How To: Quickie Meal – Oven Baked Sweet Chili Chicken with Eggplant & Zucchini

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Erin and I have been having a moment with sweet chilli sauce.

We’ve been putting that red and sweet sauce on pretty much everything. Have you tried it? It’s addictive. I had never thought to make my own before. I mean, why would I when the store bought variety is so darn delicious. But then I came across this recipe and it just looked too good and too easy to pass up.

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Now, you are probably asking the same thing I did – why make it myself? When you make this sauce from scratch you can control the sweetness. So you don’t have to use a boat load of sugar – here we use a mere half cup of honey to add that familiar sweet flavour. Now don’t misunderstand me – honey and sugar – the same thing. Your body processes all sugar in the exact same way. Sugar is sugar people! My point is that you can control how much of the sweet stuff you add, just like you can also control the heat in this recipe. So if you like things super spicy, throw in a little extra red pepper flakes. If it’s too much, dial it back. That’s the benefit of the “make your own” category – you know exactly what’s going in it and you get to have full reign over the finished product. The type A dietitian in me likes this very much!

So now that you’ve made a quick and delicious homemade sweet chilli sauce, we’re going to pour it all over some diced chicken breasts, zucchini, and eggplant. Now chicken breasts can be tricky – they have a tendency to dry out pretty darn fast. So that’s why we are baking them at high heat for a very short period of time and turning the broiler on for the last little bit so you still get that crispy texture and brown colour without ending up with rubbery and flavourless chicken. Because that is no fun.

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I love Japanese eggplant and zucchini in my traditional stir fry, but you can use other quick cooking veggies like green beans or peppers. Make sure to cook up a batch of quinoa or rice to go with this chicken. You need something to soak up all that delicious sauce you just put your blood, sweat, and tears into, right?

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Did I tell you this was a one pan wonder? My other new obsession. Two thumbs up for less clean up.

Dara

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Oven Baked Sweet Chili Chicken with Eggplant & Zucchini

Serves 4
Meal type Main Dish
Website Adapted from Sallys Baking Addiction

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into cubes)
  • 2 zucchini (sliced)
  • 2 Japanese eggplant (sliced)

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 Tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tsp sriracha
  • 1/2 Tsp salt

Note

You can prepare the sauce a day or two in advance if you would like. Red peppers or onions would work well in place of the zucchini and eggplant. If you don't want it too spicy, reduce the red pepper flakes to 1 tsp.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Sauce
2. In a small sauce pan whisk together all sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer and continue to whisk, for about 3 minutes, or until thickened. Set aside.
3. Place chicken, zucchini, and eggplant in the prepared baking dish. Spoon sauce over top until all the chicken and vegetables are evenly coated.
4. Bake for 25 minutes, until vegetables are soft and chicken is mostly cooked through. Switch oven to broil and cook for another couple minutes, until chicken and vegetables begin to brown.
5. Remove from oven and serve chicken and vegetables with sauce over your grain of choice to soak up all that delicious sauce.

 

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: Recipe Makeover – Eggplant Ricotta Bake

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When my husband and I were living in NYC for a year I made it my mission to eat as much good food as possible.

Over the year I ate some pretty delicious meals – from the best ice cream I have ever eaten to my new favourite pasta dish – there was certainly no shortage of good food. I should note, I do think I became somewhat of an NYC restaurant expert so if you ever go to NYC and do not contact me, that would be a huge mistake.

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One place we discovered was this family run Italian spot that served some of the best and most authentic Italian food around. My husband ordered their version of eggplant parm and was immediately sent to cheese heaven. This eggplant rollitini was LOADED with ricotta, mozzarella, and parm, and covered in a rich homemade tomato sauce.

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Eggplant parmesan is a traditional Italian dish that typically appears as layers of tender fried eggplant, rich tomato sauce, and creamy cheese. I present to you a just as delicious version but without all the frying and grease. This version bakes the eggplant instead of frying and uses a mixture of low fat ricotta and parmesan in the rich cheesy layer.

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Not only can this recipe be classified as a “recipe makeover,” but it definitely fits into the “quickie meal” category as well. 2-for-1 deals are my favourite!

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The taste of New York’s Little Italy right in my very own little kitchen. Enjoy!

Dara

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Eggplant Ricotta Bake

Serves 4
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Main Dish
Website Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplants (sliced into rounds)
  • 1 2/3 Cups low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tsp dried oregano
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 bottle of your favourite tomato/marinara sauce
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Note

A lighter take on the classic eggplant parmesan, this eggplant ricotta bake makes an excellent vegetarian lunch or dinner. Serve with a simple green salad and some crusty bread.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place eggplant slices in a single layer on baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper and bake for about 15 minutes, or until they are soft and starting to brown. Set aside to cool.
2. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, parmesan, eggs, oregano, salt, and pepper and mix together.
3. Spray an 8 x 8 pyrex with cooking spray and place one layer of eggplant on the bottom of the dish. Spread with half of the tomato sauce and place another layer of eggplant on top.
4. Spread half of the ricotta mixture on top of the eggplant and continue to make a second layer, ending with your ricotta mixture.
5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until bubbly and browned. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving.

How To: Make Ahead Meal – Lasagna Stuffed Eggplant

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Even though I am long finished my school years, I still get those butterflies in my stomach come labour day. In past years I chalked this up to simply some nostalgic feeling – missing my high school and university days. But this labour day was different. These anxious knots in my stomach were due to the start of a different kind of school year – the first day of day care for my almost one year old daughter.

