Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Loaded Cauliflower Bake (GF)


Loaded Cauliflower Bake (GF)
(8-12 servings)

 
Ingredients:

1 large head Fresh Cauliflower (6-8 cups bite sized pieces)
½ lb. Bacon, cooked & chopped (see note)
½ cup Mayonnaise
½ cup Sour Cream
2 cups Shredded Cheese (your choice)
3 medium Green Onions, sliced (optional)
as needed Salt & Black Pepper to season

Directions:

Place cauliflower in a large pot of boiling water for about 6 minutes (don’t overcook as they will turn to mush).  Drain and combine with the bacon (half), mayonnaise, sour cream cheese (half) and onions (half if using) in a large bowl.  Scrape into a sprayed 9x13 baking dish and top with remaining bacon, cheese and onions.  Place in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until cheese has melted and browned slightly.  Serve immediately with the rest of the meal.

Note:               For bacon, place on parchment paper or a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet.  Place in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until bacon is done.  Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain and cool.  Chop into pieces about the size of your small fingernail and set aside until needed.

Note:               Dish can be made ahead and refrigerated too.  Just let it sit out for 15 to 30 minutes before putting in the oven.  Also lower temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until cheese has melted and browned slightly.

Note:               Check your ingredients to be sure but this dish should be “Gluten-Free” too.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Gluten-Free Info (Labels) Continued

Today's topic "Labels" is probably more frustrating then any area of dealing with "Gluten-Free."  By labels, I'm talking about the information found on all the products you buy at the grocery store.  The label lists all the ingredients and may tell you it is "Gluten-Free" or that it contains wheat.

Some of the first questions that come to mind are:  What am I looking for?  What are the laws about label information?  Why don't they say "Gluten-Free" on the label if there is no gluten in the product?  Why don't stores mark all GF products?  Why don't they put all GF products in one area?

These are just a few of the questions you'll start wondering about as you shop for GF products.  I don't have all the answers either.

Let me first say, if you are one who needs to be GF or knows someone who does, ask the dietitian.  Most chain grocery stores now have full-time dietitians at their stores.  They will be your best resource at the store in helping make your shopping experience less depressing or frustrating.

I'm going to address a Midwest chain called Hy-Vee because I'm familiar with them.  I sell and/or have sold my cookbook in a number of their stores.  I think they are in about 8 states.  Since finding out about my granddaughter's need to be GF, I've talked to a couple of their dietitians.  The stores in my town are starting to mark all GF products in the stores with a GF stamp on the shelf label of the product.  All of the Hy-Vee stores are doing something along these lines too.  I'm sure other chains have something they are doing too.  So check out the grocery stores in your area and find which one best fits your needs.

Now what am I looking for on a product label?  The first thing is to see if the label states "Gluten-Free" anywhere on it.  That's the easy one.  For a product to state this on the package, it has to be certified by someone.  That is usually the "Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO)" and you can find them at www.gfco.org.

Next we're looking for any mention in the allergy area, usually just below the ingredients list, for the word "Wheat."  You will find it among other words like egg, soy, nuts and milk.  Remember that "Barley" and "Rye" are not required to be mentioned here.

Now it's time to actually look at the ingredients list.  It may list "Wheat," "Barley" or "Rye" as one of the ingredients.  That's the easy label because it immediately identifies those 3 ingredients that you need to avoid.

The problem comes when a label states ingredients such as colors, flavors or spice blends.  If they contain "Wheat" then it is mentioned in the allergy section.  But they may still contain "Gluten" from another source that was not required to be mentioned.  I'm getting a little long today so will continue with these on the next "Gluten-Free Series" in 4 weeks.

If you have looked over the package and label and are still not sure if the product is safe to eat, what do you do?  Look for the contact information on the label.  Companies put a phone number, email address or both on the package.  Use this to contact them and ask about their products in question.  Many will be able to tell you the answers you seek.

This week's GF recipes include "Loaded Cauliflower Bake" and "Brazilian Cheese Rolls" for you trying.  "Happy Cooking" until next week and please share this information with family and friends.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pulled Pork & Jelly Grilled Cheese


Pulled Pork & Jelly Grilled Cheese
(4 servings)

 
Ingredients:

8 slices Bread (your choice)
8 tbsp. Smucker’s Strawberry-Blackberry Preserves (see note)
4 slices Munster Cheese
4 slices Swiss Cheese
1½ lb. Pulled Pork, warm (see note)
4 oz. Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
as needed Unsalted Butter, room temperature

Directions:

Layout your bread slices and top each with a tbsp. of preserves.  Now place a slice of Munster cheese of 4 slices of bread.  Top the remaining 4 slices with the Swiss cheese.  Divide the pulled pork on the 4 slices with Swiss cheese and spread to edges.  Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the pork equally and top with the Munster cheese topped bread.  Heat a large skillet or grill plate on a stove over medium to medium-low heat (about 300-325 degrees).  Spread butter on tops of the 4 sandwiches and place buttered side down once pan is hot.  Butter the unbuttered side now while first side grills.  Flip when bottom side is golden brown (time will vary for several factors) and continue grilling other side.  When second side is golden brown and cheese has melted remove to a cutting board.  Let rest 2-3 minutes before cutting diagonally and serve.

Note:               I use the ingredient above but if you
                        prefer a different flavor, give it a try.

Note:               I use the pulled pork recipe on my food blog (Cabana Boy Cooks) called “Best Pulled Pork I’ve Tasted.”  You can use this or any other pulled pork you like to eat.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Grilled Cheese


Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Grilled Cheese
(4 servings)

 
Ingredients:

2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
1 tbsp. Canola Oil
1 tbsp. Brown Sugar
3 medium Yellow Onions, thinly sliced
8 oz. White Mushrooms, thinly sliced
8 slices Bread (your choice)
4 slices Munster Cheese
4 slices Sharp Cheddar Cheese
as needed Unsalted Butter, room temperature

Directions:

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter.  Add oil and brown sugar to butter and mix before adding the onions.  Cook stirring occasionally until onions darken and reduce (about 20-30 minutes).  Turn heat down to medium and add mushrooms.  Cook until mushrooms soften and liquid has reduced (about 10-20 minutes).  Remove from heat and let cool.  This can be done earlier and left at room temperature.  To start sandwiches, layout the bread and top 4 slices with Munster and 4 slices with Cheddar.  Divide onion mixture evenly over the Cheddar covered slices.  Top this with the Munster covered slices and butter top side of bread.  Heat a large skillet or grill plate on a stove over medium to medium-low heat (about 300-325 degrees).  Once heated, place butter side down in the pan.  Butter the remaining top side of sandwiches while bottom side is grilling.  Flip when bottom side is golden brown (time will vary for several factors) and continue grilling other side.  When second side is golden brown and cheese has melted remove to a cutting board.  Let rest 2-3 minutes before cutting diagonally and serve.

Note:               I like the combination of these two cheeses for my sandwich.  Don’t hesitate to try other cheese combinations you might like better.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Grilled Cheese with Imagination

For many when you mention "Grilled Cheese Sandwich" they immediately think of white bread with Kraft cheese slices between 2 pieces of bread.  There's nothing wrong with that picture but there is more to grilled cheese sandwiches.

In fact, I know of chefs that believe you can only use sliced sandwich white bread in making a grilled cheese.  For children, white bread and Kraft singles work very well.  But what about something more adult?

I've mentioned in my cookbook "More Than Your First Cookbook" and in this food blog that you are only limited in cooking by your imagination and taste buds.  So let's be inventive in how we approach our "Adult Styled Grilled Cheese Sandwiches" today.

So to start, let's think bread.  As I stated earlier, there is nothing wrong with using white sandwich bread that comes pre-sliced.  In fact, it can be a good start.  But don't be afraid to try other breads.  If there is a good bakery in your town, try some of their best selling breads.  Between bakeries, grocery stores and even making your own bread, you have so many good options to use as the base of your "Signature Grilled Cheese Sandwich."

Next comes the "Cheese" and again you have great choices here.  Hey, there is nothing wrong with the processed cheeses like Kraft singles, Velveeta or even Cheese Whiz.  I will actually use them in combination with other cheeses.  I like getting flavor from using 2 or 3 different cheeses on my grilled sandwiches.  One of my favorites to use is Kraft's Pimento Cheese Spread.  It just adds a new dimension to the sandwich.

The biggest thing you want to think about with cheese is do they melt well?  Some cheeses are not great for melting but it doesn't mean you can't use them in your sandwich.  You just have to think about how it will work with the other ingredients.

There are purists out there on whether you can use slices or shredded cheese in making a great grilled sandwich.  The truth is you can use either or both in making a grilled cheese.  Now they do melt differently so take that in mind as you assemble your creation.

In making an adult version, you can put more ingredients between the bread slices than just cheese.  I'm going to mention just a few ideas for you but there truly is no limit.  Have you tried or thought of using meats like bacon, pulled pork, sliced beef, chicken, deli meats, cold-cuts or even fish and seafood?  How about sliced tomatoes, avocados, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms or sliced apples?  Hopefully this gets you thinking.

Another debate with grilled sandwiches has to do with butter.  Do you spread the butter on the outside of the bread slices?  Or do you melt the butter in the pan you are using and brown them that way?  Each works well really so it comes down to personal preference.

The last important piece is the cooking.  Do you use a high heat or a low heat?  Well actually the low heat works best.  The idea with a grilled cheese sandwich is to have a nicely browned outside to the bread with a perfectly melted cheesy inside.  High heat tens to give you a dark outside and un-melted cheese inside.  The low heat gives you that beautiful combination but it takes a little patience.  Now by low heat, I'm talking medium-low.  Remember to get the best results, pre-heat the pan.  If you are using the butter in the pan method, melt the butter after the pan is heated.  Then when it is bubbling a little, add the sandwich to the pan.

I could go on for much longer on this subject but I think you get the idea.  Besides, as I stated earlier it's your imagination and taste-buds that need to develop that culinary masterpiece.  So get to work.

I have a couple of my creations for you this week.  Tomorrow is the "Caramelized Onion  & Mushroom Grilled Cheese" recipe.  On Thursday I have a "Pulled Pork & Jelly Grilled Cheese" for you to try.  Yes, I did say jelly.  Actually I used preserves for this recipe.  You'll be surprised at how it adds to the taste.

So "Happy Cooking" until next week.  Please let me know what think of my sandwich creations and help spread the word about my food blog.  Thank you.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Oaxaca Mushroom & Cheese Quesadillas
(6 servings)

 
Ingredients:

1 tbsp. Corn Oil
1 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
½ cup White Onion, diced
1 medium Jalapeno Pepper, seeded & diced
2 cloves Fresh Garlic, minced
1 lb. Mushrooms, thinly sliced (white or baby bello)
2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1½ cups Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
12 (5-6 inch) Corn Tortillas
as needed Salsa (your favorite) for topping

Directions:

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat melt butter and oil together.  Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent (3-5 minutes).  Now add pepper and garlic and heat until fragrant.  Stir in mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes more.  Next add salt and cook until mixture is moist but not liquidy.  Heat tortillas in a large skillet or grill top for about 20 seconds.  Place a tbsp. or two of mushroom mixture on half of each tortilla.  Top that with a tbsp. or two of cheese.  Fold over tortillas to form half-moon and press down.  Grill each side for about 2 minutes or until cheese melts and tortillas brown slightly.  Cut in half or thirds and serve on a platter with salsa.

Note:               If you can find Oaxaca Cheese use it in
                        place of the Monterey Jack.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Classic Cheese Quesadillas


Classic Cheese Quesadillas
(4 servings)

 
Ingredients:

8 oz. Coarsely Grated Cheese (your choice)
8 (6 inch) Flour Tortillas
1 or 2 medium Fresh or Pickled Jalapeno Peppers, seeded & diced (optional)
Recommended condiments: Guacamole, Salsa or Sour Cream

Directions:

Warm a large frying pan or griddle over medium heat.  Place one tortilla in pan and add an ounce of cheese to one half of tortilla.  Fold over the empty half and press down.  Griddle 1 to 2 minutes and then flip over and continue another 1 to 2 minutes or until tortilla is slightly browned and cheese has melted.  Remove and repeat process until all tortillas are done.  Keep finished ones in a warm 200 degree oven while finishing the other tortillas.  Cut each tortilla in thirds and place on a platter to serve.  Offer condiments mentioned above and/or others with the quesadillas.

Note:               Cheddar and Monterey Jack are the most used cheeses for quesadillas.  You can use one or the other or combine them.  If your tastes are to other cheeses, give them a try too.

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