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Russian Monday: "Muraveynik" - Anthill Cake with Caramel & Walnuts



Approaching winter holidays are always filled with fabulous flavor. Well in advance of the actual holidays we setup the tree, stock up on our favorite foods, fetch marinades and special ingredients from the pantry. The lady of the house is puzzled about how she could surprise the household with one of her delectables.

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Roasted Chickpeas with Ginger, Spices & Sesame Seeds - Tasty Snack/Appetizer



These crispy and spicy roasted chickpeas conceal a mouth-watering collection of flavors and make a delicious appetizer. You could make this dish any time of year, and I think they make a wonderful New Years Eve party snack.

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Crown Roast of Pork with Pomegranate



Sending the warmest Christmas wishes to you and your family. May the good times and treasures of the present become the golden memories of tomorrow. Wish you lots of love, joy and happiness. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

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Dark Chocolate Brandy & Cherry Cake



The rich chocolate sponge, moistened with brandy and cherries, is still one of my favorite of all the chocolate cakes. Dark chocolate cherry cake is a perfect party dessert. The cake can be make in advance and it always looks impressive.

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Oysters on Ice with Shallots, Red Wine Vinegar, and Lemon



Raw oysters are one of those shellfish that you either love or hate. They do, however, have a reputation as an aphrodisiac, which has helped increase their popularity. If you have never eaten a raw oyster before, make sure that you squeeze lemon juice on it and watch to make sure it contracts before you eat it.

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Poached Pears in Spicy Apple Wine



This makes a very pretty dessert for Holiday dinner, as the pears take on a extra gold color from the wine.

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Rustic Chocolate Banana Bread



As the familiar sweet aroma fills the house, no one will be able to resist a slice of this dense, moist chocolate banana bread. Breakfast time? Serve the bread at room temperature or toasted, with butter or cream cheese. This Chocolate banana bread lightly flecked with dark and white chocolate.

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Russian Monday: "Riba pod Marinadom" - Pan Fried Fish with Warm Carrot Sauce "Marinade"



This warm, spicy marinate with its rich partnership of flavors is perfect complement to lightly fried fish, such as cod, basa, sea bass or tilapia. “Marinade” is a carrot-onion sauce that the fish is covered and served with. These dish can be served hot with mashed potatoes or at room temperature as an appetizer. And the good thing is - you can make it day before serving! Try it, you'll thank me later-)

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Christmas Cookies #8: Canelés (Cannelés) de Bordeaux - French Sweet Little Treats



If you have never tried Canelés I highly recommend them, it is a classical specialty from Bordeaux, France. They are quite unlike any other petits fours and you are going to love them. Imagine a perfect bite of caramelized crêpe of a most delicious flavor with pastry cream melting in your mouth, crunchy outside and soft at the center.

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Christmas Cookies #7: Orange Ginger Biscotti



These orange ginger biscotti are delicious served with ice cream or on their own with coffee. They should be stored in a cool, dry place…but they may not remain there for long. Once you have tasted one, the sheer pleasure will tempt you to eat at least another couple, so I suggest you provide 3-4 biscotti cookies for each of your guest.

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Christmas Cookies #6:"Zebras"- Marbled Meringue



I have been making these cookies since I found them on Williams-Sonoma site few years ago. They have become favorite recipe for my children and they call them "Zebras".

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Christmas Cookies #5: Crackle Top Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies



Try this recipe with your children and have fun getting them to make these sweet perfect chocolate round cookies.

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Christmas Cookies #4: Anise Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Anise Cookies 2

"Anise is a favorite sweet spice in Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries and in Germany. Our modern wedding cake is said to date back to the anise-flavored cakes eaten by the Romans after elaborate meals.

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Christmas Cookies #3: Spiced Brown-Sugar Fruit Drops



These delicious cookies are dainty enough for a tea party and yet hearty enough for afternoon snacks. They have a rich, delicately spiced brown-sugar flavor and are filled with pecans, dates, and raisins. If the cookies are not over baked, they have a better flavor and remain soft for a longer period of time.

