Slow Cooker Ratatouille

It was one of those days. I had no ideas, no incentive to cook, but I had heaps of veggies I felt compelled to use up.

Nothing even remotely appealed to me in the pages of recipes I scrolled through on the net. All I knew was that I couldn’t use the oven because it was just waaaaay too hot. I vacillated between Thermomix and slow cooker recipes but the slow cooker won in the end, simply because I knew I could leave it on overnight.

A lot of slow cooker recipes are deceiving in that they’re not just one-pot: many require you to pre-cook some of the ingredients. To a lazy cook like me that just doesn’t make sense. I want to throw everything into the crockpot at once, put the lid on and walk away.

So when I found a recipe that fit the bill on Voracious Veggie‘s website (direct link below) I proceeded to adapt it… just by adding more stuff, really.

Slow Cooker Moroccan Eggplant

Food FervourHere’s what I used:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), 1 diced onion, 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 1 small diced carrot, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon chili powder (double this if you actually want to taste it!), ½ teaspoon paprika, ½ cup tomato paste, 1 cup vegetable stock, 8 mushrooms sliced, 1 small eggplant (cubed), ¼ butternut pumpkin (peeled & cubed), salt & pepper.

And this is all I did:

Pour the oil into the slow cooker, adding the onion, garlic and carrot, followed by the rest of the herbs & spices. Mix in the tomato paste & stock next, then add the mushrooms, eggplant & finally the pumpkin. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on low for at least 8 hours (I left mine on overnight… a total of 14 hours!) You can stir it up every now & then if you like.

Food FervourFor my first meal, I mixed through fresh basil leaves, then topped the lot with chopped kalamata olives and crumbled feta (see left). Deeelish. For the next serve, I popped a piece of grilled wild salmon on top of a plateful.

There are so many ways you could serve it up. Super simply, with bread or on toast (mmm, melt some parmesan in or over it!) or as a pasta ‘sauce’. The point is, it’s dead easy, it’s packed with micronutrients and fibre, low in fat & complex carbs (for those concerned about them) and …..it’s just EASY!!! (Yes, I repeated myself.)

Don’t despair if you don’t have all of the veggies I used… the following will substitute perfectly : capsicum, zucchini, actual tomatoes (this will significantly increase fluid content FYI) …even cauliflower and broccoli (just don’t expect the broccoli to hold its colour) The more the merrier! Let me know what you use. 🙂

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Black Beans & Quinoa ‘Casserole’

I’ve got a ‘thing’ for black beans lately. Maybe it’s simply because they seem to be in vogue at the moment, but what I keep thinking of is their colour: it’s almost a nutritional fact that the richest, deepest coloured plant foods seem to be the most nutrient dense. Also known as turtle beans, they’re a ridiculously good source of protein, fibre, some vitamins & minerals. So I have a very large jar of them in my pantry. Because I don’t buy tinned products, I don’t even know if you can get these fellas pre-cooked in Australian supermarkets; I mean, I’ve never looked. I prefer to DIY. Y’know, prepare ‘from scratch’.Food Fervour

Because they’re a relatively new to my repertoire, I’m not quite sure what to do with them. Mexican predominantly comes to mind when I’m pondering what to make, but I often just throw them into salads as well. This time however, I wanted warm comfort food …and quinoa. I’d noticed a few black-bean-and-quinoa recipes floating around the net in the past, so I was confident I’d find something I wanted. And I did: three recipes, all quite similar… so I literally flipped between windows/tabs during the cook.

Having previously soaked, then slow cooked (overnight) the black beans, they were now ready to go. (Unfortunately I can’t recall the dry weight I began with, however I was lucky enough to have the exact quantity required for the recipe(s!) ….250gms.

This makes an absolute tonne, so as a single person I got about 4-5 meals out of it… and it tastes great cold so you don’t need to reheat it every time you want some. I should imagine it would freeze well too if you’d prefer to do that.

The ingredients I used were as follows:
a good dollop of EVOO, 1 diced onion, 1-2 finely chopped garlic cloves, ¾ cup (well) rinsed quinoa, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon chili powder, 1½ cups vege stock, black pepper & salt to taste, corn kernels (I used frozen) 250gm pre-soaked & cooked black beans, 200gm baby spinach.

In a large saucepan (over medium heat) add the oil then the onion and garlic, cooking for about 3 minutes or until the onion softens.

Add the quinoa, blending with the oil, onion & garlic, then add the cumin, chili powder, vegetable stock and black pepper. Give it a mix, increase the heat and once it has come to a boil, drop the heat back to low, pop on the lid and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Give it an occasional stir (mainly to loosen anything sticking to the saucepan base).

Finally, add the corn, beans and baby spinach, stirring gently then covering again for about 5-10 minutes …however long it takes to warm the beans, wilt the spinach and thaw the corn (if using frozen, like me).

Food FervourTo serve, use your imagination! You could easily just hoe in as it is, but I like to add more nutrients, so I went with a ‘warm salad’ theme and topped my serve with chopped avocado, fresh chopped tomato and crumbled feta. For a Mexican feel you could substitute my idea with (home made!) guacamole, (homemade!) tomato salsa and grated cheese ….as well as bit of sour cream (oooh! I just realised this would make a delicious vegetarian nachos topping!)

The next day I ate a serve cold, topped with freshly steamed broccoli, more feta (!) and a boiled egg for extra protein (pictured above). Go crazy …and don’t forget to let me know what you create. 😉

 

3 Ingredient ‘Chocolate Ganache’

Ok so how I came across this one was …kind of like the movie ‘Sliding Doors’. And I realise that won’t mean anything to those who haven’t seen it. But basically, it was by accident, and yet also a ridiculously close ‘shave’. Let me explain:

When I began making ‘raw cookies’ about a decade ago (before they became the energy/protein balls or raw truffles we all know today) I soaked dates. Yep, just that. I soaked dates, as the basis for these healthy raw food treats. You would blend them up (but because I never had a blender, I just chopped them over and over again until they resembled something a food processor or blender might spit out) then mix milled or chopped nuts, seeds and whatever else into them before the messy part of the job: the hand-rolling and coating in   desiccated coconut or again, nut meal.Food Fervour

It was when I came across a recipe that included cocoa (yes, before cacao powder went ‘mainstream’) that I realised soaked dates mixed with cocoa could make a kind of (weird) chocolate substitute. But this is where the train doors slid shut…. and I forgot about it.

…Until last year sometime, when, after making another slightly dry (I admit!) gluten free cake that I knew would benefit from some kind of moist topping (but what to make without heaps of processed sugar?) the train doors automatically opened and I soaked some dates. It worked perfectly – for ME: I realise chefs and food critics would turn up their noses, but I’m not about perfection (at the cost of health).. I’m about clean, unprocessed Imitation & Adaptation!

This is extremely easy but you’ll need to allow more time: the longer the dates soak, the better. In fact, if the dates are well soaked and chopped, you don’t even need a blender for this recipe; some old fashioned elbow grease (mixing by hand) will work. Oh and make sure there are no seeds in them!

One cup of dates (I use Iranian, I imagine Medjool would work even better, and may not need to soak for long – if at all. Please let me know how this goes if you try this!) will easily thickly coat a loaf-sized cake, with some to spare.

Food FervourDrain the water from the dates (I actually keep this to use as a liquid sweetener in other creations: waste not, want not!) and throw them in a powerful blender with 2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder (add more for a stronger dark chocolate flavour) and 2 tablespoons liquefied coconut oil. You will need to blend & scrape numerous times (Thermomixers, I performed about 4 rounds of 15 seconds, increasing from speed 5 to 9) but the result is worth it: a rich, thick, chocolatey ‘ganache’ that you can top cakes with, fill biccies with, or even eat on toast like Nutella (if you’re desperate enough)! If you really want to you could press the ganache through a strainer to ensure a smoother product, but for my money, what’s the point in removing all that extra natural fibre?

Food Fervour

‘Ganache’ used as a biscuit filling

There’s heaps of room to experiment too: powdered spices or essences could alter the result… Vanilla or peppermint essence? Cinnamon? Even a touch of chilli powder? I think I might try to explore a salted caramel version so… stay tuned for that!