Russian Bites: Napoleon cake

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You know how after traveling for a while you really crave home? The ordinary things, like being able to sleep in your own bed and cook for yourself? By the end of our Eurotrip, I even missed bootcamp (so happy I love working out) and my business. With every city we left, I was sad to go yet ready to move on.

And now I miss those daily pastries, al fresco drinks in the middle of the day and long long walks. Guess what? I can still get away with doing all 3! Winking smile I really should sometime…

Russian napoleon cake

Last month I was asked for a Russian Napoleon cake recipe so I immediately emailed my mom and set up a date for us to make it. I’m good like that (also I really like cake). It’s actually originally a French dessert (Russian food has a lot of French influences) but the traditional Russian version seems to be a bit easier (although it has 4 layers vs 2) and has a bit of a different look. With using store-bought puff pastry dough, the whole thing comes together in a cinch and will be gobbled up even quicker! That’s a fact. Winking smile [See how the styled photos are only of a few tiny pieces? Yeah, that’s because that’s all that was left! Too good.]

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So what’s a Russian Napoleon cake? It’s pretty much 4 layers of puff pastry layered with custard cream (creme patissiere). Bake the puff pastry according to instructions on the package, make the custard cream (eggs, milk, sugar, flour, butter) and then layer the two. Easy!

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The last piece of puff pastry gets crumbled to create this fun topping:

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Let the whole thing stand in the fridge overnight so the puff pastry softens a bit from the custard and the layers really meld together. The result is a cool, creamy, buttery dessert that’s unbelievably addictive!

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I want a piece right now!!

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Printable recipe

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Do you ever miss home while on vacation? Ever had Napoleon cake? It’s gooooood; I hope you try it! Open-mouthed smile

Chicken sausage and veggie stuffed manicotti

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When it comes to losing weight, I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s rarely as easy as knowing what to do and just following through. Our lives get in the way, our emotions get the best of us, and then there are these cravings that seem to come out of no where (you haven’t had pizza in years and all of a sudden that’s all you can think of, now that it’s “off limits.” <– this is of course hypothetical because I eat pizza at least once a month ;) ) So yes, it’s a journey. Sometimes on a long and winding road. We, I,  may fall and backtrack but it’s important to get back up and keep moving forward. My favorite way to do that is by preparing something crazy delicious that tastes completely sinful but is actually quite good for you!  And of course I believe that no matter your health goals, it’s really important to satisfy cravings! Always and forever. No carrot sticks for dinner in this household (although I am having carrot fries with oven fried chicken tonight)!!

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This (chicken) sausage and veggie stuffed manicotti was Italian comfort food at its best without the artery clogging or calorie busting properties (by the way, I’m back to calorie counting to get into tip top summer… or 30th birthday… shape). I started following the above linked recipe from Cooking Light but decided to cut the amount of sausage down by 1/3, and then ramped up the veggies. Italian food is good like that – once you cover it in cheese and sauce, it will all be gobbled up in no time!

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So after browning the sausage for a few minutes, in went a whole container of chopped mushrooms, one yellow bell pepper and a few minutes later – 2 cups of baby spinach. The hardest part was not eating this whole mixture before stuffing it into manicotti! I persevered (even though it was a bit time consuming) and eventually dinner was on the table. Man, this was goooood!

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My changes created even lighter manicotti (220 cals/pop) full of delicious nutrients. Between the spicy sausage, loads of veggies, tangy tomato sauce, creamy bechamel (made with skim milk!) and cheese, it definitely felt like a treat. Adam said this was the best meal I’ve made in a while (although he says it often ;) ). This dish would be a great contender for my cooking parties because it would be fun to make as a team while chatting away (perhaps with a glass of red wine!). I’m thinking an easier and quicker version may be coming next though for those of us that don’t find an hour+ of hands-on cooking relaxing.

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Oh and did I mention this meal is freezer friendly and reheats beautifully? All that time paid off for sure! :)

How much time do you usually spend making a meal?

PS- There is just one day left of the thinkThin giveaway – make sure you enter it! :)

Russian Bites: “chicken fried” pork (otbivnii/betki)

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Most days I go about my business without much thought to my history. The days of bread lines and food stamps are long gone. I’m very comfortable in my home in the center of Boston, with every needed amenity within a few minutes of walking distance. And then something happens that reminds me of how lucky I am – most of us are – to have such simple things as running water, electricity and internet (and plentiful food). We didn’t always take those for granted in Kishinev (I specifically remember filling up buckets of water for showers and cooking – water outages were quite frequent) and I learned to appreciate them once again after the power outages this week. It was rough.

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It was a gorgeous day in Boston when a transformer caught fire and contributed to a 15-block power outage in Back Bay. We were just 2 blocks away from the fire and had the largest impact. We had no power at all for 2 days straight and then we had random power outages (of course every time I was about to cook us a meal!) for the next few days after that. It’s crazy how much we rely on electricity these days! Besides the obvious (lack of light in the house so you can’t see anything, especially when even the street lights don’t work), there is no heat, no access to the fridge or stove top (which makes it really hard to stay on your diet!!) and no tv/internet (those were down for almost the whole week). We downloaded the flashlight app on our iphones to help guide us through the house, but after a while our phones died too (since you couldn’t charge them!). Pain in the butt for sure Smile

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I lived out of coffee shops, my parents’ and friends’ houses all week and I’m so so happy to be back to normal in my own home right now. Who knew that having power and internet would feel like such a treat?! Smile

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[Left: 2 standard pork chops; right: pounded chops]

Anyways, this recipe for Russian “chicken fried” pork has nothing to do with all that (I just wanted to vent Winking smile ) but it’s a classic and absolutely delicious so you should make it! Open-mouthed smile Otbivnii or betki are both common names for these guys and basically mean that the meat was “beaten” (aka pounded) into thin cutlets. You then dip them into an egg/flour batter and pan fry them. The result is a juicy piece of meat with a delicious eggy crust. It’s definitely a favorite!

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Pork is sort of the “original” meat of choice but my mom tells me she recently started buying thin chicken cutlets and doesn’t even pound them. They are ready to go right there! Serve with a simple tomato/cucumber/sour cream salad (and maybe mashed potatoes) and feel like a cool Russian. I did :lol:

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Open wide!

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Printable recipe

Which ordinary thing are you thankful for having today?

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