Roasted tomato sauce

roasted tomato sauceI have to share this pasta sauce recipe. Originally from  I love the simplicity of throwing all the ingredients on a baking sheet and then blending everything together 45 minutes later.  I used cherry tomatoes and I didn’t peel off the skins, as the original recipe suggests. I am usually very sensitive to acidity in a tomato sauce, but roasting the tomatoes seems to turn down the acidity a lot. I loved the result and I loved the convenience of freezing the sauce for later use.

– 3 lbs (1.5 kg) cherry or plum tomatoes, cut in half
–  1 medium onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
– 2 carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
– 4 garlic cloves
– 1/2 tsp dried thyme
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, toss tomatoes, onion, carrots and thyme with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture in a single layer on baking sheet (I lined mine with parchment paper), turning tomatoes cut side down. Stick garlic cloves on the sheet as well. Roast 45-60 minutes, until tender. Take out garlic and peel. Transfer mixture to a blender, including juices. Blend to a desired consistency.

Posted in Carrots, Pasta, Tomatoes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pilaf with orzo

Pilaf with orzoThis is a staple dish in Turkey. I’d go to a restaurant, eat a bowlful and wonder, “how do they do it?”.  A quick search on the Internet produced this recipe, which resulted in a definite success. Kristian hasn’t been feeling well these last couple of days, so I had to cook only very plain foods for him.  But plain rice doesn’t have to be boring. This version is so delicious that I eat it just by itself. Binnur’s recipe says you can cook it with either broth or water. I’ve only tried with broth, since I have it available in my freezer. I’ve been cooking rice for so long, both in a pot and in a rice cooker, that it amazes me that there is yet another way of cooking it that produces such excellent results. I’m afraid I won’t go back to regular rice again. Lastly, orzo here is optional. Pilaf is great even without it.

– 3/4 cup long-grain rice
– 3 tbsp orzo
– 1 tbsp Ghee
– 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
– 1/2 tsp salt
– a pinch of black pepper

Rinse rice a few times with warm water. Pour boiling water over it to cover and let sit for 15 minutes then drain. In a medium saucepan heat orzo over medium heat stirring frequently for about 3 minutes, until orzo starts to brown. Add Ghee and rice and cook for another 3 minutes. Add hot broth, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until all broth is absorbed. Remove pan from heat, open the lid, put a clean kitchen towel on top of the pot and then put the lid over it. Let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve.

Posted in Rice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Homemade tvorog (творог)

Homemade tvorogIn Russia, there’s a version of farmer’s /cottage/ ricotta cheese called tvorog.  This is my favorite among all four. The flavor is very mild and pleasing and the texture can be varied, depending on the straining time, from very soft ricotta style to more dense, almost tofu like. Tvorog is so versatile. It can be eaten plain or with fruit toppings, or baked into pastries as part of the dough or as a filling, made into cheesecakes, etc. Store bought tvorog can be very good, but nothing compares to the homemade one. Kristian’s kinda tired of plain yogurt, but he still likes his plain tvorog.

So here’s a Russian recipe I use. It took me a couple of tries to get it right, but I’ve been successful with it since. I’m going to describe my way of doing it. If you’re a working parent, it’s best to make tvorog over the weekend as the process takes 1 day and 2 nights. It’s very low maintenance, but you do need to be at home during the day when you make it.

Start the process at night. Preheat oven to 40 degrees C (105 F). My oven only starts at 50 degrees C, but it works fine for me. Mix 2 liters (or 2 quarts) of milk and 1.5 cup of yogurt or kefir in a large soup pot. Goat milk tvorog is also quite delicious.  Turn the oven off, cover the pot and put it in the oven.
In the morning, check on the mixture. It should look like a large pot of yogurt. If it still has not solidified enough to pull away from the sides of the pot, turn the oven on again for 5 minutes, then turn it off and continue waiting. Usually around midday the process is done for me. At this point, heat the pot on medium low for about 20 minutes until whey starts to separate. Here’s a pic.

