Cheeseburger Deluxe Casserole

I am not sure what possessed me to throw this together, but I’m sure it had something to do with watching all kinds of delicious burgers being made and eaten on The Food Network.

In one pan, I threw together diced onions, green peppers, and yellow peppers. In another pan, I browned a pound of grass-fed ground beef and seasoned it with some cajun seasoning.

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I then threw the sauteed peppers and cooked ground beef together into a casserole pan and topped it with mushrooms. I did this for ease– but, in hindsight, I might have sauteed the mushrooms in advance as well since mushrooms generally release a lot of moisture.

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I topped the casserole with a cheddar/monterey jack cheese mix and popped it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

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The dish turned out to be extremely delicious (albeit watery), and it definitely filled my cheeseburger craving. I ended up draining the excess liquid and using that as a base for some great veggie soup the day after.

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The mushrooms, onions, and peppers really gave the dish that extra special burger topping flavor. This would have been delicious over rice, but we enjoyed it as is.

Cheeseburger Deluxe Casserole

Mashed Daikon Radish

So, I will preface this post by saying that I confused my daikon radishes with turnips. I remember watching a chef on the Food Network make mashed turnips as an alternative to mashed potatoes, so I thought that would be exciting to try.

So I peeled and cut up pieces of what were actually daikon radishes and boiled them in water for about 35 minutes. I will say that the boiling radish filled my house with a sulfuric smell, so beware of this.

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Once the radish chunks were tender enough (a.k.a. fork-tender), I mashed them up and added some vegan butter, a dash of almond milk, salt and pepper.

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The outcome was not quite like mashed potatoes, but they had a light, watery quality that I kind of enjoyed. The butter definitely helped mask the slight bitterness of the radishes, which I’m glad about. I used this mashed daikon radish as the side for some chicken I had baked the day before, and it was a good complement for it. The husband didn’t really love it, but he might feel differently if I try this again with turnips. Ha!

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Mashed Daikon Radish

Kale-Based Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict is one of my favorite breakfast foods. It’s just the perfect blend of saltiness, silkiness, brightness, and heartiness that you want in a meal. Since I’ve been trying to come up with unique, wheat-free, “healthy” breakfast ideas for the husband and myself, I thought it would be fun to try a spin on my fave breakfast. It involves several steps (which, alone, are quite easy– but, together, could be a bit stressful), but I thought it would make a perfect Sunday brunch meal.

I sauteed some dino kale with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. I didn’t want to add any aromatics like garlic or onion so that it would act as a nice, neutral base (as would the traditional English muffin). I then set the kale aside and put some leftover pork loin bacon (very similar to Canadian bacon) in a hot skillet.

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While the bacon was cooking up, I prepared my poaching liquid (water + a little vinegar) and brought it to a boil. Once the water reached a boil, I brought it down to a simmer and dropped in two eggs. I let those cook in the water bath for about three minutes.

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While the bacon was browning and the eggs were poaching, I threw a Hollandaise sauce together. I just looked at a few blender recipes online and used what I had: three egg yolks, a dollop of mustard, the juice of half a lemon, a few dashes of salt, and a 1/2 cup of melted butter (which I drizzled into the blender while the rest of the ingredients were already blending). The outcome was a nice, light hollandaise. I would probably have added a little more lemon if I had any left, but it still turned out well. I think this blender method is fairly fool-proof, which is awesome.

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Once I had all the different components ready, it was easy to build. The result is a beautiful, restaurant-quality plate of deliciousness.

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I was especially pleased that the egg turned out just right. This is essentially what you’re looking for in a poached egg: a well set exterior with a nice, runny yolk. Ah, so beautiful! Love it. I’ve made this before with smoked salmon (instead of Canadian bacon) and a few sprigs of dill on top, and it was divine. That is definitely next on my list.

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Kale-Based Eggs Benedict

Ratatouille Masterpiece

Have you ever seen Disney’s Ratatouille and stared in awe at the beautiful circular layers of alternating veggies? I first tried making this ratatouille when a friend of mine had a craving for it. I used this recipe and it turned out wonderfully. I had some eggplant and zucchini on-hand, so I decided to give it another try. The recipe is insanely simple and fairly difficult to mess up, which I of course love.

I started by slicing the vegetables with my mandolin. I sliced the eggplant first so I could salt the slices and set them aside. This helps to pull out the moisture in the eggplant, which essentially produces a better (and less watery) ratatouille later. If you do this, allow yourself about 30 minutes and make sure to wipe the salt off with a wet paper towel and dab at the moisture that has already accumulated on top of each slice. I then sliced up some additional veggies: zucchini, yellow squash, and vine tomatoes. I set those aside and chopped up about three cloves of garlic and a medium-sized onion.

