The Misunderstood Eggplant

December 31st, 2009

eggplant-logo-smallFor years, this site has been Jenn’s Cook Book. It started as a place for me to post recipes as I learned how to cook, with little commentary. In time, the posts have grown to encompass more information about the recipes and my experiences with food in and out of the kitchen. Last year, the Bitter/Sweet blog was born and allowed me to expand on topics not necessarily relate to food. One of the topics I posted in Bitter/Sweet was titled The Misunderstood Eggplant, based on the title of an article that ran in the New York Times.

To summarize the article, and the reason why I chose to write about it, the eggplant is a beautiful yet seriously unappreciated food. Eggplant is versatile and can be quite tasty, but the key is in the preparation. The article struck a cord with me because James and I had often quarreled, in jest, over my cooking and serving eggplant. The first time I made eggplant, I steamed it according to the recipe and the results where similar in taste and texture to a dry sponge. James was not quick to forget that experience.

Since then, I have prepared eggplant in a variety of ways that have been delightful. James no longer puts up a protest when I mention eggplant, but he still likes to recount the story of eggplant gone horribly wrong. It has almost become a legend, a cooking story we both tell over and over again. The Misunderstood Eggplant has come to represent my journey in the kitchen, a culmination of my experiences and successes (or failures) in cooking.

For these reasons, along with my own cruel whimsy and fondness for the name, I have decided to rename this site to The Misunderstood Eggplant ( The old content is all still here, just in a prettier purple package.

Creamy Herb Dip

December 30th, 2009

creamy-dipHere’s a quick and easy to make dip, perfect for chips, crackers, or raw veggies. It is a touch tangy with herbs, garlic, and dijon mustard. Since everything is going in a food processor, the herbs and garlic can be coarsely chopped. You can also finely chop the herbs and garlic to combine in a bowl and mix by hand.

This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 5 days. Allow to chill at least 3o minutes before serving (allows the flavors to combine). Serve with your choice of dippers, such as tortilla chips, cut strips of red bell pepper, baby carrots, and wheat or rye crackers. This dip goes great with a fruity red wine, such as a Granacha/Tempranillo or similar Spanish blend.

Creamy Herb Dip

1 bar (8 oz) fat-free cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup chopped basil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp dijon mustard
zest and juice from about half a lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil, about 1 tbsp

Combine all ingredients but olive oil in a food processor. Pulse lightly to combine, then drizzle in olive oil while pulsing. Add just enough oil to combine all ingredients, about 1 tablespoon. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and chill about 30 minutes before serving.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Homemade Nacho/Taco Seasoning

December 28th, 2009

One of the go-to favorites in our house is tacos (or nachos). Because I have long since given up on packaged taco spice mix, I came up with this mix of spices that adds just the right zing to ground beef. It took a couple adjustments to get the right balance of flavor and heat, but if you prefer a hotter mix, simply increase the red pepper flakes to taste or add a pinch of cayenne pepper.

For preparation, use one batch of this recipe for one pound of ground beef. I prefer to use beef with a low fat content (6% or less). Inside of draining the beef, I use the drippings to help the seasoning coat the beef. If you are using a higher fat content, drain the beef before adding the seasoning.


Homemade Nacho/Taco Seasoning

1 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 dried oregano

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

When preparing, brown ground beef in a skillet and drain. Reduce heat to low and return beef to skillet. Add seasoning and stir until beef is evenly coated. If pan is too dry, add a little water or reserve some of the drippings. Remove from heat and serve as desired.


Some things just belong together, like peanut butter and chocolate. These muffins might cross into dessert territory, but could also stand in during brunch. Next time, I might throw in a little more peanut butter. The original recipe called for chopped peanuts, but chocolate chips sounded so much better.

If you do not have whole milk, use fat free or 1% less two tablespoons. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter (in addition to the butter in this recipe).


Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Muffins
adapted from Real Simple

2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350F and coat a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray. 

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the peanut butter and combine with a pastry cutter or 2 forks until it has reached a coarse, crumbly texture. Stir in the milk, egg, and butter. Fold in 1/2 cup chocolate chip.

Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full with batter. Evenly sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over each. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Chocolate chips on top of muffins will remain in tact but will be very soft when removed from the oven. Be careful when removing from muffin tin and allow to cool completely before storing.

White Chocolate & Apricot Muffins

December 18th, 2009

After a brief hiatus, Muffin Madness is back! This recipe features a delicious and slightly sophisticated flavor profile, combining white chocolate with apricot and ginger. These muffins are also a bit more decadent and stumble into cupcake territory, so they might make better desserts than breakfast.















Though it may seem intimidating at first, it is quite easy to prepare a muffin with filling, you just might want to warn people before they take a bite! As usual, I felt the recipe was lacking a bit of punch, so I increased the crystallized ginger and added ground ginger (ginger is an excellent taste compliment to both white chocolate and apricot). White chocolate baking bars are normally sold in 4 oz varieties and the recipe only called for 2 oz, so I used the additional amount to top the muffins.

White Chocolate & Apricot Muffins
adapted from Cooking Light

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, minced
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz white baking chocolate, divided
3/4 cup skim or 1% milk
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/2 cup apricot preserves

Preheat oven to 400F and coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, crystallized ginger, baking powder, ground ginger, and salt. Finely chopped 2 oz of the white chocolate and whisk into the flour mixture. Make a well in the center of the mixture.

In a small bowl, whisk together milk, butter, and egg, then pour into the well in the flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir just until all the dry ingredients are moist.

Spoon about a tablespoon of batter into the bottom of each muffin cup. Then spoon 2 teaspoons of apricot preserves into the center of each cup (do not spread over the batter). Top the muffin cups with the remaining batter. Bake for 20 minutes at 400F.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop the remaining 2 oz of white baking chocolate. In a small microwave safe dish, heat on high for 10 second intervals melted and smooth, stirring well in between each interval.

After removing from oven, place muffin tin on a wire rack and allow muffins to cool for 10 minutes before removing. Use a knife to “pop” each muffin out of the tin and place muffins on a sheet of aluminum foil. Scoop a small about (about 1 teaspoon) of white chocolate on top of each muffin and use the back of the spoon to “frost” the muffin. Allow chocolate to cool set before storing in an airtight container.

Makes 12 muffins.