Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Veggie Parmesan

“Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

This famous quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off keeps running through my head on a regular basis. Let me just give you a slight sneak peek into the last few weeks of my life. Two weeks ago we put our house on the market, just to see what would happen, and ended up selling it a week later. As in ONE WEEK LATER!!! Fortunately our buyers still have a house to sell of their own, and are nice, and are letting us stay there for up to six months so we don’t have to move twice.

At any rate, our once leisurely perusing of homes online as turned into a full on mission complete with a strategic plan, realtor and both wanted and unwanted opinions of friends and family.

The funny thing is I had really only very recently even opened up to the notion of selling our home. Our home that I finally (let me both repeat and stress, finally) got looking just the way I wanted! While my cute husband did have pretty great taste before I moved in….there was still lots of areas for improvement. And just within in the last 2-3 months I finally felt like dusting my hands off and proclaiming, “My work here is done”. Ahhh….God has a funny sense of humor huh? So now, we are full speed ahead, searching for the perfect house. Or pretty decent house. Or just, a house. You know, so we don’t have to be homeless.

So, on top of all that, I had a bachelorette party two weekends ago. Last week I had a mid-term due for my wonderful and super fun statistics class (yes, the sarcasm is pretty thick here) and then was in a wedding last weekend. Add that to working full time and house hunting and well….you get a whole lot of crazy and a whole lack of blogging.

At any rate, just for you, I dug around my photo archives and found a meal that I made fairly recently to share with you. And it’s super yummy! Vegetable Parmesan. But honestly, if it were up to me, I’d call it Vegetable Lasagna. No, there aren’t any noodles, but the layering affect of the veggies seems eerily similar to that of lasagna. And now I am rambling.

I did change this up a bit and I separated the fennel to just one side of the dish. I wasn’t sure how we were going to like the fennel and I knew we would like the squash, which I substituted for fennel on the other side of the dish. And after tasting the finished product we were split. I loved the fennel and Pat pretty much cared less for it. So I am happy I divided the dish so we could both have the parts that we liked.

So, would you like the recipe? Here you go, courtesy of the lovely Giada De Laurentiis, who I would really like to be for a day because she just seems that wonderful to me!

Vegetable Parmesan
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis


Olive oil, for drizzling
Non-stick spray
Salt and pepper
1 medium eggplant, cut into ¼ to ½ inch thick slices
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into ¼ inch thick pieces
2 small yellow squash, sliced into ½ inch thick slices
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thirds
1 orange bell pepper, sliced into thirds
1 (26 ounce) jar marinara sauce
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
I cup plain bread crumbs


1. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray some non-stick spray in a 13 by 9 inch baking dish.

2. Drizzle the eggplant slices, fennel slices, squash slices and peppers with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill veggies for 3 to 4 minutes each side until softened.

3. Spoon ¾ cup of marinara sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange the eggplant slices on top. Sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Arrange peppers in single layer on top. Spoon ¾ cup marinara sauce over peppers. Sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. On half of the pan arrange the fennel and the other half arrange the yellow squash. Cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Scatter bread crumbs over the cheese and drizzle liberally with oil. Bake until the top is golden and forms a crust, about 30 to 35 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Last Bite: Very good veggie dish. Hearty and filling with rich flavors. I will be making this again for sure. Hopefully in a new kitchen…and hopefully soon!

Friday, April 16, 2010

I am leaving to go out of town this weekend for my friend Heidi’s bachelorette party. I have been making lists of all the things I need to pack and get done before we go when suddenly I realized what a total utter and complete slacker I have been on my blog. It’s not that I’m not cooking….but I guess I have been quite a lazy blogger as of late. Hopefully in the next two weeks things will get back to normal a bit.

Anyways while I am very excited to be spending a weekend away with the girls I thought I would leave you with a quick recipe. Now, brace yourself, because while this meal does taste very good…it’s full of pretty potent aromas.

So, now that you have been appropriately warned…here we go! A few weeks back I made a delicious pan fried tilapia with mango salsa and to accompany the tasty fish, we had roasted broccoli. The meal was pretty easy to put together and the results were super yummy.
Pat really likes broccoli, and it’s not that I don’t like it, but it’s just not my favorite. This changed everything however. From now on…this is how we will be eating our broccoli at the Knox house.

Pan Fried Tilapia with Mango Salsa


¼ cup all purpose flour
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
¼ tsp garlic powder
1 egg plus 1 Tbs water
3 tbs olive oil
4-5 tilapia filets


1. Combine flour, pepper and garlic powder in a shallow dish. Whisk egg and water in a separate dish.
2. Dip tilapia in egg mixture then in flour mixture. Shake off excess flour.
3. In a medium skillet heat the oil over medium high heat.
4. Cook tilapia filets for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until nicely browned.
5. Set aside

Mango Salsa


2 Ripe mangos diced¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped2 jalapenos diced with seeds (if you are brave enough!)1 small red onion diced1-2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 5 minutes to let the flavors meld.

Roasted Broccoli
Adapted from Ina Garten


4 pounds of broccoli
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Good Olive Oil
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 tbs pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tbs dried basil leaves


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart.
3. Place the broccoli florets on a sheets pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 5 tbs olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some florets are browned.
5. Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1 ½ tbs olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan and basil. Serve hot.

Last Bite: Yes, the red onion combined with the broccoli can be a bit potent, but trust me this dish is not only healthy, but super yummy!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Thirty and Flirty and Thriving

Welp, I’m thirty. As is 3-0. As in not 29 anymore. As in, I’m now in my 30’s.
But you know what….I’m really ok with it. I’m not sure why, because I kind of thought it would be a bigger deal for me. But I think everything comes back down to the simple fact, I love birthdays. And I am pretty sure I always will. You get a cake. You get a present. You get your very own special day. And I highly doubt the novelty will ever wear off.

I thought back to one of my favorite movies "13 Going on 30" quite a bit this past week and remembered Jennifer Garner's charachter as a child dreaming of being 30. I guess I think that is kind of funny, since I never dreamed of being 30. 21? Yes! Maybe even 27 or 29 (yes I have an odd love affair with odd-numbered ages). But never 30. And yet, here I am. And truth be told, I think I'm gonna love 30.

And to top it all off….I had a totally fabulous birthday this year! First up, my aunt KK from California sends me an awesome package in the mail. She has heard of my food adventures and so put together a special package. I haven’t yet used the salts yet, but I simply can’t wait to try them out!! She also included some pretty sweet cookbooks, one from the winery she works for, Peju, and another highlighting some of the best restaurants in the San Francisco area.

So after that fun gift, Pat planned a great surprise party for me the weekend before my birthday. I knew something was up but wasn’t sure what. We headed to Acapulco for dinner and there were all our friends to help celebrate my birthday! After dinner we headed back to our place for a few drinks and some cake. My friends Brittany and Brooke were nice enough to get me a cake from my favorite bakery….yes the Meijer Bakery. I LOVE Meijer cakes. In fact, Pat’s and my wedding cake came straight from Meijer. Get the whipped frosting. You won’t regret it!

My mom had a small celebration for me the next day and she cooked up some delicious steaks along with some of her yummy new vegan food. I made a birthday cake to take to her house. People don’t often understand why I make my own cake year after year, but I love to try new things and they often tend to be a little labor intensive, so I like to do it myself rather than ask someone else to do it. The cake was delightful!

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
adapted from Annie's Eats

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup egg whites (about 3-4)
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
grated zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup heavy cream
1. Preheat oven to 300F.
2. In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients for the cake. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl combine the egg whites and the milk. Make a well in the center of the flour mix and slowly add in the egg white mixture while stirring with a whisk. Add in the lemon juice, zest, the poppy seeds and the melted butter. Mix with a whisk until smooth.
4. Lightly spray an 8 inch spring form pan with cooking spray and pour in the batter.
5. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes back clean. Let cool. Set aside.
6. Soaking syrup:In a small saucepan set over low heat dissolve 1/4 cup lemon in 1/4 cup of water with a couple of tablespoons of sugar. Let cool to room temperature and brush the cake with the syrup.
7. Raspberries:1 to 2 cups raspberriesQuickly wash the raspberries, pat them dry and line the inside of the spring form pan on the edge with the raspberries.
8. Whip Cream:Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Spread on top of cake being careful of the raspberries. Chill for several hours.

After all that birthday fun, Pat and I planned a trip to Gatlinburg TN for a long weekend. Wow! It was super amazing! We had the best time ever! Our cabin was beautiful. The hiking was great and the weather, well…it finally cooperated with us. But we made the best of it and had a great time.

Pat and I hiking the first day....it was a little rainy and chilly but still got to see a great waterfall!

The next day was a lot nicer...and we found this beautiful waterfall!
Pat down by a great stream!

There was a lake near our cabin which we were told we could fish in, no licence or anything.....anyone want to come over for a fish fry?!? Gross me out the door!

Standing on our balcony at the cabin with our amazing view behind us.

Last Bite: The cake was really good. But not sure anything can compare to how great the birthday was!