Thursday, January 4, 2018

Fasting for Russian Orthodox Christians: Peanut Butter

This was a hit at trapeza the last time I took it there!

Thai-inspired peanut soup

Vegetable stock
Peanut butter (I prefer the crunchy kind because the little bits of peanuts add texture)
Coconut milk
Thai spice mix
Spinach, kale, carrots, celery or other vegetables, chopped

Put vegetable stock in pot. Add peanut butter and heat. It will look curdled at first but stir and keep stirring until smooth. Add spices and coconut milk to taste. Add chopped vegetables a few minutes before serving if you like them tender/crisp; otherwise add them earlier to cook and add any greens at the last few minutes.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Fasting for Russian Orthodox Christians: Shellfish

Even on no-oil days, Russian Orthodox Christians may eat shellfish. But how to prepare it without oil?

Whether you choose a pot on the stove or something more exotic, shrimp are easy to prepare without oil. For an Asian taste, you can simmer them in coconut milk and curry powder; use your vegetable stock and make them into soup; or add them to rice or rice and lentils. Stir in some cooked vegetables and you have a meal in a few minutes.

If you have shell-on shrimp, don't throw away those shells--yet. First transform them into a court-bouillon by boiling the shells in water until the shells release their flavor, about 10 minutes. Let the broth cool and strain into a container. (Okay, now you can throw away the shells.) Refrigerate, freeze, or use the broth as you would vegetable stock, including saving the broth for when you cook shrimp next.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Fasting for Russian Orthodox Christians: Vegetable Stock

Making your own vegetable stock is easy and fairly foolproof, but what you can do with it during a fasting period?

Make soup: add mushrooms, kale, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, or whatever you have handy. If you like you can thicken this with a little alternative milk (cashew milk works well).

Use as a flavoring agent for rice, lentils, beans, or whatever grains you enjoy such as quinoa, barley, buckwheat. In my house a pot of rice and lentils cooked with vegetable stock instead of water, mixed with a few salad greens to wilt at the end, and perhaps a leftover potato, is a favorite.

You can also use this as a broth to cook shellfish in (more on that next time).

So how do you make vegetable stock? You can use a pot on the stove, a slow cooker, or a pressure cooker.

Add trimmings from vegetables: root vegetable tops, trimmings from asparagus, celery leaves, or whatever else is left over after prepping vegetables. In a pot on the stove or slow cooker, cook until vegetables are mushy. In a pressure cooker, that's about twelve minutes on high. Remove from heat and let cool until you can sip it without burning yourself.

In my house we freeze this as is in freezer bags, so that we can spice it up according to the dish we're making with this. Think beyond salt and pepper; experiment with oriental spices, central American spices, until you find a combination that works for you. You'll find your dinners a lot more interesting!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Fasting for Russian Orthodox Christians: Potatoes

Potatoes without oil, sour cream, cheese, or butter? Yes, they can be delicious!

Mashed potatoes: cook potatoes in your usual way. Add alternative milk (unflavored, unsweetened cashew milk works well here), salt, garlic powder or garlic cloves, black pepper, some dry mustard, and a bit of nutmeg. Mash (with or without skins, up to you). Put under the broiler for a few minutes.

Roasted potatoes: Cut potatoes into small chunks; brush each chunk with mustard thinned down with water. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fresh or dried rosemary. Bake until they turn brown, correct seasoning and serve. You can use either ballpark (yellow) mustard or spicy brown mustard.

You can even use potatoes to fill vegan pierogi dough or ravioli dough!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Fasting for Russian Orthodox Christians: Avocados

What can't be done with avocados? You may or may not remember that avocado toast is a thing, and it's easy to dress up that toast into something pretty enticing.

Avocado toast is easy. Toast some bread. Cut open an avocado. Spread avocado on toast.

But making it tempting can be a bit more difficult. Fortunately, there's more than a few ways to make that avocado a bit more enticing.

Add salad greens on top
Add salsa on top
Mash the avocado with lemon or lime juice, and add black pepper. Top with olives, capers, or cooked or raw vegetables.

But avocados are great for other uses, too. You can make avocados into chocolate pudding by adding cocoa powder, sugar, alternative milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Make smoothies and add whatever fruit or vegetable strikes your fancy (I make mine with coffee for the liquid). Use avocado in place of cheese or mayonnaise, including salad dressings, and you can even make a green alfredo sauce with avocado, basil, lemon or lime juice, and a garlic clove.

In short, the avocado satisfies your craving for fats and its mild taste is versatile enough to be used in all sorts of cooking.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Fasting for Russian Orthodox Christians: Pasta in Tomato Sauce

There are times when you just want to get dinner on the table fast, and this one-pot dish will do it. I've blogged about cooking pasta in sauce before, both in a traditional pot and in the pressure cooker.

Toast black pepper and garlic powder in dry pot for about 20 seconds, until you smell the spices. Add some canned or jarred tomato product (the kind doesn't matter; you can use canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, or jarred pasta sauce). Add pasta until pasta and sauce are level. Then add enough water to raise the liquid level about 1 inch over the pasta. Stir until pasta is evenly coated and water and tomato product are thoroughly mixed, and mixture begins to simmer. Add whatever herbs you may want to use (basil, parsley, italian seasoning, etc.)

If you're doing it in the pressure cooker, add water until the level of sauce and water is even with the pasta, stir until the mixture simmers, add herbs, put on the lid, bring to pressure, cook one minute, and use the natural release method.

If you're using a pot, continue stirring occasionally until pasta absorbs the water, about 8 minutes depending on whether you're using whole-grain pasta and how tender you want it.

Correct the seasoning, stir, and serve. If you've got some leftover raw or cooked vegetables, try stirring them in. They will parcook and add some nutrition and additional flavor.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Fasting for Russian Orthodox Christians: Hot Cocoa

Fasting in the Russian Orthodox Church has its challenges, but being that I'm holding myself out as an expert, I thought I'd give it a try. There are a lot of fasting, vegan and vegetarian cookbooks and recipes out there, and those are all well and good, but unhelpful for the particular requirements of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. So I thought I'd give things a go and help out.

The problem most of us run into is the strict fast days (no animal products except honey; no oil or wine). That leaves grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Most of the fasting cookbooks use oil, but thanks to modern tastes, fasting is easier than ever!

Right now I'm drinking hot cocoa that is totally within the rules, easy, and fast. A breakfast drink that you will find comforting on chilly mornings!

Yield: 1 serving

2T cocoa powder (the type doesn't matter)
1T (adjust to taste) sugar
Coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk, rice milk, or whatever alternative to milk you prefer (if you use the pre-sweetened kind add the sugar at the end).

Measure cocoa powder and sugar into a cup. Add a splash of alternative milk to moisten the cocoa and stir until you have a smooth paste.

For microwave: add alternative milk to fill up the cup. Stir and adjust ingredients as necessary. Heat in microwave for approximately 1 minute (microwave times vary).

For stovetop: measure out alternative milk into pot. Heat on stove until hot but not boiling. Slowly add to cup, stirring until smooth.

If you like, you can add spices to the mix, or substitute honey, maple syrup, or agave syrup for the sugar. If you're going for spices, experiment with black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, smoked paprika, fennel, star anise or anise, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, galangal or allspice.