Fall is in the air – and in the Northeast of the USA, where I currently live, that means apples, lots and lots of apples. We are lucky to have a number of fantastic orchards nearby, and we have made it a bit of a family tradition to go apple picking in October. Although this year is like no other given the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have still made it to an orchard. With our masks on, and social distancing we scored a load of great apples that will last us for few weeks.
Apples are great on their own, fresh and crunchy – I slice them into my oatmeal or just munch on them as a quick snack. My kids like apple and peanut butter sandwiches and enjoy rolling apple slices into a bit of cinnamon sugar. Few years ago, after our annual apple picking trip, I made a fantastic batch of spice-infused apple butter – it’s a slow cooker recipe that I can’t recommend enough! In addition to using apples in desserts, they are also a great ingredient in a Thanksgiving stuffing or in this wonderful fall carrot and apple soup.
Apples are also great in a smoothie. Don’t believe me? Try this one!
Apple and Carrot Smoothie
What you’ll need (for one serving):
1 apple, any variety
1 tablespoon peanut butter powder, or other protein powder of your choice (preferably not chocolate as it may overpower the flavors)
1/4 cup oats
2 – 4 dates, pitted (dates add sweetness, so adjust accordingly; if your protein powder is sweetened, you may want to skip dates altogether; if using a tart apple variety you may want to add an extra date or two)
1/3 – 1/2 cup water or plant-based milk (if you prefer ice in your smoothie add couple of ice cubes instead)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
What you’ll do:
Add all the ingredients into a blender. Many blenders recommend you add liquid first than the rest of the ingredients, so that’s what I recommend as well.
Blend until smooth.
Pour into a glass, top with a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg and enjoy!
This is it, I suppose! At this time of social distancing (and, yes, there is a pandemic going on and yes, if you are not social distancing as much as you can and making light of all this you are in self-denial; and yes, if you think that COVID-19 cases will magically disappear by Easter you are in double self-denial) it is time to get creative with things you may have in your pantry and things you may be able to get from your grocery store.
So, for the next few months what you’ll get here are recipes that are super simple, mostly one pot, and include ingredients like rice, beans, potatoes, carrots, corn, onions… We are back to basics here, like this Italian cuisine inspired Rice and Beans I shared last week!
I will also keep thing brief and to the point. More cooking, less talking! So, here we go: this week I am sharing a wonderful dish that is really all about potatoes. All you need is some onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes and coconut milk or cream. And if you don’t have coconut milk on hand, your can use coconut oil, or a bit of butter (vegan, if you are vegan, or any other kind if you are not – I am totally non-judgmental of people and their food choices and I hope all can just enjoy the meal) and some milk or cream (again: which kind is up to you). The main point of adding coconut milk is to create a rich stew that’s smooth, silky and dense – something that will fill you up and provide some good old comfort in a bowl.
What makes this dish pop are spices! In this case we will be using curry powder and garam masala, two spices I recommend having on hand at all times! (I’m fresh out of curry powder, so that may be a spot of bother to be honest). If you don’t have these, you may want to add a bit of cumin powder and a bit of paprika, or just a bit of nutmeg, a hint of cinnamon, or a dash of allspice. Any combination of these may work depending on your individual preferences, so if you are improvising the best advice I can give you is to follow your nose!
Lastly, I recommend using a heavy pot for this. My go-to is a Dutch oven, but any heavy pot will do. Take care, eat well, pamper yourself and stay well!
Curried Potato Stew, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Curried Potato Stew
What you’ll need:
4-5 large potatoes (I prefer Russet, but any more starchy variety will do), washed, peeled and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes
4 large carrots, washed and sliced into carrots rings (if you have a 8+ year old kid who needs something to do during this period of no school they can help chop potatoes and carrots)
1 yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 13.5 – 14 oz (about 400 ml) can coconut milk or cream (alternatively, 1 cup of cream, or 1 cup of milk plus 2 tablespoons of butter will work)
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons garam masala powder
water – enough to deglaze the pan (see step one below) and cover your vegetables (step 3)
optional toppings – freshly chopped cilantro or parsley, freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice (or if lemons or limes are not within an easy reach you may want to add a small amount of clear vinegar (red wine, apple cider, white or rice will all work here, not sure about balsamic), and a drop or two of hot sauce
What you’ll do:
Place your heavy pot over the high heat and add your onions, carrots and garlic to the pot. You may use some oil if you are using, but you don’t really need to. You will be adding lots of fat later (with all that coconut milk/cream or milk/cream/butter alternatives). Stir frequently to prevent veggies from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add some water (in 1/4 cup increments or so) to deglaze the bottom from time to time. Brown the vegetables for about 5 minutes.
