Thursday, July 19, 2012

Adventures in Cauliflower, Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I got a whole head of cauliflower, one of my not-so-favorite veggies, from Bountiful Baskets and was determined to make it taste good. Tonight I used the second half of the head in some righteous mac & cheese (to quote Chandler Bing). The cauliflower added a nice bite, but was otherwise unrecognizable (which is a good thing), except to my toddler who somehow had her cauliflower/broccoli radar on tonight and would spit-out every bite that had even the slightest smidgen of cauliflower in it. Of course, the noodles went down just fine because I'm pretty sure it's a requirement of kid-dom to like mac & cheese. Anyway, I may have to sacrifice the pleasant cauliflower bite and mash those puppies up more if I want to fool my masterful veggie detective (she loved the cauliflower mashers from the other night). If you have a picky toddler, you may want to do the same.

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/2 box elbow macaroni
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
2 tsp. dried mustard
a tiny dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used a mix of white cheddar, sharp cheddar, and mild cheddar)
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1. Preheat Oven to 400*

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add macaroni and set timer for for 6 minutes less than the package directs. After that time, add the cauliflower and cook for 6 more minutes.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Add flour and whisk and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add milk and let it come to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Once thickened, add mustard, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

4. When the macaroni and cauliflower is finished, drain it, return it to pot (this would be a good time to mash up those cauliflower florets with a fork), and add the white sauce. Pour half of the mixture into a 9x9 casserole dish, sprinkle with half of the cheese, pour the rest of the cauliflower/macaroni into the pan, top with the rest of the cheese and sprinkle evenly with the panko.

5. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Maple Dijon Pork Chops with Cauliflower Mashers

A square meal that's good enough to eat and super easy too:

Let me begin by sharing a little bit about my recent adventures in produce: I briefly mentioned Bountiful Baskets in my last post. It's a produce co-op that gives you a mystery basket of local-ish, small farm produce for $15. I've done it twice now, and it's pretty great. As you can imagine, in the haul there are a few fruits and (mostly) veggies that I normally don't buy. I have enjoyed expanding my cooking horizons with these foreign ingredients. Last time I got a butternut squash, which I fashioned into a squashy mac & cheese and some squash muffins--both were great ways to sneak some veggies into my little one. This week I got kale, radishes, and cauliflower. Not only have I never purchased or cooked with these ingredients, I'm not a big fan of them either. I tried making kale chips. I don't care how "healthy" they're supposed to be, they were gross. The radishes may just end up getting donated to someone who likes radishes, but the cauliflower I was determined to use. I thought cauliflower mashed "potatoes" would be palatable enough. Turns out, they were delicious! A perfect pairing for these easy maple dijon pork chops, a recipe I found on Pinterest that originally calls for chicken.

Maple Dijon Pork Chops

2 center-cut, thick pork chops
salt & pepper
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. maple syrup (the real stuff)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. dried rosemary, chopped well (because my husband hates "sticks" in his food)

Preheat oven to 425. Season both sides of pork chops with salt and pepper. mix the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl. Pour sauce over pork chops and cook for 25-30 minutes.

Cauliflower Mashers

1/2 head cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
1 potato, peeled and cubed
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 (ish) cup of milk

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potato and cauliflower. Bring it back up to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Drain well and return to pot. Add butter to cauliflower and begin to mash with a masher. Add milk slowly until you reach your desired consistency. Cauliflower has a lot more water in it, so you'll need less milk than with mashed potatoes. Season with salt (be liberal) and pepper.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pinterest FTW

The Scene: 5:00 pm on a Thursday night. I'm sitting on the couch with my squirmy 16 month old who is pointing at her mouth, telling me she's hungry. Enter Pinterest's food and drink section, where I find this recipe for Cajun Chicken Alfredo. Enter Dora the Explorer. Enter dinner!

Here's my shrunken (because leftover alfredo is just the worst), adapted to what I had on hand recipe for...

