Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vote Now! Russian Love All The Way

Baikal Arctic Sun

Hurry and cast your votes for round 2 of Project Food Blog!  Voting ends tomorrow (Thursday) at 6 PM Pacific time. I'd appreciate your votes because you will want to see what I have planned for round 3! Thanks to all who have already voted for me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Time To Vote! Round 2 Of Project Food Blog

It's back!  Voting opened today, Sept. 27th and is open through Sept. 30th and ends at 6 PM Pacific Time.
Each and every vote counts as 400 will be narrowed down to 200.
Please read my entry and vote for me and Russian cuisine!!!

Summer Schi Soup

Sunday, September 26, 2010

PFB Round #2 - Russian Love & Maybe Just A Little Vodka

Holy Prince Church (courtesy of Marty Friend)

 Sweet (as my youngest child would say) as I am moving on to round #2 of Project Food Blog! Thank you for your votes and I'm even more excited for this next challenge.  The entry has to be an ethnic classic dish, excluding Italian and French cuisine, that I am not familiar with.  I think with a high degree of certainty that I will definitely NOT be in the norm in deciding to attack Russian dishes.  Anyone want to place bets that I am the only one choosing Russian cuisine?

Ship Baikal (courtesy of Marty Friend)

Why Russian?  My stepfather has taken numerous jaunts over there for business over the past decades and it's quite the honor when he decides to add "inski" to your name!  Oh the stories I've heard and the obligatory vodka shots for everything! 

Another deal maker for this  entry was decided when a friend and her husband were able to finally bring their daughter home from Irkutsk after a very long five and half year journey in adoption.  I would often find  my mind wandering as to what she was eating while in the orphanage and what others in Siberia would consider staples and their "go to" meals.  I have never imagined for the average Russian that food would be over the top.  We're talking Siberia, where the frigid cold has to be taken into consideration and the limited resources for food has got to be a huge challenge.  If one is lucky enough to have a market near them, I don't even need to mention the pure expense of buying food. 

So, in my mind, I envisioned homey, hearty fare using much resourcefulness with not alot of flavor combinations.   Keep in  mind that my blog focuses on taking classic dishes and putting a twist on them to make everything healthier.  I thought I would have a hard time finding classic dishes that would be able to fill those shoes. WRONG!

Local Free Range Eggs

I actually ended up making three Russian dishes.  I was intrigued that dill, eggs (hard boiled), and sour cream seem to be staples as well as the given sauerkraut.  I decided on soups since we are going into cool fall weather and a baked pumpkin dish for obvious reasons. Fall, celebrations, and pumpkins just go together, period! 

The first soup I prepared is Sour Schi which is chock full of sauerkraut and rumored to help those who have taken one too many shots of Stoli or Jewel of Russia the night before.  I must admit I scratched my head a little after reading that - who would want to put sauerkraut in their mouth after a night of libations? 
Well, let me just say this modest little soup hit the spot!  After making my own stock (a must in all soups if you have the time) and simmering the oxtail  for awhile, the aroma filling the kitchen was just beautiful. This is what I expect to be smelling in cooler months when walking into a kitchen, pure homeyness.  This is the kind of scene when walking into a friends house I just want to grab a bowl and spoon and sit down and slurp it over great conversation. 

Sour Schi Soup

Sour Schi (adapted from ruscuisine)
2 cups sauerkraut, drained, juice reserved
1-1/2 lb beef short ribs* (I used oxtail)
1 slice smoked bacon, about 3 oz.
4-5 dry shiitake mushrooms
1 cup wild mushrooms, such as borowiks, porcini, chanterelles, or shiitakes, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 small onion, whole, peeled
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 small carrot, whole, peeled
4-5 parsley stalks
2 stalks celery
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp minced dill
vegetable oil
sour cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
*Oxtails are also a good choice of meat, but they require longer cooking.

Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add short ribs to the pot. Add a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat and let simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove the scum. Add smoked bacon, small onion, small carrot, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley stalks and dry mushrooms. Cover and keep at a bare simmer for 1-1/2 hours. Remove the short ribs and set aside. Strain the stock through multi-layered cheese cloth and discard the solids. Strain fat from the top. (The stock can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated, which makes fat removal easier.) Bring the strained stock to a simmer. Reserve approximately 2 cups of stock and set aside. Saute chopped onions and julienned carrots in vegetable oil until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add  sauerkraut, stir, and saute, covered, for 10 more minutes. Add to the stock in the pot along with reserved sauerkraut juice. Add mushrooms and let simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Warm butter over medium heat and quickly sift in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture (roux) is dark blond in color. Add reserved stock in a thin stream, whisking vigorously. Whisk the resulting sauce into the soup. Adjust the salt and season generously with pepper. Return the short ribs to the soup and let warm through for 5 minutes. Stir in dill just before serving. Serve with sour cream on the side.

