Napping in Vegetable Pie

In the summer of 2007 I was kicking off the third trimester of my pregnancy. I was sporting a huge tummy, a nice outie belly button and a kick-ass set of cankles. I was definitely not your glamorous yummy mummy to-be, but I didn't care, I was pretty darn excited. One of the many joys of pregnancy, in addition to how beautiful you feel (not!), is that all sorts of people volunteer to celebrate your impending parenthood with parties commonly known as baby showers. I was very fortunate that several friends and family members decided to get in on the party-throwing action. The gist of each event was a gathering of good friends, the giving of gifts to the baby-to-be, lots of rubbing my belly and many platters of delicious food.

Eating good food is a great form of pleasure for me and pregnancy only exacerbated this pleasure. For those joyous nine months I could not get enough food. Could. Not. Get. Enough. I know it was a minor miracle that I never had a whiff of nausea, not once. This was a good thing because, oh man, I could pack it in like a truck driver. I starting eating around week 6 of my pregnancy and steadily consumed half of Manhattan's food offerings for eight straight months. And then, after 40 weeks and 3 days of pregnancy, I delivered quite a large baby, 9lbs 9oz to be exact. People ohhhhed and ahhhed over her round cheeks and thick thighs, exclaiming "What a big baby!" but I can't say I was surprised.

This vegetable pie was served at my baby shower on Martha's Vineyard. The minute I got home from this event I called the hostess, to thank her for the car seat, of course, and politely beg for this recipe. I loved it at first bite because it is really a cross between a quiche and a pie. It is egg-y, cheese-y and full of vegetables which are all baked into a wonderful buttery pie crust. It serves as a nice departure from the egg "strata-sphere", as my brother and I used to refer to our mother's Sunday brunch entertaining regimen. The beauty of it is that you can really substitute any vegetables you want as long as you keep the ratio of eggs, cheese and cream constant. It has become one of my go-to recipes for brunch when we entertain at home. It is fun to change up the flavors seasonly, I tend to use whatever vegetables are fresh at the farmer's market.

Anytime Vegetable Pie, adapted from my friend Chris Cox (thanks for the baby shower!)
1 pie crust (I am no stranger to Pillsbury frozen pie crust, but feel free to make your own if you have the time)
1 red pepper, chopped (or any other vegetable you feel like!)

1/2 purple onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 tomato, sliced

1 T. fresh basil, roughly chopped
4 eggs
1 c. half & half

2 c. Monterey Jack, shredded

1/3 c. Parmesan, grated, plus more for sprinkling
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare pie crust in a 9" pie dish according to directions.
2. Saute vegetables and garlic in olive oil until vegetables are softened and fragrant.
3. In a bowl mix eggs, half & half, monterey jack and parmesan.
4. Add cooked vegetables to the egg mixture and combine. Then add the chopped basil and combine.

5. At this point I recommend adding salt & pepper to taste and perhaps seasoning it with any other herb that might be fresh at the time your making it.
6. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust and place sliced tomatoes on top. Sprinkle lightly with parmesan cheese.
7. Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes.
8. You can tell when the pie is done by making sure the center is set when you lightly jiggle the pan.

Naptime Notes:
*Naptime Recipe Props: This recipe is a fast, easy brunch recipe that always delivers. Last weekend our friend Pierre had three pieces in one sitting! You can put it in your "no-fail" file and have fun playing with all the different vegetable flavor combinations you can find.
*Naptime Stopwatch: This recipe takes about 30 minutes to prepare, which includes pre-baking the pie crust. Once you pop it in the oven you only need to check on it one or two times, so you have plenty of time to do other things.
*Naptime husband review: "My favorite! I love it when you make this, and our company always loves it too. I wish you could make it for me every morning." Wife note: In your dreams I am going to make you a quiche for breakfast every day.
*Naptime toddler review
: "Yum Yum Mom. I love eggs and this pie is so nice and chewy, perfect for eating with my little mouth. I also like the way it sticks to the walls when I fling it across the room!"


Napping in Spain

I wish I was napping in Spain right now. Don't you? I would be taking a nice long siesta mid-day in a little inn somewhere between Salamanca and Segovia. Which is, incidentally, where this recipe originated. I found this recipe while reading the book "Spain, A Culinary Road Trip" which is written to accompany my most recent favorite foodie show, Spain...On The Road Again. I just adore watching almost any TV show about food and this is definitely one of my top three favorite shows of all time. While watching Mario, Gwyneth, Mark and Claudia literally eat their way through Spain I felt like I was right there with them savoring every single glass of cava, slice of jamon and morning churro. At one point during the series, when they were eating fresh paella by the sea, I think my mouth literally started to water. Sadly, like all good TV, this series came to an end in December. However, fortunately for me, Mario & Co. had the foresight to publish this book so that their road trip could live on for all of us.

I chose to make this particular soup because it is the perfect foil for cold winter weather. It is served hot, spiked with a sweet smoky paprika and has a delicate base of chicken broth with notes of garlic. As Mario writes, this soup is "Really simple, really satisfying, really good." I couldn't agree more. Enjoy!
Note: I found the Hot Pimenton at Dean & Deluca, but most specialty stores should carry it.

Garlic Soup (Sopa de Ajo) from Spain, A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali with Gwyneth Paltrow
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lb. stale bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (this will be about 3 cups)
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. hot pimenton
Kosher salt
8 cups chicken stock
6 poached eggs

1. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven, add the bread and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring until golden brown.
2. Add the garlic, pimenton and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 3 minutes or until very fragrant.
3. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until bread is very soft.
4. Salt to taste.
5. Ladle soup into bowls and add a poached egg into each bowl to serve.

Naptime Notes:
*Naptime Recipe Props: The soup was a snap to assemble. During naptime I cubed the bread and thawed and measured my fresh chicken stock. Then, in the evening I tossed the bread into the dutch oven, whipped up the garlic, pimenton and broth, add two poached eggs and dinner was served! I honestly can't think of a shorter or easier preparation for any soup. For the stale bread I suggest buying a baguette two days ahead of time so it is nice and hard when it comes time to cube it.
*Naptime Stopwatch: From cubing the bread, mincing the garlic and simmering the broth this soup took around 25 minutes to prepare. The poached eggs took an additional 6 minutes to prepare. It is helpful to prepare some of the ingredients during naptime, it makes for a quick assembly at dinner time.
*Husband Says...: "Muy Delicioso! This soup is packed with flavor yet not overwhelming. I love the soft bread that is soggy with the yummy broth and the poached egg really makes it. Thanks for serving us Spanish peasant food sweetie, it is good to know you and pull together dinner with stale bread, garlic and broth in this economy. Boy, my colleagues are going to love my garlic breath tomorrow!"
*Toddler Says...: "Blech! Two thumbs down. The paprika was far too much for my tender palate, the egg was not scrambled which is how I prefer my eggs, and I don't really love the taste of garlic." Mom Note: Frankly, I knew this was a stretch but I had to give her a little taste just to see where we stood. Now I know! Instead of the soup I served her Annie's Mac-n-Cheese, always a big hit.


Napping with Martha

Chocolate. Orange. Espresso. In one bite. That says it all, doesn't it? I think this, typically British, flavor combination is absolutely brilliant. Coming to think of it I encountered a myriad of choco-orange candies when I spent time in the UK during college which is where I think my fondness for it began. Martha, of course, has managed to perfect this anglo-flavor combo with her recipe. These cookies are wonderfully chocolately, orangey and espresso-y, without being overpowering. Plus, since they are not ridiculously ginormous like a Starbucks frisbee-style rainbow cookie, you can eat two or three and not feel so guilty that you decide to skip yoga and start the resolutions again tomorrow... When you make these be sure to sit down and enjoy a few by yourself during naptime, with a warm cup of tea or glass of milk. We all deserve a sweet break now and then!

Chocolate Orange Espresso Thins
, adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 t. instant espresso powder

1/2 t. Kosher salt

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 c. confectioners' sugar
1 t. finely grated orange zest
1 t. vanilla extract

Coarse sanding sugar for sprinkling

1. Mix flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Put butter, confectioners' sugar, orange zest and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

3. Scrape down sides. On low speed add the flour mixture until just combined.
4. Place dough down on a Silpat or parchment paper. Shape into a log that is 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Make sure there is no air in the log. Wrap log in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours or overnight*. (*See Naptime Stopwatch)

5. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut log into 1/4 inch thick slices. Transfer slices to baking sheet lined with Silpat or parchment paper. Brush tops of cookies with water and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake until set, about 15 minutes. Cool on cookie sheets and then transfer to wire rack. Cooled cookies can be stored in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Naptime Notes:
*Naptime Recipe Props: The dough gets sticky so be sure to work quickly. When shaping the dough it is crucial that the log is as round as possible. Before tackling the cookie dough practice your technique by rolling "spaghetti" with playdough!
*Naptime Stopwatch: The dough took about 8 minutes to prepare. Couldn't. Be. Faster. The longest part of the recipe is letting the dough rest before baking (at least 2 hours please!), and then baking each tray (about 15 min. each.) I prepared the dough during naptime, let it rest during the evening, and did the slicing and baking after bedtime (while watching the season premiere of Nip/Tuck. Poor Christian!)
*Husband Says...: "Superb! These cookies are very tasty despite the fact that I was extremely skeptical of your lecture on the brilliance of the choco-orange combo. You were right. I was wrong. I love you and your cookies."
*Toddler Says...: "More peease! I love all things chocolate and simply can't understand why you won't ever yield and give me chocolate for every meal of the day. But I'll settle for what I can get. Until I figure out how to negotiate and use things like not eating as leverage."


Napping with Jamie

I just adore Jamie Oliver, don't you? He is a terrific chef, champion of slow food, father and educator. Someday I would just love to sit down and have a chat with him over a cup of tea and a warm crumbly scone. Reading his books and website always give me such a lift. Thank goodness there is someone in this world reminding us to eat well, pay attention to our food sources and have fun!! I found this dish while leafing through Jamie's Italy, one my all-time favorites. Every time I read a few pages I feel totally transported to the Italian countryside. However, alarmingly, it also leaves me craving a glass of wine no matter what time of day(?!!) (But don't worry, fellow parents, I don't hit the vino during the day... that often, at least.)

During my reading on Saturday this particular recipe stood out as perfection in the category of winter comfort food. Warm and crusty, salty and sweet, this dish has all the hallmarks of the perfect casserole. Personally, the mix of tomato, eggplant and cheese is one of my most favorite flavor combinations of all time. When orchestrated properly all of these elements yield total flavor satisfaction in every single bite. Ultimately this dish is the perfect anecdote to winter weather and will fill you with feelings of warm goodness from head to toe. I recommend serving it with a big slice of garlic bread and, if you are a carb-o-holic like me, some fresh pasta on the side. Enjoy!

Eggplant Parmigiana,
adapted from Jamie's Italy
3 large firm eggplants
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove regular garlic

1 t. dried oregano

1 28oz. can of peeled plum tomatoes

3 cups (or more) of freshly grated Parmesan

2 cups dried breadcrumbs

1 5 oz. ball mozzarella
Fresh Basil

Fresh Oregano

Dash of White Wine Vinegar

1. Cut Eggplant into 1/2 inch thick slices and put on a griddle until grill marks appear on both side and eggplant is softened. If you have to do this is batches place the finished eggplant on a plate or pan lined with a paper towel.
2. In large sauce pan or Dutch oven, put a two tablespoons of olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and dried oregano. Cook for about 10 minutes until onion is soft and garlic starts to turn golden and fragrant.
3. Add tomatoes to onion, garlic and oregano. Break tomatoes up with a wooden spoon until mixture is fully incorporated. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
4. When sauce is reduced and getting sweet add salt and pepper to taste. Then add a swig of white vinegar and fresh basil. Some people choose to whiz the sauce in the blender at this point, but I preferred it chunky, so I did not.
5. Line a baking dish (9x13) with a thin layer of tomato sauce and olive oil. Then add a thin layer of Parmesan, followed by a layer of eggplant. Repeat layers of tomato sauce, Parmesan and eggplant until ingredients are used up. Finish with a little sauce and a final sprinkling of Parmesan.
6. Toss the breadcrumbs with olive oil and oregano and scatter them on top. I also added sliced fresh mozzarella at this point as well.
7. Bake casserole at 375F for 30 minutes or until bubbly, golden and fragrant.

Naptime Notes:
*Recipe Props: In addition to being flavorful this dish meets all of my preparation requirements - the ingredients are inexpensive and easy to shop for, it can be prepared ahead of time and is toddler friendly. As a bonus, it is so big that we can eat it for at least two days!
*Naptime Stopwatch
: I was able to prepare the dish in about 35 minutes from start to finish, then I covered it with plastic and stuck in the fridge until dinner time. The baking time was true to the book, about 30 minutes in a regular oven at 375F.
*Husband Says...: "Jamie's Egg-Parm is molto eccellente!" My trusty taster gave this two thumbs up. He particularly liked the touch of the melted mozzarella on top. He also enjoyed the homemade tomato sauce deeming it much more flavorful then the jarred stuff.
*Toddler Says...: "Deeee-lish, Mom! The soft eggplant and warm cheese made this easy to chew and swallow with only four teeth. The sweet and salty flavors were not too overpowering for my developing toddler palate." Mom Note: Instead of serving it with garlic bread I served it with a side of soft carrots and a pile of Veggie Booty - yummy.