Vegetables

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.

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!!

 

 

Sweet Potato Nachos

sweet-potato-nachos

As one of my kids is still screaming his lungs out from a VERY adverse reaction to the chicken pox vaccine (he’s been a sad sack for about 24 hours now and no one has slept) – I was thinking about how amazing vaccines are. I mean, chicken pox sucked. Can you think of a time in your life when you felt more miserable? And the consequences are everlasting. I still have a huge scar right smack dab in the middle of my forehead and I’m sure I have a few others too. The fact that our kids won’t get that – is amazing. The medical world is a fascinating one, and how cool and fulfilling it must be for the people that are a part of it.  As a current stay at home mom, sometimes I struggle with leaving my former career-self behind, and wonder if I should be out curing cancer instead. Really making an impact. Of course given that I majored in aerospace engineering and worked in defense for 12 years I’m not sure how qualified I would be to cure cancer, but it sure sounds awesome. If I re-entered the world as a medical professional I would work hard at curing cancer and developing a genetic modification so that people can eat only donuts, pizza and wine and never change jeans sizes.

So this recipe was alllllllll my sister Ingri. Speaking of meaningful, she’s an FBI agent that fights crimes against children.  Definitely meaningful and a job that most of us couldn’t do! But she was over for football a couple weekends ago and threw these sweet potato nachos down out of nowhere. OH MAN. These are soooo good. And while I’m still a sucker for the mile-high version with tons of crap on them, these are a healthier, more interesting, yet definitely indulgent variation.  Make them for your favorite friends this weekend. And don’t worry about measurements, us as much or as little toppings as you want.

Recipe

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • S&P
  • butter or olive oil
  • 1 jar salsa
  • 1-3 heaping spoonfuls light sour cream
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1-2 tomatoes, diced and seeded
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 diced jalapeno, sauteed
  • Cheddar Jack shredded cheese blend

Slice potatoes into thin rounds. Lay on greased baking sheet in a single layer. Brush lightly with butter or olive oil and season with S&P.  Bake at 400 for about 24 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through, after about 12 min. Bake until slightly crispy.  Take potatoes out of the oven.  Mix the salsa with the sour cream (to taste), then drizzle a little over each of the potato slices (I think we used a little over half – the rest you’ll reserve for serving).  Top with some cheese, black beans and sauteed jalapenos. Return to oven for another 8-10 minutes or so, when cheese is melted. Top with avocado, tomatoes, and a little bit more cheese. Return to oven to melt the cheese, then remove.  Serve immediately, cutting apart if necessary and serving with tortilla chips (optional, but gives an awesome crunch!)

Slow Cooked Green Beans

slow-cooked-green-beans

I can’t be alone here. There has got to be others out there that were sadly disappointed when the ‘fresh’ green bean trend hit the waves. The crunch, the bitter flavor, the waxy skin – none of it even closely resembles the delicious canned version. Anyone with me? And by the way, ‘fresh’ green beans could have always been a thing, but they weren’t in Wausau, WI.  We ate a lot of canned green beans and we loved them. But maybe it was the small town, maybe it was the long cold winter, or maybe it was because my mom had 4 kids all 2 years apart.  We didn’t get fresh green beans until much later in life (my mom was an AWESOME cook, PS).

But one day she came home with fresh green beans, and after faking it for nearly 20 years, I am coming out now. I don’t like them. I like the salty, soft, forest green canned version. I don’t care if ‘some of the nutrients’ are lost in the canning process or if I’m going to die from the amount of sodium they put in there – I LOVE THEM.

But, because I’ve been faking liking the canned version for a very long time – some habits are hard to shake. I was at Trader Joe’s last week, and I bought them. They were pre-washed, pre-cut, pre-everything. Ready to cook. Seemed easy and healthy. And by the way – my husband has told me for years that he doesn’t really like green beans. So basically I was forcing all of society’s green bean ideals on us for dinner that night.

But, (third paragraph starting with but)…but, something happened by accident that day and I can’t believe it took me so long to figure out. If you SLOW COOK the green beans, in something salty like chicken broth….for like 1.5 hours….they taste JUST LIKE the canned version, but BETTER. They are salty, soft, melt-in-your-mouth, and that dark green color that we all know and love. And yet you can taste an element of freshness that elevates the flavor. My husband loved. I loved. The twins loved. They’re the easiest side dish of all time. You guys, I’m making these weekly.  And definitely using them in the green bean casserole for Thanksgiving.

Recipe

  • 1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cups chicken broth (I used a mid-sodium broth, like 550mg/cup)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1.5 tablespoons light butter spread
  • Fresh lemon and parmesan to top (optional)

In a large pot combine beans, broth, water, S&P (you will need more salt if you use a very low sodium broth).  Cover and cook over medium/low on a low simmer for about 1.5 hours.  Drain. Toss with butter, fresh lemon, and parmesan if using. But definitely don’t skip the butter.

Dinner Party Menu: October

dinner-party-menu-october

I’d like to give a shout out to whoever was responsible for coming up with the idea of Fall. I mean I guess it was probably God (or whoever you believe in), but the idea is so genius I’m thinking there was probably more of round table group doing a bunch of brainstorming. I think the concept of being able to change the leaf colors to super bright red, orange, and yellow plus injecting the air with that crisp/smokey smell..sealed the deal. Hats off guys and gals (oh who are we kidding, there definitely wasn’t any gals included in the round table discussions back then).

So what’s your favorite part of fall? Leaves? Halloween? Football? Tailgating? Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Crisp mornings? Sweaters and leggings? Yeah, I thought so.  I will say that Fall in Texas isn’t quite what it was in Wisconsin…it doesn’t get as crisp, the leaves don’t get as bright, the mornings aren’t quite as cool…but I still love it and at least I still have the memory of the beautiful Wisconsin Autumn.

Anyway, this dinner menu obviously includes pork. Pork is fall. As are sweet potatoes, apples, and cranberries. And this menu includes some of my FAVORITE recipes for my favorite season. Enjoy.

 

Appetizer:  Trader Joe’s Cranberry Chevre Log with ginger snaps or pita chips

Main:     Slow Roasted Pork with Creamy Apple Gravy or Apple Stuffed Pork Loin with Apple Butter Glaze

Side 1:   Roasted Fall Vegetables or veggies that come with the Slow Roasted Pork

Side 2:   Kale Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

Dessert:Store bought pumpkin or carrot cake

To Execute:

  1. Several hours before guests come over, start the pork (start cooking if slow roasting, start butterflying/rolling if doing the stuffed recipe)
  2. Prepare the apple butter or apple gravy
  3. An hour before dinner, prepare and dress the salad (this salad tastes better with time to marinate)
  4. About 30 min prior to dinner, roast the veggies (if doing the stuffed pork)
  5. Pour some nice cozy red wine and start a fire

 

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