Stepping Out of Your Cooking Comfort Zone
Written by Bonnie Mechelle
The other day, I was planning out my grocery list and menu for the family and I thought to myself ‘if I have baked chicken, rice and broccoli one more time I’m going to scream.’ I realized that I was getting bored with eating “healthy” because I was staying in my cooking comfort zone!
What is the cooking comfort zone you ask? It’s when you only cook meals that you are comfortable making, the meals you’re sure you won’t mess up or get wrong. It is great when you have a roster of healthy meals that you’re used to cooking, but eventually it gets old, you and the family will get bored, and next thing you know you’re taking the kids to the Olive Garden or Applebee’s for dinner (for variety).
Did you know that when we dine out we are served 3 times the amount that we should actually eat? So dinning out is not always the answer. My point is… you don’t have to dine out to get variety! You can have variety in your very own kitchen and make meals conducive to weight loss that taste really good!
So I challenge you today to get out of your cooking comfort zone.
Cook something that you normally don’t make. For me, it’ll be eggplants. Eggplants are a wonderful substitute for meat in a meal. Y’all know that I’m a proponent of reducing your meat intake and incorporating lots of fresh veggies in meals like lasagna, spaghetti, parmigiana and pizza (can you tell I love Italian food).
Back to eggplants, they do not like cool temperatures so it’s important for you to know that eggplants do not store very well. If you must store them, wrap them in plastic or use plastics and store for 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator. Be careful as it will soon develop soft brown spots and become bitter. Use them while the stem and cap are still greenish and rather fresh-looking.
Cooked eggplant soaks up a lot of oil. As the air rushes out of the cells oil rushes in to take it place. Many cooks insist on salting and pressing (or just draining) the air and water out before cooking. Getting rid of the air means it will absorb less oil during cooking. Salting also reduces the water content which reduces the amount of water leeched out into the dish. If you salt prior to cooking, rinse and pat dry to prevent excessive salt in the end product. Adjust the seasoning in the recipe to compensate for the salt remaining on the eggplant.
Then there is the issue of whether or not to peel the eggplant. Peeling should depend on how the eggplant is used in the recipe. If you never peel, selection becomes extremely important. Young tender eggplant is a must as older tough skin takes longer to cook and by then the flesh is overcooked.
Eggplant can be baked, grilled, steamed, or sautéed. It is versatile and works well with tomatoes, onions, garlic and cheese. The only way eggplant is unacceptable is raw. Now that you know more about eggplants…
Here’s a GREAT Eggplant Recipe
Low Fat Eggplant Parmesan Yummy… Enjoy
2 egg whites
2 1/2 lbs eggplant, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4″-thick slices
1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
Olive oil spray
1 cup tomatoes, chopped with their juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup onion, chopped
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with foil. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.
In a shallow dish, beat the egg whites and 2 tbsp of water until foamy. Dip eggplant into egg whites, then into bread crumbs, pressing crumbs into eggplant.
Place eggplant on prepared baking sheet and spray oil over eggplant slices. Bake 30 minutes, turning eggplant over after 20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.
Sauté the onions and garlic with oil spray.
In a medium bowl, stir together tomatoes and their juice, basil, salt, pepper, garlic, and onions.
Spoon 3 tbsp of tomato mixture into bottom of 9″ square glass baking dish. Place half of eggplant over sauce; spoon half of remaining tomato mixture over eggplant; and sprinkle half of mozzarella on top. Repeat with remaining eggplant, tomato mixture, and mozzarella.
Sprinkle Parmesan on top and bake for 20 minutes, or until eggplant is piping hot and sauce is bubbly.
Nutrition Facts: Per serving: Calories 274, Fat 6g, Calories from Fat 20%, Protein 18g, Carbohydrates 35g, Cholesterol 20mg, Fiber 8g, Sodium 427mg.