Friday, February 13, 2015

Simple + Fun Ways to Eat Cauliflower

Cauliflower - nutritious, readily available, versatile - what's not to love?  It's delicious raw or cooked and flavored every which way.  It can even be pureed and disguised as carb-y comfort foods, like potatoes and bread.

Of course, I love to eat cauliflower the way I love to eat just about every vegetable, which is tossed in olive oil and sea salt and roasted.
Roasted cauliflower is delicious plain and simple, but it's mild flavor also goes great with all sorts of seasonings and sauces.  Recently, I roasted a combination of cauliflower and tempeh with buffalo sauce, and it made for an amazing dinner.  No need for chicken wings here!
To make this meal, I used the following (it made about 3 servings):
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, trimmed and chopped into florets
  • 1 package tempeh, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup buffalo sauce (I like Frank's)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Sprinkle of pepper
(If tempeh isn't your thing, you could always use extra cauliflower, or just reduce the sauce and oil by half)


Preheat oven to 425.  In a large bowl, toss cauliflower and tempeh with buffalo sauce and olive oil.  (If you have time, let it sit for a bit and absorb the flavors.)  Bake for approximately 40 minutes, tossing at least once, until cauliflower and tempeh are browned but not burned.

This was terrific served with brown rice and topped with a little Sriracha and organic ranch dressing. Chopped green onions would have been the icing on the cake!

My other favorite way to eat cauliflower is in "mashed potato" form.  It's amazing how similar this dish tastes to real mashed potatoes, yet so much healthier.   
Making mashed "potato" cauliflower is super easy.  You just need the following to make two servings:
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed and chopped into small florets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the cauliflower florets and cook for about 10 minutes, until very tender.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and then drain the rest of the water.  Add olive oil, salt, and pepper and use an immersion blender to puree the cauliflower until smooth and creamy.  If the texture is too thick, add a little bit of the reserved cooking liquid. 
Of course, if you don't have an immersion blender, you could always transfer the ingredients to a food processor or blender.  I love my immersion blender so much because it allows for everything to be made in one pot.  Hooray for less dishes!

Here is my mashed cauliflower alongside cheesy baked tofu and a sweet potato.  I realized after I made this dinner that it was a little heavy on the "potatoes," but still a delicious meal nonetheless. 
If you want to make your mashed cauliflower even more amazing, you could add in a little shredded cheese (or nutritional yeast) or roasted garlic before blending, and/or top with fresh herbs.  I promise you will not miss the actual potatoes - I am drooling just thinking about this!  

There are a million more ways to prepare cauliflower - I've even seen other bloggers make rice or pizza crust with it. But, when it comes to keeping things simple, roasting or mashing is the way to go!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Recent Happenings

Sorry I haven't checked in for a while.  It seems like I've had something going on just about every single day after school lately.  Is it almost summer yet?!

Here are a few things that have been happening lately.

While the northeast has been getting slammed with snow, we've had some bursts of unusually mild weather.  There have been a lot of dog walks, patio meals, and beer garden visits.  I've even gone running walk-jogging a couple times.
Jay celebrated his 31st birthday last weekend.  We enjoyed a fun date night on Saturday, and Sunday I hosted our families for chili.  I made my hearty chipotle chili without the meat, and this delicious vegan peanut butter pie. 

 Wendy and Oliver helped with the presents.   Wendy needs a haircut so. bad.
I went glass-blowing with my friends.  

One of my co-workers owns his own studio, and a group of us rented it out for the night.  We had so much fun hanging out, sipping wine, and learning the glass-blowing process.  If you live in OKC and want to take a lesson, host a fun party, or shop for a beautiful and unique gift, you should definitely check out Blue Sage Studios.
There have been a couple more birthdays and a baby shower sprinkled throughout the last couple weeks, but I've been so bad about taking pictures!  I've also been cooking a lot regularly, but nothing too overly exciting or original.  I'm looking forward to trying a couple new recipes this week, like this Rockin' Moroccan Stew from the Humane Society.  I plan to be back with a food-related post in a few days.

Hope it's a great week!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

10 Minute Cardio Blast Workout

I hope 2015 has been treating you well.  As much as I love time off, I'm sort of enjoying being back in a routine.  I have a brand new group of seventh graders that (so far) are a joy to teach everyday...let's just hope the honeymoon period doesn't end anytime soon.

With routine also comes more consistent workouts.  I exercised some over break, but it was much harder to fit it in when my schedule was all out-of-whack.  Why is it that having more free time can make it harder to get things done?  Now my workout group is back to meeting regularly, and it's nice to have something automatically scheduled 2-3 times per week after school.

Generally, our group completes a tabata style workout, mixing short intervals of strength and cardio.  Twice since we've been back from break, however, our trainer has planned a killer all-cardio combo for us.  The set is only 10 minutes, but it is non-stop and brutal.  We go through it three times, and let me tell you that final round is rough!

Here we are pre-sweat.  I don't think we would still be smiling in the "after" picture.

Below is a version similar to what we did in class.  It's a quick way to get your heart pumping without any equipment.  Don't be fooled by the easy marching in place for the first minute...I guarantee you will be super sweaty after just one round.

And here are video links to some of the exercises you may be unfamiliar with:

Long jump, shuffle back
Reverse lunge with skip
Skater jumps

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Handmade All-Natural Lip Balm Gifts

Hello and Happy New Year's Eve!  I hope your holiday season has been wonderful so far.  We stayed in town over Christmas and enjoyed time with Oklahoma family as well as some out-of-town relatives.
As usual, this winter break has been flying by.  Aside from all the holiday festivities, Jay and I are trying hard to get some "to-dos" accomplished  over break (like shampooing all the carpets!) while still making time for fun.  A couple days ago, we took a day trip to a nearby state park and hiked about seven miles.  It was so nice to get away for a bit and enjoy a change of scenery. 
On another note, now that all the Christmas gifts have been exchanged, I wanted to share a little bit about the lip balm my mom and I made this year for our friends and family.  
Last year's laundry soap was a big hit, so we decided to start a tradition of making a handmade gift together each year.  We settled on lip balm for this year's gift because it's something everyone can always use (especially in this freezing cold winter weather we've been having), and it seemed easy enough to make a large batch in a single afternoon.  

We combed through numerous recipes on the internet and selected four ingredients to use for the balms.  It took a little trial and error to figure out the best proportions, but the consistency of this final formula is just right. I was really happy with how it turned out.

Here is what we used:

6 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons beeswax
1 teaspoon vitamin E oil
10-12 drops essential oil
We bought the coconut oil at the grocery store, but the beeswax pellets and vitamin E oil were purchased from Amazon.  We used essential oils that we already had on hand, but they can be easily found online or at any health food store in a variety of scents.

To make the lip balm, we started by melting down the beeswax and coconut oil.  To avoid burning, we placed the ingredients into a small stainless steel mixing bowl which we then submerged in a larger pot of hot (almost boiling) water.  Of course you could also use a double boiler to do this, but our own makeshift method worked surprisingly well.
Once the beeswax and coconut oil were melted, we added in the vitamin E and essential oil and stirred it all together.  We experimented with several flavors of essential oils, but our favorite was the wintergreen.  It was much more noticeable than the orange and gave the balm a fresh, minty fragrance.

We used a small spoon and an eyedropper to fill up our little plastic containers (also purchased on Amazon).  One batch of the lip balm filled up about 18 of the small 5 gram pots.  By the end of the afternoon, we had made enough to fill 50 containers!

After about 15 minutes, the lip balm had cooled off and was ready to use.
To make the gifts a little more special, we decorated each lip balm with a festive sticker and attached it with a dab of hot glue to a small card that I designed on PicMonkey. 
The lip balms were very well received.  Many have commented that they love the way it feels on their lips, and I think everyone appreciated the simple, all-natural ingredients.  Plus, it always seems more special when a gift is made by hand.

I'm not sure exactly what the next few days have in store, but I am going to do my best to enjoy every minute  of my time off before the craziness of work resumes.

Wishing you all a very safe and healthy new year!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Go Veggie! Cheese Review

Since Jay and I primarily eat a plant-based diet, we rarely purchase any meat or dairy products at the grocery store.  I cook with lots of vegetables, beans, whole grains, and spices and try to avoid buying a lot of vegan "meat" and "cheese" substitutes.

That being said, some of my favorite meals just wouldn't be the same without the addition of some melty, stretchy cheese.  (Cheeseless pizza?  No thank you.)  For those situations, I usually turn to Daiya as a satisfying cheese substitute.  It is one of the few options at our local Sprouts that is plant-based and completely dairy free.

Some nice people at the Go Veggie! company noticed our affinity for Daiya on the blog and recently offered to send us some of their products to try out and compare.  I had always noticed the Go Veggie! shreds next to the Daiya on the grocery store shelf, but I never purchased them because they were only lactose free and not dairy free.

As it turns out, Go Veggie! has an entire vegan line that I never knew existed.  There are shreds, cream cheeses, singles, and even a parmesan-style topping.

I accepted their offer to try out the products and was so excited when my big box of samples arrived!
I immediately checked everything out and was glad to see that I recognized the majority of the plant-based ingredients (things like coconut oil and pea protein).

When I started cooking with the Go Veggie! cheeses, one of the first things I noticed was how much better it melted than Daiya.

I used the Mexican shreds on this loaded sweet potato, and it oozed its way through all the veggies.
The mozzarella shreds were delicious on this pizza.  It's a bit hard to see the cheese, but if you look at the edges you can really get an idea of how melty it was.  The flavor was amazing!
My favorite was when I used the Mexican shreds on my spaghetti squash enchiladas (made for the second week in a row).
Look at that cheese dripping over the side!
I also added the shreds to a big taco salad and a bowl of rice and beans.  I usually wouldn't eat any cheese with these meals, but I enjoyed the extra flavor.
The cream cheese spread wasn't quite as thick as real cream cheese but still had a great texture and flavor.  Jay said this kind tasted like strawberry ice cream on his bagel.  
I forgot to snap a picture, but we tried some of the singles at lunch yesterday and they were very comparable to real cheese singles.  I haven't had a cheese single in ages and probably wouldn't buy these on a regular basis, but they would be great for kids or sandwich lovers.

I have really enjoyed the Go Veggie! products so far, and I'm looking forward to using the cheeses in future recipes.

As for the downsides...I wish this vegan line was more widely available.  It looks like some of the vegan varieties can be found at Natural Grocers and Whole Foods, but unfortunately not at Sprouts or any of the big box stores.

Also, you do have to be sure to read the Go Veggie! labels carefully, especially if there are certain ingredients or allergens you are trying to avoid.  As I mentioned before, not all of the Go Veggie! products are dairy free, and even within the dairy free line some products contain soy and some do not.

I'm happy to have new tasty options when it comes to dairy-free cheeses, but I plan to continue using these types of products in moderation.  Just because something claims to be "plant-based" doesn't mean it is automatically great for you.  Any brand cheese substitute is still processed and contains a lot of oils, so I wouldn't go too crazy even if they are delicious.

With that in mind, for those occasions when a pizza or nacho craving strikes, Go Veggie! cheese will be a great asset to have in my refrigerator!