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

Bacon-Gouda Mac & Cheese

tjparmgoudaI love Trader Joe’s Parmesan Gouda so much I just had to figure out a way to incorporate it into my other favorite (besides a grilled cheese sandwich) Macaroni & Cheese!

A couple of trials later, finally a dish I can serve to guests!

Bacon-Gouda Macaroni & Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 16oz Cavatappi pasta (it’s very important to use the right pasta)
  • 8-10 Slices thick cut bacon (from the butcher)cavatappi
  • 2 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 C butter (4 TBLS) melted
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp fresh ground kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 16 oz Trader Joe’s Parmesan-Gouda cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 Sleeve Crushed Ritz Crackers
  • 1/4 C butter (4 TBLS) melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Butter a 13″ X 9″ Pyrex Baking Pan
  3. Prepare Cavatappi according to package directions. Drain and pour into a large mixing bowl – cover with foil to keep pasta warm.
  4. Cook bacon until crispy but not overcooked.  Drain, cool, crumble and set aside.
  5. Melt butter and whisk flour into it
  6. In large pot heat milk to nearly boiling.
  7. Reduce heat to medium and stir in flour/butter mixture.  Whisk vigorously over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Mixture should be thick and boiling.
  8. Slowly whisk in cream.
  9. Add in salt, pepper, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
  10. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir for about 5 minutes.
  11. Remove from heat and stir in shredded Parmesan-Gouda and Cheddar cheeses until completely melted.
  12. Pour sauce over cooked pasta in large mixing bowl.
  13. Add in 3/4 of the crumbled bacon. Combine using a rubber spatula.
  14. Transfer to prepared Pyrex baking dish.
  15. Combine the sleeve of crushed Ritz crackers and remaining crumbled bacon with the remaining 4 TBLS of melted butter. Sprinkle over pasta in Pyrex baking dish.
  16. Bake uncovered in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.

It’s rich, so a small side salad would be great alongside, or even nothing at all.  Except, of course, a glass of wine. 😉

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

Zero Effort Chicken For Dinner

Between the humidity coming up from a storm in Mexico and the temperature gauge hovering around the century mark, cooking is the last thing I want to do, but with my surgery date now 10 days away, I know that I will be making very few meals for the family due to movement restrictions, so I’m doing the deed today. 😉

The pressure cooker is definitely a cook’s friend on days like this!  With this recipe you get a bonus of 2 recipes in one!  The chicken, plus a bonus flavorful chicken stock that I am using as the base for my cabbage soup.  Yum!

chicken-on-cutting-boardChicken is the universal meat from which can spring any meal.  My Mom’s go-to was the Zacky Farm’s Cut up Whole Fryer, seems like a good place to start, so that’s where I’ll start.  I’ll make it early today and then the mood I’m in about an hour before dinnertime will determine how it ends up being served.

Zero Effort Pressure Cooker Chicken + Yummy Chicken Stock

  • 1 – 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 lb fryer chicken (cut up)
  • 2 TBLS Olive Oil
  • Zatarain’s Cajun Spice Mixture (Seasoned Salt)
  • 1/2 Medium Yellow Onion
  • 1 – Large Poblano Pepper
  • 5 Cloves Garlic

It should only take you 5 minutes to get all of the ingredients into the pressure cooker.  After that it’s pretty much set it and forget it!

  1. Set your pressure cooker to the “Brown” setting.
  2. Pour the Olive Oil into the pressure cooker pan
  3. Cut the pepper in half, remove the seeds and veins, then cut into about 1″ chunks and place into pan
  4. Peel and chop the onion into roughly 1″ chunks and add to pan
  5. Peel the garlic and add to pan
  6. Sprinkle the Zatarain’s seasoning on both sides of the chicken
  7. Place each piece of the chicken, skin side down (or on edge so skin is in contact with the sides of the pan) into the pan on top of the vegetables
  8. Allow the chicken to brown, undisturbed for about 20 minutes, then close the lid of the pressure cooker and set to cook under pressure for 30 minutes
  9. When cooking cycle has ended, allow the pressure to return to normal naturally

At the end of the keep warm cycle, release the lid and remove the chicken from the cooker to a large bowl.  It should be falling off the bones.  I take the time to remove the bones, skin and cartilage at this point and use a fork to do a gentle separation of the meat.

Leave the remaining vegetables and garlic in the pan with the meat drippings.  Skim ant visible fat and allow to cool.

If you aren’t using it immediately in another recipe, move the cooled Yummy Chicken Stock to a sealable container and refrigerate (up to 5 days) or freeze until ready to use.

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

Meatless Monday Treat

It was a rough weekend.

First we had a two day basketball tournament that started early both days, meaning no sleeping in for me, and then we had a party we needed to go to Saturday night that turned into the proverbial shit show:

lamborghini_aventador_lp_720_yellow-800x600While standing around watching the rest of the party goers drinking themselves into oblivion and admiring the host’s new bright yellow half million dollar Lamborghini Aventador, the host, who’s a very tall, very large man, lost his tenuous hold on his balance and began sliding down the rear fender with only me (I’m not a big girl) between him and the hard concrete floor & wall.  I did my best to break his fall without breaking myself but he ended up landing on me in a very awkward position and, in the fiasco of the fall, I threw my red wine all over the back end of his gorgeous car.  In my defense, I kept him from hitting his head on the floor or the wall so there was that…LOL

Suffice it to say that I was in some pain and thus, in no mood to make dinner Sunday night.  I was very glad to remember that we had a leftover pizza in the refrigerator to reheat.  Tonight, due to the second day of pain being even worse, from my neck all the way down my right side, I wasn’t anxious to roll out a gourmet dinner either.  Thank God my husband is pretty easy to feed.

shishito1I can usually dress up a grilled cheese sandwich in a way to satisfy him and tonight was no different.  Real butter, a loaf of sourdough, some bacon that was already cooked & chilling in the meat drawer combined with some pepper jack cheese and we had a winner.  I didn’t want to just let him eat the Cheetos he favors with it, and he didn’t want any of the leftover coleslaw from the other night, so I threw together another quick side he loves:

Blistered Shishito Peppers

  1. Heat 1 TBLS olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add 1 pkg of fresh Shishito peppers to the hot oil and cook, tossing them every minute or so, for 5 minutes or until the skins are blackened and blistered.
  3. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

shishito2Trader Joe’s sells Shishito peppers pre-bagged, you can get them at your local Asian grocery store (they are beloved in Japan), or your grocery store may have them in your produce section.

Shishito peppers are generally mild, but it seems like one in every batch will light you up! 😉

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

 

 

Apple Roasted Frenched Pork Chops

Although I love a piece of thick crispy bacon and can’t get enough Honeybaked ham, I am not a huge fan of pork chops.

It could be that my mom only served them one of two ways:

  • In the crockpot swimming in cream of mushroom soup or
  • In the oven, which meant they were usually overcooked and dried out “Shake and Bake” style.

My brother-in-law cooks a pork loin in a cream lime sauce that everyone else raves about.  I don’t know why, because he’s a great cook, but it’s never really appealed to me.  My husband and son love Shake and Bake and the pork chops have to be paper thin.  Nope, not for me!

So, in an effort to give pork another try, I’m experimenting on a rather expensive (for pork) preparation of the loin chop: Frenched double cut pork chop.

frenchporkchopsApple Roasted Frenched Pork Chops

Heat a large skillet (one that has a lid) with about 2 TBLS Olive Oil over a high flame.  Liberally salt and pepper both sides and the fatty edge (I prefer freshly ground for both and I use sea salt) of 2 French Cut inch to inch and a half double cut bone in pork chops (I get mine at Trader Joe’s).  When the oil is hot, sear the chops on both sides and on the fatty edge for 2-3 minutes per area.

Remove the chops from the pan and lower the heat to Medium.  Add 1 thinly sliced small granny smith apple (peel on), about 1/2 Cup thinly sliced and separated sweet yellow onion, and 4-6 bulbs pre-roasted and cooled garlic to the pan. Cook about 3 minutes, until garlic is thoroughly incorporated (use a fork to break up the bulbs), onions are opaque and apples begin to soften.  Add about 1 Cup apple juice, apple cider or white wine (if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it!) and stir up the brown pieces while deglazing the pan cook 2 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low.  Add 1 Cup low-sodium chicken broth to the pan and simmer for 2 more minutes.

Return the pork chops to the pan, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-22 minutes depending on the thickness of your chops.  Turn the chops over at about 10 minutes.

Remove the chops from the pan and add 1/4 to 1/3 cup of heavy cream and a generous amount of freshly cracked pepper to the pan.  Increase heat to medium and cook for 3-4 minutes stirring continuously to scrape up browned bits and thicken the sauce.  Evenly distribute the apple, onion and sauce over the chops and serve immediately

I serve these atop a bed of mashed potatoes or with yesterday’s recipe: Roasted Garlic Cheesy Cauliflower and a crisp green salad.

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. If so, visit my This Girl Loves To Eat community at:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Roasted Garlic Cheesy Cauliflower

roastedgarliccheesycauliflowerI bought a couple of heads of cauliflower at the farmer’s market, but wasn’t excited to serve it steamed with cheese, as make-believe rice, wannabe mashed potatoes, or even spiced up and roasted whole.

A trip to Trader Joe’s later, I had some inspiration for a main dish casserole I could serve with a salad.  Later this week it will be a great side dish for smoked sausage or, if I’m feeling inspired, Roasted Frenched Pork Chops.

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 Gluten Free 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 Gluten Free flour (all purpose if GF 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.

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. If so, visit my This Girl Loves To Eat community at:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

My Family Demanded Meat For Dinner

I tried to slip my planned Meatless Monday dinner menu past my husband and son as they left for work this morning and was met with a groan.  When your child (whether he’s a grown ass man or not) whines like he’s being starved, Mom caves.

plank-steak1My Ralph’s Fresh Fare (AKA Kroeger’s) is too expensive to shop at for every day groceries, but I can’t pass up their meat department.  It is head and shoulders above my local Albertson’s in quality, selection of available cuts of meat and variety of wild caught fish.  They frequently have meat specials so I stock up and load the freezer when I can.  I headed to the garage, dug through the icy depths and came across a perfectly trimmed, vacuum packaged Flat Iron steak.

I still had a couple of ripe avocados off my tree, a couple of jalapenos that needed to be used up, 3 green onions nearing their toss time, and 1/2 a lemon that was destined for freshening the garbage disposal if I didn’t use it soon.  I had already tossed the wilted cilantro, so no Chimichurri.  The basil in the drawer was well beyond it’s crispy best, so no Pesto.  But, have no fear, with some pepper, olive oil and garlic salt a sauce was beginning to take shape in my head.

Pan Fried Flat Iron Steak with Spicy Avocado Sauce and Asparagus Risotto

flatironsteakAdd about 2 TBLS Olive Oil to a 10″ skillet and heat over medium-high heat until oil is hot but not smoking.  Liberally season a 2 LB Flat Iron Steak (trimmed of all visible fat) with Pepper and Garlic Salt and place in pan.  Sear each side until browned (about 5 minutes per side) lower heat to medium-low and cook another 5 to 8 minutes per side for medium rare; 8 to 10 minutes per side for medium; 10 to 12 minutes per side for Medium-Well to Well.  Time is estimated – adjust based on thickness of your meat.

While the steak is cooking prepare the sauce.  In my Vitamix container I combined 1 and 1/2 ripe avocados, 1 large seeded jalapeno, 3 cleaned green onions, 2 TBLS Olive Oil and juice from 1/2 of a small ripe lemon.  Process until it becomes a smooth, medium-thick sauce.  Add garlic salt and pepper to taste and set sauce aside.

When steak reaches desired degree of doneness, leave in pan and remove from the heat to seal in the juices before slicing.

asparagusrisottolbagI found a bag of Trader Joe’s Asparagus Risotto in the freezer so I stir fried it in a dry non-stick skillet for about 8 minutes, then divided it among the three plates.

After thinly slicing the steak across the grain at an angle and resting it atop the risotto, I spooned a generous amount of the avocado sauce onto the meat and served it to my salivating family.

Dinner took about 30 minutes from stove top to plate and the cavemen in my household were satisfied & stuffed.

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. If so, visit my This Girl Loves To Eat community at:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood