Monday, March 17, 2014


First things first: I am now on Instagram! I know, I know, I've been slow to join, but I really did not dig the square format limitations and the FILTERS! Now that I've figured out that things do not have to be square, here I come. I hope to see you there!

Oh yeah, I am @alina_who on Instagram.

Now, about today's dish. There isn't really much to say about it. It is lasagna. Few people will turn down a nice piece of hot, savory, cheesy lasagna. Am I right?? Not particularly healthy, this is the dish that you eat against your better judgment, simply because it is so darn tasty.

Below is the recipe for the traditional kind of lasagna, the one where you have to boil your noodles separately. Although I did use the whole grain kind this time.


Serves 8

1 lb (500 gr) ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1 teaspoon sugar
32 oz (1000 ml) canned diced tomatoes or ready made pasta sauce
12 lasagna noodles
1 15 oz (500 gr) package ricotta
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 tablespoon fresh or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 cups (8 oz, 250 gr) shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated parmesan

In a deep skillet or heavy pot brown ground beef. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add garlic and saute 2 more minutes. Add 2 tablespoons parsley, basil, sugar and tomatoes and cook on medium low 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Cook the noodles according to the package directions.

Mix ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1 tablespoon parsley and oregano.

Spread 1 cup of the sauce mixture on the bottom of the 13X9 in (33X23 cm) baking dish. Cover with 4 noodles, overlapping. Spread 1 cup ricotta mixture over the noodles, then spread 1 cup tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle with 2/3 cup mozzarella. Repeat with 4 noodles, remaining ricotta mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce and 2/3 cup mozzarella. Cover with remaining 4 noodles, remaining sauce and mozzarella. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan on top. 

Cover tightly with foil and bake 30 min. Remove foil and bake another 15 min. Let stand 15 min at room temperature before cutting and serving.

Friday, March 7, 2014

International Women's Day

Tomorrow is March 8, a huge holiday in Russia. To think that I almost forgot if not for a friend who reminded me! Clearly, I've been living in the US too long :).

On March 8 the Russians celebrate "The International Women's Day." Like so many aspects of life in the Soviet Union, this was a politicized holiday, to celebrate the liberation of the Soviet woman from discrimination, domestic work, and whatever else she needed liberating from. Over the years, naturally, all political rhetoric ceased to have any meaning to normal people and this day turned into simply celebrating women for being women.

If it sounds odd to you, please know that I find it a little odd too. Unlike Mother's Day, you don't need to be a mom to be celebrated. Unlike Valentine's, you do not have to have a romantic partner to celebrate. All you need is to simply be a woman, no matter the age (and that's the best thing about this holiday: it is a great equalizer!).

The holiday is so big that it is actually an official day off for everyone in Russia. On that day, men give flowers to women in their lives: their wives, mothers, daughters, co-workers. Boys "congratulate" their female classmates and teachers. This is the day when people actually get together around festive tables with food and drinks; school parties are held; and even at the office it will not be strange to have some zakuski (hors d'oeuvres) and champagne.

Cakes and flowers are prominently featured, as befits a holiday in honor of women. Honey Cake is one of the favorites, as is the Zebra.

So here's to the International Women's Day!

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