Sunday, August 28, 2016

Easy-Peasy Pea Soup

If you have slow cooker, I promise, it will be easy. I promise, it will be healthy. Yes, I promise, it will be fantastically delicious. Pea Soup. Easy. Easy-peasy indeed. 

Blog's Category: Healthy, My Own Fast and Easy, My Staple Food, Soup, Vegetarian


*** This is recipe is a real jewel for a busy person, who wants to feed a family with a quality food. If you don't have slow cooker just yet - get one. Slow cooker is a must IMHO. It allows you to throw ingredients into a pot, forget about it for a few hours, and then, opening up a lid, breath in a wonderful aroma of a healthy meal.

*** I cooked pea soup million times, different ways, with a different vegetables, with a chicken, with a smoked meat, and so on. Almost always a soup was a hit, flavorful and delicious. But there were one problem. especially when using smoked meats - it was often not-easily digested, with some sort of indigestion, heavy feeling in a stomach and such. Not with this recipe! It was 100 percent scrumptiously delish and 100 percent consequences free ;)

*** Truly vegetarian, this soup has a minimum easily obtainable ingredients and simple 1-2-3 steps. Shell we?

What is it?

Dry green split peas, some carrots, onion, celery, garlic and splash of olive oil are brewed in a slow cooker into smooth soothing concoction - true pea soup, beautiful in its simplicity and flavor.

Taste Description

Taste and texture is mild and smooth, with a tiny soft specks of remaining unblended pieces of vegetables. Pea taste and flavor is prevalent and satisfying. This softness combines nicely with a bright crunch of croutons, served along and with a dosed kick from black pepper, freshly ground over a bowl.


- As I mentioned above, it may be numerous variation there. To me this one is the optimal everyday version, my favorite one.

- All right. Instead of croutons, sprinkle bacon on top, mister Meatlover :)))

How to Serve

- Serve as soon as it's finished cooking or serve next day, or day after, warmed in microwave, it will always leave you satisfied.

Easy-Peasy Pea Soup

  • 1 lb pack of dry green split peas, rinsed
  • 3 carrots, finely diced or grated
  • onion, diced
  • 3 celery stems (including leaves), finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 3 liters of water (take a little less if you like your soup thicker)
  • black pepper (optional)
  • croutons (optional)
  • fresh thyme (optional)
-  Load your slow cooker with all ingredients, except black pepper and croutons.

- Cook on low for about 6 hours until peas are falling apart and almost fully desintegrated. Then, using immersion blender, blend soup to half-blended consistency. Be careful, don't start your blender until it is fully submerged. 

- Note: If you would like your soup be ready in about 4 hours - boil your water in a cattle before adding it to a slow cooker. 

- Serve with some freshly ground black pepper on a top, croutons, fresh thyme leaves and enjoy!



Saturday, August 27, 2016

Your Garden Salad

The idea is to pick whatever your garden gives your today and, with a couple of simple tricks, to master salad, packed with unique nutritional energy of Mother-Earth.

Blog's Category: Healthy, My Garden, My Own Fast and Easy, My Staple Food, Vegetarian


*** This recipe is not really precise recipe for a salad. It is the idea of my salad I implement almost everyday for our family dinners. When it is not a garden harvest season, I just use whatever vegetables I have at home at a moment.

*** If you also lucky to have your own vegetable patch - go outside and pick whatever is ready to jump in a bowl. Now, in August, it should be plenty. In my small garden, to my surprise, I managed to pick really beautiful bowl of kale, three sorts of tomatoes, chives, basil leaves, shiso (japanese herb with a pretty purple leaves) - see pictures below.

*** If you don't have a garden, buy whatever screams at you at your local market - some leafy vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, herbs.

*** If you read this post in a winter, and it's grey and gloomy outside - dig in your fridge and find any vegetables you can eat raw. I'm sure you can find more than you would think. At least it happens to me pretty often ;)

*** This recipe does not call for mixing your salad ingredients together. Don't! Instead, place them in a small piles next to each other on a large and shallow individual plates. I promise, you will like what you'll see.  Then add your choice of protein (I'll give you couple suggestions below) and pour a simple homemade dressing on top. Now, let's a show begin - first, eat this beauty with your eyes, appreciate colors and shapes.  Now, eat a centerpiece - flower and note its "internal" beauty. Each flower has its own unique aroma. In this recipe it's nasturtia. Pansy, calendula, Runner Bean flower, clover, dendelion, rose, lavender can be used (just make sure type of flower you are going to use is edible). After flower, try each ingredient separately to know and appreciate its individual personality. And now - loosely mix ingredients on your plate and enjoy them altogether. Depending on what random combination of them will get onto your fork - taste will be different, as different are musical passages in an opera, right?

