food matters monday – cabbage rolls

the recipe of the week is rolled cabbage chosen by Keely Marie. i did a little research and found out the wide variety of cabbage rolls are quite popular all over the world.
for my recipe, i decided to mix different versions and made my own one with pickled cabbage leaves (often used in Southeastern Europe), rice/vegetable mix and ginger flavor (recipe below).

bits and peaces about cabbage tools

a cabbage roll (also stuffed cabbage) is a dish consisting of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a variety of fillings. it is common to the ethnic cuisines of the Balkans, as well other parts of Europe such as finland (kaalikääryleet) and sweden (kåldolmar), russia (golubtsy) and the middle East (dolma).
in sweden on 30 november is even the day of the cabbage roll called “kåldolmens dag”, celebrating the death day of charles XII of sweden with the purpose stated by its initiators to hail the multifaceted swedish cultural heritage involving national symbols with immigrant background. it is arranged by “kåldolmens vänner” (friends of the cabbage roll).
in croatia stuffed cabbage is favourite dish at christmas. also in romanian stuffed cabbage rolls (sarmale) are traditionally served on christmas and new year’s eve and also served throughout the year at weddings, baptisms parties and other large celebrations.
in europe usually the cabbage rolls consist of meat (beef, lamb, or pork) seasoned with garlic, onion, and spices. also, common is a vegetarian version with rice, barley, eggs, mushrooms, and vegetables. in turkey vegetarian dolma consists of pickled grape leaves for wrapping and rice, olive oil, pinenuts, currants (or dried figs/cherries), herbs (fresh parsley, dill and mint) and spices (usually allspice, cinnamon and black pepper) for filling.
in asia for stuffed cabbage is used chinese cabbage with seafood, tofu and shitake.
in russia golubtsy is one of the comfort foods and for most of the soviet union children cabbage rolls bring back memories of mom or grandma and long, comforting meals in a warm russia, this dish appeared in the 18th century, at a time when french cooking was getting its first wave of maniacal followers in st. petersburg. the dish earned its name for the french practice of cooking pigeons wrapped in cabbage leaves – the russian word for a pigeon is “golub.”

cabbage rolls

for my recipe i decided to mix different versions and made my own one with pickled cabbage leaves (often used in southeastern europe), rice/vegetable mix and ginger flavour.

1 pickled cabbage head (from authentic Russian shop)
1 cup basmati rise
1 big carrot shredded
1 onion chopped
2 garlic gloves crushed
200 g champignons chopped
2 cm ginger chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
6 bay leaves
salt, pepper
smoked paprika powder
chilli flakes

heat the fry pan with oil, add onions and cook for 3 min, add ginger and garlic and cook another 3min, add carrots, salt (be careful not too much, cabbage leaves are already salty), chilli flakes and cook until tender for about 4 – 5 minutes. Set aside.
heat fry pan with oil again, add mushrooms, salt, paper and cook about 6 minutes.

combine together cooked ingredients and rinsed rise and mix well.
Put a large 2 – 3 spoonful of the rice mixture into a cabbage leaf, taking care not to overfill it, and roll loosely. you’re shooting for 8 – 10 cabbage rolls, but if you have extra filling, use all of the leaves. Put the rolls seam side down in the bottom of a large heat resistant pot; it’s okay to stack them on top of each other in the pot.

add the tomatoes wit their juice and 1 cup of water on top of the wrapped cabbages, add bay leafs, cover the pot and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat so that the mixture barely bubbles and cook, undisturbed, for 30 minutes. check to see if there’s still liquid in the pot. The cabbage should be just submerged; if not, add a little water. Cover and cook for another 30 minutes before checking again.
When the rolls have plumped up and absorbed most of the liquid, and are firm, turn off the heat and let rest, still covered, for at least 10 minutes (or up to 20). serve with chopped spring onions.
click here to see what the other members of the project made this week!


