Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Eggplant Rollatini

A few days ago, I found beautiful eggplants in sale at my grocery store. I purchased two of them with the intention of making Eggplant Parm for dinner. However I also had on hand a quart of ricotta cheese an decided that I would attempt to make eggplant rollatini instead.

2 large purple eggplants, skin on, washed and dried
1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce
2 cups of mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp basil, dried or fresh basil leaves washed and shredded
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Slice the eggplant lengthwise 1/4 - 1/3 inch thick. If you cut the leaf end off first and make it flat, you can easily cut the eggplant slices by standing it on end. Divide the Olive oil between two jelly roll or lipped cookie sheets. Line with foil first and you have easy clean-up. Place the eggplant slices in the oil on the pan and flip so they are coated with the oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 12-15 minutes on each side, flipping halfway through so they are just starting to turn brown for a total of 24-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Drop the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

While the eggplant slices are baking, in a medium bowl blend the eggs, ricotta, 1 cup mozerrella cheese and the various seasonings together until smooth. Once the slices have cooled, spoon the filling onto each slice and roll up. Pour 1/3 of the sauce into the bottom of the baking pan and arrange the eggplant rolls in the pan. Cover with the sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes, uncovered. Remove from the oven and allow to set for 5 minutes before serving.
I served mine over fresh cooked angel hair pasta and with a side salad for the perfect dinner.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Do you consider Quilting A Winter Sport?

Now that winter has really settled in here in New Jersey where I live, I find myself wondering if Quilting can be considered A Winter Sport? Do you find yourself quilting more because it's wintertime?

I have noticed on many of the social media websites, including FB, Pinterest and others that there seem to be more pictures of finished quilts in the last few weeks and have to wonder if it's because of the cold weather. I know personally, I seem to make more quilts in the winter and hottest months of the summer when I am less likely to spend time outdoors in my garden and traveling. Maybe it's because we just got past the biggest holiday season of the year and perhaps many quilt makers were on holiday and found time to sew. Maybe it's because we received gift cards to quilt shops and fabric stores and we have enjoyed spending them to create new quilts or finish old ones that were waiting for the right moment to complete.

It's also possible that some of us made Resolutions to finish works in progress before starting new ones. I don't necessarily believe that is the case because most of the quilts I am seeing posted online are made from new fabrics and patterns.

It could be that quilt show season is right around the corner and some of you are wanting to finish your quilts in time to submit them to be juried into upcoming shows in 2015. If that is the case, then I look forward to seeing your beautiful creations both online and in person at shows throughout the country.

A couple of days ago, I blogged about The sport of Gymnastics. Hopefully all of you are making time to flex your quilting muscles and skills and practice your sewing routines. I enjoy reading other blogs, posts and seems NG pictures and comments about quilts online. I especially love seeing them at guild meetings and quilt shows.

I would love to hear from you on how your quilting productivity may be affected or influenced by the seasons. I can tell you I am seeing more flannel backed quilts this time of year.

Friday, January 9, 2015

NCAA Gymnastics Season is finally here

Friday, January 9th, 2014 marks the opening meet of the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Season. Many of you know that I follow women's gymnastics because I have a 21 year old niece that is a competitive gymnast. She attends NC State University and competes for the Wolf Pack. Their opening meet against Denver is Friday evening at 7 p.m.

Lane has been doing the sport of Gymnastics since she was 4 years old. This year will be her last year because she is a senior and will be graduating in May. I have loved every minute of watching her compete, practice, travel to cool places and do her thing. She is tall for a gymnast at 5 feet 7 inches in height, but those long legs are graceful and strong, yet lean and gorgeous. Its sheer joy to watch her compete. This year she is expected to compete in the all-around which means she will be doing all four events. She has always excelled on the floor and beam and has also done well on the vault and most recently bars. Besides being a senior and the captain of the NCSU WolfPack, she maintains a high grade point average and and great attitude. I am in awe of everything this 21 year old has accomplished in just over two decades of her life.

Lane and her younger team mates are ranked first in the EAGL conference. I love attending the meets in person but am thankful that both ESPN and the college networks televise the meets so we can watch when attending in person isn't an option. Its not as exciting watching it at home, but I have to commend NC State on how they feature all of the gymnasts from each school and not just their own team as many of the other universities tend to do. This means anyone can watch the meets and enjoy the full competition. There are several extraordinarily talented juniors, including Michaela and Brittany as well as a rather impressive freshmen class that will compete.

