Loaded Cauliflower Casserole

loaded-cauliflower-casserole

Do you ever feel like you’re living for the weekends? I mean, I actually really enjoy my weekdays. I do. Smoothies from Nektar juice bar, yoga classes at We Yogis, lots of park and activity time with my boys.  But still in the back of my head I’m counting down to Friday. And then Friday gets here, and poof it’s Monday. It’s a sad reality for most people I think. And I have no words of wisdom or advice to offer you, I’m just acknowledging/complaining. I feel like I’m going to be looking forward to Fridays so much that all of the sudden I will be 97 (if I’m so lucky), and all days will be exactly the same. Except I hope by the time I’m 97 they have invented an age-reversing serum so I look and feel like I’m 34. Just kidding, 26.

In the meantime, I like to eat through my weekdays. Generally healthy but indulgent. That’s exactly what this cauliflower casserole is. All the ingredients of a loaded baked potato, but healthier with cauliflower instead. Perfect side dish with steak. That’s how we ate it!

Recipe

  • 2 heads cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces
  • Olive oil, Salt & Pepper
  • 1.5 cups smoked gouda, shredded
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1 cup plain or italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup cheddar, shredded
  • Chopped green onion or chives, optional

Start by roasting the cauliflower. You can steam it instead, but roasting it adds a really delicious flavor. After the cauliflower is chopped up, drizzle it with oil, S&P and roast at 400 for 20 min.  Meanwhile, mix together the gouda, sour cream, milk, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4  tsp pepper. Stir in the chopped bacon (I just microwave mine for about 5-7 min). When cauliflower is tender, remove from baking sheet and mix with the sauce. Reduce oven temp to 350. Pour into a casserole dish and top with cheddar. Mix melted butter with breadcrumbs and pour over casserole.  Bake at 350 for 10 min, or until cheese is melted. Top with green onions or chives.

lemon-parmesan-spaghetti-squash

Man! Things have been busy over here. We’re selling our house, and who knew how much work went into that? (you do, if you’ve ever moved).  When the realtor casually mentioned ‘make sure you take everything off the counters and floors for showing,’ it sounded so simple. So quick. So easy. We’re not collectors, we don’t have knick knacks, we get rid of things regularly. But it’s taken days, hours, boxes & bags & storage space we don’t have.  The good news is we don’t have pets, so no pet hair. The bad news is we have twins, so we have toys and hand prints and two humans following us around while we’re trying to get stuff done. It’s been a good cleanup process though and my husband and I will both be about 17 pounds when this is all over with.

And even though we’ve been working up an appetite, we were craving healthy this week for dinner. I made this super easy, fresh, bright, lemon-y, cheesy spaghetti squash and topped it with plain grilled chicken and it really hit the spot.

Recipe

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • S&P
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan or asiago cheese
  • 1 large lemon or 2 small
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Lemon pepper
  • 4 grilled chicken breasts, seasoned with lemon pepper

Preheat the oven to 450.  Place the whole spaghetti squash in there for 10 minutes to soften it up (I find them nearly impossible to cut open otherwise).  After 10 minutes, take it out and slice it open lengthwise.  Drizzle the inside with olive oil and a little S&P.  Place flesh side down (skin side up), and roast for another 35-40 minutes or so until soft. Using a fork, scrape the squash out into a bowl.  Mix in the olive oil, cheeses and juice from one large lemon. Season with the 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a little lemon pepper. Top with grilled chicken breasts.

Chicken Dumpling Soup

chicken-dumpling-soup

The week of Thanksgiving always confuses me. Like, it feels like such a short week but Thanksgiving isn’t until Thursday which is really towards the end of the week anyway. And in this year’s case, I feel like I have sooooo much to do. In reality, I have very little to do. I have to make a pumpkin pie and green bean casserole. And yet, I haven’t been putting anything on my calendar because I’ve been feeling like I have to get ready for Thanksgiving. I don’t.

We did do a mini-outing today though, to the Trains at North Park. So cute, so well done, and the boys loved it. Tons of trains just rolling around. One of the little guys kept saying ‘bop bop bop,’ which is his version of ‘beep beep beep,’ which is a truck sound and not quite applicable to trains but I let it slide. They were so happy and cute. Until. Until I thought I had a minute to relax because they loved the trains so much and I pulled out my smoothie. All the sudden it was like the trains disappeared and the Christmas music stopped, and all they could see was my smoothie. When I wouldn’t let them have it (for lots of reasons – messy, etc – but mostly because it was MINE and I love it)- we had our first public dual tantrum.  Two screaming, completely boneless babies. Couldn’t pick them up, couldn’t hold their hand and walk back to the stroller, couldn’t entice them with another snack. I finally had to just pick them both up at the same time (backs arched, arms flailing, etc) and carry them to the stroller so we could get out of dodge. Not my most graceful moment. It’s very hard to look graceful and in control when you have twin toddlers.

