Category Archives: Recipes

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!

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

Southwest Hash with Baked Eggs and Spicy Chipotle Hollandaise

Last night was the October meetup of the cooking group (find out more about our group here!), and this month’s theme was Breakfast for Dinner.

The hubby and I were the hosts, which meant that we had the main course.  I was a little torn on what to make…there’s always the old standard quiche/strata mash-ups with veggies and stuff, but it wasn’t exactly new territory for me.  Crepes seemed too fussy, making a big chunk of meat was out (since the hubby and I are cutting it out of our diets), and all then there was the whole gluten-free restrictions – I could find carbs to sub in, but it all seemed like more than I wanted to get into.

So I narrowed it down by figuring out what sounded good to me: I knew I wanted to use eggs, I wanted it to be vegetarian and filling, and I wanted it to be pretty easy to put together at serving time so that I could actually enjoy having people over.  Combine all that with my love of big Mexican flavors, and this is where I ended up – a southwest flavored veggie hash blending yellow and sweet potato, a hollandaise with smoky adobo chilis, and eggs baked right on top. Continue reading Southwest Hash with Baked Eggs and Spicy Chipotle Hollandaise

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

This Salsa is the Rooster’s Beak

Salsa may not be a thing of great consequence, but when you use a great recipe that you love making and everyone loves eating, it settles that one little area of life for you.   No more random store-bought stuff, no more hoping a recipe you found somewhere will work.  This one is it for me, I’m good.

Happiness in a bowl...

In the past when I’ve been in a pinch, I’ve tried choosing a salsa in the grocery store.  And although I’m sure there is a place somewhere that sells something fantastic, I haven’t had much luck yet.  I don’t know about you, but I find the gigantic selection of salsas at grocery stores both overwhelming and disappointing.  I see them all towering there in front of me as I pace back and forth, as though one is going to stop me and say “Look. You don’t need to go back to those jars down there.  That guy over there?  He’s watered down and pasty.  See that one?  He’s so full of sugar and vinegar that he might as well be made out of just tomatoes.  They suck.  I’m the one you want.”.  But as the jars haven’t started talking to me (yet), I stand there, sigh, and finally pick one at the intersection of Costs too Much and Looks Organic.

Being a person who loves veggies and who likes to cook, this is my solution to the salsa shopping dilemma.  This recipe is fresh, it’s chunky and it’s full of great flavors that make salsa worth eating.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Salsa Fresca – Makes approx. 4 cups

3-4 tomatoes, cut in half and squeezed of their juices

1 large green pepper, finely diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (if you like heat, leave some of the seeds intact)

1 red onion, finely diced

1 avocado, pitted and small dice

1/2 c corn (fresh if possible, or frozen)

1/2 cooked beans of your choice (I used adzuki, but any bean will do!)

1/2 Tb salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 tsp garlic powder)

1 tsp chili powder

2 Tb cumin

1 Tb lime juice

1 Tb vinegar

2 tsp sugar

2 Tb olive oil

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt or sour cream, lowfat if possible

How-to:

This recipe is very simple to assemble, there are just a few tips that will make your final product really great:

  1. Prep all your veggies except your avocado.  They brown quickly, and this is one ingredient you are going to add just as you are about to serve it.
  2. Combine everything in a large mixing bowl except the yogurt, avocado and olive oil and let the mixture rest in your fridge for 3-8 hours.  The salt that was added is going to bring out the natural veggie  juices like the dickens, and this way you can just pour them off before you add the rest of your ingredients.
  3. After the fridge/de-liquiding time is over, stir the veggies around and give them a taste.  Some of the seasonings or salt may have been absorbed or poured off when you got rid of the excess juices, you can add more now if needed.
  4. Take 1/2 cup of the mixture and the olive oil and add it to a food processor or blender.  It does not have to be totally smooth, but you are looking to decrease the chunkiness of it.  Add this now smoothed-out mix and your yogurt to the mixing bowl and give it all a nice stir.  Retaste, adjust your seasonings as needed.
  5. Add your diced avocado, and you are ready for business!

There’s not much I don’t love this on: scrambled eggs, my brown rice, pan-fried fish, even cottage cheese.  And of course, chips!

I was wandering around Wikipedia today,  I thought I’d search under salsa and see if there were more things to learn.  It turns out, there were!  I found out a valuable lesson: there are salsa people, and then there are pico de gallo people.  I am a pico de gallo person.

I’ve always called this recipe salsa (and I guess really it is salsa fresca), but I think technically I should be calling it a pico de gallo.  According to those who know, salsa is supposed to be more of a sauce: Salsa Roja (red sauce), Salsa Verde (green sauce), Salsa Negra (yep,you guessed it, black sauce).   And although I’ve had some great salsas like this in restaurants around town, I don’t really want to make it at home.  I enjoy the texture and taste of fresh un-blended ingredients;  I like to see a whole melange of things going on in my salsa as opposed to the texture of the red-liquid type that sits soupily in its bowl, just waiting to fall onto my white t-shirt as it makes the trip to my mouth.

I also learned that Pico de Gallo literally means the “rooster’s beak”.  Nifty little fact!  And since I know you are dying to learn how such a tasty condiment would get that strange name, I’m going to share my new knowledge with you! 

“One of the sources for the name “rooster’s beak” could be the beak-like shape and the red color of the chilis used to make it. According to food writer Sharon Tyler Herbst, it is so called because originally it was eaten with the thumb and forefinger, and retrieving and eating the condiment resembled the actions of a pecking rooster.

Another suggested etymology is that pico is derived from the verb picar, which has two meanings: 1) to mince or chop, and 2) to bite, sting or peck. The rooster, gallo in Spanish, is a common metaphor for the hyper-masculine (“macho”) male in Mexican culture. One example of such machismo is taking pride in withstanding the spicy burn of chilis.”

Thanks, Wikipedia!  Learning is fun.

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!

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!