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Suddenly the air is different around here. The sun lays its rays at a new angle now. Its warming arms take longer to wrap themselves around my shivering shoulders. My bones feel denser, my brain heavier. I feel the change in my tummy even without the weather forecast bloke warning me of an upcoming winter storm.

WINTER STORM?? Aren’t we getting a tad dramatic? It’s still Southern California we’re talking about. Mother Nature came, coughed once or twice, and spat a few drops of rain on the ground. So much for the vicious and nut-cringing cold front, Mr. Weather Man.

Nevertheless, I can see the change of season in my kitchen as well. All the golden and ruby leaves fell and went. New vegetables arrived. Crimson cuts of beef begged to be braised in red wine with a harem of root vegetables, ending their poetic orgy as a hearty and gut-warming stew on a bed of toasted pearl barley…

Three days later a bowl of hot, mildly spicy, yet with a hint of sweet innocence BIGOS turned up on our table bringing bliss and comfort just like a Swedish massage followed by a plunge into a hot tub would.

WAIT, WHAT DID YOU CALL IT?

Repeat after me: BEE-GOHS. You got it. Bigos is a Polish staple, at least in my family. There isn’t a holiday, or any family gathering without a giant pot full of this steaming hot sauerkraut stew. Every cook has his/her method and thus certain details of its preparation differ. My mother always mixes white cabbage and sauerkraut in almost equal proportions along with a myriad of spices and a whole animal. I swear, she adds half a pig and anther half of a milking cow into her stew and cooks it all together for hours, or days if possible. What we end up with at the dinner table is pure magic.

When I first moved to California, I moved into a house shared with two other girls. The place was furnished, set, and very homey. I got homesick. I was still eating only vegan foods back then, and in order to cure my nostalgia I was reinventing my mama’s dishes sans any products having lived with a face. My Vegan Bigos was born, and it rocked the worlds of many. I substituted meat with tofu and tempeh, added a bunch of wild mushrooms, and let the goodness cook for hours and hours and hours.

The version I make today is even simpler. On average I use:

– about a quart of store-bought sauerkraut, rinsed under cold water, wrenched and then chopped

– 2 small leaks, washed properly as leeks should be washed, then chopped

– 1 large onion, cut into small to medium dice

– a few garlic cloves, finely chopped

– 2-3 half inch rings of uncured pancetta, diced

– 3 small carrots, peeled and grated

– 4 oz tomato paste (But seriously, I never measure anything, so who knows…)

– handful of dried wild mushrooms, rehydrated in hot water for min. 1 hour prior

– seasoning: salt, pepper, lots of paprika, chili pepper, nutmeg, 2-3 bay leaves, dry marjoram, even thyme if lying around

– vegetable oil (I use sunflower).

I start with heating up the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, then add my pancetta and let the chunks render. When the bits get crispier, I take them out, and toss in the onions and the leeks. I let them sauté for a couple of minutes before I add garlic. Right off the bat, into the mix there goes about a tablespoon of dried marjoram and a touch of salt to help the veg sweat. Now you’re ready to add the sauerkraut, carrots, mushrooms along with the water they soaked in (Watch for any dirt and sand on the bottom of the cup though!), tomato paste and all spices but the black pepper. You’ll finish seasoning your stew with pepper (and more salt if needed) in the very end.

Bring back the pancetta bits and mix all your ingredients together. Cover the pot with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and let cook for 1.5 – 2 hours. Check on the guys every so often and add a touch of water if it gets too dry. Also, you don’t want to burn the stuff. It’s too good to waste! Mark my words.

Rustic simplicity: a bowl of steamy hot, comforting Polish Stew with a slice of bread, or better a few hot potatoes. Bigos (if cooked with minimal amount or no meat) is an excellent accompaniment to pork loin or even a steak. You can dress it with fresh dill or parsley. Cilantro works just as well. Some Poles like it sweeter and add prunes and/or plum preserves. Some like it on a sour side and avoid such nonsense. You’re the artist, it’s your dish. Go ahead, cook and make potfuls of mouthwatering art poached in love and seasoned with fairy dust. Fear not the winter frost any longer!

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Hello, my name is Agi and I’m a dooce‘oholic. The last 72 hours I have spent on the couch, laptop resting under my chin, while browsing through the archives and flickr files uploaded by the Armstrongs for the world to see and get ADDICTED! I haven’t slept, eaten, brushed, or shaved. I may have cut some cheese here and there, but was too busy to acknowledge it. Here’s a proof of the madness found after I had finally scraped my rear end off of the above-mentioned piece of our household.

Seriously, I think I should quit dooce, you know, the most popular mommy blog on the face of the Earth. My maternal instincts have been howling for quite some time now. Hence, Cosmo. Hence, the girls and boys names’ lists. Hence, dooce… The problem with the latter is that every time I visit the website and watch some 30 second video of the Armstrongs’ older offspring, or a picture of their joyous 6-month old dumpling with those HUGE blue eyes, it’s as if I was tossing shots of grain alcohol into a fireplace while standing right in front of it.

It’s not the lack of practice that stops Jason and I from procreating, oh no. On the contrary, we have been practicing with such intensity and devotion that we discovered we possessed skills previously unbeknownst to us. I shall elaborate on that…NOT.

There are several reasons preventing us from making babies, however. The most immediate one is made of lubricated latex. Next, there are several existential circumstances, if you will, that are still amiss for us to start talking family. And if I am to point fingers, a steady income and health insurance, or rather a temporary lack there of must take the blame.

In order to expedite the process of getting our shit together and organizing our lives, I’ve been proactive securing our best odds. Not only have I been flipping coins into the local WISHING WELL, rubbing Buddha’s belly right before bed, offering an innocent lamb to Zeus and the rest of the Olympian gang on every full moon, but also I’ve been trying to start my own business and work as a Personal Chef. Considering how brand new the idea is, I’m proud to say the first clients arrived.

Let me share with you my joy of cooking for people who love the food I make for them. Cheers to the very simple GREEN SALAD WITH MAPLE ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES.

What you do is you go to a store and pick up a bunch of fresh, organic root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, red and golden beets, and maybe some butternut squash to finish the patchwork of colors. Peel ‘em and cut ‘em in even chunks. Preheat your oven to 400°. Spread the colorful joy of nature flat on a baking sheet, then season it all with kosher salt and black pepper, drizzle with olive oil and then maple syrup (Grade B, always). Roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty mixing all veggies and spreading the love evenly. Shove the pan into the oven and let them ROAST for 25 to 40 minutes (depending on the size of your chunks, and I’m not talking dirty here).

While the root vegetables are getting their sins forgiven within the hell of your oven, fetch your greens (e.g. arugula, chopped collard greens, spinach) – wash ‘em, spin ‘em dry, and place  ‘em in a BIG bowl. Add a handful of chopped toasted pecans, drizzle with a simple BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE (you know: balsamic vinegar, good olive oil, salt, pepper, Magic Bullet or a whisk in a fast hand), and toss around. When your veggies are done, let them cool for a minute and then add to the bowl. Once again, shake ‘em up a little with your salad spoons. Last but not least, crumble just a touch of goat cheese all over the bowl for that extra creamy texture. It’s optional, however, as the salad will be just PHENOMENAL without the cheese as well.

Believe it or not, this very SALAD WITH MAPLE ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES makes for a delectable, healthy, balanced, and perfectly satiating dinner. If there is anything else to do that evening it’s to enjoy a glass of wine and shag your better half.

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