Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Olive Oil Roasted Eggplant with Lemon and Garlic

   I've never really liked eggplant, but we've been getting it in our weekly farm share for a few weeks now so I figured I needed to find something to do with it. The obvious dish most people tell me to put it in is eggplant parmesan, but I wanted to do something different with it that didn't involve hiding its flavor with tomatoes/tomato sauce. After doing some research, which involved chatting with a guy at the farm and googling recipes, I combined all of the information I found and was able to create a little slice of eggplant heaven.

   WARNING: This is not my recipe. I do not know the how's and why's of this recipe, I merely did as I was told. So if you read the recipe and develop questions, such as, "Why do we have to let the eggplant sweat?" or "Why do we cut the eggplant skin into stripes?" I'm sorry, I can't help you. Consult with someone who knows what they are doing in the kitchen (and has experience cooking with eggplant).  

Olive Oil Roasted Eggplant with Lemon and Garlic

  • 1 large eggplant
I was told that the eggplant on the left is an Italian Eggplant and the one on the right is an Asian Eggplant. I used both for this recipe and although they both tasted delicious, I think I prefer the Asian Eggplant.
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Basil
  • Minced garlic

1. Peel Eggplant in stripes with peeler. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise, then cut each half into quarters lengthwise. Sprinkle Eggplant with salt and let “sweat” for ½ hour. Drain, rinse with water, pat dry with paper towels.

Eggplant sweat.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease.

3. Peel garlic and mince in food processor.

Peeled garlic.
4. Cut eggplant into small flat strips. Place the eggplant onto the baking sheet with the skin side down. Brush each piece with olive oil and season with minced garlic, basil, and pepper.

Minced garlic and olive oil mix.
5. Roast in the preheated oven until softened and the garlic is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven.

6. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Serve hot.

  What makes this dish so delicious for me is the contrast in the crunchy garlic and the soft eggplant. I also really love the citrus element of the lemon squeezed on top. Without it, I think the garlic would be too strong. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!

   To see the original recipe that inspired part of this recipe, visit http://allrecipes.com/recipe/olive-oil-roasted-eggplant-with-lemon/ 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Bend & Chesterfield Gorge

   I first heard about The Bend in West Chesterfield from a friend. She recommended it as a great swimming spot for the family. I got on Google and did a little research and read that it had a tiny strip of sand for sandcastles and that it was perfect for a cool dip in the Westfield River. I couldn’t wait to visit it!

   Finding it was a little tricky. If you are coming from the Northampton area, you take Route 9 through downtown Williamsburg, and then turn left onto Chesterfield Road (Route 143). You take this for several miles into Chesterfield and then (after going across a bridge) take a left onto Ireland Street. Around half a mile down the road you will pass a yellow house on your left (I think there were two yellow houses and it was the second one, but I could be wrong about that) and immediately to the right of that house is a dirt road that looks like the driveway for the yellow house. Turn left on that road (it isn’t marked with anything). You will think that you are in someone’s driveway and that it isn’t the right road but it will go behind the house and down a little hill. You will come to a fork in the road with a sign on a tree and you will want to go on the road to the left (I’m not sure what would happen if you take the road on the right…that might lead to the parking lot as well, but I didn’t try it out). You will drive down to a little parking area that has a little clearing in the trees that will lead you to the “beach.”

A view from the parking lot to the path that leads to the river.

   I couldn’t really find the strip of sand that I read about, but I did find a whole lot of rocks. Lots and lots of rocks! There was only one other person there when I arrived, but more adults started to show up later on. There were no children under the age of (roughly) 16 years old. After talking to some of the locals, it was determined that the current “beach” was a result of last year’s hurricane. Apparently, last year (and in the years prior) the water level was much higher and there was more sand and the rocks were all under water. I have to admit that I was disappointed in the lack of sand and also with the swimming. The water got really deep really fast and the rocks were a little difficult to walk on. My son had NO interest in going in the rocky water. I highly recommend bringing water shoes for your child if you want them to go in! But it was still beautiful to look at and my son did  have a fun time playing with the rocks and throwing them into the water.

