Eggplant Rollups

19 Jan

Has anyone noticed that it is really hard to make any meal that is covered in tomato sauce look appealing?  Any tips are welcome!

TGI-Thursday night!  Although we don’t have any significant plans this weekend, I’m just looking forward to relaxing, clearing my head, and hopefully a little snow.  This winter has been mild to say the least – especially compared to last year’s wild winter.  Don’t get me wrong, the last thing I want is a repeat of winter 2011, but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t check the weather obsessively in hopes of hearing that a snowstorm is coming.  Oh well!

Anyway, how many people have found old produce-gone-bad hiding in the fridge when you were putting your groceries away?  Me too.  Too many times.  Want to know the solution?  Meal plan.  Meal planning is the answer to so many things.  Want to eat healthier?  Meal plan.  Want to eat out less?  Meal plan.  Want to minimize wasting perfectly good food and money?  Meal plan!  I realize that it can be time consuming, but it’s really worth it.  One of my resolutions was to dust off all of my cookbooks and sit down once a week and write out all of our dinners for the upcoming week.  This way we can go food shopping for exactly what we need for the week.  No waste and no last minute runs to the food store for missing ingredients.  What a novel idea!  This recipe popped in my head the last time I was meal planning.  The best part is that you can use whatever leftover goodies you have lying around for the filling.

Eggplant Rollups

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant, sliced thinly length-wise

1 large tomato, chopped and with the water squeezed out

1 cup tomato sauce (homemade or jarred)

1 1/2 cups baby spinach, chopped

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

4 oz soft cheese (I used mascarpone, but you can use ricotta or goat cheese)

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

4-5 strips of bacon, cooked until crisp and chopped

Salt, to taste

Salt the eggplant slices on both sides and place in a colander.  Let sit for a half hour (salting the eggplant will make it sweat).  Preheat oven to 450F.  Pat the eggplant slices dry and set aside.  In a small bowl, add the tomato, baby spinach, basil, mascarpone (or other soft cheese), mozzarella, and bacon and mix until fully combined.  Lay the eggplant strips on a sprayed cooking sheet.  Add about 3 tbsp of the filling to the fat end of the strip.  Gently roll up and leave it seam side down.  Bake for 15 minutes, remove and add about 1-2 tbsp of the tomato sauce on top of each roll, and then bake for another 10-15 minutes.

One large eggplant made enough for dinner and lunch for both Steve and I.  That’s four meals!  Not too shabby for those of us looking to stretch our dollars.

Have a good weekend!

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Strawberry Balsamic Smoothie

14 Jan

Well, the stomach bug that’s been hanging around these parts finally got to me.  And Steve.  And my brother, brother in law, and mom’s husband.  Yeah.  Let me tell you, there is nothing like a good old stomach virus to get you back to eating healthy after the holidays.  Once this bad boy gets a hold of you, the last thing in the world you want is greasy, overly fatty, overly sugary foods.  Although don’t get me wrong, I would have much rather gotten back on track in my own, slow, non-vomiting way.  So needless to say, the food around here hasn’t been all that interesting or tasty since Sunday.  A lot of smoothies loaded with all kinds if craziness.  And then tonight I had this strawberry balsamic smoothie.

Strawberries and balsamic is a classic combination that rarely fails.  Especially since discovering balsamic glaze from my sister a few years back.  Because the balsamic is reduced, it takes some of the bitterness and acidity out and works even better with strawberries and other sweets.  The idea for this smoothie came to me when I was walking to my car this morning, and I thought about it every half hour until I got home.

*Warning: This smoothie will make you long for spring and summer in a serious way

Strawberry-Balsamic Smoothie

Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients:

1 banana

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 cup milk

1 scoop chocolate or vanilla protein powder

1 tsp balsamic glaze

1 small bunch of fresh basil

2 tbsp chia seeds

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Serve immediately.

This came out so good, I see an obsession forming.  Try it the next time you want a post workout smoothie, or even a dessert when you want something sweet that isn’t loaded with refined sugars.  You can even add 1/4 cup of rolled oats and have it as a meal replacement.

Scallops Gratin

6 Jan
I love scallops. Seriously, love them, but have never actually cooked them until last month. They scared me. Not the undercooking so much as the overcooking.  It amazes me how quickly and easily a buttery, soft, delicious, perfect scallop can be turned into something that would resemble chewing on a ball of rubber bands in consistency and taste. Being that I’m on a budget, it was never worth the risk for me to attempt on my own. That is until last month when my friend and her boyfriend were coming over for dinner. It was the weekend before Christmas an I was feeling saucy, so I hit up my friend Google for advice. I came across a recipe from Ina Garten that despite my inner voice screaming “no!”(not a fan of miss Ina) actually gave me a good starting off point. What’s my beef with Ina, you ask? Well for those of you who don’t know, a 7 year old boy with leukemia wanted to meet her and cook with her. However, Make A Wish Foundation reached out to Ina and she declined. Twice. Too busy. I think what irked me the most about this story was that after the story went public (real public), 2 weeks of public outcry and thousands upon thousands of people vowing to never watch her show or buy her books ever again, she came out and announced that she would meet him. What a doll! Anyway, the family gracefully declined and the boy was able to swim with the dolphins which was his back up wish.
Ok, I’m very sorry for the rant. Moving on.
Ah yes, scallops. So here’s what was made. Follow this to a T and you will have perfectly cooked scallops. No worries!
Scallops Gratin
Yield: 4 big servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • ¼ pound prosciutto, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 3/4 cup panko
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 20 -24 fresh sea scallops
  • salt and pepper to taste

 Preheat oven to 425F. Place the butter in a large bowl and start to whip with a hand mixer.  Add the garlic, shallots, prosciutto, parsley, and salt and pepper and mix until combined. Squeeze the juice from your lemon into to mixture along with the EVOO.  Using a spatula, fold in the panko crumbs last.

Pour the wine in the bottom of a casserole dish.  Rinse the scallops and dry them with a paper towel.  Cut each scallop in half and place them evenly in the bottom of your casserole dish.  Take your butter mixture and spoon it evenly on top of the scallops.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

*Good, fresh scallops can be eaten raw so it is definitely better to undercook a bit than overcook.  I found 11 minutes was perfect.


Make sure you have a good, fresh baguette to serve with this, although it would also be good over pasta or risotto.  The only thing I will definitely change next time is that I will use less garlic. I don’t mind garlic as a side note in a recipe, but I do not enjoy when it is literally all I taste. Why waste money on the other ingredients then?
I also came across this balsamic onion marmalade the last time I was in Williams Sonoma and paired it with some assorted cheeses and water crackers.  If you come across this, I highly recommend it!  A little bit goes a long way, so keep that in mind.

Shepards Pie and Resolutions

2 Jan

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday spent with family, friends, and great food!  Friday was the first night in a week (literally) that I ate dinner at home.  Although I have been continuing to run on a somewhat regular basis, I have still been eating way too much and am starting to feel like a stuffed sausage.  Not to mention the fact that my body is starting to crave real nutrition and normalcy.  And I’m not talking about “milk chocolate contains milk, which contains calcium, so it must be healthy” nutrition.  However, this past week I have been eating pretty much whatever I want and my mind seems to be used to that mindset (funny how quickly that happens), so I couldn’t just have a salad for dinner.  Small steps!  That is why this shepards pie recipe is so great.  It tastes just like comfort food, but it really has a lot of veggies and nutrition packed in there.  Trickery!

Shepards Pie

Ingredients:

6 red potatoes

2 tbsp earth balance

1/2 cup skim milk

1 1/4 pound lean ground beef

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 cup carrots, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 cup peas

1/2 cup corn

2 tsp EVOO

1 tbsp tomato paste

2-3 tbsp worcestershire sauce

1/3 cup vegetable stock

Rinse and chop red potatoes, cover with water in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Cook until potatoes are fork tender, then drain and place back in the pot.  Using a fork, lightly mash the potatoes.  Add the milk and earth balance and whip with a hand mixer until completely smooth.  Cover and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F.  Saute the onion, carrots, and bell pepper in the EVOO on medium high heat for about 10 minutes.  Next add the beef, peas and corn and cook until the beef is browned.  Finally, add the vegetable stock, tomato paste, and worcestershire sauce.  Cook everything for an additional 5 minutes.  Transfer meat mixture into an oven safe casserole dish.  Spoon the mashed potato mixture on top of the meat until you have an even layer that completely covers the meat.  Place in oven for 20 minutes.  Serve immediately.

So let’s all resolve to not get down on ourselves and dwell on the overeating we have all been participating in over the past week or so.  Instead, we’ll move on and back right on our balanced eating and regular exercising horse!

Check this out

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Peppermint Bark Biscotti

14 Dec

Has this December been especially chaotic for anyone else?  For some reason I feel like my head is about to pop off.  Finishing the semester, work Q4 craziness, and not quite done Christmas shopping yet all seemed okay.  That is until I realized that my semester is ending in a week and I have a ton of work to do and finals to study for, and this weekend is my last chance to finish shopping because Christmas is next weekend.  That can’t be right.  I just got back from my honeymoon a week or 2 (or 20!) ago.  So I guess that’s why my photographer hasn’t sent me my wedding album yet; he’s on Amy time!  Now it all makes sense.  I will call and apologize for my many inquiring emails.

Peppermint Bark is a favorite in my family around the holidays.  Specifically the $1,000 kind from Williams Sonoma.  I have no idea why, but last week I decided I wanted to try and make peppermint bark biscotti.  I’ve never made biscotti before, so I thought that making up my own version on my very first try would be disastrous.  Luckily, it came out fantastic.  I hate sounding like I’m tooting my own horn all the time, but it’s the only way I can try and sell you on making certain recipes.  This is one of them, so please excuse the gushing.  I’m actually hoping to make more this weekend and start giving it out as presents.  The night that I baked this was shaping up to be the perfect night.  We were decorating our tree while listening to Christmas music, sipping on Williams Sonoma $1,000 hot chocolate while I was baking holiday biscotti.  Then, I brought Steve over a piece when it was finished and he said something along the lines of “no thanks, I hate peppermint bark”.  Then the records screeched and time stood still before I found the right words.  There were no right words.  He would just have to spend the rest of the night in his room thinking about what he just said.  And now there I was, forced to eat the amount two people would eat because somebody doesn’t like peppermint bark.  You think you know somebody.  Good thing he’s the only person in the universe that doesn’t like it because I was handing it out to everyone I know all weekend.  The best part?  It’s made with whole wheat pastry flour so you don’t have to feel so bad eating it.  Unless you eat a lot of it.  Like, say, 4 in one night.

Peppermint Bark Biscotti

Yield: 20-22 biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 3/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup craisins
  • 1 1/2 peppermint bark, chopped

Preheat oven to 315F.  Mix together flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix the EVOO, sugar, vanilla, and eggs until well combined.  Slowly add your flour mixture into your wet mixture.  Fold in craisins and peppermint bark.  Separate your dough into two equal piles.  It should look like this:

Place in oven and cook for about 30-35 minutes.  Remove from oven and reduce the heat to 300F.  Let the biscotti rest for about 10 minutes and then cut your dough into ¾”  thick slices.  Place back in oven for an additional 10 minutes.  Cool for at least a half hour before serving.

This is such an awesome thing to bake and wrap up for friends, co-workers, neighbors, or whoever you usually give a little something to over the holidays.  Everybody gets cookies, and although this really is a longer, crunchier, not quite as sweet cookie, it’s still technically not a cookie 😉

Happy Holidays!  I hope you are all done shopping with presents wrapped and nothing left to do!

Chinese Food Made Healthy at Home

8 Dec

We all know that Chinese food is not the healthiest option in the world.  This recipe is a staple for me because it hits the spot and is so quick and easy, I can have it ready in 10 minutes without making a mess of the kitchen.  No pealing or chopping here.  My kind of meal.  When I opened my freezer to see what veggies we had in stock, I noticed we had a “steam in the bag” of mixed veggies that we bought a few weeks back when they were on sale.  Then I started thinking.  Then the questions started to rapidly swirl around in my head.  Then I went to Dr. Google.

I think there are two important things that people need to take into consideration if they are concerned about using “steam in the bag”, because there are pros and cons.

Main Pro – Frozen veggies are packed with nutrients because they are flash frozen at their peak, which seal in their nutrition.  Most of a vegetable’s nutrients is lost during the boiling process, so by using steam in the bag, you are losing significantly less nutrients.

Main Con – What made me do research on steam in the bag veggies was a concern that the plastic may contain BPA which would be released in the microwave.  After reading a lot of articles (I guess I wasn’t the only one with this question), I learned that the plastic they use for the steam in the bag does not contain BPA or any other harmful chemicals.  While that in itself is a good thing, the amount of plastic (and petroleum used to make the plastic) we all use is literally killing the planet.  I have been trying very hard to limit my plastic usage, so steam in the bag veggies are not something I am comfortable using very often.

Sources:

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400527/Plastic-Steaming-Bag-Danger.html

http://www.happyhealthylonglife.com/happy_healthy_long_life/2009/11/bpa.html

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/product-reviews/consumer-protection/plastic-safety-heat-food-6

Now that you know the facts, you can make the decision that is right for you and fits your lifestyle best. Got it?! Good!

Peanut Butter Stir-Fried Vegetables over Brown Rice

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients: 

1 cup of brown rice (uncooked)

1 bag frozen veggies

2 tbsp peanut butter

1/3 cup orange juice

1/4 cup stir fry sauce

Prepare your veggies (whatever kind you want to use) and set aside  – drain if necessary.  Bring water for rice to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Place veggies, stir-fry sauce, peanut butter, and orange juice in a medium skillet, and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally.  While the vegetables are doing their thing, cook your rice.  When the rice is ready, place on your plate and scoop the veggies on top.  Serve immediately.

 

I’ve probably made this three times in the past week and a half.  Overkill?  Nah.

A New Month, A New Pizza

4 Dec

Yes, I know I post a lot of different pizza recipes, but I can never get enough.  It is such a versatile food that you can make to your liking every time.  You want a fruity dessert?  Make a fruit pizza.  In the mood for a salad, but want something a little more filling?  Make a salad pizza.  Even Italian foods like penne vodka and chicken parm pizza’s are staples at pizza places over in my neck of the woods.  You can’t go wrong because bread goes with everything (Just make sure you use whole wheat dough 😉 ).

A few months ago, we had the first of what would quickly become a monthly pizza cooking night with our two friends.  The next day, I posted my recipe and promised that I would post the recipe for their pizza soon because it was so good.  Well, this morning I woke up thinking about dinner (happens often) and thought their pizza sounded perfect.  However, when I went to my recipe tab to look up the recipe, I realized that I never posted the recipe.  I looked at the pictures and tried to remember exactly what they did.  I have a bad memory.  Bad.  So, I ran to the food store and got everything that I thought I needed.  Then later that night, I got cooking.  I’m pretty sure I nailed it, but I’m going to ask my friend Jackie to comment if I am missing anything so I can update it here.

Spinach-Prosciutto Pizza

Yield: 1 pie

Ingredients:

whole wheat pizza dough

2 – 3 cups baby spinach

1 small ball of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

1 avocado, sliced and chopped into bite sized pieces

balsamic glaze

Preheat oven to 425F with pizza stone inside.  Roll out dough into desired shape and thickness. Remove pizza stone and place dough on the stone.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  Place sliced mozzarella on the dough first, followed my the baby spinach, and then the prosciutto.  Bake for another 5-8 minutes.  Remove from the oven and distribute avocados evenly on top of pizza.  Lightly drizzle the balsamic glaze on top, slice, and serve immediately.

Sorry for the iPhone pics in the poor lighting, my camera’s battery died on me.  The nerve!  Anyway, shout out to Jackie!  This was her creation, and it is unbelievably good!  I know prosciutto and avocados seems like an odd combination, but the mild creaminess of the avocado blends perfectly with the saltiness of the prosciutto – I’m actually surprised that I haven’t seen this combo a lot more.

In other news, I’m working on student loans (school is EXPENSIVE!) which is making me anxious.  For all of you who attended grad school, did the cost stress you out enough that you considered not going?  I was on the edge for a while, but a few individuals convinced me to follow my passion and go for it.  Thank you “individuals”!  Without you, I probably wouldn’t be going :).  I’m also a few weeks away from being done for the semester!  Yes!  And finally, I got a new MacBook.  Let’s just say that my boss rocks, and gave me an amazing price on a model we had left in stock from last year that is no longer running in any of our programs.  And right when my dinky little netbook (that I got for free for signing up for Verizon Fios, haha) decided to die on me, and just in time for grad school.  Lucky gal!

I’m off to buy our Christmas tree! Yay!  And then come home and write 3 papers.  Boo.