Weekly Winner: A Healthy Hack and Veggie Fix Combined

buffalo cauliflowerFirst things first:  I am in no way saying that this recipe will trick you into thinking your tucking into a big basket of buffalo wings.  It won’t.  However, if like me, you are trying to lighten things and find more virtuous versions of your cold weather comfort foods, this does the trick.  At least it did for me.

I am a huge fan of cauliflower and all the ways you can transform it.  To me it’s a great “blank canvas” to take on different flavors and textures.  It can be pureed to thicken soups, it can be roasted to crunchy, golden deliciousness, and it can be minced up to mimic rice or couscous.  Now, apparently it can be “buffalo-ized” as well.  Buffalo Cauliflower Salad comes from Eating Well Magazine and has all the “requirements” of buffalo wings (OK, except for the actual “wing”).  It has the crunchy carrots and celery, the tangy blue cheese and the nice spicy kick of the buffalo sauce.  And you’re eating a salad!

Buffalo Cauliflower Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups 1-inch cauliflower florets (1 medium head)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives and/or dill
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • ½ cup julienned carrots
  • ½ cup sliced celery
  • ¼ cup sliced red onion
  • ⅓ cup crumbled blue cheese

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Toss cauliflower with oil and ⅛ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the cauliflower until it is starting to soften and brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk buttermilk, mayonnaise, herbs, garlic powder, pepper and the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Combine hot sauce, butter and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Add the roasted cauliflower and toss. Return the cauliflower to the baking sheet and drizzle with the sauce left in the bowl. Roast until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes more. Stir to coat the cauliflower completely.
  5. Add lettuce, carrot, celery and onion to the dressing in the large bowl; toss to coat. Serve the salad topped with the Buffalo cauliflower and blue cheese.

Weekly Winner: Crushin’ on Crusted Cauliflower (in it’s entirety)

cauliflowerI realize there are a few people out there that dislike cauliflower.  Personally, I don’t get it.  I adore the stuff.  Anyway you make it I’m OK with it, with the exception of boiled.  Honestly, I don’t think you should boil any vegetable.  Boiled vegetables should be banned.  I’ve also always been intrigued with cooking a whole head of cauliflower.  I’ve done the cauliflower “steaks”, I’ve pureed, I’ve riced, I’ve smashed and I’ve cut into florets…. but whole?  Now there’s a show-stopper!  Cooking a whole cauliflower is not without its difficulties, however (or so I thought!)  Getting the entire thing cooked properly is complicated (or is it?)  I’ve ordered it out at restaurants on occasion and it seems the core and stalks are never quite as done as the florets.  This is no longer a concern of mine.  I have found the perfect, whole cauliflower recipe and man, is it good!

Everything Bagel Cauliflower with Herbed Cream Cheese comes from Cuisine at Home.  First of all, what’s the deal with the “everything bagel seasoning” lately??  It’s everywhere and on everything!  I guess it is this year’s “Za’atar” seasoning.  But anyway, I digress… here is the recipe.  Oh wait!  One more thing…. this recipe says it serves 12.  Twelve???  My husband and I devoured the entire head of cauliflower with a filet of salmon each.  I’m not proud…I’m just sayin’.

Everything Bagel Cauliflower with Herbed Cream Cheese

Serves 2, 4… or 12… whatever!

Ingredients:

Spice blend:

2 Tbsp each dried minced garlic and dried onion flakes

1 Tbsp each poppy seeds and toasted sesame seeds

1 tsp kosher salt

Cauliflower:

1/2 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic

black pepper to taste

1 large head cauliflower

For the sauce:

4 oz plain cream cheese, softened

2 oz goat cheese, softened

3 Tbsp buttermilk

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic

1 Tbsp each minced fresh parsley and chives

1 tsp minced fresh dill

salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Stir together all ingredients for the spice blend.
  3. Whisk together 2 Tbsp of the spice blend with the yogurt and olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic in a large bowl; season with pepper.
  4. Add the cauliflower to yogurt mixture and oat completely.  Transfer cauliflower to prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of the spice blend.
  5. Roast cauliflower until golden brown and fork-tender, about 1 hour.  Let cauliflower rest 10 minutes then transfer to a serving platter.
  6. For the sauce, puree cream cheese, goat cheese, lemon juice, and fresh garlic in a mini food processor.  Add parsley, chives, and dill and pulse until combined; season with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve cauliflower with sauce

Weekly Winner:  Guilt-Free Cheesy Goodness

This is the time for comfort food.  The weather is cooling off, its getting dark earlier and earlier, holiday planning has begun and when it all gets a bit overwhelming, it’s nice to dive into a big bowl of comfort.  I don’t know about you, but when I think “comfort food” two things instantly come to mind: Cheese and Pasta.  The good news is both of those can easily be had with mac-n-cheese.  The bad news is you never feel good about diving into a big bowl of mac-n-cheese. That is, perhaps, until now.

Roasted Veggie Mac and Cheese takes the regret out of cheesy mac-n-cheese. And, if you’re like me and truly love roasted vegetables, it doesn’t even seem like you’re making a sacrifice to “healthy-up” a bowl of pasta and cheese.  The vegetables take up a lot of valuable “real estate” in your bowl, so you wind up using and eating a lot less pasta.  Also the veggies fill you up and keep you satisfied longer than a vat of pasta.  It’s a win-win-win kind of situation.

The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine, and the only concession I made was to use regular pasta instead of whole-grain. I still can’t go the whole-wheat route with pasta.  I’m getting enough fiber from all these tasty veggies so I can enjoy my good old-fashioned pasta without feeling bad. I did swap out the boring elbow macaroni for the more interesting and fun wagon wheel shape.  They seemed to better fit the size of the veggies. What? Don’t you match up your pasta to what else is in the recipe?

So the next time you need to curl up on the couch with some serious comfort food, try this mac-n-cheese and come away feeling a bit better about yourself!

Roasted Veggie Mac and Cheese

Serves 8

Ingredients:

Olive oil cooking spray

10 ounce fresh broccoli florets, cut into 1-in. pieces

10 ounce cauliflower florets, cut into 1-in. pieces

10 ounce butternut squash, cut into 1/2-in. dice

10 ounce quartered Brussels sprouts

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

12 ounces whole-grain elbow pasta (or any small-shape regular pasta)

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup minced onion

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups fat-free milk

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

5 ounces freshly grated white sharp cheddar cheese (about 1-1/4 cup)

4 ounces freshly grated creamy Havarti cheese (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with aluminum foil, and coat with olive oil spray. Toss broccoli, cauliflower, squash, and Brussels sprouts with olive oil, and season with salt. Spread vegetables in an even layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake at 425°F for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring vegetables and rotating pans halfway through cooking time, until vegetables are soft and have begun to brown around the edges.
  • While vegetables roast, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting fat and salt. Drain, and set aside.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium. Add onion, and cook over low about 2 minutes. Add flour, and cook another minute or until the flour mixture is golden and well combined. Add milk and broth; whisk, increasing heat to medium-high until mixture comes to a boil. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes or until it thickens slightly, and then season with pepper.
  • Remove pan from heat; add cheeses, and mix well until cheeses are melted. Add cooked pasta, and mix well; fold in roasted vegetables.

 

Weekly Winner:  Sometimes the best plan is no plan at all … And bacon cheese!

As my lack of entries indicate, it has been a crazy couple of weeks around here…. Work, house guests, burst pipes, new carpeting, travel….so my recipe experimentation has been relatively nonexistent. Hopefully I’ll be able to remedy that in the coming weeks but for now this is definitely the best thing I’ve made in a while.

Heading to the Green City Market this morning I had no idea what I was looking for.  I found myself in the unusual situation of only having to buy for myself and hubby and today’s lunch was all I had in mind.  But what to make?  I’m sure I have a ton of new salad recipes I’ve been meaning to try, and there’s always my famous (to us anyway) farmer’s market pizza but to be honest, I wasn’t going to have the time.  I needed to find something that could be put together quickly but obviously, it had to be tasty.

If I can just say…I outdid myself!  I thought at first I would just cobble together a salad from all the various fabulous veggies I knew would be waiting for me. But then again, there’s Bennison’s bakery which always has incredible bread.  And cheese…there’s always amazing cheese to be found there as well.  Voila!  A Veggie Sandwich!  This was great, or as hubby said “This is stupidly good”.  I’ll take that any day of the week!  Sometimes you just got to wing it.

So while there’s really no recipe for this, everything on this sandwich came from the market this morning with the exception of a gala apple that I had on hand and some Gulden’s Mustard.  So here it goes:

Donna’s Green City Market Sandwich

Serves 2

Take 2 mini ciabatta loaves and slice in half lengthwise.  Generously spread bottom halves with Bacon Cheddar Cold Pack Cheese from Brunkhow Cheese .  On top of that place gala apple thinly sliced, half a cucumber thinly sliced, one sliced heirloom tomato, red leaf lettuce and thinly sliced red onion.  Salt and pepper each sandwich.  Spread a thin layer of Gulden’s mustard on top half of bread, place on top of the glorious veggies and squish down firmly.  Cut each sandwich in half and enjoy!