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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

starch substitute

When Kaytie and I first moved in together, we made a lifestyle change. We went low-carb.

(This lasted for a while, we lost weight, and then we went back to eating like normal people. We occasionally go back to the low-carb lifestyle when necessary.)

This was the beginning of our cooking escapades, and one of our favorite sides that we discovered was mashed cauliflower. This turned out to be a great substitute for grits and felt starchy, even though it was a vegetable. We could eat the mashed cauliflower for dinner one night, and then the next morning, the leftovers were great with fried eggs.

I'm pretty sure the recipe for these came from the South Beach cookbook, but I've made them so many times that I don't remember the original.

Mashed Cauliflower 'Grits'

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

4 oz fat-free cream cheese

1/2 c 'Italian-mix' grated cheese (or good Parmesan, if you'd rather)

1/4 c butter

garlic salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425 while you are cutting up the cauliflower.

Spread the cauliflower florets on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil on the cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes.

Combine everything in the food processor and puree until the cauliflower is the texture of grits.

Easy as pie.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

pb & cake

Yesterday, I attended a lunch presentation about the state of obesity in Mississippi. (Basically, it's a problem.)

The yogurt parfait served as dessert, while good, did not satisfy my sweet tooth, even after I ate an extra one. So, last night, I made a cake.

It wasn't really my idea. After dinner, Kaytie said she wanted some cake. I always want cake, but I was feeling a bit lazy, so I wasn't really sold on making a cake until Kaytie started talking about peanut butter icing. That got me motivated, and since we are not obese, I looked up a Cook's Illustrated chocolate cake recipe. They suggested serving the cake with a dusting of powdered sugar, which I'm sure is nice.

But powdered sugar ain't got nothin' on this peanut butter icing.

(Because this is thick, it may be more accurately labeled as frosting, not icing, but when I was growing up, if it was spread on a cake, it was icing, no matter the consistency. Besides, who cares about semantics? It's delicious.)

Peanut Butter Icing

makes enough to ice a 2-layer 9-inch cake

1 stick room temperature butter

1 cup creamy peanut butter

2 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup milk

Cream the butter and peanut butter until smooth. (Note: if you decided to make this cake at the last minute, like I did, cold butter out of the fridge will do fine. It'll just take a little longer to get the mixture smooth.)

Beat in the powdered sugar. This may be easier and less dusty if you do it a cup at a time.

Finally, add the milk. Mix it all together until it is smoothly combined.

Ice your cake.

(Because of the milk, I'm keeping this cake in the fridge.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

fresh mex

Last night, I grilled a flank steak and served it with asparagus, corn salad, and sauteed mushrooms. Tonight, we decided to use the leftover steak for tacos.

To go alongside, I made pinto beans. They were beautiful. I started with dried beans, soaked them, and started them simmering in plenty of time for a dinner at seven thirty. They had five different kinds of peppers in them, including jalapenos from my garden and banana pepper from Daniel's. Fresh tomatoes from the farmer's market. Kaytie walked in after work and immediately asked about the wonderful smell that filled the house.

"Beans," I said as I dumped half a beer into the pot. We went out to the back deck to have a beer and to admire the lights I'd spent the day hanging. One beer turned into two, and when we finally went back in, the beans were burned.

So, instead of beans, I'm offering a recipe for guacamole. Growing up in Texas, I heard lots of recipes for guacamole. Some use sour cream, some marshmallow fluff, some start with store-bought guacamole. This recipe is simple, fresh, and delicious. And not burned.


2 avocados
1 tomato, peeled & diced
1/4 c diced red onion
1 jalapeno
2 cloves garlic, roasted & minced
juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper to taste
(cilantro to taste, optional)
(1/4 red bell pepper, diced & optional)
(1 tomatillo, diced & optional)

Start with roasting your garlic cloves. I toss mine in some olive oil and roast it in the toaster oven for about ten minutes at 450.

While the garlic is roasting, get the meat out of the avocados. Run your knife around the equator of the avocado, penetrating to the pit. Unlock the magic by pulling and twisting the two halves apart. Set the pit aside. (I have not experimented to prove this, but I was raised to believe that if you put the pit back into the guacamole when you put it in the fridge, your guac won't turn brown.) Use a spoon to scrape out the flesh of the avocado into a medium bowl.

Squeeze the lime juice over the avocado and use two knives to cut the avocado into small pieces. Mush it around a little.

Slice the top off your jalapeno and throw it away. Slice it in half lengthwise. Scrape out the white ribs and seeds and get rid of them. Dice the rest of the jalapeno very small and add it to the avocado.

Add all of the other ingredients. (I recommend all of the optional ingredients.) Mix well. Eat with chips.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

baked pasta 2

I have a tendency to get interested in one thing and go a little overboard. (You may have noticed a string of cookie posts about a year ago.) Well, I did it again. I only made two baked pastas, but it was within one week, which was too much baked pasta for Kaytie.

This was a good recipe, too, but it might be good to space your baked pastas out!

Baked Veggie Pasta

1 stick butter
1/2 c + 2 Tbs flour
4 c whole milk
6 slices bacon
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
1 c fresh basil, sliced
1/2 c roasted pine nuts (or walnuts)
1 onion, diced
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
10 oz spinach
4 cloves garlic
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 lb pasta (choose your favorite shape)
2 Tbs butter
1-2 c grated Parmesan

First, make the bechamel. Melt the stick of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Mix in the flour. Add the milk. Increase the heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast the garlic. I do this in the toaster oven - about 15 minutes at 400. Chop it up.

Chop up the bacon and saute it until just browned. Add the mushrooms and saute until browned. Set mushrooms and bacon aside.

Saute the onion until translucent. Add spinach and saute until wilted.

Stir the basil, nuts, bacon, and all veggies together in a medium bowl.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, but stop cooking a minute or two early. (I used radiatore because it looked awesome.) You want the pasta to be be just tender, but still firm. Drain, return to the pot, and toss to coat with 2 Tbs butter. Mix in the veggies.

Preheat oven to 400.

Dump the pasta mixture in a greased casserole dish. Spread the bechamel over it, and top with grated Parmesan.

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

baked pasta 1

In March, Bon Appetit had an issue with several recipes for baked pastas. Seemed like a great idea - make one dish and eat it for a few days. When Kaytie and I are busy, leftovers are a quick and easy dinner. (This, by the way, is being posted months after I actually made it. I was too busy to post.) I, however, am not very good at sticking to a recipe. (Unless it is a baked good.)

According to the writers, all you need for a baked pasta is pasta (of course), some interesting fillings, and a bechamel. I decided that bacon is also an essential ingredient. In the recipe I chose, the bechamel was replaced with a parsnip puree. I figured this was healthier, and, with a few modifications, it ended up tasting great.

Baked Tortellini

4 medium parsnips, peeled & cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 1/2 c whole milk, divided

1 c grated Parmesan cheese, divided

6-8 slices bacon

5 oz spinach, sauteed

1 large onion, diced

1 can tomatoes, drained

1 1/2 lbs mushrooms, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

1 20-oz pkg cheese-filled fresh tortellini

2 Tbs butter

1 c Naked Goat cheese, grated

Boil parsnips in salted water for about 20 minutes, until they are tender. Drain.

Put the parsnips in a food processor. Add 1 1/2 cups milk, and blend until smooth. Keep the food processor running, and slowly add the remaining 1 cup milk. Blend in 3/4 cup of Parmesan.

In a medium saucepan, simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes, whisking often. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Chop the bacon into small pieces and saute it until crispy. Remove the bacon. Add the onion and saute until translucent - about 5 minutes. Remove the onion and saute the mushrooms until they are browned. Add the onions, garlic, and rosemary. Saute until fragrant.

Preheat oven to 400 and grease a baking dish.

Cook the pasta. Follow the package directions, but stop cooking when the pasta is just tender but still firm. Drain pasta and return to the pot. Toss the pasta with 2 Tbs butter. Mix in the sauteed veggies and bacon.

Spread the pasta mixture in the baking dish. Cover it with the parsnip sauce and top the entire dish with the Naked Goat cheese and the remaining Parmesan.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes until the sauce is heated through and bubbling. If you want, broil 1-2 minutes to brown the top.

Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.