Eggplant Parmesan

Original Recipe HERE

I hadn't made a successful eggplant parmesan meal until this one.  The eggplant is either too tough or too mushy, the sauce lacks flavor, the cheese gets crusty, and so on.  However, this will now be my go-to eggplant parmesan recipe after I enjoyed it and Husband gave it rave reviews.  Neither kid liked it, but I've never had luck getting them to eat eggplant, so it wasn't a surprise.

I'm sure this could be made much healthier by baking the eggplant instead of frying it, but ehh...I was in the mood for some oil-drenched comfort food.

1 eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
olive oil
2 cans (14.5 oz each) tomato sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 to 2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup to 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
pasta [optional]

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a large baking dish.
(2) Heat 1/4 cup oil in large pan on medium-high heat.
(3) In a small bowl, combine eggs and pepper well.
(4) In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs and one teaspoon garlic powder.
(5) Dip eggplant slices into egg and then breadcrumbs.
(6) Add eggplant slices to pan in several batches; brown on each side (adjust heat level as needed).
(7) Remove to plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.  Wipe most of oil out of pan with paper towels when done.
(8) Add tomato sauce, onion, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, basil, and oregano to pain.  Heat to boiling, then simmer 10 minutes until slightly thickened.  Stir in butter until melted.
(9) Lay eggplant slices in baking dish (preferably in one layer).  Pour sauce over eggplant.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and Mozzarella.
(10) Cover with foil.  Bake 20-30 minutes.  Remove foil; bake 5-10 minutes longer.  Serve with pasta if desired.

Notes: Husband remarked that the sauce had just the right amount of saltiness, but the recipe could be short-cutted by just using jarred sauce.

Kid Participation: None...including consuming it, apparently.


Homemade Latte

I love Starbucks lattes but can't justify the price - especially since it was just raised again.  I've reached my breaking point.  I've also given up on them - and mochas - because an unacceptable amount of room is now being left at the top of the cup (I even heard another customer talk to a barista about that, and he confirmed it, so it's a bona fide conspiracy).  And I'm tired of being handed a cup of regular coffee and immediately popping the top off and asking them to fill it some more.  Yes, I have a lot of rage towards Starbucks (which has been channeled into several complaint emails), but I keep going back...it's an abusive relationship.  "I just can't quit you."

Tangent over.  Anywho, I experimented at home with what I had on hand.  The result is just as good as what I get in the store.  I've only made them cold, but I'd think that it'd work well if heated.  The only challenge I have is that the drink "settles" pretty quickly, and I have to keep stirring (not a problem since I'm usually drinking it with a straw).  I have to play around with preparation time, like whether making it the night before gives more time for the ingredients to fully dissolve in the milk.

Unfortunately, I haven't escaped Starbucks' hold completely, since I use the VIA packets.  However, you get 12 for under $7.00, so it's still a good deal and gives you something very close to that particular Starbucks-y taste.  Also, I was pleasantly surprised to see a recipe guide included in the VIA package with how to make ?eight? different drinks.  So if I can scale back my addiction to just VIA packets and two minutes of effort at home, I'm OK with that.  No need for any 12-step programs.

1 to 1 1/2 cups milk [I use a combination of skim and 2%]
1 Starbucks VIA packet
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder [optional; use if making a mocha]
1/2 to 1 Tablespoon sugar
cinnamon [optional]

(1) Add all ingredients to a small food processor or blender (I use a Magic Bullet).  Blend until combined.
(2) Taste and add ingredients as needed.

Notes: I don't like how much sugar goes into this, but it's too bitter otherwise.  I will experiment with other sweeteners (like the unopened agave in my pantry).  Also, adding a drop or two of an extract (mint, almond, coconut) could be just as good as paying $0.40 for a flavor shot.

Kid Participation: None...no caffeine for them!

Mango & Cucumber Salad

I had another fruit-and-vegetable salad in mind, but our walk to the market around the corner yielded no papayas and unripe avocados.  Knowing I really needed a side dish for dinner, I improvised and bought a mango.  Upon getting home, I decided to use up a lonely cucumber, and the end result was great...the flavors complimented well instead of competed, and it would be a refreshing summer treat.  I didn't have time to let it sit, but it was definitely better the next day.  *N* had one helping, and *J* didn't eat his - but that's no surprise, since he's fickle about mangoes and doesn't like cucumbers.

1 ripe mango
1 large cucumber
2 Tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons lime juice [lemon could be used]
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
pinch of salt

(1) Peel mango.  Dice into small, bite-size pieces.
(2) Peel cucumber.  Cut into quaters, length-wise, and then thinly slice.
(3) Whisk lime juice, vinegar, and salt together in metal bowl.  Add mango, cucumber, onion, and garlic; combine thoroughly.
(4) Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Notes: There are plenty of possibilities for additions: black beans, pineapple, red pepper, etc.  It could also be served over spinach to make a traditional salad.

Kid Participation:
* Squeeze mangos at store to determine which one is ripest
* Whisk ingredients