Spinach Gratin (Keto Friendly)

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!  I’m now a week into doing Keto/low carb diet and so far it’s been pretty good.  I felt like this past week I had way more energy and I didn’t feel like I was craving sweets as much as I thought I would.

This past week has been pretty much protein in the form of some type of meat and than a vegetable side or a salad.  I’ve been trying my best to make veggies taste like something I’d want to eat more often.  So far it seems to have been working.

I made this spinach recipe this weekend and it came out phenomenal.  It was my first time making it and I’m pretty impressed.  Hey I’ll give myself a little pat on the back from time to time.

This recipe is simple to make and can be made ahead of time.  Perfect for a rather quick side dish. This is thicker than an average creamed spinach which is why it’s more of a gratin.  Give it a try!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Spinach Gratin (Keto Friendly)

Ingredients:

16 oz organic frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess liquid removed
6 oz cream cheese
6 T full fat ricotta cheese
2 tablespoon butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup +2T  grated parmesan or Romano cheese
2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Heat a medium sauté pan on medium high heat.  Make sure that as much liquid as possible is removed from the spinach.  You can do this by putting in a strainer and using a spatula to press down on the spinach to remove the liquid.

Add the butter to the sauté, once it starts to melt, add in the garlic and onion and cook for 3-4 minutes.   Next add in the spinach and mix.  To the mixture add in the cream cheese and break up and mix often.  Reduce the heat to low and stir occasionally until the cream cheese is fully melted.  Remove from the head and stir in the ricotta and all the seasoning.  Taste and add more salt and pepper to your liking.  Lastly mix in the grated cheese, save 2 T for topping.

Spread mixture in a greased oven safe dish and top with remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese.  Bake at 375 for 20-25.

Note: This dish Is perfect to make ahead of time. If you refrigerator make sure to add another 15 minutes or so to the baking time.

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Before going into the oven!

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After baking

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Close up!

 

 

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Italian Sausage & Peppers Pasta

For years, sausage and peppers has been such a favorite in my family. My father loved it. My whole family loves it. It’s a rather easy dish that is full of flavor and can easily feed a crowd. It’s definitely one of my favorite comfort foods. Over the years we’ve tweaked the recipe slightly. Sometimes, not adding tomatoes and putting in potatoes or using different color peppers verse the typical green peppers. The dish is rather easy to make your own.

I decided I’d make some Sausage and Peppers pasta. Being Italian I really don’t make pasta dishes as much as you’d think. Mostly for dietary reasons as I try and keep from having so many carbs.

However, sometimes a girl just needs a delicious bowl of pasta with a nice chunk of bread. That’s the Italian girl in me for sure.

I made this pasta and it came out so good and got such rave reviews. It’s rather simple and the flavor is on point and really is a great way to change up such a classic dish. The flavors are even better the next day, which make for the best leftovers of all time!

Italian Sausage and Peppers Pasta

Ingredients:

6 Italian sausage links, mild or spicy
3 large peppers, any color (or 8-10 mini peppers), cut in strips
1 large onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 T olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1 T butter, optional
2-3 T pesto, homemade or store bought (more or less depending on taste)
2 t salt
2 t pepper
2 t garlic powder
2 t onion powder
2 t Italian seasoning
3 T grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, (+ more for sprinkling)
1 cup arugula, loosely packed ) (optional)
8-10 oz pasta noodles, any kind cooked

Directions: Preheat oven 350°. Bake Italian sausage for 35-40 minutes turning sausage over half way through. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat 2 minutes. Add in garlic and onion and sauté 3-4 minutes stirring often. Add in the peppers and cook until soft and slightly browned. This may take about 8-9 minutes. Next season the mixture with Italian seasoning, garlic and onion powder, and salt and pepper.

Cut sausage into slices and add to the pan. Add the diced tomatoes with liquid, pesto and the cooked pasta and mix well. Let simmer about 5-7 minutes stirring often. Next remove pan from heat and mix in the arugula, cheese and butter if you are using. The butter will give it a nice silk finish. Season pasta with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cheese for serving.

Chef Notes: You can make the peppers in the oven for more of a char on them. Just roast in the oven at 400° for 35-35 minutes, stirring halfway through.

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Cauliflower Chowder

It’s been a cold and snowy last week or so in Chicago.  The weather is only about to get worse, unfortunately.   We are looking at more snow and super cold temperatures by the middle of the week.   I keep reading articles talking about coldest temperatures in 25 years.  I hope it doesn’t get that cold. However, what is better on a cold winter’s day but a nice bowl of a hearty soup.

Today I made cauliflower chowder.  It’s hearty but light at the same time.  I made this soup as a healthier alternative to traditional cream soups.  It’s very easy to even turn this into a Keto recipe. Check it out.  See cook’s notes below to make Keto.

Cauliflower Chowder

Ingredients:
3 T butter
1 T olive oil
3 T flour
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1  large red pepper, diced
1 cup gold potatoes, diced
3, 16 oz bags frozen cauliflower
3, 32 oz boxes unsalted or low sodium chicken broth
2 cups fat free half and half
8 oz reduced fat cheddar cheese (more for topping)
1 large bay leaf
2 t dried rosemary
2 t dried thyme
2 t garlic powder
2 t onion powder
2 t chili powder
2 t salt (more to taste)
2 t pepper (more to taste)
1 t crushed red pepper

Toppings (optional)
Shredded cheese
Chopped Bacon
Green onion

Directions:

Heat a large soup pot on medium high heat.  Add in the olive oil and let heat a minute before adding in the garlic and onion.  Once garlic and onion are added cook about 3-4 minutes until the onion is translucent.   Next add in the red pepper and cook another 3 minutes until soft.

Add in the butter and let melt completely.  Slowly add the flour and mix well.  Cook the roux for about 4-6 minutes.  Add in the chicken stock, potatoes and frozen cauliflower and mix.  Add in thyme, rosemary and bay leaf.  Simmer on medium high heat about 45 minutes, stirring halfway through.   Check potatoes and make sure they are soft.  Remove the bay leaf.   Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to break up the cauliflower, but leaving some chunks.

Once blended put back on the stove and add in the 2 cups of fat free half and half and mix well.  Season the soup with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, crushed red pepper and chili powder.  Mix well. Let simmer 15 minutes once the cream is added.

Remove the soup from the heat and add in 8 oz of cheese and mix to thoroughly melt the cheese.  Make sure to put the spoon to the bottom of the pot to make sure the cheese isn’t all fallen to the bottom.

To serve, ladle soup into a bowl and top with a sprinkle of shredded cheese, bacon and green onions.

Chef Notes:  For Keto recipe, replace 3 T of flour with ¼ t of xanthan gum.  Do not add in with the butter.  Make a slurry with the xanthan gum some liquid and add into the pot.  Replace fat free half and half for full fat heavy whipping cream. Omit potatoes entirely.

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Mushroom, Spinach & Mozzarella Egg Muffins (Keto Recipe)

Happy Monday everyone!! It’s officially time to get 100% back on track. I thoroughly enjoyed the holidays but it’s a new year and time to start fresh. Be prepared to see a lot of new recipes. I’m hoping to work in the kitchen on some new things that are healthy and make it easier to stay on track.

That brings me to this new recipe. I’m not a real big fan of eggs. I’d much rather something else besides eggs for breakfast but with having a lower carb/keto diet eggs are a big part of that. I have to make eggs taste like something completely different for me to enjoy them. So, here’s a take on some egg muffins I made. They are super simple and you can definitely add whatever ingredients you want. Note, that if you aren’t doing a low carb diet you can use just regular milk in place of the heavy whipping cream.

Mushroom, Spinach & Mozzarella Egg Muffins (Keto Recipe)

Ingredients:

6 eggs
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped (I used baby portabellas)
¾ cup shredded mozzarella
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Extras:
Cooking Spray
Muffin Tin

Directions: Preheat oven 375°. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and the heavy whipping cream together. Season with salt and pepper. Spray the muffin pan well with cooking spray. Add the mushrooms and spinach to each opening. Top the veggies with an even layer of cheese. You can use more or less of both the cheese, mushrooms and spinach. Feel free to use different ingredients for inside the muffins. Evenly add the egg mixture to each opening. Fill ¾ of the way full.

Bake the muffins in the oven for 13-18 minutes. Check the muffins to make sure a toothpick or knife comes out clean and they are set. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before removing from the pan. Note: These are great to make ahead of time and have for the week. Just heat them in the microwave for 30-45 seconds for a quick on the go breakfast.

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Scallops on the Half Shell

Happy Holidays Everyone! Another successful Christmas passed and now looking forward to 2019. Coming from an Italian family we’ve always celebrated the “Feast of Seven Fishes,” on Christmas Eve. We do more shrimp and scallops vs some of the more traditional fishes that may be used. I’ve been doing different scallop recipes over the last few years and this year has been my favorite.

These scallops on the half shell are simple and can be done ahead of time which makes entertaining a breeze. This is my first time using the baking shells. It gives it a cool look and definitely makes serving easy. You should be able to find the baking shells from any online retailer. Make sure that they are shells that are used for baking, not just decorative shells.

Scallops on Half Shell

Ingredients:
1lb large seas scallops, rinsed and dry
1 ½ cups Italian panko bread crumbs
1 lemon, juiced (extra for drizzle)
2 t lemon zest
3 T dry white wine
3 T quality olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 t parsley
2 t oregano
2 t garlic powder
½ t salt
½ t pepper

Extras:
4-6 baking shells

Directions: Preheat oven to 375°. Lay out scallops on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Let sit 15 minutes to remove any excess liquid and then pat dry.

In a sauté pan add a drizzle of olive oil and sauté the garlic and shallot until tender. In a medium bowl mix together the panko bread crumbs, seasoning, garlic and shallot, olive oil, white wine, lemon juice and zest and mix well. The mixture should be wet. If not, you can add a little more oil.

Add 2-3 scallops to each shell depending on size of scallops. I used 3 per shell. You want the scallops tight together. Top the scallops with panko mixture. Bake in oven for 20 minutes until fully cooked. Drizzle with lemon and serve immediately. These are great for a crowd and easy to get ready ahead of time and then just bake when needed. The shells make it very easy for serving.

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Blue Cheese Twice Baked Potatoes

Who doesn’t like potatoes? They are so versatile and can be transformed into so many delicious dishes. I especially love potatoes with my steak. Steak and potatoes are 2 of my favorite combinations. This past weekend I made my Mom’s Blue Cheese Twice Baked Potatoes. They are so delicious and so simple to make. She use to make them a lot while I was growing up for Christmas Eve but since have changed it up slightly. However, these are definitely about to make a comeback in my house.

Now I know blue cheese is definitely an acquired taste. Not everyone likes it. Feel free to use as much or as little of the blue cheese as you’d like. Or, you can skip it all together and use any other cheese just the same.

Give this recipe a try. It’s definitely great for a crowd and can be made ahead of time for dinner hosting. Less time in the kitchen when your guests arrive is always a bonus and it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Blue Cheese Twice Baked Potatoes

Ingredients:
4 large russet potatoes
¾ cup sour cream
5 T melted butter
½ cup crumbled blue cheese (more or less depending on taste)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Directions: Clean potatoes and poke holes in the top with a fork so the steam is able to escape. Bake potatoes in oven at 375° for 1 and ½ or 1 hour and 45 minutes. To make sure potatoes are done, you’ll want to stick a fork in them to make sure they go in easily without too much pressure.

Once cooked, remove potatoes from the oven and let cool till you are able to work hold them. Easily slice off the tops of the potatoes and scoop out the insides and add into a medium bowl. You will want to leave very little potato inside so the potatoes will hold their shape. Don’t go to deep as to tear the potato skin.

In the bowl of the potatoes add in sour cream, melted butter, blue cheese and season with salt and pepper. Mash with a fork to remove any lumps. You can also use a hand mixer if you’d like the really smooth and whipped texture. Once all mixed together you want to scoop the potato mixture back into the potato skins.

Place back in the oven at 375° for 30 minutes. Let sit a few minutes once you remove from the oven. So they can set. These are also great to make ahead of time. You can make the night before and put in the refrigerator until ready to use. Just add another 15-25 minutes cooking time as the potatoes will be cold when you bake them.

You can completely omit the potatoes skins all together if you are making for a large crowd. Just put the potato mixture into a deep oven safe dish and bake.

Note: My pictures only show 3 potatoes, that’s because one of them was not good. But this recipe is in fact for 4 potatoes.

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French Onion Soup with Garlic Crostini & Swiss Cheese

Happy December! I made French Onion soup for the first time in years. It’s a super easy soup to make. You don’t need a lot of ingredients or time to make this. I almost feel like it’s healthier compared to most soups because there is no cream and yes there is butter but I cut back on that as well.

This is perfect for lunches or with a salad for dinner. It’s nice and warm for those cold winter nights. What’s better than soup and bread? This recipe has BOTH!

French Onion Soup with Garlic Croutons and Swiss Cheese

Ingredients:
5T butter
6 large sweet onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large bay leafs
6 sprigs of thyme
3 T flour
1 ½ cups wine (I used white)
2- 32 oz cartons beef broth, no salt added
3 t salt
2 t pepper

Croutons:
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 loaf crusty French bread
2 T olive oil
½ T parsley
2 t garlic powder
Sprinkle: salt and pepper

Toppings:
Swiss cheese

Directions:

In a large soup pot, melt butter on medium heat. Add sliced onions and garlic and mix well. Add in the bay leafs and 3 of the thyme sprigs. The other 3 sprigs, remove the herb and sprinkle in the mixture. Cook on medium low heat until onions are tender and caramelized. This may take 30-40 minutes for the amount of onions we are using. I covered the pan and let them cook down mixing every 10-12 minutes. They will cook down, don’t worry if they seem to take up the whole pot. (That’s what happened to me.)

After onions have cooked down and are soft and starting to caramelize remove some of the liquid and add to a small bowl and mix with the 3 tablespoons of flour. Mix well to remove lumps. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Add in the flour mixture and the wine and whisk well. Cook on medium heat about 10-15 minutes mixing half way through with a whisk. A whisk will help make sure the flour mixture gets broken up. Add in the beef broth and salt and pepper and stir, and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering make the croutons for the top of the soup. Slice the bread into ½ inch pieces. In a small bowl add oil, parsley, garlic powder, fresh garlic and salt and pepper and mix well. Single layer the slices of bread on baking pan covered with foil. Brunch the bread with olive oil mixture. Bake at 400° in the oven 12-15 minutes. It’s okay if they get hard, they will soften once added to the soup.

To serve ladle soup into bowl add 2-3 slices of bread and top with sprinkle of Swiss cheese. If you wish, you can add to an oven save bowl and put under the broiler for a few minutes to make the cheese brown and bubbly. I made this for lunches, so I just add in the bread slices and top with some cheese once the soup is heated through and the cheese melts perfectly. Enjoy!

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