Monday, September 26, 2011

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Parmesan


I have been talking about doing Meatless Mondays (or any other day for that matter) for a while. I have finally been able to make a meatless meal! This came with a few trials and a few things I would tweak the next go round, but all in all this was a good family meal that my son even seemed to enjoy. (The recipe reflects the tweaks.)

This was a special dish because I made everything but the cheese from scratch, my original intention was to use store bought. I had all these ‘butts’ of bread and a lot of basil and tomatoes so I went all out. The last time I made an Eggplant Parmesan, I pan fried the eggplant this time I was trying to get the crunch but with a little less fat, so I baked it.  I also used three different types of eggplant, the graffiti are my favorite, I think they tend to be less seedy and less bitter.  They just seem to have a really great flavor.

For the eggplant:

5-6 smaller eggplants
1-2 tablespoons salt
1-2 cups flour
3 eggs
About 4 cups Homemade breadcrumbs (recipe follows)

Peel and slice the eggplant, sprinkle with the salt and place in a colander or cooling racks and let drain, for about 30-40 minutes. Wipe any excess salt. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and place two baking sheets in the oven. Mean while start the dredging process.  Dip the eggplant in the flour then egg then breadcrumbs, set aside.  Once you have a baking sheet worth, place on the preheated sheets and back for about 20 minutes, flipping once.  Continue until all eggplant is cooked.

For the breadcrumbs:

10-12 slices old bread (not moldy)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp fresh herbs; I used basil, parsley and marjoram
1/2 - 1 cup panko bread crumb

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until you have fine crumbs.  Toss with the panko.  Super Simple.

For the sauce:

This is a simple marinara type sauce.

5-6 heirloom tomatoes, fairly large.
1 large bunch of basil
2-4 cloves of garlic
1 medium shallot

Cube up the tomatoes and place in a large sauce pan.  Cook on a medium heat until the tomatoes break down. Remove from heat to cook.  While the tomatoes cool, brown the shallot and garlic.  Add to the tomatoes.  Pour the tomato mixture in to a food processor and pulse a few times, add the basil and pulse until everything is incorporated.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Cheese Blend:

2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 cups grated parmesan


Layer the eggplant, sauce then cheese blend.  Repeat.  Sprinkle a little extra cheese on top.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 40-45 minutes.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

My husband has not been feeling very well lately (he even missed the Ravens football game today), so when thinking about what to have for dinner my mind instantly went to soup. I didn't want to do just plain chicken noodle so I did a twist on Mexican and the classic soup and sandwich combo.

There are a few things that I would add next time, like roasted pablano peppers and black beans. I did add the black beans when I reheated it for lunch, my husband doesn't care for beans. I also would have added more heat but because my son was eating it I left it more mild.

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Cheese Quesadillas

For the Soup:

3 cups shredded chicken
4 cups chicken broth
1 19oz can enchilada sauce
1 10oz can roasted diced tomatoes
1 4oz can green chilies
3 ears of corn, kernels cut off or you can use frozen or canned
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream, lime and cilantro for garnish
Tortilla Chips

Add all ingredients into a slow cooker, stir and cook on high for about two hours or on low for four. Serve with a lime wedge, dollop of sour cream and crushed tortilla chips.

For One Quesadillas:

1 flour tortilla
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/8 cup black beans (optional)

Add the cheese and beans to one side of the tortilla, fold the tortilla over and using a press bake or grill until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is slightly crispy.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Why I am walking in the CCFA Take Steps Walk…

As some of you know I have had some issues and have been working with my doctor to resolve them (this may be a little TMI for some people so if you don’t want to know this part of me I suggest you stop reading now.) I while ago I posted a blog about My Struggle with Food, where I touched on some of my issues. But first let me say a little about the walk itself.

The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) raise awareness and funds to help with the fight against Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) which include Crohn’s Disease and Colitis. Now there are over 500,000 people that suffer with IBD, roughly half with Crohn’s and half with a form of Colitis. What I have read it is rare for these diseases to cause colon cancer, but the more severe forms may make you more susceptible. These diseases affect people’s everyday life making it difficult to do everyday things. I suggest checking out their website for more information. I am new to this and am still learning.

On to my personal reason…I have been diagnosed with colitis, I was just tested for Crohn’s the other day and have not heard the results from that yet. (My next appointment is in November.) I have had internal issues for as long as I can remember but it didn’t get really bad until my third trimester with my son. My first doctor made me feel like he didn’t care and that everything was normal. Well I didn’t get better after I had my son, I would go a month or two with no symptoms then I would have really bad flare ups. So I decided to get another option. I ended up going to Johns Hopkins Gastroenterology (GI) Division, and have been super pleased. I really like my doctor, he really takes the time to listen and explain things. Since I have been going there I have had a lot of blood work done to test all sorts of things (some numbers came back low but now low enough to be too concerned) and have had a colonoscopy. The original prognosis was that I had proctitis which is a form of colitis that only affects the lower part of your colon (rectum) but the colonoscopy showed inflammation much higher. I was actually showing inflammation around my appendix, which is why, just to be safe and hopefully rule out, they are testing for Crohn’s. I am currently taking four types of medication, to hopefully make me go into remission, once I am symptom free we will work on maintaining that. But it will come and go forever, and the worse thing is that it is hereditary which means there is a pretty large chance my son is going to end up going through everything I am and possibly worse.

I have walked in many charity walks but I usually have only known or known of people that were affected by which ever charity. Be it for cancer, autism, MS or even premature babies. This time I am the one affected, so this is really different for me. So if you read this and can help with the cause, even if it is just one dollar ($1.00), I would personally really appreciate it.

You can go to my personal page by clicking the link

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


This is all about blueberries, and you can tell how behind I am since they really aren't in season anymore...but they were!

In my area of Southern Pennsylvania blueberries were just going out of season but were in full swing in Northern Pennsylvania when we took a long weekend trip to visit my father-in-law. After a morning of feeding the animals at Animal land, my father-in-law, husband and I took our son blueberry picking. The view from the orchard was just beautiful. I wasn't sure how well a toddler (or my husband) would do with picking blueberries for a couple hours but for the most part they did really well. (Until shortly before we left when there was a little too tired melt down.)

Blueberry Orchard

My son probably ate or threw more than what he actually put in the bucket but I sort of expected that. My husband seemed to be enjoying himself, or at least he acted like he was. He even disappeared for a little while, probably to sneak a smoke, but came back with handfuls. I think at the end of the day we ended up with more than 5 pints of blueberries, so we split them with my father-in-law and started thinking of what to make.

Once I got back home, I rinsed and froze all the berries (which are great to munch on frozen). I then decided on making Streusel Topped Blueberry Muffins. As I was making these I was thinking of how good they will be and how I wanted to share the recipe with my father-in-law, well the only problem was he isn’t able to eat processed sugars. So below the original recipe, which is adapted from A Farm Girls Dabbles  recipe for Grandma Renelt's Blueberry Muffins with Crumble Topping, I have posted a couple links for sugar-free blueberry muffins.  It was my intention to make a batch of sugar-free (and still plan on it) I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

**These muffins are best eaten warm and within a day or two.

for the muffins:

1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 cup fresh blueberries (or frozen do not thaw)

for the crumble topping:

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 T. butter, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 400°. Line muffin tin.
Mix egg, milk, and oil in small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir. Do not over mix. Fold in blueberries. Spoon into muffin tin and let rest a few minutes while you prepare the crumble topping.

In a small bowl, blend all topping ingredients until crumbly. You want some pea-size pieces of crumble. Sprinkle over muffin batter.

Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.

Yield: 12 muffins

Sugar-Free Muffins:

- Sugar Free Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins
- Sugar-Free Blueberry Muffins
- Primal Coconut Blueberry Muffins


Pesto made with Walnuts

What to do with all that fresh basil in your garden? Make pesto!

For our anniversary my mom bought me, well us, a food processor. Even though our anniversary isn't for a couple more weeks (and my mom gave it to us a month ago) I pulled it out and decided to give it a whirl. I'm in love! It is super quiet and easy.

My son was being fussy and really wanted to go outside (it has been raining most of the day) so I took him out and we picked a bunch of basil. It wasn't easy getting him back inside buy once I did he helped me make the pesto.

Pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts but today we made it with walnuts because that is what we had. I chopped the garlic and measured out the cheese and my son got to pour it in the processor and the best part...push the buttons!

I think because I used walnuts and it took a little longer (because of my help) our pesto turned a little dark but the flavor was and is still there. It actually looked a little like olive tapenade. Oh well.

Here is the simple recipe:

Walnut Pesto

4 cups basil, packed
1 1/4 cup walnuts
2-3 medium/large garlic cloves
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, pulse the basil leaves until coarsely chopped. Add the walnuts, garlic and cheese, pulse until blended. While processor is running, stream in the oil.

Use or freeze. I used baby food freezer trays that are just over 1/4 cup to divide and freeze my pesto. This way I can use just what I need and save the rest for later.

You can do all sorts of things with pesto, here are just a few:

-toss with your favorite pasta
-mix in with your ground beef or turkey and make a pesto burger
-mix with mayonnaise and use as a spread on your sandwich
-mix with butter and spread on corn
-toss with green beans
-brush over a grilled steak

Enjoy! (don't be scared of the color, it still tastes great!)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Homemade Oreos

I found a recipe for homemade Oreos online a few weeks ago and have been wanting to make them ever since, so today I made my own Oreos. They were super simple to make and they really don't take any longer to make then any other drop cookie. Granted they aren't really any cheaper if you make them at home but they sure do taste a lot better!  Next time I make these I plan on making the cookie smaller. If you make them as the recipe says, the cookies bake to be about a two inch cookie which when sandwiched make a pretty large cookie. The only good thing about that is that one is enough.  

On a side note, a favorite ice cream in our house is Turkey Hill's Double Dunker and the cookie dough is just like the cookie swirl, so keep an eye out for when I attempt to make our own homemade 'Double Dunker' ice cream.

Homemade Oreos
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg
For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375°F.

In the bowl a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While the mixer is running, on low-speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together.

Roll just under a teaspoon of dough unto a ball and place two inches apart on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using the bottom of measuring cup, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the filling, beat together the butter and shortening in a medium bowl. Then, starting at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with large round tip or a ziploc bag with the corner cut.

To assemble the cookies, start by matching the cookies up by size (doing this before you start filling makes the process go much smoother), placing one cookie bottom side up on top of its match. Cover one cookie with the icing and place the matching cookie on top and gently press into a sandwich.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dark Chocolate Brownies (let's try this again)

I'm always looking for ways to tell myself that something is healthy so I don't feel bad eating it. I know it isn't really heathy but hey whatever I can tell myself. So here is my most recent, Dark Chocolate Brownies...secret ingredient: zucchini. Yes zucchini, it makes the brownies extra moist, and your sneaking in a veggie! So both dark chocolate is good and so is the zucchini, in turn we have "healthy" brownies.

This is also a great way to use up zucchini, because I don't know about you but between grilled, fried, baked and turned into bread; sometimes I want something a little different. This is the perfect way to do it.

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Brownies
(This recipe is adapted from Food + Words blog, Chocolate Chip Zucchini Brownies.)

2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or smooth applesauce)
1 cup flour
1/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or another type of chocolate chip or none)
2 cups finely shredded zucchini, squeezed/drained of any excess liquid

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8" x 8" baking dish with parchment paper and cooking spray.

Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, sugar and oil (or applesauce) until just combined.

Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Mix well. The batter will be thick. Fold in the shredded zucchini, make sure to mix well so you don't have any clumps. (Unless you tell them, people won't know there is zucchini in them.) Fold in the chocolate chips and pour the batter unto the prepared pan.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


This is a test...

So I have been behind on my blogging and have many written they just need some tweaks or pictures. But I am not good about getting on the computer to do it, I'm sure it has to do with working on a computer therefore not wanting to sit at one when I get home. (not to mention our wireless card or whatever it is doesn't work in our computer so I am unable to sit on the couch and surf the web anymore.) I have used my phone to post drafts but not to actually publish. So here is my test to see how well it works and if the pictures come through also. We will see!