Monday, April 30, 2012

I recently tried a program called Smilebox because ever since Picnik shut down I've been looking for a new program to  make collages and edit my pictures :( To my delight Smilebox, although not quite the same as Picnik, turned out to be a really great program! You can make greeting cards, slideshows, and scrapbook pages using your own picture, music and videos. It's really simple to use, it's free to use and you can post all your creation right to your blog site, Facebook or twitter. I was playing around the other day with this program, I made a little slideshow and a collage. I hope you take a minute to check them out. If you enjoy spicing up your photos then check out this program I think it's wonderful :)

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
This free photo slideshow created with Smilebox
Click to play this Smilebox collage
Create your own collage - Powered by Smilebox
Picture collage personalized with Smilebox

Oh and Smilebox is on Facebook....yay, doesn't get easier than that:) Have fun and start creating today!

Thanks for stopping by,

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pelmeni: Russian Dumplings

Pelmeni are a Russian dumpling consisting of a ground meat and onion filling wrapped in a thin unleavened dough. Pelmeni are hearty and tasty, usually made in bulk and frozen for future yumminess. Pelmeni are a staple in my family and I'm sure they are for many other Russian families as well. Today I'm going to share my recipe for pelmeni with you. Thanks to my mother I'm a seasoned pelmeni making pro which makes sharing the recipe with you special because today is my mom's birthday.  Mom, this one's for you: )  

My mother taught me how to cook at a very young age and I remember that making pelmeni was one of the first things that I learnt to make. My mother (and my father) raised us kids, cooked meals from scratch, tackled many piles and piles of laundry, sewed, cared for the farm, worked and still had time to make pelmeni! I don't know how she did it but she wasn't the only one, many of my friends can relate and say the same thing about their mother's too. I'm just thankful that she took the time to teach me to cook especially all the traditional Russian recipes. I thank God that he Blessed our family with such a wonderful, hard-working and loving mom.
                           Thank you and Happy Birthday Mom!

Pelmeni making is all about, hours of rolling, cutting, filling, folding and pinching. I have many fond memories of making pelmeni from my childhood.  The whole family would gather around the kitchen table and make pelmeni.  Somehow my brother Hank managed to be exempt from making pelmeni because apparently he was "allergic" to the texture of flour. Conveniently he was never "allergic" to eating them though ;) Well I'm happy to say that even he makes pelmeni now a days, guess the love for pelmeni out weigh the "allergic" scam after all...heehee!

It was and still is a time that the family gets together and make pelmeni for hours and hours. The reward: fresh cooked pelmeni for dinner....yummy! Making the whole procedure total worth ever minute. Every couple of months my mother and I replenish the frozen stash of pelmeni. Pelmeni are tasty and true Russian cuisine. Try them for yourself by following the recipe below.


Dough ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp salt
1/4 cup room temperature water

* Helpful Hint - oil is added to keep the pelmeni dough from cracking when frozen.*

Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir eggs, oil and water in a small bowl to combine.

 Pour wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Using your hands mix and combine ingredients. Knead the dough vigorously until smooth and very firm. Don't be alarmed if the dough is very firm, it should be! Add extra flour if needed. If the dough is too soft it makes it difficult to roll out and difficult to work with period. 

Place the dough back into the bowl, cover with saran wrap and let rest for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature. This gives the gluten a chance to relax which makes it easier to work with and will keep the dough from shrinking and snapping back as you roll and cut it out. While the dough rests prepare the meat filling.

Filling ingredients:

1 lb ground beef (can use half pork if desired)
2-3 medium onions, finely chopped
salt to taste

In a bowl mix beef, chopped onion and salt together. Cover and set aside till needed. 

We always used ground beef to make pelmeni because we made large quantities of pelmeni which required a lot of meat but now that we make smaller batches we buy cuts of well-marbled beef then finely chop by hand or grind with a hand mixer. The meat stays moist, juicy and tender. Grinding your own beef makes the best pelmeni because the beef is fresh, not full of fillers and completely pure.

Fresh ground meat is the best and it isn't difficult to make. Check out this helpful site here for making homemade ground beef if you are wanting to try this method. 

Once the filling is prepared and the dough has rested it's time to make pelmeni! Unfortunately I didn't think to take photos while making the dough and the filling but it won't be long till I make them again so I will re-post with pictures at a later date.

I did take step-by-step pictures of making the pelmeni and here the are.....

~ How to shape pelmeni ~

Traditional the dough is cut into small pieces and each one is rolled into a circle, then shaped into a pelmen. It is way easier to use a pasta machine to roll out the dough. The pasta machine allows you to roll out the dough in bigger sheets, evenly and very thin. Then cut into rounds and shaped....this is very effective and helps speed up the process.

I usually cut the round dough ball into 4 even pieces and work with 1 at a time, cover the remain dough with plastic .  Roll 1 piece of dough into a 4 inch log and cut into even thickness slices/pieces (approximately 2 inch thickness) as shown.

Flatten each piece by hand so you can roll through # 1 setting of the pasta machine. I usually roll each piece out in this numerical order 1,3,5, finish on 6. 

The dough rounds on the left is hand pressed. The right hand side has been run through the pasta machine on #1.

This is rolled out on # 3. Still to thick, keep going.....;) 

This dough sheet is rolled out on # 6. 
Viola...the dough is thin enough and ready to cut into perfect rounds to shape into pelmeni. Remember to lightly dust with flour ever second time to avoid dough from sticking. If you don't have a pasta machine, no problem just roll out the dough by hand using a rolling pin. The desired thickness is 1/16 to 1/32 of an inch thick.

Cut out dough rounds with a round cutter. I use a metal round cutter with a scallop edge. Just my personal preference, use what works for you!! Save the dough scrap, collect them into a plastic baggie like Ziploc. You can reuse them, just re-knead the pieces into a ball, let the dough ball rest for 20-30 minutes to 'relax' and reuse. The second time around scrapes I also save, re-knead and with cut into spaghetti and thick egg noodles by hand or with the pasta machine. So you end up with pelmeni and fresh pasta...nice!!. Use pasta noodle right away or freeze on sheets and store in plastic baggies in freezer.

Back to pelmeni.....
Rounds are all cut and ready to shape. Don't they look so pretty already? Just you wait, they get even cuter....
Covered the cut rounds with a clean cloth or plastic wrap while working to unsure they don't dry out on you.
Once you get more efficient you won't need to because you'll be so quick!!

Place a teaspoon of the meat filling in the center of the dough round. You may need more or less depending on the size of your round cutter. There should be enough room around the edges to be able to pinch them shut.

Pinch the edges shut. If you run into the problem of the edges not sticking just moist with your finger, very lightly with water. 

This part may require a bit of trial and error, you need to use just enough flour to make sure the rounds don't stick together but also not too much that it makes it difficult to pinch together.

Bend the half moon shaped dough in
half again and bring the bottom edges together.

Connect the two bottom corners together and you just made you're very first pelmen....yay!! (Pelmeni is plural, pelmen is singular)

 See how cute they are!!
Looks like a little baby face's in a bonnet to me. I sometimes have the urge to paint some eyes, a nose and a mouth on...yes I know that's just silly but still....

I just couldn't!

Once you get the hang of shaping them, making them doesn't take very long.

Pelmeni ready to cook and eat...and the rest can be frozen on the sheet, then store in Ziploc baggies in freezer.

The best part about making pelmeni is eating freshly cooked pelmeni. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, Generously salt the water. Drop the pelmeni into the boiling water. Once the pelmeni float to the top, let them cook for an additional minute. Remove with a slotted spoon. 

Enjoy a nice bowl of pelmeni by themselves, with sour cream or your favorite choice of sauce. 

My favorite way to eat them is with ketchup and Worcestershire sauce combine in a little dish. Oh and don't worry if you have extra, they are good cold too or lightly fried.

I always knew that growing up in a Russian household meant doing things differently but when you are eating cold or reheated pelmeni for breakfast you know you're definitely Russian! Sometime we took them for lunch which always makes me think of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She took Moussaka for her lunch and everyone thought it was weird.... well that was me. Lets just put it this way my lunch was always unique BUT I loved it!!

If you try only one Russian dish in your lifetime it should be Pelmeni!

Thanks for stopping by,


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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Nurses: one of the few blessings of being ill.

My beautiful niece Jenny is going to school to become a nurse. I'm really proud of her. I think that it takes a special person to choose to become a nurse, one with a caring and compassionate heart. And Jenny is just that, a sweet, kind and caring girl that's been working hard this year toward her nursing degree! It was her birthday earlier this month and she was so busy studying for exams I don't think she had much time to celebrate. So I decided to send her a care package filled with homemade sugar cookie made especially for her. She loved them! Hopefully the sugar boost will give her the energy needed to get through the rest of the semester.
These nurse shirt cookies are so easy to make. Click here for my favorite sugar cookie recipe. I didn't have a shirt cookie cutter that would work so I made a shirt template using a plastic lid from a margarine container. I've used this method many times now and it works great. 

If you want to try making a plastic template click here for a more in depth tutorial. I found a printable shirt template on line. If you have a shirt cookie cutter then you're ahead of the game if not click on the shirt to get a free printable template!.

I made a batch of delicious sugar cookies and cut out as many shirt cookies as I could.

 After they were baked and cooled I decorated them with royal icing. If you need a recipe for royal icing, I have a recipe that is easy to make and tastes great. You can find the recipe for SweetBakedLove's Royal Icing here!   

I think they turned out great. I had a little extra royal icing leftover so I used it to pipe some cute sayings on the nurse's uniform and cute little red heart too!!

Nurses rock!

I love Nurses!

All wrapped up and ready to go :)

I'm thinking that this shirt template will be put to use many more times to come. My mind is already racing with all the different options...fireman uniform, soccer coach, doctor's smock, policeman uniform and the list goes on. 

Next time you want to let a special someone in your life know how important and proud of them you are;  make them some cookies!! Cookie go hand-in-hand with togetherness. Often cookies are enjoyed with family and friends. Share the love today with your friends and family.
 You'll be glad you did and so will they :)

Happy Birthday Jenny and Good Luck on your exams!!

Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

Love Katya

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pretty in Pink and Black!

Wow! I can't believe that half of April is gone already!! It's been such a busy month and a long time since my last blog but....I have a lot of new ideas, recipes and news to share. I don't know if you remember me saying earlier that I was working on something really special with a cool colour scheme well it was a cake for my sister Diane's 40th birthday party. The colour scheme was pink & black. I like this combination because you can use different shades of pink, throw in some grays, whites and it all comes together to create a sophisticated yet playful party theme. This theme works well for all ages, from sweet sixteen to 40th birthday party.

There are so many inexpensive pink and black party decorations you can buy or make. My favorite stop is the dollar store. I got candle holders, streamers, party decoration, packages and all kind of neat party supplies at the dollar store. Use your imagination to create cool party decoration or if you get stuck.......Pinterest is a great site to find all kinds of tips and ideas for decorating too!! Check it out if you haven't had a chance to yet 

Here's a couple ideas that I found on Pinterest which I used for decorating. I found a pin that show how to make Crepe Paper Rose Balls

I bought pink paper tissues streamers and candle holders from the dollar store. Each ball take a roll of tissue paper. I made the paper rolls balls and used the inexpensive candler holders to display them. Cost was approximately $9.00 for all four, a bit time consuming but totally worth it. 

Blinged out Crepe Paper Rose Balls
My other sister Gail found a super cute pin which was a container filled with gumballs and a tag attached saying 40 blows, here's my version of it. Not only is it cute, but you also get to eat the gum balls or you can do what my sister did take it to work and sell the gumballs to co worker for a buck a piece...that's just good business sense :) Funny coincidence, that's what I thought of charging the guests when I bought all the gumballs, then the party pays for it self...haha!! Between my sister and I, we came up with some very cool party decorations and it all look FABULOUS!

I set up a candy buffet using clear apothecary jars filled with pink kisses, pink popcorn and gumballs. Who doesn't enjoy having a snack bar at hand? 

Milk vase filled with pink roses and white feather.

The table was decorated with a pink tablecloth, black feather boa, fake diamonds, black cutlery, pink paper plates and fresh pink flowers. 

Cute napkins are a must!!

I found these fun and cute sunglasses at the dollar store. Great idea for photo booth!

Even Sydney got in on the fun !!

Then came the best part, the dessert table!!The table was filled with delicious sweet treat with every different shade of pink and black your can imagine. There were decorated sugar cookies, chocolate tart shells filled with raspberry mousse, chocolate cupcake with pink vanilla bean frosting and of course birthday cake.

I love Paris in the Springtime.....

I love Paris in the fall...

Pink & Black polka dot daisies!

Chocolate cupcake with pink vanilla bean buttercream, my sister in law made these.

And then the piéce de résistance. The birthday cake!! I had fun making all the sugar flower and decoration for the cake and yes I have to admit it definitely helped that one of the colours was pink! I like pink a lot :) Also that fact that my sister favorite flower is the peony helped too. I really enjoy making sugar peony, they're so much fun to make. 

Once the petals are dry, then I dust them with shimmer dust.

I got a little carried away and made way more then I needed but I just couldn't stop. When I making something so beautiful it's hard not to get carried away sometimes. I guess that's one of the main reasons way I enjoy cake decorating and making hand-crafted sugar flowers, I could sit for hours crafting little rose buds and flowers, waiting with anticipation as to how the final product will look. I usually put a favorite movie on to play in the background, something that I've seen or should I say heard a couple hundred times and go sugar petal crazy!!   

I still don't have a mold or cutters for a peony flower so I came up with my own technique to cut out the peony flower petals. I think it works great! I use a tear drop cookie cutter to cut out the petal shape then I trim the top edges with cookie cutters that have different shape and size scallop edges to make the ruffled petal shape.

 Best advice I can give which I learned from Jacqueline Butler's blog is to:

1. Study the flower your going to make
2. Figure out how it's constructed
3. Recreate the shape of the petal (whatever way you can)     

Her blog site is so helpful with sugar paste floral design. If you're interested in learning more about made sugar flowers I definitely recommend that you check her blog out. It's called The Petalsweet Blog.

And so many, many hours later I finished cutting, molding, dusting sugar flowers, pearl necklaces and all the other decorations I needed. 

 This birthday cake was a two-tier stacked cake, the bottom cake was a delicious German torte with layers and layers of vanilla shortcake, raspberry jam, apricot jam and coffee cream. The top cake was a carrot cake with a scrumptious cream cheese frosting.

Both cakes were gift boxes stacked on top of one another. Then tied with sugar paste ribbon bows, covered with gray daisies and pink peonies. Each gift box was draped with strings of pink, black and white pearls.

Almost there.....

Viola.....Diane's 40th Pink and Black Birthday Cake!!

Birthday Clip Art

Well I had a great time planning this birthday party for my sister. Good food, good times and great memories are the best way to celebrate any birthday. Hope your 40th was a great one Diane....Happy Birthday!

~ Happy Birthday Diane ~

~ This is one of my sister's favorite poems ~
“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie 

burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being 

strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe 

that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow 

is another day and I believe in miracles.” Audrey Hepburn

Yay! My pink and black theme birthday cake was featured 

on Mrs.Fox's Sweets Party!! What a pleasant surprise.... 

after a long tiring day. Thanks to everyone that stopped by 

and checked out my blog. Thank you Christina and Katie for 

hosting the party:)

Thanks for stopping by,


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