smashed cauliflower

Right about now, it seems as though everyone is starting fresh along with the new year. Time to cut back on indulgent treats and start eating clean, they say! 

There is certainly nothing wrong with that! I love the start of the new year; acting as a clean slate for many of us, why not use this time to pursue goals and dreams we may have pushed to the back burner? But let’s not deprive ourselves, regardless of our goals! After all, shouldn’t we treat them as lifestyle changes, rather than just looking for a quick fix?

For those who may have set fitness goals, whatever they may be – boy, do I have a spectacular side dish to share today! A beloved side dish, mashed potatoes, is getting a new look…and that look is cauliflower! I realize that many people tend to shy away from this vegetable {I was one of them for a long time!}, but this is one that is so versatile, it can be transformed in countless ways. A nutrition-packed powerhouse, it boasts a low carbohydrate count and low fat content; it contains vast amounts of fiber, folate, and vitamin C. What’s not to love?

IMG_5006 IMG_5008

We’re keeping it simple and sweet here today, but don’t be afraid of transforming your dish however you like! Smashed garlic, chili flakes, a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese on top…the possibilities are endless. Make it your own, and make it special! You deserve it.

~~~

Smashed Cauliflower

Simple and delicious, this makes a wonderful replacement side dish for classic mashed potatoes. Lower in carbs and big on flavor, you won’t miss those potatoes a bit!

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, rinsed and trimmed

1/4 – 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock

1/3 block of cream cheese {I like to use a greek-yogurt blend}

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Bring a large saucepan {filled halfway with water} to a full boil. Add in the cauliflower pieces and cook until fork tender, about 8-10 minutes.

Once cooked through, drain off water and place in a large bowl. Using a potato masher/hand mixer/immersion blender, puree just until broken up. Add in the cream cheese and mix well; slowly drizzle in the stock until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

IMG_5009

Enjoy!

summer salmon with roasted asparagus

Hands down, one of my favorite things about this time of year is the abundance of fresh, bright produce and gorgeous seafood. It just doesn’t get any better than that, no?

Happily making my way down the produce and seafood section not too long ago, I couldn’t help but notice lovely stalks of bright green asparagus. This being one of my favorite vegetables, I quickly scooped up a bunch, knowing that half of dinner was already taken care of. Thinking to myself what kind of protein to pair with it, I immediately thought a filet of wild-caught salmon would be absolute perfection. I knew that I had some leftover artichokes and Roma tomatoes at home waiting to be used, so I thought that this would pair well with the salmon as well.

photo5

photo1

Not only is this a healthy dinner, bursting with flavor and color, but it comes together in a flash. We start by making a quick dressing of herbs and mustard together, then setting it aside so the flavors can merry together. The salmon gets seasoned well with salt and pepper then placed, skin side down,  onto a lightly sprayed piece of foil. We then build layers of flavor by adding first the tomatoes, then the artichokes, then finally, everything gets drizzled with the marinade. Covered tightly with foil {we’re doing foil packet baked fish, after all!}, everything gets roasted off in the oven.

And, dears, the asparagus couldn’t be any simpler. All we’re doing with these lovelies is tossing generously with salt and pepper, a good drizzle of olive oil, then spreading evenly onto a baking sheet. The end result is a perfectly roasted vegetable, with crispy bits.

A lovely plate for dinner, easy enough to throw together during the week but can be trussed up into a date night at home. Light some candles, pour some wine, and enjoy!

photo10

~~~

Summer Salmon with Roasted Asparagus {original recipe}

Serves: 2, & can easily be doubled

Ingredients for the Salmon 

1 lb. fresh, wild caught salmon

1/2 can artichokes, drained and rinsed well

1 large Roma tomato, sliced thin

1/2 tsp. dried dill

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 tsp. dried basil

1 T. honey

2 T. dijon mustard

1 T. whole grain mustard

few teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, or chicken stock {used to thin the marinade}

salt & pepper, to taste

 

Ingredients for the Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus, rinsed well and trimmed of any undesirable leaves/stems

salt & pepper, to taste

extra virgin olive oil

 

To Make {both the salmon and asparagus!}

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine the dill, thyme, basil, honey, both types of mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine, and then drizzle in the liquid as needed {I ended up using about 2 tsp of stock}. Set aside.

photo3 photo4

Line a baking sheet with foil, and drizzle with olive oil. Place the two pieces of salmon, skin side down, on the foil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Layer each piece with the tomatoes first, then the artichokes, and finally finish with the marinade. Seal tightly and set aside.

Place the asparagus on a piece of foil. Drizzle generously with olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper {sometimes I even like to squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice on there as well – be careful of seeds if you do!} Toss to coat, then either place that sheet of foil on the same pan as the salmon packet {if large enough} or on a separate sheet.

photo5

photo6

photo7

photo8

Roast both the salmon packets and asparagus in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until desired done-ness is achieved {I prefer mine slightly on the pinker side, with a velvety texture}. Give the asparagus a turn about halfway through, to ensure even cooking.

photo2

photo10

For an even crispier roasted asparagus, place in the oven 5-10 minutes before the salmon goes in, making sure to toss halfway through. 

loaded up brie mac & cheese

Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food.

If you’re anything like me, there is nothing better than settling into your kitchen after a long day at work, tying on your apron, and setting to work preparing dinner. Call me crazy, but sometimes the more involved the recipe is, the more soothing it is for me. You see, the kitchen is my safe haven, my place of calm, where I like to unwind. There are days when the stresses of work and everyday life just get to me, and all I can think about is making it to 5:00 and getting home to cook dinner. Call me crazy, and people certainly have, but to each their own, right?

The hubs and I have been on a bit of a Brie kick lately. This was one cheese I was never particularly fond of, or at least I thought that. Typically, the stinkier the cheese is, the more I like it. Pass me over a wedge of tangy Blue Cheese, perhaps a cube (or three!) of briny Feta, or some shavings of tart Romano cheese, and I’m a happy girl. It’s never been about the texture for me, but I’ve just always been drawn to bold flavors. Brie never really fit the bill.

Until one day last November, that is. For a “Friendsgiving” party a girlfriend of mine threw, I was tasked with some appetizers and a few side dishes. I’ll save the recipe for another time, but my dears, the Brie was the star. And it totally opened my eyes to the vast possibilities of cooking with it.

Flash forward to this week. One day not too long ago after work, I knew it was going to be one of those nights. A long, unwinding time in the kitchen, grating cheese, chopping veggies, the whole deal. Perhaps a glass of wine, if I may be so bold. I had been mulling over this particular mac & cheese recipe for some time, waiting for the perfect opportunity. And then inspiration struck me – let’s jazz it up, because why not? A quick glance in the refrigerator was all I needed; roasted vegetables could only make this even better, right? And toss in some salty prosciutto….now we’re getting somewhere.

photo (4) photo (5)

This does take a little bit of time to prepare, but the result is well worth the time (and the resulting dishes). Creamy Brie marries wonderfully with the sharp Cheddar and nutty Parmesan, and the roasted vegetables provide textural contrast to the smooth mouth feel of the dish. And if you’re willing to part with half of the dish (I only cook for two, so I do this quite often), immediately transfer half of the recipe into a freezer-safe dish for another time. All the perks of two rich, homemade meals….but only the work of one kitchen round. I think we can all get behind this, yes?

Enjoy!

~~~

Loaded Up Brie Mac & Cheese {adapted slightly from Half Baked Harvest}

1 bag of Brussels sprouts, washed and removed of any unsightly leaves, and cut in half from top to bottom

1/2 head of cauliflower, washed and trimmed to the size of the Brussels sprouts

1 package of good prosciutto, cut into cubes

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 box of DeLallo pasta (I used a whole wheat shell)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 onion, finely diced

1/4 C. all purpose flour

2 C. milk (I used 1%)

1 C. low sodium chicken stock

7 ounces Brie cheese (I opted to leave the rind on, as I enjoy the flavor of it…but feel free to remove)

3 ounces sharp white Cheddar cheese

4 ounces Parmesan cheese

heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 – 1 C. panko bread crumbs

To make:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray and spread the Brussels sprouts and cauliflower in an even layer. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast until browned and crispy, tossing once, about 25-30 minutes. Set aside.

Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once a boil is achieved, generously salt the water. Add in the pasta, and cook until al dente (you want it to have a bit of bite to it still, as it will finish cooking in the oven). Drain well and set aside.

photo (2)

While the pasta boils, add 3 tbsp. of your butter to a medium skillet and melt. Add in the garlic and onion, and saute for several minutes. You want the onions to be slightly soft and translucent. Season with salt and pepper, then whisk in the flour. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the flour cook in with the butter/garlic/onion mixture for one minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and stock, raising the heat up to medium-high. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently until the sauce has thickened, about 3-6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in all of the cheese, Dijon mustard, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the cheese is fully melted. Stir until the cheese is fully melted, and then fold in the roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower, and cubed prosciutto.

photo (7)

photo (1)

Transfer to a prepared baking dish, and sprinkle the top with panko bread crumbs.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the panko is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling. Let sit for 5 minutes, then dig in!

photo (8)

photo (3)

roasted spaghetti squash

I don’t know about you all, but I am a serious veggie freak. I know that if I absolutely had to, I could give up meat and be totally okay with it. #seriously.

I can’t remember the first time I read about spaghetti squash, but I can tell you for a fact that it was on one of the many food blogs that I read. Billed as the “new” alternative to pasta, I knew I just had to try it out. And boy oh boy, am I glad that I did! That very day I distinctly remember hopping into my car, driving down the street to the grocery store, and picking one up. Plans were formulating in my foodie brain, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Photo 2014-01-15 05.53.49 PM

The thing that really excited me about trying out this new ingredient was the health benefits. As you all know, I am a huge fan of healthy cooking and eating. By all means, I love a good indulgent meal, but if I have the opportunity to get a few extra nutrients and health benefits in my meals (all without sacrificing flavor, of course!) I am all about it. In a direct comparison of spaghetti squash(SS) to pasta(P) (1 cup of each), you’ll come across the following:

-31 calories (SS) vs 371 calories (P)

-7 grams of carbohydrates (SS) vs 75 grams of carbohydrates (P)

-.6 grams of fat (SS) vs 1.5 grams of fat (P)

-120 IU of vitamin A and 2.1 mg of vitamin C (SS) vs zero of each (P)

The numbers speak for themselves. Squash, for the win. But! – moving on.

After preheating my oven to 400 degrees, I set to work cutting this gourd in half. I am well versed and confident in my knife skills, but I will say this – cutting large gourds always, always makes me nervous! I’ve read tips about heating up squash in the microwave to slightly soften the skin, but I’ve found that taking my time and making small incisions around the long sides of the gourd works just as well. Make sure that you are very careful when doing this! And remember, sharp knives are safe knives!

IMG_0718

Once I successfully cut it in half, long ways from top to bottom, I scooped out the interior seed pack. Side note: these are great roasted! Simply clean them off, spread out on a greased sheet pan and season with salt/pepper, herbs, or cinnamon sugar – whatever strikes your fancy! Bake at 275 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until seeds start to pop. Remove from the oven and cool completely before storing in an airtight container. 

Place the squash halves, flesh sides up, on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle each half with olive oil, and sprinkle well with salt and pepper. Depending on the side of the squash, this can take anywhere from 60-70 minutes. I prefer to cook them on the slightly “al dente” side, especially if I’ll be using them in a casserole. Overcooked squash is just like overcooked pasta – mealy and unappetizing.

Once removed from the oven, allow the squash to cool completely. Next up, the fun part! In order to create strands of “spaghetti” you’ll use a fork to gently rake out the strands of squash. I like to do this right on the foil that I cooked the squash on. Why dirty another pan, right? Once all is shredded, transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge. I’ve found that this will typically keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

spaghetti squash2

If you’re going to use this in a casserole, I definitely recommend preparing this squash ahead of time. It requires minimal effort, and if you have a low-key evening planned, might as well roast a squash, right? And don’t think that this is only good for casseroles! You can use in a stir fry, subbed into traditional spaghetti and meatballs…the possibilities are endless. Try it on top of my Tomato Sauce with Onion & Butter – it’s fabulous. I’m seeing a few new plans formulating in my head…but y’all will just have to come back and find out what’s next!

Bon appetit!

citrus-sriracha cod with sauteed vegetables

I cannot tell a lie. Today was one of those days.

The days where, as much as I love cooking, I just want to come home from work and not.do.anything. It took all effort and energy I had left to even open the fridge and think about what to make for dinner. I just wasn’t feeling it.

Fortunately for me, the hubs had gone on a grocery run the day before, so I had a beautiful piece of cod that was just calling my name. I pulled it out and started thinking about what to marinade it in. And guys – I’m being honest…this marinade I completely threw together on a whim. And I’ll tell you what, it just clicked.

IMG_0727

The flavors in this marinade balance each other out so beautifully. The srircacha is just hot enough, and the honey cuts a little bit of that heat. The citrus juice adds that perfect kick of acidity, and the soy sauce brings a deeper level of flavor. The smoothness of the cod was the perfect vehicle – it absorbed all those great flavors, and stayed so moist from cooking it in a foil packet(!). Served atop a bed of sauteed vegetables, it truly was the perfect weeknight meal. I used onion and squash because it’s what I had on hand, but you could really use anything. The hubs devoured it, and so did I. One of my most favorite meals are the ones thrown together without a thought, and when they turn out so perfectly, everybody wins.

IMG_0726

Citrus-Srircacha Cod with Sauteed Vegetables {original recipe}

serves 2

1 lb. cod (or really, any white fish – I think mahi mahi would be great here as well!)
3/4 C orange juice
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp srircacha
1/4 C low sodium soy sauce

salt and pepper to taste

1 yellow squash
3/4 of a large white onion
1/3 C apple cider
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1.5 tsp thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking dish with foil (we’re going to fold the foil over the fish to make a packet, allowing it to steam).

To make the marinade – in a small dish, combine the orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, honey, srircacha, and soy sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over the fish, and fold up the sides of the foil, sealing in the fish. Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until fish is firm and white.

While the fish is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Preheat a medium, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Give it a few good turns of olive oil, and add in the sliced squash and onions. Season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the onions become translucent. Stir in the apple cider, whole grain mustard, and thyme. Cook all together until the apple cider has evaporated. Cover to keep warm.

I like to serve the fish atop the sauteed vegetables, and drizzle the cooking liquid from the fish over top each bowl. A great, crusty French bread goes wonderfully with this dish, to sop up the broth.

fresh tagliatelle pasta

This is something that I have been wanting to make for a long time.

Fresh pasta was, for me at least, one of those recipes that always seemed a little overwhelming. Perhaps it was the thought of have to well the eggs, knead it out with flour (on my non-existent counterspace)…all this paired with the fact that I don’t have a pasta roller. It was, however, always a recipe I pushed to the bottom of the list when asked about it. “One day, I promise I will make it”…I would tell my husband when he would ask me if I would ever be tempted to try it out.

Well today, my dears, his wish came true.

IMG_0790

I stumbled upon this recipe when I was perusing the Williams-Sonoma blog not too long ago. I swear, I can sit and read food blogs, recipes, and cookbooks for hours and hours. It’s a rare treat, so when I get the opportunity to do so, I seize it by the horns. This was on there, and when I saw that the recipe used the food processor instead of the traditional well method, I almost started jumping up and down. I decided that this glorious recipe was going to be dinner. And when I told my husband we were going to have it, he couldn’t have been more thrilled.

So go ahead, get your pasta on! I promise, you’ll love it.

~~~

Fresh Egg Pasta Dough {recipe from Williams-Sonoma Blog, Taste}

2-1/2 C. flour, plus extra for dusting the board

4 large eggs

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

First, fit your food processor with the metal blade. Add 2 cups of the flour to the food processor work bowl, and set aside the remaining 1/2 cup for adjusting the consistency of the dough. Add in the egg and olive oil.

Process the mixture until the flour is evenly moistened; I gave it 10-15 long pulses in the food processor. Pinch the dough to check its consistency. If it is still slightly sticky, add in another tablespoon of flour and process for about 10 seconds. Check the dough again, and repeat until you can pinch the dough and it feels moist, but is no longer gummy on your hands (this took about 2 additional tablespoons/pulse combinations for me).

Photo 2014-01-21 01.26.04 PM

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured wooden cutting board and knead until smooth and shiny, about 2-3 minutes. Wrap well in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Photo 2014-01-21 01.31.09 PM

Now, this is where we all may vary slightly. After I let the dough sit for the 45 minutes, I placed it in the refrigerator until I was ready to use it for dinner. If you plan on waiting longer than 24 hours to use it, it needs to go into the freezer. If you choose the freezer route, set it in the refrigerator to thaw a few hours before you are ready for it. 

At thirty minutes before you are ready to cook the pasta, begin rolling the dough out. Liberally flour your wooden work surface, and roll the dough out as thin as you can (mine is about 16 x 20, and I rolled the dough out to cover its entire surface). Cut it it half horizontally, and sprinkle with flour.

Photo 2014-01-21 05.44.18 PM

Roll each half of dough up, pinwheel style, and use your knife or pizza cutter to cut into thin strips. Don’t worry if your pinwheels are not all perfectly symmetrical, this is homemade, after all! Unroll each strand onto a large baking sheet sprinkled with flour, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Photo 2014-01-21 05.45.51 PM

Photo 2014-01-21 05.58.33 PM

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add a liberal amount of salt (you want it to taste like the sea), and wait for it to return to boil. The pasta will cook in about 1-2 minutes; test a noodle for al dente, then drain and serve!

Photo 2014-01-21 06.14.42 PM

Serve with any of your favorite pasta sauces, whether it be Alfredo, marinara, bolognese…or just plain with a little butter and salt. I love it with my Tomato-Onion-Butter Sauce.

Pasta will keep in the fridge, well covered, for another day or so.