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Recipes From The Road: Okroshka

Posted on by Steve Bouey Posted in Featured, Recipes From The Road | 1 Comment

Almost immediately upon returning from a trip abroad, one can expect friends, family and co-workers to start asking a bunch of questions: what was your favorite spot, what was the most memorable experience, what was the food like. The food question is one we get a lot, so we decided to start putting together a list of the foods we like best from around the world and when possible, the recipes to go with them, so if you are not feeling like flying halfway around the world to experience some tasty treats, you can prepare them yourself at home. First up in this new and somewhat regular series we are calling Recipes From The Road, окрошка (okroshka).

Russian: окрошка

окрошка is a Russian cold soup with a nice little tang to it and it is the perfect refreshing snack or meal on a hot summer day. One of the key ingredients in окрошка is квас (Kvass), which is a 5,000 year old fermented drink made from rye bread. It’s hard to describe the taste of квас, (fizzy maple syrupy sweet juice???), but  when served chilled, it is quite refreshing. Just keep in mind that as a fermented beverage, квас actually has a bit of alcohol in it, but not enough to keep people from serving it to kids, and it is classified as non-alcoholic in Russia. квас is somewhat hard to find outside of Russia and Eastern Europe, but you can buy it online and there are some specialty European supermarkets, like M & I International Market in southeast Denver, that stock it… it is just not as fresh as the квас you would buy from the portable tank on the side of the road.

Kvass

If you can’t find квас, there are some substitutes like kefir in the recipe below that can take it’s place, but it won’t be fully legit окрошка. The same goes for another key ingredient, сметана (sour cream). Plain sour cream in the USA just doesn’t taste the same as Russian сметана, but again, there are some substitutes if you can’t find сметана at an international market.

Oкрошка (Russian Cold Soup)

1 quart квас and a dollop or two of сметана… or plain kefir/water (at a 2-1 kefir to water ratio)

1/4 cup chopped зеленый лук (green onions)

1/4 cup chopped укроп (dill)

sliced редис (radish)

1 small  огурец (cucumber) sliced and diced

3 яйца (hard-boiled eggs) diced

2 medium картофель (potatoes) boil with skin and dice

Mix ingredients together and serve chilled… приятного аппетита!!!

This Old House: Russian Architecture You Probably Never Knew About

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When you first think of Russian architecture, images of the great cathedrals that grace the skylines of cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg and their distinctive onion shaped roofs might come to mind. You may also think of the magnificent public halls, museums, schools and government buildings; the Spasskava Tower in the Moscow Kremlin, the Iberian Gate, Red Square, or the GUM department store. Russian architecture is rich in history and can be categorized into several unique periods, beginning in the late 900’s with the Kievan Rus and continuing through to the modern skyscrapers of Moscow City. Unfortunately, many people who have never seen these magnificent sights might confuse Russian architecture with images of uninspiring, grey concrete boxes and apartment buildings identical in size, shape, color and depressing appearance. Beginning in the 1950’s, necessities of the Cold War forced Soviet architects to shed the aesthetic aspects of their designs. Functionality and efficiency took the place of creativity, and mass-produced apartment blocs ushered in by Nikita Khrushchev began popping up everywhere, becoming symbolic of socialist cities throughout the Soviet Union and their stereotypical image remains strong. The only thing most visitors to Russia and the former Soviet Union see to contrast the images of those drab, shoebox style apartment buildings are the  public buildings and cathedrals in the larger cities that survived the wars and cultural purges or have since been rebuilt. Most visitors never make it to the old part of town, or at least the old residential part of town, and as a result, miss out on an entirely different type of architecture… a style that is quickly dying and fading from existence.

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Farm to Table Russian Style: The Dacha

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We are living in interesting times. I suppose every generation can say that with some degree of validity. After all, life, no matter where you are, who you are, or when you are living can be interesting, but in this context, we are living in interesting times as it relates to the food we eat. On one hand, obesity has reached alarming levels in developed countries, the United States in particular, as people gorge on quickly prepared, mass produced crap that might satisfy their hunger in the near term, but sets them up down the road for a plethora of other health problems like type 2 diabetes which is also at historic highs. On the other hand, health conscious people, fueled in part by the digital age and increased access to information are leading the charge when it comes to concerns over commercial agricultural practices and the control that controversial companies like Monsanto have over our food supply. The later has propelled a resurgence of farmer’s markets, agricultural co-ops, demands for fresh, organic and non genetically modified food, and compounded by the contemporary environmental movement, a growing desire for locally produced food.  A few decades ago, people in general probably didn’t care that the apples they were eating in the grocery store in February came from New Zealand, but today, as evidenced by the “Produced Locally,” or “Local Farmer,” signs posted throughout not only upmarket grocery stores like Whole Foods but mainstream chains like Kroger and Safeway, more and more people do. An epic battle is brewing between fast food and slow food, but try explaining the fundamentals of this battle to people in other countries and you might generate some puzzled looks.

