Saturday, July 22, 2017

Stuffed Eggplant Parmesan with Italian Sausage

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My husband has been craving eggplant lately.  He even left a magazine page open to an eggplant recipe for me to see.  Okay!  Okay!  I get the message.  Now on the the other hand, I'm over here trying to eat healthy, so I didn't exactly want to drag out the fryer to make the traditional eggplant Parmesan. Somewhere I found a the concept of making the recipe IN the eggplant itself... BINGO! No frying, and super elegant!  

To make this eggplant dish more "man friendly," and also to make it a heartier dish, I added some Italian sausage to it.  Maybe that's not exactly traditional in eggplant Parm, but who cares?  It may just be the difference in getting your kiddos or veggie-phobe family members to eat it!  Well whatever the case, it went over like a champ!  My dear husband said he would eat this any night!   Not to mention the presentation is very elegant if you are having a dinner party.  


Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 2 (16 oz) eggplants
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (approximately) (EVOO)
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage 
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp  dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (~ 3 large cloves, finely minced)
  • 1 cup yellow onions, chopped 
  • 1 cup chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil ribbons
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano, divided
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups jarred pasta sauce, divided
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into small pieces
  • Small, fresh basil leaves for topping

Step-by-Step
Begin by preheating the oven to 350F.  Then prepare the eggplants by peeling strips of the skin about 1" wide off of them with a vegetable peeler.

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise.
We are going to roast the flesh of the eggplant and want the heat to penetrate all the way through, so score the eggplant pulp in a crosshatch pattern, being careful to not cut through the skin.  This is also going to make it easier to remove the flesh after it has been roasted.
Brush each eggplant half with 1 tablespoon EVOO in a 9"x 13" casserole baking dish.  
Bake the eggplant in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.
While the eggplant is roasting in the oven, let's start on the rest of our filling.
In a heavy skillet, begin browning the Italian sausage, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks over medium high heat.
1 pound mild Italian sausage
As you sausage is cooking, let's start seasoning it with 1 tsp kosher salt.
1 tsp kosher salt
When the sausage is about halfway cooked, add the chopped onions.
When the onions are soft and mostly translucent, further season the meat with 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano and 1 Tbsp minced garlic.  Adjust seasoning as needed.   Remove from heat when done.
1 tsp dried basil 

1 tsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp minced garlic

Allow roasted eggplants to cool briefly to make them easier to handle.  Remove the pulp from the eggplants using a serrated tomato corer or a melon baller, leaving about a 1/2-inch shell intact.  Set the shells aside.  Coarsely chop the pulp and set aside in a medium bowl.
roasted eggplants

To the eggplant pulp, add chopped tomato.
1 cup chopped tomatoes

Add in 1 cup of the cooked Italian sausage mixture.  You may choose to use more if you'd like, but that's how much I chose.  I set the rest aside for another application.  šŸ˜„  I just didn't think there would be any way all of the would fit back into those eggplant shells.  Ha!
1 cup cooked Italian sausage mixture

Add in 1/2 tsp kosher salt.
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Add in 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella.
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella

Add  in 1/2 cup fresh basil that you have cut into thin ribbons.  I was a tad bit shy of 1/2 cup here, but you get the picture.
1/2 cup fresh basil ribbons

Add in 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano.
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano

Add in 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes.  You might like to bump this up to 1/2 tsp if you would like a little more heat.
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix in the two large eggs to the mixture and stir well to incorporate all ingredients.
2 large eggs

Spread 1/2 cup of the jarred pasta sauce over the bottom of the casserole dish.  Arrange the eggplant shells over the sauce.  Fill the shells equally with the cooked eggplant pulp/Italian sausage mixture.
1/2 cup jarred pasta sauce

Top with remaining 1 cup of pasta sauce, spreading evenly to cover filling.
1 cup jarred pasta sauce
Sprinkle the tops of each eggplant using the 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs.
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
*sub Udi's bread, crumbled in food processor for gluten free recipe

Tear the fresh mozzarella into pieces and top the eggplant halves, then sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano.
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, torn + 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano

Bake eggplants in preheated oven until the cheeses are melted and just slightly browned, about 40 minutes.

