Sunday, September 29, 2013

Slow Cooker Eggplant Marinara Sauce

If you have a free day on your weekend, make this batch of marinara sauce. You'll end up with enough to use that night and enough to freeze. Very handy!

Notes: I've put eggplant in pasta sauce before, but I haven't made it in the slow cooker. I like to put vegetables in my pasta sauces: more nutrition and more complex flavors.

You need two pieces of equipment for this dish: a slow cooker and an immersion blender.

You need to remember to season this well, so season each layer with salt as you put it in the slow cooker.

If you wanted to make this during the week, I'd do all the prep the night before and just store everything in the fridge overnight. Then you can just dump everything in the slow cooker in the morning. Set the cooker for 8 hours on low and it will be ready when you get home from work.

2 lbs small tomatoes (I used Roma)
1 large or 2 small eggplants
1 cup of water
1 cup basil leaves
2 shallots
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 garlic cloves
1 large tablespoon herbs de provence
3 teaspoons sugar

Start by dicing the shallots and the eggplant. Put those two items in the slow cooker first and season with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence.

Then dice the tomatoes, mince the garlic, and chop the basil. Add them all to the slow cooker and season once more with salt and pepper. Pour in the water and set the cooker to high for 6 hours. Stir half way through cooking.

When the sauce is done, blend with an immersion blender until smooth. If it seems too thick, just add a little water. Use it just as you would use any marinara sauce. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Q.E.D.: Charred Corn, Heriloom Tomato, and Arugula Quesadilla

The old saying "necessity is the mother of invention" is never more true than in cooking. This dish came about because I had three things in my fridge that I suddenly had no use for: tomatoes, wheat tortillas, and arugula. I'd rather not let food go to waste (I'm not die-hard about it, but hey, money's money), so I came up with a way to use them all together.

Notes: I make the charred corn by setting the ears directly on my gas burner. They pop and hiss, but worry not, that's normal. Just keep turning them until the outside is nice an brown. If you don't have a gas stove, just omit this step.

You want to be careful not to overstuff the quesadilla. Make sure everything is in a nice thin and even layer.

If you cut these into smaller triangles, they might work as a nice cocktail party food. The recipe makes 4 quesadillas.

2 ears of corn
2 small heirloom tomatoes (you can use Roma, too)
1 small bunch of arugula (about 2 cups), washed and dried
8 whole wheat tortillas (I had 10-inch)
2 cups grated cheese (I found a nice aged English cheddar on sale)


Shuck the corn and discard the husks, leaving the stalk in tact. If you're charring the corn, turn your gas burner on high and set the ears on top while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Turn occasionally.

Dice the tomatoes and put them in a strainer to let some of the liquid drain off. Grate the cheese (if you're not using pre-shredded).

Heat the oven to 400. Once the corn is charred, strip the kernels off, mix with the tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the quesadillas, put a wheat tortilla on a baking sheet (you can fit two quesadillas on one normal sized baking sheet). Spread it with 1/4 of the arugula. Top with about 2 tablespoons of the corn and tomato mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the cheese. Top with another tortilla. Repeat this process for all four quesadillas.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes and then flip and bake for an additional 8 minutes or so. The cheese should be melted and the quesadillas will start to brown and crisp.

Enjoy Q.E.D. quesadillas any night of the week!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

For some reason I cannot stop baking. Once the semester winds up, I'm sure I'll slow down. In the meantime, I will enjoy it while I'm in the mood!

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I love Halloween. It's my favorite holiday BY FAR. I look forward to it every year even if I don't have anything special planned. Scott and I will often just watch classic horror movies to celebrate.

In spite of my love for Halloween, I don't have very many Halloween-themed dishes. I had some leftover pumpkin and I thought I might test these out as a Halloween dessert recipe. I think they would work.

Notes: I tried to chill the dough and make shapes using my cookie cutter. That didn't work out so well. I think the dough would have to chill for much longer than an hour for that to work. If you're game to try it, spread the dough out on a cookie sheet after it's mixed. Try chilling for 2-4 hours. See if it works for you. Otherwise, the regular shapes are fine.

These are great. Full of fall flavors!

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips (I like the mini ones)


In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until the mixture is fluffy. Stir in the pumpkin, milk, and vanilla (it won't incorporate completely, but that's OK).

In batches, add in the dry ingredients (spices, flour, baking soda, salt) until everything is just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 325. Spoon large tablespoons of dough onto a cookie sheet (bake in batches if you need to). Bake for 14-17 minutes until the edges are set and the cookies look a little dry. Cool them on the cookie sheet for a few minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack. Enjoy (on Halloween or any time)!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Baked Mushroom and Spinach Polenta

I tried regular polenta a few weeks back and promised you a baked polenta recipe. So here goes!

Notes: One excellent thing to do is make this with leftovers. You can make the regular polenta and then put the leftovers into a baking dish. You can store it right in the fridge in the baking dish. Just pull it out on the night you want to bake it and let it come to room temperature before you put it in the oven. Brilliant!

Take note that the polenta won't brown or get crispy when you bake it. It will just look a little dry and it will be firm.

Polenta requires whisking. It needs your full attention. Be sure to whisk while your pour the polenta into the liquid.

This time I mixed everything in the polenta instead of just putting it on top of the polenta. I liked it both ways.

1 cup cornmeal
4 cups of stock or water
1 pint fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 bag or bunch of spinach
3-4 cloves garlic
1 small bunch fresh rosemary
Butter or olive oil

Directions: Heat oven to 350.

In a stock pot, heat the water or stock to a boil.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil or butter on high. Put in the mushrooms and let them brown. While you're waiting, mince the garlic and rosemary and chop the spinach.

When the mushrooms have started brown, add in the garlic and half of the rosemary and cook until tender. Add in the spinach and wilt. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to low.

When the stock boils, whisk in the cornmeal. Whisk frequently until it's thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Add in the rest of the rosemary and two tablespoons of butter (optional). Stir.

Add the mushroom and spinach mixture to the polenta and stir to combine. Pour into a buttered or oiled 9 x 13 baking dish or casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Cut into squares (or whatever shape you like) and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been on quite the baking kick, but I haven't made any cookies. We can't have that, now can we?

Photo courtesy of Scott Photography

Notes: I have to make these in two batches. I can fit about 6 cookies on a baking sheet (don't want to crowd them) and I put two baking sheets in the over at once. Just stick the batter back in the fridge while you're waiting for the first batch to cook.

I had a little bit of coffee leftover from this morning's brew, so I just used that. You could try just whipping up a little instant if you have it. Otherwise, just omit it.

These came out so light and fluffy in the middle. I have no idea how I did that, but they were delicious!

1 2/3 cup of flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup white or raw sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons prepared coffee
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups mini bitter sweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips.


Cream the butter and sugar together in the mixer. Add in milk, coffee, and vanilla and stir (it won't really incorporate, but that's OK). Add in the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add in the chocolate chips and fold them into the batter.

Refrigerate the dough for 1-2 hours.

Heat the oven to 325. Spoon the dough (in over-sized tablespoon balls) onto two cookie sheets and bake for 14-17 minutes until the edges look dry and are set. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. Enjoy!