Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Baked Cheesy Cauliflower with Proscuitto

I don't normally shop at Fresh & Easy, because it's out of the way...but, they had a buy one get one free deal on Breyers Icecream which I could not pass up, in hopes that they had some mint chocolate chip left. Unfortunately, no more Mint Chocolate Chip, but, I found a bunch of veggies and fruits marked down to half off because they were close to their sell-by-date. I snagged two heads of cauliflower for $1.25 each. I also don't ever buy proscuitto because it's too pricey for my blood. But it too was 50% off. Alot of times, what I cook comes about because that's what we're craving for. Othertimes, your meal comes about with whatever you can find on sale. I realized the proscuitto would probably go well with one of my favorite dishes baked cauliflower & cheese. My dad's is the bomb. I'm hoping this version will be a hit with my S.O. and L.O.

My parents would put the cauliflower florets in the pan raw & pour a creamy mixture over it, then top with shredded mozzarella/sharp cheddar from the bag. Less steps, but, it takes longer to bake. Being hungry while cooking, I par boiled my cauliflower florets and then used the the Fast Bake option on a Convection Microwave Oven...Just to crisp up the top cheesy layer...takes about 10-15 minutes vs. the hour + it'd take to bake raw. I wonder if one of those kitchen blow torches would work...hmmmmm?

(Update Dec 17, 2011 - tonight I followed by brother Gary's lead and used a whole package of bacon.  I topped the dish with crumbled up pieces...mmm!  So good!)

1 stick of butter (optional: if using bacon, reserve the bacon grease, so bad, but can't resist!)
1 onion, chopped fine
2 T finely chopped garlic
1/3 cup of chopped celery (optional)
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup flour
2 cups of whole milk 1
t fresh minced rosmary (optional)
1 t fresh minced basil (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
1-2 heads of cauliflower, bite sized florets
One 4oz package chopped-up proscuitto (my bro requested more, if you can afford it, put 2-3 packages of proscuitto or add BACON or chunks of chicken or sliced up deli meats, whatever you have)
2 cups shredded parmesian cheese
1/4 cup shredded gouda cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
(or Use whatever you have in the fridge or your favorite cheese.  I often grab a bag of shredded cheese Mexican cheese blend.  And without measuring, I grab huge handfuls, mix it in with the white sauce and layer it ontop of the cauliflower once in the dish, for that crusty cheesy top!)
Stuffing (I tried this today, Dec 17, with some leftover stuffing...because of the amount of bacon I put on top, I barely noticed there was any stuffing...will try to do it again with more stuffing on top...)

side notes:*if you're using a regular oven, preheat your oven now before step 1 to 400 degrees. Hold off 'til after step 3, if you're using a microwave convection oven.
*if you're using block cheese, go ahead and shred it up before you start cooking.
*I love my Kitchenaid food processor attachment that came with the Immersion blender. Great for chopping up the onions, garlic and celery.

1.(This is an added step to my parents original recipe. They would simply make the sauce and pour it over uncooked cauliflower florets and bake it for a longer time. I remember waiting hours for this dish to come out of the oven.)  My update on it is to first Parboil cauliflower florets, drain, put into a buttered up baking pan. I used about 1-2 T of butter to grease up the pan edges. I used a 38x25x4 cm pyrex baking dish, so that I could have one layer of cauliflower. This helps it bake faster and also you get a bigger surface area of the yummy cheese crust!  Now, I have a little munchkin, so I snuck her a bunch of plain cauliflower to tide her over until I finished cooking the dish.
2. Melt remaining butter in large pot on medium heat. Add onion, garlic and celery. Stir & Saute until translucent.
3. I like to lower temp to medium low heat, to keep butter from burning. Add a little flour at a time, stirring as you go to make a roux Add Salt & Pepper to taste. I chose not to add too much salt, because the cheese & proscuitto have some saltiness to them already.
4. Go ahead and preheat your microwave convection oven to 400 degrees.
5. Ok, back to the flour...Once flour is incorporated evenly in with the butter, raise the temp up to medium heat, while pouring a little milk at a time, while stirring, making sure to not let the milk burn on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring milk until you have a chowder like consistency. You don't want it to be soupy thin. When you put it in the oven, you want it too be somewhat thick because the liquid in the cauliflower, will mix in with it while baking and thin it out.
6. Ok, now we layer the remaining ingredients on top. First, pour the sauce all over the cauliflower. Use a spatula to wriggle around the cauliflower to get the sauce to get into all those crevices. Then, sprinkle like crazy your cheeses and proscuitto.
7. By now your oven should be preheated. If not, humb & twiddle your thumbs awhile waiting for that *ding* Ok, now place the uncovered dish in the oven and set to 12 minutes.

so, here's the dish ready for the oven.

and 12 minutes later straight from the oven.
Although my S.O. and bro liked it, it's just not their favorite. I have a feeling it's because it's mainly a veggie dish. They'd probably enjoy it more, just as a side dish to a rack of ribs or something that once moo'ed. Well, my little girl liked it and asked for more. It's my favorite too! So I'll have to try making this dish in smaller batches and freezing it for make-ahead meals for my munkin & I. Hope you give this a go and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Heavenly Bakeshop

Hopefully, third time's the charm. Heavenly is now the third Filipino bakery to open in this same spot in the Lee Lee's shopping center.

First impression, clean, lots of product on shelves to choose from, friendly customer service.
I was only able to quickly eye their goodies, before my little one started trying to rearrange their product display, dropping a package of "Palitaw" on the floor. It didn't pop open, but I bought it anyway, since the fall made it's contents all jumbled up. Good thing I have fond memories of this treat from New Years in my Mamalo's house back home. I also ordered one of their Cheese pastries. Curious if it tasted like or better than the previous owners flaky cheese pastry.
I paid with my debit (couldn't do that with the previous bakery) so that's a plus. While paying, I noticed off the back left of the store behind the register, was a refrigerator stacked with ready made take home dishes, like menudo, If i recall correctly. So, next time I'll definitely take one home, but, I didn't this time, because I still had to do my grocery shopping at LeeLee's.

Once home, I tried the Palitaw. It was soft and pleasantly chewy with a non-sweet powdery coating. I think I recall coconut flakes on the ones my dad made for me back home. I'm not sure what the powdery coating is, it's got a subtle flavor of perhaps toasted crushed rice. But, It might not be something everyone would like. If I were to compare it to something, it reminds me of mochi. which i love. I put these in the fridge and they didn't get hard.
I didn't treat the cheese pastry with care as I shopped around that day. When I got home to open the bag, it's top layer was almost all flaked off. So, I'll be ordering this again & eating straight from the case next time. Overall it was light and flaky and not greasy. The cheese filling was also nice, not too sweet. My toddler loved this treat and that it wasn't overly sweet was good for her too. I'd love it if they make another variation with some kind of fruit to contrast the cheese.

I'd like to go back without my little one, so that I can fully experience all that this 1 month new bakery has to offer & take better photos. I'm giving them a middle of the board solid rating of 3 stars, A-OK. I am expecting that on my next visit, Heavenly will be getting more stars.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Orange Ginger Mint Water

Happy Monday!

Here's a simple and refreshing drink great for a day of bbq'ing! This recipe came together quickly because I just threw in ingredients that I had on hand. I would have loved a hit of lemon taste...I didn't have any calamansi nor lemons. I even peeked into over at my neighbors trees...none to be seen. Darn. Next time! I substituted with two fingers of ginger. (anything with an "o" in front means it's organic)

Orange Ginger Mint Water

Half a pitcher of water
1/4 a pitcher of O apple juice
1/4 a pitcher of orange juice
1 orange, sliced thinly with peal left on.
1 O apple, sliced thinly, skin on.
1 bunch of mint sprigs (I was fortunate to be gifted some fresh mint from my bro & sis in laws garden...awesome)
2 fingers of ginger, sliced big.
3-4 Tablespoons of Orange Blossom Local Honey (disolve in a little water first, then stir into pitcher) add as much as you like.

Stir all of these ingredients together in a pitcher and let chill in the fridge a couple hours before your guests arrive.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Paletas Betty - A Cool Spot in Chandler

I have now experienced Paletas Betty three times and each time has been a refreshing pleasure! The first time I tasted Paletas Betty was when my friend Iris treated me for my birthday in the begining of this year. We picked out several flavors and then brought them home to share with the family. We cut up the paletas in cubes, so that we could all sample every flavor! I can't recall all the flavors we tried that evening. I remember loving them all. But, being the spice loving kinda gal that I am, I had to try the mango con chile. It was a zippy treat, that was at the same time sweet/tangy and cold/hot. I'm not going to share next time.

The second visit, I attempted to treat my friend to her first Paletas Betty. But, I didn't recall that they only take cash or check. I wasn't able to get cash from the nearby Irish pubs ATM. (That's another story, that ended in tears, to say the least.) But, Betty being so thoughtful and wanting me to have a happy experience that day, bought a Paleta of my choice to cheer me up. That's not something she does on the regular, I'm sure. But, it certainly locked me into loyal fan status, as if the freshly hand crafted frozen pops aren't enough. The Mexican hot chocolate was delicious, by the way. My friend Ninette was pleasantly surprised by her Arroz con leche...nice & creamy & just the right amount of sweetness.

On our third visit this Sunday, we multiplied into a group of 7 adults and 2 energetic toddlers. Our group tried had Mexican Chocolate, Arroz con Leche, Sandia (Watermelon/mint), Puro Mango, Nuez (creamy roasted pecans), Fresa con Crema (Strawberries/Cream) and Platano (bananas foster/caramel/rum). There was not a popsicle stick left unlicked in our bunch.

Our two rambunctious toddlers amused themselves for a long time with the stickers that come with each pop, as the adults chilled on the mod indoor seating, sipping on complimentary water infused with orange slices and mint. For fun, you can also bring your Paletas Betty sticker with you on your travels and photograph it in interesting places. Email it to them, and if chosen, you can win a free paleta! Lastly, let me just say, these are not ordinary popsicles. You can tell that these are hand crafted with lots of attention and love, with only the best ingredients. They have some heft to them and will be a perfect after meal treat on a warm-scorching hot AZ day.

I'll be keeping my eye out for their "carrito" rolling around the Downtown Chandler Farmer's market every Thursday. You can also hire Paletas Betty for your event and they can even create custom flavors for your event. I only wish they were around back in '05 for our wedding!

*Please note: Paletas Betty currently accepts cash and check only.

p.s. Betty shared her recipe for her mango chile paleta < here >

Paletas Betty on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 18, 2011

My First Pair of Adidas

What: Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food
Where: Tempe Outrigger Regatta AZ Ohana, Tempe Town Lake
When: Apr 9, 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Description: Look for Garlic Fried Rice and Over Easy Eggs in the Morning

Obviously, these are not the kind of Adidas to lace up for your next race.

Believe me, it wasn't my first choice on Hey Joe's menu. We came out for the #5 "The Hey Joe" consisting of one Pork BBQ, one Chicken BBQ & two pork Lumpia ($8) and to watch the 6th Annual Tempe Outrigger Regatta AZ Ohana races.

Unfortunately, the combination of an unusually cold day & a row of tents full of hungry outrigger athletes meant that the truck was SOLD OUT of FOOD even before my family arrived at noon! Too bad we didn't follow them on twitter, because Brian apparently tweeted about how they ran out of food earlier. If you're a die hard Hey Joe! fan, you better follow their tweets!

Disappointed but still determined to eat something, anything from Hey Joe's truck - I insanely asked if they were out of Chicken Feet. To my dismay, they weren't! So, after a bit of some more good natured prodding - I coaxed Chef Brian into also selling us his last four bananas. The Adidas and banana-ques totaled $10.

The vegan banana-que came out first. The warmth of the banana-que really hit the spot as we stood out in the cold lakeside air. We gobbled down four! Nevertheless, we just wished the banana was much sweeter. Hey Joe's banana-Q's were lightly caramelized with sugar. Brian explained that's how a lot of his customers like it. I still requested that he try making it the way I like it - encrusted with a thick caramelized shiny sugar coating.

We were pleasantly surprised that the guys inside Hey Joe's truck rummaged up a nice complimentary sampling of their atchara, one lumpia aka egg roll and their VEGAN -Organic Mung Bean with Coconut Milk and Local Spinach aka Ginataang Mongo.

Coconut in this vegan version is a refreshingly different flavor than what I'm normally used to in my family's mungo dish. I'd order the full size portion of this, if we venture out to the Phoenix Downtown farmer market tomorrow where Hey Joe and other trucks from the street food coalition will be.

What: Phoenix Public Market
Where: 14 East Pierce Street Phoenix
When: Apr 20, 4:00 PM - 8:00 PM

But I'll be experimenting with coconut in my next batch of non-vegan Humble Mungo Guisado, with pork, shrimp and patis. Hey Joe's pork lumpia was tasty, with a hint of citrus. If given the opportunity, I'd have pounded half a dozen of those. But I'd need two scoops of rice and a side of Thai Sweet Chili sauce. Their atchara of pickled green papaya & ginger, although not spicy, was still satisfyingly crunchy, tangy & sweet. (It's a perfect pairing with any BBQ skewer.) It especially helped me through my first experience of Adidas. Which I found, of course, tastes just like chicken! It was actually not bad. But, I won't be ordering it again. Once passed the familiarly tasty crispy skin, I just couldn't bring myself to eat the chewy sinews between the tiny bones.

I can't believe I ate it, but at least I tried it. But, this along with the other two items listed under "For The Brave" on Hey Joe's menu (Balut and Chicken Ass) are definitely ones to pair with beer if you go out to the Bikini Lounge this Friday, April 22 9:30 pm - 2 am on 16th Ave & Grand Ave. Be sure to check their online calendar for their next location. I couldn't find a review for Hey Joe! on Urbanspoon yet, so I put in a request for it to be added to their databanks. But I give Hey Joe's a 4 out of 5 for their mungo & accomodating service.

I just got an email from jen @ urbanspoon. she added Hey Joe! per my suggestion. awesome.
Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food on Urbanspoon

Still needing to fill our gullets, we headed over to the nearby Paradise Hawaiian BBQ across from the ASU stadium. We recieved lukewarm service with our affordable combo plates of delicious korean kalbi, rice, noodles, meat jun, chicken katsu, seaweed salad and mac salad. We were so hungry. We pounded the food before we could even take a picture. (Side note: They don't have a restroom, no diaper changing table and no children's high chairs. I believe there's a restroom outside of the building, somewhere...I guess that's part of the college town atmosphere.) Well, I will say this, eat there. You'll most likely enjoy whatever you order, regardless of the lackluster service & lacking comforts.
Paradise Hawaiian BBQ on Urbanspoon