Monday, November 26, 2012

Spice up those cold, dreary days with a slow-cooker!


When the clocks roll back and days start getting shorter and colder, it’s time to put away the grill and pull out the slow-cooker! 

Today, was my first slow-cooker meal of the season, and what a great kick-off it was—Ratatouille, that thick and robust French chunky tomato stew, full of flavorful spices, yet a low-calorie, nutrient-dense vegan meal.

I assembled my ingredients into the slow-cooker, turned it on Low at 9:00am, and headed upstairs to work.  I don’t know why, but smelling a delicious dinner simmering away in the Crock Pot seems to make my work day move along a little better—perhaps it’s that little added thrill and anticipation of what will be waiting for me at the end of the work day at 5:00!  But, it sure makes the cold, gray days of winter a bit more tolerable.

Most slow-cooker cookbooks are filled with meat dishes, so finding good vegan recipes can sometimes be a challenge.  I discovered this Ratatouille recipe last winter when I was RVing down in Arizona.  It fits my 3 1/2 quart Crock Pot perfectly, and that size slow-cooker fits nicely into my Winnebago View making this a great Vegan Vagabond meal!  

Add a few bread slices from a fresh whole wheat French baguette, and a nice glass of red wine, and “ooo la la”—a yummy and comforting meal to warm up a cold winter’s day!


Slow-Cooker Ratatouille:

adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes


  • 2 medium onions (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 6 oz. can of tomato paste (as low-sodium as you can find)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB raw turbinado sugar (or other less-processed sugar)
  • 3 small cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 TSP dried basil
  • 1 TSP kosher sea salt
  • 1 TSP dried thyme
  • 1/4 TSP ground black pepper
  • 5 fresh roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 small/medium unpeeled zucchini, halved lengthwise and finely sliced
  • 3 cups of unpeeled eggplant, diced into small cubes


1. Place ingredients into a 3 1/2 quart slow-cooker in the exact sequence as listed above. 

2. After adding the spices (and before adding the fresh tomatoes), spread the tomato paste to cover the onions, but ensure the onions remain on the bottom of the pot.

3. Add the remaining ingredients and lightly pack down so that the lid will still fit firmly on top of the pot.

4. Turn the slow-cooker on Low and cook for about 7 1/2 to 8 hours.  Leave the lid on the whole time and DO NOT STIR until within the last 30-45 minutes (to allow the tomato juices to combine better with the eggplant).

5. Turn off the slow-cooker and let rest for 10-15 minutes while you warm a baguette in the oven and slice it.

6. Serve in large soup bowls. Makes about 4 cups (2 – 3 servings).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Guest Bloggers: Charlie & Marti's Half Vegan-Versary!

Marti and Charlie in Seattle just celebrated 6 months of healthy vegan eating and generously share their experience.  Note in Charlie's weekly weight chart, at the bottom, how much faster weight came off when their vegan diet started.  Fascinating!  Enjoy:


Like many couples our circle of friends can be bundled into groups. Our three largest are all activity based. The bicycle club (where we met), the ski/outdoor club we joined ten years ago and a Lazy Daze RV group (also joined about ten years ago).

Of the three you would probably guess that the bicycle and ski/outdoor group would have the biggest affect on our overall health and you’d be absolutely correct; until this year. Sure the RV group as a whole are much more sedentary than the other two but, if not for a few friends in this group we would not have celebrated on November 1st our half year of a plant strong, vegan lifestyle.

Our friends, Paul & Kay, have been vegan for a couple years now and we started noticing their eating choices and asking a few questions. Then Tessa, another Laze Daze owner/friend announced that her entire family had been vegan for some time now and loving it! We became even more curious. So Marti emailed Tessa to ask some questions and learn more about what being a plant based eater really meant.

Tessa supplied us with a list of DVD’s to watch and books to read. We were hooked! We made up our minds to go all in around mid April. Well, it didn’t quite happen then. We had a trip to the Midwest planned and a fridge and pantry to clear out and restock. So May 1st became a more realistic starting date. Besides, I’ve always found the May Day tradition of putting a flower basket on someone’s front porch, ringing the doorbell then running and hiding, just so dang adorable even though I’ve never done it myself.

Slowly easing into a vegan diet or just trying it a few days a week seemed like a plan doomed to failure. So no ‘baby steps’ for us. I even juice fasted the first 7 days to kick start my system. We weighed ourselves every day but only recorded the average weekly weight. It just seems to make more sense and more accurate that hopping on the scale once a week.

Shopping became a new adventure and Marti loved getting some new vegan cookbooks! Lucky for us Seattle has plenty of great grocery stores where we can find any ingredient we need. Breakfast routinely became a Rip’s Big Bowl from the Engine 2 Diet book by Rip Esselstyn. One quarter cup of four different whole grain cereals, fruit, nuts and wheat germ with non dairy milk or yogurt.  Salads, soups, stews, mashed yams or sweet potatoes became regular meals. Brown rice with steamed veggies and peanut sauce to top it off is a favorite too.

All in all we are pleased with our decision to start eating plant based and thank our friends who led the way and continually support us.  We’ve lost weight, lowered our cholesterol levels, feel more energetic and have no plans to return to our former way of eating. Thanks Tessa, Kay and Paul!

Charlie's Average weekly Weight
Week---Weight---Change in lbs
3/11-3/17-----211.4.         -0.8
3/18-3/24----210.8.     -0.6
3/25-3/31----209.6.    -0.8
4/1-4/7-------208.7.      -0.9
4/8-4/14-----208.6.     -0.9
4/15-4/21----206.8.     -0.8
4/22-4/28---205.3.   -0.5
4/29-5/1--207.5.          +2.2
5/1-5/5---------202.      -5.5
5/6-5/12-------198.4.   -3.8
5/13-5/19-----197.1.        -1.3
5/20-5/26----195.7.    -1.4
5/27-6/2---192.7.   -3.0
6/3-6/9----189.2.    -3.5
6/10-6/16---186.8.  -2.4
 6/17-6/23---185.       -1.8
6/24-6/30--182.6  -2.4 
7/1---7/7----- 180.6.  -2.0
7/8--7/14----179.6    -1.0
7/15-7/21-----178.6   -1.0
7/22-7/28---178.3. -0.3
7/29-8/4-----177.2.   -1. 1
8/5--8/11------176.7  -0.5
8/12-8/18-----174.6  -2.1
8/19-8/25----175.1.  +0.5
8/26-9/1------174.8   -0.3
9/2-9/8-------175.6  +0.8
9/9-9/15------175.1.     -0.5
9/16-9/22----176.4   +1.3
9/23-9/29---177.5    +1.1
9/30-10/6----175.7    -1.8
10/7-10/13-----175.7    0.0
10/14-10/20---175.8  +0.1
10/21-10/27----177.1   +1.3
10/28-11/3---- 176.3   -0.8
Monday November 5th  174

Charlie and Marti
Seattle WA