I was the pickiest eater growing up and the thought of eating something different would have been a nightmare come true. If you had asked 8-year-old me if I would ever eat eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms I would have gagged. But as I’ve grown older and started branching out with the foods I eat, I have found that I actually love all of the veggies I used to snub.
The list goes on and on. Now all of these vegetables are staples in my kitchen and I think it’s mostly because I finally learned that if you just try something, you might end up liking it.Oh and another important lesson I’ve learned recently…
How simple yet critical!
And the best part is that it is totally possible to make these healthy, nutrient packed pieces of deliciousness in very little time. I’m a huge fan of quick, low prep dinners because let’s face it… When I get home from work, one of the last things I want to do is spend hours laboring in the kitchen. And I’m not even going to mention how much I hate doing dishes and cleaning up my mess (because I am actually a very messy cook. I splash, drop and spill everything!).
So enter today’s recipe! Before I got married and my mom wasn’t here to make most of my dinners, the only time I had ever had eggplant was at Italian restaurants when it was deep-fried in breading and smothered with marinara and melted cheese. YUM. But it’s definitely not the healthiest thing to eat, so I was excited when I saw the Italian Stuffed Eggplant recipe in my Tone It Up nutrition plan. Finally a healthy alternative to one of my favorite splurge meals. No, it’s not a “healthy Eggplant Parmesan”, but it had many of the same flavors and the first time I made it, I felt so much better after eating that than after eating more than my fair share of the original at a restaurant.
Yesterday I made that recipe again but decided to add my own spin to it. If I’ve learned anything since getting married, it’s that my husband is happy when his meals have meat. So I added some ground venison and other veggies I found in my fridge that needed to be cooked. The original recipe also calls for olives (which I don’t think I’ll ever like) and some other ingredients I forgot to get at the grocery store. So… we made the Italian Stuffed Eggplant a la Hicks. And it made a LOT. I think I got a little too carried away with my chopping, but I didn’t mind because I already knew what I was going to do with the left overs.
The stuffing made a PERFECT veggie sauce.
I say “veggie sauce” because calling it a tomato sauce just doesn’t give it the credit it deserves. And I won’t lie… That was the best lunch I’ve had all week. I cooked some pasta last night, layered it with the veggie sauce in a plastic container, threw it in the microwave at lunch today and voila! Deliciousness.
Okay. Enough talk about the recipe. Now it’s time for the good part!
4 Tbsp EVOO
1 onion chopped
1 clove minced garlic
1 Lb lean ground meat (I used venison)
1 zucchini chopped
1 cup mushrooms chopped
2 cups kale and spinach chopped
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp thyme
salt and pepper
Package of your favorite pasta!
In a skillet (I used a cast iron), heat 2 Tbsp of the EVOO. While it’s heating, cut the eggplant in half then add shallow cuts lengthwise so it can absorb the oil. Brown each side in a skillet (about 5 minutes) then remove.
Once it’s cooled, scoop out the meat of the eggplant and chop into small pieces.
Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of EVOO to the skillet and once heated, cook the onion and garlic together until soft. Add the ground meat and cook until it is slightly pink. Add the zucchini and eggplant and cook for another 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms, tomatoes and spices and simmer until the mushrooms are fully cooked. Add the chopped kale and spinach and turn off the heat to the skillet. The heat from the veggies will cook the greens without causing them to wilt too much.
While making the sauce, cook your pasta according to the directions on the box. I used a brand I found at Sprouts last weekend that was SO GOOD. It was the Ancient Harvest Supergrain Pasta, made with corn and quinoa.
See? Cooking veggies can be easy and turn out delicious too! Let me know if you try this recipe or if you have any favorites you’d like to share in the comments below.