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A Day as a Country Mouse

October 21, 2010

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to trek out with two great ladies, Samantha and Ellen,* to the Shenandoah Valley. Between the road trip conversation about work as Hill staffers and pop culture idols like Katy Perry, we also mused about what makes someone a country mouse or a city mouse. And which one we felt we were. You’ve read the book, right? Well, as D.C. city dwellers we are inclined to feel vibrant and alive by all the happenings in our city. The excitement, we say, the energy, the commotion, the people, the news, the events, the hustle and bustle are exhilarating. But then we enter the country terrain.  The calm, the beauty, the rolling hills, slow pace, the sense of community, — hey, maybe this is something we could get used too. Or are there chapters in our lives of each? Which chapter is which? Do you have kids as a country mouse or a city mouse? What kind of country mouse are we talking about? The harvest-our-own-corn-and-make-our-own-cheese country mouse? Or the ranch-style-home-on-five-acres­-with-a-gardener,-hybrid-car-and-15-minute-drive-to-the-grocery-store country mouse? Or maybe we will be wildly success and have both? But then will we be working too hard to enjoy it? Maybe we should marry into the country home. How cliché! We are empowered women; no need for men. And so it went.

It is fun to be in a place in your life with so much room for daydreaming. I guess that makes me a real Salad Days type of girl. Regardless of which camp we fell into, it was incredibly refreshing to be able to feel not only as if we where witnesses of nature’s beauty and autumn transformation, but also feel connected to it. The day included lots of fresh vegetables. We picked mystery greens which turned out to be white radishes, bok choy and swiss chard. We picked pumpkins, apples, and braved the corn maze (maize maze). The real gem of the afternoon was being directed to head up to another hill where the summer vegetables had been abandoned.  We made out like bandits with tomatoes, eggplant, okra and snap peas.

Harvested Apples

View from farm in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

A variety of squash - one of which is now sitting at my desk at work


A sample of the summer vegetables we harvested

The following recipe was one of the many creations I made the following week from our harvest.

Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan


3 medium eggplants

A 12 once can of tomato sauce

6 pieces of mozzarella string cheese (because it is cheaper than a block of mozzarella)

2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese

8 ounces of frozen spinach, defrosted and drained

Leftover French fried onion rings (optional)

This is a simple recipe for eggplant parmesan that is ultimately more a testament to what I had in the fridge as opposed to a gourmet concoction. That said, it was delicious. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the eggplant into ½ inch slices (skin and all). Salt them and let sit for a bit. Rinse the salt off. Sautee the eggplant for 5 to 10 minutes to soften. (I’m not sure this is necessary, but I did it anyway.) Place a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 8X10  pan so that it doesn’t stick. Place a layer of eggplant to cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with spinach. Tear up two pieces of string cheese and layer on the eggplant and spinach. Repeat 2 or 3 times – sauce, eggplant, spinach, cheese – until you are out of ingredients. Cover the top layer with more sauce and cheese. Sprinkle the parmesan on top.  Cover the dish so it doesn’t dry out. Place in oven for 25 minutes. In last 5 minutes, take off cover and add French fried onion rings. This gives it a crispy delicious finish.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

*Names have been changes to protect the innocent.

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