30 Posts in 30 Days

I did it! 30 Posts in 30 days!

And don’t worry- even though I won’t be posting every day (because that was crazy!!!), this didn’t turn me off from blogging in general.

Blogging has really become a part of my life. I can’t wait to share more recipes and stories here as the days go on.

Stuffed Mushroom Caps

I built this dish around 1 ingredient- but it’s the least obvious ingredient in the dish. It wasn’t the mushrooms, even though they had been in my fridge for a week and would have stayed there longer had I not thought to make this. It wasn’t the parmesan, even though it was the last of it and the perfect way to finish up what I had left. It wasn’t even the scallions- those were thrown in because I was out of shallots. No, this entire dish was built around 1 thing: Parsley.

I’ve become insanely obsessed with parsley recently – constantly trying to throw it into any dish I can. Not because it makes the dish prettier or because I like to use fresh herbs (both of which are true), I just think it has a bad reputation and has so many awesome uses. I put it in my eggs, in my soups and in my pasta dishes- the possibilities are endless people. I remember being a kid (ok- I was like 19) and picking parsley out of my dishes- being absolutely annoyed that the chef would even add it to the dish on the side. Those days are long gone. And don’t get me wrong- the mushroom is the star in this dish, but the parsley plays a strong supporting role.

This is a quick snack, appetizer, or side dish. Instead of the usual, super heavy and dry stuffed mushrooms, this recipe is light and refreshing. The lemon juice gives it a real zip and the parsley gives it a great herby flavor.

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Stuffed Mushroom Caps

(for about 8-10 small mushroom caps)

1 small package of small mushrooms (should include 10-12 mushrooms)
3 garlic cloves- minced
2 tbsp onions – finely chopped
2 tbsp scallions – chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp italian breadcrumbs
1 tbsp – freshly grated parmesan, more for topping
The juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper – to taste
About a 1/4 cup of parsely- or as much or little as you like

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400. Brush dirt off of the mushroom caps and carefully remove stems, making sure not to break the mushrooms. Heat 2 pans, 1 small and 1 medium, over medium heat with a tbsp of olive oil in each. Add the mushrooms to the first pan and allow to saute.

2. In the other pan, add the garlic, scallions, and onions and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the lemon juice and parsley and cook for another minute. Add the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and parmesan and mix well. Turn off the heat and set aside.

3. The mushrooms should be cooked at this point. Remove them from the pan and add them to a baking dish. Generously spoon the mixture into the mushroom caps and cover with a sprinkle of parmesan. Bake uncovered for about 10 minutes.

4. Remove from baking pan with spoon and serve immediately.

Eggplant Parmesan

My aunt Liz is going to kill me. She said so when I told her I posted the Mofongo recipe (which was hers by the way). “But Chris, what if I want to write a cookbook someday? You’re giving away all of my secrets!” So when I asked her for Grandma’s Pumpkin Fritter recipe she wouldn’t give it to me. She didn’t want it to end up on here. (Don’t worry- I’ll get it one way or the other…) But that didn’t stop me from snatching a few recipes from her when I was down there a week ago. She should know better- I’m crafty. If you want to learn someone’s recipe, you can have them email it to you, write it down as they dictate it to you, taste it and try to de-construct it- or you could simply watch and help them cook it. Yes- I helped her cook this eggplant parm and soaked up every last step. Oh, is she going to be annoyed!!

I used to hate eggplant but am slowly starting to like it. This recipe allows the eggplant to shine and tastes really rustic. I made it for Thanksgiving and my dad really loved it- and he’s a tough critic. I made this on Wednesday, before I left for Connecticut, and reheated it an hour before dinner. It tasted even better the next day (Yes- I had a bite before I left for Connecticut and it was good. I couldn’t help myself! The next day- it was really good!)

Eggplant Parmesan – serves 6

2-3 medium eggplants- sliced thinly
1/2 cup flour- for dredging (more if necessary)
1 cup –  italian breadcrumbs
1 cup Olive Oil for frying- total
1 cup – tomato sauce
1 cup – shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup  – freshly grated parmesan
Salt
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1. Start by cutting the eggplant, lengthwise into about 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices (not too thin, not too thick). Lay the eggplant on a paper towel lined cutting board. Lightly sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for about 20-30 minutes. Pat dry with a paper towel.

2. Get your ingredients for dredging ready in separate plates/bowls (flour, eggs, italian breadcrumbs). Dip the eggplant in flour on both sides, then dip into the egg mixture and allow to drip off. Finally, dip the eggplant in breadcrumbs and make sure to coat well. Continue process until all the slices are well coated.
3. Start heating olive oil (or veggie oil) in a pan over medium-high heat. You want the eggplant to cook as fast as possible because they will soak up the oil quickly, but you also don’t want to burn the eggplant. Cook until browned on both sides- about 5-6 minutes. Add more oil to pan as needed during the frying process. When the eggplant slices are browned, transfer them to a paper-towel lined cutting board or baking sheet.

4. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a pan (I used an 8×8 which I think was a good size for this dish.) ladle a thin layer of tomato sauce in the pan- enough to cover the bottom. Add the first layer of eggplant. Add another thin layer of tomato sauce, and an even layer of shredded mozzarella and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant and repeat steps. Do this until you have 4 layers of eggplant. Generously top the last layer with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and grated parmesan.
5. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and cook until the top layer is golden- about another 10-15 minutes. Let the dish rest for about 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Black Friday

After yesterday’s intense meal all I wanted to do today was sleep in bed all day long. However, we are in the middle of the holiday season and presents do need to be purchased. I didn’t go too crazy- I wasn’t up at 3 am- but I was at the mall before 9. You know what they say about the early bird. They get decent discounts but get stuck in crazy long lines. But I won’t be posting the gifts I got for everyone- where’s the surprise in that? Instead, I’m posting the gifts I want for Christmas.

What? Don’t judge me! I’m helping my family out. They always say I’m super hard to shop for and I’m just giving them a couple of ideas. And, to keep it relevant, I’m just going to include my cooking-related wish list.

1. Mandolin:

I always think I don’t need one and then I want to make potato chips or sweet potato gratin’s and think: “Isn’t there an easier way?” Yes, my friends, there is.

2. Clear Mixing Bowls:

Don’t make fun of me. I need mixing bowls. That’s it.

3. Cookbooks:

I love cookbooks and can list over 100 I would love to have in my bookcase, but I’ll just list 3 I’ve seen recently that I would love to add to my collection:

1. Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: I LOVE LIDIA! This is her most recent cookbook but I also don’t have her original (hint, hint).

2. The Southern Italian Table: I think you see a pattern forming. I love italian cooking and this cookbook really won me over with their vibrant pictures and delicious recipe. I can’t wait to get this one!

3. I Know How To Cook: I love this cookbook- if only for it’s title (I too know how to cook). But seriously, this to me is a must have. I have the Silver Spoon and even though I have trouble following some of the recipes, just having the book and reading through it is such a treat.

4. Hand Blender:

I don’t need this. I want this. I want to make vegetable and sweet potato and butternut squash soup. I know I don’t need this to make it but come on- who doesn’t want a hand blender?

5. Julia Child DVD’s:

I love watching Julia cook. It’s always inspiring, exciting, and calming all at the same time. Any of the DVD’s would be a treat.

Again, just suggestions- but I won’t expect to get those desperation calls 5 days before Christmas. This is your easy way out people! I’m just happy I could help.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I was really worried I wasn’t going to be able to post today, but I came with a backup plan. Thanks to my trusty iPhone, I’m able to write you a quick note to tell you all about my Thanksgiving fun.
Everything turned out really delicious and we did not hold back on trying a taste (or two) of everything. That picture I’ve posted is of Maria’s apple pie and it was the perfect end to the perfect meal. Hope everyone is stuffed and recovering from a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Almost Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, but it feels like it’s been Thanksgiving for a week already. I’ve been planning, shopping, and cooking for so long that it already feels like Christmas… oh my… it’s almost christmas!!! I haven’t started shopping or decorating… or… thinking of cooking…

But getting back to Thanksgiving… I’m half way done with my menu which has pretty much stayed the same since I posted it a week ago. I almost dropped the cranberries but decided against it. What can I say… I’m in love!

The Mac and Cheese is all set to be covered in breadcrumbs and baked. I added a teaspoon of nutmeg and I tasted a huge difference in the cheese sauce.

And the Eggplant Lasagne is cooling off and waited to be transported to Connecticut.

Doesn’t it look so yummy. Since taking that photo I’ve had a very small bite and can tell you- it’s delicious. I made a quick chunky sauce when I got home from work and that definitely made a difference. Mmmm… perfection!

The only thing left to do tomorrow is the cornbread…

All in all it should be a fun and filling Thanksgiving.

Honey Butter

 

This is a quickie but a goodie. Have you ever eaten at Outback Steakhouse? I haven’t been in a while but used to go with my dad a lot as a teenager. He was good like that- always taking me out for really great meals! When you sit down they bring you a warm loaf of Honey Wheat Bread, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve also asked them to bring the bread with a side of honey butter. The first time I had the honey butter I freaked out- it was so good. And back then I hated honey. Crazy right? (Don’t get me started on all the things I hated way back when that I love now… mustard… honey… chilies… eggplant…)

Anyway, honey butter is perfect spread on warm freshly baked bread but can also be used in tons of other ways. One of my favorite is in baked sweet potatoes. The flavors all mesh together to create a simple masterpiece.

Honey Butter

1/2 stick butter
1 tbsp honey
1 tspn brown sugar
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch of salt

1. Mix all ingredients well in a food processor or in a bowl with a fork. Make sure to mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

2. Chill and serve when needed.

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