She’s an Easy Lover! Slow-Cooker Recipe For All!

This has been an odd weather week in San Diego. And, yes, “odd weather week” is a very rare description for this part of the country. I still find it amusing when the weather forecasters tell us to buckle up for a major warm up. Usually that means we will go from 70 degrees to 73. What is truly pathetic is that I feel it, and I get annoyed with the “heat spell.” So whether you are in San Diego braving 73 degrees and some humidity blowing in from Cabo or you are in Cleveland, Ohio feeling a true summer warm up, you may want to avoid standing over or near your oven or stove. That is when the most easily loved appliance comes into play. I always thought of slow cooker meals being more for the winter season, but I’m loving it on these hot warmer days. Another huge benefit, the ability to walk away! So even if you are home, no need to tend to the pot! This truly is an easy lover. I’m pretty sure Phil was referring to a slow cooker.

I have two recipes that I really loved making (and eating) this week. The first might not sound so “Summery” especially due to the pumpkin addition, but I love Fall, and I already miss it. Yes, we get Fall in San Diego. It goes from 70 to 68. Leaves fall to the ground! Stop judging me! The first recipe caught my eye in the San Diego Union Tribune which was adapted from Michele Corbett’s site, http://www.cookingonthefrontburners.com. I made a few changes, but if you would like to see the original recipe, please check out Michele’s website. The second recipe is from Martha Stewart’s site, but I’ve made a couple of changes to the original recipe. For the original recipe, check out: http://www.marthastewart.com/341733/slow-cooker-greek-stuffed-peppers.

Meaty (or Not) Pumpkin Chili

16 oz ground sirloin (or ground turkey, or ground chicken, or tempeh, or tofu – You get the idea.)

1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil, if needed

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 chopped yellow, red, or orange pepper

3 cloves minced garlic

2 cups crushed tomatoes

4 ounces can diced green chilies

1 cup pumpkin pie filling (not puree)

1 cup chicken broth

2 Tablespoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

15 oz can black beans rinsed and drained

Toppings – sour cream or Greek yogurt

  1. Brown the ground sirloin in a Dutch oven (or similar pot). Drain most of the fat. Add the onion, celery, pepper and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes. You can add a bit of grapeseed oil if the ingredients start to stick to the bottom of the pot. *If you opt to go the vegetarian route, simply add the tempeh or tofu after the vegetables have sautéed, and continue sautéing until heated throughout.
  2. Add tomatoes and chilies and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add pumpkin, broth, seasonings, and beans. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Serve with sour cream or yogurt.
Slow-Cooker Greek Stuffed Peppers

Slow-Cooker Greek Stuffed Peppers

Slow-Cooker Greek Stuffed Peppers

5 large bell peppers

1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup crumbled feta (4 ounces)

1/2 cup quinoa (*You can really use any type of grain. Just don’t pre-cook the grain. Add it to the mix uncooked.)

4 scallions, thinly sliced

2 garlic clove, minced

1-2 teaspoon dried oregano

Spoonful of Sambal Oelek (*This really is to taste. I like food with a kick, so I put in a good amount. You can skip it all together if you prefer your meals on the mild side.)

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper (*Make sure to go easy on the salt since feta is salty.)

Chicken stock or water, about 1/2 cup (*This is added to the bottom of the slow cooker to ensure the peppers do not stick. You just need enough liquid to coat the bottom, then the peppers are placed in the liquid upright.)

Lemon wedges, for serving

  1. Slice a very thin layer from the base of each bell pepper so they sit flat. Slice off tops just below stem. Discard stems; chop tops, and place in a medium bowl. Remove ribs and seeds from peppers.
  2. Add beans, feta, quinoa, scallions, garlic, oregano, and sambal oelek to bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Stuff peppers with bean mixture; place upright in slow cooker. I opted to add a 1/2 a cup of chicken stock to the bottom of the slow cooker just to ensure the peppers wouldn’t stick. Cover; cook on high, 4 hours.
  3. Serve with lemon wedges.

On another note, I purchased Organic Edamame Spaghetti at Costco last week. The only ingredients are water and edamame. I had to give it a try. The box has two recipes listed, both of which are very high in fat content. I opted to simply cook the spaghetti and serve it with a mushroom tomato sauce topped with Parmesan. I’m glad I tried it, but I will not buy it again. The flavor was not remarkable, but what really got me was the texture. It was spongy. I am left with a lot of the stuff, so I will use it, but I will stick to eating edamame the old-fashioned way – from the pod!

Edamame pasta

I hope everyone has a great week, and you can rest assured I will be fixated on the Cleveland Cavaliers capturing the NBA Finals trophy! Go Cavs! #allin

Take Care and Happy Eating!

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Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away!

Well, the breaking news story in San Diego is the rain, and with good reason! We need it. And when it comes, it brings some problems like flooding and car accidents. Ah, the drawbacks of living here. I’m taking a cue from my French Bulldog, Monsieur, and I decided to stay in and write. Actually, if I was taking his cue I would sleep all day on the sofa. He is living the dream. Also, he partied pretty hard last night at Thorn Street Brewery (http://thornstreetbrew.com/). He, like his parents, is a Cleveland Cavalier fan.

Cavs Sir

This week I noticed a delicious sounding recipe in the UT San Diego Food Section (May 13) that I will make, mostly likely on Sunday. I think Marrakesh Carrots from Joy the Baker would be a perfect side dish! http://joythebaker.com/2015/05/marrakesh-carrots/ If you haven’t stopped by her blog, you should.

Spelt and Lamb Meatballs 4 to 6 servings

4 scallions

1/4 cup parsley

1/4 cup dill sprigs, more for garnish

2 fat or 3 smaller garlic cloves, grated

2 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, or to taste

1 red chili or jalapeno pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

3 cups cooked spelt or other whole grain berries

1/2 pound lamb

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for frying (*I would use another kind of oil for frying – one that can take high heat like grapeseed oil or regular olive oil, for example.)

Lemon wedges, for serving

  1. Slice scallions, keeping the light green and white parts separate from the dark green. Put scallion whites and light green slices into a food processor along with parsley, dill, garlic, salt, chili, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, and paprika; process until everything is well minced. Add the spelt and process until the spelt breaks down into a rough, chunky paste.
  2. Transfer spelt mixture into a bowl and add lamb and olive oil. Knead mixture with your hands until well mixed. It should hold together nicely. Form into 1 1/4-inch balls and either cook immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to one day.
  3. When ready to cook, heat a skillet, then add just enough oil to coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, add just enough meatballs to fit one layer with space between each piece; they should not touch, or they won’t brown as nicely. Fry meatballs until well browned on all sides, then remove to a plate. Add more oil to the pan and fry another batch or two, as needed. (Alternatively, to broil meatballs, lay them out in a single layer, not touching, on a rimmed baking sheet or two. Drizzle with oil and broil until browned, about 4 to 10 minutes, checking often and shaking the pan occasionally to help them brown all over. *This is how I plan on making mine.)
  4. Serve with lemon wedges and the reserved scallion greens and dill sprigs.

On another note, it’s my Mom’s birthday today! It is always a major bummer, to say the least, being so far from family. Some time ago, she took a bunch of old school slides and had them burned onto a disk so we could look through them. There are some amazing images. There are photos of the family, before I was even a thought in my parents’ minds, sitting around a television watching The Beatles’ first televised appearance and my mom meeting Lucille Ball outside of her house in Beverly Hills. Just for the outfits alone, these photos are priceless! So in your honor, Mom, here’s one of my favorites. Seriously, you should have been in an Alfred Hitchcock movie!

Mom on a BoatTake Care and Happy Eating! And Happy Birthday, Mom!

Are You A Food-Centered Family?

We are well into 2015, and I finally got a chance to mentally take in the gifts I received over Christmas. So much is going on in my family, and in everyone’s family, over the month of December: traveling from one coast to another, traveling from one house to another, eating at, possibly, every new spot in Cleveland, Ohio, buying and giving gifts, sending and getting Holiday cards, carting Monsieur all over the country (kind of), dealing with a stolen wallet (fortunately that doesn’t happen every December), and the million other things that make up the busiest time of the year. It seems that with so many things going on, it’s easy to miss out on the things going on around us.

One of the gifts I received was Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2013 from my mother-in-law. I love these annual cookbooks. I get to pull out the old magazines I’ve been saving and transfer any notes of mine from the magazines to the cookbook, and then send the magazines off to a good home. It makes me feel so organized.

The note from the editor, Scott Mowbray, caught my eye from the October 2012 publication. “Sign of a food-centered family: During one meal, they talk about what the next meal will be.”  Hmmm.  This idea was brought up while he was interviewing Chef Ming Tsai.  Chef Ming explains how important food was to his family, and his Dad would always take photos of the food they shared.  Ahead of his time, right?  Mowbray notes that we, hopefully, eat about 82,000 meal throughout our lives, and we should remember them.  I would add to that point that we should respect them as well because meals are more than a plate of food in front of us.  Think about a family meal – it indicates we are healthy enough to enjoy a meal, we have money in order to purchase what is in front of us, and we have loved ones surrounding us.  Now being food-centered can turn a little crazy quickly, and we’ve all been there, too.  For example, I’m sitting with my family at a restaurant for lunch and we start talking about what we will eat for dinner, or I’m out to dinner with friends and I start discussing lunch options for the following day with my husband.  There is a fine line between enjoying a moment and taking it in and rushing through a moment in order to get to the next moment.  I hope I take the time with each eating event, and I will be more mindful that I do so in the future.  But this does not mean I will stop thinking or discussing the next meal!  Again, it’s that fine balance between appreciating and anticipating.  I think it can be done in a healthy way.

But this editorial note got me thinking: Is everyone like me, Chef Ming, and the Cooking Light editor?  Does everyone think about the next meal while they are still seated at a table?  Is this common?  Of course I love cooking and eating, so every meal is usually an adventure for me.  Why wouldn’t I look forward to the next one?  And if you are reading this, you probably feel the same way about food.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this one!

And in the spirit of thinking about the next meal, I’m listing the meals I made, and will make, this week for dinner.  I’ve added the links so that you can easily access the recipe if you so desire.

Nutty Vegetable Sauté (http://www.meatlessmonday.com/recipes/nutty-vegetable-saute/)  This was made over the weekend, but the leftovers have carried into this week’s lunch and dinner menus.  I love when that happens!

Spicy Lentil-Walnut Burgers (http://www.marthastewart.com/318248/spicy-lentil-walnut-burgers) served with Roasted Carrots.  I was attempting to make a healthy “Burgers and Fries” meal for the viewing of The Ohio State v. Oregon football game.  I served it with Chunky Olive Hummus from Trader Joe’s (YUM!) and Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Flat Bread.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars (http://www.marthastewart.com/1065205/peanut-butter-and-jelly-bars) These were made as a half-time treat during the football game.  This was followed by one Stone Enjoy By IPA (http://enjoyby.stonebrewing.com/) to celebrate the victorious OSU!

 

O-H . . .

O-H . . .

Wild Mushroom Farro Risotto (Farrotto) (http://www.moreuncorked.com/!S0wXzFfbyV6LkYgba2nHpA!/Wild-Mushroom-Farro-Risotto-Farrotto) I omit the butter from this recipe and add more olive oil.  I may add more than 2 ounces of goat cheese.  Two ounces? HA!

Salad There is no recipe for this one.  I usually make a salad most nights of the week.  Occasionally the salad is the main course with a bunch of stuff in it, or I will make a simple one, like an arugula and red pepper salad.  I grew up eating a salad with dinner most nights of the week, so I like the tradition – and it’s tasty!

Falafel-Stuffed Eggplant with Tahini Sauce and Tomato Relish (http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/falafel-stuffed-eggplant)

Again, let me know your thoughts regarding the “Food-Centered Family”!  I’d love to hear from you!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

 

Another Melissa’s Food Challenge!

Once again,  Melissa’s Produce (http://www.melissas.com/) put San Diego Food Bloggers’ to another mystery box challenge.  From my FedEx delivered box of goodies, and I had to choose at least 3-4 items from Melissa’s and incorporate 1-2 other ingredients, dealer’s choice (or in this case, cook’s choice).  I could have gone in a few different directions, however, I was leaving for a trip to NYC a few days after receiving the package, so I knew I would need to make something freezer-friendly.

 

Boxed GoodsDry GoodsProduce

Click here to see what other San Diego Food Bloggers’ created: An InLinkz Link-up

Burgers and Fries (. . . For the Health Conscious and Flavor Seeker)

