Stuffed Eggplant

I love it when Eggplant is in season and on sale at the grocery store I frequent. Last week it was a ridiculously cheap 49 cents a pound, and since Eggplants are almost all water, they weigh nothing, and they are just so damn beautiful, its hard to resist.
Standing there in the middle of the produce section, my mind was a flutter with all of the millions of ways I could use these beauties, but I didnt go crazy and buy their entire stock because I figured Michael wouldnt appreciate eating an Eggplant related dish every night for the next month.

My first instinct was to make Eggplant Parmesan, but then I considered my waistline, and decided to stuff the suckers full of protein and veggies. Of course, I still had to have the melted, bubbly cheese too, which honestly, might be the only thing I really love about Eggplant Parmesan in the first place.

Now, when it come to gutting an Eggplant its a bit of a pain in the ass because raw, they are pretty tough, and almost spongy. Ive found that its easiest if you take the tip of a knife and trace 1/2 inch in from the skin, and 1/2 inch down into the Eggplant before you attempt to scoop the insides out with a spoon. It doesnt really matter how well you keep the guts in tact because you will just be giving them a nice chop, and cooking them down, anyway. Here is my end result.

Looking at that picture, I think I might have added some Zucchini, and possibly some orange Bell Pepper, which I didnt include in the recipe.
As always, feel free to adapt this recipe with whatever veggies you prefer. Also, if you want a little more substance to this dish you could add some rice to the stuffing mixture.

enjoy!

Fall, and the perfect Roast

People say that whichever season your Birthday falls in is naturally going to be your favorite Season. While my Birthday does come in the Fall, there are a plethora of other reasons I live for September 21st-November 21st.
I love how the air starts to become crisp, and easier to breathe. I adore the colors that appear as the trees shed their leaves to prepare for Winter. I could live in warm cozy sweatshirts, and soft cuddly blankets. Most of all, I love Fall because it gives me an excuse to cook homey, comfort foods, like this Roast.

While many of us love the idea of a perfectly seasoned, juicy, fall apart piece of meat, getting to that end result can sometimes prove to be a daunting task. Well, not anymore.

The most important components of this process are utilizing a dry rub, searing the meat before you transfer it to the oven, and cooking it on a low heat, for a long time. I have found a ton of recipes where a Crock Pot is used as opposed to a Dutch/French Oven. While a Crock Pot is convenient because you can walk away and come back to a finished result, I prefer a French Oven because its the only way to achieve that amazing crust on the meat. If you dont have a French Oven, which I dont, you can use an oven safe pot, or in a pinch, even a 9×13 pan.

When it comes to the veggies you use, dont hesitate to get creative. Sweet Potatoes, squash, turnips, mushrooms, stewed tomatoes, etc. I usually add celery as well, but because it cooks so quickly you shouldnt add it until the last 30 minutes of cook time, otherwise you risk it turning into mush. Keep in mind as well that the more veggies you use, the more flavorful the meat, and the gravy will be.


Im trying something new, and instead of typing out each and every recipe, Im going to put my fancy printer/scanner/copier to good use, and scan in the recipe I write out and follow. It might take me a little while to get the layout right, so bear with me!


enjoy!!

Bbq Chicken and Tatoes, Oh My.

I know, Im a horrible leader. I havent written for days, and while my excuses are fairly reasonable, they are still excuses.
During our latest attempt at camping this weekend, I got food poisoning of some kind. Im pretty sure after not eating pork or beef for the last month, I actually poisoned myself with brats, hot dogs, hamburgers, and beer. Needless to say a full 48 hours went by where I did not even think about food, and when I finally did get my appetite back, I was HUNGRY.

Michael had been obsessing over grilled chicken for the last couple of days, so being the lovely wife and southern girl that I am, I took the challenge head on. I sort of cheated though and used Jack Daniels Honey Smokehouse barbeque sauce, but not without adding my own special little touch to the chicken, of course.
I made a dry rub with some cajun seasoning, cumin, ground ginger, white pepper, and onion powder, and let that on the chicken for about half an hour before I grilled it, and smothered it with sauce. The dry rub technique I stole from my dad. The spices hold the juices in the chicken, and make for a super moist piece of meat. I usually let the meat cook for 2 or 3 minutes on each side, and then start smothering on the sauce.
Once I had the chicken figured out, I ineviatbly needed a side dish, and in the fridge I discovered a couple bunches of broccoli that were close to the point of no return. I quickly decided that I wanted a broccoli cheese baked potato. Yum!
While I made an amazing homemade cheese sauce that started with a roux, and ended with some sharp cheddar cheese, I steamed the broccoli and baked the potatoes (in the microwave, I was such a cheater!!)
The whole process was simple, super quick, and tell me that doesnt look like it would hit the spot?!

Cheddar Cheese Sauce
2 TBS butter
2 TBS flour
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
pinch of cayenne

Method
– melt the butter in a pan, on low heat, wait for the butter to bubble
– add the flour and turn the heat up to medium low heat, let flour cook for 1 or 2 minutes
– gradually add the milk about 1/4 c. at a time, and stir furiously to avoid lumps
– turn heat back down to low and let sauce thicken 2 or 3 minutes
– take sauce off heat, and add cayenne, and cheese, mix until chese is melted
– serve immediately

side note: Once you have made this sauce once or twice you will have a better idea of how to adjust the milk/cheese measurements.
If you want a thinner sauce add more milk, if you want a thicker sauce, add more cheese.

I heart cupcakes

I absolutely love to bake, its my kind of chemistry. Once you learn the basics, the “rules” if you will, you can add your own personal touch to anything you bake. The possibilities become absolutely endless.
I didnt grow up baking, as my mom is a chef at heart, and doesnt enjoy baking because of all the things that can go wrong. When it comes to salads, pastas, and marinades it takes a few wrong turns in order to make something uneatable. Baking on the other hand is far more touchy. Something as small swapping baking soda for baking powder can render a cake worthless.

Long story short, I am a cautious baker. I dont go too crazy when it comes to modifying another person’s recipe because I am still learning the do’s and dont’s of the delicate baking system. A few days ago I was feeling adventurous though and decided to make a cake batter by scratch. I chose carrot cake because its one of my favorites. I love the idea of taking a veggie, and disguising it as a dessert. I also love the combination of the sweet, softness of raisins, and the unexpected crunch of a walnut nestled in the subtle spiciness of the cake. Then there’s the cream cheese frosting, and lets not lie, that might be the best part. But honestly, everything about a carrot cake just pleases my taste buds. So in order to not completely screw up my dream of a carrot cake, I read about 50 recipes, got a really good idea of the ratio of wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and settled on carrot cake cupcakes with some-sort-of-spice cream cheese frosting.

After mixing the batter with the ingredients I chose, it still looked a bit dry, and instead of adding more oil, I decided to throw in a little bit of orange juice. Which turned out to be a wonderful idea. The cake was fluffy, and flavorful yet it still had just the right amount of denseness. SUCCESS!!!! I cant even explain the accomplishment I felt as I was chewing that first bite because I was fully expecting my experiment to be a disaster. Then I realized that I had gotten so caught up in the excitement of a perfect cake, that I had forgotten the frosting.

Since I didnt use any cinnamon in the cake batter I made a cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Cream cheese frosting is incredibly basic, so the added spice made a wonderfully subtle difference and complimented the cake perfectly. Next time though, I am thinking I might try a cardamom frosting because my mom just sent me some beautiful cardamom pods and I have a feeling it might be an awesome combo.

OH! I almost forgot. I didnt put raisins in the cake. I used Craisins, and I will never use raisins again. The Craisins were amazing. They got all plump and the tartness in place of the sweetness of a raisin was perfect. I highly suggest you try it. I have a feeling you wont be disappointed.


Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tea. baking soda
1 tea. baking powder
1 c. unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
1 c. canola oil
1/4 c. orange juice
1/2 tea. ground ginger
1 tea. nutmeg
1 tea. vanilla
pinch of salt
2 c. carrot, shredded
2/3 c. craisins
3/4 c. walnuts, chopped

icing
8 oz pkg. cream cheese
1/4 c. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tea. cinnamon

Method

- preheat oven to 350 degrees
– in a large mixing bowl, mix all dry ingredients together
– make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and add all wet ingredients
– using a wooden spoon stir ingredients until everything is incorporated
– add carrots, Craisins, walnuts, and mix again until incorporated
– pour a little less than a 1/4 c. of batter into each cup
– transfer cupcake tin into the oven and bake for 15-20 min
– while the cupcakes are in the oven make the icing

– cream the butter, and cream cheese together until smooth
– about a 1/2 c. at a time add the powdered sugar, and then add the cinnamon
– take the cakes out of the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before you ice them

Burrito Guts, And A Snappy Marinade

Mmmm, burrito bowls. Or in my case, burrito plate.

My inspiration for these inside out burritos came from Chipotle. To be honest, there is not one thing I don’t love about Chipotle. I love that their food is always fresh. I love that they are the only “fast food” joint I know of that serves beer. I love that all their ingredients have just the right amount of character without being bland and boring, and without overloading your taste buds with a crazy amount of flavors. But mostly, I love that their ingredients are easy to recreate on my own.

I have perfected this amazing, extremely versatile marinade that makes creating the substantial part of a burrito bowl super easy. I use this marinade on veggies, shrimp, chicken, beef, pork, fish.. really anything you feel the need to marinade will work. A couple nights ago I did zucchini, yellow squash, sweet onion, mushrooms, green pepper, and sweet orange pepper.

The other significant ingredient of a burrito bowl is the rice. I make the rice with chicken broth, and the liquid from a can of mild Rotel instead of water. No fuss, goooood flavor.
Oh, and lets not forget the guacamole. I wont actually write out a recipe for this because all I do is dice a large avocado, a roma tomato, a couple green onions, and half a fresh jalapeno. I smash all these together and add 1 or 2 key limes, white pepper, cumin and viola, guac.

When it comes to the garnishing of your burrito bowl dont hesitate to experiment. Some of my favorite toppings are black bean and corn salsa, fresh mango, fresh cilantro, queso, and fresh cabbage. Have fun experimenting, and enjoy!!

Anything Marinade

1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. orange or pineapple juice
1/4 c. lime juice
1 green onion stalk
2 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
1 small chipotle pepper in adobo, as well as a spoonful of adobo
a couple splashes of apple cider vinegar
a handful a fresh cilantro
2 tea cumin

Method

– blend all ingredients together in a blender on high for a minute or so.
– let meat/veggies marinate for at least an hour
(just remember, the longer the better)
– prepare meat/veggies however you prefer

Potato Salad!

Oh my god. Potato Salad. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. For a long time I have just been pulling this recipe out of my ass every time I want to make it, but now I finally had a reason to sit down, and write out the ingredients and the process so that the rest of you can enjoy this little gem.

I mean, I am not usually one to toot my own horn, but this potato salad is king. People LOVE it, which is convenient because it is so damn basic. There is one tiny little ingredient though that just takes its deliciousness over the top. That little secret is curry powder. Curry powder is nothing like the green or red curry you buy in a jar at the grocery store. Curry powder is actually a blend of several spices, ranging from coriander and turmeric to cinnamon, mustard seed, and cardamom. The number and variety of spices used depends on the brand, and of course the country the spice is bottled in. Its flavor is subtle, slightly smokey, and very nicely compliments the other flavors in the salad, and its inexpensive which is also a plus.

So, there you are. My secret is out, and as I said before, all the other ingredients are super basic and consist of celery, onion, pickles or relish, mustard, mayo etc. When it comes to the potatoes it doesnt much matter what kind you use, I prefer red potatoes, but whatever you have on hand is perfectly acceptable.

Now go. Make this recipe, and ENJOY!!

Em’s Potato Salad

6-8 medium potatoes
5 eggs, hard boiled
4 stalks of celery
1 medium white onion
4 pickles, chopped or 1/2 c. relish
1/2 c. mayo
1/2 c. plain greek yogurt
2 TBS dijon mustard
1 TBS yellow mustard
1 tea pepper
1 tea curry powder
1 tea lemon juice

Method
– chop potatoes and boil in a large pot with about 2 tea of salt for 7-10 min.
– place the eggs in a small pot covered with cold water, bring to a boil, and set timer for 10 min.
– chop all your veggies and place them in a large serving bowl
– add the rest of the ingredients to the veggies, and give it a good stir
– rinse eggs off in cold water, and strain potatoes
– peel and chop eggs and add along with the potatoes to the veggies and sauce
– cover and keep in the fridge until ready to serve

Fuji Apple Chicken Salad

I have no idea why this salad is specifically the “Fuji” Apple Chicken Salad, but once you are enjoying the first bite, the thought doesnt linger.
I discovered this salad at Panera Bread, and if it werent almost $8 a plate, I could eat it for every meal. So as usual, I was inspired to find a mock salad dressing, and put all the other ingredients together myself. Therefore being able to eat it whenever the hell I want.

Once I started searching I found that I wasnt the only person trying to find a comparable White Balsamic Apple Vinaigrette. So it didnt take me long to find a recipe that I personally thought was the closest that anybody is gonna get. After making the dressing according the recipe I made a few adjustments. The dressing was super thin so I added some applesauce, and doubled the dijon mustard. Now, THAT is as close as anyone is gonna get to the real thing. Dressing, check.

After that it was a matter of cooking the chicken, and making the apple chips (since I forgot a bag of apple chips when I went grocery store). The apple chips didnt turn out nearly as crunchy as I wanted them to, but the flavor was really good. The chicken was simple. Season, sear, and simmer. Then putting the salad together..

Time to eat.

Fuji Apple Chicken Salad
(adapted from Panera Bread)

dressing
1 TBS white balsamic vinegar
1 TBS unsweetened apple sauce
2 TBS frozen apple juice concentrate
3 tea dijon mustard
1/4 tea onion powder
1/4 c. olive oil

chicken
2 boneless skinless chicken breast
2 TBS olive oil
1/3 c. chicken broth
poultry seasoning (I used McCormick’s chicken rub)
fresh lemon
salt/pepper to taste

2 romaine hearts
candied pecans
gorgonzola crumbles
sliced red onion
sliced roma tomato
apple chips

Method
– In a medium sized pan heat 2 TBS olive oil over medium/high heat
– season chicken with salt, pepper, and rub
– sear chicken 2 minutes on each side, squeezing lemon onto chicken before you turn
– reduce heat to medium/low and pour chicken broth over chicken, and simmer for 7-10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink
-while chicken is simmering, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients
– after chicken is cooked through place it on a plate or cutting board and let it rest 10 min
– slice chicken and put your salad together however you so choose

Its a bit of work, but I think its well worth it.
You could always make extra chicken, and then you will have an excuse to eat this for a few meals!

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