Pork tenderloin with a brown sugar, garlic powder, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne rub and peas and mushrooms.
Creamy tortellini, chickpea, cauliflower soup.
Roasted lemon, marjoram and garlic chicken.
I haven’t posted in almost a year! I don’t know why, it’s been a fun year with lots of trips and visits from family and friends.
Tel Aviv in April
The Cotswolds for a big 3 day hike across the English countryside ending with a surprise visit in Exeter,
Drunken party week in Sunny Beach with Kelly
Budapest for the Formula One race
Agata and Tyler came to visit…oh and, Arek and his family surprised Agata for a day.
Hung out with my long lost friend Marjo in Portugal
Mom spent a month with us
We also went on lots of mini trips around Bulgaria. In a couple weeks we are going to Morocco with long (enough time to explore) layovers in Germany and Brussels…also, we have tickets booked for Malta in January!
Children’s hospital Bulgarian party Neely and her little Sarah Caleb Greek food…I love lamb Ryan dealing with Sarah
They love each other!Sexy ride from sexy Arek Dr. Arek 4 hour long epic Humming game
My Benjamin Moore crew. I surprised them good!
Afternoon sushi and fun with Amanda.
I spent my birthday in Sofia, one of my favorite cities in the world. My birthday celebrations started on the plane where I was seated alone in the emergency row with more leg and arm room I knew what to do with. We rented another wonderfully decorated and cozy Airbnb on the top floor of a 70 year old building. For my big day, I ate 5 star sushi for lunch at the Radisson with a huge Singapore Sling to wash it down, watched a live football match at the arena, visited our friends at Beera for craft beers, drank hot wine at the Christmas market while watching a super lively concert, went shopping after said wine and bought a bunch of things I probably don’t need and finished the day off with a mini dance party and Skype with friends (which I don’t remember). Perfect holiday.
Baden-Baden!!! What a wonderful little German spa town. I hope everyone gets to visit this opulent place at least once in their lives. The buildings are incredibly maintained, not one scratch of paint or dirt, people are excessively friendly and they have one of the cutest Christmas markets in Germany.
We stayed in a wonderful AirBnb in the center, cooked steaks every night, ate sausages by day, drank hot wines at the Christmas market, spent a wonderful evening in the most elaborate spa I’ve ever seen (click here), crashed a film festival in the iconic Baden-Baden casino and drank local beers in a smokey bar with a bunch of awesome immigrants after their shift.
Though smaller than the Strasbourg Christmas market, Baden-Baden held its own with higher end fairs, a concert and real animals in the manger.
The Strasbourg Christmas market is one of the oldest and largest Christmas markets in France. Old Town becomes pedestrian only, shops and hotels decorate their facades and little wooden huts popup everywhere selling regional good and treats. The streets are filled with joyful people drinking hot wines. We were so excited to meet our friends from Luxembourg on the Sunday for drinks, shopping and carousel rides.
A few years back my Canadian friend Janna who lived in London told me about her yearly tradition of visiting a new European Christmas market. She and her boyfriend have travelled from Norway to Slovakia exploring these magical markets and with every one of their Facebook posts my jealousy grew. Inspired by my friends, Matt and I are starting off our Christmas season with a triple Christmas Market attack plan (we have some catching up to do). Step one, the famous Strasbourg Christmas Market. Step two, Baden-Baden Market spanning the grounds of the famous casino (November 27-28). Step three, Sofia’s German/Bulgarian Christmas Market where we will celebrate my birthday (35…seriously getting old!). These are photos taken with my phone in Strasbourg.
Shops, hotels and apartments decorate their facades with Christmas decorations which gives the whole town a storybook atmosphere.
It’s been raining on and off. People bundle up…some even look like “boules mousse”.
The most amazing tree.
The tree matches my jacket.
Hot red or white wines, hot apple juice and hot orange juice.
Injera bread made with my sourdough starter (which will never rise but tastes good), lettuce and cilantro, sour cream or yogurt, yams with garlic, ginger, red onions and honey with a ground pork version or Doro Wat.
Doro Wat recipe:
Every year I try to do something fun with my little Russian neighbours, this year I threw a “Girl Party” in my tiny apartment. We baked cupcakes (12 people in a 450 sq/ft area with the oven blasting in 30 degree weather), made icing from scratch and decorated everything with candies and fruits. We listened to jazzy music while we cooked (their choice) and played girly dance music while we waiting for the cakes to cool. Post cupcakes I taught the girls how to play Pictionary and everyone thought it was “sooooo coool” that I let them use erasable markers to scribble on the window instead of using regular paper. These girls are truly amazing, I couldn’t believe how sweet and polite everyone was, I just loved having them over! Next year I’m organizing a lantern festival, I’m already excited!
Stotinki sneaking in a cuddle with Margo.
The marshmallow tripled in size in the oven.
Bragging to friend in Russia and Poland.
The powdered food colouring dyes everything, Sasha might have a blue mouth for the rest of her life. P.S. How cute are these girls!!!
The frosting got a bit messy.
Diana sporting this year’s shade of neon green.
I respect Dasha’s attention to detail and fierce concentration.
The cupcakes were really darn good.
I think they had fun.
We played a medium level (all in English) Pictionary game without any problems or language barriers.
My favorite drawing was Olivia’s masterpiece, the flamingo! Ha ha we laughed so hard!
I chose a vanilla cupcake filled with sprinkles and gummy bears topped with rainbow icing. Perfect party with my fantastic friends!
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.
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