Monday, November 1, 2010

Quinoa and Pistachio Stuffed Eggplant

Sometimes I'm ashamed to call myself a blogger because I don't write posts as often as I should. I have several recipes and pictures stashed away that I just haven't gotten a chance to post yet but I promise I will get through them slowly but surely. But first, I wanted to share an exciting adventure I've been up to the last couple of months.

On September 6th, the day after my 34th Birthday, I joined a 21-day vegan kickstart program. I decided to join for health reasons because chronic diseases run in my family. Also, out of curiosity, I wanted to see if I could actually do it. I sent emails to several friends and family members to join me but they all thought giving up meat, dairy, and eggs were too much of a sacrifice. I think they all probably thought they would have to eat "leaves" for 21 days. So, I set out on the quest on my own. "What have I gotten myself into!! I LOVE meat!!"

I'm proud to report that I survived the 21-day vegan challenge and lost 5.5 pounds at the end of it and a total of 8 pounds to date. Twelve more pounds to go! Woohoooooo!! And no, I didn't lose the weight from eating just leaves. In fact, I was surprisingly full most of the time because I ate foods rich in fiber, protein, and other nutrients but much less fat and practically no cholesterol.

Now, I don't want to offend true vegans by calling myself a vegan. I have to be honest and admit that I cannot deprive myself of meat, dairy, and eggs for the rest of my life. I guess I'm someone who eats a vegan diet most of the time. I will consume lean meat or fish maybe twice a month.

This experience has allowed me to see food in a whole new way and introduced me to new ingredients I wouldn't have tried otherwise, like lentils, quinoa, and agave nectar to name a few. Although the program gave a daily meal plan and recipes, I ended up only trying one recipe, which I did like very much. But, I found myself excited to create my own meals and thinking of ways to create vegan dishes that are packed with flavor.

When I saw Indian eggplants at the store, they're so cute I couldn't resist to buy them. These eggplants are about the size of hen's eggs. I already bought a package of quinoa at Trader Joe's that I haven't used so I thought this would be an opportunity for me to experiment. I also incorporated pistachios because I read an article recently stating that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a qualified health claim that states eating 1.5 oz. (about a handful) of nuts a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.

I thought these eggplants were too cute to just cut up and cook so I decided to make them into little shells and stuff them. I used spices common in Indian cooking to make the filling and they turned out very aromatic and delicious.


8 Indian eggplants
3 shallots (diced)
2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
1/4 C. chopped pistachios
1/8 t. coriander
1/8 t. cumin
1/8 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. turmeric
salt, or to taste
1/2 C. quinoa
1 C. coconut milk
olive oil

Cooking Instruction:

1. Preheat oven to 325 F.

2. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Use a melon baller to scoop out the eggplant flesh, leaving about 1/4 inch thick shell. Make sure to keep the shell in tact. Cut the flesh into small cubes and place in a small bowl.

3. Rub the inside of each eggplant shell with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

4. While the eggplant shells are baking, in a small pot, cook quinoa with coconut milk by bringing it to a boil, cover, then reduce heat to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand (with lid on) for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

5. Heat 2 T. olive oil on medium heat in a pan. Add shallots and garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add eggplant cubes and all the spices (except paprika) and salt and cook for about 10 minutes until eggplants become soft. Turn off heat.

6. Add quinoa and pistachios to the eggplant mixture and stir to mix well.

7. Fill each eggplant shell with a generous spoonful of the eggplant/quinoa mixture. Sprinkle paprika on top.
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