I cook better than I write

Monday, December 01, 2008

PassiFlora magazine

Introducing PassiFlora - an online magazine dedicated to eco-friendly living, vegetarian and vegan food, as well as green arts and crafts. PassiFlora is envisioned as a magazine created for you and by you. If you are interested in submitting material for the next issue (coming out in the beggining of February) please email passifloramag (at) gmail (dot) com We are very excited to hear from you!

And here is one of the recipes featured in the first issue:

Creamy winter soup.

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut in big cubes
3 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
6-8 cup of vegetable broth
1 can of white beans, rinsed
4 tablespoon minced fresh dill, divided. More for serving
½ teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
½ cup vegan cheese (optional) could be substituted with soy milk and 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast.
2 tablespoon simulated bacon bits (optional) for serving

soup pot

  • In a big soup pot heat oil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add onions, and caramelize until rich copper-brown, mixing to avoid burning.
  • Add celery and parsnips and sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add potatoes and 6 cups of broth; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer with a lid on for 10 minutes. Add beans and 2 tablespoons of dill and simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  • Add the remaining dill and puree soup in batches in the blender or food processor. The secret to this soup is to blend it thoroughly into smooth creamy mix.
  • Transfer the soup back to the pot, add liquid smoke, and mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust for seasoning and add more broth if desired. Reheat the soup, mix in grated cheese before turning of the heat.
  • Serve decorated with dill springs and sprinkle with simulated bacon bits.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I have been fascinated by the idea of a cold soup for a while, however every time the mercury rises I loose my appetite completely and a mare thought of a soup (cold or hot for that matter) makes me ..... let just say not very happy.

Yesterday was not too hot and after overeating during my trip to Toronto I decided to cook something fast, simple, and light. I browsed several recipe sites to get an idea of what I can put in my gazpacho. I have to admit that I have never had gazpacho before. Probably there are rules and regulations on what you can put and what you can not but I just went with my appetite and taste to make this:


6 medium-size tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
2 small cucumbers (they are sold here as Lebanese). If you don't have small cucumbers use the regular ones
2 garlic cloves
2 purple shallots (I know those are rare to find. Do not hesitate to use either purple onion (1/2 or even 1/4 should be enough) or regular shallots)
1 tsp of ground cumin
1 ripe avocado
3 cups of vegetable juice (I used V8)
1 tsp sherry vinegar (you can use lemon juice instead or even white balsamic vinegar)
5-7 springs of cilantro
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper

Peel tomatoes. To do so, make an x-shaped cut on the bottom of each tomato. Put them in a sauce-pan and cover with boiling hot water. Wait for 2-3 minutes. You will notice that the skin next to the cut is peeling off and all you have to do is remove tomatoes (careful not to burn yourself) and peel off the rest of the skin.

Coarsely chop the pepper, cucumbers, onions, and garlic. Combine them with tomatoes in a big soup pot.
Using hand-held blender, blend vegetables until smooth. You can also use a regular blender for this purpose.
Add cumin, vinegar, sugar, cilantro, and avocado. Blend until smooth.
Add V8. I would recommend adding it slowly and mixing throughout to give the soup required consistency. Also try the soup to adjust for seasoning.

Feel free to experiment with different herbs and spices. You might want to check out this website for some unsual Gazpachos, such as Oriental or White Gazpachos.

P.S. The picture of purple shallots comes from the Muffintop blog

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I had an article published by me, but it is the first time someone writes an article about me.

Check out The West Island Chronicle. The article is called: "Have a very vegan day" and is part of the food column by Elyse Amend. Once I'll get rich and famous I would hire Elyse to do all the writing and editing for my blog. I can also show her some other vegan recipes.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Vegan or not

Did you ever come across the ingredient only to pause and think whether it was vegan or not? Doubt no more, here is a website with the list of all possible additives:

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Soup and Salads

Monday was my sister’s belated birthday celebration. I guess, “celebration” is too big of a word for a family gathering of 3 over some soup, salad, and cake, but it felt like a celebration to me, partially because I finally cooked. I did not cook anything for last 2 months. I am not sure why that was happening – my appetite was absent (blame the heat) and those rare moments when I would be hungry I would crave unhealthy junk food.

But Monday was different: Monday I went to the grocery store, picked up a lot of veggies, brought 4 huge grocery bags full of goodies home, and started chopping.

My sister wanted something light and cool for the hot summer evening. After checking out my extensive recipe collection I decided to make salads and soup (my dad loves soup and even if he would not like the Asian flavor of edamame salad he would definitely enjoy my green pea soup).

First on the list was a tried and true veganized recipe of a “Greek Dinner Salad” (do not confuse with The Greek Salad, they are completely different). The recipe comes from a 2005 issue of Eating Well magazine.

Greek Dinner Salad

3 tbsp soy yogurt
3 tbsp vegan mayonnaise
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint

1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp agave nectar
½ tsp salt

1 medium zucchini, finely diced (2 cups)
1 large bell pepper, finely diced (1 ½ cups)
1 bunch radishes, finely diced (1/2 cup)

1 15-oz can of chickpeas, drained
Boston lettuce leaves for serving

  1. To make the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients until creamy
  2. Toss all the ingredients (apart from lettuce leaves) in a large bowl. Pour over the vegetables, toss gently. Spoon into lettuce leaves for cups and serve.

To counterbalance the sweetness of the Greek dinner salad I prepared the Edamame salad with sesame dressing. This is a slightly modified version of this salad from the Vegetarian Times magazine.

Edamame and Greens with Sesame Dressing

3 tbsp roasted sesame oil
2 tbsp tahini

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce

1 ½ cups edamame

4 cups salad spring mix
1 cucumber, sliced
8-oz baked teriyaki tofu, cubed
1 green onion sliced
toasted sesame seeds

1. To make the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients until creamy.

2. To make salad: cook edamame according to the package instructions (boil for 2-4 minutes). Rinse under cold water to cool. Drain well.

3. Divide spring mix among 4 plates.

4. In a medium bowl combine edamame, greens, cucumber, tofu, and green onions. Pour over 1/4 of the Sesame Dressing and mix well. Scoop the salad on top of the greens and drizzle with the reamaning dressing. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

I could not find any baked seasoned tofu (usually I get Asian flavored one) so I decided to try the mock chicken breasts (I don’t remember the name of the company that makes them – I’ll update this post from home with the brand name andmaybe even a picture). I pan-fried them for couple of minutes, cut it in cubes and added to the salad. All in all the chicken breasts were very good. I would definitely use them again in salads or sandwiches. I also think they would be delicious under gravy or sauces with a side dish of rice/mashed potatoes.

If you are not sure where to find edamame, try any Asian stores. They usually have them in frozen section and they come shelled or not.

This is how both of the salad looked:

Pea and spinach soup with coconut milk was a big hit. My dad enjoyed it so much that he asked me to prepare it again. The original recipe, which comes from one
of the special issues of “Fine Cooking” 2006 calls for fresh peas, I didn’t have any fresh ones so I used frozen but the result was great. One great thing about crème soups is that you don’t have to care about sizes of cut vegetables.

Pea and Spinach Soup with Coconut Milk

2 large leeks, white parts and pale green, quartered and sliced (try using spring onions if you don't have leeks)
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp basmati rice (use quick cooking rice if you want to speed up the cooking process)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp curry powder

2 tbsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups of peas
4 cups coarsely chopped spinach, any thick stems removed
1 cup coconut milk

1. In a soup pot, heat up oil and stir in rice. Add leeks, salt, curry powder, cilantro, and 1 cup of the stock

2. Cook over medium-low heat at a vigorous simmer for about 12 minutes (if you are suing quick-cooking rice, cook for 3-4 minutes).

3. Add the remaining 3 cups of broth, the peas, and the spinach and bring to boil.

4. Boil for about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir I coconut milk.

5. In a blender or food processor, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Taste for salt, season with pepper and garnish with cilantro leaves.

If you prefer a soup with more texture, puree 1 cup and return it to the pot, season, garnish, and serve.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Oprah + Vegan

I was going through some of the Vegan blogs and found this in Megan the Vegan blog.

Apparently Oprah is trying the 21-day vegan cleansing. She even has a blog about it with some recipes. Let see what it will lead to!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Iced Tea

Inspired by this Martha Stewart recipe I decided to make my own iced tea couple of weeks ago. I wanted it to be refreshing, not too sweet, and unusual. I remembered drinking "Rose petal" white tea at my friend's house. The drink had a slight rose flavor and a rather interesting aftertaste of ... dried coriander. I would not lie, the first sip was rather peculiar but after a while the herby taste grew on me.
Armed with this idea I got my white tea bags ready (you can use loose leave tea - I was just very lazy that day).

Refreshing Iced T

the recipe is good for approximately a liter of tea. Feel free to adjust the amount of sugar and lemon according to your taste

2 white tea bags
1/2 of the lemon, thinly sliced
~4 tbsp of brown sugar
2 springs of basil, leaves removed
3 springs of cilantro (for those of you who can't stand cilantro, substitute it with fresh mint)
1 litre of water

Boil water.
Thinly cut half of the amount of basil and cilantro.
Put all the ingredients, apart from sugar and water, in a tea infuser (if your teapot does not have one you can simply put the ingredients in your tea pot. Do not forget to pour your tea into a different pot once it's ready).
Pour hot water and add sugar. Mix everything well and let steep for 15-20 minutes.
If you don't like your tea too strong you can remove the tea bags but keep the herbal mix for longer.
Remove the infuser and refrigerate the tea until cold.


I've realized that most of the people visit this blog for recipes, rather then my rambling about knitting and crocheting, so here is my new baby: Crazy Crocheter
I've already transferred my 2 posts there and added some more information. Stay tuned for the new recipes AND knitting/crocheting patterns.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What NOT to crochet

I just had to share this link with you:


Camping food

Last weekend was an official opening of the camping season. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to participate in yearly Grand Rassemblement de Kayakiste and I don't have any photos or recipes to share with you. But I still want to make a post about camping food (vegan, vegetarian, or not). From past years of camping with people and from hearing their stories I realised that food, or should I say it's weight, is one of the biggest problems among campers, and more specifically hikers. If you usually camp by car, canoe, or even kayak you can pretty much take whatever you want with you: even if the space is somewhat limited - you do not have to worry about the weight of your breakfasts and suppers. This changes once you realise that you have to carry all your food on your shoulders for next three ..... five ... or even ten days. Once you pack all your food try comparing its' weight to the weight of the rest of your equipment and you would start wondering if you really need/want eat that much! But good nutrition is important, especially when you spend 24 hours outdoors, hiking up and down the hills. Here I tried to put some advice about

MINIMIZING food weight.

I am sure that the list is not complete and I would LOVE to hear more ideas.

1. Cut down on fresh produce.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, bread and cheese, snacks and drinks, are the most heavy food items. Try to avoid bringing them with you, especially if you know that you are camping for several days. Even though it is amazing to bite into fresh apple, while sitting next to the lake you might want to bring dehydrated/dried fruits to snack on instead.
If you can't eliminate fresh produce from your diet, take those items that are less heavy and do not forget to ration them (see #2).

What about all those tofu-based "meats"? I doubt I can find a dehydrated version of my ground round.
I firmly believe that Textured Vegetable and Soy Protein (TVP and TSP) were invented by hikers. What could be better then these lights "biscuits" that turn into yummy chewy meaty chunks in your soups and stews? You can ground them to add in your pasta sauce or chili. They are truly versatile and weight NOTHING!

If TVP is not readily available you could always bring some tofu. I like my scrambled tofu made from silken "Mori-Nu" tofu which comes in tetra pack package and does not need to be refrigerated.

Finally if you can't imagine your weekend without fresh fruits and vegetables, or if you do not mind carrying a little bit extra weight, make sure to limit the amount of fresh produce you will be bringing. One of the ways of doing it is using an insulated lunch box with an ice pack in it as a "measure". Fill it up with perishable goods, strap it on your pack or put it inside. Anything that did not fit would have to stay home! If you find lunch box too big, try one of the insulated plastic bags with an ice pack in it.

2 Make a menu.
Camping supper is far from an experience you have in a fancy restaurant but you still need the menu. I believe that any camping food preparation should start with creating a menu. All you need is a piece of paper and some ideas about the food you want to have while camping. The menu serves several purposes:
First of all, it will help you to make your grocery list.
Secondly, menu will help you calculate how much of each item you would need. It would also make it easier for you to mix and match your ingredients: if you are taking a zucchini for your scrambled tofu you might want to serve pasta in the evening - to use the leftovers of zucchini. Bringing "multifunctional" food helps reduce the overall weight of your food bag.
Finally, with the menu you will know for sure how much and what you would be eating, it will help you to calculate the number of breakfasts, snacks, and suppers you'll be having. Bringing one extra meal is always good, but you don't want end up with too little snacks or too many breakfasts. Bringing too much extra food is the most common problem among novice hikers.
And yeah, menu would help you to have varied food throughout your camping - this is specially important for longer hikes, when you end up making same dishes over and over again.

3 Ration.
The idea behind rationing is similar to the one behind menu - calculating how much food you bring and avoiding bringing too much. I am not big fan of food rationing in real life, however when camping any extra piece of food translates directly into weight.

4 Packaging
Not a lot of campers think about packaging of the goods that they are bringing. Compare the weight of a can of vegetables (+ the can opener) to the same amount of fresh vegetables. If you are not using the tin for anything - why bother bringing it with you? I know that some products are available only in cans and there is no way around it, but you could still minimize the weight by taking the smallest cans available.
With the meals in boxes, try to leave as much packaging at home as possible. Write down the cooking instructions on the plastic bag and leave the heavy cardboard at home.
Finally, if the amount of packed good is too big, do not hesitate to re-pack it in smaller Ziploc bags. You do not need 3 servings of vegetable couscous if you are leaving for one-night trip.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Crazy Cooking Crocheter???

Here is a little update for those of you who’ve been wondering what the crazy camping chick is up to. This winter I did some snowshoeing with my friends – lots and lots of fun. But since the winter was looooong and I could not snowshoe every day I picked up a new hobby: knitting and crocheting! I am so excited about it, and even though it has nothing to do with cooking or camping I thought of sharing some of my creations with you.

It all started after I heard the news that my very good friend (best childhood friend) in Tashkent gave birth to a baby girl. I decided that I have to send a little something for her, preferable hand-made. So I got some yarn and some hooks, and since I've been practicing crocheting for a little bit over a week, I started the baby carpet in extremely psychedelic color scheme (to tell you the truth, colors look rather tame on this photo):

After finishing the carpet, I wanted to continue crocheting, but make something smaller this time. I also wanted it to be useful and simple enough that if I would not get the design correctly I would still be able to use it. So the big winter sweater was out of the question, and I decided to crochet a dish cloth:
It was a fun and easy project and I decided to continue.
Next was this bright yellow purse that I now use to carry my current projects around:

After the blanket it was the biggest project so far. I really like the texture of the finished material and will probably use this stitch for something else in near future.

Finally, this morning I finished my hook case. I got 7 hooks as a Christmas gift and so far they've been stored in the empty chocolate box. Now they have a cozy home. This is how it looks from outside:

And inside it has room for 9 hooks:

The original case had buttons and would roll to "close". I am contemplating the idea of attaching some ribbons to mine, meanwhile I can just fol it in half to close and it actually stays closed!

I really hope that I would be able to find enough time to camp, cook, and crochet/knit. For now, while it is cold and rainy in Montreal, I'll keep knitting and crocheting!

P.S. The colors on the pictures are not as good as they are in real life. I definitely should start taking pictures during the day - daylight makes everything so much prettier!
P.P.S. I will post links and references to places where I got my patterns from very soon.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Coffee cake

I've decided to start baking so that I can be a real babushka (for th ose who do not speak Russian - use your imagination). Since my Xmas cookies were such a big success (couple of years ago) and because Canadian winter is long and cold and the smell of baking goods make my place a bit cozy, and finally since I am having hard time coming up with ideas for breakfast food I decided to make a coffee cake!

This way I get a warm house filled with nice smell and I can always have a slice of it with my morning coffee. The result was a modified version of this blueberry-lemon coffee cake from Cooking Light magazine. I've veganized it and also used raspberries instead of blueberries (I can't stand cooked blueberries) :(
It turned out yummy and I'll definitely do more experiments with coffee cakes!

Raspberry-Lemon Coffee Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tspn baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup almond paste (if you can' find the paste you can use finely grounded almonds mixed with a bit of marzipan. Do not substitute for marzipan only!!!)
2 tbls chilled vegan butter, cut into small pieces (I used coconut oil)
substitute for 1 large egg
1 tbls lemon juice
3/4 cup soy milk
1 1/2 cups raspberries
2 tsps grated lemon rind
Cooking spray

1/4 cup sugar
3 tbls sliced almonds, chopped
1 1/2 tbls olive or canola oil
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Place 1/2 cup sugar, almond paste, and 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add egg replacement and lemon juice, beating well. Add flour mixture and soy milk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in raspberries and rind. Spoon batter into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray.

To prepare topping, combine 1/4 cup sugar and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, tossing with a fork until moist. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

12 servings.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Easy Soup

Here is a soup recipe that my friend found in one of her cookbooks. It's very easy to make and full of flavour. Feel free to modify and adapt it to your taste:

Cilantro-Chickpeas Soup

The original recipe:
4-5 garlic clove, minced
1 big bunch of parsley, chopped
1 can of chickpeas
~5 cups of vegetable stock.
1-2 tsp of olive oil
Lemon juice to taste

In a big sauce pan heat oil.
Add garlic and parsley and sauté for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
Add chickpeas and sauté for another 2 minutes.
Add broth, bring to boil, simmer for 4-5 minutes.
Serve hot and add some lemon juice to the plate.

I also made it with 2 small potatoes (I added them at the same time as chickpeas and simmered soup for a bit longer, until potatoes were cooked) and some frozen corn. Since I love cilantro I tend to use 1/2 bunch of parsley and 1/2 bunch of cilantro (coriander).

4 months later

I can't believe that it has been 4 months since my last update! I am not even sure what to say in my defence. Instead I'll just post a new recipe and will try to update more often ;)

Here it comes:

Wild Mushroom & Potato Strudel

This is the veganized and slightly modified version of the recipe from Wish magazine.

2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, parboiled and cut in 1/4-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil (more for brushing phyllo)
1 cup finely diced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups sliced button mushrooms
3 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 tblsp white wine (you can use vegetable broth instead)
4 tblsp of fresh parsley
1 tblsp of fresh terragon
1 tsp of dried oregano
1 tsp of lemon garlic
3 sheets of phyllo dought

To parboil potatoes, cut them in quarters and boil for 5 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until soft, then add button mushrooms and saute until lightly browned. Add this mixture to the parboiled potatoes.
Heat remaining olive oil in the same saute pan and cook shiitake mushrooms until golden. Add shiitakes to potato mixture. Deglaze saute pan with white wine and add to potato-mushroom mixture. Gently mix in herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Lay one sheet of phyllo on a clean, dry surface and brush with a small amount of oil. Continue layering with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing each side with oil.

Place mushroom mixture over the lower third of the phyllo layers. Roll up the strudel, tucking in the sides to seal-in the mixture, and place on a parchment-lined baking tray. Brush the outside of the strudel with small amount of oil and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Bake strudel for 20 minutes, rotate tray and lower heat to 350 F, and bake for 20 more minutes until golden brown.
Serves 6

You can use different herbs for the recipe. Also I would recommend using 4 or 5 sheets of phyllo.