Moussaka

Do you remember the Disney movie Hercules? I do. It was one of my favorites growing up. This dish is brought to you by the Greek god of the underworld–none other than Hades himself. One of the most memorable quotes (for me) was when he says dismissively:

Hades Disney Hercules

How sentimental. You know, I haven't been this choked up since I got a hunk of moussaka caught in my throat.

What? What was that? Moussaka? If there was a food that I’d like to choke on so I could eat it for longer, it would be moussaka. It’s amazing. Think Greek lasagna. Only with more flavor, originality, and nutritional value than its Italian counterpart. I tried it on a whim and now I’m completely hooked.

Here we go!

Warning: this recipe is not for the faint of heart. It takes from start to finish about three hours. It’s worth it to me, but be ready. Commit. You can do it.

moussaka
Ingredients:

  • 3-4 eggplants, about 4 lbs. total
  • 1 lb. potatoes
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (or lamb)
  • 2 large onions, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 cup tomato puree (or crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
  • 8 egg whites, lightly beaten (reserve yolks for bechamel)
  • 1 cup grated Feta or Parmesan cheese
Bechamel Sauce:

  • 1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk, warmed
  • 8 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg

 

First, slice the eggplant in to 1/2 inch slices. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover them with an inverted plate that is weighted down by a heavy can or jar. Place the colander in the sink so that excess moisture can be drawn out. They will need to sit for at least 15-20 minutes, preferably an hour. The salt also helps to remove some of the bitterness of the eggplant.

Take your oven up to 400 degrees

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and lightly grease. Add a splash of water to the egg whites and beat them lightly with a fork. Add breadcrumbs to a flat plate.

Rinse the eggplant slices and dry with paper towels. Dip the eggplant slices in the beaten egg whites and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Place breaded eggplant slices on baking sheets and bake at 400 degrees for 1/2 an hour, turning them over once during cooking.

Lower your oven down to 350 degrees

Now, for the meat:

In a large sauté pan, brown the ground beef (or lamb) until the pink color disappears. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding cinnamon, cumin, coriander, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and sugar. Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for approximately 15 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate. It should be a drier, chunkier, tomato sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the meat is cooking, work on the potatoes. Multi-task people. multi-task!

Peel the potatoes and boil them whole until they are just done. They should not get too soft, just cooked enough so that they no longer crunch. Drain, cool and slice them in 1/4 inch slices. Set aside.

Now, for the sauce. It’s seriously one of the best parts of this meal.

Melt butter over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Allow the flour to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.

Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously.

Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil.

Remove from heat, and stir in beaten egg yolks and pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until

ASSEMBLE!

Lightly grease a large deep baking pan (lasagna pan). Sprinkle the bottom of pan with breadcrumbs. Leaving a 1/4 inch space around the edges of the pan, place a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Top with a layer of eggplant slices.

Add meat sauce on top of eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with 1/4 of the grated cheese.

Pour the béchamel sauce over the eggplant and be sure to allow sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the béchamel on top with a spatula and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool for 15 – 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

You can make this dish ahead up until the béchamel sauce and refrigerate. Make the béchamel sauce right before you intend to bake it.

 

 

 

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Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers

I found this recipe on Pinterest the other day and I love it. I took out some of the ingredients and added a few of mine. Why add syrup to sweet a recipe when yams are naturally sweet and full of great nutrients? It’s great. Two nights of eating it (it makes a lot when you’re only feeding two!) and I kind of want to eat it again tonight. Feed the addiction, right?

Sweet potato bean burger

 

Ingredients:
2 cans cannellini white beans, drained
1 medium sweet potato
1 medium yam
2 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp seasoning (I recommend Caribbean Jerk or lemon pepper)
1/4 cup wheat flour
bread crumbs
oil (I use olive, but do as you will)

Bake the sweet potato and yam in the oven, peel, and mash.

Drain beans, mix and mash with the yam/sweet potato mixture

Add seasoning, flour, tahini and mix well. If mixture is dry, add more flour

Form patties and cover in bread crumbs. Cook on both sides until browned in medium heat in skillet. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before eating.

This is best served on thin buns, with avocado and dijon mustard. Don’t doubt the amazingness of the combination. It’s unforgettably awesome. Seriously. Also–the picture? Not mine.

 

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How to make your own sour cream (first attempt)

My first attempt at making homemade sour cream was a success!  And it’s really easy.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Mason jars
  • Coffee filters
  • 1 liter of half and half (pasteurized, not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1/2 pint cultured butter milk (pasteurized, not ultra-pasteurized)

Some recipes online suggest to use heavy cream but their sour cream turned out thick, almost as thick as butter.  I like mine to be the consistency of Greek yogurt (and less fattening) so I used half and half.  Here’s how you do it:

  1. Let the half and half and butter milk sit out on the counter so it can reach room temperature.
  2. Boil the mason jars to sanitize them (or run them through the dishwasher).
  3. Poor the half and half into mason jars.
  4. Poor equal amounts of butter milk into each jar.
  5. Place a coffee filter over the jar and screw lid over the coffee jar.
  6. Place the jars somewhere where they won’t be touched or messed with (e.g., oven turned off).
  7. Let them sit for 12-24 hours.

It is important not to disturb the process by shaking or stirring.  I didn’t think this would matter much, but the one jar I messed with turned out more liquid than the others.  I also turned the oven on briefly from time to time to keep the temperature up.  I’ve read you want it to be around 75 to 80 degrees but most people claim to have good results when it sits at room temperature.  Some people suggest if you leave the jars out on the counter to place them on a towel so they’re not directly on the counter which will keep them cooler.

And that’s how you make homemade sour cream!

Homemade yogurt

We got a yogurt maker for Christmas, and I just made the first batch of homemade yogurt.  It tastes delicious and more like yogurt I had in Europe than the stuff here in the states.  And it’s pretty easy to make.  Here’s how I made mine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart of milk
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 packet Yogourmet starter

The first step is to heat the milk.  I heated the milk on low to medium heat until bubbles formed around the edge of the pan and steam began to rise.  It’s important to stir the milk frequently as it heats so it doesn’t burn.  Once the milk is heated, I transfered the milk to a glass container and let it cool to the proper temperature.  (The yogurt maker came with a thermometer that displays the proper temperature).  Then I stir in the sugar.  The recipe the yogurt maker came with does not include sugar, but websites I read said sugar is an important part of the process so I added it.  Once the milk cools to the proper temperature, I blended the starter with a little bit of the warm milk then mixed everything together.  Then I transfered the milk/starter mixture into the yogurt maker cups and let them sit in the maker for 10 hours.

The yogurt was runny when I pulled it from the machine but it set up when left in the fridge in a glass container for a few hours. I mixed homemade peach jam into the yogurt and ate it for breakfast.  It’s also good with honey.  If you like tart yogurt then try it with pomegranate.  My next undertaking is to make homemade sour cream…

Stuffed pumpkin dinner, NPR style with Ingrid Michaelson’s approval

This is a relatively simple recipe from NPR and approved by Ingrid Michaelson, according to her Facebook page, so you know it’s good.

Ingrid Michaelson approves of NPR's stuffed pumpkin recipe

Below is the recipe as copied and pasted from NPR’s website (link above).  I like to add a little more garlic (3-4 cloves), fresh ginger, and fennel seed.  The quality of the bread also makes a huge difference.  I used ciabatta bread, baked with a little olive oil for extra crunch rather than stale bread as the recipe calls for.  Tonight I made it in a spaghetti squash because there are no more pumpkins; pumpkin is much more flavorful.

Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good
Makes 2 very generous servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyere, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
  • About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • About 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that’s just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you’ll have to serve it from the pot — which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn’t so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I’ve always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I’ve been lucky.

Using a very sturdy knife — and caution — cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween jack-o’-lantern). It’s easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot. Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper — you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure — and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled — you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little — you don’t want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (But it’s hard to go wrong here.)

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours — check after 90 minutes — or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.

When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully — it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly — bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table.

Serving

You have choices: you can cut wedges of the pumpkin and filling; you can spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful; or you can dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, pull the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mix everything up. I’m a fan of the pull-and-mix option. Served in hearty portions followed by a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect cold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls or wedges, it’s just right alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.

Storing

It’s really best to eat this as soon as it’s ready. However, if you’ve got leftovers, you can scoop them out of the pumpkin, mix them up, cover, and chill them; reheat them the next day.

Greenspan’s Stuffing Ideas

There are many ways to vary this arts-and-crafts project. Instead of bread, I’ve filled the pumpkin with cooked rice — when it’s baked, it’s almost risotto-like. And, with either bread or rice, on different occasions I’ve added cooked spinach, kale, chard, or peas (the peas came straight from the freezer). I’ve made it without bacon, and I’ve also made and loved, loved, loved it with cooked sausage meat; cubes of ham are another good idea. Nuts are a great addition, as are chunks of apple or pear or pieces of chestnut.

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Ravioli with pumpkin sauce

Fall is here! Actually, fall has been here for quite some time now–winter is edging in on the weather and your meal options. Enjoy one last taste of fall with this delicious, easy recipe.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup solid-pack pumpkin
  • 2 packages (9 ounces each) uncooked refrigerated ravioli (beef or cheese recommended)
  • grated parmesan cheese

 

Heat the oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir scallions, garlic, and fennel seeds 3 minutes or until scallions are tender.

Combine evaporated milk, flour, salt and pepper in small bowl until smooth; stir into saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; boil until thickened, stirring constantly. Sit in pumpkin; reduce heat to low.

Meanwhile, cook ravioli according to package directions; drain. Top ravioli with pumpkin sauce; sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like I said–simple, quick, and easy. To make it a full meal I recommend cutting a zucchini into strips and packing it into a small glass baking pan alongside some asparagus. Add one clove of garlic, minced, a dollop of butter or margarine and your choice of spices. I would recommend paprika or ginger.  Cook in an oven at 350 degrees, or until the vegetables are tender to your liking. Side this with some ciabatta bread with pesto. Enjoy!

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Apple Lasagna

Sounds interesting, right? Apple Lasagna.

I was given this recipe by a coworker of mine. She wanted me to experiment with it before she tried it for herself. I thought because the title called it lasagna that it would be more of a main dish, but the recipe lists it as a dessert. Here goes!

Serves: 12
Ingredients:

  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 2 (21 ounce) cans apple pie filling
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp  ground cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup quick oats
  • Dash of ground nutmeg


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large pot of boiling water, cook noodles to desired doneness. I prefer mine to be just a tiny bit crunchy. Drain noodles and set aside.

Coat a 9-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Layer 4 noodles on bottom of prepared dish. Spread 1 can of apple pie filling on top, slicing any extra-thick apples. Layer 4 noodles over the layer of apples.

In a large bowl, mix together the Cheddar cheese, Ricotta cheese, egg, and granulated sugar; spread them evenly over the noodles and top with the remaining 4 noodles. Spoon remaining can of apple pie filling over noodles.

In a small bowl, crumble together the flour, cinnamon, butter, brown sugar and quick oats. Sprinkle over the apple filling.

Bake for 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes then slice and serve either warm or cold.

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I saw this recipe for Apple, Gorgonzola, and Artichoke Pizza on WordPress’ main page. It looks delicious and I’m really excited to try it out.

Apple, Gorgonzola, Artichoke Pizza | Cookie’s Crumbles.

Apple, Gorgonzola, Artichoke Pizza | Cookie’s Crumbles

Salted Caramel Hot CoCoa

Simple, tasty, and relaxing. This hot cocoa was made with Stephen’s Gourmet milk chocolate mix. Froth milk, add Stephen’s cocoa mix, then drizzle a little caramel over the top. Add a pinch of salt and you’re done!

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Jamaican Pear and Bacon Salad

Ryan and I were invited over for dinner a couple of times last weekend. Both invites asked us to bring a salad, so we pulled out our salad book, found one that fit well and made some changes. Both couples that invited us over have good taste in food and have traveled a lot. It’s hard to know what to bring that will be received well in situations like this. Here’s what we came up with:

It looks amazing, doesn’t it? It’s very simple and has some amazing flavor. You’ll look effortlessly talented.

Ingredients:

  • 5 slices of bacon
  • 2 ripe Bartlett pears
  • 5 cups watercress or spinach
  • Jamaican Jerk seasoning
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
Dressing:
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp honey (creamed is best)
  • ground ginger
  • balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven broiler to high. Arrange bacon on tin-foil covered cookie sheet and sprinkle Jerk seasoning generously. Watch carefully so that the broiler doesn’t burn the bacon. Flip bacon when it looks halfway done, sprinkle Jerk seasoning on the uncooked side.Finish cooking, then allow to cool. Tear into 1/2 – 1/4 inch pieces.
Dry-fry walnuts in a skillet on medium heat for three minutes, or until browned.
Cut pear into slices, toss in extralemon juice to prevent browning.
To make the dressing, combine olive oil, lemon juice, and honey in a bowl; whisk until well-mixed. Add a few drops of balsamic vinegar, and season with salt, pepper, and ginger to taste. Dressing should be sweet, yet have a zing.
You can toss all together in a bowl, but I think the results end up being more presentable and the flavors more completely balanced when you arrange on individual plates.
This is an easy recipe that is sure to become a crowd favorite.

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