Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It is time for you to go.

My mom's surgery last week was a success. YES! The clouds have parted and I am one with the world again. Well...almost. The explanation for why almost is listed below.

I am starting my final school year in graduate school and a new internship - part of school work - very soon and I feel anxious. In my defense, I am the type of person who has fears and such - there may be a clinical name for that - and yet, I always manage to throw myself in the midst of things to overcome these little suckers. I call them the anxiety trolls. 

Moreover, I have been really bad during this summer in terms of my fitness regimen and eating habits. It shows and I feel unlike myself at the moment. Thus, it is time for the extra pounds to go. That's right! I think this recipe will be helpful in this instance.

Love always,

kale (the vegetable).

Kale with Chinese Garlic Sauce. I added baked tofu because I love it. (My camera is on sick leave at the moment, hence the questionable quality of this picture).  

Kale with Chinese Garlic Sauce

1 pound kale greens, washed, rough stems removed
2 cups vegetable broth or water

3-4 garlic cloves, minced or sliced
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon mirin (found in the Asian aisle of your supermarket)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon sweet chili sauce (found in the Asian aisle of your supermarket)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 and 1/2 tablespoons organic brown sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon vegetable broth or water (same one used for cooking the kale)
1-2 tablespoons vegetable broth or water to thin out the sauce as needed (same one used for cooking the kale)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Add kale and 2 cups of vegetable broth to a large soup pot. Cover and let it wilt down over a medium heat for about 10-12 minutes. Stir often and set aside. Do not discard the broth or water used to cook the kale. You will need it.

To make the sauce, in a medium sized sauce pan, sauté the garlic in 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable broth or water used for cooking the kale, for about 3-4 minutes. You can use 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil instead, but why would you want to? Ok, none of my business.

While the garlic is sautéing, in a medium bowl, combine tamari, rice vinegar, mirin, sesame oil, sweet chili sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, and sugar. Whisk works well here. Add this mixture to the garlic and bring the pot to a boil over a medium heat. Stir often.

In the meantime, dissolve the cornstarch in the vegetable broth used for cooking the kale and add it to the sauce, once it starts boiling. Whisk constantly until it thickens. This should take less than a minute.  Remove from the heat. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the kale broth to the sauce to thin it out, use a whisk. Pour the sauce over the kale and garnish with sesame seeds. Serve with baked tofu or anything you like.

You can use this sauce for vegetables or noodles of choice, or as a marinade.

If you like things a bit more saucy,

What is Pepe Le Pew doing here? 
then double the sauce recipe. Cheers!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"I'm so EASY," said the vegan cheesecake.

"Cheesecake" Treats - Small Wonders
Aside from this recipe, I do not have that much too share with you today. This has been and still is, a tough week for me. I can't sleep, and...yada yada yada. Any Seinfeld fans out there?

[Back to the recipe.]

For some reason, I woke up today with my mind set on making a vegan cheesecake. I am lucky to have a vegan cookbook collection filled with fantastic "cheesecake" recipes, but I did not have all the ingredients required to make any of them. Although, I am certain that if I looked more intently, I would have been been able to find a recipe matching my pantry and refrigerator contents. Oh contradiction!

This recipe is loosely based on my mom's Polish Cheesecake recipe which includes raisins. Eating this tiny treat took me back to my childhood - a feeling that was helpful today in more ways than one.

Rock on Vegan Cheesecake!

What is that line on the strawberry? Ha! Made you look...
"Cheesecake" Treats - Small Wonders (Makes 12 servings)

2 (14-oz packages) organic firm tofu, drained (do not use silken or extra firm tofu)
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (from about one lemon)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon pure bourbon vanilla extract or pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup organic powdered sugar (or more depending on sweetnes prefrence)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
3/4 cup golden raisins
Fresh or frozen fruit of choice for garnish (optional)

(12 cupcake liners for baking)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin baking pan with cupcake liners. Set aside. In a food processor or high-powered blender, add one package of drained tofu at a time, and process until smooth and creamy, for about 3 minutes. Transfer the blended tofu to a large bowl. Combine the tofu mixture with lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar. Mix well. Taste to see if the sweetness is to your liking. Add more sugar if necessary, but keep in mind that the raisins will add extra sweetness as well.

Divide the tofu mixture "equally" between two bowls. Add raisins to one bowl - raisin mixture - while adding the cocoa powder to the other - chocolate mixture. Mix both mixtures well, in separate bowls.

To assemble, add one to two tablespoons of the raisin mixture to each cupcake liner.

Raisin mixture. 
Now, top each one with the chocolate mixture.

Chocolate mixture on top of raisin mixture, prior to baking. 
Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. These will be done when the texture feels springy to the touch.

Allow 20 minutes cooling time before removing from the baking pan and adding garnish. When cooled, remove from the cupcake liners and garnish with fruit. Store in a tight container, in the refrigerator. Be sure to line the container with paper towels to absorb the excess moisture.

Garnish with fruit and eat! 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Vegetable Patties - Indian Style

Vegetable Patty - Indian Style.
I am feeling defeated today, and no matter how much I try to talk myself out of this "funky mood," the struggle remains. What can I do to make things better? Over the years, I have tried a few things and settled on cooking. Mood improvement medicine? Perhaps. It works for me because I am able to focus on one thing - cooking - instead of dwelling on the other...

You might wonder what the other is in this instance. Well, sometimes we have to face unpleasant thoughts and situations based on previous experiences or future things to come.

Someone very special in my life is going to have major surgery this Friday. As of now, I have too many unsorted feelings about it. I am starting final year in graduate school in less than two weeks and I don't know what will happen. I know, I will get through it no matter what the outcome. With that cheery thought, let's make some vegan grub, shall we? CHEERS to ALL!
My mom in the 80's. Love it! 
Vegetable Patties - Indian Style (Makes about 8 large patties)

1 tablespoon coconut oil, plus additional for frying (vegetable oil may be substituted)
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped (about 1 and 1/2 cups)
1 medium sized yukon gold potato, peeled and shredded (about 1 cup)
2 medium sized carrots, peeled and shredded (about 1 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup frozen green peas, defrosted
1 cup red lentils
2 and 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 slice gluten-free bread or bread of choice, soaked in any kind of unsweetened plant milk
1 cup chickpea flour (see note below)

1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
Pinch or more of cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 large cinnamon stick

In efforts to make this recipe with ease, prepare the vegetables and assemble the spices ahead of time.

Prepared vegetables.
Place the prepared vegetables on one plate and assemble all the spices on another.

Now, in a medium sized sauce pan, heat the coconut oil over a medium heat. Since it is summer time, the coconut oil will heat up quicker (solid versus liquid consistency). Add sea salt, cumin seeds, cayenne pepper if using, turmeric, ginger, coriander seeds, garam masala and the cinnamon stick. Cook for about two minutes and stir often. Be sure not to burn the spices or you will have to start the process all over again. Add garlic and onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add a splash of water to prevent from sticking. You may have to do this a few times. I did!

Add carrots and potato and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Now add the lentils and water. Stir well. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes until the lentils are creamy. Stir often.

Discard the cinnamon stick. Transfer the lentil mixture to a large bowl, add the defrosted green peas. Mix and set aside until ready to handle, about 20 minutes. While waiting for the lentil mixture to cool off, place the slice of bread in a shallow bowl. Cover with plant milk of choice until it softens, about 10-15 minutes. Use about less than half a cup of plant milk.

Now that the lentil mixture has cooled off, add the chickpea flour and the soaked slice of bread. Prior to adding the bread, squeeze it with one hand really well and discard the soaking plant milk liquid. Shape the patties to the size of preference and set aside. These will be moist and malleable, just the way they should be.

Preheat a large non-stick skillet over a medium heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil to fry each batch, about three to four patties at a time, for 5 minutes on each side. Do not crowd the skillet. While the patties are cooking, be sure not to move them around until the five minute mark has passed. The crust develops when left alone in the skillet. Serve over a favorite salad, rice or anything you like.

Chickpea flour can be difficult to find no matter where you live. You can make your own in minutes for less than $2.00 dollars a pound of dried chickpeas. If you don't have chickpea flour on hand, and have a  bag of dried chickpeas in your pantry, you can make your own. Simply place one cup (or more, depending on how much flour you need) of dried chickpeas in a high-powered blender or a food processor and blend until very smooth smooth. That's it!

Veggie Patty - Indian Style served over zucchini noodles. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Healthy Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower Soup
The fall season is approaching and I could not be more excited. Aside from getting the opportunity to wear newly acquired animal themed sweaters (geek alert!), walking without feeling like I am going to melt away, and biking. I also look forward to eating all the soups I plan on making.

