Asian Eggplant-Chicken Stir Fry

I really like eggplant. I found a great recipe recently that looked healthy and relatively uncomplicated. The only trouble was that the recipe called for teriyaki sauce, which is high in sugar, so I made my own. This blog includes my recipe for a slightly thickened teriyaki sauce that is lower in sugar. You can substitute a gluten-free sauce for the soy sauce in the recipe. I like to use about 1/2 tbsp. of chili-garlic sauce, which gives it some real heat. But add less if that amount scares you.

Ingredients

1 large and 1 small eggplant, cubed
16 oz. chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 red peppers, cut into chunks
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp. minced ginger
2 tsp. chili-garlic sauce (or more to taste)
1 tsp. Truvia brown sugar blend or 1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. xantham gum (a plant-based thickener) or 1-1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

Make the teriyaki sauce first by mixing rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, brown sugar or brown sugar substitute, chili-garlic sauce and xantham gum or cornstarch. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until thickened, about 4-5 minutes. Set aside.

Bring a wok or large skillet to medium-high heat and spritz with nonstick spray. Cook and stir eggplant for 3 minutes. Add red pepper and onion, and cook until the veggies have slightly softened, another 5 minutes.

Add chicken, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. garlic powder. Cook in the wok for about 5 minutes until chicken is cooked and veggies are softened and slightly browned.

Add teriyaki sauce and toss, stirring to coat.

Makes 4 servings.

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Breakfast Quinoa

Some mornings are oatmeal mornings, aren’t they? You just want something warm and creamy and comforting to get you on your way.

The trouble is, oatmeal never sticks with me quite the way the nutrition experts say it will. I end up adding a soft-cooked egg or nuts to fill me up until lunchtime. I’m not sure why this is the case, but I seem to require more protein– or else my appetite kicks in by about 10 a.m., and I’m hungry the rest of the day, it seems. Bodies are different, and what works for one, doesn’t always work for all.

Today’s blog is a recipe for Breakfast Quinoa, substituting quinoa for oats in my morning cereal. Yes, it takes longer to cook than instant cereals, but because it’s a whole food, rather than a refined food, your metabolism will thank you.

Quinoa may seem like a new thing, but it’s actually an ancient grain that was grown by the Incas. It is higher in protein than other grains and contains all of the eight essential amino acids which make up a complete protein.

THIS cereal fills me up and gets me through the morning.

Breakfast Quinoa
(Makes 2 servings)

½ cup uncooked quinoa (any variety is fine)
1 cup water
2 tsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Milk (I use almond or coconut milk)
Fresh fruit to garnish

In a small saucepan, add quinoa. Stir in water, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover the saucepan, simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed.

You can add ¼ cup raisins to the mixture in the saucepan, too. I prefer to serve my quinoa with almond or coconut milk, and garnish it with diced apples, blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries.

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Barbacoa Beef in the Crock Pot

Recently, I tasted my first Brazilian barbeque, a savory, garlicky blend of seasonings that I loved. There are many recipes out there for Barbacoa Beef, but the day that I wanted to make it, I lacked a few of the ingredients, so I had to wing it. Below is my recipe for Barbacoa Beef in the crock pot made with common pantry ingredients.

1 3-4 lb. round roast, trimmed of excess fat
2 cups beef broth (I like the Belle View brand)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp. onion flakes
1 tbsp. cumin
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Cilantro, minced red onion, and red, orange and yellow peppers to garnish
whole-grain flatbread wraps (for sandwiches)

In a crock pot, combine broth, vinegar, onion, cumin, garlic, oregano, cayenne and black pepper. Add the roast and spoon broth over meat.

Cook 9-10 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high in the crock pot. Serve with garnishes on flat bread wraps.

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A Low-Carb Version of Shepherd’s Pie

Today I’m making our usual Sunday family dinner, and Shepherd’s Pie is on the menu, along with a nice mixed greens salad with grape tomatoes.

Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally made with whipped potatoes, light as air. I have discovered, however, that the family is perfectly happy with whipped cauliflower, since we’re all watching carbohydrates these days. So here is my recipe for Shepherd’s Pie.

2 lb. leanest ground beef
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. garlic powder

1 12-oz. jar turkey gravy

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and cooked until soft — or use two bags of frozen cauliflower and cook until they are soft
1/3 cup skim milk

2 bags frozen mixed vegetables, thawed under running water and drained

Cook ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned. Add Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder, and stir to combine. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.

Mash cauliflower florets with a potato masher. Then whip with a mixer or a hand-held mixer wand until fluffy and light.

In a lightly oiled 9 X 13 inch pan, spoon ground meat over bottom of pan. Add mixed vegetables, stirring over the ground meat. Spoon turkey gravy over the vegetables. Your top layer will be the whipped cauliflower spread over top. Lightly dust with paprika and bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven until piping hot.

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My Favorite Salad Dressings

This week, I did a cooking demonstration for graduate healthcare students on the Glendale, Arizona campus of Midwestern University. We did “Sand Art” layered salads in a jar, a healthy soup found earlier on this blog (Carole Hannah’s Tuscan Vegetable Soup), a wonderful tangy vinaigrette salad dressing, and healthy protein bites. I promised to share the salad dressing recipes. So here they are…

Red Wine Vinaigrette

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

Cider Vinaigrette

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
2/3 cup good-quality cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

Lemon Vinaigrette

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large lemons, juiced, seeds extracted
1 tsp. minced garlic or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

Homemade Caesar Dressing

2 small garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. anchovy paste
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Worcestershire
3/4 cup good quality mayonnaise
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

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Homemade Yogurt (Lebanese Laban)

When I was growing up, we had delightful Lebanese neighbors who taught my eager mom to make many of their favorite foods. One of our biggest family hits was “Laban,” which is Lebanese Yogurt.

When I became an adult, I realized that this was a beloved taste of home, and I wanted to continue the tradition. I purchased a Cuisine brand yogurt maker that comes with seven little glass cups and lids. You don’t need it, though. I just love my gadgets.

I’m giving you two yogurt recipes: one that is traditional and takes longer (and makes more of a mess), and the other that Dana Carpender, a well-loved cookbook author, had in her book “500 Low-Carb Recipes.” Dana’s is the recipe I use most often, although it doesn’t get as thick as traditional laban.

Traditional Lebanese Laban

You’ll want to begin making yogurt by using store-bought yogurt. But after that, you can use your own yogurt as a starter. About every three times I make yogurt, I go back to a store-bought starter.

In a three-quart saucepan, add 1/2 gallon milk (the heavier the fat content, the thicker the yogurt). If you use a 1-2% or skim milk, you’ll just have to allow the yogurt to ferment longer. Clip a digital thermometer onto the side of the pan. On medium-low heat, bring the milk to just below a boil (about 210 degrees) and remove it from the heat. This takes about 14-15 minutes. Be watchful. Don’t let it boil.

Let the milk cool to 110-115 degrees, until you can run your finger through it for about 10 seconds and it feels tepid, not too warm. You don’t want to kill your good probiotic bacteria in the yogurt starter. It will take about an hour to get to this temperature. Stir 1/4 cup starter yogurt into the milk, cover your container and set in a warm spot for 6-12 hours (or overnight).

An easy way is to heat your oven to its lowest setting, turn off the heat, and then put your oven-safe container in there. Just make sure your container is oven-safe!

Now for my favorite way to make yogurt:

Dana Carpender’s Yogurt Recipe

1 tbsp. plain yogurt
2 cups instant dry milk (or a 1-quart envelope)

Fill a clean one-quart, snap-top container half full of water (not too cold). Put the yogurt in the water and stir. Add the powdered milk and whisk until lumps are gone.

Fill the container to the top with water, whisk again, and put the lid on. Put your yogurt in a warm place. Dana uses a bowl lined with an old electric heating pad set on low, but you can also put it on a heat register. Allow your yogurt to sit 12 hours or so. It should be thick and creamy by then, but if not, you can allow it to sit for a few more hours.

In my case, after mixing the yogurt, water and dry milk, I pour the mixture into my little glass cups without their lids, put them in the Cuisine yogurt-maker and put the cover on. Then I set it for 12 hours. Easy-peasy.

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Eggplant-sagna

If you like Eggplant Parmesan and Lasagna, have I got a recipe for you. I call it Eggplant-sagna. Okay, so that’s a made-up word. It’s vegetarian, but you could just as easily make a meat sauce for it.

The other day, I had all the makings for lasagna: marinara sauce ingredients, mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, crushed tomatoes and paste. I didn’t want to use pasta because I needed to use up the three gorgeous eggplants I got for 99 cents each. I decided to substitute eggplant slices for the lasagna noodles.

Be sure to read through the entire recipe because I’ve broken it down into sections and ingredients.

Marinara Sauce

Mix together in a large sauce pan:

2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
1 4-oz. can of tomato paste
½ cup water
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 ½ tsp. oregano
1 ½ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda (neutralizes the acid in the tomatoes for a sweeter sauce without adding sugar)

Heat sauce on medium, stirring occasionally, for at least 45 minutes.

Ricotta Filling:

In a medium bowl, mix together the following:
8-oz. container low-fat or fat-free ricotta
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 ½ tsp. oregano
½ cup Parmesan

While sauce is cooking, heat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut 3 large eggplants into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and oil it lightly. Place eggplant slices on the baking sheet, spray them lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 15 minutes.

Spread about 1 cup of sauce in a 9 X 13 baking pan. Layer slices of roasted eggplant over pan, cover with 1 cup sauce and another layer of eggplant. Spread ricotta filling over this layer. Add final layer of eggplant slices and top with sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and return to the oven for 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the pan to “rest” for at least 15 minutes so it is easier to cut into squares.

I ate some and froze some for another night.

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Easy Flatbread Pizza

One of my fondest discoveries is the 90-calorie Fit and Active whole-grain flatbread wraps at ALDI. Of course, there are other similar options, too. Hungry Girl has sandwich wraps out now that I’ve found at Walmart. Not only are they a lower-calorie, lower-carb option for sandwiches, but they’re great for thin-crust pizzas.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a flatbread on the pan and bake it for 3 minutes. Spread with a thin layer of sauce and your favorite toppings and bake for about 5 minutes until cheese has melted.

My favorite sauce is thick and savory. Mix together 1 small can tomato paste, 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp. oregano, 1 1/2 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp sea salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper. This keeps nicely covered in a container in the refrigerator.

On my pizza last night, I had sauce, urugala, kalamata olives, capers, a few anchovies, and feta cheese. This is one of my favorite go-to quick meals. With a beer or a glass or wine, it’s the bomb.

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Carole Hannah’s Tuscan Vegetable Soup

Today is one of those bitter cold days with significant snowfall, and I plan to play outside. I may snow-shoe or cross-country ski. When I get home, I’ll want to curl up under my favorite plush blanket and read to my heart’s content. Of course, while I’m enjoying this special time, my favorite comfort soup will be simmering on the stove.

This recipe was included in my first book, MANIFESTING DREAMS.

Carole Hannah’s Tuscan Vegetable Soup

2 large chicken breasts
1 14.5 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and diced
4 cups chicken broth
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
1 ½ cups water
1 14.5 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
¼ cup lite soy sauce
1 ½ tsp. dried basil
1 ½ tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine soy sauce, 1 tsp. garlic powder, and water. Add chicken breasts and cook until liquid is reduced to about ½ cup. Remove chicken from skillet and slice into bite-size pieces.

Combine chicken broth, tomatoes, chickpeas, chicken-soy-cooking liquid, artichoke hearts, lemon juice, thyme, basil, remaining 1 tsp. garlic powder, and black pepper in a large soup pot. Cook for 1 hour over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for another hour.

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Parmesan Frico Cups

This Thanksgiving, dinner was hosted by my daughter, Liz, and her fiance, Ryan. She asked me to bring a salad and an appetizer. I thought I was getting off easy, so I decided to get adventurous with my appetizer.

While surfing the internet, I saw various recipes for “frico cups.” If you’ve never tried these delectable morsels, you must! Frico cups are melted Parmesan cheese rounds that are formed into cups, cooled, and filled. I’m guessing any kind of savory filling would taste wonderful in a frico cup.

They were not difficult to make, and everyone raved about them. I’ll be taking them to all my holiday parties. I like them for snacks, too.

Parmesan Frico Cups

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a measuring tablespoon, scoop 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese (either grated or shredded) onto the parchment sheet. Continue making cheese rounds about two inches apart on the parchment paper. You can fit about six cheese rounds on each baking sheet.

Place baking sheet into the oven and set the timer for 5 to 5 1/2 minutes. When the timer goes off, check cheese rounds and remove from the oven when the cheese is completely melted. Do not allow cheese rounds to brown, although it is fine if they are golden around the edges.

Allow cheese rounds to set, about one minute to 90 seconds, until rounds can be scooped up with the metal spatula. Then, working quickly, use the spatula to remove each round, fitting them into muffin the tins. Using your fingers or a spoon, gently tuck the cheese rounds inside the muffin tins so that they form cups. Allow the frico cups to cool. Then remove and set on a serving plate.

Filling:

1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced into halves
1/4 cup diced green olives
1/3 cup feta cheese
salt and pepper
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Mix together filling ingredients and spoon into frico cups. Chill until time to serve.

Makes 6 frico cups.

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