Eggplant Parmigiana

Fall is finally here!!  It is my favorite season–cool, crisp weather, sweaters, scarves, boots, pumpkin lattes.  Usually fall marks new beginnings for me since a new year of school starts–but this year is the first year in 20 years that I didn’t start school.  Luckily, the great feeling of a fresh start didn’t fade this fall because I started my first, real job as a lawyer a couple weeks ago.  Still, it’s odd not working on homework or spending time on OneNote.

Fall also means more heartier meals.  Something to stick to your ribs.  And this makes me think of eggplants.  I always avoid recipes that require deep frying so making eggplant parmesan has never been something on my to-do list.   Thank God I found this recipe! I still get to enjoy eggplant parmesan without all the deep fried hassle and high calories.

 

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Layered Feta and Eggplant Zucchini Dish

So many new things have been happening in my house.  I got a job!!  Only after a couple months after graduating law school, I got a position as an associate attorney at a law firm that specializes in banking and business law.  I started last week and so far I am loving it!  The firm has been so welcoming.  It feels like I hit the jackpot.

Waving Matt good-bye on my first day of work.

And the day after starting work, Matt and I decided it was time to paint our kitchen cabinets.  We’ve only had our house for a little over a year, and it definitely falls under the category of a “fixer-uper.”  The kitchen had cheap, dark, wood cabinets.  They added nothing to our kitchen.  My mother-in-law suggested we paint them, and it was time for us to take her advice.

before.

Still putting last minute touches on the newly, painted cabinets.  So no “after” picture yet.  With the new job and a diy project turning my kitchen upside down, cooking fell to the back burner. But after a week hiatus, it was time for a new recipe.

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Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Lasagna

Do not let the slow cooker part confuse you.  This recipe is not a quick toss everything into the slow cooker and enjoy sort of recipe.  It’s a bit more labor intensive but oh so worth it!

Now that I have been cooking regularly for several months, I have been trying to modify and create my own recipes.  Many Italian recipes I have been finding online requires a jar of spaghetti sauce.  That is the first thing I eliminate from every recipe I try.  Instead, I substitute a can of tomato sauce.

I do this for two reasons.  First, with tomato sauce, I can control the level of salt and spices.  Spaghetti sauce generally is full of salt.  I can just add a pinch of salt instead of being subjected to the already mixed salty sauce.  Plus, my herb garden allows me to add fresh spices instead of the dried ones.  Second, a can of tomato sauce is far cheaper.  So with health and my wallet on my side, I haven’t missed the jar of spaghetti sauce in my recipes.

True to form, I have modified this recipe slightly.  Subbing out the spaghetti sauce and modifying some ingredients and prep.  This recipe was a huge hit.  It allowed us to enjoy the delicious taste of wings without the deep fried fat.

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Pizza Pasta Bake

This weekend my in-laws came to visit.  It’s a 6 hour drive from their place to ours so they usually do not get in until around 9 or 10.  The visit always starts out with my father-in-law suggesting we get pizza.  But because it’s around 9, all the places around us only do delivery and Matt and him debate whether delivery will take too long.  And after discussing it for 20 minutes, a delivered pizza would likely already be on its way.  So this time I decided to skip the whole first act and make something.  This pizza bake was a huge hit.  My father-in-law got his pizza fix, and Matt got his bake fix.

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S’mores Bars

This was a week testing my resilience.  First, a semi-truck smashed into me on 94.  It was 8:30 am–rush hour.  We had slowed down to about 5 mph when I looked into my rear view mirror and saw a semi barreling towards me.   My heart sunk, and I told myself to think like a sponge (old hockey trick).  He pushed me into the car in front of me.  The entire experience was terrifying.  I had to be taken by ambulance because I hit my head.  But I survived.  Have some major bruising and some serious whiplash but nothing that cannot be fixed.  Except of course for Sally.  Sally is was my car.  She was totaled.  My poor baby.  Then someone stole all the stuff out of my car–my yoga block, water bottle, etc. when it was towed.  It was a sad day for Sally.

RIP Sally.

I figured after all this, it was time for me to indulge in a dessert.  Even better, I had an excuse to make a dessert without eating the entire pan (nope, I only ate about a quarterish!)  We had our neighborhood block party this week.  Everyone brought a dish to pass, and my s’mores bar had a nice indent when it was time to clean up.  I’ll take that as a good sign since there was a plethora of desserts to choose from.

Also, we have TONS of chocolate.  See, last weekend was my friend’s bridal shower that I co-hosted.   We had a chocolate fountain filled with 10 pounds of chocolate.  Of course, this is a bridal shower of ladies.  Ladies who aren’t going to eat pounds and pounds of chocolate dipped fruit.  So, I came home with more chocolate than anyone ever needs.  Honestly, we have so much that I could have taken a bath in it.  It was the perfect storm of excuses.  It was time for some dessert.

So I went on a search for recipes that need melted chocolate.  Matt loves marshmallows more than anyone I’ve ever met so when I found this recipe, I knew it was the one.

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Cheesy Zucchini Bake

While I was studying for the bar, I wanted fast and easy homemade meals.  Our freezer was full of ground turkey so I decided to cook it up, mix it together with pasta, cheese, and herbs and turn it into a bake.  Matt feel in love with the meal, begging me to remake it.  So after making various versions of the pasta bake, I decided it was time for a vegetarian bake.

Our fridge is becoming increasingly more full of fresh veggies from our garden every day so I cut up our multi-colored zucchinis, some basil, green onions, and jalapenos, mix them with some cheese, spinach, and dried herbs. and the cheesy zucchini bake was born!

isn’t this tomato cool! it’s a striped tomato.
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Orange Bell Pepper and Basil Bruschetta

Today was harvest day at the Cremona house.  With my handy shears, I plopped tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapenos, serranos, green beans, and an orange pepper into my basket.  When I was done, I looked like I raided a farmer’s market.

I am so proud of my orange bell pepper.  Last year only my green peppers grew so I was thrilled when this year turned out to be different.  I didn’t want my miracle pepper to go to waste.  This pepper needed to be used in a truly fun recipe.  Something unique where the flavors of the pepper stood out.

my orange pepper in its natural habitat.
Matt arrange them like this, claiming they were on a cucumber sled.

This twist on the traditional, tomato-based bruschetta was excellent.  The orange pepper makes the bruschetta sweeter and crunchier.  Next time I make this I think I’ll use different color bell peppers to see how that mixes up the taste.

 

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Beet Chips

My friend Krystal is a member of this vegetable co-op where every Thursday she gets a box full of fresh veggies from a local farm.  I am the lucky person who gets extra veggies when her crisper is already filled from the week before.  In her box this week were some beets which she gifted to me.

 

I’ve honestly never had beets before.   I certainly had no idea how to prepare them.  In fact, my only interaction with the vegetable was through the cartoon Doug.  Matt has been craving snack foods a lot lately.  Every night he is rummaging through the kitchen looking for something to nibble on.  He has always been a fan of chips, and his stash of ketchup chips is running thin.

And that’s how beet chips were born.  The creation in this dish caused possibly the most “damage” my hands have ever had to go through in the kitchen.  My hands were stained red, and I cut my fingers on the slicer 4 times.  There was a real labor of love.  While the recipe I followed recommend slicing the beets as thin as possible, Matt and I both liked the thicker pieces.  So try some thicker and thinner slices to see where your taste buds land.

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Spicy Cucumber and Red Onion Salad

Our garden has really started to take off. My orange peppers are slowly turning colors, tomatoes are becoming plump, and I have more hot peppers than I know what to do with! As expected, the cucumbers have taken the lead as the highest producer. And that is ok with me.

apparently growing at massive speeds isn’t enough for my plants. they now are showing off their contortionist skills.

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE cucumbers.  I can thank my father for this obsession.  Growing up, my father had a small vegetable garden.  Every summer, he harvested his cucumbers to make a dill cucumber salad.  It has always been one of my favorite dishes.  This year, we have so many cucumbers that we’d be eating this salad every day for every meal if we wanted to use up all our cuc’s.  So I’ve been making modifications to his salad to spice up our veggie side dishes.

freshly picked cucumber from the garden.

The spicy peppers rival the cucumbers in multiplicity so I added a pepper to our salad.  It was a bit too spicy for poor Matt (he’s a bit of a wimp when it comes to heat) so I added less red pepper flakes.  I recommend opting for less heat at first and add more to taste.

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Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

The dreaded bar exam is lurking around the corner.  In 16 days, I’ll be sitting down in a crowded, stuffy classroom, surrounded by over-stressed, nerve-ridden students waiting to take a two day-12 hour exam that will decide whether or not we are fit to practice law in Minnesota.  Sounds great huh?  Bring on the fun!

While I wait in anticipation of this joyous event, I have been cramming every single piece of law I can into my over-sized head.  It’s gotten to the point that when I have conversations, they consist of me telling someone about a certain area of law.  “Hey! So you’re never gonna believe this crazy piece of information! You can use prior inconsistent statements to impeach a witness. AND it can come in as substantive evidence.” Yeah, I know. Crazy. But it’s true!!

So since I can only speak in legal jargon, I’ve decided to stick to crock pot recipes for the next two weeks.  Anything that takes more than 20 minutes to cook makes me feel guilty for reading something that isn’t cluttered with italic, Latin phrases. My poor summer fun reading list has been set aside (sorry Jessi Witkins!) And this recipe only calls for ingredients that most people have on hand at all times.  No need for a grocery run.

The heat index in Minneapolis has started to decline (we live in house without air conditioning. the last couple days were less than pleasant) so using the crock pot isn’t completely unreasonable.   Plus, after a full day of studying, a warm meal sure feels great! And hell, who doesn’t love chicky catch with some long ass rice (much love to my boy Tom Haverford).

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