Confession: I eat soup during the summer season too.

Bunny sweater. This little guy is a bit wrinkly. 

Cheers to fall! 

Cauliflower Soup

1 medium or large head of cauliflower, rough stems removed and chopped
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
4-5 medium sized carrots, peeled and shredded
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk of choice (I used rice milk)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground marjoram
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 large bay leaf
6 cups strong vegetable broth
Fresh dill for garnish (optional)

So good!
In a large soup pot, sauté the onion in oil over a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add garlic and grated carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Add a splash of water to the pot - once in a while - to prevent from sticking. Stir often. Add pepper, salt, marjoram, celery seed, allspice, dried dill and bay leaf. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Add cauliflower and vegetable broth. Cover and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 20-25 minutes until the cauliflower is fork tender. Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaf. Add plant milk of choice and stir. Now blend half of the soup with an immersion blender for a thicker consistency. Don't have an immersion blender? No worries. Transfer half of the soup mixture to a regular blender with care so that you don't burn yourself. Blend well. Add blended soup mixture back to the pot and stir. Taste for salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh dill and serve.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Quick Beer Bread Pizza Dough

Quick Beer Bread Pizza Dough
Sundays are usually somewhat productive days for me in comparison to Saturdays. I wake up, feed the feline brood, clean the apartment (oh joy!), and speak to mom and brother - they live in Poland - for an extensive period of time.

I also make or purchase pizza every Sunday. In the past, when I lived in NYC, pizza day used to take place on Fridays. Now that I live in Boston, I thought I would switch things a bit in order to make life more exciting. Thus, Pizza Sunday was designated.

Back to pizza recipe inspiration. Oftentimes, after a three-hour long conversation with Polandia, I find myself to be very hungry. I don't want to wait for the pizza dough to rise or bother with delivery. This Sunday, I thought I would try making beer bread pizza dough - a spin off my 3-Ingredient Beer Bread. I am happy to report the recipe worked out.


Viva Vegan Pizza! I topped mine with tomato sauce, kalamata olives, sautéed spinach, mushrooms, and Trader Joe's Vegan Style Mozzarella Shreds. 
Quick Beer Bread Pizza Dough (Makes about two 8-inch thick crust pizzas)

4 cups self-rising flour (not regular flour)
1 (12-oz can) vegan beer of choice, at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vegan sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano (optional)

(Two aluminum foil sheets coated with non-stick cooking spray for baking)

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups of self-rising flour with salt, sugar and oregano. Add olive oil and beer. Mix well. Gradually, add the remaining one cup of self-rising flour, while mixing the dough with a spatula at the same time. This dough will be moist unlike regular pizza dough. With that in mind, use your hands to flatten it instead of rolling it out.

Divide the dough into two 'equal' pieces. Shape each piece on the prepared aluminum foil to thickness of choice, using one hand. Wet your fingers in warm water, as many times as necessary, to prevent from sticking and for ease of shaping. This method works really well.

Once you have the dough shaped to the size and the thickness of preference, top it with preferred base such as tomato sauce or pesto. Now add toppings of choice. Carefully transfer the pizzas using both hands to the oven and bake at 425 F for 15-20 minutes. The dough puffs up and gets golden brown around the edges when ready.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Breakfast Tofu Pie with Olive Oil Crust

Breakfast Tofu Pie with Olive Oil Crust. I served it over a spinach salad and vegan Goddess dressing. 
The idea of making a savory tofu pie has been following me for weeks now, perhaps months. Although I am by no means an expert in making pies, I decided to try making one to see if I could. My first attempt, a few weeks back, was a failure. I simply did not like the taste.

This one turned out just as I have imagined it would, and now I am able to share it with you. I used olive oil in this pie dough recipe instead of vegan vegetable shortening or butter because I don't always have these on hand. Olive oil is another story. I am good friends with olive oil and allow it to live in my pantry free of charge.


Breakfast Tofu Pie with Olive Oil Crust

Dough Ingredients (or use favorite pie crust recipe)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (you can substitute 1/2 cup with whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cold water
1 teaspoon salt

Filling Ingredients

Step 1
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small potato, peeled and finely diced
1 cup mushrooms of choice, finely diced
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika

Step 2
1 (15-oz package) organic firm or extra firm tofu, drained
1 cup fresh spinach, loosely packed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a medium non-stick skillet, sauté the onion, potato and mushrooms in oil or water over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Stir in granulated garlic, dried oregano and paprika. Add a splash of water to prevent from sticking to the skillet if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and set aside in a bowl.

Onion, potato, mushroom mixture, and tofu-spinach mixture.

While the first part of the filling is cooking, make the dough. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Mix well. Add olive oil and mix. A wire whisk works well here. Gradually add 1/2 cup cold water to the dough while kneading it. You might not need the entire 1/2 cup of water. Divide the dough equally into two balls and place on a floured surface. 

Pie dough "equally" divided. 
On a floured surface, roll out each ball into a flat pancake. You may want to use a mat or parchment paper instead of kitchen surface for ease of lifting the dough when ready. Add one part of the dough crust to an oiled 9.5-inch pie pan. If the dough breaks, gently patch it up with your hands. Perfection is not required. Poke the dough a few times with a fork to allow steam to escape and bake at 400 F for 10 minutes.

First piece of rolled out dough placed in oiled pan. The lighting was not ideal! Like I said, perfection is not required

Let the other part of rolled out dough rest on the counter, in a cool place, while the first part is baking in the oven. If the kitchen is too hot, place the second part of the dough in the refrigerator while waiting.

Complete the rest of the pie filling. In a high powered blender or food processor, combine tofu, Dijon mustard and onion powder. Blend for 2 to 3 minutes until creamy. Add spinach and blend for another 2 minutes until the mixture turns green. Add a splash of water if the mixture is too thick to blend. Set aside in a separate bowl.

By now the first part of the pie crust should be ready. Take out the partially cooked pie crust out of the oven. Lower the oven heat to 375 F. Now assemble the pie. Add half of the tofu-spinach mixture to cooked pie shell and spread evenly with a spatula.

Tofu-spinach mixture spread evenly on top of the cooked pie shell. 

Now add half of the onion, potato, mushroom mixture and spread it evenly.

Onion, potato, mushroom mixture spread on top of tofu-spinach mixture. 

Repeat the process with the remaining tofu-spinach mixture, followed by the onion, potato, mushroom mixture. Cover the pie with the remaining, uncooked, rolled out pie dough and poke it with a fork a few times. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 375 F until the crust is golden brown. Allow 15 minutes for cooling before serving.

Have a bite...or two!
The pie dough is quick to make while the filling is more time consuming. With that in mind, you can make the pie filling a day ahead to save time. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Savory Spinach Crepes

Savory Spinach Crepes
What does a girl do with an abundance of spinach? She makes a salad - boring - or she makes Savory Spinach Crepes.

Rock on spinach and cheers!

Savory Spinach Crepes (Makes about 8 large crepes)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 and 1/4 cups cold water, divided
1 and 1/2 cups fresh baby or regular spinach, loosely packed (I used baby spinach)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Non-stick cooking spray for frying

Crepe Filling of Choice
Use lunch/dinner leftovers, tofu scramble or anything you like. I made a quick fingerling potato and mushroom filling by sautéing the vegetables in olive oil. I added salt, pepper, paprika, dried oregano, garlic and onion powder. That's all she wrote, literally.

In a blender, combine flour, 2 cups of water, oil, baking powder, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, onion powder, and Dijon mustard. Blend well. Add spinach and blend quickly. Be sure not to over blend the batter. Over blending makes it gooey. You don't want that.

Place the batter in a large bowl, add 1/4 cup cold water, and mix well using a spatula. The consistency of the batter should be thinner than pudding, but slightly thicker than yogurt.

This is what the crepe batter should look like.
Preheat a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat and coat with non-stick cooking spray. Add 1/2 cup of batter and spread it evenly. Wiggle the pan back and forth in a circular motion until the batter spreads throughout the pan. Perfection is not necessary. Cook until the crepe is dry and golden for about 2-3 minutes. Spray with non-stick cooking spray and gently flip over with a spatula. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Slide over to a large plate and set aside. Continue cooking the crepes until there is no batter left.

Crepe assembly line.
To assemble, add about 1 tablespoon of favorite filling and form to shape of choice (example: triangles, cigars, squares). I rolled the crepes into triangles and served them with a simple tomato salad. These are great with mushroom gravy too.

Reheat leftover crepes in a non-stick skillet coated with non-stick cooking spray. Cook until crunchy.

