As much as we love mac ‘n cheese at my house; and the fact that this is one of my daughter’s fave food… I definitely don’t make them enough. She gets a lot of Black Bean Soup, Turkey Bolognese, and Tomato Soup for lunch at home. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t remember when the last time that I made one. I mean, how is that possible? So recently, I decided that I should make one. After one, baked macaroni and cheese is a winter time staple, right? A casserole of pasta with goey cheese sauce and crispy topping… that is definitely a comfort food that will be accepted by anyone.
In an attempt to make a lighter version of this dish, I stumbled upon this recipe that suggested the use of pureed cauliflower to substitute for some of the cheesy sauce, mixed into it. Score! I have always heard of using cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes, but I have not tried it – and have definitely not heard it use in place of cheese sauce. Brilliant idea. Mac ‘n cheese is a perfect dish to sneak a little vegetables into, like this pumpkin version that I have made a while back. This dish was beautiful and it was hard to imagine that there was actually a TON of vegetables in it. My daughter and Red devoured this – and I felt good about serving this dish, since I know that it already has a good amount of vegetables so I don’t have to think about getting another vegetable dish. I started making this every other week now. I also tried to freeze it once – and it turned out fine. I just left the cheese topping while freezing, and added those just before baking. I took the frozen casserole out in the morning before I head out to work, and left it in the refrigerator – and I baked it for 30 minutes.
4 cups 1-1/2-inch cauliflower florets (about 1 lb.; from 1/2 head)
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Fine sea salt or table salt
12 oz. dried penne
2 cups 1% milk
1 tsp. dry mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 oz. coarsely grated sharp white Cheddar (about 1/2 cup)
1-1/2 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1-1/2 cups using a rasp grater)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
Put the cauliflower, onion, and garlic in a steamer basket set over 1 inch of boiling water in a 6- to 8-quart pot. Cover and steam until the cauliflower is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the cauliflower, onion, and garlic to a blender.
Fill the pot three-quarters full of salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for 3 minutes less than the package timing. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.
While the pasta cooks, add 1 cup of the milk, the dry mustard, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the vegetables in the blender and purée until smooth. Transfer to a 3-quart saucepan and stir in the remaining 1 cup of milk and the thyme. Heat over medium-low heat until hot but not boiling, about 3 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar and Parmigiano. Add all but 1/2 cup of the cheese to the sauce and stir until the cheese is melted. Add the sauce to the pasta and stir to combine. Transfer the pasta and sauce to an 8-inch square baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake until heated through and the cheese is beginning to brown, 20 to 30 minutes.
Recipe source: Fine Cooking ~ January/Feb 2013
I love roasting potatoes and mixed vegetables in the winter. For years, I’d specifically try to cut potatoes into sticks to mimic french fries in hoping that I would get somewhat the same level of crispiness from frying them. My issue though: it is always a challenge to get them equally cut, and then to cut them thin enough that they will be crispy, without being too thin that they will burn in the high-temperature roasting. Recently however, I discovered that roasting the smaller potatoes actually gave me the crispy texture that I had desired without fiddling too much with using a mandolin for prepping them.
This recipe below is basically my favorite version of what I would call an ideal roasted potatoes. I love garlic, so I definitely add a good amount of it. Then a generous amount of salt and freshly ground pepper. Then just before serving, I toss some fresh parsley and grated parmesan to add a little freshness to the potatoes. Hmmm.. they are fantastic to go with anything really. And it only takes 30 minutes in the oven, score!
1-1/2 lbs baby potatoes (yellow dutch or fingerling), halved
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp Freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
3 tbsp of freshly grated parmesan
Pre-heat oven to 450 degree F.
Rinse potatoes and pat them dry with a paper towel. Cut them in halves, they should be approximately about no more than 1.5-2 inches in diameter. Pat them dry again to ensure they are pretty dry. Place them all in a large shallow bowl, toss them with olive oil, garlic, salt and freshly ground pepper.
Roast them for 30 minutes, toss them halfway through to ensure that all of the potatoes were browned and crisped evenly.
Transfer them into a serving platter, and quickly toss with fresh parsley and grated parmesan. Enjoy immediately.
Yield: 3-4 servings
For the past year since we moved to Ankeny almost a year and half ago, our Friday night ritual consists of going for a Korean dinner in Ames. A friend of mine recommended a hole in the wall Korean restaurant on a local college campus, tucked inside an industrial building with miscellaneous businesses inside. The restaurant is about 750 square feet in size, a handful of tables, a limited menu, and only open from Monday to Friday. It is a good 20 minutes drive from our house; so I happily obliged.
These cucumbers remind me a lot of the pickled vegetables that we normally get at typical Korean restaurants. I started making them last summer, and was pretty happy at how tasty they taste – and how easy to put together. I crave these once in a while when I want something light and a bit spicy. They are a perfect companion for any Asian inspired dishes, like these Sweet and Spicy Korean Chickens or Kalbi (Korean BBQ Short Ribs).
1 Korean cucumber or 2 Kirby (pickling) cucumbers
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Korean hot pepper flakes (gochugaru) – use less if desired
1 tablespoon chopped scallion
1 clove garlic minced
1 teaspoon vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Thinly slice the cucumber (1/8 to 1/4-inch thick).
Toss gently with salt and set aside for 15 -20 minutes.
Drain excess liquid. (Avoid squeezing them because they will bruise.)
Mix well with all remaining ingredients.
Adapted from Eating and Living
I’m trying to hang on to the summer produce as much as I can; although I know that we’re going into the fall season already; and in a week or so, we will mark the official first day of the fall season. The weather, however, is still pretty relatively warm where I live, and I still crave vegetables. I love simple and relatively quick vegetable dishes that can prepared quickly when I get home from work, and let it cook while I prepare the rest of my meals. If it takes too long to prepare, I end up pulling out my loyal go-to organic frozen brown rice, or corn as a side dish.
These Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries was delicious – and definitely satisfied my craving for “fries”, but I wanted something a little different, and I thought adding cheese seemed appropiate to add a little extra nuttiness to these otherwise pretty simple vegetables. And really, it’s hard to imagine any dishes whose flavors can’t be improved with cheeses, right? I decided to make these after I was trying to think of what combination of breading would make it lighter without sacrificing flavor. I stumbled upon this recipe that uses olive oil instead of eggs for coating the vegetables, and mixes some grated parmesan cheese into whole wheat bread crumbs. I appreciated the flavor of the breading with the cheese addition, but had to bake them slightly longer since apparently I must have not sliced them into equal thickness. What I might try to do that next time would be to cut them into sticks like these Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries but use this breading.
2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound total)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (3/4-ounce)
1/4 cup plain whole wheat dry bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more for sprinkling
Freshly ground black pepper
Dipping sauce of your choice
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray, or alternatively you can use a parchment paper, or silicone baking mat.
Slice the zucchini into 1/4-inch thick rounds. In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini with the oil. In a small shallow plate, combine the Parmesan, bread crumbs, salt, and a few turns of pepper. Dip each zucchini coins into the Parmesan mixture, coating it evenly on both sides, pressing the coating on to stick, and place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the zucchini rounds until browned and crisp, 35 to 40 minutes, check for doneness and level of crispiness after about 30 minutes. Remove with spatula.
Sprinkle a generous amount of kosher salt. Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.
Adapted from Ellie Krieger, via Food Network
About six years ago, I lived with a roommate who had planted six zucchini plants and ended up with more zucchinis than what we could eat and share with friends that summer. We grilled them almost every night for dinner, made breads, cooked them into fritters, stuffed them into cakes and cupcakes, and pan fried them. What I wish that I had known back then was to turn them into these crispy fries.
These fries were really freaking good. I almost forgot that these weren’t fried. Baking them in high temperature and rolling them twice, first in the flour, and then in panko made them crispy in the outside, while the inside were still tender. We gobbled these up and used a ranch dressing as a dipping sauce.
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
Salt & Pepper, generous amount
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lb zucchini, cut into 4-5-inch sticks, about a 3/4-inch in thickness
Preheat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment, or coat them using cooking spray.
Place the flour in a large zipper bag.
Whisk both eggs with 2 tbsp water and place them in a shallow dish.
Get another shallow dish, and place Panko, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper in it. Mix to combine.
Place zucchini in the bag with the flour and shake until well coated. Dip the zucchini into the egg and then into the panko, turning to coat well.
Place breaded zucchini on the baking sheet. Bake 18-20 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.
They’re best the first day, but to store leftovers, store in a single layer on a plate, wrapped with ziploc. Reheat at 375 degrees for 5-7 minutes, until heathed through.
Adapted from The Confections of a Foodie Bride
If I have a fairy grandmother who can grant me one thing about summer that I get to enjoy all year long… it would be the bounty of fresh produce. I don’t need to have the 90-degrees weather all year long (although it would be nice), or the sunshine (which would give me extra time to photograph my pictures!). But I would definitely love the fruits and vegetables. This recipe below is a slightly simpler version of this recipe that I had shared in the past for Baby Bok Choy with Shrimp and Tofu. I was very giddy when I saw rows and rows of these perfect little bundles at the grocery store recently. I spent many years cooking vegetables like this, and can eat a bowl of this vegetable with just a little bit of rice and be totally content. I would even take this dish anytime over this finger-licking fried chicken… it is that good.
I added some minced ginger on this vegetarian version without the shrimp, and also sprinkled some red pepper flakes for added heat. This is a very versatile dish, you can throw in some thinly sliced pork if you want. Add some green onions if you have leftover in the frig that needs to be used up. Use water if you don’t have broth, and if you don’t care for ginger, you can also omit it. Just make sure that you season them with salt and pepper (white or black) to taste.
8 baby bok choys
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of minced ginger
Up to 1/2 cup of vegetable broth or water (quantity depending on how much broth you’d like)
A pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse bok choy thoroughly. Slice vertically into two as shown on the picture.
Heat the oil in a wok or a pan. Add garlic and ginger, and saute until garlic is slightly browned.
Add bok-choy to the pan, pour the broth in, and cover the pan. Let it simmer for a few minutes until they are slightly wilted.
Sprinkle the red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot as a side dish to rice.
Yield: 1-2 servings of side-dish
I’m sure everyone has their own version of their fave mashed potatoes. For years, I really just added butter and sour-cream in it. My dad is also really picky about his mashed potatoes. My mom and I would add sour cream to it, and then we’d tell him that it is only seasoned with butter. Oops, good thing that he doesn’t read my blog! When Red and I first started dating, he introduced me to his fave thing to add to his mashed potatoes: goat-cheese! I began then to open my mind about other things to add to it to make it even more delicious. About two years ago, I began baking with buttermilk – and then I started noticing recipes of mashed potatoes with buttermilk. It add creaminess and tang to it like sour cream would, but I actually prefer it. It is light, fluffy, and I appreciated the extra zing from the buttermilk that I don’t get from sour cream. If you have never tried adding buttermilk in your mashed potatoes, I highly recommend it. It may be the next superstar on your holiday table this year.
1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes
1/4 cup low-fat milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut them into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Add them to the boiling water and bring the water back to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes fall apart easily when pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan, making sure it doesn’t boil. Set aside until the potatoes are done.
As soon as the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander. Place a food mill fitted with a small disk/blade over a heatproof bowl. Pass the potatoes through the food mill, turning the handle back and forth (or, alternatively, you can just mash them with hand masher, which I did). As soon as the potatoes are mashed, stir in the hot milk mixture with a whisk or rubber spatula. Add enough buttermilk to make the potatoes creamy. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper, and serve hot. To keep the potatoes warm, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water for up to 30 minutes. You can add a little extra hot milk to keep them creamy.
Yield: 2-3 servings
Adapted from Ina Garten via Food Network
I don’t know what happened to September, but here we are… in October already! The mornings are starting to get chilly in Iowa, and it was about 40 degrees outside when I went to my local farmer’s market this past weekend, armed with a large cup of coffee in hand. I had brussel sprouts in mind. I fell in love with brussels sprouts last year, when one of my last CSA box deliveries for the season brought me a small pint of these little cabbages. I didn’t know what to do with them (and frankly.. a bit terrified!). I quickly got over my fear and made these Brussel Sprouts Lardons. I was floored and pleasantly surprised by how delicious they were. They weren’t bitter at all, and I liked how tender their outer leaves become when cooked in broth, with still a bit of crispiness in the inside. I picked up a couple stalks of them at the farmer’s market the following weekend, which happened to be the last weekend of our outdoor farmer’s market. That’s when my love affair with these little gems started. This time, however, I sauteed them in high heat and added a combo of maple syrup, apple juice, and balsamic vinegar to add some sweetness and a bit of tang. This recipe was equally simple and quick to make as these Brussel Sprouts Lardons. If you haven’t tried brussel sprouts, I’d like to invite you to try either one of these recipes… try a small pint for a starter, and see if will convert you like it did with me!
Slightly Adapted from Food and Wine
1/4 cup canola oil
2 -1/4 pounds baby brussels sprouts or regular brussels sprouts that are halved lengthwise
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and softened
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup Grade A pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons apple juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Heat the canola oil in a very large skillet until shimmering. Add the brussels sprouts and season with salt and pepper, then cook over high heat without stirring until they are browned, about 2 minutes. Add the unsalted butter and brown sugar and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the brown sugar is melted. Add the maple syrup and cook, stirring occasionally, until the brussels sprouts are just crisp-tender, about 7 minutes. Stir in the apple juice and balsamic vinegar.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the brussels sprouts to a bowl. Boil the cooking liquid over high heat until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Pour the sauce over the brussels sprouts and serve.
Yield: 10 servings
Recipes like this definitely remind me of why I love blogging! There are so many awesome food blogs out there for inspiration and each one gives me the opportunity to try something new all the time! I found these beautiful cippolini onions in our farmer’s market stand a few weeks ago, and I just had to buy them. I have never cooked them before, but have heard of them, and wanted to try something different. Plus, they are fresh and local. Not to mention that I know that they easily cost double that amount at regular grocery stores. The balsamic vinegar, when roasted at high heat, turns into this beautiful and delicious glaze. The onions are caramelized and soft– and they’re perfect with grilled meats. Oh so perfect! How can it not be? Delicious, yet simple to make.
Inspiration from Proud Italian Cook
1-1/2 lb of cippolini onions, remove skins, trim ends
1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of dried thyme (fresh is even better)
1 tbsp of salt
1 tsp of freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. You can either remove the skins of onions each individually, or you can drop them in boiling water for a minute, and then transfer them to cold water quickly. At that point, the skins will come off easily.
Lay them in oven-safe baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme, salt, and pepper. Pour the balsamic vinegar over the onions.
Roast them for approximately 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature for 350, and bake for another 15 minutes. You have to watch the onions and if they get browned too quickly, feel free to reduce the temperature even sooner.
Have you ever gotten so caught up with cooking and baking both new and old recipes that sometimes you forget to blog about it? I am pretty sure that my fellow blogger readers can relate to this. It happens to me frequently! Probably more frequently than it should. I would try new recipes and find great ones–and make them a few more times before I get to even blog about it and share with the rest of the world! The good thing about that is that I get to try it several times before my readers know, so if it flops the second or third time around, I’d probably skip blogging about it all together. But if it continues to impress me, then you will know that the recipe is true and tried.
This dish was one of them. I wanted to add a new vegetable dish for our holiday dinner; and wasn’t sure what to make. And then I had my Barefoot in Paris cookbook laying on the floor, so I flipped through it, and saw this dish. It’s really simple to make, and can be prepared ahead of time, which is a huge bonus for entertaining and great time saver during the holidays. You can prepare everything except the topping, and refrigerate them just until you are ready to bake them. As you heat up the oven, prep the topping and sprinkle them just before putting it into the oven. It is a very rich dish so if you’re looking for something “light”, this isn’t it. However, it is flexible, so you can substitute a couple of the cheeses listed below with other types as well although it may not be as authentic as what the recipe intended.
I added bacon bits in mine for the second time I made them, and it was a hit. I preferred mine piping hot from the oven, and slightly warm so I could still enjoy the goey cheese melting :)! Happy cooking!
Adapted from Barefoot in Paris
1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.
Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.
Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Yield: 4-6 servings