Tag Archives: vegetarian

Roasted Eggplant and Feta Dip

Before I get started on tonight’s post, I want to let you all know that tomorrow we will be starting a regular series on Mind Your Bees and Trees with an awesome guest blogger so stay tuned.  I promise—you don’t want to miss it!

It’s summertime and summertime means BBQ season.  Who doesn’t love a good BBQ?  My favorite part about BBQs is, of course, all of the great food!  There are always so many great appetizers, side dishes, salads, and desserts, not to mention the meat, but honestly I’m usually much more excited about all of the other goodies.  It is a rare occasion when the meat at a BBQ wins me over.

When we go to BBQs, I almost always make a dessert (or two!).  Dessert is my specialty—a trait I inherited from my mom.  As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I love to bake and I love to share my baked goods with others.  As my mom always says, “the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach” :).

Since I’m not eating any processed sugar this summer, I can’t turn to my old favorites when I’m looking for something to make for a BBQ.  I told Amanda that I thought going to BBQs and not eating all of the yummy desserts would definitely be the hardest part of this challenge for me.  Well so far we have been to a few BBQs and parties this summer, and although it has been a little hard not to eat any dessert, it has not been as bad as I imagined it would be—especially when there are delicious savory goodies to munch on like the Roasted Eggplant Dip I made for a 4th of July party at our friend’s house.

The cake I made for our 4th of July party last year. It looks like it's waving in the wind because I dropped it on the floor before I frosted it! It landed right-side up, but I lost a big chunk from the middle. Oopsie!

I saw this recipe on Courtney’s blog and immediately knew I had to try it.  Giff and I pretty much love anything with eggplant in it (and I love anything with feta) so I figured it would be pretty awesome.  If you think you don’t like eggplant, then you probably haven’t had it cooked very well because eggplant is excellent when it’s cooked well.  I promise to post some more of our favorite recipes using eggplant in the future, but for now, let’s focus on this dip.

Last summer I made Ina Garten’s eggplant dip for a party and it was a huge hit.  I loved that dip so much that I was slightly worried that this new eggplant dip might not live up to the other one, but it definitely did.  Ina’s dip is pureed and although it has an excellent flavor, you can’t specifically taste the eggplant since everything is mixed together.  The eggplant and feta dip is not pureed so it’s more salsa-like.  I loved the chunky texture of the dip and it was excellent with either fresh veggies or crackers (side note: I was excited to find some crackers at the store that don’t contain sugar!).  Although I pride myself on always bringing awesome desserts to parties, I think I could get used to the savory thing too.  My dip was one of the first savory items to go so I’m going to go ahead and say that it was a hit :).

Roasted Eggplant and Feta Dip

*Recipe adapted from Sweet Tooth Sweet Life


▪       1 medium eggplant, (about 1 pound)

▪       2 tbsp lemon juice

▪       3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

▪       1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled

▪       1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

▪       1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped

▪       2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

▪       1/2 tbsp dried parsley

▪       1/4 tsp chili powder

▪       1/4 tsp cumin

▪       1/4 tsp smoked paprika

▪       1/4 tsp garlic powder

▪       1/4 tsp salt

▪       Drizzle of honey (optional)


  1. Position oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source; preheat broiler.
  2. Line a baking pan with foil. Place eggplant in the pan and poke a few holes all over it to vent steam. Broil the eggplant, turning with tongs every 5 minutes, until the skin is charred and a knife inserted into the dense flesh near the stem goes in easily, 14 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board until cool enough to handle.
  3. Put lemon juice in a medium bowl. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and scrape the flesh into the bowl, tossing with the lemon juice to help prevent discoloring. Add oil and stir with a fork until the oil is absorbed. (It should be a little chunky.) Stir in feta, onion, bell pepper, basil, parsley, spices and salt. Taste and add honey if needed.

Question: What is your favorite thing to bring to a BBQ?  What is your favorite thing to eat at a BBQ?


Filed under Appetizers, Vegetarian

Giada’s Checca Sauce

I like to do this thing where I pretend that chefs on TV and fellow bloggers are my friends :).  My husband knows that I love looking for new recipes and every time we eat something new he asks whom I got the recipe from.  I simply respond, “Giada” (or “Rachael”, “HEAB”, “Mama Pea”, “Mel’s Kitchen Café”…you get the point) as if they are my friends.  Although I have never actually met any of these people in real life, I still consider them my ‘friends’ because I consider anyone who shares a great recipe with me my friend.

I love me some Food Network and could sit and watch it all day long.  Whenever I’m home, my mom and I frequently have it on in the background and we love to send each other recipes of delicious recipes we saw being made by our ‘friends’ (Paula, Giada, Ina, Rachael, Aarti, Bobby, etc.) on TV.

Living abroad for the past five years has meant that I rarely get to watch the Food Network anymore (unless I want to get up at 6 am to watch the one or two shows the air per day).  I did spend four months living in Oklahoma between living in Peru and moving to Japan and I’m pretty sure I DVR’d about 10 episodes of Food Network shows per day (in addition to the ones I watched live)!  I couldn’t get enough of it.  Each time I go home, Food Network is the first thing I turn to and usually the only thing I watch.  Needless to say, I love it.

When I moved to Japan, I was really missing the Food Network, but quickly discovered the world of food blogs.  Judging by the fact that I decided to start my own, you can probably guess that food bloggers have gained a special place in my heart—right next to my friends from the Food Network.  I religiously read a handful of food blog everyday and can easily get lost in the world of food blogs.

My friends over at the Food Network have not been replaced though.  Luckily I have a few of their cookbooks amongst my large cookbook collection and I find myself turning to them again and again.  Although I don’t get to see these recipes being made on TV, they rarely disappoint.

The recipe I’m featuring today is from Giada’s cookbook called Everyday Italian.  Amanda got this cookbook for me for my birthday a few years at a Food and Wine Festival.  Do you want to know the best part?  It’s signed by Giada!  “To Kristen—XO Giada”.  See, we’re practically best friends ;).

I’m sharing this recipe with you because it’s a fabulous way to make a light and refreshing meal using freshly grown tomatoes.  I made this the other night and my husband and I both loved it.  I didn’t tweak a thing because it’s a-maz-ing as is!!

And to preface this recipe in the words of Giada, “There’s just no point in making Checca Sauce at all if the tomatoes aren’t at their peak of ripeness”.  Enjoy!

Please excuse that it looks messy...I was too excited to eat it to transfer it to a serving platter.

Checca Sauce

*Recipe from Everyday Italian by Giada DeLaurentiis


  • 8 ounces spaghettini or angel hair pasta
  • 4 scallions (white and pale green parts only), coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed*
  • 1 (12-ounce container) cherry tomatoes, halved**
  • 1 (1-ounce) piece Parmesan, coarsely chopped
  • 8 to 10 fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the next 7 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse just until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped (do not puree).

Drain the pasta, reserving some of the pasta water. Toss the pasta with the tomato mixture and fresh mozzarella in a large bowl. Add some of the reserved pasta water (about 1/4 cup) if the sauce looks dry (I didn’t need to do this). Serve immediately.

*The garlic pieces stay pretty big—they are easy to pull out this way if you don’t like eating big chunks of garlic.  I might try mincing the garlic next time.

**I used two large ripe tomatoes from the farmer’s market that I cut into big chunks before putting into the food processor.

Question: Do you use recipes or do you make up your recipes in your head?  Where do you like to find your recipes?


Filed under Main Courses, Pasta