food matters monday – smoked bell pepper paella

Welcome to the east corner of Spain!
This week Meg of Fledging Foodie chose our recipe of the week: paella. And just for a minute it turned me back in andalucía, costa del sol, where I ate the most delicious paella ever. The flavor is still there, in my gourmet memory box.
bits and pieces about paella
paella is a valencian cooking metal pan (paellera) and a rice dish that originated in its modern form in the mid-19th century in valencia, on the east coast of spain. many non-spaniards view paella as spain’s national dish, but most Spaniards consider it to be a regional valencian dish. valencians, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols.
paella is a catalan word, which derives from the old french word paelle for pan, which in turn comes from the latin word patella for pan. valencians use the word paella for all pans, including the specialized shallow pan used for cooking paellas. Paelleras are traditionally round, shallow and made of polished steel with two handles.
according to tradition in valencia, men are cooking paella on open fire, fueled by orange and pine branches along with pine-cones. this produces an aromatic smoke, which infuses the paella. also, dinner guests traditionally eat directly out of the paellera.
there are three widely known types of paella: valencian paella (spanish: paella valenciana), seafood paella (spanish: paella de marisco), and mixed paella (spanish: paella mixta), but there are many others as well.

smoked bell pepper paella
i cooked my own vegan version of paella (last week I’ve started fasting, so no seafood until easter, at least).

smoked red bell peppers paella
i cooked my own vegan version of paella (last week i’ve started fasting, so no seafood until easter, at least).
1 cup short grain rice (also used in risotto)
2 1/2 cup water
2 red bell peppers smoked and cut (you can also use fresh ones or canned)
1 can chopped tomatoes (in summertime – fresh tomatoes, about 700 g)
1 onion chopped
1 garlic glove minced
1 cup cooked or canned red beans, drained
2 tsp sweet paprika
A pinch of saffron (optional)
2 rosemary sticks (optional)
Salt, pepper
heat oil in a big pan (wok pan). add green vegetables: onion, red bell peppers (if u use it) and sauté until soft. add garlic, chopped tomatoes, beans, smoked red bell peppers and sauté. add salt, pepper and paprika and sauté. add water, saffron and rosemary. boil to make broth and allow it to reduce by half. add rice and simmer until rice is cooked. if it gets too dry, add more water.
garnish with more rosemary or parsley.
p.s. great paella
paella usually has a layer of toasted rice at the bottom of the pan called socarrat in spain. this is considered a delicacy there and is essential to good paella. the toasted rice develops on its own if the paella is cooked over a burner or open fire. if cooked in an oven, however, it will not. to correct this, place the paellera over a high flame while listening to the rice toast at the bottom of the pan. once the aroma of toasted rice wafts upwards, remove it from heat. the paella must then sit for about five minutes (most recipes recommend the paella to be covered with a towel at this point) to absorb the remaining broth.
indoor smoked red bell peppers
you can use special grill pan. this time, i roasted them on the fire, on our gas stove. i’ve put the red bell pepper one by one on the cooker ring and occasionally turned them to get smoked on all sides. it took about 10 – 15 minutes. then, you have to set them aside in a bowl and immediately cover with plastic wrap (or a tight fitting lid) and let them sit for about 15 minutes. the steam will loosen the skins so they’ll peel right off.



food matters monday – oatmeal/ banana pancakes

morning on another FMP Monday with aura’s great pick, oatmeal pancakes!

we had a lip – smacking sunday breakfast with these little healthy pancakes, fresh strawberry jam and dried peppermint tea. lately (5 years already :)) our weekend favorites are apple banana pancakes (will post the recipe soon) but these are for sure the runner-up. and i also like the idea of making them with oatmeal or another mush leftover (leftover strength). this time we made a fresh one and it’s totally worth it.



banana/oatmeal pancakes

we are still on the way to our “perfect” family diet. so I made some changes: replaced eggs with banana, sugar with agave and instead of white we always use whole grain flour.
1/2 cup whole grain flour
¼ cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 banana, grated
1 cup soy milk (another milk)
2 cups cooked oatmeal
rise oil, for frying (another oil)
combine all ingredients together in one large bowl.
put a frying pan over medium heat. add the oil and let it get hot. cook pancakes of any size you like until both sides have turned golden brown. serve with your favorite topping.
how to cook oatmeal
get a cup of oats.
put the cup of oats and a cup of water in the pot and set it to medium high heat on the stove. in about 3-5 minutes the oats will start to boil and froth, this is a signal to turn the heat down to low. Give the oats a stir to get an idea of the thickness. let the oats boil for about 5 more minutes, and give them a stir to see if they feel thick and gooey, when they are, the oats are done and you have your own oatmeal. experiment with the amount of water, ranging between 1 and 2 cups. use 1 cup if you like thicker oatmeal, or 2 cups if you like it more soupy.


food matters monday – pear raspberry crumble


cold weather treat: cammile’s selection and my interpretation – pear raspberry crumble.


nothing describes winter better than a baked, warm, fruit dessert, with flavors of cardamom and cinnamon and crunched nuts on the top. at least for me…



originally, the crumble is a dish of british and irish origins (since second world war), but it can also be traced, in the american cuisine, all the way back to the European colonization of the americas. in some parts of america very similar dish may be called a crisp.


interesting for me was to find out that it can be made both in sweet and savory versions. although the sweet version is much more common.


there are a lot of different types of crumble, depending of type of fruits used and also of variety of toppings (rolled oats,  different kind of nuts, cookies or cereals).


i like experimenting. one time with apples, strawberries and corn meal, another time (this recipe) is with pears, raspberries and oatmeal.


pear raspberry crumble
1 kg pears, pealed, cored and cut in pieces
200 g frozen raspberries
1 tb squeezed lemon juice
1 cup roaled oats
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped for the topping (optional)
2 tsp cardamom
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup agave or honey
4 tbsp rice oil or butter
pinch of salt

heat the oven 2000C. Combine the flour, oats, walnuts and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the oil and agave and pulse until the mixture is crumbly.

in another bowl mix together pears, lemon juice, raspberries and spices (cinnamon and cardamom).

grease 20 cm – 23 cm round baking dish with a little bit of oil (this time i used little baking dishes, so everyone had their own dish).

press half of the crumbled mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan. spread the pears mixture evenly over the crust and sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture and chopped walnuts over the top. bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. remove from the oven and serve hot or cold as u wish.

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food matters monday week – polenta layer cake

happy birthday food matters project!!! hip hip hooray to Kate and Sarah who got this all started, and to all of you guys, who let this project developing further, you all did great job :)


1 year anniversary recipe is polenta cakes with garlicky mushrooms, chosen by sandra, you can see it here and all other variations here. this week i was super creative and i made my own polenta layer cake with mushrooms, tomatoes and fresh basil filling. see the recipe below.


Polenta, by Pietro Longhi


centuries – old italian dish polenta


polenta is a popular comfort food in italy with more than a thousand years of history. it’s originated from Friuli an area of northeastern italy and here polenta, not pasta, is the traditional main staple and today is getting more and more a gourmet makeovers all over the world.


polenta is made from corn meal. the key of the popularity of this dish is that it’s amazingly versatile. it can be served with nearly anything and that is why it has spread to every corner of italy, always making use of what is locally grown or raised. it could be perfect for important occasions or every day meals. it could be as a first course, second course or a side dish, hot or cold, sweet or savory.


read more interesting facts about polenta strength, health benefits here:
· Bright eyes
· Peasant food has healthy rewards



polenta layer cake
3.5 cups water
150 g polenta or cornmeal flour

200 g button mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic gloves
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 carrot, grated
5 middle tomatoes
2- 3 tbs tomato paste
2 tbs nutritional yeast (optional) or grated cheese
salt, pepper
big bunch of fresh basil


bring the water and salt to the boil in a large pan; add the polenta and stir all the time to prevent lumps forming.
Simmer the mixture very gently on the low heat, stirring frequently, until the polenta becomes very thick, about 30 – 35 min. It is likely to splatter, in which case partially cover the pan with a lid.
apread out polenta into a square pan, using a wet spatula. allow to cool for a couple of h at the room temperature.


to make the filling, warm the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion, carrot, and celery and continue to sauté until softened, about 10 minutes.
add garlic and chopped tomatoes, cover with lid and sauté another 10 minutes. then add nutritional yeast, 2 – 3 tbs tomato paste and big bunch of fresh chopped basil, mix, stir for a minute. switch off the heat.


cut the polenta into 7 – 8 cm squares.


heat the oven to 200°C. arrange half of the cake squares in the bottom of the baking dish. pour half of the ready sauce over the squares and spread to cover. cover with another layer of polenta; pour on top the rest of the sauce. sprinkle cheese over the mushroom sauce. bake until the polenta cake is heated through between 15 and 20 minutes. let it stand for 10 minutes.


serve with fresh basil on the top of the layer cake and rucola or any other salad of your taste on the side.