The "beach"

   My opinion of The Bend is that it is a fun place for an older crowd to spend the day and go swimming. It’s also a beautiful place for picture taking and getting your feet wet. But I didn’t think it was very child-friendly as far as swimming goes (although I’m sure there are many hardcore locals that will disagree with me). Perhaps I was misinformed about what to expect or maybe it has changed drastically in the past year. Maybe I'm just spoiled from playing on the beaches of the Great Lakes (like Tawas Bay on Lake Huron!) when I was little, who knows. I wish that I could have seen The Bend before the hurricane hit. Maybe then I could give a fair assessment.

    After we left The Bend, we took a left back onto Ireland Street. Shortly down the road we turned left again to see the Chesterfield Gorge (there was a sign for it). There’s a small fee to park (so make sure you bring some cash). There is a wire fence and path that runs along the side of the cliff. There were a lot of people out walking their dogs. I’ve heard rumors of people swimming in the Chesterfield Gorge, but I couldn’t figure out how they would get down to the water. I didn’t hike very far because I had my son with me, so I’m not sure what I would have discovered if I would have kept going down the path. The sights were beautiful though and I had a great time taking pictures!

   Although I had a successful picture-taking morning, my poor child didn’t get much of a chance to swim so we stopped at (one of our favorites) Musante Beach in Leeds. We swam, relaxed and enjoyed the rest of our afternoon!

   Even though I was a little disappointed with The Bend, I’m still glad that I had a chance to visit it. Please write in if you know of any additional hidden swimming spots! I love to go exploring!

   For more information about the Chesterfield Gorge, visit http://www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/pioneer-valley/chesterfield-gorge.html. For more information about Musante Beach visit http://www.northamptonma.gov/recreation/Musante_Beach/.         

Thursday, July 19, 2012

More Inspirational Quotes

   Recently, a coworker of mine shared some great quotes with me. They were really inspiring. It made me think about asking some more of the people I know for their favorite quotes...so stay tuned for more! I just love learning from other people! They can teach you so much! I get more of an education studying people than from all of the books I read in college.

From The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

“In the course of my observation, these disputing, contradicting & confuting people are generally unfortunate in their affairs. They get victory sometimes, but they never get Good Will, which would be of more use to them.”

“Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a big ship.”

“Wise men learn by others’ harms, fools scarcely by their own."

From Looking Out for Number One by Robert J. Ringer

“You can lose battles and still win the war.”

“Repetition raises doubts in the minds of those whom you’d like to leave an impression. Say it once, say it firmly.”

“Beware of the one thing the person talks the most about. It’s probably the one thing hi can’t handle.”

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

“When you’ve got something good going, shut up.”

“One moment can produce a lifetime of regret.”

“The best investment you can make is to improve your worth to other people. If all else fails, those who have the greatest demand will have the trading power.”


Monday, July 16, 2012

A Success Story

   "Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result." -Oscar Wilde

   I know a lot of my posts have been about food recently, but I just can't help myself! I'm obsessed with learning how to become a better cook! I just feel like it's something that every "adult" should know how to do, like it's a rite of passage into fully becoming a grown up. I've come a long way with my cooking, but I haven't mastered it yet. So I'm going to keep trying new things and see what I can come up with.

   Monday is farm share pick up day (as mentioned in prior posts) so I'm always inspired to do something with all of the fresh delicious vegetables that I get. Normally, my husband makes a tasty stir-fry, but he wasn't here to cook this evening so I was left to make the stir-fry. For those of you who are experienced cooks, you are probably thinking, "Stir-fry is the easiest thing in the world to make. What's hard about that?" But for me, it was really intimidating. It's a lot of cooking all at once and I had questions like, "How will I know when the vegetables are done?" and "What should I put on them?" I've watched my hubby make stir-fry a million times but I had never attempted it myself. Tonight was the big night and I couldn't be happier with the results. Warning: this is more about my success story and less about the actual recipe, so sorry about the measurements and timing instructions.

   First, I threw my rice (jasmine) in the rice cooker so that it could cook while I was cooking everything else.

   Then I washed and chopped my vegetables. My veggies today included snow peas, broccoli, and zucchini.

   Then I drained my tofu (extra firm) and pressed it between some sheets of paper towel to get out all of the liquid. I let it sit on the towels for a little while just to absorb the extra moisture.

   Then I ground up some ginger and few cloves of garlic in the mini food processor. I added this to some soy sauce and set it aside.

   I heated up some olive oil (extra virgin) in a skillet on the stove (on high) and cut up my tofu and threw it in. I sprinkled a little salt a pepper on it. I cooked it until the side touching the pan was starting to brown, then I turned the cubes. I salted and peppered them again and let them cook. I continued to rotate the tofu until all sides of the cubes were lightly browned. I like my tofu soft on the inside and "crunchy" on the outside, so this method worked perfectly! I put the tofu in a bowl, covered it and set it aside.

   I heated up (on high) some olive oil in the wok and then threw in the vegetables. I threw on the ginger/garlic/soy sauce mixture and mixed them up well. I put the lid on and let them cook for awhile. I removed the lid a few times while cooking to stir everything up (and make sure it wasn't burning). I'm not sure how long I actually cooked it, but I continued to test the vegetables (by eating them) at various times to see if they were cooked enough. Once they were soft but firm, I removed them from the heat and added the tofu and some more soy sauce. I then put everything over rice. The result was delicious!

    I'm pretty proud of myself. I conquered one of my fears tonight. I didn't really know what I was doing, but I remembered a lot of what I had observed my husband do and I winged it. I got a rave review from one of the harshest food critics out there: my 6 year old son. I believe his words were, "Mom, if you had a restaurant, you'd have a lot of fans. I'd eat there a lot." I think that says it all folks! Good luck conquering your fears and hopefully you too will have a success story to tell the world about! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mom's Meatloaf

   How cute was my mom as a baby? She was (and still is) beautiful! I love my mom! My mom was not the world's greatest cook, but she did have a few dishes that I loved. One of them was, surprisingly, meatloaf. I'm going to share with you her meatloaf recipe so that you can do some loving on my mom too! She deserves it!

1 lb. Ground Beef
1 Egg
4 Pieces of Bread (Torn into small pieces)
1/2 Onion (chopped very small)
1 Garlic Clove (minced)
A Couple Squirts of Ketchup
A Pinch of Basil
Salt & Pepper to Taste
A Few Table Spoons of Brown Sugar (to taste)
Cooking Spray
(Sorry about some of the not-exact measurements)

1.Preheat oven to 400. 
2. Mix everything (excluding the brown sugar) together until it starts to stick together. Form a small loaf.
2. Place in cooking dish sprayed with cooking spray and put in the oven for 40 minutes.
3. After 40 minutes, mix together the brown sugar and a few squirts of ketchup and spoon on top of the loaf.
4. Cook an additional 10 minutes.

   You can also throw a potato in the oven to cook while the meatloaf is cooking and they'll be done around the same time. It's a great side dish.

   Another variation of cooking (which we LOVE and do all of the time) is to form little balls with the meatloaf mixture and cook them in a muffin pan (sprayed with cooking spray). This way, all of your little meatloaf balls are nice and crunchy (and the perfect serving size)! Delicious! I hope you'll enjoy this recipe as much as my family has!  

Monday, July 9, 2012

DAR State Forest in Goshen & Contest Winner!

   I went swimming at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in Goshen over the weekend. It was beautiful! I was surprised at how many people were there. For my Michigan friends, it reminded me of Holly Recreation area. It had a beach area for swimming and a campground for camping. We definitely want to go back and try out some camping!

   I took a few shots of the beach (didn't have the nice camera with me, sorry).

   But let's get to the good stuff, right? The winner's name I drew for the $20 gift card was...Stefanie Ansanitis! Thank you Stefanie for supporting the blog! I may have another contest next month, so stay tuned! Remember, you double your chances of winning when you follow the blog through both Blogger and Facebook! Thanks again for reading!

To find out more about the DAR visit http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/western/darf.htm.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sangar General Store (And a chance to win a $20 gift card!)

   Happy Fourth of July! I have a present for you (well, two actually). Are you ready for the first one? The first present I have for you is pure gold! It is one of the Berkshires' best kept secrets for delicious food. But I am going to share it with you because that's what I do, share the things I love about Western Massachusetts! The secret is Sangar General Store in Windsor. Sure, from MA-9 it looks just like any other gas station/convenience store. But what it has inside is like nothing else. It has Prem L. Sangar and she makes the most delicious Indian food I've had in Western Massachusetts. I heard about Sangar by word of mouth. I was told to keep it a secret, but after eating the food there was no way I was going to keep this gem a secret.

   My family made the 25 mile drive out to Windsor this morning not really knowing what to expect. We purchased a few samosas and tamarind sauces and headed back home. Once we got back home, we popped the food in the oven for a few minutes. After one bite, we were sold!

   The food was SO good that I immediately called and ordered more food to pick up later in the day for tomorrow night's dinner. That's right, I made the trip TWICE in one day! It was THAT good! Some of the other food that I ordered included chana saag, gobi masala, parathas, mint chutney, and of course more samosas! Please make the trip out to see this place. You will be glad that you did! Mrs. Sangar is a lovely little woman and an amazing cook! Her Indian food is the best (and it's also all vegetarian)! Go check it out and tell her Lisa sent you!

   Your second present is a chance to win a $20 gift card to a local food store! All you have to do is sign up to follow this blog through the Blogger site or like us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MusingsInMass). If you do both, you will be entered twice for a chance to win. That's easy, right? You have until Sunday to sign up. Then on Sunday night I will do a drawing and announce the winner on Monday. If you are already signed up, you are immediately included in the drawing. I realize that some of my readers are not from the Western Massachusetts area. So if one of you are chosen, I will get in contact with you and figure out what larger chain food stores might be in your area (Whole Foods, Trader Joes, etc.). Good luck and thank you for reading!

   Sangar General Store can be found at 1895 Route 9 in Windsor. It is on the corner of MA-9 & 8A. If you are coming from the Northampton area, you simply take MA-9 West/Haydenville Road for about 25 miles. To call ahead and place an order, call (413) 684-3737.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Broccoli Rabe (Attempt One)

   Tonight, I have for you a sad story, a tragedy. The title of this tragedy: Lisa In the Kitchen. Most who know me know that I am not a good cook (there are infamous stories that I will not share from my newlywed days of my attempts to impress my husband with recipes that went awry from a Barbie cookbook). I've come a long way, but I'm always learning...and making mistakes in the process. Well, today was our farm share pick up day and I was delighted to discover that our share included Broccoli Rabe.

   For those of you who are not familiar with broccoli rabe, it is a somewhat bitter leafy green with little yellow flowers. The last time my husband cooked it, it was amazing! So tonight, I got brave and thought that I would try to cook it by myself. Well, the whole process took a turn for the worse the minute I turned on the stove. I couldn't figure out how to lock the food processor to chop the garlic, I overboiled the broccoli rabe, I didn't check to see if we had lemons (a necessary ingredient) before I started, and I diluted the soy sauce, which I wasn't supposed to do. Major fail. Luckily, my husband came to the rescue and managed to turn it into something edible.

   I will not share my husband's recipe (mostly because I don't know the details/amounts of the ingredients he used the first time), but I will share a recipe that I found on www.myrecipes.com that is very similar.


2 pounds broccoli rabe (rapini), trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper


1. Cook broccoli rabe in boiling water 6 minutes or until crisp-tender.
2. Drain and plunge broccoli rabe into ice water; drain. Coarsely chop.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Stir in broccoli rabe, salt, and peppers.

   I was hoping to be able to share more of a success story along with a recipe with specific instructions, but unfortunately this will have to do. I plan on watching more broccoli rabe get cooked later this week, so hopefully I will have a better recipe to share later on. Until then, enjoy!