Sunday, November 8, 2015

Low carb Smoked Gouda "mac-n-cheese" made with Cauliflower

Well hello again!

It's been a while! While I have been gone I have been dealing with some medical issues. For one, I have developed diabetes, mainly due to my being overweight. This did not come as a huge surprise since diabetes runs in my family and  I suppose it was only a matter of time.

I have adopted a low carbohydrate lifestyle and in three months time I have lost nearly 25 pounds and have my diabetes under control enough that I no longer need to take my medications, PROVIDED I continue to follow my low carb lifestyle.

Yes folks, sugar really is the enemy. As you may, or may not be aware, carbohydrates are made from long chains of simple sugars like glucose, so every time you eat bread, pasta, rice or potatoes you are eating sugar. This can wreak havoc on your blood glucose. If you are a foodie like me, this can create quite a dilemma.

Luckily the answer lies in creative cooking with other ingredients that are naturally low in carbs. Things like the cauliflower in this dish make an excellent substitute for macaroni.  I have made pizza crust and risotto and "mashed potatoes" all with amazingly versatile cauliflower.

 The other good news is that we are beginning to understand that fat is not necessarily the enemy we once thought it was. This is not to say that you should sit down and consume a pound of butter, but that fat can be used to enhance the flavor and texture of low carb foods in a way that makes a low carb lifestyle not only doable, but, dare I say it, enjoyable!

As an added bonus, since gluten-free cooking and the paleo diet craze are so popular, low carb substitutes are easy to find in most grocery stores and the internet is chock full of recipes from folks like me thinking outside the culinary box. 

The key to this lifestyle is to keep things in perspective and enjoy indulgent dishes like this in moderation.  Do I eat this every week? No! But when the craving for mac-n-cheese comes knocking,why not enjoy a much healthier alternative! Learn to read nutrition labels on everything you buy, it's amazing how many hidden carbohydrates are in the food we eat, especially processed foods.

I have decided to reimagine many of my most popular recipes and the result has been delicious. Even picky eaters and vegetable haters love this rendition of Mama Ozzy's decadent cheesy baked pasta goodness.

This recipe is a compilation of the best tips and tricks I could find on the internet combined with Mama Ozzy's sensibilities for flavor! I hope you will try this terrific dish, healthy comfort food at it's finest!

Mama Ozzy's Smoked Gouda Cauliflower and Cheese
Serves 8

1 large head cauliflower, green parts removed and cut into small chunks
15 oz. ricotta cheese
8 oz. sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg 
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
8 oz shredded smoked Gouda cheese
16 oz shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (reserve 1/2 cup for topping)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 slices fried bacon, crumbled
1cup crushed fried pork rinds (chicharrones)

Place chopped cauliflower in a large glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high power for 10 minutes. Let cauliflower rest, still covered, for 30 minutes to cool down.

Chop the cauliflower into small chunks, stems and all.

You should get about 8 cups of chopped cauliflower.

After microwaving, let the cauliflower steam for thirty minutes. The plastic wrap will shrink down to create a cool tight seal!

Pre heat oven to 350 F.

Empty the cauliflower into a clean cloth dish towel ( it will still be pretty hot) and carefully squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

After thirty minutes dump the cauliflower on a clean dish towel.

Twist the towel tightly over the sink to remove as much water as possible.

In another large bowl combine ricotta, sour cream, cream, egg, spices. 

Add all the cheeses and mix to combine. 

 Finally, add the squeezed cauliflower and fold until well blended.  Place in a 8x11 glass baking pan ( no need to grease).

Top with reserved cheese, crumbled bacon and pork rinds.  

Bake 45 minutes until bubbly and golden. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Home-Made Corned Beef and Pastrami

Happy St. Patricks Day!
I think we all know by now that there is absolutely nothing Irish about corned beef.  Corned beef is much more Jewish/German than anything else, but since we all seem to love it this time of year, I thought it might be time to post how easy it is to make your own corned beef.  I use Alton Brown's excellent recipe as a guide for mine.

First things first.  The word "corned" actually means to be cured in a salty brine.  It is an ancient method of preserving meat for long periods of time.  Making your own corned beef requires at least a two week time investment, but the actual work can be completed in under an hour.  You must use Pink Salt or Prague Powder in the curing process or you risk contamination of the meat and you will never achieve that glorious red color of the final product.

And since we are making the commitment to brining our own beef, we might as well go the extra step and make pastrami.  Pastrami is nothing more than smoked corned beef.

So on this St. Patrick's Day I present to you two decidedly non Irish foods: Corned Beef and Pastrami. Either of them makes for an unforgettable Reuben sandwich. Na Zdravi!

Corned Beef 

1, 5-6 lb beef brisket, cut in half

For the Brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp pink salt (also known as Prague Powder or Salt Peter)
2 cinnamon sticks broken in to large pieces
1 tsp mustard seed
8 whole cloves
1 tsp ground allspice
12 juniper berries
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 tsp ground dried ginger
2 quarts water
2 lbs ice cubes

In a large pot combine salt, sugar, spices.  Add 2 quarts water and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Add 2 lbs ice cubes and stir until brine is cooled and ice is melted.

Brine ingredients

A kitchen scale helps weight the ice cubes

Place each half of the beef brisket in a large, seal-able plastic bag.  Evenly distribute the brine and spices between the two bags.  Remove all air and seal the bags.  Refrigerate at least 14 days, rotating bags occasionally, before cooking.

Let this guy hang out in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks

To cook Corned Beef:

3 quarts water
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp ground allspice
2 bay leaves
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
optional  1 cabbage (I prefer Savoy cabbage) , cored and chopped
optional  1 lb. small new potatoes

Remove corned beef from brine and rinse briefly to remove any seasoning clinging to the beef.  Place beef in a large heavy metal pot and cover with 3 quarts of water.  Add salt, pepper, allspice, bay leaves, carrots, onion and celery.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and cover with a lid.  Simmer for 3 hours.

Add Cabbage and potatoes (if using) and cook over medium heat, until cabbage and potatoes are tender (about 30-45 minutes).

Remove Beef from pot and place on cutting board.  Cut into slices across the grain.  Serve with cabbage and other cooked vegetables and broth.

Boiled corned beef, ready for slicing

A grilled Reuben sandwich and the cabbage 
and potatoes makes for a hearty delicious meal


2- 3 Tbsp cracked black pepper
Apple wood chips

Remove Corned Beef from brine and rinse briefly to remove any seasoning clinging to the beef.  Gently pat beef dry with paper toweling, then place on a baking sheet and coat with black pepper. pressing into all sides of the beef.

Crusted with cracked black pepper and ready to be smoked

Prepare charcoal smoker.  Smoke for 6 hours over apple wood chips until black.

Remove meat from smoker and place in a 9x13 glass baking pan.  add 1 cup water, cover tightly with foil and bake for an additional 6 hours at 200 F.  Cool completely before slicing.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mushroom Paprikás (Paprikash)

Well hello!  Long time no see!

It has been a long time since I posted any recipes, and I do have a good reason for it.  I was ill in May and upon recovering, I was promoted to department head of Arts and Sciences at my college, which was quite a change for me.  I have been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest!  Now that things have calmed down a bit, I thought it might be time to pick up the pen and start blogging again. 

So... it is autumn and time when I crave hearty, simple and earthy foods like this dish.  Hungarian Paprikás (pronounced paprikash) is usually made with chicken, but I much prefer this vegetarian version.  I think the mushrooms have so much more flavor when slowly caramelized with onions, deglazed with brandy and are enrobed in a silky paprika sauce.

As you might imagine from the name, paprikás is all about paprika.  I like to use three kinds in this dish: Plain paprika is sweet and mildly peppery; smoked paprika is earthy and smoky; and hot paprika is spicy... really seriously spicy, so go easy with it, a little goes a long way.

3 kinds of paprika, thyme and brandy... just part of what makes this dish amazing!

I like to finish the dish with a few drops of black truffle oil, which seems really fancy, expensive and exotic, but really is not that bad.  A small bottle of white truffle oil will cost about $15.00, but since you only use about 3 drops in a dish (it is very very powerful) a small bottle lasts a very long time.  Try it, you will be amazed what it adds to a dish!
This little beauty was a stocking-stuffer from Doug.
  Excellent gift idea for the cooks on your list!

Mushroom Paprikás (Paprikash)
serves 6-8

1 /2 cup butter (or olive oil)
3 medium onions, diced
1- 1.5 lb fresh mushrooms thickly sliced
2 red bell peppers, seeded, diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 cup brandy
2 cups water
1 cup sour cream
2 - 3 drops black truffle oil (optional)

1 lb wide egg noodles, prepared according to package directions
1/4 cup minced parsley

In a large deep skillet melt butter (or olive oil) over medium high heat.  once hot, Add onions and saute until translucent, about 15 minutes.

Add mushrooms and saute, until they have released their water and water has evaporated, about 20 minutes.

You'll need a deep skillet to hold all the mushrooms until they cook down...

Once the mushrooms have released their water and it has almost completely evaporated, 
the mushrooms will begin to caramelize...yum!

Add red bell peppers and garlic and cook until peppers are just tender.

Add all 3 paprikas, thyme, salt and pepper and cook 2 minutes.  Add brandy, and carefully burn off alcohol with a lit match.

Add 2 cups water and let mixture cook over medium high heat until a thick, stew like sauce is created (about 20 minutes).  Stir in sour cream and truffle oil.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately over buttered egg noodles with parsley.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Strawberry Pavlova

This is what we served for dessert for Mother's Day.  Light and airy, melt-in-your-mouth pavlova with organic strawberries in balsamic vinegar and honey.  The perfect ending to any meal.

Pavlova was created in the 1920's by an Australian chef in honor of a visit by famed Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.  It is a meringue-based confection topped with freshly whipped cream and fresh fruit.  The meringue is made with a small amount of vinegar which keeps the meringue soft like a marshmallow.

The combination of soft meringue fruit and cream is incredible.  It is incredibly light and incredibly delicious.  Best of all Pavlova has a very short shelf life and needs to be entirely consumed shortly after it is assembled or it will begin to disintegrate.  I have never had a problem with asking my guests to help finish the Pavlova, they are always happy to oblige!

Strawberry Pavlova
serves 8

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 Tsp corn starch
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla

1 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp powdered sugar

3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 175F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer whip the egg whites until frothy.  With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar.  Continue to whip until a very stiff and glossy meringue is formed.

Sift cornstarch over meringue and fold in until well mixed.  Add vinegar and vanilla and fold until combined.

Trace an 8-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Spread meringue into a disc on the parchment paper.

Bake for 2 hours, then turn off oven and let meringue set in oven for an additional hour.

Place meringue in an airtight container until ready to serve.

In a cold bowl combine heavy cream and powdered sugar and whip until fluffy and stiff.  Spread cream over meringue.

In a separate bowl combine berries, vinegar and honey and toss to combine.  Spoon berries over the cream.

Serve immediately.

Lemon and Artichoke Arancini

This year for mother's day we decided to make a light menu featuring some mediterranean favorites.  We served oven roasted red snapper with caponata on a bed of pancetta-flavored home-grown swiss chard , strawberry belinis and for an appetizer these beautiful little arancini.

I have to say that Italian food is probably my very favorite cuisine.  It can be rustic and yet sophisticated, light, yet hearty and always loaded with flavor.  This appetizer is the perfect example.

Arancini (little oranges) are balls of risotto that are stuffed with meat or cheese, rolled in bread crumbs and quickly fried.  They are the perfect way to use up left over risotto, though I find more times than not I end up making risotto only for the purpose of making arancini.  They are time-consuming to make and are truly a labor of love so I only make them about once a year for special occasions so I don't need to worry about the fact that they are deep fried!

You can make arancini with any kind of risotto you like, but I must admit this recipe is one of my all time favorites.  A delicate and fragrant artichoke and lemon risotto stuffed with marinated mozarella cheese.  The result is a crunchy ball of delicious risotto oozing with melted cheese.  YUM.  This is an indulgence so go ahead and enjoy in moderation!

Lemon and Artichoke Arancini
makes 12

For the Risotto:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock, brought to a simmer
2 - 15 oz. cans artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
finely grated zest of one large lemon

In a large non-stick skillet heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add rice and toss over medium high heat to coat with oil until grains begin to turn opaque.  Add garlic and wine and stir until liquid is almost completely absorbed.

Add simmering vergetable stock, a ladle at a time to the rice, stirring constantly until mixture is almost dry before adding more stock.  Continue this process until all the stock is used and the rice is creamy and al dente.

Remove from heat.

Add artichokes, salt , pepper, butter, parmesan and lemon zest to rice and stir until mixed.  Transfer to a storage container with a tight-fitting lid and cool completely.  Can be prepared 2 days in advance and kept refrigerated.

For the Arancini :
12 small chunks of mozzarella cheese

1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 - 3 cups panko bread crumbs

Oil for deep frying

Scoop about 1/4 cup of cold risotto into the palm of your hand and flatten to a disc.

Place a piece of mozzarella cheese in the center of the rice and bring rice up around cheese, squeezing and rolling gently to encase cheese inside a ball of risotto.

Roll the ball in flour, then cover in beaten egg and lastly roll in panko bread crumbs.  Keep in an airtight container until ready to fry (can be prepared 1 day ahead and kept refrigerated).

Preheat oil to 375 F.  Fry arancini, a few at a time, until golden brown (about 4-5 minutes).  Drain on paper towels.  Serve hot.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Easter Menu 2013

What are you having for Easter this year?  Today is Palm Sunday, so you only have a week to prepare!  Mama Ozzy is making tried and true Easter favorites and I thought I would share a couple of them with you, perhaps as inspiration.

And as quid pro quo, please let me know if you make any of these recipes.  Did you like them?  Did you alter them? What cool things did you do in your kitchen?  I love to hear from you!

Easter Menu 2013

Shrimp Cocktail

Spiral-sliced Honey Ham

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mama Ozzy's Colcannon

Today I am making Irish comfort food.  And for me that means Colcannon.

Colcannon is very simple to make.  It's basically mashed potatoes, sauteed cabbage and bacon.  Stick to your ribs comfort food happy goodness.

How can you go wrong when a dish starts out by doing this?!

 Beautiful blanched Savoy cabbage...

 Have a bowl and be prepared to take a nap!  Which is exactly what I am doing this afternoon while Doug is watching the Carolina Tarheels [hopefully] win the 2013 ACC tournament.

Happy St. Patty's y'all!

Mama Ozzy's Colcannon

2.5 lbs russet potatoes
2.5 lbs Savoy cabbage, cored and cut into quarters
1 lb bacon
1 large onion, chopped
4 green onions
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup milk, hot
salt and pepper

Place unpeeled whole potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife (about 30 minutes).

Remove potatoes from water and add cabbage to boiling water.  Bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes.  Drain cabbage into a colander.

Fry bacon in a large skillet, and drain on paper towels, reserving bacon fat.

Add onion to bacon fat and saute until translucent.  Coarsely chop cabbage and add to skillet, cover and cook until cabbage is very tender.  Season with salt and pepper.

Peel potatoes and run them through a ricer into a large bowl. Add butter and hot milk and mix until smooth, adding more milk if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper.

Fold cabbage and reserved crumbled bacon into potatoes until well mixed.  Serve hot.