Sunday, December 1, 2013

Seattle Aquarium - fun for adults

This weekend we went to Seattle Aquarium. My two year old had fun but I had even more fun than he did looking at beautiful fish and octopus. Here are my iPhone instagrams of Spotfin Lionfish and Clown Fish.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Cooking - Sweet Poppy Bread

So nice to have mom around for Thanksgiving. She made this sweet poppy bread this year. Will need to learn the recipe.

Thanksgiving Cooking - Cranberry Quince Sauce

A new recipe this Thanksgiving - the Cranberry Quince Sauce. I thought fresh cranberries and quince preserves I made would go well together and they did. Here is the recipe.


15 ounces of fresh cranberries
1 cup of quince preserves (recipe is here)
juice of 1 orange
1 teaspoon of orange zest
1/2 cup of white sugar
few drops of vanilla
1 cup of water


Combine all ingredients in a pot, stir and bring to a boil. Boil on medium heat for about 4 minutes until most of cranberries pop. Reduce heat and simmer on medium low for another 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Taste for sugar and add more if needed. Take off the heat and let cool completely. Store in a refrigerator.

This is how my Thanksgiving table looked like.

Thanksgiving Cooking - Mushroom Gravy

Turkey and Gravy is a must at the Thanksgiving table. I don't like regular gravy but mushroom gravy is a different story. I first tried mushroom gravy at PCC and always wanted to make it at home. So I did it this year. I used a recipe from PCC website slightly modifying it. Here it is.


4 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of water
1 ounce bag of dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 lb of crimini mushrooms, caps only, cleaned and sliced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried sage
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons ground rosemary
2 tablespoons sherry wine
5 teaspoons tamari
1/3 cup unbleached wheat flour
Salt and Pepper


1.  In a large soup pot combine vegetable broth, water and dried porcini mushrooms. Bring to a boil and let boil on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Transfer into a blender and puree. Transfer back into the soup pot and keep hot.

2. On medium heat saute onions, crimini mushrooms in olive oil in a different pot for 5 minutes, add sage, thyme, and rosemary. Salt and pepper to taste. Let cook for about 10 minutes until mushrooms are cooked. Add all but 1 cup of hot broth, tamari and sherry wine. Stir and let cook on medium low for 2 minutes.

3. In a separate bowl whisk together flour and remaining 1 cup of hot broth. Add to the mushroom and onion mixture, stir and let cook another 4 minutes on medium low heat until thickens. Keep stirring. Transfer into a blender and puree. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Serve with turkey. Keep refrigerated.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Portland in Instagrams

Last weekend we were back in Portland.  We ate at new places, stayed in a new hotel and shopped at the new stores. Here is a list with Instagram pictures.


We stayed at the Nines. The W type hotel - modern with a cool rooftop bar and atrium restaurant.


Olympic Provisions: The meat shop. Wonderful salami. My favorite was Saucisson D’Arles - just pork and salt. You can find their products in Seattle - I saw salami at the Rain Shadow Meats in the Melrose Market.

Lardo: a pork place. I had a Pork Meatball Banh Mi there. Dirty fries looked decadent.

Just around the corner from Lardo there is a Blue Star Donuts. East Coast type donuts as my husband called them. The only drawback to the place - no espresso maker. So we bought Dulce De Leche and Hazelnuts donut and walked over to Stumptown and enjoyed it with a cup of americano there.


While at Stumptown we saw people going to/coming from Steven Alan store. We decided to check it out. And as it turns out there is a whole alley of unique boutique shops there called Union Way Shopping Arcade. We bought few shirts at Marine Layer that were made by adults in San Francisco.

Oblation Papers & Press: the fine paper shop in the Pearl District. I bought some beautiful cards and found the same paper that I brought from Italy's Amalfi Coast there.

Canoe in Goose Hollow was another cute gallery shop.

Polish Pottery Place in Nob Hill was also a new discovery. I left it with these bowls. They have a store in Seattle too.

Local Brews

The trip would not be complete without visiting Lompoc Tavern and Bull Run Distillery. Got some tasting done at both.

A find

I discovered a new brand of tea on this trip too - Steven Smith Teas.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Quince Preserves

My family lived in Tashkent, Uzbekistan for some time. Quince is in abundance there. It looks similar to a pear, has a fragrant aroma but tastes awful in its raw form. It is primarily used to make preserves.

In the recent years I started seeing quince for sale in the fall at local co-ops. And this fall I decided to make preserves with it. My mother was eager to lead. So far we have made this recipe three times and have been enjoying quince preserves with yogurt, on a toast and by itself with a cup of tea. The ingredients list is simple: quince, sugar and water. We use 1 to 1 ratio of sugar and fruit. The process of making quince preserves is a bit more labor intensive than others. Here is the recipe.


2.5 lb of peeled, seeded and cut into cubes quince (comes from 4.5 lbs of fruit)
2.5 lb of sugar
2 cups of water
peels from quince to make syrup


Step 1: Make the syrup. Put peels in a small pot and add 2 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until peels are soft (about 5 minutes). Take off the heat and pour through a strainer. Reserve 2 cups of liquid. Pour it into a big pot and add 2.5 lb of sugar, stir. Let sugar dissolve completely on medium heat. Stir constantly to prevent burning.

Step 2: Add quince to the syrup and bring to a boil, take off the burner. Return back to the burner, bring to a boil again and then reduce heat to medium low/low and let simmer, removing the foam from the top and stirring for about 35-40 minutes until quince become translucent and there is no more foam. Quince will become more red as it cooks. Let preserves cool off uncovered and transfer into clean jars. Keep refrigerated.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

2013 Work Wardrobe

This year I finally made an effort to take pictures of my work attire with an iPhone camera. Here is my 2013 work wardrobe.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Frye Museum - Franz Von Stuck

It is time to visit Frye Museum again. They now have exhibit of Franz Von Stuck work. I went to the opening last night. The Sin made the biggest impression on me.

Braised Eggplant with Tomatoes, Carrots and Parsley

I like eggplant tender and thoroughly cooked but not mushy. While in Italy this September I had braised eggplant with tomatoes and thought I would try making something similar at home. And I did. Below is my recipe.


2 large eggplants, washed, ends cut off and cubed (3/4 - 1 inch)
2 carrots, peeled and cut as desired
2 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
Fresh Parsley
Parmesan Cheese


1. In a large pot saute garlic in olive oil on medium high heat for 1 minute. Add eggplant, carrots, let saute for another minute, stir. Add tomatoes and a bit of chopped fresh parsley, stir well. Turn heat down to medium low and let cook for about 30 minutes (stir couple times).

2. After 30 minutes turn heat down to low and let cook for another 40 minutes until eggplant is cooked. Taste for salt and add if needed. Serve as a side dish with shredded Parmesan cheese or with pasta. I eat it by itself.

Brussels Sprouts with Shallot

Few weeks ago I came up with a new way to cook brussels sprouts and have done it several times now. Instead of roasting I pan fried them with chicken stock and shallot. Here is the recipe.


3/4 - 1 lb of brussels sprouts
1 small shallot
1/4 cup of chicken stock
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil


1. Clean brussels sprouts (the most tedious part) and then slice them. Chop shallot. 

2. On medium high heat saute shallot in olive oil for about 1 minute, add brussels sprouts and saute for 4 minutes until they start getting a nice brown color.

3. Add chicken stock, reduce heat to medium low or low, cover and let cook for another 5 minutes until stock is absorbed and brussels sprouts are cooked. Taste for salt and add if needed. I served it as a side to a steak. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Howe Street Stairs Workout

After living on Capitol Hill for almost 4 years I finally embraced the Howe Street Stairs. I start on the 10th and go down to Lakeview Blvd E and back 5 times, which takes me about 25 minutes.  Map link is here. I counted about 260-270 stairs. Great quick cardio workout outside.

