Anyone CAN cook…

So admit it… you had no idea what ratatouille was until Pixar introduced us to that adorable movie about it. At least, I didn’t. I have a particular soft spot for the film as I first saw it with my little brother Ben on one of our ritual sibling date nights (back when he still thought I was cool). Afterwards, we went to Red Robin (his pick) and I paid… hmph, now that he’s taller than I am, it’s time for payback.

After the movie though, I started seeing ratatouille everywhere! A classic Mediterranean dish, ratatouille is not only flavorful but really healthy (vegan) and easy to make. I love all the vegetables that go into it: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. A simple dish like this does indeed prove that it’s true, ‘Anyone CAN cook!’ (baking, however, is still strictly for the pros).

{veggie bellybuttons}

a

{bell pepper confetti}

This dish also tastes great both hot and at room temperature (even cold) which makes for nice leftovers or packed lunch. My version is the traditional rustic dish, but to see the ‘movie’ version look at this cute take on Smitten Kitchen. I may have to make it with my brother next time I’m home.

Ratatouille

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium eggplant, medium diced with skin on
  • ½ teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon fresh or dried rosemary
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 2 zucchini squash, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, diced
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

(1)  Set a large 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes.
(2)  Add the eggplant, thyme, and rosemary to the pan. Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is partially cooked, about 5 minutes.
(3)  Add the diced bell pepper, zucchini, squash and garlic. Drizzle over another tablespoon of olive oil and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes.
(4)  Add the canned tomatoes and salt and pepper, to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper for me), and cook for a final 5 minutes.
(5) Stir well to blend and serve over a bed of cooked couscous or quinoa, either hot or at room temperature.
 

Note: Make sure your pan is large enough. I may or may not have had to divide my ratatouille halfway through cooking because my pan was overcrowded (ok, I definitely did). You want the vegetables to lightly sauté, not steam.

Makes 6 servings

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kale chips

Is there any better chip than a kale chip…

Besides a potato chip. Or a tortilla chip. Pita chip, poker chip… oh, chocolate chip! So well yah maybe kale chips don’t exactly scream mm YUM, yes please! but they’re actually quite tasty, crispy snacks. If you like roasted nori sheets (which I love) then you’ll probably like these. They really are a nice go-to fix when you’re in the mood for a salty snack. In fact, not to brag, but they were quite the success at the Fourth of July party I went to last night… just spreading the gospel of kale chips everywhere I go. Like a vegan Jesus. Again, not bragging.

Not to mention they’re so much healthier than most other snacks that go crunch (I’m lookin’ at YOU, salt & pepper kettle chips!). Packed with beta carotene, vitamin C and K, calcium, and definitely the trendiest green right now.

So indulgence wise, there really is no better chip than a kale chip.

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Restaurant Review: Souen

{Macro Plate, Souen}

I’ve never really written a ‘restaurant review’ but I felt this restaurant was especially noteworthy. I first heard about Souen, a restaurant that specializes in vegan, macrobiotic food, in an article featuring Alicia Silverstone. Now, say what you will about her eating habits when it comes to feeding her child, but I’ve been a big fan of her overall vegan, healthy lifestyle. I even have her cookbook, The Kind Diet.

The beauty about Souen is that it accommodates so many different diets: vegan, vegetarian, gluten-intolerant, raw… you name it. And these days, we all know somebody (or are that somebody) who has one of these limitations when it comes to eating out. Souen sounds like a scary concept. Vegan? Macrobiotic? My sister Christine always makes fun of me by saying it reminds her of the scene in Baby Mama when Tina Fey orders that terrible yeast ball at a raw foods vegan restaurant in order to impress her date. In fact, when I asked my friend Sonia if she wanted to meet me at Souen for dinner, this is how our conversation went:

S: What place do you suggest?

M: There’s a vegan macrobiotic restaurant Souen that’s super healthy but really good, I promise!

S: Uuhhhhh lol

But honestly, everyone I’ve taken there has really enjoyed it! I first went for lunch with my friend Anne Larimer (who is gluten-intolerant) and the second time with Sonia and our friend Mythili (all of us are on-off vegetarians/vegans). The first time, I ordered the Macro Plate (shown above) which I would recommend getting with the carrot dressing. The second time, the three of us had quite the feast! Started with Seitan ‘Meat’balls… probably the best thing I’ve had here and definitely a good transition for those who are typical meat-eaters.

{Seitan ‘Meat’balls with Beet Marinara, Souen}

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Happy Blog-iversary!

It’s the One Year Anniversary of my blog country mouse. city life.!

Life is definitely much different now than it was a year ago. I live in a different city, I got my first real job, and I still love Beyoncé.

So I thought it’d be the perfect cause for celebration to introduce my favorite smoothie recipe! Even more so now that the weather has warmed up. I call this my ‘Superfood Smoothie’ cause it’s full of antioxidant-fighting ingredients like blueberries, chia seeds, and spinach. It sounds really gross, putting spinach in a smoothie, but I’ve been doing it for years. Spinach is so mild, you can’t taste it once it’s all blended up but you really wanna make sure it’s completely blended (bits of spinach in your smoothie is not appetizing). I’ve been drinking this almost every day and love it!

It’s also super easy to make, in fact, there’s no real recipe required and experimentation is suggested. Here’s my general recipe:

Thanks to all my friends and followers for making this blog such a wonderful, fulfilling experience this past year.

Cheers to many more blog posts to come!

to health and happy waistlines!

quinoa: /kEEn-wah/

I probably avoided eating, cooking, or ordering quinoa due to the sheer fact that I had no idea how to pronounce it. But I’m proud to say that now I can pronounce it with confidence, and I can’t get enough of it! If you’ve never had quinoa, it’s very similar to couscous but with a firmer texture and slightly nuttier flavor. Quinoa is also packed with protein and hence super-filling– ideal for vegetarians!

Another favorite food of mine is sweet potatoes (Mmm sweet potato fries). This Mark Bittman recipe combines the best of both my quinoa and sweet potato worlds. Plus it’s super healthy… which I need these days after watching many, many episodes of Gossip Girl and realizing how beautiful the clothes are! *curse you Trader Joe Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s*

Lunch on the steps of the Met!

This recipe is very adaptable in that you can pretty much add whatever suits your palette. My favorite additions usually include chickpeas and feta (which I kept out this time to keep it vegan and healthier… remember, the clothes, people!) Feel free to add whatever other goodies, i.e. arugula, crumbled goat cheese, pomegranate seeds, etc. suit your taste (and figure).

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad
adapted from Mark Bittman

  • 2 ½ cups cooked quinoa  (1 cup uncooked)
  • 1 large or 2 medium (about 1 pound) sweet potatoes
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
  • ¾ cup chickpeas (about ½ can)
  • ¼ cup minced red onion or shallot, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

(1)  Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package. Once cooked, let cool completely.
(2)  While the quinoa is cooking, peel the sweet potatoes and dice into ½-inch cubes. Cook in boiling salted water until fork tender, about 15 minutes; once done, wash in cold water to stop further cooking and drain well.
(3)  In a large bowl, toss together the quinoa, sweet potatoes, roasted bell pepper and onion. Add the oil and vinegar, and sprinkle with cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.
(4)  Using kitchen sheers, snip in the fresh parsley then toss the salad. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Let the salad sit for at least an hour to allow for all the flavors to blend together.

Makes 4 servings

guacamole

when you think about it, it’s kinda freaky how our tastebuds change so much from childhood. i would say 90% of the foods i eat today would have been utterly deplorable to my 6 year-old tastebuds. some of the foods on this hit-list would have been: any kind of leafy green, beans, whole wheat and most definitely avocados. which is a shame cause you can’t make a guacamole without good avocados.

well i must be grown up now cause i’ve been making and eating this homemade guacamole morning, noon, and night. GUACAMOLE for DINNER?! yes. and if you haven’t done so, your tastebuds obviously haven’t lived.

Guacamole

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime
  • 1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped (optional)

(1) Cut each avocado in half and remove the pits. Score each half a couple times horizontally and vertically then scoop the flesh into a medium bowl using a spoon.
(2) Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice over the avocado chunks then toss gently with a spoon, making sure the lime juice evenly coats all the avocado.
(3) Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together. Chill for at least an hour before serving with tortilla chips, pita chips, tacos, on a shoe…

Makes 4 servings