Eggplant with Pesto, Tomatoes, and Feta

Makes 4 side dish servings or 2 main dish servings
1 pound eggplant
6-8 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. pesto
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
1-2 tsp. herbes de provence (can substitute basil)
1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese

Remove the prickly stem end of the eggplant.  Slice lengthwise into 1/4" inch wide pieces.  Sprinkle both sides with salt and let sit for 20-30 minutes to "sweat" out the water in the eggplant.  Pat dry.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet.  Place half the eggplant slices in a single layer in the hot skillet and fry for a couple of minutes on each side, adding oil if it all gets soaked up.  While in the skillet, sprinkle eggplant with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Remove cooked eggplant to a 9"x13" glass dish.  Add more oil and repeat process with the rest of the eggplant slices.

Stir together 2 tablespoons of pesto with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to thin out the pesto.  Spoon it onto the eggplant in the dish, and spread it out over the eggplant.

On top of that, layer some thinly sliced tomatoes.  Sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of herbes de provence (or basil), then sprinkle the crumbled feta on top.  Bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes or until feta is slightly softened (it won't melt) and dish is heated through.

So, we've been on this crazy eggplant kick around here.  I know what you're thinking - Who loves eggplant? - but let me explain.

We have this little family routine every Saturday, where we walk to the farmer's market (a little less than a mile away) and make ourselves spend $20 on anything we want.  It's our own little version of a CSA, minus the paying up front thing.

When we're on our way, we ask Big Girl what she wants to get at the farmer's market.  She typically says "eggplant" (exception listed below) ... What kind of two year old wants eggplant?  Seriously.  We think she just likes the word.

But since it's the farmer's market, and since there is a really awesome spread that the Eggplant Lady has for sale, we always get some.  This week's fruit (vegetable?  no, fruit.  yes.  fruit) was a small, slender, white eggplant about 8 inches long - we got two of them, and Big Girl was so excited.

I did a little pinterest searching to find some inspiration, and found the recipe that springboarded me into the dish I made.  The one thing I was lacking from that recipe was quantities of basil, but I had some pesto on hand so that's what I used instead.

And ...


It was so good.  Don't let my novice photography skills fool you: this is a show-stopper.

I ate the equivalent of an entire eggplant.  Yes, that would be four slices of eggplant.  And a small tomato.  I also had two servings of salad, and a couple of slices of bread.  I was really hungry.  And it was just so good.  

So, if you're feeling up for it, I cordially invite you to jump on our weird-wagon over here and get yourself some eggplant.  And a tomato.  And some pesto.  And a little sprinkling of cheese (no feta?  I was thinking parmesan or mozzarella would be good.  Or a mix of cheeses.)

*There was that one time that the Mister asked Big Girl what vegetable she wanted to get from the farmer's market, and she said "sausage."  He explained what vegetables were, listed a good many of them, and asked her again.  She still said "sausage," so that's what they got.


Little mailbox surprise

Look what came in the mail from a sweet friend:

I am thankful to have such precious people in my life who teach me generosity, kindness, love, and godliness.  This made my day!


Cajun Dirty Rice, French Bread, and Monster Bars - a guest post!

I'm so excited to have a guest post today from Sara Beth at Market to Meal!  She is a childhood friend and has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  She lives in Asia with her husband and five children, and has a fabulous food blog full of innovative and delicious recipes.  I asked her to share a go-to "company" menu - one more that I'll add to the "Menus for when People Come to Visit" series. Be sure to check out her blog and leave her some love!

I’m Sara Beth. I live in Asia. It might help if you know that about me. I love to cook, but because of where I live, I don’t get to do much the easy way. I kind of like it that way though. Living overseas we often find ourselves with local dinner guests that we didn’t know were coming until that day. The dish I usually throw together for them is Cajun Dirty Rice. My husband is from Louisiana so this is a “home” dish for him. Our local friends like that its something unique to where we’re from. It also is something they find tasty--despite it being quite different from the local fare. I haven’t served it to anyone that didn’t like it yet, no matter where they come from. I always have ground beef in the freezer and rice in the cupboard. Its easy for me to run to a vegetable seller really quick to get the vegetables--they chop up fast if you use a food processor or hand chopper.  They could also be prepped and frozen ahead of time for an even quicker meal. We usually serve this with some sliced tomato, cucumbers soaked in vinegar (yeah, its a southern thing!), and warm French bread! Even though its a yeast bread, I can start it as late as 4pm and still have it on the table for a 6 o’clock dinner. And just for fun, throw together some quick and easy Monster Bars! They’ll probably be different every time you make them depending on what you have, but they are always super yummy!

Chopped vegetables for Cajun Dirty Rice (image from Market to Meal)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ¼ tsp paprika
1 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp oregano
¼ - ½ tsp Cayenne pepper (I use a 1/4 for our family)
2 bay leaves

1 lb ground beef
4 cups chicken broth
¾ cup finely chopped celery
¾ cup finely chopped onion
¾ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 Tbs butter
2 cups rice

Brown the ground beef. Drain grease. Add veggies, spices, and chicken broth. Allow to come to a boil. Add butter and rice. Cover and cook on low like you would any rice--about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally to keep from sticking. Add additional water if rice isn’t done when water is cooked out. Have a bottle of Tabasco on hand in case you want some extra kick!

French Bread Loaves (image from Market To Meal)
This really makes a softer crust bread than a traditional French baguette. Maybe more like an Italian bread. But its SUPER yummy and easy. We make it all the time at our house to serve with all kinds of meals!
2 Tbs instant yeast
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs oil
2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups warm water
7 ½ - 8 cups flour
Mix yeast, sugar, oil, salt and warm water in a large bowl. Allow to sit just a couple minutes to make sure your yeast was well activated--it will start growing in the water (I tend to kill mine by using too hot of water--if that isn’t a problem for you, then just power on through!). Add flour a cup or two at a time until you can no longer stir with a spoon. Place on well floured surface and knead 8-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, and most of the flour has been worked in.
Place in a greased bowl, turning once. Let rise until doubled (about 1 hour). Divide dough into 2-4 pieces depending on the size of your pans or oven. On floured surface, roll each piece into a rectangle--about 1/4 inch thick. Roll up, starting on the long edge. Place loaves on greased cookie sheets and make 4 to 5 slashes diagonally across tops. Let rise until double--about 30 minutes. Bake at 400F (205C) for 20 minutes.
Optional egg wash: Whisk together 1 egg with 1 Tbs water. Brush over top of loaves just before
*This recipe also works great to make into smaller sub-sized or sandwich sized buns!

Monster Bars (image from Market to Meal)
1/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup peanut butter (creamy, or chunky if you want peanuts!)
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/3 cups total of M&Ms, chocolate chips/chunks, PB chips, nuts, etc (I like to use M&M's and chocolate chunks together!  I also like using peanut butter chips in the mix when I have them.  Sometimes I add nuts or use chunky peanut butter.)

Cream together butter and sugars. Mix in eggs, vanilla, and baking soda. Add peanut butter. Stir in oats until well combined. Stir in choice of chocolate/chip/nut add-ins, totaling about 1 1/3 cups. Spread into a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350F (180C) for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven when browning on top and still looks slightly gooey. Don't dry them out by overcooking.


Zucchini Four Ways

Are you finding yourself with tons of zucchini these days?

We are.

We are hanging out with some friends who have had a rather prolific garden zucchini season - so prolific, in fact, that they've shared multiple 12-pound zucchinis the size of baseball bats (I'm not kidding) that suddenly showed up in their garden.

Do you see the muscle strain?
This 'chini is no joke.
Just for some perspective.  That is not a mini bottle of wine.
So, what should we do with such garden abundance?  Why, serve it four different ways!
Zucchini Tarts
Zucchini Tart: we used this recipe for a Zucchini Quiche, but layered it in little tart pans instead.  A double recipe made 12 4-inch tarts.
Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Here is the recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread from the Rhymes With Smile archives.  We have been referring to it as Chocolate Vegetables around here, so that we can eat it whenever.

Grilled Zucchini
Easy grilled zucchini: sliced in 1/4-inch rounds, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and black pepper, then grilled over medium heat for 3-5 minutes on each side.

Cheesy Zucchini Rice
Cheesy Zucchini Rice: a recipe I found on Pinterest.  In a nutshell, cook some rice with a little more water or broth than usual.  Cook for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in 1 pound of shredded zucchini, 8 ounces shredded cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover with lid and let sit for 5-10 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.  This was really delicious!

So ... what do you do when faced with lots and lots of zucchini?


Baby Blocks Improv Quilt

In the course of my quilting career, I have accumulated a bunch of scraps of fabrics that I love.  I always tell myself that I will one day actually do something with them.  

Inspired by a couple of blogs that have been focusing on using fabric scraps (Crazy Mom Quilts and Scrappy Love Blog), I delved into my scrap bag for this tiny baby quilt!   This quilt is so improvisational that I'm not sure that I could ever do a real tutorial.  Basically I just grouped scraps by color, sewed them together (there's not a right angle to be found), and then cut the edges straight to make each colored block into a rectangle.

Because nothing really goes together, it all goes together.  I waffled about how to arrange the blocks, and ended up flanking each one with strips of white fabric I had on hand.  White is my go-to fabric when I'm unsure about how a quilt will turn out.  It makes it so clean, and brings into focus the colors that are there.

The quilt is backed in green with a tiny leaf print.  I strayed from my usual pieced backing and just did the whole back the same color.  It's another good call for this particular quilt!  I did add a tiny piece of green to the binding, which is otherwise white.

The final quilt measures about 24"x36" ... pretty small, but thankfully babies are small too.

Do you improv quilt?  What tips do you have?