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.

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I am Bob’s Stuffed Meat Loaf

This stuffed beefy meat loaf concoction comes from Taste of Home Cooking for 2, but all I can think about when I read the words meat loaf and stuffed is this guy.

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Meat Loaf as Bob from Fight Club

Why specifically do I think of Meat Loaf as Bob and not Eddie from Rocky Horror? There’s even that time he played a mobster in A Hole in One with Michelle Williams.  Why does that not come readily to mind?

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Meat Loaf’s a good fella. 

I don’t know dear readers. I just know that my mind works in mysterious ways.

What you’ll need.

  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, divided
  • 1/4 cup of hot water
  • 1 tablespoon of butter, melted.
  • 1 cup of stuffing
  • 2/3 a pound of lean ground beef

The first step in making this stuffed meat loaf is to combine 1/4 of the barbecue sauce with the water and butter in a small bowl. When that mixture has been mixed well, add the stuffing.

Next, shove the mixture aside to form your meat patties. You will make four patties out of the 2/3 a pound of beef. Try to make them as even as possible because you are basically going to make a sandwich with the stuffing mixture as the inside. Do this by dividing the stuffing mixture into half and scooping each half on one patty. Then, place a plain patty on top of the one with stuffing and seal the edges so that the stuffing remains intact.

In case you got confused, there should only be two servings or two stuffed patties. If you’re still confused, don’t fret.  I have pictures.

The next step will be to bake the patties in the oven by placing them on a baking pan, naturally. Before you put them in the oven, do pour the remaining barbecue sauce on top. Once that’s done, bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Uncooked patties for demonstrative purposes.

These turned out real well! I love it when a recipe is not only delicious, but easy to make.

The taste is what you’d expect. It’s meatloaf as a burger. I ate mine without a bun or extra toppings, but I could see some trendy burger food truck making this into a thing.

Feel free to save $12 and do it yourself, though. That’s my recommendation anyway.

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Bob’s Meat Loaf

Sandra Lee’s Semi Pad Thai

This recipe from Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Meals is actually called Spicy Peanut Noodles, but it’s basically a variation on Pad Thai.

As usual, Sandra’s recipes are a breeze to make. I failed miserably at trying to make a custard pudding recently and writing about this recipe renews my self-confidence in the world of cooking.

My custard still tasted ok, but it would have been delicious if the consistency was right.

Sandra, thankfully, gives you little room to fail. She gently holds your hand through every recipe in this book. I haven’t failed a recipe of hers yet.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed though. You never know.

What you’ll need

  • 8 ounces of soba noodles
  • 3/4 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of Thai seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of peanuts, chopped
  • 1 scallion, sliced diagonally

The first step is to boil the soba noodles. This isn’t hard. Just boil some water and cook the noodles for 4-5 minutes. Drain the water when it’s ready, cool the noodles, and set aside.

The next step is to prepare your peanut butter sauce by whisking the peanut butter with the chicken broth, honey, sesame oil, soy sauce, Thai seasoning, and the red pepper flakes.

When everything is whisked together, just pour on top of the noodles, sprinkle some peanuts and scallions and you’re good to go!

This was so much easier to make than my custard pudding dish, let me tell you! I feel slightly redeemed. Don’t feel sorry for me though. I’m not down for the count. I’m gonna get right back up and knock that pudding senseless.

When I do, you’ll all hear about it.

For now though, look at this deliciousness.

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Peanut Butter and Noodles

 

Fish Cakes or the Optimist’s Crab Cake

Fish cakes, they’re like crab cakes only with fish.

They kind of look like meat patties.

This recipe is from The Everything Thai Cookbook. 

I like to imagine there’s some sort of optimist club or new age group out there that feels crab cakes invoke too many negative emotions with their crabbiness so they have to substitute with fish. That’s just my quirky imagination, though.

What else do you want me to say? I’m just going to list the ingredients now, ok?

What you’ll need.

  • 1/4 cup of chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup of chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup of chopped lemongrass, inner portion only
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon of grated lime peel
  • 1 tablespoon of shrimp paste
  • 5-10 dried chilies, seeded, soaked, and shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 pound of boneless whitefish steak, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 pound of French beans, trimmed and finely chopped.
  • Vegetable oil

The first step, is to get your handy dandy food processor out and grind up the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, peppercorns, lime peel, shrimp paste, chilies, and salt. Blend til you get a smooth operating paste.

Once properly smoothed, add your fish to the food processor and mix until it matches the paste consistency. Finally add the egg to this food processor mixture.

