NYC Veg Food Festival 2016

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This weekend there is a pretty big vegan event happening in town – NYC Veg Food Fest. This was my first time at the festival and I volunteered as a photographer. The amount of people that showed up was very impressive – thousands of curios minds. I was happy to see people supporting the cause – vegans and non-vegans alike. There were so many vendors, and many amazing speakers that were sharing the message about the beauty and benefits of living a vegan lifestyle. It was incredible! There were so many amazing products, from cosmetics and shoes to kombuchas and macaroons. Vegan awareness grows pretty fast in large cities like New York. Our goal is to expand beyond big cities and inspire people around the world! We can unite people through compassion. It may sound Utopian right now but I’m sure soon the time will come when it becomes reality!

At the festival I had a chance to talk to random people and answer some questions about food and vegan lifestyle. It felt so empowering to share my perspective and knowledge!

My lovely Catskill Animal Sanctuary representatives were there, and I was so happy to see them! Guys, if you have not visited this farm animals sanctuary – do it. The weather is finally getting warm and, I promise you, this trip will change your life! With every dollar of a donation or membership we save lives. The rewards are incredible.

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The superstar of medical world that promotes vegan lifestyle – Dr. Michael Greger was there too with a presentation. I absolutely adore his work and his tremendous efforts in educating people about what they eat and how does it affect their bodies. Lifestyle diseases can be reversed with a plant-based diet. I highly recommend to you his new book “How not to die” (here is a link to buy it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/How-Not-Die-Discover-Scientifically). It is a New York Times bestseller, and is ranking #1 seller on Amazon. The knowledge that Dr. Greger shares is priceless. Do yourself a favor and pick the book.

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My absolute favorite local vegan cheese shop Riverdel was at the festival. Their cheeses are beyond delicious. I bought a new truffle flavor, and it is so good!!! Best snack ever!! There was a huge line at their stand.

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Upton Naturals seitan people were there with cooking samples. I love Upton. I think it is the best seitan on the market as of now. The texture is incredible, and the spiced versions are out of this world. My favorite is Chorizo flavor.

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Follow Your Heart is another company I love. I tried their smoked Gouda and Pepper Jack cheeses and they were amazing. Would be great on pizza or tacos. Still have not tried their vegan egg.

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There were many new vendors that I has so much fin discovering. Sweet Maresa’s was one of them. Vegan macaroons?! Yes please!!! There were the sweetest girls at their stand too. The company’s name speaks for itself. 🙂

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Innovative kombucha flavors are so fun to try. There were a few brands at the festival selling this delicious fermented drink. Pilot was one of my favorites with such creative flavors and fun packaging colors. I really like Juniper berry and Turmeric aloe flavors.

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Yeah Dawg rocked this year with a line for these tasty home-made gluten-free, soy-free vegan hot dogs out of the door. Marina Benedetto, the founder, was serving people herself. I had a Viva Dawg and it was fantastic. I especially loved the toppings: coconut “bacon”, chipotle mayo and pickled pineapple. Photo below is of Cali Kush Dawg.

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This shining lady was selling a healing tea – Tea of Life made out of chenopodium ambrosioides, also known as Mexican tea, American wormseed, Jerusalem oak. The taste was interesting and the health benefits are huge. Would definitely give it a try!

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This drink by Sapp was very special. It is birch tree water which is very popular on Russia, and, I believe, all Eastern Europe. Just like we tap maple trees here in United States, birch trees could be tapped too. The water is very rich in minerals and has a lot of health benefits. They had 3 flavors: regular, and two infusions – nettle leaf and rosehip. I highly recommend!

Sapp

For me, the most inspiring thing at the festival was the warm thought of how many people are vegan in New York, and how many are curious about going vegan. People were kind and talkative. People smiled a lot. People were open to learn new things. That it a blessing! And it is all it takes to start a new life.

 

 

Raw coconut mango cheesecake

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Raw desserts are my favorite. There is so much life! I like them light, fruity and pretty. I get so much energy and satisfaction that no cooked dessert can give. This recipe is very simple to prepare. It is gluten free and you can eat it any time of a day, breakfast or late dinner. To make this cheesecake you’d only need a food processor and a pan with a removable bottom. That’s it! No special skills required 🙂 Let’s dive in!

Ingredients for a 7″ cake:

  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut + 2 tbsp for decoration
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 16 dates
  • 1.5 cup raw cashews
  • 5 tbsp raw coconut sugar
  • 1 young coconut
  • 2 tbsp soft raw coconut oil
  • 2 ripe mangoes
  • juice of 1/2 lime

Soak nuts for at least 4 hours in 2 separate bowls. When nuts are soaked we can start preparing the cake.

To make the base we are going blend together (in a food processor) soaked pecans, shredded coconut, oats and dates. Once the mixture comes together spread it on the bottom of a cheesecake pan.

Next step is to make the “cheese”. Rinse your food processor and set aside. First we are going to make coconut milk by blending together coconut water from a fresh coconut with its flesh. Next in the food processor blend together cashews, coconut oil, coconut sugar and freshly made coconut milk. The consistency should be like a thick cream. Process it until cashews become very creamy. Spread the cheese layer on the top of base layer. Put the cake in the freezer for a few minutes.

Last step is to prepare mango layer by simply blending 2 mangoes and lime juice into a puree. Take out the cake from the freezer and spread the last layer on top. Sprinkle the cake with remaining shredded coconut and set in a freezer for about 4-5 hours. Let it sit for 10-15 min out of the freezer before serving. Enjoy!IMG_2881IMG_2882

Egyptian lentil soup (vegan)

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Lentil soup. I love red lentils. I find them particularly tasty. And I adore the vibrant golden color that they have. Lentils came a long way along with humans. The first mentioning of us eating lentils dates back 13,000 – 9,500 years ago. Paleolithic and Mesolithic caves in Greece, then Syria, Palestine, Turkey, and the many other sites in the Middle and Near East. Aristophanes said “You, who dare insult lentil soup, sweetest of delicacies.” (Source: www.cliffordawright.com). Lentils been used to make soups, porridge, breads. It is such a versatile food that is also loaded with protein, fiber and micro nutrients. It tastes even better when heated the next day!

In this recipe I use Egyptian spice called dukkah. It is a mixture of toasted nuts, sesame seeds, herbs and salt. It is also great to just add it to olive oil and dip fresh bread in it. But today we are going to use it to make soup.

Yield: 4- 6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups red lentils (rinsed)
  • 1 medium yellow onion (chopped)
  • 1 large carrot (diced in small cubes)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 cups veggie broth
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • salt & black pepper to taste

Spice:

  • 2 tbsp Dukkah (oven roasted hazelnuts, almonds, coriander, cumin, sesame seeds, salt)

Recipe how to make this aromatic spice could be found here.

Heat up olive oil in a large pot. Saute onions until golden and soft. Add garlic, carrots and all the spices. Cook for 5 minutes. Now add tomato sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add broth, water and lentils. Bring to boil. Reduce the heat let let simmer for about 25-30 minutes. While cooking you may need to add more water to reach the desired consistency. Add lemon juice at the very end. That’s pretty much it. Garnish with micro greens, cilantro and sesame seeds. Enjoy!

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Vegan spinach and zucchini lasagna

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I am so excited to share this recipe with you!! When I was creating it I deeply felt a sense of being an artist (I do work in many different mediums). This time lasagna noodles were my canvas. A truly magical experience!

I love lasagna. It is one of my favorite dishes in Italian cuisine. It is so flavorful, juicy in the middle, and crunchy on the top. My recipe is very light, yet it has all those qualities that we like in lasagna. The noodles are soft, the sauce is flavorful, and zucchini and spinach create this wonderful play of textures. This is where we get to put to use the amazing Vegan bechamel sauce that I’ve shared with you in the previous post. This recipe also uses freshly made cashew cheese. It does take time and a little extra effort. Trust me, it will be worth it!

Here is how to make this delicious lasagna.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium zucchinis
  • 2 lbs spinach
  • 1 sweet Italian onion
  • 1 package no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt to taste

Cheese:

  • 1 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight or at least for 6 hours)
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup filtered water

Bechamel sauce recipe could be found here.

1.In a large pot on a medium heat saute chopped onion with olive oil for about 2 minutes. Add washed spinach, salt and then cover the pot with a lid. Spinach will start wilting, mix it up, saute for another minute or 2 then turn the heat off. Set cooked spinach in a colander to get rid of excess liquid.

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Fresh spinach from farmers market.

2. Cut zucchinis in 1/4 inch thick slabs, use mandolin or just a sharp knife. Cook on a medium heat in a large pan with olive oil. About 3 min on each side. Zucchinis should get a golden brown crisp, and become softer, but not too soft. Do not over cook! Set them aside when done.

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3. In a large food processor blend together all the cheese ingredients. Do nut put all the water in at once. Put a half, blend, then see if you need to add more. It should be a consistency of a light whipped cream cheese.

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4. Prepare your bechamel sauce.

5. Preheat oven to 350F.

6. Now we are ready to do the assembly! Get your lasagna pan (any square baking dish would do with high sides), oil the bottom of the pan. Place noodles on the bottom, overlapping them a little. Then create a layer of zucchinis, bechamel sauce on top.

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Then noodles again, bechamel sauce, layer of spinach, cashew cheese.

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Continue repeating layers until you run out of ingredients. Make sure each layer has bechamel sauce. You want your noodles to be moist with the sauce. The last, top, layer would be the noodles and the sauce.

7. Now here is a trick that I’ve learned: let the assembled lasagna sit for at least an hour. This would make the noodles soak up some liquids.

*You can also do all of these steps the day before you will be serving lasagna. Even better! It will have a whole night to stay in the fridge and soak up all the flavors for a little longer.

8. Bake for 30 minutes covered with foil. And then another 15-20 minutes uncovered. Test lasagna with a knife to ensure that the noodles are soft.

9. Voila! Enjoy your delicious spinach and zucchini lasagna! 🙂

 

Vegan bechamel sauce (white cream sauce)

Ciao amici!

Today I’m going to share with you my love for Italian food. Oh it is so comforting and hearty! Most of dishes are made out of simple ingredients with a nuanced play of flavors. What is not no love?! What I realized for myself is that Italian food is about balancing the flavors, using the right proportions, and most importantly, extra fresh, high quality ingredients. That is my success formula. Many of you know that bechamel sauce is a base for various Italian dishes. Well, we don’t have to refuse ourselves of making an Italian dish that uses a white cream sauce because now we know how to make it vegan without compromising the flavors. And that is the key! Pastas, pizzas, lasagnas, vegetables, you name it. It makes any dish more tastier and creamier. And healthier, of course, since there is no dairy involved.

Here is how I make it.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp vegan butter (or sub vegetable oil)
  • 4 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk (homemade preferably)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a saucepan on a medium heat melt vegan butter. Start adding flour one spoon at the time, mixing it in with a wooden spoon. The mixture will be bubbly. When flour and butter combine well take the saucepan off the heat. Whisk in 1/2 cup of almond milk, mix well and return to the heat. Slowly start adding the rest of milk while still mixing. Keep on whisking for about 4-5 minutes until the sauce becomes thick and creamy with a silky gloss. Add salt, black pepper and nutmeg. Turn off the heat. Your bechamel sauce is ready!

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My bechamel.

Soon I will share a delicious spinach lasagna recipe that uses this bechamel sauce.

But don’t wait for that! Experiment with your favorite pasta dish and use this great white cream sauce. Or smother it on top of roasted vegetables, asparagus or broccoli rabe. Let me know the results 🙂

 

 

Jenya’s hash browns (Vegan and Gluten free)

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Being born and raised in Russia I have a special relationship with potatoes. Well, before Peter the Great there were no potatoes in Russia. There were other root vegetables, but no potatoes. At the end of 17th century things has changed. For the better. Modern Russian cuisine still relies pretty heavily on potatoes. So many dishes have potatoes in them, soups, salads, pierogies, you name it. And so I have this inherited love for potatoes. Also an inherited talent for cooking them. 😉

I am going to share my secrets with you. This recipe is not very complicated. It takes little time but the results pay off. It is an absolute staple on my Sunday brunch menu!
Here is how I do it.

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium to large potatoes
  • 2 tbsp sprouted garbanzo flour
  • 2 tbsp potato starch
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil (I use organic sunflower oil)

Yield 2 x 8-inch rounds.

Peal potatoes and shred them. Squeeze all the excess liquid. The mixture should be glossy and wet, not super dry and not swimming in liquid. Now add the flour, potato starch, salt and pepper. Mix well using two hands. Split the mixture in two halves.

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Heat up oil in a cash iron pan on medium heat, I use 8″ pan. Spread one half of the potatoes mixture on the entire surface of the pan in 1/2-inch thick layer. Press with your hands so it is not airy and would stick and hold together. Cook on one side for about 5 minutes. It should be crispy and golden. Flip and cook the other side for about the same time.

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Do the same with the remaining half. That is it!

I usually cut hash brown circles in 4 or 8 parts like a pie.

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Serve hot with your favorite ketchup and/or hot sauce. Enjoy!!

Vegan Brazil nut cheese spread

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Brazil nut cheese spread.

Have you tried these very special nuts before? They come from a tree that grows in Amazon, Brazil included. They are very buttery in taste and contain a handful of vitamins, minerals and micro nutrients. Did you know that just a single serving of Brazil nuts (which is only 4 nuts) taken once a month instantly lowers the bad cholesterol in our blood and boosts the good cholesterol?* It would take about 4 days for prescription drugs to achieve the same result. Pretty cool, right? 🙂 Brazil nuts are also loaded with Magnesium, and have good amounts of Calcium, Iron and Vitamin B-6. And, of course, Brazil nuts are a great source of protein, healthy fats and fiber.

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Raw Brazil nuts.

I absolutely adore nut butters and spreads. What a wonderful and pleasant way to eat nuts! It is a perfect morning spread to get your day started with a good kick of vitamins and minerals!

Since I got my lovely Cuisinart food processor I began experimenting more with nut butters, spreads and sauces. It is a very fun process! I love watching textures transform, from a solid nut to a buttery and silky spread. Magic!

Let’s get down to business and make a bad-ass Brazil nut spread! This recipe is by Rich Roll & Julie Piatt. The only difference is I put less salt 🙂

Yields: 1/2 cup (more or less)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw Brazil nuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp soy lecithin
  • 2 tbsp filtered water
  • 1 tbsp of any vegetable oil that has no strong taste (grape seed, sunflower)
  • 1/2 tsp of Celtic sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

First and foremost, soak nuts over night in filtered water. Next day, when you are ready to make the spread, drain the water. Place all the ingredients in your food processor or a powerful blender. Blend, blend, blend until it all comes together and forms a creamy consistency. Chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge before serving. Enjoy!

It goes so well with fresh baguette. Oh my!!

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*Data resources: http://nutritionfacts.orghttps://www.researchgate.net.