Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Perfect Beginning

My mom and dad's favorite food is Italian and if I could speak Italian and live anywhere, I would choose Italy. Naturally, making Italian food is something we do a lot. Last Friday night I had a romantic dinner with my mom and myboyfriend to celebrate our (my honey and I's) 5 month anniversary. Yes, I just said a romantic dinner with my honey and my mom. Romance apparently doesn't just come in duos. I made us a fabulous Italian Flag Dip, Eggplant Parmesean, and home made Scarborough Fair Herb Bread. My honey had driven 4 hours and it was excruciating waiting for him and just as I walk to the front door to check on his arrival, guess who approaches. You guessed it, Scott, in perfect timing. Just as I open the door to take a picture of what 'waiting' looks like, he rounds our big van all smiles. We welcome him to our Italian lake house and wrap him in the scents of Italy. His road fatigue vanished as hand him a fabulous Malbec wine that I hand picked up for this occasion.

I clinked glasses with him wishing him a happy 5 month anniversary and he looked surprised and I laughed. "Don't worry, I just figured it out this morning while we were at the grocery store." He laughed and the three of us sat down to a delicious Italian meal. Scott said, "You didn't have to wait for me." My mom and I being nonstop cooks in search of guests to eat the endless supply of food we prepare so we don't eat it all replied, "Of course not, we wanted to. We needed someone to eat all this food!" We have our own alterior motives, you must understand.

We sat around the table and feasted on Fresh Baked Scarborough Fair Herb bread, Eggplant Parmesean, Italian Flag Dip, and of course a lovely salad of fresh romaine and tomatoes tossed in a light vinegar and oil. It was the perfect beginning to what turned out to be a perfect weekend. Let yourself enjoy a perfect beginning too!

Italian Flag Dip

3 large tomatoes; diced
3 cloves garlic; minced
1/2 cup fresh basil; chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. parmesean cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients above and serve with bread toasts or really good crackers for a delicious spin on one of our favorites, the Italian flag. This is similar to a salsa, but made Italian style!

Eggplant Parmesean
1 large eggplant
2 tbsp. low fat olive oil mayo
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 cups tomato sauce
2 tbsp. garlic
2 tbsp. italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice eggplant into half inch circles leaving skin on. Spread each side of slices with mayo and dredge through panko bread crumbs. Place in one layer on a greased cookie sheet. Bake eggplant slices for 20 minutes. They will be softened.

Meanwhile, combine tomato sauce, garlic, and italian seasoning in a bowl.

To create, grease a baking dish with olive oil spray. Place 1/4 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom. Layer slices of cooked eggplant on the bottom of the dish and cover with 1/4 cup of shredded cheese. Place another layer of eggplant and continue layering with tomato sauce and shredded cheese until all ingredients are used up. Bake in 325 degree oven for 25 minutes.

Cool for 5 minutes and then serve on top of spaghetti noodles and alongside the salad and bread recipes below! :)

Scarbourough Fair Herb Bread

3 cups bread flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tbsp. active dry yeast
2 3/4 cup warm water
4 tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. sage
2 tsp. rosemary
2 tbsp. melted butter

Grease two 9 x 5 loaf pans.

Combine 1/4 cup warm water, honey, and yeast. Whisk together and let sit about5 minutes. It will begin bubbling indicating that it is getting happy!

Combine 2 cups whole wheat flour and 2 cups bread flour and salt and 2 1/2 cups of warm water. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and water mixture and continue stiring to combine. Add the rest of the flour, 1 cup of whole wheat and 1 cup of bread flour.

Stir until smooth and gently kneed the dough with your hands, covering your hands with flour before kneeding to avoid having the dough stick to your fingers.

Cover and put in a warm place and let rise for an hour. It will double in size.

After an hour kneed the dough for another 25 strokes and divide the dough in half evenly and place half in each of the loaf pans.

Cover and let rise for another hour and it will once again double in size.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees after 30 minutes and continue to cook for 15 minutes covering the bread with foil to prevent over browing. Bread will sound hollow when you tap on the top. This is a good thing!

After the last 15 minutes, remove the bread from the oven and brush with melted butter. Cool for 15 minutes and serve immediately. These two loaves will serve 16-20 people... Maybe!

Mental Health Tip: Don't freak if someone is running behind or you forget something semi important. It is never too late to grab a bottle of wine, an eggplant, and some lettuce and make any day special. Even if there isn't a special occasion, treat yourself to one. If you don't deserve a special occasion, who does? I mean really. You deserve a Mental Health Day every once and a while. Celebrate your mental stability.. even if you aren't at the moment! :)

Here is to new beginnings from your kitchen from ours!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the kitchen

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