Cooking

Open-Faced Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches

I was flipping through a Bon Appetit the other day and saw Mario Batali’s recipe for Chicken Parmesan. All that melted cheese and sauce and fresh herbs. Mmmmm. I like Chicken Parm just fine, but I’m really more of an eggplant girl. I do have an Eggplant Parm recipe I adore, but I wanted to mix it up a little. Since I was craving a sandwich, I thought of topping thick, crusty bread with roasted eggplant slices, cheese, and fresh herbs, but I really wanted that gooey combination of fresh mozzarella, sharp Parmesan, and marinara sauce. Why not throw them all on a slice of bread, and eat it open-faced, I thought?

I had big plans for how to prepare the eggplant. I was going to coat the slices in egg, dredge them in flour, and bread crumbs, and bake them (which I how I make my Eggplant Parmesan), but Monday night rolled around, and I’d worked a long day and dealt with too many annoying issues, and I just didn’t want the complication or goopy fingers. So, I took the easy way out and baked the eggplant slices sans bread crumb mixture. I’m glad I did. I think it would have been too much with the sandwich concept. Maybe when I’m looking for an exceptionally hearty meal, I’ll try it that way. Until then, I’ll stick with this recipe, which is mighty tasty and low-key.

Open-Faced Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches

Ingredients:

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Chai Spiced Banana Muffins with Pistachios

I like to buy bananas for snacks, but my husband and I only like them when they’re green. Once they get a few spots of brown, it’s all over. So, I’m often left with two or three overripe bananas left in the fruit bowl at the end of the week. And I always try my hardest to do something with this sickly sweet things. It’s easy to run out of fresh ideas though. I mean, really, there is only so much you can do with bananas.

I can’t even remember how I got the idea to spice up banana muffins with a chai infusion. In any event, I went through several different trial runs before deciding the recipe below was the best one. I could really taste the chai spices, but they didn’t overwhelm the banana, and vice versa. As for the pistachios, they are very mild, but once in a while, you get this jolt of pistachio taste which is wonderful. You can certainly use the traditional walnuts, or pecans or hazelnuts for that matter, if you don’t have pistachios.

The core of this recipe was borrowed from Better Homes and Gardens. I tried Joy’s, too, but the chai spice got lost in that batch. (more…)

Super Simple Sundried Tomato Pasta Sauce

I love the flavor of sundried tomatoes. They’re slightly sweet with a bit of tang, and they add a lot of character to regular old marinara sauce. This recipe is super simple. Seriously. At its core, it only contains five ingredients. You can always add to the core recipe, and I usually do, but it’s delicious without any extras as well. Use this sauce over any pasta dish–spaghetti and meatballs, veggie lasagna, sweet sausage and mushroom penne, anything! I usually add some form of garlic to the sauce. I prefer whole roasted garlic cloves, but in a pinch, garlic powder will do. For those who don’t care for garlic, simply leave it out. If eggplant will be used in the pasta dish, I like to add some fresh thyme or rosemary. Marjoram is a great herb in tomato based sauces, as well. Use your imagination and add to it the flavors you like!

Tomato Pasta Sauce

Core Ingredients:

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How-to Roast Garlic

Roasted garlic is one of the most delicious flavors ever. Ever! It doesn’t at all resemble the strong, pungent taste of raw or even sautéed garlic. It’s smooth and creamy and utterly delectable. It’s so good, you could eat the roasted cloves whole and alone, if you wanted to. But I usually use them in pasta dishes, or as a pizza topping.

It takes a bit of time to roast garlic, but the prep time is fairly minimal. The oven does the rest. Give it a try. Follow these step-by-step instructions, and in 40-45 minutes, you’ll have an entire head of melty, delicious roasted garlic to use however you want.

Roast Garlic

Ingredients:

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Green Chile Chicken Posole

Posole is a type of corn soaked in powdered lime and water. Hominy is often used in its stead, as traditional posole is not generally commercially available. Hominy is softer and milder than true posole, but is perfectly acceptable in this dish. Many people prepare posole stew with pork. Other common ingredients include cabbage, radishes, beans, and squash. I make posole the way my dad taught me—with large chunks of chicken, plenty of green chiles, and some jalapenos to spice it up. I also use a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes to add some color to the dish, though my dad has taken that element out of his recipe. He’s also started buying packages of Bueno frozen green chiles, one mild and one hot, instead of canned. As I live in the Pacific Northwest, I’m stuck with canned, and even those (because I buy 28 oz. cans) have to be purchased in the Southwest and hauled back to Washington state. I buy Hatch, which come from southern New Mexico, a region and town well-known for its green chiles and annual festival. But any canned green chiles will do. I’ve never made posole with fresh green chiles because it would take far too many, and I refuse to roast, de-seed, and chop for hours on end! Feel free to try it, however. The only thing I insist, is that you cut the chicken into LARGE chunks!! It’s not the same with small cubes of meat floating around!

Note: If you don’t like your food spicy, omit the jalapenos, or use a smaller amount. (more…)

Pepperoni and Fresh Garlic Pizza

We used to have the best pizza joint EVER. I say “used to” because they closed sometime last month. The family that originally owned the place, sold it to a very nice young couple last year, and at first my husband and I were hesitant to try it, but the new owners assured everyone that though they’d changed the names of the pizzas, the recipes were the same. So, we went down there and had our usual pepperoni and fresh garlic pie. Sure enough, it tasted like the same great recipe, and while we were undergoing our kitchen remodel, we spent one night a week down there eating pizza and drinking beer. We quickly became regulars. The owners knew our names. They gave us free bread sticks while we waited. Then, we started spending more time in Colorado, bought a house there, and started hoarding our money so we could eventually move. It’d been several months since we’d visited the pizza shop, and a few weeks ago, when we stopped by, a For Sale sign was in the window. We tried another joint down the street, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t even close. So, I set out to make my own Pepperoni and Fresh Garlic Pizza that tasted similar to the recipe used by our favorite departed pizza place. I’m still working on it, but this recipe is close.

Pepperoni and Fresh Garlic Pizza

Ingredients:

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Farmhouse Salad

I call this “Farmhouse Salad” because I used an aged Farmhouse White Cheddar Cheese to make the cheese sticks that top the dish. Also, I think the word “farmhouse” somehow conjures a feeling of coziness and comfort, and this salad definitely lives up to that. The warm, gooey cheese sticks, sautéed apples, toasted pecans, and honey mustard vinaigrette are comfy, homey foods for those cool fall and winter days.

I made this salad as a light main dish. If you need a more substantial dinner with plenty of protein, however, it would make a great side salad. Pair it with roasted chicken or pork tenderloin, perhaps a loaf of country bread on the side, and you’d have a great, full meal. (more…)

Veggie “Patty” Melts

I don’t eat red meat, but I love the idea of patty melts. Okay, I don’t dig rye bread or pickles, either. So, what do I love about patty melts? It must be the name. That, and the melted, gooey cheese. Mmmm. Anyway, while watching someone on the telly make patty melts one night, I thought to myself: I’m going to make veggie “patty” melts next week. In lieu of beef patties, I used hearty eggplant and mushrooms to give the sandwich a “meaty” feel. Red peppers, plenty of caramelized onions, and a nice sharp, white cheddar cheese rounded out the veggie melt. If you prefer the more traditional Swiss cheese, you’re welcome to use that, however. And since I’m not a rye fan, I opted for sourdough, but you can use any bread you like. My husband, a big meat eater, loved this sandwich, so hopefully it will please your picky eater, too.

Veggie Patty Melts

Ingredients:

2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 med. eggplant, sliced medium thick (more…)

Sesame Pasta Salad

I’ve been fooling around with this recipe for a while now, trying different vinegars, oils, sweeteners, vegetables, and processes. At one point, I even made a version with roasted tomatoes and asparagus, with prosciutto. But nah. The cold, crisp, raw veggies are what I prefer. And now I finally have a version I’m happy with! This is a great salad for picnics, potlucks, light meals, lunches, and snacks. One pound of pasta makes a big batch, and if you’re only feeding two people like I am, it goes a long way. Thankfully, this makes great leftovers! If you’re feeding a large crowd, you may want to double the recipe. Feel free to substitute your own favorite vegetables. So far, the grape tomato, snap pea, and yellow pepper combo is my favorite. I’ve tried cherry tomatoes, green beans, red pepper, orange pepper, carrots, the roasted veggies and prosciutto I mentioned above, and probably a few more. None of them worked for me. But this version has great flavor, color, and texture. The recipe is extremely flexible, however, so mix and match and adjust as you see fit.

Sesame Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

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Ravioli Caprese

The traditional Insalata Caprese is a simple salad which originated from the Italian island of Capri. It’s comprised of vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper. Yep, that’s it! You slice the tomatoes and mozzarella, sliver the basil, and dress with olive oil and salt and pepper. In this recipe, I’ve added pan-toasted raviolis. I find it best to use meatless ravioli, such as cheese or spinach, or both. Meaty flavors such as sausage tend to drown out the subtle freshness of the other ingredients. I also use a homemade balsamic dressing instead of the traditional extra-virgin olive oil, simply because I’m admittedly obsessed with balsamic vinegar. If you prefer plain extra-virgin olive oil, with the salt and pepper of course, that would be tasty, too. If using the balsamic dressing, use sparingly. A lot goes a long way!

Ravioli Caprese

Ingredients:

1 package fresh cheese based ravioli
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes
1 ball fresh mozzarella
fresh basil
salt and pepper (more…)