What is it?

Random variety of vegetables and herbs, chopped, along with a one type of protein, either beans, other legumes, nuts, cheese or mushrooms, placed, without mixing, on individual plates and dressed with an olive oil based dressing. 

Taste Description

It is a dance of nature's flavors and tastes right on your plate. You will taste all array of different tangs at wherever corner of a plate your fork-explorer will lead you. It is not a meal, it is adventure, discovery, fun, joy and satisfaction.


- As a choice of protein, besides obvious ones I have mentioned above, can also be used canned fish, such as salmon, tuna or sardines, roughly smashed with a fork and also neatly piled next to vegetables on a plate. 

- Generally, as world of salad ingredients are endless, endless are variations of this salad. Just stick to a principle of not mixing ingredients together, when serving.

Side Note

I know why this kind of salad is my favorite - I really not a huge fan of food that is mixed or stirred to the point when ingredients are not recognizable. And yes, at a party, different food shouldn't touch each other on my plate. Ain't a freak :))))

How to Serve

- Serve right away. Or make an extra plate without dressing, cover with plastic wrap and keep in a fridge for your tomorrow's lunch.

Your Garden Discovery Salad

* List of ingredients largely depends on your current harvest ;)

For 3 servings:
  • 6 medium leaves of kale, stem removed, torn in pieces and processed in a kitchen processor 
  • 3 large leaves of purple collard tree, chopped (wondering what's this? see pictures below)
  • 3 yellow tomatoes, sliced
  • 3 roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 huge pink tomato, sliced
  • 1.5" diameter bunch of chives, chopped
  • 9 large leaves of basil, torn in pieces
  • 9 purple shiso leaves, julienned (leave 3 whole leaves for garnishing)
  • 3 nasturtia flowers
  • 9 stems of fresh thyme, leaves stripped from a stem
  • 1 can of cannelini (white) beans, rinsed
  • 3 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1.5 tbs sugar
  • 2/3 tsp salt
  • 6 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

-  Prepare 3 individual large shallow plates for salad.

- As you chop your vegetables, divide in three piles and transfer each onto your individual serving plates. Keep it in shape of pile. Place each vegetable pile next to each other, do not mix them together. 

- Place rinsed beans in a middle of each plate. Arrange piles to your artistic liking. Garnish with shiso leaf and nasturtia flower.

- Lightly whisk dressing and pour over salad right before serving. 

- When serving, encourage your folks to try each ingredient separately to discover its own taste and then mix all together and enjoy it! Make sure that nasturtium, especially, was eaten on its own to enjoy its unique balanced peppery, sweat-n-savory taste.



My tiny amateur garden 

Roma tomatoes. Meaty and dense.

Yellow Lemon Boy. Very juicy and sweet.

It's purple leaf tree collard. Just snap lower meaty neutraly-tasting leaves allowing your tree to grow up and up. Unfortunately it won't survive our 5b zone winter, so I'll try to save it indoor ;)

Love it, love it, love it! Peppery delicious beautiful nasturtia. Flowers and leaves are edible. I will try to seed it in abundance next year... 

Thyme. Amazing herb. Soft strength in flavor. Survives our harsh winters - a definite plus!

From the left - greek oregano, wooden legs :-) rosemary and sage. To keep flavors in bay, for this salad, get no more than 2 medium stems of oregano (use leaves only), 3" stem of rosemary (use chopped needles only), 4 sage leaves ( julienne them) .

Basil. Shiny, thick and buttery leaves with a strong unique sweetly pungent aroma.

Purple shiso on a right. I seeded them purposely to make shiso leaf kimchi. something I realy love (did do this yet).  Shiso has very bright and strong flavor, somewhat resembling sage, oregano and thyme all together :)
Green fringe-y tough leaves on a left is kale. Huge thanks to my co-worker, who, back in May, gave away his kale's seedling surplus to me, thanks Adam! Finely chopped and rubbed, kale, this mega-source of vitamins, transforms into juicy softly-chewy bright-green goodness.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mashed Potato and Eggs Breakfast Bake

This is the best use of mashed potato leftover - to bake it, in certain way, with eggs. Follow the recipe below and you'll get hearty, delicious breakfast, which you will be craving over and over again.

Blog's Category: My Own Fast and Easy, Perfect Breakfast, Vegetarian


*** Mashed potato leftovers are blah. Those are never tasty next day unless... you bake them. What can be better for a breakfast than combination of eggs and potato, in all its variations?

What is it?

Your yesterday's mashed potato, cooked bell pepper and onion, layered in buttered ramekin, topped with eggs and cheese. All these goodness is baked in an oven.

Taste Description

Through golden cheesy crust, you are breaking into soft kingdom of buttery potato, flavorful and juicy bits of pepper and onion, tenderly chewy pieces of yolk and whites. It's just impossible to stop until spoon is already scratching the bottom of a dish. 


- Of course, bacon can be added to any (or all) layers into ramekins. But why? My carnivorous folks didn't drop a sound about something missing in there while devouring their ramekin's content :)
- Replace butter with olive oil if you wish so. Mostly, I use olive oil a lot, so a little butter for a breakfast doesn't hurt, right?
- Bell pepper can be replaced with carrot, tomato, zucchini, or squash.

How to Serve

- Serve right away. No reason to wait :)  

Mashed Potato and Eggs Breakfast Bake

For 3 individual ramekins:
  • about 2 cups of mashed potato leftovers, fluffed with a fork or potato ricer
  • 2-3 tbs butter (I use unsalted, but salted will work too)
  • green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 eggs
  • about 3 slices of cheddar cheese
  • black pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbs olive oil
-  Cook onion and pepper together, in a skillet with an olive oil, until lightly golden-brown.

- Turn oven on to 375F.

- Nicely butter bottom and sides of ramekins with a soft butter (soften butter placing it in a microwave for a 10-15 sec). 

- Distribute ingredients equally between ramekins -  potato goes on a bottom and slightly on a sides. Then cooked pepper and onion. Break eggs, one by one, first in a cup, then into ramekin, two per each. Place two thin slices of butter and sprinkle a little salt. Top with a slice or two of a cheddar.

- Bake in a pre-heated to 375F oven for about 20-30 minutes.

- Grind some fresh black pepper on a top and enjoy!



Don't tap layers too snugly. Let them be airy and loose.

No need to grate cheese. Slices work as well.

These buttery bubbles are appetizingly beautiful, aren't they?

Eggs are well done and yolk is cooked through. With a juicy vegetable padding it is just the way it should be.

Cheddar crust. Yumm.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Roasted Eggplant Salad

Do you like eggplants? Here is easy no-fuzz roasted eggplant salad. Bowlful of health, colors and flavors!

Blog's Category: Healthy, International, My Own Fast and Easy, Vegetarian


*** My fellow Srilankan  coworkers inspired me on this recipe. At the International Day at my work they brought this wonderful salad with a tiny pieces of deep fried eggplant mixed with other fresh vegetables. As you perhaps already know, I'm not a fan to lunch deep-frying process at home. That's why I decided to go a roasting route. I roasted thinly sliced eggplant and mixed them as a salad with a couple of fresh vegetables. Result was perfect. Why not to share? 

What is it?

It is a few-ingredient salad with a couple of key ingredients - roasted eggplant, fresh tomatoes, cilantro and some garlic. All other ingredients are easily interchangeable.

Taste Description

It's a flavor explosion in your mouth. Flavor and texture - buttery subtle eggplant, crunchy and juicy green bell pepper, plump succulent tomatoes, crispy sweet onion, tiny sparks of pungent garlic, aromatic cilantro and a soft hit of dash of cayenne pepper.


Key ingredients - roasted eggplant, tomatoes, cilantro and garlic are the must. All other additions are up to your creativity and your fridge content.

How to Serve

- Serve right away or anytime during the next few days - it will keep in a fridge for at least 2 days. It would be great side for summer barbecue meat or fish. I like it as is, with a few crackers or croutons to make a full vegetarian meal.  

Roasted Eggplant Salad

  • 2 medium eggplants, halfed, then thinly sliced
  • 2 medium orange (or regular) tomatoes, quartered, then sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly chopped
  • 1/4 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • small bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbs olive oil
-  Turn oven to 400F. In a large bowl, mix sliced eggplant with salt and olive oil. Transfer them onto oiled baking sheet ( I use non-stick silpat). Bake in a pre-heated to 400F oven until they fully cooked and become slightly crunchy. Cool them down.

- Mix cooled eggplant and remaining ingredients together. For the best results, let it merry in a fridge for an hour or two. Although it's delicious served right away too!

- Enjoy!



Nope. No fuzz. No need for additional processing to remove alleged bitterness :) Ugu.. eggplant is wrongfully convicted IMHO :) 

Try not to over-mix - eggplant is soft and tender. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Herb Harvest Cream Cheese

Got a lot of herbs in your garden? I've got a great idea to put'em to a good use. How about a 2-minute busy time to make gorgeous, healthy cream cheese spread. As a bonus - idea of transforming this everyday food item into a fantastic hors d'oeuvre for a gourmet feast.

