One Heck Of A Meal

If you are free, try to checkout this awesome fundraising bake sale! Cupcakes can reduce body temps! It's a fact;)

If you are free, try to check out this awesome fundraising bake sale! Cupcakes can reduce body temps! It’s a fact:)

 

How often do you cook dinner? I usually cook dinner 5 nights a week. That’s a lot of meals. As much as enjoy trying new recipes and making some up, I have those dishes that I always revisit throughout the year. As a kid, my mom’s favorite go-to meals were meatloaf, perch, spaghetti with jarred Ragu, and liver and onions. There was always a half-gallon of milk on the table, and it always had this orange plastic holder with a handle. Why? I’m not sure. Where did my Mom even get that thing? And where did it go?

My go-to meals are salmon (either seared or in cake form), big salads with a ton of stuff in it, good old pasta with a tomato sauce (and I admit, often it is Barilla), and some kind of grain salad, like wheat berry or Farro, with roasted veggies and chicken. But because I cook a lot of meals, I don’t want to get too repetitive, so I look everywhere for new ideas.

I made a meal the other night from an article in the San Diego Union Tribune (http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/Apr/08/Armenian-cookbook-vegan-eggplant-casserole/), and Franz claimed it is one of his favorites. It is so simple to make, it smells awesome, and it is delicious. This will be added to my “go-to” meals without a doubt. The creator of the recipe, Dikranouhi Kirazian, is a local San Diegan who just published Armenian Vegan: A Pure Vegan Cookbook with 200+Recipes Using No Animal Products. I might have come up with a sexier title, but if this recipe is a good example of the rest of her work, I will have to buy this one!

Eggplant Casserole (Any notes in parenthesis, highlighted and in italics are my notes or additions.)

Serves 2 to 4

2 large eggplants

Olive oil (for brushing eggplant)

Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste (or any herbs you prefer that can withstand being broiled)

For the sauce

2 medium onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped  (I added more because I love garlic.)

1⁄4 cup olive oil

2 cups sliced mushrooms (I added more because I love mushrooms.)

2 bay leaves

1⁄2 teaspoon oregano

1⁄2 teaspoon dried basil

15-ounce can diced tomatoes

8-ounce can tomato sauce (I had a 15 oz jar of tomato sauce from Trader Joe’s, so I added the whole thing. I like it a little saucy!)

Wash eggplant and cut into 1⁄2-inch-thick round slices. Place slices on a large tray, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder ( I had some Santa Maria seasoning that I wanted to use, so I sprinkled that on them.). Turn slices over and repeat on other side. Put under a broiler preheated to between 350 and 400 degrees (I put my oven to 425 degrees to achieve the necessary browning), and broil both sides until a light golden brown. When done, remove from oven and set aside.(I opted to slice each round in half after broiling. I figured it would be a little easier to eat.)

Prepare the sauce while eggplant is cooking: Chop onions and garlic and sauté for several minutes in small amount of olive oil; then add the rest of the olive oil, mushrooms and all other spices. Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, and stir frequently. Cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, then turn off heat.

Prepare for baking: Pour several spoons of sauce on the bottom of an 11-by-7-inch or 9-by-9-inch casserole dish. Layer the bottom of casserole dish with eggplant slices. Spoon some of the sauce on this layer; then add new layers, spooning sauce over each. Be sure to keep some sauce to pour over top layer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and bake casserole dish for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot, as a main dish with rice or any pasta, and with a crunchy baguette. Can also be served cold as an appetizer. (I served this with Barilla’s Linguine.)

Sorry there are no photos.  I didn’t take a picture because I didn’t realize how much I would love it, and the leftovers didn’t look very pretty.  However, if you go to the UT link noted in the beginning, there is a beautiful photo!

I couldn’t leave you without one image.  I found my childhood milk holder!

This is it!!!!

This is it!!!!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

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Tomato, Tomaato? Go to Suzie’s Farm and Find Out!

I hope everyone’s week is going well so far!  I have to share the details about my trip out to Suzie’s Farm (http://www.suziesfarm.com/).  If you can’t go, at least check out the website.  There are some great recipes there.  Also, check out the special events planned.  I wish I could attend the Autumnal Equinox Dinner 2012 when chefs from The Linkery and El Take It Easy, Cucina Urbana, and Mision 19 will be part of an amazing event that includes secret gardens, mazes and music at the farm!  Maybe next year?!

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Jackie, a.k.a The Seaside Baker, arranged for a private group tour (Harvesting Tour) of Suzie’s.  Check out her blog: http://theseasidebaker.com/  I love her tagline: Musings of a Mompreneur!  Very cute!  We were greeted by our docents, Jenna and Karissa, by the farm stand.  If you want to buy some produce without taking a tour, you can visit any Saturday between 10am and 2pm. If you just like to have food prepared for you, check out all of the restaurants that buy from this farm.  You might have had Suzie’s tomatoes without even realizing it!  Blind Lady Ale House, Farm House Cafe, Miho Gastrotruck, and Marriott Del Mar are just a few spots where you can get some of this organic and tasty stuff! Another interesting tidbit, our docent, Jenna, has a food blog: http://foodislifeblog.com/  It’ll be interesting to see what recipes and food facts she posts!  I’m looking forward to reading this blog!

The farm is 13 miles south of Downtown San Diego, but you really feel like you are in another world – or at least in another country.  In some ways you are!  You can see the rolling hills of Mexico just beyond the gardens.  The farm is named after a stray dog who wandered onto the land and into the hearts of the owners, Robin Taylor and Lucila De Alejandro.  Future plots were named after dogs as well: Bear and Kiki.  Kiki followed us throughout the tour.  I guess she’s a docent as well!  There is a fourth plot that has just been acquired, but the name is unknown at this time.  I’m hoping for Sweet Pea or Monsieur.  Just throwing that out there.  All four areas will be a total of 100 acres.  I must admit, knowing the owners are such dog lovers makes me love this place even more!

The reason I loved the private tour is that it’s really a peaceful spot to hang out for an hour and a half.  I was told the public tours on the second Saturday of the month are great, but can be crowded.  The Harvesting Tour can be arranged for groups of 10 or more, costs $10 per person, and you get to pick produce right off the vine to put into your grocery bag.  What could be a better way to spend the day? Make sure to bring a bag!  We walked past rows of pumpkins (12 different varieties), tomatoes, Swiss Chard, tomatillo, okra, and Lamb’s Quarters to name a few.  Everything is planted by hand and a butter knife!  You could take a tour during different times of the year and see and taste so many different things.  I’m thinking this will have to be a quarterly trip at least!!  My favorite part was the chicken coop.  Our guides told us to grab an ear of corn to offer the chickens.  They ran to us like Monsieur when I tell him his food is ready!  Check out the website to see all of the details on the various tours offered.

When I got home, I unpacked my loot and tried to figure out what to make.  I decided to keep it simple.  I sautéed the red onions in some olive oil until they had a nice caramelization, then I turned the heat down until they softened and became super sweet.  I threw in a pinch of salt and some ground black pepper, too.  It was Sunday, so we threw some hotdogs on the grill, bought some La Brea bread, and slathered the bread with horseradish.  We topped the hotdogs with the grilled onions (Franz said he could have just had a bowl of the onions alone.), some Stadium Mustard (a nod to Cleveland), and a little ketchup.  Perfect!  As a side, I had Franz grill the mini eggplants from Suzie’s.  I prepared the eggplants by slicing them in half lengthwise, placing them in a bowl with olive oil, honey, and 1 hot pepper from Suzie’s that I sliced lengthwise into 3 slices.  Seriously, you have to do this!  It doesn’t get easier than that??  The pepper packed a punch, but it was a nice balance to the sweetness of the honey and the earthiness of the Eggplant.  The next day, I had some left over grilled eggplants and sautéed red onions, so I improvised.  I cooked some thin spaghetti, and then I added the eggplants (chopped) and onions.  In addition, I took some tomatoes (some from our yard, too) and tore them with my hands and added that to the pasta.  I added some oregano, salt, ground black pepper, chili flakes, extra virgin olive oil, and some garlic.  Once in our bowls, I topped it with a little bit of Parmesan.  Add a glass of red wine and call it a night!  Actually, we ended the night with chocolate chip cookies I made the day before.  I still have some veggies to eat from my trip!  I will let you know what else I come up with during the week!  Also, let me know about a farm near you!

