5 New Ways to Cook with Cauliflower

Cauliflower is such a versatile (and healthy!) vegetable. Here are some new ways to enjoy them in your next meal. One of the best things about a clean diet is the opportunity to explore new foods that I would have previously turned down because I just didn’t know any better. Case in point: cauliflower.

I never had any problems with broccoli (what I consider to be cauliflower’s cousin) growing up. I remember eating them as a kid and thinking just how cool it was to be eating “little green trees” as I thought of them back then. But whenever my mom tried to stick a couple pieces of cauliflower on my plate, I’d protest. White trees were simply not cool. Plus they offended my 7-yr old epicurean sensibilities. They just didn’t taste good. Much like I did with beans, I’ll have to pin the blame on the chef (sorry Mom!) and not on the actual food.

Now that I’m in charge of my own grocery shopping and cooking, I’ve been able to revisit foods like cauliflower and give them a makeover. Once I figured out what to do with it, I realized how much I loved those little white trees cauliflower. It hits two of my must-haves right on the bulls-eye: super nutritious and versatile.

Cauliflower and Cruciferous Vegetables

I’ve spent some time talking about cruciferous vegetables in the past, but here’s a refresher.

If I had to suggest only one food to get you started on a healthy diet, it would have to be anything from the cruciferous family. The most popular cruciferous vegetables are kale, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy, and of course, cauliflower.

These vegetables often get tagged as “superfoods” with good reason. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. Perhaps the greatest health benefit of cruciferous vegetables is that it may help lower your risk of developing cancer by reducing oxidative stress (when excessive free radicals or unstable molecules develop to the point of damaging the integrity of surrounding cells).

Cauliflower is very high in vitamin C, providing 86% of you DV in one serving! It’s also a great source of vitamin K (20% DV), folate (15% DV), potassium (9% DV) and soluble fiber (8% DV), providing a great nutritional punch to your diet. The high vitamin K count in cauliflower has important anti-inflammatory benefits to the body’s inflammatory response which contributes to an overall decreased risk of cancer. And the amount of fiber in cauliflower makes this a good choice for digestive system support.

We’re right at the beginning of cauliflower season and it will be at peak until fall, so now is the perfect time to pick one up. Note that cauliflower comes in different colors ranging from white to purple, orange, and green.

You can do what with cauliflower?

My eyes were opened to the enormous potential of healthy foods through the genius of sites like Pinterest and Facebook. Not only could I find recipes from my go-to cooking magazines and websites, but now I can see what another blogger is doing with cauliflower in Australia or a chef in India can share their best aloo gobi interpretation. It’s a cook’s dream and it makes healthy eating that much more accessible and appetizing to everyone.

It was through one of my many hours spent wasting time researching online that I found out how versatile cauliflower can be, making it a fantastic staple to have on hand. You can cook it in so many different ways and the somewhat dense texture makes cauliflower an excellent option for Meatless Monday, gluten/grain free or vegetarian/vegan recipes as a hearty substitute for meat and breads.

You’ve likely had cauliflower steamed, sauteed, or maybe even roasted. It’s often cooked in the same fashion as broccoli where it’s cut into florets and seasoned with garlic, oil, salt and pepper. I recently made this wonderful side of roasted cauliflower with pearl onions, cardamom, lemon and parsley. Easy preparation and great flavor combinations are part of the fun of cooking with cauliflower.

Cauliflower with text

But did you know you could mash it? Turn it into rice? Make it into a pizza crust? Serve it as tortillas??? No? Well, neither did I!

Here are 5 new ways to cook with cauliflower:

1. Cauliflower Rice

I decided to try this one myself as an experimental side to a stir-fry dish featuring spring produce that I prepared several weeks ago. I rarely eat any kind of rice anymore and after hearing about the wonders of cauliflower rice (especially from the paleo community) for months on end, I thought it was time to give this a go.

This was my interpretation but you’ll find dozens of recipes online to suit your tastes. The nice thing here is that it’s really easy to switch this up by changing the seasonings as the base recipe remains the same.

To begin, remove the core from the cauliflower and chop the rest into small, evenly-sized florets. Rinse well and set aside.

Chop the florets in small batches in your food processor until you get small rice-like pieces. Heat a tsp of coconut oil in a nonstick frying pan and then add 2 tsps of finely chopped ginger, cook for a minute. Add the cauliflower rice, 2 tbsps of water, and a dash of salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook rice for about 4-5 minutes. Done!

cauliflower collage with text

Here’s a look at one way to make cauliflower rice a part of your next meal! You can get the recipe for my Pea Shoot Stir-Fry with Garlic-Ginger Cauliflower Rice here– trust me, it’s good stuff.

stir fry with cauliflower rice

I have yet to try the rest of these options, however they look amazing! I decided to compile some of the best cauliflower recipes I’ve seen from food bloggers and like-minded home cooks who have gotten great feedback from readers. Why not share the blog love by checking out their pages for other fun recipes to inspire you in the kitchen??  🙂

2.  Mashed Cauliflower

Tired of potatoes or looking for a healthier alternative? Give cauliflower a try instead. You can play with the ingredients to get the flavors you want, but check out this recipe to start.

Best Make Ahead Side: Garlic Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes” – NomNomPaleo.com

One of the best paleo food blogs I’ve found to date, NomNomPaleo offers an incredible selection of recipes covering all the bases with beautiful food photography to boot.

3. Cauliflower Pizza Crust

One of the biggest hurdles for many following grain-free diets is how to enjoy pizza without a wheat-based crust. There are gluten-free pizza crust recipes out there, but if you want to try something much easier and vegetable-based, take a look at this recipe.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza (Gourmet Vegetarian Style) – YourLighterSide.com

I originally found this recipe through another blog I follow, Oh My Veggies, which offered up this great pizza recipe. They linked back to YourLighterSide for the crust and I was happy for it given all the wonderful options and feedback for both pizzas. This site also comes up again further down this list. If you’re in need of more great recipes for Meatless Monday or because you’re following vegetarian or vegan diets, than definitely visit these two blogs!

4. Cauliflower Tortillas

I rarely eat tacos (even though I love them) given the fact that tortillas are usually corn or flour, two things I don’t really eat often or at all. (Corn=GMOs!) So when I saw this recipe pop up on my Facebook feed the other day, I freaked out. Tortillas made from cauliflower? It was a moment.

Cauliflower Tortillas (Paleo, Grain Free, Gluten Free) – SlimPalate.com

This blog is fairly new to me, but I was really impressed to find out the author behind it is a 17 yr-old who lost over 100lbs and decided to share his story and recipes via this site. Truly inspirational!

5. Cauliflower Lasagna Noodles

I have to admit, lasagna is not my favorite dish in the world. But I haven’t shut the door on it completely. I think I just have to find the right combination that works for me. When I experimented with paleo last year, I noticed a number of noodle-alternative recipes that use vegetables as the base. Zucchini and spaghetti squash were by far the most popular choices, but I’ve also seen many of these paleo-friendly lasagna dishes call for cauliflower noodles. I’m intrigued enough to attempt this at least once. How about you?

Cauliflower Noodle Lasagna – YourLighterSide.com

If you spend a little time on this site, you’ll find hundreds of amazing healthy recipes. I really enjoy the author’s sense of humor throughout her posts and the creative spin with classic dishes like these lasagna noodles or her gluten-free/sugar-free girl scout samoa cookies.

Not enough cauliflower for you? There are so many recipes out there to satisfy your cauliflower fix, but here are some more sites for you to explore!

The Secret Life of Cauliflower – Damyhealth.com

Cauliflower Recipes – Cooking Light Magazine

Healthy Cauliflower Recipes and Cooking Tips – Eating Well Magazine

Sources:

Featured post

Flu Fighters: Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Everywhere I turn, people are coughing. Or sneezing. Or sniffling. I log onto Facebook and read update after update of someone else falling ill and seeking to vent their misery online. It’s been an epic flu season and it seems to be getting worse. I’ve managed to avoid getting sick despite the number of people who insist on coming to work when they’re unfit and that some of my family have been sick in the past couple of weeks.

My brother is convinced that this is the first signs of a zombie apocalypse (we’ve been watching a LOT of The Walking Dead).  I haven’t quite jumped on that bandwagon yet, but this year has been especially bad for those coping with the flu. According to the CDC, “22,048 flu cases from Sept. 30 through the end of 2012.  By the same time last year, only 849 flu cases had been reported nationwide. That’s 26 times more flu cases by the last week of this year than by the last week of 2011.” (Flu Season 2012-2013 By the Numbers) Boston has declared it a public health emergency and people everywhere are racing to get vaccinated.

Given my heightened awareness of the current epidemic or whatever you want to call it, I’m making an effort to boost my immunity the best way I know how: my diet. This means eating foods with loads of protein, vitamins A, C, and E. I’m also trying to get more sleep in, although eating healthily is easier for me to manage than turning in at a reasonable hour.  I understand that this isn’t a cure-all, but it doesn’t hurt to be preemptive, and at the very least, it reinforces a diet high in protein, fruit, and vegetables which is always a good thing.

So this week I’m making a soup that not only packs a hefty dose of immunity boosters, but also makes the most out of a favorite seasonal vegetable that we all know and love. What’s the soup? Curried Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, that’s what.

First, the facts.

NUTRITION FACTOIDS

GINGER

GingerGinger has a long history of being used as both an important herbal remedy and a major cooking spice in some of the world’s greatest culinary regions. Given it’s various healing properties, particularly in the areas of immunity response and stomach issues, it makes a great addition to this soup. Plus it’s got that great spicy bite!

  • Studies suggest that ginger root may increase the impact of T-cell (or white blood cells that help fight infection) responses in the body thereby allowing a more effective and efficient response to viral infection. This is due in large part to gingerols, an anti-inflammatory compound and the main active ingredient in ginger.
  • Ever drink ginger ale when you have an upset stomach? It’s a long-held tradition that ginger alleviates nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal ailments and is often used as a natural remedy to help soothe your stomach.
  • There may be evidence that ginger can have a positive effect on asthma due to a recent study that revealed that ginger played a key role in regulating the immune responses to cells that cause inflammation of airway passages.

This along with a potential for fighting cancer cells, makes ginger incredibly beneficial. The two cups of butternut squash in this recipe will also be giving you a mighty dose of Vitamin A  at 428% of your DV! Vitamin A plays a central role in the development and regulation of white blood cells. In addition to Vitamin A, you’re also getting about 40mg of Vitamin C, or 75% of your DV. Vitamin C helps protect the integrity of immune cells through its antioxidant properties.

Ginger + Squash = Immunity Boosting Powerhouse!

I adapted this soup from a Cooking Light recipe for a similar soup that used shallots, but I was in more of a curry mood. The original Roasted Butternut Squash with Shallot soup is a great alternative, although I’d suggest pumping it up with some more flavor as the recipe is basic all on its own.

Here are my ingredients:

Butternut Squash Soup Ingredients

Ingredients List (making 2-4 servings):

  • 2 cups of seeded, peeled, and diced butternut squash (about 1 medium)
  • 2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ white or yellow onion, rough chop
  • ¾ inch of peeled ginger root, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp of extra-virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp of curry powder
  • 1 tsp of garam masala
  • ½ tsp of all-spice or ground cloves
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp of cilantro, chopped (optional)

Special Tools:

  • Small jelly-roll pan
  • Blender or Food Processor
  • Medium-sized pot with lid

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Place squash, onions, and ginger root on the jelly-roll pan, coat with oil, and pour the spices on  top. Spread the vegetables around on the pan until they’re coated with the oil and spices throughout.

DSCN3124

3. Bake at 375° F for about 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender but not over-browned. Make sure you stir them around occasionally so that they are evenly cooked on all sides.

4. Once tender, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.

DSCN3129

5. Take your blender lid and remove the center piece. Scoop the squash and onion mixture and pour it all into the blender. This amount should be enough to do in one batch. If you’re making a bigger serving, then you should do this part in two batches. Add the chicken stock. Place the lid on the blender cup and cover the hole with a dish towel to avoid any messes.

DSCN3133

5. Blend in pulses until smooth. Keep adding stock if the mixture is too thick and stop when you’ve reached the desired consistency.

6. Pour into a medium-sized soup pot on low heat. This is where you get to check your seasonings. I played with mine for a little bit until I got the flavors I wanted. I suggest you do the same. The measurements above are just a guideline, but if you want more heat, then add more curry and maybe even some cayenne. Just a tip! 

DSCN3134

7. Cook over medium-heat for about 5-7 minutes. Pour your serving into a bowl, garnish with some cilantro and couple cracks of black pepper. Serve.

DSCN3135

It’s warm and spicy and filling. You can easily adapt this to include other produce winners like apple and carrots. It’s also healthy, pretty cheap (less than $10!) and simple to make. Plus it’s giving you a great big push in the immunity department. Give it a try!

Are you concerned about this year’s flu season? Have you gotten sick? What are you doing to stay fit and healthy this year?

Wishing everyone good health and good eats! 🙂

SOURCES:

My Pretty Apron: Kale Soup for the Blogger Soul

There’s a chill in the air. I’m bundled up in sweaters and covered in scarves. My Birkenstocks have been retired in favor of my boots.  It’s officially Fall.

With Fall comes shorter days, cold nights and the urge to wrap in blankets with a bowl of something warm to eat. I love comfort food, especially if its of the soup persuasion. It’s my go-to for a quick meal to help ward off the cold and a tasty way to incorporate healthy, hearty vegetables into my diet. From stews to broths to the incredibly satisfying and filling Dominican sancocho that my beloved mother is famous for, there are countless ways to get that bowl and spoon working and I plan on illustrating that here on My Pretty Apron.

SPOONS UP! SWEET POTATO, SAUSAGE, AND KALE SOUP

I really wanted to do a recipe with kale this week and this was the perfect opportunity to to make a quick and healthy soup. I’ve actually never made kale. I’ve never even eaten kale. I’m going into this completely blind which is kind of fun. Shrugging my shoulders, I’m tying on my new fun fall apron and getting started on dinner.

Inspirations….well, there were a few. Cold weather for starters. Also, this week I heard something funny about kale on TV and that helped push me here. We have a 24-hr news network here in NY called NY1 which I watch religiously in the pre-dawn hours before I go to work. One of the anchors, Pat Kiernan, has this wry sense of humor that usually gets me to chuckle. Even more entertaining is his banter with Jamie Shupack, the traffic reporter. Typical morning-news stuff. Anyway, earlier this week Pat and Jamie were talking about Jamie’s upcoming dinner party and how she planned on serving kale chips. Pat looks completely dumbfounded and asks a question I couldn’t help thinking myself. “Where did kale come from?” asks Pat. He goes on, “A year ago, no one even heard of kale and now it’s all anyone talks about. You know what? There’s too much kale in New York!” I burst out laughing, probably due to the pre-caffeine delirium I was experiencing that early in the morning. But it did make me think that he had a point. Where did kale come from all of a sudden? Kale is the IT vegetable. It’s the new black. And like all fashion trends, I’m late to the table.

Lastly, this Cooking Light recipe adapts a classic Portuguese dish that I’d heard about on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on Travel Channel. Bourdain’s show is one of my obsessions so it’s really cool to reference it directly for a recipe. The traditional dish is called caldo verde or green broth and has onions, kale, chorizo, and potatoes. Caldo verde is typically eaten during a celebration like a wedding or birthday and is considered the national dish of Portugal. It’s not my birthday but I figure the fact that its one day to the weekend is reason enough to eat celebratory soup.

FOOD4THOUGHTNYC’s NUTRITION FACTOIDS

I normally list all sorts of nutritional facts and tidbits in this section but I decided to give you guys a visual instead. It’s pretty and it gets all the main points across. Look and learn!

Needless to say, kale is SUPER good for you and a great way to pump up the nutritional content of whatever you’re cooking. Kale is also a cruciferous vegetable (mentioned previously when I researched arugula) which means it has anti-cancer compounds and helps regulate our immune system. Kale is in season in Fall and Winter due to their hardiness. Make sure you’re choosing dark green leaves with thinner stalks and be sure to wash thoroughly beforehand.

Alright, the sun is beginning to dip into the horizon which means its time to get started….

Here are the ingredients:

Note: One of the reasons I chose this particular recipe was for the sweet potatoes. I prefer soups that have a starchy component like potatoes, and I happened to have a few that I needed to use fairly soon. Also the recipe calls for turkey sausage but I couldn’t find any. The closest I could find was a chicken & turkey sweet Italian sausage. More of my thoughts on that later.

Now is my favorite part of any meal: the prep. That was sarcasm, by the way. Prep is a necessary evil nonetheless so take the time to chop up the sweet potato, onions, and garlic. Also rinse the kale and set it to drain on the side.

Place a heavy iron pot or dutch oven over a a medium-high heat on the stove and heat 2tbsps of extra-virgin olive oil. Once hot, place the chopped onions in the pot and saute for about 5 minutes. Then add the sliced garlic, salt and cracked pepper and then saute for another minute or so.

The sausage I bought was not in a casing so I chopped it up into pieces before adding it to the pot with the onions. I let the meat cook for about five minutes and then added the sweet potato, water, and chicken stock. Let it come to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 8-10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, prepare the kale. You always need to remove the tough stem first. The easiest way to do that is to take your knife and cut along the stem towards the top where it begins and to cut it away from the leaves on both sides. You should be left with the stem completely separated from the leaves by the end. Tear up the kale and set to the side.

Once the sweet potato is cooked through, gradually add the torn kale into the soup. You want to cook it until it’s tender, about five minutes should do. At this point you can add the cannelini beans (always remember to rinse canned beans to get rid of any excess sodium!) and a bit of salt to taste. Cook for another five minutes and then, that’s it! Done! Super easy, one-pot cooking is where it’s at!

During my visit to Whole Foods Market today I found myself in the bakery aisle and this beauty gave me a ‘come hither’ stare. I couldn’t resist it. And it was fresh and still warm from the oven. I mean, come on! I had to have it. I’m sure there’s some kind of psychological food-brain-response-trigger process -thingy that happens when we smell baking bread that makes us salivate like Pavlov’s dogs. One day I’ll look into it, but for now I decided this Quinoa Flax Seed Whole Wheat bread was just the ticket for my soup.

PS- For my GF friends, there are a number of bread alternatives out there. I’m sure you already know this, but here are some suggestions if you’re looking to try something new.

Dinner is served. 🙂

This soup was great! Yummy and filling and it hits that spot, you know? I do have one note to make. The sausage I bought was chosen based on an attempt to adhere to the recipe which was a mistake in my opinion. I usually go off and do my own thing when I’m cooking but since this was my first time working with kale I was a bit nervous to veer in the wrong direction. Therein was my problem. I was at the market with Spanish chorizo in one hand and the sausage in the other and I felt chorizo was the better bet, but we all know what I ended up with. Now, the soup was good. The sausage gave it a richer flavor and I didn’t want to make this vegetarian so I didn’t think about leaving it out altogether. But I think the chorizo would’ve given it a more…well-rounded flavor. Ah well. This was a good exercise in trusting my instincts in the kitchen.

So there you have it! The first of hopefully many more soups to come. Hope you all enjoyed  tonight’s recipe. Stay warm!! 🙂

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