The next soup I chose to do is Summer Schi.  I wanted to do a comparison as to how the two schi's differed. Wow, let's just say night and day difference!  The summer soup is full of pure vegetable flavor and just looks gorgeous when garnished.  The vegetables are your everyday stock pantry veggies which I imagine are also staples in Siberia:  potato, celery, carrot, onion and spinach.  I think this is the most pleasing to the eye soup I have ever made, and I make a ton of soup!  Even though this is considered a lighter summer soup, if you substituted chicken stock for the water and added more cream, this could be a hearty winter soup no problem. 

Summer Schi Soup

Summer Schi Soup (adapted from ruscuisine)
6 cups water
1 lb sorrel
1 lb spinach
2 onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 potatoes peeled and chopped
1 TB fresh Dill, chopped
1/2 cup cream
4 eggs hard boiled, sliced
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp black pepper

Bring water to a boil. Add onion, carrot, celery, spinach, potatoes and pepper and boil for 15 minutes. Add sorrel, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir the cream and fresh dill. Serve with a slice of egg and a teaspoon of sour cream.

Finally, my last dish is simply called Baked Pumpkin. What, no great ethnic name???  I know, I know!  I searched for some wonderful Russian name to no avail. I love this healthy pumpkin dish with the odd combination of hard boiled eggs and bread crumbs. I love to pair the unexpected and odd flavor combos and that is what drew me to this dish.  This was a quick and easy dish that will compliment just about any fall and winter meal.

Baked Pumpkin

Baked Pumpkin (adapted from ruscuisine)
1 lb pumpkin
1 tbsp butter
1/2 c cream
3 tbsp dried and finely ground bread-crumbs
2 ea eggs hard boiled
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp almonds ground

Boil pumpkin in salted water, cut it in strips. Put them in a stew-pan, sprinkle with dried and finely ground bread-crumbs. Chop eggs finely. Cover the top with chopped eggs and pour over cream. Bake in the oven for a half an hour. Before serving sprinkle with sugar and ground almonds.

I am amazed at the variations in Russian dishes and even more shocked at how healthy many of the recipes are.  I hope you will also explore this area next time you are wanting to try something different and put this remote area on your "must" list.  I would like to thank the Friend family for allowing me to use their beautiful photos from Russia.
Arctic Sun Baikal (courtesy of Marty Friend)
Kazansky (courtesy of Marty Friend)

Wall (courtesy of Marty Friend)

 Voting for the second round of Project Food Blog begins September 27 ~ September 30.  Those moving on will be announced October 1.  The 400 contestants will then be whittled down to 200 so every vote counts!  You will have 200 votes so please vote for me!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Last Day To Vote PFB! Hurry-Ends Sept. 23,2010

Hurry!  Have you cast your votes for your favorite PFB entry posts yet?
Hurry!  Voting ends today at 6 pm PST.  Please cast one of your 400 votes for me!
Good Luck to everyone!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Vote For Me! Project Food Blog Voting Now Open!

Woohoo!  And the voting begins!
Project Food Blog is now officially open for voting and you have until September 23, 2010 to vote. Yes, only 3 days to vote! Please click on PFB profile and vote for me-thanks!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Foodbuzz Next Blog Star Challenge #1

Excited. Nervous. Anxious. Wow!  I am feeling so many mixed emotions upon writing the first challenge for the Project Food Blog Contest.  Foodbuzz is having one huge contest to determine who is THE best food blogger from their Featured Publishers.  There are 2000 bloggers competing to be THE ONE standing after ten challenges.  This first challenge will only leave 400 moving on to the next challenge!!!  Check out my profile by clicking on my entry on the right side my blog.  To be amongst some truly awesome foodies with blogs one can dream and drool over and so many bloggers I admire and draw strength and inspiration from is beyond words. 

Having been a Caterer, Personal Chef and Culinary Director, I do have the knowledge and basic background for blogging. However, this alone does not make a well rounded blogger.  Does it really matter to the reader that their diced onion be 1/8" cubed (it doesn't make it taste differently so no need to stress over it) or that the majority of readers don't know the difference between a roasting chicken and a capon? (I know many would really rather not know what a capon is).   I draw upon memories of my family growing up and the strong influence they have had in my foodie world and thank them for the passion for food they have instilled in me.  I was exposed to so many different types of food growing up coming from a French, Irish and German background (and whatever else might be sprinkled in there) that I had no choice but to fall in love with every type of cuisine imaginable.  Every gathering was a need to celebrate food in every form!  I feel very privileged to have had such great food memories.  
Memere and Pepere

Mom Mom
  I loved to eat but never really had to cook because my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother did it all from scratch.  Even back then the kitchen was the hub of the house and my grandmother made it look so effortless with her grandiose dinner parties and holiday spreads.  While blogging I hope to invoke that warm, cozy feeling of family and good friends while opening up my home and memories.  I hope my readers will pull up a seat with their favorite beverage and cook along with me.
Loudenville Home
I remember coming home from school to homemade chocolate whoopie pies, which by the way were the bomb!  Everyday my mom had a "homemade with love" snack for me and my brother after stepping off the bus.  With all the great food surrounding me growing up it's no wonder I was a chubby child!

Fast forward through college and having my own family.  I had no more excuses, I had to learn how to feed the family!
Family circa 1934

Thank goodness my first child was a healthy eater as I was feeding him healthier versions of classics and very little meat.  Taking the classics (or not so classics) and putting a healthy twist on things is what helps me stand apart from many other bloggers.  I love to take my wonderful food memories and experiment with new ways to infuse that healthy twist and make it taste just as good, if not better, than the original.  I will also be the first to admit that I am the Queen of taking whatever is in the fridge, freezer and pantry and throwing together mind blowing meals!

Pleasurable reading to me involves cookbooks (the most recent is my family cookbook of five generations of recipes), cooking magazines, blogs and numerous recipe sites.  Not much is different in the entertainment realm either as the t.v. is always on some sort of reality cooking show or food channel!  Eat, Sleep and Live all things food IS my world. 

In short, I standout from other blogs because I stand tall and am proud of who I am and the passion I have for great food.  I am fearless in the kitchen and pair the most unusual things together.  How boring is it to be stuck in a food rut and never try new things???  I hope I convey the feeling and celebration of my family.  Being in the kitchen is not a chore for me, it's an escape to my happy place.
Food ~ Family ~ Memories = One passionate food blogger!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Vote For Me In Palm Plate Review!

Yea!  I am one of the runner's up in the Marx Food Palm Plate Review.  Four winners have been chosen and now Marx Food is opening up to the public to vote on the other winners from the runner's up list. Please go to the Marx Food link and vote for me through the 19th.  I recommend the Palm Plates to all!

Friday, September 10, 2010

UGH - It's Back To School Lunches

It's back to school time! Since most of the states have started their new school year, I feel compelled to comment (if you know me, you know I rarely make just ONE comment) about the dilemma of whether to pack lunch or buy from the cafeteria. My oldest child is in college and my youngest is in second grade so I have been facing this dilemma for what seems like forever! My biggest gripe is that if my child buys lunch from the cafeteria I should not have to worry about the choices he makes because the school should be following the guidelines.  It should be healthy, no matter the combination chosen.

School lunch programs should follow The U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines (remember when we had to learn in school many moons ago the Food Pyramid?) if the school is federally funded. While the USDA does require that the meals meet certain nutritional standards, schools choose the specific foods. This should be a no-brainer, right?  As usual, things are never that easy.  While it is more economical for the most part to purchase a school lunch (ours is $2.00 average depending on what grade child is in) vs. packing a lunch, parents really need to study the school menu.

According to a article, a school breakfast fares pretty well compared to a school lunch. The not so surprising fact is that many schools are not complying with the guidelines. And you better do a double take of the menu if your child attends a private school where more than likely that school is not receiving federal funding for it's food program. Basically, no federal funding means no rules for nutrition.

My school system does an ok job with the lunch menu and they have received the USDA Gold Award in the HealthierUS School Challenge. There is no frying anymore, only baked which is a step in the right direction. Gone also are the white rolls having been replaced with wheat rolls. They still have chocolate milk which tends to have the same amount of sugar as a canned soft drink. Check out my good friend Jamie Oliver's stats (ok, in my mind we are best buds and have a passion for the same things) and read about his Food Revolution.

Our school menu seems to be on a four week rotation and there is one particular lunch I cringe over, so much so that I am seriously thinking of making an appointment with the Director of Dietary to discuss it. Let's just say that my child chose pizza, mashed potatoes and a roll for his lunch! Don't even get me started that elementary kids can also get extras via ala carte if they have extra money! I found this out when my child was collecting all the loose change around the house to support his ice cream addiction! Parents are none the wiser either and must notify the school that their child not be allowed to purchase ala carte. Another slap in the face is the menu at the high school but that would take another post on its own!

In short, parents need to be proactive in lunch programs and discuss with their child what the better choice is  for their meal. Make that appointment with the school cafeteria manager and district dietary director.  Visit school and have lunch with your child to see what is being served (added bonus is your child will love having you as a guest).   Help our children lead healthy lives with healthy choices.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Comments Disappeared???

I have been getting several messages that the comment section had disappeared on the blog for some reason. I think I have fixed it now so comment away! For those of you who sent me comments on the Peppadew Giveaway, not to worry, you will be entered in the giveaway. I will extend the Giveaway until September 13, 2010 (Monday)due to this glitch so hurry and post your comments!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hurry & Enter! Deadline is Friday Sept. 10th

Just a quick note that you must post a comment on my blog to be eligible for the Peppadew Giveaway.  Although I do enjoy getting messages and comments on other sites, you need to visit the Peppadew Pepper site (read blog entry below for websites) and peruse their yummy products and post what you would love to try.  Remember, there will be 3 winners for this great giveaway. But you need hurry since the deadline to enter is this Friday!  Good Luck!