If you have never been to a college gymnastics meet, you should go and take your little local gymnast with you to experience it first hand. Its very exciting to watch and cheer on the gals that are competing. I don't say this because I have a family member that is a gymnast. I can tell you that these gals, their coaches, and families have all worked very hard to get to this level of sport. Its a shame there are no 'professional' gymnastics teams or college draft rounds for gymnastics like we have for football, baseball and basketball. Once the 4 years is up, these girls move on to careers and lives, often outside of the gymnasium and they have very successful careers most of the time. There are many local gymnastic teams in the Raleigh area that come to every home meet and cheer on the team. Then they wait patiently after the meet to get the girls autographs. Some are lucky to catch a NCSU gymnastics tee-shirt that the girls scoring 9.0 or above throw into the crowd for each event. They look up to these athletes and hope to be like them some day.

I believe gymnastics has taught the girls the importance of being on time, being responsible, how to compete and be part of a team, being organized and never giving up. The discipline it takes to be a top notch student and a competitive gymnast must be something each one of them is born with or learns at an early age. Not only do they focus on nutrition and fitness, but they also learn to give back to society by helping others in need as often as they can. They train hard year round, not just during the season. They suffer injuries and bounce back. They have many NCAA rules that they must follow and adhere to if they are on scholarship. They work hard for about 6 minutes of competition time each week during regular season.

I wish the Wolf Pack a great 2015 Gymnastics season and hope that some of you will be able to watch a meet. Their schedule can be found at: http://www.gopack.com/sports/w-gym/sched/ncst-w-gym-sched.html

#packgymnastics #gopack #wolfpack #2015gymastics #golane

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Suet Cakes are for the Birds

I have always been a bird watcher. I love having a bird bath and feeders outside to draw these winged creatures To my back and side yards. I have at least a dozen bird houses on my property which always have tenants living in them throughout the year.

This time of year, it's very hard for the bird to find sources of fresh water and food. Recently, I decided to make some suet cakes from scratch for them because they have been going through the loose seed very quickly now that the weather is colder.

Here is what I did. I went to the grocery store and talked to the butcher. I asked if they had any beef fat or suet that I could buy to make bird suet cakes. He looked at me and asked how much I wanted as he stood there by a giant container of hunks of fat he has just rimmed from various cuts. I asked for 2-3 lbs. he put it on a foam tray, piled it high wrapped it and handed it to and said "Happy New Year, No Charge!"

I took my free fat home and chopped it finely, placing them into a big frying pan. I sautéed them slowly on low heat and used my kitchen scissors to chop the bits up even finer to cook faster. Slowly the beef gave up its liquid gold, the basis for the suet cakes.

While the fat was rendering, I pulled together the other ingredients and placed them in a very large stainless steel bowl.

Home made suet cake recipe uses:
3 lbs beef fat

1 bag fresh cranberries leftover from the holidays. (Okay maybe not soo fresh, but perfect for the birds)
4-5 cups of bird seed mix That included black oil sunflower seeds, millet, corn, etc.
2 cups of flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup red pepper flakes (to discourage squirrels)
2 TSBP cayenne pepper
3/4 cup of shelled pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cups of leftover crackers, crushed

As the fat rendered out it's suet, I added it to the seed mixture in the bowl, stirring it as I added it. The whole process took about one hour. Once the fat was pretty much rendered down to crumbly little brown bits and the liquid added to the bowl with the suet seed mix, I tossed it to ensure everything was well mixed. It was the consistency of thick cookie dough.

I took two jelly roll pans and lined them with parchment paper. Then I spread the suet dough into them evenly with a spatula and popped them into the fridge after they had cooled just a bit. 1 hour later, they were solid and ready to be cut into suet feeder size squares. I also put them in upcycled Shallot and garlic nets that I hang from tree branches and my back awning.

Each jelly roll pan made 12 large suet cakes. The extra cakes can be stacked with the parchment paper in between and stored in a ziploc bag in your freezer until ready to be used. I saw one person uses cardboard oatmeal cans and makes round cakes to store hers! Next time I am going to make little birdie Bundt cakes with my mini BUNDT cake forms.

Total time was 1 hour prep, 5 minutes cutting and wrapping, 10 minutes clean up. Ingredients cost < $6 in total but I already had everything on hand that I needed except the suet which was free. Commercially available suet cakes are anywhere from $.99 To 4.99 each depending upon where you purchase them. If you divide $6 by 24 that's about 25 cents per suet cake. I know the birds love them and they have no chemicals or bad mysterious ingredients in them.

Now that the weather has turned so frigid out (it was -6 this morning), I am glad to have these on hands to put outside as needed to feed my little feathered friends.

Notes: I do not use raisins in my seed cakes because of my two dogs. Raisins can be harmful to dogs if ingested. Many recipes for suet cakes call for the additions of raisins for the birds. I choose to exclude them since my dogs will be in the same areas as the birds. if you don't have dogs, then go ahead and add raisins and other dried fruits to your recipe. Alternatively, you can use a mixture of lard (crisco), bacon fat, meat drippings that you collect in a can until ready to use. Coconut oil can also be added. Cornmeal can be substituted for the flour.

#homemadesuetcakes #birdfoodrecipes #suetcAkerecipes