Category Archives: Vegetables

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

What can be an easier side dish than Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms? Not too many things. Depending on what you are using to stuff your mushrooms the process can be easy or a little complicated. The process I used for this recipe was extremely easy.

Stuffed mushrooms were one of the my favorite appetizers back in the days when it was safe to sit down in a restaurant and enjoy a full course meal. In the days of Covid-19, my family and I are cautious about social distancing and staying as safe as possible. Although we miss dining out, we are definitely supporting our local restaurants by doing take out a couple of times each week. I enjoy cooking for the family but even I need a break now and then.

So, since I couldn’t have Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms at a restaurant I made my own version at home. Instead of sauteing baby spinach and chopping up onions along with other veggies, I used frozen creamed spinach to reduce my prep time. By adding a few seasonings along with some grated Parmesan cheese I created a quick filling. Viola! I made a lovely Spinach Stuffed Mushroom appetizer or side dish to compliment dinner.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients:

12 large mushrooms cleaned (chop stems and reserve)

1 pkg frozen creamed spinach

½ cup Panko bread crumbs

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

½ tsp Kosher salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp garlic powder

Grape seed oil or olive oil

Pinch of cayenne powder or red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Thaw creamed spinach in a medium sized bowl. Add salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, ½ of the bread crumbs and cheeses. Stir to mix well.

Rub mushrooms with a little grape seed oil them place in a rectangular baking sheet lined with foil or a casserole dish. Stuff each mushroom with the creamed spinach filling then top with remaining bread crumbs. Drizzle a little grape seed oil over the bread crumbs and sprinkle with paprika then place in oven. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the mushrooms are softened and golden brown.

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Pasta with Sweet Italian Sausage in Sauce

Let me say from the start that even though this recipe is about pasta and sweet Italian sausage this is not necessarily an Italian recipe. It is more of a combination of Italian and Mexican flavors.

Whenever my youngest son asks what’s for dinner and I say pasta he breaks into his happy dance with sound effects. I have said this more than once in my blog… my family loves pasta. Maybe the next time I make pasta I’ll see if I can film the dance and share it on my blog.

Today, I decided I didn’t want to make the usual spaghetti meat sauce using sauce from a jar. Instead, I opted to make my own sauce using canned tomatoes, veggies and sweet Italian sausage. I also wanted to create a few different textures in the sauce so I added white beans which provided both texture and more flavor. Although everything was soft in the sauce, there were different levels of softness if that makes sense. The pasta was al dente. The beans were creamy. The veggies were smooth and the sausage had a nice soft chew. Fortunately, it all worked together and had me doing my own happy dance.

Pasta with Sweet Italian Sausage in Sauce

Ingredients:

2 packages Sweet Italian Sausage links

1 can small white beans drained and rinsed

1 can Mexican stewed tomatoes

1 can fire roasted tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste

1 small green pepper diced

1 small red pepper diced

2 cups water

2 tbsp grape seed oil

2 tbsp fresh hot salsa

½ tbsp ground oregano

½ tbsp dried basil

½ tbsp Adobo

1 tsp Kosher salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

Heat grape seed oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add sausages in batches and brown on each side. Slice the browned sausages then set aside. Wipe out the dutch oven if the bottom is too brown. Lower the temperature to medium. Add a little more grape seed oil to the pot then add onions ad peppers along with the seasonings. Stir and cook for approximately 2 – 3 minutes. Add both cans of tomatoes, white beans and tomato paste to the pot and stir until well blended with the onions and peppers. Cook for 3 minutes then add the sausages to the pot. Stir and let simmer for 20 – 25 minutes over medium low heat to allow the sauce to thicken.

While sauce is simmering cook pasta according to the package. Spoon sauce over a bowl of pasta and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

 

 

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Quiche

During warmer weather I shy away from always fixing meals that require me to be around the stove for any length of time. One pot meals and meals that go into the oven are my favorite things to prepare when it is hot.

Quiche is one of those meals you can quickly prepare then stick it in the oven to do its thing while you do something else. Quiche is also versatile because you can use anything you want for the filling whether it is veggies, meat, cheese or a combination of all three. The only thing I haven’t tried in a quiche is pasta. But who knows, that might work too. I’ll let you know if I ever get bold enough to try it.

I have two quiche recipes you can try for my vegetarian friends and meat eaters like me. I encourage you to experiment with the ingredients to make this your own favorite recipe.

P.S. Crab quiche is wonderful too. I’ll write a recipe on that one too sometime soon.

Quiche

Basic Quiche Recipe

Ingredients:

6 extra large eggs

1 ready made pie crust (roll out to fit in pie pan)

½ cup shredded Gruyere cheese

¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup half and half

1 tbsp butter or olive oil

½ tsp mushroom seasoning (Trader Joe’s)

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp cracked black pepper

¼ tsp dried parsley

¼ tsp dried thyme

2 dashes of hot sauce (optional)

cooking spray

paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place pie crust in a pie pan sprayed with cooking spray. Gently tap the bottom of the pie crust with a fork to prevent puffing. Set aside.

Beat together eggs, seasonings and half and half until well blended. Fold cheeses into the egg mixture. Sprinkle with a little paprika. Place pie pan on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes. Test to make sure the quiche is cooked thoroughly by placing a butter knife in the center after 30 minutes. Cook a few minutes more if not completely done. Let the quiche cool for about 5 to 10 minutes then serve with nice soup or salad.

Additional Ideas:

Mushroom Quiche:

Saute 1 package each of baby portobella mushrooms and white button mushrooms in 1 tbsp of butter or olive oil. Place on the bottom of the pie crust then pour egg and cheese mixture over the mushrooms. Bake according to basic the recipe.

Chicken and Broccoli Quiche:

Season one package of cooked diced white meat chicken with a little salt, onion powder and pepper.  Set aside.  Blanche 1 package of broccoli florets in salted water for about 3 minutes. Remove from water and place in a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and sprinkle broccoli with a little salt. Place chicken and broccoli in the bottom of the pie crust then pour egg and cheese mixture over the filling. Bake according to the basic recipe.

 

 

 

 

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Eggplant with Crispy Parmesan Cheese

A steak, pork chop or chicken might be the star of the show on a plate but all stars need a co-star to be truly successful.

Thinking of new side dishes isn’t always easy. Sometimes it depends on what vegetables are in season or it may be as simple as what is in the refrigerator. On the day I decided to make Eggplant with Crispy Parmesan Cheese I just happened to have an eggplant calling my name and begging to be created into something delicious. I didn’t want to turn it into a casserole or a stew so I settled on baking the eggplant.

I like easy and this recipe is just that… easy. There is not a lot of fuss when all you need to do is slice the eggplant and mix together a cheesy topping. Since my sons are learning how to cook a little more I think I will pass this recipe on to them to impress the women in their lives.

Eggplant with Crispy Parmesan

Ingredients:

1 medium sized eggplant

½ cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese

½ cup panko bread crumbs

½ tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp smoked paprika

salt

cracked black pepper

olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together Parmesan cheese, panko bread crumbs, oregano, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika and garlic powder in a small bowl. Set aside.

Slice eggplant into ½ inch rings. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper. Top each slice of eggplant with the cheese topping and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until eggplant is fully cooked and topping is brown and crispy.

 

 

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Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa

Roasting vegetables is one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables because it is a quick process that brings out a lot flavor. Before I started my blog I never thought about roasting unless it was chicken. Instead, I would just saute vegetables in a pan. Believe it or not the two techniques of sauteing vs. roasting will affect the nutritional value and flavor depending on the vegetable.

I did a little research and found that both roasting and sauteing are healthy methods of preparing vegetables. Steaming is the best way to go and grilling is better than frying when trying to maintain nutrition. Both tomatoes and onions maintain their antioxidant capacity after baking but green peppers tend to lose antioxidant capacity when baked. No, that has not stopped me from baking peppers because I like the taste. It’s just good information to know when preparing them.

Mixed Pasta and Kielbasa was a last minute recipe I came up with based on what I had on hand for dinner. I keep a jar of dried mixed pasta which are the remnants of different boxes of pasta. Elbow, penne, bow tie – whatever! Pasta is pasta. All that really matters is what you add to the pasta. On the night I made Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa I had some baby spinach, tomatoes and a package of kielbasa I needed to cook.

The end result was pretty tasty and definitely a hit with my pasta eating crew. It is hard for me to mess up pasta when dealing with an audience that loves pasta in any shape or form. But, I know just how delicious my pasta dishes are when they go for seconds and this one certainly hit the mark. Seconds all around!

Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa

Ingredients:

1 ring of smoked kielbasa sliced

1 small onion sliced thin

1 pkg baby leaf spinach

1 pkg vine ripe tomatoes quartered

½ green pepper seeded and sliced

1 cup mixed pastas (penne, twists, cavatappi, etc) cooked al dente per package

½ cup chicken broth

¼ shredded mozzarella cheese

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp salt

1 tsp Adobo

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add tomatoes, onions and green peppers to a rimmed baking sheet. Season with 1 tsp of salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp oil and toss to coat. Roast in oven for 20 – 25 minutes until slightly charred. Set aside.

Brown kielbasa in 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken broth, roasted vegetables and remaining seasonings to the kielbasa. Stir to mix well. Toss in pasta and stir. Cook until pasta is heated up then sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

 

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Blackened Salmon Salad

Salmon is my go to meal whenever we go out to eat and there is nothing that truly peaks my interest on the menu. Salad is one of my family’s favorite foods so put salmon and salad together and you have one of my top 10 meals. Blacken the salmon and you can forget about it!

The reason I am bragging about my Blackened Salmon Salad is because once hubby tasted it he said “Babe, you must have done something different with the salmon”. I braced myself because I wasn’t sure if the next sentence would be good or bad so I just stared at him. The next sentence was “because you’ve never fixed salmon like this and it is delicious. Let’s have more of this!”.

It has taken me a minute to learn how to make a really good blackened salmon fillet. Hubby didn’t realize I have tried making blackened salmon in the past but never quite got the seasonings right. Plus, I didn’t pair it with a great salad. I know most folks might say how hard can it be to make salad. My answer is not hard but not every salad tastes the same or is wonderful. Each salad is different depending on the combination of ingredients. Basic ice berg lettuce, hot house tomatoes and cucumber salads are for bland palates. Mixed greens, plum tomatoes, various cheeses, avocado and spices create a more exciting and flavorful salad. Mixed greens are also more nutritious than ice berg lettuce which is really just green water. If you have a choice, choose mixed greens, baby leaf spinach or even romaine lettuce for your salads.

Bottom-line… The blackened salmon will be the center piece of your meal and will keep folks asking for more.

Blackened Salmon Salad

Ingredients:

2 – 4 salmon fillets

6slices bacon cooked crisp and crumbled

2 – 3 boiled eggs chopped

1 ripe avocado sliced thin (squeeze juice from ½ a lime over avocado)

1 large plum tomato sliced thin

1 package mixed greens

¼ cup shaved fresh Parmesan cheese

¼ cup sliced red onion

¼ cup water

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

salt

lemon pepper

paprika

Cajun seasoning

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

cilantro (optional)

red pepper flakes (optional)

seasoned croutons (optional)

Heat frying pan over medium high heat. Add butter and olive oil. Rinse salmon and pat dry. Season salmon with a little salt, lemon pepper, cilantro, Cajun seasoning and paprika. Once butter begins to brown slightly add salmon skin side up. Sprinkle skin with a little salt, lemon pepper, and paprika. Cook for 5 minutes until fillet begins to darken but does not burn (gently lift salmon to check color after 3 minutes). Flip the salmon fillet and cook for another 5 minutes until the skin begins to crisp up then add water and cover with a lid. Turn down heat to medium low and cook and additional 2 – 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and let salmon rest while building the salad.

Salad:

Place mixed greens in a large bowl. Add eggs, bacon, tomato and cheese. Toss with salad dressing. For each salad bowl lay slices of avocado over the salad then place a salmon fillet in the middle of the salad. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

 

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Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta (or Turkey Bacon)

My hair stylist Eb (and little brother) and I often discuss anything from family, food and sports to politics while I am sitting in his chair. A while ago we talked about a couple of the dishes he makes for Mother’s Day. He showed me a picture of one recipe in particular he had created which consisted of brussel sprouts and turkey bacon. I must say it looked absolutely delicious and of course made me want to create my own brussel sprout recipe. So this post is dedicated to Eb and all the brussel sprout lovers of the world.

Brussel sprouts are one of those vegetables I found that people either love or hate. I am on the side of loving them. Not just because I love most foods but because they are very low in fat and have a high percentage of potassium and vitamin C. Plus, they have a nice little bite in flavor. Contrary to what some folks think, brussel sprouts are not baby cabbages. Where as cabbage grows out of the ground and we eat the head of the cabbage, brussel sprouts are buds that grow on thick long stalks. Both vegetables are in the same cruciferous family along with kale, collard greens, bok choy and other types of greens.

The haters of brussel sprouts have given this vegetable a bad rap. Probably because whomever prepared them were not totally sure how to cook them. Take frozen brussel sprouts off your list. Once frozen they are not quite as delicious as they could be. Brussel sprouts need to be cooked fresh. The smaller the brussel sprout the sweeter the taste. Larger brussel sprouts tend to be more bitter but if they are prepared the right way large sized brussel sprouts will taste wonderful too. Lightly browning or caramelizing the brussel sprouts enhances the nutty flavor and cuts down on the bitterness in my opinion. Pairing the brussel sprouts with other wonderful flavors like pancetta and onions also brings out the savory taste of the sprouts.

However, you decide to fix them just make sure you give brussel sprouts the tender love and care they deserve. I think if given another chance, even haters will grow to love brussel sprouts.

Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta

Ingredients:

10 – 15 small brussel sprouts cut in half

1 pkg pancetta

1 clove garlic minced

½ small onion sliced thin

¼ cup chicken broth

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp salt

½ tsp cracked black pepper

½ tsp onion powder

Heat olive oil and butter in a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and pancetta and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally until the onion softens and pancetta slightly browns. Add brussel sprouts and seasonings. Stir to mix the pancetta, onions and brussel sprouts. Lightly brown the brussel sprouts for approximately 3 minutes then add the chicken broth, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook until the brussel sprouts are fork tender but do not over cook. Serve with your favorite fish or meat.

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Penne Pasta and Eggplant with Spicy Meatballs on the side

This post is dedicated to Kashana who is a foodie like me. Kashana and I met at one of my favorite places – Starbucks. We happen to strike up a conversation about food and since then she has been a visitor to my blog. It is nice when someone outside of family appreciates many of the recipe ideas I have shared over the years.

I have to admit that this recipe was adapted from another recipe I saw on a cooking show. I thought it would be a nice recipe for the days when I wanted a meatless dish that was also quite filling. Adding spicy meatballs on the side was a way for me to please others that liked a meatless dish as well as those that are true carnivores no matter what.

This recipe really came in handy recently when my sister, who is a vegetarian, and brother-in-law joined us for dinner at our house. I was surprised that night when my sister shared that she no longer eats pasta, flour, sugar, etc. Fortunately, I had also prepared blackened salmon because I knew she liked salmon which I figured would go with the pasta. So all was not lost with my dinner menu which included a delicious salad (per the family) along with steamed broccoli topped with melted cheese.

Okay, back to the Penne and Eggplant. Talk about easy. Preparing pasta is usually quick and quite easy by just following the directions on the box. I made sure the pasta was al dente so that it would not be a pile of mush after I baked it a little. Eggplant can be quite watery when you cook it. So, the trick to reducing the amount of moisture in the eggplant is to microwave the cubed eggplant for about 8 minutes on a paper towel. This method worked like a charm. I think I might try this when I make another eggplant lasagna to make it less watery too.

Spicy meatballs on the side allowed me to have a vegetarian dish and the ability to satisfy the carnivore in me and some of my family. The meatballs were also a big hit along with the Penne Pasta and Eggplant. Two for one! Man…. I’m on a roll.  Thank you Kashana for your support.

Penne Pasta with Spicy Meatballs on the side

Ingredients:

2 large eggplant cubed (do not peel)
½ small onion sliced thin

1 box Penne pasta cooked al dente according to package

1 ½ jars marinara sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1 cup grated fresh Parmesan

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp onion powder

Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a large microwaveable bowl with paper towels. Place cubed eggplant in the bowl and sprinkle with sea salt. Microwave eggplant for 8 minutes. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant and sprinkle with black pepper, oregano, basil and onion powder. Saute the eggplant until softened stirring constantly so that it does not burn.

Remove the eggplant from the heat. Spray the bottom of a casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour a little marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish and spread around. Add the Penne pasta to the dish and top with the eggplant, thinly sliced onions and Parmesan cheese. Pour marinara sauce over the top and gently mix to combine the eggplant, pasta and cheese. Add more sauce if the pasta seems too dry. Top with the shredded mozzarella cheese then bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the cheese has melted and pasta is heated throughout. Serve immediately with the Spicy Meatballs and a healthy salad.

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Chicken Stir Fry

Stir fry dishes are one of the easiest things to make for dinner on a busy night or any night. My version of Chicken Stir Fry was developed over time as I played with different flavors and levels of heat. I had to find a happy medium for the family as my taste buds like low to medium heat and the rest of the family like burn your mouth levels of heat. Since I wanted to enjoy the dish along with the family I went with medium heat with a side of hot chili oil for the everyone else to add to their bowls of stir fry.

If you don’t have a wok, I would suggest investing in one because you can make a variety of dishes in this one tool wonder. Woks are easy to clean and can take a lot of heat. Of course, if you don’t have a wok or don’t want to invest in one, you can stick to using a large skillet for creating your stir fry dishes.

The key to making a flavorful stir fry is in the marinade. The longer you marinade the chicken or any other meat, the more intense the flavor becomes. At a minimum marinade your meat for 30 minutes and if you can plan ahead, marinade it overnight. Overnight marinading also helps to tenderize the meat (just a few useful tips).

From start to finish I can have dinner ready in an hour for the hungry crew on Chicken Stir Fry night. Talk about Healthy, Quick and Easy! I love it.

Chicken Stir Fry

Ingredients:

2 – 3 chicken breasts cut into thin strips

1 package snow peas

1 small green pepper large dice

1 small broccoli crown cut into florets

1 small onion diced

1 cup shredded carrots

½ cup chicken broth

½ cup crispy chow mein noodles

1 small can water chestnuts drained

3 tbsp hoisin sauce

3 tbsp oyster sauce

2 tbsp Thai style sweet and spicy sauce

2 tbsp garlic chopped

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp corn sauce

1 tsp minced ginger

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp red chili flakes (optional)

Marinade:

Place chicken in a medium sized bowl. Mix together Thai style sweet and spicy chili sauce, 1 tbsp garlic, ginger, soy sauce and corn starch in a separate bowl. Pour mixture over chicken and massage into the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and marinade in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

To cook stir fry:

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and stir until chicken is no longer pink but not totally cooked through. Remove chicken and place in a bowl. Set aside. Add a little more oil to the wok if necessary then add carrots, snow peas, onions and broccoli. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes stirring constantly until vegetables begin to soften. Add chicken broth, water chestnuts and chicken to the vegetables along with the sauces and red chili flakes. Stir and cook an additional 3 – 5 minutes until chicken is fully cooked through. Serve in bowls over rice, ramen or udon noodles. Top with crispy chow mein noodles.

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Orange Cauliflower Soup

I love it when a new idea comes together on the first try and is a hit with the family. I just decided to make a cauliflower soup today because I had a head of cauliflower and I needed to make something with it before it was no longer edible. A nice soup came to mind because although we have been having nice warm weather during the day it is a little chilly at night. Besides, I can eat soup any day of the year because I just love soup!

I am calling this one Orange Cauliflower Soup because I used diced red peppers in the soup which made it turn a pale orange color. I was not sure how everyone else would react to the color but I liked it so….. Orange Cauliflower Soup was born. Just making cauliflower soup was not enough. I wanted to add a slight richness to the soup and decided what better way to make it taste rich without a ton of calories than to add a little cheese. I think I have had cheesy cauliflower soup in the past but it was a little too rich for my blood. Adding just a little cheese keeps the calories down, adds thickness to the soup and definitely adds another level of flavor.

Whenever I put together a post I have to set up the food and take pictures of each step of the process. The last step of course is taking a picture of the finished product. After taking a picture of my new creation I figured I would clean up the kitchen so that I could enjoy a bowl of soup without thinking about the slight mess I had made. Well, my youngest son descended upon the kitchen with his girlfriend and immediately wanted to know if I had taken my last picture of the soup. I didn’t think he wanted to eat it (silly me) but he asked if he could taste it. Of course I said sure since I always need a taste tester for my recipes. The first words out of his mouth were “This is what I am going to miss!” That put a smile on my face because he is headed to college in a few months and I know he is going to miss my home cooking. My smile got even bigger when his girlfriend asked if she could try it and again I said sure. She said it was delicious and being the mom that I am I told her to take some home. Seems the soup fairy was on my side today and gave me a hit recipe on the first try. Thanks soup fairy!

Orange Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients:

1 medium head of cauliflower cut into small pieces

1 small onion diced

½ red pepper diced

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

1 cup milk

1 cup shredded monterey and/or Colby jack cheese

1 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp parsley

½ tsp basil

½ tsp red pepper flakes

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add diced onions and red peppers. Saute until slightly browned. Add seasonings and stir. Add cauliflower and stir to mix with onions and peppers. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and water. Stir then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Let simmer until cauliflower is soft. Using an immersion blender, blend cauliflower until smooth but leave a few florets to create texture. Turn heat down to low.

In a small pan melt butter and add flour. Whisk until flour and butter are blended and form a paste. Add milk and whisk until sauce is thickened. Season with a little season salt and black pepper. Add white sauce to cauliflower and whisk to blend. Stir in cheese. Continue stirring until cheese is well blended into the soup. Taste to see if a little more salt or black pepper is needed.

Enjoy!

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