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: 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

Vanilla Bean Whipped Sweet Potatoes

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For those of us hosting big family meals, at just over a month before Thanksgiving, we’ve officially reached the “almost the holidays” panic time.  That time when we revisit what we did last year to determine:

  • What dishes served had the most leftovers
  • What dishes got rave reviews
  • What dishes had no leftovers (for adjusting amount prepared)
  • What dishes were too much effort and underwhelmed

It’s also the time when we take a look at new recipes that we might want to add to this year’s menu, which means we get to make our families Guinea pigs for the next few weeks while we’re trying them out.

I already have one sweet potato recipe that my family loves, but this one (from the December 2005 issue of Food & Wine Magazine) looks pretty good, it’s easy, serves 10 – 12, and can be made the day before which frees up time on the big day, another bonus.

vbwhippedsweetpotatoes

Vanilla Bean Whipped Sweet Potatoes

  • 4 pounds medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 TBLS unsalted butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise, seeds scraped
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Poke the sweet potatoes several times with a fork and bake for about 35 minutes, or until tender.  Let cool slightly, then peel and transfer them to a food processor (I actually use my stand mixer). Puree until fairly smooth.

In a small saucepan, combine the cream with the butter and the vanilla bean and seeds. Bring to a simmer. Remove the vanilla bean.

With the processor (or stand mixer) on, carefully pour the vanilla cream into the sweet potatoes and process until smooth. Season the sweet potato puree with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and serve.

I’d definitely consider doubling this recipe to make sure there were plenty of leftovers for piling on a turkey sandwich or frying up as sweet potato pancakes. #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Boozy Dole Whips

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As much as I love bourbon and wine, sometimes it is just too hot to consider anything except something cool, fruity & boozy from the blender.  This timely little find from the team at Delish fits the bill perfectly!

Boozy Dole Whip

  • 5 Cups frozen pineapple
  • 3/4 Cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 Cup coconut rum (Mailbu)
  • 1/4 Cup sweetened condensed milk
  • Pineapple slices & Maraschino cherries for garnish

  1. Blend frozen pineapple, coconut milk, rum, and sweetened condensed milk in a blender.
  2. Pour into glasses and garnish each with pineapple and a maraschino cherry.

Amaretto Poached Peaches

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PHOTO: Chelsea Kyle, PROP STYLING: Alex Brannian, FOOD STYLING: Dawn Perry

I’m planning a weekend dinner party and love having a make ahead dessert that allows me to spend as little time during the party in the kitchen as possible.  Considering that it’s peak peach season, and very few people have a strong aversion for them, I’d consider it  prime time to dig into my favorite peach recipes at www.californiagirlsgonewine.

This one is fast, can be made ahead, and only tastes better the longer it sits before being reheated!  The very best thing about this recipe is you have two choices when you make it:  Hands on by cooking it on the stove top or hands off by cooking it in the slow cooker!  For what it’s worth, I prefer the more focused control over the end product that comes from using the stove top method.

Amaretto Poached Peaches

  • 6 peaches (about 3 pounds), pitted, thinly sliced
  • 4 strips lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 3/4 cup Amaretto
  • 1/4 cup + 1 TBLS honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, torn if large
  • 2 tsp cornstarch + 2 tsp cold water OR 3 tsp arrowroot + 2 tsp cold water
  • Vanilla bean ice cream (for serving)

For Stove Top:

  1. Rinse and dry your basil leaves and peaches, and scrub the skin of your lemon thoroughly before you start your recipe.
  2. Heat peaches, lemon zest, amaretto, honey, salt, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and 1 cup hot water in a medium pot over medium heat until simmering.
  3. Reduce heat to low and cook until peaches are tender, about 25 minutes.
  4. Cover and remove from heat until 15 minutes before you are ready to serve.
  5. 15 minutes before you are ready to serve, scoop ice cream into serving bowls and place bowls into freezer.
  6. Mix cornstarch OR arrowroot with the cold water until a thin paste forms.
  7. Return peach mixture just to a boil.
  8. Stir cornstarch or arrowroot paste into peach mixture until sauce starts to thicken then remove from heat.
  9. Spoon peach mixture over the ice cream and add a full basil leaf or two. Serve immediately.

For Slow Cooker:

  1. Rinse and dry your basil leaves and peaches, and scrub the skin of your lemon thoroughly before you start your recipe.
  2. Toss peaches, lemon zest, amaretto, honey, salt, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and 1 cup hot water in slow cooker.
  3. Cover and cook on high until peaches are tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour.
  4. Mix cornstarch OR arrowroot with the cold water until a thin paste forms.
  5. Stir cornstarch or arrowroot paste into peach mixture until sauce starts to thicken then turn slow cooker off.
  6. 15 minutes before you are ready to serve, scoop ice cream into serving bowls and place bowls into freezer.
  7. Spoon peach mixture over the ice cream and add a full basil leaf or two. Serve immediately.

**Tip  You can save yourself time during your dinner party by scooping your ice cream into your serving bowls and putting them into your freezer before the party starts.  #GirlsGoneWine

Note that I made a few changes & notes to the original linked recipe:

  • They didn’t specify whether to peel the peaches or not, but the photo shows unpeeled peaches;
  • The Amaretto (almond liqueur) you use matters to the amount you use.  If you ci-disaronno-originale-amaretto-02f22ebe37e1d171are using Amaretto Disaronno use the amount shown in the recipe.  If you are using another brand you may want to slightly reduce the amount as some tend to have a more pronounced almond flavor.  Adjust according to your taste;
  • I found the recipe to be “too saucy” and the sauce to be too thin the first time I made it so I made 2 changes: I increased the peaches from 4 to 6 and added a thickening agent to the sauce (cornstarch or arrowroot).  In this case, use cornstarch or arrowroot to maintain your shiny sauce;
  • I read the reviews of the original recipe, on www.epicurious.com, and agreed that it needed just a touch more honey, so I added an additional tablespoon; and
  • I added 1/4 tsp cinnamon to compliment the peaches, and tame the spice of the red peppers and the peppery basil.

This recipe served 8 and was a definite crowd pleaser!  #ThisGirlLovesToEat