Meal Plan Monday Post

We were back in our cooking groove this week as we prepared dinner at home every night. We tried some new recipes (like the savory bread pudding), had some old favorites (like the honey soy broiled salmon - one we haven't done in awhile! - and the orzo with caramelized veggies), made some on the spot improvisations (we were out of eggs Sunday morning and we were supposed to have waffles with strawberries but that quickly turned into strawberry biscuits), and did some freestyle meals (caprese melts and spinach-squash side were both put together as we were cooking). We did treat ourselves to a weekend sushi lunch date which was nice and let us savor the weekend a bit. We were also quite busy in the yard this past weekend. We installed a rain barrel and began installing our DIY pallet compost bins! Read on for the meal plan:

Meal Plan for Monday August 24 - Sunday August 30

Monday - Savory bread pudding

Tuesday - Honey soy broiled salmon, black rice, roasted zucchini

Wednesday - Orzo with caramelized veggies and ginger
Thursday - Nacho night
Friday - Corn and basil risotto with scallops

Saturday - Breakfast Ate separately (we each had individual morning tasks)
   Lunch Sushi date at Sake Bomb
   Dinner Caprese melts, steamed squash and wilted spinach

Sunday - Brunch Strawberry biscuits and yogurt granola parfaits with peaches

   Dinner Mushroom farfalle

It's Always Caturday
Nacho naps

Grilled eggplant sandwiches

Remember we posted about a grilled eggplant and onion pizza a little while ago?! Well that grilled eggplant impressed us so much I thought it would be fun to try this grilled eggplant mozzarella melt sandwich. This wasn't quite as tasty as the pizza -- but, I mean, come on... how can a sandwich really be better than pizza?! -- however, it was still enjoyable and we both had it as leftover lunch the next day.

Eggplant mozzarella melt by Martha Stewart
   Serves 4
4 slices eggplant, each about 1 inch thick, cut crosswise from thickest part of 1 large eggplant
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
Salt and pepper
1/4 c red-wine vinegar
1/4 lb mozzarella, cut into 4 slices
4 brioche buns, preferably with sesame seeds, halved
4 small leaves Bibb or Boston lettuce (we substituted arugula)
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves

   Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush eggplant and onion liberally with oil; season generously with salt and pepper. Brush grates with oil. Grill onion, flipping once, until softened and lightly marked in spots, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with vinegar.
   Grill eggplant slices until just tender on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip and top each with cheese; cook until eggplant is tender and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes more. (I placed some aluminum foil over the grill pan while both the onion and eggplant grilled so that the steam would soften both vegetables a little bit more.)
   Meanwhile, grill rolls until lightly marked. Sandwich lettuce, eggplant, onion, and basil with rolls. Serve immediately.

We served the sandwiches with roasted sweet potato wedges and arugula dressed with a red wine vinaigrette (red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and extra virgin olive olive).

It's Always Caturday
Dupree appreciated a visit from his fur-grandma
...and really liked the necklace she was wearing!

Pasta peperonata

This pasta caught my eye because it had peppers and mascarpone in it! We made this in July and at the time while I was putting together the meal plan that would feature this dish I knew that peppers were abundant on our CSA and that I had half a container of mascarpone in the refrigerator I needed to use up. Win - win! And another win because we both loved this dish! The peppers and onions really caramelize in the pan before you make the sauce and the flavor it builds is phenomenal.

   Serves 4
2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
2 yellow peppers, deseeded and sliced
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
2 handfuls fresh oregano, leaves finely chopped
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 handfuls Parmesan cheese, grated
2 heaped tbsp mascarpone cheese (optional)
1/2 lb penne

   Put all the peppers in a large frying pan over a medium heat with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place a lid on, and cook slowly for 15 minutes until softened. Don't rush this too much, as cooking the peppers slowly like this really helps to bring out the flavour. Add the onion and cook for a further 20 minutes. Then add the garlic and toss around, keeping everything moving in the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes most. Have a little taste, and season with a bit more salt and pepper. Add the vinegar - it will sizzle away, so give everything a good toss. Then add one handful of the grated Parmesan and the mascarpone and turn the heat down to low while you cook the pasta.
   Meanwhile put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions. When cooked, drain in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water. Put the peppers, pasta and oregano leaves into a large warmed bowl. Give them a good toss together, then add a little of the pasta cooking water and a few good lugs of extra virgin olive oil to coat the pasta nicely. Serve straight away sprinkled with the rest of the Parmesan.

It's Always Caturday
... watching what's going on outdoors

Shrimp and edamame succotash

Whitney prepared this succotash for us one evening. I didn't know what a succotash was, but apparently it's a dish primarily featuring shell beans (edamame in this case) and corn (supposedly optional in the South, but lard or butter is most certainly not). More traditionally it is made with lima beans, which I'm really not a fan of, so the edamame was a welcome substitution. The dish was easy to throw together and had a good mix of flavors (including bacon!), so I was satisfied.

Tossed with couscous

Shrimp and edamame succotash from the lean green bean blog

2 slices of bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup onion, minced
1 cup corn kernels
1 red pepper, diced
1.5 cups frozen, shelled edamame
1 pound shrimp, raw, peeled & deveined
1 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp melted butter

   In a large saute pan, cook bacon, onion, garlic and peppers over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Cook edamame according to package directions. Add to pan along with corn and cook 3 minutes more. Set aside.
   Place shrimp on skewers, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with paprika. Grill 2 minutes per side. If you don't want to grill your shrimp you can easily cook them in the pan.
Plate succotash mixture, top with shrimp and add fresh basil and goat cheese if desired.

Balsamic roasted strawberry buttermilk sherbet

A few weeks ago I thought it would be fun to get the ice cream maker out again and make some sort of frozen deliciousness. After all we shouldn't just use it to make something once a season! This strawberry buttermilk sherbet seemed like an interesting combination. What really caught my attention, though, was I didn't have to cook a custard! This sherbet is a lot easier than ice cream. It's also not as sweet... take that however you will though. Patrick feels like if he's eating dessert he wants something on the sweeter side! But I felt like it still satisfied a sweet tooth. And the balsamic and buttermilk give it an unexpected tang.

Balsamic roasted strawberry buttermilk sherbet inspiration from Bon Appétit
4 cups strawberries (about 1 pound), hulled, halved or quartered if large
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup sour cream
Pinch of kosher salt

   Preheat oven to 425°. Combine strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and sugar in a 13x9x2 inches baking pan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add pod (or vanilla extract); toss to combine. Roast berries, stirring occasionally, until juices are bubbling, 15–20 minutes. Let cool.

   Discard pod. Purée berries, buttermilk, sour cream, and salt in a blender until smooth.

   Strain mixture; remove strawberry seeds and pulp. Process mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer sherbet to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

   Do Ahead: Sherbet can be made 1 week ahead. Keep frozen. Let soften at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

It's Always Caturday
Checking out the CSA box and flowers

Meal Plan Monday Post

Hello, hello! Hope everyone has had a fantastic week. It seems like a lot of people are getting back into school and the swing of a normal routine. That doesn't really affect us very much but Patrick did have his first orchestra rehearsal this weekend. Unfortunately I was a bit under the weather with really bad congestion and a sore throat so that threw off the intended meal plan. Patrick brought home Asian takeout on Friday night (when I was feeling my worst) because I hadn't prepped anything for dinner and thought that some Hot & Sour Soup would cure my ailments. Then Patrick fixed the perfect oatmeal on both Saturday and Sunday mornings - he'll have to do a post soon since he put quite a bit of research into it. And then we rounded out the weekend with some chicken noodle soup. I'm hoping I'll be back to 100% before too long (I'm feeling much better but still have a hacking cough)!

Meal Plan for Monday August 17 - Sunday August 23

Monday - Pumpkin ravioli and arugula with balsamic

Tuesday - Lemon spaghetti with roasted asparagus

Wednesday - Separate
Thursday - Date night - meet friends for a Bulls game [Bulls won - woo hoo!]
Friday - Asian takeout
Saturday - Breakfast Oatmeal

   Lunch Leftovers
   Dinner Tacos & Tequila Dinner Club; we brought a grilled corn and zucchini salad

Patrick and I split these desserts from the Tacos and Tequila Mexican spread -
churro, Mexican danish, margarita cupcake, and strawberry shortcake. 
Sunday - Breakfast Oatmeal
   Lunch Egg salad with greens and an apple

   Dinner Chicken noodle soup

Cheers to Monday! Have a great week!

Grilled tomato gazpacho

It's tomato time! I've been grabbing tomatoes fairly regularly at the farmers market now for the past few weeks. One time I even bought a whole box so I could experiment with some canning! Needless to say I've had a lot of fun experimenting with tomatoes this summer - there's been canned salsa, canned seasoned tomato sauce, yummy BLTs, salad, and then this grilled tomato gazpacho!

Gazpacho is a chilled soup made from raw vegetables and usually in a tomato base. I'd never made one before and I thought it would be the perfect thing to do with all my tomatoes. I thought it'd also be the perfect thing to serve when Patrick and I were working hard on an outdoor project two weekends ago. We prepped and stained our deck over a weekend and definitely needed refreshing meals when we ate. That was the plan anyway but staining the deck was a hard task and wore me out! So the gazpacho ended up being made on a Monday night... still tasty whether or not you've been working outside or inside all day!

Grilled Tomato Gazpacho from EatingWell
   Serves 6

2 lbs  ripe plum tomatoes
1 small red bell pepper
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, divided
1/2 cup torn fresh or day-old country bread, (crusts removed)
1 small clove garlic
2-3 tbsp red-wine vinegar
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

   Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill tomatoes and bell pepper, turning a few times, until they soften and the skins are blistered and charred in spots, about 8 minutes. [I used our grill pan] Transfer the pepper to a plastic bag and let it steam until cool enough to handle. Peel off the skin; cut the pepper in half and discard the stem and seeds.
   In the blender place half the pepper. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, core and roughly chop. Add the tomatoes, skins and all, to the blender. Add half the cucumber to the blender along with bread, garlic, vinegar to taste, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Add oil and blend until well combined.
   Refrigerate until room temperature or chilled, at least 1 hour.
   Before serving, finely dice the remaining cucumber and bell pepper; stir half of each into the gazpacho and garnish with the remaining cucumber and bell pepper.

We served the tomato gazpacho with a hefty fruit and cheese plate - crackers, mozzarella cheese, and apples.

Green bean salad with cherry tomatoes

Green beans are one of my least disliked vegetables, as they have a decent texture when cooked properly and have a fresh "green" flavor without being too bitter. This recipe takes green beans from "ok" to "actually good". The acidity of the lemon dressing and cherry tomatoes complement the green beans really well and make for a delicious salad.

Green bean and cherry tomato salad from
   Serves 6-8 (we halved)
2 tbsp finely chopped shallot (from about 1 medium shallot)
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (from about 2 medium lemons)
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
6 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 medium lemons)
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb green beans, ends trimmed
2 pints (1 pound) cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves and stems

   Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and prepare an ice water bath by filling a bowl halfway with ice and water; set aside.
   Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place the shallot, lemon zest, and measured salt and pepper in a medium, nonreactive bowl and add the lemon juice. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the oil and whisk until evenly combined. Set the dressing aside.
   Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and transfer to the prepared ice water bath. When the beans are chilled, drain again and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels.
   Place the beans, tomatoes, and parsley in a large bowl, pour in the dressing, and toss to coat thoroughly. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.

Wellness Wednesday - Yoga

Today's Wellness Wednesday post is moving back to the realm of physical wellness. So far we've detailed two physical wellness posts - Patrick's experience with gym classes and my experience with the Fitbit. I thought it'd be nice to share the American College of Sports Medicine's stance on physical wellness and how we work to achieve it. And one part of that recommendation is yoga! For the first time ever, for both Patrick and myself, we are regularly practicing yoga. I'm aiming for twice a week (but sometimes it's just once a week) and Patrick tags along with me for one of those classes (but sometimes he's just every other week).

Before moving to the yoga practice, here's the ACSM recommendations on quantity and quality of exercise. Follow this link to read the news release which addresses aerobic, resistance, flexibility, and neuromotor exercise and links to the full position stand.

The overall recommendation is to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. To meet this wellness recommendation it must be viewed as a lifestyle choice. We are choosing to incorporate this into our lives not only because of the many health benefits exercise provides in the long term but it makes us feel more productive and gives us more energy in the short term. Always, as a reminder, if this isn't incorporated into your lifestyle please speak with your health professional before beginning any exercise program.

The ACSM breaks down the recommendations into 4 categories - cardiorespiratory exercise (getting your heartbeat up), resistance exercise (working your muscles), flexibility exercise (stretching), and neuromotor exercise (improving motor skills such as balance). Here are the specific recommendations for each category:
   Cardiorespiratory: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week). One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise. Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for best adherence and least injury risk. People unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity.
   Resistance Exercise: Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment. Very light or light intensity is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults starting exercise. Two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power. For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance. Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.
   Flexibility Exercise: Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion. Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort. Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch. Static, dynamic, ballistic and PNF stretches are all effective. Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm. Try light aerobic activity or a hot bath to warm the muscles before stretching.
   Neuromotor Exercise: Recommended for two or three days per week. Exercises should involve motor skills (balance, agility, coordination and gait), proprioceptive exercise training and multifaceted activities (tai ji and yoga) to improve physical function and prevent falls in older adults.
20-30 minutes per day is appropriate for neuromotor exercise. 

Patrick and I have really taken an interest in incorporating these recommendations into our lifestyle. We realize our how important our wellness is in our daily pursuit of happiness and being content at the end of each day. The fitness classes at his gym do a great job of incorporating cardio and strength exercises. Patrick goes to at least 3 of those a week. I've been doing more jogging around our trails for cardio and some strength routines with dumbbells. So we both have to push extra hard to get in the flexibility and neuromotor exercises. This is where the yoga comes in!

Before we started our yoga practice I associated yoga with mindfulness and meditating. I had no idea that is was something recommended for everyone to include into their exercise routine. After learning about how important neuromotor exercises are I realized that we needed to start going to yoga regularly. I'm really liking the classes and feeling like my flexibility is improving but there are still a lot of poses I struggle with! Patrick doesn't like it quite as much but does feel like he is benefiting from it. It's also interesting to see and feel an improvement in one area because of something we've done elsewhere. The cardio, strength, flexibility, and neuromotor exercises are all connected. As we improve in one, we see benefits in the other. As an example increasing strength helps with executing some of the more challenging yoga poses.

What's your yoga practice like??
Thanks for sticking to this exercise and yoga ramble if you made it to the end!

Preparing tomatoes

Is your farmers market overflowing with tomatoes?! The state farmers market in Raleigh certainly has plenty of beautiful red, ripe tomatoes. A few weeks ago I came home with a 10lb box of canning tomatoes. Today's post details how I prepared the tomatoes for preserving. I ended up freezing these tomatoes instead of canning. They'll be great for us to have on hand in the colder months. And here's the quick visual for preparing tomatoes:

There are so many decisions to make when preserving tomatoes - such as to peel or not to peel, to deseed or leave the seeds, to stew down or leave raw, or to dice up or leave whole. This process that I used here let me peel the tomatoes, remove the seeds, and preserve them raw which is what I decided would be easiest to work with when I went to use the tomatoes out of the freezer. I froze the seedless, peeled chunked tomatoes in quart bags. 

Preparing and freezing tomatoes is a bit time consuming but definitely worth it in the end! Or at least I think so.

Meal Plan Monday Post

We kicked off the week with our two year anniversary! We had really worked hard over the weekend with staining the back deck and we were looking forward to a nice relaxing dinner at home. We celebrated by recreating some of the dishes that were served at our wedding reception along with a bottle of champagne and cupcakes from the bakery that made our wedding cake. The rest of the week was business as usual with the meal plan - using lots of produce but with some snack-y dinners too. My family was in town over the weekend. We started the week with a wedding (celebrating our anniversary) and ended the week with a wedding (my cousin got married in the Triangle). We highly recommend August weddings :-)

Meal Plan for Monday August 10 - Sunday August 16

Monday -  Two year anniversary dinner! Lemon orzo stuffed chicken, mac n cheese, green beans, a salad, and Daisy Cakes cupcakes with champagne

Tuesday Portobello and zucchini tacos, quinoa and rice blend

Wednesday - Penne with vodka sauce
Thursday - Fruit and cheese cracker after work snack, mac-n-cheese later
Friday - Lunch BLT sandwiches, green bean salad, canary melon

   Dinner Rehearsal dinner for my cousin!
Saturday - Breakfast Sweet potato muffins, Ninth Street Bakery mocha almond biscotti, fruit

   Lunch Mattie B's in Durham
   Dinner at the wedding reception!

Sunday - Brunch Shrimp and grits
   Dinner Deconstructed california sushi bowl

Gorgeous afternoon for a wedding - 
here we are ready for the ceremony to start!

Breakfast with cherry tomatoes

You may have noticed that Patrick and I really enjoy brunch! When I'm doing the meal plan I try to make one nicer weekend breakfast a more relaxing brunch with something we don't usually eat on the weekdays. Waffles, pancakes, quiches, and crepes are all in our rotation. And then sometimes we jazz up a weekday breakfast so it can be a more vibrant brunch - oatmeal and bacon and eggs, for example. 

On this particular occasion we were able to kick up bacon, eggs, and toast a notch. Artisan cherry tomatoes from our farm CSA and basil from our herb garden assisted us that morning. I viewed this as a loose "BLT" for breakfast - bacon, basil substituting for the lettuce, and cherry tomatoes.

Here's what we did:
   In a medium fry pan cook 4 strips of bacon. Remove from pan once at desired crispness. Fry 2 eggs in pan with a little bacon grease.
   Meanwhile, slice cherry tomatoes (~1/2 pint). Mix cherry tomatoes with minced fresh basil, small glug of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Also be toasting two pieces of bread.
   To serve top toast with eggs and bacon alongside. Spoon tomato mixture over the egg.

Asian style beef short ribs with soba noodles

I'm a big fan of slow-cooked beef that is super tender and just falls apart. In the past we've done beef stroganoff and pot roast in the slow cooker, which have always turned out great, but it was really nice to try something pretty different. The Asian sauce for these ribs was delicious, and the salad let us use up some corn and spinach we needed to get rid of. I was skeptical when Whitney added the corn but it blended with the other flavors surprisingly well.

Crockpot Asian style beef short ribs with soba noodles inspiration from Real Simple
   Serves 4
1/3 c soy sauce
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 pounds baby-back ribs (2 to 3 racks), cut into 8 pieces
2 bundles soba noodles
2 c fresh corn
1 c spinach
4 scallions, sliced

   In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, mix together the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, cornstarch, oil, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Add the ribs and turn to coat. Cover and cook until the ribs are tender, on low for 6 to 7 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.
   Twenty minutes before serving, heat broiler. Place the ribs, meaty-side up, on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Strain the cooking liquid from the slow cooker into a medium bowl. Brush the meaty side of the ribs with half of the cooking liquid and broil, basting twice with the pan juices, until shiny and glazed, 3 to 4 minutes.

   Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool. Add the noodles to the bowl of remaining cooking liquid from the slow cooker and toss with the corn, spinach, and scallions. Serve the ribs with the soba noodle salad.

Tomato Panzanella

Heirloom tomatoes were a staple on the CSA list. We got them a few times and really enjoyed the flavorful tomato. After a couple of times of receiving them I thought the next time we got the heirloom tomatoes we should have an exciting recipe to make that really features them! This tomato panzanella does exactly that. This is basically summer on a plate. The freshness of the tomatoes and cucumbers combined with the bite of the mustard-anchovy vinaigrette make for a perfect light, crisp dinner on hot summer nights. I wanted to keep the dish overall on the lighter side so we served with a baked salmon filet. 

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella inspiration from Food Network
   Total Time 50 min | Prep 20 min | Cook 15 min | Serves 4 to 6
3 c French bread, diced into 1" pieces
1/2 c olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 c cucumbers, sliced
1/2 c red onions, thin slice
1/4 c fresh oregano
2 tbsp capers, rinsed
2 tbsp olives, rough chop
1/2 tsp finely minced garlic
6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
4 heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
   For the vinaigrette
1/4 c red wine vinegar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp chopped shallots
4 salt-packed anchovies, rinsed [may substitute anchovy paste]
1 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
   In a medium mixing bowl, combine the bread and olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
   For the vinaigrette: puree the vinegar, mustard, garlic, shallots and anchovies in a blender. With the motor running, emulsify the oil into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
   Combine the cucumbers, onions, oregano, capers, olives, garlic, basil, tomatoes and cooled bread cubes in a bowl and dress with the Mustard-Anchovy Vinaigrette (about 3/4 cup). You may use more or less vinaigrette depending on your preference. Season with salt and pepper.

It's Always Caturday
... and they're always taking naps

Grilled eggplant and onion pizza

Eggplant! What an interesting vegetable. I really enjoy experimenting with it but I think Patrick begrudingly goes along with them. Experiments have included eggplant subs, ratatouillepasta with roasted garlic and eggplantquinoa and roasted eggplant salad, and our favorite eggplant parmesan. Even though Patrick's not a fan of eggplant experimenting I still chose to get it in our CSA box a few times throughout the summer - just a few! We made eggplant parmesan twice over the summer and then there was this grilled eggplant and onion pizza. It features the Japanese eggplant which is much more slender than the traditional eggplant. Patrick gave it two thumbs up! I imagine we'll have this again.

This recipe calls for grilling all the vegetables and even the pizza. We used our grill pan for the eggplant and onions but then baked in a hot oven per our usual pizza cooking method (450F until cheese is melted).

Grilled Pizza with Eggplant and Tomatoes from Williams-Sonoma's Weeknight Fresh + Fast cookbook
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Asian eggplants, about 1/2 lb, cut lengthwise into 1/3-inch slices
1 small red onion, cut crosswise into 1⁄3-inch slices
1 lb purchased fresh pizza dough
1/2 lb fresh whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 c small cherry tomatoes, halved crosswise
1/2 c grated pecorino romano cheese
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 tbsp slivered fresh basil
2 tbsp minced fresh marjoram [we substituted oregano]

Prepare a medium fire in a grill. In a bowl, whisk together the 1⁄4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) oil and the vinegar; season with salt and black pepper. Arrange the eggplant and onion slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush lightly with the vinegar-oil mixture. Place the eggplant and onion on the grill, cover and cook until tender and browned, about 5 minutes per side for the eggplant and 6 minutes per side for the onion. Remove from the grill. Cut the eggplant into 1 1⁄2-inch (4-cm) pieces. Separate the onion slices into rings.

Divide the pizza dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each half to a 9-inch (23-cm) round. Transfer to a floured baking sheet. Brush the top of each round with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper. Place the crusts, oiled side down, on the grill, cover and grill until the bottoms are firm and browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the crusts over, cover and grill until the bottoms are just set, about 2 minutes. Transfer the crusts to the baking sheet, grill-marked side up.

Spread 1⁄2 of the mozzarella over each dough round, and then top with the eggplant, onion, and tomatoes. Sprinkle 1⁄2 of the romano cheese and 1⁄2 of the pepper flakes over each. Whisk the vinegar-oil mixture and drizzle about 2 teaspoons over each pizza. Using a large spatula, transfer the pizzas to the grill. Cover and grill until the cheeses melt, 5 to 8 minutes.

Transfer the pizzas to a cutting board. Sprinkle with the herbs. Cut into wedges, place on 2 warmed platters, and serve immediately. Makes 2 pizzas; serves 4.

Meal Plan Monday Post

What a week! I thought we'd sail into August and have a super relaxing month... well August had different plans and before we knew it our calendar became busy! We definitely had to balance eating in and eating out since so many of our plans involved restaurants. What we did cook at home was on par for summer eating as it featured lots of fresh produce. We enjoyed a couple of meatless meals too. On Thursday we celebrated (early) two years of marriage with a fancy dinner at Revolution. Then on Friday we went to downtown Raleigh for an evening out with friends and over the weekend we stained our deck! Like I said - busy!

Meal Plan for Monday August 3 - Sunday August 9

Monday - Eggplant mozz melt, roasted sweet potato wedges

Tuesday - Roasted red pepper salad with baked cod

Wednesday - Neighbor brought over pizza and then we canned a peach rum sauce
Thursday - Tuscan dinner @ Revolution to celebrate 2 years (a few days early)

Tiramisu for dessert
Friday - First Friday art exhibit in Raleigh; dinner at Tupelo Honey Cafe with friends
Saturday - breakfast Oatmeal with chocolate peanut butter and bananas, chia seeds

   lunch Ramen noodle bowl with peppers and arugula
   dinner Chicken tetrazzini
Sunday - breakfast Bagel sandwich with scrambled egg and arugula
   lunch Moe's Southwest Grill
   dinner Tomato gazpacho, cheese crackers, apple

Here was my farmers market haul from Monday afternoon! I took a trip over to Raleigh and the state farmers market. Peaches were for the peach rum sauce that we canned, tomatoes in the soup and also canned a salsa, red peppers in the salad, and some other goodies.

Breakfast - using up things

We enjoyed this brunch on the back porch and it exceeded expectations. In my mind I knew brunch would be a hod podge of whatever we needed to use up in the kitchen. I did, however, give myself a bit of a head start with the diced potato hash browns. The previous evening we had cooked our 23rd month anniversary dinner which featured roasted potatoes. I decided to roast an extra potato and have it on hand for the next morning! 

We rounded out the brunch with fried eggs, fresh peaches, and a fresh deconstructed guacamole. For the guacamole I combined diced avocado, sliced cherry tomatoes, and the juice from a lime with a little salt and pepper.

It's Always Caturday