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Cookies and Salads

23 Aug

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The other day, Rob and I did some Back To School grocery shopping, and it happened to be a date-night of sorts. We had already eaten dinner, and flashbacks of our Coos Bay days of taking a stroll down the fun-house halls of Walmart at 10 pm rushed in our minds as we stood in the Publix cookie aisle with two other couples. Hushed conversations evolved and we noticed the other couples, slowly and closely meandering, stopping and short-pointing with only a pinky, then whispering some more, were having the exact same musings as Rob and me.

“Remember these?”

“Oh, I ate a box of those ones once.”

“Huh, the packaging has changed on these ones.”

“Strawberry Oreos? Really?”

“Ooo these look so goooooood.”

Then, super-stealthily that short-pointing pinky turned into a swift grabbing hand snatching that Back To School treat. One couple got always-recognizable-even-when-cleverly-stuffed-under-the-16oz.-bag-of-baby-kale Pepperidge Farms cookies, the other couple further down settled with an audible let’s-be-responsible sigh on a cookie/cracker thing, and Rob and I chose Fig Newtons. The original. Always a Back To School classic, at least in my lunch box.

Seams harmless, right? Then, what’s with all the whispering and sideways glances? After further investigation of our late-night cookie aisle recon, this Back To School treat shopping was not for the kids. It was for the adults.

Who knows what happened to the other couples, but Rob and I waited until we got home (there is some restraint), and I dove into the little squares of fruit and cake. After a couple, the “fix” was over, and all was right and just in the world.

Teaching Kindergarten can be a different kind of crazy at beginning of the year, and even in this hot, hot, hot Jacksonville heat, a craving for comfort food spikes at the end of the day. Rather than turning to the cookies, I’ve actually found myself becoming increasingly adventurous with salads. Yes, salads. With the help of our farm basket, I have been experimenting with hot and cold salads, sweet and savory salads, grain and paleo salads, and many more. Come to realize it, more often than not, I have written about salads throughout the years. Well, hold on to your carrots, my friends, cause here comes another.

I called this the Chop Chop Salad, before I realized that there were actually many variations of an actual salad called a Chop Chop. So, I guess I’m adding another variation to the many recipes out there (although I’d like to continue to live in my ignorance that I actually came up with the really cool name). Literally, take every single vegetable that you love and toss it in a bowl. Add lettuce or any other green you’d like, or not. Add grains like quinoa, barley, or spelt, or not. Add a dried fruit or nuts, or not. You get the picture. Pour the contents on a big cutting board. With two chef’s knives, chop chop the heck out of it. Pour it all back into the bowl. Top with your favorite dressing. Voila! Chop Chop Salad! For such an incredibly unrefined technique, it creates such a beautiful presentation, and it’s fabulous for fun entertaining. Here’s how I made mine (everything was just a small handful, fresh and raw, unless otherwise stated):

  • Roasted kale
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Crimini mushrooms
  • Roasted green beans
  • Tomatoes (seeded)
  • Celery
  • Green onions
  • Manchego cheese

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The very best part of this salad happened to be the interesting dressing. To me, a big, full Chop Chop salad needs a hearty dressing. These days, however, cream and mayo-based dressings haven’t been making much of an appearance in our house due to the calories they add to the otherwise healthy dish. So to keep the creamy need, yet lose the bulk, I made a Cauliflower Dressing: ½ head of raw cauliflower, ¼ c extra virgin olive oil, ¼ c water, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp agave nectar, 1 tbsp fresh dill. Throw it all into a blender with some s&p, whir until smooth and pourable, and taste for more seasoning. Pour a desired amount on your Chop Chop Salad, mix, and sit back and crunch away.

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This salad made for a great lunch the next day at school, and I told my kids all about it. At 5-years old, they weren’t so interested in a bowl chalked full of veg. Although I did get many oohs and aahs when I said “corn.” I think even a couple of excited claps.

It’s Back To School – a time for new beginning and taking risks. This salad isn’t risky at all, but try it anyway. It’s easy! It’s your own creation of tastiness! It’s healthy (which means you can dive into those cookies afterwards)!

Enjoy!

Veg au Vin

8 Oct

I’m stuffed.  Rob and I are lying here, watching Notre Dame spank the Air Force, bellies full and grumbling with happy digestion.  The thing is, I don’t know what I just cooked.

“What should I call it?” I asked, my hands on hips showing a slight frustration.

“I don’t know,” Rob was not as perturbed as me, “what is it?”

“Well, I don’t really know.  It’s not a stew, and definitely not a soup.  It’s more of a braise,” my voice trailing a bit.

“Ok, then it’s a braise.”  Problem solved in Rob’s eyes – such a guy.

“Yes, but what do I call it?”

The cyclical nature of our conversation was cut short from the overwhelmingly hoppy smell coming from the oven – Cheddar Apple Beer Bread – the perfect side dish for whatever it was I just made.

It’s not a cold Oregon day today, but cloudy and it definitely has a fall vibe.  A day for relaxing, Rob made it clear that Notre Dame football was in the cards, and being a gal who actually enjoying the talking head commentators, muffed roar of stadiums, and the occasional adrenaline induced touchdown dance, there was no argument.   Sig agreed with our plan as well; his sleepy head currently hanging off the side of his bed is a perfect picture of the day’s tangible vibe.  But Sig didn’t get to enjoy what is putting me on the brink of falling into a food-baby coma right now (if sentences start looking like this: ioasdaf;asdfjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj, pardon me – my head probably hit the keyboard).

So what did I make?  Well, it’s already been determined that, well, we don’t know.  But the closest thing I can compare it to is veggies braised in wine.  Thus, Veg au Vin.  Our CSA basket is still providing beautiful and bountiful veg, and having been out of town for most of last week and a bit of this week, the build up meant we couldn’t shut the crisper door.  It was time to do what the CSA basket forces me to do – be culinarily creative.

It was actually a very easy dish to make, and probably one of the best veggie dishes I’ve ever cooked – not trying to toot my own horn here, just being honest.  This Veg au Vin was a discovered concoction of what has to have come from a higher nutritional power, as it did not taste twigs-and-nuts healthy, but rich, smokey, flavorful, and hearty.  Topped with a fresh radish “gremolata” (a gremolata is typical for many braised dishes), and paired with the Cheddar Apple Beer Bread, we had the perfect meal for a football soaked, lazy-bones celebration of a day.

And now, I must let the sounds of whistles and college band fight songs coax me into a nap (Rob and Sig already have a head start).

Veg au Vin

  • 3 strips of thick bacon, diced
  • 4 carrots, halved and thickly sliced
  • 3 celery stalks, thickly sliced
  • 2 bell peppers (I used red and green), chopped into chunks
  • 1 large white onion, chopped into chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 med head cauiflower, chopped into chunks
  • 1 med head broccoli, chopped into florets
  • 2 med zuchinni, halved and thickly sliced
  • 1 large chipotle pepper, minced
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¾ c red wine (I used a rich Washington Cabernet)
  • s&p

Brown the bacon in a heavy bottomed pot.  When crispy, remove and set aside on paper towel.  Saute the onion, carrot, celery, bell peppers, and garlic in the bacon drippings.  When just starting to turn soft, add the rest of the veg, and pour in the wine.  Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot.  Add the herbs, cumin, s&p, mix, and cover for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The last 5 minutes, uncover, stir, taste for seasoning, and turn off the heat.

Serve in large bowl with your favorite bread, and top with Radish Gremolata.

Enjoy!

Radish Gremolata

  • 2 large radishes, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together in small bowl.  Let sit for about 5-10 minutes for flavors to come together.  Top on Veg au Vin.

Enjoy!

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