Walnut Bread with Cherries

Sometimes I photograph what I like to cook, but most of the time I cook what I would like to photograph. Still compositions are my passion, I love making them. I know its very old fashioned, from the old world, so probably I am too :) There are days I like to spend in my studio playing with props, or just walk around or listen to the music while sitting in armchair and browsing through artwork of the old masters. This time I was itching to create a grand composition, but later have shifted direction to something more simple but nevertheless outstanding. All elements seemed to be in place, but one of the ingredients was missing. Item from the past which is seen on our tables these days as well. Idea with bread seemed the most suitable - dark texture, good crust, nuts and grains, just like in the old days. Red wine, onions and bread. I rushed to start my dough. I have finished baking at 2 AM in the morning. Next day, after breakfast I have immediately started photographing and I have to tell you - I am very pleased indeed! And, of course, the bread is delicious, sweet and walnut-cherry combination is very unique - it will go great with foie gras pate and French cheeses. I hope you enjoy my art and try to bake the bread as well.


Top Six Appetizers for New Year's Eve Party

Look no further for appetizers to impress even the most discerning guest. Hot and spicy popcorn, smashed potatoes, or sweet potato baked chips - these really are appetizers to sink your teeth into. Set the table, set the mood and set the taste buds tingling.

For sheer visual appeal, shellfish appetizers are hard to beat. There is little more tempting than a plate - or skewer - full of plump, succulent sizzling shrimp and there is a uniquely naughty pleasure found in the delightful messiness of peeling them at the table. For more formal occasions and for those with more sophisticated table manners, serve salmon soufflé or smoked salmon rolls.

Shrimp with Garlic and Parsley - The Best Sizzling Spicy Appetizer
Garlic Popcorn with Cayenne Pepper & Popcorn with ”Buffalo Wings” Red Hot Sauce


Zucchini Apple Muffins

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Zucchini-Apple Muffins

Note: Before using the zucchini in this recipe, rinse and dry, then cut off the stem end before shredding onto layers of paper towels to absorb some of the excess moisture.


Merry Christmas to All of You and Your Families!

We give thanks for the blessing of winter:
Season to cherish the heart.
To make warmth and quiet for the heart.
To make soups and broths for the heart. 
To cook for the heart and read for the heart.
To curl up softly and nestle with the heart.
To sleep deeply and gently at one with the heart.
To dream with the heart.
To spend time with the heart. A long, long time of peace with the heart.
We give thanks for the blessing of winter:
Season to cherish the heart.

Michael Leunic


Chocolate-Orange Cover Meringue with Pistachio

These cookies are dramatically elegant and unusually delicious. The airy, sweet, and crispy cocoa-flavored merengue puff contains a fudged orange  chocolate counterpoint at its pistachio-coated center.


Bûchettes de Noël - Cocoa Meringue

Bûche de Noël is a classic French Christmas cake whose name translates as "yule log." These bûchettes, meaning "little logs," are intended to be mini-versions of this classic made with, instead of cake, the crispest, lightest, cocoa meringue. They are a perfect accompaniment to hot chocolate, coffee, tea, eggnog, Cognac, or even milk.


Simple Soup with Turkey Meatballs and Quinoa

Recently I have come across works of fantastic illustrator Norman Rockwell who is very talented artist from New York. I could not help to buy some of his prints. I love book illustrations and have tons of vintage cookbooks with amazing pictures. They have so many details and flavors - I can peer at them for hours, there is something so homey in them... And often I just get an urge to go and cook something, even something very simple, but just to make everyone around happy. This is the story behind this post and the Turkey Meatballs Soup with Quinoa recipe. During long cold winter evenings a bowl of this soup can not only warm up your body, but make your heart melt.


Homemade Marshmallows with Honey and Spiced Almond Coating (Gluten, Corn, Egg, Diary Free)

It was fun to make this luscious marshmallow, I like the flavor of the honey and consistency of it. Easy enough and amazingly delicious recipe. I bet it makes great S'mores brownies and topping for cupcakes! Or you can enjoy a nice warm cup of hot cocoa with a big huge marshmallow on top.


Beef and Vegetable Pie

Beef pie 1

Comforting and substantial main-course pies are always welcome. Winter chills are warded of with classic Beef and Vegetables Pie. At Christmas either Chicken and Red Currant Pie or Beef and Guinness Pie with Chanterelle Mushrooms would make a stunning centerpiece. Beneath a crust of crisp pastry, a tasty, rich stew of tender beef and soft vegetables is ideal antidote to winter colds.


Boston Cream Pie - Yummy

"Before spring there are days like these:
Under the dense snow the meadow rests,
The trees merrily, drily rustle,
And the warm wind is tender and supple.
And the body marvels at its lightness, 
And you don't recognize your own house,
And that song you were tired of before,
You sing like a new one, with deep emotion".

Anna Akhmatova


Spicy, Peppery Shrimp with Lemon-Soy Garlic Dip

While it may sensible to plan your main course first, especially when entertaining, it is still important to give plenty of thought to the appetizer. Divinely crisp and naughty, those spicy and peppery shrimp are great on their own or served with a lemon-soy garlic dip on the side.


Chocolate - Coffee Christmas Cut-out Cookies

"History does not tell us when, where, or by whom the first cooky was made. However, we credit the Dutch - famous for their honey and nut cookies - with having introduced the name to America, since cookie derives from the Dutch Koekje, meaning "little cakes." The early Dutch settlers brought their family recipes along with them, thereby endowing America with a wide variety of these delicacies.


Still life - The Lilies

I love to photograph Still Life compositions. I would like very much to hear your opinion.

Have a wonderful week!


Egg Meatloaf and Coleslaw with Cranberries

Nothing says "comfort food" like a good old-fashioned meatloaf, and this recipe with eggs is no exception. Serve this highly flavored meatloaf with a glass of Pilsner beer for a change from wine.


Wednesday Morning Walk on Lavender Farm

Sometimes we just get in the car and go to the Carousel Lavender Farm
It is only 20 minutes drive and you feel like you are in Provence.
Enjoy the walk!

Lavender Farm 9


Mashed Turnips with White Truffle Oil

Mashed Turnips with White Truffle Oil - healthy side dish for Thanksgiving dinner!

Turnips having a strong flavor, are considered by some highly complementary to meat and game. In some regions mashed turnips are traditional in Thanksgiving menus. Other prefer rutabagas with certain game.


French Pot Roast - Boeuf à la Mode

NUTMEG and MACE are Sister Spices.

Mace resembles nutmeg, but is more pungent. It is the traditional spice for pound cake, but is also enhances the taste of cherry pie, chocolate dishes, and whipped cream. It is very good, indeed, in seafood and fish sauces, or in chicken fricassees, or French pot roast. But since it is on the potent side start - as with all spices - with a pinch when experimenting, adding more if a fuller flavor is desired.


Whisky-Laced Mince Tarts - Holiday Tradition

Very few cooks make good pie crust. This is unfortunate, because a fine pie is one of the most delicious desserts, while a pie with a tough or soggy crust is one of the worst. The technique for making a perfect crust is comparatively simple, once you have acquired the knack.If you follow the tools, you should achieve good results every time.

  • The mixing of the dry ingredients is simple. Just sift them together.
  • The mixing a butter and flour, using two knives or a pastry blender. The bowl and knives should be dry to prevent lumping of the flour.
  • Add the minimum amount of cold water required to just moisten, not wet, the flour.
  • If shell is to be baked and then filled, prick the surface with a fork to release air bubbles.


Hearty Beef Stew with Lingonberries

Stews are ideal foods for party service - informal parties, of course - because continued cooking doesn't seem to hurt them. Use any of the less tender cuts for stew, but you will find that if you use very fat, gristly cuts you may have a less pleasing result than if you use good cuts of less tender parts. Chuck, round, rump, and shin all are good stewing cuts, and one should remember not to have too much fat on the meat. Three pounds of beef will serve six people amply and should leave some for the next day.

About 40 minutes before the stew is ready for the table, the vegetables can be added and allowed to cook with the meat. Almost any combination of vegetables may be added. Small onions, celery, peas, green beans, lima beans, potatoes, salsify - practically any vegetable is good.

Many people like dumplings with stew. Some prefer boiled rice, other noodles. I hope you like my recipe for this holiday beef stew with lingonberries.

Bon Appétit!


Mushroom, Leek Soup with Yellow Cauliflower

A good mushroom soup makes the most of the subtle and sometimes rather elusive flavor of mushrooms. white mushrooms are used here for there pale color; cremini or, better still, portabello mushrooms give a fuller flavor, but turn the soup dark brown. Mushroom, Leek with Yellow Cauliflower Soup  is a delicious and nutritious soup, which should be served with crusty bread.


Sesame Chicken Stew with Shiitake Mushrooms

Sesame Chicken Stew with Shitaki Mushrooms

The Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) (from Japanese 椎茸, シイタケ (Shiitake)) is an edible mushroom native to East Asia, which is cultivated and consumed in many Asian countries, as well as being dried and exported to many countries around the world.


Cranberry Curd Bars & Walnut Shortbread Crust

One more idea what to do with cranberries for Thanksgiving day or any other day.


Cranberry Curd

The cranberry curd is so smooth and easy to make. You can imagine this spread over crepes, or buttery toast, or you may use this curd in a twist on lemon meringue pie for Holiday dinner. I think that’d be amazing!


Panforte, a Nougat-like Cake Dessert, have a Sweet Weekend!

Panforte is a nougat - like cake, rich in nuts and fruit. It is a speciality of Siena in Italy. Visit this beautiful country and you’ll find hundreds of variations of this Christmas-feeling sweet treat.


Mulled Wine - Perfect Drink for a Holiday Season

We have many beautiful holidays a head of us, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. For these occasions, nothing is too beautiful. Once a year, one can indulge in an accumulation of crystal, silver, china, an abundance of light and reflections, without fear of criticism. But as always, good taste will keep the display within bounds. A successful holiday party can be an enchanted memory for a whole year.


Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese with Shrimp - Perfect Comfort Food

Macaroni and Shrimp 1

People ask me all the time how I arrange my food when I photograph it. Most of the time I am thinking about how it is going to look, imagining different backgrounds with all kinds of plates, bowls and cutlery. I am thinking about the flowers or dry leaves or herbs I would love to use in my sets, the colors I would need and which of them would be fitting for that specific dish. This usually takes me about a couple of days, then, when I have it all clear in my mind, I proceed.


Autumn Pear Cake with Cinnamon and Walnuts

This Pear Cake recipe glows with the golds, a bright yellows, sparkling oranges and warm browns of the season. It features pears, cinnamon, walnuts and the warmth of my heart.

"No spring, nor Summer Beauty bath such grace,
As I have seen in one Autumnall face".

John Donne


Roasted Beet Risotto with Glazed Carrots and Fresh Dill

Autumn is one of my favorite seasons - not just all the dawns of autumn, nor the shorter, cooler days, but the evenings as well. Soft, sad evenings when shadows are lengthening and leaves beginning their transformations through gold, red and yellow to brown. I love the rustling as they fall and the sudden gusts of wind and dust. There is a wistful, mellow feeling in the air during autumn which makes us pause and take stock, beckoning us to reflect a little on our lives. Mornings when it is good to go mushrooming, and pick figs; to invite friends over for a long breakfast; and to experiment with some new dishes in the kitchen using some of the tawny autumn fruits and vegetables.


Oat Bran and Nuts Cookies with Dry Cherries and Chocolate Mushrooms - Have a Little Fun!

Nothing can compare with a homemade cookie for bringing a touch of pleasure to a coffee break or tea-time. These tempting cookies are quick, easy, and satisfying to make. You can easily vary the ingredients to suit your taste, I added the dry cherries, you may add more nuts, chocolate chips or peanut butter - the possibilities for inventiveness when making cookies are endless.

Oat Bran Healthy Cookie 1 Oat Bran Healthy Cookie 2

Oat Bran & Nuts Cookie Mix contains stone ground whole wheat flour, brown sugar, oat bran, rolled oats, walnuts, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. These full - bodied cookies are packed full of flavor, and they take only 15 minutes to make.

