I love having people over for dinner. I love everything about it, figuring out what food to make, cooking, presentation, the great company...all of it! This weekend we had over my best friend since middle school and her husband for dinner. I spent all day Saturday cooking tons and tons of food. My friend Kara is eight months pregnant, so I wanted to make sure that I made some goodies for her to take home and snack on later!
So what was the menu, you ask? I made sure to get some watermelon for when they got to my house, since the only thing that she has been craving since she has been pregnant. I have to admit, I have been a little disappointed that she hasn't gone off on some crazy cravings, but nonetheless, I wanted to make sure that there was watermelon if she needed it :). I also threw together a green salad, with some mixed greens, cucumber, tomato, and a little bit of freshly grated Vermont cheddar cheese sprinkled on top.
Dinner was stuffed pork chops with a side of mashed potatoes. I tried out a thin mint recipe, along with some cupcakes for dessert. I made sure to make extra cupcakes to send home since I know both Kara and especially her husband LOVE my cupcakes.
I was a little disappointed with the thin mint recipe that I found, because they didn't taste exactly like the Girl Scout Cookies that I love so much...which is probably a good thing overall, since I can definitely eat boxes upon boxes of those dang Girl Scout Cookies!
Anyway, dinner went off without a hitch, and everyone went home with full bellies, and a bag full of goodies for later! Stay tuned for my issues with the thin mints...
Always Have a Plan B
It's pretty typical for me to think about what to make my husband and me for dinner ALL day long. In fact, most times I start thinking about what to make for dinner as soon as I wake up, and ponder the question all day, until I arrive home from work and my husband greets me with a hug and a kiss and says, "Hey babe, what's for dinner?" This is the moment that I dread most days because even though I had racked my brain all day, I never really know what to make on weeknights given the food that we have in the pantry. I have had this issue for a long time now, so a smart person would probably think about what to buy the next time at the grocery store that could help out with this daily conundrum. Not me, of course not, that would just be way to smart. I, on the other hand only think about the complicated or time-consuming meals that I want to make, and never end up with anything that I can just throw together after working a long hard day.
Last night was no different. I actually couldn't even think about anything to make...normally I can at least think of something silly to throw together, whether that would be a frozen pizza or leftovers. But my husband greeted me with open arms and a kiss and asked the dreaded question "Hey sweetheart, what's for dinner" to which I replied, "I am not even hungry...I have NO idea...sorry boo." Which ended up being ok for him, he just trecked into the kitchen and heated himself up some pizza rolls. Several hours later I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to eat. I decided to settle on French Bread Pizza from the freezer...
... which didn't turn out so well.... This was followed by a small hissy fit, since I now had to go back to the drawing board and figure out what the heck to make for dinner.
I found an unopened jar of organic salsa, and some sour cream and chips...so I decided to just have chips and salsa for dinner with a little dollop of sour cream.
Brie's Famous Eggplant Sauce
As you all know by now, I am addicted to anything eggplant, especially if it's roasted! So it was only natural that during the winter I would fantasize about how not only to heat up my house with the oven on, but what I could make with eggplant that isn't at its peak ripeness. So while sitting in my favorite chair, staring out at the snow one afternoon, I came up with the idea to make an eggplant sauce.
What could be better, and how could I go wrong with roasted eggplant, tomatoes, and garlic? I couldn't think of anything that would taste better, and over the years I have tweaked the recipe and added some other wonderful ingredients to enhance the sauce, such as cream, white wine and a variety of spices. This is a recipe that I hold dear to my heart for one reason or another, and am constantly thinking about how to make better. I recently decided that peeling the tomatoes after they are roasted would make the consistency of the sauce better, and since doing that, I finally feel like the recipe is perfected! I have never measured this recipe, so things are definitely just approximated and you can try different amounts until the taste is perfect for you. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1-4 garlic cloves, peeled and cracked
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425. Then place eggplant, cherry tomatoes and garlic on a sheet pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Place in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes. You will know when these are done because they will be slightly charred, but mainly a nice brown color (plus they will smell delicious). Take them out and let them cool. Then peel the skins off of the tomatoes. Once that is done, take everything from the sheet pan and put it into a food processor. Then add the rest of the ingredients, with a splash of white wine and a splash of heavy cream. With the food processor running, stream in Olive Oil until you get the desired consistency.
Before eating, you just want to place the sauce in a sauce pot and simmer until you burn off all of the alcohol, unless you would like to get a little tipsy by eating your pasta :)
Fresh Green Bean Casserole
Every time I am asked to make green bean casserole, I am so frustrated that the recipes that I have call for either frozen or canned green beans. I love using fresh produce when I can, especially in the summertime when I can go down to a farmer's market and just pick up the freshest items, so fresh green beans for a green bean casserole seems like a no-brainer. However, after several attempts to use fresh green beans, it became very clear to me...they need to be cooked a bit before they are cooked in the casserole, because 30-35 minutes just isn't enough time to get them as tender as my family would prefer.
When I cook green beans normally, I boil them in water for about five minutes and then sautee them with garlic, butter and a touch of olive oil until they are done to my liking, and have amazing flavor from the garlic and butter. Finally, it hit me! Why not just cook the green beans like I normally would, BEFORE mixing them into the casserole! HOLY COW! I can't believe it took me so long to realize that the solution to my casserole issue was right in front of my face.
1 10 3/4 oz can of condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp soy sauce
About 1 lb fresh green beans, ends snapped and cut
1 1/3 cups french fried onions
1 tsp garlic
First, you want to cook your green beans. As I said previously, I boil mine for about 5 mins, and then toss in a pan with olive oil, garlic and butter. Set aside once they are cooked. In a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish, combine cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, pepper, 2/3 cup french fried onions and green beans. Bake at 350 for 30 mins. Remove and top with remaining french fried onions and place back into oven for an additional 5 mins.
Lite Apple Cake
This is a recipe that was one of my favorites from my childhood. I can remember a segment on our local news channel at noon everyday where a guy name Mr. Food would create a recipe. My mom loved this portion of the show! Most of the things that he made were either not good, or sounded good but came out completely terrible. This is the one recipe that my mom made over and over of his, and since I am not an apple pie eater, this became the apple cake that she would make for me since I am not a fan of pie. The smells that float around my house from making this cake remind me of my childhood, and the recipe could not be simpler, but the outcome is amazing.
2 medium apples, skins removed and diced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 egg beaten
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350.
In a bowl combine egg, vanilla, cinnamon, baking powder and sugar. Then gradually add flour, only stirring until everything is combined. The slowly add the apples, folding them in until combined. The batter is only enough to cover the apples, so don't be alarmed by the lack of excess batter. Pour mixture into a 9in pie pan, and cook for 30 mins. You can top this with whip cream, powdered sugar, or ice cream!
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