Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Easy bake eggplant

My husband's favourite dish is this "eggplant thing," as he titles it. His mom cooks it up for him and he shovels it down by the forkful. It's eggplant slices soaked in salted water, fried in olive oil, and patted dry with paper towel. Then, the wilted eggplant is tossed with a garlic tomato sauce and served chilled with the most potent garlic-yogurt topping.

In my loving and trying-to-please way, I've replicated the dish at home for my husband. As simple as the dish sounds, it's very labour-intensive. To get a decent amount worth serving, you need lots of eggplant. Every time I make it, I swelter over a frying pan of hot oil, flipping each small piece in turn.

The eggplant cooks and absorbs the oil quickly. Unfortunately, my face gets as oily as the eggplant. That's definitely a cooking experience I'd like to avoid repeating. Consequently, I've been on the look-out for easier eggplant alternatives.

Today, I adapted this baked eggplant recipe that was recently published in my local newspaper. It certainly involved fewer steps, and best of all, it practically made itself in the oven. Instead of serving it with a tomato sauce as the recipe suggests, I topped it with a mixture of garlic, yogurt, and salt to taste.

1 large eggplant
1 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 eggs
olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Using a basting brush, generously coat the foil in oil.
  3. Peel the eggplant and then cut it into half-inch thick slices.
  4. Mix bread crumbs and cayenne together in one bowl. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork.
  5. Dredge each piece of eggplant through the egg and then the breadcrumbs and place on baking sheet.
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Flip each slice and bake for another 20 minutes.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

My adventure with rhubarb...

What did I do when my mother-in-law sent me home with a grocery bag full of fresh-cut rhubarb? Well nothing, at first. I never cooked rhubarb before. I don't think I've ever eaten rhubarb either, except maybe years ago in some rhubarb-strawberry pie.

I asked my mother, searched the web and scoured the indexes of my cookbooks for suggestions on what to do with the rhubarb. I found rhubarb stew, rhubarb pie, rhubarb crumble, rhubarb jam...I started to feel like I was repeating that shrimp scene from the Forrest Gump movie.

Rhubarb stew seemed to be the easiest. I could make it in my crock pot and serve it as a side dish or dessert on its own or as an ice cream topping. Plus, I thought I could can it in some the of the jars leftover from making strawberry jam and give it back to my mother-in-law. That would be sweet.

Having never made rhubarb stew or rhubarb anything, I'm not sure if it was supposed to turn brown. But it did. It tastes OK, sweet and tart all at the same time. I served it hot over vanilla ice cream garnished with organic ginger snap cookies I bought at the grocery store. It's not a huge hit in our household but I like the fact that its side effect is natural internal cleansing. I read that on the internet and I hope that part is really true.


6 cups of chopped rhubarb
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon

  1. Stir ingredients together in crock pot.
  2. Turn on low and cook for approximately 8 hours.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Easy-to-make chocolate chip cookies

With such easy and effective pre-packaged cookie dough available at supermarkets everywhere, a recipe for homemade chocolate chip cookies better be extremely easy. That’s what I love about this recipe.
It’s so simple; I don’t even have a written copy. I’ve been making it from memory since childhood. The best part is that the ingredients can be measured with just a few utensils: a one half cup measuring cup and one set of measuring spoons. Clean-up is the worst part of any kitchen creation, so the fewer the dishes the better!
And just like pre-packaged cookie dough, I only bake a few cookies at a time. The rest goes into a zip-lock freezer bag in the fridge or freezer until my next chocolate craving creeps up. Using a kitchen mixer or food processor to cream the butter works well too, and it feels like a big time saver compared to the old-fashioned way of creaming the butter by hand.
These cookies stay moist and chewy, especially if they are stored in an air tight container. More importantly, there’s lots of chocolate in every bite. Happy dunking!
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 cup chocolate chips
  1. Combine flour, salt, baking powder and soda in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a larger bowl, cream butter until smooth and shiny.
  3. Then beat in egg, vanilla, and sugars.
  4. Slowly stir in the flour mixture.
  5. Mix in milk and chocolate chips.
  6. Cool dough in refrigerator for at least a half hour.
  7. Form dough into round balls (the size of a teaspoon) and place two-inches apart on cookie sheet.
  8. Bake at 350ยบ F for 10-minutes or until cookies are golden brown.
Makes roughly two dozen cookies. Nutritional Opinion: Like all cookies, there are good for the soul, but nothing else.
Inspiration: My mother's recipe

Strawberry Jam

It’s funny how trying a new recipe or kitchen technique sometimes has a steep learning curve. Even the simplest things take so much longer the first time around. I’ve never made jam before, but my mother always did when I was a kid, so I was determined to try it.

Everything about making strawberry jam seemed perfect. The memories from childhood wafted through my mind as I browsed through the produce, trinkets, and gifts at our local pick-your-own berry farm. As I hemmed and hawed over how many berries to buy, I thought about my mom making and canning her own jam. She always bought multiple flats, so like her; I opted for full flat of strawberries instead of just a basket.

A whole flat of berries is really a lot. It left my husband in a temporary state of giddiness. As I inspected and read how to use my new canning jars, home canning tool set, and CERTO fruit pectin, my husband belted out the Beatles’ song Strawberry Fields Forever.

Unlike my mother, who had an enormous stock pot, I managed to sterilize the jars and make the jam with a single Dutch oven. I really could have used an extra big pot, but I’m determined to keep my kitchen uncluttered so I have limited things. I did buy a potato masher to crush the berries as the directions warn against using a food processor.

After mixing together three quarts of hulled berries, an unbelievable mound sugar, and lots of boiling, I have made jam—four whole 500 ml jars worth. I still have five quarts of berries left, and with a little more confidence under my belt, I intend to make another batch of jam to can, decorate, and give away as housewarming gifts.


4 ½ cups of hulled and crushed strawberries
7 cups of sugar
1 package of CERTO Fruit Pectin

  1. Hull about three quarts of strawberries.
  2. In a bowl, crush one layer of strawberries with a potato masher and pour the juice and pulp into a glass measuring cup. Repeat, until the crushed berries measures 4 ½ cups.
  3. In a large pot, mix crushed berries and fruit pectin together. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add in sugar and boil rapidly for one minute.
  5. Remove from heat and stir and skim for five minutes.
  6. Pour into warm, sterilized jars. Then, screw on the lids and rings tightly.
  7. After the jars cool, check that the lids indented slightly creating a tight seal.
Makes four 500 ml jars. Nutritional Opinion: Strawberries are good source of antioxidants which are known to inhibit inflammation, cancerous cells, brain aging, macular degeneration, and more. But the high-sugar content of this jam probably erases all the good effects from the strawberries.

Friday, June 17, 2005

What came first, the chicken or the egg?

It just seemed logical to start food writing about my favourite fast-food: two eggs prepared over-easy with buttered toast and garnished with ketchup. It’s a meal so ridiculously simple and obvious. Yet I eat it frequently.

Perhaps my love-affair with eggs and toast developed because I can make it as quickly as I can toast bread. When hunger sets in and time is short, making a full-fledged meal as fast as my toaster works is really appealing. I should also mention that any food I can slather ketchup on is a great comfort.

There’s a few tricks to making this meal quick and easy. First, buttering the toast should be done as efficiently as possible. Load the knife with enough butter to do one wide swoop over the entire surface. Never dab or reload the knife because the extra time required to do so will result in cold toast with unmelted butter. Definitely, a disappointment worth avoiding.

For the especially talented, learn to flip the eggs without a spatula. Not only will this shave off a few seconds of cooking time, it is really fun and impressive. Practice makes perfect. An old boss once told me that one slice of toast weighs about the same as two eggs. Just place a piece toast in a frying pan and flip away. When flipping eggs, just make sure they are not stuck to the bottom.


2 eggs
non-stick spray
fresh ground pepper
2 slices of bread
ketchup (optional)

  1. Heat frying pan and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Toast bread in toaster.
  3. Crack eggs into frying pan and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.
  4. Flip eggs once whites have cooked.
  5. Butter toast.
Serves one. Nutritional Opinion: A good source of protein, carbohydrates, fat, flavors.