Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Meals we had, May 13-19

Getting behind on blogging. Looks like it's time to start keeping my camera in the kitchen again!

Meals from the week BEFORE last (when we had pork almost every night, yikes!):

Monday: Cheesy pork cubes, sauteed eggplant with garlic, angel hair pasta
Tuesday: Sausage and veggie skillet, pasta
Wednesday: Leftover stewed pork, boiled buckwheat
Thursday: Hot dogs, buckwheat, fresh salad
Friday: Cold sliced pork sandwiches (we had a chicken lunch)
Saturday: Roasted chicken, sauteed squash, boiled buckwheat*
Sunday: Pork/Veggie/Buckwheat skillet (Southwestern style with sour cream, cheese, and green onion

One question I explored was whether or not buckwheat could be substituted in "Mexican" dishes. It has a stronger flavor than rice but it can serve the same purpose. And the Tex-Mex condiments help dress up the buckwheat a little bit.

*This was the weekend that my mother-in-law boiled us a HUGE post of buckwheat and we were eating it for the next 3-4 days. :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Meals we had, May 6-12

Not the most successful week culinarily (apparently that's not a word but I'm using it anyway). There were some interesting ideas with so-so results. I've had texture issues with chicken breasts lately. Sometimes I think it's my cooking skills that are the problem, but then again I've made decent chicken dinners before. So I'm thinking it might just be the "quality" (freshness?) of the meat itself, and I'm not sure I want to actually speculate as to why, but one thing is that a lot of water comes out of them when they start cooking. Does that mean I should cook them more? Less? Use a different technique?

Meanwhile, I had a big chunk of pork in the freezer but I didn't really know what cut or the best way of cooking. So I cut it into chunks and tried to have it turn into a sort of goulash. It never really got tender, though. When meat is tough I'm never sure if it's over or under-cooked. I think I probably should have given it some more time.

Monday: Chicken breasts stuffed with bacon and feta, potatoes, brussels sprouts
Tuesday: Pizza from scratch
Wednesday: Chicken-veggie-rice mix tossed with cheese and "southwestern" spices
Thursday: Same thing but with buckwheat this time!
Friday: Didn't write anything down for some reason
Saturday: Pizza (made by friends)
Sunday: Pork stewed in the oven, buckwheat

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How To Make Pumpkin Muffins

A yummy pumpkin muffin!
I used to think of pumpkin puree as sort of a precious commodity here (aside from buying a pumpkin and making your own) until I was feeding the baby some jarred (gasp!) baby food and realized...wait a minute, this IS pumpkin puree! I don't think I've run across pumpkin baked goods here, and there doesn't seem to be a pumpkin season where everybody is making pumpkin-everything, BUT...sometimes it's just a matter of checking the baby food aisle. :)

On to my next question: What is the difference between MUFFINS and CUPCAKES? I guess the general rule is that muffins are often less sweet and therefore bland not as tasty healthier? And you can eat a muffin for breakfast, but cupcakes are dessert, right?

If you are in Russia, however, the lines seem to blur, and other distinctions must be made. For example, TEA vs. NOT TEA. What is the difference? You can't just drink tea without also eating something, but you also can't drink tea with your meal. Instead of DESSERTS VS. MEALS, it's MEALS VS. TEA. You can have something non-sweet with your tea, like a sandwich. A sandwich isn't a meal. If you ask someone if he/she would like to have lunch or whatever, he/she might say "I'm not hungry, just tea is fine." However, "just tea" might include a spread of various sandwiches, baked goods, and candy. Adults love candy; it isn't just for kids.

Which brings me back to muffins and cupcakes. Either may be eaten with tea, as a separate course following the meal, or instead of breakfast.

These pumpkin muffins are definitely muffin-ish as opposed to cupcake-y. But if you add a dusting of powdered sugar like I did, they start inching towards the dessert category. And I think a dollop of frosting would push them over the edge entirely.

Give them a try! Recipe here.

Meals we had, April 29-May 5

Once again we had mainly chicken and pork dishes. I've been noticing a lack of vegetables, so I'll work on adding some in this week. Andrei doesn't like cooked vegetables that much, so sometimes it's just a matter of steaming or sauteeing some frozen vegetables and having them on the side. We also had pelmeni twice, but at least we had substantial lunches those days.

The details on what we ate last week:

-Monday dinner: Pork roast, rice with mushrooms
-Tuesday dinner: Chicken in mushroom cream sauce with angel hair pasta
-Wednesday dinner: Boiled buckwheat stir-fried with pork, bell peppers, and fresh herbs
-Thursday dinner: Pelmeni (we had a chicken lunch with my in-laws and were at a meeting in the evening)
-Friday dinner: Pork roast under a shredded potato/cheese crust
-Saturday dinner: Pork Roast Mexico City (family recipe)
-Sunday dinner: Boiled pelmeni, with Brussels sprouts on the side (again we had a chicken lunch)

Baked desserts/snacks: Pumpkin muffins, Cheesecake brownies, Cheddar drop biscuits, Cheesecake jam tarts

Sunday, May 5, 2013

How to Make Cheddar Drop Biscuits

Cheddar Drop Biscuits (with green onion)

I love having homemade rolls and things available, but I hate the process of making them. Yeast dough has a way of getting all over everything, and it's hard when you're interrupted mid-kneading by a small child (let him cry for a minute or pick him up with sticky hands?). Not to mention the clean-up.

While it's fun to indulge in homemade pizza dough and such once in a while, I usually try to keep baking to something simpler. Drop biscuits bake up REALLY quickly. I usually make just one batch or even a half-batch-we eat them fresh, and then they're gone. No leftovers to enjoy, but not too much clean-up to do.

These are great if you're on a Red Lobster copycat search. Especially if you brush them with melted garlic butter when you take them out of the oven.

My go-to recipe is another one from 300 Best Comfort Food Recipes by Johanna Burkhard. Great cookbook!


2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup coarsely shredded aged Cheddar cheese*
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives**
1 cup milk

Additional chopped chives


1) In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or two knives to make coarse crumbs. Add cheddar cheese and chives, if using.

2) Stir in milk to make a soft, sticky dough. Drop twelve heaping tablespoonfuls (15 mL) onto prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with chopped chives.

3) Bake on middle rack in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until edges are golden. Transfer biscuits to a rack to cool.

* I tend to use whatever mix of cheeses I have on hand
** I use green onions

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cooking with Fresh Herbs: The Triumverate

If there's one thing I miss about Russian cuisine while away, it's the fresh dill sprinkled on everything.

Sure, I get tired of opening the refrigerator 2-3 times a day, taking out the herbs, washing, and chopping.

But I've come to love the flavor they add to soups, salads, omelets, baked goods, etc. etc. etc.

The three we most commonly use here are green onion, dill, and parsley.

Sometimes they are even sold in a bunch together. Often there's a little stand out on the street and I catch a whiff of dill as I walk by...mmmm.

-sprinkle some on soup...mmmmm
-mix into your scrambled eggs
-add pizzazz to biscuits or rolls
-blend with butter to make a nice spread
-make boiled potatoes go from boring to instant yumminess (a pat of butter helps, too)
-mix into sauces
-garnish an egg, potato, or fresh salad-it's pretty AND tasty!
-add to pretty much any dish! :)

P.S. We even save the stems and use them later to flavor soup stock and water for boiling pasta, rice, etc.