January 17, 2005

This diary entry is long overdue and I apologize.  My only excuse is that I have been tired and unmotivated to write.  Since returning home, the bone pain has at times become unbearable however that is partly my own fault.  I insisted in participating in all the family activates while in Seattle regardless of the amount of walking involved.  The pain, in turn, makes me horribly fatigued.  All I have accomplished since our return is to unpack, clean the luggage, put it away and do the laundry.  It has taken me thirteen days to complete these simple chores. As mentioned in a previous post we had a wonderful Christmas in Seattle,  We celebrated with our two children, their spouses and our ten year old grandson.  We left home on Thursday evening, December 23rd and arrived in Seattle at 3:30 PM on Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Eve and Christmas day we opened gifts, ate a delicious Christmas dinner, played games and relaxed.  This was the first Christmas that I had nothing to do with preparing Christmas dinner.  My daughter and daughter-in-law accomplished that task with fantastic results. Our son had rented a van so that the seven of us could travel together in one vehicle.  We did some sightseeing on December 26th and stopped in at the Krispy Kreme donut shop.  We had lunch at a Russian restaurant on December 27th and of course ordered Pelmeni.    We spent December 27th and December 28th  shopping in Bellevue and Kirkland.  I stocked up on books, shoes, blouses, sweaters and items from the “Bath and Body Shop”. (Liz Claiborne and Jones of New York provide a selection of clothing in bigger sizes than they do in Canada).  My daughter discovered the “Pottery Barn” in Bellevue and “shopped till she dropped”.  Some of Grandson’s purchases included Xbox and Game Boy games and a number of interesting items at the Discovery Store.  Even I had fun playing with the voice changer.  Grandson spent one afternoon at a skateboard park in Kirkland.  He couldn’t over the fact that it was December 27th and he was skateboarding.   That evening he got to see the new Lemony Snicket movie at a theatre in Kirkland. One day we took a ferry to Whidbey Island, Washington.  We drove along it’s narrow, winding country roads, passed through the town of Oak Harbour and stopped at a park near Deception Pass.  We crossed the bridge at Deception Pass to get to Fidalgo Island and the city of Anacortes.  On the way home we took State Route 20 and stopped at the Calico Cupboard in Mount Vernon for lunch.  After lunch we did some shopping at Scott’s Book Store which is connected to the Calico Cupboard.  We continued on to Interstate 5 and the freeway to Kirkland.  By the time we got to the freeway it was pouring rain.  Coming from the Canadian prairies, driving along a Washington State freeway in a downpour is an experience I do not plan to repeat any time soon. A trip to Seattle would not be complete without a visit to the Space Needle.  Grandson and I, brave souls that we are, took the elevator up 520 feet to the observation deck.  My eyes were closed during the trip up to the observation deck.  I wanted to capture video from the top of the Space Needle but in order to get a good picture I had to leave the safety of the observation room and go out onto the deck.  Needless to say I clung to the wall with one hand while video taping with the other.  To say I do not do well with heights is an understatement. We also visited the “Experience Music Project” which is situated close to the Space Needle.  The “EMP” is a great place for both kids and adults.  During the first session in the recording studio my 10 year old grandson performed solo.  He picked the song “I Love Rock and Roll” and he put his heart and soul into his performance.  For the second session he was joined by his uncle (my son).    Both performances were shown on the big screens outside the recording studio. We left Seattle at 3:30 PM on New Year’s Day and had a three hour lay over out west.  We arrived at our airport at 12:30 AM on January 2nd in the midst of snow and blowing snow.  The area had been hit with a nasty blizzard two days before we got home and a second one the day we arrived.  Thankfully we had reservations at the hotel attached to the airport so our daughter, grandson and I headed to our suite as soon as we landed.  At first we were told the luggage would stay on the plane until morning because of the snow conditions but after an hour long wait the luggage finally arrived in the terminal.  At noon the following day, after digging the van out of the snow in the airport’s long term parking lot, we finally made our way home. The driveway at home was covered with three feet of snow.  Thankfully help arrived shortly after we got home so we could park the van in the garage and get the luggage unloaded. The nasty temperatures have persisted and today the schools were closed because of the cold.  The temperatures have hovered around -30C with wind chills as high as -46C.  It has been a good time to snuggle on the coach with a warm afghan and the books I bought in Seattle. Russian History and Culture – Classic Russian Cuisine: The Temptations of Pelmeni: Posted with permission from Cheryl Adams Rychkova

Classic Russian Cuisine

Just ONE is called a “pelemen.” But many are called “pelmeni” and they are one of the most traditional (and delicious) of Russian dishes. Making or eating just one is near impossible. Most people associate pelmeni with Siberia, and many recipes and references to the dish call it “Siberian dumplings.” Pelmeni probably did originate in Siberia, where hundreds or even thousands could be made, and then frozen and stored outside during the long winters. However, the dumplings became very popular all over Russia. They are close kin to “pot stickers,” “pierogies,” and other similar dumplings found in many cultures. The Russian variety traditionally is made of flour, milk, one egg, and salt. The dough is rolled out fairly thin, and cut in circles approximately two inches in diameter. The filling is usually a mixture of minced pork or minced beef, onions, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pork is often preferred because it makes for a very tender, juicy pelemen. Pelmeni should never be dry. The most traditional way of making pelmeni is by hand. You simply take a circle of dough, spoon in a little filling, fold the top edge of the circle over the filling, sealing it to the bottom edge very tightly with your fingers. Next, join the ends and pinch closed. Set a large pot of water to boil.  Once the water is boiling, add two teaspoons of salt, approximately 15-20 pelmeni, and three bay leaves. Boil until filling is completely cooked, remove the pelmeni into a bowl, and serve with sour cream, soy sauce, hot mustard, and pepper. For many generations, making pelmeni has been a fun activity for Russian families (and Russian-American families, too!).  Tradition dictates that the whole family gather round the table, from young to old, and help make the dumplings while talking, singing and laughing. It is not at all unusual to enjoy a bit of vodka during pelmeni manufacture! Pelmeni are a popular holiday dish as well, especially on New Year’s Eve. Many Russian families make thousands of pelmeni and freeze them for winter. There are few more convenient, spirit-warming, filling dishes on a cold winter’s day than Pelmeni. Another tradition associated with pelmeni is to place silver coins inside a few of the dumplings. Good luck is predicted to the ones who find a coin in their pelmeni. Also, if you find a bay leaf in your bowl of pelmeni, you will have good luck. There also exists, for modern convenience, pelmeni-making “machines,” which are really just a form to press through the two layers of dough and filling, sealing as it goes. Today in Russian grocery stores, there are a great many varieties of pelmeni featuring fillings ranging from mushroom to potato and cheese. Pelmeni recipe: Equipment needed: mixing bowls, small and large chopper/food processor rolling pin biscuit cutter spoons dutch oven (large sauce pan) cutting board cookie sheets/pizza pans, lightly floured 

  1. Ingredients needed: all purpose flour (we’ve found White Lily is best)
  2. milk  
  3. 1 egg
  4. mince (ground) pork (or beef or chicken, pork is the traditional)

2-3 large cloves garlic 1 medium onion 2-3 bay leaves salt and pepper to taste. In a large mixing bowl, place four cups of flour, press a “well” into the center using your fingers. Add into this well one whole egg, one teaspoon of salt, and enough milk to make a soft, pliable dough. Add milk gradually and mix the ingredients until dough forms.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface, such as a cutting board. Add a little flour and knead the dough until it is an elastic, medium firmness. Place in a lightly floured bowl or pan and cover. Set aside. Next, place the minced pork into a medium mixing bowl. Peel and cut the onion and garlic into manageable pieces. Place both into a chopper/food processor (or you can chop very finely with a sharp knife). Add the processed mixture to the pork, add salt and pepper, and mix very thoroughly, using your hands.  Now it’s time to gather your helpers and roll out the dough. Each person participating will need a small bowl (like a cereal bowl) filled with the meat mixture, and a teaspoon. As someone rolls out the dough and cuts circles, others fill the dough (a little goes a long way, and don’t overfill!), seal the edges and crimp the ends to shape a pelemen.  Place completed pelmeni in neat rows onto the cookie sheets and place in the freezer. They freeze quickly (in about an hour) and can be put into ziploc bags and returned to the freezer. Very few people who participate will be content to only make pelmeni. Everyone wants a taste! So, some do not need to be frozen. Just fire up the stove, heat a large saucepan filled 3/4 with water. Once boiling, add salt to taste, two bay leaves, and of course, the pelmeni! From the time you put the pelmeni into the pan — very hot to boiling water — until you remove them should take around 15 minutes) and serve with butter, sour cream, soy sauce, and/or “azhigga” What is ajigga?? I like to call it “Russian Salsa,” however this marvelous concoction did not originate in Russia. Rather, adzhiga seems to have originated in the Georgia-Armenia area some 400-450 years ago. (Spasiba bolshoi to Dr. Donald Houston for this information!)  Adzhiga is extremely simple to make, very delicious, goes with everything, and is extraordinarily GOOD for you. Here’s the recipe: ADZHIGGA Recipe: Four medium, ripe (riper the better, avoid grainy ones) tomatoes 4 cloves garlic dried medium hot red pepper (about 1 teaspoon) salt to taste Puree together in a blender or food processor. Goes great with Pelmeni, chiberecki and pretty much everything else in the western diet.  Best if eaten after it sits for a while in the fridge (4-6 hours).

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