The Best Meal I’ve Ever Made

This eggplant parmesan was quite possibly one of the best meals I’ve ever made. It was a few more steps and a few more ingredients than I usually like to cook with (I like fast and easy recipes), but it was so worth it. I have only had eggplant parmesan maybe twice in my life because I can no longer eat dairy. I learned how to make it when I was living in Italy and it was delicious, but so loaded with cheese that I’ve never tried to re-create it at home. For some reason unknown to me, goat cheese has no impact on how I’m feeling, so I decided to look for a recipe that called for goat cheese and no other dairy products. I found one recipe that was eggplant, red sauce, goat cheese, and parmesan and I tweaked it a little to make this delicious meal.

What you’ll need:

  •  1 large purple eggplant
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt to weep eggplant slices
  • 1-2 cups flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil for frying
  • 1 jar tomato basil spaghetti sauce (I used an organic brand with few ingredients)
  • 1 small block of goat cheese broken into pieces (crumbled would work too)
  • 1-2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red onion
  • 4-5 fresh tomatoes, sliced
  • fresh basil leaves

What you’ll do:

  1. Peel skin off eggplant, and slice length-wise so you have thin slices for layering (like lasagna).
  2. Cover the slices with sea salt to remove moisture. Let sit 10-15 minutes and drain water.
  3. Combine the sea salt and flour and blend together with a fork.
  4. Pat dry the eggplant slices with a paper towel.
  5. Warm oil in a large frying pan.
  6. Dip the eggplant in the egg and then in the flour/salt mixture, and place in pan.
  7. Fry on each side until they start to brown (few minutes), and then lay on paper towel.
  8. Saute onions, mushrooms, spinach, and basil in a frying pan and set aside.
  9. In a baking dish, place a layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of eggplant slices, then the sliced tomatoes, spinach mixture, and a few pieces of goat cheese. Repeat this process until you’ve used up all the eggplant.Top with sauce, spinach mixture, sliced tomatoes, lots of fresh basil and goat cheese chunks (or crumbles).
  10. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes.
  11. Cool and cut. Enjoy!What’s the best meal you’ve ever made?

DIY Wall Art

When we bought our house about 3 years ago we had very little art for the walls. In the living room we have vaulted ceilings and a huge blank wall that we had no idea what to do with. We were low on money at the time because of all the expenses that come along with buying a home, so we decided on this little DIY craft project.

We found 12×12 canvases at Aaron brothers on sale so we bought 12 of them to cover the large space. Then we picked out three different fabrics from a nearby fabric store and bought a few yards of each. We cut the fabric into chunks just a few inches larger than the canvases, wrapped and stapled them down. Then we arranged them on the wall until we had them just right. This was such a simple and inexpensive project. I’d recommend it anyone trying to fill a large open wall.

T-Shirt Scarves

So I recently saw this adorable idea for re-purposing old t-shirts on Pinerest and decided I had to try it. The idea is to cut up old shirts you don’t wear anymore and make them into adorable new scarves.

They are extremely easy! All you do is cut the seam off the bottom of your old shirt and then continue to cut the shirt into thin strips (about 1/4 inch each) until you get to the sleeves. The larger the shirt you use, the more you’ll be able to do with your scarf. I actually used a jersey-cotton pillow case that didn’t have a match for the scarf below because it only had one seam and was the perfect size! Make sure to cut all the way around the shirt (or pillow case) so the strips stay in loops. At the end you can attach them together however you’d like. I cut one of the loops and wrapped it around the scarf to cover up the seams and keep all the loops together.

You can find a better tutorial on how to do this and other cute t-shirt projects here. I have to say their scarves turned out a little better than mine, but for my first try I think it turned out pretty well. Click on the images to see a larger view.

Who Doesn’t Love a Good Tutu?

My best friend found this awesome video tutorial on how to make tutus without any sewing. She has a 2 1/2 year old niece who loves dress up and wanted to make her a tutu for Christmas so I decided to join in the fun! I have twin nieces who are 14 months and would look adorable in their own homemade tutus. These were so easy (and inexpensive)  I couldn’t believe it. I made one that was ivory, pale pink, and pale green with a green satin ribbon and one that was ivory, pale pink, and periwinkle with a light blue satin ribbon. The tutus  I have photographed here are the green one I made and the one my friend made as well. Hers was so fun! It was blue, pink, purple, and white. What little girl wouldn’t LOVE to have one of these to play with? I plan on making these for every little girl I know! You can click on each image to get a better view!

Hopefully I can take some photos of the girls wearing them this weekend for next week’s blog post! Stay tuned :)

You can watch the tutorial here but all you need is tulle, scissors, ribbon and a ruler!

Modified Bruschetta

If you don’t remember from my older post, Bru-ske-tta, I love Bruschetta and I try to make it all different ways. In Italy, all I did was rub tomatoes and garlic on a piece of toasted bread and add olive oil and basil. Sometimes I use sautéed onions and mushrooms, and sometimes I do it like this..

I started with fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh green onions from the yard.

Next I thinly sliced the tomatoes and onions and tore apart the basil. I always tear basil, and never cut it with a knife.

Next I poured some olive oil on my sliced baguette, and placed the basil down first, followed by the tomato and the green onion on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

I drizzled a little olive oil over the top and popped them in the oven!

And this is how they turned out– toasted and delicious!

It is the end of tomato season for us in Northern California and I am sad to see them go. This is the last fresh tomato dish I will be making for a while, so I had to savor it!

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

How to make fresh tomatillo salsa-

What you need-

Tomatillos (I used about 20-25 for this batch)

1 yellow onion

Handful of cilantro

Juice from 1/2 of a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

*Optional- fresh corn (1 cob) and fresh yellow pear tomatoes (handful). See picture on bottom right of collage.

How to make the salsa:

Pick up some tomatillos from the nearest farmer’s market (or in my case, my backyard). Peel and wash them. Slice tomatillos in half and throw in food processor along with onions, cilantro, lemon, salt and pepper. Pulse until everything is finely chopped and combined. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

If you want to make the corn and tomatillo salsa, just add the fresh corn from one cob and chop the yellow pear tomatoes in quarters and add to the rest of your tomatillo salsa. I sometimes make this salsa with roasted tomatillos instead of using them raw and both ways are delicious! Roasting tomatillos is easy- just broil them on a baking sheet for 5-8 minutes or until they start to brown/blacken a little.  Then follow the recipe the same as you do with raw tomatillos.

Make Your Own Cake Stands

I saw this idea on another WordPress blog, A SLO Life, (thanks for the idea!) and I absolutely loved it. I love to entertain and am always looking for fun dishes/plates to display appetizers and desserts and this looked like such a fun idea! I made a few different types because they were so quick and easy. All you need is a few plates (I chose different sizes) candle holders, and some tacky glue.

I found these three white candle holders and the blue and white plates at Marshalls for only a few dollars each and I used white plates that I already had at home. I also made a few stands with square plates and made the bases from dishes I had in my cabinet. These cake stands only cost about $5.00-$10.00 a piece!

Triumphs of A Terrible Baker

I am a terrible baker. This fact about my lack of skills in the oven is well-known among my friends and family, and especially my husband. I have always been a terrible baker. I can cook just about anything you’d like and it usually tastes pretty damn good. But there is something about the process of baking that my brain/body cannot figure out. I am often teased about this problem I have, because I have been known to screw up even the easiest of recipes. I have ruined muffins and cupcakes, pies and tarts, casseroles and meat dishes, and just about anything else you can imagine.

I have tried to come up with a reason for why I don’t get along with ovens or the dishes that go in them, and I think I’ve figured it out. I don’t like measurements, and I’m not a perfectionist. When I cook, I can throw whatever I want in the pan and I usually know how it will turn out. In baking there is no compromise, no alterations, no straying from the rules. I don’t do well with rules–  I have been known to substitute the baking soda with baking powder (which I’ve learned is a horrible idea), and white sugar with brown sugar (also a bad idea) and the results end up nothing like they are supposed to. In cooking there is room for error. In baking, you must be precise.

I once ruined my sister-in-laws birthday cupcakes because I forgot to put boiling water in the cupcake batter before scooping it into the tins. How could a little hot water ruin cupcakes you ask? Well they sunk down to the bottom of the tins and came out mushy and wilted looking. To my defense she knew my baking handicap and I even gave her another warning, but she insisted I was capable of making them anyway. Boy did I prove her wrong. Last year I was put in charge of bringing the lemon bars to work for a co-worker’s birthday and they turned out awful. Lemon bars from scratch would be understandably difficult, of course. But these were from a box. And somehow, I ruined them. They were overly sticky, parts were burned, parts were undercooked. How? I have no idea. I have a perfectly good, very new, oven and cannot place any of the blame on it. Like I said, I can’t bake.

Every once in a while I decide I’m going to “give it another try” and I usually fail. But once in a very rare blue moon, something I bake turns out alright. Last year I made zucchini bread, and under the help and supervision of my husband, it turned out pretty damn good. This was a once in a life-time type of accomplishment. Probably to never happen ever again for the rest of my life.

I have on occasion baked desserts that turn out okay, not good, but okay and that happened for me last night, and I consider it a triumph. I made a recipe (without really following a recipe because if you remember from earlier, I don’t do that very well) and it turned out okay. A coworker told me how to make a peach galette, so I gave it a try. Now, I need to be forthcoming about the fact that I did not make the pie crust from scratch. That is not in my nature and would have turned out horribly, so I picked one up from the refrigerated section of my local grocery store. The reason I say this was only “okay” is because it wasn’t sweet enough for my taste. Maybe with a little ice cream it would have been better, but if you aren’t using ice cream, I suggest adding a little more brown sugar to the peaches AND brushing the crust with a little water and white sugar.

Here is the recipe I (sort of) followed for a Peach Galette:

What you’ll need:

– 3 peaches, seeded and sliced

– 1 tablespoon brown sugar (I’d use 2 next time)

– 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

– 1 tablespoon white sugar

– 1 refrigerated pie crust (I used Pillsbury although it wasn’t very sweet)

And that’s it! Sounds easy right?

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Seed and slice your peaches, then mix in a bowl with brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll out pie dough on parchment paper on a cookie sheet or pizza tone and pour peaches into a circle in the middle leaving space around the edges. Slowly fold up the edges leaving the center peaches a little uncovered. Make sure not to poke holes and make any tears so you don’t have a huge mess in the oven.

Bake for 25 minutes or until center is bubbly.

Let cool a little while before slicing. If I can do it, you can do it. Trust me. If anyone has any tips for how to make me a better baker, I’m all ears! Comments are welcome :)

How to: Make Delicious Chicken Tortilla Soup

I work a 9-5 Monday through Friday and eat lunch out way too often. When I don’t bring my own lunch I end up spending too much money on unhealthy food and regretting it later. So, this weekend I decided to make an easy meal that I could take to work for a few days during the week. I wanted something easy that I could just throw together in my slow cooker, but I wanted it to be healthy as well. So I pulled out my old slow cooker recipe book and found this one. Tortilla Soup! Notice my handy-dandy cookbook stand? This was a wedding gift that I absolutely love. You can still find it at Crate and Barrel.

Here is what you will need:

4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (I use organic)

4 large fresh tomatoes, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can green chilies

1 cup chicken broth (I use organic)

4 Thai chillies finely chopped (use one-two jalapenos if you have them)

1 Avocado, sliced

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

4 corn tortillas, sliced into ¼ inch strips

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

*The recipe in the book called for canned tomatoes, but I really prefer fresh ingredients. Everything listed above I either picked from my garden, or bought from my local farmer’s market.

Place the chicken in the slow cooker. Mix broth, cumin, onions, garlic, chillies, salt, pepper, and tomatoes in a large bowl. Pour over chicken and cook on high for 3 hours (or slow for 6 hours). Take chicken out once cooked all the way through and shred into pieces. Return shredded chicken to slow cooker. Before serving add sliced tortillas and cilantro and stir. Serve with sliced avocado and garnish with fresh cilantro. This recipe was so easy and delicious! And very easy to transport to work. Enjoy!

Mixture of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and chillies

Gotta go organic!

All the ingredients in the slow cooker. The chicken is underneath.

These are the thai chillies I used because our jalapeno plant didn't make it this year.

Topped with sliced avocado and fresh cilantro

The finished product.

How to: Bring your shattered eyeshadow back to life!

So a friend of mine shared this little tip with me recently and I had to pass it along! This technique can be used for pressed powders and blushes too!

In the past, my eyeshadows, blush’s, and even pressed powders would break and I would end up throwing them away and wasting the $15-40 I spent on them. But not anymore! Ever since my friend sent me this tip I haven’t thrown any of these products away!  So, if you don’t like throwing your money in the trash then take a few minutes and try this technique!

Here is what you will need:

-butter knife

– rubbing alcohol

– tissue

– plastic sandwich bag

– a nickel, dime or quarter depending on size of eyeshadow

The process is actually super easy!

Step 1– Put the eyeshadow in the plastic baggie and use the butterknife to break up the rest of the eyeshadow into a fine powder. (This demonstration was done with a dual eyeshadow, which made it a little more difficult, but not impossible!)

Step 2– Take the eyeshadow out of the bag and pour a little rubbing alcohol over it.

Step 3– Cover the eyeshadow with the tissue, and then use the quarter (or dime- depending on the size of the product) to push down the loose powder until it is back to it’s compact state.

Step 4– Let the eyeshadow dry, and you’re all set!

I love this tip and have already done it to 4 eyeshadows that were just waiting to go in the trash! Who knew saving money could be this fun?