Category Archives: Vegan

Ratatouille niçoise

There are several recipes or types of food which I’ve heard of, tried, or seen but have not yet tried to cook myself. One of those is ratatouille. The 2007 Disney movie brought the dish into the main stream consciousness with its adorable main character, Remy, a rat who just wanted to be a great chef. Ever since then it’s been in the back of my mind as a ‘make this someday’ dish.

Ratatouille the dish is traditionally a French dish consisting of stewed vegetables. It originated in the French province of Nice, and comes from the Occitan language “ratatolha” and the French word “touiller” meaning to toss food. There are similar dishes in many other cuisines, including the Catalan samfaina, the Majorcan tombet, the Spanish pisto, the Italian caponata, Greek tourloú, and Filipino pinkabet. French chef Michel Guérard came up with a new version called Confit byaldi for the Disney movie. It can be served as a side dish, or made a whole meal when served over rice.

In my version, I pulled together several variations, and used what I had available in my kitchen. I had planned on a potato leek soup sometime this week, but silly me had only bought one leek, so into the ratatouille it went. While I’m at it, I’ll throw the potato in there too. Oh, and a single turnip I had bought for who knows what reason. Also I had no fresh tomatoes, but my pantry is never without a can of diced tomatoes.



Ingredients:
3 zucchini (I just happened to have three different colors, so at least it’ll look pretty)
1 turnip
1 potato
1 leek
1/2 red onion
3 large bulbs garlic
1 leek
1 can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4 green bell pepper, sliced

Step 1: Slice the onion into thin strips, dice up the garlic, and slice the leek. Add them and the bell pepper to a frying pan on low with the butter and cover.

Let that cook and caramelize, stirring occasionally, while you preheat the oven to 350 and proceed to the next step. 

Step 2: Slice the zucchini into thin coins. Peel and slice the potato and turnip as well.

 Step 3: Layer the potato, turnip, and zucchini in a casserole pan.

Step 3: To the pan add the can of diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then pour over the vegetables in the casserole dish.

Step 4: Cover in foil and bake at 350 for 45 min to an hour. You’ll know it’s ready when the slices are soft when poked with a fork.

I also took the foil off after 45 minutes and let it bake another 15 minutes to evaporate some of the juices. You can now serve it over rice or couscous, with fresh crusty bread, and/or sprinkle on some mozzarella. Deliciously vegetarian and very low fat and low calorie. Bake up a batch, put on the Ratatouille movie or some classic Julia Child and enjoy!

If you have a favorite French recipe, anecdote of your trip Paris or first year of chef school, or a story of attempting a French recipe that ended unfortunately, please share here!

Hearty Quinoa with Peppers, Corn & Black olives

Quinoa is one of my newer food obsessions. As you may be able to tell, I’m quite the avid reader of food blogs, magazines, articles, TV shows, recipe swapping, etc. If it has to do with food and cooking, I’m interested. I love learning new ways of cooking, new foods I’ve not yet heard of or tried, new spices. Since coming to Colorado I met someone from Ethiopia who introduced me to Injera and all sorts of new and exciting foods, meaning a post on those will likely be coming soon! Anyhow, when I find one I like enough, it becomes a part of my food routines. Thus is the case with quinoa. It is tiny grains like rice, with a nuttier flavor that pairs well with nearly anything. But it can be a bit bland if you don’t add things to it.
If you recall from earlier posts, I moved recently and set about a mission to use up as much food from the pantry as I could so that I didn’t have to cart it with me to the next place. In the final week before moving, I discovered a box of quick-cook quinoa I didn’t realize I had. I decided that I would add as many canned items as I thought would go well together and make one heck of a side dish. For vegetarians and vegans, this could also be a main dish. Once it was all mixed together, it turned out super tasty! And it makes a ton, so be aware of that. Maybe 8 cups worth?

Ingredients:
1 box couscous (maybe 2 cups uncooked)
1 can corn
1 can beans (I had garbanzo)
1 can black olived
1 jar roasted red peppers


Step 1: Open and drain the corn, beans and olives. Pour into a pot and add a full can of water each and set to boil. Dice the black olives and red peppers into small pieces. Add the peppers to the pot.

The mixed up canned goods looks like soup.

Step 2: Once it boils, pour in the couscous and mix. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes covered.

 Step 3: Once all the liquid is absorbed, fluff it up with a fork. You now have healthy veggie and protein packed side dishes for about 8-10 people or meals!

 The flavors and colors worked together nicely. As I said, this could be a full meal in its own right. You can also experiment with adding other vegetables, meats or cheeses too.

Served with steak and a side salad. Perfect.

Slow cooker soup-in-a-bag

Dinner can literally not get any easier than:
Step 1 – take bag out of freezer
Step 2 – pour in crock pot
Step 3 – hit “start”
Ok, maybe “pick up phone and dial Pizza hut” is one step shorter, but you have to order, wait, tip the delivery guy, their customer service is outsourced to Pittsburgh… it’s way healthier my way. In my humble opinion.

Maybe this is partially inspired by these things you see on Pinterest all the time about a salad in a mason jar. Which is a great idea, and someday I’ll try it. But anyhow, with bits and pieces from other meals, I just accumulated veggies in a bag and one day after I’d made chicken and had leftover bones and grease, I used that to create a simple soup.

Ingredients:
Chicken bones, skin, fat from 4 drumsticks
1 tomato, diced
1 potato, diced
3 whole carrots, sliced
1/2 white onion, diced
2 tbsp chicken flavoring
Dash garlic salt and Italian seasonings

That bag can be tossed in the freezer to be pulled out whenever you want a quick meal hot and ready for you that night.

Step 1: Put bag of ‘stuff’ into crock pot. Add seasonings if you want, or extra chicken meat if you want.

 Step 2: Add water until crock pot is about half full. Set on low all day.

This is easily customizable to whatever veggies or meat you like. You can also add a grain like noodles, rice, or barley. If you’re full vegan, don’t use chicken leftovers as a base, you can make your own veggie stock.

Homemade granola bars + Make your own vanilla extract

As a simple on-the-go breakfast, post-workout snack, or get-you-through-the-afternoon munchie, I love granola bars! Endlessly varied in terms of type of nuts, berries, chocolate, flavors in them, they are always in my pantry in multitudes.

Usually I buy whatever is on sale, say $1-2 for a box. I have a rotation and favorites, but am not brand loyal by any means. But even at $1 for a box of 6, it can get expensive. So I figured, I already have lots of different types of nuts and dried fruits, and oats. It can’t be hard to make my own.

After googling a bit, I found this recipe for home made granola bars, which is close to what I had on hand. But I didn’t want the chocolate part (shocking, I know!) because I’d be storing them in my book bag and gym bag and don’t want to deal with melty chocolate all over my workout shoes or laptop. So as usual, I took the framework of the recipe and made it my own with what was on hand and the pan size I was working with. The results were splendid!

Ingredients:
3 cups oats
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
1/4 cup smashed pistachios (I shelled them, put them in a ziplock baggie and smashed them up with a spoon. For reals.)
1/2 cup smashed up candied peanut halves (also ziplock pulverized)
1/4 cup chia seeds (bought a few months ago and had no idea what to do with them… perfect.)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Step 1: Mash up the nuts, then mix together oats, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Stir to coat well, then bake in a flat oven safe pan at 350 for about 10 minutes, to make everything brown and toasty.

Step 2: In a pan over medium heat, stir together butter, brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Pour over the granola mixture, and stir well to coat everything. Bake at 300 for 25-30 minutes, until warm and brown. Remove from the oven and let cool or stick in the refrigerator for a little while. Cut into bars the size you like.

I used a 9×13 pan, and as such I got 16 bars. They are very soft, so I put them in the fridge for about an hour before I cut them up.

I individually wrapped each bar in a plastic baggie, and am storing them in my pantry. They are delicious! The honey makes it so sweet, I don’t think you’d need chocolate anyway. Probably could even have done without the extra brown sugar.

I love these because I can use whatever dried fruits or nuts/seeds I have available. The next batch will include dried apricots and plums. You better believe sometime into the fall I will be making some bars with pumpkin seeds in them! I think I’m going to try experimenting with peanut butter in the honey instead of just butter too.

These are vegetarian, and could easily be made vegan as well. If you go easy on the oil/honey they are quite healthy and filling. And very inexpensive! Buy whatever fruits/nuts/seeds you like on sale, oats are cheap in bulk. This batch probably cost me $5 total?


Speaking of  inexpensive baking, did you know you can make your own vanilla extract from just vanilla beans and vodka? Seriously, that’s it.

A bottle of vodka on sale was about $7, the beans were a bit pricey at $4 for 2. But that’s $11 for about a gallon of vanilla that I can use pretty much forever. If I invested a bit more I could even jar it myself and give it as gifts or sell some. When you get low you just add more vodka and maybe after a year another bean or two. Jackpot.

Loaded Tostadas

A simple, endlessly customizable meal, tostadas are one of my favorite mexican foods! There is almost no end to what you could top tostadas with, and they can be extremely budget-friendly. Depending completely on what you top them with, they can be very healthy or extremely not so!

Ingredients:
1 tostada shell (or make your own by baking a corn tortilla for 5 minutes at 350)
1/4 cup taco meat (cooked ground beef + taco seasoning)
2 tbsp shredded colby or cheddar cheese
3 tbsp salsa
1/2 avocado, sliced

Step 1: Cook the beef and drain fat. Add taco seasoning and water, cook until water is gone. 
Step 2: In a pan or microwave, heat the beans.
Step 3: Assemble tostada, beans on the bottom followed by meat, cheese, salsa and avocado.

Other toppings I love: shredded lettuce, sour cream, black beans, peppers & onion. You could easily make this vegetarian or vegan too, by leaving off the meat and/or cheese.

What’s your favorite mexican food topping?

 

Easy Freezer Mexican Soup

I was hungry for something hot and spicy, and tortilla soup was the first thing that came to mind. I had recently purchased a red beans & rice mix on sale for 78 cents, and realized I had all the rest of the the ingredients in my fridge or freezer, making for a ridiculously fast and easy meal. 
Ingredients:
2 chicken drumsticks
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 packet red beans & rice
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup tri-pepper and onion mix
1 cup salsa
1/4 tsp chipotle pepper powder
Step 1: Add about 4 cups water and all ingredients to a large pot and heat to boiling. Simmer on low for 40-60 minutes. 

 Step 2: Take the drumsticks out and tear the meat off the bone. Return the meat to the pot.

You can use thighs, breasts, or whatever meat you want, or omit the meat entirely. Browned ground beef would probably also be delicious. You can also top with shredded cheddar or sour cream. It is filling, slightly spicy, and has great flavor. Careful, because it does make quite a bit!

Easy side dish: Oven-Roasted Vegetables

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This is seriously one of the best side dishes ever! You can use literally any vegetable you have on hand, it takes only a few minutes, and it is super healthy AND tasty. I could eat oven-roasted veggies with every meal and not get tired of it.
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Ingredients:
1 baking potato, diced
1/2 onion, cut into strips
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 zucchini, diced
1/2 yellow squash, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
Nature’s Seasoning
Garlic salt
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Step 1: Dice up your veggies. This is the only work you have to do.
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Step 2: Coat your veggies in olive oil, put into an oven-safe pan.
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Step 3: Sprinkle with seasonings. Bake at 350 for ~20 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender.
You could use any kind of potato here, add broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, parsnips, bok choi, kale, mushrooms, eggplant, the list goes on and on. Enjoy!


 

Salsa & egg breakfast burrito

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This is something I came up with when I realized I woke up 20 minutes earlier than I needed to for class. Since I had time to actually cook something, I decided on eggs. I looked in the fridge, and as I had been preparing for tacos this week, I had tortillas and salsa and a bag full of cut up bell peppers.
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So I figured why wait for these awesome Mexican-inspired flavors! I could make a protein and veggie packed breakfast that could even be portable.
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Ingredients:
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1 diced green onion
3-4 tbsp salsa
1/4 cup shredded cheese
1 flour tortilla (10″)
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Step 1: Fry the peppers and onion in a skillet with a tiny bit of oil if needed.

Step 2: Whip the eggs in a small bowl or cup. You can add a splash of milk for a fluffier texture. Add to the pan and cook slowly over medium heat. Use a wooden or plastic spoon to continually push the egg around until it is all cooked through.

Step 3: Heat a tortilla in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Add egg and veggie mixture, then a handful of shredded cheese to melt on top. Top with as much salsa as you prefer.

Step 4: Roll up and enjoy!

As always, the add-ins are optional, put whatever veggies you like in it. You could even add beans, potato, sausage, bacon or tofu if you have a big appetite in the morning. You could wrap these in plastic or aluminum foil and carry them with you for a healthy, filling breakfast on the go. Much better for you waist and wallet than a fast food drive through breakfast burrito!


 

Vegetarian couscous stuffed peppers

So I’m going to a dinner party, and planned to bring my old standby, stuffed peppers . However, at least one of the guests is vegetarian, and I am also trying to eat a more vegetarian diet. So I decided to get the best of both worlds, and make both! 
Veggie:
3 bell peppers (any color)
1/2 cup couscous
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup broccoli
3 large baby bella mushrooms
1/2 onion
1/2 cup diced red bell peppers
Lemon juice, soy sauce (optional)
Garlic powder, cumin, sea salt, olive oil
 
Step 1: Add 1/2 cup boiling water to 1/2 cup couscous and microwave 3 minutes.

 Step 2: Cut up all the veggies while its cooking.

 Step 3: To cooked couscous, add about 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tsp cumin and 1 tbsp olive oil. Fluff well & set aside.

Step 4:  Add a tbsp olive oil to a frying pan, and begin sauteing veggies, hardest one first. Broccoli and asparagus, then peppers and onions, and finally the mushrooms. I added a squirt of lemon juice and a dash of soy sauce too.

 Step 5: Add cooked veggies to couscous and mix well.

Step 6: Stuff the peppers with the mixture. Cook in oven at 350 for 1 hour, or a Crock Pot on high for one hour. Sprinkle with cheese if you like.
 
Tonight at the party we will see how well I did! I snuck a spoonful while stuffing though, and it tastes pretty darn good. I included some shots of my meat-eater stuffed peppers too, just to make you drool a little! =)
 


Cooking the meat and rice
Cooked meat & onions, rice, and tomato sauce stuffing!
Scooping the filling into the peppers


Mmmmm stuffed bell peppers!
 

 

Spinach fruit & nut salad

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Well as you may remember, I am eating healthier this year. Working out has been kind of off and on due to sickness, school visits, and I admit, laziness. I have been pretty good about eating better overall though. So today I decided to make a super healthy salad.
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Spinach is one of the best greens out there, with tons of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Then I added some fruit for natural sweetness, and nuts & seeds for healthy fats. The only thing that could make this better is some grilled chicken breast to top it off!
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Ingredients:

2 cups fresh, washed spinach
1/2 kiwi
4-6 strawberries
1 roma tomato
1/4 cup walnuts
1 tbsp. sunflower seeds
Balsamic vinegar & olive oil

Step 1: Cut the peel off the kiwi and cut into slices. Slice the strawberries as well.

Step 2: Put a big pile of spinach leaves on a plate, cover with diced fruits & nuts. Add dressing, enjoy!
Here’s to eating healthy and enjoying it for life!