Cauliflower Cassoulet

Hello!  Spring is here and I have emerged from hibernation. Over the last three months we have been moving our household and getting the new place set up. I am loving my new kitchen that actually has counter space, cabinet space, pantry space and a lot of other great features.

I’ve been inspired, cooking-wise to create some new things! Here is a great dish for transitioning from winter to spring. It has just enough warmth and comfort food quality to satisfy when the air chills at night and just enough lightness and freshness to energize us.

Cauliflower Cassoulet

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 cups chopped fresh parsely
  • 1-2 shallots
  • 2-3 tablespoons sweet white miso
  • 1 umeboshi plum
  • whole wheat bread crumbs (or if you can’t eat wheat, use roughly ground almonds or non-gluten crumbs)
  • herbs of choice–I used oregano, garlic powder, sea salt, pepper, crushed anise seeds, celery seeds
  • olive oil
  • (Optional) vegan shredded mozarella
CAULIFLOWER CASSOULET INGREDIENTS

I started out with a head of cauliflower I wanted to use and looked through my refrigerator and pantry for some likely ingredients. I decided on a tofu cream sauce, shallots and parsley. On the left there are umeboshi plums–a Japanese traditional pickled plum that has both a salty and a sour taste. On the right in the little tub is sweet white miso–another traditional Japanese delight made with fermented soybeans.

TOFU CREAM SAUCE

Combine a package of firm tofu with 2-3 tablespoons of sweet white miso and the meat of an umeboshi plum. If you don’t want to try umeboshi plums, you can substitute a bit of red wine vinegar and a little sea salt. Blend these up until you have a creamy sauce. You can add a little water if the mixture seems too thick.

SWEAT THE SHALLOTS

Slice 1 or 2 shallots and put them into a hot pan with some olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. You just need to sweat them a little. They glisten with the oil but will not be completely limp.

CAULIFLOWER WITH SHALLOT AND PARSLEY

Blanch pieces of cauliflower for a minute or two, chop up parsley and add the cooked shallots.  Oil a casserole or baking dish and put the veggies in.

CUSTOM BREAD CRUMB TOPPING

Customize your bread crumb topping. I used whole wheat bread crumbs and seasoned it with salt, pepper and herbs/spices of choice. I prefer seasoning bread crumbs myself so I can control the amount of salt and the taste. Can’t do whole wheat? Try topping with roughly ground almonds or gluten-free bread crumbs.

READY FOR THE OVEN

Pour your tofu cream sauce evenly over the veggies.

Sprinkle the crumb topping over the top of the cassoulet.

You’re ready to bake at 350 for about 35-40 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and everything is all bubbly good.  The last five minutes of baking, I added a sprinkle of vegan shredded mozarella. Vegan cheeses don’t appeal to me a great deal but they look nice as a garnish sometimes and they help when your family is transitioning away from dairy foods. Just know that vegan cheese is basically congealed oil and doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own.

FINISHED

Finished! Very delicious and very satisfying served with a salad.

Under De-Construction

Nothing like moving your household to disrupt things thoroughly! Not that I’m complaining. This is a move I’ve been waiting for a long, long time! My husband and I have finally decided to put apartment life in the past and we are buying a home of our own. (WAIT ’til I show you my new kitchen!!!)

Christmas packages have been replaced with boxes. Cupboards and drawers are starting to be emptied. Blogging time is mostly replaced with dekludging time. And more dekludging time, and still more . . . Nothing better than moving to take the opportunity to get rid of some of the burden!

With my schedule, there is only less than a day each week to get everything done. Cooking has become fast and minimal. Nothing fancy, just something to eat. Not exactly your gourmet, unique, photo-worthy delicacies. Not the kind of thing you blog about.

Or is it? Last fall I started to write a post that I called, “What you don’t see.” It was going to be about our day to day fare that isn’t special or unusual—just all the things that are made and eaten in between the masterpieces.

Now seems like the perfect time to share these with you while I pack and tape and label my material life. Cookbooks are in a box and shortly so will be most of the utensils and dishes. Life and menus are literally under deconstruction. But we still have to eat, don’t we?

BASIC MISO SOUP PAINT

Miso soup—the breakfast of healthy champions! This is absolutely one of the rock solid foundations of our daily fare. Alkalizing, loaded with beneficial bacteria from naturally fermented miso (as long as you don’t boil this soup), and a great way to use up bits of veggies you have in your refrigerator. This one has some red radishes that needed using. Takes just a few minutes and I usually make enough for the next few mornings. I’ve given the recipe for Miso Soup before, so I’ll just post the link here.

Creamy Celery Root Soup

Sometimes when you meet a new vegetable, you take one look and think you know what it’s going to be like.

Take this celery root for example. This is the same one we saw last week.

CELERY ROOT CLOSE UP

Interesting looking . . . different in a big brown sort of way . . . not something you’re supposed to actually cook, right?

Yes!! Yes!! It is something you’re supposed to cook—eat—and you’ll love it!

Creamy Celery Root Soup

  • Two or three large celery roots (AKA celeriac)
  • Mirepoix (fine diced onions, celery and carrots)
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • pinch of crushed anise seeds
  • coconut milk
  • soup stock of choice

Peel all the brown skin off the celery root and remove any dark spots or ingrown roots. Cut the peeled roots into 1-inch chunks.  Steam the celery root in a little water until it is tender. Blend the steamed celery roots with a little coconut milk. I use a power blender to get a super creamy consistency but any blender will work fine as long as you blend it long enough.

Saute the mirepoix in olive oil and sea salt and add some soup broth – start with about a cup.  I used a simple broth of kombu seaweed simmered in spring water because I wanted a mild broth that would not overwhelm the taste of the celery root.  Add in the garlic, the anise seeds. Add more salt, pepper, broth and or coconut milk until you get your desired thickness and taste.

You will have the richest, thickest soup with a sweet and delicate flavor!

CELERY ROOT SOUP

Pumpkin Swirl Dark Chocolate Mousse

October has had it’s own lovely messages telling us the autumn season is in full swing. October shows us wonderful changes everywhere—not just in the trees and not just colorful hues. Sometimes October shows us fluffiness!

FLUFFY PLANT

Around here, October shows us floatiness, too! Being outside in the crisp fall air is conducive to dropping in and saying “Hello” to folks!

BALLOON UP CLOSE 2

October brings us orange things too.

BITTERSWEETPAINT

And Halloweeny things.

HALLOWEEN TREES

And harvesty things.

free_plenty_of_pumpkins_wallpaper-426951-1286854509

You see where I’m going here? These are just the inspiration I need for October edition of Mousse!

PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE SWIRL MOUSSE

Pumpkin Swirl Dark Chocolate Mousse – Serves 8

This is incredibly simple to make! Start off with a batch of tofu-based dark chocolate mousse:

  • 12 ounces silken tofu
  • 2/3 cup 100% cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk or more, as needed, for desired thickness

Blend it all up and put it in the refrigerator in a covered container. Then blend up the pumpkin part.

  • 15 oz pumpkin puree
  • 12 ounces silken tofu
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca flour

Watch those spices! They can easily be too much. Taste and adjust and be sure to refrigerate this mousse for at least half an hour in a covered container. You will find that the cinnamon and pumpkin pie spices need some time to blend themselves in and become “one” with the mousse. Then you can play with the two mousses any way you want!

Results:  I liked the pumpkin mousse but only after it sat overnight in the refrigerator, When it was just freshly made, the spices overwhelmed the pumpkin flavor.

Hubbin’ — not feeling the pumpkin love.

Neither of us liked our first serving which had about equal amounts of dark chocolate and pumpkin.

I put the next serving together with a little dark chocolate mousse in the bottom of the dish, then the pumpkin and then a small swirl of the chocolate on top. Much better! I decided on a garnish of chopped roasted, salted pistachio nuts. Skin them so you get the green color.

At this rate, my pumpkin will be gone before the dark chocolate mousse is used up, That’ll be just fine for my Hubbin’! In fact, I’d be very happy with just the pumpkin mousse which is far lighter.

Coffeecake With Benefits

COFFEE CAKE WITH BENEFITS

Good Morning Friday!

Sure would love to make a special treat for my Hubbin’ and me. Is it possible to bake something delightful without losing the “lighten it up” factor? Something to compete with the sugar-laden pastries at the coffee shop? Of course it is!

I took an already outstanding recipe for vegan coffeecake and added a twist. I usually use some kind of fruit with this. Fruit is good, sure, but what if I want even more fiber and want to sneak even more veggies into the day?

Spaghetti Squash Coffeecake

Cake

  • 2 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 Tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 Tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 C light oil (I use avocado)
  • 1/2 C brown rice syrup
  • 1 Tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 Tsp turmeric (optional)
  • 1/2 – 2/3 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 1/2 C cooked, chopped spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 cup of diced apples, berries or other fruit

Topping

  • 3 Tbs maple granules
  • 3 Tbs chopped toasted walnuts
  • cinnamon

Sift the dry ingredients together, mix the wet ingredients except the squash and fruit together and then add the wet with into the dry and stir until incorporated. Do not over-mix this. Adjust the almond milk so you have a fairly thick batter – not runny. Add the squash and fruit—I chose a half cup of cranberries.. Pour into an oiled 6 X 10 or similar size baking dish. Make the topping and sprinkle it on top of the cake. Bake at 375 for about a half hour.

Dare you to let this cool completely on the rack before cutting into it! This is a wonderfully moist and satisfying breakfast cake.

Notes

  • I like using turmeric because of the nice yellow color it gives the cake and also because turmeric is beneficial as an anti-inflammatory.
  • You can use coconut sugar granules instead of maple granules.
  • You can make extra topping and layer it into both the middle and on top.
  • You can skip the fruit, add less sweetener and make this into a savory cake using herbs and spices. (SO many possibilities!)
  • The cake is based on a recipe from Christina Cooks which you can find here.

Simply Green

FRESH COLLARDS

In the cooler months, dark leafy greens start to show some muscle. Just look at these big collard greens! They’re dark, they’re hearty, and their chock full of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K and many other vitamins and minerals.

Remove the stems (save for later) and lightly boil the whole, uncut leaves in water with a pinch of sea salt until they are just tender and still very bright. It is important not to overcook them. I look for them to be pliable but with lots of body,  Al dente!

Spread the leaves out on a flat tray or dish so they can cool without continuing to cook and soften.

READY TO ROLL

Use a sushi mat to roll the leaves. You’ll have to fold the leaves to fit the rectangular shape of the sushi mat.

ROLLED

Squeeze any excess liquid out of the rolls and slice them. Try angle slices as well as straight ones. I like to dot each section with umeboshi plum paste, giving the greens a salty and sour garnish and a punch of beautiful red color!  Power-packed bite-sized deliciousness. Enjoy!

Sweet and Savory Root Vegetable Casserole

When I was driving to my natural food store this afternoon to do my weekly shopping, I was thinking about turnips and cranberries.

You know how it is — you get some stubborn ingredient in your head and you have no idea what you’ll do with it, but nevertheless, there it is waiting to become your latest creation.

Sweet and Savory Root Vegetable Casserole

I don’t usually go for “casseroles,” but I didn’t know what else to call this. It’s not exactly a pie even though it does have a bottom crust.

You can leave out the crust altogether if you want to. I included it because I am busy over here making vegetable dishes more appealing to my Hubbin’ who generally loves the food I make for him. I also included it because I didn’t want a heavy, gooey filling. Instead, the crust kept the dish somewhat together.

As you know, I use organic ingredients whenever possible.

  • Whole wheat single pastry crust of your choice, uncooked
  • 2 Medium turnips
  • 1 Yam
  • 1 Yellow onion diced
  • 1 Cup Cranberries
  • 1 Granny Smith apple diced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 Cups toasted Walnuts
  • Fresh thyme

Slice the turnips and yam into half-inch slices. Pre-steam them (just plain – no salt or seasonings) for about 12 minutes until they are tender but not falling apart.

Mix the diced onions, cranberries and apple with olive oil, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon and spread them on a baking dish in a single layer. Roast them in an oven at 350 degrees, turning them every so often so they are evenly done, about half an hour.

Roast the diced onions and green apple and the cranberries in olive oil, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg for about 30 minutes.
Roast the diced onions, green apple and the cranberries in olive oil, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg for about 30 minutes.

Grind the toasted walnuts to a rough crumble – about 3 pulses in a processor or 10 seconds on a low speed in the Vitamix. Or just chop them up. Mix the ground walnuts into the roasted onion/apple/cranberry mixture.

Layer the turnips onto the crust, then a layer of the onion/fruit/walnut mix. A layer of yams next and then the rest of the onion/fruit/walnut mix. Sprinkle fresh thyme on top. All seasonings are according to your taste! Some of you know what you like and the rest of you will become much better cooks if you start using your own intuition and knowingness and find out what you like.  😉

You can also use other kinds of root vegetables. As you know, I had turnips on the brain today.

Bake the casserole for 15 – 18 minutes until the crust is done. That’s the advantage of pre-steaming the root veggies—it doesn’t have to bake for long. Let the casserole sit for a few minutes before slicing it.

The result? Very satisfying yet not heavy and overly filling. Loved the tart accent from the cranberries!
The result? Very satisfying yet not heavy and overly filling. Loved the tart accent from the cranberries!

I served mine with Brown Rice and Hokkaido Azuki Beans, Very Lightly Boiled Kale and a side of Sauerkraut. Perfect Sunday Supper!.

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

Now that cooler weather is here, the Brussels Sprout crop is in and these cute little cabbage-like vegetables are at their peak. I know a lot of people don’t like Brussels Sprouts but I am convinced the reason is mostly because not much went into the preparation. I wanted to create something savory that had some sweetness but that still had some freshness. Overcooked Brussels Sprouts are not very appetizing.

A warm vegetable salad is just right!

BEAUTIFUL WARM BRUSSELS SPROT SALAD

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Red Onion
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Crushed garlic
  • Red pepper
  • Olives
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Pepper

It is important when using Brussels sprouts that you cut them in such a way that the pieces will cook evenly. I washed about a pound and cut them in half and then split the exposed core. You will have half pieces of Brussels sprouts but the core will be cut in two so it will be tender when the rest of the half is. That way you don’t overcook your Brussels sprouts trying to get the core softened.

Slice one red onion into half moons, dice a red pepper, peel the garlic. Use as much or as little as you wish—I used 3 cloves.  Slice 6-8 pitted olives of choice—I used green Cerignolas. (If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you know that I’m going to invite you to click on the word and learn to say it like our Italian friends do!)

Begin sauteing the red onions in about a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt until you see the onions begin to sweat. Add the Brussels sprouts and some more salt and saute for a minute or two. Add the crushed garlic and some spring water and put on a lid. Steam these for about 15 minutes so they are just tender but haven’t lost their freshness. Add the red pepper and olives and let them cook a moment. Add the fresh basil at the very end. I shredded mine (chiffonade).

Immediately remove from the heat and dress with balsamic vinegar. I used a basil-raspberry white balsamic. There are many choices of balsamic so please pick one that is available and that you like. Adjust with a bit more olive oil if you want and also pepper. Serve warm.

This became my main course for dinner. Sweet and satisfying!

Minestrone My Way

Who doesn’t love a bowl of thick and hearty soup?

I do! So I’m continuing my “Lighten it Up” challenge by putting together one of my all-time fave Italiano soups—Minestrone! Let’s all say this with the kind of passion and romance of a real Italian! Just click on the link and learn how!

Minestrone Soup typically does have a lot of veggies in it but it also has beans, pasta, sometimes potato, sometimes meat and often a chicken or beef-based broth. Today I am first of all making a vegan version of this soup which will lighten it up considerably and I’m going to tweek the basic recipe to lighten it further still without sacrificing flavor, thickness or richness.

SAUTE THE ONIONS

Start by sauteing one medium onion diced in one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.  Or, water sautee. Continue sauteing until the onions become translucent and start to brown.

ADD CELERY

Slice a few sliced cloves of garlic and dice about three stalks of celery and toss them into the saute action.  Add another pinch of sea salt. Add a bit of water if the pan gets a bit too dry.

ADD DICED TOMATOES

Check out the action shot! Add a can of diced tomatoes.

ADD PUREED CHICKPEAS

Now here’s a good trick . . . take half of a 15 ounce can of chickpeas and a little bit of vegetable broth and puree them with a blender. This nice thick puree helps make the soup rich, rich, rich! You may do this with any kind of bean you choose for your minestrone. Then add the rest of your chickpeas and vegetable broth. (I used one box of Imagine Foods Vegetable Cooking Stock. It is one of the only prepared soup stocks that does NOT have any sugar in it.  Instead of pasta, I added 2 cups of cooked wild rice that I had leftover from stuffed squash.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, oregano, pepper flakes or whatever sounds Italiano to you!

