Cauliflower-Carrot Bean Bake with Ginger and Garlic

Okay, y’all. Here’s another one. The possibilities are so endless, I just keep on going. But I do promise you no more on this blog as I’m in the process of creating a blog just for bean bakes. I’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime, this bean bake is amazing, and not only because it’s a bright yellow-orange. (At last, a pretty bean bake!) The taste is also terrific!

It’s neither cauliflower nor carrot, but a delicious, rich mix with a tang of ginger and a hint of garlic. For meat-eaters, it would be a great complement to a roast beef or steak.

I wish I had better words to describe the flavour. But this, I find is the cook’s bean-bake dilemma: the beans absorb and/or enhance flavours in unexpected and indescribable ways. In fact, I was afraid that this bean bake might be bland; hence the sprinkle of grated cheese. But it didn’t need the additional seasoning. It was very, very good just on its own.

By the way, I’m on my 5th attempt with kiwi, trying to get the right mix of taste and texture. Upwards and onwards!

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Cauliflower-Carrot Bake

Cauliflower is in season!  When I pass by a pile, my hands get a sensation of yearning.  I wanna, wanna.  And, no, it isn’t just the great seasonal price.  Truly.  For example, I don’t get this needy feeling around the bins of broccoli, which are also in season and equally cheap. Maybe cauliflower looks like a comfort food?  Like mashed potatoes?  Or cream of wheat?  Whatever…I’ll leave it to the food psychologists. (Photo by FreeFoto)

Anyway…I want to buy lots of cauliflower, but what to do with it all?  I can always make soup, but variety is the spice of life.  Hence I was happy to find a cauliflower recipe by Stephanie Bostic, a fellow food-blogger and author of the newly published cookbook, One Bowl: Simple Healthy Recipes for OneHer recipe, “Carrot Cauliflower Purée,” adds a subtle flavouring of thyme, dijon mustard, and lemon to the vegetables.  Delicious.  Thank you, Stephanie.

This recipe also reminded me of a cauliflower recipe that my husband makes for meals when children, their partners, and grandchildren are coming over.  The cauliflower is baked after being first puréed with butter, milk, and parmesan cheese.  It’s a great-tasting dish, except for two problems: it doesn’t taste like cauliflower any more, and it’s loaded with calories.  But…but, I thought, why not refashion Stephanie’s recipe to bring it beyond a side dish and into a main course for lunch by baking the purée with a topping of cheese?

So here it is…with a few tweaks to the original to accommodate my taste and kitchen.

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Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Non-dieters can drink whatever cold drinks they enjoy during the hot summer months.  Those of us on the other side of the divide must avoid mint juleps, beer, fruit juices, soft drinks (other than diet), and any other delicious drink I forgot to mention.

But what about vegetable purées, which are great winter soups, acting as cold beverages when it’s sweltering?  This question would never have occurred to me if I hadn’t been having a very lazy afternoon on board our boat, the Outrageous, reading on the back deck.

I began to get nagging messages from my stomach (that demanding organ) that it wanted something more filling than diet iced tea.  My brain (another equally demanding body part) reminded me that whatever I ate had to be very low in calories.  I had brought up a container of cauliflower soup, but felt way too lazy to crank up the inboard generator and reorganize the galley so I could use the stove in order to heat up it up.  (Readers may recall that the galley is the size of a shower stall; hence the top of the stove, when not in use, provides storage for a fruit bowl among other things.)  Besides, who wants hot soup on a hot afternoon?

The voilà moment occurred when I asked myself, “Why not drink the soup cold?” I poured some into a glass and added a dollop of yogurt.  I took it out on the back deck, sat back in chair, and drank it down to the last drop.  It was as delicious cold as when hot, delightfully refreshing, and very satisfying—all for the diet-cost of a teaspoon of yogurt.  For me, a new food category was born!

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Cooking tip for making a thick and creamy soup: The correct amount of broth is tricky because vegetables often shrink and also contain their own liquids.  To ensure that the soup will not be too thin, remove 1-2 cups of broth after the cooking is finished and before you start blending.  After a first blend, you’ll know if it needs more broth.  Add in ¼ cup increments until you reach the desired creaminess.

