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Ratatouille

SIP-1-28-15-RatatouillePeople often say to me: “…I wish I did, but I just don’t like eating vegetables” and it’s not only my 6-year old that says that. The answer is that we can train our brain to crave healthy food. When a person burns sugar, it is quite literally, just what it sounds like: the body uses glucose for fuel. What this means is that a person can become hungry shortly after eating a meal. This is not ideal, because a continuous supply of simple carbs means that the body never burns it’s fat reserves as fuel. This leaves people both hungry, cranky, and feeling like they just can’t lose weight.

Eating healthier foods allows our body to naturally shift from glucose to fat as its primary fuel source. Translation? You won’t need to graze every few hours if you consume mostly vegetables in your meal. This is your secret weapon against cravings and hunger for fast, lasting fat loss. In fact, you can even lose weight while you sleep because your body works more efficiently when fueled by whole food instead of processed, high fat and sugary food. Once you stop eating so much processed food (i.e.: chips & crackers), you’ll find that your blood sugar levels remain more constant, without the spikes and crashes, and you can go hours between meals and still feel full. You can teach yourself to taste the deliciousness of clean, pure, vegetal foods and no longer crave crackers, chips and candy bars. Best of all, you feel fabulous, your skinny jeans fit perfectly, and people will begin asking what you’re doing and how they can benefit too. Remember, true immunity comes from sunlight, clean water, fresh air, proper nutrition, and reduction of stress.

An easy way to kick-start your love of vegetables in this new year is to give this delicious winter casserole a try, it’s called Ratatouille.

No, I’m not talking about the movie, (in 2007 Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney released the acclaimed movie Ratatouille) but long before it was a movie, the name Ratatouille (pronounced rat-eh-too-ee) referred to the provincial stewed vegetable dish originating in Nice, France. This hearty winter casserole had been a staple in my family for more than 30 years. Look it up on the internet these days and you’ll find that most cooks simply sautee all the vegetables together, add it to a baking dish and call it a casserole. There is definitely a much more involved method to making sure this dish cooks to perfection, and it includes dredging the vegetables in seasoned flour (I use a whole-grain flour such as brown-rice flour) and then taking the time to sautee each batch of individual vegetables, then layering them in a casserole dish (details follow). Just for the record, this dish also traditionally includes sausage, but for the sake of looking for a healthy vegetarian alternative, I don’t miss the sausage. Remember, there is a lot more than just our mood and our weight that will benefit by filling our plate with mostly vegetables… as Hippocrates so long ago espoused in his timeless wisdom: “let thy food be thy medicine”.

Ingredients
1 medium vidalia onion, rough chop
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
green, red, yellow bell pepper, rough chop
medium zucchini, sliced to 1/8 inch rounds
medium yellow squash, sliced to 1/8 inch rounds
small eggplant, cubed
2 peeled, seeded, large tomatoes cut into thick strips
1 cup whole grain flour
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. olive oil per vegetable

Preparation
Heed my warning, this is for experienced cooks! Your sauté pan should be set on low to medium heat, and you’ll need to tend to each vegetable carefully because otherwise the flour will burn and stick on to the bottom of your pan. It’s definitely not something you can do in between chopping vegetables for a salad or toddler tantrums. In fact, I don’t think I made this recipe for about 4 years simply because I couldn’t devote the time to flouring and sautéing each batch. The method is arduous, but the taste of the final dish, the spice-infused flour sautéed with marsalla wine really layers on the goodness. You will immediately recognize a ratatouille that is made the French way versus a plate of sautéed vegetables. Each piece of each vegetable gets dredged in the flour and spice mixture, then lightly olive oil your sautee pan and add the floured vegetables. Sprinkle a little more olive oil on top, cook for about 1.5 minutes on each side. Deglaze your pan with a tablespoon of the marsalla. Transfer the vegetables to the casserole dish, and repeat for each vegetable. You may find that you need to deglaze often, just use another tablespoon of marsalla or water, scrape the bits of flour and pour it into the casserole dish. These sautéed bits of flour help to layer on the flavor. Once all veggies are layered in the casserole dish, bake it, uncovered, for 40 minutes at 350. Serve with salad and crusty french bread.

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