Dairy

Low Carb Gluten-Free Lasagna

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We are both suckers for lasagna. Rich, creamy, and comforting, what’s not to love? Lasagna is on the top of hubby’s favorite dishes. But we have been both watching how much pasta we eat and spend on since lasagna noodles are a bit on the pricey side. That is why we seldom have lasagna for dinner. For some reason, I couldn’t ignore my craving for lasagna. Eggplant was the perfect solution for a low carb dinner idea. It took some convincing for hubby to be on board with the idea of using eggplant in lieu of noodles. He eventually came around. Most people I know are very fussy over heavily eggplant dishes but thankfully there weren’t any complaints. ¬†In fact, I earned a lot of approval with this gluten free lasagna version and therefore I am delighted to share my eggplant lasagna recipe with y’all ūüôā

Even if you normally don’t like eggplant, I am hoping that this eggplant lasagna recipe is exceptional. I’ve had other gluten-free options but rice, corn, quinoa, and buckwheat pasta is expensive – even more so than regular pasta. And they are not readily available at my local health food stores. If you have a serious aversion to eggplant, you can use other gluten-free alternatives. I ,however, am trying to watch my waistline and felt I had more than my fair share of carbs for this week. ¬†This gluten free eggplant lasagna dish is satisfying but not too heavy. It comes close to what you would expect from a authentic classic Italian lasagna but without the excess amount of carbs. If you want a vegan option for this eggplant lasagna recipe, you can omit the cheese entirely or use a vegan substitute.

If you are trying to encourage your kids to incorporate more vegetables in their diet, this eggplant lasagna recipe is the perfect solution. Eggplant or not, who doesn’t love a home-cooked lasagna? What difference does it make which preparation method you decide to use when making lasagna? Even though eggplant hasn’t entirely replaced pasta for me, it’s a healthier substitute. I desperately wanted to have some lasagna and I didn’t regret using eggplant instead of pasta. Don’t judge me ūüėČ

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 eggplants sliced 1/4 ” thick
  2. 4 tablespoons of olive oil divided
  3. 1 onion chopped
  4. 3 cloves of garlic minced
  5. 1 carton of mushrooms sliced
  6. 1 package of fresh spinach stems removed
  7. Marinara sauce (you can make your own to monitor the sodium content)
  8. 2 lbs of ground meat of your choice (I used vegan ground beef as it cooks faster)
  9. 15 ounces of low fat ricotta or cottage cheese of your choice
  10. 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  11. 1 cup of skim Mozzarella cheese
  12. Salt and fresh ground pepper

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place sliced eggplant in on a baking sheet. Lightly brush eggplant with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes or until tender.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and saute till translucent.  Add minced garlic and saute for another two minutes. Add the vegetables and saute until tender. Add the ground meat and sauce and cook  for 5-10 minutes. Mix Parmesan cheese and ricotta cheese in a separate bowl. Layer the lasagna in a greased baking dish in the following order: sauce, cheese mixture, eggplant, cheese mixture, sauce and then top with Mozzarella and  cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Yields 10 servings

 

 

 

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Onion Garlic Parmesan Rolls

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Parmesean Rolls

A dinner is incomplete without warm fresh dinner rolls. I very seldom bake and serve dinner rolls but I was veering towards freshly baked onion garlic Parmesan rolls to go with a soup I had made. Plus I had a surplus of fresh Parmesan cheese. The inspiration behind this particular Parmesan dinner roll recipe came from a batch of buttery dinner rolls that a friend baked and served at a meal weeks ago.The rolls were incredibly soft and rich, I was yearning for some more. But rather than using an excess amount of butter, I used Parmesan cheese in these rolls flavored with a bit of onion and garlic.

As reiterated before, I don’t make bread or rolls that often primarily due to the lack of time. When I miraculously dedicate some time to make them once in a blue moon, it is a special treat and they don’t last around long enough to be immensely enjoyed to the fullest. Plus I have my waistline to ¬†consider but I will splurge from time to time when I feel I have earned it. I absolutely love baking bread and related goods. I enjoy working with flour and yeast. ¬†At first, I thought baking bread was tedious and too labor intensive. The longer I have been working with these ingredients, the more my attitude towards bread baking started to evolve.

I am very particular towards my homemade breads. I can’t get enough of their yeasty goodness. I find baking with flour and yeast to be very relaxing, therapeutic, and satisfying – all which are abruptly negated by the very dizzying, stressful, and tension-inducing moment when I realize the exuberant mess I created from baking rolls and all sorts of bread. Thankfully, these moments are not that frequent ¬†as I try to keep the mess to the bare minimum. I’ve learned to be very neat and organized in my kitchen but not all mishaps are avoidable.

Every bite of these rich, delectable, flavorful onion garlic Parmesan dinner rolls were worth the aggravation and mess. And when I complained about nearly going insane from having a lot of Parmesan cheese earlier? I take that back. Now I have to run out and buy more Parmesan cheese from using all of them up on these dinner rolls. I will hold my tongue before I gripe about having too much cheese in the house (so long as they have not reached past their expiration date as spoiled cheese or anything dairy is a pet peeve of mine).

 

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  2. 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar divided
  3. 1/2 cup of warm water or low fat milk
  4. 1 cup of whole wheat bread flour or spelt flour
  5. 1 1/3 cup of bread flour
  6. 1/4 cup of olive oil
  7. 6 tablespoons of Earth Balance butter
  8. 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  9. 1 head of garlic roasted and peels removed
  10. 1 onion chopped and caramelized
  11.   1/2 cup of shredded and grated Parmesan cheese (leave some aside to sprinkle on top of rolls)

Instructions

In a small mixing bowl, combine the yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, and milk/water. Give a stir and set aside for 5-10 minutes allowing the yeast to bubble. In another bowl, combine flours with salt and the remaining tablespoon of sugar.  Mix yeast mixture in the flour.  Place onions, garlic, butter, and oil in a food processor and process till smooth. Fold the onion garlic mixture into the dough. Add the Parmesan cheese.  Mix and knead the dough on low speed with a dough hook, if using a mixer, for up to 3 minutes. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes, covered. This method allows the dough to gain more strength and elasticity.  Divide the dough into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a greased muffin tin. Brush top of each roll with olive oil. Sprinkle top with Parmesan cheese, a bit of garlic and onion powder if you like. Place rolls in a draft-free zone and allow them to rise for 35 minutes or until doubled in size.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Yields 12 rolls

 

 

Grasshopper Cheesecake

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mint cheesecake

Just because Shavuot (Festival of Weeks) have ended doesn’t mean it’s too late to have some cheesecake. While I don’t need a special reason to eat cheesecake, Shavuot definitely gives me an incentive. I was cruising through cheesecake ideas up till the weeks leading to Shavuot and I found one that struck my fancy…..well, I found several that were just as tantalizing¬†but I had to narrow it down to one. ¬†Otherwise my kitchen would have turned into a cheesecake factor which wouldn’t have necessarily been a bad thing. Growing up with minty desserts among other delicious homemade dishes, I wanted to make a cheesecake for hubby that hit close to home. Considering that mint and chocolate are one of his favorite combinations in a dessert, I felt that this chocolate mint cheesecake recipe – a.k.a. grasshopper cheesecake would be highly appreciated in my household. The concept of a mint chocolate cheesecake was unique to me. ¬†I suppose I do owe Girl Versus Dough for the inspiration.

As delicious as the original recipe was, I created a lighter version for the sake of my waistline and for the reputation of this blog. Heavy cream, loads of eggs, excess amount of sugar, and cream cheese high in fat shouldn’t be the ingredients that¬†define a good cheesecake. This post is not meant to criticize those who do. I tend to have a preference towards a dense cheesecake such as a New York style cheesecake but am willing to make some sacrifices once in a blue moon. You are almost guaranteed¬†to taste the same flavors in my chocolate mint cheesecake recipe as you would expect from the original recipe. You can also expect a chocolate mint cheesecake that is just as rich, smooth, and creamy. ¬†The only thing I would have done differently was to have made another cheesecake or minimally another dairy dessert. Even though it was only the 4 of us, the cheesecake was polished off within minutes. I always worry about not making enough to feed everyone no matter how much cooking I do and there was a shortage in the dessert department considering that cheesecake is a delicacy to us.

 

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 9 inch low-fat chocolate graham craker pie crust
  2. 12 oz of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  3. 1 package of low-fat or skim cream cheese softened
  4. 1/2 cup of low-fat or skim ricotta cheese
  5. 1 1/3 cup of granulated sugar divided
  6. 2 eggs or 1 egg and 2 egg whites at room temperature
  7. 1/3 cup of brewed coffee
  8. 1 cup of low-fat sour cream
  9. 1/4 cup creme de menth
  10. Whipped cream and chocolate shavings for garnish (optional)

Instructions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place prepared pie crust in the oven and bake for 15 minutes to set. In the meantime, melt chocolate chips in a microwave or over a double boiler. In a shallow bowl, blend cream cheese, ricotta cheese, 2/3 cup of sugar, and coffee in a bowl. Beat in eggs and add chocolate. Carefully pour the filling on top of the pre-baked crust and spread into an even layer. Bake 20 minutes until filling is just set in the center and the edges puff slightly. While the cake is baking, mix sour cream, cream de menthe and the remaining sugar in a bowl unti smooth. Carefully pour the sour cream mixture on top of the cheesecake and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Once done, transfer cheesecake to a rack to cool. Once fully cooled, cover and chill at least 4 hours or overnight. Garnish top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, if/as desired.

Yields 8-10 servings

 

Oven-Baked Fish Cakes

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fish cakes

A good fish patty is hard to come by and store bought fish cakes were never really an option for me. Like most pre-cooked frozen packaged items, they are full of chemicals and artificial flavorings. Not only are homemade fishcakes tastier by many miles, they are much healthier too. It mostly depends on the quality and quantity of the ingredients you use as well as the preparation methods. For this particular fish cake recipe, I used fresh boneless fish fillets rather than canned fish. I much prefer to cook with fresh ingredients as they guarantee more flavor. I used salmon and bass but any boneless fish will work fir this recipe.  I borrowed and modified this recipe from a cookbook that required loads amount of butter and cream. I made and served these fish cakes over Passover and therefore I used matzo meal in lieu of bread crumbs.

With all things said, this fish cake recipe is dairy since I used yogurt but you can use mayonnaise as well. I doubled the recipe with the intentions of having enough leftovers for me to eat for lunch during the week. The inevitable happened; I miscalculated the amount of fish cakes I made so the idea of having leftover fish cakes was just mere wishful thinking, much to my chagrin. Crispy and light, these fish cakes can be served as a summery appetizer or for lunch and dinner.  Learning how to make fish cakes from scratch using fresh fish is not as daunting as it seems. I used to make a huge mess with canned fish primarily because they tend to be more watery and therefore boneless fresh fish was easier for me to work with.

Since this was my first time making fish cakes, I  went in search of perfection in my quest to pack flavour and texture into fish cakes without relying on copious amount of saturated fat. By cross-referencing two recipes and modifying the ingredients as well as measurements, I alternatively found the one that was satisfactory. If you are not serving these fish cakes immediately, they are terrific to have on hand in the freezer. You can take out as many or little as you need. Simply defrost them in your refrigerator and they will be ready for you to cook the next day. If you like, serve these fish cakes with your favorite tartar sauce.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 boneless salmon fillets
  2. 2 haddock, sole, or cod fillets
  3. 1 onion chopped
  4. 2 tablespoons of olive oil plus more for drizzling
  5. 1/2 cup of dry white wine (you can use semi-dry)
  6. 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley chopped
  7. Juice from one small lemon
  8. 1/2 cup of whole wheat breadcrumbs (you can use a gluten-free equivalent) plus more for dunking
  9. 1/3 cup of mayonnaise or low fat yogurt of your choice.
  10. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add wine. Cut fish into cubes and add them to the pan. Cover skillet, turn off flame, and allow them to cook for 3-4 minutes. In a large shallow bowl, mix yogurt and lemon juice together. Add fish and onions to the mixture. Pour in bread crumbs. Add parsley, salt, and pepper and mix well till incorporated. Form to 10 or 12 patties. Dunk each disk in a small bowl of bread crumbs. Place patties on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until crispy.

