears, I like Bosc pears. Make sure they don’t have any soft spots and the stem is attached.

Peel them with potato peeler, I find it easier to do in vertical motion, leaving the stem attached. Cut off a little from the bottom of each pear so they could stand on the plate.

Bring wine in a big pot to a boil , add all ingredients, let sugar dissolve, add pears, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 1 hour; they will float so once in a while pour some wine on them with a ladle.

To make sauce transfer some of the hot wine into a smaller pan, let it simmer for 30-40 minutes to reduce it until it gets thicker.

Place on a plate with some whipped cream, pour a little sauce over the pear - it’s ready to be served. Enjoy!

Vegetable salad (Vinaigrette)

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This is traditional  Russian (and European) vegetable salad, very easy to make and very tasty. The name Vinaigrette is a french name that means vinegar dressing (vinegar, olive oil and mustard) which was used for this salad in the past. Now days only olive oil and may be some vinegar is used.  You should use about the same amount of vegetables, but a bit less carrots. And it should be diced into pretty small (about 1/4 inch) pieces.

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Ingredients:

  • 4-5 potatoes, boiled with skin on, cooled, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 carrots,  boiled with skin on, cooled, peeled and diced
  • 4-6 medium size beets (boiled with skin on, cooled, peeled and diced (I prefer to steam them though)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 3-5 pickles, diced
  • 1-2 cups sauerkraut
  • olive oil and salt to taste
  • 1 can peas, drained (optional)

Directions:

Mix everything in a big bowl, add some olive oil and salt. Done.

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Tips:

  • It’s best to boil or steam vegetables 1-2 days day prior, drain the water, cool them, cover and keep in the fridge overnight. This way it’s much easier to peel and dice them.
  • If you’d like your vinaigrette to be more sharp add a little vinegar.

Chicken with dry apricots, prunes and walnuts (Chakhokhbili)

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Here is one more way to make an easy and delicious chicken. It’s based on Georgian dish called Chakhokhbili (with the strike on the last part of the word – chakhokh-bili). Georgia is a former Soviet republic, now is a separate country south of Russia, on the Black Sea. I love their cuisine, they use a lot of spices, tomatoes, wine and walnuts. Word chakhokhbili means stew made with pheasant (Georgian “khokhobi” translates into “pheasant”).  It can be made with any bird. I imagine you can make it with meat too, why not. This recipe is not an authentic one, this is MY way of making chakhokhbili. I almost always deviate from any recipe I come across, and make it my own and you can do the same – experiment! My additions were prunes (my Grandma cooked chicken with prunes, and I loved it), apricots and walnuts, you can skip it for more traditional chakhokhbili version.

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Ingredients:

  • chicken (any parts you like, I use drumsticks because my husband like them). I always remove the skin.
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or water
  • 2 tbsp Lutenica (sweet pepper paste, can be bought in European stores; optional)
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed and divided
  • 5-6 each dry apricots and prunes (I cut them in half)
  • parsley
  • handful of walnuts, chopped
  • spices – curry, coriander, basil, salt, pepper – sprinkle to taste

Cooking instructions:

  1.  Brown chicken in some olive oil, sprinkle it with salt, pepper and curry.
  2. In another skillet cook onions with half of garlic for a couple of minutes, add diced tomatoes, Lutenica (if you use it), wine, broth or water, coriander, basil, salt and pepper to taste, also add dry apricots and prunes. For more gravy add some wine and water.

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3. Pour tomato mix over chicken, chop together parsley and the rest of the garlic, sprinkle it over chicken along with walnuts, cover the skillet and let it cook for about 40-50 min. Serve it with rice, pasta or potatoes. Or have a really good bread for dipping, that gravy is delicious!

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