Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cauliflower Crust Pizza (CCP)

It's no secret that I love pizza. There are a couple of pizza recipes already on this blog, so this one is not the first and won't be the last. The thing that makes it different is the crust - it's made of cauliflower! Examine the gorgeous toastiness, the well-formed roundness. It's looks tasty, doesn't it? Well, it WAS. This recipe truly belongs here in Yummyland. The pizza got a firm two-thumbs-up from all of us at the dinner table. And crazy enough, this recipe is vegetarian, gluten-free, low-carb, in high in awesomeness. 

I had a conversation today about pizza, and how even the thinnest of thin-crust is still relatively high in carbs and so not a great choice for those with diabetes or pre-diabetic, which relegates it to the rare-treat department. Which got me to thinking about the vegetable-based crusts that are out there these days....which is the best? And at it's best, can it be anywhere near as good as the "real thing"? So I did a quick cruise around the interwebs and found this one. By all accounts it seemed like a good choice. I haven't credited the original site because there are so many versions of this out there, I have no idea where it came from originally. Several people who posted on it mentioned the importance of squeezing the water out of the cauliflower really well...listen to them. I may not have squeezed adequately and so the centre didn't get crispy like the edges, needed more time to brown and firm up, but as the edges were already brown I didn't want to cook too much longer so I ended up with a pale undercrust. Next time I will squeeze more and remember to heat up pan or stone before placing the crust on it, and get that gorgeous golden crust all over. Was it the same as wheat-crust pizza? Well it was less different than expected. Was it as good as wheat-crust pizza? Hmm I didn't think it would be, of course not, but you know what? It is equally delicious! And because of it's healthiness, even better. The kind of better that makes your mouth AND body happy. 

So here it is, without further adieu, my take on the popular cauliflower-crust pizza! Welcome to Yummyland, CCP! 

1 small head cauliflower (about 500g)
¼ cup parmesan cheese
¼ cup mozzarella cheese
¼ tsp sea salt
½ tsp Italian herbs
½ tsp garlic powder
1 egg

Place a pizza stone in the oven, or baking sheet if you don’t have a pizza stone. Preheat oven to 450ºF. On a cutting board, place a large piece of parchment paper and spray it with olive oil (Mr. Misto is a great oil spray jar, get two and use one for olive oil and one for canola or other vegetable oil wih a higher smoke point and you will be set!).

Wash and dry a small head of cauliflower. Cut into florets. Pulse in your food processor for about 30 seconds, until you get powdery snow like cauliflower. You should end up with 2 to 3 cups cauliflower “snow”. Place the cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl, cover and cook on high for 8 minutes OR steam in a steamer pot on the stove top, whichever you prefer. Dump cooked cauliflower onto a clean tea towel and allow to cool for a bit before attempting the next step.

Once cauliflower is cool enough to handle, wrap it up in the dish towel and wring the heck out of it. This is the exact instruction from three or four different recipes....and it's maybe the most important step. You want to squeeze out as much water as possible. This will ensure you get a chewy pizza like crust instead of a soggy crumbly mess. So squeeze and squeeze and then when you are pretty sure your hands can't take any more squeezing, tag off and get someone else to squeeze some more. 

Dumped squeezed cauliflower into a bowl. Now add Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, sea salt, dried herbs, garlic powder, and a dash of red pepper if you want. Mixy mix, form into ball. 

Now the fun part. Use your hands to form the dough into a crust on your oiled parchment paper. Pat it down thoroughly, you want it well-compressed and smooth around the edges and a nice thin-crust thickness. 

Using a cutting board, slide the parchment paper onto your hot pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 8-11 minutes, until it starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oven.

Spread with a simple pizza sauce (see below), cheeses, and whatever toppings you like, just not too much or your crust will get too weighed-down. Slide parchment with topped pizza back in the hot oven and cook for another 7 to 10 minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and slightly golden.

Cool for a few minutes before cutting, then behold your delicious grain-free cauliflower crust pizza! Cut and serve wit ha big ole salad. This was such a great dinner, and not even a treat dinner, just a regular everyday healthy dinner! Who knew. Cauliflower is my new favourite thing. Remind to tell you about cauliflower rice sometime soon!

Nutritional info: for 1/3 of the crust recipe above, there are 136 calories, 6g fat, 13g protein, 8g carbs (woot!), 3g fibre, and 450mg sodium. The toppings are up to you!

Simple Pizza Sauce: 
1/3 small can tomato paste, 2-3Tbsp water, 1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs, 1/8 tsp cayenne, dash of salt and pepper. Combine in bowl, should be thick but not pasty, but good a spreadable. I find this sauce is great for pizza as it has lower moisture content (you can control that) and so does not make the crust soggy, especially important with this one. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Split Pea and Barley Soup

I guess fall is on it's way, as today was a bit chilly and seemed like a Soup Day. Yay I love soup! We love split pea with ham around here, but with that being a three-day process (well the proper way!) and with the girl being a vegetarian, I decided to do a split pea with lots of veggies and some barley for good measure. It was warm and comforting and pretty delish, but we did miss the ham :).