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food matters monday – chinese risotto with lots of veggies and tofu


this week’s recipe is chicken jook with lots of vegetables, chosen by Erin from the Goodness Life. ihe original recipe is here.  You can also check out the other participant’s creative variations on this dish in Food Matters Project.


this creamy chinese rise porridge also known as congee—is a perfect cold-weather soup. i like oriental dishes and we are cooking them a lot, mostly quick dinner dishes with rise or noodles, different vegetables, sprouts and tofu.  but still my favourite asian food is sushi… yum


anyway, i’ve never tried chinese risotto before, it was an interesting experience. this time i didn’t experiment too much, i wanted to try the original one. i just switched out chicken for the tempeh, added some sliced carrots and instead of short brown rice i used long grain brown rice (had them at home ☺).



chinese porridge with lots of vegetables and tempeh
salt and black pepper
400 g tempeh
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 fresh chili minced or dried chili flakes
½ cup chopped scallions, plus more for garnish
1 cup long-grain brown rice
2 cups cabbage sliced into very thin ribbons
1 cup snow peas
1 cup bean sprouts
2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more for serving
9 tablespoon sesame oil
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

put the 3 tbsp oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. add 5 mm sliced tempeh, sprinkle them with salt and pepper. cook both sides until brownish. set aside and cut in smaller pieces.

put the 2 tbsp oil in a large wok over medium – high heat. when it’s hot, add the onions, cook about 2 minutes. add the garlic, ginger, chili, and ½ cup scallions and cook until they are soft, just another 2 minutes.

add the rice along with 6 cups water. bring to a boil, and then adjust the heat so it bubbles. partially cover the pot and cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally to make sure the rice is not sticking to the bottom. if it gets too dry, add more water. add the tempeh and cook for another half an hour or more, again stirring. the jook should have a porridge-like consistency; if it becomes very thick too quickly, turn down the heat and stir in extra water. when it is done, the jook should be soupy and creamy but still have a little chew.

stir in the jook the cabbage, snow peas, bean sprouts, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and remaining sesame oil; cook until the vegetables are just tender, another 5 minutes. taste and adjust the seasoning. serve, passing the cilantro, additional scallions, and additional soy sauce at the table.


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food matters monday – whole-wheat-pasta-with-sesame-spinach-and-tofu

Have you heard of the food matters project? I didn’t until last week when i accidentally came across this lovely project and instantly decided to get involved. you can read more about it here.


long story short, its a project where a group of food bloggers have come together to cook and to share healthy recipes from Mark Bittman’s cookbook- the food matters cookbook. “=the book that changed the way many people think about eating. in a nutshell, it’s about eating more plants, and in turn eating fewer animal products and processed foods.”


so i’m in … to gain and to share the knowledge and love about food, and most importantly to continue spreading the message about healthier eating choices.


this week’s recipe is sesame noodles with spinach and salmon, chosen by Sarah of Pidge’s Pantry. See the recipe here.



as i already mentioned before, i’ve been a vegetarian for quite a few years now, and more and more often I choose dishes based on vegan diet. so instead of salmon from this week’s recipe, i’ve used tofu, which makes this dish lighter and easier to digest.

to make this dish a bit more colourful i’ve added a few things of my own; my favourite winter flavour- chopped ginger; sliced carrots and also red onion.
whole wheat pasta with sesame spinach and tofu
2 tablespoons rise oil
230 g tofu
black pepper
2 squeezed garlic cloves
1 tsp clopped ginger
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 thinly sliced red onion
1 peeled and thinly sliced carrot
600 g spinach, roughly chopped
3 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
100 g whole wheat pasta

cut the tofu into small cubes and mix with 1 tbsp of soy sauce and 1 tsp of sesame oil, let marinated for 5 minutes. heat the pan, add tofu, stir-fry for 4 minutes until brown.
heat the remaining oil in a wok, add the garlic, ginger and sesame seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic begins to soften and the sesame seeds turn golden, about 30 seconds. then add the onion and carrots, fry 2 – 3 minutes. add the spinach and cook, stirring, for another minute or 2. add the remaining soy sauce and a splash of water and cook until the spinach is wilted, another 2 to 3 minutes. remove from the heat.
boil spaghetti in salted water until al dente, drain.
turn the heat under the spinach mixture to medium and add the spaghetti. toss, adding enough reserved liquid to keep things moist. taste and adjust the seasoning, soya sauce if necessary. serve.

add colours to your meal!


leisure summery new year’s days

hello from 2012!

here comes new year’s special – insane delicious vegetable lasagne with freshly made passata (tomato sauce) and italian mozzarella cheese. melting in mouth, creating tasty sensation of summer, taking us back to sicily, in sun & good friends company (sicily, we’ll be back!)




courgette (zucchini) & aubergine (eggplant) lasagne

1 kg aubergines thinly sliced

4 tbsp salt

8 tbsp olive oil

500 g courgettes thinly sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves

2 cups grated Mozzarella

600 ml passata (recipe below)

6 sheets pre – cooked lasagne

600 ml béchamel sauce (recipe below)

60 g parmesan, grated

1 tsp dried oregano

black pepper



layer the aubergine slices in a bowl, sprinkling with the salt as you go. set aside for 30 minutes. rinse well in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

heat 4 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan (skillet) until very hot and gently fry half the aubergine slices for 6-7 minutes until lightly golden all over. drain on paper towels. repeat with the remaining aubergine slices and oil.

heat 2 tbsp oil, add the thinly chopped garlic and fry courgettes for 5 -6 minutes until golden. drain on paper towels.

place the half of aubergine and courgette slices in a large ovenproof dish. season with pepper and sprinkle over half the mozzarella. spoon over half the passata and top with three sheets of lasagne.

arrange the remaining aubergine and corgette slices on top. season with pepper and top with the remaining mozzarella and passata and another layer of lasagne.

spoon over the béchamel sauce and top with Parmesan and oregano. put on backing sheet (cookie sheet) and bake in preheated oven, 220 C, for 30 – 35 minutes until golden.

*we prefer to serve it with some green salad (e.g., rucola)




3 tbsp olive oil

1 big onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

3 cans (1200g) chopped tomatoes

4 tbsp chopped basil

3 bay leaves

1.5 tsp sugar

salt and pepper



heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat and fry the onion until translucent. add the garlic and fry for another minute.

stir in the chopped tomatoes, parsley, oregano, bay leaves, sugar, and salt and pepper.

bring the sauce to the boil, then simmer, uncovered, for 15 – 20 minutes until the sauce has reduced by half. taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. discard the bay leaves before serving.


béchamel sauce


400 ml milk

2 bay leaves

3 garlic cloves

60 g butter, plus extra for greasing

45 g flour

200 ml light cream

large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

salt and pepper



pour the milk into a small pan and add the bay leaves. press the cloves into the onion, add to the pan and bring the milk to the boil. remove from the heat and set it aside to cool. strain the milk into a jug and rinse the pan. melt the butter in the pan and stir in the flour. stir for 1 minute, and then gradually pour on the milk, stirring constantly. cook the sauce for 3 minutes, then pour on the cream and bring it to the boil. remove from the heat and season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

enjoy …



p.s. little photo report of how we fell in love in sicily



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ginger bread cookies with super powers

This year when cooking our ginger bread, we granted them with tons of super powers:

- handmade dough (recipe below), kneaded with strong man’s arms
- decorated with nature’s finest – dried fruits, nuts, grated citrus peals
- marked with Latvian folklore signs
- laced with ribbon leftovers by 2 small fairies



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walking the memory lane

Fresh pancakes every morning, whole grain flour, blueberries – those are the childhood memories from Russian “kalitki” returning to me, when I bite into this whole grain flour apple pie…



apple blueberry pie
260 g whole grain flour
1 banana,
45 g oil (melted butter)
45 g soya milk (milk of your choice)
45 g agave (maple syrup)
pinch of salt

2 middle or 3 small apples, peeled and cored, cut into little pieces
150 g blueberry
 or any other berries of your taste
1 tbsp agave
2 tbsp whole grain flour

Mix flour, agave, oil, banana and pinch of salt until pastry is consistent. Leave the pastry in the fridge (or cold place) for half an hour.
Mix apples, blueberries, flour and agave.
Heat the oven to 190C.
Cover the cake pan with a thin layer of oil and flour.
Roll and place 3/4 pie crust into 23 cm (9 inch) pie pan. Press firmly against the side and bottom.
Add the fruits and cover with another rolled layer of pastry. Close the borders and make a few little cuts in the pie. Place in the oven for 35 minutes.


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