May, 2016

  1. eggplant parmesan

    May 28, 2016 by Angie

    My mother-in-law makes the best eggplant parmesan. The best. I tried to make eggplant parmesan a couple of times using other recipes and I didn’t like what I made. The recipes called for salting then frying the eggplant slices leading directly to disaster. Even Italian restaurants seriously mess up eggplant parmesan so making delicious eggplant parmesan has been a culinary goal of mine for years.

    Blanky's eggplant parmesan

    Blanky’s stellar eggplant parmesan

    My mother-in-law shared her recipe with me along with some tips and the brand of sauce she uses – Ragu Chunky in a giant plastic container. Can you believe that? That sauce is key!

    The recipe is this baked, not fried, version from Martha Stewart. Baking is lower fat, less messy, and a lot easier than frying. I followed the recipe pretty closely because I really wanted it to succeed this time! My small changes included the addition of a quarter teaspoon of garlic powder to the bread crumb and cheese mixture and decreasing the initial baking time as advised by my mother-in-law.

    I don’t buy eggs, but I do keep Eggology egg whites in the house. Robbie looked up the conversion for me. Two tablespoons of egg whites are equivalent to one egg without the yolk. He poured four tablespoons of Eggology into a bowl and added 1 tablespoon of Smart Balance oil to try to make up for the fat missing from the two egg yolks he omitted. From there he added the two tablespoons of water and whisked.

    I ran out of the bread crumbs and cheese mixture halfway through and had to make another one. I will double it from the start in the future.

    I had to bake the casserole longer than the recipe said to achieve the coveted bubbly, golden brown status. I think my oven is wonky so YMMV.

    I’m happy to report that my eggplant parmesan was amazing! It was not exactly like my mother-in-law’s but it was really, really delicious. Way better than what I’ve had at many restaurants and I’ve eaten more than my fair share of restaurant eggplant parmesan.

    eggplant parmesan

    Next time I will do everything the same except I’ll also slice the eggplant more carefully to get consistently thin slices and I’ll be prepared to bake the final casserole longer, maybe even using the broiler for a couple of minutes at the end.

    unphotogenic serving

    Lifetime culinary goal achieved!


  2. bruschetta

    May 21, 2016 by Angie

    The jar of pesto in my pantry was in danger of expiring, therefore, bruschetta. Eating bruschetta is much more enjoyable than throwing pesto away. I made a good life choice.

    pretty bruschetta

    Ingredients:

    loaf of fresh French bread
    jar of basil pesto (I would guess I used about 3 tablespoons – the jar is still quite full.)
    1 cup of cherry tomatoes
    reduced fat feta cheese (I used almost the entire container.)
    balsamic vinegar

    Preparation:

    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil.

    2. Slice the French bread into small discs. Arrange the bread slices on the cookie sheet and spritz them with olive oil.

    3. Bake the bread slices until slightly toasty. You have to keep a close eye on them – they want to burn.

    4. Quarter the cherry tomatoes. Combine the tomatoes and feta in a bowl.

    5. Spread pesto on the toasted bread slices. Top with the tomato feta mixture. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the bruschetta, if you’re into that. Enjoy!

    plate of bruschetta


  3. no sugar added sangria

    May 21, 2016 by Angie

    I wanted to drink sangria so I made some. I perused a lot of recipes first. All of them called for sugar, artificial sweetener, soda with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweetener, or simple syrup. I think that’s overkill. It’s wine with fruit and fruit juice in it. Isn’t that sweet enough? So here it is: my no sugar added sangria. I didn’t miss the sugar at all.

    cold and tasty sangria

    A glass of cold sangria

    Ingredients:

    750 mL Cabernet Sauvignon
    1/2 cup brandy
    1/3 cup orange liqueur
    1 cup club soda
    juice of 1 lime
    1 navel orange, halved and sliced
    1 green apple, cut into wedges
    1 red apple, cut into wedges
    1/2 lemon, cut into rounds
    Ice

    sangria ingredients

    Directions:

    Combine the wine, brandy, orange liqueur, and club soda in a large pitcher. Squeeze in the juice of one lime. Squeeze in the juice of half of the orange. Stir well. Add the other half of the orange slices, the green and red apple wedges, and lemon rounds. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Pour over ice and enjoy!


  4. St. Augustine, FL

    May 1, 2016 by Angie

    St. Augustine is one of our favorite places to visit. We booked a two night trip for spring break this year. I got the flu. I figured I could have the flu at home and waste our B&B deposit or have the flu in St. Augustine while potentially having more fun, so we went. Spring Break forever, y’all!

    Bayfront Marin House

    Outside our bed and breakfast, the Bayfront Marin House

    We like to stay at bed and breakfasts in the historic district. This was our first time staying at the Bayfront Marin House which we chose mostly because they allow Sookie. She loves going on vacation with us. I think she had a great time.

    Sookie investigates the bathtub

    Sookie investigates the giant bathtub

    our room at the B&B

    Entrance area

    our bed at the B&B

    Very tall bed

    The Bayfront Marin House is fine – great location, relatively clean, nice enough rooms, free happy hour – but I would not stay there if I wasn’t limited by the 68 pound dog factor. The food wasn’t great and things could have been cleaner. We’ve stayed at nicer B&B’s serving amazing breakfasts in the historic district.

    My favorite restaurant in St. Augustine is The Floridian, by a landslide. I think about their tofu all the time. The patio is adorable and dog-friendly.

    Robbie eats soup at the Floridian

    Robbie enjoying some vegetarian soup

    Tofu Cornbread Stack

    <3Tofu cornbread stack<3

    A major reason we love St. Augustine is the walkability. We park the car at the hotel and don’t touch it until it’s time to leave. All the sights, bars, and restaurants are within comfortable walking distance. Here is a photo of Sookie and Robbie enjoying the Plaza de la Constitución.

    Robbie and Sookie in the park

    A park!

    If you have any appreciation for a fine cocktail, the Ice Plant Bar is not to be missed. We made multiple trips there on a previous visit and thoroughly enjoyed it again this time. It’s a classy cocktail bar inside in a renovated, well…ice plant. They take the ice very seriously. They appear to make the majority of their mixers and things in house.

    Old Fashioned

    An Old Fashioned served with a giant ice cube

    Ice Plant Bar is in the same building as the St. Augustine Distillery, where they make craft spirits (vodka, gin, rum, and, soon to be ready, bourbon) from local ingredients. Our friends recommended the free distillery tour which is surely worth doing.

    barrels at the St. Augustine Distillery

    Barrels of rum

    St. Augustine Distillery tour

    On the distillery tour

    We learned a lot and we got to try the liquors in fancy drinks made by our tour guide. I’m still getting emails with new drink recipes from them.

    Pizza Time is on a particularly crowded, touristy street. They were voted best pizza ever in the universe or something. I wouldn’t go that far, but the slices are very good. We ate a couple on a bench outside.

    cool tile wall

    Cool tile wall we saw while walking around

    Castillo de San Marcos is a 17th century Spanish fortress/castle. We’ve never been for a tour or any of the presentations offered, but we do enjoy walking around the property. It’s right on the water and made of coquina making it a very rare building.

    outside Castillo de San Marcos

    Looking out at the Matanzas River

    Castillo de San Marcos

    Castillo de San Marcos

    standing on part of Castillo de San Marcos

    View of the river from inside the fort property

    There are two more places we will never miss when in St. Augustine: Stogies Cigar Bar and Pizzalley’s Chianti Room. Both have dog-friendly patios. Stogies offers a great beer selection and there’s always at least one wine I really enjoy. Once there was a man with a brick oven built into his truck making coal-fired pizzas on the patio. Pizzalley’s Chianti Room has the most insane happy hour I’ve ever heard of. It’s two for one drinks – even expensive liquor drinks – AND a free slice of pizza. There is always a guy singing and playing guitar on the patio. We usually can’t stand that sort of thing but he plays at a reasonable volume and has good taste in the songs he covers.

    We had a stellar cheese plate and some drinks at Cellar 6. It was our first time visiting this establishment. It is not dog friendly so Sookie took a nap in her crate. They also offer an impressive happy hour. I had an espresso martini followed by a less dessert-like martini. Robbie liked his Old Fashioneds. There were people on a date sitting next us. The man was clearly a psychopath. I hope this became evident to his date over the course of their time there because it was evident to everyone else.

    It was St. Patrick’s Day while we were there. I like St. Patrick’s Day, but we usually don’t celebrate on account of all the drunk people driving around. Because we were on foot (as was everyone else really) we went to Meehan’s Irish Pub. It was packed, of course. We realized we’d been there previously during a ghost hunting pub crawl a few years earlier. It has a nice balcony with a view of the river.

    Sookie wants to night swim

    Speaking of the river, Sookie wants to go for a swim! “What’s over there? I know there’s something over this wall.”

    Relaxing

    Sookie being happy in our room

    Sookie cares about a short list of things. Somewhere after popcorn, cheese, and dog park is cuddling. The dog loves to cuddle, but we do all the cuddling on the couch. The only time Sookie gets to lay on the bed is on vacation. Look at how happy she is. She is pure bliss in dog form.

    Pure bed bliss

    Pure bliss