Monthly Archives: January 2014

Marge’s Quarterly Book Reviews – Q4 2013 Edition

I’m just going to be honest and upfront – I did not do NEARLY as much reading as I wanted to over these last few months. Work was hectic, I was tired, I had some health problems, and I spent a lot of my free time just enjoying the holidays with my loved ones. So my book list is a little punier than I wanted it to be. AND I’m cheating and including a book I read the first week of January. Cest la vie!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple

This was definitely one of my best reads this year. I’d been reading about this one everywhere, but for some reason never actually picked it up, until one day when I was desperate for a book from the library’s slim-pickins. I’ve lauded my love of the book Gone Girl since reading it last year; well, this book is like Gone Girl with a quirky sense of humor. It takes place in Seattle, and the main characters romp around some of my favorite college hangouts (Macrina, anyone?). Bernadette is an atypical prep-school mom with a secret. At the beginning of the book, she’s gone missing, and her daughter, Bee, is trying to piece together Bernadette’s last few months of emails, interests, and conversations. The story doesn’t completely reveal itself until the very end, but Semple keeps the reader hooked with enough twists and turns to keep the pages turning. I recommend reading this ASAP. Despite some of her shortcomings, Bernadette is a lovable focal point, and Bee is a delightfully precocious narrator. You will devour this story, and then you will want a sequel.

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

I read this book in about three hours one Sunday morning while my husband was sleeping. He woke up to find me standing over him, swollen-eyed, sobbing incoherently about “the most depressing book I’ve ever read.” Hazel, a teenage terminal cancer patient, is thrown a curve ball by the arrival of a new guy, Agustus in the cancer support group she’s forced to attend. Growing tired of being treated with kid gloves by her parents, Hazel is immediately taken by Agustus’ disregard for the opinions of others. She introduces him to her favorite book, one that she’s read over and over again, and he seems to get it. Together, they adventure to meet the author of said book

Insurgent – Veronica Roth

Allegiant – Veronica Roth

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

My Story – Elizabeth Smart

The Elizabeth Smart kidnapping hit me profoundly, as she was only a few months older than I when she was snatched out of her home in the middle of the night. I’ve always been impressed with how well-adjusted she seems to be, given all that she went through. So I immediately jumped at the chance to read her memoir of the time she spent in captivity. I read some less than stellar reviews of this book, but I didn’t have a problem with it.

In the Name of God: The True Story of the Fight to Save Children from Faith-Healing Homicide

Stress-Free Weeknight Meal – Eggplant Pizza

For the next few months, hubby and I are really trying to pinch our pennies and avoid going out, but also avoid going overboard at the grocery store. I’ve been trying to put together good meal plans using things from our pantry and minimizing what we need to buy. Look for lots of upcoming recipes involving frozen veggies and canned goods, Marge is getting creative!

Tonight, I had to make a grocery run on my way home from work. I used to DREAD my weekly shopping, but now, I’ve found that on a Monday or Tuesday night, I can avoid the crowds (for the most part) and get in and out fairly quickly. I’ve also learned how to coupon, not Extreme Coupon-style, but enough to save a few bucks here and there. I got a nice natural high from my shopping trip tonight, because I was efficient, pretty much everything on my list was on sale, and I didn’t have to wait in line. AND I picked up the new issue of Food Network Magazine with my savings.

We already had a bunch of jarred pasta sauce on hand, so I decided that since I got home later this evening after my grocery run, it was the perfect night for eggplant pizza. This has become one of our favorite easy dishes in the last few months, because it involves basically no prep, it’s not a carbo-load, and it tastes pretty indulgent. Think eggplant parmignana, but without the breading. And sub mozzerella for parm. And no pasta. If you’re worried about the taste of eggplant, don’t be: learn how to cook it properly, and it will taste however you want it to taste. We love our pizza in this house, but needed a healthier (and cheaper) alternative.

Here’s what you’ll need for 3-4 servings (depending on just how many you scarf down):

Forgive the counter mess...

Forgive the counter mess…

– one eggplant

– tomato sauce, pizza sauce, or the lazy girl’s answer to any recipe that calls for tomato, PASTA SAUCE!

-shredded mozzerella

-toppings of your choice (we just use the cheese and pepperoni, but olives, mushrooms, and peppers would be good)

-EVOO, salt, pepper, and oregano or Italian seasoning

First, rinse off the eggplant and chop into rings that are about 1/3 inch thick. Lay out the slices on a lightly greased or sprayed cookie sheet (I’m paranoid about food sticking). Sprinkle salt onto the slices and let sit for 15-20 minutes. The salt will draw some of the natural water out of the eggplant and make it less mushy for cooking. Before this recipe, I had a hard time cooking anything with eggplant because it always turned into a big pot of mush. Then I discovered the salt. The eggplant slices will literally sweat after they are salted. Look!

It perspired!

It perspired!

After 15-20 minutes, when you have a pan of sweaty eggplant, gently wipe the excess water/salt off with a paper towel. There may be more brown in the eggplant than when you left it; this is normal (however, if it’s super brown when you cut into it the first time, I don’t recommend using it). Drizzle EVOO on top of the slices, and season with oregano or your choice of Italian seasonings. Pop into a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. The actual cooking time depends on how firm or soft you like your eggplant. Check it periodically, and remove from the oven when it’s cooked but not complete mush. Now your tray should look like this:

After oven 1

NOW, take your tomato sauce/pizza sauce/pasta sauce and spoon onto the slices, much like you would on a delicious doughy pizza. Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella on next, and then your chosen toppings. Put the cheese on first, or it will slide off the top of your finished pizzas, and that’s tragic! I artistically place pepperonis on, then usually do another light sprinkle of cheese. This time around, my husband walked through the kitchen and said “you should use some Parmesan,” so I sprinkled some of that last-forever-sprinkle-parm on top.

Pre Oven 2

Put back into the oven for about 10 minutes to heat everything and melt the cheese. Then, remove from oven and enjoy!

Ta daa!

So easy, and it uses ONE pan, and a cutting board. It can’t get simpler. I pile about 3 on my plate, after I’ve peeled all the extra cheese off the cookie sheet as an appetizer. This recipe satisfies my pizza cravings every time, provided I can ignore my brain screaming for bread products. But seriously, this is satisfying without making you feel stuffed, as pizza so often does.

I really do have a lot of ideas and posts in progress for the blog this year, and hope to FINALLY become a semi-regular blogger. If you ever have good ideas, or want to see something in particular, let me know!

Coming up soon, my Q4 book reviews, some of my favorite things, and me waxing poetic about the Nike Fuel Band SE I got for Christmas!

Cheers! Time for some hot cocoa in my jammies, friends!

Tagged , , , , , ,