Thursday, August 9, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan!

Eggplant can naturally induce labor- Fact or Fiction? I don't know, but I will tell you that it's my absolute FAVORITE dish on the planet, so it's a win-win for me...either I go into labor or I don't, but regardless I get to eat an incredible meal. :)

As we're a week away from our due date, my amazing husband said we could go out to eat every night to a restaurant of my choosing. Monday, we went to the Pharmacy Burger Parlor in East Nashville. Their food is incredible, and they have a delicious selection of homemade sodas (I recommend the Lemon or Orange Creamsicle) and milkshakes.

Adam got a few sips of it. ;)

Tuesday night, I enjoyed an evening out with some of the girls. We went to Germantown Cafe, which was also amazing! Last night before church, Adam took me to a new trendy Mexican restaurant in Green Hills called Alegria. They have the best guacamole I think I've ever eaten. Tonight, we will be dining at Maggiano's Little Italy on West End, and tomorrow night he's treating me to Buca di Beppo. You can guess what I'll be eating at the last two...eggplant parmesan!!

Eating out is a hobby of sorts for us, but we also enjoy cooking. When I was thinking about what my first recipe post should be, it just seemed fitting to share my eggplant parmesan recipe with you! This recipe is completely vegan, but feel free to substitute in dairy products if that's more your speed.

Let's start with the sauce. That's right- we're making it from scratch (much less sodium than what you get from a jar, not to mention it's delicious)! I wish I could recall where I got this recipe, but the copy of it I have is not sited.

Yummy Red Sauce

2 TBSP coconut oil (comes in a jar, solid form, looks like lard but that's where the similarities end!)
1 finely diced onion
8 minced garlic cloves (4 tsp from a jar of pre-minced)
2 28-ounce cans organic crushed tomatoes (or you can crush fresh ones
1 6-ounce can organic tomato paste- not sure how many you'd need though)
2 TBSP fresh finely chopped basil
1 TBSP fresh finely chopped oregano
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 TBSP agave nectar (I use the amber one)

1. Heat the coconut oil in a large stockpot over medium-low heat.
2. Add the onion and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, without browning (6-8 minutes).
3. Add the garlic and continue stirring occasionally for 1 minute.
4. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, crank the heat to high, and bring it to a boil.
5. Remove from heat and stir in the basil, oregano, and salt.
6. Add the agave nectar (it adds a wonderful hint of sweetness).
7. Set aside to use with the eggplant in a few minutes, or refrigerate it if you're saving it for later. It keeps for about a week, and it freezes well.

Now for the eggplant parmesan recipe...remember it's totally fine to sub dairy in it if you are not a vegan. I cut out dairy because of my Sjogrens, and I couldn't even tell a difference in the taste, but go with whatever floats your boat!

Eggplant Parmesan

3/4 cup vegan Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (or substitute for gluten-free crumbs!)
1 TBSP garlic powder
2 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 tsp black or white pepper
1/2 cup rice or almond milk (get original- the vanilla one is a bit too sweet)
Several TBSP Coconut oil (just have the jar and a spoon on hand)
1 eggplant (about 1.5 lbs), cut crosswise into 1/2" slices
1 1/2 cups pasta sauce. . .or more if you like a lot of sauce (you can use store-bought if you don't want to make your own)
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil leaves
8 oz vegan shredded mozzarella cheese...or more if you like a lot of cheese! (I like to use the Veggie Shreds Parmesan, Mozzarella, & Romano mix)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Using paper towels, press the eggplant slices firmly on both sides to get rid of any extra moisture. Leave them on a paper towel until you're ready to cook them. (Don't skip this step!)
3. In a shallow bowl, combine the Parmesan, bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
4. In another bowl, pour the rice or almond milk.
5. Heat 3-4 tsp of coconut oil (enough to coat the bottom) of a 10-12" nonstick skillet over medium.
6. One at a time, dip the eggplant slices into the milk, then the dry mixture, pressing thoroughly to coat both sides. (If the dry mix isn't sticking, you can also try dipping them in egg whites instead of the milk for a thicker coating.)
7. Place the coated slices in the hot pan (preheating is a must for this step!) and cook about 3 minutes on each side, or until browned on the outside and tender on the inside. It will take a few batches to get all the eggplant browned- wipe out your skillet between each batch and apply a new layer of coconut oil to the base of the pan.

8. Place a layer of eggplant slices in the bottom of a 2-qt casserole dish. You can spray the bottom of your dish if you like- I have a great Pampered Chef Spritzer that I fill with extra virgin olive oil that's a great substitute for the cans of vegetable oil spray.

 9. Top the first layer with the sauce, spreading it evenly.
10. Top the sauce with the basil and your other cheese (either mozzarella or a mozzarella blend).
11. Repeat with a second layer of eggplant, sauce, basil, and cheese.

12. Bake until the sauce is hot and the cheese is melted and slightly browned, about 20 minutes. You can also top it off with mozzarella cheese slices if you like- it gives it a little thicker layer of cheesiness that I like- see my pic below.
13. Enjoy immediately!! Serve with your favorite garlic bread, fresh salad, and maybe even a side of pasta. I like to make quinoa pasta to go with it, topped with extra sauce.

I forgot to take a picture of it when it was "pretty" before I dug in!

Voila! Delicious, healthy eggplant parmesan. Even though the eggplant gets "fried" before going in the oven, everything it's cooked in is good for you! Who knew fried food could be good for the taste buds and the body?! If you try out this recipe, be sure to leave your comments below- I'd love to hear how yours turned out!

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