Simple advice for a better life.

Happy Halloween – Beauty of Nature

Happy HolloweenHalloween is not one of my favorite holidays/celebrations.  I like pumpkins and  scarecrows, even witches and bats, but do not care for the RIP signs, the skeletons, sculls, and all the other grotesque decor.

I love watching children all dressed up in their favorite character’s costumes, getting all excited about checking out the candy supply I have ready to hand out.  I even like dressing up in a costume myself, to be festive for giving out the candy.

So, instead of more Halloween decorations, I decided to share a display of the beauty of nature at this time of the year.

Last year there was a mysterious tomato plant, that sprouted on its own, in my daughter’s flower patch.  It turned out to be an endless tomato producing plant.  Honestly, that one plant must have produced about 40 regular size tomatoes.  It was amazing!

This year she has another surprise plant in her flower patch.  At first we were not sure ourselves what it was, and almost pulled it during weeding, but now it turned out to be an asparagus plant.

You see, I am not the only one who gets freebies in her garden.  Are you this lucky as well?  We all would be delighted to hear about it, please.

For those of you who are familiar with asparagus, only from seeing it at your grocer, you will be quite surprised how it actually starts it cycle, and what better way than seeing it in pictures.

Asparagus plant

You see how beautiful and dainty are the fern like branches of the asparagus plant?  In Europe these branches have been used in flower arrangements, instead of Baby Breaths.

Asparagus plant 4

Here is a close up of the actual asparagus stalk , which as you can see,  grows separately from the fern leaves, yet from the same plant root system.

Asparagus plant 3

Here is a close up look of the top of the asparagus stalk, which you are so accustomed to seeing at the grocery store.

Very soon my daughter’s family will have at least three, very fresh, and free, asparagus pieces for dinner.

Nature is not only beautiful, but also bountiful.

Now I will also show you a picture of a Hardy Mum plant I bought for my daughter and son-in-law, when my granddaughter was born.  It was just a regular potted plant, about a foot tall, but look at it now.

Huge hardy mums plant

Two years later, this potted average plant, turned into a huge mound of blooms.  It is at least three feet in diameter.

Huge hardy mums flowers Huge hardy mums flower

Here is a close up of the flowers, and a closer yet view the flower’s details.  Absolutely gorgeous!!

These Hardy Mums are perennial plants, and if you want to control their growth, you can keep them in the pot from year to year (see first picture above), or plant them in freedom, and expect them to really take off and give you a unbelievable display of beautiful color.

Goodbye summer

Here is my last flower display picture  of the season, and I will call it “Goodbye Summer” flower display.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!!

Whole Wheat Varenyky-PierogiesDid you ever have a moment when you set your mind on preparing something for dinner, and then you realize that you are short on the amount of the main ingredient?

Well, this happened to me today when I was so set to make some varenyky (Ukrainian word for Pierogi), and realized that I was one cup short of  all purpose flour, and had barely any sour cream available.  I could not stop my project now, since I already prepared the potato filling, so in disbelief I began to search my cupboards, and found  a bag of Whole Wheat flour.

I used Whole  Wheat flour before, to make homemade pasta, and it was great, just a bit nutty tasting, so I decided to use it for my varenyky today.

I used the same recipe as I already posted on this blog before, with the following changes:

  1. 1  cup of Whole Wheat flour in addition to 3 cups of all purpose flour.
  2. 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, and 1 Tbs of sour cream, instead of 1/2  cup of sour cream.
  3. I might have used a little more liquid, to get the dough to the same consistency as with regular flour.

The directions are the same as for my regular varenyky, with the exception of rolling out the dough much thinner, so the finished product will not be too tough, since the whole wheat flour makes the dough a bit denser.

They looked tan, rather than their usual color, but tasted great, and after all,  were healthier for the family, as whole wheat flour is known for those qualities.

I sauteed a lot of onions in vegetable oil and butter, to serve with these varenyky, as you already know, I did not have any sour cream left on hand.

As the old saying goes “There is always something good, that comes out of something bad”, and this cooking experience proved that point very well.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience, and next time you just might want to try making your varenyky (pierogi) out of whole wheat flour as well.

Korovai for A-RI have been keeping you updated with all the weddings I attended this year, and here is one more, and it might not even be the last once for this year, since I just received a “save a date” for a December wedding.

This wedding was a traditional Ukrainian wedding as you have already learned about his culture, in my previous posts.

Traditional Ukrainian Wedding Greeting Table display

There was a beautiful Greeting Table display, with the Greeting Bread, the Korovai, Holy Icon, and wine.

Greeting bread

Close up view of the Greeting Bread with a glass container filled with salt.

Korovai for A-R

The Korovai was beautifully decorated with numerous love birds, periwinkle, native flowers and wheat stalks.

Wedding Cake display table

Very elegantly displayed wedding cake, surrounded by bouquets of flowers, the Bride’s  “throw away bouquet”, and a special knife set for the bride and groom to use during the cake cutting ceremony.

A - R Wedding Cake

Close up view of the Wedding Cake.

Everyone was  entertained by a  great Ukrainian Band “Hrim” (meaning -Thunder), which energized the whole crowd, young and not so young….drawing everyone to the dance floor.  They also played the traditional Kolomyka music, so all the talented dancers had a chance to join in and to show off their special steps.

The Bride and Groom incorporated all the Ukrainian wedding traditions into their event, with an additional flair for the finally.

The Bride has been a long time member of a Ukrainian American Youth Organization, thus incorporated a traditional “Farewell, Good Night” song and dance to close the wedding reception celebration.  The Bride and Groom were seated in the middle of the dance floor, held lit candles, all the guests held hands and formed a large circle around them, and they all sang a special “Good Night” song.  It was a very beautiful way to end the wedding celebration, and to say good night to everyone.

Another very special and sentimental part of this wedding was the decision the Bride and Groom made about wedding favors for their family and friends.

In lieu of favors, they made a donation to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,

in loving memory of the Bride’s brother, who fought a courageous battle with that disease, for as long as he could.

The Bride and Groom shared their decision in a form of a very elegantly prepared thank you card placed by each guest’s place setting.

This was a very loving decision on their part, to include the memory of their brother in their celebration, as well as making everyone feel very special, by taking part in the contribution to a very worthy cause.

Portabello mushrooms with pastaThere are those days when I am looking for an easy, quick, and inexpensive meal idea, yet nutritious at the same time.  One which will not require running out to the store for any missing ingredients.

Today, I had one of those days, and after checking my food supply in my pantry and fridge, I decided on a pasta meal with mushrooms and sauce.

It it not a casserole, so no baking involved, and the pasta sauce was ready made.  All I had to do is to cook the pasta, saute the mushrooms, and  mix it all together. Quick and easy, wouldn’t you agrees?

I had two packs of mushrooms, since they were on sale on my last food shopping , so I bought two for the price of one..great deal on Portobello Mushroons.  I also had some fresh Tuscany Bread, fresh garlic (I never run of of this food staple), so I was able to make homemade garlic bread go to with our meal.

Main ingredients for quick vegetarian dinner

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz of Portobello Mushrooms (1 small pack)
  • 15 oz Bertolli Sauce (I used Four Cheese Rosa)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2  onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbs olive oil (for sauteing onions)
  • 2 cups of uncooked pasta (1/2 box )
  • Parmesan Cheese (optional)
  • Salt and Black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Rinse mushrooms, or wipe off with a damp paper towel (I rinse them).
  2. Trim off the stem ends.
  3. Peel off the skin from the mushroom’s tops (optional).
  4. Slice the mushrooms.
  5. Heat up a frying pan with the olive oil (also fill up a medium pot with water, and bring it to boil, for the pasta).
  6. Add chopped onions and saute until translucent, and starting to turn golden color.
  7. Add chopped garlic and saute another minute.
  8. Add sliced mushrooms, and saute 5 minutes longer.
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Add 2 cups of raw pasta to the boiling water, and cook pasta to al dente.
  11. Drain co0ked pasta, and put back into the pot.
  12. Add the sauce to mushrooms, and cook until it start to bubble.
  13. Add sauce to pasta, and mix well.
  14. Pasta is ready to serve.
  15. Sprinkle Parmesan Cheese on top of pasta, just before serving

Here is an easy recipe to make garlic bread, if  you want to serve it with your pasta.

Garlic Bread

homemade garlic bread

Ingredinets:

  • 4 slices of your favorite bread ( Italian, French,Tuscany, Saloio)
  • 2 Tbs  butter
  • Garlic powder, or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Italian seasoning, or dried basil (optional)
  • Parmesan Cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Place the bread sliced on a baking sheet
  2. Spread the butter on one side of each piece of bread
  3. Generously sprinkle garlic powder of the butter, or spread 1/4 of the chopped garlic on each slice of buttered bread
  4. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning
  5. Sprinkle generously grated Parmesan Cheese
  6. Turn on the oven on Broil
  7. Position oven rack to at least 3 -4 inches below the heating element
  8. Broil about 3 minutes, or until the bread edges start to brown slightly (watch it closely, because it can burn up very quickly)

TIP:  This meal will serve your whole family, for the price of one serving at  a local restaurant.



Vegetarian meal - pasta with stir fry veggiesGardening season is coming to an end.  I have picked off the remainder of my free tomatoes and free peppers, as well as basil leaves and chives, and created a quick and simple meal out of my fresh veggies.

Nothing can be simpler than some pasta and stir-fry veggies, so that is what I decided to prepare.

Serve 2-4.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup of  green peppers, sliced julienne style
  • 1 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 Tbs chives, chopped
  • 1 Tbs of fresh basil leave, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (used my favorite garlic chopper)
  • 1 Tbs low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs olive oil, for frying
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups of cooked pasta

Directions:

  1. Cook your favorite pasta per package directions (one cup of uncooked pasta should be enough for this recipe).
  2. Wash your veggies, and dry off on a paper towel.
  3. Cut up your veggies (cut peppers in half, remove stems and seeds).
  4. Heat up a frying pan with the olive oil.
  5. Add onions, and cook until translucent looking.
  6. Add peppers and zucchini, and cook 3 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes, and cook another minute.
  8. Add chopped basil, minced garlic, chives, salt and pepper.
  9. Turn off the heat.
  10. Fold in a little bit of olive oil into your pasta, so it does not stick.
  11. Place pasta on a serving platter, or individual plates, and top off with veggies.

If you like you may sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top of veggies, and serve it with garlic bread.

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