Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Crockpot Soup with Potatoes and Roasted Cauliflower

It's weird how some days I can spend so much time cooking, and other days I have no time at all and want something quick. We have pizza once a week just because, but the other six nights its something homemade, unless we get invited to someone elses place. If it's my brother CC, then we get some aged beef on the barbecue, and it's delicious! If it's at either of my daughters' place, we get a big green salad with something I probably made and brought over, like lasagna, because I don't want them have to go to any trouble or expense.

This vessel right here is my favorite cooking appliance
Made this the other night. Have about half leftover.
Anyway, today I am off work, and my husband is at work. Perfect day to clean house, right? Uh huh. So here I am, watching Hoda and Kathie Lee and blogging about food. I don't get another fresh vegetable box delivered from SLO Veg until Monday, so I am using what I have. A survey of the frig shows some leftover mashed potatoes, some butternut squash pasta (Taylor really loves it and will eat it today for his lunch, or breakfast, or brunch, or whatever you call it when someone wakes up and eats midday), and a half of a whole roasted cauliflower and three carrots. It was part a great fish and veggie dinner the other night, but just the hub and I were home, so there was a lot left. (Hardest part of meal planning is knowing for sure how many eaters I might have.) Hmmm...I could just throw the potatoes and the cauliflower into the crock pot and in three or four hours I will have Roasted Cauliflower and Potato soup, right? Right! 

I browse Pinterest for a few recipes and decide I am right on track. There a dozens of pins for cauliflower soup which must be all the rage right now. Most are substituting cauliflower for potatoes in hopes of have a slightly more healthy cream soup. But after talking with a dietician this week, my hub (who has been advised to monitor his blood sugar levels) and I learned that a carb is a carb is a carb. Blood sugars fluctuate more from carbs than anything else. Portion size is the key. A small potato is one carb serving. A giant potato equal three or four carb servings. One carbohydrate serving equals 15 grams of carbohydrates. She said everyone is different, so some people may tolerate one source of carbs better than the next person. She said just count your carbs--four servings allowed per meal, one for snacks. Beer counts as carbs. And cheese is a protein. Done. That was easy.

Literally just threw it all in the crock pot
So, back to the soup, where I have a big head start in using leftover roasted vegetables. I dumped in the container of potatoes, the half head of cauliflower, the three roasted carrots, some chopped red onion and two cloves of mashed garlic. Then I added two cups of chicken broth that I had stashed in the freezer. After looking at some other recipes, I might add some Dijon mustard and hot sauce for a little spike. I will blend it together with an immersion blender and stir in some shredded cheese until it all melts. I have some in the frig that is a mix of cheddar and Monterey jack cheese. I checked out my plastic storage containers, which all have measurements listed on them. The potato container is four cups. There is about 2 cups worth of cauliflower there. One half cup of cooked vegetables counts as one carb, so it all depends of how many cups of soup we consume. Two cups of soup is the whole meal, or one and a half cups of soup plus one beer. Its interchangeable. That's it. Soups on!

My soup was kind of chunky, but you can use an immersion blender to smooth it out if you like.
Here is the recipe I modeled from Aris Menu:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 3 cups mashed potatoes
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp honey dijon mustard 
  • 3-4 dashes of your favorite hot sauce (I used McClintocks)
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Add cauliflower and garlic to a very large baking dish. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and season with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Bake until browned and softened, about 30 minutes.
  2. In a large pot, heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook until tender and fragrant, about 7 minutes.
  3. Add broth. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Stir in mashed potatoes.
  4. Add cooked cauliflower and garlic scraping baking dish well into the pot. Add turmeric and curry powder, salt and pepper. Add mustard and hot sauce.
  5. Puree using an immersion blender, high quality stand blender (will likely need to do in batches), or food processor (will also likely require multiple batches. Return to heat and stir in cheese. Add extra salt and pepper if desired. Serve immediately. Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to one week

Note: When Lee checked his blood sugar  2 hours after dinner, it was high. I might make this soup again without all the potatoes and see what the results will be.

Whole Dang Roasted Cauliflower

Posted on 1/21/15: I've got to make this Cauliflower recipe...tonight. I saw it a couple of weeks ago, and it has been haunting me!

I finally made that whole dang roasted cauliflower last week..and some carrots. I was going to make it with the pristine white head of cauliflower that came in our box one week ago. Then I procrastinated, forgot about it, and didn't make it until three or four days later. My cauliflower had a few brownish spots by that time, but it was just that, no mold, (sometimes they get black moldy spots if you don't use them soon enough) so I covered it with the sauce and it was glorious. See, the whole thing gets smeared with a spicy yogurt and roasted in the oven for 35-40 minutes, making a tasty golden yogurt crust on the cauliflower. I coated some fresh whole carrots with olive oil and sprinkled them with coarse sea salt and roasted them right alongside. Delish-e-o-so!