When all of these elements have been combined, switch over to a mixing bowl and stir in the green beans for more mixing.

We are now ready to make our patties. Do so, by spooning a tablespoon’s worth of the mixture and forming that into a round cake. Repeat this process until all of the mixture is used up.

The final step is to fry the patties and to do so, we need to heat 1/8 to a 1/4 inch of vegetable oil over medium heat. Once you reach a temperature of 350, fry the fish cakes until golden.

Pat the grease out with a paper towel once fried and then you are ready to eat!

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Positive thinking pescetarian cake

It looks like chicken doesn’t it? It kind of tastes like chicken too. I would say that’s odd but everything tastes like chicken, except beef and pork. That’s the real oddity there. Why does that meat taste so different? Are they more bold?

These thoughts actually kind of bother me, because I love animals, but I also like eating some of them. Now I feel like a jerk!

 

 

Eggplant Parm with Catch Me If You Can Cheese

My next recipe comes from Sicilian Cookery and you could say it is a variation of eggplant Parmesan with a substitute of a cheese called caciocavallo which is a native cheese of Southern Italy.

The quest to find caciocavallo was the hardest part of making this dish and finding it caused a bit of a hiatus for my cooking goals. My first attempt to buy this cheese was at a specialty cheese shop where they just happened to run out the previous day. They ordered it again, but by the time I got there it was sold out. I had no idea this cheese was so popular. I decided to go to Whole Foods after that and ended up empty handed, thankfully Bristol Farms had some. I must have been lucky that day, because I looked for it again out of curiosity after making this recipe and it was M.I.A. in the cheese section.

Hopefully you’ll have better luck with that than I did.

What you’ll need

  • 3 eggplants
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4-5 ripe tomatoes
  • 4 oz or 1/4 pound of caciocavallo cheese
  • 2 oz or 1/2 cup of grated cheese
  • 4 or 5 basil leaves

The first step is to prepare the eggplants by cutting them lengthwise into sections as evenly as possible. Then you will cut slits into the fleshy part of the eggplant and soak in salted water for ten minutes.

I wanted to look up the physics as to why salting and soaking is necessary for eggplants and ended up finding this useful article from the LA Times. According to Russ Parsons, it only makes a difference to salt if you are frying. He also feels for there to be a true impact, the soaking should take place for at least 60 minutes.

I have to say, I think Russ is on to something, because when I’ve salted eggplant for only ten minutes, it didn’t do much at all.

Whatever you decide, once you’ve soaked the eggplant, you will pat dry and then allow it to cool. While it is cooling, you can prepare the tomato sauce that will eventually go on top of our eggplant concotion.

To make the sauce, the first step is to prepare the tomatoes by skinning and chopping them. If you don’t recall the proper way to do this, what you need to do is cut x’s into the top of the tomato and then boil them for about a minute. Throw those boiled tomatoes on some ice and then the skin should peel off.  After that, you cut and set aside.

The next step for the sauce is to fry two whole cloves of garlic in oil. Remove the cloves once they’ve been sufficiently fried. I love garlic and didn’t want to remove them, but leaving fried garlic in sauce can make the sauce bitter. If you want to keep the garlic anyway, I suggest mincing the garlic and lightly frying. My mother always told me the longer you let a garlic fry, the more sugar you have to add later to sweeten the bitterness.

Food is like people sometimes.

Once the garlic is ready, whether you keep or discard, the next step is to add those chopped tomatoes. Do so and cook for 5-10 minutes while stirring and sprinkling basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

As the sauce cooks, cut the garlic and caciocavallo into pieces that will fit in the slits you made for the eggplant pieces.

Once the slits are stuffed, sprinkle with some basil and then top them off with tomato sauce. As long as the sauce is cooked, of course.

The final touch will be to sprinkle with grated cheese and oil and bake for 30 minutes on the 350 setting of an oven.

Once your time is up, you’ll have a tasty alternative version to eggplant Parmesan.

My final result turned out well enough. I prefer Parmesan when it comes to eggplant. Caciocavallo is a bitter and harder cheese than Parmesan. I feel it doesn’t compliment the eggplant in a way that I like. I prefer the delicious gooey texture of melted Parmesan that pulls apart like string cheese.

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Mmmm, string cheese

Have I mentioned that I love cheese lately? It’s important to tell the people things you love that you love them everyday. The little things count in this troubled world and the comfort of cheese is getting me through these troubling times every day.

Back to this dish, though. It was an enjoyable experience, but it doesn’t beat Parmesan for me and it’s not worth the effort and hunt to use caciocavallo, in my opinion. If you’re adventurous, definitely try it out. Life is too short to not try new things.

 

Bourbon French Toast for the Lost Soul

If you put bourbon on French toast, does that make you an alcoholic or are you just Cajun? Cause you know, bourbon is a southern drink and Cajun people are Southerners who are French.

Don’t get it? It’s ok, I just drank ate too much Vanilla-Bourbon French Toast from Cook This, not That. 

Look I’m not coping well with the state of my nation and I haven’t cooked or written a blog post in so long and to top it off, my phone decided to stop acknowledging any touches on it’s screen which means I can’t access the photo of my drunk toast.

Sigh…I need to make this again to drown my lost soul with bourbon toast.

If you feel similar, here’s what you’ll need

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups of 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup of bourbon (or the whole bottle, it’s ok, I won’t tell)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1 loaf of day-old country bread, preferably whole wheat, cut into 8 slices
  • Butter for pan
  • Syrup for serving

The first step in making drunk French toast is to pre-heat the oven to 225. This is for those of you who want to keep your first batches of cooked toast warm while you finish the rest.

The next step is to combine eggs, milk, bourbon, vanilla, sugar, and nutmeg in a shallow dish. Combine by whisking. Once everything is whisked away soak each slice for 30 seconds on both sides.

After your bread is sloshed soaked, heat a large skillet over medium heat and melt a small slice of butter on it to coat the pan. Add as many slices as you can fit into the pan and cook for about three minutes. Repeat this process on the other side as well.

You’ll know when they are done by the color and firmness of the bread. Ideally they should be golden brown and firm, but not necessarily toasty.

Once your first batch is cooked, you can place them in the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest.

When all the toast has been cooked, serve with syrup and powdered sugar.

Or just a whole handle of bourbon. Why not?

Don’t really do that, that could possibly kill you and I don’t think it would actually be good anyway. So it’d be a waste of bourbon and your life.

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Drunk toast, photo not mine because I lost my photo due to phone issues.

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Long lost footage of lost bread, retrieved from old phone!

Tunato, aka Pomodori con Tonno

I should be a movie executive. I  anthropomorphized food long before Seth Rogen’s Sausage Party and Tunato is far more epic sounding than Sharknado. Imagine it folks, a sequel of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, where the murderous tomatoes shred up some tuna with their giant teeth and smother people to death with it by spewing it out of their mouths. To death!!!

My writing is getting rusty. I am aware and I halfheartedly apologize.

Despite my bad writing, like Sharknado, Tunatos from The Italian Mama’s Kitchen should be an entertaining light snack for when you’re too lazy to make a meal of real subsistence.

What you’ll need

  • 4 large or 8 medium or 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 6 ounce can of solid white albacore tuna, drained
  • 1 red onion or 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons of homemade mayo

Your first step will be to prepare the tomatoes. If you opted for large or medium sized tomatoes, slice off the tops, scoop out the insides, and discard the seeds. If you use cherry tomatoes, you could still do this, but I get the sense that stuffing a cherry tomato is a lot of effort with little pay off.

Like practically every relationship I’ve been in.

I recommend just slicing the cherry tomatoes in half if you opt for them.

All the tomatoes will need their tuna and the tuna will be mixed with onion, homemade mayo, and salt and pepper to your liking.

Homemade mayo will be homemade by you and  is simple to make. All you need to do so is listed below.

  • Yolk of 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup of sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar

You can probably guess that all these items will be combined together to make the mayo and you would be correct. The only major notes I have are to add the egg yolk first, than slowly add the oil and other ingredients while whisking vigourously.

When you’ve whisked to your heart’s content, you may whisk some salt as well. Salt is always to your liking. I personally put as little salt as possible in my food but everyone is different.

As I mentioned before, this mayo mixture will be added to the tuna mixture. When both mixtures combine, you get Captain Planet!

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He’s a hero

You don’t really get Captain Planet. I just wanted to post a picture of Don Cheadle as Captain Planet.

What you get instead is tuna stuffing for killer tomatoes. Killer as in tasty to eat.

Fill those tomatoes with the killer tuna and place the tomato tops on top. For cherry tomatoes, skip the filling step and combine everything together.

Not only will these killer tomatoes slay your tastebuds, but they are comfortable for consumption in a chill or relaxed room temperature state.

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Not a hero, but a real tomato