March 30, 2009
A few months ago while surfing the net for a recipe for borsch, I came across a website called Farida’s Azerbaijani Cookbook. I was immediately curious and found several dishes that I wanted to try. I emailed the blog’s author, Farida asking if she had a recipe for borsch. Low and behold she did and she emailed it to me a few days ago. I’ll be making it tomorrow.
Tonight however, I treated my tastebuds to another of Farida’s recipes – Mushrooms Stuffed with Eggplant, Walnuts and Fresh Herbs. In one word – FABULOUS! If you want a super quick, tasty appetizer, do yourself a favor and give these a try. I made the following modifications – I used 1/2 the recipe since it was only me and Scott, I added one clove of minced garlic to the mixture in the frying pan and I added about 1/4 cup of shredded cheese prior to stuffing. Another word – YUMMO! Scott wolfed down 8 of them in no time and I managed to polish off 4 with no problem and could have eaten more. Thankfully I wanted Andy to try them so I didn’t eat the 5th one….yet! Andy better get over here in the next hour though otherwise I can’t be responsible for my actions.
The main course is still in the oven and due to come out in about 15 minutes. This is a newbie for me….I’m calling it Twisted Chicken. It’s a variation of Andy’s Greek Chicken from 2 weekends ago. Basically, it’s a baked chicken and oven roasted vegetables. I stuffed the chicken with a few cloves of garlic, some fresh dill and a boiled lemon….yep, that’s right, boiled lemon. I learned that from Andy, and it gives the chicken just a hint of lemon flavor. I par boiled the potatoes and the lemon and garlic cloves then stuffed the chicken and added the potatoes and some fresh carrots around the chicken in the roasting pan. End result is a great tasting bird and veggies. Thanks Andy for the lemon idea, this will be a frequent meal in the Smart household….Twisted Chicken.
And I’ll leave you with this cute picture of Max sleeping. It’s hard to believe he’s comfortable, and he LOVES to sleep on top of his kennel because that’s where the sunshine is! The dog moves from spot to spot throughout the day, following the sun.
March 27, 2009
We have been waiting, waiting, waiting to hear about our next post and in typical USMC fashion, we still don’t know. The date has been pushed back AGAIN, now til Monday. So that means, two more days that I can’t buy a plane ticket home, arrange for movers, blah blah blah BLAH! Come on Quantico, get with it, people have lives out here on hold, waiting on you.
Today I did manage to make a trip out to the airport bazaar thanks to my friend Missy who offered to drive – Thanks Missy! Missy’s friend Jenni also joined us and it was a very successful day all around. We covered a lot of territory, mostly in search of pashmina scarves. The guy that I normally buy from in row 4 has mysteriously vanished so that meant finding a new pashmina guy, or two. The first guy that we happened upon had a small selection, but thanks to Jenni’s Azeri language skills I was able to get them for a steal, a LOT cheaper than Row 4 guy so I really didn’t care. I bought 20 from him and still wanted to get more as those 20 were for my mom’s office. We did manage to find another guy who had a great selection and again, thanks to Jenni I was able to buy them for much cheaper than Row 4 guy, so basically what I learned at the airport bazaar today is that speaking Azeri will get you further for cheaper in this country for sure. Jenni saved me 50 manat today, just because she spoke Azeri instead of Russian.
Another example is the three of us looking at sunglasses, Missy asked the guy, How much (in Russian) and he told her 6 manat, Jenni asked about the same pair not even 3 minutes later and the guy told her 4 manat….he also told her that the price was cheaper for her because she spoke Azeri, NOT Russian. AMAZING. I only know two words in Azeri – Hello and cucumber and I don’t think either of those words would get me very far day to day. I supposed I could have used these past 10 1/2 months to learn a few other words but honestly you can get what you need day to day speaking English or Russian so I didn’t bother. Now I wish I had, I probably would have saved a TON of money.
The other cool thing that I purchased today were tea cups. 12 of them, purchased in Azerbaijan, made in Belarus at the HEMAHcrystal factory that I visited when I lived in Belarus. The tea here is always served in a crystal glass, the ones I bought are small and kind of shaped like an hour glass. I love them and now I have some. I also purchased the cute little spoons, now I just need to find saucers….hmm….maybe another trip to the bazaar? Oh, and a cream, sugar and jam set : ).
March 23, 2009
The past few weeks I’ve been running around like crazy trying to do all the things and see all the things that I want to see before we move. My time here in Baku is limited now and there are so many stones left unturned. Friends of ours went to the regions this weekend for the long holiday and I wish that I had the opportunity to go along. I would have loved to have gotten out of the city and visited the regions but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen now.
I still want to see the hillside that is on fire, I still have many pictures of doors, balconies, laundry and ladas to take. I would like to buy at least one more carpet and there are some little nick nacks that I’d like to pick up for myself and folks back home. I’ll be making my last trip to the airport bazaar this Friday and will be stocking up on Pashminas. I think I’ll be buying at least 40. My mom has put in a request for 20 and I think that I will need at least 20 to cover my needs for friends and they make great “just in case gifts”.
I’ve really been enjoying taking pictures these past few weeks. Friday I got together with a few friends and we walked around in the Old City and just snapped away. I got some really great shots and FINALLY figured out what to do with that online scrapbook that I bought about 3 years ago and have never used. I’m going to make a scrapbook of my door, balcony, laundry and lada photos. I’ve been playing around with Picasa’s photo editing tools. They are a LOT of fun and I am really happy with what I’m able to do to highlight my pictures. I really don’t like the camera that I’m using so I’m ordering a new one on April 1. After looking long and hard at point and shoot cameras I’ve decided to go with the Canon Powershot SX200. I love to take pictures, but don’t want the bulk and expense associated with the digital SLR’s. Although I did feel like a total amateur out there on Friday next to the Nikon’s with their shutters clicking away 3-4 times to my 1 point and shoot shot. The picture in this post was taken yesterday on my way to the market to buy some grocery items for dinner. I love having a small, portable camera that just fits right in to my coat pocket.
And, in other news, I purchased my crude oil painting today…YAY! To refresh your memory, click here.
March 22, 2009
One of the things I love most about Sundays is that it’s the day that I spend catching up on the blogs that I read. I’m too busy doing nothing during the week, but Sunday things just seem to fall in to place. A day in front of the computer, surfing, clicking, becoming enlightened and always entertained.
Today, while reading Jess’s blog I came across her post about the election and followed a link to a video of a woman who appears to be voting three times in what they are calling a fair election. While I was waiting for the video to load I was taking a peak at the headlines on the page and this one caught my eye “Racist Ice Cream, Anyone?”….of course I had to click. After reading the piece I just laughed to myself. While some people in the US may not think this is a suitable or appropriate name for a product, it’s not being marketed in the US and trust me, there are products with crazier names floating around overseas….for instance the Just For Men bar that Jess talks about on her blog, or the Negro cookie pictured here
These products are common overseas and while the names may not fly in the US, they are accepted here. Marketing is different, the world is different and if putting Obama’s name on ice cream will generate sales for those companies then they are going to do it. I wonder if this piece would have been written if it were chocolate and strawberry ice cream or vanilla and pistachio? Get over it people. We have bigger worries in the world today.
March 21, 2009
Today I was logging in to yahoo and the following headline caught my eye Obamas to Plant White House Vegetable Garden . What a wonderful project. Nothing tastes better than homegrown fruits and vegetables.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if something as simple as planting a garden starts a trend in America? One where we become a nation that cares more about healthy food? I’m curious… how many community and school garden projects will stem from this “White House Garden”.
I can’t wait to get back to the states and start my own garden. I love flowers but I’m ready to branch out to herbs especially after living overseas and having access to fresh dill, and cilantro everyday. Of course where there is cilantro there also needs to be tomatoes and peppers for fresh salsa….wow, I need to get something to eat, but not before I leave you with this
“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.” ~Hanna Rion
So, what will you be planting in your garden?
March 18, 2009
Novruz, pronounced Nov-ruz is the most popular holiday celebrated in Azerbaijan. The holiday was prohibited for 70 years during Soviet times. Novruz is observed on the first day of Spring, though celebrations begin four weeks before. The four Tuesdays before Novruz are devoted to one of the earth elements – water, fire, earth and wind.
On the last Tuesday – Wind Tuesday people light bonfires and jump over them. It is believed that doing this is an act of purification. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture any pictures of these bonfires because I’m a day behind in my brain and I thought today was Tuesday, which is the whole reason for this Novruz post, which I’d intended to name Windy Tuesday, but St. Patrick’s Day through me a curve…so sorry. I’m sure there will still be bonfire photo ops as this seems to be a Noruz favorite.
One tradition that I’m anxious to witness is the holiday table (because we all know I love food). The table is set with a white cloth to represent purity and the table must have seven items beginning with the letter “s”…
Sumaq (sumac) – for the color of the sun at sunrise
Sumani (wheat sprouts) – sweetness, fertility, having many children
Sikke (coins) – good luck
Su (water) – purity, rebirth and health
Sabzi (vegetable) – purity and good fortune
Sud (milk) – health and natural beauty
Sarikok (yellow ginger) - sweetness in life
Another tradition which I find interesting is “papag atdi”, meaning hat throwing…this is similar to the American tradition of “trick or treat”. Children visit their neighbors and leavetheir caps or a basket on the door step. The children, knock then hide to see if they will be receive candy, nuts or treats. We didn’t receive any papag atdiers last night and from my understanding this tradition is also supposed to occur on Wind Tuesday….bummer. That would have been kind of fun although I honestly don’t know what I would have given out as treats…
There are many other traditions celebrated with Novruz including not locking doors. On the first day of the NewYear houses are lit all night long because switching off lights is considered bad luck. Novruz is also a time for renewing friendships.
Tomorrow the Embassy will be having a Novruz event (including bonfire) so I’ll be sure to take a picture or two of some of the traditional items. Til then I leave you with this picture
This is a vendor selling the sprouted wheat grass. These are hot items right now. Every Azeri home is guaranteed to have at least one so why not make the most of it.
Lastly, this has nothing to do with Novruz, but here’s a picture of Missy “the I”ve just been knitting for 3 weeks and I already have 4 projects cast on knitter” sporting her first finished object – a garter stitch scarf made with a gifted skein of Lion Brand Homespun. You go girl!