Cook Once – Eat Twice: Ratatouille and Rice and Middle Eastern Vegetable Soup

Ratatouille and RiceThis easy slow cooker ratatouille pairs with a simple garlic risotto for one dinner, and easily transforms into a delicious, spiced soup the second night.  These two recipes work well together by easily creating different flavors and textures in the second meal for a whole new dish!  You will be making a double batch of the ratatouille (stewed eggplant, squash, and tomatoes) and risotto (a creamy, but dairy-free rice dish) and using half of it for the Middle Eastern Vegetable Soup.  It is important that you have the second meal the next day, as rice that has been kept longer than one day can make you sick even after being thoroughly reheated.

Ratatouille and RiceRatatouille and Rice

Needs Fulfilled: Slow Cooker, Prep Ahead, Cook Once-Eat Twice, Allergy Friendly, Vegetarian/Vegan
Serve With: Fruit Salad
Prep: 10 minutes   Inactive Cook: 3-8   hours   Active Cook: 40 minutes
Time to Table: 40 minutes
Needed Equipment: Slow cooker, 2 saucepans
Serves: 3
Arborio rice is a particular kind of short grain rice that you can find with the grains and beans at the grocery store.  It is essential for making the risotto that you use this type of rice as long grain rice does not form the right kind of starch when it cooks to give the risotto is creamy texture.  Eggplant is a very tricky vegetable to get right.  You can tell it is done when it starts to taste good – if it is chewy and bitter, it is not done yet.  If you would prefer to avoid this finicky food, you can substitute 2 yellow squash.

STARTING PREPARATION:

  • Cut eggplant and zucchini according to directions (you can do this ahead of time and store together in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days – the eggplant will turn brown but it doesn’t affect the taste or texture and you cannot tell once it is cooked).

INGREDIENTS:

Ratatouille:
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes (peeled if preferred)
  • 3 zucchini, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3 tsp minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • 30 oz canned diced tomatoes (I prefer the petite diced tomatoes with no salt added)
  • 1 Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 ½ tsp basil
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds and stems removed and cut into ½-inch pieces
Garlic Risotto:
  • 5 cups broth
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
  • ¾ tsp oregano
  • 1 ½ cup Arborio rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place all the ingredients for the ratatouille except the pepper into the slow cooker.Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.
  2. Place the broth for the risotto in the smaller saucepan (if you have two sizes) on a back burner of the stove on medium-low heat (you are just going to warm it – you don’t want it to be boiling).Place the second saucepan on a front burner, add the oil and heat over medium heat.Add the peppers for the ratatouille to the slow cooker, cover, and place on high to continue cooking while you make the risotto.
  3. Add the garlic and oregano to the oil in the larger saucepan (front burner) and saute 1-2 minutes.Add the rice and saute another minute until the edge of the rice starts to be translucent.
  4. Add about a quarter of the broth to the rice.All the rice to cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently but gently (this helps to develop the texture). As the liquid is absorbed, add in another quarter of the broth, again allowing it to be absorbed while stirring frequently but gently. Once all of the broth has been absorbed, taste the rice and add the salt and pepper as desired. (If you need to, you can cover and let the risotto sit off of a burner until you are ready to serve.)
  5. Serve the ratatouille over the rice, remembering to save half for the soup the next day, storing them covered in the refrigerator in separate containers.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • You could add 15 oz Great Northern beans (drained and rinsed) or 1 lb ground meat, browned to the ratatouille with the peppers for a punch of protein.
Credits: The ratatouille and rice recipe is adapted from the “Provencal Vegetables and Rice” recipe in One-Dish Vegetarian Meals by Robin Robertson.

 Middle Eastern Vegetable SoupMiddle Eastern Vegetable Soup

Needs Fulfilled: Quick Meal, Cook Once-Eat Twice, Allergy Friendly, Vegetarian/Vegan
Serve With: Bread from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (there are also gluten-free breads in there!)
Prep: 0 minutes  Cook: 15 minutes   Time to Table: 15 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan
Serves: 3

STARTING PREPARATION:

None

INGREDIENTS:

  • Leftover Ratatouille
  • Leftover Garlic Risotto
  • 1/2-1 cup water
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine the leftover ratatouille and risotto with the water, coriander, and cinnamon in the saucepan over medium high heat.Heat through, stirring occasionally.Taste and add additional seasonings (salt, pepper, or more coriander or cinnamon) and serve!

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • You could use other seasonings such as ½ tsp ginger for the coriander for a slightly sweeter flavor or ½ tsp rosemary with 1 stalk celery, chopped for both for a more Italian flavor.

