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.

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.

Healthy · Recipes · Side Dish · Vegetarian

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

I’ve been having a hard time saying good bye to summer.  I love the long days, Vacation Sundays at Veronica’s and making ice cream.  I especially love the tomato bounty in the garden.  There’s nothing better than picking a perfectly ripe tomato off the vine and popping it in my mouth.

Sunshine picked up a handful of tomatoes from the grocery store.  They looked okay, just not as glorious as the ones from our garden.  So I decided to give them a little slow roasting love.  We enjoyed them on our pizza at Chik’s house a few nights ago with a little Mt. Tam triple cream cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, burrata and some pine nuts.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

  • Medium size tomatoes
  • Fennel seeds
  • Dried oregano, hand crushed
  • Grey salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive Oil

Place in a 250° oven on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with fennel seeds, crushed oregano, salt and pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 3-5 hours, just until they start to dry out but still maintain a soft texture.

Molly’s got new wheels!  She is so happy.

Look at her go!  She’s leading the pack!

She loves her new ride.  It’s hard to keep up with her!

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.
Recipes · Side Dish · Vegetarian

yummy asparagus

I love asparagus.  Throw in some French feta, some of your favorite olive oil and a nice crank of freshly ground pepper, and you’ve got something special.  I can not take credit for this concoction.  I found the recipe in Bobby Flay’s Grill It! cookbook.  I modified it ever so slightly.

Grilled Asparagus with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, Feta Cheese and Black Pepper

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and coarsely ground pepper, to taste
  • 6 ounces feta cheese (I like French feta), cut into small cubes
Heat grill to high.
Snap the woody ends off of the asparagus.  Place asparagus on a baking sheet, toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill asparagus perpendicular to the grates for 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until crisp tender.
Transfer the grilled asparagus to a large platter.  Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper and feta, and toss to combine.  Serve!
Pre-Photoshop days.  My crafty brother, Chris, taped a couple of pictures of Sunshine and me together.  I’m cracking myself up.  Must be the haircut, and maybe the sweater.
Check out the recipe index page on my blog.  I finally put it together.  Now I can even find some of my recipes.  I know, it’s about time.
Appetizers and Snacks · Recipes · Side Dish · Vegetarian

magical mushrooms

I made these mushrooms for a birthday celebration for Stephanie.  The recipe comes courtesy of Mario Batali’s The Babbo Cookbook.  Sunshine is usually not a big fan of shitakes, but he really likes these.

Cool Roasted Shitakes with Barbecued Onions and Basil Oil

Serves 4
 
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound shitake mushrooms, stems removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 large red onions, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch slices

Basil Oil

Makes 2 cups

  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil, chilled 2 hours
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
To prepare the mushrooms:
Preheat oven to 350º F.
In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the olive oil, sage, rosemary and chopped garlic, whisk to blend.  Place the mushrooms in a small roasting pan or casserole dish and pour the oil mixture over.  Season with salt and pepper and roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside in a medium mixing bowl.
Add the anchovy paste, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to the pan.  Gently whisk in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and pour over the mushrooms.
Preheat the grill.
Brush the onion slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grill on the hottest part of the grill until tender and grill-marked, about 4 minutes each side.  Remove onions from grill and place them on a serving platter.  Remove mushrooms from the marinade and place on top of the onions.  Drizzle plate with basil oil and serve.
To make the basil oil:
Place all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until nearly smooth and uniformly green.  Strain through a fine sieve.

The spread…

A little wine, and Stephanie’s shoes.

Appetizers and Snacks · Recipes · Soup · Vegetarian

twisted gazpacho

This is easy, refreshing, and delicious.  It’s another Michael Chiarello recipe, modified a bit.  It got twisted with a splash of tequila.  Just a splash.  I swear.

Twisted Gazpacho

  • 2 cans (11.5 ounces each) tomato juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup fennel, fine dice
  • 1 cup cucumber(1 medium), seeded and peeled, fine dice
  • 1/2 cup red onion(1 small), fine dice
  • 1/2 cup celery(2 stalks), fine dice
  • 1 pint sweet 100 or other small cherry tomatoes, stemmed and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons italian parsley, fine chop
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, fine chop
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons jalapeño pepper, seeded, fine mince
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • splash of tequila (that’s the twisted part)
In a bowl, combine tomato juice, lemon juice, fennel, cucumber, red onion, celery, tomatoes, parsley, basil and sherry vinegar.
Add olive oil to a small sauté pan along with minced garlic over medium heat, stirring until lightly browned.  Add minced jalapeño and cook, stirring for 15 seconds.  Add wine and cook until reduced by half.  Stir mixture into the gazpacho and chill for 1-2 hours.
Spoon mixture into small martini glasses and serve at once.  Add a splash of tequila, if you dare.

Nice fireworks.

Another one.

Another good one.

Appetizers and Snacks · Recipes · Salad · Vegetarian

watermarc beets

We had a tasty dinner at Watermarc recently.  Mom and Dad took us for Joey and Sunshine’s birthdays.  I shared a beet platter with Dad that tasted as good as it looked.  I’ve been getting beets galore in our CSA box, so I thought I would give them a try.  Here is my version…

Watermarc Beets

  • Baby beets
  • French feta
  • Micro greens
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Dijon mustard
  • Finely minced shallot
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400º.  Season beets with olive oil, salt and pepper and wrap them in foil.  Cook until they are tender when pierced with a fork.  Timing will depend on size.  It can take anywhere from 40 minutes to just over an hour.   Let cool and peel.

To make the dressing: mix two parts olive oil with one part lemon juice.  Mix in a little bit of mustard, salt and pepper.  Add shallots and mix to combine.

Toss the beets in the dressing, set on the platter.  Toss the micro greens with the dressing and create mounds on the platter.  Cube the feta and place on the platter.  Season to taste.

Can’t wait for the tomatoes!

Figs are coming too..

Paige can be a sweatheart.

She got a new kennel.  She’s getting used to it.  And then one day I’m hoping we will be able to sleep through the night!!!!

It looks like prison, but then again you can consider it to be her private suite.

Recipes · Side Dish · Vegetarian

oven baked truffle fries

Yum…fries.  Truffle fries.  Crunchy, salty, glorious fries.

We had these last night.  Mine were inspired by Ellie Krieger’s version in her cookbook – “The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life”.

This truffle salt is really good.  It’s great on pizza.  I also love it on cauliflower puree.

Oven Baked Truffle Fries

  • 1 large baking potato
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • truffle salt or truffle oil

Preheat oven to 450°.  Insert a rimmed baking sheet into the oven.  This tip comes courtesy of Tyler Florence. It helps to prevent your fries from sticking to the baking sheet.

Heat olive oil and sliced garlic cloves in a small saute pan until garlic is golden brown.  Remove from heat, strain olive oil into a mixing bowl.  Slice potatoes lengthwise into 1/4″ matchsticks.  Add potatoes to the garlic oil and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.

Remove preheated baking sheet from the oven and add potatoes in a single layer.

Bake for 35 minutes until golden and crisp.  Sprinkle with truffle salt and parsley.

My mouth is watering.  I think I need more.

Greg Schroeder, owner of Amazing Grapes Wine store

Greg says:

Salt and fat – yeah baby!  Fries work really well with sparkling wine.  Yup, Champagne is a great way to go with this one.  There’s nothing quite like gourmet trashy food like these truffle fries and a superlative Champagne which gets the balance just right!

Find one that has loads of bread yeast with flavors of truffle and wood smoke.  A perfect one at Amazing Grapes is the Perrier Jouet 2000 Fleur de Champagne.  It offers complex aromas and flavors of truffle, wood smoke, butter and spice with a strong mineral element on the finish.

Thanks Greg!!  Now that sounds amazing!!

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.