Continuing with our streak of visitors, we spent time with my parents this weekend. They visited hands full of my mom’s famous sous and we provided Sophia for entertainment and some of our very own culinary creations to round out all the family fun. I can never shake off my parents generosity and desire to ease our kitchen burdens — they will always want to delight us with something delicious. I can’t complain either because as I said before, my mom is an amazing cook. Besides it being delicious, it is nice to know that someone cared enough to make something for you or at least offer. As much as we love to cook, someone else’s culinary offerings are always a treat. Try as I may, I will need years to match my mom’s kitchen expertise especially in Russian/Azeri dishes. But try we do and in our own way, we manage it.


Now that the end of winter is near, I am somewhat sad about its imminent departure. Before it really goes away and snow is no longer likely, I decided to make Pelmeni which are hand-made dumplings with savory fillings. I opted to fill mine with veal for flavor, pork for texture and sautéed onion and garlic for that extra little something. Shaping and filling the little dumplings turned out to be quite an undertaking. I probably spent three hours at the task but the result was well received by even the youngest of critics. They are typically served with sour cream and plenty of freshly cracked pepper or sautéed with butter and onions.

CheeseyPelmeniAs you can see, we prefer ours with sour cream and cracked pepper. Even Sophia, who admittedly was skeptical when I first placed her plate in front of her, ended up completely smitten with these. These are absolutely a labor of love. I’d make them again, but only once in a blue moon and for someone I truly love. Thankfully, three hours of these have yielded two more dinner-sized portions in my freezer.

Cheese and dairy seemed to play an accidentally integral part of our weekend as we also made blintzes, ricotta gnocchi and that farmer’s cheese cake my sister shared with me last weekend. The blintzes I just had to show off to my mom as she makes them so well and I’ve recently freed her of said responsibility for us. The ricotta was burning a hole through my culinary to-do list and I’d missed making home-made tomato sauce. The gnocchi were super easy and the tomato sauce is fail-proof.

CheeseyGnocchiThe gnocchi, finished off with basil were part of Sunday lunch which I finished off with the cheese cake… I changed the recipe my sister shared with me and it needs a bit more tuning before I will share my version of it with the world. That said, I think I’ve made mild improvement but have more changes I’d like to incorporate.

CheeseyCakeAll this would not be possible without two extra pairs of hands to help with Sophia.


What’s more, I took advantage of a few free moments to treat my mom and me to an excursion to the shoppes. Mother-daughter time is something that I don’t get often, cherish and thoroughly enjoy. Great fun was had by all. This weekend was originally supposed to be just the three of us, but I am glad my parents visited. We are officially declaring next weekend time for just-the-three-of-us.




Cookery Culinary Adventures Flavors Hubby Cooks Life Mom's Cooking Tiny Tastebuds

Sort of like the song itself, I’ve dreamed of this weekend for so long. We were home, it was cold and wet outside, but warm and pleasant inside the house. First things first… we’re all stocked up on groceries and the tall list of things I had to cook have all materialized and are waiting to be eaten over the course of the coming week.

Besides cooking and crafting, I managed to take Sophia out to the mall. I wouldn’t usually brag about a mall excursion but Saturday was rainy but warm, and she’s been cooped up all week long. I did it more for a change of scenery than anything. I suppose that I could have taken her to a children’s activity but nothing is scarier than a group of kids with runny noses and sore throats. The mall is just a short ten minute ride away and as you know, Sophia is a terrible carseat rider. At first we thought it was motion sickness, but I am starting to think it may be a mean case of anxiety over being restrained. Anyway, the mall excursion started with tears and a tantrum signaling Sophia’s unwillingness to get into the carseat. After much cajoling and, I am not too proud to admit it–bribery, I finally got a stoic and resigned Sophia on her way to the mall where there were cookies and balloons. Our mission was to just window shop and get out of the house; That much was accomplished. In the end, she didn’t want to leave the mall… but lunch and these chocolate covered marshmallows (home made, of course) waited for us at home.



Aside from these indulgences which were requested by Sophia after watching George devour them on Curious George, we also made


a lamb roast, grown up tater tots with chimichurri sauce, stuffed peppers concluding our culinary activities with made-from-scratch breakfast this morning:


My sister got us a waffle maker and we finally whipped up a batch. You’re going to think this is crazy, but I’ve only had fresh home-made waffles maybe three or four times in my life. These were definitely the best! Sophia agreed … devouring a full quarter waffle :-). All those carbs must have been exactly what she needed to rouse up her inner artist.



