White Cheddar Broccoli/Cauliflower Gratin

Perfect veggies to roast together because they cook at the same rate and broccoli’s grassy, earthy and slight bitterness complements cauliflower’s sweet nutty flavor.

The same vegetable, however, they are not. For whatever reason, these two vegetables are often confused for one another, even though they are strikingly different in many ways.

Broccoli is green, except when it’s purple and its cauliflower. Cauliflower is usually white, except when it’s orange or green, and looks like broccoli, or when it’s purple, and it actually is broccoli.

The word ‘broccoli’ is derived from Italian and means, ‘flowering crest of a cabbage.’ The word ‘cauliflower,’ on the other hand, comes from Latin, and means, ‘the flowers of a cabbage’.

This is such a nice fall side dish. Broccoli and cauliflower coated with a rich, creamy, cheesy sauce, covered with Panko breadcrumbs, baked to perfection and garnished with bacon. How good is that!

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White Cheddar Broccoli/Cauliflower Gratin
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook florets until tender-firm, about 5-6 minutes. Drain well.
  3. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add in onions & sauté until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add in garlic & sauté 20 seconds longer. Add in flour & cook whisking constantly, 1 1/2 minutes.
  4. While whisking, slowly pour in milk & add nutmeg. Whisk constantly until mixture reaches a boil, then remove from heat & stir in 1 1/4 cups cheddar cheese & the parmesan. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  5. Pour & spread 1/3 of the cheese sauce into a 9 x 9-inch baking dish. Top with drained broccoli/cauliflower combo then slowly & evenly pour remaining 2/3 of the cheese sauce over top.
  6. Sprinkle over remaining 1/4 cup white cheddar then sprinkle evenly with panko crumbs. Spray panko with olive oil cooking spray to lightly coat.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 1-2 minutes to help brown further as needed. Remove from oven, sprinkle with bacon & parsley & serve warm.

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp & Scallop Skewers

Bacon-wrapped shrimp and scallops may sound like an appetizer only served at fancy cocktail parties. But tossed in parmesan and spices then wrapped in bacon makes for some incredible skewers to serve with some vegetable couscous as a main dish.

There are all kinds of tasty add-ins to couscous, such as mushrooms and zucchini. Mushrooms add an earthy, savory flavor to couscous that makes it a good complement to main dishes like roast chicken, pork, beef or seafood.

Couscous has become one of my favorite pantry staples. It’s quick, convenient, versatile and makes a good alternative to ‘traditional’ rice or pasta.

Couscous used to be hand rolled into tiny pasta. It is now available in instant- cook packages or bulk, where couscous has already been pre-cooked by steaming and then dried. This leaves us with the simple task of re-hydrating in water or broth, which typically takes something like 5-10 minutes!

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Bacon Wrapped Shrimp & Scallop Skewers
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Ingredients
Vegetable Couscous
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Ingredients
Vegetable Couscous
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Instructions
Vegetable Couscous
  1. In a saucepan, slightly pre-cook bacon strips. Remove from saucepan onto a paper towel. To saucepan containing bacon drippings, add zucchini, mushrooms, onion, garlic & cilantro paste; sauté until tender crisp. Place in a bowl.
  2. To the saucepan, add broth & salt (if using) & bring to a boil; add couscous. Cover & remove from heat; set aside until liquid has been absorbed, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add bowl of vegetables & gently toss with a fork. Keep warm while you cook seafood.
Shrimp & Scallops
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. In a bowl, combine oil, garlic, basil, oregano & Parmesan. Add shrimp & scallops; toss gently until well coated then tread on wooden skewers along with bacon strips.
  3. Line 9 x 13-inch baking pan with foil. Place skewers with tip ends resting on pan edges.
  4. Place in oven & roast JUST until seafood is slightly firm & cooked through & bacon is cooked. Serve immediately with vegetable couscous.

Air Fryer Garlic Parmesan Chicken Wings

Truly, chicken wings are part of the North American culture. Its hard to imagine that chicken wings have only been on the scene for that last fifty + years and that they were originally considered a throw-away part of the chicken. Prior to 1964, chicken wings were scraps leftover when the chicken was cut up. They were either discarded or sold for mere pennies to be made into soup.

I guess the answer to the question as to why we love chicken wings so much is simple. Their ability to mesh with just about any flavor combination or maybe its just the finger liking goodness that comes from eating with your hands.

A while back, Brion & I bought some new appliances for our home. The stove has numerous features I didn’t have on the previous one such as an air fryer. Today I thought I’d give it a whirl with these chicken wings … Yum!

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Air Fryer Garlic Parmesan Chicken Wings
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Instructions
  1. In a large, heavy plastic bag, combine parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic, paprika & salt; add chicken wings. Seal bag tightly & briskly shake to coat chicken wings well. Spray air fryer with cooking spray. Spread out wings in basket, keeping them apart to allow for the air flow. Air fry for 12 minutes; use tongs to turn wings & fry an additional 12 minutes. Serve.

Baked Potato Skins

With the last day of December right around the corner, its time to focus on New Year’s Eve celebrations. Even if you don’t have big party plans, you will no doubt still want to enjoy a few finger foods to ring in the new year with. The fact that so much emphasis is placed on sweets over Christmas, now is a good time to enjoy something savory.

During the many years I worked in the commercial food service industry, new years eve was all about finger food. I remember making hundreds of these little bite size morsels. The thing about this type of food is, it takes hours of prep work but they can be devoured in a very short space of time.

Although the humble potato skin appetizer is pretty basic, its easy to make and quite tasty. Originally served as a clever way to repurpose food scraps, potato skins have been around since the 1970’s.

Today’s recipe works well in that you can prepare them the day before needed and refrigerate. Half an hour before you are ready to serve …. bake, sprinkle with toppings and bring on the new year!

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Baked Potato Skins
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Pierce potatoes 2-3 times. Bake directly on middle rack of oven for 50-60 minutes until tender.
  2. When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes in quarters lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop pulp from skins, leaving 1/4-inch thick shells. Place skin side down on ungreased baking sheets. Brush with oil; sprinkle with Parmesan, garlic salt & chili powder. The potatoes can be prepared up to this point one day ahead. Nest skins in rigid plastic containers, cover & refrigerate.
  3. To serve: Heat oven to 450 F. Bake skins 15-20 minutes or until hot & edges are crisp. Remove from oven; sprinkle with bacon, green onions & cheese. Bake another 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve with sour cream or Ranch dressing.