Artichokes With Roasted Garlic Wine Dip

home-artichokeI love living in Southern California where there is the availability of local fruits and vegetables in the stores, as well as what is trucked and flown in from around the country and from other parts of the world, pretty much year-round.  It really makes cooking and eating fun! #ThisGirlLovesToEat 

One of the few things that I do have to be patient for are artichokes.  Nowhere grows them as big and meaty as we do in California.  In fact, 99.99% of all commercially grown artichokes are grown in California. 

CAF_fest_logo-2017Since I happen to love them, it’s a pretty good thing that Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom named artichokes the Official State Vegetable of California on April 10, 2013.  Artichokes from California are so fabulous that they’ve had their own festival for the past 56 years: Castroville Artichoke Food & Wine Festival.

Some people dip their leaves in mayonnaise (which makes me want to gag), others in various aiolis, dips or other concoctions, but I’ve been a ridiculous creature of habit for as long as I can remember, eating my artichokes one way and one way only: dipping each succulent leaf into a bowl of melted butter.  Occasionally I may deviate in the preparation of the steam that surrounds my artichoke, adding some white wine, maybe some garlic or some lemon to the water, but I never deviate on my buttery leaf bath.  Until now.

This long forgotten recipe I’d clipped from the May 2007 edition of Cooking Light Magazine convinced me to change my ways (at least temporarily).

artichokes-dip-ck-1622453-x

Artichokes With Roasted Garlic Wine Dip

  • 2 whole garlic heads
  • 4 medium artichokes (about 3 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat Oven to 400° F.
  2. Remove white papery skin from garlic heads (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap each head separately in foil. Bake at 400° F for 45 minutes; cool 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard skins.
  3. Cut off stems of artichokes, and remove bottom leaves. Trim about 1/2 inch from tops of artichokes. Place artichokes, stem ends down, in a large Dutch oven filled two-thirds with water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until a leaf near the center of each artichoke pulls out easily. Remove artichokes from pan.
  4. Combine half of garlic pulp and wine in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Add broth; cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 8 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in butter and salt. Pour mixture into a blender; add remaining half of garlic pulp. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Sprinkle dip with parsley, if desired. Serve dip with warm artichokes.

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Best Way To Cook Cauliflower Rice

how-to-make-cauliflower-rice-graterAnyone who has tried to diet, lose a few pounds, or who just wants to cut down on the many, many carbohydrates in the average American diet has likely heard of substituting white rice with cauliflower grated down into a low-calorie, gluten-free rice substitute that is also a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins C, K, and B6.

I have yet to master “cauliflower rice.”  The methods I have used so far have left me with either a pile of mush (something close to Cream of Wheat) or rock hard mini chunks that in no way resemble rice…UG!

Thankfully the test kitchen at epicurious.com did the hard work of trying out the many methods we’ve all seen on pinterest and gave us the method that they found to be the best tasting and closest in consistency to rice so that home cooks like me can stop screwing it up so badly.  The one thing that they did note, for consistency, was that they added olive oil to all preparations (except raw).

cookingcaulirice

The following is taken directly from the article found at http://www.epicurious.com:  The Best Way to Make Cauliflower Rice; by   04.22.16

COOKING METHOD 1: NONE

They tasted the grated cauliflower in its natural state, as it is sometimes added to couscous-like salads raw and simply tossed with a rich, acidic dressing that helps break down some of its tough structure. But although the raw form is the easiest—no cooking required—it had a crunch that was too vegetable-like to approximate rice.

Epinion: Raw cauliflower rice is crunchy, and works to add texture to a salad, but it doesn’t mimic cooked rice.


COOKING METHOD 2: STEAMED IN CHEESECLOTH

Steaming the grated cauliflower is the most minimal cooking process. But since the cauliflower granules are so small, they had to use several layers of cheesecloth to hold the cauliflower in the steamer basket. The texture here was great, and the flavor was clean and fresh, very similar to the blank canvas of white rice. But removing the tiny cauliflower pieces from the cheesecloth was a pain, and some cauliflower rice was lost in the process.

Epinion: This process yields great results, but it’s too fussy.


COOKING METHOD 3: STEAMED IN WATER, THEN GRATED

They then tried steaming the whole cauliflower florets first, using a traditional steamer basket set into a medium-sized pot. Once cooled, the cooked cauliflower was grated. Although this greatly simplified the process, the cauliflower rice tasted waterlogged and was mushy.

Epinion: Steaming whole cauliflower florets doesn’t work.


COOKING METHOD 4: COOKED IN WATER

Next they tried cooking the grated cauliflower as if it were traditional rice: they added the grated cauliflower to a small amount of simmering water, covered the pan, and let the cauliflower cook until the water evaporated. Again, this yielded watery mush.

Epinion: Cauliflower rice shouldn’t be cooked the same way as rice.


COOKING METHOD 5: BOILED

Not wanting to give up on the ease of water-cooking, they tried dunking some of the grated cauliflower in a pot of boiling water and then in ice water to try out quick-blanching. But yet again, the cauliflower rice was wet and squishy.

Epinion: Water + tiny granules of cauliflower rice = soggy cauliflower.


COOKING METHOD 6: MICROWAVED

They placed the grated cauliflower into a microwave-safe bowl, stirred in the tablespoon of oil, covered the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and cooked for about 3 minutes. And viola! Super easy, delicious texture with distinct rice kernels, and clean flavor, very similar to the steamed version, minus the mess of the cheesecloth.

Epinion: For the easiest and cleanest white-rice—esque cauliflower, use the microwave.


COOKING METHOD 7: SAUTÉED

Finally, they tested high-heat methods of cooking the cauliflower, heating up the olive oil in a pan and sautéing the grated cauliflower until lightly cooked. The taste was much richer than the microwaved cauliflower (or any of the boiled/steamed versions), but the cruciferous flavor was much stronger.

Epinion: For a sweeter, more cauliflower-forward rice, sautéing is a great option.


COOKING METHOD 8: ROASTED

For the final test, they tossed the grated cauliflower with the oil, then roasted it on a baking sheet at 400°F for about 12 minutes. This version had the sweetest flavor, thanks to the caramelization of the cauliflower. But again, that earthy, cauliflower funk was much more apparent than in other cooking methods. Cauliflower rice made this way makes a great side dish on its own, seasoned simply with butter, salt, pepper, and perhaps some cheese, but for a white rice alternative, the microwaved rice was the clear winner.

Epinion: For a quick-cooking, caramelized cauliflower side dish, roasting is the way to go.

I can see now that my mistakes were:

  • I wasn’t adding any olive oil when cooking
  • I was adding too much water
  • I was overcooking the riced cauliflower in the microwave

Knowing where I failed, plus taking the expert advice of the Epicurious test kitchen, convince me that my next attempt at cauliflower rice is going to be much better!

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All-American Meal

meatloaf

During the entire Election 2016, this admitted Political Junkie made every night of both conventions and each of the 3 debates, plus a few other random “big political news” nights, events for a special meal to eat in front of the television.

So, when my husband asked me what gourmet meal I’d be preparing I was surprised to find myself unprepared with a ready-to-answer menu.  Uh Oh!  He suggested meatloaf which I immediately shook off as not fancy enough for a night I anticipated would involve a lot of anticipatory butterflies for the historic, ultimate glass ceiling shattering moment in history I hoped would be happening for women while we’d be eating our dinner on the west coast.

As the day wore on I started to change my mind about the simple, unassuming meatloaf.

meatmashpeasWhat screams Americana more than the steady weeknight fare of everyone’s youth more than meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas?  Nothing I could come up with.  Throw in an apple pie and the perfect Tuesday Election Night 2016 meal vote was cast! 😉

Simple Weeknight Meatloaf

  • 2 1/2 – 3 Pounds 85% Lean Ground Beef
  • 1 Sleeve Saltine Crackers Crushed
  • 1 Can Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1/3 Cup Ketchup or Jarred Spaghetti/Marinara Sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F.

  1. In bowl of stand mixer (or large mixing bowl if combining ingredients by hand) put (in this order) crackers, eggs, can of tomatoes (undrained), meat, and ketchup.
  2. Using bread hook attachment, turn stand mixer to lowest setting and mix until ingredients start to combine and form a loaf shape.
  3. Remove hook and using a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula, finish combining until no dry crackers show through the meat.
  4. Mound into a loaf pan but don’t pack too firmly.
  5. Put loaf pan into preheated oven and set timer for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  At about 30 minutes use a turkey baster and suction off any fat that has begun to accumulate along the edges of the loaf pan.  Also, use your ketchup or spaghetti/marinara sauce to top the meatloaf.
  6. At 60 minutes again suction the fat from the edges of the pan with a turkey baster.  I do this to avoid spillage into my oven and also to avoid having my meatloaf sit in fat during the entire baking time.
  7. At an hour and a twenty minutes, slide your meatloaf out of the oven and insert a meat thermometer into the middle, making sure not to let the tip of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan.  Your meatloaf should read 160°F for medium in the center.
  8. If you want your center to be more medium well, put your meatloaf back into the oven for another 5 minutes or so and check the temperature again.  For medium-well it should read 165°F and the rest of your meatloaf will be more well done at or above 170°F.

If you want mashed potatoes to be ready when your meatloaf comes out you can throw some small red potatoes (skin on or off) into a pot of boiling water and cook them for 15 minutes.  Turn them off, drain the water and throw them into the bowl of your stand mixer with some milk, salt & pepper and butter.  Using the paddle attachment mix until well combined but don’t over mix.  Throw some foil over the top of the bowl and they’ll stay hot until you’re ready to eat.

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Spicy Cognac-Mushroom Rice

mushrice

I’m throwing caution to the wind this holiday season and tossing my tried and true recipes out the window.  Well, at least a few of them.  So, out goes the usual wild rice side dish and in it’s place I’m going to add a whole lot more flavor:

Spicy Cognac-Mushroom Rice

  • 4 Cups Cooked Brown Rice
  • 4 Cups Cooked White Rice
  • 1 – 26.5 oz Can Black Beans (drained)
  • 12 oz Sliced White Mushrooms
  • 12 oz Sliced Portobello Mushrooms
  • 8 TBLS (1 Stick) Butter
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion Chopped
  • 1 – 4oz Can Diced Jalapeno Peppers (drained)
  • 1/2 Cup Cognac
  • 3 TBLS Honey
  • 2 TBLS Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • Freshly Ground Sea Salt (to taste)
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper (to taste)

Prepare your rice using whatever method you prefer.  I prefer my pressure cooker so I can combine the white and brown rice and do it all at once, but you can do it on the stovetop, use your rice cooker or even do it in your microwave if you prefer.

  1. Using a large skillet, I use my cast iron skillet, melt your butter.
  2. Add in the sliced mushrooms and let brown, stirring, for 10 minutes.
  3. Next add the onion, jalapeño, salt and pepper and let cook for another two minutes.mush1
  4. Add the honey and stir until it’s well incorporated.
  5. Add the cognac and let reduce for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the soy sauce and stir, then add the drained black beans.
  7. Cook for another 5 minutes over low heat until the liquid thickens a bit.
  8. Pour over the rice in the large bowl.
  9. Stir together and then season with more salt and pepper to taste if needed
  10. Pour rice into a serving dish – I am using a disposable 9 x 13 covered cake pan with a lid for mess free transport.

I am using my unsuspecting friends at tomorrow’s USC homecoming tailgate as guinea pigs.  We are deep frying Duck and this seemed like a good way to do a test run.

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

 

Healthier Potato Chips

potato-chipsIt’s debate night and a few girlfriends and I are throwing together a spread so we can drink wine and yell at the combatants on the television screen.  All was fine until I realized my son ate all of the chips and Amazon Prime Now had already made their second trip to my house of the day.  UG!

I remembered I had a 5 pound bag of potatoes in the cabinet so bravely I took on baking homemade potato chips.  How hard could it be?  Truth be told, the whole first batch ended up in the trash…I baked them WAY too long and they were black.  Oops!

This is the recipe that finally worked:

  • 3 Large Russet Potatoes
  • 1/4 Cup Light Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 -2 TBLS Sea Salt, Black Pepper, Cajun Spice Blend, Ranch Dressing Mix, Mrs. Dash, or any other seasoning blend you’d prefer
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°
  2. Wash the potatoes thoroughly
  3. Using a mandolin type slicer, slice the potatoes into thin slices, rinse in cold water and pat dry
  4. Pour the olive oil into a medium sized mixing bowl, add the potato slices and the spice(s) you prefer
  5. Using tongs to separate, toss the potato slices making sure that they are thoroughly coated on both sides
  6. Place slices on baking sheets and put into preheated oven.
  7. Cook 12-15 minutes or until chips are brown (but not too dark)
  8. Remove from pans to paper towel lined drying racks so excess oil can be soaked up.
  9. Store in sealed container lined with paper towel between layers.

Serve with sour cream, any dip you choose or ketchup!

donaldripspageAfter drinking enough wine for a much larger party than just the 4 of us, emptying the bowl of chips, downing a pizza, tweeting until our nails were breaking, and screaming obscenities at the screen for 90 minutes, we were treated to this scene at the end of the debate when a television camera caught an angry Donald Trump angrily ripping a page out of his notebook while grinding his teeth. 😉

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

 

Hula Mac

la%20coliseum-uscThe college football season is 6 weeks old and finally, this past Saturday, I got to go to a game.  I love college football season and missing six games sucked, so I was really anxious to get back into full tailgate mode.  I was warned by my fellow tail gaiters, not to overdo it, which I did, but it was SO worth it!

Because the LA Rams are sharing the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with the USC ramscoliseumdayTrojans for the next 3 years, while their new stadium is being built in Inglewood, there are a few game weekends when both teams will be hosting home games.  This weekend happened to be one of those weekends which meant USC would be kicking off at 1:00 PM in order to give the Coliseum crew time to the complete stadium changeover that meant an early (and shorter) tailgate.  That’s always a challenge, but additionally, Southern California was in the middle of another hot and dry spell which makes bringing and keeping food fresh during the hours on the hot asphalt the hardest task.

Our friend Greg was making a Hawaiian sandwich/burrito/wrap filled with Portugese sausage and fried rice so I wanted to make something that would compliment that but would be easy to prepare, easy to transport and easy to eat while standing around with other football fans.

Hula Macaroni Salad

  • 16 Oz Spiral Pasta
  • 1 – 20oz Can Pineapple Chunks Drained (Reserve Liquid)
  • 3 Cups Cubed Ham
  • 1 Cup Shredded Carrot
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Green Onion (About 3 Onions)
  • 1 Cup Mayonnaise
  • Reserved Pineapple Juice from Canned Fruit
  • 1 – 6oz Container Vanilla Greek Yogurt (Non-Fat)
  • 2 TBLS Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 TBLS Sugar
  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Remove from heat, drain and rinse in cool water.
  2. In large bowl combine the pasta, drained pineapple, ham, carrots and sliced green onion.
  3. In a 4 Cup measuring cup (or bowl) combine the reserved pineapple juice, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar and sugar.  Whisk until well combined and sugar is dissolved.
  4. Pour dressing over the salad and use a rubber spatula to distribute throughout.
  5. Refrigerate at least an hour to allow dressing to thicken and flavors to combine.

To make this a truly portable side dish, I combined the pasta, ham, carrot, green onion and pineapple in a gallon-sized Zip Bag and them poured the dressing over the contents, sealed and refrigerated.  Made it really easy to put into the cooler until time to serve.

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

 

Fired-Up Mac & Cheese

kraft_macaroni__cheese_2011I grew up on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  The blue box with the skinny little noodles that Mom combined with a 1/4 cup of “Oleo” as she called margarine (she NEVER used butter) and 1/4 cup of low-fat milk was a crowd pleaser to my sister, brother and I.  Later she would splurge on the more expensive box of “Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese” with it’s tiny can of cheese sauce in it, but, to my taste, you still can’t beat the skinny blue box.

Thankfully, as I grew so too did my palate.  I rarely pass up a macaroni and cheese on any menu and have developed a couple of favorite styles:  Lobster macaroni and cheese, if it has large claw chunks (and not just minced remnants), is my favorite, followed by a good white cheddar shells and cheese prepared with a hint of truffle oil and just a few exotic mushrooms.

spicyspiralmacncheeseWhen I’m cooking Macaroni and Cheese, I like it to have enough flavor, that if I served nothing else beside it, except maybe a tossed green salad, it could stand alone as a “Meatless Monday” main dish.  You won’t need a fire extinguisher nearby for this spirited macaroni and cheese, but you certainly won’t fall asleep while you’re eating it either.

Lisa’s Fired-Up Mac & Cheese

  • 1 – 16oz Box Cellentani Pasta (I use Barilla)
  • 8 TBLS Butter / Divided
  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 3 1/4 Cups Whole Milk
  • 1 tsp Dry Mustard
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp White Pepper
  • 3 Tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/4 Cup Hot Pepper Sauce (I prefer Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 1 1/2 Cups + 1/4 Cup (for sprinkling on top) Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
  • 2 + 1/4 Cup (for sprinkling on top) Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 3/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 2/3 Cup Panko

Before you start, I have a couple of tips.

  1. If you can’t find shredded Pepper Jack or Sharp Cheddar you can always use the packaged slices and tear them up.  Generally the 8 ounce package should equal about 1 1/2 Cups.  Use your own judgement.  I usually err on the side of too much cheese in that type of situation and gauge it based upon the thickness of my sauce.  You can always thin (God Forbid) a bit with milk if you think it’s too thick.
  2. You can use any macaroni type noodle you prefer (elbow, shell, spiral) but I prefer the Cellentani because it combines the features of a slightly larger elbow with a spiral and then throws in some textured grooves so you get as much of the sauce grabbing to it as possible in each bite.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Prepare 2 – 13 x 9 Pyrex baking dishes (I use the deepest ones I have), or 1 deep dish throw away baking pan, by buttering the sides and bottoms – then set aside while you prepare the ingredients.
  • In a large stock pot, boil your pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse and pour into largest mixing bowl you have.  Set aside.
  • In a large sauce pan over medium heat melt 4 TBLS butter.  Whisk in the flour and cook about a minute while constantly whisking then begin stirring in the milk about a 1/2 cup at a time until it’s well combined.
  • Stir in the spices and 1/4 Cup of the hot sauce.  Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and stir in cheeses (not the cheese reserved for the top) until melted and smooth.
  • In a small pan melt the remaining 4 TBLS butter and stir in the bread crumbs.
  • Combine the remaining cheeses together.
  • Pour the sauce over the macaroni and, using a large rubber spatula, stir until all of the pasta is well coated.
  • Divide the pasta between the 2 prepared pans
  • Sprinkle 1/2 of the remaining cheese mixture over the top of each and put the pans, uncovered into the oven.
  • Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is bubbling and beginning to brown on top.
  • Slide the baking dishes out of the oven and set the oven temperature to broil
  •  Divide the panko mixture between the two pans and return to the oven
  • Watch the pans carefully and remove from the oven as soon as your crumbs begin browning.

Make sure you’ve got a bottle of hot sauce out for anyone who wants to spice it up even more!  Serve your macaroni and cheese with a salad as a dinner on it’s own, alongside burgers, steaks, or inside a great steak/brisket/tri-tip sandwich!

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood