How to: Recipe Makeover – Eggplant Parmesan

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We’ve been teased with a few days of warm weather over the last couple of weeks.

But I’m on to you, Mother Nature.  I’ve been a Canadian gal long enough to know you’re about to screw us over with a blast of icy garbage.

This ‘spring is just around the corner’ optimism hasn’t got me fooled! On the contrary. I’m still cooking comfort food. Crikey. I’m still cooking casseroles.

I promise, this one will take the edge off when winter does return with a vengeance.

And oh. It will.

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Do we have any eggplant haters out there?

Confession. I used to be one. In fact I was an extremely picky eater as a kid, but I had an especially big hate-on for bitter, spongy eggplant.

It turns out, all an eggplant needs to taste goddang delicious is a little love.

I haven’t had a bitter eggplant in a long time. Most of the bitterness long associated with eggplants has been bred out of the ones we’d find at the grocery store. Farmers 👈🏻 geniuses. Choose eggplants that have smooth skin and a very firm texture for freshness.

Salting the eggplant in this recipe isn’t to cut the bitterness, but to remove some of the excess moisture. Following the roasting step, you’ll be left with creamy, dreamy smokey slices of slightly salted eggplant that will be almost impossible to avoid eating on their own. You really can’t skip this step for this recipe because excess moisture will result in a really soupy final product.

As for the sponginess factor, eggplant, if given the chance will absorb a boatload of oil.  In this recipe we control the oil it can absorb by brushing lightly with oil.

Remember our AMAZEBALLS Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches? Here, we’re avoiding super spongy eggplant by providing a coating for the slices before we fry them up in oil.

And so there we have it. Eggplant: unmasked!

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As you read through the recipe below, you may find this tomato sauce recipe to be familiar. It’s a slight take on the insanely simple Three Ingredient Sauce we shared with you last year. No time for homemade sauce? Use your fave store bought. No brainer.

Half homemade is awesome too, guys. (Maybe just a smidgen of fresh basil to sprinkle in though?)

Now, layer away!

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Get your slippers ready, pour yourself a glass of red and scoop out an extra large portion of eggplant parm.  You are now prepared for winter’s final blast.

Erin

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Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 5-6
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 1 hours, 10 minutes
From magazine Inspired by Eggplant Parmesan from Food and Drink Winter 2017

Ingredients

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 can (796mL) Canned Whole Tomatoes with juices (preferably San Marzano Tomatoes)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 Medium yellow onion (peeled and quartered)
  • 2 Large cloves garlic (peeled and left whole)
  • 8-10 basil leaves (chopped)

Eggplant Casserole

  • 2 Large eggplants (sliced into 1/4 inch rounds)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil (divided)
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese (about 300g, grated)
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 cooked garlic cloves (removed from cooked tomato sauce)

Directions

Tomato Sauce
1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add tomatoes, butter, onion and garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, add basil and cook for 15-20 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat.
2. Remove onion and discard. Remove garlic and set aside to cool. Crush any large tomato pieces with the back of a spoon.
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3. Preheat oven to 400F. Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt on both sides and lay them in a single layer on a wire rack or over some paper towels. Let sit for 15 minutes, pat extra moisture dry with paper towels.
4. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and brush slices on both sides with 2 Tbsp of the canola oil. Bake 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until browned.
5. Meanwhile, mince cooled garlic cloves and combine with breadcrumbs, remaining Tbsp of canola oil and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
6. Spread 1/3 tomato sauce over bottom of oiled 8"x11" casserole dish. Place single layer of slightly overlapping eggplant sliced overtop. Combine mozzarella and remaining 3/4 cup parmesan and sprinkle 1/3 of the cheeses over eggplant slices. Repeat layering 2 more times.
7. Sprinkle bread crumb topping over casserole.
8. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling, cheese is melted and panko is golden brown. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

How To: Big Batch – Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna

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After making this recipe three times over the past two weeks, I thought it could now definitely be deemed “blog worthy.”

I loved it so much that the last time I made it, I doubled the recipe and made an extra pan to store in the freezer. Yes, at just over 38 weeks pregnant I am in full on nesting mode. And I know that having this delicious and filling lasagna ready to pop into the oven with a 2.5 year old and newborn at home will surely be a lifesaver.

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But I must say, this Mexican lasagna comes together so fast, it is the perfect weeknight meal. Just like our enchilada casserole, corn tortillas replace the standard lasagna noodles. Instead of the Italian tomato sauce, your favourite salsa is used to cover the bean, spinach, and cheesy layers.

