You know what most people are missing in there diets? Vegetables. (You were hoping I’d say pizza or chocolate, right?)
Somehow, vegetables get a bad wrap when we’re kids, and then we have to learn to love them as we get older. In my opinion, if you don’t think you like most vegetables, you just haven’t had them a way you like them.
Think of vegetables the same way you think of chicken. You don’t like chicken every way it’s served, but you probably like it at least one way.
The great thing about vegetables is that you can pretty much stuff your face with them and, assuming they aren’t fried or doused in butter, your body will only benefit.
From the recipe below, you might conclude that I’m into the Atkins diet, but you would be very wrong.
Our adult bodies don’t need as much starch as our bodies did when we were kids because we aren’t in building-mode anymore; however, carbohydrates are an amazing energy source and should not be completely omitted from your diet.
My approach to carbohydrates is to give them a supporting role rather than a leading role in meals. If I’m having a sandwich, I move all the insides over to one half of the bread. If I’m making pasta, I use a handle full of pasta to a pot full of meat and veggies. Using less noodles isn’t an option in a dish like lasagna because they are part of it’s structure; but, eggplant, zucchini or even portabello mushrooms are sturdy enough to make a delicious, healthy substitute for noodles.
Aside from the positive nutrition exchange going from noodles to veggies, the switch out also adds flavor and will fill you up faster. Noodles on their own don’t have much flavor, and your body doesn’t have to spend much time processing them during digestion. Vegetables, on the other hand, are full of fiber and flavor on their own.
Below is the exact recipe I used to make this dish last night. I tend to cook based on what’s on hand as opposed to planning out all my recipes. I never know what’s going to look fresh before I head to the store, so I just stock up on meat, vegetables and cheese, and then go from there. The kitchen is like my chemistry lab, but I get to wear cute aprons instead of a lab coat and goggles.
Variations for this recipe include, but are not limited to:
- doing a quick pan-fry with your eggplant slices instead of roasting them (be sure to blot, and use minimal breadcrumbs/flour – better yet, use almond flour);
- using zucchini/portabellos instead of/in addition to eggplant;
- adding other vegetables (mushrooms or carrots would be yummy);
- using mozzarella on top instead of or in addition to the parmesan;
- using another low-cal, low-sugar type of marinara – I only had 1/2 cup of prepared sauce in my fridge, so I had to add the other ingredients;
- omitting the meat.
Eggplant (Noodleless) Lasagna
- 2 large eggplants
- 8 oz ground meat
- 1/2 cup tomato-basil / marinara sauce
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup ricotta
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 3 egg whites
- 1 cup parmesan
- 1 Tbsp. dried Italian herbs
- 1 cup frozen spinach (partially defrosted)
- 2 tsp minced garlic
Preheat oven to 400/204.
Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch thick slices. Heavily spray a cookie sheet (you might need more than one) with olive oil. Spread your eggplant along the pan(s) and spray the top side with olive oil as well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 mins, flipping the eggplant halfway through the time. I spray the eggplant rather than tossing it in oil because eggplant is very absorbent and can soak up more oil than you want instead of being coated evenly when tossing.
Cook your ground meat, and add it to the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir and cook to simmering.
Combine ricotta, cottage cheese, 1/2 cup of grated parmesan, 3 egg whites, herbs, spinach and garlic.
Spray your lasagna dish and layer as follows: Half the tomato sauce mixture, layer of eggplant, ricotta mixture, eggplant, sauce, remaining cheese. If you have enough eggplant, you can do more layers and just ration the other mixtures accordingly.
Bake for 30 mins, or until the sauce is bubbly and the top cheese is a bit toasty.
This recipe is an adaptation from an Italian fagioli bean recipe I learned in a cooking class here. I changed it to be a full meal instead of a bean appetizer by adding chicken. I also used a mix of beans that are readily available in the states and was able to achieve the same awesome flavor. Some people serve it with pasta, but it doesn’t need it, and I’d rather have some freshly baked bread next to it if I’m going to add carbs.
It is ridiculously easy, and it got rave reviews in my house. As a bonus, the protein and fiber are extremely filling and hold you for a long time. This will definitely be entered into our dinner rotation!
Recipe as listed below serves 3 adults as an entrée, or more as an appetizer.
Beans, Chicken and Pancetta alla Italia
1/3 pound of pancetta (chopped into pieces)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1.5 tsp of minced garlic
2 large chicken breasts diced
1/2 bottle white wine
1 can red kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can tomato paste (with nothing added – they’re getting real fancy these days)
2 tsp dried basil (fresh is best, but dried works fine)
2 tsp red pepper (or to taste, but a bit of heat is nice for your taste buds and your metabolism)
salt and pepper to taste
Heat up first three ingredients in a skillet and add chicken. Cook partially through and add wine and beans. Cook another 3-5 minutes and add remaining ingredients. It’s ready when the liquid is thick and mostly reduced, but still saucy.
Sprinkle with a bit of fresh Parmesan and serve with fresh bread for dipping. Enjoy!