Eggplant with Crispy Parmesan Cheese

A steak, pork chop or chicken might be the star of the show on a plate but all stars need a co-star to be truly successful.

Thinking of new side dishes isn’t always easy. Sometimes it depends on what vegetables are in season or it may be as simple as what is in the refrigerator. On the day I decided to make Eggplant with Crispy Parmesan Cheese I just happened to have an eggplant calling my name and begging to be created into something delicious. I didn’t want to turn it into a casserole or a stew so I settled on baking the eggplant.

I like easy and this recipe is just that… easy. There is not a lot of fuss when all you need to do is slice the eggplant and mix together a cheesy topping. Since my sons are learning how to cook a little more I think I will pass this recipe on to them to impress the women in their lives.

Eggplant with Crispy Parmesan

Ingredients:

1 medium sized eggplant

½ cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese

½ cup panko bread crumbs

½ tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp smoked paprika

salt

cracked black pepper

olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together Parmesan cheese, panko bread crumbs, oregano, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika and garlic powder in a small bowl. Set aside.

Slice eggplant into ½ inch rings. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper. Top each slice of eggplant with the cheese topping and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until eggplant is fully cooked and topping is brown and crispy.

 

 

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Sticky Ginger Pork Chops

During the coronavirus pandemic I have had to be a little more creative with putting dinner on the table. Since most of us are shut up in the house it means cooking a lot more. Especially for those of us who had college kids return home. My youngest had to come home to complete his senior year of college (Congratulations to T on his graduation 5/21/20). The traditional mom side of me makes me want to have a nice dinner every day for the family. When it was just hubby and me I bailed on cooking dinner and opted for healthy take out food more than I probably should have done. Sorry hubby! Don’t worry, hubby really didn’t suffer because the take out was usually his favorite meal from a Korean BBQ restaurant EB told me about. Hubby could eat their food every other day if I was so inclined.

Anyway, back to the Sticky Ginger Pork Chops. Growing up, pork chops were one of my favorite foods. My dad used to tell people I could eat five pork chops in one sitting. Yes, he was exaggerating because my mom usually only made two pork chops per person. So, unless someone else was giving up their pork chops I couldn’t eat five of them at one time. Granted, I am a meat eater and if I only had a plate of pork chops for dinner and no side dishes, I might have been able to eat at least three chops in my younger days. Today, I eat only one unless I am super hungry then I could eat two.

Sticky Ginger Pork Chops came from a recipe I saw on the Test Kitchen show. They showed how to make Sticky Pork Spareribs instead of pork chops. I used pork chops because my local grocer had a fantastic sale on a large package of chops for less than $4.00 so I couldn’t pass them up. When it came time to cook the pork chops I decided to tweak the Sticky Pork Spareribs to create my own recipe.

My recipe has the basics of the Test Kitchen recipe but with a few changes based on what I had in the refrigerator and pantry. The end result was a thumbs up so I knew the recipe was blog worthy. Enjoy!

Sticky Ginger Pork Chops

Ingredients:

4 – 6 bone in pork shops

3 scallions diced

½ cup chicken stock or broth

2 tbsp sea salt

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp slice fresh ginger

2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tbsp rice wine

1 tbsp garlic powder

½ tbsp cracked black pepper

1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season pork chops with sea salt, garlic powder and cracked black pepper. Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add pork chops in batches and brown on both sides (place browned pork chops on plate while cooking other pork chops). Lower heat to medium and place all pork chops back in the skillet. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and ginger slices. Drizzle with honey, soy sauce, rice wine and rice vinegar. Sprinkle with scallions and then pour in chicken stock. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. Cover the skillet with foil then place in the oven to bake. Baste the pork chops after the first 15 minutes and cook for 15 minutes more. Remove the foil then baste again and cook for another 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite side dishes.

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Skillet Baked Spaghetti

I am dedicating this post to my hubby and mother-in-law (may she rest in peace).

Hubby and I were discussing our childhoods the other day and reminiscing about the comfort foods our mothers would make. One of the comfort foods my hubby mentioned was the baked spaghetti his mom would prepare for the family. Mom B. had a special frying pan with rings in the bottom that she would use to bake the spaghetti in. I kind of remembered a similar pan from my childhood my mom would use but I don’t think she used it for baking.

Skillet Baked Spaghetti was pulled together based on how Mom B. would make her baked spaghetti. As always, I added my own twist to the recipe but hubby said my version did remind him of his mom. What a great compliment. I was happy that we could share a moment from his childhood and feel the same warmth and comfort his mom’s cooking would bring to the family.

Fast forward to today and now I have a recipe I can share with my kids and grand kids that makes them feel the comfort we felt from old family recipes. Pasta is usually a hit with my family. Add spice to the mix and a crispy cheesy topping and it’s a home run.

Thanks Mom B. for leaving hubby with a wonderful memory and giving me a delicious recipe.

Skillet Baked Spaghetti

Ingredients:

1 box vermicelli pasta (prepare per package instructions and save ½ cup pasta water) al dente and drained

1 pkg hot sausage links (casing removed)

1 pkg Italian sausage links (casing removed)

1 large jar spaghetti sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp salt

1 tbsp ground black pepper

1 tbsp ketchup

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the sausages in medium non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Remove most of the grease from the skillet then add the spaghetti sauce, ketchup and seasonings (except for the red pepper flakes). Stir to mix then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes.

After preparing pasta drain it and reserve ½ cup of the pasta water. Place the pasta back in the pot and add the spaghetti sauce. Mix well and add a little pasta water if the spaghetti seems dry. Spray a large cast iron skillet with cooking spray and drizzle a little olive oil on the bottom of the pan.

Place have of the spaghetti in the skillet then top with ½ of the shredded mozzarella and ½ of the Parmesan cheese. Top with the remaining spaghetti and sprinkle with the remaining cheese along with the red pepper flakes. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the top is slightly crispy and golden browned.

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Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa

Roasting vegetables is one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables because it is a quick process that brings out a lot flavor. Before I started my blog I never thought about roasting unless it was chicken. Instead, I would just saute vegetables in a pan. Believe it or not the two techniques of sauteing vs. roasting will affect the nutritional value and flavor depending on the vegetable.

I did a little research and found that both roasting and sauteing are healthy methods of preparing vegetables. Steaming is the best way to go and grilling is better than frying when trying to maintain nutrition. Both tomatoes and onions maintain their antioxidant capacity after baking but green peppers tend to lose antioxidant capacity when baked. No, that has not stopped me from baking peppers because I like the taste. It’s just good information to know when preparing them.

Mixed Pasta and Kielbasa was a last minute recipe I came up with based on what I had on hand for dinner. I keep a jar of dried mixed pasta which are the remnants of different boxes of pasta. Elbow, penne, bow tie – whatever! Pasta is pasta. All that really matters is what you add to the pasta. On the night I made Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa I had some baby spinach, tomatoes and a package of kielbasa I needed to cook.

The end result was pretty tasty and definitely a hit with my pasta eating crew. It is hard for me to mess up pasta when dealing with an audience that loves pasta in any shape or form. But, I know just how delicious my pasta dishes are when they go for seconds and this one certainly hit the mark. Seconds all around!

Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa

Ingredients:

1 ring of smoked kielbasa sliced

1 small onion sliced thin

1 pkg baby leaf spinach

1 pkg vine ripe tomatoes quartered

½ green pepper seeded and sliced

1 cup mixed pastas (penne, twists, cavatappi, etc) cooked al dente per package

½ cup chicken broth

¼ shredded mozzarella cheese

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp salt

1 tsp Adobo

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add tomatoes, onions and green peppers to a rimmed baking sheet. Season with 1 tsp of salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp oil and toss to coat. Roast in oven for 20 – 25 minutes until slightly charred. Set aside.