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Go Big And Then Fly Home Like Valery Rozov

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Last week was the 60th anniversary of the first successful summit attempt of Mt. Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and his sherpa Tenzing Norgay. A lot has changed in 60 years and Everest is still viewed by many as the pinnacle of mountain climbing. After all, it is still the tallest mountain in the world. However, according to some seasoned climbers and adventurers, in the 60 years since Hillary and Tenzing sat atop Everest’s summit, the mountain, and the process of climbing it, seem to have lost some of its romanticism. Long queues to ascend to the summit, a landscape littered with oxygen bottles and other climbing debris, fights between sherpas and climbers, the pressure of high dollar paying clients and more recently, a controversial proposal to set up a ladder bridging one of the more technical sections of the mountain, the Hillary Step, thus increasing the mountain’s accessibility to “idiots who don’t know a crampon from a tampon” have turned Everest into somewhat of a sideshow. According to our friends The Adventurists, “These days Sagarmāthā  is a parade of lemmings blindly following each-other to the summit for the obligatory photo before shuffling back from whence they came… someone should tell the folks still climbing it that they needn’t bother.” We would tend to agree, but then along comes a crazy Russian who puts a completely new spin on Everest. If your goal is to climb Everest, only to then jump off it, we say go right ahead, that’s awesome.

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The Street Comes Alive at the 2013 Denver Chalk Art Festival

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Chalk: Geologically speaking, its a form of limestone that is composed from a mineral, calcite carbonate, which ultimately comes from small particles shed from the shells of micro organisms called coccolithophores. Chalk has many uses such as an agricultural soil treatment, a toothpaste additive, an athletic grip enhancement and builder’s putty, but most of us were probably first exposed to chalk in the classroom. Chalk and chalk dust were once common sights and smells in classrooms across the globe. A mainstay of our early education and a cornerstone of our popular culture, chalk was used by Bart Simpson to write “I will not ____” across the detention room blackboard, on which other kids, in the hope of generating a spine shivering reaction from someone, would scrape their fingernails. But digital technology has changed the face of the modern blackboard, replacing it, along with the chalk used to write on it, with computer screens, IPads and digital pens. While chalk may have met its demise in the classrooms of developed countries, fortunately it continues to thrive as an artistic medium.

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Global Flight Paths – Captivating Art from Everyday Airline Travel

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If you’ve ever looked out the window of your New York to Frankfurt flight and became nervous upon seeing Iceland 30,000 feet below, you can now rest easy knowing that your Trans-Atlantic flight, along with thousands of others, were right on course. For those of us who aren’t pilots, air traffic controllers or in the intelligence business, you can thank spatial analysis for this little bit of information, and its not just information that this type of analysis yields, its also captivating art. Aside from designers, architects and self proclaimed tech geeks, who would have though spacial analysis could look so cool? Well, thanks to some creative and cleaver work by Michael Markieta, who calls himself a “GIS nerd at heart,” those of us who are less technically inclined and motivated have an amazing graphical and artistic representation of just what modern day air travel looks like. More specifically, Michael mapped out more than 58,000 flight routes using data from openflights.org and rendered them into beautiful graphics using ArcMap. These images of global flight paths are fascinating and quite telling on multiple levels. Transit hubs are clearly present, population centers are easily identified, and the disparity between developed and developing countries is readily apparent.

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Remembering Those Who Sacrificed

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Traveling always gives you an interesting insight into the culture of another country, but an additional benefit of traveling is the ability to reflect back on your own culture and to see it from a different perspective. The observance of holidays, and more specifically the importance placed on some celebrations by the community and society as a whole, is just one of the interesting comparisons you can make after having traveled abroad.

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Another Reason to Like Richard Branson

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Those of you who travel know that it can result in countless benefits, both tangible and intangible, but it can often be hard to convince those who don’t travel that there is much more to traveling than just taking a break, going on holiday or avoiding reality. Not that taking a break and relaxing is a bad thing, but there is a common misconception, especially in places like the United States, that traveling, and in particular, traveling for long periods of time, somehow detracts from the normal progression of one’s life and career. Don’t travel, or you’ll get left behind and have to catch back up to those who had their priorities straight and focused on more important things like working hard and making money!

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The Beauty of Nature on Display in Russia

Posted on by Steve Bouey Posted in Collective News, Featured, Random Interesting, World Travel | 1 Comment

I recently returned from a two week trip to Russia. Compared to the expedition and some other post expedition travels, two weeks really wasn’t very long… at least it didn’t seem very long as it flew by incredibly fast, but then again, the expedition flew by like a blur as well. Needless to say, I packed in as much as I could into those two weeks: from Russian language lessons and Moscow sightseeing, to countryside barbeques and a gigantic celebration of Russian war veterans. I also packed in as much as I could into my luggage. In Colorado, May is a tricky month weather wise. It can be snowing one day and sunny and hot the next. Case in point, the Saturday before I left for Russia, the mercury hit over 80 degrees and a few days later, Denver received 10 inches of snow. This left me scratching my head as to how to pack. My friend Elena said spring in Russia can be equally unpredictable, and considering how far north I was going to be, I decided I had better be prepared for it all.

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Czech vs. Chech

Posted on by Steve Bouey Posted in Collective News, Featured, Get Smart, World News | 1 Comment

As everyone is certainly well aware, there was a bombing last week at the 117th running of the Boston Marathon.  With no known terrorists organizations claiming immediate responsibility, an anxious public desperately searched for clues and eagerly waited for answers into the identity of the suspect(s). Wild speculation was the order of the day and pundits “in the know” even went as far as to incorrectly and absurdly spew theories about who did it, such as Fox News contributor and overall hack Erik Rush, who claimed “Muslims are evil. Let’s kill them all,” and that it was the Saudi’s who were to blame. A Saudi man was initially questioned by Boston Police but released shortly thereafter.

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