Blog's Category: Healthy, Hors D'oeuvre, My Own Fast and Easy, Perfect Breakfast, Vegetarian


*** On my deck, this summer, I have oregano, sage, rosemary, 2 types of thyme, basil and tarragon growing in pots. Thyme and tarragon survived mild winter, going a second round and feeling pretty well... 

*** Now, that's a shame to keep forgetting snipping them for my everyday cooking, right? Well, this rainy August weekend morning, my idea was to throw all of them, without exclusion, into boring otherwise cream cheese. Right next to herb pots, over-ripened hungarian pepper was winking at me. Throw him too! ..and that is how Harvest Cream Cheese was born.

*** To make a rainy morning brighter, I though it would be nice to garnish bagel with my Harvest Cream Cheese with a few flowers from my Runner beans, flowering right now in a garden (nope, I'm not afraid of rain to run outside for it). 

*** Basil leaves has such a beautiful sheen and so meaty, that I didn't want to touch them with a knife, so I simply placed them around, or on bagels...

What is it?

A lot of fresh herbs and slightly spicy Hungarian pepper are added to a block of regular cream cheese. Fresh flowers, whole basil leaves and smoked paprika are used for garnish. Don't forget to smear generous amount of all of these onto your favorite toasted bagel.

Taste Description

It's like eating herb and flower garden in pieces... Herbs mish-mash creates weird competitively intriguing flavor. Tiny amount of garlic adds its own punch to this carousel of flavors. Bean flower, with its very subtle sweetness, is rather visual statement, very impressive one though. 


Per your desire, sprinkle smoked paprika on a top instead of basil leaf. For even more flavor, add a tiny bit of minced sweet onion, or cayenne pepper when stirring herbs into a cream cheese.
Small amount of cheddar cheese and ground Parmesan are optional. Through all herbs flavor, it's almost undetectable. Although it adds more finesse to overall texture.
If you are strict about mayonnaise - replace it with yogurt, sour cream, or omit altogether.

How to Serve

- Serve with a bagel, toasted baguette, or crackers. 
- Neatly piled on a thin toasted slice of baguette, garnished with smoked paprika and flower (bean flower, nasturtium, viola, pansy) it will create fantastic celebratory hors d'oeuvre.


Grow in your garden what you can't buy in a store. For example, edible flowers - nasturtium, viola, pansy, snapdragon. Nasturtium is delicious - peppery and pungent. Or grow Runner beans - they are bright-orange, have subtle sweet neutral taste. These edible flowers look fantastic as a garnish for a salad, crostini, bowl with dip, cheese tray, etc.

Herb Harvest Cream Cheese Spread

  • 1 block regular cream cheese 
  • 1/2 c coarsly grated cheddar cheese (optional)
  • 1/2 c ground parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 2 tbs mayonnaise (optional)
  • small bunch of fresh thyme
  • 4 large leaves of fresh sage
  • small bunch of fresh oregano
  • 1 stem of fresh rosemary
  • small bunch of fresh tarragon
  • few fresh basil leaves 
  • 1 Hungarian (or bell) pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced 
  • Runner Beans flowers (or nasturtium flowers) for garnishing
  • pinch of salt (optional)
-  Strip herb leaves from stems and chop them, except basil. Slice pepper in half and remove seeds. Chop pepper finely. Mince a garlic clove finely.

- Mix chopped herbs, garlic, cheeses and mayo with a cream cheese. Spread onto toasted bagel, slice of baguette, or cracker. Garnish with basil leaf, smocked paprika and fresh flowers.

- Enjoy your [bagel, day, herbs] !



Oops.. I've forgotten about tarragon, one of my favorite herb! time :) I didn't have whole block of cream cheese, so you don't see enough herbs here. Don't skimp on herbs, fresh herbs taste milder than dry.

Pepper, snipped from a bush a minute ago is not the same pepper brought from a grocery store (even the most beautiful pepper..). This one, from a bush, squirting juices all around and almost squeaking when I was slicing it!

Cheddar cheese adds pretty sunny specks to this spread.

Well, I added some more pepper. You can too ;)

Runner Bean flower. Sweet, tender, beautiful, real treat for my visiting hummingbirds. Runner Bean itself deserves a separate post. It's a new addition to my garden. Supposedly, it is a perennial for our 5b zone. I planted them too late, in a beginning of summer, so won't have harvest of beans, most likely. But next year...

My Runner Bean

They are Running indeed. All the way to the top of poles and bird net we have installed for them.

Runner beans create a nice see-through screening. Next year I will plant them right by the deck.


From the left - oregano, unidentified legs, rosemary, sage. By the way, try to fry sage leaves in an oil until transparent and crispy - delish, great garnish!

Thyme, one of my favorite..

Tarragon (aka estragon, tarkhun). Sweet, has a vague anise note.