The Kinder Kitchen

Baked Ratatouille Stew

 

Mangia, mangia!
Mangia, mangia!

Confession: I never even knew what ratatouille was before I saw the Disney Pixar animated movie of the same name. I mean, I knew it was a dish, but I really didn’t know what exactly it WAS. Even after seeing the movie, I had to consult Uncle Google to find out that ratatouille is basically a dish comprised of eggplant, tomato, zucchini, and onion- that’s the easy explanation. I found recipes for ratatouille as a casserole, as a soup or a stew, served hot or cold, alone or with a side dish such as rice or bread. This was back in the day when I was the mom of several very small people, though, and taking the time to learn to cook what seemed to be a very complex and nuanced vegetable dish was NOT high on my list of priorities.

My four boys are much older now and open to trying dishes with actual recognizable veggies in them, as opposed to the toddler days when stealth-health (hiding vegetable purees in food they would actually eat) was the name of the game, and my take on this classic savory dish gets gobbled every time.

In cobbling together my own version of ratatouille, I found that I liked the stew versions over the layered-casserole versions for one major reason: it drove me CRAZY when I was not able to get an equal amount of equally-sized slices of the zucchini, eggplant, onion, and tomato. Yeah, I’m weird like that. My family probably wouldn’t have cared less if the eggplant slices were far bigger in circumference than the zucchini slices, but I cared. Deeply. So I gravitated more toward a cubed-veggie approach with this recipe. The veggies are baked in a savory, herbed tomato sauce, then are stirred into pasta. I prefer small pasta shells, but any shape pasta will work just fine. When I want to stretch the amount (no small feat when feeding four hungry boys and a husband), I might add a package of Beyond Meat Beefy Crumble that I’ve cooked in a skillet, and a great finisher for this dish is vegan mozzarella and fresh sliced basil.

I hope you enjoy this hearty, comforting Ratatouille Stew, or as my boys like to call it, Ratatouille-Stewie! I put my foot down at calling it Rat-Patooty.

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Baked Ratatouille Stew
Serves 6
A hearty, crowd-pleasing take on an Italian classic.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 large or 2 medium zucchini
  2. 1 large eggplant
  3. 4 large tomatoes
  4. 1 medium Vidalia onion (or any variety that you may have on hand)
  5. 2 cups of canned fire-roasted, crushed tomatoes, un-drained.
  6. 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  7. ¼ cup loosely packed fresh basil, sliced, plus extra for garnish (or about 2 tablespoons dried)
  8. ½ tsp each of dried thyme, oregano, and rosemary
  9. ¼ tsp black pepper
  10. ½ tsp salt
  11. ¼ tsp flaked red chiles
  12. ½ tsp lemon juice OR apple cider vinegar
  13. 1 16 to 20 ounce package of pasta of your choice, prepared according to package instructions.
Instructions
  1. 1) Preheat the oven to 350F, and lightly grease an 8x8-ish baking dish (or oval, round, whatever!)
  2. 2) Cut the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and onion into roughly 1-inch pieces and combine in a large bowl. I leave the skin on the eggplant because it gives the dish more color and contains nutrients, but you can certainly peel it if you wish.
  3. 3) In another bowl, combine the crushed tomatoes in their juices, lemon juice, and all herbs and seasonings. If you’re using fresh basil, be sure to set aside some for garnish.
  4. 4) Spread the tomato mixture evenly in the bottom of your prepared pan and top with the veggies. If desired, brush lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle on more herbs.
  5. 5) Bake at 350F for 1 hour, or until both the eggplant and zucchini are fork-tender. No stirring necessary!
  6. 6) Once you’ve cooked and drained your pasta, stir in the baked veggies and combine. Add meatless crumbles or vegan sausage, and vegan mozzarella if desired. Garnish with fresh basil.
The Kinder Kitchen http://thekinderkitchen.com/

The Veganized Famous Bowl

 

Fast food?  Fuggedaboudit!

 

bowl 2

Far back into my pre-vegan days, when I was pregnant with my oldest son Dominic, I had what you might call a love-hate relationship with food.  I loved it, all of it, in large quantities, and hated when I couldn’t satisfy a craving!  I don’t recall every having any of those outlandish, cliched cravings like pickles and ice cream, but it’s no exaggeration to say that I had a passionate love affair with junk-food.  I look back on those nine months now and cringe, knowing that I could have been kinder to my body and my growing baby.

One of the things I HAD to have, at least  two or three times a week, was KFC’s Famous Bowl.  Actually, it’s funny that they call it that, because hardly anyone I know has ever heard of it.  If you’ve never had one, here’s the gist: layers of mashed potatoes, corn, chicken, gravy, and shredded cheddar cheese.  It’s a bowl of stick-to-your-ribs, comforting bliss.  I would hit the drive-thru, pull into the parking lot with my bag, and inhale it, the bowl resting half on the steering wheel and half on my giant pregnant belly.

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Crispy Oven Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

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Superbowl mania has swept in and out like a tornado, and Uncle Google has seen the last “Superbowl party snack ideas” search request for a while, but that’s no reason to let your vegan appetizer game get rusty!

 

Any self-respecting hostess or bringer-of-snacks to someone else’s party should, at all times, have a handful of tried-and-true recipes at the ready when the need arises to wow a crowd with vegan eats and treats. Well, I am here to bring you what is sure to be a hit that will be a staple for every potluck and party!

 
One of the most ubiquitous vegan dishes floating around on the internet at the moment is the buffalo cauliflower wing (or “bite” for those that don’t want to call them wings). Google that, and you’ll likely find hundreds of recipes, but something tells me that I know just what you’re looking for: a bite that’s tender but not mushy on the inside, with a light, crispy-crunchy coating on the outside. Oh- and you’d like them to be healthy, so you want them baked, not fried, only you just KNOW they can’t be crispy unless they’re fried in gobs of oil, right?

 
While I have sampled fried cauliflower buffalo wings before and beheld their crispy, crunchy awesomeness, let’s face it- that’s a TON of unnecessary fat. I wanted a recipe for crispy cauliflower wings that still had that satisfying crunch without the added calories of oil. I tried dozens of recipes that claimed to result in a crispy bite, but was disappointed every time. In developing this recipe, I used elements of many others and tried a few ideas of my own. The result is a healthier wing that is tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside. When I first made these for my husband, Chris, his eyes lit up like a little kid’s! I don’t make these just for parties, either- they’re great any time, and are kid (and husband) tested and approved.

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Using panko breadcrumbs and a two-step baking method is KEY for a great crunch, and these are best served right away for optimal crispiness, so if you’re making them to take to a party, I suggest shortening the cooking time in the second step by about 10 minutes, then finishing them in the oven of your host- IF there’s room!

Crispy Oven-Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Wings
Serves 6
Oven baked, tender cauliflower with the crispy coating and classic taste you crave. No oil....no kidding!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 large head of cauliflower, or 2 small ones
  2. 1 cup of brown rice flour (NOTE: a variety of flours can be used, but in my experimentation I have found that brown rice flour resulted in the lightest, crispiest batter, while whole wheat flour yielded the heaviest, soggiest results)
  3. 1 ¼ cup non-sweetened, non-dairy milk of your choice
  4. 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, and sea salt
  5. 1 cup (plus extra if needed) panko bread crumbs, regular or gluten free
  6. Large bottle of buffalo wing sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot!)
Instructions
  1. 1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. 2) Cut cauliflower into bite-sized pieces- I cut mine a little smaller than the size of a golf ball. Cauliflower can be tricky to cut up and you’ll likely end up with a lot of little bits. Save those for salad!
  3. 3) In a large bowl, whisk together the brown rice flour, non-dairy milk, and seasonings. I like to throw in a few dashes of the hot sauce, too.
  4. 4) Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, OR you can use cooling racks sprayed with cooking spray on a baking sheet. I do NOT recommend simply greasing the baking sheet, as I’ve found that the wings tend to stick even on a heavily greased sheet. They release much easier from parchment paper.
  5. 5) Toss the florets in the batter a few at a time, shake off excess batter, then toss in the breadcrumbs in separate bowl. To keep things tidy, I like to use one hand for handling the battered ones, and my other hand to handle the ones finished in the breadcrumbs. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. If you need to use more than one baking sheet, switch racks in the oven halfway through each phase of the baking time.
  6. 6) Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.
  7. 7) Remove racks from the oven and set aside. In another bowl, dump in about half your bottle of wing sauce . One at a time, dunk the baked cauliflower florets in the wing sauce, turning gently with a fork to coat. Using tongs, return the sauced florets back to the baking sheet.
  8. 8) Bake an additional 20 minutes, turning florets halfway through baking time. This is key to prevent sticking.
  9. 9) Optional: for a little extra crunch, I sometimes like to finish them with a little blast under the broiler. Your call! Also optional: brush with a little extra wing sauce for added zinginess. This will, however, make the wings a little less crunchy.
Notes
  1. To make this a totally gluten-free appetizer, look for gluten-free panko breadcrumbs!
  2. Note about the sauce: You may choose to use another sauce such as barbecue or teriyaki sauce rather than wing sauce. However, if your sauce is thick, I would advise thinning it out a bit with water prior to the second baking stage. If the sauce is too thick, it will result in a less-crispy finished product.
  3. Serve with a vegan ranch dressing such as Follow Your Heart's High-Omega Vegan Ranch or Bleu Cheese, and carrot/celery sticks
The Kinder Kitchen http://thekinderkitchen.com/
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