Tvorog whey Turn the heat off and let cool completely (usually a few hours). Repeat the process, this time for 40 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil! The tvorog will be very dry and crumbly. Let cool again for a couple of hours. Line a large sieve with double layer of cheesecloth. Pour the mixture in. Tie the ends and hang on your faucet. At this point you can strain it for 4-6 hours. I usually strain mine overnight and very happy with the texture. Straining time will affect how firm your tvorog will be.

I know this can be a little overwhelming at first, but you will be so gratified once you get a hang of it. I make tvorog weekly. It’s a definite staple in our kitchen.

Posted in Misc | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Strawberry banana chunky smoothie

Strawberry banana chunky smoothieThis is similar to Jamba Juice Ideal Meals. Kristian is too small for a smoothie, so I figured I’d make a soup like version of a smoothie that he can eat with a spoon. It surprised me that he was just OK with it. I went ahead and made another one, just for myself – it was so yummy. But I’ll continue trying different versions of it since it doesn’t require cooking and is such an easy breakfast to make.

Recipe (yields one serving):
– 1/2 banana, cut into chunks
– 3 medium to large strawberries
– 100g plain yogurt
– 1 tbsp ground almonds
– 1 tsp ground flax seeds
– 1/4 cup granola, add more if you’d like a chunkier version (I didn’t have granola so I crumbled a homemade oatmeal cookie instead)

Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Pulse until you reach the desired consistency. Serve with granola or crumbled oatmeal cookie on top.

Posted in Banana, Breakfast, Strawberry, Yogurt | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Curried zucchini soup

Curried zucchini soupAh, Martha Stewart delivers again! This water-based 4 ingredient soup just can’t get any easier. If you’re short on time and produce at home all you need is 4 ingredients, a bit of spices, 20 minutes and bam – deliciousness is at your table! I like to rev up spices when I cook it, but it’s totally optional.


– 1 tbsp Ghee
– 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 inch ginger root, minced or grated (optional)
– 2 tsp curry powder
–  1 tsp ground coriander (optional)
– 1/2 tsp ground turmeric (optional)
– 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
– 3 medium zucchini, sliced 1 inch think
– 4 cups water
– 1.5 tsp salt, plus more to taste

Heat Ghee in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger (if using) and spices and cook stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add water, potatoes and zucchini. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, 12-15 minutes. Puree the soup in the blender. Adjust for salt.

Posted in Potatoes, Soup, Zucchini | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Homemade vegetable broth

I’ve found this recipe online and I’ve been very happy with it. Every dish I made with it came out great. If you can read Russian, just go ahead and read it. Since I don’t have a large steamer (like the author), I just boil all the ingredients. Here’s my version of the recipe:

– 8 cups water (add more if you got a lot of stuff)
– 1-2 medium yellow onion, quartered
–  3 garlic cloves
– 2-3 bay leaves
– 2-3 medium carrots, sliced in big chunks lengthwise
– 2-3 celery stalks
– 250g (8 ounces) white mushrooms, quartered
–  300-400g (10-14 oz) white cabbage, roughly chopped
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp good quality green tea

Bring all the ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Strain the vegetables.

I usually then freeze the broth in 2 cup worth containers.

Last time I was out of cabbage, but the broth still turned out very flavorful. Once you start making your own broth, you’ll never go to store bought one again. Well, in my case, it’s not even available =)

Posted in Misc | Tagged | Leave a comment

Seashell pasta with broccoli and cheese

Seashell pasta with broccoli and cheeseThe inspiration for this recipe is the famous Italian dish, Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe. This one is without garlic, but I’m sure you can try with it and see how your baby likes it. You can also try it with any hard cheese on hand. This time I added a bit of lemon zest and found that it really livened the dish up.


– 2.5 cups chopped broccoli florets
– 1 cup small seashell pasta
– salt and crushed red pepper flakes to taste
– 1 tbsp lemon zest
– 1 cup shredded cheese, plus more for garnish

Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add broccoli and pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain. Toss with lemon zest and cheese. You can also add a little bit of olive oil or butter if you like. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with more shredded cheese on top.

Posted in Broccoli, Pasta | Tagged , , | Leave a comment