Simple advice for a better life.

Broccoli SaladBroccoli is not the most popular vegetable, being part of the cabbage family, but it is very rich in vitamin C, and a great source of fiber.

One of our presidents admitted that he does not like broccoli, but none the less, it is a popular veggie in the US, and equally gaining in popularity in Europe.

Broccoli is mostly served cooked or steamed, but lately it has been making its way up to the top of the list as a veggie served raw, with dips, or in salads.

I will share my recipe for a raw broccoli salad, which is great any time, and very appropriate for picnics, and parties.

See TIP below for a vegetarian version of this salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh broccoli florets, cut up to bite size pieces
  • 2 carrots, shredded on a large eye shredder
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked to a crisp, and crumbled (or use bacon chips/crumbs)
  • 1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Light Mayonnaise (I use Hellmann’s Light)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tbs sugar

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl combine all veggies.
  2. Toss with Cheddar cheese.
  3. In a small bowl, prepare the salad dressing, by mixing together mayonnaise, sour cream, and sugar.
  4. Add to broccoli salad mixture.
  5. Toss to coat.
  6. Sprinkle with bacon crumbs.
  7. Chill until serving.

Very refreshing veggie salad.

TIP:  For a vegetarian version of this salad, omit the bacon crumbs, and add chopped nuts or dried fruits, such walnuts and raisins, or cranberries.

Also, if you are not a big fan of mayonnaise, you may use Greek Yogurt.


N & S Korovai 1The month of June is known to be the most favorite month for weddings.  So if you have an upcoming wedding marked on your calendar, and are scrambling around for Korovai suggestions, you will have a great head start after this post.

If you read my previous Korovai post, or my Paska recipe post, you already have a recipe for a Ukrainian Wedding Bread – Korovai.

Today I will share my recipe and technique for making the various symbolic decorations for your Korovai.

Korovai bread is basically a paska bread, with additional decorations.  Korovai can be a single layer (one round bread), two tier (two round breads in two different sizes, and stacked up), or even three tier.  No matter how many tiers is your Korovai, the basic decorations consist of love birds, cones, rosettes, branches, etc.

There are two types of love birds on a Korovai.  Ones with closed wings, which are the females, and ones with wings spread out (for courting and protection) are the males.

I have seen many Korovai makers using only one style of a bird, and usually they are the ones with closed wings only.  I prefer to have them in pairs, the male and female version, and will demonstrate how to make both of these.

The dough for Korovai  decorations is totally different than the Korovai itself.  Korovai decorations are not suitable for consumption, while Korovai can be cut up and shared with quests.  Actually, in Ukraine Korovai is always consumed at the wedding, and the Bride and Groom have a second one for themselves to take to their new home, or to keep as a memento.

Korovai decorations -Tree of Life branch, Swirlie, Rosette, Pair of Love Birds

Korovai Decorations Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup, plus 3 Tbs all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 2 tsp shortening  (Crisco)
  • 2 cups water ( you will use only 1/4 cup water)
  • 1 drop of yellow food coloring
  • Clove stems, or cinnamon sticks
  • Egg whites

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, place half of the flour, corn starch, and shortening.
  2. Mix together.
  3. Add 1 drop of yellow food coloring to 2 cups of water, set aside.
  4. Use 1/4 cup of the yellow water, and add it to the flour mixture.
  5. Mix with a spoon.
  6. Mix in the remaining flour.
  7. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, to make it nice and pliable.
  8. Place the dough in a plastic bag, to keep it from drying out.
  9. Line a baking sheet with an aluminum foil, and grease lightly with shortening (I use Crisco).
  10. Wipe off excess fat with a paper towel, set aside.
  11. Using a little bit of the dough at a time, make the birds (the smaller the birds, the less dough.  Medium size birds will require a ball of dough the size or a grape, 0r 1 inch in diameter).
  12. Make more birds than you really are planning to use, to allow for better selection, and breakage.
  13. Make sure to make the bird’s eyes out of clove tips, before baking, while the dough is soft.

Here are some of the steps in assembling male and female birds:

Body and wings logs

This is the dough ball, which will allow you to form two 4 inch long dough logs to form a bird. These will make medium size birds.  You will need less dough for smaller bird, and more for bigger ones.  All your birds do not need to be the same size.

If you are making two or three tier Korovai, I would suggest to use bigger birds for the larger tier, and smaller ones for the top (smallest) tier.

