Monday, February 29, 2016

NEW RECIPE: Cheddar Cauliflower Soup with Cheesy Stuffed Mushrooms (Chopped at Home Challenge Submission)

Chopped has to be one of my favorite food TV shows out there. The creativity that the chefs exhibit when presented with a challenging array of ingredients to put in one dish is extraordinary, and inspires me to try it from time to time. I've even hosted a Chopped-style competition before with UC Davis (to see the recap of that and the winning recipe, take a look here!) and had a lot of fun with it.

This time, I'm testing my own mettle in the Food Network's Chopped at Home Challenge, presented by Sargento Cheese. This is a three-round competition, with round 1 involving comfort food, round 2 Mexican food, and round 3 grilled food. This first round, where submissions just closed in, required the use of Sargento Fine Cut Cheddar, Cromini mushrooms, leeks, and cauliflower.

This particular ingredient basket especially excited me because of the mushrooms and leeks - two of my favorite produce ingredients on the planet! Mushrooms have a unique velvety and buttery texture that goes great with the sweetness of sauteed leeks. Both of them also pair especially well with cheese, making it a great fit.

Cauliflower was an interesting choice of ingredient, but I am a huge fan of it, having used it in many sautes and baked dishes in my own apartment. I decided to go for a thick, cheesy soup with the cauliflower as a great comfort dish. I then dotted it with stuffed mushrooms filled with the mushroom stalks, leeks, cheddar, and pancetta (one of my favorite all-time ingredients). The result was a smoky, salty, rich, and amazing experience that is worthy of being one of my first Chopped contest submissions! 

Recipe Serves 2 people.

For the Soup:

3/4 head cauliflower, broken up into florets
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Cheddar Cheese
2 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to season
Diced Roma Tomato, Chives, Paprika, and Cayenne pepper to garnish

For the Mushrooms:

1 Leek, finely chopped
8 Cromini mushrooms
2-3 oz pancetta, diced
2 tablespoons Cheddar cheese
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp black pepper
Parmesan Cheese to grate on top (any hard cheese is great, I went with a Sarvecchio cheese)


1) Bring the chicken stock up to a boil on high heat in a pot. Add in your cauliflower florets, and turn to a medium heat. Cover and steam for 15 minutes.

2) While the cauliflower cooks, remove the stalks from your mushrooms and diced them, along with 2 of the cromini mushroom caps. Make sure the leeks and pancetta are also diced at this point.

3) Blend the cauliflower and half of the chicken stock along with the butter, cheddar, garlic, and seasoning. Set aside.

4) Add the pancetta to a dry pan on medium high heat and render out the fat. This should take around 5 minutes.

5) Drain any excess fat and return the pancetta to the pan. Add in your mushrooms and leeks, and season with the cayenne, paprika, and black pepper. Saute for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms go brown and the leeks are soft.

6) Take off of the heat and quickly stir in the cheddar cheese. Place your 6 remaining mushroom caps on a baking sheet lined with tin foil. Season the inside of the caps with salt and pepper, then add in the leek and mushroom mixture. Grate Parmesan over the top, then broil for 5 minutes in a salamander, toaster oven, or oven.

7) To serve, ladle the cauliflower soup into a bowl, and top with a dash of cayenne and paprika. Add in 3 mushrooms, and sprinkle the diced tomato and chives over the top.

This dish is very rich but has a great variety of flavors. From smokiness in the pancetta and paprika, to a light amount of heat from the cayenne, earthiness of the mushrooms and cauliflower, to the savory cheese and acidity of the tomato, everything plays together in a great, comforting balance. This is a low-carb, classed-up version of comfort food!

If you liked this recipe, please give it a vote here! I would love to win this round and move on to the finals, and you all can make that happen! Thanks, and enjoy! =) 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

NEW RECIPE: Herby Pork Chop with Sauteed Veg and Diamond-Baked Potato (Valentine's Day Special 2016)

Valentine's Day is the perfect day for you to showcase your cooking skills to your significant other. Nothing is more impressive than cooking a delicious meal that looks amazing! It doesn't need to be fancy ingredients either, as this recipe showcases. 

I used this recipe to do some work on my food plating skills, so I add some "chef-y" twists to the meal that obviously don't need to be done if in a rush, but make the plate look even more amazing. The pork chop is coated in an awesome blend of Italian herbs, and the mushrooms and greens are mixed with herbs and a light amount of Parmesean for just the perfect boost of flavor. The potato is a simple baked potato, but scored into a diamond to give it a fancy appeal. 

The plate itself in the photo is dusted with dessicated lemon peel, but you can use other spices that fit the flavor profile and your plate as well! Paprika is great for a white plate, for example. 

Anyways, this is overall a tasty, simple, and cheap meal that is just pimped up with simple cooking techniques and methods to make it look and taste absolutely delicious! 

Recipe serves 2 people.


7-8 oz pork chop, thinly sliced
1 Russet potato
1/2 lb cromini mushrooms, quartered (any mushroom works for this)
1/2 lb fresh mixed greens (I went for a blend of arugula, kale, and chard, but even just spinach works)
Salt and pepper to season
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp toasted onion powder
1/2 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 clove minced garlic
Fresh Parmesean and dried lemon peel to garnish


1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Take each potato half and score diamonds in it. Brush the halves with a half tablespoon of olive oil each. Season, and place onto a baking tray. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until fork tender.

3. While the potato bakes, heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a pan on medium high heat. Season the pork chops with salt, pepper, onion powder, basil, and oregano. Cook for 2-3 minute on each side.

4. Wipe out the pan, then add in another tablespoon of olive oil. Saute the mushrooms with salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme until brown, about 3-4 minutes. Toss in the greens, then plate.

5. For plating, place a mound of the sauteed vegetables in the center of your dish and dot with tiny flecks of the Parmesean cheese. Lay the pork chop (s) on top, then dust the plate with your spice of choice. Add the baked potato in the back, and serve!

This dish is incredibly simple to prepare, but tastes like a million dollars and looks incredibly impressive. Pair it with a glass of white wine to really make it a fancy dinner. There is nothing better to impress your significant other than a home-cooked meal - and this one takes all of the fuss out of making it! 

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Friday, February 5, 2016

NEW RECIPE: Granita Two Ways

Midterm season is easily one of the most stressful times of college. Studying and cramming in as much material as possible to get those high grades on those exams results in lots of late nights, coffee runs, and stress attacks. Having a way to release all that stress is crucial.

For me, I've always found cooking and making food to be a relaxing habit, but during midterms, its hard to cook because it takes time which I'd rather commit to studying. However, there are a lot of simple dishes that can be made in quick amounts of time! There are also dishes that just need a little attention every now and then (aka excuses to take study breaks), and this granita is just that.

Granita is a traditional frozen Italian dessert that I like to call the "old-school shaved ice." It's highly customisable to whatever liquids or fruits you would like to use, making it a fun dessert that will last a while in the freezer! Simply mix it every hour or so while in the freezer while studying, and you'll get the ultimate shaved ice!

I've done two different forms of granita for this recipe, both of which are vegan. One is a coffee granita, and the other is a citrus rose granita. Try these out, then branch out on your own and go for what flavors you love the most! 

Each Granita serves 4 people.

For the Coffee Granita:

1 1/4 cups coffee (10 fl oz, basically the equivalent of 1 K-cup. Use any coffee you like!)
1/4 cup cashew milk (any milk or milk alternative can be used here)
2 tsp sugar

For the Citrus Rose Granita: 

1 cup orange juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp rose syrup


1) Mix the ingredients for each granita in separate containers that can be placed in a freezer. Transfer to your freezer.

2) Every 45 minutes or so, use a fork to scratch up the mixtures and break up the crystals as small as possible. Continue this process for around 4-5 hours until the crystals are extremely fine.

3) Serve with fresh fruit, or add a shot of tequila the citrus rose granita before serving for an alcoholic refreshing dessert!

This is a cold, refreshing, and tasty dessert, no matter what way you make it! Add whatever flavors you want and garnish with what you like! Fresh mint, other herbs, fruit, nuts, alcohol, cream... The possibilities are endless! This is such an easy dessert to make, and a lot of fun to eat! 

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =)