Saturday, August 28, 2010

Breaded Eggplant Pasta

I'm a big fan of rummaging through my fridge and cabinets, combining whatever I come across, and creating something simple and delicious.  Usually this happens to be a mix of pasta and whatever veggies I find.  Take this recipe for what it is, a mix of things I think are tasty together.  Some of the best cooking happens when we're inspired by a dish we eat or read about, then alter it to make it our own.

I used:

1 box of whole wheat spaghetti (experiment with different brands - some taste awful and others are great!)
3 tiny (local) eggplants
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 an onion, sliced
4 strips vegetarian 'bacon', chopped into thin slices
1 cup frozen peas
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
extra virgin olive oil

Start off my getting a large pot on the stove to boil the water for your spaghetti.  While you're waiting, slice the eggplant into thin disks.  Dip each disk first into the beaten egg, then coat with breadcrumbs.  Let some oil heat up in a frying pan, then place them in, making sure they don't overlap.

Give them a few minutes, but be sure to turn them over once they take on a beautiful brown.  (Yes, I use an electric stove.  It stinks, but as a trade-off we now have more counter space and *gasp!* a dishwasher!)

Once they eggplant are browned on both sides, transfer them to a dish.  You may want to pat out extra oil with a paper towel.  I didn't.  I think the oil really adds lots of flavor and they didn't seem too greasy.  At this point your water is probably boiling.  Toss the spaghetti in with a little olive oil so it doesn't stick together.

Using the pan you just took eggplant out of, begin sauteing the onions and 'bacon'.  Once they've gotten a good head start, add the peas and garlic.  Cook just long enough for the peas to thaw and become hot.  You also want to be sure that your garlic doesn't brown and turn bitter, so it's all about the timing here at the end.

The last step is the easiest.  Strain the spaghetti and mix in your veggies and cheese.  I garnished with some fresh chives, but could have just as easily gone without.  Use whatever you've got!  We found this to be very filling and tasty.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Quinoa Bean Salad & Tangy-Sweet Red Cabbage

Yesterday evening I found myself tasked with cooking a vegan meal.  I frequently cook vegetarian meals, but tend to adore cheese, as well as incorporate eggs fairly often.  This was a new challenge for me.  While searching for recipes, I came across a great website -  The two recipes in this post come from that site.

In addition, I had this beautiful red cabbage that I picked it up at the Troy Farmer's Market this past Saturday.  I've been reading a bit about the health benefits of cabbage, and trying to find some way to work it into my cooking.  Cabbage has been known to reduce the risk of certain types of cancers (including breast, stomach, lung, and prostate), heart disease, Alzheimer's, and ulcers.  It is a cruciferous vegetable - related to kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts - and it's full of vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, and potassium.  The trouble with red cabbage is that its beautiful color is part of its appeal, and this color is lost during cooking unless you add something acidic into the mix...

Tangy-Sweet Red Cabbage
1 small-medium red cabbage
1/2 c. raisins
1/4 c. brown sugar
2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Begin by heating up the oil.  Add the raisins and saute them for a minute or two.  Chop up the cabbage into thin, bite-sized pieces, then add them in with the raisins and olive oil.  Stir them until everything is coated, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Stir & cook for about 5 minutes, until the cabbage is a bit softer but still has some crunch.

Quinoa Black Bean Salad
1 c. quinoa
1 can black beans
1-2 c. cherry tomatoes
1/2 small onion
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 limes
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 c. fresh cilantro
salt & pepper to taste

Cook up the quinoa.  The package directions generally say to use 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water, but sometimes that's a bit too much water.  You can always add a little more at the end if you feel like your quinoa is too crunchy.  Once it's cooked, rinse the can of beans, chop up the tomatoes and onion, and mix them together in a bowl.  In another small bowl, juice the limes, and mix in the oil, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Dump this and the cilantro into the quinoa and mix.

This whole meal took less than 30 minutes to prepare and pack up.  I also brought along some sliced cantaloupe from a friend's garden, and some delicious fig cookies.  Vegan success! 

The Ten Things You Need to Eat
How Stuff Works

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Zucchini & Potato Gratin

Welcome to my very first post!  I love blogging, but have recently been searching for some new content.  My most recent blog was written to document experiences in a new Montessori school that I was teaching in, as well as to help with parent communication.  I left that school at the end of the year to pursue work at another, but you can find that blog here if you're interested. 

When I first graduated college, moved out completely on my own, and began teaching, my eating habits were terrible.  I felt like I was always on the run, didn't have a lot of money, and didn't really know much about cooking.  There were many evenings that I just threw a bunch of prepackaged chicken nuggets in the microwave and called it a night.  That was seven years ago.  In the time since then, I have gradually (yet drastically) changed the way I look at food.  I'll always look to it for great taste and it's ability to fill me up, but now I also think carefully about nutrition and the greater social impact that food can have.  This blog will document my journey as a part-time vegetarian.  Cutting down on meat isn't exactly new for me, but I love exploring new recipes and figured there are plenty of other people out there that feel the same way.

This past Friday evening I wanted to start using up some of the veggies friends and family had given us from their gardens.  One was a rather large zucchini.  I did a little research online and came across this recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten.  After making some adjustments, I created my own version and was very pleased with the results.  Below is my modified recipe:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
1/2 extra large zucchini, sliced
1 medium/large red potato, slided
t. salt
couple cranks of pepper
dash nutmeg
2 T. flour
1 c. hot milk
1 c. bread crumbs
1 c. grated baby swiss

From here, the directions are pretty much the same as the Contessa's.  Preheat the oven to 400.  Saute the onions first until translucent, add the zucchini and potato - cook until tender.  Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, flour, & milk.   Cover and let simmer for about 2/3 minutes until it thickens up.  I used a smaller Pyrex dish - 8" square - and it worked just fine.  Throw all cooked ingredients in there, top with the breadcrumb/cheese mix.  I kept it in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until it was bubbling and golden on top.

This meal was warm, cheesy, and satisfying.  It would be absolutely perfect on a cold winter day, which is when I'll probably try it again!  If you happen to give this recipe a try, let us know the results in the comments.

Before signing off, I will leave you with a personal note on zucchini...
Zucchini is always the source of many jokes in my family; my father hates it and swears my grandmother used to sneak it into everything she made.  (Of course, this wouldn't surprise me...she grew up in the Great Depression and zucchini are easy to grow.)  So, in honor of my father's hatred of this delightful vegetable, I will leave you with a couple of corny zucchini jokes.   (found here!)

One well-traveled zucchini joke is about the woman who grew the world’s largest zucchini. She wanted to take it to a friend to show it off. The zucchini was so huge, it stuck out the car window and she couldn’t lock the car. Stopping at the grocer’s for a few things on the way, she returned to her car to find something awful happened while she was in the store… someone had left her the world’s second largest zucchini too!

The Best Zucchini Recipe:
1 bushel zucchini
1 raincoat
1 pair of sunglasses
A moderately fast car
Go to a busy parking lot. Drive around until you find an unlocked car. Put the zucchini in the back seat and drive away FAST before you are discovered!