You can also make other decorations, like swirls and pine cones, as I have demonstrated for my Paska decorations.

Crossing wings part over the body part

Step 2 – laying out the body and wing parts.

Crossing wings part over the body part - 2

Step3 – Crossing the wings over the body.  Lifting up, and forming the head.  Dab a little bit of water on the top of  the

body where the wings will cross so they stick better, and do the same to the wings at their crossing point.

Pinch the front if the head to form a beak.

Use tips of whole cloves for the eyes.

feathering the wings and the tail

Use a paring knife to feather ( make slits) in the flattened ends of the wings and tail of a male love bird.  You may trim the tail to make it proportioned to the rest of the body.

Female love bird

To make a female love bird, you tuck the wings under her body.  There should be equal number of male and female birds on a Korovai.  These Love Birds represent the Wedding Couple.

Forming a body for a male love bird with spread wings

You can also use a different version of a male love bird, with different style wings.  In this case, you would form the bird as illustrated.  Starting with one dough log, and forming the bird’s body and  head, flattening the tail, and wrapping a flattened smaller log over the body, to give it some bulkiness.

Spread out wings of Male Love Bird Different version of wings in a Male Love Bird

To form these type of wings, you need to have a short log, flattened to form an oval shape, split it in half lengthwise, and feather the outside edges, starting in the middle buy cutting out a small triangle as above, and feathering toward the tips of the wings.  Dab a little water on the back of the bird, and position the wings on his back, as shown.

Male and Female love birds 3 Male and Female love birds 2

Once all the birds are assembled, brush them with egg white wash, which is an egg white beaten slightly, with addition of a few drops of water.

Do not beat the egg white too much, as not to get it frothy, since this will give the birds spotty and flaky finish after baking.

Place the glazed birds, in sitting position, NOT on their side, on lined baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees F, for about 20 minutes, or until the tips of wings and tails are turning slightly golden.  The bodies of the birds will stay very light, do not brown them.

Remove from the oven, and while still warm, insert tooth picks into the bottom of their bellies, glaze again with the egg white wash, and set to dry, in a cool airy place, for at least 24 hours or even few days.

Preparation of bird decorations for Korovai 2 Preparation of bird decorations for Korovai 3

Best way to dry these birds, and to store them,  is to space them wide apart, and insert the tooth picks into Styrofoam coffee cups.  Set the coffee cup studded with birds, on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels, since the egg white wash will be dripping off.

These may be made way ahead of time, but do not store them in a plastic bag, or they will mold.  Keep them speared on the coffee cups, covered loosely with paper towels, and kept in a dry cool place, until ready for decorating the Korovai.

Besides the birds, branches of the Tree of Life (some Brides prefer their Korovai with that theme), Rosettes, or Cones, and Swirls are used.  The Korovai is also decorated with fresh Periwinkle or Vinca (Barvinok), or Myrtle (Myr), and Corn Flowers (Nezabutki), and Poppies (Maki), as well as stalks of Wheat, and ribbons.

Here are the steps to make the Tree of Life branches.  You need two of these, as they are spread apart at the entry into the Korovai and joined together at the top (Tee Pee like format).  If you prefer to have a more of a regular tree like decoration, with a main tree trunk and several side branches, then it would be much easier to use a floral wire, rather than wood sticks, to assemble the tree format first, then cover each part with the dough prepared in a the same manner as demonstrated below.

Korovai decorations -Tree of Life branch 1 Korovai decorations -Tree of Life branch 2

You need to make a long, thin dough rope.  Then you need to flatten it.  The length of the rope depends on the length of the branch you would like to cover.  Branches are usually at least 10-12 inches long, so the dough rope needs to be few inches longer.

Korovai decorations -Tree of Life branch 3 Korovai decorations -Tree of Life branch 4

Using a sharp knife, or scissors,  cuts slits along one side if the flattened dough, leaving at least 1/3 of an uncut edge on the opposite side.  Get two wooden skewers, and soak them in water.

Korovai decorations -Tree of Life branch 5 Korovai decorations -Tree of Life branch 6

Moisten the uncut site of the dough rope with water, and starting at the top of the skewer, start wrapping it around the skewer, overlapping slightly, so the wood is not exposed, until the whole stick is covered. Leave at least 1/2 inch of exposed stick at the bottom, to be able to stick it into the Korovai during decorating.

Korovai decorations - Rosette, Pine Cone

To make a Rosette, or Pine Cone, you would use the same process as for the above branch, but the dough rope will be thicker and shorter, depending on how large you want this Rosette to be.  I used scissors to cut the edge, for a cleaner cut, since these slits are deeper.  To assemble it, moisten the uncut edge with water, and wind it around at the bottom to form a flower like Rosette.  For a taller Pine Cone, you will need a longer dough rope, or even a short stick to help it hold its shape.  Like with the Love Birds, stick a tooth pick from the bottom, before baking. Baking and drying instructions are the same for all decorations.

Swirl - 1

Swirl- 2

To make the Swirls, you need a dough rope (use your own discretion as to the length and thickness, depending on the size you want these decorations to be).  Please remember that these will stay the same size, or may get a little bit smaller during baking/drying time.  As you see above, you start curling each end in the opposite direction, until they meet in the middle.

These may also have a tooth pick inserted in the middle of each swirl, or you can just make pin holes before baking, and use push pins to fasten them with for decorating.  Once baked and dried, it is almost impossible to make holes, without cracking and damaging the decorations.

Assembling and decorating a Korovai takes some time (it took me over 2 hours to get mine completed- in the picture above), so do not leave it as a last minute project.   It does not seem like it should take this long, but you would be surprised how perfect you want the Korovai to turn out, and how you want everything to be positioned just right, fastened well enough, so it stays sturdy at least throughout the wedding reception, as well as for many years ahead.

If you do not plan to use the Korovai for consumption, you can preserve it with the egg wash glaze as well, but make sure it is totally dry, before assembling, to prevent molding.

If stored properly, the bread will dry out completely, and will keep for years as a centerpiece on your dinning room table, or in a showcase, as a conversation piece.

I heard of horror stories from other people whose Korovai turned into a heap of mold.  This means that it either was not baked well, or improperly stored afterward.

I kept my daughter’s Korovai on a wire cookie cooling rack, for several months, so that the air was able to flow under it, to prevent any build up of moisture, which helped the drying out process.   Once it is totally dried out, it may be set up on a nice pedestal, and serve as a conversation piece.

Enjoy your Korovai making experience, and please share pictures, and comments.


N & S forever heart Korovai decorIf you missed my posts about the various Ukrainian weddings I attended, and took pictures of the Korovai, here are the links to these posts.

Ukrainian Traditional Wedding

Ukrainian Wedding with a Special Flair

Ukrainian – Jewish Wedding

Ukrainian-  Greek Wedding

Korovai is a special, creatively decorated bread, with one, two, or three tiers, which is usually made by the Mother of the Bride, and presented to the  Bride and Groom, with a special blessing.  This elaborately decorated bread is displayed at the wedding reception hall, placed near the head table, or by the wedding cake, on a small table adorned with Ukrainian embroidered scarf (rushnyk).

There are different styles of Korovai, depending on the region of Ukraine it originated from.

A basic Paska recipe, may be used to make the Korovai, or any other special bread recipe will do.

One of my readers, Olya M. from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, shared a picture of the Korovai she made for her daughter’s wedding.

Korovai by Olya M from Boston area, USA

She did a beautiful job, and you will not believe that this was the first Korovai she ever made by herself.

Wedding Korovai

Here is another stunning looking Wedding Korovai, created by a very talented young lady and her mom, for  their  first time, to use at her own wedding.  If you wish to read about it, please visit her blog, Modernyj Korovai.

As you can see she is a very talented lady, and her daughter must have been very proud of her mom’s creation.

n-s- Korovai

I made my daughter’s Korovai, but used my Paska recipe, and she selected a three tier Korovai, as you can see in the picture above.

Today I will post a Korovai recipe from the Peremyshl region of Ukraine, now (Przemysl) under Poland, located very close to the border of Ukraine,  and the city of Lviv.  This region is very dear and near to my heart, since my family roots are from there.

This recipe has been shared with me at a Korovai baking class, which I participated in a while back.  This recipe is for one tier Korovai, and a smaller one, for the Bride and Groom to keep as a memento.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 2 packets dry yeast (1/4 oz each)
  • 10 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup butter (6 oz), melted
  • 6 extra large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp rum extract (optional)
  • zest of 1 lemon (optional)
  • 1 egg beaten with a little water, for glaze

Directions:

  1. Combine milk , water, and 2 Tbs sugar, in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle yeast over it, and let it rise, until frothy.
  3. Add 5 cups sifted flour, and salt.
  4. Mix well, and allow to rise until double in bulk.
  5. Beat eggs with 1/2 cup sugar, until frothy.
  6. Add vanilla, rum, and lemon zest, as desired.
  7. Add remaining flour to yeast mixture.
  8. Add beaten eggs, and melted butter.
  9. Knead until the dough is smooth, and no longer sticks to the hand (15 minutes).  See TIP below, for food processor instructions.
  10. Allow to rest 5 minutes.
  11. Knead the dough for several minutes on a lightly floured work surface.
  12. Divide into 3 parts (3 lbs for the main Korovai, 1 lbs for the memento Korovai (0r a second tier, if you chose to have two tiers), and the remainder of the dough for decorations.
  13. Place the dough in lightly oiled bowls, turn once, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow to rise until double in bulk.
  14. Grease and flour a 10 inch  diameter  paska baking pan, for the main Korovai.  Repeat the same for a smaller pan  (8 inch) for the second Korovai.
  15. On a floured work surface, knead the larger portion of dough, removing bubbles.
  16. Cut into the following pieces:
  17. 3 pieces – 12 oz each
  18. 2 pieces – 4 oz each
  19. 1 piece – 3 oz (or the remaining dough)
  20. Roll the 12 oz pieces into 3 strands, 28 inches long, and more than 1 inch thick, and form a braid.
  21. Arrange in a circle around the bottom of the pan, overlapping ends.
  22. Roll the 4 oz pieces into 2 strands, about 29 inches long.
  23. Twist tightly (about every inch), and place on top of the braid, on its outermost rim, overlapping ends.
  24. Roll the 3 oz piece into a small ball, flatten the top, and place in the center.
  25. Cover lightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until double in bulk.

Smaller Korovai:

  1. Repeat above instructions to make a smaller replica of the Korovai in the smaller pan, if you will use it as a second tier, or in a pie plate if you to be kept as a memento.
  2. Cut the second piece of the dough into the following pieces:
  3. 3 pieces, 4 oz each
  4. 2 pieces, 3 oz each
  5. 1 piece, 1 1/2 oz each
  6. Brush both breads with egg glaze and bake in preheated 350 degrees oven, with pans not touching, for 15 minutes.
  7. Lower the temperature to 325 degrees, and continue baking.
  8. Remove the smaller Korovai after about 30 additional minutes of baking (total of 45 minutes).
  9. Glaze again.
  10. Allow to rest for several minutes, then remove from the pan, and cool on a rack.
  11. Bake the larger one 15 minutes more (total 1 hour), or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
  12. Remove from oven.
  13. Glaze again.
  14. Allow to rest for few minutes, then remove from pan and cool on a rack.
  15. Once totally cooled off, wrap in aluminum foil and refrigerate, or freeze, until ready to assemble and decorate for the wedding.

Please stay tuned for my next post which will provide recipe, instructions, and technique, for the symbolic decorations for Korovai.

TIP: If you wish to use a Food Processor or a Bread Maker, you may use these instructions (please note I DID NOT test this process)

  1. Combine milk, water, salt, and 2 Tbs of sugar.
  2. Pulse once.
  3. Add yeast and and pulse again.
  4. Set aside.
  5. Beat the eggs with 1/2 cup of sugar until frothy.
  6. Add vanilla, rum, and lemon zest.  Melt butter and cool.
  7. Combine 5 cups of flour with 1/2 of the yeast mixture, 1/2 the egg mixture, and 1/2 of the melted butter.
  8. Process until a ball of dough forms (2 -3 minutes).
  9. Allow to rest.
  10. Process 1 more minute.
  11. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  12. From this point on, follow the remaining instructions in the original recipe.


Spring In My Garden

Spring 2011- Snow WhiteSpring is my favorite season of the year, because Mother Nature is waking up from winter’s deep sleep, bringing out the beauty of every living thing.

I enjoy spending my free time outdoor, working in my vegetable garden, my flower patches, and capturing the beauty of nature in my photos.

The weather was very cooperative for the past few days, so my garden was ready for some TLC (all the gardeners out there know that weeds are the first thing that grows), so today was gardening time for me, and of course a picture session to share with you.

Spring 2011- Yellow Johnny Hop-Ups

Spring 2011- Multi-color Johnny Hop-Ups

Hardy Viola -  these colorful flowers keep on reseeding themselves from year to year.  They bloom throughout May and into June.  Later on these plants become to leggy, and begin to dry out, thus need to be removed, and replaced with some pretty summer annuals.

Spring 2011- Creeping Phlox

Creeping Phlox in full bloom.  This is a perennial plant, which blooms in late April and early May.  The foliage stays green whole summer, and turns brownish during the winter season.

Spring 2011- Lilly of the Valley

Spring 2011 - Dainty and sweetly fragrant bouquet of Lilly of the Valley

Sweetly fragrant Lilly of the Valley, is my favorite flower from childhood.  It reminds me of the walks through the woods with my mom, and the excitement of creating a nice bouquet for my grandma.

Lilly of the Valley grows nicely in partial shade, or full sun.  Their very dainty paper white bells-like flowers tend to hide between the very full foliage, but you can smell their sweetness from a distance.

Spring 2011- Replanted Strawberry plants

Spring 2011- Strawberries in bloom

Last fall I replanted my strawberry plants out of my main garden patch (due to overcrowding), to an outside area next to the garden, and to my surprise they will be producing fruits this year, as you can see from the abundant flowers they are covered with.  My granddaughter loved picking off her own strawberries last year, and will be delighted to do the same this year.

Spring 2011- Italian Parsley from last year

Spring 2011- Italian Parsley leaves

Pictured above is Flat Leaf Italian Parsley, which remained in ground over  winter.  It really had grown considerably in the past few days, due to the favorable weather conditions we had lately.

I prefer the Flat Leaf Italian Parsley over the Curly Leaf Parsley, due to it’s much stronger flavor enhancer properties.  How about you?

Spring 2011- Sorrel loving the warm spring weather

The Sorrel plants also survived the winter, and are ready to be picked off and used in soup, or salad.  The leaves resemble spinach, but have a quite tart flavor.

Spring 2011- Yukon Gold potato planted 3 weeks ago

This  is my Yukon Gold potato plant, which I planted 3 weeks ago.   If you wanted to plant some potatoes in your garden, and did not have a chance yet, no worries, you still can to it now. Check out my previous post to find out how.

Spring 2011- Self seeded tomato plants

Spring 2011 - My potato peels are sprouting again

Here you see my FREE plants, once again.  To the left are self seeded tomatoes from last year’s crop, and to the right are  potatoes sprouting from my kitchen scrap potato peels.   Since potato plants can not replanted, and these are growing too closely together, I will just have to pull some of them out, to provide adequate room for the remaining ones.

Tomato plants, on the other hand, can be replanted, as soon as they get to be about 4-5 inches tall.  I will select the strongest ones, and plant them into their permanent location.

Please share your gardening stories with all of us.

Candy Land themeAnother birthday rolled by, and this year’s theme was Candy Land.

What can be more fun for kids under five, than lots of candy everywhere, lots of games to play, and lots of friends to play these games with?

You got it.

A Candy Land Birthday Party!!!

Birthday parties for this age group are fun for the kids, and the adults, since the little ones need to be accompanied by either mom or dad, or both, and everyone gets into a party mood.

There was lots of delicious food for the kids, as well as the adults.

Chicken Nuggets from Chicken Chalet scored high points with the kids!!

Here are some of the pictures I took at the party, in case you are looking for ideas for your next Birthday Party.

Outdoor Candy Land path to the party

Candy Land outdoor path leading the way to the party.

Candy Land characters

Various colors of these Candy Land characters were strategically displayed all over the house.

Candy Land indoor path

There was an indoor Candy Land path to follow to different activities.

Creative Giant Candy to add to the decor

In addition to streamers and balloons, there where these extra large “candy” decoration (made out of lantern shades wrapped in cellophane…very creative).

Gumdrop and Peanut Tree decorations Mint Candy Tree decoration

More candy theme decorations, to brighten up the party room.  These were made out of styrofoam cones, studded with gum drops, mints, and marshmallow peanuts.  Adorable!

Assortment of candy to fill up Thank you bags with

An awesome assortment of numerous candy choices available to all the party attendees, to fill their take home “Thank You” bags.

Giant Lollypops -  Thank You favors

In addition to the above candy bags, everyone went home withe these huge “MANY THANKS” lolly pops.

The Candy Land Cake

I saved the best for last…. Candy Land Birthday Cake, created by a very hard working, dedicated, and creative mom of the “Birthday Princess”.

There were lots of ooohhs and aaahhs, as this cake was displayed.

It really turned out very nicely, and it was equally delicious.

Very nice job, indeed!!

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