Archive | December, 2012

Montreal, Day 2

31 Dec

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The weather was much tolerable today and we were able to walk around old Montreal.

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We had a nice brunch at Le Gros Jambon.

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The guys went to do some last minute clothes shopping for the party and the girl hit the spa for mani-pedi. My nail technician was a nice Armenian lady. We both speak Russian and had a nice chat about life. She finished off my manicure with a top coat containing18K real gold speckles.  She didn’t charge extra for it and told me it’s for good luck.

Montreal, Day 1

30 Dec

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It took us over 9 hours to get to Montreal. There is so much snow everywhere.
We only had enough time to check into our hotel, quickly change and go to a friend’s house party. We joked that it was a pre-pre-party as all of us danced Salsa, Bachata, Zouk & Kizomba non-stop until 4am.
We had high hopes of exploring Montreal but it’s -19C and  none of us is dressed for the weather. We were brave enough to venture outside to grab a meal and spent our afternoon in the hot tub back at the hotel.

En Route to Montreal!

29 Dec

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Road trip with friends to SalsaGlam, the ultimate New Year’s celebration! It’s snowing non-stop, hope we won’t be sitting in traffic.

Everybody Loves Challah

28 Dec

Homemade Challah Bread

I have a lot of Jewish friends.  One of the best things about Friday night dinner at their houses is the opportunity to enjoy the freshly baked special bread, Challah.  I was invited for a potluck dinner and decided to make this delicious bread.

It would have been easier to visit a neighbourhood bakery but I own a breadmaker which helps me to have the old-fashioned goodness of homemade breads with half the effort.

Challah is wonderful in sandwiches with roast beef or corned beef and you make make a scrumptious French Toast the following day if you have any leftovers.

Homemade Challah Bread (Breadmakers Recipe)

Ingredients:

  1. ¾ cup water
  2. 1 egg, beaten
  3. 3 tbsp canola oil
  4. 3 tbsp sugar
  5. 1 tsp salt
  6. 2 ½ cup white flour
  7. 1 ¼ tsp yeast

Glaze:

  1. 1 egg yolk
  2. 1 tbsp water

Directions:

  • Measure first 7 ingredients in the order listed into a baking pan in your breadmaker.
  • When cycle is complete, remove dough from the machine to a lightly floured surface. 
  • Divide dough into 3 equal portions and roll by hand into long smooth strips.
  • Braid the 3 dough strips and place it on lightly greased baking sheet.
  • Cover and let rise for 30 minutes or until double in volume.
  • Beat egg yolk with 1 tbsp of water and brush over challah.
  • Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes.

 

Russian Cake “Fairy Tale”

26 Dec

The cake is really fabulous.The thing about this cake that you can experiment by adding new dried or candied fruit or a different type of nuts.   I am not much of a baker but  this cake is extremely easy to make and it’s always delicious.

I’ve seen similar cakes in the internet with the name “Lady’s Caprice” , “Three Meetings”, “Cleopatra.”  Whatever the name, the cake is soooo tasty.   A real fairy tale 🙂

Ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup flour x 3 
  2. 1/2 cup sugar x 3 
  3. 1 tsp baking powder x 3 
  4. 1 egg – x 3
  5. 1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yoghurt x 3 
  6. 3-4 drops of brandy x 3 

Fillers:

  • 1/2 cup  poppy seeds 
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup crushed walnuts

Filling:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup condensed milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.  Grease 8.5 inch round springform pan.  Bake each layer for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool.

  • 1st layer – mix all the ingredients and stir in poppy seeds.
  • 2nd layer – mix all the ingredients and stir in raisins.
  • 3rd layer – mix all the ingredients and stir in walnuts.

Beat softened butter with condensed milk, set aside.

Place the walnut layer on a cake plate.  Evenly spread 1/3 of the filling over.  Top with the poppy seed layer and repeat.  Finally, top with the raisin layer and cover the top and the sides with the remaining filling.

 I “decorated” the top with a mixture of crushed walnuts and cocoa powder.  Keep it in the fridge overnight.

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Merry Christmas From Dina!

24 Dec

Slices Of Quince

22 Dec

Raw quince

I saw some ripe golden quinces at my local Asian store.  Their fragrant aroma persuaded me to buy them 🙂

The raw quince is not enjoyable to eat.  The fruit is hard, sharp-tasting and somewhat bitter; it has to be cooked.  Try baking it, I promise  you won’t be disappointed!  Baked quince has a velvety texture that tastes like a cross between an apple and a pear.  Oh, and the smell… just like a bowl of ripe tropical fruit.

Baked Quince with Cinnamon

  • 1 cup water
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 4 quinces
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • ¼ cup raw organic sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F
  2. Add the water, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon sticks into a large baking dish
  3. Peeled the quinces, cut them into quarters, and remove the core.
  4. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 1 hour, until fork-tender.

We had these baked quinces with my Flat Belly Diet pancakes (click here for a recipe) and Greek yoghurt.  Don’t let the syrup that is left in the baking pan go to waste 🙂

You can also serve them on their own, hot or cold; whipped cream is optional.

The Owl and the Pussy Cat dined ” which they ate with a runcible spoon.”  You won’t need a runcible spoon this time 🙂

Pancakes with Baked Quince

Soup For Supper? You bet!

20 Dec

This classic French Onion Soup underwent a major Flat Belly Diet makeover!  The cheese has been replaced with lots of tender strips of beef tenderloin so the sodium level in this dish is much lower.  Hope you’ll love it 🙂

Beefy Onion Soup

Adapted from the Flat Belly Diet.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz beef tenderloin cut into very thin strips
  • 3 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 c reduced-sodium beef broth or water
  • chopped cilantro
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and sugar, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes or until golden. 
  2. Add the beef and cook for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. 
  4. Add the broth or water, pour in the vinegar, and bring to a boil. 
  5. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook fro 15 minutes.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro.   Serve with 1 slice whole grain French bread, toasted, and rubbed with garlic.

You Have a Lovely Accent

18 Dec

Photo Credit: http://russianwomenblog.hotrussianbrides.com/post/10-Things-the-World-Knows-About-Ukraine.aspx

“Oh, you have a lovely accent.  Where are you from?”

I am from Ukraine and I love my accent.  Many people have told me they like my accent.  It gets me noticed and it makes me who I am.  But if I only had a penny for each time I was asked that question…

I had some interesting conversations that were triggered by my accent.  Many Canadians genuinely wanted to know more about the country, Ukrainian customs and Ukrainian people.

However, some of the questions or statements left me perpetually perplexed.  My sarcastic thoughts are in italic.

  • Are you from Ukraine? Welcome to Canada.  How do you like it here?  Thank you, I’ve been here for almost 20 years.  How do you like it here?
  • Ukraine?  That’s in Russia, right?  Ukraine is a completely separate country, we have a border to the east with Russia.
  • Are you from Kiev? Not all Ukrainian people who came to Canada are from Kiev. Ukraine is a big country (bigger than France!) and has more than one city. I am from Chernivtsy.
  • You don’t look Ukrainian… The person who said this to me had never been to Ukraine; I know this for a fact.  I am100% Ukranian but would like to find out from a non-Ukrainian person about how Ukrainian people should look like.
  • Are you from Ukraine?  Oh, wow… my wife and I just were in Prague last month??? That’s in Czech Republic. Approximate distance from Prague to my city (Chernivtsi) is 533 miles or 857.6 kilometers.  We speak completely different languages.
  • I had a Ukrainian co-worker once and she always ate pierogy.  Well… what do you say to that… hmmm… did she share?
  • You know, there are a lot of Ukrainian people out west in Saskatchewan and Alberta.  I do know that.  There are a lot of Canadian people there too.
  • How can you be cold?  You are Russian! Again, I am Ukrainian.  And Toronto is much, much colder than Chernivtsi.
  • Talk to me in Ukrainian / Say something in Ukrainian…  Why? Are you testing my knowledge of Ukrainian?  I am always happy to translate for people common phrases, i.e. “Hello”, “Thank you”, “Happy  Birthday”, etc.  But “Talk to me in Ukrainian” is a little creepy.
  • OMG, you are so pretty! Are you a mail order bride? Kind of rude, no? One day I will say that I am a mail order bride just to get a reaction.
  • Sorry, we don’t have any vodka.  We only have beer.  Not all Ukrainian people drink vodka. And not all Ukrainian people drink alcohol.

Do you have any personal experiences with stereotypes?

Will It Be a White Christmas?

17 Dec

Ornaments in blue and silver

Yes, it will be!  Because we got our white Christmas tree!

Dressing up a tree is a family experience we always look forward to.  This year we decided to add a modern twist on our tradition.  Instead of the usual multi-coloured ornaments we added accents in silver and blue with white lights.

winter white Christmas tree

We’ve been enjoying this relatively mild December in Toronto and there is no snow yet.  I believe Christmas is only perfect with snow 🙂  Time is ticking… only one week to go!

wrapped gifts I played Martha Stewart for one day wrapping these gifts.  First impressions count!

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