Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Happy Valentine's Day to all those out there in internet land!   V-Day is a great excuse for those of us in relationship bliss to enjoy a nice romantic dinner together.  And for whatever reason, when I think of a romantic dinner, my mind goes straight to Italian food.  But every brother and their mother takes their significant other (what a rhyme!) out to eat for Valentine's Day, and dealing with a crowded restaurants can be a nightmare. 

So if you find yourself at your favorite Italian restaurant with a 2 hour wait, head home and make some delicious Italian food with your sweetheart!  Cooking together can actually be a really great date.  One of my favorite Valentine's Day dinners with my husband was when we stayed at home and leisurely prepared ourselves an amazing three course meal.  I thought about which dinner I wanted to share today and I settled on something that is quick, easy, delicious, and nutritious: Baked Eggplant Parmesan. 

I am a fan of traditional Eggplant Parmesan, but I love it when you can take a fried food, bake it, and still make it delicious!  Baked Eggplant Parmesan is essentially sliced eggplant and sauteed onions layered with cheese and spaghetti sauce with ground beef.  I did originally made this as a vegetarian dish but my husband politely stated that it just wasn't filling enough.  So to appease him, I added a half a pound of ground beef.  That small amount of meat solidifies this as a main dish rather than a side dish, but you can omit it if you are so inclined.

I also love that this dish can be eaten as a pasta substitute.  When working on meal plans for my clients with diabetes, pasta night can be a challenge.  We are conditioned to eat huge portions of pasta and to serve it with a side of garlic bread.  Fitting both pasta and bread into a diabetes-friendly meal isn't easy.  This dish reminds me a lot of lasagna, but with eggplant instead of traditional lasagna noodles.  So by having this baked eggplant instead of lasagna, you are swapping carbs for veggies and still getting a dose of protein.  Now you can have your "pasta" and garlic bread without blowing your diet!  And because it's Valentine's Day, you can sneak in some chocolate, too!

This recipe is great if you need a dinner idea with little prep time.  I started by browning the ground beef in a small skillet and rinsing it in a colander.  While the beef was draining, I sauteed an onion in the same skillet.  While the onion was sauteing, I sliced an eggplant.  
Then just mix the beef with a jar of spaghetti sauce.  If you want to be fancy, you can make your own sauce!  Make a layer of eggplant, onion, sauce, and then mozzarella.
Do another layer of the eggplant, onion, and sauce and bake it for about 30 minutes until the eggplant is softened.
Then top with a layer of Parmesan cheese and bake a few more minutes.
That's it!  Now pop open a bottle of wine, light a candle, put on some Frank Sinatra, dig in and enjoy a taste of Italy in the comfort of your own home!

Baked Eggplant Parmesan
1 eggplant (about 1 pound), sliced into rounds
1/2 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 (26 oz) jar spaghetti sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray 8x8-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
Brown hamburger in a medium skillet and drain thoroughly.  While hamburger is draining, saute onions in skillet until browned, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, place half the eggplant in prepared dish.  Stir together ground beef and spaghetti sauce and spread a layer over the eggplant.  Top with sauteed mushrooms and mozzarella cheese.
Add remainder of the eggplant, and then the remainder of the meat sauce.  Cover with foil and bake 35 minutes. 
Uncover foil and top with with Parmesan cheese.  Bake, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Kraft Foods

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