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Russian Pot Pie

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This is the perfect dish to serve after a hard day chasing yak on the tundra!

Eastern Europe isn't especially famous for its vegetarian food.  Occasionally I like to check out Russian, Ukranian, and Croatian cook books from the library.  Most of them were written and photographed so long ago that the photographs are somewhat dreary.  Still, I am attracted to the culture (and culture clashes), the food, and the architecture of Eastern Europe. 

I did research about Ukranian and Russian food while writing my first (unpublished) novel "Jane Doe" and was fascinated by solyanka, a soup with pickles in it.  I feel sure I will one day make a meatless version of it.

This dish was inspired by a recipe I tried first many years ago from the cookbook "Vegetarian Epicure" by Anna Thomas.  I don't even have the book anymore and don't remember how she made it or exactly what was in it but what I got from her recipe for a Russian style pie was the combination of marjoram, cabbage, and mushrooms with hard boiled eggs.  I have been making different versions of this combination for a long time and finally decided to make it into pot pies and change the marjoram to dill.

I don't have a pie crust recipe prepared for you but if you don't already have your own favorite try this Simply Recipes pate brisee, it's almost the same as the one I use.  You need enough pie dough for one crust and you'll need 6 8 oz ramekins or other single serving dishes if you want to make the pot pies.  If you don't want little pies you can make this as one single big pie.

Russian Pot Pie

makes 6 pot pies


Enough pie dough for one crust, portioned into 6 pieces
6 hard boiled eggs

1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 lb button mushrooms, sliced
1 head cabbage, chopped small
1/2 cup water (appx)
1 1/2 tsp dried dill
1 tsp salt
30 grinds fresh pepper
16 oz sour cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan on med/high, add the onions and cook until they just start to become translucent.  Add all the mushrooms and cook until they are completely soft.  Add the cabbage, dill, salt, pepper, and the water and put the lid on the pan, removing every couple of minutes to stir and make sure the pan hasn't gone dry.  If the cabbage isn't tender yet but is starting to brown, add a little more water. 

When the cabbage is tender turn the heat down to low and add the sour cream, stirring it in well.  When heated through, remove from heat.

Put your ramekins on a baking sheet to catch any overflowing juices from the pies.  Fill each ramekin halfway with the cabbage and mushrooms.  Slice and layer a hard boiled egg into it.  Fill to the top with more mushroom and cabbage.  You should have enough to fill all six to a rounded mound, but if not, that's okay.  It will vary depending on the size of your cabbage.

Roll out the six pieces of dough into circles just a little bit bigger than the circumference of the ramekins.  Lay the dough on top of each one pushing the edges against the edge of each dish to seal it shut.  Use a small sharp knife to make little slashes in the dough to let the steam out while cooking.

Bake in the oven until the crusts are turning golden (about 45 minutes).

Recipe Notes:
  I've made this with marjoram instead of dill and loved it both ways.  I have also made it without the sour cream which Philip and I loved but my mom thought it was too dry.  As I've mentioned before, I use a light sour cream but only because Tillamook makes a really flavorful one. 

This could be vegan if you use a vegan crust, leave out the egg, and don't use the sour cream.  That might not sound good to some people but what is most important in this dish is the cabbage, mushrooms, and seasonings- it's really good right from the pan so I encourage my vegan friends to come up with their own version.  If you wanted it to have some protein I would add some white beans which won't take away from the other flavors but would make it more hearty. 

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Tofu Stroganoff

dressed stroganoff 2.jpgI have never had Beef Stroganoff because my mom raised me as a vegetarian.  I have no idea what the traditional dish should taste like but this recipe is my version of the dish my mom came up with as a vegetarian alternative.  I have settled into a routine of making it without thinking about it and it has quietly evolved over the years.  As I've been making it recently I couldn't remember if I used to put garlic in it.  I love garlic but if it was ever part of the original dish my mom created, I can't remember.  What I offer here is the version I'm making right now. 

Even if you like to eat meat, why not try this version the next time you need to feed someone who doesn't?  It's comforting, satisfying, and easy to make. 

tofu squares 2.jpgTofu Stroganoff Recipe


1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 lbs crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
1 block firm tofu
30 grinds black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried marjoram
16 oz sour cream
1/4 cup soy sauce
8 oz whole wheat egg noodles


In a large pan saute the onion on med/high heat in the olive oil until transparent.  Add the mushrooms and stir occasionally until they are slightly browned.  While the mushrooms are sauteing, boil salted water in a pot for the pasta.

Add the tofu to the saute pan along with the pepper, thyme, and marjoram.  Stir well and cook for about five minutes.  By this time your water should be boiling, add the pasta to it and cook until just tender.

Turn the heat down to low and add sour cream and soy sauce to the mushrooms and tofu and stir in well.  When you've drained your pasta add it to the saute pan and stir it all together.  Serve and eat!  But don't burn your tongue. 


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Recipe notes:  I cut my tofu into roughly 3/4" cubes because I don't want the tofu hidden.  If you prefer you can cut the tofu much smaller so that it's not as visibly noticeable.  I would avoid using a soft tofu, however, as it will dissipate.  For those people who like more texture to their tofu an extra firm tofu will work well.  I used whole wheat egg noodles but you can make this dish vegan if you use rotelli pasta and use a sour cream substitute.  If you want to make this dish gluten free, simply use gluten free pasta in place of the wheat pasta.  One last note: I rarely use "lite" versions of products but I accidentally bought Tillamook's lite sour cream once and it was so good I've continued to buy it.  That's not what my mom used when I was growing up and if the brand of sour cream you buy is mild to begin with the lite version may be too bland for this recipe.     

Vegan Black Bean and Winter Squash Burrito

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I have never eaten a vegan burrito before in my life.  Burritos are one of those things that may as well say CHEESE in neon above them.  However, I have been wanting to make more vegan meals because having blocks of cheese around the house is not so good for me.  If it's there I will eat it.  I will snack on it at all hours.  If I'm up and there's cheese it's the best thing in the world to snack on.  Except that it isn't.  That's not the only reason, cheese is expensive.  I often tell myself that since I don't buy any meat it's okay that cheese is expensive, but that's a lame reason to buy anything.  Lastly, I have a few vegan friends and I want to have a really good collection of recipes I can make for them that will satisfy all of us.

It is hard for me to face a cheese-less burrito.  At least, it was before I made these.  The main thing is to make some chimichurri sauce.  It adds such fantastic flavor and the tanginess completely makes me forget that there is anything else I could want in it.  If you don't normally eat vegan I suggest you give these a try.  You can easily halve the recipe if you don't like making large quantities.  I froze most of mine so I can grab a quick healthy lunch when I haven't got time to cook. 

Vegan Black Bean and Winter Squash Burrito

makes 8 burritos


2 cups black beans (cooked)
2 cups winter squash (mashed)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups Mexican style rice
1/2 cup chimichurri sauce
8 flour tortillas


Mix together the black beans, winter squash, cumin, and salt in a medium sized bowl. 

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In a cast iron skillet (or regular large skillet) warm up a tortilla and spread out 1/2 cup of the beans and squash down the middle making sure to leave a couple of inches at either end for folding up.

Add 1/4 cup rice on top of the beans.  Make a little well down the middle of it and add 1 Tbsp of the chimichurri sauce to it.  Putting it in a well in the middle of the ingredients helps prevent it from running out of the burrito as you fold it up.

Folding a burrito is simple but after trying to write instructions out I think it would be easier to provide you with links to instructions.  Please don't microwave your tortillas.  I have found two videos for different ways to fold them:

The video by David Windsor Foods

This tortilla rolling gem:

I will take pictures of the process myself and make a separate post for it.

Recipe Notes:  Make the Mexican rice!  You can use plain but if you do, have extra chimichurri sauce on hand and use a little extra in each burrito.  But really, just make the Mexican rice, you won't regret it.  A bowl of rice with some salsa and maybe a little cheese (or not) is so good to have on hand.  Any kind of rich dry winter squash will do such as butternut, sweetmeat, or hubbard.  And whatever you do, don't make fun of my burrito photo.  Burritos are not pretty food!

Mexican Style Rice Recipe
Chimichurri Sauce Recipe

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Polenta with Spinach, Onion, and Garlic

hot sauce spiral 2.jpgWhat's the difference between polenta and cornmeal?  Nothing.  Polenta is boiled cornmeal.  You can make polenta using a fine, medium, or course grind of cornmeal which will determine how long it takes to cook.  The coarsely ground polenta will take at least 45 minutes to cook, sometimes longer.  I personally prefer a medium to fine grind because it's silkier but a lot of my friends and family prefer the coarser grinds for the grainier texture.

This is a versatile dish.  It goes well with almost anything.  I make my polenta different almost every time using what I have on hand as my inspiration.  When it's first cooked it's soft and porridge-like, perfect for spooning into a bowl with a heap of sauteed greens and garlic, but when it cools it firms up so I always pour it out onto a baking sheet, smooth it, and when it's cooled I cut it into squares or use a biscuit cutter to cut it into circles and store it in the fridge for frying up later.

This particular batch made one dinner and several breakfasts.

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Polenta with Spinach, Onion, and Garlic


1 1/2 cups polenta
6 cups of water
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
30 grinds fresh pepper

1 lb spinach, washed and chopped
1 onion, diced
2 tbsp olive oil

To prepare leftovers for breakfast:
2 pieces of cut polenta
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Sriracha hot sauce

two slices of jack cheese


In a large sauce pan bring the water to a boil.  As soon as it boils turn it down to low heat and whisk the polenta into it, this is important because the whisking keeps the polenta from making lumps in the water.  Whisk really well to incorporate.  Press the garlic into the polenta, stir well, and then put the lid on the pot and let it cook.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan on med-high heat.  Add the onion and saute until translucent, then add the spinach and toss until well wilted, turn the heat down a little and put the lid on the pan to encourage steaming and stir every couple of minutes until the spinach is tender.

Stir the onion and spinach into the polenta, add the salt and pepper and stir well.  It is ready to spoon into bowls now unless you are using the coarse grind of cornmeal.

For the coarse grind you will need to let it continue to cook.  Total cooking time for coarse grind should be a minimum of 45 minutes, though some people swear it takes no less than an hour and a half (Italians do, anyway).  To check for done-ness taste a small cooled spoonful, if it's done it will not be gritty.

To prepare leftovers for breakfast:

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan.  When hot, place two slices of polenta (pictured above are rounds I cut with a biscuit cutter) into the pan and crack two eggs next to (not on) the polenta.  The polenta is done when it is heated through and slightly browned.  The eggs are done when you say they are done.  Sprinkle the eggs with some salt and pepper.

If you like cheese you can stack a piece of polenta and and egg with a slice of cheese between them.

I highly recommend eating this with Sriracha hot sauce.

Recipe notes:  To make the breakfast vegan you can eat the sauteed polenta with beans (seasoned black beans would be very good) or with seasoned sauteed tofu.  This is a great and balanced breakfast- grains, greens, and protein.  I ate it for a week and it was the best thing about my day.  Yeah, hard week.

This recipe is vegan (if not using the egg or cheese for the breakfast leftovers)
This recipe is gluten-free.

Grapefruit Avocado Salad

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This is a classic winter salad that invites a lot of variations.  The tartness of the citrus is mellowed and complimented by the richness of the avocado.  I am transcribing a very simple version here with almost no adornment because I think it's always best to start off with something simple and then embellish from there.

I don't buy a lot of imported produce because I believe it's important to eat mostly locally grown food but I allow myself a few indulgences and one of the regular indulgences I allow are avocados.  Because I let myself buy quite a lot of avocados I don't let myself buy citrus very often.  A family friend sent me two boxes full of oranges, lemons, and grapefruits from her own yard that she grew without pesticides- it was a gift  beyond price!  I haven't had a grapefruit avocado salad in years and it is the perfect antidote to the usual deep winter root vegetable flavors and the grey skies.



4 cups lettuce

1  large avocado

1 grapefruit

4 tbsp mustard vinaigrette

(Serves 4 as a side salad or 2 as a main salad)

Method: Divide lettuce onto your plates evenly.  Slice the grapefruit in half and then (using a small sharp knife) cut out the sections and divide the slices evenly between the plates.  Slice your avocado in half, remove the pit, and then slice long narrow slices lengthwise.  If serving only two plates of salad remove all the long slices from one half and arrange on one plate (fanning them out is pretty) and then do the same with the other half.  If making four side salads then I cut the long slices in half and divvy the avocado up between the four plates and arrange neatly.  Drizzle 1 tbsp of dressing on each side salad or 2 tbsp on each main salad.


Variations: Kalamata olives are very good with citrus and avocado.  Feta is wonderful on this salad.  Instead of a mustard vinaigrette you could use a balsamic or a dressing flavored with rosemary.  Slice red onions paper-thin and add to each plate sparingly.  The same can be done with shallots.  If you don't have grapefruit but you have very good oranges on hand- use them!  Oranges go very well with the avocado too.

Turmeric Roasted Rutabagas


Rutabagas aren't as commonly used in the US as turnips and yet they are, in my opinion, much more delicious.  In Scotland and other places in Europe rutabagas are known as "yellow turnips" or "Swedes".  When raw they have a similar sharp peppery bitter smell and a watery crisp consistency but when roasted rutabagas are much richer than regular turnips.  They are a golden color and sweeten with roasting.


