Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Creamy Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese

Creamy Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

I'm not going to lie to you. This dish is not very attractive (It looks just like this one specific thing that I won't mention here or else you will be totally turned off from ever giving it a shot). It is all brown. And blah. Normally I try to avoid such monochrome things, but there are veggies hidden in here (well, one veggie), so I give it a pass. You might want to serve it with something colorful though. Just sayin'.

This is a healthy macaroni and cheese recipe by Mark Bittman (I saw it linked to recently on Carrots 'N Cake). It may not be ooey, gooey, or overly cheese like the mac and cheese that you may love, but it is pretty darn good and the fact that it is good for you? That is also good. Good, good, good. Believe me. I am kind of a mac & cheese snob. My mother used to make the kind that came in a blue box with the thick liquid cheese sauce in a shiny silver packet. At some point, this grossed me out (Adult Laura is proud of you, former tiny self). The first time I ever had mac & cheese I liked was at Michael Jordan's restaurant in Chicago. It was made with real cheese. Nothing from a silver packet. It was good.

Since then, I only eat that fancy old-fashioned mac and cheese. None of that powdered microwave garbage.

Anyway, that had very little to do with this recipe, because it won't make you forget about the gooey cheesey goodness that is gourmet macaroni and cheese. There is no cream, no butter, and a modest amount of cheese. The bulk of the sauce is made up of pureed cauliflower. It tastes fantastic and won't make you feel like you are going to have a heart attack as its creamy, cheesy cousins might. In fact, it makes you feel great, like you are going to live a very long time and you can go off and run a 5K in a few hours. (which is actually what I'm going to go do).

If you're craving mac and cheese, this might not satisfy you. If you are craving a healthy, filling, vegetarian, protein-packed dish, then this is a winner (20 grams of protein if you're curious).

Creamy Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Mark Bittman

2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
8 oz. whole wheat elbow macaroni
1/2 cup cheese (I used gruyere & emmantal, Bittman also suggests sharp cheddar)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/8 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup whole grain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan

Preheat the oven and get a pot of salted water boiling. In a small saucepan, heat the vegetable stock with the bay leaves for 5 minutes, then remove the bay leaves and set aside.


Cook the cauliflower in the water for 25 minutes. Remove the cauliflower from the water. If you haven't read through this recipe well beforehand, you might just get out a colander and dump the cauliflower into it and the water down the drain. Don't do that. Use a spoon or tongs and put it into a food processor. It may be slightly annoying, but then you already have boiling water to cook the pasta in. How nifty. If there is a little bit of cauliflower still floating in the water, don't worry. It's cool.

Cook the pasta for 5 minutes. You can totally dump that in a colander when you're done and rinse it in cold water. Then put it into a greased pan. I used a 7x11 pyrex dish. Bittman suggests a 9 inch square pan. I don't have one of those.

Add the vegetable broth to the cauliflower and process until combined. Then add oil, cheese, mustard, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to the food processor and pulse a few more times.

Creamy Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

Pour the sauce over the macaroni and stir a little. Be careful, the dish will be very full. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and parmesan on top and bake for 20 mintues. If you only have 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, then look into your pantry and the perfect substitue might be staring you in the face.

Matzo Meal

Makes four very large and very filling servings.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Damn Good Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter

Earlier this year, Adam and I decided to stop by Hell's Kitchen for their famous brunch. I had the lemon ricotta pancakes, which were delicious, but that is not what we are going to talk about today.

Today we're here to discuss....peanut butter.

I had read something on the menu about their peanut butter, but didn't give it much thought. They brought some out with Adam's toast, but I didn't give it a second look until I was done with my pancakes and waiting for him to finish, a frequent occurrence, as I am married to the world's slowest eater. I was bored and I put a tiny scoop on my plate, wiped it up with my finger, and put it in my mouth.

My life changed.

I'm not sure if it was for better or worse. Better maybe, because I had just tasted the best peanut butter in the entire world. Worse maybe, because I cannot eat any other peanut butter again. I bough a small jar for $6 and it disappeared way to fast for it to become my new go-to peanut butter. I decided I would have to recreate it myself. Then I remembered that the Internet exists and just looked it up. I made myself a batch and it tastes just like the real thing. It is a little bit thicker and it doesn't spread as easily, so you just have to use a little more. Once you taste it though, you won't be complaining about that one bit.

Damn Good Peanut Butter
Adapted from Village Voice

3 cups raw salted spanish peanuts, skins on (I bought mine at NutsOnline)*
6 tbsp honey
5 tbsp light brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
7 tbsp peanut oil
5 tbsp unsalted butter

*You can also skip the first step and buy pre-roasted nuts if you are lazy. I won't judge you.

Preheat the oven to 375. Spread the peanuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 50 minutes, rotating the sheet 180 degrees at the half-way point.
Raw Peanuts

When they are done, they should look like this:
Roasted Peanuts

According the Mitch Omer, the chef, "If they look like espresso coffee beans, well, you fucked up. Start over." Hopefully you don't have to start over. Let them cool before proceeding.

Put the cooled peanuts into a food processor and process for just about 30 seconds. The consistency should be like really chunky sand. Transfer them to the bowl of a stand mixer (but keep the food processor handy) and mix in the honey, brown sugar, and salt with the paddle attachement for about one minute.

In the food processor, mix the butter and peanut oil for about 10 seconds, until emulsified. Then add this to the stand mixer bowl and stir on low until well-mixed.

The recipe says it will keep in a jar for 4 weeks, but I doubt it will be around that long.

Peanut Butter

Tuna and Grain Stuffed Bell Peppers

Tuna and Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers

I have been trying to eat more fish lately, because it's good for you and has that protein stuff in it, which is slight challenge to get enough of for people who do not eat meat on a daily basis...or ever. I'm supposed to eat at least 60g a day. I'm really good at eating more than 45 and pretty good at more than 50. But I rarely meet that 60g mark. I'm working on it though.

Enter tuna.

When I was a kid, I refused to touch the stuff. In fact, this recipe might be the only thing I've ever eaten with tuna in it (at least that I can remember). It was my quest for more protein that led me to make this recipe several times my senior year of college, and again, a few weeks ago. Like the persimmon pudding I recently posted, I have no idea where this recipe came from. In fact, I didn't even have the ingredients list for this one, I recreated it from memory. I think I did a good job because it tasted exactly how I remembered it. So thank you, mysterious source of this recipe, for helping me get my protein on.

Tuna and Grain Stuffed Bell Peppers

2/3 cup five grain mix, cooked (rice, quinoa, or millet would work great too)
4 medium bell peppers
2 5oz. cans of tuna, drained
1 can yellow sweet corn
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

Cut the tops off of each bell pepper, remove the insides, and cut in half. Broil each side about 5 minutes, until the peppers begin to brown.

While they are broiling, mix the cooked rice, tuna, corn, and cheese in a bowl. If the rice was made earlier and is cold or room temperature, heat it up in the microwave or on the stove first. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill each bell pepper with the mixture.

In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle this on top of the mixture in the bell peppers. Broil again until the breadcrumbs & cheese turn slightly brown.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vegan Persimmon Pudding


I realize it has been awhile. I know. I'm sorry. I have a biochemistry test tomorrow. Lots of studying to do. TONS. So right now seems like a great time for a post, right? Of course!

This recipe was actually going to be the second recipe I posted on this blog back in the Winter of 2009. Unfortunately, I was dealing with some stubborn persimmons. The persimmons I purchased became ripe, one by one, and I pureed them and stored them in my freezer. Eventually they became Chocolate Persimmon Muffins.

This fall, I bought some more persimmons, made this lovely pudding for you, uploaded the pictures, and promptly forgot about them as I was busy doing things like organic chemistry, applying to grad school, and starting two new jobs.

So, here we are. Are persimmons still around? I don't know, but if not, hopefully you'll think of this or the muffins when they pop up in the produce aisle. This isn't pudding like the pudding that comes in those cute little cups. It is closer to English Christmas Pudding. Sort of a very moist quick bread. (Sorry if you are one of those people who hates the word moist. I don't really like it either, but the thesaurus didn't give me any better options. Damp? Soggy? No thanks!)

Persimmon Pudding

Vegan Persimmon Pudding
Adapted from...well, actually I have no idea where. All I remember is that someone tweeted the link to it. If you know where it's from, let me know and I'll update this post. When I made it the second time, I changed it a bit and made it vegan since I was out of eggs and probably didn't have any milk (I pretty much never have any milk, except unsweetened almond milk, which I have multiple cartons of at all times. And I'm not even vegan. I'm weird like that.)

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups persimmon pulp (about 3 pureed in a food processor)
1 3/4 cup almond milk (or any milk)
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp flax meal + 6 tbsp water, allow to sit a few minutes until goopy) (or 2 eggs)
1/4 cup earth balance, melted (or butter)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 pan.

Put the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk until mixed together.

In a separate bowl, combine the pulp, milk, eggs, and earth balance. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until combined.

Pour the batter into a pan and bake for 40-50 minutes. It should spring back when gently poked in the center.

Cut into squares and serve.

Makes 16 squares.