Chicken Alfredo Zucchini Roll-ups. Um. YES!

This recipe is one of my favorites of all time. Check it out.

By now most people have caught on to the health benefits of the occasional switch from pasta to zucchini noodles. I saw a version of this recipe floating around on Facebook and decided it was so pretty, I had to try it. (I love pretty food!)

My husband and I are on a strict low-carb diet, so I made my own Alfredo sauce without using flour, but if you are not under any dietary restrictions, feel free to buy your favorite bottled or frozen variety and use that. Also, if you are going to go that route, buy more than you think you will need. One of the best parts of this recipe for me was that I had enough sauce to use inside the rolls and also to pour over the top before baking. Plus, if you reheat this the next day for lunch (I do that all the time), it’s nice to have leftover sauce to drizzle over the top for more flavor.

To make it extra special easy peasy, pick up a couple containers of of shedded rotisserie chicken from your local market! That’s what I did. I did not buy enough though, so ended up boiling about three chicken tenders and shredding them by hand. Be smarter than me!

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This is what my rolls looked like after I got them all in the pan. It’s a little tricky at first, which is why you want to have more than just a tiny layer of sauce in your dish. Mine was about 1/4″ deep, so the rolls had something to hold onto. I sprinkled a little bit of the crumbled bacon on top first.

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Afterward, I drizzled on some more Alfredo sauce, Parmesan cheese and more bacon! Then it went into the oven!

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Thirty minutes later, it came out smelling and looking beautiful!

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Chicken Alfredo Zucchini Roll-Ups

(Serves 6)

Ingredients
4 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced (I love garlic so used 6 cloves.)
2 1/4 c. cream
1 1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. freshly chopped parsley, plus more for garnish (Chopped scallions or basil would work as great garnishes as well.)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4-5 large-ish zucchinis, peeled into long strips
3 c. shredded mozzarella (may not use all of it)
3 c. shredded cooked chicken (I used a pre-shredded rotisserie chicken plus a couple of my own shredded chicken tenders.)
4-5 pieces of cooked bacon, crumbled

Directions
Preheat oven to 375°. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk cream into the butter and garlic and stir until simmering gently. Gradually stir in the Parmesan, whisking constantly. Let simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon a layer of Alfredo sauce on the bottom of a baking dish (This will help the rolls to stand vertically, so make sure it’s not too thin.) On a clean surface, lay 2-3 pieces of zucchini down slightly overlapping each other. I made mine to be about 2 & ½ inches across, so depending on the size of the zoodle, I either used two or three slices. Spoon & spread a little Alfredo sauce on top, then the shredded chicken and a sprinkle of mozzarella. Roll up tightly and place vertically in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining zucchini.

Top with remaining Alfredo Sauce, Parmesan and crumbled bacon. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden on top and baked through. Garnish with fresh parsley and MORE BACON!

Just Wow -One Skillet- Creamy Lemon-Garlic Chicken Over Zoodles

Budget friendly, beautiful & delicious; make this dish your weeknight wonder and wow your family!

I say it all of the time but it bears repeating: most often the best recipes are born out of necessity. I knew I had too much zucchini sitting in the refrigerator; I knew I wanted to make something very low carbohydrate; and I knew I wanted to make chicken. Charlie and I both are citrus and garlic lovers, so this dish was almost a no-brainer, except for the sauce. We are both attempting to limit carbs, so I needed to improvise the sauce in order not to have to use flour for a roux.

First order of business was to assemble my ingredients.

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If the photo below looks familiar, it’s because I’ve used it before. I didn’t photograph the zucchini last night (whoops). This is how we like to make our zoodles. To me, the texture is better than spiralizing. If you like spiralized zucchini, by all means do that. Prepare the zucchini and then set aside for cooking later.

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I like a mixture of olive and avocado oil, so this is what I put in my pan. (I also add about a Tbsp. of butter if I’m being honest.) I prepared the chicken with my favorite new seasoning from Trader Joe’s. By all means go get this if you haven’t tried it! If you don’t have this on hand, just use salt and pepper (or whatever you really like using.)

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The chicken only stays in the pan for about 3 minutes each side. You are not trying to cook it through in this step. You only want to brown it. When it’s a nice color on each side, remove it to another plate. Add a little bit of butter to the pan, then the diced shallots. Cook the shallots for a minute or two, then add the broth mixture. Bring this to a simmer and then go watch TV (or drink wine) for about 10-12 minutes while it reduces.

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As you can see by the video (below), my sauce is a funny looking color. This is because I used organic bone broth. (It’s what I had on hand.) By all means use what you have on hand. If you prefer chicken broth or vegetable broth, that will work as well.

Once the sauce has reduced, the next step is fairly easy. Remove the pan from heat, whisk in 1 Tbsp of butter until it melts, then whisk in the cream until it’s incorporated. Put the pan back on the heat for about 2 minutes to allow it to heat through, then add the chicken back to it.  I have no idea why it didn’t occur to me to photograph this step, but oh well. After this, stir in the capers and then the whole pan goes into the oven for about 5 – 10 minutes to cook through.

While this is happening, saute the zucchini noodles. (This is what it looks like.)

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To the zoodles, I added another one of my current favorite spices: Cilantro lime seasoning blend. I also added the zest of two lemons.

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Once the zoodles are the consistency of egg noodles, I take them off the heat. Then pull the chicken out of the oven, stir in the chopped herbs and plate it up. I garnished with fresh lemons.

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BTW: If you are not a fan of zoodles, this chicken dish stands on it’s own. You could serve it alongside some freshly steamed broccoli or asparagus would be lovely as well! Any type of pasta would work, too!

PS- If you are counting carbs, the chicken and the sauce come to about 4.3 g net carbs, 16 g fat & 33 g protein; one serving of the zoodles is about 4 g net carbs.

I guestimate the calorie count of just the chicken and sauce is around 305 per serving.

 


JUST WOW, Creamy Lemon Garlic Chicken (over zoodles)

Ingredients: (Yields 4 servings)

4 chicken breasts. (I saved time by buying mine already thinly sliced)

2.5 c. bone broth

1/3 c. Cream

2 Tbsp lemon juice

Zest of 2 lemons

1/2 tea. Red pepper flakes (optional)

3 garlic cloves smashed then chopped

1/2 c. Chopped parsley (any freshly chopped herb would work well.)

1 shallot finely minced

2 Tbsp. Butter

3 Tbsp. Olive oil

4 zucchini, (transformed into noodles using a vegetable peeler)

S & P

1-2 Tbsp. Seasonings to taste (see above for what I used.)


Directions 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1. Create the zucchini noodles using a vegetable peeler (use a spiralizer if you like that texture better.) Set aside.

2. Zest the lemons and set the zest aside for later. Then slice the lemons and squeeze the juice into a strainer to catch the seeds & pulp. Into a larger measuring cup or bowl, add two cups of broth, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, red pepper flakes and garlic. Stir and set aside.

3. Pound your chicken breasts to the same thickness. Mine were 1/2″ thick. Season with salt and pepper. (I also used a good amount Trader Joe’s: “21 Seasoning Salute”-use what you like)

4. Over medium high heat, sauté the chicken in olive oil, about 2 -3 minutes per side. No need to cook all the way through, as it will be going into the oven later. You are just looking for good color on both sides. Remove to a plate. Reduce heat to medium.

5. Put 1 Tbsp. Butter into the hot pan, swirl around, then add the shallots. Cook about 2 minutes, then add the broth mixture. Bring up to a simmer. Let it reduce to about a half cup. (Took about 12 minutes)

6. When the sauce has reduced, remove from the heat, whisk in 1 Tbsp. Butter, then whisk in the cream until it’s fully incorporated. Return to heat for about a minute or two to reheat. Stir in the capers if you are using them. (Do NOT allow the sauce to boil.) Add the chicken back to the pan; turning it in the sauce to coat both sides; then put it into the oven for 5-10 minutes.

7. In a separate skillet, over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp. Olive oil, 1/3 c. Broth, zoodles, lemon zest and seasonings. Toss in the oil and broth until fairly wilted. (I hate soggy zoodles, so watch this carefully. It only takes about 3 minutes.) Season with salt and pepper and 3/4th of the lemon zest.

8. Once the chicken is finished, stir in the chopped parsley (basil would be great in this). Here you can plate the noodles and the put the chicken and sauce on top OR you can remove the chicken from the pan, toss the noodles in the sauce and then add the chicken back. I tend not to toss the noodles in the sauce because it can make the zoodles mushy.

9. Garnish with fresh lemon, more parsley and the last bit of lemon zest.

Keto-Friendly Chicken Parmesan

This is a great way to fry chicken using no flour!

