Healthy · Main Dish · Pasta · Recipes · Vegetarian

Cauliflower Chiocciole and Cheese


I love this stuff.  It’s a mac and cheese with cauliflower, but with chiocciole pasta instead of elbow macaroni.  Chiocciole takes its shape from its name, which means snail in Italian.  It’s a great vessel for holding the cheesy sauce.  And the best part…it’s delicious and lower in fat than most mac and cheese recipes.  The original recipe is from the Real Simple website.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything.  Sorry about that.  I do have some fun stuff up my sleeve, so get ready.  I promise they will be worth the wait.

Cauliflower Chiocciole and Cheese

  • 12 ounces chiocciole or elbow macaroni
  • 1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup 1 percent milk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • dash of freshly grated nutmeg
  • bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Heat oven to 400º F.

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sauté onion for 3-5 minutes, season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and add cheese, sour cream, milk, Dijon mustard and nutmeg.

Cook pasta according to the package directions (or just a few minutes under); adding the cauliflower during the last 5 minutes of cooking time.  Transfer the cauliflower and pasta with a slotted spoon to the onion and cheese mixture.  Transfer to a baking dish and bake 12-15 minutes.

In a small sauce pan, heat 1/2 cup bread crumbs with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, stirring frequently until slightly toasted and fragrant.  Sprinkle over baked pasta.

Drizzle with a finishing olive oil.  Good stuff.

We’ve been hard at work on the pizza oven.  And when I say we, I really mean Dad and Sunshine.  Check out these latest photos of the men at work.

Sunshine applying the mud over the insulation blanket and chicken wire.

Now we just have to wait for it to dry, and then apply the decorative exterior tiles and bricks.  And that makes Sunshine one happy boy.

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Healthy · Main Dish · Recipes · Vegetarian

Fish-a-licious

I don’t know why I love to do that to words.  Fish-a-licious just works for me.  It’s fish, it’s delicious, and there you have it.  Fish-a-licious.  This is Guy Fieri’s version of Halibut Veracruz.  I bought fancy wild caught halibut from Santa Monica Seafood.  It cost an arm and a leg, but it was worth it.  You can use the sauce on almost any fish.  We’ve used it on swai from Ralph’s, which cost less than five bucks.  Just try it, you’ll like it.  Here is my ever-so-slightly tweaked version.

Halibut Veracruz

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2-cans of diced and fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles and their juice (from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded, fine dice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4-8 ounce halibut fillets
  • 1/2 cup Spanish olives, cut into thin rounds, plus 2 tablespoons of olive juice from the bottle
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 2 medium avocados, peeled and sliced

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Heat oil in a medium pan over medium heat.  Add onions and cook for 3 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute.  Add tomatoes and their juice, jalapeño and white wine.  Cook until reduced by 2/3, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add olives and olive juice.  Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste.

In a separate oven proof pan, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat.  Season fish with kosher salt on both sides.  Add fish to the pan once the butter has melted.  Cook until bottom side is browned and you can flip the fish without tearing the bottom side (trust me, I shredded my fish because I was impatient last time I made this).  Once flipped, dot with remaining 1 tablespoon butter and insert into the oven.  Bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes depending on size of your fish.

To serve, divide fish among 4 plates, top with avocado slices and sauce.

Here’s Sunshine!  He’s sizzling hot in his Elmo pajamas.  Peace.

Main Dish · Recipes

roasted chicken and a confession

I have a confession to make.  I haven’t posted in a while, as many of you know.   Sure I’ve been busy at work, but I’m always busy at work.  The truth is I’ve been playing too much.  Words with Friends and Hanging with Friends have taken over my life.  I hate those games, but I love them at the same time.  I had to delete those games from my ipad…there was always just one more word to play.  It’s amazing how much more I can do with my day now.  So there you have it.  My confession is complete.  I feel so much better now.

Time to talk chicken.  I love roasted chicken and this is one of my favorite recipes.  Veronica made this for us a while ago.  She found this recipe on the Food Network website.  The herbs tucked under the skin add a ton of flavor.  I like roasting two birds at a time so that I can have enough for salads or sandwiches for the week.  I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit…

Anne Burrell’s Herb Roasted Chicken

  • 5 sprigs rosemary, picked and finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons
  • 10 sage leaves, finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 (3 to 3 1/2-pound) whole chickens
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 large onion, cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 4 carrots, cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 6 ribs celery, cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 sprigs of thyme, tied in a bundle with kitchen twine
  • 4 cups chicken stock
Preheat oven to 450° F.
In a small bowl combine rosemary, sage, garlic, red pepper flakes and olive oil.  Season generously with salt.  Using your finger tips carefully work your way under the skin of the chickens to separate the skin from the breast to develop a pocket.  Schmear the herb paste under the skin of both chickens.  Drizzle with more olive oil and massage into the skin.  Sprinkle each chicken generously with salt.

Place the diced vegetables, bay leaf and thyme bundle in a 9 by 13-inch roasting pan.  Add about 1-2 cups of chicken stock.  Arrange the chickens on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan and place in the oven.

Check the chickens about 15 minutes into the cooking process, the skin should be starting to turn a lovely brown.  Lower the heat to 375°F and continue roasting.  After another 15 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven and turn over.  Return the chickens to the oven and cook for another 15 minutes or until the chickens have browned on the bottom.  Remove the chicken from the oven and turn over.  Check to make sure the chicken stock has not evaporated, adding more as needed.  Return the chicken for the final 15-25 minutes of cooking.  Insert an instant read thermometer in the crease between the thigh and breast, taking care not to touch the bone.  The temperature should reach 160-170° F.  If the chicken temperature reads below 160º F, continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes.  If the skin starts to get too dark, cover loosely with foil.

Let the chickens rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.

Skim off the fat from the vegetables, and serve with the chicken.

Save the bones to make chicken stock.  I throw mine in a crock pot with a quartered onion (unpeeled), a carrot snapped in half, a celery stalk snapped in half and a bay leaf.  I might throw in a handful of parsley and peppercorns too.  Cook on low for 5-8 hours, depending on your mood and how much time you have.  Strain it and refrigerate it.  The fat will rise to the top and harden overnight.  Skim the fat off of the surface of the stock and freeze in small portions as needed.

Delicious.

Miss Molly loves her new wheels, but sometimes she gets tired.

Good night, Molly.

Main Dish · Recipes · Salad · Vegetarian

Meatless Monday

This chopped vegetable salad is delicious.  It’s from Wolfgang Puck’s book: Live, Love, Eat!, with a few adjustments.  I love the combination of the vegetables, the crunch of the carrots, celery and green beans, and the creaminess of the avocado makes me happy.

The Environmental Working Group has challenged us to go meatless one day everyweek.  We don’t have to be vegetarian to eat healthier, but we can make a lasting impact on our health and our planet by making even small changes in our diet.

Chino Chopped-Vegetable Salad

Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Salad

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup cut diced frozen artichoke hearts
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced green beans
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1 cup diced radicchio
  • Fresh corn kernels, from 2 cobs
  • 1 diced celery
  • 1 cup small cherry or grape or pear tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 Hass avocado
  • grated parmesan cheese, to taste
  • 4 cups mixed baby greens
To prepare the vinagrette: In a small bowl , combine the mustard and vinegar.  Whisking continuously, slowly pour in the olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.
To prepare the salad:  In a small saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add the diced artichoke hearts, season with salt and pepper.  Saute for 3 minutes.  Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Blanch the carrots and green beans for 2-3 minutes.  Transfer to an ice water bath to stop the cooking process, drain and set aside.
Combine artichokes, green beans, celery, carrots, radicchio and red onion.
Add the tomatoes and avocado.
Add the parmesan cheese.
Toss with some of the vinaigrette to coat.  Season to taste.  Toss the greens with the vinaigrette.
Divide the greens among 4 plates.  Mound the chopped vegetables on top and serve.
Who’s driving Sunshine’s car?
Pearl can’t watch.  Okay, maybe she can, but only out of one eye.
Appetizers and Snacks · Bacon · Chocolate · Cocktails · Dessert · Main Dish · Recipes · Salad

Pig Fest

Pig Fest 2011.  That’s right.  Sorry my vegetarian friends, this is not for you.  We had pig cocktails, pig appetizers, pig wrapped in pig and pig for dessert.  Laura even made bacon vodka.  It was quite a glorious feast.  We kind of felt like, well, pigs at the end of the night.

This is our Candied Bacon martini.  The candied bacon made a great stir stick.  We forgot the apple slice called for in the recipe, but it was still good.     We found this recipe in the Los Angeles Times.

Candied Bacon Martini

Candied Bacon:

  • 8 slices smoked bacon
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Candied Bacon Martinis:

  • 6 ounces premium vodka
  • 4 ounces Applejack brandy
  • 2 ounces amaretto liqueur
  • 2 ounces maple syrup
  • 4 thin slices tart apple
  • 2 slices candied bacon, halved crosswise

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Dredge the bacon on both sides in the brown sugar and arrange slices so they do not touch on the baking sheet.  Bake until bacon is richly caramelized, 15 to 25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and allow excess fat to drain.  In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka, brandy, amaretto and maple syrup with ice.  Shake until combined and chilled.  Strain into 4 martini glasses and garnish with apple slice and candied bacon.

Laura made her bacon jam.  It was awesome with a little crumbled blue cheese as a bruschetta.

Donna made the most amazing prosciutto wrapped salmon and scallops.   Oh man were they good.  We couldn’t take a picture fast enough to get the whole platter.  Sunshine said they were the best scallops ever.  The salmon was really good too!  Here is her recipe:

Salmon Kebabs with Parsley Vinaigrette

  • 5 tablespoons good-quality extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality red wine vinegar, such as Kimberley
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinned King or Coho salmon fillet (1″ thick), cut into 1 1/2″ chunks (or sea scallops!)
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (Donna used prosciutto)
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl.  Set aside.
Heat grill to high (450° to 550°).
In a large bowl, combine remaining oil with 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Toss with salmon or scallops to coat.
Set out 3 rows of salmon chunks on a work surface.  Unroll pancetta slices into strips and wrap strips once or twice around salmon, weaving long pieces between chunks.  Skewer each row of salmon with chunks slightly separated.
Oil grate using tongs and a wad of oiled paper towels.  Set kebabs on grate and grill, covered, turning once until fish is barely cooked through, about 4 minutes.
Remove salmon and scallops from skewers and arrange on a platter.  Stir parsley into the dressing, spoon on top of the salmon and scallops.  Serve warm with crusty bread for dunking.

Pig wrapped pig.  We served it with a refreshing arugula salad.  This recipe is courtesy of Giada De Laurentis.  I’ve adjusted the cooking time according to the new chart on the National Pork Board website.

Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon

Roast

  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 1/2 pound center cut boneless pork loin roast
  • 12 slices (1 pound) bacon

Salad

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 cups (5 ounces)  baby arugula
Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°.
In a small bowl, mix the mustards, honey, garlic and rosemary until smooth.  Spread the mustard mixture evenly over the pork.
Starting at one end, wrap a piece of bacon around the pork roast.  Wrap slice of bacon around the roast, making sure to slightly overlap the first piece.  Continue with the remaining bacon until the roast is fully wrapped.  Using 6 to 8 pieces of kitchen twine, tied at regular intervals around the roast, secure the bacon in place.
Place the pork in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan and roast for 1 hour.  Cover the pan loosely with foil and roast for another 5 to 10 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork registers 145°.  Remove from the oven.  Cover and allow to rest for 20 minutes.  Remove twine and slice into 1/4″ thick slices.
For the salad:  While the pork is resting, in a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the arugula on a large platter and drizzle with dressing.  Lay pork slices on top and serve.

Chocolate covered bacon.  Okay, this was not for me.  But Laura liked it.  She’s kind of like Mikey.  Remember him?  The Life cereal kid?  Give it to Laura, she’ll eat anything.

Now this was good.  Really good.  INSANELY good.  It’s the maple-pecan sundaes with candied bacon.  I made the vanilla ice cream with the last of the Tahitian vanilla.

What’s so funny, Stephanie?

Donna!  You look like you’re up to something.

Manly men tending the fire and talking about manly things, like fire.

Classic Laura.

Paige barks a lot.  The only way to get her to shut up is to pick her up.  So we bought this contraption.  God bless Steven for wearing it.  Of course it didn’t work, so we gave her some Benadryl.  Of course that didn’t work, so we’ve resorted to on-line training with the Dog Whisperer.  And I have some shocking news.  Mom, you might want to sit down for this one.  Paige is an ANIMAL.  And then she’s a DOG.  She is not our child in a furry coat.

What’s next?  I think maybe a retirement party.  Not what you think though.  I’ve got a Mexican dress that I’ve had for way too long.  It’s been my go to dress for every party.  So, one last hurrah for my mexi-party dress, and then I’ll retire it.  Anyone who has something they’ve worn to death and need to retire is welcome.  Send Sunshine your pictures dressed in your oldies but not so goodies and he’ll make us a slide show for the party:)

Main Dish · Pizza · Recipes

90 second pizza and a 20 minute massage

Check out these lovely pizza pies.  We made them in Chik’s ALMOST finished pizza oven.  He’s been building it for about a year now.  Of course we’re building one too.  He really copied us even though he made his first.  I still think we may finish our pizza oven first, even though we haven’t started it yet.  As a matter of fact, we just got the plans.  I wanted to bypass the year of thinking and let someone else do that for me.  We ordered our plans in April and they have only just arrived this past weekend.

Some things are worth waiting for, right?  I’ve got a great birthday weekend planned of watching all the boys in my life build my pizza oven.  Who wants to join in the fun?  I promise I will make it worth your while.

A good pizza has to start with the dough.  I’ve been fussing with my recipe for years.  I think it’s pretty damn good.  I posted it a long time ago, here it is so you don’t have to go digging around for it.

Pizza dough

  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package of active dry yeast
  • 1 cup water, between 100 and 110 degrees
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add honey and yeast to the water and let it sit for 5 minutes.  The yeast should start to bubble.  If it doesn’t, start over with a new package of yeast.

Add olive oil to the yeast mixture and slowly add to the flour mixture, run the mixer on low using the dough hook.  Mix for 4 minutes.  The flour and yeast mixture should be well combined, and the dough should be a little tacky to the touch.  If it isn’t, add a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.  Continue to mix after the dough has rested for an additional 2 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a ball.  Place the dough in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and cover with a damp kitchen towel.  Place in a draft free area.  The dough can be refrigerated overnight at this point.  If using the same day, do not refrigerate and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, about 30 minutes.  Punch the dough down, gather into a ball, and either refrigerate at this point or cut into 4 equal parts.  Shape each piece into a ball.

It really is better if you can make it a day or 2 ahead.  The flavor improves and the texture of the dough is more elastic, which makes it easier to shape your pie.

Chik came up with a great tip…dust your pizza peel with rice flour before adding your dough, and then building your pizza.   I’ve been using corn meal, but rice flour works so much better.  It’s ground finer than the cornmeal and doesn’t burn.

Glory be.

I’m not kidding.

Chik!  You are almost done!!   Finish it already!  It is quite glorious.

How cute is Sunshine.  Chik bought a crazy massage chair.  Can’t beat a 90 second pizza and a 20 minute massage.

Main Dish · Recipes · Salad · Vegetarian

biggest loser and sweet beets

I love beets.  I also love how I’ve lost 10 pounds since the beginning of this year!

Gretchen organized a biggest loser competition at work and it’s been great.  Treats around the office are healthier than they used to be.  And everyone is working out at lunch time.  There is a $200.00 pot for the biggest loser.  I want that pot.

So that explains all of my light and lovely posts.  I want to eat great food, period.  And this is great food in my book.  It’s big on flavor, so a little goes a long way.  We had this for dinner, along with Sunshine’s famous swai and broccoli.  Swai is a farmed catfish.  It’s considered a “best choice” by Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch because it is farmed in a more ecologically responsible manner.  And since it’s farmed, it’s inexpensive.

Roasted Beets with Pistachios and Stilton Blue Cheese

  • beets
  • handful of pistachios
  • crumbled Stilton blue, or any blue cheese you happen to like
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°.  Wrap the beets in foil with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast until fork tender, about an hour.  Allow to cool, rub off the skins and slice into wedges.  To make the vinaigrette: whisk olive oil, lemon juice and mustard together.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Toss the beets in the vinaigrette, top with pistachios and crumbled blue cheese.

Sunshine’s  Famous Swai

  • Swai
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • Lemon Juice

Preheat the grill.  Season the swai with Old Bay Seasoning and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Sunshine creates a foil boat and places the swai inside.  Cook over high heat for 6 minutes with the grill lid closed.  That’s it folks.

The wonder drug.  Our pooches decided 3:30AM is an appropriate hour to get the day started.  Not anymore… the vet suggested we give Molly and Paige a half  of a Benadryl, and now we get to sleep until 5:00AM.  It’s a whole new world.  See how happy Sunshine looks?

The culprits.