Gluten Free to Start Off 2013

Over a year has passed since I started blogging personally--and one of the few resolutions I actually kept (or remember, for that matter). Every time I log in and see how many views my posts have gotten or get a notification that someone commented on a post, or liked it on Facebook, or when people mention in real life that they follow my blog, I get all warm and fuzzy inside. I know, I know, I'm a sap. Deal with it. 2012 ended on a high note and 2013 started off with a bang---after all, I was in Vegas! (That's another post.) But after weeks and weeks of eating like crap, not cooking and gorging myself through my move to Phoenix, travel to St. Lucia and the holidays, my body had had enough and demanded I treat it better. Honestly speaking, I was happy to. A salad never sounded (or tasted) so good. And I was itching to get back in the kitchen and experiment. Around this time, Dr. Patel (no relation, but might as well be--he's one of my brother's closest friends and we grew up together) recommended that I go gluten-free for at least three months as we tried to work on fixing my inflamed gut. Three months sounds like a long time, but in the big picture, it was nothing. And I like challenges. Here we go!

So far, I've been doing well. I've officially been gluten-free for a week AND I haven't eaten out for the past week! (Not that the second part isn't allowed, it's just nice to cut back after weeks and weeks of eating out.) Most of the recipes I made I got from his website, Dr. Patel's Diet, and they've all been pretty tasty from the turkey mac and cheese to the chicken biryani to the balsamic chicken to stuffed peppers. (Naturally I share most of my creations on Instagram, peep away! My username is smileysejalee.) Last night I mixed and matched his recipe and a recipe/technique I picked up at a class I took at Portland's Culinary Workshop to create a dish so good, that I took the first bite and thought, "Damn. That's good!" (Usually I let everyone else try it first and wait for their reaction before I try it.) Without further ado, here's how you can make your own "Damn. That's good!" Eggplant Parm. It may seem like a lot of steps, but it's not as hard as it may sound--and even if it is, it's worth it!

Damn, that's good Eggplant Parmesan!

Whatchya need:

1 medium-sized eggplant (Cut into thin rounds. Mine were about half the thickness of knuckle.)

A small carton of sliced mushrooms

A few cloves of garlic (pressed) or you can use minced garlic (I used about 2 spoons)

A big (25oz) jar of marinara (this can be plain, you'll be adding to it)

2 cups of gluten-free flour (You can use regular flour too. I actually forgot to buy this, but I had some rolled oats on hand that I put in my Blendtec and whirred around until it was flour.) This ended up being too much and I put the rest in a ziploc to use later, I'd always rather have too much than too little when it comes to supplies.

3 cups of gluten free bread crumbs (again, you can use regular bread crumbs if you'd like)

Italian seasoning (I lost track of how much I used, but it was at least a tablespoon)

Garlic Powder (again, I lost track of how much I used, but it was about 2 tsp)

Sea salt (to taste)

Pepper (to taste)

4 eggs (I cracked two at a time and had a fifth egg on standby so I wouldn't waste any.)

Parmesan (I picked up a little container of it from Trader Joe's)

Mozzarella (optional)  (This was a late add on for us. We didn't have it in the house and ended up using pieces of the mozz cheesestring we had.)

High heat oil (I used coconut oil for the sauce and grape seed oil for the eggplant. I didn't measure out how much I used and kept the can close by/refilled as needed).

A medium-size frying pan

A medium-sized pot

A baking sheet (if you have a rack to put on the sheet, use it! I didn't and improvised.)

Tongs (for frying eggplant)

Whatchya do:

First, the sauce.

  1. In the pot, heat about a tablespoon of coconut oil on medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes when they're see through.
  2. Add garlic and mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes. Add the marinara sauce and bring it all to a boil then cover, reduce the heat and let it simmer.

Then, prep your eggplant station

  1. Put your flour in a shallow dish or bowl. This is step 1.
  2. Crack two eggs and whisk together in a shallow dish or bowl. This is step 2. (I'd crack 2 at a time as I went along so I wouldn't waste any.)
  3. Mix the breadcrumbs, italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper together.  This is step 3.

You're ready to coat your eggplant!

  1. Take a slice of eggplant and dip it (both sides, one side at a time) in the flour (step 1), then the egg mixture (step 2) and then the breading (step 3) before setting aside on a dish.

I'd prep as many slices of eggplant that would fit in a pan at a time and then move onto the next step. While pieces are frying, you can bread the rest of the eggplant. (Trust me, I try to find ways to be efficient even when in the kitchen.)

 Pan frying your eggplant

  1. Grease the baking pan with a little bit of oil (just enough so the pan is oiled, but there shouldn't be any oil "sitting" in a pool.) If you have a rack, no need to oil the pan. Simply place the rack on the baking sheet. Set this somewhere accessible from the frying pan.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350. While it's heating up, you can start frying.
  3. Heat up the oil in the pan over medium heat. Test the temperature by dropping a bit of the bread crumbs in the oil. When it dances around, your oil is hot enough.
  4. Place your breaded eggplant pieces in the pan and fry until it's crispy/golden. I left it in for a few minutes on each side. (While you're waiting for the eggplant to brown, you can bread the rest of your eggplant pieces.)
  5. Once both sides are nicely browned, place the eggplant piece directly on the greased baking pan OR on the rack (if you have a rack). Repeat until all of the pieces have been fried or your baking pan is full.

Baking your eggplant

  1. Once the baking pan is full/you've fried all of your eggplant pieces, you're ready to bake. If you have a rack, skip to step 3. If you don't have a rack, put the tray in for 10 minutes.
  2. After 10 minutes, flip the pieces. But after you flip the pieces and put it back in the oven, do step 3.
  3. Spoon some of the sauce onto each eggplant piece. Top with a little bit of parmesan and a little bit of mozzarella. Bake until the cheese is browned/slightly bubbly.

You're ready to eat! I ate the eggplant parm on it's own, but you could serve it with pasta (or quinoa pasta for us gluten-free folks) or with a salad. Enjoy!

P.S. Frying the eggplant probably makes this less healthy, but if you look at the ingredients, it can't be thaaaaat bad for you, right? Also, you can make this vegan easily by using an egg replacement and omitting the cheese.


Rest in Peace, Ashley

Rest in Peace, Ashley

Liming in St. Lucia

Liming in St. Lucia