Baked Angel Hair with Eggplant

When the boys are gone, I make the food that I like.  This dish, which is basically puff pastry stuffed with pasta, is one of my all-time favorite dishes ever, but while Matt will eat it, he doesn’t love it.  So in my never ending desire to wow my husband with food he loves, I only make this when he’s gone.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet that I haven’t made this since we moved from North Carolina.  When Gray saw some leftovers in the fridge, he asked what it was — mostly because of the crust.  If I hadn’t used spicy sausage, I bet he’d be a fan of this one given that he’s such a fan of chicken pot pie — and not because of the filling.

Baked Angel Hair with Eggplant

  • 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 to 6 Japanese eggplants (about 2 pounds total), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 pound mild Italian turkey sausage (I used spicy), casings removed
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces angel hair pasta
  • 1 pound mozzarella, diced
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 (17 1/4-ounce) package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed

Heat 1/3 cup of oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add half of the eggplant and toss to coat in the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute the eggplant until it is golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium. Add half of the garlic and saute until it is tender, about 2 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant mixture to a large bowl. Repeat with the remaining 1/4 cup oil and the remaining eggplant and garlic.

Add the sausage and wine to the same frying pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the wine evaporates and the sausage is brown, breaking the sausage into pieces with the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes. Add the sausage, marinara sauce, and crushed red pepper to the eggplant mixture, and toss to combine.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the angel hair and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until pasta is still slightly crunchy and under cooked. Drain. Toss the angel hair with the eggplant mixture. Cool completely. Add the mozzarella and Parmesan and toss to combine.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out 1 pastry sheet on a floured surface to a 13 1/2-inch square. Transfer to a 9-inch springform pan, allowing the excess pastry to hang over the rim. Spoon the pasta mixture into the pan. Place the second pastry sheet atop the pasta filling. Pinch the edges of the pastry sheets together to seal. Trim the overhanging pastry edges to about 1-inch. Fold the pastry edges in to form a decorative border. Cut a slit in the center of the top pastry to allow the steam to escape.

Bake until the pastry is brown and puffed on top, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Let stand for 20 minutes. Remove the pan sides and serve.

Drive In Movie Night

We are strategically located out in the middle of nowhere; it takes a little over 20 minutes to get just about anywhere – school, the gym, the grocery – but it takes a mere 18 minutes to get to the drive in!  It had been several years since our last trip to the Highway 50 Drive In, and I’m not exactly what caused Matt to look and see what was playing, but I’m certainly glad he did.  We saw Cars 3 (loved it) and Wonder Woman (didn’t love it) and had a terrific time snuggled in the back of the truck with pillows, blankets, games, and snacks.

When I was telling Matt the menu I’d chosen, I could tell he was less than thrilled.  “But I want bar-type food,” he said.  “How in the world am I going to serve fancy burgers and cheese fries at a drive in?” I replied.  “They don’t allow grills or fryers there, and the food would be cold and soggy if I made it at home and then packed it up to eat there.”  Perhaps it was that I tried to make the menu somewhat healthy with a fattening dessert, but give me some credit here because I did pack real Coke and Doritos too.

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (I used thin chicken breasts)
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 ciabatta rolls halved as for sandwiches (I used sub rolls)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons Sun-Dried Tomato Spread
  • 6 tablespoons pesto (I skipped this part because Matt’s not a big fan)
  • 6 slices fresh mozzarella

Lay out the chicken thighs and sprinkle both sides generously with salt and pepper.  Heat grill to medium. When the grill is up to temperature, lay out the chicken thighs. Grill the thighs, turning a couple of times, for 10-12 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the thickest part reaches 165°F. Just before removing the chicken from the grill, lay out one slice of mozzarella over each chicken thigh. While that begins to melt, drizzle olive oil over the cut sides of the ciabatta rolls and lay them directly on the grill. When the cheese is hot all the way through, use a spatula to transfer the thighs and toasted rolls to a platter.  Spread 1 tablespoon of the Sun-Dried Tomato spread on the bottom, half of each roll, then 1 tablespoon of the pesto on the top half of each roll. Use a spatula to transfer one chicken thigh, melted cheese side up onto each roll’s bottom half. Position the top half, pesto side down, on the chicken. If desired, slice the sandwich in half on the diagonal. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.

 

 

Pasta Salad

  • 8 ounces spiral pasta
  • 8 ounces green beans
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 splash Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 cups baby arugula (I used spinach)
  • 2 ounces feta cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding green beans during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain and run under cold water to cool.  Using a vegetable peeler, remove 3 strips of zest from lemon; thinly slice. In a large bowl, squeeze 2 tablespoon lemon juice. Whisk in olive oil, Parmesan, mustard, Worcestershire, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Add pasta, green beans, and lemon zest and toss to coat. Fold in arugula and feta.

