Friday, June 10, 2011

Veganizing Recipes

Perusing vegan recipes has been a learning experience, and I have discovered some great new dishes that I probably would never have tried before, but sometimes you just need to turn to an old favorite, a good comfort food. Browsing online recipes, I came across a take on eggplant parmesan by Rachael Ray. Now that's a comfort food in my book, but not so much for my eggplant-avoiding husband. It wasn't a vegan recipe, but with a little tweaking, it could be, and Rob agreed to go along with it. (He's been much more open-minded to trying new things since he's been seeing such good results on the scale.)

You can find the original recipe here. I simplified it a bit, since this is definitely not one of her Thirty Minute Meals, and made it vegan, replacing the cheese with Daiya and omitting the eggwash from the eggplant breading process. This has become a standard make-ahead meal for me. I double the recipe (or sometimes more) and I've gotten the assembly line down to a science so that one afternoon in the kitchen turns out enough stackers for a couple of dinners and plenty of lunches for Rob to bring to work.

I start with the filling, sauteeing a bunch of rainbow chard with a little olive oil, shallots and garlic. Once the leaves turn a bright green and are slightly wilted, I take them off the heat and leave them in the pan until I'm ready to assemble the stackers.

I use jarred organic tomato sauce instead of roasting my own tomatoes from scratch and we omit the onion filling, adding shallots to the chard instead.

After the sliced eggplant has been salted and drained for 30-minutes, we're ready to go. First, I dredge the eggplant slices in whole wheat flour, then in a slurry of cornstarch and water, and finally in panko, before pan frying them. To avoid burning issues, you may have to wipe out the pan and add fresh oil between batches. As the fried eggplant slices come out of the pan, I arrange them on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Then I add a spoonful of tomato sauce, some of the chard, and a sprinkle of Daiya mozzarella, finishing the stacker with a second fried eggplant slice. When the tray is full, it goes into the oven for 5-8 minutes at 400 degrees so that the cheese melts and the chard is heated through.

These stay well in the refrigerator for a few days and can be frozen for later meals. I love them, and my husband, who would never before touch eggplant, has named this as his all-time favorite home-cooked meal. Mission complete. Thanks, Rachael.

Week four, I dropped another pound and a half, bringing the total to 11.5 pounds. (Rob is closer to 18 pounds.) Only two more weeks, although I'm pretty sure most of these vegan recipes will continue to be staples in our meal plan. Rob is prepared to be vegan for life. I am looking forward to real cheese and my coffee creamer. However, we are accomplishing exactly what we set out to do, kick some food cravings, get healthier, lose weight and explore a new eating lifestyle.

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