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Archive for March, 2011

Celery Apple Slaw

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

I think comfort food is comforting not only because it reminds of a better place but because it’s warm, smooth textures provide a feeling of relaxation and calmness.  This is necessary in the cold months when days are dragging and all you want to do is snuggle by the fire…or the television set. Thankfully, and maybe over optimistically, winter is coming to an end and I for one cannot wait to get out there and be active again.  As my activity level raises so do my taste buds. And as spring arises, so does my craving for nutritiously crunchy food that allows you to have the energy to get up and go.

What better way to create a crunch but with naturally crunchy vegetables?  Not only are they high in vitamins to give you a (well needed) boost of energy but their individualized flavors are intense enough to wake any taste bud. Plus, I cut the slices into thick piece for that extra crunch chewiness but you can slice them into any way you’d like. Also, I am sure you can use any mayonnaise in this recipe and it will be great but I decided to use Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise from Trader Joes because frankly, it’s all Ilya ever eats. At first I was scared of the stuff but after I started working with it, I found the taste to be even more flavorful then regular mayonnaise. Plus, their producers Follow Your Heart claim that  studies have shown that Grapeseed Oil  has
“extraordinary qualities with respect to its effect on cholesterol. Clinical tests have shown subjects experienced a lowering of LDL (the so called ‘bad’ cholesterol), and an increase in HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol)”.  Now who can argue with that? Whatever variation of ingredients you choose for this recipe, I promise you can’t go wrong.


  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 large granny smith apple
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
  • 3  tablespoons of Trader Joes Grape Seed Oil Vegenaise or any kind of mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper


1. Cut the apples, celery and carrots into small matchsticks. Place in bowl.

2. Add sesame seeds.

3. Add mayonnaise or mayonnaise substitute.

4. Add ground black pepper for taste.

5. Mix thoroughly.

Cucumber Taziki

Monday, March 28th, 2011

I love spicy food to an unhealthy limit. I have no problem eating a spicy pepper right out of the jar or creating a salad consisting of onions, oil and salt (don’t knock it till you try it). When I cook, I constantly have to remind myself that I am not cooking only for myself and proportion my seasonings accordingly. My creations come out with unique boldly seasoned flavors that leave my pallet crackling with excitement. Sometimes, my pallet just needs a rest. Sometimes, I yearn for something flavorful yet with a refreshing light air to it, especially in balance of a particularly hot dish. During these times, I always grab the cucumbers and make Taziaki…ASAP.

This Greek dish is traditionally served as a side dish or sauce for souvlaki and gyros. However, I think it can be served as a side dish to just about any meal or even an appetizer with chips or dipping bread.  The combination of cucumbers and yogurt keeps the dish cool and refreshing while the garlic and salt still give a new flavor to the dish.  As an added bonus the ingredients are very common and on hand  so you can make it quickly and easily as your pallet dictates.


  • 2-3 Cucumbers
  • 1/ cup of Yogurt
  • 2-3  garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon Salt


1. Peel the cucumbers.

2. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise.

3. With a spoon, gut out the seeds  and through them out.

4. Shred the remaining cucumbers. Place in large bowl.

5.  Add yogurt to mixture.

6.  Add crushed garlic.

7. Add salt to taste.

Basic Cucumber and Tomato Salad (Салат с огурцами и помидорами)

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Salad is an interesting word (and dish) to me. What’s so interesting about this humble every day dish you ask? Well, the fact that every person in every culture eats salad but refers to an entirely different dish. Sure, some dishes are a little close to others but all an all this dish has more variations than any other dish I know. For instance, in American traditional salad, lettuce places the main role. Whether you fill the dish with cheese and breadcrumbs or tomatoes and eggs, salad always equates to a big green leafy bowl of something or other. On the other hand, European and Russian salad always refer to a mixture based on small cucumber and tomato base. This could be accessorized with feta cheese, olives, or a whole slew of other ingredients. In this variation, I bring to you the original Russian cucumber and tomato salad. This simple, cheap and refreshing recipe is a staple in dinner table and we would not have it any other way.


  • 1 large tomato, diced finely
  • 1 cucumber, diced finely
  • ½ large onion, diced finely
  • 3 scallions diced finely
  • ½ cup of dill, cut finely
  • 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. Dice the onions and tomatoes into fine cubes and place in a large bowl.

2. Peel the cucumbers and cut lengthwise. With a spoon take the seeds out and throw them away. Dice the rest of the cucumber finely and place in the salad.

3. Finely dice the scallions and dill and add them to the salad.

4. Pour in the vinegar and sunflower oil.

5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Mix the salad.

Vegetarian Russian Patties (Котлеты)

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Whenever you go to a restaurant, it is always wise to order dishes that represent that restaurant. Naturally, you would order pizza from an Italian restaurant and Lo Main from a Chinese place. Most restaurant remain cuisine specific, so it’s not that hard to find great selections. My trick is to always find the signature dish of the place. This is the dish that is served most often because it is the hallmark and the very essence of the establishment.  I believe every cook has a signature dish. Maybe it comes from an old family recipe that brings them back home, maybe an inspiration that they took to a whole new level or maybe it was an invention that is so brilliant that it cannot be forgotten. In any case, when you taste this signature dish all you can taste is who the cook stands for both as a person and as a passionate cook.

I don’t believe I have cooked long enough to have a signature dish, but if I had to declare a signature dish for my blog this would be it.  Have you ever over eaten something in your childhood to the point that you swear up and down that you would never consume it in your adult life?  Chances are by the time you reach adulthood, and had a taste of the whole wide world, you find yourself yearning for that home taste of comfort.  Like most typical Russian family, I grew up on Russian chicken patties (Котлеты). This dish is a staple and very essence of Russian everyday cooking. I personally loved the taste but had so much of it, I could not wait to get away from it. I guess that is the same way Ilya felt when he became a vegetarian. A little time later, we miss the taste of childhood. So, I went to work on creating a vegetarian version of the dish and I got to say it’s surprisingly similar and equally delicious. I will admit the original version is a bit puffier and chewier but the taste is still remarkable.  Hence, my vision and my signature dish unveiled:  a delicious vegetarian version of a classical Russian dish.


  • ½ large onion, chopped finely
  • 1 package of vegetarian meet (look it up)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 slices of bread
  • ½ cup of milk or soymilk
  • 1 table spoon of Teriyaki sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper


1. Preheat an oil pan.

2. Rip the bread into pieces. Place in bowl and cover with milk. Set aside to allow the bread to soak up all the milk.

3. Finely dice the onion and place into a large mixing bowl.

4. Open the vegetarian meat and break it up into little pieces into the bowl.

5.  Add the milk and bread mixture, eggs, Teriyaki sauce, minced garlic, salt and pepper.

6. Mix the ingredients with your hands so everything is merged together.

7.  Either using a large spoon or your hand cup out a small portion of the mixture and fry  for about 4 minutes on each side or until they are browned.

Corn, Pea & Cauliflower Fritters

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

As you many of you know, while this blog remains vegetarian, I am not.  My kitchen is strictly vegetarian but my restaurant menu choices are not necessarily so. As my personal beliefs, while I do believe people should eat less meat and I am completely against animal cruelty, I do not have strict ethical code against occasionally eating meat and seafood.  At first I was extremely uncomfortable with this idea.  I had this grave fear that readers would find out my address, bang on the door in 3 am with sharp kitchen knives and aprons with slogans like “Imposter”, “Fraud” and “Wanna-Be”.  Alright, so maybe I am projecting and maybe I got carried away…a bit. But the truth is, as much as I respect my readers, my boyfriend and everyone else’s eating habits, people need to respect mine and I have to come to terms with that.

On the upside, I am happy to be able to bring the omnivores flavors into the herbivorous taste pallet and, conversely break the cruel vegetarian myths to all those carnivores out there. And while we are on the subject, here is today’s myth: all vegetarian food is healthy. While I do wish this was the case, it sadly is not.  While vegetarians attempt to stay food conscious, we cannot help but indulge in the bad food that tastes so unbelievably good.

This little baby proves my case. One day I found myself glued to an videos of Australian chef Anna Gare. I know we have about a million TV chefs in this country but she was so lively and funny. I could not stop watching and drooling over the food.  In one particular episode, Anna made Corn Pea and Cauliflower fritters or basically, deep fried vegetable goodness. Now, normally I would hold back but this time I could not handle it. I couldn’t care how much oil I was using, this stuff was so delicious on so many levels.  So, what’s the moral of the story boys and girls? Vegetarian or not, everyone deserves to be bad sometimes and enjoy the comforts of delicious, not so well for you food. So why not indulge yourself in this little badness of joy.

Fritters frying in my pan. Look at the lovely oil frying. MMMM



  • 1/3 cup Ricotta
  • 2 separated Eggs
  • 1 Pinch of Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted Butter plus butter for frying
  • 2 tablespoons Flour
  • 1 cup of frozen peas and corn
  • 1 cup cauliflower blanched and finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese
  • Butter


  1. Separate the eggs. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until they are at their soft peak. Set aside.
  2. In another large mixing bowl, add the ricotta, egg yolks, sugar, salt & butter. Beat together until the mixture blends together.
  3. Fold in flour to the mixture.
  4. Add the vegetables to the mixture, folding it over carefully.
  5. Add the cheese and mix all together.
  6. Add the beaten egg whites to the mixture and fold over carefully.
  7. Lightly butter non-stick pan, put on med- low heat and fry a few minutes on each side until golden.

Tomato Onion Salad (салат из помидоров)

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Have you ever tasted food that just reminded you of home? Not the home you live in, but the home you grew up in, the home that made you feel happy and comforted, the home that that let you know that everything was going to be alright? Well, this is the recipe that does it for me.  I’ll skip the countless memories of eating this salad with loved ones and head straight to the fact that the most amazing part of this salad is that no matter where you make it, no matter when you make the refreshing taste is always the same. Traditionally made in the summer and served on outside picnics, I may be committing some culinary sin of preparing this salad in the wrong season but when the coldness of winter gets you grasping for warmth, this is my salvation. This is my simple comfort food. This is the food that makes me close my eyes and feel safe at home.


  • 3 Large tomatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • ¾ cups of sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, to taste


1. Wash and slice the tomatoes in bite size pieces.  Place into large mixing bowl.

2.Peel and dice the onions. Place into mixing bowl.

3. Add the sour cream and salt. Mix thoroughly

Vegetarian Jambalaya

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Ever hear a song and you just can’t get it out of your head? You don’t even know why it was that particular song but it is and it just plays over and over in your head until you surrender to it. Well, instead of songs, recipes get stuck in my head, and sometimes it’s just as all consuming. I was prowling the posts the other day and there was a poll on what everyone was cooking. One anonymous writer posted the words “Jambalaya” and the word stuck to me like glue. I literally thought about the dish for day’s afterword. It doesn’t matter if I was at work, driving or sleeping; out of the blue all I could think about was Jambalaya. As much as I would love to entrain my culinary imagination, I was a bit skeptical on making it since traditionally it is prepared for a feast of many hungry guests. And, with my history of making twice the proportions as I am supposed to, I was concerned.

Then came my Housin Gary to save the day, in more ways then one. No, I did not misspell cousin. Gary is not my cousin, he is my HHHHHounsin. You see, we have grown up together, spending every holiday, vacation and landmarks together. I really don’t know what I would do without him or his family in my life. Sadly, as we all get older we all tend to drift apart to follow our own destiny. The funny part about destiny is that it is just as powerful at bring people together as it is pulling people apart. One day I was texting with Gary only to find out that he has started a new position in a company literally a block away from my new apartment. WHAAAAAT!?! We needed to celebrate and Jambalaya seemed like the perfect celebratory feast. Gary came over the next day and I really can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this dinner. I honestly believe there is nothing better than sharing scrumptious food with loved ones, especially those that you haven’t seen in way too long of time.

Source: Inspired by Ranji’s Kitchen


• 1 cup of uncooked Rice

• 1 medium size onion

• 1 green pepper

• 2 cups of kidney beans

• 4 cloves of garlic

• 1 green chili

• 1 1/2 tsp red chili powder

• 2 tsp paprika

• 2 tsp Cajun seasoning

• ½ cup of tomato paste

• 1 tbsp oil

• Salt


1. Cook rice according to box instructions.

2. Dice the onions and green pepper and throw into an oiled and heated pan. Add salt and sauté until the onion turns translucent.

3. Crush the garlic and add to the mixture.

4. Dice the green chilies finely and throw it into the mixture.

5. Drain the beans and add them into the pan. Stir for a few minutes and add the spices of red chili powder, paprika and Cajun seasoning

6. Stir the mixture and add the tomato paste.

7. When everything is cooked through, stir in the rice gently and cook for another 3 minutes.

Fried Potato and Eggs

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Ever since I could remember, I have always known that my mission in life was to help people. As cheesy as that may sound, it was my drive, my motivation and my purpose. I volunteered over 500 hours in high school. In college, I joined the service oriented fraternity Alpha Phi Omega and I worked in the volunteer department. After a few years of exploration, I realized I can help people professionally as a mental health counselor and it has been the most rewarding job I can ever do. Unfortunately, with a full time adult, it is not as easy to find time to volunteer in other agencies. Even so, there are always little ways of giving back and cooking is no exception…

This month, Kellogg’s is hosting a Share Your Breakfast Campaign to raise money for school breakfasts. Did you know that one out of four children in the United States live in homes where food is not always available? Here is how the program works. Go to the site and upload a photo of your current breakfast. If you can’t upload it, describe it in a paragraph. For every photo or description you send, Kellogg’s will donate one breakfast to a child in need. It takes about 30 seconds but it can make a huge impact to a special child.

In honor of my home on the internet, this blog, I am cooking up some Russian potato and eggs. It’s easy to make and will keep you full and happy for a good portion of the day. I actually like to make this during the weekend since it really takes a bit of time to cook the potatoes through (that’s why it is very important to slice the wedges thinly) but you can enjoy this meal any day of the week and it will still taste just as great.

Still Frying Sunny Side Up

Eggs Scrambled.

• 1 Onion
• 2 Potatoes
• 4 Eggs
• Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Slice onions and place in a preheated oiled pan.
2. Peel and slice the potatoes into thin ¼ strips. Add to the frying pan. Cook for about 15-25 minutes until the potato is soft. Gently mix a few times. It is alright if some of the strips break.
3. Add the eggs to the mixture. In a few minutes, mix through. If you prefer sunny side up, leave the eggs as is to cook through.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Barbecue Tofu Pizza

Monday, March 14th, 2011

They say the greatest inventions are always created by accident. Granted, by no means does cooking compare to the invention of electricity, but food has always been a powerful impact on modern culture. For example, according to, “when the Toll House Inn’s Ruth Wakefield ran out of baking chocolate powered one day in 1930, she smashed up a bar of semi-sweet chocolate and added the pieces to her dough.” As cooks, we all come with some personal inventions of our own. While they may not become as wide known as Toll House’s Chocolate chip cookies, each new delicious mistake delights us with a novel recipe. I am proud to admit that Barbecue Tofu Pizza was my culinary mistake that went from bad to oh so amazingly good.

Last week I had a bunch of tofu packages in the fridge and I was really curious about what kind of flavors I could add. I checked out the side door and my eyes fell instantly to the barbecue sauce. How bad could it be? As I sautéed my ingredients together, I quickly remembered a critical rule that I so easily forget: if you put too much in a pan, the tofu does not have time to get crisp. While the flavors were great, I was really craving something on the more chewy side and this was unmistakably not it. Another scroll through my kitchen and I remember my grandmother had donated premade pizza dough that was now hanging for a week out in the creepy corner of the fridge for the past week. Ilya and I hardly eat white bread, so it had not found its calling, until now. I grabbed the sucker out and half an hour later my mistake became a delectable dinner I couldn’t pass down if I tried.

On a side note, if do not like tofu, feel free to substitute with Tempah, mushrooms or cooked chicken breast for you omnivores out there. Either way, I promise you trying this dish won’t be a mistake.

• 1 package of Tofu
• 1 Onion
• 1 Green Pepper
• ½ cup Barbecue Sauce
• 1 cup of Ricotta Cheese
• ½ cup of Cheddar Cheese
• 1 Premade Pizza Crust

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Dice onions and fry in a preheated oiled pan until they are golden brown.
3. Slice the green pepper and add into the frying pan. Cook for 5 min.
4. Chop Tofu in cubes and add to mixture.
5. Add barbecue sauce and seasoning. Fry for another 10 min.
6. Place the pre-made pizza crust on foiled tray.
7. Add ricotta cheese to the pizza evenly.
8. Add the BBQ Tofu mixture onto the pizza.
9. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese on top of the pizza.
10. Bake for 15 min.

Creamy Cauliflower with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

Sometimes a picture is really worth a million words. I am really not trying to brag, ok maybe a little, but there is nothing I can say about this dish that this yummy photo will not tell you. The truth is there really is not much of a story to tell. I love cauliflower because it has a great balance of firm, crunchy texture and soft delicate taste. On the other hand, I really feel like cauliflower is a very blend vegetable both in color and in taste. If there is one thing I hate, its blend food. Yuk. So, I am always looking for unique way to cook this enticing ingredient and alone came this recipe. I tried it that very night and low and behold it was a hit. The creamy sauce was able to bring out the softness of the cauliflower, my favorite characteristic of the vegetable and the dried tomatoes gave a very powerful eye pleasing red color. The balance between the spices were also right on target. The soft taste of the thyme gave the dish a nice comforting feel, while the kick of the red flakes gave an interesting finish that left you wanting more.


• 1 1/2 cups milk or soy milk
• Olive oil
• Red pepper flakes (to taste)
• 1 onion, chopped
• 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
• 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, in strips
• 1 head of cauliflower, sliced into bite-sized pieces
• ¼ cup of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
• 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1. Soak dried tomato in water.
2. Heat oil in a skillet.
3. Chop onions and slice the garlic. Add to skillet. Add red pepper flakes and heat until the onions are soft and translucent.
4. Chop the dried tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until fragrant and softened.
5. Add the cauliflower. Cook without stirring for a couple minutes, and then stir to let it brown on the other side. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until the cauliflower is dark in spots and golden in others.
6. Warm the milk/soymilk in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes.
7. Add the warm milk/soymilk to the mixture.
8. Add salt and cook until the milk/soymilk reduced in half its size and created a creamy sauce in the mixture.