Quinoa and Eggplant Meatless ‘Meatballs’ + Tres Leches (the finale)

Hey everybody!

This morning, rather than the usual workout and breakfast routine, I’m going to dive straight into last night’s adventures with Dennis’ birthday cake that the girls and I began on Tuesday, and a special eggplant meal I fixed for the birthday boy’s dinner.  Let’s get started with dinner first, shall we?

My awesome blogger friend, Amy, over at her blog Longdrivejourney.com, recently came up with a fantastic idea.  She will be picking a new veggie(and fruit) each month to experiment with and create new recipes, and host a link up party to share the recipes with other bloggers and readers.  It’s a great way to try new things and break out of the boring food ruts we all so often find ourselves in.

Long Drive Journey

The veggie for this month is eggplant, which completely left me stumped.  The only meal I’d ever had with eggplant was eggplant parmesan, and that’s a bit- ‘been there, done that’.  I wanted to try something new(or at least new for me) and different.  After racking my brain for a week or so, I came up with the idea to make ‘meatballs’ with them.  I kept seeing quinoa cookies all over Pinterest, and thought quinoa would make the perfect healthy ‘filler’ in place of the meat.  I’ve made salmon patties plenty of times, and from that, knew the basics of using eggs as ‘glue’ and bread crumbs for a crunchy coating.  With all of this, I came up with a tasty AND healthy meatless meal that my family actually enjoyed(including the birthday boy!).  Alright, are ya’ll ready for this?  Here goes…

Quinoa and Eggplant Meatless ‘Meatballs’

To start, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and line a 9×13 inch pan with foil.  Coat the foil with cooking spray and set aside.

Using a two-quart pot, boil your quinoa as directed on the package to make 2 cups cooked.  While that is boiling, chop your eggplant in thin slices and lay them out on a paper towel.  I only used half of my eggplant(it was huge!), but you could certainly use the whole veggie if you wish.  Using 1-2 tablespoons of salt, generously shake over the slices to coat, on the front and back sides of each piece.  Salting the slices will leech some of the water within the eggplant to make for a much less soggy dish.  Don’t skip this step.

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You will notice tiny beads of water on top of your slices, don’t worry, that’s just the salt doin’ it’s job 🙂

Allow the slices to sit for at least 25-30 minutes (up to an hour if you have the time).  In the meantime you will have removed your quinoa from the stove top and cooled it a bit.  Once the eggplant slices are done, rinse them in cold water to remove the salt, and pat dry with fresh paper towels.  Dump your quinoa in a large mixing bowl, and begin dicing your eggplant slices on a cutting board.

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Dump the diced eggplant in with the quinoa, and grab a white onion.  Dice about a 1/2 c of the onion and toss it in the bowl as well.

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Now gather a few more of your partners in crime:

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Oh Emeril, you sure know how to make the ladies smile. Lol.  Alright, measure out:  1/2 tsp of garlic salt, 1 TBS Italian seasoning, and 3/4 C of Panko crumbs.  Dump them in the mixing bowl.

Next, grab a jar of Trader Joe’s Red Pepper Spread, measuring out 1 1/2 TBS to add to the mix.  This stuff is awesome.  If you don’t have access to a Trader Joe’s, substitute 1/4 c of diced red pepper instead.  I can’t guarantee it will be as awesome though 😉

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Crack 3 large eggs into the bowl, toss in about a 1/2 c of shredded mozzarella, and mix well with a large spoon or fork.

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Pour 1 cup or so of Panko crumbs into a small bowl for rolling and coating the ‘meatballs’.  Using your hands, roll your ‘meatballs’ about an inch and a half or so in size, dip them in the Panko, and place them in rows on your foil lined pan.  Pop them in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

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When the timer goes off, your ‘meatballs’ should be slightly golden brown on the bottom and the Panko crumbs should be lightly toasted.

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I served my eggplant ‘meatballs’ with a bit of Emeril’s Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce, and topped them with some sliced mozzarella fresca.

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Dig in and enjoy your meatless meatballs!

Quinoa and Eggplant Meatless Meatballs

Yields approx. 15 ‘meatballs’

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 of a large eggplant, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1-2 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2 c white onion- diced
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 3/4 c Panko plus 1 c reserved
  • Trader Joe’s Red Pepper Spread
  • 3 Large eggs
  • 1/2 c shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, line 9×13 inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Fix quinoa according to package to make 2 cups cooked.  Meanwhile, slice half of the eggplant into thin rounds and lay on paper towel.  Salt both sides generously and let set for 25-30 minutes.  Rinse with cool water, pat dry, and dice.

Combine quinoa, diced eggplant, white onion, seasonings, Panko, and red pepper spread.

Crack 3 large eggs and add them to the mixture.

Lastly, toss in mozzarella, and mix well.

Pour 1 C of Panko into a small bowl for coating meatballs.  Shape meatballs using hands, and coat in Panko crumbs.  Line ‘meatballs’ on foil lined pan and bake 25-30 minutes.

Serve with or without spagetti sauce.  Enjoy!

 *****

Now, on to dessert!  All that was left for the Tres Leches cake to be made, was the whipped cream topping, and that took no time at all.  I simply poured 1 cup of the remaining heavy whipping cream into the mixer bowl, and whipped on med-high until soft peaks began to form.

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Just beginning…

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Boom! Soft peaks…

Once you reach the ‘soft peak’ stage, add in 1 Tbsp of confectioner’s sugar and 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract.  Keep whipping until you reach the stiff peak stage.  And then, boom!  You’re done:)

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Homemade, real-deal, whipped cream…

Remove your refridgerated cake, and spread the top with your homemade whipped cream.  Watch as your family’s eyes sparkle with delight.  (Okay so they didn’t sparkle, but they definitely drooled.  haha)

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The girls made Dennis light some of Mer’s leftover color candles, and we sang him ‘Happy Birthday’.  And yes, that is an elderly cat photo-bombing.

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Happy Birthday!!

Emeril Lagasse’s Tres Leches Cake:

Ingredients
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
6 large eggs, separated
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
3 cups heavy cream, divided
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Directions
Position rack in bottom 1/3 of oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with the shortening. Add 1 tablespoon of the flour to the greased pan and shake it around to coat the entire pan with the flour. Shake out excess flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the sugar with the mixer running, beating until stiff peaks form.

Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each egg is added. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the 2 cups flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the batter in stages, alternating with the whole milk, beginning and ending with the flour. (Do this quickly so that the batter does not lose its volume.) Add 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place in the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

In a blender, combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and 2 cups of the heavy cream. Cover and blend on high for 45 seconds.

Remove 1 1/2 cups of the milk mixture, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve the cake.

Pour 1/2 of the remaining milk mixture over the warm cake.

When the cake has soaked up most of the liquid, pour the remaining half of the milk mixture over the cake, and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, beat the remaining cup of heavy cream in the electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add the confectioners’ sugar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla, and beat until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the chilled cake.

Serve the cake with the reserved chilled milk sauce.

As found in There’s a Chef in My World cookbook.

Made any yummy recipes lately?  Tried any new veggies?  

Tres Leches In The Works!

Hey everybody!

Hope your morning is going smoothly.  I must admit, I am rather moody today and seriously had to kick my own butt out of the door this morning for my run.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  Colette missed her bus this morning(which comes by our street twice- luckily), so I waited with her for an extra 10 minutes before I could head back to the house to do a quick stretch and chug some water.  This all put me outside around 8:30, which in Houston, means I was basically running through a boiling pot of water.  Seriously.  The weather app was telling me it was 76 degrees, but with the sun and humidity, it sure didn’t feel like it.  I have a yucky decision to make- wake up at 5:30 am(in order to have an hour before the kids get up) and run alone in the scary dark(but enjoy the cooler air), or see the kids off to school and try to stick it out under the hot sun and pray I don’t pass out…?  I’m not really liking either of these options.  There has to be a better solution….

Let’s take a look at today’s workout-

Workout:  Week 6, Day 2 of C25K– Brisk warm up walk for 5 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking, and 10 minutes of running.   Now, here’s what actually happened- I completed the first 10 min of running, walked for 4 minutes, and ran an additional 6 minutes before making the miserable exhausted walk back to my house.  I’m glad I got out there and did something, rather just sitting at home, grouchy and miserable, even if it was 5 minutes shy of the actual set workout.  But I am disappointed it wasn’t better.  Let’s hope Friday’s run goes a little more smoothly.  🙂

Breakfast:  I wasn’t in the mood for anything hot, so I toasted a couple of pieces of whole wheat cinnamon toast, and topped them with some cold and creamy part skim ricotta cheese, a shake of cinnamon, and some fresh raspberries.

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It hit the spot!

Well, in spite of the fact that I woke up in a bad mood, today is actually a day to celebrate… it’s Dennis’ birthday today!  Yep, my old hubby(haha) turns 34 today, so the girls and I decided a yummy cake was in order.  Dennis doesn’t typically go for anything too chocolately or anything heavily frosted, so we decided to go with something a little different- tres leches cake!  Meredith recently checked out a children’s recipe book from our local library- Emeril’s There’s A Chef In My World!- and she was immediately drawn to the tres leches recipe within.

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In case you’ve never had tres leches before, it’s a spongy, sweet cake, soaked with ‘3’ different kinds of milk(hence the name).  It’s one of my favorites, and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making it.  I will say, that while this was a ‘kid’s book’ recipe, this sucker took some time to make, and involved a bunch of steps(not to mention a bunch of eggs, 6 to be exact!)

I didn’t take any pictures during the batter portion of the cake making, because everything has to be done quickly so that the egg meringue doesn’t fall.  Plus, I was supervising an 8 year old trying to dump flour into a speeding Kitchen Aid whisk- not so easy:)

I call this my 'Machine'

I call this my ‘Machine’

In a nutshell, here is what Meredith and I did:  we separated 6 egg yolks out, and dumped the 6 egg whites into the mixer bowl and whipped them to soft peaks.  Then we slowly added 2 cups of sugar and each egg yolk until combined, plus, a tsp of vanilla.  Then we threw in our dry mix of 2 C of flour and 2 tsp baking powder, plus 1/2 c of whole milk to the mixture.  Once that was done, we quickly poured our batter into a greased and floured 9×13 inch baking pan, and popped it into the oven preheated at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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Mmmmm

While letting the cake cool for 10 minutes, Colette made the 3 milk mix to pour over the warm cake.  This is the part of the recipe that makes the cake super moist and delicious.  She combined 1(12 oz) can of evaporated milk, 2(14 oz) cans of sweetened condensed milk, and 2 C of heavy cream in a blender, and blended on on high for 45 seconds, and then poured the mix over the cake, a bit at a time, until all of the mix was used.

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Make sure you give your milk plenty of time to absorb before adding more.  Don’t be impatient and let this happen:

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Yeah, that was my doing.  Oops.

Once your cake is soaked, allow it to cool completely before covering with foil and popping in the fridge overnight.  Yes, I said overnight.  I know, this cake is a serious commitment!

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And guess what?  You’re still not finished!  We still have to ice it with homemade whipped cream, which the girls and I will do when they get home from school.  Let’s just hope it turns out to be yummy and looks something like this:

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Okay, so maybe we don’t want it to look exactly like a cartoon block of styrofoam, but you get the idea.  🙂

I’ll post the final photos of the cake tomorrow along with the full recipe and review(and Dennis’ comments).

Have a fantastic Wednesday!

Amy