Take Care and Happy Eatings!

Baba at Home and Luna’s in Hillcrest

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I’ve been hearing some positive things about Luna Grill lately, so I finally checked it out over the weekend (http://www.lunagrill.com/).  It’s a Southern California chain with 6 locations in San Diego County and 2 locations in Orange County.  Its cuisine is Mediterranean and everything is made to order.  There’s an emphasis on hormone-free and anti-biotic foods.  You place your order at the counter, you are given a number, and the food is brought to your table.  First thing that arrived at our table was the Eggplant Dip.  I make a Baba Ghanouj with roasted eggplants and tahini, so I was thinking it would be similar.  It was very different from mine, but I really enjoyed it.  Mine is more creamy, and Luna’s is more like a Caponata.  There was a nice sweetness from the caramalized onions, and it was topped with yogurt and sautéed mint.  If you don’t like onions, don’t worry, you’ll probably never know you had any.  They just melt into the dip.  The dip was a great start, and the pita was so soft and warm!  Yum!!   It was delicious with my San Pellegrino Limonata – I love that stuff!  The husband opted for an Avery White Rascal: a perfect summertime Belgian Wheat.

Franz ordered the Gyros Plate Entrée with a Side of Falafel.  I had to order the Lamb Kabob Wrap.  First of all, this place calls itself  “The Ultimate Kabobery”, and, secondly, I can’t turn down lamb.   Franz thought his plate was standard, and we both thought the falafel was a little crumbly.   The garnish of either carrots or grilled tomatoes never made their appearance on Franz’s dish.  We didn’t feel like asking for them.  However, I liked when I placed my order, the cashier asked how I wanted my lamb cooked.  I didn’t expect that from a “fast food” style place.  I ordered it medium rare, and it was served as such.  The meat was flavorful, lean and a decent amount of meat for $12.  It came with either a side of Basmati rice or french fries.  I opted for the fries which did a great job at attacking my french fry craving!   We were stuffed, but we had a gift card so we needed to spend a few more bucks.  Franz couldn’t even finish his meal!  Shocking!  We ordered a Red Velvet Cupcake to go, and we had it later as an after dinner snack.  I’m picky when it comes to cupcakes, and I thought this one was a standard Red Velvet.  As my husband said “I wouldn’t kick it out of bed.”  As a side note, if you stop by the Hillcrest location, check out the bathroom hallway.  Very cool!

Below is my go to recipe for Baba Ghanouj.  Everything is really to taste, so if you want more garlic (I always do), throw it in!  Also, roasting the garlic first would be tasty!  Just make sure to taste after you’ve made it – you can always add more of something to it!  I usually add some Sriracha!  I can’t help myself.  If you want a greater roasted flavor from the eggplant, you could throw them on the grill or broil them in the oven.  Play around with this recipe and let me know what you do!

Baba Ghanouj (Or Baba Ganoush)

2 1-pound eggplants, halved lengthwise

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove, chopped

Pita bread wedges

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously oil rimmed baking sheet. Place eggplant halves, cut side down, on sheet. Roast until eggplant is very soft, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. Using spoon, scoop out pulp from eggplant into strainer set over bowl. Let stand 30 minutes, allowing excess liquid to drain from eggplant.

Transfer eggplant pulp to processor. Add 1/4 cup oil, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic; process until almost smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to small bowl. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Serve with pita wedges.  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Baba-Ghanouj-107051

Take Care and Happy Eating!

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