Pop’s Eggplant Parmesan

I apologize for the delay between posts. I caught some nasty germs while on travel, and have been out of it on the couch for the last few days. Sadly, I even gave the germs to my dog so he had a matching runny nose too. I am finally feeling like a functional human, and wanted to post some more recipes!

This recipe is my Pops’s Eggplant Parmesan. I think he get it from one of the Alton Brown cookbooks, but he makes it better. He is able to cut the eggplant so think that it has an amazing texture. I don’t have his skills down pat yet, but I think I did a pretty decent job.

RECIPE: Pop’s Eggplant Parmesan
Makes 4 Stacks

SUPPLIES NEEDED:DSCF4855
Knife
Cutting Board
Cast iron pans
Spatulas
Baking Sheet
Paper Towels
Bowls
Fork
8×8 Glass Pan
Oven heated to 375 Degrees

INGREDIENTS:
Tomatoes
Onion
Egg Plant
SaltDSCF4873
Red Wine
Garlic
Basil
Oregano
Black Pepper
Oil with a high smoke point
Flour
Eggs
Matzah Meal
Parmesan
Mozzarella

DIRECTIONS:
DSCF48571) Core and chop the tomatoes before tossing into a warm cast iron pan.
2) Dice up the last 3/4 of an onion and add it to the tomatoes. Stir and let cook.
3) Line a baking sheet with a paper towel.
4) Slice the egg plant thin and lay the slices out of the paper towel. DSCF48585) Heavily salt the eggplant before laying down another paper towel and weighing it all down with a cast iron skillet for 20 to 30 minutes.
6) Pour some dry red wine into the cooking tomatoes and stir. 
7) 
Finely chop up 2-3 cloves of garlic and add it to the tomato sauce.
DSCF48608) Season the sauce with some basil, oregano, and black pepper and let thicken over low heat.
9) Rinse the salt off the eggplants and dry with clean paper towels. Toss the old paper towels in the trash.
10) In the cast iron pan, fill with a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of a high smoke point oil and begin heating.
11) Lay out three bowls, fill the first with flour, the second with two eggs scrambled, and the third with a mixture of matzah, Parmesan, and black pepper.

12) Once the oil is to frying temperature, take the pieces of eggplant and dip them in the flour, then the egg mixture, and then coat it in the matzah mix. Using a fork for all the dipping with help keep your fingers clean!
13) Fry the eggplant until both sides are golden brown, about a minute a side.
14) Lay the fried eggplant on a baking sheet and keep it warm in the preheating oven while you finish prepping the cheese.
15) Slice about 4 ounces of mozzarella into strips.

16) In a glass dish, place a bit of tomato sauce on the bottom. Layer it with four slices of eggplant, then mozzarella on top and then cheese on top.
17) Repeat until you have four stacks each about three eggplants high. Sprinkle the stacks with Parmesan cheese.
18) Bake in a 375 degree oven until the cheese melts and browns.
19) Serve hot, with about two stacks equaling one serving. DSCF4882

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I had a lot of fun with this recipe, because I grew the eggplant, tomatoes, and basil used in it! It was really cool to be able to go into the backyard and pick most of the main ingredients! DSCF4852

Blackberry Summer Cake

I never say no to free food. Especially when my friend picks lots of blackberries and freezes two bags just for me, and they test better than any berries you can pick up at the grocery store. While I am waiting to decide what to do with the second bag of berries, I know for sure one bag is going towards my blackberry summer cake!

 

RECIPE: Blackberry Summer Cake
One Two-Layer Cake

SUPPLIES NEEDED:DSCF4843
Mixer
9 inch Cake Pans
Oven set to 375 degrees
Spatula
Sauce Pan
Metal Spoon
Measuring cups and spoons
Scale
Cooling Racks

INGREDIENTS:
Cake

6 oz Shortening
15 ounces SugarDSCF4863
1 1/2 Cups Milk
1 Tablespoon Bourbon Vanilla
7 Egg Whites
12 ounces All Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
Filling
Black Berries
2 Cups Sugar
Lemon Juice
Frosting
Powdered Sugar
Shortening
Vanilla
Black Berry Juice

DIRECTIONS:
1) In a mixer, combine the 6 oz of shortening and 15 ounces sugar.
2) Add in the milk, vanilla, and egg whites. (You can save the yolks for Hollendaise sauce for breakfast the next day!)
3) Slowly beat in the flour, baking powder, and salt until a batter is formed.
4) Use a bit of shortening to grease the two baking pans, and a first full of flour to coat the interiors.

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5) Pour the batter evenly between the two baking pans.
6) Bake for 15 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and a tooth pick comes out clean.
7) While the cakes are baking begin defrosting the black berries in a sauce pan. Once they are partially defrosted, pour some of the juice into a separate container for later.
8) Once the black berries are thawed, mix them with about 2 cups of sugar and a heavy splash of lemon juice.
9) Simmer and stir as the berries break down and the mixture thickens a bit. You will want to use a rubber spatula unless you want your wooden spoon dyed pinkish purple.

10) Let the cakes cool completely on cooling racks. DSCF4878
11) When the filling is done and the cakes are cool, its time to start on the frosting.
12) I didn’t measure exactly for the frosting. Pretty much I threw in a scoop of crisco, a dash of vanilla, the blackberry juice and mixed that until thoroughly combined. I then added powdered sugar a bit at a time while beating until it developed into a frosting with a flowing consistency. I like my black berry cakes to almost look like it was decorated with cascading frosting.
13) Place the first cake on a plate. Use a metal serving spoon to scoop the black berries on top, with a little room around the edge.
14) Place the other cake on top, and then gently flow the frosting over the top and over the sides.

15) If you aren’t serving immediately, be sure to keep the cake in the fridge. Because of the fresh berries, this cake is not to be stored on counters. DSCF4885DSCF4886

Not only does these cake have a delicious blackberry filling, but even the frosting has a sweet blackberry flavor! The white cake is balances the sweetness of the filling and frosting, creating a cake with great summer taste that isn’t overly sugary.

Summer Style Grilled Cheese

I have heard there are grilled cheese purists on the internet, that say adding anything beyond cheese to a sandwich no longer allows it to be called a grilled cheese. I disagree with them, and believe that there are no limits to what you can put into a grilled cheese as long as its made in a pan with butter!

RECIPE: Summer Style Grilled Cheese
Makes 3 Sandwiches

SUPPLIES NEEDED:DSCF4889
Spatula
Cast iron pan
Cutting Board
Knife

INGREDIENTS:
4 oz Pepper Jack Cheese
2 Tomatos
6 Slices of Whole Wheat Bread
Butter

DIRECTIONS:
1) Begin heating the cast iron pan on just under medium heat.
2) Slice the pepper jack cheese into thin pieces.
3) Slice the tomatoes to your preferred thickness.
4) Butter one side of each piece of bread.

5) In the cast iron pan, place one piece of bread butter side down. Put down a layer of tomatoes, place down a layer of cheese, and then top with another piece of bread butter side up.
6) When one side is golden brown, flip and let the other side brown.
7) Remove the sandwiches to the cutting board and let cool for a few seconds before cutting on an angle. This limits cheese strings when its cut apart.
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The match of the fresh tomatoes with the flavor of the pepper jack cheese makes an absolutely delicious sandwich!

Blue Cheese Dip

I recently acquired some new cookbooks at a thrift store book sale! After flipping through one of the Southern Living Holiday books, I was inspired by one of their “hot wing” dips. Here is my version of blue cheese dip for vegetables!

RECIPE: Blue Cheese Dip
Makes a big bowl

SUPPLIES NEEDED:DSCF4837
Food Processor
Cutting Board
Knife
Bowl
Spatula

INGREDIENTS:
1 Onion
2 Garlic Cloves
1 Block Cream Cheese
1/4 Cup Mayo
1/4 Cup Sour Cream
2 Tablespoon Dried Parsley
2 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
2 Tablespoon hot sauce
2 Teaspoons lemon juice
Black Pepper
1/2 Cup Blue Cheese
Green Pepper
Carrots

DIRECTIONS:
1) Cut and peal the onion and garlic cloves. Add it to the food processor and process. DSCF4839
2) Add the cream cheese in chunks to the food processor, and then the mayo and sour cream.
3) Add the parsley, white wine vinegar, hot sauce, and lemon juice.
4) Grind in a hearty helping of black pepper.
5) Top with blue cheese.
6) Puree in the food processor until a smooth well mixed dip.
7) Slice green peppers and carrots into strips to dip into the delicious blue cheese dip. DSCF4841

Chicken and Waffles

We finally hit somewhat of a cool period, so I thought I would take advantage of the not 90 degree weather to make one of my favorite family recipes. My great-nana used to make chicken and waffles, and her recipe is what my mom used to make for me. There is something extremely comforting about consuming a recipe that has been made across generations of your family.

Also, if you think chicken and waffles should be breaded and fried chicken with syrup over waffles, you are wrong. If you don’t believe me on how wrong you are, then make this recipe!

RECIPE: Chicken and Waffles
Makes 2 servings with some leftovers

SUPPLIES NEEDED:DSCF4815
Bowl
Spoon
Towl
Waffle Iron
Dutch oven or pot with lid
Cast iron pan
Baking Sheet
Oven set to 250 degrees

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 Cups Milk
6 Tablespoons Melted Butter
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
2 Eggs
2 Cups Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoon Yeast
Chicken with skins and bones
Water
Crisco
Salt
Pepper
Bay Leaf

DIRECTIONS:
1) The waffle batter has to sit for an hour, so its important to make it first. Warm the milk and combine it with the melted butter in a bowl.
2) Stir in the maple syrup, salt, and vanilla.
3) Crack in two eggs and mix well.
4) Add the flour and yeast, stirring and then let sit with a towel over the bowl for an hour. I set a timer for thirty minutes so I had time to get the chicken portion ready.

5) In a dutch over or pot, combine the chicken with enough water to cover the chicken.
6) Let the water come to a low boil or high simmer, keeping the pot covered while the chicken cooks.
DSCF48227) Once the chicken is about cooked through and looks like it will easy peal from the bone, begin heating a cast iron pan with crisco in it. You will want a good amount of crisco for this stage to prevent sticking.
8) Once the crisco is melted and hot, remove the chicken from the pot to a baking sheet. Blot dry a little bit to limit splatter.
9) Fry the chicken one piece at a time in the cast iron pan until the skin and chicken is brown and crispy.
10) Place the browned chicken bake on the baking sheet and put into the oven while you finish the waffles and gravy.
11) Keep the water you cooked the chicken in cooking, and add some salt, pepper, a bay leaf, and anything else you like in your gravy.
12) Begin cooking the waffles in your waffle iron/maker. The recipe made four full waffles in my machine.
13) Stir and taste the gravy between waffles until its a nice and tasty chicken gravy.
14) Serve the chicken on top of the waffles and then pour the gravy over top. The gravy should soak into the waffle.

DSCF4823

The waffle recipe was one from Charlie, and I have never had a bad recipe from him. His waffles are a perfect match for this recipe, so please don’t use waffle mix or another recipe that you have. Also, my Great-Nana taught me that any leftover waffles should be eaten for dessert with a bit of butter and a sprinkle of white sugar!

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Zucchini Lasagna

I had half a zucchini that had been cut length wise. I was trying to figure out what to do with it, when suddenly the thought popped into my head! Everyone loves spaghetti style zoodles, so why not make lasagna style zoodles? I didn’t have traditional lasagna ingredients on hand, but I think I made do pretty well!

RECIPE: Zucchini Lasagna
Makes 6 servings

SUPPLIES NEEDED:DSCF4795
Cutting Board
Knife
Oven set to 375 degrees
Spatula
Cast iron pans
Plate
Cheese Grater
Spoon

INGREDIENTS:
Tomatoes
Garlic
Basil
Oregano
Sage
Ground Pepper
Pizza Sausage
Canned Hot Peppers
Zucchini
Cream Cheese
Parsley
Parmesan
Mozzarella

DIRECTIONS:
1) Pour the canned tomatoes into a cast iron pan.
2) Chop up the garlic and toss it into the tomatoes.
3) While letting the tomatoes cook a bit, add the pizza sausage to another pan.
4) I like hot Italian sausage in my lasagna, so pour the liquid from the canned hot peppers over the cooking sausage.

5) Season the tomato sauce with lots of chopped up fresh basil, a bit of sage, a heavy dash of oregano, and some freshly ground pepper. Stir occasionally as it cooks.
6) When the sausage is done, remove it from the pan to a plate.
7) Slice the 1 and 1/2 zucchinis length wise into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Then cut them down to cast iron pan length.
8) In a bowl of measuring cup, stir together cream cheese, lots of parsley, and tons of Parmesan. This was my attempt to replace the feel and flavor of the missing ricotta cheese element.
9) Shred the mozzarella cheese.

10) In the pan that  you had cooked the sausage, lay down a layer of zucchini noodles.
11) Top the zucchini noodles with tomato sauce, sausage, cream cheese mix, and mozzarella.
12) Repeat step 11 until out of ingredients or you’ve reached the top of the pan.
13) Always top with as much leftover cheese as possible.
14) Bake for between 20-30 minutes or until all the cheese is melted and starting to brown.
15) Slice and serve.DSCF4806With all the filling, I was amazed that the zucchini stayed in layers! The tomato sauce next to the zucchini helped it soften while it baked, and you could cut through the whole thing with your fork just like a regular lasagna. Even my husband liked the cream cheese/Parmesan cheat for the ricotta replacement! DSCF4807

Late Summer Nachos

I almost wanted to call these harvest nachos, but with it still being summer it didn’t quite feel accurate. These nachos are made with all locally harvest and prepared vegetables, and the combination of fresh and seasonal just made the flavors pop! If you ever have leftover grilled corn, I highly recommend making nachos with it!

RECIPE: Late Summer Nachos
Makes 2 Meal Servings

SUPPLIES NEEDED:DSCF4809
Cutting Board
Knife
Oven set to 375 degrees
Baking Sheet
Spatula

INGREDIENTS:
Tortilla Chips
Pepper Jack Cheese
Orange Tomato
Banana Peppers
Grilled Corn
Salsa
Lemonade (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
1) Lay out a single layer of tortilla chips on a baking sheet. We had one bag that was almost empty and used maybe a 1/4 of the second bag. DSCF4811

2) Shred 4 ounces or half a block of pepper jack cheese. Sprinkle it evenly across the chips, but try not to let any lay just on the baking sheet.
4) Chop the banana peppers into rings. I like a bit thicker ring because I think it makes for a better bite, but if spicy isn’t your thing than go for thinner slices.
5) Cut the tomato into bite size chunks.
6) Distribute the peppers and tomatoes across the chips.
7) Husk the grilled corn and then carefully use a knife to cut off the kernels. Break up the kernels and sprinkle over the chips. 
8) Back in the 375 degree oven until the cheese is melted and just starting to brown.
9) Serve with the salsa of your choice. I went with the jalapeno salsa that I had canned last month.
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These nachos are not only delicious, but colorful! I enjoyed the contract between the red salsa, the orange tomatoes, the green banana peppers, and the yellow corn. It really made the whole dish feel festive! Also, these meal goes really well with some nice cold lemonade!

Bacon Grease Potato Salad

If you have a cardiologist, I would suggest skipping this recipe because it is not heart healthy in the least. Just like the bacon wrapped ribs, this recipe is delicious, but also probably not worth making more than once a year to keep your arteries clear and operating. Also, this recipe includes chilling it so I recommend starting it a few hours before dinner and letting it just hang in your fridge while you cook the rest of the meal.

RECIPE: Bacon Grease Potato Salad
Makes 4 Servings

SUPPLIES NEEDED:DSCF4827
Cutting Board
Knife
Pots
Bowls
Spatula or Spoon

INGREDIENTS:
Bacon Grease
2 Potatoes
2 Eggs
Carrots with greens
Malt Vinegar
Garlic Powder
Mayo
Mustard

DIRECTIONS:
1) Pour the bacon grease into a pot and begin heating it up over medium heat.
2) Dice the potato into little pieces. Toss it into the bacon grease and cover.
3) Place two eggs in a pot of water and bring it to a boil. I have a little egg timer that tells me when they are hard boiled.
4) Chop the carrots and place them in a bowl. They won’t be cooked so they stay crispy crunchy.
5) Chop up the carrot greens and toss them in with the potatoes. Keep the potatoes uncovered and stir occasionally so that they cook evenly and get just a bit crispy on the outside.
6) Season the potatoes in the pot with malt vinegar and a dash of garlic powder.
7) When the potatoes are cooked through, pour them into the bowl with the carrots.
8) Scoop mayo over the potatoes while they are still warm and stir until everything is evenly coated. Cover the bowl and let it chill in the fridge for a while.

DSCF48329) When the eggs are done, drain them and pour ice water over them to cool them quickly and make them easy to peel.
10) Peal the eggs and then rinse them to make sure all the egg shell is gone.
11) Remove the yolks form the eggs and put into a small bowl.
12) And just enough mustard to the bowl that you can mash it with the yolks into a spread.
13) Chop up the egg whites into little pieces.
14) Stir the egg yolk mix and egg whites into the potato mixture.
15) Let chill fully combined for an hour or two prior to serving. DSCF4833This potato salad goes really well with fresh and light meals. We did a lemon ginger marinated chicken and grilled corn to balance out the strong flavor of the potato salad.

The Classic B.L.T.

When I was a kid, I hated tomatoes. All tomato byproducts were fine, but the real deal was a no go. I used to eat tomato soup, ketchup, and even bruschetta. A whole or sliced tomato though was to me what garlic is to a vampire.

Fortunately, I have outgrown my dislike of tomatoes. I know have an appreciation for the wonderful flavor they imparted to your tastebuds, especially when they are freshly picked and warm from the sun. Here is my classic BLT recipe to use as soon as you find red tomatoes on your own vines or see them available at the market.

RECIPE: The Classic B.L.T.
Makes 3 Servings 

SUPPLIES NEEDED:DSCF4783
Cutting Board
Knife
Oven set to Broil
Cast iron pan
Tongs
Plate with paper towel

INGREDIENTS:
Bacon
Whole Wheat Bread
Sea Salt
Pepper
Tomatoes
Romaine Lettuce
Light Mayo

DIRECTIONS:DSCF4784
1) Begin by frying the bacon in the pan. You will want two to three slices per sandwich depending on the size of the bread slices.
2) Put the necessary number of pieces of bread under the broil to start toasting. Its easier to have them all done at once using this method. Don’t forget to flip or remove them or you’ll just end up with burnt bread.
3) Slice the tomatoes and lay the slices out on the cutting board. Sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt and pepper. Let rest while you finish prepping the rest of the ingredients.
4) Wash and tear off one to two leaves of romaine per sandwich. If they are large leaves you will want to rip/cut them down to bread size. DSCF4786
5) Take the toasted bread and spread a layer of mayo on one slice.
6) On the top piece of bread, lay down the one to two leaves of romaine and the sliced tomato. Lay the bacon on top of the mayo.
7) Lay the bacon on top of the mayo. 
8) Close the sandwich and enjoy as is. Do not cut it in half or in quarters for risk of mushing the tomatoes when they are perfectly firm in the whole sandwich.  DSCF4790

The salt and pepper on the sliced tomatoes is the real trick for this classic B.L.T. It may seem like a small, inconsequential step, but trust me, you don’t want to skip it!

Pickles, all kinds of Pickles

There is a cucumber fairy where I work, who has bestowed upon me lbs and lbs of cucumbers. Now there really is only one thing to do when you are gifted an almost overwhelming amount of cucumbers…pickles. This has been the summer of all the pickles. The little ones were made into my Grandma Connie’s fridge pickles, because they are delicious and the best summer snack ever. The larger ones were destined to become canned pickle chips to enjoy this winter.

RECIPE:  Pickles, all kinds of Pickles
Makes as many cans as you have cucumbers

SUPPLIES NEEDED:DSCF4771
Cutting Board
Knife
Large Pot
Jars
Lids
Rings
Pot Holders (lots)
Apron
Large bowls
Spoon
Ladle

INGREDIENTS:
Cucumbers
DSCF4756Vinegar
Salt
Water
Dill
Garlic
Hot Peppers
Bay Leaves
Hot Pepper Flakes
Peppercorns
Mustard Seed
Mustard Powder

DIRECTIONS:
DSCF47691) Wash the cucumbers! My favorite method is to fill up one of the kitchen sinks with water and just pour all the cucumbers in. Wash and dry each cucumber individually before setting next to the cutting board.
2) Slice the pickles to your preferred thickness for pickle chips. I make them sandwich thick, which is slightly thicker than hamburger thick.
3) If you use garlic, you will want one or more cloves before can. Remove the skins from the garlic.
4) Use gloves to slice up jalapenos or hot peppers of your choice.
5) For the base of the pickle brine, I use the Ball Blue Book Hamburger Dill recipe. I let my husband read through all the pickle recipes, and this is the one he picked. The ratio is 6 tablespoons salt to 4.5 cups water to 4 cups vinegar.
6) Sterilize your jars and bring the brine to a boil at the same time.
7) The original recipe calls for mustard seeds, dill heads, and peppercorns to season the mixture. Other pickle recipes in my canning books also used bay leaves for more of a kosher style, hot pepper flakes for a bit of spice, some garlic for a kick, and even fresh hot peppers. When I ran out of mustard seeds, I switched over to the mustard powder which is what I use in the dilly beans as well.
8) Fill each jar with pickle slices and add the mix of seasonings that you desire. I insist that peppercorns go into each batch, but have fun mixing up the flavors. The herbs in the quantities you add won’t impact the acidity of the brine, so have fun!
9) Fill the jars with the hot brine, leaving a 1/2 inch head space. Use a spoon or knife to make sure all the bubbles are remove from the jars before processing.
10) Process pint jars for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes in a boiling water canner.
11) Let cool over night and then make sure all of the jars are properly sealed before labeling and storing in a cool dark place.

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The worse part about canned pickles is that you have to wait 6 weeks before you crack open the first jar. I am excited to see how all the different combination of pickle flavors will come out this winter, and hopefully it will help me narrow down my favorite combinations for next year!