Patrick’s Eggplant Parm

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Photo: Blair, The Seasoned Mom

There are three foods I always request on my birthday: stuffed artichoke, eggplant Parmesan + rice krispy treats. This year my husband surprised me and made eggplant parm when I came home from work on my birthday (which recently passed beginning of January- shout out to fellow Capricorns!). I’m just as surprised as you are that Patrick doubles as a chef! Doctor by day, chef by night- who knew! BUT I will say- I was definitely leery when he said he was going to attempt eggplant parm- I don’t even order it in restaurants- simply because, I grew up in a Sicilian home + my mom’s is just the best. I’ve tried eggplant parm from “great” Italian restaurants and they have always been sub-par. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I LOVED the eggplant parm recipe Patrick found. I love Patrick but I’d never tell him something tasted amazing if it didn’t- I’m Italian aka I can’t lie about food. It is VERY different from the Romano (maiden name) eggplant parm I grew up on- but I truly love both. I will also share the Romano eggplant parm recipe with you guys soon- that one is more like an eggplant lasagna- cut an entirely different style than Patrick’s. 

From the Doctor + Dietitian: Eggplants are high in fiber; therefore, great for GI and cardiovascular health. This is because foods high in fiber have been shown to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and in turn, decreasing heart attacks and strokes. Eggplants are a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, niacin, magnesium, copper, fiber, folic acid, potassium, manganese, thiamine, and phosphorous. Because eggplants are high in calcium and iron, they are considered great for bone health and preventing anemia.

Fun Fact: Did you know eggplants are technically considered a fruit?! They are related to tomatoes and some even consider eggplant a type of berry! Because of the low sugar/nutrient content, in our minds- it’s still a veggie!

Before we get to the recipe, Patrick followed the recipe [below] exactly; however, we will add some vegan friendly modifications. Feel free to modify amount of cheese/type of cheese. Lastly, you can use your favorite tomato sauce or sauce from a jar- Patrick used my family’s Red Sauce Recipe- which I highly recommend- it’s straight from my Italian ancestors and super simple! It will make this dish a million times better too. Of note, if you’re going to make your own red sauce- we recommend doing this before you get started on the eggplant recipe so it’s ready to go!

ingredients 

Eggplant:

  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten [ok to modify to cashew milk]
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cups whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 (1-pound) eggplants, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • Cooking spray

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (16-ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten [sub with flax egg – 1 tbsp ground flax and 3 tbsp water mixed]
  • Remaining ingredients:
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar premium pasta sauce [we did not use this, see red sauce recipe]
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) finely grated fontina cheese
recipe
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. To make eggplant, combine 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon water in a shallow dish. Combine panko and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano in a second shallow dish. Dip eggplant in egg mixture; dredge in panko mixture, pressing gently to adhere and shaking off excess. Place eggplant 1 inch apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until golden, turning once and rotating baking sheets after 15 minutes.
  3. To make filling, combine basil and next 6 ingredients (through egg).
  4. To assemble, spoon 1/2 cup pasta sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer half of eggplant slices over pasta sauce. Sprinkle eggplant with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Top with about 3/4 cup pasta sauce; spread half of ricotta mixture over sauce, and top with a third of mozzarella and 1/4 cup fontina. Repeat layers once, ending with about 1 cup pasta sauce. Cover tightly with aluminum foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes. Remove foil; top with remaining third of mozzarella and 1/4 cup fontina. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese melts; cool 10 minutes.

Recipe: Cooking Light

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We hope you enjoy this delish Italian Delicacy!

-The Neilan Family-

Kindness + Cortisol: Why it Pays to be Positive

I love getting older, with every year- I understand health a little bit better (or so I like to think). For us, nutrition + health is not only about how we eat and exercise. We really try to keep a healthy mind aka we like to avoid stress/negativity as much as we can.  Which, in the world we live in, can definitely be a struggle. Although the type A in me would positively LOVE to control any and all things- it’s just not possible. But we can control what we let upset us. By 28 years old (and Patrick 30) we both really only get stressed out (or try to only get stressed out) about the things that matter – family, friends, our health, etc. One thing that really, truly makes us feel so good- is just plain old being nice and trying to keep our mood positive about ourselves and others. Which takes us to (plot twist!) Cortisol. 

From the Doctor: When you feel stress (anger, jealousy, fear, etc) your hypothalamus tells your adrenal glands to release hormones (adrenaline and cortisol). Cortisol increases glucose in your bloodstream to enhance your brains use of glucose (possibly increasing risk for type 2 diabetes).  Your body is in survival mode and in turn suppressing vital functions in the body; such as: the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes.

Typically once you no longer feel threatened (or stressed) these levels stabilize; however, when you are exposed to “long-term activation of the stress-response system” aka overexposure of cortisol for a prolonged period of time, this can cause inflammation and also put your health at risk for: anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and memory/concentration impairment.

From the Dietitian: Obviously we can’t avoid stress all together. Cortisol is also necessary for vital body functions so you don’t want to do away with it completely by any means. The goal is to only stress – when it’s necessary and keep negativity as far away as possible. It takes a lot to really get under my skin (or Patrick’s) and that’s something that is purposeful. We’re by no means perfect and we all have our moods because at the end of the day we’re still human BUT we try to find the positive in people, ourselves and in situations. Not just to benefit others but also ourselves. For me, I need something more tangible than breathing exercises (works great for some) to help settle stress sometimes and showing kindness to other people has really gone a long way with keeping my anxiety/stress at bay and my environment positive. I’ve definitely been told “you’re too nice” “too bubbly” but I think people don’t realize it’s for my own benefit too. Letting everything get to you, in our opinion, is just not healthy and there are so many real things to worry about in life when they come up (health of a family member for example) to stress about the little things. Being rude or nasty or negative only takes more energy – so it pays to be kind, positive & just relax!

Happy Monday + Keep those Cortisol levels at bay!