Honey Garlic Eggplant and Tofu

Eggplant and I have a very complicated, long, love-hate relationship. As a kid, I grew up hating eggplant. The gray color. The slimy texture. The bitter-bland taste. The weird smell.It was my Asian kid’s spinach nightmare. As an adult today, I admit I still … Continue reading

Summer Avocado + Spinach Pesto Pasta

Happy post-Labor weekend! It was filled with beautiful beach barbecues at the Montage beach and yummy dinner parties. My boyfriend and I celebrated our anniversary with a backyard dinner with our friends. Since I had a packed weekend, I picked a menu that was easy to assemble early so I could just throw things in the oven.

Dinner

My summer dinner menu:

Appetizers

Cheese Board – Italian truffle cheese, Pesto Gouda

Baked Brie with Honey and Thyme

Fresh baguette (made by my friend!)

Fruits – Green grapes and Pears

Toasted Cashews and Pistachios

Main Course

Lemon Chicken over Basmati Rice

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Avocado Pesto Pasta with Roasted summer vegetables

Dessert

Peach + Blueberry Cake a la mode with fresh vanilla ice cream

I made most of the items the day before, or they were at least easy to prepare (less than 15 min) the day of. And I pretty much always go for no-cook/bake appetizers…you don’t want your guests to get full on appetizers anyways! It turned out to be a perfect stress-less dinner party where I actually got to enjoy and drink wine. The key was making a 3-day to do list, and a time schedule on the day of so I know exactly when to start throwing things into the oven.

I made some easy flower arrangements as centerpieces, too. You can buy flowers for pretty cheap at Trader Joe’s and make your our arrangements rather than buy pre-made bouquets! I chose summer retro colors blue and red, so I had 2 mason jars filled with blue-white hydrangea with red gerber daisies tucked in between. And the main centerpiece were white calla lilies with red roses in a skinny vase.

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I had some ingredients left over so I decided to whip up a quick fresh lunch today – Avocado and spinach pesto pasta! During the dinner, I had oven roasted grape tomatoes and yellow squash for it, but I’m in a rush over the week so fresh grape tomatoes sufficed. It’s more refreshing and fast and oh so good! Did I mention it was healthy for you too?? In the end, you have a creamy pesto pasta with all the summer flavors you could ask for – creamy avocado, fresh basil and garlic, tangy lemon hints and sweet juicy tomatoes!

Fun tip: After I use my avocados, I like to save the skins because there’s usually enough left to make into an avocado face mask! Just rub the skin all over a fresh clean face!

pesto pasta

Avocado and Spinach Pesto Pasta

Servings: 2-3

Prep TIme: 15 min, Total time: 15-20 min

Ingredients

  • 8 oz of fettuccine (1/2 package) – I like to use whole wheat fettuccine, but you can really use any kind you want
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1-2 cups of Spinach
  • 1/2-1 cups of fresh Basil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Juice of 1 small lemon or half a large lemon
  • Salt/pepper
  • Pine nuts (optional)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • Parmesan for garnish (optional)

Directions

1. Cook the pasta according to the package, saving a small cup of pasta water on the side before draining.

2. While the pasta is cooking, place your avocado, spinach, basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, 1 1/2 tsp salt and a pinch of pepper into a food processor or blender. If you have pine nuts, you can add them in, too. Blend until smooth.

3. After you grain your pasta, dump your pesto sauce into the original pot. Toss in your pasta, adding in as much pasta water as you like to get a more saucy texture.

4. Toss in your fresh grape tomatoes and garnish with freshly grated pepper and parmesan. Enjoy!

Note: If you have left over sauce, you can always store it in the freezer.

Eggplant Caponata

First day of school and I’m already tired. You would think the first week would be easy, but it’s just full of littler errands to run here and there on top of your weekly workload. It’s only 10:30 and I’m already wanting to pass out.

I have a small 4 hour break in between my clinic hours and TA hours on Monday, so it gives me time to whip up something quick for dinner. I quickly scoped out sales at Sprouts, since I needed to go in that area anyways, plus they always have great produce prices. Eggplant and celery were on sale for 0.99 so I couldn’t pass up that offer! They also turned out to be the perfect ingredients for an eggplant caponata – a comfort Italian dish. It mixes with tomatos and red wine vinegar to make a sweet and sour tomato sauce. And even if you don’t have red wine vinegar in the cabinet, it’s really cheap at the store ($2-3/bottle). Add some chili pepper in it to give it a good kick! This a pretty flexible recipe where the main players are eggplant, celery, tomato and red wine vinegar, and many ingredients are optional. I like to add lots of veggies and give a little bit more complex flavors and play on the sweet and sour. Very quick recipe….to give you a scope I started cooking at 5:50 PM and ate dinner was able to rush out of the house by 6:50. Buon Appetito!

Caponata

Eggplant Caponata

Servings: 3-4 servings

Prep time: 20 min, Total time: 40 min

Ingredients

  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 1 med eggplant (about 1 pound) – cut into about 1/2″ pieces
  • about 2 tbsp of Tomato Paste
  • Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1-2 tbsp Sliced olives or capers (optional)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Baguette or any bread for serving

Directions:

1. In a wide pot, set to med-high and coat the bottom with olive oil.

2. When hot, saute your onion and celery until onion is just translucent.

3. Add in your garlic and red bell pepper. Saute for about 2-3 minutes.

4. Add in your tomatoes and half your tomato paste. Saute for about 1-2 minutes

5. Slowly incorporate your eggplant. Once it starts to simmer down, add in the rest of your tomato paste, or until everything is well coated. Use to your taste…you can’t use too much here!

6. Season with a good few shakes of italian season. Salt/pepper/ sugar to taste.

7. Keep sauteing the eggplant until soften. Add in your red wine vinegar.

8. Keep it on the heat until eggplant is well done (about 10 -15 min). Sprinkle in your raisin and olives/capers. Season with italian seasoning, salt, pepper and sugar to your taste. You can add in red pepper flakes to give a nice kick.

9. Serve on top of a slice of warm baguette or any kind of bread (I had it on a less fancy wheat toast).

Enjoy!

Comfort Veggies, Beans and Rice

New blog, new inspirations and a soon to be new start to the quarter. Here’s a VERY easy recipe to get all your veggies for the day and keep it delicious! Best of all, all the veggies in the recipe right now are in season! Which means cheap cheap cheap at the grocery store! I love going to Sprouts for produce…they surprisingly have amazing produce prices. The recipe is very flexible – you can use whatever veggies you want (ie. use what’s in your fridge or what’s on sale for the week!). I chose these veggies because they give the dish so much color and it’s very eye pleasing.

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Comfort Veggies and Rice

Serves: 4 servings

Prep time: 5-10 min, Cook time: 10 min

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown rice – cooked (I like short grain brown rice)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow summer squash
  • 1 Green bell pepper
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 2/3 can of chickpeas
  • 2-3 handfuls of spinach
  • Coriander
  • Chili powder

Directions

1. Wash and cut your veggies leaving skin on. For the squashes I cut it in half lengthwise then quickly slice it down to bite size pieces. Cut the bell peppers into bite sized strips.

2. On med heat, drizzle some olive oil in a wide pot and throw in your garlic. Let it cook for 1 minute.

3. Turn heat to med-high and add in all your veggies and season with salt/pepper. Let it cook for 4-5 minutes until veggies are tender.

4. Turn heat down to med-low and throw in your rice and chickpeas. Mix it well with your veggies.

5. Slowly incorporate your spinach in handful by handful. You can really add as much spinach as you want…I love lots of spinach!

6. Add in about 1 1/2 tablespoons of coriander. Really you can add in as much as you want to taste. Add a few shakes of chili powder. Salt/pepper to taste.

Enjoy your warm veggies and rice! I love adding sriracha on top and mixing it in!