Eggplant Lasagna Fan

Here is an easy, impressive vegetarian dinner, Eggplant Lasagna Fan.

Eggplant Lasagna Fan
1 eggplant
1 container ricotta cheese
8 oz mozzarella cheese, grated,
4-8 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 jar tomato pasta sauce

Combine the grated cheeses. Slice the eggplant into thin strips without cutting through the top of the stem end, set it aside. Add some freshly ground black pepper, and about a third of the grated cheese to the ricotta and set it aside. Spoon some of the pasta sauce into the bottom of a baking pan. If you want to make your sauce from scratch, check out this great red sauce recipe from Chef Ray. Place the eggplant on top of the sauce and push it down to push the slices apart a bit. Spoon the ricotta mixture between all of the slices. Spoon a little sauce between each layer, then sprinkle grated cheese between each layer. Top the eggplant with the remaining sauce and grated cheese, and s sprinkle of fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, parsley, etc) for color. I like to run my finger down the edge of each slice to make sure the eggplant skin will show. Bake it at 350 degrees until it’s heated through and the cheese begins to brown. The duration will depend on the size of your eggplant, mine took about 35 minutes.

To serve the eggplant cut the top off of it to release the layers.

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

 

Slightly Sweet- Sad Apple Cookies

Have you ever abused an apple? You know, carried it around in your lunch bag or backpack for a few days. Well luckily apples have much flavor and nutrition to give, even after taking such abuse! Here’s a simple cookie recipe to use those ugly apples. This will make a batch of 5-6 slightly sweet cookies. They will satisfy your craving for a fresh baked dessert without going over the top with sugar.

Slightly Sweet- Sad Apple Cookies
1 apple grated, any variety
4-6 Tbs almond milk, divided (or your preferred milk product)
1 Tbs melted margarine or coconut oil
1 Tbs coconut sugar (or your preferred sweetener)
1 tsp flax egg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of ground ginger
Stir the above ingredients together in a medium bowl. Start with just 4 tablespoons of the milk.

Once it’s all combined, stir in:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
Continue to stir. If you can’t stir the flour in, add a little more milk until you have a wet cookie dough consistency. Using a spoon, plop the dough into 5 or 6 globs on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

I like to use flax eggs for binding in these small batch recipes because it’s easy to divide. To make a flax egg, stir 1 tablespoon of ground flax into 3 tablespoons of water and stir. Let it sit until it get’s gooey.

Since there are no eggs in the recipe you can pull the cookies while they are still a little gooey in the center. If they really aren’t sweet enough for you try a little sprinkle of sugar, that way the sweet will hit your taste buds on the first bite.

To learn more about my struggles with sugar, or to share your own sugar stories, visit the ‘Sugar Addiction‘ page.

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

 

Rooted Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese, or mac and cheese has been around for quite some time. According Wikipedia it’s been around since the fourteenth century. And of course there are numerous versions. I’ve never been a fan of the boxed version that is often served to children, but I’ve had some pretty good ‘from scratch’ versions. Mac and cheese seems to be comfort food for many in this country, some people are just crazy for the stuff. Refined wheat pasta and cheese sauce are not high on my list of healthy foods, so I’ve been experimenting with a more plant-based version. Since I’m crazy about root vegetables (beets, turnips, carrots, etc.), I decided to incorporate them into the recipe without changing the overall structure of the mac and cheese. Rather than traditional pastas, made from refined wheat, I stock my pantry with pasta made from beans, and/or whole grains.

Rooted Mac & Cheese

1 package short pasta noodles made from beans or whole grains – I used penne made from red lentils
Cook the pasta almost according to package directions, leave it al dente, so it doesn’t overcook in the oven. Drain the pasta and toss it under cool water to keep it from sticking to itself, set it aside to continue draining.