  • Olive Oil, 4 Tablespoons (You can use Canola or Grapeseed Oil, if you prefer.)
  • Panko or breadcrumbs, 1 1/3 cup
  • Pine Nuts, 1 cup
  • Walnuts, 1 cup
  • Shallots, 2, diced
  • Cumin, 2 Tablespoons
  • Coriander, 2 Tablespoons
  • Pepper Flakes, 2 teaspoons (or more, if you like a little more heat)
  • Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • Ground Black Pepper, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Dried Cranberries, 1 cup
  • Blackeyed Peas, 11 ounces
  • Garbanzo Beans, 9 ounces
  • Eggs, 4, lightly whisked
  1. Combine Olive Oil through Ground Black Pepper in a food processor until fully combined.
  2. Add Blackeyed Peas, Garbanzo Beans, and dried Cranberries to Nut and Panko mix.  (The amount of beans will equal about 3 cups.  You can substitute any brand of canned Blackeyed Peas or Garbanzo Beans.)  With the pulse setting, combine all of the ingredients until the desired consistency.  If you prefer some full beans in your burgers, go for it – just stop when it looks combined.  I made mine relatively smooth.
  3. Place mixture in a large bowl and add 4 eggs.  If you prefer to use only half of the yolks for a “healthier” version, go for it!  Make sure to lightly whisk the eggs before you add the burger mix.  It’s just easier that way.  Mix all of the ingredients together until they are fully combined.
  4. With your hands, form mixture into the shape of 10 burger patties.
  5. Add about a Tablespoon of olive oil skillet, and heat to medium-high.  Once the oil is hot, add the burgers to the pan.  Once they have browned, it will take about 5 minutes, flip and continue browning on the other side.  Once they are browned, turn the heat to medium-low heat and cover pan with a lid or piece of foil, and continue cooking until they are fully cooked.  This will take about 15 minutes.  Another option, after browning, you can transfer the burger patties to a pre-heated oven (375 degree) for about 15 minutes.  The benefit is that you don’t have to keep an eye on them so closely (so they don’t burn), and you can do many more at one time.  (I had to freeze about half of what I made.  Just make sure to cook them first, then freeze.  Then you have lunch at your fingertips!)

The Finished Product

I kept thinking of that commercial tag line “It’s In There!”

 

 

 

Making the accompanying fries, couldn’t be easier. Melissa’s sent my a 3 pound bag of baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes, and my husband and I finished them in 2 days. Nobody ever said we can’t eat. I simply rinsed and dried the potatoes. I left the smaller spuds whole, and I halved or quartered the larger ones. I placed them in a mixing bowl, drizzled olive oil over them (about a Tablespoon), and sprinkled them with fresh ground pepper and some salt. This really is about what you like. I like a lot of pepper and not too much salt, so I would suggest eyeballing it. Just remember you can always add more after they have roasted, but you can’t take any away! I place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover them with foil, place in a 425 degree pre-heated oven, and wait until they have softened. Ovens can vary, so check them after about 20 minutes. Once they are soft, remove the foil cover and place them back into the oven. Roast until they are the golden color you prefer. Make sure to flip and move the potatoes around once while they are browning. This step will take about 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven.

I could eat these all day, every day!

I could eat these all day, every day!

Now, I can’t eat burgers and fries without ketchup, so I created a “Beanup”. All the hip restaurants opt out of the good old-fashioned stuff, so I am following suit!

Beanup

  • Fava Beans, 8.8 ounces
  • White Kidney Beans, 15 ounce can, drained and rinsed
  • Shallot, one small, finely chopped
  • Tahini, 2 Tablespoons
  • Garlic cloves, 2, finely chopped
  • Salt and Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • Lemon Juice, 1 Tablespoon (or more if you like it tangy)
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and combine until very smooth.  That’s it!

 

Sooo Good!

Sooo Good!

I received the items from Melissa’s, but no other compensation was given and all opinions are of my own.  Thanks must be given to Melissa’s Produce! This was so much fun, and I appreciated a free box of delicious food items deliver to my door just so I could play around with it! Tonight I am using the Butternut Squash in an Arugula and Feta Salad for dinner. I can’t wait. Look for my post next week about my annual trip to The Big Apple. Funny, I never did have an apple while I was there!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Two For The Price of One

My last post discussed FINALLY going to places that have been on “the list”. You know, that list of restaurants you make that you intend to visit in the near future? The one that keeps growing? The one where Juniper and Ivy was added to it before it even opened in March, but have yet to go? (Side note, I do have reservations there in a couple of weeks – FINALLY! I briefly digress.) That list that continues to grow, but you find yourself, once again, at Pizza Port in OB ordering another delicious pie and a pint? Please tell me you do so that you make me feel better.

I try very hard not to be that way with the dinners I make at home, but there is a particular comfort in making a dish that you know what you need, the steps you need to take, and that it will turn out to be a delicious meal while you watch Brian Williams deliver the news in yet another stunning tie. We love Brian Williams in my house.   I won’t say who loves him the most. So back to the dinner recipes!   With the heat San Diego has been experiencing, it has been hard to think of new and refreshing meals. Grilling or sautéing chicken (because I don’t want to leave the air-conditioned comfort of my house) and serving it over a salad is getting SO played.

I fell in love with this recipe that was emailed to me by Food and Wine. The recipe online is not complete for some reason, so the one below has my changes and additions. If you would like to see the original recipe, go to http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/tomato-and-peach-salad-with-crisp-tofu. It is so refreshing, and you can easily play around with the ingredient list if there’s something you want to add or delete. I would really hesitate from deleting any items. I ended up not using all of the dressing that I had made, so dinner for the following night was already on my mind.

First Night: Tomato and Peach Salad with Crisp Tofu

  • 2 Serrano chiles, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 2  tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons canola oil or grape seed oil
  • 24 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained well and cubed
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 peaches, cut into wedges
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  1. Put the serranos in a small heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil with the vinegar, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the brine over the serranos and let stand for 15 minutes, until cooled to room temperature. If you are not a huge fan of heat, you can easily omit this ingredient.  However, the sweetness from the peaches and the peppery quality of the arugula tastes awesome with the candied Serrano. Another option, you could finely chopped the chiles and add them to the dressing in order to spread the “heat wealth”.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, lime juice, ginger, mustard and 6 tablespoons of the oil. (Here is where you could add the chopped serrano, if you so desire.)
  3. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the remaining 1/2 cup of oil until shimmering. Add the tofu, season with salt, and cook over moderate heat, turning, until crisp, 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.  (*Add only enough tofu to the pan so that it can properly brown.  Add more oil if needed between batches.)
  4. Once the tofu has cooled, place the tofu in a large mixing bowl.  Add the tomatoes, peaches, arugula, and basil.  If you didn’t add the serranos to the dressing, add those in at this time.  I added about half of the chiles.  I like things spicy, but I want to taste my food as well! I also added some of the serrano brine.  The amount of the Ginger Soy Dressing you can add really depends on you.  I used about 2 Tablespoons. Gently mix all of the ingredients together.  (*The amount of tofu I sautéed may be more than you will need.  However, if you have leftovers, add it to a salad the next day for lunch:)

 

20140909_183131

 

A week earlier I noticed, and clipped, a recipe in the local paper. I used that recipe as a springboard for the salad I made last night using the leftover dressing from the Tomato and Peach Salad with Crisp Tofu (http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/sep/09/get-fresh-cool-ideas-cucumbers/).

Second Night: Megan’s Quick Chilled Shrimp, Cucumber and Soba Noodle Salad

  • 6 ounces soba noodles
  • 1 pound cooked shrimp (bought uncooked shrimp from Trader Joe’s and sautéed)
  • 1½ cups sliced cucumbers
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup (or more) mint
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 3 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • sliced serranos left over from the previous evening’s dinner
  • Left over dressing from previous evening’s dinner. I used about 2 Tablespoons of dressing, but you can add as much or as little as you like.  My husband and I eat large portions, so the recipes above were enough for the 2 of us. If you are cooking for 1, I would still make these portions and then you have lunch for the next day or two.

 

  1. Cook soba noodles as directed on the package. If you are like me and buy your shrimp frozen and raw, cook shrimp, let them cool and add to a large salad bowl. If you buy them precooked, just go ahead and add them to the bowl as is. Add cooked and cooled noodles to the bowl. Add cucumbers, carrots, mint, cilantro, scallions, serranos (if you like a little heat), and as much dressing as you like. Mix all ingredients together.

20140910_185018

On a final note, even though it feels like a nice Summer day in the Sahara Desert, Fall is quickly approaching.  Ever since I became a coffee drinker, I haven’t been able to enjoy what used to be a favorite beverage of mine, Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks.  It just tastes too sweet and fake.  I had a free beverage coming my way, so I decided to try an Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte (Venti because it was free, of course.) but opted out of the 6 shots of flavor (Can you imagine???), and I requested just one flavor shot.  Also, I requested non fat milk and an extra shot of espresso.   Perfection.  The only problem is that it was probably a $6 drink, so I will have to wait for another freebie before I order another one!

 

20140909_124331

It’s like a thesis on the side of my beverage!

Enjoy the last few days of Summer!  Take Care and Happy Eating!

 

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!

Filling Up at Phil’s BBQ

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Last week was unofficially dubbed “My Birthday Week”.  Talk about a great way to usher in a new year: my best friend visited for a few days, had a couple of dinners out with friends, went to Laguna Beach for a brief trip and to see the Pageant of the Masters, got in one last trip to the beach before Summer ends, had a super fun group run throughout downtown San Diego, and spent a spa day with friends at Loews Coronado.  Because of all of that, I was unable to sit down and write about my visit to Phil’s BBQ until now.

When I moved to San Diego, I heard about Phil’s BBQ (http://www.philsbbq.net/) which, at the time, was located in a small space in Mission Hills.  Phil is a fellow Ohioan, and he believes in giving back to the local community.  He sounds like a great guy and he cooks a tasty piece of meat.  Now that’s my kind of guy!  Check out this article from the San Diego Union Tribune for more on this restaurant owner: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/aug/03/phils-bbq-owner-serves-heaps-of-help/

For whatever reason, it took a couple of years before I went back to Phil’s.  My in-laws were in town and we headed over to the new location in Point Loma.  We were excited to be going back.  We had heard about the long lines (no reservations accepted), but we were ready.  We got there and the parking lot was kind of empty.  We forgot that Phil’s is closed on Mondays.   We were so bummed!  I went a small hand full of times with friends only to see the line and we’d walk away.  It wasn’t until the other day, I finally returned to Phil’s and actually went through the front doors and grabbed a seat.  I’ve been on the email list and had received the “Jump to the Front of the Line” email.  It allows you and 3 guests to skip the line, go right up to Rhonda, hostess extraordinaire, and walk right up to the cashiers to place your order.  There are a couple of options if you want to check this place out.  1) You can call ahead and place a carry out order. You bypass the long line of customers who are waiting to eat there and find the pick-up order line (much shorter).  2) You can bypass the long line and go to the bar area.  I don’t believe anyone under 21 is allowed, so if you have kids, this is not an option.  Or maybe it is??  Just kidding.  It’s a very small bar, and there’s only one large table for larger sized parties.  There’s a low seating option attached to the bar that is handicap accessible.  You place your order with a bartender or a server, have a Stone Arrogant Bastard, and wait for the lick smacking ribs.  The only wine served is Fallbrook Winery.  I’ve never had it so I can’t speak to the taste, so if you are someone who prefers wine with your BBQ, just keep in mind there’s only this option.  Also, you can’t drink alcohol outside of the bar.  3) The last option: wait in the line. Even though I had the “free pass” email, we opted to sit in the bar.  It seemed a little chaotic throughout the restaurant, and the bar area seemed a little more tame.

You may have heard about Phil’s BBQ even if you live outside of California.  It was recently on Adam Richman‘s Best Sandwich in America on the Travel Channel and was the West Coast Regional Winner for the El Toro, a deli sliced tri-tip sandwich.  Courtney and I ordered the popular El Toro (6.95 each), and Franz ordered Baby Back Ribs because he prefers pork ribs to beef ribs.  We shared a large order of onion rings, and small sides of coleslaw and macaroni salad.  The tri-tip sandwich is packed with meat.  I am a very big eater, and I couldn’t finish it.  Keep in mind all of the sides though!  The meat has a great smoky taste, and is a little on the sweet side, but not in a bad way.  There was zero fat in my lovely pile of meat.  Franz really enjoyed his ribs, but he wished they weren’t as fatty as they were.  He said the flavor was great, and he would order them again. My favorite side was the macaroni salad.  I know it’s really hard to screw up this dish, but it’s possible!  Ah, creamy mayo goodness! It’s so rare that I have it.  My most memorable macaroni salad was with my plate lunch in Hawaii .  Man, that stuff is good.  If you ever visit the Big Island, make sure to order a plate lunch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plate_lunch)!  But getting back to Phil’s!!  I would highly recommend checking this place out.  I know the line can be intimidating, but remember you have a few options on how to get your BBQ fix.  I think my favorite way to eat this yummy food in the future will be placing an order to go.  But once a year, for my birthday, I will definitely go in so I can get a birthday hug from Rhonda!!  Thanks to Phil, Rhonda and the entire crew for a tasty and fun birthday BBQ celebration!

SPECIAL NOTE:  Phil isn’t the only “do-gooder” around here!  Remember a few posts ago when I mentioned my friend, Jeannine, who is raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill in Mission Valley?  Well, that time is only a few days away.  Click on this link: RubiosFundraiser 8.2012.  All you have to do is print out the flyer, go to the Rubio’s in Mission Valley on Saturday the 25th between 11am-9pm, place your order and hand the flyer to the cashier.  20% of your transaction will go to Jeannine’s fundraiser.  Rubio’s, thanks for helping out a great cause!

Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Take Care and Happy Eating!