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Ginger Spoon Blog
I'm really lucky that My Darling and I share a Russian cultural background, and that we both are as enthusiastic about it as we are. It means that Russian food is a familiar and welcome part of our home life. It also means that I have little moments of ecstasy when we drop by the Russian store to pick up goodies. Russian is my home language, my family language, and there's something so thrilling about being able to order at a store in Russian.

Unfortunately, my food enthusiasm meant we got an entire pound of Russian bologna, or as we call it, kalbasa. There was still half a pound left when it started to threaten to go bad, so I decided to fry it thoroughly and add it to a dish--heat kills microbes.

So while this recipe calls for bacon (which is what I originally invented it to be), this time I used bologna. Feel free to try that yourself, or to use salami or pepperoni instead.

Ingredients:

- 40 (or so) small to medium uncooked shrimp (frozen is fine)
- 2-3 slices of bacon, diced
- 6 white mushrooms, diced
- 1/2 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil (for frying)
- pinch of garlic powder
- pinch of salt
- two handfuls fresh, washed spinach (optional)

If your shrimp are frozen, put them into a bowl and cover with hot tap water until the water turns cold and the shrimp become soft, about 2 minutes. Peel each shrimp completely with your fingers and discard the shell (including the tail shell) and set the shrimp aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan. Sautee the diced bacon on medium for about 3 minutes or until opaque, then add mushrooms, salt, and garlic powder, lower heat slightly, and cover for another 4 minutes, stirring often. Add the shrimp, stir, and let fry for about 3 minutes, or until the shrimp become pink and curl up. Add the Parmesan cheese, stir, and remove from heat, then add the grated cheddar, stir, and serve immediately.


Cheesy shrimp in the pan...it took a lot of willpower to not eat it all right away, let me tell you.

Serve on a bed of fresh spinach (not lettuce, it doesn't taste right for some reason) or with bread or pasta if you want a heavy meal (though the high protein amount in this dish doesn't mix well with carbs such as pasta, in terms of your digestive system). Makes enough for 2-3 people as an entree.

Tolkien used to say that bacon, mushrooms and cheese are the best and simplest of foods. I really admire his love of simple food, although it's pretty comical how often Bilbo thinks of bacon in The Hobbit. Seriously!


Shriiimp. 'Nuff said.
I love home cooking. I love knowing that everything I make is to my personal specifications. Take the marinara in this recipe, for example. I hate using fresh tomatoes in sauce-making, because to me, fresh tomatoes are a delicious, vitamin-rich addition to any salad and a variety of other dishes. So in my sauce, I use only canned tomatoes.

I also hate when things are overcooked or simply cooked so long that they lose all their nutrients, and this goes for just about every long-cooked recipe out there. One of my friends shared a family marinara recipe with me once. He raved about how delicious it was and then proceeded to detail to me a recipe that included about 4 hours of cooking time. I don't have that kind of time! I also don't want my vegetables to be cooked for that long. What's the point of eating your vegetables if they have the nutritional value of a piece of bread, or worse? No thanks. My marinara is short-cooked: an awesome choice for anyone who wants both fast and homecooked meals.

To make the best use of your time, start the marinara first. It needs 25 minutes of simmering before it is ready, time that you can use to prepare the eggplants. For the marinara, I used just a few ingredients, but you can add mushrooms, other herbs, peppers, or whatever you like to have in your marinara as well.

Homestyle Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:


Hello, Mr. Diced Tomatoes, I'm going to turn you into tasty, tasty sauce!

- 1 28oz can of tomatoes (I used diced, but you can also use crushed if you prefer a less chunky sauce)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed in a garlic press
- 1 tsp basil pesto (optional)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- pinch of oregano
- pinch of ground red cayenne pepper

In a medium pot, heat the oil until hot, then throw in the onions and spices (I like to throw in spices early so that they have time to really simmer into the dish). Fry the onions on high for 5 minutes, then add the canned tomatoes, paste, garlic, and pesto. Turn the heat down to low and let the pot simmer for 25 minutes, stirring often.

It comes out tasting so deliciously that I had to really employ some willpower to stop eating it with a fork. :) Makes enough to be sauce for the eggplants while leaving a large quantity for later pasta dishes. Keeps in the fridge for about 5 days.

Now, as for the eggplants...I love eggplants in all ways. As a kid, I hated them and refused to touch them--silly girl, I know. Now I revel in their silky taste and the variety of textures that you can cook them in. I love them roasted, made into babaganoush, or as an eggplant-tomato pan-fried salad that My Darling and I completely and speedily devoured, last time I made it. But I've rarely had a good eggplant parmagiano. I've tried making it myself, but something about low-grade mozzarella and once-crispy-now-mushy eggplants just doesn't sit well with my tastebuds. But the last time I tried making eggplant parmagiano, I noticed that when I took the roasted eggplants out of the oven to top them with cheese and tomatoes, they were much taster than they later became. Light, crunchy on the outside and sweetly creamy on the inside, flavorful, addictive...a friend came over and I offered him a piece. He couldn't speak--he could only gesture for me to give him another one. And another one...anyway, they were delicious. So here is the recipe for oven-roasted eggplant, adapted from one of Martha Stewart's recipes.

Oven-roasted Eggplant

Ingredients:

- 1 large purple eggplant (other varieties work too, but this one works best, to my knowledge)
- 1 cup breadcrumbs (I used Italian seasoned ones)
- 2 eggs
- pinch of salt (only if your breadcrumbs don't already have it)
- 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil (or, as much oil as you need to coat your baking sheets)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat 2 baking sheets with the oil and set aside.

Slice the eggplant into 1/4" slices, discarding the ends. Put the eggs and breadcrumbs into two wide and shallow bowls (separately) and beat the eggs until incorporated. Dredge the eggplant slices in the egg mixture and then the breadcrumb mixture, turning to coat, then transfer to the baking sheets.


You shall soon be in my belly, eggplant slices...muahahahahaa!

Don't be afraid to place the slices close together: they shrink in the oven anyway. To save your remaining breadcrumbs, sprinkle them over the eggplant slices: they'll just be crunchier when they come out. You can do the same with the egg mixture.

Pop into the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden on top. Serve with marinara on the side and enjoy :) Makes enough for a small meal for 3 people, unless you don't want to share, of course.

Russian Beet Salad

I grew up on saucy salads. My family made them for every gathering. There's oliviye, a Russian version of potato salad, made on a base of potatoes, peas, pickles, eggs, sometimes ham pieces, and mayonnaise. Or seleodka pod shubai, a multilayered concoction of vinegary salted fish and onions on the bottom and some layers of I-don't-remember-what on top. Anyway, these are all classics. But this classic, vinigrette, was offered to me in a wholly new way by My Darling's mom, who made it on several of those first awkward meet-the-parents dinners. ;) The classic uses boiled beets and puts them together with potatoes, sour cream, and pickles. She, instead, used beets, apples, sour cream, fresh onions, and walnuts. And, my god--it is absolutely delicious.

The fresh onions in this salad can get really overpowering, especially if you're like me and don't like the taste of fresh onions. You can leave them out, or substitute finely diced pickles for them instead. Either way, it ends up being delicious.


Ah, the taste of sweet Russian family awkwardness. :)

Ingredients:

- 2 large fresh beets, or 4-5 small to medium ones (small are better, they cook faster), or substitute 2 cans of ready-boiled beets
- 1 tbsp VERY finely chopped onions
- 2 apples (any variety works)
- 2/3 cup walnuts
- 2-3 tbsp sour cream
- salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, boil the beets until a sharp knife can cut them just about as easily as a firm cucumber. You can also tell if they're done when their skin stops being tight and dark and becomes sort of lighter colored and seems slightly loose; this process takes about an hour, sometimes more, or less, depending on the size of the beets. If you're using canned, just pop the cans and grate the beets. Once they're done, drain the water and fill the pot with cold tap water; let the beets cool in the cold water until you can handle them. Clean their skin off with a knife: you can peel it or just scrape the blade along and the skin should come off. Rinse and then grate all the beets into a large mixing bowl. Careful--beet juice can really stain!

Peel and core the apples, then grate and add them to the beet mixture. Add the onions, salt and pepper, and sour cream. Put the walnuts into a clean plastic bag. Take either a kitchen meat mallet or just a cup with a flat bottom and, holding the bag closed in one hand, beat the walnuts through the bag to crumble them into small pieces. Add to the salad and mix evenly.

It ends up being a super creamy, tasty salad. Serve as an appetizer--just remember that beets are high in sugar. :)

Homemade Speedy Lemonade

I hate waste. I really, really hate waste, especially food waste. My Darling hates waste even more obsessively than I do; when something in the fridge starts to threaten to go bad, he just makes these giant strange-tasting interesting dishes by throwing everything into it...and then eating it. I don't know, too many conglomerate tastes for my liking...but others like them.

Anyway, like I said, I hate waste. A really fast and easy way to conserve in the kitchen is to save the lemons you use in your cooking. Most recipes call for only the juice of the lemon, maybe sometimes the zest, and pretty rarely, the meat. This means that people throw out most of the lemon itself once they're done squeezing it. But no longer! You can use these lemons to make an awesome tasty lemonade right as you're done cooking with them. It's so easy...and you'll feel so good for saving those poor lemons. Seriously.

Ingredients:

- 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp sugar (I use xylitol instead)
- 2 cups of water (or thereabouts, depending on your jar)
- ready mint tea (optional, but seriously delicious if you use it!)



Get a nice round jar with a tight-fitting lid (Mason jars work best, but the one I used was an old pickle jar. Works well!). Squeeze whatever leftover juice there is into the jar (or if you're making this using unused lemons, just squeeze all their juice into the jar), then throw the lemons into it. Add the sugar and water, and the tea if you're using it (works best if half the jar is water and half is tea. Feel free to eyeball it), close tightly, and shake hard for a minute. That's it!

You can leave this in the fridge for up to one day with the lemons in it; after that, you should remove and discard the lemons. Once you discard the lemons, the lemonade can be left in the fridge for about a week...not that it will last that long, seeing how tasty it is. :)

Bestest Guacamole

I lovety love avocados. My first really memorable taste of guacamole was when I, at a tender age of 13, and my best friend made it at her place. She cut up an avocado, a small tomato, and put them along with some salt and lemon juice into a Bullet and mashed it all together. It was so heavenly--a totally new guacamole experience--that I just had to make it myself at home. Over. And over. And over again. :)

Anyway, avocados are awesome. They're full of just the kind of vitamins and fats that are so delicious really good for you. WikiLink So it just happens that guacamole is one of my most favorite foods. I have been using new recipes all the time, but when I have a couple avocados, it's hard to get myself to make anything but fresh guacamole. I've perfected the recipe over years of making it often and every which way. My favorite way to eat guacamole is with crusty bread and maybe some sharp cheddar on the side, but then I'm a big fan of appetizers.

Seriously, this is the best guacamole ever. For this recipe, feel free to change quantities--I always eyeball them anyway--but I urge you to stick to the ingredients list this time. Believe me, it will be delicious--light, slightly spicy but nothing strong, flavorful, and satisfying. You can also make this recipe in a food processor, a blender, or any such kitchen aids, by throwing all the ingredients together; personally, I prefer to go the old fashioned route and just do it with my hands.


Lookie all those delicious ingredients.

Ingredients:
- 2 regular sized Haas avocados, ripe and malleable to the touch (avocados with a thick greenish brown skin)
- 1 smallish tomato
- 1 handful cilantro, diced very fine (the regular sweet kind, with small, delicate leaves. It's ok to omit this ingredient if you don't have it.)
- juice of 1 lemon, or a little less (fresh!)
- 3-4 dashes of Tabasco sauce
- 1 large clove of garlic, mashed in a garlic press
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional, I don't add it usually)
- salt and pepper to taste

Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. Then, using a fork, mash the avocado flesh inside its skin until fully mashed and transfer it into a medium bowl.


Can't mash and photograph at the same time, and My Darling is sleeping...

Cut the tomato into four sections. Use your finger to scoop the watery and seedy parts into the avocado mixture. Then finely grate the tomato flesh into the avocado mixture. Yes, grate--it instantly makes a wonderful fresh tomato paste that's light and easy to mix into the avocados. Don't worry about how much liquid is accumulating in the bowl--it mixes really well later.

Add the cilantro, Tabasco, olive oil and garlic to the avocado mixture. Take your lemon and knead it on the counter on all sides--this releases more of its juice. Then cut it in half and squeeze the juice over the avocado mixture. Add salt and pepper (I never add pepper because I can't abide it, but I'm sure it tastes wonderful with it!) and use a fork to mix everything very evenly.

Enjoy it with some toasted bread or as a side for anything from potatoes to green salad, as a topping for grilled chicken, or as an incredible, healthy little meal or snack all on its own. :) Makes enough to be a small meal for two people, or an appetizer for 4. Feel free to double or half the ingredients!


Now THAT is what I call a healthy breakfast. And you can always go back for healthy, guilt-free seconds...or even thirds!

Oh! And don't throw out the lemon you used in this recipe. Use it to make super fast, delicious homemade lemonade to go with your meal. :)

Apple and Red Currant Tart

My last experiment with no-recipe baking turned out so deliciously that I felt filled with enough confidence to do it again. Last time, I made mini cream and berry pies--creamy, sweet, crunchy, and zesty all in one bite. This time, we had apples and some bags of frozen currants, so I thought, what the hell. Just because I haven't found any good, fast, and easy currant recipes online doesn't mean that mine won't be dazzlingly delicious. And it was.



See how half of it is missing? That's because this stuff is really tasty. It's light, it's sweet AND tart, it is much healthier than stuff that actually uses large quantities of butter, sugar, flour, etc...and you can really mess around with the ingredients and I think it would still work.

Ingredients:

- 3 small to medium apples (the McIntosh variety was what I used, they were just right, but you can use any apples that have at least a little red in their peel pigment.)
- 2/3 (or so) cup of currants (I used red. I'm sure you can use any type of currants you can get, or use cranberries if you can't get currants. It's ok if they're frozen, don't bother thawing them--the ice will add to the juice of the tart.)
- 1lb bag of pre-made/frozen puff pastry dough
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1/3 tsb cinnamon
- 1/3 tsb cloves (optional)
- 2 tablespoons honey

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take a 9" or larger baking dish and butter it thoroughly (mine was the nonstick variety, but the finished tart still stuck to the places that I hadn't pre-buttered!). Roll out the dough until it's as thick as the cover of a hardcover novel. Place the dough into the dish whatever way you like but make sure you push down so that it lays flat on all the inside corners. What I did was I placed the dough into the dish, then used a knife to score around it so that only the bottom remained and no sides. Then I rolled out the remaining dough and attached it separately to the sides, and pushed the sides down with my fingers to make a thicker crust. But you can do it however you like. :)

Peel and core your apples and cut them into thin slices. It's ok if some slices are thicker than others or if your apples break in the process and you get pieces instead of slices. Lay out the slices so that they overlap each other slightly, so that you can't really see the dough between them. Layer all the apple slices that way and don't be afraid to poke the remaining apples into places where dough is showing.

In a medium bowl, combine the currants, sugar, and cinnamon. (I made the mistake of adding honey to this mixture, but you shouldn't do that as honey coagulates when treated to cold temperatures, which my frozen currants definitely still were.) Evenly distribute this mixture over the apples, making sure none of your currants are lying on the top of the exterior crust (or their juices will run down between the dough and the dish and make it hard to detach the tart later!). Drizzle evenly with honey and pop it into the oven for 30-35 minutes. It'll be ready when the crust is golden and dry and the berries look wilted like they do in the picture below.



Look at how juicy that is! Nom. After removing it from the oven, let it stand for at least 10 minutes before removing it from the pan/serving it/chomping down on all that sweet tarty goodness. It's delicious both hot and cold. Serve plain, with a bit of vanilla bean ice cream, or with a pureed raspberry sauce. Enjoy :)