Minestrone with White Beans

While the food blogs are overtaken by sweets and flowers, and my own Valentine’s chocolate cake is sitting in the fridge awaiting the second coat of ganache; I decided to write about something less festive today. After all, most likely tomorrow is still going to be February; most likely – cold; and most likely you will be ready to jump back on a diet following the sweet Valentine. 


/The recipe is adopted from Williams-Sonoma Italian Favorites/



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  • ½ cup dried cannellini beans
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 lb (500 g) canned tomatoes with juice
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cabbage, shredded
  • 1 ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 ½ dried oregano
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley for garnish
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Yelds: 6-8 servings


Pick and rinse the beans.  Place in a bowl, cover with water and soak for about 4 hours.

Drain the beans and place in a saucepan with water to cover by about 1 inch (2.5 cm). Bring to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

Warm the olive oil in a soup pot.  Add onion, garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add the stock, tomatoes, carrot, zucchini, cabbage, basil, oregano, sugar, and bay leaf.  Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.  Add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Drain the beans and add them to the pot with the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot, garnishing with parsley and shredded Parmesan cheese.

Minestrone_Soup_WM-6The lazy version of this recipe is perfect for your crock pot collection.  Saute (or not) the onion and garlic, and dump all the ingredients but parsley and cheese in a crock pot, add 1.5 cups of water and cook on low for 8 hours.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Tomato Bisque

There are people who take the whole “back to school” craze rather seriously. I know a family that makes 60-70 frozen meals before each year starts. All ladies from their clan gather to spend a day or two chopping, cooking, packaging, and labeling… Pretty impressive, hah!? I tried to accomplish something like that before our second child arrived, though baby Pea ended up being an angel (who said women are high-maintenance?) and unlike her brother devoted her infant days to snoozing.  So, my extreme food storage proved to be unnecessary.

However, with time I did appreciate all the stuff in the freezer. So, a new tradition was started.  Now we make extra and stow our favorites for the days, when there is no time to make a fresh dinner.

Here is one of those recipes.  All you need on the serving day is some bread or croutons!

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  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 8 cups chopped leaks, white and pale green parts only (about 3-4 leaks)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 30 oz whole peeled tomatoes
  • 14.5 oz vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tbs chopped fresh basil leaves or 2 t dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream (or half-and-half, or milk)

Yields about 9 cups of soup


Prepare the soup. In heavy pan, heat oil, leeks, celery, and garlic over medium-high heat; cook 8-10 min or until leaks are soft.  Add tomatoes, broth, wine, and lemon juice.  Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover; and simmer for 30 min.  Remove from heat; add basil, salt, and pepper.  Puree soup mixture in food processor or blender until smooth.

Make ahead. Freeze in gallon or quart zip lock bags, pressing out the air and laying flat.

Serve: if frozen, thaw; heat through over low heat, stirring occasionally; add cream and simmer about 10 min or until thickened.  Do not boil.  Garnish with basil.  Serve warm.

Indian Chole

We just spent a wonderful week in Frisco, Colorado.  Yes, Frisco!  Don’t ever say it in our home town – San Franciscans despise the name!!!  Colorado folk, however, had no problems with it what so ever!  Frisco proved to be one of the friendliest beautiful little towns! The weather! Ah, The weather! It was unforgettable!  You, people, who have summers wouldn’t understand!

So, coming back to San Francisco was a bit of a shock, and I had to make some winter food – I just felt like pulling out the slow cooker – it’s so cold here!  

This dish, though different, is inspired by the Three Clever Sister’s dal.  I have been making chickpeas for years, but the crock pot idea never came into my head until I made their recipe!


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  • 2 cups of chickpeas soaked overnight
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 2 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1-inch piece ginger, minced
  • 1 14 oz can of coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1.5 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt


Blend all the ingredients but chickpeas in a food processor or a blender until liquid. Wash and drain chickpeas, place them in a slow cooker, pour the blended mixture over and cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 4-5.

Make ahead: we usually make double or triple of this recipe, since we love it.  Let it cool, and store chole in freezer-safe zip-lock bags in the freezer for up to 6 months.  

I served my chole with pita bread. The recipe was copied (for the 5 or 6th time already) from one of my favorite bloggers, Christina at De La Casa.


Russian Friday – Clay Pot Buckwheat and Vegetables

Baking in clay pots is an old Russian tradition.  I remember my babushka had a lot of these pots of all sizes, and she used them in a real Russian wood burning stove. The taste, the aroma of the dishes that came out of that stove could not be compared to anything cooked in modern gas ovens.  Though, here is my little attempt to make another trip down the nostalgia road. 

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  • ¾ cups of uncooked buckwheat, washed
  • 1 ½ cups of water
  • ¾ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 pint of mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 2 tbs mayonnaise or sour cream
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 4 tbs Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sour cream and fresh dill for garnish

Yields: 3 ½ liter pots


Make eggplant paste: cut the eggplant in half and bake it (skin down) for 15 minutes at 400⁰F /200⁰C. Remove the skin and the stem. Place eggplant, tomatoes, olive oil, 3 tbs of parmesan cheese, and garlic in a food processor, and blend until smooth.  Add a little water if necessary.

Make mushroom mixture: mix mushrooms, onion, marjoram, and mayo in a bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and mix again.

Assemble the pots: divide buckwheat between the clay pots (1/4 cup into each pot).  Cover with water (1/2 cup of water into each pot), and add salt (1/4 tsp salt into each pot).

Layer the mushroom mixture on top of the water – some of the mushrooms will float, some not, it’s all fine.

Layer the eggplant paste on top.

Bake: Bake covered at 450⁰F/230⁰C for about 45 minutes.  Take the lids off, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese, and bake for 10 more minutes uncovered.

Serve with fresh dill and sour cream.



If you liked this recipe, you may enjoy:

Hustle-Free Whole Grain Breakfast

My baby is turning three this weekend. Sniff-sniff…

A couple presents from our friends arrived while he was napping today. One of them is this adorable Responsibility Chart. It includes cute little magnetic goals (such as “Load Dishwasher”, “Set Table”, “Make Bed”, or “Take Out Trash”) and little magnetic scores ( “You did it!”, “Looking Good!”, etc.) .  Ohm, I was so tempted to re-gift it to my husband, and then I turned the board around, and found even more goals: “Take a bath”, “Stop Whining”, “Say Please and Thank You”… It’s settled – the board is going to the husband, not the child! Sorry, guys!

Anyways, this friend who sent us the gifts should be the one writing a cooking blog. She can make gasoline taste good; and since they had a baby, she took the whole “healthy eating” concept up a level!.. or two… or three… nah, more like twenty levels…
So, today’s recipe is inspired by her. All my kids (including the husband) love it!

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  • 1 cup of whole grain steel cut oatmeal (such as Bob’s Red Mill Organic)
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 tsp of butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (optional)
  • 1/4 cup milk (optional)


Place all ingredients (minus milk) in a crock-pot or an oven-proof cast-iron pot.  I like to add cold milk right before serving (to quickly chill the oatmeal).

Set the crock-pot to cook on low or place the cast-iron pot into the oven, preheated to 175° F/80° C for 8 hours.

If desired, replace sugar with honey, sprinkle with cinnamon, add nuts, and/or your favorite dried or fresh fruit.

“Where is my big spoon?” beef stew

The cold, and the dark, and the Christmas lights outside – all call for some comfort food.  This  hearty beef stew is one of my favorites. 

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  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 cups vegetable juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbs beef demi-glaze
  • 3 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • ½ tsp dried marjoram, crushed
  • 1/3 tsp black pepper
  • 2 lbs beef stew meet, cubed
  • 1 onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 medium sized potatoes
  • 1 ½ cups frozen cut green beans
  • 1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cubed
  • 1 fennel root, cubed


Combine the first 4 ingredients in the crockpot bowl.  Whisk the next 5 ingredients in. Mix in the remaining ingredients.

Cook for 4.5 – 5 hours on high or for 7-8 hours on low.

This girl enjoyed it, hope you do too!


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