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


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.


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

Good night, Molly.

Bacon · Main Dish · Recipes

another French lesson

I made these veal chops with mustard for Sunshine, my sister Veronica and her husband Joey.  They were so delicious and very tender.  This was another French lesson from Anne Willan’s book,  The Country Cooking of France.  I love all of the pictures in the book, not just of food, but of the rural France as well.
I’m sad I just missed a series of classes she was teaching in Los Angeles.  Hopefully she’ll be teaching more classes soon.  Here is the recipe from her book:

Cotes de Veau Dijonnaise

  • 4 veal chops (about 2 pounds total)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 ounces lean bacon, cut into lardons
  • 16-18 baby onions, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 3/4 cup white wine, preferably chardonay
  • 3/4 cup veal broth (I used veal demiglace)
  • 1 bouquet garni (a tied bundle of fresh thyme sprig, dried bay leaf, and several sprigs  of fresh parsley wrapped in a the leek greens)
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Season chops on both sides with salt and pepper.  Heat oil over medium heat in a large saute pan.  Add bacon lardons and cook until lightly browned, 3-5 minutes, remove and drain, set aside.  Add onions to the pan a saute until golden brown, 7-10 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Add the chops to the pan and brown, 2-3 minutes on each side.  Remove from the pan, set aside.

Whisk flour into the pan and cook until bubbling.  Add wine, bring to a boil and stir to incorporate the browned bits stuck to the pan.  Stir in broth and whisk until smooth.

Add the bacon and chops back into the pan, tuck the bouquet garni in between the chops.  Cover and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes.

Uncover, add the onions and cook for an additional 15 minutes.   Transfer chops to a serving plate, remove the bouquet garnis.  Whisk the creme fraiche into the sauce and bring to a simmer.  Stir in the mustard and parsley, spoon over the veal chops and serve.

Greg Schroeder, owner of Amazing Grapes Wine Store

Greg says:  Veal chops wine pairing: I’m going with the Brown Estate 2007 Chaos Theory Proprietary Red.  This is a dark, deep, brooding yet  seductive wine that glides over your palate toward a long, elegant finish. The perfect wine to pair with the veal and mustard based sauce.

Brown made a beauty here.  It has a dense crimson color, with a blue scarlet rim, that leads to a fragrant nose of exotic Asian apple blossom, crushed rose petals, and cloves.  Its soft, silky texture gives way to ripe, forward fruit that is  balanced with layers of complexity. Flavors of blackberries, black cherries, cappuccino, and tobacco lead to an earthy undertone of big game and fresh sage and rosemary. I’m drooling over this one!

Healthy · Main Dish · Recipes

almost instant dinner

I had a rude awakening this morning.  I stepped on the dreaded scale at the gym.  I figured it was time to face the music (or did my trainer make me?).  It’s time to get back on the healthy band wagon.  So,  here you go.

I love this almost instant dinner.   I found the recipe on Epicurious last year, and have made it several times.  I’m usually not a fan of bottled salad dressings, but Galeo’s World’s Best Miso Toasted Sesame Seed Dressing is really pretty good.  Of course you can serve this dinner with some jasmine rice, but the scale told me no.  Here is my simplified version of a simple recipe to begin with.  So easy, even a cave man can do it, right?  Sorry cave man, no offense.

Hoisin Pork Tenderloin with Broccoli Slaw

  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and silver skin
  • 1-12 ounce package of broccoli slaw
  • Galeo’s World Best Miso Toasted Sesame Seed Dressing (it’s low fat!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place a rack in a baking pan.  Add water to reach depth of 1/4″.  Combine hoisin and soy sauce.

Brush pork tenderloin with the hoisin mixture.  Season generously with pepper.  Place pork on rack, and drizzle with additional sauce.  Roast pork for 25 minutes.

Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.  While pork is resting, combine broccoli slaw and dressing.

Greg Schroeder of Amazing Grapes Wine Store

Greg says:

With Asian food, in particular the Hoison spice, the wine that pairs extremely well is a Spatlese Riesling. Spatlese Rieslings are a bit sweeter than the everyday Kabinett’s, but not too sweet. They typically have very good acidity and are low in alcohol, making them the perfect pairing with spicy foods.

I’ve selected for you our St. Urbans-Hof 2009 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Spatlese. We’re not talking a dessert wine here. There is just enough sweetness to complement this dish perfectly. The minerality in this wine is almost sparkling while the acidity is ripe but still crisp and the flavors are complex, ripe and well developed.


Paigey is trying to steal my snuggy that I stole fair and square from Sunshine, who stole it fair and square from Veronica.

Main Dish · Recipes

a simple stir fry

I love my wok, but just don’t use it enough.  I wanted to make something delicious with my green beans from our CSA box.  All I needed was some fresh ginger and I was good to go for a quick stir fry.  I picked up a small pricey jar of Siam jasmine rice at the Meat House, also known as Meat Vegas, thanks to Nicci.

Oh how I wish I had Greg’s wine recommendation BEFORE I made this for dinner…check it out below.    It’s nice having a wine store owner for a brother-in-law. And that’s just his hobby!   Of course I love him, but I’m not gonna lie, having a wine expert in the family certainly sweetens the pot.  I’ll make this again, and try it with Greg’s wine pick.  I’m running low on my wine supply, anyone up for a trip to Greg’s wine store?

Chicken and Green Bean Stir Fry

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2″- 3/4″ cubes, trim fat, season with salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, fine mince
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons neutral flavored oil
  • 1 pound green beans, cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water

Heat oil in a wok over high heat.  Add ginger and garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add chicken, and stir fry until lightly golden.  Add green beans, sesame oil and soy sauce, and toss to combine.  Add water and cover until green beans are almost done.  Remove the lid, and cook until the chicken and green beans have been nicely coated, and water has evaporated.  Serve over the fabulous Siam jasmine rice.

Greg Schroeder, owner of Amazing Grapes Wine Store

Greg says…

Lots of choices here for this dish, but I’m settling on a classic pairing – a Riesling from Germany.  The 2009 Leitz Dragonstone Riesling is my choice because of its invigorating acidity and high level of residual sugar that comes off as barely sweet.  The zesty lime, peach, pink grapefruit, and red currant ally themselves perfectly with the ginger, soy, and sesame oil in your dish.  NOTE: I would not serve this wine really cold.  I slightly chilled temperature will make this combination sizzle with perfection.

Cakes and Cupcakes · Chocolate · Dessert · Main Dish · Pasta · Recipes

a ghoulish halloween feast

I’ve been under the weather lately.  When I plan a party, I usually PLAN at party.  This time I just didn’t feel up to the task.  So…Sunshine and I went to breakfast on the day of our party, armed with cookbooks for ideas and came up with a plan.  After breakfast I went shopping for everything I needed.  I got home just after 1:00pm, which didn’t leave me much time.  I was like that crazy guy that got kicked off of Top Chef Just Desserts,  racing around the kitchen and running through the house. I got everything done in time for the party.
I just screwed up the frosting for the cupcakes, so sorry Jon, Nicci, Sunshine, Veronica, Joey, Michael, Thom, Laura, Mackenzie and Steven.  I fixed them today, if anyone wants to give them a try.  Sunshine ate an improved cupcake and said “that’s more like it”.  Nicci made a delicious pumpkin trifle, and Veronica and Michael made their famous caramel popcorn, so we did not go without dessert!

Nicci and Jon came as us!  So hilarious.

Steven was scary!  He did an amazing job painting our faces too.

Nerd alert!  Mackenzie and Laura…

Thom, the rat catcher.  Day late and a dollar short, Thom.  You look fabulous though!  Why are you hiding behind Sunshine?  No wait, that’s Jon!

Veronica the pirate, and Joey as Mario!  All I can say is OMG.

Michael and his strap on banana suit.  Don’t ask.  Hey look!  There’s Santa!

I stuffed peppadew peppers as part of our antipasto.  I mixed goat cheese with a little cream to thin the cheese to a spreadable consistency, basil chiffonade, salt and pepper.

Laura had a good time making the balsamic “caviar”.  What a nerd.  Well, she dressed up as one anyway.  Thom said she looked more like a Natzi Helga.  Whatever.  She will always be a little caviar nerd to me.

Thom had a good time prepping the tomatoes and flinging the cheese onto the plate.

Here’s the final plate, tomatoes, basil oil, and burrata adorned with balsamic “caviar”.

I made a marinara sauce and meatballs to serve over rigatoni for dinner.  Here are the recipes:

Marinara Sauce

  • 6-28 ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, crush by hand or quick pulse in a blender
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed by hand
  • 1 teaspoon dried pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil to a large stock pot, add the pancetta and cook until browned and crisp.  Add the onion, and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat, then add the garlic and spices and cook for 1 minute more.  Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for a couple of hours.  Add fresh basil and blend with an emersion blender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • olive oil for frying

Combine ground meat, parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and water.  Shape into balls.  Heat oil in a 12″ skillet.  Add meatballs, be careful not to overcrowd the pan.  Cook thoroughly on each side, until deep golden brown.  Drain on paper bags lined with paper towels.

Candy Bar Cupcakes

These recipes are from Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts cookbook.  This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.  I will make these again, and the next time I’ll follow the recipe!

Brown Sugar Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup whole milk

Caramel Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup (5 ounces) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter


  • 1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts
  • Fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

To make cupcakes: sift dry ingredients.  In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape sides of bowl as needed.  Add vanilla.  On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, and the milk in 2 additions, alternating.  Combine for 15 seconds after each addition, or until just combined.  Divide evenly in among the paper lined muffin pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and insert comes out clean.  Let cool for 10 minutes.  Remove from muffin pan and cool completely.

To make the caramel sauce:  Combine water, lemon juice, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan.  Place over high heat and cover.  Cook for 2 minutes, or until mixture comes to a boil.  Remove lid and continue to cook until the color changes to a dark amber, about 7-1o minutes.  Remove pan from heat.  Whisk in butter until incorporated.  Slowly whisk in cream.  Add salt and vanilla.  Once cool, fill a squeeze bottle with pointed tip.

Inject the cupcakes once cooled with caramel sauce by puncturing the center of the cakes with squeeze bottle tip.

To make the frosting: Add chocolate to a bowl.  Heat cream until bubbles form, pour over chocolate.    Stir until smooth.  Add peanut butter, stir until well incorporated.  Let mixture cool.  In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter for 1 minute, until light and fluffy.  Add powdered sugar, salt, whole milk, vanilla and lemon juice, and continue to beat on high speed for 5 minutes.  Add chocolate and peanut butter mixture to the buttercream frosting.  Place in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip, pipe onto cupcakes.  Sprinkle with peanuts and fleur de sel.

Crazy fire show.