Rocco DiSpirito's Now Eat This Truck

Happy Monday! I'm sleepy this morning but I had such a fun weekend! I suppose with that under my belt, I'm ready to tackle the week :)

On Friday, my good friend Lauren and I checked out Rocco DiSpirito's new food truck for lunch. I had heard that his new food truck was parked near our office a few days a week so I couldn't wait to check it out. I am a huge Rocco fan! I have his Now Eat This! cookbook and have yet to find a recipe that wasn't absolutely delicious and completely healthy to boot. Not to mention the inclusion of some very attractive looking photos of him...

My favorite part of the truck? Rocco is actually the one cooking and serving up the goods.

The concept behind the Now Eat This Truck isn't just about yummy food. All of the dishes on the menu are also under 350 calories and include low carb or gluten free attributes. And you know what? The food is good. And extremely wallet friendly. Oh and the very best part of the entire thing? The Now Eat This Truck is a non-profit and all proceeds to Free Lunch Fridays, an initiative to provide and teach school kids about healthy cooking and eating... just when I thought I couldn't be anymore smitten. Here I am geeking out a little...

I don't often get star struck, but I really am a fan of Rocco and how he's changed the way that home cooks prepare typically unhealthy dishes (like buffalo chicken tenders, macaroni & cheese, sloppy joe's, penne alla vodka, and more). Plus, did I mention he's cute? ;)

Lauren and I shared three dishes so we could do a proper taste testing. 3 dishes = $15. Not to shabby if you ask me!

First up was Mama's Meatballs & Gluten Free Ziti. I have to preface this by telling you that I'm a meatball snob. My mom makes the best meatballs and sauce and therefore I find all others to be...underwhelming. BUT. These were really good! They were soft, flavorful and not fake tasting like a lot of processed meatballs. Oh and the ziti portion was huge.

I chose an order of the low carb chicken and broccoli stir fry. Tossed in a light sauce, I believe the noodles are 'cellophane' noodles, but I'm still tracking down this information. Either way, the dish was delish, and was Rocco's top recommendation.

Lauren chose the chicken noodle soup (it was a cold one waiting on the truck line!). Made with shredded chicken and the same cellophane noodles and veggies, it was warm and comforting...perfect for a cold day.

There was so much food that I ended up taking the leftovers home with me that evening. Three dishes plus leftovers for $15 for a healthy and tasty Manhattan lunch? Don't mind if I do. My favorite dish of the bunch? I have to go with the meatballs and ziti. Maybe it's the Italian in me, but I could eat this everyday.

So there you have it. My fun Friday lunch. You can bet I'll be tracking down the Now Eat This Truck again for lunch soon! And also tracking down Rocco's Now Eat This Diet cookbook!

Have a fantastic week everyone!

Questions of the Day:

Do you ever eat at food trucks? I love them!

How was your weekend?!

 

Roasted Eggplant Parmigiana

I did it again.

 

I planned out a quick, easy and delicious dinner.

 

And I was foiled.

You see, I had an eggplant in the refrigerator. And a delightful Rocco DiSpirito cookbook calling my name to make eggplant rollatini.

 

{He makes me happy, can you tell?} But you can't make eggplant rollatini without ricotta cheese. You just can't. It's against the law.

And I came home to Shaun slicing up the eggplant for me, only to realize that we were straight out of part-skim ricotta. Fail.

So I had no choice but to improvise. Or go out to the store. The latter of which seemed extremely unappealing. I'm so glad that we are collectively lazy. Because out of my lazy improvisation came a dish that I'm pretty excited about. I actually dreamed about it last night.

In fact, I hope I forget the ricotta again next time. Because this dish was so easy and a perfectly light weeknight dinner. No frying, no breading. All you need are some basic ingredients, a loaf pan (or a small baking dish), and if you're lucky, someone else to slice up the eggplant for you.

 

Roasted Eggplant Parmigiana
1 eggplant, ends removed, peeled, and sliced lengthwise (8-10 slices)
1 1/2 C marinara sauce (I made Rocco's How Low Can You Go sauce, any of your choice works!)
3/4 - 1 C mozzarella cheese
1/4 C parmesean cheese
Basil, dried or fresh
kosher salt + pepper
cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, lay out the eggplant, spray lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 10-12 minutes (longer if your slices are thicker) until tender. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with a bit of the sauce.

 

Layer half of the eggplant, followed by more sauce, basil (I used dried but fresh would be amazing too), half of the mozzarella and half of the parmesean cheese.

 

Repeat the last step with the remaining eggplant, sauce, basil, and cheeses. My layers were pretty thin, but if you want a thicker dish, add more layers of eggplant (perhaps slice up 1 1/2 to 2 eggplants).

 

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the edges are browned.

We had ours alongside some toasted rye bread. Mm-mmmm good.

So that's the story of my accidentally, fantastically easy dinner. No breading or frying. Roasting is the new frying, haven't you heard? :) Oh and this dish made about 3 servings - 1 for Shaun and me last night, and 1 lunch for Shaun today. For more, just slice up more eggplant in a bigger dish! Could it be simpler? So what do you think? When was the last time you were foiled in the kitchen? Did you prevail?

 

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Crunchy Buffalo Chicken Tenders with Blue Cheese Dressing

I got lots of cookbooks for Christmas.

So many to add to my already extensive collection that I cannot wait to dive into each of them. I'm vowing to stop pulling recipes from the Internet and adapting them, but instead to use the pretty books that grace my bookcase.

I was going to wait a few days before bombarding you with another Rocco DiSpirito's Now Eat This! recipe, mainly because I just feel bad for the other cookbooks. It's like they are just begging to be opened. But since I've developed a major obsession with this cookbook - for its ease of use, its healthy recipes, its photos of a very attractive looking Rocco - you're getting it today instead of next week. I made these tenders tonight and they completely changed our world.

Is it sad that I speak this way of chicken? Perhaps.

But it's so true. These tenders are not only crunchy and flavorful, but the elimination of frying keeps them light and healthy. As Michael Scott would say, it's a win-win-win.

Oh and if turned up buffalo tenders isn't enough, how about DIY blue cheese dressing? It's creamy, light and has convinced the mister and me to never ever go back to the bottled stuff.

Somebody stop me before I start singing from the rooftops.

Crunchy Buffalo Chicken Tenders with Blue Cheese Dressing
*Adapted from Rocco DiSpirito's Now Eat This!
For the tenders:
1 C whole wheat flour
2 C panko breadcrumbs (I could only find regular, not whole wheat)
4 egg whites
1 lb chicken tenders
1/2 C Frank's RedHot Sauce
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Nonstick cooking spray
For the blue cheese dressing:
1 C low fat mayonnaise
1/2 C low fat sour cream
1/4 C buttermilk (I made my own)
1 tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed, please!)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
5 oz low fat blue cheese crumbles
kosher salt
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Set up an oven-safe wire rack over a large baking sheet and spray with nonstick spray. Next, set up your dredging station. A bowl for flour, a bowl for egg whites that are whisked until foamy, a bowl for the panko breadcrumbs and a package of chicken.  

Coat the chicken in flour, then submerge in egg whites and then coat with panko. Lay on the wire rack.

Once the chicken is breaded, sprinkle with salt and pepper and spray with nonstick spray. Turn the chicken over and repeat. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (for thinner tenders, it might be less time). I flipped them over about midway through. The panko will turn golden and crispy.

Meanwhile, heat up the Frank's RedHot in the microwave and make the blue cheese dressing (and be prepared to never return to that store-bought stuff again).

To make the blue cheese, whisk the mayo, sour cream, buttermilk, Worcestershire, blue cheese crumbles, salt and pepper together until combined and creamy. Though the original recipe called for garlic paste (1 clove mashed together to form a paste), we thought it was overkill so I am not recommending it in this adapted version. I'm still tasting garlic which I find unnecessary at this juncture in the evening.

Once chicken is done baking, brush the chicken with the RedHot. I used a silicon pastry brush.

 

I even got my multitask on while doing this part. I'm on the phone with one of my very good friends who had some fantastic news to share!

Serve with a dollop of the blue cheese sauce and any other accompaniements you choose. Shaun whipped up a yummy couscous with baby bella mushrooms and chopped baby carrots.

 

You may also have noticed that some of these photos are not at an angle that can be gotten from my usual countertops. That's because tonight we broke in our brand new kitchen island!

A gift from my parents, we are so thrilled with this addition to our avid kitchen. It still needs some finishing touches so I'll do a full post about how it came to be and how it's functioning in the coming weeks. But meanwhile, I just had to share it because...well, it. is. awesome!!

So there you have it. A quick, delicious and healthy weeknight meal and a new kitchen fixture to boot. I can't wait to share more details about how we (mostly my mom) DIY'd our new island and to give you the grand tour!

What are your favorite weeknight meals? Any quick and easy ones to share?