Friday, August 28, 2015

THD's Stuffed Eggplant Recipe

:NOM:NOM:NOM:  I really didn't think I liked eggplant, but then we got a farm share box from our local Lowes Foods and I thought I would give it a shot because the eggplants looked really good.  Then, I noticed an unopened package of Johnsonville New Orleans Spicy Smoked Sausage Links and thought...maybe this could work?  I was SOOOOOO right!

4 Servings

20 minutes prep time
40 minutes bake time
Total time:  1 hour

Preheat your oven to 350 F

2 Eggplants
2 TBSP olive oil
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, divided into 1/4 cups
1 cup Italian flavored breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 large tomato, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage links, chopped (these are flavorful and do not have too much heat to them but feel free to go meatless or add some ground turkey or lean ground beef for a lower sodium option)

1)  Cut eggplant in half, lengthwise.  Scoop out the flesh from the inside and chop up the eggplant flesh.  It will be used in the filling.

2)  Heat up 2 TBSP olive oil in a medium saucepan.  Add the chopped eggplant and minced garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until soft.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

3)  Stir egg into mixing bowl with eggplant mixture.  Add breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, chopped tomatoes, and sausage to bowl.  Fold together until well combined.

4)  Line large baking dish with foil and place the eggplant shells inside with skins facing down.  Fill the eggplant holes with the eggplant mixture from bowl, evenly distributed to each eggplant.

5)  Sprinkle remaining parmesan cheese on top of the eggplant mixture and put in the oven to bake for 40 minutes.

6)  Remove those delicious stuffed eggplants and ENJOY!!!

*If you make these, let me know what you think!  If you have an eggplant recipe that is amazing, please leave it in the comments for us!*

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Glutino Gluten-Free Goods- Love! Love! Love!

What is that always want what you can't have?  That is how I felt when I first tried eliminating gluten with the Fodmap diet to help identifying the foods that were causing abdominal distention/bloating in my diet.  I had tried a few "bread" products and really was not optimistic.  Then, one day, I took a leap of faith and found Glutino's Gluten-Free Bagels in the freezer section of the Food Lion by my house.  And my husband and I were so happy because they are really, really good!  I wanted to see what other GF products the Glutino company carried.  Maybe, just maybe, they would be able to answer my prayers and make a GF English muffin.  Prayers answers.  See here.  I am in love with the original premium english muffins that Glutino makes.  I am a huge fan of making my own breakfast sandwiches and generally prefer the english muffin over bread when it comes to sandwiches (especially the peanut butter and banana combo).  They also make a multigrain english muffin and although I do not like breads with nuts and seeds in them, my handsome husband found them to be quite delightful.  But the happiness didn't stop with the english muffins and bagels.  Glutino makes other exceptional products for those people who have true Celiacs disease, gluten-intolerance, or people like me who are just playing around with an elimination diet to get my gut in check.  They have pretzels, bagel chips, pizza dough, cookies, pasta...everything you could ever want that has gluten...only they're GLUTEN FREE!  I loved the honey mustard pretzels.  And since our local stores are carrying the Glutino products, we have used the Vegetable Crackers not only as snack crackers, but as bread crumbs in our meatloaf.  So even though I am still searching for a GF bread that makes me excited for a sandwich, I am very happy with the GF bagels and english muffins for my bread substitution.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Green's Gluten-Free Beer- YES! YES! YES!

Growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan I have had the opportunity to be exposed to some of the finer things in life including great live music, good coffee, and the best microbreweries in the country.  I appreciate my diverse taste in beer, knowing that there are times, tastes, and places for all of the different varieties.  I have been skeptical of divulging in the Gluten-Free Beer genre because honestly, all of the ones I have tried have been "meh".  However, my thoughts, feelings, and preferences have all changed after being exposed to Green's Gluten Free Beers.  Green's GF Beers are Belgian brews that are made with millet, sorghum, buckwheat (soba), and rice.  There are no sulfites (no headaches!) and are appropriate for vegans & vegetarians.  Since I have a preference for dark and ominous brews, I was especially excited to try the Endeavor Dubbel Ale.  It is dark.  It has satisfying hints of dark sugar and toffee and was a welcoming brew to enjoy after a hectic day when you just need to sit and relax for a bit.  In the future, what I would like to do (although I can never pour them as well as the bartenders) would be to mix the Endeavor Dubble Ale with the Samuel Smith's Organic Cider to make a Snakebite:  1 part cider + 1 part beer.  The Samuel Smith's Organic Cider is naturally GF and I can see why it has won many awards, as it is crisp and light and is a heavy contender against my beloved Strongbow Cider.  Now, I have to admit that the genre of beer that I am least likely to order is the IPA.  I am not a huge fan of super hoppy brews where I feel like I have remnants of a floral garden in my nose after drinking.  But, I was extremely surprised by Green's India Pale Ale and would confidently say that this would be the perfect IPA for people who do not typically enjoy IPAs.  It is hoppy, but not overwhelming.  You can taste the hints of caramel and the beer paired perfectly with our GF Pizza from the Mellow Mushroom.  Last, but certainly not least, was my absolute favorite of all of the beers:  Green's Enterprise Dry-Hopped Lager.  This beer is refreshing and at the first sip.  I was yearning for the summer- visions of grilling out and swimming in the pool danced through my head.  This brew has citrus tones and I certainly tasted hints of grapefruit (yum!). This is certainly the #1 GF Lager on my list.  Overall, I was extremely impressed with the Green's GF Beers and the Samuel Smith's Organic Cider.  My previous mostly negative experiences with other GF beers have been replaced with positivity.  If you are a beer snob like me, these are the GF brews to try!

Monday, January 12, 2015

The FODMAP Diet for IBS, etc.

There are lots of people out there who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome with either diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both.  There are some medications that can alleviate symptoms, however, there are no medications that can specifically treat the painful bloating that some people experience.  I know many, many people who can bloat out to the size of a 5-6 month pregnant female after meals and even through allergy testing, upper endoscopies, colonoscopies, various medications and digestive enzymes, nothing seems to help discover the root cause to the discomfort.

I've been watching the progression of interest in the FODMAP diet in the USA for some time now.  Dr. Sue Shepard and Dr. Peter Gibson created the FODMAP Diet in the 2000's and for many people, it has brought much comfort.

So what is a FODMAP?
FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.  The idea is to limit foods that have been proven to be poorly absorbed by some people.  The foods that are limited include foods with:

Excess Fructose:  apples, pears, honey, high fructose corn syrup
Lactose:  cow milk, ice cream, cottage cheese
Fructans:  garlic, onion, brussels sprouts, watermelon
Galactans: beans, lentils, chickpeas
Polyols:  Sugar alcohols such as xylitol, maltitol, avocados, prunes

Now, the point of the FODMAP diet is to eliminate FODMAPs from the diet for 6-8 weeks and then reintroduce the foods back into your diet to determine which foods may trigger symptoms.  There are many resources on this diet, including Grocery Shopping Lists that make giving this dietary change a shot- a little bit easier.

My husband and I went FODMAP free for an entire week this year and we both had a major decrease in our unattractive GI discomforts.  In fact, the only reason why I didn't make it longer than a week with being completely FODMAP free is because I found it very, very difficult to comply on the road. I would love to see someone develop a really good "FODMAP Guide to Eating Out".  And today, after eating a FODMAP filled lunch, I am really looking forward to giving it another shot.  I also have some great recipes that my husband and I experimented with during our FODMAP free week that I will post.

Skeptics:  I pretty much am in LOVE with Nutrition Issues in Gastroenterology- Read This

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My NOLA Top 10 & a few extra tips

New Orleans is incredible.  I have been twice now- one for business and a bit of pleasure and another time for my Honeymoon.  The first trip was in the heat of the summer- late July & it was so hot and humid that my husband had to go to the French Market to buy quite a few extra shirts because we had to change our clothes a couple times a day because of the sweat.  That might not sound appealing to you, but we could not resist walking the streets of NOLA, dipping in to the different places to shop and eat to cool off and explore.  We also had the opportunity to catch the Satchmo Festival where the music and the people were so fun.  TIP:  The streets can be cobblestone or a little broken up here and there.  It is not the place to go exploring in uncomfortable shoes or heels!  I had an awesome pair of Merrill sandals that kept me sturdy and were cute enough to match all of the dresses I brought to keep me cool.  Ladies- if you are going to be sweating, consider dresses or linen shorts/pants/crops.  Jean anything will do you no good in the heat of NOLA.  Also, I am a fan of Marriott and have stayed at both the JW Marriott on the French Quarter (great location, rooms, pool, more expensive) and the Renaissance New Orleans Pere Marquette Hotel (less expensive than the JW, fantastic lobby, great staff, and very nice sized rooms- we will be booking this one again).

Here's mine and my husband Alex's Current Top 10 List (I had made this for my brother who was there for a Bachelor Party and it was his first trip- he showed it to one of the guys in the party who was a local, who confirmed it to be a "very good list"):

1.   Day One: make sure to get a Jazzy Pass (you can get these at CVS and they’re only a few bucks, but they give you access to all of the street cars & public transit, including some of the fairies if you want to cross the Mississippi River for fun).  Use your Jazzy Pass to ride the St. Charles Car to the garden district and take the Canal Street Car to the City Park, where there is a fantastic outdoor sculpture garden (and paddleboats that look like ducks), as well as take the Canal Street Car to the cemeteries:

2.   Get breakfast at Daisy Dukes.  There are several locations, but go to the one in the Central Business District off of Carondelet St.  Ask for TONI the waitress.  She will try to “shove God down your throat” which you will totally get if you have the pleasure of her waiting on you haha.  AMAZING FOOD, CHEAP FOOD, BOGO Bloody Mary’s.

3.   Stop in to Turtle Bay and have their “GREEN drink- might be called Shell Shocked” – it is GREAT and refreshing.  They also have a drink in a skull glass that is called the “resurrection”.  The first time I heard my husband sing was after drinking the resurrection and my goodness- "I Can't Go For That" by Hall & Oats will be one of my favorite songs forever.  Also, Alex and I have been lucky to hit their Crawfish Boil on Saturdays both times were have been to NOLA.  SO GOOD.

4.   Get dressed up and head to the best Happy Hour in New Orleans:  Luke’s on St. Charles.  I’m pretty sure it’s in the Hilton.  It has the BEST oysters and drink specials.  Forget the ACME oyster house.  Make reservations, you can do it here:

5.   Almost as famous as Pat O’Brien’s Hurricanes is breakfast at Mother’s.  It is completely worth it!  There will be a line, but it is certainly one of those places you should check out.  Even if you don’t go for breakfast…it’s small, famous, wonderful.

6.   The Steamboat Natchez tour is actually pretty good.  It takes you on the Mississippi and you get to go see where the levees broke down during Hurricane Katrina.  We did the Easter brunch tour last year and wear sunscreen and bring a hoodie or jacket because it's a bit cooler on the water.  They have good food and all you can drink mimosas and bloody marys.

7.   Fritzels:  this is a small, European jazz club.  It is classy.  Grab some cigars and some scotch and go sit in for a few songs.  And it’s a good fresh of breath air from the hoopla on Bourbon Street (its right on Bourbon Street)

8.   Café DuMonde:  Best beignets and coffee EVER.  Seriously, the coffee is awesome.  It is open 24 hours.  Beware of pick-pocketers.  This is an absolute must do and have.  It’s cheap, it’s wonderful.

9.   The French Market:  Take the street car down the French Market.  There’s a bunch of good shopping (cheap t-shirts and knickknacks for the boys), as well as the best Bloody Mary I’ve had in NOLA, at the Gazebo Café.

10. Jackson Square:  At night, this is where the fortune tellers are.  We have gotten our palms and fortune read both times and it has been a blast.  We always are up front about how much money we have allotted for those festivities and I have found that one person for $15-20 is somewhat typical, although Alex and I did a joint reading for $30 and it was really fun. Get some authentic NOLA art.  Listen to live jazz and enjoy the sites and sounds, especially at night. 

      I think it is important to mention that we are not the crazy party people that you see on MTV when they show Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street.  There is a rich culture in NOLA.  There is so much to do and see besides the bead throwers and the couple of streets that do have a certain funk to the air.  I LOVE this place and I hope to go back every year.  

Have you been to NOLA?  Please comment with your favorite places or suggestions on where you like to go!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 Favorites Part Two

Best Cookbook- Eat Vegan on $4 a Day by Ellen Jaffe Jones.  I am not a vegan, however the recipes in this book are outstanding.  I was attracted originally to the budget-friendly approach to eating healthy, and although it can be quite an investment for ingredients up front, the book does a great job breaking down the general cost per serving for the recipes.  The recipes are fantastic.  My favorites are the recipes for tabouli, tempeh-broccoli sauté, hummus, potato pancakes, and my absolute favorite---Coconut "Ice Cream" made with frozen bananas.  Here's a link to more info about this book which would make a great gift for those people you know who love food:  Eat Vegan on $4 a Day

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Favorites Part One

Part One of my favorites from 2014:

1.  My Garden- Last summer so was incredibly wet that I had a sad growing season.  This summer was just wonderful, however.  I did not intend on any of my watermelon actually making it but I had 3 and they were great (once I figured out how to tell if they were ripe or not).  I also grew my first round of peppers and eggplant.  I was very hesitant on even growing the eggplant because I always thought I didn't like it but I was wrong!  We made a lot of baba ghannouj and ratatouille with it.  I also had an abundance of bruschetta and pesto with all of the sweet basil I have growing year-round.  Looking to grow some amazing food?  Look no further than the best seeds available:Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.
2.  Olympic Weightlifting- Okay, I'll admit it.  I knew nothing about this sport until I met my husband (who just happens to be a great coach who really loves the sport).  But it is really, really fun.  I love feeling like I am getting better every workout.  And most importantly, learning a new sport when you are older feels different than when you're younger and just want to be really good and fast.  I just want to be strong and healthy and learn how to do lifts correctly, so I don't get hurt.  And it is such a great outlet for all of that energy from a hard day at work...hard day at school...hard day at home.  So, if you're reading this- thanks Love for the introduction
to "your weightlifting thing" because it is awesome.

3.  New Orleans, LA- I've been to NOLA two years in a row and just cannot get over how amazing it is.  I've made a Top 10 List of my favorite NOLA happenings, which I will share soon, but it is really difficulty to list only 10 things about that city to love because there are hundreds of things that come to mind.  The food, the music, the buildings, the streetcars, the festivals...I just can't get enough.  So, my goal is to get back for a third year in a row.  I dare might be my favorite city in the entire USA.  Boston, MA is a close second.