Uzbek plov (pilaf)

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When I was a kid growing up in Russia plov was one of my favorite comfort foods. My mom makes it so delicious. Plov is a traditional dish of Uzbekistan that is made with lamb meat. I decided to veganize this dish and it was a success. It came out with the right consistency, not sticky and slightly chewy, and so aromatic. Another reason why I wanted to make plov is to use my brand new cast iron Dutch oven. I wanted one for so long and finally got it. It make me so happy because I absolutely adore anything made of cast iron (including building columns in Soho in NYC). It just has so much history in it.

Without further ado, here is the recipe.

Serving: 6-8

Ingredients:

3 cups of short or long grain rice (I used organic short grain brown rice), rinsed and drained

2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped

3 medium carrots, julienne cut

1/4 cup vegetable oil (canola, sunflower, avocado, grapeseed. Do not use extra virgin olive oil)

2 cans chickpeas, drained (or 1 cup dry chickpeas, soaked over night)

6 cups water

2 heads of garlic

2 tsp cumin seeds (or ground – 1 tsp)

2 tsp coriander seeds (or 1 tsp ground)

1-2 whole red chilly peppers

2 tbsp dried barberries, Sadaf Zereshk (or use goji berries instead)

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Salt to taste

Parsley for garnish

On a medium heat saute onions in all of the vegetable oil – couple minutes. Add carrots and cook for another couple minutes. Add all the spices, chilies and barberries. Mix and cook for another couple of minutes.

If you are using dry and soaked chickpeas then throw them in now, and add 2 cups of water. Bring it to boil.

*** If you are using canned chickpeas, then skip the step above – you would add them about 10 minutes before plov is done cooking.

Gently pour all the rice over cooked veggies and spices – DO NOT MIX! Add water and salt. Gently bury garlic heads inside the mixture. They should be fully submerged.

Reduce heat to simmer, cover dutch oven with a lid and let it cook. How fast it is going to cook depends on your rice type. I would check it half way and see if rice needs more water, you don’t want it to stick too much to the bottom/burn. Add canned chickpeas (if using).

Once rice is cooked, and all liquid is evaporated, turn off the heat and mix plov. Garnish with parsley. That’s it, folks. Your plov is ready! Enjoy the buttery creamy garlic inside your delicious plov. Xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creamy Jerusalem artichoke soup

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I really love the taste of these scrumptious little tubers. Sweet, fragrant, nutty in flavor, and delicate in texture. They were first cultivated by the Native Americans (way before this new vegetable was introduced to Europeans). Italians call it girasole – sunflower. And indeed, it is a type of sunflower. It is believed that the name Jerusalem artichoke came from the way of southern Italian pronunciation – [ʤiraː’zul]. There is no real connection to the ancient city of Jerusalem (but who knows!).

Jerusalem artichoke plant. Image: Annette van der Swaluw
Sunchokes (another name for Jerusalem artichokes) have a lot of health benefits. The phyto-nutrient profile is comprised of fiber (non-starchy carbohydrates), antioxidants,  minerals (potassium, copper and iron), and vitamins C, A, E and B-group. It is a very healthy and tasty vegetable to eat!

Now let’s make the soup.

Serving: 3-4

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs sunchokes (pealed and cut)

1 medium onion (chopped) – save a small amount of finely chopped onion for serving

2 garlic cloves (chopped)

4 c veggie broth (+ extra if needed)

2 tbsp vegan butter (or oil of choice)

1/4 c raw hazelnuts

1/4 tsp dry oregano

sea salt, crushed black pepper to taste

balsamic vinegar & fine olive oil for garnish

In a soup pot sauté onion and garlic in vegan butter (oil) for couple of minutes without browning. Add veggie broth and sunchokes and let simmer on medium-low heat for about 25-30 min or until sunchokes are soft.

In a mean time we are going to roast hazelnuts. Heat up a pan on a med-high heat. Without adding any oil roast the nuts until skins start coming off. Always shake the pan so no hazelnuts would get burnt. This should take a few minutes. Turn off the heat and let them cool off. When nuts are cool to touch chop them and set aside.

Once soup is ready move it to a blender and process until smooth and creamy. Add salt if needed. Add more warm broth if the texture is too thick.

For serving, place on the bottom of a bowl little pinch of raw onion, and a generous spoonful of hazelnuts. Pour soup on top. Sprinkle with black pepper, oregano, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

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3 things I do every morning to jump start my day

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Hi guys! Jenya is here. How is your week going so far? How are your energy levels? Do you ever feel like you don’t have a lot of energy in the morning? Hate your alarm? Feeling dreadful before you have a cup of coffee in hand? I hear ya! I had many of those mornings myself. But since then I learned a few tricks and I want to share them with you. These 3 simple things that I do every morning (with an exception here and there) help me to awaken body, mind and spirit, and set my day is a positive direction. Yes, I know, we are all so busy, trying to do a million things in the morning. But check out this simple secret that I discovered: by creating a space for myself in the morning (usually 20-30 minutes) I have more mental space and clarity during my day. Magic? No. Just science!

Here is a morning tool kit that can help you to jump start your day in a nurturing way:

  1. Have a warm apple cider/lemon drink first (It awakens your body on a molecular level). To make it add 1 tbsp of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar or squeeze half a lemon into a tall glass of warm water. Easy! Why? Because while we sleep our bodies work hard to clean themselves up from the inside. As a result when we wake up our pH level is acidic. Raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar (I love Bragg brand) or lemon water are great and cheap alkalizing tools. Another benefit that comes with the package? An easy #2 bathroom visit!
  2. Have a moment to sit in quiet and meditate/set intentions for the day. This has been extremely transformative for me. I like to set a goal for the day first, and then do a little meditation. Intentions could be very simple, like to have a peaceful and calm day or more concrete and complex, like to have xyz done by x o’clock. Focus on whatever it is important for you in that moment/day! And then follow with a simple meditation. It could be a brief meditation of simply observing your breath for 5 minutes (set an alarm) while having your eyes closed, or perhaps, adding a mental scan of where your body stands this very moment, observing any tensions, discomforts without judging them. Note any underlying mood qualities. And then gently go into observing your breath. Simple and gentle.
  3. Move and stretch your body! This is a fun part. After you alkalize your body, set your intentions and create a peaceful mental state, you can activate your body through movement. I usually do a few rounds of cat/cow yoga stretch. It is flexing between these two poses:

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Inhale, dip the spine, open the chest. Exhale, round the spine. Do a few rounds like that. Feel the energy moving in you. I would then follow with a downward dog pose, and while in it I would pedal my feet and flex my hamstrings. It also helps to bend your knees to have an easier stretch through the spine.

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Add a few other movements that you like. Maybe do some jumps? Who cares! Do what feels good to you. Be creative 🙂

That’s it guys! See what works for you and notice how your body feels and how your mood changes. And most importantly have fun with it!

P.S. What healthy morning rituals do you have? How do you start your day? Share your  story in the comments below. Xo

Raw vegan stuffed zucchini flowers.

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Zucchini flowers. Cilantro cashew cheese. Shiitake anchovies. Shiso. Mint oil.

 

Hi guys,

I want to share with you this delicious raw recipe – stuffed zucchini flowers. Every summer I make sure I eat zucchini flowers, they are super special, so tender, fragrant and delicate.

Did you know that zucchini flowers that we harvest and eat are male flowers? Yup. Only female flowers produce zucchini fruits. Male flowers are those that we can pick and consume. They have a single, long stamen that is covered in pollen. Female flowers have a stigma with multiple stems inside. You can find these beauties at most of farmers markets during mid summer – which is NOW 🙂

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Before I learned about raw food I use to pan fry zucchini flowers, following traditional Italian recipes. This year I decided to prepare them raw to retain that sweet fragrant essence that otherwise gets destroyed by high heat.

I was truly delighted with the results! Fragrant aromatic herbs compliment so well sweetness of the flowers. And the chewy shiitake anchovy gives it a nice salty kick to balance the flavors.

Serving: about 8-10 stuffed flowers.

Ingredients:

Mushroom marinade:

1⁄2 tablespoon tamari

1 tablespoon ume vinegar

1⁄2 teaspoon olive oil

Pinch of salt.

Cheese:

3/4 c of soaked cashews (2-3 hours min)

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp lemon zest

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp water (add more if too thick)


Chopped cilantro 2 tbsp (adjust to taste)


8-10 zucchini flowers


Mint oil:

1/2 c olive oil

1/4 c mint leaves

few large spinach leaves


8-10 shiso leaves

 

First, Shiitake anchovies. *Prepare them a day before (could be then stored for couple of weeks in air tight container in the fridge). I’ve learned this recipe when I was in Maine this June with Matthew Kenney Culinary.

Clean (using a brush, no water) and slice mushrooms. I use shiitake because their texture works best here. Mix marinade ingredients together and set mushrooms in it for 15-20 min, they should absorb all the liquid. Dehydrate at 115F overnight. Texture can vary based on your preference. I like them slightly chewy not super crispy.

 

Now flowers. Do not wash them. Rather use a vegetable brush and brush off little speck of dirt etc. Using a knife cut into the flowers (long side), shake off any bugs that might have crawled inside, then gently tear off the stamen. Process all the flowers and set them aside.

Let’s prepare Cilantro cashew cheese. This is a non-fermented cheese. We will use acid and nutritional yeast to achieve that cheesy flavor. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl, and fold in chopped cilantro. Set aside.

Next Mint oil. Blend ingredients together. Strain through a fine mesh. Transfer into a squeeze bottle and store in the fridge.

Assembly:

Gently open zucchini flower, using a small spoon stuff it with cheese and a couple slivers of shiitake anchovy. Set each flower on top of a shiso leaf. Sprinkle with herb oil. Finish with mint leaves and cilantro flowers.

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Bon appétit!

 

 

 

Matthew Kenney Culinary

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Tree nut cheese plate.

OK so I have not wrote a post in a few weeks now… because I’ve been super busy! With Matthew Kenney Culinary School! I’m currently enrolled in Level 1: Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine course. It is a 4 week intensive and innovative program where students learn all the amazing secrets and gain the necessarily practical skills to prepare gourmet raw dishes. It is mind blowing, fascinating and super inspiring course. Here is a little pre-story.

I’ve always been a creative spirit. I went through an art school when I was a teenager. After that I completed a 4 year Interior design program, and then I went to NYC and earned my degree in Architecture. During the last several years of living in the big city I became aware of healthy eating, yoga and meditation. I gave up eating meat about 3 years ago. But once I went 100% plant-based different things started falling into place. Suddenly, my life began to rearrange itself. Opportunities started to present themselves and I knew that I’m moving in the right direction. I discovered such a sense of joy in preparing food and sharing it with others. I started doing research to learn more about benefits of plant-based diet. Fast forward, I got a scholarship to go to Matthew Kenney Culinary school in Belfast, Maine. And here I am, so grateful to be a part of such an amazing learning experience. This school encourages growth and individuality yet gives strong guidance and framework. I had an honor to spend time with Matthew Kenney and Scott Winegard who are a big inspiration for me. I feel very supported and cherished by my colleagues and our instructor Sean Murray. He is extremely knowledgeable and has an amazing sense of humor. My class is an incredible bunch, we made friends and have so much fun here together, working on recipes, exploring Belfast, dining at local restaurants, going for hikes and more. Maine has great produce, and we are very lucky to work with local organic farms that supply all our produce needs. Visiting Ararat farm was such a great experience! It is a bio-dynamic farm. People that run it really love with they do, they treat the land with such respect. Kale tastes better when grown with love! The air is so clean there, and that plays a significant role in growing high quality organic vegetables. 

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Having an all organic COOP just steps away from the school is another great benefit that students have available. Belfast COOP supports local farmers and local businesses, and sells produce of highness quality.

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Raw vegan lasagna that I made on the 2nd day of the program.

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More details to come after I complete the program. Check out my Instagram for daily updates @PlantsAndMagic. Xo

 

Vegan spring risotto

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OK. I’ve been wanting to make risotto for some time. Well, the weather is nicer now (not as warm as I wish it was but still),which means the season for white wine is officially open. Every time I have that opened bottle of Italian wine sitting in my fridge I always think of making risotto. It does take a little time, but the results are incredible – a creamy fragrant dish that is just so tasty. I love enjoying it on a cool evening with a glass of wine.

And my veggies are starting to pop on the balcony so I decided to put them to use!

Here how to make this spring risotto.

Yield: 3- 4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of Arborio rice (do yourself a favor and go to an Italian grocery store if you have one in your area. Or come to mine! So much cheaper)
  • 1/2 yellow onion or 1 small sweet Italian onion
  • 2.5 cups of veggie broth (I make my own but you can buy one in the store)
  • 1/4 tsp saffron
  • 1 cup of white Italian wine (Hola to my favorite wine shop in Brooklyn www.naturalwine.com. You guys are always so sweet, so helpful, so amazing!)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Decoration: purple leaves of mesclun, few springs of chives, broccoli flowers

 

I fist start with making my broth by cooking down whole bunch of washed veggie scraps that I keep in my freezer for occasions like this. Make the broth with salt since we are not going to salt our risotto. If you are using a store bought veggie broth – skip the step.

Chop onions very finely. On a medium heat in a saucepan saute onions in olive oil until golden. Add rice to the saucepan. Reduce the heat to low. Mix it with the onions for about a minute then add white wine. Mix again. Once wine evaporates add a little bit of broth (about 1/4 cup) and mix. Continue adding broth and mixing for the next 30 min or so until you almost run out of broth. For the last 5-10 min of cooking add saffron to the rice and just mix it in well. It will give rice this pretty yellow color and aroma. When you run out of broth cook risotto for another few minutes and turn off the heat. Cover with lid. Let sit for a couple of minutes, then serve. Top your spring risotto with purple leaves of mesclun, chives and broccoli flowers. Enjoy!!

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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!

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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.