Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Eggplant, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stacks

A few months ago I came to the realization that I only like fried eggplant. Well, that's partially true because I also like Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce. Anyway, I've tried cooking eggplant in pasta sauces or grilling it, but I'm just not a fan.

Recently I was thinking about a recipe I'd seen years ago for fried eggplant stacked together with prosciutto and mozzarella cheese. I got it in my head to try recreating it, preparing the eggplant the same way I do my eggplant rollatini.

Eggplant garlic caper pasta

The results were outstanding. Despite being fried, the eggplant is light without being greasy. The prosciutto crisps up nicely in the oven and the melty mozzarella is perfection. Steve (and Katie, for that matter, but she was away when I made this meal) like everything I cook. But it's rare for Steve to actually rave about a meal. But this one he could not stop talking about. I texted him the next day to ask whether the eggplant stacks reheated well and he said they did and that he was in love with them.

Eggplant garlic caper pasta

As you saw in yesterday's post, I served this alongside spaghetti in a light, flavorful sauce made simply with butter, chicken broth, lemon juice and capers. It was the perfect side dish for this meal. I had two small-ish eggplants and they yielded 14 stacks, which was the perfect amount for me and Steve. If Katie had been home we'd have been in trouble, so keep that in mind if you're cooking for a larger crowd.

And speaking of crowds, these were great warm or room temperature, making them perfect for a party. I ate mine with my hands when cutting into the prosciutto proved challenging. So, so good.

Eggplant, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stacks

1 large or 2 small eggplants
3 eggs
1 cup flour
vegetable oil, for frying
extra virgin olive oil
1 slice prosciutto per stack (approximately 14 slices)
1-lb fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Pecorino cheese, grated

Cut both ends off the eggplant, the peel the skin. Slice each eggplant into thin rounds (make sure you have an even number of slices). Place a clean kitchen towel on a baking sheet. Lay the eggplant slices on top, then sprinkle with salt. Flip over and salt the other side. Top with another clean kitchen towel and let sit for at least an hour. When ready to cook, pat the eggplant slices dry with the top towel.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour 1/2" of vegetable oil into a medium skillet and heat over medium-high heat.

While the oil is heating, whisk the eggs in a wide, shallow bowl or pie plate. Spread the flour in an even layer in a separate wide, shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour, shaking the excess off. Dip the floured eggplant into the egg mixture, turning well to coat both sides evenly.

Add as many of the coated eggplant slices to the pan as will fit without touching. Cook, turning once, until golden on both sides. Drain on a rack set over the same baking sheet you used to salt the eggplant. Repeat the process until all the eggplant is cooked.

Remove the rack from the baking sheet. Lightly oil the baking sheet with the extra virgin olive oil. Place half the eggplant slices on the sheet. Top each slice with one piece of prosciutto and one slice of mozzarella. Top with another eggplant slice.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until cheese is melted. Top with some grated cheese. These can be served warm or at room temperature.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Pasta with Garlic Butter Caper Sauce

Sometimes I feel like this guy:

I really haven't been doing a good job as a blogger lately and I'm sorry for that. But like the meme promises, if you DO see a post from me it means I've made something so delicious I simply have to dust off my computer and type up a post.

Take this meal for instance. Today I'm sharing the side dish - Pasta with Garlic Butter Caper Sauce. Tomorrow you get the real star - Eggplant, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stacks. But don't think for one second that the pasta isn't delicious in its own right.

Eggplant garlic caper pasta

I was a little sad that I only made 6oz of pasta because I could have eaten a whole pound myself. It's light yet flavorful and so, so simple. I simplified it even further by cooking everything in one pot. And I left out the wine because all I had was Riesling. We didn't miss it so I probably won't bother with it next time. And there will most certainly be a next time since this is now Steve's favorite meal of all time.

And hey, don't forget to come back tomorrow for those delicious eggplant stacks.

Pasta with Garlic Butter Caper Sauce
As seen on Iowa Girls Eats

6oz spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
juice of 1 small lemon

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain well and set aside.

In the now-empty pot, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute until just starting to brown. Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, and capers then turn heat up to high. Simmer until the sauce is reduced by half. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Taste and add salt, only if necessary.

Turn off the heat and add the cooked pasta to the pot. Toss to combine, then let sit for 3-4 minutes so the pasta can absorb some of the sauce.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pasta with Shrimp, Brie and Tomatoes

I love when my friends post on Facebook about the meals they make, especially when they include a recipe. As much as I love reading food blogs, many of the ones I follow simply don't cook the way I do. They post all sorts of fancy, trendy meals that I just know in my heart I'm never going to make for my family. So when I see posts from friends about food they're actually cooking, I pay attention.

Take this recipe for Pasta with Shrimp, Brie and Tomatoes. I was hooked as soon as I saw my friend's photo. This recipe has it all - pasta, one of my favorite cheeses, fresh tomatoes and shrimp. And, bonus, it's a one-pot meal. What's not to love?

Pasta with shrimp, Brie and tomatoes

The original recipe calls for sundried tomatoes and Kalamata olives, both of which I left out, opting instead for all fresh tomatoes, and no olives simply to save Steve from going to the olive bar at Wegmans. This really couldn't be simpler - mix the Brie with the tomatoes and seasoning, cook the pasta and, in the last few minutes of cooking, add in the shrimp. When the pasta is done, toss everything together and serve. I can't wait to make this one again.

Pasta with Shrimp, Brie and Tomatoes
Recipe adapted from Coastal Living

8 ounces Brie
4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh basil leaves, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Remove the rind from the Brie, if desired. Cut the Brie into pieces and add it to a bowl along with the tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt and pepper and olive oil. Toss to combine, then cover and let stand at least one hour.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Add the shrimp two minutes before the pasta is done. Finish cooking, then drain well. Immediately toss the pasta and shrimp with the Brie mixture. Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan.
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Monday, August 01, 2016

One Pot Taco Spaghetti

You know you've been a terrible blogger when people start calling you out for your lack of posts. Ooops! A friend asked me to post some a new recipes and since today is her birthday, I figured I'd oblige (hi, Tara!) Unfortunately, the only recipe I photographed recently was this One Pot Taco Spaghetti, so I didn't have much of a choice. The good news is, this was delicious. And a one-pot meal, which is always a good thing to have in your repertoire.

One pot taco spaghetti

The recipe might look long, but it's mostly spices. See, the original recipe calls for a packet of store-bought taco seasoning, but I prefer to make my own. I always have all these spices on my spice rack and, this way, I control the sodium content. Otherwise this is basically meat and pasta, with a little cheese and tomato on top. Delish!

One Pot Taco Spaghetti
As seen on Damn Delicious

1 pound ground beef*
1 medium/large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 (10-ounce can) Ro*Tel® Mild Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies
1 tablespoon tomato paste
8 ounces spaghetti
3 cups water
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 Roma tomato, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until the beef just starts to brown. Add the onion and cook for another 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the beef as it cooks, until the beef is completely cooked.

If there's excess fat in the pot, turn off the heat and move the beef/onion mixture over to one side. Tilt the pot so all the fat is at the other end. Use crumpled up paper towels to soak up the excess fat. I like to keep the trash can right by the stove when I do this so I can easily throw the paper towels away. Make sure to leave a little bit of fat in the pan. Turn the heat back on and add the dried spices (chili powder through ground pepper). Stir to combine.

Stir in the Ro*Tel®, tomato paste, spaghetti and water. Bring to a boil, then cover. Reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 13-16 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pot from the heat. Add both the cheeses. Put the cover back on so the cheeses can melt. To serve, place some of the pasta and meat on a plate and top with chopped tomato and cilantro.

*You can also use ground chicken, turkey or pork. If you do, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan before browning the meat.
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Friday, July 15, 2016

Szechuan Pork with Bok Choy

I love a good stir fry. Not only are they quick and easy to prepare, they're the perfect way to get protein and veggies in one dish. Serve over rice or toss with cooked pasta and dinner is done.

Szechuan pork with bok choy

My friend Mary Ellen recently posted this recipe for Szechuan Pork with Bok Choy. I immediately put it on the menu. Unfortunately, my grocery store didn't have the large heads of bok choy so I guessimated the number of baby bok choy I'd need as a substitute. I was way, way off. The bok choy all but dissolved in the sauce and Steve said he would never have known it was in there if I hadn't told him. Cooking fail.

I vowed to try again and this time, I looked up bok choy on Wegmans' website. I really love that their site lists their products as well as where you can find them in the store. I saw that a large head of bok choy weighs in at 1 1/2-lbs, so I told Steve to buy 1 1/2-lbs of baby bok choy. Problem solved! I remade the dish and this time, there was plenty of that crunchy goodness.

Szechuan pork with bok choy

This is such a simple meal that's packed with flavor. I love how the pork and vegetables stretch 8-oz of pasta into 5 meals and how quickly I was able to get this meal on the table. Thanks for another delicious dinner, Mary Ellen!

Szechuan Pork with Bok Choy
Slightly modified from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations, originally from Rachael Ray

1 1/2-lbs baby bok choy
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 lb ground pork
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon chile garlic sauce (more or less to taste)
1 cup chicken broth
8 spaghetti, cooked and drained
4 scallions, chopped

Cut off the bottom stem of each baby bok choy and discard any yellowing outer leaves. Chop the remaining bok choy into large chunks.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the bok choy, onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and bok choy start to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove the vegetable mixture to a bowl and return the skillet to the stove.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to the pan, then add the pork. Cook, breaking the pork up with your spoon, until browned.

Add the soy sauce, chile garlic sauce and chicken broth to the pan. Bring to a simmer, then add the vegetables. Simmer together for a few minutes, then add in the cooked noodles and scallions. Toss together and serve.
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Friday, July 08, 2016

The Best Shrimp and Grits

I'm a sucker for shrimp and grits. If I see it on a menu, I have to order it. I just love the creamy, soft grits topped with the bursty, delicious shrimp. I've tried making it at home a few times, but wasn't successful. Now my search is over - I've found THE BEST recipe for shrimp and grits. This was Katie's first time eating grits and she literally licked her plate clean. Steve couldn't stop raving about it either. We were all silent as we ate, each of us savoring the delicious plate of food in front of us.

Shrimp and grits

The recipe could not be simpler - grits are cooked in a mixture of chicken broth, milk and butter. Aside from stirring them every once in a while, they cook themselves. Shrimp are cooked in delicious bacon fat with a little garlic. The whole thing takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, making it the perfect weeknight meal.

Shrimp and grits

I served the shrimp and grits with spinach sauteed in oil with some sliced garlic. It was the perfect accompaniment, especially since I could just plate it alongside the shrimp. The only thing I might do is add a little fresh chopped tomato - not because the dish needs anything but for that hint of freshness and acidity.

The Best Shrimp and Grits
As seen on The Redhead Baker, originally from Taste of Home

For the grits:
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup uncooked stone-ground/old-fashioned grits
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

For the shrimp:
6 thick-sliced bacon strips, chopped
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 scallions, thinly sliced

Combine the broth, milk, butter, salt and pepper in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the grits. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shredded cheese and stir until melted. Set aside covered, and keep warm.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon; reserve drippings in the skillet.

Saute the shrimp and garlic in the bacon drippings. Flip the shrimp as soon as they turn pink. Remove once both sides are pink.

To serve, divide the grits into four bowls. Top each with one quarter of the shrimp. Garnish with the reserved bacon and scallions.
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Friday, June 10, 2016

Skillet Salsa Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice

Like most people, I'm a big fan of easy weeknight meals. Obviously I love to cook or I wouldn't have a food blog, but even I have nights where I just don't feel like cooking. That's when a meal like this Skillet Salsa Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice comes in handy.

Salsa chicken with cilantro lime rice

I've seen recipes for salsa chicken floating around the Internet for years, but they all seem to involve the slow cooker, which I don't use. That's why I was so excited when my friend, Melissa, posted this recipe. A skillet salsa chicken was right up my alley and I knew it would pair beautifully with cilantro lime rice.

Salsa chicken with cilantro lime rice

What a show-stopper. Katie isn't a picky eater and loves pretty much everything I make, but she couldn't stop raving about this one. After every bite she said some variation of, "Mommy, you are an amazing cooker. I'm so lucky to have you cook for me. Can you make this again soon?" I was right there with her, practically swooning over the delicious flavors, especially when I mixed the rice and chicken together with the creamy avocado. Yum, yum, yum.

And the best part - dinner took almost no time to make so we could play after dinner. That's a win-win in my book.

Skillet Salsa Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice
Slightly adapted from Hunt, Cook, Eat

1-1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups salsa
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 cup corn kernels
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon lime juice
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

1 cup dry basmati rice
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt

Diced avocado, for serving

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat with just a touch of olive oil. Add the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes until no longer pink. Add the onion and saute for another 2-3 minutes until onion is soft and chicken is cooked through. Add minced garlic (if using) and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the seasonings, salsa, water, corn and black beans to the pan and stir to combine.

Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sour cream and lime juice. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro.

To make the rice, follow the directions on the package. My basmati calls for soaking the rice beforehand (which I highly recommend). Once you've cooked the rice, drizzle the lime juice and oil over the top while it's still warm. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and salt, then fluff with a fork.

To serve, pile some rice in a shallow bowl and top with some of the chicken. Add diced avocado and serve.
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