Green is in!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cajun Black-Eyed Peas with Collards and Tempeh - Lucky Me Stew

Cajun Black-Eyed Peas with Collards and Tempeh - Lucky Me Stew
I am slightly obsessed with keeping things around the apartment in their rightful place. When things are out of place, I feel out of place. Feeling this way makes me anxious. I don't like it. To prevent that from happening, I started to organize one thing or one place in my apartment, at least once a week. The thing or the place can be small (example: kitchen junk drawer) or big (example: the closet). It is quite telling -  about myself - that I find a new thing or place, to organize each week. Sometimes, meaning often, I skip a week or two or three, but get back to the organizing routine eventually.

Spice forest. All that unused space on top breaks my heart. 
How does this recipe relate to my story? This week, I organized the spice cabinet. I found an unopened cajun seasoning container lodged between Mister Turmeric and Miss Cinnamon, hence this stew creation featuring cajun seasoning.

Interesting fact: black-eyed peas are used in cajun cooking. They also echo the idea of good luck in Southern culture, specifically when prepared during the New Year. I need a little bit of luck right now. Let's hope the legend is true. Cheers!
Cooking time: 1.5 hours
Cajun Black-Eyed Peas with Collards and Tempeh - Lucky Me Stew (Makes about 12 servings)

1 pound dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
1 (8-oz package) gluten free organic tempeh or tempeh of choice, crumbled
1 (28-oz can) diced tomatoes
1 bunch green collards, rough stems removed, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil, divided
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
1 small bell pepper (any color), stem and seeds removed, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons liquid smoke (Don't panic if you can't find it. *See note below)
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons cajun seasoning (Look for MSG free label if possible)
4 cups vegetable broth or water (Add another 1/2 cup during cooking if too thick depending on preference)
Hot sauce to taste (optional)

In a large soup pot, over a medium heat, sauté the onion, bell pepper and celery in 1 tablespoon of oil, for about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stir often. Add a splash of water if necessary, to prevent from sticking to the pan. Remove the vegetable mixture from the soup pot and set aside.

Tip: Keep a glass of water handy when sautéing, add a little at a time, to prevent from sticking and to prevent from adding additional oil, but only if you are into that kind of thing.

In the same soup pot used to sauté the vegetables, add 1 tablespoon oil and crumbled tempeh. Sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add a splash of water to prevent from sticking. Once the tempeh has browned, add the vegetable mixture back to the soup pot, mix well. Add freshly ground black pepper, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, salt, liquid smoke, parsley, paprika, cajun seasoning. Mix well and cook for about 3 minutes. Add black-eyed peas, diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to simmer and cook for about 1 hour, until the black-eyed peas are fork tender. Stir occasionally. Add the collards, mix and cook for another 15-30 minutes, depending on prefrence. I like my collards well done.

Taste for salt and serve over rice. Add hot sauce when serving depending on preference. This recipe freezes well.

Can't find liquid smoke? No worries. To substitute, add 2 tablespoons smoked paprika. Skip adding regular paprika in this instance.

Lucky Me Stew

Friday, August 9, 2013

Polish Potato Dumplings (Kopytka)

The word kopytka in Polish means little hoofs. I am not certain how the name came about, but I am sure it has something to do with the appearance of this delicious recipe. Every time I go back home to Poland, my mom asks me: "What would you like me to make for you Matylda?" My reply is almost always the same: "Kopytka!" This time, eggs are no longer required. I like it that way, don't you?

Polish Potato Dumplings (Kopytka)
Polish Potato Dumplings (Kopytka) (Makes about 50 dumplings)

4 large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1.5 pounds), peeled and quartered
1/3 cup green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon grape-seed oil (any kind will do), plus additional for pan-frying
Freshly ground black pepper (I use lots of it)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt, depending on preference, plus additional to season the water for boiling
Up to 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting work surface

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 teaspoon of salt, add the potatoes. Lower the heat to medium, partially cover the pot and cook for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain and add back to the pot.

Cooked potatoes, featuring my favorite potato masher I purchased with mom. 
You don't have to do this. Tip: Turn back the heat to medium and let the cooked potatoes lose the excess water by keeping them in the pot for about 3-4 minutes on the stove.

Mash the potatoes with a potato masher, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon grape-seed oil and the chopped green onions. Mix well. Taste to make sure the potato mixture is seasoned to your liking. Allow to cool off before handling. Leave it out on the stove for about 15-20 minutes to cool off.

This is what the dough should look like. 
While the potato mixture is cooling, bring another large pot of water to a boil for the dumplings. While the water is heating up, make the dumplings. To the prepared potato mixture, add 1/2 cup of flour and mix well. Continue adding more flour, gradually until the the dough is no longer sticky, but not too dry,  about less than additional 1/2 cup of flour. Knead and transfer the dough to a floured surface. Divide it into 4 equal parts and make long logs out of each one. Cut each log diagonally to make about a dozen dumplings and set aside.

Four logs, each cut diagonally to yield about a dozen dumplings. 
Once the water is boiling, season with salt, lower the heat to medium-high and add the dumplings. Boil the dumplings from one log at a time, until they float to the top, about 3-4 minutes. Do not crowd the pot. Use a slotted spoon to remove cooked dumplings and set them on a plate. Continue cooking until you have no dough left.

Serve with mushroom gravy or pan fry the dumplings with chopped onion and serve with favorite salad. Pan-fried dumplings are best way to serve them. Enjoy!

Time to eat!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Beet Soup (Borscht) with Red Kidney Beans

Beet Soup (Borscht) with Red Kidney Beans
I think I told you already (anyone out there?) that I love soup. Borscht is one of my favorites. I grew up eating it and continue doing so, especially when I am feeling nostalgic about my home land (Polandia). Recently, my mom shared a cool tip with me regarding this soup. She started adding red beans to it in efforts to get my brother to eat more healthfully. He is not reading this, so the secret shall remain with us. Please don't tell him.

Moreover - I love using transitions that I also use when writing school papers - I had to add a picture of my Krakowianka doll (traditional Polish Folk doll) I used to play with as a child, to show my Polish spirit. I had this doll since second or third grade. She still looks fantastic! No wrinkles!

Na zdrowie!

Beet Soup (Borscht) with Red Kidney Beans

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegan butter (optional/adds rich flavor)
1 medium sized onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 small carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 large or 4 medium sized red beets, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus additional to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground marjoram
2 bay leaves
7 cups strong vegetable broth
1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, depending on preference
1 and 1/2 cups cooked or 1 (15-oz can) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Fresh dill (optional)

Beet Soup (Borscht) with Red Kidney Beans
In a large soup pot, sauté the onion in oil, vegan butter or water over medium heat for about 10 minutes.  Add carrots, and garlic and continue cooking for 5 more minutes. Add a splash of water to prevent from sticking and stir constantly. Add sea salt, black pepper, cumin, thyme, marjoram and bay leaves and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir constantly and add another splash of water if necessary. Add red beets and vegetable broth, stir, cover and bring it to a boil.

Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 45 minutes, until the beets are fork tender. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves, and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Taste for salt and pepper. Carefully transfer the soup to a blender or use an immersion blender, to blend the soup. Return back to the soup pot if using a blender, add beans.

Serve with fresh dill, vegan sour cream or your favorite crusty bread.

Don't have a blender? No worries, just be sure to finely chop the onion and grate the beets and carrots, instead of chopping.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ethiopian Inspired Lentil Stew with Spinach

Ethiopian Inspired Lentil Stew with Spinach
Hi there, how are you? My turn? I am well, and I have a confession to make. Here it goes...I have never tried Ethiopian food, yet I dare to call my dish "Ethiopian Inspired." I have done some research regarding the spices involved, and concluded that my pantry and spice collection combined play a role to a gentle introduction to Ethiopian Cuisine. What do you think? Cheers!

Ethiopian Inspired Lentil Stew with Spinach

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional, I used water)
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 whole cloves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika or regular paprika
3 cardamom pods, cracked
1 teaspoon fenugreek, crushed (optional)
Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
1 and 1/2 cups green lentils (any kind will do)
1/2 cup split green peas (add creamy texture to dish)
5 cups water or vegetable stock (I used vegetable stock)
1 (16-oz package) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted

In a large pot, sauté the onion in oil or water over a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, all the spices, and tomato paste and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Stir constantly.  Add a splash of water if necessary; 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent from sticking to the pan. Add lentils, split green peas, 5 cups water/vegetable stock and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for about 1 hour until the stew is creamy. Stir occasionally. Add spinach, stir and turn off the heat. Taste for salt and serve. Be sure to watch out for cloves and cardamom pods when eating.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Simple Baked Eggplant

Simple Baked Eggplant
Living close to a Farmer's Market here in Boston has its perks, yet I managed to bypass going there this year. For some reason I had a notion it would be too expensive. I lived in Amherst, MA (home of Emily Dickinson) for 3 months last year. I remember going to a doctor's appointment on my bicycle (no subways there!) to get all the shots necessary to start my first year of graduate school. On my way there, I noticed a sign posted in front of a beautiful house, standing in the middle of a wondrous landscape of trees, flowers, frequented by birds. It said: "Five squashes for $1.00." No way! The New Yorker in me (I lived in NY for most of my life) could not believe it. Oh the excitement! I remember, bicycling back from my doctor's appointment, with a bounty of LARGE squashes stashed safely in my bicycle basket.

While I know that I will most likely never get five large squashes for $1.00 in Boston, I am surprised to find peaches, potatoes, patty pan squash (my new favorite), eggplant, carrots and much more, to be very affordable. The eggplant recipe is inspired by the beautiful eggplant I purchased here.


Simple Baked Eggplant (Makes about 8 slices)

1 medium sized eggplant, ends trimmed, sliced into half-inch cirlcles
1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan flour)
1/3 cup water, plus additional for soaking eggplant
1/2 to 3/4 cup gluten free or regular bread crumbs of choice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon salt, plus additional to taste

In efforts to remove the bitter taste of the eggplant, soak it in water prior to baking. In a large bowl, combine water and 1 tablespoon of salt. Add sliced eggplant, and more water to cover it completely. Place a heavy plate or large pot cover on top of the bowl to prevent the eggplant from floating to the top. Soak for 1 hour, and drain.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Coat a large baking pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, combine chickpea flour, and all the spices. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Add 1/3 cup of water and whisk until there are no lumps remaining. Pour the breadcrumbs to a separate bowl and set aside.

To assemble, dip the sliced eggplant in the seasoned chickpea batter with one hand, use your other hand to dip it in the bread crumbs. Continue doing so until there are no eggplants remaining. Be sure to coat the entire eggplant, including the sides, in the chickpea batter to ensure the breadcrumbs adhere. Bake each side for 15-25 minutes depending on preference of crispiness and color. Coat with non-stick cooking spray if necessary.

Serve as an appetizer or salad with tomato slices in between. Garnish with basil. Drizzle olive oil on top if desired. Makes a great sandwich filling, and works well sliced on top of pizza or as an addition to favorite pasta recipe.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cheapskate Red Lentil Curry

Cheapskate Red Lentil Curry
I love Indian food! I eat it and make it often. I highly recommend Vegan Indian Cooking cookbook which serves as a great introduction to Indian cooking and spices. While I think that Indian spices are awesome, I realize that not everyone has access to purchasing them, so I invented this Indian inspired curry for YOU (lies I tell you, it is mostly for me). Anyhow, I invite you to try it in efforts to tell me how easy and spectacular it is.

I offer a 10-minute therapy session free of charge for those who DARE to question the validity of this tasty dish. Good deal, no? Once I am finished with grad school, the fee will change.


Cheapskate Red Lentil Curry

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional, I used water)
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 chili or jalapeño pepper, stems removed, deveined, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon crushed fenugreek (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups red lentils
1 (14-oz can) light coconut milk
2 and 1/2 cups water, plus additional for sautéing
1 and 1/2 cups potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 3 small potatoes)
1 cup frozen green peas
Cilantro for garnish (optional)

In a large pot, sauté the onion in vegetable oil or water for about 10 minutes over a medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, and chili pepper. Continue sautéing for 3 more minutes. Keep adding more water, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to prevent from sticking to the pan. Continue stirring. Add all the spices and cook for 2 minutes, add more water if necessary. Add red lentils, coconut milk, water (2 and 1/2 cups), potatoes and green peas. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes until the lentils are creamy and the potatoes are cooked. Taste for salt and serve with basmati rice or pita bread.

I am not a cilantro fan. I tried to be one...I really did, but to no avail. Sorry! To remedy my cilantro problem, I discovered, dried cilantro in my supermarket. I use as a garnish only. I bought it for .99 cents and I LOVE using as garnish for Indian or Mexican cuisine.