Eggplant Parmesan Casserole with Cauliflower Rice (Vegetarian or Vegan)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Photo from The Iron You.

The photo just above is from the wonderful blog – The Iron You.  It is their Eggplant Parm Rice Casserole and it is that recipe that inspired mine here.  There are a few subtle changes but the primary difference is that I used cauliflower rice rather than real rice.  That way – this dish is very light & nearly guiltless.  Is is very easy to make & comes together in less than 45-60 minutes – 30 of which are in the oven.  It is a surprisingly tasty recipe & chock full of fresh vegetables.  Use vegan cheeses, if you prefer.  There are enough flavors at play here that I think this dish would work very well vegan-style.

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Eggplant Parmesan Casserole with Cauliflower Rice (Vegetarian or Vegan)

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS

1 large head of cauliflower

2 eggplants – cut into 1/4 inch slices

Olive oil

1 cup basil – chopped

2 large shallots (or one small onion) – diced

2 cups cherry tomatoes – quartered

2-3 cups grated mozzarella (or vegan alternative) – according to your preference (I used 3 cups)

1-2 cups grated Parmesan (or vegan alternative) – according to your preference (I used 2 cups real Parmesan – I would have used less of a vegan Parm)

S&P

1 TBS oregano

1 TBS crushed red pepper (optional)

1 cup vegetable stock

Parsley or basil – chopped as garnish

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DIRECTIONS

If you have a grill or grill pan, spray some olive oil on the eggplant (or toss them in a light coating of olive oil or dressing) & grill on each side until a bit charred & soft.  Set aside.

If you do not have a grill or grill pan – follow Iron You’s oven method directions:  Preheat oven to 400°F  and place a rack in the middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and grease them with vegetable oil. Set aside.
Fill a large bowl with cold water, add 1 teaspoon of salt and stir until it dissolves completely.
Add eggplant slices and let them sit for at least 20 minutes to draw out the bitterness.  Fish the eggplant slices out of the water, pat them dry, and arrange them on a single layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the slices turn deep brown on top.
Remove the slices from the baking sheets and carefully transfer them on a plate to cool.

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Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Cut the florets from the cauliflower & either grate them on a box grater or using the grater of your food processor (the FAR neater way to go).  Set aside.

Toss the tomatoes with basil, a pinch or S&P & the oregano & set aside.

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Heat a TBS or so of olive oil in a large frying pan (large enough to hold all the cauliflower rice) & saute the shallots or onion until soft.  Add crushed red pepper (if using) and the cauliflower rice & the stock.  Over high heat – saute until the cauliflower is soft & the bulk of the stock has evaporated.  Stir in the tomato & basil mix.

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Grease a casserole pan (I used cooking spray) and layer 1/3 of the rice on the bottom.  Top with half the eggplant and 1/3 of the cheese.  Add another 1/3 of the rice, remaining eggplant and 1/3 of the cheese.  Top with a final layer of rice & cheese.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is melted & bubbly or browned.

Let sit for 10 minutes & then serve with parsley or basil.

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Squid Ink Risotto with Seared Scallops

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Nothing was more important to me than my dearest Memphis – above.  Nothing.  He was a little rescued gift from the universe after my 4-year-old pug, Grisbi, died suddenly & mysteriously.  Then – on June 20th – Memphis left me the same way – suddenly & mysteriously – at 4.  I am bereft.

It has been difficult to get into cooking & blogging.  Everything reminds me of Memphis & then everything seems so pointless and so trivial.

Anyway, I have had this cuttlefish ink in my fridge forever – but I never tried it because I gave up seafood three years ago.  Today – I decided to break my no seafood thing (for the second time in a week) and make this risotto.  Early this week – I made Fiery Shrimp fra Diavolo with Squid Ink Pasta – seen below.

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People are often intimidated by risotto but I do not understand why.   It is simple to prepare & only takes about 20 minutes.  This black risotto here is no exception.  It is simple & delicious.  What people should be intimidated by is scallops.  They are often fishy & too often overcooked into rubber.  I managed to pull the scallops here off perfectly & I will share how.  It was not difficult.

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Squid Ink Risotto with Seared Scallops

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

Fresh jumbo scallops – maybe 3 or 4 per person

1 cup Arborio rice

4 cups vegetable stock

3 TBS butter

3 TBS olive oil

1 large shallot (or small onion) – diced

1-6 garlic cloves (I used 6) – chopped

1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)

Squid ink (or cuttlefish ink) – about 3 or 4 teaspoons

1-3 tsp crushed red pepper – or to taste (optional)

10 cherry tomatoes – halved (maybe extra to quarter & use as garnish)

2 red chilies (optional) – diced – some reserved as garnish

S&P

Parsley – chopped – as garnish

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DIRECTIONS

Wash the scallops in cold water & pat VERY dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle with S&P.  Set aside.

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil & reduce to a simmer.

Heat TWO TBS of olive oil & TWO TBS of butter in a stock pot over med-high heat.  Add the shallots or onion & saute until soft & just beginning to brown.  Add the rice & tomatoes & stir for a minute or two.  Add the garlic & saute one minute.  Add the wine & then the ink & red chilies & crushed red pepper(if using).  I added the ink in increments until it got the nice rich black.  You may or may not use all the ink suggested – your call.  Add the stock 1/4 cup at a time – letting it get absorbed before adding the next cup.  Stir the rice the entire time.  Reserve about 1/2 cup stock.   Season with S&P.  Test that the rice is cooked & then cover it & remove it from the heat.

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In a frying pan, heat 1 TBS olive oil & 1 TBS butter (more if you have more than 4 scallops) and heat on high until very hot.  Add the dry scallops.  They should sizzle upon contact with the oil.  Do not fumble with them.  Let them sear 1-2 minutes each side – depending on their thickness.  Ideally – they should only be moved once – when you flip them.  They should be crusty on two sides by a bit translucent in the center ( bit rare) – unless you like them cooked well done.  Leave them on longer for a well done scallop.  Know they will keep cooking a bit even after removed from the heat.

Stir the remaining stock into the risotto & stir.  It should be what the Italians cal “all’onda.”  That means “wavy” or “with waves.”  The risotto should be creamy enough that tapping the bottom of the plates makes it spread out.

Plate the risotto, top with scallops & chopped parsley (and chopped red chilies or tomatoes) as garnish.

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Fiery Shrimp fra Diavolo with Squid Ink Pasta

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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This is my first recipe posted since June 16th.   On June 20th, I came home from a 14-hour day at work to find my beautiful, 4-year-old pug, Memphis, dead.  Without explanation.  My world shattered.  Posting recipes seemed so trivial & like an insult to my loss.  I still cry almost every day.  I cried when I opened this blog & saw my last post – explaining my absence here.  He was one of the very, very special ones & I miss him agonizingly.  So – please pardon me if I just post this recipe & have nothing much more to say.

This is VERY easy, very spicy (but you can adjust that) and a very rare seafood recipe from me.  I gave up seafood three years ago or so – but I could not resist this squid ink pasta when I saw it & shrimp seemed the best way to serve it.  So – without further adieu – let me present my Fiery Shrimp fra Diavolo with Squid Ink Pasta.

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Fiery Shrimp fra Diavolo with Squid Ink Pasta

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

1/2 lb squid ink pasta (or any pasta of your choice)

1/2 to 1 lb raw shrimp – shelled & cleaned

1 TBS olive oil

5 oz – 10 oz cherry tomatoes – halved (reserve a few for garnish)

1-6 garlic cloves – sliced, crushed or whole (or to taste)

1-3 jalapenos – chopped (or to taste)

1 tsp to 1 TBS crushed red pepper (or to taste)

1 cup pasta sauce of choice

S&P

Chopped parsley

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DIRECTIONS

Cook the pasta.

Meanwhile – heat the olive oil & ad the jalapenos & tomatoes.  saute over high heat until the tomatoes soften a bit.  Add the crushed red pepper & garlic & saute one minute.  Add the tomato sauce & heat until bubbly.

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Add S&P to taste.  Just before the pasta is done – add the shrimp to the sauce & cook through – being careful not to overcook the shrimp.

Drain the pasta & toss with the sauce.  Serve garnished with fresh, chopped parsley & quartered, raw cherry tomatoes.

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Memphis – RIP

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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To explain my absence here –

All the color has left my house. Dexter & Moxie & I are left to grieve the loss of another best friend. A few weeks short of being 5, suddenly – on June 20th – & with no explanation – apparently in his sleep. My gorgeous, adoring, adored — and deeply loved – Memphis. The not knowing why is only less brutal than the searing loss. Memphis was our salvation 4 years ago – after the similar loss of my son, Grisbi. I looked at Memphis every day – grateful he was so young & that I had the promise of many years ahead with him. He was such a vulnerable, cuddly, needy, handsome, perfect little guy. I cannot believe he has been ripped away from us so so prematurely. None of us could possibly have loved him more than we do. He was our golden angel boy.

I lost the boy who was, perhaps, the baby I have loved the most deeply. Maybe because he loved me with such complete commitment. Maybe because he came to me after having already lived a hard life himself. Maybe because he was the cure to the massive shock & heartbreak here caused by the sudden loss my 4-year old pug, Grisbi. Maybe because my other two dogs also seemed to see something special in him. Maybe because he was bossy & demanding & soft & cuddly. Maybe because he thought every idea I had was the best one. Maybe because his eyes drooped closed from just the expectation of a chest scratching. Maybe because he loved food as much as I do. Maybe because he had a pinky toe that was too short & he hated anyone touching it. Maybe because his tail curled tighter when I spoke to him. I don’t know. The only things that are certain: that I could not possibly have loved him more than I DO – and that he left us a full ten years before he should have. We are left awash in grief & with a deep sense of injustice. We miss you so brutally, my Memphis. So terribly.

RIP, Memphis, my baby. I love you as much as you loved me – times infinity. xoxoxoxox

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Hearty & Spicy Vegan Eggplant & Mushroom Bolognese Pasta Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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I had a fridge chock full of produce & not enough days of cooking before me to get through it all without a lot of it going bad – so – I made this very thick & hearty tomato sauce.  It is a great way to use a ton of veggies & clean out that fridge.  Additionally – if you puree it or use an immersion blender – you can hide the veggies from kids & other finicky palates.

I grilled the eggplant first – to add a smokey flavor – but this is not necessary.  I used kale & collard greens – because I had them – but they are totally optional – or you could use spinach, instead.  You can eliminate a lot of the ingredients without a negative impact on this sauce so feel free to customize it.

I had a bunch of sage that I had frozen.  It worked really well in this sauce – so – if you have herbs that are going to spoil, put them in sandwich bags & freeze them for use in future sauces.

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Hearty & Spicy Vegan Eggplant & Mushroom Bolognese Pasta Sauce

Makes a boatload – so either serve a large group or freeze some

INGREDIENTS

9 oz vegan beef crumbles (I used Beyond Meat)

Olive oil

7 Japanese eggplants (or 3 large regular eggplants)

2 onions – diced

2 bell peppers – diced

2 large zucchini – chopped

4 jalapenos – diced (optional)

1 bunch kale – (optional) ribs removed, washed & chopped (or spinach)

1 bunch collard greens – (optional) ribs removed, washed & chopped fine (or spinach)

8 oz mushrooms – sliced

1/4 cup fresh sage – chopped

1-6 garlic cloves – chopped

1/2 cup tomato paste (1 small can)

3 (26 oz) containers of chopped & strained tomatoes – in any combination (I used 2 strained & 1 chopped)

1/4 cup vegan Parmesan (very, very optional)

1 TBS salt

1-3 tsp crushed red pepper (according to your tolerance for heat)

1 TBS dry parsley

1 TBS oregano

1 TBS thyme (I used fresh chopped)

1/2 cup fresh basil – chopped

GARNISH – Cooked pasta, fresh chopped parsley or basil

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DIRECTIONS

If you are grilling the eggplant – slice them & either spray them with cooking spray or brush them with olive oil & then grill them on both sides.  Set aside to cool – then chop.  Set aside.

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Heat 2-3 TBS olive oil in a large stock pot.  Add onions & bell peppers & jalapenos.  Saute until softened.

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Add the zucchini & mushrooms & saute until tender.  Stir in the chopped eggplant.

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Add the greens you are using & fold in so they wilt.  Add the garlic & cook for a minute or two.

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Add all the other ingredients – EXCEPT the beef crumbles.   Bring to a boil & then reduce the heat & simmer for about 30 minutes.  If it gets too thick, add water.

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Now – if you are going to puree the sauce or use an immersion blender – now is the time.   Whatever you decide – pureed or not – add the beefy crumbles & heat through.

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Season with S&P.

Toss some of the sauce with cooked pasta.  You will have a lot of sauce left over – unless you are feeding a very large group.  Garnish with basil and/or parsley.

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10-Minute Vegan Creamy and Spicy Mac & Cheese

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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I have posted several vegan mac & cheese recipes but I think this one comes closest to a Kraft experience.  The color is nearly right & it really is creamy & delicious.  I also think – of the pure vegan mac & cheeses (meaning – not the eggplant Parmesan kinda ones – seen below) –

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– this one is most likely to trick a cheese-eater.  The sauce only takes as long to make as it takes to boil pasta – just like Kraft.  Plus – it has a little kick to overpowers any flavor from the nutritional yeast that sensitive palates might object to.  Add some Crystal hot sauce & you have a vegan, cheesy pasta orgy!

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10-Minute Vegan Creamy and Spicy Mac & Cheese

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

8 oz dry pasta

1 3/4 cups unsweetened almond (or soy) milk

1/4 cup potato flour

1-3 tsp Dijon mustard (depending on your taste for the tang of mustard  – I went with 3)

1-3 tsp sriracha (I went with 1 tsp but added much Crystal hot sauce when I served it)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 TBS tomato paste

1 TBS white miso paste

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp mustard powder

Salt to taste

Garnish – Crystal (or other) hot sauce

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DIRECTIONS

Cook the pasta according to directions.

Whisk the rest of the ingredients over high heat.  Once it begins to bubble – reduce heat to low & stir until it thickens.  If it gets too thick – add water.

Drain the pasta & toss with the cheese sauce.

Serve with extra hot sauce.

See?  EASY!

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Vegan Vegetable Pasta Salad with Spicy Asian Sesame Peanut Dressing

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Pasta salads.  Who doesn’t like them?  I guess – people who don’t like pasta but do such people exist?  Pasta is a universal thing – like bread.  Is there anyone that doesn’t like bread?  Anyway – lots of pasta salads are drenched in mayo-based sauces & there is no shortage of those that object to mayo.   Even those of us that love mayo are hesitant to eat a pasta salad with mayo that has been sitting out in the backyard BBQ too long.  So – why not eliminate two major objections & make a vegan pasta salad?  Nothing in it quick to spoil & nothing white & creamy to freak out the mayo-haters.

I used ingredients I happened to have so – this is a very flexible salad.  I wanted to use edamame but only had Lima beans – so fuck it.  I used Lima beans.   I had those gorgeous watermelon radishes but they were used primarily for their looks.  You could eliminate any ingredient – or add some – with no negative impact.   This is a light & clean alternative to accompany the entrees at BBQ’s which – let’s face it – tend to be meaty & heavy.

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Vegan Vegetable Pasta Salad with Spicy Asian Sesame Peanut Dressing

INGREDIENTS

1 lb of pasta

6 oz edamame (or Lima beans)

1 small head of broccoli – cut into small florets

4 carrots – grated

2 bell peppers (red, yellow or orange are prettiest) – grated or diced

1 (15 oz) can chickpeas – drained & rinsed

1-4 jalapenos – seeded & either grated or minced

4 radishes – grated or chopped

3 scallions – sliced

1/4 cup cilantro – chopped

1/2 cup slivered almonds

3/4 cup roasted peanuts

GARNISH – extra radish slices. cilantro, extra peanuts

for the dressing

1/2 cup peanut butter (I used chunky)

4 TBS hoisin sauce

4 TBS liquid amino acids (or low sodium soy sauce or tamari)

4 TBS rice vinegar

4 TBS agave nectar

4 TBS sriracha

1 tsp chili oil

2 TBS sesame oil

1-4 garlic cloves – minced

S&P to taste

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DIRECTIONS

Whisk together the dressing & set aside.

Cook the pasta & add the broccoli for the last minute or two that it cooks.  Drain & rinse pasta & broccoli under cold water.

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Toss the salad ingredients together.

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Add some dressing & toss.  Add as much as you like – which might be less than you made.  Overdressed salads get icky so add dressing incrementally until it is where you like it.

Garnish & serve.

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