Double Layer Brownie

Brownie Ingredients

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Fudge Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 7 ounces marshmallow fluff
  • 12 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter 13×9-inch pan. Melt chocolate and butter in small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until completely melted; cool.  Beat sugar and eggs in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture. Stir in flour, walnuts, and vanilla. Spread evenly in prepared pan.  Bake 20-25 minutes or just until set. Do not over bake.

Meanwhile, prepare Fudge Topping.  Combine sugar, butter and milk in large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add remaining ingredients except for the walnuts. Beat until smooth.  Remove brownies from oven. Immediately pour topping evenly over hot brownies. Cool in pan on wire rack. Place in freezer until firm. Cut into 1-inch squares.

Everything was delicious – especially the brownies!  But of course we still had to hit the concession stand for hot buttered popcorn.  And next time, I’ll try harder at the bar-type food.  I don’t think I can make nachos work, but I could try taco dip.  That’s pretty close.

Egg Rolls

Matt and Gray spent last week at church camp.  They both had a terrific time, but Gray bluntly stated Saturday morning that the “food was terrible” and he’d “lost his love for food”.  As a self-professed foodie, I wasn’t about to let that happen, so I asked (knowing this is one of his all-time favorite dishes) if Shrimp Fried Rice would help, but with Saturday night being “Puttin’ on the Dog”, I had to come up with something I’d never made before to serve alongside.

When I was a teen, a younger couple with a new baby moved to our small town knowing no one.  The father was a chemist at GE, and my dad kind of coached and mentored him at work.  the family started coming over on Saturdays to hang out or have dinner, and before I knew it, they simply became part of our family.   I have wonderful memories of elaborate stir-fry dishes made with Russ and Cathy, and I remember one night when my mom even made homemade egg rolls.  I thought we were something.

So Saturday night, I too decided to try my hand at homemade egg rolls.  This, I tell you, was no easy feat given that I’d fallen while running that morning, tore open my knee, scraped the palms of both hands, and hurt all over.  But my child no longer loved food, so I pressed on; however, I did employ Matt for frying.

  • 12 egg roll wraps
  • 12-1 lb ground pork (or chicken or beef)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 14 cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 (16 ounce) bag shredded cabbage and carrot coleslaw mix (about 3/4 of the bag)
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten with
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • oil (for frying)

Directions:

Brown pork with ginger and garlic in pan; drain any grease.  Mix salt, sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil. Add to pork and mix well.  In large bowl combine cabbage mix and green onions.  Pour hot meat over vegetables and stir well. Let cool slightly.  Lay wrap in front of you so that it looks like a diamond.  Place 3 tablespoons pork filling in center of egg roll wrapper.  Fold bottom point up over filling and roll once.  Fold in right and left points.  Brush beaten egg on top point.  Finish rolling.  Set aside and repeat with remaining filling.  Heat 2-3 inches oil in large frying pan to very hot (350ºF).  Fry a few egg rolls in pan at a time, 2-3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve with sweet and sour sauce, plum sauce, hoisin sauce or jalapeño pepper jelly.

I have to say that they were delicious!  Of course, I couldn’t stop there; I had to make something special for dessert.  Given he doesn’t have the same affinity for peanut butter as I do, I decided to make a turtle cake.  I just used my favorite homemade chocolate cake recipe, a couple of cans of caramel frosting (did I mention that my hands are all scraped up?), some chopped turtle candies for between the layers, and a drizzling of chocolate ganache on top to produce this masterpiece.

Gray was happy and once again excited about food, and I was happy that my boy was happy……and both my guys were back home.

Dirt Pudding

I went through a period where whenever I was visiting home and my mom would ask me what I wanted to eat, I’d always respond with “Dirt Pudding”.  My mom would use this giant spoon to serve it with, then Kaysie and I would have a contest where we’d try to shove the entire spoon, of course filled with dirt pudding, in our mouths.  As time went on, that tradition became known as “The Aunt Barbie”, and now whenever the giant spoon is used, someone has to try to stuff the entire thing in their mouth.

Matt, Gray, and I visited my parents this past weekend, and the giant spoon was used to serve the corn pudding.  When I told Kaysie I thought I’d write a blog post about dirt pudding and the giant spoon, she graciously agreed to demonstrate our special skill.  She’s such a good sport.

Of all the things I’ve taught her — playing lookie with her food, being a zit, the meaning of contraband — this is the one thing I’m most proud of.

Now to the recipe.  A while back we were invited to a cookout, and of course, I was slotted to bring dessert.  When I asked for requests, my only instruction was to perhaps make two — one of the families coming had 8 kids! That’s when I thought of dirt pudding — it’s easy, and it can feed lots of people.

Dirt Pudding

  • 1 (14 ounce) bag Oreo cookies
  • 2 (3 1/2 ounce) packages French vanilla instant pudding
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 14 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 (12 ounce) container Cool Whip, thawed

 

Break up cookies, put 1/2 on bottom of casserole dish and save other 1/2 for topping.  Mix pudding and milk together, set aside.  Mix sugar, cream cheese and butter.  Add sugar mixture to pudding; fold in cool whip.  Pour onto cookies, top with remaining cookies.  Chill until ready to serve.

 

Chicken Saltimbocca

This recipe comes from my favorite cookbook and was among one of the first ‘dog’ meals I made for Matt many, many years ago.  I didn’t realize it was one of his favorites and that it’s on his ‘this is on the menu if we ever open a restaurant’ list.  I just decided to make it because we hadn’t had it in ages, and it sounded good to me.

Chicken Saltimbocca

  • 1 10 ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 chicken cutlets, pounded to flatten evenly
  • 6 paper-thin slices prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Squeeze the frozen spinach to remove the excess water.  In a small bowl, toss the spinach with 1 tablespoon oil to coat and season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Place chicken on a work surface. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Lay 1 slice prosciutto atop each cutlet.  Arrange an even layer of spinach on top and then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Beginning at the short tapered end, roll up each cutlet as for a jelly roll and secure with a toothpick.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining oil over a high flame.  Add the chicken rolls and cook just until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Add the broth and lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, approximately 4 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to 6 plates and set aside.  Increase the heat to high and cook the sauce until reduced to about 2/3 cup.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Of course, no ‘dog’ meal would be complete without a gooey, disgusting dessert.  Say hello to the Oreo White Chocolate Cookie Pie.  To die for!

  • 1 unbaked 9″ deep-dish pie shell
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup Oreo crumbs
  • 8 quartered Oreo cookies

Preheat oven to 325° F. Beat the eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Add in the flour, Oreo crumbs, brown sugar, white sugar and vanilla. Beat in butter until combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips. Put mixture into pie shell and even the mixture out in the shell. Put the quartered Oreo cookies on top of the pie and push them in about halfway. Bake for 60 minutes.

Of course, it wasn’t gooey enough on its own so I topped it with ice cream (chocolate) and hot fudge.  As my dad always says, “If I’m going to eat the devil, I might as well drink his broth.”

Texas Cake

Gray’s teacher loves Pinterest, and periodically she ties some sort of project she’s found in with a lesson the class is working on.  This year, geography focused on the United States, learning states and capitals, lakes and rivers, and landmarks.  As a wrap up, she decided to put all the states in a hat and let each child pull one out and do a project on it – both a written report and some sort of visual aid.  Gray got Texas.

As we started gathering information, I asked him if he had any idea what he wanted to do with the visual portion because I too am a lover of Pinterest, and if he didn’t have an idea, I was going to take to my favorite source of all things crafty for inspiration.  But my boy did have an idea — he wanted to make a cake in the shape of Texas.  I was so proud.  Of course, we decided to run this past his teacher to make sure his visual portion could be edible, and well, she loved the idea too.

Gray is no stranger to making cakes; he makes one every year for the Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet.  Here was this year’s entry:

So this past Wednesday night, Gray made 2 9×13 chocolate sheet cakes.

Then Thursday night, we cut the cake and shaped it into the state of Texas.  I say we because it took all three of us cutting, placing, and gluing with frosting to get the shape just right.  Then Gray piped on the frosting, and Matt and I smoothed it out.  (We had to – trying to spread frosting on the cut sides of a cake is difficult — even for an adult!)

A remarkable likeness, I have to say.

And one kid that was extremely proud of his project!

I stopped by class after lunch on Friday to help serve the cake.  Based on the rave reviews of the students, not only in fourth grade but also those in seventh grade and the headmaster who also managed to score cake, his project definitely deserved an A.  And of course, I would completely agree.

Brunch

I promise this will be the last egg-centered recipe for a while. Most Easter weekends, we go visit my parents.  Of course, since my ‘testing retirement’ husband is obsessed with building this barn…..

….he wanted to have Friday and Saturday to work on it.  Whenever we do stay at home for Easter, I make a nice brunch after church.  I mentioned a number of frittata recipes, and Matt just couldn’t get excited about them.  “What I could get excited about,” he says to me, “is Eggs Benedict.”  Ugh.  The thing is, I’m a bit intimidated by poached eggs.  I’ve never made them.  I’ve watched chefs do it on television, and they always make it look so easy.  But there’s something about dumping an egg in a pot of swirling, simmering water that seems hard to me.

My grandmother made poached eggs every morning by using this metal apparatus that she set down in a pan over some simmering water, and they always turned out beautifully.  I went searching and found this:

Now his wish was my command.  Eggs Benedict, asparagus, fresh fruit, AND a delicious Candy Bar Cake made up the brunch menu Easter Sunday.  Here are links to the recipes:  Eggs Benedict……Candy Bar Cake.

I do need to add that while my Candy Bar Cake tasted delicious, it looked less like a candy bar and more like the thing floating in the pool in the Caddyshack movie.