loaded cauliflower casserole

I’m posting this cauliflower recipe in memory of my good friend Kathy. Those of you who read zazamataz.com will remember her as Minnesota Nice. Kathy died suddenly a couple weeks ago. It’s hard for me to sum up how much she meant to me in a few words. She was my sister. I’m not sure Kathy ever met anyone who didn’t become her sister or brother. She was just special.

We shared a love for food and cooking. I think her cauliflower recipes were probably healthier than this one is, but I think she would have enjoyed it. It’s very tasty – bacon! – and low carb so it helps keep my blood sugar in range.

Here’s to you, my friend. I didn’t have you as a sister anywhere near long enough.

loaded cauli

Loaded Cauliflower Casserole

I’m not sure where I saw this, but it wasn’t a recipe. It was a short video clip. So, this is my attempt to replicate the idea – and in many ways it’s still not a recipe. It’s more…… simple directions.

1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
about 1 cup sour cream
about 6 ounces shredded cheese (I used Monterey jack, you could use cheddar or maybe gouda or swiss)
6 slices thick cut bacon, cooked medium crisp, cooled and crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F Choose an oven safe dish to fit the cauliflower. I think mine is 1 1/2 quarts.

The clip looked like it used raw cauliflower. That would work, I think. I like roasted cauliflower but my stomach doesn’t care for it these days. So I steamed mine with well salted water. I do think the recipe is going to work better for you if you at least par-cook the cauliflower for a few minutes.

Allow to cool. If you like, stir in about a tablespoon of the bacon fat.

Mix in sour cream gently. Sprinkled 2/3 of the shredded cheese and bacon over the cauliflower. It probably won’t need much salt but add some freshly ground black pepper to taste. Fold. Top with the remaining cheese and bacon.

Bake for 45-60 minutes, until heated through and top is lightly golden brown.

island chicken salad

I remain fixated on chicken salads. I tend to make a lot of my old favorites and even made cranberry pecan turkey salad after Thanksgiving. In a way, this is a riff on my curried chicken salad that I’ve made several times lately.

Out of sheer laziness, I bloomed the spices in a little oil and vinegar in the microwave. Mix them in with a little store-bought mayonnaise for a faster and easier salad. Of course, there’s no reason to not make your own if you feel like it.

island chicken salad L

chxline

Island Chicken Salad

4 cups cubed cooked chicken
1/2 cup diced dried mango
1/2 cup diced dried pineapple
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup unsalted roasted macadamia nuts
1/4 cup Rajin Cajun spicy sweet jalapeno relish
1/2 cup diced onion

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon jerk seasoning
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
juice from one lime
enough white vinegar to moisten spice mix and a teaspoon or so of oil

1 to 1 1/2 cup mayonnaise

For chicken salad, I usually poach my chicken by the America’s Test Kitchen method or use leftovers from a rotisserie chicken. Feel free to prepare it however you like.

Bloom the spices in a bit of vinegar, lime juice and oil. You can do it on the stovetop or in the microwave. Allow to cool before mixing in with store bought mayonnaise. It’s really a good idea to do this the day before so the spices have a chance to fully flavor the mayo.

I tried this two ways, with dried fruits and with canned fruits. You could use fresh or frozen, too. But I like the chewiness of the dried fruit. Be aware, however, that the dried fruit may soak up some of your mayonnaise so it’s a good idea to keep a little back and add it in before serving if needed.

I’m a big fan of Rajin Cajun sweet spicy jalapeno relish – used in moderation. It gave the salad the kick I wanted and a bit of vinegar bite to counter the sweet of the fruit. I also used leftover curried pickled onions the second time I made it, and I may make some with island spices the next time I make this salad – and I will make it again. It might be nice to change this up and use shrimp instead of, or in addition to, chicken.

Also, I used Edwards and Sons unsweetened toasted coconut flakes in this salad. You really don’t need the extra sweet of sweetened coconut flakes, but they’d do in a pinch. It’s fun that there is a wider variety of dried fruits and nuts and stuff these days.

You might want to wait to mix in the coconut and the macadamia nuts until ready to serve.

Okay…. enough notes. Instructions. Mix everything together, add mayonnaise. Stir. Allow to rest. Adjust the seasoning as you like. Serve.

I garnished it with a little extra dried fruit and nuts.

torta di salsiccia italiana

italian sausage pie

chxline

It has been a long time since I posted a new recipe. I thought I would cook more once I got home from the hospital but then I wasn’t supposed to be sitting up much and….. well, I only cooked easy stuff. I do actually have several recipes in the works and I hope to get some posted soon. We’re going to start with this lovely Italian Sausage Pie. I love quiche and quiche like pies and tarts – as evidenced by the many that I’ve posted here. In addition to Italian sausage, I am finally able to get fennel around here. They make a great pie.

slice of it saus pie

chxline

Italian Sausage Pie

9 inch pie shell, chilled

12 ounces bulk Italian sausage (I used the hot variety)
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup minced fennel
1 clove garlic, minced or smashed
8 ounce jar roasted red pepper, drained and chopped
4 ounces shredded mozzarella

1 1/2 cups ricotta
4 eggs
2 tablespoons minced fennel fronds
a couple good shakes of red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seed
a pinch of salt

parmesan

Brown the Italian sausage. Here’s a tip. Don’t break up the meat, brown the sausage in one piece – it’s easier to get that tasty brown if you don’t break it up. Carefully flip it over and brown the other side, then break it up. I left it rather chunky.

When cooked through, remove the sausage from the pan and drain thoroughly on paper towels, allow to come to room temperature.

Pour off almost all the fat from the pan. Add minced onion and fennel and cook over medium until soft. Add minced garlic and cook about a minute, do not burn. Add chopped roasted red pepper and heat just until the moisture is cooked off. Set aside, allow to come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix the ricotta, eggs, minced fennel fronds, red pepper flakes to taste and ground fennel seed. And a pinch of salt.

Mix together the Italian Sausage, vegetables, and shredded mozzarella cheese and stir in the ricotta and egg mixture. It’s going to be messy. Pour into the prepared pie shell. Make sure the eggs get all the way to the bottom of the pie shell. Even out the sausage, etc. Sprinkle lightly with Parmesan if you wish. It’s tasty, do it.

Bake on a baking sheet, to catch any spillage, for 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted near the middle comes out clean. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

fiesta chicken salad

It’s chicken salad season again. I’ve been planning on just making my old favorite with cranberries and pecans. Then I started playing around with an orange chicken salad idea. Ah, but then I started thinking southwestern flavors. I love southwestern flavors – maybe the next place I move will be New Mexico or Arizona. I hear you can get someone else to roast and peel your chiles there.

There are a lot of possible ways of making a southwestern chicken salad. I decided to go with a pico de gallo base – tomatoes, peppers, onions and jalapenos – and add some corn and beans and olives. You could add avocado or serve the salad with some avocado so it doesn’t disappear in the mix. You could make the dressing with avocado but I don’t think that’s so pretty. Add cilanto or parsley if you like. I meant to add some cilantro but forgot. 🙂

fiesta chicken salad

Fiesta Chicken Salad

about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders (breasts or thighs would be fine, too)
1 1/2 small onions or 1 medium, 1/4 inch dice
1 or 2 yellow, orange or red bell peppers (I like the mighty minis!), 1/4 inch dice equal to the volume of onions
1 large jalapeno, finely diced (take the seeds and membrane out if you don’t like a little heat)
about 5 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced and lightly salted and drained
1 can Green Giant niblets, drained (these are canned without water and I think taste fresher, feel free to use fresh)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large can sliced black olives, drained
I probably could have added some minced cilantro or parsley…
1-3 teaspoons Taco seasoning mix
enough mayo or light mayo to bind. I suggest adding a little at a time.
6 ounces shredded pepper jack

Like any chicken salad, or really any salad, it’s more about proportions than specific measurements. And it’s also about what you like. I start with the vegetables. I’m going to want about the same amount of cooked chicken as I have chopped vegetables.

So, I dice up all the vegetables, rinse and add the beans, olives and corn, mix them all together with about a teaspoon of my taco seasoning. Noting the volume, I put the vegetables in the fridge to cool and blend their flavors.

Then I decide how much chicken I want. Me, I want about an even ratio of chicken to vegetables. You may want more or less chicken. You can cook your chicken however you want or buy a rotisserie chicken and use that. I prefer to poach my chicken using this method. If you use that method, your veg is in the fridge, your chicken is poaching and won’t over cook because the burner is turned off, and you can go off and do something else. Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid (which includes a tablespoon or so of my taco seasoning) and dice into small bites. Let cool a bit before adding to veg mixture.

Then you can taste and decide if you want more taco seasoning. Add a little then mix in the mayo and taste again. Last, mix in the shredded cheese.

Serve on a sandwich, in a wrap, on some lettuce or tortilla chips of your choice or in a bowl. Is delicious!

Zazzy’s Taco Seasoning

The thing about making your own is you can use less (or none) of something like cumin, which tends to be a little strong to some. Or less salt. You can make it just right for you, though it may make a few tries. This recipe makes a little more than half a cup. I use it for many things and it’s also an excellent seasoning for fajitas.

1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 1/2 tablespoons Mexican oregano (regular oregano will do)
2 tablespoons powdered red chile (to taste)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4-5 cubes of Knorr tomato bouillon with chicken flavoring

I like to blend this all together in a spice grinder (usually a coffee grinder you use only for spices).

 

crab quiche

We were snowed in this week. It doesn’t take that much snow here at the bottom of two hills, not when they don’t plow. And when you’re stuck inside and it’s bitterly cold outside, comfort dishes are in order. Quiche is a very comforting food, don’t you think? I made both my favorite caramelized onion, apple and bacon tart and this delightful crab quiche.

Once again, it’s impossible to get good, fresh crab around here. Canned crab – fancy or premium – will work and is preferable to the other stuff I bought in the seafood section at Walmart. At least it tastes like crab. If you can get fresh, I think it would be wonderful. I’m hoping to stop at the seafood market the next time I go to Springfield. I want to make crab cakes and nothing will substitute for the jumbo lump crab. Perhaps I will get enough to make quiche again.

I’ll also get cheese while I’m up there. Gruyere is never ever found down here, not even fontina. You could probably use Swiss. I decided to try Provel which is a processed cheese made with Swiss, Cheddar and provolone. It worked, the flavor was nice. But use Gruyere if you can find it. I’ve always been curious about Provel – it’s the cheese that looks like thick spaghetti that you’ve probably seen. It was worth the experiment but I don’t think I’ll be buying it again.

crab quiche

chxline

Crab Quiche

1 prepared pie crust
4-6 ounces Gruyere cheese, or other good melting cheese, shredded
1 pound fresh crab meat, picked – or 2 cans best quality crab, drained well
roughly 1/2 cup sliced green onions (scallions), both the white and the green parts, not packed
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 scant teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
a couple of good grinds of pepper
3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In your chilled prepared pie crust, evenly sprinkle the cheese, sprinkle the crab over the cheese, sprinkle the onions over the crab.

Beat together eggs, cream, mustard, Old Bay, salt and pepper. I prefer to use an immersion blender so that it’s completely blended. You could use a blender or a food processor.

Pour the egg mixture over the crab, etc. Poke around gently just to be sure the eggs get to the bottom.

Bake, on a sheet pan, about 40 minutes. Allow to stand 15 minutes before cutting. Can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold.

crab quiche slice