Skeptical and Surprised: Chickpea Curry

You know those recipes that you are so skeptical of as you are cooking it because something just doesn’t look right?  Why is the food that color?  What is that smell?  I’m really supposed to add that much red pepper flakes?

Those types of meals are often anxiety inducing because many times, they can very well turn out to be duds.  But sometimes, everything ends up coming together perfectly and all your doubts wash away.  (Very similar to other things in life, actually!)

I was SO skeptical of this recipe right up until the time I took my first bite.  Honestly, it did not look that good, and I was certain I was going to be disappointed.  Well, I was totally wrong!

Quick Chickpea Curry

Quick Chickpea Curry

My meatless monday recipe this week came from a completely random post I read on my WordPress Reader as I was browsing the food tag.  What caught my eye was the bloggers comment that even her boyfriend said ‘yum’.  And no joke, my boyfriend said the same thing when he ate it.

It is a Martha Stewart recipe for a chickpea curry, and man was it delicious.  I really wanted to share this insanely easy, cheap, and delicious recipe with you guys.

Quick Chickpea Curry

Adapted from this Martha Stewart Recipe

Yields: 4

You will Need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick (3 inches)
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Lemon wedges for serving

Directions:

  1.  In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 6-7 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, curry, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the chickpeas, ketchup, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and 2 cups of water.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook covered for about 20 minutes.
  6. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, and cook until sauce is slightly reduced, about 5-8 minutes.
  7. For best results, refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to come together.  *Do not drain any excess liquid, despite how much you may have.  This will reduce during storage and provide a great flavored sauce that is necessary.
  8. Reheat, and right before eating, drizzle some fresh lemon juice and stir well.

I had this chickpea curry mixed with brown rice for a complete, healthy meal.  It would also be great in a warm pita!  Or, simply served by itself  as a light meal or side dish.

Do not, and I repeat do not, skip the fresh lemon at the end.  I forgot this part during one plate of leftovers and I completely tasted the difference!

Now, go enjoy this recipe.  With the money you save on ingredients and the calories you save on your waistline, you are entitled to a nice fancy dessert ;)

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Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Sandwich on Focaccia Bread- A Meatless Monday Recipe

Roasted eggplant.  Roasted tomatos.  Fresh mozzarella.   Smothered in pesto and rosemary infused olive oil on focaccia bread.  Not missing the meat as much as you thought, huh?

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This recipe was adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe (I was unable to find it online- it’s from one of her cookbooks), but I added some of my own twists to it.  The simplicity of ingredients and the ease of the recipe enticed me to make this easy weeknight meal.  I wanted to share the recipe with you guys as well as my ideas for perfecting it.

Roasted Eggplant, Tomato, and Mozzarella Sandwich

Adapted from Rachel Ray’s “Look and Cook” Cookbook

Yield: 3-4 sandwiches

You will need:

  • One large eggplant, skin on, sliced in 1/2 inch slices
  • 2-3 large beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into thick pieces
  • One ball of fresh mozzarella cheese
  • One loaf focaccia bread, or 3-4 hoagie rolls
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp Red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Rosemary (fresh preferred, dried fine as well), 1 tsp
  • 3-4 TBS pre-made pesto (bonus points to make your own)
  • 1 can low-fat tomato soup (optional side, highly recommend Amy’s brand)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Put 2 TBS olive oil in a pan and heat over low-medium heat.  Add the red pepper flakes, crushed garlic, & rosemary and allow the flavors to infuse on low heat for about 5-7 minutes.  IMG_0623
  4. Arrange the sliced eggplant on one baking sheet and the sliced tomatoes on the other.  Season both the eggplant and the tomato with salt and pepper on both sides.  Set the baking sheet with the tomatoes aside.
  5. Using a pastry brush or a spoon, lightly coat the eggplant slices with the infused olive oil on both sides.
  6. Place the eggplant in the oven and allow to roast for 10-15 min minutes, until lightly brown and just beginning to shrivel.  About half way into the cooking time, add the baking sheet with the sliced tomatoes.  [Note: when I originally made this, I added the eggplant and the tomatoes at the same time and the tomatoes were overcooked, so I highly recommend separating them and baking them half way in]

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7.  While the vegetables roast, slice up the fresh mozzarella and cut the bread (if in loaf form).  At this point feel free to toast the bread by sticking it in the hot oven or in a toaster, if this is your preference.  We did not do this for the focaccia bread and wish we had.

8.Spread bread with a nice helping of prepared pesto.  Remove vegetables from the oven, layer on the bread, top with fresh mozzarella slices, and enjoy!

