Pork Fried (Cauliflower) “Rice”

Recently we’ve had so much going on that I kind of fell into one of those traps of making¬†the same meals over and over every week. Sure, they’re good, but I’m getting pretty tired of the same sausage and tomato pasta!

In searching for new recipes to try, and also ones that were healthier, I remembered my good friend had posted that she made orange chicken with fried rice… but instead of rice, she used CAULIFLOWER! I know, it sounds like one of those substitutions that doesn’t even make sense and that everyone spits out.

Let me tell you, IT’S NOT. I made it tonight, substituting some leftover pork I was trying to use up, and I didn’t miss the rice, not one bit!

It’s a little messy turning the cauliflower into ‘rice’, but it’s super easy and kind of fool proof.

Here’s what you need:
1/2 head of cauliflower
Half an onion (I used red)
2 cloves garlic
About 2 carrots
About 1 TBLspn cooking oil
About 1 1/2 TBLspn coconut oil
2 eggs
About 1 cup cooked pork – loin or chop would work fine (I used leftovers from this)
Optional: green onion for garnish

First get your cauliflower ready. Chop up half the head of cauliflower and add it to the food processor. This is the part that’s a little messy; it’s just difficult to get it all in there without getting tiny crumbs all over the counter and floor. Once it’s in there, pulse until it’s at a rice-like consistency. Honestly? Mine looked more like couscous or quinoa, but it still turned out fantastic, so you don’t have to be too particular about this. Just be sure you stop before you turn it into a puree. Side note: of course you’re going to wash it before you chop it, but make sure you ring out all the water and/or pat it dry after chopping. If you don’t, the water will turn it into a puree!

Next, chop the onion and finely chop the garlic cloves. Drizzle the cooking oil in a deep skillet and heat it over medium heat. Once hot, toss in the onion. Let cook for about 2 minutes, then add in the garlic. Let cook for another 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile cut up the carrots. I actually only had baby carrots, so I cut them in quarters lengthwise, then chopped so they were diced like you see in fried rice so often. Add those in the pan too and stir, cooking for approximately 5 minutes.

Then, using a spatula to get it all out, add in the cauliflower ‘rice’. Stir of course! Add the coconut oil. Then crack the eggs into the pan, on top of the cauliflower, one at a time. Just crack them in whole, and stir!! Once incorporated, let cook for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it and stir once to prevent burning and sticking to the pan.

While that’s cooking, chop up the pork, then add it in with the cauliflower and stir. Cook until everything is warm, stirring frequently. You can also garnish it with some fresh chopped green onion. (I wish we’d have had some!) You could also add diced celery if you have it.

And that’s IT! I told you it was easy. And quick! And healthy! All the things we want in one recipe ūüôā

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Oh. And drizzle a little sriracha. Because it’s good.
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Hope you enjoy! If you try it be sure to come back to comment how your family liked it!

Stuffed peppers

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Wow! It’s been about 3 weeks since I last posted. I’ve got a lot in the wheelhouse but just haven’t had time to write! You can look for an update post sometime soon…

In the meantime, let’s cook!

This fast became one of my favorite meals. Especially now that my son loves bell peppers – I can’t believe I haven’t thought to make them in so long. These can be a First or Second meal using sausage. They’re great because they’re pretty healthy, very affordable, and easy too. You can buy the peppers on sale for $1 each. I often get the canned tomatoes for under a $1: $.88 actually. Usually one pepper per person is enough. The kids probably only need half of one. This recipe makes 5. You can do different variations of stuffed peppers, but here is mine!

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add to the pan a 1lb chub of ground sausage. I use the regular kind because of the kids, but you can use the spicy kind if you like more heat. If you don’t like sausage at all, you can also substitute ground beef. Then add about a tablespoon of butter in the side of the pan and add a generous handful of chopped onion.

Break the sausage up with a flat wooden spoon or spatula and mix in the onions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet with a lid, prepare the pan according to directions on the box of Spanish rice. I used the Meijer brand this time (got it for $.59!)
so I started with a couple tablespoons of butter and the Vermicelli mix. I have to give credit here to a former coworker, Kelly, who turned me on to the idea of using Spanish rice. It is by far the best way to stuff peppers. I could probably eat the stuff all day!
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It says to brown the vermicelli then add the rest of the ingredients…

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First the water. The pan should be hot enough that when you add it, it will sizzle and steam. Stir as you’re adding to avoid the rice sticking or burning.
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Next mix in the seasoning packet
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Then the canned tomatoes (do not drain! You want that delish juice!)
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I also added about half a chopped fresh tomato as I had it leftover from a grilled sandwich and wanted to use it up.
Now, as Chef Anne Burrell says, “BTB, RTS.” If you don’t know her it means Bring to Boil, Reduce to Simmer. Follow directions on the box. It will probably say to cover it. You’ll want to stir this maybe twice while it’s cooking just to make sure it’s not sticking.

By now your meat pan should look something like this:
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Be sure all the meat is browned. Then bring the whole pan over to the sink where you smartly have a colander waiting, and dump contents into it to drain the fat. It can hang out for awhile while you finish these other steps.

Preheat the oven to 350¬ļ and prepare your bell peppers. When shopping for these, get the biggest you can find with a sturdy, even bottom so they will stand up. You can use any color. I used red, orange and yellow. That’s what my family likes and they were on sale anyway ūüėČ

Wash them of course, then what you will do is cut off the top/cut out the inside. Best way to get this done is by cutting a square shape in the top of the pepper around the stem and close to the outside edges. You want to put the knife as far down as possible, but not so much that it cuts through the bottom of the pepper.

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You should be able to just lift the stem up and remove that whole middle section. If not, you might have to go around your cut again, or a little further out, to make sure you’ve cut away all the white flesh inside. Even after removing the stem, you may still have to fish around with your knife to remove any excess white flesh. Afterwards they should look like this:
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Now cover a baking sheet with foil and set your peppers on it. Set aside for a few minutes.
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When your rice is finished (usually you have to let it set for a few minutes), add half the sausage/onion mixture to the rice and stir to combine. You can save the rest for another meal. Or, if you really like sausage, I suppose you could add all of if it.
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At this point you have 2 options. You can add some cheese directly into the rice and stir (the rice is still hot and cheese will melt and become all gooey! Yum…) I would recommend mozzarella and then have some cheddar on hand too.

I was trying to be good however, so I skipped this part. ūüė¶

Scoop the rice mixture into the peppers, pressing down gently as you go to eliminate any air pockets.
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I then added the cheese on top only (AHEM, mozzarella AND Triple Cheddar), again pressing down gently with fingers to keep cheese from spilling over as it melts.

Put in the oven and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until cheese is melted and peppers are significantly softened (you don’t want them super soggy though!) They will look like this…

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When the rice was cooking I also prepped some refrigerated rolls and prepared some of this favorite broccoli to serve alongside the peppers.
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I cut one in half for the kids to share:
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I hope you enjoy this version of stuffed peppers!

Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa and Coconut Rice

The smell of fish cooking reminds me of vacations in Florida visiting my grandparents. My grandpa out on the screened-in porch grilling, maybe simultaneously smoking a cigar, while Mom and Grandma chatting away while prepping a side dish or two in the kitchen. And us helping set the dining table.

These are the memories that flooded my head as I grilled up some Mahi Mahi yesterday night – indoors, on my grill pan,¬†while outside the window there was gray¬†40¬ļ weather. Different setting altogether. But I could care less, because the memories and that SMELL transported me and made me so happy!

This is one of those meals, because of those early marriage cooking days, that I look at and think, “Did I do that?!”

I usually pull from a recipe but adjust it a little. In this case I pulled from multiple recipes, so contrary to my normal posts, I will be including the actual recipe for you.

Let’s start with the salsa, because that’s what I prepped ahead of time.
SALSA
1 mango, chopped
1/4 diced red onion
4-5 strips of red pepper, diced
1/4 cup or so cooked sweet corn (I used the microwavable frozen kind –OHI– but I’m sure fresh off the cob would be even better)
Juice from half a lime
Dash salt

Combine all ingredients and stir. Adjust to taste. Easy! I wouldn’t change a thing.
Except…
Well, here’s an opportunity¬†to explain my view of kid-friendly. To me, kid-friendly means the meal is prepared in bite-size, easy to eat portions. It can also mean adjusting to their spice tolerance. Next time, per my daughter’s request, I will add yellow and orange peppers. Maybe even omit the red, or just use less, because as she pointed out, the yellow and orange are sweeter. Another change I might make: substituting yellow or white onion, and maybe even lightly saut√©ing them with the peppers before adding to the salsa. But for adults, this original recipe was PERFECT.
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‘Blackened’ spices for Mahi Mahi
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground mixed peppercorn
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lite coconut milk

Again, combine all ingredients except coconut milk and make a paste. Just before using, add the coconut milk. It will look like a vinaigrette.
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You can use a pastry brush to spread this on your fish (1.25 lbs Mahi Mahi). I dipped the first piece and then just used my finger to spread it. That’s how we do in my kitchen ūüėČ

Now I have to make a side note. I opened the package from the meat counter and realized I forgot to ask them to take the skin off the Mahi. AHHHHHH! I don’t have a filet knife. I’ve never really even learned how to de-skin a fish. (Is that even the right term? I’m sure there’s a more professional culinary term for this but it escapes me at the moment.)¬†Did I panic with the clock tick tick ticking away the time until dinner? Mm. I chose to keep my head and just do it myself. So out came my raw meats cutting board and my paring knife (the best substitution I had). I tried to remember what I’ve ever seen of someone de-skinning a fish on TV. I put one hand on top of the skin and wiggled the knife underneath, to the point of being afraid I was going to slice my upper hand open. Once I had a good portion of the skin off, I started to pull it up so I¬†had a better view¬†underneath it. ¬†Amazingly, I didn’t cut myself at all, the whole time. And I didn’t even butcher them too badly. (I SWEAR, no pun intended. I literally thought this last night when I stood back and surveyed my work.)
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So! Now for the cooking. Heat your grill pan over medium high heat. Spray with a non-stick cooking spray. **One thing I’ve learned from watching cooking show after¬†cooking show is when you are using a grill pan, MAKE SURE IT’S PIPING HOT before you put anything on it, otherwise your stuff will stick. You’ve been warned.**¬†¬†Place your fish on the grill and cook for “approximately 4 minutes on each side or until desired doneness.” That’s what the recipe said that I based this on. It worked, the fish was SO DELICIOUS. My 5 year old daughter even said, “MOM! You’re right. I DO like this fish! The inside… it’s so moist … and juicy!”
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COCONUT RICE
2 cups dry brown Minute rice
1 1/4 cup lite coconut milk
1 1/2 cup water

Soak your rice in water to remove some of the starchiness, if desired. (Again, this is what the recipe told me to do – but she was using long grain rice and I was using minute rice. I did do it, and I think it did actually help remove some of the dry starchiness, especially since I was using brown rice.) Put the coconut milk and water in your pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice and cook according to package directions. Actually, the package said to bring back to boil, simmer for 5 minutes, and let stand for 5 minutes. I probably let it cook more like 7-10, let it stand, and then reheated it a teensy bit before I plated it. One thing: KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THIS! Any time I’m boiling milk I pay extra attention, but last night was one of those times that couldn’t be helped… Some of the kids were arguing, or someone got hurt, and I swear even though I only walked away for 90 seconds, my pot was suddenly boiling over. Anyway just watch it, because I had to keep removing the lid to release some steam so it wouldn’t boil over again. (And that’s even using my awesome “sure simmer” function on my electric¬†oven. Yes I love it.)

Guess what? I had the coconut milk, corn, and rice in my OHI, so all I paid for this dinner was probably $10-11. Score!

Now! Spoon some rice onto your plate, top it with a piece of Mahi, and spoon some salsa on top. Done! Now go feed your family some surprisingly easy, joyfully affordable, shockingly healthy, tantalizingly delicious and fresh food!
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