Straight from Mom Nature: The Humble Eggplant

I have worked with eggplant many times and many ways, but this recipe tops the list for me. Mostly because of how simple it is, but also because the combination of ingredients and the prominence of the eggplant flavor and texture make it a absolutely delicious and enjoyable for all. It was fun using tofu as a filler. It played the part of a cheesy texture, however provided the main punch of protein and mixing it with kale provided a punch of veggie nutrients.

Veggie picture

Rolling the mixture into the eggplant cocoon made my night! The -tinis are a hit during hors d'oeuvres hour at any event or a fun appetizer to serve guests ! I hope you have as much fun and feel as much satisfaction of creating these mini masterpieces as I did, if not, you'll definitely enjoy eating them! YUM! Buon Appetito!

The rice is treated like a risotto, but instead of using broth we use almond milk. The amaretto soaked raisins (drunken raisins as my mother likes to call them) contribute such a burst of flavor when in your mouth.

There is no doubt that this dish must be tried by everyone! It will impress your guests to the max and will have them believing you are a top-of-line chef!

So challenge yourself and get your stir on with this delizioso Italian Amaretto Rice Pudding recipe!

Thank you to my mother and friend Noura for helping me make this and entertain me as I stood for an hour stirring and stirring and stirring…:)

Wait! Before you eat that cookie or cook with that oil let me fill you in on a few things that I learned this week thanks to my school- the Natural Gourmet Institute. I'll try not to get to biochemist-y on your, but I will get your mind going! Promise.

Eggplant figure

Fatty Acid

What is a fatty acid? How do you come in contact with fatty acids on a daily basis? Well, there are three different fatty acids that you just may have heard of: Omega 9, Omega 6 and Omega 3. The two I will focus on are Omega 6 and Omega 3 only because they are essential, which means you need to get them through food because your body can not make them.

However, we must understand that when we have a balanced amount of omega-6′s in our body, it cause inflammation but the right amount of inflammation that our body needs in order to show feeling and for the immune system to respond to infection or a response from injury. It is a way the body heals itself first by signaling a problem. So not all inflammation is bad and not all omega-6′s cause an overabundance of inflammation. Like the saying goes- everything in moderation.

Omega-6 can be found in corn, soy, sunflower, safflower and grapeseed oils, all nuts and seeds and processed foods where cheaper oils are used. Therefore we can understand why American diets contain more omega-6 fatty acids- because if you read labels on our foods you'll see a lot of the above products in all shapes and sizes.

Omega-3′s can be found in cold water fish like salmon, sardines and tuna, but for vegetarians this can be a difficult essential fatty acid to obtain, so look out for vegan algae products and chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts and more.

Trans Fats

Veggie re-creation

Where do they come from? Trans Fatty Acids form from a process called partial hydrogenation, hence "partially hydrogenated oils" that you see in ingredient lists. According to law, a company can call a product "trans fat free" if it has less than 1/2 gram of trans fat per serving, so technically not all "trans fat free" products are really trans fat free.

This partial hydrogenation process happens when hydrogen is forced into molecules found in vegetable oils. Reasons for using partially hydrogenated oils is because of the stable shelf life, it is cheaper and easier to work with, but I do not consider these benefits and reasons to use and consume. I consider it scary and unnatural. Yes.

Not to mention unhealthy and with the "removal" of trans fats in some foods, it is said that interestorified fats are the new trans fat hidden in foods. These partially hydrogenated oils and fats cause raised LDL cholesterol levels, lower HDL levels, increase blood sugar levels, increase in blood insulin levels and interfere with essential fatty acids, immune system functions and liver detoxification processes.

FACT: Coconut oil is becoming more and more widely used in place of most oils in the kitchen because of its antiviral/fungal properties, anti-microbial properties and stimulates the immune system. Though it is high in saturated fatty acids, research has shown that people in Southeastern Asian countries have been using coconut oil products for thousands of years and few if none of have showed signs of clogged arteries or heart disease. Maybe there's a huge difference between saturated fats found in animal products and saturated fats found in other products? hmmmm. Just a thought.

So what can you do?

Be mindful when choosing processed foods, look for "partially hydrogenated oils" and stay away, choose foods rich in omega-3′s and moderately rich in omega-6′s, just because things say natural or "trans fat free," it doesn't mean they really are, do more research and listen to your body. You have the power to heal yourself based on the choices you make everyday.

Rice patties! Ooey gooey chewy warm delicious textured rice patties! When I was in Sicily I ate a rice ball without meat or cheese. This blew everyone away and since being called crazy for not trying the famous Sicilian rice ball known as aranchini (aka arancini) with all of its trimmings, I was determined to make my own vegan rendition. Hence the birth of the Italian Vegan Rice Patties recipe.

In Sicily, cafes serve aranchini (aka arancini) con ragù, which typically consist of meat in a tomato sauce, rice, and mozzarella. Also some offer aranchini (aka arancini) con burro (butter), or specialty aranchini (aka arancini), such as aranchini (aka arancini) con funghi (mushrooms), con pistacchi (pistachios), or con melanzane (eggplant). La Vegetariana serves hers with rice, vegan mayo, vegan mozzarella and marinara sauce. For more variation, add green and red pepper and even onions.

Have fun with this recipe and when you eat the rice patties, picture yourself sitting outside of a Sicilian cafe surrounded by water and sunshine with Sicilian people around and a beautiful cannoli waiting to be eaten for dessert. Buon appetito!

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