In this recipe I have seasoned rutabagas with turmeric which intensify the golden color of the rutabagas and add an additional earthy tone to the flavor.  This is a simple side to make to dinner whether you are having a vegetarian main course or a meat dish.  It is a fall and winter root vegetable which can be stored in root cellars so may also still be available in early spring, but by mid spring should no longer be making appearances on the dinner table.  Enjoy it now!

Turmeric is not a spice I use often but I got inspiration from my friend Riana here on her flickr pages in her series on healing herbs and spices and how to use them in everyday ways.

4 medium to large rutabagas, trimmed cubed to 1" pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
a couple of pinches of coarse sea salt
several grinds of pepper


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.   In a large roasting pan or a large heavy duty baking sheet, spread out the rutabagas.  Sprinkle the salt and turmeric on the rutabagas.  Grind the salt on them.  Drizzle all of the oil on them and then, using a spatula, toss the vegetables in the oil and spices until thoroughly coated.

Put in the oven and every ten minutes turn the rutabagas with a spatula to be sure that all sides have a chance to roast.  When the rutabagas are soft and melting on the inside with crunchy golden roasted edges, they are ready to serve.  At this temperature it should take between 45 minutes and an hour.

Recipe Notes: You can cook these more quickly by increasing the oven heat to 400 degrees, but if you do this you need to check them more frequently to prevent scorching.  I like to use an herbed coarse salt on all my roasted vegetables, if you'd like to do the same but don't have any you can simply add  1/2 teaspoon of your favorite dried herb combination.

Tenement Stew (Cabbage Alphabet Noodle Soup)


It's difficult to photograph cabbage soup to advantage.  You have to imagine the wonderful aroma of cabbage and carrots and rich vegetable stock punctuated with garlic and thyme to be suitably impressed.


This is fall and winter food.  You can use items from your freezer and pantry.  I made this soup from only things I already had on hand.  The title of the soup is my nod to the hard life and how humble ingredients such as cabbage and potatoes have kept a lot of poor humans from starving.  There are people who undervalue both the wonderful flavor of cabbage as well as its nutritional contribution to the fall and winter diet.  Common cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, calcium, and Potassium.

When I first made this soup I did a cost analysis on it.  Here were my results:

Can this stew be made more cheaply than going out to eat a fast food meal? It turns out that the reason why poor people eat so much soup is because it's a cheap and nutritious way to feed your family. I priced out my ingredients (bearing in mind that my stock was free since I made it from my own vegetable scraps, and my thyme was almost free because I grew it and dried it myself) this soup cost .53 per serving.

That's for a cup and a half of nutritious and very tasty soup. Can you get a nutritious meal at McDonald's for .53 cents? That's a trick question. You can't actually get a nutritious meal there.  Try my tenement stew. It won't break your pocketbook. It will hardly make a dent in it.


2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 large carrots, chopped
1 large russet potato, cut into 1/2" cubes
1.5 pounds of chopped cabbage
2 cups cooked navy beans (or 1 can of rinsed white beans)
3 cloves garlic, minced fine or pressed
1 quart diced tomatoes (with its juice)
1 quart of stock (or water)
1/4 cup alphabet pasta (or orzo, or rice)
1 tbsp dried thyme
2 tsp salt (or to taste) pepper to taste a shake of cayenne pepper for heat


Heat oil in a soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and potatoes and stir frequently until the onions turn transparent. Add the stock and tomatoes. If the stock is still frozen just dump it in there and close the lid for a while, checking to keep vegetables from sticking. Now turn the heat down to medium and add the cabbage, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick, add some water to it. When all the vegetables are cooked through, add the cooked beans and the pasta and a shake of cayenne pepper. Cook for an additional ten minutes. When the pasta is done the soup is done.

This soup serves 6-8

Whether or not you need to economize right now, this is an excellent stew to eat when the wind outside is cutting through your wool coat and the rain is sheeting against your face. Eat it with a decent sized hunk of wheat bread with butter if you need to be out in that weather for long. The cayenne will help warm your blood, the garlic will help fend off the plague.

This recipe is vegan if the pasta you use has no eggs in it.
This recipe can be gluten free if you use a gluten free pasta: if you're making it for someone who is eating gluten free because they have to (they're allergic), please be very careful which pasta you use because some "gluten free" foods are made in factories where gluten is present.  If possible check with the person to see if they know of a safe brand.  OR just leave the pasta out altogether.

Potato Celery Root Soup


Celery root is abundant throughout the fall and winter in the Pacific Northwest and if you, like me, try to eat both seasonally and locally then this might very well be abundant where you are too.    Like most potato based soups, this one is creamy and lightly earthy and with the addition of celery root it also has a wonderful delicate celery flavor.  Seasoning should to be taste but kept simple.  I like to add milk to my creamy potato based soups but I've also made them without the milk and it's very good, so it's worth making if you're vegan.  The cheese garnish is optional if you're not me.

Potato Celery Root Soup


3 large starchy potatoes (either Russets or a similar type), diced medium
1 whole celery root, diced medium
1 giant carrot, diced medium
2 quarts vegetable or chicken broth, or water
Salt to taste
Pepper, about a kazillion grinds
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup of 2% milk, optional
Cheddar cheese garnish, optional


Heat up the olive oil and butter in a soup pot on medium high heat, then add all the vegetables at once.  Stirring frequently, saute the vegetables until they very slightly brown (about 10 minutes on my burner).  Don't let them burn.  Add the stock (or water) and make sure nothing has stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Bring the soup to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer.  Cook until all the vegetables are soft and until the potatoes come apart easily.

Add salt and pepper to taste.


Recipe notes: With a delicate soup like this I would suggest the best choice for broth is vegetable or plain water.  Chicken would be alright, but beef broth would have too deep and heavy a taste of its own and may overpower the light flavors of the soup.  Always remember that a soup is highly personal and if you like it runnier than it turns out, add more liquid.  If you like it thicker, like I do, let it cook down a little bit.  There is no hard science to soup.  A lot of it is by preference and by feel.  I usually use more salt and pepper in this soup than my other soups.  I would say I use between 1 1/2 tsp and 2 tsp salt and I probably do about 40 grinds of pepper.  I use my immersion blender to blend it and don't have to wait til it cools, but if you're using a full size blender to puree the soup you'll need to wait until it cools a bit or you might burn yourself.

To veganize this recipe all you need to do is use 2 tbsp of olive oil for the sauteing and don't use the milk or add any cheese.  I promise it's a very good soup without these additions.

This soup is gluten free through no merit or planning on my part.

Potato Celery Root Mash

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This is a simple satisfying winter accompaniment to a meal.  It can also be put into hand-pies (what I lovingly refer to as "poorhouse pies") and as soon as I have a couple of other necessary recipes posted I will give instructions on how to make poorhouse pies using this mash as one of the fillings.

Potato Celery Root Mash


2 large potatoes (starchy type, such as russet), diced into 1/2" pieces
1 whole celeriac (celery root), diced into 1/2" pieces
1 medium sized turnip (or 2 small ones), diced into 1/2" pices
1/2 stick of butter
salt to taste pepper to taste


put all of the vegetables into a steamer basket fitted into a pot and steam them until very tender.  If your steaming basket will not accommodate them all at once, steam the potatoes first, then steam the celeriac and the turnips together.

Put all the hot vegetables in a medium sized bowl and cut up your butter into pieces and add it to the bowl and fold it into the vegetables until it is melted.

Use a potato masher to mash them into a smooth consistency.  Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  My guess is at least teaspoon of salt will be needed.

Serve hot.  (Reheat if necessary)

Recipe notes: Many people boil their root vegetables before mashing.  I don't see any reason not to do it this way if you prefer it.  My mother always steamed rather than boiled vegetables because she believed it was healthier, and I tend to agree, but I haven't got any proof to share either way.  I am a fan of mashed potatoes and I like, but don't love, potatoes mashed with turnips, but this combination is divine!  The celery root and turnip keeps the mash from stiffening up because they aren't starchy like the potatoes, and the celery root adds a delicate wonderful flavor.  This is one of those simple winter foods that take few ingredients or effort to make and so are not only budget friendly but also a great dish for people with little time.

Veganize this! To make this recipe vegan, simply use olive oil in place of the butter.  Use a mild golden variety rather than a green grassier flavored one.  Or you can use a vegan butter substitute if you like, however, I would always recommend using either butter or olive oil rather than an unnatural hydrogenated spread which may rely on a lot of unnecessary ingredients to help it mimic the butter experience.  If you can't (or don't wish) to eat dairy, olive oil is often the best substitute for butter.

Recent Comments

  • angelina: We ate it up very fast! read more
  • Tarrant: oh my-this sounds appealling read more
  • Aimee: Oh, YUM. read more
  • angelina: For crying out loud, Angela, get on the vegan version read more
  • little big: I totally have that book! And the part II that read more
  • Angela (Cottage Magpie): Oh, that sounds gooooood! My favorite soup in all the read more
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