Bobbe’s Vegetable Gratin

I made this one night on a whim and it’s become one of our favorite side dishes. It freezes well and is great left-over too!

Start by chopping all of your vegetables. I didn’t photograph all of them, assuming everyone knows what chopped onions and mushrooms look like as well as shredded carrots. The truth of why this photo is posted?  I think this is a pretty picture.

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I used two things in this recipe that you might not have readily on hand. The first is a basic thing you can get at the store: Arrowroot. This is thickening agent that I am told is paleo. You can also use corn starch or even a handful of panko bread crumbs. The second is from Trader Joe’s (and you can totally leave it out if you can’t get it). It’s Trader Joe’s “21 Seasoning Salute”. I really like it because it adds a little more depth of flavor with just a hint of spice. If you can’t find this, just use a Tbsp of Italian seasoning and some dried thyme.

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Then you start with sauteing your onions and carrots. I let them go a little and then add in my chives and salt and pepper. I would also add the mushrooms once these are starting to get soft. I didn’t have mushrooms when I made this last night, so you won’t see them pictured.

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I was using frozen spinach last night so I added it here. USUALLY I make this with fresh spinach. which I think is more fun. IF you use the fresh spinach, wait until the end to add it. Seasoned collard greens are delicious in this too.

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After your veggies are just turning soft, it’s time to add the squash. I wait until later to add the squash because it softens up pretty quickly and you don’t want to over cook it and have a squishy gratin. That’s never cool.

Put the squash in and do your best to incorporate it. Season it again with more pepper and your dry seasonings. I usually will cover the pan at this point and allow the squash to steam a bit.

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Then add the cream. Stir and let cook for about five minutes to heat through. Sprinkle on the arrowroot and stir until it dissolves.

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Once it’s simmering (takes about 5 minutes), remove from the heat and stir in your cheese. We like it really cheesy so I always add more than the recipe calls for but you do YOU.

Here is what it looks like with the cheese stirred in and transferred to a baking dish.

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 Then all this is left to do is top it with fried onions. We love spice, so we usually do a combination of fried onions and fried jalapeños. Then sprinkle a little cheese in with them (optional).

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This next photo is how we usually make it-completely covered with yummy goodness.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced diagonally 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 medium yellow squash, sliced diagonally 1/4 inch thick 
  • 3-4 mushrooms sliced (button or cremini work well)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating dish
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 cups cream
  • 2 tablespoons Arrowroot 
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino/Romano
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese (Use your favorite. I like Gouda or Gruyere)3 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cups prepared fried onions & jalapeños if you like (French’s or whatever brand you like)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  1. This dish can be made and baked in a cast iron skillet or you can sauté the veggies, add the cream and cheeses and then transfer it to a casserole dish for baking.
  2. Over medium heat, sauté onions in the olive oil until almost translucent. Add the garlic and stir, then add in the squash, zucchini and sliced mushrooms. Season liberally with salt, pepper, thyme and Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute. Cover the dish for about 4 minutes. Stir well, then stir in the fresh spinach.
  3. When the spinach has wilted a bit, add the cream bringing it up to a simmer. (About 5 minutes) Stir in the arrowroot. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in the cheese, reserving 1-2 Tablespoons for the top.
  5. Transfer to a casserole dish (optional), top with fried onions, remaining cheese and fried jalapeños (optional).
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes until the top is crispy, brown and bubbly.

Marinated Zoooooodle Salad

I don’t know where the inspiration for this salad came from. Every time we make it, we add something new. Here is what we did recently…

Happy Summer Solstice! I was just out in my garden this morning telling my zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes to hurry and grow, grow, grow! This salad is part of the reason why! Summer is here and those of us who have planted gardens or who frequent the Farmers Markets are about to have an abundance of vegetables! OH happy day!!!!!!

Whenever we want to make something special for a summer gathering, this is one of the dishes we select. It’s one of our personal favorites for many reasons: People enjoy all of the different flavors and textures; it can sit at room temperature with no concern; it gets better with age; and it can be made ahead.

Why do I like it?

  • It’s pretty.
  • It’s healthy.
  • It’s easy.
  • It’s delicious!

Because we cater, we have several spiralizers that we use to make large amounts of zoodles (noodles made of zucchini), but you don’t need to buy a big one unless you plan on being the Zoodle-Queen of your neighborhood. If you don’t have one, this little contraption costs about $14.95 and you can find them at Walgreen’s, your local grocery store, or you can order one on Amazon.  Also, the salad works just as well with the zucchini sliced like the cucumbers. We like the zoodles because they create nice texture.

spiralizer

I am going to take a risk and assume everyone reading this recipe knows how to peel and slice, so there will be no photos of the process. One word of advice though, use the biggest vessel you can find in order to mix this salad, then transfer it to a serving bowl. We use our hands, but since you don’t have our hands, you can use a spatula. Or spoons. Or your own hands.


Marinated Zoodle Salad:

This recipe will serve millions.

Okay not really.
This will serve 6-8.

FOR THE SALAD:
2 cups Baby Spinach
2 large zucchini, ends trimmed, spiralized
2-3 cucumbers sliced (we use English Cucumbers)
2 red onions, thinly sliced
1 (15 oz.) can quartered artichokes
2 large ear sweet corn, kernels removed
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved (I like to use red and yellow)
8 oz. fresh Mozzarella pearls
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced (use the variety you like)
3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning

FOR THE DRESSING:
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
Salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:
First, make (or cough cough, “buy) the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. Set aside. Note: If you are afraid of making your own dressing, use a bottle of your favorite Balsamic or Red wine vinaigrette.

Use a spiralizer to make the zucchini noodles. We use scissors to cut them into manageable spirals (about 2 ½ inches long). Slice the corn off the cob and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine zucchini noodles with the spinach and all of the chopped and sliced vegetables, herbs, seasonings and seeds. Pour on the dressing and toss. At this point, you may serve or cover and refrigerate. I believe this salad is best when allowed to marinate for a few hours.

THE SECRET TO SUCCESS: Do NOT skip the step even if you are using bottle dressing! A few minutes before you intend to serve, take the salad out and toss it once more. Then add a few more shots of pure Balsamic Vinegar and a few more twists of freshly cracked pepper and a little more salt and garlic. Toss and serve.

Options: Think of things you like to eat and add them in.
Here are some suggestions:
Chopped avocado
Bean Sprouts
Pepperoni
Mini corn on the cob
Diced or shredded chicken or ham
Black olives
Bamboo shoots
Sliced carrots & celery
Sliced red, yellow and orange bell peppers

See? The list is virtually endless. Can you think of other variations? If so, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments and IF you are a food blogger and you have a great summer salad to share, by all means drop your link! I’d love to check it out!

Tricked Out Eggplant Parmesan Towers!

Oh my GOODNESS, look at THIS!

Lately I have been trying to make friends with egg plant. Try as I may, I have never liked it. Conversely, my husband loves it and is often disappointed when he suggests it for dinner and I poo-poo the idea. A few days ago I decided to try my hand at making faux bacon using slices of eggplant. It was a hit and I actually loved it. I will make it again.

The recipe was so simple, it’s almost ridiculous. I posted it the other day.  Click here. Also did you notice flat “Groot” in the last piece? Yeah, that wasn’t planned.

Because I liked this so much, I decided to buy some more eggplant and see what else I could possibly love about it. Enter, “Tricked Out Eggplant Parmesan”. I like just about anything fried, so why not! I have to give credit to Trisha Yearwood because I saw her show on the Food Network and she made Eggplant Parmesan stacks. I thought they looked really pretty, so this was the inspiration for my dish.

This recipe starts by slicing the eggplant into rounds. I salted them on both sides and set them up on a wire rack for thirty minutes. Then they get towel dried and dredged in the traditional, seasoned flour, egg and Italian breadcrumb mixture.

I made a quick, cheater version of marinara sauce (and I do mean quick AND cheater cheater pumpkin eater!) I cut up an onion into a medium large dice and sautéed it in some olive oil and fresh garlic; then I added 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, Italian seasoning, one large can of Italian seasoned diced tomatoes and shhhhh!…a jar of prepared Marinara. (My favorite brand is by Chef Emeril Lagasse. I love his tomato basil sauce!) I threw in the rind of my last Parmesan wedge and also two basil stems with the leaves and all-then it simmered for about half an hour. I was shocked at how good it was. I was even more shocked that Charlie raved over it. (He is an Italian gravy snob from Chicago.)

Then comes the frying of the eggplant. I heated the oil in my cast iron skillet to 350 degrees, which is the optimal temperature for deep frying. (I never deep fry without a thermometer.) The eggplant cooks very quickly; about a minute on each side. After this, it’s just a matter of salting them while they are still hot and dabbing them with paper towels to get rid of the excess oil.

Now comes the really fun part: stacking them! First a slice of eggplant, then sauce, then grated cheese (I used a combination of Mozzarella, Fontina and fresh Parmesan), then a big fat basil leaf! Repeat twice but leave off the basil leaf from the top or it will burn. Then bake these beautiful creatures!

I made a side dish of fettuccine, but it was too much. One of these stacks is a meal in itself, so next time we’ll just have a nice salad and call it a day.

Well, did I like it or not? Resoundingly I say, “Yes! Yes! Yes! This recipe is a keeper and I really loved my cheater sauce. It was yummy and so easy.

It looks like a lot of work but truly, it’s all easy stuff. Give it a try!


Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning.
1 small Parmesan rind
1 15-ounce can Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 jar prepared marinara (your favorite)
1 bunch fresh basil
2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 large eggs
4 cups Italian breadcrumbs
One 1-pound eggplant, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds (about 24 slices)
1 cup shredded Fontina cheese. 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese.
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan

 

 

Directions:

To make a “cheater cheater pumpkin eater” marinara sauce, place a sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened , about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the diced tomatoes, including their juice, to the pot. Stir to combine. Add 1 whole stem of fresh basil leaves, plus the Italian Seasonings. Throw in the Parmesan rind. (If you don’t have one, you can sprinkle in some grated Parmesan cheese.) Bring the sauce to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium low. Allow the sauce to cook and reduce while you work on everything else.

Pour the vegetable oil into a Dutch oven  and attach a deep-frying thermometer. Heat the oil over medium heat to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and top with a cooling rack.

Assemble a three dish dredging station: To the first dish, add the flour, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and stir to combine. In the second dish, beat the eggs. To the third dish, add the breadcrumbs (I add extra seasoning here. You can even add some grated Parmesan here and it would be delicious.)

Dredge both sides of the eggplant slices in the seasoned flour. Then, dip the eggplant slices into the egg. Then, coat the eggplant in the breadcrumbs evenly on both sides.

Working in batches, carefully place the breaded eggplant into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown and crispy, about 40-50 seconds per side. Transfer to the cooling rack on the baking sheet. Sprinkle each slice generously with salt. Continue until all the eggplant has been fried.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the basil stem from the marinara sauce.

Remove the paper towels from the baking sheet. Build towers on the cooling rack: Top a slice of eggplant with 1 tablespoon of marinara sauce, 1 tablespoon mozzarella, 1 tablespoon Parmesan and 1 basil leaf. Place a second piece of eggplant on top and repeat this process. Top the tower with a third piece of eggplant and repeat only with sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan (no basil). Repeat this process to create 8 towers on the cooling rack.

Bake until the cheese is melted and slightly browned on top, about 20 minutes. Transfer the towers to a serving platter. Garnish each eggplant tower with a fresh basil leaf and serve immediately.

I made four of these towers. We ate two of them and refrigerated the others for the next day’s lunch. They were just as delicious re-heated.

 

Smokey Potato Leek Soup ala Sickly Baba!

Ever since I started making my own soups, I have a hard time with any type of canned soup. (This is mainly because the stuff in the cans is so full of sodium and fat and yet it still tastes bland to me.)Today I made a Smokey potato-leek soup that turned out really well. Here is the recipe.

I am on my second go around with sickness. Thankfully, it’s just a virus, and I’m feeling better today, yet I am still not really into eating anything but mild food. That being said, after having not eaten a thing but saltines yesterday, this morning I woke up feeling hungry for chicken noodle soup. Ordinarily, I would have made my own, but I’m sick, remember? Charlie pulled out a can of chunky chicken noodle and lovingly made it for me. (He takes such good care of me even when I’m not sick. I am Blessed!) I was happy to eat it (and that it stayed down), but it reminded me of why I like to make my own soups. It was borderline tasteless, brimming with sodium and fat and the noodles tasted like rubber.

Now I don’t know what to think of myself. Have I become a food snob? I used to love chunky chicken noodle soup!

This afternoon while Charlie was at the gym, I reached that stage of illness where you are really still too sick and weak to do much; yet you are so bored, your brain tells you it’s okay to get up and go make a pot of homemade soup. (After all, it’s not that hard.) I have a butternut squash sitting on the counter waiting to be cut up and roasted and turned into a beautiful, creamy soup, but instead I focused my attention on the ever present leeks in my fridge. I pulled them out, cut them up and threw them into a bowl of cold water to be certain there was no sand. Meanwhile, I peeled and chopped about two and a half pounds of russet potatoes. (Why? Because if I didn’t, they were bound to start sprouting any day. We don’t eat a ton of russets.) It bears reporting that I prefer to use Yukon gold potatoes in soups, but this is what I had on hand. Use what you have on hand, people!

Next, the leeks got drained, dried; then sautéed in some olive oil and butter for just a short time. Afterward, I added the potatoes, seasonings, and then six cups of chicken stock. The top went on and I let it boil for about thirty minutes-until everything was soft enough to blend.

At this point I was feeling accomplished and it dawned on me that we had a pound of bacon that also needed to be used before it was wasted. What better thing to do then to make some bacon as a garnish, right? I always make my bacon on a sheet pan with a rack, so this too, is really easy to do. I was just about to lay the stuff out in strips when I remembered having seen one of those Facebook videos that showed bacon being weaved together so it would form a perfect square for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. OMG! Genius! I just happened to have a big juicy tomato on the counter and some lettuce in the fridge. Poof! Done! I weaved that bacon like a professional bacon weaver and into the oven it went.

I was so proud when it came out looking pretty! (Seriously, I was envisioning the Instagram praise-fest about to happen! I am a sick girl and not in a good way.) I decided to take some of the smaller pieces of cooked bacon and drop them into the the soup for a little more Smokey flavor. See them?

Truth to be told: I did all of this today…but I made frequent trips to the couch to pass out, drink ice water, take my temperature, cough, etc. See that last soup photo? It’s not even hot. I just forgot to take the money shot so I fudged it. Now I am back, dying on the couch, but this blog is scheduled to go. LOL! (I really did love this soup, however.)

This photo below; now that’s actually hot soup! LOL!


Ingredients:

2.5 pounds potatoes peeled and cut (I used russets but Yukon golds are better.)

3 large leaks sliced into rounds

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter (REAL butter)

6 cups low sodium chicken broth (that’s two 32 oz cartons)

1.5 teaspoons red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon raw honey

2 pieces of cooked bacon crumbled

1/4 cup cream

3 tablespoons full fat sour cream

Juice of half a lemon

Salt & fresh ground pepper

Directions:

1) Clean and slice leeks

2) Peel and cut potatoes (If you use Yukon Gold, skip peeling. It isn’t necessary.)

3) Heat olive oil and butter in a Dutch oven (medium high heat) Sauté leeks for about five minutes. Salt & pepper.

4) Add potatoes, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, hot sauce, Italian seasoning, more cracked pepper. Stir.

5) Add chicken broth and bacon pieces. Turn up heat, bring to boil, reduce to simmer and put the lid on. Simmer 20-30 minutes until vegetables are tender enough to be blended.

6) When the vegetables are tender, turn off heat, remove bay leaves, stir in honey and allow to cool with the lid on about 30 minutes.

7) Pull out and mash (or rough chop) about a cup of the potatoes. Set aside.

8) Add cream and sour cream. Stir. Then blend with an immersion blender (This is what I use.) Add the reserved potatoes back in with the juice of half a lemon.

9) Taste. We like our soup spicy, so I usually add more cracked pepper and red pepper flakes.

10) Stir and cover. Turn the heat back onto low. Let the flavors marry for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Note: The best garnish in the world for this soup are caramelized onions! Also great: crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions


PS- I ended up making a grilled cheese sandwich with the bacon lattice for Charlie. (By the time he came home from the gym, I was way too tired and over-extended to make TWO. I didn’t need a sandwich. I needed to be in bed.)

I present the Cha-Cha approved bacon, tomato, caramelized onion, Fontina cheese on Sourdough bread grilled cheese:

What’s that? Eggplant Disguised as BACON?

Let it be known that I have always hated eggplant. I made this recipe and I can now say that I was wrong. There is ONE way I’ll eat it and this is when it’s disguised as bacon! This stuff is great. Here’s how easy it is to make!

This will be short and sweet.

Make this. You will be shocked over how great it is!

The End.

PS- You’re welcome

Slice up the eggplant, paint the sauce on both sides and bake! How much easier can it be?


Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. Hot sauce

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke

Freshly ground black pepper

NOTE: Some people use maple syrup in this recipe. I really do not use a lot of sweet in my recipes so I left it out. If you want it, however, use 1/4 teaspoon.

Directions:

1 Preheat oven to 400°.

2 Slice eggplant lengthwise into just shy of quarter inch thick strips. Cut off the skin. (It’s easier than peeling ahead of time)

3 In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, soy sauce, hot sauce, smoked paprika, and liquid smoke. (Maple syrup optional)

4 Place eggplant slices onto a baking sheet and brush both sides with sauce. Season with cracked pepper.

5 Bake until eggplant is cooked through and beginning to get crisp, 35 – 40 minutes.

Enjoy!

See ya tomorrow!

Stuff Your Face with THIS! Spaghetti Squash.

This is the only stuffed spaghetti squash recipe I’ve ever loved so much that I will make again. You’re welcome.

I am not really one who likes to get crazy with my vegetables, especially spaghetti squash. I’ve tried it in place of spaghetti with red sauce and I was underwhelmed. My favorite way to make it is to simply roast it with butter, salt, pepper and a bit of garlic. Occasionally I might mix in some steamed vegetables, but by and large I am a Plain Jane Spaghetti squash girl.

The other day I was watching the Food Network (Surprising, I know.) and on “The Kitchen”, Katie Lee made a spaghetti squash stuffed with chicken and steamed broccoli in a lightened version of Alfredo Sauce. (If you want to look up her recipe it’s called: “Chicken and Broccoli Twice Baked Spaghetti Squash”). It looked really good and since I happened to have a very small squash sitting on my counter, I decided to test my own version.

Let it be said here that I am a full fat, real butter, no fake stuff cook, so I knew immediately that I would not be making a lightened version of Alfredo sauce. I also hate sauces made with any type of cream cheese. No. Instead, I would make my tried and true sauce and perhaps not use a ton of it so as not to over power the delicate squash. I also didn’t like the idea of adding chicken to it. (Of course, that might have been because I knew I had two chicken breasts already pounded into cutlets that I intended to pan fry.)

The first step is to cut the squash in half. I keep seeing people say that it’s so hard to cut a squash and that it’s easier to microwave them first. Nope. I hate the microwave and with a sharp knife, it’s NOT hard to cut a squash. While I am on the subject of cutting squash, let me just say here that it’s NOT hard to work with butternut squash either. Just use a vegetable peeler (the kind you  peel carrots with) to remove the skin, then cut it up. It’s simple!

I digress. Cut the squash in half horizontally, scoop out the seeds, sprinkle it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little garlic. I also used some beautiful Bourbon smoked paprika because it’s one of my new favorite spices, but that is optional. Here is what they look like before they get turned upside down to roast.

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Preheat the oven to 400, turn them cut side down, and bake them for 45 minutes to an hour. Make sure they are fork tender and the strands easily flake out with a fork. Be careful with the shells because they are going to become the vessel for this dish.

While the shells are cooking, cut up a head of broccoli and steam it until it’s bright green and a little tender. It’s okay to under cook it a bit because it’s going to go back into the oven later.

Then make the Alfredo sauce and combine it with the broccoli and spaghetti squash. Stuff all of it right back into the shells.

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At this point, I sprinkled mine with some more pepper and paprika. I honestly could have put these right in the oven under the broiler without adding anything else and I think they would have been fantastic. Instead, I added a layer of cheese.

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I grated what I had on hand which was Fontina and Parmesan. You can substitute whatever white cheese you have or like. Then they go under the broiler until brown and bubbly.

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I don’t really know how anyone eats an entire half of one of these. Honestly. I put mine on the plate thinking it was so small, it would be gone in a flash, but I could only finish half of it. Hubs and I put hot sauce on just about everything, so that is what you see on top of it with some chopped parsley to garnish.

We’re also addicted to those tomatoes which is why you always see them in my photos. Seriously, they are that delicious. They are called “Flavor Bomb Cherry Tomatoes”. We buy them at Sam’s Club, but I’m sure you can google them and find where they are in your area. So good! (and no they didn’t pay me to say this.)

Flavor Bomb Cherry tomatoes

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Ingredients

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash (2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
  • 1 head of broccoli cut up into florets
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 stick of butter (REAL butter!)
  • 2 & 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Fontina (Use Mozzarella if you like it better)
  • 2 teaspoons smoky paprika (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Granulated garlic

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

With a sharp knife, carefully cut the squash in half horizontally. Scoop out the seeds. Drizzle the inside with olive oil, salt & pepper, granulated garlic and smoky paprika (optional). Place in a baking dish or on a baking sheet cut side down. Roast for 45 minute to an hour until fork tender.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a bowl and prepare an ice water bath. Blanch the broccoli briefly in the boiling water, then transfer to the ice bath to cool. Drain and set aside.

With a large fork, pull the squash fibers away from the outer peel (use a towel to hold the squash in place if necessary). Reserve the squash and the shells. (Shell will be your cooking vessel.)

Preheat the broiler to low.

Make the Alfredo sauce. (I will look away if you want to use your favorite jarred Alfredo but honestly, it’s so easy and tastes so much better to use your own!) Here is how:

In a saucepan, warm the butter and cream. Add the smashed garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add the Parmesan and stir until melted. (What the WHAT! That was SO HARD!)

Now toss the broccoli and squash with the sauce. Add in some more pepper. Divide the mixture into the two empty shells and top with grated cheese.

Place the stuffed squash onto a baking sheet and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Keep watch after about 3 minutes. I left mine in about five minutes, but your broiler might be stronger than mine.


See ya tomorrow!

 

Sexy Zucchini Leek Pie drives my husband wild!

I confess. I am a reformed recipe hoarder/waster.

I used to go through my favorite foodie magazines ripping out recipes I fully intend to try, only to have them get thrown into my kitchen “drawer of death”, resurfacing years later to be thrown straight into the recycle bin. Thanks to the Internet, if I see something I love and want to make later, I usually just google it later.

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I confess. I am a reformed recipe hoarder/waster.

I used to go through my favorite foodie magazines ripping out recipes I fully intend to try, only to have them get thrown into my kitchen “drawer of death”, resurfacing years later to be thrown straight into the recycle bin. Now, thanks to the Internet, if I see something I love and want to make later, I usually just google it until I find it.

The following recipe was adapted  from one of the only recipes that I purposely stuck to my refrigerator door so that I would see it every day and be shamed into making it! The original (Zucchini pie) recipe was torn from the pages of Cooking Light Magazine (August, 2017 edition). Their pie photo was so beautiful, (google it), I had to save it! Last week while trying to decide on dinner,that photo grew arms and started waving a white flag in my face. Okay, Okay, it was time! I had all of the ingredients in the fridge to make something similar, so I adapted it to make “Zucchini Leek Pie”.

The first step is to set your spiralizer on the “thick” setting and go to town on a couple pounds (I used a little less) of unpeeled zucchini. Then you place your spirals on paper towels with some salt and let them stand for 30 minutes. This is to let them sweat out their liquid. If you don’t have a spiralizer, you should get one. They are so fun to experiment with and you don’t need to spend a ton of money. Ours came from the “As seen on TV” section at Walgreen’s. (I think we paid $9.99 for it.) We have discussed buying a fancy version, but we aren’t making zucchini spirals with any regularity, so the little one works well for us.

spiralizer

When I opened our fridge I spied two cleaned and prepped leeks that had been in there a while. Not wanting to waste them, I decided to cut them up and use them in the pie. I also subbed in freshly chopped chives, basil and garlic.  Their recipe called for just the tomatoes, garlic and fresh oregano to be wilted in the pan. I didn’t have oregano, so I left it out. (When I do this dish again, I will skip this step with the tomatoes. I don’t think it’s necessary.)

Here you have the beautiful tomatoes halfed, chopped leeks, chopped fresh garlic, chives, basil, salt and pepper in just a wee bit of olive oil. Pretty colors!

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Once the leeks were cooked to my satisfaction, I turned off the heat and let the mixture cool a little bit. Meanwhile I blotted the zucchini with more paper towels until it felt dry, then put it in a kitchen towel and squeezed it as hard as I could. Once you’ve extracted as much moisture as possible, transfer it to a bowl. If you have never made zucchini spirals, you might not realize that the strands are very very long. I used kitchen scissors to cut them up so they would be more manageable.

Whisk the remaining ingredients, then add the vegetables and stir. (Sorry, no photo of this part.) The whole shebang goes into a spring form pan to bake. When it’s finished, it gets turned out upside down and it looks LOVELY!

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds zucchini
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pt. grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 large leeks, carefully cleaned and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha Sauce (or your favorite hot sauce) optional
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

1) Using the large holes of a spiralizer, cut zucchini into noodles. Place zucchini on a bed of paper towels. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let this sit for at least 30 minutes.

2) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add tomatoes, leeks, garlic, chives and basil; cook, stirring often, until the leeks are soft and the tomatoes are wilted. Remove from heat and allow this to cool. (Remember, you will be adding it to an egg mixture so it needs to be close to room temp.)

3) Preheat oven to 375°F. Place half of zucchini noodles on a clean kitchen towel. Wrap towel around zucchini; twist and squeeze until all liquid is extracted. Repeat with remaining zucchini. Cut zucchini into manageable lengths.

4) Whisk eggs in a large bowl until lightly beaten. Whisk in milk, flour, hot sauce, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add tomato mixture, cheeses, and zucchini and stir to combine (kind of gently as you want to combine everything but not destroy the integrity of the vegetables.)

5) Wrap bottom plate of a 9-inch spring form pan tightly with foil. Assemble pan; coat bottom and sides with cooking spray. Pour egg mixture into pan. Bake at 375 degrees until set in the middle. Check it at 50 minutes. Mine took 60. Important step:  Make sure to let it cool for at least 15 minutes. Carefully remove the sides of the pan. Place your serving platter on top and invert. Then remove the bottom and garnish.

6) Watch your family swoon. I really love sour cream so I garnished mine with that, but you can do anything you like or nothing at all.

NOTE: This pie is NOT good re-heated in the microwave. The morning after I made this we got up thinking it would be great for breakfast. We nuked two pieces and both agreed that it tasted bitter. Best to put it in the oven covered (at 250 degrees) and let it heat up slowly and evenly for about 15-20 minutes.

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PS- Tomorrow we’ll talk about stuffing spaghetti squash with broccoli Alfredo (Not to be confused with Charlie Alfredo, below.)

Charlie Tortellini

Not Yo Mama’s Vegetarian Lasagna ala Bobbe

I have finally come up with a recipe for vegetarian lasagna that I think is worth sharing. Seriously, we loved this dish!

Recently I was asked by a wonderful lady if I would create a meatless lasagna for her to serve the vegetarians at her dinner party. Happily, I obliged even though I am not typically a lasagna maker. (Something about the ricotta cheese always messes me up and the dish ends up too gloopy.)

I started this dish just thinking about vegetables I like to eat together. Spinach and artichoke always find themselves front and center wearing gold stars, when I start this thought process. Next, what items could I add for taste, color and texture: onions, shredded carrots and chopped Shiitakes! Perfect combo!

Then I thought about my issues with ricotta and I remembered watching an episode of “The Pioneer Woman” where she made hers with a yummy Béchamel sauce (white sauce) instead of ricotta. I questioned this though, because of this being a meatless dish. When there is no meat present, flavors are different and I worried that Béchamel might make a squishy, drippy lasagna. What to do; what to do?

I decided to make a sauce using heavy cream, cottage cheese, finely grated Parmesan cheese, a little corn starch, an egg and some fresh garlic. Then I put together my red sauce and got the rest of my ingredients assembled and ready to go.

Cast of characters:

I should mention too, that I grated a block of Fontina cheese to mix with the bagged Mozzarella for more flavor. To make it easier, and because I was only making this in an 8″ x 8″ pan, I used no boil noodles-they are shorter.

Then it was a simple matter of layering. First, a thin layer of tomato sauce, etc.

Then repeat the layers until the top is reached.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes covered. Then 10 minutes more, uncovered, until brown and bubbly.

The final secret is to let it cool for 20-25 minutes before serving, otherwise, it will wilt as it did below. (I was hungry! It still tasted great!)

Oh and PS, I tested this recipe the night before I made it for my friend. My version didn’t include the carrots and mushrooms. It also had way too much fresh garlic and I had added too much lemon zest to my white sauce. I like to add a little zest to ricotta because it lightens it up, but it didn’t work here because duh, I was using cream. It actually made the dish a little sour. The recipe posted below includes my tweaks. You’re welcome.

((Hugs and love))


Ingredients:
White Sauce:
2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 egg
1 ½ cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ tea. Salt
Red Sauce:
(1) 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (OR you can buy a can of San Marzano’s and crush them yourself)
½ jar of your favorite prepared marinara sauce + 2 Tbsp. Olive oil
¼ cup freshly chopped basil
½ tea. Salt
½ tea. Pepper

1 pkg no boil lasagna noodles
(2) 8 oz. packages of frozen, chopped spinach
2 cans artichokes, quartered, then chopped
2 medium onions chopped
2 carrots grated
1 c. Shiitake mushrooms finely chopped (you can leave them chunkier if it’s your preference)
(2) 8 oz. bags of shredded Mozzarella
8 oz. grated Fontina
½ c. finely grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Prepare both sauces and set aside. Neither has to be heated. Simply mix the ingredients and set aside. This can be done a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator if you like.

Sauté the onions, carrots and mushrooms until the onions are translucent. I started the onions & carrots about five minutes before adding in the mushrooms.

Thaw the spinach, combine it with the chopped artichokes and then squeeze out as much water as humanly possible. I use a cheese cloth. Then mix the cooked onions and carrots.

In a 9 x 13” baking dish, layer as follows:
Red sauce in the bottom
Noodles
Vegetable mixture (about half)
White Sauce
Mozzarella/Fontina Cheese
Red Sauce
Noodles
Repeat
When you reach the top your final layer should be Noodles, Sauce, and Mozzarella/Fontina cheese.
Finish by sprinkling a little Parmesan on top of this.

Cover loosely with foil that you have sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake 30 minutes covered.
Uncover and bake 10 minutes more or until brown and bubbly.
Important: Allow this to cool for 20-25 minutes before you serve it.

PS-I had leftover vegetable filling and cheese that I turned into a crust-less quiche for the following night’s dinner. It was so yummy. Just add 5 eggs and a half cup of cream. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

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Cauliflower Fried Rice

I didn’t believe anything could taste as great as fried rice. Trust me, you won’t know this is cauliflower!

When the whole “substitute everything with cauliflower” craze began, I sat there shaking my head, no, no, no. My thoughts? “Yeah RIGHT, this stuff will taste like mashed potatoes”; “Yeah RIGHT, this stuff will taste like rice”, etc. I have tried to like mashed cauliflower, but I don’t. Occasionally, I really like roasted cauliflower, but it’s not something I ever crave, and I mean, EVER. Cauliflower fried rice, however, always leaves me happily satisfied and it’s a dish I make regularly.

(Surprise, it actually does taste like rice!)

This recipe is one that easily lends itself to substitution. I usually just add in whatever vegetables I have on hand; or whatever I think looks pretty; or whatever I have a taste for. Get it? You can use WHATEVER you want. The only rule is that you use the cauliflower in place of rice!

So here I have scrambled four eggs to begin with:

Once they were finished, I removed them to a plate, added in a little more olive oil and then sautéed some chopped onions. (Why? Because I love them.)

Once the onions were translucent, I added in my riced cauliflower. (I always buy this raw, prepared in a bag, but you can use a food processor to get the same result.) I don’t know why I did not get a photo of just the cauliflower, but I didn’t. Just imagine onions and riced cauliflower in a pan.

When the cauliflower and onions are in, I added a few splashes of toasted sesame oil and some minced ginger. Stir, stir, stir and when you are tired of stirring, stir some more. The object is to get the cauliflower cooked through, but you also want to get a little bit of caramelization going. When the cauliflower has softened, knock yourself out adding in whatever vegetables you love. Here I added some frozen peas and carrots and some left over sautéed onions and peppers.

Once your veggies are all in and warmed through, salt and pepper again, add in some more sesame oil and soy sauce, and continue stirring.

Finally, fold back in those yummy scrambled eggs. See that word I used? Fold. That’s fancy. It means to be very gentle so as not to kill the pretty scrambled curds. Dump in the eggs, then using your spatula, scrap the bottom of the pan, folding the contents on top of the eggs until they are incorporated but still in tact.

See how you can still see the pretty eggs?

The entire reason I made this dish was because whenever I make Ahi Tuna, I think it needs to have an Asian flavor to it. I have no idea where this comes from, but oh well. So here you have the finished dish with the tuna (and too much hot sauce on top!) I garnished with fresh cilantro because this lives and thrives in our kitchen 100% of the year.


Ingredients:

1 bag riced cauliflower

4 eggs, scrambled

Half a bag of frozen peas and carrots

1 onion chopped

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 c. Soy sauce

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

Salt & pepper to taste

1/8 c. Chopped fresh ginger

NOTE: Vegetables are literally ANYTHING else you like. The only thing to remember is that if it’s raw, cook it before you add it in. Every time I make this, it’s a little different based on what I have in the fridge. (See below for photos of the last time I made this, which was last night!)

Directions:

Scramble eggs over medium high heat in 1 Tbsp Olive oil & 1 Tbsp butter. Remove to a separate dish.

Sauté onion to translucent in same pan. Add in 1 Tbsp Olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter, Salt and pepper.

Add in raw cauliflower, 1/2 the soy sauce, 1/2 the sesame oil, 1/2 the ginger. Stir continually to ensure everything is coated in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the cauliflower is softened and browned a little bit, add in frozen peas and carrots, the rest of the ginger and whatever else you want to add. Salt and pepper. Stir and then add in the second part of the soy sauce and sesame oil.

Don’t forget to savor the aroma. It seriously smells so good!

Vegetable Tartlets! Beautiful and Delicious!

I catered a cocktail party the other day and my clients wanted a vegetarian option. We decided on vegetable tarts, mainly because they are delicious, but also because they are so pretty!

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I catered a cocktail party the other day and tarts were on the menu. I thought long and hard about what kind to make and in the end, I decided on making individual ones because they make a better presentation. I am all about doing things that are beautiful but I don’t bake, so I always opt for pre-made crusts. I was aiming to use Pepperidge Farm tartlets, but of course, I didn’t discover until I was about to bake, that I had actually purchased SHELLS instead. (Shells are bigger than tartlets.) Of course this made me panic, but I decided to bake a few of them to see what happened and to my surprise, I liked how they looked.

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Translate this to, “I don’t want to have to go to the store to start over, so I’m going with this!” It’s hard to tell from this photo but these things are about the size of cupcakes. I was really in search of something half this size. Anyway, they baked up really nicely (18 minutes tops). So that first step was simple.

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Second step is to fill these bad boys with my ricotta mixture. (Ricotta mixed with grated Fontina, Italian spices, lemon zest, a little fresh grated Parmesan cheese & a pinch of nutmeg.)

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Then comes a layer of caramelized onions. We made a huge pot of these the day before, but you can make them whenever you want.

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Toppings come next. We sliced these using a mandolin set on the thinnest setting. The way to make tarts work is to try to get as much of the liquid out of your vegetables as possible. We sliced these, laid them out on paper towels, the sprinkled them with salt and let them sit for half an hour. After this, we patted them dry and they were ready to use.

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I made the little shapes simply by folding my zucchini medallions in half and then in half again. I loved how they turned out. Once you are satisfied with how you’ve decorated your tarts, paint on some garlic olive oil and bake for just about 10 minutes. The key here to remember is that the shells are already baked,so you must be careful not to brown them too much.

Also, I made a huge mistake and covered them after I was finished with them. I wanted them to be warm and poof, they got soggy. These are best served pretty soon OR just leave them out at room temp and if you must warm them, throw them in the oven uncovered, just prior to serving.


Ingredients:

  • 2 package of Pepperidge Farm Puffed Pastry Shells (6 come in a package)
  • 1 c. Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 c. freshly grated Fontina Cheese (you can substitute shredded Swiss cheese)
  • 1/2 freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Zest
  • 1 Teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 onions chopped and caramelized
  • 3-4 Zucchini sliced paper thin
  • 1-2 plum tomatoes diced or sliced (depends on how you want to use them to decorate)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Smash your garlic and combine it with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Set aside.
  3. Pre-bake the pastry shells according to package directions.
  4. Slice the zucchini and tomatoes using a mandolin. Lay out on paper towels, sprinkle with salt. Leave them out for at least 30 minutes, then blot them dry as possible using more paper towels.
  5. Thinly slice the onions, saute low and slow in a pan with 2 Tbsp butter & 1 Tbsp Olive oil until they slowly brown and become caramelized. Set aside to cool. (This step can be done a day or two before. Just store them in an air tight container in the refrigerator.)
  6. In a bowl, combine the Ricotta, Fontina, Parmesan cheese, Italian Seasoning, lemon zest, nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste.
  7. Assemble the tarts by starting with a layer of the cheese, then the onions, then arrange your vegetables how you like them. Brush with garlic olive oil and bake uncovered about ten minutes.

**These tarts can sit on the counter up to 2 hours prior to being cooked.**

**Serve warm or at room temperature.

Click here to see another version on this tart.