italian marinated eggplant & my whole 30 week 3 recap

melanzane sottolio
Me: I did it!
You: What have you done?
Me: I’ve completed my third week of the Whole 30! I’ve cruised through the half way point, even went out to eat and found something on the menu to suit me without a hitch. I’m feeling absolutely incredible physically, mentally, and emotionally, and now I’m headed to an awesome festival in Costa Rica for the next 8 days and I intend to stick to the plan!

[Screeching halt of breaks. A spotlight centers on the dialogue bubbles.]

You: How do you intend to do that… there?
Me: I don’t really know…
But I’m trying my best to figure out how!
I’ve packed a bunch of nuts and some other Whole 30 approved dry goods, I plan to hit a fruit stand on my way to the event to get some avocados and other tropical deliciousness, and then I hope that they’ll be serving fresh caught fish and other tasty grilled meats once I’m there. I won’t have a way to cook for myself but I have no problem asking for what I need and a majority of the people I will be with eat healthy too.

I just really hope I can resist the nectar of the agave gods while I’m down there. Good tequila is my weakness. Instead, I will drink in the sunrises and sunsets and imbibe the high vibes of all the other party goers. This will be the greatest test of will I’ve ever faced in this lifetime and it will certainly be nothing short of phenomenal. Wish me luck!

Bet you thought I was going to play the tequila song, didn’t you? Psych! I grew up on the Eagles so this is what song comes to mind first when I think about that muy bueno inebriant that makes me feel so muy bueno… lest I digress.

So, on to this week’s recipe!

I’ve been craving a burger and was wondering what I could use in place of a bun, then this recipe came to mind…
When I lived in Italy and worked in the kitchen of Casa Cares, this was a favorite of mine. In Italian, it’s called “melanzane sott’olio” which literally translates to eggplant (or aubergine, depending where you hail from) under oil. It’s simple to prepare yet it takes time, most of which is inactive, but it’s so tasty it’s so very worth it.
marinated eggplant ingredients
Italian Marinated Eggplant (aka Melanzane Sott’olio)

Prep time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Active prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 2 hours 45 minutes
Serves 4-6

1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
¾ cup chopped italian parsley
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 cups extra virgin olive oil

  • Slice the eggplant into half inch thick rounds. It’s important they’re all the same thickness so they roast evenly. In a mixing bowl, place one layer then salt them, add another layer and salt, and another until all the rounds are in the bowl with salt on them. Let them sit for 2 hours or more to allow the salt to leach the water out of them.
  • When 2 hours are up, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  • Oil the bottom of a baking sheet (preferably non stick), drain the water from the bowl and arrange the eggplant in a single layer.
  • Roast for 30 minutes then flip each piece and roast for another 10 minutes. During that 10 minute interval, chop the garlic and parsley.
  • Find a dish with a lid and, one layer at a time, add a piece of eggplant, sprinkle with garlic and parsley, drizzle with oil, until you’ve added all the pieces, then cover with oil.
  • Cover and let marinate for at least an hour, then serve.

*Because there is raw garlic in this dish, I recommend eating it within a few days or else it goes bad. No need for botulism here!

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Since I will be in Costa Rica next week through the weekend, I won’t be able to post my regularly scheduled blog but I am going to try to continue making daily updates to my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so you can peep my adventures there.

Hope you enjoy and have fun cooking!

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cashew cauliflower rice & week 2 of my whole 30

week2-bld-whole30
Some highlights from this past week (left to right):
Breakfast – Two pastured eggs, basted medium, over a bed of kale sauteed in coconut oil and cashew cauliflower rice;
Lunch – A salad of organic spinach greens, steamed yams, shredded beets and purple cabbage, plum tomatoes, pepitas, and baked chicken breast tenders tossed in my savory herb vinaigrette (sans the tamari);
Dinner – Seared ahi tuna steaks smothered in sunshine sauce over a bed of cashew cauliflower rice with a side of steamed broccoli and plum tomatoes.

Second week of my Whole 30 is behind me and I have to admit, it was tougher than my first week.

The most difficult thing about this week was my digestion. I took solace in the fact that this was to be expected – as the Hartwigs mention in their book, It Starts With Food, it can take a couple weeks or more for the body to get “fat adapted” and in the meantime there can be various side effects including digestive issues. However, now as I round the corner into my third week, things are moving along smoothly (pun intended).

Speaking of noticeable benefits this past week, I’ve had super steady energy throughout my long work days, I’ve been sleeping like a rock, and waking up early without my alarm… loving it!

Over the past week, I’ve received several requests for my cashew cauliflower rice recipe so here it is – so incredibly simple, delicious, and a great base for sauces and other gooey things (like runny eggs), you can spice it up any which way you like by adding other spices, herbs, veggies, or even dried fruit to satiate your sweet tooth.

cashew cauliflower rice-ingredients
Cashew Cauliflower Rice
tweaked from a Well Fed recipe

Prep time: 2 minutes
Ready in: 25 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

1 head of cauliflower
1 cup of raw cashews
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
dash of salt
sprinkle of pepper

    • Break up the head of cauliflower into florets and blend in food processor for 15 seconds on low, then another 5-10 seconds on medium or high – just until it reaches a grainy looking consistency. Be careful not to over blend or else it will get mushy.
    • Toast the cashews in a hot cast iron skillet or heavy pan turning every 30 seconds until nice and brown – about 5 minutes.
    • Add the coconut oil, letting it melt, then add the cauliflower and sautée on high heat stirring every minute or so until some of the moisture cooks out and it starts to get toasty – about 15 minutes.
    • Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Seriously, it’s that easy! If you’re prepping for the week, it keeps super well in the fridge and reheats nicely and gets even more toasty after just a couple minutes in a skillet on the stovetop – no additional oil necessary!

Check out my daily Whole 30 updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and have fun cooking!

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cashew cauliflower rice
As always, your thoughts and questions are welcomed in the comments section below.

lemony kale and quinoa salad

I love winter in San Francisco and all the food that’s in season!

kale lemons parsley

I heard a knock at my door the other day and when I opened it, no one was there, but sitting on my doorstep was a gift bag of lemons. My neighbors are the best.

Shortly after that, I went to the grocery store to find that organic lacinato (dinosaur) kale was on sale – 2 bunches for $3 – such a great deal! I grabbed two of those, came home, picked some parsley which is growing like a weed (among the weeds) in my backyard and whipped up this savory salad recipe.

And for a little comic relief where lemons are involved:

Ha!

Lemony Kale and Quinoa Salad

Prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 30 minutes
Serves 6 as a side dish

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1½ cup rinsed quinoa
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1½ teaspoon sea salt
3 cups water
1 bunch dinosaur kale, cut into chiffonade (about 4 cups)
zest of 2 lemons
juice of those 2 lemons
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon real maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
more sea salt to taste

  • Mince the garlic and put aside ¼ of it for the dressing.
  • Heat a heavy pot over medium heat for 15 seconds add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil shimmers (in 15-30 seconds), add the remaining ¾ of the minced garlic and let it “sweat” for 1 minute. Add rinsed quinoa, turmeric, and 1 teaspoon of salt, and stir to coat. Toast for 30 seconds
  • Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes — do not stir. When time’s up, remove the pot from the burner and fluff with a fork, then leave uncovered for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, “massage” the kale with ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl for a minute (kale will shrink in volume). Squeeze the kale and discard the juices that come out of it.
  • In a glass measuring cup, add ¼ cup olive oil, the lemon zest and juice, maple syrup, dijon mustard, black pepper and parsley and whisk together.
  • Add quinoa to the bowl with the kale, cover with dressing, and stir it all together. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

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lemony kale and quinoa salad 014

As always, your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section below.

strozzapreti aka amaze balls

Amaze Balls In Your Mouth

Strozzapreti is an Italian dish I learned while working in a Tuscan guesthouse under the direction of an amazing cook. These spinach and cheese dumplings make great appetizers and as I found out this past weekend, a spectacular brunch item. I brought this dish to a ladies potluck brunch and as you can see from the picture above, it was a hit! All the ladies loved them and they have aptly changed the name from strozzapreti to “amaze balls”. I have to agree, they are pretty amazing. You can’t help but want to put at least one or two of these balls in your mouth. Speaking of which:

Strozzapreti literally translates to “priest choker”. I cannot confirm the story behind their name other than the possibility that they are so delicious, if eaten too quickly, one might choke. Or perhaps it’s because they are sinfully delicious? Oh yes, that could definitely be it…

For this recipe, I use frozen spinach and I have been asked if fresh spinach could be used instead. I’m sure it can be however I’ve personally never done it. The recipe calls for 3 pounds which is quite a voluminous fresh amount. Also, the spinach mixture can’t exude too much moisture or else the balls will fall apart before they make it in your mouth! I have tried making these gluten free, using rice flour, and they paled in comparison to the original. If anyone successfully adapts this recipe using fresh spinach or finds a comparable gluten free alternative, I’d love to learn your strategy!

For the sake of ease, I use three 1 pound bags of frozen spinach and take them out of the freezer to thaw at least 8 hours before I start prepping. This recipe is really quite easy and fun, especially if you like getting your hands covered in gooey goodness!

prepping the strozzapreti

Strozzapreti aka Amaze Balls

Prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: 35 amaze balls

3 pounds of thawed (previously frozen) spinach
3 cloves chopped garlic
15 ounces fresh ricotta
1 pastured egg
½ cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup chopped fresh sage
8 ounces grass fed butter
2 cups fresh shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put thawed spinach into a colander and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

Transfer the spinach to a large mixing bowl and add the chopped garlic, ricotta, egg, bread crumbs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Using a spoon, stir until well combined.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish and using your hands, roll the mixture into 1¾” balls and place them in pan. Usually, I can perfectly fit about 35 balls in a dish.

After all your balls are rolled and ready, put the dish in the oven and set your timer to 35 minutes.

In the meantime, chop the sage, shred the parm, and cube the butter. When about 10 minutes remain, add the sage and butter to a saucepan over medium heat and stir until butter is melted.

After the 35 minutes is up, remove the dish from the oven, spoon the sage butter mixture evenly over the balls, and then cover with shredded parmesan. Return the dish to the oven and bake for 15 more minutes.

When time’s up, remove the dish from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes.

You can enjoy them as is or eat them atop a slice of ciabatta bread. Either way, enjoy them to the last buttery drop!

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strozzapreti out of the oven

simple spicy sesame green beans

spicy sesame green beans close up
I love green beans! Growing up eating them exclusively out of a can, when I discovered their fresh flavor, I was forever a convert. I will gladly never eat them out of a can again. So long jolly green bland beans…

Right after Thanksgiving is a great time to score a sweet deal on fresh green beans, also called string beans or French beans if your British (Wait, what?). They’re high in fiber, rich in Vitamin A, and full of antioxidants. They are a delicious snack eaten raw, and they are naturally fat free. Can I get a heck yes?!

This recipe is super easy and fast, makes a fantastic side dish, and the spiciness is a nice departure from the casseroles of recent weeks.

Simple Spicy Sesame Green Beans

Prep time: 3 minutes
Ready in: 12 minutes
Serves 4 as a side dish

1 pound green string beans
2 medium size cloves chopped garlic
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
3 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons sesame oil

Rinse and trim the ends of the green beans and steam in a covered pot with 2 inches of water or steamer basket for 8 minutes.

Totally unrelated, check this out for a laugh and a sing along while your beans are steaming:


Jim Henson was a genius! Don’t you think?

Okay, now back to the beans…

After 8 minutes transfer to a heavy skillet over medium heat and quickly add the remaining ingredients in descending order and sauté on high heat for one minute.

Remove from heat and serve.

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spicy sesame green beans serving

Tis the season for green beans and the Muppets. Ode to Joy!

Your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section below.

nutty roasted brussel sprouts


Wondering what you can contribute to Thanksgiving dinner? Well, look no further and give thanks for this super easy and incredibly delicious recipe.

Seriously nutty, this roasted brussel sprout dish not only has pecans but also the cheesy nuttiness of nutritional yeast which is high in Vitamin B and makes this vegan dish complete with protein!

In case you haven’t had it before, nutritional yeast is the bom yum sauce! You can add it to a host of other foods to make them savory and more vitamin packed with amino acids for you. I personally like it on my popcorn with a dash of cayenne and it really makes my veggie stir fry pop with flavor. It’s golden yellow in color, you can find it in the bulk section of most every natural foods store, or it is abundantly available to buy online.

Nutty Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Prep time: 10 minutes
Ready in: 1 hour
Serves 4 as a side dish

1 pound whole brussel sprouts
1 medium red onion (about 1½ cups)
4 ounces raw pecan halves (about ¾ cup)
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Rinse brussel sprouts, trim the ends, slice in half and place in a single layer in a casserole dish.
Slice the onion into wedges and add to the brussel sprouts along with the pecans.

Sprinkle the spices and nutritional yeast evenly over the dish and drizzle with olive oil. Mix the ingredients together using a spoon or spatula, return them to an even layer in the dish, and pop it in the oven.

Roast for 45 minutes, checking and mixing the ingredients every 15 minutes.

When it’s time, remove the dish from oven, let cool for at least 5 minutes then serve.

Enjoy!

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Giving thanks to you for checking out this recipe!

I wish you a terrific turkey day and like nutritional yeast, stay golden~