Five-Spice Eggplant

Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Meals is like the Game Genie of cooking and I love it for that reason.

However, it also appears to be a cookbook backed by the spice company McCormick, which I have mixed feelings about. I don’t have anything against McCormick, but it just feels like the Sandra’s publishers were like, “Ok this eggplant recipe is great and all, but we need you to mention McCormick somewhere and it can’t be just pepper and salt.”

So, they came up with McCormick five-spice powder.

I feel that they should just be honest about it and name this McCormick Sponsored Eggplant, but I digress….

What you’ll need

  • 4 small Japanese eggplants, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 tablespoon five-spice powder (McCormick of course)
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons of dark sesame oil

The first step is to pre-heat your oven to….

Is it gonna be 350 or…..

It’s gonna be 400!

So, do that, then line a baking pan with some foil.

While your oven is heating up, in a medium bowl, toss every ingredient together. Then lay the slices on your baking pan and roast for 10-15 minutes. Once that timer goes off, you’re good to go.

Simple and easy, like always.

I admittedly could have done without the 5-spices. Maybe that’s why I feel the way I do about this McCormick sponsorship, but this was still a tasty recipe. The star of the show was the sesame oil. Other than that, this is your standard eggplant side dish and should not disappoint anyone who isn’t too picky.

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5-Spice Eggplant

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Spicy Scallops

I am pleased to announce that I finally made something from The Everything Thai Cookbook that I actually liked.

Prepare your trumpets and your drumrolls,  cause that recipe is…. Spicy Scallops!!!

*The author of this cookbook recognizes that her food tastes are not refined enough to appreciate some of the previous recipes she has cooked in this book. She means no offense to Thai cuisine or people. She enjoys meals she’s had at Thai restaurants and recognizes that the issue lies with her and possibly her cooking skills.

What you’ll need

  • 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 1 jalapeno minced
  • 1 (1/2 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 8 large scallops

The first step is to prepare your sauté pan by placing that veggie oil in it and heating it up. Even food needs some foreplay guys. That is purposely directed towards guys in case you’re wondering as well.

Add the garlic, jalapeno, and ginger to your hot oil and cook for about a minute.

Next add the coriander, soy sauce, and water. Stir it together and allow it to simmer for about 2-3 minutes.

Once cooked, strain the liquid and set aside for later.

Add the scallops once the pan has cooled for a bit and drizzle the strained sauce on top. Increase the heat to medium-high and cover the pan with a little bit of wiggle room for steam to escape. Cook for about 2-3 minutes.

At this point your scallops should be ready to eat!

 

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Mmmm…spicy scallops

The final result is Thai restaurant quality. That’s saying something, becasue I like scallops, but am not a die hard fan. This recipe almost made me one.

The sauce is simple, with a bit of that salty bitter soy sauce taste, but it just glazes over those scallops and makes you want to slurp every last bite.

I think this soy, ginger, and jalapeno combo would make a great marinade for other meats as well. I look forward to making this again and hopefully you will too.

Olive Condite AKA Sicilian for Dressed Olives

Whenever I eat olives I think of this song called “Jerusalem” by Dan Bern.

A friend of mine from college introduced me to this song and when he showed it to me I was instantly hooked. I love songs that tell a story and this was most certainly does. It’s also a little quirky and funny at points. So you should check it out. It’s good stuff.

Towards the end of the song, Dan sings,

And all I ate was olives
Nothing but olives
Mountains of olives
It was a good ten days, I like olives
I like you too

Well thanks Dan, I like olives and you as well.

I think, anyway.  I’ve never met you. You could be a secret jerk.

Hopefully, like these olives from Sicilian Cookery, you’re far from it.

What you’ll need

  • 1 pound/3 cups of green olives
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Hot red peppers
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar

Your first step is to crush the olives. You don’t have to completely beat them down, it’s mostly to get the inner olive juices flowing.

Once crushed, season them with garlic, basil, parsley, and chopped hot, red peppers. Place this mixture in a jar and add olive oil until the jar is almost filled. The remaining space will be filled with a few drops of vinegar.

Once you let it mix and marinate you’ll have no reason to go to that infamously expensive olive bar at Whole Foods! You’ll have your own!

Side note, I’ve calmed down a bit about Whole Foods because they do have standards on how they treat their animal products and I do support that. I just get irritated by how expensive their other items are. Some of it doesn’t seem necessary to me.

The final result is what can be expected if you enjoy olives. As some of you know, I’m a spice lover, and naturally those peppers combined with the olives left me in heaven.

If you’re not big on spice, however, there are alternatives the cookbook mentioned which consisted of seasoning with pickles and oregano.

No matter how you like your olives, if you want to be a good Sicilian, you gotta keep those olives on hand for all your important guests to snack on. You never know, they could be the next messiah.

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Mt. Etna of olives

Shiitake to me Scramble

When it comes to egg dishes, you can’t go wrong with goat cheese, spinach, and mushrooms. At least for me.

You also can’t go wrong with scrambles, because sometimes making omelets doesn’t work out for people and they become scrambles anyway.

Egg dishes tend to be healthy alternatives to breakfast as well and this scramble from Cook This, Not That ensures that you keep it that way.

What you’ll need

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 cup of sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup of fresh goat cheese

The first step is to get your favorite frying pan out, heat the burner to medium, and place 1 tablespoon of butter on top. Once that butter starts to melt almost completely, add your mushrooms. Cook those mushrooms until slightly browned and then set the mushrooms aside.

Get your pan back out, sans mushrooms, and add the spinach. Season with salt and pepper and cook until spinach is nicely heated. Remove the spinach and drain the excess water.

We are now ready to prepare our eggs. Do so by mixing the eggs with the milk in a large bowel. Season with salt and pepper and whisky a go-go away.

Now go back to your empty pan and add the remaining butter. After the butter melts, heat the pan to low and add the egg mixture. Stir the egg mixture continuously until egg lumps start to form. Once those lumps start to form in soft shapes add in the mushrooms, spinach, and goat cheese. Cook and stir this mixture until the eggs seem fully cooked.

You are now ready to enjoy your scramble!

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Shiitake, spinach, and goat cheese scramble

As I said earlier, for me you can’t go wrong with mushrooms, spinach, and goat cheese. Naturally, I enjoyed this meal immensely. The eggs were nice and fluffy and the shiitake mushrooms paired well in texture and taste. Then there’s the goat cheese. Mmmm, goat cheese is so good!

If you have time to make yourself breakfast in the morning, do make this dish. You will be satisfied on all realms.

Not Your Mama’s Spinach

I’m talking to you Popeye!

Unless you’re Italian, than it could be your Mama’s spinach. I mean when your girl’s name is Olive Oyl there’s gotta be some Italian connection there.

I guess she could be Greek, though. Olive Oyl isn’t exclusively Italian.

This Spinaci Saltati recipe comes from The Italian Mama’s Kitchen and is another healthy and simple recipe fit for any beloved sailor that needs to beat up some hooligans.

What you’ll need.

  • 2 1/4 pounds fresh spinach
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons of olive oyl
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • Black pepper to taste

The first step is to remove any tough stems from the spinach, unless you went with frozen spinach. No need to do anything but thaw for that.

Popeye recommends that you do use fresh spinach. He understands most people see him eating out of a can, but that’s for emergencies. The best bang for your buck if you want to bang someone up is to cross train with fresh spinach and not roid out with canned spinach.

If you use fresh spinach, fill a large saucepan with water and salt to bring to a boil. Once it’s boiled, you will add the spinach and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain the water once the minutes are up.

Then heat 2 tablespoons of olive oyl in a large skillet over low heat. Add the garlic to the oyl to allow the two sensations to join together.

Next add the spinach and toss the mixture over medium heat until the spinach is nice and warm. This should take about two minutes. Add the dash of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

You are almost ready to serve and to do so, remove the garlic, place the spinach on a plate, and then drizzle it with oyl.

The final result is a fresh, healthy side dish for a family meal. The taste of garlic fused with oil and spinach makes this healthy green leaf taste velvety and comforting. The dash of nutmeg gives it a slight edge that Popeye would approve of.

Popeye and Olive Oyl. They do good together.

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Chicken added for scale and for extra taste

Noodle Nuggets with Cheese Sauce

Have you ever had a noodle nugget? Well, I have and it’s all thanks to laziness.

So how do you create a noodle nugget? First step is to try to make your own pasta with a recipe from Classic Pasta at Home after your 9-5 job by yourself, get tired, and end up with pasta that’s 10 times thicker than water. Then you bring leftovers for your friends to enjoy who don them noodle nuggets.

Let me quickly add that my friends actually liked the noodle nuggets, but we all like to tease and have quirky senses of humor, thus noodle nuggets were born.

What you’ll need for noodle nuggets

  • 2 1/4 cups of un-bleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

What you’ll need for noodle nugget cheese sauce

  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 3 ounces of fontina cheese, grated
  • 2 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of parsley

Our first step will be to make the noodle nuggets. By the way, feel free to not make noodle nuggets and buy fettuccine instead. You’ll be missing out though.

Place flour in a mound on a flat clean surface. Make a well in the center and add the beaten eggs. Using a fork, gradually mix the sides of the wall into the egg. Do this carefully so your wall doesn’t breach.

Continue this process until you can safely mix all the flour in and the dough is no longer wet.

You are no ready to knead the dough. Prepare your hands by dusting flour on them and then press your knuckles into the dough in a semi-circular motion until the dough is no longer sticky.

Divide the dough in half and roll out your divided half until smooth and flat. If you have a pasta machine, make it flat enough so it can go through the machine at the widest setting. Fold into thirds to make a rectangle and then flatten the dough again. Pass the dough into the machine again and repeat 9 times. Fold the dough into thirds after each pass through as well.

Set the machine to it’s second widest setting and pass the dough through. Continue this process but with each pass change the setting one notch lower.

Repeat this process with your other half and then cut the dough into strips. This will give you fettucine.

If you want noodle nuggets, do this same process until you’re like, “Eh, that’s good enough, I’m getting tired.”

Whichever pasta you choose to make, you’re now ready to boil water to cook the pasta. Do that. If you don’t know how to do that, just put water in a pot and then heat it until the water boils.

While that’s happening, combine cream and broth in a large skillet. Let it simmer over medium heat until it thickens. Reduce the heat to low once it’s thick and then stir in the cheeses. Let them melt and then add pepper and salt.

Allow the sauce to thin out and once it has thinned, keep it warm over low heat.

The water should be boiling at this point, which means you can cook your pasta. Allow the pasta to only cook for about a minute. Drain the water and then add the pasta to the cheese sauce. Increase the heat to medium-high and let it cook, stirring constantly until the pasta has absorbed the sauce and seems fully cooked.

The pasta should now be ready for serving and eating. Do so and touch it up a bit with some sprinkled parsley and pepper.

As I mentioned, my pasta came out very thick, but it was still tasty. The cheese sauce is rich, comforting, and flavorful. You could serve it with just about any variation of pasta, but I do think a thinner type would be best since the sauce is also thin and will easily absorb into the pasta.

I had to make new sauce for my leftovers, because the noodle nuggets absorbed practically all of the sauce. They had also congealed together, which made it difficult to get indivual pasta strands.

Making more sauce over corrected the problem so my friend added some spaghetti to it as well. The combo of spaghetti and noodle nuggets was interesting and it made the meal into a game where we felt like we won something if we got a big chunk of noodle nugget.

I highley recommed pursuing the noodle nugget, but don’t feel ashamed if you end up with fettucine or buy some pasta instead because this sauce is delicious and easy to make. There’s no reason to make it harder for yourself if you don’t feel like it.

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Noodle Nuggets

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Noodle Nuggets with sauce

Homemade Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa are a favorite eating pastime of mine. I’ve known how to make my own salsa for a few years now, but this was my first attempt to make my own chips.

The greatest news about this chip making recipe is that it comes from the Light and Healthy Cookbook, so you can feel a little less guilty about eating a giant bowl of chips and salsa for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Not that I ever do that or anything.

What you’ll need for the salsa

  • 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes (5-6 medium), cored, seeded, and chopped medium
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup of minced red onion
  • 1/4 cup of minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder

What you need for the chips

  • 8 (6 inch) corn tortillas, each cut into 6 wedges
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

The fist step in making the salsa is to place the tomatoes in a strainer with a bowl underneath the strainer. Sprinkle salt on top of the tomatoes and let them drain for about 30 minutes. Discard the liquid once the 30 minutes are up.

While the tomatoes are being softened with salt, you can combine the onion, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, and chili powder in a medium bowl.

Side note, if you like things hot like I do, don’t discard the jalapeno seeds. If you’re truly like me, you’ll add another jalapeno as well.

Put one-third of the drained tomatoes in a food processor until smooth. Then add these tomatoes to your onion and chili bowl you created earlier. Then add the chunky tomatoes and mix it all together.

Cover this mixture and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour.

We are now ready to make our chips!

Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat to 350. Place your chips as evenly as possible, spray with vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt.

Bake until they are slightly browned which should be around 8-12 minutes. Flip the chips when this occurs and bake for an additional 8-12 minutes. By this time the chips should be ready to eat, but if they aren’t just tackle on more time in the oven. You want to make sure they are nice and crisp.

Whether you need more time or not, they will need to cool before consumption which should work out with waiting on that delicious salsa you just made.

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Overall, I was happy with this recipe. I prefer salsa that isn’t quite as chunky most of the time, but I like how the chunky tomatoes sort of spritz juice in you mouth. It makes me feel light and refreshed.

My chips were not consistently crisp which was disappointing, but I blame myself. I didn’t bake them long enough and didn’t realize they weren’t really as crisp as they seemed. So be sure to really check those chips out before taking them out of the oven.

I’m sure if I made this again, I’d have more success and as much as I love greasy fried chips, it’s good to have heatlhy alternatives you can make yourself.