I decided on making this dish a couple of days prior to actually doing it. This is because Charlie and I are literally obsessed with food. We saw someone else making Chicken Parmesan and then we started drooling over the idea of fried chicken.

We are on the Keto diet plan, so this means no flour and no pasta. My daughter gave me an awesome new Keto cookbook, so I got right in it and learned that pork rinds can be used instead of flour. Of course, when I went into the kitchen to make dinner, I realized we’d finished off our spicy pork rinds a few nights ago. Now what to do? We do keep almond flour on hand, but I had my heart set on not using it. Then I remembered a bag of Parmesan chips in the pantry! Right away I dumped those bad boys into a bag and went to town pulverizing them with a large rolling pin. (It was fun!)

Once I had them to the desired consistency, I finely grated some Pecorino Romano and mixed this with the Parmesan. Just for fun, I also added bourbon smoked paprika, Italian seasoning and a little bit of pepper.  I pounded the chicken to about 1/4th inch thickness and then set up my dredging stations.

  1. 3 eggs lightly beaten with 3 Tbps. cream.
  2. The cheese crust mixture

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We prefer to make our zucchini “noodles” using a vegetable peeler instead of the spiralizer. Three medium zucchini made a whole bowl of zoodles, which was plenty for the two of us. They cook down, but not as much as the spiralized zoodles do.

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I let the eggs and chicken sit on the counter for about a half hour to come closer to room temperature before frying and then dredged each piece into the egg and then the crumbs.

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Next 1/4th cup of olive oil mixed with about 1/8th cup of avocado oil went into the pan and got heated to medium. I added 2 tsp. red pepper flakes to this.

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Then came the frying:

Once the chicken was cooked, I set it aside on paper towels while I went to work sauteing the zucchini in another pan. I was amazed at how great the chicken looked. It wasn’t the least bit greasy and it was very crispy to the touch!

The zucchini just gets dropped into about 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Toss it around in the pan to coat it. Continue stirring until it reaches the consistency of Al dente pasta. (I like to add about 2 Tbsp. real butter at this point. Season and Stir.)

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Once it’s Al dente,  slowly add some cheese to it. (This was hand grated Parmesan and some pre-grated Mozzarella, but use what you like.) It doesn’t take a lot. I just added it for a little extra flavor and texture. Stir it around until almost melted.
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I really did not want to add red sauce to the zucchini because I didn’t want the noodles to become watery, but at the last minute I decided adding just a little bit would make it more flavorful. I added about half a cup and stirred to combine.

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I knew I was just going to plate this over baking it, so in a separate little pot, I heated a cup of the red sauce and set it aside. Then I began plating the dish: First the zoodles, then the chicken. (I almost stopped here because it looked yummy just like this!)

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Onto each piece of chicken went a little bit of red sauce and then some more cheese. Finally, I chopped up some flat leaf parsley and that was it! Since this was my plate, I didn’t add a ton of extra cheese. Charlie likes a lot of melty cheese, so we added it to his plate (his is the one at the top of the page) and I confess, we stuck it into the microwave.

If you were going to serve this dish to a crowd, you would simply add the chicken pieces over the zoodles in the skillet, then top them with the sauce and the cheese and either bake or broil until the cheese melts.

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Keto Chicken Parmesan
Ingredients:
1.5 lb. chicken tenderloins, pounded to ¼” thickness (you can use breasts if you like, just butterfly them & pound them out.)
3 eggs lightly beaten
3 Tbsp. cream
3 c. prepared Parmesan chips, pulverized
1 c. finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
¼ c. Bourbon smoked Paprika (optional)
¼ c. Italian Seasoning
2 Tbsp. cracked black pepper
3 medium zucchini, cut into thin strips with a vegetable peeler
¼ c. olive oil
1/8 c. avocado oil (optional)
2 Tbsp. butter (full fat REAL butter)
2-3 c. keto marinara sauce
½ c. shredded Mozzarella
½ c. grated Parmesan cheese
¼ c. freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

Directions:

1. Prepare the chicken by pounding to ¼” thickness. Set aside.

2. Prepare the dredges: Whisk together 3 eggs & 3 Tbsp. Cream. Place in bowl. In another bowl, combine pulverized Parmesan chips with the finely grated pecorino cheese plus the Paprika, Italian seasoning & pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces first into the egg mixture, then both sides in the cheese crumbs. Set aside.

3. Prepare the zucchini noodles by using a vegetable peeler to strip off long, thin pieces. Set aside.

4. Pour the marinara sauce into a small pan and heat it through. Reserve on low heat.

5. Using a straight sided skillet, heat olive oil & avocado oil to medium heat; add in the red pepper flakes.

6 Fry the chicken in the oil until golden brown on both sides. (About 3 minutes each side.) Set cooked chicken aside on paper towels.

7. In a separate skillet set to medium heat, drizzle olive oil and add the zoodles, tossing constantly to coat with the oil and also to heat them through. (Takes about 4-5 minutes). Season with butter and pepper.

8. Once the noodles are cooked to desired consistency, add in the grated Parmesan cheese and continue to stir; then add in about a cup of the heated marinara sauce.

9. From here you may plate it layering first the zoodles, then the chicken, then a layer of marinara over each chicken piece, then Mozzarella cheese, then chopped parsley.

OR:

Add each chicken piece back to the zoodle pan, top each piece with marinara sauce, Mozzarella cheese, bake in the oven until the cheese melts. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Faux Cheesy Grits Casserole (Keto)

Sometimes the best recipes are born by re-purposing left-overs. This is one of them!

One of the first Keto things I attempted to make was cheesy cauliflower casserole. What is easier, really, than coating cauliflower in a beautiful cheese sauce and baking it in the oven, right? Here it is ready to hit the oven.

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Here it is after having been baked. I’ll be honest, it was good, but it just didn’t hit the spot for me. I’m a bit of a texture weirdo and I really wasn’t into the fact that the cauliflower felt watery while at the same time the delicious cheese sauce was creamy. (Next time, I plan on roasting the florets in the oven prior to adding the cheese sauce and baking. I feel certain this will handle the texture issue for my taste.)

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This casserole was entirely too big for just Charlie and I so we put it back in the fridge until the following morning. In the back of my mind, I was almost certain I’d be throwing it out, because I tend not to like left overs and let’s face it, cauliflower in any form isn’t something one dreams about eating again and again.

That is, until I woke up the next morning wishing I could have a bowl of grits for breakfast. (Don’t make a face. I grew up eating grits for breakfast and I still love them!) Grits are not allowed in the Keto plan so I decided to improvise with the left over cauliflower. (After all, if I failed I’d have a real good excuse to throw it all out!)

It was so simple, it’s almost embarrassing to report. All I did was dump the entire left over casserole into a blender with a little more cheese and two eggs. I also added some smokey Paprika and salt and pepper. Then I poured it into a pretty little casserole dish, topped it with more colorful Paprika and baked it at 350 for thirty minutes.

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Pay no attention to the circles. I was being cute with cutting out cheese circles and it didn’t work AT ALL. It just turned out looking weird. I should have layered them all over. Not to worry, it didn’t affect the taste even a little bit!

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I served mine over zucchini fritters and added hot sauce to the top because I love it. This is something I start to crave just by looking at this photo. Seriously, this is good and if you are having a big Easter function, it would be a great addition to the menu!

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Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
½ cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. REAL butter
½ cup cream cheese
¾ cup grated cheddar or whatever cheese you like (& more if you want to top the casserole with it.)
Salt & pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp. water or more cream if you need to thin it down
2 eggs
1-2 tsp. smoked paprika (save half for sprinkling on top)
½ tsp garlic powder

Optional seasonings:
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp paprika
2-4 Tbsp. freshly chopped herbs (your favorite)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl, cover, and cook about 3-5 minutes, until fork tender.
Place cooked cauliflower into a clean towel and squeeze out excess moisture. Set aside.

Place the butter and ¼ cup cream into a small saucepan and heat up gently to combine. Add the cream cheese and stir until combined.
When the sauce begins to bubble, remove from the heat and whisk in the cheddar cheese. Add seasonings. Stir until creamy.

Let cool a few minutes. (This is because you are going to add eggs to this mix and you don’t want to scramble them.) If you prefer to temper them over allowing everything to cool first, that’s fine too.

Place cooked cauliflower, eggs, ¼ cup of cream, sauce and whatever seasonings you prefer into a food processor (or blender). Pulse until you reach desired consistency. Grits are tiny specks about the size of pin heads. I took mine all the way down to this size but if you prefer yours larger, by all means do what makes you happy!

Pour into a casserole dish, sprinkle with seasonings, (add extra cheese if that’s what you like) and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

 

Neato Keto Spicy Spaghetti Squash

The other night I wanted an easy side dish to go along with some swordfish. Hence, this recipe was born.

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I might be the only person on the planet who isn’t okay with subbing spaghetti squash for real noodles. (I think I’ve said this before, come to think of it.) Yet, for whatever reason, I am continually picking them up at the store. I liken it to my feelings about eggs. I really want to like them. I do love the way they look, but more often than not, I’m underwhelmed.

Enter this recipe for Spicy Spaghetti squash.

The other night I was planning on making cilantro lime swordfish. Ordinarily,  I’d pair the fish with some form of rice or noodle, but since these things are off-limits to me right now, I needed to get creative. Besides, the poor little squash had been sitting on my kitchen table for weeks and I felt sorry for it.

I decided to try and see if I could make a spaghetti squash dish that would compliment the cilantro/lime flavors in the fish. First I chopped up some peppers (hot and mild) & onions (red and yellow) and sauteed them in butter and olive oil.

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Meanwhile I had my spaghetti squash roasting the oven (cut side was down while it was in there.) My limes were pretty hard, so I zested them, cut them in half and the put them in the oven with the squash for the last five minutes. It makes them easier to squeeze. You can use the microwave for this as well, but I’m not a fan. (Limes in the oven smell Divine!)

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See how you can tell that the little spaghetti-like strands are loose and ready to be scraped out? That’s how you know it’s ready.  That and the fact that the shell is now paper thin and easily gives when you squeeze it.

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Once you’ve scraped the squash goodies into the pan with the vegetables, it’s just a matter of heating it all up together and seasoning.

Poof. You’re done. Call the news crews because this is delicious!

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I really did like this dish a lot and the best part was the leftovers! In the morning I just cracked some eggs and did a scramble. I added more cilantro and some leftover asparagus tips, (and I made some cheese bowls, too.)

egg bowls

egg bowls 2

 


Ingredients:
1 small spaghetti squash, cut in half & seeded
4 Tbsp. Olive oil
2 Tbsp. Butter-more if needed. (REAL FULL-FAT BUTTER, PEOPLE!)
½ Red bell pepper, diced
½ Orange bell pepper, diced
2 Jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, diced
1 small red onion thinly sliced
½ yellow onion thinly sliced
Zest of 2 limes
Juice of 2 limes
1 bunch of cilantro finely chopped
3 Tbsp. Fresh chopped dill (optional)
1 Tea. Red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, & coat with a thin layer of olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes or until fork tender.

Meanwhile sauté the vegetables in 2 Tbsp. butter & 2 Tbsp. olive oil until tender. (Don’t forget to season them with salt & pepper. I also added red pepper flakes, but this is optional.) Turn off the heat & set aside until the squash is ready.

Once the squash is tender, rake the flesh with a fork into the skillet with the vegetables and begin to fold everything together. Turn the heat back on to medium-low. Add the lime juice, lime zest, cilantro and dill and stir until combined and warmed through. (I added more butter to mine at this point.)

Enjoy.

BONUS: Here is another spaghetti squash recipe I actually like: Stuff Your Face with This! Spaghetti Squash

Tricked Out Eggplant Parmesan Towers!

Oh my GOODNESS, look at THIS!

Lately I have been trying to make friends with egg plant. Try as I may, I have never liked it. Conversely, my husband loves it and is often disappointed when he suggests it for dinner and I poo-poo the idea. A few days ago I decided to try my hand at making faux bacon using slices of eggplant. It was a hit and I actually loved it. I will make it again.

The recipe was so simple, it’s almost ridiculous. I posted it the other day.  Click here. Also did you notice flat “Groot” in the last piece? Yeah, that wasn’t planned.

Because I liked this so much, I decided to buy some more eggplant and see what else I could possibly love about it. Enter, “Tricked Out Eggplant Parmesan”. I like just about anything fried, so why not! I have to give credit to Trisha Yearwood because I saw her show on the Food Network and she made Eggplant Parmesan stacks. I thought they looked really pretty, so this was the inspiration for my dish.

This recipe starts by slicing the eggplant into rounds. I salted them on both sides and set them up on a wire rack for thirty minutes. Then they get towel dried and dredged in the traditional, seasoned flour, egg and Italian breadcrumb mixture.

I made a quick, cheater version of marinara sauce (and I do mean quick AND cheater cheater pumpkin eater!) I cut up an onion into a medium large dice and sautéed it in some olive oil and fresh garlic; then I added 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, Italian seasoning, one large can of Italian seasoned diced tomatoes and shhhhh!…a jar of prepared Marinara. (My favorite brand is by Chef Emeril Lagasse. I love his tomato basil sauce!) I threw in the rind of my last Parmesan wedge and also two basil stems with the leaves and all-then it simmered for about half an hour. I was shocked at how good it was. I was even more shocked that Charlie raved over it. (He is an Italian gravy snob from Chicago.)

Then comes the frying of the eggplant. I heated the oil in my cast iron skillet to 350 degrees, which is the optimal temperature for deep frying. (I never deep fry without a thermometer.) The eggplant cooks very quickly; about a minute on each side. After this, it’s just a matter of salting them while they are still hot and dabbing them with paper towels to get rid of the excess oil.

Now comes the really fun part: stacking them! First a slice of eggplant, then sauce, then grated cheese (I used a combination of Mozzarella, Fontina and fresh Parmesan), then a big fat basil leaf! Repeat twice but leave off the basil leaf from the top or it will burn. Then bake these beautiful creatures!

I made a side dish of fettuccine, but it was too much. One of these stacks is a meal in itself, so next time we’ll just have a nice salad and call it a day.

Well, did I like it or not? Resoundingly I say, “Yes! Yes! Yes! This recipe is a keeper and I really loved my cheater sauce. It was yummy and so easy.

It looks like a lot of work but truly, it’s all easy stuff. Give it a try!


Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning.
1 small Parmesan rind
1 15-ounce can Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 jar prepared marinara (your favorite)
1 bunch fresh basil
2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 large eggs
4 cups Italian breadcrumbs
One 1-pound eggplant, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds (about 24 slices)
1 cup shredded Fontina cheese. 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese.
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan

 

 

Directions:

To make a “cheater cheater pumpkin eater” marinara sauce, place a sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened , about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the diced tomatoes, including their juice, to the pot. Stir to combine. Add 1 whole stem of fresh basil leaves, plus the Italian Seasonings. Throw in the Parmesan rind. (If you don’t have one, you can sprinkle in some grated Parmesan cheese.) Bring the sauce to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium low. Allow the sauce to cook and reduce while you work on everything else.

Pour the vegetable oil into a Dutch oven  and attach a deep-frying thermometer. Heat the oil over medium heat to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and top with a cooling rack.

Assemble a three dish dredging station: To the first dish, add the flour, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and stir to combine. In the second dish, beat the eggs. To the third dish, add the breadcrumbs (I add extra seasoning here. You can even add some grated Parmesan here and it would be delicious.)

Dredge both sides of the eggplant slices in the seasoned flour. Then, dip the eggplant slices into the egg. Then, coat the eggplant in the breadcrumbs evenly on both sides.

Working in batches, carefully place the breaded eggplant into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown and crispy, about 40-50 seconds per side. Transfer to the cooling rack on the baking sheet. Sprinkle each slice generously with salt. Continue until all the eggplant has been fried.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the basil stem from the marinara sauce.

Remove the paper towels from the baking sheet. Build towers on the cooling rack: Top a slice of eggplant with 1 tablespoon of marinara sauce, 1 tablespoon mozzarella, 1 tablespoon Parmesan and 1 basil leaf. Place a second piece of eggplant on top and repeat this process. Top the tower with a third piece of eggplant and repeat only with sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan (no basil). Repeat this process to create 8 towers on the cooling rack.

Bake until the cheese is melted and slightly browned on top, about 20 minutes. Transfer the towers to a serving platter. Garnish each eggplant tower with a fresh basil leaf and serve immediately.

I made four of these towers. We ate two of them and refrigerated the others for the next day’s lunch. They were just as delicious re-heated.

 

Smokey Potato Leek Soup ala Sickly Baba!

Ever since I started making my own soups, I have a hard time with any type of canned soup. (This is mainly because the stuff in the cans is so full of sodium and fat and yet it still tastes bland to me.)Today I made a Smokey potato-leek soup that turned out really well. Here is the recipe.

I am on my second go around with sickness. Thankfully, it’s just a virus, and I’m feeling better today, yet I am still not really into eating anything but mild food. That being said, after having not eaten a thing but saltines yesterday, this morning I woke up feeling hungry for chicken noodle soup. Ordinarily, I would have made my own, but I’m sick, remember? Charlie pulled out a can of chunky chicken noodle and lovingly made it for me. (He takes such good care of me even when I’m not sick. I am Blessed!) I was happy to eat it (and that it stayed down), but it reminded me of why I like to make my own soups. It was borderline tasteless, brimming with sodium and fat and the noodles tasted like rubber.

Now I don’t know what to think of myself. Have I become a food snob? I used to love chunky chicken noodle soup!

This afternoon while Charlie was at the gym, I reached that stage of illness where you are really still too sick and weak to do much; yet you are so bored, your brain tells you it’s okay to get up and go make a pot of homemade soup. (After all, it’s not that hard.) I have a butternut squash sitting on the counter waiting to be cut up and roasted and turned into a beautiful, creamy soup, but instead I focused my attention on the ever present leeks in my fridge. I pulled them out, cut them up and threw them into a bowl of cold water to be certain there was no sand. Meanwhile, I peeled and chopped about two and a half pounds of russet potatoes. (Why? Because if I didn’t, they were bound to start sprouting any day. We don’t eat a ton of russets.) It bears reporting that I prefer to use Yukon gold potatoes in soups, but this is what I had on hand. Use what you have on hand, people!

Next, the leeks got drained, dried; then sautéed in some olive oil and butter for just a short time. Afterward, I added the potatoes, seasonings, and then six cups of chicken stock. The top went on and I let it boil for about thirty minutes-until everything was soft enough to blend.

At this point I was feeling accomplished and it dawned on me that we had a pound of bacon that also needed to be used before it was wasted. What better thing to do then to make some bacon as a garnish, right? I always make my bacon on a sheet pan with a rack, so this too, is really easy to do. I was just about to lay the stuff out in strips when I remembered having seen one of those Facebook videos that showed bacon being weaved together so it would form a perfect square for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. OMG! Genius! I just happened to have a big juicy tomato on the counter and some lettuce in the fridge. Poof! Done! I weaved that bacon like a professional bacon weaver and into the oven it went.

I was so proud when it came out looking pretty! (Seriously, I was envisioning the Instagram praise-fest about to happen! I am a sick girl and not in a good way.) I decided to take some of the smaller pieces of cooked bacon and drop them into the the soup for a little more Smokey flavor. See them?

Truth to be told: I did all of this today…but I made frequent trips to the couch to pass out, drink ice water, take my temperature, cough, etc. See that last soup photo? It’s not even hot. I just forgot to take the money shot so I fudged it. Now I am back, dying on the couch, but this blog is scheduled to go. LOL! (I really did love this soup, however.)

This photo below; now that’s actually hot soup! LOL!


Ingredients:

2.5 pounds potatoes peeled and cut (I used russets but Yukon golds are better.)

3 large leaks sliced into rounds

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter (REAL butter)

6 cups low sodium chicken broth (that’s two 32 oz cartons)

1.5 teaspoons red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon raw honey

2 pieces of cooked bacon crumbled

1/4 cup cream

3 tablespoons full fat sour cream

Juice of half a lemon

Salt & fresh ground pepper

Directions:

1) Clean and slice leeks

2) Peel and cut potatoes (If you use Yukon Gold, skip peeling. It isn’t necessary.)

3) Heat olive oil and butter in a Dutch oven (medium high heat) Sauté leeks for about five minutes. Salt & pepper.

4) Add potatoes, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, hot sauce, Italian seasoning, more cracked pepper. Stir.

5) Add chicken broth and bacon pieces. Turn up heat, bring to boil, reduce to simmer and put the lid on. Simmer 20-30 minutes until vegetables are tender enough to be blended.

6) When the vegetables are tender, turn off heat, remove bay leaves, stir in honey and allow to cool with the lid on about 30 minutes.

7) Pull out and mash (or rough chop) about a cup of the potatoes. Set aside.

8) Add cream and sour cream. Stir. Then blend with an immersion blender (This is what I use.) Add the reserved potatoes back in with the juice of half a lemon.

9) Taste. We like our soup spicy, so I usually add more cracked pepper and red pepper flakes.

10) Stir and cover. Turn the heat back onto low. Let the flavors marry for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Note: The best garnish in the world for this soup are caramelized onions! Also great: crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions


PS- I ended up making a grilled cheese sandwich with the bacon lattice for Charlie. (By the time he came home from the gym, I was way too tired and over-extended to make TWO. I didn’t need a sandwich. I needed to be in bed.)

I present the Cha-Cha approved bacon, tomato, caramelized onion, Fontina cheese on Sourdough bread grilled cheese: