Category Archives: Main Course

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

All right!  So you want to make a pizza that won’t make you feel gross about yourself once you realize you’ve eaten half of it in one sitting?   Don’t worry, I got you.

No Shame Pizza, that’s what we’re making here, people.

The Plan

The idea of this recipe is very simple: grate the cauliflower, add everything else, flatten on some parchment, and bake!  There is some time that needs to go into it though – especially if you’re going to add more ingredients than just cheese and sauce – those toppings should be cooked or sautéed ahead of time.  No one likes a raw green pepper messing up their pizza experience.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust (makes 2 10″ crusts)

1 head raw cauliflower, grated
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c shredded Mozzarella
2 Tb minced garlic
Salt and Pepper
1 Tb oregano
Red pepper flakes (to taste)
2 whole eggs and one egg white, whisked

Oven: preheat to 450 degrees
Tools: parchment paper, sheet pan or pizza stone, saute pan, 2 large mixing bowls, whisk
Misc: Pizza toppings, sauce and cheese

Start by  getting yourself a box grater and cutting your cauliflower into hunks that you can easily hold.

No, not you, darling.
See what I did there?  Hunks you can….yeah.

Ahem.  After you begin grating and have a nice pile growing in your box grater, I have a helpful tip for you:  slide a spatula under the grater, holding all your grated goodness inside, and bring the whole contraption over to empty into the bowl.  Easy!  Keep on until you have a nice pile of rice-like cauliflower, like this:

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You can take all the cauliflower scraps you couldn’t grate and either use them in a salad or take a knife and mince them up to add to your pile.

Next, pick your oil of choice, and saute the cauliflower in 3 batches (I picked 3 because that’s the batch size that fit best in my pan, you can do what works for you).  While it’s sauteing, add your seasonings.  I used salt and pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes and garlic.  Use the real stuff, if you can, no powdered garlic should come near this crust unless you’re in some sort of a crisis.  Take it easy with the salt, amigo, because the parmesan cheese you’re going to be mixing in later adds some saltiness.  Add the garlic near the end of the cooking time though, burnt garlic is a bad thing.  After about 5 minutes, your cauli should be nice and fragrant, and you can transfer it into a large bowl.  Keep working your batches until it’s all cooked and amazing.

Side Note:  If you stopped everything right now, you would have in front of you a super-tasty side dish that would be a great replacement for couscous – for those of us avoiding gluten or carbs.  Add some other kinds of sautéed veggies and maybe some feta, and man, you’ve got something good going.

If you’re adding veggies of meat to your pizza, now would be the time to cook those ingredients.  I sautéed red onion, green pepper, turkey pepperoni and mushroom for this pizza, but next time I think I would like to try something with chicken and a barbecue or white sauce…I think they would both be amazing with the cauli crust.

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Grab your eggs and whisk them up all nice in a bowl.  That’s a technical term – “all-nice”.  In the bowl you have your cooked cauli, add the 2 kinds of cheese and your all-nice whisked eggs, and mix together with either clean hands or a large spoon.

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The texture should be about the consistency of cooked rice that clumps together.

If you’re making 2 crusts, divide the mix in half, placing one half on your cutting board and leaving one in the bowl to be stored in the fridge.

You don’t want the mix to be too wet, the goal is to keep the crust from becoming a soggy mess once it’s done.  So grab a handful of mix and squeeze, getting most of the extra juices out.  I realize that some of this is going to be egg, but it’s going to be fine.  Just hang in there with me, okay?

And this liquid is just from 1/2 of the mix!
Excess liquid from 1/2 of the mix

Now grab a piece of parchment, give it a spray of oil or Pam, and put the mix in the middle of it.  Squish it down with your hands, try to make the thickness as uniform as you can without getting all ADD over it.  You want to end up with a circle about 1/2 inch thick, with slightly raised edges around the outside, like this:

CAM00033 You can bake it on a sheet pan, but if you have one, it would be better to transfer this loveliness onto a pizza stone to really maximize its crispy potential.  Let it bake for 20 minutes, you want crisp edges and a dry, spongy center.  

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Now just pull the oven rack out a bit and add your toppings.  I used a gluten-free pizza sauce, my cooked veggies, and a pizza cheese blend.  Pop it back into the oven for around 5 minutes, and when it comes out you will have something you can feel good about inhaling gracelessly.

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The Verdict

The question is, of course, did the crust hold up?  Did it get all soggy and weird, did it crumble like so many gluten-free foods?  Nope, it stayed together, tasted great, and was never crumbly or soggy!  I let it cool a few minutes, cut it and could pick it up and eat it without needing a fork.  I mean, let’s be real here, this is not the same thing as traditional pizza dough.  But it’s healthy and close enough to make me really happy to eat it when the rest of my family is eating their wheat version!  Not to mention, I’m getting a ton of veggies and my tummy is happily full instead of sad and crampy from giving in to gluten.

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As for the rest of the family, the kids ate it – although pretty begrudgingly.  I just remind myself that kids need repeated exposure to things before they come around to it, so I’ll keep trying other versions of toppings hopeful that one day they’ll just go for it.

The husband liked it, and said “Be sure to tell them that it reminds me of eggplant parm and that sausage would have been better.”  Sigh.  

He was right, though, this kind of crust needs to be thought of as something different from pizza dough.  It’s a cauli-crust, and if you think of it as a base for foods in that way, your options open way up.  Bechamel sauce and broccoli, barbecue chicken and banana peppers, alfredo and shrimp, they all would be fantastic on this crust.

Lastly, I decided that my favorite part of these crusts were the crispy edges!  The next time I make this, I will divide my mix into 4 portions and make smaller individual pizzas to maximize my crust happiness.

Enjoy!

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Vegetarian Chili with Smoky Adobos and Acorn Squash

Fall is a great time of year for tons of reasons…my favorite one being that my culinary habits get shaken up and I get to break out of the summertime ways of eating.

No more avoiding the oven for fear of the half day it takes to cool down in the heat of summer!  Big families of produce come back into play: apples, squash, pumpkins, and of course the whole potato clan are welcomed back into my kitchen.  Hearty and filling meals come back to the table, warming us up from the chilly, windy weather outside.

The biggest bag of apples ever seen.

Creativity is needed to get through all those bags of apples (I’m still trying to make it through this gigantic one that was gifted to me from a friend’s backyard apple tree!).

I love all of it.  Not to mention that I get to layer my clothes again.

And so, with all this fall love going around, it is only natural to want to make a big batch of chili to fill our tummies while we are out there enjoying it all.  This year I have cut out eating a lot of meat, so I knew that this chili would be vegetarian.  But nothing is more disappointing than a chili that loses its depth and heartiness when you take out the meat…it starts to feel more like a soup or veggie stew (which is also good, but not when you want thick chili!).  So in order to combat this problem, I decided I needed to add a veggie that could stand up to hot temps and not get mushy or disintegrate, one that would add some depth and take us out of the standard pepper/tomato combo, and of course one that would be amazing with strong Mexican flavors.  And that vegetable is the squash. Continue reading Vegetarian Chili with Smoky Adobos and Acorn Squash

Spaghetti Squash with Garden Ragu

I really like using squash in my dishes, but the time it takes to roast them in the oven can become really tedious.  Today for example, I was famished and had a hankering for something with tomato sauce.  What I saw in my head was something like this:

…and I really wanted to make it happen.  I knew that I had a spaghetti squash that I wanted to use, but the thought of waiting 60 minutes to roast it and eat was too much to bear.  So, I decided that I would microwave it and get the show on the road.  I’m not a big microwaver, but after the success I had with using it today, I think it has become my go-to method of cooking squash! Continue reading Spaghetti Squash with Garden Ragu

My Favorite Roasted Tomato Soup

I really like tomato soup in the fall.

I like it so much, I don’t think there’s a version of it out there that I haven’t liked: with rice or pasta, finished with cream, topped with tortilla strips and cilantro…they all make me really happy.

Except when it comes from a can.  Don’t get me wrong, I have totally been the girl who brings canned tomato soup in my thermos to work.  It just doesn’t make me particularly happy.  And, since it is tomato season, and I love to cook, here we are!  Ready to make a really great pot of homemade tomato soup that will make us all warm and cozy, leading us to break out any fuzzy socks that are waiting in the sock drawer and snuggle in.

For me, the key to a great tomato soup is to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes with some source of sugar.  Normally, plain white sugar is added to deal with this.  But a trick I learned a long time ago really solves the acidity problem in a way that doesn’t have us dumping sugar into our vegetables: add carrot.  I was taught to add chunks of carrot in the early steps of the soup making, and then to pluck them out before you served it.  It worked, and it did take away some of the bite of tomato soup.  But really, I thought, why take them out?  They add great color, great nutrients, and increase the sweetness factor in the finished product!  And they, like tomatoes, love to be roasted to develop all their great natural flavors.

I use onions, carrots, and fresh garden tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper as the base of this soup.
The three amigos, ready to get some crazy good flavor on.
They make a nice looking group, don’t they?  Nothing can really be bad when you start from someplace like this.
Roasted Tomato Soup
4 to 5 large tomatoes, cut into quarters and squeezed slightly
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into equal sized chunks
2 spanish onions, peeled and cut into chunks
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
olive oil to drizzle
salt and pepper
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
5 Tb tomato paste
1 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
1 Tb Spike seasoning, or any all-purpose seasoning
How-to:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Take all your chopped veggies and lay them on a sheet pan or large casserole dish (there is going to be some liquid after they roast, so make sure you have a decent lip on the pan).  Drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper on them, and let the veggies roast on the bottom rack of the oven for 1 hour – taking them out to stir every 20  minutes or so. 

    Your kitchen is going to smell amazing. Just wait.
  • Once the veggies are done, pour the whole lovely lot of them into a large stock pot.  Don’t leave any of the juices in the baking dish!  Add your stock, tomato paste, can of diced tomato, bay leaf and seasonings, and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to medium or medium low and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.  Give it a taste, and adjust any seasonings if you need to.  If you feel like it isn’t sweet enough for you, then go ahead and add a tsp of sugar.  But remember, the amount of sugar you add is directly related to how much your soup will taste like canned soup!  So take it easy.
  • If you have an emersion blender – lucky you!  I really need to get one.  I only have a regular blender, so I get myself a large bowl and add about 3 ladles of soup into the blender and let it get nice and smooth before I put the now blended soup into the bowl.  I keep doing this until my soup pot is empty and I now have all my veggies blended together and happy.   **Important tip!  Don’t add too much hot soup to your blender (make it less than 1/2 full), or you will find that you and your walls are now covered in hot red liquid.

Here is where you get to make a choice about your finished soup.  Do you love it just as it is, all natural and slightly textured?  Or do you prefer to make it as smooth as you can?  If you are perfectly happy and can’t wait to dig in, then go get some kind of cheese sandwich and enjoy the rewards of your work!  Or, take this one extra step…

  • If you have a food mill or a fine strainer (or some cheesecloth, or painting mesh), pass the blended soup through it and it will remove any of the seeds and pulp that was left over from the blending step.

I used my fine strainer (or chinoise) and I got quite a bit of pulp out of the soup.

This step is totally optional!  For me, I usually only do it when I’m feeling very culinary or when the kids aren’t home to distract me.
Either way, I hope you take the plunge and start making your soup at home.  Try the original first, and then get crazy!  I like to confuse my kids by adding fun shaped pasta to it so they don’t give me any guff about how it is made from vegetables, but that’s just me.  Let me know how it goes!

Thai Peanut Noodles

Peanut noodles are just about the best things ever.  That is, I guess, unless you are allergic to peanuts, or hate fresh veggies, or have a problem with tasting joy.

I always have a lot of fun making stir-fry or asian noodle dishes, because as long as you get the main pillars of the recipe to stand up you’re free to add or remove anything your little heart desires.  This is not food chemistry, nothing will collapse or deflate or combust if you decide to tweak the recipe a little bit to your liking (I mean, you know, unless you’re subbing out red peppers for lighter fluid.  That would be  bad).

So here are the 3 pillars you need to stand up to make your fabulous dish:

  1. Nicely cooked rice noodles that aren’t too mushy or so undercooked that they lodge into your molars.
  2. A peanut sauce that is rounded out (this includes all the big Thai flavors – salty, sweet, tangy, and spicy).
  3. Veggies that are thinly sliced and that make you happy to eat.

Everything else is up to you!  Freedom!

