Sweet potato cakes with cucumber salad

It has been one heck of a week – in a good way. While I started the new job last week with orientation, this week has been prep week. Lots of meetings, lots of new faces and lots of planning. I’ve discovered one or two things along the way: 1) When I’m not the one in charge I can actually let go, not worry and just do my thing. 2) I can plan and plan but in the back of my mind I know half my plans will be thrown out the window as soon as the kids arrive. I’m ok with that. 3) I missed working as part of a team and letting other people help me. It’s weird to be the new kid and accepting help rather than constantly giving help, but it’s really nice too.

Needless to say all of this has decreased my stress level significantly – and that is a very good thing.

I didn’t have the mental capacity to do a ton of experimental cooking this week, but I did make one dish that I was particularly proud of – Sweet Potato cakes with a Cucumber salad. These two recipes were again found in my Plenty cookbook which so far has a perfect record. Every dish I’ve made from it has been fantastic.

This was pretty simple – cut up cooked sweet potatoes into small cubed. Add soy sauce, chopped green onions, flour, chopped red chili a tiny bit of sugar and some salt. The dressing is Greek yogurt, lemon, oil, cilantro and sour cream.

The salad was cucumbers and red onion with ginger, garlic and a rice vinegar dressing. Simple, clean and a nice pairing with the cakes. Best part about this dinner was the leftovers for lunch the next day.

I was going to make dinner last night but after standing for three and a half hours at work (plus everything else I did) my feet were killing me. So Bob and I decided to head to our favorite cheese shop for a cheese plate dinner. Louise makes up a great cheese plate (she gave Bob a little blue cheese, but put a little something extra on there for me since I don’t do blue cheese) that was simply amazing. We had an ash ripened goat cheese that was one of the best I’ve ever had, an amazing sheep’s cheesed a Camembert like cheese that blew everything else on the plate – as good as it was – totally away. There were also two hard cheeses, one cheddar like cheese and a Toma we’ve had before, that were great, but after the soft cheeses …. well, they were not the stars. The soft cheeses were so good we picked up a bit of each for this week and I’m making beer bread today to go with them.

Is that not just a beautiful cheese plate?

The kids start school Monday so I’m hoping to get one or two new dishes in before my brain shuts down. If not I always have cute cat pictures to post, I suppose.



Lemon Eggplant Risotto

It was a busy week. I finished up with one job and started the new job with no down time. There were days I was going into the new job while answering texts and emails from the old job. Needless to say my cooking creativity took a back seat to relatively easy.

That isn’t to say I didn’t cook. I experimented with two recipes from the Plenty cookbook and both were pretty good. The Brussels Sprouts and tofu was a little bitter for me, but it had some nice flavors and texture.

But the star dish of the week was the Lemon Eggplant Risotto. I really wanted to do a risotto since we had the Parmesan from our cheese box. The original recipe called for two eggplants, but I only had one on hand so I went with that.

1 eggplant (recipe calls for two and I think that would work better)
Olive oil
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
7 oz risotto rice
1/2 cup white wine (warmed)
3.5 cup vegetable stock
1 lemon (zest all and squeeze the juice from 1/2)
1 tablespoon butter
1 oz or so grated Parmesan
Basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Heat oil in a pan and cook the eggplant about ten minutes, stirring frequently. Add more oil as needed (I start out with a little and add more as I go rather than start out with a lot and have to drain it). Set aside, sprinkle with a little salt.

Chop the onion. Add a little oil to a pan and cook the onion until soft and translucent – about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two. Turn up the heat, add the rice and cook a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add the warm wine and cook until nearly evaporated/absorbed. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the broth/stock a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently until it is all absorbed. Wait to add each 1/2 cup until the previous cup is incorporated.

Remove from heat and add most of the the lemon zest, lemon juice, eggplant, butter, cheese and a touch of salt. Let sit, covered, for five minutes. To serve, add a little lemon zest and shredded or chopped basil leaves.


This one was a pretty perfect risotto. The lemon and eggplant gave it a fresh, hearty quality and we could really taste the cheese. This is definitely going in the make again pile. It wasn’t as pretty as the Brussels sprouts and tofu, but it was fantastic.

August Cheese Box

When we realized that our cheese club was about to run out, Bob and I decided to do another year of it. We love our wine and cheese dinners each month and really, we like supporting our local cheese shop. This month was the first in the new subscription and we had a lovely Italian theme.
First up, and the clear winner this month was Brunet, an Italian goat cheese. I love goat cheeses, but I’m a little wary of really soft runny cheeses. This one was both super soft and a flavorful, but not pungent, goat. So how good was it? We almost ate the wheel. This cheese was salty and had a definite goat milk flavor, but it wasn’t strong or in your face. It paired well with the beer bread I made and my favorite blackberry jam.

Next up was the Parmigiano Reggiano. This was the real stuff, the stuff I don’t usually get because a nice Pecorino works just as well in most cooked dishes (at way less money). But to eat, or to use on a fresh salad … well, the real stuff is amazing.

IMG_0703.JPG You can tell real Parmigiano by the rind. The needle marks and stamp imprinted into the rind to indicate the producer of each wheel. I can’t wait to make risotto this week, and maybe a nice salad to go with this cheese.

We’ve had the Toma before, but this Italian style cheese from a California dairy is about as perfect as you get. It is a solid cheese (not soft and runny) but it has the smoothest, creamiest texture that melts in your mouth. This is one I grab for lunch when I know it’s going to be busy.

