A Year of Recipes: #29

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Cauliflower, quinoa, cumin, chickpea/garbanzo beans, limes, olive oil, sliced almonds, green onion and one jalapeno!

Some weekends I just want to try something crazy, and like I’ve mentioned previously, vegan or meatless meals always answer that call. I was feeling up for spicy, so I ended up with a Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Quinoa Salad (with Jalapeno-Lime Dressing). The title alone is a mouthful.

To start I roasted two trays in the oven, one with cauliflower cut into bite-size pieces and one with a can worth of chickpeas. Don’t do what I did and not realize that chickpeas are generally labeled as garbanzo beans at the grocery store.

Each tray was drizzled with olive oil and a variety of spices before going into the oven. During this time I got my quinoa cooking and my dressing mixed, both of which are simple processes.

One head cauliflower, toasted.

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Ready to mix everything up

Once everything was done cooking, all I had to do was mix it together. I kid you not, it was that easy!

IMG_5509Flavor 2/4 – this was good but aside from the sauce, a little on the bland side.
Ease 3/4 – several steps involved, but all easy ones.
Guiltless 3/4not a fan of canned foods
Leftovers 3/4 – this was not bad to reheat. Quinoa is good for leftovers most of the time.

A Year of Recipes: #20

(Experimenting with better lighting...) Apple cider vinegar, coconut milk, olive oil, ginger powder, maple syrup (the real stuff, mind you), Sriracha <3, garlic powder, sesame seed oil, quinoa, cauliflower, collard greens

Experimenting with better lighting, lots of room for growth here…
Apple cider vinegar, coconut milk, olive oil, ginger powder, maple syrup (the real stuff, mind you), Sriracha <3, garlic powder, sesame seed oil, quinoa, cauliflower, collard greens

In my experience cooking thus far, I’ve found that vegan recipes tend to be some of the most challenging dishes to make, but always worth the effort because the flavors are unique and bold! For my third and final recipe of the holiday weekend I chose to end with a challenge and make a Quinoa Cauliflower Bowl with Almond Sriracha Sauce.

This recipe has four parts, with several steps each, and I went into it anticipating this could be a big failure. But like my attitude towards cooking in general, I dove right in ready for whatever happened!

IMG_5339The first part is cooking a half cup worth of quinoa (which then becomes one cup.) I’ve always cooked my quinoa with water and sometimes salt, but never with oil or Sriracha. The sesame oil has a strong “burnt” smell and I was worried it would be too strong in the finished product. And of course, I doubled the Sriracha at this step.

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Will baked cauliflower even get crunchy?

The second step is preparing the cauliflower, by tossing it in a sauce and baking in the oven. I am starting to believe Kroger only sells giant heads of cauliflower, because even with the smaller one I found required I had to double the recipe for the sauce/coating. Again, I used extra Sriracha and worried about the smell of the sesame oil. They weren’t super crunchy coming out of the oven but I don’t think I could have cooked much longer without burning.

Stems easily removed!

Stems easily removed!

The third step involved working with a brand new ingredient for me – collard greens! A classic Southern item (usually made unhealthy with all the fixin’s.) I didn’t even know exactly what I’d be looking for at the store, but a quick Google search and trip through the produce aisle later, I had me some greens.

They were actually easy to work with, I just had to cut out the stem running down the middle and then cut them chiffonade style. I had no idea what that meant, so I sang teach me how to chiffonade to myself and looked it up. It basically just means rolling a stack of leaves up so you can cut them into thin ribbons more easily. I then had Teach Me How to Dougie stuck in my head, which I listened to while I chiffonaded away. Those went into a small pot with some oil and garlic powder to soften them up.

I'm always excited to learn a new skill or technique in the kitchen.

I’m always excited to learn a new skill or technique in the kitchen.  Not perfect, but good enough for my dinner!

IMG_5353Finally I was nearing the end of this long recipe. I just had to make the sauce. The recipe recommended making it in a blender but I did not want to get my food processor dirty so I just mixed it in a bowl. I was worried I had made a huge mistake but it worked just fine! I am pretty sure that coconut milk is black magic, seriously, that stuff is awesome.

To serve, I put half of everything in a bowl. For some reason I worried this was going to taste awful, but it was amazing!  Each of the four parts was delicious on its own account, and then combining them together was perfection, especially with that sauce blending it all together.  I was just disappointed that I could only eat half.

Those vegans know how to make a tasty recipe.

Flavor: 4/4
Ease: 2/4 – The multiple steps aren’t technically challenging but you have to make your quinoa…then you have to make your cauliflower…then the collard greens…then the sauce…
Guiltless: 2/4 – The ingredients themselves are not bad, but the calorie content was a little high for a serving size that was certainly not generous. I think there might be some ways to cut this down to a reasonable level (mostly in the sauce) but I couldn’t eat this every day.
Leftovers 4/4 – I kept half of the sauce in a Tupperware container and added the next day after reheating my leftovers. Almost as good next day!

A Year of Recipes: #18

Lots of goodies: cream chees, bacon, parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onion and cauliflower.

Lots of goodies: cream cheese, bacon, parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onion and cauliflower.

I’m finally home for the weekend, so I wanted to pick out a few good recipes. The first one I attempted was Twice Baked Cauliflower (basically veggies gone wild.) I’ve had great luck cooking with cauliflower swaps in the past so I had pretty high hopes for this one.  This recipe feels indulgent, but it’s not something I’d find myself regretting eating.

To start I cut up the cauliflower into small pieces and got it soaking in a pot of boiling water, just to soften it up enough that I could “mash” it.

I did not have an actual potato masher, but a fork worked just fine.  The recipe recommends not mashing them too much (leaving chunks) so perhaps if you wanted a more smooth texture a masher would be needed.

I did not have an actual potato masher, but a fork worked just fine. The recipe recommends not mashing them too much (leaving chunks) so perhaps if you wanted a smoother texture a masher would be needed.

I bought pre-cooked bacon, but wanted to crisp it up a little more.  Don’t do what I did and overcook the bacon.  Because they’re precooked they can go from not-done-yet to black-and-burnt in just a few seconds.

I shed a solidarity tear over this moment.

I shed a solidarity tear over this beautiful moment.

IMG_5312I mixed the bacon, as well as the green onion, cream cheese, parmesan and sour cream, with the mashed cauliflower.

I then spread that mixture into my casserole dish, topped with cheese and popped into the oven.

 

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Done and delicious!

This turned out amazing!  The flavor was fantastic. The one thing I might change if I make again is to mash the cauliflower better. I was happy with the outcome, but the consistency of the dish was more like a casserole than a loaded baked potato, so that might be an interesting thing to try.

Taste: 4/4 – The sour cream gave it just the perfect amount of flavor and complimented all the other savory flavors.
Ease: 3.5/4
Guiltless: 2.5/4
Leftovers: 4/4 – Reheated like a mother flippin’ champ.

A Year of Recipes: #14

Simple ingredients, cauliflower, italian seasoning, garlic, eggs, oil, cheese and spaghetti sauce/marinara for dipping

Simple ingredients: cauliflower, Italian seasoning, garlic, eggs, oil, cheese and spaghetti sauce/marinara for dipping

I’ve been traveling lately, causing the last two weekends to be out for cooking.  (Don’t consider this complaining, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to travel more and this year has been full of quite a bit already!)

In one place for a while, I got right back at learning to cook again this weekend, doing two recipes. The first is Cauliflower Cheese Sticks. I had found that recipe several weeks ago and threw it in my “to try” file and figured I’d do something simple for one of the two. It’s a rather healthy recipe, with the majority of the calories coming from either the cheese or spaghetti sauce.

There are basically 3 simple steps to this recipe. The first is to rice/grate your cauliflower. I’ve “riced” cauliflower before, and it’s a relatively easy thing to do if you have a food processor (not sure how easy hand-grating would be.) Your food processor should have no problem transforming the veggie into a fluffy rice-like substance.

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And at this point the kitchen smells heavenly.

The second step is to mince some garlic and heat it up with a little oil, as seen above. And the third step is to separate an egg white and whisk it up a little.

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I read you can also use parchment paper or a healthy dose of cooking spray

After mixing together the very few ingredients, you add your mixture to a pan or tray. I used a loaf pan lined with aluminum foil, although there are other methods that would work as well.

I personally think foil is probably the best option because it makes it much easier to flip the dish over, which is required halfway through cooking.  Wait for it to cool a minute or two, then simply pick up the foil by the corners, put your hand under the entire thing, and flip it over back into the loaf pan. Do this at your own risk though 😉

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Seeing this picture makes me ready to make another batch!

Reading the recipe, it sounds like the most challenging part is getting the cauliflower to cook without overcooking. I was able to keep a careful eye on the oven because I was working on my other recipe and doing dishes the whole time it was in.

In the end, it turned out fantastic! Just a little bit crispy on the outside, melty cheese on top, deviously close to the consistency of bread… Warm up your dipping sauce in the microwave, cut into dipping strips, and enjoy!

Taste: 3.5/4 – very good!  I might add a little more spices or garlic next time, but dang!
Ease: 3/4
Guiltless: 4/4 – the cheese and dipping sauce are the only major source of calories, just make sure you don’t go overboard with either and you’re good. My final calculation ended up being around 300 calories using plenty of cheese.
Leftovers: ?/4 – I made this on Saturday and Sunday, and honestly using a loaf tray makes a perfect sized meal, so no leftovers either time.

A Year of Recipes: #13

Cauliflower rice.  A staple of Pinterest healthy cooking.

Cauliflower rice. A staple of Pinterest healthy cooking.

For my latest experiment, I decided to try the Cauliflower Pizza Bites that are quite popular on Pinterest. Cauliflower has become the new tofu – it can be used as a substitute for a wide variety of less healthy ingredients.

Many recipes calling for a cauliflower substitute require a food processor to turn the vegetable into a “rice-like” consistency. This was the first step in the recipe.

I added extra garlic powder because I can.

I added extra garlic powder because I can.

 

I then had to pan fry the cauliflower rice, and it was a little difficult to determine when it was done. It was supposed to turn translucent. I just waited until a few little pieces started to brown/burn up…so hopefully that was appropriate.

I then used the food processor again to mix up the egg white, cottage cheese, and spices.  Once those ingredients achieved a smooth consistency I mixed with the stir fried cauliflower.

The batter is ready.  I  mixed it together in my pan so I'd have one less bowl to clean...

The batter is ready. I mixed it together in my pan so I’d have one less bowl to clean…

Instead of using a muffin tin (which I read can be difficult to clean and can leave the bites soggy on the bottom) I used piles of mixture on parchment paper, a more highly recommended solution. I pressed one turkey pepperoni onto the top of each.

I made 12 piles since there would be 12 muffins in a tin.

I made 12 piles since there would be 12 muffins in a tin.

These didn’t turn out perfect. In the end, the bites were quite crumbly.  I certainly couldn’t pick them up and dip them in pizza sauce. I ended up putting a few on a plate and using a fork to pick up a bite and then dip in sauce that way.  They certainly weren’t undercooked because they were quite brown and any longer in the oven they would have burned.

Final grade: tasty but lacking in execution.

Final grade: tasty but lacking in execution.

I also had some issues where the turkey pepperoni turned out pretty crunchy. If I make again I’ll want to add the pepperoni halfway through cooking instead of at the beginning. Or I might cut the pepperoni into smaller pieces and stir into the mix.

However, despite some issues, the flavor was pretty good. I don’t think they would have been very good without the pizza sauce, however.

Taste: 2.5/4
Ease: 2/4 – not hard to do, but hard to do well
Guiltless: 3.5/4
Leftovers: 3/4? – I don’t know if I can give a fair verdict since my original product didn’t turn out perfect.  They did reheat okay, but they were already crumbly.