Tag Archives: parmesan

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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Quick, Chewy Breadsticks

I have a cookbook of recipes my mom collected over the years, which includes a recipe for “chewy breadsticks”.  I was hosting a spaghetti dinner party once, and my mom suggested I make those.  I don’t know if I did something wrong, but the end result was definitely chewy, borderline like eating cardboard. They didn’t have any of the fluffy, bready goodness we associate with breadsticks, most likely thanks to pizza delivery places and Olive Garden.  It was a disaster

These breadsticks are a much better balance.  They are not the airy, fluffy breadsticks many of us are accustomed to eating.  They definitely are slightly crispy and chewy, but they still are soft enough to soak up any delicious saucy remains on your plate after a pasta meal.  And even better, they are really quick to make.  You can make these in the same amount of time it takes to whip up a quick pizza or pasta dinner at home.  No planning ahead for hours of rising time.  Hooray!

Enjoy!

Quick, Chewy Breadsticks (Makes about 16 breadsticks)

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1 ½ cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
3 ½ – 4 cups white whole wheat flour
¼ cup olive oil
½ – 1 teaspoon garlic powder, per taste preference
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, sugar, yeast, olive oil, and salt. Gradually mix in flour until a soft dough forms. Let dough rest and raise for 10 minutes.

2. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a large rectangle/square, about 16×16 inches. (See note below). Lightly brush dough with olive oil. You may not need all of it. Sprinkle with garlic powder and parmesan cheese.

3. Cut dough into 1 inch strips. Fold each strip in half (making the strip shorter, not skinnier). Gently twist each strip a few times to make it look pretty. Place on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Let raise for 15-20 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 400. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Nutritional Information (Amount per breadstick):

Calories: 155
Protein: 5 g
Fat: 5 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 1 mg
Carbohydrates: 24 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sodium: 102 mg

Recipe notes: I frequently cut this recipe in half with great results. You can use as much whole wheat flour as you want. I’ve done all whole wheat and half. Both taste good. I definitely let this be a softer dough than if I’m making loaves of bread. You can always knead in a little extra flour when you are rolling it out. My dough is usually a little more of a rectangle shape.  I like to get as many breadsticks as I can out of this.  To compensate, I kind of stretch the breadsticks as I twist to make them a little longer.  Go easy on the olive oil. A little really can go a long way. At most you will use ¼ cup, but you could probably get away with only 2 tablespoons. We like garlicky bread, so I generously sprinkle the garlic powder. It can be a little strong, so be warned.

Source: adapted from Let’s Dish Recipes

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I have a confession to make. I hate green bean casserole. I know this borders on insanity to many of you. I can’t stand canned green beans in any form, honestly. If I’m being completely honest, I hate any sort of green bean that hasn’t been sautéed or stir-fried. I know this is un-American. I’m sorry.

If by some miracle you are also in the anti-green bean casserole camp or are just looking for a different green vegetable side for your Thanksgiving table, I humbly submit these roasted Brussels sprouts. They caramelize into something almost sweet when you roast them. Tossed with a little bit of bacon and parmesan, I think your guests will thank you for skipping the green beans.

Enjoy!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (Serves 4)

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1 lb Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 strip bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 500. Place rack in upper-middle position in oven.

2. Trim stems of sprouts, but keep a little to keep intact. Cut large sprouts in half. Toss sprouts with olive oil, water, and pepper.

3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread sprouts in an even layer in pan. Tightly cover with another sheet of aluminum foil.

4. Roast in 500 oven for about 10 minutes. Remove foil lid. Return to oven and cook for 10-12 minutes more, until sprouts are tender and lightly browned.

5. Toss cooked sprouts with bacon crumbles and parmesan cheese before serving.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 98
Protein: 5 g
Fat: 5 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 4 mg
Carbohydrates: 11 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 99 mg

Recipe Notes: This is a pretty straightforward recipe.

Source: only slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Low-iodine adjustment: skip the bacon and cheese. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt to sprouts before roasting. Toss with just a touch more olive oil before serving.

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