Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower and Broccoli

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This version of the classic comfort food gets heat from cayenne, white pepper and dry mustard, and sharp flavor from extra sharp cheddar and Parmesan, and a kick from the Chardonnay. I add cauliflower which is good on its own with the cheese sauce, and if you like, broccoli for extra color.
Preheat oven to 375◦

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Serves 10

½ large onion or 1 small onion, chopped
1 large head cauliflower
1 head broccoli
2 Tb butter
Melt butter in heavy frying pan. Chop onion and stir into butter over medium-low heat until soft. While the onions are cooking, slice cauliflower and broccoli and cut into flowerets. Stir into onion mixture and cook for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Alternatively, you can roast the cauliflower in the oven and add to the onions and broccoli. I use a food processor with a grater attachment to grate the cheese.
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 tsp salt
Boil a large pot full of water. Stir in salt and macaroni and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Drain. Pour back into the pot. Stir the cauliflower and broccoli into the macaroni.

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roux:
¼ cup butter
¼ cup all purpose flour
a few shakes cayenne to taste
¼ tsp dry mustard
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp white pepper
½ tsp salt
1 ¾ cups milk (I use 1%)
¼ cup dry white wine such as chardonnay
1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until it makes a thick, smooth paste. Cook the roux for 5 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk in one cup milk until smooth. Whisk in the rest of the milk. Stir in cayenne, mustard, bay leaf, salt and white pepper. Cook this béchamel sauce for 15 minutes, whisking constantly. Turn off heat. Remove bay leaf. Whisk in grated cheese until fully incorporated in sauce. Stir in ¼ cup wine. Adjust salt if desired.
Pour cheese sauce over macaroni and vegetables and stir until it is well combined. Spray a large casserole with non-stick spray. Pour mixture into casserole.

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Bake at 375◦ for 30 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.

Champagne-Shallot Vinaigrette

saladThis light vinaigrette is perfect to toss into salad greens and arugula. I sprinkle a few strawberries, blueberries, feta cheese and sliced almonds over the coated greens.

Champagne vinegar is a light golden, mild vinegar made from Chardonnay grapes aged in oak barrels. It can be expensive, but the Berkeley Bowl brand is a good deal. I’ve generally avoided salad vinegars because of their strong acidity. But  just ½ tsp honey is needed to balance the acidity of the champagne vinegar in this dressing. Since I don’t like the sharpness of fresh raw garlic, I prefer to get the garlic flavor from garlic olive oil. I used a shallot, which is milder than an onion.

Makes ¾ cup, which is enough to sprinkle on about 6 large or 10 small salads. Refrigerate leftovers and use within a week.

vinaigrette ingredientsIngredients:
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tb minced shallot
3 Tb champagne vinegar
½ tsp honey
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt (to taste)
a few grinds of black pepper
1 Tb garlic oil
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

champagne vinaigretteIn a small bowl or blender, whisk together all ingredients except oils. While blending or whisking, slowly add the olive oil in a stream until the vinaigrette is emulsified.

Chicken and Bell Peppers with Black Bean Garlic Sauce

???????????????????????????????I made this dish for Chinese New Year. The red and green bell peppers made it so pretty.  I used Lee Kum Kee brand black bean garlic sauce which is made from soy sauce, fermented black beans, garlic, water, sugar and salt. It gave a recipe on the jar for this dish, which I dressed up with scallions and Serrano chili.

???????????????????????????????Serves 4

1 Tb canola oil

3 half-breasts chicken (1 ½ breasts)

1 large red bell pepper

1 large red green bell pepper

1 Serrano chili pepper

½ bunch scallions (green onions)

3 Tb black bean garlic sauce

½ tsp sugar

soy sauce to taste

Mince chicken into bite-sized pieces. Remove seeds and ribs from peppers. Slice bells julienne-style into thin pieces, and then slice into 1inch lengths. Mince Serrano finely. Discard roots from scallions, and then slice into small pieces.

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Heat oil in a wok or large heavy frying pan. Add chicken, peppers, garlic sauce and sugar. Stir constantly for five minutes. Add scallions and cook for 3 – 4 minutes, until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Add soy sauce to taste. Serve over brown jasmine rice.

Punjabi-style Potatoes and Cauliflower

potatoes in panMy colleague Purva told me a version of this vegetarian recipe made by her mother, who comes from the Punjabi region of India. Purva says onion, ginger and garlic are the base of Indian cooking. She cautioned me to always add garam masala at the end. Turmeric powder adds a nice yellow color and is reputed to have many health benefits.

To make this a vegan dish, omit the butter.

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1 large head cauliflower

4 large Russet potatoes

1 large yellow onion

4 Tb olive oil, divided

1/2 tsp powdered ginger

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp powdered turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1 – 2 tsp sea salt (to taste)

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp whole mustard seeds

2 tsp melted butter (optional)

1 tsp garam masala

Preheat oven to 400°F.

???????????????????????????????Cut cauliflower into florets, and then cut florets in quarters or smaller pieces. Place in an oiled shallow baking dish. Drizzle with 2 Tb olive oil and toss gently. Spread in a single layer and roast for 20 minutes until it begins to brown.