Yields 10-12 patties

 

Basic Millet Porridge

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When I think of porridge, I cognitively associate it with Goldilocks and Three Bears.¬†Thankfully, I never had an issue of someone breaking into my house to eat my breakfast. Although, I’ve encountered people complaining about not having what to eat for breakfast. If I were to create my own version of the story, it would illustrate Goldilocks as the housekeeper for the Three Bears who woke up one morning to finding nothing that they like to eat for breakfast. Goldilocks suggested making a millet porridge for them in which they agreed. She made sure that the porridge was neither too hot too cold, too bland, or too flavorful. Baby Bear wanted some fresh fruit served with his porridge while Pappa Bear and Mama Bear wanted to top their porridge with toasted nuts. ¬†Goldilocks made it just right and the Three Bears decided to permanently hire her as their housekeeper. ¬†Goldilocks made sure that breakfast was readily available for them the first thing in the morning ¬†for the sake of her job and survival. ¬†I suppose I am both the Three Bears and Goldilocks in this story. Thank God, it doesn’t take much to impress a household of growling bellies.

Millet is an ancient seed, originating from Africa and northern China. ¬†It remains a staple in the diets of about a third of the world’s population to this very day. Rich in iron, B vitamins and calcium, millet has a mild corn flavor and is naturally gluten-free. At first glance, you might be tempted to think that raw millet resembles much like birdseed. But these little yellow bead like grains have a really lovely and light texture when cooked, are relatively quick-cooking because of their small size, and are incredibly versatile in dishes ranging all the way from breakfast to dinner.

As someone who is new to cooking millet, it took be a bit of trial and error to perfect it the first found.  I recently started eating millet and I had to rely on the imprinted cooking instructions on the package it get it right. I I made rice pudding before, how hard can making millet porridge be? I gave it a whirl and  the end result is like a mix between polenta and cream of wheat.  This porridge thicker than cream of wheat but creamier and softer than polenta.  The flavor is light and nutty and totally devourable without a single topping.  I thought it would need some cut up fresh fruit on top to sweeten or a honey drizzle but it was perfect all on its own for my taste buds. Okay, so I did splash in some vanilla extract and season it with cinnamon. I truthfully find this breakfast idea much more comforting and satiating than a bowl of oats and perfect for the cold snap that hit us this season.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1/3 cup of millet
  2. 3/4 cup of water
  3. 1/2 cup of low fat milk of your choice
  4. 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  5. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  6. Pinch of salt
  7. 2 tablespoons of raisins or toasted nuts (optional)
  8. Maple syrup, honey, or other artificial sweetener to taste

Instructions

In a small saucepan, combine millet, water, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes without stirring. If the liquid is not completely absorbed, cook for 3-5 minutes longer, partially covered. Remove from heat. Top with raisins or nuts. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yields 1 serving

 

 

Farfalle Winter Squash Alfredo

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I like to dub Thursday Pasta Day because that is what I routinely serve for dinner on Thursdays. A bit of carbohydrates offsets the soups, fish, and light vegan dinners I have during the week. As a pasta fanatic, I always look forward to Thursday. While cheese is the most popular accompaniment farfalle dishes (or in any pasta dishes), I sometimes like to pair them with seasonal ingredients for a more wholesome meal. For instance, I sometimes serve pasta with tomatoes, eggplant, asparagus, summer squash, and corn during the Spring/Summer time. While some of those vegetables are still available during Autumn/Winter, heartier winter squashes make their way into farmers markets as well. I feel that autumn and winter produce makes some of the best inspiration for seasonal pasta dishes. When I recently started making an off-the-cuff farfalle dish such as sautéing onions and garlic in olive oil, I also sprinkled in some cinnamon and nutmeg along with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes for a kick. Then I will create an Alfredo sauce from leftover winter squash soup that I made earlier in the week. This shaped pasta made this pasta dish more intriguing to me.  If you are in need of pasta dinner ideas, give this autumn themed farfalle squash Alfredo a try.  Top it with some chopped walnuts for a bit of a crunch. Alfredo sauce is generally dairy but you can use non-dairy milk for a vegan friendly version.  If you felt that my Mac N Cheese recipe was a success, you are bound to enjoy this recipe.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 12 oz box of whole wheat farfalle (you can use any type of pasta you like)
  2. 2 cups of leftover winter squash soup or pureed squash/pumpkin
  3. 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  4. 8 sage leaves chopped (optional)
  5. 1 onion chopped
  6. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  7. 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  8. 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  9. 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
  10. 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  11. Salt and pepper for taste
  12. Handful of chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions

Cook farfalle according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until surface is shimmering slightly. Add sage leaves, onion and garlic and sauté until soft, 3-5 minutes.  Add winter squash soup. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Season with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt,  red pepper flakes and pepper. Add the pasta and stir until pasta is well coated. Serve pasta with additional Parmesan cheese and chopped walnuts.

Yields 6 servings

 

Spinach Ricotta Kugel

Posted on Updated on

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According to¬†one of Sholem Aleichem‚Äôs tales, Tevye the Dairyman praises his wife‚Äôs cooking. Noodle kugel is one of them. He claims that if you tasted her noodle kugel you would learn the meaning of paradise on earth. Good kugel ranks among life‚Äôs best pleasures, at least where I hail from. Anyhow, I promised a spinach ricotta kugel recipe would follow. So here it is. Despite the stereotypical delusions some of you may have of me, I don’t run a typical Jewish household. That doesn’t mean that I don’t tend to my chores of keeping the house clean and making sure that hubby has something to put in his belly after a long arduous day of work. I mean to say that I don’t cook and serve the “typical Jewish food”. I know kugel is one of them but a dairy kugel usually stands out of what’s considered to be traditional.

As hard as I try to fuse traditional food with contemporary culinary delights, sometimes my efforts prove to be futile so I don’t often bother. Plus my adventurous side and curiosity (a dangerous combination) gets the better of me and I am always eager to try something new. You can only make potato kugel in so many different ways but there is always a variety of dairy kugel recipes; most of which are sweet.¬† Modernizing kugel is one way to make the dish more appealing to the generation of younger men and women who like to avoid what they consider heavy, fatty, old-fashioned Jewish dishes and are unafraid of new ingredients and flavors like yours truly.¬† This time, I present to you a spinach ricotta kugel recipe which serves well with fish and a glass of white wine. I used frozen spinach and onions but you can add any vegetables you want. I thought about throwing in some mushrooms but they were nowhere within my reach.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 8 oz of egg noodles or fine noodles
  2. 2 cups of low-fat or skim ricotta cheese
  3. 2 cups of plain low or non-fat yogurt
  4. 1 cup of skim shredded cheese divided
  5. 1 onion chopped
  6. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  7. 1 lbs package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained well
  8. 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped basil
  9. 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  10. 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne or chili powder
  11. Paprika
  12. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook noodles until “al dente” and rinse with hot water and drain well. Set aside.¬† In the meantime, saute onions in a cast iron skillet over medium heat till translucent. Add garlic and saute for another two minutes. Add spinach and saute for 5-7 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, yogurt, and a 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Add noodles, herbs and vegetables and mix well. Season with salt pepper, and chili powder. Transfer mixture to a greased 9″ X 13″ baking dish. Sprinkle top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and paprika. Bake for 45 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Yields 4-6 servings