Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fresh from the garden: Eggplant Parmesan Bake

Here's the next recipe in my Fresh from the Garden series: inspiration for creating healthy, delicious recipes from your garden-fresh produce.

I got two beautiful eggplants from my best friend’s garden and created this recipe (which I've already made twice I loved it so much).  I’ve already decided, by the way, that I’ll be planting eggplant next year in my own garden! This casserole-type recipe easily feeds a family of six or makes enough for delicious leftovers to take for lunch the next day (wink wink—now I’ve got you packing a lunch too). It’s a delicious, easy and time-saving dish that’s sure to please, even if you think you don’t like eggplant.

You’ll need:

  • 2 medium eggplant
  • Optional: ½ a yellow onion and a green bell pepper or 2 squash and/or zucchini (see how interesting it can get?)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, at least; toss in however much you like (I like about 8!)
  • 10-12 basil leaves, rinse and pat dry with a towel
  • Fresh ground pepper, if you have it, otherwise "regular" pepper
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes, no added salt, or 4 cups diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1 carton fat-free ricotta cheese or cottage cheese (trust me--you want this)
  • 1 Tbsp parsley, fresh chopped or from the spice jar
  • 1 can tomato sauce, no salt added
  • ½ cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese, made with 2% milk

Spray the sides and bottom of a large casserole dish (9x12) with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Get a large cutting board. Slice the tops and bottoms off the eggplants, then slice in ½-inch to ¾-inch slices. Slice other vegetables into ¼ inch slices, if you opt to include them. Slide to the side. (The vegetables, not your feet).

Roughly chop basil and garlic—I like the pieces big and chunky.

Stir parsley into the ricotta or cottage cheese.

Layer the ingredients: start with half the eggplant, other veggies, basil, garlic and pepper, then 1 can diced tomatoes (or 2 cups fresh tomato), and all the ricotta or cottage cheese mixture.  Repeat; you’ll end with the second can of tomatoes (no ricotta on the top).

Pour tomato sauce over the top and gently shake the casserole dish so the sauce runs down in between all the ingredients.

Cover with foil or lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle breadcrumbs along the top. Place back in oven without foil for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake for another 15 minutes. Last time: remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Slice into six pieces and serve over top of whole wheat rotini noodles (2/3 to 1 cup cooked). No need to prepare a pasta sauce; the casserole provides enough tomatoes and juice to coat the pasta too. Enjoy with green beans, steamed broccoli or salad.

P.S. All of you who are freaked out by vegetarian meals (ie. sorry honey): this is one of them! I promise you won’t miss the meat.

If you try it, please let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Jamie's Food Revolution catching on?

Chef Jamie Oliver
Over the last couple years, Jamie Oliver, chef from England, has brought his "food revolution" to America. If you've tuned in to his show, which airs on ABC, you've seen many doubts and criticisms come his way as he's tried to instill healthy food habits in a few of our nations' school kitchens and students. But according to this story, his revolution might just be making forward progress off camera too!

In Greeley, Colorado (P.S. Colorado is one of the least obese states in America according to the CDC), chefs and schools have started working together to bring healthy foods to the menu. They're making more meals from scratch, adding interesting spices for flavor and serving desserts only on special occasions. High-sodium, high-fat and preservative-laden convenience foods are getting kicked to the curb. By next year, the school plans to be cooking 100 PERCENT of their menu offerings from SCRATCH!

So parents and kids, raise your voice and make this a nation-wide movement! Read the New York Times story in which Chef Boomer and the Greeley school system squash the myth that healthy, truly homemade cooking costs more and has less taste (no pun intended). Fight obesity and poor health from its roots by teaching our children what good food really is. Go Greeley! Who's next?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fresh from the garden: recipe series

This post marks the beginning of my recipe series, Fresh From the Garden, featuring my own recipes made with garden-fresh produce (as promised). These recipes are simple, tasty and oh-so-fresh; just perfect for summertime.  If you’ve got the backyard garden going, you might not even have to go to the grocery store! This is the perfect opportunity to get creative in your cooking, so be experimental.  Cooking doesn’t have to be perfect. Subscribe to be a goodfoodie to be alerted of new posts or follow along for recipes using your summer harvest!

First up: Flatbread Pizza
Yes, a pizza that’s healthy! And you can get creative with this one by choosing your own mix of ingredients. There are nearly endless possibilities for whatever mood you’re in. It’s a fun and easy recipe to share with your spouse, family and/or kids because each person can make their own unique pizza.

Start with whole grain naan (Indian flatbread—you may have never seen it, but it’s available at most grocery stores) or whole wheat pita bread. Drizzle olive oil lightly across the top and bake on a cookie sheet or pizza pan at 425 degrees until it begins to turn golden brown (about ten minutes). You may also choose to sprinkle garlic and herbs on the bread before baking for extra flavor.

Remove from the oven and add your favorite toppings. This time I used sliced kalamata olives, capers, sliced tomatoes, a few turkey pepperonis, feta cheese, fresh garlic and fresh basil with a sprinkle of 2% milk mozzarella cheese. Think about your restaurant favorites; it doesn't have to be so "gourmet."

Bake for another 10-15 minutes until cheese begins to turn golden brown and starts to bubble.

Remove from the oven, cut and serve your individual pizza.

Other fun options:
  • Mix and match with your family—everyone can take a taste of each person’s pizza creation
  • Serve as an appetizer at your next cocktail hour or party (think bruschetta-style)
  • Give to the kids for a nutritious after-school snack.
This version was so good I made it two days in a row. Next time I’m adding slices of goat cheese in place of the feta! Anyway, I think you get the point. Whatever you choose, you may find you won’t need to order delivery anymore…wink, wink. Just try to keep the meats lean (Canadian bacon, ham, ground sirloin or turkey pepperoni) and go easy on the cheese. Fill it up with colorful veggies fresh from your garden!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

HCG: quick fix for weight loss?

My answer, of course, has always been "no." This article nicely sums up the reasons! If you've been considering using HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin, otherwise known as "the pregnancy hormone") for weight loss, please click here to read more. Remember, although it takes a little patience and a lot of commitment, a balanced diet based in moderation along with exercise is the best way to be healthy and lose weight. Don't fall for the fad of a quick fix.

If you're looking for some help, get an RD by your side! Visit my website for more information on nutrition counseling.