Monday, February 6, 2012

No Noodle Lasagna

    Okay, I know what you're thinking, what a horrible name for a blog post or recipe, so bland. I know, but it'll all make sense soon. After a wonderful brunch and afternoon walk with Morgan on Sunday I ventured out to do some groceries. Fun fact, I absolutely adore grocery shopping, it's the only shopping I like to do; however, I hate a crowded grocery store. People always seem so confused and they put their carts in such random spots. I thought going 1 hour before the Super Bowl would be better, and shockingly, it was!
   I wanted to make something that would feed me for a few days and maybe even a few friends so I figured a huge lasagna would do the trick. I didn't feel like messing with lasagna noodles and wanted to pack an extra micronutrient punch (not a dietitian? maybe that's not as cool as I would like to think it sounds). So I opted for eggplant in place of lasagna noodles. In this one pot dish I managed to get in 4 different colored vegetables, each providing a different antioxiant!
   As I preheated the oven to 375F, I started slicing the eggplants (~1/2 inch slices), dicing up an onion, sauteeing up the ground chicken breast, and cutting up the reaming vegetables. Next I mixed up the cheese layer and began layering my lasagna, all the while I was skyping a good friend in Germany. My friend Jami not only watched me make the entire lasagna but also eat it :). Now back to the actual recipe, I'm sorry for my lack of pictures during the process but I forgot to take prep pics, I promise I'll get better at this!

No Noodle Lasagna
-2 medium eggplants sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices
-2 small zucchinis sliced (thinly)
-1/4 large chopped yellow onion (~1/2 cup)
-1 small package of frozen spinach or 1 bag of fresh spinach
-1 container of part skim ricotta cheese
-2 cups of shredded part skim mozzarella
-1 egg
-1 tbsp dried thyme
-1/2 tbsp garlic
-salt and pepper to taste
-3/4 cup whole wheat pank bread crumbs
-2 tbsp chopped basil
-1 large can of diced tomatoes (or crushed or tomato sauce)

Step 1: dice up all your veggies and slice up your eggplant.
Step 2: Coat non stick pan with cooking spray and cook ground chicken (add thyme, salt, and pepper to mix)
Step 3: mix the part skim ricotta cheese with 1 egg, add 1 tbsp of chopped basil and garlic.
Step 4: start layering! Put a thin layer of crushed tomatoes down first, just enough to coat the bottom of your baking dish. Then add the first layer of eggplant, put 1/2 of the ricotta mixture on top, then add sliced zucchini and spinach. Layer 1/2 of ground chicken Add 1/2 the amount of mozzarella cheese and another thin layer of sauce. Then start over with the eggplant layer. When you finish the second layer (my dish only held to layers) add a heavier coat of crushed tomatoes (i really like red sauces). Before you top with cheese reserve 1/4 cup of cheese left to mix with bread crumbs and 1 tbsp of basil. Then top with the bread crum mixture. Bake for about 30-45 minutes. Then ENJOY!

It should come out looking like this...

This recipe is high in fiber (from all those veggies), high in protein (from the ground chicken breast and cheese) and low in fat (since we used low fat cheese).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Banana Bread French Toast

Brown bananas?  The obvious answer is banana bread.  But what do you do with the leftover banana bread?  How about turning it into delicious warm, golden brown french toast.  I know what you're thinking... "Morgan, Shut Your Mouth!"  But yes, you heard me right.

I had some nice brown, squishy bananas, so Zeina and I made banana bread while hanging out after work on Friday.  By Sunday morning, with about three quarters of the loaf left, it was time to mix things up.  Zeina came back over for brunch today and brought her dog, Emma, to come play with Buddy.  We mixed up a quick french toast batter and voila- yummy, banana-y, moist inside with nice browned outside french toast!

I perfected my banana bread recipe while in college, much to the dismay of my roommate, Beth.  She HATES bananas after being force-fed them as a kid to fuel up for soccer games.  But thanks to Beth for being a good sport when I made my many loaves of banana bread in our Clay St. kitchen- because now I have this amazing recipe.  For Beth, I would recommend substituting plain applesauce for the mashed banana.  Add some chopped apples and some nutmeg, and you have apple bread instead!

And yes, my recipe is lower in fat and higher in fiber than your typical banana bread :)  It is also lower in added sugar, because the bananas provide a wonderful natural sugar which is perfectly sweet enough!

Best Banana Bread
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1 slightly beaten egg
3 mashed bananas (let them get nicely brown, sweet and squishy)
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tb honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts or mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly coat a loaf pan with non-stick spray.  Set aside.
In a medium bowl- combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.
In a large bowl- stir together the egg, banana, sugar, honey and oil.  *TIP- spray your measuring spoon with non-stick spray before measuring out the honey.  This helps the honey slide right out without leaving a sticky mess!
If you are adding nuts or chocolate chips, mix them into the flour mixture.
Add flour mixture all at once to banana mixture. 
Stir just until moistened- you will have a lumpy batter.  Don't over-mix or bread won't rise correctly.  The batter will continue to blend as you cook it.
Pour batter into prepared pan. 
Bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes.  If you insert a toothpick, it should come out clean.
Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.  Then remove the loaf from the pan and let cool completely. 

Banana Bread French Toast
Leftover banana bread
2 eggs
1 cup skim milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Non-stick spray
Pecan pieces, about 1/2 cup
Vanilla Yogurt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Spread nuts on a baking sheet and toast about 10 minutes in preheated oven.  Set aside.
Cut banana bread into about 1/2 inch thick slices.  Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat on the stove top.  Lightly coat with non-stick spray.
In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Dip the french toast slices in the egg mixture- I used my hands to do this, since using a fork will likely tear the super moist banana bread.  Place the coated banana bread slices on the hot skillet.  Repeat with remaining pieces, careful not to over crowd the skillet.  Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. 
Top the french toast slices with a dollop of vanilla yogurt and the toasted pecans.

I served the banana bread french toast with a fruit salad made with fresh pineapple, tangelos, grapes and a defrosted frozen berry blend.  Emma and Buddy also approved of this recipe :)  Cheers!