I’m making silly cooking videos with my cats, I hope you like them. Please, “Like”, comment and subscribe!
Last night I got to use my Asian spices I had purchased on my last trip to Sofia. I made a big pot of broth with my Hot Pot mix which contained hot peppers, Chinese prickly ash(no idea?), thick broad bean sauce, suet, salt, gourmet powder, ginger, natural spices.
I made a bunch of dips with varying levels of spiciness, green onions, broccoli, mushrooms, red peppers, cabbage and onions, spinach and Patience’s dock, eggs and thinly sliced red meat (my cat likes the red meat).
Alright, I’ve done it! A whole month sans-meat (and booze)! February was interesting to say the least, the first thing I noticed was without alcohol I suffer from insomnia, or was that due to the gallons of coffee I started drinking? The second thing I noticed, which surprised me, was that I craved meat far more than I missed alcohol. It’s not like I didn’t eat mouth watering things all month but the smell of bacon cooking when you’re off meat is just down right cruel!
What I got out of my experiment.
- It was actually much easier to start two challenges at the same time; thinking and planning creative vegetarian meals kept me distracted from not drinking.
- I thought I would have loads more energy and would be able to accomplish twice as many things I normally do but my insomnia canceled that out…or maybe I’m just old now?
- That gross and dangerous layer of fat that builds itself around my stomach is 100% caused by beer (but it’s so good on a hot summer day! sigh).
- Coming in as number one as the best advantage of non drinking is, moisture! My hair and skin benefited the most during the month of February. I started noticing changes only two weeks into my experiment, my skin was smooth and more springy and my hair soft and a lot less frizzy.
My February challenge went well but I don’t want to flip my life completely and go full vegetarian sober. I love meat, I love wine, that will never change but maybe what I’ll take from this is that it might be time for me to chill out a little bit and reduce the craziness.
Braised Napa cabbage piccata
Piccata sauce, normally prepared with chicken, I thought I’d try it with braised Napa cabbage instead. Cook onions, garlic, vegetable stock, oregano and loads of lemon juice. Bring to a boil and let reduce by half. Whisk in a sinful amount of butter and a handful of capers. Cut the cabbage in two and quickly grill on each side. Add the cabbage to the piccata sauce, reduce heat and let simmer until the sauce thickens. Serve with a 4 minute boiled egg, more capers and some parsley. I would love to make this with huge oyster mushrooms (or king oyster) instead of cabbage but I haven’t found them here in Bulgaria.
Polish potato dumplings
Polish? Hungarian? German? Whatever! These are yummy simple dumpling you can make without using a real recipe. Make your dough with a peeled boiled potato (or leftover mashed potatoes), flour, salt, water and an egg (optional). I make mine different every time. Sometimes with a soft sticky batter and spoon it into boiling water, sometimes with a thicker dough which I roll out and cut. I’ve even made a harder dough, rolled it and froze it then used the large holes on my cheese grater to grate the dough into boiling water. This method is great if you are making large amounts as it’s so much faster.
Click here for Jamie Oliver’s dumplings.
Butternut squash dumplings
Use butternut squash instead of potatoes! After boiling, I pan fried these with butter, sugar and cinnamon. Also good with crispy sage, brown butter and toasted pumpkin seeds.
Quinoa salad with honey orange dressing
My new favorite salad. Quinoa, onions, tomatoes, lettuce with olive oil, fresh orange juice, lemon juice, garlic (keep whole and let infuse in the vinaigrette for 30 minutes) and honey. This would also work with walnuts or feta or fresh mint. Serve with a poached egg for protein.
Yogurt pancakes with preserved green figs
Greek yogurt, flour, a egg, baking powder, sugar and a pinch of salt. These are sour/savory so serve with something sweet like preserved fruits or honey and nuts.
Homemade tofu with cold soba noodles and zucchini with green onions
I’m crazy about homemade tofu, I never get to cook with it because we usually eat the whole brick as soon as it’s formed. I just got a plastic tofu press from eBay and it makes things so much easier.
Step by step tofu recipe.
Creamy rosemary mushrooms and peppers with shells
Mushrooms, green peppers, onions, garlic, cream, rosemary, black pepper, nutmeg and pasta.
Bulgarian fried zucchini with garlic yogurt
You can order this at every restaurant in Bulgaria, it’s so good. Cut zucchinis length wise, place on a rack or clean dish towel, salt, set aside 10 minutes to let the moisture to come out. Pat dry with paper towel then dip in a bowl with a beaten egg, next dip in flour (seasoned with salt) and fry in hot oil turning once. Greek yogurt and chopped garlic for the dip.
Armenian stuffed bread
My lovely Armenian Russian neighbours make these for me all the time. What I like about this recipe is that you can use up all your wilting greens, herbs and salads you might have in the fridge.
Watch how this lady makes hers.
Bulgaria’s 2014 winner of the best dish in Europe, organized by the European Parliament. Super simple: cucumbers, tomatoes, raw onions, peppers and Bulgarian white cheese “Sirene” (or good quality feta). Dress with sunflower oil and apple cider vinegar. Almost all Bulgarian salads come undressed, in every restaurant each table has it’s own oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and toothpicks and it’s up to you to season to your liking (I like mine easy on the toothpicks).
Recently, I bought this little onigiri press online so I though it would be fun to try different filling. I need to work on my sushi rice skills, this batch was a bit soggy.
Quail eggs marinated in soy sauce for 5 minutes, yam with ginger and honey, green onions with wasabi mayo.
Cottage cheese with tomatoes and green onions
This is a super Polish snack. Season with salt and pepper, serve with artisan bread or crackers.
Eastern European spreads
I discovered these dips/spreads along my travels and really wanted share. I make these very often, they go well on bread but could be used as a pasta sauce or a dip for meats and vegetables.
Clockwise starting with the green and white: Tyrokafteri (Greece), körözött (Hungary), kyopolou (Bulgaria), avjar (Macedonia) and Lutenitsa (Bulgaria)
Tyrokafteri (Greece), the spicier the pepper the better.
Körözött (Hungary), my mom would often make this for parties.
Kyopolou (Bulgaria), the smokey eggplant brings a great flavor dimension.
Avjar (Macedonia), you can smell roasting peppers in everyone’s backyards in the fall.
Lutenitsa (Bulgaria), all my guests return home with their luggage full of jars of this.
We spent Valentine’s day in a cute little village called Zheravna in central Eastern Bulgaria. This village is known for its historical wooden houses (between 200-300 years old) surrounded by stone walls and cobblestone alleys. We where there during the “off season” which meant we were the only tourists in town.
View from our room.
Homemade Polish milk caramels.
This is a versatile comfort soup great for those days you need a chickenless chicken noodle soup. This time I used green beans, carrots, mushrooms, onions and hot paprika with a dollop of sour cream but feel free to use whatever soup-friendly ingredients you have in your fridge.
Magical freezer stock.
Every time I chop onions, peel carrots, own wilted parsley, celery or maybe a sad tomato, I throw everything, scraps and all, into a plastic container in my freezer. Every few weeks when the container is full I pull it out to make stock. Remember to add peppercorns, salt, a bay leaf and whatever other ingredients you want, cover with water and boil or pressure cook until a yummy broth is made.
- -1/2 cup cream of wheat
- -1 egg
- -1 teaspoon oil
- -salt to taste
- -water if needed
- Bring soup to a rolling boil.
- Lightly beat the eggs and add the cream of wheat, oil and salt. You want a very thick porridge consistency, add a little water to the mixture if it is too dry (or more cream of wheat if too wet).
- Drop about 10 very small scoops (~ ½ teaspoon) of dumpling dough into the boiling pot, then stir gently once or twice and repeat the scooping process. The dumpling are cooked when they rise to the surface. Make sure you test the dumplings, if they are sandy in texture cook longer.
I love meat. I mean I really love meat, especially pork. Unfortunately, since my non-stop eating and drinking holiday in France last summer I haven’t been feeling 100%. I drink all the time, eat rich foods without any control and surprise, surprise, I’m getting fat and tired! Winter is slow here and I have all the time in the world, why not challenge myself for the month of February (shortest month of the year) and see if I can spend the whole month without drinking* or eating meat. I want to be clear, I don’t think vegetarianism makes one healthier or necessarily loose weight, I’m doing this as a creative cooking challenge.
*There’s a chance I might drink Champagne on Valentine’s day.
Day one: Eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce with chickpeas.
Bring your favorite spicy tomato sauce to a gentle boil, add chickpeas, cook for 5 minutes. Slowly crack eggs into the sauce without stirring, cover and cook for 4-8 minutes depending how you like your eggs.
Day two: Grains, carrots cooked in orange and ginger sauce and caramelized onions.
Day three: Grains with chickpeas, caramelized onions, sumac, cumin and mint with a side of steamed broccoli and avocado.
Day four (restaurant lunch): Mixed greens, tomato, quinoa and goat cheese with orange honey dressing. Matt had soup and chicken wings.
Day four: Boiled egg, cucumber and mascarpone sandwiches.
Day five: Tortilla quiches with broccoli and sundried tomatoes, smoked paprika chickpeas, patatas bravas, cucumber pickled beets and avocado, cheese stuffed hot peppers and olives. For dessert: dates stuffed with mascarpone, green figs preserved in syrup and salted roasted peanuts.
The tortillas are molded into cup shape by baking in a muffin tin. The quiche is made up of egg, Parmesan cheese and broccoli and topped with sundried tomato.
Day six and seven: Tom yum soup.
Broth: vegetable stock, green curry paste, tamarind paste (or lime juice) and coconut milk. The trick to a creamy broth is to reserve 1/2 a cup of coconut milk then add before serving.
Day eight: Aloo kofte with a tomato curry, spiced grains and lentils Majadra with crispy onions and Indian raita.
“Aloo” means potato and “kofte” means meatball. I used this recipe as a guide but I left out the almonds and raisins.
Raita is sour cream or plain yogurt with garlic, cucumber and a touch of vinegar.
Day nine*: Broccoli, walnut, sunflower seed, cheese, raisin and green onion salad with aioli dressing.
*the day Matt bought a huge container of fancy prosciutto. Worst day ever!
You can make “fake aioli” by mixing mayonnaise, crushed garlic, lemon juice, a touch of Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. I like blanching my broccoli for this salad but it’s no necessary.
Day ten: Bucatini with red beans and red peppers in a creamy roasted pepper sauce.
Sauce: On a dry hot pan, roast red peppers until they blister and slightly char on each side. Place the hot peppers in a pot or bowl with a lid and let them sweat for 10 minutes. During this time, cook chopped onions until translucent then add some crushed garlic. Rinse the peppers under cold running water removing as much of the skin you can. Chop the peppers and add to onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook another 5 minutes. Blend everything in a blender or with a hand mixer and return to a medium low heat. Add a handful of cooked beans and slowly pour in some cream, bring to a simmer. Adjust seasoning then toss with cooked pasta and fresh parsley.
Day eleven (restaurant lunch): Sirene Po Shopski (cheese Shopski Style).
In a clay pot, place tomato slices, red or green pepper slices and a big hunk of feta cheese in the middle. Gently crack an egg on top and throw in a hot pepper. Bake covered in a medium heat oven for 10-12 minutes. You could add the egg 8 minutes into the baking process for a runnier yolk.
Day twelve*: Lemon potatoes with steamed “zucchini lattice” wrapped salmon marinated in ginger miso butter on a bed of leeks.
*Salmon isn’t vegetarian but whatever.
The zucchini lattice is ridiculous. You slice zucchinis lengthwise then spend a stupid amount of time weaving the zucchini strips on top of plastic wrap (this will help lift the lattice to wrap the salmon).
Marinade: 1 tablespoon miso, 1 teaspoon honey, 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 crushed clove of garlic and freshly grated ginger. Warm in a pan, stirring until everything is smooth and incorporated. Let cool before marinating salmon.
Confited garlic hidden inside the parcel.
The Jet d’Eau fountain.
Restaurant without alcohol, no thank you.
I love pretty doors.
Boxed wine…I mean milk.
You can’t really see what’s happening here but it’s a machine designed to melt large amounts of cheese which you then pour over your entire meal. Genius!
I was named after this lady! How random to see her displayed in a window downtown Switzerland.
Our day started with “to go” wines, people probably thought my coffee was bleeding.
This is the ceramics museum. We never went inside but the grounds were beautiful.
I kept thinking there were hospitals everywhere but no, it’s the Swiss flag.
A Polish Canadian man who lives in Bulgaria standing in front of the United Nations in Switzerland.
A big three legged chair.
I should probably find out the significance of this chair.
The chair, again.
Geneva has an eclectic variety of buildings.
I’m going to try and explain the C.E.R.N. tour to you guys but it’s a little difficult as 90% of what was said and shown went WAY over our heads. “Founded in 1954, the CERN laboratory sits astride the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 22 member states.” The process starts a minimum of 2 weeks before you even set foot on the grounds, all people interested in touring the facilities must apply online and be granted permission to visit. It’s 100% free of charge!
C.E.R.N. (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) is part of a huge University campus. The tour starts in the reception building where you sign in and are free to visit the small museum while you wait for your group to arrive. This dome shows a short film twice an hour.
The collider is contained in a circular tunnel, with a circumference of 27 kilometres (17 mi), at a depth ranging from 50 to 175 metres (164 to 574 ft) underground.
This is what their backup tape arrays look like, storing petabytes of experiment data.
An old cross section of the pipe that encases the tubes holding the particle beams.
The “Matt” particle.
The tours are given by staff member scientists (I’m assuming whoever pulled the shortest straw that day) and begin in a cold dark room holding a replica accelerator. Particle physicist Jean-Paul explains C.E.R.N.’s achievements timeline and answers any kind of questions you may have. Did you know the World Wide Web was born here?
Next, a movie is played along with a cool light show dumbing down the whole process, making it easy for anyone to understand how particle tests are conducted.
An actual section of the accelerator.
Next, the tour continues in the office where data is analyzed. We watch another movie (3D) then get to peek into the Atlas control room, oddly enough we arrived on a day when experiments where not being held. Tests are usually conducted 30 hours at a time back to back.
That’s pretty much it for the tour. It’s not riveting but very fascinating, as I’ve mentioned before, most things said will probably go over your head. I was surprised how busy it was, there where several tours happening in many different languages, our group consisted of about 20 people from around the world.
Only 20 km from Geneva, Gex is an adorable tiny town in the Franch mountains.
Our awesome apartment had a balcony and full kitchen.
Oh, and horse neighbours.
The horse in the back stuck his tongue out for the photo.
I love pink!
This pub was AMAZING! We went everyday for little wines.
Affordable little wines.
So much cheese.
Scallops with a mustard crème fraiche sauce.
Horse steak, grassy greens and carrots, a natural pairing.
The gardens were open to the public so we had a quick stroll.
I loved the light coming through the trees!
Khaosan Road style Pad Thai with chicken – shrimp, dried onions, crispy chicken skin, red cabbage, sprouts, home grown cilantro, fresh limes, green hot peppers, carrots, garlic, leeks, basil and Bulgarian mint.
Cabbage rolls with rice and pork. I remember using a touch of dried mint which gave the rolls a nice, light, fresh flavor.
Dark photo of strained yogurt, green figs in syrup, strawberries and toasted pinenuts.
Pork steak with roasted sesame and broccoli crumble (steam broccoli then dehydrate), octopus onigiri and lemon olive oil octopus salad.
Roasted chicken with homemade antipasto. Note to self, make more antipasto. I’m pretty sure I used this recipe.
Caviar cake! Layers of blini, avocado and trout caviar.
Homemade schnitzel with beans, sausage and sauerkraut.
Beef tripe in butter with 3 dipping sauces. Parsley, chili and more butter?
Caesar salad with AWSOME dressing and grilled chicken thighs.
4 large cloves Garlic
2 Egg yolk, large
2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp Lemon juice, fresh
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Honey
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black pepper, ground
1/2 cup Olive oil…maybe less
The trick is to first blend the hard ingredients with the yolks and then add the wet ingredients, except the oil which you slowly pour into the blender to thicken the sauce.
Polish “Milk Bar” dinner.
Pressure cooker osso bucco with spinach dumplings. I really like Emeril’s recipe.
I went dehydrator crazy and made my own veggie stock.
French onion soup.
Avocado and caviar appetizer.
Chicken liver pâté.
Pickled herring. Even I, who for some reason hates pickled herring, liked these…maybe because I added a stick of cinnamon? I’m not 100% sure but I think I used this recipe.
So this was my list/menu for Christmas…it was enough food for a family of 6! The squid and duck were out of this world!
-Stuffed squid: lemon, garlic, parsley, fried bread crumbs, mini shrimps
-Garlic butter shrimp
-Wreath salad with citrus champagne vinaigrette
-Duck a l’orange
-Polish misteria: cucumber, sour cream, garlic and dill salad
-Matt’s Polish potato mayo salad (made by Matt!)
-Stuffing stuffed onions: sausage meat, nuts, figs, candied orange peel and sage
Loads of wine, Champagne, homemade eggnog and Christmas cookies.
The duck sat in a brine for almost 3 days and then I loosely followed this recipe.
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