Sassafras Eats

Healthy food, happy life.

Cheesy Vegan Summer Ratatouille

This is my new favorite summer meal. I’ve made it twice in the past 4 days and I have a feeling that it’s going to become a weekly staple.

Last Saturday I was hungry, but I didn’t know what I wanted and takeout felt like a cop-out, so I decided to marinate in my own hunger and drink rose until I could figure out what to do. I’ve been wanting to make ratatouille for a while, and had bought eggplant, squash and onions at the market that morning, et voila! Ratatouille it was. Stir-fried, cooked in a homemade tomato sauce and then hit with some nutritional yeast to make it extra cheesy, I devoured this like a crazy woman.

Recipe: Cheesy Vegan Summer Ratatouille

Serves: 2

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes if over rice, 25-30 if over pasta

Ingredients:

1 squash, chopped

1 eggplant or 10 baby eggplants, chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

1 white onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

5-7 cloves of garlic, diced

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

salt, pepper and cayenne to taste

2 tsps coconut oil, split

2 servings brown rice or pasta (1/2 cup and 1 cup dry, respectively)

Directions:

If serving your ratatouille over rice, put the rice on first and cook per the package directions. Tonight I cooked mine in some leftover veggie broth I had, which made it extra savory. Over the weekend I made it with quinoa pasta, which was also extremely delicious.

To make the tomato sauce, place the diced garlic and chopped onions in a saucepan with the coconut oil. Saute for 5-7 minutes, or until the onions become transparent. Add the chopped tomatoes, cook for about 5 minutes at a medium temperature, and then turn the heat down and let reduce. Continue adding salt, pepper, cayenne, or whichever spices you prefer, to taste.

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As the sauce is cooking, place the chopped vegetables in a saute pan with the rest of the coconut oil and begin cooking. You’ll want them to really cook down – the vegetables in a ratatouille should be soft, nearly falling apart (although I prefer mine a few degrees more solid.)

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Once the tomatoes have cooked down into a sauce, add the nutritional yeast and stir it all together. Try not to keep “tasting” the sauce. This is the part of the process where half the food I’m cooking mysteriously disappears.

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Add the cheesy tomato sauce to the vegetables, turn down low and let them simmer and stew. Continue to season as you wish, and let the flavors develop and steep as the rice finishes cooking.

Once the rice is cooked, take it off the heat and let sit for ten minutes (if you have that kind of patience, which I never do. Although it does make the rice fluffier.) If the rice isn’t completely cooked but the liquid is all gone, add a bit more water and continue cooking until it’s nice and fluffy. The ratatouille can continue cooking for a while – like any good stew, this only makes it better, so don’t worry about keeping it going.

Take the rice off the heat, separate into bowls, top with the ratatouille and give praise to the gods of summer vegetables. It doesn’t get better than this.

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Vegan Elote + Baked Sweet Potato

Tonight’s dinner was an exercise in simplicity. An attempt to elevate foods I already had in my in my kitchen with a new mix of spices for something delicious and uncomplicated. I bought a couple ears of corn last week because I am from Iowa and summer just isn’t right without  buttery, salty ears of corn on the cob as often as possible. I decided to roast the corn and evoke flavors of Mexican elote (corn on the cob with spices, crema and cheese) with a bit of vegan flair. Cayenne adds heat. while the nutritional yeast provides a nutty cheesiness.

Recipe: Vegan Elote + Baked Sweet Potato

Prep: 3 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

sweet potato

corn on the cob (I had 2 corns on the cob. You should have as many cobs and potatoes as you’d like.)

Earth Balance

cumin

cayenne

nutritional yeast

paprika

salt

pepper

olive oil

Instructions:

Notice how there are no ingredient amounts? Because this is not a recipe that benefits from that. Load it up with spices and vegan butter however you see fit, and I will guide you along the way.

First, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Poke 4-6 holes with a fork into your sweet potato and toss it into the oven. I coated mine with olive oil first to crisp up the skin, although this is not necessary. It should cook for 45 minutes, give or take 5 depending on the size of your sweet potato. (Mine was smaller than normal – usually I try to find the King Kamehameha [as my father would say] of potatoes, because my capacity for baked potatoes knows no boundaries.)

Add a teaspoon, minimum, each of cumin, cayenne, nutritional yeast and paprika to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix together until they’re all combined.

Coat your corn with Earth Balance, olive oil, or whatever you choose. Then coat generously with the seasoning mix. Leave a bit leftover, as some will dissipate while roasting and it’s nice to freshen the flavor once it’s cooked.

Put the corn in the oven with the sweet potato after 30 minutes. The corn only needs to cook 15 minutes, so gauge this however works for you.

Take the sweet potato and the corn out of the oven, top with more Earth Balance and seasoning as needed, and enjoy.

Spice mixture.

Spice mixture.

Pre-bake.

Pre-bake.

Post-bake.

Post-bake.

Complete!

Complete!

 

 

 

 

Eating My Way Through Montreal

This year for the 4th of July, Matt and I did the obvious: we took a trip to Canada. It didn’t originate as a rejection of the United States, but after 3 days of eating my way through Montreal, I think I’ve finally found the one place I could live that isn’t New York City. It is a land of rose wine on the ivy-covered terraces of French cafes, crepes for breakfast, and the absolute best vegan food I’ve ever had.

I had done a lot of research before the trip to get the low-down on Montreal eats – mostly vegan or vegetarian – and it seemed like many of these were located in an area called Mile End, which felt very much like Brooklyn. Urban, hip, and saturated with adorable places to eat. You know how everything feels more magical when it’s in a different place, even if it’s the same touristy stuff that’s peddled to you (and that you desperately try to avoid) every day where you live? Yeah, that was the whole weekend.

Thank god the vegan cafe we were originally going to go to was closed, because Invitation V was about half a block down and it was, without question, one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I had the vegan burger with spicy fries and murdered it so dead with a vicious ferocity. I was all, “Oh my gosh I can’t believe I just ate all that.” But yeah, right. Yes I can believe it. I offered Matt fries just to be nice, but to be honest, I was secretly relieved when he turned them down. I really just wanted them all to myself. Matt got the pizza, which I also had a nice healthy piece of, and he said it was the best pizza he had ever had. Not the best “vegan” pizza…the best pizza. Seriously, this place ruined everything because it’s in freaking Montreal and now it’s going to cost us $1000 in travel fees every time we want pizza and a burger.

Of course this is the one place where I forgot to photograph our food, so please enjoy these Yelp photos:

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It looks so simple here, but there is nothing simple about this majestic explosion of burger goodness.

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Chili oil! Genius. I can't wait to make my own.

Chili oil! Genius. I can’t wait to make my own.

Matt wanted crepes the next morning, so the trusty internet led us to La Bulle au Carré, a gem of a creperie just a couple blocks from our hotel. This was the most beautiful crepe I had ever eaten, and the flavors were just gorgeous. For such an inauspicious little place, they really turned out some incredible food. I had a buckwheat crepe with onions, leeks, tomato, swiss and a perfectly cooked egg. Matt had the mack daddy of dessert-for-breakfast crepes, and it was also divine.

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When walking back to the train after Invitation V on Thursday, we passed a ton of Greek places that inspired in us a healthy craving for Greek fare. We found a place in Mile End, and on the way there, stopped at Cafe Local, where we learned a quirky fun fact about Montreal restaurant licensing: many restaurants have a certain license that requires a food order with every drink order. And everyone in your party has to order something. After looking at the menu (which was really good), our desire for a cocktail won, and we caved and ended up dining at Cafe Local. I wanted something a bit lighter on my stomach, so obviously I made sure we ordered french fries for an appetizer, and then I had a mixed greens salad with walnuts, sunflower seeds, cranberries, apple and goat cheese. Simple, but such a perfect combination of ingredients for a fresh, summer salad. Matt had a quesadilla with this really decadent pureed black bean mixture topped with guacamole. I finished that for him because frankly, who can be done when there’s still guacamole left?

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And for dessert, this yummy little guy. My idea of a perfect dessert is a salt lick, so I thought I’d just have one bite and be done. But no. Canada, like every other country in the world does not prepare foods with the same toxic ingredients that run rampant in the States. For instance, I checked the ingredients of a bottle of Heinz ketchup sitting on our table and not only was there no high fructose corn syrup in it (a staple in US Heinz ketchup), but the sweetener, sugar, was second to last on the ingredient list. And I did taste a subtle difference in things I ate that just felt generally less processed than many of their US counterparts. Like this vanilla bean ice cream, which really, truly tasted like actual ice cream. Like, ice cream made from whole foods ice cream. Not that Ben and Jerry’s bunk that most of us are used to. It was just delicious, especially topped with the pistachios and baked apples. A splurge well played.

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Obviously after having our minds blown by crepes the day before, we needed to try another crepe place for breakfast on Saturday. Enter: Une Crepe?  Where crepes are the size of your torso. I went for the “create your own” option, and didn’t really realize how ridiculous my order was until I said it out loud and Matt started laughing and our server just looked confused and taken aback. But you know what, if I want a buckwheat crepe with swiss, black olives, spinach, onions and guacamole on my last day of vacation, that’s exactly what I’m going to get. Basically a French quesadilla, because I’m classy like that. Matt got a Nutella, banana and pistachio crepe, and then when they came back and said they were out of bananas, he replaced them with…raisins. Although it was still really good, it sadly lacked a bit of the punch the bananas would have had and we both learned an important lesson in how to balance the flavors of a sweet crepe. We also gained a new joke about raisins, and who can ever have enough of those?

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There are a so many more places in Montreal I want to try, including some of the most adorable little vegan cafes ever (the three veggie burgers at La Lumiere are high on the list). My first time in Canada was a delicious success, and I look forward to many trips eating my way through Montreal in the future.

Tropical Digestion: Fennel, Pineapple, Cabbage, Ginger and Mint Juice

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One Sunday night, while trying to figure out what we wanted for dinner, Matt uttered something I’d never heard him say before: “I want to have some juice.”

Needless to say, I was quite excited, and this put me into high gear thinking about the infinite juicing possibilities that lay before us. Some of the juicing books Matt’s mom got us break down all the ways in which each recipe aids certain bodily systems. What flavors did we want? What new items could we juice? Did we want a juice that would give us more energy? One to aid digestion? One to build immunity? ALL OF THESE THINGS AND MORE?

After about 30 minutes of recipe hunting, we finally settled on one that combined two of our favorite things: Matt’s of mint, and mine of healthy digestion. One of which is definitely sexier than the other.

This juice is awesome. It is one of the most delicious juices I’ve ever made, even though I nearly took Matt out with the amount of ginger I put in. The pineapple especially is so fresh and rejuvenating – it has become a favorite staple in my morning juice rotation. And, for those of you who are curious, this juice does not fall short on the digestion front; it is particularly brilliant for rebalancing your system after any bout of traveling or break from normal dietary habits. If you’re feeling at all off, one of these will get you back in working order right quick.

Recipe: Tropical Digestion 

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

1 whole pineapple

4 inches ginger

1 big bunch of mint

1/4 head of cabbage

1/4 bulb of fennel

1 lemon (optional – I just put a lemon in every juice I make)

1 sprig of mint to garnish

Juice each of the ingredients, serve in your favorite cocktail glass, and enjoy immediately.

Food Linkage: Ramen, The Super Food Powers of Cacao, and Why I Need an Ice Cream Maker

I should know better than to say I will regularly post a certain kind of feature every week. Like I did the first time I posted my Friday Favorites…3 weeks ago. So! We’re just going to re-brand a bit and call this Food Linkage. And it’s going to happen whenever it wants.

I love Smorgasburg, Whole Foods and ramen. And today I found out that all three have converged at the Bowery Whole Foods, where Smorgusburg and Yuji Ramen have a pop-up shop. Who wants to go on a lunch date next week?

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I try to keep my diet as stocked with healing super foods as possible, but there is nothing better than a super food that also satiates a sweet tooth. I’ve been keeping cacao out of my smoothies in the morning because I felt a little guilty loading myself up with chocolate for breakfast, but now that The Chalkboard has debunked that rationale, I’m quite looking forward to a new rotation of dessert for breakfast. Also, who doesn’t want to head off to work fueled by food that boosts your mood and calms you down? I can think of about a million days where that’s going to come in handy.

I’ve decided that I’m going to start making my own almond milk. As almond milk is simply a blend of almonds and water, it really freaks me out that I cannot find one in any store that does not contain 15 ingredients I can’t pronounce or recognize, including carrageenan, which is a cancer-causing toxin. As the world has already done quite enough to firmly establish my genetic relationship to cancer, I make sure to keep it out of my food. I can’t wait to try Angela Liddon’s version of homemade almond milk, which includes dates and cinnamon! Yum. This nut bag will be arriving today, and now all I need is a cute jar to store it in. Which means I’ll probably have to take a trip here

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Angela Liddon’s homemade almond milk!

This is totally non-food related, but this brother and sister act on America’s Got Talent is beyond wonderful. You will laugh so hard.

I love talking about bodily functions. More than I’m sure makes most people comfortable. And I’m particularly interested in discovering new food combinations to help aid certain bodily processes. Like my morning juice of pineapple, fennel and cabbage, which has done wonders for my digestion. This article was recently passed along to me by a friend, and it’s a four week plan that advises which foods to add into your diet during each week of the month to help regulate hormones and your monthly cycle. Now that we’re at the end of the month, I’m really excited to give this a go for July, and to see if I notice any changes in how I feel. Pay attention to the note on soy. I find myself falling back on it every once in a while (buying soy milk at the store when I can’t find the right almond milk), but this was a good reminder to kick it to the curb (and start enjoying my own homemade almond milk).

My birthday is not until November, but I am asking for an ice cream machine so I can make every single one of these.

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Vegan peanut butter chunk and chocolate crunch ice cream. Amazing.

I bought a collection of MFK Fisher books and this memoir at Myopic Books when I was in Chicago last week, and I can’t wait to dive  into both.

This weekend, I’m looking forward to: cocktails outside, going for a run in Williamsburg, Matt being back in town, going to the farmer’s market, cooking something delicious with something from the farmer’s market, and for it to not be 90 freaking, god-awful, why-is my-makeup-melting-everywhere-this-is-so-sad degrees.

Happy weekending!

Photo credit: Buzzfeed, Oh She Glows, Whole Foods

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