Thursday, March 28, 2013


Kristen says...


While I have enjoyed being busy these past weeks, but there truly is no place like home...

 It may surprise you to know that I am really something of a homebody. If I have something to go out for, I will, but I don't have many problems with being home, either.

 This week I have gone back to my somewhat boring "regular" routine, which means cooking, cleaning, and other fun stuff.

Pip has certainly enjoyed having me home!
Let's start with the cooking, because that's what I've done the most:

 We can start with the sun-dried tomato mac and cheese. Chris called me from work one day and said he was craving mac and cheese, so I searched in my cookbook (Internet!), found a recipe, and used what we had in the house and came up with this:

Um, yum! The leftovers didn't last long around this house!

 A few days later the lunch I had with Amy at the Philharmonic building (baked eggplant) inspired me to create my own version...

 Apparently we are picking up purple vegetables in Russia, first beets and now eggplant. Before coming here I wouldn't have touched eggplant with a 10-foot pole, but after that lunch at the cafe I'm kind of into it now... :)

  Anyway, at the cafe my choices were a seafood soup, a seafood dish, Greek salad, and baked eggplant, none of which I was terribly excited about. I went with the eggplant, and boy am I glad I did!!

 Here is the recipe I made up based on what I ate at the cafe:

1 eggplant, medium sized and cut into 1/4" slices, then salted and allowed to rest
 Heat a saucepan and add olive oil; rinse eggplant, sprinkle with pepper, and cook eggplant 4 minutes on each side until golden brown **This part came from this website**
 While eggplant cooks cut bread into long, thin slices. (I used these delicious Russian cheesy buns, but any bread will do, although bread with added spice will add more may even be able to use large croutons)
 Since your oven should be pre-heating to 375° by this time, you can put the sliced bread in to bake until hardened (see why croutons might work?)

 Layer the bottom of a foil-lined pan (I used a bread pan because it's all I have at the the future I'll use a "flatter" dish) with your favorite tomato-based sauce (I make my own, but I won't judge you for using store-bought!)
 Start layering eggplant, mozzarella cheese and the toasted bread, covering each later with sauce. This will not be like lasagna where each layer is defined, rather, each layer will tend to blend in with the ones above and below:
 Bake at 375° for 20-30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and your kitchen smells amazing. (And if you are trying to take pictures of it, make sure you do before your husband starts eating dinner!)
RECAP: The four ingredients are eggplant, bread, mozzarella cheese and tomato-based sauce.

 So that was pretty good. I hope you enjoy it if you make it yourself! Leave me a comment to tell me how it turned out! :)

 On the sweeter side of things, our consumable shipment came a few weeks ago, and one of the things that came was a jar of unsweetened applesauce that I'd forgotten I'd included.

 I have looked here and inquired, but applesauce isn't something that Russians seem to eat. And clearly, that one small jar wasn't going to last long...

 I remember, very clearly, both of my grandmothers making applesauce when I was younger. One made very sweet, chunky, cinnamon-y applesauce that she often served frozen. One made less sweet, less chunky, unflavored applesauce made from apples picked from the tree in the back yard.

 Very sadly, while I have multiple recipes from both Grandmas, I have neither of their applesauce recipes, and even more sadly, neither is alive for me to call and ask for it...

So what could I do but search the Internet?!

I found this recipe and tweaked it (as per my usual)

Most people seem to like cinnamon in their applesauce...I really, really do not. So I decided to make mine sans-cinnamon (although if Chris wants to add it to his own dish, he is welcome to).
I started out with three types of apple: Jazz, Braeburn and Gala
 As much as I don't like cinnamon in my applesauce, I do like apple skins...also I don't like skinning apples, so the skins stayed on!

 Since I wasn't adding sugar to the recipe, I decided to use apple juice as part of the liquid to add a bit of natural sweetener and flavor.
 I also had some dried mango hanging around, so on a whim I chopped some up and added it to a second, smaller pot of apples:
Then I started the cooking process:

Sadly applesauce isn't a terribly exciting thing to photograph in progress, but it sure is good to eat!

Here is the final product:
 And a side-by-side comparison:
Mango - Apple - Storebought
 Num num num!

Of course, cooking is not the only thing I have done in this week at home.

Go figure, we've been dealing with more (dun dun dun) bathroom drama!

 Apparently the caulk that was used to seal the tub was not supposed to be used around water...sigh. This still hasn't been fixed, so we're being extra-careful when getting out of the tub every morning! (And quite annoyed when we forget and step in water with sock-covered feet!)

We have also had our first round of Russian Car Drama (doo doo doo!)

 The RAV-4 made it safe and sound to Russia last week, with one small problem...a flat front tire. Shades of Honduras?! Le sigh. Luckily we know people who know where to get tires fixed and that problem was quickly solved.

 After waiting a week+ to get our Russian license plates, we can finally drive the car, and (with a bit of difficulty) found a place to park it:
 The angle of the garage door picture is so severe because, after parking the car in our new garage on Tuesday night, another car promptly parked directly in front of it. Sigh.

 This morning we got a chain to put up in front of the garage doors (something that is common here) and, while we were affixing the chain, somehow the person who owned the offending car knew to come down and move it. Hurrah! So now the car is safe and sound in the garage, and presumably we'll be able to come and go as we please.

If all that wasn't enough, we've also had a bit of electricity drama. Here we are in the dark the other night:

Good times.

 However, the blackout was mercifully short and we only had to walk up the 13 floors of stairs once, so all-in-all not too disruptive of an event.

 It's good to be home! :)


  1. You are right about applesauce. I think the only way for you to find it is to look for baby food. Maybe. If they are still using it that way. :)

  2. I've been making my own applesauce too! Recently I did a strawberry applesauce to give it a little extra sweetness since I don't add sugar either. It was delicious!

    That sun dried tomato Mac and Cheese looks yummy! May have to whip some of that up soon. :)

  3. I don't remember either of your Grandmas using a recipe for applesauce. As my mom would say "just use a smigion(sp?) of" this or that. Or until the consistency "feels" right. ??? Other favorite words - "umpteen" - or "about that much". Hard to learn to cook that way!

    : ) Oh, Moms. I miss them so much.


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