Preserved Home: Eggplant — it’s what’s for breakfast

Eggplant, like zucchini, can work well in muffin recipes. (Photo by Laura Woolfrey-Macklem)

Eggplant, like zucchini, can work well in muffin recipes. (Photo by Laura Woolfrey-Macklem)

Laura Woolfrey-Macklem

2013_COLUMN_WOOLFREYMy children ate eggplant for breakfast this morning. Mothers everywhere should be in awe of this feat. Of course, your kids — even the picky ones — will eat eggplant for breakfast, too, if you make my recipe.

I had the opportunity to get a 30-pound box of eggplant for $5. As I looked at the vendor, half of me was thankful and excited about the deal, and the other half of me dreaded the thought of processing 30 pounds of eggplant. I knew rejecting the deal would meet me with regret in the middle of the night. Visions of inexpensive purple fruit (yes, it’s technically a fruit) would taunt me in my dreams. I had to buy.

When I got home, I noticed the eggplant was on the softer side and had to be dealt with in a day or two. My mind starting racing with ideas about ways to make use of this abundance of eggplant. When it comes to putting up food, my mind always goes first to the dehydrator, because it’s easy. But last year, I tried dehydrating eggplant, and the result was not good. Freezing it is fine if cooked in something like ratatouille, but unless it’s in a casserole or pre-cooked in a sauce, I wouldn’t freeze it again. I knew I was going to be cooking all day long.

I started at 10 a.m. and was cleaning up the kitchen at 10:30 p.m. Of course, I still had to make lunch and dinner in between, and peel 26 pounds of peaches for the dehydrator. But still …

I made stuffed eggplant, eggplant lasagna, eggplant Parmesan, eggplant hummus (need to fiddle with that recipe) and ratatouille, which also helped me use up tomatoes I had bought. Out of all the recipes I made, eggplant chocolate chip muffins gets the award for creativity.

As I was thinking of ways to use the eggplant, I realized uncooked eggplant doesn’t have much of a flavor but is full of moisture, just like summer squash. If summer squash works in sweet breads, why not eggplant? So, I whipped up a batch.

After I pulled the pan out of the oven, I could hardly wait to see if they were disgusting or delicious. I yanked a muffin out of the pan, careful not to burn my fingers. I unwrapped one side of the paper, and tore open the steamy muffin. I waited a second, wished upon a star, tore off a piece, and popped it in my mouth. It was good — you couldn’t tell in flavor or texture this was an eggplant muffin. Before I could declare victory, I had to make sure the kids liked it because I was so desperate for this to work, I worried my mind and taste buds were being agreeable and not honest.

Eggplant, like zucchini, can work well in muffin recipes. (Photo by Laura Woolfrey-Macklem)
Eggplant, like zucchini, can work well in muffin recipes. (Photo by Laura Woolfrey-Macklem)

My 7-year-old is the one who makes faces before she even tries certain things. There was no way under Heaven I was telling this child there was eggplant lurking in the muffin. She likes eggplant, but the thought of it mingling with chocolate chips would be too much for her little head to take. After she liked it, I knew it was indeed an official victory. Now I had something else to do with some of the remaining 10 pounds of eggplant.

I’m not into the Jessica Seinfeld trend of hiding vegetables in foods because kids are picky, a tactic to feeding them healthy foods. I didn’t make this recipe to fool my kids into eating eggplant, I made this to use up my eggplant, although it was fun to trick them. If your child doesn’t like a vegetable, make it different ways. If they still don’t like it, wait a year and reintroduce it again. It took my oldest daughter two years to like yellow squash. My littlest one now doesn’t like red bell peppers, even though she used to wolf them down. In time, I’m hoping she will like them once again.

One of my secrets to success with having non-picky kids is, I bring them in kitchen with me and cook. You can also have them taste a dish while it’s on the stove and suggest how it could be improved. This way, they are invested in the dish. Have your children set the table and make place cards or place mats. Involve your kids in meals, and they are more likely to be agreeable at dinner.

While the reintroduction of healthy foods is important and vital to long-term healthy eating, there is nothing wrong with some trickery in cooking. Chocolate quinoa anyone? That’s next on my list.

Eggplant Chocolate Chip Muffins

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup shredded eggplant, soaked in water, drained and squeezed dry
1 cup chocolate chips, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients, except the chocolate chips. Peel and finely shred the eggplant. Soak in water 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry.

Mix the egg through eggplant. Mix with dry ingredients and add chocolate chips. Fill muffin papers ¾ full and bake for 15 minutes or until done in the center.

Laura Woolfrey-Macklem is a former North County resident who produces the Preserved Home blog. Visit www.preservedhome.com. Send questions and comments to [email protected].