21 April 2016

It's time for this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it. 

This month's ingredients were ham and cheese.  Awesome!  My husband and I have been eating low carb for over 9 months now, so ham and cheese are pretty much staples in our diet. I had lots of things I could do this month. In fact, I have another post all ready to go that also involves ham and cheese.  

This is a new recipe I just tried last weekend.  It's basically chopped up cauliflower, ham, and a generous amount of cheese mounded together into patties and baked. My recipe is an adaption from All Day I Dream About Food.  

Baked Ham and Cheese Cauliflower Fritters

Olive oil
2 (12 oz.) packages frozen riced cauliflower
2 cups finely diced ham
2 tsp Sunny Paris (or other onion-y salt-free seasoning)
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400°.  Generously grease two baking sheets with olive oil. (I use stoneware.)

Place the cauliflower in a large microwavable bowl.  Break up big chunks, if necessary.  Microwave on high for 4 minutes.  Stir, break up chunks again.  Microwave on high another 4 minutes, or until cauliflower is warmed through and somewhat soft.  

Add the ham, Sunny Paris, eggs, shredded cheddar, and Parmesan.  Stir well.  Make 16 patties using a rounded ¼ cup of mixture for each one.  Place on the prepared baking sheet.  

Bake for 20 minutes or until browned on the bottom.  Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes before serving.  Carefully remove them from the baking sheet to a serving platter.

Makes 4 servings of 4 patties each.

I wasn't feeling too great the day I made these, so I took the easy way out and used frozen riced cauliflower instead of chopping fresh.  I got this stuff from Trader Joe's, but I know Walmart also sells bags of riced cauliflower in the fresh produce section.  If you can't find either of those handy products, you can finely chop a head of fresh cauliflower and either boil or steam it until it is softened.  Just be sure to drain it well before adding the other ingredients.

The other major thing I changed was that I baked these instead of pan frying.  I knew they would be too loose for me to successfully flip them in the skillet.  I've never had great luck with that.  So I baked them instead.  Easy peasy and worry-free.  I intended to flip them once during baking, but I couldn't do it without them falling apart, so I just cooked them on the one side.  I think that turned out just fine.  They got a nice caramelized crunch on the bottom that I found delightful.  I may have had better luck if I had mashed the cauliflower after cooking it in the microwave, but I am okay with the way they turned out.

My family LOVED these.  My husband raved about them.  I thought my carb-loving daughters might turn up their noses at them, but I was wrong. They both loved them too.  My eight-year-old had seconds.

I used Penzeys Sunny Paris as the seasoning in these.  If you don't have that. feel free to use anything else you like.  I would recommend a salt-free seasoning because the ham and cheeses provide plenty of salt.  Something with onion and/or shallots would be great.

I list four patties as a serving size, but that is going to vary greatly depending on who you are feeding.  Kids will definitely not eat four at once.  I did, but that was all I ate for dinner; I didn't feel well enough to make the salad I had planned to go with them.  We had some leftover, and my husband had a great idea: to serve fried eggs over them in the morning.

Like the plate? I painted it myself! :)

Yummo!  They made a great breakfast.

I used up some Easter ham for this; it was so good.  But it would be good with any kind of ham.

Be sure to check out all the other great ham and cheese recipes below!

09 April 2016

This is the "pie" I made on Pi(e) Day, March 14th. My husband and I are eating low carb, so my pie options were of the savory sort, pretty much taco pie or cheeseburger pie. My husband loves the cheeseburger pie I tried once, but I was pretty "meh" about it. I was eager to try this taco pie recipe again though, because it didn't turn out so well the first time I made it. I got the recipe from All Day I Dream About Food.  The directions do not say to mix the meat with the egg mixture.  So the first time I made it, it ended up with only meat on the bottom and only fluffy eggs on top.  And the meat part was watery.  It was kind of weird; like a fluffy omelet on top of taco meat.  But I decided to try it again, making a few tweaks.  This time I found success.  Here's how I made it.

Taco Pie


1 lb. ground beef
2 tbsp taco seasoning
6 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1.5 oz. queso fresco, crumbled (optional)
1 cup shredded cheese


Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat a 9” pie plate with baking spray.

Brown ground beef in a medium skillet.  Drain, if necessary. Add taco seasoning and stir well.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs.  Add the cream and mix well.  Add the queso fresco, if using.  When beef is done, stir it into the egg mixture.  Pour it into the pie plate and top with the shredded cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes.  Remove and let cool at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Mixing the meat into the egg mixture makes a huge difference.  And I did not add water to the taco meat; not sure what the point of that is.  I also added some queso fresco just because . . . why not?  :)

This was a huge hit with my family.  It's tasty on its own, but I love how you can add whatever your favorite Mexican condiments are.  Sour cream, guacamole, and some fresh salsa was my favorite.  My husband used taco sauce and sour cream.  My five-year-old just did sour cream.  Lots of sour cream.  I swear, that girl is making up for all the years she couldn't have dairy!

This is easy to throw together on a busy weeknight.  And the leftovers reheat well, if you have any.  

Even though this is low carb, the carb-eaters in your household will love it too.  You can serve it with rice or tortilla chips.

I will have to work on tweaking the cheeseburger pie recipe so I like it as much as this one.

I just remembered that I have some ground beef in the fridge that I need to use up.  Totally making this again for dinner tonight!

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02 April 2016

Need to make French toast for a crowd? I've got you covered! This is so much easier than the making the real deal in the skillet, but it has the same great flavor and texture.  The inside is perfectly soft and custardy, while the outside is delightfully crunchy.  

I needed a recipe for our church's Easter brunch potluck.  I was going to make my traditional Eggs Benedict Casserole, but we had a bunch of French bread leftover from our Lenten soup suppers and someone wondered if it could be used for a breakfast casserole on Easter.  Great idea!  My Eggs Benedict Casserole uses English muffins, so that was out.  I asked my fellow Penzeys fans on Facebook for a good baked French toast recipe and several of them recommended one from The Pioneer Woman.  It seemed super easy, which was what I needed because Easter weekend is totally crazy at my house (my husband is a pastor and I'm the church secretary).  This recipe was perfect and it was a big hit at the potluck.

French Toast Bake

1 loaf French bread (7-8 oz.)
8 eggs, beaten
2 cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, divided
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ cup butter, cold

Coat a 9x13” casserole dish with baking spray.  Cut the bread into 1” cubes and place in the casserole dish.

In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, and vanilla.  Pour this mixture over the bread cubes.  Let it sit for a few minutes, then press down or flip over the bread cubes to make sure they are completely moistened by the egg mixture.  Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight.

In another bowl, combine the flour, remaining ½ cup brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Use a pastry blender to cut in the butter.  Refrigerate.

Remove the dish from the fridge.  Preheat oven to 350°. Uncover the casserole dish and sprinkle the topping mixture evenly over the bread cubes.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the center is set.  Serve warm with syrup available for drizzling on top.

Makes 8 servings.

I actually made two of these because there were two loaves of French bread left in the freezer at church.  That was good because the first pan didn't last long on Easter morning.  I came home with about a third of the second pan left; just enough to reheat and snap a picture for this post!  I should have gotten a pic of the entire pan, because it was beautiful, but that didn't happen.  Easter morning in the church kitchen is a bit chaotic!

I really do love the Eggs Benedict Casserole, but it is kind of a pain making the Hollandaise sauce right before serving.  I think this French toast bake will probably be my new Easter brunch tradition.  

I got several compliments on this and was asked for the recipe, so that makes it a success in my book!  Give it a try the next time you have houseguests and want to treat them to something special in the morning.

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