Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan

Okay, I have to admit here that this isn't the first time I've made eggplant parm. It's just the first time I've done so using an actual recipe, instead of making it up on the fly. Using a recipe can be helpful, sometimes.

So, I picked up some eggplants a couple of weeks ago, thinking I'd try something vegetable-based and relatively health. (This is right after I started reading In Defense of Food.) What I didn't realize, though, is that eggplant soaks up a TON of oil while being fried. I mean, waaay more than I actually wanted to eat. So while it turned out most deliciously, this should probably not be considered a health food.

One more thing to note. Supposedly, "male" eggplants have fewer seeds. Supposedly, you can identify "male" eggplants by looking for a dash-shaped indentation at the bottom of the eggplant where it connected to the stem. I looked for "male" eggplants at the store, but the results were inconclusive; they were just as seedy as every other eggplant I've ever purchased.

Eggplant Parmesan

Comments & Modifications:
  • I salted and drained my eggplant for only a half hour or so, but didn't notice it tasting bitter or anything. I think the shorter time was probably fine.
  • I think it's important here to slice the eggplant thinly. I made this twice, and cut the slices a bit thicker the second time to reduce the amount of total frying time. When I sliced more thinly the eggplant got nice and crispy, which both Dan and I preferred.
  • I used half regular (homemade) breadcrumbs and half panko. Yum.
  • We were too hungry to let this sit in the oven for half an hour, so we layered it straight onto our dinner plates.
  • Er, we didn't have any fresh basil, or fresh mozzarella, and I didn't use any parmesan either. Dan did use some regular mozzarella but I didn't bother.
  • The main thing I learned from this recipe is that tomato sauce made from whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes from a can is easy, cheap, and really delicious. Seriously, it had such a fresh tomato-y taste even though I chose not to add the garlic and olive oil. I'm never ever going back to the jarred stuff, ew.

Verdict: This was deeeeelicious, but I don't think we'll be making it again. Too much oil, even if it is olive oil. I hear it's possible to make eggplant parm by baking instead of frying, and I hope to try it that way someday, but my expectations aren't that high.

Crockpot Vegetable Curry

I made this, like, two months ago, but I still remember more about the results than I will next time I want to make it, so here we go.

Crockpot Vegetable Curry

Comments & Modifications:
  • I think I pretty much followed the recipe as is. It's already really easy to make, after all.
  • Oh, except don't cut up the potatoes the night before making this. They turn a weird color, kind of blackish, that is very unappetizing.

Verdict: This was good, but nothing special. I think Dan and I were a bit tired of spicy food, because we managed to eat some of the leftovers and threw the rest away. Oh well.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

So the inspiration for this dish came from, of all places, a Weight Watchers frozen meal. I can be super lazy about preparing decent food for lunch at work, and on the days that I don't know what to eat there's always a Lean Cuisine or WW meal to back me up. (I don't really recommend this, since Lean Cuisines probably violate about 50% of the guidelines in In Defense of Food, but we can't all be perfect.)

Anyways, so I picked up a new WW meal to try, the sweet and sour chicken. And when I tasted it, I thought, this would be easy to make at home! And so it was.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Comments & Modifications:
  • Er, I kind of didn't measure too well on this one either. I have no idea how much chicken I used, although it might have been close to a pound. Also, I really like red peppers and pineapple, so I put lots of those in too.
  • I used boneless skinless chicken breasts, as usual. I don't know if it's the egg white marinade or what, but this chicken came out super tender and flavorful, more so than I've ever been able to achieve. There wasn't much of a coating, but it was okay because the chicken was so tender.
  • I used all red peppers because that's what I had. Also, have you seen the price of yellow peppers at the supermarket?
  • I followed the recipe for the sauce pretty closely, and even measured! But then at the end I threw in a bit extra brown sugar, and some of the leftover pineapple juice, since that's what I like.
  • I added some extra cornstarch at the end to thicken up the sauce. It's hard to eat watery rice with chopsticks, after all.
  • This went perfectly with a scoop of brown rice.

Verdict: In case you couldn't tell, I really liked this dish. I'll definitely make this again. Never again will I get the nasty sweet and sour chicken from the Chinese restaurant! This is way better! The sauce even had that weird reddish color as the restaurant stuff, but it was nice to actually know what was in it.

Caribbean Black Bean Soup

Yay! After a couple of months of feeling a bit half-hearted about eating healthfully, I'm back on track. What's the reason for the sudden inspiration? Well, there's this book that's so interesting and challenging that I really think everyone I know should read it. It's called "In Defense of Food" and it's by Michael Pollan, who you may remember also wrote "Omnivore's Dilemma." He has some very compelling reasons for Westerners to change the way we eat, to escape the spiral down into obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. So I've been slowly attempting to incorporate some of his principles into my own diet.