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If I say this is worthy of a triple recipe repeat in a mere two weeks, you owe it to yourself to at least give it a go once!

Dara

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Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna

Serves 6
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Freezable
Website Adapted from Kiwi and Bean

Ingredients

  • 10 Oz bag spinach
  • 1 Large jar of salsa
  • 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 red pepper (chopped)
  • 1 Small log goat cheese
  • 1 1/2 Tsp chili powder
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese

Note

I like serving this casserole with a dollop of Greek yogurt, a squeeze of lime, and a mixed green salad with avocado and tomatoes. This dish also freezes very well so it makes a great make ahead option.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 pyrex dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2. Heat a large non stick skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Cook spinach in pan until wilted and set aside.
3. Spread about 1/3 of the jar of salsa evenly over the bottom of the pyrex dish. Lay 6 tortillas evenly on top. Spread another 1/3 of salsa on top of the tortillas and top with spinach, beans, red pepper, chili powder, and goat cheese. Lay remaining 6 tortillas on top and cover with remaining salsa and cheddar cheese.
4. Cover pan with foil and bake for about 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes. If the cheese isn't browned yet, broil for another 5 minutes. Serve topped with sour cream or greek yogurt and guacamole.

How To: Healthy Breakfast – Pumpkin French Toast Bake

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Sorry for the blog hiatus folks. Lets chalk it up to the need for some R&R over the holidays after a big move.

I left you in the midst of packing hell and I am FINALLY beginning to emerge from the other side – I’m not sure what’s worse – packing or UNpacking? Thoughts?

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Finally, with a functional and semi-organized kitchen, I hosted my first brunch. Amidst the chaos of four children under the age of four ransacking enjoying our much more spacious play area, we all were able to sit down for at least a good ten minutes and enjoy this sweet and satisfying pumpkin french toast bake.

If there was a choice between pancakes or french toast, you will always find me on the pancake side of things. However, after making and tasting this overnight baked version of the classic breakfast, it may have changed my mind.

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I hate being stuck in the kitchen when hosting any sort of brunch, lunch, or dinner party. So what to do when you want to serve french toast to a crowd? You soak it overnight so it’s more of a casserole style dish. In this version, pumpkin is added to the usual egg and milk based custard. The cubes of crusty french bread absorb all this liquid overnight and bake up into an almost bread pudding-like dish. Topped with some nuts for texture, the end result pleases both adults and kids alike.

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This pumpkin french toast bake would be just as perfect for your New Years day brunch as a special mid week treat – leftovers reheat great in the microwave.

Speaking of leftovers, if anyone wants to help me finish the unpacking, I will trade you a slice! Any takers??

Dara

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Pumpkin French Toast Bake

Serves 8
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Breakfast
Website Adapted from Minimalist Baker

Ingredients

  • 7-8 Cups cubes of whole wheat french bread (or enough to generously fill a 9 x 13 baking dish)
  • 2 Cups almond milk (any milk you have on hand will do too)
  • 7 eggs
  • 3/4 cups pureed pumpkin
  • 2 Tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tsp vanilla
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar (for topping)
  • handful pecans (for topping)

Note

You could substitute any milk you have on hand in place of the almond milk. Any dense bread would work in this recipe - challah or a crust baguette would both be great. Use any nut you have on hand, or leave them out all together.

Directions

1. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Spread bread cubes evenly in baking dish. Whisk together almond milk, pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice. Pour over bread cubes and press down to make sure all the bread is submerged.
3. Place pyrex in the fridge over night. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Top the bread mixture evenly with brown sugar and pecans and place in the oven for about 45 minutes, until brown and the liquid is absorbed. Serve with extra maple syrup on the side.

How To: Big Batch – Creamy Mac and Cheese with Crispy Breadcrumb Topping

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Packing is the pits!

Packing has to be one of the least fun things in the world. We are in the midst of packing up our two bedroom apartment to move to a more spacious abode to make room for the babe that will be joining us in the new year. One good thing that comes about from packing is finding those little items you totally forgot you had.

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In our case, that was my husband discovering he had about 20 boxes of KD in the cupboard. My husband is a devoted KD fan – no macaroni and cheese in our 5 years of marriage has come close to being as delicious as his beloved KD. Until now.

