25 September 2012

Eggplant with Basil and Feta

This was originally published at What I Eat on 22 September 2007. We were living in Walnut Creek, California, at the time. Muffin loves the tomato sauce and feta cheese but she’s not a huge eggplant fan. This is still one of my favorite ways to prepare eggplant and Muffin likes to help with the breading. Look for Local Notes at the end of the post to see how I modify the recipe for Hyderabad.

This recipe is inspired by the Crispy Eggplant with Spicy Tomato-Feta Cheese Sauce in the book Vegetarian Cooking for Today. We've modified it quite a bit for our tastes. It's the recipe that convinced Mike several years ago, after we both read Fast Food Nation, that it's not so bad to cut down on meats.

1 egg
small bit of milk
pototo starch
bread crumbs
tomato sauce
crushed red pepper
fresh basil
feta cheese

Slice the eggplant into rectangles, peeled or unpeeled, about 1 inch by 2 inch by 3 inch. Let the pieces sit on a plate, salted, for about 10 minutes to draw out some of the moisture. Pat dry with paper towels. Bread the pieces by dipping in potato starch, an egg-milk mixture, and finally bread crumbs. (I use Gluten-Free Pantry Herbed Crumb Coating. I hate the breading process--it seems to take forever. A little trick I have is to ask Mike to do it for me.) Place breaded pieces on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until the outsides are crispy and the scent of herbed bread crumbs is intoxicating.

While the eggplant is baking, heat up some of your favorite store-bought or homemade tomato sauce in a small sauce pan, adding a pinch of crushed red pepper. Wash and pat dry some basil leaves. Sometimes I slice them into attractive little shreds. Get the pack of feta cheese from the fridge. Place eggplant pieces on plate, spoon sauce over them, then top with basil and crumbled feta.

It's a very satisfying meal, combining some of our favorite flavors. It's warm and filling for cool weather, but if you can get good fresh basil you have great summery flavor. And everything is better when it's topped with feta cheese.

Local Notes 
Feta cheese is expensive here in Hyderabad but you can find it. I usually get it from Qmart or Nature’s Basket. The couple times I’ve bought it at HyperCity it had gone bad despite being within the expiration date. Basil can be found at Qmart, Nature’s Basket, and Tarkari. To make the dish gluten-free I use Or-Gran rice crumbs from Nature’s Basket seasoned with salt, pepper, and dried herbs. I’ve found potato starch at Nature’s Basket, but cheap rice flour purchased anywhere works just as well. Crushed red pepper is often called “chili flakes” here.

24 September 2012

Muffin's View of Pattaya, Thailand

I mentioned in my previous post that Muffin and I were on a girls-only vacation last week in Pattaya, Thailand. As a single mom for the week chasing after her, I didn't have time for lots of gorgeous scenery photos. I had to get quick snapshots of Muffin being cute to post to Mike's Facebook page.

Road through the resort. No cars allowed!

Beach across from the resort.

I highly recommend Rabbit for a family vacation.

Road between resort and beach; during the day no cars are allowed.

Shrine at the resort.

And to the tiger at the zoo, Muffin just said, "Pooh, pooh."

Last day at the beach.

Kapa maki at the Bangkok airport.
We stayed at the Rabbit Resort, which I recommend for families visiting Pattaya. The owners go by Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit and they were very accommodating. No cars are allowed on the resort compound, and the road along the resort is closed to car traffic during the day so it's safe for kids to run around. There's an adults' pool and a kids' pool, and the kids' pool was perfect for Muffin to test out her swimming skills. The ocean is just across the no-traffic road, and the beach and water were pretty good for letting kids run around. A little debris after a storm blew through, but nothing worse than you'd find at a lot of U.S. beaches. On the best days at low tide the water was very shallow for quite a ways out and safe enough for little legs like Muffin's to wade without fear of undertow or giant crashing waves. There is no spa at the resort but they will arrange for a car to take you to a nearby spa and will arrange for a baby-sitter. (And Mrs. Rabbit herself checked in on the sitter while I was gone.) Pattaya is about a 90-minute drive from Bangkok airport. You can arrange a car with the resort or you can book an airport limo upon landing.

