Monday, November 29, 2010

Eggplant Creole

I harvested another eggplant from the garden, so it was time to make eggplant creole.  This is my favorite eggplant dish.  My husband and I both grew up not really eating eggplant.  When we were dating, we went out for a Valentine's Day dinner where eggplant parmigiana was served and we both realized that we liked eggplant.  A few years after we got married and bought a house, I started growing eggplant and we started eating quite a bit of it.  I can honestly say that home-grown eggplant is much better than store bought.  When you eat the eggplant 2 hours after you pick it, there isn't any time for the eggplant to get soft or bitter.  I only had one recipe for eggplant and wanted to expand my meatless menu, so I asked my Grandma for this recipe, since I'd heard her talk about it for years.  I know that it is one of her favorite recipes!  I hope to have some nice eggplants in the garden the next time she visits so that I can make this for her. 
I used green and yellow pepper in the eggplant creole pictured.  I had a yellow pepper that I needed to use.   I like to serve this with fresh fruit and warm bread.

Eggplant Creole
1 medium  eggplant, cut into 1 inch pieces.
4 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
1 can diced tomatoes, do not drain
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
4 - 6 slices cheddar cheese

Cook the eggplant in boiling water for 8 minutes, drain and set aside. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the four. Mix well and add the tomatoes, brown sugar, and salt. Add the diced onion and pepper and cook 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Cut the eggplant into smaller pieces and combine with tomato mixture in a glass baking dish (2qt casserole or 8 x 8). Top with croutons. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, then add cheddar cheese slices to the top and bake 5 minutes more.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Harvest Bread

I went to a wonderful farmers market last weekend and ended up with quite a few sweet potatoes.   The King Arthur Flour website is my favorite place to look online for bread recipes.  I typed sweet potato into the search box and ended up finding a recipe for this...
The original recipe was written for a bread machine.  If you have a bread machine, follow the King Arthur Flour instructions.  The KAF recipe calls for nuts, I only used raisins.
Harvest Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flour Website
One sweet potato or yam baked, peeled and mashed (1/2 cup mashed)
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2/3 cup raisins

1) Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to work the yeast into the dough.
2) Let rise, covered, in a warm place for 1 hour.
3) Place dough in a greased 9-inch loaf pan and let it rise, covered, for another hour
4) Bake at 375 for 25 - 35 minutes.  If the bread starts to get too brown, tent it with foil.
5) Allow bread to cool for 5 minutes before taking it out of the pan.
Makes one large 1 1/2 pound loaf.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Black Bean Burgers

I am not usually a big fan of meat substitutes.  I don't like tofu, I'm not big on Boca Burgers, and I think that most veggie patties taste like salted cardboard.  If I want something with the texture and taste of meat, I eat meat.  When I have a meatless meal, I usually focus on beans, grains, and veggies, not meat substitutes.  I do have a few exceptions to this.  One exception is the veggie burgers at Disney.  They are usually grilled and you can see and taste all of the veggies in them.  The other exception is Morningstar Farms products.  I love their veggie sausage patties (but NOT the "bacon"), meal starters, Asian burgers, and their black bean burgers.  I think that my favorite thing about the black bean burgers is that they aren't trying to be a hamburger.  You can taste the black beans and corn.  My favorite way to eat them is with a little bit of ranch dressing, a pickle slice, lettuce, and tomato.  I've also found that pepper jack cheese and avocado slices are wonderful additions to this burger.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Quick Thanksgiving Dinner Rolls

The Bread Bag is Full of Assorted Rolls
This year Thanksgiving is at my house!  I have a small family, but we seem to have quite a bit of food on the table every year.  I thought about posting some of our traditional Thanksgiving recipes, but everyone has their own traditions.  I've also noticed that most people aren't looking to change their Thanksgiving menu...even if the Food Network claims that traditional food are boring.  So, I decided to write about an easy way to do bread for Thanksgiving.  I am in love with "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day."  I have the book and I follow the blog.  I also read posts that others have done with variations on the recipes.  Most of the recipes make three or four pounds of dough, which is quite a bit.  I decided to start making rolls with the leftover dough and then I freeze the rolls.  I have a nice bag of the master recipe, peasant bread, and pumpernickel rolls.  I hope to add some buttermilk rolls before Thanksgiving since I am making buttermilk bread for our turkey sandwiches.   On Thanksgiving day, I will pull an assortment of rolls out of the freezer and place them in a 425 degree oven for 5 - 7 minutes.  If my family didn't read the blog, they would think I spent all week making bread!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chicken Vegetable Lasagna

This is probably the classiest thing I make.  It is definitely more work than just about every other recipe I have, so I only make it once or twice a year...but it's always worth it.  The picture is of an 8 x 8 pan, but the recipe is for a 9 x 13.  I made a large one for a recipe contest and made a smaller one for us to have at home.  If you don't have the patience for layering, make it with ziti, it still tastes great. 

Chicken Vegetable Lasagna
2 chicken breasts with bone and skin
Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag fresh spinach
½ cup sun dried tomatoes
1 red pepper, julienned
1 yellow pepper, julienned
1 cup shredded carrots
1 pint ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 egg
8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ cup parmesan cheese
2 jars alfredo sauce
1 package no boil lasagna noodles

1) Brush chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast at 350 for 45 minutes.  When chicken has cooled, cut into cubes, set aside. Note: Save the drippings, bones, and skin and use them to make broth.
2) Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large skillet. Heat over medium heat and add garlic.  Saute garlic for about 2 minutes and then add peppers and carrots.  Add spinach and sun dried tomatoes and cook until spinach is wilted.
3) In a large bowl, mix ricotta, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and egg.
4) Grease a 9 x 13 pan with butter or oil.  Pour about ¼ cup alfredo sauce into the bottom and spread evenly.
5) Line the bottom of the pan with lasagna noodles. Top with half of the ricotta, vegetables, and chicken. Add one-third of the remaining alfredo sauce and one-third of the mozzarella and parmesan.  Repeat for second layer. For third layer, top lasagna noodles with remaining alfredo sauce and cheese
6) Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Panini Fresh from the Garden

I had a really nice harvest of eggplant, bell pepper, basil, and kale from the garden last week!

I turned it into a roasted vegetable sandwich with sun dried tomato pesto.
After cutting and salting the eggplant, I  roasted it in olive oil and cooked it over medium heat for about 3 minutes on each side.  I split a sub roll in half and put a ton of pesto (made from the basil above) on each side.  I added the eggplant to the bottom and put large pieces of peppers on top.  I placed sliced tomatoes on the other slice of bread.  I set everything under the broiler for 2 minutes and then I added a few slices of cheese to the tomatoes and broiled for 2 minutes more. 
I used the kale to make a side of kale chips. I'll post those soon!


I am not really a fan of traditional pesto because I find that it is a little bit overpowering and usually has too much olive oil in it.  A few years ago, we were at a party where sun dried tomato pesto was served.  Both my husband and I really enjoyed it, so I decided to learn how to make it. My recipe doesn't use pine nuts.  In my opinion, pine nuts do nothing, but make this recipe expensive.

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1) Combine basil, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor,  Pulse until well blended.
2) Add olive oil and run the food processor until it is well blended.
3) Stir in parmesan cheese.

Friday, November 12, 2010

From Iowa with Love

Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwith with Oven Fries
One side of my family is from Iowa, so there were many trips to the midwest to see relatives when I was growing up.  One of the things I really looked forward to on trips to Iowa was a fried pork tenderloin sandwich.  From the research I did, these sandwiches are really hard to find outside of Iowa, Indiana, parts of Illinois, and Missouri.  There used to be a place in Orlando that sold them, but it is now a Cuban cafe.  Last summer, I took the kids to Iowa to meet some relatives and relax on a farm for a few days.  I had my first tenderloin in close to a decade at the Machine Shed.  It was everything I hoped it would be.  I decided that it was something I could easily make at home and that someday I would try it.  Well, life got really busy and the baby weight from my daughter wasn't coming off very fast (or at all), so I decided to put the tenderloin on hold.  A few weeks ago, there were two episodes of Man vs. Food that showed pork tenderolin sandwiches.  It was time to do some research.  By research, I mean calling my mom since she knows how to make them.  The Indiana version of the recipe uses crushed saltines, but since my mom grew up in Iowa, she just used seasoned flour on them.  She suggested using some panko if I wanted the extra crunch.  Here is the recipe I came up with.  Everyone in my family loved them.  My husband even suggested that I use the leftover tenderloin in the fridge to make more sandwiches.  I decided that we didn't need that kind of meal twice in one week, so I made stir-fry with it instead.  But now that I know just how easy these things are to make, I will defenitely be making them again.

Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup panko 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 2-inch slice of pork tenderloin for each person
oil for frying
sandwich buns
toppings: lettuce, tomato, pickle, ketchup, etc.

1) Place the pieces of pork between two sheets of plastic wrap, and pound until very thin.  This won't take long at all and they get can be as large as an 8-inch skillet if you use too much meat.
2) Use 3 plates for dipping the pork.  One for the flour, one for the egg, and one for the panko, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and white pepper.
3) Preheat oil in a large, cast-iron skillet.  Use about 1/2 inch of oil.
4) Dip the pork in the flour, egg, and then coat well with the panko mixture.
5) Fry for about 4 minutes on each side, or until brown.
6) Top bun and toppings of your choice.  My mom and I only use ketchup and pickles.

Mushroom Fries

I keep seeing recipes for portabello mushroom fries in magazines.  I love fried mushrooms, so I decided to give "mushroom fries" a try.  I found a great recipe on the Food Network website. I served them as an appetizer/late afternoon snack.  My son and my husband both loved them.  We served them with ranch dressing to help cut some of the heat from the crushed red pepper.  I don't know if these will replace french fries, but they are a really easy way to make fried mushrooms from scratch.  I didn't use my deep fryer for this.  I was already planning on pan frying something for our dinner, so I used my cast iron skillet and turned the mushrooms over after 4 minutes. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pad Thai

I didn't know I liked Thai food until I was 23 years old.  We are blessed to live in an area with an abundance of really good Thai restaurants.  My husband also loves Thai food and he encouraged me to try something other than volcano chicken, which isn't Thai at all.  It is sort of like orange chicken with some Thai chili sauce on top of it.  I've tried a few different curries, several soups, and some noodle dishes.  My favorite so far has been Pad Thai.  Yes, I know it isn't really authentic, but I still love it.  At some point, I realized that my 4 year old also like it, as long as you called it "spicy peanut butter pasta."  I looked online for a while to try and find a recipe that looked good and didn't require too many strange ingredients.  I finally gave up and just asked my friend Teresa, who is an excellent cook.  She gave me a great recipe.  Her recipe didn't call for peanut butter, but I went ahead and added it because I like it.  If you don't use peanut butter, add two extra tablespoons of brown sugar.  I am posting a double recipe of the sauce because I like my Pad Thai with a lot of sauce.  I made the sauce earlier in the day to save time while I was cooking.  I made mine meatless.  You can add chicken, shrimp, pork, or tofu to this if you want.  I didn't use tofu because I don't like it!

Pad Thai
8 oz. Thai rice noodles (or enough for 2 people), linguine-width, available at Asian/Chinese stores
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups fresh bean sprouts
3 spring (green) onions, sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup crushed or roughly chopped peanuts (or other nuts, such as cashews)
1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind paste dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water (look for tamarind at Asian/Chinese or Indian food stores)
4 or 5 tablespoons fish sauce
2 - 4 tablespoons chili sauce, or substitute 1/2 teaspoons. or more dried crushed chili or cayenne, to taste
4 tablespoons. brown sugar
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
 oil for stir-frying
wedges of lime for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of pot to a boil and remove from heat. Dunk in your rice noodles. Allow noodles to soak while you prepare the other ingredients. Note that you will be frying the noodles later, so you don't want to over-soften them now. Noodles are ready to be drained when they are soft enough to be eaten, but are still firm and a little "crunchy". Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  2. Make the Pad Thai Sauce by combining the sauce ingredients together in a cup. Stir well to dissolve the tamarind paste and brown sugar. Set aside. Note: this may seem like a lot of sugar, but you need it to balance out the sourness of the tamarind - this balance is what makes Pad Thai taste so amazing!
  3. Warm up a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 Tbsp. oil plus garlic. Stir-fry until fragrant (30 seconds).
  4. Add the noodles, and pour the Pad Thai sauce over. Using two spatulas, wooden spoons, or other utensils, immediately stir-fry the noodles. Use a gentle "lift and turn" method (like tossing a salad) to prevent noodles from breaking.
  5. Stir-fry in this way 1-2 minutes. If you find your wok/frying pan too dry, push noodles aside and add a little more oil to the bottom.Add the bean sprouts. Continue "tossing" 1 more minute, or until noodles are cooked. Noodles are done to perfection when they are no longer "hard" or crunchy, but chewy-sticky wonderful!
  6. Taste-test for seasoning, adding more fish sauce until desired flavor is reached. Toss well to incorporate.
  7. Lift noodles onto a serving plate. Top with generous amounts of fresh cilantro, spring onion, and crushed/chopped nuts. Add fresh lime wedges.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Football Food

My husband and I love watching college football on Saturdays.  When the Gators have a late game, we usually wait until the kids are in bed to start watching (I love my DVR) and eat junk food.  We try to eat dinner as a family, but I noticed that I was eating a big dinner at 6:00 and then eating a ton of junk food with the hubby at 8:30.  Not very good when you are trying to lose a few pounds! We decided to make dinner for the kids and sit with them at 6:00 and then wait and have our dinner after they went to bed on Saturdays.  Burgers are one of our favorite football foods, so they end up on the menu during football games quite a bit.  I bought some frozen turkey burgers and added a few fun toppings to them and we had a wonderful meal.  I usually don't like turkey burgers, but the Jennie-O frozen patties are pretty good if you add some Big Kevin's Bayou Blend seasoning on them.  I could do an entire post on Big Kevin's seasoning.  It makes everything better.  I added some bacon, pepper jack cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato pickle, and ranch dressing on top of the burgers.  If you don't like turkey burgers, these toppings would be great on a regular burger, chicken burger, or meatless patty...just make sure you leave off the bacon if you are going meatless.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Trip To The Garden With The Kids

Today my son had a ton of extra energy after lunch and asked me if he could go outside.  I grabbed my daughter and shoes for everyone and we headed outside to play with my son's frisbee.  Somehow, we all ended up in the garden instead.  My son counted plants and walked around to see which plants were producing goodies for us.  He was excited about all of the different colors and sizes of peppers.  We found quite a few tomatoes of different sizes and shapes.  We also found a nice, big black beauty eggplant.  My son was thrilled and he told me that he "loved eggplant."  He will eat eggplant parm, but he's never been too excited about eggplant creole or roasted vegetable paninis.  The eggplant will be ready to harvest in a few days, so I guess I'll soon know if he loves eggplant or not. 
As I was walking through the garden, I started to get really excited.  I have a ton of kale right now, quite a few tomatoes, and peppers coming out of my ears.  I've been eating the peppers as snacks lately, but other than that, I've been in a transitional phase of gardening, where there just isn't a lot to harvest.  Soon, I'll be able to go out to the garden, pick something, bring it inside, and cook it.  I can't wait to do it!  It is one of my favorite things about gardening.  This year I'll get to blog about it.  Bring on the kale chips!