Add the potatoes, coconut milk (or alternatives) and spices. Mix well and let cook like this with frequent stirring for 2-3 minutes.
Add enough water to cover the vegetables well, bring to boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and let simmer for 20-30 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked through. The exact time will depend on how finely you’ve chopped your vegetables!
Once the veggies are cooked, use a stick blender to blend approximately half of the pot into a smooth, silky mix (you can also use a blender to do this, or even your potato masher).
Serve hot in a bowl, topped with any, all or none of the topping listed above. Enjoy!
Salads come in many different shapes and forms. Some are light and simple, some are complex and filling. Many don’t even have any greens in them, although most do have vegetables, unless they are a fruit salad. It’s this last requirement for vegetables that makes this next dish technically a salad. Olivier Salad, also known as Russian Salad (Ruska Salata) in the parts of the world I grew up in, is the type of a salad you get to enjoy when you don’t have much access to fresh vegetables but have plenty of frozen, pickled or frozen vegetables on hand. And plenty of potatoes, of course.
Growing up, we used to make large bowls of this salad for every special occasion, and serve it as an appetizer. The traditional recipe uses boiled potatoes, carrots, and peas, as well as boiled ham and even eggs, and pickles – all finely diced and mixed with mayo and a bit of mustard. Serve this concoction with fresh bread, and you don’t need much more!
I’ve spruced up this recipe into an amazing vegan feast below by omitting the ham and eggs and using vegan mayo. My secret ingredients? Toasted sesame seeds and fresh dill!
I served this new take on the old favorite at a party recently and people of Russian, Brazilian and US origin all went crazy for it. I suppose deep down we all find messy flavors of mushy vegetables smeared in mayonnaise with hints of pickle juice comforting and lovable!
I hope you give it a try. Looking for one last insider tip? Try it with some corn bread – you will go bananas, I guarantee it!!!
Vegan Olivier “Russian” Salad with Toasted Sesame Seeds
What you’ll need:
2 15 oz (425g) cans peas and diced carrots (or 1 15 oz (425g) can each of sweet peas and diced carrots); you can also boil your own 1 1/2 cup finely diced carrots and the same amount of peas
3 14 oz (400g) cans whole white potatoes, or peel and boil two large potatoes until done
6-8 large kosher dill pickles (not sweet pickles – those will not work here!)
1 cup mayo (vegan)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 cup toasted sesame seeds (toasted in a toaster oven or on the stove top – if using a stove top method please watch out and use a lid as seeds will start to “jump” out of the pan as they get heated
1 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
What you’ll do:
Chop all the vegetables that need chopping (carrots, potatoes and pickles) finely. Place in a large mixing bowl, add mayo, mustard, toasted sesame seeds, and chopped dill. Mix together until combined and leave in the fridge for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
Serve with crackers, bread, corn bread or enjoy as is!
Few Sundays ago, I shared with you my impressions of a new cookbook on the vegan block – “Modern Raw: Healthy Raw Vegan Meals for a Balanced Life” by Rachel Carr. I’ve been wanting to cut down on cooking for some time, and especially during the summer, so this cookbook came to me in just the right moment. You can read more about my views and check out a recipe kindly provided by the publisher here.
Needless to say, inspired by the raw vegan strategy Rachel outlined, I jumped at the opportunity to start making my own raw experiments. I started with a breakfast item, and a pasta recipe, mostly because many people trying to follow plant-based eating find breakfast to be the most challenging meal, and because I couldn’t imagine that you can have pasta without cooking!
The muffins below are great – sweet without any added sugar, and ready without baking. If you told me that this is possible, I would have rejected your suggestion. Now, of course, I know better, and these muffins – although not having a texture of any muffin you ever tried before – are packed with good-for-you energy and will carry you through your morning.
They are made of carrots, apples, raisins and rolled oats – four ingredients only! And need a bit of help from cinnamon and nutmeg! You need a food processor to make them, since there’s lot of grating and I don’t recommend you undertake this process by hand. And there is also a bit of waiting for these muffins to firm up and come together, so it’s best to make them an evening ahead and them enjoy them for breakfast the next day!
Raw Energy Oatmeal Raisin Muffins, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Raw Energy Oatmeal Raisin Muffins
What you’ll need:
2 apples, cored (Granny Smith, MacIntosh, Pink Lady work best)
3 extra-large carrots, peeled
1 cup raisins
2 cups rolled oats, divided
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
12 walnut halves, optional
What you’ll do:
Using a fine shredding attachment on your food processor or hand-held grater, grate the apples and carrots. Transfer them into a large mixing bowl.
Change the food processor’s attachment to S-blade, then combine 1 cup of rolled oats and raisins. Pulse until finely ground.
Combine with the grated carrots and apples, add the rest of the ingredients (all except walnut halves), and mix well using your hands to help the juices release and combine. Don’t worry if the mix feels wet – oats will absorb some of the excess moisture later. Depending on the exact variety of apples you use, you may end up with a bit too wet of a dough. In that case add 1/4 – 1/2 cup more oats.
Line the muffin pan with the same baking liners you would use for your muffins or cupcakes. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the mix into each muffin holder. Pack in the dough by pressing with your fingers. Top each muffin with a walnut half, or top with rolled oats, or couple of raisin. You can also skip the topping or mix-and-match.
Leave the muffins in the fridge for couple of hours to form up. Before serving take them out and let them come to room temperature – this will take 15 minutes or so. The muffins should slide out of the wrappers with easy and hold well together. If they don’t, you may want to add a bit more ground rolled oats into your dough next time. However, if they do, you will have a delicious, no-bake muffin on your hands – a great way to start your day. Enjoy!
Vegan, fully plant-based meatballs are one of the easiest thing in the world to make. I like putting meat-free “meatballs” together because they are fun – fun always comes first of course – and they are versatile, you can stick them into a sandwich, over pasta, serve with mashed potatoes, with rice and beans, and the list goes on and on…
Plus: unlike dealing with meat, especially poultry, all the ingredients in these meatballs are safe to eat as is, which means that even young kids can get involved and roll some meatballs. I told you – these can be fun for everyone!
What makes these meatballs Asian is the combination of scallions (green onions), Sriracha (hot red chili sauce), fresh ginger, panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), and peanut butter that get mixed with chopped, not ground, soya chunks. The idea is to retain some of the soya chunks structure rather than grind them to the consistency of ground beef. Think chicken salad, rather than taco meat.
To complete the meal you will need to do some spiralizing, which is one of my favorite things to do with zucchini, summer squash, and even potatoes. Here, I combined carrots and zucchini which gives the salad a nice contrast of crunch versus softness, plus a colorful appearance. The spiralized vegetables are mixed with some slivered almonds, lime juice and zest, and tossed to combine. Top them with a meatball or three, and you got yourself a dinner!
Asian Meatballs with Spiralized Zucchini and Carrot Salad
What you’ll need:
FOR THE SALAD
3 zucchinis, spiralized
3 fat carrots, spiralized
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 lime, juice and zest
FOR THE MEATBALLS
200 g soya chunks
1 1/2 cup panko, Japanese breadcrumbs, regular or gluten-free
3 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
1 tablespoon peanut butter, natural and unsalted
3 tablespoons soy sauce, reduced sodium
1/2 teaspoon hot chili sauce (sriracha)
What you’ll do:
Prepare soya chunks according to the instructions on the box. They usually need about 3-5 minutes in a pot of boiling water.
Drain and rinse your soya chunks under some cold water, then chop or grind them into small chunks, similar to chicken chunks commonly used in Asian Dumplings recipes. Place them in a large bowl, and add all the rest of the ingredients. Mix everything well and let stand for 5-10 minutes before making the meatballs.
Heat a large skillet or a cast iron pan over the medium high heat. Spray with some cooking spray and brown the meatballs on all sides until golden brown. Brown the meatballs in batches and make sure you don’t overcrowd the pan.
While the meatballs are browning, prepare the salad. You can either buy a box of spiralized carrots and spiralized zucchini and toss them with some lime juice, lime zest, and toasted slivered almonds, or you can spiralize your own if you have the spiralizer. Let the salad rest while the meatballs finish browning.
To plate, place a good amount of salad in the middle of the plate, and top with 2-3 meatballs. Enjoy!
Meatloaf – that one dish that is universally despised yet it persists against all odds. During my meat eating days, I may have made meatloaf once or twice and it did not make a great impression. This Lentil-loaf is different. It’s full of flavor and lightness, while at the same time a little goes a long way.
The key ingredient are the lentils. They are one of those ingredients that can replace minced or ground meat in almost anything. I used them in Shepherd’s Pie, and in Lasagna, as well burgers, meatballs and in that staple of vegan cooking, Lentil Soup. Lentils are cheap, available, nutritious, and lend themselves to many spice and flavor combinations.
In this meatloaf, lentils are the meat, but meat is not all it takes to make a loaf. So, to bind everything together I use a can of pumpkin. The pumpkin holds things together almost as good as an egg would. If your loaf turns out a bit softer than you like, add some oats or some bread crumbs to it. I also recommend letting the loaf sit for 15 minutes or so after coming out of the oven to firm up before serving.
Finally, what really makes a huge difference is what you do to onions and celery before you mix them all into a loaf. I recommend that you place the diced onions and celery, with a dash of cooking spray or oil, into a microwave for five minutes or so. You want the aromatics to soften and brown as they will not have a real chance to do so while the loaf is baking. This will add a nice sweet and savory tone to the loaf and help lentils and the pumpkin, as neither one has a strong flavor. To help them out even further, you will need to add some more umami-type of components, like the Worcestershire and the tamari sauce.
You can serve this meatloaf with any sides you like. Here, I paired it with mashed carrots and potatoes. Adding some carrots to the plain, white potato mash makes it more colorful, playful and in some ways healthier. Plus, it offers a break from the routine! You can make the mash withou adding any salt or butter (oil), it would taste just fine, especially when served with this lentil and pumpkin loaf which has plenty of flavor itself.
Lentil and Pumpkin Meatloaf with Carrot-Potato Mash
What you’ll need:
For the Meatloaf:
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 stalks celery, diced
16 oz (454 g) brown lentils, cooked
1 15 oz (425g) can pumpkin
1/3 cup tamarind sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, vegan
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup ketchup
For Carrot-Potato Mash:
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 potatoes, white, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon butter, vegan
1/4 teaspoon salt
What you’ll do:
Bring 4 cups of water to boil and add the lentils that have been washed and sorted. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until lentils are fully cooked. Drain the excess liquid and transfer the lentils into a large mixing bowl. Let them cool while you assemble the other ingredients.
Peel, wash and chop the carrots and potatoes into smallish cubes of about similar size. Place in a large pot or a pressure cooker, cover with water, bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes if using a conventional method or 10 minutes in the pressure cooker. Drain from excess liquid, add the salt and butter and mash it with the potato masher. Place into a serving dish and cover with foil to keep warm until the meatloaf is ready. If you like you can even place the mashed carrots and potatoes into an oven safe dish and let the top get crunchy.
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
While lentils are cooling and carrots and potatoes boiling, dice onions and celery. Place into a microwave safe bowl, spray with cooking spray or with 1/4 teaspoon oil and microwave on high for 5-6 minutes, until soften and slightly browned. Add to the lentils when ready.
Add the rest of the meatloaf ingredients (except ketchup), and using a stick blender form a well blended mixture. You can also use a food processor. In both cases, do leave some lentils whole to add to the texture of the final meatloaf.
Line a large baking sheet, or a loaf pan if you prefer your meatloaf more loaf-y, with a foil, spray with come cooking spray to prevent loaf from sticking, form the loaf with your hands if you are using the baking sheet, and place into the oven (if you are using regular size loaf pans you will have enough of a mixture for two loafs).
Bake for 20 minutes, take the meatloaf out and spread the ketchup across the surface, and bake for another 10 minutes. Take the loaf out and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Serve the meatloaf with the mashed vegetables and enjoy!
Who said salads have to be green? Or soaked in heavy dressing? Salads come in many different shapes and forms, and this is my contribution to the pantheons of salads – a mix of sliced radishes, shredded carrots and apples, toasted walnuts and freshly squeezed lemon juice. I used lemon zest and some cracked black pepper for garnish, and that’s that. With a little help from a food processor with couple of different blades everything came together in less than ten minutes!
There isn’t much more to this Salad story. Perhaps a slice of hearty bread, some of the lovely Baked Sunflower Seed Cheese, and you’re done. This salad is so fragrant, full of colors, different shapes and textures with a nice crunch that it is absolutely fit for any winter holiday table. Enjoy!!!
Radish Salad with Apples, Carrots and Toasted Walnuts
What you’ll need (for 2-4 servings)
1 bunch red radishes (7-8 large ones), washed
1 Granny Smith or another tart apple, washed
4 carrots, washed and peeled
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 lemon, juice and zest
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper (or to taste)
What you’ll do:
Wash the radishes and slice them into thin discs. You can do this by hand by I recommend using a food processor if it has a slicing blade. My food processor has an adjustable slicing blade and I dialed the thickness way down.
Without taking the sliced radishes out, replace the slicing blade with the fine grating blade and grate the carrots.
Using a coarser grating blade, grate the apple. Transfer everything into a large mixing bowl.
Add the juice of one lemon, lemon zest, cracked black pepper, and toasted walnuts and toss to combine.
Serve immediately with a slice of hearty bread, and a side of cheese as a light lunch, a salad course, or as a part of a more elaborate appetizer spread.
Today is a double whammy of a day. It’s the National Oatmeal Cookie Day and at the same time the National Raisin Day. So I just had to join in the celebrations by putting those two together into these lovely, healthy and chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies that use couple of very simple ingredients and take no time to make.
I decided to start with some naturally sweet ingredients in order to completely omit using added sugar. So I went for a combination of carrots and raisins, both with an amazing amount of sweetness that baking brings out to an amazing extent.
For my oatmeal, I decided to toast some of it to add extra dimensions of nuttiness to the flavor of these cookies without the need to use any nuts. Additional trick I used is to grind most of the oats which made it easy to skip using flour. Still, I did add a bit of corn starch to help the cookies along, and “flax egg” to bind everything together.
Of course, you can’t have a good batch of moist cookies without adding a bit of fat and in this case I decide to use solids out of the can of coconut cream. I used all the liquid and couple of tablespoons of solids for my Bread Fruit Curry, so I had some solids leftover. You can also use coconut oil in this application as well. The oil does not need to be fully melted but it does need to be softened so that can mix well with the rest of the ingredients.
So without any further ado I give to you on this special day gluten-free and dairy-free, no sugar added Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
What you’ll need (for 24, 2 in (5 cm) diameter cookies):
3 large carrots
1 cup raisins
2 cups oatmeal
1/4 cup flax meal
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
What you’ll do:
Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
Place raisins into a large cup and cover with hot water. Let them soak for 30 minutes.
Add flax meal to a large cup and mix well with 3/4 cups of hot water. Let stand for 15-30 minutes.
Toast 1/2 cup of oat meal in a toaster oven until they begin to slightly brown and start smelling lovely and deliciously toasty, which should take about 2-3 minutes. Keep an eye on the toaster oven though as the oats will burn quickly. You can toast the oatmeal on the stove top, using a frying pan. I recommend dry toasting them, although you can use a drop of oil or cooking spray to help the toasting along.
Add the toasted oats to a food processor and grind to a fine meal. Pour the toasted oatmeal into a large mixing bowl.
Add another 1 cup of oatmeal to the food processor and grind as finely as the previous batch. Combine with the ground toasted oatmeal.
Add reminder of the oatmeal (1/2 cup) into the mixing bowl without grinding for added texture.
Grind carrots finely using the food processor and add to the oatmeal mix.
Drain the raisins well and add to the oatmeal and carrots.
Add “flax egg” and mix well. The mixture should be moist but not runny.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. If your coconut oil needs a but of melting, put it in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds. Keep an eye on it because you don’t want it to be completely melted, just soft enough to be able to mix well.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spoon out the cookies with a tablespoon. This should yield 24 cookies, 12 per baking sheet. Use your fingers to shape the cookies into nice, flat rounds or any shape you like. Their final thickness is about 1/2 in (1 cm) and they will not spread or rise much so make sure that you do actually flat them out before baking.
Bake for 16 to 18 minutes. The cookies will be soft to touch but will firm up a bit as they cool.
You can frost them with simple sugar frosting if you like, but I did want to keep this recipe “added sugar” free and they are delicious as is. Enjoy!!!