Monday, August 26, 2013

Eggplant Marsala

Since I've been trying to cook more vegetarian meals for my wife, and since we just came from the farmer's market yesterday, I wanted to make something a little different.
Eggplant Marsala over egg noodles with marinated
cucumbers and basil and broccoli

Marsala is one of our favorites, and I've made many different versions of it. (There's a post here for a version with polenta and a creamy marsala sauce).

One of the things I saw that looked awesome at the market yesterday was eggplant.  We don't have them often and when we do it's generally either eggplant parmigiana or baba ghanoush (recipe also posted here).

I couldn't pass them up but as I mentioned, I wanted to try something different, so I decided to try eggplant marsala.  It's something that I had never even heard of before so I looked it up and found a few recipes. I didn't want mine to be a copy of someone else's so I left it at that - I didn't read any of them, so if this one is similar to one already posted it's just a case of great minds thinking alike!


  • 1 medium/large eggplant sliced into approximately 3/4 inch rounds
    This is how much you will get out of
    one medium sized eggplant
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg beaten well mixed with two tbsp milk
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (I would love to try this with panko, but I was out of it, so I used plain regular breadcrumbs and seasoned them with fresh rosemary, oregano, garlic powder and sage)
  • 3-4 tbsp butter
  • olive oil for browning (if you have infused olive oil, even better)
  • 2 small shallots or 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup marsala wine
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup portobello mushrooms sliced thin (feel free to use another variety of mushroom if you prefer)


  1. Sprinkle salt lightly on both sides of the eggplant and place between paper towels.  Let sit for half an hour.  This will pull the moisture out of the eggplant and help make it crispy.
  2. After sitting for at least 30 minutes, rinse the eggplant off with water and pat dry. Sprinkle spices of your choice over sliced eggplant (I use garlic powder, dried ground rosemary, dried basil, oregano, seasoned salt and fresh ground pepper - very lightly).
  3. Dredge seasoned slices through flour on both sides.
  4. Coat with egg/milk mixture.
    Browning the eggplant
  5. Coat thoroughly with bread crumbs and set aside.
  6. Heat olive oil (I use a garlic or rosemary-infused oil) and butter over medium high heat in heavy bottomed pan.  I prefer to use something other than a non-stick pan for this.  Stainless steel works well.
  7. Cook all of the eggplant in batches until it's golden brown on both sides (add additional oil/butter if necessary).
  8. After the eggplant is finished, add onions and mushrooms.
  9. Cook onions and mushrooms in the same pan you used for the eggplant - if necessary add additional oil/butter.
  10. Add minced garlic to the onions and mushrooms for about one to two minutes (long enough to cook but not to burn).
  11. When the garlic, onions and mushrooms are ready, add the wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get all of the "good stuff" that may be stuck there and then reduce the wine by half.
  12. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
  13. Continue cooking over medium heat until the sauce starts to thicken.  You may also thicken the juices with a water/cornstarch slurry if you'd like.
  14. Serve over egg noodles and enjoy!!

If you try this, please let me know what you think in the comments!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Baked/Steamed Potatoes on the Grill

I love potatoes.  There.  I said it.  I keep trying to qualify them as a vegetable when we have dinner but my wife won't let me (if I could, I might be able to sneak two different types into my meals - baked and mashed, fried and scalloped - my idea of heaven!).

Finished meal - corn on the cob roasted on the grill,
potatoes, grilled zucchini, chicken and pork chops
Tonight I wanted to take advantage of the wonderful weather and use the grill - and I had already brined pork chops, chicken and even some tofu for my wife so the grill was going to be used anyway so it became a "potatoes on the grill" night (actually, we really DON'T have potatoes all that often which is probably one of the reasons I always crave them so much).

This is something I came up with a long time ago to make cooking potatoes on the grill quick and easy. I think they do a combination of steaming AND baking this way and when you take them off the grill you don't have to do anything else to them (maybe a bit of salt, pepper and butter, depending upon your tastes but they really don't need it).

If you try this, let me know in the comments and tell me what you think!

Baked/Steamed Potatoes on the Grill


Potatoes after being cut and onion
added between slices of potato.
  • 2 - 10 russet or white potatoes (how many do you want to feed? how much do they like potatoes? how big are the potatoes? for four of us, I did about 10 small/medium potatoes and we had plenty of leftovers)
  • 1 small/medium/large onion, sliced thin (the size of the onion you use will depend on how many potatoes you use - and how much you like onions!)
  • olive oil - enough to drizzle over the top of the potatoes
  • seasonings to sprinkle over the top - use whatever you like.  I generally use garlic powder, Lawry's seasoning salt and some freshly ground rosemary, but anything you like will work
  1. Preheat your grill - if using gas, just turn on all the burners (once it's lit) and close the lid.  If you are using charcoal, once it's lit and burning well, put the cover on to let it get good and hot.  You want to leave an area large enough for the pouch to NOT have a fire directly beneath it, so either a "U" shape or coals on only half of the grill usually works well
  2. In the meantime, start preparing the potatoes. Tear off a strip of aluminum foil. Size should be determined by how many potatoes you are cooking. This piece is just for the potatoes to rest on, so size accordingly
  3. Spray the side of the foil facing you with non-stick cooking spray
  4. Slice potatoes into approx 1/2 inch slices
  5. Place potatoes on the foil where it was sprayed
  6. Put slices of onion between each slice of potato. You can do this every other slice - or any other way you like depending entirely upon how much onion you have and how much you like onion.  I've also done this with garlic, but you have to be VERY careful how much you use or it can quickly become overpowering (and we LOVE garlic)
  7. Drizzle olive oil over the potatoes but be careful not to drown them with it.  If you have an infused olive oil, it works wonders for the flavor. You can use pats of butter here instead if you like
  8. Sprinkle whatever spices you want over the top of the potatoes 
  9. Tear another piece of foil the same size as the first.  Spray one side of it with the non-stick spray.  Place the side with the spray on it over the potatoes and fold all four sides up to make a packet
  10. Place the foil packet of potatoes on the grill.  If using a gas grill, turn off a burner to make sure that one area doesn't have a fire underneath it (that will burn the potatoes on the bottom)
  11. If you have a way to tell the temperature in the grill, ideally keep it around 350-400 degrees and let it go for an hour.  You don't need to move it or turn it - just let it sit and let the grill work its magic
  12. Carefully remove onto a plate or cookie sheet
  13. Potatoes surrounded by grilled corn on the cob.  Serve
    potatoes directly out of the foil or transfer to a serving dish
  14. Open (be careful - it's hot!), serve and enjoy! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Vegan/Vegetarian Goulash

I grew up having goulash on a fairly regular basis.  It was cheap, simple to make and it tasted good. Coming from a family of seven, that was important.

Goulash - or as they sometimes call it here in
New England,  American Chop Suey
I've since learned that there are LOTS of different types of goulash.  I also learned when I moved to New England that some folks here call it "American chop suey".  I'm betting there are lots of names for it that I've never heard of, but the important piece goes back to the "cheap, simple to make and tastes good" part.

In the past, I've always made this with a combination of hamburger and sweet italian sausage.  Since my wife recently went back to being a vegetarian, I frequently cook two versions of meals but this time I decided to just cook one and see if my kids could even tell the difference.

They couldn't.  Neither could I.  Generally, I can definitely tell the difference - I may like the vegetarian/vegan version of something, but I can tell them apart.  This time I really couldn't.  It tasted like the version I make with real meat.

If you're entertaining someone that doesn't eat meat, this would be a great option for everyone at the table.  If one of your guests needs gluten-free meals, you could quite easily accommodate them as well by using gluten-free pasta.

I'll warn you ahead of time that although I'm using only a pound of pasta and that doesn't sound like much, this makes a LOT.  Feel free to cut back and make less. There were four of us eating and we had enough left for easily three more meals.

Also, many of the ingredients in this recipe I mark as "optional".  They truly are.  This particular recipe reflects my tastes but don't be afraid to change it however you'd like to meet YOUR tastes and those of your family.  There are no right or wrongs - just season to your tastes and it will be perfect!


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni 
  • 1 package Boca ground crumbles (Boca brand is vegan - most others I've looked at are vegetarian but not vegan.  Use whichever brand you prefer)
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped (optional - we don't care for them in our house, but I know lots of folks like them)
  • 1 small onion, chopped 
  • 1 (28-ounce) jar spaghetti sauce (if you make your own sauce, awesome - if not, any kind of sauce you like will work just fine)
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (I generally get the ones with basil and garlic - any kind you like is fine)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • basil leaves, chopped (optional)
  • oregano leaves, chopped  (optional)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (preferably garlic infused)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 2 tbsp italian sausage seasoning (optional - we buy this from Penzey's Spices)
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Following package directions, prepare the macaroni and set aside
  2. Pour the jar of sauce and the tomatoes into a large pan, stir and heat up (if you like your goulash a bit more "saucey", feel free to add more than one jar of sauce)
  3. While the sauce is heating, add the olive oil to a skillet then add the onions (and peppers, if using them) and saute until they are just starting to brown (approximately five minutes).  Just before they are finished, add the minced garlic (you don't want to add it too early or it could burn)
  4. Add the Boca crumbles in with the onions and garlic.  If they are still frozen, you'll have to heat them for a few minutes to let them thoroughly heat up.  If they are thawed, it will only take a minute or two to get them heated up.
  5. Add the crumbles/onions mixture to the sauce.
  6. Add in any seasonings you may want to use (garlic powder, salt pepper, basil leaves, oregano, etc.) and stir well (we LOVE the italian sausage seasoning that you get at Penzey's.  They have hot or sweet and I think using it in this dish adds a LOT of flavor)
  7. Mix this all together, then add in the macaroni and stir well.
  8. When it's all finished, it should look something like the picture above.  
  9. Let it simmer for a few minutes so the flavors have time to come together.
  10. Serve with your favorite vegetables and garlic bread and enjoy!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Butterbeer! (the frozen kind)

We were in Orlando last week and went to Disney and Universal.  It was very hot, very hectic and a lot of fun.  The inner nerd in me has to admit that my favorite part was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure.  My favorite part of THAT was the butterbeer.  I've been having withdrawals from it since I left the park!
Homemade Frozen Butterbeer!

If you've read the books (or been there) you know what it is. If not, I'm going to tell you how to make a reasonable facsimile at home. Since you'll have the the recipe and know how to make it, you'll never have to go through that cruel withdrawal process like I did!

(Frozen) Butterbeer!

  • 2 liter bottle of cream soda
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 jar of butterscotch ice cream topping

  1. Fill an ice tray (or muffin tins, or small plastic cups, etc) with the cream soda
  2. Let freeze until solid (ours took about three hours)
  3. Remove from freezer and put "cream soda ice" into a blender (it's important to have a blender that will chop ice well)
  4. How much you use will depend upon how much you want to make at any given time.  If you're making enough for one person, three or four cubes may be enough.  If it's for a group, the entire tray (and maybe more) will be used
  5. Add cream soda (unfrozen) to the blender along with some of the butterscotch topping (again, how much you use depends on how many you're making this for AND your tastes.  Use more butterscotch if you want it a bit sweeter and more or less soda depending upon how thick you want it)

For the topping

Butterbeer in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  1. Just before you're ready to start the blending process above, make the topping
  2. Beat the heavy cream until it's just starting to thicken. You don't want it as thick as whipped cream - you want it to be more the consistency of beer foam
  3. Add a bit of the butterscotch topping as you're beating the cream.  Again, how much will depend entirely upon your taste.  I would start out with just a little to get a light butterscotch flavor and add more if you want it sweeter (I didn't measure, but I'm guessing I used between 1/4 and a 1/3 cup).

Pour the frozen butterbeer into a cup and top with the whipped cream.  

You can drink it with or without a straw.  If you don't use the straw, it will give you a nice 'stache just like at the park!