Tag Archives: eggplant

Slow Cooker Ratatouille and Polenta

December is such a busy time of year for most of us. Lots of gatherings, shopping, school functions, sporting events, etc. I usually have a pretty open schedule and found myself booked 3 of the 5 work days this week. What?! However, busyness doesn’t mean you have to get take out. You are spending enough money everywhere else this month, you don’t need to eat out a ton too.

Enter your slow cooker. This awesome piece of kitchen equipment is the busy cook’s best friend. Throw some food in early in the day, cook some sort of starch to go with it, and you are good to go.

This ratatouille is perfect for a cold December night. Super hearty and filling, you won’t even miss meat. The goat cheese in the polenta adds the perfect tang. It’s just all around delicious. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Ratatouille and Polenta (Serves 6-8)

Slow Cooker Ratatouille and Polenta

Ratatouille:
2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
3 medium zucchini, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tablespoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons canola oil
2 small red or yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-­inch pieces
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
¼ cup all-­purpose flour
¼ cup tomato paste
2 (14.5 ounce) cans no salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves or 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves

Polenta:
6 cups low-­sodium vegetable or chicken stock
1 ½ cups polenta or cornmeal (not instant)
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces fresh goat cheese

1. Place the eggplant and zucchini in a large colander and toss well with the salt; let sit for about 45 minutes. Rinse well to remove the salt, then dry well, gently squeezing out excess water with a kitchen towel. Add to the slow cooker that has been lightly greased with cooking spray.

2. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-­high heat. When warm, add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the flour and tomato paste. Cook until the mixture is thickened
and the flour disappears, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium high and add the tomatoes with their juices, thyme, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Cook, crushing the tomatoes a bit with a wooden spoon, until thickened and smooth, about 6 minutes.

3. Mix with the vegetables in the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low 4-6 hours or high 2-3 hours, until the vegetables are tender. Turn off slow cooker and stir in Parmesan cheese and basil.

4. About 30 minutes before vegetables are done, add the stock, cornmeal, and ½ teaspoon pepper to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-­high heat, whisking frequently to prevent lumps. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequently, until creamy and thickened, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and goat cheese.

5. To serve, ladle polenta into individual bowls, spoon ratatouille on top, and serve immediately. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 330
Protein: 12 g
Fat: 12 g
Saturated Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 18 mg
Carbohydrates: 46 g
Fiber: 8 g
Sodium: 579 mg

Recipe Notes: The eggplant is less bitter if you peel it and if you let it sit a bit with the salt. If you are pressed for time, it will still work if you don’t do either step. It might be a bit more watery, but not enough to kill it. I don’t love the taste of cooked red onions generally, so I prefer to mix and match here. I’m sure fresh herbs would be delicious here, but I don’t remember to buy them or the store doesn’t have the one I want. If you can’t find or don’t eat goat cheese, I would probably sub in more Parmesan. Or maybe cream cheese. I tried blue cheese once and didn’t love the combination personally, but it is an option as well.

Source: Slightly adapted from Epicurious.com

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Sesame Noodles

Have you ever made a dish you thought was really delicious but no one else could remember it?  It has happened to me a few times, including the first time I made these noodles.  I remember making them for a picnic dinner date we went on.  I even remember my husband saying he liked it.  But anytime I asked him about them, he couldn’t remember what I was talking about.  Partly because the only way I could describe them was as “peanut butter noodles” which would usually remind him of the Thai Style Chicken and Noodles I shared before.   That is one of his favorites, so the discussion would end.  So, these gradually drifted off my radar for about two years.

Wow, those two years were really missing something.  When I rediscovered this to take lunch to a friend, I was reminded of how easy, quick, delicious, and versatile this dish is.  And the fact that it is cold makes it perfect for summer.  It can be a main dish or a side dish that is easy to transport wherever you need it.  I recently made a big batch right before we went hiking, and it made an awesome dinner after a long day of hiking and lugging around a toddler.

Enjoy!

Sesame Noodles (Serves 4-6)

Sesame Noodles

1 small eggplant, cubed
½ teaspoon salt
1 (13.25 ounce) box whole wheat spaghetti
1 tablespoon sesame oil (optional)
½ tablespoon canola oil
1 chicken breast, chopped into bite size pieces
1 clove of garlic
1 1-inch piece peeled fresh ginger
½ cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
¼ cup hot water (as hot as your tap will go)
½ cucumber, sliced (peeled if it isn’t a hothouse cucumber)
¼ green cabbage, shredded
6 green onions, sliced into 2 inch chunks

1. Sprinkle eggplant with salt. Let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. OR Place eggplant on several layers of coffee filters or paper towels. Microwave for 10 minutes, or until beginning to look slightly shriveled.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting oil and salt. Drain and rinse under cold water. Place in a large bowl and toss with sesame oil (if using).

3. Heat canola oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Saute eggplant until browned, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add to pasta. Saute chicken in same pan until cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. Add to pasta.

4. In a blender or food processor, process garlic and ginger until well chopped. Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, red pepper, and hot. Process until smooth. (The sauce may be a little thick. If it is overly thick, add more water).

5. Toss the pasta, eggplant, chicken, cucumber, cabbage, and green onions with the peanut butter sauce. Chill until ready to serve.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 473
Protein: 23 g
Fat: 16 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 21 mg
Carbohydrates: 66 g
Fiber: 11 g
Sodium: 713 mg

Recipe Notes: Feel free to mix it up on this dish. I’ve made it without the chicken and without the eggplant. All the combinations have been good. I like the crunch the cabbage gives to this, but I have also omitted that. A hothouse cucumber works really, really well in this. But I’m usually too cheap to buy one, so I just half peel a regular cucumber with good results. Also, you could substitute garlic powder and ginger powder and mix the sauce by hand. It takes a fair amount of muscle, but can be done.

Source: Adapted from Food Network Kitchens’ Making It Easy Cookbook

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Eggplant and Orzo Baked Pasta

The next few months feature a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables that are ripe and delicious and affordable like no other time of the year. I love it. There is nothing like asparagus in the spring when it is tender and delicious or tomatoes in the summer when they are juicy and meaty at the same time. However, I’m always in a small quandary with all these vegetables. I love baked pasta and roasted vegetables but hate turning my oven on at all for the next few months.

However, this pasta is completely worth it. And while hearty and filling like all baked pasta should be, it still tastes light, fresh, and springy, which not all baked pasta can achieve. The other great thing about this recipe is that you can mix up the veggies a bit based on what you have or what is in season. Zucchini or summer squashes would mix in deliciously. Asparagus was a nice addition in this batch. This freezes well, if you want to save it for cooler months when you want a reminder of what summer tasted like.

Enjoy!

Eggplant and Orzo Baked Pasta (Serves 4-6)

Eggplant and Orzo Baked Pasta

1 large eggplant, cut into ¾-inch dice
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup diced carrot
½ cup diced celery stalk
1 cup chopped asparagus
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces orzo
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 ½ cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 to 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or more to taste, up to the zest of a whole lemon
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces mozzarella, diced
¼ cup grated parmesan
3-4 large tomatoes, diced

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Sprinkle eggplant with salt. Let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. OR Place eggplant on several layers of coffee filters or paper towels. Microwave for 10 minutes, or until beginning to look slightly shriveled.

3. Heat a large frying pan with the 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute eggplant for 8 minutes, stirring pieces occasionally. Transfer them to paper towels to drain.

4. Heat remaining oil in pan. Add carrots, celery, and asparagus. Cook for 3 minutes, then add onion and garlic. Cook 5 more minutes on medium to medium-high heat. to remaining oil and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat. Stir in the orzo and tomato paste ,and cook for two minutes more. Remove from heat and add eggplant, stock, oregano, lemon zest, pepper, mozzarella, and tomatoes. Mix well.

5. Transfer mixture to an 8×11 or 2 quarts ovenproof baking dish. Sprinkle with parmesan. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes more. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 319
Protein: 15 g
Fat: 10 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 16 mg
Carbohydrates: 44 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 431 mg

Recipe Notes: As I mentioned above, mix up the veggies however you like it. And don’t be too scared of adding celery. You don’t taste it in the end. I really like the tomato flavor and the lemon flavor, so I add as much of those as I can. And DON’T precook your orzo. It is a small pasta, so it will cook just fine in the oven. If you can find whole wheat orzo, go for it. My smaller grocery store doesn’t carry it. If you are freezing, freeze it before baking. Then bake in at 350 until cooked through, probably 1 – 1 ½ hours.

Source: slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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Baba Ganoush and National Nutrition Month

Happy National Nutrition Month! The theme for this year is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle”. The first thought that popped into my mind when I heard the theme was carrot and celery sticks. Something about the crunch and fresh taste of raw veggies epitomizes that idea to me.

However, I’m going to be completely honest with you. I really don’t like eating raw veggies without some sort of dip. I know that is very un-dietitian of me. But I need my ranch, peanut butter, something to help get them down. I especially like this baba ganoush, since it is veggie based. It’s like getting an extra dose of veggies as I’m eating my carrots. Win!

Enjoy!

Baba Ganoush (Makes about 1 ½ cups)

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1 large eggplant
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons feta cheese crumbles

1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. Prick eggplant all over with a fork. Place on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake about 20 minutes, until it is soft inside. Let it cool until you are able to handle it. Cut in half lengthwise, let any water drain, and then scoop the pulp into a food processor.

3. Add salt, tahini, lemon juice, and most of the dill to the food processor. Blend until smooth. Garnish with remaining dill and feta just before serving.

Nutritional Information (Amount per ¼ cup)

Calories: 58
Protein: 2 g
Fat: 3.5 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 3 mg
Carbohydrates: 6 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sodium: 85 mg

Recipe Notes: Most recipes include garlic. I made this once with garlic and found the raw garlic way too overpowering. I opted not to add it the second time and didn’t seem to miss it. However, I am pregnant, so my tastes are a little sensitive. I would keep the garlic to one small clove, finely minced, if you were to add it. Parsley is more traditional than dill. But I had dill on hand, and I really liked the flavor punch. Parsley would be a more mild herb to add, if you don’t like dill.

Source: slightly adapted from Ellie Krieger

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Eggplant Involtini

I once read on a food blog that casseroles are ugly.  Most of the time, I’d agree.  This casserole breaks that mold.  It is almost as nice to look at as it tastes.  The colors are perfect for this time of year, too.

If you have carnivores in your crowd, don’t be scared of this meat free dish.  The first time my husband ate it, he didn’t even realize there wasn’t meat in it.  The eggplant is very hearty so you don’t miss the meat.

Enjoy!

Eggplant Involtini (Serves 6)

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1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped small or grated
2 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon garlic powder, divided
12 (¼-inch-thick) lengthwise slices eggplant (about 2 medium)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons walnuts
1 slice whole-wheat bread, toasted and torn into pieces
8 ounces low fat cottage cheese
1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to drain well
1 large egg
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves or about 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
½ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
¼ cup shredded mozzarella

1. Heat oil in medium saucepan. Add onion and carrot. Saute for 3-5 minutes, until onions begin to soften. Add tomatoes, salt, and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes. Process in food processor or with immersion blender until smooth. Set aside.

2. Preheat broiler to high.

3. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet (you may need to work in batches.) Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper, and lightly coat with cooking spray. Broil 4-5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Let cool about 10 minutes, or cool enough to touch.

4. Preheat oven to 375.

5. Pulse nuts, bread, and remaining ¼ teaspoon garlic powder in food processor until coarse crumbs form. Add cottage cheese, egg, and spinach. Pulse until smooth. Stir in basil and ¼ cup parmesan.

6. Spread 1 ½ cups tomato sauce over the bottom of an 8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spread 2 tablespoons cheese mixture onto each eggplant slice; roll up jelly-roll style. Place rolls, seam sides down, over sauce in dish. Spoon remaining sauce over rolls. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup parmesan and mozzarella. Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

Nutritional Information (Amount per Serving):

Calories: 222
Protein: 15 g
Fat: 9 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 42 mg
Carbohydrates: 24 g
Fiber: 9 g
Sodium: 607 mg

Recipe Notes: I usually hate ingredients in pounds, but I actually do weigh tomatoes at the store for this recipe. You could easily sub in your own favorite marinara sauce for this recipe. Make sure you squeeze a lot of water out of your spinach. Otherwise the filling will be soggy and gross.

Recipe source: adapted from Cooking Light

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Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches

It’s National Vegetarian Week. While I’m not a vegetarian, I definitely see the health and financial benefits of following the diet. My family follows a flexitarian diet: mostly vegetarian meals but meat occasionally. We all know that fruits and veggies are good for us. But since drastically reducing our meat intake, our food budget has also been helped a lot.

However, this weekend is Memorial Day and the opening of grilling season. Hot of the grill burgers, ribs, steaks, and just about any other meat are delicious. But grilled veggies can be amazing, too. I loved this grilled eggplant sandwich. Very filling and satisfying, and I felt good after eating it. Even my carnivore husband was raving about the peanut butter sauce. If you are more of a carnivore, the toppings for this sandwich would be good on a burger, too.

Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches (serves 4-5)

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1/2 cup white or rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups julienne carrots
1/3 cup chopped green onions, divided
1 medium eggplant
1 small onion, sliced
1 jalapeño pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
dash sriracha
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1 loaf whole wheat French bread, cut in half horizontally
1 cup thinly sliced cucumber
1 cup fresh cilantro

1. Combine vinegar, sugar, salt, carrots, and about 2 tablespoons of green onions in a small bowl. Stir until sugar dissolves. Let stand for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain liquid before using.

2. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Cut eggplant lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Brush eggplant slices, onion slices, and jalapeno with canola oil. Grill eggplant and onions for 7 minutes, or until tender, turning once. Rotate jalapeno 4 times during grilling, turning when skin begins to char.

3. Combine peanut butter, remaining green onions, ginger, soy sauce, sriracha, garlic, and lime juice in a bowl. Stir well to combine.

4. Hollow out bottom half of bread. Place bread on grill, cooking until golden brown.

5. Spread peanut butter sauce over bottom half of bread. Arrange eggplant, grilled onions, cucumber, and carrots on bread. Slice grilled jalapeno. Sprinkle jalapeno slices and cilantro over top. Place top half of bread on sandwich. Cut into 4-5 equal pieces.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving with 4 servings):

Calories: 582
Protein: 17 g
Fat: 22 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 84 g
Fiber: 15 g
Sodium: 777 mg

Recipe Notes: I left my carrots in the vinegar mixture about 20 minutes. When I do it again, I will leave them a little longer. I would have preferred them a little softer and a little more “pickled”. If you want them super crunchy or not very acidic, then shorter is better. We like spicy food. If you are worried about heat, you could omit the sriracha or put less jalapeno on the sandwich. I made lengthwise slices of cucumber to mimic the eggplant slices, but regular slices would work, too.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

Low-iodine adjustment:  Use non-iodized salt.  Use salt free peanut butter.  Eliminate the soy sauce and sriracha, adding water to thin out the peanut butter sauce as needed.

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Vegetable Moussaka

My husband and I went on our first date to a Greek restaurant.  We went back to that same restaurant several times, including for one of our last meals in Chicago.  They had these sampler plates that had several traditional Greek items that I usually got.  But for our last visit, I just got a big plate of moussaka.  I loved every cheesy, eggplanty bite.

I like this vegetarian version of moussaka since it gives you all the goodness of the traditional dish, without the expense or saturated fat of the beef (or lamb if you are being very traditional).  My husband is not a big fan of mushrooms, so I usually have to avoid meatless casseroles like this.  But I followed a tip online that you can sub cauliflower for mushrooms.  I did that for about half with great results.

Enjoy!

Vegetable Moussaka (serves 6)

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2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup water
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
2 large eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 2 1/2 pounds)
Cooking spray
12 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 medium head of cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 (5 ounce) containers plain, fat-free Greek yogurt
1/3 cup feta cheese crumbles
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, divided

1. Heat saucepan with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion, and cook until tender (about 6 minutes). Add garlic, and cook 1 minute more, or until garlic begins to be fragrant. Add 1 cup water, quinoa, tomato paste, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat.

2. Preheat broiler to high.

3. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray. Place eggplant slices on sheet and lightly coat both sides with cooking spray. (You may need to work in batches.) Broil 5 inches from heat source for 5 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Set aside.

4. Reduce oven temperature to 350.

5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with remaining olive oil. Add mushrooms and cauliflower. Cook 8 minutes, or until cauliflower is slightly tender. Add water and soy sauce; simmer 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

6. Combine yogurt, feta, eggs, egg white, and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese in a bowl, stirring until smooth.

7. Coat a 13×9 inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half of the tomato sauce on the bottom. Arrange half of the eggplant over the sauce. Spread all of mushroom mixture over eggplant and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers of tomato sauce and eggplant. Spread yogurt/cheese mixture over the top. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 321
Protein: 21 g
Fat: 11 g
Saturated Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 77 mg
Carbohydrate: 39 g
Fiber: 11 g
Sodium: 465 mg

Recipe Notes:  I’m guessing you could probably sub rice or another grain for the quinoa, but you would need to adjust the cooking time and water added accordingly.  If you like mushrooms, you could skip the cauliflower and do 24 ounces of mushrooms instead. But I kind of liked the mix of cauliflower and mushrooms.  You do need to cut the cauliflower down to fairly small pieces.  The original recipe added wine to the mushrooms.  I don’t have wine in my house, so I just used water.  You could use wine or some low sodium broth if you’d like.  I had to skimp on the eggplant in mine, since part of one was going bad – so yours will look more “eggplanty” than mine.  If you have a lasagna pan (or a pan just slightly larger than 13×9), I would use that.  I used mine, and it fit fine.  It might be kind of tight squeezing it into a regular 13×9 pan.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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