I found the roasted cauliflower recipe in Shape magazine, so eat it and it will make you fit and trim, got it? (Well, we try! I think they meant for us to actually try the exercises, too.) On this night, I paired the cauliflower with some pan-fried fresh swordfish, roasted carrots and mushroom quinoa. The fish was dipped in a seasoned flour and pan friend in butter and olive oil, then topped with a butter sauce consisting of the pan drippings, sea salt and pepper, grated lemon peel, lemon juice, chopped parsley and minced garlic. I swear I would have eaten the entire head of cauliflower, if not for all the other foods on my plate. Confession: I didn't finish all of my delicious shark...and the quinoa was another story. I had to toss out my thyme seasoning that I put into the quinoa dish, along with the entire dish, because I think the thyme went moldy. It sure tasted that way, anyhow. Yuck! Okay, let's go back to the cauliflower.

Spicy Whole Roasted Cauliflower


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a small baking sheet with vegetable oil. Set aside.
2. Trim the base of the cauliflower to remove any green leaves and the woody stem.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt with the lime zest and juice, chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, curry powder, salt and pepper.
4. Smear the cauliflower with the yogurt sauce.
5. Place the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet and roast until the surface is dry and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes. The marinade will make a crust on the surface of the cauliflower.
6. Let the cauliflower cool for 10 minutes before cutting it into wedge.

You should really check out the link and look at the photo from the magazine, because mine do not do justice. Its really pretty. When you want to impress some dinner guests, this is what you should make. Here is the link, again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sick Day Ramen Noodles

Laying in bed today with the cat, sick with a cold, and its my regular day off. I should be cleaning the house, doing laundry, reorganizing the closets, or something productive...I can't even have a productive cough today! Actually, I should be holding my four-week-old grandson and cooing at him, but I can't go see him...because I am sick.

Everybody is this house has had it, but I swore it wouldn't affect me! I tried. I took my vitamins, ate lots of oranges, and got fresh air, but they got me. My husband is actually sicker than I am. He went to the doctor earlier in the week and was told he was in the early stages of pneumonia. At least he got antibiotics for that. But he had to go in to work this week. At least I have the option of taking some sick days if I need them. Tomorrow is my "Monday", so I am holding out until later to see how I feel. That's what a "menial" clerical job with a government agency will do for you.

I am drinking chai tea, because I don't have any more ginger tea, and making ramen noodles dressed up with fresh vegetables: carrots, onions, celery, parsley and cilantro. Its my best effort to combat this cold. My trick is: I chop the vegetables and put them into the saucepan of boiling water and let them cook for a few minutes. Then I add the seasoning packet and the noodles, stir it around to break up the noodles, and put then lid on the pan and turn off the heat. Five minutes later, its perfect. I used the whole beef-flavored seasoning packet, too. If the preservatives in that don't kill this illness, I don't know what else will.

It looks pretty good, right? I actually really crave this sometimes. Salty noodles with some crunchy fresh vegetables. I should have added some turmeric for its health benefits! Dang, next time. I even found a recipe site for more insipiring ideas with ramen noodles: http://www.myrecipes.com/how-to/7-ways-with/7-easy-ramen-noodle-recipes#7-ways-with-ramen-noodles-intro

(Sorry its not a hyper-link or whatever you call it. I can't do that feature on my cell phone or tablet, and I am not getting out of bed to fire up the desktop to edit this post.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

Today I found a recipe for deconstructed cabbage rolls. http://www.giverecipe.com/unstuffed-cabbage-casserole.html The author is Turkish and she was trying for the flavors her Turkish grandmother created in cabbage rolls. One difference from what I am used to is she added dried mint to her meat mixture, so I might try that today. Unstuffed cabbage. I noticed a lot of times people eat the filling out of the rolls and leave the cabbage, so this way maybe with the cabbage incorporated more into the entire dish, it will be more palatable. Eat the cabbage, man! It's healthy!
SLO Veg came through with all the essentials for my Ukrainian cabbage rolls
As I am sure I have mentioned a thousand times, my Mom was an American-born Ukrainian, and her signature recipe was stuffed cabbage rolls, which she called "holopschi" (or holubsti). Its what she made for every church potluck, family picnic, or large gathering, because she could make one or two large pans full and tote it to wherever we were going. I remember church potlucks becoming a smorgasborg of cultural dishes, from the Filipino pot stickers, Italian spaghetti and meatballs, Greek dolmas, Irish potatoes and Polish perogies. Our town was a bit of a melting pot, and each lady would always bring her specialty--it was expected. "Our next potluck dinner will be __________". "Mary, are you going to bring your cabbage rolls?"

My new cookbook
My Mom's birthday was in February, and its the perfect time of year to celebrate her heritage in our family by having a Ukrainian-themed family potluck in her memory. My brother makes his version of cabbage rolls, spicing it up with sausage, while my sister likes to make borscht. I usually make sides and desserts. I have been trying different recipes that I find online, but this year I received a cookbook gift from a cousin in Philly, "Ukrainian Cuisine", by Bohdan Zahny, featuring a huge assortment of dishes from appetizers to desserts. It gives a good feel for the hearty type of foods the Ukrainians eat, with lots of pork, veal, fish, eggs, rice and millet, cabbage, onion, mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes. Sauces are creamy, using sour cream or mayonnaise and seasonings are basically salt, pepper, dill, parsley, and lemon. Sweeteners are usually honey or raisins and a lot of recipes call for Farmer's cheese, which I guess is similar to cottage cheese. 
Simple cabbage rolls

While the cookbook features over a dozen recipes for borscht and even more fillings for vareniky (filled dumplings similiar to perogies), I was disappointed to find only two recipes for stuffed cabbage rolls, and they were both very simply seasoned with salt, pepper and vinegar. My Mom didn't have a recipe; she tried to recreate the dish her mother had made so often when she was growing up in Philadelphia in the 1920-30s, where they lived amidst a Ukrainian population in their neighborhood. After moving across the country with my Dad, she didn't have anyone to ask, as the small West Coast town we lived in didn't have any Ukrainians other than my Mom that we knew about. Mom seasoned her filling with onion, garlic, oregano, dill or thyme. She cooked the ground beef first and then mixed it with the cooked rice, whereas a lot of recipes I see call for raw hamburger formed into little balls, then wrapped in cabbage and baked for a longer amount of time. She usually made her sauce with tomato soup mixed with sour cream, but I am sure my Grandmother didn't have Campbell's tomato soup back in the 1920s. Sometimes Mom added cheddar cheese to the top, but I don't think that is all that traditional. I have seen recipes with a brown gravy, slices of bacon, tangy tomato sauce spiked with lemon, or just bare, with maybe a squeeze of lemon. Here is another Holubsti recipe I found online that sounds more like what Mom made, except for she seasoned her's more: http://www.ukrainianclassickitchen.ca/index.php?topic=5815.0
Note: this site contains a variety of cabbage roll recipes, some meatless. This author is a Canadian Ukrainian, and she says recipes vary a lot by region, as it does in the Ukraine and surrounding countries. Makes sense.

I started by browning the ground beef and seasoning it with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Then I added a mirepoix of onions, celery and carrots, along with some freshly minced garlic and let that all cook together to blend all those wonderful vegetable flavors with the meat. I added one can of diced tomatoes, one can tomato sauce, and one cup of chicken broth. Meanwhile, I had a pot of water boiling and blanched the cabbage for one minute, then chopped it up and stirred it in with the meat mixture. I added a little more salt-pepper-garlic seasoning, a tablespoon of dried oregano and a pinch of dried mint, and gave it a taste. Oh, lemon juice! I sliced one of my beautiful Femminello Italian lemons that came in yesterday's box delivered by SLO Veg, and squeezed the juice into the mixture.

So let's see: I have Turkish mint flavoring with Mexican oregano and Italian lemon. Nothing especially Ukrainian, but from the recipe I found in the Ukrainian Cuisine cookbook, those rolls seem so nondescript they need some influence. They don't even have any tomatoes, for crying out loud! There are plenty of other recipes to try in this cookbook, starting with the borscht. But that's a blog for another day. Or the archives, because I have blogged about it before. Whatever suits your fancy! Maybe I will research the dumplings some more. That could become my Ukrainian speciality! Even though my mother never made them that I can recall. One of my brother's comment last year, "I don't remember Mom ever making vareniky." True, that. Sigh!

When I tasted my mixture today, it was good. I guess I could have used dill instead of mint for a little more tradtional Ukrainian taste, but this was fresh and tangy and satisfying. I put it into a glass casserole dish and will heat it up later tonight for our dinner. Some rye bread rolls would sure be good to go along with this. My Mom loved her dark rye bread, for sure. I miss my Mom!

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

1 head green cabbage
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1/2 yellow onion
3 ribs celery, with leaves
3 carrots
3-4 cloves garlic
1-2 tsp. Santa-Maria style seasoning blend
     (salt-pepper-granulated garlic)
2 cups cooked rice

15 oz. can diced tomatoes
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried dill (or mint, if you prefer)
1 cup chicken broth
juice of one lemon

1) Prep the vegetables: slice and chop the onion, celery and carrots. Minced the fresh garlic.
2) Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the cabbage for one minute. (I halved the cabbage so I could slice it up more easily after.) Let cool in a strainer, then quarter and slice into ribbons.
3) Put a swirl of olive oil in a saute pan and brown the ground beef on medium heat. Season with 1 tsp. Santa Maria-style seasoning. Add the mirepoix (onion, celery, carrots) and the minced garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the rice, tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano, dill and chicken broth. Squeeze in the lemon juice. Add the chopped cabbage and cook for a few more minutes, adding more salt and pepper to taste.
4)Put some olive oil in the bottom of a glass casserole dish. Spread the meat and cabbage mixture in the dish. At this point, you could top it with some grated cheese or more tomato sauce with a little lemon juice mixed into it, or a sour cream and mushroom gravy sauce. Heat in the oven for 30 minutes.