Meat-Free St. Patrick’s Day Meals

As St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday in Lent this year, here are some delicious meat-free options so that you can celebrate the day when we are all Irish (not to mention a great saint)!
St. Patrick's Day Cabbage and Potato Soup

St. Patrick’s Day Cabbage and Potato Soup

Needs Fulfilled: Holiday, Allergy Friendly (with modification), Vegetarian (Vegan with modification)
Serve With: Saltine or Oyster Crackers
Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 30 minutes Time to Table: 40 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan
Serves: 4

STARTING PREPARATION:

  • Cut potatoes according to directions (you can do this up to 1 day ahead of time and store in a bowl covered with water in the refrigerator – drain before using)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (1 clove)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1 ½ lb potatoes, chopped (peeled if desired)
  • ½ small head cabbage (about ¼ large head), chopped
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • Dash salt and pepper (more to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp feta cheese, crumbled

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the oil in the saucepan over medium high heat.Add the garlic and saute (cook, stirring occasionally) for about 1 minute.Add in the broth, onion, and potatoes.Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.
  2. Add in the cabbage, oregano, salt, and pepper.Cover and cook for 5 minutes.Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice, cover and let sit about 10 minutes until the cabbage is soft but not overcooked.Serve topped with the feta cheese.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • Add 15 oz Great Northern beans or 1 cup cooked chicken for a boost of protein
  • Omit the cheese or use a dairy-free version
Shepherd's Pie

 Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Needs Fulfilled: Holiday, Vegetarian/Vegan, Allergy Friendly (with substitution)
Serve With: Side Salad
Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 50 minutes Time to Table: 60 minutes
Needed Equipment: 2 saucepans, casserole dish
Serves: 4
You can make this casserole up ahead of time and store covered in the refrigerator for a day – just bake and serve to have the meal on the table in 30 minutes!

STARTING PREPARATION:

  • Cut celery, carrots, and potatoes according to directions (you can store the celery and carrots in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and the potatoes in a bowl of water in the refrigerator for up to 1 day – drain before using)

INGREDIENTS:

Mashed Potatoes (Topping):
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
Filling:
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 ½ cups lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 30 oz diced tomatoes (I prefer petite diced with no salt added)
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 2 Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cover the potatoes with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and boil for 20-30 minutes until very tender. Drain the potatoes.
  2. While that is cooking, heat the oil in the saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft and golden. Add the remaining filling ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the lentils are soft.
  3. Return the potatoes to the dry saucepan and put back on medium heat. Cook the potatoes, stirring often to dry them out a bit (2-3 minutes). Add the remaining ingredients and continuing stirring until the potatoes are mashed. You may need to add additional oil if it is not turning out creamy enough. If they are not mashing enough, use a potato masher or ricer to finish mashing them.
  4. Place the filling in the casserole dish. Top with the mashed potatoes. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes until topping is golden.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • You can substitute 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks for the potatoes if desired
  • You can omit the celery or carrots if needed and substitute or add other vegetables as desired such as ½ cup corn, 2 small turnips, or ½ cup peas.
  • For an option without legumes, you can use 1 ½ lb browned ground meat (omit the water)
Need more help getting started with meal planning?  Our meal planning coaches would be happy to help!
Credits: The cabbage and potato soup recipe is adapted from the “Lemon Potato Soup with Feta” recipe in the October 2015 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

How to Meal Plan in 1-2-3

 Meal Planning WorksheetAnything that you want to make possible requires a plan, and that includes having dinner with your family.  Dive into meal planning with these 3 simple steps!  You can use this form to help you plan and prepare your grocery list, and you should be able to create a menu of delicious, healthy meals for your family in less than an hour!

1. Needs Assessment

The first, and often overlooked step, in meal planning is to determine what your family is going to need in the coming week.  Write down in the “Needs Assessment” box to help you keep them in mind when choosing recipes.  Here are some questions that you might consider to help you determine what you need:
  • How many meals do we need to cook?  Think about if you would like be having dinner away from home at all in the coming week.
  • How many servings do we need at each meal?
  • What does our schedule look like?  Do we need meals that are ready quickly certain days, or even ready when we walk in the door?  Do we have more time to cook certain days during the week?
  • What types of foods?  Consider any strong dislikes, allergies, intolerances, or health issues that would affect what your family can eat each week.  Also, consider if there are any changes you would like to implement in your diet.
  • What food does your family already have?  Think about any meats, vegetables, or fruits that are left over from last week that you would like to use up in the coming week.

2. Select Recipes

Now that you know what you need, you are going to select recipes around those needs.  There are two big concepts to remember when choosing recipes: you are creating a meal (not just an entrée) and you want variety.  Let’s consider these one at a time.
A meal (as opposed to an entrée) includes a protein (meat, beans, tofu, nuts), a carbohydrate (grains, pasta, potatoes, starchy vegetables), and a vegetable or fruit.  This might mean an entrée with one or two sides (such as a broiled steak with mashed potatoes and peas) or it might mean an all-in-one meal (such as chicken soup with carrots and rice).
Throughout the week, you want a variety of those three components, as well as a variety of flavors.  Start with some family favorites, then select additional recipes (whether new recipes or ones that you have not had in a while) to get you that variety.
As you are selecting recipes, note all three elements (protein, carbohydrate, and vegetable or fruit) in the “Recipe” column, where you found the recipe in the “Source” column, and any notes for how you are planning to modify the recipe in the “Modifications” column.  You might choose to modify a recipe to suit your family’s taste or to account for an allergy.  Once you have selected your recipes, double check your list against your Needs Assessment.

3. Make Your Schedule and Grocery List

The next step is to take your list of recipes and make it into a coherent schedule based on your Needs Assessment.  Be sure to assign meals to days when their preparation will not be a burden, with quicker cooking meals being served on busier days.  It is possible that you may need to go back and pick a different recipe if you cannot find a good day for a particular one (you can always have it next week!).
Once you have finalized your schedule, you will make your grocery list.  Start with your recipes and, reading through the ingredients lists, write down any ingredient you think that you might not have on the left column (don’t try to guess, if you aren’t absolutely certain you have it, write it down).  Then go to your pantry and refrigerator – go through your list and mark off any items that you actually do have.  Finally, transfer your grocery list over to the categories on the right, add on your family’s staples, and you are ready to make family meals happen!
Need more help getting started with meal planning?  Our Meal Planning Coaches would be happy to help!

The Story of the Falafel Phoenix: A 3 Step Troubleshooting Guide for any Recipe

Falafel PhoenixIt is not uncommon for a recipe to go terribly awry, so here are 3 simple troubleshooting steps to get dinner on the table that I used with this falafel recipe.  This is the meal that I used for the post about why to meal plan, and my good friend Emily said it looked really good, so I wanted to share it with you!
Falafel failWhile the final product turned out lovely, my first attempt at the recipe totally fell apart and was a mess.  I didn’t panic, though!  I just followed these 3 steps to save the meal!

3 Step Troubleshooting Guide for any Recipe

1. Stop and Think
 When you are cooking, it can feel like everything is an emergency that needs to be addressed THAT SECOND.  In reality, unless there is a fire, you can take a second to consider (and if there is a fire, use these fire safety steps!).  If something is cooking on a burner, take it off the heat to buy yourself some time to think – only very rarely would this ruin the dish.  In this case, I was able to stop and think between cooking batches of falafel.The first batch never turned out falafel-shaped, but still tasted good in a pita!
2. Determine the Problem and Think of Possible Solutions
Look at what you have and compare with what it should be.  Is the flavor off?  Is it too thick?  Or too thin?  Does it need to cook longer?  In this case, the falafels were falling apart, which means that it needed a binder – something that holds it all together. If you aren’t sure what you could use, you do a Google search or check a trusted website (Chowhound is usually a good place to get information).  The most common binders are a slightly beaten egg, mashed potatoes, crushed saltine or oyster crackers, puffed rice cereal, or more unconventional things like ground flax seed meal mixed in water (this makes a great egg substitute!).
3. Try a Solution (Repeat as Needed)
Once you have thought of some possible solutions, you choose the one that seems most likely to work (and/or that you have the ingredients for :)) and try it out.  If it works, great!You can now finish getting dinner on the table.  If it doesn’t work, go back to Step 2 and choose a different solution.In this case, I choose hummus as a binder, as falafels and hummus are both made of chickpeas, which worked great.

Falafels

Needs Fulfilled: Vegan/Vegetarian, Gluten Free (salad variation)
Serve With: Quinoa
Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 30 minutes Time to Table: 45 minutes
Needed Equipment: Skillet, food processor
Serves: 3

STARTING PREPARATION:

  • Cut vegetables according to directions (you can do this ahead of time and store in separate sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed and sorted (remove any rocks – yes, you really can find rocks in dried beans)
  • 1 cup fresh parsley (about 1 bunch), stems removed
  • 1 Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 2 tsp minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (that would be about half a lemon, but I usually just use the juice that you buy in the juices section at the store)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Hummus
  • 3 pitas
Optional Toppings
  • 2 oz lettuce, chopped
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • ½ red pepper, seeds and stem removed and sliced
  • ½ cucumber, sliced
  • Yogurt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pulse the chickpeas, parsley, onion, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, salt, and 1 Tbsp olive oil in the food processor until finely ground (in case you are a newbie at the food processor, you turn the pulse setting on and off to keep things from liquefying). Stir in enough hummus to make it clump together (about 1-2 Tbsp). Form into patties about the diameter of a regular size coffee cup.
  2. Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the patties and cook 3-5 minutes on each side, turning at least once for even browning (try to avoid turning too much as that makes it more likely it will fall apart), until crispy and golden.
  3. Serve the falafel in the pitas with vegetables, hummus, and/or yogurt as desired.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • For a gluten-free version, up the lettuce to 6 oz (for 3 servings) and serve as a salad.
  • Make a quick yogurt dill sauce to top your falafels (makes enough for 3 servings):
    • 3 Tbsp yogurt
    • ¾ tsp lemon juice
    • ½ tsp dried dill
    • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
    • Dash salt and pepper
  1. Mix together in a bowl, taste and add more seasonings as needed.Serve as a topping on the falafels