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Sunday, December 8, 2013

German Split Pea Soup With Smoked Paprika (Vegetarian)


Split peas have always been considered food for the poor. They were easy to store through the long months of winter and very inexpensive. Their nutritional qualities are great though! Peas are packed with protein and fiber.  I ate my fair share of Split Pea Soup during my preschool years in Russia. In my government-run preschool we had the Pea Soup every other day. We all hated it. I now love it because it's delicious and nutritious when cooked right.

Almost every nation around the world has its variations of the pea soup. This is a German version (minus the ham) with smoked paprika.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/4 cups split peas
  • 5 1/2 cups water
  • 2 medium yellow potatoes, peeled, chopped into cubes
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 medium lemon
  • fresh chives, chopped

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Saute onions for 2 minutes. Add carrots and celery. Saute until vegetables start to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Add smoked paprika and turmeric. Mix everything well and saute for 1 minute. Add split peas and water. Bring pot to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes. Add potatoes. Simmer for 25 more minutes or until peas are soft. Season to taste. Remove from heat.

Transfer half of soup mixture to blender and puree until smooth. Transfer back to pot. Stir everyting together. Add lemon juice.

Sprinkle with fresh chives and serve with rye bread. Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Piña Colada Bars (Vegan)



What can be better than to have a cup of herbal tea with a bite of your most favorite dessert! These Pina Colada Bars taste like summer. The secret ingredient of this delicious vegan dessert is.... tofu! You wouldn't believe how nicely it blends with lemon juice, vanilla, and coconut milk to create a creamy filling. The recipe makes 12 bars.

The original recipe was posted in the September 2013 issue of Vegetarian Times. The link to the original recipe is here.

Crust
2 cups vegan vanilla wafer cookies
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp almond milk (I used 3 tbsp of almond milk to get the right consistency)

Coconut Layer
1 12-oz package of extra firm tofu, drained
1 medium banana
1/2 cup coconut milk
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Topping
2 cups fresh pineapple, finely chopped
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Pulse cookies into fine crumbs in food processor. Transfer to medium bowl and add oil and milk. Stir well. Spray 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Press mixture into pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

2. Make sure you drain tofu. Cut tofu into 6 large pieces. Place one of them on two-layered piece of paper towel. Cover with another piece of paper towel and gently apply pressure with your hands allowing extra moisture to drain from tofu. Repeat with remaining pieces of tofu.

3. Blend tofu, banana, coconut milk, sugar, lemon juice, coconut oil, cornstarch, vanilla and salt in blender until smooth. Transfer to bowl and fold in shredded coconut. Pour mixture over crust in pan. Bake 55 minutes or until edges pull away from pan. Allow to cool.

4. In small pot, bring pineapple, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch to boil. Constantly stir to prevent burning. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour pineapple mixture over coconut layer. Allow to cool. Once cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 3 hours. Slice into 12 bars. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Russian Winter Salad with Red Beans



My most vivid memory of the New Year's celebrations in Russia was spending 12 hours in the kitchen chopping vegetables for Winter Salad, Corn and Crab Salad, Mimoza Salad and others for our big family. I was having so much fun in the kitchen with my mom and my sisters just chopping away. Delicious salads are a crucial part of any holiday celebration in Russia.

Winter Salad is made with boiled potatoes, carrots, canned green peas, pickles, and red beans. Dress it with a little bit of mayo (I use Veganaise and love it!) and serve as a side dish. Приятного аппетита!


  • 6 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled, chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, boiled, peeled, chopped
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 6 medium dill pickles, chopped
  • 1 can green peas, drained
  • 2 cans red beans, drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp Vegan mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise) (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 bunch fresh dill, minced


Make sure all boiled vegetables and eggs are cooled. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Season to taste and mix well. Mix in vegan mayonnaise right before serving. Serve sprinkled with fresh dill.
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Sunday, November 3, 2013

White Sweet Potato Puree (Vegan)


We were invited to a cooking club dinner and given the assignment to make White Sweet Potato Puree. I was skeptical at first because I'm not a big fan of sweet potatoes. Plus the recipe called for half-and-half, butter, and chicken broth that I don't normally cook with. So I took a challenge to transform this recipe into a plant-based version. It turned out delicious! I'm skeptical no more. It's a great side dish recipe especially for the holiday season.

  • 5 lb white sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch chunks
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain soy milk, warmed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth, warmed (or more depending how thick you like your potatoes)
  • 2 tbsp plant-based butter, melted
  • salt and black pepper to taste

1. Place sweet potatoes in large sauce pan. Cover potatoes with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are soft and fall apart easily if poked by fork.

2. Drain. In food processor combine potatoes, fresh thyme, sugar, 1/2 cup soy milk, 1/2 cup vegetable broth, butter, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Add more vegetable broth if needed.

Enjoy the holidays!
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Black Bean Soup (Vegan)


Sauteed onions, garlic, and tomatoes seasoned with cumin and oregano make this Black Bean Soup absolutely irresistible in its simplicity and flavor. It is served with Chipotle Sauce that you make with plant-based mayonnaise and canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. Top with homemade Pico De Gallo and enjoy! My recipe for Pico De Gallo is here.

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 15-oz cans black beans, drained
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 7-oz can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (you will only use 1 1/2 tbsp of the sauce)
  • 2 cups Pico de Gallo 
  • tortilla chips (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in large sauce pan or skillet on medium high. Add onions and garlic and saute for 5-7 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add oregano and cumin. Saute for 2 more minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, black beans, and vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Transfer half of soup mixture to blender. Puree until smooth. Transfer back to remaining soup. Keep warm.

3. To make chipotle sauce, combine 1 1/2 tbsp of chipotle chiles sauce with mayonnaise. (You only need to use the sauce from the chiles can. Don't use the chiles. Save them for another use) Mix well.

4. Serve soup with chipotle sauce, Pico de Gallo, and tortilla chips.

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Adapted from Roberto Martin's "Black Bean Soup" recipe in Vegan Cooking for Carnivores, p. 84



Pico De Gallo


Pico De Gallo is so much better when it's home made! This recipe yields about 2 cups.

  • 3 large tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients first four ingredients in medium bowl. Pour lime juice over salsa. Mix well and season to taste. Serve with tortilla chips, soups, burritos, or tacos. Refrigirate.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Russian Borscht with Red Beans


Borscht is a staple Russian food that is famous all over the world. It is first mentioned in Russian XVI century manuscipts, but its roots go way back to the slavic tribes. Katherine the Great, Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, and my personal hero Alexander II all loved borscht. It is hearty and has a fantastic color! There are as many variations of borscht as there are cooks. This soup is popular in all Eastern European countries and the method of cooking and ingredients may differ depending on the region. But there are three ingredients that you can't make the borscht without: cabbage, potatoes, and beets. Give it a try and you will love it.

  • 10-12 cups water (depending on how thick you like your soup)
  • 1/2 medium head white cabbage, chopped
  • 6 medium potatoes, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves, cut in half
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 large carrots, grated
  • 6 small beets (or 2 large ones), about 3 cups, cut into thin 1-inch long strips
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with juice (I used the basil, oregano, garlic tomatoes)
  • 1 tbsp dry basil
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can red beans, drained 
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch fresh dill, minced
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 bunch fresh green onions, chopped 


1. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Season water to taste with salt. Add cabbage and potatoes and cook on medium until potatoes are soft. Add bay leaves.

2. While cabbage and potatoes are cooking, heat up olive oil in a skillet. Add onion and carrots and saute them for 7 minutes. Add beets and continue sauteeing for 15 more minutes or until beets are soft. Pour lemon juice in and stir well. Pour in tomatoes with juice, then add basil, and garlic and bring everything to a boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

3. Transfer beet mixture from skillet to pot with soup. Add red beans and check if soup is seasoned enough. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Heat through. Remove from heat.

The borscht will taste the best if you leave it overnight in the fridge to allow all flavors to blend! Serve hot garnished with dill, parsley, and green onions. Приятного аппетита!