(Almost) Wordless Wednesday – Orthodox Christmas

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Merry Russian Orthodox Christmas!

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Celebrating in style. Breakfast of (Russian) champions!

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Losses and Beginnings

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It’s the beginning of January, we are now at the brink of old and new. The last year has just ended, and this current one is yet to go into its full swing. And just as when we are standing at some literal threshold, we are now too faced with losses and new prospectives. 2014 is gone, and with it, old patterns and old ideas, it took away some struggles that were playing last year and gave a way to a fresh start, but it also swept away some people from our life, some left for a while, but others are now gone for good. As we are trying to make sense about this new life, how to process all the losses and to proceed with what’s left behind but also given a new way to live, it’s important to remember and celebrate everybody and everything that’s gone and know that those people or those circumstances, though departed, are still with us, in spirit or in life lessons, and are part of our life forever.

The new year and new opportunities are here, to persevere, to succeed and grow. We have no choice but to go forward. Time does not stand still, neither does life. We are forced to do our best with whatever circumstances we were dealt with. And of course to cherish the memories of the days, and people, left in 2014.

What’s Cooking This Week

The best things in life are also often the simplest. Extra twists and decorations do produce a nice visual, but it’s not always necessary to create a desired effect. Sometimes simple things bring that extra warmth and a sense of a family, especially in home cooking, that all sophisticated culinary concoctions pale in comparison to memories and conversations a simple family favorite can inspire. Today’s recipe is definitely one of the staples in German cuisine. Kuchen in German means cake, any variety, but in America, Kuchen is associated with simple vanilla sheet cake topped with either fruit, nuts or sugary glaze. Don’t be fooled by its simplicity though, this dessert is absolutely delicious and full of rich German culture and traditions.

German Apple-Cranberry Kuchen 

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1 1/2 cups of flour (I used Cup4Cup gluten free blend)

4-5 small to medium apples, sliced lengthwise

1 cup of fresh cranberries

1/2 cup of sour cream

2 eggs

1/2 cup of butter or shortening (I used organic Spectrum shortening)

2/3 cup + 3 Tbsps of sugar

2 tsps of vanilla (I used powder)

1 1/2 tsp of baking powder

1/4 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

3/4 cup of powdered sugar

1 Tbsp of milk or water

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Pre-heat the oven to 350F degrees, line either one 9×13 or two 8×8 pans with parchment paper.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add one egg at a time, then sour cream and mix well. Combine together flour, vanilla powder, salt and baking powder. Gradually add flour mixture into wet ingredients and mix well. Batter will be sticky.

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Spread a thin layer of batter in pan/pans. The top doesn’t have to be exactly even, just smooth it a bit.

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Top it with apple slices, cranberry and sprinkle a mix of 3 Tbsps of sugar and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.

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Bake for about 45 minutes or until the edges are dark golden and the fruits are soft. Cool completely and remove from pans (parchment paper lining helps). Combine powdered sugar with milk or water and sprinkle this sugar glaze on top. Cut in squares or triangles.

No forks required, use your hands. And lick your fingers, yes, it is that good!

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Enjoy!

Up and at ‘Em

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The past couple of weeks for me were as much about the holidays as they were about dealing with a never-ending migraine. A visit to a fancy headache doctor produced some new pills for me to take, which I still haven’t tried. There’s your clue to how much I “love” taking any medicine… But sometimes they are a necessary evil. As I’m now at a point where lobotomy is no longer a “thriller book option”, and guillotine sounds more and more appealing…

The doctor gave me a 3-day pack of steroids to try to get rid of my 2-week long migraine. I hate steroids in general but do enjoy their “up and at ‘em” energy rush that they often bring (a necessary evil’s ¬†pleasant side effect :) ). I told the doctor I’m going to chase the pills with alcohol – “one upper and one downer”, to be in a perfectly balanced mood – I learned it from my patients. I don’t think she appreciated my joke. She is a new doctor, I know she’ll learn to “love” me… You simply can’t not to, I’m just too adorable :)

“Up and at ‘em” in the kitchen, courtesy of dexamethazone, at least the “side effects” are “perfect and balanced”.

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Now if I could only get rid of this headache! Maybe I should try chasing it away with alcohol…

A Change of Pace

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I have a small, no-fuss, tree this year, but I think she is a beauty! Change is good, it’s exploring all possible sides and opportunities, to see what works and what doesn’t, so you can learn and grow and hopefully make better choices in the future.

And today is all about change. It’s Winter Solstice, New Moon in Capricorn (actually The Sun, Moon, Pluto, Mercury, Vesta and Venus are all in Capricorn today), plus it’s the end of a 2.5 years of Saturn being in Scorpio, the planet is moving into Sagittarius on December 23 – today is one tightly-packed astrological powerhouse! And, by-the-way, if you say you don’t believe in astrology, it’s OK :) People once thought the Earth was flat. Just because you don’t believe in something, it doesn’t seize to exist and influence you. Astrology is an ancient science just like math and philosophy, it is governed by “laws and rules” despite some common beliefs that it’s just a collection of random facts, you can be surprised how accurate and downright “boring and predictable ” astrology is when you learn the rules and recognize the patterns.

New Moon is always a great time to start new projects and set your intentions on something that needs change, waxing Moon (from New Moon to Full Moon) is a time for growth and expansion while waning Moon (Full Moon to the next New Moon) is a good period to get rid of something unwanted or to review and release. So set your intention today on whatever it is you want to grow and change for yourself, but you have to be very specific when asking the Universe for things – as one very wise friend says “The Universe is a short-order cook with no imagination” – literary spell out every point of whatever it is you want to accomplish (I’ve seen both in my life and those I know manifestations fulfilled in the exact way they were asked for so some details that were not asked for were, in fact, omitted). Also, when asking, either aloud in a verbal form or written down, do not use any negative words like “no or don’t”, the Universe doesn’t understand them, you have to reframe them in a positive statement, otherwise, you’ll get the opposite of what you asked for (for example, don’t say I don’t want to smoke anymore – say I want to be free of my smoking habit).

The movement of Saturn from Scorpio into Sagittarius two days from now is also very important. Saturn is a planet of rules, order, foundation and structure. When it was in “death and rebirth emotional” Scorpio for the past 2.5 years, we were forced to look at our beliefs, patterns and “the dark side, the underworld” – where imbalance is present, where things need to be changed, where challenges were highlighted and brought to our attention. With Saturn moving into fiery “go-getter, truth-be-told” Sagittarius, you’ll feel that it’ll finally be easier to move forward and see some results but in a more practical and grounded way. It’ll actually be a good period, I’m looking forward to it!

And with the year coming to closure, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the past twelve months – give thanks for whatever wonderful things you’ve seen come into your life, even if they appeared with lessons to learn and challenges to master, and set your intentions on what you want to accomplish next and where you want to be in 2015.

What’s Cooking This Week

The next ten days are all about the holidays of course. I’m sure you have your favorite holiday dishes that you make every year, but why not take a change of pace there too and cook something different. The recipe I present today would look great at either a family gathering or a regular weekday dinner. It’s both healthy and satisfying but looks festive and very much in pace with seasonal flavors. If you’ve never had rabbit, I encourage you to try, it’s very lean, and the meat has a slight sweet undertone, it’s a great alternative to chicken.

Rabbit Legs with Parsnips and Fennel in Cranberry Wine Sauce

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6 rabbit legs

5-6 parsnips, cut

2 fennel bulbs, cut

1 package of baby Bella mushrooms

1/2 cup do dry white/rose wine

2 Tbsps of butter

1/4 cup of milk (I used almond milk)

1/2 cup of fresh or whole dried cranberries

2 Tbsps of sugar

3 tsps of French blend herbs

salt, pepper, fresh herbs to garnish

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Arrange meat and vegetables in a baking tray, lightly salt and pepper and sprinkle French blend herbs on top.

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Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375F degrees for about 35-40 minutes or until the meat cuts through and the vegetables are tender.

In a mean while also make sauce. In a small pot, melt 2 Tbsps of butter, combine cranberries and sugar and cook just until the berries burst. Then add the wine and let alcohol cook off, then add milk and cook just until all is blended and berries are soft.

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Pour the sauce over meat and vegetables just before the meal is served. The sauce is not over-powering but just adds juiciness and a touch of tartness to this dish. I guarantee you’ll all enjoy this change of pace.

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Happy Holidays!

What Would You Do To Keep Your Job?

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Christmas party at work today, everybody is bringing what they want, except me…

I was “informed” of what to make way ahead…

Otherwise, they said, I’m fired…

So just trying to keep my job here… with this chocolate cake topped with vanilla cream and layered with cherries and chocolate.

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Select few special people are also getting donuts.

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