A New Classic: Vegetarian Cassoulet
We all know the class French dish, cassoulet, with pork, chicken, and sausage. It is perfect on a winter’s evening for dinner. But what if you aren’t eating meat? A vegetarian cassoulet is a delicious non-meat alternative to this rich traditional version. While is without meat, it doesn’t lack flavor and fills you up. And what makes this dish even better than the original? It is simple to make and can be on the table in under an hour. The dish is respectable enough to serve on Sunday and to company. Even my meat loving guys enjoy this dish not missing the meat.
Simple Ingredient for Big Flavor
Simple ingredients you may have in your fridge and pantry. It is leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, ground clove, and canned cannelloni beans. I like to use fresh herbs even in winter, but you can substitute dried herbs. I bring my herbs inside keeping them in my mud room so I have fresh thyme, parsley, rosemary, and oregano to use in my cooking. I was fortunate when I made this vegetarian cassoulet last I had fresh leeks from my garden. They were little ones, but so good. I took pride in using them in my dish. The cassoulet has a garlic breadcrumb topping. Depending if I have stale homemade bread, I will make my own or I use store bought bread crumbs.
This really is a meaty dish. You can serve it with a salad and a baguette.
- - 3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
- - 4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
- - 3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
- - 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- - 1/4 cup olive oil
- - 4 thyme sprigs
- - 2 parsley sprigs
- - 1 bay leaf
- -1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- - 3 cans cannellini rinsed and drained
- - 1 quart water
- For garlic crumbs
- - 4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
- - 1/3 cup olive oil
- - 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- - 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1. Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.
- 2. Wash well and pat dry. Salad spinner is helpful.
- 3. Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes.
- 4. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.
- 5. Make garlic crumbs while cassoulet simmers.
- 6. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
- 7. Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated.
- 8. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
- 9. Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.
- 10. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf.
- 11. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth.
- 12. Season with salt and pepper.
- 13. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.
Dining at a Turkish restaurant, you are usually served a wonderful warm bread called Turkish Pide Bread. It is moist and chewy perfect for hummus and other fresh salads served. My husband grew up eating Turkish Pide Bread in the Netherlands straight from the market stalls. They would eat it with raclette or as they would call it gourmet. We make ours without cheese. It usually is a grilled meat feast where I insist on having a salad and fresh veg to dip in the various sauces. For the past 20 years, when we have gourmet, it would be with French bread. And in the most recent past, I have been making the baguettes with success. My husband mentioned how nice it would be to have the Turkish Pide Bread.
Overcoming Fear of Yeast
I decided to find a recipe and make it. Overcoming my fear of yeast bread making. It was surprisedly very easy. All it is is flour, yeast, salt, water, and Everything Bagel seasoning.
I have been experimenting with proofing my breads. Usually, I leave them out, but I decided to try and making a proofing oven in my oven without a proofing setting. It worked. I turned my oven to the lowest setting which is 170F. When it is ready, I put my dough in a metal bowl with a damp kitchen towel in the oven and shut it off leaving it to do a first proof for an hour or longer. It really works! I’m now making all of my breads this way and have cutdown production time by half. I’m now making my no-knead bread in a day instead of over two days.
Ready to make two loaves of Turkish Pide Bread?
- - 500 grams quality brand of all-purpose flour (or 3.5 cups)
- - 7 grams dried yeast (or 1 teaspoon or 1 packet)
- - teaspoon salt
- -1.5 cups warm water
- - Olive oil to grease bowl for proofing
- - 1 egg yolk
- - 1 tablespoon olive oil
- - As much of Everything Bagel seasoning as you want
- 1. Turn oven onto lowest setting.
- 2. Combine flour, yeast, and salt in mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add warm water. Use a wooden spoon to mix ingredients then your hands to bring the dough together.
- 3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface kneading for 15 minutes until it is elastic and smooth.
- 4. Brush the metal bowl with oil then place the dough in the bowl coating it with oil.
- 5. Spray kitchen towel with water making it damp then cover the bowl with it.
- 6. Place bowl in oven and turn oven off letting the dough proof for an hour or until it doubles in size.
- 7. Remove dough.
- 8. Put a baking tray on the middle shelf then preheat oven to 450F/230C.
- 9. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half then flatten slightly with hands not making it too thin.
