Hello all, and sorry for the lag time in posting. I actually found a job to apply for—wonder of wonders!—and even got a couple of freelance gigs at the end of last week, so the whole making-money thing has taken priority.
It's been a busy several days, and since I know that I am less likely to do major cooking when I have a lot going on, I've fallen back on some staple dishes that are easy and quick to make, but also healthy. Also important for me during this busy time is that I've made these dishes before, which negates the whole I-don't-want-to-try-anything-new--and-have-it-go-wrong-while-I'm-stressed-out factor.
One of these healthy items that is quickly becoming a staple in my diet is eggplant. Specifically, Easy and Addictive Eggplant "Chips". I have always liked the idea of eggplant—it's so pretty!—but I have never been able to make it taste good. Not even when I've covered it with cheese and marinara sauce. During Tess' most recent visit to Austin, she asked whether I had tried this recipe from her book yet. I hadn't, and there were beautiful organic eggplants on sale at Wheatsville...so I got one.
Tess had warned me that they were addictive, and I had laughed, but...she wasn't kidding. The first time I made them, I almost ate the whole pan. It's something about the marinade, full of garlic and onion, and the texture of the eggplant...yeah, they're that good. To remedy this "problem," I have started making only the amount I am going to feel ok about eating. That way, self-control is not required. =)
Texture-wise, contrary to the implication of their name ("Chips"), they are actually soft rather than crisp. They have kind of a caramelized texture. Also, don't make the same mistake that I did the first time I made them: You want to use a cookie sheet that has raised edges—i.e., one that will contain the delicioso marinade liquid and prevent it from spilling off the pan and into your oven. Trust me. (Cleanup on Aisle 5!)
The recipe is simple enough. Preheat the oven to 400 deg, toss together the ingredients of your marinade, and slice your eggplant into "chips." Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet (seriously, one with raised edges!) and pour the marinade on top. Let them sit for about 5-10 minutes, then flip them over and sit for another 5-10 min.
At this point, if you're making a full batch, you will leave the all of the marinade in the pan. But, if you are like me and are making a smaller batch, you can (carefully) pour the excess marinade back into a container to reuse the next day (I'm assuming this is ok, since there are no nasty meat-type bacteria in eggplant and I use it pretty quickly. At least, I haven't died yet from doing so). You'll still want to leave a little marinade in the cookie sheet though, so they can cook in their juices. Pop your large or small batch into the oven, let them cook for 10-15 minutes, take them out and flip them over, then let them cook for another 5 or 10 minutes. Mmmmm....
These taste best when they're fresh and hot out of the oven, of course, but I also have enjoyed eating them cold, on top of salad. That might not be for everyone, I realize...it's a texture thing.
I should also mention that they are considered a "blue" food item. This is a rating system of the recipes from Tess' book, which is super handy to have when you're planning out your meals. "Green" foods are relatively low in calories and fat and can be eaten several times a day; "Blue" foods tend to be higher in fat and calories and, depending on your activity level and weight loss goals (if you have any), should be eaten once, maybe twice a day. "Purple" foods are things like, oh, say, chocolate cake, which definitely are higher in calories, fat, and sugar, and should for sure be eaten in moderation.
One of the things that has been helpful for me to keep in mind, however, is that even the purple foods from this book contain natural or less refined sweeteners, whole ingredients, and healthy fats. They are MUCH healthier (and probably lower in fat/sugar/cals) than the processed, refined garbage that most of us eat on a daily basis. Also keep in mind that it's not a one-size-fits-all approach: As with anything, it's about moderation and balance (my arch nemeses, BTW...). Check out Radiant Health, Inner Wealth, for more info about Tess' color-coded rating system.
Finally, I have to report a triumph: I had dinner last week at Hyde Park Grill. Austinites will automatically know what this place is famous for, but for you sad people who do not live here...they make the BEST french fries. Ever. I don't know what they do to them (nothing healthy), but they are crazy good. And horrible for you. And you get a huge portion of them, with a container of a mayo-based dipping sauce. And, for perhaps the first time ever, I didn't want to eat them. It had nothing to do with sitting on my hands and forcing myself to choose something healthier. I just...didn't want them. I got a vegetable plate instead. WTF?!?!
This experience is starting to prove to me that our taste buds do actually start to adjust, the more we feed ourselves healthy, delicious food. I'm not saying I'll never eat another french fry again, and I actually had a day of pretty unhealthy choices on Sunday (and paid for them later), but to have a moment—even one!—in which I actually WANTED the healthier option was huge. Huge!
*Top photo taken from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth.