featured friends, pt. 5 – meet andrea.
[Again, friends, if you can leave a quick comment and let me know your name and where you’re from, that would just be wonderful. I’d love to know who my readers are! If you’ve got a blog, leave the address too, and I’ll stop by and read it. And I promise, I won’t do anything with this information! Just wanted to see who is out there in the interwebs . . . and who knows, maybe do a give-away in the future? I know, I know, I’ve resorted to bribing you but I’ve got no shame, haha.]
It’s Friday. Oh lovely, blessed day 🙂 On this fabulous Friday, I have another installment of FEATURED FRIENDS. Everyone, meet Andrea.
Andrea is one of the most unique people I have ever met. She’s got a kind heart, an amazingly creative mind and a deep, thoughtful soul. She’s genuine and transparent, and quite honest with who she is. Funny, though Andrea and I have known each other for about 3 years, we’ve only had a large handful of conversations – but each time we have hung out and talked, I feel like I’m talking with someone I’ve known for quite a while longer than those three years. You know when you meet someone that you can instantly just click with? She’s one of those people in my life, I think. Our experiences and backgrounds are different, but we’ve been able to meet in the middle and share triumphs and struggles comfortably with each other. Plus, she LOVES eating a bowl of cereal. I mean, come on! That is just fantastic, because with me, put a box of Cocoa Pebbles in my hands and I’m gone. She’s a girl after my own heart.
Andrea is the author of The Organic Bird blog, where you will find her musings on life, with all its ups and downs and artistic inspiration (she’s a fantastic painter and graphic designer). But I’ll stop here and just let her “speak” . . .
1. first name and what do you do?
Andrea and I’m a freelance graphic designer and stay at home mom.
2. what do you do to relax and unwind from the busy-ness of life?
it depends on where i am and what i’m busy with. sometimes relaxing looks like a glass of wine and a silent home. sometimes it’s a book. sometimes it’s getting outside and getting into the fresh air. my time is pretty split these days between new york and texas. relaxing in NY looks a whole lot different than relaxing in texas.
3. name a movie that you like and why.
one of my favorites is Sweetland (by recommendation of Michelle!). i tell everyone if they haven’t seen it, they need to watch it. also, i can’t stop raving about The King’s Speech.
4. what are some of your favorite foods to eat?
oh gosh. cheese, salmon, bananas, black beans, avocado, watermelon, egg salad, kale, zucchini, mushrooms… and cereal! i’m 28 years old but nothing tastes better to me than a bowl of cereal. as far as eating out, i really love indian, thai and sushi. they are my go-to’s if i get to choose a restaurant. in africa, we ate chipatti with peanut butter. sometimes i crave it here!
5. do you like to cook? if yes, what do you like to make? if no, what do you do about meals?
yes! i LOVE to cook. i tend to cook vegetarian meals, mostly because the kind of meat i want to buy is expensive, so it’s easier to make our meals vegetarian. i try to keep the meals varied as much as i can! my go to is probably a curry skillet meal (all veggies, simmered with curry and veg. stock over rice). super easy and really tasty. i also bake our own bread, every couple of days. we’re hooked and can’t go back to store-bought bagged bread. you can’t beat homemade bread!
6. any fun kitchen/meal/grocery tips?
buy fresh! everything tastes better fresh. don’t be afraid to try new things. cooking is an art — you get to create and be creative every day! keep a well-stocked pantry. there are some great sites out there with “what to have” in a well-stocked pantry. this has saved me from many last minute trips to the store. there are substitutions for everything, if you have the right stuff!
7. what’s a recipe you’d like to share?
i’m sharing a recipe for an eggplant lasagna. it’s based off an epicurious recipe but i made a few changes to fit our diet and practical kitchen 🙂
8. what’s an interesting fact about you?
sometimes when i cook, i put on the prettiest apron i have and a pair of high heels. it gets me out of mom/work mode and makes it feel like i’m doing something really special! (which i am – cooking for me and my little girl!)
Recipe: Eggplant Lasagna (gluten-free & vegetarian)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 5 cups whole milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- pinch of pepper
For pesto and ricotta mixture
- 1 1/3 cups cashews (5 1/2 ounces), toasted and loose skins rubbed off in a kitchen towel
- 4 cups loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (from 3/4 lb)
- 3 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 1/2 cups)
- 2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 large egg
- 1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta
- 4 pounds medium eggplants (4), cut into 1/3-inch-thick rounds
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- a package of gluten-free rice noodles, no bake
- 1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Make béchamel: saute garlic in the butter in a saucepan over low heat for about a minute. Add the flour and whisk it with the sautéed garlic for about 3 minutes. Add the milk, whisking constantly. Add the bay leaf and bring the whole mix to a boil over moderately high heat. Keep whisking, constantly! Once it’s boiling, reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until the liquid is reduced down and thickens. (About 7-10 minutes). Stir in salt and pepper, remove from heat and cover with wax paper until later!
Make pesto and ricotta mixture: Coarsely chop 1/3 cup cashews and reserve for sprinkling over lasagna. (in a food processer, puree parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano, 2/3 cup oil, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and remaining cup cashews until pesto is smooth, about 1 minute.) Whisk egg separately, then stir in ricotta, 1 c. pesto mix, remaining teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper until combined well. In another bowl, stir 1/4 cup pesto and remaining 1/4 cup oil for drizzling over lasagna.
Roast eggplant: Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 450°F. Oil 2 large baking sheets. Brush eggplant with oil on both sides, then arrange in 1 layer on baking sheets and sprinkle (generously) with salt and pepper. (This helps get the bitterness out of the eggplant!) Bake eggplant, switching position of sheets halfway through baking and turning slices over once, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes total.
Noodles: For the no-bake rice lasagna noodles, these will need a minute or two in hot boiling water before laying them in the lasagna. There is not enough fluid to cook the noodles in the dish.
Put oven rack in middle position and reduce oven temperature to 425°F. Lightly oil a 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish (3 quart) and line a larger shallow baking pan with foil.
Spread 1 cup béchamel in baking dish and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Drop 1 cup ricotta mixture by spoonfuls over pasta, spreading evenly (layer will be thin), then top with 1 layer of eggplant, cutting rounds to fit if necessary. Make 1 more layer each of béchamel, pasta, ricotta, and eggplant. Spread with 1 cup béchamel and cover with remaining 3 pasta sheets. Spread remaining cup ricotta mixture over pasta, then spread ricotta with remaining cup béchamel and top with remaining eggplant in 1 layer (you may have a few slices left over). Sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano over eggplant and scatter with reserved chopped cashews.
Tightly cover baking dish with oiled foil (oiled side down), then set dish in foil-lined pan (to catch drips) and bake lasagna 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagna stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
Serve lasagna drizzled with pesto.
If you want it, here’s where I got the original recipe: