Growing Up Savvy Posts

Lazy, weekend mornings in the late Fall or early Spring are most memorable and relaxing when started the same way my family has done for as long as I can remember: with a baked potato and pickled herring breakfast.

Picked Herring and Baked Potato

Now I realize that some of my readers may find the idea, the combination and frankly, even the individual ingredients (herring) unappealing. You can’t knock it until you try it. Russians aren’t the only culture that enjoys picked everything including fish. Hubby and I quickly found that out when we visited Sweden on our honeymoon. Either way, I can’t quite decide if I like it because it is so delicious or if it is so delicious because with it, I associate Sunday mornings growing up. Regardless, my craving for pickled fish and/or family togetherness was dearly satisfied over the weekend.

FriendsFamily Mom's Cooking

Religion was very much in the background when I was growing up in the former Soviet Union. However, tradition was always at the forefront. I have great memories of delicious foods in the early Spring (which I now realize was for Passover) and getting money in the early Winter (which was for Hannukah). My parents and grandparents did not really elaborate on why we have certain traditions, but that we just do. So getting back to the food… my early Spring memories always center around chicken soup with matzo balls and gefilte fish. There were of course many other delicious dishes, but to me, Passover is not celebrated unless we feast on gefilte fish and chicken soup with matzo balls.

Traditions must be kept and passed on and this year we were treated to an amazing meal in lovely settings. My sister hosted our Seder dinner and cooked many delicious dishes including the mandatory chicken soup with picture perfect matzo balls.

Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls

My mom made her famous gefilte fish which by the way, is not bland, run of the mill, supermarket purchased, pale and unattractive.

Gefilte Fish

It is flavorful, handmade, and very, very, very delicious. Now that I sit back, read over the beginning of this post and reminisce about all the delicious foods we had on Friday, I only hope that I can too one day have enough courage to host such a beautiful Seder.

Finally, a big shout-out to my sister who is an amazing chef thanks to or perhaps despite being a working mom of a rambunctious eight year old. Ingredients turn into gold in her hands and she manages to host so effortlessly.

Mom's Cooking

I am starting a blog tradition borrowed from QuietDomesticity and originally from SouleMama.
{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.


A day without chocolate seems inconceivable to me. Nothing can replace the deep earthy flavor of chocolate as it melts in your mouth except… well an exceptional chocolate chip cookie. Actually, a chocolate chip cookie with walnuts is better than a plain chocolate chip cookie and white chocolate (which I don’t consider to be chocolate at all) with macadamia nuts and dried Bing cherries is a close second.

I don’t know of many people who like their chocolate chip cookies to be brittle and crisp. The best way to achieve soft, rich and gooey cookies is with a high fat content (aren’t most things better with more fat in them?) and also to use melted not softened butter. So that’s just what I do, I take a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe and melt the butter, beat it with regular and brown sugars, add eggs (not 1 egg, but 1 egg and 1 egg yolk), vanilla, flower, baking soda and of course… CHOCOLATE CHIPS. Last tip, don’t overmix the batter after you add the flour and stir the chocolate chips in by hand.

Ooey, Gooey and Delicious

This is just what you need to get through your Wednesday!


Why do some renditions of even the most basic dishes like beef stew or meatballs turn out so well in the hands of certain cooks? Secret flavor bolstering weapons! I don’t profess to know all the secrets or have mastered all flavor profiles, but I do have some tricks in my pocket. So I am starting a series of posts where each post will introduce a little flavor weapon.

Today’s is anchovies. That’s right, anchovies… they are probably located in the very isle of your local grocery mart that you always pass through briskly. The one that also has pre-made taco shells, canned beans, asian odds and ends and holiday specials. Before I explain why anchovies are an amazing flavor booster, I would advise that you provision the very best you can buy or as Ina Garten would say, “Good quality anchovies“. I recommend ones that are produced outside of the united states, preferably in Spain or Italy and packed in olive oil and not salt.

Finally, anchovies are salty, meaty, oily, briny and most of all rich in umami. There are two ways to indulge in anchovy goodness… let it melt away into flavorful nothingness in your stews, roasts or pasta sauces or proudly display them atop your favorite tapas. To use in a stew (meat or fish), simply throw in 2-3 anchovy fillets into your pot when sauteing your mirepoix. They will melt away into the oil/butter and you and your diners won’t know they are there. You will notice a certain richness in your final product, a very meaty, earthy flavor that you can’t really pinpoint. Speaking of stews… a little wine, chicken or beef stock never hurt anyone either! The use of anchovies as proud leads in your dishes is reserved for another, longer post. Stay tuned!

Cookery Flavors

A delicious Thai dinner is never very far away in our house. The most recent one was a Thai Coconut Curry Chicken with Petit Peas that I cooked in 1 hr. When the weather is still a little chilly, I crave warm, mildly spicy flavors. The easiest is our coconut curry which can be made with chicken, fish, and shellfish. When we make it, our house always fills with the aroma of lemongrass and coconut.

Coconut Curry Chicken & Petit Peas

The added bonus is that we get to introduce at least the smells of lemongrass, ginger and coconut to our little culinary passenger. Sophia loves to smell new things; she brings her little nose to the food and takes a deep, deep breath. Whether this works or not, we are not sure. We are doing our best to get her used to the idea of experiencing new things.


A welcome visit from the in-laws provided me with ample opportunity to indulge in my much-forgotten past-time: BAKING.

While they took Sophia for a mid-afternoon walk/nap, I jumped into action trying a new banana cake recipe with cream cheese frosting. I have made plenty of banana breads in my life, but it is simply too hard to pass up an opportunity to make cream cheese frosting!

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

As imagined and expected, the result was moist, decadent and just absolutely devine without being cloyingly sweet and too rich like many of our usual go-to chocolate concoctions often are.

Cookery Dessert

My parents in-law visited with us yesterday. We were looking forward to have two extra pairs of helpings hands with Sophia and maybe even garden a little. Although very sunny, the weather was still too chilly and instead we opted to do taxes (my husband) and bake (me). Before the baking, there was lunch to be made and I decided to continue paying homage to all the greenery with Zucchini Pancakes with Garlic Creme Fraiche. The pancakes take 15 minutes to make and have just five ingredients. They taste light, refreshing and perfect for a Sunday lunch which I like to have without too much fuss or work.

Zucchini Pancakes with Garlic Creme Fraiche

But for those who need something a little more substantial, there was Capered Tuna Salad. This is not your typical, heavy tuna salad! I use salty, briny capers to interject some of that missing salty flavor that somehow magically go missing from supermarket canned tuna.

Capered Tuna Salad

Finally, there was Grilled Chicken Sausage, Onion and Peppers.

Grilled Peppers & Onions

Odd combination it may seem, but it was a truly delicious and satisfying the brunch/lunch.

Lastly, credit is given where it is due: the hubby did the grilling and there is nothing that can substitute the flavor a charcoal grill imparts!

Do you have a favorite dish that you make for brunch? Share your ideas here.

Grilled Sausage, Onion & Peppers


Spring is here and with it are unseasonably warm weather, spring flowers, greenery and locally grown produce. I am a huge fan of fast and fresh dinners and have many recipes that help me put a light and refreshing meal on the table in under 30 minutes. Quinoa with herbs is a healthy, low-carb, high protein side dish that I make in 15 minutes. I would typically call it Herbed Quinoa but my after happily chowing down on it today, my husband proclaimed “Don’t you use herb as a verb!.”

Herbed Quinoa


Cookery FriendsFamily

Until now, little Sophia’s adventures with food have not expanded beyond apple and prune sauce, pea, carrot, potato and sweet potato puree and of course mashed banana. It is hard to believe that a little person will have preferences and likes but it seems that banana and apple are clear favorites.

A meal, however, is not gourmet unless it is prepared with care, passion, elaborate techniques and flavors. We are beginning to expose Sophia to gourmet, richly flavored food early and are hoping to avoid protests in ethnic locales later on. To that end, we have augmented plain old apple sauce with cinnamon. Cinnamon is a warm, rich spice that manages to permeate the house even when used in small quantities. Apple and cinnamon are an especially great combination and we were unsurprised when Sophia happily dove into her dinner. A word of caution: cinnamon is a significant allergen, and I would advise that you use a stick instead of powdered cinnamon when making apple sauce and leave it in for just a few minutes at first to make sure your child does not have a reaction.


Tiny Tastebuds