There is a water park within walking distance of the resort, although Muffin and her friend were a little too young for it. Muffin was more impressed that there was a 7-11 within walking distance. Every morning she asked if we could there for a chocolate milk. A good zoo is about a 45-minute drive. We had perfect timing on zoo day, with overcast weather while we walked around; the rain waited until we were back in the car on the way back to Rabbit. There is not much in the way of playgrounds or other kid-friendly areas in Pattaya. There are good restaurants and coffee shops within walking distance; outlet shopping is a short tuk-tuk ride away. The resort restaurant is pretty good and we ate most of our meals there.

We were there during the last weeks of the rainy season, which is the least expensive time to be there. If you are a sun bunny, this is not the best time of year to go. But if you want weather that is warm enough for splashing around in the pool or ocean without too much time in the sun, and afternoon rain storms that are conducive to napping, then it is the perfect time to go.

Thailand has Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, so if you live in a country that doesn't have those do you really need any other reason to visit?

Another Half Marathon Not Run

Oooooh, it's been a long week. On a whim, I decided to take Muffin on a girls-only vacation to Thailand with some other friends. We left last Saturday night. About an hour before we left for the airport Muffin started coughing. I tossed cold medicines and children's Tylenol into our suitcase. And boy did we need it. She never got a fever but she had a terrible cough and we got very little sleep for our first few nights there. She was a trooper though. She slept more than usual but she was active during her awake time, so we kept up with the beach and the pool, we went to the zoo, we did a little walking and shopping. I was always careful to monitor her grogginess and get her back to our room to sleep when she needed it.

On our second-to-last night, she woke up crying for "Daddy." I tried to comfort her back to sleep but I realized I was so congested I couldn't talk. I was officially sick, too. We actually slept well those last two nights because Muffin was through the coughing phase, but our trip home was a long one, with sinus pain for me and no amount of grown-up Tylenol helping at all. We arrived at midnight on Friday night. I handed Muffin over to Mike, took a full dose of cold medicine (I'd kept myself to quarter doses so I could stay alert enough to monitor Muffin throughout the nights) and slept for nearly 12 hours. When I woke up later on Saturday it was clear I would not be running a half marathon on Sunday morning.

Add to that a bit of a political situation. Hyderabad has had its own small, peaceful part to play in the anti-American protests across the world. The race was in a part of town where Americans are advised not to go due to the threat of protests. I didn't even go watch the race, because you just never know when a small, peaceful protest will turn otherwise.

Now I'm uncertain about my running. I've tried to run two races and I've gotten horribly ill just before race day each time. I don't have any races on the horizon. I'm kind of tired of the 5:00 am wakeup-and-run routine.

My doughnut supplies arrived while we were away. Doughnuts and recovering from this cold first. I'll think about running next week.

03 September 2012

Motivation Monday -- Doughnuts

Gluten-free baked chocolate doughnuts,
courtesy of The Baking Beauties.
Yup, doughnuts. They are probably the food I miss the most being both gluten-free and in India. So as I was browsing my Gluten-Free Recipes board on Pinterest this weekend for healthy foods -- because I'm back in training now -- I opened up this pin, went to the original website, and ordered some of the ingredients I can't find here plus a doughnut tray. In three to four weeks I plan on treating myself to this chocolate doughnut. With sprinkles. The delivery of my baking goodies should coincide with finishing up the half marathon on September 23. After that, an opportunity to do an "Ultra Walk" of a half marathon or marathon distance is on the horizon.

In the meantime, I'm finding an energy boost in the form of replacing my sugary cold coffee concoctions with black tea and a little milk followed by a green smoothie and by replacing rice with quinoa. I've also replaced my Kind bars with a handful of almonds. I polished off 7 miles on Saturday without really thinking about it, except for being a little sleepy afterward -- the result of waking up at five o'clock in the morning, whether you've been running or not. Maybe there is something to this cutting back on sugar idea. (Says she who is making elaborate plans for a doughnut.)

Will run for doughnuts.

Will spend a ridiculous amount of time, money, and resources procuring those doughnuts.