Chef AJ’s Ratatouille + Tomato Sauce + Pasta = Epic Mealtime

You guys probably know by now that I’m in love with Chef AJ and her easy, delicious and healthy recipes. My favourite recipe of hers is her Ratatouille, with is really just different Ratatouille-style vegetables cut up and roasted on a SilPat non-stick baking mat until caramelised. It’s so easy and delicious that I make it at least 3 times a week. My grocery bills have skyrocketed, as I usually only eat frugal meals of frozen broccoli and potatoes, but boy, is it worth it!

Now, my BF does not like her recipes (he dislikes almost every WFPB recipe, so it’s not your fault, AJ!), but I managed to sneak in those vegetables into a dish that he likes, regardless. I essentially did this by combining Chef AJ’s delicious Ratatouille with a dish of the best, most flavourful Tomato Sauce I ever tried and whole wheat pasta. And you know: you can’t go wrong with pasta and Tomato Sauce. [Disclaimer: Chef AJ does not eat any flour products, you can easily enjoy this meal over spiralised zucchini or a good old potato or even rice].

Ratatouille Pasta

So here’s how it goes.

You prepare Chef AJ’s delicious Ratatouille as AJ herself presents in this video. I used zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, onions and mushrooms.
While that is baking, you fix a portion of this Tomato Sauce (hold the salt) and boil some whole wheat pasta (alternatively, you can use any other whole grain pasta).

In the end, mix it all together in a huge stainless steel bowl. Please do NOT use a plastic bowl, mine is still red and will probably stay red for all eternity!

So there you have it: a delicious plant-based lunch or dinner that is packed with vegetables and even satisfies people who do not eat this way.

Fruity Smoky Bean Burgers

Fruity Smoky Bean Burgers

Fruity Smoky Bean BurgersThis recipe is one of those famous accidental discoveries that turn out to taste amazing. I wanted to make burgers, but I also had an apple sitting on the counter which I wasn’t planning to eat today, but it definitely had to go. So I just decided to add it to the burgers! I know that sounds totally weird, but they make a great companion: not only do they add a touch of sweetness, but they also provide just enough moisture to prevent the burgers from drying out and falling apart too much.
As for the buns, I used my Salt-Free Bagel recipe and just shaped the dough like burgers and not like bagels.

6 cups cooked black beans (I do it this way from scratch)
2 carrots, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, pressed (or more if you like it garlicy and don’t have to leave the house)
1 large apple, finely diced or grated
juice and zest of one lime
1/3 cup ground flax seeds
2/3 cup finely chopped parsley
2/3 cup rolled oats
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp marjoram
1 cap full of liquid smoke

1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for the beans, ground flax seeds and rolled oats and let marinate for 30 minutes. If you’re in a real hurry, you can skip the marinating.
2. Add beans, ground flax seeds and rolled oats and mash with a potato masher until everything is fully combined.
3. Form burger patties using a 1/2 cup measure. Place them on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
4. Bake for 20 minutes @ 350°F and another 10 minutes @ 425°F.
5. Let them cool down for about ten minutes before serving.

Salt-free Bagels

Salt-Free Bagels

Salt-Free BagelsMost breads, especially the ones made from white flour, have an insane amount of salt added to them to basically cover up the fact that white flour doesn’t taste like anything and to make one eat more and more and more.
This recipe proves that you don’t need salt (or highly processed flours) to have a healthy something to smother your no-oil hummus on. They admittedly do take some work, but it’s worth the trouble: what you’ll be awarded with is a bagel that is so fluffy and just plain delicious that you wish you had made a double batch!
Christian’s Salt-Free Bagels

3 cups whole wheat flour (you can use white whole wheat if you like)
2 tsp dry active yeast
1/8 cup date paste or unsweetened applesauce
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup ground flax seeds

1. In a small bowl, whisk together water, date paste (or applesauce) and yeast. Let it sit for a couple of minutes until it becomes foamy.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour and ground flax seeds. Make a small “well” in the middle and pour the yeast-water-mixture into it (doesn’t matter if it overflows).

3. Use a spatula to roughly combine the ingredients, then knead for 3 minutes by hand. The result should be an even dough.

4. Transfer dough to a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat and cut into eight uniform parts. Roll each part to a snake and connect the ends. The hole in the middle should be big enough to stick your thumb through.

5. Let the bagels rise for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large(!) pot of water to a boil.

6. Add bagels – four at a time – to the water and take them out after they have swum at the top for at least 10 to 15 seconds. Place onto silicone baking mat. If you like to add sesame seeds or spices, sprinkle them generously over the tops.

7. Bake for 20 minutes at 350°F.

Serve with no-oil hummus, sugar-free jam, vegetables or (my absolute favorite!) no-oil peanut butter and alfalfa sprouts!

Pressure-Cooker Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce is probably a staple in any plant-based household: it is easy to make, cheap and goes with almost anything. My recipe is made in an electric pressure cooker, which makes it super fast: on the stove, you would need about an hour, in a slow cooker as much as eight hours, but in a pressure cooker you just need 15 minutes!

 

Pressure-Cooker Marinara Sauce
This Marinara Sauce tastes like it was slow-cooked for hours and hours, but it can be in your mouth in just twenty minutes!
Servings Prep Time
6-7 cups 5 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6-7 cups 5 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Pressure-Cooker Marinara Sauce
This Marinara Sauce tastes like it was slow-cooked for hours and hours, but it can be in your mouth in just twenty minutes!
Servings Prep Time
6-7 cups 5 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6-7 cups 5 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: cups
Instructions
  1. 1. Put all ingredients in your electric pressure cooker and stir.
  2. 2. Pressure-cook for 15 minutes. [On the Instant Pot: Press MANUAL and use the minus button to get the time down to 15 minutes]
  3. 3. Release the pressure either via quick or natural release
Recipe Notes

The date paste is not strictly needed, but you need at least some sweetness in tomato-based dishes to compensate the acidity of the tomatoes.

This recipe freezes well.

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Mexican Bowl

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Tomorrow, my winter vacation will be over and I’ll have to go to university again- and from the 19th on, I’ll have to take five exams in total: the horror!
So during the next few weeks I’ll have basically no time at all to prepare an elaborate meal. Today was thus the last opportunity which I could seize- and I did. Enjoy your Mexican Bowl with some baked tortilla chips.

Ingredients:
2 red bell peppers
1.5 red onions
1 jalapeno pepper
2 cloves garlic
fresh cilantro and parsley
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 cups plant milk
2 cups cooked beans
green onions
2 cups corn
about 10 black olives (optional)

1. Prepare salsa

Salsa

2 15oz cans salt-free diced tomatoes
1/2 red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
one handful of cilantro and parsley

1. Blend until finely chopped but not pureed.

2. Make Cheese Sauce using this recipe by Healthy Girl’s Kitchen.

3. Dice one red bell pepper, one onion and two large tomatoes. Add two cups of corn and green onions cut in rings.

4. Take a large bowl and place two cups of cooked beans at the bottom. Add the mixed veggies and top with Salsa, Cheese Sauce and some sliced black olives.

Chocolate Donuts

Chocolate Donuts

Once in a while, one just wants a treat that one is familiar with and Donuts are one of them. I made them for New Year’s Eve today, but they can be made on any occasion (or even on a regular day).
They are not as sweet as regular ones, but you can compensate that by dipping them in unsweetened applesauce.

1 cup millet
1 cup instant oats
1/4 cup low-fat cocoa powder
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup date paste
1 cup plant milk
1 tsp baking powder

1. Grind millet and oats to a fine flour (I use my Vitamix for that).
2. Combine plant milk, cocoa powder, applesauce and date paste in a large bowl. Add the flour and baking powder and stir to combine.
3. Place dough in a donut pan (I use this here by Wilton) (I got 9 donuts out of it).
4. Bake for 15 minutes at 350°F.
5. Let them cool for 15-20 minutes before removing from the pan.

Vegetable Cups: Make your veggies portable!

I’m always looking for plant-based goodies that I can take on the road or to university. These little fellows combine chickpeas, rice and any vegetables you like in a highly portable -and delicious- form.

Vegetable Cups 2 Vegetable Cups 1

3/4 cup garbanzo bean [chickpea] flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1.5 cups warm water
about 1-1.5 cups of finely diced vegetables

1. Fill 12 silicone muffin liners with diced vegetables.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flours and the water and stir. This should make a fairly runny batter.
3. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin liners. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F.

Tip: If you want to make them for a long day in the office, Do the following:
The evening before dice, distribute and refrigerate the vegetables the day before. In the morning, just combine the flours, spoon the batter into the muffin liners and bake [and do anything you like in those 30 minutes!].

Un-Tortilla Soup a.k.a. Fruity Southern Tomato Soup

Yesterday I just had a craving for Tortilla Soup. About a year or two go, I made Happy Herbivore’s (page 68 in “The Happy Herbivore Cookbook”), but she uses tortillas (obviously) which I just can’t get a no-oil version of here in Germany. And I was just not in the mood to make them from scratch, so I had to think of something else. I came up with either corn waffles or unsweetened corn flakes, but when I tasted the soup, I figured out that it tastes AMAZING even without, so I ate the cornflakes for breakfast.

I also went to about five different stores to buy dates to sweeten the soup, but they were all sold out! Instead, I bought dried pineapples, which tastes even better because it tastes not just sweet but also fruity.

Join me on a trip to the tropical South with this amazing soup, and if you do it in the pressure cooker, the flight isn’t even long.

IMG_1269

 

Ingredients:

Two pounds tomatoes
Two large onions
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup salt-free tomato paste
3/4 cup dried pinapple
6-8 cups vegetable broth (enough to cover the veggies)
1 tsp Persian Cumin (Caraway)
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp majoran
1 tsp parsley

Pressure cooker: 

1. Roughly chop the tomatoes and the onions and transfer to the pressure cooker. Add all other ingredients and pressure-cook for 10 minutes.

2. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth (you might have to do several smaller batches, it just about fits in my tall Vitamix container which holds 8 cups)

Stove:

1. Finely dice tomatoes and vegetables, mince the garlic and add to a large pot. Cover with broth, add all other ingredients and bring to a boil.

2. Let it simmer for 25-30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

3. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.

Why I avoid ALL oils

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People always ask me the same question over and over again:

“Why do you think of oils as dangerous junk?”.

It always amazed me how people can come to the realization that oils (especially olive oil) have some health-promoting properties when in the reality the exact opposite is the case. But I understand that people can only make decisions based on the knowledge that they possess at any given time. And unfortunately, most of our “knowledge” in terms of nutrition is outdated at best and simply wrong at worst. I’m not being judgmental here, as I thought just the same nonsense not even two years ago!

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the reasons why one should ditch the oil for good, but is rather a starting point for one’s journey into the whole-foods world.
So here are my Top Five reasons why one should avoid any kind of oil.

Calories

Oils are the most calorically dense foods on this planet– each gram of oil contains 9kcal. Carbohydrates and Protein contain just 4. When you add two tablespoons to your salad (about 20-30g), that’s 180-270 extra calories that go directly onto your hips. That’s also the same amount of calories as in 1/2 cup premium ice cream, so calorically speaking, you’re putting ice cream on your salad, as Dr. Jeff Novick so famously said.

Oils have virtually no nutrients. It’s got no fibre, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, antioxidants and so forth. It’s essentially a highly processed junk food that’s essentially completely devoid of any nutrients.

Even if oils really have some magic properties, they would be present in the whole food form as well- and you would be getting those fibres, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, antioxidants etc.

Satiety Index and excess fat

Oils and all other highly processed junk foods are very, very low on the satiety index. That means that consuming oils does not lead to a feeling of satiety. It is not filling.
Therefore, it’s tremendously easy to overeat on oils. And remember: THE FAT YOU EAT IS THE FAT YOU WEAR. Lose the fat, lose the weight. It’s that easy.

The “Mediterranean Diet”

The consumption of oils (especially olive oil) is often justified with a swift reference to the “Mediterranean Study” which supposedly shows that olive oil lowers cholesterol and that we should therefore consume a “Mediterranean Diet”.

Let me be clear here: I study geography and we geographers always like to exactly say  what space we’re talking about. So here’s a map of the Mediterranean Sea, taken from OpenStreetMap.org.

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The following countries border the Mediterranean Sea (starting with France, Adriatic countries included): France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Gaza, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Spain and Malta.

In total, 21 countries border the Mediterranean Sea. This makes a term like the “Mediterranean Diet” utterly ridiculous. The diet of Israelis is different from that of Frenchmen.  The “Mediterranean Diet” is thus a vague, unscientific term.

All studies which compare a “Mediterranean Diet” (whatever that is) to a “low-fat diet” (whatever that is) suffer from some key flaws:
a) They compare a diet which is high in fat to one which is high in fat. In one study, for instance, total fat consumption in the “low-fat” group chanced from 39% to 37%. That is NOT what most people would look upon as a low-fat diet! It is, indeed, very high in fat. A truly low fat diet consists of 10% fat at most.
b) Some studies assume that because replacing animal fats (butter, lard etc.) with olive oil results in a lower HDL-level, olive oil must have some magic cholesterol-lowering properties. That is just not the case. Of course the HDL-level decreases when you stop consuming dietary cholesterol, but there is no reason to believe that olive oil had anything to do with that.

Endothelial Health

Now let’s get into the science. The science says that even one drop of oil injures your endothelium. The endothelium is the inner lining of your arteries, which is vital for proper blood flow.  Endothelial cells produce a gas know as nitric oxide, which causes our blood vessels to properly widen and inhibits the building of plaques and inflammation. When that one cell layer is destroyed, plaques can form freely and you’ll eventually have a heart attack. As Dr. Esselstyn says: 

“The truth be known coronary artery disease is a toothless paper tiger that need never exist and if it does exist it need never progress.”

If you stop to injure your endothelium by stopping the consumption of all oils and all animal products, your endothelium starts to heal. All oil injures endothelial cells.

 

Oils and high-fat foods lead to diabetes
This experiment sums up pretty well why oils primarily cause diabetes – not carbohydrates!


Do I need to say more?