Ratatouille

Friends, this is more than just a movie about a mouse who can cook. This is a delightful meal that hopefully will become a weekly staple in our home. I’m blown away by it!!! So we went back to our Annie’s box of Organics last week. At some point in November, I had cancelled my subscription. I had some issues with the box.

The cons:
1. we get berries but never enough for the size of my family so the one box of blueberries goes the first day we get the box.
2. the box can sometimes get repetitive and we get the same vegetable a couple of weeks in a row (i.e. potatoes…and we really don’t eat potatoes, so that gets annoying)
3. some of the items in the box doesn’t have to be organic so we’re paying organic prices for some veggies we really can get cheaper elsewhere (i.e. avocados)
4. we don’t get to choose what we get.

We thought we had gotten to a place where we had explored most of what the box was going to give us and really we were veggie-savvy enough to go to Whole foods, or Publix or any other market and get whatever vegetables and fruits we wanted for the week without having someone else pick it for us.

RESULTS… The variety declined. Even though we would only get one little box of berries every other week, at least we were getting a box. We’d go to Whole Foods every week and rarely can we find organic berries. At least at our store. They’re simply not available. So we’d end up not eating berries at all instead of our one little box that we all enjoy thoroughly!
And then we started falling back on the most comfortable dishes…our cabbage soup, our salmon with cauliflower and asparagus, our veggie tray…but week after week we were eating the same meals and I even found myself going back to my blog to re-discover some of our own recipes because I didn’t know what to buy at the store.

THE SOLUTION:

January 7th we went back to our box. I went online and found that in the 2 little months I had strayed they had started a new box that they call the Paleo box. (Note: we are not on a Paleo diet but what I like about the Paleo box is that it excludes potatoes, which we rarely eat and don’t care to get in our box). So that was a good solution to one of our box complaints. And I also realized I could tweek my box however I wanted. If I want to add berries, I can pay a little more for that. If I’ve gotten one veggie too many weeks in a row, I can email them and ask them to substitute it with another item for the following week. There are options, I was just not exploring them. Of course I still have to go to the store and buy certain staples that didn’t come in my box. But I just simply love having my refrigerator stocked with veggies and fruits week after week and once I have them at the house, we eat them. Whereas for the last couple of months, I was buying fruits and vegetables of course because that is the main source of our diet, but I was actually being more repetitive when I was choosing them for myself, getting less variety (meaning less sources of nutrients) and always trying to remember what we would get in the first place. I feel like I have reconnected with my greens again and it feels wonderful!

But best of all… I discovered that I love having vegetables in my home that I did not choose at the store. WHY??? Because it forces us to use that vegetable before it spoils, and therefore look for recipes around that vegetable. That has proved easier for us than choosing a recipe and buying vegetables for that recipe. With 2 kids, 1 on the way, and work…we don’t have time to sit in front of a computer and browse through random recipes. But what is easier is googling – “eggplant recipes” and finding something that fits with our lifestyle.

And that is where our Ratatouille was born!! Ratatouille is basically a baked dish of layered vegetables. Yesterday we had an eggplant sitting in the fridge from our box last week (one of the only remaining vegetables in the fridge) and I told Orlando we had to use it. He browsed some recipes and decided to make the Ratatouille. Luckily we also had Shitake mushrooms from the last box and got heirloom tomatoes in the new box…ingredients that go into ratatouille. As usual, Orlando took what he liked from different recipes and came up with this…

Here is the recipe:

1 large Onion (sliced)
1 large eggplant (skin-on and in 1/2 inch cubes)
2 or 3 large tomatoes (thinly sliced)
2 cups mushrooms (sliced)
2 or 3 zuchinni (evenly sliced in rounds)
6 cloves of garlic (chopped)
salt/pepper
olive oil
parmesan cheese
1/2 large red bell pepper (chopped)
1/2 large green bell pepper (chopped)

Instructions:
– Preheat the oven to 375
– Chop and slice the veggies
– Saute the onion, mushrooms, and bell peppers in little olive oil adding salt and pepper
Make sure to not saute for too long. We are just trying to cook them down a bit, we don’t want them caramelized. I’d say 5 min max. Then set aside in a bowl.
– Now saute the eggplant in olive oil for about 8 minutes. The eggplant tends to soak in the oil, but don’t go over-board with olive oil either. Then when the 8 minutes are up, add the fresh garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. Don’t forget to add salt and pepper while cooking!
-In a baking dish arrange just over half of the eggplant mixture
covering the bottom
-now layer the zuchinni slices on top like you are making a lasagna
-lightly oil and salt the zuchinni
-Now do the same with the tomato slices. Layer them on top of the zuchinni slices covering the top like you are making a lasagna. Add Salt and pepper to the tomatoes.
-Now layer the onion, mushroom, and pepper mixture on top of the tomatoes.
– Add a nice bit of parmesan atop the mixture
– layer remaining eggplant
– layer remaining zuchinni
– layer remaining tomatoes
– layer remaining onion mixture
– Add parmesan
– Place foil on top and bake for 45 minutes

We served this on whole wheat cous cous, but I think that quinoa or millet would be great too. The texture of the cous cous was awesome with the veggies.The cooking time on this dish is 45 minutes, which is a long time…but Orlando says that its not a labor intensive meal because there aren’t that many ingredients. I would suggest, if you are pressed for time, preparing it on a Sunday night so that you only have to put it in the oven the next day. I loved it so much I can’t wait to have it for lunch today and give it to the boys for dinner!

We hope you can enjoy it as much as we did!

This veggie recipe deserves its very own post!

I’ve mentioned this veggie recipe in two different posts but it is such a good and simple recipe that I don’t want it to get lost or ignored in the other posts. PLUS, Orlando has added a new ingredient and it must be shared!!!!!

Its simple.

Asparagus, Leeks and Onions

  • chop 1/2 bunch of asparagus into 1 inch pieces. (to avoid the stringiness of the asparagus, break off the bottom portion of the asparagus)
  • 2 small Leeks or 1 large Leek, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 an onion chopped into small pieces
  • Sautee with olive oil, salt and pepper for about 7 minutes in a pan at high heat (maybe an 8)
  • The bottom of the pan will start to crust up. Then drizzle a little bit of marsala wine (about 2 ounces or less) on to the pan. Then you deglaze the vegetables (mix in the vegetables and wine with the crust for a delicious flavor)

But last week, Orlando added Brussel Sprouts to the mix. WOW! Delicious.

Brussel Sprouts were NEVER on our grocery list. But of course they came in our Annie’s box one day and we were forced to try it. My first impression was…they’re ok…but I wasn’t inlove. That soon changed. The more often Orlando cooked them, the more I liked them. They are now a staple in our home. If you’ve never had Brussel Sprouts and are hesitant to taste them, I suggest making them in this recipe for your first try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised!!!!

So the recipe remains the same except that I have incorporated the brussel sprouts in it:

  • 1/2 a portion of brussel sprouts, cut off the bottom part, and cut in quarters.
  • chop 1/2 bunch of asparagus into 1 inch pieces. (to avoid the stringiness of the asparagus, break off the bottom portion of the asparagus)
  • 2 small Leeks or 1 large Leek, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 an onion chopped into small pieces
  • Sautee with olive oil, salt and pepper for about 7 minutes in a pan at high heat (maybe an 8)
  • The bottom of the pan will start to crust up. Then drizzle a little bit of marsala wine (about 2 ounces or less) on to the pan. Then you deglaze the vegetables (mix in the vegetables and wine with the crust for a delicious flavor)
  • Last step is to put a lid on the pan for about 2 minutes. Then take off the heat and VOILA! (the reason we add this step is because those last 2 minutes steam the brussel sprouts and soften them to perfection!!)

Not only is the recipe delicious, but you are now incorporating 4 vegetables as your side dish to your plate. This means vitamins, minerals, fiber, folate, antioxidants…health!!!!!

We hope you enjoy it!!! Let us know in the comments section if you made this recipe and what you thought about it! Also, don’t forget we will be answering questions once a week so don’t be afraid to ask!!!!!!

 

Spicy Quinoa Kimchi Fried Rice

healthy alternative to fried rice

healthy alternative to fried rice

What we used:

  • 3 cups Quinoa
  • 2 cups frozen vegetables (stir fry mix) chopped
  • 1 fried egg per serving
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 2 tbsp garlic
  • 3/4 of a bottle of kimchi
  • (reserve some of the liquid from the kimchi)
  • 1/2 onion
  • Sauce – 2tbsp liquid aminos, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp oyster sauce, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar, dash of red pepper flake – mix well (add to taste, we probably used 1/4 of what we made)

I’m reading a new fascinating book “The Body Ecology Diet” and I’ve discovered the benefits of cultured vegetables. Cultured vegetables are vegetables that are left to “ferment” in an air tight container for several days allowing healthy bacteria to form.┬áDuring this fermentation period, the friendly bacteria reproduces and converts sugars and starches to lactic acid.

They become rich in lactobacilli (what we know as “probiotics”) and enzyme, vitamins A, B, and C and turn into an alkaline-forming food. In English, this basically means it is a food for health and longevity!!!!!

Among the benefits listed for cultured vegetables are:

  • Help re-establish a healthy inner ecosystem.
  • Great for weight loss
  • Improve digestion
  • Help eliminate sugar cravings!!!!!
  • Help cleanse your system
  • Great for your skin.

The Body Ecology has some basic recipes for making your own cultured vegetables, and if you make them in batches and eat it everyday, it is a much cheaper alternative than taking probiotic supplements. We plan to make them at home, but haven’t gotten around to it yet…so I went to Whole Foods looking for some ready-made cultured vegetables that I could try in the meantime.

What I found was Kimchi. Its a Korean condiment -basically fermented cabbage and other vegetables, with a mix of salt, vinegar and other spices. It was the only cultured vegetable food I found in the store. I bought it, brought it home and a little scared, tried it! I actually liked it and since I bought have used it in my scrambled eggs in the morning, in my salads for lunch, and in the quinoa fried rice Orlando made.

I posted this video of Orlando making the quinoa mainly because it was his first time making it. I thought it would be great for you to see how he creates his meals. He’s always trying new things and changing his mind and sometimes the meal isn’t working out and he figures out how to save it! I think its pretty cool to see his process…and at the end he always comes through.

So for now, Kimchi is a big star in our home but stay tuned….we will be making our own cultured vegetables very soon!!!!!

 

Afraid my veggies will go bad Soup- a pleasant surprise.

Talking to my cousin Stephanie the other day, she told me about some crazy concoction she invented the other day for fear that all the veggies she bought from Whole Foods would go bad. I was then reading an interesting book “The Body Ecology Diet” and it discusses the many benefits of soups and suggests getting creative with veggies that are about to spoil. What struck me the most was that the book suggests that making soup is fool-proof, meaning you don’t have to know how to cook to pull it off. Since everyone knows I can’t cook for the life of me, I had to try this.

So on Sunday, considering we were in this fake hurricane mode and I was stuck at home anyway, I gave it a shot and tried the following:

I started off by chopping up a ton of celery which was already wilting, ginger, garlic and onions and sauteeing them over some coconut oil. Then I poured in organic chicken broth that I had at home, some left over vegetable broth in the fridge that was about to go bad, carrots, cabbage, rainbow chard, squash, zucchini, and cauliflower. Its pretty much everything I had in the fridge, including leftover veggies from a vegetable tray we served at a get together we had. Instead of tossing the leftovers, I put them in the soup! I added about 5 cayenne pepper liquid drops, a little sazon completo, turmeric powder, and celtic sea salt.

I brought the soup to a boil, then simmered for 20 minutes (until the carrots were tender) and voila! I made the very first soup concoction of my own!!!!! I wanted the soup to be spicy because this pregnancy is stuffing up my sinuses, but when I tasted it I realized the cayenne pepper hadn’t spiced it up much, so I added about 5 more drops to my own personal soup and it made it spicier.

The verdict… I was pleasantly surprised!!! Orlando expected garbage and found it to be bland at first but after a few sips, he actually liked it. The next day I tried another variety and wasn’t quite as successful, it was totally bland…but that’s only because i’m learning to play with seasonings and really am an amateur!

Let’s face it, it can’t compare to the meals my husband makes and it can definitely use a lot of work, but the point is I’m proud to say my kids loved it; it was pretty good; and most importantly it was a bowl of health!!!!!

So the next time your veggies are about to spoil, think twice before you toss and try making your own soup at home. And if your kids are not old enough to drink soups yet, you can puree the leftovers and give it to them that way.

Good luck!!!! Please reply and let us know of any inventions you think are worth sharing.

My Veggie Tray

I find roasting vegetables to be the most delicious method of cooking them. One of my favorite techniques is using whatever extra veggetables we have in our house, particularly the ones that are getting old, toss them in olive oil, add salt and pepper, and bake at 400 for 30-40 minutes. Almost all vegetables roast well. In fact, the only one I don’t roast is broccoli because it dries out too much.

The veggie tray is great for many reasons. First, it uses up some of the veggies that are going or will soon go bad. Second, it leaves a ton of leftovers that you can have for lunch (yes, I eat the veggies for lunch by themselves, they are that good) or feed the kids for dinner by simply reheating. Third, you can eat all you want…it’s all good for you–stuff your face!!! And finally, it is healthy, easy, and tastes awesome. Just toss, place on a cookie sheet, and close the oven door.

In this particular tray I used, Chopped carrots, green beans, a container of Brussel Sprouts (sliced), zucchini (rough chopped), and butternut squash (cubed in small pieces). I tossed them in a big bowl with olive oil, added salt and pepper, and roasted for about 40 minutes (start tasting them at 30 minutes for doneness). Seperately, I roasted some baby beets in aluminum foil in the same oven for the same 40 minutes.

After I had the veggies in the oven for about half an hour and they were almost done, I sauteed an onion, a bunch of asparagus (chopped in bite-sized pieces), and 2 leeks on a pan. I highly recommend that you make that as a side dish on its own one day. But for this dish, I love combining the onions and leeks with all the other veggies because it gives it more of a stir-fry flavor and texture. Cobine the veggies from the tray with the onions, leeks, and beets. And that is it!

Ingredients: Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Carrots, Beets, Green Beens, Asparagus, Leeks, Onion, Brussel Sprouts, Butternut Squash, Zuchinni (Healthy enough for you?)

There is really no limit to what you can do with this dish. You can choose to make the dish how I make it, or you can simplify your life and just roast the veggies. You don’t HAVE to roast the beets seperately or sautee onions and leeks. I just love it that way and don’t mind the extra steps. Feel free to add or subtract any veggie you want…you are only limited to your imagination and the produce section of your grocery store.

Along with the veggie tray, I made wild-caught salmon with an Asian 5 spice rub. This is super easy. Make sure to pull all the bones out of the Salmon (tweezers work like a charm). Put the rub on, add your favorite Asian sauce on the Salmon (they are often high in sugar, but only a little will crust on the salmon after Broiling). Then place it directly under the broiler for about 6-8 minutes. Remeber to use wild-caught salmon, it is MUCH better for you than the alternatives. Also remember that when using the broiler you should always leave the door open so you can watch the food. It can go from awesome to burnt in no time.

The meal was delicious and filling. We made so many vegetables that the next day we had leftovers for lunch. Caro gave the remaining salmon the following day to the kids with a sweet potato and they devoured it.

Below is a picture of the Heirloom carrots I used in this dish, the veggies being tossed together in the bowl, and the final product respectively.

 

 

 

 

Vegetable Medley