Eggplant Parmesan

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I harvested 5 more eggplants from my garden, ran into the kitchen and made this! It reminds of the eggplant parms my Dad and I used to make together back in the old days. Our goal was to find a healthier way to make it because we didn’t want to fry the eggplants. Our solution – salt, lightly oil and then bake until tender. Of course, we were not vegan back then but all I did here was swap out the cow cheese for homemade macadamia nut sauce and voila! Brings back good kitchen memories.

I am the only one who eats eggplants in my house so I use one big or two little two eggplants when I make this. Of course, I make my own sauce. And cheese. And breadcrumbs. So I am going to outline the method for you with those measurements but you can adjust for how many eggplants you are using.

I would say the casserole in this photo should serve 2 but really, let’s face it, I ate the whole thing myself. I did have sauce and cheese left over. So, that means for 2 regular bell shaped sized eggplants, you will have just enough cheese sauce. Does that make sense? If not, email me and we can discuss!

You will need:

Small casserole dish
Eggplants
Tomato sauce
Macadamia nut cheese sauce (see below)
Breadcrumbs
Olive oil
Tomatoes, for garnish, optional

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Macadamia Nut Cheese Sauce
1 cup macadamia nuts *
2 tablespoons white wine
1 tablespoon nooch
1 small clove of garlic
A few dashes of ume plum vinegar
Salt, a pinch
Filtered water, enough to just cover the nuts

*If you don’t have a Vitamix, soak the nuts for 4 hours to overnight. Drain and then add to the blender.

Add all ingredients to the Vitamix, blend until smooth. You can make this ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Eggplant Parm

Preheat the oven to 375. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Slice the eggplants into rounds, about the same size, say about 1/4″. Set onto the parchment and sprinkle the tops with salt. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Dab the tops of the eggplant with a paper towel and soak up the natural water that came out because of the salt.

Lightly brush both sides of the eggplant with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes, or until the eggplants start to look soft and the color changes.

To assemble, spread tomato sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Spread out a layer of eggplants. Top with macadamia nut cheese sauce and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs. Continue layering until you get to the top. If you have some nice slicing tomatoes, put them on top, top them with a little extra breadcrumbs, and then drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly and melty looking!

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Buckwheat Pancakes v2

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Ok, so my husband loves pancakes but he doesn’t want to eat white flour first thing in the morning. So, I updated my old buckwheat pancake recipe to make it easier to make in the morning before school. In the old days, I used fresh almond meal but now it is just a simple mix with ingredients I always have on hand and voila. Easy, weekday pancakes. And they are gluten and refined sugar free!

Note, the key here is that the flour to milk ratio is 1: 1.5. It works every time!

This recipe makes 4 to 6 nice pancakes. Enough for one person (in my house!)

1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons soy milk
2 tablespoons maple or coconut sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon vanilla powder
A few shakes of cinnamon
A pinch of salt

Whisk all of the ingredients together. Heat a skillet and add some vegan butter. Use a tablespoon measure for silver dollars or a big ice cream scooper if you like your pancakes big and drop the batter onto the heated skillet. When bubbles form on the tops, flip them over. Serve with cinnamon, maple syrup and fruit. Enjoy!

Book Report: The Mindful Vegan + Giveaway!

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Two years ago, I wrote about Lani Muelrath’s book, The Plant-Based Journey which is about supporting people through the transition to a vegan/plant-based lifestyle, with clever strategies, science, inspiring stories and great recipe ideas. Lani has followed it up with a new book called The Mindful Vegan. It’s not a cookbook, although there are a few recipes, but a book that will help you understand how you think about food and how to overcome obstacles that prevent you from living joyfully.

I really like this book because I am a long time meditator and it makes sense to me that meditation and mindfulness techniques can be applied to deal with eating issues. Lani is a certified mindfulness meditation facilitator, an award winning health educator, and longtime vegan advocate. She herself has been practicing mindfulness meditation for 25 years. In this book, she teaches how to practice mindfulness and shows how it can bring freedom and joy to eating and life.

Adopting a vegan lifestyle can be a challenge but with simple techniques and a plan it can be done. If you have been struggling, this book can help you. There are step-by- step instructions, a 30-day plan, personal stories, positivity, humor, and a handful of recipes at the end. If you find yourself in a bad way when it comes to eating, your weight, your health, your food choices or your peace of mind, then this book is for you.

I have a copy to give away! Read this interview I did with Lani and then write to me at lisasprojectvegan@gmail.com to tell me why you would benefit from this book. I will pick a winner by Friday and send it out.

LPV: I read your book and I am a long time meditator too. I love how you connect meditation and mindfulness to living a vegan lifestyle. Can you explain how you made the connection?

LM: Years ago I was looking for some way to navigate the unsettling challenges I had around food, eating, and my weight. Burned out on dieting, I figured there must be another way – a way that would create a better relationship with food, eating, and my body and establish more skillful ways of dealing with life’s ups and downs. Mindfulness meditation delivered that to me.  It also moved me from being vegetarian – which I had been for a long time – to vegan. I became increasingly aware of the dissonance of eating any animal products (dairy was the last thing left) and a life of kindness, ease, equanimity, and compassion.

LPV: Can you describe your ‘aha’ moment when mindfulness changed your life and relationship to food?

LM: Day 4 of the 10 day mindfulness meditation silent retreat I was on 25 years ago. This is detailed in the chapter My Watershed Moment in The Mindful Vegan book. As I sat down to eat the midday meal, I became aware in an enlightening new way how much tension I had around the entire food and eating experience.  It became very clear that a shift in this relationship was important for living the life that I envisioned, so from that moment on I gave up my old attitudes toward food and eating in favor of eating mindfully.  And as I discovered, as you practice mindfulness and live more mindfully, you eat more mindfully.

LPV: Throughout the book you back up everything with science. Why has it taken so long to make the connection with food?

LM: I have been doing meditation for 45 years, but not mindfulness practice until 25 years ago. The previous practice I was using didn’t give me the tools for navigating life and living, or the tools of awareness for thoughts and emotions, like mindfulness practice does. As I describe in the book, though I had a book referring to mindfulness, and had a sense it was an answer for me, it took a few years to come across instruction and actually start a practice. From there it happened fast.

LPV: Can anyone follow this plan?

LM: Mindfulness practice and the 30 day plan as I set it up in The Mindful Vegan can be implemented by anyone. As it is non-sectarian, doesn’t require any beliefs, and is based on the scientific processes of mindfulness training, I invite everyone who might be interested in enjoying the outcomes, experience, and results of mindfulness training give it a try and see if it is for them.

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Challah v2 + Overnight Baked Challah French Toast

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I love making challah but just like with my other bread, I don’t like to knead. But guess what? You don’t need to knead challah bread either! So I experimented with my challah recipe and guess what? It works! You just dump all of the ingredients into a bowl and let it rise all by itself.

I use coconut sugar for color and the flavor is spot on!

If you want that extra shiny crust, you can whisk together equal parts maple sugar and olive oil and brush on top of the challah. That is about 2 tablespoons each for this recipe. If you are a sesame or poppy seed challah kind of person, you will need brush the maple/oil mixture on the challah and then sprinkle the seeds on top before baking.

Makes 2 braided challahs

4 cups bread flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 package active dry yeast 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast)
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup safflower oil

Combine flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Mix well. Add oil and water. Mix together and cover with plastic until it doubles in size.

Take the dough out and cut it in half using a bench scraper. Cut each into thirds. Braid. Let sit for 15 minutes covered.

Preheat the oven to 350. Brush the challahs with cold water (or oil/sugar mixture) and bake for 30 minutes.

Let cool. Eat immediately or slice and freeze. Enjoy!

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I had company coming over and I wanted to make a breakfast dish but I had so much cooking to do for lunch and dinner. So I created this overnight baked French Toast!

My challah was small, I got 9 pieces out of it and used a small 8×8 baking dish but you can adjust as necessary. The key is to cover the bread with the mixture. You will see how easy it is!

1/4 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup plant milk *
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Challah bread, about 9 small pieces or 6 big pieces (whatever will fit in an 8×8 dish)
Handful of pecans, chopped
A few pinches of coconut sugar

*Any plant milk will work but I love cashew milk here. If you don’t have a Vitamix, soak your cashews first for a few hours. Blend 1/2 cup cashews with 1 cup of filtered water. Let it rip until well blended. You will have leftover cashew milk.

Arrange the bread slices in the pan.

In a big bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour, plant milk and vanilla extract until totally combined.

Pour the batter over the challah. Use tongs to gently turn the challah over and move it around so that both sides are covered.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Take out of the refrigerator and bring up to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350.

Sprinkle the challah with pecans and coconut sugar. Bake for 20 minutes or until it smells great.

Serve with cinnamon and maple syrup and anything else you want. Enjoy!

Pasta with Eggplant Saffron Sauce

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I absolutely love this sauce. It is a slow cooked masterpiece of flavor! I harvested more eggplants and tomatoes from my garden and couldn’t wait to get cooking. I also love, love, love saffron which really compliments the flavor of the eggplants.

I also love Sfoglini’s saffron pasta for a double saffron whammy but you can use any pasta that you have on hand. You can also drop a few strands into the pasta while it is cooking to infuse the pasta with the ethereal and delightful saffron flavor!

Cook the sauce slowly, over low heat, and get the pasta going toward the end. You can make it ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat.

1 big shallot
1 clove of garlic
1 regular size zucchini
1 regular size eggplant
1/4 cup tomato paste
Saffon, a big pinch
2 cups of water, or more if necessary
2 tablespoons olive oil
Cherry tomatoes, a few handfuls, like 12 to 24
Pasta, enough for 2
Macadamia nuts, for garnish, optional

Thinly slice the shallot and press the garlic. Heat a sauce pot over low heat. Add olive oil and the shallots and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, a few minutes.

Dice the zucchini and eggplant and add to the pot. Toss around and coat with the oil. Cook for a few minutes until bright in color. Add the tomato past and stir around. Add a big pinch of saffron and two cups of water.

Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low. Place the cover on the pot but leave it open a bit. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes. If it seems like it is drying out, add more water. You are looking for a thick sauce to develop.

Get the pasta going.

Add the cherry tomatoes into the sauce and let them cook down while the pasta is cooking.

Drain the pasta, reserving some pasta water, and toss with the sauce. Add some pasta water to thin it out for that extra special something.

Grate a macadamia nut on a microplane over the top of the pasta. Enjoy!

New Project: My Food Garden

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That’s me in June harvesting kale! (Photo Credit: My son!)

I have been working on a flower garden at my house for the last 5 years. When I started, I was inspired by the High Line in NYC to create a garden with lots of color, movement and sea grasses to fill it in the spaces. Now, I have beautiful pink and red rose bushes, purple, pink and sometimes blue hydrangeas and butterfly bushes that start attracting butterflies the weekend of my son’s birthday every August. I have Montauk daisies, lilies, lavender and mint. I have crepe myrtles and hydrangea trees. My garden is lush, meandering, and full of color. It has been a labor of love and I’ve become a pretty good gardener! I know how to weed, fight stinkhorns, and prune my roses just so. And it’s all on one side of my driveway!

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My prize rose!

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Butterfly bush and a friend!

I’ve gained a certain kind of confidence in the dirt with what I have accomplished, so I decided this was the year to let my garden blossom without moving anything around or planting annuals. Then I asked myself, if I don’t have my garden to work on, what will I focus on? I need a project, that’s just me, and that’s when I decided it was time for a food garden.

I enlisted a local guy who has a company called Home Organic Gardening Service to build two raised beds on the other side, the narrow side, of my driveway.

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Filling in the beds with organic soil.

And then we started planting in April!

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Planting day!

What a learning curve! I had no idea how or when to harvest or if I should prune anything. And I still don’t but I went out every Saturday morning (and the almost every day during the summer) to see what was going on. The first thing we harvested were these radishes. I have never been so proud.

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Then we got arugula and chives.

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And kale and mesclun greens!

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And tomatoes!

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And carrots!

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And eggplants!

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More tomatoes and cucumbers!

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And more tomatoes in October!

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Not to mention bok choy, spinach, beets, basil, pole beans, and an attempt at zucchini from which I got zucchini flowers but no zucchini. I can’t believe how much these two little beds have produced, it’s crazy! I’ve had such a great time that I can’t wait until next season. We are going to build a little hoop house over the kale and hopefully have it all winter.

I have learned a lot and can’t wait for next season. I sketched out a design for what I want to plant but in the meantime, I will be planting garlic, leeks and onions for the winter. What a joy!

If you have ever fantasized about growing your own food, I am here to tell you that you don’t need that much space and it is not that complicated. Yes, there is a learning curve but you have to start somewhere.

And if you really have no space, like if you live in an apartment in a city, try to find a community garden to plant in. If that’s not viable, you can grow your own herbs in a wine bottle! I helped a company called Urban Leaf develop the coolest “grow herbs in a wine bottle” system and I grew basil on my windowsill in my apartment in the city over the winter!

Anyway, I wanted to show you some of the food I made with my garden bounty that I haven’t already posted. Have you seen my tomato pies and galettes, cucumber salad, sweet carrot slaw, spiced green beanseggplant involtini, and eggplant bacon? Here are some more fun things!

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Zucchini blossom crust. My new coconut oil crust thinly rolled out, topped with whipped ricotta and zucchini blossoms, and baked.

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Slow roasted tomatoes with a little olive oil and salt.

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On toast with whipped ricotta and fresh herbs…

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With mashed avocado, gooseberries and radishes…

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And on more avo toast.

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What about this platter of tomatoes, cucumbers and carrot lox made with carrots from my garden? I made this for break fast for my family.

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I hope this post inspires you to try your hand at gardening or growing herbs on your windowsill. Whatever you grow, herbs on a window sill or kale and eggplants, let me know how it goes!

Eggplant Bacon & EBKT: Eggplant Bacon, Kale & Tomato Salad

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Eggplant Bacon!

How about bacon made out of eggplant? LOVE it! I harvested 6 eggplants from my garden and couldn’t wait to make bacon. The flavors are pretty typical of vegan bacon, smoky and maple-y. I doctored up my recipe for parsnip bacon because eggplants are more intense in flavor and the result is divine.

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EBKT salad

This salad is the perfect vehicle for eggplant bacon. Little bites of sweet, salty eggplant combined with the creaminess of the dressing makes for an outstanding lunch! Or dinner or whatever!

Eggplant Bacon
1 small eggplant
Pinch of smoked salt
A few shakes of smoked paprika
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Cut the top and bottom off the eggplant. Slice the eggplant the long way, not to thin and not too thick.

Add to a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and paprika. Toss around.

Whisk together the oil, tamari and maple syrup. Add to the eggplant and toss well to coat.

Place the eggplant slices onto the parchment and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the slices are getting browned, even a little burnt in some places.

EBKT Salad
Eggplant bacon
Kale
Tomatoes
Croutons (homemade is best!)
Cashew Mayo Dressing *

*The dressing is just a thinned out version of my cashew mayo. Make the mayo and then add a little bit of water to thin it out to a dressing consistency.

To make the salad, cut the bacon into small bite sized pieces. Chop the kale. Slice the tomatoes. Add the croutons and toss it all together with the eggplant bacon. Enjoy!

Book Report: Vegan: The Cookbook + Bonus Recipe

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Have you seen this book yet? It has a bright yellow cover with a colorful artsy vegetable design. It’s Vegan: The Cookbook by Jean-Christian Jury and it first came to my attention when a review and a few recipes were printed in the Wall Street Journal. I guess vegan is now mainstream, even conservative!

Jury’s premise is this, “At the root of it, vegan food is just food: vibrant, flavorful, fresh – making you feel good inside and out.” And that is how the book is written, as a celebration of plant vitality and variety with seemingly endless possibilities. And with over 500 recipes, you are not kidding!

It will take me a long time to get through this book, but I can say up front that I am going to be cooking from it for a long time to come. There is a lot to discover because the recipes are simple, most with short and easy-to-find ingredient lists. The typeface is super easy on the eyes, the sections are color coded on the edges, and there are no headers on the recipes. The book isn’t cluttered. But even without headers, each recipes is from a different country and there are some nice photos. The whole design makes me want to cook from it.

After short introduction and a run through of the essential vegan pantry, there are the usual chapters for starters, salads, soups, main courses, grains, beans, pasta and desserts, plus a chapter by guest chefs. There is something for everyone in this book!

There are like 7 different recipes for hummus, tons of dips and appetizer ideas, interesting soups and salads, over a dozen curries, over 2 dozen stews, and tons of dessert ideas. Some recipes that stand out to me are the Pizza with Lemons and Brussels Sprouts from Belgium, Caramelized Pineapple and Tofu from Cambodia, Macaroni and Roasted Cauliflower Bowl from Morocco, and the Salty Caramel Cake from Austria.

This book that belongs on any bookshelf, in a vegan house or not. There is so much variety and the recipes are super easy. I have earmarked a bunch of recipes to try,  ut this one jumped right out at me. I made it straight away because I had all of the ingredients on hand.  It’s called Leeks in Mustard Sauce, a really interesting and tasty way to serve leeks. I got permission to reprint the recipe so try it and see what you think!

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Leeks in a Mustard Sauce (Ireland). Photography: Sidney Bensimon (Page
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Leeks in Mustard Sauce, serves 4

For the vinaigrette:
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 shallots, finely chopped

For the leeks:
salt
6 leeks, white and pale green parts
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
Freshly ground pepper
Baked potatoes or boiled potatoes, to serve

To make the vinaigrette, put the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and shallot into a bowl and whisk together.

To make the leeks, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Carefully drop in the leeks and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until tender and easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Drain the leeks and pat dry with paper towels. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise.

Arrange the leeks on a serving plate and pour over the vinaigrette. Garnish with parsley and walnuts and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with baked or boiled potatoes.

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From my kitchen: Leeks in Mustard Sauce

Baked Almond Feta

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All of a sudden I started seeing baked almond feta everywhere – in my Instagram feed and then in a new cookbook called The New Vegan. So I got it in my head to make it and let me tell you, it’s another vegan culinary wonder.

There is a basic recipe on Vegetarian Times. I pretty much followed it but of course made my own adjustments, which I think is how we should all be cooking anyway. Get ideas from everywhere and then make them our own. I mean, it’s food after all, nothing is really that original. Anyway…

This baked almond feta is a two day affair so make sure you plan ahead if you want this for a specific day or party.

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Note: I decided to make this really tart so I used the juice of an entire lemon and two tablespoons of cider vinegar. You should start with less and taste it as you add so you can decide if you want to make adjustments. You can’t take away but you can always add!

1 cup whole almonds
The juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, a pinch

Soak the almonds overnight. Drain the water and pop the skins off. This will take some time and while it is a bit of a pain in the butt, it’s kind of meditative at the same time.

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Add the almonds and the rest of the ingredients into the food processor and let it rip until the mixture is nice and smooth which could take up to 5 minutes. Turn out into a nut milk bag or cheesecloth and and knot the top tightly essentially squeezing the almond mixture into the smallest area possible. Set in a strainer over a bowl and let it sit on the counter overnight to drain.

Note: I had very little drainage and you might get none, some or a lot. Don’t worry about it. Just continue with the next step.

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Take out of the cheesecloth and form into a round patty and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Alternatively, you can bake it right in a small glass baking dish.

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Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is kind of firm and the bottom is nice and brown.

Let cool and then use at will. It is great in salads and anywhere you would use feta cheese!

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Eggplant Involtini

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How cute are these little stuffed eggplants? I made them from these adorable eggplants I grew in my garden.

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I have to say that I have never had involtini which is an Italian dish that is something stuffed with something else. I get a lot of food inspo on Instagram and that is where I saw a friend post something like this. So I did a little research and this is what I came up with.

The little eggplant rolls are stuffed with a mixture of Kite Hill ricotta, lemon juice and bread crumbs. It is such an easy dish. It makes a great appetizer or antipasti.

I got 11 little involtinis with these two eggplants. A regulation size eggplant might yield about that, maybe a little or a little less. You can adjust the filling as needed.

2 small eggplants or 1 big eggplant
1/2 cup Kite Hill ricotta (or homemade tofu or cashew ricotta)
The juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
Nutty parmesan
Olive oil
Fresh parsley
Tomato sauce, homemade or store bought

Slice the eggplants into even planks, you know not too thin or thick, but about the same size. Brush each side with olive oil and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in a 375 oven until tender and they are very pliable.

Let cool for a few minutes.

In a small cast iron (or other oven proof pan), make a layer of your favorite sauce. Set on low heat while stuffing the eggplants.

Mix together the ricotta, lemon juice, and breadcrumbs. Place a dollop of the mixture on one end of each eggplant slice and roll to the other end. Place seam side down in the sauce. When all of the involtinis are wrapped up sprinkle with nutty parm and freshly chopped parsley.

Place in the oven under the broiler for 7 or 8 minutes until the tops look like they have a few brown spots. Eat immediately. Enjoy!