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Christmas Cookies #2: Lebkuchen - German Spice Cookies with Almonds



Literally translated lebkuchen means "lively cake." The many spices give this traditional German Christmas cookie its lively flavor; the honey gives it the characteristic texture and keeping qualities. Since lebkuchens improve with age, make them 3-4 days before serving.

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Christmas Cookies #1: Russian Mushroom Cookies - "Gribochky"



Christmas baking is a part of holiday tradition in many countries. Cakes, muffins, rolls, cookies, marzipan and chocolate figurines appear in large numbers on bakery store shelves and in our kitchens and dining rooms. And every Christmas baking has its own story...

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Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving!



Thank you for letting me be a part of your life!

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Crispy Sautéed Green Beans with Pumpkin Seeds, Hemp Seeds & Lemon



These green beans are crispy on the outside and tender, but still have a bit crunch on the inside. Another idea for Thanksgiving dinner side dish.

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Russian Monday: Carrot Salad with Walnuts & Garlic



I would like to present you a simple salad recipe from my own childhood times. There has not ever been a complete holiday table in our house without this salad. I recall myself a little girl helping my mom to peel garlic and chop walnuts, and later, it has become my own dish I cooked preparing for the arrival of guests.

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Roasted Cauliflower Bites with Spices, Garlic & Lemon



Roasted Cauliflower Bites are so simple to make, yet your quests will always be impressed by them. They have a wonderful flavor and can be given quite a "kick" too by including the cayenne. The spicy bites are great snack at any time of the day, so don't just make them for parties.

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Roasted Rolled Turkey Breast with Garlic & Herbs



We have four people in our family and for us to cook the whole turkey for Thanksgiving is never "too much". But if you would like to cook something different or have decided not to cook the whole bird, here is a time saving substitute. Roasting the breast on its own will ensure moist, tender meat. This recipe gives it a lot of flavor using lemon juice, garlic and fresh herbs.

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Russian Monday: "Shokoladnaya Kalbaska" - Chocolate Biscuit "Salami" with Walnuts & Rum (no bake)



Taste of childhood time treats is something we remember all our lives and taste of “chocolate salami” is one of those “old time favorites”. While back during Soviet Union times, with all kinds of shortages and deficits of many common items and foods, having full plate of sliced meat sausage on the dinner table was a sign of a material well-being of a family. Such table looked happy and respectable and hosts – welcoming and attentive. However, sometimes guests could stay only for a cup of tea. So how tea table could be without sausage? Name of “chocolate salami” inventor we will probably never know, but the recipe has taken its own rightful place in notebooks and cookbooks: cookies, butter or margarine, cocoa powder, sugar.

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Black Beluga Lentils Salad with Roasted Pumpkin



Looking for a rustic salad/side to round out your Thanksgiving menu? Black Beluga lentils have a nutty, peppery flavor and a firm texture that holds up well to cooking. Delicate in taste and size, Black Beluga lentils are named for their caviar-like appearance. This flavorful salad can make a delicious accompaniment to a simple roasted turkey. Black Beluga lentils with roasted pumpkin salad shows off bold tastes, textures and colors.

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Red Peppers Melted with Fig Balsamic Vinegar Crostini



I would like to share with you my recent work made for the owners of “The Ancient Olive” stores in Florida, Jeffrey Schrader & Bryan Behling - still life composition with olive oils, vinegar, olives, exotic fruits and Italian vegetables. This was very exiting project and I had a great time shooting for “The Ancient Olive”. Here is one of the versions of my composition which I feel passes the true spirit of these exquisite stores.

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Russian Monday: Buttery Potatoes with Garlic & Fresh Herbs



Potato is a relative newcomer in Russian cuisine. It has started to occupy a regular spot on the dining table from the early 19th century, while prior to that turnips have been used in the same capacity, served boiled, mashed with butter or sour cream, fried, baked and used as side to various dishes.

Start of potato growing in Russia is usually attributed to Peter the Great. Unconfirmed historical myth mentions Peter the Great tasting potatoes for the first time while in Holland during one of this European travels. Impressed by the value of the new food item, he sends a sack of potatoes back to St. Petersburg, addressed to Count Sheremetev. However, proof of such royal parcel existence is lacking, but nevertheless, even if it was true, this would have been only one of the potato pathways into Russia.

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Braised Artichokes with Onions & Bacon

Artichoke 4

Artichokes make a delicious addition to vegetable dinners and company lunches. Globe Artichokes - sometimes called the French Artichokes is in reality the bud of a thistle-like flower which is as decorative as the bud is palatable. A choice artichoke should have bright green leaves rather closely packed. Rusty spots or widely separated leaves indicate age or injury. The very small artichokes may be trimmed for artichoke hearts or used as small cups to hold hors d'oeuvres or hot food.

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Traditional Tourtière - Canadian Meat Pie

Tourtière Canadian Meat Pie 2

Tourtiere is the creme de la creme of pies. Lightly spiced and herbed, this meat pie is especially anticipated for Christmas Eve celebrations, but it's equally tasty for the Thanksgiving dinner and any winter chilly evenings.

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Dragon Fruit - What is it and how to eat it



Dragon fruit (Pitaya) is part of the cactus family, and has sweet, kiwi-like flesh. Dragon fruit is quite exotic for our latitudes and if your grocery store does not carry it, usually you can find this bright red skinned fruit, very rich in vitamins B and C as well as fiber, at your nearest Asian market. You can easily check if fruit is ripe by pressing on it, just like you’d choose ripe avocado, kiwi or peach. If it’s too soft that means it is overripe and the texture will not be as good. If it is too hard, you can still buy your dragon fruit but let it stay in cool dry place for few days to fully ripen. Any dry brown spots or dry spines on dragon fruit leathery skin are a sign to avoid it.

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Russian Monday: Mushrooms with Sour Cream Sauce - "Gribi v Smetane"



Mushrooms are traditional ingredient of Russian cuisine. For centuries, our ancestors used bounty of forest to diversify their menu. And even today with enormous variety of options, ingredients, recipes from around the world available to us true gourmets love tasty and fragrant mushrooms in sour cream.

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Banana Oat Bran Muffins with Flax, Sesame Seeds



Line a basket or pretty dish with a gingham napkin and fill with muffins-hot, tender, and a little sweet. Breakfast is a delicious meal and muffins are one of the best things about it.

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Turkey Soup with Mushrooms - Simple but Flavorful Recipe for Leftover Turkey

Turkey Soup with Mushrooms

In our time the turkey is generally served on holidays, and I think this practice is very wise. The meat is lean, low in fat, high in protein, delicious in flavor, and terrible versatile. You are probably just as good as I am at thinking up ways to use leftovers, but I really do like this simple but flavorful solution to using turkey "again."

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Russian Monday: Honey Poppy Seed Roll - Bread



From ancient time collection of honey and poppy in Russia began on the same day - August 14, the day of the First Savior, first day of the harvest season. This day was celebrated with honey cakes, pancakes with poppy and honey, buns and pirogues with poppy seeds. Special pancake dipping was made of finely grinded poppy seeds and honey. If poppy seeds were sprinkled around the house on that day, house would be protected from evil eye for the whole year. Girls used to weave poppy flowers into their hair in order to make hair strong and beautiful.

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Almond Linzer Cookies with Cranberry Jam



Squares, stars, circles, hearts and diamonds, whatever the shape, these rich almond, crumbly cookies are a treat with coffee, tea or hot cocoa. My children love to help by sprinkling the tops with powdered sugar and then placing them on the jam-filled bottoms, pressing just hard enough to squish the jam up through the hole. Try to make these cookies with my homemade cranberry jam, perfect for any holiday!

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Beet Soup with Sweet Potato & Meatballs



Thanksgiving is a wonderful Holiday full of family, friends, love, and lots and lots of delicious food! This year, I am planning to create these wonderful postcard invitations for the people I love. I would love to hear your opinion. Every comment is welcome!-)

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Russian Monday: "Blintzes" with Cabbage - Stuffed Pancakes



A blin, blintchik or blintz is a type of thin pancake.

