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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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. 😉

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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!

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Spicy Spiral Mac & Cheese

spicyspiralmacncheeseThis is my twist, no pun intended, on a zippy macaroni and cheese that can be served as a side to liven up any burger, steak or chicken main dish.  There is nothing timid or Low-Cal / Low-Fat about this dish.  You’ve been warned.

I’m intending to pile it on top of my BBQ Brisket Sandwiches tomorrow night.  Yummy!

Spicy Spiral Mac & Cheese

  • 1 1/2 Cups Cellentani Pasta
  • 4 TBSP Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Flour
  • 3 Cups Whole Milk
  • 1 tsp Dry Mustard
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Ground White Pepper
  • 3 tsp (or more to taste) Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • 1 Cup Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
  • 1 1/2 Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesano/Reggiano/Asiago Blend
  • 2 tsp Chili Powder
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. A little at a time, whisk in milk, mustard, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute, then remove from heat and whisk in Pepper Jack, Cheddar and P/R/A blend until smooth. Stir in cooked pasta and pour into shallow 2 quart baking dish.
  4. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter, stir in chili powder. Sprinkle over macaroni mixture.
  5. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

TIP:  For a crispier top, you can mix in 3 TBLS bread crumbs with the butter and chili powder and sprinkle on top.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be 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 may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

 

Quick Cucumber Salad

cucsaladI wish I had all day to experiment in the kitchen, but that is one luxury I do not have.

Between my “real” job, the groups/charities I volunteer my time to, my family, my dogs and the few other things I get to do in my free time, I rarely get as much time to create new recipes as I’d like.

Today was another one of those days.  You know, the kind with business meetings, tasks on the ever-growing to-do list, a trip to the hair salon, and a few other unexpected things, so I knew dinner time would be rushed as well.

This morning I put 2 frozen chicken breasts in a Rubbermaid container with some of my favorite marinade (Ponte’ Winery Scallion Oil Marinade/Dressing) with hopes that they’d defrost in time and then surveyed the refrigerator for what I’d be able to serve with them.

oxoI really am trying to cut back on the carbs, fat and extra calories in our diets, so a cold salad I could marinate all day would be just the right choice!  Plus, I’d get to use my new kitchen tool: my OXO slicer/grater.

Quick Cucumber Salad

  • 1 English Cucumber
  • 2 Roma Tomatoes
  • 1/2 Small Yellow Onion
  • 1/3 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 TBLS Olive Oil
  • 6 Large Leaves Fresh Basil
  • Freshly Ground Pepper
  1. Using either a very sharp knife or a Mandolin slicer (I use the OXO Complete Grate & Slicer Set), thinly slice the cucumber, the tomatoes and the onion and combine in a gallon sized zip bag.
  2. Stack the basil leaves and roll like a cigar and then thinly slice into narrow strips.  Add the basil to the zip bag.
  3. Add pepper, vinegar, and olive oil to the zip bag.
  4. Seal the bag and shake the contents vigorously.
  5. Open the zip bag then push the air out and reseal.
  6. Place the salad in the refrigerator until time to serve.
  7. Before serving, open the zip bag again to allow air to enter, then reseal and shake the salad to mix before place on plates to serve.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be 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 may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood