Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cauliflower Crust for Pizza

Have you been noticing that there is a lot of buzz about alternative pizza crusts? Gluten free, whole wheat, cauliflower, zucchini, and spinach are a few that I have seen recently and have thought about trying. Now I haven't even made traditional pizza crust yet since I love the pizza we get from our local place, but it's on my list. But first I wanted to try a cauliflower crust pizza.

My sister made a cauliflower crust pizza the week before I did and had some good tips to share, so I followed the recipe she recommended. Her tips are noted throughout this post.           
One thing we both agree on is the use of the word pizza when talking about this "crust." If you think about this being like a pizza, or the perfect substitute for traditional pizza dough, you will be disappointed. The crust does crisp up a bit, but not enough to trick you into thinking you are holding a piece of pizza. The consistency and texture, to me anyway, were more like that of these polenta tartlettes.
Making these does take a lot of time, but the steps are simple ones. Basically you run your cauliflower through a food processor to rice it, cook it, drain it, squeeze out the liquid (and there will be a LOT of liquid), mix it with eggs and cheese, form the crust, bake, add toppings, and bake again. Time consuming but easy.
Now, my husband completely disagrees with me (completely!), but I was happy with these. I think I could have shaped them a bit better, and maybe kept them thicker on the edges, but overall I liked the flavor. I think I was happier with my crust because I didn't stick to sauce and cheese as my toppings like he did. This isn't a traditional crust so using traditional toppings wasn't appealing to me. Instead I used caramelized onions, sautéed spinach and tomatoes, and a bit of mozzarella.

If you are curious about these, definitely give them a try. While they won't completely satisfy your pizza craving, they are fun and different. And to get everyone in your family into trying them, make individual crusts instead of one large crust so each pizza can be individualized. If you make them, please let me know what you think!

Cauliflower Crust
  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup soft goat cheese (chevre) (I used shredded mozzarella)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • pinch of salt
Directions (In my own words)
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a cookie/baking sheet with parchment paper. Don't go without the parchment paper!
  • Wash the cauliflower and chop into florets. "Rice" it in batches in a food processor; see pictures above for the consistency.
  • Once you have riced all of the cauliflower, fill a large pot with 1 inch of water and bring it to a boil. Add the cauliflower and let it cook 4-5 minutes. Drain it through a fine-mesh strainer and then transfer to a clean dish towel.
  • This step is very important - the cauliflower rice will hold a lot of liquid. Wrap the towel around the cauliflower and squeeze to get rid of the extra water. I squeezed for a good 2 minutes.
  • Transfer the cauliflower rice to a large bowl. Add the egg, cheese, salt, and oregano. Mix well and a dough will begin to form (I started with a wooden spoon but then used my hands - it's unlike any dough you've ever worked with).
  • Once you get the dough consistency you want, press it onto the parchment paper. You want the crusts to be 1/3" thick. As the original author recommends, you can raise the edges a little so it looks like a real crust.
  • Bake 40 minutes until it is golden brown and crispy.
  • Remove from the oven, add your toppings and bake for a few minutes until your cheese is melted and the toppings are hot. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Vegetable Fried Rice

Fried rice is such a treat when we go to our local Japanese restaurant for hibachi. I love watching how they cook it on such a hot cooktop while putting on such a show. I'd love to have a cooking surface like that at home. Imagine how much fun it would be cooking dinner every night! My little one gets a kick out of trying to catch the pieces of veggies in her mouth at the restaurant, so it might get just a bit messy!
When I made this fried rice at home I used a wok shaped stainless sauté pan - I'll need to invest in a good wok one of these days. I wanted to make a fried rice packed with veggies, and turned to 2 recipes I had recently pinned for inspiration. One used edamame as the star ingredient, and the other included several other veggies, including edamame and kale. I had a ton of fresh veggies in my fridge to use up, but unfortunately didn't have shelled soybeans in my freezer like I thought I did. You can really use any veggies that you have sitting around, but next time I definitely want to add the shelled soybeans to this for some protein. I also used white rice, my husband's preference (still working on changing that one...).
Vegetable Fried Rice
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1.5 c cooked white rice (leftover works best, not freshly cooked)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 sm head of broccoli cut into tiny florets
  • Approx 2 c kale, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 carrot, cut into same size pieces as the red pepper
  • 4 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • Heat a large skillet or wok over medium high heat
  • Add a touch of your oil and then add the egg and cook until done (I didn't scramble them, but made a large flat egg like what you would do for a folded omelet, flipped it and finished cooking it). Transfer eggs to a cutting board and chopped.
  • Add half of the remaining oil to your pan. Add the broccoli, kale, red pepper, and carrots to the pan. Saute 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the ginger and garlic; sauté 1 minute.
  • Push the veggies to the side, increase the heat to high, and add the remaining oil. Add the rice and fry, tossing to coat with the oil. Make sure you scrape up any rice that gets stuck on the bottom of your pan.
  • Add the green onions and soy sauce, and toss to mix the veggies and rice while mixing everything with the soy sauce.
  • Finally, add the eggs and stir. Serve immediately.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Loaded Baked Potato Dip

You know how they say to sing "Happy Birthday" three times while washing your hands, and you'll know that you washed them long enough? Well, that applies to making this dip too... sing the happy song three times and when you are done, the dip will be ready. That is how quick and easy this dip is. Seriously.

Every time anyone asks for something they can prepare quickly for unexpected guests or a last-minute get together, this is what I will tell them to make. Or even if you have a ton of time to get things ready, throw this one on the list as your easy app. Heck, even the kids could make this one for you.  And with the Super Bowl coming up, I highly recommend you buy the ingredients for this dip and make it. Oh, and it's so good that you might want to double the recipe!

The original recipe called for real bacon, and while I'm sure that's great, it would have added some time and mess to the prep so I went with real bacon bits. Not Bac-Os or other bacon-flavored bits of who knows what, but a bottle of real bacon bits. For a dip they are just fine and even better, they don't get all soggy after sitting in the dip for a day or two, that is if you have any leftover.

Loaded Baked Potato Dip
Inspired by: The Barbee Housewife

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 3-4 Tbsp crumbled bacon
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp each salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder (or more, taste as you go)
  • Mix the sour cream, most of the bacon, all of the cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and most of the green onions (taste and adjust spices as needed). Chill for a few hours.
  • When ready to serve, stir and then top with the remaining bacon bits and green onions
  • Serve with potato chips 
You can also use this on top of baked potatoes, that is, if you have any left!! It also makes a great topping over fries!


Monday, January 13, 2014

Quinoa with Brussels Sprouts and Tomatoes

It's time for me to branch out in the lunch department. I have gotten into the habit of eating sandwiches every day... and I'm not a fan of meat on sandwiches so they are usually cheese sandwiches with tomatoes and lettuce. I'll often have a cup of soup on the side and the variety of soup changes often, but the sandwich is always the same.
I started to think about quinoa and how filling it is, and thought that a warm quinoa salad would make a great lunch. I looked over some of the quinoa recipes I had made in the past for inspiration, including one I created that quickly became my favorite - Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, and Basil. So following that idea, I created this quinoa with Brussels sprouts and tomatoes.
These flavors worked so well together - the quinoa and sprouts are nutty, the tomatoes were sweet and tart at the same time, and the onions and garlic rounded out the flavors. I added the crushed pecans at the end for some texture.
I ate a bowl of this for lunch and was SO full I could barely finish it! It held me over all afternoon so I didn't need to snack.  If you take this for lunch, I recommend warming it in the microwave for 30-45 seconds, just enough to take the chill off. Top with the pecans after warming.
Enjoy! I did :)
  • 1 c quinoa
  • 2 c vegetable broth plus 1/2 c vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 large Brussels sprouts sliced into three and then sliced into three crosswise
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: crushed pecans for garnish
  • Put quinoa and 2 c vegetable broth in a pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cover, and let simmer 10-15 minutes until the liquid has absorbed.
  • Heat olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the onions and garlic; sauté 2 minutes.
  • Add Brussels sprouts and sauté 2 minutes
  • Add tomatoes and sauté 2 minutes
  • Season with salt and pepper, add 1/2 c of broth and let simmer for just a few minutes. Adjust seasoning if needed.
  • Put quinoa in 2 bowls and top each with half of the Brussels sprouts/tomatoes. Garnish with crushed pecans if desired.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Individual Apple Cobblers

Last weekend I had a friend over for lunch. When I was planning my menu I knew immediately what I would serve for lunch (these Sweet Ham and Swiss Sliders, my Roasted Potato Soup, and a green salad with a balsamic Dijon dressing), but I could not decide on a dessert. The holidays just ended and I really didn't want anything too heavy or rich or full of chocolate... we all ate enough of that for 2 weeks!

I decided to do something with fruit, and took inspiration from a Peach Cobbler that I made a few years ago. Instead of making one apple cobbler, I pulled my ramekins out and made individual cobblers. I love these because they work well for a breakfast treat, lunch dessert, or night time snack... warm with some vanilla ice cream, of course!

Individual Apple Cobblers
Inspired by this Peach Cobbler

For the apples:
  • 3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1/4 c white sugar
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
For the topping:
  • 1 c flour
  • 1/4 c white sugar
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp butter chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 c boiling water
  • 3 tsp sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon
You will need 6 individual ramekins - I used 4 oz ramekins which are 3 inches in diameter and 1.5 inches deep.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  • In a large bowl, combine the ingredients for the apples, tossing to coat. Divide the apples evenly between the 6 ramekins. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes (I put all of the ramekins on a baking sheet).
  • Meanwhile, make the topping. Combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Blend in the butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir in the water until just combined.
  • Remove the apples from the oven and drop a large spoonful of the topping mixture into each ramekin, spreading it out just a bit. Sprinkle each one with some of the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  • Bake for 22-25 minutes until hot and bubbly with a nice golden brown crust.
  • Serve warm.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Take-Me-Back-To-Childhood Breaded Pork Chops

Happy New Year! After taking a break from blogging over the holidays, I'm back and ready to share a lot of great recipes with you.

A few weeks before Christmas, my friend, the author of the blog A Taste of Home Cooking, mentioned that she was making breaded pork chops for dinner and I was immediately taken back to childhood. I had visions of sitting at the round kitchen table at the end of our galley kitchen doing homework and talking to my mom while she breaded and fried pork chops. I have a lot of memories of doing homework in the kitchen while my mom cooked. We always had so much fun working together to make up sentences using my spelling words. Isn't it funny the things that stick out in your mind?

Anyway, my mom made great breaded pork chops and I can't believe I never made these before. I didn't follow a recipe, but just seasoned, breaded, and fried them. They cooked up so quickly, were perfectly crispy, and we devoured four of them between three people. I served them with a Spinach Risotto, very similar to this Spinach-Shiitake Risotto, just without the mushrooms. I'll have to write up my spinach risotto recipe soon!

Breaded Pork Chops

  • 4 thin pork chops
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Italian seasoning
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
I don't measure when I'm seasoning, so I did not list amounts above. I lightly seasoned the chops with salt, pepper, and touch of garlic powder, and then generously seasoned the bread crumbs with garlic powder, pepper, and a touch of Italian seasoning and salt.

  • Season your pork chops
  • Prepare the breading station - flour in the first bowl, beaten egg in the next, and bread crumbs in the next
  • Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat
  • Dredge pork chops in the flour, then dip in the egg, and then coat with bread crumbs.
  • Add to the pan and cook until golden brown on one side (about 2-3 minutes); flip and cook until golden brown on the other side (about 2-3 minutes). At this point they should be done, but you can always check with a meat thermometer (160 degrees).