Baked Eggplant

pre-baking

Last week I made some ratatouille. I was inspired because while taking stock of my refrigerator I realized I had all the ingredients but the eggplant. When I went to the store to get the final necessity to make my dish all they had were massive eggplants. Even though I only needed half that was fine – when life give you eggplants what else can you do but make more things. This weekend as I was cleaning out the freezer I found a Tupperware full of tomato sauce. Clearly I did a total freezer overhaul this weekend. Not only did I discover the sauce, I used some bananas I found to make these muffins. This was all to make room for some new soup. Don’t worry too much the freezer is completely full once again. Left with half of a giant eggplant and a container of tomato sauce I decided baked eggplant it was. I didn’t really want to fry anything and I guess I was in the mood to get in touch with my Italian roots this week.

This dish was perfect for the grey weather we have been having. Its hearty and warm without being too heavy.

Baked Eggplant:

Thank you to Lidia’s Italy for the delicious recipe inspiration.

Half of a giant eggplant (sorry I am really bad about estimating pounds etc) I would equate this to one medium sized eggplant.

2 cups of chunky tomato sauce (my sauce has roasted red peppers in it which added flavor) if not you could add these to the dish

1/2 cup black olives chopped small

2 tablespoons fresh basil chopped

2/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Slice the eggplant into crosswise pieces about a 1/2 inch in width. My eggplant was already halved so I ended up with semi-circles instead of rounds this turned out to work better for overlapping in the baking dish anyway. Sweat the eggplant by salting both side of each pieces and placing in a colander in the sink. Weight down the eggplant by placing a bowl or plate of the vegetables and putting cans on top. Allow to drain for about 30-45 minutes then rinse and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Stir together the olives tomato sauce and basil. In a square baking dish spread about 3/4 of a cup of sauce to cover the bottom. Layer half of the eggplant over the sauce – I had to overlap to get it all to fit. Spread about half of the remaining tomato sauce over the eggplant layer and then sprinkle half of the cheese over the sauce. Repeat this process to create the second layer.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil – arch the tin foil if necessary so that it does not touch the cheese. Bake for 45 minutes then uncover and continue baking for an additional 10-15 minutes. The sauce and cheese should be bubbly and golden brown on top. Let the eggplant rest for 20 minutes out of the oven then serve. This dish was very tasty warm but reheated well too.

Pasta Fagioli

As I mentioned yesterday, I spent Sunday in the kitchen getting ready for a crazy week. My school’s location does not offer much in the way of lunch options so I am forced to plan ahead. Between some evening events at work and early morning workouts it is not rare for me to pack a full three meals worth of food into my handy lunch bag. My sister think’s it is completely dorky that I carry this around with me but my lunch bag is crucial and I don’t care what she says I love it. This brand also seems to be a favorite among the teachers, when you look into the faculty room fridge my bag is never lonely.

My office is quite chilly so my favorite make ahead lunch is without a question soup. Its a great way to warm up midday and it holds really well in transit. I make big batches of soup every couple of weekends throughout the winter and freeze them into smaller portions for lunch. I try and make a few different soups at a time so I don’t have to eat the same thing all week long and keep a nice rotation going. Today I worked some Pasta Fagioli into the mix. Yum! I will be staying nice and warm today with my soup hope you are enjoying your lunch too.

Pasta Fagioli Soup:

Adapted from Rachel Ray

2 tbspn olive oil

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp dried thyme

2 dried bayleaves

1 medium onion chopped

1 medium carrot chopped

2 small ribs of celery, chopped

4 cloves of garlic

salt and pepper to taste

1 (16 oz) can cannelini beans

1 (16 oz) can red kidney beans

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

2 cups water

1 quart chicken stock

1 1/2 cups pasta (ditalini or whatever you have in the cabinet today it was bowties)

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened then add the carrots, celery, herbs and garlic and continue to cook for another five minutes or so. Add salt, pepper, the beans, tomato sauce, water and stock. Allow the soup to come to simmer for 15 minutes or so. Bring the soup to a boil and then add the pasta, cook until al dente – timing dependent on the pasta. This soup in my opinion is better the next day after the flavors have a had a chance to mix and it freezes great!

Happy Margarita Day

So I have been informed that today is National Margarita Day..I have also discovered there is an entire website devoted to this holiday featuring a video with a muppet. Does life get any better? This website has officially combined three of my favorite things: margaritas, the muppets and guacamole (because it isn’t a margarita if you don’t have it with some guac). Add some chocolate and you would definitely have an award winning combo.

So of course I decided this special day should be honored, with some recipes. Everyone has a specific way they prefer their margaritas. When it comes to this delicious drink, I am a purist. I prefer the traditional (not flavored) on the rocks with salt. If it isn’t done this way it’s not a margarita in my book. I also don’t like my drinks sweet and they have to be strong! Strangely a shot of tequilla was the first alcohol I ever had – it was and still is a family favorite. While I may not be able to handle shots of tequila the same way I definitely enjoy Margarita Monday or margaritas on any day of the week!

Margarita’s My Way: makes a shaker full – perfect for sharing with friends

Shake together one cup of tequila (the good stuff not the cheap liquor or you are just asking for the hangover),  one cup of lime juice, one quarter cup cointreau (triple sec if you don’t have cointreau).

Use a slice of lime to moisten the rim of your glass before dipping it into salt on a plate.

Guacamole: since you can’t have a margarita without guacamole

I credit this recipe to the Barefoot Contessa one of my favorite go-to’s for basics

4 ripe avocados

1 small red onion (chopped)

1 garlic clove minced

1 plum tomato (seeded and chopped)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

a few dashes of tabasco

Chop the onion and put it into a small bowl with the garlic. Cut the avocados in half and scoop the insides into the bowl. Immediately add the lemon juice, this will help stop the avocados from turning brown. Using a sharp knife slice the avocados in the bowl. Keep running the knife through the avocados until they are the consistency you like. I prefer my guacamole a little chunky. Add the tomatoes, hot sauce, salt and pepper and enjoy!

Happy Margarita day I hereby declare tomorrow National Hangover Day!

Veggie Pasta with Toasted Breadcrumbs

I have been on cooking hiatus for the past few days. Usually when I know I am going to have a busy week I try to cook a bunch of things ahead of time and use my freezer. Due to a debacle with some questionable ground turkey (and a little too much Karaoke on Saturday night) I failed to spend Sunday afternoon making the chili that was supposed to hold me over for the week. So fast forward a few days to this afternoon – I knew I would have enough time to stop at the store on the way home and pick up ingredients and then spend a little time getting reacquainted with my stove. Having lived on the dregs of my fridge for the past few days cobbling together meals from leftovers I wanted something a little heartier tonight and something that would make good leftovers tomorrow.

I took to the web and was intrigued by this pasta toasted breadcrumbs sounded delicious! I made some adjustments for veggie preferences and what was available at the grocery store on the way home and subbed out some of the ingredients for whole grains and was very pleased with the results! The best part about this meal is the whole thing took less than half an hour, after a long week that was a major perk (and yes I realize it’s only Wednesday but one more work day for me this week and then a nice long weekend!)

Veggie Pasta with Toasted Breadcrumbs

Inspired by Big Girls Small Kitchen

Extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

Red pepper flakes

1/2 onion chopped into slivers

1 medium zucchini sliced into discs then quartered

1/3 pound bowtie pasta (I use Barilla Plus its great for those not ready to make the jump to whole wheat but want a little more out of their pasta-its great for those who don’t believe in whole wheat pasta too)

1/2 bag fresh spinach (2-3 handfuls)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 tsp of thyme

sundried tomatoes

grated parmesan cheese

Start a pot of salted water with olive oil for the pasta. Cook according to directions on the box.

In a frying pan on medium-high heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the breadcrumbs and red pepper flakes. My breadcrumbs were already seasoned but if yours aren’t you might want to add some oregano and salt. Coat the breadcrumbs and stir in the pan for about two minutes until crispy.

Transfer the breadcrumbs to a plate in the same pan heat another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes then add the zucchini. After onions are translucent and the zucchini has begin to soften a bit add the garlic and cook until browned then add the spinach. Continue cooking until the spinach becomes soft.

Once pasta is cooked, drain and reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the vegetable mixture coat stir together the pasta, vegetables, thyme and lemon juice. Add enough of the reserved water until the pasta is moist to the proper consistency.

Serve garnished with breadcrumbs, chopped sundried tomatoes and paremsan cheese.

On a completely unfood related note – happy birthday to my awesome Dad!

Waldorf Chicken Salad with a Twist!

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My senior year of college I discovered I LOVE chicken salad. I am not sure what brought about this sudden adoration, maybe I had never even tried chicken salad before but suddenly I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. Then I discovered Waldorf Chicken Salad and I fell in love all over again.

At my first job after college there was a place around the corner from my office with the best Waldorf Chicken Salad ever. I made every excuse to go there: having a bad day guess I need some chicken salad, having a good day well I should treat myself to some chicken salad. I went through this reasoning regularly and my love for this dish was widely known. When I left that job they had an office goodbye party, you better believe there was lots of Waldorf Chicken Salad from my favorite spot. I am not sure which I was more upset about leaving the job that I loved or the regular access to such a great lunch.

Now I work at a job I absolutely love but there is no great chicken salad in the neighborhood so I am forced to make it myself. I have gotten pretty skilled in the art of Waldorf Chicken Salad but today decided to add a new spin – a waste friendly version. I swapped out the mayo for some greek yogurt and was pleasantly surprised. Except for the need to add a little extra salt it was hard to tell the difference. Tonight for dinner I will be indulging in a Chicken Salad Sandwich, tomorrow for lunch I will continue the streak by putting it over some baby spinach for a salad, in my book if it’s Waldorf Chicken Salad you can’t go wrong!

Waldorf Chicken Salad with a Twist:

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken chopped or shredded (I use chicken breast baked in the oven)

2 stalk celery chopped

1 Fuji apple chopped

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt

1/4 cup toasted walnuts

handful of dried cranberries (about 1/4 of a cup)

1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle the lemon juice over the apples immediately after chopping. Combine all the chopped ingredients and add yogurt until the salad is as moist as you desire – you may not need the full half cup or you may want a little more. Everyone likes their chicken salad a certain way I like lots of cranberries and apple so feel free to adjust the amounts to get the right balance!

Turkey Meatballs with Ginger Scallion Dipping Sauce

I love watching football and everything about it including the food. In case yesterday’s post wasn’t clear today I will be very enthusiastically rooting for the Giants! I will also be sporting a new favorite shirt thanks to my book club secret santa – she found the softest Giants t-shirt known to man! I have had to resist the urge to wear it and sleep in it all week long so that it would be clean for today, it wasn’t easy.

In addition to being a football fan I am lactose intolerant (I realize these things usually have nothing to do with one another). Incase you haven’t noticed most foods that go with football watching tend to be smothered in cheese. While Lactaid pills are an amazing invention and they make sampling all of the cheesy concoctions possible I wanted to bring a tummy friendly food to add to our super bowl menu. One of the many reasons I love asian foods is because they are usually dairy free so, to cheer on the Giants I made turkey meatballs with a ginger scallion dipping sauce.

Three of my favorite ingredients: Ginger, scallions and onions

Turkey Meatballs (will make about 12-15 meatballs depending on size):

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey (extra lean)

1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1 egg

1 clove garlic minced

1 tablespoon minced ginger

2 scallions chopped

1 teaspoon sesame oil

salt

Ginger Scallion Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tsp minced ginger

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp red pepper flakes

3 scallions chopped

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

In a large bowl mix together meatball ingredients. Shape together meatballs about 1 inch in diameter. Place meatballs on a lightly greased cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes (or until no longer pink when cut open). Transfer meatballs to a serving dish and serve with toothpicks.

Whisk together ingredients for the dipping sauce.

Enjoy and don’t forget to root for the Giants – Go Big Blue!