Side Dish

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.

dinner-party-menu-thanksgiving

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving. I like to have all the same good stuff, year after year. It actually takes some of the planning stress out, because I always know what I’m going to make when I host. What IS always stressful, though, is timing everything out. So here is my recommended Thanksgiving menu (of course with all of my favorite things), and an easy outline for when to prepare everything. Also, while I typically recommend buying several items when hosting dinner, I believe in making most stuff for Thanksgiving. The homemade element adds a special touch and the chaos is FUN.

PS the picture above is from the Thanksgiving I thought it would be a good idea to make everyone individual pies. It was a great idea in theory and cuteness, but a terrible idea in manual labor output.

PSS sorry for all the terrible pictures in the links below. Most of them are from when I was in the middle of hosting Thanksgiving, and I was very very busy. And maybe a little tipsy.

Menu:

Appetizer: Trader Joe’s cranberry goat cheese + Ginger snaps

Appetizer: Cranberry Avocado Salsa

Main: Perfect Roasted Turkey + gravy

Side: Herb & Sausage Stuffing

Side: Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Side: Brussel Sprout Salad 

 – I would simplify this salad for Thanksgiving purposes: saute the brussels instead of roasting (oven space), buy balsamic glaze instead of boiling down your own, and buy bacon from the salad bar if you can (otherwise make bacon day ahead)

Side: Green bean casserole – using the Campbell’s soup recipe! It’s hard to beat.

Side: Sweet Potato Rolls – gotta have bread!

Dessert: Pumpkin Pie with Cream Cheese Swirl

Dessert: Store bought Apple or Pecan Pie

How to execute:

Up to a week before:

Make the sweet potato rolls. Put them in a freezer storage bag and keep them in the freezer until Thanksgiving day. Take them out morning of.

1 day before:

Make the mashed potatoes. Yes! These are great for make-ahead. When warming them up on Thanksgiving day you can add a little cream or butter if they need more moisture.

Make the pumpkin pie; store in fridge

Brown the sausage for the herb sausage stuffing. Keep in ziploc bag in fridge.

If using a frozen turkey, start thawing.

Day of:

~6-7 hours before – prepare the Turkey and put it in oven (varies depending on turkey size)

Have a sip of wine.

Anytime- prepare green bean casserole in casserole dish, and cover; wait to bake.

Have a sip of wine.

~2 hours before- cook celery, onions, etc and assemble sausage stuffing; wait to bake.

Have 2 sips of wine.

~1 hour before – prepare brussel sprout salad

Have 4 sips of wine.

~45 min before (delegate here!) – remove turkey from oven and let rest. Prepare gravy. Put green bean casserole and stuffing into the oven and bake. Prepare cranberry avo salsa and set out cheeses. Warm up mashed potatoes.

Have 87 sips of wine.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

 

 

My Best Chili

my-best-chili

It’s rainy here! And sort of chilly! So I have chili on my mind! Why all the exclamation points! Because we’ve been waiting for cooler weather here, and I think we finally have it. For a few days in a row. No more sweating while putting the boys in the car, no more feeling like the sun is literally aging me the second I step outside the door, and no more wearing white floral dresses in November (at some point I just stopped shopping). Speaking of aging, I went to the dermatologist this week for a mole check and few skin tips, and I came home with 3 prescriptions, 2 pricing quotes on procedures that I “need,” and a sheet of anti-aging essentials with about 80% of them circled based on my skin type.  Basically I need to invest in a new face.

So onto my chili. This is officially my chili. What I will make forever. Because there are soooo many recipes out there, and I already have this one  on my blog. I made this one loosely based on my previous version, but I tweaked quantities and did two simple things that made a HUGE difference: 1) I ground the beef down reeeeally small so there were no large pieces and 2) I cooked it for a long time.  Amazing what this did for the texture and flavor.

Recipe

  • 2 lb 90% lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt, more or less to taste
  • ~43 oz diced tomatoes with juices (1 large can + 1 regular)
  • 1 can tomato sauce (15 oz)
  • 1/2 can or full can black beans, drained (I used 1/2)
  • 2-3 tablespoons chili powder (3 if you like more heat; I used 2)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon pasilla powder if you can find it, or ancho chili powder
  • ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch mixed with 1/4 cup water

Brown meat, adding onions and garlic.  Using a wooden spoon to break beef down into very small pieces. An immersion blender works well here too.  Cook beef, onion and garlic through.  Add in red wine and salt. Cook down for a few minutes. Add in tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, and all spices.  Bring to a simmer. Stir in corn starch + water mixture.  Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.  Cover, turn heat to VERY low, and cook for at least one hour, but preferably 2 or 3. Taste for salt and add more if necessary.

sausage-kale-and-sweet-potato-soup

Today is kind of a lame day. It’s Wednesday, for one (right smack dab in the middle of the week with no real purpose, IMO). It’s the day after Halloween and I ate too much candy, have too much candy left, so will continue to eat too much candy in the coming days. And my parents just left! So sad. My mom was in town helping/visiting for a few days (I say helping because that’s really what she does – she is so so so helpful and really so remarkably gifted with kids), and my dad surprised me by flying in on Monday in one of the cutest and most touching moves I’ve experienced in a long time. I came home from a facial (where – side note – a “light/natural” peel removed about 70% of the skin on my cheek) – and my dad was playing with the boys in the back yard. It was so sweet and so appreciated – and much needed. I got a break from diapers, baths, and twins for 5 wholes days. But now it’s over and now I’m sad about it. Anyway.

I honestly never thought my life would come down to putting kale in my soup. I resisted the crunchy/somewhat bitter vegetable for years, slowly welcoming it into my salads with the perfectly sweet dressing combination. But here we are, in 2017, and I’m putting it in my soup. Have I become a complete caricature of myself?

I mulled this over, and decided the answer is no. I’ve always liked eating healthy, and I 157% promise you that the kale in this soup ADDS to the flavor and is not just thrown in there for all the good stuff that it offers and so that I can say “I put kale in my soup”. It’s cooked down but still offers a nice texture combination with the sausage and sweet potato, and the kale-flavor is a perfect contrast with the sweet sausage and sweet potato. Plus, it’s pretty! Honestly this soup is so flavorful, hearty, healthy, delicious, comforting…all the good things. You can trust me on this one…at least until I start putting kale in my smoothies. Then I would take me with a grain of salt.

Recipe (4)

  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, or 1 teaspoon minced from jar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 5-6 cup full sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 to 1 bunch kale, chopped

Start by browning the sausage over medium heat. Drain a little fat if you want (mine was pretty lean so I didn’t have to). Add in the onion, celery, garlic, and S&P to cook, about 5 minutes. If sausage is super lean, add a little olive oil.  Deglaze the pan with white wine and let cook down a minute or two. Stir in the chopped sweet potato, then add the chicken broth. I use full sodium when making soups, because soup should be salty and I don’t like salting it on my own because then I always over salt. But obviously if you have an aversion to salty food, you can use reduced sodium broth. Bring the soup to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes until potatoes are tender. Add in the chopped kale (I didn’t use quite the whole bunch), cover and simmer until wilted – about 10-15 minutes. Voila! Easy, healthy, flavorful Fall soup.

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