Eggplant Bolognese

Well hello again, my friends.  It’s almost been a year since my last post!  I have been extremely busy with life and my good old little food blog got away from me.  New job, got married, bought a house, you know, the basic things that keep you away from a computer once you’re finally home!

I can promise you though, that I have been spending that last year building up a repertoire of tons of fun new and exciting recipes to share.  As life is starting to settle down for the moment, I made it my goal to bring those recipes to you and start writing again.  So, here we are!

I wanted to start us off with a really solid, versatile recipe that you can really do a lot with.  Take out the beef and make this meatless for your Monday, or for your favorite vegetarian!  Don’t like eggplant?  Swap it out with Zucchini or Squash!  That really is the best thing about cooking, you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT!  BUT, if you do like eggplant, and you are a carnivore like myself… please do yourself a favor and try this one out, you won’t be disappointed!

Eggplant Bolognese
Recipe Adapted from:  Cooking Light 

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Large Sweet Onions, chopped
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt, divided + 1 Tablespoon
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper, divided
1/2 lb Ground Beef, I used 85%
1.5 lbs Eggplant, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1/2 cup Red Wine- I used Pinot Noir so I could drink some while I cooked 🙂
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
10oz Whole-Wheat Fettuccine
1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves

Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and beef; cook 10 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble beef. Add eggplant, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 20 minutes or until eggplant is very tender, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes too. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and red wine vinegar.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions, adding 1 tablespoon kosher salt to cooking water. Drain.
3. Toss pasta with sauce; sprinkle with basil leaves.

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Well, that’s all for today, goal of posting in October ACCOMPLISHED!  Huzzah!  Now, go comment, like, share… do it!

Crockpot Coconut Curry – SRC July

Crockpot Coconut Curry w/ Eggplant & Zucchini – for the SRC July

curry.jpg

I know that typically people whip out their good ol’ slow cookers in the dead of winter, but I am super happy I decided to try this out despite the fact that it’s (OMG… already?!?) July!  There’s absolutely something to be said about a recipe that takes zero effort to prepare and no time standing over a hot grill, oven, or stovetop.  And I just love having a “Meatless Monday” to start my week of right.

What I love so much about cooking -and blogging- is that I can find so many different recipes from different places.  This recipe happened because of a really awesome blogging club that I participate in, called The Secret Recipe Club.  Forget what my Secret Recipe Club is?  Every month, we are assigned a new blogger.  We get to pick ANY recipe that blogger has written about and cook it up ourselves.  We can make adjustments according to our tastes too.  All of the bloggers post their results on the same day and we all get to see who had who and more importantly, what delicious dishes were made!

Secret Recipe Club

This month, I was paired with the adorable vegetarian blogger, Amanda and her blog Dancing Veggies.  Despite being the opposite of a vegetarian, I totally fell in foodie-love with Amanda’s blog.  Her veggie dishes are super flavorful and complex, it was so hard to pick just one.  Amanda loves spicy food, like us, so this Crockpot Coconut Curry won out.  It was amazing!

Crockpot Coconut Curry – Eggplant & Zucchini

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Sweet Onion, large
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and quartered
  • 2 Thai Chilies, minced
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 6oz can Tomato Paste
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) Light Coconut Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Madras Curry Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Garam Marsala
  • 1lb Zucchini, cubed
  • 1lb Eggplant, cubed
  • 1/2 cup Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt
  • Fresh Parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. Place the onion, bell pepper, and thai chilies into a food processor.  Pulse until finely chopped.  Add garlic, tomato paste, coconut milk and spices and process until smooth. 
  2. Place the veggies and sauce into the slow cooker.  Cook on LOW for 4 hours.  Serve over rice with delicious naan bread.  Top with a dollop of yogurt and some fresh parsley if desired.

Recipe slightly adapted from:  Slow Cooker Coconut Curry

Ready to whirl!

Ready to whirl!

Sauce is complete and ready to go.

Sauce is complete and ready to go.

Veggies chopped... so good!

Veggies chopped… so good!

The finished product!  yummy vegetarian curry over brown basmati rice

The finished product! yummy vegetarian curry over brown basmati rice

Dave and I were just dying over this curry!  The veggies become completely melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and the curry sauce is thick and packed with spice and flavor.  I served the curry over some brown basmati rice from Trader Joe’s and skipped the Naan this time.  This healthy dish should definitely make it into your weeknight repertoire!  ENJOY, and don’t forget to check out the other posts written below by the fabulous bloggers in the SRC!

Veggie Marinara Bake

This is what happens when you let a girl like me loose in a grocery store.  I just go wild.

I have been a very good girl lately with my food shopping excursions- always having a plan for the week including a list and a budget.  This past week, I was feeling rather uninspired and only had one dinner pre-planned.  When I got to the market and saw all of the bright, fresh produce… I finally got the inspiration I needed.  I decided that I wanted to take the idea of baked ziti (not sure why but I had a bad craving for it) and put it together using veggies instead of pasta.

I went through the different areas of the produce section picking out what looked to be the best local veggies I could find.  I went home and threw it together and this is what I came up with:

Veggie Marinara Bake

Makes 4 Large Servings

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon chopped Garlic 

1/2 Vidalia Onion, diced

2 small Zucchinis, sliced into thin circles

1 large Yellow Squash (or 2 small), sliced into thin half-moons or circles

1 Baby Eggplant, cut into small chunks

3/4 cup Shredded Carrots

1/2 Red Bell Pepper, diced

1 small can Sliced Black Olives

Italian Seasoning, Salt, Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper

1 28oz can Crushed Tomatoes

1 package Hot Turkey or Chicken Sausage (I used Wegman’s brand, it came with 4 patties)

1/4 cup Fat Free Ricotta Cheese

1/4 cup Shaved Parmesan (divided, optional)

1/4 cup Grated Parmesan 

1/8 cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs

Directions:

1.  Wash and cut all of the veggies.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add the rest of the veggies and saute, stirring occasionally to re-distribute.  Stir in Italian Seasoning blend of your choice or just some Salt, Pepper, and Crushed Red Pepper.  Once the squash and eggplant are soft, add the can of crushed tomatoes (reserve some if you’d like to dip).  Simmer over medium-low heat.

2.  In a separate pan, cook the sausage over medium heat and chop.  Stir and chop and cook until the sausage is cooked through and browned.  Put aside.

3.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Prepare a baking dish with cooking spray.  Add a layer of the veggie/tomato mixture to the baking dish.  Place half of the chopped sausage ontop.  Using a spoon, dollop little sections of the ricotta cheese onto the top.  Add the rest of the veggies, then the sausage, then more dollops of ricotta.  Top with half of the shaved parmesan if using.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly ontop, following with the grated parmesan.  

4.  Pop in the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the top is browning just a bit.  

*Note: Serve carefully- since there is no cheese or egg throughout the dish, it will not hold shape like a baked ziti or lasagna will.  Just scoop and serve… it’s delicious, trust me.

Before: So pretty :)

Before: So pretty 🙂

The after:  Not so pretty... but it's going to be pretty tasty!

The after: Not so pretty… but it’s going to be pretty tasty!

After it's done baking

After it’s done baking

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Served with a side of garlic bread... nom nom

Served with a side of garlic bread… nom nom

Even good for lunch while I'm working at home!

Even good for lunch while I’m working at home!

At first I was disappointed that my faux-baked ziti did not turn out very pretty.  But then I started thinking about it, and who really cares what it looks like?  This was just a dinner for Dave and I to sit in front of the TV and watch the Eagles game.  I’d much rather have a healthier meal than have it look pretty.  Because this recipe is chock full of fresh veggies, we were able to only divide it by FOUR and still have the total calorie count under 300 (depending on whatever type of sausage/meat you choose).  Amazing.  Don’t you just love pigging out on food when you  know it won’t do any damage!?

What’s great about this recipe is that it’s something different from your typical same-old.  Try it with whatever veggies you have or whatever veggies you prefer.  You can also go crazy and take out the sausage to make it vegetarian! Oh, and the leftovers?  I’m eating them right now for lunch… they are even better!!

 

Posted Last year:  Lunchtime Tuesday

Other recipes you may enjoy:

Spinach-Artichoke Lasagna

Spinach-Artichoke Lasagna

"New" Chicken Parmesan

“New” Chicken Parmesan

Mom's Baked Tomatoes

Mom’s Baked Tomatoes

Ratatouille

I guess it was my recent trip to Disney that inspired me this week to make Ratatouille.  Apparently it’s not just Disney movie about an adorable mouse-chef… it’s a yummy and very healthy dish!

I based my recipe off of this “One Pan Ratatouille” Recipe from Sunset magazine.  The recipe is very simple and really quick.  The longest time you’ll spend on this is cutting up all of the veggies, so if you have anyone hangin’ around waiting for dinner… get them to help stir while you cut!

Ratatouille

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil (separated)

1 Onion

1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic

2 (14.5 oz) cans Diced Tomatoes, no salt added

1 Baby Eggplant

½ teaspoon Salt

¼ teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper

1 lb Red Bell Peppers (or other colors if they are on sale!)

1  Zucchini

1 Yellow Squash

¾ cup Fresh Basil Leaves

Directions:

  1. Dice onion.  Heat 1.5 Tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a giant frying pan or a 5-6 qt pan.  Add onion and garlic and stir often for about 5 minutes until the onion softens up a bit.
  2. Add both cans of diced tomatoes, with the liquid.  Dice the eggplant.  Add the eggplant, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and ½ cup Water.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.  Cover and reduce heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes.  Test the eggplant after 10 minutes- it should be soft when stuck with a fork.
3.      Meanwhile, dice the bell peppers, zucchini, and squash.  After the eggplant is soft, add the last 3 veggies and return to a simmer.  Cover and cook until the squash is now soft when pierced with a fork.  This took me about 15 minutes.
4.      Chop the fresh basil and add into the mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste and the remaining 1 ½ Tablespoons of olive oil.

Ratatouille

This dish was so colorful and pretty!  I served ours over whole wheat elbow shaped pasta and added just a touch of red pepper flakes for some spice (duh!!).  I usually don’t make dinners without any type of meat but the Ratatouille was hearty and filling enough to exclude it.