5 Surprising (and Delicious) Ways to Use Avocado

 

If you were stranded on a desert island, what one food would you absolutely have to have, no matter what?

There’s a lot to consider since we’re talking about survival here. I’ll assume there are coconuts on this island, and having seen Castaway about a hundred times (and being a massive Lost fan), I’ve learned basic coconut-opening skills with nothing but some rocks, arm power, and a bit of patience.

That leaves me with avocados. How can I live without them?

I’ve featured a number of recipes using avocado in the traditional ways: mashed into guacamole, sliced up in tacos, or chopped into a salad.

But have you tried avocado in a cake? Or pudding? Or in mac and cheese?

These fruit (yep, they’re fruit!) are super versatile, and can be used as a substitute for healthy saturated fats, like butter or oil, in many different recipes.

There are over 500 varieties of avocado from all over the world varying in size and color. My personal favorite is the Hass avocado. It’s dark green pebbly skin and creamy flesh stands out from the rest and on any given day, you’ll find at least one or two in my fruit bowl. Aside from its incredible flavor and versatility, avocados pack a mighty punch on the nutrition end. Here are some of those benefits:

  • Sodium and cholesterol-free, but densely packed with approximately 380 calories, 35g of fat, 16g of fiber and 5g of protein in an 8oz serving. Despite the high fat content, these fats are mostly monounsaturated (MUFAs) which are healthier and mainly found in avocados.
  • Speaking of fat: Perhaps the biggest health benefit of eating avocados is oleic acid, an omega-9 fat which helps decrease blood cholesterol by increasing the production of HDLs, or high-density lipoproteins.
  • Vitamins & Minerals: In a 1oz serving of hass avocado (about 1/5 wedge), there is 152mg of potassium (4%DV), 6.3mcg of Vitamin K (8%DV), and 27mcg of Folate (6%DV). Avocados are also rich in Vitamins B6, E,C, and Riboflavin each accounting for 4%DV.
  • Fiber: Avocados are high in fiber with approximately 40% of your DV in one serving. Fiber improves digestion and can help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.

If I could have an avocado a day, I would. In fact, I usually do!

Here are 5 surprising ways to use avocado that has nothing to do with tacos, salad, or sandwiches:

Avocado Coconut Popsicles from SkinnyTaste

photo courtesy of SkinnyTaste.com

The creaminess of avocado with the subtle sweetness of coconut, make this popsicle a yummy and refreshing treat this summer. With less than five ingredients in this recipe, this is easy enough to pull off any day of the week.

Avocado Buckwheat Pancakes from Kitchen Kemistry

Avocado pancakes
photo courtesy of KitchenKemistry.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s no such thing as too many pancake recipes, in my opinion. This avocado buckwheat version powers up your breakfast with loads of fiber and is a great gluten-free substitute for traditional wheat pancakes.

Avocado Spaghetti from The Londoner

I know what you’re thinking. Spaghetti and…avocado? Surprising, I know. But when you consider the buttery texture and mild flavor of avocado, it makes sense. It’s like a different version of pesto. I’d consider going with a whole wheat pasta here to add some nuttiness and even more fiber.

Avocado Mac and Cheese from Two Peas and Their Pod

photo courtesy of TwoPeasandTheirPod.com

Mac and cheese usually gets a bad rap for being an unhealthy food, but there are easy ways to give this dish a healthy makeover. We’ve seen that avocado and pasta can go well together, so this shouldn’t be much of a stretch. I love the use of cilantro and lime here to give this mac and cheese some punch. This is a comfort food recipe that you can adapt to each season. Add some butternut squash in the winter months!

Fudgy Avocado Brownies from How Sweet Eats

Fudgy Avocado Brownies I howsweeteats.com
Photo courtesy of HowSweetEats.com

Chocolate and avocado may be the most surprising combination….but it works. Trust me. I’ve made chocolate avocado protein smoothies before and it’s delightful. Brownies are the ultimate splurge food, so it’s pretty great to find a recipe out there that won’t make me feel completely guilty. Time to treat yo’self with these brownies!

There are so many amazing avocado recipes out there. Open yourself up to trying one that’s a little out of the ordinary to spice up your weekly menu. It’s time to pick up some avocados!

What’s your favorite avocado recipe?

Please feel free to share your thoughts below or on FB and Twitter.

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Revisiting Rome: Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce

eggplant parm 6
Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

It was our third day in Rome and we were exhausted. And hungry.

St. Peter's Basilica
The start of a very long walking day.

My mom is a notoriously picky eater. As the group leader, I was unofficially tasked with not only guiding us through the city, but finding affordable, non-touristy places to eat that would make my picky mom and equally picky sister, happy.

We got lucky this day.

Waiting for lunch in front of the Pantheon. Doesn’t she look happy?

My family begged me to take a lunch break at one of the cafes in front of the Pantheon. I looked at it skeptically.

“This is a tourist trap!” I declared.

Never underestimate the power of hunger and the promise of beautiful scenery to go with your meal.

My mom ordered eggplant parmesan. It was the only thing she ate with gusto the entire trip.

Although my family and I enjoy exploring restaurants, we prefer home-cooked meals. We rented an apartment in Rome and cooked most of our meals during the week with groceries we’d purchased from a local market.

I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world, but it made me happy to see my mom enjoy this meal with the Pantheon in the background. You really can’t beat that.

Five years later, I wanted to recreate that meal for Mother’s Day albeit without the ancient architecture circling us. I also decided to give it a healthy makeover.

When I surprised my mom with her lunch yesterday, she beamed and gave me a hug and a kiss.

Mission accomplished. 🙂

INGREDIENTS

Serving 4

  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced across
  • 2-3 cups of panko (whole wheat if available)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tbsps grated parmigiano reggiano, separated
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 28oz cans no salt-added crushed tomatoes
  • 3 tbsps tomato paste
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried italian oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Handful of fresh basil

Optional side salad

  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • ½ cup grape tomatoes, halved

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Prep 2 shallow bowls, one with beaten egg whites (you can add a little bit of water to thin this out) and the other with panko and 1 tbsp of grated parmigiano. Spray a large baking sheet with olive oil. Dip each slice of eggplant in egg white mixture, then panko, making sure to coat all sides with crumbs. Place on sheet evenly and then spray oil across the top. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, flipping over halfway through.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

2. While the eggplant is baking, prepare the tomato sauce. Heat 1 tbsp of EVOO in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Cook garlic for 45 seconds-1 minute (please don’t burn the garlic! you just want to infuse the oil). Add the tomatoes, paste and seasonings, except for fresh basil. Lower heat to a simmer and cover with lid. Cook for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove lid and stir in half a handful of chopped fresh basil. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly, Cook for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

3. Increase oven temp to 425ºF. In a glass baking dish, spoon tomato sauce across the bottom. Place the baked eggplant slices in a layer. Top with sliced mozzarella cheese and sprinkle 1 tbsp parmiggiano. Spoon more tomato sauce across the top. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

4. Serve 3 slices of eggplant with a side salad of spinach and tomatoes. Sprinkle a little bit of EVOO  and chopped fresh basil over the top. Prego! Homemade healthy goodness.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

This would go perfectly with a side of whole wheat spaghetti if you’re looking for something heartier.

What I love about making a big batch of tomato sauce (and wasn’t that recipe so easy?!), is that I can save the rest for another day. Why buy a jar of sauce when you can make your own without all of the added sugar and preservatives?

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

We sat at our old kitchen table. There were no fancy table linens or 1,000 year old temples or old Italian men playing accordions nearby. It was just us, eating together at home. And I’ll never forget it.

How did you celebrate Mother’s Day?

What’s your favorite meatless Italian dish?

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Meatless Mondays: Healthy Apple Favorites

There are many many things I love about Fall.

Boots. Scarves. Brightly colored leaves. Cooler cuddle-worthy weather.

And my personal fave, apples.

Just look at these beauties.

lots-of-apples.jpg

Dreamy.

I took my love for apples to a new level of obsession with my apple recipe series last fall. In my search for Meatless Monday recipes in the archive, I realized that this would be the perfect time to bring these dishes back to the blog and hopefully onto your Pinterest boards for some healthy fall cooking inspiration.

If you’re planning on going apple picking or if you’re looking to try something new, then take a look at the links below!

Four of my five recipes in this series are completely meatless and they’re perfect for a healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner or treat (there’s pie after all).

This Apple, Goat Cheese, and Pecan Pizza on Multigrain Crust is an easy way to combine some truly amazing fall flavors on a healthy crust. I topped this pizza with arugula to give the pizza a peppery finish, but you can use spinach or dandelion greens if that strikes your fancy. Also, if you’re going completely gluten-free or paleo, how about you try a cauliflower crust instead?

Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Pizza

Looking for an easy breakfast recipe that’s perfect if you’re on the go and looking for an alternative to the eggs and bacon routine? Then check out these Healthy Oatmeal Apple Muffins, courtesy of the genius behind Cookie + Kate. My previous experience with her recipes inspired me to give these muffins a try and they were a definite hit for the week. Mental note to self: make these again immediately.

Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Muffins

Butter can be healthy, especially when it’s made from apples. I’m a huge fan of fruit spreads and jams. Unfortunately, I don’t have the equipment (or the time or patience) to work on making my own fruit preserves each season. When I found this recipe for Unsweetened Apple Butter, I knew this was the perfect way to break in my brand new slow-cooker. And the results? PHENOMENAL. No, seriously. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself. You won’t regret it, I promise you. Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Butter

And then there’s pie.

Check out my recipe for Deep Dish Apple Pie with a lighter, reduced fat crust. For all you pie lovers out there, I don’t really need to explain myself here. You don’t have to wait for Meatless Monday to enjoy a slice of pie, especially one that’s truly delicious and healthy to boot. Consider this a comfort food treat featuring the very best of Fall. Plus, I offer some baking tips if this is your first time making pastry dough or baking pie. I’ve made many pies and this pie pictured here? Best one ever.

Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Pie

Feeling tempted to pick up some extra apples this week to give these recipes a try? You’re not alone. Happy Meatless Monday folks!!!

Remember to keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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