Low Carb Cauliflower & Ham au Gratin

After searching the web for a simple low carb au gratin recipe I was beginning to think that I wasn’t going to find one. Mind you I did find several that sounded amazing, even looked incredible, but the list of ingredients were insane. So I decided to do my own thing and take certain ingredients from the few recipes I really liked and created this!

What you’ll need:

2-16 oz bag frozen cauliflower, thawed, chopped, and sauteed

1 large onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced(or less if you prefer)

2 tblsp butter or coconut oil

Salt n pepper to taste

1 pound of ham, chopped

8 oz cream cheese brick, softened

4 oz velveeta, cubed and melted

3/4 c plain greek yogurt, or sour cream

2 c shredded cheese


First heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 15×11 glass casserole dish with a little coconut oil or your favorite cooking spray. Set aside.

Chop thawed cauliflower into bite size pieces and dice the onion. Cook in a large skillet with butter until onions are trqnsparent. Add minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir in chopped ham and set aside.

In a medium microwave safe bowl add cream cheese and velveeta. “Nuke” on high until velveeta is melted, stirring after a minute each time. Once melted, stir in greek yogurt. And now the fun…

In your casserole dish combine the cauliflower ham mixture with the cheesy sauce mixture. Smooth out into an even layer and top with shredded cheese. Bake covered for 40 minutes or until bubbly around the edges. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until browned slightly. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Goes great with your favorite salad and/or veggie side.

1/10th serving: 8g net carbs

This is a keeper for us, might tweek it a bit and add some chopped fried bacon next time and maybe sausage instead of ham. Of course, if you want to keep it a meat free dish you absolutely can! Whatever works best for you!

Now my dad wasn’t too keen on the twanginess, I personally didn’t notice it and neither did anyone else. If you are not a fan of cream cheese or greek yogurt by all means cut back on those two or eliminate one all together. I just like how the greek yogurt doesn’t break down as much as say sour cream or mayonnaise. It lent to the creaminess of the sauce which helped to offset the velveeta a bit.

It is important to cook the cauliflower with the onions. This will help produce a more thoroughly cooked vegetable in the end. I’ve discovered that cooking in the microwave doesn’t cut it, cauliflower still comes out crunchy even after baking in the oven for 40-50 minutes. Crazy I know. So be sure to precook it just until the onion is transparent.

You can also make this a spicy dish, just add a dash of red pepper flakes for a kick! You can also leave the velveeta out all together, use freshly shredded Monterrey jack cheese and add jalapenos for a jalapeno popper version. Play around with the flavors and enjoy!

Almost forgot, this freezes well too! Just thaw out completely before baking. Have a blessed week!!


Chicken Patty Croquettes (LC/GF)

I think I finally perfected my low carb/gluten free chicken patty recipe! Hope you all enjoy and feel free to try different seasonings 🙂 


Chicken Patty Croquettes (LC/GF)

Yields: 30 patties

6 large chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
4 large eggs
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1–2 Tblsp Tone’s Spicy Spaghetti Seasoning
1 cup Parmesan Cheese
1 cup Almond Flour/Meal
1/4 cup coconut oil, for cooking

Rinse and pat dry thawed out chicken breasts. Place chicken into food processor and process down until it looks pasty. It took me two passes to get all the chicken ground down. Pour ground chicken into a large mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients(minus the coconut oil). Mix until well combined.
In a large skillet, heat coconut oil (or your preferred cooking oil) over medium/high heat. Here’s the fun part, I didn’t exactly measure out the amount of chicken mixture for each patty. With a gloved hands, I grabbed about 4 fingers full of mixture and gently formed it into small patties. If you need a more accurate measurement, you could use 1/4 cup up to 1/3 cup. You can certainly make these smaller if you intend on using them for sliders!
Cook each side until lightly browned. Let drain on a paper towel lined plate.

Per 1 croquette(according to My Fitness Pal) ::

Calories: 116
Fat: 5g
Carbs: 4g
Dietary Fiber: 1g
Net Carbs: 3g

To turn these into chicken parm sliders for a football game/tailgating event:


Dip each patty in your favorite pizza sauce and place on a foil lined baking pan. Cover each patty with mozzarella cheese and bake in a 375*F oven for 10 minutes. Just long enough for the cheese to melt. Serve on potato or Hawaiian rolls and enjoy!!

