Eggplant Parmesan and Spaghetti Squash with Marinara – Keto Friendly

Keto Friendly.   The Keto Diet is a very low carb, high fat diet reminiscent of the Atkins diet.  It’s a diet that was first used primarily to treat difficult to control epilepsy in children.  There are also documented benefits for heart health, diabetes, and brain functioning.  It is intuitively obvious that significantly reducing the amount of processed foods, sugar, and carbs we eat will have health benefits.  In an effort to eat healthier and reduce sugar and carbs I’m experimenting with Keto conscious recipes.  Often keto will only require minor modifications to dishes I cook all the time.  This “modification” was very tasty and very satisfying.

Ingredients for Marinara:

1 pint diced tomatoes

1 pint tomato sauce

2 T olive oil

1 medium onion diced

3-4 cloves of garlic sliced

salt to taste

In a heavy saucepan heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic until tender; about 3-4 minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and allow to simmer until thickened.  Use an immersion blender if you prefer no pieces of tomato in the sauce.  Add salt to taste.

While your sauce is simmering, prepare your spaghetti squash.  Preheat your oven to 375.  I came across this hack for preparing spaghetti squash a few years ago in one of my food magazines.  It is easier to remove the seeds, cooks more evenly and makes longer strands of spaghetti.  Use a mister to coat a foil lined baking dish with olive oil.  Cut the squash into 1to 1 1/2 inch thick slices.  Use a paring knife to go around the inside edges and remove the seeds.  Put the squash in the baking dish, spritz the top with olive oil, and bake for 45-50 minutes.

Once the squash is done allow it to cool so it’s easy to handle.  Push the squash out using your hands and separate the spaghetti stands.

Your spaghetti is done.  Now it’s time to prepare your eggplant.

Ingredients:

1 medium/large eggplant

2 eggs

2 T heavy cream

1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup almond flour

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp basil

1 tsp salt

3-4 T olive oil for frying

1 cup Mozzarella cheese

Slice your eggplant.  Peel or not.  Your choice.  If I buy organic eggplant I do not peel them.  Grate your Parmesan cheese.

Whisk together the eggs and heavy cream.

Combine almond flour, spices and salt.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet.  Dip the eggplant rounds in the egg/cream mixture, then the cheese, then the seasoned flour.  It’s not the usual order of things but it works in this recipe.  Add the eggplant to the skillet and cook until browned on one side, flip to brown the other side, and remove to a platter.

Wipe out the skillet or use another casserole dish.  Return the rounds to the skillet and top with sauce and cheese.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Put the spaghetti squash in the oven for the last 5 minutes to warm.

Plate the squash and eggplant and ladle sauce on the squash and also on the eggplant if you choose.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  This dish definitely was lighter than my usual eggplant with pasta but very satisfying.  We both had seconds.  If you’d like you can prepare the squash the day before as well as the sauce.  The eggplant is best served immediately.

For the sauce I used home canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.  You can use bottled marinara but you want to look for organic sauce with low sugar content and other additives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanilla

Good quality, pure vanilla extract is crucial to good baked goods.  And it is not inexpensive.  A good friend winters in Texas and she brings me awesome vanilla from Mexico.  I use her Mexican vanilla all the time.   When people try to replicate some of my recipes they notice subtle taste differences between what I baked and what they baked.  I’m convinced it is the vanilla.  I recently came across instructions for making your own vanilla on the King Arthur blog.  And decided I would try it.  It’s not complicated at all.

Homemade vanilla consists of vanilla beans and liquor.  You want to make sure your vanilla beans are fresh.  They should be pliable and soft to the touch.  According to King Arthur there are three kinds of vanilla beans that are readily available.  Sharing his descriptions.

“TAHITIAN:  Contains floral notes as well as subtle cherry and almond overtones; pairs well with fruity desserts and has a strong vanilla aroma.

MEXICAN:  Described as woodsy with hints of spice.  This vanilla is exciting, a perfect choice to bring something new to your baking.

MADAGASCAR:  A classic vanilla flavor that’s described as creamy and sweet.  Often used to make vanilla extract; it’s familiar and comforting.”

The vanilla bean descriptions reminded me of the labels on wine bottles!  I chose the “familiar and comforting” beans from Madagascar.

You also choose the kind of liquor you want to use for your base.  Something that has a neutral flavor like vodka or brandy or rum. You want to steer away from spices or smoky flavors that may overpower the vanilla.  No cucumber vodka or Captain Morgan.

Ingredients:

Vanilla beans

Liquor

You want to make sure you have clean bottles/jars with tight fitting lids.  The bottles I used hold 8 ounces.  I used 2 1/2 beans in each jar.  You want to slit your beans to expose the seeds.  If you don’t want to have “flecks” in your vanilla you can scrape out the seeds.  I choose to leave the seeds in for a richer vanilla flavor.  Once you’ve slit the beans put them in the bottles.

Add your liquor of choice to the jars.  I used a funnel because it’s sinful to spill and waste liquor!  I used rum in one jar, vodka in the other.  Make sure your beans are totally submerged.  If they are not, cut the beans into shorter pieces and return to the bottle.

Now you wait.  For at least 3 months.  Store your bottles in a cool, dark place.  King Arthur says the refrigerator is too cold (and it’s light in there when you open the door) so consider the basement or another area of your house that is relatively cool and dark.  Don’t store them in the kitchen which is typically the warmest room in the house.  If you left the seeds in the pods like I did, shake the bottles gently every week or so.  This will help deepen the flavor,

NOTE:  You don’t have to use top shelf liquor.  I used liquor that I serve at home.  You do want to make sure that you have good quality, fresh beans.  Finally, you don’t want to leave this somewhere where someone might pour themselves a shot!

I’m excited for the end result.  Last year a lot of people got homemade laundry soap for Christmas.  This year it may be homemade vanilla.  Worst case scenario, I’ll have to come up with some great vanilla cocktail recipes!