Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Casserole

True Confessions:
1.  I don't make my bed but I expect my kids to do it.
2. During phone conversations I quite often don't know what to say.
3.  Right now I'm typing away on my keyboard instead of doing the mountain of laundry that I should be doing and I don't feel one ounce of guilt.
4.  I made this dish 16 days ago.

I meant to post this earlier.  I really did.
I just got canning again and then school started as well and you know, I just didn't get to it.
I made it up.  I totally made it right off the top of my head, right.  We had just gotten back from out little jaunt to Quebec City and a friend was coming over for dinner, kinda impromptu.  Our friend is a vegetarian so I needed to get it in gear with the veggies.  After running out to the farmers market that's just down the street from me (Thank God we were home on the day of the market) I came home with some beautiful heirloom tomatoes, gorgeously muddy zucchini, a big ass eggplant and some tempting locally produced smoked mozzarella.

Can we just talk for a second about how awesome it is to be able to walk down the street and find locally grown vegetables, to talk to the people who grew those veggies, to have them recognize you when they see you and then to bring home all of that awesomeness.  Did I mention that I can walk there.  I know, right.
So I guess from there the dish just kind of made itself because there really is nothing else in it.  You could throw in some herbs (which I probably did but I've forgotten by now about).  You should add a little salt.  You could throw in a little pepper sauce too.  Honestly though, once you grill these puppies taste is just kinda taken care of.

I also need to mention here that I'm not a big bbq person.  It just feels like a hassle.  In the spirit of True Confessions, I honestly feel too lazy to take all the crap outside, remove the cover, turn the thing on, cook the crap, haul it back into the kitchen... I won't continue.  I've got to get over it.  We might use the bbq 5 times in a whole year.  I'm not saying it's a good thing but it should give you some perspective on just how out of the ordinary a dish like this is for me.
This turned out beautifully.  It's easy and it's also meant to be tampered with.  Change it up - add grilled peppers, mushrooms, whatever.  Use a different cheese (something that melts nicely - raclette, goat cheese, experiment).  Keep it easy and keep it casual.
My last true confession of this post:  I served this with fried rice... totally weird and random.

Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Casserole
serves 4

1 large eggplant
2 medium/large zucchini
oil of choice
1 1/2 cups smoked mozzarella, sliced
3 tomatoes sliced about 1/2 inch thick
20 - 25 basil leaves
salt (to sprinkle)
pepper sauce (optional)

Preheat bbq to about 500 degrees F
Slice the eggplant and the zucchini into about 3/4 inch thick slices.  Brush with oil of choice (I think I see safflower because it was in the cupboard but olive would work well here).
Place each slice on the grill, turning only once it's got some nice char marks on it (and it should be a little soft too).  Once each side is char-marked and easily bendable, remove from grill and turn off the bbq.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place a layer of eggplant on the bottom of an oval, tall sided baking dish.  Add a layer of tomato, then a layer of mozzarella.  Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and a layer of basil leaves on top of each layer of tomato.  Repeat each layer until everything is used up.  Use the mozzarella as the top layer.
Bake for between 25 and 30 minutes or until the sides are just a little golden, it's bubbling and the cheese is melted and browning.
Cut with a knife to serve.

Tomatillo Salsa.... One last time, I promise.

I lied.
I said that it would be my last canning day yesterday.
It wasn't.
I canned today.  I'm sorry.
I'm not going to make any more promises because I know that I'm going to have a bunch of green tomatoes at the end of the growing season that will need to be made into some kind of salsa thingy.  So I'm not going to tell you that this is the last one.  Here's the kicker though.  I filled the jars too full so they didn't seal properly.  I had to redo them 3 times.  That was dumb... and frustrating... and...
I can tell you that it's tasty though.  Really tasty.  If you like salsa then you'll like this.  It's way better than anything I've ever bought.  Even though I had to stick it in my stupid canner more times than I want to even think about right now.
The corn landed in there because I had an ear in the fridge.  The cilantro almost didn't land in there at all because I bought flat parsley instead... duh.  I used a cilantro sauce that I had but fresh would be even better.  The tomatillo's could be swapped for green tomatoes (which is probably what I'll be doing in about 3 weeks or so anyway).  I guess you could swap out the hot peppers for bell peppers but... why?  Just for the record, this stuff tastes rad with tortilla chips.  Believe.  ( Saw this movie recently, if you haven't seen it then fix that really soon, ok?)

Otherwise, it's been a full week already.
This guy moved in on Sunday....

It's been cool hangin' with Spider Man.  He's shorter than he looks on screen though.

I'm getting ready to run this soon.  That's cool.

For those of you who've been reading my blog for a while you might remember that September is birthday month.  I'm proud of myself for not mentioning it before now.

Generally though 'life' is whatever I can squeeze into a weekend now that the summer is over.  That bites.

I'm still working my way through this book.  It's way long for me to be reading one book but it's lots to take in... and it's a little crazy which I kinda like.

My kids are almost ready to divorce me with all the canning I'm doing.  Steady meals have been just not happening and there's mutiny in the air.  So, it's taking a back seat.  This means that very soon I'll be baking again.  And cooking regular meals too.  Truth.

Tomatillo Salsa
makes 2 1/2 (remember the over-filling issue) 500ml jars

4 cups tomatillos small
1 small onion, diced small
2 small habanero peppers, diced small
1 small jalapeno pepper diced small
1 bunch cilantro (about 1 1/2 cups) chopped
juice from 1 1/2 limes
corn kernels from 1 medium ear of corn
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp salt (more to taste)
2 1/2 tbsp sugar

combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  Let it sit for a little while (maybe 20 minutes).
Place the salsa into sterilized jars and seal properly with the lids.  Leave about and inch and a half (maybe even 2 inches!) at the top).
Place into a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Remove and cool under clean towels.  Check the seal on the jars (redo if needed... then give up and throw into freezer bags - wish I'd thought of that earlier).  Store for up to a year... but why?

Canned Pears

Ok.  The honeymoon is over.  I'm so tired of canning, making lists of how much of everything I've canned and frozen, sterilizing jars and chopping veggies and/or fruit.  Tomorrow is my last day.   It will be the last time I see the canner for another 9 months.  We need a break from each other.  You know how it gets when you've been with each other just a little too long and the slightest thing can just set you off, right?  So, right now it's pissing me off that it's blue, that it takes 20 minutes to get to boiling and that it can't self regulate. Look, I know that it's just a pot.  I know that my expectations are way too high.  I know that it probably didn't choose it's colour.  But it's still pissing me off.

The Blue Canner
My food mill and I have had it with each other too.  I've got this small/normal hand crank food mill.  It works great for small jobs but when you are putting an entire bushel of tomatoes through that thing to make sauce... well, the food mill and I need a little break from each other too.  So after today it's going away for a little while.  We'll get a breather and it will be good.  These things happen all the time in relationships, it's normal.  I need a break from you for a little while and when I come back we'll be all the better for it 'cause I still love you no matter.
I think that it's important now, at the tail end of my canning adventure, that I submit to you all my insights on the experience:
1.  You have to be willing to put out money up front.  Jars are not cheap (you might get lucky though - garage sales, craigslist, that kind of thing - if you see 'em grab 'em).  The veggies and fruit aren't cheap either when you are buying them in bulk.  You just tell yourself that it's going to pay off down the road... fresher, fewer chems and you can eat that stuff in favour of buying something else at the store.
2.  Doing this really only makes sense if you are using local fruit and vegetables.  If I were buying strawberries in January from wherever and I was cool with that, then why would the hell would I ever put the money and/or time into canning and freezing local fruit in season.
3.  I totally understand why people do this in groups.  Understand, it's not difficult it's just... well, tedious AND LONG when you are doing it all by yourself.  It would be cool to have a few people doing it with me (that aren't 10 years old, but many thanks to Kid #1 for all her help) and maybe an extra person to keep us supplied with drinks and lunch.
4.  It is, despite my protestations above, very rewarding.  I feel proud of myself.  There it is.

So, since I've started making my own yogurt I've also decided that I need to have fruit stuff to have the yogurt with.  What a fantastic way to use up all the preserves and peaches and cherries and PEARS.  I've never done pears before (I've also never done most of the jams, cherries and tomatoes that I did this year either so this could all turn out to be a really really bad experiment) and I have to tell you that they smell beautiful when you are cooking them.  You should invite someone over just to enjoy the smell with you.  Seriously.  Also, if I were to make them again (and I think that I will - see, I'm not totally off doing it), I would booze them up a bit or at least some of them.  I would use a nice rum - you know, the stuff that has a lovely woody, vanilla scent - or a little bourbon.  Just sayin'.
I quartered my fruit 'cause I like it big and chunky but you could just as easily chop or slice the pears.
So quite honestly, what's keeping me going right now is the thought that we are really going to appreciate all of this in the dead of winter.  I'll keep you all posted on that one.

Canned Pears (I kinda got this from all over the place and just made it up when I actually got to doing it)
makes anywhere from 4 - 10 1litre jars but I got 11 jars out of the quantity below

70 - 75 bartlett pears, quartered, de-seeded and de-stemmed
6 cups sugar
3 cups brown sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
3 vanilla pods (used ones are fine here)
1/2 cup or so fresh lemon juice

1.  Divide the pears into 3 large pots (if you have one huge one then go for it in one pot) and add water just until the pears are covered.  Add both the sugars (2 cups sugar and 1 cup brown if divided into 3 pots), the cinnamon sticks and vanilla pods.
2.  Bring to a boil and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes.
3.  Turn off the heat and let the pears rest in the liquid 12 - 24 hours.
4.  Pack the pears (NOT the syrup) into 1 litre jars (Jars should be sterilized but to be honest I've been known to skip this step - huge gasp)
5.  Once the pears are packed then reheat the syrup until it's boiling.  If you wish you could boil it down a bit but I didn't do that.  Add in the lemon juice and add a little more sugar if needed.
6.  Pour the hot syrup into each jar of pears until the pears are just covered with the syrup.  Seal with a canning lid.  Place in a hot water bath for about 13 minutes.  Remove from the water bath and check the lids that might need tightening.  Place the hot jars on a clean cloth and cover completely with a clean towel.
7.  Let cool overnight, check that the lids are solid and have caved in just a bit (they shouldn't make a clicking sound when you push on them).  Store in a cool dry spot.  These will keep a good long time.
Serve with ice cream, use in cakes or pies, serve with homemade yogurt in January and think about all your hard work.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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