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Sunday
Aug242014

Baked Eggplant and Spinach

For anyone planning to have a baby anytime soon, I highly recommend having a due date at the end of May. There is nothing but fantastic to be had when your maternity leave conveniently lines up with summer.
Until fall shows up and ruins the party, that is.
Alas, the party is over and I am returning to not being home until 7:00 each night. That means it's time for the husband to start making dinner again. That also means it's time for me to remind him to make some of my favorite stuff PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
Start with this, sir. I first posted the recipe in 2011, but it has been one of my favorite dishes for years and years.

Baked Eggplant and Spinach

1 Eggplant, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
Spinach (If frozen, use one package. If fresh, use as much as you can fit into a produce bag.)
1 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup (or more) shredded cheese

Slice the eggplant into 1/3 inch pieces.

Coat each side of the eggplant slices with olive oil and a little sprinkle of salt. Place in the oven under the broiler (low, if you have a choice). You can use a cookie sheet if desired, but I like to put it directly on the rack.

While you're waiting for the eggplant to cook, cook the spinach. I prefer to steam it, but it doesn't really matter.

When the eggplant is lightly browned on top, flip it over and allow the other side to cook. It takes about 5 minutes per side, but oven temperatures vary, so keep an eye on it. (Pro tip: If the eggplant seems a little dry after cooking the first side, feel free to slap some more olive oil on the uncooked side before putting it back into the oven.)

Once the eggplant is lightly browned and softened, remove it from the oven. Place a layer of eggplant in the bottom of an oven safe dish.

Add a layer of cooked spinach.

Add a layer of marinara sauce, and then repeat the layers until you run out of eggplant.

Then look at how amazingly healthy you're being and realize there isn't enough protein happening. Fix that with some shredded cheese on top of your last layer of marinara.

I'm a fan of mozzarella and provolone, but anything works.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until it is warmed all the way through. Then turn the broiler on high and make some quick magic.

Whoever first figured out that burnt cheese is the greatest thing ever deserves a medal. We fight over that stuff at my house.

I like this as a side or a main course exactly as it comes out of the oven. The husband, however, likes to put a huge serving of it on a hoagie roll.

Whatever.

It's good no matter what.

Saturday
Aug232014

Painting Petals

Friday
Aug222014

52 Inches of Thrills

Sponsored by TourismOhio. Opinions are my own.

Last week we were able to take a sort of mini vacation thanks to the fantastic folks at TourismOhio. They put together an itinerary for us and threw in some tickets and hotel time. The original idea was that all four of us (OMG THERE ARE FOUR OF US!) would get a real vacation together, but we ran into a snafu with dog sitting at the very last second. In the end, the husband missed out on most of the fun, but he did drive up for one day of the adventure. That day happened to be the day we spent at Cedar Point.

I've got a whole bunch I want to say about all of the things that we did, so there may be more than one post about the trip. This one, though, is just a snippet of a day that turned out to be the very best day ever.

Thanks, TourismOhio.

***********************************************************************

This has been the summer I will forever remember as The Summer of 51.5.

That's 51.5 inches, by the way. That's how tall Alexis has been the entire summer. It's going to be easy to remember because the height requirement for Alexis' favorite Kennywood ride, the Black Widow, is 52 inches.

So close, but yet so far.

Of course, in order to know it is her favorite she had to have ridden it, and she did. With the right shoes and the right person working the yardstick, the kid has been able to eke by as 52 inches a few times this summer. It hasn't been consistent, but Alexis has learned to be patient with the whole "sometimes I'm tall enough and sometimes I'm not" thing.

That's why there was so much anticipation as she stepped up to the yard stick at Cedar Point last week. Would she be tall enough for nearly all of the big coasters? Or would she be stuck riding the smaller, less exciting things? SHE WAS SO NERVOUS.

As the super polite guest service person looked at the yardstick, Alexis shuffled her feet all the way against the wall. She put her shoulders back and stood as tall as she could.

She made the cutoff. Barely, but close counts when it comes to getting a bracelet that declares you tall enough for things like the Gatekeeper, Maverick, Top Thrill Dragster, and Wicked Twister.

What's that? You've seen photos and videos of those coasters and wouldn't ride them yourself? Well, what can I say? I have an 8 year-old thrill junky who will ride absolutely anything. Twice.

She did exactly that, by the way. Thanks to the magic that is a Parent Pass, Alexis got to ride whatever she wanted twice. First with Dad, then with me. (A Parent Pass is a slip of paper that makes it possible to swap out parents. One parent waits in the normal line and rides while the other parent stays with the tiny people who can't ride. Then the riding parent hands the slip of paper to an attendant at the exit. The parent who was waiting then enters the exit, tells the attendant he/she has a Parent Pass, and gets right on the ride. Alexis swapped which parent she wanted to hang with so that she could ride twice while only waiting in line once. IT WAS SO MAGICAL.)

She threw her hands in the air for Maverick.

She grinned with delight all the way up and down the 420 feet track that makes up Top Thrill Dragster.

She laughed her way up and down Wicked Twister.

She declared Gatekeeper the greatest ride ever made. (I agree with her, for what it's worth.)

I have no idea what the kid is going to do for thrills when she's older since she has already conquered every big ride there is, but I hope she takes me along because OMG SO FUN.

The best part is that Alexis thought it was OMG SO FUN as well.

Late in the evening, when the park was nearly empty because of a short rain shower, Alexis and I were in line for Maverick. We laughed along with the people who were getting off of the coaster as they freaked out about all of the smashed bugs all over their faces and arms. "Don't sit in the front at night," we agreed.

Of late, Alexis' laugh has been more deliberate. Less free. It's a more contrived laugh because she's on the edge of self-conscious and she doesn't want anyone to make fun of that laugh that has brought me so much joy for the past eight years. In that moment, however, as we were standing in line watching people pick dead mayflies off of their arms, she forgot about holding back. She laughed and laughed from deep in her belly, with a giant grin on her face and happy tears escaping her eyes.

I memorized that laugh. I also memorized her words as we were buckling up for a most excellent ride. "Momma, thank you for bringing me here. This is my favorite day EVER."

We'll be back, Cedar Point.