Eggplant is one of those much beloved and much hated vegetables. I think that for people who hate eggplant, it's all about the texture. And for people who love eggplant, it's all about the texture. Learning to cook eggplant properly results in people loving eggplant, as far as I can tell.
If it's cooked in too much liquid, eggplant can become rubbery and chewy, the dreaded "walrus meat" texture. Ick. When cooked with olive oil and roasted at a high heat, eggplant magically becomes soft as butter, smooth, and mellow tasting.
Eggplant parmesan in the oven can be tricky because the eggplant can dry out, but I've found a method that works pretty well. So here it is! You will need: an eggplant, panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic powder, Italian herb seasoning, and salt.
In a bowl, combine 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, 1/2 c. panko crumbs, 1 t. garlic powder, 1/2 t. Italian herbs, and 1/2 t. salt.
Peel and slice the eggplant in 1/2 inch thick slices. Place them on a plate, and sprinkle with salt on both sides. Allow them to sit for 10-15 minutes. This causes them to "sweat" out some of their liquid, which will remove any bitter taste from the the eggplant, and also make the crumbs stick to them better.
You can see from my photo that I've peeled my eggplant by slicing off the peels with my knife. It resulted in hexagon slices rather than perfect circles, but it also made the process that much faster! I'm always one for making my prep time quicker if I can.
Next, dip the slices into the crumb mixture. You can press crumbs onto each slice to help them stick. Lay the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. I also distributed the remainder of my crumbs onto the top of each slice.
Be generous with the olive oil! I would say I used 1-2 teaspoons of oil on each slice. I've yet to find a "low fat" method of cooking eggplant that works. This is a vegetable that loves its olive oil. They are a perfect pair. However, this method still uses less fat than deep frying.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Check the eggplant frequently, as you want to remove it just when it's golden brown. I've found that oven times can vary on this.
Voila! This method results in eggplant that is super crispy on the outside, buttery soft on the inside, and just perfect. You can serve it with pasta and marinara sauce, or just a simple salad for a lighter meal.
This one is a quickie but goodie. If you hate brussels sprouts, feel free to ignore this post. If you love brussels sprouts, you will definitely love this. If you are on the fence about brussels sprouts ... this could really change things for you.
I personally love them. But I've known people who hate them. I always thought that maybe they hated them because they had only had mushy boiled brussels sprouts (think stinky cabbage smell and soft texture). But what if they were crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside? Bursting with fresh green spring-y flavor?
You may remember I have an obsession with cooking things on parchment paper. That obsession has not faded over the last year. It has only grown. So naturally, brussels sprouts get the parchment paper treatment here.
This is so simple it's not even a recipe. Wash a pound of brussels sprouts, cut the bottoms off, and cut them in half. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet, and then put the brussels sprouts on. Drizzle with 3 T olive oil, 1/2 t. salt, and stir to coat the vegetables. That's it, folks. Roast in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
The caramelized crispy edges make them so delicious. The inside is tender, but not mushy. There is a real brussels sprout-y flavor, without any stinky cabbage smell. Give it a try!
We've all had those disappointing fruit moments. You go to the grocery store, excited to pick out some new produce. Hey, there's a sale on blueberries! And look! I haven't seen apricots for months! You take them home, wash them, and ... you are reminded that apricots don't really come into season until mid-summer. And it's April.
But life gives us these wonderful opportunities so we can bake more often. At least that's what I like to think. Here is what I did with my disappointing, sour, somewhat off-texture fruit. The whole process took me about 5 minutes.
Step one: chuck fruit in a pan. More specifically, wash and slice it, and spread on the bottom of an 8 by 8 pan. I used a disappointing apple, 2 disappointing apricots, and a pint of weird blueberries. Stay with me now, people. It gets better. I sprinkled the fruit with a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar:
In a bowl, I mixed up 1/2 c. brown sugar, 1/4 c. whole wheat flour, 1/4 c. quick oats, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.
I took 1/3 c. of Earth Balance spread (you can use butter, but we have this stuff in our house and it's a great dairy free alternative). I used a fork to cut the butter (y spread) into the dry ingredients, leaving some larger lumps:
I sprinkled the topping over the fruit, and I baked it at 350 for 25 minutes.
Behold! The fruit is now delicious! Not disappointing at all! I don't know what you like, but I thought it needed a little scoop of caramel ice cream on top:
But seriously, the baking process really drew out all the wonderful fruit flavors. The blueberries were juicy and sweet, the apricot tasted apricot-y, and the apple was tender and delicious. Try this with any combination of fruit that you like!
It's spring, and I have come back to life. The earth is warming, birds are chirping and ... suddenly salad tastes good again. This salad is a variation on another lentil salad I have made for years. I tweaked the seasonings to make it taste something like the filling for dolmades (stuffed grape leaves). Let me tell you, this salad hit the spot. This salad made my palate sing. It brought me back to life. Ok, ok, just make it, already.
The cast of characters:
In a bowl, mix 1 c. sliced radishes, 1/2 c. chopped carrots, 1/2 c. chopped green apple, and 1/4 c. chopped fresh mint. I would have added parsley, but I didn't have any. If you have some, add that stuff in there! And once your mint patch gets going this summer, add a whole heck of a lot more mint if you like!
On the stove, get going:
These are green lentils. I cooked 1 cup of them, in about 2 quarts of water. To the water, I added a bullion cube just for extra flavor. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and let simmer for 25-30 minutes. You want them to be soft, but not turn into mush. I also cooked up some rice. I used 3/4 c. of white rice and 1 1/4 c. water, with a pinch of salt. You could easily substitute brown rice here, if that floats your boat.
When the lentils are done cooking, just pour them through a strainer to strain off the liquid. I rinsed mine off with cold water to cool them off and stop the cooking process. To cool off my rice quickly, I spread it out on a cookie sheet for several minutes.
Then, I mixed up my original lemon-olive oil dressing:
This is: 4 T. olive oil, 3 T. fresh lemon juice, the grated zest of one lemon, 1/2 t. herbs de provence seasoning, 1 t. brown mustard, 2 t. honey, and 1 t. salt. Whisk that all together. Then, you just stir the grains and the dressing into the veggies! You can check the taste and see if it needs more salt.
And voila ... instant spring in a salad. I served mine cold with a whole wheat tortilla. It has complete protein, veggies, and the lemon zest makes it taste so bright and cheerful. It is also great the next day for lunch. It made me so happy to eat this.
Enjoy in good health, and happy spring!
Here is another quick egg thing I do sometimes when time is at a minimum, but I want to eat something healthy and delicious.
Egg foo young is a cross between a stir fry and and omelet. You can pretty much add any vegetables or meat you like to it and it will be delicious!
Here's what I used:
I chopped up about a cup of spinach, 1/2 c. sugar snap peas, and half of a zucchini. I beat together 3 eggs and 1 T. water with a dash of black pepper.
In my skillet, I put 1 T. canola oil and 1 t. sesame oil. I heated the skillet on high heat and then stir fried the veggies for about 1 minute.
Then, I poured the egg on top. Rather than stirring the mixture, I gently push the sides of the egg toward the center as the edges become cooked, then tilt the pan to let the raw egg move out to the edges. The whole process takes about 2 minutes.
Then, I carefully cut the foo young in half and flipped each half over. If you're brave, you can try flipping the whole thing at once. Or make two smaller pancakes!
The second side only needs to be cooked about 1 minute more. I served mine with ramen noodles on the side!
To make "side dish" ramen noodles, simply cook the ramen according to the package directions, drain off the liquid, and toss with 1 T. sesame oil and 2 T. soy sauce.
This whole meal took me about 7 minutes from start to finish. It was delicious! Enjoy and let me know if you try it!
OK, hopefully I don't get in trouble with the Hamburger Helper company for saying this, but you can totally make your own hamburger helper. It is super easy, it's healthier without all the additives and extra sodium, and it's - dare I say it - much tastier than the stuff in the box. Plus, you probably have all the ingredients in your house right now!
Here we go:
Get yourself a pound of ground beef (I used lean organic, because hey, this is healthy hamburger helper), any kind of pasta you like (could be gluten free), a can of tomatoes, Lawry's seasoned salt, paprika, Italian herb seasoning, and garlic powder. And a can opener.
In a large cast iron pot, brown the ground beef.
Add 1 t. seasoned salt, 1/2 t. garlic, 1/2 t. Italian seasoning, and 1/2 t. paprika. Add the can of tomatoes, one can of water, and 2 cups of dry pasta.
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium, cover, and simmer about 15-18 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender.
Let stand for 2-3 minutes for some of the liquid to absorb.
I served mine with sharp cheddar cheese on top:
It was so tasty! Comfort food at its finest, and just as easy as the "convenient" box mixes. Sorry, Helper hand guy.
If you know me, you know that I usually have about ... 3 minutes to cook dinner on weeknights. I always try to make healthy food a priority. But I also prioritize speed. As I'm driving home, I'm thinking, "Now, what can I make in the least amount of time?" And the answer many times is eggs!
Egg tacos are one of my current favorite ways to make eggs. You can totally customize this recipe to your preferences!
The steps go something like this:
Walk in door. Drop bags and backpack on floor. Go to fridge and pull out the following: salsa, feta cheese, canola oil, avocado, tomato (not pictured), and corn tortillas.
Now, I know you're thinking, feta? How is that Mexican? Well, it's not. But it's a nice substitute for queso fresco and other mild Mexican cheeses. You can obviously use just about any cheese and salsa combination that you have lying around the house.
OK, so I get 2 skillets out and heat them to medium high on the stove. I crack my eggs. For this time, I'm making fried eggs. But I've made this with scrambled eggs and it's great!
So, cook your eggs how you like them:
Eggs are very personal, like a fingerprint. I've rarely met two people who like them exactly the same. For instance, I am one of the few people I know who likes to break the yolk of my fried eggs before flipping them over. Don't judge.
While you cook the eggs, put a couple of tablespoons of oil in the other skillet. Fry each tortilla for about 10 seconds on each side. Oh, and chop the avocado and tomato.
Then, assemble your tacos! I was hungry, hence the messy presentation:
Now go eat! And enjoy in good health!
Last winter, I became obsessed with cooking one pot dinners. I like the simplicity, of course, but also the challenge of making rice and other grains cook perfectly with meat and vegetables at the same time. It's all about the timing, proportions of ingredients, and temperature.
This chicken and rice dish was one of my winners. It's super easy, tasty, and you probably have the ingredients in your house at all times.
Ingredients: 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (not pictured), olive oil, basmati rice, 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, garlic powder, bay leaves, Lawry's seasoned salt, paprika, and black pepper.
Traditionally, these types of dishes are made with short grain rice, because long grain rice like basmati is more fragile and prone to breaking in the cooking process. However, I've been using basmati because it has a lower glycemic index than other kinds of white rice, making it healthier for those watching their sugar intake.
In a large cast iron pot, heat 3 T. olive oil over medium high heat. Brown the chicken breasts on both sides. After turning them over, season with 1/2 t. garlic, 1/2 t. seasoned salt, 1 t. paprika, and 1/4 t. pepper. If you like things spicy, you could totally add Tabasco sauce or any other hot sauce at this point.
Add the can of tomatoes, 3/4 c. rice, 1 1/4 c. water, and 2 bay leaves. Stir, and allow to come to a boil.
After the mixture boils, cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Stir the mixture gently once or twice during this time, but don't mix it too much or you will break the rice.
When it's done, the rice will be tender and simmering in its own sauce:
Yummy! Quick, easy, and healthy: my favorite combination for weeknight dinners. There is something so magical about cooking rice with sauce. Every time, I marvel at how such a simple process can make such deep and wonderful flavors. Enjoy!
I had a rough couple of weeks at school. If there were a soundtrack to my day, it would be the song, "You Had a Bad Day." Without going into detail, I felt a bit ... roughed up by my life.
Now, when I feel that way, I turn to baking. Banana bread is my comfort zone.
My favorite banana bread recipe comes from the Tassajara Bread Book, a cookbook written by Edward Espe Brown, a Zen practitioner. If you don't already own it, get it! It's a timeless classic. This is the bread cookbook my mother had in our house while I was growing up.
Many people have written about the soothing, relaxing, and meditative qualities of baking. For me, that feeling has several components. First, there is the relaxation of the familiar routine. The motions of making bread are so familiar to my body that I go through them like a gentle dance. It's like a rhythm that I perfect more and more each time I do it. I can literally mix up this bread in 5 minutes, but I'm not hurrying; I've just done it so many times.
Into the bowl: 2 c. mashed banana (the riper the better), 2 eggs, 1/2 c. oil, 1/2 c. honey, 1 grated lemon rind, 1/4 t. salt.
For me, this bread is also relaxing because it's the banana bread of my childhood. My mother didn't bake a lot (though she made an amazing variety of masterful soups and roasted meats). But I remember her baking this banana bread. To me it tastes like "the right" banana bread.
The recipe also has the distinction of being the only recipe I've used that contains 100% whole wheat flour and doesn't come out dry and tough. It also has no refined sugar and no dairy!
So, you add to the bowl: 2 c. whole wheat flour and 1 t. baking soda. Stir until just combined, and pour in an oiled loaf pan.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
I think for me, the real reason baking bread is relaxing is that I get to make it perfect for myself. Each time I bake, it's my time, my space, my rhythm, and my exploring the recipe. I can make it taste how I like it. For me, the process of baking is a process of coming back to myself when I'm feeling off center. And that, my friends, is truly Zen.
Try this banana bread! It's amazing. And enjoy in good health.
Due to the immense popularity of my Breakfast of Champions post, I wanted to post a quick update. This is just another version of the scrumptious breakfast I am still eating pretty regularly! Here it is!
I'm a school librarian, cookbook author, and longtime fan of food and literature. Welcome to my blog!