Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo Mac N Cheese

One ramekin finished and ready to bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
I needed to use up my cauliflower last week before we went out of town for a few days. I figured the eggplant would keep in the frig, but cauliflower always gets black mildewy spots on it when left too long. We had just received a new shipment of veggies from SLO Veg on Monday, and I was trying to use or preserve everything I could in 3 days time. Not wanting the beautiful, white cauliflower to go to waste, I boiled it and pureed it into a creamy sauce for macaroni. The guys had it for dinner on Wednesday after I went to work. I froze a couple of ramekins in case they need a meal next week and I fall down and am unable to make something fresh and scrumptious for them at that time.Or I might just sleep through dinner, like I did last night after we got home from our weekend at Laguna Seca race track, where we went to see the Historic Races. The men were okay...they had the leftover pizza from lunch. The pizza is also tomorrow's lunch plan. I love pizza.

Anyway, back to the cauliflower, I borrowed a recipe from "A Pinch of Yum" and made an Alfredo-like sauce with it. It was simply cauliflower, broth, garlic, salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Since I was making cauliflower mac and cheese, I had to add some Parmesan cheese to it, too, and a splash of heavy cream. You can thin it out with water from the macaroni pot. I pureed it in batches in the blender, poured it over cooked macaroni, mixed in some leftover chunks of chicken breast, and sprinkled some toasted bread crumbs over the top. I took some to work with me that night, and yum! It was such a nice departure from my usual box lunches.

The next day I left town for four days without guilt!


Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo Mac N Cheese
Makes 8-10 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. uncooked elbow macaroni noodles
  • 2 large heads cauliflower
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup starchy boiling water from pasta pot
Instructions
  1. Chop the cauliflower. Bring the vegetable broth to a boil over medium high heat and add cauliflower. Cook until cauliflower is soft, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute for 4-5 minutes or until soft and fragrant.
  2. As the garlic and cauliflower are cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the fettuccine according to directions on package, reserving some of the starchy water to add to the sauce later.
  3. Transfer cauliflower to a blender with about 2 cups of the broth. You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your blender. Add the sauteed garlic, salt, nutmeg, and black pepper and puree until very smooth, about 5 minutes. Once the mixture is moving, stream the olive oil into the blender. Add more broth or water if the mixture is too thick to move through the blender. You want it to turn through the blender easily. When puree is very smooth, transfer back to the butter/garlic skillet.
  4. Add the cream and Parmesan cheese and cook over low heat. Add the starchy pasta water. Combine noodles and sauce in a large pot or skillet and pour into individual ramekins or a casserole dish. Bake for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven to make it nice and toasty.
Variation: Add leftover cubed chicken, bacon or even lobster (who has leftover lobster?) for a meatier twist on this recipe.







Monday, August 11, 2014

SLO Veg Bounty

http://www.sloveg.com/eathealthy.cfm
Just look at all this beautiful, bountiful produce we received today in our tote from SLO Veg: Asian pears, strawberries, green beans, cauliflower, zucchini, Romaine lettuce, red cabbage, artichokes, Roma tomatoes, white nectarines, green grapes, purple eggplant...long, skinny eggplant. As expected, we got some of the unexpected. I would probably not have ever selected these eggplants from a market. My past attempts at Eggplant Parmesan were less than satisfactory, and the only thing I know that I can successfully make is Baba Ganash. But these are little, baby eggplants. I'll bet they will be good sliced and fried some way. Rachael from SLO Veg promised a good recipe, so I will check it out. And that, my friends, is the adventure with SLO Veg deliveries: you get a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season, with a surprise or two that makes you cook out of the box...literally!

First thing I did was start a pot of water going for the artichokes. They would boil for a good 45 minutes or so until the leaves began to pull off easily. I would served them with a dish of clarified butter and lemon juice. Then I built some nice bowls of salad with Romaine, sliced nectarines and strawberries, sunflower seeds and Pomegranate vinaigrette.

Then I took on the fish: it was a white fish, Rockfish, I believe, and one pound wasn't going to be enough for the four of us, so I also defrosted a package that I had put into the freezer a few weeks ago. It would all be locally caught fish from Morro Bay, so I didn't anticipate any complaints. I dipped the filets into a milk and egg mixture, then dredged it in flour, dipped it again and rolled it in some Panko bread crumbs. The fish was then pan fried in an iron skillet in coconut oil...Man, that smelled great! The troops were circling and I had to ask Lee to assist in getting it all on the table. He halved the artichokes, poured the butter into ramekins, set the table and put the food out while I finished frying the last piece of fish. We were all out of mayo, so no tartar sauce and the artichokes would have to be dipped in lemon butter...oh darn! No worries. Those guys were practically licking their plates by the end of the meal.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Crack Kale Salad

Monday is delivery day for us from SLO Veg. That means a whole box of fresh fruits and veggies to fit into the refrigerator day-after-tomorrow. So today I decided to use up most of whatever veggies had not yet disappeared from last week's box. There were some red potatoes...and that kale was still hanging around in the frig from last week's box. Actually, there were two kinds of kale, and one was two weeks old (from the previous box). Dang that stuff has a long refrigerated shelf life. MAYbe I should use it up?

I quickly made a dinner plan: kale salad, roasted potatoes, bacon-wrapped chicken marinated in beer, and garlic bread. The only things I needed from the store were chicken thighs and bread. 

Okay, so I pulled out the kale and inspected it. The curly kale that had been in the frig for two weeks was mostly good, with just a few leaves that needed to be cut out. The Lacinto kale that we just got this week was really dark green and crispy. I trimmed off all the stems and center ribs and gave it all a good washing in my salad spinner. Then I sliced it into 1/4" ribbons for the salad. I found a recipe I liked with a simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing. I jazzed it up a little after I tasted it, because it REALLY made me pucker! So I added a teaspoon of sugar, a splash of apple juice and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. I poured the dressing over the kale and let it all meld together in a glass mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, I sliced up a nice, crispy apple into long strips and added it to the salad bowl. I wanted the lemon juice to coat the apple pieces so they would stay fresh looking. Then I mixed in some toasted almonds, raisins and some shaved Parmesan cheese.

The salad was a side dish for tonight's dinner which consisted of bacon-wrapped chicken breasts, roasted red potatoes and sourdough garlic bread. As you can see from the bottom photo, none went to waste.


Crack Kale Salad
 (very addicting!)

Dressing:
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple juice
pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of sugar

1 bunch of kale, any variety, stems and center ribs removed
1/4 cup honey roasted sliced almonds
1/4 cup raisins
3 green onions, diced
1 large, crisp apple
1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese

Mix together the dressing ingredients. Slice kale into ribbons. In a mixing bowl, pour dressing over kale and mixed together.Cut apple, peel and all, into julienne slices and mix with kale. Add almonds, raisins, and parmesan cheese and its ready to go!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Mako shark tacos with Asian snow pea salad

MMMMMmmmmmmm....I made some really delicious fish tacos last night using Mako Shark that we got in our last delivery from SLO Veg. They partner with SLO Fresh Catch to bring fresh, locally caught fish right to our doorstep. 

This type of fish is my favorite, because it comes fileted into nice steak-like slabs that eats like meat. I don't have to worry about any pesky little pin bones like you find in snapper or grenadier, either. I basically followed this recipe from Cooking Light, except that I used shark and also some shredded lettuce since I was all out of cabbage. The crema was really delicious and put a nice finish on the tacos. Dinner was accompanied by an Asian snow pea salad and a Pacifico beer. Just right!

Oh, and I didn't bake the fish. I fried it in a cast iron skillet with olive oil and butter. Just too hot to be turning on the oven this time of summer. But you know, basically followed this recipe. For the salad, I did actully follow the recipe, except for the mustard. I did not have any Chinese hot mustard on hand, not even any little packets from Chinese take out. So I substituted Irish Hot Mustard. I don't know what the difference is, so I didn't think it could possibly matter. Hope you get a chance to try it.

**************************************

Fish Tacos with Lime-Cilantro Crema

Cumin, coriander, and paprika lend these fish tacos a delightfully warm, smoky flavor. They're the perfect foundation for the zippy sour cream sauce. For an appealing variation, substitute peeled medium shrimp for the snapper or romaine in place of cabbage.

Ingredients

Crema:

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise

3 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

1 teaspoon grated lime rind

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 garlic clove, minced

Tacos:

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 pounds red snapper fillets

Cooking spray

8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

2 cups shredded cabbage

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°.

To prepare crema, combine the first 8 ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

To prepare tacos, combine cumin and next 5 ingredients (through garlic powder) in a small bowl; sprinkle spice mixture evenly over both sides of fish. Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 9 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Place fish in a bowl; break into pieces with a fork. Heat tortillas according to package directions. Divide fish evenly among tortillas; top each with 1/4 cup cabbage and 1 tablespoon crema.

********************************

Asian snow pea salad

Ingredients

1 pound snow peas, trimmed and blanched

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon hot Chinese mustard

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Preparation

1. Stack several snow peas and slice on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Repeat to slice remaining peas.


2. In a large bowl, whisk vegetable oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, sugar, and mustard until well combined. Add sliced snow peas and 1 tablespoon green onions; mix to coat. Cover and chill until cold, at least 1 hour, or up to 1 day.


3. Just before serving, mound salad on a platter and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon green onions and the sesame seeds.

 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lemony Chicken infused with Herbs


I recently upgraded my phone and Verizon was running a special where you could get an Elipsis tablet for free with the phone purchase. Of course, the tablet is connected to a phone number, and they charge you $10 a month for access, but hey! I can take it anywhere, access my "What's in the Box?" blog, and keep on writing about good food. That's a win-win, huh? I hope : )   So anyway, I got two of them, one for me and one for the hub, who would have been monopolizing my tablet had I not gotten one for him.

The coolest thing about my tablet is the keyboard, which works on Bluetooth. Its the case and keyboard all in one. I can sit here on my bed and blog...heavenly! When I am done typing, I can pop the tablet out of the case and lie back and surf the internet. I would say this is going to be worth $10 a month.

Back to the point, today I am baking some chicken for our dinner tonight. I am doing it early, before the house gets too hot. I will be working nightshift tonight, so mine is going to be portable, while leaving some good stuff for the hub. We are trying to eat clean and exercise according to Bill Phillips Health for Life plan. Sensible eating: healthy carbs high in fiber, low fat, lean protein, no sugar. Eating carbs and protein in combination, like eggs and a cup of oatmeal. Twelve week program: Exercise six days a week with three strength training days and three cardio days. Today is the leg workout. I figured I would cook first, take a nap, and exercise this afternoon. Then I can come home, shower, and get ready for work. But for now, while the chicken bakes, I blog...

I first coated the four chicken breasts in olive oil, then squeezed in about 4 small lemons that our friend got from his tree. I added a Rancher's seasoning blend of salt, pepper, and garlic. I let it all marinate for about 20 minutes, then put the chicken into a glass baking dish. I left the lemon halves in the dish, added some sliced white onions, and layered the top with sliced garden tomatoes, springs of rosemary and basil. The tomatoes, rosemary, and corn all came in our box from SLO Veg. I know it sure smells good when baking!

I let it bake for 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven. I will take one of the small breasts in my tupperware container to work, along with some boiled corn-on-the-cob that I plan to cut off the cob, and some rice. I should have made brown rice, but I already had some left over white rice. Not quite on the plan, but I hate to throw out food. I think I will make a batch of brown rice and freeze it just to have on hand for lunches in the future.

Well, chicken is out and cooling, as is the corn. I think I will take my nap, then go get some exercise!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cucumber salad

We got a nice veggies box this week from SLO Veg with lots of summertime specialties: Cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, Romaine lettuce, kale, sprouts, peppers and bok choy, plus some luscious peaches, strawberries and oranges, and even a live Rosemary plant.

The thing I really wanted was the cucumbers to make a nice, crisp summer salad for our family barbecue. First I used a peeler and sort of made stripes down the length of the cucumber. That way when you slice them, they have a nice pretty edge. I sliced the cucumbers and sweet white onions thinly using my Cutco santuko knife, but you could also use a mandolin or the slicer on your old grater if you wish. I just wanted to see how thin I could go using the knife, which is really nice and sharp...and dangerous! You don't want to be distracted when using a sharp knife.

I got the cucumbers and onions sliced into a bowl, then I seasoned them with salt, stirred them up, covered them with plastic wrap and let them sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours while I prepared other things.
Next step is the vinegar marinade, which needs to be heated and poured over the cucumbers for a pickling effect. I used rice vinegar because I like the mildness of it, and some sugar, water and dried dill weed. So simple, so refreshing, so yummy!

The recipe is just this:
4 cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 small sweet white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar or rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons white sugar

1 tablespoon dried dill

1. Toss together the cucumbers and onion in a large bowl. Salt liberally and put aside for a few hours. Rinse and drain before adding the marinade.
2. Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan or in a glass bowl in the microwave. Bring to a boil, then pour over the cucumbers and onions. Stir in dill, cover, and refrigerate until cold.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Chicken Chile Verde

Mild roasted chilies, chunks of chicken and white rice makes the best Chicken Chile Verde
Okay! Hands down, easiest yummy dinner ever! Chicken chile verde over rice. We got a variety of peppers in our SLO Veg box this week, so I decided to use them up in a fresh verde with tomatillos -- my favorite sauce ever!

You start with chilies: Poblano chilies (3), Anaheim chilies(2), maybe a jalapeno chile (1). Those get roasted until black over a gas flame, then cooled and placed in a plastic baggie until its time to mix up the sauce. (Tonight I wanted it to be on the mild side, so I didn't use any jalapenos).

Then you turn on the oven to 400 degrees and oven-roast the whole tomatillos (1 lb, husks off), onion (peeled and quartered), whole garlic cloves (3), and a couple of chicken breasts on one big baking sheet. Everything gets a splash of olive oil and salt. You can hit the chicken with your favorite seasoning blend, too. Let it bake for 30 minutes, until the tomatillos are soft and the chicken is cooked through.

The next step is to put all the peppers, onion and garlic into a blender, add a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and a couple teaspoons of lime juice, and give it a whirl. You can add a little bit of water, if you want. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. 

Then dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces and mix it into the sauce. Spoon a couple of ladles of the chile verde over a bowl of rice and top with a dollop of sour cream. So good and flavorful, so fresh, and so darn easy!

For a quick recipe reference, check out Melissa d'Arabian's site on FoodNetwork.com