Saturday, January 5, 2013

Kale Chips

So I had been seeing different healthy snack ideas show up on my Pinterest feed, and recently there seemed to be an array of kale chip recipes. I had heard of these before and even seen them on the food network, but had never tried making them. Since I had a big bunch of kale in the fridge that I hadn't used yet, I figured I would try it out. The jury is still out for me on this one. While they came out fine, and I did find myself eating a whole plate of them, I can't decide if I really liked them enough to make them regularly, even though they were pretty addicting. They are pretty quick and easy to make, so give it a try.


One big bunch of kale
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. red wine vinegar

Optional Ingredients:

1 tsp. dried taragon
finely grated parmesan cheese

Kitchen Equipment:

Parchment paper
1 or 2 baking/cookie sheet pans
Large bowl


Preheat oven to 375 F. Rinse your kale well to remove any grit and then pat dry with a paper towel. Tear the kale leaves into pieces, basically about the size of potato chips. I removed most of the large stems, but left a few smaller ones on here and there. In a large bowl, add the olive oil and red wine vinegar, then add the kale. Toss the kale by hand until all the leaves have a light coating of the oil and vinegar mixture. Put a layer of parchment paper on your baking pan, and spread out your kale in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt (I was pretty liberal with the salt, but this is up to you). Then if you chose any optional ingredients, sprinkle on as well. I did one tray with the parmesan cheese and one tray with the taragon. I think I actually preferred the ones with taragon. Put in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

The kale chips are very fragile when done, almost like parchment paper with the thinner leaves. They also don't make the most attractive display, so don't plan on fancying up your table with this as an appetizer. They are more just an interesting thing to eat, and depending on how much salt and cheese you decided to dump on them, they could be substitute snack for chips. I couldn't stop eating them for some reason, maybe it was all the salt.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Eggplant Rolls with Spinach and Fresh Mint

I love eggplant. A few years ago, I decided to plant a garden and was pretty excited about putting in eggplant. I was looking forward to having a bumper crop and making all sorts of eggplant dishes. Unfortunately the rabbits in my yard were also fans of eggplant, and within just a few short days of putting in the small plants, they had been eaten down to nothing with the exception of a few dilapidated chewed-on stalks. Oh well. I'll be trying again this year, within a fenced-in area that should keep the little critters out.

Anyway, I have been making this dish for the past three years or so and it is always a hit at the family gatherings. This is a great alternative to lasagna, can make a nice replacement if your are trying to cut back on heavier pasta dishes, as well as being a good and hearty vegetarian dish.


2 medium eggplants
1 bag of baby spinach leaves
2 large eggs
1 15-ounce container of whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cuts grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
1 large ball of fresh mozzarella
1 jar of Classico Tomato Sauce (I used the Garlic and Roasted Tomato)
Black Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Trim the ends off of your eggplant and then cut them length-wise. Try to keep your slices even, around 1/4 inch thick. Using baking cooling racks or in a colander, spread out your eggplant slices and sprinkle them generously on both sides with salt and let them stand for at least 30 minutes and even up to an hour. This is "sweating" the eggplant, and will draw out a lot of the moisture and reduces the bitterness so common in eggplant.

I usually then rinse the eggplant with water to remove the excess salt and then pad them dry with paper towels. Then put your oven rack up about 5-6 inches from the heat source and get your broiler going. Arrange your eggplant slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet and brush the top side with olive oil. Broil your eggplant in batches, until they are tender and just beginning to brown, it normally only takes a few minutes per batch. I tend to do two cookie sheets at a time to get the process down quicker. Afterwards you can just stack your broiled eggplant on a plate to cool down some while you prepare the filling.
There are a couple of options for the spinach. You can bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and then add your spinach and boil them until just tender, usually just a few minutes. Then drain the spinach and rinse with cool water. Squeeze the spinach very dry, then chop coarsely. Then add the spinach to a large bowl.
A second option is to just chop the spinach raw and put it in the bowl. This is how I did it this past time, and it came out fine, although I may have had a little more liquid in the final result than normal, however this didn't cause any issue at all.
Once your spinach is chopped and in the bowl, stir in your ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the Parmesan, the mint, both eggs and the black pepper to taste. Stir everything together so that all ingredients are incorporated together well. Then slice up your mozzarella and set aside (do not add to the bowl of other ingredients).
Take a large glass baking dish and put half the jar of tomato sauce in, spreading it evenly over the bottom of the dish. Then take an eggplant slice and put a couple of tablespoons of your cheese/spinach mixture on one end.
Add a small slice of the mozzarella and then loosely roll up the eggplant slice, enclosing the filling. Place the roll, seam side down, atop the sauce in your baking dish and do this with each eggplant slice until you have filled your pan.
Once your pan is full, spoon the remaining half jar of sauce over the top and spread it evenly over all your rolls. Then take the remaining slices of mozzarella and place one slice on top of each roll. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan over the top and then cover with foil. Bake in the oven at 350 F for 30 minutes covered. You can bake for an additional 10 minutes uncovered to get those little crispy brown spots going on the cheese. Your final result should look something like the picture below (I made a double batch this time for a family gathering).
While fresh mint may seem like an odd addition to this dish, it is not overpowering, and really kicks the dish up a notch with a touch of summer flavor, blending really well with the flavors of the other ingredients. Enjoy!