Sunday, May 27, 2012

Social Fail

When I started blogging, for some reason I had to hide who I was. Maybe it was the fear of internet stalkers (which hasn't happened; everyone I've met from my blog has been super nice), or identity theft (also not happened, although on days when the kids are constantly arguing, I'd be willing to give it a go), or judgement. Probably mostly the latter. Although you might not know it from reading my blog, I'm actually quite a shy person. Meeting new people is always awkward and painful. 

I often feel like I was in the wrong line when people were being given the rules of proper social behavior. I was probably in the line for "how to make really weird faces at yourself in the mirror" or "how to start 102 brilliant projects and never finish them." When I'm at a party it seems like everyone else studied the party handbook beforehand and magically knows smooth, witty, and appropriate things to say. I, not having the handbook, stand in a corner wishing there was a dog to pet until forced to talk to someone. Then my mind goes blank, my palms sweat, and I wish desperately for cue cards to tell me what to say.

Even though I'm terrible at meeting new people, Jesus keeps sending me people who are kind, tolerant of my lack of social skills, and willing to befriend me. And the great thing is that they aren't just like me. It would be comfortable, but very dull, if all of my friends were clones of me. Instead, I've met ladies who are great at organizing, wonderful at interior design, fabulous gardeners, amazing encouragers, wise teachers, and absolutely bedrock, steadfast, loyal friends.

The sad thing for me is that a lot of these friends live far away. Some in different time zones. One even lives on a different continent. Talk about not convenient for girls' night out!

I have a dream that all of my favorite people could live within 10 minutes of my house. Then I could have baking dates on a moment's notice, and there would always be someone able to come over and watch a movie and drink wine with me, plus I could have a party and not break out in hives.

If the party was a dinner party, this is what I'd make. Eggplant parmesan. It's amazing. My family was unsure about eggplant. It wasn't something I'd ever made with success before, but this recipe is fabulous. When I showed a friend recently how to make it, since it's her husband's favorite, the report came back that he loved it and said it was the best he'd ever had!

I think, since my friends are so spread out, this will have to be a virtual dinner party. You're invited! If you'd like to come to my party, let me know in the comments section. To go with the eggplant parmesan, we'll need some bread, salad, appetizers, beverages, and, of course, dessert. Tell me what you're bringing and give a link, please, if it's something you've blogged.

Eggplant Parmesan
 - adapted from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook

3 cups Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
1-1/2 lbs eggplant
1-1/2 cups almond meal
1 tsp sea salt
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp water
Olive oil
2 cups freshly grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1- Make Tomato sauce and set it aside. Pour 1 cup of sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, spreading it evenly.

2- Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. with a rack in the center of the oven.

3- Remove the skin from the eggplant. A paring knife or a vegetable peeler work equally well for this. If you don't have texture issues with the skin, you can skip this step.

4- Cut the eggplant into 1/4-inch thick slices. Making the slices the same thickness is important, so they will cook evenly.

5- In a broad, low bowl, combine the almond meal and salt.  In another bowl, combine whisk together the eggs and water. Place a large skillet (I used my cast-iron skillet) over medium-high heat.

6- Dip the eggplant slices in the egg mixture, then into the almond meal mixture, coating it evenly.

7- Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in the pan. When it's hot enough that a little almond meal dropped in the oil makes bubbles, place the coated eggplant slices in the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes  until the bottom is golden brown, then flip them over and cook another 3-5 minutes.

8- Remove the cooked slices from the pan and place them in a layer in the bottom of 9 x 13-inch pan.

9- Continue cooking batches of the eggplant slices, adding more olive oil as needed. When you have about half of the slices in the baking pan, cover that layer with 1 cup of the Tomato Sauce and sprinkle 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese over that.

10- Continue cooking the eggplant slices and placing them in the pan. When all of the remaining slices are in the pan, cover that with the remaining sauce and mozzarella.

11- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the edges are bubbling. Remove from the oven and top with grated Parmesan cheese before serving.

Tomato Sauce
  - makes 3 cups

14 oz tomato paste
2 cups water
1 Tbsp herbes de Provence (do not skip this ingredient! It makes the dish!)
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp minced garlic

1- Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thicker. (It will spatter a lot while it simmers, so if you have a spatter screen, now is the time to use it. Unless you enjoy having your kitchen look like a crime scene.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fittin' In

In high school the ultimate goal was to blend. Standing out for any reason was a social faux pas. We didn't have an official school uniform, but we might as well have. The accepted look was a turtleneck with Levi cords (corduroy pants). Wrangler cords were not OK. Sears cords were right out. The hair was worn long, straight, parted in the middle, with two wings pulled back on the sides and held in place with plastic barrettes.

Somewhere in about my junior year I realized this was lame.

Why obsess about conforming to the ideals of  other people, most of whom I either didn't know or didn't like? I started wearing wild things that made me happy (4" heels, sparkly sweaters, and straight-legged jeans) and doing crazy things to my hair. I figured if people shunned me for being different, they weren't any kind of friend to begin with. And I actually met some new friends who complimented me on my bold fashion choices.

What I realized is that fear of what other people thinks is stifling. It stifles creativity and smothers initiative. If all you ever strive to be is just like everyone else, you will never achieve or be more than any of the herd.

My daughters have recently become obsessed with amazing leggings. My granddaughter calls them "awesome pants" (pronounced pahnts). They love the creative designs, the wild patterns, the wonderful fit, and just how awesome they feel when they wear them. And it's just a bonus when they see the haters hatin' because, really, if someone can make their face look like a desiccated prune, would they want to be friends with them anyway?

The recipe I have for you today is kind of like Awesome Pahnts. It doesn't really fit in anywhere. It's kind of a pancake, but it's grain-free. It's got vegetables, so it's kind of a side dish. But you top it with sour cream and salsa and you can call it lunch. However you choose to eat it, it's terrific! Kind of crispy, spicy, and satisfying. Before you judge it and decide to hate it, try it. You just might like it.

Southwestern Zucchini Cakes
 - adapted from Eat Like a Dinosaur
     serves 3 to 4

1 medium zucchini, peeled and grated (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 egg
2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp coconut flour
3 Tbsp coconut oil, more if needed
Plain, whole milk, organic yogurt

1- Place the zucchini in a mesh strainer set over a bowl. Sprinkle the zucchini with salt and let drain for 30 minutes. Squeeze the zucchini with your hands to get as much of the moisture out as you can. (This is a fun job for a child with clean hands to do.)

2- Place the squeezed (squoze? squozen?) zucchini on a paper towel and press to remove moisture.

3- Combine the zucchini, egg, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, and coconut flour in a bowl. Mix till well combined. (Again, this is a fun job for little clean hands.)

4- Place the coconut oil in a frying pan set over medium heat.

5- Divide the mixture into either thirds or fourths (depending on how big you want the patties or how many people you're serving). Shape each portion into a patty, about 3-4 inches across and 1/2 inch thick.

6- Cook the cakes about 6-8 minutes per side until golden brown.

7- Serve topped with generous dollops of yogurt and salsa.