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.

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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

Ingredients

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

 

Preparation

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.

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– 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:

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