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I covered the bottom of my cast-iron pan with about a cup of pureed tomatoes and a couple tablespoons of concentrated tomato puree. I mixed up the onions and garlic with it, along with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

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I then began layering the vegetables together, alternating the different varieties and starting from the outside. I eventually covered the tomato mixture completely. I splashed the top with olive oil, more salt and pepper, and some thyme. I then covered the top with parchment (cut out in a circle so it could fit nicely within the pan), and put the pan in a 375-degree oven for about 40 minutes.

IMG_3500The finished product not only looked and smelled great, but it tasted great as well. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to snap a picture right after it came out of the oven, but here’s the last bit of it left after I brought it to a potluck. It’s delicious and extremely flavorful on its own, or you can sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top. This will certainly make a vegetable lover out of anyone.

Ratatouille Masterpiece

Migas are My Friend

I was never a big migas fan. Migas are a popular Tex-Mex breakfast dish made with scrambled eggs, corn tortilla strips, diced onions, sliced chile peppers, diced tomatoes, cheese, and whatever additional spices or salsas the cook would prefer to add. I never really felt drawn to it because it lacked any kind of breakfast meat. Surprisingly, this wheat-free period of my life has made me reassess my feelings toward migas. When the popular breakfast option of choice here in Texas is a taco, migas are a very welcome alternative. Of course the corn tortillas are a bit of a no-no, but one can always eat around them.

The husband and I went to a place called Cisco’s that’s apparently been around for over 50 years and has maintained (if not gained in) its popularity. They are known for their migas and huevos rancheros, so I insisted that we stop in to try them. This was my first “real” endeavor into Tex-Mex migas, and I loved them. I know migas sounds simple enough, but I really think Cisco’s has perfected their cooking method and recipe. Their migas are so flavorful and almost decadent. Adding a side of delicious beef fajita brought it to an even higher level, and I am already anticipating the day that I’ll be back.

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Migas are My Friend

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

So far, our pursuit for a “non-wheat belly” has been great. I’ve enjoyed trying new things with all that delicious produce I bought, and I feel like our bodies are happier because of it. Unfortunately, I can’t help but still crave sweets and baked goods. Luckily, I was perusing the Wheat Belly book and saw a recipe for pumpkin spice muffins. It replaces all-purpose flour with a chock-full of walnuts, almond flour (essentially more nuts), and ground flax seed. I figured I’d give it a try.

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Since I was out of walnuts, I had to substitute it with more almonds. So I threw together two cups of almond flour, a cup of chopped almonds, a 1/4 cup of ground flax seed, two teaspoons of cinnamon, a teaspoon each of nutmeg and allspice, a teaspoon of baking powder, 3/4 cup of sugar (I used half stevia and half coconut palm sugar, which are supposed to be the best sugar substitutes out there). In another bowl, I mixed up a can of unsweetened pumpkin puree, three medium eggs, and 1/4 cup of coconut oil. Then I mixed the wet with the dry, and filled up a muffin pan with the mixture.

IMG_3483The outcome is a dense, nutty little muffin that didn’t seem to move much from the way I had filled the pan. Even though it doesn’t have the lightness I generally desire in baked goods, it’s sweet, moist, and hearty and will taste wonderful with a hot cup of tea.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Spaghetti Squash with Smoky Tomato & Kale

This is my second time using spaghetti squash, and I think I’m starting to become a bit more comfortable and adventurous with it. I put the two halves of a gutted spaghetti squash in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes, and then I scooped out it’s spaghetti-like flesh into a bowl and set it aside. Then I sauteed up some garlic and chopped uncured pork loin bacon (which has the texture of ham but the deliciously smoky flavor of bacon). After the bacon rendered a bit and its sides crisped up, I threw in some chopped up cherry tomatoes and finally some chopped up lacinato (or dino) kale. Even though the bacon already had some great flavor, I sprinkled in some celtic sea salt for good measure. Once the kale had wilted and everything looked well mixed, I threw in the spaghetti squash and tossed it all together until everything was well incorporated.

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There was quite a bit of steam from the spaghetti squash flesh, so I left it on the stove for a bit longer in an attempt to dry it out a bit. I don’t think it actually helped, but I think it did help the squash soak up the flavors even more.

IMG_3477The final dish was extremely flavorful, made even better with a topping of parmesan cheese and chopped basil. Unfortunately, my over-watered basil plant has turned a very light green, but the flavor is still there and it definitely gave the dish that extra something. I was pleased with this because it was hearty and filling without needing meat as the star, and the husband even asked for seconds. Score!

Spaghetti Squash with Smoky Tomato & Kale