Eggplant Tomato Stacks

IMG_2011I think I made it all the way to adulthood with an intense dislike for eggplant. To me, eggplant was a bitter, slimy, vegetable that was typically served fried and greasy in some version of eggplant Parmesan. I’m not sure when my eggplant revelation came about, but eggplant is now one of my favorite summer vegetables. I love it grilled, roasted with garlic and especially baked in this wonderful, healthy re-make of eggplant Parmesan.

Here is the secret to great tasting eggplant–buy it fresh from your local farmer’s market. The longer eggplant sits, the more bitter it can become. Also, eggplant picked for grocery stores is often picked under-ripe, before it’s true sweetness is developed.

This recipe makes the most of fresh, local eggplant, tomato and basil–all in abundance in North Carolina during the summer. We used local mozzarella from Hillsborough Cheese Company, so only the Parmesan Reggiano, olive oil and salt were store-bought. We used some of our yummy Roasted Tomato Sauce, which is my favorite discovery from last summer (well, maybe it’s a tie with Mae Farm Bacon Onion Marmalade).

Think of this recipe as lasagna with eggplant replacing the noodles. This is no greasy, fried, chain restaurant dish–it is flavorful, nourishing and rich in antioxidants and fiber. And your house will smell A-MAZ-ING while it is baking. Tom commented several times that it is hard to believe this is a meatless dish. If you substitute vegan cheese, it would be a completely vegan dish. Like it’s lasagna cousin, this freezes and reheats well, making super tasty leftovers. Healthy, local and delicious. Win-win-win. Yum-yum-yum!

Eggplant Tomato Stacks (makes 6 servings)

  • 3 medium eggplant (we used several baby eggplant and one medium)
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 quart Roasted Tomato Sauce (or 1 jar from the store)
  • 2 c. mozzarella cheese, grated (you can use part-skim to reduce the fat)
  • 1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 c. loosely packed basil leaves, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Wash eggplant and slice into 1/4″ or so slices. Put slices on the baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  4. Roast eggplant slices for about 12 minutes–until they are fork tender.
  5. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Add one layer of the eggplant. Top with 1/3 of the tomato sauce, a sprinkling of basil leaves, 1/3 of the mozzarella and 1/3 of the Parmesan. Repeat layers two more times, ending with cheese on top.
  6. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes, until hot and bubbly and golden brown on top.
  7. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

 

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Week 9 Budget and Menu

So my week went like this: I experimented with cooking stinky buckwheat one night and the next day, my daughter wrote an essay extolling many wonderful aspects of our relationship. Except cooking. Her words were “I would like to send my mom to cooking school.” Well, ouch!

I hadn’t realized that in my zeal to try new, healthier recipes and foods, she had gotten lost in the transition. She missed having some of her old favorites–tacos, meatloaf and pasta without a thousand vegetables squished in. For me, our new recipes have been “fun” and “adventurous.” For her, some of them were “weird” and “gross”. Time for reflection.

This week’s menu represents some of our favorites–beef stew with lots of potatoes and carrots and breakfast-for-dinner night. I’m taking a half-step back and working on how we can make our old traditional meals more healthy without taking away the comfort. I can’t promise I won’t squeeze some veggie puree into meatloaf, but I’m trying to do better with slowly working our new foods into our weekly menus! We’re also going to make a more concerted effort to let her do some cooking (this is harder than it sounds with a teen’s busy schedule).

Our budget this week is just a bit under our maximum of $100.00, so yay! And we’re still having lots of locally produced, organic and sustainable foods. Hopefully, they are not “weird.” We’ll see.

Budget [$94.03]

  • Rare Earth Farms (stew beef, Maple View Farm buttermilk): 18.00
  • Mae Farm (pork tenderloin, maple sausage): $16.00
  • Misc. Farmer’s Market (sweet potatoes, white potatoes, broccoli, apples, carrots): $12.50
  • Trader Joes (red curry paste, barley, frozen fruit, organic soy milk, organic bananas): $27.53
  • Mitchell family pantry (fig preserves, strawberry jam, field peas): $9.00

Menu

  • Sunday–Red curry chicken and vegetables with organic rice
  • Monday–Pancake supper (whole wheat buttermilk pancakes, Mae Farm maple sausage, sauteed cinnamon apples)
  • Tuesday–Figgy pork tenderloin with sauteed garden greens and summer field peas
  • Wednesday–Leftover buffet
  • Thursday–Beef stew with root vegetables
  • Friday–out for girls night
  • Saturday–Leftover beef stew

Week 4 Budget and Menu

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This week ended with a snow fake-out (so much for sledding) and sunny, cool weather that was more like spring. this next week promises to turn bitter cold–real winter? I’m going to harvest most of our tender greens this week and we will eat up as much as we can. Did you know you can cook your greens (chard, beet, turnip, mustard, etc) and freeze them? I think I’ll be trying that as well! Our collards will only get better with the below freezing temperatures–the cold brings out their sweetness, so I’m leaving them parked in the garden. Happily, our farmers market was full of activity today and we had a lot to choose from even with the cold weather! And even more happily, the market was teeming with people out buying fresh food in the cold!

Now that we actually have some winter weather coming on, I’m breaking out my Julia Child Boeuf Bourguignon recipe. It makes a ton, so we will have lots of leftovers this week. Somehow I don’t think anyone will mind!

This week’s budget reflects some stocking up. Ellie loves homemade whole wheat buttermilk pancakes and we ran out of maple syrup. I buy huge containers at Trader Joes, but they are $16.00! That’s a lot, but the syrup will last a long time. We also ran out of spices, which are not inexpensive either. But who can live without cinnamon? Not me, that’s who. Especially since I am experimenting with some crazy gingerbread oatmeal (stay tuned). So our budget ended up being $114.24 for the week, but I am confident we’ll bring it down next week. Here’s how our food expenses break out:

Budget

  • Coon Rock Farm (eggs, chicken, stew beef, carrots): $42.00
  • In Good Hands Farm (Brussel sprouts, broccoli): $6.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (Lebnah Greek yogurt): $4.00
  • Melina’s Pasta (bacon and blue cheese pirogue): $9.00
  • Great Harvest Bread Company (sandwich bread, scones): $7.00
  • Trader Joes (mushrooms, organic onions, cinnamon, pepper, maple syrup, organic soy milk, cheese, sliced turkey, organic potatoes): $46.24

Here’s what we’re having this week. Should be a week full of comfort food goodness!

Menu

  • Sunday–Julia’s boeuf bourguignon with roasted potatoes
  • Monday–roasted chicken thighs with honey glazed carrots and Brussels sprouts
  • Tuesday–grilled cheese sandwiches and soup
  • Wednesday–Oatmeal (girl scout night)
  • Thursday–leftover boeuf bourguignon with noodles
  • Friday–bacon and blue cheese pirogue with brown butter, Swiss chard
  • Saturday–out to dinner or leftover buffet

Week 2 Budget and Menu

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Our lovely Swiss chard!

It took a while, but North Carolina is just now feeling some real winter weather. While I don’t love the cold, I appreciate the mosquito-killing effects of winter and in the end, every day of winter is one day closer to spring. I do love winter foods, though, and our menu this week reflects what we have in our garden, stored in our freezer and what is available at the farmer’s market. While this is hardly high season for farmers, North Carolina markets still have a nice variety of produce available. This week, Mae Farm even has fresh chicken available, so roast chicken is definitely on the menu!

Budget

Our budget this week is $75.62, which is pretty good! We are using some of the Swiss chard from our garden as well as some of the food we put up this summer!

Note: Our budget includes paying ourselves back for fruits and vegetables stored over the summer since often those bulk purchases were not included in our weekly budget.

  • Mitchell family pantry (roasted tomato sauce, blueberry jam, green beans, corn): $12.00
  • Mae Farm (roaster chicken, ground beef, pulled pork): $42.00
  • Various farmer’s market (broccoli, carrots, kale): $8.00
  • Trader Joes (pie crust, cheese, canned beans): $13.62

Menu

  • Sunday–Roast chicken, sauteed Swiss chard, summer green beans
  • Monday–Baked pasta with vegetables
  • Tuesday–Chicken pot pie, sauteed chard
  • Wednesday–Leftover pot pie
  • Thursday–Leftover pasta
  • Friday–Mae Farm pulled pork sandwiches, summer corn
  • Saturday–Homemade chili and cornbread

Winter Sausage and Onion Pizza

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There is a part of me that could live on nothing but pizza and hamburgers. For. Ever. Thankfully, I have some level of self control and I enjoy other foods, so I haven’t resorted to living at Five Guys. And, when we do have pizza, we typically make it at home now. Pizza dough is amazingly easy to make and tastes much better than store-bought or delivery! One of the best things about pizza is its flexibility. No matter what you have at home, you can probably make some kind of pizza.

Last night we made a pizza featuring some of our roasted tomato sauce from this summer, Coon Rock Farm Italian sausage, local caramelized onions, hot pepper flakes and mozzarella from Hillsborough Cheese Company. Yum. The verdict was that this combination was a winner. It was definitely a fork and knife pizza–sloppy, but good!

Here is a great whole wheat pizza dough recipe that I use consistently. You can make both rounds or freeze half the dough for an easy weeknight pizza another time!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (makes 2 rounds of dough)

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  • 1 3/4 c. warm water
  • 4 c. whole wheat all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit for 5 minutes until completely dissolved and a bit foamy.

    In the bowl of a standing mixer (w/dough hook attached), combine flour, salt and olive oil.

    While mixer is running on low/med low, add yeast water to the flour in a stream.

    Allow mixer to knead dough for about 4 min.

    Cover bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place for 1.5 hours or until doubled in bulk.

    Punch down dough and divide into two pieces (we divided it into 3). Each ball will make a pizza. You can freeze half for another time or let each dough ball stand covered for 20 minutes.

    Shape and make your pizzas!

    We cooked our pizzas at 500 degrees for about 12-15 minutes each, depending on the thickness of the dough

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