Garnish with small basil leaves to serve.
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I hope you enjoyed this great recipe!  Here are some others I think you'll like.
Baked Brie Dip with Sun Dried Tomatoes - all you need is French bread and wine and you're all set!
menumusings.com

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Spicy Garlic Aioli  - an unexpected but irresistible appetizer!
menumusings.com
Crock Pot Beef and Broccoli -  don't we LOVE easy crock pot meals?!
menumusings.com
Chicken Cordon Bleu - perfect for date night and company!
menumusings.com
Blueberry lemon bars - ladies luncheon?  Baby showers?  YES!!!!  
menumusings.com

Written Method:
Begin by preheating the oven to 350F.  Prepare the eggplants by peeling strips of the skin about 1" wide off of them with a vegetable peeler.  Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise.  We are going to roast the flesh of the eggplant and want the heat to penetrate all the way through, so score the eggplant pulp in a crosshatch pattern, being careful to not cut through the skin.  This is also going to make it easier to remove the flesh after it has been roasted.  Brush each eggplant half with 1 tablespoon EVOO in a 9"x 13" casserole baking dish.   Bake the eggplant in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.

While the eggplant is roasting in the oven, let's start on the rest of our filling.  In a heavy skillet, begin browning the Italian sausage, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks over medium high heat. When the sausage is about halfway cooked, add the chopped onions.  When the onions are soft and mostly translucent, season the meat with 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano and 1 Tbsp minced garlic.  Adjust seasoning as needed.   Remove from heat when done.

Allow roasted eggplants to cool briefly to make them easier to handle.  Remove the pulp from the eggplants using a serrated tomato corer or a melon baller, leaving about a 1/2-inch shell intact.  Set the shells aside.  Coarsely chop the pulp and set aside in a medium bowl.  To the eggplant pulp, add chopped tomato.  Add in 1 cup of the cooked Italian sausage mixture.  You may choose to use more if you'd like, but that's how much I chose.  I set the rest aside for another application.  Add in 1/2 tsp kosher salt,  3/4 cup shredded mozzarella, 1/2 cup fresh basil that you have cut into thin ribbons, 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano,  and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes.  You might like to bump this up to 1/2 tsp if you would like a little more heat.  Mix in the two large eggs to the mixture and stir well to incorporate all ingredients.  

Spread 1/2 cup of the jarred pasta sauce over the bottom of the casserole dish.  Arrange the eggplant shells over the sauce.  Fill the shells equally with the cooked eggplant pulp/Italian sausage mixture. Top with remaining 1 cup of pasta sauce, spreading evenly to cover filling.  Sprinkle the tops of each eggplant using the 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs.  Tear the fresh mozzarella into pieces and top the eggplant halves.   Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano.  Bake eggplants in preheated oven until the cheeses are melted and just slightly browned, about 40 minutes. Garnish with small basil leaves to serve.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Chili Lime Vinaigrette

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The first couple of times I tried quinoa, I thought it tasted like (felt like?) wet birdseed in my mouth! Seriously... I kid you not!  Okay, that was several years ago and I suppose I just wasn't in the right "place" for it, if you know what I mean.  Just like we tell our kids all the time, your tastes definitely change over time, and sometimes we actually start to seek out the things we used to avoid.  I desperately wanted to like it because it's crazy healthy for you, so over those years, I'd give it a try here and there when someone had a cool looking recipe that didn't look bland.

Recently, my daughter and I were at an early morning farmer's market where a local company was sampling out one of their quinoa recipes.  Another chance for me to have a free sample, no risk. They had a delicious southwest quinoa, but to my dismay, I heard myself (like from above) telling the salesperson "Maybe you could have added x or y or z?"  Oh my LORD!!!  šŸ˜³  That's my Mama in me, y'all!  I mean, it was delicious, but I knew it could be better.  On another note, I  have some family members with some health concerns, so I'm trying to get some great tasting, healthy recipes together.  I'm hoping they will try this fantastic and healthy side dish!  *See Food Nerd Notes at bottom of post for information about quinoa.


Ingredients: (6 servings)
  • 3/4 cup quinoa
    menumusings.com
    • I used an organic rainbow heirloom quinoa
  • 1 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 c kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 c black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 c purple onions, diced
  • 1 c roasted corn kernels
    • about 2 ears of fresh corn
  • 1/2 c cherry tomatoes, halved 
  • 1/4 c green onion tops, chopped
  • 1/4 c cilantro, rough chopped
Dressing
  • 1/4 c fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Topping
  • queso fresco, crumbled

Step-by-Step:
The first thing I'd like to say, other than "gather up your ingredients," is that anything that starts off with ingredients this bright, vibrant and beautiful is sure to be a winner!  This automatically fits in to the "eat the rainbow" category, so we can feel confident that we are doing something good for ourselves and our families.  Also, you can make this vegan or vegetarian friendly by leaving off the cheese and swapping out the chicken broth for vegetable broth or water.  This recipe is also gluten free, for those of you who need that for your dietary needs.  
Begin by rinsing your quinoa in cool water until the water is clear.  Check your package.  Use a good quality quinoa to get a great tasting recipe!  This organic rainbow heirloom quinoa came from Bolivia.  Strain in a fine mesh sieve or strainer.
3/4 c quinoa being rinsed in water
 Combine the rinsed/drained quinoa with chicken stock and start bringing stock to a boil.
1 1/2 c chicken stock (or vegetable stock or water)
You may need additional salt if you substitute water.
 Add kosher salt to quinoa.  (you should probably wait until it's almost at a boil)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Once the quinoa comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer for about 20 minutes according to package directions.  You will see it start to "spiral out" and it will become soft.
While waiting for quinoa to come to a boil, roast corn.  I just used my long handled tongs and put them right on the stove.  You can do them on the grill if you'd like (it was raining outside when I did this).  
If you need to use canned corn kernels, you can drain them well, let them dry a bit on a couple sheets of paper towels, and lay them out on a single layer on a sheet pan with a bit of EVOO and put them under the broiler for a few minutes.  You have to watch them, but this will do the trick. 
roasting the corn
 Set the roasted corn cobs aside to cool for a while.
When the quinoa is cooked, drain and fluff.  Now we are ready to just dump everything in there.  I know, it looks like there's not a lot of product there, but as this is a salad, we are going to add a bunch to it!  As always, make this your recipe!  Feel free to add, delete, change quantities etc as you see fit to make it perfect for your palate!  
The cooked, drained quinoa
 Here we go!  Dump in all your stuff!
1/2 cup drained, rinsed kidney beans

1/2 cup drained, rinsed black beans

1/2 cup chopped purple onions

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

1 cup roasted corn kernels that we cut off of the two cobs

1/4 chopped green onions
If you aren't a fan of cilantro, perhaps add more green onions

1/4 c coarsely chopped cilantro
To me, it's not Mexican without cilantro!

1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes
 Let's give our "naked salad" a stir and see what we've got!
our salad so far
Now let's make the dressing:
It's just a matter of whisking together the ingredients and adjusting the seasoning to your liking.
1/4 c fresh squeezed lime juice

1/4 c EVOO

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp ground cumin
*The chipotle chili powder does pack a bit of heat, so keep that in mind.  It also has a little smokiness to it.  You can substitute regular chili powder if you prefer.
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt
Just pour the dressing over the salad.
(*I actually made a second batch of dressing to marinate my chicken breasts in.)
It may seem pretty "wet," but the quinoa needs to sit for a few hours (even better if you let it sit until the next day), and you don't want it to be dry after it soaks up the dressing.
When ready to serve, garnish the top by crumbling up some queso fresco cheese on top.  I added a bit of cilantro and extra lime just to brighten it up.  This would be fantastic to take on a picnic as well, since there are no dairy products like mayo to spoil.

This recipe has tons of healthful nutrition in it - fiber, vitamins, protein, a variety of textures.. you name it!  And last but not least... it's delicious! 
This southwestern flavored quinoa made a fantastic side dish for my chili lime marinated/grilled chicken and fresh green beans.  There is nothing processed on this whole plate.  

I hope you enjoyed this recipe!
Here are some more recipes I think you'll love!
A salad that's been around since the '30's must have something going for it, right?  And this easy and delicious peppercorn ranch is sure to become your family's favorite!  Just throw everything in the food processor and that's it!
menumusings.com

Pork and fruit are a classic combination, and this topping is one I bet you're going to love!   Isn't it fun to try new things?
menumusings.com

Who doesn't love pot stickers?  These are so much fun to make with your family!  Just don't turn your back when they are done... they disappear fast!
menumusings.com

So easy to make for even the newest baker.  Pretend you know what you are doing!  Great for that party you forget you needed to take something to.
menumusings.com

Speaking of party food, who doesn't love poppers!  Delish!!!!  And always a hit!
menumusings.com

Food Nerd Notes:
Quinoa is considered one of the world's "superfoods."  Quinoa has been cultivated for around 5,000 years by the Incas when they realized that it was good for human consumption. They considered it "Incan Gold" for their warriors as they believed it to improve their stamina.   The health benefits of this gluten free pseudo-cereal has long been known, and include the following:

1 - It is a one of the most protein rich foods you can eat.  It is complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids.

2 - Quinoa is iron rich.  Iron is the basis of hemoglobin formation and assists in oxygen delivery to the muscles and the brain.  Iron is also involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, regulation of body temperature, enzyme activity and energy metabolism.  

3 - Quinoa contains lysine.  Lysine is important in tissue growth and repair.

4 -  Quinoa is rich in magnesium.  Magnesium plays a role in relaxation of blood vessels which can reduce migraines.  Magnesium also helps maintain blood sugar control which can help reduce Type 2 diabetes.

5 - Quinoa is high in Riboflavin (B2) - B2 improves energy metabolism in the brain and muscle cells and thus improves energy production in the cells.

6 - Quinoa has high levels of manganese - Manganese is an antioxidant that helps prevent mitochondrial damage during energy production, as well as protecting your red blood cells and other cells against free radical damage. 

7 - Quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as other grains.  Fiber is widely known to relieve constipation.  However, fiber also assists in lowering cholesterol, glucose levels and thus diabetes and heart disease. 

One-fourth cup of dry quinoa contains 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat (0 grams saturated and trans fat), 0 grams of cholesterol and sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrate (3 grams of fiber and 0 grams of sugar), and 6 grams of protein.

Written Method:

The first thing I'd like to say, other than "gather up your ingredients," is that anything that starts off with ingredients this bright, vibrant and beautiful is sure to be a winner!  This automatically fits in to the "eat the rainbow" category, so we can feel confident that we are doing something good for ourselves and our families.  Also, you can make this vegan or vegetarian friendly by leaving off the cheese and swapping out the chicken broth for vegetable broth or water.  This recipe is also gluten free, for those of you who need that for your dietary needs.  

Begin by rinsing your quinoa in cool water until the water is clear.  Check your package.  Use a good quality quinoa to get a great tasting recipe!  This organic rainbow heirloom quinoa came from Bolivia.  Strain in a fine mesh sieve or strainer.

Combine the rinsed/drained quinoa with chicken stock and start bringing stock to a boil.
Add kosher salt to quinoa.  (you should probably wait until it's almost at a boil)

Once the quinoa comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer for about 20 minutes according to package directions.  You will see it start to "spiral out" and it will become soft.

While waiting for quinoa to come to a boil, roast corn.  I just used my long handled tongs and put them right on the stove.  You can do them on the grill if you'd like (it was raining outside when I did this).  Set the roasted corn cobs aside to cool for a while.
If you need to use canned corn kernels, you can drain them well, let them dry a bit on a couple sheets of paper towels, and lay them out on a single layer on a sheet pan with a bit of EVOO and put them under the broiler for a few minutes.  You have to watch them, but this will do the trick. 

When the quinoa is cooked, drain and fluff.

Now we are ready to just dump everything in there.

As always, make this your recipe!  Feel free to add, delete, change quantities etc as you see fit to make it perfect for your palate!

Here we go!  Just dump in all your stuff!

Now let's make the dressing:
It's just a matter of whisking together the ingredients and adjusting the seasoning to your liking.

*The chipotle chili powder does pack a bit of heat, so keep that in mind.  It also has a little smokiness to it.  You can substitute regular chili powder if you prefer.

Just pour the dressing over the salad.  It may seem pretty "wet," but the quinoa needs to sit for a few hours (even better if you let it sit until the next day), and you don't want it to be dry after it soaks up the dressing.

When ready to serve, garnish the top by crumbling up some queso fresco cheese on top.  I added a bit of cilantro and extra lime just to brighten it up.  This would be fantastic to take on a picnic as well, since there are no dairy products like mayo to spoil.

This recipe has tons of healthful nutrition in it - fiber, vitamins, protein, a variety of textures.. you name it!  And last but not least... it's delicious! 

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