Monthly Archives: January 2011

Moussaka My Way

After celebrating the big 2-9 at a Whole Foods beer dinner followed by a night out on the town with my favorites, this birthday week (obviously?) finished up with an early evening dinner with The Man’s parents last night!

I had the following choices (1) go out to dinner (2) have dinner cooked for me or (3) cook dinner for everyone. 

Obviously my choice was completely not normal but so totally “me” 😛

An old recipe for moussaka unassumingly crossed my path Saturday morning and I just knew that I had to try out my own version of this Greek specialty!

In doing some reading I learned that Greek moussaka (at least the modern version) consists of (1) a layer of eggplant (2) a layer of cooked meat – usually lamb – w/ onion and tomatoes all topped with (3) a creamy béchamel sauce layer.

Triple threat? 😀

Start by slicing the eggplant and sprinkling with a bit of sea salt.  Allow these to sit for about 20 minutes to draw out the moisture before cooking.

Then cook in a very hot pan using olive oil until browned a bit.  I had to do this in batches.

Once the eggplant are done, saute the diced onion in 1 tblsp olive oil for about 5 minutes.  Then add your ground beef and cook until done.  I opted for ground beef vs. lamb, I’m not a big fan of the latter.

The drained tomatoes and garlic go in followed by tomato paste, a few spoonfuls of the reserved tomato liquid (about 4 large spoonfuls), dried oregano, dried thyme, sugar and black pepper.

Then turn down to medium low and let do its thing for about 20 minutes.

At this point you’re ready to make the béchamel – which also has cheese mixed in.  I’m sure there is some technical culinary term for this?

Simply whisk 1/4 cup of the milk plus the flour (over medium heat) until smooth.   Then in goes the rest of the milk followed by the shredded cheese, a little at a time until smooth.  Last add the ricotta, nutmeg and cayanne – whisking until smooth.

Then you’re ready to assemble the moussaka!

Eggplant layer – half of the cooked eggplant.

Meat layer – half of the cooked meat mixture.

Then repeat.

Last layer – cheese sauce aka heaven.

Then baked at 350F for about 45-55 minutes, or until browned on top.

Served up!

With a fresh side salad.

And a warm loaf of fresh bread.

Sunday night dinner at its best!

The moussaka had great flavor, all the spices blended so nicely and the flavors were spot on.  I think The Man’s parents really enjoyed it too – especially after his mom told me she didn’t really like eggplant usually (ooops!) but really enjoyed it in this dish 🙂

Definitely glad that worked out!

Speaking of The Man’s mom, check out this amazing cake she brought over for the birthday dinner.

Per request by moi.

This cake rockssssss!

It has a pineapple layer, a banana pudding layer, a whipped cream layer and the cake portion is super dense and moist.

So. Full. So. Good.

Guess it’s time to snap back into reality and stop eating cake after every meal now that birthday week is over – but wow, was it a good one!! 🙂

Moussaka – CookinFanatic Style

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes, drained & liquid reserved
  • 3 tblsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 3-4 tblsp olive oil, divided

For the cheese sauce:

  • 1 1/4 cup milk (I used 2 percent)
  • 2 tblsp flour
  • 1/2 block mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 container ricotta cheese
  • pinch cayanne pepper
  • pinch fresh nutmeg

Step 1:  Cook eggplant

Salt the sliced eggplant and let sit for 20 minutes.  Then cook in a large pan over medium-high (in batches if necessary) using 1/2 tblsp olive oil, until browned a bit.  Set aside.

Step 2:  Cook meat mixture

Saute onions in 1 tblsp olive oil for about 5 minutes, add ground beef and cook until browned.  Drain any grease if necessary.  Add garlic and drained tomatoes followed by the tomato paste, oregano, thyme, sugar, black pepper and a few spoonfuls of the reserved tomato liquid to make the mixture nice and moist.  Cook over medium low for 20 minutes.

Step 3:  Make cream sauce.

Start by whisking 1/4 cup milk in a hot pan with the flour, until smooth.  Then add the rest of the milk, whisking.  Follow with the shredded cheese, a bit at a time, until melted and smooth.  Lastly, add the nutmeg and cayanne plus the ricotta cheese, stirring until smooth.

Step 4:  Assemble and bake!

Layer half the eggplant on the bottom of a baking dish, top with half of the meat mixture.  Repeat. Top the moussaka with the creamy cheese sauce, pouring over the top.  Bake at 350F for 45-55 minutes, or until browned on the top and set.



Birthday at Balliceaux

Last night was my official birthday celebration!!

Two of my besties from college made it in for the occassion along with my Richmond besties and my favorite foodie ever 🙂

We all met up at a restaurant in The Fan (by my old house) called Balliceaux

I’d really been looking forward to trying this place and was definitely not disappointed!

I did miss my DSLR though 😉

The menu had some phenomenal choices and it was hard to choose an entree, but the Grilled Vegetable Lasagna ended up winning out.

Fresh house made pasta/ eggplant/ mushroom/ zucchini/ roasted garlic pomodoro.


Served with a bed of greens on top, so creative and a great addition of flavor.

‘Twas delicious!

The Man chose the Sesame-Potato crusted Catfish.

Served with spicy grilled sweet potatoes and honey glazed broccoli rabe.  

Even though I really enjoyed my lasagna, I must say that this dish was amazingggggg.  The fish was cooked perfectly and had such a nice crust, the sweet potatoes were divine (and the broccoli rabe was even cleared off his plate).

Wow I’d go back just for this dish!!

To finish things off The Man and I shared a four-layer cake that was the size of my head haha.

Moist & delicious.

Balliceaux was definitely the perfect place to spend some quality time with great friends, such an awesome night! 😀

Oh, and as if the company and the food wasn’t enough, check out these super fun gifts that I was lucky enough to receive too.

(My friends know me too well).

Mexican inspired measuring cups – how freaking outta control cute are these?!?!?!?!

Laura just knows 😉

And this amazingly scented candle which is currently making my kitchen smell like the freshness of spring!

Love it Brittany 🙂

Well I better get back to the kitchen, I’ve got lots of fun things going on in there today including a fun new dinner I’m trying out for tonight (The Man’s parents are coming over!) and dinner prep for tomorrow night…

Can’t wait to share both of these dishes with you guys too! 😀

See you soon!

Italian Chicken Sausage & Cannellini Bean Stew

For some reason on Friday’s I never have a clue what we are having for dinner ahead of time?

I usually only focus on planning Mon-Thurs and just leave the weekend’s food up in the air, I guess I like it better that way! 

Maybe we go out, maybe not?  Maybe it’s a fast dinner, maybe not?

It’s always an adventure either way 😀

As of around 4pm yesterday I was still clueless as to what dinner was going to be… But after a walk through Whole Foods and a random craving for a warm thick stew, I decided on a veggie and chicken sausage medley.

Want to know an easy way to get a certain someone to eat lotsa veggies and even rave about it? 

Make this stew.  Promises.

Italian Chicken Sausage & Cannellini Bean Stew

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 package Italian chicken sausages, chopped
  • 2 red potatoes, peeled & chopped
  • 1 cup orecchiette
  • 4 cups water
  • sea salt & black pepper to taste
  • dried oregano (about 1 tblsp)
  • dried basil (about 1 tblsp)
  • red pepper flakes (about 1 tsp)
  • 1 tblsp olive oil

My ears almost fell off my head when The Man said this was “the best soup (stew) he’s ever had” without me even asking.  A dish full of beans AND veggies, really?  I think someone is finally learning or else I’ve mastered the art of this “hide the beans” & veggies thang 😉

And as if I didn’t believe him, he then proceeded to have 3 bowls.  Who am I to talk though, I had 2.  And a half.

