Holidays are Coming: Festive Cauliflower with Swiss cheese sauce

cauliflower

Festive and cauliflower are not two words usually put together. In this recipe, though, the words work together beautifully. White cauliflower, swiss cheese sauce, and bits of red and green peppers…lovely, yummy, festive and easy.

Good dish for  company, good for a family meal, good all through the year. Fresh or frozen cauliflower works well. Simply adjust the cooking times of the vegetable so your cauliflower doesn’t turn to mush. If it does, then just mash it all together and serve it anyway. Make up a name for it that sounds special and fun. I think you will like this. My aunt served this years ago during a Christmas when we moved the family Christmas to Colorado during her first year of marriage.  It has since become one of our family favorites and is a regular on the holiday menu.

NOTE: Reduced fat milk and cheese can be used. It is not recommended for margarine with a high water content to be substituted for butter. Regular margarine can be used.  Large bag of frozen, defrosted cauliflower can be used.

Festive Cauliflower
1 large cauliflower
1 4 oz. can sliced mushrooms
1/4 c. diced green bell peppers
2 tbs. diced, drained pimiento
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. milk
1 c. grated swiss cheese
1/2 tsp. salt

Break cauliflower into bite sized pieces. Cook 10 minutes and drain. Saute mushrooms and pepper in butter until tender. Blend in flour (make a roux). Slowly add cold milk and blend and cook until thickened. Add pimiento, 2/4 cup of cheese, and salt and stir until cheese is melted. Place one-half of cauliflower into a 2 quart casserole and cover with half of sauce. Add rest of cauliflower and top with remaining sauce and cheese. Bake in 325 oven for 20 – 30 minutes until cheese is melted. Six to eight servings.

Winter’s Coming: Sensual Fruit Crumble

Do I have your attention? I’m sure I do. Now, how is a crumble, that most humble and homey of fruit desserts sensual? Well, having fixed this many times during the past few years and observing the “behavior” of the fruit involved, all I can say is: the cranberries pop! and the sugar melts…Okay. Maybe not, but it is good.  Tangy and full of juice – perfect with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream or with a cold glass of milk.

You can of course use different fruits according to season. This is a crumble using autumn/winter fruits. If you don’t use the cranberries and only use apple or apple/pear, then add about one fourth cup of apple juice and a teaspoon of lemon juice and adjust cooking times and sugar content. You can also add a nice splash of pear or apple brandy along with the vanilla as well. Not only a sensual, but an extremely adaptable fruit crumble.

I like best those desserts that are simple and full of fruit. My favorite birthday cake is apple pie and for my birthday this past weekend, I fixed apple pie. And it is all gone and very happily enjoyed!!! I hope you enjoy this crumble and I am sure you will agree with me on one thing – it’s good!!!

Autumn Fruit Crumble
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
2 firm-ripe pears such as Bartlett, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 apples such as Gala, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I use Macintosh)
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup chopped nuts – walnuts, or pecans or almonds (optional)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened

Directions
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Stir together fruits, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla and place in a buttered shallow 2-quart baking dish. Stir together oats, flour, salt, nuts, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture forms small clumps. Scatter over fruit and bake until juices are bubbling and topping is golden brown, about 30 – 40 minutes. Cool slightly before serving. Serves 6

public domain clip art

public domain clip art

Winter’s Coming: Real Homemade Hot Cocoa

On a miserable cold day or evening, few things are as satisfying, flavorful, and aromatic as a cup of hot cocoa. In this day of instant gratification and artificial things like spiced cider powder, it is good to know some things still are best the old fashioned, homemade way. Hot cocoa can be prepared as easily and almost as quickly as ripping open an envelope, pouring out powder, adding water and then nuking in the microwave.

You can use any brand of powdered cocoa – from common to rare, inexpensive to extravagant. I use plain old Hershey’s Cocoa (I am not paid for any endorsement of this product). You can use any milk: whole, skim, half and half, evaporated milk (for a retro take on this classic) milk made from nuts or soy. Sweeteners and how much is up to you: granulated sugar, brown, natural, honey, stevia, agave, honey, maple syrup, artificial sweeteners. If you have never made hot cocoa, taste as you go as to amount of cocoa and sweetner you like.  Additions of some cinnamon or peppermint extract, schnapps, or crème de menthe, crème de cacao, or a bit of rum adds an adventurous adult twist.

This recipe multiplies easily. One cup is as easy as four. Add a dollop or squirt of whipped cream or a marshmallow to the finished deliciousness for a bit of added decadence. Pour into your special mug, kick back, relax, sip, and let the harsh cold outside world drift away in a cloud of fragrant, gentle, chocolate steam.

Hot Cocoa
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (depending on how sweet you like it) or other sweetener
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk or any combination of milk, half-and-half, or cream or non-dairy “milk”
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation
Whisk together the cocoa, sugar, salt, and about 2 tablespoons milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until cocoa and sugar are dissolved. Whisk in the rest of the milk and heat it over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until it is hot. Stir in the vanilla and serve. If you like it frothy, blend it in the blender.

public domain vintage clip art

 

Winter’s Coming: Two Yum Deluxe Oatmeals

Yes indeed.  Snow is coming down all over the map – and before Thanksgiving!  Oatmeal, plain, is good for you.  Oatmeal fancied up and fixed in a slow cooker or overnight in the fridge is….wonderful and good for you.  This is comfort food that stays with you and sustains you.

Depending on the ingredients you choose, both of these can be vegan, dairy free, and sugar free.  The slow cooker oatmeal had the whole house smelling of apple pie the next morning and had my cat trolling for breakfast.  The cinnamon on top of the oatmeal was crusty and the apples just fell apart in my mouth.  If slow cooker oatmeal be the music of life, then play on!   Or so says my paraphrasing of Mr. Shakespeare.

The overnight oats are what I need in the morning  – something nourishing, tasty and idiot proof.  Yeah, idiot proof.  I’m not the brightest bulb in the pack before I’ve had a gallon of coffee.  This oatmeal is prepared the night before and “cooked” in the refrigerator.  I like it cold, room temp, or nuked until hot.  I carry the container with me to work and while my puter is revving up, I’m scarfing down this oatmeal.  When in Switzerland, I fell in love with muesli and this dish comes close.

Enjoy.  You will be so glad you fixed these and even more glad you ate!

public domain clipart

public domain clipart

Slow Cooker Irish Oatmeal
◾1 cup steel cut oats (or Irish oats) Not: quick, instant, etc.
◾4 cups liquids (I used 2 cups water, 1 c. natural apple juice & 1 cup regular flavor almond milk)
◾2 tsp cinnamon (I use a good cinnamon, usually Saigon)
◾1 apple, skinned and chopped
◾1/4 cup raisins, or craisins, or dried plums (chopped into raisin size pieces)
◾Stevia, honey, raw sugar or other sweetener of your choice to taste, or no sweetener
◾Optional: ¼ c. chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds….I love nuts. You don’t have to.

Add apples, dried fruit, and cinnamon to slow cooker, next oats. Stir in four cups of liquid. Stir in rest of ingredients. Set slow cooker to low setting for 7 hours. The cinnamon on top will be crusty, and the apples should just fall apart in your mouth. You can also add the chopped nuts afterwards in case someone has nut allergies.

Overnight Oats
1 part liquid (apple juice, soy mild, almond milk, milk)
1 part rolled oats (non-instant or quick cooking. I like Irish oats)
fruit: apples, peaches, bananas, mangos, strawberries, blueberries, raisins, prunes, etc.
sweetening: sugar, raw sugar, brown sugar, stevia, honey, maple syrup, none.
Seasoning: cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, orange zest
Extra: nuts, crumbled muffins, fruit preserves

Method: Mix together and place into a container and cover. Put in fridge. Eat the next morning.

 

Football Food – Game Day gr-r-r-r-r

free public domain imge

free public domain imge

I thought after last year, I was done being the football food/place provider. NO-O-O-O…I did several posts on football/game day/sports event food last year.  So, here I am thinking:  no more football.  No more having to scurry around to feed the boys…..nope.  One of the other wives has decided she is going outlet shopping this weekend.  I scratch my head here – which is worse?  Guys gathered for football and cooking for them or, going to a huge outlet and shopping.  To be honest, I’m going with the shopping as being the worst.  I’ll be happy to take a nice walk in the woods or hide in the bedroom and read.

 TIP  But anyway,  whole chickens are on sale around here.  So I have bought several, put in the pressure cooker, pulled off the skin and -.  Put the pulled off, cooked chicken into freezer bags (2 cup amounts) to pull out to use for future casseroles and chicken salad.  You can also, if you find pre-cooked rotisserie chickens on a good sale, do the same thing with them.  You can also use the large cans of chicken breast meat packed in broth if there is a good sale on that.

That being said, the guys are getting chips, salsa, pretzels and for their tummies at halftime, Hot Chicken Salad.  Hot Chicken Salad is probably the Original Church Lady meal.  It is the kind of casserole taken to potlucks, church dinners, left at homes in time of bereavement or birth of a child or recuperation from an illness.  It is homey, easy, redolent of all those things dear to a Southerner or Midwesterner’s heart:  mayo and canned creamed soup.  Don’t turn your nose up…this really is good.  Picky eaters suck it up.  I like to serve with warm slices of French bread and a salad and fruit salad for dessert.

It’s called hot chicken salad because it has many of the ingredients of cold. It is easy to assemble and takes about 25 – 35 minutes to bake. At half time, I know of four guys who are going to demolish this and wipe out the baking dish with leftover bread. Their “fruit salad” will be a bowl of apples and bowl of grapes.

Hot Chicken Salad Casserole
1 cup of mayonnaise (can use low fat)
1 can of cream of chicken soup or mushroom soup
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp. lemon juice
4 cups of diced cooked chicken
1/2 cup of minced celery
1/3 cup of finely minced onion
1 green onion, sliced
1/2 cup of sliced almonds
Topping (below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. In a bowl combine the mayonnaise and soup; blend well. Stir in the cheddar cheese, lemon juice. Add the chicken, celery, onion, green onion and almonds; mix. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt only as needed, then transfer to prepared baking dish. Bake 20 minutes until hot and bubbly. Remove from oven, add topping, and bake an additional five minutes.

Toppings include: 1 – 1 ½ cups potato chips, or sleeve of crushed Ritz crackers mixed with some butter, or 1 cup Panko bread crumbs, or dry bread crumbs, or shredded cheese. The most used topping is the crushed potato chips.  I like to save a tablespoon of the almonds to add on top at the end, when I add the chips.  A garnish of fresh minced parsley or green onion adds a nice touch.

Note:  You can do a search for “football” on my blog to pull up other dishes such as calico beans, Asian pulled pork, apple cake, vegetarian chili.

 

 

 

Fall Snacks no. 1 Togarashi popcorn

Togarashi shichimi is a complex Japanese seasoning blend. It is complex with different peppers, ginger, sesame. I make my own blend and cut down on the salt, cayenne and use regular toasted black peppercorns. This seasoning can be bought at many Asian food stores. I have nori (seawood sheets) on hand because I love vegetable sushi and make my own. This is a different popcorn. With all the trendy flavors out there: salted caramel or chili flavored chocolate, this is an old favorite Japanese seasoning that has stood the test of time.

When you are serving visitors or family at your next sports viewing event, movie or game night, casusal party, try this popcorn. Or make your own kettle cooked potato chips and season with togarashi. Add it to sour cream for a different flavored dip for veggies or chips.

I like to make my miso grilled corn on the cob and add a very light sprinkle of this for a change.  This seasoning lends itself not only to this popcorn, but is a great flavoring for grilled seafood, chicken, or pork. Reduced fat margarine can be substituted for butter. If you need to reduce your sodium, leave out the salt.  Use this for anything you would use a standard seasoning salt on to flavor.

どうぞめしあがれ (douzo meshiagare) Bon Appetit! (this is said by the cook before the meal, to those eating it).

Togarashi Popcorn
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon shichimi togarashi seasoning***

Directions
Melt butter in small sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir one minute. Remove from heat and keep warm.   Heat kernels and oils in a large covered pot over medium-high heat. Cook until almost all popcorn has stopped popping. Transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle garlic butter over the popcorn and toss to coat. Sprinkle with togarashi seasoning and toss to mix again.

***Homemade Togarashi Seasoning
1 1/2 toasted, crumbled nori sheets
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
finely grated zest of 2 tangerines or lemons
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon toasted Sichuan peppercorns
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons toasted white or black poppy seeds
large pinch of cayenne pepper

Directions
Grind toasted, crumbled nori sheets in a spice mill or similar grinder. Add toasted sesame seeds, lemon or tangerine zest, kosher salt, toasted Sichuan peppercorns, ground ginger, toasted white or black poppy seeds, and cayenne pepper. Pulse to a uniform spice blend but not to a powder. Store air tight at room temp.

public domain images Togarashi seasoning

public domain images Togarashi seasoning

public domain images

public domain images

Yummy Nuttin’ of a Sweet Treat Recipe

This really is a nothing kind of recipe, something I would read and flip past. Yeah, sometimes I am a food snob. Really I am! I had this at a friend’s house and she very kindly wrote down for me.  Thank you Minou.

You can use the last of the summer peaches or the very first of the new crop of apples. I used peaches because they are so precious, I want to  see if I can’t just wring every bit of wonderfulness out of them I can before they disappear into that place socks go in the dryer.

So…not as elaborate as my own recipe, but very good and on a busy night, this makes a wonderful end to a thrown together grilled cheese and tomato soup kind of supper. Apple/Peach Dumplings. So easy my SamCat could fix it if he wasn’t so busy being a cat.

Here’s the recipe. Y’all think of me when you serve and folks go…dang! That’s good!  <grin>

Super Easy Apple/Peach Dumplings

2 Granny Smith apples or similar size peaches, peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
8 canned buttermilk biscuits or I prefer, canned “crescent” rolls
3 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Peel, core and slice the apples/peaches vertically into 8 slices each.. Squeeze the lemon into a bowl of water and add the apple/peach to keep from turning brown. In a medium saucepan, mix 1 cup water, 3/4 cup of the sugar, the butter and vanilla. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil over medium heat. Separate each biscuit into 2 layers. For the “crescents”, separate into triangles, put the fruit slice in the center and seal roll around it and place sealed end down.  Wrap a biscuit layer around a slice of apple or peach, stretching the biscuit slightly to overlap, and seal on the bottom. Place the wrapped slices, sealed-side down, in a 9- by 12- by 2-inch casserole dish. Pour the hot sugar mixture over the apple/peaches slices. Mix the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle the mixture over the tops of the wrapped apples/peaches. Bake until golden brown, 35 minutes. Top wth vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. NOTE: if you can find mace, use in the place of nutmeg. It is the ground hull around the nutmeg and has a wonderful old fashioned, mellow aroma and flavor. I frequently use instead of nutmeg.  And a tiny splash of good bourbon doesn’t hurt any either, added to the sugar water.

public domain images

public domain images

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