Turkey Stuffed Eggplant

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Cooking for one is tough! Ty has been out of town for what seems like forever (away during the weeks, here on weekends)… he literally proposed, then left. A sign?? Hope not!

The filling will easily fill 2 medium eggplants, which will feed 4, but I packed the extra filling away to use later. It was flavorful and filling yet light and healthy. If you make this, I hope you have someone other than a sleepy dog to share your company with.

Turkey Stuffed Eggplant

2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise

1 lb ground turkey

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic

4 roma tomatoes (or a small can) diced

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1 tsp each, fresh basil, parsley, and oregano

evoo

fresh Parmesan

1. Preheat over to 400°F. Slice eggplants lengthwise and remove seeded sections (pulp). Keep about 1/2 of the pulp and finely dice. Drizzle a little olive oil inside each half of eggplant and sprinkle with s&p. Place cut side down and cook in oven for 10 minutes. Flip each over and cook an additional 10 minutes. Remove.

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2. In a large skillet, heat about 1 tbsp evoo and garlic. Add any eggplant pulp. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add onions and pepper. Saute until onions start to soften. Add turkey and herbs until cooked through, then add diced tomatoes and cook until warm.

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3. Lower oven temp to 375°F. Scoop turkey mixture into the eggplant halves and top with fresh Parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes.

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Grilled chicken quinoa with roasted corn, peppers, and pine nuts

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I’m back! Well… hopefully for more than one post a year! Woo wee has it been a year!! Long story short, I completed my first year teaching chemistry, I started a Master’s program, our garden is now over 3000 square feet, and I am now engaged to the maple syrup man 🙂

Putting the busy aside… Not much is being produced in the garden as of yet. We are drowning in sugar snap peas, lettuce, and herbs, but are close to harvesting onions, beans, and tomatoes! I love watching the cabbage fold over and the squash plants blossom – it is just too beautiful! After spending 5+ hours weeding today (we were away for a week and the weeds decided to hold my veggies hostage), a light, yet filling dinner was needed. Enter the filling AND light quinoa! I roasted corn that I froze last year in a 400°F oven with a little evoo and s&p for 15 minutes. I used pre-roasted peppers, grilled chicken thighs, fresh basil, and straight-from-Russia pine nuts. Trust me when I say that a small bowl of this is filling.

Chicken Quinoa and Pine Nuts

3-4 grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)

1 cup quinoa cooked according to package

1 1/2 cups roasted corn (or 2 roasted ears)

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 small onion, finely diced

1 pepper, roasted and chopped

bunch of fresh basil, chopped (approx 10 leaves)

crumbled goat cheese

evoo and S&P

The recipe is as easy at is sounds. Cook the quinoa, chicken, and corn (and peppers if using fresh).

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Saute onions over medium heat in about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Once translucent, add pine nuts until slightly browned.

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Toss all ingredients together, season with salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and top with crumbled goat cheese.

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Skillet Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

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Chili was on the menu tonight and Ty suggested cornbread with it… I didn’t have a trusty cornbread recipe, so I started researching recipes and was shocked that many called for 3 or more eggs and 1.5-2 sticks of butter!! I found a few butter-less recipes and adapted my own from those – also lacking butter. I used stone ground white corn (Christmas gift from my grandparents, as it was made in Rhode Island) some homegrown pickled jalapeno’s from my garden, along with good old Cabot cheddar. Simple, spicy bliss.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Skillet Cornbread

1 1/2 cups corn meal (yellow or white)

1/2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

1 1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (plus more for topping)

2-3 canned/fresh jalapeno’s (depending on your love of spice)

1 tbsp vegetable oil

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1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients with a whisk. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and add in the milk. Ensure it is mixed well.

2. Add the oil to an oven proof skillet (8-10 inch) and heat until just starting to smoke. Rotate pan to spread the oil along the edges (at least 3/4 of an inch up the sides). Remove from heat.

3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently. Fold in the diced jalapeno and cheddar cheese.

4. To the hot skillet, add the cornbread batter. Sprinkle extra cheese on top (and jalapeno rings, if desired). Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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Butter Lettuce, Avocado, and Mango Salad

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We have lettuce ready! This is the first year we have ever had lettuce (and radishes, and carrots, and beets). I guess our soil is finally happy 🙂 Composted manure must do the trick!

Mango’s were on sale a little local market, so I bought a few, but tossed them in the fridge and forgot about them. When I grabbed one today, it was perfectly ripe. After a little searching, I noticed that mango and avocado make quite the pair. Along with a slightly sweet cider vinaigrette, a trio of fresh picked lettuce, mango, and avocado, makes this salad a perfect pre-dinner treat on a triple-H day. For those of you non-New Englander’s, triple-H means Hazy, Hot, and Humid!

Butter Lettuce, Avocado, and Mango Salad

A bunch of butter lettuce – cleaned and torn into bite size pieces

1 ripe mango, diced

1 ripe avocado, diced

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced

feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp maple syrup (honey would work too!)

freshly ground pepper (just a dash or two)

1. Split the salad ingredients between 3-4 salad bowls. Sprinkle with some feta.

2. In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well, taste. Adjust for sweetness by adding more vinegar or syrup. Drizzle on salad. Enjoy!

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Ramp (Wild Leek) and Kale Grilled Pizza

IMG_1530 Up here, in zone 4, spring is just starting. The hills are coming alive with muted-fall colors. A soft tinge of reds, whites, golds, and oranges are popping out and traveling up in elevation daily. It is just beautiful! One of the first plants to come out of the ground in this area, besides crocuses and daffodils, are ramps (aka wild leeks). I ventured down to the garden to start cleaning up and to toss a few lettuce seeds into the soil and noticed these gorgeous lime green leaves springing from crunchy fall debris. I yanked on a set of leaves only to be intoxicated with this amazing garlic and onion scent. I picked a bunch, took them home, made sure they were what I thought, and returned to pick some more. IMG_1515 Ty expressed a little fear in eating them, thinking that clearly they must be poisonous. I pointed out that he eats wild berries ALL the time and technically all vegetables were once wild! I think his previous feelings about wild plants went out the window when he saw this pizza! Woo wee, it was delish! A whole grain crust, topped with local baby kale, freshly foraged ramps, and smoked pepperoni = so so good!

Ramp and Kale Pizza

1 large pizza dough

1 can crushed tomato

fresh or dried basil and oregano

crushed red pepper

1 ball or log of fresh mozzarella, sliced thin

15 or so slices of smoked pepperoni

10 or so ramps, diced (use ALL of the ramp)

2 cups baby kale, any tough stems removed

evoo

1. Preheat your grill to high heat. Roll out your pizza dough. Any shape will do as long as it fits your grill.

2. Over medium heat on the stove, toss your ramps and kale together and saute with a little olive oil until just starting to wilt. Remove from heat.

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3. Lower heat on your grill to medium/medium-low and coat one side of the dough with olive oil. Here comes the fun part. Grab your dough, and flip it onto the grill grates- oiled side down (if it folds up, oh well.. grilled pizzas are pretty no matter what!). Close the lid and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Check after about 3 minutes for bubbles, pop if needed. When you get nice grill marks on the underside, slide the dough onto a cutting board or pizza paddle. 4. Oil the not-yet grilled side of the dough and flip over. Assemble your pizza on the grilled side. Spread a generous amount of tomatoes, sprinkle with basil, oregano, and a little crushed red pepper. Arrange the sliced mozzarella and pepperoni atop the sauce. Spread out the kale and ramps evenly on top. 5. Return the pizza to the grill. Grill for another 5-7 minutes or until the bottom is cooked nicely. Slide the pizza off, cut, and enjoy! IMG_1525 IMG_1526 …. I’m thinking of pickling some ramps next……

Grilled Vegetable and Italian Sausage Pasta Toss

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I wasn’t sure what to call this dish. It’s a mish-mash of vegetables we have in the house, grilled, tossed with some pasta, and enjoyed either warm or cold. I’d call it a pasta salad, but I always correlate pasta salad with raw veggies on a hot summer day. Enter the ‘pasta toss’. A while back my Mom made a grilled veggie salad with Israeli Couscous and a balsamic dressing. I guess after eating that, I realized how good/easy it is to grill a plethora of vegetables and toss it with pasta.

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Although it is not yet summer in Vermont (not even close… it snowed two days ago!), it was 54 degrees today and sunny, so it felt pretty warm! It’s also been insanely windy, so our grill took yet another ride off the porch and rolled about on the ground. I hauled it back up, put all the grates back in, hooked up the propane, and somehow, it lit! The $80 grill that could! So, with a cutting board full of vegetables and a pot of pasta on the stove, dinner was prepped and ready in about 20 minutes.

Italian Sausage and Vegetable Pasta

1 lb sweet or spicy italian sausage

1 lb pasta (bow ties, ziti, rotini, etc.)

1 bell pepper, cut into large chunks

1 zucchini, cut in half

3-4 carrots, peeled

1 onion, cut in half with skin removed

1/3 lb asparagus, trimmed

any other grill-able vegetable (I added 3 stalks celery)

1/4 cup + evoo

s & p

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 splash balsamic vinegar

parmesan cheese, finely grated

1. Cook pasta. Drain and set aside.

2. Preheat grill on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Grill sausage links for about 5 minutes per side, or until charred lightly. Move to upper rack.

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3. Lightly brush vegetables with olive oil and generously salt and pepper all pieces. Lower the grill heat to medium/medium-low and place vegetables on lower rack. Grill for about 5-7 minutes, if starting to char, rotate and continue grilling until lightly charred on all sides (this is like a tetris game… if you have small grill, all pieces need to fit without falling through!). Remove vegetables and sausage when cooked.

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4. When the vegetables and sausage are cooled enough to handle, chop into bite-size chunks. Add to the pasta. Give a good ‘glug’ of evoo, about a 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, and a dash of balsamic. Toss. Season with salt and pepper (fresh basil would be delish!). Serve either warm or cooled.

IMG_1464p.s.- You can substitute about anything you want in this dish. Instead of sausage, how about grilled chicken? You could grill up some broccoli or cauliflower, or add some corn or frozen peas… play with it!

Fish Tacos with Spicy Slaw

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It’s been almost a month since I have posted and WOW have I missed all of you… my readers!! I have also really, really, really, really (really x 10^28) missed having the time or energy to cook or craft.

To fill you in. I am an officially licensed grades 7-12 science teacher!! With the culmination of my teaching program, which included hours upon hours of portfolio writing, and getting offered a long-term substitute job, I have been overwhelmed. I’ll also throw out there that we may be moving (yes, that’s right, after 5 months) because of unforeseen BS. I’ll leave it at that. My point is that between teaching over 120 sophomores/juniors chemistry and biology and getting up at 5am daily, life got a wee busy.

With such a drastic change, I realized that we were eating like crap. Not to mention Ty has been doing the maple-syrup-making-thing pretty much 24 hrs a day, which has left all meals up to me. So, finally getting caught up on grading and planning and looking at a week off, I thought of having something tasty, yet simple – fish tacos! Some frozen flounder and an easy spicy cole slaw all wrapped up in a flour tortilla was just what I needed. It reminded me that I actually can cook! I thought I forgot for a while there!

Spicy Cole Slaw

1 small head green cabbage, shredded

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 carrots, shredded

1 jalapeno, minced (optional)

1/3 cup mayo

3 tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 tsp celery seed

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

2 tbsp brown sugar

s & p

1. Mix all of the veggies in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk the dressing until smooth. Combine with the veggies and toss until coated. Season to taste. Let sit for at least an hour (longer will soften the cabbage a little).

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Fish Tacos

1 lb frozen flounder (or other light, white fish)

1/2 cup flour

s & p

evoo

taco size flour tortillas (corn would be good too!)

1. Mix flour and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Coat each fillet of fish with the flour and drop into a hot pan with a good coating of olive oil (enough to cover the bottom – 3-4 tbsp).

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2. Let fish fry on one side until browned, approx. 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes. This should be plenty for a thin fillet. Remove onto paper towels. Repeat until all fillets are cooked. You may find you need to add a little more olive oil to the pan.

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3. Add the fillets back to the pan and break into bite-sized pieces (the oil should be long soaked up!).

4. Arrange your tacos. Heat the tortilla a bit, add some fish, top with a good helping of cole slaw, and if desired, a dash of Sriracha or Cholula sauce! Enjoy a light and tasty meal!

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Apple Stuffed Pork Chops

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I finally learned how to stuff pork chops! Apparently, Ty had learned this at the restaurant he worked at a while back… he has neglected to show me all of his cooking skills. Weak, I tell ya! For some reason, I’ve wanted stuffed pork chops lately… just sounded good. So I started making the stuffing, then Ty stepped in to show me how. (fyi – there are a lot of pictures below)

This should work with both boneless and bone-in pork chops. They have to be thick cut; I’d say a minimum of an inch and a half. The recipe is good for two VERY stuffed chops, though it could probably stuff 4.

Apple Stuffed Pork Chops

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp butter

1.5 cups whole wheat bread crumbs

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 cup apple, finely diced

1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

1/3 cup chicken broth

S & P

evoo

2-4 extra thick pork chops

1. Make the stuffing – In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the onions until fragrant and soft. In a bowl combine bread crumbs (I lightly toasted 3 slices of whole wheat bread, then pulsed it in my food processor until small-ish crumbs were made), celery, apple, parsley, and a little pepper. When onions are soft, add to bread crumb mixture and stir. Slowly add chicken broth while stirring until moist. *this will be a crumbly mixture

2. Preheat oven to 350°F (use convection roast if possible). Prep your pork chops… using small pairing knife, make a small slit in the middle of side of the chop. Do not cut all the way open or in half!! Without moving the knife to make a bigger hole, angle it towards one end of the chop, then the other. Then using your finger, make the hole bigger. (This is confusing… hopefully the pictures will help!)

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make a slit using a pairing knife on either the non-fatty side (boneless) or non-bone side (on-bone)

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slide knife to either side trying not to make initial hole bigger

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create a cavity to stuff using your finger

3. Stuff little bits of stuffing into the chop until full. Like I mentioned, we fit almost all of the stuffing into two chops. They were huge and tasty! Season both sides of the chop with salt and pepper.

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stuffed vs unstuffed… see how there is just a small hole?

4. Heat about 1 tbsp of evoo to scalding (if you have an oven safe pan, use this). As it just starts to smoke, add the chops to sear for about 45 seconds. Flip, repeat. Using tongs, try to sear along the edges. Toss the pan in oven or move chops to an oven safe pan…. now, we have two options 1) If you have a convection oven, bake for about 25-30 minutes or 2) In a regular oven, cover the pan with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes, remove tin foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes. The internal temperature should be about 160°F when done. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.

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the pork should be well seared before baking

We had the pork with parsley smashed potatoes and mashed butternut squash (from our garden!).

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And yes – Ty drinks his wine in a mason jar. Classy!

Grilled Romaine with Caesar Vinaigrette

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Holy salad!! How have I never had this before?! And holy salad dressing!! How have I never made this before?!

Clearly, you can see that I was floored by this salad. A simple 3 ingredient salad topped off with an insanely easy vinaigrette makes for a deliciously healthy meal! And served with baked flounder… drooling…

Grilled Romaine with Caesar Vinaigrette

2 heads of romaine

6 pieces of bacon, crumbled

1 tomato, diced

4 tbsp evoo

4 tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese

2 clove garlic, minced

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

cooking spray (or more olive oil)

1. In a small bowl or mason jar (works great for shaking), mix all ingredients; well, minus the romaine, bacon, and tomato. Give it a good shake or whisk.

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2. Turn on grill to medium-high heat and let it heat for about 5 minutes. Cut romaine hearts down the middle lengthwise, leaving the stem on. Spray all sides of the romaine with cooking spray or lightly brush a little olive oil over each piece. Grill over direct heat for a minute or two and rotate until all sides are starting to char.

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3. Remove from heat. Top each piece evenly with bacon and tomatoes and drizzle with dressing. Enjoy warm.

Spicy Sausage and Vegetable Pasta

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*pardon the pictures… Ty didn’t feel like ‘posing’… or letting his food ‘pose’

I’m not really sure what to call this; our “go-to spicy sausage pasta dish”? Ty introduced me to this pasta dish a little over a year ago and I fell in love. I am sure there is some name out there that describes this dish, but we’ve never used a recipe… therefore it’s unnamed. Maybe I can name it?? How about, spicesausageness? pasta fra di sausage? Pepionsausage pasta? Get it.. pepper, onion, sausage?… yea I’m that lame AND unoriginal!

It’s an easy, sausage and vegetable-filled pasta dish. Whenever we have spicy sausage in the freezer, this dish becomes a go-to on a lazy night. It is hearty and filling, but super easy! Please mind my ingredient list…. it’s as exact as I can get it, but know that if needed, substitutions can be made. Additionally, if you have some yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, or other veggie lying around, chop it up and toss it in!

Sausage and Vegetable Pasta with a Cream Sauce

1 lb spicy italian sausage (removed from casing if needed)

1 bell pepper (any color will do), sliced

1 onion, cut in half then sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 to 1 lb small pasta (bow ties, ziti, etc. – adjust to your needs)

3 tbsp butter

1/4 cup flour

3/4 cup milk (or 1/2 cup light cream)

1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper (more if you like spice)

s & p

fresh basil or parsley, chopped (optional)

grated parmesan

1. In a large pan, saute sausage until cooked. Remove from pan, set aside, and drain any remaining grease from pan.

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2. Add garlic and crushed red pepper to hot pan, stir for a minute. Add peppers and onions, and saute until just softening (3-4 minutes). If you have any other vegetables, add and saute until they start to soften. Season with some S&P.

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3. In a stock pot, bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions. Meanwhile, in a small pot, melt butter. Remove from heat and whisk in flour until it is mixed well. Return the mixture to medium heat and add milk. Continue to whisk occasionally for about 5 minutes… it should start to thicken.

4. Drain pasta when cooked and return to pot. Add sausage, vegetables, and white sauce. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, if additional is needed.

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5. Serve with parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh herbs (basil or parsley).

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