The Quintessential French Summer Dish
Ratatouille is the quintessential French summer dish using the garden’s harvest. Up until recently I never made ratatouille before. Shocking I know. No clue why I haven’t. Glad that changed.
Simple Dish, Complex Favors
I came across “Ratatouille Reimagined: 8 Ways to Enjoy” in Forks Over Knives, Summer 2021 magazine. They had the basic recipe then 8 additional ways to serve it. I had all of the ingredients so I made it. There are two ways to make it. The traditional way is to slice then arrange veg in a dish and bake. Since it was hot and I was lazy, I took the slow cooker option which is basically chop, dump, stir, then forget until dinnertime. While it doesn’t look as fancy, it tastes delicious.
Ratatouille makes a diverse base where you can build a bunch of different meals. Good idea to make a big batch where you can handle it out. Over the week, I made it with pasta by adding canned white beans topped with fresh basil, and nutritional yeast and then to finish it off, Provencal chili by canned dark kidney beans and corn over brown rice and topped with avocado and cilantro. Both tasty and filling meals. I used canned diced tomatoes and Newport Sea Salt’s Herbes de Provence.
Looking for recipes for eggplant that can be served at room temp or cold? Try Turkish Eggplant Tomato Casserole.
- 1 pound tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 15-oz can diced tomatoes undrained
- 1 pound zucchini, halved and thickly sliced
- 1 medium eggplant cut into chunks
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped chunky
- 2 cloves garlic minced or 1 tablespoon minced jarred garlic
- 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
- 1 bay leaf
- 1. Prepare all veg and place in slow cooker.
- 2. Set on high for 4 hours stirring halfway if you remember.
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.
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.
)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.
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