Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree

I wanted to make a pasta dish that had sauce different from pesto, marinara, or bolognese, and Giada de Laurentiis’s healthy eggplant-based sauce sounded interesting!  The original recipe calls for mint instead of basil, but I thought basil would pair better with a protein.  I picked shrimp for this dish, but I think chicken would go just as well.

Here is the recipe as adapted from Giada’s.  If you want to eat this with meat, simply cook your meat through separately, cut into bite size pieces, and mix it in with the pasta and sauce.  I sauteed a pound of shrimp in a little oil, salt, and pepper and added it in during step 5.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 pound dried rigatoni pasta
  • 1 cup mushrooms, stems removed and cut in half
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves, plus a couple extra, slivered, to finish
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl combine the eggplant, cherry tomatoes, garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Spread the vegetables out in an even layer on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender and the eggplant is golden, about 35 minutes.

    Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water (salty like the ocean!) to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but a bit under done, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta but reserve 2 cups or so of the cooking water.
  4. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor or blender. Add the torn basil leaves, mushrooms*, and additional 3 tablespoons olive oil. Blend until almost smooth.

    Ready to Pulverize
  5. Return the pasta to the cooking pot, pour sauce over it and about 1/2 cup of cooking water and cook together over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing occasionally to coat pasta evenly. Add more pasta cooking water a little at a time if needed to loosen the sauce.
  6. Transfer pasta and sauce to a serving bowl; garnish with extra herbs, pine nuts and parm, and serve.

*The original recipe didn’t call for mushrooms, but I had bought a package to throw in a vegetable soup and had some left over.  I had meant to roast them with the eggplant and tomatoes but forgot. I threw them in raw, and they soaked up all the sauce-y goodness once pureed, and cooked enough in step 5.  The mushrooms added a nice earthy compliment to the sauce, but simply omit if mushrooms aren’t your thing!

You can easily make this vegan by forgoing the cheese.

This was earthy and delicious!  I made this the first time a few months ago, while you could still get local eggplant and tomatoes.  I made this again recently, and the produce was from South America.  I didn’t enjoy it as much the second time around, as I think all that distance traveled to get to me made a difference in the taste.  I can’t wait for summer eggplant and tomato season to come around when eggplant and tomatoes are in their peak!!

Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree
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Creamy Leek and Potato Soup

The season of soups and stews is in full swing!  I’ve always been curious about trying a leek and potato soup, with its earthy flavors and creamy texture.  However, let me preface the rest of this post by saying that this isn’t Julia Child’s famous recipe.  I wanted a healthier version that didn’t use heavy cream.  I came across a vegetarian version of the soup on Life As a Strawberry, but used chicken broth instead of vegetable stock and also changed up the way I dealt with the potatoes.  On a gloomy day like today, I thought I’d share my version below!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks, roughly chopped (rinsed thoroughly to remove any dirt)
  • 4 large yukon gold potatoes, roughly chopped  (I used 3 red potatoes and 1 russet for this post because…that’s what I had in the pantry)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large saucepan or pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. When oil is hot, add leeks, potatoes, garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes or until leeks have softened.

    Saute Leeks, Potatoes, and Garlic
  3. Add vegetable stock to pot and stir to combine.
  4. Strip leaves from thyme sprigs and add to pot. Stir to combine.
  5. Bring soup to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are cooked through and easily pierced with a fork.
  6. Add milk to soup and stir to combine.
  7. Remove soup from heat and carefully remove potatoes from the soup, and place them in a large bowl.  Mash potatoes with a potato ricer (or pastry blender in a pinch!).  Blend the remaining liquid contents of the soup in a blender until smooth, or use an immersion blender.

    Puree Leek Mixture
  8. Stir riced potatoes back into the soup, and season with salt and pepper as needed.*

    Mash Potatoes Separately

*I don’t like the idea of blending potatoes, because the blending process changes the potato texture to be gummy.  This soup won’t be silky smooth, but I prefer that texture to that of gummy potatoes.  That being said, if you don’t mind that glue-y texture and really need the soup to be silky smooth, use an immersion blender to blend all ingredients together in step 7 instead of removing the potatoes and mashing them separately.

Yes, I am fully aware of how very not photogenic this soup is.  We can toss this into the as-tasty-as-it-is-ugly category!

If your soup is too thick after blending, thin it out with a splash of milk or vegetable stock. Too thin? Bring it back to a simmer and cook until it’s reached your desired consistency.

This soup is easy to make in advance and it freezes well.

To make this soup vegan, replace the milk with additional vegetable stock, coconut milk, or almond milk, and omit the heavy cream.

Curry-Poached Chicken with Rice and Scallions

Continuing to chug along on the healthy eating train, I wanted to share another chicken and rice recipe, this time from Bon Appétit.  Anything with an overload of green onions always appeals to me, and I’d never made a poached chicken breast before.

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 8 scallions (about 1 bunch), divided
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 1/4 lbs)
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled, smashed to pieces, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons mild curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more
  • Juice from 1 orange (about 1/4 cup)
  • Juice from 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Warm jasmine or brown rice (for serving)
 DIRECTIONS:
  1. Coarsely chop 4 scallions and transfer to a medium pot. Add chicken, garlic, ginger, curry powder, 2½ tsp. salt, and 4 cups water. Slowly bring to a bare simmer over medium heat. Once liquid begins to simmer, reduce heat to low and cook until juices run clear when thickest part of chicken is pierced, 10-12 minutes.

    Poaching Liquid
  2. Meanwhile, thinly slice remaining scallions. Whisk orange juice and lime juice in a small bowl; season with salt and 8 turns of a pepper mill, or about 3/4 tsp. (you want a lot of pepper!).
  3. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Strain poaching liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Cut chicken crosswise into thin slices.

    Curry Poached Chicken
  4. Divide rice and chicken among bowls and top with sliced scallions. Spoon poaching liquid and some of the citrus juice over chicken and rice before serving.

    Drizzle Poaching Liquid and Citrus Mixture

NOTE:  Be extra careful when dealing with the poaching liquid. Yours truly managed to splatter a bit on herself and on the carpet runner in our kitchen.  There unfortunately is now a permanent curry powder stain on every piece of fabric that little splatter touched.

This was definitely a very “clean” dish, but I personally prefer dark meat over white. If I were to make this again, I’d probably use chicken thighs. However, you definitely wouldn’t get the pretty slices of meat with dark meat, if that matters.

We had this with a side of baby bok choy sauteed in a bit of ponzu.  We also had way more of the poaching liquid leftover than we needed for the sauce, so we used 2 cups of it to cook another cup of rice.  It was really tasty and I think it’d also be a great base to make fried rice with!

Curry-Poached Chicken with Rice and Scallions

Vegetable Soup with Lentils and Seasonal Greens

Diet starts…yesterday!

Happy New Year, everyone!  Ahh, January. The month of resolutions, fresh starts, and attempts to undo all of the hefty holiday indulging.  Here’s a recipe I really enjoyed that falls in the healthy eating category, while still being tasty!

I came across a pretty clean eating recipe at Saving Dessert for vegetable soup but made a few edits.  I upped the butternut squash because you can’t cut up a butternut squash and just end up with 1 cup.  I also threw in a zucchini just to mix it up a bit, and used purple kale instead of the pound of bok choy.  With the extra veggies added, there isn’t a ton of broth in the soup, but I also don’t mind it that way.  Perhaps this is more of a stew in that sense.  Anyway, we are all about efficiency in this household with the baby around, and this is a great easy way to get our veggies in without having to cook every night!  Hope you like it as much as we do!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small leek, cleaned and sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped butternut squash (1/2″ cubes)*
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 3/4 cup green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups (32-ounces) no-salt or low-salt vegetable stock
  • 14 ounce can chopped canned tomatoes (low salt)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bunch kale, swiss chard, cabbage, or other seasonal leafy green (I used purple kale)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like things spicy!)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Drizzle the olive oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven with a heavy bottom. Heat on medium until hot. Add the chopped onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is softened.
  2. Add the leek, celery, carrots, butternut squash, and the lentils. Stir gently to coat all vegetables in the olive oil then add the zucchini, vegetable stock, and chopped tomatoes. Add paprika and cayenne, and season with salt and pepper.  Cover the pot with a lid and gently simmer for about 15-20 minutes until lentils are soft.

    Loving All the Color
  3. Add the tomato paste, chopped greens, and thyme. Simmer until the greens are just tender.

Smoked paprika might be my new favorite spice.  I really wasn’t expecting this soup to be so tasty because… how good can vegetable soups really be?  The smoked paprika really adds that addicting smoky flavor to the soup, and the little bit of cayenne adds a warm tingle to the tongue.  I’m not big on spicy food, so this is just the right amount.

*If butternut squash isn’t in season, you can sub it with rutabaga, turnips, or other hard squash. I bet potatoes or sweet potatoes would even work in this!  Be sure to cut vegetables about the same size so they cook evenly.
Vegetable Soup with Lentils and Seasonal Greens

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

In the midst of my crazy meal prep madness getting ready for Mia’s arrival, I had bought a big carton of buttermilk to use in an Ina Garten chicken recipe, as well as a batch of Bran Muffins and still had a good amount leftover.  I wanted to add another type of freezer-friendly breakfast food to my Babygeddon stash, and saw this recipe that also uses buttermilk on Smitten Kitchen.  They are SO good!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed, divided
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk or yogurt
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped (I used Granny Smith)
Diced Apples

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease and flour 18 muffin cups and set aside.
  2. Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well; stop once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.Mix in the buttermilk gently. (If you over-mix, the buttermilk will cause the mixture to curdle.) Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks.

    Don’t Overmix!
  3. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400°F, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Hot Out of the Oven

For a muffin that uses wheat flour instead of all-purpose, this sure was moist!  It had more of a cake-like texture than I was expecting it to have.  I went easy on the sugar for the crunchy top (probably only 1 TBSP brown sugar instead of the 1/4 cup the recipe calls for).

As with all of my food prep as of late, being able to freeze what we weren’t going to eat immediately was important.  These freeze really well, though I would skip adding the brown sugar on top since the crunchy top texture goes away once you microwave it.  YUM!

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins