Category Archives: dinners

{Paleo} Vegan Eggplant Pizzas

In my continued quest to befriend the eggplant, we went down a road that never fails a single taste-bud test: the pizza. We don’t cook according to any labels, but this recipe happens to be gluten-free, vegan- and Paleo-friendly.

Yes, even a  bacon-loving, 1/4-a-cow-in-the-freezer* dude eats “vegan” meals every once in a while. Veggies hold a high power in this house!

The trick with using an eggplant “crust” is this vegetable’s affinity for moisture. To avoid total mush, start by slicing your eggplant, placing the rounds (~1 inch thick) on a paper towel and salting. Let this sit for about 20-30 minutes. If you’re impatient and cook on a time budget like me, even 10-15 minutes will help.

Then, turn your oven on and hop to it!

Vegan Eggplant Pizzas

1 medium eggplant, sliced (1-inch thick rounds)
~3 Tbsp olive oil

Vegetables of choice!
We went with sautéed yellow squash and red onions.

1 15 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (I usually go with Muir Glen)
Salt/Pepper, Thyme, Oregano – to taste
2 leaves fresh basil
1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375*. Drizzle olive oil over the eggplant slices; roast for 15 minutes. During this time, prep and/or sauté your vegetables (if you like them cooked first – skip this step if you want them crispy). Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a food processor, or high-power blender, and blend/pulse until smooth.

Remove the eggplant slices and top with sauce + veggies. Cook for another 8-10 minutes. 

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As you can see, we got a bit distracted by the guac-master’s other creation of the night. So, that also happened.


As with any pizza, the options are endless and totally up to the season’s harvest, your taste and/or dietary preferences. But as mentioned above, this was a meat-free dinner for the meat-lover in our house, and I heard no complaints! You could even cut these into fourths and make them a party-pleasing appetizer. Either way, the eggplant wins, yet again.

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Filed under dinners, gluten free, Nutrition, recipes, vegetarian

One-Dish Meal: Spicy Thai Basil Eggplant Recipe

If there’s one thing I’m confident with in the kitchen, it’s a one-dish meal. I’m all for efficiency, simplicity and easy clean-up! While I love home-cooked meals, and don’t mind cooking them myself, I steer clear of complicating things.

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Here’s the deal: I do not love eggplant. It doesn’t have a ton of flavor, it can be very tough on the jaw, and it dries out very quickly.

But every vegetable deserves a fair chance in this world! I DO love ordering the eggplant dish at Thai restaurants, and that just flat-out baffles me. How do they do it?! It’s always soft, and edible, and flavorful (read: spicy!), and delicious. I order it without reserve; I know they’ll nail it and I’ll want another plateful for leftovers (because no, there are no leftovers).

I’m growing basil plant #5 in the backyard and it was begging for an excuse to be harvested. I picked up an eggplant at Trader Joe’s and thought, “Okay, let’s do-si-do one more time…”

Spicy Thai Basil Eggplant
Makes ~4 servings, or 2 big ones

2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic (~2 cloves)
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 eggplant, chopped into cubes
1 Tbsp sesame oil
Basil, to taste (~3/4 cup fresh leaves, chopped)
1 can(15 oz)  fire-roasted tomatoes
2-3 cups fresh greens: arugula, spinach OR kale (optional)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Red pepper flakes, to taste (if you really like that spice!)
Optional: top with sunflower, sesame and/or pumpkin seeds

Heat the coconut oil over medium in a large sauté pan (or wok). Add garlic, stirring for 1 minute. Add red onions; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add eggplant, tomatoes, sesame oil and seasonings (cayenne). Continue cooking this mix until the eggplant softens (8-10 minutes); add 1/8 – 1/4 cup water if it looks dry. Stir in the basil and greens; cook until softened.

Top with seeds for extra crunch, flavor and healthy fats!

2014-08-10 19.07.22Suggested summer pairing: Water + Watermelon Ale (not mixed together), to quench the spice and your thirst.

Eggplant, you’ve redeemed yourself! I think you have basil, spices and tomato juice to thank. But we’ll take it.


What’s your favorite one-dish meal?

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Filed under dinners, food, Nutrition, recipes

Vegan Almondmilk Broccoli & Sage Risotto

It’s been a while since we’ve sat down to have dinner together. Grab a fork, this is one of my favorites…

The first time I tasted risotto it was homemade; Denver lulu-friend/chef Whitney & I would have weekly cook-at-home dinner parties, and her kitchen skills weren’t to be messed with. A foodie at heart, this girl makes a mean risotto – dry white wine, authentic parmesan n’ all.

Fast forward two years: (mostly) giving up dairy might mean I don’t enjoy the salty taste of parmesan (nearly as often) these days, but it doesn’t mean recipes can’t be altered to create veg-friendly versions of a few favorites. Once I realized that quite a few dairy-free eaters enjoy homemade risotto, the experiments had to commence.

Risotto pairs well with any combination of vegetables – peppers, edamame, broccoli and mushrooms tend to be my favorite add-ins. This specific version balances seasonal butternut squash and chopped broccoli with fresh herbs and Silk Pure Almond Unsweetened Originalin place of heavy cream, saving a lot of calories and swapping in much healthier fat. (If you pick the almond milk over skim milk, you’re saving 30 calories! And lactose, too.)

And with this version? We’re clearing the bowls of every last bite.

Heather Calcote Vegan Sage & Broccoli Risotto

Vegan Sage Broccoli & Squash Risotto
Makes ~4 servings

1 cup Arborio rice
1 ¼ cup
Silk Pure Almond Unsweetened Original
½ cup light coconut milk
1 ½ cup water
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1 cup butternut squash, peeled & chopped
2 tbsp green onion, chopped
Salt/Pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
4-5 fresh sage leaves, chopped

In a deep sauté pan, heat oil over medium. Add squash, broccoli and green onion, sautéing for 4-5 minutes (until softened). Season with salt and pepper to taste (approx. ¼ tsp of each). Add rice and toss for one minute. In a separate bowl, whisk liquids with herbs. Add one cup of liquid mixture to rice and vegetables, bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and continue mixing liquid in ½ cup at a time as it absorbs; stir frequently. Once all liquid is added (total cook time: 20-25 minutes), serve warm over a bowl of greens or as a side.

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Per Serving:
Calories: 245 | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: <1.0g
Carbs: 44g | Fiber: 5g | Protein: 4g
Cholesterol: 0mg | Sodium: 150mg

If you compared this to a classic risotto, you’re looking at a 500+ calories per serving vs. 245, and upwards of 13g of saturated fat vs. less than 1g. This vegan-friendly option has a similar texture and better flavor, in my opinion, while actually providing the nutrients of a “side” vs. an entrée. Bring this to your next potluck and nobody will be wondering where the butter is.

The true taste test: I cooked this for our meat-lovin’ friends and it got two-thumbs up. Success!

This recipe post is part of a sponsored campaign with Silk and FitFluential, LLC. All opinions are my own.


Filed under dinners, food, lunches, Meatless Monday, recipes, vegetarian

Sautéed Sesame Brussels Sprouts

I wasn’t 100% sure where to put my feeling on Brussels sprouts, after a frozen bag-gone-bad really didn’t do them any favors. Fresh is always best, but even then the smell of those things cooking can knock anyone out of a small apartment kitchen quicker than rotten garbage disposal contents or too-many-days-old trash (in my opinion…).

(Did you know they were spelled Brussels sprouts? That extra “s” is tricky.)

raw brussels sprouts stalk

Don’t be too intimidated by this stalk – the little sprouts are easy to pop/chop off and taste much better off of this than straight from a plastic bag!


Did you know…

-One serving = 6 sprouts, 45 calories & 90% of recommended daily Vitamin C intake.
-They’ve been shown to have cholesterol-lowering benefits.
-Due to their high concentration of “glucosinolates”, they’re a top-ranked cancer-fighting food.
-One cup of Brussels sprouts provides almost 200% of the recommended daily Vitamin K intake.


Luckily they don’t taste like they smell – nature has a few tricks up  its sleeve!

brussels sprouts 1

In search of a new, creative way to get these on the dinner plate I found some inspiration from Emily (Daily Garnish). It’s hard to screw up vegetables with an Asian flare! But, we didn’t have rice vinegar or liquid aminos, so I improvised…

Sautéed Sesame Brussels Sprouts

Olive oil
15-20 Brussels sprouts*, halved
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Seasonings: garlic powder, salt/pepper

*Remove from stalk and rinse well, if applicable.

Heat 0.5-1 tbsp. of olive oil in a deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add sprouts, cooking and stirring frequently for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Whisk apple cider vinegar, sesame oil & seasonings in a small bowl. Combine with sprouts and stir until combined. The heat will cook off some of the sauce, but also let the flavors soak into the sprouts.

We enjoyed these with a side of baked sweet potato “fries” & mashed cauliflower. A comfy, satisfying & colorful dinner plate (and low-light iPhone capture)…

brussels sprouts dinner


Are you a sprouts lover?
If not, would you try this version? If so, what’s your go-to cooking method?


Filed under dinners, food, Meatless Monday, Nutrition, recipes

Slow-Cooker Recipes: Spiced Red Lentil Soup

Coming off of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend left us both craving a warm bowl of vegetables and a night watching Christmas movies (although, when does that not sound like a good time?). It’s cooled off a little bit in the District, leaving me with reason to finally bust out the slow-cooker and test its power.

Crockpot DOTR

If you’re like me and have little to no clue what to do with these, the following links are immensely helpful:

7 Easy Slow-Cooker Recipes Fitness
Healthy Crock-pot & Slow-cooker Recipes & TipsEatingWell

(Look towards the bottom for more specific recipes.)
Healthy Slow-Cooker Recipes Pinterest Board (jackpot!)
Vegetarian Slow-Cooker RecipesAllRecipes
Vegan & Vegetarian Slow-Cooker RecipesSavvy Vegetarian

I selected something that involved red lentils and other ingredients that we happened to have on-hand. With a few modifications, this was our first slow-cooker success!

Spiced Red Lentil Soup
Makes ~4 servings

1.5 cups dry red lentils
3 cups organic vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
1 can (15 oz.) organic fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 medium carrots, peeled & chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3 tbsp. green onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. oil
Seasonings to taste: salt/pepper, cumin, chili powder, oregano
Optional add-ins: chickpeas, black beans, green chili, celery, corn.

In a sauté pan, heat oil over medium. Add garlic, carrots and onion, cooking until all are softened. Transfer to slow-cooker and combine with all remaining ingredients.

Cook on “high” for 4 hours…and voila! That’s it. Grab a bowl & spoon!

Spiced red lentil crockpot chili


Slow-cooker fans – what are your go-to recipes? I’m still slightly terrified of leaving this on for the whole day, but it makes a great weekend dinner that provides lunch leftovers! I ate this the next day with a handful of kale thrown into the mix.


Filed under dinners, lunches, Meatless Monday, recipes, vegetarian