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

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

Pressure Cooker Baked Beans

I love baked beans but hate all of the preservatives and calories from the sugar that come with the store bought canned varieties.  This 4th of July I decided to try my hand at making my own.

I learned a few things by doing so:

  • Even though you can put the dried beans right into the pressure cooker and shorten the prep time, DON’T SKIP SOAKING THE BEANS.
  • Soaking the beans removes most of the indigestible sugars (which can cause gas) and re-hydrates the beans evenly so they are as plump and beautiful as they were when they were fresh.  Pre-soaking the beans also allows the skins to be receptive to absorbing the flavors of the other ingredients.
  • Use as many unprocessed ingredients as possible

Pressure Cooker Baked Beans

  • 1 pound dried Navy (White Northern) beans
  • 1/2 pound thick cut (from the butcher if you can) uncured smoked bacon (no nitrates or nitrites) – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped (or 1+1/2 tsp jarred chopped garlic)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 TBLS Bourbon (I use Maker’s 46)
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 TBLS corn starch
  • 2 TBLS cold water

Rinse dry beans in cold water in a colander, removing any debris.  Soak beans using either 1) the Overnight Soak Method (8-12 hours in a bowl or pot of cold water covered with a lid) or 2) following the Pressure Cooker Quick Soak Method:

  • Put the beans in the pressure cooker. For each cup of rinsed beans, add four cups of Degas-Cook-Soak-Beans-Coverwater
  • Add a teaspoon of olive oil (this keeps the foam down)
  • Bring the contents to a boil with the lid open using the BROWN setting
  • Quickly close and lock the pressure cooker lid and pressure cook for 15 minutes at high pressure
  • Open the pressure cooker using a Slow Normal release – open the valve very slowly
  • Drain and rinse the beans under cold running water

Prepare the sauce base:

  1. Using BROWN setting – cook onions until translucent (about 5 minutes)
  2. Add garlic and bacon and cook until bacon is almost crispy
  3. Stir in brown sugar, and then the bourbon, scraping up all the brown, crispy bits from the bottom
  4. Add the chicken broth, mustard, molasses, maple syrup, ketchup, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir until well combined
  5. Return beans to the pressure cooker and close lid
  6. Set to High pressure and cook for 90 minutes
  7. Once cooking is complete, allow 10 minutes for the pressure to return to normal naturally, then release the remaining pressure and open the lid
  8. Turn pressure cooker to Brown setting.
  9. In a small dish combine the water and cornstarch.
  10. Stir the mixture into the beans and cook until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency.
  11. Remove from the pressure cooker to a serving dish and enjoy!  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

*** Vegetarian Option:  If you want to make these vegetarian, don’t add the bacon.

Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Gnocchi

creamymushroomspinachgnocciThis recipe is #FastFillingandFlavorful which makes it a perfect weeknight choice.

This dish serves 4-6 and will pair well with a dry white wine like this 93 Point $16, 2015 Casablanca Valley Arboleda Chardonnay from Chile or this 90 Point $22, 2017 La Marea Kristy Vineyard Albariño out of Monterey County on the Central Coast of California.  Open one of these bottles of wine, add a crisp green salad and you’ve got an elegant #MidWeekFeast.

Spinach & Mushroom Gnocchi with Creamy Parmesan White Wine Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 12 ounces portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 dashes Italian seasoning
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup heavy/whipping cream
  • 1 pound uncooked potato gnocchi
  • 1 generous handful baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Fresh parsley, chopped, to taste
  1. Add the olive oil to a skillet on medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly browned.
  2. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the Dijon mustard and white wine. Let it cook for a minute or so.
  4. Add the cream and gnocchi. Wait until the sauce just starts to boil again, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the spinach, cover the pan again, and cook for 3 minutes.
  6. You can add a chopped up cooked chicken breast to this when you are adding the spinach into the sauce if you want to add meat.
  7. Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt & pepper. Give it a taste; gnocchi should be soft. If not, continue to cook for another few minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately with more Parmesan cheese grated over top if desired.

For weeknight cooking I am always looking for recipes that combine three criteria:

  1. No exotic or expensive ingredients I have to search high and low for
  2. Ready in thirty minutes or less
  3. Can be made with meat or without

This recipe fit all of these plus two others that make it a winner in my book:

  1. When a main dish recipe can be doubled so it can be a side dish or a lunch later in the week
  2. When one of the ingredients is wine or the finished product naturally pairs with wine #GirlsGoneWine approved! #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Tart & Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

It’s finally cool enough in California, at least once the sun goes down, to justify getting the stock pot out to make a hearty soup that can serve as dinner with a big salad & crusty bread that can then live on as a couple of workday lunches too!  Great for the wallet AND the waistline!  This soup is so rich, and has such depth of flavor, that it seems like a cheat meal, which is a plus during the non-stop holiday feast season.

Tart & Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1  –  2 to 2+1/2 lb Butternut Squash (Peeled/Seeded/Chopped into about 1″ Cubes)
  • 1  –  Large Granny Smith Apple (Cut into about 1″ Pieces – seeds/core/stem removed)
  • 3  –  Large Ribs Celery Chopped
  • 3  –  Carrots (Peeled/Chopped into about 1″ Pieces)
  • 1  –  Medium Yellow Onion (Peeled/Chopped into about 1″ Pieces)
  • 4  –  TBLS Butter
  • 1  –  32 oz Container Organic Chicken Stock
  • 1+1/2 Cups Water
  • Freshly Grated Sea Salt (To Taste)
  • Freshly Cracked Pepper (To Taste)
  • Freshly Ground Nutmeg (1/4 tsp)
  • Cinnamon (1/2 to 1 tsp)
  • Cayenne Pepper (Pinch to 1/8th tsp)
  • Chopped Parsley (if desired)

Melt the butter in a medium stockpot and add the onions, carrot and celery.  Sauté over low heat about 10 minutes.  When onions just start to brown, add the squash, apple, salt, pepper, chicken stock and water.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring just to a boil.  When bubbles appear at the edges of the pan, reduce heat to low.  Cover pan tightly and simmer soup for 45 minutes until squash is completely softened.

Remove soup from heat and either process soup until smooth using your blender (I use my Vitamix) and returning to the pan after processed or an immersion blender as shown in the video.

Once soup is smooth, add the Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Cayenne.  Adjust spices to taste.

I came across a video that uses the same technique I use to make my soup, with slightly different measurements, and it’s much prettier, so I’ll give the standard #ShoutOut and #HighFive to Simply Recipes for producing a great (and quick) video that I can also use to demonstrate how to assemble my soup!

I’ve already been remiss at keeping up with my blog, so not having to produce a video is a definite bonus! #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings”

Another Twitter video find when I was hungry…best part?  It’s from www.health.com!

buffalocauliflower

My sister Wendi and I fell in love with these when we went to San Diego and found a sports bar to watch USC football at before going to a Blake Shelton concert last year. I’ve finally found a recipe that comes close to what we had there!

Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings”

  • Preheat oven to 400° F.
  • Wash a Large head of fresh cauliflower (About 1 lb).
  • Remove the outer leaves and stem and then cut to separate the individual florets.
  • Dry the florets and spread out on a cookie sheet lined with foil.
  • Sprinkle florets lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Put sheet in oven and roast for 20 – 25 minutes stirring once.

In a medium bowl combine:

  • 1 TBLS Butter melted
  • 3 TBLS Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (or any kind you like)
  • 1 tsp Vinegar
  • Put roasted cauliflower florets into the bowl and stir with rubber spatula until all florets are coated with sauce.
  • Return coated florets to the cookie sheet.
  • Roast at 400° F for 5-10 minutes more or until cauliflower starts to brown.

Make the dipping sauce:

  • In a small pan over medium-low heat put 2 tsp Olive Oil and 1 clove garlic, minced.
  • Heat until garlic starts to brown.
  • Transfer garlic and olive oil into the mixing container of a blender or Vitamix.
  • Add 1/2 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt.
  • 1/2 Avocado
  • 1 TBLS Parsley
  • 1 TBLS Chives
  • 1 tsp Dill
  • 1/4 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Honey
  • Pinch of Salt & Pepper

Blend until well combined.  Transfer to a small serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve with the dip and ranch dressing on the side.

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

10 No Fuss Healthy Soups


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