Menu Anxiety. Not sure what that means? Allow me to describe what it means to live with menu anxiety. 😅 It means ALWAYS googling a restaurant menu, prior to arriving at any eating establishment. (This includes Waffle House. 😂) Downloading restaurant menu pdf's so that you can study it's contents. And if you've ever poured over menu options until you're completely confident that you've selected the perfect meal - you might just have menu anxiety too. 🤣
Living with menu anxiety means always doing my menu homework and preselecting my meal. 🤦🏻♀️ And even though I walk into a restaurant fully prepared and with all the confidence of an olympic athlete headed to the starting line, I rarely end up ordering what I had planned. 😅 Let's just say I'm a sucker for a great daily special. I mean, can I really turn down a crab topped grouper with remoulade sauce? 🐟
So, why do I continue to scrutinize restaurant menus even though I know that I will probably not end up eating the meal that I choose in advance? 🤷🏻♀️ Your guess is as good as mine. Chalk it up to menu anxiety. 😅 Part of my anxiety stems from the fact that I'm nervous that I'm going to order the wrong thing. And by "wrong" I mean, something that I could make for myself - even better - at home. I'm not trying to say that I'm some sort of super chef but I know what I like to eat and I have a more experience cooking for myself than anyone else. 🤣
Eggplant parmesan is one of the meals that I LOVE but I almost never order at a restaurant. Traditionally eggplant in eggplant parmesan is breaded and fried and and smothered in cheese and sauce before baking. There's nothing inherently wrong with that process other than the fact that it comes with a heaping side dish of guilt because of the sky-high calorie count. My homemade eggplant parmesan is just as flavorful and delicious... and it's guilt free. 🙌🏻
Lighter Eggplant Parmesan
2 pounds eggplant, slices 1/4" thick
8 slices white bread, torn into quarters
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup flour
6 Tablespoons oil
3 (14.5) ounce cans diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
Bake 15 minutes at 425.
There's no question that making eggplant parmesan is a labor of love. It does take a commitment of time and let's just say - this is NOT a one pot meal. BUT - if you've ever tasted great eggplant parmesan - you know that it's totally worth the effort.
I regret to report that as careful as we were to take precautions against it, Covid 19 has officially hit the Davis house. 😩 Not to worry though - we're all okay. The virus was very selective in the family members that it chose to inflict. Nonetheless, we tested, we quarantined and we cleaned and sanitized - everything we own. 😷
In an attempt to stay one step of any weird Covid symptoms, throughout our quarantine I also performed daily sensory testing on my poor symptomatic family member. 😬🤣 Can you blame me? I rely on the input of my family to taste test all my food experiments. Let's forget about the fact that this Covid positive family member could lose their sense of smell or taste - I need a food taster. 😅😅😅
I could have filled my house with the intoxicating aroma of fresh apple pie to test my family's sense of smell but instead, I chose to fill my house with the distinctive smell of brussels sprouts. 😂 Brussels Sprouts was an unconventional choice but... in my defense, it worked. The pungent smell of brussels sprouts was immediately detected by Covid positive family member. 😂 And while I was thrilled to know that we all still had our sense of smell, I don't recommend filling your home with brussels sprouts smells if you're going to be quarantined inside for several days in a row. 😬
Have I completely turned you off of brussels sprouts yet? Stick with me. In a surprising turn of events, the family member who was somewhat offended by the strong odor of simmering brussels sprouts, actually agreed to taste them. 🤷🏻♀️ And to my utter amazement - she liked them!! I knew that I would love this vegetable salad but I never dreamed that my family would take more than a single bite. I'm happy to report that with our sense of smell and taste fully intact, we all ate a giant helping of this brussels sprouts salad.
Brussels Sprouts Salad
4 slices bacon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound brussels sprouts, sliced thin
15 ounce can chick peas, rinsed
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Reduce heat, cover and simmer 6-8 minutes. Stir lemon juice into pan.
Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.
I'm a straight forward kind of girl and I like my food to be straightforward too. I don't want to eat cauliflower that's mascarading as potatoes.🥔 I'm not interested in snacking on crispy bits of kale, passing themselves off as chips. 🥬And I certainly don't want to eat squash under a false "pasta" pretense. 🍝
Don't get me wrong - I actually like cauliflower, kale AND squash - I just want my vegetables to be vegetables and my carbs to be carbs. Can we all just stop pretending that vegetables are other things? I don't care how you slice them or what you add to them - beets still tastes like beets. 😅
When I was first introduced to spaghetti squash, I was fooled by its clever name. I wanted to treat the long tender vegetable strands just like their wheat based counterparts. I put it in a bowl and covered it with pasta sauce and served it to my poor unsuspecting family. 🤣 The taste is fine, the problem comes when your brain tries to reconcile the difference between the spaghetti like dish that you see and the vegetable that you taste.
Once I learned to treat my spaghetti squash like the vegetable that it is and not a carb, we got along much better. Southwest Spaghetti Squash and Spaghetti Squash Scampi are some of our favorite ways to eat the delectable gourd. Today, I'm adding Spaghetti Squash with Lemon Cream Sauce to our repertoire. If you're a fan of squash - you will love this.
Spaghetti Squash with Lemon Cream Sauce
1 spaghetti squash, halved crosswise
3 Tablespoons butter
6 fresh thyme sprigs
1/4 cup fresh sage (or 1 teaspoon dried sage)
2 Tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest + 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Sprinkle with thyme and reserved seeds and sage. Serve with cheese.
I got so excited about this squash that I totally forgot to add the cheese. Oh well. It was delicious - even without it. For me, this is a main course but you could serve it as a side dish as well.
December weekends for me, are anything but quiet or calm. Grocery shop, bake, decorate, clean the kitchen, repeat. Throw in a little online shopping and wrapping and you know exactly how I've been spending my days this month. Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining, a hectic schedule = lots of catering orders, just giving you a life update.
The downside of my full calendar is very little "down" time for extra things like taking a shower and brushing my teeth. (Totally kidding - I'm a total fanatic about oral hygiene.🦷) 😁🤣I've figured out that scheduling a December night out - well in advance - is the best way for me to take a break during this busy season.
A couple of months about - I bought tickets to visit the Atlanta Zoo to see the Chinese Lantern festival and last night was the night. It was a balmy, humid 60 degrees but we still carried cups of hot chocolate as we strolled through the zoo lights in our festive t-shirts.
If you live in Atlanta - I highly recommend Illuminights at the Zoo. It's amazing.
When I have lots of catering orders, dinner prep gets pushed to the bottom of the priority list. I try and make extra meals on days when I don't have a full day of baking but those days are far and few between lately. My family's starting to get suspicious of my plan serve the 12 soups of Christmas. 🤣
Hello, Roasted Chili Rellenos with Black Beans. This meal is heathy, I can prepare it in advance and quickly and most importantly - it's super flavorful and delicious.
Roasted Chiles Rellenos with Black Beans
4–6 extra-large poblano peppers, leave whole with stems on
6 ripe, medium Roma tomatoes, cut in half
5 garlic cloves
1 large onion, sliced into ½ inch slices
2 small jalapeños, cut in half
2 Tablespoons olive oil
14 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
6 ounces grated jack cheese or Mexican queso fresco
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ cup fresh cilantro plus more for garnish
1/4–1/2 cup chicken broth
Arrange tomatoes, garlic, onions, jalapenos and poblanos on a sheet pan.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast 30 minutes at 450. Cool.
Place remaining onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic, cumin, coriander, chili powder, oregano, salt, tomato paste, cilantro, broth and pan juices in food processor. Blend until smooth.
Sprinkle with more cheese.
Cover with foil and bake 20-25 minutes at 425. Uncover and bake 5 more minutes.
I was a little hesitant about how these stuffed chilies would be received by my family members who are ultra-sensitive to spicy food. Surprisingly - they love it. I toned down the jalapeños to make it a little more mild and they gobbled it up.
Let's face it. Cheese has gotten a bad rap over the past several years. Dairy as a whole became a trigger word for nutritionists this year. We were warned about the "dangers" of dairy in our diets and challenged to avoid it whenever possible. 😬 I've survived for a quite a while without drinking cows milk but let's be honest - I'm pretty sure I my body would somehow retaliate without cheese. Kidding - sort of. 🤷🏻♀️🧀
What's a football game without a giant platter of nachos smothered in melty cheese? How do you eat bowl of pasta without a hearty dusting of parmesan? How do you warm up on a cold February day without a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup? I can't even picture my life without cheese. Parmesan, gruyere, asiago, mascarpone, burrata - the list of my cheese favorites, goes on and on.
Making cheese straws is a fairly simple process and I really don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get on board. It's a relatively straightforward recipe that requires only a few basic ingredients. Also, I live in Georgia and I'm pretty sure that NOT making cheese straws is grounds for removal from the South. 😂
Even though I was late to the game, I've quickly become a cheese straw fan. They're a great little crispy treat to pair with wine or fruit and they’re a nice little snack to serve in my jar-cuterie. 🤣 Now that I know how to make them, I'm coming up with all kinds of excuses and reasons to make another batch.
2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups flour
8 Tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into 8 pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 Tablespoons ice water
Now that I’ve successfully made exactly one batch of cheese straws, I have complete confidence in my cheese straw ability. 😅I feel like I’m ready to tackle some serious cheese straw challenges. I can make them lactose and dairy free for my friends and family with sensitive stomachs. I could make a batch using Gouda or Gruyere. There’s just no end to the possibilities.
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