It has been a while (too long!) since I have updated; it’s been a busy time. In the past 2 months, I finished writing my senior thesis, passed my baccalaureate exam, and graduated! I also packed up my whole life and for the next few weeks I’m in limbo in my hometown. Before I know it, I’ll be celebrating my birthday (22!) and then moving to upstate New York!
I did manage to sneak in a little bit of cooking during the last weeks of school and I thought I’d post a few of the recipes, to make up for not posting in a while.
The theme for today’s recipes is red! A marinara-based pasta dish and red velvet cupcakes, to be precise. Let’s start with supper: the night that I made this, I didn’t have a definite idea in my mind what I wanted to make. The Boyfriend and I recently started shopping at a more expensive grocery store with a better selection. To handle the price difference, we bought our produce at a local flea market and then bought whatever proteins looked great and were on sale. This meant that we’d often make recipes up on the fly with whatever we had in the fridge. One such night, I decided to use up the eggplant in the fridge and I made a dish that I dubbed Spicy Pig-plant Pasta (okay, the name could probably use some work).
- 1 eggplant
- 1 jar pasta sauce (I used Barilla’s Sweet Pepper)
- 1 lb spicy Italian ground pork*
- 1 spring onion, chopped, white and green parts separated
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4-6 oz of mushrooms
- olive oil
- spices (dried oregano, thyme, garlic, red pepper etc)
- 12 oz pasta, cooked
*Our pork was originally store-packaged as links but the meat counter guy took the casings off for us. You can get regular ground pork if the spicy Italian style is not available or if you’re not a fan of spicy food.
- Start by roasting your eggplant. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Slice the eggplant lengthwise. Cover a baking sheet with foil and drizzle it with some olive oil. Rub some seasonings (oregano, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper) on the cut side of the eggplant. Place cut-side down onto the oiled baking sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes or until eggplant skin is slightly browned and shriveled. Place eggplant halves cut-side down in a colander and let drain and cool, about 20 minutes.
2. Heat a little bit of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, the white part of the spring onion, the mushrooms and the garlic; cook about 5 minutes.
3. Add the ground pork to the skillet. Cook until pork is almost done, about 3-5 minutes.
4. Turn the heat down to medium and add the jar of sauce to the skillet. If you want to adjust the flavor of the sauce, add thyme, rosemary, oregano, or red pepper to taste.
5. Let sauce simmer about 5 minutes or until pork is cooked through and sauce is warm. Serve over noodles with parmesan cheese on top, if you wish.
Before this dish, my boyfriend swore to me that he’d never enjoy eggplant. He quite enjoyed this dish, but that may have more to do with the fact that he loves spaghetti and “didn’t even notice” the eggplant. Although I suppose it is still a good way to sneak in extra veggies!
And now for dessert. After our baccalaureate exams my friend KK and I decided that we needed to make authentic red velvet cupcakes. We’d both been craving them for weeks and with all of the extra time on our hands we had to make them! I got the recipe from a Yahoo article about the 8 essentials for an “authentic” red velvet cake. In case you’re curious, those essentials are: the cake must have some cocoa, but not too much because it is not a chocolate cake; the cake must have red food coloring; the cake must have cream cheese frosting; there should be pecans; you must use high-quality ingredients; it must be made in small, easy-to handle, family-sized batches; you must use a hand-held electric mixer, not a stand mixer, so that you don’t over mix the batter; and red velvet cake batter needs vegetable oil, not butter or shortening to yield a moist cake. Well, we might have broken a rule or two (we didn’t use pecans and I bought the most cost-effective ingredients rather than the most expensive) but the cupcakes could not have been better!
Here is Paula Deen’s recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons red food coloring
- 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. 4. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer.
5. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
6. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 pound cream cheese, softened
- 2 sticks butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth.
- Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated.
- Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.
Another integral part of our cupcake-making/de-stressing evening was playing with kitties! I have 2 adorable boy cats; while we waited for the cupcakes to bake, we got our quota of kitty cuddles! We played with them and petted them but as soon as the cupcakes were out of the oven, we only had eyes for them.
This post is cleansing for a few reasons. First because it is the first post I have written as a college graduate! Finally all of the stress of school and thesis and statistics is off my back and I can focus on the immediate future. Speaking of, this will probably be the last post I write until I move to NY; once I get settled, I hope to update the blog several times a week rather than once a month.
This post is also cleansing because I am cleaning myself up and trying to lose a little weight, get a little healthier, before I move. So for the past 2 days I have been on a juice cleanse and tomorrow I start The Master Cleanse. The Master Cleanse is a detoxifying cleanse has you drinking 6-12 glasses of “spicy lemonade” a day. The “lemonade” is 10 ounces of water + 2 tbsp lemon juice + 2 tbsp real maple syrup + cayenne pepper (although it sounds gross, I have heard that it’s pretty good; I’ll know for sure tomorrow!). I’ll be drinking the “lemonade” and working out and hopefully I can detox my body of all of the stress and nastiness of thesis year–no more daily Taco Bell runs! With the cleanse and then moving out of state I feel like I really am starting a new life–wish me luck! And good luck to you in all of your endeavors.