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This macaroni and cheese has to be the creamiest and cheesiest pasta bake I’ve made to date. I used whole wheat bow ties in place of the usual macaroni to make it a little more fun and topped it with big cubes of crispy multigrain bread, instead of the normal ground breadcrumb topping.

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Loaded with a ton of cheese, and I mean of ton of cheese, it makes sense why this version of the traditional mac and cheese is the tastiest. But it definitely serves a crowd – 12 to be exact. So it’s perfect for your holiday dinners or lunches or to get you through a busy work week.

If my husband was willing to forgo one of his many boxes of beloved KD for a serving of this pasta bake, then you know you we have a winner here!

Dara

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Creamy Mac and Cheese with Crispy Breadcrumb Topping

Serves 12
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Main Dish
Website Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 4 Slices multi grain bread (cut or ripped into small cubes)
  • 7 Tbsp butter (divided)
  • 5 1/2 Cups almond milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 Tsp salt
  • 1/4 Tsp pepper
  • 3 1/2 Cups grated old white cheddar (divided)
  • 3 Cups grated gruyere (divided)
  • 1 Pound whole wheat bow tie pasta or macaroni

Note

This recipe can easily be halved if you don't want such a large batch. Or freeze half for a quick weeknight meal. Any short pasta shape can be substituted for the bow ties.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Place bread cubes in a small bowl. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in the microwave and pour over bread cubes. Mix until coated and set aside.
3. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water for about 3 minutes less than the box instructs. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside. Set aside 1/2 cup of cheddar and 1 1/2 cups of gruyere cheese.
4. In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium heat. In the same pot you used to cook the pasta melt the butter over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Add flour and whisk for about one minute. Slowly add warm milk and continue to whisk and cook the milk mixture until it starts to bubble and thickens. Remove from heat and add in salt, pepper, and remaining cheese. Then mix in pasta.
5. Spray a 9 x 13 pyrex with cooking spray and pour in pasta mixture. Top with the cheese you set aside earlier and the bread cubes. Bake for about 30 minutes until bubbly and brown on top. Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

How To: Big Batch – Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Baked Orzo

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Can you believe it? I have an ACTUAL meal to share with you. Not a snack, not granola, but a real live dinner MEAL!

After watching my daughter eat one too many bowls of mac and cheese (and it wasn’t the homemade kind), I finally got the kick in the butt I needed to get back on the meal planning track. And what did I make? Well, I guess this is kind of an upscale version of mac and cheese – but instead of mac we have orzo, and instead of plain old cheese sauce, we have lots of delicious vegetables, chunks of mozzarella, and lemon zest and oregano.

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This recipe makes a double batch – perfect to eat one now and freeze one for later. If you don’t want such a big serving (then I think you are crazy because this is delicious) but feel free to half the recipe and make just one pan. Big batch meals are perfect for me as you all well know summer is not my prime cooking time – who else can second that?

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One of the great things about this baked orzo casserole is that there is no need to pre cook the orzo. Everything gets cooked together in the same pan – a one pot meal means less clean up. Something I also would rather not do in the summer, or anytime for that matter.

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While I hope my cooking mojo is here to stay, at least if it’s not I have a dinner waiting in my freezer. No boring old mac and cheese tonight kids!

Dara

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Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Baked Orzo

Serves 8
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Freezable, Pre-preparable
Website Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplant
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 carrot (diced)
  • 2 celery stalk (diced)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 450 gram box orzo
  • 2 Tsp tomato paste
  • 3 Cups water
  • 2 Tsp dried oregano
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 Ball mozzarella (diced)
  • 1 cup parmesan (grated)
  • 5 tomatoes (sliced)
  • salt and pepper

Note

If you didn't want to bake a big batch, you could easily half this recipe to serve 4. You can roast the eggplant ahead of time and store in the fridge until you are ready to make the orzo.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread eggplant cubes evenly over sheets and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Roast in the oven until tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
2. Heat remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the orzo, tomato paste, and roasted eggplant and cook for another two minutes.
3. Remove pan from heat and add half of the oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, lemon zest, water, and salt and pepper. Mix until combined.
4. Spray 2 8 x 8 baking dishes with cooking spray and divide orzo mixture evenly among them. Lay sliced tomatoes out evenly along the top and sprinkle with remaining oregano, and salt and pepper.
5. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and cover baking dishes with foil. Bake for 20 minutes with foil on and then another 25 minutes with foil off. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes before serving so orzo can firm up.
6. Once cooled, you can cover tightly and freeze as is, or separate into individual servings and freeze.