Peel potatoes, slice in half lengthwise, and then slice crosswise thickly.  Place in a large pot of boiling water, so that the water covers them by 3 inches, and cook for 25 minutes until soft.

???????????????????????????????While potatoes and cauliflower are cooking, stir whole mustard seeds in a dry frying pan over medium flame until they begin to pop. Set aside.

???????????????????????????????Chop onion into small pieces. Sauté in remaining 2 Tb olive oil until soft, and then add minced garlic, and sauté another minute. Stir in mustard seeds, ginger, turmeric, cumin, pepper and salt.

???????????????????????????????When potatoes are soft, drain, and then mash with a potato masher in the big pot.

DSC03390Add the cauliflower mixture to the potatoes and stir until well combined.

Stir in melted butter and garam masala, and adjust salt.

Eggnog Popovers

popovers in basketPerfect for Christmas or New Year’s morning. These popovers are crispy on the outside and custard-like on the inside, with the rich taste of eggnog.

Mix the batter the eve before, then pop them in the oven for a breakfast treat. I use  good quality eggnog for best results.

1 cup eggnog, heated with milk

½ cups hot milk. I use 1%, but you can use non fat or whole milk. (But don’t use lactose-free or other milk substitutes; they won’t work.)

3 large eggs

1 ½ cup white all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp nutmeg

3 Tb melted butter

non-stick pan spray

Heat the milk and eggnog for 2 minutes in the microwave or in a saucepan until hot but not boiling.

Beat eggs well in a blender. Pour in eggnog/milk while beating until foamy. Add the flour and nutmeg, scraping the sides of the blender. Add melted butter and mix again. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour, and preferably overnight.

???????????????????????????????In the morning, preheat the oven to 375’. Place a muffin pan into the oven for 3 minutes. Remove the pan and spray with non-stick pan spray.

Pour in the batter until holders are ¾ full.

baked popoversBake for 30-35 minutes, until tops are puffed up and browned. If popovers are baking unevenly, rotate the pan the last 10 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Persimmon bread

???????????????????????????????We have a Hachiya persimmon tree. These persimmons are oval shaped, and can only be eaten when very soft, unlike their flat-bottomed Fuyu cousins which I eat hard.

???????????????????????????????When you cut them open, they can look either jewel-like or very sexy, (depending on what kind of mind you have.)

???????????????????????????????I based this recipe on my banana bread, and used a couple of ripe bananas for sweetness. I add spices, brown sugar, and a tad of maple syrup. to complement the taste of the persimmon.

Ingredients

1/3 cup 1% milk

1 tsp lemon juice

2 eggs

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 soft bananas (3/4 cup mashed)

2 very soft Hachiya persimmons

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tb canola oil

1 Tb pure maple syrup

1 ½ cup unbleached white flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

½ cup finely ground whole wheat flour

¼ cup ground flax seed

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

¼ tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp cloves

½ cup walnut or pecan pieces

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Add lemon juice to milk. Let it sit while you are mixing the other ingredients. The milk should curdle, resembling buttermilk. (You can skip this step and use buttermilk instead if you prefer).

Sift white flour, baking soda, salt, spices, and baking powder into a medium bowl. Stir in whole wheat flour and flax seed.  Stir well to combine ingredients.

Whip eggs in mixer until well combined. Add sugar and whip on high speed for 2-3 minutes until creamy.

Add bananas and persimmons to mixer and mix well, then whip on high. Add the maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Whip for another minute.

With mixer on low, add half the milk and half the flour mixture, and then repeat. Mix only until ingredients are almost combined. Add nuts and mix slowly until they are just combined.

Spray an 8″ x 8″ pan or Bundt pan with non-stick spray. Pour in batter.

Place on the middle shelf of preheated 350º oven. Bake for 1 hr 15 min minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out dry. Dust with powdered sugar mixed with a few shakes of cinnamon.

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Steel-cut oats oatmeal with apples and nuts

???????????????????????????????This fiber-rich, creamy and crunchy oatmeal will stick to your ribs on these cold winter mornings when you need something to warm you up and keep you going.

I used the quick-cooking steel cut oats from Trader Joe’s. They cook in only 8 minutes. Nuts add crunch and protein, and apples and/ or raisins add sweetness and fiber. This recipe serves 2, but you can double or triple it to store some for those weekday mornings when you need a quick warm-up before work. It’s all-natural, so much better than those instant oatmeal packets.

Serves 2

1 1/2 cups water

a few shakes salt

1/2 cup quick-cooking steel cut oats

2 Tb ground flax seed

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 apple (I used a honey crisp apple)

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup walnut pieces

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup milk

1 Tb cream (optional)

pure maple syrup or brown sugar (optional)

Peel and chop the apple into bite-size pieces. Bring water to a boil. Add salt, oatmeal. flax seed, cinnamon, apple and raisins. Lower heat and cover pot, and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and stir in nuts and milk for one minute. Pour into bowls and add a tablespoon of cream for a treat. If you desire added sweetness, add maple syrup or brown sugar to taste.