Eggplant Parmesan Bake (Gluten Free)

Eggplant Parmesan Bake

View and Print Here Eggplant Parmesan Bake

Grocery stores usually inspire me. Like last week, when I had no intention of making Eggplant Parmesan, and a big, beautiful, deep purple specimen caught my eye in the produce department.  I had to have it. I had to make it. I had to eat it.

There was a time when grocery stores struck fear in me. Like years ago, as a child, I took refuge under the cart just in case one of the giant ‘cost cutter’ cardboard scissor signs fell from the ceiling and cut me in half.  Or, when Mama ran over Bunny. My precious Bunny. Oh, who is he? Read on, my friend.


Bunny travels. Half Dome was a favorite.

I suffered from Conductive Deafness until I was four. Just days after my first surgery Mama and I went about our usual business, which included a stop at the chicken farm for fresh eggs. The barn was lined with chickens and we stood in the market space just on the other side of a windowed wall. Mama chose her eggs, paid the lady, and turned to hand the carton to me. That was my job. To carefully carry the eggs to the car. Only I didn’t reach for the carton this time. I was horrified. Awed. Overwhelmed. I looked at her with wide eyes and asked, “Mama, what is that noise?!”  “Those are the chickens.” She replied. “Chickens make noise?” It was the first of many hearing-world revelations.

My speech therapist sat across from me. She had pulled a chair around to my side of the table and crouched down to me and smiled. My legs swung back and forth and I bounced my pink stuffed bunny on my lap. She asked me what it’s name was. “Buh-honey” I replied. “Do you mean ‘Bunny’? She asked. I nodded.

In the car on the way home, I held Bunny by the hands. His head wobbled a bit, and I made him nod ‘yes’ and shake ‘no’. I murmured his name. “Buh-honey.” I shook his head ‘no’. Louder, I tried again. “Buh-honey.” Once again, I shook his head ‘no’. Three more times. The same result. I looked out the window and watched a couple of corn and bean fields hurry by. We were almost home. Back to my friend on my lap, I tried again. “Bunny.” He nodded ‘yes!’


Slow Cooker Pork & Polenta

Slow Cooker Pork and Polenta3

I have a problem. I may have to find a SCA (Slow Cooking Anonymous) meeting.

I just bought my 5th slow cooker.

To be fair, I run a baking business out of my home kitchen and my ovens are nearly always on, and filled with biscotti, breads, or scones. This makes it very hard (at times) to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour – so I have turned to slow cookers to fill the needs of my family (Do they really need a home cooked meal every night?) and the needs of my business. It’s a delicate balance, and five slow cookers seem to be the magic number – or at least I’ll keep telling myself that.

I have scoured all the normal resources for slow cooker meals, and let me tell you – there is a lot of bad stuff out there. There is nothing worse than letting a meal cook away, yummy aromas wafting through your kitchen, only to find soupy and dry (how does that happen anyway?!) slop on your plate and wrinkled noses on your children’s faces.

This. THIS, however, is a dish that has a  thick sauce, tender meat*, and even contains a starch that is neither mushy (no pun intended!) or tasteless at the end. Here is the kicker – it is SO good you don’t even need the meat. Make this without the pork and you have a wonderful and tummy-filling  Meatless Monday.


* This meat dish is the most tender if you use pork shoulder (also called Boston Butt). If you are in a pinch, or don’t want to break up a large pork shoulder, country style boneless pork chops can be substituted.

Cooking Time 5 1/2 hours to 7 1/2 hours


8 ounces slices white mushrooms

1 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

0.4 ounce package dried portobella mushrooms, chopped

2 tablespoons instant tapioca

salt and pepper

2 pounds pork shoulder

18 ounces (1 tube) cooked polenta (also called cornmeal mush here in the midwest)

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese



Combine white mushrooms, chopped onion, tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Microwave 2 1/2 minutes, stir, then cook for another 2 1/2 minutes. Drain.

Slow Cooker Pork and Polenta1

– Place drained cooked vegetables, dried portobella mushrooms and instant tapioca in slow cooker and stir until combined.

– Slice pork shoulder into 2 inch cubes. Lightly salt and pepper. Nestle pork into vegetable mixture in slow cooker.

– Set slow cooker on high for 5 hours (or low for 7 hours).

– When 5 hours (or 7) have expired, slice polenta into 1/4 inch rounds and shingle over top of pork filling. Top with Parmesan cheese.

– Set slow cooker on high for an additional 30 minutes, letting the cheese melt and polenta warm through. Serve.


I think it is nearly impossible to take a good picture of a crock pot dish…. Please note – I did not use all the polenta called for in the recipe and regretted it. Use it all, and shingle (overlap) more than I did here:

Pork and Polenta4

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

The House

They were living in the church parish house and decided it was time to get a place of their own. Down the country road stood an old farmhouse on an overgrown lot among acres of field owned by the neighboring farmers. The house was built in the mid 1800s and in its heyday it boasted a spring house, smoke house, shed, large stable barn with a hay loft, the creek, and land as far as the eye could see.

The fields were sold off to other farmers over time and the only thing left was the house on about one-and-a-half acres and the shed – all in abandoned condition. The large stable barn still stood, but a fence now separated it from the house, sold with the neighboring parcel.

My parents bought the fixer-upper with great excitement and a vision of a house of their own. They already had a toddler girl, and this house had the space they needed for their growing family.

The interior had plaster and lath walls, burn marks above most every electrical outlet due to fires, and the previous owners housed sheep in the basement. This was the project of all projects.

One of the first jobs on the land was to clear it. The grass was more than head high on the entire lot and it all needed cut back and taken under control. Mom and Dad gathered machetes, hack saws, and mowers. The hard work resulted in a beautiful treasure. They found numerous young pine trees hiding there. Planted in rows with care by an owner long before.

Over the course of nine months they gutted the walls, hung new ceilings, and ran new electric. My mother, pregnant with me, used cinder blocks stacked along the back property line for an outhouse – adding more blocks the more pregnant she became.

Farmhouse before and after

Finally, the indoor plumbing was finished, drywall hung, and sub-flooring laid. Just in time for my birth in the fall. The winter brought the great blizzard of 1978.

Thankfully my parents had a wood burning stove, and an abundance of wood from clearing the land, to keep us warm. The county sheriff heard news of a baby at our address and came on snow mobile to deliver milk and essentials.

With the house nearly finished, attention was turned to the land again. The pine trees had been nibbled on by sheep, but they transplanted them to the back of the property for a wind break and each one recovered nicely. They ordered fruit trees and Mom tells the story of the planting…

“Your father had the holes already dug for the trees. We received the trees by UPS and then it began to rain, filling up the holes with water. Finally after a week of rain we decide to plant on Saturday, even if we had a monsoon. Monsoon it was and we were outside planting trees with you and your sister looking out the windows. What a bonding experience! We were wet, muddy, and tired, but the trees were planted. Every tree lived and after that every time we planted something large, we dug the hole and filled it with water!” 

There was a lovely flat area – three thousand five hundred square feet – just between the apple tree line and the back corn field. The garden was so big our friend Jeff brought his field tractor to turn the soil. With three quick swoops the first turn was done. It would have taken days with the two-wheeled rototiller my Dad shared with my Uncle.

Garden plow day

The garden’s longest side contained blackberry bushes, strawberries and asparagus patches. Walk along the rows and you would find potatoes, onions, corn, green beans, lettuces, broccoli and an occasional Tonka™ Truck. My sister and I loved making roads, mountains and creeks amide the pathways. We harvested throughout the growing season and either canned or processed by a blanch-and-freeze method for the winter.

The asparagus patch is still there. In a few weeks the first spears will be peaking through the soil and I will beg my mother for some – as I do every year. To anyone else it might just taste like asparagus, but to me it tastes like home.


Bacon Wrapped Asparagus


Asparagus, one bunch (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
Bacon, one pound
Cheese – Parmesan or Mozzarella, shredded


  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and nest a wire rack inside.
  • Wet a paper towel with olive oil and rub generously on the rack.
  • Working with one asparagus spear and one slice of bacon at a time, snap an inch or two off the cut-end of the spear. Wrap spear with one slice of bacon.
  • Place on rack, leaving about 1/2 inch gap in between. Do not allow them to touch.
  • Once all the spears are wrapped, place in oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the bacon is to the crispness you desire.
  • Remove tray from oven and use tongs to transfer spears to a serving tray.
  • Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parm

Sometimes there is not a story. Let’s face it, we all have to eat and if I had to have a story for all the food that goes in my belly, well, I would not be eating on a regular basis. For me, not eating is not an option. If my husband* has learned anything in our relationship he knows if he keeps me warm, rested, and my belly full, there is not much else I could ever ask for. He even made this known while we attended a pre-marital workshop years ago. The others in the group laughed – they thought he was kidding. We gave each other a knowing look, and with that we breezed through the rest of the class.

I saw this recipe on America’s Test Kitchen and made it for two reasons. I was hungry and had the right ingredients hanging out in my fridge. It is one of our favorites, and over the years I have made some changes (yes, I even try to improve upon their recipes). It can be a weeknight meal with some simple boiled and oiled pasta and your favorite veg, or you can go all out and impress guests with homemade Spaghetti Sauce (post coming soon!) that has been simmering on the stove most of the day.

Make plenty, because slicing this on an angle and piling on a nice ciabatta makes for a tasty lunch the next day.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

*I will be referring to my husband as Mystery Man from now on… post coming on that, too.


Chicken Parmesan


2 – 8 Ounce Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour plus 1 Tablespoon

1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese (grated on the smallest holes of a box grater, or use a micro plane)

3 Large Egg Whites

1 Cup Parmesan Cheese (grated on the largest holes of a box grater)

1 Cup Romano Cheese (grated on the largest holes of a box grater)

4 Teaspoons Olive Oil



• Place chicken in freezer for about 15 minutes. Until firm, but not frozen.

• Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 200 degrees.

• Set up a line of three pie pans or bowls with large surface areas.

• In pan number one, whisk together 1/4 cup flour and ¼ cup micro-grated parmesan cheese.

• In pan number two whisk egg whites until slightly foamy.

• In pan number three combine 1 cup Parmesan, 1 cup Romano and remaining tablespoon flour.

• Remove chicken from freezer and slice in half lengthwise to make two thin cutlets. (Place on cutting board and press down on breasts with one hand while horizon­tally cutting the chicken with a sharp knife.) You should have 4 cutlets.

• Place chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap (or into a plastic bag) and pound with the smooth side of a meat tenderizer to an even 1/4 inch thickness.

• Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a nonstick skillet (12”) over medium-high heat until it shimmers.

• Place a rimmed baking sheet, seated with a wire rack, nearby.

• Using tongs, work down the line of your prepared pie pans, and work with one piece of chicken at a time.

• Coat with flour on both sides, shake off excess.

• Coat evenly with egg white mixture on both sides and let excess run off.

• Press both sides gently into Parmesan/Romano mixture

• Place 2 cutlets in the heated skillet and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3 minutes, until cheese is golden brown.

• Flip chicken over and cook for another 3 minutes, until golden brown and no longer pink in the center.

• Remove chicken from pan and place on baking sheet with wire rack. Keep warm in pre-heated oven.

• Wipe the pan out with a paper towel. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil and repeat the cooking process until all cutlets are done.