My husband and I are trying to eat more vegetarian meals, so for us I decided to use tofu as a protein source.  But this dish is fantastic with cooked shredded chicken (rotisserie chickens were made for things like this).  I also happen to really like red peppers and cucumbers in mine, but you could add any kind of veggies you like: broccoli florets, carrot, celery, radish, bok choy…anything you want.  I like to garnish the noodles with chopped peanuts, but I didn’t have any on hand today and so I subbed in pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  Still super yummy!

Thai Peanut Noodles

Serves 4-6

1/2 package rice noodles

14 oz can bean spouts, drained

8 oz can water chestnuts, drained and sliced into strips

1 red onion, sliced into thin strips

1 red pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced into thin strips

1 pkg extra firm tofu (I like West Soy)

2 Tb Tamari (or soy sauce)

freshly ground pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 bunch scallions, chopped

For the Sauce:

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp ginger, minced

*1/2 jar natural peanut butter (I like Smuckers Natural creamy)

3 Tb lime juice

6 Tb rice vinegar

2 Tb cider vinegar

1/4 c Tamari (or soy sauce)

5 Tb sugar (see * below)

fresh ground pepper

1 Tb Sriracha (this is the hot stuff…optional or to taste)

1 Tb Sesame oil

2 Tb water, if needed to thin the sauce

*If you want to use regular peanut butter, just decrease

or eliminate the added sugar listed in the recipe

For the tofu:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Slice the tofu in half width wise and press for 20 minutes until the liquid has been removed.  Cut the tofu into 1/4 inch strips and place in a large bowl.  Combine the 2 Tb tamari, garlic powder, and pepper in the bowl, and gently cover the tofu slices in the mixture.  Use cooking spray on a cookie sheet or sheet pan, and lay the tofu slices on it.  Cook for 10 minutes on one side, then flip over and cook 10 more minutes.  This baking helps make the tofu more firm and hold together better in the noodles – plus it helps my meat loving husband feel like he’s chewing on something besides noodles and veggies!  Once they are done, let them cool off and then cut them into smaller strips.

For the Sauce:

 Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until it is a smooth consistency.   You don’t have to use a blender, sometime I just mix them all up in a bowl!  But the blender does make it smooth.  Give the sauce a taste and decide if you need to adjust any of the flavors.  If it feels too tangy from the vinegar, add some more sugar or tamari.  If it seems too salty, add more sugar or water.  Just try to make sure you are hitting all the different flavors of Thai seasonings, and you should be good!

For the Rice Noodles:

In a large pot boil enough water that it will cover the noodles.  After the water has boiled, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner.  Add the noodles and let them sit in the hot water for 7 minutes, or until they are done.  Drain them in a colander and rinse with cold water until they are cooled off.

Now you are ready to take all the parts and combine them together into one big bowl of deliciousness!  I find that using my cleaned hands is a less messy and quicker way of mixing all these things together, rather than using tongs or forks.  Combine the noodles, sauce, veggies, and tofu until everything is really well-integrated.  Then, pop it in the fridge and let them flavors all come together for a couple of hours.

Don’t be surprised if when you take the noodles out of the fridge they have soaked up a lot of the peanut sauce.  If you need to, add a little bit of hot water to them and let them come to room temp, and you will be ready to go.

Eggplant Rollatini!

Whenever I grocery shop, I always stop in the produce section to look at the lovely plump eggplants, just sitting there in their cozy little group.  They just seem so…inviting.  I want to eat them!  I want to cook with them and have them turn out delicious!  And most of all, I want to do it in a way that doesn’t batter and fry them into an unrecognizable state.

Eggplants are one of those foods that act just like sponges; they soak up whatever you surround them with.  So I decided to surround my eggplant dish with things that taste excellent and at the same time don’t give me post-dinner calorie remorse.  It fits into my low-fat diet very well with the additions of the fat-free ricotta and the nonfat greek yogurt; it also makes my tummy happy to know that it is full of delicious veggies and no gluten. Continue reading Eggplant Rollatini!

Bacon Wrapped Chicken stuffed with Summer Veggies

I used to have a neighbor that would stand outside with me while our small children played, and we would talk about the things people generally talk about with their neighbors: our louder less considerate neighbors, our husbands, jobs, the current milestones of our kids, and of course, what was for dinner that night.  Continue reading Bacon Wrapped Chicken stuffed with Summer Veggies