Friday, August 22, 2014

Five Friday Facts

1. Hurr. I got rid of 17 inches last weekend. Glorious!

2. Project Runway. I have been a loyal viewer for many seasons (double digits, probably), and while I still watch it, this season has gone way to avant garde for my tastes. I prefer the import previous seasons have put on fit, tailoring, and wearability. This season's goal seems to be the weirder, the better. Sandhya must go.

3. Molly meal. I went to the Olive Branch farmer’s market last weekend, and a sweet farmer loaded me up with green beans and kale for $5. There are perks of rolling up five minutes before closing. (Are my continuous mentions of being cheap getting old? Let me know. I’ll stop.) I have been eating these veggies all week. While my beans are no where near Molly’s or Jane’s they are passable. And I'll take a passable Molly meal over no Molly meal. The kale, on the other hand, has been, like my hair, a glorious revelation. I know kale has reached hackneyed status, but I still like it. If you haven’t tried this salad, get yourself some kale and go for it. I dare you to find an easier salad dressing that mustard, mayo, and lemon juice. (I do prefer Chinese mustard. *fancy*)

4. Also a recent revelation has been baked oatmeal. I have documented my relationship with oatmeal here. I’m back on the oatmeal wagon, but this time around, it must be baked, casserole style. I’ve tried this blueberry recipe and this vegan carrot cake recipe. The verdict? I liked the flavor of the carrot cake better, but the texture of the blueberry one was perfect. The eggs made a big difference there. The next time I make it, I’ll be experimenting. Stay tuned. 

5. Why is running 10 miles easier than 6x600 meters? For the first time in 7 (?) years, I did not sign up for the Memphis marathon or half marathon. I was too happy last year that it got canceled to justify going through the process again. Instead, I’ve been working on my speed and trying to get my 5k time consistently below 24:00. I’m running a race at my school this weekend. Wish my luck! I’d like to prove that Frau C has a little BA in her.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Eggplant Lasagna

This is a recipe I came up with about six years ago when I was attempted to cut down on carbs. While I'm obviously back on the carbs (See sourdough posts here, here, here, and here. Yep that's still going on. Side note, when did this blog become a sourdough blog??), this recipe has stayed in my cycle. I especially like to make use of it right after tomato camp when I'm flush with spaghetti sauce. Here are the instructions:

2 eggplants
1 jar marinara sauce
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 cup mozzarella cheese (or more, if you're feeling cheesy)

Step 1: Prepare the eggplant.

The most important technique here is getting out all the excess moisture from the eggplant. If you don't, it will end up mushy and your lasagna will be very liquidy, so take you time with this step. First, slice the eggplant longways, about 1/8" thick. If you have a mandolin, by all means, use it, but just make sure to use the "thick" setting. If the eggplant slices are too thin, they will just disintegrate.

After slicing, I lay down two paper towels and sprinkle salt on them. Then I lay down the eggplant slices on top of the salted paper towels and sprinkle more salt on top of the slices. I have a modicum of counter space in my kitchen, so I layer paper towel, salt, eggplant, salt, paper towel, salt, eggplant, 
etc. (Be careful here! This is not your lasagna. Don't get confused and try to eat it. )

I let the paper towel lasagna sit for about 30-45 minutes or until I can see a lot of water beads on the top eggplant. That means the salt is sucking the moisture out. Then I press the paper towels to soak up any more liquid, dust as much salt off the pieces as I can, and bake the slices on a greased pan in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes. 

Step 2: Stations

While that's baking, I set up my stations: cheese and sauce. My cheese station is the ricotta, egg, and parmesan mixed together. You could also just use shredded mozzarella here. If you're a certified Pattiwagoneer, you know my sauce station. (Hint: It's canning camp sauce.)

Step 3: Build it. 

When the eggplant is a little browned, I take it out of the oven. Now I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and start building.

Start with a layer of sauce.

Add a layer of eggplant and a layer of the ricotta mixture.

If I'm feeling extra cheesy, then I'll also put a layer of shredded mozzarella on here.

Keep layering until you've used up all your eggplant. Then end with a layer of shredded mozzarella. Bake it in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the edges are bubbly and the top is beautifully toasty.

You can enjoy it now or let it cool and put it in your freezer. It's a great treat to have on hand. Feel free to experiment with other veggies. I've added squash, zucchini, and mushrooms. All delicious! Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Time to Stock the Freezer

During the summer, I am extremely loosey goosey with my meals. I eat when I'm hungry without much thought to meal planning. This summer, I was trying to save money, so I was loosey-goosey on a budget. That means trying to scrounge up every morsel of food in my house and make it into something edible. (Example: We ordered way too many pizzas for our summer workshop, so I was happy to take home five of the ten extras. I ate pizza for every meal for four days.)

With the start of the school year, I am forced into a much more structured life, which is a great thing. No more loosey goosey. So this past weekend, when I didn't yet have any papers to grade or parents to call, I did some freezer-stocking.

Even when freezer stocking, I try to use what I have. What I had was some leftover ham from canning camp. (Aunt Jane never fails to fill me up nicely!) After some recipe investigating, I settled on homemade hot pockets. I love a Hot Pocket as much as anyone, but I don't love the additives or the price tag. This is what I did to make my own:

I started by making my beloved King Arthur sourdough pizza dough recipe. After it rose, I divvied it up into 16 segments and rolled one out. I piled it with ham and provolone. 
Next, I simply folded the edges over and sealed them with water. 
I placed each one on a baking sheet and topped them with a mixture of parmesan cheese and garlic powder. I froze them unbaked, so when I'm jonesing for a hot pocket, I'll need to bake one in the oven for about 15 minutes. 
I tested one out and delicious hot pocketry abounded! 
After the hot pockets, I made two recipes of my enchiladas, one black bean, one chicken and and an eggplant lasagna, a recipe for which is coming soon. And my freezer went from drab to fab! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Canning Camp 2014

We canned, we camped, we conquered. 
Numbers for 2014:

294 jars of tomato juice, slurry, catsup, pizza sauce, salsa, and spaghetti sauce. (Roughly 34 gallons of product!) You can see recipes and past year's numbers by clicking on the "canning" label at the bottom of this post.

We had a five woman crew this year, and 2014 was no different - we worked HARD. But as I dig into my eggplant parmesan tonight, it's all worth it. And it'll all be worth it this winter when I make vegetable soup. And it'll all be worth it when I need a quick appetizer (catsup and cream cheese is always a hit!). And it's all worth it when I look back to time I got to spend with my family, bonding over bubbling pots, a steaming canner, and a Mt. Everest-sized mound of dirty dishes.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Woodworking 101

For those who don't know, I started teaching at a different school this year. I loved SHS for eight years, but it was time for a change. I got the opportunity to start a German program at one of the best schools in the state, so I had to take it. With a new school, come new challenges for the Pattiwagon. I always had a podium in my room in Southaven. It was a much older school with many more vestiges of retired teachers, so podiums were easy to come by. Lewisburg (my new school) is an expansion school and has only been around a few years, ergo no podiums. I priced them and quickly discovered that podiums are expensive. 

As much as I'd like to be known as Rabbi Clayton, that price just doesn't fly on the Pattiwagon, so I set out to make one. (Important note here: This is the extent of my woodworking experience.) I scoured Pinterest for instructions and came upon this site with great instructions. A friend loaned me a jigsaw and sander in exchange for some canned goodness. Armed with my tools and instructions, I headed to Lowe's, where I happened to see my new BFF Ephren. (The previous week, he had helped me cut wall paneling to make mini dry erase boards for my students.) He recognized me and offered his services once again. I am so grateful for his help, as he cut everything perfectly, made sure to leave the nice edges for the front, and gave me the confidence to build. 

This is what I did: 

I started the day off right with a Boy Scout hotdog from Lowe's. I realized they must make a killing out there. I've never turned down a dog right off the grill. 

Fueled by the dog, I got to woodworking. While Ephren made all the straight cuts, I had to make the diagonal cuts on the sides, so that the top of the podium would slant. I also cut four triangular braces. Let's hope they keep the podium from keeling over in the middle of class.

After the cuts, I sanded and sanded and sanded. Probably, I could have sanded some more, but man, it got old after a while. How do you like my sawhorse? (Pattiwagon Life Lesson: If you don't have it, improvise.)

In addition to sanding A LOT, I measured A LOT. Again, hoping for sturdiness here. 

Here it is taking shape. You can see the braces I added. 

Finished with construction! 

Finally, I stained it with Kona wood stain. The whole project took me about six hours, and that included two trips to Lowe's. I'm so please with how it turned out. Once I get it in my classroom, I'll take a few glamour shots and post them.