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This recipe was very tasty!  Overall, I don’t think focaccia bread was the best choice- I think crusty rolls would have been more appropriate.  Not to throw anyone under the bus here, but the focaccia bread was my boyfriend’s idea ;)

The original recipe involves making a pistachio pesto with arugula, and topping the sammy with more arugala.  For times sake, we did not do this, but I do feel it could add a very interesting bite.

Also, I highly recommend more than just one layer of eggplant on the sandwich to make it more substantial.  Feel free to add more roasted veggies, as desired.  I think zucchini or roasted red peppers could add an interesting touch.

I am so proud of myself that for almost 2 months now I have been following meatless monday.  It’s such a fun twist on meals that I feel good about.

What are your favorite types of meals for Meatless Monday?

Baked Eggplant Parmesan- A Very Tasty Use of Leftovers

I made a dish the other night (to be posted for meatless monday) that left me with leftover eggplant and fresh mozzarella.  If that doesn’t scream eggplant parmesan, nothing does!  I knew I wanted to try a baked variety to keep this dish on the healthier side.  (Yes, I realize fresh mozzarella is not necessarily “light”, but that’s all the more reason to not fry the eggplant!)

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I consulted a couple of different recipes and came up with this adapted recipe.  It turned out DELICIOUS, so I wanted to pass the inspiration on to you guys.

Note: the trickiest part in posting this recipe comes with the baking times.  I found mine to require way less baking than suggested, probably because I only made this using the 1/2 eggplant I had leftover (only needed enough to feed two).  I am going to post this as I did it for two people, but if making it for more people just be aware that your baking times will be longer.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan for Two

(Adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe and this Whole Foods recipe)

You will need:

  • 1/2 a large eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 6 TBS italian breadcrumbs
  • 6 TBS parmesan cheese, plus 1tsp divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • pinch of dried oregano
  • pinch dried basil
  • about 1/2 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced thick and chopped into chunks (or you can use shredded mozarella, regular or 2%)
  • Salt and pepper (look at how much salt is in your breadcrumbs.. you may not need to add any)
  • Jarred marinara sauce (or homemade), about 1.5-2 cups, divided

Steps:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the breadcrumbs,  6TBS parmesan cheese, oregano, and basil.  Transfer mixture to a flat surface such as a plate or cutting board.
  2. In a small bowel, combine the egg and 1 tsp water and lightly beat together.
  3. Line a large baking sheet (may require 2) with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  4. One by one, dunk each slice of eggplant into the egg, shake off excess, and then press firmly onto the breadcrumb mixture.  Turn the slice over and press firmly on the other side as well.  Transfer eggplant to lined baking dish.  Repeat for all eggplant slices.
  5. Bake the breaded eggplant in the oven on 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, and then turn them over.  Bake for another 10-15 minutes & remove from oven.  Keep a close eye on them at this point so they don’t burn.  Mine cooked for a total time of 30 minutes and they were perfectly brown.
  6. Line a 9X13 baking dish lightly with some marinara sauce, about 1/4 a cup or so.
  7. Transfer the breaded eggplant to the baking dish and layer with marinara sauce then fresh mozzarella cheese.  Keep repeating the eggplant-sauce-cheese layering process until all of your eggplant and cheese are used up.  Dust the top with a light coating of parmesan cheese, about 1 tsp (optional).

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8.  Bake at 410 degrees for 10-20 minutes, until cheese is beginning to brown and bubble.  Baking times vary- mine only required 10 minutes.

This recipe was so tasty, I highly encourage you guys to give it a try.  It can be a very healthy and filling meal if you use low fat mozzarella and pair with a nice big salad.  It is delicious enough for a date night in but easy enough for a weeknight meal as well.  This happens to be another one of those versatile recipes that will please kids, adults, vegetarians, and pretty much anyone that likes sauce and mozzarella cheese (i.e. EVERYONE!).

If you are cooking for two such as myself, on Monday I will be posting another great recipe to utilize the rest of the eggplant and mozzarella cheese, so stay tuned.

Have a great Saturday everyone!

Boyfriend-Approved Meatless Monday Recipe: Emeril’s Spicy Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

The Challenge: introducing Meatless Monday to a meat-loving boyfriend.

I have recently been loving the idea of Meatless Monday, as it forces me to be creative in the kitchen.  My boyfriend, however, is a hard core meat lover.  I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the TV show Parks and Rec, but my boyfriend shares the same food attitude as Ron Swanson.  Anyway, the point being that Meatless Monday is something I kind of slowly snuck into his diet without him knowing.  I simply prepare a delicious meal on Mondays, don’t use the word meatless around him, and we are good to go.  The challenge here is that the meal has to be really tasty, otherwise my cover will be revealed!

Homemade sauces are an easy and healthy way to be meatless, which is boyfriend approved because the meal is so filling once combined with pasta.

I loved the caramelized onion and cherry tomato sauce I made last week, but I wanted to try something a little different.  I got this recipe from the Food Network website, and we really loved it.  So, I wanted to share the recipe and my thoughts/tidbits with you.

I apologize for the poor photo quality.  This sauce was not oily or glistening as the picture makes it seem.  I think it may be time to start saving money for a good camera…

Spicy Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

Spicy Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

You Will Need:

1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves
2 (28-ounce) cans whole Italian plum tomatoes, with their juices
3 whole heads roasted garlic [see “How To” note below], cloves removed from peels

How To Roast Garlic

Roasting garlic is a very easy, albeit time consuming, cooking skill.  I had actually never done this before, but I was only one google search away from mastering the skill.

Rather than confuse you with a lengthy step-by-step, I highly recommend that you watch this video.

Emeril’s (Spicy) Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce Recipe:

[Yield: enough sauce to top about 3-4 pasta meals]

time: 1 hour 30 minutes + 30-40 minutes for roasting garlic

  1. In a large saucepan saute the onion in the olive oil over medium-high heat until soft and lightly golden, 4 to 6 minutes.
  2. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  3. Add the tomato paste, salt, balsamic vinegar, hot sauce, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning, and basil, and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you place them in the pan, and their juices. [Note: do not add the actual tomato juice that the tomatoes are canned in!]
  5. Stir to combine well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the roasted garlic cloves and stir to combine. Continue to simmer for 30 to 45 minutes longer, or until the flavors have come together.
  7. Serve over pasta and enjoy!

My Thoughts & Tidbits

  • This sauce has kick to it!!  We were pretty surprised by how spicy it was, and we like spicy things.  I feel that the hotness of the red pepper flakes and the hot sauce overpowered the roasted garlic taste.  Next time I plan on reducing (or maybe even omitting) the red pepper flakes and adding 1-2 extra cloves of garlic.
  • The spiciness of the sauce did die down when it was re-heated for leftovers the next day.  The sauce was delicious this way, as all of the flavors came together perfectly.
  • This sauce pairs very nicely with whole wheat pasta.  I feel like some sauces are not powerful enough to mask the sometimes cardboard-y taste of WW pasta, but this one does the trick.  So go ahead, make it healthy and use the good-for-you stuff.
  • Note that the roasted garlic portion is 3 heads, not 3 cloves.  Yes, this is a lot of garlic!  Yes, you do need it all!
  • As previously noted, crush the tomatoes and their juices for the sauce, but do not add the actual juices that the tomatoes are canned in.
  • This sauce would taste amazing with some spicy chicken sausage in it.  Next time I make this without a vegetarian meal in mind, that is definitely what I will add!
  • This recipe is a bit time consuming between roasting the garlic and the steps in which the sauce simmers.  However, you are not actively engaged for much of this recipe.

This sauce was fantastic!  It is healthy, flavorful, versatile, and inexpensive.  This is a great base recipe for vegetarians, meat lovers, boyfriends, and even kids.  Next time you need an easy yet hearty meal, try this fresh, homemade tomato sauce!

The Reset Button: Best Blackened Salmon

Don’t you wish there was just a magic button that you could press that would wipe away all of your excess indulgences from the week (Fresh Market chocolate chunk cookies, I’m talking to you)…

Well, there is no such button but I have found a meal that is so incredibly healthy and delicious that it comes pretty close.  A few bites of this dish and you honestly feel less guilty about those extra few (five) cookies.

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I present blackened salmon with roasted veggies.  For the blackening seasoning on the salmon, I use a mix of brown sugar and blackening seasoning.  Honestly, the first time we made this dish, Ryan was in charge of experimenting with the ratios of brown sugar to blackening seasoning, and he got it SPOT ON.  So, I had to consult him on the “recipe” for this rub.

Blackened Salmon Rub

  • 2 parts Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 parts Blackened Seasoning
  • 1 part Brown Sugar

Combine all ingredients in a bowel and dust liberally on salmon (skinless side only) before grilling.

This rub is SO flavorful it erases any and all fishy taste and you just get a pop of sweet and spicy.  This salmon dish replaced our Asian glazed salmon as Ryan’s new favorite, a task that has been impossible ever since I convinced him to eat salmon two years ago.  That is how you know its a winner.

To accompany the salmon I had some left over roasted veggies from last night, which were just as great the next day.

This dinner was healthy, tasty, and fresh- what more could you ask for?

Besides a chocolate chunk cookie, which I did in fact have :)

What is your favorite way to prepare salmon?