Cajun Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

1/2 package of fettuccine noodles
1 chicken breast
Cajun seasoning (I just happened to have some in my 4-year-old spice rack that I've never used, it's okay)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/8 cup chicken stock (actually water seasoned with chicken base, it's okay)
1 large clove garlic
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved (Thank you Bountiful Baskets. I would've never had these on hand otherwise.)
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. butter
1 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Boil pasta according to package directions.

2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Thinly slice chicken breast and liberally season each side with cajun seasoning. Cook chicken in oil for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Remove chicken and set aside and dump excess oil.

3. Add chicken stock to de-glaze* the pan. Add tomatoes and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook on medium-medium-lowish heat for 3-4 minutes or until tomatoes start to break down and stock reduces. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

4. Add cream and butter. Bring to simmer, reduce heat to low, simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add cream cheese and stir until melted in. Turn off heat and add parmesan cheese. Stir until melted.

6. When the pasta is finished cooking, rinse it in cold water. (I know this goes against Italian pasta cooking rules, but the blogger who I stole this recipe from recommended it and I thought it might be the solution to my dry, gummy alfredo problem, and it was! I will do this whenever I make alfredo from now on. Sorry Mario Batali.)

7. Add pasta and chicken to sauce and stir to combine. Eat immediately, like I said, reheated alfredo is just the worst.

*My show-off word of the day is Deglaze = to add wine or other liquid to a pan in which meat has been roasted or sauteed so as to make a sauce that incorporates the cooking 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chicken Gyros, Opa!

I love a good Gyro. It is one of those foods that I'll never be able to fully recreate at home, so a trip to Olympus Burgers is well worth it. But, I have been experimenting and have come up with a decent second to a real chicken suvlaki.

Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

Greek Marinade: (can also be used as a dressing in a Greek salad)
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Whisk all ingredients of marinade together. Cut two chicken breasts into large chunks and marinate for an hour. Thread 4-5 pieces of chicken on skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak in water for about an hour beforehand). Grill on medium-high heat for 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Warm pitas on a dry skillet set at medium heat. Fill pitas with chicken, tzatziki sauce, sliced cucumbers, tomato, onion, lettuce, and feta cheese.

Tzatziki Sauce:
1/4 cup cucumber, shredded and excess water squeezed through a dish cloth or paper towel
1/4 cup plain yogurt
a few drops of lemon juice
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried dill
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients and let sit for an hour so flavors can meld.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

I make a pretty mean fish taco. Every time I make them they are slightly different, but they always have the same fundamentals:
  • corn tortillas (I like white corn)
  • a flaky, white fish marinated in lime, cumin, chili powder and grilled or fried
  • my special Chalula sour cream sauce
  • a tropical fruit salsa of some kind (mango, avocado, pineapple, etc.)

Tonight the fish was flour-crusted and pan fried and topped with pineapple salsa. Here's the recipe:

Heat 2-3 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a pan over med. heat. Make the marinade:

1/4 cup lime juice (I used the kind in the bottle, it's okay)
1/2 tsp. salt
a few cracks of pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin

Mix the ingredients and marinate 2 tilapia loins for 5-20 minutes. Dredge the fish in 2 Tbsp. flour mixed with 1 Tbsp. corn starch. Pan fry for 5 mins on each side or until golden and cooked through. Drain on paper towels and flake into bite-sized chunks.

Pineapple Salsa:
1 cup diced pinepple
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed and finely diced
1 tomato (I used a handful of grape tomatoes), seeded and diced
salt, pepper, cumin to taste
a few splashes each of lime juice, red wine vinegar,  olive oil, and honey

Special Sauce:
1 Tbsp. mayo
2 Tbsp. sour cream
lime juice
Chalula hot sauce to taste

To assemble:
Heat a corn tortilla in a dry skillet on medium heat for 30 seconds on each side. Smear some special sauce in the center of the tortilla. Top with some chunks of fish and then the salsa. Make sure to get some of the yummy salsa water over the fish.