Cauliflower has been called one of the trendiest vegetables of 2014. Epicurious magazine called it the vegetable of 2013, so I guess it’s having a good run of popularity. The only reason I know this is because I’m wrapped up in the great big food blogosphere and keep track of these things.
I can honestly say I eat more cauliflower now than I ever did (not to be trendy–I know how to cook it now). I eat it in soups, like this roasted cauliflower soup. Its great mashed or in curries too, but cauliflower is at its best simply roasted with a dusting of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. I like cutting it in great big slabs before throwing it in the oven. It’s easy to do and so addicting, I’ve been guilty of eating it with my fingers while standing in the kitchen.
You can serve roasted cauliflower as an easy side dish with just about anything. It’s a great substitute for starchy potatoes and pairs well with both seafood and red meats. It also makes a great main dish, especially thick-cut and served as a “steak”. The nutty/sweet flavor it acquires from roasting is completely different than the tasteless, limply-steamed versions served up in restaurants around the country. If you passed on cauliflower before, this recipe will make you a believer.
Preheat oven to 400° F/ 190° C
Wash and dry the cauliflower head. Using a large knife, slice through the entire cauliflower to make 1-inch thick slices. The ends will crumble into florets, but you should get 2-4 intact slices. Lay the slices and florets on a sheet pan drizzled with olive oil.
Season to taste with salt, pepper and optional spices. Turn cauliflower to coat in oil, seasoning both sides.
Place into preheated oven and cook for 20-30 minutes, turning once. Remove from the oven when the cauliflower is browned and the stems are easily pierced with a fork.
Fennel is one of my all-time favorite vegetables. It’s delicious raw in salads, like this fennel and apple slaw. It’s also incredible when roasted. It’s a little sweet with the texture of cooked celery. Roasting brings out a nutty flavor along with the subtle anise flavor fennel is known for.
This easy roasted fennel side dish takes only a few minutes to prepare. It’s one of those recipes to bring out when you don’t have a lot of time, but you still want to get a healthy, home cooked meal on the table. I usually make roasted fennel when I’m cooking a chicken. The carrots, onion, celery, potatoes and fennel all go in the bottom of the roasting pan and I cook the chicken on top. Our family (and guests) all look forward to “roasted chicken day” because it’s such a delicious meal.
When I’m not roasting a chicken, I use this recipe to roast fennel on its own. I like how the large quarters look on the plate (plus it’s less work). A simple toss in good olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper and you are done. When you use good ingredients, they don’t need a lot of preparation to taste amazing.
Preheat oven to 400° F/ 190° C
Remove the fennel stems and any damaged outer stalks. Quarter each fennel bulb lengthwise, keeping the core intact. Drizzle the fennel with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat.
Arrange the fennel on a baking sheet and cook in the oven, turning once, until lightly brown and crisp on the edges, 45 minutes to an hour.
Taste for seasoning and top with grated Parmesan cheese (optional).
Artichoke and mushroom casserole
I’m taking it easy this Christmas. Since this is my first year with a food blog, I wasn’t prepared for the food-extravaganza going on in the food blogosphere this time of year. There is one. And it’s big. I am so ready to join in, and post amazing holiday recipes daily that will blow your socks off.
Yes, I’m sorry. But I know you won’t hold it against me.
It’s so hard to cook anything inspiring with a 1 year old. He’s getting easier, but he’s also on the verge of walking. Or running…so it’s going to get harder for a little while. Which is why I make recipes like this yummy artichoke and mushroom casserole. It’s easy, and good for several meals (depending on how big a family you have).
Artichokes are one of my favorite foods. So are mushrooms. Together, they are an impressive holiday dish or just some good home cooking. We all love some good home cooking.
If you want to make it on the lighter side, just omit the butter/crumb topping. For me, it doesn’t seem right to eat artichokes without some butter somewhere close by.
Preheat oven to 350°F/
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over high heat. Add mushrooms and cook quickly, allowing them to brown, about 6 minutes, until they shrink in size and the juices are released and evaporated. Transfer mushrooms to a casserole dish.
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the same pan the mushrooms were cooked. Stir to remove any pan drippings. Add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 3 minutes (until flour is bubbly). Add the chicken broth and cook until thickened and bubbly. Stir in the cream and lemon juice. Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper (and taste!).
Add the drained artichokes to the casserole dish. Pour the cream mixture on top and stir to combine.
In a small bowl, combine the melted butter and panko breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on top of the casserole.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until the top is lightly browned.
I’m a sucker for cauliflower. When I see this imposing veggie in the supermarket, I grab it. If you don’t have a go-to recipe, buying a cauliflower head is a big commitment. It’s a lot of vegetable. My favorite way to prepare cauliflower is in a soup, like this roasted cauliflower and almond soup.
I came up with this recipe for cauliflower and wild rice chowder during one of our short Miami cold spells (consisting of 2 days in December in the low 70’s). I broke out my boots and we headed out into the sun, reveling in the cool breezes.
My son, who just turned one, was on a two-week food strike of sorts. He refused to eat anything on a spoon, which made feeding him a little difficult. After trying every sort of adult food and baby food (I make some pretty good baby food), he finally opened his mouth wide for cauliflower and wild rice, of all things.
Now I feel deep gratitude for my friend, the cauliflower. Covered in cheese, roasted, fried or souped…
Speaking of soup, let me just share with you how good this hearty chowder is. It is creamy and rich, with soft bits of cauliflower and slightly chewy wild rice. The nuttiness of the rice works with the sweet/nutty cauliflower and the contrasting colors are fun on your spoon. Its home cooking. It’s good. I like to eat a bowl with some crusty bread slathered with sweet butter, stopping to sop up the soup with the bread in-between spoonfuls. Soup day is a good day around here.
In a large saucepan, cook the onion in 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat until soft, but not brown. Add the broth, wild rice bay leaf and cumin (if using). Cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes.
Add the cauliflower to the pot and continue to cook, covered, for another 20 minutes.
While the pot is simmering, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir on low heat, about 2 minutes. Add the milk and cream. Whisk until it just comes to a simmer, then add to the cauliflower mixture. Season to taste with salt and plenty of fresh pepper.
This comforting pasta recipe with sausage, butternut squash, spinach and mascarpone cheese was created after a recent trip to visit family for Thanksgiving. The dish hit the spot after arriving home to an empty house (and refrigerator) the night before. Our anticipated 5-hour drive home stretched to 9 hours due to accidents on the turnpike. My 1-year-old son was too little to understand why he was strapped to a chair for so long, so much of our time was spent soothing and distracting him. We finally got home in the middle of the night, and dragged ourselves into bed.
After such a stressful night, we were happy to have a day to relax. But what was there to eat? I scoured my freezer and pantry and found the ingredients for this delicious recipe. I know most people don’t keep a tub of mascarpone cheese in the freezer, but I do. I like to freeze anything that may spoil when we go on a trip. Deli meats, cheeses (sliced and soft), fresh vegetables and leftovers all get frozen. The meats and cheeses defrost just fine, and the vegetables (like whole tomatoes) get tossed into a pasta sauce.
For this recipe, I was lucky to have a fresh, organic butternut squash. Add to that a pack of frozen spinach, Italian turkey sausage and cheese from the freezer. Then I found some pine nuts and pasta from the pantry and I was good to go.
I love the combination of flavors and textures in this pasta recipe. You get the slightly sweet, roasted butternut squash, then the savory spicy sausage. Crunchy pine nuts are the perfect counter to the creamy pasta and spinach. It just all works.
If you happen to have fresh spinach instead of frozen, please go ahead and us it. If you don’t have spinach, a good substitute is Swiss chard or broccoli rabe. Use your favorite type of sausage, preferably spicy or sweet Italian. I used spicy Italian turkey sausage.
Preheat oven to 425° F/220° C
Pour some of the oil on a baking sheet lined with foil. Add the squash, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cook for 35-40 minutes, until the squash is soft and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and set aside.
While the squash is baking, heat a skillet and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and cook for 8 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir. Add the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Bring the pasta water to a boil. Season the water with salt and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1-2 cups of the pasta water to make the sauce.
Pour the hot pasta into a large pot or bowl. Add the mascarpone cheese and 1 cup of the pasta water (add more if necessary to thin the sauce). Allow the cheese to melt and toss. Add the squash, spinach mixture and pine nuts. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
I can’t remember the last time I made a cupcakes or muffins (though I make a few cakes every month), which is why I asked my sister and her husband to submit their recipe for gluten-free pumpkin cake muffins. I have been watching my sister, Amy from afar and am very proud of her. Amy was once a struggling waitress trying to work her way through college while battling weight issues. Now she’s a Nike model and Elite Beachbody fitness coach. As I write this, she is one of the top 20 coaches in the country, making a very good living by inspiring others. Go Amy! To read more about Amy, visit her blog.
So what does Amy eat when she wants something sweet? I was able to pull this yummy recipe from their hands. It’s a delicious gluten free muffin packed with fall flavors like pumpkin, cinnamon and maple syrup. Made with almond flour and almond butter, these are high in protein. We call them cake muffins because of their light texture and the delicious icing on top, making them a cross between a muffin and a cupcake. Whatever you call them, these are yummy enough — and healthy enough — to eat for breakfast or dessert!
For the muffins:
2 cups Almond Flour
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons maple almond butter (Justin’s)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup GHEE or butter
1/2 cup maple almond butter (or regular almond butter)
4 tablespoons almond milk
1 ½ cups granulated sugar or confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the muffins:
Preheat oven to 350° F/180° C and line a muffin tin with cups.
In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients until smooth. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before icing.
Mix together all ingredients until smooth. Before icing your muffins, place into the refrigerator to chill.