Cauliflower Taco Meat


The humble cauliflower. That funny looking vegetable I hated as a child, continues to surprise me. First there was cauliflower pizza crust, then Buffalo cauliflower, cauliflower steaks, and now, wait for it…cauliflower taco meat!

Replacing the spicy ground beef in traditional tacos, this mixture of cauliflower, mushrooms, walnuts and bold seasonings amps up the deliciousness and it’s a healthy mix of superfoods to boot! What’s not to love? And I swear, even if you think you don’t like cauliflower, mushrooms, or walnuts, if you like tacos, you will like this.

I stumbled upon the recipe at Pinch of Yum, one of my favorite food blogs (and their photography is amazing!). Intrigued, I knew what I was going to make with that head of cauliflower in the fridge. The only thing that made me hesitate was the two cups of walnuts the recipe called for. I know walnuts are super healthy, full of good fats, omega 3s, and loaded with antioxidants, but they also pack a wallop of calories, which I certainly don’t need. Since mushrooms are so meaty, especially cremini mushrooms, I decided to replace half the walnuts with them. The result wowed us!

And don’t limit this yummy mixture to tacos; it would make a great filling for burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, frittatas, taco salad and on and on. My mind is now working on a way to make this, with different seasonings, into a mixture for Italian recipes, lasagna, spaghetti sauce, meatballs, and stuffed peppers. And sloppy joes! I bet that would be wonderful!

The taco “meat” ingredients involve just a quick series of pulses in the food processor and then a half hour of baking, followed by a couple minute broil, then a sprinkling of fresh lime juice. While it’s in the oven, you can prep your taco accompaniments, so this is very doable on a weeknight after work. Plus, it reheats really well, and leftovers will not go to waste. Enjoy!

Cauliflower Taco Meat

Adapted from this Pinch of Yum recipe

3 cups cauliflower florets

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1/4 cup tomato sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Fresh squeezed lime juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Place all ingredients except lime juice in the bowl of a food processor and pulse on and off until the texture of cooked ground beef. I found it easier to get the right texture by doing this in two batches, half of each ingredient in each batch. The first time I made it I did it all at once and half of it was almost like a paste—still tasted great, but just not the right texture. Transfer mixture to the baking sheet and spread it out in an even layer.

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once at the half-way point. After the 30 minutes, turn oven to broil and broil 8-12 inches from broiler for a minute or two. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of lime juice and toss to distribute it.

That’s it. The “meat” is ready to use in tacos, burritos, taco salads, enchiladas, quesadillas, or whatever your heart desires. Reheats well and keeps several days in the fridge. Makes about 4 servings.

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Vegetarian Swedish Meatballs and Gravy


Recently I came across a recipe for vegetarian Swedish meatballs and my mouth started watering. I’ve never had the real thing, but I imagine they’d be delicious. This recipe, however, didn’t have the traditional allspice and nutmeg included, so I moved past it and searched for other versions.

Ultimately, I ended up adapting a non-vegetarian recipe, one called The Best Swedish Meatballs from the new-to-me blog, The Recipe Critic. I replaced the ground beef with a mixture of wild rice, cremini mushrooms and cauliflower, then added a little ricotta for richness (you could also use Greek yogurt). To save time, I purchased already-cooked wild rice, which you can find in either cans or pouches. Just make sure it’s all wild rice, not a blend including other types of rice.

But the gravy is what makes this dish truly special. Oh, the gravy! Luxurious, I tell you, with unexpected oomph from Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard. Quick and easy to make, whip it up while the meatballs are baking.

You certainly can eat the meatballs and gravy on their own, but served over mashed potatoes or egg noodles makes a complete, comfort food meal—perfect for a cold winter’s day! Enjoy!


Vegetarian Swedish Meatballs and Gravy

Adapted from The Recipe Critic

Meatballs:
2 cups cooked wild rice

1 ½ cups chopped mushrooms, cremini work well—nice and meaty

3 cups cooked cauliflower florets

½ cup ricotta cheese or Greek yogurt

¼ cup finely chopped onion

2 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup bread crumbs, preferably whole wheat

¾ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, divided

Olive oil spray or olive oil

Gravy:
4 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups vegetable broth (I used Edward & Sons Not-Beef Bouillon Cubes)

½ cup milk or half-n-half

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (the Annie’s brand is vegetarian)

1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Pulse 1 ½ cups of the wild rice, the mushrooms, and cauliflower in food processor until blended, but with some texture left. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the remaining half cup of wild rice. Add the ricotta or yogurt, onion, eggs, bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, allspice, white pepper, nutmeg, and 1/8 cup of the parsley. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Roll 1 ½ – 2 tablespoon portions of mixture into balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. I used a #30 cookie dough scoop, which worked perfectly. Spritz balls with olive oil spray or brush with a little olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating pan at the halfway point.

Meanwhile, make gravy. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add butter and flour. Whisk until it turns light brown. Slowly stir in broth and milk. Add Worcestershire and Dijon mustard and bring to a simmer, whisking until gravy starts to thicken. Season with a little salt and pepper, to taste.

Add cooked meatballs to the skillet and simmer for a couple minutes (you’ll have leftover meatballs). Sprinkle with remaining parsley.

Serve over mashed potatoes or egg noodles. Makes about 4 servings.

Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices


Temperatures here plummeted right after Christmas and have only crept above zero (Fahrenheit) a couple times briefly since. More of the same is forecast the next few days until a warm-up this weekend to the balmy teens and twenties. If ever there was a time for hearty soup, it’s now.

This soup, full of red lentils, carrots, and a little potato for heft, along with warming spices, is the epitome of hearty. And healthy too. Just what I needed after the last couple weeks of holiday foods—the too rich, too sweet, or just too much—foods I don’t normally eat. Setting the food reset button in the right direction is a pleasure when it tastes this good!

Don’t skip the lemon juice or the paprika oil, they really take this to the “Did I really just make something so out-of-this-world delicious?” level. Enjoy!


Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, along with a couple aspects of this New York Times recipe

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

½ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 quart vegetable stock or broth

1 cup water

2 medium carrots, diced

1 medium Yukon gold potato, diced

1 ½ cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more for extra seasoning

1 teaspoon dried mint, tarragon, or basil, crushed

1 teaspoon paprika (I used ½ teaspoon smoked hot and ½ teaspoon sweet)

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, for garnish

Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a stockpot. Add onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, or until onion has softened. Stir in coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and cayenne, cooking until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

Stir in broth, water, carrots, potato, and lentils and bring to a low boil. Reduce to a lively simmer, and cook until lentils are soft and carrots and potato tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend soup to desired consistency. If you’d like a few chunks of carrot and potato, stop before completely puréed. Stir in lemon juice. Taste and add additional salt and lemon juice if needed. Cover stockpot to keep soup warm.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat until hot. Remove from heat and stir in mint and paprika.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of the paprika oil and chopped cilantro or parsley. Makes 4-6 servings.

Pizza al Tartufo


This recipe’s a riff on delicious pizza we’ve devoured at a wood-fired pizza place in Stillwater, Minnesota, Patriot’s Tavern (sadly, it’s no longer on their menu). An unusual vegetarian pie with a garlic-herbed cream cheese base, fried potatoes, mushrooms, scallion and finished with drizzles of truffle oil and balsamic glaze—one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had!

The nice thing about finding a great pizza while dining out is the relative ease of recreating it at home. You know the toppings, and if you have a good crust, you’re good to go. Of course, it would be nice to have a wood-fired pizza oven in my house, but a pizza stone and the high heat produced in my trusty ovenmake for a excellent substitute.

Patriot’s Tavern called this the Tartufo Pizza. When googling “tartufo pizza,” to hopefully find an explanation for the name, I found several versions, all with different toppings. The one common denominator was the truffle oil. If you just google “tartufo,” you’ll find Italian ice-cream dessert recipes—go figure!

Being a hearty pizza, this is a good cold-weather recipe and one that should find its way into one of your informal holiday gatherings–you’ll thank me. Or as we’re doing, satisfying our hunger in between cheering on the Vikings in the early game (they lost) and the Eagles right after.

There’s plenty of time to pan-fry your potatoes and sauté the mushrooms while the dough is rising. I’ve included a crust recipe, but if you already have a favorite or want to do the store-bought route as a short cut, go for it. Enjoy!



Pizza al Tartufo

Pizza Dough:
1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast

Pinch of sugar

½ cup warm water (105-115 degrees F.)

¾ cup bread flour

¾ cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon salt

Toppings:
Boursin cheese (garlic and herbed cream cheese)

Fried potatoes (I season them with a little Lawry’s salt while pan frying)

Sautéed sliced cremini mushrooms

Sliced scallions

Shredded cheese (a combo of mozzarella and colby jack works well, as would fontina)

Truffle oil (for drizzling after pizza is baked), only about a teaspoon (a little goes a long way!)

Balsamic glaze (for drizzling after pizza is baked)

Whisk together yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl and let sit until foamy, 5-10 minutes. Mix flours and salt together in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stir until it comes mostly together. Dump it onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.

Wipe out the large bowl and coat it with a little olive oil. Place dough back into bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.

Turn on oven to 525 degrees F. and place a pizza stone on center rack so it will be nice and hot for baking the pizza.

When oven is up to temperature, punch down pizza dough and form it into a round. Roll or toss the dough into a 14 inch circle. Prick dough all over with a fork to avoid air bubbles. Transfer dough to pizza stone and bake for 90 seconds.

Remove par-baked crust from oven to cooling rack. Spread crust with a thin layer of Boursin cheese. Top with potatoes, mushrooms, and scallions. Distribute cheese over toppings.

Bake for about 5 minutes until crust is golden and cheese is melted. Sometimes I’ll turn the oven to broil for a minute or two to get the cheese toasted and bubbly.

Remove pizza and pizza stone from oven (I often forget the stone!). Drizzle with a little truffle oil and balsamic glaze. Cut into wedges. Makes 2-3 servings.

Zoodles and Crispy Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce


Zucchini noodles (zoodles) were one of the first things I planned to make when I got my spiralizer a couple years ago. And then I proceeded to spiralize potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets many times for a number of recipes, but not zucchini. As much as I wanted to replace my pasta with zucchini noodles, I just couldn’t—it was a cooked zucchini texture thing.

Even with the suggestion of doing half pasta and half zoodles, I still resisted. It wasn’t until I came across a few recipes where you—wait for it—leave the zucchini raw, that I saw the zoodle light. They wouldn’t be mushy, they wouldn’t be soggy. It would be an al dente experience and I was on board!

Making just a few tweaks to this Pinch of Yum recipe, we’ve got a new summer favorite that’s quick enough to pull together on a weeknight and there are always leftovers for brown-bagging the next day. When packing your leftovers, keep the sauce separate and mix it in just before eating, otherwise the zoodles will absorb the sauce and you’ll lose the creamy sauciness that makes for a truly special dish. Enjoy!

Zoodles and Crispy Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce


Adapted from this Pinch of Yum recipe

One 15 oz. block of extra-firm tofu (I like Trader Joe’s organic)

1 tablespoon peanut oil

3-4 medium zucchini, ends trimmed (a combination of green and yellow zucchini looks especially nice)

Sliced scallions, for garnish

Sesame seeds, for garnish (I like the look of black sesame seeds, but white are just fine)

Spicy peanut sauce:
½ cup smooth peanut butter, preferably natural (or make your own, recipe here)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (then add water to measure 1/3 cup)

1/3 cup tamari (wheat free) or soy sauce, reduced sodium if you have it

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons Asian chili paste such as sambal oelek

1 ½ tablespoons sugar

1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 heaping teaspoon of fresh grated ginger root

To remove excess moisture from the tofu, place the tofu block between a couple layers of paper towels and set on a cutting board. Top with another cutting board and weigh it down with a large can of tomatoes or a couple cookbooks. Let sit for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile spiralize your zucchini and set it aside.

To make the spicy peanut sauce, place all sauce ingredients in a jar and shake until well combined.

Cut pressed tofu into bite-sized pieces. Heat peanut oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add tofu to pan and cook one side of tofu pieces until golden, about 3-4 minutes. Turn pieces and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Add ½ cup of the spicy peanut sauce to the tofu and let simmer for a few minutes. Using a spatula, turn tofu pieces, scraping sauce and any brown saucy bits from the bottom of the pan. Repeat the simmer, turning, and scraping a couple more times until tofu is crispy brown.

To serve, place zucchini noodles in individual bowls and top each with a ¼ cup of spicy peanut sauce, stirring to coat the zoodles. Top with some tofu pieces, sliced scallions, and sesame seeds. Makes 4-6 servings.

Chunky Potatoes with Garlic and Peanuts


A few years ago for my birthday, Pete gave me 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer, a cookbook I’d had my eye on for a while. Full of mouth-watering recipes layering spices and ingredients, there’s a huge section of both vegetable and legume curries to satisfy any vegetarian, plus biryanis, spice blends and pastes, and it starts with a detailed primer on curries. There’s also a large chapter called “Curry Cohorts,” that in addition to rice recipes, contains delicious curry accompaniments like coconut noodles, lentil pancakes, and all sorts of heavenly Indian breads from naan to roti to parantha.

After making a few recipes, I found several more I really wanted to try, but they called for fresh curry leaves. What!?! I had heard of curry powder, but never curry leaves. After searching large grocery stores and the co-op, I finally found them after checking several Asian food stores that, unfortunately, weren’t conveniently located for me.  Eventually, the book was set aside, and has been gathering dust.

Recently a Whole Foods Market opened up near our house and I had to check it out. Impressed with the variety of produce that includes items not found in other stores near me, I was so surprised and excited to see fresh curry leaves. Time to dig out 660 Curries again.

Fresh curry leaves


With my stock of fresh curry leaves, I perused the book to decide what to make. For a weeknight when there wasn’t a lot of meal prep time, Chunky Potatoes with Garlic and Peanuts was deemed the ideal recipe. It had a manageable list of ingredients, some intriguing flavor combinations, and called for fresh curry leaves!

The combination of sesame seeds, peanuts, garlic, and chiles piqued my interest, and smelled wonderful after being combined in the food processor. Not used to potatoes and tomatoes together, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this dish, but we weren’t disappointed. The sesame-peanut blend will release the most amazing aroma into your kitchen while cooking, and once combined with the rest of the ingredients, will morph into a delicious scent that makes it hard to wait until supper is ready.

The cookbook suggests this as either a side dish or stuffed into fresh pita. Since this was to be our main course (actually, our only course), and I didn’t have pita or naan (which would go so perfectly), I cooked up some brown basmati rice and served the potato dish over it. Gradually growing on me from one bite to the next, this spicy, hearty meal won me over and will definitely be made again . And I had plenty left over to take for lunch the next day (which I thought about and, even dreamt about, all night!). Enjoy!

Chunky Potatoes with Garlic and Peanuts

From Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries

2 tablespoons white sesame seeds

2 tablespoons raw peanuts or roasted peanuts (if salted, reduce salt later in recipe)

4 medium-sized cloves garlic, peeled

3 dried red Thai chilies or cayenne chiles, stems removed (I used about ¾ teaspoon crushed red chili pepper)

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 pound russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 inch cubes, and submerged in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning (I didn’t peel my potatoes and skipped the bowl of water because I cut them up at the last minute, quickly, while the sesame-peanut mixture was roasting)

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes

2 teaspoons salt (use only one if both your tomatoes and peanuts already contain salt)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley if you are cilantro-averse)

12 medium to large-sized fresh curry leaves (if you can’t find curry leaves, this dish will still be delicious)

Combine the sesame seeds, peanuts, garlic, and chiles in a food processor and pulse to form a gritty, sticky, mellow-smelling blend.

Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Scrape the sesame-peanut blend into the warmed oil and roast the mixture, stirring, until it starts to release it’s own oils and loosens, turning crumbly and nutty brown, 5-8 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the potatoes, if they were in water.

Stir the turmeric into the sesame-peanut blend and cook for a few seconds. Then add the potatoes, tomatoes, (with their juices), 1 cup water, and the salt. Stir once or twice, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork-tender and the sauce has thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and curry leaves and serve. Great as a side dish, stuffed inside a pita, along-side warm naan, or over brown basmati rice. Makes 4-6 main dish servings.

Pasta with Sausage, Sage Butter and Parmesan


A couple weeks ago I featured a pasta dish with some of the fresh herbs I’m growing. One I didn’t use then was sage. Having not done a lot with sage other than almost burn the house down during my first attempt at making a sage brown butter sauce, lessons were learned and I was now ready to ease back into that sage/butter combination, but with a lot less butter.

Initially a bit concerned with the amount of sage in this recipe, there was no need to be. In fact, the quantity I include below could even be increased if you’d like. Using a modest amount of butter adds to the creaminess of the finished dish, but doesn’t make it overly rich. The addition of the freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano adds a comfort food factor, with no heaviness.

Fresh greens, either from your garden or the farmers’ market, dressed with homemade vinaigrette, would be a wonderful first course. Enjoy!

Pasta with Sausage, Sage Butter, and Parmesan

Adapted from this Mark Bittman recipe

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces pasta, such as ziti or penne, preferably whole wheat

3 to 4 ounces Italian sausage, chopped (I used Trader Joe’s Sausage-less Italian, one link)

2 tablespoons butter

About 20-30 small to medium fresh sage leaves

½ cup or more freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Zest of half a lemon

Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; generously salt it. Cook pasta until it is tender, but not quite done.

While pasta water heats, brown sausage in a small pan until done. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet large enough to hold the cooked pasta over medium heat. Add butter and sage leaves. Cook until butter turns nut-brown and sage shrivels, then turn heat down to low.

When the pasta is just about done, scoop out about ½ cup of the cooking water.

Drain the pasta. Immediately add it to the butter-sage mixture, stir in the sausage, and raise heat to medium. Add about 1/3 cup of the pasta water and the lemon juice; stir. Cook for about 30 seconds, or until some of the water is absorbed and the pasta is al dente.

Stir in cheese and lemon zest; the sauce will become creamy. Thin it with a little more reserved pasta water if necessary. Season liberally with salt & pepper to taste, and serve immediately. Sprinkle with more cheese if you’d like.