Tag Archives: herbs

Blood and Guts Stuffed Eggplant aka Imam Bayıldı

25 Oct

For most people, Halloween is synonymous with sugary indulgence. From handfuls of candy to haunted cakes, most people completely abandon their ideas about healthy eating. The very mention of vegetables on this sinfully sweet holiday is almost unheard of.

Spooky sweets shouldn’t get to have all the fun. With a plethora of shapes, textures, and colors, vegetables have wonderful potential to get a Halloween make over as well. This dish will make a wonderfully unexpected addition to any Halloween party spread. Plus the savory vegetables will help balance whatever sweets you are sure to consume as the evening progresses.

These eggplants have garlic to ward off any vampires (if that isn’t your intent for the evening, be sure to grab a stick of gum or some handful junior mints) while the onions make surprisingly convincing guts and the tomatoes give the appearance of blood.

This is a traditional Turkish dish that is perfect for any occasion, spooky intentions aside. It is perfectly salty and spicy and fresh all at once. Add some beans or beef crumbles into the filling and you have a complete meal.

I used fresh basil, thyme, and oregano in this dish because here in sunny California, my herb plants are still thriving, but feel free to substitute dried herbs or use different herbs altogether depending on what you have access to.

Blood and Guts Stuffed Eggplant 

Adapted from The Shiksa in the Kitchen

Serves 5-6

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 long, purple Chinese or Japanese eggplants (leave the ends in tact, don’t remove the stems)
  • 5-6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 12 large, whole cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced latitudinally
  • 1 large onion sliced into very thin, half-moon style slices
  • 1 Bell Pepper
  • 1 spicy pepper (like Fresno Pepper or Anaheim Pepper)
  • 2 large tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, julienned
  • 1/3 cup oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons thyme
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 large tomato, grated (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Peel the eggplants in stripes, leaving about half of the purple skin on the eggplant. Generously salt the exterior of the eggplant to make it less bitter, and set aside for 45 min (don’t worry, you’ll wash it off later).
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat in a deep sauté pan. Add onions, garlic, and peppers. Stir frequently to prevent browning. Continue to sauté the vegetables until the onions become transparent. Stir frequently to prevent browning of onions and garlic.
  4. After onions are cooked, add the finely diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper  into the sauté pan. Cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the vegetable mixture from heat and allow it to cool.
  5. Wash the eggplants, dry. Heat the remaining 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan (preferably nonstick, if not you may need to add more oil), and lightly brown the eggplants on each side for 1-2 minutes. Set the eggplants in a baking dish to cool.
  6. Cut an opening slit through the middle of each eggplant, being careful not to cut all the way through the eggplant. Use your fingers to expand the opening slightly, so that there is a little pocket in the middle of the eggplant.
  7. Stuff the pockets of the eggplants with the tomato-onion filling, equally divide the filling among the five eggplants. Season with a little more salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Top the eggplants with the grated tomato into the baking pan,if desired. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, then make several slits on the foil to let the steam escape while baking.
  9. Bake the eggplants for 45 minutes or until the eggplants are soft and fully cooked.

Fell free to dress up your eggplants with any spooky props from the party store. Fake bugs could be a fun added touch!

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City Of Night (Berlin)

11 Oct

Just as Prague seemed to be a city living in a fairytale world, Berlin seemed to be living in the horrors of the past 80 years. I was amazed by how openly the city shared its dark past, Holocaust, Cold War, and all. Here’s a portion of the wall that lies near Brandenburg Gate, open for all to see.

Near Checkpoint Charlie lies this extensive Berlin Wall memorial that explains the history of the Holocaust in Berlin from Hitler’s start in politics to the Soviet occupation of East Berlin. It’s incredible how much Berlin emphasized openness about its horrific past instead of trying to simply ignore it.

As an America, I was proud to see that even in the difficult times of the Soviet occupation that America was able to provide the trapped East Berliners with hope.

This marker of where the Berlin Wall used to exist marks the city streets as a reminder to people of how lucky they are to be free. As a tourist, it was amazing to be able to really see how artificially isolated East Berlin used to be within the city as a whole.
By incorporating history throughout the city to teach visitors, Germany plays an important role in keeping atrocities like the Holocaust from happening again.At the heart of the city stands The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a looming, omnipresent reminder of the atrocities that the German government enabled. The memorial consists of 2,700 concrete slabs in varying heights, enabling visitors to walk through the memorial and feel the weight of being surrounded by darkness.

Just past the Brandenburg Gate lies the commercial district with many museums, shops, cafes, and this very impressive faux Mickey Mouse  entertained tourists on a lighter note.

One of the most exciting thing we did in Berlin was to visit the Reichstag Building where we were able to go inside and walk around the walls of Norman Foster’s breathtaking glass dome. Berlin’s hot new landmark represents the openness of the government with the glass dome, visiting availability, and the view from the inside of the dome into the debate chamber of the German Parliament.bThe central mirrored cone (seen here) filters in sunlight and collects rain water. Make sure to register to tour the building in advance because visiting is free, but reservations are required.

Giant pretzels seemed to be everywhere in Vienna, but they were even more abundant in Berlin, go figure. I love this bicycle vendor selling cheesey and regular pretzels in the middle of one of the parks. I’m not even a big pretzel person, but those cheesey ones were delicious!

 

Mitte, Berlin’s equivalent of Soho, was full of tiny cafes and trendy stores. This is the perfect escape from the city’s more commercial areas. The shops were full of unexpected vintage goodies and unique items that are perfect to bring home as nontraditional souvenirs. Tukadu is an awesome little store where customers can pick their own kitschy beads and pendants to create custom jewelry.

I love the adorable signage for this frozen yogurt place (or maybe it was a cafe come to think of it). The baby pink, bubbly letters, and sweet bear logo all make this a wonderful juxtaposition to the often gloomy atmosphere of the city.

 

Speaking of bears, I absolutely fell in love with this cuddly rose-colored teddy bear at the Steiff Store. As far as designer toys go, no one does it better than Steiff. I was bummed that there was no toy factory to visit in Berlin, but this store was a great way to embrace my inner child.

Here’s my sweet little sister Emmy playing with another one of the amazing animals at the Steiff Store. Something about being surrounded by hundreds of stuffed animals seems to being out the best in everyone.

Check out this sweet pastel cafe setting. The colorful chairs and dainty daisies are a lovely light-hearted escape from the heaviness of the city. 

I love this clever idea of placing potted plants on tables in place of flowers both to serve as decoration and as self-applied garnishes to any meal. I definitely want to start setting my table with useful herbs whenever we entertain instead of wasting money on flowers that will have to be thrown out in only a few days!

Homemade Italian Style Vegetable Soup

9 May

The sudden arrival of Spring means two things. One, the weather gets warmer so that frolicking outdoors starts to seem more appealing than slaving away in the kitchen.  Two, the farmer’s markets are full of the freshest, cheapest delicious produce. To take full advantage of the best of both situation, I highly suggest that you make this soup!

Now I know that making soup just as it’s finally starting to get warmer out may seem counterintuitive, but I promise, this really is a good idea… This soup is chock full of delicious vegetables to provide you with energy without weighing you down. By making this soup now, you can have it stored away in your freezer for easy, nutritious meals all summer long. My logic is, stock up now so that you don’t have to think about it later!

Homemade broth

This soup makes a veggie-filled accompaniment to any lunch or dinner. Store it in individually-portioned glass jars in your freezer, so that you can take it out the night before and have a delicious, preservative-free soup ready when you want in.

Mishmash of delicious veggies

This is an incredibly flexible soup to which you can add any vegetables, herbs, or spices that you have on hand. Feel free to add beans and pasta to make it more of a traditional Minestrone. Or top the soup with a bit of pesto to give it a French provincial flavor. You can even substitute the basil, oregano, and thyme for some miso paste and siracha sauce to give it a slightly Asian taste.

Delicious and nutritious and ready to go!

Homemade Italian Style Vegetable Soup

Servings: 8

Time: 2 hours

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of assorted vegetables in less than pristine condition (onions, carrots, celery, bell peppers, mushrooms, lettuce, leeks, ect)
  •  2 bay leaves
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 3 cloves of garlic, lightly chopped
  • 1-2 sprigs of rosemarry or other herbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1-2 leeks, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups of frozen green beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspooon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen spinach or kale, defrosted

Directions

  1. Dump your assorted vegetables, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, and herbs into a large stock pot and fill the pot with enough water to just barely cover the vegetables. With the stove on high, bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. In the mean time chop up and prepare all of your vegetables for the soup itself. Use a strainer to remove the vegetables, and then set the remaining vegetable broth aside. Alternatively, if you don’t have the time, you could skip this step altogether and use boxed or frozen vegetable broth.
  2. Using the same stock pot as before, lightly saute your celery, onion, leeks, and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add your carrots and zucchini and continue to lightly saute for another 1-2 minutes.
  3. Pour in the tomatoes, green beans, basil, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, and broth (from step one).
  4. Allow soup to simmer for 30-45 minutes, then add in the spinach or kale, and allow it to cool for an additional 10 minutes.
  5. Ladle into bowls and serve (or freeze). Enjoy!

Brighten Up a Rainy Day with Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax

17 Mar

If Southern California’s unusual rainstorm has you feeling blue this weekend, go see The Lorax in theaters. This is a wonderful flick for the whole family to go see because the underlying environmental message will attract adults, while the bright colors and cuddly characters will thrill kids of all ages.

My little sisters who had already seen the movie were sweet enough to go with me and Goose to see it again. I absolutely loved the movie because it brought me from laughing audibly to reaching the verge of tears all within its 95-minute duration. I’m embarrassed to say that I may have enjoyed the movie more than either of my little sisters, but its message of environmentalism stuck especially close to home with me.

Many moralistic children’s movies, like Happy Feet, overcomplicate the story so that young children loose sight of the moral of the film, but Universal sticks to Dr. Seuss’s simple plot without making it too complex for young viewers. Although the adorable creatures and vivid colors may distract people, there is no confusing in the movie’s ecological message. The movie clearly teaches viewers about the dangers of overconsumption, and need for everyone to work towards protecting nature. As the Once-ler tells Ted in regards to the state of nature and the planet’s wellness, “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.”

For the movie adaptation, the writers added some new characters and built up the setting of the book, but overall it is a very accurate retelling of Dr. Seuss’s beloved book. The story focuses on Ted’s journey beyond the commercialized town of Thneedville to learn from the Once-ler how to get a real tree to impress his crush, Audrey.

Emma watering our freshly planted herbs

After seeing the movie, instead of going to eat some of the sugar-packed breakfast items from the Lorax-themed menu at I-Hop, head to a local nursery to get seeds or baby plants to grow your own garden. When the rain clears up get your kids, nieces/nephews, or friends involved in planting a garden of beautiful flower or delicious vegetables and herbs in the freshly-watered soil. In just a few months you will see have the satisfaction of enjoying the toils of your labor. Plus it’s fun to dig up some dirt and play around outdoors.

What do you do when the rain keeps you stuck in doors?