Eggplant Parmesan

DSC_6353 copyOur weekly meal plans usually include at least one night of chicken, either a beef or a pork dish for the week that generally gives us a night of leftovers, and an egg night.  So with at least three nights of meat, I try to round out our meals with some vegetarian dishes as well.  I found this highly reviewed recipe on All Recipes.  I’ve only cooked with eggplant once before so I was ready to give it another go! 
Though easy, this was a little time consuming because of the baking of the eggplant.  I had to do it in two batches to make sure they cooked up crispy in a single layer. If you have a large oven you could do both batches at once. 

I followed several users advice and sweat(ed?) out the eggplant before dipping and baking.  This eliminates the bitter taste eggplant can have.  To sweat, just toss the slices into a colander, a handful at a time, then salt liberally tossing to coat.  Let it sit for about 30 minutes, rinse well, and pat dry – I laid mine all out on a clean dish towel and pulled them off one at a time to dip in egg.

Ingredients
  • 3 eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 6 cups spaghetti sauce, divided
  • 1 (16 ounce) package mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  1. Dip eggplant slices in egg, then in breadcrumbs. Place in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, turn each slice with tongs and bake for another 10 minutes.
  2. In a 9×13 inch baking dish spread spaghetti sauce to cover the bottom. Place the first layer of eggplant slices in the sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.
  3. Dip and dunk your second batch of eggplant, get them in the oven for 10 minutes, turn, and bake for another 10 minutes. 
  4. Repeat step two, making sure to end the layers with another layer of cheese.  Sprinkle basil on top. 
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.
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Artichoke Sesame Dipping Sauce

 

DSC_4434 copyOne of my spawn requested artichokes as a snack and since I love my little demons, I was quick to agree.  Plus?  They’re a vegetable full of anti-oxidants, ranking as the number one vegetable in the anti-oxidant count.  This thorny leaved vegetable has also been reputed to help in the cure of liver disease.  Let’s not forget fiber; one medium artichoke has more fiber than a cup of prunes, and llet’sface it an artichoke is a lot more fun to eat than a cup of prunes!  I wasn’t sure what to serve with these beauties and tested this recipe I found at Epicurious and was instantly hooked.

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Mix well and enjoy

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Not sure how to prepare an artichoke?  I read how at Simply Recipes:

1.  Cut the stem off the bottom end, leaving up to an inch attached to the artichoke.  Then cut off about 3/4 inch off the tip.  Using kitchen shears trim off the thorny ends of each leaf.

2.  Put a couple inches of water in a large pot with a slice or two of lemon, a bay leaf and a clove of garlic.  Insert a steaming basket and add the artichokes to the basket.

3.  Cover, bring to a boil then reduce to simmer.

4.  Depending on the size of your artichoke, cook between 20-45 minutes or until the outer leaves can be pulled off easily.

I’ve only eaten whole artichokes one other time and I couldn’t’ remember just how to eat one so the fact that the cooking instructions also came with eating instructions was immensely helpful!

1.  Pull off one leaf at a time and dip the white fleshy end into your sauce.  Gripping the other end of the leaf, pull through your teeth to remove the soft pulpy portion.  Discard the remaining leaf and continue until all the leaves have been eaten.

2.  Once you’ve reached the heart of your artichoke, you’ll see a “pod” of fur.  Using a knife cut all the way around the furry part, much like you’d cut a grapefruit.  Then, using a spoon scoop the furry section out.  Cut the remaining soft stem part into pieces, dip and enjoy.

Vegetable Soup with Cheese Tortellini

 

DSC_3174 copyRecipe found at For the Love of Cooking.  I didn’t change much of anything on this recipe.  Simple, filling, colorful and just plain good (even the kids commended this one!) this was very fast to whip up and have on the table in just about an hour.

  • 1/2 cup sweet yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 cups of vegetable or chicken broth (I used reduced sodium chicken broth)
  • 1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (I used the no salt added variety)
  • a handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped (1-2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 small zucchini, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small yellow squash, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 13 oz frozen cheese tortellini
  • 3 cups sliced fresh spinach (about 3 ounces)
  • Asiago cheese, shredded
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Place the olive oil in a large pot oven over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery then cook 4-5 minutes or until softened. Add the seasonings and garlic then stir constantly for 60 seconds before adding the tomatoes and broth. Cover and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium-high, then add the tortellini, zucchini, and squash. Cook for 10 minutes or until the tortellini is cooked through. Stir in spinach and simmer, uncovered until spinach is wilted and all vegetables are tender, about 1 minute longer. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Asiago cheese.

Note: If not serving immediately, add the spinach just before serving to retain the bright color and prevent overcooking.

Garden Frittata

 

DSC_2321 copyFound at Eat at Home, this was super easy, and is really very tasty egg-y goodness!

  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • a palm full of fresh herbs, chopped – I used basil & rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Melt the butter in an oven-safe skillet.  Sauté the onions and peppers until tender crisp.

Whisk the eggs, milk, herbs and salt and pepper together.  Pour over the veggies in the skillet.  Let cook over medium heat, without stirring until the middle is set, about 15 minutes.

Thai Black Rice Salad

DSC_8439 copyI love all the variety Kevin offers at Closet Cooking and this Thai salad is no exception!  Trying foods I never previously knew existed (who knew there were so many kinds of rice??) is exciting and fun and gives the kids something to complain about.  Honestly, both girls ate and somewhat enjoyed this but Jet, who’s five, was displeased with the dish the minute it was put in front of him.  I had to coax him to eat the entire meal…but he did eat it and though he won’t admit it, I think he did like it.  Sort of.

I thought it was a nice mix of chewy texture from the rice, a salty twist with the cashews (YUM!) and offered a sweet finish from the mango.  I think I’ll make this again in the summer … I’ll be adding more mint next time since I couldn’t taste it at all and I was most excited about that tiny green ingredient!

Ingredients:
1 cup Thai black rice
1 red pepper, diced
3 mangos, peeled, stoned and diced
3 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup mint, chopped
1/2 cup cashews

Dressing:
1 lime (juice and zest)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions:
1. Cook the rice (2 cups water for 1 cup of rice – combine in a saucepan, bring to boil, cover, simmer 45-50 minutes)
2. Mix the black rice, red pepper, mango, green onions, cilantro & mint in a large bowl.
3. Mix the fish sauce, lime juice and zest, palm sugar and birds eye chili in a small bowl.
4. Toss the salad in the dressing.  Serve with cashews sprinkled over top.

Mushroom & Spinach Stuffed Shells

DSC_8393 copyThis is one of the first pictures I’ve taken all winter that didn’t require my flash.  It’s not a favorite but when I realized at 5:00 PM, when this dish was about to be put in the oven, that it was still light outside I just had to try and get a quick one in!  Found at Elly Says Opa! , this was a filling dish without feeling too heavy.  The kids gobbled it, The Man went for seconds & I called the leftovers for my lunch the next day!

Ingredients:
6 oz. large pasta shells (about 20-22 shells)
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 oz. mushrooms, finely chopped
half a medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1-2 Tablespoon fresh basil, minced
6 oz. bag of spinach, cooked
1 egg, lightly beaten
15 oz. container ricotta cheese
2/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese,
2 cups pasta sauce, jarred or homemade (thank you Prego)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the shells according to package.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium.  Add the mushrooms and cook until they have released most of their juices. Stir in the onions, garlic, and salt and pepper.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the moisture from the mushrooms has been evaporated and the onions are tender. Scoop into a large bowl. After it’s cooled slightly, add the thyme, oregano, basil, spinach, egg, ricotta and 1/3 cup of the parmesan. Mix to combine all the ingredients well.

Pour about 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce into the bottom of a large baking dish.  Stuff each shell with 1-2 Tbsp. of the stuffing and place in the baking dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the shells and sprinkle the mozzarella and remaining parmesan cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 5-10 more until the cheese starts to brown.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

DSC_6910 copy
We had company coming and I wanted something really good, really homemade, really simple and something I hadn’t made before.  I saw this recipe weeks ago but hadn’t dared my first attempt at lasagna.  You read right, until now, I’d never made lasagna before!  I figured our friends could be my guinea pigs.  I was so impressed with the way it turned out!  The colors of all the veggies were amazing and the smells coming from the oven were heavenly!
Now that my garden is shriveled up for winter, all our herbs have stopped producing.  I’ve become such an herb snob I felt I was “settling” for dried oregano in this recipe, but felt lucky that I could still find fresh basil in the store.
Don’t let the lengthy directions scare you away – it’s really all very simple, I promise!
I know I use For the Love of Cooking as a huge source of the recipes on my blog but she is such a great inspiration and the stuff I’ve tried and used here is always such a hit with my family!

Vegetable Ingredients (more below)

  • 8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 orange, red or yellow baby bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 head broccoli florets, chopped (smallish)
  • 1 small handful of shredded carrots
  • 6 cloves of garlic, leave the skins on for roasting
  • 1 green zucchini, chopped
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh basil – I used a lot, probably about 12 leaves worth
  • Dried oregano – I couldn’t find fresh so I settled for dried, it was fine

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

  1. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.
  2. Layer all but the zucchini and yellow squash on the sheet. Drizzle a bit of olive oil, season with sea salt, black pepper, basil and oregano to taste and toss to coat.
  3. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, add the zucchini and yellow squash to the pan, toss and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Once the garlic cloves cool down, carefully peel the skin off and slice. Add sliced garlic back in with the rest of the veggies.

Ricotta mixture:

  • 1 16 oz. container of fat free ricotta cheese
  • 3-4 tablespoon mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 3-4 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Oregano, to taste
  • Basil, to taste
  • Dash of nutmeg

Other ingredients:

  • Lasagna noodles (cooked according to directions – I’ve never had any luck with the no cook variety!)
  • Your favorite jar of marinara sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Basil

Directions

Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees

  1. Combine the ricotta mixture ingredients and mix thoroughly. Taste and re-season if needed.
  2. Coat a large glass baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Pour a bit of marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish.
  3. Place a few lasagna noodles down to completely cover the bottom of pan. Add half of the ricotta mixture and spread evenly over the noodles. Next add half of the roasted veggie mixture. Cover the veggies with lasagna noodles then sauce. Repeat.
  4. Sprinkle the top with mozzarella, parmesan and dried basil. Bake covered for 30 minutes; remove the cover and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

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Mini Tomato Basil & Feta Pizzas

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Adapted from:  For the Love of Cooking, you could also prepare a regular size crust pizza following the same directions for a crust here.
Ingredients

  • favorite jar of pizza sauce
  • English muffins
  • 1cup-ish of mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup-ish of feta cheese crumbles
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 6-7 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • Sea salt

Directions

  1. Place sliced English muffins face side up on broiler pan and broil at 350 for approximately 3 minutes (depending on your oven) until golden brown.
  2. Remove from oven and sprinkle mozzarella cheese, feta cheese, garlic (careful not to leave clumps) & basil evenly across the muffins.
  3. Bake in the 350-degree oven until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven.
  4. Top with sliced tomatoes and sprinkle lightly with sea salt and pepper.

Vegetarian Chili

DSC_6622 copyAdapted from Bread & Honey
This is without a doubt the best chili I’ve ever had.  It’s just the right consistency, the flavors are perfect together and I’m definitely adding this to a regular dish at our house!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced (save a few slices for topping)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large can (28 ounces) crushed or diced tomatoes (I prefer crushed)
  • 2 15 oz. cans of beans, drained – black, garbanzos, kidney, and/or pinto (I used kidney and pinto)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (kids don’t do spicy, but I wanted a little kick)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 cups vegetable stock depending on how thick you like it (I used 2 cups)

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium-high in a large pot or saucepan.
  2. Add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and beans. Bring to a boil and add chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper, and stock. Stir well.
  4. Turn heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  5. Serve topped with your favorite chili toppings. I used onions, grated cheese & sour cream.