Then immediately fell into a soup coma…

Start by cooking the onion, carrot and zucchini in 1 tblsp olive oil for about 7 minutes until the veggies start to get tender.  Season with salt & pepper.

Add beans, tomatoes, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil.

Then in go the chopped chicken sausages, check out all that flavor in these Lou’s Famous Mild Italian Chicken Sausages!

Not to mention they are all natural (free of nitrates, preservatives and antibiotics) and currently buy one get one free at Whole Foods, score 🙂

In fact, this whole pot of soup came it at under $7 (not counting spices & cheese topping).  Using mainly organic, natural ingredients.  And made about 5 servings!  Who says healthy good food can’t be economical 😀

Let this simmer, covered, until the veggies are tender (stir occasionally).  I think this was about 45 minutes but I lost track of time while hanging out with The Man over some Friday night cocktails?!  <— see, minimal attention required to this dish 😉

Once the veggies are tender add in the diced potatoes, turn up to a boil and cook until close to tender.  This felt like it took forever (I was so hungry!) but in reality I’m thinking about 20-25 minutes.

Then in goes the pasta, cooking according to direction.

Check out the finished product!

What you end up with is a super thick n’ creamy stew without using any fat – who doesn’t love that?!?!

By adding the beans early on, they break down and become super creamy over the cooking time, who knew?!

And you guys all know how The Man “hates beans” right… uh huh.  Favorite stew ever, he didn’t even know they were there 😛

The flavor of the chicken sausages blended into the stew and all the veggie goodness over the longer cooking time –  and oh it was so good! 

Add the melted Monteray Jack on top and it’s just sets things over the edge, oh please don’t skip that step!

Warm, luscious, creamy, comforting, healthy vegetable stew.  What more could you ask for?

This may take a little time to cook (probably an hour and a half total) but I promise you that the end result is so totally worth it.  Plus during that hour and a half all you really  have to do is add food and stir and drink wine… not too much to ask right 😛

Well I’m off to find more of the leftover soup clean up the house and run some errands.  Tonight is celebration night and we have some friends coming into town to join the party – hooray!  Plus I get to see this fabulous lady 😀

Good thing I started my yoga with a relaxing yoga session with The Traveling Yoga Sisters, since I have a feeling tonight’s gonna get a bit crazy 😉

How do you get creative to get a non-veggie-lover in your life to eat their veg?  Any new ideas much welcomed!


Spicy Tomatoes & Eggs

Where did this week go already?  Not that I’m complaining or anything… but woah TGIF! 😛

Oh and it’s about 98% official you guys, remember the super exciting news that I had but couldn’t let loose quite yet (??), well by February 14th that is going to change!

I can’t wait to share this with you friends, it is one of the most exciting things that’s happened in my life and I just want to be able to finally share it 😀

Well let’s move onto the food portion of this show, shall we?

Enter:  Obsession.

Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy (The William and Bettye Nowlin Series in Art, History, and Culture of the Western Hemisphere)

Yep, it’ssssss backkkkkk!

I’ll give you guys the recap of dinner but not going to be able to share the recipes since they aren’t published online 😦

Gotta do the right thing though ya know!

Egg and Masa “Omelet” (torta de huevo con masa)

Can you really go wrong with these ingredients?

Made into a torta on the stovetop!

The perfect accompaniment to this spicy fresh egg dish…

Shoemaker’s Eggs (Huevos zapateros)

A sauce is made using tomatoes, dried chile de arbol, sea salt and epazote, an herb common in Mexican cuisine.

This was my first time using epazote in the kitchen, I really liked the flavor it added.  It was unique and unlike anything I’d ever had.

I also read that it can be toxic in large quantities, after we ate.  So of course was paranoid that I killed us both for a good portion of the night.

The Man must seriously question his life sometimes haha 😛

And don’t worry, the 1/4 tsp I used was perfectly fine after all!

I also got to use my new toy 🙂


I just love the flavor these dried chiles added to the tomato sauce, the perfect kick of spice that is a punch to the tastebuds but then doesn’t linger around.  Perfect 🙂

The eggs were cooked in the sauce until set and voila

Served together they were a match made in heaven!  The egg omelet was so delicious, the flavors of the masa, onion and jalapeno each really shined through. 

Dipped in the spicy tomato sauce with the creamy eggs, my mouth was sayin’ Olé!!! 😉

What a fun and different dinner idea, right?  Plus super economical I might add!

It reminded of a version of this Italian egg & tomato dish that we had a few months back which we also really enjoyed. 

Just reminds me that I need to make dishes like this more often!

Are you adventurous with trying new ingredients in the kitchen? What’s the “weirdest” ingredient you’ve used and ended up loving?!


The Big 2-9!


Well I made it through.  Last birthday in my 20’s, still can’t believe it?!

Only 364 more days until I’m no longer a “20-something” – but who’s counting 😉

Tonight’s birthday celebration was pretty fantastic, and spent at one of my favorite places everrrrr.

Whole Foods Beer Tasting Dinner!!!

Doesn’t get much better. I take that back, it would have been better if Fanatic Mom & Dad were able to make it to celebrate Dad’s birthday as well, but alas it decided to sleet/snow all night and it just wasn’t possible since they don’t live as close as we do 😦

Don’t worry Dad, we drank your share of the beer anyways 😛

Each dish tonight was paired with a feature beer from Victory Brewing Company, a craft brewery located up north in Pennsylvania. 

So, are we ready to drink eat?

Dinner started out with an appetizer of “chips & salsa” which was paired with a pilsner.

This unconventional salsa was a blend of soy sauce, chili paste, cilantro, scallions and maybe a couple other ingredients I didn’t catch.

Served with some sort of fried pita chip, it sure was tasty!

I also really enjoyed the Victory Brewing Company’s Schwarz Pils, it offset the spicy salsa just perfectly and was nice and light.

Next up we were served Chicken Yakitori which was paired with a pale ale.

This chicken dish was a definite winner!  It was my second favorite dish of the night 😀

The peanut sauce atop the chicken had a blend of Asian and Indian flavors which were so good with the cool cucumber salad.  Loved it.

And the Pursuit Pale Ale was actually a model version for the one to be released later this year by Victory Brewing – so fun to get a sneak peak!

Onto my favorite dish and pairing of the night:  Shrimp Spring Roll with a Belgian Triple.

The spring rolls were so light & fresh plus the dipping sauce was just the perfect flavor & spice!  Sriracha, soy sauce & butter I think?

The Golden Monkey Belgian Triple was my favorite beer of the night too, loved it.  It was spiced with coriander too, so cool!

The beer really mellowed out the spicy spring rolls so wonderfully and just had the best taste.  This one was a winner! 😛

The last savory dish of the night was a Korean Taco paired with a barleywine.

Hard shell filled with shredded beef & topped with an Asian slaw of some sort. 

Ehhh, this wasn’t my favorite.  Probably because the Asian slaw contained kimchi which just isn’t my cup of tea.  Oh well!

The barleywine was pretty tasty though and was pretty cool that it had been aged since 2006.  Some beers age well which I found interesting, just like wine!

The Man liked this beer the most I think 😀

Last up was the sweet treat of the night – Gingerbread Napoleans paired with a rich stout.

The combination of gingersnaps, pumpkin goat cheese and brown sugar whipped cream was just divine!  And this is coming from someone who doesn’t really have a taste for goat cheese (I know, I know, but I’ve tried!)

Perhaps the trick is to just mix it with some tasty pumpkin and some sugary goodness 😉

This dessert was really tasty and different and definitely something that would be fun to serve at a party.

The Storm King Stout was a bit rich for my tastes, but I do think that it was a good choice to go with the sugary spice of the dessert.

Overall we had a great time and it was a wonderful way to spend my birthday!  We’ll definitely be going back again.

Well it’s getting very late, I better get some shut-eye… Looking forward to the rest of the week and then some more birthday celebrating this weekend – you know I always have something up my sleeve 😀

Spaghetti w/ Fried Eggs & Roasted Peppers

For Christmas The Man’s parents got me this fabulous book:

And I wouldn’t be lying if I told you that I’ve spent countless hours reading this lil’ treasure already 😀

This book is a not only a collection of Times recipes from the past 150 years but also full of food history outlining the changes in food trends and preparation over the years.

It’s fascinating to me to read the typical menu for a week for a family in the late 1800’s, or recipes dating back from the early 1900’s sent in by every day housewives, or how the basic salad has changed over the years.  Maybe that’s just because I’m such a foodie nerd though, who knows 😉

Amanda Hesser is a fabulous writer – along with each recipe are her little short stories which are so entertaining – and do you know that she tried every single one of the 1,100 recipes in the book?!

Anyways, I’ll stop while I’m ahead here, but if you or anyone you know is a foodie that enjoys reading then I’d highly recommend getting this book.  You seriously won’t be sorry!

Onto tonight’s dinner, which you may have guessed is from this book:

Spaghetti with Fried Eggs & Roasted Peppers

This one immediately caught my eye, I’ve never seen anything like it!

And lucky for me I happened to also find the recipe online, which means I can share it with all of you 😀

Instead of roasting my own peppers I took a weeknight shortcut and bought the ones in a jar.  They also happened to be already marinated in garlic, so I omitted that ingredient from the recipe as well.

I used Panko as the bread crumbs and also modified the amount of olive oil called for, as below.

  • 2 roasted peppers (jar) in garlic, drained & cut into thin strips
  • 1 tblsp salted capers, drained
  • 1 tblsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 3 rounded tblsp Panko bread crumb
  • 2 tblsp tblsp olive oil
  • 3/4 package spaghetti
  • 2 eggs
  • freshly grated Parmesan

In a small baking dish, combine the sliced peppers, capers and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Sprinkle panko on top and set aside.

Do you know that I’ve never cooked with capers before?  In fact I was pretty convinced that I did not like them until tonight…

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Just before it boils, sprinkle 1 tblsp olive oil over red peppers and place in oven for 10 minutes.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente.  After a few minutes scoop out a cup of water and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a pan cook the eggs sunny side up using 1 tblsp olive oil.  You want the whites to set and the yolks to be runny so this only takes a minute or two.

Now here comes the fun part!

Pour the drained hot pasta into a large serving bowl. 

Toss in the warm baked peppers w/ capers & bread crumb – I used tongs but you could also use two forks.

Then add the fried eggs, adding some of the egg cooking olive oil as well. 

As you toss the pasta, break the egg whites into pieces and let the yolks act as a sauce – they will spread over the pasta and cook further from the heat.  Add a little reserved pasta water if it gets too thick ( I needed about another cup).

Serve w/ freshly grated Parmesan cheese and you are ready for a delicious meal!

This was so creamy and rich and really unlike anything I’ve ever had before.  Both The Man and I really enjoyed it!

He says to me:  “this is definitely a restaurant quality meal”…

Not sure how to take that one but I’ll roll with it (??) 😉

Now I just can’t wait to try out more of the fabulous recipes in this book!!!!

Guess it’ll just have to wait until my 29th year though, since all that happens tomorrow….

How did I turn 29 so fast?  Wasn’t I just turning 21?  *sigh*

Age = wisdom.  Right 😛

Tomorrow night we have some fun plans to celebrate both my birthday and Fanatic Dad’s birthday (which was today!) — stay tuned!

#1 of 2011

 Tonight’s dinner ranks as #1 dinner of 2011 thus far.

Yep, #1.

And it took me by total surprise!

Seriously, from the looks of it you would never believe it either… but boy oh boy, looks can be deceiving!  Trust me, you’ll see.

In an attempt to clean out the goods we have in our kitchen, I came up with yet another 5 ingredient recipe.

Albeit a little less conventional than the coconut curry chicken from this weekend, if that even makes sense?

Leftover from Christmas Eve dinner was a lonely can of sauerkraut…

What to do, what to do?

Well, I decided to throw together this blend of flavors and see how it turned out!

  • (1) 1 onion, sliced thin
  • (2) 1 lb. boneless pork ribs
  • (3) 1 apple, thinly sliced & chopped
  • (4) 1 can Bavarian style sauerkraut, drained
  • (5) 1 bottle Yuengling Lager
  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tblsp sugar
  • sea salt & black pepper to taste

Sometimes you just have to go for it and hope for the best 😛

I had never cooked with boneless pork ribs before a few weeks ago, but I’ll tell you that they are a great cut of meat for cooking low and slow and also very economical even from Whole Foods.

Good food on a budget 🙂

Sliced onion.

Boneless pork ribs, chopped into 1″ cubes.

Cooked over medium high heat in 1 tblsp olive oil for about 10 minutes or until the onions turn glossy & golden.

Season with sea salt & black pepper too.

In goes the apple, unpeeled and sliced into thin & small pieces.

Then the can of sauerkraut – drained.

This is actually Bavarian style sauerkraut which has been seasoned with caraway seeds and (yikes!) corn syrup.  Ooops 😉

Can’t win ’em all.  And can’t say this doesn’t taste good!

If you don’t have Bavarian style sauerkraut then you’ll need to add more sugar plus caraway seeds to this dish.

Then a bottle of beer.  Lager to be exact.  Plus the sugar.

Drunken ‘kraut.

Those words just sing to me.

Perhaps it’s the Polish in me 😛

After a good stir, cover and let simmer over low for another hour and a half.  Stir every half hour or so to make sure the liquid doesn’t get too low.

It may seem like a long time, but if you throw this on the stove right after work it will be the easiest thing ever.  And who doesn’t have time for a few minutes of stirring?

After the time is up you will have a pretty colorless pot of food.  Don’t let that deter you however, please don’t at all.

In such a short period of time the pork becomes fall apart tender, I’m talking no knife required.

Perhaps it’s the acidity of the sauerkraut or maybe the apple, or perhaps even the beer, but something(s) worked it’s magic – hey, I’m no scientist 😉

The flavor of this dish was spot on – not like anything I’ve ever tasted but SO very delicious.

Served atop some cheesy mashed potatoes I had stashed in the freezer (these were actually leftover pierogi filling from this adventure, I mean, do I think I’m living during the Great Depression? I swear I don’t throw anything away haha).

Yum. Yum. Yum.

The cheesy potatoes soaked up all the glorious beer infused sauce – I can’t even explain how good this was!

And with temperatures well below freezing here in Virginia (not for long though!) this meal definitely warmed me up from the inside out.

Like I said, we’re not talking pretty, colorful food here (hey, a garden salad on the side will fix that real quick!) but we are talking major MAJOR flavor.

Tangy onions & ‘kraut, sweet sugar & apples, fall apart tender pork plus a light hint of beer.  Oh-em-gee.

I may or may not have called Fanatic Mom while I was eating it to tell her how surprised I was with this dish and talked about it for 5 minutes straight, why does she put up with me? – she can attest to that.

And by the way, I’ve already decided that this will be the dinner to celebrate my belated birthday when my Uncle comes in town (if you’re reading Uncle Donnie, here’s a sneak peak!)…

I have problems – who plans meals 2 weeks in advance?


Oh yea, what birthday?

This girl’s last birthday in her 20’s falls the day after tomorrow *gasp* can’t even believe it! 

And Fanatic Dad’s birthday is tomorrow 🙂

We have a lil’ something up our sleeves to celebrate later this week too — so stay tuned!

Okay I better stop talking/thinking about/eating this ‘kraut dish and go watch The Bachelor already, have a great night!