Pan Fried Trout

Recently I have been buying trout, filleting and pan frying it. It is quick and makes for a nice meal.


2 trout fillets
Olive Oil


Drench trout in flour. Salt on both sides to taste. On medium heat pan fry trout in olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) skin side down first for about 2 minutes until skin starts getting brown and crispy. Flip the trout and cook another 2-3 minutes until trout is done. Take off the heat. Serve with a salad, vegetables and/or favorite starch. I served it with arugula tomato salad, braised eggplant with tomatoes and black rice with shrimp and zucchini.

Black Rice with Shrimp and Zucchini

While in Italy I had black rice with shrimp and zucchini and thought it would be a nice dish to make at home. I brought a few pounds of black rice with me back to the U.S. But you can buy it at most high end grocery stores in Seattle or online. Below is the recipe I used - it is very simple. The hardest part is to cook the rice.


1 cup of black rice
2.5 cups of water
1 cup of cooked small shrimp
2 or 3 small zucchini, chopped

Olive Oil
Fresh parsley


1. Rinse rice in cold water before cooking. Combine rice, water, pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover and let rice cook for about 45-50 minutes stirring and checking to make sure it is not burning. I tasted it to make sure the rice was cooked.

2. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. One medium heat fry zucchini until it starts to get brown, then cover, turn heat to low and let cook for another 15 minutes or until it is done.

3. Combine rice, shrimp and zucchini in a big bowl. Taste for salt. Garnish with finely chopped parsley. It is also good cold.

Italy in September - Part V Pompeii and Pizza in Naples

While on Amalfi Coast we took a one day trip to Pompeii. We drove our Fiat there. Drive was slow because of the windy roads. There was a parking lot right next to the ruins. Visit to Pompeii Ruins took us about 2 hours and we used Rick Steves' offered route to explore this ancient city.

Walking among the ruins is breathtaking. You cannot help but feel transported back in time when this used to be a lively city. It is amazing how well preserved ruins are. Few pictures below.

We walked passed the living rooms with painted windows on the walls, bathhouses, brick ovens, Egyptian temple, brothel, fast food joints.

Another interesting attraction is stray dogs that seem to be chilaxing everywhere.

After visiting Pompeii we decided to take a train to Naples for the Neapolitan pizza. We chose to leave our car parked near Pompeii Ruins and take a train to Naples. Train Station Pompeii Scavi is conveniently located next to the Ruins. Train ride was 40 minutes and cost less than 5 euro per person. It is a commuter train called Circumvesuviana.

Train ride is an experience as well. The outside has graffiti, inside is crowded with teenagers and workers coming from/to the suburbs, views include slums outside of Naples. Train Station area was dirty and full of street merchants selling fake Fendi and LV bags and sunglasses.

We walked to L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele - recommended by Rick Steves and by Eat, Pray, Love. We got there around 2 p.m. and saw a huge crowd outside. You can do a take out but we decided to take a ticket and wait for a table. The wait was about 1 and 40 minutes, which also included 30 minutes to be served inside. We just got there at a bad time - shift change.

There is a system in how they serve their customers. They let people in, take orders and then make everyone's pizza. Each pizza is in the oven no more than 2 minutes. There is a menu on a wall and they serve only two kinds of pizza: Margherita and Marinara.

Pizza had a distinct flavor but nothing mind blowing. Most people eat it with a fork and a knife. Pizza is 4-5 euro depending on how much topping you have. We had two pizzas, water and a beer for 12 euro - cheap eat!!!! And most importantly mission of tasting real Neapolitan Pizza in Naples is accomplished.

We walked back to the train station and took a 5 p.m. train back to Pompeii, left Pompeii around 6 p.m. and got back to Praiano after 7:30 p.m.