Makes about 18 cookies


  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 2 Tbsp dry cherries
  • 1/3 cup oil or melted butter
  • 2 1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill Oat Bran & Nut Cookie Mix
  • chocolate mushrooms (product of Japan), optional, you can find them in Asian food market

Oat Bran Healthy Cookie 4


Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, just mix together all ingredients until blended. Spoon onto the prepared sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart, and bake until they are puffed and golden brown around the edges, 12-15 minutes.

Using a metal spatula, move the cookies onto the wire rack and let cool completely.

Tip: If you like to use chocolate mushrooms, you need to decorate your cookies while they are warm and soft.

Oat Bran Healthy Cookie 5


Shrimp Etouffée - Spicy, Salty, Delicious!

The name Etouffée refers to "smothering" the seafood with a heavy sauce. This method of cooking has its roots in Creole cuisine, and if you take the time to prepare this dish properly you will be very proud of your Creole skills.

Shrimp Etouffee 1


  • 3 Tbsp. peanut oil
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 green sweet bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. whole basil leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. whole thyme leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp Tabasco
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and uncooked
  • cooked rice for serving


Heat a large Dutch oven and add the oil and flour. Toast this to a peanut-butter-colored roux. This should take about 10 minutes over medium heat. Be careful not to burn this. Stir often.

Add the yellow onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Saute for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the tomato paste, followed by the broth and wine. Stir constantly until this mixture thickens. Add the remaining ingredients, except the shrimp, and rice. Simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.

Add the shrimp and simmer for 15-20 minutes, uncovered.

Serve over cooked rice. This is also great with Zucchini Tian or Corn Pudding.

Shrimp Etouffee 4


Lemon Cake with Cranberries and Lemon Icing

Cranberries are native North American fruit with relatives growing wild in the bogs and marshes of Northern Europe. When the Pilgrims arrived in America, they were instructed in extensive use of the cranberry by the Native Americans. The Indians ate cranberries raw and cooked, and pounded them into pemmican with meat and fat for use during the winter. The mashed fruit was used on wounds to draw out poisons and infections, and the berries where used for dye in making rugs and blankets. We assume that the North American Indians brought cranberries to the first Thanksgiving dinner, since the fruit would have been plentiful at that time. Among the Delaware tribe in New Jersey, the berries were known as the symbol of peace, and Chief Pakimintzen, who distributed cranberries often at tribal peace feasts, came to be known as "Cranberry Eater."

I can't imagine winter holidays without cranberry dish on a table!

Lemon Cranbbery Cake 1 Lemon Cranbbery Cake 5


For the cake:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries (for the cake and decoration)

For the glaze:
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice 
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • red food coloring (optional)

Lemon Cranbbery Cake 4


Preheat an oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour a 1-lb. loaf pan.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Set this aside as well.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until fully incorporated.

Reduce mixer speed and alternatively beat in 1/3 of flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of sour cream mixture, and repeat, ending with the last 1/3 of the flour mixture. Beat until blended and smooth, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir in one cup of cranberries (save some for serving).

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan and bake 55-60 minutes, until top springs back when lightly pressed or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the bread from the oven and transfer the pan to a wire rack. Cool completely before icing.

For the glaze, whisk together lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar until there are no lumps. If you like you can add a red coloring for the color or cranberry juice. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Lemon Cranbbery Cake 3


Portobello Mushrooms in Curried Coconut Milk Sauce over Pumpkin Puree

A little history about pumpkins from "the Frugal Gourmet Cooks American"

"We received the gift of the yellow gourd from the Indians, of course. When European explorers hit the New World they found the Native Americans eating all kinds of squashes, but pumpkin was a favorite. The white men thought the pumpkin to be a form of giant melon. They were partly right, as the pumpkin belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae, which also includes cucumbers, gherkins, and melons. The wild ancestor of the grate orange vegetable goes back to the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayan peoples, who enjoyed eating the rich seeds. The pumpkin spread north and was common by the time of European exploration, and the seekers of New World took the squash back to Europe with them. But it remains an American vegetable, absolutely American.

The uses that we found for pumpkin in the old days where wonderfully varied and formed a basic part of our diet. The pumpkin was among the most common foods of the settlements and an old verse proves their indispensability:

For portage, and puddings, and custards, and pies,
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies. 
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon;
If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undoon."

Mushrooms in Coconut Milk 2

There is something exciting about food cooked in coconut milk. Typically, the effect comes from the edition of several assertive spices - such as coriander, cumin, and cardamom - in conjunction with this rich liquid. Ginger and hot peppers are added to give zest and dimension.

Mushrooms in Coconut Milk 3

Hint: Save the pumpkin seeds for the kids! Wash the seeds and dry them. Place them in a large heated frying pan along with some olive oil, and toast until they begin to show a few very tiny brown spots on the husk. Add a bit of salt and cool. These are great snacks and they are good on salads or in soups.


For the mushroom sauce:

  • 1 can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeños or any hot chiles of your choice 
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom 
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 pound baby portobello mushrooms (or any other variety)
  • sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped

For the pumpkin puree:
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 Tbsp. butter (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

For the roasted pumpkin:
  • 1 cup butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Mushrooms in Coconut Milk 1


For the mushroom sauce:
Place the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and chiles, and sauté for another minute. Add the curry, coriander, cardamom, and cumin and stir for another minute. Add the mushrooms and the coconut milk and stir well. Simmer for 15 minutes.Remove from the heat when thickened. Season to taste and add the cilantro.

For the pumpkin puree:
Bring about 3 quarts (or more if need it to cover the pumpkin) of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the butternut squash, cover, and cook until the squash is soft when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain the squash , place in a food processor, and proceed until well pureed. Add the milk and blend until the mixture is smooth. Place the puree in a saucepan and reheat, stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste and keep it warm.

For the roasted pumpkin:
Preheat an oven to 400°F.
Spread the diced pumpkin out on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until all the cubes are cooked through and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Evenly divide the warm butternut puree among plates. Arrange the coconut mushrooms sauce in the middle, top with roasted cubes of pumpkin. Serve immediately.

Mushrooms in Coconut Milk 4


Salmon Soufflé and Scheurebe

This lovely dish can be served year-round, for lunch or dinner. Your guests will be impressed with this Salmon Soufflé on a chilly October evening, as it is rich and warming.

Salmon Souffle and Wine 1

I discovered Scheurebe wines from Germany recently. They are a good addition to Rieslings that we usually get from that region. Wine from Weingut Pfeffingen winery is especially delicious. My husband found a bottle at the "Last Bottle Deal" rack in our local wine store. That is the only way to get it locally without feeling guilty for paying the full price. He spoiled me with good wine and I like it. The freshness and crispiness of Rieslings combined together with the intense aromas of Scheurebe was a perfect pairing for the Salmon Soufflé that I made last night. We had an incredible evening full of romantic talks and many laughs.

Salmon Souffle and Wine 2 Salmon Souffle and Wine 5


For the poached salmon:

  • 2 (about 12 oz.) skinned salmon fillet
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. dry white wine
  • 1 tsp thyme

For the soufflé:
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. shallots, chopped 
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped 
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Gruyère cheese


To poach salmon, fill medium shallow saucepan or skillet with enough water to cover about two-thirds of the salmon fillet. Bring water to a gentle boil over medium heat. Add the wine, thyme, salt, pepper and salmon, cook 10 minutes or until salmon just begins to flake. Remove salmon from poaching water and cool. Flake into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 400°F. Get ready 4-6 ramekins, I didn't grease mine.

Melt the butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until translucent. Whisk in flour, and season with pepper and salt. Gradually whisk in milk in steady stream. Reduce heat to low and continue whisking until smooth. Simmer, stirring occasionally about  5 minutes or until sauce is very thick. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in egg yolks until smooth and creamy. Whisk in parsley and dill and let cool slightly. Gently stir in cheese and salmon.

Place egg whites in a large bowl and beat at medium-high speed until stiff but moist peaks form.

Stir one-fourth of the beaten egg whites into salmon mixture. Carefully fold in remaining egg whites. Divide mixture among ramekins and bake 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F. Continue baking 15 to 20 minutes or until soufflé is puffy and golden brown, and wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Serve immediately.

Salmon Souffle and Wine 4

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