Holiday Rush Cooking: Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole

roastedgarliccheesycauliflowerWhen the hustle and bustle of the December holiday season is in full swing, the last thing I want to worry about is making dinner.  This main dish casserole can be made ahead and served with a salad for a great weeknight meal.

If you don’t eat, or don’t like pork products, you can easily substitute shredded chicken (grocery store rotisserie or home prepared) for the ham and either leave the bacon out or substitute turkey bacon.  Another option is to cut leftover steak or prime rib into cubes as a substitute for the ham and leave in the bacon.  If you are vegetarian you can leave the meat out completely and add more bell pepper (red, yellow, orange or green). It’s a recipe that’s easy to get creative with.

Roasted Garlic Cheesy Cauliflower

  • 2 Heads of Cauliflower
  • 2 Cups Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese
  • 2 Cups Shredded Aged Gouda (or Trader Joe’s Gouda/Parmesan Blend) Cheese
  • 4 TBLS Butter
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper Diced
  • 3 Chopped Green Onions
  • 6 Slices Cooked Bacon
  • 2 Cups Diced Cooked Ham
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Roasted
  • 3 Shallots, Roasted
  • Freshly Ground Pepper
  • About 1 TBLS Olive Oil
  • 2 TBLS Almond Flour
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13 Pyrex baking dish and set aside.

roastedgarlicPeel away the papery skin and cut off the top of the garlic clove.  Place inside a square of foil, drizzle with olive oil, close up the foil package, and place in a shallow pan in the oven.  Do the same for the shallots.  Bake 30-40 minutes and remove from oven.  Set aside for a few minutes then open up foil pouch to let cool.

Break apart cauliflower heads, discard the stem and steam in a steamer in a large pot until tender but not mushy (about 20 minutes per head – you may have to do it in 2 batches).  Transfer cauliflower to Vitamix Container or Food Processor and pulse until florets break apart but do not pulverize.  Remove the cauliflower and put into a large mixing bowl.  Add diced bell pepper, ham, half of the chopped green onions, and half of the crumbled bacon.  Toss to combine.

In heavy saucepan squeeze the roasted garlic and shallots out of their skins and add 3 TBLS butter.  Cook over medium heat until butter melts.  Using a fork or an immersion blender stir/blend until the garlic and shallots are crushed and well combined.  Add a generous amount of pepper, the cream (or 1/2 & 1/2) and bring just to a boil.  Combine the last 1 TBLS of butter (melted) with 2 TBLS of the Almond flour (all purpose if Keto isn’t a concern for you) and blend or whisk into the mixture in the pan until the mixture begins to thicken.  Add the cream cheese then 1 Cup of the pepper jack and 1 Cup of the gouda, stirring constantly until melted.  It may not be a flowing sauce, but resemble a big melted blob – that’s ok.  Remove from heat and pour into the cauliflower mixture in a large bowl.  Use a large rubber spatula to stir together until well mixed.

Spread into prepared 9 x 13 pan, sprinkle remaining bacon, green onion and cheeses over the top, cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes; remove foil and continue to bake until cheese is brown and bubbly.  Remove from oven and let cool 5-10 minutes. I serve with a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot for those who like more spice. #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Kicking Off Cookies & Cocktails Season

Molasses_Spice__Lemon_CookiesThanksgiving is over, #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday have come and gone and it’s time to dive into the annual baking of the holiday cookies.  The parade of visits, people visiting, and parties where you’ll need to bring something has arrived, but who want to bring the expected holiday cookies? Not me. #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Last year Wine Enthusiast published a recipe for molasses cookies that paired perfectly with a cocktail that isn’t my usual glass of red wine, bourbon on the rocks, or old fashioned, the Palmetto.  Not hard to make, no fancy ingredients, and something different. Perfect!

Molasses Cookies With Lemon and Spice

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 12 TBLS unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup Sugar in the Raw
  • ¼ cup bootstrap molasses
  • 1 large egg

For Filling

  • 3 TBLS unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 TBLS lemon juice

Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, salt and ground cloves together in bowl. In second bowl, melt and cool ¾ cup butter, and mix with ½ cup sugar, molasses and egg, until combined. Stir flour mixture into molasses mixture. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Spread ½ cup granulated Sugar in the Raw in shallow dish.

Heat oven to 375˚F. Roll dough into ¾-inch balls, then roll in Sugar in the Raw. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, and press flat. Bake until tops just begin to crack, 8–10 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Let cookies cool completely.

Make filling and assemble sandwiches

Whisk butter, powdered sugar and lemon juice in bowl until smooth. Spread 1 heaping teaspoon filling over half of cookies, then top with remaining cookies, pressing lightly to adhere. Let filling set for 1 hour before serving. Makes about 42 sandwich cookies.

Palmetto Cocktailpalmetto

In a mixing glass, combine:

  • 1½ ounces aged rum
  • 1½ ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • ice

Stir until chilled and strain into a coupe (saucer champagne) glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Turkey Day Prep: Chunky Bacon Creamed Spinach

SpinachThis is the recipe made famous by the Southern California prime rib institution, Gulliver’s, with the barest of modifications to take away the baby food consistency and make it meatier.  There is also a seamless modification to make this a perfect Keto side dish.

Chunky Bacon Creamed Spinach

  • 2 – 16 oz packages frozen chopped spinach
  • 12 pieces thick cut bacon (Usually a 12 oz pkg) I buy from the butcher so it may be more than 12 oz
  • 3 cups milk (I recommend whole milk)
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped (1 1/2 tsp if jarred minced garlic)
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour  (for Keto use 1/3 cup almond flour)

Thaw spinach and squeeze as much liquid out as possible.

Cut bacon into about 1″ pieces and cook in a large saucepan or medium dutch oven on the stove top over medium heat until it’s brown but not yet crispy.  You want as much fat to render as possible so it’s not too chewy. Using tongs, remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towel.

Add onion and garlic to the pan and cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  While onions are cooking, microwave your milk on high for 4 minutes.  Stir in pepper and flour, stirring continuously for about 2 minutes.

TIP: Pre-packaged bacon tends to be fattier, so you’ll have more grease and a better roux.  You may need to add a little butter (olive oil if you used almond flour) to the pan to give your mixture a better consistency if it’s too dry, if you used bacon with less visible fat.  If your bacon gave off more grease than whichever flour you used could absorb, add more a teaspoon at a time, thoroughly stirring in between additions until your roux is holding together and not too wet or dry.

Add milk and whip until smooth. TIP: If you don’t like the consistency of your almond flour, at this point you can use your immersion blender to smooth everything out, including the onions and garlic.

Stir and cook another 2 minutes, or until a slow boil starts.  Add bacon back in, then add spinach  Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  TIP: I like the creaminess of adding an additional 1/4 cup of heavy cream when it’s done cooking, but before the next. step, especially if you are doing the Keto version.  Cover top with 1/2 cup melted butter and lid until ready to serve.  If you can make this the day before, it is one of those dishes that gets better the longer it sits in the refrigerator.  Just warm it up slowly in the oven.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Turkey Day Prep: Keto Friendly, Low Carb Baked Cauliflower Au Gratin

Tomorrow’s all about talkin’ turkey, but tonight I wanted to look at an alternative to the usual sides and came across this recipe for baked cauliflower au gratin.  Anyone who is doing Keto or trying to avoid the bread and potatoes will definitely appreciate your (very limited) effort on this comforting side dish.

Baked Cauliflower Au Gratinlow-carb-baked-cauliflower-au-gratin-photo

  • 1 pound cauliflower cut into florets (or precut/bagged florets) 4 cups +/-
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1 TBSP + 1tsp almond flour
  • 1 TBSP + 1tsp coconut flour
  • 1+1/2 cups 2% or almond milk
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 oz)

Preheat oven to 375° F and bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Add the cauliflower to the boiling water and cook 5 to 7 minutes until just tender.  Drain well and spread out on paper towels.  Using another layer of paper towel on top, gently press out as much moisture as you can.

While the cauliflower cooks, melt the butter in a medium pan over medium/high heat. Once melted, add in the almond and coconut flours and whisk, stirring constantly, until it just begins to brown, about 1 minute.

Whisk in the milk, salt, garlic and onion powder and pepper until smooth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, stirring occasionally, until VERY thick, about 7-8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and whisk in 1/2 cup of the cheese until smooth.

Spread 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8×8 inch pan. Pack the cauliflower into the pan on top and then spoon the rest of the sauce over top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25-30 minutes. OPTIONAL: broil for 2-3 minutes until golden.  Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Turkey Day Prep: Keto Friendly Appetizers That’ll Please the Whole Crowd

Spinach-Stuffed-MushroomsTo serve appetizers or not on Thanksgiving is always one of my biggest questions.  I don’t want to have people be so stuffed they don’t eat the main meal, but I don’t want to have people complaining if things get delayed, as always seems to happen.

The problem with appetizers is twofold: if someone else brings them they bring way too many, and if I do them it’s something else I have to do while also cooking the meal.  Then there is the dietary debate…who eats how, etc.  The beauty of these Keto appetizers is that they will appeal to everyone (give or take) in the crowd when a couple of them are paired with a simple cheese and/or veggie tray and that should be just enough to keep the troops happy until the main event.

These could also be great side dish options.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 20 – 30 white mushrooms or baby bellas

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese, onion powder, garlic powder and salt and mix well. Stir in spinach.  Spoon filling into the mushrooms and place in a buttered baking dish.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the mushrooms are soft.

Parmesan Crusted Crushed TurnipsParmesan-Crusted-Smashed-Turnips

  • 12 small to medium turnips, peeled
  • 3 TBLS extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1+1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground sea salt & black pepper
  • finely chopped chives

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Place peeled turnips in pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil.  Cook 25 to 30 minutes, or until they can be easily pierced with a fork.  Drain and cool slightly.

Place the turnips on a clean, lint-free, dish towel on your work surface.  Using a spatula or other large utensil, press down on each turnip until they are all about 1/2″ thick.  Let them drain for 10-15 minutes then flip over to a dry part of the towel and let the other side dry.

Combine olive oil, garlic, and salt & pepper in a small bowl.  Brush both sides of each turnip with the oil mixture, press each side of each turnip into the Parmesan cheese, and place each turnip on a baking sheet.

Bake 20 minutes then flip each turnip over and return to oven for an additional 15 minutes until they’re nice and golden brown.  Garnish with fresh chives.  Serve with sour cream if desired. #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Turkey Day Prep: Vegan Friendly Sides

scallopedpotatoesTo go with a sports description, we’re in the fourth quarter and approaching the two-minute warning on Thanksgiving.  Guest lists are likely set and it’s time to lock down the menu.  We all have the relative who is perpetually dieting, the relative who drinks too much before dinner even starts, the picky eater, the vegetarian, but there’s the one that always stump’s me: the new girlfriend or boyfriend who’s vegan.

The nice thing about these sides, from Eating Well Magazine, is that they will also appeal to your non-vegan guests.  Remember that undressed salads & vegetables, as long as they are prepared without any animal products (no dairy, no beef or chicken broth, no eggs), are vegan friendly too.

Vegan Scalloped Potatoes

  • 1½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes cut into 1/4″ slices (I use my OXO Good Grips Complete Grate & Slice Set – it’s fast, makes uniform slices, & easy cleanup)
  • 1½ pounds sweet potatoes peeled & cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 4 TBLS extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • ½ tsp white or black pepper, divided
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 3 TBLS all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups unsweetened plain almond milk
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme

Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 425°.  Toss potatoes and sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and garlic powder in a large bowl until well coated. Divide between 2 large baking sheets and spread in an even layer. Roast, rotating the pans from top to bottom about halfway through, until tender and beginning to brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, until very soft and golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add flour and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring for 1 minute more. Add almond milk; cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens and bubbles, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

When the potatoes are done, remove them from the oven. Preheat the broiler. Transfer half the potatoes to a 2-quart broiler-safe baking dish. Spread half the sauce over the potatoes. Add the remaining potatoes and top with the remaining sauce, paprika and almonds. Broil, watching carefully, until the sauce is bubbling and the almonds are beginning to brown, 1 to 5 minutes, depending on your broiler. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve topped with thyme.

  • To make ahead: Roast potatoes (Step 2) up to 30 minutes ahead. Prepare sauce (Step 3), cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day; gently reheat until steaming before combining with the potatoes.
  • Serving size: ½ cup  Per serving: 199 calories; 8 g fat(1 g sat); 4 g fiber; 30 g carbohydrates; 4 g protein; 23 mcg folate; 0 cholesterol; 5 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 13,266 IU vitamin A; 18 mg vitamin C; 157 mg calcium; 1 mg iron; 303 mg sodium; 651 mg potassium  Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (265% daily value), Vitamin C (30% dv)  Carbohydrate Servings: 2 Exchanges: 2 starch, 1 fat

Vegan Sourdough StuffingSourdoughStuffing

  • 3 TBLS extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups halved and sliced leeks
  • 2 large stalks celery, halved and sliced
  • 12 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 16 ounces sourdough bread stuffing cubes
  • 2¼ cups low-sodium vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle poultry seasoning, pepper and salt over the vegetables and stir to combine. Transfer to a large bowl. Add bread and broth; stir until all the bread is moistened. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Coat a large piece of foil with cooking spray. Cover the baking dish with the foil, spray-side down.

Bake until hot and steaming, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove foil. Bake until lightly crisped on top, 18 to 20 minutes more.

Turkey Day Prep: Zinful Cranberries

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This is a recipe I shared yesterday to my wine lifestyle blog #GirlsGoneWine that I love pulling out for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s one that I have been making for a few years. It’s fast, easy, and tastes so good!  If you’re serving a #KetoCrowd, there’s an adaptation at the bottom of the recipe.

Growing up, my family never ate any cranberry sauce that was homemade.  In the preparations for cannedcranberriesThanksgiving, someone was always assigned the task of bringing two cans of jellied and one of whole berry cranberry sauce.  You couldn’t try and pull a fast one by buying store brand.  It had to be Ocean Spray on Grandma’s Thanksgiving table!

When I began cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my own family I automatically followed the same routine until I became obsessed with the Food Network a few years back and made my first foray into making cranberry sauce from scratch.

For the first few years, I stuck with the basic “back of the package” recipe:

  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 – 12 oz bag of whole fresh cranberries

Boil sugar and water, add cranberries and cook 10 minutes over a slow boil until berries have popped, refrigerate until time to serve.  *If you wanted it jellied you strained out the berry solids and skins using a mesh strainer before refrigerating.  BORING!

This year I put some time and creativity into the preparation and came up with a winner:

Zinful Cran-Blueberry Sauce

  • 1 & 1/4 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Zinfandel Wine (Best Quality you can afford – if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it)
  • 1 – 12 oz Package Ocean Spray Fresh Whole Cranberries
  • 1 Cup Frozen Blueberries
  • 1 Whole Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • Orange or Tangerine Zest

Bring sugar, wine and cinnamon stick to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add remaining ingredients and return to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes.  You may want to use a splatter shield to avoid splashing when cranberries pop. Remove and discard cinnamon stick.  Cool slightly then move sauce to serving dish.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours and serve cold.  Sauce will thicken up as it cools.  Garnish with a few cranberries, blueberries and curls of zest.

Keto Conversion:  Substitute 1/2 Cup+1 TBLS Granulated Swerve (Stevia) for the Sugar

Don’t worry, for the holdouts who just can’t stand not seeing the canned Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce, I still have the obligatory dish with the slices in the shape of the can. 😉  #CAGirlsGoneWine