Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Grilled Eggplant with Chimichurri Sauce

Just like Amy, I am a huge fan of eggplant. And this summer, my weekly farmer's market basket has been filled with the cutest baby eggplants. The best thing about this is that it forces me to find new ways to prepare familiar vegetables.

Over the years my eggplant repertoire has grown from eggplant parmesan and simple grilled eggplant  to include Baba Ghannouj, Grilled Eggplant Salad (one of my all-time faves), and Eggplant and Green Pea Curry.

I recently discovered how delicious this purple-skinned veggie can be when oven roasted with other vegetables in a ratatouille or in Amy's Oven-Roasted Kohlrabi Medley.

This week I was craving eggplant from the grill, but wanted to spice it up a bit. We had cilantro, limes and fresh parsley on hand, so a chimichurri sauce was on the menu. The tangy dressing and the smoky eggplant are a match made in heaven.

Mangia! Mangia!

Grilled Eggplant with Chimichurri Sauce
1 large eggplant or 2-3 small ones
Olive oil for brushing or use olive oil cooking spray
Salt & pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from 1 lime

Slice eggplants lengthwise into 1/4 inch slabs. Spray with cooking spray or brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.

Mix parsley, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, olive oil and lime juice together in a bowl. Set aside.

Heat outdoor grill to medium-high or warm your grill pan on the stove top on medium-high heat. Turn heat down to medium and place eggplant on grill. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until grill marks form. Flip eggplant over and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until eggplant is soft.

Remove from grill and place on serving platter. Pour chimichurri sauce over eggplant and enjoy.

**Note: If you have the time, you can puree the chimichurri in a blender for a smoother dressing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Jamie's Pressure Cooker Fried Chicken

Today marks the start of another school year in my neck of the woods. With a 5th grader and a 2nd grader in the house, life just keeps getting busier.

All the more reason to seek out quick ways to get dinner on the table. Enter fellow mom Jamie and her penchant for healthy dinners made in the pressure cooker. If we both happened to be at the pool together with our kids this summer, we'd sit and talk recipes. Jamie has a knack for creating new recipes, too.

Since I'm still just dabbling with my pressure cooker, I asked Jamie to let me know the next time she came up with something yummy. Soon after our conversation, I got this message: "I just made fried chicken legs (my family's fave) in the power pressure cooker! Amazing and less mess!"

Jamie speaks the truth!

This fried chicken recipe comes together faster than the Oven Fried Chicken I made earlier this summer and I think it tastes even better.

Pressure cookers with a browning function are the key for this meal. The quick cooking process keeps the meat moist and flavorful while maintaining the crispy fried coating.

I served up fried chicken legs and fried boneless skinless chicken thighs from my pressure cooker and they were simply wonderful.

Mangia! Mangia!

Jamie's Pressure Cooker Fried Chicken

4 to 8 chicken legs or 6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or some of both
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/4 to 1/3 cup flour
2-3 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1-2 teaspoons seasoned salt (I used a salt rub because that's what I had on hand)
1 teaspoon ground pepper
Oil (olive, avocado, coconut)
**A note on the spices: You can easily eyeball the amounts you use here. Just go with whatever seems right to you.

Rinse and dry chicken pieces with paper towels. Mix egg and mild in a medium bowl.

Mix flour and seasonings in a large bowl or large ziplock plastic bag.

I completed the following steps with 2 pieces of chicken at a time:
  • Dip chicken into egg/milk mixture to coat.
  • Transfer chicken to seasoned flour mixture and gently toss to ensure entire piece of chicken gets coated in the flour.
  • Transfer chicken to a plate. 
Add 1 to 2 inches of oil to your pressure cooker. Hit the brown button. Once heated, add chicken and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes per side.

Here's how the chicken legs look after browning.
If all pieces of chicken do not fit in a single layer on the bottom of your pressure cooker, work in batches.

Return all browned chicken pieces to pressure cooker and lock on the lid. Pressure cook on the high setting for 15 or 20 minutes.

Let out the steam and remove lid.

Drain chicken on a plate lined with paper towels and let cool about 5 minutes. Enjoy warm or cold. So yummy!

And the best part? No oil splattered all over my stove top. The pressure cooker insert did a great job of controlling and retaining any splattering.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Slow Cooker Thai Curry Eggplant

A couple weeks ago, I posted this Facebook status update: "I made Thai curry eggplant for dinner. The whole family hates me."

Yeah, it was not a hit with the fam, but I liked it. Unlike the eggplant-hating husband and children, I crave a lighter meal now and then. And the leftovers made for some nice solo lunches and dinners for moi.

I just would cut the eggplant in smaller pieces next time — America's Test Kitchen Health Slow Cooker Revolution advised 1-inch pieces — so they cook down a bit more and are more bite-sized. I'd recommend half-inch hunks.

Several of my eggplant-loving friends responded to my Facebook status asking that I post the recipe. Friends, this one's for you.


Slow Cooker Thai Curry Eggplant
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution

2 pounds eggplant, cut inot half-inch pieces
4 shallots, minced
3 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
1 tablespoon honey
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons fish sauce — and more for seasoning, if desired
2 tablespoons instant tapioca
1/4 teaspoon salt —and extra salt (and pepper) to taste
1 pound snow peas, strings removed and cut in half
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, ad cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks
1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice — and more for seasoning, if desired
Jasmine rice for serving

Adjust oven rack (if necessary) to be 6 inches from the broiler element and heat broiler. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with oil spray.

Toss eggplant, shallots, green curry paste and honey in large bowl. Spread eggplant mixture evenly on cookie sheet and broil until softened and beginning to brown — about 12 minutes — rotating the baking sheet halfway through.

Transfer eggplant mixture to slow cooker. Add in broth, fish sauce, tapioca and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook until fragrant and eggplant is softened -- about 4 hours.

Microwave snow peas, bell pepper and a tablespoon of water in a covered bowl, stirring occasionally, until tender but yet a little crisp. This will take 4 to 6 minutes. Drain vegetables and stir into curry.

Microwave coconut milk until hot — about 2 minutes. Stir into curry and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro and lime juice. Season as desired with salt, pepper, and extra fish sauce and lime juice. Serve over jasmine rice.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread

When we were in college, my pals and I would converge on the restaurant Famous Dave's for barbecue. Ribs weren't really my thing, but the cornbread muffins? Oh, good gracious. I could (and did) eat my weight in Famous Dave's cornbread muffins. (And I wondered why I gained the freshman fifteen.)

Those cornbread muffins were sweet and tender. It was pretty much an excuse to eat dessert for dinner. (Not that I've ever needed an excuse.) A little lot of honey drizzled on top took them to stratospheric levels of deliciousness.

Recently I found a carton of buttermilk languishing in the fridge, and a stroke of genius came over me. I could make my own cornbread just like Famous Dave!! I could eat dessert for dinner! My son was up for a baking project, and the two of us whipped up Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread in no time.

Now, I don't own a successful restaurant chain or anything, but I actually like this cornbread better than Famous Dave's. (Sorry, Dave.) It's not quite as sugary and has more corn flavor and texture than the muffins I enjoyed in college. Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread is the perfect side for your next barbecue.

Let's get cooking!

P.S. Amy has a delicious Southern Cornbread recipe. If you're looking for legit cornbread from a legit southerner, check it out. True southern cornbread ain't sweet like this one, but I ain't southern. Amy, hope you're not hanging your head in shame when you read this!

Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread
Adapted from All Recipes

4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8" square baking dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Stir in eggs until combined, then stir in buttermilk and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, and salt. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until combined. (Don't overmix.)

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Serve warm with butter and honey if you want to guild the lily.

My little chef got hungry when we were taking pictures for the blog. Can't blame him!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Katrina's Gazpacho

A few weeks ago my boys and I took a trip to New York to visit family and friends. It's been a few years since I was last in my old stomping grounds and it was nice to see how some things have changed – or not.

We took a trip into Queens to see two of my friends from high school and their families. Anne and Katrina are the kinds of friends I know I'll have for life. We spent our formative teen years together. Even if many months go by between visits, we easily pick up where we left off whenever we do see each other.

My boys were super excited to see how people live in the city. They couldn't imagine living in an apartment. They were pleasantly surprised by Katrina's Jackson Heights home, complete with a large outdoor courtyard that provided plenty of room to play — you guessed it — baseball.

Katrina went all out and made a delicious lunch, including this amazing gazpacho. People, this is one of the best things I've eaten. The cold soup is more like summer in a drink and it is just perfect for a hot day.

Lucky for me, one of my boys didn't want his serving so of course I couldn't let it go to waste! Katrina kindly shared her recipe. She started with this New York Times version and tweaked it to her liking. I made it as soon as we were back in Peoria. I was going to bring it to a gathering of girlfriends, but the husband and I slurped it down ourselves instead.

I think the key to making this recipe work is good tomatoes, preferably homegrown or locally farm grown. It's perfect for a midday meal, dinner or a snack.

Katrina's version was less pulpy than mine. I think this is because she used a small mesh strainer to painstakingly remove all of the solids from the soup. I used a larger non-mesh strainer. It definitely removed a lot of the solids, but some still made it into the final product.  If you have a mesh strainer or cheese cloth, I recommend one of those methods.

Mangia! Mangia!

Katrina's Gazpacho

2 pounds of  ripe red tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
1 cucumber (about 8 inches long) peeled and cut into chunks 
1 small yellow or white onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 or 2 garlic cloves
1 long, light green pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large pieces (Adjust your choice based on your preferred spice level: Try an Anaheim or cubanelle. I used a Hungarian wax pepper.)
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 to 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Add tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic and pepper to a blender or food processor (you may need to work in batches.) Blend at high speed until very smooth, between 2 and 5 minutes. Stop blending and scrape down the sides as needed.

Add vinegar and salt and continue to blend. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture should become an orange or pink color. It should transform into a smooth texture like a salad dressing. If the mixture is watery, add more oil until it achieves a creamy consistency.

Strain mixture into a large bowl to remove solids. Use a rubber spatula to push the liquid through. Discard solids. 

Pour gazpacho into a large pitcher (glass is preferred) and cover top with plastic wrap. Chill overnight (or for at least 6 hours.) Pour into cups or bowls and drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Gazpacho is great for sharing with friends.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Avocado-Crab Salad

This summer has been sweltering in Charlotte. After days and weeks on end of 90-plus degree days and what feels like 90-plus percent humidity, I have new found appreciation for meals that don't require the oven. Allow me to introduce you to my new favorite beat-the-heat, no-oven-required dinner: avocado-crab salad.

Even the hubby, who typically doesn't like avocado any other way than guacamole, likes this a lot. Here's what he said to me the second time I made this, "Amy, are you sitting down? I want you to know that I'm now open to eating avocado more ways." Success!


Avocado-Crab Salad
Serves 4 or serves 2 for dinner and 2 for lunch the next day

2-4 teaspoons red onion, finely chopped
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
4 grape or cherry tomatoes, dices
4-6 slices of red pepper, finely diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
8 ounces lump crab meat, drained and gently pulled apart (or you can take your kitchen scissor like I do and roughly cut up the meat)
2 medium Hass avocado (about 5 ounces each), cut in half and pitted
2 butter leaves or handful of spring mix salad (optional)

In medium bowl, mix together all ingredients, except crab, avocado and lettuce. Add crab and gently toss.

Fill each avocado with crab salad and serve atop lettuce, if desired.

Eat leftovers within two days.

Additionally, I think a little bit of finely chopped celery would go well in this salad. Also, if you don't have red onion on hand, I would sub with green onion if you have that.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Easy Summer Recipe Round-Up

Cooking has been rough lately. I just haven't been feeling creative. Do you ever feel that way or is it just me? In order to inspire myself (yep, this is a totally selfish post), I'm going through the HDHH archives to find my favorite summer meals. 

Now let's get cooking!

Tomato + Goat Cheese Sandwich. The kids and I usually hit up the Bellevue Farmer's Market on Thursdays, and I get a Pineapple Tomato or two. They are yellow and super sweet. This sandwich will be perfect to change things up from my usual Tomato + Mozzarella situation. 

Summer Salad with Berry Vinaigrette. I'd better make this one before berry season ends! Berry time is fleeting, people. Sigh.

Corn, Tomato, and Edamame Salad. I threw this salad together last weekend, and it was just lovely. A change of pace from your usual side dish. 

Healthier Fried Rice. Because it's bathing suit season, and I still want to have an extra large bowl of ice cream after dinner.

Sausage and Mint Stuffed Tomatoes. Do you notice the tomato theme here? Can I come up with a way to eat them every day of the week?

Smokey, Coffee-Rubbed London Broil. Andrea cooks her London Broil in the oven, and I usually do, too. But since the husband loves to grill, think I could get him to cook this one for me on the ol' Weber? 

How to Microwave Corn on the Cob. This means fewer dishes. Yes, please!

Blueberry Zucchini Bread. I love a good quick bread. It makes waking up so much easier when you know you've got a loaf waiting for you. I think I have some baking in my future.