Cheddar Cauliflower Mac & Cheese (Vegan!)

I feel like Kraft Mac & Cheese defines every millennial’s childhood. Who doesn’t remember throwing down their Jansport backpack, grabbing their Skip-It and working up an appetite until mom served you a pile of that gooey mac & cheese for dinner.

Vegan Mac & Cheese.jpgThe truth is my mom almost exclusively served us healthy, homemade, unprocessed food, to the point where my sister and I went crazy any chance we could get our hands on some of that classic American stuff with its high fructose corn syrup topped with trans fat that kids find irresistible. Our friends’ moms always knew when we were around, with the fill-line on the candy jar noticeably waning and all the marshmallows missing from the Lucky Charms box. We had to get our fix before returning home where our mom who, having grown up in Spain, thought kids should be thrilled with a plate of sauteed zucchini and eggplant for dinner.

Orange Cheddar Cauliflower.jpgBut every blue moon, on a special occasion like a sleepover or a birthday party, my mom would blow us all away and make us Kraft Mac & Cheese (with the requisite side of cucumber tomato salad to maintain the Mediterranean flare, of course). I don’t know if it’s because the circumstances were so rare or because she really is just that good of a cook, but her Mac & Cheese always came out better than anyone else’s I’ve ever had. My friend Gina used to beg my mom to show her mom how to “make it right,” to which my mom would laugh and say she just followed the directions on the box.  Still to this day, Gina talks about my mom’s legendary Mac & Cheese.

Mom serving us Mac & Cheese for our formal dress-up dinner, complete with real wine glasses... so fancy! (Friend Sicily, left; sister Catherine, middle; me, right).

Mom serving us Mac & Cheese for our formal dress-up dinner, complete with real wine glasses… so fancy! (sister Catherine, middle; me, right).

Several years later, enjoying carrot cigarettes and bell pepper lipstick at our Mac & Cheese garden party.

Enjoying carrot cigarettes and bell pepper lipstick at our Mac & Cheese garden party.

Now that I’m all grown up and practicing as a registered dietitian, I’m grateful for all those home-cooked, unprocessed meals I grew up with even if I was jealous of my friends’ cool Lunchables at the time. And now I get to try to share that with my patients so that their kids can also grow up with wholesome foods that will help them grow into healthy adults.

This recipe was inspired by a pediatric obesity group I’m currently running at our clinic, in which the moms requested help with their 3-year-old kids who refused to touch vegetables of any kind. I asked what they do like to eat and, of course, Mac & Cheese was at the top of the list. So I set out to create a healthy, veggie-rich version of this kid classic, resulting in what I like to call “Sneaky Mac.” I prepared it with the moms in the pediatric obesity group the following week (without the garlicky breadcrumbs on top) and every single one of those picky kids ate it all up, unsuspecting that they were getting a whole sneaky serving of vegetables. The end result was a creamy, gooey, vegan Mac & Cheese that gets it color not from artificial food dyes or chemicals, but rather from the Cheddar Cauliflower!

Orange Cheddar Cauliflower.jpgCheddar cauliflower is basically an orange cauliflower that gets its color from a mutation that allows it to hold onto extra beta carotene, a form of Vitamin A. It was discovered in Canada in the 1970’s but it wasn’t until recently that I started to spot it in grocery stores. Like regular cauliflower, cheddar cauliflower is packed with fiber and Vitamin C, and is a good source of calcium, folate, selenium and potassium. It is delicious prepared any way that you would prepare white cauliflower.Orange Cheddar Cauliflower.jpgIf you can’t find orange cauliflower you could totally prepare this recipe with white cauliflower and it would just have the look of a white cheddar mac & cheese. But make sure you don’t ommit the other ingredients. The macadamia nuts give it a little bit of healthy fats and flavor for that creamy mouthfeel, and the nutritional yeast — every vegan’s best friend — imparts a cheesy taste to cheeseless foods (as well as providing B vitamins).

Vegan Mac & Cheese.jpg

So throw on your dress-up clothes, light up your carrot cigarette, set out the formal china, and enjoy this guiltless, gooey, all natural, diary-free mac & cheese.

Cheddar Cauliflower Mac & Cheese (Vegan!)

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 20 active, 30 cook
  • Difficulty: medium
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Vegan Mac & Cheese.jpg

  • 1 pound macaroni noodles (can use whole wheat or whatever kind you like)
  • 2 shallots (or 1 onion), chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 orange cauliflower (or substitute white), florets only
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 cup unsalted macadamia nuts (if using salted, decrease salt to 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Cook macaroni noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 7 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the cauliflower florets, vegetable stock, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes.

Place contents of skillet into a blender and add the macadamia nuts, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice. Blend until you have a very smooth and creamy sauce, the consistency of cake batter. You can thin with more vegetable stock if needed.

Stir the sauce into the cooked macaroni and place in an oven-proof pan or skillet. Top with the bread crumbs mixed with 1 clove of crushed garlic, a pinch of salt, the remaining teaspoon of olive oil, and the parsley and sage. Place the pan under the broiler for 5-10 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden brown and the macaroni and cheese is heated through.

 

Roasted Leeks with Blood Oranges

MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpegThis week’s recipe is one that I developed for an article I wrote for Bay Area News Group, just released this morning. Given the Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg“mainstreamedness” of the readership, I had to keep things a bit more tame to be accessible to a wider audience, while still giving the recipes an “exotic” spin to stay true to the My Berkeley Bowl theme. This recipe must be my favorite of the four new ones I developed for the article, because I’ve made it five times in the past month.

While neither leeks nor blood oranges are blow-you-out-of-the-water exotic, I figure that since blood oranges are not readily available at most “normal” grocery stores, they fall on the exotic side of the line. And leeks — well, most people that have used leeks have only sliced them up as a muted ingredient playing a minor role in the background of soups or casseroles, like an extra in a movie. So in that sense, I think this recipe is super exotic because leeks are the star of the show for once.MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 I remember the first time I took a bite of protagonistic leeks like a girl remembers her first kiss. It was a cold, rainy day of February in Northern Spain and my mom, husband and I were on a road trip. We ordered a roasted leek salad in a nondescript bar filled with old spanish men sipping beer and escaping the rain. (Spoiler alert: when you order whatever dish is carelessly scrawled across the chalkboard hanging over a dingy locals’ bar on a quiet street in a Spanish town, Spain always delivers.) This salad came out topped with caramelized leeks as thick as rolling pins, and when I bit into them, I was blown away by how velvety, delicate, and exquisitely flavorful they were when prepared that way. My mom immediately shouted “otra!” to the waiter, knowing that we’d need at least one more salad if she actually wanted to get any (she couldn’t out-fork Mike and I when it was that good).MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 That salad we had in Northern Spain was the inspiration for this dish, in which I braise leeks with wine and thyme until they are just as velvety and rich as the ones I had that rainy day in February. The sections of blood oranges add the brightness and color that make this dish all the more memorable. It makes a beautiful and unique side dish for a dinner party, or if you love leeks as much as I do, you can enjoy it on its own as a light dinner like Mike and I have been doing.MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 As a side note, I discovered in my research that blood oranges are actually a result of a natural mutation! How splendidly wonderful is nature?!? Apparently, the Italian dude that first peeled one of his oranges thinking it was just a regular old orange-colored orange was so shocked to see the deep red color that he shouted “tarocco!” meaning “fake” or “phoney” in Italian, and is now the name of one of the three main varieties of blood oranges (along with Moro and Sanguinella). How rare is it now in day to find that something so beautiful and unique is made that way naturally, not by some gimmick or trick? MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpegFortunately, this whole dish is free of gimmicks — just 100% natural, delicious, beautiful goodness. I hope you enjoy this first recipe of 2016.

Roasted Leeks with Blood Oranges

  • Servings: 4 as starter or side dish
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
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MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg

  • 6 leeks, roots and dark green tops removed
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 blood oranges

Dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
  • Black pepper and a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the tougher, outermost layers of the leeks and discard. Slice them in half lengthwise and run under cold water to remove all the grit, ensuring to rinse between the layers. Place the leeks in a single layer in a 9×13″ roasting pan, cut side down. Drizzle with the olive oil, wine, and vegetable stock (the liquid should come about halfway up the leeks), and snip the thyme sprigs over the top. Roast for 35-45 minutes, flipping the leeks over halfway through, until they are tender and lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Arrange the leeks on a serving platter. Cut the rind off the blood oranges, slice into sections, and arrange over the top of the leeks. Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a small jar and shake to combine. Drizzle over the top of the leeks and oranges. Serve room temperature.

Carnival Cake (Vegan!)

IMG_20151115_223114As I already explained in Part I of Squash Week, this is a big freakin’ deal in our household. It’s like when the fair comes to town, except that instead of feeling all gross inside after gorging on funnel cake and corn dogs, we feel all warm and gooey inside after gorging on one of the world’s healthiest foods.

IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeFor Part II of Squash Week, and in honor of the fair, I chose this fun, bespeckled squash with the apt name: Carnival Squash. I realize that it’s kind of a cop-out to pretend that I created a recipe for an exotic produce item like Carnival Cake when, really, you could substitute any winter squash. But…well actually, I don’t have a but. I just have some delicious cake in front of me. So there.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeDid I mention this cake is vegan? And whole wheat? I have served this at many gatherings to unknowing carnivores and lacto-ovo vegetarians, and always leave with a tube pan full of crumbs.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeI’ll keep this cozy and sweet, since that’s how this cake tastes. If you’d like more background on winter squash or on Squash Week, see the previous post.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcake

Carnival Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 30 minutes active time, 100 minutes bake time
  • Difficulty: medium
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IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups Carnival Squash puree* (or substitute any winter squash puree)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
  • Toppings: 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds and 2 Tablespoons demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a bowl. In a separate, large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (except for the toppings) and whisk until smooth. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and top with the pumpkin seeds and demerara sugar. Bake for 60 minutes. Allow to cool before removing the outer part of the tube cake pan and serving.

* To make the Carnival squash puree: slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, place cut-side down in a baking dish and add about 1/2 inch of water. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30-50 minutes or until the squash is very soft when you pierce it with a fork. Scoop out the cooked squash with a spoon and mash with a fork or blend in a food processor until you have a smooth puree.

Blue Hokkaido Spiced Rice

As fleeting and wonderful as Shark Week, another much-anticipated period hits my household each year: Squash Week (Dun dun dun!). But unlike Shark Week, Squash Week is free of junk science and sensationalism. Well, fine, here’s a little sensationalism for you Shark Week fans:MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Squash WeekSquash Week airs in the McLively household mid-November, when Berkeley finally gets a mid-60’s “crisp” in the air that piques those fall flavor cravings. The farmers’ markets fill up with squash options of all shapes and sizes. Sure, you have your typical butternut squash and sugarpie pumpkins, but the real treat is picking out those more exotic varieties that you may have missed last fall. And since this is a blog about exotic produce, that’s exactly what I did.

I picked these three out at Berkeley Bowl for my blog, plus a spaghetti squash and delicata squash to whip up some quick work-week lunches. As a result, there has been squash roasting in my oven all week long, as is stipulated in the Squash Week terms of agreement. I’ll roll out the recipes one at a time so I don’t spoil you…MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Squash WeekFor this first recipe, I’m starting with the most unique: the Blue Hokkaido. I think this must have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s pumpkin carriage in Cinderella, which has this same smoky blue color and is equally enchanting. Inside this beauty is a deep orange flesh that is probably the sweetest squash you’ll ever taste. It has a nice firm texture that is great for roasting, and because it’s a kabocha-type squash, you can eat the skin.MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue HokkaidoThis squash, like kabocha, is a Japanese variety, named for the island of Hokkkaido. Like all winter squash, it is a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium and iron, with some calcium as well. In fact, winter squash is considered one of the healthiest foods out there, with blow-your-socks off levels of carotenoids (a potent antioxidant). Its high fiber content is also a huge plus.MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue HokkaidoThe recipe I created for the Blue Hokkaido was inspired by my brother-in-law, Mike Byrne, who dropped an entire flat of pomegranates by my house this week (his work as a professional photographer has many perks, like taking home the edible set props). I couldn’t think of a better way to highlight the bright hues of the pomegranates and the squash than a colorful rice dish.MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Pomegranate Rice
I even had some preserved lemon still left over from this summer that gave this dish even more bursts of zestiness to compliment the rich spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron.
MyBerkeleyBowl_Preserved LemonMyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Pomegranate RiceI had bought some hazelnuts to toast and sprinkle on top but, in the race against the sun, I forgot to put them on before photographing it. I tried them later and they are a delicious way to add some protein to the dish. Try it with nuts, or don’t — either way, you’ll love it.MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Pomegranate Rice
MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Pomegranate Rice

Spiced Rice with Blue Hokkaido Squash

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: medium
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MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Pomegranate Rice

  • 1/2 cup wild rice
  • 1 Blue Hokkaido Squash, sliced in half, seeded, and cut into 1″ cubes (leave skin on)
  • 5 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Spices: 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise pod, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, 5 cardamom pods, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • Seeds from one pomegranate
  • 2/3 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • optional: preserved lemon

Put the wild rice in a small saucepan with a lid and cover with water until the water covers the rice by 2 inches. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Cover and let rice simmer on low for about 50-60 minutes or until rice is tender but not mushy. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking and set aside for later.

While wild rice is cooking, place cubed Hokkaido squash on a baking pan and drizzle with 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and fresh black pepper and toss to coat. Roast in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauteé for 5-10 minutes or until the onion is soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the garlic and spices and sauteé for 1-2 minutes to release the flavors in the spices. Add the rice and stir to coat the rice in the oil and spices. Add the water and 1 teaspoon sea salt and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and turn heat to low to simmer rice for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and keep the lid on to let the rice steam for an additional 10 minutes.

When ready to assemble, place the wild rice, basmati rice, lemon juice and parsley in a large bowl and toss to coat. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning. Top with the pomegranate seeds and roasted squash and toss lightly to mix through. Garnish with preserved lemon and chopped hazelnuts if desired. Serve slightly warm or room temperature.

Splendiferous Salsify Soup

You probably think I’m crazy. Salsify is a food photographer’s worst nightmare. Why would I ever choose something so ugly for my blog? I have to throw out my usual hashtags of #foodporn and #veggieofthegods in place of #eatmuddysticks.wpid-img_20151025_105951272_hdr.jpgIf you’ve ever seen salsify at the farmers market or a specialty produce store, you probably walked right by thinking they were literally the sticks they used to dig up the real root vegetables like carrots and beets. Or perhaps you thought they were parsnips that they found at the bottom of a compost heap. So why, you ask, do I bring you a recipe for these muddy sticks instead of all the glorious fall veggies at our fingertips?

Well, reason one is because this blog is about creating yummy recipes for exotic produce, not your run-of-the-mill butternut squash. But reason two — the far better reason — is because salsify is delicious! If you get over the fact that they look like decomposed witch fingers, they are actually pearly white inside and oh so yummy. They have an earthy taste a bit like artichokes crossed with parsnip, and can be used any way you would eat other root veggies — mashed, scalloped, fried, or in soups (my favorite fall treat).wpid-img_20151025_120805331_hdr.jpgIf you need more convincing, here are its nutritional highlights: it beats bananas in potassium, beats almost everything in inulin (a super-special fiber that acts as a prebiotic to keep your gut healthy), is a good source of protein, iron and copper, and has some C and B vitamins to boot.wpid-img_20151025_123938871_hdr.jpgI served this to my family on a beautiful fall day in Sonoma County and we sat around all conjuring up theories on salsify’s origins and relatives (my research now indicates we were waaaaay off). Turns out that salsify is in the dandelion family (if you’ve ever pulled up a giant dandelion with a big, onerous taproot from your garden, it’s not hard to see the relation). Black salsify, like the one I use in this soup, was first cultivated in Spain which is why this variety is also called Spanish Salsify and was apparently popular in the 1500’s because it was thought to ward off the plague (about as kooky a theory as not bathing to ward of the plague). Salsify Soup from MyBerkeleyBowl.comWhether this will protect you from the plague next time you go to Yosemite or not, this is a wonderful, mild soup for a fall day. I hope you enjoy the balance of flavors the ingredients afford: the green apple gives it a hint of sweetness,  the splash of vermouth brightens up the earthy flavor of the salsify, and the crispy salsify chips give it the bit of crunch that takes any pureed soup to the gourmet level.

BTW, if you can’t find salsify, go aheaed and give the recipe a try using parsnip — I’m sure it would be delicious!

Splendiferous Salsify Soup with Salsify Chips

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 50 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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Salsify_Soup_MyBerkeleyBowl.jpg

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 salsifies, peeled and chopped, plus 1 salsify with the peel on for the chips
  • 1 potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 green apple, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 40 oz vegetable stock
  • 1 splash of dry vermouth (or dry sherry)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5-10 minutes until onion softens but does not brown. Add the celery and sauté another 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped salsify, potato, apple and sauté for 5 minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Pour in the vegetable stock and vermouth and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes.

While the soup simmers you can make the salsify chips. Wash and scrub the salsify and dry with a towel. Slice very finely into thin chips. Heat some cooking oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Drop in the salsify chips and deep fry until they begin to get a bit wavy and toasted. Remove with a slotted spoon and lay them out on a paper towel to cool slightly and harden.

Next, pureé the soup until very smooth. Stir in the cream/half & half. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly cracked pepper. If you prefer your soup thinner you can add more stock. Serve hot and topped with salsify chips.