It’s Sizzling

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It was – 250 degrees in New York yesterday, or at least it felt like it, and the city had a look of a frozen forest, even the tears froze, and, yes, I was crying every time I had to go outside. And of course I was out on such a night, I know, silly me. Champagne did help to mediate the chill, so did great conversations, but the weather was just too brutal, I think I’m still shivering.

On a warming up trend, the kid started getting some college acceptance letters already, so I think next month could be busy traveling to all these schools to finally pick the one. His dad was asking me yesterday “what are we going to do when he’s gone”? Hmm, “have a party?” (kidding), or “rent his bedroom as bed & breakfast?” (kidding again). In reality, I know I’ll cry when he’s gone, I should probably start practicing now so it’s not one gushing waterfall when August comes. His graduation is just 3 months away, and I’m not ready for it!

I’ve been lounging in pajamas all day today – it’s snowing outside, yet again, and there’s no way I was leaving the house, I had my share yesterday. A lot is on my mind, but none that has to be figured at this moment (and no complicated issues have that on a spot solution anyway), so as my thoughts were drifting in and out all day, there was both physical and emotional comfort in stillness of body and free flowing mind to keep you daydreaming (about something that will most likely never happen but, at that point in time, was just too soul-soothing to concentrate on and imagine all the possible “what ifs”).

What’s Cooking This Week

Just because it’s a deep freeze outside, doesn’t mean you can’t cook something sizzling hot in a kitchen. Today’s dish does just that, before you know, you’d be fanning yourself feeling all warmed up. Shakshuka is one of my favorite breakfast dishes, but it’s also great for brunch, lunch, or really just any time of a day. The dish is a traditional Middle Eastern food, and it’s actually offered for an evening meal there. I think it’s just our interpretation of it as mostly suitable for breakfast because it has eggs in it, so go ahead and have it any time you want it. Shakshuka is basically a dish of eggs baked in a spicy stew of red peppers, onions and tomatoes. I often like to jazz it up a bit, but if you want a traditional recipe, just omit zucchini and prunes that I’m adding in today. I do recommend it though, the sweetness of prunes and mild flavor of zucchini helps to mediate the spices in this dish. You can add 2 to 4 eggs, depending how many you want, the recipe is enough for 2 people.

Shakshuka with Zucchini and Prunes

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Serves 2:

2-4 eggs

1 large red bell pepper, diced

1 medium red onion, diced

1 cup of shredded zucchini (about 1/2 of a medium one)

1 garlic clove, pressed

5-6 prunes, cut

3 Tbsps of tomato sauce

2 tsps of crushed red pepper

1 tsp of sweet paprika

1 tsp of raw sugar

1/4 tsp of coriander

1/8 tsp of nutmeg

salt, olive oil, scallions for garnish

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This dish is better made in an iron cast skillet (mine needs to be replaced, so I used a regular frying pan and then a baking pan). Heat up some olive oil and sauté onions and garlic, then add peppers and cook for a couple minutes, add zucchini, tomatoes, prunes, tomato sauce and all the spices, cook till all is about half way done.

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Transfer the stew into a baking dish (unless using iron cast skillet) and carefully break in the eggs on top. Sprinkle them with salt and crushed red pepper.

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Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400F degrees for 10-15 minutes, depending how you like the eggs done. Top with cut scallions or other fresh herbs.

Sweet and hot and definitely sizzling with all the spices. You won’t even notice it’s snowing outside.

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Many Shades and Colors

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So how’s your long weekend going, kids?

Did you enjoy a “Day of Love” on Saturday? Did you also happen to catch the 50 Shades of Grey mania?

No? Me neither! I did pass by long lines waiting to get the tickets Friday night, not all of them looked amused even before the movie.

I did try to read the book once, a few years back when I was stuck at an airport, I went through a couple of pages and just couldn’t tolerate a 3rd grade level juvenile writing – “annoyed” is probably not the feeling the writer was hoping to get from the readers. So I settled on a much more gripping and erotic, in my mind, a love story – The Unbearable Lightness of Being (even though I’ve read it before, in two languages), terrific writing makes you forget that you already know the story.

I’m actually kind of disturbed by the whole 50 Shades mania, none due to BDSM scenes – if you’re into it, my full blessings then (I may even join you for a few lighter side moments :)). It’s the emotional manipulation and the whole passive – aggressive control that the poor girl has to go through, it just doesn’t sit pretty for me, the emotional angst that she is overwhelmed with literary every minute of their relationship – “will he love me or reject me”, “will he be hot or cold”, “did he leave me, or are we still together”, the uncertainty imposes more control than the actual presence, not to mention signs of a pure intimate partner abuse case (isolation from family/friends, total control of her life wrapped with
a pretty bow of lavish gifts and calculated manipulative steps disguised as concern and attention) – I don’t have that much patience to sit through this movie without a feeling that I just want to crush Christian Grey’s nuts in one swift motion. The guy is just literary “sick in a head”, I can guarantee you a whole bunch of traits from Axis II Personality Disorders lineup in DSM V of Psychiatric Disorders. By the way, BDSM community took offense as being portrayed in a negative connotation that the association of their bedroom practices bring in the Christian’s character. I tend to agree with them!

So some people who tried to convince me to read the book and even more so to see the movie because it’s just “so liberating” (???) Girls, you got it all wrong and backwards! Female empowerment starts OUTSIDE of the bedroom, when you claim your own power and uniqueness (in whatever way it may be) and come into your own life (that has nothing to do with a male presence or absence), so then you can bring that “notion of self” INTO the bedroom, and, therefore, when he ties you up or spanks you (or you do it to him – whichever way you two want to rock the boat), you will not feel controlled or manipulated because no amount of bondage can tie up your true self.

So, when somebody starts telling me how much they loved the book and the movie, I just wonder if a transference of victimization and identification with aggressor going on on their subconscious level. Stockholm Syndrome anyone?!

And much sexier things were happening on SNL anyway this cold weekend in New York.

Miley had clothes on! That was damn sexy! And gave us some pretty good music.

Kanye was still in love. With himself.

The sexiest moment alive award goes to Betty White and Bradley Cooper kiss (I hate to speculate which one of them was the lucky one) – you go Betty!


I may or may not actually watch the 50 Shades when it comes out on DVD, at home with a couple of girlfriends and cocktails – I have to be heavily drunk for this!

I did have my own shades and colors going on even during my month long hiatus from the blogging world. There are always seem to be some health issues, and life curves, that I’m chasing after, or they are running after me, and when emotions take charge too, the only way is to retrieve and recharge. So, since some health concerns are forever locked in an orchestrated dance with me, and life path is never straight, and emotions are there just show that I’m alive and human, I can at least come back to the blog.

Therefore, I promise to post more regularly (as time permits). I have some recipes lined up for future posts already. I
also think I need to post more Russian cuisine recipes, I do have a few from the past years, but I definitely feel I need to make more Russian dishes, it’s such a rich and flavorful cuisine.

For now enjoy some pictures from the foods that came out of the kitchen last month. Yes, just because I wasn’t posting, doesn’t mean I wasn’t cooking either. :)

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I just love these shades so much better! :)

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Valentine’s Day Breakfast

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Valentine’s Day should start with a proper breakfast, and music of course. Especially on a “polar vortex” weekend. Nothing will warm up your body and soul like a satisfying meal. And, yes, you can share it in bed, along with some great music and friendly conversations – makes it even more special. :)

Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday, but the true meaning of it is much deeper – be grateful for all the love (I’m sure) you have in your life and don’t forget to express it. Write or call/text everybody who are important for you and whose presence you value, let them know you love them and appreciate just being in your life.

And then, once this day is over, do not lose the sight and the feeling you had today, expressing loving energy is not just a one-day occurence, your heart actually grows bigger when you start doing it more often, it’s like a muscle that needs constant activity – so be sure to exercise it regularly, preferably every day.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Love You!

What’s Cooking This Week

The recipe today is something that actually requires extra prep work, unless you get up super early and do all the work before your loved one is awake. You can make the dough and shape the pretzels the night before and then do the boiling and baking part early in the morning. Or you can do the whole thing the night before, they’ll still be tasty I promise, just warm them up before serving and dipping into chocolate. I also suggest to divide the dough in half and making pretzel bites too (just cut the dough roll into bite pieces and don’t dip them in chocolate). Whichever way you go, you won’t regret it, they are mighty tasty!

Chocolate Dipped Heart Pretzels

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(Makes 8-12 pretzels depending on size):

4 1/4 cups of flour (a little less if using gluten free flour)

1 1/2 cups of very warm water

1 package rapid rise yeast

5 Tbsps of unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 Tbsps of sugar

1 3/4 tsps of salt

9 cups of water (for cooking)

1 cup or so of baking soda

1 egg + 1 Tbsp of water for egg wash

6 oz of dark chocolate, melted

1 Tbsps of butter or coconut oil

sprinkles or nonpareils

sea salt for pretzel bites

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In a bowl, combine warm water with yeast, sugar and salt, set aside for 5-8 minutes or until it’s foamy. Using the dough hook attachment in a stand mixer, combine flour, butter and yeast mixture and beat until the dough forms.

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Cover the bowl with a warm towel and let the dough rise for about 1 hour. Combine water for boiling with baking soda and bring it to a boil.

Cut the dough in half (if making pretzel bites), then cut each half into 5-6 pieces and roll each into a long rope, twist into heart shape and pinch the ends together tightly.

Carefully place each pretzel, one at a time, into boiling water and boil for about 25 seconds, remove with a spatula and transfer to a baking sheet. Brush the tops and sides of each pretzel (or bites) with  egg wash. Top pretzel bites with sea salt. They will look a bit wrinkled but do plump up when baked, so don’t worry.

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Bake in a pre-heated oven at 450F degrees for about 15 minutes, cool a bit before dipping.

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Melt the chocolate while you wait. Then dip one side of each pretzel into chocolate and top it with sprinkles.

Share pretzels, music, conversations and love with those who you love and appreciate.

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And pretzel bites make a great snack later on, dip them in honey mustard or eat them plain.

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy!

The Big 8

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Hi all and sorry for being silent this past month – I haven’t been feeling well (plus dealing with life’s bumps and curves).

I promise to start posting again though, and this day looks like a good way to start.

Today marks the 8th anniversary since my cancer diagnosis, and I like the number 8 – if you turn it on its side, it looks like a sign of eternity, and I hope to live for eternity, however long mine lasts.

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I have now officially survived for 8 years. And, if I never accomplish anything else in my life, at least I’ll have that – being, living…

I remember that cold February day when the doctor came back in a room and said that the initial results did not look good but the biopsy result won’t be ready for another few days. I knew in my heart though that it was cancer, and I had to put my “work boots” on and get my hands dirty getting down to the lowest level of blood, mess, sweat and tears.


Actually, the only time I cried was the day when the biopsy result was confirmed, but it was more as a sign of resolve (but not defeat) that a battle is pending.

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So this weekend looks like a good time to reflect and to wish for many more 8s.

On the coldest night this year so far…

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Celebrating with friends, cocktails and blue hair selfies…

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