Healthy Broccoli Cheddar Soup

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It occurred to me the other day that I could make a low-calorie base for a broccoli cheddar soup. When I make a creamy broccoli cheddar soup, I can’t skimp on the cheese but I learned I can skimp on the cream and butter. To make the base for my soup I boiled two cups of cauliflower in two cups of low-sodium chicken broth. Once cooked, I took the cauliflower off of the heat and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Next, I blended the mixture with about a cup of 1% milk and set aside. Next, I cooked some diced onion in a little bit of butter until translucent and added the cauliflower mixture, about 4 cups of frozen broccoli, a splash of beer, and a few cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Once the broccoli was cooked, I removed about 1/3 of the total soup mixture and blended it, making sure to leave some nice big chunks of broccoli behind in the pot. Finally, the blended portion is returned to the rest of the soup mixture and I let the whole thing simmer for a bit before serving up a bowl with some extra cheddar on top. I added salt to taste at the end but I did season the onion with salt and pepper while it cooked. This soup did not disappoint in the least. I look forward to continue to work on making variations on healthier soup bases. I think next time I’ll try adding some barley or brown rice to the blender.

Twice Baked Potato: Why I Love Crispy Prosciutto

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I’m very particular about my twice baked potatoes. I guess I’m that way about a lot of things in the kitchen. The other day Gar was grilling steak and I kept hovering and staring until he said, “What?” and I said (mildly accusingly), “How many times have you flipped that?” he said “once” and I said “good.” Back to the potatoes, once they are baked I like to make a couple slits, open them, and let them cool slightly before scooping out as much of the potato as possible. A handful of pulses in a food processor works great to mix all of your ingredients. The potato you see in the picture was 369 calories (including the prosciutto) and very filling. I combined my potato with 2 tbsp. of fat free half and half, 1/8 cup of 2% shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 3/4 of a cup of broccoli, a few mushrooms that I sautéed with a little margarine (I had some mushrooms I needed to use), salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. Once everything was combined I stuffed the mixture back into the potato, topped it with just under 1/4 cup of the cheddar, and baked it in a 425 degree oven for another 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, I put some left over prosciutto in the toaster oven at 400 degrees and cooked it for about 10 minutes on each side until it was dried out and crumbly and used it as the final topping on my potato.

Now, let’s talk about crispy prosciutto for a moment. I bought some prosciutto for a chicken saltimboca recipe I wanted to try out from my new Batali cookbook. I wasn’t too impressed with the recipe (I’ll post about it next week) but I had a decent amount of prosciutto left over that I needed to use.  Topping things with dried, crispy prosciutto is a great way to use leftovers. It is so easy to make and it provides the great smoky pork flavor without bringing along the grease that bacon usually does. Finally, it is so incredibly crispy without tasting burnt or being difficult to chew. I highly recommend using prosciutto in this way. On this potato, small paper thin crispy pieces of yummy flavorful pork permeated every bite, I was loving it.

Best Bacon Cheeseburger

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After eating these “western” style bacon cheeseburgers that I started making almost a year ago, I cannot eat similar burgers from fast food or other common restaurants. I’m not kidding, I will not eat mediocre or even relatively decent burgers with bacon, onion rings, and BBQ sauce as snobby as that sounds. Doing so is heart-wrenching because I know how good such a burger could be and I want the one that I make at home although I’m not always up for doing the work.

To make this burger you’ll need to make a Bacon Weave and Holy Onion Rings. I’ve actually deep fried my bacon weave a few times since the fryer was already going. The bacon weave doesn’t come out as pretty but it works. I strongly recommend making the Holy Onion Rings. If that is not possible you could buy onion rings from the freezer section at your local grocery store and crisp them up in the oven or toaster oven but this will give you a burger that is only really good as opposed to a knock-your-socks-off-too-good-for-words-I’m-just-going-to-keep-eating, burger. The choice is yours. Finally, I am a really big fan of using telera rolls for burgers and I will tell you why. Mainly, I love these rolls because of their chewy (but not too chewy) crust and their really soft center. I also love a round roll because I can remove a little bit of the bread from the top and create some room for the burger toppings. If you cannot find telera rolls in your area (try finding a Mexican market if you cannot find them in your regular market) then my next choice would be a kaiser roll.

When I assemble my burger, I put some BBQ sauce (I really like Sweet Baby Ray’s brown sugar BBQ sauce for this) on the bottom piece of bread. Then I add my burger that has melted mild cheddar (processed cheese is sometimes comforting and nostalgic for me but it has no place in this burger). Next, my bacon weave goes down and the onion rings are on top of that followed by some more BBQ sauce. On the top bun, I put I light layer of mayo and a little bit of red and black pepper but that is purely optional. This burger is a little time intensive to make but it is beyond worth it.

Enchisagna

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I love me some enchiladas, but I don’t always feel like prepping the tortillas properly and individually rolling the enchiladas…. enter enchisagna. Enchisagna is created by layering your enchilada ingredients like a lasagna. The baking dish I used in this photo is perfectly sized for a large corn tortilla to fit in it. However, I have cut corn tortillas in half and placed them next to each other to create the tortilla layer in larger baking dishes.

I start by placing a layer of enchilada sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Next, I place a layer of tortilla, then a layer of chicken, then a layer of cheese, and finally a layer of sauce. Repeat this layering process 2 to 3 times. For the final layer, I place my corn tortilla(s) then pour in a generous amount of enchilada sauce and finally top the dish with cheese. I bake my enchisagna in a 425 degree oven until the sauce in the dish is simmering (about 15 to 20 minutes). The chicken I use is breast meat that I season with garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, chilli powder, salt, and pepper. I cover the chicken and bake it for about 30 to 40 minutes at 325 degrees. I love chicken enchisagna but beef or cheese enchisagna with a red sauce is great too. Also, the fresher your corn tortillas are, the better. It is excellent if you have a tortilla press and make them yourself but I find the next best thing is finding a market that makes fresh tortillas and using those. Lastly, try using a quesadilla or enchilado cheese. Manchego cheese can be great too.

Enchisagna has many virtues but I love how you get a perfectly saucy bite each time. I also love that I can assemble this dish relatively quickly and its great to assemble in advance and bake when you get home from doing whatever you are doing.

Taco Mornings

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I love having a taco night and I love using the leftover ingredients in the morning just the same. I usually do a taco night once a month, it’s sort of a lot of prep work the way I do them. I usually marinate the carne asada that morning then get home and put together various bowls containing cilantro and onion, salsa, lettuce, cheese, limes, and sour cream more or less. Sometimes I buy relatively fresh tortillas from the hispanic market down the way, sometimes I’ll buy masa from them and make them myself. When I’m up for the work, taco nights are great but I’m becoming more and more obsessed with using the leftovers to make some sort of breakfast in the morning.

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