Eggplant and Tomato Bake AKA as ‘Buba’s Eggplant’

Eggplant and Tomato Bake AKA as ‘Buba’s Eggplant’

I honestly have to say (and this is not an easy call for me to make), that of all the cookbooks and recipe e-books that I own, The Monday Morning Cooking Club is my all time favourite.  Not all the recipes are clean, but there are some great healthy meals in there.  It is a compilation of recipes contributed by eager cooks from all over – each recipe has its own story/history.  I love the fact that every recipe was hand picked from hundreds and has been quality tested time and time again by a dedicated and talented group of women devoted to the preparation and offering of delicious food.  You know that if it’s made it into the book it’s going to be good.

When I bought this cookbook, the first recipe I made was Buba’s Eggplant.  A simple yet amazingly tasty dish of baked eggplant with a rich tomato sauce.  This dish has become one of our favourites, always wins compliments and is clean and healthy.  A  great option for midweek dinner, or even a dinner party.  And freezes beautifully too.  The Shrinking Hubby loves this dish!

I have recently (with much excitement) purchased a Thermomix.  I am hesitant to post about this on here because my blog is a place to share clean and nutritional recipes and motivation for a healthier lifestyle, not promote/become about an appliance.  I have decided though (where relevant) that in future, if I have managed to alter recipes to suit the Thermomix I will just add the thermomix version as an option in addition to instructions for cooking without it.  That way everyone is happy (and nobody misses out).

This eggplant dish is wonderful with salmon or grilled barramundi, perfect with schnitzel (check out my recipe for almond crusted schnitzel here – soooo good!), roast chicken, or even by itself – makes a great dinner party starter.

Here is the recipe from The Monday Morning Cooking Club.  I have tweaked it a little.  I’ve reduced the garlic, I don’t fry the eggplant in a cup of oil, and I’ve added some chilli.  But if you are feeding kids, or aren’t partial to a bit of heat then leave the chilli out.

Buba’s Eggplant (from the Monday Morning Cooking Club)

What you will need:

2 large eggplants

Olive oil

A bunch of fresh basil

Buffalo Mozzarella or parmesan cheese (optional)

Tomato Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes or 1 fresh red chilli finely diced

1 small onion finely diced

4 cloves garlic crushed

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 X 400g tins tomato paste

How to pull it together:

Slice the eggplant into rounds.  Lay the slices on baking paper and salt with celtic sea salt.  Let sit for 10 minutes until it is weeping, then wipe off moisture with a paper towel.

 

Lay the wiped eggplant on a lined baking tray, use a pastry brush to coat with olive oil (or you can dry bake without oil if you would prefer – it doesn’t really matter) and bake for 30 minutes.

salting-eggplant

For the sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a large pan/pot.  Add the onion and garlic and chilli and cook for 5 minutes until soft and translucent.  Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and let simmer for 30 minutes (a rich sauce will form).  Check the seasoning for taste and set aside.

When the eggplant is ready, assemble the dish by layering as follows.  Spoon 1/3 of tomato sauce into baking dish, add a single layer of eggplant, and repeat until all ingredients used.  Make sure you finish with a scant layer of tomato sauce.

(If using) scatter some torn basil leaves and/or torn buffalo mozzarella or a sprinkling of parmesan.

buba-uncooked

Bake for 45 minutes or until a crust as formed.

Thermomix version:

Slice the eggplant into rounds.  Lay the slices on baking paper and salt with celtic sea salt.  Let sit for 10 minutes until it is weeping, then wipe off moisture with a paper towel.

Lay the wiped eggplant on a lined baking tray, use a pastry brush to coat with olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes.

For the sauce:

1.  Put 2 dried chillies, 1 onion and 4 cloves garlic into the thermomix.  Blend 5 seconds, Speed 7.

2.  Add 60 ml olive oil and saute 100 degrees, 4 minutes, speed 1.

3.  Add 1 tablespoon tomato paste (30 grams).  Cook 90 degrees, 2 minutes, speed 1.

4.  Add 2 tins organic tomatoes (400 grams each).  Cook 100 degrees, 30 minutes, speed 1.

When the eggplant is ready, assemble the dish by layering as follows.  Spoon 1/3 of tomato sauce into baking dish, add a single layer of eggplant, and repeat until all ingredients used.  Make sure you finish with a scant layer of tomato sauce.

(If using) scatter some torn basil leaves and/or torn buffalo mozzarella or a sprinkling of parmesan.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a crust as formed.

Easy and Fuss Free Chicken Soup/Stock

Easy and Fuss Free Chicken Soup/Stock

Well they say that home-cooked chicken soup is the original penicillin when it comes to fighting sickness and it really does seem to work wonders when the winter blues get us down.  My chicken soup also doubles as a home-made chicken stock (or my home-made chicken stock doubles as a chicken soup whichever way you like to look at it!).   I really hate  using store bought chicken stocks – most of them are full of nasty chemicals and MSG (or MSG equivalents), not to mention sodium and preservatives galore!  I do understand that the thought of making your own chicken stock can seem so tiresome, and who has time???!   But with this nifty little recipe (that really looks after itself) being too busy or time poor is no longer a worthy excuse!

I use my trusty slow cooker – one of the best inventions ever.  Firstly I make my family a delicious roast chicken (one meal that we really do all enjoy to eat together).  And once everyone is finished eating, I collect all the chicken bones and carcus (like a scavenger!).  I then fill my slow cooker with filtered water, throw in the bones and veggies and let it do it’s own thing overnight and all the next day.  Then I let it cool, strain it, and portion it up to freeze in 1 cup, 2 cup and 1 litre quantities.  That way I always have my trusty homemade chicken stock (penicillin) on hand to use in risottos, stews, mornay, soups.  Too easy!

My Chicken Soup/Stock

What you will need:

Note:  This is an example of the veggies I would use.  Feel free to play around with different veggies and flavours.  If turmeric is in season this is an excellent addition to the soup as it brings a wealth of antibacterial, anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

  • The carcass of 1 organic/free range/ hormone free chicken, or a packet of organic chicken wings, or even a whole chook if you are planning to use the meat in sandwiches, torn into the soup or in salad.
  • 1 onion chopped into quarters
  • 1-2 carrots roughly chopped
  • 1-2 sticks celery roughly chopped
  • 1 leek roughly chopped
  • a handful of peppercorns
  • Sea salt or celtic sea salt
  • a handful of  parsley
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • Optional:  A tablespoon Marigolds Organic Vegetable Bouillon (if you have it).  You could also add other natural seasonings  here.

How to pull it together:

Fill the slow cooker (or soup pot) with filtered (if possible) water.  Add the chicken and vegetables and salt and pepper and cover pot and let cook overnight (if slow cooker) or for several hours on low heat (if soup pot).  When you are ready, let cool, drain and portion into serving sizes as required.  I usually make a few 1 cup, 2 cup and 1 litre servings.  If not using immediately freeze and thaw when required.

 

packaged-stock

Enjoy X

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

The slow cooker is a brilliant invention – especially at this time of year when we are craving hearty stews and soups.  You put everything in and it basically takes care of itself.  Throw it together at breakfast time on a low heat or lunchtime on high heat, and then by dinner you have a delicious, healthy, home cooked meal and extra to freeze – such a bonus!  If you don’t have a slow cooker though, you can still make these shanks (see below).

This is one of the first slow cooker meals I put together and incidentally one of the first recipes that we introduced whilst seeing the Food Coach in the early days of our lifestyle change (so it has her tick of approval too).  It is simple, healthy and very tasty!  I love serving this with a sweet potato mash and some greens e.g. asparagus.  It is really so comforting during the winter months.  This also freezes beautifully (we think it actually tastes better after being frozen) so I usually make with 4 shanks at a time.  I won’t say the kids love it (my kids don’t really love much in the way of variety!) but they did eat it – which says something (I made my sneaky cauliflower and potato mash for them – see here!).

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

(serves 4 adults plus a few kids if they aren’t big eaters (or eat half and freeze half)

You will need

  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 2 can tomatoes (diced or whole – depending on how you like it)
  • 2 tbs of fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 cup of brown lentils
  • 2 Cups stock (watch the cooker – if it gets dry then add some more).  If you can make your own beef stock – perfect!  I use my homemade chicken stock (which I also regularly make in the slow cooker – recipe here)
  • 1-2 tbs of brown sugar (not necessary if you don’t want to use it – you could even try some raw honey for sweetness if you like)
  • 4 carrots peeled and halved lengthwise or some halved button mushrooms (optional)

How to pull it together

Throw the whole lot in the cooker (you can brown the shanks if you like.  I used to (it made me feel a bit domestic goddessy!!!) but I don’t bother anymore and they are just as good.

Cook on low all day or high from lunchtime until dinner.

(If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can cook these  in a 200 oven.  Add all ingredients except lentils – cook for 45 minutes, turn the shanks, add lentils and cook for further 45 minutes or until lamb is soft.)

shanks-cookingServe with mashed sweet potato, cauliflower rice and/or steamed greens and enjoy! XX

 

It’s Not A Diet! It’s A Lifestyle Change – For Good!

Did anyone watch the Australian Biggest Loser Finale on Tuesday night?  The contestants blew me away with how much weight they had shed in only 4 months!!!  I am not taking away from anyone here, because you don’t lose that amount of weight without making big changes to your diet and lifestyle.  Anyone who watched what the contestants were subjected to by their trainers knows that they endured a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  So kudos to all of them for their efforts, they deserve to be very proud of themselves.  However, the big challenge for them will be to keep that weight off, indefinitely, because let’s face it, the very nature of radical diets means that they are doomed to fail.

Andrew and I get asked all the time ‘are you STILL on your diet?’ as if what we have achieved over the past eight years was only ever meant to be a temporary fix to knock off those extra (um like 60) kilos.  I can assure you, that although we often say no to unhealthy foods, we are definitely not on a diet!  What we have managed to achieve however, is a complete food and lifestyle overhaul.  We consider ourselves clean eaters in that we avoid processed foods and sugar but in saying that, we hardly deprive ourselves.  You have probably worked out by now that we eat really delicious food – a lot of it!  But we also let our hair down every now and again.  We are not the type of people who beat ourselves up (too much) if it is too difficult to eat clean when we are out or on holidays and we do enjoy a drink or 2  – just not with sugary mixers.  Life is short so we like to make the most of it!    What we have discovered  is that by turning our health around, we actually prefer good clean food and happily make healthy choices whenever possible, but again, that choice is not a deprivation, which is what a diet is really designed to do.

Traditional ‘diet’ foods substitute chemical sweeteners for sugar, and low fat rather than full fat, however these are not healthy foods.  If you don’t recognise something on the ingredient panel (i.e. because it is a number or specified chemical compound which ‘diet’ foods are full of) – your body isn’t going to recognise it either!  And I can guarantee that if your body doesn’t recognise it as food, your whole system is going to be confused as it tries to deal with its disposal.  This is where I have  a big problem with the way traditional diets treat all calories as equal – just because these chemical concoctions have little or no calories, does not make them a healthy choice.  In fact just the opposite!!!  I remember years ago being on the Weight Watchers diet where I happily drank a daily diet coke or 3, and indulged in artifically sweetened, low fat yoghurts and ice cream and was rewarded by the programme for doing so. So unhealthy!

And I should probably mention that when I met Andrew in 2001 he had just lost about 25 kilos with Jenny Craig, all of which he put on, with interest, over our early years together.  You can read more about his weight loss journey here.

Also most low fat versions of many foods have a higher sugar content to make them more palatable and there is so much information and research out there to show that it is sugar not fat that is our real enemy here.  Check out my blog post on good and bad fats here.

Since I started The Shrinking Hubby I have had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to so many people  who are following my blog or Facebook page and are genuinely benefiting from our story.  Whether they themselves struggle with their weight or their partner or child has this issue.  They all want to know how a 150 kg plus man had the discipline to lose 60 kilos through clean eating and exercise (without lap band or similar surgery) and kept it off!

I won’t lie to you, it hasn’t always been easy.  Andrew’s success is largely due to the support network he has (and still has).  Initially The Food Coach and myself, and then a lot of it was just me.  We also have a fantastic trainer, and a great network of people we train with which is very motivating (especially at 6am in the middle of winter!) But having said that, Andrew really needed to commit and it was he who made the decision to embark on this journey and make the changes.  He deserves most of the credit for the discipline that he continues to incorporate in his daily life.

You don’t get to 150 kilos simply because you have a love of chocolate or pizza.  It is deeper than that.  For many overweight people, food is much more than nutrition and enjoyment.  It is used as a tool to deal with other issues and it makes changing the diet and getting rid of unhealthy foods really difficult.  So it’s important to acknowledge the emotional side of being overweight as well as the diet and exercise front.

Of course initially, there was a lot of hard work to be done by Andrew.  His diet was pretty bad, there was a lot of binging on sugar, diet coke, alcohol, fried foods etc … but once we cut out a lot of that stuff, and once he started exercising and feeling really good about himself, he really enjoyed introducing fresh, healthy and new foods into his life.

When you eat well, exercise and generally look after your body the way it deserves to be treated, you reap wonderful benefits and your quality of life improves so much.  It’s more than just about your waistline (although that definitely is a pleasant side-effect), it is about that spring in your step and extra energy every day.  So, no, we are NOT on a diet – this is for life!!!

Andrew 2004

Andrew 2004

Andrew embracing a healthier life in 2013

Andrew embracing a healthier life in 2013

Cinnamon and Coconut Pumpkin Soup

Cinnamon and Coconut Pumpkin Soup

We have really been getting some cold weather lately here in Sydney (obviously not as cold as many other parts of the world!), but cold enough to make me crave warm and hearty meals.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of comfort eating at this time of year as the body craves nourishment (and thoughts of bikinis and skimpy clothes are far away as we rug up with our coats, boots and scarves).

Soups are a great winter food because they are highly nutritious and comforting yet despite being relatively low in calories they can be very filling so you won’t feel any deprivation.  And although I don’t subscribe to the calorie counting approach, as I do not believe all calories are created equally, it is important to watch portion sizes for obvious reasons.

I find that cooking a big pot of delicious soup at the beginning of the week is a great way to sort out dinners or lunches for work or home, and so easy to freeze in portion sizes, reheat and serve.  I prefer not to heat up my soup in the microwave (I actually prefer not to use the microwave at all unless really necessary), but if I have to I never heat it up in plastic.  There has been so much research to show that chemicals from plastic leech into our food when heated – and let’s face it we get enough nasty chemical exposure as it is!  Rant over!

Now for my absolutely delicious Cinnamon and Coconut Pumpkin Soup.

I am fairly liberal with the quantities here, so feel free to experiment with your tastes.  Coconut milk/cream can be quite rich so be careful not to overdo it.  The cinnamon here gives the soup a delicous sweetness which will make it hard for you not to lick your plates!

Also – you can also roast the pumpkin a day or 2 before to make it quicker for you to prepare (but be warned – it won’t last long on it’s own in the fridge!!)

Note – if you own a Thermomix, I have included the Thermomix method below – enjoy!

Cinnamon and Coconut Pumpkin Soup

What you will need:

1/2 jap pumpkin or butternut pumpkin.  I used a large jap pumpkin from my sister’s garden (love fresh produce!) and chopped it in half.

1 large or 2 small onions roughly chopped

Coconut oil

Cinnamon

About 1 litre (4 cups) chicken stock, or vegetable stock (if you want to keep this vegan), or water would be fine too – the flavours are very rich!  Here is a link to my easy slow cooker chicken stock here.

About 1/2 can of coconut milk/cream (full fat organic if possible).  You may not wish to add as much as this – it depends on the amount of soup etc – so perhaps add according to taste.

Sea salt and cracked pepper

Chives to serve

How to pull it together:

Chop up the pumpkin into fairly even sized cubes and place on baking paper in a roasting tray.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, sea salt and pepper.  You can spritz with a bit of olive oil (but please don’t use those aerosol cans – they are so bad for you!) and bake in a 180 degree Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) oven for about 40 minutes or until roasted through.

When the pumpkin is cooked or you are ready to make the soup, heat about 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large soup pot or saucepan and sauté the onion with a sprinkle of salt (to stop it from burning) until transparent.  Add the roasted pumpkin and toss through until well coated.  Add the stock or water until the pumpkin and onion are covered and bring to the boil.  Simmer for about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, blitz the soup with a hand held blender or in a food processor.  Bring back onto the heat and add the coconut milk/cream stirring until well combined.  Serve with a sprinkle of chives.

If Using A Thermomix:

Add the onion to the mixing bowl and chop speed 5 for 5 seconds.

Add the butter or coconut oil and saute for 3 minutes, 100 degrees, speed 2.

Add the baked pumpkin and broth or stock to cover.  Cook for 20 minutes, 100 degrees, speed 1.

Add coconut milk and blitz speed 9 for 1 minute.

Season to taste and serve sprinkled with chives.

 

Hmmmm enjoy X

 

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