Breaded Eggplant and Polenta Parmesan

Everyone should have a go to meal that does not take a lot of work to make but is reliable every single time.  Usually it doesn’t include fresh produce, I like to keep certain things stocked that I know I can make when I run out of fresh produce but haven’t gone to the grocery store.  For some its frozen meals, for others is mac n cheese, for me its sliced polenta.  About a year ago I discovered this polenta at Trader Joes and have been buying it ever since.  Slice it up, pop it into the oven and throw some marinara over it and thats a meal!

Now eggplant can be a tricky beast, its weird looking and has a weird looking inside too.  The first couple times I used eggplant I didn’t cook it long enough and was thoroughly disappointed.  However, now I have come to learn the best ways to cook eggplant, and sliced, breaded and pan fried is by far the best method.  The trick though, is to crisp it up in a pan with a little olive oil but then after its golden brown on both sides, you put it into the oven to finish cooking.  If you tried to keep it on the stove until it was cooked the breadcrumbs would be a charred mess.  The same goes for breaded chicken, if the chicken is really thick it takes much longer to cook through than to nicely brown the outside.

Breaded Eggplant 

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 1 eggplant, sliced evenly
  • about 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • about 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3-4 tbl olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Recipe

  1. Set up a breading station.  Place the flour on a plate with salt and pepper, then place the beaten eggs in a shallow bowl, then finally the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish (pie dishes work great for this)
  2. Take the sliced eggplant and for each slice, coat each side in flour first and shake off any excess, then dip into the egg and let the excess run off, then place in the breadcrumbs and lightly press the breadcrumbs onto each side of the eggplant slice and shake off any excess.  Place to the side and continue with the rest of the slices
  3. If you need more flour or breadcrumbs simply add more and continue.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  5. Heat 1 tbl olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat, when hot add 2-3 eggplant slices depending on the size of the pan, when the first side is starting to brown, flip and brown the other side. About 5 min on each side.
  6. Continue browning the rest of the slices.  When done, place them all on a baking sheet and place in oven to continue cooking for about 30 min.  (the eggplant should be fork tender and easy to slice with the side of a fork)

Crispy Polenta

Ingredients

  • 1 tube polenta
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 2-3 tbl olive oil

Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Slice the polenta evenly
  3. Place on a baking tray and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, brush with olive oil.
  4. Bake for about 15 min, flip the slices and continue baking for another 15-20 min or until the outside is firm.

* Feel free to eat the polenta plain, with marinara, with pesto, with eggplant etc.

{Breading Station}

{After oven time}

{Sliced polenta tube}

{Finished plate, with a side of balsamic green beans}

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Creamy Mac n Cheese with Roasted Scallions

Who doesn’t love mac n cheese? The cheesy noodl-y goodness, and the moment I realized oven baked mac n cheese with breadcrumb topping was maybe the best moment of my life.  There seems to be a move in a lot of restaurants to bring comfort food back and make it stylish, well I couldn’t be more on board with that movement.  Today you can find so many different types of mac n cheese, the oddest though might have to be the blue cheese mac n cheese my sister ordered one time.  That was a little strong.

I added the scallions to this recipe and to be honest, they could have been there or not but roasting them for a bit was a nice touch.  And the key to getting that oven baked goodness is definitely the crispy breadcrumb topping, and even more so when you mix in a little parmesan cheese.

HERE is the recipe I followed (minus the broccoli, however if you like broccoli that would be a delicious addition)

** for the roasted scallions, use about 5 whole scallions, trim each end and place in oven safe dish.  Add 1 tbl balsamic vinegar and raost at 350 for about 20 min or until wilted.

** Feel free to use whatever block cheese you have or want to add

***after the sauce is mixed with the pasta, place in oven proof dish and top with about 1 cup breadcrumbs.  Bake at 400 for 15-20 min or until topping gets golden brown.  (you might want to put the dish on a baking tray in case the cheese sauce bubbles over a bit)

ENJOY!

{I love my stackable measuring cups}

{Two cheeses}

{Before it went into the oven to crisp up}

{Melty oozy cheesy}

{The finished plate}

Chicken Milanese with Cherry Tomato, Fennel Sauce

I think it’t pretty obvious that I love cooking.  I love thinking of a perfect recipe for that perfect dinner/lunch/picnic/party or whatever it may be.   I also love cookbooks, it is only recently that I came to the realization that I should limit my cookbook purchases and actually use the ones I have more.  It seems to work as a cycle, I get a new cooking light magazine and its all i want to cook from for a couple weeks, then I notice a cookbook that I haven’t used in a while and thats all I can think of for the next couple week…you get my drift. (aka I have like 50 cooking lights that I do not want to toss because I am so certain there is a recipe is one of them I will want to make).

Well, two summers ago a friend and I went to a cookbook signing at Williams Sonoma in Santa Barbara of Giada De Laurentiis’s new cookbook and it was so much fun.  The one minute we got to chat with her was just life changing…ok no, but it was a lot of fun (minus the fact that she spelled my name wrong…even though it was written perfectly on a post it for her to copy over).  Recently that lovely cookbook jumped out to me on the shelf and I ran across this recipe that I have made before and loved it!  The last time I made it was my first encounter with fennel and it was a pleasant interaction I have to say.  Fresh fennel itself smells a little like licorice, and when cooked a lot of that pungent smell goes away and it has a similar consistency to a cooked onion.  The fennel frond is also really nice to fresh salads.

For the sake of simplicity HERE is a link to the recipe (as opposed to copying it from my cookbook). ENJOY!

{Fresh fennel, cut off the branch looking fronds and continue slicing down to the base}

{Slice fennel bulb like you would an onion}

{Tomatoes and fennel simma’-ing}

{The finished plate}

Baked Buffalo Wings and Fried Okra

I don’t really know how to explain it.  I kind of have a big thing for chicken wings. I can’t tell you how it started or when it started but there’s a fire burnin’. I originally intended to make this recipe for superbowl sunday as I was going to head over to a friends house and felt the need to come with gifts.  However in a change of events I had to work that day and wasn’t able to make it, but since I had already found the recipe it just wouldn’t leave my mind.  Luckily my friends are also pretty into wings so I’ve had the opportunity to make these a couple times.

In terms of the okra… well that was all Jessica. I’d heard of the stuff before, seen it at farmers markets, seen it pickled, but never purchased it or really looked up how one cooks okra.  The first time I had it was a couple months ago when we went out one night to a southern BBQ place where they had it offered as a side (which of course Jessica got).  Here’s my best stab at describing okra.  It’s pretty tasteless but has the consistency of a small squash inside. Tempting I know. But its actually delicious, especially when friend in cornmeal or just flour.  Add a pinch of salt and before you know it, you’ve eaten every last one of ’em!  So as convincing as my description was, I really do recommend trying them either in your own kitchen or if you find them on a menu.

Now here is my disclaimer about the chicken wings.  1.) We ended up getting a big back of raw frozen sings/ drummettes from smart & final for this recipe.  In hindsight it would have been worth shelling out a bit more to not have them frozen and also to have the skin removed already.  Because the recipe I followed involves baking the wings instead of frying them, the skin would never have crisped up enough to enjoy so I found myself skinning the wings before cooking them…not very appetizing and also very labor intensive.  2.) I didn’t take any pictures of the wings mid process because lets be honest…raw chicken isn’t very pretty.

THIS is the recipe that we used for the wings.  Jessica took over the okra but here is how we did it.

Fried Okra

Ingredients 

3/4 cup all purpose flour (you can also coat with cornmeal but the flour gives it a nice even breading)

salt and pepper to taste

1 bag frozen sliced okra (use as much as you want to serve)

oil for frying

Recipe

1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat (I dont’t own an oil thermometer so I usually just splash a drop of water and if it crackles then I assume its ready..yup real official)

2. Place flour, salt and pepper and okra in a mixing bowl, toss to coat

3. When the oil is hot enough place one floured okra slice in the pan, if it sizzles and floats the oil is ready.  Add enough to fill the pan but not to crown the okra at one time.

4.  keep an eye on them, when they start to brown take them out and place them on a paper town to drain the excess oil.  (keep in mind that they will continue to brown/ fry when out of the pan so long as the oil is hot on them so pull them out right before they are too brown)

5. Enjoy!

{Sometimes you just have to take the spice into your own hands}

{The finished wings}

{Hello, meet Okra}

{Instagrammed}

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Lemon Glaze

Whenever my friends or family went out to breakfast I was never one to choose the pancakes or even waffles. I always preferred to get some eggs, and bacon and of course hash browns.  Which is weird because growing up I’m pretty sure I had pancakes every weekend, thanks dad.  My sweet dad would wake up and make pancakes for my sister and I who of course never agreed on what type of pancake we wanted.  So he would make some chocolate chip for her and usually some type of peach pancake for me.

Well life changed promptly when I went out to brunch with my mom in LA one morning and had their blueberry ricotta pancakes.  After that morning my mom and I were both admitting to have had the best pancakes we had ever had! Something about the ricotta in the batter I think makes the pancake super light and fluffy and perfect.  So naturally I had to attempt to make them myself, which worked out marvelously so please go buy some ricotta and please go make yourself some pancakes…you won’t regret it.

I found THIS RECIPE on well known style/food/entertaining blog Cupcakes and Cashmere (which links to Bobby Flay’s recipe on the foodnetwork.com, but the pictures on C&C are much prettier, sorry Mr. Flay) and warmed up some lemon curd to drizzle over the pancakes to add the perfect touch.

{Lemon curd is good warm, cold, and on nearly anything!}

{The finished plate, with obligatory Bacon and Eggs to accompany the pancakes}

Reeses Cupcakes with Peanut butter Buttercream Frosting

I really should just stop saying I’m not a baker.  But I swear half the time I try to bake something it doesn’t turn out well, measurements are too particular, all ingredients must be present blah blah blah. Well here is an example of baking done well, as much as I would like to say I make my own bread I think its best to stick to cakes and cupcakes.  Basically I’m going to avoid all things containing yeast is what I’ve decided.  So I guess Im not a baker of yeast-y things, does that satisfy you all? I feel good about it too.

As you know I’ve become a pinterest fanatic as many of you are too and unless my ‘popular’ pin feed is just tailored to know I love food you have probably noticed all these baked goods with candy in them too.  So, for a friends birthday recently (who loves Reeses, but who doesn’t…if you don’t you should probably stop reading right now) I decided to go the cupcake route with reeses in the middle and a peanut butter buttercream frosting.  Ok I also have to admit that this baking extravaganza gave me the excuse I needed to finally buy a frosting piping bag so I was just as excited to make these using an actual piping bag and not a plastic zip-lock with one corner tip cut off…you know you’ve done that too.

I followed THIS recipe by Brown Eyed Baker but stuck a mini reeses in the cupcakes before baking…which I have to say was the best decision ever.

{Double broiling technique, everything gets melted over boiling water by steam. This prevents fear of burning the chocolate}

{What a pretty piping set!}

{The frosting before piping it}

{The finished product..with a little extra reeses bits on top}

Roasted Chicken with Shredded Brussel Sprouts

Ok, lets get a few things straight…apparently I suck at consistently posting on here. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy writing and posting my pictures (as most of you on facebook/ Instagram know).  But for some reason it takes more for me to sit down and relay the recipe to you guys.  At any rate, as I take a break from the inexplicable clutches of the Hunger Games series and with a little more time on my hands now, I have decided to catch up on all the posts I have been meaning to write about.  Starting with a simple roast chicken recipe.

I know I have written about roast chicken before, particularly rotisserie chicken and the wonders of how easy and delicious it can be to simply pick up a pre-roasted chicken from the store to slice up for dinner.  But to reiterate the ease of it all I thought I would post this variation, along with my tricks of brussel sprouts.

I’d say every about 4 months I get the urge to roast a whole chicken, not that it takes effort or anything but there is some planning involved, like knowing you can roast it the day you buy it, not really having any other leftovers waiting in the fridge, because for one person a whole chicken lasts me about a week of leftovers, etc.  But this instance in particular I was SO excited to test out my new meat thermometer, yup I said it.  I broke down (with the help of a Target gift card) and bought one that has a metal prod connected to a digital reader on the outside of the oven.  I probably should have read the directions before using it but I was just too anxious, it worked just great but I did end up needing to cook the chicken a little longer for it to be completely done after the thermometer registered the correct temp.  Regardless, it was very exciting to use it and of course a delicious chicken in the end (as you’ll see below).  And with the leftovers here are some ways I use the chicken up:

  • Chicken quesadillas
  • Added to salads
  • Simply re-heated (usually for the legs)
  • Sliced to make rotisserie chicken sandwiches with a little balsamic drizzle

Ok, on to the dreaded topic of brussel sprouts, although I feel like I should stop phrasing it that way since brussel sprouts seem to be much more common now, so hot right now. I have done the typical procedure of halving the sprouts and roasting them that way but I have come to much prefer shredding them and sautéing them.  They are a little easier to eat and resemble more of a cabbage, which is just more approachable overall. So here goes, ENJOY!

Roasted Chicken 

Ingredients

  • Whole roasted chicken (base size on how many you are trying to feed)
  • 1 tbl chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbl butter
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbl chopped garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon (half left whole, the other juiced)

Recipe

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  2. Remove any giblets or anything left as a present to you in the cavity of the chicken
  3. Rinse chicken and pat dry, this will help the skin brown better
  4. In a small prep bowl mix the rest of the ingredients (up to the lemon) together until a buttery paste forms
  5. Lather the chicken with the seasoning mixture outside as well as under the skin. You can usually pry the skin away from the body around the bottom with the breast side up. This will also help the skin crisp up and season the actual meat
  6. Place chicken in a roasting pan or oven safe dish
  7. Brush the lemon juice over the chicken, place the whole half in the cavity.
  8. Insert thermometer (if you have one) in the thick part of the thigh, avoiding bone (if you hit a bone the temp will be inaccurate)
  9. Bake for about 1.5-2 hours or until the temp registers 180 degrees.  Don’t fret if you cut it open and its not fully cooked, just place it back in the oven and check it every 20 min.
  10. When the chicken is done, let rest for 10 min before slicing into it so the juices soak back into the meat.

Sautéed Brussel Sprouts 

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • About 5 or 6 whole brussel sprouts
  • 1 tbl rice wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp celery seed (if you have it)
  • 1 tbl olive oil

Recipe

  1. Shred the brussel sprouts with a knife (see picture below)
  2. Heat oil over medium heat
  3. Add the shaved brussel sprouts
  4. Constantly stir for about 2 min or until slightly wilted
  5. Add seasoning, continue stirring for another 3-4 min depending on desired crunchiness (less time will be crunchier, more will be wilty-er).
  6. Serve hot!

{Ugly uncooked chicken, but sweet new meat thermometer}

{Shaved Brussel Sprouts}

{The finished plate, with white rice}