Almost Paleo Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant always scares me. There is something about knowing that the skin has a poisonous toxin that makes me want to skin it, bake it to oblivion, or avoid it altogether. Did you know the skin was poinsonous? I guess Joe didn’t know my feelings about eggplant, because I came home to this set of mystery ingredients.


Eggplant, tomatoes, green onions, and goat cheese. Joe tasked me with making eggplant parmesan, but with two catches. First, it had to be paleo (aside from the goat cheese). Second, I could make as many versions eggplant as I wanted in an attempt to get one crispier than the others. He gave me as much time as I needed for this challenge.

I immediately got the homemade sauce started. I chopped the tomatoes, minced garlic, oregano, basil, and green onions. I normally just use regular onions, but had to make use of the green onions Joe brought home. I actually really liked it! I plan to use green onions in my future pasta sauce recipes.


While the sauce simmered for two hours, I worked on the rest of the meal. I sliced the eggplant and started removing the water from it. I used a couple of steps to do this. First, I put it in a colander and salted it. I let it release water for about 30 minutes. Then, I layered paper towels on a cookie sheet, placed the eggplant in a single layer, and layerd more paper towels on top. I added weight to help squeeze the water out of the eggplant for another 30 minutes. What did I use for weight you might ask? I placed my handy dandy bread machine on top of the layers (special note: I love it, but this is only the second time I’ve used my bread machine. The other time I actually did make bread).


I prepared the egg wash and the coconut flour mixtures.


I decided to try 3 different versions of eggplant parmesan.

Version One

I brushed each slice with olive oil, dredged them in a mixture of coconut flour, parmesan cheese, onion powder, parsley, and black pepper. I baked this version at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.


Version Two

I dipped the slices in egg wash and dredged them in a mixture of coconut flour, onion powder, parsley, and black pepper (minus the parmesan from version one). I fried the slices in salt free butter.


Version Three

I dipped the slices in egg wash, dredged them in the coconut flour, parmesan cheese, onion powder, parsley, and black pepper (we’ve got paremesan back!) and fried it in coconut oil.


Version Three (pictured on the left above) was my personl favorite. The crust was crispier, tasted better, and even looked better than the rest. I passed the challenge in terms of making a tasty meal that was (almost) paleo, but none of the slices really got crispy beyond the crust.This tasty meal still doesn’t change my mind about the potentially treacherous eggplant skin.



Crockpot Wednesday – Black Bean Soup

I’ve been perfecting my crockpot black bean soup for a few years now. It is usually a vegetarian dish that we have. This time, I’m using the dish to make use of two things I had left over from past meals. First, I had black beans from my Mexican food challenge where I made Verde Beef and Bean, Vexican, and Chorizo Popper Topper. Second, even though I used leftover Thanksgiving ham in my Twice Baked Ham and Potato Casserole, I STILL had ham left. So, I’ll share my simple black bean soup recipe with ham. You can stick to the black bean recipe or add ham or some other ingredient. I bet chicken would be good. Whatever makes you happy!


1 bag of black beans

2-3 cans of broth (chicken or veggie)

2 cans of green chilles

2 cans of chopped tomatoes

1/2 onion; chopped

1 clove of garlic; minced

1 green pepper; chopped

1 cup baked ham; chopped

jalapenos, cheddar cheese, sour cream (garnish)

First, I soak the black beans in water over night.


I add the beans to the crockpot, add broth until the beans are covered (chicken or veggie; whatever I have on hand), 2 cans of green chilles, 2 cans chopped tomatoes, 1/2 of a chopped onion, 1 minced clove of garlic, and one chopped green pepper. I like my soup thicker and this will be pretty thick after the beans are expanding all day. Keep some extra broth on hand if you may want it to be a little more soup like.


And this time, I’m adding chopped ham.


I leave this in the crockpot on low for about 8 hours. You can top this with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and jalapenos. I only had cheddar cheese, so that finished off my soup.



Thankful for this Thanksgiving Meal Makeover

Before we get down to business, I need to apologize for my recent absence from my blog. I’ve been away at a conference and then busy with family while hosting Thanksgiving for the second year in a row. The conference didn’t really include any “blogworthy” food and our Thanksgiving dinner was pretty traditional. I’m ready to get back to my challenges now though and having a refrigerator full of leftover food is the best way to challenge yourself.

Let’s be honest, there are only so many ham or turkey sandwiches anyone can eat after Thanksgiving. After a few days, I usually freeze some leftovers and move on to other meals. While growing up, I was always curious to see what mom would do with the leftovers. Some of my favorites were recipes similar to  turkey tetrazzini, turkey pot pie, or ham and bean soup. Even though I have mom’s recipes for those childhood favorites, I decided to turn this into a challenge.

I started with my leftover mashed potatoes. I recommend using potatoes for scratch for this recipe. To make mine, I boiled red potatoes and leave the skin on them. I added butter, chives, and onion and chive cream cheese and mash them until they are mixed well, but still chunky.


Then, I chopped the leftover baked ham.


I mixed the ham and potatoes together. I topped it off with a sprinkle of fresh chives.


I popped this into the oven to heat for about 10 minutes. While that heated, I mixed a cornbread mix (the only non-Thanksgiving item in this recipe) that I had in the pantry. I didn’t have milk, but I did have almond milk and used that instead.


I spread the corn bread batter over the top of the mashed potato and ham mixture.


I baked this for another 15 minutes. I wanted the corn bread to be fully cooked, but not browned. While it cooked, I grated fresh cheddar cheese.


I sprinkled this over the dish and baked it until the cheese was melted.


The finished dish was warm, filling, and different enough from Thanksgiving dinner to be enjoyable. I’m calling it a Twice Baked Ham and Potato Casserole.






Crockpot Wednesday – Creamy Cayenne Mushroom Soup

As I worked on last night’s food challenge to make Orange Tilapia foil packets, I was digging around the refrigerator looking for veggies to serve with the fish. I noticed that I had not one, but two, types of mushrooms hidden away behind other packages. Oops. I already had last night’s dinner figured out, but knew that I would need something for crockpot Wednesday (make sure you check out my other posts about Crockpot Wednesday; for example Curry Chicken, Cabbage, and Peppers). I decided that I would take a stab at a mushroom soup to warm me up after our recent dip in temperatures (from 70 to 40 degrees overnight!)

I had your regular white button mushrooms and I had portabello mushrooms left from my Italian inspired salad. While waiting on the fish to bake, I chopped all of the mushrooms to save myself some time in the morning. I added a coarsely chopped half of a white onion and minced 3 cloves of garlic. I put a lid on it and put it in the refrigerator overnight.


This morning, I put all of this into the crockpot with 3 cups of chicken broth. I don’t know what you think, but mushrooms are always a little bland to me. I decided to put a tablespoon of black pepper, a tabelspoon of cayenne pepper, 4 tablespoons of butter, and about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese into it. I turned it on low and let it cook until I got home later that day.


I blended it (it looks gross but I’m not done yet).


Last, I added a can of evaporated milk and heated it through.


After taste testing, I ended up stiring in a little more cayenne pepper just to make it nice and spicy. You can adjust the spices to your own taste, of course. I finished it off with a basil leaf and cayenne (unstirred) for a touch of color. Enjoy!




ABC…Easy as 123

For tonight’s challenge, we decided to spice it up a bit. Instead, of doing a mystery ingredient challenge like in my Great Pistachio Caper or Joe giving me a challenge and limited time to purchase ingrediens like in Karlo’s Meets Caprese, Joe found a fancy random letter generator online and asked it to produce 3 letters for me (Get it? That’s where the ABC in the title comes from…)

My letters were:




I had to find an ingredient that started with each letter and use them to create dinner. Walking into the store, my plan was tuna steaks, asparagus, but the letter N had me stumped… They were actually out of tuna steaks, so I had to come ub with a plan B for the protein and went with tilapia. For N, the only thing I could come up with were navel oranges. Of course, a quick internet search didn’t come up with many options for foods that start with the letter N either.

Here is what I did, in three easy steps (Get it? That’s where the 123 in the title comes from, and of course, there was that Michael Jackson guy).

1. I placed the fish in foil packets with cut up vegetables. I just used a variety of things I had around the house. I included olive oil, cherry tomoatoes, onion, and zuchinni, and garlic.

2. I topped it off with slices of orange and parsley and wrapped it up to bake.


3. I blanched the asparagus. This makes it a nice green color and keeps the crispness. I topped it with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and grated parmesan cheese.


Three steps is it. Healthy and easy enough. (Get it? Okay, okay, you get it).


Karlo’s Meets Caprese

We were lucky enough to have friends visiting this weekend and when we have friends in town, it usually means we eat out a lot. Who doesn’t when friends are in town? Today, we tried a new barbeque place we’d never been to for lunch … but I digress. The point of this is that by dinner time, we were still pretty full.

We stopped by Kroger and I was planning on picking up a few other items while he shopped for my mystery ingredients. When we walked in the door – he filled me in on the challenge. Joe’s challenge was for me to make a salad with my own twist. We wanted something that would be tasty but light. and he set a timer on his phone and gave me 10 minutes to come up with whatever I wanted AND do the shopping.

I decided to make a mash up of my two favorite salads, both of which are inspired by italian cuisine. The first is a simple Caprese salad. The second was a salad I made in an Italian cooking class at Karlo’s Bistro Italian restuarant that had proscuttio and portabello in it and was served warm. Unfortunately, that is all I remember about the salad! Here are the ingredients I used for today’s salad: arugula, basil, prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, portabello mushrooms, red cooking wine, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.


First, I rinsed the arugula, which is my favorite salad base (also tasty on pizza and sandwiches). And yes, it is in a colander. A salad spinner is going on my Christmas list.


I chopped the prosciutto.


And chopped the portabello mushrooms.


I put these into a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil, a finely chopped sprig of basil, a half of a teaspoon of garlic powder, and a half a cup of red cooking wine. I let this cook while I worked on the other salad prep.


I halved cherry tomatoes and cut the fresh mozzarella into bite sized pieces. I feel confident in their “bite sized” status, as several bites made it into my mouth and not on the salad.


Last, I added balsamic vinegar to the mixture of and made sure it was heated through. I poured the hot mushroom and prosciutto mixture onto the salad and mixed it well. The mixture serves as a dressing and the warmth slightly makes the mozzarella gooey. This was a light and healthy meal, but still filling with the goodies (goodies = prosciutto, mozzarella, and portabello). I also like that it is served warm, which I think tastes better in the fall or winter than a cold salad. Every bite had goodies in it. We both agreed that it was not my most creative dish, but we both loved it.


Mexican Monday

One of my favorite memories from Ball State was “Mexican Monday.” It was just a great group of people who got together for lunch at a Mexican restaurant called Puerto Vallarta in Muncie. Today, I’m posting a blog in honor or Mexican Monday, and it is inspired by a friend in Muncie. Bob is working on Muncie’s first ever food truck (here is my post about food trucks in Lexington for my Kentucky followers). He plans to call it “Slop on Top.”

Joe talked to him about the “slop” recipes he has been creating and he said his recent work had been on making a taco inspired dish. He said he was having fun experimenting, so Joe used this for inspiration for my challenge.

My challenge was to create three taco flavored dishes that could be served over rice. He gave me rice, cilantro, chorizo, ground beef, cheddar cheese, a green, orange, and red pepper, jalapeno, banana pepper, tomatoes, avacodao, black beans, and tortilla chips. I also had to calculate the cost of making each dish (which was a really interesting twist compared to last challenges!)


I wanted to make sure that the three different dishes I made would be very distinct from one another. It would be super easy to just add some taco seasoning (which I do keep on hand at all times) to everything and throw it on rice, but where is the fun in that? So, here are the three dishes I created.

Verde Beef and Bean

I browned the beef, added a cup of water, taco seasoning mix, black beans and green peppers and avocado for the “verde” part. I plan to finish up the packets of taco mix I have, and then will start making my own taco seasoning. I let this simmer while I worked on the other dishes. Until 2 years ago, I had only eaten avocado in salads, in guacamole, or other chilled dishes. It is actually really good when it is cooked too! We often throw it on the grill or in a skillet.


The finished dish ($10.54 to make 5-6 servings):


Vegetarian Mexican (or Vexican)

I had two meats to choose from, and I didn’t want to use one of them in two dishes. I thought the dishes would be too similar. I decided to do a vegetarian version, which I suppose would be an important addition to a food truck menu.


I used a banana pepper, leftover super sweet tomatoes from another challenge, red pepper, orange pepper, and onion as the vegetable base and sauteed them together for a bit. I added a tiny bit of garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and cumin to the vegetables and cooked them until tender.


The finished dish topped with hand grated cheddar ($6.32 for 2 servings):


Chorizo Popper Topper

The final dish was our favorite. I had used chorizo in another past challenge to make orange chorizo soft tacos topped with orange guacamole, but wanted to get more creative. First, I prepared chicken broth and then added finely chopped jalapenos, cream cheese leftover from homemade sushi. I used my immersion blender to make a smooth sauce. This is where the jalapeno popper part of the name comes from. I added the cooked chorizo.


I had enough ingredients to make a fresh pico de gallo (or at least I assumed I had all of the ingredients with no internet help allowed as one of my challenge rules). I used tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and lime. Turns out that other recipes call for jalapenos, garlic, and lemon instead of lime. But it still turned out really well.


I used this as a garnish on the Chorizo Popper Topper, but it would have worked well with any of the three dishes.

The final product ($7.27 for 4-6 servings):


All were tasty, different, and affordable. The best part about this challenge is that we have enough food for Mexican Monday and several other lunches and dinners this week.