Sunday, September 27, 2015

Substitution Sundays - Mayo Grilled Cheese

I am a college student, and as such I have both a limited budget with which to purchase food and  limited cabinet space in which to store that food. Figuring out how to substitute the products that I already have in a variety of cooking and baking experiments is therefore essential. Additionally, these substitutions allow me to try new things and really get creative in the kitchen, which, if you have yet to have figured out, is something I love.

Today's inaugural edition of Substitution Sundays will focus on a simple substitution I tried several years ago. I'm sure most people know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich: slather some butter on one side each of two slices of bread, place one butter-side down in a heated pan, add slice(s) of cheese, top with the second slice of bread, and grill on each side until golden brown with oozing cheese.

However, what do you do when you run out of butter? Using oil wouldn't work because the bread would soak all of it up, leaving you with an extremely greasy sandwich. Mayonnaise, on the ot
her hand, has a significant oil component, but is too thick for bread to absorb particularly quickly. So it works quite well in place of butter! In fact, I prefer it to butter because I think it lends a slight flavor enhancement to the bread. The mayo also works better than the stick butter I buy because it spreads more evenly and browns very nicely.

Now, I understand your skepticism. When I told my friends that I did this, they turned their noses up in disgust. Apparently I am not the only one who has found this to be a great substitution though: BuzzFeed has dubbed it the secret to the perfect grilled cheese! Point proven, thanks BuzzFeed.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Eggplant Pie

When eggplants go on sale for 99 ¢ a pound I get really excited because it means I can make eggplant parmigiana without breaking the bank! However, said dish is a bit time-consuming to make and I only make the effort for one batch. The eggplant that is left over works perfectly for a dish I have decided to call eggplant pie (because I am oh so creative). It's relatively fast and simple to make because you just pile everything into a baking dish and put it in the oven. Sounds like the kind of dish a college student would appreciate, right? Plus, it can easily be made as a vegetarian, or even vegan, meal by simply leaving out the turkey and cheese.

Ingredients (makes 1 8'' baking dish):
1/2 large eggplant
2 large tomatoes
3/4 c broccoli
1/2 medium onion
1/2 small bell pepper
seasoned salt
dried basil
3 hot italian turkey sausages or 1/2 pound ground turkey
1/2  clove garlic
Parmesan or Romano cheese

Start by slicing your eggplant and tomatoes into circles. Line the bottom of your greased pan with half of your eggplant slices and top these with half of the tomato slices.

Chop up the rest of your vegetables, reserving about 1/3 of your diced onion and your garlic for the meat. Layer the tomatoes and eggplant with another 1/3 of the onion, half of the bell pepper, and half of the broccoli. Sprinkle seasonings lightly over these layers.

Now mix the reserved onion and garlic with your meat. If you are using sausages as I did, you will need to remove the casing. This can be done by simply squeezing the meat out or by peeling the casing off. Carefully press the meat into an even layer over the vegetables.

Repeat the process in reverse order, finishing with the eggplant slices on top.

Top with cheese and olives and then bake at 350 °F for 35-45 minutes, or until the meat is fully cooked. Viola! A full meal (or 3) that takes about an hour in total to assemble and cook.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Manchego-Romano Herb Bread

Running out of yeast seemed like an unconquerable problem this weekend, made only
worse by my desire for a grilled cheese sandwich. Sure, I could  have bought some packaged bread from the store, but it wouldn't have been as satisfying. Instead, the Food Network came to my aid with a recipe for parmesan-herb quick bread. No yeast required, but delicious indeed.

The only other problem was that I didn't have parmesan, nor rosemary and thyme. Cue the substitutions. I decided to try out a new cheese last time I was at Trader Joe's and so I used a mixture of manchego and romano in place of the parmesan. Like-wise, oregano and basil work wonders together, just as rosemary and thyme do. I followed the rest of the recipe, minus a few details and ended up with a fragrant and moist bread. I have high hopes for the grilled cheese sandwich(es) to come!

1/4 c greek yogurt
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 3/4 c flour
1/2 c manchego and romano (grated or thinly sliced and chopped)
1 tbsp sugar
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp fresh basil
1/2 tsp each dried oregano, salt, pepper
1 tsp lemon zest

1 small onion
1 tbsp butter
1/2 clove garlic

Slice your onion and mince your garlic as the butter melts in a saute pan. Caramelize these together over medium-low heat (burner setting of 3-5) for approximately 20 minutes.

While the onions cook, preheat your oven to 350 °F and combine your wet and dry ingredients separately. Whisk together the yogurt, sour cream, oil, and eggs. Set aside.

Measure out your flour and add the cheeses, sugar, baking powder, herbs and seasonings, and lemon zest. Mix these ingredients together. Once the onions are a golden color, mix them into the dry ingredients.

Combine both mixtures, making sure to incorporate all of the flour by gently folding the wet ingredients in. Grease a bread pan and transfer the mixture. Bake for 40-50 minutes, allow to cool, then devour.