Brown kielbasa in 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken broth, roasted vegetables and remaining seasonings to the kielbasa. Stir to mix well. Toss in pasta and stir. Cook until pasta is heated up then sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

 

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Blackened Salmon Salad

Salmon is my go to meal whenever we go out to eat and there is nothing that truly peaks my interest on the menu. Salad is one of my family’s favorite foods so put salmon and salad together and you have one of my top 10 meals. Blacken the salmon and you can forget about it!

The reason I am bragging about my Blackened Salmon Salad is because once hubby tasted it he said “Babe, you must have done something different with the salmon”. I braced myself because I wasn’t sure if the next sentence would be good or bad so I just stared at him. The next sentence was “because you’ve never fixed salmon like this and it is delicious. Let’s have more of this!”.

It has taken me a minute to learn how to make a really good blackened salmon fillet. Hubby didn’t realize I have tried making blackened salmon in the past but never quite got the seasonings right. Plus, I didn’t pair it with a great salad. I know most folks might say how hard can it be to make salad. My answer is not hard but not every salad tastes the same or is wonderful. Each salad is different depending on the combination of ingredients. Basic ice berg lettuce, hot house tomatoes and cucumber salads are for bland palates. Mixed greens, plum tomatoes, various cheeses, avocado and spices create a more exciting and flavorful salad. Mixed greens are also more nutritious than ice berg lettuce which is really just green water. If you have a choice, choose mixed greens, baby leaf spinach or even romaine lettuce for your salads.

Bottom-line… The blackened salmon will be the center piece of your meal and will keep folks asking for more.

Blackened Salmon Salad

Ingredients:

2 – 4 salmon fillets

6slices bacon cooked crisp and crumbled

2 – 3 boiled eggs chopped

1 ripe avocado sliced thin (squeeze juice from ½ a lime over avocado)

1 large plum tomato sliced thin

1 package mixed greens

¼ cup shaved fresh Parmesan cheese

¼ cup sliced red onion

¼ cup water

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

salt

lemon pepper

paprika

Cajun seasoning

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

cilantro (optional)

red pepper flakes (optional)

seasoned croutons (optional)

Heat frying pan over medium high heat. Add butter and olive oil. Rinse salmon and pat dry. Season salmon with a little salt, lemon pepper, cilantro, Cajun seasoning and paprika. Once butter begins to brown slightly add salmon skin side up. Sprinkle skin with a little salt, lemon pepper, and paprika. Cook for 5 minutes until fillet begins to darken but does not burn (gently lift salmon to check color after 3 minutes). Flip the salmon fillet and cook for another 5 minutes until the skin begins to crisp up then add water and cover with a lid. Turn down heat to medium low and cook and additional 2 – 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and let salmon rest while building the salad.

Salad:

Place mixed greens in a large bowl. Add eggs, bacon, tomato and cheese. Toss with salad dressing. For each salad bowl lay slices of avocado over the salad then place a salmon fillet in the middle of the salad. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

 

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Eb’s Brussel Sprouts and Turkey Bacon

Eb’s Brussel Sprouts with Turkey Bacon is a sister recipe to my Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta recipe and post.

Ingredients:

1 lb brussel sprouts cut in half

6 – 8 slices of turkey bacon diced large

½ cup diced onions

¼ cup white wine

¼ cup chicken broth

3 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp Sazon seasoning

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cracked black pepper

½ tsp minced garlic

Paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place bacon in a single layer in a rectangular casserole dish. Sprinkle with onions and minced garlic. Pour white wine and broth over the bacon. Season the brussel sprouts with salt, pepper, rice vinegar and Sazon seasoning. Place brussel sprouts cut side down over the bacon. Sprinkle with paprika and bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

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Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta (or Turkey Bacon)

My hair stylist Eb (and little brother) and I often discuss anything from family, food and sports to politics while I am sitting in his chair. A while ago we talked about a couple of the dishes he makes for Mother’s Day. He showed me a picture of one recipe in particular he had created which consisted of brussel sprouts and turkey bacon. I must say it looked absolutely delicious and of course made me want to create my own brussel sprout recipe. So this post is dedicated to Eb and all the brussel sprout lovers of the world.

Brussel sprouts are one of those vegetables I found that people either love or hate. I am on the side of loving them. Not just because I love most foods but because they are very low in fat and have a high percentage of potassium and vitamin C. Plus, they have a nice little bite in flavor. Contrary to what some folks think, brussel sprouts are not baby cabbages. Where as cabbage grows out of the ground and we eat the head of the cabbage, brussel sprouts are buds that grow on thick long stalks. Both vegetables are in the same cruciferous family along with kale, collard greens, bok choy and other types of greens.

The haters of brussel sprouts have given this vegetable a bad rap. Probably because whomever prepared them were not totally sure how to cook them. Take frozen brussel sprouts off your list. Once frozen they are not quite as delicious as they could be. Brussel sprouts need to be cooked fresh. The smaller the brussel sprout the sweeter the taste. Larger brussel sprouts tend to be more bitter but if they are prepared the right way large sized brussel sprouts will taste wonderful too. Lightly browning or caramelizing the brussel sprouts enhances the nutty flavor and cuts down on the bitterness in my opinion. Pairing the brussel sprouts with other wonderful flavors like pancetta and onions also brings out the savory taste of the sprouts.

However, you decide to fix them just make sure you give brussel sprouts the tender love and care they deserve. I think if given another chance, even haters will grow to love brussel sprouts.

Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta

Ingredients:

10 – 15 small brussel sprouts cut in half

1 pkg pancetta

1 clove garlic minced

½ small onion sliced thin

¼ cup chicken broth

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp salt

½ tsp cracked black pepper

½ tsp onion powder

Heat olive oil and butter in a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and pancetta and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally until the onion softens and pancetta slightly browns. Add brussel sprouts and seasonings. Stir to mix the pancetta, onions and brussel sprouts. Lightly brown the brussel sprouts for approximately 3 minutes then add the chicken broth, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook until the brussel sprouts are fork tender but do not over cook. Serve with your favorite fish or meat.

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Spicy Meatballs

Spicy Meatballs are one of the simplest dishes I have ever made.  Most good chefs/ cooks know how to make a meatball.  Whether you are adding them to pasta or making a meatball sandwich, meatballs are pretty easy to make. The trick is to make them flavorful. This meatball recipe was created to go with my Penne Pasta and Eggplant with Spicy Meatballs on the side.

Follow the link for another delicious recipe.

Spicy Meatballs

Ingredients:

1 package fresh Italian sausage

1 package ground pork

1 package fresh hot sausage

1 egg

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

¼ cup panko bread crumbs

¼ cup milk

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp onion powder

Preheat oven to low broil.

Combine Parmesan cheese, egg and milk in a small bowl. Place meats and seasonings in a large bowl along with panko bread crumbs. Add egg mixture to the meat. Mix well to combine but do not over work the meat. Form into golf ball sized balls (or whatever size you like) and place meatballs in a large iron skillet. Place in the oven and brown the meatballs for about 15 minutes.

Remove the meatballs and place in a large pot with marinara sauce. Simmer over medium low heat for 30 to 40 minutes until meatballs are cooked all the way through.

These are good for spaghetti and meatball dishes, meatball sandwiches, appetizers and of course Penne Pasta and Eggplant with Meatballs on the side.

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Penne Pasta and Eggplant with Spicy Meatballs on the side

This post is dedicated to Kashana who is a foodie like me. Kashana and I met at one of my favorite places – Starbucks. We happen to strike up a conversation about food and since then she has been a visitor to my blog. It is nice when someone outside of family appreciates many of the recipe ideas I have shared over the years.

I have to admit that this recipe was adapted from another recipe I saw on a cooking show. I thought it would be a nice recipe for the days when I wanted a meatless dish that was also quite filling. Adding spicy meatballs on the side was a way for me to please others that liked a meatless dish as well as those that are true carnivores no matter what.

