Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving - Harvest Feast

 I'm pretty new to the idea of Thanksgiving. It has been 10 years of learning this tradition , and still very is so much to discover. As a vegetarian I do have a little bit different approach to that day. No pressure on perfect turkey that day in my kitchen.

 The most essential part that I so adore the most about that day is mandatory rule for all family members to help out with cooking.  So far I didn't even have to ask for help, kids just flee the kitchen with joyful heartwarming need to help mama with preparation of the FEAST.  Oliver and Maya are pro potato peelers and really wish for bigger gatherings and more potato dishes. So far we are stuck with sweet potato fries, baked mini potatoes and mashed potatoes...they said that next year we should have two more variations.

  Amelie is definitely my pro chopper, she actually manged to make Waldorf  salad all by herself !

 Delicious Waldorf Salad was one of my finest discoveries of culinary adventures during  my very first Thanksgiving dinner.Simple recipe : celery, apples, raisins,walnuts, lettuce and yummy dressing mayo/ yogurt/ honey with a little bit of chives totally blends beautify with potato dishes or succotash.

Apple Waldorf salad recipe
  • 3 or 4 apples, unpeeled, cut from the core, and chopped into bite size pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 cup celery, cut in long sticks
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted taste better
  • 1/3 cup yougurt 
  • 2 table spoons of mayo
  •  honey, splash or 2 
  • pinch of salt
  • chives, as much as you wish 
  • lettuce , about 2 cups, shredded or chopped
Don’t bother peeling the apples unless their skins are really unattractive. Cut up 3 or 4 of them, until you get about 2-1/2 or 3 cups of chopped apples. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the apples. The acid in the lemon juice prevents the apples from turning brown. The raisins will taste best if you plump them first. Do this by measuring them into a cereal bowl and adding enough warm tap water to cover them completely. Allow them to sit for a few minutes, absorbing the water, and softening up. Drain them very well when you need them. I actually squeeze them to make sure they are very dry. Chop up the celery, it should take about 2 stalks or so.Toast walnuts in the oven on 350F for about 7 min. Mix everything together in a medium sized bowl with the mayonnaise, yogurt , honey and salt, coating all of the ingredients with the dressing. It is now ready to serve, or you can chill it overnight and serve it tomorrow instead. This is so crunchy and chewy, perfect sweet and tangy salad.

  Another  great family tradition for that day is baking those delicious Rolls Baked in a Jar . Kids skip the rosemary part, but it still tastes pretty awesome, and they love the idea of many little steps of baking that goodness ...of course with grand finally of pulling out the rolls from the jars.

 And yes, those yummy rolls go fantastically well  with cranberry sauce, that  kids make. Super easy recipe, fresh orange juice, cinnamon sticks, maple syrup , stir it here and very and hear it pop .

 One of my favorite foods for that day is fantastic succotash , traditional Native American food dish made with primarily of corn  and lima beans or other shell beans. The very first step is very important - blanching onions with butter ! that gives the whole dish a little bit of sweetness. After that add peppers, red or green, saute a little bit, add beans and corn, cook about 15 minutes. I like adding herbs as well, sage, thyme and oregano bring a nice earthy flavors of harvest season.

  We also have mushroom spinach tart, baked brussel sprouts with almonds ( yum), vegetarian gravy made with mushroom stock and nutritional yeast ( yes, that is super yum ).

   The grand finally for the evening is the glorious pumpkin pie made with assistance of Oliver -my sweet pastry chef  and Maya -dough rolling girl .

 Making vegetarian Thanksgiving feast is totally possible, it happens every year in my house. We celebrate our family with delicious foods giving thanks for a delightful harvest . And we let one turkey run wild.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adventures in Smorgasburg

 I do LOVE food, that is definitely one of my big passions, making it and eating it, and sharing that joy with my friends is the way I would spend the rest of my life I only could. Last weekend I was lucky enough to go for super exciting trip to my old neighborhood Williamsburg. The main reason was to experience the wonderful foods of Brooklyn's Flea Food Market - Smorgasburg  filled with local, fresh goods and  food/ health consciousness chefs, cooks, bakers. And yes, that was a very successful trip indeed. I'm so grateful to have a fantastic friend that shares the same love for food, she was my witness that all that amazing and delicious food was actually real, and it wasn't only my dream. It was truly difficult to taste all the goodness with only one stomach, but I must say we did manage to do a lot of tasting.

  My favorite food of all was homemade tempeh, absolutely amazing , I had to take extra home. Of course my little Maya the Sweet Tooth Princess was in heaven with the mini cupcakes and cookies that now I have to figure out how to make at home. This little sweet wheat free goodies called sandcastles are  on my 'baking challenge list'. Ingredient list is pretty simple : organic whole rye flour, organic extra virgin coconut oil , arrowroot , organic evaporated cane juice, sea salt, organic pumpkin seeds, organic Vermont maple sugar, organic cardamom, guar gum...adjusting proportion will be fun :). If anyone has an idea how to mix it all up , please let me know.
  Also kids had a great opportunity to taste fresh homemade kambucha.Yes, the face expressions were unforgettable, now we will be trying to grow some yummy tea at home. One of my friends has started his little production already, can't wait to taste it . I will be brewing my kambucha after holiday madness. Yes, it is pretty exciting for sure.

   Now we have to wait till spring for more adventures in Smorgasburg. The market is shutting down for the winter season. And during long winter afternoons I will try to replicate some of the greatest foods I have eaten .

Friday, November 11, 2011

Seasonal Baking Adventures

  Most likely everyone will agree that fall is absolutely perfect time for baking. My family definitely has that sort of instinct rooted deep in our taste buds. These days we are having lots of pies, cookies, brownies, muffins etc. Since the boys are home with me, they took over the title of my left and right hand assistant. And they usually will instigate and inspire all sorts of baking adventures in the house. I would say Oliver would be the right hand assistant  and the head of choosing the baking project and well, Gavin will be my left hand,  he doesn't have that much to say, but he  is absolutely crucial for a great outcome of the master piece ...and few spills here and very. I'm must say for sure that baking with this boys speeds up the whole process, now I wonder how soon they will take over my kitchen, and if I will be able to let them do that all the way.

  So far on the top of baking list is glorious Pumpkin Pie. I love using simple recipe for crust - Pate Brisee form Martha Stewart , which probably is a universal french pie dough invention with adorable name. Usually I will mix whole wheat flour with white flour 1:1, for health and crunch reasons. As it comes to pumpkin puree, we steam the squash and save the seeds for snacks. Some people like to bake pumpkin , hopefully one day I will try that technique  as well. And the secret  pie recipe that I have discovered about 5 years ago comes form this source . This recipe and website is super informative, whoever wrote that is a professional pie maker and loves his craft.

 Last Monday I have tried a little twist on traditional pie, we made many tiny and cute mini were in love and inhale half of the batch. And yes, we served this goodness with homemade whipped cream, and adding real vanilla instead of vanilla extract takes this whole baking and tasting adventure to level of highest yumminess.

 And after all this baking adventures, when all the kids are asleep and dreaming about pies, I sew away into Holiday Season. My newest addition to Holiday Collection turned out to be a super cute little red holiday tree garland, made with cozy red felt and scraps form my old  projects.Now I have only one more garland to make to complete my collection.  A little bit of felt and precious fabric scraps can really make people smile and be sentimental about Christmas. I'm so happy to make it happen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Madness

 Halloween - so far I don't really get why every year kids must go on the candy hunt and after that they  are willingly robbed by parents from all the trophy they harvested...  But I have to admit, I do love  the dress-up part of that day. And I do love the excuse to make the dresses for my girls . Every year I spent week of sleepless nights sewing away the creative process that just happens. It has been 9 years since I started to sew for Halloween,  I have learned so much trough out the whole process. In the beginning it was following the patterns, now I just make it happen. It all comes down to a little bit of practice, persistence and allowing your mind to bring your imagination into reality...and some good coffee at 5pm to make your creative juicy flowing after kids are in bed :).

  And the most rewording part is the big smile and sparkles in the eyes when kids wake up in the morning and see their dream dress come to life. I hope one day their will be able to bring they own dreams to life just like that.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Crafty Friday

  Again, I will start with the weather update- it's cold here. Yes, I spend last night in my sweater, I have officially opened fall season in my house. But, still hoping few dozens of tomatoes in my garden will ripen in my garden before the first frost.
  So today I'm having Super Crafty Friday, two sets of wish flags all done, one birthday crown in making...and yes, I'm planning in my head  pattern for a flamenco dress.Maybe I should start listening to some Spanish tunes for a inspiration. Back in day, I used to be very impressed by 'Madredeus', amazing Portuguese band that have been featured in Wim Wenders movie 'Lisbon Story' ... Yes, I can tell, all the memories rushing back right now when I'm listening to that, so yes it is not exactly Spain, but close enough to make me think of flamenco-like ideas. It would be great to get more recommendations, because during Halloween we might have a flamenco dance-off. 

 So besides overwhelming dress project, I have something little and sweet to work on- birthday crown for my friend's girl. She is a sweet pink loving girl, so the crown will be pinkish with cute little flowers, and I have found these cool tutorials on how to make felt/fabric flowers .It looks like fun, and pretty much sure Amelie will be working on this project as soon as she sees it. Pintrest is endless source of inspiration and ideas, check it out diy flowers.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Time for Fall - Halloween Countdown

   I've been waiting for fall many weeks already. I can't deny that I do enjoy those crazy hot days that we keep on having here. It almost makes me feel like we are on vacation in some sort of  imaginary land. Yes of course, it does feel nice to still be able to pick fresh tomatoes and basil form the garden in October! , but my inner sense of seasons is totally freaking out right now. First of all, I'm over dressing my kids, which is very bizarre situation, because consciously I'm really telling myself not to do that, and I'm still throwing sweaters at them every morning. Second, I can't really enjoy making and eating apple pie or pumpkin pie the way it is supposed to be done. And the most frustrating part is that I have been totally neglecting the fact that Halloween is almost next week ! I have fabrics for one flamenco dress so far, a really good looking pile of cute fabrics , now I have to put it together. That will be Maya's costume, and she needs it for next Friday.

             Hopefully tonight my Halloween fairies will give me some good inspiration for a pattern .

 Amelie's request for Halloween is a can-can dress...hmm, not necessary my first choice of outfit for a growing lady, but I do have to admit it is a cool dress, and I'm personally a big fan of ruffles.So far we have a head piece for her outfit, that's a big plus. Picking up fabric for this one will be a little bit challenging, because her vision is slightly different then mine ...and I do want to make her wear cool traditional  bloomers as well . Stay tuned for end of this story.

  And about the boys. I must say I'm totally impressed with Oliver, he got himself an astronaut outfit  in September! He has been ready to go trick-or-tricking since long time ago. And Gavin still can't make up his mind, he is torn between cowboy, dragon and pirate. He does have props for all the dress ups, but I wouldn't be surprised if he will  just combine all of then into one.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Long Summer Weekend in October

  We had the most sunny, summer-like Columbus Day Weekend ever. Apple and Pumping Picking during 80F weather was definitely sort of exotic experience, and I must say I wouldn't mind have that kind of weather for few more weeks. But also, on the other hand apple pie tastes better when is a bit rainy and cold outside. It's interesting how our taste buds are wired to the weather conditions.

     So yes, Saturday was a day of adventures on 'Milk Pile' farm. Lots of apples were pick that day, many delicious apple doughnuts were eaten paired with yummy apple cider, amazing local raw cheese and handmade potato curly fries!( sweet potato variation is my fave). After that little feast, we were lost in corn maze for about an hour, and actually between 7 kids that we had in out jolly group Gavin managed to be really lost for a few minutes :).Yes, this little man likes to wonder off on adventures of his own.

       After Apple Picking we had a more of the grow-up kind of adventures -Wine Tasting. Yes, it is a harvest season in the full bloom and we needed to embraces that as much a possible. 'Duck Walk' Vineyards were just on the way out from the apple orchard, so there was no way out without stopping by, I mean really there was no other way.

    Kids had amazing ...time rolling down the hills for about 2 hours, which gave the grow-ups a nice amount of time to relax and enjoy some delicious wine with amazing cheese ( yes, we do LOVE cheese ). We were a little bit stunned that  no other entertainment but simplest joy of rolling down the hill made our bunch of kiddos so happy and free.
  Next day, Sunday, was even more sunny and hot, so  we went on discovery hunt at the Nature Center that has been recently opened , absolutely peaceful preserve right by the Great South Bay. After a nice hike we had a nice rest stop right by the beach ,it felt like we were on little summer vacation. No taste of fall whatsoever .

   And last day of amazing 3 day summer vacation, even thought it was super hot, we decided to make the apple pie. It was very difficult to ignore 40 lb of apples sitting in our fridge. We made two big apple pies from Martha Stewart recipe  Old-Fashioned Apple Pie  and went to the beach ! again! for some sea glass hunting, of course some kids went for some swim and mad splashing.

  By the time we were back, the pie was ready to eat :).

  That was perfect weekend easing summer into fall. And now I'm back to brain storming for Holiday Season, my little Etsy store needs some designs asap.... I think I need to hired some elves soon.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Recovery Day

 There was no post yesterday. Mama was at the dentist  getting very first brand new implants...Yep, officially I have joined 'old people' club. It was a very interesting experience considering the fact that 4 years ago I was supposed to get them. Somehow, I was able  to skip procedure,well but how long can you actually survived without proper teeth :( . They say, that mother looses one tooth per kid, so far I have 4 kids and two missing teeth, future doesn't look so bright any more.

   So because of yesterday's jaw drilling adventures, I was thinking maybe for once I would  be a little bit tired to do anything, or at least use the dentist excuse for skipping house chores !! or make somebody make me a dinner...oh, wonderful imagination and very entertaining wishful thinking. It sounded so great in my head, but for some really unknown reason I have a tendency to forget my self-nurturing wishes. The moment I heard  my kids asking me for little tiny favors and  tiny little requests, I just went back to all-ready-to-go mama state of mind. Yep, totally forgot about my 'recovery' excuse ! AGAIN! Obviously that plan wouldn't  work for next day as well...

  So today we cleaned the house,made a bunch of play dough, which actually has such a great calming effect on my very active boys, and made  tons of mini pumpkin/ chocolate chip  muffins. And also we had a wonderful playdate with old friends.


  Yes, that was my recovery day, and I think that exactly what I really need to recover : great company, good eats and happy kids. Really great recipe for a great day.

  For those interested  in making homemade play dough, we really love this easy recipe :

  Quick Modeling Dough  from MaryAnn f. Kohl 'Mudworks'


1 cup cold water
1 cup salt
2 teaspoons oil
3 cups flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
powdered paint or food coloring
1.Mix water, salt, oil, powdered paint/food coloring.
2. Gradually add flour, cornstarch, till the whole mixture looks like bread dough.
3.Knead few minutes.
4.Explore dough freely :).
Store in air tight container for several weeks.If dough gets too mushy add some flour, if it is too hard knead for a while with wet hands.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Music for the Season

    It is time to stay indoor, find the inner 'me',tune to the nature's rhythm, get ready for hibernation and eventually  transformation of body and soul. Fall and winter are a very powerful seasons for our  inner growth.

  One of the most significant changes that happens in my family is the increase of indoor time. Well, in our small house with 4 growing kids, inner growth is a quite a 'show' to watch, but music is one of the very best things that helps keep everyone in the same state of mind and energy. So currently I'm on the new music hunt. I do love diversity in sound and bit, but so much of popular songs are very disappointing, especially lyric wise, not that great for little minds. I think once you get off regular, main stream broadcasting, it is pretty easy to find amazing, lovely and inspiring  tunes. YouTube or my beloved  BBC radio offers so much, but one thing that is sort of important and challenging is to find music appealing in lyrics to the grown ups and kids. After almost 10 years of listening to songs about spaghetti, dinosaurs and farm animals , I'm  really looking for middle ground.

  So here it is my newest discovery Katie Herzig and her album "The Walking Sleep", totally awesome. And this  first truck is already really big hit with my kids, perfect tune for a winter dance off  You really have to check out her music, and specifically this video !! comes with an amazing tutorial for princess dress :)....And her it is one more tune from Katie, my personal  fav "Lost and Found"  Enjoy :)

  And now  I'm off to take care of my lawn. It stopped raining. It's time to put down some seeds and make it all nice. Also my vege garden needs some loving today. Lots of basil this year, time to harvest and freeze some pesto.So in that case we have the Pesto Day. If you are in neighborhood feel free join us for some yummy pesto, with our garden tomatoes! ( yes,we still have tomatoes growing).

  And as it comes to the recipe, well I always go with instinct on this one, I have no secretes here :)

   Pesto Recipe 
   2 handfuls of basil
   1 handful of parsley ( great vit. C and minerals)
   1 or 2  garlic cloves
   pinch of salt
   1 handful of walnuts ( or almonds)
   1/2 cup of grape seed oil/ olive oil combo , if you have walnut oil that will work wonderful as well , also at the end  you can adjust amount of oil to your liking

 Mix it all in food processor or you can even use immersion blender, anything that mushes ingredients into pulp will do the work.
  I add Parmesan cheese as a final touch after pesto is mixed together with pasta. And of course you can make it as cheesy as you want .

  Enjoy :)