Cauliflower “Mac and Cheese”

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I miss pasta. I really, really, really do.   Really, really good mac and cheese that is homemade is so luscious, rich, thick and, well, sinful.

Does this recipe replicate it? Eh. It’s rich and it’s creamy. But is cauliflower ever going to be confused with quality pasta? No. On the other hand, there’s no bloat from carb overloading and no out of control blood sugar responses. All things considered, this is an amazing vegetable side dish!! You’ve got a ton of cauliflower in a form that people will eat. Two pounds of frozen cauliflower barely escapes a dinner with four diners. Crazy for cauliflower. Honestly, we love this dish. I make this all the time. It’s quick, the ingredients are available year ’round, and even the kids eat it!

Also, it uses up some random items that I always have laying around: shredded cheese and sour cream. Taco night never seems to use all these items up.

Some caveats about this recipe. I make real mac and cheese and feel that this recipe should be no different. Take your low fat cheese, your Greek yogurt, your low fat yogurt, chicken stock and whatever other “lighteners” you have and don’t put them in here. You have already subbed out the pasta. Live a little and splurge.  Seriously.

Also, keep in mind that the sauce is covering two pounds of cauliflower. Cauliflower is very, very wet. Especially when baked. It’s the opposite of pasta, instead of absorbing sauce, the cauliflower will be adding water to the sauce.  So, this sauce will be very thick and rather over spiced. If you were to try a bit of the sauce, you would immediately think: too much salt, the woman is crazy. Oh, wait, the cayenne just hit!! Now it’s too spicy. And too thick. Don’t think those things until you’ve baked the whole concoction. If you cut back on the spices, your dish will be incredibly bland. If you waiver on the sauce and think it needs to be a touch thinner, it will won’t be thick and creamy at finish. It’s a delicate balance that will only reveal its perfection at the very end.

Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese
Serves 6

2 pounds frozen cauliflower florets
1/3 cup water
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 mustard powder
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack and Cheddar Cheese, plus additional for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 2 to 2 1/2 quart baking dish and set aside.

Place the cauliflower and water in a saucepan and cook the cauliflower until it’s not frozen anymore. You don’t want the cauliflower to be too soft because it is being cooked again in the oven. Thoroughly drain the water out of the pan.

In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and stir for about 1-2 minutes. Add the milk and stir until really thick. Add the salt, cayenne, and mustard powder. Stir until well incorporated, and remove from heat. Add the sour cream and stir well. Add the cheese and stir until melted through.

I suppose at this point, I should tell you to pour the sauce over the cauliflower and stir well. It’s bad enough to clean the sauce out of the small pan, why make more work and have to clean it out of the cauliflower pan too? So, I put the cauliflower in the greased baking dish and pour the sauce over the cauliflower there. I then stir the mixture together until well blended and add cheese for the topping.

Cook until bubbling and the cheese is melted and just starting to brown.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

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Cajun Breakfast Souffle

I needed something to bring to a breakfast meeting for a group of, I guess you could say, community organizers. It’s a group of awesome women who meet to throw my community’s big 4th of July celebration. As a food blogger, I feel a certain bit of pressure to bring something great. Not just good, but amazing. Most people aren’t low carb, so I choose to splurge at these events. Hunting for something to bring, I came across something called a “breakfast casserole”. Essentially it was bread, eggs, cheese and ham. Eh. Just didn’t speak to me. But it got me thinking. How could I put a Cajun spin on it? I love all things Cajun. So, I began by subbing out the bread for cornbread, the ham for blazing hot andouille sausage, added onion, green pepper and garlic and BAM! Cajun Breakfast Souffle.

This dish is easy, and can be made ahead and assembled the next morning. It’s pretty great reheated, too. It travels well. This is the perfect “bring to brunch” dish. I cannot emphasize the ease of this dish. The only hard part is deciding whether you are making the cornbread or not. I opted to make the cornbread from a boxed mix, but you could easily buy cornbread and make it work in this recipe. I know that boxed mixes aren’t fantastic (in my defense, there were all natural ingredients), but I can’t get my cornbread recipes to work. I’m cornbread challenged.

Cajun Breakfast Souffle
Serves about 6-8

Butter for greasing a pan
4 cups loosely packed cornbread, cut into 1 inch (or so) cubes (add jalapenos for extra spice!!)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1 green pepper, small dice
1/2 pound of andouille sausage, medium dice
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 eggs
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup shredded cheese (I used Cheddar/Monterey Jack)

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease a 2-2 1/2 quart baking dish. Place cornbread into dish and set aside.

In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, pepper and andouille and cook until the onion is translucent and the green peppers are soft. Stir occasionally. Add the garlic, salt and peppers. Incorporate the spices. Set aside to slightly cool.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the eggs and the milk. Add the cheese and stir until incorporated.

Spread the pepper and sausage mixture over the cornbread. Evenly pour the milk mixture over the whole concoction.

Bake, uncovered, for about an hour, or until the edges are bubbling and the top begins to just brown. If you are unsure about whether the souffle is done, push a knife into the center of the dish. If it comes out clean, your dish should be finished.

Make ahead notes: You can make the cornbread ahead of time (or cut it into squares ahead of time), as well as the pepper mixture. Store the cornbread in an airtight container and place the pepper mixture in the refrigerator over night until you are ready to make the dish. You can also let the egg mixture “soak into” the cornbread for an hour or so before baking.

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Sour Cream Pancakes

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I have a love hate relationship with breakfast.  All of the best “breakfast” food is chock full of carbs.  As someone who shouldn’t be indulging in carbs, this presents a lot of problems. Breakfast is where one can shamefully eat something that’s a dessert and call it a “meal”. You can’t get away with waffles, pancakes, or French toast at lunch.  But breakfast?  No problem.   Bacon and fatty sausage are paired with such indulgences and it’s perfectly acceptable.  What other meal can pull this off?  Not one.  You have a side of bacon at dinner, you better be eating “breakfast for dinner”.   Breakfast is such an anomaly.  Eggs and sausage is one person’s low carb breakfast and another person’s health nightmare.   On the flip side, one person’s oatmeal is a heart healthy breakfast for some people,  but a low carb eater’s horror show.

In other meals, you just don’t get so much controversy.  The other meals have a sense of balance.  You could be low carb and low calorie/fat with a salad.  Or grilled fish or chicken.  There is more overlap and options for all types of eaters.

My kids LOVE breakfast.  Doughnuts, waffles, pancakes, french toast, regular toast and muffins are all begged for in large quantities.  From a practical standpoint, I love waffles and muffins.  They keep well, make lots in a short amount of time, and can be reheated easily for breakfast during the week.  Add a breakfast meat cooked the night before and reheated and morning breakfasts are a breeze.  But, the kids grow tired of repetition and insist on pancakes.  I am just not a fan.  The first batch comes out meh and it takes FOREVER to cook them.  Until, of course, the pan becomes too hot, then the pancakes burn.  Saving them for another day?  Unless you are going to cut squares of parchment out and place them between each pancake, better not freeze or refrigerate them.  They meld into a large mass never to be separated again.  My waffles have never betrayed me in such an unforgivable manner.  Ditto my muffins.

But, the heart wants what it wants.  Plus, I had sour cream to spare.  And maybe one of my kids was boycotting waffles and guilt wouldn’t let me send her to school with nothing in her stomach.  So, I when I came across a really old recipe for sour cream pancakes (1850s!), I caved. As an aside, I love when people write about how they “thought” to add sour cream to anything and call it new or improved. Um, people have been cooking for a really, really long time. Unless this is some kind of crazy pancake foam or sous vide, it’s not new.

In The Great Western Cookbook by Angelina Maria Collins, written for Western Housewifes, Mrs. Collins details her very own pancake recipe in one titled:  Mrs. Collins’ Batter Cakes.   I was particularly interested in this recipe as it would make use of my left over sour cream.  I made tacos, and you just don’t need that much sour cream for tacos.  I ALWAYS have leftover sour cream.

The recipe is fairly modern, as Mrs. Collins used several interesting techniques, for the time, to make very light pancakes. First, she separated the eggs,  and whipped the whites “until frothy”.  Aerated egg whites, if the bubbles are left intact through careful folding into the pancake batter, will create a very airy confection. She also employed some chemical assistance.  In the days before baking powder or soda, there was, for a brief time, “saleratus”.  Instead of sodium bicarbonate (modern baking soda), saleratus was usually potassium bicarbonate.   Using a bicarbonate with sour cream, which is acidic, and heat would also create air bubbles, also helping to lighten the pancake. Nowadays, people largely rely on baking powder or soda alone to lighten the pancakes.

The recipe also included all the usual suspects in such a concoction:  flour, eggs, and milk:

Take four eggs, beat them separately, and to the yolks add of pint of rich milk, beat in enough flour to make it into a thick batter.  Put in a tea-cupful of sour cream, a tea-spoonful of saleratus; add this to the batter, mix in lightly the white of the eggs, beaten to a froth, and bake on a hot griddle like buckwheat cakes.

I’ve updated it slightly to include a bit of salt and vanilla and changed some of the ratios because, well, “enough flour” just isn’t a really good descriptor for a blog recipe, is it?

Sour Cream Pancakes
Makes about 16

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs, separated
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional for cooking pancakes
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup blueberries (optional), dusted with 1 tablespoon flour

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the sour cream, whole milk, egg yolks, melted butter and vanilla. In a separate bowl, Whip the egg yolks until soft peaks form.

Add the sour cream mixture to the flour mixture and just combine (batter will be lumpy and that’s ok). Gently fold in the egg whites. If desired, fold in the blueberries.

In large non-stick pan, or flat griddle, melt enough butter over medium heat to coat the pan. I like to use clarified butter or ghee for this step, but butter works well. You may need to add more as you work through the batches. It just has to be watched because it has a tendency to burn. When the griddle is evenly heated, add about a 1/4th a cup of batter to the griddle. When the top of the pancake is dotted with bubbles and the bottom is brown, flip over and cook for another minute or so. Remove from the griddle and serve. Alternatively, put the oven on low (170-200 degrees Fahrenheit), and keep the pancakes in the oven until needed.

 

Creamy Tomato and Basil Soup

http://dawnoffood.comMy son and I went to an Italian chain restaurant and he had the soup of the day.  That day, it was creamy tomato basil soup.   He completely fell in love with it and asked if he could make it at home.  Of course!  I told him to “google” it and see what if he could find a recipe that he wanted to try.  He did and it was really amazing.  There are a few ingredients that gave me pause.

I like to rant and my rant today is about flour based soups.  I understand the desire to have a creamy soup with great mouth feel.  I really do.  But the line between creamy soups and gloppy mess is very fine.  One time my kid ordered the cream of crab soup at a local crab shack.  The soup was uninspired goop.   When he placed his spoon back into the soup bowl, it actually just sat on top of the soup.  It didn’t sink.  At all.   Of all the ingredients in cream of crab soup, flour is probably among the least expensive.  So, I can see the desire to maximize the use of flour in soup from a profit motive.  On the other hand, yuck.  Why must thick = good when it comes to creamy soup?

So I was skeptical about the use of flour in this recipe.  I’m going to work with this recipe and see if I can come up with something else.  However, I should mention, this soup is really sublime.  It’s very balanced and just wonderful.

As a bonus, this recipe is super easy for kids to make.  My son made this with little to no help from me.  It’s a big impact dish, with very little fuss.

From Maggiano’s

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

1 Cup Onion, diced 1″ pieces
1/3 Cup Unsalted Butter
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Garlic Puree
1/4 Cup Flour
1 Qt Chicken Stock (we used water)
1 Jar of Marinara Sauce  (24-25 ounces)
1 1/2 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 tsp Salt & Pepper
1 tsp Roasted Garlic
1/4 Cup Fresh Basil, diced 1/2″ pieces
8 tsp Fresh Basil, julienned (for garnish)

Cooking Instructions:
1. In a large soup pot, melt butter over medium-heat. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add thyme, roasted garlic and garlic puree. Continue to cook for approximately 3 minutes more. Reduce heat and add flour. Mix with whisk until flour is incorporated. Cook 2 minutes more.
2. Add the chicken stock and marinara and bring to a boil. Add salt, pepper and heavy whipping cream and simmer for 15 minutes, skimming the impurities that rise to the surface.
3. Using a food processor, puree all the ingredients together, strain and add basil. We used an immersion blender for this step.  Made it much, much easier.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Garnish with 1 tsp of julienned basil per bowl.

Cinco De Mayo

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See those things?  Right up there?  They scared me. Seriously, what are they?  Fruit?  Vegetable? Starch?  Don’t make the mistake of thinking they are tomatoes.  They are not.  No.  Just no.  They aren’t just wrapped green tomatoes.  I think these are the one item I may avoid 2nd only to yeast in a recipe.  Tomatillos are just so unfamiliar and alien.  But then Cinco De Mayo came up and I thought I would conquer my fear of these things and try a simple recipe that called for them.

The recipe was a really big hit with everyone but my picky girl.  Green sauce?  Pass.  But those willing to try a sauce with a very different green color were rewarded with a very bold blast of flavor.

I made a classic Mexican recipe that I found on the Epicurious Website: Soft Fried Tortillas with Tomatillo Salsa and Chicken.   I made some changes, however.  Cooked chicken?  That’s all?  No.  We need a nice acidic marinade for chicken going into this dish.  So, I came up with one.

Soft Fried Tortillas with Tomatillo Salsa and Grilled Marinated Chicken. It may look like a lot of steps, but there’s not much to any of the steps, if that makes sense.

For Marinated Chicken

1/2 cup Fresh Lime Juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts, if you prefer)

For Tomatillo Salsa

1/2 lb fresh tomatillos, husks discarded and tomatillos rinsed and quartered
2-3 fresh green serrano chiles, coarsely chopped (including seeds, may use less if you don’t want it particularly spicy)
1/4 cup chopped white onion
3 garlic cloves, quartered
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lard, vegetable oil or any other high temperature fat
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

For Chalupas

1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, lard or clarified butter
12 (4-inch) organic corn tortillas
2 to 3 tablespoons
crema or crème fraîche
1/3 cup finely chopped white onion
1/3 cup finely crumbled queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese)

For the marinaded chicken: combine all of the ingredients,except the chicken, in a gallon plastic storage bag. Close the bag and shake until combined. Add the chicken, close the bag, and massage the marinade on the chicken. Marinate for at least 2 hours. Grill over medium high heat, about 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the tomatillo salsa: Combine the tomatillos, chiles, onions, garlic, salt and water in a blender or food processor. Pulse until relatively smooth. Heat the oil in a medium-large skillet over medium high heat. Add the salsa to the pan, taking care because the liquid will cause the oil to splatter. Bring the salsa to a simmer and cook until thickened, around 8-10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, cook for another minute and remove from heat. Cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve. May be made up to 2 days in advance.

For the Chalupas: Melt the oil over medium high heat in a heavy, large skillet. Place the tortillas in the heated oil (as many as will fit), and lightly fry for about 10 seconds on each side. The intent is to soften the tortillas, not really fry them. Remove the tortilla and drain on a paper towel. If not being used immediately, keep warm on a tray in the oven. When ready, spread with the salsa and top with the grilled chicken, crema and queso fresco.

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Cheesy Cauliflower Patties

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The low carb craze has made superstars out of some vegetables that at best were used to torture children in a previous life.  Kale.  Seriously.  Kale.  The only way kale is good is when it is cooked for a very long time in a ham hock gravy or in Kale and Andouille Soup.  There, I said it.  Kale becomes tolerable when cooked within an inch of its life and paired with a smoked pork product.

The next vegetable up for abuse is the poor man’s broccoli, cauliflower.  Cauliflower is tolerable when you add a signficant amount of dairy products to the mix.  I’ve made cauliflower puree, which can double as a quasi mashed potato substitute.   Cheesy cauliflower patties are now starting to trend, which would be the logical progression.  When I was a kid, my mom would make potato pancakes out of left over mashed potatoes.  After fending off dinosaur attacks, of course.  So, why not try to make fried patties out of cauliflower?  Well, cauliflower has no starch.  It also contains a lot of water.  You need a lot of help to make these suckers stick together.  This “help” likely defeats the purpose of choosing cauliflower, because it either adds carbs or gluten.  On the plus side, it’s probably far more healthy than what you were going to eat, even with the add-ins.

I saw purple cauliflower in the store and thought that maybe such a cool color would inspire the kids to give the dish a try.  My daughter did try it and didn’t really like it. Son and husband really liked it, as long as I didn’t try to say it was something that it wasn’t.  In other words, these were very good cheesy cauliflower patties.

As you can see above, I subbed the patties out for English muffins in Eggs Benedict.  These were really good.  A savory, cheesy bottom that you didn’t have to fight with, complimented the poached egg and Canadian bacon really well.  As a bonus, no need for asparagus, there was already plenty of veg on the plate!

The other time I used it, it was a vegetable for dinner.

 

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The patty served as a very nice compliment for my steak dish! I liked it and would make it again.  Definitely a different take and something to shake up the veggie routine in our house.  As a bonus, very easy to make!

Cheesy Cauliflower Patties
Makes about 6-8 Patties

6 cups roasted cauliflower florets (approximately)
1/2 cup easily meltable cheese (I used Monterrey Jack)
1/4 cup panko or bread crumbs
1 egg
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter or coconut oil (or vegetable oil)

Place all ingredients, except the butter, into food processor. Pulse until the cauliflower is coarsely ground. Remove mixture from processor and form into patties. The smaller and thinner the patties, the more likely they are to maintain their shape.

In a heavy bottomed skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter just starts to foam, add the patties, careful not to crowd. When the patties are browned, carefully flip and cook until the other side is browned as well. About 3 minutes each side. Serve as desired.

Note:  I roasted the florets at 375 degrees fahrenheit in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper for about 25 minutes, turning once.

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Chocolate Chocolate Chip Waffles

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I’m on quite a tear.  Chocolate everywhere.  I am supposed to be eating healthier.  The whole point of this blog was to eat simply.  Here I am pimping out muffins, fancy waffles and shortbread.

On the other hand, as I have reviewed my blog progress over the course of the last year my biggest view-getting posts were:  Pizza Fondue, Waffles, and Maryland Fried Chicken.   My readers want what they want!  Also, these items are so much easier to photograph well.

I have tried Chocolate Chocolate Chip Waffle recipes and all promised that they weren’t “too sweet”.  Indeed, they weren’t.  They were terrible.  Like when you sneak a bit of unsweetened chocolate for the first time.  Ick.  Chocolate needs sugar.  It just does.  Also, it’s breakfast.  People eat doughnuts, French toast, pancakes, crepes, muffins, pastries and all sorts of sweet things for breakfast.  It won’t kill people to put a touch of sugar in chocolate waffles.  Plus, Chocolate is virtually a health food anymore.

I borrowed parts of this recipe from epicurious.com.  I altered it quite a bit to add more sugar and swap out the olive oil for butter. Olive oil in waffles? Just no.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Waffles

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
powder
¼ cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2  teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk (or 2 cups milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar)
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Preheat waffle iron.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Combine eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.

Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spray the waffle iron with the oil spray and cook the waffles according to your iron’s instructions.

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