Meal Prep Monday: Moussaka-Inspired Pasta

Welcome to my inaugural post for Monday’s weekly meal prep!

Welcome to my inaugural post for Monday’s weekly meal prep!  Full disclosure:  I’m not a trained chef or nutritionist.  However, I do like meals that are not only healthy, but aesthetically pleasing (read: pretty) as well.  (I also like meals that are not-so-healthy, but at least I am attempting to eat healthier!)  I do borrow recipes from books, online and word-of-mouth, and I will source my references.

Truthfully, I have not always meal-prepped for the week.  There will be weeks where I pack a lunch for work and other weeks I will just buy from wherever we end up at.  However, eating the same thing can be boring after a while, and eating out can get quite expensive.  Not to mention, different places may season their food differently than how you may like it.  I wanted to find a “happy medium” where I can have the food that I like each week and (1) not get tired of it; (2) it’s fairly affordable; and (3) it doesn’t take a lot of time.

I hope that, in reading/following this, you will also be inspired to come up with creative meals of your own (and there is nothing wrong with copying what I do either!) Do not be discouraged about cooking – it took me a while to get comfortable with it myself.  Luckily, with resources like Food Network, PBS, and You Tube, anyone would be able harness their “culinary skills.”

So thank you for reading this far, and let’s get started with our weekly meal prep!

When I was with Weight Watchers some years ago, there was a recipe that I liked called “Easy Moussaka” that used ground lamb in tomato sauce and paired with linguine.  I remember liking the recipe and I wanted to re-create it.  It may have been a recipe I got off the member portal for Weight Watchers, because I cannot find it anywhere in my recipe files or in my book collection. The recipe was more of a meat sauce on pasta rather than a casserole.  The closest I could find to the recipe that I remember is this: http://www.skinnykitchen.com/recipes/skinnyfabulous-moussaka-casserole/ but I left out the potatoes (because we have pasta), Alfredo sauce and feta cheese (though, I may experiment with that another time!)  Since I’m putting my spin on this recipe, I will go through it step-by-step.

I had rounded up and prepped all the ingredients as listed under “Ingredients under Moussaka,” minus potatoes.

Such a beautiful eggplant.  Too bad I have to slice it up!

It’s all about the mise en place.

I boiled water in a pot for the pasta.  You can use salt or olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking.

My coworker had mentioned that red lentil pasta had a lot of protein and tasted like actual spaghetti.  I’m a person who likes to try everything, at least, once.

Can you believe that this has 18 g of protein per serving?! Sign-me up!

While the water is heating up, I warmed the olive oil in a large, non-stick pan.  I added the onion and the garlic, and stirred them for a few minutes until golden.

Add the ground beef (lamb, or turkey, whichever you choose).  Cook until browned, for about 5 minutes.  Then drain fat, if needed.  Add the eggplant, oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper, then simmer.

Confession: I forgot to get the can of diced tomatoes (*gasp*).  I remember at some point, one of the many cooking shows had given alternatives, such as tomato paste.  So if you were wondering why I had tomato paste included in my mise en place that would be why.
See, I can be flexible!

Add the tomatoes (or tomato paste, in my case) and red wine (or you can use chicken stock, too).  Cook, uncovered, until liquid reduces for about a minute.

Getting back to the pasta…
Once the water comes to a boil, cook according to package directions (about 8 to 10 minutes).  Drain.

Divide pasta between the containers for the week.  Next to the pasta, I placed some steamed greens as my vegetable.  Top the pasta with the eggplant and meat sauce.  Pro tip: garnish with shaved parmesan.

There you have it.  I’m sorry we had to make a lot of substitutions from the original recipe.  Sometimes, with cooking, one has to be flexible and improvise.  I will try to find a recipe that we can stick to next time.  Thanks for reading and see you next week!
-Maeven

Supper Club Saturday

“If you thought Izakaya is just part of a swanky name for just another one of the swanky restaurants in Bucktown, you are wrong.”

September 3, 2016

In this segment, Supper Club Saturday, one of us will give a review of a restaurant that we had been to.  Living in cities that offer a plethora of cuisines at our disposal, we just couldn’t help but to share our experiences with all of you!

Izakaya Mita

1960 North Damen

Bucktown, Chicago

If you thought Izakaya is just part of a swanky name for just another one of the swanky restaurants in Bucktown, you are wrong.  As one who has traipsed around Japan and visited its various izakayas, Izakaya Mita instantly brought me back to that place and time, to that first-, second-, or was it fifth sake in Tokyo…? (Ha!)

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I started with a sake flight (because I was pretty indecisive to commit to only one).  The servers are pretty knowledgeable about the sake and what pairs best with your dish selection.  I had started with Takoyaki and Chasu Marinated Pork Belly.

 

Takoyaki – it had a perfect balance of crunch and flavor, without making the insides rubbery.

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Chasu Marinated Pork Belly – so tender and juicy with just the right amount of fat.

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Next was the Okonomiyaki, which was described to me as a savory pancake with cabbage, tempura, eggs, flour and pork belly (read: MAGIC!)

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Followed by their Toshi’s Kyushu-Style Yaki Ramen with pork…

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Can you tell that a way to this girl’s heart is pork?

Tying up the bow on this delectable gift of a meal, was banana tempura with mocha ice cream.

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Over all, Izakaya Mita was not just delicious, but also a taste of how life is in the “Land of the Rising Sun.”

Verdict:

The sake is flowing aplenty + the food is comforting without being too heavy + great service = highly recommended by yours truly, Maeven!

Website: http://www.izakayamita.com

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