Slow Cooker Eggplant Stew: Summer’s Bounty in a Crock Pot

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If you are up to your ears in vegetables from your garden, this ratatouille should do the trick. It’s a hearty vegetable stew, also known as ratatouille, that is delicious by itself or served over whole grain pasta, cous cous, quinoa or rice. I’ve even spooned it on slices of toasted French bread and used it as a pizza topping. Feel free to adjust the recipe to include your favorite vegetables, but don’t forget the chick peas (garbanzo beans) – I love those little guys, don’t you?

CROCK POT RATATOUILLE – EGGPLANT STEW

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
5 cloves minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
3 small Italian eggplants, peeled and chopped
1/8 tspn. pepper
3/4 tspn. salt
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 medium zucchini, seeded and chopped
1 can (14.5 oz.) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (14.5 oz.) petite diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tspn. thyme flakes
1 1/2 tspn. basil flakes

Heat oil on med. heat and saute garlic and onion for 3 minutes. Add eggplant and season with salt and pepper, cooking 5 more minutes. Turn heat to low and cover, cooking an additional 5 – 8 minutes or until eggplant are tender. Transfer to slow cooker and add peppers, zucchini and chick peas (garbanzo beans).
In medium bowl, combine tomatoes, basil and thyme and mix well. Pour into crock pot and stir all ingredients together. Cover and cook on low for 7 – 8 hours and high for 4 – 5 hours.


Blueberry Coffee Cake Scones

Mouthwatering Blueberry Coffee Cake Scones

Mouthwatering Blueberry Coffee Cake Scones

Summer is not over yet and I have made these delicious scones several times over the season, buying the berries from south to north in the process. I started in July with blueberries from New Jersey, then moved on to my local farmer’s market in the beginning of August. By the end of August the most flavorful blueberries were from Maine, and now I’m finding the choicest berries from Oregon and Michigan. The blueberries add sweetness and moisture to the scones and the delicate crumb topping makes them irresistible. Serve with a hot cup of tea and fruit preserves – what a treat! It’s an indulgence you can feel good about too because blueberries are considered a “superfruit” – loaded with antioxidants and fiber. Enjoy for breakfast or as an elegant dessert!

Topping:
3/4 C flour
1/4 C firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 tspn cinnamon
1/4 C butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

Stir together dry ingredients and cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles crumbs. The crumb topping is optional but highly recommended!

Scones:
2 1/4 C flour
1/2 C sugar
2 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn non-iodized salt
1/2 C butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
2 eggs
1/4 C whole milk
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 – 2 C blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 F and grease an 11-inch diameter circle in the center of a baking pan. In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients and cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, stir together eggs, milk and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine. Gently add the blueberries and use your hands to combine. Add flour to your hands as needed since the dough will be sticky. Pat the dough in a 9-inch circle in the center of the baking pan. If using, press the crumb topping into the dough. If not using the crumb topping, press sugar (a coarse baking sugar if you have it) into the dough. Use a serrated knife to divide the circle into 8 scones by gently pressing the knife down 1 inch into the dough. Bake 30 – 35 minutes and test with a toothpick inserted in the center to see that it comes out clean – avoid the blueberries when inserting. Allow the pan to cool for 15 minutes and then transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Simply Scones by Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright


Feeling Anxious? Improving Your Nutrition May Help

An Apple a Day - and a Nutritious Diet - Keep the Blues Away

An Apple a Day – and a Nutritious Diet – Keep the Blues Away

I recently attended an eye-opening talk by Dr. James Greenblatt, Adult and Pediatric Psychiatrist, as well as Founder and Medical Director of Comprehensive Psychiatric Resources in Waltham, Massachusetts. As a dietitian, I know how important the food we eat is for our health and well-being. What was new to me is how much nutrition plays a role in the treatment of depression, anxiety and mood disorders. Also new to me is the fact that depression is the second leading cause of disability worldwide and it is predicted to be the number one cause of disability by 2020. This is something that needs our attention and if food and nutrition can be part of the solution, it’s worth investigating.

Increasingly, the medical community has turned to medications as the sole treatment for mental illness. As someone who has spent 13 years working in clinical drug research, I understand how life-saving these medications can be. However, they do not work for everyone and can come with some unwanted side effects. In fact, these drugs often are only about 50% effective, basically the flip of a coin. This is due to something called the placebo-effect, where the placebo, or inactive pill, is sometimes found to be just as effective as the active drug. This could just be due to the fact that everyone in the study is getting more attention from caregivers, so even the patients on the placebo improve. This placebo-effect makes it hard for drug companies to prove the efficacy of their compound and as a result, very few new drugs for depression and anxiety make it to final approval by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

Dr. Greenblat asserts that it is worthwhile checking the nutritional status of his patients, since deficiencies in vital nutrients can contribute to their condition. He pointed out that the brain is 60% fat and needs cholesterol in order to function. He has found that patients on statin medication to lower cholesterol can show signs of depression if the total cholesterol drops below 130. Sometimes children with autism are found to be genetically low in cholesterol and benefit from a cholesterol supplement. He also discussed a study showing links to prenatal vitamin D deficiency and schizophrenia. Other important nutrient deficiencies linked to fatigue, anxiety, depression and mood disorders are: folate, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium and zinc. Basically, a junk food and refined sugar diet is not going to help your body or your mood. Dr. Greenblat points out that improving nutritional status is just “good” medicine that can be used alone, or combined with drug therapy, to help improve outcomes in the treatment of mental illness.

Dr. Greenblatt is also an author, and fortunately for us, he has written a number of books on this fascinating topic. Here are the titles and the links on Amazon.com.

The Breakthrough Depression Solution: A Personalized, 9-Step Method for Beating the Physical Causes of Your Depression

Answers to Appetite Control: New Hope for Binge Eating and Weight Management

Answers to Anorexia: A Breakthrough Nutritional Treatment that is Saving Lives

To learn more about Dr. Greenblatt, click on this link to his website: www.integrativepsychmd.com

Do you find a link between your diet and your mood? Click on the title of this post and then scroll down to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

As always, the information in this blog is general nutrition information and is not intended to be medical advice.


Slow Cooker Vegetarian Tomato Sauce with Eggplant

Chunky Eggplant Tomato Sauce

Chunky Eggplant Tomato Sauce

Spring has finally arrived and I just want to be outside to enjoy it. Whether it’s gardening, walking the dog or just sitting and knitting on the porch, the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time indoors cooking. That’s where the crock pot comes in handy – it’s not just for hearty, winter-time fare. This eggplant tomato sauce is as warm and delicious as any cold-weather comfort food, but it’s also light and healthy, brimming with vegetables. This is an easy vegetarian dish, perfect for meatless Monday, or any day of the week when you want to let the slow cooker do the work while you are outdoors enjoying a lovely spring day. Enjoy!

What are your favorite eggplant recipes? Click on the title of this post and scroll down to leave a comment.

Eggplant Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) petite diced tomatos, undrained
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup mild or medium salsa
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbspn. balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic sliced thin
1 tspn. oregano
1/4 tspn. salt, plus extra for preparing the eggplant
2 cups jar tomato sauce

Prepare the eggplant by sprinkling salt on both sides of each slice and placing it in a colander for 1/2 hour to 1 hour. Set the colander over a plate to catch the liquid. When the time is up, use paper towels to wipe off the salt and absorb any excess moisture from the eggplant slices. Use a knife to cut away the peel from the outer edge of each slice. Then chop the slices into 1/2-inch pieces.

Mix the chopped eggplant, tomatoes with juice, onion, pepper, salsa, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano and salt in the slow cooker. Cover and cook for 7 – 8 hours on low, until vegetables are soft. Do not lift the lid or stir while cooking.

At the end of the cooking time, add your favorite tomato sauce and stir. Replace lid and allow to cook another 5 – 10 minutes until sauce is hot and ready to serve.

Enjoy over cous cous, rice or pasta.


Easter Recipes: Italian Sprinkle Cookies – Taralli

Delicious and Colorful Taralli Cookies

Delicious and Colorful Taralli Cookies

It’s almost time for the Easter bunny to pay a visit and that means it is time to do some Easter baking. Forget about the ham, it’s all about making taralli cookies. I always post this recipe at Easter and Christmas time, that is when our family typically makes these very special cookies. They are so yummy with a hot cup of tea or coffee, or an ice cold glass of milk. Be sure to leave a plate of them out for the Easter bunny, along with some carrots of course!

Click on the Recipe Rescue tab to view this recipe. Have you ever had Taralli’s before? Sometimes they are made with anise or lemon extract instead of vanilla, either added to the cookie or the glaze. Let me know what flavor is your favorite by clicking on the title of this post (above) and then scrolling down to leave a comment. Happy Easter!


Easter Recipes: Spinach Ricotta Pie

Spinach Pie for Easter Brunch

Spinach Pie for Easter Brunch

The Spanish Onions and Cheddar Cheese Add to the Flavor of the Pie

The Red Onion and Cheddar Cheese Add to the Flavor of the Pie

Easter is almost here and that usually means Easter brunch. This spinach quiche, or pie as I like to call it, is perfect for any meal or snack, even without a holiday. Since only one egg is used, it really is less like a quiche and more like a pie. The crust is an easy “pat-in-pan” recipe that is no-fuss and foolproof. If you prefer, Pillsbury makes refrigerated pie crusts as well. The savory filling has chopped spinach, chopped onion, part-skim ricotta and just a hint of cheddar cheese; the aroma in the kitchen is wonderful while the pie is baking.

What are some of your favorite Easter recipes and traditions? Please click on the title of this post and scroll down to leave a comment.

Happy Easter and click on the Dinner 911 tab for this recipe – Enjoy!


Chicken Lettuce Wraps for Chinese New Year

Lettuce Wraps - Some Assembly Required

Lettuce Wraps – Some Assembly Required

The Chinese New Year is approaching on January 31st and what better time to try a new Asian-inspired recipe? There is a Chinese food restaurant that is a bit of a drive from our house, so it’s a real treat to go there. We always order the chicken lettuce wraps – hot and tasty and wrapped-up nice and neat in cool, crisp, iceberg lettuce. My teenage daughter loves them, so I decided to try and make them at home. I was very excited to find an envelope in the grocery store to help get me started. I did not follow the instructions on the envelope exactly (I rarely do), but using it really gives the meal an authentic Chinese food flavor. I consider this a labor-intensive meal, due to all of the chopping of the chicken and veggies. However, once all the prep work is done, the meal can be cooked in under 20 minutes. Fried rice recipe to follow soon in a separate post (see envelope below).

Envelopes Provide Authentic Flavor

Envelopes Provide Authentic Flavor

To learns more about Sun-Bird seasonings, click here: www.sunbirdseasonings.com

Click on the Recipe Rescue tab (top right) for this recipe – enjoy! Are you celebrating Chinese New Year? **Note: This recipe has been removed to make room for another Recipe Rescue.**
Click on the title of this post and scroll down to comment.


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