Mashed Caulitatoes

Mashed Caulitatoes

I’m not what one would call an active girl. I enjoy yoga when I can make it to a good studio, but you’re not going to catch me out for a run. My brother tried to make me run with him back in high school, and he ended up behind me, pushing me along the last half of our mile. That didn’t last long. I really prefer hammocks, beach towels, books, day spas and those sorts of “activities.”

The down side, of course, is that I have to moderate my calorie intake. Fortunately, I love vegetables; unfortunately, I also love bread, pasta, rice, butter, and a myriad of other calorie dense foods. I no longer struggle to adhere to a low-carb diet, but I do attempt to limit my carbs. Cauliflower is a favorite among paleo and low-carb enthusiasts, and I can see why. Cauliflower is delicious. And while a great many cauliflower-instead-of-potato recipes are delicious, I also love the richness of real potatoes. So I started messing around with substituting a portion of the potatoes and I found that in mashed potatoes (and potato leek soup), replacing half the potatoes with cauliflower left me with a dish that I liked more than either the potato-only or cauliflower-only versions. I win all over the place – tastier dish, fewer carbs/calories, more diverse vitamins… and I get to have guilt-free mashed potatoes.

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Mashed Caulitatoes

Serves 6

If you don’t have any leftover cooked cauliflower, just dice it up into florets and boil along with the potatoes – they take about the same time.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled & diced
  • an equal amount of cooked cauliflower (leftover grilled cauliflower, boiled fresh cauliflower, or microwaved frozen cauliflower)
  • cream / milk / butter to taste
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • optional: 2-3 cloves worth of roast garlic

Directions

  1. Place diced potatoes (and cauliflower, if using fresh) in a medium pot, cover with water, and boil over medium-high heat until a knife easily slides through each piece.
  2. Meanwhile, puree cooked cauliflower, along with a splash of milk or cream, into a paste.
  3. When potatoes are ready, drain and mash. Add roast garlic, if using.
  4. Mix in cauliflower puree, and add butter & milk or cream and salt & pepper to taste.

Serving Suggestions

Serve these anywhere you would otherwise have mashed potatoes. They are particularly lovely with thick meaty stews.

Dill Carrots / Candied Dill Carrots

Dill Carrots

I’ve said this before, but my mom’s candied carrots were one of the reasons my love affair with vegetables began at a young age. There were never leftovers: my siblings and I often had seconds, and if there were any left – thirds. I don’t recall there ever being leftovers (I make a little extra, so we will have leftovers, and they are great on round two).

Now when I make these for my family, my toddler will eat all the carrots on his plate before digging in to anything else. And I love that, because they are super easy to make. Peel & chop, throw it all in a pot, and turn it on. Since I’m usually serving these with a roast meat of some sort, I like to prepare it all while the roast is in the oven, and then turn the stove on when the meat comes out – that way I’m forced to let my roast rest the appropriate 10-15 minutes.

The molasses-free carrots are have a lighter and brighter flavor that I prefer in warm weather, while the candied version has a heartier flavor that is great in the cooler months. Carrots are a fairly sweet vegetable, so you don’t need much molasses if you are making the candied version, and overdoing it will make them heavy and less appealing.

Dill Carrots
Dill Carrots

Dill Carrots / Candied Dill Carrots

Adapted from my mom’s go-to carrot recipe.

Serves 4

I like these a little toothy, but they are also delicious on the soft side. You don’t need exact amounts of any of these ingredients, and I usually don’t measure, but have provided them here as guidelines.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium-large carrots
  • a splash (approximately 2 tbsp.) of water
  • a knob (approximately 1-2 tbsp.) of butter
  • a sprinkle (approximately ½ tsp.) of dill
  • optional (for candied carrots): a drizzle (approximately ½ tsp.) of molasses

Directions

  1. Peel the carrots, cut into bite-sized chunks, and place into a medium saucepan.  Add a splash of water, butter, dill, and molasses (if using).
  2. Cover and place over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until carrots reach desired tenderness.

Serving Suggestions

These carrots are great with just about any American meal, particularly with roast meats – chicken, tri-tip, and pork (like this Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin with a Pan Sauce) are my favorites. I love them next to Pan Grilled Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Roast Japanese Sweet Potatoes and Mashed Caulitatoes. Oh, and these are a perfect Thanksgiving side dish.

Sweet Potato & Kale Hash

Sweet Potato & Kale Hash with Fried Egg

If I talk about corned beef hash around my husband, he imagines the canned stuff, but in my head I’m thinking about the way my Gma made it – with chunks of actual corned beef and diced vegetables. I’m clearly in the minority here – when I see Corned Beef Hash on the menu anywhere, I feel compelled to order it, hoping it will be hearty chunks of food. I even ask the servers if the hash is chunky, or if it’s like the canned paste. “Oh, it’s definitely chunky.” We must have different definitions of “chunky,” because those tiny bits of potato don’t qualify. Not that I don’t love the canned stuff – it may smell like dog food coming out of the can, and the meat may be more like paste than it is meat anymore, but it is pretty darn tasty. I always grab a scoop if it’s on the table.

Sweet Potato & Kale Hash
Sweet Potato & Kale Hash

Of course I had to start playing around with making my own hash. I have a good approximation of Gma’s Corned Beef Hash, but then I started experimenting with different hash recipes – changing or skipping the meat, changing up the vegetables. Sometimes I go with a Latin theme and include poblano peppers, zucchini or other summer squash, and corn, and my St. Patty’s style hash uses Russet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and onions. Often my breakfast hash is an experiment with the leftovers in the fridge. But it’s always good.

This version is one of my favorites. The sweet potato and kale play beautifully off one another, and even though it’s fairly simple, the flavor of this dish is really quite bold. This hash can be eaten plain, or topped with a fried egg or two – as the runny yolk adds another layer of deliciousness.

Sweet Potato & Kale Hash with Fried Egg
Sweet Potato & Kale Hash with Fried Egg

Sweet Potato & Kale Hash

Serves 2-3

The key to this (and any) hash is a cast iron pan – one that isn’t too crowded, and has the right amount of oil. You want the pan to be shiny – for there to be some fat between the pan and the vegetables, but not so oily that the vegetables are sitting in a pool of oil, or else your hash will leave you feeling heavy and greasy. If you can’t see the bottom of the pan through the vegetables, it’s overcrowded, and your vegetables will be limp and steamed, rather than crisping up against the cast iron.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil, or other fat
  • 1 medium-ish orange fleshed sweet potato (approximately 350 g or 12 oz.)
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper
  • 2-3 stalks of kale (I used curly kale, but you could use others)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • optional: 1-2 fried eggs per person

Directions

  1. Peel the sweet potatoes, and dice both the sweet potato and bell pepper in large bite sized pieces.
  2. Cut the onion in long strips lengthwise- you should have strips the length of the onion, approximately 1/4″ wide.
  3. De-stem the kale, and chop roughly. Grab the kale in handfuls and squeeze it to soften.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp. of the olive oil in a wide cast iron skillet. When the pan is nice and hot, add all the veggies except the kale and a good sprinkle of salt, and cook over medium-high to high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to turn golden brown and the potatoes are soft through. Add additional fat if necessary to keep the pan shiny.
  5. Add the kale, and continue to cook a minute or two more, stirring occasionally, until the kale wilts.
  6. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve immediately, topped with a fried egg if desired.

Summer Veggie Pasta

Summer Pasta

I went to visit my parents last weekend and came home with a bundle of typical summer veggies from their home garden: zucchini, tomatoes, green beans. This is what I’ve learned about growing zucchini: once it starts producing, you have zucchini to pick nearly every day, and you best pick them when they are medium sized, because if you wait until the next day they’ll be huge. Oh, and huge zucchini are not necessarily better – they are seedy and pithy at the core and better suited to make zucchini boats.

Zucchini wasn’t one of my favorite vegetables growing up – it always seemed to be overcooked and mushy. Unless it was fried. But then everything fried is delicious. Evil and delicious. Eventually I discovered more toothsome preparations for zuchhini, and was finally able to pay attention to it’s flavor. It’s incredible, fresh flavor.

One such preparation was Michael Ruhlman’s Sauteed Zucchini. It makes a fabulous side dish during the summer, when you want something fresh to accompany grilled meats. In fact, it’s so delicious, I wanted it to be a meal all on it’s own, and that’s what we get when we add in the spaghetti. My only complaint was that the minced shallot didn’t swirl up with the rest of the noodles, and were always left at the bottom of my bowl. So I found a way to make onion noodles too.

Summer Pasta
Summer Vegetable Pasta with Zucchini Noodles

Summer Veggie Pasta

Serves 4

Larger zucchini and yellow squash have a lot more seeds at their core, and those seeds will lead to breaks in your squash noodles. Opt for smaller squash, or discard the center seed-filled portions. The veggies don’t take long to cook, so don’t start them until you put your pasta into it’s hot tub. Only boil the pasta as long as the package suggests, and if they are finished before the veggies, drain it and toss with olive oil to keep from sticking (never rinse your pasta).

Ingredients

  • ½ lb. spaghetti or thin spaghetti
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large carrot
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • 1 lb. zucchini and/or yellow squash (approximately 2 medium)
  • 1 small (or ½ large) red onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-5 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp. good olive oil or butter
  • optional: serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Summer Pasta Prep Work

  1. Start your salted pasta water for the spaghetti.
  2. Use a mandoline to julienne the carrot and squash (discard the seedy core). Slice the bell pepper in long thin strips either manually or with the mandoline. Cut halfway through the onion lengthwise, then slice thinly with the mandoline to create ribbons of onion.
  3. When your pasta water is boiling, add the pasta.
  4. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat with 2 tbsp. olive oil and the minced garlic.
  5. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the carrot, bell pepper, onion and a pinch of salt. Saute until the carrot begins to soften (about 4 minutes) and add the zucchini and cherry tomatoes. Saute 2 minutes more, then add the pasta, drizzle with good olive oil or butter and toss to combine. Season with salt to taste.

Serving Suggestions

This pasta works as either a side or main dish, and shines alongside grilled meats.

Guacamole Salad with Mango

guacamole_salad

I don’t usually have chips in the house – I find it’s a good way to keep myself from eating them. But occasionally we have guests, or are guests, and I inadvertently find myself camped out near the snack table. I’m a sucker for crudité platters, particularly the carrots, cucumber, and olives, and especially if the dressing is hummus or a mixture of homemade ranch and blue cheese. But my great love on the snack table is guacamole.

Guacamole is not, for me, a dip for my chip – the chip is a vehicle to transport the most obscene scoop of guacamole I can manage. I still wind up eating way too many chips, and since much of my family is the same way with guacamole, the entire bowl usually disappears within 5-10 minutes.

When I saw this recipe on Barefoot Contessa, it was too good to pass up. I tried it her way, and it’s good, but the avocado looked a little sparse, drowning in the other elements. I was immediately inclined to double the avocado – make it more guacamole-like. The salad was a huge hit. Some ate it like salad, while others ate it like a chunky dip, but everyone raved.

This became my default contribution at house parties. Then one day, someone mentioned it would be lovely with mangoes… and I’ve made it with mangoes ever since. They provide a brightness that accompanies the avocado beautifully.

Leftovers

Sadly, this doesn’t keep that well for too long. You can certainly eat it the next day or so, but the avocados are going to lose their color and will instead be a drab brownish green. So eat up!

Guacamole Salad with Mango

Serves 8-10
Inspired by Ina Garten’s Guacamole Salad
Allowing the red onion, jalapeño, and minced garlic to sit in the lime juice a few minutes allows them to soften a little in texture and flavor, and impart their flavor to the dressing. If you prefer them to have a strong bite, just mix everything together at once. But definitely keep your avos whole until right before serving, else the salad may start browning by the time your guests see it.

Ingredients

  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup small diced red onion
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded & minced
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and ½-inch diced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 mangoes, peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup good olive oil
  • 4-5 ripe Hass avocados, seeded, peeled, and ½-inch diced

Directions

  1. Whisk together the lime zest, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne.
  2. Mix red onion, jalapeño, and minced garlic into the lime-spice mixture and let marinade at least 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add grape tomatoes, bell pepper, black beans and mango and pour olive oil over top, and mix vegetables to incorporate well.
  4. When ready to serve, dice and add avocado, mix gently, and season with salt to taste.

Serving Suggestions

This makes an excellent side for carnitas, all Mexican food, and  just about anything grilled (oh, it’s glorious over grilled fish), and doubles as a chunky dip.