If you are looking for a vegetarian version though, this one rocks! The barley makes it extra-hearty.

Note: This recipe is super-simple and easy...but if you decide "hey I want to make pea soup for dinner" at 6:20 pm, expect to be eating dinner at about 9. Yikes. And don't try to rush it, crunchy split peas are all kinds of yuck.

Split Pea and Barley Soup

1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried marjoram
1L vegetable stock (or chicken if you are not fussed about vegetarian-ness)
3L water
1 cup barley
1 cup yellow split peas
1 cup green split peas
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups diced potato
2 cups chopped carrots

In a big ole soup pot on medium heat, saute onion and celery in the olive oil until onion is translucent, about 15 min. Add dried herbs and saute one minute longer. Add stock and water, barley, and split peas. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potato, simmer 30 min longer. Add carrots, simmer 20 min longer. Add pepper and taste; add salt if needed (will depend on how much salt is in your vegetable stock). I like to add "better than boullion" instead of salt, as is my general habit. It adds tastiness and saltiness at the same time, so you end up needing less saltiness than you thought :). Add sparingly though, just a teaspoon will probably do the job!

And now to pack up all the remaining soup for lunches. Man I love soup lunches.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chocolate Quinoa Cake

Chocolicious Quinoa Cake {gluten-free}
Adapted from Oh She Glows

 This recipe has so many great features – chock full of quinoa, gluten free, real whole ingredients – and seems pretty darn easy at first glance. Cook quinoa. Blend quinoa with some other stuff. Add to some sifted dry ingredients and mix. Bake. Easy peasy right? Well it is easy, but this recipe is one finicky lady. The tendency is to become a dense fudgey brownie-like brick. Not bad, but not really the intention; you should get a fluffy yet moist deeply chocolaty not-too-sweet cake. Here’s how!

2 cups COOKED quinoa*
1/3 cup almond milk or hemp milk or whatever milk you like
4 large eggs (cage-free of course, otherwise you can taste the misery)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup melted butter (or vegan margarine, if you want it vegan/ dairy-free)
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 cup organic raw cane sugar
1 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder (or 2 tsp if your powder is more than 2 months old)
1/2 teaspoon salt

 1.Preheat the oven to 350°F and then line two 8” round cake pans or one large (14”) round springform pan with parchment paper.
 2.In a food processor or blender, combine the eggs, milk, melted butter and oil, and vanilla extract then blend for ten seconds to combine.
 3.Add the 2C cooked and cooled quinoa then blend the heck out of it until completely smooth, about three minutes (or three periods of one minute to let blender engine cool down in between).
 4.Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl (cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt).
 5.Add the wet ingredients** in the blender to the bowl with the dry and mix together until very well-combined.
 6.Spread into pans and bake for 37 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Larger pan will likely take a bit longer, depending on your oven; mine in convection and still takes 37 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool.

For mini-cupcakes, bake 13 minutes.
For regular cupcakes, bake 15 minutes.
For smallish cakes, bake 18 minutes.

 Secrets to Awesomeness

 *Cooking the quinoa: approximately 3/4 cup dry quinoa will yield 2 cups cooked quinoa. I like to make a double batch: 1.5C quinoa and 3C water. Bring to boil, cover, and reduce heat to low so that it’s barely simmering at all, like for rice, for 35 minutes. Check towards the last 10 min to make sure it’s not getting crunchy on bottom, add a bit more water if bone dry but not too much. You want the quinoa fully soft, not at all crunchy, but dry at the end. Dry is important. Then measure out two cups of the cooked quinoa for the recipe and use the rest for a pilaf or something. I don’t know why but making a bigger batch helps it get drier and fluffier.

 **When extracting the quinoa mix from the blender, do not be tempted to add more liquid to make the task easier or to make the batter more like what you expect from a cake batter. It’s not. The batter is thick and uncooperative, you just have to show it who’s boss. Use a rubber spatula to remove from blender (watch out for blade!!) and use plenty of muscle when mixing into the dry ingredients. The batter should be very thick and you have to spread it in the cake pans rather than pour. It seems wrong but trust me it’s right! Oh She Glows also has a coconut milk-chocolate frosting to go with the cake. I cautiously recommend it…it’s heavenly when it turns out right and only has two ingredients (1 can coconut cream solids and 1 pkg (280g) semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips, melted then cooled) but the chances of it turning out right are actually pretty slim. The coconut milk has to be the exact right kind – it has to be chilled to 4 degrees, the solids must completely separate from the liquids, the chocolate must be melted but no longer warm, you must beat on med-high  and watch carefully for it to change, and the stars must align exactly right in order to achieve a fluffy yummy frosting rather than liquidy goop or worse. You may want a nice reliable buttercream. What, you say? You don’t know of a nice reliable chocolate buttercream icing recipe?? Guess what, it’s butter and cream and icing sugar. Ok a couple other things too.

 Nice Reliable Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: this one from Kitchen Magpie rocks. 

Add I confess. I lifted this pic from another blog , as it's uncannily similar to how this cake looks, and I don't have a pic myself yet. Kudos to Playing with Flour for a gorgeous cake. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Peppered Pears

If you are looking for an appie for the holidays, maybe something light and refreshing to precede a big holiday meal, this is a surprisingly delicious option. The idea was related to me by the head honcho at my work, I thought it sounded interesting and it was the perfect simple and light appie I was looking for.

You can see on the plate that I served the pears with some prosciutto and cheese (Irish cheddar)on separate skewers. It was widely agreed that the best combination was all three together, pears prosciutto and cheese living in sweet harmony in one bite, so next time I will skewer accordingly.

Peppered Pears
freshly cracked black pepper

Peel/ core pears and cut into bite-size chunks. Squeeze fresh lime juice all over them, covering thoroughly.Sprinkle pepper over all sides and pile on a serving plate. Skewer with toothpicks.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Amaretti Cookies and Cranberry-Pistachio Bark

More Christmas baking, and still more to much for cutting back this year! Every year my mom and my sisters and I bake a bunch of cookies/treats and then do a cookie exchange, making up trays of delectable treats for friends, family and coworkers. This year I resolved to only bake two kinds, but that hasn't worked out for me. I just had to make these cute amaretti cookies from Alive magazine, not only are they made from healthy ingredients but they are also gluten-free, perfect for my mom (we try to make all our xmas baking gluten free so that they can all intermingle without concern). They turned out just like the picture in the magazine, and SO yummy!

The bark is, of course, a Christmas no-brainer. Cranberries, good...pistachios, good...chocolate, definately good! Yup these qualify as all good. And I must get it out of my house before there is none left for our cookie trays. I used craisins and pistachios for both kinds, both dark and white chocolate, but you could use any kind of dried fruit and nuts...cashews and flame raisins would have been nice in the dark chocolate. Next time!

Amaretti Cookies
from Alive magazine

1 3/4 cups almond meal
1/2 cup natural brown sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
zest of 1/2 lemon, grated finely
2 large egg whites
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup natural brown sugar
30 whole almonds (15 blanched and 15 natural)

Combine almond meal, 1/2 cup brown sugar, almond extract, and lemon zest in food processor until smooth (I just did it old-school with a wooden spoon). Refrigerate for one hour. Add egg whites and sorghum flour, combining well; dough will be soft and sticky. Scoop out a teaspoonful and roll between damp palms and then drop into a small bowl containing 1/3 cup natural brown sugar. Gently roll around in sugar, shake off excess. Place on a baking sheet lines with parchment paper and press one whole almond in the centre. Repeat with remaining dough, placing balls 1 inch apart.Bake in a 325F oven for 18 minutes or until golden. Remove to a rack and cool. Sotre in a sealed container at room temperature for up to a week, or freeze them.

Makes 30. The original recipe says 40, but they lie.

Cranberry-Pistachio Bark
This doesn't really qualify as a recipe, it's really just a cheat but man it's yummy and is always a favourite on the cookie tray. Just melt down a block of good chocolate that you've chopped into bits (I did two kinds, Callebaut dark and white). Stir in a good handful of craisins and another of pistachios, you should have about the same amount of nuts/fruit as chocolate. Pour it all onto a cookie sheet lined with wax or parchment paper, spreading it in a thin layer. Stick that in the freezer until it firms up, then take it out and peel it up off the paper. Break it into jagged peices. Done! And no one has to know how easy it was ;).

OPTIONAL: Just to be fancy, I decorated each kind with the alternate colour of chocolate. Reserve a couple of spoonfuls of chocolate after it's melted and before you add the fruit and nuts, then after you've spread the mixture out on the tray, just heap some melted chocolate on a spoon and wave it over the tray so that it drips in fine lines.I know I know, it's all very high-tech.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Parmesan Chicken Casserole

This recipe is my pick for Light Bites. It looked and sounded like a good fall comfort meal with a bit of zing. But, I will be interested to see what the other bloggers in the group thought of it, because I don't think I did it right. On close inspection, the recipe seems like there must be a mistake - it involves over two cups of liquid absorbing into the rice during only 15 minutes in the oven?! Doesn't seem right, but then again, it also says to use boil-in-a-bag rice which I have never cooked with and didn't intend to. I don't mean to be a rice Snobby McSnobberson, but boil-in-a-bag, really? Not in my house. Of course there is the possibility that said rice is somehow magic and can make 2 cups of liquid absord in 15 minutes, if so my bad. Instead, I used par-cooked rice and added less liquid to the casserole itself, I had to cook it for 50 minutes and even so the dish was a bit watery. Next time I'll use a bit of thickener in the liquid to it will be a lovely sauce...I say "next time" because this dish was SO yummy, definately a do-over is in order. Instead of plain brown rice I used a combo of red, brown, and wild, and added some red peppers and celery when sauteeing the onion. I also strayed from the recipe by seasoning and browning my chicken before adding to the dish. It seemed like the right thing to do. See the pool of liquid on the left side of the rice? Yeah baby, that liquid will next time be saucified.

Parmesan Chicken and Rice Casserolemodified from Cooking Light

Cooking spray
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 celery rib, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup mixed rice (dry)
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup half and half cream
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
2 tsp cornstarch or flour

1. Add 1 cup of chicken broth to the rice in a small pot, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer gently until all the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and celery to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper, 1/2 tsp thyme, and some black pepper; sauté about 8 more minutes, until vegetables are soft and onion is translucent.
3. Add wine and vegetable mixture to rice; cook until liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat and spoon rice mixture in an even layer into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
4. Season chicken thighs with 1/2 tsp thyme, salt and pepper, and a dash of cayenne. Brown both sides in a pan on high heat (chicken does not need to be cooked through). Place thighs on top of rice mixture.
5. Combine remaining broth, cream,1/2 tsp thyme and some pepper, stirring well; I am thinking that at this point adding a bit of cornstarch or flour would be beneficial, maybe 2 tsp or so. Pour over chicken and rice mixture.
6. Bake at 425° for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes to melt cheese.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Severed Foot Cheeseball

I love Halloween, it's probably my favourite holiday of all.It gives me a chance to be creative in a gruesome way that is only acceptable this time of year! One of my best creations, in my opinion, is the Severed Foot Cheeseball. It's a Sherylyn original, conceived of in a moment of macabre brilliance, lol. The cheeseball recipe comes from my mom, and we have made versions of it for as long as I can remember. For Christmas we'd decorate them with red-pepper poinsettias, in summer they'd have carrot and radish blossoms on chive stems. But in my opinion, this Halloween version takes it to a whole. New. Level.

Severed Foot Cheeseball

The cheeseball mixture:
2 blocks reduced-fat cream cheese (NOT fat free)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar (I use reduced-fat for that as well)
1/2 cup finely grated Swiss cheese (or asiago or parmesan, anything really sharp)
1.5 cups chopped ham (I used black forest for that touch of black in the mix)
1/2 cup chopped olives with pimentos
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
2 or 3 drops of green food colouring

Reserve 1 Tbsp of the cream cheese for decorating. Throw all the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well (easiest in a stand mixer if you are a wimp...otherwise a little elbow grease should do it!)and add green food colouring until desired pale green mouldy shade is reached. Shape into a foot-like blob and chill until firm (overnight is best).

1 mushroom stem
1/2 red pepper, chopped into a macerated mess
5 black olive halves
reserved 1 Tbsp cream cheese tinted pale blue for veins

Using a butter knife, shape the blob into a nice foot-like shape (should be easier now that the cheese is stiffer). Use your own foot as inspiration, or ask someone to be a foot model for you. You will want a foot and ankle so that you have a bit of a leg stump to decorate.

Once you are happy with your foot shape, pile the red pepper mush onto the stump. Jam in the mushroom stem, and then form the red pepper mush around the bottom of it.

Use the black olive halves for toenails (I trimmed down the four smaller toenails for a more realistic look).

Using a toothpick, drag the blue cream cheese across the top of the foot in a veiny pattern (examine your foot model!)

That should do it. Gruesome AND delicious, the perfect combo! I served this at work for a Halloween Potluck and did another for my Halloween-edition book club meeting, along with mummy fingers (spiced ground lamb wrapped in phyllo shreds served with sweet chili sauce), fruit decorated with insects, banana cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, and lots of red wine.

Here is a picture of my fabulous book club ladies in their literary-inspired costumes! We had a Nancy Drew, a Zorro, a Mad Hatter, and a John Steinbeck...can you pick them out? I was Sylvia Plath, it was a great deal of fun and I was really impressed with everyone's's a shame you can't see more of the room, it looked very spooky with the candles, cobwebs, window ghosts, pumpkin lights, and other Halloween decorations, along with the Rob Zombie movie "Devil's Rejects" muted in the background and Halloween-themed CDs I put together with songs like Bahaus's Bela Lugosi's Dead, Alice Cooper's I Love the Dead, Rob Zombie's American Witch, White Stripes' Little Ghost, etc. I was so proud.