With 100+ temperatures stagnating around us like a lazy fog here in Texas, my motivation and inspiration in the kitchen has melted away faster than frozen-hard butter in a microwave.
Lately, cooking seems like too much trouble. I want to exist on Fuzzy’s tacos or Pei Wei’s hot-flash-inducing Pad Thai. If I cook, it’s mostly without a recipe.
I blame the heat but there’s another reason. Last week, we had to place my mother into a skilled nursing center– temporarily. It’s in the same place where she lived independently with my dad since 1991. Tomorrow, we are moving her to an assisted living apartment. She won’t be able to take many belongings with her, so we have much work ahead of us to clean out her two-bedroom apartment.
Have you been through this yourself? Talk about decision-overload and guilt! Thank God for my sister who has driven into town to help.
I would love to bring Mom to my house but for several reasons, it’s not possible and certainly not safe for her. This is all part of the plan my parents devised 20 years ago when they moved to a retirement center fairly close to my neighborhood. Yet, I dislike it and I think my mom does too, except for all the friends she has made. Although she has some dementia, it’s not enough to block out the loneliness of my father’s passing in January and the whole experience of leaving most of her earthly possessions to people who don’t seem to treasure them quite the same way she does.
By the way, my mom will be 94 next month. Her sister lived to be 103, and another sister is approaching 100, so longevity appears to be in the genes. Unfortunately, their bodies seem to outlast their minds, so I find myself hoping I myself will get run over by a truck and skip the whole growing old routine. Is that bad?
Meanwhile, back to the kitchen and cooking without a recipe. I have been pulling out my familiar, rather simple favorites like this eggplant dish. It’s perfect for people who want to eat more veggies but are tired of green beans and carrots. I make this year-round, but it’s best in the summer. I don’t worry much about following the recipe exactly–it’s just a place to start.
- 2 tablespoons garlic olive oil
- ½ cup onions, chopped (I always use frozen)
- ¼ cup green bell peppers, chopped
- 1 cob of corn (approx 1 cup), with corn cut off the ear
- 1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced into 1" pieces (smaller pieces if you're skittish about eggplant)
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
- 1 cup soft bread crumbs
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 strips of crispy, fried bacon, crumbled (optional)
- Heat oil in large skillet. Saute onions and bell peppers until soft. Add corn and saute a couple of minutes until corn is slightly browned. Add eggplant. Saute and stir until eggplant starts to brown. Cover and allow to cook another 5-7 minutes or until eggplant begins to soften. Add tomatoes and cook another minute.
- Add bread crumbs and bacon (if using) and season with salt and pepper. Stir in half the cheese and pour into a flat casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.