Ingredients

  • 1 very large cauliflower or 2 small ones, washed, trimmed, and chopped into big chunks
  • 8 cups of chicken broth (vegetables can be above the water line; they will reduce while cooking)
  • 1 large sweet onion (the onion’s sweetness is key to this soup’s great taste), chopped into big chunks
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  •  Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Before blending, remove 1 cup of liquid and hold in reserve.
  4. Purée soup with a hand blender or in a processor until smooth.  If the purée is too thick for your taste, add the 1-2 cups of liquid held in reserve.  (If not, you can throw away the liquid or save it as a vegetable broth.)
  5. Put container of soup in the refrigerator until cold.
  6. Pour out a glass and, if you prefer, mix in a tablespoon of goat yogurt or soy milk.

For Weight Watchers: Unless you’ve added a “countable” amount of yogurt or milk, any size serving is 0 points on the Points and PointsPlus plans.

So Very Vegetable Soup

The Diet Equation: vegetables + vegetables + vegetables 

 The Solution: soup + soup + soup

 

So Very Vegetable Soup with Grated Sheep Romano

So Very Vegetable Soup with Grated Sheep Romano

So Very Vegetable Soup was my first soup creation and, after some tweaking, I pronounced it good—tasty, satisfying, and filled with different textures because some ingredients are crunchy while others are softer.  Then it turned out to be extra-good when I added a dollop of goat cheese or a sprinkling of sheep romano cheese to a serving. 

This soup is easy to make (except for lots of chopping), is foolproof (except if overcooked), and has so much fiber, you don’t have to worry about the carbs.  You can eat all you want with no weighing or measuring.  Or you can enrich the soup by adding potatoes, peas or legumes. A can of lentils, in particular, really enhance the taste.  But remember: additions like this will bring you back into the world of diet calculations.

So Very Vegetable Soup + Lentils

So Very Vegetable Soup + Lentils

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Caveat culinaria/us: The vegetable quantities below are rough estimates because I take an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach and just put in what I have.  You can add more of one vegetable and less of another, but you should aim for balance.  For example, too many carrots could make the soup too carroty and too sweet.

Basic Ingredients

  •  3-5 cups of chicken stock, broth, or bouillon to barely cover the vegetables.  The amount really depends on how many vegetables you’ve added.
  • 1-2 onion(s), chopped.  Any type will do.
  • Garlic to taste.  I add 2 tbsp. of chopped garlic.
  • 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • ¼ – ½ head of cabbage, chopped to bite-size pieces
  • 1-2 tsp. of a spice that appeals to you.  I find that parsley, thyme or basil works nicely.
  • Salt to taste. 

Other Vegetables You Can Add

  • 2-4 celery stalks, sliced.  You can leave on the leaves as well.
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and sliced 
  • 2-4 green zucchini, sliced
  • 2-4 yellow zucchini, sliced (Add halfway through cooking so this vegetable survives.)
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup turnip or rutabaga, diced
  • 1 cup daikon or lo bok, diced
  • 1-2 cups bok choy, chopped

Problematic Vegetables

  • Beets may overpower the taste of other vegetables, not to mention the colour of the soup.
  • Mushrooms give off a liquid when cooking that could alter the balance of the soup.  I suggest mild mushrooms such as enoki.
  • Spinach, because of its consistency, would have to be cooked separately, chopped, and added at the end.

 Directions

  1. Chop vegetables beforehand.
  2. Turn heat under a large pot to high.
  3. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth.
  4. Add garlic, onions, and all other vegetables.
  5. Add canned tomatoes and mix well.
  6. Add more chicken broth until vegetables are barely covered.  You want the soup to be chock-full of vegetables.
  7. Add spice(s).
  8. Bring soup to boil, then turn down heat until it is simmering.
  9. Taste to see if you need to add salt.  Start with 1 tbsp. and then taste, and so on.  My salt philosophy is to cook with it sparingly and let people add their own after being served.
  10. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

For Weight Watchers: 0 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plan.  If you’re dieting under the Points plan, you don’t have to worry about carrots or parsnip unless you plan to eat all the soup in one sitting!  The  quantity of soup will be so great that any individual bowl serving won’t have enough of either to count.