After a wonderful year together, it is time she begins her school days. And soon after I will return to work – days will now be filled with a different kind of busy and I think getting dinner on the table for the whole family at the early hour of 5:30 will be even more challenging. And that is where this recipe comes in.

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This lasagna stuffed eggplant is the perfect make ahead meal to help your back to school transition come and go with ease. Each of the components can be made a head of time and then assembled before eating or you can stuff and bake each lasagna boat and simply reheat it right before eating.

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One of the best parts of this recipe is the roasted garlic topping. If you haven’t tasted the sweet flesh of roasted garlic, be ready to have your mind blown!

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Just like our lasagna stuffed spaghetti squash, this meal takes a traditional dish and adds a creative and healthy spin to it. They are easy enough for the back to school rush and fancy enough for your first fall dinner party.

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The back to school transition, or really any change for that matter is never easy. So make at least dinner time easier and cook up a batch of cheesy stuffed eggplant. It’s what I did!

Dara

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Lasagna Stuffed Eggplant

Serves 6 eggplant halves
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Main Dish
Website Adapted from Half Baked Harvest

Ingredients

  • 3 eggplant (halved)
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1/8 Tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion (chopped)
  • 2 zucchinis (chopped)
  • 2 red peppers (chopped)
  • 1 Tsp dried thyme
  • 1 Package yves ground round
  • 1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 Ball fresh mozzarella (sliced)

Note

This vegetarian dish is delicious on its own, but also pairs well with a side of pasta or salad. If you like things extra spicy, add an extra pinch of red pepper flakes to the sauce when you add the other spices. All of the components of this dish can be prepared ahead of time and assembled just before serving, making this a great make ahead meal.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut off the top portion of the garlic head and wrap the whole head in foil. Season the eggplant with salt and pepper and place the eggplant cut side down on the baking sheet along with the wrapped head of garlic. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the eggplant and garlic are tender.
2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add onion. Cook until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the red peppers, zucchini, dried thyme and cook until vegetables are soft, about another 5 minutes.
3. Add ground round and break it up with a spatula. Add tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, dried oregano, and basil and cook for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until slightly reduced and thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
4. Once garlic and eggplant are done, remove from oven and squeeze garlic pulp into a small bowl. Add 2 tbsp dried basil, parmesan, and red pepper flakes and stir to combine.
5. Flip eggplants over and evenly spread with roasted garlic mixture. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Top eggplants evenly with tomato sauce and cover with slices of mozzarella cheese. Place in the oven until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly, about 10-15 minutes.

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How to: Recipe Makeover – Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches

I’ve been making these sandwiches for a long time.

I’ve wavered about using them for a blog post though, since my standard technique is to fry the eggplant slices in a large quantity of oil, which I attest is extremely delicious but perhaps not appropriate as a recipe makeover.

So I tried baking them.

And golly, they are just as good.

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I fell in love with eggplant sandwiches at Uno Mustachio in the basement St. Lawrence Market.

California Sandwiches also makes a doozy.

You know who else makes a doozy?

Me.

And soon, you.

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When you’re picking out your eggplant, look for one that is small and firm with a bright green stem. The bigger and older they get, the more bitter they become.

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Do you guys use garbage bowls when prepping your veg? Makes for a nice tidy workspace and easier clean up. It was one of the first lessons of home cooking I learned from watching Rachel Ray on the Food Network ages ago.

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Here, are my breading bowls.  The flour soaks up some of the moisture on the surface of the eggplant which allows the egg mixture to bind to the slices, leading to a nice sticky surface for the panko to evenly crust each slice.

Standard breadcrumbs will work here too, but if you’re baking rather than frying, the panko have a better crunch factor; absolutely key to a successful eggplant parm sandwich.

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These bake up with a crispy crust and a soft and almost creamy interior.  Good luck saving them all for the sandwiches.

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The recipe calls for a tomato sauce of your choice.  The one I used here is a recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis. I always make a double batch to freeze for pasta or pizza later on.

Now to build them….

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Be sure to load up on a few napkins before you tuck in.

Erin

Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches

Serves 4
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium eggplant (cut in ½ inch slices)
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Large egg
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 ½ cup japanese bread crumbs (panko)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (divided)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper (divided)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil (divded)
  • 1 green bell pepper (cut into ¼ inch slices)
  • 1 red bell pepper (cut into ¼ inch slices)
  • 1 Medium yellow onion (cut into ¼ inch slices)
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (your choice)
  • 4 whole grain buns

Note

If your eggplant is quite big and perhaps not as fresh as you would like, it may require 'salting' to remove some of its bitter flavour.  Pour 1 tsp salt over eggplant slices and allow to drain in a colander in the sink for about 30 minutes.  Rinse well, pat dry and continue on with the following recipe steps.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Place flour in a medium bowl. Place egg and water in a 2nd bowl and whisk until slightly frothy. Place breadcrumbs, ¼ tsp salt and ⅛ tsp pepper in a 3rd bowl and mix until combined.
2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Brush 2 Tbsp canola oil evenly over foil lined sheet. One slice at a time, dredge eggplant in flour bowl, followed by the egg bowl being sure to coat both sides, and finally the breadcrumb bowl coating both sides equally. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake eggplant for 25 minutes, flipping the slices halfway through, until breadcrumbs are golden brown.
3. Meanwhile, heat remaining canola oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Sauté onions, peppers and remaining salt and pepper until very soft, 8-10 minutes.
4. Build each sandwich with 2-3 slices of eggplant, ¼ of the pepper and onion mixture, 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese and tomato sauce (I will leave the amount of sauce to your discretion).

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