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

Recipe Revisited: Chocolate Pumpkin Torte

My family does not dig pumpkin pie. Or pumpkin scones. Or pumpkin cookies. Or really anything with the word pumpkin in it. This means that I have to be pretty creative for how to incorporate this fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!)  during the holidays. Why do I bother? Because I can’t let a holiday season go by without slipping in at least one culinary challenge (or 3 or 4) and usually that means a new dessert that will hopefully get someone in my family to think pumpkin can be tasty. So I’m going to cheat and mix it with something everyone loves: chocolate. Sneaky!

I found this incredible recipe from Eating Well and wanted to share this with all of you because it was a big big hit this past Thanksgiving. At only about 200 calories a serving, it manages to be decadent and light all at the same time, and even better it’s easy to make. Give it a try for your next holiday party or if you have half a can of pumpkin that you need to use and want a sweet treat. 🙂

PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE TORTE WITH WHIPPED CREAM (recipe adapted from Eating Well)

Ingredients:

Torte

  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil*
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup canned unseasoned pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup sugar*
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons canned unseasoned pumpkin puree*

*Notes and Alterations: I replaced the canola oil with coconut oil to eliminate refined oils. I also reduced the sugar to 1/3 cup as opposed to the 1/2 cup in the recipe. I don’t own pumpkin pie spice so I just added 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. As for the whipped cream topping, I eliminated the pumpkin after several attempts to make it smooth turned out terrible. I’m not sure if it was the pumpkin but it didn’t have the texture I wanted. I just added some spices to the cream to give it a nice flavor boost.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with coconut oil or spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the paper.
  3. Combine the chocolate chips, butter and oil in a small metal saucepan. Place the bowl over a pot with simmering water over medium-low heat, stirring frequently with a spatula, until melted. This allows the chocolate to melt gradually without burning.
  4. Beat eggs, egg whites, pumpkin, cup sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, spices and salt in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and beat until combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake the torte in the middle of the oven until the edges are set and the center just barely jiggles when the pan is gently shaken, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours.IMG_20121120_204743
  6. I changed the chocolate topping to more of a ganache by melting the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips with several tablespoons of room temperature heavy cream in a bowl over simmering water. Just eyeball the mixture as you’re stirring and add the cream until it reaches a consistency thin enough to pour but not too thin.
  7. Decoratively drizzle the melted chocolate over the top of the cooled torte. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours (or up to 1 day).
  8. To prepare topping: Just before serving, beat cream with 1 tablespoon sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and a dash of cinnamon and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.  Remove the pan sides and slice the torte. Serve each portion with a dollop (about 1 tablespoon) of the whipped cream.

I didn’t take many pictures while baking since I was hurriedly preparing a slew of dishes simultaneously. Here’s a pretty picture from Eating Well to show the finished product.

chocolate pumpkin torte
courtesy of Eating Well magazine

One more recommendation: be sure you use high-quality chocolate chips and cocoa. For the cocoa powder, I specifically used dutch-process instead of natural because it’s less bitter and doesn’t over power the torte with a deeply chocolate flavor the way natural cocoa does. This allows for the pumpkin and spices to shine through. This is the brand I use:

rademaker_cocoa_13138

It’s worth it to splurge just a bit especially when you’re working with chocolate. It makes a huge difference in the final product.

Hope you all get to try this one out for yourself! 🙂

 

Saturday Upside: Thanksgiving Through the Lens

Earlier this week I listed 5 things to try this Thanksgiving. I posed it as a challenge to myself and also as a reminder that the holidays can mean more than spending money, family bickering, and carb loading. This wasn’t easy as I’d shouldered most of the responsibility for the entire meal, including appetizers and dessert. And I had to go to work the day before and after the holiday. How was I going to pull this off without losing my mind?

As it turns out, I could do all I set out to do with my peace of mind intact because I was able to remember the point of Thanksgiving. Sure, it’s to be grateful for what we have and to share that appreciation with your loved ones. But it’s also just the simple act of reunion and opening yourself up to the unique rhythms that only present themselves when your family is together.

So instead of telling you all about my endless prep and the hours of cooking that it took to execute this massive feast, I thought I’d show you. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, than you may have caught my ongoing posts throughout the day. It was my first social media Thanksgiving with the added upside of keeping a visual journal of my recipes. Most importantly, I felt like I was sharing the the holiday not just with my immediate family, but also with my friends in Cambodia, Philadelphia, London, and all over the world who chose to stop by and make comments on each photo. Thank you everyone!

Without further ado, here are the fruits of my labor!

Thanks to Pinterest, I was inspired to do this raw veggie “turkey” tray. It was so pretty, I didn’t want to eat it!
Appetizer table: Turkey veggie plater, homemade pita chips, hummus with paprika, guacamole, and meat empanadas. Had to fry them to save time unfortunately, but they were yummy.
Beautiful tri-color carrots I bought at the Farmer’s Market. Peeled and dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, chopped fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. Roasted with the green tops and all.
Sides starting with top left: Potato salad with beets and carrots. Top right: Quinoa salad with roasted butternut squash and beets, sage, caramelized onions, and spinach. Lower left: Steamed haricot vert sauteed with white mushrooms and cherry tomatoes in a balsamic glaze. Lower right: Roasted cauliflower with nutmeg.
Last 2 sides on left: Roasted carrots and roasted sweet potatoes with pecans. On the right was my crowning glory: my very first (half) turkey with herb butter and lemon.
Carving my turkey! Also, worked so hard on this day that I couldn’t even change out of my yoga pants, lol .
The dinner table. It’s not the prettiest decor, but we were able to fit almost everything on the table and seat everyone together which is always a win.
My dinner plate. 🙂
And finally, the dessert. Pumpkin Pecan Polvorones with powdered sugar and Chocolate Pumpkin Torte with fresh whipped cream. We’re not a pumpkin pie family, so I had to compromise.

I told myself (and reassured my concerned family members who had no desire to be ultra healthy on Thanksgiving) that I wouldn’t stress if the food was paleo-friendly. I opted to go heavy on simply-prepared vegetable dishes just to balance out the heaviness of the rice and potato salad which are staples for each of our meals. I actually managed to pull that off pretty easily without trying, which goes to show how much the lifestyle has rubbed off on me. So it is possible!

My family has never really followed the traditional Thanksgiving menu. We always get a turkey but it usually gets donated so I fought my parents to actually cook one this year. Only, I insisted it had to be the “American” way and not covered in sazon like we do everything else. So I went for an herb butter slather with lemon slices under the skin and we only made half the bird to avoid waste. Also, we don’t do cranberry sauce or stuffing or mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie. I’ve tried to do some of these things in the past, but it usually stayed untouched on the table next to the half empty bowl of potato salad or pastelon (think lasagna only instead of pasta noodles, we use mashed sweet plantains. oy). I usually make some overture each year how I longed for a classic American thanksgiving and that one day I would do it whether my family likes it or not. I get a couple of nods or laughs, but really no one takes me that seriously.

I’m always fascinated by how immigrant families come to the US and adapt to this holiday in their own ways. Even this year, I looked at photos of other cultures and their versions of Thanksgiving. Indian curry, Chinese dumplings, and Italian Baked Ziti all stake their claim on the dinner tables of those who’ve transformed the holiday to create their own family traditions. It’s an awesome display of how something as American as Thanksgiving can be transcendent of language or national origin because we’re all partaking in a celebration and a feast. That has no boundaries.

So maybe some of my siblings gave my turkey the stink-eye or eyed my quinoa salad with a look of distrust, but the point was that we were all seated around the table sharing in the experience together. You’ll note that there are no pictures of my family here. There’s a reason for that. Once the business of cooking was done, I had to get out from behind the camera and join in on the fun myself. I was exhausted and my hands were sore from washing dishes and all the cooking, but it was one of the best Thanksgiving holidays I’ve had in a long time because I did what I challenged myself to do earlier this week: I cut myself some slack. I sat back and laughed and shared jokes with my family and I held nothing back. A camera could never capture that kind of magic.

Holidays are hard. They can be difficult to plan and expensive to boot. Christmas is around the corner and my family and I just committed to do a “No Buy Christmas” challenge this year. It’s not an easy thing to do. I mean, who doesn’t want a present especially at Christmastime?? But I think what makes me feel great about the decision and see the upside to all of this, is what I was able to take away from Thanksgiving. It’s the idea that what makes the holidays so special are those moments with family and friends that can’t be bought or simulated with the trimmings. All we need is a meal and a space to share it in. That and love, which I have in spades.

I hope all of you who celebrated this week had a wonderful time with your loved ones. Even if you didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope that you’re able to share a meal with someone you care about and take joy out of sharing that time together.

Share your Saturday Upsides with Bonnie at Recipes Happen each week. Keep looking up and paying it forward! 🙂

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