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.

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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!