While we were at the cheese shop we picked up a strong cheese for Bob. As he described it as having “some hair on it.” The Tunworth is what might be referred to as a stinky cheese. It has a strong taste that I like, but can only eat a little of. Bob, on the other hand, can eat a bunch of it.

To our little plate we added some of the Midnight Moon that I love and another soft goat called Kunik. We picked these up a few weeks ago and decided to use them up. Combine some really good cheese with a glass of wine and some homemade bread and we have one of my favorite dinners.

New Adventures

Sometimes I feel like it is time for a change. The last few years at work I’ve vacillated between loving my job – the kids, some of the people I work with – and hating it – some of the people I work with, the testing, the ever changing paperwork, the ever added work load. When I have the “I hate my job” days I look around at what else is out there. Sometimes it reminds me that I overall like what I do, but sometimes it reminds me that I can do something else.

Over the summer I decided to put a concerted effort into seeing what else is out there. I looked at district jobs, private sector jobs (not in education) other charter school jobs and private school jobs. I’ve looked at university positions and government positions and found there are a number of things out there. Most, being a teacher, I don’t qualify for, but the options were intriguing. The more I looked, and the more I left work at work for the summer, the more I did not want to go back.

I got lucky this summer. I interviewed for a few jobs and found one that I thought would be really good for me. Then came the hard part – actually getting the job. After a few rounds of interviews, I was offered the job and decided to take it. Come Wednesday I will be back in the classroom full time, but this time in a private school.

Going to a private school was a little bit of a hard choice for me. I’ve always worked in public education in one form or another and still, despite everything, believe a strong, well funded public education system is the best chance at empowering the next generation and ensuring the continuation of a productive society. Going to a private school almost feels like betraying that belief but I know that right now, it is the right decision for me to make for me. I will still be working with kids and kids who need extra support academically. I’m still teaching, but I don’t have the extra responsibilities that were wearing me down or the testing requirements that eat up so much of the school year. I may actually be able to teach and that is worth taking the chance. I’m excited and I know it is the right move because once I turned in my resignation to my old job, I started breathing easier and sleeping through the night.

Since I also put this post under pets, I should give an update on the furry creatures. They are wonderful. The kitties went to the vet today and they are all in good shape. Tigger is weighing in at 15.5 pounds and Gracie and Leia are each 9.4 pounds. I thought Tigger would be a little bigger, but the vet said he is in great shape (and I didn’t get a lecture on his weight, so I think he is still good.) Miss Leia still surprises me by being the normal cat of the three (although she is the hardest to get in a carrier) and in great health. No sinus issues, no breathing problems and no surgery needed.

So things in our little corner of the world are going great. I’m excited about the new job (and without the need to move), the pets are healthy and happy and Bob and I can look forward to a (hopefully) quieter school year. We got our cheese box this week, so look for that post soon – it’s an Italian theme this month!


In he last post I mentioned the potato tart as an experiment this week. I did actually make it, we did actually eat it and I liked it so much I have a second in the freezer. The original recipe in my cookbook says this serves four. If I actually cut the potatoes thick enough it would have made one pie, but I cut them a little thinner (1/2 inch instead of 1 inch) and so I got two pies out of it. Double the sugar and butter and pastry fit two pies, but everything else was the same amounts so here it goes.

1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus a little more for the tomatoes)
Salt and pepper
1 pound new potatoes (I used creamers and it worked fine)
1 onion (I only used 1/2 of an onion)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons butter
3 sprigs oregano
5 oz aged goat cheese (I substituted a gruyere instead)
1sheet puffed pastry, rolled thin

Half the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook 45 minutes in a 275 oven.
Cook the potatoes (whole) in boiling water, about 20-25 minutes

The original recipe calls for cooking the onions down for about ten minutes in some oil. I totally missed this step, hence the way less onion. If you do cook down the onion you get a nice thick layer for the pie.

Here is the tricky part. Take a cake pan and lightly oil the bottom (9 in pan). Cut a circle of parchment or wax paper to fit the bottom and place inside the pan. In a small sauce pan heat the butter and sugar over high heat, stirring constantly until you get a dark caramel. I had to do this twice. The first time I burnt the caramel. The second time I took it off the heat at a medium color and kept stirring for a bit. Pour this into the prepared pan. I had trouble getting the caramel to spread. As soon as I poured it into the pan, it hardened. I did manage to spread it a little but not a ton. It worked anyway. Sprinkle with oregano leaves.

Cut the potatoes into 1 inch disks and place in a layer in the pan over the caramel. Gently press the tomatoes between he potatoes.

Add the onions.

Then add a layer of cheese. I just took my block and sliced thin slices until I had enough to make a single layer.

Cover the while thing with the rolled puffed pastry, pushing the ends down around the potatoes. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 for another 15 minutes. I loosely covered mine with foil when I changed the heat as my pastry was nice and brown.

Let everything sit for about two minutes then quickly invert onto a plate.

If you actually use all of the ingredients in one pie. It will be enough for four people. I spread it over two pies (so double the caramel and pastry) so we had one for dinner one night and one is sitting in the freezer for another night.

Bob and I both really like this one. I thought it sounded like a perfect meal (maybe add a little salad next time) but he was skeptical. Bob did comment that he really, really liked it so he will not mind when I make it again. So far, Plenty is two for two recipes. This coming week I’m doing Brussels sprouts with tofu and a soba noodles with eggplant. One of these days I will get around to the garlic tart (it has three heads of garlic in it! Not cloves, heads.) I think it is safe to say this cookbook is a keeper. Great, flavorful vegetarian recipes that even meat eaters love. I am skipping over the mushroom section; still can’t eat those.