Avocado, Poached Eggs and Toast!

Welcome to my favorite new breakfast/lunch/post work-out/mid-day snack. It’s delicious, hearty and packed with protein. When I am at work and can’t cook eggs, the toast and avocado is a nice replacement. Enjoy!

poached-eggs-with-toast-avocado-hot-sauce

Ingredients:
1 tsp white vinegar
2 eggs
2 slices bread (I use whole wheat sprouted bread)
1/2 ripe avocado
balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
optional: hot sauce

To prepare the poached eggs, bring a pot of water to a boil and add a teaspoon of white vinegar. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. When water comes to a slow boil, create an eddy by swirling the water around with a spoon. Drop the eggs into the center of a pot and time 3 minutes.

In the meantime, toast the bread. Spread each side with avocado and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

When the eggs are done, pull them out of the water with a slotted spoon and drain off the excess water. Place one egg on each slice of toast. If desired, top with salt and pepper with hot sauce.

close-up-of-toast-with-eggs

Enjoy!

A Sweet and Savory St. Patrick’s Day Cabbage Alternative

St. Patrick’s Day is here again! I usually do cook a corned beef and cabbage, boiled together in a pot with red potatoes. I’m not Irish, but it is a fun and delicious tradition. This year, however, I decided to branch out. This very special recipe is actually one of my grandma’s. She helped me put it together and document every step in her beautiful and amazing kitchen. I am so lucky to have her to teach me these things and be patient while I photograph her rolling up cabbage about 50 times. This meal takes some time to come together, but its a fun one and definitely worth the elbow grease when you sit down to enjoy it. I think the secret is the subtlety sweet and sour bite of the tomato sauce. People will ask you what you put in here, your call whether you tell them or not.

Of course, no meal is complete without a fine music pairing. Check out Now Streaming’s latest Beats and Eats post featuring this dish for soundtrack and drink suggestions to make the meal complete.

Veggie Stuffed Cabbage
Makes 8-10 servings
total prep and cooking time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

sauce-

2 med onions, peeled and diced
extra virgin olive oil
2 28oz or 2 quart jars whole peeled tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, whole and peeled
sea salt and black pepper to taste
¼ cup brown sugar
juice of 1-1.5 fresh lemons

filling-
1 large head of green cabbage
1 whole onion, peeled and grated/food processed
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 whole egg, slightly beaten
1 cup brown rice, uncooked
sea salt and pepper to taste
optional twist: 1.5 lbs lean ground meat (beef, turkey and venison work great!)

First, get your cabbage cooking. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Score the cabbage around the stalk which will make it easier to remove the leaves later. Place the cabbage in boiling water and cook until soft, about 30-40 minutes. Rotate the cabbage a few times while cooking so that all sides are softened.
boiling green cabbage

While that is cooking you can prepare a quick tomato sauce. Heat about ¼ inch of olive oil in a saucepan and brown your onions for 5-7 minutes. Add both cans of tomatoes and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Once the sauce is warm and simmering, add the lemon juice, brown sugar, garlic, salt and pepper. This makes for a slightly sweet and tangy sauce that goes perfectly with the cabbage! Cover sauce and keep it cooking on low heat while you prep everything else.

cooking tomato sauce on the stovetop
Next, mix the stuffing for your cabbage rolls. In a large bowl, combine grated onion, salt and pepper, egg, and garlic. If using meat add that in now. For some extra goodness grate in any veggies you have in the house! Add uncooked rice and mix together with you hands. Everything should be well mixed but only work the stuffing as much as you have to or it will become dense.
mixed brown rice and ground beef for stuffed cabbage

The final step is stuffing the cabbage leaves. Remove the cabbage from the pot and let it cool slightly. However, the leaves are most pliable when they are warm so don’t let them cool too much. If they get stiff you can always soak them in the hot water a bit more.
cooked green stuffed cabbagePeel off the leaves one by one. If they are very big, trim them or cut them in half.

stuffed green cabbagePut a little stuffing on the bottom edge of the leaf (where it attaches to the stalk).
stuffing green cabbage
Carefully fold the leaf around the stuffing by folding in both sides and then rolling it tight from the bottom on.

photo 7 photo 8 photo 9Then place the role into the tomato sauce to simmer. You can layer them onto of each other and fill the pot. The sauce will cook up around them.

fresh stuffed cabbage simmering in the pot

When all the rolls are added, make sure the sauce is simmering. Cover and boil for an additional hour. If you have extra cabbage left, dice it up and throw that in the sauce too. If you have extra meat mixture, roll into little meatballs add those also.
fresh stuffed cabbage rolls cooking in tomato sauce homemade
This dish freezes and reheats well so make extra.
fresh homemade stuffed cabbage rolls ready for storage in the freezer
Enjoy and happy St. Patty’s Day!

Fresh and Clean Beats and Eats Guest Post

This week the homegrown tomato teamed up with Radio Stevie for a fun beats and eats feature on his music blog, Now Streaming.  My Fresh and Clean Shrimp tacos were inspired by Stevie’s soundtrack for the night. It was a blast working backwards and letting the music help me decide what to create.

This fun food, wine and music pairing is sure to please your Valentine, or make a fun night with a good friend. Read the entire post here and don’t forget to let us know what you think. Happy eating!

Image

Squeaky Clean Shepherd’s Pie

As I am posting this it is about 40 degrees, damp and misty outside. On a night when I am most likely staying in and watching a movie under blankets, it is equally important that the movie choice is perfect and I have some awesome comfort food in the oven. Here’s what is on the menu tonight:

Clean Venison Shepard’s Pie
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 small head of cauliflower
3 large carrots, peeled diced
1 small or 1/2 large onion, diced
1.5 lbs ground meat (I used venison but any ground meat works well)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 tbsp of fresh chopped herbs (I mixed Oregano, Parsley and Thyme)
1 tbsp parmesan or Romano cheese, finely grated
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of crushed red pepper

Preheat over to 375F. Cut cauliflower into 1-2″ chunks and lay out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Drizzle with olive oil and roast until tender and starting to brown, about 30 minutes. When it’s done, let it cool and then dice it into very small pieces. You can leave the oven on when you pull the cauliflower out.

chopped-roasted-califlower-for-shepards-pie-topping

While that is cooking, peel and dice your carrots into 1/2″ pieces. Boil them for about 10 minutes until they are soft, but do not have to be fully cooked, then drain.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large fry or sauté pan. Add onion and sauté on medium low heat until translucent. Add ground meat and turn up the heat to medium. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. When meat is brown and mostly cooked through, add the cooked carrots and corn and cook for a few more minutes. Remove from heat.

ground-venison-with-carrots-and-corn-shephards-pie

Combine 2 tbsp olive oil with chopped herbs and parmesan. Add a pinch each of black and red pepper. In a large bowl, toss chopped cauliflower with the mixture until coated.

Line a baking dish with ground meat mixture, about 1″ deep. Cover completely with cauliflower.

layering-venison-shephards-pie

Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes. Let stand a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Herb Roasted Chicken With Sweet Potatoes and Onions

When I was planting my new window garden, I had to trim a few of the herbs down so they would fit. This left me with a big bunch of fresh cut herbs just begging to be to chopped up and rubbed on something.

fresh-herbs-from-window-garden

I thought of a simple chicken dish my dad always makes, that I think he got from my Nona Rita. I gave him a quick call to double check what oven temperature should be, and funnily enough he was cooking the same dish. (I later found out that he put it in the oven too late and ended up ordering pizza that night so he could make an early movie he had tickets for.)

This dish normally calls for white potatoes, but I subbed in sweet potatoes because I already had some in the house. Very tasty both ways!

Herb Roasted Chicken With Sweet Potatoes and Onions
serves 2

Ingredients:
4 chicken tights, skin on
extra-virgin olive oil
2 small or 1 medium sweet potatoes
1 large onion
a handful of fresh herbs, chopped (any combination of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme)
sea salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp paprika

Preheat the over to 350F.

Cut the sweet potatoes, skin on, into 1-2″ chunks. Cut the onion into quarters or sixths.

Rinse each piece of chicken under cold water and pat dry. I use chicken with the skin on for extra flavor when cooking and so nothing dries out. If you don’t want to eat the skin you can always toss it later.

Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of your baking dish. Arrange the chicken with space in between to fit in the veggies. Then spread the sweet potatoes and onions around in between the chicken. If it doesn’t all fit in one pan, arrange in two smaller pans.

Drizzle the top with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Then finish with chopped herbs.

roasted-chicken-with-onions-herbs-sweet-potatoes

Cover tightly and bake for 45 min to 1 hour. Uncover for the last 15 minutes so chicken can brown.

In my excitement to eat, I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish when it came out of the oven. Sorry!

Clean Venison Enchiladas

If you are anything like me, some days just make you crave a hearty, comforting meal that won’t throw you off the healthy eating track. This was one of those days, and it coincided perfectly with not wanting to create an extra dinner element for anyone who might feel they need meat to be a whole person. I feel as though I tackled this challenge with grace and ended up with quite a tasty morsel to show for it. The starting point was pulled venison I had in the fridge, and then I remembered this simply and super tasty enchilada sauce that has come through for me on a few occasions. Things just kind of took off from there. If you are having one of those days, I hope this warms your belly and puts you in a good place.

Clean Venison Enchiladas

Ingredients:
Clean Enchilada Sauce
(original sauce recipe from The Naked Kitchen)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1tbsp whole wheat flour
3 tbsp chili powder
12 oz tomato paste
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt to taste

for enchiladas:
6-8 corn or whole wheat tortillas
1.5 lbs pulled venison (though any meat will do)
12 oz vegetarian refried beans
optional toppings: cheddar cheese, avocado, plain greek yogurt

Preheat your over to 350 F.

To make the enchilada sauce, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until smooth. Stir in chili power and cook for an additional minute.

Add the tomato paste, veggie broth, onion powder, cumin, and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for about 4-5 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Next, line a baking dish with a thin layer of enchilada sauce. If you are using corn tortillas, place them between two damp towels and microwave for about one minute so they steam and soften.

Fill each tortilla with a 1-2 spoonfuls of beans and then venison. Make sure they are not too stuffed that they don’t close! Roll them up and place them seam down in your pan.

homemade-pulled-venison-enchiladas

Pour remaining sauce over the top of the enchiladas. (Depending on how many enchiladas you end up with and how deep your pan is, you may end up with extra sauce, which freezes well.)

Cook uncovered for 30 minutes. If you are adding cheese, sprinkle it on during the last 5-10 minutes.

baked-homemade-pulled-venison-enchiladas
Top with a spoon of plain greek yogurt and diced avocado to serve. Any leftover sauce or enchiladas can be frozen.

Note: This recipe is freezer challenge approved.

Slow Cooker Pulled Venison

I love game meats, but there are a few cuts that I prefer with a bit of dressing up. So when I happened across a clean pulled pork recipe in a magazine this week, is was an opportunity I could not flip past. Out came the last winter’s venison stew meat from the recesses of the freezer to defrost overnight. The next morning it took me about fifteen minutes to prep everything for the crock pot, and I was out the door to work.

Slow Cooker Pulled Venison
(adapted from Cuisine Tonight’s Quick and Easy Menus)

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs venison stew meat, cubed
4 lbs extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh oregano
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine

Chop garlic, rosemary, oregano, salt, fennel seed, and red pepper flakes and mix with olive oil. Place meat and spice mixture in a plastic bag and shake until the meat is coated. In a saute pan, sear meat on all sides on medium heat.

Place meat along the bottom of a 3-4 qt slow cooker, and then add broth and wine. Cook on high for 4 hours. When meat has cooled, shred into small pieces. Use to spice up that same old lunch sandwich, for a twist in stew or even as filling for enchiladas!

slow-cooker-pulled-venison-clean-eating
Note: This recipe is freezer challenge approved.

Eggplant Parmesan, Second Generation Style

Here’s something you should know about me: I live for splurge meals. My absolute all time favorite foods usually fall into this category. In my normal routine, I try to adapt some of these recipes into clean versions, but on splurge day anything goes. Fried stays fried, pasta stands in for itself, and I put cheese on my half too.

It took me approximately 2 seconds too decide what tomato week’s splurge recipe would be. Growing up, my dad (originally from Italy) would make his eggplant parmesan maybe once or twice a year. It’s not a quick undertaking, and I knew it was a big ask to see if he would make it with me so I could blog about it. The thing is, what I really mean by “second generation style” is that I want to learn how to make this dish exactly like his, because it is absolutely perfect. The effort is always worth it. Plus, it makes your house smell sooooo good.

Best of all, eggplant is in season right now and I can’t help but pay thanks to this versatile crop. What a fine nightshade you are, eggplant. Thanks for being you.

Traditional Eggplant Parmesan
makes enough to fill 2 13×9 baking dishes, about 16 servings

Ingredients:
3 medium size eggplants
3 quart jars cooked tomato sauce
2 lbs fresh mozzarella cheese
vegetable/ canola oil for frying
2 cups grated romano/ parmesan cheese

for batter:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
a few cups of cold water

*Note: Since this takes a few hours, I usually make an extra batch to freeze or give away. Cut everything in half if you are only making one dish.

To make your batter, combine flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add eggs, lightly beaten. Once well mixed, start adding water about a half cup at a time. The batter should be the consistency of runny pancake mix. Keep adding water and mixing until the batter is thin enough that it will run off the end of a spoon easily. There should be no lumps.

eggplant-parmesan-batter
Next, trim off both ends of the eggplants and slice them about 1/4 inch thick. Do your best to keep the thickness consistant so the pieces cook evenly.

perfectly-sliced-eggplant-for-homemade-eggplant-parmesan

Meanwhile, in a deep saute pan, heat up 3/4 to an inch of cooking oil on medium heat. Test the oil temperature with a drop of water or batter. It will sizzle when hot. If you have a thermometer, oil temperature should reach between 400-450 F.

Once the oil is ready to go, dip each slice of eggplant in the batter and just cover both sides. Let any excess batter run off, and then carefully place in the hot pan.

deep-frying-eggplant-homemade-eggplant-parmesan

When the underside becomes golden brown (1-2 min), flip them over and fry for another minute or so. When cooked, drain each piece of excess oil as you remove them from the pan.

draining-excess-oil-from-fried-eggplant-for-eggplant-parmesanAs the slices come out of the fryer, lay them on a plate covered with a paper towel to soak up extra grease as they cool.

freshly-fried-eggplant-for-eggplant-parmesan

While the eggplant is frying, grate your mozzarella and parmesan. To make grating easier, place the cheese in the freezer for 15-20 minutes first. Now is also a good time to preheat your oven to 375 F.

grated-parmesan-cheese-for-eggplant-parmesan

If there is any batter left over when the eggplant is done, you can pour it into your hot oil to make a zeppoli, or fried dough ball (more like a pancake in this case.) Cook it the same way as the eggplant.

homemade-zeppoli-frying-in-oil

When it’s done, sprinkle a little powered sugar on top and enjoy! Besides being delicious, this snack might distract you from scarfing down tons of hot, crispy eggplant as it comes out of the pan. It also might not. I usually eat both, and chase them with large chunks of mozzarella. Extras are built into the recipe to allow for this unstoppable force.

powered-sugar-covered-fresh-homemade-zeppoli

Assemble everything in a baking dish in layers. Start with a little bit of sauce on the bottom of the pan, then eggplant, mozz, parm, and a drizzle of sauce.

Repeat until your tray is full. Only use a little bit of sauce in each layer so it doesn’t become too wet.

assembling-homemade-eggplant-parmesan-layers

End with the cheese layer on top.

complete-homemade-eggplant-parmesan

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45-60 minutes. Take the foil off for the last 10-15 minutes of cooking to let the top get crispy.

eggplant-parmesan-just-out-of-the-oven

Enjoy! Freeze whatever you can’t eat. This type of dish tastes better every time you heat it up.

detailed-image-of-homemade-eggplant-parmesan

I would also just like to thank my good friend Jennifer for shooting the amazing photos for this blog while helping me fry eggplant for hours. They have added so much to this project, and I hope this is just the first of many collaborations between us. I mean, they’re incredible. I’m not the only one drooling on my computer, right?

Squeaky Clean Loaded Sweet Potato

I came up with this recipe while trying to create a healthy, satisfying and exciting lunch that I could prepare at work from ingredients at the local corner market near my office. Since discovering it, this has been my work lunch about 1,000 times. It meets all of these criteria, with a bonus offering of providing for 2 days, not one.

Squeaky Clean Loaded Sweet Potato
best quality: can be prepared in under 10 minutes using only a microwave and a butter knife

Ingredients:
1/2 ripe avocado sliced or cubed
1 medium or 1/2 large sweet potato
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Cook the sweet potato. Oven-baked is the best but to speed things up I usually pop mine in the microwave for 5-6 minutes. Make sure to stab it with a knife or fork a few times on each side before putting it in the microwave.

Once the sweet potato has cooled slightly, slice it open lengthwise, drizzle a little olive oil on each half, and mash the insides with a fork.

Top it with your avocado, greek yogurt and salt and pepper. I like to add a dash of hot sauce too. You can use the other half of your avocado and large sweet potato for lunch tomorrow, just make sure to wrap them tightly and refrigerate  If you buy a single serving yogurt container, it can be split into two servings as well. Enjoy!

clean-eating-loaded-sweet-potato-with-avacado-and-yogurt

Six Pack Beefaroni

While summering in the Finger Lakes region of New York last year, I was introduced to Beefaroni- a classically amazing pasta dish I had somehow never had before. (Among other life-changing things I was introduced to in the Finger Lakes were the Finger Lakes, wine tasting, and dry Rieslings.) The cheesy, saucy deliciousness took my idea of comfort food to a whole new level. I’m pretty sure I had three bowls full just to make sure it was real.

Upon arriving home and back in the real world, I began toying with ways to lighten up this dish and make it into something I could eat all the time. Here is what I came up with.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
1 medium sized spaghetti squash
1qt. tomato sauce
extra virgin olive oil
ground turkey or lean ground beef (I have also used venison and bison, which are both fabulous lean options)
sea salt and pepper to taste

optional twists:
1/2 lb shell or elbow pasta
1/2 lb firm tofu (diced small)
parmesan or romano cheese to sprinkle

Baking the squash
Preheat your oven to 350F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half length-wise and scrape the seeds from both sides. Sprinkle each half with sea salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil.

baked-spaghetti-squash

Wrap both halves (separately) in tin foil and bake for 45 minutes. The squash should be very tender and string easily when scraped with a fork when done. The flesh color will turn a brighter yellow. Test both sides before you take it out of the oven. Remember it will continue to steam in the tin foil as it cools. Set aside. Once cool, scrape the insides of both halves to make your “spaghetti.” If you bake the squash ahead of time this is a quick meal to throw together during the week.

In the meantime, heat up a saute pan and toss in your ground meat or tofu when hot. If using tofu, add a tbsp of olive oil to the pan before adding it. Season with salt and pepper to taste. After it browns, cover with tomato sauce and simmer on med-low for 10-15 minutes. If you are cooking pasta as well, put it onto boil as well.

To serve, start with your spaghetti squash, (pasta if using it) and then top with meat or tofu and sauce. I especially love this meal because it’s easy to make a clean veggie meal, and add the meat and pasta to keep everyone in the house happy. Both versions are tasty, satisfying, and make great leftovers.

spaghetti-squash-tomato-sauce-beefaroni
Meat version on left, veggie version on right