Polenta Eggplant “Lasagna”

Saturday was a serious cooking day.

Every year my department puts on a pancake breakfast for incoming Master’s students (second years are invited as well).  Naturally when the Biscotti Queen asked me to help, I couldn’t say no.  As a result, we calculated that I made about 300 pancakes (maybe more?).  Starting to think I should quit planning and work in food service.  Ha!

Then later in the day there were vegetables that needed to be used.  So I tried to pack as many vegetables into one dish as possible.  The result:

Polenta Eggplant “Lasagna”

1 medium eggplant
1/4 cup salt
1 tbsp olive oil
3 small onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes
1/2 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1 3/4 cup corn meal (polenta)
7 cups water
1 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
10 oz ricotta cheese (I used fat free)
4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes.  Place in a large bowl, coat with 1/4 cup salt, let stand 15-20 minutes. Don’t worry your eggplant won’t be salty.

In the meantime, chop onions, bell peppers and one tomato.  Heat oil in a large pot and add onions.  While those cook for a few minutes, thoroughly rinse the eggplant and lightly pat dry.  Once onions are translucent, add the eggplant, bell peppers and garlic.  Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat.  Add one roughly chopped tomato and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Add pasta sauce and simmer on low heat for 25-30 minutes.

Once your sauce is ready, turn off the heat and start making the polenta.  Combine cornmeal, water, onion powder, garlic powder and salt in a pot.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Once it starts to boil keep stirring for 5-10 minutes until your polenta thickens and starts to come off the pot.

Then preheat the oven to 375F and assemble your lasagna.  First spread 1/3 of the polenta into a deep baking dish (I didn’t have a really deep baking dish so I used a 9×13 baking dish and a souffle dish), next layer on half the sauce, then spread with half the ricotta cheese and repeat.  Lastly, top with the last third of polenta.   Top with a fresh sliced tomato and sprinkle with a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes and place under the broiler for a few minutes to get a crispy top.  Let sit for 20 minutes before serving.

Enjoyed with

new apartment mate (one of two), Anna.

And a glass of wine

Normally, I’m not a fan of white wine, but this was pretty great.  Maybe not the best pairing with this dish, but fantastic on its own!  Definitely recommended!

Off to catch up on Mad Men! Have a great night!

Empire Farm Days

Today was the beginning of Empire Farm Days, basically a big New York State (Empire State) farm fair!

I didn’t talk too much about my internship because of the semi-sensitive nature of my work.  But now that it’s over, I’ll share a little bit about it without disclosing too much.  My internship was with the Cornell Farmworker Program and we had a table in the Cornell Cooperative Extension barn/shed/tent.

My partner in crime, Xochitl, and I drove to Seneca Falls bright and early this morning to set up our table.

We provide information for migrant farmworkers in the state, as well as information on farmworker economic and community contributions.  Interesting stuff.

We got there a little early so we walked around to see what Empire Farm Days had to offer.

I thought this was really interesting because while a know a fair amount about food security and food systems, I know very little about actual farming.

There was a ton of information about new technology, sustainability, techniques.   Pretty interesting for a self proclaimed “city girl” like myself.  I like getting to learn different lifestyles and experience new things.  Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I chose Cornell for grad school.  I could have stayed in LA or gone to NYC, but I wouldn’t have learned fun new things about agriculture and rural life!  When else would I get to spend 2 years living in the middle of nowhere!?

Obviously, the most exciting part for me were the animals.

Goats

Horses

and Cows!

The cows were in the Beef Producer’s tent.  You know what that means…

Overall it was interesting, especially as someone who doesn’t eat meat.  I think I’ve said it before but I don’t think eating meat is wrong.  My concern is with animal treatment, environmental issues and overall health and overconsumption issues.  I know this sounds weird but I was pretty glad there was a live cow next to this Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner poster.  It’s important to know where your food comes from.  At the risk of offending card carrying PETA members, I will say petting a few cows didn’t stop me from thinking the BBQ stand not far away smell amazing!

Aside from livestock, there were tractors everywhere…

I got to see what tractor ROPS (Roll Over Protection Structures) look like in real life!  I’d only heard about them through my internship when we talked about on the job safety.  Safety first!

Concentration is essential.

Xochitl knows all about tractor safety.

After a few hours, we headed home.  I was pooped!  After a nap, I made a simple, meat-free dinner.

Sun-dried tomato waffle topped with some kale sauteed in pesto.  The waffle was as delicious as the first time I made it.  If you still haven’t tried it, I suggest you do so soon!

Also, if you’re in the Upstate/Western NY area I suggest you take a little trip to Seneca Falls to check out Empire Farm Days.  Even just from a foodie perspective, there were a ton of interesting things (a lot of which I didn’t photograph)!

Off to watch Modern Family and pack for my trip to Florida on Thursday!  Have a lovely night!

Sunday Dinner

I love big families.

My family is big and loving and fun.  When we get together, everyone is greeted with a hug and kiss.  There’s always a ton of food and generally some salsa music playing in the background (Laura, that Celia Cruz CD has a permanent spot on my ipod and in my heart).

Last week, I was lucky enough to meet and share a meal with a family that rivaled my own in enthusiasm and affection.

The Biscotti Queen talks about Sunday dinner with her family all the time, usually recounting the amazing things her grandmother makes.  She wasn’t kidding when she said Sunday dinner with her family is an event.

This lady made it all happen.  That’s the Biscotti Queen’s grandmother.  She made an outstanding meal all on her own!

Penne in Vodka Sauce with crusty ciabatta

Green Beans, Lamb, Corn, Potatoes, zucchini pancakes.  I was so excited I forgot to take pictures of it all.

and three desserts:

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse in Dark Chocolate Cups

Chocolate Pavlova made by the Biscotti Queen’s beautiful mama.  Oooooh myyyy goodness. I think this one was my favorite!  I’d never had pavlova before but it was aaaamaaazing!

and a sponge cake with peaches and cream.

You’ve probably noticed I love dessert.  I was in heaven… and luckily surrounded by wonderful people

and cute dishes!

Dinner was never this exciting (or long!  the whole meal took about 4 hours!) at my house!

I’m so thankful Sara’s wonderful family let me join them for their weekly family tradition!  This was most definitely one of my most memorable meals!

Brooklyn Birthday

I had a pretty amazing weekend.  Sure, it was my birthday, but really that wasn’t even the good part.

Let me tell you about it.

It started on Friday, when I drove down to the NYC area.  I picked up the Biscotti Queen at her parents house and we headed to Brooklyn to visit our friend who was subletting a place with the most AMAZING rooftop.

The view was outstanding.

Even better was the food

and obviously drink

Grilled french bread with dijon mustard, brie, avocado and sundried tomato.

Oh goodness.  Make it now!

This was only the beginning of the weekend of eating.   Stay tuned for more!

Wafflezone-o-wich?

Nope.  Those aren’t burnt waffles.

It’s a waffle, pizza, calzone, and a panini all in one!

Okay so I have no idea if I read about this or dreamt about it.  Let’s be realistic, I probably read about it because I doubt I could be this creative.

Actually nevermind, let’s pretend I’m great and I thought it up all on my own.

I made a quick whole wheat pizza dough by mixing together:

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or just 1 cup WW flour and omit all purpose)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/8 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 tbsp olive oil

After kneading it for about 2 minutes.  I let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.  Then I divided it into two equal sized pieces and on a well floured surface, rolled each piece VERY thinly.  I topped one side with some pasta sauce, kale (obviously), smart dog and 1 string cheese.  I put the other thinly rolled piece of dough on top and sealed the edges by folding over and pinching together.  After I put it in a heated waffle iron for 5 minutes.  The dough shouldn’t reach the edges, you’re going to squish it down so it’ll get there but leave about an inch of room all around.

It got a little messy in the spots where the sauce oozed out.  But it was completely worth it.

Perfect for days like today when turning on the oven could easily qualify as murder.  Not to mention it takes about 20 minutes total to make and if you use store bought pizza dough, the process takes less than 10 minutes.

Also fun because I’m obsessed with this waffle maker!  While these were delicious, there’s always room for improvement.

A few suggestions:

  • Roll the dough very thinly,  maybe don’t use all the dough.
  • If something is in chunks (i.e. kale and smart dog in this situation), chop them very finely.  Big chunks are okay but I bet it would be less messy if the chunks were smaller.
  • Reduce the sauce or just use tomatoes.  Ragu is a little more runny than other sauces.  I’d reduce it a bit (or maybe I was just over zealous with the sauciness, as I often tend to do).

I should also note that this waffle maker is huge!  So one waffle is enough for two people.

If you have a waffle maker, try it!  Super easy and relatively healthy!

Glamorous

Little known fact about me: I love spy movies.  A lot.

Last night, I saw

I was entertained.  Probably a little over the top (okay REALLY over the top) but better than a lot of other movies I’ve seen recently.

For some reason, movies always portray spy life as pretty glamorous.  It’s probably not, but it’s still my secret dream job.  In the meantime, I’ll fake the glamorous lifestyle.

For example: Last week, the Biscotti Queen and I made a glamorous cocktail.

I scoop of your sorbet of choice (we used grapefruit)

Top it off with champagne.

Let it fizzle.

Enjoy.

Okay so life’s not going to be that glamorous the next few weeks.  I’m moving twice in the next 2 weeks!  Not fun! But before that there’s the weekend!  Have a good one!

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream

Apparently, it’s National Ice Cream month.  Good thing I took my neighbor‘s ice cream maker hostage.

After you read this recipe and try it, you have to promise me you will never EVER again buy Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream.  This one tops it.  That’s right.  I said it.

I took these pictures and put the ice cream back in the container but saved a spoonful for myself to try.  About 30 seconds later, I went back to the freezer and put the scoops I had returned to the container back into my bowl.

Then I had to brush my teeth and basically strap myself down to keep myself from eating more.

Better Than Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream

adapted from Kitchen Chick

1 cup smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 1/3 cup half and half
1/2 tsp vanilla
7 Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, chopped

In a bowl, mix together the peanut butter and sugar.  Gradually stir in the milk, half and half and vanilla until the peanut butter is dissolved.  Chill in the freezer for a few minutes (about half an hour should be fine).  Put in the ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.  In the last 5 minutes of turning, drop in the pieces of Reese’s Peanut Butter cup.  Freeze for a few hours and serve.

This evening, I took it over to Sara(who will from now on be called the biscotti queen, I’ll tell you why another day)’s house.  It cannot be around here.  You can probably tell, this stuff is faaaaaaaaattyyyyyyy!  It’s one of those once a year type things.

Speaking of once a year… Yesterday was my friend Daniele’s Birthday!

Hey yo Daniele, Happy Birthday yesterday!!  Miss your face!

And Rhoda, we all always miss you!

Honey Coconut White Chocolate Chip Ice “Cream”

Do you ever have those days where you spend the day doing random things and you don’t realize time went by SUPER fast?

Today flew by. I woke up late, I think it was 9:00am.  Had pie and cucumbers for breakfast (not together).

Went for a fantastic 5.5 mile run.

Hung out with this lady

Basically we were ridiculous (as we usually are).  We went by Six Mile Creek Vineyard for Sara to pick up some wine.

We also made ice cream (I’ll tell you about that one later in the week) but first let me tell you about this stuff I made at some point last week.

Honey Coconut White Chocolate Chip Ice “Cream”

2 cans of coconut milk**
1/2 cup honey*
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup shredded coconut

In a bowl mix together the honey and coconut milk.  Chill for a few minutes in the freezer or in the fridge for a few hours.  Pour into your ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.  In the last 5 minutes of turning, drop in the white chocolate chips and shredded coconut.  Freeze for a few hours in a container before serving.

**I used one can of full fat coconut milk and one of light coconut milk.  You can also use two cans of full fat, which will make it taste even more delicious and the texture will be creamier.  I don’t suggest using two light cans.  I tried that and it turned out too icey.

*To veganify use agave nectar instead and vegan white chocolate chips.

Lovely and (almost) Dairy Free!

It also happened to go perfectly with the champagne brownies I made a few days ago, which by the way turn into full on FUDGE once chilled.

All sorts of amazing.

I need to give Slick Rick back his ice cream maker, ASAP!  There CANNOT be this much ice cream in my freezer!

What was the highlight of your weekend? I had a dinner party last night, super fun. Stay tuned for that!

Brownies and the French

July 14th was Bastille Day.

I’m not French.

I know that, but I’d take any excuse for a party and baking.

Some friends had a party, Sara and I made Champagne Brownies

and I tried to look French because obviously a black dress with a sassy look and an odd hairdo screams Je suis française!

But really, Champagne, we can call that French, right?

I’m not sure we should call these brownies brownies though.  They should probably just be called fudge.  They’re dense and bittersweet and intense.

Champagne Almost Fudge Brownies

adapted from Couture Cupcakes

1 lb of unsweetened chocolate (i.e. baker’s squares or coco powder+oil)
12 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar (omit if you use sweetened chocolate)
4 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1 cup champagne

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a large pot on low heat, melt together the chocolate and butter.  Remove from heat.  Add the salt, sugar and vanilla.  Stir together to combine.  Stir in 1 egg at a time until just combined.  Add the flour stirring until just combined.  Add the champagne and stir until incorporated.  Transfer to a greased 9 x 13 baking pan.  Bake about 40 minutes.  Allow to cool completely (I would even say you can chill them), cut and serve (with ice cream or on its own).

So rich!

I kept up with the French theme this morning (two days later).

Omelets are French.

Zucchini Goat Cheese Omelet

1/2 tsp olive oil
3 tbsp diced onion
1 small zucchini, diced
1/2 cup chopped chard or kale
1/2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley or basil
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup egg substitute  (or 3 eggs, beaten)
1 oz goat cheese

In a small skillet, heat oil, add onions and zucchini cook for a few minutes until zucchini is almost tender.  Add chard and cook an additional minute or two.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.  Spray a medium skillet with cooking spray and put on medium/low heat, add eggs, cover and cook until eggs are pretty much cooked through (no longer jiggle when shaken) about 4 minutes.  Carefully flip the egg using a spatula, sprinkle with goat cheese and vegetable filling, fold over and transfer to a plate.

Sprinkle with a little more parsley and serve with a slice of homemade oatmeal bread.

Very light and tasty.

This omelette only has 200 calories, must be why French women don’t get fat.

We’ll just forget about the brownies.

Naturally Nutty Zucchini Muffins and a Wine Trick

A few nights ago, my roommate and I were talking about muffins.  Yesterday morning after my nap (at 10:30am!  Isn’t that nuts!??!  I’m ridiculously tired these days) I was inspired.

Naturally Nutty Zucchini Muffins

1/2 cup Naturally Nutty Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower Butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup egg substitute (or 1 egg)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 small zucchini, grated (about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream together the sugar, sunflower butter, egg and milk.  Add whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, and baking powder  and mix together.  Fold in grated zucchini.  Place in greased muffin pan and bake for approximately 20-22 minutes.  Makes 10 muffins.

I have to confess the whole reason I made these up was because I wasn’t a fan of the Naturally Nutty Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower Butter.  I got two jars a while back from one of Kath’s Open Sky deals.  While it tastes okay, I’m not a HUGE fan of it on its own.

However, baked into these, it tastes good!  If you don’t have Naturally Nutty Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower Butter on hand you can use 1/2 cup of any nut butter + 1/2 tsp vanilla + 1/2 tsp cinnamon!

These aren’t the sweetest thing in the world but they’re tasty enough for a baked treat.  Definitely not bad for about 150 calories. But honestly, not what I was  expecting.   The batter tasted a million times better than the baked product.   Oh well.

A few days ago my friend sent out this video about opening a bottle of wine with a shoe. I can’t insert it here for some reason but watch it! It’s nuts!

So we tried it.  Here’s the recap.

We rewatched the video (tools ready).

Tapped the bottom.

Hit it against a wall and nothing.

Tried a door frame.

Hmmm maybe it has to be a real cork not a synthetic cork.  Good thing we have another bottle.  Start over.

Brick outside maybe?  Still looking for other hard surfaces.

Hmm maybe it’s the shoe.  Let’s try a cowboy boot (his, not mine, in case you were wondering).

Nothing. We’ll try again later.

We’re thinking maybe it has to do with the bottom of the show. We’re going to try with one of my hard bottom leather boots instead of a rubber soled shoe.

Isn’t that video nuts!?!?  Anyone speak French who can tell me if I’m missing something?