Eggplant Pesto

eggplant_caviarI love eggplant! I especially love roasted eggplant… on pasta… with feta cheese! I don’t know why. I just love the smoky taste mixed with the zesty feta. This low-carb, gluten-free, vegan recipe for Eggplant Pesto is easy – as long as you have a grill ready to roast your eggplant. If not, then baking it in the oven will do.

RECIPE

  • 1 large globe eggplant or 2-3 long Asian eggplants
  • Finely chopped 1-2 shallots or 1/2 small red onion
  • 2-3 tbsp of balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil, parsley, cilantro, or whatever herbs you like.
  • 1-2 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  1. GRILLING: Place eggplant directly on the grill. (Do not oil or salt and pepper). Rotate it occasionally until all the sides are charred and it softens. This takes about 25-30 minutes. OVEN: Preheat at 375˚ F. Pierce the eggplant with a fork in a couple of places then place eggplant on a cookie sheet (Do not oil or salt and pepper). Rotate after 10-15 minutes then cook for another 10-15 minutes until it’s soft and mushy. Let the outside char so that peeling will be easy. Remove from the grill and let cool completely before peeling. If the eggplant seem really watery — the larger ones tend to give off more liquid — let them drain in a colander for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. In a bowl, put the shallots/red onion and pour the vinegar over it and let it sit. Then add the chopped garlic.
  3. Peel the eggplant. Place it in a larger bowl and sprinkle it with salt and pepper to taste. Mash it all together with a fork.
  4. Add half of the shallots/red onion and garlic to the eggplant.
  5. Mix in the herbs and a drizzle with olive oil. Mix and then taste.
  6. Serve over brown rice pasta and sprinkle feta cheese on top for lunch or dinner. Or you can also serve this as a dip with gluten-free crackers. Makes for a delicious guilt-free snack or appetizer.
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Cheesy Quinoa Salad

cheesyquinoaA few months ago, I went to an upscale deli and had this beautiful quinoa salad that was so delicious and flavorful. I didn’t know how to reciprocate it since I didn’t know all the ingredients used. But I decided to get creative and try to achieve something close. I call it Cheesy Quinoa Salad because, well, there’s cheese in it. Maybe I should have come up with a different name but, hey, my kids will eat anything that starts with “cheesy.”

This makes for a great gluten-free, vegetarian side dish with dinner or you can eat it by itself for lunch. Filling and tasty!

RECIPE

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of grilled asparagus, zucchini, steamed spinach (or whatever cooked veggies you may have)
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (Not the dry pre-grated that comes in a can but the one that comes fresh in a resealable bag or plastic tub. But you can really use any kind of cheese you prefer: Mozzarella, Cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack, etc.)
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Cook your quinoa following the directions on the package. I cooked mine in my rice cooker using 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of water.
  2. While that is cooking, grill or steam your vegetables, then rough chop them in to big bite size pieces. I like to see and bite into my veggies.
  3. After the quinoa is cooked, mix in a couple tablespoons of olive oil, the juice from the lemon, and salt & pepper. (You can add red pepper flakes if you want more heat!)
  4. Let the quinoa cool for about an hour, then add the Parmesan cheese.
  5. Add the tomatoes and stir.
  6. Add more olive oil, lemon juice, and salt & pepper depending on your taste.
  7. Serve as a side dish at room temp or cold.

Pasta Alternative: Zucchini Noodles

zucchini_noodlesI’ve been seeing this pasta alternative Zucchini Noodles on a couple of other food sites and had to try it. But first, I had to find the tool. It’s called a julienne peeler and I found mine at Bed Bath & Beyond. It looks like this:

mak-200515_2Like spaghetti squash, it doesn’t taste exactly like pasta, but it is a healthy side dish that’s a really good gluten-free, low-carb substitute. And once you season it and eat it with your protein, you’ll forget that it’s not real pasta. Well, maybe you will, but you’ll feel good after eating zucchini and your body will thank you.

How to Cook

  1. Wash your zucchini and shred noodles using your julienne peeler.
  2. Blanch in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Drain.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil or butter, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if you wish.

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

roasted_brussel_sprouts

My new favorite side dish: Roasted Brussels Sprouts. So simple to make. Sometimes I plan my main entree to be something that would go with these Brussels Sprouts.

RECIPE

  1. Preheat oven at 425˚F.
  2. Blanch Brussels Sprouts in boiling water for 2 minutes.
  3. Transfer onto a cookie sheet lined with foil.
  4. Roast the veggies for about 8-12 minutes (turning them at half way point)
  5. When you take them out of the oven, sprinkle salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil over the spouts. Or if you prefer, use truffle oil. Delish!

Pasta Alternative: Spaghetti Squash

This was the first time I’ve eaten Spaghetti Squash. It doesn’t exactly taste like pasta but it is a pretty good substitute (gluten-free and lower carb). The first bite took me by surprise because it’s sweet. I wasn’t expecting that. By the time I was half way done with my meal, I didn’t even notice that I was eating squash instead of spaghetti, especially if you load on the cheese. You can pretend it’s really pasta you’re eating. Best part… you don’t feel full like you’re gonna bust out of your pants! 🙂

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash by Microwave

  1. Poke about 5-6 times with a fork.
  2. Cook on high for about 12 minutes (rotating every 3 minutes) or until the skin gives.
  3. Let cool. Remove seeds. Scrape spaghetti with a fork.

Below is what happened to my spaghetti squash because I failed to check to see if the squash was tender enough to open by hand. BAM! 🙂

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Oven

  1. Pre-heat oven at 375˚ F.
  2. Poke the squash about 5-6 times with a fork and place in baking dish.
  3. Cook for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until flesh is tender.
  4. Let cool. Remove seeds. Scrape spaghetti with a fork.

Cauliflower Popcorn

Yup, you read right. Cauliflower Popcorn. I don’t know how I ended up on a website called “A Hippie with a Minivan” but thankfully I did, because I found this low-carb, gluten-free recipe. How can you not try it? It’s delicious by itself or as a side dish for lunch or dinner.

RECIPE

  • 1 head cauliflower cut in small pieces
  • 3-4 tsp of olive oil
  • sprinkle of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400˚ F.
  2. In a salad bowl, toss cauliflower with olive oil and salt.
  3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Arrange cauliflower in a single layer. Bake for about an 1 hour, tossing every 15 minutes until cauliflower is a burnt color. It won’t taste burnt. It’s actually sweeter.

Brussels Sprout Chips

Just like kale chips, here’s similar version which I found on nomnompaleo.com: Brussels Sprout Chips. Nutritious, delicious, and guilt-free! You only want to use the outer leaves. The trick to successful chips is to make sure you get the edges brown. See my photo? I could add another 5 minutes to these to get them more brown and crispy but I wanted to make sure you could still tell these were fresh green Brussel sprout leaves.) They may look burnt or wilted but they’re actually crunchy. The lemon zest is optional. I loved it! I thought it added a freshness to the chips.

RECIPE

  • 2 cups of Brussels sprout leaves (outer leaves from 2 pounds of sprouts)
  • 2 tablespoons of melted ghee or butter or olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Lemon zest (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a salad bowl, toss the leaves with oil and salt. You can add the lemon zest at this stage or after baking.
  3. Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper for easy clean-up. Arrange leaves in a single layer.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until leaves are crispy.
  5. Toss lemon zest over the chips.
  6. Enjoy as a snack or appetizer!