These were a huge hit and a quick dinner for the family on Wednesday night. True there is little labor involved, but these are so worth it! These freeze up well too, make the recipe as is and freeze them in packs of two. You’ll have a quick meal ready to go when you’re too busy to make a full blown dinner. Serve up with zucchini noodles, a homemade tomato sauce and you’ll have a simple filling meal in under 10 minutes! Provided that you keep homemade frozen sauce on hand that you can thaw out 😉 Prepping ahead is easy and can make your future cooking experience more enjoyable! 

Hope you all enjoy and have a blessed week!!

Bulk Cooking — Part 3

Good afternoon everyone! We have arrived at the last installment of bulk cooking with ground beef. Today has been insane, first I overslept by two hours, instead of my child waking me up(like he usually does) he just closed my bedroom door and left me. Never heard the alarm on my iPod because the sound wasn’t turned up, that’s my fault. So this post is a tad late in getting out. But it’s here and not forgotten!

The recipe we use to make our meatballs is one that can be found on Food Network called Grandma Maronis Meatballs, it’s a 100 year old recipe, very yummy and makes the best meatballs, in my humble opinion 🙂 Normally when we make these meatballs we do a bunch(as in 5-6 pounds of them), enough for at least four to five meals. These meatballs are tender and juicy and affordable! Now I want to apologize for yesterday’s post, I had my math wrong and it was brought to my attention. This taught me to not type when I’m three sheets to the wind! Thankfully it was pointed out to me by my Mother so there wasn’t too much embarrassment to have to deal with 🙂 I just wanted to apologize for my mistake and let everyone know it’s been corrected. 

The recipe is simple, we didn’t double it this go around and it still made enough meatballs for two meals, adding to our inventory that’s already in the freezer.

Grandma Maronis Meatballs

1 pound ground chuck
4 ounces dried bread crumbs
4 large eggs
4 ounces whole milk
6 ounces grated Romano
3 ounces grated Spanish onion
2 ounces finely diced fresh garlic
2 ounces finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 ounces finely chopped fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray. Mix all ingredients thoroughly in large bowl. If mixture seems a little loose add more bread crumbs. Roll meatballs loosely about the size of a golf ball and place on baking sheet. Place into preheated oven for approximately 35 to 40 minutes. Enjoy!
We don’t make golf ball sized meatballs. That’s just a lot of meat per ball and would take too long to bake, we like to use a melon baller scoop. It’s much smaller but we get more meatballs that way which helps to drive down the cost per meal.
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Here you can see the meat after it’s been mixed together. Again, we only add soft breadcrumbs and mix very gently to help make a more tender meatball. You might be wondering why we would use a recipe that includes milk. Sounds odd but actually it helps to tenderize the meat even further. Any time we make any meat sauce, during the cooking process we add a little milk to help soften up the meat. It works perfectly and once everything is absorbed and evaporated we add in the rest of the ingredients to our sauce. Can’t tell that milk was ever added! The end product is tender and mouthwatering. Try it if you’ve never done it before 🙂
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The loading of the melon baller. You can do this one of two ways: After scooping up the meat you can level it off or mound it up. We like to mound it up slightly, balls are still small enough to pop into your mouth but still big enough if you want to cut them in half.
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Mounded. Now when I make my sausage spinach balls I level off the scoop to make them a bit smaller, more appetizer size. They are always a hit at the Christmas party I go to every year!!
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There was enough to make a full pan and then half a pan, about 52 meatballs…but then Dad ate one so it we had 51…anyway. It’s going to be enough for two meals.
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Bake according to the recipe and voila! I wish there were a way for everyone out there to smell these through your computer screens…guess you’ll just have to make them to find out! The aroma in the house that Monday night was out of this world, felt like we were in a Sicilian’s kitchen 🙂
Divide these up into two meals, placing them into food saver bags, seal them shut with a food saving machine and freeze! In a month I’ll use them in my family’s favorite meatball casserole (a post for another day), serve it up with pasta, salad and garlic bread! Instant meal that I didn’t have to slave over all day!
If you haven’t tried bulk cooking, are a little apprehensive in trying it, or don’t know where to start, it’s easy. You start small. I haven’t been posting all these things to make anyone feel overwhelmed, on the contrary, I am trying to encourage you to save even more! Depending on what the meal is will determine how much time and effort it will take to get a finished product. Instead of making one meatloaf buy enough meat to make two. That’s what we did in the beginning. Wrap up the second meatloaf and save it for the following month. We didn’t start out using 10 pounds of beef and magically end up with seven to ten meals in the freezer, Mom eased us into it and once I was fully on board with bulk cooking she and I started plotting and planning what to do with five pounds of meat and finally ten pounds of meat. It’s been a slow progression that’s allowed us to see the endless possibilities with not just ground beef but also pork, chicken, roasts, vegetables, fruits, and even non-food items. If you need more information, encouragement or ideas please email me at nightowlkitchen@yahoo.com I will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have and be willing to share any extra tips I can think of. I’m not going to let these three posts just sit here and confuse people. I don’t want anyone to be stumped, lost, or feel like it’s an impossible thing to do. We’re a one income family, while we don’t coupon like many folks (because we cook mostly from scratch) we have been able to save a lot of money the last few years. I just want to encourage you all, don’t be shy in asking me anything and if I don’t know something I will find someone who does 🙂
If you don’t want to shell out $30 for 10 pounds of meat at first, don’t. Start with 3 pounds of meat, cook it up into three meals and freeze them. That’s at least three meals that you won’t have to worry about making later! Think of the time and headache that is saved when you can easily go to your freezer, pull out a frozen meal, let it thaw and bake it up for dinner! I did this just last night and all I had to cook up was a meat side to go with our vegetable casserole. I saved about 20 minutes on my cooking time, which is so worth it! Graduate yourself up to making five meals, then ten, and who knows someone out there might get bold enough to do twenty…more power to you friend! Start small, make an extra meal to freeze, and watch the savings as the months go by 🙂
Have a blessed day!

Bulk Cooking–Part 2

Afternoon everyone!

Meatloaf is the American family staple. It has stood the test of time and has seen many facelifts over the years. One of my favorite ways to enjoy some leftover meatloaf is to dip a slice of meatloaf in a batter, deep fry it and smother it in gravy….oh it is lip smacking good! But that’s for another post 🙂

In and of itself, meatloaf is pretty basic. You have your choice of beef, some eggs, seasonings, ketchup and breadcrumbs. Form into a loaf shape(or bake in a loaf pan as my Mom used to do) and dress it up however you like. Mom grew up eating meatloaf with a ketchup glaze, I have some not so fond memories of scraping baked ketchup off the top of the meatloaf as a kid and now we just place a frozen meatloaf in the crockpot and let it slow cook all day! Amazing how things evolve…and no ketchup!

Yesterday Mom and I attacked a 10 pound tube of ground beef, purchased from Sam’s Club. It has been a while since we purchased one of those mamma jammas, mostly because of the price but after doing some calculation we found that per loaf, which can feed a family of five, is one frugal meal. This particular tube of meat cost us about $28US. For many folks that price alone is cause enough to not purchase it. But let’s take a look at how much three meatloaves cost.

For the sake of my sanity, we’ll say one meatloaf can feed five people(depending on how you cut it it could feed four to six). For our family recipe, which you’ll need to base the price according to your recipe, we used about 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef per loaf. For a grand total of 4 1/2 pounds of ground beef.

2.88 times 4.5= 12.96

That’s $12.96 for 4 1/2 pounds of ground beef. Now, divide that $12.96 by 3 meatloaves.

12.96 divided by 3= 4.32

That’s just the cost of the meat. Now divide 4.32 by 5.

4.32 divided by 5= 0.86

In the end that translates to $0.86 per person and bit more once you include ingredients. This is why meatloaf is such a frugal recipe! Sounds insane, my mind was blown away at just the savings we were putting into our freezer.

Even if you decided to make 10 one pound meatloaves you’re going to save more in the long run using a 10 pound tube of beef than buying your meat a pound or two at a time each week. But don’t let the possibilities stop at just a meatloaf…

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Remember Chubby? Good ol’ Chubby lends so many possibilities. As I mentioned before we made seven meals off this joker yesterday. Seven meals that we could not have otherwise made if we had purchased seven pounds of ground beef anywhere else. Buying in bulk is not wasteful, it just takes some planning, some saving, and being willing to set aside some time to deal with the bulk food accordingly. In the past we have cooked up the entire tube and made ten packages of ground beef to be used in casseroles and skillet meals. There is a sense of security that comes with knowing you have enough meat to get you through especially if there comes a time when the money is a little tighter from one week to the next.

Now, I don’t have permission to share the exact meatloaf recipe with you all (Head Chef frowned upon it) but I can share the pictures so you can see just how easy it is to not only do one meatloaf, but to make three!

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Mom’s Mom made her meatloaf with oats as the binder. That makes for a hard meatloaf, perfect for for covering brown gravy but if you’re wanting a more tender meatloaf then consider using soft bread crumbs. Put a couple of slices in the food processor and grind it up. We do this first before anything else. Next we love sneaking in vegetables into our food, plus we’re not big fans of chunky crunchy vegetables in our food. After processing the bread add in some onion and carrots. We have since learned that it is also best to add your eggs in with the vegetables at this point. It helps to break up the egg whites making it easier to incorporate it into the meat.

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I am not certain about the size bowl we used, it could be a 12 gallon bowl I can double check that later. But it is necessary to have a large enough bowl for 4 1/2 pounds of meat, especially when it comes time to mixing everything together. After whizzing up the veggies you can see that we didn’t take it down to a pulp, we did it just enough to take everything down to diced/minced pieces.

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We love garlic, and here my Mom is holding little prep dish of a thawed out cube of garlic. That would be roughly four to six garlic cloves minced. I like to pack minced garlic into ice cube trays, freeze them and keep a quart size bag of garlic cubes in the freezer. They are really handy about most of the time I’m cutting one in half or into fourths depending on what I’m making. Again, buying peeled garlic in bulk about once every two-three months is not a bad idea.

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Me and my blue Nitrile gloves 😀 Love using those! Now the key to a tender meatloaf, other than using light breadcrumbs, is not over working the meat. Especially once it comes time to adding in those breadcrumbs. You can see in the first picture I’m just mixing up all the wet ingredients into the beef. The second picture we added the breadcrumbs after all the wet stuff was mixed in. Then gently folded the breadcrumbs into the meat mix taking care to not squish or squeeze the bread into the beef. You have to be gentle, as if you were folding in some whipped up egg whites into a batter. Be gentle.

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We are lovers of Release Foil, especially when it’s going to be up against meat like this. Dole out the meat as evenly as you can, nothing has to be perfect just eye ball it.

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Pat them out into a loaf shape and wrap up the foil around each loaf. This other picture kind of looks like our three loaves are wrapped together but trust me they aren’t 🙂

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Mr. Spotty is our official food inspector, so he thinks! Personally, I just think he’s too curious about the wonderful smells that is meat. Precious baby 😀

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Take each foil wrap loaf, wrap it in plastic wrap and finally wrap it in freezer paper, sealing it with freezer tape. Be sure to label what it is and include the date. Lay them flat in the freezer and presto! Three meals, one per month at roughly $2.00 or so per person!

You can bake a thawed meatloaf in a 350-375 degree oven, just line your baking pan with foil, cover the meatloaf with more foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes to get some nice coloring. Now when I was growing up we would eat boiled potatoes with this. It was a carry over from what my Mom grew up with and it’s as good as having baked potatoes. You could serve up some oven baked pocket potatoes and veggies for easy clean up, and steam up a favorite veggie or have a salad. Possibilities are endless!

At the end of the day, we were very pleased with the out come, knowing we were able to save the family a boocoo amount of money and we have meals for September, October, and November. It’s not only a great way to save money but it’s practical too! I can’t think of anyone that I’ve shared this method with in the past that to this day thinks is a waste of time or ingredients. Even when we first embarked on making multiples of meals to freeze I was skeptical in how this was going to save us money and time in the kitchen. After a year I became a believer and was able to see the savings and benefit from just taking a meal out from the freezer to thaw and bake up later in the day. Didn’t have to groan over what to make or worry about what to put on the weekly menu. It has become a time saver, a money saver and that makes this Momma happy happy happy!!

Have a blessed day 🙂


Bulk Cooking–Part 1

Evening everyone, goodness this has been a busy day. School went longer than expected and I wasn’t able to get started on our bulk cooking project till after 2pm. Much later than I wanted but that’s how life is at times.

Mom and teamed up and set to figuring out what we wanted to do with nearly ten pounds of ground beef. We decided on three meatloaves, meatballs, and two casseroles. Yes, A LOT of cooking and baking! But it was worth it in the end, we were able to create seven meals out of that ten pounds of meat and the savings are through the roof!!

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Meet Chubby. Chubby’s ancestors and my family go way back 😉 We’ve made many a meals off these fellas! I can hear you now, Amanda Gayle that is a ton of meat! You’re right, it is, but don’t let that intimidate you. Chubby is just one of many tubes of meat that can be purchased at Sam’s Club. If you figure up the cost per meal and per family member you’re actually saving money per month instead of wasting it.

The first thing I wanted to get going was my homemade chunky spaghetti sauce. It’s meaty and thick, a perfect blend of seasonings and spices.

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Since I was doing a double batch of sauce I needed to double up my veggies. My Dad bought a bag of red onions a week ago, it was all he could find that looked decent. You can use yellow onion or whatever you have on hand. Chop them up. Remember the green bell peppers I chopped up a couple of weeks ago? Yep, I used two bags.

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Now, I normally use fresh mushrooms and prefer them. But in a pinch canned mushrooms are ok. I went a step further to chop them up even more.

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Here’s all my lovely veggies ready to be cooked up. Once on the stove I added a couple of healthy pinches of salt, pepper, and two tablespoons of olive oil. Cover with a lid and cook on medium heat.

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BEHOLD! The tower of beef!!! Weighing in at a mere four pounds…

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Once the beef and veggies cooked down and I drained off most of the liquid I added two cans of tomato sauce and two cans of diced tomatoes. Purty, purty, purty!

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You can use your favorite Italian seasoning or just use dried oregano and basil to taste. In the first photo I was adding in one tablespoon of our homemade Italian seasoning and in the second photo I added two teaspoons of sugar. Eventually I had to add a touch more Italian seasoning and salt to help balance out the sweetness. To help tighten it up a bit I added a little tomato paste, reduced the heat and let the sauce cook down. At some point I do believe my Mom added in a few bay leaves…I love cooking with her 🙂

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With the sauce cooling down, I set about making the cheesy filling of the casserole. This is similar to the stuffed shells cheese filling that my Mom makes. It’s simple to throw together! Cream cheese, Ricotta cheese, Cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, Mozzarella cheese, eggs, heavy cream, some black pepper, and parsley for color.

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Into two pans dole out some of the meat to cover the bottom. On top of the meat layer spoon on the cheese filling and top with remaining meat. You can add noodles into the meat if you want or use lasagna noodles. I chose to leave out the noodles to help cut the carbs for the family. When it comes time to bake this up I can make them some Dreamfield’s pasta on the side.

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Before covering with foil sprinkle more Mozzarella cheese over the top; spread out evenly. Cover with a heavy duty foil and label accordingly along with date.

Cheesy Italian Casserole

(To make one casserole)

2 pounds ground beef, cooked and drained

1 onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 ounces mushrooms, canned or fresh, chopped

1 can tomato sauce

1 can diced tomatoes

1–2 ounces tomato paste

2 Bay leaves

Italian Seasoning, Salt and Pepper to taste

7 ounces Ricotta cheese (or more if you like)

8 ounces Cottage cheese

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 c Mozzarella cheese

1 egg

1/4 c heavy cream

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 Tblsp dried parsley

Mozzarella cheese

1 pound noodles, optional

Brown ground beef with onion, bell pepper, garlic, and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook until onions are transparent. Add in tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, season with your favorite Italian seasoning, salt and pepper (trust me you’ll need to reseason) and bay leaves. Stir in tomato paste and let sauce cook on low to thicken without lid. Stirring occasionally.

In a large bowl combine Ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, Mozzarella cheese, egg, cream, black pepper and dried parsley.

If you are using noodles, cook according to directions. Either stir into meat mixture or layer within the casserole.

Cover the bottom of the baking dish with just enough meat mixture, followed by cheesy filling, top with more meat, and finish with Mozzarella cheese. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25–30 minutes until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly around the edges. Serve with favorite garlic bread and salad.

Doubling this recipe is a cinch and should you decide to make an extra casserole reheating instructions are the same as above. Just be sure to completely thaw the casserole first. Hope you enjoy!!