Recipe—Loaded Baked Cauliflower

Whenever I want to try and drop a few pounds I typically opt for a low carb diet. That means cutting back on those delicious carbohydrates like pasta, bread, and potatoes. I really love my potatoes, and while there is no substitute for the real thing, this is as close as you can get to a loaded baked potato. This recipe is one of the many reasons I LOVE low carb dieting. I mean come on! A diet where you can eat bacon and cheese and still loose weight? You will not feel deprived while eating this for dinner. This recipe is certainly not a low calorie recipe, but it is a fantastic way to make a flavor packed vegetable dish that is very satisfying. If you have a picky eater that doesn’t typically like veggies give this a try. You may find out that they love cauliflower.

Note: If you want to make a healthier version of this recipe use low fat sour cream and cheese and substitute turkey bacon for regular.

INGREDIENTS
head of cauliflower prepared and broken up into florets
1 c sour cream
1 c cheddar cheese, shredded
3 green onions, chopped
6 slices cooked bacon, chopped or crumbled
salt and pepper

STEPS

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  • Add in the prepared cauliflower florets and cook for 6–8 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.
  • Remove cauliflower from water and allow to cool.
  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • While the cauliflower cools, stir together sour cream, 1/2 of the cheese, 1/2 of the green onions, and 1/2 of the bacon in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Chop cooked cauliflower into small pieces and add to the sour cream mixture. Be sure to give it a good stir.
  • Place mixture in a medium baking dish and top with remaining cheese and bacon.
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Garnish with the remaining green onions just before serving.

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Recipe—Creamy Turkey Noodle Soup

The other day my poor hubby was down with a nasty cold and I wanted to whip him up some sort of soup with my left over rotisserie turkey breast to make him feel better. (This recipe would be just as wonderful with cooked chicken if that’s what you have on hand.) Normally I just make my turkey soup with a broth base, some vegetables, and noodles but since it was a rainy day I thought something rich and creamy would hit the spot. This was sort of an experiment but it really turned out great! I went a little heavy on the cayenne pepper but it gave it a nice kick. The cream balanced out the heat very nicely. One thing I love about this soup recipe is that it was done in under a half hour. It is not one of those soup recipes that has to simmer for hours. Next time I think I might try to substitute the pasta for some homemade dumplings just to mix it up. Mmmmm…

Note: For a delicious turkey alfredo pasta bake, use 5 cups of uncooked noodles instead of 2 and follow the rest of the recipe as usual. The pasta will soak up most of the liquid. When your pasta is cooked al dente, probably about 10 minutes, remove from heat and put in a large baking dish. (The pasta will finish cooking while baking in the oven.) Top pasta with breadcrumbs and bake for 10 minutes at 350º. Wellah! We have a two for one recipe. Also, feel free to substitute the veggies for whatever you have on hand. I’m sure corn or green beans would be fabulous additions.

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c butter
2 large carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c flour
5 c chicken or turkey broth, divided
2 c cream
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
dash cayenne pepper
3 c chopped cooked turkey
2 c uncooked rotini noodles
1/4 c fresh chopped parsley

STEPS

  • Sauté carrots, celery, onions, and garlic in butter until soft.
  • Add flour and mix well.
  • Gradually add 2 cups of the broth and all of the cream.
  • Cook over medium high heat until it’s thick and bubbly, 12–14 minutes.
  • Stir in remaining 3 cups broth, and all remaining ingredients except parsley.
  • Simmer for 11–13 minutes stirring occasionally until noodles are tender.
  • Stir in chopped parsley and serve.

A Celebratory Milestone? I Think So!

If you know me, you know I will celebrate and drink to anything. A friends engagement. Cheers! A new job. Glasses up! New designer shoes that I got on sale? Heck yeah! Bring on the margaritas! Well today I am celebrating my own little personal accomplishment.

I started the Diva di Cucina blog just under 5 months ago. Since then I have gained 30 fabulous followers and posted to the blog 25 times. Yesterday my blog surpassed 1,000 hits since starting last November. Wooo hooo! This is a milestone for me, which I am very excited about. So in honor of my blog I think a glass of bubbly may be in order.

If you have time, please take a minute to let me know what you think about this little blog of mine. I would love to hear your comments and feedback about the blog or any recipes in particular. Thanks kindly!

Diva di Cucina

Recipe—Asparagus Gruyére Tart

Since asparagus is plentiful at the market right now I thought I would post a simple, yet elegant asparagus recipe that will excite your palate. The final product looks impressive and tastes just as good. This asparagus tart is perfect as an appetizer or a side dish with brunch. You really can’t go wrong serving it warm or cold. It is very easy to make and requires hardly any prep time at all. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c flour, for work surface
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 c Gruyére cheese, shredded
1 bundle thin asparagus spears
olive oil
lemon pepper
sea salt

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle and trim uneven edges.
  • Carefully move the pastry to a baking sheet.
  • Using a knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to give it a border. This is identifies the boundary you will put your cheese and asparagus in.
  • Using a fork, poke the dough inside the rectangle at 1/2-inch intervals.
  • Bake pastry until golden, about 15 minutes.
  • While the pastry is baking, trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell.
  • In a large bowl toss the asparagus with olive oil, lemon pepper, and salt.
  • Remove pastry shell from oven. (If your pastry swells up lay a clean kitchen towel over the top and gently press down until it is about a 1/2” tall.)
  • Evenly sprinkle with the shredded Gruyére.
  • Arrange the asparagus in a single layer over Gruyére, alternating ends and tips.
  • Bake until spears are tender, approximately 15–20 minutes.
  • Allow to cool and then cut into squares using a pizza cutter.

For some great information about asparagus check out a previous post of mine here: https://divadicucina.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/kitchen-tip-asparagus/

Recipe—Leprechaun Pie

This is a pie my mom used to make on St Patty’s day. There is nothing Irish about it but it’s green and it is darn tasty! This no-bake pie literally takes minutes to make and just a couple of hours to chill. It is so easy I even recruited my own little leprechaun to help me out in the kitchen. Gather the kiddos and make preparing this leprechaun pie a family affair. Keep this recipe in mind during the hot summer months since it is so cool and refreshing.

It freezes great so feel free to make an extra one for later and you will have any easy desert next time you have company over. Wellah!

Note: While I normally advocate for making whip cream from scratch the cool whip really does work best with this pie. It does not separate and will hold up for several days. If you freeze your pie take it out about 45–60 minutes before serving. For a healthier alternative use sugar free Jello, fat free Cool Whip, and a premade graham cracker crust.

INGREDIENTS
2 c graham crackers
1/2 c butter, melted
2/3 c sugar
16 oz tub Cool Whip, thawed and divided
3.4 oz box Jello pistachio pudding
8 oz can crushed pineapple (undrained)

STEPS

  • Mix together graham crackers, butter, and sugar.
  • Press graham cracker mixture into bottom and up sides of a pie dish using the backside of a large spoon or rubber spatula.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine half of the Cool Whip, the box of dry pudding powder, and your can of crushed pineapple (juices included).
  • Pour pie mixture into crust.
  • Top with remaining Cool Whip.
  • Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
  • For added flare, garnish with extra graham crackers crumbs or chopped pistachios.

Happy St. Patty’s day!

Kitchen Tip—Asparagus

You know spring is right around the corner once your grocer’s produce aisle is filled with fresh asparagus. Asparagus is readily available from March–June every year. Since this is the time of year that asparagus is at its peak I thought I would give you some tips on how to select it, as well as some cooking methods to try. Next time you head down to your local market be sure to pick up some of this delicious vegetable.

Where does asparagus come from?
According to the California Asparagus Commission, California produces close to 70% of the United State’s asparagus supply. Together Washington and Michigan grow approximately 30% while small quantities are also grown in a few other states. Asparagus grows very quickly. On a warm California day, asparagus can grow as much as 7” in a day.

How to select good asparagus:
When picking out asparagus, look for long, blemish-free, bright green spears with closed, compact tips, and no flowering. Try to find bunches with similar sized spears. Spears of a similar size will cook at a more even rate. Select a size, which best suits your cooking method. Thicker spears are perfect for throwing on the barbie or roasting in the oven. Thinner spears are great when added to stir fry or an omelet. Tenderness relates to color, not size as one might think. You may find that thicker stalks can be woody, so peel the skin at the base to remove the outer layer.

How to store asparagus:
Keep fresh asparagus cool and moist until you intend to use it. Asparagus may be stored for a longer period of time by placing the bundled stalk upright in a dish with enough water to keep the stalks moist (about an inch). You can also wrap the cut ends in a wet paper towel, then cover the paper towel with plastic wrap and refrigerate. If the tips are slightly wilted, freshen them up by soaking them in ice water for 15 minutes before preparing.

Cooking Methods:
There are several ways to prepare asparagus steam, grill, sauté, you name it! You can even pickle asparagus and store it for several years. My favorite way to eat asparagus is to marinate it in Italian dressing and grilling it. Here are a few other recommended cooking methods

Note: Cooking times may vary. Thinner spears require less cooking time while thicker spears may take a little longer.

  • To boil, place whole trimmed asparagus in a large skillet with 1 1/2 inches of water. Bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 3–5 minutes.
  • To steam, place asparagus on a steamer rack in a large saucepan over rapidly boiling water. Cover saucepan and steam for 6–8 minutes.
  • To microwave, arrange asparagus in a microwave safe dish. Cover dish with plastic wrap, turning back one corner to vent steam. Microwave on high for 3–6 minutes. Let stand 3–5 minutes.
  • To stir-fry, cut asparagus spears in to 2 inch diagonal slices, keeping tips whole. In a large skillet, heat 1 to 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Add asparagus pieces and stir-fry for 5–7 minutes.
  • To grill, marinade extra large asparagus in Italian dressing for at least 30 minutes. Place directly on the grill turning several times and grill until brown and tender, about 8–10 minutes. I then like to toss the asparagus in the Italian dressing before serving to soak up some extra flavor.
  • To roast, toss extra large asparagus spears with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic. Preheat oven to 375º. Arrange on cooking sheet and place in pre-heated oven for 6–8 minutes.

Nutritional Info:
Asparagus is low in calories and sodium. It’s a great source of vitamins B6, A, C, E, and K, as well as calcium, magnesium and zinc, dietary fiber, protein, folic acid, iron, potassium, and much more.

What’s your favorite way to eat asparagus?

Recipe—Melt in Your Mouth Italian Meatballs

What’s not to love about a big heaping pile of spaghetti topped with fresh parmesan cheese and some giant meatballs? It’s a hit with people of all ages and this is one of my family faves. These meatballs are so juicy and savory that you just won’t be able to get enough of them. I love them smothered in sauce or just by themselves. The Italian flavor really comes through and is better than you can imagine. This recipe is incredibly easy to make and practically foolproof. Not only are these phenomenal over your favorite pasta with marinara but are also awesome sliced up on pizza or in a meatball sub with mozzarella cheese melted over the top. My mouth is seriously watering as I write this and I just had them two nights ago. You really won’t be able to get enough and your family will be fighting for the leftovers if there are any. This recipe yields approximately 20 1 1/2″ meatballs .

There are three methods for cooking these meatballs. I prefer to bake them so that I am not getting as much grease from the meat. This is how the recipe is written. However, for extra tender meatballs you can cook them in the pasta sauce on the stovetop or in a crock-pot. See instructions for additional cooking methods at the end of the recipe.

Note: This recipe calls for 1/2 lb of Italian sausage, which is typically sold by the whole pound. I always double the recipe and freeze the extra meatballs for this reason. They freeze incredibly well and we can get about 3 dinners worth out of them. If you would like to freeze them follow the recipe as written. Place the cooked meatballs on a wax paper lined cookie sheet making sure they don’t touch and put them in the freezer overnight. Once the balls are frozen distribute them into freezer bags. To reheat I just put defrosted balls directly into my pot of sauce and allow them to simmer for 15–20 minutes or long enough to heat through.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb Italian sausage
1 large egg
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c breadcrumbs
2 tbsp fresh minced garlic
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl being sure that everything is evenly distributed.
  • Using an oversized spoon scoop about a ¼ cup worth of the meat mixture and shape into round meatballs. (Mine end up being about 1 1/4″–1 1/2″ in diameter.)
  • Place the formed meatballs in a large baking dish.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through.

Method for cooking on the stove top: For this cooking method drop the uncooked meatballs into a pot of simmering sauce and do not stir for at least 20 minutes or the balls may break apart. After 20 minutes give the balls and the sauce a gentle stir and cook for an additional 20 minutes while simmering on medium-low heat and stirring occasionally.

Method for cooking in the crock-pot: Gently place your uncooked meatballs in the bottom of the crock-pot and pour the sauce over the top. Cook on low for 7–8 hours.

See my marinara recipe here for a great pairing with these meatballs: https://divadicucina.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/67/