Spinach & Chicken Sausage Stuffed Eggplant

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There is a good chance this may be my new favorite low-carb eggplant dish. I really don’t know what I was thinking when I made this dish except I wanted eggplant for dinner. Roasted eggplant is one of my favorite things to eat, I would even consider it a treat. It is totally easy to make you would never guess that because it is so delicious. You can get real creative on this one and stuff it with anything you wanted…spaghetti, pasta, quinoa, roasted veggies, ground beef..or whatever else you like. Use your imagination–the possibilities are endless!

Yield: 4

Ingredients:
2 eggplants, cleaned and dried
1 tsp salt
5 Tablespoons olive oil
4 chicken or italian sausages, sliced
1/2 cup diced onion
3 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled and minced
2 cups fresh spinach; chopped
1/2 cup italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon capers, drained and smashed
1 handful of fresh basil; chopped
2 cups of fresh marinara sauce
1 cup mozarella cheese (I used fresh moz)
Sprinkle of parmesan cheese (for the topping)

Steps:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut off the edges of the eggplant with a sharp knife. Then scoop out the middle of the eggplants. Rub with salt and let stand to sweat. Dice the inside of the eggplant meat that you scooped out. Rub about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in and around the eggplant and place in oven for 20 minutes.

2. In the meantime..heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onions, garlic, and sausage. Use a wooden spatula to stir and cook for about 6-7 minutes. Then add 1 more Tablespoon of olive oil and add eggplant meat, spinach, capers, and basil. Cook for another 5 minutes or until sausage and eggplant is cooked completely. Stir in the breadcrumbs and take off heat.

3. Now for the stuffing part..stuff eggplant with cooked eggplant mixture and place in a baking dish. Ladle tomato sauce into the baking dish underneath the eggplant and a little bit on top of each eggplant.

4. Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees F.

5. Uncover and add sliced mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top each of each eggplant to cover. Bake for another 5 minutes and then broil for another 5 minutes. Serve once cheese is melted..enjoy!
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Italian Mac and Cheese

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Growing up we would always have some type of homemade pasta dish on Sundays as an Italian tradition. We had everything from Spaghetti and Meatballs to Raviolis…you name it we had it. It was my favorite meal of the week! This recipe just sounded so good on this rainy day and it was. I actually got this recipe from one of my favorite Food Network stars, Rachael Ray and added my own twist to it! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Yield: 10

Ingredients:
1 pound ziti rigate, penne rigate or cavatappi (ribbed, hollow corkscrews)
1 pound Italian sweet sausage; casings removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup milk (I used low-fat)
2 1/2 cups, shredded Italian 4 cheese blend (Trader Joe’s has a great one!)
1 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Steps:
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and cook pasta until al dente (still chewy), about 10-11 minutes.

2. In a non-stick frying pan or skillet, brown the sausage for about 5-7 minutes or until it is no longer pink. Drain cooked sausage and set aside. In the same pan add olive oil, butter, garlic and sliced mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 4-5 minutes or until mushrooms look golden.
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3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add flour to mushrooms and stir, cooking 2 minutes. Whisk in stock, then stir in milk. When sauce comes to a boil stir in 4 cheese blend. When cheese has melted into sauce, add marinara sauce. When sauce comes to a bubble, remove from heat.
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4. Combine cheese sauce with sausage and pasta, transfer to baking dish. Add one layer of pasta and then sprinkles more cheese in the middle. Add second layer and top with remaining cheese and parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes and enjoy!
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Italian Pasta Salad

imageThis is the easiest way to make a pasta salad if you are short on time and need to make a quick side dish or appetizer for a party or event. I would make this super easy pasta dish when I was in college because it was cheap, delicious, and everybody loves pasta salad! Especially with salami and cheese in it how can you go wrong!? Mix up the ingredients to what you like and you can’t mess up this recipe 🙂

Yield: 10

Ingredients:
1 lb multi colored rotini pasta
1/4 cup Wish Bone light Italian dressing
8 ounces mozzarella cheese; cubed
1 cup salami; chopped
1 can black olives; sliced
1 cup fresh spinach; chopped
1/2 cup fresh cherry tomatoes; cut in half
1 small jar of roasted peppers; sliced
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
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Steps:
1. Bring a large bowl of water to a boil and cook pasta for 10-12 minutes or until al dente (cooked but has a bite to it). Once cooked drain and let cool.
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2. Once pasta is cooled place in a large bowl, add salad dressing, mozzarella cheese, salami, olives, spinach, tomatoes,red peppers, and seasonings. Toss with two large spoons until evenly coated. This dish is best when its served chilled. This is so easy and simple anybody can do it!
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Baked Parmesan Chicken Strips

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I like chicken but I don’t love it..I just never have unless its cooked in some amazing way. I had some leftover chicken breasts in my fridge and to be honest they are my least favorite part of the chicken because it is the driest. I’ve never been the one to eat chicken strips or order them in restaurants as a kid so I decided to come up with a “grown-up” version, which is much more tastier and delicious than any other chicken strips I’ve ever had. Try dunking these crispy strips in marinara or pesto sauce, I even combined the two!

Yield: 6

Ingredients:
3 chicken breasts; sliced into 1/2 inch strips
1 cup Italian Seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 whole egg; beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Steps:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut chicken breast into 1/2 inch strips. Place breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in a bowl and set aside. Place beaten egg and flour into 2 separate bowls.

2. Dip chicken strips on both sides into flour, then dip into the egg mixture, then dip in the parmesan breadcrumb mixture.
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3. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes on one side, then with tongs flip and bake on other side for another 10 minutes. Enjoy this with some marinara sauce and pesto, the combination is delicious!
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Smoked Salmon, Avocado, & Spinach Panini

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After my workout this morning I was craving my favorite bagel, a lox bagel! I try to stay away from bagels as much as possible and almost never buy them just because of all the carbs..but that doesn’t stop me from creating a healthier version of my favorite breakfast/lunch. This panini sandwich can almost be eaten for any meal of the day….not to mention it is healthy for you and it is a great way to end 2013! Happy New Years Eve!

Yield: 1 or 2 (depending on how hungry you are!)

Ingredients:
2 slices of whole wheat bread
1 laughing cow cheese wedge (I used French Onion flavor)
3 ounces smoked salmoin
1/2 avocado; sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper
1/4 cup spinach; about 8-10 leaves
1 tsp olive oil

Steps:
1. Heat a skillet with olive oil. Spread 1/2 cheese wedge on each slice of bread. Add avocado, smoked salmon, and spinach and grill on skillet on each side for about 2 minutes (or until grill marks are made). I used the bottom of a frying pan to press on the sandwich while grilling to get good looking grill ridges! Flip sandwich and repeat for 2 more minutes. Slice in half and enjoy!