Not that I was thinking about Michael Pollan when I decided to make this recipe. In fact, I made this dish right around Christmas time when I had a nice cupful of leftover ham to get rid of, and too many Christmas calories to deal with. Not that it's unhealthy; I think it's actually pretty good for you. But still.

Caribbean Black Bean Soup

Comments & Modifications:
  • I halved all the ingredients because this was for my lunch at work, and it's really hard for me to finish a huge pot of soup without Dan's help.
  • I'm pretty sure I used red pepper instead of green. Red peppers are awesome and delicious. Green peppers are nasty.
  • I might possibly have not precisely measured anything in this recipe except the spices. I have a really hard time caring about precision when it comes to soup, because in most cases it just really doesn't matter in the end.
  • I don't have an immersion blender yet, and getting out the food processor seemed like too much trouble, so I just kind of smooshed some of the beans against the sides of the crockpot instead. Seemed to work well enough.
  • Sour cream is not for dieters, or at least not for dieters with my kind of willpower, so I left it off.

Verdict: I was really looking forward to eating this. All day it bubbled away in the crockpot, releasing delicious smells to tempt Dan and me to take just a little taste before it was done. However, when I got to work the next day and reheated it, I was pretty disappointed. I don't know if it was the color (the ham got stained black from the beans), or the spices (they just didn't taste right to me), or the consistency (very thick), but I had it for lunch one or maybe two days before throwing out the rest of it. So sad! But, at least the beans were cheap. If you're going to cook up something nasty, better to do it with cheap ingredients, I must say.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lentil, Spinach, and Bulgur Stew

I made this so long ago I can hardly remember what changes I made. Even so, here are my thoughts.

Lentil, Spinach, and Bulgur Stew

Comments & Modifications:
  • I used frozen chopped spinach instead of fresh.
  • That's it. It's not like there's much to modify here.

Verdict: Somehow, when I decided to make this recipe, I forgot that boring ingredients = boring food. This stew tasted exactly like nothing, unless you count the weirdish combination of lentils and spinach, which doesn't work very well, by the way. I bet there are spices somewhere that would be appropriate for this kind of stew, but I couldn't think of any, so it went into the trash. Oh well.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Christmas Egg Casserole

It has been far, far too long since I posted anything useful on this blog. To get my creative juices flowing again (if they exist), I'm going to post a recipe of my mom's.

We have a long-standing tradition of having this casserole for breakfast the morning of Christmas day. It's very flexible and easy to customize, and hard to screw up. When it was decided that Dan's family would come over for brunch this year around Christmastime, I figured it was time to get this recipe from my mom.

Christmas Egg Casserole

  • 1/4 c butter
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 2-3 c milk
  • 18-24 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1-2 lbs cheese, sharp cheddar or your preference, shredded
  • 1-2 lbs bacon, sausage, and/or ham, cooked and crumbled
  1. Put butter in a medium saucepan to melt over medium heat. Whisk flour into butter, and cook 1-2 minutes to form a roux. Add milk, whisking to blend flour lumps, and heat until thick to form a white sauce. If you have cheese ends leftover in the fridge they can be melted into the white sauce.
  2. Spread some of the white sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 dish. Layer eggs, cheese, and meat until you run out, and then top with the remaining white sauce and one last layer of cheese. I like adding bacon on top of the cheese, but best to do this after it's been in the oven for a while so the bacon doesn't get burnt.
  3. Casserole can be stored in the fridge for at least a couple of days without coming to harm.
  4. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until hot and bubbly.

When I made this for Dan's parents I used 24 eggs, 30 oz of sharp cheddar, 1 roll of bulk sausage, and one package of bacon for the topping. My mom usually uses a mixture of ham and pre-cooked bacon bits, which is also good. Really, it doesn't matter what you use, it all turns out okay somehow.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Molasses Oatmeal Cookies

I need to make these cookies!

Grammy Davis's Brer Rabbit Molasses Oatmeal Cookies
Source: Amanda Davis

Combine in bowl:
2 c oatmeal
1 c flour
½ c sugar
½ t salt
½ t allspice
½ t cinnamon
½ c Crisco
½ c Brer Rabbit molasses
1 egg, unbeaten
1 t baking powder

Stir until just mixed. Drop in large spoonfuls on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 325°F for 12 minutes. Do not overbake.