Pancakes are considered one of the most popular dishes in Russian cuisine. The story of their origin is shrouded in mystery. Some historians claim that yeast pancakes appeared in Russia at the very beginning of 11th century (years of 1005-1006). In according to one of the versions first pancake came out as a result of overheated oatmeal pudding, which turned flat and browned. According to another version by historian Prof. Pokhlebkin, pancakes have appeared much earlier, even before 9th century. Russian word for pancake, “blyn” seems to be corrupted version of “mlyn” - archaic word meaning “to grind” or “to mill” in Russian, as well as in number of other Slavic languages. Until Christening of Russia by King Vladimir in 988, pancakes were used as sacrificial bread during pagan rituals. Often those rituals were very cruel and violent when not only animals but sometimes people too were slaughtered as offering to the gods.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque with Almonds

Pumpkin Soup with Almonds 3

Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque with Almonds is a fragrant, creamy and delicately flavored soup. I hope you will enjoy this soup as well as we are.

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Oat Bran Pancake Cake with Mushroom Caviar



These oat bran pancakes are often served with caviar and sour cream in our house. Here is a vegetarian savory alternative that uses a selection of delicious mushrooms in place of fish roe. The pancakes can be made ahead of time and warmed in the oven before topping. Perfect for lunch with fresh salad.

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Russian Monday: "Shuba" - Beet Salad with Herring or "Herring under a fur coat"



Authorship of this wonderful salad is attributed to Anastas Bogomilov - merchant, the owner of network of popular canteens and restaurants in Moscow at the beginning of 20th century. During late 1910’s Russia has been going through a lot of political and social turmoil eventually manifested in two revolutions of 1917. It has been very common for patrons of his restaurants adhering to opposing political views to get drunk and get into argument about fate of the country. Arguments eventually were growing into a fights accompanied by broken plates, glasses and even furniture. Clever businessman and patriot, Anastas came up with the idea of good hearty snack which could represent a notion of national unification.

“Herring under a fur coat” has been served for the first time on New Years Eve of 1919. The main ingredient of this dish was herring – favorite treat of the working poor, or “proletarians”. With addition of onions, potatoes and carrots, covered by layer of grated beets symbolizing red banner of the revolutionaries the salad was a sure hit. In order not to forget the enemies of the Soviets, the salad has been generously seasoned with Western invention – mayo. New dish has been a blast with Bogomilov’s restaurants patrons and in a very short time the fights her become significantly less frequent while number of patrons has increased and profits grew as a result.

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Rolled Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cranberry Jam, Grand Marnier Syrup & Cream Cheese Filling



Inspiration for this cake came from American holiday traditions. All favorites (pumpkin, cranberries, cream cheese and liqueur) in one cake. It's a wonderful dessert for a holiday party and can be made a day ahead of time.

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Sweet Recipe: Apple Tarte Tatin - Reliving the sweet taste of historical success



Prior to the opening of their Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, France in 1894, Stephanie and Caroline Tatin discovered a sweet treat that will soon lead to one of the most favorable desserts in history. It all started when Stephanie was creating an apple pie in 1880. Accidentally, she left the apples cooking in sugar and butter. What she did next changed the history. Stephanie put the pastry on top and baked it down facing, just to save the pie – and that’s how this sweet success story started.

Soon, Stephanie and Caroline opened their hotel that led to the dessert’s solid following. In this post, I want to relive the success of Tarte Tatin by providing you the steps in making one.

Apple Tarte is a great companion to strong Folgers, afternoon tea, or M&S Wine for dessert like their Pink Port NV or Rich Cream Sherry.

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Russian Monday: Roasted Marrow Bones on Toast with Onion-Capers Salad



Every ethnic Russian has an opinion about this drink, but let’s not rush with naming vodka a “national drink”, since it has been introduced in Russia by foreigners. The only justification for the term “national” is the level of this drink consumption. Usually opinions about vodka differ drastically – some people like it and some can’t stand it. There is a view out there that vodka is a rough drink not suitable for ladies and it has to be drunk in one gulp after getting it freezing cold. Unfortunately, this view is quite wide-spread, but it is nevertheless completely wrong.