Cookery Crafts Culinary Adventures Dessert Flavors Hubby Cooks Life Play Tiny Tastebuds

I don’t know about you, but when we go away for even a few days where I don’t have to cook or clean up after meals, I miss cooking. I also miss my [and Evan’s] cooking after going without for more than a week. Perhaps some find this to be a little odd, but we find comfort and pleasure in creating warm, homemade meals and filling the house with various spice-infused aromas. Evan while relaxing at my parents’ house after our getaway with my in-laws, I already missed my own kitchen. That said, my mom always cooks our favorite things and send them home with us so that we can have a few days where we don’t need to cook/shop right away and can focus on unpacking, cleaning and getting started on the workweek.

This particular visit was no different and by Friday, my mom [aka Baba] triumphantly declared to me that I need to let her know what I’d like to take to go by Saturday AM if she is to have it ready by Sunday AM when we usually head out. Sass and cheekiness clearly prevailed when I responded “How-come is it that my local Chinese takeout place only requires 30 minute notices for food-to-go and you need a day?!”

We’ve now been home for a few days and the fridge has quickly emptied. Also, Sophia has recently discovered her love for burgers and asked that we have burgers for dinner yesterday. Since I had no dinner plans at the time of her request, I happily obliged. Braving the polar vortex I headed to the grocery store for a few necessities. Brrr… I get the chills just remembering how cold it was.

Burgers can be quite rich and so I changed things up a bit; the burgers were from turkey breast, the buns whole wheat and the fries were made in the oven from a sweet potato.

BurgerLoveThe little miss helped me cook. She was in charge of salting the potatoes once I cut them and drizzled in olive oil. Because the turkey meat was breast meat and thus rather dry, I added a panade (paste made from stale bread and milk) to keep the moisture in the burger. Sautéed shallots and garlic were added to the burger mix upping the otherwise mild flavor of the meat. Lastly, but most importantly the assembly: toasting the burger buns, adding lettuce, ketchup, onion and tomato produced a classic pub-fare plate. After digging into 1/8 of the burger, little Miss Sophia was replete.


Cookery Flavors Tiny Tastebuds

Very few things are just about us once we become parents. While at times overwhelming, it is endearing and entirely worth it. Evan’s birthday was this Sunday and we celebrated it just as we intended — with his parents and grandmother. My mother-in-law baked a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting which is Evan’s favorite.


Sophia helped ring in Evan’s new year.


As for what to get a man who has everything? A cookbook, of course! It is a rather selfish gift, I know. I am sure to benefit from this over the years when Evan prepares delicious dishes artfully described in this bright text. Actually, there is a story behind this cookbook; Back when we lived in Philadelphia, we used to attend dinners hosted by Shola Olunloyo, an excellent and famous chef who at one time co-hosted a dinner with Alex Talbot who one of this cookbook’s authors. The techniques they both used were very unique and each dish was packed with flavor. We were inspired and have since experimented with some of the methods used by both chefs. Anyway, though this book is not an experience (which is what we like to gift each other) per se, it will lend itself to many culinary experiences.


Dessert Life Moments Tiny Tastebuds

I struggled finding sample menus for toddlers when Sophia transitioned to solids. Most of the available information focused on recipes for dishes but not well-balanced menus that would describe a typical diet for a week or so. I log what Sophia eats for each course and try my best to vary her diet ensuring she doesn’t get bored. We  like to make sure that she eats whatever is planned for her before trying new foods. This week’s menu is posted below and after looking at it, you will see that we aren’t keen on having too much fat in her diet despite her being a skinny minnie. We limit egg consumption to at most every other day and soups make up at least one meal per day. Kasha (hot cereal) is a staple in our house and I alternate farina and oatmeal hot cereals. Snacks are equally important and because Sophia is not a huge eater, they tend to be bigger. Lastly, and you may have already noticed this, mango is a daily first snack. The mango is a Happy Baby Mango/Spinach/Pear packet that has a lot of fiber and is delicious. Mangos aren’t always in season and the packets ensure Sophia gets a serving all year round.


Tiny Tastebuds