Isa’s Babushka Borscht

I enjoy Isa from Isa Does It. She throws in little slices of humor and tips for lazy cooks. Plus, she has a deep connection with her heritage, which I appreciate and relate to.

This particular recipe is a vegan alternative to borscht and I’m guessing it comes from her grandmother since babushka means grandmother or elderly woman in Russian. I do know at the very least that her ancestors are Russian and that she loves imagining them eating and preparing this dish. As I like to do with my own ancestors whenever I make pasta.

What you’ll need

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pound of red beets, peeled and cut into 1/2 chunks
  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth
  • several pinches of ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • cashew cream (optional)
  • fresh dill, for garnish

Before I lay down the cooking steps, let me side track into how to make the cashew cream.

It’s simple, but it takes some planning ahead. All you do is take one cup of cashews and soak them in water for two hours. Drain the water and place the nuts in a blender with 1 1/2 cups of water. Blend until it’s smooth and creamy. Isa also notes you can spice it up with salt and lemon juice if you desire.

If you are not vegan, however, a friend of mine who spent some time in Russia likes to make his borscht with sour cream. I have yet to try his borscht recipe, but I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling the cashew cream. If you are a corrupted animal product dairy lover like myself, you also might find it preferable.

The first step, beyond the cream, is to pre-heat the oil in your largest soup pot. Saute the onion with some salt for about 5-7 minutes. The onions should be slightly soft and translucent in color. Add the garlic next, and cook for only 30 seconds.

Now we will add just about all the remaining ingredients. The lemon juice, dill, and cream are the only ingredients left out at this time.

Cover the pot and allow it to boil. Once it’s boiling, lower the heat, leave the lid slightly ajar, and simmer for about 35 minutes or until the beets are tender.

Once the beets have been tendered, add the lemon juice and then serve individually with garnished cream and dill.

My final results turned out ok. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t too happy with the cashew cream. I think I would have preferred a dairy product of some sort. I made her cashew cream for another recipe, however, and thought it was delicious. It’s possible I didn’t blend well enough this time or maybe the cashews were fresher the first time I made it.

Other than that, I found this soup to not only be healthy, but full-filling. Beets aren’t magical fruits, but they are magical vegetables with numerous health benefits.

Which is probably why I want to corrupt this soup with sour cream. Without sour cream, it’s just too good for me and I don’t deserve it unless I knock it down a peg.



Isa Harira Soup

Here is another hearty vegan soup from Isa Does it

I was starting to worry about Isa. Her cookbook started out strong in my favorable opinion, but I’ve been a little disappointed with the last few recipes.

This soup brings my favors back on track!

I call it a soup, but it’s almost hearty enough to be classified as a stew. Isa even claimed to have an “existential crisis” in trying to figure out how to label it.

This is also not a traditional recipe for harira, but her variation of it. Traditional harira is made with lamb meat and rice instead of pasta. If you are a vegan or are wanting to cut down on meat consumption, this is an excellent alternative.

What you’ll need

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, plus a pinch
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of minced fresh ginger (I used ginger paste, nothing died)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup of brown or green lentils
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of saffron threads, crushed (This is optional and recommended for those of you who are rich)
  • 1 24 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, fire-roasted recommended
  • 1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh mint, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
  • 4 ounces of angel hair pasta

The first step is to pre-heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat for the oil. When oil is hot, add onion with a bit of salt. Cook this until the onions are translucent then add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Saute this for about a minute.

The next step is to deglaze the pot with some broth. This is a fancy way of saying, pour some liquid in there to scoop up any crap that might be sticking on the bottom of your pan. I don’t know why they have to call it deglazing though. This is cooking, not pottery making.

When you’ve rid yourself of your pot clingers, you will add the eggplant, lentils, paprika, cinnamon, one teaspoon of salt, the saffron, and 4 cups of broth. The saffron is only for the privileged, spoiled elite. I didn’t make the cut. This is an ingredient for the Ivy League not the Big Ten.

If you’re observant, you might notice we only put in half of our vegetable broth. This is due to speeding up boiling time for the lentils and eggplant. Don’t fret! We will add the remaining broth later!

Cover the pot and allow it to rise to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat a hair, so that’s it still boiling, but not erupting like a volcano. Leave the lid ajar as well. Do this for about 20 minutes.

Deglaze without adding in liquid once in awhile as well.

When the 20 minutes are up, add the tomatoes, chickpeas, mint, cilantro, and about 2 cups worth of broth or as much as it would take to ensure a soup consistency. Bring this to a boil and then add the pasta. Stir and cook until the pasta thins and softens. Then add the remaining broth and serve with your extra garnish!

The best part about this soup is the pasta. Isa and I agree about this issue, so I feel like most people will too. The other star of the harira show is the garbanzo beans. The eggplant is a close third. My eggplant turned out a little mushier than I would have liked, but overall this was a nice, hearty stew. I recommend consuming it on a harsh, cold winter night. If you are from California that translate to a rainy night or anything below 60 degrees.



It’s kind of like spaghetti as a soup

Miso Chunky and Vegan Soup

I know the title is lame guys. I know it is. My sparks of creativity are just not flowing right now. Maybe they never have? Why can’t I be the mad genius I dreamed of being as a little girl? The kind people whisper about and say, “That girl is crazier than a nest of bat excrement, but damn is she a talented genius!”

I could be like Christian Bale, Marlon Brando, Tesla, or even the log lady from Twin Peaks! I mean she’s not crazy, but she can talk to a log! That log knows all and that’s impressive.


Sadly, I am not a log lady nor a genius. I might be a little crazy, but every time I try to get a psychiatrist to diagnose me they’re just like, “Eh…you’re an emotional person, but you’re a little too self aware”

I’m just not reaching any of my major goals.

Maybe I’m a manipulative genius who is so talented I manipulate myself? If that’s true, that’s just not rewarding and kind of useless.

Cooking is useful and rewarding though! Hopefully I’m getting better at it, but it’s hard to say because unfortunately I have to give another meh review.

This Chunky Miso Vegetable Soup comes from Isa Does It. Isa has not been doing it for me lately, which is sad, because I like her first few recipes. Isa and I come from different worlds, though. She’s vegan and lives on the east coast. I love cheese and live in LA. She’s Jewish, I went to catholic school. She’s a brunette and I’m a fake blonde. Despite these differences we’ve come so far and I’m not about to give up on her now.

Anyway, here are the ingredients,

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of peeled carrots in 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 ribs of celery, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 4 cups of cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup of green beans trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth
  • several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 15 ounce can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup of mellow white miso
  • 1 cup of thinly sliced scallions

The first step is to preheat your oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil has heated up, add the onion with a pinch of salt. Saute this for about three minutes or until the onion has softened. The next set is the carrots and celery. You will saute them for three minutes as well. Then you add the cauliflower, green beans, broth, and the pepper.

Cover your pot and allow it to boil. Once boiled, reduce the heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes. While your soup is simmering, leave the lid on, but propped open ajar.

The goal for now is to allow the cauliflower to tender and once it has tendered you can add the beans and miso. I have a note about the miso. I got mine at Trader Joes, but it was a miso soup mix. I was sure to pick the most basic one I could find, however, the next day I was in Lassen’s and found the type of miso Isa wants you to use. I decided that from now, when I’m making one of Isa recipes I should shop at Lassen’s.

It is a health food store after all.

Whatever miso you pick up, you’ll want to stir it in your pot until it dissolves. Once it has dissolved, pepper and salt to your liking, add some scallions, and serve.

As I said, for me this soup came out ok. I think my problem is that I’ve lost my enjoyment for miso soup. Meaning, I used to love miso, but lately my feelings have been lukewarm.

It’s not fair to miso. Miso deserves better. If you love miso, though, than I imagine you’ll love this recipe. So try it out and enjoy!


Miso pretty?



Isa Hot and Sour Soup with Shrooms!

I can’t recall where I saw this video, but I saw this video that was studying whether women or men are smarter. My initial reaction to this was, “Well this seems like trouble. I don’t know how I feel about this.”

Thankfully, it ended up being an entertaining, light-hearted show.The final analysis was that women and men are equally intelligent, but they excel in certain areas and struggle in the opposite areas, thus resulting into an evening out.

Fair and balanced, I say, and it does seem to make sense.

Anyway, the experiment that resonated with me the most was one where a couple had to race each other doing certain tasks. So, they gave them both a list of activities. The men quickly rushed into doing the tasks on the list, while the women quietly read the list to theirself first. Turns out the very last ‘task’ on the list was to sign the list noting that you had read all the activities and to not do any of the other tasks.

My point in mentioning this, is that I make this same mistake with my cookbooks. I forget to read the details and just go straight to the cooking. I feel like I have the worst qualities of each sex. Emotional and sensitive, as well as not looking at details. The study caused me to feel insecure about my level of intelligence. I guess I’m just an idiot then.

That’s the beauty about life though. Intelligent people know they can learn to change their habits and by doing so, not only improve their well-being, but their level of intelligence as well. At least that’s what I’m telling myself and I’m hoping is true, because otherwise I’ll become depressed. Please let me live in ignorant bliss if you find this to be false.

What did I do with this recipe? I’m sure you’re wondering. Well, the author of the cookbook, which is Isa from Isa Does It!, had this whole little blurb about where I could possibly find the mushrooms that I couldn’t find and provided the best substitute if they weren’t found. Since I didn’t read this blurb, I ended up buying a bunch of regular brown button mushrooms. This wasn’t the end of the world, but it does change the whole dynamic of the soup.

Hopefully, if you make this soup, you will be a typical woman and read all the details.

What you’ll need for this soup is 1 ounce of dried wood ear mushrooms (shiitake is the substitute if you have the same trouble I did), 2 cups of boiling water, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger, 4 cups of vegetable broth, 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of sriracha, 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar, 1 8 oz can of bamboo shoots, 5 ounces of thinly sliced cabbage, 14 ounces of 1/4 diced tofu, 1/2 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, 4 ounces of small button mushrooms, 1 cup of chopped scallions, and optional chow mein noodles.

The first step is to boil the wood ear mushrooms, provided that you were able to find them. The author says you can find them in the international section of grocery stores, but I did not. I’m assuming if you get shiitake mushrooms, you don’t need to boil them, as they are not dry and hard like wood.

Anyway if you are eating wood, boil that for 30 minutes. Then drain and chop into small pieces.

The next step is to pre-heat your pot over low heat with the oil and then saute the garlic and ginger until lightly brown. Next, add the broth, wood ears, vinegar, soy sauce, sriracha, sugar, bamboo shoots, and cabbage. Bring all of this to a boil, add the tofu, and then simmer for 5 minutes.

While this is happening, mix the cornstarch with some water until it has dissolved. Add that to the soup, along with the regular mushrooms and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

After that, you just want to make sure the soup has thickened  a bit. Once it seems appropriately thickened you can then serve and garnish with scallions, sriracha, and chow mein.

I was disappointed with this soup admittedly. I think it would have been better with the right mushrooms though. My friend Megumi was over when I made this, so I gave her a bowl. She seemed to like it, but we both agreed it wasn’t as good as the soup I made for her last. That soup was a Tangier bean soup from my Moroccan cook book. It was delicious stuff and I do highly recommend that one!

This one, I’d like to make again someday with the proper ingredients.


The soup of hot and sour

Sweet Potato & Red Curry Soup

My next recipe comes from Isa Does It which is a vegan cookbook. I am not vegan, but so far I’ve enjoyed reading and cooking from this book. I’m still in the soup section and I’m really excited about some of the entrée recipes that are featured in the later chapters. I’d skip to those sections, but my OCD tendencies won’t let me.  Some day though, some day I’ll get to them.

This particular soup was a nice change of pace from all the other soups I’ve made so far. I was happy to not have to blend anything for once. It also features sweet potato, rice, and purple kale. Kale is a big deal here in California. It’s been a heated battle between it and quinoa as the vegetable of the month for the past two years or so.

What you’ll need to make this delicious and healthy soup is, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1 small diced yellow onion, 1 teaspoon of salt, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon of minced ginger, 3/4 cup of jasmine rice, 6 cups of vegetable broth, 2-3 tablespoons red curry paste, 1 pound of purple kale, 1 large sweet potato, 1 15 ounce can of lite coconut milk 3 tablespoons of lime juice,1 tablespoon of agave syrup, and cilantro and sriracha for serving.

The first step is to preheat your soup pan with the olive oil. Once nice and warmed up you will add your onion and a pinch of salt for sautéing. Do this for 5 minutes and then add garlic and ginger for another minute of cooking.

Then add the rice, broth, and some more salt. Cover the pot and let it boil and then simmer. Once you’ve simmered, you will add the paste, torn bite sized kale pieces, and your quarter sized chunks of sweet potato. Simmer all these things for about 15 minutes. Make sure your sweet potatoes get sweeter and tenderer though.

Once those potatoes are tendered, you will add the coconut milk, lime juice, and agave. Cook that for a bit and you should have a nice and healthy curry soup.

As you can guess, this wasn’t a difficult soup to make at all. My only note is to just buy one bunch of purple kale. I sometimes get too literal with recipes. I bought two bunches to get my one pound worth. Don’t worry about that. One bunch of kale is more than enough.

Other than that, making this soup was simple and painless. If you like spice, you can add even more curry and slather the soup with sriracha too. I did, naturally, and it was quite good.


Spicy and tasty curry soup

Isa’s Creamy Potato Leek Soup

This delicious soup comes from Isa Does It. So far I am extremely impressed with Isa. I’ve liked all but one of her recipes that I’ve made so far. I can’t wait to get to her entrée dishes. The reason I’m so impressed is because she is a Vegan cook. So, you know, as a omnivore who loves dairy products, that’s a big deal.

Some of you might be wondering, “Wait, the title says it’s creamy. Isn’t cream a dairy? Hmm?” Well, miss Isa has a trick for that. That trick is to soak cashews overnight and then blend into a nice cream substitute. It tricked my tastebuds. If I hadn’t made this soup, I wouldn’t have known it was cream free.

Another thing I like about Isa is that she’s aware people nowadays are slackers and don’t always plan ahead. I did plan ahead with my cashews, but she put a little note in her cookbook to let you know how to speed up the process if necessary. To do so, she tells you to boil them for 15 minutes and then soak for as long as you can.

She has great notes in general. So if you are a beginning cook, vegan or no, I recommend checking this book out.

The first step in making this soup is to saute one large leek, sliced, and one yellow onion, diced, in olive oil. I actually forgot my onion and had to add it later. Thankfully my soup turned out ok anyway, but ideally you want to saute the onion with the leek.

This should take about 10 minutes or until the leeks have softened.

While the leek and onion are cooking, you grind your cashews into cream. To do this, you add about a cup of water with your soaked cashews into a blender and just blend until it’s smooth and creamy.

The next step for the soup, is to peel and cut 2 pounds worth of potatoes into small chunks. Once cut, you add that to your soup along with black pepper, finely chopped fresh thyme, and four cups of vegetable broth. Cover your pot, allow it to boil, and then simmer for 15 minutes. Once the 15 minutes are up you smash your potatoes until everything is nice and creamy looking.

After that process you just add your faux cream of chestnuts. Let the faux cream heat up with the soup and you’ve got yourself some comfort vegan food.

The final result is quite tasty. I was skeptical about the faux cream, but it pairs nicely with the potatoes and like I said earlier, my tastebuds didn’t know the difference. I had some leftovers as well, and I swear it tasted better than it did fresh. This is a dish I’d be willing to make again.


Isa Soup

Isa Does It

This next recipe comes from a cookbook called Isa Does It. You’d think with a title like that, Isa does a lot of things. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. So far, all I know of Isa, is that she’s vegan, she cooks, and she writes things about veganism.

Despite my love of cheese and meats, from time to time I do actually enjoy vegan food. If it’s good and vegan, why would you not like it? So far, Isa knows how to do it and do it right.

I got this cookbook as a Christmas present last year from my sister. My sister is not vegan, but she is a health nut. She got this for me because she figured it would have healthy recipes in it and maybe some would even be good with meat as well. She also liked how Isa explains how she fine tunes her recipes and thought it would help me learn how to cook better if I followed her insights.

So far, I do enjoy Isa insights and recipes. I’ve made two soups of hers and both were really good. The soup I made this time around is called Chick-pea Rice soup.

The first step to making this soup is similar to a French Onion Soup and that is slicing a yellow onion and sauteing it in oil for a few minutes. Then you add garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. I ran out of thyme, so I substituted with rosemary and a bit of oregano. I really wanted to make a pun joke about that, but I spared the few of you who read this. You’re welcome, by the way.

After adding the spices you add half a cup of jasmine rice, carrots, cabbage and a lot of veggie broth. Side note, a head of cabbage weighs more than a pound. This recipe called for a pound of cabbage so I just grabbed a cabbage and started slicing away. I soon realized I had way too much cabbage in my pot. I ended up slicing only half of my cabbage.

The next step is to bring all of these items to a boil and then add some chickpeas. Finally you just cook the allotted time for whatever rice you end up using. Isa recommends letting it cook for as long as you possibly can. She says the longer you let it cook, the better it tastes. I ended up cooking mine for almost an hour.

The initial tasting was good. The rice was my favorite ingredient. The next day, however, I had some leftovers and that was not as good. For whatever reason the soup got real bland, real quick. I told a friend about this, who is a vegetarian, and she told me maybe I should add chicken to it. She was being serious too. I told her what was in it and she said that sounded too bland and since I was a carnivore, meat would probably add flavor. I ended up not doing this, but the combination of rice with chicken is always a good idea. As long as that is your thing of course.

IMG_0796 (1)

Wayyyyy too much cabbage.


A serving size