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Tomato Soup with Meatballs, Carrots & Parmesan Cheese



What is the better way to persuade picky children or uneasy adults to eat a healthy portion of vegetables than to make a superb soup? Tomato soup is an old favorite, but it can be made special by an addition of fresh parsley and parmesan cheese. Sweet tender carrots find their moment of glory in this scrumptious dish. Deliciously smooth texture of the soup and rustic meatballs makes it very desirable.

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Russian Monday: "Solyanka" - Rustic Potato Soup with Smoked Meat & Olives



Solyanka (pronounced “so-lyan-ka”), a Russian word which can be translated as “grab-bag” or “hodgepodge” is the name of the dish symbolic in Russian cuisine known far beyond Russia. As a matter of fact, knowing the name of this dish is enough never to go hungry if you are a foreigner visiting Russia. For the first time “solyanka” is mentioned in the Russian literature of the 15th century and by the 18th century it is widespread and referred by two names – “solyanka” and “pohmelka” (“pokh-mel-ka”), which meant a greasy and very hearty soup served as snack with vodka or served as an entrée. Nobility, however, did not accept this dish at all, considering it a sign of bad taste and only commoners and poor people loved it, since it was very filling and warming while being a good source to replenish energy after a whole day of hard labor. Solyanka also helped common people to drink without actually getting drunk.

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Baked Goldfish Pumpkin Chips - for my Sweet Children!



What a genius idea for healthy snack - baked goldfish pumpkin chips! We are roasting vegetables every other day and roasted pumpkin is our favorite. Today I have created this amazing and fun recipe for my children's lunch boxes. After a long search for suitable cookie cutter my husband has finally made one from 2 1/2-inch oval cookie cutter, rather than buying it online or at the store. To make your own cookie cutters is simple and leaves space for your imagination and creativity.

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Pumpernickel Bread with Chocolate, Coffee, Molasses, Prune Butter & Caraway Seeds



I like to bake bread at home, especially when cooler days descend upon us after summer. I feel homemade bread represents home and family. Usually I bake something during weekend and I like to surprise my kids and my husband when they come home and aroma of the fresh bakes welcomes them into cozy atmosphere. I use recipes from the books or sometimes create recipes myself. I got very helpful book on my shelf named "Baking with Julia" by Dorie Greenspan. If you are interested in baking it is highly recommended. I use it often and inspiration for the challah bread on our table as well as many other delicious bakes comes from this book.

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Still Life with Pumpkins - Autumn Collection



“Run into the garden, and bring me a pumpkin.” Cinderella went immediately to gather the finest she could get, and brought it to her godmother, not being able to imagine how this pumpkin could make her go to the ball. Her godmother scooped out all the inside of it, leaving nothing but the rind; which done, she struck it with her wand, and the pumpkin was instantly turned into a fine coach, gilded all over with gold".

Have a magical weekend my dear readers!

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Whole Grain Amaranth Cookies with Pumpkin Jam



Amaranth Cookies with Pumpkin Jam are a nice change for the cookie jar. These spicy autumn amber beads are decorated with pumpkin jam that is delicious!

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Avocado-Egg Salad & Poached Salmon Sandwich



Succulent poached salmon and eggs combined with creamy avocado, sautéed onions and fresh basil makes a substantial sandwich. The ingredients all blend together perfectly to create a gourmet-tasting experience. This sandwich takes a little work to prepare, but is not short on taste. It can be served warm or chilled.

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Amaranth-Honey Bread



I made this bread using amaranth for the first time and it came out wonderfully! It has a bit of an "earthy" taste of "good old days", but at the same time sophisticated enough to be served with French cheese and red wine. The crumb is soft and moist with tiny seeds. We had it after lunch with my  vanilla rum plum jam  and it was a perfect combination.

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