- 10. Place pieces on separate parchment paper then stretch into a rectangle.
- 11. Cover with damp cloth for 15 minutes.
- 12. Polk holes in the dough.
- 13. Whisk oil and egg yolk and brush on the pieces then sprinkle with Everything Bagel seasoning.
- 14. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
A world without Nutella is a very sad one. At least for me anyway. As I moved to plant-based eating, I decided I needed to find a recipe for vegan Nutella. It is a creamy smooth chocolate hazelnut spread you can put on bread or pancakes or dip fruit into it usually has milk and processed sugar. A main part of plant-based eating is removing processed foods including sugar and grains.
Vegan Hazelnut Spread
After some searching, I found a recipe for vegan hazelnut spread. While it is only five ingredients, there is some work to take place. You’ll need raw unsalted hazelnuts, vanilla extract, sea salt, dairy-free dark chocolate or a cacao powder, and pure maple syrup. And a good blender or food processor to blend it all together.
There are some keys to making this yummy spread. One is to roast the hazelnuts. Even if you purchase roasted hazelnuts, re-roasting will warm the natural oils and loosen the skins. And a sturdy towel to remove as much of the skins as possible. That will make a creamy spread. Chocolate is another important element. Chose quality chocolate or cacao powder to make your spread. There will be a sticker shock when you purchase quality cacao powder. I use Trader Joe’s 72% Dark Chocolate bar.
In making this vegan Nutella, you can customize it to your taste. It is all natural without stabilizers so stirring is a must. It is perfect to put on homemade bread.
- - 3 cups raw unsalted hazelnuts
- - 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or paste
- - 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- - 2/3 cup dairy-free dark chocolate
- - 1 or 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1. Preheat the oven to 350F or 176C.
- 2. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. For raw, roast for 12-15 minutes. If already roasted then roast for 8-10 minutes.
- 3. Remove tray from oven and cool slightly.
- 4. Transfer hazelnuts to towel and roll the nuts around getting as much skins off as possible.
- 5. Put the skinless hazelnuts in the food processor blending until a butter forms after 8-10 minutes.
- 6. While the butter is blending, melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second increments.
- 7. When the butter is creamy and smooth then add the vanilla and salt blending well.
- 8. Based on taste, you can adjust the seasoning and add 1 or 2 tablespoon maple syrup.
- 9. Transfer to a clean jar and store at room temperature. It will keep for 2-3 weeks.
Tea for health has come recently to me. I have always drank tea for sheer pleasure. I drink it cold, warm, and hot. You could say I bleed tea. There is a ritual of drinking tea then drinking it. Tea is to be sipped and I can never be negative while I have a cup of tea in my hand. In my cupboard is a tea tin where I have different types of tea. It is quite a selection of green and herbal teas. My electric kettle is always ready to click on for a cuppa.
A gift of handcrafted herbal teas.
People have drank tea for centuries. It is known as a cure all for the maladies of life. That includes for health. When a dear friend sent me such a thoughtful gift of a selection of handcrafted herbal teas from Longeviteas, I was intrigued. The teas were developed by Dr. Jessica Cail, a research psychopharmacologist specializing in mind-body medicine. The blends were created on scientific evidence with each formulation containing phytochemicals which are chemicals naturally found in plants that were selected because the peer-reviewed research showed a demonstrable link between them and particular effects. So this isn’t some new agey chick throwing a bunch of herbs together and calling it a miracle tea that we tend to see in the wellness space today.
Tea for Health
My sample pack contained four herbal blends: Original, Vitality, Tranquility, and Immunity. The formulas chosen because the research shows a strong link between them and a particular effect such as longevity, mental functioning, relaxation, or defense against colds/flu. Dr. Jesse’s blends contains herbs or spices which are anti-inflammatory and/or mildly diuretic. Three of the four have caffeine. As someone with an auto-immune disease and all that comes with it, I was all in for the teas when I read about the anti-inflammatory effects of tea. After years of prolonged high dosages of prescription anti-inflammatory medicines, I can’t take them due to affects on my kidneys so I am always looking for a natural way to manage my inflammation. That said on December 10, 2020, I decided to change how and what I ate moving to plant-based eating. It has changed my health of the better. Adding Logeviteas I believed has really helped… especially my digestive health. My recent lab results are proof the lifestyle change is making a difference.
A feast for the senses
The teas are a feast for the senses. It is loose leaf so you can see the natural beauty of the plants. As you scoop the tea out, the texture is rich. The smell of the blends is intoxicating. The taste of each blend is complex with its own character. My favorite is the Immunity tea which is a spicy rosewater chai with cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and black tea. I drink it daily in the morning then in the afternoon I switch over to the Tranquility blend that is caffeine-free made with valerian, eleuthero, passion flower, lemon balm, chamomile and lavender.
So put the kettle on and blend some tea for health.
Disclaimer: Folks, I’m not a doctor nor pretend to know the science behind it. All I know is it tastes good and I feel better. Always consult your doctor or pharmacist regarding taking herbal anything for drug interactions.
)Healthy Plant-Based Breakfast
When I bake it involves butter, eggs, sugar, and cream. And lots of of it. Usually that is until now when I made vegan almond cranberry breakfast cookies. No eggs, butter, or sugar involved in making these cookies.
As I move into plant-based eating, I need to evolve my thoughts on baked goods. The plant-based model discourages most of the ingredients used in traditional baking in western culture. While it is easier to be creative in making veggie dinners or as I say winging it, my confidence in vegan baking didn’t exist. I started following some plant-based blogs. One was Flora & Vino where I came across their recipe for a cranberry almond breakfast cookie. Intrigued I printed it out. (Check out Flora & Vino blog and give them some love.)
The first ingredient was a flax egg. OK? A flax egg? What on earth is that? Turns out it isn’t scary. All it is flax seed ground and water whipped together then left to sit for 5 minutes to gel. It was pretty cool.
Make Your Own Flour
The ingredients for this almond cranberry breakfast cookie are pretty simple: flax egg, banana, sunflower butter, maple syrup, rolled oats, oat flour, cinnamon, baking powder, dried cranberries, and slivered almonds. My pantry is pretty well stocked. I had all of the ingredients except for oat flour. I went to the stores to find it, but no one had it. That’s when I went to the Googles and looked up how to make oat flour. Guess what? All it is is rolled oats put through a blender. That’s it so that’s what I did. I got out my trusty decades old Braun Handmixer using an attachment I had never used before: the little chopper bowl. In 15 seconds I had oat flour. I am now kicking myself for buying almond flour when I could have made my own. So live and learn.
These cookies were amazing. So tasty. I didn’t miss the eggs, butter, and cane sugar. Such a yummy treat that even got a thumb’s up by my guys those my son said they were good, but not his favorite. I’m still counting it as a win.
A great grab and go with some tea to start the day off running. For more vegan recipes.
Almond Cranberry Breakfast Cookies
- - 1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoon water)
- - 1 banana, smashed
- - ½ cup sunflower butter
- - ½ cup pure maple syrup
- - 1 cup gluten-free old fashioned rolled oats
- - ¾ cup gluten-free oat flour
- - ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- - ½ tsp baking powder
- - ½ cup dried cranberries
- - ½ cup slivered almonds
- - Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- - In a large mixing bowl, whisk up the flax egg and allow to sit for ~5 minutes to gel.
- - Smash the banana in the same bowl and add in the sunflower butter and maple syrup.
- - Mix in the rolled oats, oat flour, cinnamon, and baking powder and stir well to combine.
- - Add in the cranberries and almonds.
- - Drop batter onto the baking sheet using the 1/4 measuring cup making 15 cookies.
- - Bake for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown underneath and around the edges.
- Reminder: Cool before serving. Store leftover cookies in the fridge for up to one week and freeze for long term storage.
Good for the Soul: Homemade Chicken Soup
Most of us growing up when we were sick, soup was what we ate. And the top choice was some form of chicken soup. Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup from a can was in our cupboard growing up. While my Mom was a good cook and did make soup, I don’t remember her ever making a chicken soup. I do make a couple of soups such as Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Rice Soup, but never the traditional chicken soup.
Not that this recipe is very traditional. I’ve made it with some healthy flu fighting ingredients such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, fresh herbs, and orzo pasta. It is a step-up from canned soups. This is a quick and simple recipe. There are the traditional ingredients of onion, celery, carrots, chicken, and chicken broth, but the addition of the garlic, ginger along with fresh rosemary and thyme kicks it up with a more complex flavor.
Now if you are sick with cold, flu, or stomach bug, a more complex flavor may not be what you are going for, but instead something warm and liquid to fill your belly. And that’s fine, but just because you are sick doesn’t mean your taste buds should suffer or the people you share meals with.
Make a big pot of this homemade chicken soup with orzo pasta, it will become a family favorite.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2-3 large carrots, thinly sliced
- 2-3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric)
- 6-8 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme, stems removed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup small pasta
- 2/3 cup frozen peas
- - Place a large dutch oven over medium high heat and add in oil. Once oil is hot, add in garlic, onion, carrots and celery; cook for a few minutes until onion becomes translucent.
- - Next add in grated ginger and turmeric. Sauté for to let the spices cook a bit for about 30 seconds, then add in chicken broth, chicken breast, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.
- - Bring soup to a boil, then stir in pasta. Chicken should be covered with broth.
- - Reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked.
- - Once chicken is cooked, remove then shred the chicken with two forks. Add chicken back to pot then stir in frozen peas. If the soup is too thick then add more broth.
Mushroom Lentil Stew Over Mashed Potatoes
This mushroom lentil stew will have your meat lovers thinking they are eating a hearty meaty meal. It is a perfect dinner on a wintery night. While it is hearty and meaty, the meaty part is the combination of lentils and mushrooms. No meat involved.
My life right now is about keeping it simple and quick. This recipe fills the bill. It can be made in 30 or so minutes. Mushrooms are a quick pick up from the grocery. I always have little yellow potatoes in the pantry. They are easy to half and I don’t have to peel. The rest of the ingredients should be in the pantry.
Mushroom lentil stew over mashed potatoes is vegetarian. I’m sure it can be made vegan with some adjustments. For right now I’m happy using soy sauce, butter, and milk in small quantities. I make my own mashed potatoes which is just boiling halved baby yellow potatoes in salt water for 25 mins, draining, adding salt/pepper, butter, milk, then mashing. Or you can buy ready made potatoes. Up to you.
This meal is stick to your ribs comfort food. It is now in our regular rotation and wanted by my guys. Need more plant-based recipes, then go here.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped shallot
- 2 cups sliced baby Bella, cremini or button mushrooms
- 1-2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
- Pinch Kosher salt
- Generous turn of the pepper grinder
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme or 2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2/3 cup dry green lentils, rinsed and drained
- 2-3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- Add oil to a large pan over medium heat
- Sauté shallot until soft, stirring occasionally
- Add mushrooms and soy sauce increasing heat to medium-high
- Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a pinch of salt and pepper
- Add thyme, lentils, and 2 cups vegetable broth.
- Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat then reduce heat to a simmer and cook on low for about 20 minutes, adding more broth as needed if the mixture looks dry.
- Make Mashed Potatoes
- Add potatoes to a large pot and cover with water so they are just submerged
- Bring to a boil on high heat and cook for 25 minutes
- Drain potatoes then add back to pot
- Season with salt, pepper, butter, and milk mashing until tender and fluffy.
The slow cooker has saved the day many times over the past three months. Slow Cooker Chickpea Butternut Squash Curry has been to the rescue a couple times one. I kept buying butternut squash saying I’m going to make x or y, but then it just sits there in the fridge with the great potential to end up in the compost bin. It is a simple and quick recipe to throw in the slow cooker then forget about it until you need to make the rice or heat the naan.
Now back to my slow cooker saving the day. This year has flown by and I have been on it by the seat of my pants. Between managing a busy family, working at the lighthouse foundation, servicing my public relations clients, attending graduate school, and launching a new business, let’s just say cooking hasn’t been top of my action list. We are attempting to eat well while adding plant-based meals without resorting to pizza or Chinese delivery. And we have done that more than we would like to admit since September. The slow cooker provided us with hot wholesome meals after long days.
This recipe is made with simple ingredients, but packs a lot of flavor. It isn’t spicy nor sweet. Just a nice balance of flavors. Add rice or naan to round it out. I buy the pre-cut butternut squash. I have no patience to peel then cut one up so I do the pre-cut.
If you are looking to add more plant-based meals to your diet then this is a good one to start with since it is so flavorful.
Slow Cooker Chickpea Butternut Squash Curry
- 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
- 2 T curry powder
- 1 T minced garlic
- 2T grated fresh ginger
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 14.5 oz can chickpeas, drained
- 1 small butternut squash (about 2.5-3 lb), peeled and diced or sweet potato
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Combine all ingredients except for cilantro in the slow cooker
- Cover and set to LOW
- Cook 8 hours
- Add chopped fresh cilantro
- Serve over rice
Simple Roasted Sweet Potato Lentil Feta Salad
For the past two weeks, it has been hot here in Newport. Our house doesn’t have air conditioning – units or central – it can get pretty toasty. Not a pleasurable environment to cook anything, but we still have to eat. This is a super simple tasty summer meal. Or nice side to chicken or fish.
I have a Phillips Air Flyer. It makes french fries, baked potatoes, chicken, and donuts. Today, I decided to see if I could roast veg in it. I didn’t want to turn the oven onto 400 and roast for 30-40 minutes. The kitchen was already 86 degrees so adding to the heat doesn’t seem ideal. I chopped up peeled sweet potatoes, carrots, and red onion then combined them with some oil olive and a pinch of chili flakes. Preheat the Air Fryer at 360 or 375 depending on your Air Flyer running it for 10 minutes. Add the veg into the basket. Cook for 10min, shake, then another 5-10min. An air flyer is a worthy investment. Fried foods without the fat and mess.
Let’s talk about lentils. My pantry is stocked with a few different types of lentils such as brown, yellow, and French. This recipe calls for French lentils which can be hard to find. Some grocery stores s stock them, but your best bet is a health food store where they have self-serve bins of beans and lentils. That’s where I found the French lentils was at my local A Mart which is a regional well-stocked natural food store in Newport.
To cook lentils, weight what you need out, rinse, then put in a saucepan. Add the lentils, a bay leaf, salt, and water making sure it covers the lentils. Put on the stove with the lid on high for about 20-30 minutes. Test it along the way. I’m bad at setting timers so I have guess and test.
The question of cheese arises. You can use goat or cow’s milk feta for a vegetarian meal. To make it vegan, you can omit the feta or use a vegan feta cheese. Any way you serve it, it will be tasty.
Roasted Sweet Potato Lentil Feta Salad is super easy to make and is a quick, healthy summer dinner. Want more plant-based recipes? Go here.
Roasted Sweet Potato Lentil Feta Salad
- - 2 large carrots, cut into cubes or sliced baby carrots
- - 1 red onion, finely sliced
- - 2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled cut into cubes
- - 3 tbsp olive oil
- - Pinch dried chilli flakes
- - 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- - Pinch of salt
- - 250g cooked French lentils
- - 1 Bay Leaf
- - Feta, crumbled
- - 2-4 hand full of greens
- - Preheat the oven to 400F or 300C. See post for Air Fryer instructions.
- - Put the carrot, onion and sweet potato in a large shallow baking tray, drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and the chili flakes.
- - Roast for 30 mins, turning occasionally, or until tender and turning golden.
- - Make the lentils according to the pack instructions adding salt and bay leaf.
- - Serve lentil on a bed of greens.
- - Top with the roasted vegetables and crumbled feta.
- - Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Dump the Bottled Ranch Dressing
Once you make ranch dressing from scratch, you will never buy it from the store again. There is something creamy, tangy, and just so fresh tasting about it. Simple ingredients that most have in their pantry: mayo, sour cream, milk, lemon, salt, ground pepper, and dried herbs. That’s it. In less than five minutes you can have homemade ranch dressing that will keep up to a week in the fridge on hand for veggies, salads, and chicken. It is so good, it won’t last a week.
You can use dried or fresh herbs. I used herbs from my garden. Don’t be afraid to pack it with herbs for a robust flavor. Sea salt is great for this dressing, but Kosher will work. I use local sea salt by Newport Salt Company. It is worth investing in quality ingredients.
Try Basil Buttermilk dressing or basic Italian vinaigrette.
- 1/2 cup mayo
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup regular milk or buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon fresh or dried dill weed
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried chives
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon finely ground pepper
- freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Mix mayo, sour cream, and milk together in bowl with a whisk.
- Add herbs mixing finishing off with the lemon juice.
- Keep in the fridge in an airtight container.