ESCAROLE

Now were going to really up the heartiness level with 5 cups of escarole! Wash the escarole and give it a rough cut before adding it to the soup. Don’t worry about how bulky it looks, it will cook down pretty fast.

MINESTRONE MY WAY!

Adjust your seasonings and—Mama Mia! That’s one beautiful Minestrone! Come on everybody! Let’s say “Mama Mia” just the way our Italian friends do!

Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash

Time to practice what I was preachin’ a couple of days ago when I wrote about how I’m a “meat and potatoes” type of vegan. If you’re puzzled and thinking, “What the heck is she talking about?” You can see that here.

I am talking about lightening up on the heavy, condensed food and adding in lighter, leafier food. But just to keep us both on our toes, I am featuring something a little more challenging than simply adding a salad.

I chose to stuff a cute little Sweet Dumpling Squash. [What! Is she kidding? “Sweet Dumpling” does not convey lightness!]  No, it doesn’t, but we’re going to lighten this up very nicely and we’ll have a very satisfying dish that is not extremely heavy.

MORE SWEET DUMPLING SQUASH

Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash (Makes four to eight servings)

  • Please use only organic ingredients whenever possible
  • Four cute little Sweet Dumpling Squashes
  • 1/2 cup cooked wild rice
  • 1 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1 Tablespoon diced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup of dry roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1-2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (optional)
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • soy sauce

Several things were lightened up here.

  • Less rice and more parsley and other vegetables
  • Less oil which is going to be added to the stuffing just before baking. This is effective in adding the wonderful flavor of toasted sesame oil with out using very much. You could take it a step further and don’t add the oil at all. I chose to mix the oil into the stuffing before baking and to saute the veggies in water.
  • Roasted seeds instead of pecans or walnuts
  • More onion, carrot and peppers, less corn. The corn will add color.

Wash the squashes and cut a circle around the top/stem as if it were a little pumpkin you’re going to carve. Set aside the top for later and take out the seeds and stringy part.

Wash the seeds by putting them in a strainer or colander and rinsing them in cold water. Heat up a cast iron or heavy pan and put the seeds in. They sizzle! Keep moving them around with a wooden spoon or other utensil until some of the seeds are just starting to brown and you hear little popping sounds. Take them out right away and put them into a paper bag. Sprinkle some soy sauce into the bag and shake to coat and season the seeds.

Cook the rice and wash and cut all the veggies up.

This part is up to you:  You can lightly saute the onions, carrots, ginger, corn and peppers in the oil and then use the other tsp of oil to flavor the stuffing.  Or if, like me, you really want to lighten it up, saute the veggies in a little water, adding a pinch of salt to bring out the flavors and just add the one tsp of oil into the stuffing. This is just a quick saute to soften the veggies for the stuffing. Make sure they don’t cook so much that they lose their bright colors.

Mix the wild rice, veggie saute, seeds together, add the chopped parsley and season as desired with a little more salt and some pepper. Now add the toasted sesame oil and mix that in to the stuffing.

Stuff the squashes. Put the tops back on! Stand the squashes up in a baking dish and put about 1 inch of water into the dish. Bake at 350 until the squash is tender but not falling apart—about 40 to 50 minutes.

When the squashes are done, let them cool a little before before serving.  You can decide if you need a whole one or a half. Serve with leafy greens such as kale, mustard, collards etc and a pickled vegetable and you’ll have a satisfying but not deadly heavy meal!

DELICIOUS STUFFED SWEET DUMPLING SQUASH

These turned out sweet and delicious and not too heavy. Half of one of these cuties was enough for me!

Helpful hints:

  • This combination of veggies will result in a distinct parsley flavor. If you don’t like that much parsley, try another green such as kale.
  • If you want to speed up the cooking time, you can cut each squash in half and then stuff it OR you can pre-cook the squash a little by steaming it a few minutes before stuffing and baking.
  • You can change the seasonings, try other veggies, use garlic with or without the ginger.
  • The idea is to include a lot of veggetables to lighten the stuffing.