Healthier Eggplant Parmagiana

healthier eggplant parmagiana

I consider eggplant parmagiana to be the ultimate comfort food. I love the creamy richness of a pan-fried-then-oven-baked eggplant, combined with a crispy, oily crumb coat. Add red sauce, cheese, and a heaping plate of pasta and I’m in heaven.

However, I made some big changes to what I eat recently, which I mentioned in this post. I read Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before Six, caught up on some basic nutritional science, and did my own research on how the food we eat affects our wellbeing. I’ve always been a vegetarian, but I finally gave up dairy, cut out hyper-processed starches and sugars, and started eating more whole fruits and veggies.

healthier eggplant parmagiana

Between the cheesy topping and the heap of pasta underneath, eggplant parmagiana is everything I aim not to eat now.

I remade this dish to fit some new guidelines. What’s left is eggplant, thickly sliced, creamy as ever, coated in almond meal “breadcrumbs” and cooked to a crisp in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Layered with tomato sauce, baked to creamy perfection. And served, as one of my favorite Italian restaurants does it, wonderfully pasta-less.

[I don’t subscribe to the paleo lifestyle, but if you do, this recipe is also for you, fitting every paleo guideline I can think of.]

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Mango Citrus + Strawberry Watermelon Smoothies // Changes Are Afoot

strawberry watermelon smoothie

I made some big changes to my diet recently. I stopped eating dairy. I filled up my meals with fruits and vegetables. I cut down on the starchy, carb-y, flour-based things that used to make up most of my meals. I added some whole grains, and swapped out refined sugars for honey.  I don’t spend any more time cooking than I used to, but I feel so much better. More energetic. Happier, knowing that I’m only putting the very best into my body. These simple changes have made my life a whole lot better. It’s only fair that my blog reflects those changes— from here on out, the recipes featured on here will be fresher, brighter, and lighter. It’s not that there will never be another oozy, gooey, cheesy dish on here, or that the cake recipes will all have to go. I still eat those things on occasion, and I will continue posting them. But the majority of dishes will be the healthier fare that I eat daily.

strawberries and watermelon in blender

strawberry watermelon smoothie in a jar

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Hot Milk + Turmeric for a Sore Throat

hot milk + turmeric

It may seem strange to post a sore throat remedy during the first days of Spring. But just as I was beginning to enjoy the warmth and the extra hours of sunlight, I was hit by another bout of allergies. They’ve been acting up recently, and without rain to clear the air, this season has been especially bad. This morning I woke up with a dry, scratchy throat that even a good dose of Claritin couldn’t stop. 

My aunt passed down this recipe for an Indian sore throat remedy to me years ago. I’ve been using it ever since.  A mug of this turmeric-spiced milk first thing in the morning or shortly before bed brings almost instant relief. I like to make this drink piping hot, and sip it slowly. It soothes sore throat symptoms for 30 minutes to an hour after you drink it, depending on how bad symptoms are. Sometimes even longer, as in the case of these allergies. (I was cough-free for a full two hours after I drank this tonic.) When you’ve been suffering from a sore throat for few days, a simple hour or two of complete relief can be remarkably relaxing.

black pepper and turmeric

After browsing the modern-day research, my aunt’s recipe makes perfect sense. Turmuric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It’s been linked to lowered Alzheimer rates in certain countries, and researchers think it may be effective against cancers and arthritis. Compounds in black pepper (pipeline) help with the absorption of turmeric and curcumin, it’s main medically active component.

Regardless of the health claims, one thing’s for sure— it’s soothing and does the body good. Combined with honey to sooth the throat and black pepper to clear congestion, it works small miracles.

Depression-Era Dark Chocolate Cake

depression-era chocolate cake with whipped cream

This recipe dates back to the Great Depression, when resources were scarce and thrift was a way of life. It has gone by several names— “Crazy Cake,” “Wacky Cake,” and a few others. It’s a cake is made without eggs, milk, or butter. The ingredients list is full of pantry items, and cocoa is used instead of baking chocolate. You’d expect this cake to be dryer or denser than a normal chocolate cake. But it isn’t. It’s moist with a perfectly soft crumb.

sweetened whipped cream

This is my favorite chocolate cake. I love this cake because it is un-fussy. It can go from mixing bowl to oven to table in under an hour, served warm or cool. And I’ve never gotten a single complaint about flavor or texture. In fact, it’s one of my favorite no-fail chocolate cakes. And it improves after a day or two in the fridge. Since it keeps, it can be made ahead, or can be made in a larger batch to keep in the fridge. Wrap it in cling wrap, making sure the plastic is touching any cut edges. Simple toppings like whipped cream and fresh fruit go far, and frosting is definitely optional (but never discouraged).

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Kale Garlic Pasta with Parmesan

kale garlic pasta with parmesan

The last week and a half has been incredibly busy. I’m in the middle of midterms-and-papers-and-readings season. I spend my mornings in class and my afternoons studying. The to-do list is never exhausted, and it’s a rare day when everything I set out to do is accomplished before midnight. On days like these, what breaks the monotony is coming home for lunch. I love cooking something satisfying in the middle of my day. I get to leave behind whatever I’ve been studying for a little while, and return to my work refreshed. 

garlic

The requirements are for the dish I choose to make are strict. It must be something that I can make in 30 minutes or less, but it must also be hearty enough to pull me through the afternoon.

This kale pasta does just that, and I made it twice last week alone. Crisp and bitter kale is paired with rich, buttery pasta. Salty, savory, and satisfying enough for a midday meal. I imagine it would make a great quick dinner, too.

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Homemade Marshmallows

homemade marshmallows

I have been on the quest for the perfect homemade marshmallow for months. I’ve always been a sucker for the jet-puffed variety, but when I tried artisan marshmallows from a local store, I was absolutely hooked.

hot cocoa with homemade marshmallows

I set about trying to figure out how to make a batch this good at home. I tried the smitten kitchen recipe, hoping it would yield a springy marshmallow without my having to use a stand mixer (I didn’t own one). The results were good, but not great. The marshmallows sweated in the refrigerator, turning the cornstarch and powdered sugar coating crunchy and resulting in a slightly sticky mess. A month or so later, I tried to make a batch of the Baked marshmallows, with powdered gelatin and an electric hand whisk. Failed again, this time too dense, jelly-like, and still watery.

Both of my marshmallow failures were probably due to a lack of equipment. Perhaps a stand mixer would have made my life easier. However, I wanted a recipe that was simple, and that I could make with the equipment I had at home. I was beginning to think I was out of luck, and that marshmallow making should be left to the pros.

Enter the Alton Brown marshmallow recipe. It produced perfect, springy, soft-but-not-sticky marshmallows on the first try. These were marshmallows I could eat every day, for the rest of my life. And while my first attempts at marshmallow-making had been daunting, I had learned the basic steps by now— it was easy. I used my electric hand whisk and stainless steel bowl in place of a stand mixer, and checked my sugar by hand as it cooked down (without a thermometer). I still had excellent results. You will get fluffier marshmallows with a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, though, so use one if you have it!

A Broccoli Soup for Early Spring

early spring broccoli soup

Most of the broccoli soups I’ve had in my life have been cream of broccoli, broccoli and cheddar, or something else heavy and salty. They’ve always been too much for me. Too rich, too unbalanced. Then, last week, the guys at The Bitten Word made a post about the Vegetarian Times’ Sesame-Ginger Broccoli Soup. This got me thinking of pairing broccoli with flavors that lift it up instead of weighing it down. I loved the concept– an easy soup to keep you warm, with fresh flavors.

This is a riff on that recipe. I’ve taken out the sesame and soy flavors, mellowed out the ginger, and added some citrus for acidity. All of the broccoli gets pureed, meaning the soup is entirely smooth, not chunky. This is a soup that tastes like broccoli, and not anything else, while hitting all the same notes– clean, light, and refreshing.

fresh ginger

This soup is one that’s perfect for the warmer weather of early spring. It gets brightened up with a little bit of ginger (you’ll barely taste it) and more than a little bit of lemon juice (you’ll definitely taste it). Using both the broccoli florets and the stalk gives the soup a light green color.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie, from Cook's Illustrated/ America's Test Kitchen

It should come as no surprise that these cookies are featured in my first blog post. These are the cookies that I have been making for years, regularly and often, sometimes for myself and sometimes to fill requests from friends and family members. This is a recipe that I swear by. Sometimes I even keep a little extra cookie dough in the freezer, for those chocolate-chip-cookie-craving emergencies.

This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated, and the title is theirs: “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies.” And, if you ask me, they are.

Browned butter brings depth of flavor to these cookies. The aroma alone is incredible. The dough is sweet, but balanced by a touch of salt and high-quality semisweet chocolate chips. And while the recipe may have a few more steps than the typical cookie, the ingredients are ones you’ll probably have at home, and the few extra minutes of work are worth it.

Last weekend, the Bay Area was hit with some pouring rain. Rain was much-needed after months of drought, but after a few days of drizzle, the gloom set in. This was the view from my kitchen window:
rainy northern california weather

To make the most of the weather, I went on a rainy-day walk. These cookies made the perfect snack after. I mailed a few to my little sister for Valentine’s Day, and she loved them, too.

Keep reading for the recipe:

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