Roasted Cauliflower Soup

cauliflower soupIn the late 1980’s, my family moved from a small island off the coast of Juneau, Alaska, to a town in West Texas.  We went from constant rain, mountains, ocean, icebergs and black bears to hot, dry, flat, dusty, tumble-weedy  ol’ West Texas.  Talk about culture shock!  The sunsets  were amazing, though, and the thunderstorms were terrifically terrifying.

Alaska...so beautiful.
Alaska…so beautiful.
West Texas...so parched.
West Texas…so parched.

Since the majority of our food came in on a barge from Seattle, most of the “fresh”, exorbitantly-priced produce spoiled before it even hit the shelves of  the grocery store, along with the milk and bread.  (My mom baked bread every week for this very reason. It was heaven.  We also had to drink powdered milk, which was…not heaven.  It was disgusting.)

When we made our cross-country move from rainy Alaska to parched West Texas, we finally had access to endless access to fresh veggies.  You can imagine my mother’s joy at perusing the produce section and picking up almost any vegetable her heart desired and being able to feed it to her decidedly unenthusiastic children.  Cauliflower was one of those veggies.  I had never tasted it up to that point in my (very) short  life.  And I hated it.  Cauliflower was my mortal food enemy.  Steamed, sauteed, hidden underneath a pile of cheese…ick.  I just couldn’t stomach it.

Something changed.

A few years ago, I mashed it up with all kinds of delicious dairy products.  (Dairy makes everything better.)  It became like potatoes, but better.  And remarkably less healthy.  I now have a full-blown love affair with the pungent white veggie called cauliflower, and try to find any way I can to make it in delicious and healthy ways.  It’s a great substitute for potatoes, rice, and even pizza crust.

Over at Elena’s Pantry, I found this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Soup.  I tweaked it to suit my own tastes and method, and it turned out wonderfully.

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cauliflower, de-leafed and cut into thick slices.
  • 4 Tbsp of olive oil or ghee
  • 2 quarts chicken or veggie stock
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • S & P
  • Paprika
  • Micro greens or finely shredded kale

Directions

  1. Slice cauliflower into 1″ pieces. Drizzle oil on both sides of the cauliflower.  Go ahead and rub it in a little.
  2. In a large glass or ceramic baking dish, lay slices of cauliflower down flat.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and add 1/2-3/4 cup of water to dish.
  4. Toss it in the oven at 350 degrees for a good hour, and go do something else. Like paint a portrait.
  5. After the cauliflower is nice and brown and tender, take it out of the oven.
  6. In a large soup pot, add 2 Tbsp of ghee or olive oil (I prefer ghee), and saute onions and shallots until soft and golden brown
  7. Add stock and water (and a tiny bit of Better Than Bouillon if you have it), bring to a boil and  add cauliflower.
  8. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10-20 minutes
  9. In small batches, puree your soup in a blender until smooth.
  10. Put your pureed soup back on the stove in the stock pot on low heat, then add a little black pepper.
  11. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with paprika and olive oil, then pile high with shredded kale or micro greens.

I love that there is no dairy in this soup (with the exception of the optional ghee), and it’s so satisfying and rich.  It feels like it should be bad for you, but it’s not.   In fact, it’s GOOD for you.  And it tastes phenomenally better than powdered milk.  Trust me.

And if you want to bastardize it and add cheese and bacon, it tastes more like a hearty, wonderful baked potato soup and you’ll eat ALL of it.

Skinny Stir-Fry Broccoli

Skinny Stir Fry Broccoli

I get really bored with veggies.  Actually I just get bored easily.  Walking up stairs, taking showers, brushing my teeth, chewing; these are all Very Boring Things.  Since I clearly have some undiagnosed and not-yet-invented form of ADD, I have made it a personal goal to make food (and life) as interesting and flavorful as possible.  I try everything.  I often go to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or a local farmer’s market just to see what’s out there, get inspired, and try my hand at something that might be change-your-life amazing or spectacularly awful.  It’s anyone’s guess how my adventure in boredom will play out.

At Trader Joe’s, I found a bagged organic broccoli slaw made from broccoli stems and shredded carrots.  Now, I really hate coleslaw.  I worked at Chick-fil-A in high school at the tender age of 15, and one of my jobs was making coleslaw.  (For the record, Chick-fil-A was still one of my favorite places to eat, even after I worked there.  If you’re from the south, you can relate to the absolute devotion and reverence Chick-fil-A inspires.  If you’ve never been, don’t go!  It’s highly habit-forming.  Like bad reality TV and Pinterest. It has taken me years of living in Oregon far from that chicken devil to break me of my habit.)  Of the many menu items, coleslaw was/is not one of my favorites.  I tend to think any time two cups of industrial strength mayonnaise is the main ingredient in a dish, it really can’t be good for you.

Smothering this finely shredded broccoli in mayo was never an option.  I also don’t like raw broccoli because…it mostly just tastes like a tree.  Unless you smother it with homemade ranch dressing or adorn it with one of Cee-Lo’s obscenely blingy watches, then I’ll eat it raw.  But on regular days for regular consumption, I prefer my broccoli cooked.

So I threw the whole bag of the broccoli slaw in a skillet with some coconut oil, Braggs Amino acids, S&P, granulated garlic, and watched magic happen.

The broccoli became soft and slightly caramelized.  It also developed a great tangy,  Asian-y, smoky flavor.  I finished it off with a good splash of fresh squeezed lemon, and it brightened the whole dish.  This is a great alternative to noodles if you’re trying to cut down on carbs, and a great way to bulk up a Asian pasta dish if you’re not.  Add some grilled chicken or sauteed shrimp and voila! You are ready to feed yourself and your family a tasty veggie dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 16 oz bag of Broccoli Slaw
  • 1  Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1-2 Tbps of Bragg’s amino acids (depending on what you like)
  • A dash of S&P and granulated garlic
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed

Directions:

  1. In a medium skillet, heat coconut oil on medium high heat (8/10) until very hot, then add entire bag of broccoli slaw.
  2. Do a quick toss to coat the broccoli in the oil, then allow to heat uncovered for 4 minutes without stirring.  (This is how you get that great caramelization!)
  3. Add half the Braggs, S&P, and granulated garlic, then toss again.  Cook for another 4 minutes without stirring.
  4. Add the rest of the Braggs, toss again, and evaluate if it’s ready.  If you still have uncooked portions, continue to cook without stirring for another few minutes.  Shreds should be soft but not mushy and still be very green.
  5. Remove from heat, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over the stir-fry and serve immediately.

See?  That wasn’t boring at all.  And definitely killed any craving for fried chicken.  Right? Well, at least we tried, anyway.

What are your favorite broccoli dishes?

Herb Crusted Beef Tenderloin

beef tenderloinI’m sure you all have your menu planned out for the holidays, but I’m just going to leave this here. It is the easiest thing you will make this Christmas and it will blow everyone away.

Ingredients:

  • 3lb beef tenderloin, trimmed
  • 3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbsp stone ground mustard
  • 3 Tbsp herbs, like herbs de provence or boquet garni
  • granulated garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp ghee or olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Sprinkle salt, pepper and granulated garlic over tenderloin.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium high heat.
  4. Sear tenderloin on each side for 20 seconds.
  5. Remove tenderloin from pan, and coat with mustards then herbs.
  6. Place tenderloin in a roasting pan and roast for 40 minutes (medium rare)
  7. Remove tenderloin from oven, transfer to cutting board.
  8. Tent with foil and rest tenderloin for 10 minutes.
  9. Cut and serve!

A Seat at the Table

Candlestick TableThe ideal meal. We all have an idea of what that looks like for our families. For my family the perfect meal includes wide variety, vibrant colors, and plenty of fresh ingredients. An abundance of luscious green leafies, healthy fats, a modest portion of high-quality protein, maybe another green vegetable with a side of…vegetables. You know, super healthy and Pinterest-worthy. I am in love with the idea of setting a beautiful table, eating delicious food, engaging in stimulating conversation, and creating a complete experience.

Sometimes we eat around a clean table with cloth napkins, real silverware and nice dishes. We might even light a candle if we are feeling really fancy. But this happens maybe four times a year. In a good year.

The reality is, I’m just grateful for the days I manage to get a hot meal on the table by 6:00pm. Sometimes, it looks like a crockpot meal, other times it looks like a take-out burrito bowl from that chain restaurant down the street. The table is often strewn with stray bottles, papers and half-eaten bags of my son’s favorite fruit snack. We push it to the side and sit down to enjoy whatever is in front of us. My husband and I fight the exhaustion from our individual days apart to engage in meaningful conversation together while my toddler refuses everything we offer, with the exception of the fruit snack he wants to eat exclusively.

The ideal meal and the real meal often feel worlds apart. So, I’m determined to close that gap by focusing on the things that matter. And here are four things that matter to me:

Eat at the table.

I eat in front of the TV, computer, or on my feet more often than I want to admit. I can’t tell you what I ate yesterday for lunch because I forgot to sit down and taste it. The act of pulling up a chair changes my experience of eating. I taste my food. I enjoy it. I remember to eat, and I remember what I ate.

Banish Pinterest from the table.

I really enjoy setting a beautiful table. But I enjoy the people around the table much more than the dishes we use or candles we light. A beautiful table is full of food my family likes, meaningful conversation, and making an effort to really see one another. Artful table arrangements are fun and can add a sense of warmth, creativity, and elegance. But my family and friends effortlessly bring those qualities in spades. I don’t need to fixate on creating a perfect table setting. Anyone who sits at my table is a bearer of beauty, and that is what matters.

Everyone has a voice at the table.

My husband has had a long day working for The Man, my toddler has had a long day learning how to be a tiny human in this world, I have had a long day juggling my responsibilities at home and work, which happen to be under the same roof. We all have needs. All of us want to be heard. In our joy, laughter, exuberance, heartache, and doubts. We all have a voice at this table, even when the voice is rusty or thin, because what we share with each other is important and leaves the door open for bigger, deeper conversations. Conversation doesn’t have to sparkle, it just has to hit home. We can speak about our whole experience, not just the nice stuff, and I want to hear it all.

Everyone has a seat at the table.

Age, race, gender, physical or mental limitations, differing political or religious views, past experiences, current socio-economic challenges… All are welcome. All have a seat this table. No qualifiers, no apologies, just a desire to nourish and be nourished here. There is Love at this table and everyone deserves to feast and drink deeply in a place where there is safety and abundance to share. It might be served on a paper plate, and it might come from a white carton with chopsticks and packets of soy sauce on the side, but it’s yours if you want it. If you will have us, we will gladly have you. 

You, dear friend, are always welcome at our table.

Zucchini Goat Cheese Lasagna

Photo of Zucchini Goat Cheese LasagnaHave you ever prepared a dinner that made everyone happy?

Yeah, no. Me either. I share my recipes with the internet, which has something for everyone, but not everyone likes the same thing.

This one comes close to pleasing ALL people of the internet, though. Maybe even the closest. Except for the ones who don’t like goat cheese, tomatoes, or zucchini. So, roughly 1% of the internet population. Okay, maybe more. But that’s the great thing about the internet. It’s full of amazing people with vast ideas and preferences.

You’ll notice in the picture how the lighting is less than ideal. The food isn’t beautifully plated or photographed. That’s because EVERY TIME I serve this to my friends or family, it is consumed too quickly to take the time to make it pretty. I love eating and serving food that looks good. But I love eating and serving food that tastes good even more. Plus, I would much rather eat my food while it’s hot than waste precious minutes getting the “perfect” shot.

This grain-free lasagna, utilizes creamy goat cheese, has a strong vegetable base and substantial protein punch. This is ideal for a cold winter evening, a hearty weekend lunch, and like a charm in the toaster oven if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart tomato sauce (Homemade is best but if not, be sure to buy organic and with NO SUGAR added.)
  • 
1/2 lb organic grass-fed ground beef or turkey, browned
  • 
12 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 medium zucchini, sliced in thin rounds (the mandolin is a wonderful and inexpensive invention which yields perfect results)
  • 
6 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 
4 oz parmesan, shredded
  • 
1-2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
fresh herbs, chopped (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a baking dish, coat sides and bottom with olive oil.
  2. Layer zucchini, meat, mushrooms, Italian seasoning, sauce, and cheeses.
  3. Repeat step 2 twice, then finish with parmesan on top.
  4. Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
  5. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes until bubbling and brown.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!