August 30, 2012

Eggplant & Zucchini Involtini with Ricotta Filling and Tomato Sauce

Eggplant and Zucchini Involtini

What is involtini you ask?  Good question, and one that even after much Googling, I’m not 100% sure I know the correct answer to.

You see, involtini are little roll-ups common in Italian cooking, that are usually made of a thin slice of meat rolled around a filling and baked with a sauce, but can also be made vegetarian using eggplant instead of meat.  The confusion lies in the fact that ‘rollatini’ seems to have the same definition.  According to Wikipedia, rollatini and involtini are actually the same thing – the dish is called involtini in Italy but over here it’s called rollatini.  That seems to clear things up except that rollatini recipes seem to more often be made with eggplant and that eggplant also seems to often be breaded.

Eggplant and Zucchini Involtini

And now I’ve gone ahead and made things even more confusing for you by throwing zucchini into the mix!  I rolled up thin slices of eggplant and zucchini around a seasoned ricotta filling, then baked them in an easy homemade tomato sauce topped with parmesan cheese.  They’re comforting and warm while being light and summery at the same time, with flavours reminiscent of eggplant parmesan or lasagna.  Whether or not this should be named involtini or rollatini may be up for debate, but I don’t care because all I know for sure is that they’re really tasty!

I couldn’t decide which I liked better.  This was the eggplant roll-up – a bit more classic and comforting tasting:

Eggplant Involtini

And the zucchini version is pictured below – it was more fresh and light tasting and looked a little prettier! 

Have you heard of involtini/rollatini before?  I'm curious to hear what you call it!

Zucchini Involtini

Eggplant & Zucchini Involtini with Ricotta Filling and Easy Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Cooking Light and The Fig Tree

Serves 4 (four involtini each)


1 large eggplant
1 large zucchini
Cooking spray
Salt & Pepper

For the Tomato Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper

For the Filling:
1 large egg
300g (~10oz) light ricotta
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (I used Italian seasoned breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

For Topping:
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Sprinkle of chopped basil


Preheat oven to broil and adjust oven rack to top third of oven.  Slice the eggplant and zucchini lengthwise into thin (1/4-inch thick) slices, producing 16 slices total (8 of each, if desired).  I also sliced the skin off my eggplant slices because I'm not a big fan of the skin, but it's not necessary if you don't mind it.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Lay eggplant and zucchini slices on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Broil for about 3-5 minutes per side, flipping over before broiling the other side.

Note – with my zucchini, I just used a vegetable peeler to very thinly slice the zucchini, and didn’t bother pre-cooking it.  This resulted in a firmer texture, so if you prefer that, you can skip the broiling step for the zucchini.  I recommend broiling the eggplant though.

Meanwhile, prepare the tomato sauce by adding all ingredients (olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, balsamic, salt and pepper) to a medium saucepan, bringing to a boil, then reducing heat to a simmer and simmering for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool, then transfer to a food processor and puree.

Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients (egg to pepper) together in a large bowl.

Reduce oven heat to 375°F.  Pour about a third of the tomato sauce into the bottom of an 8x8 glass baking dish.  Spread 2 tablespoons of ricotta mixture onto each eggplant and zucchini slice, then roll up like a jelly roll.  Place rolls seam side down into the baking dish, and top with remaining tomato sauce.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, then bake for 25 minutes.  Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil and serve.

August 27, 2012

Polenta Rounds with Fresh Tomato, Corn & Avocado Salsa

Polenta Rounds with Fresh Tomato, Corn & Avocado Salsa

My sister found this Tumblr site called I'm Remembering last week and since then we haven't been able to stop looking through it.  It's full of nostalgia from the 80s and 90s (aka my childhood) and every time we come across a toy or game that we'd completely forgotten about, it brings back so many memories!  Remember snap bracelets, Lite Brite (they might still make this one but I remember the original), Soda Licious candy (they tasted just like soda flavours!), the game Girl Talk (how did you play this game?  All I remember is a phone), or view masters (again, I remember the toy but not what you actually looked at on those slides)?   And did anyone else have Alphie? We totally forgot about him but remember loving him so much!  Or the Babysitters Club chain letter book?  Pretty much the best book ever made.

They also have a Facebook page where people can share their own memories, making for hours more fun (and procrastination)!  Remember Scholastic book club newsletters that you ordered books from in elementary school?  I lived for those!  How about clackers?  I also found this gem that is definitely NOT something I remember but I wish I did!

Anyway if you grew up during this time (or have kids who grew up during this time), you have to check it out - just be warned that it's addictive!

Polenta Rounds with Fresh Tomato, Corn & Avocado Salsa

One thing I definitely do not remember ever having during my childhood was polenta.  I'm not sure why, it just didn't seem to ever make it into our meals.  I still hadn't tried polenta into my adulthood, but I kept seeing those cute little polenta rounds topped with delicious things and resolved to make a version myself.  I bought a log of pre-cooked polenta from the grocery store at the beginning of this summer, but soon forgot about it in the cupboard.  Last week, I realized that summer was quickly ending and I still hadn't used it, so I threw together a fresh salsa that tasted just like summer (with corn, tomatoes, avocado, herbs, and a bit of jalapeno), baked my polenta rounds (which I thought would be healthier than pan-frying them in oil, though they would probably taste better that way), and devoured them for dinner.

These were super easy to make and would be a great summer appetizer.  I would have enjoyed eating the salsa on its own, but the polenta provided a nice base to support it, and complemented it well tastewise too.  It was a great way to introduce myself to polenta, and next time I think I'll venture further and make my own polenta, like my sister did with these similar (but from-scratch) polenta squares with summer vegetable topping.  I also want to try the softer-style polenta like this corn and basil polenta from Pink Parsley.  What's your favourite way to eat polenta?

Polenta Rounds with Fresh Tomato, Corn & Avocado Salsa

Baked Polenta Rounds with Tomato, Corn & Avocado Salsa

Recipe by Once Upon a Cutting Board

Serves about 10 as an appetizer (1 polenta round each)


1 (500g) log of pre-cooked polenta - plain or flavoured (such as this one)
2 ears of corn
1-1/2 cups chopped cherry tomatoes
1 ripe avocado, diced
1/2 a jalapeno, de-seeded and minced (use a whole jalapeno for more spice or keep the seeds)
3-4 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper


Preheat oven to 400°F.  Slice polenta into ten 1/2-inch thick rounds, and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook corn (I cook mine by boiling the ears in a large pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes) and slice off the kernels into a large bowl.  Add the cherry tomatoes, avocado, jalapeno, and parsley to the corn and stir. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, salt, and desired amount of pepper, then add to the salsa and mix.  Remove polenta rounds from oven and top with the corn salsa.  Serve on plates with knives and forks (they're too messy to eat by hand).

August 24, 2012

Whole Wheat Peach Oatmeal Bread

Whole Wheat Peach Oatmeal Bread

It seems that this time of year seems to divide people into two camps: those who are already dreaming of pumpkin pie, apple cider, cozy sweaters, and all those warm and fuzzy things that go along with the fall season, and those who are not yet ready to say goodbye to warm weather, long days of sunshine, and abundant fresh summer fruits and veggies.  I definitely fall into the latter camp; as much as I love fall, I always feel like summer’s way too short and I haven’t fit in enough peach/tomato/blueberry/corn/basil/etc. goodness yet!

Whole Wheat Peach Oatmeal Bread

I also feel like I have a ton of summer recipes still to share with you guys and I’m running out of time to do so, so I’m trying to switch from two to three posts per week over these last few weeks of summer.  So because I’ve spent more time than usual on blogging this week and also seem to have WAY more schoolwork than usual this week, I’m going to keep today’s post fairly short!

Whole Wheat Peach Oatmeal Bread

This is a dense, hearty bread with bursts of sweet peaches and hints of warm spices throughout, so it’s perfect for this transition period from summer to fall.  It’s also pretty healthy, made with whole wheat flour and oats, non-fat yogurt, and only 2 tablespoons of oil.  I’ve been loving eating it for a snack every day this week just on its own, but I think it would be amazing toasted with fresh peach jam too!

Whole Wheat Peach Oatmeal Bread

Whole Wheat Peach Oatmeal Bread

Adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking, via Slow Like Honey

Makes one 9x5 inch loaf


2-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups diced ripe peaches (from about 3 peaches)
2 large eggs (I used Omega 3 eggs)
1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through oats) in a large bowl.  Add the diced peaches and stir to coat the peaches.  In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, yogurt, oil, and vanilla extract.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until just evenly moistened.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

August 22, 2012

(Lighter) Corn Chowder with Pepper Jack Cheese

(Lighter) Corn Chowder with Pepper Jack Cheese

I think of all the peak food seasons in the summer, I look forward to corn season the most.  It lasts such a short time and there is really no substitute during the rest of the year that even comes to close to the amazing taste of fresh sweet corn.  I grew up eating a lot of corn in the late summer months, but never really ventured far from eating it straight off the cob with a bit of butter, salt, and pepper.  We didn't need to try anything else when it was so good that way!

When I saw a fresh corn soup on Oh My Veggies a couple of months ago, I commented that I'd never heard of a warm corn soup, and I think I was the only one who hadn't!  Once I thought about it though, I realized that these warm corn soup lovers were probably on to something amazing that I'd been missing out on for far too long.  I tested it out one night by basically dumping some corn and milk in a pot then blending it, and it was delicious.  Then I imagined how much better it would be with a bit of wine, chicken stock, potatoes, and cheese to make a chowder, and got right on it!

I found a recipe for a white cheddar corn chowder on Whole Living that didn't use butter, flour, or heavy cream, but still allowed for a bit of indulgence with potatoes and a small amount of cheddar cheese (which I replaced with pepper jack for a bit of spice).  Even though it was much lighter than say, Ina Garten's cheddar corn chowder with bacon, half-and-half, butter, and tons of cheese, it didn't taste light at all!  This was so thick, rich, and comforting, but with the bright summer flavours of fresh corn.  It was one of those meals where I could not wait to eat leftovers and was so sad when it was gone.  I cannot believe I've been missing out on corn soup for so long - don't miss out like me and make this while fresh corn is still in season!

P.S. Don't judge this dish  by the photos! It's hard enough to photograph soup but I took these in poor lighting late in the evening - trust me that it's a lot better than it looks here!

(Lighter) Corn Chowder with Pepper Jack Cheese

Corn Chowder with Pepper Jack Cheese

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living via Whole Living

Serving sizes for soup are difficult to estimate, but I’d say this makes about 3 main course servings or 6 side dish servings


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
2-1/2 cups peeled and chopped (1/2 inch pieces) yellow potatoes (about 3 medium potatoes)
2 cups low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
1 cup skim milk
3 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 3-4 ears of corn)
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 oz pepper jack cheese, grated

Additional grated pepper jack cheese for topping, if desired


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened, stirring often, about 4 minutes.  Add the celery and cook until tender, about 4 minutes.  Add the coriander and cumin and stir for about 30 seconds.  Add the wine, raise heat to medium-high, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, for about 2 to 3 minutes. 

Add the potatoes, chicken broth, and milk, and bring to a boil, skimming any foam that forms on the surface.  Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Add corn and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove soup from heat.  Transfer 2 cups of soup to a blender, let cool slightly, remove the plastic stopper from the blender lip and cover with a paper towel, then puree.  You can puree a larger portion of the soup if you prefer a smoother soup.  Return the puree to the rest of the soup in the saucepan, stir, and reheat if necessary.  Add grated cheese and stir until mixed in.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour into bowls and top with additional grated cheese and pepper if desired. 

Ingredient Index

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