Anyway. This soup is a winter staple. Sort of tastes like pot pie and is so comforting and delicious. AND…would be awesome with leftover turkey.

Recipe

  • 1.5 lb cooked & shredded chicken or turkey (~4c)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cups diced carrot (small)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 6 cups chicken broth (full sodium)
  • 5 tablespoons corn starch + water
  • 1/2 cup Half & Half
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • Kosher salt if needed (I used full sodium broth and used an extra 1/2 tsp kosher )

Dumplings

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • pepper

Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to a large soup pot. Stir in the onion, celery and carrot. Cook for about 5-10 minutes.  Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Whisk together the corn starch with about 1/2 cup water. Add it to the chicken stock and allow to thicken.  Stir in cooked chicken, parsley, half & half, and S&P.

To make the dumplings, mix all ingredients together. Bring soup to a low simmer, and drop the dumplings in teaspoonfuls on top of the soup (messy is ok, they always look misshapen). Once you have dropped in all the dough, cover and cook for about 20 minutes on medium.  If the dumplings cook together a little bit, just break them up with a fork before serving.

Stuffed Chicken Primavera

stuffed-chicken-primavera

I love Primavera pasta. And the funny thing is I can tell you EXACTLY when my love for it started. Trisha Benetti’s kitchen, Rothschild Wisconsin, circa 1996.  New school, new friend, and new snacks. (did you ever get excited about that, btw? A new friend always meant new snacks. Juli Coleman’s house always had Doritos and pudding cups). Trisha’s family had those pasta envelopes (can’t remember what brand and I even looked it up- no luck) – you know like a big bag of pasta with the powder for the sauce in there. One afternoon we wanted a snack so Trisha made the pasta primavera in the microwave and I was blown away. My mom didn’t really cook pre-made stuff out of a bag so I really thought I hit the jackpot.  Afterwards Trisha and I probably went and lit some incense next to her lava lamp.

Today, I eat a more authentic version of Primavera. I get it at Terilli’s Italian restaurant down the street at least once a week. So when my husband came home a couple weeks ago and said I needed to make a stuffed chicken primavera like the one he had at his office cafe, I was sold. He always comes to me with good ideas. Details and execution tips are always elusive, however.  I had to ask about 342 questions before I finally knew what he meant by ‘stuffed primavera.’  To sum it up for you, you cut large slits on the top of a thick chicken breast, then stuff it with fresh thiiiiiiinly sliced veggies. Then you top it with mozzarella cheese and bake it. And you eat it with something like a salad or sweet potato instead of a huge plate of pasta. Healthy! So good! So pretty!

Recipe

  • 6 large, fat boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp italian herb blend
  • Olive oil
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 large zucchini, very thinly sliced and then halved (so like half moons)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, thinly slice and diced into small pieces
  • 1/2 sweet onion, julienne
  • 1 yellow pepper, julienne
  • 5 mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 6 deli-style slices mozzarella (or shredded is fine)

Preheat oven to 400.  Divide the chicken into two large baking dishes (I didn’t have one large enough to fit them all). Cut about 3-5 slits along the top of each of them (I did 3 the long way), making sure not to cut through to the bottom. Drizzle with some olive oil, then season with the salt and pepper and Italian herbs. Mix the very thinly slices veggies together (you should have about 4 cups total), season with a little S&P, and then stuff them in all of the chicken slits. Top each chicken with a slice of mozzarella. Pour 1/2 cup of wine into each dish.  Cover the dishes, then bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for about 15 minutes until chicken is done and cheese is browning.

Mexican Lasagna

mexican-lasagna

If I could figure out how to make Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza at home, I would eat it every day.  It’s probably not that hard, but I haven’t figured out what I could use for the crunchy tortilla layer that would be just perfect. Also I would need to go there and steal like 95 packets of their taco sauce because it’s really a key ingredient.  And I wouldn’t want some homemade bull%$## taco sauce. That one is special.  So this Mexican lasagna is definitely inspired by Taco Bell’s pizza variation, but there are enough differences that I don’t feel like I’m trying to make their Mexican pizza but end up with something sub par.

And I decided to make this Mexican lasagna for three reasons: 1) my friend Annie was coming over for a Friday night happy hour/dinner/play date and she loves Taco Bell as much as, or more, than I do; 2) I also sort of had lasagna on my mind; and 3) But I was going to Terilli’s Italian restaurant for dinner on Saturday so I didn’t want back to back lasagna. So if you can follow all that I landed on Mexican lasagna.

So I made it. It was easy. It was super delicious. It was pretty. It was sitting on my stove all bubbly and waiting to be eaten. And then I had to cancel. And let me tell you – when you stay at home with your kids all day, this Friday night plan made me feel like I was going clubbing. Social interaction, good dinner, someone to drink with, kids playing with someone else, etc.  Very sad.

But I had to cancel because one of my kids had Hand Foot Mouth disease for literally the second time in a month. What I thought was a fussy baby due to having some major vaccinations a couple days earlier turned out to be a fussy baby due to 20 blisters covering the inside of his throat/mouth. Fair enough, Price, fair enough.  This second round of HFM was a BEATING. And it’s super contagious so I didn’t want to expose anyone else to it. So it was a very sad day, but I did cut it up into little pieces and froze it. It freezes beautifully and we’ve had a couple easy/awesome dinners this week.

Recipe

  • Ground beef recipe minus water and taco sauce (you’ll add more liquid later)
  • 1.5 cans (2.5-3 cups) tomato sauce
  • 3 large flour tortillas or 9 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup refried beans
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 bottle taco sauce (I like Ortega)
  • 3.5 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray cast iron pan or other round baking dish with nonstick spray.  Prepare beef according to recipe above (2 lb), or just using a taco seasoning packet if you prefer.  Stir in tomato sauce with ground beef. In a separate bowl, warm up the refried beans in the microwave. Stir in the sour cream and set aside. Then, layer about 1 cup of meat sauce on bottom of pan. Drizzle generously with taco sauce. Coat one flour tortilla lightly in taco sauce (if using corn you will use 3 tortillas per layer). Place on top of meat. Spread about 3 spoonfuls of bean mixture on top. Add 1 cup of shredded cheese. Add 1.5 cups meat sauce on top of cheese. Sprinkle with a bit of taco sauce. Coat tortilla with taco sauce. Top with 3 spoonfuls bean mixture, then another cup of cheese. Add another 1.5 cups meat sauce, taco sauce, tortilla dipped in taco sauce, bean mixture. Add rest of meat (less than a cup), then remaining 1.5 cups cheese. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes more.

chunky-butterscotch-chocolate-chip-banana-bread

Have you guys ever tried Rent the Runway? I have lots of friends that use it and love it. I put off using it for years because I just don’t see how you can tell if a dress will look good on you just by looking at it online. And then have no time to rectify the problem if you don’t like it.  I mean, I do all my shopping online, but I order 75 dresses for an event months in advance and I still usually send them all back. But, we have a wedding this weekend and I couldn’t find anything I loved (and didn’t want to spend a fortune), so I tried it! I ordered a beautiful-looking dress from RTR to be delivered today for a wedding we have Saturday (I am writing this post Friday at 3:24pm)! And guess what! It looks terrible! Just as I always suspected, this is very risky business. Particularly if you had twins in the last year (it’s actually more than a year but I’m milking it a while longer), and your body got all different. So now here I am, about 18 hours before we are leaving for this wedding and I have 0 dresses to wear. And I’m blogging instead of shopping. I actually just tried on a few dresses from weddings past and while they generally fit, I got them shortened so short that I don’t think I could even sit down. My pre-baby self was a braver self. Or at least a sluttier-dressed self.

Onto more important things like Banana Bread.

This recipe isn’t all that different from my traditional, yet it definitely tastes different. That’s doesn’t make sense, I know! But the addition of the fresh sliced yellow (not brown) banana, makes a big difference, and so does the butterscotch chips. Butterscotch and banana, it turns out, go perfectly together. And why haven’t we been putting chunks of fresh banana in our bread all along?? IT’S SO GOOD.

Happy Saturday! Look for me on IG later wearing a very beautiful plush robe at the wedding.

Recipe

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 large ripe bananas
  • 1 large semi-UNRIPE (yellow, not brown) banana
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Dash salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Beat the butter and sugars with a mixer. Add in the egg and vanilla.  Mash up the 2 ripe bananas, and add them to the mixture along with the milk. Mix in the baking soda and powder, flour, and salt.  Turn off mixer, then stir in chips and fresh banana slices.  Bake in a greased bread pan for about 50-60 minutes.

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