Baked Eggplant

I don’t remember how I discovered eggplant, but I really love it breaded and baked. So, even though this requires a little more time to prepare than I usually want to spend on a work night, I believe it is worth it because I don’t even mind eating this cold the next day for lunch.

INGREDIENTS

  • medium-large eggplant
  • salt
  • 2 or 3 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 cup whole wheat graham flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I like a Cajun seasoning mix fora little kick.)

NIGHT BEFORE

Wash the eggplant and cut off the ends.

Slice the eggplant VERY thin.  This required excellent knives or a mandolin slicer.  I am fortunate enough to have both.

Eggplant and Mandolin Slicer
Eggplant and Mandolin Slicer

Place the eggplant in a bowl and cover with water.  Add about a teaspoon of salt.

Eggplant Slices in salted water
Eggplant Slices in salted water

Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight or at least 30 minutes.

BEFORE SERVING

Drain and rinse the eggplant. If you forget to rinse your eggplant, it might taste too salty after you cook it.

You will need two containers for breading the eggplant–one for the egg and the other for the whole wheat flour.  Add your seasoning to the flour.

Preparing the Eggplant for Baking
Preparing the Eggplant for Baking

Dip the eggplant slices in the egg first and then in the seasoned flour. Place on a slightly greased baking sheet.

Eggplant--Before Baking
Eggplant–Before Baking

Bake in preheated oven (400 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10 minutes.  Flip the slices.  Bake for another 8-10 minutes until crispy and brown.

Baked Eggplant--Brown and Crispy
Baked Eggplant–Brown and Crispy

Ramen Noodles–Cheap and Quick

Ramen noodles are cheap and quick.  This is the way I jazz up my ramen noodles with stir-fried vegetables.  You can chop your vegetables the night before if you are not using frozen vegetables.  My husband will ask if it has meat in it, so I defrost some cooked, cubed chicken and add to his bowl. If you are vegetarian, you already know that Top brand oriental flavor ramen noodles is without animal products. Otherwise, the chicken flavor ramen noodles works well for this recipe.

Stir-Fried Vegetables with Ramen Noodles

  • 2 cups chopped fresh or frozen vegetables
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 package of chicken flavor or oriental flavor ramen noodles
Chopped Vegetables
Chopped Vegetables

Stir-fry the vegetables in the oil until tender.

Stir-frying vegetables
Stir-frying vegetables

Meanwhile, boil the ramen noodles according to instruction on the package.

Ramen noodles in boiling water
Ramen noodles in boiling water

Add garlic powder, crushed red pepper, hoisin sauce, and ramen noodle flavor packet to the vegetables. Serve over the cooked ramen noodles.

Stir-fried Vegetables with Ramen Noodles
Stir-fried Vegetables with Ramen Noodles

Breaded, but Not Fried Okra

Many you are already assuming I’m going to tell you about the health advantages of baking versus frying, but you are wrong.  I’m writing about time. Sure, the fried foods might be tastier, but they involve more time!  I don’t want to spend the time washing, cutting, breading, frying, and cleaning up the grease splatter.  Don’t forget you still have the used grease that you have to get rid of too.  So, time is the main reason I bake my breaded vegetables rather than fry them. Although this cornmeal breading can be used for many vegetables that you might like to eat in the summer, I’m going to tell you about okra.

First, let me tell you that until about 3 years ago, I had always been suspicious of that person long ago who first discovered okra. I can’t imagine what person saw this bizarre looking plant, picked the okra, found herself itchy from the nasty stuff, and still proceeded to cook it only to find that it is slimy. I wondered, “Why would anyone eat okra barring near starvation?”  (Yes, I had an unpleasant relationship with okra as a child.)

Well, I really love food, and I always feel obligated to give all food a chance.  So, when I saw okra at the farmers market, the couple selling the okra convinced me that I should give okra yet one more try.  The wife advised me how to cook it even though I’ve seen my mother cook it.  The husband insisted I would love it and he was right.  I now eat okra!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh okra
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • dash cayenne pepper

NIGHT BEFORE

Wash about a pound of okra.

Fresh Okra
Fresh Okra

Next, cut off the ends and sliced them in half lengthwise. My mother always cuts the okra into circular pieces, but this is the method the lady at the farmer’s market told me.

Okra cut lengthwise
Okra cut lengthwise

After that, place them in a bowl and add about a 1/4 cup of flour to coat them.

Okra Dusted with Flour
Okra Dusted with Flour

OPTIONAL STOPPING POINT

Next, dip them in egg.

Okra dipped in egg
Okra dipped in egg

Then,  coat them in seasoned cornmeal.  I usually use cornmeal mix which means you want to be careful about adding salt.  Add garlic powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, but you can use whatever season you like.

Okra in Seasoned Cornmeal
Okra in Seasoned Cornmeal

After you have the okra coated in the cornmeal mixture, transfer the okra to a lightly greased baking sheet.

Okra coated in cornmeal mixture
Okra coated in cornmeal mixture
Breaded Okra--Ready for the Oven
Breaded Okra–Ready for the Oven

 

BEFORE SERVING

Bake at about 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes.  Then, turn them over and finish baking about 10-15 more minutes depending on how brown you like them.

Baked Breaded Okra
Baked Breaded Okra

Pasta Salad on the Weekend

I have to plan my weekend meals differently than weeknight meals. We often spend weekends finishing up home improvement projects, doing car repairs, or yard work.  If I’m spending the day sweating in the backyard, I don’t have time to stop and cook lunch or dinner.  Sure, Sonic, Braums, and Wendy’s are less than a mile from our home, but I’d rather not spend the money on food I don’t really enjoy.  Therefore, I often fix a pasta salad Friday evening or Saturday morning. (Yes, I readily admit to being one of those cheerful morning people that most of you growl at as you are filling up your cup of coffee.) This is a great make-ahead dish that actually tastes better made ahead of time.  So, whether you need lunch on the weekend or a dish to take to a summer gathering, I think you will find this salad tasty.

Pasta Salad Recipe

  • 9 oz of cheese tortellini or rotini pasta
  • 12-14 oz of fresh or frozen broccoli
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1/4 small onion (optional)
  • 8 oz cherry or grape tomatoes (optional)
  • 1 can black olives
  • 8 oz Italian salad dressing
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella,  or colby-jack)
  • 8 oz ham (optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions. 20150712_101341Microwave broccoli until al dente (about 3 or 4 minutes).

broccoli in a microwavable bowl
broccoli in a microwavable bowl

Meanwhile, cut the onion and bell pepper into slices and half the tomatoes and black olives.

onion and pepper
onion and pepper
chopped black olives
chopped black olives

Cube the ham.

cubed ham
cubed ham

Allow the pasta and broccoli to cool.  (I usually place them in the refrigerator while I do my chopping).  Finally, mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.

pasta salad
pasta salad

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Thank you, Linda Clark

I’ve never thanked Linda Clark for her gift although I’m sure my mother did at the time. I’ve never met her and know almost nothing about her, but her name is my reminder that even small things I do can have a lasting impact to people I may not know and may have never met.

“Who is Linda Clark and why are you publicly thanking her?” you ask.

According to my mother, Linda Clark was a young summer intern at the US Navy Department where my mother worked in 1969.  This was the summer my mother was pregnant with me.  She gave my mother a cookbook as a gift for the baby.20150713_091322

August 1, 1969

Aleta,

     You said you didn’t have a cookbook, and since I missed you wedding which is when I usually give cookbooks, I decided to give this to you now even though it won’t pertain to baby for a while.

     Love, Linda Clark

The cookbook now belongs to the baby and I have used it many times.  The Working Wives’ Cookbook (Salaried or Otherwise) has been a continual inspiration for how I plan and prepare my meals.  Thus, I might even consider it the seed for this blog.  After thinking how to present my recipes and meals on this blog, I decided that when appropriate, I will use the format set up by the authors Theodora Zavin and Freda Stuart, which is a narrative introduction, night before instructions, and finally the before serving instructions for getting it on the table that evening to enjoy.

20150713_091110Thank you again, Linda Clark, wherever you are!

Fridge Basics

Let me tell you about the basics I keep in my fridge. You will always find milk, butter, cheese, and eggs.

Basic Dairy Products for the Fridge
Basic Dairy Products for the Fridge

 

Unless, I’ve been out of town, my produce drawer normally has carrots, onions, and bell pepper.

Carrot, Onion, Bell Pepper--Produce Basics
Carrot, Onion, Bell Pepper–Produce Basics

Since my husband believes meat is a necessity at every meal, I normally keep bacon, smoked sausage, and sometimes ham in my fridge.  These have a fairly long shelf-life. Additionally, bacon, smoked sausage, and ham, can all be thrown into a freezer bag and frozen for later use if their expiration dates have arrived. See my post about stocking the freezer for other ideas about useful meats to have in the freezer.

Stocking the Freezer

Having a freezer stocked with essential items is crucial to getting dinner on the table when you are “so tired and hungry.”

Let me first tell you about which items are standard in my freezer. Since my husband believes that no meal is complete without meat, I keep cooked meats in my freezer.  When I cook meat, I try to cook enough to stick some in the freezer. After all, is it really that more difficult to cook 2 pounds of ground beef instead of just 1 pound?  Here is a list of the cooked meats currently in my freezer:

Italian Sausage (not in the casing)

Cubed chicken

Ground Beef

Cooked Meats in my Freezer
Cooked Meats in my Freezer

If I bake a ham, I cube the leftovers and put them in the freezer.  Also, you will find that many of the recipes you already use freeze well.  I intentionally make big batches of meatballs, so I can put some away in the freezer.  As I cook and things to my freezer, I will give suggestions for items I like to freezer for later use.

My Inspiration for this Blog

I teach English at high school level. As any of your teacher friends and family will tell you, teachers put in some long days. So much for 6th period ending at 2:30!  Teachers attend IEP meetings, sponsor after school clubs, do tutoring sessions, participate in curriculum planning, and many other things.  Additionally, I try to commit to yoga practice at least twice a week, and I have two dogs who demand a thirty minute walk in the evening.  By the time I get home and start dinner, I’m so tired and hungry, but that’s not unusual in today’s world.  However, I cook dinner almost every night and my leftovers go to work with me as lunch. My colleagues often marvel at my ability to cook dinner each evening.  Therefore, with some encouragement from one colleague in particular, I decided to create a blog to show how I manage to come home “so tired and hungry” and get dinner on the table.