Vegan & Gluten Free Aubergine (Eggplant) Khoresht Recipe

Deceptively simple, entirely delicious, Aubergine (Eggplant) Khoresht is one of my all time favorite meals.  I am in year three of this blog without having posted about it mainly because it gets eaten before pictures can be taken.  You have to like tomatoes.  You have to be open to the idea of eggplant (and not have an issue with nightshades since they can be known to have an impact on inflammatory conditions).

My parents made this with meat when I was a kid but it was very easy to adapt with the addition of garbanzo beans/chickpeas for protein.  Growing up we always called eggplant by the name aubergine but I’ve lapsed into calling it by its American name in my later years.  Onward!

Supplies
Cutting board
Knife
Baking sheet
Medium to Large stockpot

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Ingredients
2 cups of Water
1 cup of Vegetable Broth (homemade or a store-bought safe variety – our old standby recently added sesame oil so we switched brands)
1 large or 2 small fresh Globe Eggplant(s) – about 400-500 grams
1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large onion, diced
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced Parsley (or the equivalent of dried)
2 tsp Turmeric
1 can (130g or 1 4/5 cup) ready to use Garbanzo beans (so, already cooked)
1 33g can of Tomato Paste
1 420g can of Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (or other fire roasted variety)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare the eggplant as instructed in this recipe (peeling, slicing in rounds, salting and laying on paper towels, roasting in the oven, etc.).  While waiting for the salt to take some of the bitterness out of the eggplant, heat your stock pot/saucepan on medium.  Once heated, add the olive oil.  It should shimmer a little bit, then add your diced onion and stir.  Stir and monitor until the onions have softened, about 2 or 3 minutes.  Then add your garlic and other spices and continue stirring.  I lowered the oil in this recipe to make the calorie count favorable but that means it takes a little more attention.

Add the roasted eggplant once ready and stir to coat with the onions and spices.  Finally, add the tomato paste and roasted tomatoes as well as salt and pepper, water, and broth.  Stir and increase the heat until the mixture is bubbling and reduce to a simmer.  You’ll want to let it simmer with a lit off kilter until the mixture reduces to more of a chunky stew texture instead of something soupy.  I would say this takes about an hour on medium heat, stirring occasionally.  You can taste for salt and pepper throughout this time as well but don’t over do it early on since you are reducing the mixture a little bit.  The eggplant will break up as it cooks so that is why there’s no need to cut it into anything smaller than rounds during the roasting stage.  Enjoy!

Serve warm over brown or white rice.  I love it with coconut yogurt on the side as well as tomato onion salad.

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Also shared on the EpiFamily.Com Recipe Roundup.

The No Biggie Bunch (Review and Indiegogo Campaign)

My food allergy dollars allocate in priority to:

1) Injectable epinephrine
2) Safe chocolate
3) Safe food

Now all they need to make is an epinephrine auto-injector case with a spot for emergency chocolate and snacks, right?  My daughter would totally be on board with it if it was pink, blue, and purple. What I mean to get at, in my signature roundabout way, is that the first place I go when I need food allergy related reading material is my local library (and even inter-library loan) before buying books (or usually in lieu of buying them). So I have to admit that I was aware of the No Biggie Bunch series of books for quite some time before I ever investigated further because our local library did not have any copies. We were missing out on a neat quartet of smart, well illustrated, and accurate food allergy reads for the younger set.

No Biggie Nutrition Facts

I met Heather Mehra, co-creator of the No Biggie Bunch books (with Kerry McManama and Michael Kline), and her husband at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference last November and they are some of my favorite people because of their authentic exuberance for kid lit, awareness, and their family. I flipped through one of the books for the first time when I visited with Heather and the quality of the series was readily apparent. I excitedly purchased two books for my children and when they shipped to me I was generously gifted the other two books in the series as well, all signed (thank you so much again Heather)!

No Biggie Bunch books

The No Biggie Bunch should be in libraries and a new Indiegogo campaign aims to make that happen. Contributions fund distribution costs associated with putting the series in libraries across all 50 states. In the first week of the campaign, for example, $30 covers one set of four books for a library as well as two books for a school library dear to the contributor’s heart. Six books (retailing for $14.99 apiece normally) disseminated with sound and approachable food allergy discussion for just $30 is a great deal and I wanted to use it as the nudge I needed to get around to writing about the series here.

Peanut Free Tea for Three

This was the first of the series that I read and I had to get it for my daughter.  Three friends gather to have a tea party and are totally supportive of one another’s food allergy circumstances.  They bring their own safe food, something very familiar in our family, and have a wonderful time.  A main topic in this one is cross contamination with jelly because a knife may have had peanut butter on it during a prior use.  The book also models collaborative imaginary play.

Trade or Treat Halloween

The No Biggie Bunch each have single allergies, as well as one member that has no food allergies.  This really works for kids with multiple allergies because they can identify with more than one character in the books.  In “Trade or Treat Halloween” the kids are able to enjoy trick or treating with the knowledge that they’ll trade their haul for safe options.  Last year we had our first trick or treat outing and my kids handled it very well.  Greta, allergic to wheat, is excited in this story because she trades all her candy for stickers to decorate her room.


Dairy Free Dino-Licious Dig

There are no adults in the No Biggie Bunch books so the situations and dialogue are very accessible to elementary school and pre-school children.  Davis can’t share Natalie’s cheesy crackers when she offers them on a playdate because of his dairy allergy but both Natalie and Davis handle things in an upbeat way.  Davis’ “No Biggie Bag” has just the safe snack he needs and the two can continue with their adventure.  The attitude toward food allergy is very factual but supportive.  I see the children in my daughter’s class being very understanding on a regular basis.  Like Natalie, they want to share but know they need to keep their classmate safe.


Sports-tastic Birthday Party Book

We’ve covered tea parties, Halloween, and the run of the mill playdate. . .I saved the hardest scenario for last – the birthday party.  Scotty’s birthday cake is safe for some but not all of his friends but they are prepared with safe treats of their own.  As a mother I feel a pang of sadness when I read this book because of course we want our children included in those activities that others take for granted but to my children this book reflects the reality of birthday parties for them.  We plan and prepare and shop and bake so we can celebrate with their friends so that the focus of the day is not on the sugar rush (though that is an added benefit) but on having a great time together.

"No Biggie!"
“Along with my princess crown I packed my own jelly in my No Biggie Bag.”

The illustrations by Michael Kline are bright and cheerful and the characterizations are forward thinking – the friends have varied cultural backgrounds and diverse interests but love getting together.  I hope you’ll consider supporting the Indiegogo campaign to get these books into more libraries!

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The books are really focused on models of good habits when managing food allergies, so for books that cover allergic reactions I’d recommend The Princess and the Peanut: An Allergic Fairytale and The Bugabees: Friends With Food Allergies to round out your library collection.  

I am a volunteer contributing reviewer of books, music, and movies over at VegBooks.org if you’d like to check my recent posts there: Philip Reid Saves the Statue of FreedomThe Lego Movie (2014)In a Heartbeat (CD), Patty’s Secret, Bronto, Friend of Ceratops, Violet Mackrel’s Natural Habitat, and Monster on the Hill.

Shared Equipment & Facilities and Food Allergy

I used to only contact a company when issues arose with a product – that is, in my pre-food allergy family days.  Now I reach out to research ingredients and also to praise staff members that go above and beyond the call (at a restaurant we once had a vegetarian server that had a family member with food allergies she was awesome – I was compelled to e-mail the company about her and review the experience at Allergy Eats).  Sometimes it takes a few discussions to explain my question (when I called a fast food chain to see about the ingredients in their bread the response to “does it contain oats?” was met at first with “you mean gluten, right?”) but the effort is worth it.

This month’s Food Allergy Buzz Blog Carnival theme is cross contamination, that is, that foods that don’t have an allergenic ingredient by design may contain that ingredient by virtue of being in the same factory or on shared equipment.  For a restaurant you can see how easy it would be to just throw one customer’s order onto the griddle with another’s (imagine making a batch of regular pancakes and then pouring out gluten free pancake batter onto the same surface immediately thereafter).  A factory may not be so different if one flavor or variety is made and then another variant is sent through (for example, a potato chip production line could have sour cream and onion chips on the same equipment as plain chips).

Some companies voluntarily disclose shared equipment or facility warnings but for families with allergies that are not in the United States’ “top 8” (wheat, soy, peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, milk and egg) the statements are not entirely helpful.  Further, the statements themselves are not regulated because of their voluntary nature.  Say a label proclaims the absence of an allergen but is silent about another.  Could you safely assume that the non-mention means the item is safe for your family?  Not always.

My directly relevant example is a product currently sold at our local Southern Nevada Costco.  It is called “Eat Pastry” and is a vegan, gluten free cookie dough in a tub.  You just scoop and bake, easy right?  I was thrilled to stumble upon it and the label seemed to check out.  I like supporting allergy friendly products at Costco, plus, it was cookie dough!

What I did know, however, was that a large portion of chocolate is by its nature cross contaminated with nuts (for allergy friendly chocolate, look no further than Enjoy Life, by the way) whether or not it is disclosed, so I went to the company website and found this in their frequently asked questions:

Q. I see that you use nut extracts in the Chocolate Chunk and Chocoholic Chunk cookie dough flavors. What type of extract do you use?

A. We use a trace amount of pure almond extract in these two flavors. Because the amount is so small, it is not listed as an actual ‘ingredient.’

Oh no, I thought.  They were referring to two wheat based varieties but I didn’t like that they were deciding not to list a nut extract because they decided an amount was “small.”  So I e-mailed the company:

To Whom it May Concern:

I bought your cookie dough at costco today and then I saw on your website about undisclosed almond extract – is that something that applies to this particular variety?  My daughter has life threatening food allergies, I appreciate all your disclosures on your packaging about being gluten free, egg free, etc. but I was nervous when I saw the FAQ on your website.  Please advise as to whether this product contains undisclosed nuts or nut derivatives.  Also, are there nuts in your facility?  

Thank you,
Homa Woodrum”

A day later came this friendly reply, from the CEO no less:

“Hi Homa, Thanks for your email. We do not use nut extract in our gluten free chocolate chip cookie dough (that is used in our regular chocolate chip cookie dough, which is not gluten free). We do however handle peanuts in our facility. We make our own peanut butter and make a peanut butter cookie dough, but we produce all peanut butter products on designated days to prevent cross contamination. We also thoroughly clean and sanitize all shared equipment and work areas between each production run so that allergens are kept separate.
We do not handle nuts in our facility, only the almond extract. 

I hope this information helps, and that your daughter is able to enjoy the cookies!

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Best,
Jessie
Jessie Williams
Co-Founder/CEO

I used this as an opportunity to bring up a suggested packaging change:

Thank you so much for the prompt reply – I think your packaging is adorable and your product delicious but I hope in future you consider disclosing the shared facility and equipment on your labels.  I know that is not required but when I see that a product is free from so many allergens (and rightfully proud of it) as a consumer I would assume that the absence of a peanut or tree nut statement implies that there is no concern on that front.  Of course you can’t please all people and it is especially tricky when you are dealing with so many segments (gluten free, vegan, etc.) but I just thought I’d mention it in case it is something you can consider in the future.
Thank you again and I hope you have a wonderful day!
Homa”

Ms. Williams wrote back to say that they would certainly consider my suggestion in future packaging decisions.  I was reminded of the exchange when I saw smaller versions of the Eat Pastry product at Whole Foods recently, right next to the peanut butter variety she references in her e-mail.

Eat Pastry at Whole Foods

Had I seen the product where it was side by side with the peanut butter variety I may have skipped it, so you can see how one can’t just rely on what is on the shelf to know what is in a factory.

Eat Pastry

All that said, if nuts aren’t something you’re concerned about, the dough bakes up fantastically and tastes great out of the tub as well.  It is a great example of not being able to rely on a package alone, or the inclusion of “free from” statements.

I am not as vigilant a label reader as I’d like to be!  I bought a bag of fresh spinach at Trader Joe’s earlier this year and was surprised to see a shared equipment disclosure on the package:

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So I did what any food allergy mom would do, I took to twitter with my guilty confession that I’d failed to read the label.  Sloane Miller (Allergic Girl) encouraged me to reach out to Trader Joe’s and see what was going on.  I included a link to the twitter conversation that had ensued regarding the picture along with my question so they could see it was not just one querying customer.

Hi Homa,

I thought I would drop you line in the event we continue to play phone tag.

I did some research and found out that the allergen statement on the package was placed due to the fact that the facility processes other pre packaged salads that includes products containing the allergens noted.

That said, the allergen containing products come into the facility pre packed in individual pouches.

I hope this information is helpful. Please feel free to give me a call if you have further questions. Also, my direct e-mail address is [redacted].

Thanks for shopping with us,
Nikki

I will add that for those that may think I can just keep reaching out to companies about food allergy safety on my daughter’s behalf, please consider well meaning people that do a cursory check of a product regarding safety to bring to, say, a school function.  I know that on a regular basis my daughter’s teacher will email me and say a certain item seems to check out online as nut, oat, and sesame free but she still checks with me, which I very much appreciate.

Somewhere between a company deciding whether a trace amount is too small to disclose (see above) or a company that makes a blanket warning on a single ingredient item (see above also), I think there needs to be a real discussion about labeling and disclosure not just for the benefit of food allergic families but all who wish to know what they’re eating.  Then there’s non food products, like toothpaste, that don’t have to disclose ingredients in the same way the top 8 are disclosed.

Both my examples above involve nuts but I know of a friend’s daughter who is anaphylactic to milk or another friend’s daughter who is allergic to flax (something companies really like to leave off labels), so the concept of transparency in labeling is far reaching.  I’d love to see better on package disclosures, but acknowledging that this is not always a possibility because of space, I certainly feel that websites should list full ingredients and manufacturing circumstances.  They almost certainly maintain such records internally, or at least I hope so!