Week 13 – Baked Eggplant Parm

Another week…In three weeks I’ll have more exciting things to write about but until then it’s work, work, work, a little sleep, and these highlights:

  1. Friday night – Matt and I have been good at making me not work too late on Fridays and spending some time together. This week that meant fajita ‘rita night and watching Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Modern Family.
  2. Saturday afternoon we went to the DC United (soccer game). Someone from church was selling tickets for a fundraiser to benefit engineers without borders so we figured ‘why not!’  James came too and it was a solid afternoon out and about.  A nice break in the middle of me working in the morning and at night.
  3. Sunday Brunch! Two of our friends from church, and their precious baby boy, are moving away for 7 weeks (work assignment).  So we had our small group over for brunch on Sunday after church.  I don’t care what time of year it is, I love having our place full of people and good food.  It was also a great excuse to use some of our lovely wedding gifts that are perfect for entertaining.  Good people, good food, good conversation.  My heart is full and life is good.

The recipe for this week has good things and bad things.  It’s eggplant parm.  The bad thing for me is that I don’t think I’m a huge fan of eggplant.  Matt liked it, but also launched into a discussion about how eggplant parm isn’t really a main dish (in his opinion).  I made a half recipe and it easily had 4 servings, probably closer to 6 (confession – due to my newfound non-preference for eggplant we didn’t finish it all, but Matt did have leftovers twice!).  It also walks you through making your own sauce, it was good but I need to get my mom’s sauce recipe and just make that next time.  The great thing is that you can make this meal ahead of time and during busy season, that is HUGE.  And it really is any other week night when it’s not busy season.  Saving time on a weeknight is big any time of the year.  America’s Test Kitchen actually just came out with a cookbook that’s just make ahead recipes.  After busy season I’m going to see if I can find that at a library and get some good recipes from it.   Side note on that – why is this month the first time I ever thought to get cookbooks from a library?!  Don’t get me wrong, I love our mini cookbook collection, but typically you just pick and choose the recipes and the rest is wasted.  Thus, the library being perfect!  Getting a library card is on the top of my ‘after busy season’ checklist.  Anyway…the original recipe is from here.  Big thanks to my friend Katie who made her version of it for one of our small group dinners and gave me the idea to make it this week when we had eggplant in our fresh stop share.

Baked Eggplant Parm

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 lbs eggplant (about 4 Japanese eggplants, you could use Italian eggplant too)
  • (2) 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 5 teaspoons minced garlic (about 5 cloves), reserve 2 for topping
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup + 1/4 cup grated parmigiano
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and brush the parchment with olive oil.
  2. Cut the eggplant into ¼-inch slices and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Flip the slices over and repeat, so now both sides of the eggplant are oiled and salted. Roast until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes, flipping the eggplant halfway through. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool while you prepare the remainder of the ingredients. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F.
  3. In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with 3 teaspoons of the garlic over medium heat. Let cook until the garlic is fragrant and starting to toast. Add the tomatoes to the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the sugar. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, then add the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, 1 cup of parmesan, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Assemble the Eggplant Parm: spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, followed by half of the roasted eggplant, 1 cup more tomato sauce, half of the ricotta mixture and half of the mozzarella. Repeat: eggplant, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella.
  6. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling.
  7. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, remaining 2 teaspoons garlic, 1/4 cup parmesan and panko. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Once the filling is bubbling, take the casserole out of the oven, remove the foil and sprinkle the panko mixture evenly over the top. Continue baking, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown and crisp, about 20-25 more minutes. If the topping is not browning, drizzle a little olive oil over the top and place under the broiler (keep an eye on it, it’ll brown quickly under there). Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead: Make everything through Step 5. Cover the assembled Eggplant Parm with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator up to two days before serving. I prepped the panko topping as well and keep this in an airtight container in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake the dish, bring it to room temperature and continue with Steps 6 and 7.

photo (4)(See those adorable S&P shakers on the table – giant thanks to my mom for fall package 2.0 that included those!)

Week 12 – (Last Day of) Summer Corn Chowder and Chocolate Zucchini Bread

3.5 more weeks until I get my life back!!  Work was better this week, though it’s going to be a big push through October 15. But we’ll make it and I’ll go back to taking Fridays off and all will be right in the world 🙂

Highlights of the week:

1. Deadline #1 is done!  September 15 is always a rough one, but it’s in the past and I’m back to feeling like I know what I’m doing at work.

2. Fall package #2 from mom and dad!  They’re the best.  They sent some adorable S & P shakers and some tealight holders.  I love having our place decorated for the season.  It feels way more like a home, and growing up our house was always seasonally decorated so I appreciate it even more.

3. Date night!  Friday Matt and I walked over to Pizzeria Paradisio in Georgetown.  Their pizza is amazing, and they have an extensive beer selection (Matt’s favorite).  After enjoying dinner and a drink we walked over to Thomas Sweet for some ice cream, we hadn’t been there in forever!  It was delicious as always.  Good to not work at night and to just spend some QT with that husband of mine.  He’s pretty great.

4. Saturday and almost everything that came with it.  I say almost because I worked from home in the morning.  But then….we picked up our fresh stop!  Everything looks amazing (see below).  Then I got my hair cut.  I feel like a new person!  The upkeep of my long hair during busy season was just too much.  Back to a solid shoulder-length style now (there will be a picture on here eventually).  After the hair cut I baked some pumpkin muffins – which means it’s officially, officially fall.  Then we went to the H Street Festival with James.  After that we went out to dinner on 14th street (the area I’d LOVE to live in if only Matt and I didn’t have jobs located out in the middle of nowhere), checked out a new Gelato place, and then met up with one of his friends from college who was celebrating his bday.  Everywhere we went was great and it was a much needed Saturday out and about.

photo 1 (4)Fresh Stop!!

photo 2 (4)

MMMMMuffins, the super official sign it’s fall
photo 3 (5)

The Drafting Table

photo 4 (2)

Dolcezza – They have a “To Go” Window for coffee and gelato.  Amazing.

This week’s recipes…

We got to use some of our fresh stop veggies in the Summer Corn Chowder.  And due to a miscommunication we had too much zucchini so I took that as an excuse to try out a recipe for chocolate zucchini bread that I found last week.  The chocolate Zucchini bread took longer than it should have to cook the middle, which lead to crispier than desired edges.  Next time I might dump the batter into muffin tins or just not use it all in the bread dish, that should do the trick.  It’s still delicious, per Matt and a few girlfriends of mine.  So there will be a next time for it.  That’s generally a good judgement for us on these, after we try a new recipe I ask Matt “so, would you want me to make this again?”  The answer has been ‘yes’ a lot lately, but I’ll be sure to warn you when it’s not.  The Summer Corn Chowder was a definitely “yes, we’ll make this again.”  There was more prep work than I’d do on a weeknight but it was a perfect Sunday, late afternoon recipe.  Also we didn’t have allspice so Matt googled what’s in it and we just put a little of each into the pot.

Summer Corn Chowder

Servings: 6+

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium ears of corn
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 small celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice (cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 2 cups light cream (or half and half, what we used) at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Working over a bowl, cut the corn kernels from the cobs at about half their depth. Then, using the back of the knife, scrape the cobs over the bowl to release all the “milk”; set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, fry the bacon over moderately high heat, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Crumble and reserve.
  3. Discard all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings from the pan. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until golden, 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add the bell pepper, jalapeño and celery and cook until slightly softened, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, potatoes, salt, allspice, sugar, bay leaf and the reserved corn kernels and their “milk” and stir well. Cook over moderate heat until mixture begins to sizzle.
  6. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 35 to 45 minutes.
  7. Stir in the cream and milk and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and season with black pepper to taste.
  8. Ladle the chowder into bowls and garnish with the crumbled bacon and parsley.

photo 3 (4)

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
  • 1/3 cup King Arthur All-Purpose Baking Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1 2/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini, gently pressed
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F; lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, honey, oil, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Add the salt, baking soda, baking powder, espresso powder, cocoa, and flour, mixing until well combined.
  4. Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake the bread for 65 to 75 minutes, until the loaf tests done (a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean, save for perhaps a light smear of chocolate from the melted chips).
  7. Remove the bread from the oven, and let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes before turning it out of the pan onto a rack.
  8. Cool completely before slicing; store well-wrapped, at room temperature.

photo 1 (2) photo 2 (2) photo 3 (3)

Week 11 – Late Summer Pasta

Another week.  This one was a doozy.  Like flashbacks to busy seasons in the Chicago office, doozy.  Ever since moving here I’ve said how much better it is than the craziness of my old office.  And it still is.  But this weekend is not something I’d like to repeat.

So moving on…highlights of the week:

1. Our church kicked off small groups for the fall this week!  Our small group meets in some form year-round, but the official kick off usually brings some new people in, which is always exciting.  We’ve really been blessed to find a church with such great people in DC.  And as different as it is being in a small group that isn’t located in the same neighborhood as where we live and where our church is (Chicago spoiled me with my living proximity to church), I like that the fact that we’re the “Northern Virginia” group.  It means we’re a little more spread out, but it makes every get together intentional.

2. I got to play with a puppy!  I usually work from home on the weekends, but when there’s a deadline on Monday you don’t always get that luxury.  So into the office I went, and to my luck one of my coworkers brought in his puppy to hang out while we worked!  This is Niko, he’s super playful and nips a lot:

photo 1

3. Experiencing Matt’s Birthday Present!  Matt’s birthday present was a ticket to the Yankees-Orioles game in Baltimore on September 14.  The game was special because it was Jeter’s last game in Baltimore.  And for those of you who don’t follow, a lot of the stadiums are doing something special for Jeter for his last game there.  Baltimore had some cool gifts –  bunch of crab, a big cake shaped and decorated like his jersey, someone from the navy presented him with a Captain’s hat, and they donated $10K to a charity in his name.  And before the game they also had the navy seal leap frogs (parachuters) do a thing.  That was pretty sweet to see.  Some pictures from the night:

photo 4 (1) photo (3) photo 3 (1)

photo 2 (1)

So the new recipe from the night was technically not made during week 11.  I made it tonight after leaving work by 6:00 for the first time in who knows when.  But it’s delicious and I’m going to let it count for week 11.  I made up the name and adapted this recipe.  And it was extra fun because we got to use Matt’s fancy hand cheese grater for freshly grated parm on top!

Late Summer Pasta

Ingredients:
Salt
Pepper
1 pound orecchiette or small shells
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, sliced thin
2-3 medium green zucchini, ends trimmed
2 ears corn, kernels cut from the cobs, juices and all
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons roughly chopped or torn basil
Olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Optional: Grilled Chicken, cut into strips

Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, add some olive oil, the minced garlic cloves, and thinly sliced shallot in a medium pan, cook until fragrant.
2. Grate the zucchini on a box grater. Gather the gratings in a bowl and salt the squash. Toss to mix.
3. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta but don’t shake it; you want a little pasta water to help create a “sauce.” Pour it back in the pot.
4. Add the zucchini to the pan with the garlic and shallot. Cook until the water as cooked off – I drained the liquid mid cooking.
5. Add the corn to the pan and cook a little longer (see picture below for how it looked before I moved on to the next step).
6. Add the veggies to the pot with the cooked, drained pasta. Drizzle on some olive oil. Toss the pasta. Adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Also add a couple shakes of red pepper flakes and the basil. Toss again. Spoon into shallow bowls and top with grated, cheese, but not too much.
7. Top with grilled chicken strips and enjoy!

photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

Week 10 – Pumpkin Doughnuts and Peanut Butter Ice Cream Brownie Pie

Busy Season – 1, Danielle – 0

Well, busy season won this week.  When I started this blog the goal was to try at least one new dinner recipe per week and this week that did not happen.  But there were some new recipes going on, they’re just desserts. 

Highlights of the week:

1. Fall started!  September 1 brought the beginning of fall.  I know that the first day of fall isn’t until later in September, and I know that DC just had over a week straight of temps over 90, but September meals fall decorations and all things pumpkin!  Just because the weather doesn’t cooperate does not mean I’m going to cut my nearly 3 months of fall short (in Danielle world fall runs through thanksgiving, btw.  Then its Christmas/winter)!  So in honor of the beginning of fall I tried out this new pumpkin donut recipe.  I have at least 4 different people (not including me) who will tell you how delicious these bad boys were!  And my parents are the best and sent us a fall package with some adorable dish towels, a candle, and some seasonal candy.  A few pictures of how fall is going in our Apartment:

photo 5 (1)

photo 4 (4) photo 3 (5) photo 2 (8)photo 1 (6)

2. Matt turned 25!  To celebrate he and I went to a Thai Restaurant in Georgetown for dinner on Friday.  Gosh, I love Georgetown so much, it’s just the cutest historical looking area.  We ate outside and had a gift certificate to cover the meal and it was just great.  A much needed night out.  Matt’s birthday also lead to the second new recipe of the week – peanut butter ice cream pie.   That thing could have it’s own highlight.  It’s delicious.  And for Matt’s birthday we had a few friends over on Saturday, which is always exciting for me to have people over to our place.  Nothing special, just me making guac and forcing the pie on other people so we don’t eat all of it, and hanging out and watching football.  And finally we finished the bday “celebrations” with brunch after church with another couple from our small group.  Anything that involves friends is always a highlight.  We’ll use Matt’s main bday gift from me next Sunday when we go to Jeter’s last game in Baltimore.

3. A baby shower!  One of our friends from small group is having a baby next month so her neighbor through a baby shower for her.  Since moving I haven’t had a ton of just girl moments so a baby shower was very exciting to me!  And they’re having a girl so the presents were just freaking adorable.  All of the little outfits!  Just the cutest.

The Recipes!

Like I said, pumpkin doughnuts and peanut butter pie.  The mini doughnuts were so fun.  I saw this recipe a while ago and then while at Sur la Table buying Emma’s (Matt’s sister) birthday present I snuck away and found the most perfect mini doughnut pan.  I then proceeded to smile at Matt, and then it was mine!  Love that guy.  Anyway, the recipe has a cinnamon-sugar coating, but i experimented with making a glaze and a powdered cinnamon coating too.  When doing the regular cinnamon sugar it dawned on me (this is a big “duh” moment) that cinnamon doughnuts are just coated with a mix of powdered sugar and cinnamon.  And that I could totally do that on these pumpkin doughnuts and it’d probably be delicious (it was).  And oh, the peanut butter pie!  This was a day long, make in stages dessert, but it was sooooo worth it!  I made it on my work from home day and it was pretty perfect for giving me breaks.  Instead of walking to starbucks for coffee, I walked to the kitchen and made brownie pie crust.  I also made it more difficult than needed because for the peanut butter ice cream in the recipe, I used the recipe for PB ice cream from a few weeks ago.  But like I said, it was all so delicious.

Pumpkin Spice Mini Doughnuts

Makes: 28-36, depending on how big

Ingredients:

  • 1¾ cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon allspice (I used pumpkin pie spice)
  • ⅛ teaspoons ground cloves
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup canned pumpkin
  • ½ cup milk
    Cinnamon-Sugar Coating
    • ¼ cup melted butter
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
     
    Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the mini-donut pan.
    2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves in a small bowl.
    3. Combine oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla extract, pumpkin and milk in a large bowl. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. (Don’t overwork the batter)
    4. Pour batter into a large ziploc bag and snip a small corner off one end. (You’re essentially making a pastry bag.) Squeeze batter into the mini-donut pan. Bake for 7-9 minutes. If the donuts gently spring back when you touch them, they are ready. Pop them out onto a wire rack to cool.
    Coating
    1. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a bowl.
    2. Working with a few donuts at a time, brush both sides of donuts with butter using a pastry brush (or dip them right into the butter.)
    3. Put donuts into bowl and coat with cinnamon-sugar.
     
    Notes
    *If you don’t plan to eat all the donuts right away, place the uncoated donuts in an airtight container until ready to use. Then proceed with the butter/sugar coating when you are ready to serve them.
    *Option for a powdered cinnamon sugar coating – just mix together some powdered sugar and cinnamon until it looks about right, toss the doughnuts in it (no need to coat in butter) and eat within 30 min (if you don’t the sugar starts to absorb into the doughnuts and looks less powder-y, but still tastes great!)
    *Option for a glaze: mix milk and powdered sugar until its the consistency you want your glaze to be.  Add cinnamon for an extra kick.  Dip doughnuts in the glaze and move to a cooling rack with a paper towel underneath until the glaze hardens (it will never fully harden, they’ll always be messy and delicious this way).

photo 2 (6)

 

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Brownie Pie

Ingredients:

For the brownie base: 

  • 8 tbsp. (4 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour

To finish:

  • 2½-3 cups peanut butter ice cream, slightly softened
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Peanut butter sauce

Directions:

  1. To make the brownie base, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line the bottom of a 9″ pie pan with parchment paper.  Lightly grease the inside edges of the pan and coat with flour, shaking away the excess. In a large heatproof bowl, combine the butter and chocolate. Microwave in 20-30 second intervals, stirring in between, until fully melted and smooth. Whisk in the sugar and eggs. Whisk in the vanilla, salt and espresso powder. Stir in the flour just until incorporated and no dry streaks remain.

  2. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake, rotating halfway through the baking time, until the center is just set, about 22-24 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Then cover and transfer to the freezer to chill thoroughly.

  3. When you are ready to assemble, remove the chilled brownie layer from the freezer. Add the peanut butter ice cream over the brownie layer and smooth with a spatula. Return to the freezer while you make the whipped cream. Combine the cream and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl and whisk or whip with an electric mixer just until stiff peaks form. Blend in the vanilla. If you have one (I don’t), transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and pipe swirls of whipped cream around the edge of the pie.  An alternative is to use a ziplock bag and cut the corner off one end (like I did).  The swirls won’t look as fancy, but they’ll taste just as great! Return to the freezer.

  4. Just before serving, drizzle chocolate syrup and peanut butter sauce (just melted peanut butter, I don’t know what peanut butter sauce is) over the top of the pie. Slice and serve immediately. Store covered in the freezer.photo 2 (7)