Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Farmers Market Day

Made my big debut at the Stuart Farmers Market. While it was not entirely successful, it was a learning experience and a beautiful warm, breezy day to enjoy being outside.  My jams, jellies and mustards were not the big hit I had hoped they would be, but that's ok.........I did score some awesome farm fresh veggies, one of which was a big yellow zucchini.

I already had three eggplants in the fridge from the Amish farm and knew I needed to use them up soon, I decided to go big and make a big batch of Eggplant Zucchini Parmesan

Here is what you will need:

Eggplant (I used three of the common oval purple type)
Zucchini (I used one of those bigger ones most people say are only good for baking)
soft breadcrumbs
salt, pepper
your favorite spaghetti or marinara sauce
parmesan cheese
mozzarella cheese
cooking oil

Wash vegetables and slice in about 1/2 inch think slices.  In a shallow bowl beat 2-3 eggs, season with salt and pepper.  Fill another shallow bowl with a mixture of 2 parts breadcrumbs, 1 part parmesan cheese.

I used soft breadcrumbs for better adhesion, so you will need to make these fresh. You can use any kind of bread you like, I went "budgety" and used a package of store brand hot dog buns, buzzed in the food processor.

Heat medium skillet over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon or so of oil. Using egg wash and breadcrumbs, coat vegetable slices and place in skillet. Turn when browned. When browned on both sides place in square baking dish, overlapping slices. Continue with sliced vegetables until you have filled pan or pans. I used A LOT so I had one for dinner tonight and 3 for the freezer.

Ladle red sauce over vegetables in the pan. If you are baking now sprinkle with additional parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese to cover. Bake at 350 degrees 30-45 until bubbling and browned on top.

For those being frozen, skip the cheese. Wrap firmly with heavy duty foil, label and freeze. Add cheese later when baking (from frozen, 375-400 degrees 30-45 minutes covered, then uncover, sprinkle with cheese and bake another 30-45 minutes).

This is a delicious light dinner that has a very decadent lasagna type feel. You can add meat to the sauce if you must but you definitely don't need it. Serve with crusty bread and a salad !

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Boozing it up for breakfast

I promise, I will NOT bombard you with canning recipes this season (unless something really awesome comes along) but this is one I HAD to share.

Since it's summer alot of people are relaxing on vacation, perhaps a beachy location with a boozy, fruity cocktail with a cute little umbrella stickin' out of the glass. This jam reminds me a lot of that exact sort of summer beverage and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Strawberry Peach Schnapps Jam

2 1/2 cups crushed strawberries (measure after crushing)
4 1/2 diced/crushed peaches 
1 pack Sure Jell Pectin (this is the brand I used)
1/2 c Peach Schnapps
7 c sugar.

Combine fruits, pectin and schnapps in large pot. 

Man.......I wish you could smell this !!!

Bring to rolling boil stirring constantly. Add sugar all at once, mix well, return to boil and boil for one minute. Remove from heat and divide among prepared sterilized jars, fix lids and rings, and process for 10 minutes.

What I learned:
1. Buying my strawberries weeks ago, cutting them up and freezing them was an awesome idea.
2. Thawed frozen peaches are very much like a sorbet and not very chunky. Next time I will use fresh peaches.
3. It is EXTREMELY hard not to stick a straw in the pot and just DRINK the mixture. It smelled HEAVENLY.
4. I am in love with boozy jams and will be working on future combos!! I have a couple in mind already !!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Some people just can't take a day off

Talk about workaholics !!!!   Joe just can't NOT be a chef on his day off. I guess it's in his DNA. And oh poor me, having to suffer *wink wink*

Today I am going to tell you about Joe's amazing Sunday dinner in a little bit different format than before. Many of these components have already been shared with you so get to scrolling and check out ALL the deliciousness in between, rather than telling a little story and then posting the recipes. Anyway, starting with the basics, Joe made up a big batch of venison meatballs and got those baking off in the oven. Then he got to work on his fresh tomato sauce- diced tomatoes, tomato paste, a little water, couple handfuls of the frozen cherry tomatoes and the weird little golf ball tomatoes you get from volunteer tomato plants that revert back to their original non-hybrid form from the garden (we keep big bags in the freezer for use all year), garlic, herbs and let that simmer for a while.

Since I had been to the Amish farm and we had a table full of gypsy peppers, Joe thought a nice little saute/side of sauteed peppers and tomatoes would go nicely, so he got that going as well.

We had a giant zucchini. I mean giant. The kind most people use for baking, but not us. We have been cutting off chunks and having sauteed fresh veggies all week- with onions, mushrooms, just by the bowlful for a snack or even an omelet. But we still had a good 8 inch long chunk, so Joe halved it lengthwise, scooped it out and stuffed it with Italian sausage, smothered with mozzarella and mushrooms and popped that bad boy in the oven.

Meatballs out, sent off to swim in that tomato saucy goodness for a while, and Joe gets some water going for pasta and pops some garlicky, buttery ciabatta rolls in the oven to brown and crisp. We considered making a salad but.......why ??

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A day at the farm

You can't even begin to THINK about rockin' the kitchen without ingredients. FRESH ingredients. After being cooped up for a week a trip to the Amish farm was exactly what I needed. So armed with a brand new box of small trash bags I headed off to the wonderful pick-your-own farm, Hilltop Farms.

It's still too early for pick your own tomatoes, which is driving me nuts. I NEED canned tomatoes. An Italian chef is like Superman around kryptonite without his tomatoes. But the gypsy peppers are ready to pick, although not too many have changed to red, which is the best if you ask me, and they have plenty of other fresh vegetables to pick.

Of course I hit the pepper field first and loaded my first bag full with beautiful peppers. My chef will have his weekend the next two days and I know he is itching to make something Italian and I'm sure several peppers will make their way into his dishes. The rest I plan to chop and freeze for use all year long in the many wonderful dishes we make.

Juuuuust getting started !!

Wanna catch a girl's eye?? Plant a beautiful flower! Most people don't think of flowers in the vegetable garden, but of allllll the vegetable blossoms in the garden, some of which are quite delicious, I think the eggplant is the most beautiful. The delicate purple color is such a POP in a see of green leaves. Sadly, they tend to face downward so snapping a picture is not easy but I did it anyway.

And of course, this gorgeous flower led me to yet another one of my favorite vegetables that lends itself so well to the chef's Italian cooking style and my own very French cooking style, well.......I had to pick a bag. Thankfully only 3 fit in the bag! But if I can find a great canning recipe for eggplant, many more bags shall be picked!

Since this was my first full day of working around the house and running errands after being knocked down by illness for a week I tried to take it slow and easy. So I made my way over to the cucumber field just enjoying the views around the farm, the fresh air, the ancient little dog that greets visitors, the young and old in their Plain dress working so hard around the farm. I made one pass up a row and another pass down a row and bagged a full bag of small cucumbers, just the perfect size for a first batch of pickles anyway. I'm sure there will be more, pickles are pretty popular around here.

And so.........happy with my purchases I made my way home, with dreams of Eggplant Parmesan, stuffed peppers and bread and butter pickles dancing around my brain. It's a good day !!