For the cheese sauce, begin with a béchamel sauce.
4 Tbs butter or oil based spread
4 Tbs flour
2-4 cups milk
dash white pepper

4-6 cups grated cheese

Melt the butter and then cook the flour in the butter for a few minutes, but don’t let it brown. You can preheat your milk (microwave/stove), or go with a more nontraditional approach and add it a bit at a time to the flour mixture, whisking to fully incorporate the addition each time. Let the sauce return to a simmer before adding more milk each time. You won’t see how thick your sauce is until it’s fully heated, so don’t just dump all of the milk in at once. Add your freshly ground white pepper, and a pinch of finely ground nutmeg if you like. I don’t add salt to this when it’s going to be a cheese sauce.

Add several cups of grated cheese, like sharp cheddar, a cup at a time. Continue whisking and let the cheese melt completely after each addition. Taste and add more cheese or seasoning if needed. Combinations of cheese varieties are fine!

Prepare your root vegetables
1 large beet, peeled, thinly sliced, slices cut into half circles
1 large turnip, peeled, thinly sliced, slices cut into half circles
1 sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, slices cut into half circles
Substitute any other vegetables you like – quartered mushrooms, kohlrabi, fennel, hot peppers, etc.

Now it’s time to assemble!
Put the pasta in an large casserole dish, or several small ones. Put the root vegetable slices up on end, in a decorative fashion, around the edges, or along one side. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and vegetables. Grate a little Parmesan cheese on top and sprinkle the top with freshly ground black pepper and smoked paprika. Bake the dish in a preheated 350 F oven until it is bubbly and beginning to brown. Remove it from the oven, let it cool and consume! No one needs to know it’s got a little more nutrition that the traditional mac and cheese!

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Chorizo Chili with Cornbread Puffs

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If you love chili and you love cornbread why not combine them for a one dish delight this winter?

Make your favorite chili, I made a chorizo and black bean version. Then, make a standard cornbread recipe. I made two batches, one with yellow corn and one with blue corn. To make it even more interesting add chopped jalapeño and or grated cheddar cheese to your cornbread batter.chili_8087

When the chili is done put it in an casserole pan and spoon globs of the cornbread batter on top. Bake the casserole following your cornbread instructions. Serve with a little fresh pico de gallo and you’ve got a great one dish delight!

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Turnovers, Empanadas, or Hand Pies?

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I guess it depends on the filling!

Release YOUR Bon Viant and Savor Your Life!

Blackberry Lemon Pull Aparts

bb-bread_7974This is a variation of your standard pull apart bread with a subtle blackberry and lemon flavor. While I do enjoy the classic cinnamon and brown sugar flavored breakfast treats, the light fruity flavor of this one is refreshing.

I used a table mixer, but you can easily adjust the instructions to accommodate kneading by hand if you prefer. This recipe is a little larger than most, it nicely fills a 9″ spring form pan.

Dough:
3 Tbs butter
3/4 cup milk
3 tsp dry yeast
1 cup blackberry puree
1/4 – 1/3 cup sugar
3-1/2 to 4 cups flour

Filling:
2 Tbs butter
1 cup sugar
zest of 3 lemons

Combine the butter and milk, warm it just enough to melt the butter. Let it cool so that you don’t kill the yeast, I prefer to use a thermometer to verify the temperature. Anything over 120° puts your yeast at risk. Put the milk/butter mixture, yeast, sugar, and a cup of flour in a mixer with a dough hook and combine it. Let it sit until you see the yeast beginning to work (bubbles will begin to form). With the mixer on low alternately add the remaining flour and blackberry puree. If blackberry seeds offend you then strain the puree but in my opinion you’ll lose some flavor.

Let the mixer knead the dough until a slightly sticky ball forms. Remove the dough and place it in a greased bowl, turn it so that it’s greased on all sides. Cover the bowl and let it rise until doubled.

After the dough has doubled deflate it and remove it from the bowl. Roll it into a rectangle. The size depends on how thick you want the rolls to be. I rolled mine into an 20″ x 14″ rectangle. Melt the additional two tablespoons of butter and brush the surface of the dough. Sprinkle the cup of sugar and lemon zest evenly over the dough. Using a pizza cutter, I cut mine down the middle, making two 20″ x 7″ pieces, these I cut into 2″ x 7″ strips. Roll the strips and place them in a greased pan. Get creative, you can use a cast iron skillet, loaf pans, cake pans, etc. If you prefer the classic ‘leaf’ type of pull apart bread cut the dough into squares.

Let it rise a second time, until it’s almost doubled. Then bake the rolls at 375° for about 30 minutes. The time will depend on your choice of pans. Serve them warm from the oven. Try substituting other fruits, based on what’s in season and what’s available to you. Mango works well, as does pineapple.

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Olive Oil and Pepper Bread Sticks

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Cheddar, Cream, or Marscapone, What Tops Your Apples?

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I love apple season. Of course we can purchase several varieties of apple year round but there’s something about the abundance of them in Fall that excites me.  They are a great stand alone snack or they can be baked in a myriad of ways.

One of the easiest apple desserts is to bake them in puff pastry. Defrost a sheet of puff pastry and lay it on a greased a baking sheet. You can use a variety of shapes and sizes, use a full sheet or make individual desserts.

Prepare your apples by slicing them or cutting them into chunks. Place them on the puff pastry sheet and bring the sides of the pastry up. I like to use half green and half red apples for better presentation. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and a bit of brown sugar. I also like to add a few pomegranate seeds if I have them, nuts would also work.

Brush the exposed sides of the pastry with oil to facilitate better browning. Bake the pastries at 400 degrees until the apples soften and the pastry browns. If the apples soften before the pastry is ready use the broiler to brown it quickly. Remove the puffed apple dessert from the oven and now the hard part… How will you serve it?
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With a dollop of marscapone?

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With a wedge of cheddar cheese?

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Or drizzled with fresh cream?

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Vegan or Vegetarian, It’s Still Chili to Me!

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I admit it, I’m an omnivore. But I’m an omnivore with a primarily plant based diet. So many of the foods we’ve been conditioned to think ‘require’ meat, simply do not. Chili is one of them. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a classic chili with homemade beans, ground beef, and even some chuck roast – simmering on a low flame while the snow or cold rain falls in the winter. BUT… have you tried vegetarian chili? If your spice mix is of quality ingredients (in other words homemade) you won’t miss the meat.

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For this simple vegan chili I sauteed cauliflower, butternut squash cubes, chopped red bell pepper, and chopped onion in a little olive oil. When the vegetables began to soften I added a few tablespoons of homemade chili spice mix (recipe in The Tasteful Muse, Volume Two) and deglazed the pan with a bit of white wine. Then I added water, and (no sodium) vegetable bouillon. I let this simmer until the vegetables were soft but not mushy. Then I added a can of drained and rinsed kidney beans.

At this point the chili is ready to serve. But in order to create a seasonal presentation I removed the tops and seeds from mini pumpkins. I filled each with chili and baked them until the tops browned. Some guests ate the chili out of the squash and some cut the pumpkins open and ate them too!

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Quick Breads and Muffins, We’ve All Been Misled

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Have you heard the old adage “baking is science”, meaning that you can’t easily alter the ingredient ratios? Well maybe you already know this, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that with regard to several things, like quick breads, this just isn’t true. Now don’t get me wrong, for a refined cake or pastry it is absolutely true! But there are endless baked goods that can be altered, adjusted, and amended to fit your taste or what you have on hand. But I suppose the proof is in the muffin…
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Here’s the recipe for a hearty, whole wheat, low fat, banana muffin. These are not very sweet so add more sugar if you like your baked goods sweeter.

In a food processor combine:
2 over ripe bananas
1 egg
5 oz Greek yogurt (a single serving tub)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp matcha green tea powder
2 tbsp flax seeds
1/2 cup brown sugar

Once the above ingredients are smoothly blended add 2 cups of whole wheat flour in two additions, blend until smooth. If you prefer to have chunks of banana save one to chop and add at this point. Or add an additional chopped banana, nuts, or other chopped fruit.

Spoon the batter into greased muffin tins, or mini loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until a pick comes out clean. This recipe will make 12 very small muffins or 8 large ones. Because they are made without oil they do not maintain their moisture and are best eaten right out of the oven.

Use the recipe as a starting point, you can alter quick bread recipes fairly easily!

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!