This recipe really came in handy recently when my sister, who is a vegetarian, and brother-in-law joined us for dinner at our house. I was surprised that night when my sister shared that she no longer eats pasta, flour, sugar, etc. Fortunately, I had also prepared blackened salmon because I knew she liked salmon which I figured would go with the pasta. So all was not lost with my dinner menu which included a delicious salad (per the family) along with steamed broccoli topped with melted cheese.

Okay, back to the Penne and Eggplant. Talk about easy. Preparing pasta is usually quick and quite easy by just following the directions on the box. I made sure the pasta was al dente so that it would not be a pile of mush after I baked it a little. Eggplant can be quite watery when you cook it. So, the trick to reducing the amount of moisture in the eggplant is to microwave the cubed eggplant for about 8 minutes on a paper towel. This method worked like a charm. I think I might try this when I make another eggplant lasagna to make it less watery too.

Spicy meatballs on the side allowed me to have a vegetarian dish and the ability to satisfy the carnivore in me and some of my family. The meatballs were also a big hit along with the Penne Pasta and Eggplant. Two for one! Man…. I’m on a roll.  Thank you Kashana for your support.

Penne Pasta with Spicy Meatballs on the side

Ingredients:

2 large eggplant cubed (do not peel)
½ small onion sliced thin

1 box Penne pasta cooked al dente according to package

1 ½ jars marinara sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1 cup grated fresh Parmesan

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp onion powder

Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a large microwaveable bowl with paper towels. Place cubed eggplant in the bowl and sprinkle with sea salt. Microwave eggplant for 8 minutes. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant and sprinkle with black pepper, oregano, basil and onion powder. Saute the eggplant until softened stirring constantly so that it does not burn.

Remove the eggplant from the heat. Spray the bottom of a casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour a little marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish and spread around. Add the Penne pasta to the dish and top with the eggplant, thinly sliced onions and Parmesan cheese. Pour marinara sauce over the top and gently mix to combine the eggplant, pasta and cheese. Add more sauce if the pasta seems too dry. Top with the shredded mozzarella cheese then bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the cheese has melted and pasta is heated throughout. Serve immediately with the Spicy Meatballs and a healthy salad.

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Blistered Tomatoes and Shishito Peppers

Sometimes the best recipes are the simplest recipes especially when you’ve run out of ideas for healthy side dishes. Blistered Tomatoes and Shishito Peppers is one of those simple recipes that is healthy, quick, easy, colorful and definitely flavorful.

This past summer our daughter introduced the family to shishito peppers. I had never heard of them even though I love to cook with a variety of peppers. Hubby and I decided to take a trip to Washington, DC to celebrate our anniversary plus drop off our youngest son to hang out with his sister in June. On our first night there we met up at a restaurant and D suggested we try the shishito peppers as an appetizer. Count us in when it comes to peppers whether they are hot, sweet or mild. Talk about love at first bite. The peppers were smoky, flavorful and mild with a few hot surprises in the bunch.

When hubby and I returned home I knew I had to find those peppers and try to recreate our wonderful appetizer. It took a few shopping trips here and there but I finally found a grocer that sold the shishito peppers. Of course I wanted to take the peppers to another level so I added blistered tomatoes to the dish because I had a garden full of cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes added an extra pop (literally) to the recipe and paired well with the peppers.

If you need a quick side dish to add to a light meal, try making Blistered Tomatoes with Shishito Peppers. You won’t be disappointed.

Blistered Tomatoes and Shishito Peppers

Ingredients:

3 – 4 shishito peppers diced

2 fresh basil leaves julienned (substitute: ¼ tsp dried basil)

1 package mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes

1 clove garlic minced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

½ tsp sea salt

optional:

½ red onion sliced

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat no stick frying pan over medium high heat then add olive oil. Place tomatoes and shishito peppers in the pan. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes until tomatoes begin to blister. Stirring occasionally. Add garlic, lemon juice and basil to the mixture and stir to mix well. Cook an additional 2 minutes then sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately.

 

 

 

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