Preparing for a new school year. August 31, 2013

Filed Under: food chatter,italian seasoning - Sue Fuirst @ 3:41 pm
Tags: , ,

It’s time for a new school year and as I said in my blog post on April 4, 2013, meatballs and spaghetti is the go-to meal for our significant events.  When my middle son left for his first year in college a few weeks ago, of course that’s what he requested.  However, he put a spin on it.  He wanted a vegetarian version.  I needed to find a recipe that will satisfy the need for familiar tradition while still placate the other family members who would prefer meat in their meatballs. I worked hard on this.  Beans and lentils are a natural alternative, as are hearty grains. But after some experimentation, I settled on eggplant and portabella mushrooms as the meat substitute.  Try this.  It was a meat-free success in my house!

vegetarian meatballs

1 large eggplant, peeling and diced into ½” chunks

3 portabella mushrooms, diced into ½” chunks

4 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup unseasoned bread crumbs

½  cup grated parmesan

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste

1 heaping tablespoon Basics Fuirst Italian Seasoning

1 cup flour


Preheat oven to 400º.


In a large bowl, toss the diced eggplant and portabella mushrooms with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Place the vegetables on baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly.


Lower oven to 350º.


Drain any liquid from the vegetables and pass through a food grinder or pulse in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Place in a bowl with the bread crumbs, parmesan, eggs, tomato paste and Basics Fuirst Italian Seasoning.  Gently mix to combine all of the ingredients.


Set large fry pan or sauté pan over medium heat.  Add remaining two tablespoons of oil.  Place flour in a small bowl.  Form mixture into 2” balls, roll in flour to fully cover and place in pan with hot oil.  Turn several times to brown all around. Repeat until all mixture is used adding additional oil to the pan if needed. Place browned meatballs on clean baking sheet.  Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes.


Vegetarian meatballs are more fragile than true meatballs.  Serve with red sauce and pasta.  makes approximately 18 meatballs.

Eggplant parm for meatless Monday aka enough with the chicken recipes! May 1, 2013

Filed Under: italian seasoning - Sue Fuirst @ 8:19 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

A few years ago my family decided to adopt Meatless Mondays.  Ha, that lasted for a while.  Going meatless for one day a week wasn’t as big a pledge as to to commit to Monday specifically and, when Meatless is not on a dedicated day, it seems to lose the hubris.  Since then my middle son has become a vegetarian and I’m trying to cook meatless more frequently.  Now I’m in trouble – once a week was doable.  I’m finding it hard to break the carnivore mentality.  We all miss the satisfying chew, the meaty bite.  Thankfully, mushrooms, butternut squash and of course, eggplant all satiate this call.

The eggplant parmesan here is lighter and fresher than most.  The eggplant is baked, not fried, in crispy panko and the sauce consists of lightly seasoned chopped tomatoes.

baked eggplant parmesan


baked eggplant:

2 large eggplant, sliced ¼” thick

Kosher salt

2 eggs

¼ cup milk (any kind)

1½ cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 ½ Tablespoons Basics Fuirst Italian Seasoning

2- 28 ounce cans or boxes (I like Pomi brand) chopped tomatoes

2 cups part skim mozzarella cheese


Preheat oven to 400°.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and spray with cooking spray.  Set aside a 9×13 Pyrex dish.


Sprinkle sliced eggplant with salt, place in colander and let sit for at least 30 minutes.  This releases water and bitterness from the eggplant. After the salting, lay flat on paper towels to dry eggplant.


In medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.  In a separate shallow bowl or dinner plate, mix together the panko, Parmesan, 1½ Tablespoons Basics Fuirst Italian Seasoning. Dip the eggplant  into the egg mixture, then coat with the panko. Place prepared eggplant on baking sheet. Spray eggplant with cooking spray before baking and bake for 30 minutes or until beginning to brown.

Place the tomatoes and 1 Tablespoon Basics Fuirst Italian Seasoning in a saucepan and heat to a simmer.


Cover the bottom of the Pyrex with a thin layer of sauce.  Layer eggplant over the sauce.  Place it in tightly but try not to overlap.  Cover generously with sauce, evenly top with half of the cheese.  Repeat another layer of eggplant, sauce and remaining mozzarella cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes.