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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Zucchini Parmesan

Everyone's familiar with chicken parmesan (which my husband orders just about every time we go to an Italian restaurant).  Or even eggplant parmesan.  But how about zucchini parmesan?  This was a new idea to me.  We had a huge zucchini in our CSA box this week.  I was thinking about how I wanted to cook it, when I was somehow inspired to take a parmesan approach!

The recipe is fairly similar to how you would make an eggplant parmesan.  Just switch out the veggie you're using.  To modify this recipe, I decided to use some of my leftover prep ingredients and incorporate them into the layers.  I usually end up throwing away the extra breadcrumbs (because they're contaminated with egg) and remaining beaten egg (because it's contaminated with breadcrumbs) after I'm done dipping the veggie slices in them.  This time, I decided to add the extra breadcrumbs to the leftover egg, mix it up, and then put dollops of it across the tops of the first layer of zucchini when assembling the casserole.

When I went to get a jar of sauce out of our cupboard to make this recipe, I was happy to find one more jar of my favorite spaghetti sauce.  It's from St. Helena Olive Oil Company.  If you every take a trip out to wine country in the Napa Valley, I highly recommend getting some of their olive oil, vinegar and pasta sauce.  It is beyond delicious!  I could just eat their sauce straight out of the jar with a spoon!  I'm sad this was our last jar!  We really enjoyed it, anyway!

Zucchini Parmesan

1 cup dry bread crumbs
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 large zucchinis, sliced
2  eggs, beaten
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
1 jar tomato sauce
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Note: I used rice bread crumbs to make this gluten-free and used one huge zucchini, which I would estimate is the equivalent of 3 normal-sized ones.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking sheet, or use a silicone mat (I used my Silpat mat).

In a shallow, medium bowl, mix bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic, basil, and oregano.  Set aside 2/3 cup of the mixture.

Place 2 egg in a small bowl and beat.  Dip zucchini slices in the egg, then coat with the bread crumb mixture.

Arrange coated slices on the prepared baking sheet, and bake 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until lightly browned.

While the zucchini slices are baking, take any leftover breadcrumbs from dipping and add them into any remaining egg and mix.  Set aside.

Once the zucchini is done baking, spread 1/2 the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.  Layer with 1/2 the zucchini, the leftover breadcrumb and egg mixture, 1/2 the chopped fresh basil and 1/2 the mozzarella cheese.  Repeat with a layer of sauce, zucchini, cheese and basil, and then top with the reserved bread crumb mixture.

Put in oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and breadcrumb topping starts to brown.

Serves 4

Crustless Vegetable Quiche

For some strange reason, all the eggs we've been buying lately have been IMPOSSIBLE to peel when we hard boil them.  I have no idea why.  I've heard fresh eggs can be harder to peel, so I've been buying a carton and waiting a week until I hard boil them, and it's still too difficult.  I've tried bringing the eggs up to room temperature before boiling them.  Adding baking soda to the water.  Peeling them right after cooking. Peeling them the next day.  Nothing is working!

I decided to give up on the hard boiled egg quest and go a different route.  My solution was a crustless quiche.  I've found you really don't need the crust.  It's easier and healthier.  You can change the vegetables in this recipe to whatever you have on hand or prefer, so it's quite versatile.  I've used any combination of red peppers, sundried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, spinach or onions.

Another thing I did with this recipe that's different than most quiches is to separate the eggs and whip up the whites.  I read a tip a while ago about beating eggs whites in any dish that calls for eggs to make for a fluffier end product.  I do think it makes for a nice consistency with the quiche.  I don't think I'd make another quiche without taking the extra step of whipping up the whites.  It makes a world of difference!

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup frozen, chopped spinach
4 oz. cheese of your preference, crumbled or shredded (I've used goat cheese and mozzarella)
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
A pinch of nutmeg
10 sweet grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
Chopped basil
Sea salt
Oil for cooking (I used coconut)

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch glass pie plate.

Heat cooking oil of choice in a pan and add vegetables.  Cook for about 5 minutes, until tender.

Layer the cooked vegetables in the bottom of the pie plate.

Separate the 4 eggs, putting the yolks in a large mixing bowl (yes, I know my yolks are in a small bowl in this picture.  I guess I like to dirty as many dishes as possible when cooking...) and the whites in a medium bowl.  Beat the whites until stiff peaks form and the consistency is like whipped cream.

In the large mixing bowl, use a fork to beat the eggs yolks with the milk, and add a pinch of nutmeg.  Add in the shredded cheese.  Fold in the beaten eggs whites to the yolk and milk mixture.  Spread the egg mixture all over the veggies in the pie plate.  The egg mixture will be extremely fluffy!

Press the halved tomatoes all over the top.  Sprinkle the sea salt and some basil over the top.

Bake the pie in the center of a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, or until the center of the pie is set, and the edges are turning golden brown.

Set on a wire rack to cool for five minutes before serving. This allows the pie to settle, and makes it easier to slice and serve.

Serves 4

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Grain-Free Carob Chocolate Chip Muffins

I've been trying to get away from grains as much as possible over the last year.  Between realizing I had a gluten sensitivity, to reading more and more about the negative impact of grains on insulin levels, grain consumption has been heavily monitored around our house.  Not much baking has been going on in quite some time, but I really wanted to make something that was tasty and healthy at the same time.

I happily stumbled upon a recipe for chocolate muffins (my husband felt they were like a cupcake) that were grain free and relatively low in sugar.  They're very high in protein, too.  I made a few modifications to the recipe and baked some today.  The original recipe used cocoa powder and more honey.  I decided to use carob powder instead (since it's naturally sweet without any added sugar) and cut the honey down from 1/4 cup to 2 tablespoons.  Even with the modifications, they came out great.  I honestly can't believe these don't have any flour in them.  They're quite amazing, and something I will definitely make again.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, combine the following and mix well:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of almond butter (or any nut butter)
3 eggs
2 tablespoons honey
1 ripe banana (cut up or mashed)
3 tablespoons carob powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl a few times while mixing.  Then stir in:
1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate
1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Oil muffin tins or line with paper.  Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full with the batter and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Make 12 muffins

Note: If you don't have carob or don't like carob, simply make the following modifications:

  • Replace the carob powder with cocoa powder
  • Reduce the nut butter by 2 tablespoons
  • Increase the amount of honey by 2 tablespoons
Note: I've also successfully made these muffins with applesauce in place of the banana.  I just used about 1/2 cup of applesauce.  If you're using unsweetened applesauce, you might want to add 1 more tablespoon of honey to the mix as well.

Quinoa & Chickpea Salad

I had to laugh when I was putting in the title for this recipe.  The other day, I asked my husband to grab a can of chickpeas for me.  He got really confused, because all he could find in the cupboard was garbanzos.  So, if any of you don't already know, chickpeas and garbanzos are the same kind of bean!

Here is another recipe using one of my favorite, versatile ingredients - quinoa!  I wanted to make a spin on tabouli, using the ingredients I had around the house.  Serves 3-4.

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

1 can garbanzos, drained
4 green onions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (or, if you don't have fresh tomatoes, I used about 1/2 cup of sundried tomatoes in olive oil with garlic and herbs)
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp garlic (omit if you're using the seasoned sundried tomatoes)
1 tablespoon olive oil (omit if you're using sundried tomatoes in oil)
1/2 english cucumber, chopped (and peeled, if you prefer)
Black pepper to taste
Sea salt to taste

Put water and quinoa in a large pot, and bring to a boil.  Cook for 13-15 minutes, until water is absorbed.  Let quinoa cool, and then add in all other ingredients.  Let chill in the fridge for a few hours and then serve.

Or, you're like me, I didn't have time to wait around for all the cooling and chilling.  I just added in all ingredients except the cucumber to the hot quinoa, mixed it up, and served into bowls topped with the cucumber.

Easy Lentil Salad

After being gone for almost 10 days, I came home to a fairly empty refrigerator.  I was trying to come up with something to make for lunch, using what I had left in my crisper drawer and cupboards.  I came up with this lentil salad, which turned out to be quite good.  This serves 4 as a main dish.

2 cans lentils (I used Eden brand for their BPA-free cans)
1/2 english cucumber, chopped
10-12 baby carrots, chopped
1 small can black olives, sliced
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped (the ones I used are from Costco, and also have some garlic and herbs in the olive oil)
2 green onions (scallions), chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

Combine all items together in a large bowl and refrigerate for a few hours.  You could also put this salad on a bed of any type of greens, and it would be equally tasty.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Up until about 8 months ago, I couldn't stand mushrooms.  One day, I decided to try portobello mushrooms, and I found that I really liked them.  This recipe is one of my favorite ways to prepare portobellos.  The stuffing is great all by itself if you don't like or have mushrooms on hand.  I've also used this stuffing in red bell peppers, and it was equally as tasty.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

1 large yellow onion, diced
1 cup cashews
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 can lentils, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup oatmeal
1 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
1 tomato, sliced in thin rounds
Sea salt
Ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large skillet, sauté the onions and cashews with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. Sauté until onions are soft and lightly browned. Add garlic and let cook one more minute.

In a large bowl combine onion mixture, brown rice, lentils, oatmeal, vegetable broth, basil and thyme. Mix together and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Brush both sides of mushroom lightly with olive oil and place top-side down on an oiled sheet pan. Stuff mushrooms with about 1/2 cup stuffing, then press one tomato slice on top of the stuffing.  If you don't have fresh tomatoes, you could also top each mushroom with a little bit of marinara sauce.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the stuffing is browned and the mushroom begins releasing juices.  Make sure not to overcook, or your mushroom will lose it's shape and texture.

Makes 6 servings

Monday, June 6, 2011

Healthy "Ice Cream"

I don't know about you, but when the weather starts to get warm, I start to crave a frozen dessert.  I've always loved ice cream, but it doesn't agree with my digestive system.  Once frozen yogurt became widely available back in the '90s, I was thrilled.  However, it seems like frozen yogurt has so much added sugar.  About a year and a half ago, I stumbled upon a very healthy alternative to ice cream.  It may sound just too simple, or even crazy, but here it is: frozen banana ice cream.

All you have to do is cut up a banana into slices, put it in a Ziploc bag or food storage container, freeze it for a few hours, and then puree it in your food processor or VitaMix.  You would not believe how good it is until you try it.  I'm serious!  If you want to make it chocolate, add a little cocoa powder.  If you don't want the caffeine, add some carob powder.  You can also just leave it plain, or top it with a drizzle of some chocolate syrup, berries or chopped nuts.  It's really awesome stuff, and super-easy to make.  No ice cream maker required!

I usually freeze 4-6 bananas at a time, so I have enough ready to make desserts for my husband and I for a few nights.  You'll want to prepare this right before you eat it, rather than pureeing and re-freezing.  When you're ready for your treat, use one frozen banana per serving, pop it in your food processor, and process away!  You'll end up with a creamy, sweet "ice cream" with no added sugar.  If you have a super-crazy sweet tooth, you can always add a little honey or maple syrup to the food processor before you puree the banana, but I find I don't need the extra sweetness.

Give it a try and enjoy a healthy, frozen treat on a hot summer night!

Craving Falafel

Yesterday, I was really in the mood for some falafel.  My sister-in-law, Angelina, was in from NYC for a visit for the weekend, and she's also a vegan.  I decided to make some Mediterranean quinoa and top it with some falafel sticks, and it was quite yummy.  I happened to have some frozen falafel sticks on hand in my freezer, but here's a recipe for homemade ones, along with the quinoa recipe.  I'm also a huge fan of using falafel in place of meatballs when I make spaghetti.  Just add falafel balls in place of meatballs in your favorite marinara sauce and serve with spaghetti or spaghetti squash.


1 1/2 cups chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Chickpea flour or all-purpose flour, for dredging
Olive oil for frying

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, garlic, onion, parsley, oats, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper and process to combine.  Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Form the mixture into small balls, about 2 inches in diameter.  If mixture is not firm enough, add up to 1/4 cup of garbanzo or all-purpose flour, a little at a time, until desired consistency is reached.  Flatten the balls into patties and dredge them in flour.

In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the falafel and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 8 minutes total.

Alternatively, for a baked method of cooking, place patties in a smaller amount of oil in an oven-proof skillet, brown for about 3 minutes on each side, and then transfer skillet to a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp minced garlic
1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 large onion, diced
1 large orange or red pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped kalamata or black olives
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

Bring the broth and garlic to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in the quinoa, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

Gently stir the onion, bell pepper, olives, parsley, chives, and salt into the quinoa. Drizzle with the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Stir until evenly mixed. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold.